Elizabeth Kennedy is a freelance writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog love runs both ways
February 13 2016
Dogs are no longer just our figurative best friends. Close to one-third of the participants in a Medical College of Virginia study said they felt closer to their dogs than to anyone else in their family. When surveyed by the American Animal Hospital Association, well over half of the respondents said that, if marooned on a desert island, they’d opt for the companionship of their dog over that of their partner. Now, that’s love (for the dog, anyway).
Wellness: Food & Nutrition
Raw feeding isn’t just for experts anymore [Expanded]
October 12 2012
The web is crowded with passionate bloggers extolling the benefits of the raw-food diet: cleaner teeth, less odor, shinier coats, more energy and far fewer visits to the vet’s office. But when we move beyond anecdotal evidence, does science support it? And what exactly constitutes a healthy home-cooked canine diet anyway?
For more than two years, Sir Robert McCarrison, a doctor whose work is referenced in the authoritative Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, conducted a study in which he fed roughly 1,000 rats a healthy diet, including sprouted beans, raw cabbage and carrots, raw milk, and a moderate amount of meat and bone. He also provided them with sun, fresh air and a clean place to live. Their eventual necropsies revealed no disease — not one. Two other groups, who had the misfortune of being fed rice or diets rich in boiled, sweetened and canned foods, showed disease in every organ, and some became so agitated that they devolved to cannibalism.
Taking this compelling research into account, the next question is where to begin. Two major schools of raw feeding exist today. The first, “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” (BARF), was created by veterinary surgeon Ian Billinghurst. A typical BARF diet is made up of 60 to 80 percent raw meaty bones (poultry necks, wings and backs; rabbit or quail quarters or halves; and so forth), and 20 to 40 percent fruits and veggies, meat, eggs, and dairy foods, along with an abundance of supplements. The second, the “prey-model” diet, strictly mimics what proponents believe would be the animal’s natural diet in the wild. Whole rabbits or game hens, for example, are often offered to the dog. This diet recommends 80 percent muscle meat, 10 percent bone and 10 percent organ meat, and nothing more.
According to most raw feeders, dogs should eat muscle meat (hamburger, chicken, turkey), as well as a healthy array of organ meat (heart, liver, kidneys), whole fish and raw meaty bones (RMBs). Cooked bones are dangerous and should never be fed, as cooking leaves the bones brittle and prone to splintering. To balance out nutritional needs, you’re generally advised to add other ingredients to the menu, including dog-safe vegetables, legumes, limited grains and fruits, and some supplements. That’s where it gets tricky.
Heidi Hill, the owner of Holistic Hound in Berkeley, Calif., is a trained homeopath who has been feeding her dog Pearl raw for nearly 10 years. She often advises her customers to start out with prepared diets to avoid becoming overwhelmed or, worse, neglecting the nutritional needs of their dogs. “If you’re home-cooking or preparing more than, say, 20 percent of your dog’s food yourself, you really need to do your research,” says Hill. Complete and balanced commercial diets and pre-mixes to which you add your own fresh meat can take the guesswork out of healthy nutrition. Hill also recommends that you confirm that products are locally sourced, made in small batches, organic whenever possible and both hormone- and antibiotic-free.
If, on the other hand, you feel up to the task of managing your dog’s nutritional needs yourself, you can work with your veterinarian or an animal nutritionist to assure that you fill the most common gaps in canine nutrition created by home feeding: bone meal for calcium, fish oil for omega-3s, supplementation for vitamins A and D and more.
Grains are also frequently indicted as a problem for dogs, but the real culprits are often the mold mites (such as Tyrophagus putrescentiae) that can be found on food in opened kibble bags. Still, veterinarians generally agree that canines’ short digestive tracts make it harder for them to digest grains; if you feed your dog grains, be sure to cook them. Dr. Pitcairn advises quick-cooking and economical grains, such as rolled oats (which have the highest protein count per calorie of any common grain), cornmeal, millet and bulgur.
Raw veggies can also present dogs with a digestive challenge, and the following should be cooked as well: corn, peas, green beans, broccoli, potatoes and squash.
If you have a juicer, mix leftover carrot, beet, apple, or other fruit or vegetable pulp in with the rest of your dog’s meal.
Finally, chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants, protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and another healthy addition to the raw canine diet now moving into the mainstream. The most digestible form is a gel, which you can make by whisking one cup of cool water with 1 3/4 tablespoons of seeds. Let it stand for three or four minutes, and whisk again. Wait another 10 minutes, whisk again and you’re good to go. The rule of thumb for feeding is one tablespoon of gel for every six ounces of food.
