This is day 20 of Tori eating Hill’s Z/D and her itching is at least 75% resolved. There’s the possibility that it could be even better, but she happens to have a dad who shows his love by feeding her things that should be avoided right now. Cheese, bites of bread as well as the licking of a plate after he’s eaten most of the egg that was on it…you get the idea. Of course, this works against Tori’s best interest, but saying so gets me nowhere. So, I’m not sure how to resolve it, but I’m pretty darn sure food allergies were Tori’s major issue. Otherwise, Z/D wouldn’t have helped at all. This result is exactly what I’d hoped for – a period of eating a hydrolyzed diet to help make some sense of the multiple possibilities for her chronic itchiness. It’s come about faster than I’d expected – bonus! Read more Hill’s Z/D
Put down your coffee cup or whatever you may be eating. We’re about to get into the nitty gritty about dog poop. For 20+ years, I lived with dogs that had gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, so poop-patrol was a serious part of life. If you have one of these dogs, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You feel trepidation every time the dog defecates, stare at it, and pick through it with a stick if you can pick through it at all.
Many of my clients have dogs with GI diseases, and they try to be delicate when describing the stool, but after so many years of dealing with this, and especially with the addition of another 14+ years of working with clients, there’s probably nothing I haven’t seen or heard. Some clients become so frustrated by trying to find the right words that they resort to taking pictures and sending them to me so I can see for myself. My favorite was a picture of bright blue stool. Perfectly shaped mind you, but incredibly blue. Turned out the dog had counter surfed when a blueberry pie was sitting there and…well, you can guess the rest. Read more Stool Chart aka Dog Poop Chart
Sometimes we need a stop-gap measure to decipher the cause of itchy skin. Let me use our Tori as an example.
Tori has multiple health problems and three of them can cause her to mutilate her muzzle, ears, paws, neck, bum, and do some hobbling while she air-scratches. The most concerning is Syringomyelia (SM) which can cause her to roll around and scratch like a fiend. The second is that that she has environmental allergies, and third is food allergies. Because all three cause her to scratch frantically, it’s anyone’s guess as to why she does it at any given time. Trial and error brought a fresh food diet for her. She tolerated fish (cod and tilapia only), eggs, carrots and rice. This has been her diet for more than one year and she was doing beautifully. But this past month has been hellish for her. Read more Multiple Possibilities for a Dog’s Itchy Skin
A food allergy involves the immune system. Think peanut allergy in people, for example. BIG reaction! The immune system has a memory like no other, so an exposure to the allergen will cause a reaction every time. In dogs, you’ll see this as excessive scratching, chewing paws, biting of flanks, and there may be ongoing gastrointestinal trouble.
An intolerance to a food (think lactose intolerance) will also cause a reaction, but the immune system is not involved. You drink some milk, have some pain and diarrhea and then it’s over. Unlike an allergic reaction which causes the body to send off chemicals to protect itself from what it believes is a foreign invader for weeks to months, an intolerance ends once the offending food has been removed from the diet.
Many of my clients with dogs in kidney failure are confused about supplementing with vitamin D. They read websites and belong to a variety of on-line chat groups that offer opinions, but confusion results due to opinions often being so different from one another. It’s stressful enough to have a sick dog without adding confusion to the mix because someone says to restrict vitamin D. Ah, but there’s vitamin D and and then there’s vitamin D! It’s a bit of a drunkard’s walk, so bear with me.
In kidney insufficiency and in failure, the kidney retains phosphorus instead of excreting enough of it. This signals the parathyroid gland that there is a phosphorus-calcium imbalance. Read more Canine Kidney Failure & Vitamin D Supplementation
I work with a lot of dogs that have gastrointestinal (GI) trouble. IBD, colitis, you name and it and I’ve probably consulted on it, but more than this, I have a 20+ year history of my own dogs with GI troubles. Someone once joked that it was if I had a sign on my forehead that read “All GI dogs welcomed here”, and it seemed true. Maybe those dogs were sent to me so they could teach me about the disease processes and what we can do about them, or maybe I just need to fabricate some reason for my own musings, but two things are true: The dogs suffer and the owner suffers right along with them.
