Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease characterized by an enlarged heart as a result of compromised function of the heart muscles. The etiology (manner of causation) of the disease is not fully understood yet and, in many cases, the cause of the disease phenotype cannot be identified. A number of studies have been conducted in which a variety of etiologies have been noted. The most commonly attributed cause of DCM is genetics, with specific genetic mutations being identified in Doberman Pinschers, German Shorthaired Pointers and Boxers. Other breeds in which inherited DCM has been recognized are Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs, Airedale Terriers and Scottish Deerhounds. More research is required to identify specific genetic mutations associated with DCM in these breeds.
Peer reviewed, published scientific studies have identified non-genetic causes of DCM including myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle due to infection), hypothyroid disease, tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and nutrient deficiencies or nutrient imbalances.
An attempt has been made to associate certain categories of diets and diets with certain characteristics to canine dilated cardiomyopathy. The fact is that there is a much more complicated relationship between food and DCM. A broad category like grain free or boutique cannot be linked specifically to any health condition simply because there is so much variety within categories like this. Even characteristics of a food such as containing legumes or exotic proteins is much too broad of a characteristic to be able to make causative conclusions.
Nutrient imbalance and deficiency
Taurine and carnitine have both been linked specifically to dilated cardiomyopathy. These are both non-essential nutrients for dogs because they can be manufactured endogenously in the liver. The synthesis processes can be disrupted when dogs are fed diets that are low in total protein content or low in essential amino acids. Diets high in fiber can limit protein digestion and absorption which in turn can lead to deficiencies of essential amino acids, which affects production of taurine and carnitine. Other nutrients involved in the synthesis include iron, selenium, zinc and niacin; these nutrients have yet to be investigated for potential links to disease development.
Nutrients that could potentially affect development of canine DCM, but require further investigation, include vitamin E, potassium, choline, thiamine and copper.
In some studies, improvement was observed after a diet change, but other treatments were also administered, including taurine and/or carnitine supplementation and drugs such as inotropic agents, diuretics, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers. It is impossible to determine causation or even correlation with so many confounding variables.
One of the only research projects done in a controlled environment with proper experimental methods is a peer-reviewed, published study done by the university of Illinois. Dogs were fed either a diet containing 45% legumes, or a diet composed mostly of animal protein. Over 90 days, there was no significant difference when comparing amino acid and taurine status of the two groups. More detailed investigation is still required in order to make concrete conclusions.
Current FDA reports include sampling bias, small sample size, incomplete information about the sample population, confounding variables, lack of standardized measurements and conflicting information. It is not a scientific study, rather a collection of information submitted by pet owners.
The FDA sample population includes an over-representation of specific breeds such as Golden Retrievers representing 19% of all dogs in the report. Of all the dogs included with breeds named, 40% are breeds with a known genetic predisposition to developing DCM so it is not likely these cases are related to nutritional deficiencies, at least not exclusively.
Many of the reports were incomplete, missing the dog’s breed, age, weight, and not including complete diet history and medical records. The majority of reports included no analysis for taurine deficiency or any other nutritional deficiency. Some reports did not even include a diagnosis of DCM.
There was no control for confounding variables like treats, medication, supplements or other health conditions. In fact, the FDA Vet-LIRN report stated that 44% of the 202 dogs who were diagnosed with DCM via echocardiogram, also had documented concurrent medical conditions.
The FDA report states that boutique foods made by small manufacturers increase risk, but nearly half of the dogs in the report were consuming foods from the 6 largest pet food manufacturers in North America. It is also suggested that diets containing exotic proteins could be contributing, yet 76% of the diets named included typical pet food proteins such as chicken, lamb, salmon, whitefish, turkey, beef and pork. It is stated that grain free diets and diets containing legumes are related to DCM because the majority of the dogs in the report were eating this type of food, but this is what was specifically asked for, and no control data was collected to compare it to.
Based on the current scientific evidence available, there does not appear to be a link between “BEG” diets and dilated cardiomyopathy. More controlled research is required in order to obtain a better understanding of the disease and how it is related to genetics, metabolism and nutrition.
