Food is Not Simply Nutrition. It is also Information!
The single greatest disservice to our pets was the invention of commercial pet food and the demolition of their ancestral roots. Following at a close second was the increased belief in the need for unnecessary conventional veterinary practices and intervention along with the creation and extensive distribution of chemical “preventatives.” It is no wonder that disease runs rampant among pets or why canine and feline genetics have deteriorated exponentially. Too many beloved pets are dying of disease before they even reach their senior years. Moreover, it is easily observed that pets are rapidly aging. How utterly sad it is to look into hazy and cloudy eyes; or to watch a middle-aged pet stiff and struggling to stand up due to damaged and painful joints; or to see the greying muzzle of a mere six year old; or to smell the stench of periodontal disease that began at the age of two and has now resulted in missing teeth already at the age of seven; or to feel utter pity for the pet that looks like a log of sausage due to their obesity, barely able to walk five feet without panting; or to recoil at the stink of yeasty or rotting ears, skin, and paws; or to stroke the fur of a pet and feel greasy and lumpy skin; or to experience the emotions of sympathy for the enormous percentage of seniors suffering from debilitating chronic disease and disorders. So widespread are the signs of rapid aging and health decline. Should we not be questioning why more pet parents are not putting a stop to this widespread, yet preventable epidemic among dogs and cats?
Preventing degeneration, rapid aging, and chronic disease in pets starts with learning what choices are available and thus making health-promoting decisions. By offering a species-appropriate ancestral prey-based diet and avoiding all unnecessary conventional veterinary treatments, practices, and chemical preventatives, pets can and do live a much healthier, happier, and longer life. While avoiding unnecessary and dangerous veterinary intervention is as simple as choosing not to, feeding a species-appropriate ancestral prey-based diet requires the willingness and motivation to consistently provide your pet with the best nutrition plan possible over the course of their life. This begins with education in this key and critical health strategy. Food must beget life, not disease and death.
Why Food Choice Matters
Food is far more than simply a source of energy and nutrient building blocks. This ancient and outdated ideology is reminiscent of the mechanistic Cartesian-Newtonian “atomism” paradigm. Food is not simply a source of potential energy and small material components that we all know to be “calories” and “macro and micronutrients.” Food goes far beyond physical matter. Food is information. It is the carrier of biological information that bodily cells are dependent upon for health and longevity. The source of this information is microRNAs that are found in all fresh foods. MicroRNA is responsible for gene expression, more specifically turning gene expression on and off. This has profound implications on the health and longevity of our pets (and us!!). The importance of feeding pets species-appropriate fresh whole foods cannot be overstated. It is imperative.
Epigenetic science over the past decade has shown us that gene expression is directly impacted by two factors: 1) diet, and 2) environment. This is good news because it means that gene expression is not solely dependent on genetic predispositions; great news, in fact, for heavily diseased-predisposed breeds. Thanks to modern epigenetic science, we now understand why food directly impacts gene expression and it is found within the microRNAs. These gene-regulatory wonders easily survive the digestive faculties when consumed, thus microRNAs enter the body via food choices and then act in a way similar to a software download thereby impacting and altering gene expression. Now imagine if a pet is consuming processed “dead1” commercial food or food from 3D/4D2 animal products. MicroRNAs establish a connection and thus communicate directly with our pet’s genes thereby having a direct and lasting impact on their health and potential longevity. If poor food choices are made, it will not take long before degeneration, rapid aging, and disease manifests.
Food must nourish the body not only nutritionally, but informationally to reach into the deepest biological needs of each and every pet. What we choose to feed our pets determines the information they will receive and thereby what will be downloaded into their genes. Chemical-laden, GMO, processed, industrial-farmed, glyphosate-contaminated, hormone- and antibiotic-polluted, vaccine-poisoned, diseased/downed/dying (3D) and dead (4D) meats, nutrient-absent, agrochemical-sprayed foods are all the same: deadly. MicroRNA from these foods will not contribute to a positive gene expression, but will turn on gene expression for disease and cellular death. Food is an epigenetic modifier. It is a conductor of sorts orchestrating which genes will express (turn on) and which will not (turn off). It is not hard to understand the impact that dietary choices have on a pet’s physiological potential. It matters immensely what you feed your pet.
