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Wellness: Recipes
Food Works: Putting Homemade To The Test

For about a year, I’ve been supplementing our dogs’ quality kibble with homemade turkey burgers (along with whole-wheat pasta and cooked vegetables). Our three dogs eat twice a day; at each meal, our largest dog (45 pounds) gets half a burger, while the two smaller ones (30 and 25 pounds) roughly share the other half.

I developed the recipe myself, and while I tried to cover the bases in terms of appropriate canine nutrition, I had no particular agenda in mind—I mostly just wanted to make our dogs’ meals a little more interesting for them. Curious about the burgers’ nutritional value, I turned to Roschelle Heuberger, PhD, RD, professor at Central Michigan University and devoted Akita person, to find out how my culinary experiment stacked up.

The Recipe

Turkey Burgers

Makes approx. 36 3-inch patties, each about 3.5 ounces

Total prep time: 20 minutes

Total cooking time: 1 hour

Preheat oven to 400°

Combine

  • 6 1/2 lbs. ground dark-meat turkey
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp. ground dried eggshells
  • 3 tsp. chia
  • 1/2 c. garbanzo bean flour
  • 1/3 c. wheat bran
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 1 c. plain organic pumpkin
  • 3 c. organic rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. rehydrated dried shredded seaweed (low-sodium variety)

Mix well, making sure all the ingredients are completely incorporated. Shape into 3-inch patties, place on lightly oiled (with spray oil), rimmed baking sheet(s). Optional: Spread little ketchup (about 1/8 tsp.) on top of each patty.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour. A longer baking time will produce a drier and easier-to-crumble burger.

Tip: Deglaze the baking sheet with water, which makes a great gravy that can be used to moisten the meal. This recipe makes around 1 1/2 to 2 cups of this gravy. It’s also an easy way to help clean the baking pan.

The Analysis

By Roschelle Heuberger, PhD, RD

There is much controversy within the veterinary nutritionist community about commercial pet food and home cooking. And, since manufacturing standards for canine food are so much different than those we apply in our own kitchens, it’s difficult to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Nonetheless, using proprietary nutrition software, it’s possible to determine the relative values of the major food components of Claudia’s recipe with those found in commercially produced dog food (in parens).

Analysis (per patty)

Note: All measurements are given in terms of 100 kilocalories (kcals) against measurement standards used by commercial food manufacturers.

Protein: 7.5 grams (8 grams is considered high protein)

Calories: 5.3 kcals (5 or more kcals is considered high calorie)

Fat: 2 grams (a low-fat food contains less than 2 grams, so this is neither high nor low)

Sodium: 30 mg (anything less than 100 mg per serving is considered low-sodium)

Fiber: 0.75 grams (neither high nor low)

Moisture loss with one hour covered cooking time is approximately 10 to 15 percent. High heat and long cooking time will destroy 90 percent of the thiamin and up to 50 percent of some of the other B vitamins in the burgers. On the bright side, it will also kill pathogens, so you don’t have to worry about the contamination that’s a concern when it comes to undercooked meats.

The Verdict

Used as a “topper” to both to increase palatability and provide calories, protein and other nutrients, the turkey burger is a great addition to a complete commercial dog food. Feeding turkey burgers as toppers may also be helpful for older dogs, who often have poor appetites, or dogs who have been ill or malnourished. In those cases, the turkey burger need not replace the commercial food, but rather, could be fed in addition to it.

As the recipe is given, it would not be advisable to feed turkey burgers as the sole source of nutrition because they may be too high-calorie for some dogs, and also because they’re missing some of the other nutrients dogs need. Obesity is becoming an epidemic among dogs, as it is in humans. Caloric restriction and regular exercise are important for weight maintenance, particularly as a dog ages.

As always, choose the best commercial food you can afford. To educate yourself on the options and issues, try out one of the online dog food evaluators; Dogfoodadvisor.com is a good place to start.

The Background: Canine Nutrition

Dogs, who are omnivorous, require the same sorts of major nutrients—proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and vitamins and minerals—as human omnivores, but in different ratios. For example, they have an absolute requirement for linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, and for nearly a dozen amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These amino acids range from the complex (arginine and phenylalanine) to simple (leucine and valine).

