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Calming Your Dog Through Diet

Calming Your Dog Through Diet
(Interested in adding some calming benefit to your own dog's diet?  Keep reading, because there's a special offer waiting for you at the bottom of the article!)

Everybody has their bad days. Life can be stressful sometimes, and that’s true for our dogs too. And some dogs have it even harder, struggling with chronic anxiety or depression disorders.

Of course, most of us are aware that diet has a huge impact on our physical health. But as it turns out, there’s evidence that what happens in our dogs’ digestive tract can also significantly affect their emotions, increasing or decreasing their stress levels without the use of drugs.

The physiological root of our moods and emotions, and our dogs’, are our hormones. That happy feeling your dog experiences occurs when their brain responds to stimulus by releasing specific hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, while feelings of fear are caused by the release of cortisol and adrenaline.

In other words, emotion is at least in part a physical response, and that means it can be affected by diet just like any other biological function.

Let’s start with the stuff your dog may already be eating which could be contributing negatively to their mood.

There are a few common ingredients that many dog food manufacturers use to cheaply supplement the protein in their formulas to meet nutritional minimums, which researchers have linked to changes in mood: soy and corn. Soy contains high levels of plant estrogen, which interacts with and suppresses other hormones, while corn is much lower in in the particular amino acids your dog’s body needs to produce serotonin, triggering aggression, anxiety, and excitability in dogs.

There’s also quite a bit of evidence indicating that artificial additives like preservatives, colors, and flavors can negatively impact your dog’s mood, causing hyperactivity and aggression.

The good news is that just like these bad ingredients can make your dog more anxious, there are other foods that can improve your dog’s mood and behavior.

In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’re already familiar with one natural mood-altering compound that veterinarians often use to induce calmness through diet – tryptophan.

If you haven’t heard that name before, it’s the amino acid found in naturally high levels in turkey meat that makes people feel sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner. It has the same effect on dogs as it does on people, because once tryptophan reaches the brain, it’s converted into serotonin, one of the happy hormones that help us feel relaxed and safe, and serotonin is also one of the ingredients the body uses to make melatonin, the sleepy hormone.

That’s why many dog supplements intended to naturally induce calm rely on tryptophan as an active ingredient. Aside from turkey, other natural sources of tryptophan include tuna, eggs, and dairy products – stuff that’s good for most dogs and that they love to eat! So if you’d like to make sure your dog is relaxed during a stressful event, like a trip to the vet or visit from strangers, try feeding them some tryptophan-rich foods beforehand, and it may help reduce their anxiety.

There is also some evidence that certain B vitamins can improve mood and reduce anxiety, especially in combination with tryptophan.

Vitamins B-3 and B-6 are necessary for the conversion of other amino acids (like our old friend tryptophan) into serotonin, helping to regulate and support proper levels of this vital happy hormone.

Vitamin B-1 helps with the transmission of nervous system impulses – in humans, it has been found to improve concentration and decrease excitability, and anecdotally it appears to have the same effect on dogs.

Most B vitamins occur naturally in meat, and that’s where dogs in the wild get their B vitamin intake. However, most commercial dog foods contain far less meat than is present in a wild canine’s diet, supplementing the minimum protein levels required by regulations with vegetable and grain proteins that just aren’t as nutritious or digestible for dogs.

Plus, those foods go through intense cooking processes that destroy a lot of their natural nutrition. That’s why supplementing a dog’s diet with B vitamins can have significant positive impact on their mood.

More recently, scientists have also begun exploring significant links between mood and stress level, and the health of the gut biome, meaning the beneficial bacteria that live inside our dogs’ digestive system and help by breaking down nutrients and fighting off infection.

Considering that about 70% of your dog’s immune system function occurs in the gut, and the number of physical illnesses which manifest symptoms of depression or moodiness, it’s actually not all that surprising that gut health can affect mood!

