English cocker spaniel puppy eating dog food (C) Perfect cocker spaniel / English cocker spaniel blog, book, puppy tips, advice, grooming tips, nutrition, canine nutritionist / Natalia Ashton

Does less poop really mean better health?

Today I wanted to have a quick chat about a study that recently came out from the university of Illinois because I found it, how should I put it… disappointing? Especially when it was reviewed to reach a wider audience – you and me, in other words.

The study that included beagles fed with fresh food was run by a few people with PhDs, which to any layman would most definitely look like a sure sign of quality and confidence. The beagles got some fresh food made with a few ingredients and naturally produced less poop compared to a group fed kibble.

The scientists then concluded that fresh diet is better for dogs, but did it in a way that could easily mislead any normal non-science’y dog parent and, as a result, potentially put their dog’s health at risk.

Granted, I don’t have a PhD, but I do know nutrition. That is why I need to explain a few study statements and my concerns.

First of all, “producing less excrements” isn’t really a new thing. It’s just another trend that was mimicked on countries like Japan where high urban population and clear lack of space meant that dogs foods had to be adjusted to result in less poops. It had nothing to do with dog’s health, but obvious need for yet another space-saving know-how.

Secondly, the diets included “two fresh diets made using only USDA-certified human-grade ingredients” The ingredients were listed yet it wasn’t clear who created the diet, whether or not it was nutritionally balanced or how it would affect the dog long-term (the feeding regime only took 4 weeks, which isn’t enough to see any abnormalities or deficiencies should they happen, especially in healthy dogs previously fed a balanced complete diet)

The researches tested the dogs before the trial and after the trial and noted that blood test results did not change. Which means that the dogs were good to go on their original food.

The worrying part is that I can easily picture a health-conscious pup parent cooking up a feast using the list of ingredients mentioned in the study review thinking that it’s the best thing for his dog because “a guy with PhD said so”. And if one can’t trust google, one can surely trust a guy with PhD, right?

Also “human grade” fresh food doesn’t actually mean that kibble would not be made with “human grade” ingredients. In fact, there are strict rules to ensure that our dogs don’t end up eating road kill or any animal that died of natural causes or old age. The dogs would eat the same cows and chickens as their human family, but different, less palatable (in human view) parts of them (think hearts and organ meats, not hooves or feathers).

Then the study went into a human diet (really?) to say that people would be more satisfied with fresh food than processed food and as a result, would lose weight and be healthier.

The only problem is that processed human food is not the same as a good quality kibble. Ask any board-certified nutritionist – and they will confirm this. Letting people assume that kibble is nothing more than a dog version of a human junk from a famous food chain is not just wrong, it is harmful.

Now… the trendy microbiota…. because they simply had to mention gut bacteria as some of the levels changed. Not for better, not for worse. They just changed. But the study folks assumed it would be better because their previous studies said so. Which is so not PhD…

But if we do talk about microbiome and good bacteria, we need to jump straight to the beginning of this study and the rice and broccoli vs “horrible” kibble and carbs comparison.

Yes, kibble often results in more poop. But is it really a bad thing? Nope. Not. At. All. A good quality complete and balance kibble will contain good quality carbohydrates and fibre that will add bulk to the faeces. But it is vital to remember that besides the bulk, good carbs and fibre can play an important role in keeping your dogs healthy…


Well, the fibre itself will work like a brush to rid the gut from toxins and bacteria.

The soluble fibre will feed the good bacteria.

The good bacteria will take care of your dog’s digestive health, immunity, vitamin levels, reduce risk of allergies and possibly cancers.

The insoluble fibre will also look after the anal glands.

And carbohydrates and fibre will supply vitamins and minerals that your dog may not always get from other foods.

Plus, good carbs will keep the dog fuller for longer and may help him maintain healthy weight or even loose some.

On the other hand, an unbalanced fresh diet may cause deficiencies and affect digestive health due to lack of fibre. The reduction of carbohydrates and fibre also means that they are either replaced with another form of bulking ingredients that dogs may not always be able to digest so well or without side-effects (think bloating). Alternatively, less fibre and carbohydrates often mean higher fat content, which can increase the risk of weight gain, pancreatitis and any disease caused by excess weight.

And upon checking on some foods used in the study as “better alternatives” I noticed ingredients such as garlic (think, Heinz bodies and risk of fatal haemolytic anaemia), potatoes (nightshades and risk of arthritis, plus potential link to DCM), spinach (think oxalates and risk of kidney stones), and pea fibres (potential bloating and increased risk of DCM) to name a few.

It absolutely pains me to say negative things about a study because I really love science and this is a bit like a car crush…


Image credit: cocker spaniel puppy by Switlana Synonenko via 123rf.com

study shows effects of different types of music on dogs / music to help anxious dogs relax / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) Dog blog about English cocker spaniels, dog behaviour, diet, nutrition, health, puppy tips (C) Natalia Ashton

The sound of music. Study shows, our pooches have their preferences too.

I came across a curious study the other day and wanted to share it here. I have mentioned the effect of music on my pups in the past, so it was interesting to see some research into the subject.

The work was conducted in 2020 and examined several previous studied that involved dogs of various breeds and age groups placed in different environments.

The first interesting bit of the study for me was the possible difference between breeds and their physical characteristics suggesting that dogs with pointy ears might perceive any music sounds differently compared to dogs with floppy ears. Which, of course, makes sense, but not something I’d think of immediately.

The second discovery was about the type of music. Several studies showed that dogs preferred classical music to rock or pop music. The dogs exposed to the classical music began acting more calm, seemed more relaxed and less prone to barking, and their heart rate appeared reduced.