Without definitive conclusions from research, the best recommendation we can make is to provide variety in the diet of dogs. Any potential negative effect of a diet is compounded when the same diet is fed every day for every meal for an extended period of time. Rotational and combination feeding can mitigate the risk of continuous nutrient deficiency or adverse effects of specific nutrients or nutrient balances.
Click the link below to read a previous blog about combination feeding.
Global Pet Foods offers an incredible variety of high quality pet foods. We do our due diligence screening products so that our customers can be confident in what we offer. You can find the largest selection of Canadian made pet foods in addition to an abundant variety of food types. We guarantee satisfaction to our customers and our knowledgeable staff are ready and willing to help customers find the right products for their pets.
Click below to find your local Global Pet Foods store.
First aid is extremely important in emergency situations with pets. First aid is required to ease pain and prevent further injury until professional veterinary care can be obtained. Our pets (and our neighbours’ pets) are just as excited about the nice weather as we are, and they may become a bit more adventurous this season. Wildlife is also more active and potentially more aggressive if there are babies near by. There is more traffic on the road, more yard work on the go and spring cleaning is well underway. This time of the year is beautiful and also presents some dangers including wildlife, traffic, sharp tools, scary noises and garbage to get into! It is important to be prepared in case your pet, or a pet you come across, has become injured. The following information is only a sample of the kinds of things we should know as pet owners and lovers. Pet first aid training covers all of this and so much more, and we highly encourage all pet owners to invest in formal training.
In an emergency situation, your first priority needs to be safety! If you are put in danger or injured, you are of no help to the pet and you also may require medical attention. Ensure you are safe before attempting to administer first aid.
Animals need to be restrained before administering first aid as injured or scared animals can be unpredictable or dangerous.
You need to stay calm and focused in order to provide the best care for an injured animal. You also should get help. Another person can restrain the animal or provide transportation to a veterinarian.
Assess the condition of the animal and prioritize what needs attention first. Tend to the most threatening issue first.
Check if the animal is responsive to voice and touch. Check respiration and pulse.
Your goal is to stabilize the animal and transport to a veterinary clinic.
Checking and recording vital signs is an important indicator of the severity of an animal’s condition and can be a valuable tool for the veterinarian. It is also extremely helpful to record your pet’s normal vital signs at rest so you are able to identify changes in these vital signs, which would indicate injury or illness.
To check pulse, place your hand on the animal’s chest behind its elbow to feel the heartbeat, or place fingers on the inside of the back leg where it joins the body to feel the pulse in the femoral artery. Do not use your thumb to find the pulse. Count beats per minute.
Respirations can be checked visibly by watching for chest movements or holding a hand or tissue in front of the nose to feel or see breaths or by placing a hand on the animal’s chest to feel for movement. Count breaths per minute.
Check the mucous membrane colour by looking at the gums, and measure capillary refill time by pressing a finger firmly onto the gums above the canine tooth until the gums turn white under your finger and then release, counting the time it takes for colour to return.
Use the forms below to record your pet’s normal vital signs as a baseline reference.
Shock occurs when there is not enough oxygen circulating to meet the needs of vital organs.
Signs of shock:
Remember to always restrain an animal before attempting first aid. If an animal appears to be in shock, handle gently and keep the animal quiet. First control any bleeding and then check the airway, breathing and circulation. Keep the animal warm and transport immediately to a veterinarian. Do not give the animal anything to eat or drink.
Bleeding from minor cuts will stop within a few minutes. Severe bleeding requires immediate first aid as it can lead to shock and eventually death.
Restrain the animal first. Cover the wound with clean gauze and secure with a bandage. Reinforce dressing as needed if bleeding continues. Transport to a veterinarian.
There are many types of injuries and the action you take will vary depending on what type of injury the animal has sustained. Always transport to a veterinarian once the animal is stabilized.
If an animal has a broken bone, first control any bleeding, move the animal as little as possible and support the animal during transportation. If splinting a broken limb, do not attempt to bend the limb; splint in the position found.
In the case of an injury directly to the eyeball, use a cold compress and do not apply direct pressure.
