I get many questions regarding the best nutrition for dogs as they begin to reach their senior years. Most people want to make sure their companions are comfortable and getting everything they need. So, to answer some of your questions, we’re going to take a look at an overview of diet considerations, common senior health problems, and suggested supplements for seniors.
The most common questions I get regarding older dogs pertain to diet. Many people believe they need to feed a senior dog a diet that is lower in protein and fat. Many commercial dog food companies make senior diets that do just that — lower protein and fat. However, the truth is, senior dogs need high amounts of quality protein in their diet and a moderate amount of fat.
High quality animal-based protein is essential to canine organ health, muscle tone and healthy skin and coat. High quality protein is even more important for older dogs. As dogs age, their ability to maintain good muscle tone and a strong immune system lessens. This is due partly from inactivity and partly from metabolism changes that occur as dogs get older. Senior dogs that don’t get enough quality and quantity of animal-based protein have less body mass and are more prone to illness and disease.
“This research is contrary to conventional opinion that senior dog foods should contain lower protein levels than adult maintenance formulas in order to avoid progressive decrease in kidney function. However, senior dogs that were fed a high-protein diet had stable renal function and a lower death rate than those dogs fed a lower-protein diet”
So don’t skimp on the protein! Don’t feed your senior dog a reduced protein diet. Be sure to feed a good raw or home-cooked diet with plenty of quality animal-based protein!
Fat is also important for seniors. Fat is what makes food taste good and when fat is reduced, the dogs tend to crave more food — they are usually looking for more fat. If you have a senior dog that needs to lose weight, do not substitute the fat with carbohydrates (vegetables, grains, starches) thinking you are doing your dog a favor. Carbohydrates can be fattening because they cause increased hunger. This is because your dog needs and wants fat. Feeding carbohydrates also increases stool size and gas. Generally, it is recommended to keep the animal protein amounts high and the animal fat at moderate levels — not low levels — and simply reduce the total amount of food fed by 10%. The following article was written by Christie Keith and gives specific instructions on weight reduction:
Additionally, dogs do not have the ability to break down sugars like we do as they have no amylase in their saliva. Therefore, the sugars remain on the teeth and gums and cause decay. If your dog has chronic dental problems or bad breath odor, it may be a good idea to switch it over to a homemade diet with no grains or starches. Look to the low glycemic diets listed below.
One health consideration with weight gain in seniors is hypothyroidism. If you have a dog that won’t lose weight by food reduction or increased appetite, it is probably a good idea to get a full thyroid panel on your dog. Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain and other health problems.
Health Issues for Seniors
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Arthritis is probably the most common complaint for dogs as they age. Joint inflammation and pain can affect dogs in many ways. They may become less active; they may show pain upon rising or after activity, and it can even affect their appetite. Any time you have a dog that shows pain in a joint or the spine, it is important to see a veterinarian and get a full blood panel, urinalysis and radiographs. Many things can cause pain and lameness, including arthritis, pinched nerves, muscle or tendon sprains, renal issues, pancreatitis and Addison’s disease (rear end weakness and muscle loss). In order to treat effectively, a diagnosis is paramount, don’t try and guess the problem. If the problem is arthritis, there are several approaches to try. EPA fish oil capsules are very effective, as the omega 3 fatty acids found in this animal-based oil helps reduce inflammation. Additional benefits from omega 3 fatty acids is that it is renal, heart and liver protective and it improves skin and coat.
White Willow Bark Liquid, derived from white willow bark, is a natural pain reliever. This comes in a liquid tincture and can be dosed in the gum line or mixed with food. Do *NOT* give Willow Bark if you are already giving a NSAID (Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx, etc.). I have used this for my senior dogs during seasonal arthritic pain commonly caused by weather changes. Yucca Intensive is another good herbal product that helps relieve inflammation. It is given at one drop per ten pounds of body weight once or twice daily. This needs to be given with food to avoid stomach upset. Lastly, try to reduce the amounts of grains and starches in the diet as these can aggravate inflammation and pain.
A good homemade diet to help with arthritis pain and inflammation is the low glycemic diet. You can find information on this diet in this newsletter http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/low-glycemic/. You can also add quality animal protein and fat to a high quality grainless kibble food, which will help reduce the carbohydrates found in dry kibble diets. You can read this article, http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/mixing-fresh-food-with-kibble/, for more information on adding whole foods to kibble:
An issue that may affect senior dogs is leaking urine. This may be due to a weakening of the urinary tract muscles, however, be sure to contact your veterinarian first to test for a urinary tract infection. This would be determined by a sterile urine culture and sensitivity test. This is done in house at your veterinarian clinic to capture sterile urine. This sample is sent off to a laboratory to see if any bacteria should result. This test will not only identify the bacteria, but will also determine the correct antibiotic needed if there is an infection. If there is an infection, generally a four week course of antibiotics is needed. Then ten days after completing the antibiotics, another urine culture should be done to ensure the infection is gone. A UTI (urinary tract infections) can cause incontinence.
Diet changes can help. Often diets high in grains or starches, (which would include dry dog food or homemade diets where grains, potatoes, carrots, etc., make up more than 25% of the diet), may make incontinence worse. Removing the high amounts of sugar and fiber can help in many cases.
I would suggest trying both of these methods before pursuing prescription incontinence medications. They may be needed, but I would rule these out first. Often a dog with a urinary tract infection is thought to have renal problems. Whenever an older dog is found to have elevated BUN, creatinine and phosphorus levels, be sure to check for a UTI, have a leptospirosis blood titer done, ACTH Stimulation test (Cushing’s and Addison’s disease) and a tick borne disease blood panel. Old age does not cause renal problems. It is wise to run these tests to either find the source of the problem or rule these other health conditions out. With Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease and leptospirosis, liver enzyme values may be high as well. More information on diets for dogs with renal issues can be found here: http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/kidney-diet/
Skin Problems and/or Odor
Some senior dogs may develop dry or itching skin and dry hair coat. Sometimes these issues can be taken care of by changing the diet. Increasing the quality and quantity of animal protein in the diet may help. If you are using a senior dog commercial diet, change to an adult diet (higher fat) commercial food or a home-cooked or a raw diet. Fat quality is also important for good skin and coat. I have often found homemade diets reduce odor in dogs, as the fats in dry foods can oftentimes cause body odor. Adding EPA fish oil capsules at one per ten to twenty pounds of body weight daily will help due to the omega 3 fatty acids. If the dog has mouth odor, be sure to have a complete check up on the dog’s teeth and gums. Often teeth in poor condition or gum disease will cause this. Removing grains and starches will often help keep teeth cleaner and reduce the need for dental procedures. As mentioned earlier, dogs do not have the ability to break down starches in their saliva which can, in turn, cause tooth decay and gum disease. Weekly baths with a good quality oatmeal based shampoo such as Pure Pet Care Herbal Shampoo will also help skin and odor. Rinse with a solution of ¼ white vinegar and ¾ water. If the skin problem persists, be sure to have your veterinarian do a skin scraping to check for bacteria, yeast or mites. Both bacteria infections and yeast can cause skin odor. For more information on skin care:
Cognition Problems in Senior Dogs
Symptoms of possible cognitive problems in senior dogs can include confusion, restlessness and less enjoyment of life, and some can have increased house soiling incidences. Research done in humans has also been found to apply to dogs. BOTH senior dogs and people, need MORE protein for good health; especially for heart, kidney and liver health. Dogs who have been raised solely on dry dog food tend to be more prone to decline in cognitive ability. Studies have shown that when protein levels are increased and antioxidants and fish oil with EPA and DHA (from animal based oils such as fish oils) are added to the diet, senior dogs were known to sleep better and show clarity improvement in their surroundings and had less house training issues. I would suggest senior dogs have a fresh food diet — home-cooked or raw — or a commercial diet with fresh animal protein added in. Additionally, I think it is important to add a couple of quality supplements. These would be Berte’s Immune Blend, which contains antioxidants and other good nutrients, EPA Fish Oil capsules at one per ten to twenty pounds of body weight daily and CoQ10 at 2 to 3 milligrams per pound of body weight. CoQ10 is also thought to help cognition as well.