Providing your pet with a nose-to-tail species-appropriate prey-based diet while utilizing the best quality ingredients that you can afford is the best strategy for delivering microRNAs that will have the most positive impact for preventing disease and increasing longevity. Choose ingredients from grass-fed and finished ungulates, pastured poultry and pigs, humanely raised rabbits, eggs from free-ranged birds, wild-caught fish and seafood, wild crafted and organically grown herbs and spices, algae and sea plants from pristine waters, and wild or organically grown berries. In purchasing these ingredients you are also supporting the farmers and growers who choose ethical, humane, and species-appropriate farming methods that are best for the animals they raise and the environment in which we and our pets live.
There is no better time than now to make the decision to transition your pet to a species-appropriate prey-based diet. Age does not matter because microRNAs are also in the business of regeneration. As stated above, microRNAs are gene expression regulators and the conduits for information exchange between food and the consumer. In fact, microRNAs are instruments of cross-species communication. Providing pets with food ingredients that come from healthy farm animals raised on their own species-appropriate foods and without chemical and hormone contamination may actually provide information that corrects a pet’s deleterious genetic biology. MicroRNA information is single-handedly able to communicate to genes when to express and when to remain silent thereby offering protection from disease conditions and possibly even allowing a pet’s body to reverse damage through the silencing of adverse gene expression.
Offering a species-appropriate diet and choosing to refuse unnecessary conventional veterinary services and chemicals is your ticket to preventing disease conditions in your pet. To learn how to offer a fresh-food raw diet to your pet, consider purchasing a copy of Canine Raw Feeding Explained and/or contacting us for customized assistance and services to get your pet on the path to healing, health, and longevity.
1 The word “dead” refers to processed food devoid of any nutritional value (other than providing “empty calories”) with the need for additional nutrient isolates to be added to the food product, most of which are poorly absorbed synthetic vitamins and industrial mineral salts.
2 Meat, organs, and bone from animals that are diseased/downed/dying (3D) and dead (4/D).
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.
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 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.
The Importance of Methylation in Canine Health & Disease Prevention
Cellular methylation is an epigenetic mechanism that affects (controls) gene expression in animal cells and is responsible for the body’s most complex and vital processes. In other words, methylation turns genes on and off which directly affects DNA thereby playing a primary role in health and disease prevention. In my article entitled Dis-ease Prevention through Epigenetic Gene Expression, I discussed how DNA gene expression can be directly affected via diet and environment for the prevention of disease and premature aging. Methylation is one such epigenetic mechanism that science is revealing. In addition to gene expression, methylation assists in processing cellular toxins and hormones for adequate cellular detoxification. It also aids in both the manufacture and catabolism (breakdown) of neurotransmitters. It is not difficult to recognize the importance of maintaining adequate cellular methylation in both us and our pets. Epigenetic science may just be THE missing link to the prevention of disease and slowing the aging process.
In another article I had written on the microbiome (The Mystifyingly Astounding Microbiome), I expressed how the nurturing of healthy and flourishing gut microorganisms plays a pivotal role in the cultivation of optimal health and immunity. Accordingly, it should not be surprising that ideal cellular methylation is connected to gut health. Cultivating a microbiome that resembles a rainforest teeming with tens of thousands of symbiotic species coupled with taking active measures to improve cellular methylation are necessary ingredients for the nurturing and maintenance of optimal health and healing, disease prevention, and the prevention of premature cellular aging in our dogs.
Cellular methylation requires two critical components that need to be in adequate supply. These include folate (part of the B vitamin group) and s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Folate can be manufactured by healthy colonic microbiota (microbiome), but not in a sufficient amount; therefore, it needs to be supplied in and through the diet. SAMe is manufactured from the amino acid methionine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in sufficient amounts provided an adequate amount of methionine-containing protein sources are consumed regularly. SAMe’s role in methylation is to donate its methyl group. It is also essential for the formation of neurotransmitters, a process that requires the assistance of methylation. Thus it can be seen how correct functioning of the cells cannot be understated in this interdependent relationship.
