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…

How?

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

How to keep dog teeth healthy, how to brush dogs teeth, puppy advice, tips, best products for brushing dogs teeth

Let’s talk about keeping dog teeth healthy

Last night pups went to bed looking disappointed. In fact, they somewhat hesitated before they joined me. Fred went off and sat by the kitchen door staring at it… Coop, who can, at times, be utterly British in showing his emotions, just sighed.

Then, around 11 o’clock, it suddenly hit me. I forgot to brush their teeth! And so off we run to the kitchen to get our tools out and “clean our teethies”

As soon as the process was complete, pups trotted back to the bedroom and fell asleep peacefully.

It makes some people laugh, but the boys love their dental routine and always gather in the kitchen at 9 in the evening waiting for me. If I don’t appear on time, Fred gives me a quick bark as a polite and slightly impatience reminder.

To be honest, I am glad they turned out to be like this. Not only it’s a joy to brush their teeth, but it also makes me happy to see those almost pearly whites, especially Fred’s. Coop’s teeth are alright, but he had to be on certain antibiotics as a young puppy – and some meds do affect the enamel making it dark.

I got into the habit of teeth brushing long time ago. Not that I am very good at following all my routines, but I do loathe the idea of dental cleaning and general anaesthesia. I know it’s safe, but I don’t believe it’s fair on my pups to go under once every couple of years simply because I failed them at daily tooth brushing.

So we brush. Every night. And interestingly, even science is on our side. According to the research and veterinary articles, daily tooth brushing is still the best way to prevent dental problems. It helps to keep the teeth clean, maintains correct levels of good mouth bacteria and controls the bad ones, In addition, healthy teeth also reduce the risk of other illnesses and lip fold dermatitis.

Just in case you are new to this or not sure how and where to start, here are the steps I use and recommend.

Start early, from the first week you get your puppy. He needs to learn that having your finger in his mouth is totally ok. If you fail this step and the pup is much older, with his adult teeth in full glory and need of proper brushing, he may not be so cooperative if you suddenly try to include tooth brushing into his beauty routine. It’s not natural for dogs to have their teeth and mouth touched and the early introduction will make a massive difference.

For puppies, aim to get him used to the touches and contact. His teeth don’t really need thorough brushing. Use a microfibre brush first, then move onto a finger brush. At this stage you may not need any tooth paste at all. And if you do decide to use something, always check with your vet to ensure that the product is suitable for puppies.

Adult teeth should be brushed with either the finger brush or dog tooth brush.  Don’t forget the toothpaste, too. I like the enzymatic ones and have been using Logic for many years because all my dogs love the flavour and the enzymes in the paste take care of the teeth upon application, without need for the actual brushing (in case you are tired or the pup isn’t too keen on the brush)

The technique is to start by sliding your finger under the lip without actually opening pup’s mouth. If you do use the paste, let the dog smell and lick it. It may take a few days or weeks. Just be gentle, patience and keep going in tiny steps.

When the dog is happy to cooperate, apply a dot of toothpaste on the brush, lift the lip on one side, and brush moving the brush across the teeth in a circular motion. Keep the brush at a 45° angle. Pay particular attention to the back teeth and canines.

If you are unsure or feel stressed about having your pups teeth brushed, book an appointment with a nurse at your vets. It is usually free and they show you how to do everything correctly.

What about dental aids?

There are plenty of chews and chew toys on the market right now. Personally, I don’t use anything edible. Firstly, because studies didn’t show any special effects of dental chews or diets on dogs dental health when compared to daily brushing.

I am also extremely picky about ingredients that go into those chews and am yet to find the one I’d be comfortable with.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the chews must be age- and size- appropriate. Puppies mustn’t chew anything that you cannot bend. You also need to be careful with heavy chewers because they can chomp off larger pieces of chews turning them into choking hazards.

I also never use dehydrated body parts and raw hides.

My pups like their home-made crunchy biscuits, raw carrots and frozen slices of cucumber among other things.

And the bones?

The subject is controversial and I know that many people swear by raw bones. Some studies do say that the bones may reduce or prevent plaque formation. However, the same studies also say that the bones will not reduce the risk of periodontal disease and are likely to increase the risk of broken teeth, dislocated jaws and, if the dog manages to swallow a piece of bone, digestive blockages or life-threatening perforation.

And dry dog food?

There have been studies done on dogs fed moist, dry or a combination of moist and dry foods. The dogs who had dry food showed lower levels of plaque and deposits and reduced risk of periodontal disease compared to dogs from the other groups. I sense that this will be met with plenty of scepticism but I like to go with the science and I do feed kibble to my boys as a part of their diet.

As you can tell, I am a little bit obsessed with canine dental health… I talk about it, I dedicated a part of Perfect cocker spaniel to discussing ways to maintain pearly whites and I will continue reading every research and study focused on nutrition, products and techniques that would help my boys because I cannot even imagine them having pain or extractions and feeling less of a dog because of it.