Additional Health Problems of Senior Dogs
Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease are both adrenal disorders caused by either too much or too little cortisol production. Either disease can create a major health crisis. Both diseases can be vague in their symptoms, which can cause these health problems to be over-looked and mistaken for simply being attributed to old age. Cushing’s disease is an over-production of cortisol and symptoms often are mistaken for other ailments. These can include sudden onset of thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, development of a pot belly, poor hair coat and/or skin, dark spots on the belly, more prone to infection and lack of energy. If any of these symptoms occur, have a complete veterinarian evaluation. For more information:
Addison’s disease is caused by under production of cortisol and there are three types, primary, secondary and atypical. Like Cushing’s disease, the symptoms can mimic other problems and are often over looked or confused with other health problems. These symptoms include diarrhea, lack of appetite, rear end weakness, loss of energy, shaking and depression. Both Cushing’s and Addison’s disease, if not treated can result in death. Your veterinarian can test for either of test with an ACTH Stimulation test. For more information on Addison’s disease:
Daily Supplement Suggestions
Two good supplements for senior dogs include the EPA Fish Oil Capsules and the Berte’s Immune Blend. The Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids which help with skin and coat and are renal, heart and liver protective. Recommended dose is one capsule per 10-20 pounds of body weight daily. The Berte’s Immune Blend contains the antioxidants vitamin C and E and also a B complex (good for nerve and eye health), L-Glutamine (helps slow muscle atrophy and helps with digestion), digestive enzymes (helps break down proteins and fats) and Probiotics (help keep the good flora and fauna in the digestive tract).
On a final note, it is always important to keep your senior dog in good condition. This means daily walks and exercise as their mobility permits. Good nutrition, bi-yearly wellness checkups at your veterinarians, and keeping your senior physically fit and mentally active will lead to a long and healthy life!
I occasionally get questions from folks on which carbohydrates are best for their dog’s diet. These questions are asked regardless of whether they are feeding home cooked diets, raw diets, or various commercial dog foods that offer grain-free recipes or foods for dogs with special needs.
Carbohydrates include all vegetables, fruits and grains – or anything grown in plant form. Carbohydrates are made up of chains of sugar and there are differences in these chains from simple sugars (white refined sugar, honey, molasses, white flour and fruit juice) to complex carbohydrates (grains such as oats, rice, barley to vegetables, beans, lentils, pears and potatoes).
Commercial Pet Food
All Commercial dog foods contain carbohydrates. These foods offer fiber (to help with firm stools) as a less expensive food ingredient and to aid in the ability for dry foods to maintain a longer shelf life. While they serve a purpose in this regard, they also add some liabilities. Carbohydrates make stools larger with more odor and gas, but offer little, if any, nutrition. It is important to do your research if you use commercial food. Shop for a food with the least amount of carbohydrates offered and with a good primary animal-based protein. Some foods are now being offered as grain free. However, remember that the other ‘grain-free’ sources are still carbohydrates, with potatoes being the ingredient most often used. This can benefit dogs with certain grain allergies or a gluten intolerance. Some dogs can have digestive issues when they are fed food with gluten. Additionally, commercial foods that are grain free can be a novel food source to try for dogs with food allergies, however, in my opinion, food allergies are rare and over diagnosed.
Carbohydrates are used in home cooked recipes. The primary purpose for adding carbohydrates is to offer a fiber source, not nutrition. It is doubtful that dogs get much nutrition from carbohydrates. They are carnivores and require animal-based proteins which provide the amino acids, vitamins and nutrients they need. Most carbohydrates are high in fiber and this is what helps keep the stools firm. Without using fiber in cooked meals, the stools would be VERY loose. When using vegetable sources, they must be fully pureed or cooked. Dogs cannot digest grains or vegetables very well unless they are fully cooked or pureed as they do not have the ability to break down the cell wall of carbohydrates and they can’t ferment grains in their short, simple digestive tracts. When using carbohydrates in home cooked diets, I generally recommend using about 75% animal-based protein and only 25% carbohydrates.
High Glycemic (Sugar Content) Vegetables
Equally important to note is that the type of carbohydrate used affects stool size. Most of the recipes offered in the B-Naturals articles (in the newsletter directory) use low-glycemic carbohydrates. These are vegetables which offer the lowest sugar content. Dogs are carnivores, and genetically speaking, they do not have systems that need or adapt well to a constant influx of high-sugar foods. Dogs need fat and animal protein to survive and thrive. High-sugar foods contain more calories and also add unneeded and unnecessary weight gain. They may also contribute to poor health conditions such as diabetes, allergies and yeast growth. High-sugar foods can also cause urinary tract infections, adrenal gland and hormone imbalances, and they may contribute to seizure activity in dogs with epilepsy. For more information, see the following article on low glycemic recipes:
Carbohydrates are not necessary in raw diets. Raw diets contain bone which offers the fiber needed to help create firm stools. Some may wish to add vegetables to the diet for variety, but in this case I would not feed more than 10% of the total diet in vegetables. They may not add to the nutrition of the diet, but they aren’t harmful either. Please note that adding more than 10% of carbohydrates to a raw diet will only increase stool size and in some cases may cause gas as the dogs short and simple digestive system struggles with TOO much fiber. Their small intestine is simply not designed to ferment or handle large amounts of fiber. In fact, too much fiber can cause intestinal lining inflammation, which leads to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), colitis, diarrhea, cramping and pain.
For further information on carbohydrates and more references please read the following article:
It is also thought that grains and starches may aggravate incontinence in spayed females and senior dogs. Incontinence is leaking of urine and chronic conditions can lead to rashes, irritation, and urinary tract infections. Removing grains from the diet can oftentimes alleviate the problem and sometimes completely stop the incontinence without having to resort to prescription medications. Also adding the herbal tincture blend, Kidni Kare can help strengthen and tone urinary tract muscles.
