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Dog Food Myth-Busting
By Nancy Kerns
Published: January 20, 2021 in Whole Dog Journal
The truth about the seven most common dog-food myths and misconceptions
When you consider the bitter disagreements among human nutrition experts about the value of or harm from various types of diets – vegan, vegetarian, raw, ketogenic, gluten-free, paleo, organic, you name it! – it’s not surprising that there are so many myths and misconceptions about what we should feed our dogs. Not surprising, but disappointing. At least humans can choose their own diets; dogs depend on us to sort out the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. So let’s bust some myths!
MYTH 1: All “complete and balanced” dog foods that meet the
nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles offer
the same amount of nutrition.
TRUTH: This couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only are the amounts of macronutrients (protein, fat, fiber) in dog food wildly variable, the micronutrient levels are, too! In this country, the legal definition of “complete and balanced” is established by a nongovernmental advisory group, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which publishes the requirements for complete and balanced canine diets in tables called the “AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.” AAFCO makes occasional adjustments to the nutrient levels in the tables as continuing studies in animal nutrition are conducted. Unlike the “recommended daily allowance” (RDA) model that guides human diets with target nutrient levels, the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles consist only of minimum values for all the nutrients required by dogs and maximum values for just a few nutrients that can be toxic if consumed in excessive amounts. As long as a food meets the minimum nutrient values expressed in the profiles, and doesn’t exceed the maximum values, it can be labeled as complete and balanced. That’s why it’s possible to compare two dog foods, both labeled as complete and balanced, and discover that Food A has twice as much fat or protein as Food B, or half as much iron or zinc. The truth is, it can take a little (or a lot) of trial and error to find foods that will fully support your dog’s health.
MYTH 2: “AAFCO Feeding Trials” are the gold standard for proving a food’s nutritional quality.
TRUTH: Actually, it’s quite possible for foods that have passed an AAFCO feeding trial to contain insufficient or excessive nutrient levels; if a food passes an AAFCO feeding trial, it doesn’t have to meet the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles criteria. Feeding trials establish whether a food can sustain dogs for six months (at the most), which means the food may fail to maintain a dog’s health for years on end. Also, nutrient levels that depart dramatically from established minimum and/or maximum requirements for dogs can take a lot longer than six months to have deleterious effects on a dog’s health. A true gold standard for proving the nutritional adequacy of a dog food would be something that combined both of the existing qualifiers. Doesn’t it seem like a food should have to meet the minimum and maximum nutrient levels established by AAFCO and pass a feeding trial to ensure that the food was palatable and digestible? Sigh.
MYTH 3: The best dog food is [insert the name of your favorite brand here].
TRUTH: We don’t care what brand name you insert in that myth; you’re wrong. There is no “best” food for all dogs, any more than there is a best food for all humans. Lots of us enjoy bringing our dogs to the pet supply store when we need to buy food. Buy you should really have your hands free, so you can pull bags down and read the fine print on the labels. Which nutritional adequacy standard does each candidate meet? How much fat and protein do they contain? What ingredients are they made of?
All dogs are individuals, just like all humans. While there are many of us humans who can live perfectly well on a diet of fast food and highly processed frozen and prepared foods, some of us would die on such a diet. Some people can’t eat certain ingredients – or foods that contain gluten or foods with high amounts of fat – without suffering serious consequences. Well, it’s the same with dogs. Some can eat anything without ill effects, while others have highly sensitive digestive tracts that are in constant revolt. While we are eager to inform you about the traits of better-quality diets from reputable companies, our goal is to give you good options to choose from. You have to find what works best for your individual dogs.
Myth 4: Once you find a food that suits your dog, you shouldn’t switch.
TRUTH: You know who benefits the most from this myth? The pet food company who captured the money you spent on food when you first got your dog.
It’s true that if you feed your dog the same food for months (or years) on end and then you change that food, he will likely display some digestive upset. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change his food; it means you should change his food more often!
Dogs have evolved with extremely efficient and flexible digestive abilities – and for the past few thousand years, they’ve been eating our leftovers, whatever that may be. They thrive on variety, just like we do. And the more variety there is in their diet, the more robust their digestion becomes. We strongly encourage owners to rotate among at least three different products from different pet food companies throughout the year. And more may be better! Why? Think back to Myth 1: No two foods contain the same macronutrient and micronutrient levels, and who is to say which ones have too much of this or too little of that for your dog? Most pet food companies use the same vitamin/mineral premix for all of their dry dog foods, but the nutrient levels in the premix used by one company will undoubtedly be different than those in the premix used by other companies.
