June 1st, 2017

Getting Macronutrients Right


I feed my doggy a raw diet with higher fats- what’s their risk of pancreatitis?
Given that both acute (ergo, sudden) and chronic pancreatitis present in the presence of high fats, controlling fats is therefore a crucial aspect of administering an effective and safe canine nutritional program.  Often overlooked however, is the value of controlling both protein and carbohydrates.  It may be the case that feeding higher fats in the presence of moderate protein and very low carbohydrates, is an effective means of ensuring that pancreatitis does not impact your doggy.


What are the nuts and bolts of pancreatitis?
Simply put, your doggy’s pancreas regulates the release of insulin and glucagon controlling blood sugar levels, and produces enzymes to digest fats (lipase), carbohydrates (amylase) and proteins (protease).


In acute pancreatitis (most commonly associated with sudden dietary changes), the trouble starts when their pancreas becomes inflamed, leaking out those very same digestive enzymes, which in turn can consume the pancreas itself, causing pain and discomfort to your fur baby.


The most common risk factors for your canine companion is eating out of a trash can, getting into a grease trap, nabbing table scraps (cooked food) and other species inappropriate food. Other potential causes of pancreatitis include severe trauma, surgery, and some medications.


Pet Parents can observe if their best friend might have pancreatitis, by looking for these clues:
 -Loss of appetite
 -Lethargy
 -Dehydration
 -Abdominal Pain
 -Vomiting
 -Low Body Temperature
 -Diarrhea


What do I do if my doggy has pancreatitis right now?
Your family Veterinarian will diagnose this condition with a blood test called a PLI (Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity). This condition ranges from mild to severe. Sever cases require hospitalization, but most cases are managed as outpatients. The vet may begin by treating your dog with pain medication, and perhaps a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and intense fluid therapy. A 3-4 day fast may be followed by a very low fat meal plan, along with increased hydration and electrolytes. Rechecking the PLI test confirms your dog’s acute pancreatitis has resolved.


So, bottom line, will my doggy get pancreatitis if I feed them a low carb, high fat diet?
To nail this question down, we connected with integrative wellness Veterinarian extraordinaire, Dr. Karen Becker.  She weighed in on this matter with the following commentary:


Question: Okay, so we know that a typical high carb/fat kibble stimulates the pancreas to release not only insulin, but also amylase and lipase- by dramatically lowering carbohydrate, can we decrease the risk of inducing pancreatitis while still keeping healthy fats high as an energy source?

Dr. Becker: Sure, but its more than just that.  It’s a combination of caloric control, ensuring that exercise is consistent and rigorous, and eliminating pro-inflammatory carbs that tax the pancreas.

Question: Lots of Pet Parents like to feed raw meats- are their doggies getting the necessary amount of enzymes they require?

Dr. Becker:  We know that a dogs’ pancreas can up and down regulate the amounts of enzymes needed to some extent, based on the diet they consume, but takes the pancreas a while to adapt to dietary changes.  Hence when a dog eating a high carb diet gets into the grease trap from a BBQ grill, pancreatitis is a common result.

Dogs were meant to get 50% of the enzymes they require from their diet, by consuming their prey’s pancreas. It should be noted however, that dogs do not produce all the enzymes needed to process their food, so if people don’t supply supplemental digestive enzymes to a dry kibble diet (entirely dead, enzyme depleted food) then predisposed breeds (like Schnauzers, fat dogs and sedentary dogs) can also acquire pancreatitis without a BBQ grease trap incident!

The reason everyone is asking about pancreatitis in a ketogenic diet is that Veterinarians know raw meats and vegetables contain the naturally occurring enzymes to supplement what the pancreas will produce on its own, but extra fats like butter or ghee don’t contain the necessary enzymes. So in theory, a dog that suddenly eats a  higher fat diet could be at risk for pancreatitis, if carbohydrates are not controlled, or non-meat based fats are being used.

For those Pet Parents who are transitioning their doggies to a raw ketogenic diet, I typically suggest they add digestive enzymes for a period of time, until their dogs adapt to the new meal program.

Question: So, the take away here is that if calories are tightly controlled, carbs are low, and exercise is consistent, we won’t see pancreatitis? Additionally, what is your take on a high fat diet for super active dogs, like sled dogs, who are known not to acquire pancreatitis?