For minor burns, apply a cold compress or submerge in water and apply sterile dressing and bandage. If burns are severe, transport immediately to a veterinarian and monitor vital signs.
Common foreign object injuries this time of year include porcupine quills, fishhooks and grass seed.
Porcupine quills can be removed without sedation if there are only a few; grasp the quill close to the skin with needle nose pliers and slowly pull straight out. If there are many quills or they are inside the mouth or near the eyes, they should be removed by a veterinarian.
To remove a fishhook when the barbed portion has not penetrated the skin, simply withdraw the hook from the skin. If the barb has penetrated the skin, push the hook forward until the barb sticks out. Cut the shank of the hook and remove it.
Many pet owners are unaware that grass seeds can become lodged in an animal’s nose, ears, feet, between toes or in the throat. If the object is visible, try removing it gently. Do not use tools in an animal’s nose or throat. If they cannot be removed, contact a veterinarian.
If an animal is having difficulty breathing, is gagging, rubbing their face on the ground or pawing at their mouth, they may be choking. Restrain the animal, open the mouth and pull the tongue forward to inspect the throat. If the object is visible, grasp it with your fingers and remove it. If this is not possible, a version of a Heimlich maneuver can be performed.
For small pets, place them against your stomach with their head up and feet hanging down. Put your first two fingers in the hollow space just below the rib cage and push inward toward your belly and upwards towards your chin at the same time.
For large pets, lay them on their side on the floor and kneel behind them, with your knees touching their back. Lean over them and place your closed fist in the hollow below the rib cage and press sharply upward and inward towards their head and your knees.
These maneuvers should only be done in severe emergency situations and your pet will require veterinary attention even after the object has been removed.
Always be conscious of potential dangers in your pet’s environment!
*The information provided here is intended as a guide only and does not replace formal first aid training.
It is important for at least one person in your household to have pet first aid training. If you experience a pet emergency, always phone your veterinarian or animal emergency clinic so they can give you guidance and/or prepare for your arrival.
Prevention of illness and injury is the primary objective of all pet owners and animal lovers. Pet first aid courses provide training that is essential for prevention in addition to emergency first aid training. We encourage all pet owners to receive animal first aid training.
With the legalization of marijuana, it is becoming more common in households. It may not be in your household, but it could be in your neighbour’s, your friend’s or family’s household. People may not be concealing it in the same way, so it could become more accessible to curious pets. Dogs and cats are crafty and are more capable of accessing seemingly inaccessible areas that we might think.
It is important for everyone to understand the dangers of THC when it comes to pets and how to recognize when they have been exposed.
Exposure to the toxin is most commonly through ingestion but second-hand smoke can also expose your pet to harmful levels of THC.
THC is a very fat-soluble substance, so it is metabolized by the liver and can be stored in the fatty tissue there or in the brain and kidneys before being eliminated. The majority of THC is eliminated in the feces (up to 90%) and the rest is excreted through the kidneys. The effects of the drug will wear off only after it has been metabolized and eliminated.
Symptoms of THC toxicity may be present very shortly after ingestion or many hours after and can last anywhere from approximately 30 minutes to several days. These factors are dependent on the dose ingested as well as the individual animal.
Dogs in particular have more cannabinoid receptors in their brain than people do, so THC can affect them significantly. Most symptoms appear neurological, such as wobbly, uncoordinated movements, dilated pupils, disorientation and vocalization. They may drool excessively or vomit as well as dribble urine. Tremors, seizures or coma are potential in severe cases.
There are tests available that can be done by your veterinarian to confirm the pet has ingested marijuana. Not all clinics have the test available, and it is important to always be honest with clinic staff about the potential for THC exposure. Your veterinarian’s priority is helping your pet, and no one in the clinic is there to judge, so there is no reason to hide anything.