We and our four-legged companions get all 22 amino acids from protein sources such as eggs or meats, which contain varying percentages of each one. Some protein sources contain most of them, others only a fraction. Meats, eggs and fish are among the best sources of complete amino acids, and their proteins are highly digestible; this means that the amino acids are absorbed more readily from the gut.

Standards for minimal nutritional composition of food for dogs are based on percentages, which are determined by a dog’s physiological status; the percentages are higher for dogs during growth, reproduction and lactation stages, and increase as the weight of the animal increases. Usually, the amount fed to achieve the minimal percentages required for maintenance of normal physiological function in the dog is based on dry matter per kilogram of body weight. That is why labels that show the number of cups of food to be fed per day base the measurement on the size of the dog. Companies formulate their foods to provide a specific amount of protein, linoleic acid, and calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.

If you’re cooking for your dog and want to do your own analysis, a number of websites allow you to do that, but none can be considered foolproof. For example, there’s the USDA Nutrient Database. This is a food calculator only, and doesn’t contain information on ingredients that one might use in a dog-food recipe, such as eggshells (a free web calculator that includes eggshells can be found here: nutritiondata.self.com).

Wellness: Healthy Living
Dog Circovirus
A Virus Worth Watching

It’s not new, but a member of the circovirus family, usually linked to diseases in pigs and some birds, is now showing up in dogs. Research data from the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine suggests that this emerging virus, either alone or as a co-infection, may be a contributing factor in canine illness in California.

Data collection is underway in multiple regions of the country to determine if exposure to circovirus is common and widespread. Dog-to-human infection has not been documented.

“We know from looking at dog samples that were stored in our archives that canine circovirus has been around for at least five years,” said Patricia Pesavento, DVM. PhD, associate professor, Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “We are seeing it in dogs now because we are looking for it, and we have the tools to diagnose it now. The canine virus is not a modified strain of porcine circovirus, but is a completely different virus from the same virus family.” The good news is that circovirus does not always result in illness, being found in the stool of 14 of 204 healthy dogs screened.

“From what we know now, circovirus is not a major cause for concern, and the cases we’ve identified post-mortem seem to be isolated,” said Dr. Pesavento.

Among dogs that were sick and had circovirus in their tissues, vomiting and bloody diarrhea were the common symptoms, said Dr Pesavento. “However, diarrhea isn’t necessarily predictable, since two dogs had clinical signs that were limited to the central nervous system, and in those cases blood vessels in the brain were most affected. This reflects the fact that the virus seems to affect the vascular system.”

A symptom as non-specific as diarrhea could come from wide variety of common causes including other infectious agents, ingestion of foreign bodies or toxins, overeating rich treats, and even stress. Dr. Pesavento added that, among infectious agents, parvovirus is very common and can cause vomiting and bloody diarrhea.  

Circovirus is shed in feces, and transmission is presumably fecal-oral transmission. Doggie daycare and boarding facilities, where many dogs are gathered in one area, can be a prime source of infection for many illnesses, although the virus is not confined to boarding facilities.

To reduce the chance of any viral illness and to avoid infecting other dogs, apply the same simple measures that you would in a child attending daycare. Avoid contact with ill animals and contact with other dogs if your dog has symptoms of illness. Clean up your pet’s stool and avoid contact with other pet’s stool whenever possible.

“As you well know, dogs are not very picky about what they put in their mouths,” said Dr. Pesevento. “Monitor dogs carefully if they have ‘dietary indiscretion’ that causes vomiting or diarrhea that is mild and short-lasting. Blood in any vomit should be addressed quickly, said Dr. Pesavento.

Consult your veterinarian to get the correct diagnosis, including any laboratory testing. Prompt treatment, regardless of the cause, gives your dog a better chance of quick recovery and avoids infecting other animals.

“There is no circovirus-specific treatment, said Dr. Pesavento. “As with most viral infections, your veterinarian can treat symptoms with supportive fluid therapy or antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections.”

A healthy pet is more likely to have a fully functional immune system to fight infections, so good preventive care is also important.

More than anyone, you know when your dog is not behaving normally. Prompt veterinary treatment can be critical to a good outcome, so address all illnesses early for the overall health of your pet.

