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
I was looking for a healthy, protein-based treat for Hutch, my Toy Manchester Terrier, who can only eat chicken, white fish or dairy treats. I have tried some chicken-based snacks, including chicken jerky, but they were both expensive and very dry. I decided that I wanted to make my own jerky treats for my dogs.
When I starting looking for some healthy ideas, I found my best resources and information after I posted an inquiry on the K9Nutrition Facebook page. The outpouring of suggestions, recipes and personal experiences was overwhelming and incredibly helpful! So, with the holiday season here, this month’s newsletter is to share the information I learned on how to make your own jerky treats for your dog and provide pictures to illustrate how easy the process is!
The first thing to consider when making jerky is deciding if you want to buy a dehydrator or use your oven. There is no wrong choice. There are pros and cons to both methods, so you will need to decide what is best for you. The most common reason for using the oven was to not have to buy another small appliance. The most common reason for buying a dehydrator was so you didn’t have to tie up your oven for hours and because different ovens can vary on the temperature and time needed to dehydrate the meat for good jerky. The process does require consistent low heat for up to four to six hours to dehydrate the meat properly.
I decided to buy a small dehydrator and attempt to make my own fresh chicken and beef jerky! My decision to buy a dehydrator was for easy clean-up and to keep my oven free for regular meal-time use. Also because if this worked well, I anticipated using it frequently for making healthy snacks for my dogs. While either method works well, I will describe the process using a dehydrator.
I bought a Nesco dehydrator for about $50. There are several different brands available ranging in price from about $30 to a couple of hundred dollars. I believe for most dog owners, the smaller dehydrators work just fine. The Nesco dehydrator I purchased has seven trays to hold food for dehydration. The number of trays make it easy to prepare multiple jerky choices at one time for variety (beef, chicken, pork or venison).
The next consideration is to choose what type of meat you will use. Chicken is probably the easiest to start with and I suggest using skinless chicken breast meat. Using lower fat meat creates less mess while it dehydrates and provides ‘dryer’, and less oily jerky. When using beef, I use the less expensive cuts, such as skirt steak or lower end roasts. Venison also works very well because it is a very lean meat.
One of the best suggestions from the K9Nutrition list was to use meat that is semi-frozen because it is easier to cut without shredding the meat and easier to get consistency in the strips. I use a good, sharp knife because it also helps to get clean cuts of meat. I cut the strips from one-eighth inch to one-quarter inch wide for my Toy Manchester Terrier and Brussels Griffons and cut the strips wider for my Rottweilers. The thicker pieces generally need more time in the dehydrator.
Once you have the meat cut and prepared, you can place them on the trays and put the trays in the dehydrator. You can place the strips closely together, but you do want to leave space around them for good air flow.
The finished treats are easy to store in zip-lock freezer bags. Most will stay good in the refrigerator for a few weeks, but you can also safely freeze them and thaw them as you need them. I have used the jerky as meals for my dogs when traveling. I recently took a 14-day trip overseas with a dog and was able to use the jerky for meals as well. Some people choose to add seasonings, but I opted not to, and all of my dogs love them!
It is very satisfying to be able to make such a healthy and delicious treat for your dogs! Your homemade jerky will make great holiday gifts for all your dog friends and they work very well for training treats! I hope these instructions and illustrations inspire you to start making your own dog’s healthy treats. It is so easy and you just can’t give a healthier treat to your dog.
Knowing blood value terms and their significance, when elevated or decreased, can be helpful in making treatment decisions for your dog. Dog owners are oftentimes given this information from their veterinarian, but are oftentimes uncertain or confused about what all the different levels mean. This month, we look at a few of the most common blood chemistry terms. (Please note, blood values and terms can vary by the test or the laboratory producing the results. For the purpose of this newsletter, the values and terms are primarily the United States terms and readings.)
Alanine Transferase (ALT)
This level is typically elevated when active damage has occurred or the liver is irritated. Generally the level needs to be three times the high normal rate to show significant liver damage.
This is a serum protein. When it shows decreased levels it can indicate starvation, parasites, chronic liver disease, enteritis or glomerulonephritis, blood loss, pancreatitis or long-term feeding of food that contains poor protein ingredients. Increased levels can be the result of fever or dehydration.