If you feed only one food, or even several products from just one company, you are entrenching those nutrient levels in your dog’s body. Rotating among a few products (made by different companies) can supply nutritional balance over time. The exception to this recommendation? Dogs who have proven to be intolerant of any change or allergic to a number of ingredients.
Myth 5: The more the food costs, the better it is.
TRUTH: The inverse of this statement is for sure true – the cheaper a food, the lower its quality – but because there are so many factors that affect pricing, the original statement is false. Some companies spend much more money on marketing than other companies who make similar foods. Gigantic companies have an advantage in the economy of the scale of their ingredient purchasing and manufacturing costs, but may spend a ton on research and development. There are just too many factors involved to make a straight correlation between a high price and quality. One thing you can do is to compare the price per pound of products with similar ingredients and macronutrient levels. There are relative bargains to be had among good foods. Just don’t go looking for bargain-basement foods; rest assured that they will not meet our selection criteria.
Myth 6: You should ask your veterinarian what food is best.
TRUTH: We wish with all of our hearts that this myth was true, but the harsh fact is, few veterinarians know that much about nutrition or are willing to discuss any foods except the ones they sell.
We don’t think you have to buy the most expensive food in the store in order to properly nourish your dog – but you definitely should not buy bargain basement food. The first five ingredients of the food pictured right are: Corn, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat, and soybean meal. Blech.
A 27.5 pound bag of this prescription food, recommended by many veterinarians for dogs who are prone to any sort of urinary problem, costs around $90. Its first five ingredients are: Corn, chicken meal, pork fat, corn gluten meal, soybean mill run. (The legal definition of that last ingredient is “soybean hulls and such bean meats that adhere to the hulls which result from normal milling operations in the production of dehulled soybean meal”.) That’s crazy!
Don’t get us wrong: We respect and appreciate veterinarians, and we’re not accusing them of a profit motive here. In most cases, we suspect it’s a matter of familiarity and a limited amount of available bandwidth. As you already are aware, there are way too many products to choose from. Once a busy practitioner is convinced of the quality of particular pet food company’s products, whether because of a talented salesperson or an informative seminar she attended, she’ll tend to recommend those foods and eschew discussion of the rest. The lure of “prescription” diets that have been developed to address medical conditions can’t be overstated. If you were a veterinarian who was already putting in 12-hour days and barely keeping up with the workload, would you rather have a 30-minute talk with a client about diets with lower magnesium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and fat, which are supposed to be beneficial for her dog’s urinary tract health, or just recommend a prescription diet (conveniently carried by your clinic) that has those features? Not all vets are that interested in or knowledgeable about food. It’s always worth asking them what food they’d recommend for your dog and why. But if their only suggestion is the food sold in the clinic and there isn’t a compelling reason for that particular choice, with respect, we’d take the advice with a grain of salt.
Myth 7: Corn is poison for dogs! No, wait! It’s wheat. And soy!
TRUTH: If any one of these food ingredients were one-tenth as bad for dogs as people say (allergenic! indigestible!), we’d have a lot fewer dogs today. All of those ingredients have been fed to dogs for decades.
Like most myths, though, there are fine grains of partial truths behind these allegations. Corn, and to a lesser extent, wheat, rice, and millet are prone to Aspergillus fungal infections Aspergillus produces a highly dangerous substance called aflatoxin, which is not only a carcinogen but also can cause deadly liver damage in dogs. Pet food manufacturers that use these ingredients, especially corn, must be scrupulous about testing these ingredients as they come into their manufacturing sites and after the pet food is made. Soy is denigrated as an ingredient in dog food for other reasons. It’s been alleged to cause allergic reactions, reduce the digestibility of protein, cause gas and diarrhea, and interfere with the absorption of minerals like calcium and iron.
When used in pet food in minor amounts – and with proper quality control and ingredient testing – none of these or many other frequently impugned ingredients should be problematic for most dogs. Half a century ago, corn and wheat, in particular, were used in such high concentrations in dog food that it was almost inevitable that dogs who lived their whole lifetimes on these foods would be inadequately nourished. (We’re approaching a similar heavy usage/overreliance on peas and other of legumes in pet food today.)
Remember: If you change brands and formulas frequently, none of them should have an opportunity to cause long-term harm.