For more information on incontinence and diet, see Aunt Jeni’s article:
Dogs with arthritis or other inflammatory affected problems need to avoid grains and starches. The sugar content of these foods may aggravate inflammation and cause pain. This would include avoiding fruit, as well as vegetables in the nightshade family – ESPECIALLY tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. I have had many emails from people over the years testifying that moving their dogs to a raw diet or a low glycemic cooked diets has reduced arthritis pain in their dogs.
Other ways to help reduce inflammation in dogs with arthritis would include adding the following supplements:
Omega 3 fatty acids found in animal-based fats can help reduce inflammation and pain. The best source for these omega 3 fatty acids is found in fish or salmon oil. The EPA and DHA in fish oil helps reduce inflammation throughout the body and also supports the immune system, heart, liver and kidney function and is great for healthy skin and coat. Give one capsule (180 EPA/120 DHA) per 10-20 pounds of body weight daily.
Yucca Intensive, which is a liquid tincture made from fresh yucca, also helps fight inflammation. This plant contains saponins, which help reduce inflammation and pain. Use one drop per ten pounds of body weight, twice daily WITH food. NEVER combine Yucca with any other NSAID, such as Rimadyl, Metacam or steroids!
If your dog has a low thyroid condition, it is important to avoid raw vegetables in the cruciferous family such as cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower, as they contain natural chemicals called goitrogens (goiter producers) that can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis. Interesting, these vegetables are fine when they are cooked, but do not give them raw to dogs with low thyroid problems.
While carbohydrates are not necessary in a dog’s diet, they can be useful in certain conditions. They add the needed fiber to a home cooked diet and they are beneficial in certain liver and renal issues where carbohydrates may be needed to add calories, absorb ammonia or reduce phosphorus in the diet.
Using too many carbohydrates however, can cause larger stools with more odor and gas. They are composed of chains of sugar, so they add calories and can adversely affect dogs with diabetes, seizures, arthritis, dogs with incontinence, and dogs with hypothyroid conditions.
Additionally, sugars in the diet can cause tooth decay, staining of the teeth, tear staining, and they can cause yeast to grow topically on the skin, feet, face and ears.
Even more concerning, sugar affects the adrenal glands and hormone production. They can adversely affect fertility in dogs which can result in reduced litter size. Sugars may affect sperm production and it also seems to cause heat cycles to occur more frequently in female dogs. Heat cycles occurring more frequently results in poor fertility due to the uterus lining not recovering well enough to sustain fertilized eggs. Raw fed females, typically cycle every 6-12 months, which results in better fertility.
Lastly, high carbohydrate and sugar intake can create a hormonal imbalance which affects the adrenal glands. This can lead to Addison’s or Cushing’s Disease.
In certain health conditions, when fat must be reduced, such as pancreatitis or chronic liver disease, high calories carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes or carrots can be helpful for weight gain. When formulating a diet that is low in phosphorus for dogs with chronic renal problems, using low phosphorus carbohydrates is beneficial. However, fat is usually fine for dogs with renal problems.
In order to make the best decision on whether carbohydrates will help or hinder your dog’s health, it is important to know all these variables. It is not a question of whether or not carbohydrates are ‘good or bad’. It is about the individual needs of your dogs.
The best benefits of a carbohydrate free diet are:
It is only in specific health needs (pancreas, liver, certain stone forming conditions) that I would recommend using carbohydrates. For dogs with these ailments, they can be useful for weight gain and to able to offer a full ration of food for calories to help keep the dog satisfied.
I hope you found this newsletter helpful. Your feedback is always welcome.
If you have questions about your dog’s diet or about specific health conditions, please take advantage of the B-Naturals Newsletter Archives. Chances are what you are looking for is right here!
Regardless of the diet choice you make for your dog – kibble, raw or home cooked – the vast amount of supplements on the market today, including vitamins, minerals, digestion aids and anti-inflammatories, can make choosing the right supplements for your dog very confusing. It seems just when we might be getting comfortable with our choices, new products pop up or we read an article that warns us to avoid the supplements we have already been giving to our dogs! We want to feed our dogs the best we can and we want to make sure what we are giving them enhances their health and gives us the best value for our dollar.
It is becoming more and more common to hear people talk about their dogs having ‘allergies’, ‘food sensitivities’ and ‘sensitive stomachs’, and how these ailments are oftentimes accompanied by odd sores, redness and itching, poor coat and skin, with occasional diarrhea and defy diagnosis!
Although I have addressed these issues before, I will state again that allergies, especially food allergies, are rare in dogs. Environmental allergies are more common, but oftentimes it is really yeast (Malassezia) overgrowth. Food allergies are much rarer. A dog needs to be at least 2 years of age or older to have a true food allergy. Food allergies in dogs develop when they are exposed to the same food over and over for long periods of time (i.e., fixed commercial diet or feeding predominately one meat source in a raw or cooked diet).
Yeast and Fungi are found in the environment (most often malassezia) and can cause skin issues when a dog has been itching, been bit by a tick or flea, or has become run down. Yeast can bounce back and forth with bacteria on the skin which can cause face rubbing, runny eyes, ear issues accompanied by a brown discharge, and thickening of the skin.
Allergies most often occur with hives, or a reddening and thickening of the skin that itches. You can find yeast AND bacteria in the affected areas.
When a dog is having skin and coat issues, my first advice is to have your veterinarian do a skin scraping and culture to determine if yeast and/or bacteria are present. The skin scraping is sent to a lab to be cultured for at least 3 days. The results not only tell if these are present, but also WHAT strain of bacteria is there AND what medication is needed to treat it. The right diagnosis is always the best way to begin treatment.
IF your dog has loose stools, with or without vomiting, it can be inflammation of the digestive tract lining. When the digestive tract lining becomes inflamed, food cannot process and digest well, and FATS and CARBOHYDRATES are the hardest foods to digest. Fats tend to just rush through the digestive system oftentimes causing diarrhea with mucus. Carbohydrates (fiber) continue to create irritation and stop any healing process. This in turn, can affect the dog’s whole digestive system resulting in poor coat, red or itchy skin, and reduced immune system response. Bacteria and yeast seem to just flock to these dogs and set up shop on their skin.
How is this treated? After a skin scraping and culture are done to determine if bacteria and/or yeast is present and then treated, a diet change can be very helpful. If the dog is eating a commercial pet food, a good change would be to a raw or home cooked diet that contains low or no carbohydrates and reduced fat (at least reduced fat for a few weeks). It is also helpful to feed smaller, more frequent meals for the first few weeks. Less food in the system at one time means less stress on the digestive tract. If you are already feeding a raw diet, remove some of the fat. Remove the skin from chicken parts (NO leg quarters as these are fatty), remove fat from meat and feed protein sources that are lower in fat for a few weeks. Chicken necks without skin (turkey necks too!) are ideal as the raw meaty bone part of the diet.