Dr. Becker: Some Veterinarians call it the Adirondack principle (or perhaps the Iditarod Theory!) which in essence applies to sled/high performance dogs that burn tons of calories.  They are fed 80% fat diets with no incidence of pancreatitis, a phenomenon that would never occur otherwise. Dogs whose energy requirements are exceptionally high burn so many calories so quickly that pancreatitis doesn’t occur. We don’t know the mechanism of action as to why this occurs, but it absolutely does. The problems come when sedentary animals are fed a high fat/carb diet, which is a potential recipe for disaster.

Dr. Becker’s Keys to High Fat/Low Carb Success:

1. Exercise is Mandatory! Now, I am not expecting you to turn your dog into an Iditarod champion. But, remember, food is fuel and the fuel you feed your dog needs to be efficiently and effectively burnt off. The activity level of your dog will determine the amount of fuel you feed. Watching the Iditarod on TV sitting on the couch does not count!
2. No added Kibble! Do not mix a high fat, low net carb raw food with kibble, unless you are transitioning your doggy from kibble to raw, over a few days or weeks. A ketogenic diet is not to be used as a topper you sprinkle on kibble. If your dog doesn’t have a history of having a sensitive stomach you can simply replace one meal of kibble with one meal of her new, ketogenic raw food. After a few days you can replace the other meal. If your dog has a sensitive GI tract you can use the new food as a treat throughout the day for several days, allowing the gut to adapt. Then replace one meal of dry with one meal of raw. After a few more days (or as long as it takes for all adjustment symptoms to subside) discontinue all dry food and use the new raw diet, exclusively. Make sure you discontinue all treats at this time. Use a portion of your dog’s meal as training treats throughout the day, as needed, for rewards.


3. Control Calories!  Over feeding is a primary culprit in any number of diseases including obesity and diabetes, not to mention pancreatitis.  Make sure you keep calories tight for your furry friend, based on their Body Score and level of activity. A lean, muscular dog, whether a Chihuahua or a Mastiff, ensures a long, vibrant life!


May 10th, 2017

Houston, we have a problem


Brace Yourself.
Pet Parents, hug your fur baby close- were you aware that the rendered meats used in mainstream pet foods contain the flesh of diseased stock yard animals, euthanized cats, dogs and horses, slaughter house scraps, and can even include road kill?


Boiling these scraps at 280F produces the slurry that gets extruded into a piece of dry kibble, which can end up in your best friend’s bowl.


And here’s the kicker: because euthanized animals are used, there’s a risk that Pentobarbital can end up in your dog’s food.


Step into the cold.
Freeze-drying the same fresh meats you would throw onto your Sunday grill, is a new way to look a pet nutrition.  It’s also good way to ensure that your canine companion is getting food that is only a few steps away from what they would eat in the wild.


Because freeze-drying relies on lowering the temperature and removing moisture from meats during a flash freezing and vacuum process, it produces a versatile, low carb and shelf stable kibble, which can be reconstituted as a meal with a little bit of water, or used as a dry treat.


No doubt, every Pet Parent wants to know that their doggy is eating the best food, and sometimes it can be tough to decipher if rendered meats are being used.  Look for the clues: if you see the terms ‘meal’, ‘by product’, or ‘animal fat’ on a bag of your dog’s food, you may want to give that manufacturer a call and investigate further.


Furthermore, make an assessment as to whether the ingredients in your pet food are Species Appropriate.  For example, do dogs in the wild typically consume, tapioca, glycerin and barley?


Be the Hero your dog thinks you are.  Feed Raw.


*** For all you Pet Food Nerds out there: download the e-book called ‘Essential Rendering’ by the National Renderers Association.  There are in fact some fantastic uses for rendered meats: given that they are high in nitrogen, they can be utilized effectively as fertilizers and soil conditioners.


May 6th, 2017


A brief primer on canine metabolism, health and longevity 

Thinking about caloric control.

Okay, so, ‘intermittent eating’ is just another way of gaining insight into what fasting or intermittent fasting is really teaching us.  Consider this: dogs in the wild don’t eat three meals a day- in all likelihood, they may eat one meal every three days!  We’ll tackle in a moment whether or not this is actually a good thing.

