Another health problem emerges from the latest of the “Food Fads” for pets – Grain Free Food.
First Grain Free dog and Cat foods have both excesses and deficiencies of amino acids. A heart problem that is caused by an amino acid deficiency, have been proven to be associated with feeding any grain free commercial diets in dogs. I’ll go into more detail later. This only the latest of problems with grain free foods.
I am calling it a fad here intentionally, which may dismay some of my readers. After all, this is an Alternative Veterinary Medicine blog. Well, I was reserved but open to the concept, as I am to many new ideas, and I evaluated the diets carefully. I compared the diets (the components & the companies dietary research) to over the over 80 years of veterinary nutritional research about canine and feline nutrition and digestive research up to now.
Here are the steps I go through to evaluate a food or supplement company.
- Claims of research. Look for listed research study on their website. Take the title and authors copy into the pubmed search. This a link into the big library of science studies worldwide. If the study is not listed here it was not published in a recognized scientific publication. The facts they quote are not facts, just company talking points.
- Did they use at minimum 30 or more animals in each test group. Did they not reuse the same animals in a “wash-out” study. So if comparing one diets to another the barest of minimum is 30, 100-200 is better. A common practice among feed companies is to design the feed trial to make sure that one diet is no different than the another diet.
- Done by Design: a. each group has less than 10-12 dogs, b. the total feeding trial lasts just weeks to 3-4 months (not from birth through maturation, 3-5 years old, males & females -through puppy rearing). Most feeding trials are 6-16 weeks or less with adult. Puppies/kittens feeding trials are completed before 6 months of age, especially related to bone and cartilage growth because the diet effects can’t be detected until after 2+ years of life. c. was the research done at a university in Central or South America. At present it is difficult to have quality over-site is some countries so unfavorable results are never published, not a practice done in major US universities. d. only one study for their idea that can’t be repeated, confirmed by other researchers.
- I have seen allot of “so called great ideas” come and go over 40 years in practice. I remember the very same sales pitch in the mid 1970’s for adding soybean protein meal to milk powder for baby calves & pigs. To increase their growth and save a little money on cost of milk. What happened? Baby calves & pigs drinking the milk powder that had more than 2.5-3% soy protein would die suddenly at 10-12 days of age from bleeding stomach ulcers. The research had been done in older animals with more mature GI systems, the babies unable to digest the soy protein which clotted in their stomach. Bacteria from the intestines migrated up into the clotted food mass and infected the stomachs causing ulcers and septic shock because of their young age. When farmer were careful to buy milk powder with less 2% soy the baby calves and pig were fine.
- Note: At less than 12 weeks of age calves and pig can’t digest food ingredients that are not from milk. As they mature with age their GI gradually turns into Omnivore and herbivore, capable of digesting soy with no problem.
- A lesson that has to be repeated in dogs, cats and people too. Feeding the wrong type of any food or nutrient will cause problems over time. An example, short term a dog can eat anything, but long term too much fibrous, root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, yams, even potatoes, cause serious irritation to the gut and will mimic symptoms of irritable bowel disease. So if your dog have soft stools, that stink and tend to be sticky, stop the popular sweet potato diets.
Look up which chemicals & how much are on foods in USA stores (if not purchased from a certified organic source).
Be alert to some stores like Costco, who are selling brands like Kirklandsfoods with
fake “Organic-like” labels.
Here is an excellent website to look up Pollen counts for where you live. Pollen Lookup The information is from actual samples and predictions are made base on combines weather forecasts. This is the most accurate site readily available to the public.
How I use it.
- I keep track on a simple calendar by marking a red X on the days when my allergy symptoms are acting up. I do the same with my pets.
- Then I look up the pollen(s) that is(are) high during the weeks of year that my symptoms are flared up.
- Treatment or avoidance depends on what I or my pets is reacting too. Examples:
- Tree pollen allergies that cross react with some foods.
