Category Archives: dog nutrition and labelling

Dogs could be more similar to humans than we thought

Dog and human gut microbiomes have more similar genes and responses to diet than we previously thought, according to a study published in the open access journal, Microbiome.

Canine Microbiome

The canine microbiome is quite similar to that of humans. Credit: © Kar Tr / Fotolia

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho and colleagues from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in collaboration with Nestlé Research, evaluated the gut microbiome of two dog breeds and found that the gene content of the dogs microbiome showed many similarities to the human gut microbiome, and was more similar to humans than the microbiome of pigs or mice.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, corresponding author of the study, commented: “We found many similarities between the gene content of the human and dog gut microbiomes. The results of this comparison suggest that we are more similar to man’s best friend than we originally thought.”

The researchers found that changes in the amount of protein and carbohydrates in the diet had a similar effect on the microbiota of dogs and humans, independent of the dog’s breed or sex. The microbiomes of overweight or obese dogs were found to be more responsive to a high protein diet compared to microbiomes of lean dogs; this is consistent with the idea that healthy microbiomes are more resilient.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, commented: “These findings suggest that dogs could be a better model for nutrition studies than pigs or mice and we could potentially use data from dogs to study the impact of diet on gut microbiota in humans, and humans could be a good model to study the nutrition of dogs.

“Many people who have pets consider them as part of the family and like humans, dogs have a growing obesity problem. Therefore, it is important to study the implications of different diets.”

The researchers investigated how diet interacted with the dog gut microbiome with a randomized controlled trial using a sample of 64 dogs, half of which were beagles and half were retrievers, with equal numbers of lean and overweight dogs. The dogs were all fed the same base diet of commercially available dog food for four weeks then they were randomized into two groups; one group consumed a high protein, low carb diet and the other group consumed a high carb, low protein diet for four weeks. A total of 129 dog stool samples were collected at four and eight weeks. The researchers then extracted DNA from these samples to create the dog gut microbiome gene catalogue containing 1,247,405 genes. The dog gut gene catalogue was compared to existing gut microbiome gene catalogues from humans, mice and pigs to assess the similarities in gene content and how the gut microbiome responds to changes in diet.

The authors caution that while humans and dogs host very similar microbes, they are not exactly the same microbes, but very closely related strains of the same species.

Source:  Science Daily

Advertisements

Your dog’s poo

They say that the eyes are the window to the soul; in many ways your dog’s poo is a window on their health.

(I never thought I’d see the day when I wrote about poop – but there’s a first time for everything.)

Have you noticed that the color of your dog’s poo changes with what they are fed?  For example, if you are feeding raw venison, chances are the poo is quite dark.

If, however, the stool has a noticeably black color such as in this photo, this can indicate digested blood and you should be off the vet for a check (don’t be shy, take a sample with you!).

A yellow or slightly green tone indicates a rapid transit time in the bowel, typical if your dog has had diarrhea, as in below.  But consistently soft stools can also be an indicator of bowel disease such as IBD.

Diarrhea or loose stool

A white or chalky color to the stool indicates a very high content of calcium, often found in dogs that are being fed raw with a high bone content.  If your dog is passing stools of this color, they are at risk of constipation from the bone material they are ingesting because of the dryness and risk of impaction.  In my practice, I am seeing  instances of poor mixing of raw foods and it usually from the same supplier – which is why I recommend only certain sources of food to my customers.

White chalky stools, an indicator of high bone content

If you see bright red blood in the stool, it’s also time to talk to your vet and of course, if you see visible worms than a vet visit is also recommended.

And finally, if your dog passes poos that are a neon green in color, they’ve been exposed to rat or mice poison and urgent attention is needed.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Most dog treats exceed recommended daily energy allowance

Most commercially available dog treats contain a range of undefined ingredients, including sugars, and often exceed the recommended daily energy allowance for treats (‘complementary feed’), warn researchers in the Vet Record.

