Freeze-dried diets for dogs and cats have become more popular. However, we have a valid concern with this type of diet, and that is moisture content. Freeze-dried diets have a moisture content as low as just 2%. Compare this to dehydrated diets at 5%, kibble pet foods at 5-10%, canned foods at 75-85% and raw pet foods at 70-75%.
Since freeze-drying reduces the moisture content of foods so dramatically, they can become very difficult to rehydrate especially when not cooking or using boiling water. We believe this is where the potential problem with freeze-dried foods resides. If you feed your dog or cat this type of diet you will notice that the food and water stay separate for the most part. Your animal is basically ingesting a very dry food along with water instead of a moisture rich food. What happens now is the water will dilute digestive juices interfering with digestion in the stomach and then quickly pass through your animal in the form of urine, while the dry food will absorb water from the digestive tract as it is digested. This process can be very dehydrating to an animal, especially cats that require the bulk of their moisture to come from the food they ingest.
What should I do?
We suggest you select a raw food diet that has a naturally sufficient moisture content. As an alternative to raw, we would suggest a cooked home-prepared diet that is also higher in moisture. However, if you still wish to feed a freeze-dried diet we suggest that you place the food with warm water (just warm to the touch so enzymes are not destroyed) in a blender, mix and then let sit for 5 - 10 minutes. This will help to better rehydrate the food so it slowly releases its moisture content in the digestive tract and does not contribute to a dehydrated state in your animal that could possibly lead to constipation or kidney disease in the future. And don’t forget to use those freeze-dried treats in moderation (or not at all) especially for your feline companions or those with constipation or kidney issues!
When it comes to joint support, many of us have become too comfortable with the current model of reactionary medicine. By this we mean reacting to a symptom, such as limping or some form of discomfort, making a veterinary appointment, and then using a medication to suppress that symptom. This is far from optimal when the goal for most of us is a high quality of life and maximum longevity for our canine and feline companions.
When your animal begins to show signs of joint pain, damage is already done. The cartilage in the joint capsule has become worn, deformation of the joint has occurred and bones are now rubbing together to produce pain. You then make a vet appointment and receive a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medication. The problem here is that medication does nothing to improve the health of the joint. It may reduce levels of discomfort but as time goes on the joint deterioration becomes worse, as does the pain, and the potential for harmful side-effects increases.
Instead, imagine you were proactive and provided your dog or cat with the proper nutrition and supplementation so their joints remained healthy for life. This can be done by providing a whole food diet that is high in protein and contains natural nutrients important for healthy joints along with a high-quality joint supplement. For those that can not, or do not wish to, feed a whole food diet and instead will provide a kibble pet food, providing a high-quality joint supplement is even more important. By “high-quality” we mean a joint supplement that is natural and whole food like elk velvet antler or a research-supported ingredient from a reputable source like our pharmaceutical-grade glucosamine sulfate USP. By following our suggestions you can keep your dog or cat youthful and pain-free for their lifetime. Start supporting your animal’s joints now because joint pain shouldn’t be expected as an animal ages, it is a consequence of lifestyle choices that include diet, supplementation and proper exercise.
There is a lot of confusion about omega fatty acids. All too often they are referred to as “essential fatty acids”. However, “essential” should only be used when discussing alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (LA) (an omega-6 fatty acid). These two fatty acids are referred to as “essential” because they must be ingested as the body can not synthesize them itself.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat, especially in grass-fed animals. The body generally uses ALA for energy while also benefitting the skin, cardiovascular system and helping to reduce inflammation. ALA is then converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by the body. This process is believed to be limited, but sufficient, in healthy humans, dogs and cats. It is even better when dogs and cats ingest organs and glands from grass-fed animals rich in EPA and DHA.
Linoleic acid (LA) is primarily found in vegetable oils and the vegetables and seeds associated with these oils such as corn. The body converts this EFA into Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), then Dihomo-Gamma-Linolenic Acid (DGLA) and then further into arachidonic acid (AA) (found in meat and dairy products). This cascade is generally pro-inflammatory. However, improving the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet, by providing ALA, will help the GLA to become more anti-inflammatory and help to limit the effects of the pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid.
What Should I Do?
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for the normal function of the body. However, because the diet of humans, dogs and cats is generally high in processed foods and/or meat from animals fed an inflammatory feed like corn, every one of us can benefit from supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids. We recommend Chia Seed Oil (the plant kingdoms best source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid ALA) because there are organic sources available and it is an environmentally sustainable choice. For healthy individuals, natural conversion of ALA to the longer chain omega-3s, DHA and EPA, is generally sufficient to maintain healthy tissue function. If EPA and DHA are your primary focus then a fish oil supplement can be added.