Common in allergies to Birch trees are allergies to apples and carrots, symptoms of mouth burning when eating foods are reported. This is called oral allergy syndrome. Some people may be allergic to one food, and others with many different fruits and vegetables. In the case of OAS, individuals react to different foods based on what type of seasonal allergies they are affected by. So I re-look up which foods to avoid. I avoid gardening under the one birch tree in the yard when it is pollinating and avoid woods and parks in early spring. See related posts about OAS.
- Grass when pollen for dogs and cats this is common. Prevent common habit by Pets of “rolling in the grass” or “eating the grass”. Wipe down their feet and fur with a very wet microfiber cloth followed by a dry one. Be sure to get deep between the toes, where sweat glands are located and more debris will stick to skin and hair. Still dogs and cats love the smell of grass so we often have to add some treatment to decrease itching if grass pollen is one of their allergies. There are many, many options so consult with your local Vet for help with treatment.
- Late summer/ fall bloomers like ragweed, golden rod, yarrows etc. These plants produce a large amount of light weight pollen that is spreads easily on the wind, so everyone who is allergic is effected for miles, making avoidance impractical. The “Nettie Pot” treatment method which uses a saline/herbal lavage to physical remove the days accumulation of particles, does work for some people when used correctly. This is difficult to do to pets, who nasopharynx anatomy is different and lack of cooperation. So again some treatment to decrease allergy symptoms is often needed for the fall season. Herbal anti-inflammatories, that reduce the body’s triggering mechanism that release histamines, can be helpful when started 4 to 6 months before the expected season of allergies. At a minimum herbal can decrease the dose or duration of pharmaceuticals needed to control the symptoms of a flareup.
Good luck to everyone who struggles with allergies, in themselves or family members furry or human. Allergic disease is very frustrating and gets more intense with each passing year.
As the global weather become moister, warmer, and windier we can expect more intense allergy seasons.
Sounds to good to be true but olives and olive leaf are truly “super-foods”. A common food that is often ignored, because it is not exotic enough to grab headlines. Olive leaf, (olives & oil) has been used for centuries as medicine. Supported by extensive and excellent science: here is link to a review of the science. Nonsterol Triterpenoids as Major Constituents of Olea europaea.
If you are not interested in the complex science go to this website instead.
I use “Olive leaf extract” powders or capsules, because of the high concentration of active ingredients compared to olives or olive oil. It can be used in chronic diseases where anti-microbials are recommended, such as; Lymes and other tick diseases, recurrent ear, bladder, gastrointestinal or skin infections. Olive leaf works well when paired with antibiotics or antifungals, as the second stage of treatment. The dose, duration and brand matter for the olive leaf to work well. It is best to seek out the advice of a Veterinarian trained in herbal medicine. Successful treatment of stubborn infections takes close supervision because each case is so different.
Sorry, there is no “one size fit all” when it comes to chronic infections.
I have been promising to post an allergy diet that you can make at home.
One comment about allergies to food. I have been seeing cases of digestive upset for over 15 years as a Alternative Vet. specialist and I have found that only 10% of dogs are allergic to food. More often, “less than ideal” diets that promotte GI upset are a much more common cause, including many of the dog foods advertized for food or GI problems. More on this later.
Here is the diet with instructions:
This is a balanced and complete diet that dog can eat life long. It is important to make the recipe according to measurements, each and every time. Research has shown that most homemade diets are not balanced diets, one reason is lack of measuring the ingredients. Dog are often fed the same or similar diets all their lives. They eat a controlled diet and most dogs don’t forage for extra nutrients. Plus most treats for dogs are high in sugars. Which means the balance of minerals, protein, fat and carbohydrates must be correct in the diet you make for your dog.
So measure, measure, measure!
Hypoallergenic Diet for Canines
based on Small Animal Clinical Nutrition by Lon Lewis et., Hills
diet prepared by Dr Cynthia Smith DVM, MS, DACT
4 oz cooked lamb
1 cup cooked brown or white rice (½ cup dry rice in 1 cup water)
1 tbsp Vegetable oil ( olive, sunflower, etc)
1200 mg calcium
1 Dog daily vitamin (based on weight of dog)
300 mg of fish oil (how many tsp depends on brand of fish oil).