 

 

 

 

 

Wellness: Food & Nutrition
Nutritional Analysis of Turkey Burgers
• Download a PDF of the analysis.   This recipe was analyzed using Nutritionist Pro, Axxya Systems™ (2013). Because there is no way to tell, without doing a guaranteed analysis of 100% dry matter in the finished turkey burger, what happened during the cooking process, a number of assumptions were applied, including moisture content and moisture losses. Destruction of vitamins during the cooking process was not factored in (AAFCO values are obtained from the finished product). The software calculated the nutrient composition of the recipe without taking into account the unique parameters of preparation by a home cook. (Home cooking is not standardized in the way a food manufacturer’s is, where plant processes are maintained at a very narrow range for quality assurance.)   An important caveat: Quantity of food fed varies according to the manufacturers’ processing and analysis values. So, if a 25 kg (55 pound) dog requires 5 cups of food per day according a specific commercial brand’s instructions, and vitamin and mineral supplements are added to the kibble post-processing, the comparison between feeding 100g of turkey burger that you make yourself and 100g of dry, extruded kibble that has been fortified post-processing with vitamins and minerals is an apples-to-oranges exercise.
Wellness: Healthy Living
Sleeps with Dogs

A snoring spouse, sirens and glowing electronic screens can all make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Research from the Mayo Clinic finds that pets can be part of the problem, too.

Patients at the Mayo Center for Sleep Medicine were asked about causes of interrupted sleep in 2002, and only 1 percent mentioned their pets as an issue, though 22 percent had pets sharing their beds. When patients were asked similar questions in 2013, 10 percent reported that their pets disturbed their sleep.

Dr. Lois Krahn, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, says, “Dogs disturbed sleep by wanting to sleep in a particular place on the bed (where the sleeper would prefer to place their feet, under the covers, on the pillow), needing attention and creating sounds [such as] whimpering during dreaming.”

One benefit of having a dog is having a warm body to snuggle up with at the end of a long day. But sometimes, what you love gets in the way of what you need. In a 2009 survey done by Kansas State University, Dr. Kate Stenske found that more than half of dog owners allow their dogs to sleep in their beds.

How can you reconcile your need for solid sleep with the comfort of your canine companion?

First, take an honest look at how well you sleep. Do you fall asleep quickly, or do you spend a long time tossing and turning? Are you up in the night, for your own needs or to take care of something else? In the morning, are you energized or do you rely on coffee to get going?

If your dog is getting in the way of your falling or staying asleep, it’s time to make some changes. Try moving her from your bed to her own bed in the same room; create a comfortable space near you but on the floor. This is a hard habit to break, so plan to work on it. You’ll have to keep moving her back to her bed when she climbs up with you, but be patient and offer lots of praise.

What about doggie sleep sounds? If you don’t want to use earplugs, try white noise from a fan or other appliance with a constant humming sound.

Once you take back your sleeping space, you may realize that the dog wasn’t the problem. Dr. J. Todd Arnedt of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Michigan has tips for what he calls good “sleep hygiene.”

• Avoid evening exercise.
• Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable: reduce external light sources, turn off the TV and find your best sleeping temperature.
• No caffeine after mid-afternoon, and no alcohol in the evening.
• Make the bedroom a place for intimacy and sleep only; leave work outside.
• Establish an evening wind-down time. Lower the lights, do quiet activities, have a light carbohydrate snack.

If you make these changes and insomnia is still stalking you, it’s time to talk to a professional for more in-depth study.

Most dog owners can continue to enjoy the comfort and companionship of their furriest family member through the night. But if sleep is evasive, you may want to take a closer look at what’s keeping you up at night.

Wellness: Recipes
Thursday Thanksgiving
Fast, easy and nutritious turkey feast.

It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to give thanks! Working in animal rescue, I’ve seen a lot of heartbreak, but I’ve also seen and experienced the love that a rescued animal can bring to a human and vice versa. Each one of my rescued dogs gives me so much joy and love every day—cooking for them and making sure they are healthy is the least I can do to say thanks. This recipe is chock-full of nutritious and delicious ingredients that help keep your beloved pup healthy and happy.

Makes 4 servings for a 50-pound dog

2 tbsps. olive oil
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
3/4 cup uncooked barley
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup (2 ounces) minced beef heart
1/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/4 cup salmon oil
4 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

1. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the turkey and cook until it is browned. Drain any excess fat and set the turkey aside to cool.

2. Prepare the barley as directed on the package. Set it aside to cool. You should have about 1 cup of cooked barley.

3. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. If using the garlic, add it and sauté until it is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté, stirring frequently until wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.

