The Holistic Canine started 2020 off at a lightning pace. Business was booming and I was having some concerns about keeping up with the pace. With COVID-19 now at the forefront of our lives, pet parents have turned their focus to their own health and public safety. During this difficult time, The Holistic Canine will continue to work full-time to help pet parents to continue serving their dogs’ needs in an economy that is becoming more difficult to navigate.
Also, I have completed my book entitled Canine Raw Feeding Explained: A Practical How-To Guide to Feeding Your Dog a Balanced Nutrition Plan. The book is in the hands of the publisher; however, as a result of the world crisis, all new projects recently submitted to the publisher are on hold until further notice. I will continue to give updates as to the status of my important book.
In the meantime, I would like to refer all pet parents to my Facebook group. It is an opportunity to meet like-minded pet parents and to engage in discussion with myself, our knowledgeable moderators, and our members (numbering in the thousands). Please come join us in The Holistic Canine: Raw Feeding & Natural Health Care Facebook group. The group also contains a free comprehensive raw feeding course and information on natural health care strategies that I invite you to read through and complete.
The Holistic Canine is fully available throughout COVID-19 to assist you via our numerous services, in our Facebook group, and through our Facebook business page. You are not alone on your journey. Become a part of The Holistic Canine family! We are a practice that does not simply create recipes and then send you on your way. We are a nutrition and health care service that partners with you and that continues to walk with you throughout your dog’s lifetime.
Naturopathic medicine recognizes several “doctors” that are vital for health. These “doctors” (also known as needs) are what I have coined facets of health. When it comes to both our health needs and the health needs of our dogs, there are specific requirements that are essential for the prevention of disease. These requirements contribute to the maintenance of optimal health and the consistent healing, repair, and detoxification of cells and body tissues. Depending upon the source, Naturopathy can have seven to ten facets of health. Over the many decades, I have formulated my own list of requirements for canine health based upon my decades of experience in the field of animal care and husbandry, education, and work as a holistic practitioner. I practice and teach ten facets of canine health that have proven to:
prevent chronic disease in healthy animals
assist in the healing and repair of disease and injury
ameliorate conditions in senior dogs
aid in the correction and mental balance of behavioral and emotional disorders
produce and develop puppies into physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy, stable, and secure adult dogs
produce healthier and genetically stronger offspring via naturally-reared breeding dams and sires
palliate symptoms (significantly) of terminal disease that assist a dog to pass peacefully into eternity
My Ten Facets (doctors) of Canine Health are:
Sun & Earth grounding
Passive activity: mental poise
Diet plays an integral role in the health and function of the cells and body systems; cellular signaling, detoxification, and methylation; epigenetic expression; the health of the gut microbiome; and energy generation, output, and expenditure. Diet also directly impacts the health of the mind and emotions greatly influencing behavior.
A highly processed diet consisting of already unhealthy and inappropriate ingredients is a “dead” and dangerous food-product void of all moisture and nearly all vital micronutrients. Add to this the need for extreme heat to create a dried product and you now have the addition of cancer-causing carcinogens. Synthetically produced nutrients must then be sprayed onto the completed food-product to replace all that was already missing and those few nutrients then lost during the extreme processing of the ingredients. If these synthetic nutrients were not added, a dog consuming this food would die of a deficiency or disease condition within a very short period of time.
If this is not enough, processed food damages the gut while also carrying the risk of causing extreme injury to the wall of the intestines. This prevents the flourishing of a healthy gut microbiome. A damaged intestinal wall with a poor gut microbiome is a major driver of food sensitivities, poor digestion, reduced nutrient uptake, cellular damage, allergies, itching, poor immune health, autoimmune disorders, cellular inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, tumor growth, chronic disease, reduced cell signaling, emotional and behavioral problems, and so much more.
Since all kibble requires a starch to hold it together, most kibbles are laden with disease-causing carbohydrates, or worse, legumes and vegetable fibers that are not only causing damage to the gut and blocking the absorption of nutrients, but are also implicated in the rise in dilated cardio myopathy (DCM).
A fresh food diet, on the other hand, is a nutrition plan that is abundant in life-sustaining water to hydrate cells and alive and teeming with naturally-occurring nutrients, enzymes, factors, co-factors, and many other constituents not found in processed foods. A raw diet has the added benefit of being void of dangerous carcinogenic chemicals that would be produced from cooking proteins. Even more, raw foods feed and nourish the gut microbiome creating a near perfect symbiotic relationship that allows for optimal nutrient absorption and assimilation, increased cellular signaling, strengthened immunity, reduced inflammation, the prevention chronic disease, mental and emotional stability and poise, and the list goes on and on. The benefits of a stellar whole-food nutrition plan are incalculable!
When properly balanced by a nutrition professional such as myself, a home-prepared canine diet tops the list for cultivating and maintaining optimal health. Couple this with reducing meal and food frequency and you have an exceptional plan for increased longevity.
Water is an essential component of life and is best received through food. While dogs should always have access to a fresh, clean, pure source of water (preferably in a glass bowl), their food should be their main water source. A kibble diet is the leading cause of chronic dehydration which damages the kidneys and cells and causes cell death.
If your dog is on a kibble diet, he/she will be missing out on the most important source of hydration- their food. The water within food is called gel water (also known as structured or crystalline water) and is structured differently than simply H2O. Gel water has a chemical composition of H3O2 and is most similar to plasma. Since cells contain this same water structure, providing your dog with foods that are abundant in gel water ensures proper cellular hydration. Two of the best sources of gel water are collagen and bone broth. Collagen is found in proteins such as meat, skin, bones, marrow, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, the main components of a canine diet. Adding in a homemade or high quality commercial bone broth is another excellent source of gel water.
Raw foods, as mentioned above, contain H3O2 water which is the same water contained within cells. Cells require a consistent source of water for adequate cellular function. If your goal is to produce optimal health, then you want to shoot for optimal cellular function, not simply adequate. Because cellular cytoplasm is composed mainly of water, this alone is ample reason to ensure your dog is properly hydrated. Additionally, the cellular plasma membranes made from fatty acids would not combine as the fatty membrane that houses and protects the cell without sufficient water. Water is also required to:
transport nutrients from one cell to another,
remove waste products from the body via urine, feces, and respiration (panting),
transfer electrons such as in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which provides the energy to power other cellular reactions,
perform enzymatic reactions,
balance a cell via osmosis.
While drinking water is essential, it is not the most effective strategy to getting water into the cells. Most of the water your dog (and you!) drink is urinated out. Drinking water is effective for flushing the kidneys and diluting waste. But the water found within food is most effective for cellular hydration and therefore cellular function. Even more, the health of the cell membranes determine your dog’s ability to properly hydrate. Healthy cell membranes are produced by taking appropriate health care strategies most notably suppling a fresh food diet that is not inflammatory or laden with chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.
Be sure to supply your dog with a consistent fresh clean source of drinking water. I recommend water filtered via reverse osmosis (RO) and supplied to your dog in a glass bowl (that is for a whole other article!). I highly recommend avoiding tap water. Even a simple carbon filter such as PUR® or Brita® is a MUCH better option than offering tap water.
Allowing your dog regular access to fresh clean air in the outdoors is essential for reducing toxin exposure. Be aware that walking and exercising your dog along roadways increases their exposure to toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic hydrocarbons, benzene, and formaldehyde.
Many years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated indoor air pollution as one of the top environmental risks to public health. In fact, indoor air pollution is one of the world’s largest environmental problems leading to a staggering 1.6 million premature deaths per year. Many pets are kept indoors for the majority of their lives. They may be being exposed to more pollutants in their indoor air than via exposure to everything else combined. If your pet does not have a ventilated area with fresh air, you must take immediate action to purify the air you breath inside your home for their health and for your own.
Reducing indoor air pollution begins with locating and knowing all sources of toxins. According to the EPA, the most common sources include asbestos, biological pollutants, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde & pressed wood products, lead, nitrogen dioxide, pesticides, radon, particulate matter, smoke/tobacco, stoves/heaters/fireplaces/chimneys, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs include air fresheners, fabric softeners, aerosols, beauty products, perfumes, mattresses, wood glues, paints/stain, nail polishes/removers, cleaning supplies, repellants, cooking fumes, etc. And we cannot leave electromagnetic fields (EMFs) off the list. Wi-Fi, Smart Meters, electronics, numerous appliances, nearby cell towers and powerlines, etc. are all a growing concern and a leading contributor to creating a sick and unhealthy home.
Reduce, remove, and eliminate as many sources of indoor air pollution as you are able. Allow fresh clean air to regularly ventilate your home especially in the winter and summer months when heating and air conditioning systems are running 24/7. Change heating and AC filters regularly and use the most expensive filters you can afford. Open at least one window in sleeping areas and allow fresh air to circulate while you sleep (open windows a crack in the winter and summer to allow just enough air to circulate). Look into and purchase quality air purifiers and place them in areas where your pet sleeps, areas where your home sees the most activity from family members, and in bedrooms. Place live plants strategically around the home, but make sure they are either non-toxic or completely out-of-reach from your dog. Use genuine Himalayan salt lamps in all rooms of your home. And lastly, get yourself and your dog outside into nature as often as possible. Pre-dawn air has the highest saturation of oxygen. Take advantage of this healing air regularly. If you’re not a morning person (I’m not!), keep a window opened (or cracked) closest to your dog’s and your bed to take advantage of pre-dawn air while you both sleep!
Like water, without the sun, no life can exist. The sun is our planet’s main source of energy and is vital for the creation of food. Without sunlight, plants would not be able to create nutrients via photosynthesis. Herbivores consume the plants relying upon photosynthesis for their own nutrient needs. Omnivores and carnivores then depend upon the herbivores for their needs.
The sun is also required for vitamin D. While us humans and other animals can create adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun’s radiation on the skin (provided exposure is sufficient), dogs create only a fraction of their daily nutrient need from sun exposure. They must rely upon the consumption of animals that can create a wealth of vitamin D.
The sun’s light energy is also essential for the stimulation and proper functioning of the pineal gland which is located in the brain. This gland is responsive to the sunlight via the eyes and modulates healthy sleep patterns. The gland’s primary function is the production of the hormone melatonin. While melatonin is the main hormone responsible for sleep, it also has various other functions in the central nervous system. One such role is protecting the health of the heart. There is also evidence that decreased pineal gland function increases risk for cancer in both animals and humans. Regular sun exposure is necessary for healthy pineal gland function which translates into health in the whole being.
While you and your dog are enjoying soaking up the rays, taking advantage of earth grounding is another benefit to getting outside. The earth is like an enormous electron-enriched battery that emits a delicate electrical charge. This charge is why electronics should always be grounded to the earth to prevent and protect against power surges and malfunctioning injury thus directing the power into the earth. The earth’s energy field is the world’s most powerful antioxidant! Allowing your dog to ground to the earth via their paws (and for you, your bare feet) on the grass, soil, sand, or shorelines allows the earth’s electrons to penetrate the pads of their feet. This balances their energy field (which is damaged by positively charged indoor and outdoor pollution and EMF exposure), gives them a huge dose of antioxidant protection, reduces pain and inflammations, lowers stress levels, encourages healthy sleep, and improves circulation.