Folate is far more complex. Folate is a metabolic cofactor as well as a dietary nutrient. Folate requires a reduction process via what is known as the folate methylation pathway. This pathway reduces dietary folate (and synthetic folic acid) to 5-MTHF (methylenetetrohydrofolate) for its methyl donation to the DNA methylation process. An undisrupted folate reduction pathway is critical for a consistent flux of available methyl groups. Disruptions within the folate methylation pathway, unfortunately, can and do occur which often leads to a build-up of toxins in the bloodstream and tissues. Disruptors include prescription drugs, environmental and food chemical exposures, veterinary preventative chemicals, synthetic folic acid in commercial dog foods, processed food diets, or genetic mutation, to name a few. Disruption creates a deficiency in methylfolate. This then snowballs into a deficiency of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, leading to a toxic state and the inability to create coenzyme Q10, neurotransmitters, nitric oxide, L-carnitine, cysteine, and taurine. These are critically important to cellular and heart health in the modern canine (and humans!). It is worth mentioning that modern canines are experiencing a rapid increase in the incidences of heart disease, specifically DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy), and cancer. Perhaps there is a relation? That is my theory!
Additional nutrients needed for optimal methylation are zinc, vitamin D3, riboflavin (B2), magnesium, pyridoxine (B6), and methylcobalamin (B12).
Causes for defective methylation include:
poor diet (especially processed commercial foods)
chemicals (flea/tick/heartworm preventatives, wormers, pesticides, air-born toxins in home and outdoor air, etc)
giving niacin supplements or B-complex vitamins (notably synthetics)
heavy metals (vaccines especially)
anxiety and stress
associated with methylation disruption:
heart disease and conditions
chronic viral infections
canine cleft palate
neurological disease and conditions
An adequate species-appropriate diet is important, but so too is maintaining a healthy home and environment for your pets free from stressors, chemicals, confinement, lack of vital needs, and the creation of monotony/boredom.
Methylation and gut health are intermutual. Gut health begins with providing a fresh raw food diet and the regular exposure to outside air, sunlight, grass, earth/dirt, sand, and changing environments through walks, hikes, and travel. The diet should be rich in natural sources of folate, methionine, coenzyme Q10, glutathione assistants, cysteine, taurine, and all other required nutrients, cofactors, enzymes, and other species-appropriate food constituents necessary for the maintenance of canine health.
Should you begin supplementing your dog with the above nutrients? My opinion is NO unless your dog has a verifiable need. Supplementing can upset the homeostatic mechanisms your dog’s body uses to regulate itself for health and disease prevention. You cannot force the body to utilize more of what it needs. Supplements are for deficiencies, for use where the diet consistently lacks, for genetic or cellular mutations, therapeutic needs, and in disease treatment. (NOTE: Whole food supplements do not fall into this category.)
Richest Food Sources
Folate: chicken liver, beef liver, chicken feet
Methionine: salmon, mackerel, and all meats and eggs
Coenzyme Q10: heart, liver
Glutathione support (manufactured in body): Foods rich in zinc and copper maintain glutathione levels (beef liver for copper and oysters for zinc); raw eggs, raw unprocessed meat, and avocado maintain levels; asparagus is a leading source of glutathione. Milk thistle and turmeric assist in maintaining glutathione levels.
Cysteine (manufactured in the body): meat, fish, and eggs
Taurine (manufactured in body): fish, heart, meat, shellfish, eggs
Despite our best efforts, the modern canine is stricken with chronic conditions and diseases with an alarmingly increasing mortality rate. Can these conditions and diseases be prevented even if genetics plays a role? YES! Epigenetic science is showing us how diet and environment directly affect gene expression.
The Most Common Dis-ease Conditions in Dogs
If you were to do an internet search of the most common disorders afflicting the modern canine, you will discover numerous lists from multiple sources outlining the many crises laying hold of our beloved dogs. The incidence of disease is on the rise despite research into canine nutrition by organizations such as the NRC, AAFCO, FEDIAF, independent veterinarians and nutrition professionals as well as the myriad of disease preventatives pushed by the veterinary industry. Where is the system failing our beloved pets? Can we blame genetics? Before we answer those questions, let’s review the most common disease conditions afflicting today’s canines.
Otitis (ear infections)
Periodontal (oral) disease
Mange (sarcoptic -Sarcopte mites, and demodectic -immune compromised & puppies)
Intestinal inflammation (IBS, IBD, colitis, etc.)