To enhance healing, add l-glutamine at 1,000 mg per 20 pounds of body weight daily. L-glutamine is an amino acid used in premature babies and people who have suffered starvation to assist with healing of the digestive tract lining. Also, add animal-based digestive enzymes (pancreatin and pancrealipase) as these help predigest fats in the stomach before they hit the small intestine. Lastly, add probiotics (beneficial bacteria) to enhance immunity and put the good flora and fauna back into the gut which is often lost when dogs have diarrhea. The Berte’s Digestion Blend contains all of these supplements, however, you may need to add more l-glutamine in some cases.
How long do these changes take to heal the digestive tract?
Most people get impatient when they don’t see changes right away. You should see improvement in a few days, but it does take a few weeks for the intestinal lining to heal. Usually things go up and down over these weeks, with the good improvements (firmer stools, having ‘to go’ less often, reduced vomiting, and improved skin and coat) slowly getting better and better over time.
Once the digestive tract lining is no longer inflamed, you can go back to feeding two meals a day and slowly increase the fat content. I had a dog with this issue 20 years ago and used this method. He healed in about 6-8 weeks and never had another incident. It takes persistence, patience and determination, but the outcome is well worth it! Taking the stress off the digestive tract by feeding smaller, more frequent meals, reducing the fat and removing or reducing the carbohydrates in the diet, all contribute to the healing of the digestive tract lining. When healing occurs, the immune system starts returning to normal and the dog’s coat and skin improve, along with returned energy and more normal stools.
To help topically, bathing weekly to cleanse the skin will assist the healing process. Rinse with a solution of ¾ water and ¼ WHITE vinegar. This removes any excess soap AND kills yeast on contact. I use a solution of ¾ witch hazel and ¼ aloe vera or Thayers Witch Hazel with Aloe topically as needed. This helps temporarily stop the itching, cools the area, and helps with healing. I have also used the Halo Derma Dream Salve on affected areas twice daily. This promotes hair growth and also assists in healing.
We always want our dogs to look great and to perform at their very best. We want our working dogs to have steady endurance and drive. We want our tracking and search and rescue dogs to hold the scent and stay on the trail. We want our agility dogs to have the energy and balance to make the jumps, go through the weaves smoothly and effortlessly, and to handle each obstacle with precision. We need our obedience dogs to stay focused and our Schutzhund dogs to have stamina, courage, and stay on task. We want our conformation dogs to have ground covering side movement and to be happy and confident in the ring. And we all want our dogs to have lean, muscular and fit bodies.
A good diet provides the energy, strength, lean muscle mass and mental focus that is needed to achieve these performance goals. Let’s take a look at the different diet components and how they help with each of these performance goals.
“It takes a lot of energy to digest food, so it is very important to feed foods that are easy to digest, provide the most nutrients, and use the least amounts of energy. For dogs, that food would be fats and protein. The foods to stay away from are carbohydrates.”
Carbohydrates are found in plant based foods, which include vegetables, grains and fruit. The two main components in plant based foods are sugar and fiber. Dogs have short and simple digestive tracts which are not designed to ferment high fiber foods and cannot break down the cell walls which are composed of cellulose. The dog’s digestive system struggles to digest these foods which takes greater energy, creates more gas and produces large stools of undigested food matter.”
Carbohydrates are also made up of sugar and sugars can cause the blood glucose levels in dogs to go up and down. This in turn causes a dog’s energy level to rise quickly and then drop suddenly. This can create inconsistent energy spurts which can cause your dog to tire out more rapidly. Additionally, fiber binds up the digestive tract which results in a loss of valuable energy. Fat and proteins are much easier for the dog to digest and produce smaller stools. Harder to digest foods mean a full colon, which Dr. Kronfeld, DVM equated to an extra 20 pound handicap on a race horse:
Fat is the most important energy source for dogs. Fats are dense in calories which are needed when dogs are working hard and burning large amounts of calories. Fat also helps protect their cells from damage. The fat a dogs needs is animal fat. These fats are found in meat, eggs and dairy. High fat diets have been the secret for successful sled dog racing teams for years:
Another important fat is omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids not only help provide energy, they also help the immune system, fight inflammation, help keep the skin and coat healthy and are heart, liver and renal protective. This essential fatty acid is hard to find in foods and breaks down easily when exposed to heat, light or air. I would recommend using fish oil capsules and give one 1000 mg capsule per 10-20 pounds of body weight daily.
For more information on animal fats and omega 3 fatty acids see the link below:
The second most important energy source for dogs is animal protein. Animal proteins contain amino acids, which when fed in high quality and quantity, produce glucose in dogs. This keeps their energy level on a stable plane. There no energy crash and it will keep the dog focused without mood swings. Feeding a good variety of animal proteins such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, dairy and fish provides a wide variety of amino acids and offers better balance to the diet. Each protein varies somewhat in amino acids so providing a good variety of proteins insures the dog will get all the amino acids needed. Amino acids help repair tissue, keep the organs healthy and help build muscle mass. When your dog is on a diet rich in protein sources, and fresh sources offer better quality, there is no need to ever add synthetic amino acids to its diet.
Unlike humans, most dogs do not loose electrolytes during exercise because sweat is not a primary avenue for thermoregulation in dogs. Because most healthy dogs do not lose electrolytes, they do not benefit from electrolyte replacement drinks:
Water and Fat Work Together
“Fat is used by the body for energy and can be used as a metabolic water source. Fats are highly digestible, very palatable, and are an energy dense nutritional ingredient. It has an energy yield of 8.5 kcal per gram. They are also essential for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. Fat provides a source of metabolic water. Fat metabolism produces 107g of water for every 100g of fat. Protein produces 40g water/100g protein, and carbohydrate produces 55g water/100g carbohydrate. Fatty acid ratio can also help to reduce the production of inflammatory mediators in canine skin, plasma, and neutrophils. Dietary omega-6: omega-3 fatty acid ratios between 5:1 and 10:1 are optimum.”
Feeding a high fat diet will help keep your working dog hydrated, but water is equally important. It is essential to always provide fresh water for dogs around the clock. Always remember to bring buckets, spray bottles, water and ice to any and all performance events. This is important in both warm and cold weather conditions.
Additionally, “Diets which are moderate in protein but high in fat on the other hand tend to help conserve body fluids, in three ways. First they minimize urine output by reducing the amount of nitrogen which must be eliminated from the body. Second, they provide a more concentrated source of nutrients, thereby minimizing stool volume and fecal water losses. Third, dietary fat contributes ‘metabolic water’. Metabolic water is defined as water produced from the metabolism of nutrients. When 100 grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates are metabolized, approximately 107g, 40 g and 55g of metabolic water are produced respectively. Dietary fat yields more than its weight in metabolic body water.”