Alkaline Phosphatase (AP)
Elevated levels can indicate liver issues or bone problems. Elevated AP is normal in puppies due to bone growth. The level can in increased with hypothyroidism, pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, liver issues, and reactions to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
This is an enzyme released by the pancreas. Elevated levels can indicate pancreatitis or renal damage.
Aspartate Transferase (AST)
This can indicate toxins that affect the liver, such as harsh medications like immiticide used in heartworm treatment, or cancer in the liver. Sometimes injectable medications or vaccinations can cause a temporary rise.
This is a yellow serum that is comprised of dead red blood cells which is normal because cells die periodically. However, it can rise suddenly in the case of certain liver diseases, a reaction to toxins such as aflatoxin, or from leptospirosis or toxoplasmosis.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
Increased BUN (high levels of nitrogen waste products) can occur with renal damage, dehydration (even from panting, anxious behavior, vomiting and/or diarrhea), Addison’s disease or leptospirosis. BUN levels can go up and down, without causing kidney damage.
Decreased or increased calcium is not an indication of dog needing more or less calcium in the diet. It is more a metabolic measure of how your dog’s system is using calcium. Calcium levels can be higher in puppies, especially large boned puppies during the growth stage. However, high calcium levels in adult dogs can indicate lymphosarcoma or chronic renal disease. It may be elevated in dogs with Addison’s disease, rare fungal diseases in the bone, or bone infections.
Dogs do not develop hardening of the arteries, or get plaque in their arteries as humans due. However, elevated levels of cholesterol may signal hypothyroidism, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis, and steroid use.
Creatine Phosphokinase (CPK)
If levels are increased, it can mean muscle inflammation; however levels can be elevated right after a vaccination or needle stick.
This is a waste product produced by the kidneys. When this level is elevated, it shows kidney damage.
GGT (Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase)
This is another liver enzyme like Alkaline Phosphatase (AP), but not found in bone. It can also indicate excess cortisol which can point to Cushing’s disease. Phenobarbital and steroids can also increase GGT.
Decreased values may mean Cushing’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal lymphangiectasis, malabsorption or protein losing enteropathy. Increased levels may mean tick borne disease, brucellosis, heartworm disease, hepatitis or lymphosarcoma.
Increased glucose can indicate Diabetes mellitus or hyperglycemia. Morphine and steroids can increase glucose levels and these can be elevated during pregnancy or right after a heat cycle.
Hemoglobin carries oxygen formed in the bone marrow. Low values can mean tick borne disease, hypothyroidism or heartworm disease. Increased values can indicate diabetes, urinary obstruction or vitamin D toxicity.
This is a pancreatic enzyme. This level can increase due to upper intestinal inflammation. Pancreatitis can cause increased levels of lipase and so can renal disease. Steroid use can also cause increased lipase levels and cause pancreatitis.
The most common cause of increased phosphorus is renal disease. As the kidneys become damaged they become unable to process phosphorus. Please note that puppies generally have a higher phosphorus reading than adults!
Dogs with Addison’s disease can show a high potassium level. Dogs that have been vomiting and experiencing diarrhea may have low potassium levels, as well as dogs that have diabetes or have recently had IV fluids.
Increased total protein could be dehydration, inflammation or infection. Low total protein levels could be caused by parasites, IBD, malabsorption, or liver or kidney disease.
Red Blood Cells (RBC)
Low values can mean tick borne disease, Heinz body anemia, iron deficiency, leptospirosis or renal failure. Increased values may indicate dehydration, diabetes, Addison’s disease or urinary obstruction.
Again, diarrhea and vomiting can cause low sodium levels and so can dehydration. Addison’s disease can present with low sodium, while the other adrenal disorder, Cushing’s disease, can present with high sodium.
This is a lipid (fat) in the bloodstream. These levels can be elevated after a meal or may indicate Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease or too much steroid use.
White Blood Cells (WBC)
Low values can mean tick borne disease, hepatitis or pancreatitis. Increased values can mean Cushing’s disease, leptospirosis or other infection.
To help put it all together, below are some common ailments in dogs and the possible elevations in specific blood work that they may indicate. (Note: The ‘+’ in front of the different blood levels represents increased values.)
Chronic Renal Failure
Tick Borne Disease
Always ask your veterinarian to explain any increased or decreased blood work your dog may present and what the levels mean exactly for your dog. There are many more blood chemistry tests than what I have listed here, but these are the most common.