Of course, if your dog has an adverse response to any food, stop feeding it. Give him a different food until his symptoms resolve, then try it once more. If the problem recurs, or if it causes a similar reaction in more than one of your dogs, see if you can return it. Ask your retailer to report the issue to the manufacturer, or contact the manufacturer yourself. Note the ingredients on a calendar or your dog’s health journal so you can try to identify a pattern of problems that you can link to certain ingredients or brands of food.
Nancy Kerns is the editor of WDJ.
10 Scary Truths About Your Dog’s Food
40% of dogs are obese …
46% of dogs and 39% of cats now die of cancer…
Heart, kidney and liver disease are epidemic…
Like people, dogs are what they eat. Save your dog a lot of suffering, and save yourself a fortune in vet bills, by learning the truth about your dog’s diet.
Here are 10 important things you may not know about what your dog’s eating:
#1 Commercial Dog Food Is “Fast Food”
Heavily-processed fast foods (burgers, fries, tacos, etc.) as a big diet component can cause major health problems in people. How can fast foods be good for dogs?
Only dog food manufacturers think this nonsense makes sense. Dogs and people share roughly 75% the same genetic makeup, and we have similar nutritional needs. What we’re doing to our own health with processed foods, we’re also doing to our dogs. And it’s happening faster.
#2 People Food Is Good For Dogs
Despite what you’ve heard from friends, vets and pet food manufacturers, wholesome ”people food” is good for dogs. People food is only bad for dog food makers.
The same fresh, nutritious foods people eat can offer your dog the nutrition he needs and save you a mountain of vet bills. It just takes a little education to learn the small differences between human and canine nutritional needs. (Hint: no onions, grapes or raisins. Rinse off rich spices and sauces. Go easy on carbs and avoid wheat and corn.)
#3 Don’t Presume The Food Your Vet Sells Is A Superior Product
Veterinarians, like medical doctors, learn relatively little about nutrition in school.
Much of what they do learn comes directly from pet food company vets, sales reps, articles, studies, and seminars.
If your vet hasn’t studied and experimented on his or her own with raw or homemade diets, it’s unlikely that he or she knows bad food from good, and may be acting on outdated information or superstition. And if vets profit from selling one brand, and not another, they have a conflict of interest that may influence their opinions. (Some may even be prohibited by a manufacturer from selling more than one brand.)
#4 The Quality Of Processed Commercial Foods Is Suspect
Dog food may legally contain “4-D” meat: meat from dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals.
Add a little road kill, mill floor sweepings labeled as grain, and corn contaminated with high levels of pesticide (yes, really) and you have a recipe for ill health. The cheaper the food, the cheaper the ingredients, the worse the nutrition.
Read the labels!
#5 Kibble Does Not Clean Teeth
Almost all dogs age three and over have dental diseases. Most of these dogs eat kibble. That should tell you something.
Although a small study once suggested that kibble might clean teeth better than canned food, better doesn’t mean effectively. Hoping to avoid brushing our dog’s teeth, we too willingly grasp at kibble’s unsubstantiated health benefits. But pretending that kibble or hard treats will keep teeth clean will only lead to huge vet bills, lost teeth and much canine suffering.
#6 “Complete And Balanced” Does Not Mean “Optimum”
“Complete and balanced” means that a food meets minimal theoretical health requirements for the average dog.
Food boasting that it conducted Feeding Trials often just test only the lead product in a line of foods. Trials, too, are for only a small number of dogs for a short period of time. Over time, nutrient and enzyme deficiencies are inevitable.
Of course, complete and balanced is better than not complete and balanced, but again, better does not mean good.
#7 Feeding The Same Food Day After Day Limits Nutrition
Imagine eating corn, rancid fat and chicken wings (without meat) every meal of your life, with the same mix of cheap vitamins and minerals added…
Nutritionists urge people to eat a variety of foods, both for improved nutrition and also to prevent allergies. Dogs need variety, too.
But variety can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs, right?
In the short run, yes. Nutritionally-deprived animals have sick guts. In fact, intestinal upset when switching foods is a sign your dog needs more variety. Once good nutrition has healed a dog’s digestive system, the dog can eat different foods every meal — just as people do. Just switch foods gradually over several weeks while your dog’s gut heals.
#8 Kibble Is Not Better Than Canned
Whereas canned food is preserved by the process of canning, most kibble is preserved artificially. (Ever contemplate how much preservative must be required to retard spoilage of food left out all day?)