How Much Is Enough?
• 100 lb. dog: 2 to 3 lbs. daily, or two meals of 1 to 1.5 lbs. each
• 75 lb. dog: 1.5 to 2 lbs. daily, or two meals of 12 to 18 oz. each
• 50 lb. dog: 1 to 1.5 lbs. daily, or two meals of 8 to 12 oz. each
• 25 lb. dog: 8 to 12 oz. daily, or two meals of 4 to 6 oz. each
In other words, many nutritionists who support raw diets suggest that a dog should eat the equivalent of about 15 percent of her body weight each week.
If you’re just starting out with raw food, you may choose to begin by combining homemade fare with a highquality commercial food. Remember that not every dog thrives on a raw diet. If your dog is immune-compromised, for example, it might not be the way to go. And while most healthy dogs’ systems can handle many strains of bacteria, good hygiene is still important when handling raw meat. If you’re concerned about your dog choking, grinding meat and bones to a hamburger-like consistency can eliminate the risk.
The most important task in this transition is to talk with those who have experience and are up-to-date on the research, read up on nutrition, and keep your holistic vet in the loop throughout the process. Fans of raw feeding believe that even a partial transition will give your dog such a spring in her step that you’ll be making the switch faster than you can say RMB.
The bold strokes of today’s young-adult lit
June 22 2012
Imagine star-crossed lovers of old would blush and faint before indulging in the kind of libidinal excess that courses through young-adult novels these days. But Paul Griffin knows better than all that. An award-winning novelist who also trains dogs and works with incarcerated young people, Griffin has penned a highly praised new book, Stay with Me, that celebrates the drama, heartbreak and fragile sensuality of today’s accelerated teenage life.
Stay with Me recounts the tragic fate of a sweet rescued fighting dog named Boo and her unlikely caretakers, two 15-year-old lovers hamstrung by burdensome disadvantages. Mack Morse, an abandoned, then abused high-school dropout, has a rap sheet and a special knack with dogs. He also struggles with violent thoughts that manifest as a hissing in his head, “like when you roll the radio to static and dial up the volume.”
The only remedy? You guessed it his coworker —bright, comely and selfdeprecating Céce Vaccuccia, who studies assiduously and parents her own mother, Carmella, whom she describes with characteristic teenage sarcasm as a “never-married, twice-knocked-up and ditched alcoholic with crippling bunions.”
While each of these facts may be true about Carmella, and the judgment behind them heartfelt, there’s no doubt that Céce loves her mother. This is much the same for all of Griffin’s characters. We are drawn into the oppressive grind of their lives; their words are sharp and their fates are grim, but their essential moral fiber withstands the wear and tear of their preventable, regrettable mistakes. These are, despite their deplorable decisions and even heinous acts, good people.
Mack compels Céce — scarred by a dog attack during childhood — to befriend his dog, Boo. “You’ve got to go a long way into evil to turn a Pit against people,” says Mack. “They forgive easy as rain falls.” And so, in turn, does Céce. The magic of love’s force transports the couple to a new and terribly temporary happiness. But when Boo suffers brutal violence yet again, Céce is nowhere to be found and Mack acts on an aggressive impulse, destroying any prospects for their future together.
While Mack’s character develops and deepens as a result of his poor choices, Céce’s prospects wither following his withdrawal. But her world is open now to the solace of a loyal dog, something she would never have had without learning to trust Boo, and the heedless abandon she experienced with Mack.
An extra dose of delicious
June 22 2012
A homemade vinaigrette on the salad, fresh herbs over a perfect al dente pasta — these are the flourishes that elevate our experience of eating. Everyone who has watched their dogs dig into a flavorful meal knows that they too are gastronomes to the core.
Like us, our dogs occasionally enjoy a little something different, and it’s easy to provide those quick hits of tastiness that make a meal just that much better. This is especially true for dogs with diminished interest in eating, whether due to illness, age or simple boredom. By adding toppings, you have a real opportunity not only to brighten your dog’s day with fragrant, fresh tastes, but also to slip in some supplemental nutrition in the process.
The good news is that you need go no further than your own pantry or the aisles of your local pet-supply or grocery store to discover simple, healthy ways to liven up an otherwise humdrum dinner for your dog.