Dogs don’t sweat like humans or horses. They only have slight perspiration through their foot pads. However, dogs can lose a great deal of moisture through panting, so it is imperative to keep a performance dog hydrated at all times. The best method for doing this is to feed the dog a moist diet and have water available for them at all times. It is also very important to offer your dog water before, during and after an event, so keep a bucket of water handy throughout the event. At times, you may mean to flavor the water with chicken or beef broth (not with electrolytes, see above) to get the dog to drink or you can offer yogurt. Without proper hydration, a dog quickly loses endurance and energy and it can lead to future health problems.
Now, let’s put this altogether! Let’s take a look at the best diet and supplements you can give your dog to
provide high energy levels, endurance and stamina, and lean muscle mass.
We know what we need to avoid in their diets; carbohydrates and sugars. That includes grains, fruits and vegetables. It also includes any foods or supplements made with maltodextrin, glucose, dextrin, molasses or honey. While these are found in human body builder supplements (and it is questionable they help humans), they create energy peaks and valleys in dogs. What dogs need for energy are fats and animal based proteins.
Fresh raw animal fats and proteins are the easiest for a dog to digest and provide the most nourishment. This diet would include muscle meat, organ meat, fat and bone for calcium with 40% – 45% being muscle meat (beef, pork, lamb, fish), 5% to 10% being beef kidney or liver and the other 50% being meat with bones, which include chicken necks, backs, wings or leg quarters, pork tails, necks or ribs, as well as lamb ribs and turkey necks. If you offer a cooked diet to your dog, then don’t feed bone. Bones harden when cooked and can splinter. Cooked diets would include 75% animal based protein, including eggs, yogurt and organ meat and 25% low glycemic (low sugar) vegetables such as zucchini, broccoli, dark leafy greens, cauliflower and summer squash. To provide the necessary calcium needed, you would add 900 mg of calcium citrate per pound of food served.
The idea of offering an assortment of animal based proteins is to insure your dog is getting all of the amino acids. Animal proteins vary in the type and amount of amino acids they contain. There is no need to add amino acids as supplements when you are feeding a fresh, meat based diet. A variety of meat, eggs and dairy contain the correct balance for what your performance dog will need.
Dogs need approximately 2% to 3% of their body weight daily in food, while puppies may need as much as 5% to 10%. This amount can vary due to metabolism, activity level of the dog and growth stages in puppies. And remember; don’t keep your working dog too thin. Too little fat can cause a dog to dehydrate faster, and a dog needs to have adequate rib covering for energy. I also feed my working dogs in the morning before an event, but a small, high protein, high fat meal. And you can give a dog an extra boost by giving treats of hard boiled eggs, baked liver pieces, cheese cubes or beef jerky during performance events. And *always* provide a working dog with fresh water at all times possible.
The most important supplement to add to a working dog’s diet is omega 3 fatty acids. Fish oil is fragile and can be easily damaged by heat, light or air, so giving fish oil in the form of fish oil capsules offers the best protection. Omega 3 fatty acids help enhance energy, support the dog’s immune system, protect the heart, liver and kidneys, and helps promote healthy skin and a glowing coat. The dose is one 1000 mg capsule (180 EPA/120 DHA) per 10 to 20 pounds of body weight daily. The Berte’s EPA Fish Oil capsules are an excellent choice for omega 3 fatty acid supplementation. Salmon Oil is another good choice, especially for dogs that may have allergies to other types of fish oil.
Next, it is important to supplement with the water soluble Vitamin C and B complex vitamins. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps with capillary health, prevents bruising, helps fight inflammation and promotes ligament and tendon integrity. The dose for vitamin C with bioflavanoids is given at approximately 100 to 200 mg per 10 pounds of body weight daily given with meals. For convenience, the Berte’s Daily Blend is a powdered mix that contains 2,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of dry vitamin E and 75 mg of B complex per tablespoon. It also contains kelp, alfalfa and vitamin D and A.
Lastly, probiotics, also known as beneficial bacteria, are necessary for any dog in training and for dogs that travel and are involved in performance work. The beneficial bacteria found in most probiotic blends include acidophilus and bifidus. These help keep the correct balance of good bacteria in the digestive tract, help during times of stress and aid with the absorption of nutrients. These friendly bacteria are also thought to keep ‘bad’ bacterial and fungal infections away. The Berte’s Ultra Probiotic Powder contains a blend of probiotics in an economical powder form, and dogs love the taste! Simply sprinkle on top of each meal.
In addition to proper supplementation, to keep a dog at their best fitness level, offer high protein, high fat diets and avoid or keep carbohydrates at levels low. Proper conditioning is also very important. You can’t accomplish this without proper conditioning. You need to plan for 8 weeks of good conditioning, proper diet and supplementation if you want to bring your dog to top form. Please remember, a top athlete needs to continue these good practices throughout their life to maintain their best fitness level!
Calcium plays a very important role in your dog’s diet. Not only does calcium help build strong bones, it also helps heart function by supporting the contractions in the heart muscle. Calcium also supports nerve transmission, muscle building and signaling, and helps with hormone secretion.
Calcium levels have the ability to remain stable in the body because calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. If the diet is low in calcium, the body will use the resources stored in these areas until more calcium is introduced into the diet. While this stored supply helps keep other body functions running smoothly, shortages of calcium can affect bone and tooth health. That is why it is always a good idea to make sure your dog has a healthy supply of calcium in the diet.
Vitamin D3 is also very important as vitamin D3 helps with the uptake of calcium in the body. These two vital nutrients work together as a team to provide not only healthy bones and teeth, but also to provide the additional support other body functions need
Not all calcium is equal! The best source of calcium for a dog, when given as a supplement, is either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. These are both economical and can be found at any supermarket or drug store.
When you are feeding a raw diet with bones and the diet consists of at least 50% easily consumable raw meaty bones, the bones themselves are an excellent source of calcium and provide the levels of calcium needed in the diet.
Commercial dog foods already contain the correct amount of calcium needed, so if you are feeding a commercial kibble, there is no need to add an additional calcium supplement.
If you are feeding a homemade raw or cooked diet that is void of bones, you need to add calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. When adding calcium to this kind of diet, the amount of calcium added depends on the volume of food served and NOT the dog’s weight. The amount of calcium added to the diet needs to be 900 mg of calcium per pound of food served. This is because we need to balance the DIET, not the dog!
When Do You Add Calcium to your Dog’s Diet?
You DO need to add calcium if you are feeding a home-cooked diet. Do NOT cook bones and feed them to your dog. They become hard and splinter!
You DO need to add calcium to your dog’s diet if you are feeding a raw diet, but do NOT feed raw meaty bones.
If feeding either of these two types of diets, you need to add 900 mg of calcium per pound of food fed. Again, don’t forget the vitamin D3! You want to ensure proper uptake of the calcium!
When Do You NOT Add Calcium to your Dog’s Diet?
You do NOT need to add a calcium supplement when you are feeding a raw diet that consists of 50% easily consumable raw meaty bones. These bones include, chicken necks, backs, wings and leg quarters, pork ribs, necks, and breasts, lamb ribs and turkey necks.
