I really have been trying to not get too technical but my brain just doesn’t work that way. I’ve recently been doing a nice review of the digestive system and thought it might be useful to just write it all down. So here is the long version of basic canine digestion. I hope in the future to break this down into pieces and go into more detail about each piece and associated diseases. It always important to start with how the system does work as opposed to constantly looking at a broken system. If you are like me, then as you read this light bulbs come on your head and that lead you to further research and wondering about your own personal pet’s health. You start asking questions like “I wonder if this could be why my dog has this reaction?”. After a while you just become a paranoid dog mom that spends more time fretting over your dogs (or cats!) than you do any other family member. Don’t worry, you’re not the only out there. After all, they do completely rely on us for their health and well-being. Anyway, here is my take and research on the digestive system of Canis familiaris. Good luck!
"How much should my dog eat?" is a question I hear pretty regularly. Everyone knows on the back of every bag of kibble, can food or raw package there are the notorious feeding guidelines. Pretty simple and straight forward right? Not as simple as you might think. The guidelines are established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which is basically the group that collects all the research to decide what nutrients your dog or cat requires. Most guidelines are pretty efficient and take up only a small rectangle on the back of the bag to leave room for the ingredient panel and the great big paragraph that tells you why that certain food is the best food ever. One of the problems I notice on these guidelines is the rather large weight range that is covered. There is a pretty big difference between a 10lb dog and a 22lb dog but they are lumped in the same range with feeding of 1/2 cup to 1 cup. If your dog is somewhere in between you are left guessing what amount is best and this also assumes that every dog at that weight range is at an ideal weight. That's a pretty big assumption considering over half the dogs in homes are overweight and the numbers for obesity are increasing at an alarming rate.
There are a lot of products making their way into the health scene these days that are touted as the next best panacea. Most of them you have probably seen with flashy labels on the shelves, commercials, articles in health magazines or recommended by your best friend. Once products hit the human health industry, the pet industry is sure to follow. Sometimes for the better since research and use support the claims made but sometimes the results are less than impressive. While you can find coconut oil plastering the local health market, should we be just as excited about it for our canine companions as well? Let’s take a look.
I began this journey with the intention of getting my dog started on a home prepared diet and also be able to help out my customers that may be curious of feeding a home prepared diet or just want to offer some fresher options with their dog’s kibble. I do not really have any experience with a home cooked diet. I generally end up going raw with my dog or foster dogs and if that is not well tolerated I will do a dehydrated food for convenience. Since I work for an independent pet food retailer, my dog mainly gets commercially prepared raw. She is always more than willing to test out the new products and takes her job as food tester very seriously. I became interested in home prepared diets for a couple reasons. The first was the recent development of seizures in my dog. I wanted to eliminate any unnecessary foods from her diet that could potentially contribute to the seizures. Being a vegan, I am also very conscious about where food is sourced. Many companies may claim their chicken is ‘cage-free’ or their beef ‘free-range’. However there is rarely information beyond that about where the meat is actually sourced and the treatment of those animals. With growing pesticide use and exponentially growing number of GMO products it is also hard to find companies that will divulge this information if they even know it.
I am obsessed with bone broth for a few basic reasons. We will get in to the nutritional aspect here in just a bit because there is a lot of good information I can throw at you there. Bone broth is a simple way to add a lot of amazing nutrients including vegetables and herbs in to your dog or cat's diet without having to go through all the drama of changing their food or disguising them in other strange substances. You also don't need to waste a lot of time in the kitchen to make it. You throw everything in to a giant pot, cover with water, simmer for several hours (or days) and voila! Bone broth. No fancy math or scales needed.
I generally use The Art of Dog recipe as a guideline to get started: Bone Broth Recipe. It provides a good guideline for creating a bone broth. What are the benefits you might ask? One of the most common uses for bone broth is in older or health-compromised dogs. Particularly those suffering from osteoarthritis, various joint diseases or dogs that may just have lost their appetite. One of the main components of bone broth is... you guessed it - BONES! Generally while you can include any bones, if you are looking to support joints it is important to include things like knuckle bones, feet or necks that contain contain cartilage.
My life has gone to the dogs. I've worked in shelters, dog daycares, veterinary offices and local pet food retailers. I've seen all aspects of the pet world and I've got a theme that keeps popping up. Let's get back to basics, keep it simple. In my mind, it all starts with good food and using what nature has to offer.