Grain-free pet food is all the rage, trending right up there with human food fads, which include Gluten-Free, Paleo, and the Wheat Belly Diet. Everyone wants to avoid carbohydrates. Is choosing a grain-free pet diet really giving you what we all want, a healthier pet? Certain carbohydrates should be avoided, but some are really beneficial for dogs. Let’s think about spring-cleaning our pets’ bodies with that fabulous carbohydrate: fibre!
Some commercial dry pet foods contain up to 70% carbohydrates even though dogs can make their own carbohydrates out of protein and fats. Even canned pet food usually contains carbohydrates to reduce the ‘free water’ in the can (so that it feels more solid when you shake it). The main reason for this is cost. Plant-based carbs are less expensive and more readily available energy sources than proteins and fats. The starchy carbs used to add structure and texture to kibble creates a shelf-stable product, making it possible to ship it all over the world. The cost benefit flows to you, the consumers too. Cheaply made, inexpensive pet food has become the norm, creating an industry, and a lot of spoiled consumers who balk at paying the true cost of a healthy diet for their pets.
The great difference among carbohydrate types is important to understand that as each type has a unique effect on your pet’s health. Most people are familiar with sugars and starches but it’s more complicated than that. Carbs can be divided into two categories:
The other category of complex carbs is Fibre, and it’s the saving grace in any argument in favor of feeding carbohydrates to dogs. Actually an ‘empty’ carb because it offers few actual nutrients, it provides amazing service instead. Fiber types are either soluble or insoluble.
First of all, what are probiotics, anyway? Everyone knows they help optimize our gut flora (the bacteria occurring naturally in the intestine), but really, what are these things? Where do they come from?
Probiotics are living microbes which have a beneficial effect on the host animal by contributing to its intestinal microbial balance. Acidophilus and bifidobacteria are the most common types of microbes used as probiotics, but there are over 30,000 species of microbes that interact to maintain a healthy intestinal environment! Probiotics tip the balance in the gut toward friendly bacteria and away from pathogenic bacteria which can cause gas, bloating, pain, diarrhea, skin and coat problems and other illness. They’re great for helping dogs and cats recover from most digestive disturbances, both chronic and acute.
Although there are lots of commercial products on the market in pill and liquid form for high retail prices, probiotics are naturally found in foods such as fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, and kimchee) and sprouted seeds, for example. These are proven to be, by far, much more effective than the lab-made strains available in bottles.
Why? Because science cannot imitate the naturally complex relationships of all of the species of microbes that interact in the gut to maintain a healthy intestinal environment. Neither has science yet discovered all the ways the body interacts with each of these species to produce the beneficial effect. But most importantly, recent research shows that if the probiotic microorganisms are allowed to establish their own symbiotic environment prior to being ingested by the host body, they are ‘hardier’, more able to re-establish their dominance, more able to withstand the heat and acid environment of the gut.
And finally, commercial probiotics are created by isolating individual strains of microorganisms which are then artificially stimulated to reproduce in a laboratory. In the final product, the selected probiotics have been separated from their intrinsic supporting microbes that were present in the original natural state. These supporting microbes are critical to the survival of the selected strain, so the absorption and use of the finished probiotic by the body will be greatly and significantly reduced.
This means that when a native probiotic found in food is ingested while still in its natural host environment it remains supported by the full range of original microorganisms that allow it to function. It will stay healthy, viable and be much more bio-available for absorption within the animal’s intestine. Now that’s something to toot about!
Your animals’ skin is always sloughing off and renewing itself, just like our own. Have you noticed however, that as soon as we turn on the furnace in the fall our skin gets drier, and both you and your pets start to scratch and itch more frequently? You can apply creams and lotions but relief does not last as these external measures don’t cure dry flaky skin.
Don’t despair! You can get to the root of this problem with some preventative measurements and proper nutrition which are noted at the end of this article. But first, let’s get educated about that amazing organ protecting our insides: SKIN.
