The tremors from the pet-food recalls
of this spring are still being felt: Last month, Wal-Mart
stopped selling two brands of its made-in-China dog
treats after customers reported concerns that their
animals had fallen ill, though the store chain did
not formally announce a recall.
For my money, the best way to maintain control over
what your dog eats is to make the meals yourself,
following the instructions of your veterinarian and
one of many reputable do-it-yourself books out there.
(Kymythy Schultze's "Natural Nutrition for Dogs
and Cats," available on dogwise.com or amazon.com,
is a perennial favorite. So is Monica Segal's self-published
"Optimal Nutrition, Raw and Cooked Canine Diets:
The Next Level," available from monicasegal.com.
Segal also does phone consultations and will formulate
a diet tailored to your dog's special needs.)
Once you get over the "fear factor" of
taking matters - not to mention meats and vegetables
- into your own hands, you might want to explore some
healthful and helpful additions to your dog's diet.
Along with a good-quality multivitamin, here are some
of the supplements I use, either daily or occasionally,
on my four ridgebacks. Many also can be added to the
diets of kibble-fed dogs.
As always, consult your veterinarian before embarking
on nutritional changes. If you find that your vet
is not supportive of your desire to change to a more
natural, whole-food diet for your dog, seek out one
who is. Many holistic veterinarians will do phone
consultations; visit ahvma.org.
Fish body oil. All oils are not born equal. Oils
that contain omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to
inflammatory properties. They often are used as supplements
for dogs with allergies and help support the immune
system in general.
Fish body oil - which is not the same as cod-liver
oil - is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty
acids. I add a squirt to my dogs' food daily. Look
for human-grade oil, preferably from deep-sea wild
salmon. One good source is the salmon oil sold at
thewholisticpet.com. If you're on a budget, try the
fish oil sold at Costco; for toy dogs or puppies,
pierce the gel cap with a needle, then squeeze the
oil on food.
Diatomaceous earth. This white powder is actually
the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae. Diatomaceous
earth's holistic claim to fame is as a natural insecticide:
Its microscopically sharp edges pierce an insect's
waxy exoskeleton, causing it to dehydrate and die.
You can sprinkle it on dog beds to keep down fleas,
or feed it as a natural wormer. (Be sure to use food
grade.) I store it in a grated-cheese shaker. A 2-pound
bag is $9.50 at wolfcreekranch.net.
Green foods. It's easy being green. These color-centric
whole foods - including alfalfa, and seaweeds like
spirulina and blue-green algae - are rich in vitamins,
amino acids and trace minerals. Natural detoxifiers,
they also have antioxidant properties. The forementioned
Wholistic Pet sells organic powdered alfalfa, as well
as kelp and spirulina.
Apple cider vinegar. Some food supplements earn the
designation of "tonic": They just boost
overall health and immune function. Apple cider vinegar
is said to acidify the dog's system, making it less
appealing to parasites, and can help alleviate itchy
skin. Because of its acidity, feed with food. Buy
an organic, unpasteurized brand that contains "the
mother" - a reference to the bacterial culture
that created it.
Coconut oil. This tropical oil suffered a blow to
its reputation decades ago when saturated fats were
deemed unhealthy. But now that hydrogenated polyunsaturated
oils - and their trans fatty acids - are in the hot
seat, coconut oil is seeing a resurgence. While the
medical evidence is scant, its proponents offer a
laundry list of benefits, including antimicrobial,
anti-allergy and cancer-prevention properties. It
can be used internally or topically - though beware
of the "lick factor."
SeaCure. I always have a stash of this nutraceutical
on hand. Originally developed to provide quick, easily
digestible nutrition to malnourished children, this
protein supplement, made from fermented whitefish,
is often recommended by holistic vets for animals
with malabsorptive, allergic or digestive problems.
I use it any time one of my dogs is recovering from
surgery and needs help with rebuilding tissue and
wound healing. For more information, visit propernutrition.com.
Bovine colostrum. Known as "mother's milk,"
this micronutrient-rich supplement contains proteins
called immunoglobulins, which help boost the immune
system and have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
New Zealand colostrum is considered top shelf because
cows there are pasture fed and so are not at risk
for mad cow disease. As with SeaCure, it's another
supplement I reach for when I have a dog recuperating
from injury or infection. One human-grade brand I
have had good results with is Sedona Labs; Google
around to find the best price.