For those new to fasting, it really isn’t the same thing as starvation- rather, it describes an extension of the period of time without food, or techniques for controlling caloric density.  That could shake down to only feeding your doggy once per day, or having a 6 hour window of time where they eat multiple meals, and an 18 hour window of time where no caloric consumption occurs.  Now, why would anyone want do this for themselves, or for their furry friend?  Let’s explore.

Should I fast my best friend?

It’s a pretty well understood scientific constant that controlling calories by an overall reduction, or by extending the window of time without eating, helps just about any organism (worm, bird, primate, canine) not only live longer, but behave and appear more youthful when they are older.[1]

Ancestrally (i.e., before the advent of agriculture) both dogs and humans lived through cycles of feast and famine. It’s only in the modern epoch where Pizza and Pizza flavored doggy treats are readily available, that we and our canine companions can remain constantly in feast mode.

Interestingly, you may observe your dog ‘intermittently eat’ if they are not feeling well, or if their level of activity is lower for some reason.

Research demonstrates the favorable effects of fasting, insofar that during periods of time without food, mitochondria release fewer free radicals.[2] Inflammation underlies many degenerative diseases, and fasting has been shown to decrease the incidence of cancer,[3] [4] [5] mitigate or reverse arthritis, cognitive decline,[6] and Type II diabetes.[7]

Additionally, fasting for 48 hours or longer has been shown to protect normal cells, but not cancer cells, from the toxic effects of chemotherapy in humans.[8] So far, less is known about this phenomenon in Veterinary Medicine, but it could be worth validating for companion animals with cancer.

Well, specifically, what should I do with my doggy at home?

Here’s the take-away: every Pet Parent reflexively wants to be the best steward of their doggy’s health.  That said, obesity and over feeding in dogs is common.  The use of ‘intermittent eating’ and caloric control can be an effective strategy for keeping a dog lean, and helping them to perform and feel better as they age.

For those who wish to explore fasting with their fur baby, one can start with a gradual reduction in overall calories and observe the effects- modest weight loss is one anticipated outcome.  Another technique can be to feed normally, just every other day.

Some find it easier to adjust calories by time period, for example, by only feeding between the hours of 8:00AM and 4:00PM.  Alternatively, some folks will adjust caloric density based on level of activity- during times of intense exercise calories go up, while no calories are offered during sedentary periods- this is a very responsive way of feeding at interval.

Finally, replacing a portion of a standard serving of kibble with fibrous raw vegetables such as green beans, or feeding a raw meat diet low in carbohydrate, are very simple methods of controlling calories.

Feeding your dog purposefully with their long-term health in mind, will offer both you and them a longer and more enjoyable life experience.

[1] Johnson JB, Laub DR, John S. The effect on health of alternate day calorie restriction: eating less and more than needed on alternate days prolongs life. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):209-11. Epub 2006 Mar 10.

[2] Ristow M, Zarse K. How increased oxidative stress promotes longevity and metabolic health: The concept of mitochondrial hormesis (mitohormesis).Exp Gerontol. 2010 Jun;45(6):410-8. Epub 2010 Mar 27

[3] Dogan S, Johannsen AC, Grande JP, Cleary MP. Effects of Intermittent and Chronic Calorie Restriction on Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) and IGF-I Signaling Pathways in Mammary Fat Pad Tissues and Mammary Tumors. Nutr Cancer. 2011 Apr;63(3):389-401.

[4] Seyfried TN, Kiebish MA, Marsh J, Shelton LM, Huysentruyt LC, Mukherjee P. Metabolic management of brain cancer. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Sep 8. [Epub ahead of print]

[5] Omodei D, Fontana L. Calorie restriction and prevention of age-associated chronic disease. FEBS Lett. 2011 Mar 26. [Epub ahead of print]

[6] Mattson MP. The impact of dietary energy intake on cognitive aging. Front Aging Neurosci. 2010 Mar 8;2:5.

[7] Rains JL, Jain SK. Oxidative stress, insulin signaling, and diabetes. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Mar 1;50(5):567-75. Epub 2010 Dec 13.

[8] Raffaghello L, Safdie F, Bianchi G, Dorff T, Fontana L, Longo VD. Cell Cycle. 2010 Nov 15;9(22):4474-6. Epub 2010 Nov 15. Fasting and differential chemotherapy protection in patients.