Maintaining Microbial Balance in the Gut

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.

Caring for your pet’s pearly whites!

February is dental month and there are many different oral care products that can help you maintain your pet’s pearly whites!

Brushing Teeth:

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.

Dental diets:

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.

Dental toys:

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.

Dental supplements:

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.

Is your dog food too rich?

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.

Get a great selfie with your pet this New Year’s Eve!

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!

  1. Hold a treat! Grab one of your pet’s favourite treats and hold it in your hand with your phone so they look in the right direction.
  2. Stick a squeaker! Tape a squeaker to the holder on the back of your phone (if you have one) and squeak it just before you take the photo.
  3. Wrap a wire! Attach a wire cat toy to your phone holder (or wrap it on your hand) so it bounces around above your phone to get the big eye stare from your cat; you might even get a cute paw reaching up in your photo!
  4. Play a sound! Choose a sound your pet is interested in and play it through your phone to get their attention
  5. Sneak a selfie! Wait until your pet is asleep and then sneak up slowly, crouch next to them and snap a photo!
  6. Hold tight! If your pet will let you, hold them in position by their collar or if they are small enough, pick them right up so they can’t run from 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!

 

EW! Why does my dog do that?!

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.

Scavenging

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.

Cleaning

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.

Nutritional

There are a couple of nutritional causes of coprophagic behavior in dogs.

Nutritional deficiency:

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!

A New Philosophy of Feeding Pets

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.

Weight management:

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.

Digestive health:

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.

Preventing sensitivities:

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.

Hydration:

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.

Overall health:

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.

Budget:

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.

Dogs Played a Key Role in Human Evolution

Dogs are thought to be the very first animal ever domesticated by humans, and the only large carnivore to ever be domesticated. The first undisputable evidence of domesticated dogs dates back over 14, 000 years – this evidence being a dog buried with humans. There is some other evidence that may suggest domestication as far back as 36, 000 years ago.

Interestingly, a key event of human evolution dates back to a time just prior to evidence of early dog domestication – the disappearance of the Neanderthal species. Neanderthals were thriving in Europe before homo sapiens ever arrived there, but somehow, homo sapiens managed to outcompete their evolutionary cousins, resulting in their extinction, around 40,000 years ago. It is the theory of Pat Shipman, PhD, that cooperation with canines allowed homo sapiens to be much more successful than Neanderthals during climate change, a time of extreme vulnerability. Early humans shared similar social structures and cooperative hunting strategies with canines, allowing the two species to coexists in a mutually respectful relationship, eventually leading to emotional bonds.

Dogs and humans have been evolving side by side for thousands of years. We not only see this through archaeological evidence, but through gene analysis as well. A study in 2014 identified that both species underwent similar changes in genes associated with digestion and metabolism as well as in brain processes, like transport of serotonin. It has also been seen through scientific study that levels of oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” increase in both dogs and humans when they engage in physical contact, just as it does when interacting with individuals of their own species.

Dogs and humans have influenced the evolutionary path of one another and shaped the social world both species live in today. The similarities in gene patterns and hormone activity is not seen with wild wolves, only domesticated dogs that have been our evolutionary partners.

We may not know exactly when, or exactly how, dogs came to be human’s best friend, but we sure are grateful they did.

The SKINNY on Omega-3 FATS!

Omega oils are a popular supplement for both people and pets. Most of us are aware of some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but the extent of the support they offer is much greater than what is typically known. Omega-3 fatty acids offer a variety of benefits to the body including:

Omega-3 fats are a family of essential fatty acids; there are 3 main types that are necessary for health and must come from the diet, as they cannot be synthesized within the body. These three fatty acids are ALA, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are the active forms of omega-3.

Because ALA is not converted very well to EPA and DHA, dogs and cats should be supplemented with a marine source of omega-3 fatty acids for the greatest impact. Oils with the highest concentration of omega-3 come from sources that are further down the food chain. Algae oil, krill oil and oil from small fish, such as herring or anchovy, have higher concentrations of omega-3 than larger fish, like salmon.

