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Dog-safe Holiday Foods

Dog-safe Holiday Foods

We’re smack in the middle of holiday season, and I don’t know about you, but my appetite is going crazy!  I love everything about my family’s big holiday meals, and so do our dogs. 

That love of food is something that dogs and people have always had in common.  The smells of our forefathers’ food cooking around the campfire is what drew our dogs’ own ancestors to them.  So expressing that bond is a wonderful, loving, and healthy part of our relationship with our dogs.

While some of the foods traditionally served this season are appropriate for dogs to eat, others are unhealthy, or worse, dangerous to dogs.  Understanding the difference is the key to letting your dog in on the tasty side of the holiday spirit, without an upset stomach or trip to the vet.

Turkey
Turkey is a safe, lean, healthy meat for dogs to eat, at least by itself.   That’s why it’s a common ingredient in many dog foods.  And it’s rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that can help improve mood.

Unfortunately, the stuff that we put on our holiday turkeys isn’t so healthy for dogs – things like butter, oil, and seasonings are bad for our pups.  And while the meat is healthy, the skin is pretty high in fat, which can lead to pancreatitis.

So if you are sharing some turkey off your plate, make sure you remove the skin, and serve your dog only unseasoned meat.

Ham
The holiday ham is another classic and tasty meat gracing many tables this season.  While pork can be a healthy part of a dog’s diet, when it’s in the form of ham, it usually should not be given to dogs. 

While it’s not immediately toxic to dogs, all the stuff that infuses ham with its rich and unique flavor is just plain bad for them.  It contains lots of fat, salt, sugar, and preservatives, which in excess can endanger your dog’s pancreas and kidneys.

Brisket
Like turkey, brisket meat is itself a healthy snack for a dog.  Unlike turkey, though, where the unhealthy stuff mostly ends up on the outside, the fats and spices brisket is cooked in tend to infuse it more deeply, so it’s much harder to find an unseasoned spot of cooked brisket to share.  That’s why it’s best to keep brisket away from the dogs.

Stuffing
Just writing about stuffing is making me want to eat some!  But as much as I love stuffing, I would never give any to my dogs.

Stuffing typically contains garlic, onions, and shallots, which are toxic to dogs – they contain compounds that destroy red blood cells in dogs, leading to anemia. 

Potatoes
Potatoes come in many forms during the holidays – mashed, scalloped, baked, and more!  Potatoes aren’t exactly healthy for dogs, but it’s typically safe to share them in moderation, and prepared correctly.

First, never give a raw potato to your dog.  Raw potato contains toxic levels of solanine, which is mostly destroyed in the cooking process.  You should also remove the skin, as it’s difficult for dogs to digest, and can cause intestinal blockage.

Secondly, as with many human foods, the most dangerous part of any potato dish is usually the seasonings we add to them.  However it is prepared, any potato you share with your dog should be largely free of butter, salt, cream, etc.  And any potato cooked in garlic or onion should not be shared at all.

Finally, if your dog is diabetic or overweight, I’d avoid sharing the potato altogether, even without seasonings.  They are a high glycemic carbohydrate, meaning they can cause a spike in blood sugar, and are largely empty calories besides.

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potato is a fantastic snack for dogs.  Not only is it much healthier than regular white potato, dogs really like the taste.

Mostly, the same rules apply as with white potato – always cook sweet potato before giving it to your dog, take the skin off, and only give them sweet potato that doesn’t have other stuff mixed in.

However, the upside is that since it is much better for dogs, being rich in beneficial nutrients like fiber and beta carotene but ranking low on the glycemic index, you can give your dog a much bigger portion! 

That’s why I always pick up some extra sweet potatoes during the holidays, so I can cook them up special for my dogs.  In fact, they’re the star ingredient in one of my favorite simple homemade dog treat recipes, which I’ve included at the bottom of the article!

Green beans
I feed my dogs homemade green beans quite often.  They make a great doggy snack!  They help dogs feel full and provide healthy fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals, but don’t contain many calories.

As long as they are served plain, dogs can eat them prepared any way – steamed, baked, chopped, or even whole and raw!