Exercise comes naturally for dogs. Their bodies are perfectly designed for incredible feats of speed, strength, and endurance. Coupled with a species-appropriate diet, daily exercise creates a vibrantly healthy body that is free from disease and injury. Dogs experience euphoria when running and playing which encourages mental and behavioral balance.
One of the greatest benefits of exercise is the prevention of disease. Studies have shown that daily exercise prevents obesity, digestive issues, diabetes, and can help prevent the onset of arthritis and arthritic symptoms as well as cancer in dogs. Like humans, heart disease is a leading cause of premature death in dogs. In fact, nearly 8 million dogs in the United States have heart disease. Most canine heart disease is acquired, and sadly, studies have not shown that exercise is effective in preventing this devastating disease. However, exercise does strengthen the heart and lungs giving dogs a much greater fighting chance if heart disease becomes a reality. In the end, exercise does have tremendous value for strengthening the heart muscle and oxygenating body tissues.
Observation alone clearly shows how exercise increases lean muscle mass and reduces body fat percentage. Additionally, exercise prevents behavioral issues by giving dogs something to do that they enjoy thus preventing boredom and destructive behaviors and habits. Because exercise burns quite a bit of energy, it discourages hyperactivity giving dogs a sense of peace and mental calm which encourages deeper sleep patterns.
Probably the greatest benefit of exercise is increased longevity. The benefits of disease prevention, increased oxygenation of body tissues, and mental stability all serve to encourage and produce overall optimal health thus increasing the life expectancy rate of many dogs. And if you are out exercising with your dog, the benefits extend to yourself as well!
In the 1970’s, Dr. Herbert Shelton wrote his book, Fasting Can Save Your Life. This is one of the greatest health books I have had the privilege to read. Dr. Shelton fasted over 40,000 patients, one being Mahatma Ghandi, observing and recording the multitudinous benefits. Animals, knowing this by instinct, fast when their health requires it.
A domestic dog’s nutritional needs are controlled by their guardians, and unfortunately, many pets are the victims of premature death as a result. Dogs are not humans and do not require multiple feedings per day, especially when their food is processed commercial foods laden with chemicals, impurities, carcinogens, toxins, molds, pathogens, carbohydrates & starches, and synthetic nutrients. This is reason alone to rest your dog’s digestive faculties and allow for their body to detox, repair tissues, and eliminate damaged cells. Feeding one meal in a 24 hour period is an ideal plan.
Depriving your dog of nutrients for 48 hours initiates a process known as autophagy. Autophagy is the process that can save lives. During autophagy, the body consumes or removes dysfunctional, damaged, and redundant cellular components and recycles the cellular materials that are still functional. It is the body’s ultimate house cleaning process. Autophagy boosts immunity, reduces and prevents inflammation, and has proven to protect against cancer including stopping cancer growth, infections, neurodegenerative disorders, insulin resistance, inflammatory disease, and aging. Autophagy is the ultimate fountain of youth. If you’re not fasting your dog, it is time to start.
Refining mental poise is in no wise limited to humans alone. Animals experience emotions just as we do and can act impulsively and intensely when their mental and emotional needs are not being met properly and in a healthy manner. Like us, dogs need to engage in daily activities and feel they have a sense of purpose.
Boredom can be a very real problem for the modern canine who spends most of his or her day inside, cooped up, and left alone for long hours. Dogs need to have things to do and engage in just as we do or mental, emotional, and behavioral issues may manifest. Dogs need to engage in those activities that are unique to canines. Our dogs are not human children, they are animals that have specific needs, behaviors, conducts, interests, and pursuits, all of which need to be respected and/or met to some degree or another. Because dogs experience the very same pleasure hormones as humans, they require opportunities to experience the release of these hormones on a regular basis. It is not only the respectable thing to do, it is humane.
Domestic dogs are closely related to their wild counterparts and their needs are no less similar. Behavior may have adapted to life with humans, yet our pets still enjoy engaging in the same canis lupus activities as their wild cousins. Chewing, chasing, hunting, digging, barking, howling, herding, guarding, watching, protecting, searching, and so much more can be observed to some degree in every domestic dog. Expecting your dog to act like a human is unreasonable and preventing them from being a dog is downright cruel. It is for this reason many dogs are mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally unstable.
Dogs have a physiological need to chew. Providing your dog with raw meaty bones is the best option as this is what they are designed for. Studies show that chewing releases powerful neurotransmitters that stimulate brain function and increase blood flow to the brain. Chewing also stimulates the trigeminal nerve responsible for movement of the jaw muscles and transmitting sensory information to your dog’s skin, sinuses, and mucous membranes. As a result of chewing, behavioral problems are prevented, or in the very least reduced if a behavioral concern exists.
While some doggie activities may not mesh with our lifestyles or household rules and expectations, such as digging craters in the yard and unearthing your garden shrubs, giving your dog opportunities to engage in agreeable activities on a daily basis is necessary for a mentally and behaviorally healthy and happy dog.
Recognizing and then respecting that your dog was born with innate abilities, known as instincts, facilitates in your dog a sense of confidence and security especially when you are sympathetic to certain behaviors that may not be agreeable or amusing to you as their guardian. Dogs are animals and that needs to be respected and appreciated.
Most instincts in nearly all animals are centered in survival. Your dog is no different. Your dog may demonstrate powerful drives that are triggered by outside circumstances. These behaviors are innate, however, they can also be shaped and intensified through experience. Unreasonable fear is often the result of experiences that have intensified their innate fight or flight response. Strong territorial behavior and overly protectiveness are other examples of instincts that have not been shaped in a healthy manner. These can often be produced by owners naively punishing behaviors rather than gently correcting an instinct with the goal of tempering the innate reaction or response.
Negative instinctive behaviors and reactions can also be the result of an imbalanced home environment or one filled with stressful stimuli. A stable, respectful, and peaceful environment allows your dog’s innate natural abilities to produce strong mental and behavioral harmony, confidence, and poise that brings both joy and benefit to you as their guardian and to your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.
Adequate rest is essential for re-centering and rebalancing and is not limited to the physical body alone. True rest involves the relaxation of the body, mind, emotions, and the soul. Our dogs are not exempt from needing proper rest for their entire being. Resting the physical body is straight- forward, but the resting of the remainder may not be so obvious.
Physical rest is no challenge for dogs who sleep most of their day. Even a dog who is active and engaged in work and play knows when it is time for a nap. However, physical rest alone is only part of your dog’s whole being. Resting your dog mentally is also just as vital. Training, socialization, competition, and performance work require your dog’s mental attention and engaged thought processes. Overly training, socializing, and working your dog can create mental strain and fatigue leading to emotional and behavioral issues. A mentally imbalanced dog is an unhealthy dog.
Resting your dog’s emotions and soul involves knowing their stimulus. Stressors and over stimulation from young family members or younger pets such as puppies and kittens can be emotionally draining to your pet. This effects the heart of your dog’s very being, his or her soul. This type of overstimulation can result in depression and anxiety or even a lack of will. Removing or limiting stressors and disturbances is a considerate act while providing a private place for retreat and sanctuary is essential for emotional wellbeing for the benefit of your canine’s soul.
Dogs are experts at sleeping! According to Dr. William Thomas, “dogs sleep 48% to 58% of the time.” Dogs can sleep anytime and anywhere making sleep an effortless feat. Despite this fact, dogs still require periods of undisturbed sleep and the ability to develop and abide by their body’s natural circadian rhythm.
A natural circadian rhythm is established by the sun and your dog’s exposure to it. If your dog resides indoors, be sure to allow sunlight to fill the interior of your home. Reduce yours and your dog’s exposure to LED lighting at night in your home. Use incandescent bulbs or yellow light rather than white light. This will keep the pineal gland healthy and ample amounts of melatonin will be produced. It is also a very good strategy plan for all family members and pets to turn off Wi-Fi at night during sleep. Remove all electronics from sleeping areas and turn cell phones to airplane mode. Reducing electromagnetic fields (EMFs) to a minimum is an important step in reducing exposure and maintaining a healthy home and sleep pattern.
Like us, dogs experience different stages of sleep. If you watch your dog while they sleep you will likely observe moments of deep sleep where they experience Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and dream. Many dogs act out their dreams by moving their limbs and even barking. These deep periods of sleep are necessary. During sleep, a dog’s heart rate drops and their breathing slows down. This is to conserve energy and is vital for the maintenance and repair of body tissues. Undisturbed nighttime sleep is an essential component for a healthy, well mannered, and happy dog.
Detoxification is not only NOT a myth, it is essential to health!
Several years ago, The Guardian published an article entitled “You Can’t Detox Your Body. It’s a Myth. So How Do You Get Healthy?” The article, unfortunately, grossly misrepresented the physiological process of detoxification and the strategies that can be taken to improve and support the natural detox pathways. The truth is we and our dogs have a dependency on specific nurturing foods and holistic “medicinals” in order for these processes to run smoothly. Without specific foods and nutrients to support health and the body’s natural detoxification functions, toxic accumulation results and health fails as has been shown in numerous studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and numerous other organizations and laboratories. It is a disservice that this misleading and slanted article caused many individuals (especially those who were already biased against natural health care strategies) to use this information in opposition to utilizing detoxification strategies as well as for many others to fall for the false notion that detoxification is a myth and a hoax.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how “clean” you may live your life and what proactive measures you take to protect your dog, nearly every human being and animal shows some evidence of toxic build-up. This is a result of the tens of thousands of chemicals found in our environment. Currently it is estimated that there are more than 85,000 chemicals surrounding our lives while a sickening 90% of these have never been tested for public safety. According to the CDC’s last national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals, over two hundred chemical compounds were measured in the blood and urine of the individuals who take part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). According to the report, “In the majority of individuals tested, acrylamides, cotinine, trihalomethanes, bisphenol A, phthalates, chlorinated pesticides, triclosan, organophosphate pesticides, pyrethroids, heavy metals, aromatic hydrocarbons, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, benzophenone from sunblock, perfluorocarbons from non-stick coatings, and a host of polychlorinated biphenyls and solvents were found. ” The CDC has proven that toxins can accumulate in the body within the blood, urine, and tissues. Latest studies have shown that up to three hundred chemicals are already present in the body of newborn infants as well as in human breast milk.
What does this mean for our dogs that are walking closest to the earth and household floors, digging in soils, licking and chewing on filthy treasures they find on the ground or in the trash, and spending long hours indoors breathing polluted indoor air? And we cannot leave out the very serious concern for the majority of dogs who are consuming dried processed commercial dog food often made from 3D/4D meats, meat by-products, GMO ingredients, preservatives, and unhealthful fillers along with a cocktail of heterocyclic amines from the cooking processes, other carcinogens, molds, impurities, synthetic nutrients, and more.
