It’s a new year and we’re all trying to set healthy goals for ourselves. Personally, at this time of the year I like to take stock of the amount of fruit and veggies that I’m eating, making sure I add plenty of vibrant, colorful foods to each and every meal. I also like to try (!) and cut down on my ‘sometimes’ foods, such as chocolate and my favorite, red wine. I have no idea how, but these sometimes foods turn into a habit over the Christmas and New Year period and ultimately leave me feeling heavy and lethargic. This year my own diet re-evaluation got me to thinking: How healthy my dogs? How healthy are your dogs? What can we be doing better to make sure they are in continued good health?
ANIMAL NUTRITIONIST and WHOLE-FOOD ADVOCATE
As you may know from my previous blogs, I’m an accredited animal nutritionist and whole-food advocate. My own dogs get fed a diet of raw meaty bones, fresh vegetables, fruit, seafood etc. Whilst I personally don’t feed kibble, I do understand for many Australian family’s kibble is a staple, so I simply like to encourage people to try feeding natural, wholesome foods to their pets even if that is in addition to kibble. Did you know that the addition of just a couple of servings of vegetables (and fruit!) or a tin of sardines over the course of the week has been scientifically proven to have a beneficial effect on the health of your dog?
MY FAVOURITE FOODS TO ADD
I have compiled some of my favourite ingredients for you that you might like to try feeding to your own dog. Whilst particularly useful for dogs on a raw diet, these ingredients are also beneficial for those transitioning from kibble to whole-foods, and particularly for those dogs who are fed kibble every day. Remember to introduce new ingredients slowly to avoid any digestive issues. Try adding alongside or mixing in with your dog’s regular food and don’t be discouraged if they take a while to adjust. If your dog suffers from any ailments, it is a good idea to talk to your vet.
NOTE: Just remember to remove the same caloric value of kibble from your dog’s bowl so you aren’t overfeeding.
Considered by nutritionists to be the most bioavailable source of protein, eggs are also a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. This might be of surprise, but you can even include the eggshells as they are a wonderful source of calcium and the little membrane inside the egg shell has been shown to be high in collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid, which are all good for joint health (Danesh et.al: 2014). If you are going to feed the egg shell, I do suggest removing any pathogens (such as salmonella) from the shell first. You can do this by dropping the empty shell into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. I like to let mine dry (oven for 5 minutes) and then grind them up in a mortar and pestle before popping in to my dog’s dinner! You can feed eggs raw to your dog (no different to that poached egg you eat on a Sunday!) or if you feel more comfortable cooking the egg first, that’s fine too.
We’re talking Broccoli, Bok Choy, Spinach, Zucchini, Kale or even Brussel Sprouts. Mix it up as variety is best. Research has found that adding a mix of vegetables to your dog’s diet, even if just a small amount, can decrease their risk of cancer by 90% (Rashaan, Knapp, Bonney, 2005).
Green veggies act as a great anti-inflammatory and a source of antioxidants. It’s preferred that you serve veggies raw, as cooking can damage the benefits of the phytochemicals. Green veggies provide minerals and also act as vitamin powerhouses, possessing cleansing and pH balancing properties that are beneficial for your pets. If you’re unsure of where to start, start with fresh veggies. Even if they’re frozen, defrost and chop them up. Great for fussy eaters! Start with a teaspoon and increase up to 10% of their daily food intake.
My personal favorite green vegetable for my itchy skinned Piper is Celery, in particular the leaves where many of the nutrients can be found in much higher concentration. I’ll pop a link below to a research review article (Kooti et al: 2017) which outlines studies done on celery which is a very popular inclusion in natural therapeutic preparations. I like using the leaves for their alkalizing (cooling) effect and also due to their anti-inflammatory effect and use in managing chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis. (Atta et al: 1998)
Think sardines, green lipped mussels and prawns. Fresh is always best, but alternatively tinned portions are fine. Make sure to limit tinned to once / twice a week due to the high sodium content. Also look out for foods in olive oil or water instead of sunflower oil which can impact the Omega 3/6 balance. I recommend seafood such as sardines, green lipped mussels and prawns because they’re a great source of nutrients such as Manganese (excellent for calcium absorption), Iodine, Zinc and Copper plus you can often find them snap frozen in the freezer section of your supermarket. Seafood is of course also a great source of Omega 3 Fatty Acid which contributes to decreasing inflammation overall.
SECRET TIP: For those living in Perth, my ‘secret’ location to purchase fresh (frozen) seafood for my dogs is Hills Seafood in Mundaring. They sell pet fish for $4.00 per kg! Absolute bargain.
Parsley, Kelp, Alfalfa and Rosemary are great herbs to incorporate into your dog’s meals. They act as a nutritional supplement that contain plenty of antioxidants to keep your four-legged friends healthier for longer. You can tailor the herbs you include into meals to suit your dog’s needs. Oregano for instance is a great anti-microbial and is great for digestive problems, Peppermint is great for upset stomachs, nausea and vomiting, Alfalfa is a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and amino acids (particularly for geriatric animals)
Just keep in mind that if your dog is on any medication or suffers from any ailments, you should always check with your veterinarian before starting something new.
Another great tip is ‘a bone a day keeps the vet away’! Excuse the pun, but expert veterinarians have found that feeding raw meaty bones to your dogs can help prevent periodontal diseases (PD). PD usually starts as gingivitis, with the gums becoming inflamed and uncomfortable. While this can usually be cured in 4-7 days, severe PD can lead to rotting, bone loss and even tooth loss. Just as you look after your own teeth, giving your dog’s raw meaty bones can help keep their oral health in order. To have a more in-depth understanding of dog oral health visit my blog ‘Throw you’re a dog bone’ for more great tips. Bones also add the correct calcium / phosphorus balance to your dog’s diet.
NOTE: if your dog already suffers from PD he may not be able to eat bones due to brittle teeth. You can still provide the nutrient benefits of bones by finely grounding items such as chicken wings/ turkey wings/ chicken necks.
The health of our pets is extremely important to all of us and by making a few simple changes to your dog’s diet you will be promoting health from the inside out! The things I have mentioned are just a handful of the wonderful natural ingredients that I like to recommend. Remember, before you introduce anything new to your pet’s diet, research is key and if in doubt check with a reputable practitioner to ensure its ok. Nutrition is key for the health and happiness of your most loyal companions. Peace of mind is not far away with these simple additions to their everyday routine.
If you would like further advice about your pet’s diet and individual nutritional needs, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Danish, U., Seybold, M., Rittinghausen, R., Treibel, W. and Bitterlich, N., 2014. NEM® brand eggshell membrane effective in the treatment of pain associated with knee and hip osteoarthritis: results from a six-center, open-label German clinical study. J Arthritis, 3(3), p.136. Link
- Kooti, W. and Daraei, N., 2017. A review of the antioxidant activity of celery (Apium graveolens L). Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 22(4), pp.1029-1034. Link
- Atta, A.H. and Alkofahi, A., 1998. Anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of some Jordanian medicinal plant extracts. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 60(2), pp.117-124. Link