Cystitis (bladder) Infection
Urinary bladder stones
Urinary tract infections (UTI)
Kidney disease 
Thyroid disease 
Gastric torsion (bloat)
Heart disease  -dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
Cranial cruciate ligament disease (CCL)
Nuclear Sclerosis (eye)
Degenerative myelopathy (DM)
Sadly, this list is not exhaustive. Our dogs are in a fight for their health and longevity. Numerous researchers, myself included, are actively seeking and testing naturopathic and food therapies as well as seeking new paths to cultivating optimal health, healing, and longevity in the modern canine.
It is blatantly clear that the pet food industry and veterinary preventatives are failing the majority of dogs. Thankfully, modern epigenetic science is casting a ray of light and hope on the war against disease and increased mortality. If you look at the above list, you will note that there exists a common thread. All of these conditions can be prevented! It is now known and understood that diet and environment play a crucial role in gene expression.
What is gene expression? To put it simply, external factors (diet and environment) have a direct impact on physiological phenotypic trait variations triggering genes to be “switched” (turned) on and off. This directly affects the way in which cells translate (decode or read) genes as opposed to changes in the DNA sequence. The purpose of epigenetic science and research is to learn and understand the dynamic diversity and modification capacity of the transcriptional potential within every cell.
Can epigenetic science help us to improve the health and longevity of our pets? The answer is YES and it is being done even now.
Let’s go back to the question posed above. Is your dog at the mercy of his genes? Are genes to blame? While genes do play a role in increasing risk potential for familial diseases and disorders, epigenetics says NO. We can influence gene expression. Your dog is no longer at the mercy of his genes. He is, however, at the mercy of his genes expressing in ways that negatively impact his health if external intervention is not engaged. It’s time to “switch” the genes into a positive and health promoting expression for the cultivation of radiant health.
Many breeds of dogs, especially in the United States, are passing abnormal genetic information into each successive generation which is placing each and every innocent puppy into a high risk potential for experiencing a full-blown disease condition. We call this breed disease-predisposition and genetic (or pedigree) disease potential. Does this mean that each pup will develop a predisposed condition in their future? No, but it does put them at a frighteningly high risk that increases their likelihood for experiencing the condition or even conditions. The good news is that carefully influenced epigenetic gene expression can prevent the very diseases that are threatening breed and genetic predisposed dogs.
Let’s start with what to avoid. The following is a list of examples which are known to cause genes to express deleteriously thereby having a direct adverse impact on health and disease prevention. This is by no means exhaustive, but serves to bring to light common dangers.
Vaccinations (even one can be lethal, but here I refer to unnecessary repeat vaccines)
Fabric softeners (especially chemically scented…this is a leading cause for indoor air pollution)
Lawn and garden chemicals, weed killers (esp. glyphosate), pest control
Farm and garden chemicals (pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.)
Household pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, rodent poisons, ant baits, etc.
Swimming pool/hot tub chemicals
Nail products and paint fumes
Carpet and floor cleaners
Construction and automobile chemicals and oils
Exhaust fumes from vehicles, lawn mowers, etc.
Cleaning supplies and solutions
Drugs, veterinary prescriptions
Growth hormone contaminants in meat products
Processed food diet, especially kibble
Excessive consumption of a single recipe/diet (homemade and commercial)
Excessive consumption of same-source ingredients (homemade and commercial)
High carbohydrate/fiber diet (commercial and homemade)
Species inappropriate diet (commercial and homemade)
Consumption of rancid fats and fish oils
Nutrient deficient meals
Nutrient toxic meals and supplementation
Tap water (chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceutical contaminants, heavy metals, pesticides, etc.)
Poor dental and gum health
Parasite induced disease condition
Lengthy crating and confinement
Lack of outdoor time
Lack of sunlight
Lack of fresh air
Lack of exercise
Lack of purpose (esp. in working breeds)
Tight fitting collar
Excessive heat or cold exposure
Excessive breeding of bitch
Avoiding as many or all of the above is a plan that greatly increases the opportunity to cultivate optimal health in your dog.
Preventing Disease through the Cultivation of Optimal Health
Having learned above what we need to avoid in order to prevent the decline of health by way of undesirable gene expression, we can now look at ways in which we can influence gene expression for the cultivation of health and the prevention of disease.
Health begins firstly by avoiding health harming foods, substances, situations, and environments followed by influencing positive gene expression. We do this by creating a platform on which we can cultivate optimal health. It is a process and a practice that must be regularly maintained if health is to be continuous. Creating the correct platform begins with diet and environment. Both are dependent upon each other. Nutritional needs are dependent upon environment and environment determines nutritional needs.
