Category Archives: General

The Five Supplements Every Pet Needs

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Nutritional supplements can be very beneficial to our pets because most pet foods are deficient in certain nutritional factors. Conventional pet foods are especially devoid of nutrients because the high-heat processing destroys most of the vitamins, enzymes, and phytochemicals foods naturally contain. The synthetic vitamin/mineral mix that pet food manufacturers add back is a poor substitute for the nutrition found in whole foods.

Even raw pet foods can be missing nutrients. It is difficult to mimic Mother Nature. For example, the wild game that the ancestors of our pets ate, themselves fed of grass which is high in omega-three fatty acids. Thus, the meat they provided was high in omega-threes. Most of our food animals these days are grain fed which instills the meat with omega-six fatty acids. Pets benefit from a high omega-three to omega-six fatty acid ratio. This cannot be accomplished by feeding most modern meats.

As important as supplements are, they are a supplement to, not a substitute for, a wholesome diet. The quality of the ingredients a diet contains as well as its macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) balance and its degree of heat-processing all factor into your pet’s overall nutritional status. You simply cannot undo poor nutrition with supplements.

The problem is that the nutritional standards that pet foods are held to are meant to prevent nutritional deficiencies. In other words, many pet foods do not provide optimal nutritional value, but rather the bare minimum. High-quality foods are best, but even they can fall short. Supplements are a way of ensuring our animal companions get everything they need to build healthy bodies. But remember that not all supplements are up to snuff.

  1. A balanced, whole-food multivitamin – Such a vitamin supplement is made by concentrating the nutrients from whole foods rather than producing them synthetically. The result is a supplement that provides the full range of vitamins and phytochemicals at doses found in whole foods. My product of choice is “Canine Whole Body Support” for dogs or “Feline Whole Body Support” for cats made by Standard Process.
  1. Fish oilFish oil is high in omega-three fatty acids which are lacking in the vast majority of pet foods. In fact, most pet foods are high in omega-six fatty acids which promote inflammation. On the other hand, omega-three fatty acids decrease inflammation. Foods lacking omega-three fatty acids promote skin allergies, arthritis, and cancer. Supplementing fish oil in a pet’s diet can help to alleviate these issues. The omega-threes is fish oil also help to promote brain development and health. My fish oil supplement of choice is “Canine Omega 3” for dogs and “Feline Omega 3” for cats from the company Ascenta.
  1. ProbioticsProbiotics reinforce the good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria help to maintain intestinal health. Furthermore, since three quarters of the immune system is located in the lining of the GI tract, probiotics actually help the immune system function better. Because of the gut-brain connection, probiotics can even affect mood and behavior. My probiotics of choice is Answers Pet Food’s cultured, raw goat’s milk called “Additional.”
  1. Glucosamine and chondroitin – These two natural compounds help to promote healthy joints. Arthritis is a common, painful condition in both dogs and cats. Prevention of this terrible disease is paramount. Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements can help the body maintain joint health as well as help once arthritis has set in. The joint supplement I recommend is Vetri-Science’s “Glycoflex.”
  1. Digestive enzymes – By supplementing digestive enzymes we can support the digestive process and replace some of the natural enzymes that are processed out of commercial pet foods. It has been shown that adding digestive enzyme to the food can improve the absorption of omega-three fatty acids by 71%. Importantly, as pets age, their production of digestive enzymes diminishes which is why some pets lose weight in their senior years. The digestive enzyme supplement I recommend is called “Prozyme.”

All pets can benefit from these supplements throughout their lives. It is best to provide optimal nutrition before your companion runs into problems. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

What supplements have you found helpful?

Are You Aware of this Dog Food Debacle?

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The importance of a diet’s macronutrient balance cannot be over stated. Studies show that the percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in an animal’s diet affects their grow rate and size, level of obesity, longevity, and disease resistance. In fact, research shows that predators select food on the basis of the macronutrient balance that enhances their survival.

Two weeks ago we explored the ideal macronutrient balance for cat foods. Today we’ll look at research regarding the balance of dog foods.  To this end I have found a very interesting correlation.

