Identifying Food for Growth at Critical Times

In contrast to humans, dogs grow fast. During the first 7 months of Buddy's life, his birth weight increases anywhere from 15 to 40 times, depending upon his breed. By 1 year of age, his birth weight increases 60 times and his skeletal development is almost complete. For strength and proper growth to occur, he needs the right food. He also needs twice the amount of food as an adult while he is growing, especially during growth spurts. Nutritional deficiencies at an early age, even for short periods, can cause problems later on.

The most critical period for a puppy is between 4 and 7 months, the time of maximum growth. His little body is being severely stressed as his baby teeth drop out and his adult teeth come in. He's growing like a weed, and at the same time his body is being assaulted with a huge number of vaccines. During this time of growth, Buddy needs the right food so that his immune system can cope with all these demands and onslaughts.

To find out how you can protect him as best as possible, you need to take a look at different dog foods to find the ones that best meet the criteria for young Buddy's growth. In the following sections we give you some ideas of which foods to choose and what to add to them to make up for the deficiencies caused in processing.

Deciphering puppy food labels

Puppy foods do contain more protein than adult or maintenance foods. Manufacturers know that puppies need more protein for growth. Nonetheless, you still need to know the source of the protein — that is, animal or plant.

Look for a puppy food that has two animal proteins in the first three ingredients — or better yet, one that lists animal protein as its first two ingredients.

After you have selected a food for young Buddy on the basis of its protein percentage, your job isn't quite done yet. You have to check a few of the other following items.

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Going easy on the carbohydrates

Your dog also needs carbohydrates found in grains and some vegetables for proper digestion. The digestive process first breaks down carbohydrates into starch and then into simple sugars and glucose, necessary for energy and proper functioning of the brain. Buddy also needs carbohydrates for stool formation and correct functioning of the thyroid gland.

Dogs don't need many carbohydrates to be healthy, and a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein is an ideal diet. Oats, barley, and brown rice are carbohydrates that contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. They also contain protein and fat. Corn is popular because of its low price. Other sources of carbohydrates are vegetables, especially root vegetables.

Soy is another carbohydrate found in some foods. Soy admittedly is high in protein, but it binds other nutrients and makes them unavailable for absorption. We recommend that you stay away from dog foods containing soy.

Carbohydrates have to be broken down for the dog to be able to digest them. Dog food companies use a heat process to do so, and therein lies a problem. The heat process destroys many of the vitamins and minerals contained in carbohydrates. The question that comes immediately to mind is, "Where do dogs in the wild get the grains and vegetables they need?" The answer is from the intestines of their prey, all neatly predigested.

Knowing the value of fats — in moderation

Fat is either saturated or polyunsaturated, and your dog needs both. Saturated fat comes from animal sources, and polyunsaturated fat comes from vegetable sources. Together they supply the essential fatty acids (EFA) necessary to maintain good health.

In the manufacturing of the majority of dog foods, fat is sprayed on as the last ingredient. Fat makes the dog food palatable, like potato chips and French fries.

Saturated fat comes from animal sources and is used for energy. For dogs that get a great deal of exercise or participate in competitive events, the food needs to contain 20 percent animal fat. Not enough animal fat in your dog's diet can create i Cell damage i Dry skin i Heart problems i Growth deficits i Lack of energy

On the other hand, too much animal fat in the diet creates i Cancer of the colon and rectum i Mammary gland tumors i Obesity

Polyunsaturated fat is found in vegetable sources, such as flax seed oil, saf-flower oil, wheat germ oil, olive oil, and corn oil. Your dog needs polyunsatu-rated fat for a healthy skin and coat. Too little of this fat can produce skin lesions on the belly, thighs, and between the shoulder blades. If your dog has a dry coat, you may need to add oil to his food.

Linoleic acid is one of the three essential fatty acids that have to be provided daily in your dog's food. Safflower and flax seed oil provide the best source of linoleic acid and are the least allergenic. These oils are better than corn oil, which contains only a tiny amount of linoleic acid.

Lack of polyunsaturated fat in your dog's diet can cause i Coarse, dry coat i Extreme itching and scratching i Horny skin growths i Improper growth i Poor blood clotting i Skin lesions on the belly, inside the back legs, and between the shoulder blades i Skin ulcerations and infections i Thickened areas of skin

Look for food that contains both animal and vegetable oils.

What else is in this food?