Especially considering that it only takes a few minutes a day to prevent so many problems…

Can dogs eat garlic? Is garlic toxic or safe for dogs? Scientific evidence of garlic for dog's health, canine diet, nutrition, worming / (C) Perfect cocker spaniel, breed and puppy guide book, puppy tips, canine nutritionist, dog diet, cocker spaniel grooming / Natalia Ashton

Can my dog eat… garlic?

You are walking down the street in the evening or just about to approach an Italian restaurant and suddenly there is a delicious aroma hitting your nostrils and making your hungry instantly. When somebody cooks with garlic, the rest of the world is there to dream of roasted chicken, lamb, pasta, pizza or garlic bread… Because nobody can resist it. And hardly any kitchen can be complete without a few fat bulbs, bursting with goodness beneath the delicate tissue-paper like skin…

Garlic is so good for us, not only because it’s full of vitamins and minerals, but because this humble allium vegetable is a mighty source of sulphur compounds known to be beneficial for our hearts, the immune, digestive and endocrine systems, supporting detoxification and reducing inflammation.

But CAN OUR DOGS EAT GARLIC?

The short answer is NO….

Especially if they are English cocker spaniels.

Even though you might have heard otherwise, garlic is toxic to dogs. It is true that it was used by the breeders back in the 19th and early 20th century, but purely due to the fact that conventional and reliable worming medicine did not exist at the time. As the years went by, the very same breeders not only documented the side-effects of the garlic, but also recommended replacing the natural remedies with veterinary products due to their reliability and lasting results.

Why is garlic unsuitable for dogs?

The vegetable contains sodium 2-propenyl thiosulfate, which is toxic for the canines because their bodies cannot digest it efficiently. The build-up of the substance leads to formation of Heinz bodies, or clumps of haemoglobin, causing the rupture of red blood cells, oxygen deficiency and life-threatening haemolytic anaemia (IMHA).

The dogs may develop the condition after eating a large quantity of garlic as a single dose or consuming small quantities on a regular basis over a period of time.  In most cases IMHA will seem to appear suddenly and be fatal.

Why is garlic still used for dogs?

The advocates of garlic recommend it as a natural worming treatment or simply because “it’s beneficial and safe”. The latter is accompanied by a study of beagles that were given garlic extract for 12 weeks and didn’t develop Heinz bodies.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that…

The group of scientists who conducted the research were employed by the manufacturer of the garlic extract used in experiments.

The researched themselves concluded that garlic quantity must be monitored to avoid harm.

The garlic extract provided sulphur-containing amino acids S-allylcysteine (SAC) and S-1-propenylcysteine (S1PC). It was not mentioned if the extract contained sodium 2-propenyl thiosulfate.

The typical lifespan of red blood cells is between 100 and 120 days, so 12 weeks weren’t long enough to fully examine the body’s reaction to the substance.

Beagles are not genetically predisposed to the condition and we do not know enough information of their age, gender or health status at the time of the study.

The statement on garlic safety also contradicts independent studies and records spanning 30 years, discussed in interviews, books, scientific articles (1, 2, 3), veterinary manuals and journals (4, 5, 6, 7, 8) lists of poisonous substances  for dogs (9, 10) and included in FEDIAF guidelines and  top 10 animal toxins by ASPCA.

Why some dogs don’t develop Heinz bodies or haemolytic anaemia?

It can be related to genetics, breed predisposition (and cockers are among the breeds predisposed to the disease), hereditary defects, dog’s health, medical history, gender, age, and nutritional status (for example, selenium deficiency can increase the risk).

What about the worming effects of garlic?

There were no English language based clinical studies to support the use of garlic as an effective anti-worming medicine for dogs. Only two limited clinical trials conducted in 1969 and 2011 and described in Veterinary Evidence paper partially focused on the use of garlic alongside other herbs and plants such as pumpkin seeds. The quantities of the garlic were not included. There was no information about dogs except the number of dogs used and the names of parasites they had. The studies did show that garlic temporarily reduce the eggs and larvae, but only in specific species of worms. It did not seem to have effect of adult worms or certain species of worms. The questionable efficiency also meant that dogs would have to receive garlic at least every 2 days because the parasite levels returned to pre-treatment volume within 48 hours once the garlic was discontinued.  This means that all dogs remained at risk of either suffering from worms or potentially building up thiosulphate levels and developing haemolytic anaemia.

Interestingly, one of the known pioneers of using garlic as a worming treatment for dogs does not even have a veterinary degree or any form of academic education in canine or small animal nutrition.

The bottom line is to leave the garlic out of your dog’s diet, especially if the dog is a cocker spaniel. It really is not worth the risk.

 

Photo credit: image by StockSnap from Pixabay