Treatment options will vary depending on the situation. In cases where ingestion is witnessed or confirmed shortly after, your veterinarian may induce vomiting to prevent absorption of the toxin. This is not possible in cases where the symptoms are not present until after the drug has been absorbed. Your vet may choose to administer IV fluids to prevent dehydration and maintain blood pressure and organ function. In some cases, the pet may be sent home to be monitored by the owner until the drug is metabolized and symptoms subside. When the pet is home, it is important to keep stimuli to a minimum. Keep your pet in a dark, quiet place where they feel comfortable but are confined enough to prevent them from injuring themselves.
After your pet has come out of the toxicity, they will likely be very hungry and thirsty. Allow them to eat and drink, but in small amounts at a time so they do not over-do it and make themselves feel sick or bloat. Most pets will be visibly back to normal once the drug has been metabolized and eliminated. It is possible that there will be lingering digestive affects from the ingestion of a toxin, especially if it was a large dose. Monitor your pet’s body condition in the following weeks and if they experience weight loss, consider digestive support supplements for a short time until they are back to ideal body condition.
Prevention is key; keep all potentially toxic substances inaccessible to pets and remove pets from the area while smoking. If you suspect your pet has ingested or been exposed to a toxin, call your veterinarian or local emergency vet clinic.
Feeding a raw food diet can have serious health benefits for pets. High in protein and fat, low in carbohydrates and high in moisture, a raw diet is built for carnivorous pets like dogs and cats. Not only is the nutrient balance ideal, the way the nutrients are incorporated ensures optimal benefit. When nutrients are consumed as part of a whole food, in their natural state – the food matrix – they are more bioavailable and have greater impact on the body. In a raw diet, the food matrix is unaltered by heat or other processing, which ensures pets are able to get what they need from their food and are not exposed to any harmful chemicals that may be generated by refining or cooking processes.
When it comes to choosing a raw diet to feed, it is important to know about the manufacturer – their processes, their formulas and their values. Every manufacturer has a unique way of doing things; depending on what your values are as a consumer, you will align with manufacturers differently.
Here we are highlighting a company with one of the most unique processes in the industry.
K9 Choice Foods Premium Raw Pet Food is a family company in Alberta, Canada. The most interesting thing about this company is that they raise many of the livestock that are used in their recipes. This offers a high degree of control over the quality of their products. Not only that, it provides them with control over how the animals are raised; which is free range without the use of hormones or steroids. In addition to this, the age at which animals are processed, specifically cattle, can be controlled. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has much stricter regulations in place for facilities processing cattle of 30 months of age or older. Typically, cattle that are processed for the human food chain are less than 2 years old. The folks at K9 Choice just feel like this isn’t a long enough life to give the animals that give our pets sustenance, so they are allowed to graze and roam for much longer. What this means for consumers is that their processing facility goes through a more rigorous inspection process even than many of the facilities that supply beef to the human food industry.
Every part of the animal is available for the pet food recipes, even the most prime cuts of meat. In addition, the meat is not aged, and therefore retains all the moisture that is so important for hydration. The time from pasture to package is less than 24 hours – it does not get any fresher than that. Fresh, high quality protein is the foundation of a premium raw diet. This foundation is built upon with fresh produce to create balanced recipes.
From the company:
A Raw Dog food company built uniquely by design and philosophy.
Almost 20 years ago the idea of K9 Choice was born. Designed unlike any other we are the only raw dog food company that raises, processes and packages as many of our own naturally raised proteins as possible. We have shaped everything we do around the simple premise that we can and should feed our beloved pets the very best, real, and truly natural whole foods possible. When we started we made small, hand-crafted batches of a few hundred pounds maybe a few times a month, 20 years later we use the same small-batch, handcrafted, minimally processed techniques…..only we now make several batches an hour!
Pasture to Package isn’t just our tag line, it’s the philosophy we live every day.
K9 Choice Foods is now available at Global Pet Foods stores nationwide! Call your local store to inquire.
A healthy gut is part of our pets’ overall well-being. Gut health has been linked not only to digestion but to immune system function, skin and coat condition and even behaviour. There is a large microbial population in the gut that is key to the health of this body system.
There is always a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the large intestine, and a healthy gut has a significantly larger population of “good” or beneficial bacteria than “bad” or undesirable bacteria. In order to maintain a healthy balance, the beneficial bacteria need to be supported and nourished and the intestinal environment needs to be effectively cleared of waste.