First and foremost, our dogs require fresh whole foods that are appropriate to their species. This is extremely important if nutrient assimilation is to be optimal. A dog cannot gain value from grass, whole raw vegetables, grains, or whole raw seeds any more so than we can gain value from lawn clippings, raw grains, or raw legumes. For a dog to maintain health, he needs to have clean food-sources of energy and nutritional building blocks that can be easily unlocked and assimilated. There is no exception to this! Nutrients are complexes that must be gained from food sources. Nutrients come packaged alongside other nutrients, enzymes, factors, cofactors, antioxidants, constituents, and potential energy that assist and work along with other components for optimal digestion, absorption and assimilation, and the cultivation of health through appropriate gene expression. There is also the need to avoid the consumption of anti-nutrients that prevent the absorption of vital nutrients.
Environment plays a role in determining nutrient needs. Soil mineral-saturation or depletion affects nutrient needs from both local food sources and food sourced elsewhere. Also, family dynamic, stress, adverse exposures, exercise, air quality, sunlight, water quality, purpose (dogs need a sense of purpose just as we do), attention from family members, socialization, stimulus, etc. all determine nutritional requirements. If these are not taken into consideration, optimal health cannot be cultivated.
We also see health decline with energy waste. Energy is everything. Our dogs require adequate motive power for building and maintaining optimal health. We want to look for and remove any sources of unnecessary energy expenditure (energy waste). Vital energy will be diverted to the elimination of excessive toxin build-up (from both metabolic function and exposure via diet and environment) and to areas that require repair to damaged tissues caused by the exposures, conditions, and conducts listed above. By removing these energy wasting sources, energy will be freed to allow for peak motive power available to the maintenance of optimal health. When the body is powered adequately and disease preventatives are put into place, genes will express for health rather than toward disease predispositions or the failure of health.
Failure to produce optimal health can be observed via the manifestation of adverse symptoms in the physical body, behavior, and emotions. Health is fragile when not carefully maintained and heeded. Be observant and watch for any signs that your dog is not thriving. Do not delay in removing or correcting the cause. Health can decline rapidly. For additional help, contact me for more information!
If our goal is to cultivate optimal health in our dogs, than every pet parent’s focus must be turned to their dog’s microbiome. Just like us, our dogs contain a vast and complex array of microorganisms that in-and-of-themselves make up its own distinct system. The amount of genetic information contained within the microbiome is immense. But what is most incredible is the commensal relationship that your dog shares with his/her microorganisms. The microbiome is teeming with bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are essential for the correct and peak functioning of digestion, immunity, and brain function.
Intriguingly, “germs” generate fear which is blaringly obvious by the frantic quest for immunity against the perceived deadly strains of microbes. Doctors and veterinarians warn against the dangers of pathogenic microbes and push antibiotics and vaccines. Additionally, warnings against the dangers of feeding raw meats and organs to dogs and cats is filling the internet. But recent understanding of the microbiome is only now beginning to show that those “germs” are required for immunological homeostasis . The microbiome is the very defense mechanism that not only protects against deadly pathogenic organisms, but drives immunity and health cultivation. In fact, seventy percent (70%) of your dog’s immune cells reside in the gut alongside the microbiome. Incredibly, a unique communicatory partnership exists between the gut (immune cells and microflora) and the brain . The microbiome is your dog’s dominant military defense against the proliferation of pathogenic organisms as well as the foundation of immune response, nutrient absorption, mental poise, hormone balance, and the forces behind the cultivation of optimal health and healing.
As a result of this exciting science, the popularity among probiotic and prebiotic supplements has increased and will continue its wave of popularity as a greater understanding of the microbiome continues to come to light. But are these supplements really all that beneficial and worth the expense? In short, no. Continually feeding your dog a probiotic supplement is a fruitless endeavor and waste of money . If your dog is recovering from a gut issue, a week or two on probiotics can be quite helpful, but that is its limitation. Realize that you are introducing hundreds of thousands of a mere three, maybe ten, species of bacteria to your dog’s microbiome that should contain upwards of 30,000 species of microorganisms. Attempting to cultivate a microbiome with a mere three to ten species creates imbalance. Your dog’s gut should look like a tropical rainforest alive and flourishing with tens of thousands of biological species, not a desert or mere field with a few species of plants and insects. Do you see the difference? This very difference is what makes one dog healthier and stronger than another. Forget the probiotic supplements and focus on cultivating the microbiome the way nature intended.