Our dogs have much smaller organs through which to eliminate the same toxic exposure when compared with ours. A dog’s smaller (and sometimes tiny) organs will have to work more diligently to remove toxins. And having a much shorter life span, toxins cannot be eliminated gradually as they are in humans, thus many dogs succumb to illness and chronic disease at an early age. What is worse, our dogs cannot verbalize when they are feeling ill or when exposure to their food, tap water, lawn chemicals, cleaning supplies, veterinary preventatives and vaccines, for example, make them feel sick or cause irritation.
If your dog’s body becomes overwhelmed with the toxin load, elimination is not possible and their bodies will store the toxins until the detoxification processes are able to remove these stored toxins along with the new toxins being introduced daily. And as you can probably guess, many dogs will never have an opportunity or ability to eliminate stored toxins at a later date. Indefinite toxin accumulation is a very real and serious concern for too many dogs. Toxin accumulation creates cellular inflammation resulting in cellular abnormalities. This generally leads to growths and tumors which can end ultimately in cellular damage and cancer.
Is it, therefore, realistically possible to detoxify your dog’s body (and yours, for that matter)? You bet it is! Your dog has several pathways through which to remove toxins. These pathways are the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, respiratory system (lungs), bowels, and even the skin if the toxin load is high. If we are to focus on the main organ responsible for detoxification it would be the liver.
The liver has more than five hundred functions which includes the body’s primary role of detoxification. To detoxify the body, the liver filters the blood, neutralizes toxins, breaks the toxins into smaller particles, and then conjugates them for removal via the bile, urine, and feces. A healthy body would have standard metabolic waste from normal cellular function, old red blood cells and unhealthy or damaged cells, and microorganism such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that would be easily removed via the liver’s detoxification processes. However, in a world abundant in toxic chemicals, many of which are lethal, the liver of the modern canine (and human) now has to perform far more detoxification work to prevent the body from succumbing to damage from chemical exposure. Your dog has not only the above metabolic waste to contend with, but also an environment abundant in poisons and chemicals, heavy metals, toxins in the water supply, all xenobiotic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, veterinary preventative chemicals and vaccines, polluted indoor air, and the list goes on.
Since the CDC and many other research studies have already proven that toxins accumulate in the body tissues, then we can easily conclude that the liver is not capable of detoxing without a consistent nutrient-dense species-appropriate diet along with additional support from foods and supplements; foods and supplements that have been proven to help remove toxins from the body tissues.
To put it bluntly, your dog’s liver and remaining body systems cannot function to their full potential if, firstly, excessive toxin exposure is not halted immediately, and secondly, if an abundance of required nutrients and building blocks along with specifically chosen foods and supplements are not provided daily. If your dog is getting “just enough” nutrients, especially from an already poor diet, his/her liver will never be able to adequately remove the hundreds, if not thousands, of chemicals they are exposed to daily. Disease will be the end result. What does the liver require on a daily basis?
The liver has a two phase detoxification process. After filtering the blood to remove the larger toxins, what follows is two phases that break down, neutralize, and eliminate the chemicals. Phase one is an oxidation process while phase two is conjugation. In phase one, the liver alters the toxins to form activated intermediates. The activated intermediates then enter into phase two where they are neutralized and converted into safer chemicals through oxidation, reduction, and hydrolysis reactions. Phase one requires B vitamins (especially methylfolate), vitamins A, C, and E, glutathione, phospholipids, and specific amino acids. The second phase requires amino acids, sulfur, B vitamins, choline, fatty oils from fish, glutathione, and limonene. If your dog has a lack of any of these nutrients, liver function will not be optimal. If liver function is not optimal, toxins cannot be converted and removed, thus toxins will be deposited into the fatty areas of the body. When this occurs, your dog has become toxic and symptoms will manifest. One of the first and most overlooked signs of toxin accumulation is sluggishness and weight gain with the inability to lose body fat.
What can be done to support liver function? Simply put, a carefully planned out and implemented detoxification strategy that is followed and carried out on a regular basis. The number of studies that have conclusively shown that certain foods and supplements aid liver and tissue detoxification are in the hundreds. To believe that specifically chosen foods and supplements cannot assist in detoxifying the body is to deliberately turn a blind eye to the myriad of studies proving otherwise. Just as you cannot build a house without the specific and correct building materials required to construct a strong and solid building, nor can you maintain the integrity and beauty of that house in the years to come without the essential needed materials, you also cannot create and cultivate optimal health without the specific and specialized materials needed for each and every function of the body right down to each cellular organelle.
Because detoxification is so specific to each dog’s needs, history, and current health condition, I highly recommend contacting The Holistic Canine for a custom detoxification strategy plan.
In closure, I have included a mere two foods/supplements that will show without a shadow of a doubt that specific foods and supplements do offer tremendous detoxification support and assistance. Enjoy!
A plea to correctly meeting your dog’s nutritional needs and more
The strength of the bond between a dog and his guardian never ceases to amaze me. It is a beautiful and harmonious relationship between two species remarkably entwined in an intimate connection surpassing the language barrier, the physical dissimilarities, and the purpose that drives life and intention. Both are united ultimately by need. A need to nurture and for companionship or assistance on the part of the human, and a requirement for mere basic necessities on the part of the dog that trickles into the fierce desire to give his loyalty, devotion, protection, companionship, service, adoration, and affection. It is this that translates into pure love. How better to express the bond we have with our canine companions?
With this loving bond comes the need for mutual agreement and trust. Dogs are not people. If you expect your canine companion to adhere to the basic rules of your life and household, then should you not also give and allow your dog the opportunity to be a dog? He obeys your rules by respecting your house and environment, but the outside world is a dog’s first home. It is his birthright to have territory upon this earth to call his own. A mutual agreement between man and canine strengthens the bonds of love and loyalty, trust and affection. Let him be a dog by giving him a safe piece of your yard and your house that he can call his own. Let him dig and explore, eat grass and roots, chew on bones and sticks, roll on the earth, run to his heart’s content, chase birds and squirrels, bark at the world, snuggle up in a blanket on the sofa or a bed, retreat to his own spot, lie in his favorite place on your floor (even if you have to step over him), sleep in undisturbed peace, and have the right to go outside when he asks. He is, after all, a dog and not a person; a being who is under your rule.
Canis lupus familiaris had (and many dogs still do have) the ability to perfectly care for their own needs. Instinct guides them to survive, driving them toward the proper nourishment and care that their bodies require. But under the care of a human, basic needs are left to the mercy of their guardian’s knowledge and decisions. When we take the responsibility to make decisions for another living being, there comes with that choice a great responsibility. For our dogs, we are making decisions for beings that know what they require and know how to get it. Yet we become the master of their provisions. Can you see how great an obligation this is?
A dog is designed for specific food and they are driven to hunt. Even the cutest of the toy breeds can be seen chasing squirrels, digging up mice and moles, and chasing “prey.” Yet we humans have decided what is best for our loyal companions. Man has a drive for convenience, creating simplicity, money and gain, and approval. And so he takes from the wild a beautiful creature and makes him more convenient for himself. Worse yet, he decides for the canine what he will eat and offers him food his body is not designed to consume. Once free and thriving in the wild, domestic dog succumbed to man’s need for convenience and monetary gain, and worse yet, his disease-ridden state. Dogs do not create disease within themselves, man does this for him. Humans have a habit of believing that they know best, like gods directing and deciding for others. Nature alone knows best. Instinct drives the animal to seek and acquire what he needs.
Food is a vital need. Yet, should your dog not also enjoy what he eats and get pleasure from breaking, crushing, and chewing food? Food should never create dis-ease. Food is meant only for nourishment of the body to provide energy and to build, maintain, defend, and heal cells and tissues, and to create internal harmony and produce optimal health. Do we not have, then, the highest obligation to provide for our beloved canines the food that they were designed to consume? Food that makes their bodies thrive in a state of abundant health and wellness? You are the master of your dog’s needs. You are the sole provider of his basic requirements that will either nourish health or feed dis-ease. He gives you his love, his loyalty, his companionship, his trust, his heart and soul. Can you not provide, in-return, for his basic needs exactly what he is designed to consume that will reward his life with health, comfort, and longevity? He needs nourishment from foods that are appropriate for his species. He needs the pleasure of breaking, crushing, and chewing food as this stimulates his trigeminal nerve and releases potent neurotransmitters to create mental poise and reduce behavioral problems. He is not a human, he is a canine.
This is my plea to you: MUTUAL TRUST. Your dog trusts you. You are his provider. He loves and obeys you, he respects your lifestyle, your home, and even your heart. He seeks your approval. Give to him the best that you are able. Throw away the convenience food. You made a decision to care for a life. Hold this decision as your highest responsibility. Your dog requires a diet of fresh whole foods, not dead dried-up processed balls, pellets, and bits from a bag with artificial nutrients sprayed on top to “meet” a standard set by an organization that was created because man was killing animals with improper diets. Man does not know best! Nature knows best. Science studies nature, the natural world, in order to learn facts and truths about our world, our environment, our bodies, animals and their bodies, and all life in general. It is not the other way around. We do not teach nature, nature teaches man. The only scientific canine diet is the diet nature provided. NATURE IS SCIENCE and SCIENCE IS NATURE AWAITING DISCOVERY.
Ask yourself this: Does science support commercial man-made nutrition in a bag? No scientific endeavor or discovery will ever find commercial kibble for dogs. Nature provides for her canines. Man simply chooses to rape nature with unscientific ideas. Give your dog the best. He deserves to have his basic needs met with what nature has provided for her creatures. Your dog requires fresh meat, fish, poultry, organs, bones, eggs, and water from his fresh food. A homemade fresh raw or lightly cooked diet is an ideal nutrition plan. Many commercial raw foods are now also available for convenience and simplicity. Doesn’t your dog deserve the best? Give him the best of what nature has provided. You owe it to him for all he gives to you. Love is action!
The Holistic Canine is here to help you meet your dog’s needs…all of them. If you would like to learn how to provide your dog with the best scientific diet, please join our Facebook group for a FREE online course in raw feeding and naturopathy. Also contact The Holistic Canine to set up a consultation or to request a custom recipe or nutrition plan. We also have recipes available for immediate purchase. No matter what your need, we are here to assist you!
One year ago this month my beloved Siberian Husky, Damon (who is also the face of The Holistic Canine), was informally diagnosed with thyroid cancer. His thick and luxurious Siberian coat had hidden a growth that I did not notice until one day last October 2018. I was sitting on my bedroom floor tending to one of our Pitskies when Damon nudged me for some petting. Of course I started to fuss with him. Because I was sitting on the floor, I was low and my hand ran over his throat. I felt what I at first thought might be a clump of hair. I spread his hair to investigate and knew immediately that my beloved companion had a mass in his throat.
