Due to a recent FDA report, grain-free pet foods have become a concern for many consumers. This is due to the connection being drawn between ingredients used in grain-free diets, like potatoes and legumes such as peas and lentils, being low in taurine and the increase in cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) which is a disease of the cardiac muscle that can lead to heart failure. However, this concern should not be associated with grain-fee diets alone. Any processed pet food that is low in high-quality meat protein and organ meat, and this includes diets that include grains, will be low in natural taurine.
What are The PHNC’s feelings on this issue?
We always tell our clients that they are compromising when they use processed pet foods. Not all grain-free diets are alike, some have more meat and some less. The lower cost varieties can have lower levels of taurine and also create the risk of insufficient levels of essential amino acids like methionine and cystine that the body uses to create taurine naturally. The FDA and the pet food industry acknowledge the problem with commercial diets by saying: “And that points to the true, underlying problem: we just don’t know enough about dog and cat nutrition, due to an ongoing lack of published research and data available.” Do consumers understand this?
What should I do?
Feed your dog or cat whole foods! Meat and organs are rich, natural sources of taurine. The highest levels of taurine can be found in raw diets with some taurine being lost when meat is cooked. If you feed whole foods with included meat and/or organs as we recommend, your animal will be fine. Alternatively, if you must feed your dog a kibble pet food then our recommendation is Orijen or Acana by Champion Pet Foods. These are grain-free diets but have the highest levels of real meat. For cats moisture is critical so if you can’t feed a raw diet select the highest meat content (low fish) canned cat food that you can find. When feeding a processed pet food diet it is essential to add a natural source of taurine and our Heart Glandular is the perfect choice because it is a great natural source of this important nutrient. Read our articles on how to feed your dog/cat in our Education Section.
Antibiotics work by affecting bacteria cells in several ways. Beta-lactam antibiotics (penicillin) kill bacteria by interfering with the process they use to build cell walls. Macrolide antibiotics (erythromycin) block bacterial specific ribosomes and prevent them from building proteins. Since proteins do all the cell’s work, a bacterium that cannot build proteins cannot survive. Quinolone antibiotics (ciprofloxacin/levofloxacin) work by causing bacteria DNA strands to break and then prevents the breaks from being repaired.
The good news is that antibiotics don’t affect human cells because although there are similarities between human and bacterial cells there are also differences. The bad news is that antibiotics will harm your dog or cat’s beneficial bacteria. These friendly bacteria play a role in digestion by producing enzymes and some vitamins, and also immune activity by preventing opportunistic pathogenic bacteria from multiplying. For instance, clostridium bacteria are part of the internal environment and do not normally harm healthy animals. However, when antibiotics kill too many friendly bacteria in the intestine, this bacteria multiplies and produces toxins that can make your dog or cat sick with symptoms like fever, nausea and diarrhea.
What should I do?
Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary! Taking antibiotics “just in case” or ineffectively against a virus can hurt your dog or cat by damaging colonies of beneficial microbes. Damaging these important “resident” bacteria can lead to their replacement with opportunistic bacteria that can lead to underlying health issues in your dog or cat that last their lifetime. So, instead of “killing” think “building” by strengthening your animal’s immune system (Astragalus, 14 Mushroom Blend, Colostrum etc) and replenishing probiotics on a daily basis (Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics or Daily Multi Plus. If necessary, we also provide a safer, less damaging alternative to antibiotics called Antimicrobial Formula.
Water comprises approximately 60% of an animal’s body weight, so providing fresh, filtered water should be a priority for pet parents. This is because water can be contaminated with a huge variety of unhealthy chemicals. These include benzene, nitrates, arsenic, lead, chemicals from pesticides etc. However, one of the most dangerous chemicals is actually added to municipal water as part of the treatment process - chlorine! This chemical has long been associated with an increased risk of bladder and rectal cancers and recently even breast cancer. In fact, the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality recently released a report stating that the risk of cancer is 93% higher among those drinking chlorinated water than among those not drinking chlorinated water! Unfortunately, well water can be just as bad so be sure to have yours tested.