Skin becomes dry, flaky and itchy due to a number of factors, including: (1) old skin failing to slough properly (sometimes it just needs to be brushed); (2) underlying chronic illness including diabetes or hypothyroidism; (3) poor diet denying skin cells the nutrients required to replace themselves properly; or (4) environmental stress. ‘Winter itch’ is likely the result of a combination of factors, none of them dangerous, but all of them annoying.
The outermost layer, called the epidermis, makes the skin impermeable and protects the body from bacterial invasion and other environmental assaults. Also called the stratum corneum, the epidermis is composed of 3 major components that together create a physical wall enclosing the entire surface of the body, protecting it and preventing moisture loss.
Flattened, dead skin cells mainly composed of keratin plus other compounds called natural moisturizing factors (NMFs). Keratin is a humectant (which means it holds water) that gives skin its strength. NMFs are also humectants that not only hold water but also attract it. So because they are also water-soluble, the skin dries out if you shower or swim too long or wash your hands too much.
The proteins that hold the corneocytes together.
Fats comprised of ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol. In the stratum corneum, their role is to prevent the loss of NMFs from within the corneocytes. These lipids have another super important function: they combine with sweat to form the crucial thin layer of ‘acid mantle’—the chemical barrier that kills bacteria and regulates moisture loss. Lipids also lubricate the skin and are a major factor in giving it a smooth texture.
Winter is Tough on the Skin
For the stratum corneum to properly protect the body, it must be elastic and flexible, which is only possible when the skin is properly hydrated to between 20-35%. Each day, it loses approximately one pint of water through trans epidermal water loss, the continuous process by which water leaves the body and enters the atmosphere via evaporation. However, when humidity drops, as it does in cold-weather months, there’s a dramatic increase in trans epidermal water loss as the dry air pulls moisture from the skin. When the skin’s water content drops below 10%, it begins drying out, causing itchiness and flakiness. With less water in the skin, the production of NMFs becomes impaired and lipid levels fall, setting in motion a vicious cycle that is hard to remedy. With less water and fewer lipids to lubricate and protect it, the skin no longer exfoliates properly, resulting in a buildup of dead cells on the skin’s surface, making it look flaky. Dry flaky skin can no longer properly heal itself, resulting in destruction of the protective acid mantle, which then leads to infections…and round and round it goes.
Common Sense Measures
You can minimize discomfort in your animal by applying moisturizers that can bring temporary relief by covering fissures in the skin, which helps to restore the barrier function of the epidermis. However you’ll be wise to follow some other simple practices for the prevention of the itch in the first place:
Prevention Begins with Nutrition for Beautiful Skin and Coat
To ensure the body has a ready supply of those all-important Intercellular lipids that give the skin smoothness, restores the acid mantle and promotes proper exfoliation, it is crucial to feed good quality FATS to your animal. This means foods naturally high in ‘good fats’ including the kind found in avocado, clean meats, eggs, fish and sprouted flax. The sprouted seeds mix in Flora4 Ground Sprouted Seeds is rich in Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a type of Omega 3 fat found in plant foods which cannot be manufactured by the body. Once consumed, ALAs can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – the kind of fat that creates those critical intercellular lipids. A scoop per day of Flora4 mixed into your animal’s food, whether you are feeding Carna4, a Raw Foods diet, or anything else –will make a huge difference in relieving and preventing itchy dry skin all year round. Try some for yourself too –Flora4 is 100% organic human-grade food, so don’t hesitate to put some in your own yogurt on those cold winter mornings when you’re feeling a little itchy.
With the summer coming up, we are often hit with wanderlust. That impulse to travel. To experience things from the open road and to soak in all the adventures that we can. So, pack a few things, put a bandana on Sparky and hit the trail, what could be more simple?