For further information on blood work and dogs, please check out these links:
Values Specific for Puppies and the differences from Adults
To all my friends in America and
I wish a wonderful fall season to all!
I have raised seven generations of Rottweiler puppies and two litters of the toy breed, Brussels Griffon, on a raw diet. It has been a very satisfying and wonderful change for all of my dogs. I have gotten so much satisfaction seeing how the puppies dig in and enjoy their food and I have experienced the healthy benefits and rewards of the raw diet. The benefits are seen in their musculature, energy, mood, shiny coat and healthy skin, longevity, AND healthy teeth that stay white and disease free throughout their lives.
Some people are hesitant to feed their puppies a raw diet because they are not sure how to transition a puppy to raw food. So, let’s look at a few guidelines that can help with this transition.
What are the differences in nutritional needs for puppies?
Puppies have one important thing in common with senior dogs. They both need more protein than adult dogs. And by protein, I mean good quality animal-based protein! These include meat, yogurt, eggs and fish. You can’t really give too much protein to dogs, but there are a couple things needed to complement and balance protein. These include Calcium and Vitamin D3.
Calcium is needed to balance the phosphorus found in meat. Ideally, feeding bone is used to create this balance. To achieve this balance, you feed half the puppies diet in raw meaty bones that are either cut up or ground. Appropriate raw meaty bones include chicken necks and wings, ground turkey necks and small pork neck bones and ribs. For convenience, some companies sell pre-packaged ground beef with bone and ground pork with bone.
The other half of the diet is made up of muscle meat, tripe, a bit of organ meat (liver or kidney), eggs and yogurt. Beef, chicken, turkey, lamb and pork are good choices, as well as venison, rabbit, elk and other wild game. Avoid wild boar as it can contain trichinosis, a parasite that can harm dogs. If cooked or frozen hard for 3 weeks, then it is safe.
Vitamin D3 helps with the uptake of calcium. Without this important vitamin, a puppy can get all the calcium it needs in the diet, however, it won’t be able to process it. Generally, I suggest giving the Berte’s Daily Blend or the Berte’s Immune Blend to provide this valuable nutrient! These are powder blends that are convenient, palatable and mix easily with raw food.
I give young puppies four meals a day with a bedtime snack. The first meal is made up of goat’s milk, yogurt and egg. The second is a mid-morning meal of muscle meat. Then, I offer a mid-afternoon snack of the goat’s milk, yogurt and egg again and in the evening, I give a raw meaty bone meal. At bedtime, I offer the puppies either a small pork neck bone or chicken back cut in half for chewing fun that amuses the puppies until they fall asleep. The bone offered in the raw meaty bone meals provides the needed calcium and help firm stools.
What age should I start a puppy on a raw diet?
If I am rearing a litter of puppies on a raw diet, I don’t start adding whole foods until the puppies are four weeks of age. Before that time, puppies are unable to digest whole foods. If whole foods (including kibble) are given before that time, it can result in stomach upset and allergies later on in life.
If you have just brought a puppy home that was raised on a kibble diet, you can switch them over to a raw diet right away. Puppies are very adaptable to diet change and they will enjoy an immediate change to raw food. I would suggest adding the Berte’s Ultra Probiotic Powder to help with the transition. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria which help keep the digestive tract healthy and help to produce well-formed stools. It also helps support the immune system. The Berte’s Immune Blend also contains some probiotics to assist with healthy digestion.
At about three months of age, I usually omit one goat’s milk, yogurt and egg meal. By the time they are five to six months of age, I omit the second goat’s milk meal leaving the puppies on two meals a day.
For toy breeds, I suggest keeping them on three meals per day. Toy breeds have a higher metabolism and oftentimes require smaller, more frequent meals to keep blood sugar level.
Be sure to use a wide variety of different foods. At a minimum, use at least four different animal protein sources. I also recommend adding in fish oil capsules at one capsule (1,000 mg) per ten to twenty pounds of body weight daily. Fish oil helps support the immune system, heart, liver and kidney function and it supports healthy skin and a shiny coat.