Fibre is important more maintaining a healthy gut, but it is not the amount of fibre that is most important, it is the type of fibre that is important. Quality pre-biotic fibre is readily fermentable by beneficial bacteria. A few sources of fermentable fibre are chicory root, beet pulp, flaxseed, lentils, oatmeal and apples. Insoluble fibre is not fermentable and does not support the microbial population in the gut. Some insoluble fibre is beneficial for gut health because it helps to clean dead cells and waste from the intestines.
While the right kind of fibre is essential for maintaining the gut microbiome, there are aspects of other nutrients that are important as well. Protein, fat and starch, while not typically related directly to gut health, are important to consider. Unlike fibre, these are nutrient we do not want in the large intestine since they can have a negative impact on gut health. These nutrients need to be highly digestible so that they are almost entirely broken down and absorbed in the small intestine, and all that is left is waste to be excreted. When high levels of these nutrients wind up passing through into the large intestine, they can inhibit beneficial bacteria or support undesirable bacteria.
Undigested fat that passes into the large intestine can interfere with the function of beneficial microbes by coating their cell membrane, essentially smothering them so they cannot function properly.
When starch passes into the large intestine, it becomes food for lactic acid bacteria, which, you guessed it, release lactic acid. This disrupts the pH of the gut and negatively impact beneficial bacteria populations, allowing undesirable bacteria to begin to take over.
Protein that is not fully digested is consumed by proteolytic bacteria in the gut. These bacteria can become pathogenic, migrating up the digestive tract into the small intestine where they could cause a lot of damage. These types of bacteria also have the potential to produce and release toxins that may be absorbed into the blood stream or cause damage to the intestinal lining.
While fibre is very important for maintaining a healthy microbial population in the gut, it won’t matter if you are feeding the best fibre source possible if the other nutrients in the diet are not digestible enough.
February is dental month and there are many different oral care products that can help you maintain your pet’s pearly whites!
Still considered the gold standard of oral care, brushing your pet’s teeth gives them the best chance at fighting plaque and tartar build-up and the development of periodontal disease. Brushing the teeth is the most effective way to remove food debris from the teeth, limiting the build-up of plaque and bacteria. The other benefit of brushing is the action of the bristles stimulating the gums, or gingivae. This stimulation increases circulation and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the gums, helping to keep the structure healthy and strong and able to fight inflammation.
If you begin brushing your pet’s teeth right away when they are young, consistently brushing the teeth three times per week can sufficiently clean the teeth and stimulate circulation for healthy gums. However, if your pet has not had consistent brushing, as is the case with most rescues, brushing must be conducted daily to have a significant impact.
It is popular opinion that kibble diets will clean dogs’ and cats’ teeth. This simply is not the case. If you consider the metal tools that your vet needs to use to clean plaque and tartar off your pet’s teeth, there is no way any kibble is going to be abrasive enough to clean plaque and tartar off your pet’s teeth.
Many “dental diets” incorporate ingredients that increase the density of the kibble or that allow for the kibble to be extruded with lots of air bubbles to create a large kibble that requires a lot of chewing. These ingredients are usually insoluble fibre. Not only are these insoluble fibres not digestible by our pets, they can reduce digestibility of other important nutrients in the diet, meaning your pet may not be able to extract the necessary nutrients from their meals.
One thing that dry food does do for oral health is encourage saliva production. Anything dry that your pet eats will stimulate production of saliva which contains antibacterial proteins that keep the mouth clean.
It is more effective and less detrimental to digestion to offer dental solutions separate from regular meals.
Dental chews (edible):
Edible dental chews are an easy, delicious way to support oral health. However, not all dental chews are created equal, some being more effective than others.
The texture of a dental chew is very important in determining its effectiveness. Chews should be malleable and not brittle, while remaining dense enough to last while being chewed. The texture and size should allow for the teeth to sink deep into the chew causing it to push on the gums, stimulating the gingivae. This is what keeps the structures of the mouth healthy to fight against periodontal disease. Hard, brittle chews do not offer this benefit, only offering the benefit of saliva production like dry kibble. It is recommended to offer edible dental chews separate from regular meals (a few hours apart) to ensure they do not alter digestion of essential nutrients.