In studies performed on mice, certain strains of probiotic had a direct effect on mood transmitters, and lower levels of those bacteria in the gut were correlated with higher levels of stress and anxiety. Two of those strains are lactobacillus acidophilus and bifodobacterium animalis, which are present in the Radiant Canine nutritional supplement which I helped to formulate.

And speaking of the immune system, vitamin C, an important component for immune health, can also help with feelings of doggy anxiety. Vitamin C’s main job is to act as an antioxidant, meaning it scrubs the blood of surplus oxygen that can cause cell damage, including the type of oxidative stress that contributes to neurological disorders that impact mood.

Dogs’ bodies produce a fair amount of vitamin C on their own, so a happy and healthy dog generally has enough in their diet, but stress and illness can deplete your dog’s natural store of vitamin C. Some dog-safe foods that naturally contain lots of vitamin C are berries, kelp, carrots, pineapple, and parsley.

Finally, some herbs such as valerian and chamomile are known to help dogs relax by bolstering the neurotransmitters that initiate sleep, inducing a mild natural sedative effect. These herbs have a similar effect on humans, and are often included in homeopathic sleep aids, so you may have experienced their benefits yourself!

Of course, it's important to understand that every dog's physiology is unique, and the calming effects of these different foods may have less impact on some dogs than others, so a little trial and error may be necessary to find the right calming solution for your dog.  But I guarantee that the right diet can and will help your dog live their happiest and most stress-free life!

Wishing you and your dog the best of health,



Dr. Edward Tuk

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Feeding Your Picky Pooch

Feeding Your Picky Pooch
Veterinary science has made so many amazing discoveries and advances in the subject of dog nutrition.  Our understanding of what dogs need in their diet has improved so much in just a few short decades.

But unfortunately, there’s one thing that can make even the best and healthiest diet totally irrelevant – when your dog just doesn’t want to eat it!

But what makes a dog picky?  And what can we do as dog owners to encourage a picky dog to eat healthier, or break those habits altogether?

As it turns out, pickiness in dogs can be attributed to many possible factors, most of which can be resolved with a few different techniques.

Overall appetite

For one, some dogs just aren’t as motivated by food as others, just like some people are more enthusiastic eaters while others just eat what and when they need to.  But if your dog isn’t motivated by food alone, you can encourage their eating habits with something that does motivate them, like praise, attention, or fun activities around mealtime.

Stress

Stress and anxiety can also affect your dog’s appetite, and their willingness to try new things.  If you’ve recently changed up your dog’s routine, or if just they tend to be nervous in general, they may be less inclined to eat their dinner. 

If you think that stress might be a factor in your dog’s pickiness, helping your dog to relax and feel comfortable before the food dish comes out can help encourage their eating.  If your dog has a favorite activity or toy, try letting them have their fun just before dinner – even aside from helping them calm down, physical activity can itself encourage the appetite!  And try not to scold them when they don’t eat, as knowing that they let you down may only increase their stress.

Calming aids may also be useful in helping your anxious dog relax enough to eat.  These over-the-counter solutions use a variety of methods to induce relaxation in dogs – some contain pheromones similar to those released by a mother dog during feeding, triggering your dog’s brain to release natural hormones that make them feel safe and loved.  Others use natural compounds like valerian, chamomile, or tryptophan to induce a mild sedative effect.  Effects may vary for different dogs, so you may need to try a few different types of calming aid before you find one that works for your own pup.

Stubbornness

Of course, some especially intelligent and strong-willed dogs may act like they don’t want to eat the food you’ve given them, just because they’re holding out for a particular favorite snack they’ve had before!  In that situation, you may be tempted to give in and provide that favorite just to get them to eat something, but this is probably the last thing you should do, because it teaches your dog that making a fuss at dinnertime will get them what they want.

This can be one of the most challenging varieties of picky dog to feed, but if you’re consistent, you can show them that eating what you give them the first time is in their best interests.  For example, instead of providing a favorite snack or food to encourage them to start eating, only give them a little bit of that favorite as a reward only AFTER they have eaten all their regular dinner, along with lots of praise.