Some of you may be saying, Wait! We know dogs have only about one-sixth the number of taste buds we do. Why bother dishing up anything out of the ordinary? Ah-ha. You’ve forgotten another widely known fact: When it comes to smell, dogs have 125 million sensory cells to our 5 to 10 million; they can smell each and every ingredient. Imagine that! And research has shown that they are able to distinguish at least four flavor profiles: sweet, sour and salty, which they tend to like, and bitter, which they do not. (Put down that saltshaker; according to Psychology Today, because dogs’ wild ancestors ate primarily meat, they did not develop salt receptors like those of humans, so what we consider perfectly seasoned is likely to be too salty for them.)
In this round-up, The Bark shares three different kinds of toppings: On the Go, or easy toppings that will bring a little surprise and variety to their meals. For the Home Cook, which includes ingredients and recipes that take a bit of preparation and Off the Shelf, commercial additions that often include nutritional enrichments. With a few key harmful foods excepted (see box on left), the only real limits to topping your dog’s food with delicious add-ons are her particular needs and tastes, and your imagination. Of course, each dog is different and it’s best to clear dietary changes with your veterinarian.
On the Go
Even easier? Drizzle some oil. Few supplements are as popular as salmon or fish oil for the canine mealtime — and for good reason. Fish oil is among the most beneficial additives to the canine diet: it is excellent for the treatment of canine allergies, but is now recommended for everything from arthritis to high cholesterol as well. One convention for calculating the amount of fish oil to include in your dog’s diet is to multiply your dog’s weight (in pounds) by 20. For a 60-pound dog, for example, the daily target dose is 1,200 mg. Another top product is flax seed oil, which is credited with healing, strengthening bones and maintaining dog’s energy. Flax seed and olive oil are both great sources of antioxidants, and key for maintaining canine cardiovascular health.
For the Home Cook
Postins selected these ingredients with a dog’s health in mind. Both cherries and fennel are packed with powerful antioxidants, and fava beans tonify, or maintain the healthy function of, the spleen, liver, kidneys and pancreas. But you don’t need a PhD in animal nutrition to boost your dog’s meals. One more home cooking approach: simply buy a medley of vegetables in bulk (see low-prep list) and oven-roast as many as your dog might eat in four to five days, then store in refrigerator and add at mealtime. A healthy “fast food” your dog will love. You can even just stock up on frozen vegetables — defrost and serve!
News: Guest Posts
One year after the earthquake and tsunami, family pets still waiting to go home
March 19 2012
When a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan on March 11, 2012, it set off what is widely considered the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years, with still-acute consequences. In Tohoku alone, nearly 350,000 people remain displaced from their homes. Meanwhile, the beloved family pets of many of these families wait to be reunited with their families and return to the life they left behind.
Some estimates put the number of companion dogs displaced at nearly 6,000. Today, thousands are without homes, with some still roaming the wreckage.
The Japanese government has suggested that the effects of radiation may not be removed for another 30 years. Still, families continue to hope for a return home, visiting their pets in various shelters. Currently, two shelters are operating in Fukushima. Both are in dire need of funding, with animals living in crates or cramped rooms.
American Humane Association CEO and president Dr. Robin Ganzert recently reported these conditions in “The Animals of Fukushima: One Year Later,” based on a recent humanitarian mission to the region.
The 300 dogs and cats housed in the Tokyo Prefecture temporary animal shelter have a much better situation, each with her own room and her own volunteer—owners who visit are even permitted to bring special blankets or other familiar items for their pets.
Medical examinations of animals in Tokyo shelters show that these family pets do not appear to be suffering from high levels of radiation, but they were the animals who escaped. Though a national study is planned to study the impact of radiation on these animals, no samples have been collected to date.
In its one-year report, the American Humane Society, which contributed to the relief effort in Japan, makes two recommendations for families looking to prepare themselves for such disasters:
Visit the American Humane Association for more information on how to help the dogs of Fukushima.
News: Guest Posts
Tricks for keeping indoor pups engaged
March 1 2012
My dog, Stella, thinks she’s made of sugar. With exposure to rain, snow or other inclement weather, she hunkers down as if she might melt. That’s why my canine companionship toolkit includes a few strategies for occupying my little busybody when the sun’s in a downstay.
We’ve done basic nosework together, but really any parent-dog team can play “search.”
You’ll want to start the game with your dog in a sit or stay. Place a toy on the floor. When you release her, she’ll go to the toy. Reward this attention with a high-value treat. Do this a few more times, eventually introducing the name of the toy with your search cue.
Soon you’ll have an ever-growing list of searchable goodies in your dog’s repertoire.
Up the ante by placing the toy farther away or under things. Note that the higher you place something, the less easily she’ll be able to find it with her sense of smell.
Have a friend gently hold the dog while you go hide. Then *you* can be the prize.