Kibble begins as a dry cooked meal whereas canned food is canned fresh. Kibble is exposed to more heat than canned (destroying nutrients). Worse yet, kibble is linked to kidney and bladder problems in cats, and to bloat, a deadly problem especially for large, broad-chested dogs. It’s also dehydrating. Of course, canned isn’t perfect either. Fresh is best, raw or cooked. Next best is frozen prepared food and then dehydrated and freeze dried foods, all available at better pet stores.
#9 Some Common Foods Can Be Hazardous To Canine Health
Cooked bones and rawhide chews can cause major health problems requiring emergency surgery.
Wheat-based treats can bring on allergies. (Consider Coconut Chips as an alternative.)
Onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate, the article sweetener Xylitol and other common foods can be toxic for dogs and must be avoided.
#10 Corn Kills
Most kibble is loaded with corn, a cheap filler. Unfortunately, the corn isn’t the luscious kind you and I eat.
It’s feed corn (like cattle eat), or cheap feed corn remnants. Even corn meal dust counts as corn. The corn may even have been condemned for human consumption, there being no upper level of pesticide contamination for pet foods.
If that weren’t bad enough, corn (which gives us both high fructose corn syrup and corn oil) is fattening. Any wonder so many dogs are obese and suffer from diabetes?
Improving your dog’s diet can add years to your dog’s life and save you a fortune. It doesn’t require a lot of work or expense. It just requires a little knowledge and the desire to give your dog the healthy body he or she deserves.
Can’t Afford Raw? Here’s How To Make Kibble More Nutritious On A Budget
Story re-posted from Dog's Naturally
Are you on a budget? (To be fair … who isn’t?) Maybe you can’t afford a raw diet … but you still want to give your dog the best nutrition you can. Or perhaps you’re just not ready to feed your dog a raw or fresh diet.
[If you do want to feed raw, but don’t know where to start … here’s some great advice to help you: Raw Feeding Primer: 10 Simple Rules To Get Started
So you’d like to make kibble more nutritious for your dog. If your dog is still eating kibble for any reason … I want to help you make it more nutritious for him. So here are some tips to make the best of a bad situation. I’ve listed 6 things you can do to help your dog be healthier.
First, let’s talk about why you don’t want to give your dog the same food every day!
#1 Vary The Food
Rotating foods doesn’t just mean choosing different kibbles from the same manufacturer. Most manufacturers use the same vitamin premix in every brand or line of food. So it’s a really good idea to rotate foods. That doesn’t just mean switching the protein sources within the same brand … but rotating the brand of food you give your dog!
The main source of nutrients in kibble is the vitamins and minerals the manufacturers add. That’s because kibble is processed at very high temperatures. The extreme heat destroys most of the nutrients in the original ingredients. So they have to add vitamins and minerals to meet the nutritional standards. And sometimes the manufacturers overdo it. One recent example is the levels of vitamin D in some dog foods. An excess of vitamin D is quite dangerous for your dog. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has even warned about this problem … advising that vitamin D toxicity can cause kidney failure and even death. So … if you rotate and feed a variety of brands … that’ll help minimize the damage of any unknown excesses or deficiencies in the kibbles.
Ignore Conventional Advice
I know … the concept of varying foods is the opposite of what your conventional vet recommends! Because veterinary school nutrition classes teach vets to recommend sticking with one food all the time. They say that’s all your dog will ever need. But by providing variety from the beginning, you’ll create a stronger gut. And there’ll be less likelihood of your dog developing food intolerances … which can come from eating the same food all the time. Not to mention the boredom of eating the same food every day for his whole life! Can you imagine eating cornflakes for every single meal? You’d probably welcome some rice crispies occasionally! So give your dog some variety. Just make changes gradually to avoid tummy aches or loose stool.
#2 Read The Labels
It’s important to choose food that’s free of artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, soy or dyes. So read your ingredient labels. You can recognize artificial preservatives by the names BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin. There are reports that BHA and BHT are carcinogenic, while ethoxyquin, a preservative and pesticide, can damage kidney tissue in rats. So avoid foods with these ingredients. Corn and soy, unless otherwise stated, are genetically modified (GMO) … and wheat is high in gluten. Wheat can also be GMO. These are undesirable ingredients that can contribute to allergies, inflammatory bowel disease … or even cancer.
Another problem with the high heat used in processing kibble … is that it destroys bacteria – both good and bad.
