Supplements for Older Dogs

Now that the snow is gone and we can be outside with the dogs, I am amazed at how well Duchess, my 9 year old German Shepherd, is doing. She is still quicker and faster than her 4 year old sister, Ziva. We have many deer where we live and occasionally they get in the yard. So one of the games we play is to have the dogs chase the deer away. She can still keep up with the deer- can’t quite catch them, which is good. Many working dogs are retired at 8 or 9 years of age. It appears that years of preparing food for her is paying off. Of course, the supplements she is getting probably also help. In addition to a multiple vitamin- Nutrient 950 without Iron by Pure Encapsulations, she is getting DHEA and pregnenolone for adrenal support and MItochondrial ATP to support energy production.

Vitamin D may be a risk factor in dog’s heart failure

An article in the Cornell Chronicle this week reported on a study at Cornell which analyzed congestive heart failure in dogs and serum vitamin D levels. The researchers discovered that while age, sex, and body condition were not significant factors, a measure of vitamin D in the blood stream positively correlated with heart health ; i.e, low serum vitamin D levels were a risk factor for heart failure.

This is another reason to support testing dogs for serum vitamin D levels- something we have been doing for several years. The authors of the Cornell study conclude That ” The question of supplementation is even more relevant to dogs because we know that, unlike us, they are not capable of absorbing vitamin D through their skin.” Serum vitamin D testing for dogs is certainly not mainstream medicine- yet- but it only a question of time as more and more data accumulates. Why wait?

Zinc and Immunosenescence

I subscribe to many email newsletters. One of the best is that of the Life Extension Foundation ( The LEF maintains a huge health database. It is particularly strong in nutrition and functional medicine. The March 2014 issue has an article entitled “Getting Back to Basics… How Low-cost Zinc Helps Combat Deadly Immunosenescence” by Heath Ramsey. Immunosenescence is a decline in immune function associated with advancing age. It places older individuals at increased risk for a range of almost every serious disease, from infections to cancer. The article references a study in which animals with normal zinc levels had 28% fewer experimentally induced tumors when they were given a modest zinc supplement.

Zinc supplementation in the elderly has been shown to: restore normal function of the killer cells that go after virally- infected and cancerous cells; boost the the stress response of white blood cells from older adults, providing an immune system anti-aging mechanism; boost the immune response to vaccines; and improve cellular immunity and increase survival rates in older mice. I find all of this particularly amazing in that when I was studying physiology some 40 plus years ago, the role of zinc in the body was unknown.

Estimates are that 35-45% of people over age 60 are deficient in zinc. It is not unlikely that the same is true of older dogs. This is another example of a very inexpensive nutritional supplement providing huge benefits.

Dental Care

This week a friend of mine brought his two dogs in to have their teeth cleaned. He had scheduled and re-scheduled the procedure several times. It turned out that he was very concerned, and rightly so, about the anesthesia necessary to do the job properly- both dogs did fine and recovered well. He, of course, does not want to face this dilemma again. The conventional recommendation to prevent dental plaque is to feed dry food. The theory is that chewing dry food (kibble) provides abrasive action which removes plaque. However most dogs do not chew kibble at all as the individual nuggets are too small. If kibble were to provide abrasive action, the nuggets ought to be at least golf ball sized. In my experience, the only food that will help prevent dental plaque is raw food. Uncooked foods have active enzymes which dissolve plaque as it forms. Plaque is the result of bacterial action. Bacteria create biofilm. Biofilm is a matrix that bacteria produce to protect them from adverse conditions. Enzymes can dissolve biofilm in its early stages- before it has become calcified. Once the biofilm becomes calcified, only abrasive action will remove it. Abrasive action could be a professional cleaning. It could also occur as the dog chews raw bones. I recommend beef bones. Do not feed your dog cooked bones as they tend to splinter. If you are uncomfortable with raw bones, products like Nylabone are a good alternative. Do not give your dog raw hide or pig ears- no telling where they came from. Of course, one can also brush a dog’s teeth. This is best started when the dog is still a puppy. Brushing even once a week will help significantly.

Thiamine Deficient Cat Food

The latest edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Association contains a report from Tufts University College of Veterinary Medicine concerning the thiamine(vitamin B1) content of 90 canned cat foods. The researchers found that 12 of 90 (13.3%) foods were below the AAFCO recommended allowance for thiamine. Unfortunately, their conclusion was that veterinarians should be alert for thiamine deficiency in cats- rather than recommending that cat owners supplement their pet’s food. In my experience, the AAFCO recommendations as to nutrient content of pet foods are just enough to maintain minimal health. It is truly scandalous that so many of the foods tested could not even meet that standard. If you want more than minimal health for your pets, supplements would seem to be a necessity.

Vaccine Titers

As I was reviewing the vaccine titers we have run during the past several years, it became apparent that dogs fed high quality food (usually home prepared) and given supplements almost always had very high titers. Vaccine titers measure the level of antibodies in the dog’s serum. When the titer is adequate, the dog is immune to a given disease. These dogs also tended to maintain high titers over the years. Dogs that were fed foods of lesser quality started with lower titers which often declined from year to year. This would seem to be another good reason to prepare food at home- and to add appropriate supplements.

At- Home Screening Test for Thyroid Disease in Dogs

Thyroid disease is common in dogs as they age. They often become hypothyroid. Typical symptoms are decreased energy or outright lethargy, a dry dull coat with a lot of dandruff, and heat- seeking behavior or cold avoidance. If you think your dog may be hypothyroid, take her temperature first thing in the morning. If it is under 100 degrees for several days, hypothyroidism is possible. A thyroid panel will confirm (or deny) your suspicions, and indicate appropriate treatment.

Thyroid abnormalities

Did you know 80% of the dogs we’ve tested thyroid on, most showing no symptoms, have come back with abnormalities in their thyroid levels? Dr. Smith has started them on thyroid support supplements to give the body the raw materials it needs. This is because the thyroid affects everything in the body at a cellular level! Call us for more information or to make an appointment to have your dog tested!