Every dog, like every human being, is born with their unique and active microbiome which begins within the womb and is further enhanced during whelping via the birth canal of his or her dam. Dam’s milk begins the nourishment of the body, the immune system, the brain, and the internal microflora. How soon pups are weaned, what food they are weaned onto, and what chemicals are introduced into their tiny bodies can either support or damage their vital, dynamic, and maturing microbiome. This can set them up for a life of health and vitality or a life of health crises and a decreased life expectancy.
We must all understand this important detail: the health and longevity of the modern canine begins with the breeders. Responsible breeders will never breed dogs with genetic abnormalities or from breeding lines with high mortality rates. Nor will they breed without the appropriate veterinary and DNA testing to certify health. An additional step that is critical to future offspring is to prepare breeding dams (and sires) before any litter is even considered for the sake of both mama and pups. Providing potential dams with a species-appropriate raw food diet and cultivating optimal health through holistic health care strategies are necessary to nurture and strengthen her microbiome for the benefit of both her and the offspring. Searching for a naturally-rearing breeder is highly recommended if your desire is to grow a healthy dog with a greater chance of resilience to illness and disease, especially if longevity is your ultimate goal.
What about those dogs who were not the product of a carefully selected breeding program? The focus of pet parents who are the guardians of these precious canines must be on the proliferation of an active and vigorously health-cultivating microbiome if health and longevity is on their radar. This is essential! Knowing where and how to nourish the microbiome is priority, especially in puppies. This begins with providing a species-appropriate diet that is raw and teeming with not only macro and micronutrients, enzymes, coenzymes, factors, cofactors, and numerous other vital constituents, but also microorganisms. Your dog NEEDS to receive microorganisms from the outside in order to build and strengthen his/her microflora colony.
The microbiome is alive, dynamic, and in communication with your dog’s brain. A weak and imbalanced microbiome can contribute to numerous health and mental concerns. Dysbiosis, the term for an imbalanced microbiome, is a serious and growing concern that decreases nutrient absorption and leaves your dog vulnerable to potentially pathogenic bacteria and viruses that a healthy microbiome should easily accommodate. If pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and fungi are cultivated within the gut, your dog will be nearly defenseless against so-called “germs” with the added bonus of mental instability. Dysbiosis leads to acute illness, immune disorders, sensitivities and allergies, gut inflammation, colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, anxiety, hyperactivity, aggression, depression, and a whole host of other potential health and mental crises. Dogs with dysbiosis are in dire need of correcting, establishing, and proliferating their microbiome with beneficial microorganisms. How is this done?
To cultivate a strong and healthy microbiome flourishing with as many as 30,000 species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, implement the following strategies:
Offer a varied and balanced species-appropriate raw diet.
Get your dog out into the fresh air, especially where nature is abundant. Exercise them and stir up the grasses, soil, and trees. Microorganisms enter your dog’s body through their noses and via their fur and skin.
Soil is abundant in microflora and dogs love to dig and stick their noses into their dirt holes. Give your dog an opportunity to be in the soil. Soil enriches the microbiome. Allowing your dog to eat his food outside on the lawn is also a great way to introduce microorganisms.
The environment offers a wealth of microflora. Take your dog on hikes to different areas to allow for the greatest possible exposure to microorganisms. Many holistically minded breeders and pet parents that prefer to avoid vaccines do this to expose their dogs to pathogens for the main purpose of creating true and lasting immunity. While pathogens are not the main goal of increasing the species load and strengthening of the immune system, they are required, as stated above, to establish immunological homeostasis.
Offer raw and/or soured raw milk as this contains a wealth of beneficial bacteria. Also, consider offering foods that have been subjected to “wild fermentation .” If you want to feed your dog fermented foods, make sure you are either fermenting foods at home using the wild method or do not offer at all. Most fermented foods are not species-appropriate and may cause intestinal upset. Yogurt is not recommended as most products contain carrageenan and other thickening agents. Stick with kefir or cottage cheese that has nothing added.