4. Once cooled, puree the spinach and garlic mixture in a food processor and set it aside. You should have about a 1⁄4 cup of spinach puree.

 

To Make One Serving

1 1/3 cups cooked ground turkey
1/4 cup cooked barley
1 tbsp. spinach puree
1 tbsp. minced cooked beef heart
1 tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. salmon oil
1 sprig chopped parsley

In your dog’s bowl, combine the turkey, barley, spinach puree, with beef heart, pumpkin, salmon oil and parsley. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

For a serving chart of proportions for different size dogs, see bowmeowraw.com

Home Cooking for Your Dog by Christine M. Filardi © Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013

Note: We've omitted the garlic originally in this recipe.

News: Editors
Check the Chip Day

Every dog has its day, and every day “has” its dog! So Friday August 15 has been declared as “Check the Chip Day,” by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medicine Association) and the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association). It serves as a good reminder to make sure your dog’s microchip contact information is correct—perhaps you adopted a dog from a rescue group and forgot to change the contact info to yours, or your address has changed and you didn’t notify the microchip registry. And, if your dog isn’t chipped yet, this is also gives you the impetus to do it now—helps to ensure that you can be easily reunited with your dog if she is ever lost. A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2%. If you don’t know your dog’s chip number—a requirement to log into the registry—ask your vet or shelter to use a universal scanner to read the chip. Microchips come in various frequencies. Unfortunately there is no one frequency yet in place, so frequencies might be 125 kilo Hertz (kHz), 128 kHz, or 134.2 kHz, and only an universal scanner can read all of these. It also gets more complicated because each registry has its own database, but the AAHA maintains Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool linking all the registries. See this helpful video for more information about microchipping and if you have more questions these FAQs from the AVMA are useful.

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News: JoAnna Lou
Xylitol Becoming More Common
The toxic ingredient is showing up in more household products.

It's widely known that xylitol, an ingredient in sugar-free gum, is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia and liver failure. This has led me to be really careful about leaving packs of gum in handbags I leave around the house. I also keep gum packs (and chocolate) in a secure plastic bin in my pantry, just to be sure no hungry dogs get into the dangerous treats.

But I recently discovered that many more household products contain xylitol. In addition to other edible goods, like cookies, cough drops, and medications, the ingredient has been popping up in toothpaste, cosmetics, and mouthwash. The Pet Poison Hotline even found a line of clothing with xylitol embedded in it!

Clearly it's important to check the ingredients of the products you have lying around the house and keep them away from your pets. Xylitol is typically listed in the “Other ingredients” or “Inactive ingredients” section, but it's also been seen in the “Supplement Facts” box, so make sure you read the package closely. Sometimes the ingredients won't be listed as xylitol, but may be included as “sugar alcohols,” which encompasses many different sugar alcohols, like xylitol.

If your pet has ingested a product with xylitol in it, immediately call a veterinarian. The ingredient is so toxic that symptoms can show up within 10 minutes of ingestion. This includes weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, vomiting, and rapid breathing. Fortunately dogs can recover if treated promptly.

This just shows how important it is to know what's in the products in your home.

News: JoAnna Lou
30 Day Pet Food Challenge
You Tube videos chronicle awareness around pet food ingredients

When I got my first dog, I spent countless hours pouring over the ingredient of different pet foods. I finally settled on grain free kibble made from human grade ingredients, but even so I don't think I would eat a day's worth of dog food.

Enter Dorothy Hunter, animal lover and owner of Paws Natural Pet Emporium in Kennewick, Washington. Dorothy is so passionate about quality pet food that she just completed a vow to eat only dog, cat, and bird food from her store's shelves for one month. She embarked on this journey to create awareness around pet nutrition, chronicled in a series of You Tube videos.

“You would be surprised how tasty dog and cat food can be when it's made right,” says Dorothy. She believes that, in many cases, our pets are eating better than us.

Many people asked Dorothy about her digestion, but she says she felt great on the diet. Her selection couldn't be further from the “supermarket kibble” people picture when they think of pet food. Dorothy's menu consisted of oven baked blueberry treats, freeze dried vegetables, kibble with salmon flakes, and canned food with pieces of succulent chicken.

Dorothy's You Tube videos are a great way to get people thinking about their pets' food while reaching a new audience. There's nothing like eating dog treats and kibble to make you hyper aware of the ingredients inside!