#3 Balance Gut Bacteria With Probiotics
Well-balanced gastrointestinal flora is vitally important to support your dog’s digestive and immune systems. There are many examples that prove this. When Helicobacter bacteria flourish, stomach ulcers can result. When Clostridium bacteria overgrow … they can cause painful bloating and severe diarrhea. As long as bacteria like these are kept in check, the gut can function normally. But that doesn’t always happen.
How Gut Damage Happens
The good bacteria living in the intestinal tract form part of the immune system … by creating a healthy intestinal mucosal lining. When this lining is damaged, it’s called leaky gut syndrome. Poor diet, vaccines, drugs and other toxins can cause this gut damage. So when you give your dog kibble, he’s off to a bad start.
In leaky gut, holes in the mucosal lining allow large bits of undigested proteins to enter the blood stream. These particles then travel to the liver for processing. But … because these proteins don’t arrive in their proper amino acid format … the liver says, “Eek, get out!” The body then responds with inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s way of stopping or removing unrecognizable invaders. The body tries to expel these foreigners through the circulatory system. The invaders will ultimately exit through the skin (resulting in allergy symptoms) … or via the intestinal tract (causing diarrhea). So gut health is essential for liver, skin and digestive health. And because kibble lacks good bacteria, you need to add probiotics to your dog’s food.
Adding Probiotics And Prebiotics
Some kibbles contain probiotics. But they’re not that effective … because the live bacteria don’t survive high processing temperatures or long term storage. So you can help your dog’s gut and overall health … by giving him a probiotic supplement. The good bacteria in probiotics help balance the gut … and crowd out the harmful bacteria! Feeding probiotics supports your dog’s existing intestinal flora … and boosts good digestion and immune health. It’s even better to include prebiotics too.
Prebiotics are a type of soluble fiber or resistant starch … that feed the good bacteria in the gut. They help make the probiotics more effective. You can recognize prebiotics on an ingredient label by looking for fructooligosaccharides (FOS), chickory root, inulin, guar gum or beet pulp. And you can buy prebiotic supplements … or a supplement that includes both prebiotics and probiotics. And there’s another way to help your dog maintain a healthy gut.
#4 Use Digestive Enzymes
Have you ever put pineapple juice or marinade on meat and noticed the bubbling? The principle behind marinating is that certain foods can digest (or break down) other fresh foods. The enzymes in fresh foods can ease the digestive process … before the body’s salivary and pancreatic enzymes work on digestion.
Some kibble may have added enzymes. You can usually recognize an enzyme by words that end in –ase on the ingredient panel. Lipase breaks down lipids or fats. Amylase breaks down starches. Protease breaks down proteins into smaller amino acids. These are only a few of many enzymes.
But again, these enzymes may not survive kibble processing. So it’s best to add enzymes in a different way.
Fresh Vegetables Can Help
One thing you can do is add some fresh veggies to your dog’s food. But don’t just toss some raw carrots in his bowl.
Here’s why …Herbivores have a digestive enzyme called cellulase. Cellulase allows a plant-eater to break down cellulose … a component of plant cell walls. This allows the release of other nutrients from the plant material. But carnivores like dogs don’t have cellulase. This explains why a chunk of carrot passes right through your dog in one piece! So, if you want your dog to absorb vitamin A from a carrot … you need to give him the rabbit that predigested that carrot … including its stomach. But if your dog isn’t getting the rabbit guts … you have to mimic the predigestion that occurs in the stomach of the prey. So you can add veggies to your dog’s kibble … but first, make them digestible by lightly warming or mulching them to release their nutrients. Or … you can boost your dog’s kibble by adding a digestive enzyme supplement to his bowl. You can add powdered digestive enzymes to processed kibble. Sprinkle the powder onto the food before serving.
#5 Include Whole Food Nutrients
Many kibble manufacturers claim their food is complete and balanced … so they say you shouldn’t add vitamins or supplements to their food. Your veterinarian might say the same thing. But the truth is, the laboratory derived, synthetic vitamins added to the food just aren’t enough to nourish your dog.
Why You Should Avoid Synthetic Vitamins
Over time, your dog’s cell receptors can become clogged with these fake vitamins … and they stop working properly. Excessive synthetic vitamins in the food can even be toxic to your dog.
Fresh, whole food-sourced vitamins are complex. The body’s cells recognize them and use them much better than synthetics. But when your dog gets synthetic vitamins in his food, it can even decrease the absorption of healthful, whole-food vitamins. Minimizing synthetic vitamins and adding whole food vitamins means your dog’s body can pick and choose what it needs. So, even though I’ve already mentioned this ….Try adding some blended or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables to your dog’s bowl. This can meet two needs: the need for enzymes (as I explained earlier) … and the need for whole food vitamins.