Water can also contain microflora. Although offering your dog purified or filtered water is advisable for regular in-home drinking water, dogs also love to drink out of mud holes, streams, ponds, and even toilets. This is not my recommended source for regular exposure, but it is immensely effective. While it is possible that a few dogs with weakened immunity may pick up a pathogen, most dogs will suffer no-ill effect.
Never has science been so exciting! We are discovering that life is a symbiotic dance among biological entities, a partnership that assists and serves for the ultimate goal of optimal health and vitality.
Regular health assessments and keeping an eye on your dog’s poop could mean the difference between health and serious illness or disease
Feeding your dog a fresh raw species-appropriate diet that is balanced and varied is the foundation for optimal health cultivation along with maintaining peak cellular performance and organ function throughout the entirety of your dog’s life. While diet is the foundation for health and health maintenance, there are numerous other factors that can contribute to the breakdown of health or inability to build health within the body. Environment, stress, chemical exposure, mental stimulation, vaccines, parasites, exercise and daily activities, fresh air, and water type, for example, all play a major role in either contributing to health or to the breakdown of health. For this reason, paying careful attention to your dog and being observant of changes is vitally important if your desire is to maintain peak cellular function and keep physical, mental, and emotional stress to a healthy minimum.
While it would be wonderful if our dogs could verbally communicate any health concerns, pain, difficulties, fears, and changes, the burden is, unfortunately, left to our observing eye. Along with yearly exams from a holistic or a functional-medicine veterinarian, observing and examining your pet daily is also important. This can be done easily while petting your dog, during regular grooming sessions, when out on walks or in the yard for exercise & “potty” breaks, at mealtimes, and even when your pet is sleeping or lounging around. Take note of any changes or unusual behaviors. Your daily observations and exams should include the following. Look for:
raised red bumps
raised red and inflamed patches
oily or greasy skin
fleas and ticks
sores and broken skin
clear discharge, oozing or pus
lumps under the skin
dry coarse/brittle fur (some breeds have coarse fur, for this I refer to atypical)
oily or greasy coat
balding whether in patches or in one particular area
crusty and clumped together fur
increase or decrease in food intake
lack of interest in mealtime
vomiting after meals
swelling around mouth, nose, eyes
sudden weight loss
sudden weight gain
increase in water intake without increase in urination
stark decrease in water intake
choking after drinking
red swollen gums
tooth or gum infection
having difficulty eating or inability to eat
Eyes & nose
discharge from eyes or nose (may be clear, white, yellow, thin, or thick)
squinting eyes/sensitivity to light
redness around eye membrane
stark change in eyesight
formation of eye cloudiness or cataracts
shacking head consistently
holding head to one side
holding one or both ears in odd position
shying away when head is touched
redness on toes or pads
sores between toes or on pads
cracked or bleeding pads
torn, cracked, or infected nail
nails that are too long (this is important for correct posture and gait!)
brittle peeling nails
lumps or growths on toes or pads
appearing depressed or withdrawn
lack of energy or motivation
sudden decrease in daily activity
lack of interest in daily activities or family dynamic
grunting when getting up from lying down
sudden increase in activity coupled with hyperactivity, anxiety, whining, acting “clingy,” pacing, increased water intake
difficulty maintaining normal walking distance
less activity in the yard
having difficulty running
panting excessively (when heat is not an issue)
loss of interest in playtime
short quick breaths
mucous or phlegm discharge from mouth and/or nose
wincing, whining, or grunting when touched or pick-up
grunting when getting up from lying position
inability to step up, jump up, or jump down
no longer using stairs or walking slowly up stairs
masses or hard lumps under the skin or in deep tissue
holding head down
holding head to one side, stiff neck
joint pain or swelling
changes in bark or vocal sounds
growling when approached or touched
shying or flinching when about to be petted or touched
not wanting to be bothered
chewing on household items
peeing in or marking house or kennel area
pooping in house despite being house broken
suddenly ignoring commands
fear or sudden shyness
So what now? If you discover your dog has any of the concerns or conditions listed above, it’s time to pay close attention. Be aware of any additional changes or further developments. Some of the concerns and conditions above can advance rapidly within 24 hours while others may have been there or have been occurring for months before you noticed. Some of the more minor issues often rectify themselves within 24 to 48 hours. But how will you know if a concern is serious? When in doubt, contact your licensed veterinary professional at the earliest possibility.
