Strawberries in dog's diet / Can my dog eat strawberries / Goitrogenic foods as strawberries / Health benefits of strawberries for dogs / Canine diet and nutrition / Healthy dog foods / English cocker spaniel pet blog, diet nutrition advice, grooming, training, breed information, health / (C) Natalia Ashton

Can my dog eat… strawberries?

Today I am baking scones to mark the start of the strawberry season. Tea, scones, clotted cream, fresh strawberries, sunshine and blue sky… A perfect moment for the two of us… and a little queue that will definitely be keeping an eye on me while I am cooking and prepping.

The boys do love strawberries. They know them by name and whether or not I have a box in the fridge.

CAN OUR DOGS EAT STRAWBERRIES?

The answer is YES (with a tiny “but”).

Most dogs can have strawberries and enjoy them in season to fully get the benefits of these wonderful fruits.

Strawberries are one of the best sources of vitamin C, manganese, folate, iodine, biotin, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Something we may not even think of, but the seeds also provide a small amount of alpha-linolenic acids and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Beside their vitamin and mineral content, the berries are also packed with polyphenol antioxidants (flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignin, tannins, stilbenes) known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They are praised for supporting heart health, protecting the cells from oxidative damage and reducing the risk of cancers.

The quercetin is strawberries may also work as a natural antihistamine in dogs who suffer from allergies, particularly the seasonal ones.

Additionally, eating berries has been shown to improve memory and motor-responses associated with ageing.

And if this isn’t enough, the studies picked on the ability of strawberries to control blood sugar and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes even when the berries were combined with sugar in the same meal!

How much can you give your dog? Each of my boys has a berry per day, roughly the size of a quail egg or a whole walnut. Too much can cause an upset tummy, vomiting or diarrhoea.

I also need to mention the “but” when it comes to strawberries in canine diet. These lovely berries are a source of goitrogens, the compounds that can interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid gland and thus affect its function. If your dog has an underactive thyroid (also known as hypothyroidism), he should not be having strawberries.

Image credit: Pezibear from Pixabay

Can my dog eat vegan diet? Vegetarian and vegan diets benefits, pros and cons, dog nutrition advice / Perfect cocker spaniel blog / book / English cocker spaniel grooming, puppy tips, advice, training (C) Natalia Ashton #worldveganday

Is there such a thing as a healthy vegan diet for dogs?

One of the very first books about dogs I’ve read was published in England. So it was rather modern and free-thinking in comparison to many other tomes I had. Besides the usual guides on breeds and grooming, this book (unfortunately I can no longer remember its title) had a chapter about vegetarianism for dog in case some people decide to feed their dog according to their ethics. The advice was very sensible, as far as I remember, and pretty do-able for any true vegetarian. The book clearly showed that a dog can definitely live on a meat-free diet and remain well as long as his food contained dairy, eggs and fish (think ovo-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian or pescatarian diet). Some resent studies also suggest that, just like in people, complete balanced vegetarian diets are associated with several health benefits in dogs (vitality, reduced risk of arthritis, cancer and diabetes, to name a few).

Admittedly, years later I’ve become a vegetarian myself. It was soon after we got Oscar and somehow I realised that I am no longer interested in eating any form of meat. So I went down the lacto-ovo route as the most nutritionally-sensible (and face it – tasty!) choice. The rest of my family, Oscar included, continued enjoying poultry and occasional lamb though. Everyone was happy. Should Oscar ever gone off meat and wanted to eat a diet of eggs and fish I would, of course, let him. But he was the cocker spaniel and his diet was true to what any cocker spaniel should have eaten.

However, about three years ago I could not help but notice a new “breed” of canine food appearing on the market. Yes, the vegan one. Which naturally lead to the obvious question….

Can our dogs really be vegan?

In theory, yes. But only if we base it on the fact that the balanced diet is nothing more but a combination of nutrients including all essential amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals – and not ingredients as such. And  theoretically these nutrient blocks can come from any source otherwise many dog food companies would not use wheat gluten or soy protein in their formulas. It’s a bit like building a wall and filling the gaps with all kinds of bricks and stones as long as they fit in.

In reality, putting your dog on a vegan diet can come with quite a few issues…

Lets begin with the obvious. Cockers were bred and raised on meat-based diets. Not soy or beans. It has nothing to do with dogs being carnivores. They are not. Dogs really are omnivores and thus can eat a varied diet of, well, everything and anything including meat, plants and grains. But it didn’t make them choose veganism, no. The good old Obo and his relatives ate meat. So our lovely cockers would want some in their diet, too. Simple.