A common problem with these dogs is that so many of them seem to have a type A personality. Not only can they be stressed out a lot of the time, but they seem to have a drive that pushes them to do more, do it faster, do it on their own terms. Read more Body and Mind Connection
Both are said to be good stuff, and heaven knows we can find them added to all kinds of foods (especially in dairy products) and supplements these days – but what the heck are they? And are they really good, or just another sales pitch being thrown our way? A bit of both, actually. I wrote a brief post about this a while back, but if my in-box is to be believed, expanding on the information is of interest to an awful lot of folks; not just for their dogs, but for themselves.
Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (not quite the same, but used interchangeably) aka FOS are basically nothing more than carbohydrates belonging to a class of compounds known as fructans. Read more Inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides…say what?
You’re feeding an over-the-counter (OTC) venison diet…or are you? It turns out that some commercial diets labelled as containing venison as the only meat source, can include other things that may trigger an allergic response. “Three of the four over the counter (OTC) venison canine dry foods with no soy products named in the ingredient list were ELISA positive for soy; additionally, one OTC diet tested positive for beef protein with no beef products listed as an ingredient list. One OTC venison diet was not found to be positive for soy, poultry or beef proteins. However, none of the four OTC venison diets could be considered suitable for a diagnostic elimination trial as they all contained common pet food proteins, some of which were readily identifiable on the label and some that were only detected by ELISA.” Read more So You’re Feeding a Venison Diet – Really?
The most common foods that dogs are allergic to are said to be beef, wheat, and dairy. In fact, a food allergy develops as the result of an immune system response. The immune system decides that a certain protein is an enemy, and it goes about dealing with it by releasing histamine and other chemicals into circulation on a search and destroy mission. In order for this to happen, the body needs to identify the allergen first, so the foods that are most likely to be allergens are simply the ones the dog has been exposed to in the past. Beef, wheat and dairy may be perfectly fine for a dog that’s eaten nothing but fish and sweet potato in the past because all three foods are new, and the body hasn’t decided to wage chemical warfare. Read more Food Allergy Myths
People with belief systems about what the healthiest diet might be can point to many facts when they debate what to feed their dogs. The only problem is that our memories are shorter than we think. For instance, some people who’ve chosen to live a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle themselves will point to Bramble who lived to be 27 years old as an example. What did Bramble eat? According to some reports. it was rice, lentils and vegetables (maybe some supplements, but I haven’t seen mention of that), and according to others, eggs were part of the diet. Either way, we can say that if the owner was factual in her reporting, Bramble lived most of her life as a vegetarian, or vegan. She was a rescue, and nobody seems to have come forward to say what she ate prior to finding her forever home. While 27 is an incredible age for dog, Bramble is not the longest lived dog in the world. That honor goes to Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog who lived to be 29 years 5 months old. So, what did Bluey eat? Read more Diets of The Oldest Dogs in The World
Here are some of the most common questions I received last week:
Q: What is elemental calcium?
A: Every calcium source (egg shells, calcium citrate, etc) includes a percentage of pure calcium (the stuff that’s going to be absorbed). “Elemental” refers to the amount of real calcium – the amount that counts.
Q: Different sites give different amounts of calcium per egg shell. What’s the truth?
A: I’ve sent egg shells to a lab for analysis and checked with universities teaching poultry studies, and the bottom line is that it depends on the egg shell we’re talking about. The theory is that 1 large egg shell provides 2,000 mg of elemental (there’s that word again) calcium, but the truth is that it can vary. Read more Home-Made Diets For Dogs Q and A
Here’s the thing: It’s all about what the supplement is attempting to address, how safe it is for a dog, and the purity of it as well. So, what exactly are you using the supplement for? To address joint problems, digestive problems, balance a home-made diet, or are you adding supplements as a proactive measure?
First thing first. Your dog needs a balanced diet and how you go about doing that is a matter of belief system. For some, it means commercial foods and only commercial foods (no “people food”). In these cases, add supplemental taurine if the food doesn’t include it, and you might need to add a joint supportive supplement (glucosamine with chondroitin for example) if the dog has osteoarthritis, and it’s probably a good idea to add wild salmon oil and a bit of vitamin E as well. Read more Which Supplement Does My Dog Need?