Yes, it all sounds great until reality hits. Taking a road trip takes planning and organizing for the whole family. Adding Sparky to the mix is a great idea, but keeping him in mind when preparing is a necessity. Let’s take a look at the big picture. You will be traveling by car, stopping at hotels or campgrounds, eating along the way and taking in the sights.
Safety first, make sure Sparky is secured properly in the car. A seat belt designed especially for dogs is a great idea and you can pick one up prior to the start of your trip. A lot of dogs feel safe traveling in their crate and this might be an option depending on the space you have.
Packing for your pooch is like packing for the kids. Make sure you have a supply of water and a non-spill dish. Make sure you bring some dog snacks and toys. There are a variety of stuff-able toys in your local Global Pet Foods store, which can have treats put into them. This will provide some entertainment for your dog, and keep him settled for a while. One reminder, make sure you pack all food, human and canine, in sealed packages. You don’t want to stop for a bathroom break and notice Sparky sitting on the back seat with his face covered in donut crumbs!
Another important point to keep in mind is that it may be difficult to stop for food. You might think that going into one of the rest stops on the highway will suffice, but I have found the line-ups to be very long in a lot of cases. An alternative to this is to use only drive-thru restaurants, or to pack a picnic lunch.
It is also a good idea to pack a expandable leash. At home your dog might not stray far, but out in nature…well, nature may call. Your dog might catch a scent he wants to follow or even seek out his own adventure. Best to leash him in unknown areas, for everyone’s sake.
Once you arrive at your destination it is time to get settled. If you are planning on staying at hotels along your route, you should have reservations made in advance. Make sure it is a pet friendly establishment.
Even if your dog is the quietest, best-behaved dog that you have ever met, still bring his crate into the room. If you intend on going out and leaving your dog in the room, he should be crated during that time. If you know you live with a barker, or a dog that might bark when he hears people outside the door, then please don’t leave him alone. It is unfair to the other patrons. Again, his chew toy stuffed with his favorite treats will help to keep his mind off activities going on around him.
A few more things to keep in mind. These days we carry cell phones so make sure that is the number on your dogs tag. Most of our dogs have microchips, but it is important for your dog to also have immediate contact info right on his collar. If the dog has to go to a shelter or Vet clinic to be scanned for his microchip, it might be a few days before you re-connect with your dog.
Also remember to research where the Veterinarians are along your route and take any paperwork with you that might be important in an emergency. If your pet has a prescription, take a script in case the medication ends up at the bottom of the lake during a canoe capsize. Your first aid kit should include enough bandage material to take care of a cut paw and even some canine bug spray that you’ll find at your local Global Pet Foods store.
If you’re heading to the US, make sure you check with the border beforehand, so you have the paperwork you need to cross. A road trip with Sparky can provide hours of fun and memories. Get prepared, take lots of pictures, and journey in peace.
When winter is upon us, it is difficult to imagine that it will ever turn into spring. At the beginning of winter, it is hard to believe that we will ever see the snow melt. The winter doldrums seem to be inevitable and every year we wait for sunshine and BBQ season. You never see it happen, just one day it is there.
One of the best ways to cure the winter blahs, and to get ready for Spring, is to start an exercise program. Our dogs are great companions for one of the best fitness programs around…walking. In fact, many people find it easier to make a commitment to their furry companion than to make a commitment to themselves.
Starting a fitness program with your dog should be done step by step. It is not a good idea for either of you to overdue it at the beginning. Start slowly with a warm up, and work your way up to a brisk pace over time. Watch your dog for signs of fatigue, panting or slowing down and rest at appropriate times. Let’s face it…your own signs of fatigue may be evident long before your dog shows any
As we are now aware, this type of sustained aerobic activity can help reduce stress levels in humans. This type of exercise also affects dogs in a positive way. Many of us would prefer to spend the first couple of months of each year in hibernation, and during these times our television watching and Internet surfing becomes a larger part of our day. Our dogs do not have this type of distraction and therefore devise other ways to amuse themselves.
