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home prepared dog food

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The Connection Between Diet and Behaviour

By now most of us know that the food we eat directly affects our mind. Studies have proven that kids who consume a lot of “convenience foods” as opposed to fresh, whole foods, have greater difficulty concentrating, learning and managing conflict. It’s down to the second brain - you know, those neurons in the small intestine that send messages to the main brain. This gut-brain is responsible for a large portion of our emotional state. It’s true. Think about how diet affects people with Autism. The first part of treatment is to remove all food colouring, chemicals, preservatives, etc from the diet. In every case the result is a decrease in symptoms. What does this have to do with dogs? Everything. They have the same neurons in their guts, and I’ve personally witnessed positive behaviour changes that have coincided with a change in diet. Possibly, so have you.

I often use Boxers a prime example since so many on them seem to have “sensitive stomachs.” They also happen to be a relatively high-strung breed who often end up on veterinary “prescription” diets to curb diarrhea. The diarrhea might go away, but the anxious state remains. I believe this is down to their body’s need for, and drastic lack of bioavailable nutrients in the kibble (such as B vitamins) which are crucial in times of stress and anxious episodes.

Consider also, the fact that 50 to 90 percent of people with IBS suffer from a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression, even when the disease is not active. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada is funding an investigation to examine the link between depression and changes in the bacterial composition of the gut. This will determine what, if any, are the physiological responses to a person’s emotional state. I’m not betting on the “if any.”

If you have a dog who suffers from anxiety or exhibits behavioral problems that you can’t seem to correct, it might be worth considering that it might be due to digestive issues - chronic loose stool or mucousy stool can be a sign. A diet change might be the answer. After all, if your dog doesn’t maintain a healthy-gut-brain connection, all the training and behaviour modification in the world will be in vain – kind of like teaching a dog with a broken leg how to fetch. If you would like to provide a fresh home-cooked diet for your dog, I would be happy to help. Your holistic veterinarian can also offer guidance on home cooking, raw feeding, and supplementation. If you don’t have holistic vet, here’s how to find one.

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"Wholesome and Complete for Canines"

Ten years ago, I got a puppy. I brought him home, and about a week or so later, thought, as I scopped kibble into a bowl, "this can't be right." It made no sense to me that something so "convenient" could be healthy and balanced. Within another week, I was cooking for my dog. I was probably doing it wrong, but I believed then and I still believe that a dog needs fresh food. That was just the start. I began to study and read every good resource on the subject of home-cooking. Believe me, the information (although we don't have nearly enough) is overwhelming, because so much of it is conflicting and based on small studies and anecdotes. For now though, I'm ok with this, because common sense dictates that real food is better than processed. The more I learned on the subject, the more I realized what a huge responsibility it would be (not to mention how difficult) to instruct other dog owners how to home-cook. So naturally, I delved even deeper.

The scientific part of my education came from my studies through CASI, where I've earned a certificate and in both Canine Nutrition and Advanced Canine Nutrition. The holistic component came from reading materials by Dr. Strombeck, Dr. Pitcairn, Dr. Dodds, etc. I also attend seminars on nutrition whenever I can. Seminars are great because I learn the latest, both opinions and facts. I have a working relationship with a highly respected veterinarian who assists on some of my cases. She is at the forefront of nutrition research and it's an honour to have her reviewing and approving many of my diets.

It has taken me years to get here, but I'm finally ready to officially assume that resposiblity. Using the requirements of the National Research Council, I'm now formutlating balanced, home cooked meals for individual dogs. This means your dog's new diet will be tailor made to meet the nutrient requirements for a dog his age and size. But beyond that I'll use ingredients your dog enjoys and is known to tolerate. We'll work together to ensure the plan is working, making necessary adjustments along the way.

Commercial dog food, with a few notable exceptions, is making our pets sick. The number of dogs I meet with skin diseases, supressed immunity, kidney and liver problems, diabetes, heart issues, etc, is staggering. Yes, more dogs, poor breeding practices and over-vaccination all carry some of the blame, but we are what we eat. Like humans, what your dog eats plays an integral role in their health and behaviour. Think of food as the foundation. We need to start there to build healthy canines. I don't believe we can truly achieve the greatest potential for health by feeding kibble. How would that be possible? It's no secret how kibble is made, and that most manufaturers add flavour enhancers and scents to entice your dog. I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about labels and laws and ingredients so that you can make a conscious choice on behalf of your pet. You cannot trust large corporations to do this for you. They've proven that.

Many people wait until their dog is sick to make the transition, which tells me they do believe in the power of food. But it's often marketing and pressure from some vets that won't allow the lightbulb to go off before that. Picture the commercials, or bags of food with images of fresh cuts of meat, whole grains and vegetables. Why not just feed those things to your dog instead of what's left over after processing, extruding and rendering? Ok, I'm over-siplifying a little; of course you do want to ensure balance, but we're lead to believe that's only achievable though processed, commercial products. I promise you, that's not the case.

My goal is to make cooking for your dog fun, easy, economical and fast. I've always said it, and I'll continue to say it, even if you cannot commit completely to feeding fresh food, every bit helps. It may feel overwhelming in the beginning, but once it becomes a part of your life, you won't look back, and the rewards are incredible. Let's Do This!

Click here to read my testimonials so far and follow along on Twitter @wholesomecanine

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Commercial Dog Food: "Recommended" Products

As you may know, I'm certified in canine nutrition and completely obsessed with the subject. Because this is common knowledge among those who know me, friends and clients often ask me which commercial pet foods I would recommend. The truth is, if I had it my way, every single dog in the world would be consuming a fresh food diet; either cooked or raw. Alas, I know this simply isn't possible for everybody. Not yet, anyway. So now I'm writing this all down once and for all. If you're feeding commercial food, please consider canned food, or at least some portion of canned. Your dog's intestines and kidneys need the moisture, and generally, they contain higher quality, more bioavailable proteins than dry food. Canned food is a bit more expensive than kibble, so if you have a large dog, you'll likely prefer a combination. But do whatever you can to provide moist food.

My recommended canned foods are:

Go! by Petcurean  Organix by Castor and Pollux  Shredded and Gold Recipies by Fromm

Mulligan Stew

Ziwipeak

My recommended dry foods are:

Holisic Blend by Holistic Blend Carna4 by Carna4 Go! by Petcurean Orijen and Acanca by Champion Pet Foods

And that's really it folks. Please keep in mind I'm not saying each of these foods is suitable for every single dog. They're each different, just like each dog is unique. You'll need to figure out which one or combination works for you. (Don't be shy to ask for 'sample' or 'trial' packs at your friendly, local pet store.) Remember, unless you know your dog to have an "iron gut," transition very slowly when switching food.

I chose the above products based on quality and where they're made, also because they're readily available in Toronto. Specifically, you can find these in our neighbourhood at Helmutt's Pet SupplyTimmie Dog Outfitters and The Dog Bowl.

I should also mention these shops also offer freeze-dried diets made by Orijen and The Honest Kitchen and ready-made raw diets such as Tollden Farms.

I hope you find this information helpful.

My real, true recommendation is real, fresh food. If you're ready to switch to a home-prepared diet, I would love to help!

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