Let me take you back several years. Damon and I are from upstate NY. My three sons, Damon, and I made the decision to move south to Georgia after my then-USAF fiance (now husband) was re-stationed to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, GA. Because we were moving to a military establishment, that meant Damon would not be allowed on base without current rabies and distemper vaccines. I am against vaccination and Damon had only the most minimal. But I had no choice. He was my beloved heart dog and he was coming with us, so I had him vaccinated. Damon turned 6 years old on the day we arrived at our new home.
Not long after arriving in Georgia, Damon suddenly became very lazy. Then about a year later, my once perfectly-healthy Damon began having a host of issues. He would wake up with stiff necks that nearly paralyzed him. He would stand with his head cocked, unable to move, facing a wall. Then one day in February 2016, right after he turned 8 years old, while outside in the yard he started screeching. I ran outside to find him trembling in a couched position in searing pain and unable to move. I picked him up while my son ran to the car to help me rush him to the veterinarian. I immediately thought Lyme Disease as it looked exactly like the symptoms, and being from NY where Lyme is common, I was well versed. Georgia, however, has a very small incidence of Lyme and the Veterinarian immediately expressed her doubt. Well, she was right. No Lyme Disease. But we put him on an antibiotic and a steroid to “cover all the bases” and get him pain-free before taking further measures. We also used NexGard (against my good conscience) at 1/2 the dose for the next three months in case a tick borne illness was the cause. The next day Damon was perfectly normal so we chose the “watch and see” approach. But as time went on, the stiff necks continued. If you could have witnessed what we did, you would have agreed with us that we did not think Damon was going to live to be nine years old.
By now we had several other dogs who were all consuming a raw diet. Damon, being the pickiest eater I have ever met in all my long years of having dogs, wouldn’t touch raw food. He was near impossible to feed. He had been on a homecooked diet along with the highest (and most expensive) commercial canned and dehydrated foods for nearly his entire life. We knew we HAD to figure out a way to get him to eat full raw. After many creative tactics and painstaking coaxing, Damon was finally eating full raw by March 2017, and amazingly, he never had another stiff neck or issue again. The change in Damon was immediate. So why did he develop a mass over a year later? Or had it already been forming, missed by both us and veterinarians, silently causing the stiff necks?
I was dumbfounded. What could have caused my Siberian to go from perfect health in NY to a literal crash and burn upon moving to GA? In my heart I believe the vaccines are partly, if not completely, responsible. Add to this the military community which sprayed Round-Up everywhere, and I have my suspicions. We chose to get the hell out of that toxic community and move out to the country at the end of 2017. I had thought we were out-of-the-woods with Damon’s health, so you can imagine my surprise at finding the mass in October 2018.
Let me take you back one more time before I discuss my chosen action plan for Damon. In 2016 as a result of Damon’s health issues, I had decided to start The Holistic Canine. I wanted to bring together a community where holistic health care measures are shared and discussed. Thus The Holistic Canine was born. Never did I realize where it would take me. I kept Damon’s health issues quiet while I worked with him and utilized holistic therapies and measures. I wanted to first know that what I was doing was effective. Why talk about something that is not yet shown to be effective? For starters, I already knew that raw feeding was by far and away a complete miracle for health conditions. Having now more than ten thousand followers and hundreds of clients with success stories that would move even the hardest person to tears, I know with absolute certainty that species-appropriate nutrition is essential to optimal health and healing. I am also convinced that vaccines are the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette*. Having had dogs for over 40 years, I can clearly see which dogs thrived and which did not as a result of either receiving or not receiving vaccines and chemical veterinary preventative measures. Having also worked for three different veterinarians back in NY and having owned my own holistic grooming salon for 18 years, I saw enough to know what added to health and what destroyed it.
After waiting one year post-diagnosis to write about Damon and my plan of action, I now want to share my chosen protocol and express what I have learned throughout this process. [Note: for diagnosis, Damon went to both a conventional veterinarian and a holistic veterinarian. We chose a fine needle aspiration, a full thyroid blood panel, and a standard blood work up.]
Cancer is a disease of the individual. It is a part of them, their own cells and tissues that have unfortunately mutated and no longer function as their specialized cell. Cancer is part of the body. We are not fighting a “something” when we attempt a war against cancer. We are battling against the body; itself gone wrong. Cancer requires a reversal, plain and simple. Removing a cancerous part or growth is only a temporary fix to a problem of the whole body. If healing and strengthening measures are not engaged in, the cancer returns elsewhere in the body. And why? Because cancer is individual and a part of the victim. Being first and foremost a holistic health practitioner to people, I have studied cancer to a sickening degree. Having this knowledge base in mind, I made my decision and chose my path to assist Damon throughout his now second major health crisis.
1. My first action even before I got my veterinary appointments, was to immediately order the best source of CBD oil I could find. I did not know if Damon would be in pain or if suffering would eventually occur, so CBD was not an option, it was essential. I took my first CBD oil purchase to my holistic veterinarian who warned me to be leery of THC in the product. After later finding a better product that is full spectrum, I ignored my veterinarian’s advice knowing that the THC is what fights cancer, not CBD. I put my dog on a high potency human CBD oil along with Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). I give CBD twice daily.
2. Diet is critical. Damon was already raw fed. As noted above, he is picky to a fault (often infuriatingly), so I needed to make sure he ate, and ate daily (something he NEVER did). I had to make the decision to feed him what I KNEW he would eat, not what I THOUGHT was best. Damon HATES vegetables and fruit. I removed all vegetables and fruit (YEP!) because Damon knew best what his body needs. I started to trust him. I had been researching the Prey Model Raw diet more and became convinced it was the better choice. In addition, I also started adding just bone marrow to meals along with his raw meaty bones which, oddly enough, he took an incredible preference to.
3. With that in mind☝️ and knowing that Siberians have often extreme instincts, I chose to trust my dog’s lead. I am his guardian, but he is his own being. Damon hates going to the Veterinarian and he gets very stressed. Already two vet appointments into this disease and I saw the stress. Stress can kill. I chose to reduce the stress. Damon DID NOT WANT to be poked, prodded, and stressed out. I KNOW my dog and he would not want to be put through a surgery. I chose to opt out of the surgery to remove the mass. In fact, the conventional veterinarian (hands down the best I have EVER seen) said to me that the surgery was not a matter of if it can be done, but whether it should be done given his history. I further resolved after researching the disease and reading about others’ experiences with thyroid cancer that surgery was not for Damon. Too many dogs died shortly after having their thyroid removed.
4. Next, I bought dietary supplements. I researched and chose my next course of action. I decided on turkey tail and reishi mushrooms, a complex of grape seed, green tea, and pine bark, vitamin D, vitamin C, high doses of vitamin E, and others. I tried turmeric and spirulina, but he hated them. No need to force something he hates. Also, my holistic veterinarian recommended no kelp. I stopped kelp and give him only a pinch every once in awhile.
5. I chose to treat Damon as if he was perfectly healthy. I made him believe that he is not sick, that nothing is amiss. He has a tumor the size of a baseball and he does not know it’s bad; he does not care. He believes it is normal. He has adjusted to the tumor as if it is a natural part of aging. The tumor interferes with nothing that we can tell. He acts as if all is well.
6. Energy. Energy is everything. Animals are sensitive to energy fields. They feel our energy and our emotions. Emotions are one of the most powerful energy fields in the Universe. The emotions we send out attracts back from the Universe exactly what we put out. I act as if Damon is no different than our other five dogs, that he is as well and healthy as they are. My emotions reflect that Damon is strong, I do not fear that death will take him. I give Damon the right to chose when it is time. That gives me confidence; it changes my energy field to faith and trust. Damon feeds off my confidence and faith in him.
7. I let Damon lead me. Dogs are incredibly instinctive. They know what they need. If you raise your dog to be a DOG, not a human child, their instincts can be trusted. My dogs play outside, dig in the dirt, eat raw food, get into trash, drink out of the toilet (not that I encourage that, mind you), roll on dead things…they are dogs. Damon has a connection with the earth. Not long after we discovered his tumor, Damon began asking to sleep outside for the first time ever in his life. I knew in my heart he needed to connect with the earth, maybe even prepare for his death. I had to allow it. I cannot stop death, but I may be able to ward it off for a little longer. I let Damon have his way and ground to the earth’s energy at night. He also took advantage of the pre-dawn oxygen saturation within the air. Oxygen is highest at that time as can be witnessed by the birds as this is when they begin to sing.
8. I started giving Damon more privileges. He began helping with the chicken and duck duties. He spends time with the feathered girls. I began to realize more that a dog’s life requires purpose. I gave Damon reasons to WANT to live. I gave him more purpose. He became my partner in caring for the other animals. He joins me on the sofa more. He is the elder dog in the home and we treat him with honor among his pack. Damon also knows that I NEED him. He and I have a very special bond. I make sure he knows.
9. Every now and then I run my hands over Damon’s tumor. I tell him it’s ok. I make sure he knows that this growth is not scary. We tell it “together” that it has no power over him. I use my own energy field and faith to clear away stagnation in the area. Exercise and movement of muscles massages lymph nodes and flushes the lymph fluid. Damon loves to have his head and neck massaged. He also loves our electric massager. We clear stagnant energy, toxins, and fluids.
10. Damon gets exercise in the fresh air a minimum of six times per day. We make sure he walks around the house throughout the day as well. Exercise oxygenates the system. If Damon asks to go for a walk, I take him outside the fenced yard and he loves to gallop across our acreage, explore the heavily foliaged areas, sniff the earth, and relish in the fresh air and warm sun (and eat shoots of vibrant green meadow grasses!).
So far so good. Several years ago we were doubting Damon would see nine years old, today we are approaching his twelfth birthday. How long Damon will be with us is unknown, but he and I both know that each day is a blessing in itself. Cancer and disease suck, but we can do our best to ward off death for as long as we stay the course and BELIEVE!
*I began vaccine research back in 1999. My first son was born in 1998 and when I saw how many vaccines they were recommending, I started asking questions. By my second son’s birth in 2000, I was more convinced that vaccines were more dangerous than good. I chose to withhold all vaccines from my sons from that moment forward. My third son is completely vaccine-free. Now adults, my boys have never had a single illness. My grandson is currently also vaccine-free.
Supplementing and Balancing a DIY Canine Meal Plan the Correct Way
If you have made the decision to feed your dog a species-appropriate raw diet, then you have chosen to move into the direction of providing your dog with the best possible nutrition plan. With that resolve comes the need for research and learning. After all, we all want what is best for our dogs. In order to know whether or not your dog is getting all of his or her essential nutrients, both macro and micronutrients, you must first know exactly what you are feeding to your dog.