There are also many manufacturers of healthy whole food vitamin and mineral supplements and superfoods that fulfill this category. I use Standard Process Catalyn as an excellent, economical whole food vitamin source for large dogs. Since it’s made for humans … assume the dose is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight. For puppies, small or larger dogs, Standard Process Canine Whole Body Support is excellent. Many knowledgeable owners also add other functional foods … like kelp, spirulina, herbal blends, mushroom combinations, wheat grass or sprouted grain products. These functional foods can provide prebiotics, enzymes, whole food vitamins and minerals, and even fatty acids.
Which leads me to my next topic … omega-3s.
#6 Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Most kibble diets don’t contain healthful fats. Even if they’re on the ingredient list … they’re lost with heating and processing. In fact, processing can produce hydrogenated or trans fats, which can be very dangerous. Most plant-derived fats provide omega-6 and 9 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. But omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Kibble-fed dogs need to eat more healthy anti-inflammatory foods. Not surprisingly …. a carnivore best uses the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils. But there are some things you need to watch out for … so I want to give you some warnings about fish oil.
Fish oil is very unstable and its quality varies tremendously. And rancid fish oil is worse to eat than no fish oil at all. Don’t believe that fish oil already contained in kibble can be fresh. It’s best to add it in just before serving. If you open a new bottle of fish oil and it smells strongly fishy … take it back to the store. It’s quite likely poorly distilled and already rancid. So, if you’re using fish oil … buy a high quality product, keep it refrigerated, and add it fresh to kibble immediately before serving.
And there’s another thing. If you add fish oil, don’t leave kibble out for your dog all day long. The oil will go rancid. Besides, “grazing” isn’t a natural or healthful way for a carnivore to eat. It allows additional spoilage of nutrients … and it can affect urinary tract health. Pet-labeled fish oil products recommend how much to give. That’s just a guideline … so start gradually and monitor your dog’s stools. If his stool gets loose, back off and add the oil more slowly. You may notice a decrease in shedding and a more luxuriant coat … as soon as two weeks after adding fish oil to dry kibble.
Fresh Food Is Best!
There are still thousands of pet owners who believe the myth that the kibble diet they’re feeding their pet companions is complete and balanced. But these diets are missing critical nutrients. That’s why a fresh food diet is best.
So if a fresh food diet is out of your budget today, try following these 6 recommendations. You’ll vastly improve your dog’s quality of life and health! When you see the improvements in energy, attitude and coat quality, you might see that kibble wasn’t so complete after all.
And if you’re already feeding a fresh diet … help dispel the myth and give this article to a kibble-feeding friend. It’s an important first step toward a fresh food diet!
Dr Jodie Gruenstern
WHAT TO DO IN COMMON PET EMERGENCIES
Story re-posted from Modern Dog Magazine
Don't panic! Tips to get you and your dog through the most common issues.
What to do if your dog is stung by a bee
Chances are you’ve seen comical Tumblr photos of puffy-snouted dogs after a run-in with a bee. But a sting is no laughing matter for man's best friend: it can be anything from uncomfortable to potentially life-threatening. Stings around the mouth and face are the most serious and, unfortunately, the most common. The effects hit short-nosed breeds, like Bulldogs or Pugs, the hardest because their upper airways are already quite restricted.
If your pup is stung, first remove the stinger from the skin and use a cold compress to decrease swelling. Dr. Fraser Davidson, a veterinarian with a practice in Vancouver, Canada, says it's safe for pet parents to give dogs an anti-histamine like Benadryl at a dose of 25 mg for a small dog and 50 mg for larger breeds. Call your vet if you're unsure about the dose for your dog and avoid administering a “non-drowsy” formula.
Seek vet care immediately if your dog is brachycephalic (short-nosed) or has had a bad reaction to a sting in the past, he adds. Otherwise, monitor your pup closely and call in a professional if he experiences facial swelling, difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, diarrhea or if he collapses.
What to do if your dog eats cooked chicken bones
Scavengers at heart, it only takes a split second for a dog to snatch and devour chicken bones left on a dinner plate or in an uncovered garbage bin. The concern is that cooked bones can splinter when chewed, which can lead to the sharp splinters getting stuck in the esophagus or intestines, possibly perforating stomach walls and leading to a number of complications including (costly) surgery.