If I had to pick one thing that drives me batty about home-prepared diets, it’s the willy-nilly feeding promoted by certain book authors and chat groups. Don’t get me wrong. Feeding a varied diet can work well, but when it doesn’t, it’s usually just when you’re feeling pretty cocky about it. The dog can start to break down. And I do mean break down!
Feed a home-prepared diet that meets the recommended allowances for dogs (per the NRC), and this simply doesn’t happen. Here are some scenarios of how and why the willy-nilly method might look great as well as the how and why of the break down – followed by a story to explain my little rant: Read more Can Diet Be Related to Skin Problems in Dogs?
Many of the dogs I work with have urine pH that’s too high or too low. In most cases, the urine has crystals in it and in some, the dog develops urinary tract stones. I wrote a post about the different types of stones and their formation here, and received a number of questions from readers that I want to address now. The most common was about the great swing in urine pH over the course of the day. Say you check first thing in the morning and find that pH is 5.0, check 2 hours after a meal and find it’s 9.0. Which one should you go by when you’re trying to get the pH at a nice and steady 6.5 which is an ideal number? There’s a measurable alkaline tide that you should consider. It goes like this:
My roster includes a lot of canine athletes. The reason most of them end up with me is because owners want a great diet for their dogs, but the emphasis is on stamina and duration and the right diet is pretty darn good at getting a dog to improve on both.
Some people scoff about it and claim that all you need is a well-balanced diet because all dogs require the same thing. The dogs I’ve worked with have shown dramatic improvement, so I disagree with those statements. Once you understand at which point the dog seems too tired or loses speed, you can tweak the diet and the timing (emphasis on timing) of that diet accordingly. Read more Canine Athletes: The Ouch We May Not See
They all do it, but some more than others and some are obsessive about it. If you’ve ever tried to go to sleep with background sounds of lick, lick, slurp, chew, lick, you know what I mean when I say it can really get on your nerves. You tell the dog to stop, s/he does for a while and then goes back to it, usually with more fury. Some bite their nails as well. You would too, if you were itchy and prevented from scratching. That’s one side of the coin. The other is neurotic behavior and it’s a tough one to break. Since I’m not a trainer or behaviorist, let me tell you what’s helped dogs that have this issue due to diet and a few other factors.
Diet first: it’s unlikely that the dog is focusing only on paws if the itch is due to food allergy, but it’s not unheard of. Usually, the itch is everywhere, but more severe at the paws, ears, anal area and thighs. Read more Dogs That Lick Their Paws
CoQ10 is a compound that the body makes naturally and uses for cell growth. It’s a potent antioxidant that protects cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Genes, which are pieces of DNA, tell the cells how to work in the body and when to grow and divide. Damage to DNA has been linked to some kinds of cancer. By protecting cells against free radicals, antioxidants help protect the body against cancer. The amount of coenzyme Q10 in body tissues decreases with the aging process.
Animal studies show that CoQ10 helps the immune system to work better and helps the body to resist certain infections and types of cancer. Also, CoQ10 helped to protect the hearts of study animals given the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin.
A generic diet may be based on dietary principles that work, but just how well they work can be based on unique metabolism, so we need to consider that as well. There are different types of bladder stones and many are combination stones.
The three most common are urate (Dalmatians are genetically disposed to forming these stones), calcium oxalate, and struvite. Urate crystals and stones can be a heads up about liver shunts, especially in puppies, so the Dalamation is not the only breed that can have these, but for different reasons. Urate crystals can be prevented by feeding the right diet. The problem here is that some people don’t want to hear what the right diet is because it’s vegetarian. Eggs, milk products and tofu can make up the protein part and the rest is pasta, potatoes or rice and certain vegetables that are low in purines. That’s the start. In some cases, chicken can be fed, but if you start with chicken and the dog has urate crystals, the chicken has to go and then you can recheck urine, see where you stand and take it from there. Chicken might be ok later, but there’s a weaning process to go through. I’ve been working with Dalmations for about 18 years and never had an issue with crystal formation once the right diet was being fed. The thing to remember is that “right diet” means it has to be right for that particular dog. Urate stones look like this:
Struvite stones are almost always due to a urinary tract infection and urine pH will be high. Struvite stones are the easiest to deal with from a dietary perspective. In a nutshell, we increase protein from eggs and meats and lower the carbohydrate content of the diet. There’s more to it, but that’s the start. A basic struvite stone looks like this:
Calcium oxalate crystals can be more challenging, but again, success comes from understanding how a certain dog reacts to proportions of certain foods rather than just the foods themselves. Basic calcium oxalate stones look like this:
Protein derived from meat, dairy and fish will decrease urine pH and most of these dogs have low urinary pH to begin with. That’s a common problem, so we need to feed less of the foods above, but “less” is relative because it depends how much of them the diet provided in the first place. To compensate for the lost calories after a reduction of dietary protein, we use carbohydrates (choose white rice, egg noodles, wild rice or rye bread) and as luck would have it, carbs help to increase urine pH. Bonus! Now, we add low oxalate vegetables and fruits which means we’re restricted to acorn squash, white cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, green peas, iceberg lettuce, red pepper, turnip roots, zucchini, peeled apples, cantaloupe, cherries, honeydew, mangoes, nectarines and watermelon. Cook the vegetables and don’t feed organ meats.