Raw bones are also beneficial for oral health. Raw bones are softer than smokes bones, so they offer more gingival stimulation, plus they have natural enzymes and probiotics that help to clean the mouth and support the healthy microflora population.
Non-edible dental toys are an alternative to edible dental chews. These products do not contribute calories, so they are a good choice for pets on a weight management program. They also last much longer so may provide more benefits. Soft rubber that teeth can sink into or bristle-like protrusions on the toy can provide adequate stimulation of the gums.
Food and water additives are also available to help maintain oral health for your pets. For best results with these products, they should be used in addition to one or more of the other methods for teeth cleaning since they do not provide any mechanical stimulation of gingivae or physical scrubbing of teeth.
Food and water additives work better than a dental diet because the active ingredients do not interfere with the delivery of essential nutrients while they serve their purpose. Active ingredients could include anti-inflammatories, antibacterial or antifungal substances, enzymes, probiotics or immune boosting and wound healing ingredients.
Find out what is best for your pet:
There are many oral care products and a variety of strategies can be developed. To help you decide which strategy and products are the right choice for your pet, visit your local Global Pet Foods store and speak with the knowledgeable staff.
Digestive upset is a common complaint of pet owners, including stomach upset, loose stool and not finishing meals. There are many causes of digestive upset, and it is not always easy to discern the root of the problem. Many people wonder if the food their pet is eating is a contributing factor. A common concern that their food might be “too rich.” What most people mean when they say a food could be too rich is that the food may be too high in protein or fat. Is it possible for a dog or cat food to be too high in protein or fat?
In order to understand this, we can look at the nutrient requirements established by the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC analyzes all current scientific research to establish nutrient requirements for animals, including minimum required levels and maximum levels that are not to be exceeded. The NRC has established that there is no upper limit for protein or fat in the diet of cats and dogs that would be deemed inappropriate. Therefore, based on all current scientific evidence, there is no level of protein or fat that would be considered “excessive.” As for carbohydrates, there is no minimum requirement for dogs and cats; the NRC has established that dogs and cats do not require any carbohydrates in their diet.
Dogs and cats are carnivores and appropriate diets contain high levels of animal ingredients. It is true that dogs are somewhat adaptable and can thrive with produce included as a small portion of their diet, but not as main components.
So why do “rich” foods seem to be causing problems for some dogs? These high protein and fat foods are very nutrient dense, meaning there is a lot of nutrition concentrated in the kibbles, and dogs do not need to eat as much of them in order to get everything they need. Most often when dogs exhibit digestive upset when eating these diets, it is because they are eating more than what is necessary.
When feeding nutrient dense foods, it is easy to over-feed by accident. When too many nutrients are given in a meal, the digestive system does not have enough time to sufficiently break down and absorb everything. The majority of fat and protein should be digested and absorbed in the small intestine. When this doesn’t happen, these nutrients pass through to the large intestine and can have detrimental affects on the micro flora population in the gut.
Beneficial microbes in the gut “consume” (ferment) dietary fibre for energy, releasing beneficial fatty acids as by-products of their metabolism. These beneficial bacteria, when supported, out compete “bad” bacteria that also live in the gut, preventing them from becoming pathogenic. When undigested nutrients other than fibre pass into the large intestine, these nutrients feed undesirable populations of bacteria which can release harmful substances as by-products of metabolism.
When the micro flora balance in the gut is disrupted, symptoms include loose stool and intestinal discomfort due to gut lining damage or toxins released by harmful bacteria. Decline in healthy bacteria populations can also lead to compromised immune function, since these bacteria contribute significantly to body defenses.
If you are feeding more than your dog needs, the easy solution is to simply feed less. Even if you are feeding the amount that is suggested on the package, you can reduce the amount. Every dog is different and just like people, some require more food in order to receive proper nutrition, so guidelines have to be a slight over-estimation to make sure dogs are not under nourished. Unfortunately, this can lead to some dogs being over nourished, leading to weight gain or gastrointestinal upset. Dogs should be consuming just enough food to maintain a healthy body weight and support their activity. Excess food intake is detrimental to the health of a dog in a variety of ways and should be prevented.