If you feed a raw diet, you will see a better appetite in your dog, more energy, better muscle tone and cleaner teeth! You will see how much more your puppy enjoys fresh foods over kibble. Additionally, your dog will have fresher breath, less body odor and much smaller stools!
For more detailed recipes and instructions, my new book “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs”. There is an informative chapter on weaning and feeding puppies and another on feeding Toy Breeds! I also want to invite you to join K9Nutrition on Facebook! This is another great way to get more information and ask more detailed questions!
Halloween is coming!
Keep the candy and chocolate away from your dogs!
Bone Appetite until next month!
This month the topic is Addison’s and Cushing’s Disease, which are adrenal diseases that affect dogs. The content will not be all-encompassing, but rather will focus on diet considerations for both of the diseases with reference links containing additional information for those who would like to learn more.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of both of these disorders, as the symptoms for each can vary from dog to dog and can oftentimes baffle the owner and the veterinarian. The symptoms not on vary, but can wax and wane and go up and down until a crisis occurs (i.e., collapse and even death).
In a nutshell, the adrenal gland controls the amount of cortisol that is released into the system. This helps with hormones and also works to control blood pressure, the heart, and glucose secretion (via glycogen transference in the liver), which in turn helps with energy and keeping the immune system strong.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland (which works with the adrenals) to develop small tumors. Those can interfere with the cortisol that is released. If too much is released, Cushing’s Disease can result. If too little, Addison’s Disease can develop. Additionally, the use of steroids (as cortisol is a type of steroid) can bring about Cushing’s Disease. If your dog has been taking steroids of any kind and for any length of time, always monitor your dog and be aware of, and look for, any of the following symptoms!
Cushing’s Disease Symptoms
Drinking more water
Urinating more frequently
Loss of hair coat on stomach and sides
Develops a ‘pot belly’
Thinning of the skin
Panting and thirst
Blood work values
The following values that MAY be off with Cushing’s Disease are listed below. Please note, these can vary from dog to dog.
High Alk Phos
High White Blood Cell Count
Addison’s Disease Symptoms
Rear end weakness
Drinking more water
Urinating more frequently
Trembling or shaking
Depression and/or Fearful
The following values that MAY be off with Addison’s Disease are listed below. Please note, these can vary from dog to dog.
High BUN and Creatinine
High Liver Enzymes
High Red Blood Count
Should you suspect your dog may have either Cushing’s or Addison’s Disease, the best way to diagnose either of these is with an ACTH Stim test, which is done in-house at your veterinarian’s clinic. It is important to know that some dogs may pass this test and be in the early stages of the disease. Addison’s dogs won’t show up positive on this test until 85% to 90% of the adrenal cortex has atrophied.
Additionally, as previously noted, a common cause of Cushing’s Disease is steroid use, which includes prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone, and methylprednisolone. Other immunosuppressive drugs that contain steroids include Azathioprine, cyclosporine, mycophenolate mofetil, and leflunomide (to only mention a few). It is very important to know exactly what is in each prescription given to your dog so you can know and understand the side effects. Knowledge is power!
Since Cushing’s Disease results from an over-abundance of cortisol, it would have the same effects as too much steroids in a dog’s system. Both can create an inflamed and irritated pancreas, so it is important to reduce the amount of fat in the dog’s diet to avoid pancreatitis. While fat doesn’t cause pancreatitis, it can increase the workload and thus the irritation to a pancreas leading to full blown pancreatitis.
A dog with Cushing’s Disease will benefit most from the following diet:
– Fresh food diet, either home cooked or raw. This type of diet provides better nutrition and helps support an already compromised immune system.
– Feed smaller, more frequent, meals to assist the digestive tract in processing smaller portions at a time. Feed 3 to 4 smaller meals a day instead of 1 or 2 larger ones.
For a home cooked diet, I recommend the Low Glycemic, Low Fat home cooked diet. This diet consists of a variety of meat choices, fed at approximately 75% of the diet, with 25% of the diet of cooked, low glycemic (sugar) vegetables.
For a raw diet, select lower fat meat choices. For raw meaty bones, use chicken necks or backs with skin REMOVED, turkey necks cut into pieces and pork neck bones with fat trimmed. For the other meal a day, use low fat hamburger, beef or pork heart with fat trimmed, green tripe, low fat yogurt or cottage cheese, chicken or turkey hearts and a small amount of beef kidney or liver.