UPDATE (2021) A common frustration for pet parents is finding treats that work well for calcium oxalate stone formers. Although feeding the foods listed above is helpful, calcium plays a critical role in helping to flush oxalate out of the body. Treats that can help in this way as well as provide support through important antioxidants and phytonutrients are unavailable. These formulated recipes fill that void.
One of the most critical thing you can do to prevent crystals and stones is to keep the dog really well hydrated. Make the food “soupy” by adding water to the food bowl. Preferably not plain tap or mineral water (filtered or distilled are much better) since we want to avoid excessive mineral intake – but we want to a feed a balanced diet, so this does’t translate to not adding the amounts of required minerals to food. Flushing out those crystals with water prevents them from aggregating into a stone in the first place.
Photos and credit:http://www.lbah.com/word/bladder-stones/ with permission
Most dog owners think of healthy skin as being that which doesn’t leave white flakes on the coat and isn’t scaly to look at. True enough, those two things are signs to look for, but how do you get there?
We know that the skin is an organ and it needs proper nutrition, but we don’t often connect this to water intake. Healthy skin minimizes the migration of moisture upward from deeper dermal tissues. Fatty acids in the skin do a good job of preventing water loss. In contrast, fatty acid deficiency can lead to a poor barrier, encouraging water loss, so the dog might drink a lot more water to compensate.
Protein is required for development of new skin, and while some diets provide ample amounts of protein, the quality matters. For example, protein from sources other than eggs, milk, fish or meats are of inferior quality. Read more Your Dog’s Skin Health
Despite the popularity of this myth, the fact is that adding brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast to the diet does nothing to detract fleas. I’ve often been pointed to websites and books that make this claim and some people insist that they can prove it’s true. Their proof is that their dog never had fleas while ingesting this yeast. By that logic I can point to my Zoey who never ingested brewer’s yeast and never had fleas, therefore I could claim that not eating it kept fleas away. Obviously, it’s ridiculous at best!
Consider my Ming, who lived to be just shy of seventeen years, ate a combination of kibble and (healthy) human foods, and finally a prescription diet. He never consumed yeast, yet never had fleas despite being walked along the boardwalk (a beach area in Toronto that is known for heavy flea populations) almost daily. But these are only personal stories. The facts should hold more weight, so let’s look at them. Read more Brewer’s Yeast As a Flea Preventative
Numerous trials show that a combination of primrose oil and fish body oil (wild salmon oil is my preference) helps dogs with atopic dermatitis. I really like that science tries and often wins in pointing us in the right direction, but I think that observation has a place as well. For example, science asks how much of each fatty acid is the right amount and under what circumstances. Important questions, but are we going to sit around while a dog is mutilating him/herself until scientific knowledge provides an answer?
Veterinary dermatologists seem to have decided not to wait. Most will supplement with essential fatty acids once the more obvious problems have been ruled out. No fleas, no mites, no bacterial infections, no yeast overgrowths, etc. Or, treat any of the above via medication(s) and shampoo therapies and if a problem remains, use essential fatty acids, sometimes in combination with particular vitamins and/or minerals. Read more Does Your Dog Have Itchy Skin?