If you need assistance determining how much to feed your dog, consult the knowledgeable staff at your local Global Pet Foods store.
A new decade is rolling out and there’s no better way to celebrate than spending the night with friends and family. Laugh, play games, eat snacks and take pictures! It’s not easy to get the perfect selfie with another human being; it’s even harder to get a perfect selfie with your pet!
We’ve come up with a few tricks to help you keep your pets attention and get them looking at the camera!
Have you figured out any tricks to getting the perfect selfie with your pet? Do you have any selfie fails? Share them with us on Facebook!
If you have a dog and have not observed this behavior, consider yourself lucky! It is unpleasant. It is repulsive. It is downright nasty. Coprophagia – the consumption of feces. That’s right, dogs eat poop! Sometimes their own poop; sometimes the poop of another.
It is not always easy to discern exactly why your dog is doing this, but there are a few reasons it could be happening.
When a dog consumes the feces of another animal, such as eating from the cat litter box, it could simply be the result of their exploratory, scavenging nature. Dogs are adaptive carnivores and they have an instinct to scavenge for food. They tend to eat what they find, whether that may be fresh prey, leftover carcass, compost or feces. These diet choices may seem gross to us, but to a dog, these things are delicious.
If a dog consumes the feces of another dog, this may be due to the maternal instinct to consume the excrement of young puppies, as a “cleaning” behavior. This behavior may also occur in some hunting breeds as they have a strong instinct to cover up their scent (this instinct also leads to rolling around in feces). Some rescue dogs that have been confined to small, unclean spaces develop the habit of cleaning up after themselves as they prefer a clean “den” to sleep in; they may continue this habit in their new home, even though they have a clean space to sleep.
There are a couple of nutritional causes of coprophagic behavior in dogs.
If a dog’s diet does not contain enough nutrients to meet their requirements, the instinct to scavenge is heightened and dogs will attempt to acquire nutrition from any source they can, including feces and garbage. Even if minimum nutrient requirements are fulfilled, a dog may not feel full if the nutrient balance isn’t right for them. Higher protein and fat will help a dog feel more satiated than fiber or other carbohydrates.
Gut microflora imbalance:
Probiotic bacteria must come from the environment. If a dog has an unhealthy gut or an imbalance in the microbial population of the gut (not enough good bacteria or too much bad bacteria), the dog may be driven to consume grass, dirt or feces to acquire beneficial gut microbes. In the winter months, the environment is mostly frozen and so there are limited sources of probiotics, prompting dogs to munch on poopsicles!
The microbial balance may be disrupted for several reasons. Poorly digested food has a negative impact on gut health – undigested protein and starch feed problematic bacteria strains in the gut while undigested fat inhibits the function of helpful bacteria. Poor quality food, improper nutrient balances or damage to the gut can reduce digestion of nutrients. Beneficial microbes can also be disrupted by antibiotics or parasite infections, as well as environmental irritants that dogs ingest unintentionally.
What can be done?!
When it comes to scavenging or cleaning, the solution is training, supervision and timely pick-ups. Dogs can be trained out of this behavior, but the most effective solution is keeping a close watch and preventing access. Cat litter boxes should be kept away from the dog and feces in the yard should be picked up immediately.
In the case of a nutritional deficiency and problems digesting food, a diet change might be the solution. Choose nutrient dense formulas made with high quality ingredients that do not require a high feeding volume. Feed only what is required to maintain ideal body weight and avoid over-feeding.
Probiotic supplements are a great way to quickly replenish healthy microflora populations. These supplements can be used in conjunction with a diet change or can be added to the current food.
If you are experiencing this issue and need more information or guidance, visit your local Global Pet Foods and speak to the knowledgeable staff!
Choosing how to feed our pets can be a difficult decision to make. We want to choose the food that is best for them, since we will be feeding it to them every day for every meal. But what if we choose to not choose? A new philosophy of feeding pets is here – combination feeding.