Dog food manufacturers have choices on how to preserve the fat in food to prevent it from becoming rancid, such as using the chemicals BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, or propyl gallate. If a fat is preserved with these chemicals, it has a long shelf life and isn't significantly affected by heat and light. Even so, many dog owners prefer not to feed these chemicals to their dogs, especially ethoxyquin. (Check out the sidebar, "Common chemicals used in dog foods" in this chapter for more info on these chemicals.)

A manufacturer can also use natural preservatives, such as vitamins C and E and rosemary extract. Vitamin E is listed as tocopherol. The downside to natural preservatives is a shorter shelf life, no more than six months, provided the food is stored in a cool, dark place

Common chemicals used in dog foods

When you're reading dog food packages, distinguishing what a preservative is and isn't can be difficult. Following is a list of the more common chemicals seen on the packages:

i Antioxidants: Used to preserve the fats in the food. These are BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate. Ethoxyquin has been linked to birth defects and immune disorders, so you may want to stay away from products that contain it.

i Humectants: Used to prevent food from drying out or getting too moist. These are calcium silicate, propylene glycol, glycerine, and sorbitol.

i Mold inhibitors: Used to retard the growth of molds and yeast. These are potassium salts, sodium or calcium proprionate, sodium diacetate, sorbic acid, and acetic or lactic acid.

i Sequestrants: Used to prevent physical or chemical changes to the color, odor, flavor, or appearance of the food. These are sodium, potassium or calcium salts, and citric, tartaric, or pyrophosphoric acids.

i Texturizers: Not preservatives as such but used in meats to maintain their texture and color. The most common are sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.

Note that natural preservatives are vitamins C and E and rosemary extract. Vitamin E is often listed as tocopherol.

What else isn't in this food?

Your dog needs vitamins in his food to release the nutrients and enzymes from the ingested food so that his body can absorb and use them. Without vitamins, your dog can't break down food and use it.

In researching our book The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, (Wiley), we called dog food manufacturers to ask them their source of vitamins and how they protected them against destruction from the heat process. Their responses were astonishing. They acknowledged awareness of the problem, and, to overcome it, they added more vitamins to the food to make up the difference. Of course, doing so is nonsense. If vitamins are destroyed by heat, it doesn't make any difference how much you put in the food. They'll still be destroyed.

We also discovered that most of the finished products weren't tested. In other words, vitamins and minerals go into the food, but what actually reaches your dog seems as much a mystery to some of the manufacturers as it is to us.

Two types of vitamins exist — water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are B and C. Any excess is filtered through the kidneys and urinated out between four to eight hours after ingestion. For this reason, these vitamins must be present in each meal. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver. Your dog needs both types.

Because of the heat used during processing, dog food lacks two important water-soluble vitamins that dogs need to maintain their health.

^ Vitamin C: A fairly common misconception is that dogs don't need extra vitamin C because they produce their own. Although they do produce their own vitamin C, they don't produce enough, especially in today's polluted environment.

Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, speeds wound healing, helps the function of the musculoskeletal system, and is needed whenever the dog gets wormed, is given drugs of any kind, or is put under any kind of stress. A lack of vitamin C in the diet commonly results in urinary tract infections, cystitis, and limps.

Buddy needs vitamin C for healthy teeth and gums. In the old days, sailors often suffered from a vitamin C deficiency due to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables while at sea. This malady is called scurvy and results in weakness, anemia, spongy and inflamed gums, and dirty teeth. The same thing happens to the vitamin C-deficient dog.

^ Vitamin B: This vitamin, which comprises a number of individual parts, is called vitamin B-complex. Also water-soluble and fragile, vitamin B is needed for energy and to promote biochemical reactions in the body that work with enzymes to change the carbohydrates into glucose, as well as to break down protein.

Vitamin B-complex helps to maintain the health of the nervous system, skin, eyes, hair, mouth, and the liver. This vitamin is necessary for muscle tone in the digestive tract and proper brain function. Vitamin B also helps to alleviate anxiety and depression, and is important to the older dog to maintain his health.

Because vitamins begin to break down when you open your dog food bag and expose the food to the elements, close the food up tightly and keep it away from light. Doing so helps to retain the quality of the contents. (Vitamins B and C are particularly sensitive to exposure.)

Because not enough of either vitamin B or C is contained in any processed dog food to meet your criteria for raising Buddy, you have to add these vitamins to his diet. We use the carefully tested vitamins from PHD Products with our own dogs.