What should I do?
Don’t rely on distilled water, this is a common mistake. Distilled water should only be used for a week or two at a time as part of a cleansing regimen. Because it is virtually mineral-free it can act very aggressively in the body and quickly deplete minerals and electrolytes.
After researching and comparing filters, our preference is an activated charcoal filter that provides slightly alkaline water associated with longevity in studies. We use the 2-Stage Under Counter filter from Aquasana for our family that can be found here: https://www.aquasana.com/. It filters out 10 times more contaminates than pitcher or faucet type filters according to Aquasana and has a much more economical cost per gallon as well. One thing about bottled water, not only do all these plastic bottles present a real challenge to the environment, a recent study turned up plastic contaminants in the majority of bottled water! So, get a water filter to provide your dog or cat with healthy drinking water and a reusable water bottle that you can fill for yourself!
A majority of more health conscious consumers, like our clients, place a priority on the quality of their animal’s diet. This is a good idea since a nutritious diet can make a real difference in your dog or cat’s health. However, something that should be considered is how completely that food is digested. This is where the role of digestive enzymes becomes very important. If the expensive, premium food you are providing to your companion is not being properly digested then your animal is not going to derive all the benefits from their diet that they should. This can be harmful to their health and a waste of money as well.
Any food cooked at temperatures higher than 105 degrees or so have their enzymes destroyed during the cooking stages, so processed foods like kibble and canned diets are essentially dead foods. This means that the body, especially the pancreas, has to work much harder to digest the food that is eaten. Studies have shown that animals that eat processed food diets can have a pancreas that is four times larger than normal! The increase in diseases such as pancreatitis have, in our experience, a direct correlation to a lifetime of eating processed foods and the stress that places on the body. In addition, as an animal ages the amount of enzymes secreted decreases and research is drawing a correlation between the symptoms we experience as we age and a decline in enzyme production.
What should I do?
We recommend you provide either the Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics or the Daily Multi Plus with every meal. For animals that eat processed foods this is a must to avoid the consequences of a lifetime of eating enzyme deficient foods, but those fed whole food or raw diets also benefit. These supplements will ensure your dog or cat is digesting their food quickly and thoroughly and deriving all the nutrition possible from their diet. We and our animals take digestive enzymes with every meal everyday and we credit this habit with our family’s level of health and lack of the digestive disorders with which many others suffer.
The weather is finally warming, but that good news brings out one of a dog owners most disliked pests - ticks! Tick related illnesses are a major concern for pet owners, however, the truth is dogs actually do quite well with tick related illnesses. We understand though, that this is an emotionally charged issue and many people are afraid. Whether you decide to use tick pesticide products in the end is up to you. Let us share a couple of thoughts.
Should I use chemical tick applications, collars or oral drugs?
At least 1,600 pet deaths related to tick treatments were reported to the EPA over a five year period. Common chemicals found in these products are "likely to be carcinogenic to humans." Using our experience, in our small business, we feel there are probably tens of thousands more animals affected every year, and this is probably being conservative. Did they count the dog that died from autoimmune hemolytic anemia after an application? What about the one that died from heat failure?
Natural approachOur Tick Protection contains herbs that boost the immune system, which in our experience is the best course of action to prevent illnesses associated with ticks, and also offers the protection of antimicrobial herbs to help eliminate organisms that may be circulating in the blood. A successful five year track record protecting dogs.
Should I use antibiotics if my dog tests positive for exposure?
The immune system of healthy dogs deals quite effectively with exposure to tick related organisms. Antibodies picked up on blood tests are actually proof of that. The conventional veterinary approach says yes; we, and more holistic minded vets, say not always. Doxycycline is a powerful, wide-spectrum antibiotic that can be very hard on an animal and damage microflora throughout the body leading to health issues down the rode. If no symptoms are being seen we would hold off on the antibiotic because it appears the body is currently handling the situation.
Use our Antimicrobial Formula for two weeks or so to boost your dog’s immune system and provide antimicrobial activity as a safe and natural alternative to antibiotics in most cases.
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.