What is it? Feeding a variety; including a multitude of ingredients and types of food as well as different nutrient balances.
How is it different? The most common way to feed pets is to feed one food, or a few formulas from the same brand. Most pet owners also only feed one type of food (kibble only/raw only) or maybe two (kibble and cans).
What is it beneficial for? Weight management, digestive health, preventing sensitivities, hydration, overall health, budget.
The benefit for weight management comes down to metabolic flexibility. By feeding a variety of foods with different nutrient balances, digestive and metabolic processes need to be very active and very adaptable, allowing the body to switch between different fuel sources (protein, fat, carbs) efficiently, resulting in less energy deposition (fat deposition). It is still important not to over-feed. Total calories should not exceed maintenance requirements and daily calorie intake should not differ when feeding different foods. Feed to the ideal body condition and pay close attention to any changes in body condition or muscle condition.
As previously mentioned, varying the nutrient balance of meals results in active and flexible digestive processes (enzyme activity). This not only ensures pets get the most out of their food by absorbing as many nutrients as possible, it also limits the amount of undigested nutrients that end up in the large intestine. Undigested fat, protein and starch is detrimental to the microbial population in the gut. Feeding different formulas also provides a variable balance of fibre. there are many species of beneficial microorganisms in the gut, the balance of which is unknown. It is beneficial to provide a variety of prebiotic fibre sources to ensure all beneficial bacteria are supported.
Adverse food reactions could be related to over-exposure to certain proteins along with damage to the gut. Feeding the same protein source every single day means the body is exposed to that same protein every day. Some damage to the gut lining is inevitable, whether it be from infection, environmental irritants or poor-quality food. Damaged areas of the gut lining can allow large particles of undigested nutrients to pass through when they are not supposed to, eventually leading to a reaction from the immune system. The first benefit to combination feeding is limiting gut damage. By including raw or raw alternative foods, we decrease the amount of processed food we are feeding. On top of this, we are not constantly feeding the same exact ingredients, and this limits the chance of over-exposure to the immune system.
The average dog must consume approximately 1oz of water per lb of body weight to remain hydrated, and the average cat requires about 0.8 oz of water per lb of body weight. These requirements increase in warmer temperatures or with higher activity. If animals are consuming a primarily dry diet, it is very easy for them to become dehydrated by not drinking enough. Hydration is essential for every process in the body. Incorporating moist foods into the diet is an easy way to hydrate pets. Canned food, rehydrated freeze dried/dehydrated, wet toppers or raw food are all very hydrating and palatable.
There are so many ingredients used in pet foods and many philosophies surrounding the feeding of pets. Grain free, grain friendly, novel proteins, raw diets, low carb … it seems impossible to navigate; how do we know which foods to choose and philosophies to follow? The great thing is that we do not have to choose just one. Every ingredient has nutritional value and every type of food has benefits. We can offer our pets the benefits of everything by feeding many different formulas. Sometimes, ingredients have potential downsides for certain pets. It may not be clear which ingredients are not tolerated as well by our pets until much later in life. We may only see a negative impact when an ingredient is fed every day for many years and by feeding a variety of ingredients, any potential negative effects would be diluted immensely.
We all want to purchase the absolute best food for our pets that we can afford. Sometimes though, our budget changes. Unexpected expenses come up, holidays strain the budget, lifestyles change. When budgets change and a less expensive formula is needed, or maybe there is more money available to be spent, it is much easier to transition diets when our pets are already flexible.
Combination feeding allows us to see which types of diets our pets do best on so we can more specifically tailor their feeding plan for their individual needs. It also allows them to obtain the benefits of different types of foods and ingredients and offers them a variety of flavours to enjoy.
There are many ways to start combination feeding. Different formulas can be rotated on a monthly, weekly or daily basis, different types of food can be mixed together in various combinations, or more simply, nutritious food toppers can be added to your pet’s current diet.
Visit your local Global Pet Foods store and speak to the educated staff about how to start introducing combination feeding to your pet.