Have you ever heard the term Biological Value? It is a very important term that everyone should be aware of because it pertains to how the proteins your dog or cat eats are utilized by the body. Not all proteins are the same when it comes to your animal, but they are considered the same when listed on a pet food nutrition panel. Feeding your animal a diet with a majority of protein that has a lower Biological Value, unless expertly combined as with a vegetarian diet for people, is not optimal because deficiencies will occur due to essential amino acids that are missing or present in low numbers. Most animal protein sources have high Biological Values and are considered to be complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids in a balanced profile, while most plant sources have to be properly combined to attain this status and often require additional supplementation as well.
Consumers are now more aware than ever to look for a meat source on the pet food ingredient panel. But many are still fooled into thinking that a pet food is a good choice when seeing a meat source listed first in the ingredient listing. If you look further you will often find more inexpensive, lower Biological Value sources of protein like pea, beans and rice that actually make up the bulk of the protein for that pet food. Like this example from Nutro®: Deboned Lamb, Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, Split Peas, Chickpeas, Whole Brown Rice, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Pea Protein.
Taking Biological Value into consideration when choosing a diet for your animal is very important because meat based protein sources contain essential amino acids in a proportion similar to that required by a canine (10) or feline (11 - taurine). This is why we highly recommend you feed your animal a raw or cooked whole food diet utilizing a meat protein source. If budget or other factors make it necessary for you to feed a processed kibble diet, consider adding a pasture raised egg (BV 94) or our Whey Protein Isolate (BV 104!) to boost the essential amino acid profile of your dog or cat’s food.
If you have a dog or cat as a family member, then chances are you are familiar with corticosteroid drugs. This class of drugs were historically used to relieve life-threatening inflammation such as that which may occur with serious brain or spinal cord injuries.
However, in modern veterinary medicine the use of steroid drugs in a practice has become the “cure all”. They are used when your pet has discomfort, itches, sneezes, has diarrhea or even a skin rash. Steroids have become so over-used they are considered to be the most over-prescribed pharmaceutical by many including well known holistic practitioners.
Can steroids work? Sure they can. If your dog is itching, providing a steroid like prednisone, cortisone or hydrocortisone can suppress the immune system enough to reduce the immune response and the release of inflammatory chemicals. However, what many pet parents don’t understand is that the use of a steroid drug for longer than 10 days or so can produce side-effects that can leave your animal with chronic, and often more severe, health issues down the road. This is largely due to injury to the adrenal glands themselves because a steroid drug replaces the activity of the adrenal glands causing them to atrophy. This can be very problematic for all animals because adrenal hormones help the body control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, react to stressors like a major illness or injury, and regulate blood pressure.
If you’re concerned that your animal’s adrenal glands have atrophied to some degree due to the use of a steroid drug some glandular therapy can be implemented to support them. Our Adrenal Tonic can be very helpful along with the Adrenal Glandular. Use for at least three to four months. Pets who are on steroids long term can be kept on a lifelong regimen (use a five days on/two days off schedule) if you so desire. These two adrenal supplements will help to promote normal function of the adrenal glands that is so important to the long term health of your dog or cat.
Autoimmune conditions in animals occur when a dog or cat’s immune system produce antibodies (called autoantibodies when they cause autoimmune disease) that attack the body’s own tissue. Autoreactive (act against their own tissue) white blood cells can cause chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and in other cases severe tissue damage that can result in a life-threatening condition as occurs when the body attacks its own red blood cells in immune mediated hemolytic anemia.
Milk thistle for dogs and cats uses, dosages, safety and alternatives are found in our herbal monograph. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), sometimes also called St. Mary’s thistle, is a popular herb for liver complaints in pets.
Fish oil is often recommended for dogs and cats for the omega 3 fatty acids it contains. Omega 3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties that can be useful for inflammatory conditions like allergies, arthritis and heart disease. However, there is more to this story than just ‘fish oil = healthy, anti-inflammatory qualities’, and our discussion on this topic will help to educate you and support our evolving, less than enthusiastic position on fish oil for general use as a supplement.
We are whole food proponents and have been for quite some time... but weren’t always. For a period of time, like most people, our supplement regimen consisted of a popular multivitamin supplement along with a variety of additional supplements that were “in the news”. I was quite happy with that regimen until I started to educate myself and realize that those educational articles in the monthly “health” magazine were not truly educational articles written for my benefit, but instead primarily advertisements.