Most of my clients want to take the best care of their pets possible, as the pets are frequently an important part of their family. One of the most common questions I get as a veterinarian is: What is the best food to feed my dog? My answer is: there is not one right food to feed every dog, but it should always be free of glutens, corn and dyes, but better yet a completely grain free diet. Every dog has a unique digestive system and not all dogs do well on the same brand of food or type of food. Most dogs do well on a grain free, but a few benefit from oats or brown rice.
Glutens and have been linked to inflammation in every system of the body, for example, gastrointestinal (vomiting/diarrhea), lungs (asthma), bladder (bloody urine without infection or crystals/stones), and skin (itching) and brain (seizures). This occurs in people as well as animals.
The common grains that contain glutens are wheat, rye, barley and corn. However, I’ve seen animals react just as poorly to gluten free grains. Therefore, when I have a patient come in with inflammatory diseases,auto-immune disease or cancer, I recommend a completely grain free diet. There are many grain free foods on the market and should not be difficult to find. Some good brands that I’ve been happy with include:
If you are preparing a homemade diet and need to include grains, gluten free oats are an option (make sure it says gluten free or it will have been contaminated with glutens in the processing), gluten free organic rice (organic to decrease the amount of arsenic in the rice), millet (with the exception of cases of hypothyroidism) and quinoa.
For those dogs that need a very low carbohydrate diet, a homemade diet without grains or potatoes, canned food, raw food, jerkied raw and freeze dried raw are good options! Some good raw foods include: Nature’s Variety, Stella and Chewy’s, Nature’s Logic, Vital Essentials, OC raw, Answers+, and Steve’s Real Food. Some good jerkied/freeze dried raw include: Kiwi Peak, Stella and Chewy’s freeze dried, Primal Freeze Dried, and Nutrisca Freeze Dried.
Food sensitivities tend to occur over time when the pet has been eating the same food for a long time. Variety is just as important for our pets as it is for us! I had a dog of my own that developed severe food allergies at the age of eight when she’d had no allergies prior to that. It was likely the rice in her diet that caused leaky gut syndrome, allowing proteins from food to leak out of her gut, causing a severe allergy reaction. From then on, she was allergic to all fruits and veggies and most meat proteins. I was able to manage her for several years before her allergies got worse and I lost her to complications of the food allergies. I will never again allow my pets to eat grains!
Food sensitivities can look identical clinically to environmental allergies, although will unlikely be seasonal. It is not uncommon for pets to have both food and environmental sensitivities.
Technically, your pet can be allergic or sensitive to ANY ingredient in the diet. I usually start with a grain free food in cases of food sensitivities and see many cases resolve completely, but it may be necessary to do more strict diet trials.
The above information works well for the average healthy pet, but what about dogs with a disease process or being overweight? We will discuss things we can do to help with weight loss in a moment, but for more specific info in regards to managing specific diseases from a nutritional standpoint, including herbs and other supplements, please contact me to put together a plan that is best for your specific pet!
Does my dog need to take probiotics? Which ones are best?
A healthy digestive system is important for a healthy pet, just as it is in humans! It is estimated that 70-80% of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal system.
Your pet’s digestive system must stay populated with a healthy level of good bacteria in order to keep their immune system strong. If bad bacteria overwhelms your pet’s intestines, your dog or cat can lose its vitality and become more susceptible to illness, not to mention GI symptoms. Friendly bacteria in your pet’s gut helps their body make important B vitamins, maintain a strong immune system, and prevent an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. If this happens, it can lead to a reduced level of vitality and make your pet vulnerable to all sorts of potential illnesses.
Many things can have a negative impact on the digestive system and include:
The ones I recommend for pets are ones that contain both preboitics and probiotics. Nutrigest, Fortiflora and NaturVet Enzymes and Probiotics for Pets. All of these products can be purchased online or potentially in pet stores in your area. Some dogs may really benefit from the digestive enzymes especially as they get older and may not be able to produce enough on their own.
Approximately half of the pet population is overweight or obese. In some cases, just controlling the calories and increasing exercise is enough to produce weight loss, but in other cases it is not.
For most dogs and cats, a weight loss of 3-5% of body weight per month is considered safe. This can be achieved by feeding 100% of the Resting Energy Requirements (RER) = the daily amount of kcals the body needs to perform no other activities except resting and performing basic metabolic functions, such as digestion, respiration and heart function.
The following formula is used to calculate RER in animals weighing between 2-45 kg (5-99 pounds). First, determine the ideal weight in kilograms (kg) by taking the ideal weight in pounds and dividing by 2.2. Next, determine the RER based on this ideal weight: • RER in kcal/day = 30 multiplied by the ideal body weight in kilograms + 70. The calories in one cup of food is often listed on the pet food bag, but you may need to look on the internet or call the company for that information.
Next, we have to pick appropriate foods for weight loss. Not all calories are created equal. Since inflammation generates obesity, it is important to do two things. One is to feed lots of fat-fighting, anti-inflammatory functional foods. Second, is to remove pro-inflammatory ingredients such as those containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, added antibiotics and hormones, sugar, high levels of pesticides and GMO foods, as well as high-glycemic index (high-GI) carbohydrates (white rice, white potatoes). High-GI diets actually promote body fat storage. Sugary and starchy foods are also pro-inflammatory.
Good carbs originate from whole, fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and unrefined, gluten-free grains.
Fat-fighting functional foods include:
• High quality, bioavailable novel protein. Novel proteins are ones not typically eaten by your pet such as rabbit, buffalo, duck, etc. Protein is a critical part of a weight-loss regimen. Ideal weight loss regimens are high in protein with moderate fat and restricted in carbohydrates.
• Coconut oil (virgin, expeller-pressed, organic) is a medium chain saturated fat with health benefits ranging from immune-boosting to heart protective properties. Coconut oil also digests differently than other fats, creating a higher thermogenic effect that boosts metabolic rate, which helps to melt pounds. Always start at a low dose of coconut oil to prevent your dog from developing diarrhea. A dose for a 30-40 pound dog would be 1 teaspoon twice daily. For giant breed dogs, a dose of up to 1 tablespoon twice daily would be the maximum recommended.
• Omega-3 fatty acids, another powerful functional superfood exert a strong anti-inflammatory effect and play an important role in weight loss by activating a type of protein that turns on fat burning genes. Some omega-3 fatty acids include: fish oil, flaxseed oil, and cod liver oil.
• L-Carnitine is an amino acid synthesized in the liver and kidneys from lysine and methionine. It improves nitrogen retention, which increases lean mass and reduces fat mass. You can give as much as 500 mg to a small dog, 1,000 mg to a medium dog and 2,000 mg to a large dog, twice a day, although less is OK.
• White kidney bean extract (Phaseolus vulgaris), an extract derived from the white kidney bean acts as a starch blocker by blocking the activity of alpha amylase, a digestive enzyme found in saliva that breaks down starch. While dogs produce amylase in the pancreas, but not in the saliva, significant clinical effectiveness is seen in dogs supplemented with Phaseolus vulgaris. A good source of white kidney bean extract is Pet Naturals of Vermont K9 Slim Down Dog Chews which can be purchased online.
There are foods that prevent angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) can shrink fat cells by cutting off their blood supply. Examples are: • Apples • Artichokes • Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries) • Bok choy • Cherries • Curcumin (turmeric) • Ginseng • Kale • Maitake mushrooms • Olive oil • Parsley • Pumpkin • Sea cucumber