Adding minerals

Minerals make up less than 2 percent of any formulated diet, and yet they're the most critical of nutrients. Although your dog can manufacture some vitamins on his own, he isn't able to make minerals. The minerals are needed i To correctly compose body fluids i To form blood and bones i To promote a healthy nervous system i To function as coenzymes together with vitamins

Because between 50 and 80 percent of minerals are lost in the manufacturing process, we recommend that you add extra minerals to your dog's food.

We recommend adding the product Wellness, manufactured by PHD Products, to your dogs' daily diet. Wellness provides an herbal vitamin/mineral mix from natural sources and contains all those vitamins and minerals that are lost in the processing of commercial food. It supplies Buddy with the necessary tools needed to absorb and break down his food and protects him from viruses and bacteria found in his environment.

Quenching his thirst — keeping fresh water around

Your dog needs access to fresh water in a clean, stainless steel bowl at all times. The exception is when the puppy is being housetrained, when you need to limit access to water after 8 p.m. so that the puppy can last through the night.

Water is the most necessary ingredient that dogs need on a daily basis. Without water, your dog will die. If a dog has adequate water, he can live for three weeks without food, but he can live only a few days without water. Your dog uses water for the digestive processes, breaking down and absorbing nutrients, as well as maintaining his body temperature. Water helps to detoxify the body and transport toxic substances out of the body through the elim-inative organs. Water also keeps the acid levels of the blood constant.

The kind of food you feed your dog determines how much water your dog needs. For example, kibble contains about 10 percent moisture, and your dog needs about a quart of water for every pound of food he eats. A dog fed only canned food, which is around 78 percent moisture, needs considerably less water. If fed raw foods, a dog may drink less than a cup of water a day because the food contains sufficient water.

City water systems usually provide water free from parasites and bacteria by using chemicals such as chlorine, aluminum salts, soda, ash, phosphates, calcium hydroxides, and activated carbon. According to a study reported in Consumer Reports in 1990, the main contaminants remaining are lead, radon, and nitrates. Lead comes from water pipes in houses built early in the last century. Radon is a by-product of uranium found in the Earth's crust and is more prevalent in water from wells and ground water in the northeast, North Carolina, and Arizona. Water from lakes and rivers is less contaminated with radon. Nitrates come from ground water sources and contain agricultural contaminants.

Note also that the more grains in the food the more alkaline it is, and Buddy will drink more water to maintain his correct acid/alkaline balance. If Buddy is drinking too much water, a change in diet to a more acidic food (one containing more animal protein) may be in order. If Buddy still continues to drink a large amount of water, it could be the beginnings of a kidney or bladder infection. When in doubt, visit your vet for a checkup.

You can test to see if Buddy's pH is correct by going to the pharmacy and picking up some pH test strips. Place a strip into Buddy's urine when he goes out first thing in the morning to relieve himself. The pH should read between 6.5 and 6.7. If it's higher than 7.5 to 8 (7 is neutral), his diet is too alkaline.

Digesting information

Raw foods pass through a dog's stomach and into the intestinal tract in 4)2 hours. So after that time span, the dog is already receiving energy from that food. Raw foods are the most easily digested by the dog.

Semimoist foods — the kind that you can find in boxes on the supermarket shelf and shaped like hamburgers or the kind that are in rolls like sausages — take almost nine hours to pass through the stomach. Dry foods take between 15 and 16 hours, so if you choose to feed Buddy any kind of dry processed dog food, it will be in his stomach from morning 'til night.

The following sections provide some insight into the food-processing issue.

Canned food

Ingredients in canned foods are measured in wet weight rather than dry weight (which is how kibble is measured). The ingredients listed on the label reflect the actual amount of raw ingredients that went into the can. Canned food lists protein as 8 to 10 percent, which is less than that found in kibble, but the protein is calculated differently. A simple and approximate way to compare the two is to double the amount of protein listed on the can to compare it with kibble. A listing of 10 percent protein on the canned food label equals around 20 percent on the kibble package.

Feeding canned food is much more expensive than feeding dry food because the moisture content in the can is around 78 percent, so you're paying for only 22 percent of dry ingredients. Canned food comes in different price ranges and in many qualities. Some canned foods contain only meat protein, and others contain primarily cereal grains. Some come in a stew form. In judging the quality of these foods, look for the AAFCO statement on the can. That statement assures you that the food has gone through some kind of testing.