Cranberry sauce
While cranberry is good for dogs, and a bite or two of plain cranberry sauce won’t harm your dog, I usually just avoid giving any to my dog at all.  It’s high in sugar, and is so often made with ingredients that are bad for dogs, like grapes, currants, or brandy.

Dessert
Unfortunately, when it comes to the desserts, you’re almost universally better off keeping your dog away.  There’s just too much sugar in almost every human dessert to be good for your dog, and that doesn’t even account for the many toxic ingredients commonly included in our favorite sweets, like chocolate and raisins.

Safe seasoning
As you’ve probably figured out by now, the worst part of our holiday foods for dogs is often the seasoning.  That’s why I thought I’d make it easier on you by sharing a few of my favorite flavorful herbs and spices that are healthy for dogs to eat.  This can help you prepare dishes that are tasty and safe for both you and your four-legged family.

You may recognize several of these seasonings from the ingredient list for our Radiant Canine supplement.  That’s because they aren’t just tasty, but also have properties that also make them useful nutritionally.  Every bite your dog eats is an opportunity to improve their health. 

  • Parsley is a very versatile dog-safe herb with a natural earthy bitterness that pairs well with many foods. I often use it in combination with dill (another dog-safe seasoning) in potato dishes. 

    Parsley offers many nutritional benefits as well.  It’s naturally antimicrobial, and often used in natural dental care products for dogs and humans.  It’s also, surprisingly, one of the most nutrient-rich superfoods, containing antioxidants, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals.

  • Ginger offers powerful flavor and natural herbal properties. It’s commonly found in many holiday desserts, but it also complements savory dishes as well. 

    Not only is it safe for dogs, it’s quite beneficial too.  It has anti-inflammatory properties that help settle upset stomachs and improve digestion, and it is naturally antibacterial.

  • Rosemary is a wonderful herb that is easy to grow at home, and is used to flavor a variety of meats and veggies. It is safe for dogs to eat, and it’s associated with good heart and brain health, too.

  • Cinnamon is a classic winter flavor, and it’s healthy for dogs and humans too! It is a powerful antioxidant that helps to lower blood sugar levels, smooth digestion, improve dental health, and more.  It can even help in cancer prevention.

  • Basil is another great garden herb that gives any dish a peppy Italian zest. It’s safe for dogs to eat, is naturally antiviral, and can also help with the symptoms of arthritis.

  • Coconut oil is my preferred type of oil to use when cooking for my dogs. It’s got a better balance of the healthy saturated fats that are good for dogs than butter or other cooking oils, so it’s less likely to cause digestive upset, though it’s still a good idea not to overdo it.

As promised, here’s a great, simple recipe for a delicious snack that’s tasty for both humans and dogs, and uses a healthy ingredient many of us have plenty of on hand during the season.

The only ingredients you need are 2 sweet potatoes, and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil! 



Dog-Friendly Sweet Potato Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Wash and peel sweet potatoes.
  3. Slice sweet potatoes as thinly and uniformly is possible. A mandolin slicer is best for this, but a sharp knife or vegetable peeler works too.
  4. Toss slices in melted coconut oil.
  5. Lay slices in a single layer on a baking sheet – you’ll need more than one sheet!
  6. Bake for 2 hours or until crispy and brown, flipping chips halfway for even cooking.
  7. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.


Wishing you and your dog the happiest and healthiest holiday season,




Dr. Edward Tuk

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Our Radiant Canine nutritional supplement provides the powerful nutrition of over 45 unique veterinarian-selected ingredients, like parsley, ginger, cinnamon, and more, to help see dogs through many years of healthy holidays. 

And one of the ingredients in our delicious Nutrient Heaven treats are naturally healthy sweet potatoes, for the beneficial fiber your dog needs in a delicious form that'll get their tail wagging!

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

 

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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Our Radiant Canine nutritional supplement is chock full of so many of the calming ingredients outlined above, offering a huge natural boost of probiotics, B-vitamins, and vitamin C.  Place your risk-free order today with discount code CALMDOG to get a huge 35% OFF!

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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

 

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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Our Radiant Canine nutritional supplement is your tool in feeding your picky dog!  With its combination of natural digestive aids, real, delicious meat flavor, and comprehensive nutrition, every dog can benefit from a scoop of Radiant Canine in their dinner - and they're going to be so excited to dig in! 

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