In a sauce pan, add enough water to have ½” water covering the bottom of the pan. Add the meat and heat to a simmer and cook until there is no pink color when meat is cut apart. Takes longer time to cook compared to a fast fry or grill. Add enough water, while cooking, to keep moist consistency.
Once meat is finished, mix in the cooked rice and calcium powder or tablets (will dissolve).
After mixture has cooled to room temperature add the fish oil and vitamins and any prescribed herbs.
600 calories in finished recipe. This will feed a 20 lb dog for one day.
How many calories in each cup of food. Measure how many cups in the finished recipe. Next divide 600 cal/ cups of food = Calories per cup of food.
Always measure the finished recipe because the volume will be different each time you make it, depending on how much water is in the meat and added during cooking.
How to figure out how calories to feed your dog. (This is a quick formula that gives a working estimate.) Multiply the weight of your dog X factor from chart. The factor can be adjusted up or down based on activity level of dog and special calorie needs. See your veterinary nutritionist for situations of dogs who do physical work, undergo rapid weight loss, pregnancy, puppies, surgery or burns.
Factor # Size of dog Fish oil in mgs
*(Notice that as the dog get bigger the factor get smaller)
40 -35 10-15 lbs 300 -350 mg
35 – 30 20-45 lbs 500 – 700 mg
30 – 25 50-85 lbs 800 – 1000 mg
20 90 + lbs 1000 – 2000 mg
For example a 20 lbs dog needs, the dogs wt 20 x 30 (factor for the dogs size) = 600 calories/day. Here is a fill in the blanks formula dogs wt x dogs factor = calories/day.
How many cups of homemade food do I feed my dog?
Fill in the blanks: Dog needs calories of food/day. The food you made has ____calories in each cup.
Divide calories per day / calories in each cup of food = cups of food each day.
Divide into two to three servings.
Homemade pet food will keep in frig. for 3-4 days. Freeze larger batches of food into 3- 4 day portions.
Add warm water right before serving to increase volume, smell and flavor.
Analysis: 600 calories in total recipe
Water 65 %
Protein 12 %
Fat 8 %
Carbohydrates 15 %
1200 calorie batch:
8 oz of meat, 2 cups rice, 2 tbsp oil, 2400 mg calcium, and 2 x the vitamins and fish oil .
2400 calorie batch:
16 oz of meat, 4 cups rice, 4 tbsp oil, 4800 mg calcium, and 4 x the vitamins and fish oil .
Tips: Dog vitamins I recommend – Vetriscience, Pet Naturals of Vermont, Pet Tabs. Beware of counterfit vitamins, check out any internet source.
Buy the fish oil from a veterinarian. The prescription brands are so much more concentrated in omega 3 that you save money in the long run. Also the contaminants from fish (mercury and chemicals) are removed through cold distillation.
Buy Calcium carbonate powder for dog food from ,Iherb.com. use coupon code MIT990 for $10 off first order. This is a good online company that sell reliable, tested natural products. Check out the “links ” on their site for excellent info.
GMO foods- means Genetically Modified organisims.
Below is the best website I have found dedicated to good science on the long term effects of GMO foods and the environment and health effects. No spin just science.
Not to be confused with an industry website called GMO.com with a nice green logo. They say that they are stating the facts only. However, numerous important misstatements of the facts make this website just an industry marking tool. The companies who sponsor this website are the major makers of GMO products, including: BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta. Remember these names.
Great podcast from Veterinary Nutrition specialists. Covers all the important information owners need to know to make intelligent choices about dogs and pet foods.
I recommend one food company at this time; Drfostersmith.com These recommendation will change over time because the pet food industry is not well regulated and the successful companies are often bought by one of the “Big Two”, multinational food companies, They are Mars and Proctor & Gamble, who are owned by even bigger, multinational, Tobacco Companies.
Here is a link to the Wiki page of OAS
These same principles apply even more in our pets with multiple allergies. Pets have more histamine & inflammatory molecules stored in their skin. So, no matter what the source of the allergen, the first sign of an allergy flare up is itching & increased ear wax. Pets who are allergic to fleas, ticks or mites can develop oral allergy symptoms to these pests because they accidentally ingest them while grooming. Probably one of the many causes of eosinophilic mouth ulcers in cats.