Since digestion of fat is a concern, I suggest adding the Berte’s Digestion Blend. This contains l-glutamine which helps heal the digestive tract lining, animal based digestive enzymes which help predigest fats in the stomach before it reaches the small intestine, pancreas and liver. Additionally, adding a mix of probiotics will help keep the good flora and fauna in the dog’s system. Fish oil capsules, in moderation of one per 20 pounds of body weight, can help improve coat and skin and adding the Berte’s Immune Blend for the vitamins A, D, E, B complex and vitamin C, help support the immune system.
Addison’s disease is more easily treated, as it means adding more cortisol (steroids) to the dog’s system. Since these dogs are usually thin, fat is not an issue as along as the medication dose is correct. A dog with Addison’s disease will benefit most from the following diet:
– Fresh food diet, either raw or home cooked offers the best nutrition. There is no need to monitor fat in the diet because it is important for weight gain for a dog with Addison’s disease.
-Since many of these dogs exhibit diarrhea, small frequent meals are helpful until the digestive tract gets back on track.
The Berte’s Digestion Blend is also beneficial for dogs with Addison’s. The animal-based digestive enzymes help to better assimilate the nutrients for better digestion and the probiotics contained in the product help firm the stools. The Berte’s Immune Blend’s antioxidants can help restore the dog’s energy and the immune system and Fish oil capsules help enhance the immune system as well and they are renal, heart and liver protective.
Become familiar with the symptoms for Cushing’s and Addison’s Diseases and understand that long term steroid use can cause Cushing’s Disease. While any breed of dog can get Addison’s, breeds more prone to the disease appear to be Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, West Highland White Terriers, Leonbergers, Bearded Collies, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Great Danes and Saint Bernards. Being aware of the symptoms of both these diseases is important for any dog owner. No one knows your dog better than you and this important information can help determine the diagnosis more quickly.
September is upon us!
Fall brings cooler weather making it a great time to start walking your dogs regularly!
Walks keep you in good shape and your dog’s muscle tone and joints in good shape.
Until next month, bone appetit!
I haven’t written on kidney disease in quite some time, so this month I want to address some of the common questions regarding this disease.
Question: What is kidney disease (also known as renal disease)?
Kidney disease is when the kidneys lose their ability to function at 100%. Most often, it is due to inflammation and scarring in the kidneys. Usually the kidneys will function and show no symptoms until two-thirds to three-quarters of their function has been lost.
Question: What are the symptoms of Kidney Disease?
The signs that are seen most often are drinking more water and urinating more frequently, and the urine is often clear or colorless. Later symptoms may include nausea, lack of appetite, weight loss and lethargy.
Question: What causes kidney disease?
There are two types of kidney disease: Acute renal disease and chronic renal disease.
There are several things that can cause acute renal disease. It is caused by an outside influence or injury and the symptoms appear quickly. Some causes can include tick borne disease, leptospirosis, an ongoing urinary tract infection (UTI), certain NSAID medications such as aspirin, Rimadyl, Deramaxx or Metacam, long term antibiotic and steroid use, and heart medications such as Enalapril and Benazepril. These last two drugs are often prescribed in cases of chronic renal disease to help maintain normal blood pressure, so it is important to know that these drugs may damage the kidneys. Please note, OLD AGE is NOT cause renal failure!
If you suddenly start seeing symptoms of renal disease, is very important to test your dog for UTI’s, tick borne disease and leptospirosis as quickly as possible because oftentimes acute renal disease can be treated if detected early enough. Additionally, check all medications your dog is taking for any potential side effects on your dog’s kidneys. Remember, early detection is key in acute renal disease, so test, test, and test!
To understand more about why OLD AGE does NOT cause renal failure, please read more here:
Chronic renal disease, on the other hand, is generally congenital, or inherited. The dog has the disease from birth and their kidneys may be malformed or defective. Symptoms generally show up in the first year of the dog’s life and the disease progresses and continues to worsen with time and must be managed with medications, fluids and attention to the diet.
Question: How do I know if my dog has kidney disease?
Your veterinarian will start with blood tests and a urinalysis. The three main blood levels to look at are BUN, which addresses hydration, creatinine, which addresses renal function, and phosphorus. Dogs in severe renal failure will have elevated phosphorus levels because their damaged kidneys are unable to process phosphorus.
