Recent research has raised serious questions regarding dietary protein restriction in dogs with chronic renal disease. It appears that another medical myth has bit the dust. The rationale for protein restriction for chronic renal disease patients appears to have been based on flimsy data that has been refuted. The recommendation currently is for high quality protein with restriction applied only in advanced disease.
From a functional perspective, it is important to keep in mind the role of digestive enzymes and stomach acid in protein metabolism. Since most pets with chronic renal disease are older, they often benefit from enzyme and stomach acid supplementation.
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.
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?
I subscribe to many email newsletters. One of the best is that of the Life Extension Foundation (LEF.org). 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.
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.
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.
Have concerns about bloat and your dog? Read this article from our website that Dr. Smith wrote on research he found on the role of Potassium and canine bloat.
Lentils are an excellent food for dogs! They are inexpensive and have many nutritional benefits, such as helping to lower blood cholesterol. Also, lentils are a great source of magnesium and folate- both of which lower the risk of heart disease. The insoluble dietary fiber in lentils improve digestion by helping prevent constipation and irritable bowel disease. The soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down carbohydrate digestion. Lentils are an excellent protein source- with 26% protein. In Middle Eastern cultures, lentils are referred to as “the poor man’s meat”. They are also an excellent source of iron. Lentils can be excellent base of a home-prepared diet, as they are easy to prepare and inexpensive!