But not every ingested bone requires a rush to the vet, says Dr. Fraser Davidson. If the bones were relatively small and swallowed whole it's possible that they’ll break down in the stomach and pass normally. But you need to keep a close eye on your dog for the next 48 hours. Davidson advises feeding the culprit a high-fiber diet including whole grain bread and canned pumpkin to cushion the stomach and bulk up the dog’s poop. Handle your pooch gently so no extra pressure is put on the abdomen and watch out for vomiting, bloody stool, lethargy, and discomfort. See your vet if any of those signs arise, or if the bones haven't passed. Surgery may be an option if the bones consumed were large or sharp. Don't attempt to make your dog vomit up the bones because the risk is high for them to become lodged in the esophagus, Davidson added.
It's worth noting that the ingestion of all cooked animal bones are concerning, but ones from chicken are particularly bad because they splinter easily, making them sharper and pointier. Larger bones, like beef ribs, carry slightly less risk of splintering, but they're more likely to fracture teeth if bitten into. Davidson says lamb chop bones also often get stuck if swallowed because of their shape.
What to do if your dog eats chocolate
Similar to the chocoholic of the human variety, one bite of chocolate is almost always never enough for a dog. Unfortunately, even a small portion can poison a dog because of what's inside it: theobromine. The chemical, similar to caffeine, can't be metabolized by dogs so it puts them at risk of poisoning.
If your pup has eaten chocolate, don't waste time going to “Dr. Google” for help, says Dr. Ahna Brutlag, veterinary toxicologist and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. Brutlag says a veterinary professional or service like Pet Poison Helpline, a 24/7 poison control helpline for pets, can help you quickly determine if your dog ingested a toxic dose based on the animal's breed, age, weight, type of chocolate, and any medical issues your dog may have.
The type and colour of chocolate eaten is very important: the darker and bitterer, the more dangerous it is, says Brutlag. Baking chocolate and gourmet dark chocolate contain significantly more theobromine than milk chocolate. White chocolate hardly has any. That means a healthy 50-pound dog could be poisoned by one ounce of baker's chocolate, but it would have to gobble nine ounces of milk chocolate to experience the same serious problems.
If your dog recently ate chocolate and isn't having any negative physical reactions, a pet professional may advise you to induce vomiting using hydrogen peroxide—seek professional advice for when and how to do this. A dog should be taken to the vet immediately if he displays signs of poisoning: vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, racing heart rate, and excessive urination. Young puppies and dogs with heart disease are most at risk.
What to do if your dog is bitten by another dog
With unique and sometimes unpredictable personalities, bites between canines do happen. Whether it's the result of personality clashes between pups on neighborhood walks, pet owners don't need to rush to the vet if the injury doesn't require stitches, says Jillian Myers, owner of Healthy Paws, a Los Angeles-based pet first aid training firm.
If the skin is broken, the first thing to do is wash the wound gently, as dog's mouths are full of bacteria. Myers says you can pack the area with some sterile cotton pads before you wrap in a sterile gauze roll. But not too tightly: overly tight wrapping can act like a tourniquet and actually cut off blood supply to an animal's limb.
The next step is making sure your dog doesn't “mess with it,” says Myers. If the wound is where the dog can reach it by its mouth, consider putting on an “E” or inflatable recovery collar for a few days so your pooch doesn't lick and worry the area. Change the gauze daily and be vigilant about watching for any negative physical changes. Pus, warmth, swelling, and increased pain could signal an infection, which warrants a visit to the vet.
What to do if your dog gets into a fight
Most scuffles between the canine offenders are all noise and no injury but there are definitely times when you need to intervene. The trick is to know the difference. The key here is duration: if a fight is going to resolve on its own, it will likely be over by the time you have a chance to respond, says New York City canine behaviour specialist Renee Payne. She recommends reading the behaviour cues of the pooches and intervening as soon as the dogs are in trouble.
While some dog trainers advise owners to use the old “grab the hind legs” approach, Payne says that approach is outdated—and risky for both the human and the dog being pulled away. “The dog could pull away and redirect,” she said.