You do NOT need to add a calcium supplement if you are feeding a commercial dog food. Commercial foods already contain the correct amount of calcium needed.
You do NOT add calcium to a pregnant bitches diet that already has balanced calcium in it (i.e., raw meaty bones, calcium added to home cooked OR a commercial dog food).
When is it Most Essential That Dogs Have Calcium?
During pregnancy! It is essential that pregnant mothers get all the calcium they need, as well as vitamin D3, fish oil capsules and folic acid! However, do NOT add calcium to a balanced raw diet, a home cooked diet if you are ALREADY adding calcium, or to a commercial pet food. Pregnant dogs need calcium for development of the puppies, but too MUCH calcium can cause eclampsia once the puppies are born.
Some people advise removing ALL BONE from a pregnant bitch’s diet, but this is from the mistaken idea that raw diets have too much calcium. They do not, if the diet is balanced 50%-50% in meat meals and raw meaty bone meals each day. And pregnant bitches also need a source of Vitamin D3 during pregnancy and lactation.
During the puppy stages! It is very important that puppies get the right amount of calcium until their growth plates have closed!
During senior years! Senior dogs need more calcium AND they need high quality protein!
Don’t Forget the Vitamin D3!
Vitamin D3 helps with the uptake of calcium; however, it is not always easy to get the amounts needed. Foods highest in Vitamin D3 include:
The Berte’s Immune Blend contains vitamin D3. It also includes vitamins A, B vitamins, C, D and E, plus probiotics and digestive enzymes. Berte’s Daily Blend also contains vitamin D3 and includes vitamins A, B vitamins, C, D and E, plus alfalfa and kelp. Both of these supplements are a great addition to any diet whether you are feeding a raw, home-cooked, or commercial diet.
Don’t forget to add calcium to home-cooked meals at 900 mg per pound of food served. If you feed a raw diet, you don’t need to add calcium if you are making sure 50% of this diet is consumable raw meaty bones. When feeding a raw or home-cooked diet, you also want to make sure you are adding a good variety of proteins. This means you are feeding at least four protein sources. Don’t forget to add eggs, salmon, mackerel or sardines (canned in water is fine!), beef liver and yogurt fortified with vitamin D, and add a supplement with D3, such as the Berte’s Daily Blend!
Summer is almost here!
To help keep your dog’s coat and skin clean and free of parasites be sure to keep your dogs clean! The PurePet Shampoo is an excellent choice for gentle cleaning and the Halo Cloud Nine Herbal Dip is excellent for repelling both fleas and mosquitoes!
One of the most common reasons we take our dog to visit the veterinarian is for diarrhea – with or without vomiting. What causes diarrhea is also one of the most common questions asked on my Facebook page, K9Nutrition. Symptoms may include loose stools, projectile diarrhea, mucus and occasionally red blood tinged stools. Oftentimes, veterinarians will prescribe anti-inflammatory antibiotics, such as metronidazole or Tylan, and suggest a bland diet. As the antibiotic treatment proceeds the dog gets better, but in many cases, the symptoms return and you head back to the vet for another round of treatment. Repeated use of either of these antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance and continued use of metronidazole can cause neurological problems.
So, What can you do?
It is always important to take your dog to your veterinarian in cases of prolonged diarrhea and/or vomiting. These two problems can cause dehydration. Blood work is needed to look for the underlying cause and sometimes radiographs will be taken to make sure there is not a blockage. Frequent and prolonged diarrhea causes inflammation of the digestive tract and digestive tract lining and it can take time to heal these and get the dog back on the right track. If there is no hard and fast reason your dog has prolonged diarrhea, there are some steps you can take to try and help this situation. These include:
All three of these ingredients are in the Berte’s Digestion Blend. This powdered blend can be added to each meal. I suggest starting at half dose and slowly work up to full dose over the course of a week or two. Generally, this supplement will be needed for at least 3 months. Some dogs may need this supplement longer depending on the severity of the problem and how long the digestive lining has been inflamed.
Various things may cause irritation of the digestion tract lining. Sometimes it is an autoimmune response to stress, surgery, long term boarding or illness. Occasionally some dogs will react to a dry dog food diet that contains no moisture. This diet can be irritating to the stomach and small intestine and symptoms arise when the dog cannot tolerate the dry food any longer. Some dogs may have had a previous blockage, from a toy or other foreign object, which can cause scar tissue or adhesions in the intestines. Dogs that had digestive insults as a puppy, such as parvo, distemper, etc., may also develop digestive issues later on.
Feeding a moist diet in smaller, more frequent meals, is extremely helpful. Adding the Berte’s Digestion Blend, which contains probiotics, animal-based digestive enzymes and l-glutamine will help heal the digestive tract lining permanently.
Remember, healing your dog’s digestive tract can take several weeks – and sometimes several months. Your dog may improve for a while and then have another occurrence of loose stools. Then he will improve again and probably have another setback in a week or so. But after a few weeks, you should see steady improvement! It takes patience and perseverance, but it will pay off in the long run! Be sure to always have your veterinarian follow up with a full work-up of blood values and an examination if your dog’s condition does not improve. A correct diagnosis is always worth its weight in gold when it comes to deciding treatment options!
It is wonderful to see that Spring is finally here again! This is the time of year when you need to be sure to check your dogs carefully for fleas and ticks and remember to check their ears as summer approaches. Warm and wet weather can bring on yeast and other ear problems! One good all-purpose ear cleaner and rinse after bathing is a solution of three-quarters water and one-quarter vinegar. Do not flood the ears; simply wipe out the ears with this solution.
Stones and crystals are a common problem in dogs and I am frequently asked how to treat these conditions when diagnosed during a veterinarian visit. There are a variety of stones and crystals that can affect our dogs, so my first question is ‘What type of stones or crystals is present?’ The answer to this question is important because each type of crystal or stone is addressed differently.
Struvite crystals are common and typically caused by urinary tract infections. Bacteria in the urine causes alkaline urine (high pH) which creates the perfect environment for struvite crystals to develop. When struvite crystals are found in a urinalysis done at your veterinarian’s office, the next step is to have your veterinarian do a sterile urine culture and sensitivity test. This test is done in-house at the vet’s office. The urine is collected in a sterile manner and sent off to a lab so the bacteria can be grown and identified. This is important so the correct antibiotic can be prescribed to kill the specific bacteria that is present. The antibiotics prescribed are usually given for a month. Then ten days after the dog has been off the antibiotic, another culture is done to make sure the infection is gone. Once the infection is gone, the urine returns to a normal pH and the problem is resolved. However, it is important to keep alert to any future symptoms that show the UTI has returned. These symptoms may include frequent urination, blood seen in the urine, or pain upon urination. Always take your dog to your veterinarian should any of these symptoms occur.
Because Struvite crystals respond to bacteria in the urinary tract, diet changes for this problem are not helpful.