They say treat labels should be more explicit and provide more detailed information on ingredients and energy content to prevent dogs becoming overweight or obese and at increased risk of conditions like diabetes.Chicken jerky treats for dogs

Dog treats represent the fastest growing segment of the pet food industry. European regulation states that dog treats should be labelled as ‘complementary feed’ and sets out rules for labelling to provide adequate information for consumers.

World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines also state that daily treat intake should not exceed 10% of a dog’s energy needs (known as maintenance energy requirement or MER).

But little is known about the nutritional value of treats and their impact on the dog’s diet, health and wellness, despite the popularity of such products.

So researchers led by Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy, set out to compare the nutrient composition of different categories of treats and to verify whether daily intake recommendations on the label were in accordance with WSAVA guidelines.

They identified 32 popular dog treats available in pet shops and supermarkets (five biscuits, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five rawhides [dry bovine skin], twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks).

Products were analysed for levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).

They found that three out of four (76%) of treats contained between four to nine ingredients, and that ingredients were not precisely described on the label. For example, biscuits and dental sticks had ‘cereals’ listed as the first ingredient, while tenders, meat strips, rawhides and chewable sticks had ‘meat and animal derivatives’ listed first.

Almost half of products mentioned ‘sugars’ on the label’s ingredient list and all contained varying amounts of minerals.

The most calorically dense treats were biscuits, whereas the least calorically dense were dental sticks. When caloric density was expressed as kcal/treat, rawhides were the most energy-dense products, followed by chewable sticks and dental sticks.

When manufacturers’ feeding instructions (number of treats/day) were followed, on average, biscuits accounted for 16% of MER for dogs of any size; rawhides exceeded 25% MER for small-sized dogs and 18% MER for medium-sized dogs. Chewable sticks surpassed 10% MER for all size dogs, reaching 16.9% MER in small-sized dogs. Only feeding instructions for dental sticks remained below 10% MER for every dog size.

This is the first investigation to categorise dog treats and determine their nutrient profile,” write the authors.

They point to some study limitations, such as the small number of treats that were analysed in each category. Also, these results may not be representative of all products worldwide given the wide number of dog treats available on the market.

Nevertheless, they say their results suggest that treat labelling should include more information on the ingredients used, and that producers should reconsider the feeding instructions they provide on labels, especially for small dogs.

Caution should also be adopted when considering treats for dogs with specific ingredient sensitivities or in dogs with conditions such as heart failure and kidney disease due to their potential high mineral content, they add. Finally, they say future studies should sample a greater number of products to provide more precise data.

Source:  Science Daily media release

Journal reference: Giada Morelli, Eleonora Fusi, Sandro Tenti, Lorenzo Serva, Giorgio Marchesini, Marianne Diez, Rebecca Ricci. Study of ingredients and nutrient composition of commercially available treats for dogs. Veterinary Record, 2017; vetrec-2017-104489 DOI: 10.1136/vr.104489

Fish oil supplements – beware!

I regularly see posts on Facebook about supplementing dogs with fish oils.  I meet new clients fairly regularly who feel they are doing the right thing by feeding fish oil supplements to their dogs as a source of Omega 3 and for anti-inflammatory support.

However, most owners seem unaware of the studies that most commercial fish oil supplements in New Zealand are oxidised – meaning that the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids is dramatically lower than claimed on the label.  I’m not in favour of ingesting rancid oils!

In fact, this 2015 study found that only 8% of the supplements tested in the New Zealand market met the levels expected by international recommendations.  And higher-priced supplements and those with brand name labels were no indicators of better quality.

Another study based on supplements available in Canada showed that 50% of the supplements tested were oxidised.

In keeping with my philosophy of food as a source of wellness, I’ve moved away from the concept of fish oil supplementation using commercial supplements and instead choose real-life salmon and sardines as a source of fish oils.