On the other hand, rock music increased excitement, became more vocal and showed increased in stress hormone levels.

Does it mean, we could use some soft classical music as another way to reduce anxiety and stress in our dogs? Absolutely. Just bear in mind that you may need to change your play list every 5-7 days to maintain the positive effects.

I guess it’s time for a drink and some Chopin now.

Is dog flea treatment poisoning rivers? Pros and cons of using anti-flea spot on treatments on dogs (C) Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog

Is your dog’s flea treatment really poisoning the rivers?

I am a dog person, so it’s only natural that I read dog magazines more than news paper articles. As a result I was blissfully aware of a research that was published in Science of the Total Environment magazine. The study suggested potential link between dog’s flea treatments and water toxicity in British rivers. Sadly, one of the dog’s magazines picked on it as a “lets fuel a controversy chat” subject. Worse, the news papers decided to join in and, as it often happens, created a pile of misinformation.

“Toxic flea treatments contaminate rivers!”

“Stop using flea treatments on your dogs!”

“Vets are overdosing our dogs! Use these natural alternatives instead!”

said the papers.

“I never use chemicals on my dog…”

“These chemicals are bad. I won’t inflict them on my dog…”

“Only use them when you can see fleas…”

“I would never use wormers or flea treatments on my dog ever…”

said “the majority” the “caring owners” interviewed by the magazine.

The noise of these articles became so overwhelming. At no point any of the journalists consulted professionals, veterinarians or allowed dog owners who did use the treatment to speak up. Most of them did not ever read the study by referred to a news paper articled that was the first one to come out! So I made a cup of tea and decided to have a chat with you here.

I found the study. Read it. Finished the tea and summed up the facts to help you digest the information with clarity and precision before setting into the panic mode.

First of all, the study did not say that it was the dog flea treatment that poisoned the rivers. It suggested potential role of the treatments in pesticide contamination. The firm “it’s the flea treatment” and “potential role” are two very different meanings that would require more research and carefully controlled studies for becoming a definite statement.

It is not new that any kind of pesticide is toxic to aquatic life. That’s why they put it on every leaflet that comes with the product!

The 98% of samples taken from the rivers indicated the presence of fipronil and some also showed imidacloprid (66%). It was fiproles (fipronil, fipronil sulfone, fipronil sulfide) that exceeded the toxic limit in most samples. The levels of imidacloprid “did not pose risk in most rivers”, took two years to detect, were below toxic in 13 out of 7 sites (and the sites that contained more only exceeded the limit by 3.3 ng/l (31.7 ng/l vs 35 ng/l as identified toxicity limit)

The study concluded “a high environmental risk to aquatic ecosystems from fiproles, and a moderate risk from imidacloprid”.

Before jumping into flea treatments, it is important to note that fipronil is an active agent found in ant baits, cockroach poisons, rootworms and several other treatments that are habitually used by households. The concentration varies by the amount use is often exceeds anything you’d ever put on your dog making it toxic to dogs and not just aquatic life. That’s why they put it on a leaflet too!

At no point it was clearly established and confirmed that the fipronil in rivers came from the flea treatments and not common ant baits or household pest treatments that casually got flushed down the toilet or drain (which is still a common practice).

The papers also referred to veterinary approved products containing fipronil. I checked them. These include Fipnil, Frontline, FIPROtec, Johnson’s 4fleas dual action and a few others. All of those products are sold over the counter – not through vets who issue prescription and can control the quality and frequency of the treatment.

The leaflet and protocol for anything prescribe by a vet “takes into consideration individual veterinary diagnosis and on the local epidemiological situation”. This is for those “experts” who expressed their scepticism at veterinary knowledge or expertise.

Every prescription-based flea treatment product comes with instructions that clearly specify that a dog “must not be bathed for at least two days after treatment” or “should not be allowed to swim in surface waters for 4 days after treatment”

There is no natural alternative on the market scientifically proven to be effective against fleas – or any other parasites that can be prevented by a veterinary spot-on product.

More over, most natural alternatives contain at least one ingredients known to be toxic to dogs. Even though it may not kill your dog straight away, it is likely to lead to a reaction when used regularly. Additionally, as none really deter fleas or other parasites, they can leave your dog exposed to those “bugs and worms” as well as several diseases transmitted by fleas, ticks and other creatures. Some of those diseases are fatal.

Anyone suggesting that you should only use a product when you actually see fleas or worms is a nincompoop. The sign of a parasite on your dog means that dog has already been exposed to disease, your house and your family (especially children and elderly) are at risk, any dogs and people you come across unknowingly become exposed to the disease, and any form of decontamination and parasitic treatment you will have to use is likely to take weeks and months and be much more toxic for your dog and the environment.

If you still believe that fleas are nothing serious, bear in mind that fleas are still one of the two main causes of dermatitis, itchiness and serious skin issues (which many owners mistake for food allergy these days), they can cause iron deficiency anaemia in your dog, they can infect your dog with tapeworms, in unlucky circumstances they can also pass a life-threatening disease to you.

Besides the fleas, most veterinary-prescribed products also protect your dog from ear mites, sarcoptic mange and decodicosis (the number one cause of allergy-like dermatitis in your dog – again, not food allergy!), lice, heartworm, lungworm, roundworm and a whole group of gastrointestinal nematodes.

So if you have any doubts, filter the information and talk to your vet – the person who spent years learning and practicing the art of keeping your dog well. Not a journalist, shop assistant, and most definitely not some fella on Facebook because he “sounds friendly”. It will be safer for your dog, your sanity – and indeed, British rivers and aquatic life.