When choosing an omega-3 supplement, it is important to ensure you choose a product that is fresh and pure. Guaranteed quality oils and third-party lab testing are sure-fire indicators of a superior product.

Baie Run Pet Products Inc. creates canine and feline marine sourced omega-3 supplements that are human grade – 100% fit for human consumption – and each batch is tested for purity at a third-party lab – every test result is available for viewing online.

Learn more about Baie Run Pet Products Inc. here.

Visit your local Global Pet Foods to find the ideal omega-3 supplement for your pet.

What you need to know about pet food regulations

The Canadian pet food industry is vast, dry dog food alone amounting to more than $700 million in revenue per year. Canadian households view their pets as part of the family, and it would be assumed that such a large, important industry would hold the same values and be tightly regulated. However, this is unfortunately not the case.

Canadian Pet Food Regulations

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will inspect imported ingredients and imported products for disease contamination only, to prevent animal diseases being introduced to Canadian livestock. Pet food that is manufactured here in Canada is not inspected.

Other countries have imposed much more comprehensive regulations.

United States Pet Food Regulations

The FDA mandates that pet food be safe to consume.

European Union Pet Food Regulations

Even more impressive are the regulations that the European Union (EU) have put in place. The EU has imposed regulations that encompass ingredients and ingredient sourcing, and manufacturing facilities’ hygiene, equipment and environmental impacts.

Why You Should Purchase Canadian Pet Foods

Supporting Canadian manufacturing should be a priority for all Canadian shoppers and choosing brands with high standards sets the bar for all Canadian manufacturers. There are many Canadian pet food brands that go above and beyond to uphold high manufacturing standards. By becoming aware of the different manufacturing policies and making a point to only purchase from brands with strict protocols, the industry is pushed towards putting in place strict regulations. Consumer awareness is the key to regulation development.

What to Look For

Research the brands you are interested in or contact their offices to ask about their protocols. The staff at your local Global Pet Foods are very familiar with many brands so are also a great source of information.

Look for brands that:

Nature’s Harvest is a brand that is made in a Canadian facility that is certified compliant with European Union standards. Click below to learn more about the Nature’s Harvest story and products.

Canadian Made

Environmental Allergy Management

Allergies are on the rise, and we see them more this time of year, not just for us but for our pets too. Incidents of dermatitis in our pets is increasing and our first instinct is to assume a food sensitivity. While food sensitivities are certainly becoming more common, we can’t forget about environmental sensitivities. It is important to note that environmental allergens not only affect the exterior of the body (skin, feet, ears) but also the digestive tract. Environmental pollutants and allergens are inhaled and inevitably swallowed; the gastrointestinal lining responds to these allergens just as the exterior skin does. It is possible that an environmental allergy will contribute to, or present as, a digestive sensitivity along with digestive responses.

We can’t control what is in the environment, unfortunately, so we have to do our best to manage the irritation our pets are dealing with this time of year.

Environmental allergens get trapped in our pets’ fur and cause constant irritation. It is important to clean these particulates away by bathing regularly with gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo. In between baths, good daily practice is to wipe the areas on our pets that are most exposed and that they are most likely to lick (licking will result in allergens being ingested). The ground contains the most concentrated irritants; this is where they all end up as they fall from the air. Rinsing or wiping our pets’ feet when they come in from outside can significantly reduce their exposure to these irritants and limited their ingestion. Bare bellies are also at high risk of irritation and should be wiped each day to prevent licking and hot spots.

When animals are dealing with allergies, it is very important to support the immune system, and all essential body functions. When the immune system is active, the body is under physiological stress and nutritional requirements may increase in these instances. Ensuring we are providing quality proteins and fats in sufficient quantities along with bioavailable vitamins and minerals is particularly important for supporting the health of the whole body.