DIY raw diets are the best way to know for sure what you are feeding to your dog. You choose the ingredients and the amounts. Auditing your DIY meals via a dog food software program or nutrient spreadsheet calculator will make you aware of the nutrient values and percentages in the meals you are creating. You will learn, for example, where your meals are nutritionally insufficient, nutritionally too rich, nutrient imbalanced, and nutritionally appropriate. Auditing is the best way (really, the only way) to know exactly where amendments need to be made and where supplements should be added.
Pet parents opting to follow the 80/10/10 formula will discover upon auditing that it is very difficult to appropriately balance meals if the formula is followed too closely. See my article How to Properly Use a Ratio: The Raw Fed Dog to discover a better formula to meet nutrient needs.
On that note, with the rise in popularity of raw feeding, numerous raw food companies, businesses, and local raw food suppliers create and sell what are known as 80/10/10 grinds. These grinds offer pet parent’s convenience and simplicity when it comes to feeding their dogs. However, unless a product is clearly labeled, analyzed, and sold as an AAFCO or NRC complete and nutritionally balanced diet option, these raw food ratio conveniences are anything but complete meal plans that provide all of your dog’s essential nutrient requirements. Unlabeled and unknown grind products should never be fed to your dog, worse yet as an exclusive diet option (in my professional opinion, I highly recommend that you completely avoid feeding any and all unknown products). Grind options that are clearly labeled, however, can be balanced IF and only IF they are labeled with the exact ingredients and percentages of each ingredient in the grind.
There are several ways in which DIY raw food diet plans and 80/10/10 grind options (that are labeled with each ingredient and their percentages) can be balanced and enriched. Start with an audit of your meal(s) or grind. If you do not have a dog food software program or a nutrient spreadsheet calculator, The Holistic Canine will do an analysis of your recipes/meals with the option of amendment suggestions for a low cost. Once you have determined the nutrient values of your meal, you can begin to choose your plan of action.
Protein and fat requirements, the macronutrients that supply both functional need and calories (potential energy), are quite easy to meet and supply in meals. Your fat will require balancing, but we will hold off on that for a moment. Thus, your first step is to note each of your micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) values. The easiest method is to look at the percentages of nutrient fulfillment. These percentages reflect how much of the NRC recommended allowance (RA) for each nutrient is being met. (Some programs have both AAFCO and NRC values. I recommend focusing on the NRC percentages.) You will see that some nutrients will be well over 100% and others will be below or are just hovering around 100%. Note the high and low extremes. For example, of the hundreds of recipes/meals that I have analyzed, vitamin A on average is around 300% up to more than 700% while manganese will be around 18% up to 30%. These are both extremes that must be amended and properly brought into balance in relation to all the other micronutrients.
While your goal is to achieve meeting all the nutrient requirements as recommended by the NRC, you will also want to achieve a balance among the nutrients. Nutrients are synergistic. Some nutrients act as partners and co-factors that increase nutrient absorption while some directly antagonize other nutrients decreasing absorption potential. For instance, all of the trace minerals are antagonistic among each other. Balance here is critical to avoid deficiencies. Vitamins A and D are antagonistic as well. Of these nutrients, the trace minerals and vitamin D can be challenging to meet. Thus we have a potential problem if meals and recipes are not being audited for potential nutrient values. Additionally, calcium and phosphorous need to be in the correct ratio for proper absorption and use. If phosphorous is too high and calcium is too low, your dog’s homeostatic mechanism will draw calcium out of storage (bones and teeth) to balance the phosphorous. High phosphorus can cause potential calcium deposits to form in soft tissues as well as malabsorption issues among iron, zinc, and magnesium. Also take note of your omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid values. You will want to achieve a 2 to 1, or better yet, a 1 to 1 ratio among these two families of fatty acids to avoid creating an internal inflammatory environment. Balance matters! You really MUST know what you are feeding your dog.
After noting your nutrient fulfillment values, it is time to focus on creating balance. You will need to bring up low values into the correct proportions as well as lower extreme highs that can potentially cause toxicity as well as deficiency elsewhere. While the NRC has maximum nutrient levels for a few nutrients, that does not mean, for example, that you should have your vitamin A level at 650% just because it is within the RA and the maximum! That is far too high to be feeding vitamin A at that level. Further, providing meals with extreme vitamin A levels while having the vitamin D value at 90% or even hypothetically “fulfilled” at 105% is not balanced. You will need to bring down the amount of vitamin A and raise vitamin D.
Calcium to phosphorous (Ca:P)- your goal is to achieve a 1.1:1 up to a 1.2:1 ratio.
Zinc to copper (Zn:Cu)- I like to see this around 15:2.
Vitamin A to vitamin D- I recommend a minimum of 5:1 up to 2:1 to ensure adequate absorption of D.
Magnesium in relation to calcium- the NRC requires a mere 150 mg of Mg per 1,000 kcal. For optimal absorption and proper utilization of calcium, dietary magnesium and vitamin D levels must be optimal. This is critical. Having Mg at 100% to 200% is minimal. You can safely go upwards of 600% especially if your calcium is near or over 200%.
Manganese in relation to Zn, Cu, and Fe- I prefer to maintain manganese levels around the same as copper and iron in relation to zinc.
Selenium value (this will do the work of vitamin E)- selenium levels can be around 200% to 300%.
Omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids- ideally, I like to see a 2:1 up to a 1:1 ratio.
Having this information, your next step is to begin reducing or increading your ingredients. You will also likely need to add additional ingredients or supplements that will supply the lacking and required balancing nutrients. The following list contains commonly low nutrients and what to add to create a balanced dietary plan in order to cultivate optimal health within your dog.
Zinc: Zinc is almost always too low on audited meals. While grass-fed beef and lamb and chicken hearts and gizzards contain a good amount of zinc, it is not enough. Adding oysters to meals will supply a wealth of zinc and a good amount of copper. Feeding seeds, which contain zinc and other minerals, is NOT a bioavailable source for dogs. Worse, if you are not buying and feeding sprouted/germinated seeds or soaking and germinating them yourself to reduce phytates, then the anti-nutrients are counter-productive and minerals are being lost. Feeding seeds will require double the amount of zinc to make up for the loss to phytates. If you cannot feed oysters, my recommendation is to have a bottle of an amino acid chelated zinc such as L-OptiZinc in a 15 mg dose for small dogs and a 30 mg dose for medium to large dogs. I do not recommend a zinc that has an acid chelate such as zinc picolinate. Stick with my recommendation above for optimal absorption potential.
Zinc:Copper: If you are not feeding a liver that is high in copper, then you will need a zinc/copper combination supplement. Chicken, turkey, and pork liver do not contain adequate amounts of copper. Adding oysters will provide both zinc and copper, but if your dog has an issue with shellfish or you cannot feed oysters, you must have a zinc/copper combination supplement. Like the recommendation above, purchase an amino acid chelated product in the same doses as above.
Manganese: This trace mineral is just plain difficult to supply in sufficient amounts with species-appropriate ingredients if you are not feeding whole prey. Mussels (blue or green lipped) added to the diet will provide a plethora of manganese. However, mussels can be difficult for many pet parents to source, they can be quite pricey, and some dogs may not do well with shellfish. And as mentioned above under the “zinc,” seeds contain zinc, manganese, and magnesium, but these will NOT supply your dog with bioavailable minerals. If you cannot add mussels to your dog’s meals, I highly recommend purchasing a bottle of an amino acid chelated manganese in a dose of 8 mg. Give smaller to medium dogs 1/4 of a tablet and larger to giant dogs 1/2 a tablet.
Krill oil or marine phytoplankton: Brain, grass-fed/grass-finished ungulates, and fatty fish contain a wealth of bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Unfortunately, every other meat is teeming with inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Poultry, pork, and factory farmed, grain-fed ungulates will not supply your dog with their vital EPA and DHA fatty acid requirements. Fatty fish is an excellent source of EPA and DHA that can be fed daily in small amounts. Fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, and herring provide these as well as essential Vitamin D. If you cannot regularly provide your dog with brain, grass-fed/grass-finished ungulate meat/organs, and/or fatty fish, you must add a krill oil or marine phytoplankton supplement to daily meals to meet omega-3 fatty acids requirements.
Vitamin D: As indicated above, vitamin D needs to be balanced with vitamin A. Free-range eggs and fatty fish provide vitamin D, but if you are feeding 5% liver every day, you will not be providing sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Keep in mind, it is about balance, not just meeting requirements. Coming up short or barely hitting vitamin D needs in the presence of huge amounts of vitamin A from liver can create a vitamin D deficiency. My favorite alternative source is an infant vitamin D drop supplement (400IU). All your dog requires is a single drop one to three times per week in accordance with your dog’s size and need. If you have a toy breed, you can purchase a vitamin D drop supplement specifically for dogs, but it costs 2 to 3 times the amount of natural infant vitamin D. Since vitamin D is stored, you can give a toy dog a single boost of vitamin D once per week or once every other week (if you have a dog under 6 pounds).
Calcium/phosphorus/magnesium: If you do not feed bones, then you need a bioavailable source of bone minerals. Bone meal, eggshells, calcium from algae, and canine mineral supplements are a good start. My favorite supplement to meet calcium needs that also provides a perfect amount of magnesium is a product made specifically for dogs by Mezotrace. Be sure to ask me or another professional for appropriate dosing.
Thiamin: This water soluble vitamin comes up short more times than not! Thiamin can be easily met with pork, but if you do not feed pork, thiamin will be dangerously teetering on the “just barely making it” mark or falling short. Being a water soluble vitamin, this vitamin needs to be supplied daily in more-than-sufficient amounts. Something else to consider: if you are feeding raw fish and shellfish (mussels and oysters) then you should be made aware that raw fish contains an enzyme known as thiaminase which renders all the thiamin in the meal useless. Cooking fish and shellfish will destroy the thiaminase and prevent a dangerous and potentially fatal thiamin deficiency. The best and easiest source of thiamin is nutritional yeast. This is a must-have supplement that can be purchased in grocery stores. You can buy a fortified or a non-fortified product. My preference is Bragg brand.
Choline: Choline requirements can be met with eggs, and that means feeding eggs DAILY. And even with a daily egg for a medium size dog, choline will still be low. My recommendation is to have a supplement to fulfill this requirement. The most bioavailable source is sunflower lecithin. 1,200 mg of sunflower lecithin will provide just the right amount of choline per 1,000 kcal of food (420 mg) along WITH an egg!
Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols): This fat soluble vitamin will never be met in meals from bioavailable foods. A supplement should be purchased and added to all meals. I prefer liquid E rather than softgels or dry form tablets. Make sure the vitamin E supplement you purchase is a natural mixed-tocopherol supplement, not just the alpha. On a side note, having sufficient amounts of selenium in the meals voids the need for vitamin E. Selenium does the work of vitamin E!