Many family pets become destructive during the winter months, often chewing household furniture and belongings. Dogs do suffer from stress related disorders, often from a change in routine. Getting your dog out, rain or shine or sleet or snow for regular daily exercise should help his stress levels and curb these unwanted behaviors. On top of that, a dog that is physically tired will have a lot less energy to spend chewing the table legs.
So, how much, and what type of exercise is required for your own dog? In some cases, there seems to be a point where the dogs get hyper active. Dog parks are great fun for dogs and people but sometimes can be too much of a good thing. They get into these groups and instead of “wearing out”, actually reach a point where they get into a frenzy.
One suggestion would be to watch your closely at the dog park and take notice of when his behavior changes. You can then use this guideline to cut your park visits a bit shorter, or to take a break from the group. Using your break to work on some obedience exercises to re-focus him can often help.
Given the correct amount of exercise, with a cool down period, you will notice that your dog should return home in a more relaxed state. The best idea when visiting the park is to walk there and back home. This walk should be about 15 minutes and on lead. This will provide the warm up and cool down periods needed. Many people drive to the park and home and the dog comes back into the house still in “park mode”.
It is important to remember that the cool down is equally important to the warm up. If your walk has been particularly strenuous, take an extra lap around the block at a slower pace.
The second part of an all-encompassing exercise program is to wear your dog out mentally. Using any obedience words, you have in your repertoire is a great way to tire your dog. Have him work for you. Have him do a nice heel to the park and back, sitting at all the curbs. Do a 15 to 20-minute obedience lesson each day, separate from your walks. Perhaps enroll in an advanced obedience class or get involved in a dog sport. Even teaching your dog tricks and putting him through his paces will help to tire him out.
The hardest part is usually getting started. Once you have settled into an exercise routine, the benefits will be so great that this habit will be hard to break, especially when you consider how important this time is for you and your dog to spend together. Come spring the pair of you will be in great shape and who knows, a marathon may be just around the corner.
It’s fall once again, and the end to another great summer, spent at the cottage or time off at home. While this can be an exciting time for the kids with all the back to school events, it can be a stressful time for the four legged members of the family. Seeing it from their eyes, it may have been a summer of swimming, barking, playing and sleeping, or simply chilling out with the family on vacation. It can be a hard adjustment for some dogs to get back into the routine of spending time alone. Spending part of their day alone is something that most dogs learn to tolerate.
Not even the most devoted dog owners can afford to skip work in order to entertain Sparky. This is not something to feel guilty over. Let’s keep this all in perspective. Your dog has a fabulous life. He gets fed, walked, medical attention, play time and lots of love. In return, he might have to spend time during the day by himself.
Most adult dogs, who have not enjoyed summers at a cottage, may not feel the effects of a routine change. If they have not spent time away at a cottage, their roles are more defined, and the relationship with the family is more established. They often have some obedience training under their belts, and they will be content, as we are, to sit and laze in the sun.
It is the younger dogs and puppies that may be the most affected and may develop separation anxiety. Many people add puppies to their families during the summer, with the main reason being that they will have more time at home during the holidays, and can devote more time to the new baby pup. This can be a lot of fun, and certainly the concept is good. The trouble can come later, when we haven’t taken the time to give our puppies a routine. Heck, it’s the cottage….routine has gone out the window for everyone!
Try to spend a week or two getting your pup used to what his future will hold. Give him periods of time where he is left alone, even while the family is outside. These periods of time should not only be when he is all tired out from a long hike, but can also be during the mornings when he is active. After all, that will soon be his reality. A puppy that has become the center of attention of a family will often have a harder time later on adjusting to the fact that all eyes are no longer on him. If you have rules that he will need to follow at home, start to teach them now. If he won’t be allowed to be near you while you eat, this should be started at the outdoor BBQ area.
If he won’t be allowed on your couch at home, it is best to discourage him jumping up on the slightly used older couch on the cottage back porch. This will help to ensure that he understands that there are some rules, and you are consistent in following them. Always a great lesson for any dog.