Health problems

Finally, there are some health disorders which can affect appetite.  Lots of different parts of your dog’s body are involved in eating and digestion, so anything from dental disease, allergies, certain medications, gastrointestinal disorders, or kidney and liver problems can make your dog feel inclined to skip dinner.  There may be some steps you can take at home in this case, but it’s usually best to involve your veterinarian in this conversation, since they can tailor your gameplan to your dog’s specific needs.

Unfamiliarity

If your dog’s pickiness only manifests when you’re trying a new food, they may just be nervous about those unfamiliar smells and flavors, even if they might otherwise enjoy it once they get over their nervousness.  That’s why, when introducing a new food to your dog, it’s a good idea to mix in a bit of their old food, so they aren’t trying something totally new.  

Breaking bad habits

Training your picky dog to always eat their dinner can take some time, and it’s natural to worry that your dog may suffer from a missed meal or two, but refusing to trade out their meal for something they want more is the best way to communicate that YOU are in charge of their diet, not them. 

An otherwise healthy dog can miss several meals without endangering their health, and will never refuse to eat to the point of danger, even if they aren’t thrilled with what’s in their bowl.  Of course, if your dog hasn’t eaten anything for more than a few days, it’s possible that there may be a more serious problem affecting their appetite; in that case, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian.

Adding something with an especially strong taste or smell that appeals to dogs, like low-sodium broth, yogurt, cooked chicken or fish, or freeze-dried toppers, is very likely to encourage your dog to dig in!  Then, once your dog is eating their meals normally, you can gradually reduce the mix-ins as your dog becomes more comfortable with their new food.

Rotational feeding, where you frequently switch your dog’s regular diet between lots of different brands and recipes of food, can help dogs get used to regularly eating new and unfamiliar foods, especially if you start it from an early age.  Rotational feeding is also good for dogs for other reasons, too – the broad nutritional base represented by a variety of different foods helps make up for any nutrient deficiencies present in any one particular diet, and it often improves digestive function.

That said, anytime you’re introducing new foods to your dog, it’s usually a good idea to bolster their meals with digestive aids.  Even dogs with otherwise iron stomachs may have some digestive trouble with a new food, so the addition of probiotics, digestive enzymes, and/or fiber can help ensure that their new diet doesn’t give them a tummy ache.

Wishing you and your dog the best of health,



Dr. Edward Tuk

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Nutrient Heaven Freeze-Dried Duck Delight Treats



Naturally Scrumptious Freeze-Dried Raw Turkey & Salmon Feast


Radiant Canine Full-Spectrum Dog Nutritional Supplement

 

Home Remedies For Upset Dog Tummies

Home Remedies For Upset Dog Tummies

Everybody gets a little sick to their stomach now and again.  When our dogs are the ones suffering from nausea, though, it can be especially difficult.  They don’t understand what’s happening to them, just that they don’t feel good!

If your dog is throwing up frequently, has lost their appetite for more than a couple of days, or you see blood in their vomit or stool, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet to find out what’s going on.  However, when your dog first starts showing those symptoms, or in the event of an occasional minor bout of tummy trouble, there are a few steps you can take to provide your dog relief right at home.

Signs of nausea in dogs

If your dog throws up, obviously, that suggests that they are feeling nauseated!  Otherwise, though, there are a few signs you can look for to detect nausea before your dog loses their lunch:

  • Eating grass
  • Gurgling belly
  • Floor licking
  • Soft or runny stool
  • Excess drooling
  • Flatulence


Feed a bland, high-fiber food

One of the best ways to help your buddy feel better, is by feeding some home-cooked foods that are easy to digest, to give their tummies something easy to work on while they recover.

Boiled, unseasoned chicken or white fish may not sound appetizing to you, but most dogs love it, and it’s very easy for them to digest!  That makes it a great base for your dog’s bland meal.

Add in some fiber-rich foods that aren’t too salty or fatty, to help restore regular digestive function.  Pumpkin, sweet potato, rice, green beans, and many flavors of baby food all contain lots of fiber, while being low in calories, fat, and sugars, so they should be easy on your dog’s belly.