Iodine: Kelp is a whole-food source of iodine and many other nutrients. However, kelp should be added to meals with great caution. Do not ever fall for the idea that you must feed your dog more than 220 mcg of iodine per day from kelp if you feed more than 1,000 kcal. Humans requires only 150 mcg per day and a dog is much smaller. Even giant dogs do not need more than 220 mcg. (See Dr. Jean Dodd’s research). Even more, if you feed eggs, fish, shellfish, kefir, and/or goat’s milk, your dog is getting iodine! So feed kelp that provides LESS iodine than the NRC’s 220 mcg per 1,000 kcal requirement. Too much iodine can over stimulate the thyroid gland and create thyroid disease. Make sure you use a kelp product that has the iodine amount clearly analyzed and labeled on the product.
Multi-Vitamin/Mineral: I like to offer a canine multivitamin every few days. There are numerous wonderful products that you can choose from. I like Buddy & Lola Multivit as well as brands such as Dr. Harvey’s, kin + kind, Animal Essentials, Dr. Mercola, Earthvet, Pet’s Friend, and Dog Greens. All are great companies with exceptional products.
often the most difficult aspect of raw feeding. Quality and affordability are generally
the two most important factors and considerations when searching for nourishing
ingredients that will be used to fulfill your dog’s energy and nutritional
requirements. I place quality at the top of my list while affordability is
often a necessity rather than a choice.
Purchasing meats, fish, organs, bones, and various other ingredients from the human food market is my recommendation, hands down. Even better, partnering with a local farmer or raising your own livestock for food products is ideal. In this way, you know exactly what and how much of each ingredient is going into your dog’s body. You have full control and can offer a variety of high quality nourishing ingredients that will produce optimal health and wellbeing in your dog.
Premade “complete and balanced” commercial raw products are extremely convenient and are becoming increasingly more popular. However, with that popularity many new raw food companies and sourcing businesses are popping up in nearly every state in this nation as well as abroad. Sadly, I am finding that as more people enter into the raw food business market, money often becomes the game and quality can suffer. Unless a premade is AAFCO “complete and balanced,” is clearly labeled with the exact percentages of every ingredient in the mix, lists the guaranteed analysis, and the company or business can verify the source of each ingredient in the product, you will be left wondering whether or not you are providing a quality food that fulfills all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Quality and nutritional value need to be the first and highest priority of every commercial and raw food supplier.
Which leads me to my biggest concern: 80/10/10 grinds. Unless clearly stated, these products are not complete and balanced diet options. I am seeing these options becoming far more popular than commercial premade completes due to their affordability and ease of creating. Unfortunately, too many pet parents are feeding these grinds exclusively (as complete diets) not realizing that their dogs may very well be missing vital nutrients that can lead to serious deficiency conditions or chronic disease down the road.
80/10/10 grinds come labeled or unlabeled and follow a basic 80/10/10 rule of 80% meat, 10% organs, and 10% bone. They most often contain muscle meat, heart, liver, kidney, and bone. I highly recommend questioning whether the supplier or manufacturer has consulted with a canine nutritionist or if they have the proper knowledge to create an 80/10/10 that is as nutritionally sound as is possible, as well as safe. Keep in mind also that if a supplier is obtaining cheap or even free meat to create a grind it will produce a poor quality, nutritionally unsound, and potentially dangerous product.
The most pressing concern you should be aware of if you are purchasing premades or a grind mix is the sourcing. 3D and 4D product use is becoming very popular in raw grinds. This creates raw food products that are affordable and competitive, but also potentially fatal.
3D animal products are taken from animals that are still alive before
processing. The three “Ds” stand for:
Downed (as from lameness, illness, weakness, etc.)
4D animal products are all of the above with the addition of the animal being dead before the opportunity to slaughter and process hygienically. The forth “D” is:
Dead (or Destroyed).
According to the publication An Overview of the Rendering Industry , “Approximately 49 percent of the live weight of cattle, 44 percent of the live weight of pigs, 37 percent of the live weight of broilers, and 57 percent of the live weight of most fish species are materials not consumed by humans.” To avoid waste, these “inedible” products are sent to plants for animal feed and rendering. “The most important and valuable use for these animal by-products is as feed ingredients for livestock, poultry, aquaculture, and companion animals.”
While most of the inedible products discussed in the publication above come from animals that are fit for human consumption (known as human-grade), there is the other side of the industry. Often during processing in USDA regulated plants, some of the animals are found to be diseased, dying, unable to walk off transport vehicles (down), or may even die (3D/4D). These animals/products are identified as unfit for the human food market and must be marked to avoid entering into the human food chain. How is this done?
During processing, if an animal product has been identified as unfit for the human market, staining the meat or products with charcoal, fish meal, or adding bone or a chemical agent(s) to produce an easily identifiable color, odor, or taste is necessary to avoid these unfit products from entering into the human food market. This is called denaturing. Denatured products are what are known as feed-grade.
The pet food industry obtains denatured feed-grade products at extremely low costs to be used in the manufacture of commercial kibble, canned, dehydrated, and raw pet food products. While using these animal products for pet foods may seem like a viable solution to avoid wasting valuable feed animals, denatured products can and do cause harm to pets when they are consumed. While charcoal, fish meal, and bone denaturing may be safe for pets to consume, chemical denaturing can be potentially lethal. You also have to consider the additional impact of your pet consuming diseased or dead animals which may pose a whole host of risks on its own. Keep in mind that 3D/4D animal products can also be obtained by smaller pet food manufacturers and local raw food suppliers for use in raw food grinds such as 80/10/10. The USDA warns that the handling of 4D meat that is served raw to pets can be a serious health hazard to both the pet parents and their pets.
Take a look at the list of denaturing agents approved by the USDA:
4% coarsely ground hard bone
6% coarsely ground hard bone
6 % tannic acid solution exposure for 1 minute followed by water bath immersion, followed by a 1 minute immersion of 0.022 percent FD&C yellow No. 5 coloring solution
1 part FD&C green No. 3 coloring + 40 parts water + 40 parts liquid detergent + 40 parts oil of citronella
0.0625 percent tannic acid exposure followed by immersion in a water bath, followed by 0.0625 percent ferric acid dipping solution
phenolic disinfectant conforming to commercial standards CS 70-41 or CS 71-41
Crude carbolic acid
FD&C blue No. 1 coloring
FD&C blue No. 2 coloring
FD&C green No. 3 coloring
Finely powdered charcoal or black dyes
Kerosene, fuel oil, or used crankcase oil
No. 2 fuel oil, brucine dissolved in a mixture of alcohol and pine oil or oil of rosemary, finely powdered charcoal
Any ‘other proprietary substance’ approved by the USDA
What are some other concerns you should be made aware of when sourcing your raw ingredients? Always be leery of and question:
Products sold for $1 per pound and lower (especially grinds)
Meats marked “trim”
Grinds containing 1% or 2% bone
Grinds without guaranteed analysis
Products with unknown or undisclosed origin
Meat from animals fed GMO feed
Meat from animals injected with hormones/antibiotics
Unknown tissue found in bulk meat products
Meat with a strong or offensive odor
Meat with an odd color
Products that cause your dog to suddenly become picky
Products that cause your dog to vomit
Overly fatty or greasy grinds
Meats that are brown when thawed
Meat or organs containing spots or unknown attached tissue
Grinds sold for racing dogs
Freezer burned product (may indicate the product being very old)
Expired products or frozen products with a package date that exceeds 1 year
Products with air in sealed bags
Poultry feet with black spots on the bottom of foot pad and toes
All fish grinds (especially salmon)
A company or business unwilling to disclose information about products
The only way to be absolutely sure of what you are feeding your pet is to either feed a DIY nutrition plan from only human-grade USDA inspected ingredients sold in stores and Farmer’s Markets or to find a reputable raw food company/supplier that is 100% transparent about their ingredients, recipes/formulas, and sourcing. When it comes to your pet’s nutrition needs and health, you are at the helm. Choose your path wisely!
Creating a nutrient balanced meal with a “better” ratio
Let’s talk ratios. Ratios provide a super simple outline or guideline for feeding our dogs species-appropriate foods. The most common ratio is still 80/10/10. What that means is…
10% organs (secreting)
Simple, right?! The problem with the above ratio is that many pet parents, and especially those new to raw feeding, do not understand that the 80/10/10 ratio is only a guideline and not an absolute set-in-stone plan to follow. Following the ratio too closely almost ALWAYS results in vitally important nutrients coming in consistently too low. This then increases the risk for health concerns down the road and often contributes to the disapproval that raw feeding has within the veterinary community. Feeding variety does help, but when a dog has protein sensitivities and limited proteins are being offered, providing nutrient balanced meals can become quite the challenge.
In my profession, I have the unfortunate job of seeing the bad side of raw feeding on a regular basis. Many pet parents come to me seeking “desperate” help. From my vantage point, raw feeding can look scary! Thus I created this blog and our Facebook group to be a resource and educational platform to help pet parents feed a more balanced (varietal and rotational) nutrition plan. I have mulled over a better ratio that will help pet parents feed a more nutrient balanced diet and still be able to follow a ratio. Let’s take a look…
55% to 65% skeletal muscle + 15% to 25% organ muscle
10% secreting organ
3% to 5% liver + 5% to 7% other secreting organ (Don’t fall for the misconception that you can’t feed more than 10% secreting organs! Of course you can!)
MINIMUM bone 12% Whole prey has an average bone % of 12%. 10% bone is too low for most dogs and MUCH TOO LOW for puppies.
Did you notice the percentage variation on the liver? This is important to discuss. Most pet parents feed chicken liver, beef liver, turkey liver, or pork liver. Chicken and beef livers are easiest to source. The problem with liver is that some have a very high amount (saturation) of copper and others have next to none. If you are feeding a full 5% of a high copper liver, then you are likely exposing your dog to too high an amount of the trace mineral copper. Worse yet, if your zinc levels are too low, which is very common in raw meals, then a zinc deficiency is a very real possibility. Zinc and copper need to be in the correct ratio. Let me reemphasize this. Even if you are just hitting your dog’s zinc requirements (at around 90% to 110%), but the copper is coming in at around 200% to even 250% of their copper needs (which can easily be achieved with 5% liver), then the zinc is TOO LOW.
1) If you are feeding a
high copper liver, 5% liver is going to be too high if you are not adding a
zinc supplement, and even then, the copper is still a bit too high to be fed at
2) If you are feeding a low copper liver, then 5% will not meet copper needs, thus adding oysters or a zinc/copper combination supplement will be necessary. (Oysters are naturally high in zinc and copper!)
3) Rotating with a high copper and low copper liver every other day is also an option as long as you pay attention to zinc in the daily meals.
Some raw feeding “professionals” recommend feeding liver even higher if you do not have another secreting organ to feed a full 10% secreting organs. The recommendation is to feed liver at a dangerous 10%. Please do not ever fall for this ill-advised recommendation. Your dog may be being exposed to copper at a dangerously high level as well as getting far too much vitamin A. The main concern is a nutrient imbalance leading first and foremost to a zinc and vitamin D deficiency as well as a possible forthcoming toxicity condition. Keep liver at 5% maximum or lower.