If your pup has spent the majority of his young life at a cottage, you must keep in mind that the lifestyle during the summer can be a lot more active. What this means to the puppy owner may be a false sense of what their pup is like when he is less tired. I used to say a tired dog is a good dog, and now I know better. I now know that a tired dog is a tired dog, which happens to act good because he is tired, not necessarily because he is good.
If you have a pup who was stimulated with a lot of activity, especially outdoor activity, then you may see a huge change when your pup has a lot less to occupy his time. It is important when you get home from vacation that you keep up a level of activity that is suited to your dog’s age and breed. Mental stimulation in the name of training and activities should also be practiced daily. Take this time to enroll him into an appropriate training class, to make sure he keeps mentally stimulated.
Memories are something that are precious to us, and summers spent at the family cottage can be amongst the best. Nothing beats sharing that with your dog.
Have you noticed that your dog seems to be more unruly than ever? It is common to see him pacing the hallway, counter surfing and dropping toys at your feet? This is a common time of year that has people picking up the phone to make that inevitable call to their trainer. It starts with the same lament, ”my dog used to be so good, and recently all his training has gone out the window”.
This is a fairly common problem, but still one that will frustrate most dog owners. It is very likely that there has not been enough stimulation, physical or mental exercise, for your particular dog. While this is an issue all year round, it is more evident during the winter months, when there are days we can’t get out with our dogs. Not to worry, there are lots of indoor activities to keep them active.
There are lots of dog training schools that provide classes in dog sports, which are ideal to build the bond we have with our dogs. Dog sports, such as Agility, will provide great exercise for dogs…and their people. Consider enrolling in a dog sport this winter. Of course, there are situations that prohibit attendance at classes, so devising a plan to keep your dog working at home is essential.
Teaching and practicing a trick is one of the first activities that comes to mind. It is great fun and can have multiple benefits. It doesn’t matter the actual trick you teach. Try paw, wave, spin and take a bow. You can get more advanced by grouping a number of trick together and soon your dog will understand how to pick up the kids’ toys or laundry and place them in the proper receptacle.
If you think that tricks are not for you, then practice all of your obedience words around the house. You can put the leash on and go for a heeling lesson around the living room. Sound crazy? Not really. In fact, you will soon find out that having to maneuver around the coffee table will focus both you and your dog on the task at hand. How about some sit/stays while you are watching TV. This will give your dog something to think about, and at the same time, keep him out of mischief.
A fun activity to do with your dog is Hide and Seek. This is especially fun if you have children to share this game with. Hold your dog in one room and have your child hide in a designated hiding spot elsewhere in the house. Have the child call his dog and as you release him, tell him to “go and find Billy”. You can increase the fun by using different rooms. As your dog catches on to the game, have your child stop calling his name and just give the find command to your dog.
If you live by yourself, or as an alternative, you can teach your dog to “find it”. First, take a piece of cardboard and fold it in half, like a tent. Hold your dog’s collar while you place a tasty treat under the tent. Guide your dog a few feet away and encourage him to find the treat. This should only take a few seconds. Start to increase the distance and then start to hide the tent in different areas of the house. The tent will draw his attention to the area of the treat. Your dog will have tons of fun hunting for his biscuit and it will certainly help to tire him out.
Using his favorite toy rather than a treat under the cardboard tent is a modification of this game. Soon you could be asking Sparky to go and find his bone or his ball by name. By teaching him to think while he plays, you will be mentally challenging him at the same time as giving him some fun playtime. This is also a great excuse to get him some new toys and treats. As if we need one!
By keeping your dog active over these long months, you will decrease his stress and add to his mental well-being. The benefits of that are many, including living with a dog that is not out to chew your rug or continue to pester you for attention. The bonus might be that you would become interested in a new sport, or a new trick, which could open up a whole new world for both of you. Have a fun winter!