Will Work for Food
Even if your dog doesn’t want to go out for a hike on a soggy Saturday, you can still keep her mentally stimulated. Instead of plopping her food down in a dog bowl, use a treat dispenser, such as the Tug-a-Jug, to make mealtime into playtime. These toys are often nearly indestructible, and they keep Stella engaged for hours. Literally.
Indoor Boot Camp
From a training perspective, reading on the couch is time wasted if you don’t seize the opportunity. Use this time in all kinds of creative ways to shore up your dog’s skills—lengthening the downstays your dog can handle, for example, or practicing this triad of super-important behavior cues: come, stay and leave it.
For even more playful ideas, check out JoAnna Lou’s Indoor Fun blog post or read up on Christina Sondermann’s Indoor Agility Exercises.
What are your secrets for rainy day fun with your dog(s)?
Rowman & Littlefield, 312 pp., 2011; $34.95
February 28 2012
Animals in need: with every new crisis in the animal community, the desire to bring about change can be overwhelming. But where does one start? Allie Phillips — author, attorney, advocate for animals and someone with an almost unbelievable ability to implement change on the ground — has written a highly useful guide to getting involved. Phillips begins with the basics of volunteer work, then quickly moves into more informative territory, including explanations of the essential language (e.g., do you support animal rights or animal welfare?), opportunities in public education, how to help feral cats, animal transport, lobbying, emergency preparedness and models of best practices around the country, among other issues. Phillips writes with confidence and conviction, and offers a steady hand to the hesitant advocate.
News: Guest Posts
The country's only statewide breed-specific legislation falls
February 23 2012
Pit Bulls have good reason to flash their trademark smiles, as Ohio governor John Kasich has just signed House Bill (HB) 14 into law, ending the only statewide breed-specific legislation in the United States. Previously, the state of Ohio designated Pit Bulls as vicious dogs. With the passage of HB 14, the state legislature introduced a graded system based on behavior, not appearance. There are now three categories of problem dog: nuisance, dangerous and vicious, with sanctions appropriate to the level of aggressive behavior.
Both Ledy VanKavage of Best Friends Animal Society and Jean Keating of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates have suggested this is good not only for the families of Pit Bulls, who are no longer legally required to purchase insurance policies, but also shelters, which are now free to house and adopt out rescued Pit Bulls.
According to Stacey Coleman, executive director of Animal Farm Foundation, there are twelve states that have passed statewide pre-emptions against breed-specific legislation: California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. While HB 14 represents yet another state shifting to behavior-based animal-control laws, the work of Pit Bull advocates is far from over. Municipal and county laws around the country are still in place, designating Pit Bulls as a vicious breed, and thus requiring transfer or euthanization of these misunderstood dogs.
Wellness: Food & Nutrition
Four simple steps to success
February 23 2012
The contents of my cabinets — stocked with maca, goji berries, coconut water and the like — confirm it: I’m a sucker for food trends. So, when my social network lit up with talk of probiotics for dogs, I took cautious note. No harm, no foul if I want to get wacky nouveau with the things I eat, but what about my dog, whose nutritional needs I’m responsible for meeting?
“Probiotics,” a broad group of over 400 microorganisms that support a robust, disease-free body, are a longstanding favorite in the human supplement world. Now they are suddenly omnipresent in pet-supply stores as well. But are they suitable and safe for the canine constitution? To get to the bottom of these questions, as well as to better understand the fundamental mechanics and benefits of probiotics, I dug right in to get the lay of this microflora landscape. The result of these investigations? Four self-education steps that will help you map this molecular jungle, and safely separate the fish oil from the snake oil.
1. Understand the science.
More specifically, Sanders suggests that probiotics increase “the activity or numbers of immune cells or cytokines, whose job it is to attack invading pathogens.” When the immune system senses these microbes in the gut, it launches a response. Probiotics can also produce antibacterial compounds called bacteriocins, which directly inhibit the body’s tolerance of pathogen growth. The plain-English version: probiotics are the good bacteria that kick out the bad, and then make it harder for the bad actors to get back in the door. They help your dog digest her food, increase her absorption of nutrients and boost her immune system, too.
When it comes to optimizing the use of probiotics, Dr. Robert Boyle, a clinical lecturer with the UK’s National Institute for Health Research, suggests that they work best as preventive agents. “Once disease is established,” Boyle writes, “it is harder for [probiotics] to compete with pathogenic bacteria and processes that have already become established in the gut.” While your dog is well, get her started with a diet rich in good microflora. But where do you get it?