More info; about people at Tree pollen allergy reacts with some foods.
Common Cross reactions:
Allergies to a specific pollen are usually associated with OAS reactions to other certain foods. For instance, an allergy to ragweed is associated with OAS reactions to banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, zucchini, and cucumber. This does not mean that all sufferers of an allergy to ragweed will experience adverse effects from all or even any of these foods. Reactions may be associated with one type of food, with new reactions to other foods developing later. However, reaction to one or more foods in any given category does not necessarily mean a person is allergic to all foods in that group.
- Alder pollen: almonds, apples, celery, cherries, hazel nuts, peaches, pears, parsley, strawberry, raspberry
- Birch pollen: almonds, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, cherries, chicory, coriander, fennel, fig, hazel nuts, kiwifruit, nectarines, parsley, parsnips, peaches, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, prunes, soy, strawberries, wheat; Potential: walnuts
- Grass pollen: fig, melons, tomatoes, oranges
- Mugwort pollen : carrots, celery, coriander, fennel, parsley, peppers, sunflower
- Ragweed pollen : banana, cantaloupe, cucumber, green pepper, paprika, sunflower seeds/oil, honeydew, watermelon, zucchini, echinacea, artichoke, dandelions, honey (if bees pollinate from wild flowers), hibiscus or chamomile tea
- Possible cross-reactions (to any of the above): berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc), citrus (oranges, lemons, etc), grapes, mango, figs, peanut, pineapple, pomegranates, watermelon
How does one cope! Knowing what you are allergic to helps because you can avoid the foods that go hand in hand with pollen allergies. Thorough cooking to breakdown the proteins in food into smaller bits can eliminate the allergic reaction. (Yes, fruit vegies and grains all have proteins or polypeptides) Cooking in water works the best to preserve the good elements in fruits and vegies, such as: poaching, stewing, baking in water until the food is really mushy like babyfood. Indian cuisine is well know for this method of cooking where any vegie becomes part of the sauce. Breaking down foods in acids like lemon, lime or vinegar can also work if allowed to marinate for hours to overnight.
This is an excellent articles on how insect bites lead to allergies in pets.
Scientists also know that the flea, tick, & mite- type insects can transfer proteins in their saliva that are identical to proteins in beef and Pork. This is how a single allergy to biting insects can develop into a allergy reaction to food. Called Tick-food cross reaction allergy.
So what can be done to prevent food -insect cross reaction allergy? Thorough cooking (at minimum 30 minutes at low boil in water until the meat falls to pieces) is usually enough to breakdown the proteins. Commercial foods and treats are usually not cooked long enough to breakdown the proteins so many hypoallergenic foods fail. In humans this phenomenon is called “tick-food allergy cross reaction”, and cross reactions can also happen with many pollens called pollen-food cross reaction or Oral Allergy Syndrome.
This explains why homemade pet-foods, and a few of the freeze- dried, pressure treated pet-foods can extremely helpful to reduce allergy symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory supplements have also been shown to be very effective. High quality, fish oil with omega 3 fats being the best of all these products. This is the one time I recommend buying fish oil from your local vet. The prescription form of fish- omega 3 FA are filtered, concentrated which removes water, unneeded non-omega 3 fats and both heavy metals like mercury and other chemical contaminates. I have done numerous price comparisons, based on the effective dose of Fish-Omega FA (mgs) and found that the cost per pet is the same as over-the-counter brands.
Most veterinarians can/will sell these products without an appointment because of overwhelming science that shows how high quality fish oil prevents most diseases including teeth & gum disease.
Note to remember: Flax seed or borage oil are not effective in dogs nor cats. Carnivores lack the liver enzymes that convert vegetable Omega 3 fats into a form our bodies use to suppress inflammation. You are just getting expensive poop. These seeds or oils are added in tiny amounts to pet foods and treats to sell more product to health aware consumers.