Another factor worth thinking about is the way most dog diet trends transition from the human ones. We had the Atkins and Keto – and now these are pushed into the dogs. People went carb-free – and so their dogs had to do the same. When dog owners decided to go raw, the whole bunch of companies produced another range of foods. Why? Because trends sell like hotcakes! The problem with every trend, though, is that any person can stop following it at any point (and trust me, as a nutritionist, I have never seeing anyone who would be able to live on vegan, Atkins, carb-free or raw diet for their entire life without consequences or simply giving it up at some point) yet most dogs will have no choice but to eat the same food for days, weeks, months and years, which is likely to increase the risk of many health problems.

Also bear in mind that vegan food for dogs must be balanced with an impeccable precision otherwise they are likely to lack certain amino acids, vitamins and minerals. This can theoretically be achieved through additional supplements, but under- or over supplementing a dog’s diet or using incorrect or low quality supplements can put a strain on the dog’s health – or worse, lead to toxicity.

If you decide to cook the meals at home to avoid genetically-modified ingredients (think soy, corn, maize etc) or the “toxic chemicals” that may lurk in the dog food, you are very likely to fail. For a while you dog may enjoy the meals – most dogs would happily eat a bowl of porridge or rice with carrots and a bunch of greens. But the problem will begin as soon as their natural “amino acid pool” will “dry out” and the body will start missing out on the “building blocks” that are essentials for creating new cells and maintain the immune system.

Even most complete vegan dog foods are likely to be based on a combination of pulses (beans, lentils, peas etc.) or vegan proteins (soy, corn or wheat gluten), which have been linked to many cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening disease associated with deficit of specific amino acids such an taurine and l-carnitine that can only be obtained through animal proteins. Additionally, the dog can also become deficient in vitamins B12 and D, which will have a negative effect on several body systems.

In other words, if you choose to try putting your dog on a vegan diet to see what happens – don’t be surprised if your expectations are not the ones you’ve pictured in your head.

My advice? Don’t risk it when it comes to your dog.

Choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle because it can make a positive change to the environment, planet, animals or your own well-being is one thing. Feeding a dog with a vegan diet is something completely different and, lets be honest, against nature.

Dogs don’t have as long as we do, so let them live these years with pride and joy of being an animal.

Make the changes by changing your own habits. Eat less meat, skip it completely or be a vegetarian who has a couple of completely vegan days a week. Don’t waste food. Choose household product and cosmetics made without animal-based ingredients. Go organic. Buy dog food that contains moderate quantities of protein (an adult dog requires 18-28% of protein in dry food, that’s all!), not meat-only or high-protein mixes. Do something. Anything!

If everyone chips in, the little steps will compensate for the fact that dogs do need to eat their meat- (or more precise, animal protein) containing diets. Because we can choose how to live our lives including accepting responsibility for making conscious and health-appropriate choices for our pooches. They may like an occasional carrot but can’t jump in a car and go grocery shopping should their parent decide to replace a tasty chicken dinner with a less-than-palatable kibble made of chickpeas and soy.

As we celebrate the World Vegan Day I will leave you here to marinate the medley of thoughts… Should you decide to learn more about appropriate nutrition for your cocker spaniel, benefits and pitfalls of certain diets or how to choose the best food, you will find the answers in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel.

 

Photo source: photo by Sergiy Kabachenko via 123rf.com

why dogs do not need to eat cheese / cheese can be toxic to dogs / bad and good cheese for dogs / puppy tips and advice / english cocker spaniel blog / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel (C)

Let’s talk about cheese

Cheese is like ice-cream… It’s a delicious sin, so scrumptious and tempting that some people would rather say they don’t like it than confess their love…

A lot of people share both with their dogs. Ice-cream is given as a sweet express ticket to cocker’s heart. It works, it’s definitely not brilliant for dogs health, but like any treat, is an occasional affair.

Cheese, on the other hand, is different. Even books advise on using cheese as a high value reward making it a daily necessity for any successful training.

As a self-confessed bore (and cocker mum) I disagree with such a statement.

Cheese, after all, is not as dog friendly as it’s portrayed. Personally, I never give it to my boys (with an exception for home-made tvorog (a Russian version of German quark) that suits young puppies)

Let’s be fair, I have my reasons…

Cheese is dairy & adult dogs would find it hard to digest it due to lower levels of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose.

Cheese is high in salt, which can cause problems because you can easily overdo the recommended amount.

Cheese is very high in fat, which can increase risk of pancreatitis and unwanted kilos. Cockers are prone to both – why play Russian roulette with luck?

Cheese, the mouldy & gooey types, are extremely toxic to dogs & eating them can be fatal.

Cheese is an extremely concentrated source of calories, so what seems like a tiny piece to you is likely to cover your dog’s daily calorie needs (I’m exaggerating but you get the idea)

Cheese made with cows milk, unless it’s organic, can contain pesticides, antibiotic residue & even traces of puss.