As for the 80% meat, if you feed only skeletal meat without any organ muscle, you will not hit nutrient requirements unless you are feeding your dog grossly too much food. Of that 80%, a MINIMUM of 15% should come from muscle organs such as heart, lung, gizzard, and tripe. In my opinion, that should be upwards of 20% as often as possible. I feed my dogs a combination total (muscle organs plus secreting organs) of a near 40% organs in most of their daily meals. The remaining is RMBs and a small percentage of boneless meat. This way I am not just barely meeting nutrient requirements, I am exceeding them in a balanced, well-thought out plan.
For bone, the 10% general recommendation is too low for most dogs. Whole prey has an average bone percentage of 12%. You can safely feed your dog 12% to 15% daily even up to 20%. I would not, however, exceed 25% bone. If you have a growing pup then you will need to feed a minimum of 15% up to, but not exceeding, 25%. Bone contains the base of minerals in the diet as well as bone marrow (where white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are made) and connective tissues (rich in glucosamine, chondroitin, and minerals) that contain a gold mine of value and nutritional components that are vital if optimal health and maintenance is your plan.
Ratio Quick view:
Skeletal muscle = 55% up to 65%
Organ muscle = 15% up to 25%
Secreting organs = 10% up to 12%
Bone = 12% to 18%
Work your dog up gradually to a higher overall organ percentage while also increasing bone percentage. Take it slowly and be patient!
Did I get your attention? Good! There is raw feeding purism and then there is raw feeding done correctly and safely. The truth is, not all foods should be fed raw. While meat, organs, bones, and eggs should be fed raw, foods such as fish, shellfish, and most vegetables should not. In this article we will take a closer look at why this is true.
Fish and Thiaminase
Thiaminase, also known as aneurinase, is an enzyme contained within the flesh and viscera (organs) of numerous species of fish and shellfish which has the uncooperative job of metabolizing (breaking down) the B-vitamin thiamin or thiamine (Vitamin B1) into two molecular parts. While this may seem innocent at the surface, it can spell danger in a big way for your dog (and you) if raw fish is being consumed.
Enzymes are essential for metabolism and digestion. They speed up the rate of all biological chemical reactions and enable the breakdown of food. Digestive enzymes are needed to breakdown foods allowing your dog’s body to unlock the nutrients within the foods that his body requires for maintenance, health, metabolism, and life. However, when your dog consumes an enzyme that targets a vital nutrient, we call these “disobliging” enzymes anti-nutrients because they destroy the very nutrients your dog requires to maintain his health and crucial bodily functions. Thiaminase destroys thiamin before your dog’s body has a chance to absorb this essential vitamin.
Thiamin is part of the B-vitamin complex. It is named B1 because it was the very first scientifically discovered vitamin (1897 to be exact, although Vitamins C and D were previously known nutrients that had yet to be “scientifically” isolated) and gave way to the use of the word “vitamin.” Thiamin is an essential nutrient component for energy metabolism. All cells require thiamin to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main energy-carrying molecule. The heart in particular requires a large amount of thiamin! According to Cornell University, without a sufficient absorption of thiamin, “animals [will] have impaired pyruvate utilization, causing increased plasma pyruvate levels and a shortage of cellular ATP. Thiamin deficient animals also have below normal transketolase activity .”
The active form of thiamin is known as the coenzyme pyrophosphate (TPP) and is necessary for the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA, the conversion of alpha-ketogluterate to succinyl-CoA, the conversion of branched-chain alpha-keto acids to acyl-CoA, and the transfer of a 2C fragment from alpha-keto sugars to aldose acceptors in the pentose-phosphate shunt. If you have no idea what this means, just understand that it is vital for energy! If your dog has any shortage of thiamin in the diet and/or is consuming thiaminase via raw fish, this can become a serious health situation.
When your dog (and you) ingests thiaminase, this enzyme cleaves or splits a thiamin (Vitamin B1) molecule into two parts rendering it inactive and unfortunately unable to be restored. Significant ingestion of thiaminase can obviously induce a thiamin deficiency quite quickly causing thiamin-deficiency related conditions to manifest. One of the first signs of deficiency is weight loss and the inability of your dog to maintain a healthy weight. The symptoms of Beriberi in humans are similar to the symptoms your dog could experience, one serious result being an enlarged heart which can be fatal.
According to PetMD, “As described in a controlled study and a retrospective report, the induction stage generally develops within 1 week after animals begin eating a diet severely deficient in thiamine and is characterized by hyporexia (poor appetite), vomiting, or both (neurologic and cardiac dysfunction develop as the condition progresses). Typically, an animal must be thiamine deficient for slightly more than 1 month before the terminal stage is reached. However, once the terminal stage has started, an animal will die within a few days if the deficiency is not corrected immediately…Typically, it can take weeks to months for the development of clinical signs, which are attributable to subchronic deficiency because most diets are not entirely devoid of thiamine. Mitigating factors include the amount of thiamine in the food, nutrient composition of the diet, whether the animal eats a consistent diet, and species and health status of the animal .”
What if your dog is only ingesting a small percentage of raw fish? This is a good question! Having audited countless nutrition plans and pet-parent-generated recipes, I can tell you for certain that most meal plans come up short or barely hit vital thiamin requirements especially if following too closely to a ratio such as 80/10/10 or 80/10/5/5. Because thiamin is water-soluble, it must be provided daily in the diet in sufficient amounts. Any hindrances such as from even small amounts of thiaminase can potentially lead to a deficiency condition.
The following list comprises of fish species known to contain thiaminase. For a further list, see note at the bottom .
Mackerel, Pacific (Chub)
Menhaden, Atlantic M
Fish without thiaminase:
Bass, smallmouth, largemouth, and rock
Mackerel, species Scomber scombrus
Trout, brown, lake, rainbow, & white
How to Avoid Thiaminase
Avoiding fish altogether is not a wise strategy plan. Fish contains a wealth of essential nutrients and fatty acids that your dog needs. Thankfully, test studies show that subjecting thiaminases to heat via the cooking processes will inactive the thiaminase sufficiently to prevent your dog from developing a thiamin-deficiency condition. My recommendation, especially if feeding whole fish with all the viscera, is to lightly poach or steam the fish until it is completely heated through to be sure the viscera are cooked. You can poach or steam fish on the stove or in the oven to safely feed fish to your dog.
Salmon & all Anadromous Fish
You likely noticed that salmon is a fish that does not contain thiaminase. While this may seem all well and good to feed raw, I have more bad news. Salmon should never be fed raw. Feeding raw salmon to your dog can lead to a condition known as salmon poisoning disease (SPD). SPD is a potentially fatal condition caused by a parasite known as Nanophyetus salmincola that itself is infected by a rickettsial organism known as Neorickettsia helminthoeca. This rickettsial organism is what causes SPD in dogs consuming infected raw salmon and anadromous (upstream swimming) fish. Cooking all salmon and anadromous fish will destroy the organism-infected parasite. While freezing the fish in a deep freezer for an extended period of time is an option, my preferred method is to err on the side of caution and lightly poach all salmon.
Symptoms of SPD includevomiting, lack of appetite, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes, and dehydration. If your dog shows signs of SPD and is not treated, death can occur within two weeks. Statistically, 90% of untreated dogs with SPD die. It can be treated successfully if caught immediately at the first sign of symptoms. My opinion is to never take a chance of your dog coming down with SPD. Cook all salmon before feeding it to your dog.
In fact, cook ALL fish before feeding. Why take a chance with your dog’s health?
The Ugly Side of Vegetables & Plants
Plants are not exempt from the “bad” list when it comes to a healthful diet and nutrition plan for both our dogs and us. For people, plants can provide extraordinary health benefits as they are often abundant in nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. But when it comes to our dogs, canines are unfortunately not designed nor equipped to benefit from the plant world as we humans do.
Animals that are designed and equipped to live exclusively on plants are known as herbivores, frugivores, and granivores. Animals that can consume both plants and animal flesh are known as omnivores. We humans are technically omnivores as we are able to perfectly digest and benefit from both plants and animal foods. Why do I bring this up? I do so because many people believe that our dogs are omnivorous rather than the facultative carnivores that they are. This impression was perpetrated by the pet food industry many, many decades ago.
When the pet food manufacturing process known as extrusion was invented in the 1950’s, starch was an essential ingredient that was needed to hold dog food into a dry shape that could be bagged and stored on a shelf. Later, a 1964 lobbying group known as the Pet Food Institute began a campaign to convince pet-parents that commercially manufactured and packaged or canned pet foods were not only the best option for dogs, but the only option a pet needed to provide all of his or her nutritional needs. This lobbying group was also successful at convincing well-meaning pet-parents that table scrapes were dangerous, a dog’s nutritional needs were too complicated, and canine nutrition should be left in the hands of the professionals only. So of course, further convincing the pet-parenting world that dogs are omnivores was all too easy. After all, dogs weren’t dropping dead from the starch-based commercial foods they were now being exclusively fed. (As an FYI, grains were the main starches being used.) And why?
All biological life has the potential to adapt. As a result of decades and thus generations of dogs consuming a high starch diet, some breeds have developed an increased number of gene copies that code for the creation of the amylase enzyme responsible for starch digestion (AMY2B). This discovery has been the modern foundation on which the pet food industry and veterinarians stand to support their belief or claim that dogs are omnivorous. However, a much closer look at a recent study shows this argument has no real foundation. If dogs in general “evolved” from carnivores into omnivores, then ALL dogs would show this evolutionary marker. But this is clearly not the case.
According to an article issued by the National Center for Biotechnology Information , “AMY2B copy numbers vary in individuals from 20 dog breeds and find strong breed-dependent patterns, indicating that the ability to digest starch varies both at the breed and individual level…. AMY2Bcopy numbers also varied considerably in a larger set of 171 dogs from 20 different breeds. Mean copy numbers still varied significantly among breeds.” This is a critical finding.
The article goes on to further explain, “Although these observations argue that dogs in general digest starch more efficiently than do wolves, considerable variation in AMY2B copy numbers within the dog population, with diploid copy numbers ranging from 4 to 30, indicates that the ability to handle starch may vary significantly among dogs. In support of this idea, wide reference values for serum amylase activity in blood biochemistry panels indicate strong variability in amylase activity among dogs. Based on the simultaneous increase in AMY2Bcopy number and amylase activity in dogs relative to in wolves, it is reasonable to hypothesize that amylase activity is associated with AMY2Bcopy number within the dog population. Yet, a previous analysis within the dog population did not support this hypothesis (Axelsson et al. 2013).”
Thus, are dogs actually omnivores with the ability to consume and benefit from plant matter? The conclusion to the above article puts it this way, “Increased amylase activity in dogs relative to wolves is associated with high AMY2B copy numbers in dogs, arguing that efficient starch digestion is linked to high copy numbers at this locus. However, this association has so far not been confirmed within the dog population. A lack of association may potentially question a causal link between copy number and amylase activity.”