News: Karen B. London
Repetitive Behavior in Dogs
A study with insights into welfare

If you think that having dogs who bounce off the walls is problematic for them and for you, you are not alone. “Wall bouncing” is one of the repetitive behaviors that have long been considered indicative of poor welfare and chronic stress in the animals performing them. Other repetitive behaviors that are commonly seen in dogs are pacing, circling and spinning, all of which are generally regarded as stereotypical behavior.

Stereotypical behaviors are those that are not just repetitive, but also pointless and occur because of deficits in animals’ housing situation that cause frustration. That is, when animals are performing stereotypies, they are exhibiting behavior that has no function, and doing it over and over because their living environment is inadequate to meet their needs. A recent study in the journal Physiology and Behavior called Repetitive behaviour in kennelled domestic dog: Stereotypical or not? explored whether all the repetitive behaviors observed in kennelled dogs are actually stereotypies. The reason this question matters is that if their repetitive behaviors are stereotypies, it suggests that animals’ welfare may be compromised, but if they are performing repetitive behaviors for other reasons, then that conclusion may be suspect.

The researchers studied 30 male German Shepherds who are fully trained Police Dogs in the UK and live in a kennel that can hold as many as 40 dogs. They studied their behavior as well as their cortisol profiles (which indicate stress) before and after veterinary exams. They found that all but two of the dogs performed repetitive behaviors, but that very few of them displayed stereotypies. Repetitive behaviors were most commonly induced by a dog and handler walking past the kennel and by witnessing food preparation, which supports the idea that repetitive behaviors are simply a response to situations of high arousal rather than to stress.

The dogs could be divided into four groups based on the pattern of their repetitive behavior and the eliciting stimuli. Twelve of the dogs only exhibited repetitive behavior in response to husbandry events (including veterinary care) or not at all and showed them in less than half of the observation period. Five additional dogs also only displayed repetitive behavior in those same contexts, but they showed it more than half of the time that they were observed. Eight dogs performed repetitive behaviors in response to husbandry and when a person walked by or stood outside their kennel. The last five dogs displayed repetitive behavior in the absence of these and other specific stimuli.

Though all the groups had similar baseline cortisol profiles, this last group had a cortisol profile following the exam that differed from the other groups. These dogs showed a decrease in cortisol immediately after the exam rather than the increase in cortisol seem in the other groups. This suggests one of two possibilities. One is that these dogs are under chronic stress and lack the physiological ability to respond typically to the additional stress of an exam. The other possibility is that these dogs are so attached to people, including their caregivers and the veterinarian, that being with them after a separation is such a positive experience that it balances out the stress of being removed from the kennel and examined.

The relationship between repetitive behaviors in dogs and their welfare status remains unclear, but this study suggests that there is not just one motivating factor behind the expression of repetitive behaviors. Many questions remain about repetitive behavior in dogs who are kenneled. Is it an indication of poor welfare? Could the repetitive behaviors be a result of reinforcement (food or attention) of these behaviors from people caring for the dogs? Why are the cortisol profiles different in dogs who exhibit repetitive behaviors without specific eliciting stimuli?

Wellness: Healthy Living
Pounds Off Pups
Help your pup shed excess weight.

How many times has your veterinarian commented on your dog’s weight? How many times have you been told, “Here’s a bag of prescription diet food—if you feed your dog this and only this, he will lose weight.” But what if he doesn’t? And why should you care?

Clinical research has shown that losing just 10 percent of body weight will slow or prevent many life-threatening disease processes, including debilitating osteoarthritis and diabetes, and perhaps even some types of cancers. By taking a few simple measures, you may be able to add more quality time to your dog’s life, time the two of you can enjoy together.

Food Watch
Fortunately, there are ways to take pounds off your pup that don’t involve prescription food (“senior” or “weight loss” commercial diets are usually low in protein and fats and do not offer the body as much nutrition to build strong muscle mass). Once it’s been determined that the extra weight isn’t the result of something like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s Syndrome, make it your goal to reduce your dog’s total volume of food by 5 to 10 percent every two weeks until steady weight loss is observed. Aim for a loss of 1 percent of body weight per week, or one to two pounds per month, depending on the size of your dog, until he reaches the target. Slow and steady weight loss prevents the body from going into “starvation mode,” which slows the metabolism.