For more information on struvite crystals, please visit this website:
Calcium Oxalate stones are most common in dogs over five years old and are more frequently seen in male dogs. They are also seen more commonly in certain breeds. Some of these breeds are Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Bison Frises, Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus. It is thought this may be because of a genetic condition that causes a lack of nephrocalcin, which inhibits calcium oxalates from developing. The symptoms include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, inability to urinate in a steady flow or increased urination. With any of these symptoms, please have a complete check up on your dog by your veterinarian.
Certain health conditions and the use of certain medications can enhance the development of calcium oxalate stones. Steroids can aggravate a calcium oxalate former by creating more calcium excretion in the urine. Cushing’s disease may also lead to calcium oxalate stone formation, as the increased cortisol production causes calcium excretion. In addition to steroids, other medications to avoid for dogs prone to calcium oxalates include furosemide, also known as Lasix.
Unlike struvites, diet changes can be helpful for dogs prone to oxalates. The primary foods that contain oxalates are grains and vegetables. Since dog foods are primarily grains, feeding a homemade diet is best so you can monitor the ingredients and the quality of foods being fed. Foods to avoidinclude barley, corn, brown rice, wheat, soy, most beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach and nuts.
Foods that can be fed include all meats, dairy (no soy-based foods and no flavoring or sweeteners), eggs, and a variety of low-glycemic vegetables. There are several sources that assess the oxalate content of food, so be sure to compare several lists. Below are a couple of lists showing low oxalate vs. high oxalate foods:
A raw diet without vegetables, fruit or grains is ideal for a dog prone to calcium oxalate or struvite stones or crystals as oxalates are highest in grains and vegetables. High quality protein diets are more likely to discourage bacteria growth, which is the primary cause of struvite crystals and stones. A good homemade diet would include 65% to 75% animal protein and 25% to 35% low glycemic vegetables which would include vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, yellow squash and zucchini.
Approximate feeding amounts are 2% to 3% of the dog’s body weight daily. On average, a 100 pound dog would get 2 to 3 pounds of food daily (approximately 4 to 6 cups), a 50 pound dog would get 1 to 1 to 1-1/2 pounds daily (2 to 3 cups) and a 25 pound dog would get 8 ounces to 12 ounces daily (1 to 1 ½ cups). When you feed a homemade diet without raw meaty bones, you do need to add calcium to the diet at a rate of 900 mg of per one pound of food served. This can be done by adding 900 mg of calcium carbonate per pound of food served.
Calcium can be another issue for calcium oxalate formers. While it is uncertain whether or not calcium creates problems, it is know that calcium excretion in the urine can form crystals and stones. Therefore, it is suggested to avoid foods high in calcium. Additionally, steroids should be avoided as they can cause calcium excretion in the urine. You can add some yogurt or cottage cheese, but only as a small part of the diet, not as main ingredient. You will need to add calcium to diet, but use a calcium carbonate supplement WITHOUT vitamin D. Vitamin D increases the intake of calcium.
A sample diet for a 25 lb. dog for one day (divided into two meals) might be:
– 3/4 cup cooked hamburger
– 2 eggs
– 1 tablespoon yogurt
– 4 oz. steamed and mashed cauliflower
Another sample diet might be:
– 3/4 cup cooked chicken breast
– 4 oz. chicken heart
– 1 tablespoon cottage cheese
– 4 oz. white rice
While we tend to use the ingredients in these recipes that our dog enjoys, it is important to avoid getting ‘stuck in a rut’ where you use the same meats and carbohydrates over and over. Variety is very important. Be sure to mix up the ingredients and use at least four different proteins and a good variety of low-glycemic vegetables.
Good meat options include beef or ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey or turkey heart, ground pork, lamb, and baked white fish. In addition to the vegetables listed above, you can also feed white cabbage, Bok Choy and canned pumpkin. Be sure to boil (not steam) all vegetables before serving. This is necessary for several reasons. Cooking the vegetables is thought to reduce some of the oxalate content as raw vegetables contain a higher oxalate values and dogs can’t digest raw vegetables!
Supplements that are beneficial for dogs prone to oxalate crystals includeEPA fish oil capsules at one gel cap per ten pounds of body weight daily and a B complex vitamin. Omega 3 fatty acids are renal protective and B Vitamins are thought to help fight crystal development.
Both struvite and calcium oxalates prevention require providing your dog lots of fresh water and a moist diet. Be sure to offer fresh water around the clock, give treats of beef or chicken broth, and allow your dog many opportunities to urinate throughout the day as holding urine causes an increased chance of crystal formation which can lead to stone formation. All of these practices help flush the crystals from the system and keep your dog hydrated.
In addition to beef or chicken broth treats, other good moist treats include baked liver, hard boiled eggs and jerky treats. It is best to avoid grain-laden dog treats if your dog is prone to calcium oxalates!
If your dog is prone to crystals and stones, it is important to continually monitor your dog’s health to insure your dog stays infection free and that stones are not developing.
Most of the dogs we have during our lifetime do very well. They have no persistent health issues and have little need for veterinary care. However, once in a while, we come across that one dog that seems to require constant care and multiple visits to the veterinarian with anything from kennel cough, diarrhea, ear infections, or skin and coat problems that are often difficult to diagnose or treat successfully.
It is both perplexing and frustrating when you have a puppy that seems fine and then develops chronic diarrhea that continues after medications are finished and changes to its diet have been made. You deal with this and then a urinary tract infection pops up and that leads to hair loss or skin infections. More trips to the vet result in more medications and treatments. What makes one puppy so healthy and another seem like it’s a magnet for every problem imaginable?
Usually there is not just one cause. It can be due to a variety of insults to the immune system. One might be that the puppy didn’t get a good amount of colostrum from its mother during the first 24 hours after birth. Colostrum provides good immunity and IgA A, which helps reduce infections and viruses from the entering via the mucus membranes. The first day is very important because colostrum is only effective in for 24 hours. After that, the puppies (or humans) digestive tract changes and it can no longer digest or absorb the good nutrients in the colostrum necessary for good health. Another cause may be that the puppy might have been vaccinated too young and/or too often. Vaccinations can suppress the immune system for two to three weeks allowing opportunistic problems to take hold. Repeated vaccinations further reduce the puppy’s ability to fight off normal pathogens that a healthy puppy can avoid. The puppy’s immune system is immature compared to an adult and it can take until the puppy is 7 to 18 months to fully mature depending on the puppy’s health history. If continued stressors occur before and during this maturity window, other bacteria and viruses have an opportunity to affect the puppy’s health. This can include staph bacteria, yeast, kennel cough, parvovirus, parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, giardia and coccidia) pneumonia and other infections that can affect the skin and coat.