I believe the most telling proof in this whole argument is the fact that after dogs began consuming a high starch diet, they in general began developing the very same conditions as we humans began to develop when carbohydrates became the foundation of the diet. These conditions include exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic skin conditions, and obesity. Not surprisingly, when dogs are taken off of starches, the conditions improve or rectify.
Unnatural foods = unnatural diseases. In other words, species-inappropriate foods lead to avoidable disease conditions.
What does this have to do with vegetables? Everything! Vegetables are carbohydrates and amylase enzymes are required to breakdown all carbohydrates. Having been in the dog profession since 1994, I have seen a LOT of dog stools and many, many health conditions. I have yet to meet a dog that can digest a vegetable given in its whole raw form. If you feed a dog a raw carrot, it comes out the way it was swallowed. I have even seen spinach pieces and lettuce leaves in dog stools! The point is this: the majority of dogs cannot breakdown plant matter (dare I even say, none?!). Thus, it must be mechanically processed via a blender before being offered to your dog in order for the plant matter to provide any benefit whatsoever. (Something to also consider, dogs do not “chew” as their jaws have no lateral movement, nor do they have molars that meet for grinding food!)
If we go back to commercially produced dog food, you will note that all commercial foods are processed. Processed foods are already broken down with the nutrients readily available (albeit synthetic nutrient isolates and inorganic chemicals). Feeding your dog a whole-foods diet requires a more extensive digestive process. Whole-foods require a lot more time (and energy) to break them down to release the nutrients for absorption. If we process vegetables such as through a blender, your dog will be able to better benefit from the nutrients in the same manner as processed foods, HOWEVER this also makes the anti-nutrients readily available and easily absorbed. Here comes the bad news.
Plants contain natural toxins. These toxins are insecticides and pesticides produced by the plant to protect itself from the overconsumption by insects found in its environment and natural habitat. The natural toxins produced in the plants maintain balance within the ecosystem. What these toxins do to insects is disrupt cellular function which translates to also having an accumulative impact on the animals and humans consuming them. The most notable plant toxins are phytates, oxalates, lectins, and saponins.
Phytates have the nasty reputation of binding with minerals in the gut and preventing their absorption. The concern with canine phytate consumption is that phytates bind with key and critical minerals that your dog must have in an abundance. These minerals are calcium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus. This can lead to a mineral deficiency condition if phytates are fed to your dog regularly. Phytates are found in seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes, legumes being the greatest perpetrators. Dogs should NEVER consume grains or beans. These are inappropriate and can cause more problems than any possible benefit. Phytase can be reduced by soaking, sprouting, and fermenting, but they can never be removed completely.
Oxalates are found in the most nutritional powerhouses. Oxalates not only bind with calcium, but they interfere causing a potential risk for crystal formation within the tissues leading to arthritis-type symptoms as well as the formation of kidney stones. Oxalates are abundant in dark green leafy vegetables with kale and spinach leading the list, as well as collard greens, mustard greens, chard, beet greens, okra, carrots, celery, broccoli, grains, beans, nuts and more. Cooking reduces the oxalates. Consuming a large amount of calcium and magnesium with foods containing oxalates is helpful as the calcium and magnesium will bind with the oxalates in the stomach to prevent their absorption. However, then your dog has a reduced amount of absorbable calcium and magnesium. High oxalate veggies are best left to a bare bone minimum and should be cooked before feeding them to your dog. Make sure to discard the cooking water.
Lectins have the nasty drawback of creating a disruption in the functioning of the cells lining the gut layer known as the epithelium. These cells have the vital role of preventing undigested food particles from passing through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. Undigested food particles in the bloodstream can trigger an immune response leading to systemic inflammation. And if this is not enough, research has shown that lectins interfere with the gut microbiome. Foods high in lectins are wheat germ, legumes, and grains as the highest followed by tomatoes, peanuts, potatoes, bell peppers, garlic, peas, nuts, and seeds. Cooking and fermenting reduces lectins. Since these foods are not species-appropriate, I recommend they not be fed to your dog.
Saponins, like lectins, disrupt epithelial function along with creating additional digestive dysfunction. Worse, a connection has been found between saponins and red blood cell damage, enzyme inhibition, and thyroid disruption. Quinoa is thus far the highest food-source of saponins followed by oats and legumes. Saponins cannot be removed. Avoid feeding any foods containing saponins to your dog. These are not worth the risk!
It can be clearly seen that a raw diet doesn’t necessarily mean that every single food offered to your dog should be in its raw state. Plants pose a wealth of issues for animals not developed to consume them. Cooking helps with reducing anti-nutrients and increasing digestibility. My recommendation is to lightly steam vegetables* followed by mashing or pureeing them to make them more bioavailable. Secondly, never feed your dog grains or legumes. And lastly, soaking seeds and nuts is helpful to reducing anti-nutrients. However, almost every dog will pass seeds and nuts into the stools the same way they consumed them. They simply are not digestible to any animals except granivores (birds).
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When it comes to providing our fur-kids with relief from minor and chronic conditions, ailments, bumps, scrapes, injuries, anxiety, recuperation from veterinary procedures and surgeries, and from fleas and ticks, one of my favorite remedial therapies is the use of essential oils. Essential oils not only have powerful medicinal and relaxing, energizing, anti-microbial, and repellent properties, but also have potent and pleasurable fragrances that impact the mind and emotions making their use multifaceted and truly holistic. Filling your home and environment with their wonderful natural fragrances can purify your air and bring a quiet tranquility or positive energy to both you and your dogs.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the fragrant essence extracts from plants and fruits. Extracts can come from flowers, leaves/needles, roots, bark/resins, berries, and fruit peels. When you pick an herb from the garden and rub the leaves between in your fingers, you experience the delectable aroma. Or when peeling a mandarin orange or smelling a rose blossom, those splendidly appealing aromas are the very essences that have powerful medicinal and healing effects on the body, mind, and emotions.
extraction process and type is of vital importance to maintaining the purity
and potency of the oils. Three such methods are:
steam distillation (used for more robust plants)
solvent extraction (required for delicate flowers)
expression or pressed (for use with fruits and fruit peels)
It is necessary to understand that essential oils are very potent and their fragrances can be overpowering to a dog’s highly sensitive olfactory faculties. Leading expert on the canine nose, Dr. Stanley Coren, writes, “Inside the nose…are bony scroll-shaped plates, called turbinates, over which air passes. A microscopic view of this organ reveals a thick, spongy membrane that contains most of the scent-detecting cells, as well as the nerves that transport information to the brain. In humans, the area containing these odor analyzers is about one square inch, or the size of a postage stamp. If you could unfold this area in a dog, on the other hand, it may be as large as 60 square inches, or just under the size of a piece of typing paper…A dog’s brain is also specialized for identifying scents. The percentage of the dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is actually 40 times larger than that of a human! It’s been estimated that dogs can identify smells somewhere between 1,000 to 10,000 times better than nasally challenged humans can.”
In fact, if you have ever wondered why dogs’ noses are textured with all those bumps and ridges, then you will be interested to learn that it is to increase surface area to fit as many as 300 million scent receptors. Just to compare, we humans have only five million scent receptors. Thus, with a sense of smell approximately one hundred times that of a human being, it is not hard to see why the use of essential oils requires the use of caution.
Although essential oils are considered natural remedies, just as with all plants and fruit found in nature, not all are safe for dogs. Some, in fact, are toxic and may have fatal consequences. So too with essential oils, not all are safe for use with canines. And even among the safe oils, all essential oils must be used with caution. So when using essential oils either on your dog or diffused into the air, keep in mind that the oils must be sufficiently diluted and never used near your dog’s nose, eyes, or mouth.
There are several methods of essential oil use with dogs:
1) Diffused: diffusers are an excellent way to vaporize essential oils into your air. Dogs can gain great benefit from the soothing, calming, and energizing properties of many oils. Diffusers come in several capacities, but I recommend using only 1 to 5 drops per 100 ml of water.
2) Hydrosol spray or Spray mist: you can purchase a hydrosol spray which is the safest option for dogs, or dilute oils in purified water and mist onto your dog’s coat and foot pads and/or on your dog’s bedding and carpet area. If creating your own mist, be sure to have an appropriate application bottle and never spray near your dog’s face while also avoiding the throat and rump area. It is best to mist along your dog’s upper back. My recommendation is to use only a small amount of essential oil(s) in 8 oz. of water. Never use more than 25 drops if making a flea/tick/mosquito repellent even if using on bedding and carpet only.
3) Massage: adding essential oils to a shampoo or a carrier oil can offer incredible benefits when gently massaged onto
fungal, yeast, or
and sore muscles,
or flaky skin,
scar tissue, and
Massaging anxious dogs will allow them to benefit from both the touch therapy and the soothing scents of the oils. If creating a massage oil, use only 1 to 3 drops for every ounce of carrier oil. Even the smallest amount of essential oil has powerful effects.
4) Pendant diffusers: many companies have created clever pendant diffusers that can be clipped to your dog’s collar, harness, or in an area where your dog regularly sleeps. Add 1 drop of an essential oil to the pendant insert and close the diffuser. Hang the pendant on or near your dog.
5) Topical/Direct application: dilute essential oils in a carrier oil (as directed above) and apply along your dog’s spine. If you have a dog with erect or short ears, applying to the tips of the ears (known as ear tipping) can be very effective. My advice is to avoid ear tipping if you have a hound or other breed with long ears that can reach the eyes.
6) Internal: Before administering an essential oil internally, talk to a clinical aromatherapist or a certified holistic health practitioner trained in essential oils. Add one drop of an oil to a capsule filled with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil. If your dog tolerates the scent, you can even add 1 drop of diluted essential oil to food.
My personal favorite oils for use with canines are frankincense (my FAV!!!), lavender, chamomile, cedarwood, Cyprus, neroli, myrrh, orange, tangerine, calendula, rose, and peppermint.
The following is a list of SAFE oils that can be used on/with/for canines:
As with anything new, exercise caution when introducing essential oils into your naturopathic health care plan. Always test each essential oil with your dog before using. To test, dilute 1 drop of essential oil in a small amount of oil and rub it onto the back of your hand. Call your dog and hold out your hand while he/she approaches you. Pet your dog on their chest, head, and between their front legs and watch your dog’s reaction. He/she may sniff your hand, show a clear interest, appear indifferent, act passive and relaxed, lick their mouth, and/or try to lick your hand. If an oil is not a good fit or is inappropriate for your dog, he/she may turn their head away, act repulsed, walk away, and even sneeze. Never force your dog to be in the presence of an oil they clearly do not like.
There are many essential oil blends that can be beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional conditions and situations. Be sure to check with a professional for combinations that are safe and effective for your dog’s needs.