When the BUN level is high, I have seen veterinarians say the dog is in renal failure. However, high BUN levels can also mean stress, illness, dehydration, or they just ate a high protein meal.
IF a dogs BUN level is high AND the creatinine level is high AND the dog is showing signs of weakness and lethargy, the first treatment of choice is IV fluids. Until you know whether the dog has acute (treatable) or chronic renal failure, you want to support the dog’s kidneys until you have time to run some tests (sterile urine culture, tick borne disease blood test, leptospirosis titer). This is even more important if the phosphorus is elevated as well.
The urinalysis will show the specific gravity, which is the ability to concentrate urine or why renal affected dogs often have clear urine and the pH which can help determine if there is a urinary tract infection (alkaline urine can indicate bacteria).
It is also important to review any medications your dog has been recently taken to determine if the use of the medication may have caused the symptoms. Also, did your dog ingest any poisons, such as anti-freeze, weed or insect killers, chocolate or grapes? Does your dog have any gum disease or gum infections? Be pro-active in this search. Tick borne disease is treatable with doxycycline, leptospirosis, which is a bacteria, is killed with two weeks of penicillin drugs, and UTI’s are identified by the sterile culture results, which tells you WHAT bacteria is present and the SPECIFIC antibiotic to use to kill it. Please note UTI’s are “antibiotic” specific and usually require at least 3 weeks of antibiotic use to remove all the bacteria!
Question: What other conditions ‘mimic’ kidney disease?
Some of the diseases listed below have already been covered, but a more complete list is below.
Question: Should I change my dog’s diet? And can diet reverse this problem?
Due to the nature of renal disease, diet changes may be indicated for comfort. When renal disease reaches a certain point and the damage is significant, the kidneys become impaired. At this time, the dog struggles to process nitrates and phosphorus which can cause discomfort and pain. Can diet save or spare the kidneys? Not exactly, but a diet change at a certain point can offer comfort, provide better quality of life and may be able to extend your dog’s life. Generally, a diet change isn’t indicated until the BUN reaches 80 (and stays there or is higher) and the creatinine is at 3 or higher. Even then, it may not be necessary to make a diet change until the phosphorus levels go higher than the normal range. It is important to monitor these levels regularly if your dog has kidney issues OR when you notice a change in your dog such as weight loss, lack of appetite and/or lethargy).
Additionally, when blood levels reach these levels, it is time to consider giving your dog subcutaneous fluids. Sometimes administering these fluids a few times a week is enough, however, this will probably increase as time goes on. Your veterinarian can instruct you on how to do this and they can write you a prescription to get the fluids, lines and needles at Wal-Mart or Costco.
Another consideration when the phosphorus levels rise is to add calcium to the diet because it binds to phosphorus and/or add phosphate binders to the diet. This would also be the time to reduce phosphorus, NOT protein, in the diet, to reduce stress on the kidneys and alleviate any pain. The kidneys need protein to survive and thrive; a protein starving diet can be harmful to the kidneys.
Question: Are there supplements that are helpful for a dog with kidney disease?
B complex vitamins are important for renal function and health. Adding B12 can help with appetite and if you are adding subcutaneous fluids, ask your veterinarian for injectable B vitamins you can add to the ringers’ solution.
Fish oil capsules contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered renal protective. Give one per 10 lbs. of body weight daily.
COQ10 is speculated to help keep creatinine levels down. Give 2 to 3 mgs per pound of the dog daily.
Probiotics help keep the good flora and fauna in the dogs system. This helps with both digestion and to keep the immune system strong.
On a personal note, I had a Rottweiler named “Bean” who had congenital malformed kidneys. He was diagnosed with chronic renal disease at 4 months of age. I certainly went to great lengths to keep him healthy and thriving and he lived until just past the age of 5 – four and a half years longer than the veterinarian said he would live. He contracted other opportunistic issues during his illness (this is common with chronic renal disease) including numerous UTI’s and leptospirosis, twice! I gave him subcutaneous fluids throughout most of his life and I used other medications and treatments as well. I shared his story a few years ago in a newsletter I wrote on kidney diets and treatment options. You can read and learn more here:
August is upon us and the heat of summer has finally hit!
Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water for your dogs around the clock
and keep them cool!