Instead of getting yourself physically involved, the smarter tactic is to get loud, says Payne. “I usually yell and clap as loudly as possible,” she said. Failing that, your next step is to throw something between the dogs. Obviously you don't want to hurt the animals, but anything you have handy—your purse, a water bottle—anything to interrupt the fight and get the dogs' attention, is fair game. Payne says the common advice of dousing the dogs with a bucket of water or spray from a garden hose would work, but would only work if there’s water nearby. When dealing with canines that have a history of aggression, she carries a citronella spray that it specifically formulated to deter dogs. It’s easy to carry or clip to the end of a leash, but should only be used if other methods have failed, Payne says.
What to do if your dog is sprayed by a skunk
The CEO of Aussie Pet Mobile Canada, Richard Avis, describes the effect of skunk spray as “horrendous,” adding that pet owners attempting to de-skunk their animals themselves will “stink out the house, the tub, and everything in the close vicinity.” The smell is so bad that his mobile grooming firm won't clean a skunked dog in the morning because it takes “a solid hour” to sanitize and clean the grooming van afterwards.
If there's an upside to a dog being skunked, it's that the problem doesn't normally require a vet visit unless they've been squirted directly in the eyes or mouth, which can cause irritation. But the problem does require quick action. Skunk spray contains several oily chemical compounds called thiols, which means hosing off Fido with water alone won't clean it away, and the oil will saturate your dog's skin—and start smelling worse—if it's not removed immediately.
Despite the old wives tale, tomato juice just won't cut through that powerful stink, but you can easily whip together an effective cleaning solution with common household items. The American Humane Society recommends bathing your dog with a mix of one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, quarter cup baking soda, and one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. You may have to double the recipe for long-haired or large dogs. Use gloves and protect your dog's eyes. You can also use vinegar diluted with water if you don't have those ingredients. The Salty Paw grooming company in New York City says mixing mouthwash with Dawn dishwashing liquid will also work in a pinch. Follow up with a good soaping of your dog's regular shampoo and your pooch should smell sweet again.
What to do if your dog is choking
While choking is one of the most common reasons for canine ER visits, most dogs have a good chance of dislodging a stuck item themselves as long as they’re conscious and can still cough or gag, says pet first aid expert Jillian Myers. Confine them to a small area like a bathroom or utility room and stay with them for observation, she says, but head to the vet if the object doesn’t come up within a few minutes.
If your dog is conscious but can’t cough, gag or has a wheezing sound, Myers advises to perform chest thrusts “by placing your hands on each side of your pet's chest and compressing inward.” The amount of pressure depends on the size of the dog, but needs to be forceful enough to “try to pop the object up,” she adds. Keep repeating the thrusts until the object comes up, and follow up with a vet exam to see if there has been any further damage. Bring the object with you. If the object doesn’t come out within a few minutes (or if your dog goes unconscious!), get to the vet ASAP. She advises owners never to perform abdominal thrusts—aka the Heimlich maneuver—on animals because the technique can have severe, even fatal, complications in animals.
In the worst-case scenario—your dog goes unconscious—visually check your dog’s airway by opening their mouth and pulling out the tongue to get a clear look down the throat. If you can see the object, use your fingers or needle-nosed pliers to remove it, being careful not to push it further down the throat, Myers warns. From here you may have to do CPR on your dog, but that’s something Myers recommends is best learned in a pet first aid class.
What to do if your dog has bad diarrhea
Many dogs are walking stomachs, so it’s no surprise that canines are more than occasionally struck by a bout of diarrhea due to some manner of dietary indiscretion. A case of “the runs” can occur if your pup has eaten, drank or licked something abnormal and disrupted the flora in their intestines or bowels.
Veterinarian Dr. Fraser Davidson recommends heading to the vet if your pup is very young or old because those patients have less tolerance for dehydration. Ditto if the diarrhea is excessive (every hour, in the house), there’s blood in the stool, if there’s also vomiting, if the dog is restless or lethargic, and if the diarrhea has lasted more than 48 straight hours. It’s best to monitor the situation at home if your dog is still “bright, happy, and playful,” he adds, and if the dog is young to middle-aged. He advises removing food for 24 hours and offering water only, unless the dog is a young puppy. Once the diarrhea settles down then introduce bland foods like white rice and boiled chicken breast in small amounts to start. The added moisture in those foods will also help to rehydrate your dog. You can also consider hard-boiled egg whites or low-fat cottage cheese for protein. If feces firm up in a day you can wean your dog back onto normal food over the next few days. [Here at Happy Hounds, we also recommend adding a pumpkin supplement - never canned pumpkin pie -coupled with raw goat's milk. This combination helps to soothe and restore the digestive tract, getting stools back to a normal consistency.]