Canned food is processed at a very high temperature that kills bacteria and viruses. Also, canned food contains fewer preservatives than kibble. Many dogs like their kibble pepped up with a bit of canned food, which contains little nutritive value because the heat processing effectively kills the vitamins and minerals in the food, as well as changes the amino acids in the protein.

Semimoist food

Although consumer friendly, semimoist food contains sweeteners or preservatives to give it a long shelf life. Coloring is added to make it look appetizing. As a sole diet for dogs, it may cause digestive upsets because of its ingredients and high preservative content. The moisture content ranges from 20 to 25 percent. Some natural semimoist foods are available on the market. One comes in the shape of a large sausage, and small pieces can be cut off for treats. Dogs fed these products exclusively on a regular basis may develop digestive problems.

Sugar is commonly listed as the fourth or fifth ingredient in these foods. The chemical name for sugar is dextrose. Sugar stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin, which is needed to break down carbohydrates and sugar in the food. The pancreas has to work overtime to produce enough insulin to break down this food, setting the stage for diseases of the pancreas, which can cause not only digestive upsets but also behavioral problems. Hyperactivity is the most common of the behavioral problems.

Raw food

Our years with dogs have made it abundantly clear that feeding a balanced raw diet — which emulates what Buddy would eat in the wild — is the best and most efficient way to feed a dog. A correctly formulated raw diet provides all the known nutrients in a form the dog can quickly digest and turn into energy. Dogs fed this way live longer and are much healthier than their counterparts who are fed commercial foods.

We have always felt that many disease states, including musculoskeletal disorders (such as hip dysplasia), are certainly exacerbated — if not actually caused by — poor nutrition. Our belief along these lines has since been confirmed by veterinarian Marc Torel and scientific journalist Klaus Dieter Kammerer in their book, The Thirty Years War: 1966-1996 (Transanimal Publishing House).

Many raw diets are available for you to choose from, but making the correct choice is even more difficult than comparing commercial dog foods. We apply the same criteria to the examination of raw food diets as we do to commercial foods: Both need to be clinically tested and provide a balanced diet for a dog. Diets, especially homemade ones, raw or cooked, that don't meet these criteria can do more damage to your dog than commercial dog food.

Before changing Buddy's diet, we recommend that your vet conduct a blood test on Buddy to establish a baseline. After Buddy has been on his new raw diet program for six months, have another blood test done and compare it to the previous one. The follow-up blood test can tell whether or not his new diet is an improvement.

You need to keep other considerations in mind. Feeding raw meat or raw chicken to a dog can cause digestive upsets if the meat contains a high level of bacteria in the form of E. coli or salmonella. Although a dog that has been fed raw foods for a long time can easily deal with both of these bacteria, a sick dog or a dog just being transferred over to a raw diet may become sick.

The reason is that the dog's digestive system isn't the same as a human's. The dog's stomach acid is very strong, and in a healthy dog, this acid kills any bacteria that enter it. A sick dog, or a dog switching over to a raw diet, needs a transition diet to rebuild that stomach acid to the point where it can deal with either E. coli or salmonella. After the transition diet is followed, you need to use a simple method of killing bacteria the first time meat is used: Put the meat or chicken into a sieve in the sink, pour boiling water over it, and cool it before feeding. Doing so kills the bacteria. After taking this step for a couple of weeks, the stomach acid will be strong enough to deal with the bacteria without problems, and you can introduce the raw meat.

Enzymes and enzyme robbing

Enzymes make a body tick. Your dog's body already has enzymes; your dog also makes them through what you feed him.

When semimoist food or dry food sits in the dog's stomach, it does so because not enough enzymes are in the stomach to break it down. Remember, a dog's stomach is designed to deal with raw foods.

So the stomach sends a message to the brain: "Hey, brain, we need some more enzymes down here." The brain responds, "Okay, okay, but I need some time." It then gathers enzymes from the heart, the liver, the kidneys, and other parts of the body to be transported to the stomach. In the meantime, the food sits there until enough enzymes are collected for digestion. This process is called enzyme robbing.

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A dog's vital internal organs — his heart, liver, and kidneys — need the enzymes that they contain to function at their best. When a dog consumes semimoist and dry foods, some of these enzymes must be diverted to the stomach to aid in digestion. Ultimately, the dog's vital organs lose out. Robbing various organs in the body of the enzymes that they themselves need to function correctly can have a detrimental effect on those organs. If a dog has a predisposition for problems in his heart, kidneys, or liver, such enzyme loss can hasten that disease and reduce the dog's life span.

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