A common concern and worry among puppy owners is that their puppy has a sensitive stomach, has allergies, food sensitivities, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or other adult dog issues. Generally, most dogs don’t get food or environmental allergies until they are older. It takes months, and sometimes years, for a dog’s system to develop an autoimmune response to a normal substance. As for ‘sensitive stomach’, most dogs simply get an inflamed or irritated digestive tract that will remain if the dog continues to get a high fiber diet. Dry dog food diets, regardless of the quality or if it is a prescribed dry diet, is not an ideal diet. The irritation and inflammation will continue as long as the dog is on a poor quality and poor protein diet, eventually affecting the immune system.
What is the best approach to helping a puppy develop a strong immune system so it can fight off the common health issues and insults in the environment?
The first and necessary tool is to get a full work up from your veterinarian. Blood tests and urinalysis is important to rule out anything immediately treatable, such as parasites, antibiotics for bacteria and infection (i.e., UTI, skin infections, etc.). Once that is accomplished, the next step is to examine the dog’s diet.
High quality protein that is easy to digest is what helps with organ, skin and coat health. It is also important to offer a wide variety of quality proteins. Sticking with just one protein source CAN set your puppy up for allergies to that food later on in its life. I suggest using a variety of red meats such as beef, pork, lamb, and venison, as well as poultry to include chicken, duck and turkey. Adding some canned fish (mackerel, salmon and sardines packed in water) twice a week is also good. You can also feed eggs, plain yogurt and cottage cheese for more variety. This variety can be provided over a week’s time.
Dogs with health issues need a fresh food diet. This can either be a raw diet with bones or a home-cooked diet that contains about 75% animal-based protein and 25% well pulped or cooked vegetables for fiber. Processed dog food, such as dry or canned, is cooked at high heats and most contain high amounts of carbohydrates (grains, vegetables, fruit and fibers). High quantities of carbohydrates are used in commercial dog foods because they provide for a longer shelf-life (obviously meat and fat won’t have a long shelf life) and they are cheaper and used as fillers. A fresh food diet contains fewer ingredients which offer less chance of a dog having a reaction. Commercial dog foods contain preservatives, additives, and fillers such as grains, clay, beet pulp, oat bran and other carbohydrates which can increase the dog’s chances of having a reaction.
Dogs with intestinal issues such as gas, diarrhea and vomiting have more trouble with carbohydrates in the diet. The dog’s digestive tract is short and simple compared to ours and it is designed to efficiently process animal proteins and fats. They do not have a long intestinal tract and therefore have little ability to ferment high-fiber foods or process and break down carbohydrates. Eliminating these types of foods from your dog’s diet, or reducing them to less than 25% in a home-cooked diet eases the strain on the intestines. This in turn, gives an irritated or inflamed intestinal lining a chance to heal.
After evaluating the diet and making the needed changes to improve the nutritional value and feeding foods that are easy for your dog to digest (always moist please!), what supplements can be offered to help support the immune system and keep it strong? Let’s take a look at some good and effective choices.
While probiotics are live bacteria or yeast, the best choices are the probiotic blends that contain lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus, and the various strains of this form, helps fight diarrhea and produce better-formed stools. Bifobacterium, also known as Bifidus, helps with IBD and other similar gut problems. These help with skin problems (by keeping the good bacteria in the gut in good amounts and they reduce yeast), help fight against urinary tract infections and can help prevent allergies and colds. Probiotics are a good friend to the immune system! You can add some probiotics to the diet through cultured milk products, such as yogurt, cottage cheese and buttermilk; however, I would add a good powdered Probiotic supplement, such as the Berte’s Ultra Probiotic Powder. I would add to each meal for at least one to three months and then reduce to once daily.
Omega 3 fatty acids help enhance the immune system, immensely help the coat and skin, are renal, heart and liver protective, help with vision and brain development and can help fight inflammation. Dogs need omega 3 fatty acids from animal-based sources. Plant fats contain omega 3 fatty acids in ALA form which dogs cannot convert to a usable form. The best types for dogs are fish oil in capsule form. A good dose is one capsule (at 180 EPA and 120 DHA per cap) at 10 to 20 pounds of the dog’s body weight daily.
Antioxidants and vitamins are important in supporting the immune system. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants and help fight free radicals in the dog’s system. B complex is great for the nervous system, immune system, and skin and coat. Vitamin D3 helps the immune system, as well as protects from cancer and viruses. The Berte’s Immune Blend also contains probiotics and digestive enzymes for good digestive health, as well as l-glutamine, an amino acid that helps keep the digestive tract lining healthy.
An important immune helper is Mycotriplex liquid extract. This is a blend of mushroom extracts that are thought to help slow down cancer cell growth and give the system support in fighting off infection and illness. This compound is given orally, with an attached dropper, directly into the mouth or it can be added to food. Mushroom extracts are in a family of immunomodulators that enhance immune function. They are normally used for about 4 weeks for developing a stronger immune system, to daily for adult autoimmune problems or cancer. Dogs seem to do best when given directly in the mouth and about an hour before meals.
The Berte’s Digestion Blend is the most helpful for digestion upsets. This includes diarrhea, ‘sensitive stomach’ and vomiting. It contains good amounts of probiotics, animal-based digestive enzymes that help predigest fats in the stomach before it reaches the small intestine and liver, and l-glutamine, which helps to heal the digestive tract lining. This supplement typically only needs to be given for 4 to 8 weeks to repair and heal the digestive tract, but may be needed longer in older dogs who may be dealing with long term damage. After that, the smaller amounts of probiotics, enzymes and l-glutamine contained in the Berte’s Immune Blend will help keep the digestive tract in good health.
It does takes many weeks and sometimes months for the Immune System to become stronger and mature, but the beginning of good results and improvement should be seen after two weeks of feeding a good, moist nutritional diet and adding the recommended supplements. Always continue to monitor your dog’s health with your veterinarian. Remember, it takes a good diet and good supplements to help enhance the immune system and time to let the healing occur!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
While chocolates and sweets are delicious, these are not what your dog needs or craves.
Good treats include beef or chicken jerky, string cheese or cheese cubes, hard boiled eggs and dehydrated chicken or turkey hearts!
Good, healthy longer chew treats are bully sticks and dried beef tracheas!
Your dog will LOVE you for it!
With 2015 behind us and the New Year beginning, I thought it would be good to reflect back on the past year and address some of the facts, fads and fallacies of canine nutrition and health. As you read through this, feel free to take of it what you wish and leave the rest, as these are some of my own observations on the most popular health questions and what works and what doesn’t!
Take a look at your dog’s diet. Does it contain a variety of high quality proteins (raw or lightly cooked meats, not processed meats)? Is the diet low in carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are probably one of the biggest offenders for reactions in dogs, including yeast issues on the skin. Does the diet contain omega 3 fatty acids? Good sources of omega 3’s include fish oil capsules, canned fish (salmon, sardines or mackerel packed in water) or grass fed raw meats. Until you and your veterinarian determine the root cause of the problem, diet corrections and adjustments oftentimes lead to the biggest improvements.
I hope this clears up some common questions. If you have questions about other nutrition issues, please let me know. I will try and address these more often in my newsletters, so keep reading!
Happy New Year