Feed higher protein/lower carbohydrate foods (a 3:1 ratio); proteins and fats are converted to usable energy faster than starches and carbs. Think of this as the “puppy Paleo diet”! And even if you’re feeding a high-protein, grain-free variety, cut down on kibble. In general, all kibble has 60 percent more starch than canned food because starch is needed to maintain the kibble’s shape when it’s baked or extruded. Too much dry food equals too much starch, which breaks down to sugars and is stored as body fat. It’s easy to overfeed dry foods, especially if you follow the directions on the packaging.

Add water or broth to kibble to make it nicely soupy. The extra liquid will help your dog digest his food more easily and reduce his body’s need to pull water from his system to his stomach, which can contribute to dehydration.

Try gradually reducing your dog’s kibble ration by half, replacing it with more moisture-based foods such as lean meats, fish or eggs, and low-starch green and orange vegetables and fruits. I’ve found that companion animals do best with at least 50 percent of their diet fed as fresh foods—cooked, raw, dehydrated or freeze-dried—mixed with a significantly reduced volume of highgrade kibble. This keeps them satisfied and helps with the faster metabolic change that promotes weight loss. Another option is to feed him a low-carbohydrate canned food; these have less starch and more water, and therefore, fewer extra calories to stick around. Or, transition him to a complete and balanced commercial raw diet, which has very little starch.

Decreased fat content also helps with weight loss, but do not eliminate fats entirely, as they satisfy hunger; look for 4 to 7 percent fat content in canned foods. Also, avoid feeding excess insoluble fiber; among other things, it may interfere with nutrient absorption. Roughly 5 to 6 percent fiber is ideal. If stools become soft, add 1/4 teaspoon of psyllium to each meal. Make mealtime more fun with interactive feeding toys. These not only stimulate a dog’s mind, they make him work for his supper (or breakfast, or snack). Dogs eat more slowly and expend more calories. Google “how to stuff a dog-feeding toy” for helpful tips. The Kong is the granddaddy of dog-feeding toys, and there are other excellent options on the market as well, among them Nina Ottosson’s ingenious products.

Walk It Out
Exercise is the other part of the weight-loss equation, but don’t expect an aging, sedentary or extremely overweight dog to join you on a cross-country run. Look for ways that work with his physical condition, gradually increasing the pace and duration as he becomes more fit. For example, start with two or three short daily walks instead of one long one, and warm him up and cool him down with gentle, passive, range-ofmotion exercises. If your dog’s arthritic, ask your vet for help in developing appropriate activity goals. Go low-impact if your dog has a condition that makes exercise uncomfortable. Hydrotherapy—swimming in a warm pool or walking on an underwater treadmill—provides almost weightless exercise, removing pressure on painful joints or injuries while supplying the benefits of resistance, warmth and circulation, pain relief, and endorphin release, aka nature’s Prozac. (Ed. note: Read about water-based exercise at thebark.com/ hydrotherapy.)

As your dog becomes stronger, try walking in water at the beach, up streams and against gentle currents. (The caveat here is to be aware of water temperature; very cold water can lead to achy joints.) Or, walk on sand, on grassy slopes, and up and down gentle inclines. Finally, when he’s ready for it, take him on longer hikes or try a doggie treadmill.

Keep your dog on his feet and improve his balance with some fun exercises. To work his gluteals and hamstrings, have him take several steps backward. Stepping sideways tunes up his adductor and abductor muscles. Navigating cavaletti (small hurdles set at uneven heights); threading through poles or cones; or walking on cushions, an air mattress or a thick foam pad will help him with balance and proprioception (knowing where his feet are). Sit-to-stand and lie-to-stand exercises strengthen hip and knee muscles.

Weight-shifting is another way to help your dog’s balance. Hold one of his legs off the ground for three to six seconds at a time, or have him stand with his front feet on a stair step to eat. To loosen his neck, shoulder muscles and upper spine, lure him into stretching his head back toward his body with a carrot or small lean meat treat.

So, here’s the proverbial bottom line: One—paraphrasing Michael Pollan—feed your dog real food, feed him less of it, and include a variety of protein sources and dog-safe fruits and vegetables. Two, strengthen and improve his muscle tone, balance and stamina with condition-appropriate activities. He’ll have a sleeker physique and you’ll thank yourself for making the effort.

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