2. Do it yourself.
The reality is that plenty of foods contain natural probiotics. Yogurt, kefir, onions, bananas, garlic, honey, leeks, kimchi and Jerusalem artichokes all appear regularly on lists of probiotic foods. Some of these items are not ideal for dogs; for example, onions and large quantities of garlic are dangerous and should be avoided. Kimchi is too spicy. The jury is out on dairy products, yogurt included. Some literature contends that dairy causes digestive upset in dogs, but a better part of the homefeeding community includes yogurt in their dogs’ diets to great effect. Some dog guardians, including C.J. Puotinen, author of The Encyclopedia of NaturalPet Care, are so adventurous that they feed things like lacto-fermented vegetables, such as mild homemade sauerkraut or shredded carrots with ginger. (For the brave souls who wish to try offering fermented veggies, note that fennel seed is a natural remedy for flatulence.)
Ultimately, you can work in any number of ways with a supportive veterinarian to come up with a safe, nutritious regime that takes gut health, and therefore probiotics, into account. The best takeaway in your DIY probiotic diet handbook, the number-one answer that most experts agree on — in part because it has many other benefits and is easily digested — is green tripe. Sticking with foods that are easily digested by your dog (like green tripe) makes the addition of probiotics to your dog’s mealtime routine incredibly safe. That’s the good news.
3. Find a balance.
Thomason reminds us that a healthy, species-appropriate diet is the first line of defense against illness, and will often balance the gut naturally. “In nature, animals know to seek out those foods that satisfy their nutritional needs.” Shepoints to the eating patterns of free-roaming wolves. “Before eating muscle or bone, wolves feast on stomach contents, the liver, pancreas and intestines — in other words, they are gorging on enzyme-laden tissues. Wolf pups are weaned and maintained on regurgitated food, also heavily laced with digestive enzymes.”
4. Monitor your dog’s daily life.
So it’s true — I follow trends. I give my dog yogurt (she’s fine with it). I have offered her homemade fermented veggies (hence the fennel-seed tip). And I have even made it routine to periodically include green tripe in her menus. What we call fads today can become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom when they prove to be legitimate practices that advance our health and happiness. I now know it’s healthy to take probiotics into account. And judging from my dog’sresponse when the tripe hits the bowl, I have the happiness part covered, too.
News: Guest Posts
Handling a houseful of love
February 17 2012
I knew I was going to be on my own navigating the new parenting world with a dog already in the house when more than once I came across the following advice: reduce the attention you give your dog by at least fifty percent. The logic: I would have less time to devote to my dog, so she should get used to it early. Say what? Stop petting the dog? Less toys for the dog? No more lavishing love on this beloved beast I *chose* to bring into my home, the one I committed to for life? No can do, parenting experts!
Still, when my son Wren came along, I needed to make changes. I've got a 60-pound Pit Bull-type dog in the house with me, and Stella can be something of a tornado when she gets excited. She skids and scrambles around on the wood floors, wedges herself between the object of my attention and me and seeks out high fives precisely at toddler-eye level when things are going her way. Here are a few of the things I've learned. It's not to say I've applied these strategies flawlessly, but it's the structure of these boundaries that have kept our household—and ALL the members in it—happy and secure.
1. Dogs + Babies Alone = No
We trust Stella. She's a good girl and can be left on the couch alone with a plate of food without eating it. That is to say, she's got great impulse control. But for both the baby's safety and for hers, we simply never leave them in the room alone together. Too much could go wrong—a yanked dog ear, a stomped baby hand, a dog tail to the eyeball.
2. Toy Management
This is a tricky one. As I wrote in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of The Bark, we did tons of training in advance to help Stella recognize her toys from Wren's. She's got this down now, and leaves his well enough alone. Wren has been a whole different issue. He makes a beeline straight for Stella when she's playing wth things, and likewise when she is eating. Despite Stella's tolerance of this (not all dogs are so gracious, nor should they be expected to be), I still protect her from Wren's prying hands by redirecting him with his own toys. He doesn't always appreciate this—so if he can't be redirected, I put a baby gate between them so Stella can play or eat in peace.
3. Breathing Room
That brings me to the next point. Sometimes, both baby and dog need space away from the constant attention of the other. This applies especially to old dogs or those with sore spots. Wren has reached a stage now where he finds Stella absolutely fascinating. He crawls behind her like the wake behind a boat. And while I find it charming, Stella sometimes may just want to sail around on her own. And that's fair enough. Baby gates, the Pack 'n Play or crib—all these serve as fine barriers between your beasties.
What are your trade secrets to happy cohabitation? Was your dog jealous when the kid(s) came along? I'd love to hear about your experiences.
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