I wrote an article about Kibble “fast food for pets”. Being one of those conscious owners, some refer to me as the “Helicopter Mom” of the pet world, I continue to be against all processed foods and very determined to feed my 12 year old boy and new girl, Coco Chanel a raw food that I can get at my local store. So, let me tell you the story of how I got to this point and necessity of writing this article. To set up this story, it is necessary to understand how important food and nutrition is to our family and our two babies, Max and Coco Chanel our new family member.
Boutique diets are not as they seem. Do your due diligence and make sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition based on your dogs breed
If you remember, I layed our beautiful chocolate Cockapoo Coco Bean to rest the week before memorial day. It was a very bittersweet event and I still miss her to this day. After much thought and discussion, we decided to adopt a chocolate Cocker Spaniel with the hope of having beautiful chocolate babies in the near future. Looking back, we did a lot wrong with our first girl, down to the vaccinations she received along with a very conventional veterinarian. Since Coco Beans diagnosis of diabetes, gaining two vets who are very holistic minded, we began to do everything correctly and was able to have her with us two years longer than anticipated. So, with that being said, When I acquired Coco Chanel it was understood that her care would be drastically different all the way to the food we choose for her.
When I brought Coco Chanel to my vet [who I adore] we talked about the diet and how I wanted to immediately put her on the raw diet Max is currently on, she steered me to another food because she was only 8 weeks old. I agreed but was really patiently waiting to move her from the puppy blend into a more natural brand. The next weeks leading up to the 12-week mark, I was excited about transitioning her to the raw diet. Twelve weeks arrived and I was excited to have her give the green light to go ahead and make the change. We chatted about her weight, talked about her vaccination schedule and then we discussed diet. She was adamant about forgoing the raw diet based on some new research about the boutique foods which included the diet my dogs have been on for the past two years.
Boutique diets are not what you think
When we talked about the diet, she mentioned there has been researching done showing food companies neglecting key ingredients that can make or break a dog, possibly forcing the owner to put their dog to rest. “Grain-free” is not always the best option for your pets, such as not adding “taurine” a key amino acid and is directly attributed to protecting the heart and eyes. There are specific breeds that need that in their daily intake. Without this very important amino acid, these small dog breeds are vulnerable to serious health issues. Breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, King Charles Cavalier, Bulldogs, are very susceptible to specific health concerns.
As I continued to read Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University and the http://www. vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2016/06/grain-free-diets-big-on-marketing-small-on-truth it spoke about “grain-free-diets, big on marketing, small on truth”, I learned that although these big priced companies that promote grain free think they are doing the animal a favor, really are not. The article also stated and I feel this is very important to notate: “Whole grains, rather than “fillers”, can contribute valuable nutrients including vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and fiber to diets. Some grain products even provide protein that is easier for your pet to digest than some protein from meat. Even refined grains such as white rice can be beneficial for health depending on the type of diet and the pet. The vast majority of dogs (and cats!) are very efficient (>90%) at digesting and utilizing nutrients from grains in amounts typically found in pet foods.
Allergies to grains, not so fast
It has also been mentioned that canines do not have the typical allergens to grains as humans do. This is the other misnomer and hyperbolic argument that has swept the animal world. In humans, it is the allergen culprit or Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO. If dogs have any allergens it is due to the chicken or beef and not the grains.
This information is somewhat new and for many, it will probably be extremely unsettling as most of the serious pet owners want the best for their family members and almost feel taken advantage of by the various food companies that claim these “grain free” foods are the very best for your pet. For most, it is all about the money.
What are the experts discovering with grain-free diets?. A very dangerous and damaging heart problem called Dilated Cardiomyopathy or DCM. It is characterized by a distention and thinning out of the muscular walls of the heart, causing it to be a less effective pump to move blood throughout the body. As you might imagine, that’s not a good thing! Dogs with DCM are at great risk of progressing to heart failure. Here is a portion of the explanation from Google. The cause of DCM in dogs is largely unknown. Nutritional deficiencies of taurine or carnitine have been found to contribute to the incidence of DCM in certain breeds such as King Cavalier and Cocker Spaniels. Evidence also suggests that some breeds have a genetic susceptibility to the disease. In most breeds, male dogs are more susceptible to the disease than female dogs.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy Explained
DCM is a condition in which the chambers of your dog’s heart become dilated, or expand. The left ventricle of the heart is usually the most affected, though the disease can affect all four chambers of your dog’s heart. The disease can cause heart arrhythmias and murmurs. It can also cause leakage around the valves of the heart, leading to the build-up of fluids in the chest and abdominal cavities; when fluids build up around the heart, your dog is at risk for congestive heart failure.
Risk Factors for Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs
Dilated cardiomyopathy is most common in the larger breeds of dog. Male dogs contract this disease more often than female dogs. Breeds prone to this disorder include:
- Irish wolfhounds
- Great Danes
- Portuguese water dogs
- English and American Cocker Spaniels
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Saint Bernards
Most dogs develop this disease between four and ten years of age. DCM is a life-threatening disease with a high mortality rate.
In closing, I just want to say that if you have been feeding your pets a grain free diet and they are over four years old, have heard any unusual sounds in their breathing, behavioral changes or they have not had a yearly checkup, make an appointment to see your trusted doctor immediately. If they are a really good vet following the integrative approach to health and wellness it is most likely that they will recommend a healthy grain diet. Always remember to slowly introduce them to a new diet slowly so they have not adverse effects in the transition.
To your pets