Cheese, especially the strong types like cheddar, contains an amino-acid tyramine that can reach dangerously high levels (and lead to critically elevated blood pressure) when consumed with food by dogs taking MAOIs, a type of antidepressants (sold as L-Deprenyl, Selegiline and Anipryl).

So skip the cheese if you care about your pup. Chicken, turkey, eggs, chopped air dried venison sausages, sprats and even your dog’s own kibble (whatever he’s insanely in love with, basically!) can work as a high value reward instead, keeping your cocker focused and giving you a peace of mind.

Photo source: image by Дарья Колмагорова from Pixabay

how to choose best natural treats and training treats for puppies and dogs / puppy tips and advice / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Your cocker will love these good-for-him treats

“What do you feed your dogs with?” is one of the questions I’m asked at least once a day. I don’t usually advise on the choice of dog food because I believe in individuality and the choice of dog food should depend on your dog, his health, age, gender, activity and preferences, and discussed with a knowledgable vet (though I’m more than happy to chat about different brands, ingredients and types of diets)

Treats are a bit different. They are something I give to my boys in addition to their meals – because if I don’t, they will queue in the kitchen forever…  I thought I’d put all our favourites in one post in case you’ve been curious but felt a bit shy to ask.

Remember that any new food must be introduced gradually, these foods below are suitable for healthy active dogs without any diagnosed health problems, any health issues you’re aware of or dogs who take any form of medicine, prescribed drugs or supplements. If you’re in doubt, always check with your vet!

The list below is condensed, but I’ve put a lot more info in my book Perfect cocker spaniel.

DAILY my boys have…
… home-made biscuits;
… natural yoghurt / kefir (they love the taste, plus it’s a tiny dose of some B vits, calcium, magnesium, and good bacteria);
… raw manuka honey (not suitable for dogs under 12 months of age. Full of minerals, antibacterial agents and yummy taste);
… raw organic virgin coconut oil (for fab fatty acids and antibacterial properties);
… raw dried sweet potato (makes a great chew, packed with beta-carotene, B vits, vit C, magnesium, calcium, iron & fiber;
… whatever is in season and always – organic. I limit the quantities to a couple of slices for cucumber/carrot, 1-2 strawberries or 4-5 berries like blueberries. Boys have one option per day, not a salad!

ONCE A WEEK pups also have…
…. a hard boiled egg, usually we use it for training;
… cooked plain chicken or turkey, again it’s a high value training treat;
… salmon (two very small pieces, just as a little treat);
… passata (2tsp, plain passata free from salt, herbs or any other flavorings. It’s not so much for the vitamin value but to keep the plaque away)

What is your dog’s favourite treat?

Photo source: image by katerinavulcova from Pixabay

Avocado toxic or not for dogs and why, avocado in dog diet safety concerns / First published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog / Image by sandid from Pixabay

Q&A | Avocado: yes or no?

I receive so many questions about avocado in dog’s diet, so I thought I’d share it here since yesterday was a #nationalavocadoday.

Lately avocado was said to be safe for dogs. However before you go head think of the following…

… avocado contains persin, a toxic substance found in the skin, right under the skin, in the stone and the bark of avocado;
… the LIGHT green flesh of the fruit is low in persin, however it is difficult to ensure that the light green won’t be mixed with the DARK green flesh found under the skin of the fruit, thus increasing the risk of poisoning;
… if a dog has avocado he’s likely to have upset stomach or vomiting;
… in addition the stone can not only be more toxic if crushed by a dog, but also get stuck in the throat or digestive tract, which can be fatal;
…high fat content of avocado can increase risk of pancreatitis.

Personally, I would not risk it. I also do not believe that something that was once deemed very toxic for pooched was suddenly given a green light. It feels more like a trend, not something supported by research.

Photo source: image by sandid from Pixabay

Dried cassia, toxicity of cassia plant food additive for dogs, cassia in dog food / Image by Fathima Shanas from Pixabay / first published on perfectcockerspaniel blog

Check your dog’s food for this ingredient

I couldn’t help noticing another ingredient that is added to more and more dog foods. It is called CASSIA and in simple terms, it’s a cheap alternative to cinnamon. In dog food cassia works as a gelling agent and preservative. It’s more likely to be a part of wet food but can be added to kibble also.

Nutritionally, dogs do not need cinnamon or cassia in their diet. While cinnamon can be beneficial for certain conditions when used in very small quantities and short period of time, cassia may cause or worsen liver disease, increase risk of allergies, skin inflammation and irritate digestive tract.

It can become toxic if used for a long period even if the amount it minute. It is approved in EU & a few other countries but as far as dog food research goes, the studies are still going and latest outcome specifies that only purified cassia can be used and in certain amounts (just over 1% of total food) . Considering that not enough research has been done and possibility of side-effects however minor, do check labels of your dog food just to be on a safe side. Cassia can be listed as cassia gum or E427 or E499.

Photo source: image by Fathima Shanas from Pixabay