One of the best ways to look for potential health concerns is by observing your dog’s stools on a daily basis. As unpleasant or disgusting as this may sound, your dog’s poop is a window into the “goings-on” and internal functioning of your dog’s body. I cannot stress enough how important it is to pay regular attention to stools. There are three indicators to observe, 1) consistency, 2) color, and 3) odor. All of these are clues that can give you important information about organ function, system health, nutrient absorption, food sensitivities, dietary imbalances, digestive issues such as incapability and insufficiency, internal parasites, inflammation, chronic conditions, cancer, and more.
Your dog’s stools should be fully formed, nearly odorless, slightly moist, and a chocolate brown to slightly “orangish” color. You should not see any undigested food or particles, mucous, a muddy or greasy appearance, parasites, blood or any other color unless something was consumed that would naturally cause color change. Nor should there be a strong offensive odor.
Consistency, color, and odor are often windows into the internal functioning of your dog’s body. These signs may be indications of an acute issue or something bigger brewing that can spell illness or disease. Let’s take a closer look at stools to learn what can be gleaned from consistency, color, and odor. The lists below begin with the most minor causes that will rectify themselves (likely with minor adjustments on your part) to the most serious that require a trip to the veterinarian.
Too much dietary fat
Consumption of cooked fats (this can cause pancreatitis)
High consumption of plant fats (many dogs cannot digest or utilize plant fats)
Small bowel bacteria overgrowth
Pebbles, hard stool
Too much bone
Feeding dry kibble/food with insufficient moisture (can lead to a chronic state of cellular dehydration)
Not enough food intake
Low water intake
Feeding insoluble fiber
Feeding too much fur
Hip dysplasia and arthritis pain in hips, legs, or back can create bowel movement difficulty due to inability to hold the correct squat position (dogs in pain may hold back evacuating their bowels)
Consumed something disagreeable
Food intolerance or sensitivity
Pancreatic strain or insufficiency
Beginning of a liver condition
Too much organ meat
Transition to raw that was too fast
Food sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy
Consumed or drank something with pathogenic bacteria
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Giardia or parasites
Small intestine bacteria overgrowth (SIBO)
Viral infection (parvo)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Mucous coated formed stool
Food sensitivity or allergy
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Mucous with mushy stool
Consumed something disagreeable
Food sensitivities with intestinal irritation
Viral infection, Parvo
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
COLOR (and appearance)
White chalky, pale yellow chalk
Too much bone (constipation is a possibility if not reduced)
Too much calcium (this is dangerous if consistent)
Gallbladder blockage or issue
Bile, food intolerance
Consumed food such as carrots and pumpkin puree
Biliary duct condition
Consumed foods such as spirulina, greens powder, pureed leafy greens
Blocked bile duct
Severe food intolerance
Rectal fissure or injury
Large intestine bleeding
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (severe)
Internal bleeding in the lower GI tract
Bleeding intestinal ulcer
Ruptured intestinal tumor
Small intestine bleeding
Internal bleeding in the upper GI tract
Parasites (intestinal) infestation
Internal bleeding in upper GI tract
Speckled (white or tan)
Consuming food that cannot be digested
Feeding foods that are not species-appropriate
Foreign objects or particles
Swallowed pieces of a toy
Swallowed chewed-up sticks, whole pebbles, stones, etc.
As strange as this may sound, the odor of your dog’s stools can indicate a very serious health condition. Now, I am not suggesting you smell your dog’s bowel movements because in the case of smelly dog poop, you do not need to be too close to get an unpleasant whiff. You will know immediately as soon as the poop hits the air. “Ode de poo-poo” will fill your surroundings with its malodorous fragrance. What can these potent stink-bombs indicate?
Malabsorption (very common!)
Food sensitivities or allergies
Consumption of a non-edible
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
And the not-so-obvious
Daily examinations are a necessary part of health maintenance. While these concerns and conditions cannot be verbally expressed, the above signs or symptoms are the blaring alarm that something is amiss. The burden is left to us. Occasional changes in poop is normal and is rarely ever a need for concern. However, if stool changes have not cleared up in a day or two or is consistently abnormal, it’s time to seek professional health care advice, support, testing, and intervention. In the case of a virus, such as Parvo, or a bacterial infection, time is of the essence. If you suspect your dog may have a health concern, call your holistic veterinarian immediately to schedule an appointment. Don’t wait until it’s too late.