Also referred to as IBD, dogs with this disease have common symptoms although not all dogs will experience the gamut of them. Diarrhea, mucus in the stool, a sheath that looks like a sausage casing around the stool, vomiting, weight loss, noisy tummy sounds, refusal of food, hiding after eating…basically, a lot of obvious signals that the gastrointestinal tract is in bad shape and the dog feels poorly.
Most cases of IBD include food allergy which is why changing the diet to one or two foods (fresh foods, not commerciall diets) the dog has never consumed before usually works very well. An allergic reaction includes inflammation and when the gut is inflamed, permeability often results. Read more Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
Some people fast their dogs for a day or more on a regular (often, it’s one day per week) basis. Here’s the skinny as regards nutrient metabolism while fasting:
Metabolic demands are ongoing and must be met despite that the flow of absorbed nutrients slows down between meals. This is a basic issue of supply and demand and the ebb and flow is based on the feeding interval imposed on a dog. During the intervals between meals, the dog must remobilize stored reserves in an efficient manner. Read more Nutrient Metabolism When Fasting Your Dog
Arthritis doesn’t necessarily care if the dog is young or old, but the older ones are the most likely to have the problem and I have a thing for old dogs. They’ve given us their whole lives and now they need us more than ever.
Age is not a disease. Your older dog doesn’t need less protein in the diet – he or she needs more! Read more Arthritis in Dogs
People send me a lot of emails about their dog’s stool. Sometimes, they send pictures of it. No, I’m not kidding. They want to know if the poop looks to be the right color, texture, etc. They’re worred (I get it) and even more so if they’ve read something on the internet about what the perfect stool looks like and Fido produces anything different from that.
The latest cause for their concern comes from a site that states healthy stool must be hard/firm and brown, but it must turn white within a day and disintegrate within two days. Anything other than that is considered to be bad. So, now we have not only a description, but a timetable to follow! Seriously?
Normally, stool is brown due to a series of reactions in the body, and to bacteria present. Read more The Scoop on Dog Poop
The excitement about prebiotics is deserved but overdone. It’s deserved because sometime in the mid ’90s a doctor in Brussels coined the term to describe something that’s very old but wasn’t understood all that well. It’s overdone because prebiotics have been around from the start. It’s just that we didn’t have a fancy name for sugar molecules that escape digestion and so, help to feed the good-guy bacteria in the bowel.
Probiotic bacteria aka good-guy bacteria (remember that acidophilus is proven in dogs whereas others are questionable at best) helps to crowd-out nasty bacteria.
Since prebiotics help to ‘feed’ probiotics, the former is often added to supplemental probiotics to keep the bacteria thriving. Not only is this not necessary if the probiotic is freeze dried, but many dogs can’t handle some of the common prebiotics being used. Read more Prebiotics and Probiotics for Gut Health
Some of the things that others consider to be more complicated may nevertheless be very worthwhile. This is the take-home message I got after reading the article I’m going to point you to, but the message isn’t new, really. I’ve never doubted the power of balanced home-prepared diets. What I find exciting is that it’s finally being recognized by scientists focusing on dogs.
Sometimes, when working with veterinarians, I’d wonder if they really believed in my approach or if they accepted it with a shrug. Now, having worked at this for so many years, I feel we (all of us) are coming to a better understanding of just how important a fresh food diet can be. Read more Nutritional Help for Dogs with Heart Failure
The general classification of amino acids is broken down into three categories. Essential amino acids are called essential because the body isn’t able to produce them, so they have to come from foods.
Unessential amino acids are, in fact, needed by the body as well, but the body can manufacture them if all essential amino acids are present in sufficient amounts. A conditionally essential amino acid is one that the body may need more of when certain circumstances arise. Read more L- Glutamine – A Conditionally Essential Amino Acid
Taurine is an amino acid known for heart health, but it also has a role in eye health. The body can manufacture taurine from other essential amino acids in the diet, so it’s been considered an unessential amino acid for this reason. In other words, as long as the diet provides sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids, we shouldn’t have to worry about taurine. But that turns out not be the case for all dogs, or even for people.
Some breeds show a taurine deficiency even when the diet is great, and some individual dogs, no matter the breed do, too. Another interesting consideration is that more taurine seems to be needed when there is emotional or physical stress. Read more Taurine for Eye Health