Finally, bone broth isn’t just good for settling stomachs; it’s also quite rich in calories and nutrients, which is good when your dog is only able to eat a little bit at a time.  Plus, it’s super tasty for dogs, so it can really help get that appetite going!

Note that without any vitamin and mineral supplementation, home-cooked meals typically don’t contain all the nutrition that dogs need long-term, so it’s not a good idea to feed this bland diet for more than a couple of days, unless you’re able to add a multivitamin supplement to help balance it. 

The Radiant Canine multivitamin supplement that I helped Canine Sciences to develop contains over 45 different ingredients, each with their own unique nutritional benefits, and dogs like the taste too, so it’s a very convenient and effective way to make sure your dog is still getting plenty of vitamins and minerals while they’re recovering.

Add a digestive supplement

Including a supplement which contains digestive enzymes, probiotics, and/or additional fiber can go a long way towards restoring regular digestion.

When a dog gets sick, it often depletes their digestive tract of the beneficial enzymes and bacteria that live in their guts and help them to break down the food they eat. 

This is especially true for dogs on an antibiotic regimen, since those drugs don’t distinguish between the harmful bacteria that’s making your dog sick, and the good bacteria that help them to digest.  This depletion doesn’t just make it harder for your dog to digest food, but it can also perpetuate their nausea.

Digestive supplements typically contain a mix of digestive enzymes which help dissolve food into their constituent molecules, probiotics which help protect and promote the intestinal immune system, and fiber to help soothe irritation and absorb excess water in the digestive tract.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that our Radiant Canine supplement contains four probiotic strains, three digestive enzymes, and a big shot of dietary fiber, making it a great utility when using diet to help dogs recover from nausea.

Try a human medication

There are a few differences between the way human and dog digestion works, but overall, they function pretty similarly.  That’s why some over-the-counter medicines intended to treat human digestive problems can be safe and helpful for dogs too.

That said, because these medications are designed for humans, I strongly recommended checking in with your veterinarian before administering them to your dog.  They’re perfectly safe for the majority of dogs, but can occasionally interact negatively with certain dog health conditions or medications, primarily bleeding disorders or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.

To be specific, bismuth subsalicylate – known more commonly as Pepto-Bismol – can be effective at treating dog nausea, and it’s safe for most dogs too.  1 tsp for every 10 pounds of weight is generally an appropriate dosage.  I wouldn’t recommend giving more than a couple of doses unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian, however.  And if this causes diarrhea in your dog or worsens that symptom, stop immediately.

Famotidine, also known as Pepcid, is also a common remedy recommended by veterinarians for dogs experiencing tummy trouble, especially when it’s related to acid build-up or ulcers.  Typical recommended dosage is 10mg for every 20 pounds of dog, though again, it’s a good idea to verify that with your vet, especially if your dog has any ongoing health conditions.

Keep your dog hydrated


To be clear, water alone isn’t going to do much to help your dog feel better.  However, nausea often leads to dehydration, and dehydration makes nausea worse in addition to causing a whole bunch of other potential health problems.  That's why I always encourage dog owners whose dogs' are experiencing nausea to make a special effort to keep their dogs hydrated.

Of course, loss of appetite can also make dogs reluctant to drink, so making sure your dog’s water bowl is full isn’t always enough.   If your dog doesn’t seem interested in their water, some low-sodium broth can help their appetite and encourage them to stay hydrated.

Wishing you and your dog the best of health,



Dr. Edward Tuk

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Thanks to its veterinarian-formulated cocktail of digestive aids and nutrients, our Radiant Canine nutritional supplement can be a very useful tool in addressing dog nausea.  Just a small scoop or two each day, added to your dog's meals, absolutely supercharges their nutritional intake!

Click on one of the products below to learn more!


Nutrient Heaven Freeze-Dried Duck Delight Treats



Naturally Scrumptious Freeze-Dried Raw Turkey & Salmon Feast


Radiant Canine Full-Spectrum Dog Nutritional Supplement