raw feeding

Brain Food

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CHANGE THE DIET, CHANGE THE BEHAVIOUR?

If you spend any time on the internet, reading dog magazines, or in pet shops, you will be aware of the huge range of foods out there promising your dog a longer, happier life. But could a change of diet really help change your dog’s behaviour?

CAN DIET FIX BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS?

Some behaviour problems may actually be related to a dog’s diet. Take the case of a collie who was attacking his owners when they tried to sit on the sofa. Initially it was thought that the dog was guarding the sofa, but when the behaviourist visited in the daytime there was no attack… careful questioning revealed that his behaviour was more related to the time of day, than the sofa. His owners were very active people and only tried to sit on the sofa in the evening. They were only feeding their dog in the mornings and then he was having long, exciting walks. By the evening the collie was tired and had low blood sugar which made him extremely grumpy. He would curl up to sleep on the sofa and when woken by his owners he was so confused he would snap at them. This dog didn’t need retraining….just food at tea time as well as at breakfast!

Another case involved a rescue springer spaniel who suffered badly with shadow chasing which meant he could only be exercised at certain times of day. Being a springer this meant he had lots of pent up energy and could be destructive in the house. To help, a trainer recommended a very low protein diet…which made the poor dog worse. Reducing the protein in his diet meant that he wasn’t getting the raw materials to make the brain chemicals that make dogs (and people!) happy. Against his owners expectation switching him onto a diet of raw meat, vegetables, and bones didn’t send him crazy, it improved his behaviour a lot. And chewing on large, meaty bones not only provided essential amino acids, it gave him a very satisfying activity to do when it was too sunny to take him out for walks.

One of the advantages of a behaviour consultation with our holistic vet is that she will consider your dog’s diet, health, and exercise when assessing problem behaviours. Key areas she will consider are the quality and quantity or protein, and how often the dogs is fed. Not all protein sources are the same; muscle meat is important in a dog’s diet to supply essential amino acids. These can’t be manufactured in the body and are vital building blocks for proteins, hormones, and messenger chemicals in the body and brain. Some diets seem to have sufficient protein, but it comes from vegetable sources, or from feet and feathers which don’t have the right levels of essential amino acids. Some dogs cope well when fed once a day, but the very active dog, young dogs, and toy breeds can suffer from low blood sugar on once a day feeding. Low blood sugar can cause confusion, grumpiness, and in severe cases collapse or fits.

A DIET TO RAISE SEROTONIN

For some dogs low serotonin is the cause of their problem behaviours, or makes it difficult for them to learn new behaviours. Serotonin levels in the brain can be raised through the use of drugs usually used for depression in people. Unfortunately these drugs can have side effects and getting the right drug for the dog (or human!) can be a case of trial and error. In many dogs, switching from a diet with low protein quantity or quality (like the springer we discussed above) to a diet with higher muscle meat levels, or a raw meat based diet can lead to improved behaviour. In others behaviour does not improve enough. Various supplements are sold containing tryptophan, the essential amino acid which is needed to produce serotonin. These have a limited effect on brain serotonin levels however, as tryptophan is often broken down before enough of it can enter the brain as it competes with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier.

The good news is that our clever colleagues have designed a diet that allows plenty of tryptophan to enter the brain, which in turn means higher serotonin levels, and a happier dog!

We have been recommending this serotonin raising diet to our clients for several years and we have used it with owners who are raw feeding, as well as those who prefer prepared wet or dry foods, Sadly the DIY version we recommend has proved difficult for some owners as it involves feeding four times a day. For owners who raw feed, or who have very fussy dogs we will still recommend the DIY serotonin raising diet (please book as consultation for details!). However, for those owners who would prefer to feed a kibble food twice a day we will recommend Breakthrough ™.

If you think your dog might benefit from either the DIY serotonin boosting diet, or from Breakthrough™, we would strongly advise you to book a behavioural assessment. If you decide to try Breakthrough™ before a consultation, please thank us for making you aware of it by choosing 02301 Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care as your referring behaviour practice.

KIBBLE? BUT AREN’T YOU PRO RAW FEEDING!!!!?

We don’t judge our clients. We aim to help as many pet owners as possible improve the physical and mental health of their pets through a truly holistic combination of conventional diagnostics, conventional medicines, acupuncture, physical therapy, behavioural assessment and treatment, herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, and dietary changes, as appropriate for each client and pet.

We do love raw feeding as it allows owners to feed high quality protein, and to know exactly what their pet is eating. Some dogs don’t do well on grain based diets, and others become intolerant of processed meat proteins so raw feeding can be ideal for these pets. It can be a cost effective way to feed, and when whole meaty bones are fed there is ample opportunity for chewing and food play. However, raw feeding isn’t for everyone! It may not be safe for those who are immunocompromised, and may not be practical for those without room to store meat and bones. It is also unsuitable for dogs with food guarding issues until these have been addressed. If our clients want to feed raw we will help them every step of the way, even adapting the serotonin raising diet to suit raw feeding. However, for those who can’t or won’t raw feed, we will work with our client to find the best alternative.

 

ALABAMA ROT RAW FOOD LINK?

IS RAW FOOD THE CAUSE OF ‘ALABAMA ROT’?

Probably not.

A report in the Telegraph has an expert stating that feeding raw meat to dogs could be the cause of the UK outbreak of the cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy syndrome dubbed ‘Alabama Rot’. It is true that the original 1980’s Alabama Rot (AR) had the same symptoms and was linked to poor hygiene around raw meat but the outbreak differed from the UK one in several respects. The original AR outbreaks were confined to racing greyhounds; UK cases have been seen in all ages and breeds of dogs. The original AR cases were fed raw meat in kennels; some of the UK cases have never been fed raw meat. E. coli was isolated from dogs suffering from the original AR outbreak; despite looking E. coli has not been found in the UK cases. In addition the UK cases seem geographically linked to woodland and have occurred in the winter-spring period for the last two years, seeming to no occur in the summer or autumn. This pattern rather rules out a raw meat diet as the source of the disease in our opinion.

SO WHAT IS  THE CAUSE OF UK ‘ALABAMA ROT’?

We still don’t know the cause despite extensive testing of affected dogs. Woodland seems key, and maybe damp conditions. The cause could be an E. coli strain which is hard to isolate but an environmental source (broken drains, flooded out animal dens, dead animals) seems more likely than the diet.

HOW TO AVOID UK ‘ALABAMA ROT’?

At the moment there is no sure fire way to avoid your dog becoming ill with this syndrome. Hopefully with warmer, drier weather the number of cases will decline, as happened in 2013. Check if there have been cases locally, or where you are holidaying and check your dog daily for the skin erosions on the legs and face which can be the early symptoms. If you see unusual skin lesions, especially if you have walked where cases have been reported, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Expect the vet to take blood samples and to repeat them in a week even if they are normal to begin with.

In one case a number of dogs belonging to the same owner died, but one survived. The surviving dog had been washed off after exercise. No-one knows if this made the difference or not, but hosing dogs off after woodland walks could be a sensible precaution.

If you raw feed we don’t think there is any reason to stop doing so at the moment, but we always recommend good food hygiene standards are observed. You shouldn’t feed your dog meat that you wouldn’t be happy to cook up and eat yourself (from a food safety point of view, we accept most people don’t want to eat tripe!). The same goes for prepared wet or dry diets; don’t feed mouldy, stale or off smelling foods.