In the book Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, Steve Brown estimates the macronutrient content of the diets of our dogs’ ancestors. The idea is that although your dog may not look much like a wolf on the outside, her digestive tract and thus nutritional needs are very similar. From his work I calculated that the ancestral diet of dogs consisted of approximately 50% ME protein, 44% ME fat, and 6% ME carbohydrate.

Recent research looked at the nutrient profile selection of present-day, adult dogs. They studied 5 diverse breeds including the papillon, miniature schnauzer, cockerspaniel, Labradore retriever and St. Bernard. They found that all of these very different dogs consistently chose a diet consisting of 30% ME protein, 63% ME fat, and 7% ME carbohydrate. Now we can quibble over the percentage of fat and protein, but look how close these levels of carbohydrates are to those of Steve Brown’s estimates. Two independent studies find that the ideal level of carbohydrates for dogs is between 6% and 7%.

Interestingly, the research on dog nutrient profile selection concluded that “the recent rapid divergence among dog breeds is not substantially reflected in their macronutrient priorities compared with other phenotypic features such as size, color, and temperament.” It follows that even though dogs look and act very different than wolves, they require similar diets.

Meanwhile, back at the AAFCO ranch, adult dog food standards call for diets consisting of 19% ME protein, 12% ME fat, and 69% ME carbohydrates. Once again, AAFCO and the pet food industrial complex are way out of range. Why they insist that grains and other sources of carbohydrates are good for pets is beyond me.

Actually, the reason for the excess carbs is clear. It has nothing to do with the healthiness of the food. It is all about keeping the pet food cheap and convenient (you can’t make kibble without starch to glue it together). Cost and convenience are important, but not more important than the health of our pets.

As one of my holistic clients put it last week, “You can pay for good food or you can pay expensive veterinary bills.”

What’s your choice?

Avoid These Dangerous “Natural” Supplements

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On a daily basis, clients come to me with bottles of supplements (sometimes bags full of them), and ask me if I think they are any good. In almost every case my answer is, “I don’t know.” Sure, I can look at the label and see what it says is in there. But there is absolutely no way for any of us to know if what is listed on the label is what is actually in the capsules. News last week proves my point.

On Monday, Feb 2, 2015 the New York State Attorney General’s office announced the results of their investigation into popular supplements. They tested top-selling store brand herbal supplements from GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart. Four out of five of the products tested did not contain any of the herbs listed on their labels!

Not only that, many of the supplements contained contaminants or fillers that were not listed on the label. For example, Walmart’s ginkgo biloba contained powdered radish, houseplants, and wheat. Mind you, the label specifically claimed the product was wheat- and gluten-free. Can you imagine the problems this could cause a person or animals with a wheat or gluten allergy? Who would suspect the supplement?

The New York State Attorney General’s investigation was inspired by a previous study by researcher from the University of Guelph. In October of 2013, they published the results of their analysis of 44 herbal products sold by 12 companies. Only two of the companies provided authentic products without substitutions, contaminants, or fillers.

Almost 60% of the herbal products contained plant species not listed on the label. They discovered product substitution in 32% of the samples. More than 20% of the products included fillers such as rice, soybeans, and wheat not listed on the label. The researchers stated, “We found contamination in several products with plants that have known toxicity, side effects, and/or negatively interact with other herbs, supplements, and medications.”

When it comes to supplements, I have no way of knowing/recommending supplements that have been obtained from outside sources. On the other hand, I do fully trust the supplements that I carry.

  1. I have meticulously researched all of the companies.
  2. I have visited the manufacturing facilities of some of them.
  3. I have been using most of them for over 20 years on my patients.
  4. I have been using most of them for over 20 years on myself and my pets.
  5. I have seen and personally experienced their effectiveness.

Ultimately, choosing a supplement comes down to trust. None of us can oversee the harvesting of the herbs, their processing, or their packaging. But, how do you know which company to trust? For me it all comes down to my experience with the company and their products.

Do you trust the supplements you give your pets? Why?