If I was a dog, I’d choose a few sardines over a fish oil capsule any day!

tinned sardines

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

A tale of 2 dog foods

Clients of my practice know that I feed a hybrid diet, that is a diet that is part commercial dog food (dry food – ‘kibble’ as well as dehydrated raw food), raw (real meat) and homemade food using both real meat, vegetables, eggs and fruit.

We are preparing for our third annual fundraiser and I received a small bag of a dry food – readily available in supermarkets – as a donation for the rescue.  I set it aside in my office and, one evening, I heard the rustling of paper…

Izzy had helped herself to the donated food.  It seemed she found it quite tasty.

So, I decided the donated food could be hers and I would replace the bag with another one.  In the meantime, I let her have one small handful with one of her meals over the next few days.

And she did something she had never done before… during the night she was chewing on her feet.  Really chewing.  For the first night, I dismissed it as a one-off irritation.  By the fourth night, I knew something was up.

It was the dog food, of course!

The supermarket dog food has gone into the organics bin to be recycled.  I’ll make a donation to the fundraiser in lieu of another bag of that food!

Thought you might like to compare labels…

This is Izzy’s current ‘normal’ food:

Salmon Meal, Potatoes, Tapioca, Fish Meal, Chicken Fat, Peas, Blueberries, Cranberries, Papayas, Mangos, Apples, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Sunflower Seeds, Chamomile, Peppermint, Camelia, Natural Flavor, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Chloride, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Green Tea Extract, Rosemary Extract and Spearmint Extract

and this was the supermarket food:

Lamb (source of glucosamine), brewers rice, whole grain corn, whole grain wheat, poultry by-product meal (source of glucosamine), corn gluten meal, soybean meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, calcium phosphate, glycerine, animal digest, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, salt, caramel color, Vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, ferrous sulfate, sulfur, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity, sodium selenite.

Notice the differences?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

High meat diets – a NZ study

An independent study from New Zealand has found that a high meat diet is easier for dogs to digest, meaning more nutrients are able to be absorbed, resulting in higher levels of bacteria associated with protein and fat digestion.

The study found:

  • High meat diets are more digestible for dogs
  • More nutrients from a high meat diet are able to be absorbed
  • Dogs on a high meat diet had higher levels of the bacteria associated with protein and fat digestion
  • Dogs on a high meat diet had smaller poo and better fecal health

The research paper ‘Key bacterial families (Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Bacteroidaceae) are related to the digestion of protein and energy in the dog’ is accessible here.

With Government funding and funding from the NZ Premium Petfood Alliance, which is a collaboration between Bombay Petfoods, K9 Natural and ZiwiPeak, the research is being undertaken at AgResearch and Massey University.

“To date there has been hardly any published research, so this study is a significant contribution to the international animal nutrition field. A lot of diets on the market have been designed to ensure a dog survives, but this research shows that high meat diet is the best to help a dog thrive,” said New Zealand Premium Petfood Alliance spokesperson Neil Hinton.

Another study, about cat diets, is underway.

Source:  Beehive.govt.nz media release and AgResearch media release

Breed-specific dog foods

Back in January, I posted a blog about Prescription diets – what’s the truth?

In this post, I’m again going into the controversial world of commercial dog food and sharing some information on breed-specific dog foods.

The two labels most associated with breed-specific foods are Eukanuba and Royal Canin, although there are others.

 

In the November 2016 issue of Your Dog (published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University), veterinary nutritionist Cailin Heinze provided opinion about such foods.

Dr Heinze re-iterated the common theme about the lack of rules for marketing.  “It’s a free for all.”

Although these pet foods must meet the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standard, ‘tweaking’ recipes to make them slightly more suitable for a particular breed isn’t a big change to make.

The article points out that there are no feeding trials to support the claims made for breed-specific dog foods and that the breed-specific formulations are not therapeutic diets.

You will need to buy access to read the article in its entirety (follow the link above), and I won’t break copyright by printing too much of the article in this blog.

It is heartening to see a veterinary nutritionist making these comments.  Too often, criticism of commercial dog foods is discounted because the writers are not veterinarians.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand