FOOD, FITNESS and FUN ~ Help your dog and cat live better and longer!

The same principles proven to contribute to a longer healthier life in humans also apply to our pets.
– A diet of fresh, minimally processed ingredients helps the body to function properly
– A lifestyle that includes vigorous exercise promotes the health of all systems, from muscle to heart to brain
– Mental stimulation keeps us all thinking and functioning at our peaks for much longer

Do older dogs need senior food?
Through vigorous advertising, we are often advised to start feeding our dogs “senior” food, sometimes for dogs as young as 6 years old. These foods usually have less fat, more carbohydrate, and less protein. Sometimes they contain small amounts of supplements that are supposed to help joints and mobility, but the amounts are rarely at levels that would help. These formulas are based on ideas that are dated and were not quite accurate to begin with.

Senior dog food formulas in general include less protein. Decades ago, researchers looked at diets for those in kidney failure whose kidneys could no longer process the amount of protein they once did, and made the leap that then if we feed dogs (and humans) less protein as they age, their kidneys will be spared and last longer.

This has not proven to be true in humans or dogs, and research by big pet food companies agrees. *** In fact, older bodies need better protein and more of it but, the products hang on. Why is this? Well, in the world of marketing and sales, the more shelf space your product occupies, and the more product varieties you have, the better your chances of selling something.

Senior formulas frequently have less fat than all-life-stages formulas. This allows them to have fewer calories. The idea that a low fat diet is a healthy diet has been around for a number of decades, long enough for years of research to show us that in fact, low fat diets do not make bodies healthier. The natural, ancestral diet of dogs (all life stages) provides about equal calories of fat and protein. Since fat has twice as many calories as protein, on a plate, the fat would take up half as much space as the protein.

Senior foods are also formulated to be lower in calories to help pet caretakers keep their animals at normal weights. This is an excellent goal. A four-year study compared two groups of labradors, one group was allowed to “free feed” (left dish full and available all day) and one group fed only scheduled meals. At the close of the study, conclusions were clear. Those dogs kept lean by eating scheduled meals lived two years longer, The muscle wasting associated with old age was delayed by two years compared to the group allowed to become overweight. Lean dogs did not develop arthritis until many years after the overweight dogs, who began to show arthritic changes at 2 years of age. *** These dogs were fed a standard grain based dry food.

Whatever you feed your dog, keeping him lean will promote the healthiest functioning of your dog or cat’s body. In our opinion, “senior” and “Light” foods are detrimental to the health of our pets.

If Sparky could talk, he’d tell you it’s true. When I met Sparky, a 9-year-old Brittany Spaniel, he was not feeling very good. He was on a “senior”, limited calorie dry food. He was seriously stout, with no waistline, and moving pretty slowly, had a dull coat. but his people said he was in good health and had ho problems. They wanted to try a meat-based, fresh food diet to see if a lower carbohydrate diet would help him lose weight. We got reports on Sparky regularly; he was losing weight and doing well. When I saw him next, 4 months later, he looked like a different dog. Perfect weight, glowing coat. His owners reported that these issues (which they had not mentioned – they thought it was “just Sparky”) had disappeared: flaky coat, itchy skin, frequent bladder infections, general pain and achiness, and most of the tartar on his teeth. At 9, Sparky was no longer an old dog. Senior food certainly didn’t help Sparky live a healthy, active life.

A species appropriate diet, based on meat and vegetables, provides the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to keep the immune system and the brain working well. Good fats keep inflammatory processes in balance and hormone systems working properly.

Those with achy and overweight dogs will be amazed to see the difference in how their dogs feel and act when they are fed meat and vegetable based diets. Often creaky, achy dogs are transformed by a change in diet. Dogs with common chronic medical conditions need the supervision of a veterinarian who is skilled with fresh food diets to supervise and fine-tune a fresh food diet. Many chronic conditions (diabetes, Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Disease and Syndrome, liver and kidney problems, dental disease) will improve on a commercial or home-prepared meat-based diet.

Fat cells themselves contribute to inflammation, so the benefits of helping your pet reach a proper weight are immense. Perhaps, and a proper weight, your dog would not need those NSAIDs or pain meds. This is much easier and healthier to do with meat and vegetable based diets than with starch-based diets, which tend to result in the productions of more inflammatory chemicals.

We are happy to help you tweak your diet with our nutrition software, choose a commercial food and plan diet program, or help you make your own food that meets all you pet’s nutrition needs.


Older pets might not feel much like exercising. As most of us know, we don’t feel better until we actually get moving, but it is very important to only do as much as your body is able to do. Before starting any exercise program, check with your vet about your pet’s level of fitness and ask how you can tell how much is too much. Start at a level lower than what you thing your pet can do, and work up from there. Be aware of signs like increased heart rate, curled tongue, gait change, limping – stop BEFORE you have major stress responses. Remember when you started to see that your pet was tired and don’t go that for tomorrow. Their stamina will build quickly as they become fitter, but if we push them past the level that the body can do, we will only to harm and have to wait for the damaged tissues to heal. “Not pain, no gain” is very outdated fitness advice, but many of us have it embedded in our brains.

If we stay within these parameters, starting with frequent, short exercise sessions that challenge but don’t overwhelm the body, excellent progress may be made. Many conditions we might have discounted as “just old age” diminish or disappear with good exercise. Digestion improves, elimination becomes more regular, animals are less achy, and their brains work better, which means that all systems work better Getting more oxygen circulating builds lungs and heart, improves overall muscle tone and general health immensely.

Walking is great exercise, and can be adapted to the needs of your pet easily. Take it easy, this is weight-bearing exercise and your pet might have some areas that are compromised. Creaky knees and rear ends can strengthen. Take advantage of all opportunities for appropriate walking exercise! Weather can limit what your dog can do, from days too hot to walk to weeks of snow after snow after snow.

Swimming is one of the best ways we know to build fitness and to exercise dogs. Cats not so much! At our pool, we closely monitor the progress of each dog, and chart each session for maximal progress. Older dogs often start out with 15-minute sessions, but after a few weeks, they are ready to lengthen their pool time. In winter, many older dogs lose a lot of ground, and injury is much more likely when footing is not solid. Once a week swimming can maintain and improve the condition of your older dog so he can go into the next spring in better shape than the previous spring. Swimming is also a great pain reliever.

Indoor exercise opportunities are unlimited for the creative, but don’t take the place of vigorous exercise. Sit-to-stand for a treat, cookie stretches, backward walking and many more simple exercises help lubricate and tone your dog’s body. Small dogs are easy to exercise, being small – they can charge down a hallway for a treat a few times and get pretty good exercise.
For the bigger dogs, this can be difficult. Walking up and down stairs with a treat on each stair is an excellent workout – slow is good!

Dogs often fade away from simple boredom. We start to accept Snoopy snoozing in the recliner as the way it always is. The more you include your dog and stimulate him with attention and activities the better his brain will function, and the more interest he will take in his life.

Include your dog in family activities and play with him. Small games like “catch the popcorn and “find the treat” take very little human effort, and provide fun and mental stimulation.

Modify activities your old guy is no longer able to do so he CAN do them. For example, throw the ball so it lands close to you. Help him in and out of the car and to accomplish stairs correctly. Many dogs have jobs in the household – encourage them to keep their jobs! Learning something new is great for the brain and keeps dogs (and cats) happy too. It’s a mutually beneficial activity – both human and animal brains get a workout, and your connection to your dog gets even better.


Get them moving, feed them well, engage their brains – you’ll see a dog or cat who is interested in life, who feels much better. You have perfected your relationship with your friend over many years – and you want to keep it going as long as you can.

Newburg LH, Curtis AC. Production of renal injury in the white rat by the protein of the diet. Arch Int Med. 1928; 42:801-21.
Brenner BM, Meyer TW, Hostetter TH. New England J. of Medicine. 1982; 307:652.
Finco DR. Proc the Waltham/OSU Symposium on Nephrology and Urology, Columbus, OH. Oct. 1992, p. 39.
Kronfeld DS. Aust. Vet. J. 1994; 71:328.
Churchill J, Polzin D, Osborne C, Tet. al. Proceedings ACVM. 1997:675. Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., et al. 2002. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220(May 1):1315-1320.

The Loop and the Puddle: Expert Interview with Beth Taylor

Nov 19, 2014

Pet care professionals who use the Loop are a passionate and knowledgeable bunch, and Beth Taylor of The Puddle Aquafitness and Nutrition in South Elgin, Illinois is no exception. Beth has been recommending the Loop to the Puddle’s aquafitness clients for a long time, and she also excels in the realm of canine nutrition. Assisi Animal Health was able to ask her about the use of the Loop with her clients. Tune in next week, as well, for a guest blog from Beth about what everyone should know about pet nutrition.

Can you give me a background on what you do at the Puddle?

The Puddle is a facility that integrates most of my interests. I wrote a couple books on food and nutrition, on fresh food diets for dogs and cats, and I’ve been involved in the initial stages of commercial raw diets for dogs, I worked with an animal chiropractor [Carl DeStefano DC] for ten years. I became a licensed massage therapist and completed the massage and rehabilitation program at The Healing Oasis.

My vet was always searching for a retail store to direct her clients to that carried finer-brand foods. Her sister took on the project of opening one and added the bonus services of swimming and massage. I had experienced the positive results of swimming dogs first hand. It was a perfect fit for all of us. I started swimming one of my dogs about ten years ago. He was 11 at the time and he was getting very tippy. Swimming him once a week at a facility like what we’re doing now kept him going until he was almost 17. So I’m a real fan of swimming.

The front of the store is a small food section which is designed to provide rotation in both dry food and frozen food – it’s not a lot of products. We really try to focus on education to remove road blocks to health. We have a drop-in dog wash, and we have the pool. The pool covers everything from teaching puppies to swim to conditioning for geriatrics. We provide pre- and post-surgical services, and we have massage and bodywork for humans and pets. I do a lot of massage in the water.

Oh, wow, you have massage for humans, too? That’s fantastic.

Yes. In order to do the CVMRT program with Dr. Rivera at The Healing Oasis I had to be a certified massage therapist, and that was a very interesting education. Some people will have an appointment for their dogs, and themselves.

If there were one thing you wish all your clients could know, what would it be?

You’re in charge of your animal’s health. Not anyone else. I see so many people just accepting what they’re told with no critical thinking, never asking questions, not doing their own research. They’re afraid to make waves. Their health suffers, and the health of their animal suffers because they’re not willing or not brave enough to speak up, or they have accepted the idea that someone else knows better than they do how to take care of themselves or their animals.

What kind of issues do you most often treat?

Pain and decreased function. That can be young dogs and old dogs, for many reasons. Almost everybody we see thinks that pain is inevitable and that lack of function is just the way it’s supposed to be. They don’t realize that their own bodies and their dogs’ bodies are not defective. What’s wrong is the diet we provide and how we’re living our lives. We need to be active, and we need to eat real food. And if we do those things, a lot of the problems we have will just fall away. For whatever’s left, we have good tools.

Do you have a hard time getting people to understand that pain doesn’t have to exist?

Yes. People don’t notice pain in their animals, don’t see it, don’t recognize it, and don’t realize that what their animals eat and how they live has anything to do with the pain that they feel. They think, “Well, I’ve got wear and tear in my knee, I’ve got arthritis in my knee, and therefore it’s going to hurt. Same for the dog.”

I’ve seen people with their third dog with the same problems finally getting it. “Yes, if I help my dog live an active life, if I feed him good food, sure we’ll have aging issues, but they won’t be anything like if I weren’t being proactive.” They start to get the picture, but it’s often a slow process.

What has been your experience with the use of the Loop in your practice?

Nothing but good. My main challenge has been explaining it to people. ‘Okay, people. I’m telling you, this will reduce pain and improve healing – all you have to do is sit down with your dog three or four times a day.’ And they sometimes say, ‘Well, that’s too hard. I’ll just give him this drug.’ It’s a constant education process.

I know how well it works because I got the unit while I was in school and I used it myself. My friend and I were there together, and she had just bashed herself into the side of a door. She had a giant bruise coming down her arm. We put the Loop on the bottom of her arm, and then we forgot about it – until the next day when the bottom of her arm looked beautiful, and the top of her arm looked terrible. The bruise was mostly gone on the bottom of her arm.

I have a 14-year-old Golden who uses it regularly. He’s a lot more mobile with it than without it. He swims every week and gets massage every week, but still, the Assisi on that hip joint is really helping him out.

Anything that can be put into the hands of clients that makes them proactive members of the team is going to make a treatment program more effective. Laser is great, but you’ve got to go [to the vet’s office] and do it. You can send people home with the Loop and they’ll have something they can do at home that moves things along a lot further and faster.

I had one client with a German Shepherd with all the typical problems – bad guts, bad skin, very painful in the hips. About six years old, and looked like an 11-year-old. She bought a Loop, used it for a week like I’d told her to, maybe twice a day, and she brought it back and said, ‘It doesn’t work.’ I said, ‘Tell me about it.’ She said, ‘Well, he WAS up and running around a lot more about four hours after we did it, but then he felt bad again!’

Okay – so what you’re telling me is, it worked. And you saw immediate results. ‘Well, yes, but he’s on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and steroids and he’ll be fine.’ So I’m still working on her!

If we can figure out a way to get over that hump – you know, ‘What if you didn’t have to use those drugs, or if they could be reduced? Those drugs are going to harm your dog.’ People look at me blankly. It seems hard for them to even consider – “But my veterinarian prescribed the drugs.”

I find it’s the same in nutrition education. It can take a long time for concepts to sink in.

You say that some of your clients are hesitant to try the Loop – do you think that’s because it’s not a conventional treatment in pill form?

Yes, and I think it’s the perception that once you’re broken, you can’t get fixed. My mom has arthritis in her hands, and I know of at least five activities she can do sitting in a chair that would make it better, but she doesn’t do them. Many of us are like that. Bucking the trend of how people think about their bodies and their lives is quite a challenge. It’s global, we’re not just talking about Pulsed Signal Magnetic Therapy (tPEMF). You have to question authority and be willing to live your life differently. In this case, it means taking the time to sit down with your animal a few times a day and push a button. Seems doable.

Beth serves as the Puddle’s nutrition advisor, bodywork director and swim coach. She has been intensively involved in health, training, and wellness for animals and people all her adult life. In 1994, Beth began teaching dog training and producing education seminars on dog training and nutrition. Researching fresh food diets for dogs led to her work with Steve’s Real Food for Pets as regional manager and veterinary consultant. She taught retailers and veterinarians how to use fresh food diets and provided support for them nationwide. This work led to the writing and publication of See Spot Live Longer with Steve Brown.

Beth has worked in the practice of Carl DeStefano, DC, assisting him in his chiropractic work, and assisting the practice of Dena Jersild, DVM. Beth has produced seminars with Karen Becker, DVM on health topics, and co-wrote the very popular Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats, now in its 4th printing.

Beth’s extensive education in bodywork modalities for animals includes Acupressure, Tui na, jin shin jyutsu, Triggerpoint Myotherapy, Cranio-sacral Therapy, several Myofascial techniques, Reiki, and Qigong. She is certified in Acupressure through the AAMT and has completed all coursework at Tallgrass Animal Institute. Beth is certified in Spring Forest Qi Gong I and II, EFT level I and II, Reiki I and II, and is a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is also certified in massage and rehabilitation by the Healing Oasis in Sturdevant, WI. Beth is a graduate of La Paw Spa’s Aquatic Training Program Level One & Two and is certified in Canine CPR and First Aid. She is also a member of the Association of Canine Water Therapy (ACWT) and the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork (IAAMB).

– See more at:

When is it safe to run with your dog?

Lots of people ask us about running with their dogs. There’s plenty written about running with dogs. Are the people writing well informed? Not so much.

The basic fact is that dogs (and children) should not be subjected to repetitive impact exercise until their growth plates in their bones are closed, in order to prevent injury to bones and joints.

How much is too much?

How do you know when a dog’s growth plates have closed? This can occur at any time between 9 months to 20 months or even longer.

While checking out what’s written online about this, we found descriptions of how to look at your dog’s joints and decided if they are “knobby” or smooth, and you could decide on this basis. Maybe an experienced medical professional could make a sound guess based on many, many dogs — but this is not a safe evaluation to count on for caretakers of dogs. In fact, those “knobby” joints might not be an immature dog, but some very serious medical condition.

You can check with your dog’s breeder about when his family matures. Sometimes males mature later than females. Breeders know their dogs very well and will be thankful that you asked.

Spaying and neutering can slow closure of growth plates.

The simple, foolproof way to know: one X-ray view of one joint should give you a clear picture of where your dog is in this process. No reason to wonder or assume that he’s done growing and then find out you started competition or heavy work too soon. This is not damage that can be un-done. In this area, this X-ray costs about $95.00, and we think it would be money well spent.

Beth Taylor LMT CVMRT
The Puddle

Slip-proof your floors ~ prevent injury to your dog

A slip or fall for an elderly or unstable dog could be a life-altering event. Even youngsters can injure themselves on slippery uncarpeted surfaces.

Many people who live with dogs prefer uncarpeted floors because they are easier to keep clean – but they can be dangerous. We talk to a lot of people who really haven’t considered the consequences of an unstable dog falling on the stairs or spinning out in the hallway – young or old.

When their rear ends begin to get weak, dogs start having trouble on stairs, but if they have good footing they can often continue to go up and down stairs.

Dogs are sometimes segregated from the rest of the family in an attempt to protect them, in an area where they will not fall – but where they are lonely and sad.

Area rugs can be too short, heavy, and expensive. In some cases, they too can slip without an effective non-skid backing. Runners by the foot aren’t all that expensive but they curl up and look very used after one winter season. Rubber backed entry mats work well, but they are heavy and not easy to clean (and they get very, very dirty).

Our absolute favorite non-slip device for elderly dogs, dogs recovering from surgery, or dogs with injuries – YOGA MATS! We first saw yoga mats used for this purpose at a veterinary rehab clinic where they had been in place for well over a year with no signs of wear.

We tried them here at The Puddle and they’re perfect!  You can purchase a 100 foot roll at They are very light, and easy to cut: we bought the thick version and really like the cushiony feel. We have the 2-foot width, but there is also a 3-foot width. Dogs are now much steadier on our cement floor, especially in the pool area, and are obviously more comfortable.

100 feet sounds like a lot until you really take a look at the space that needs to be made safe for your dog. Multiple regular size mats may be used, but we did not find such good prices for the short lengths — and there would then be seams to trip over.


Cats Need Wet Food!

The natural diet of cats is meat. Cats are carnivores, designed to thrive on a wide variety of small prey animals, eaten fresh and whole. Their natural diet is high in water and protein, with a moderate amount of fat, and a very low percentage of carbohydrate. Cats have no dietary need for carbohydrate

Dry foods do not promote health in cats. Dry cat food is has a lot of carbohydrate, between 35 and 50% – a very big difference from the diet their bodies are designed for. “Diet” and “Lite” foods have even higher amounts. Dry food is convenient to feed, and relatively inexpensive, but it’s the opposite of the natural diet of cats.

Cats need to get water from their food. They are descended from feline desert dwellers. They are adapted to obtain most of their water from their prey, which contains more than 75% water. Even their tongues are not well adapted to drink water. Dry food contains almost no water. Cats who eat dry food consume only half the water they need, compared to those that eat wet food, and live in a state of chronic dehydration.

The common health problems of cats are related to diet. There is increasing evidence that many of the health problems seen in cats are the result of diets inappropriate for a feline. Dry, grain based foods fed to a meat eater, over time, result in both chronic and life threatening diseases, including these:

Bladder problems: Cystitis, bladder irritation and bladder/kidney stone formation are strongly connected to dehydration. If the body is well hydrated, these problems are minimized.

Dental disease: Dry food has a high sugar (carbohydrate content, which has been shown to cause dental decay. Cat food is designed to shatter when eaten, and there is no abrasive tooth-cleaning benefit. Cats who eat dry food often have severe dental disease.

Diabetes: The high level of carbohydrate in dry cat food contributes directly to the development of diabetes in cats. Blood sugar levels rise when cats eat dry food. When this is an ongoing event, insulin-producing cells “down-regulate”, which leads to diabetes.

Obesity: Because cats are designed for a high-protein, moderate fat, low-carbohydrate diet, it is not surprising that obesity is often seen in cats. Diet cat foods have even more carbohydrate than regular ones, and less fat, so they depart even further from the natural diet of cats, making it harder for them to lose weight.

Kidney disease: Kidney disease is the most common cause of death for cats. The kidneys require an abundant supply of water to do their job. Without water to process the byproducts of the digestion process, the kidneys are overloaded, become damaged over time and unable to do their job.

The solution is simple: Cats need to eat a diet that is high in protein and water, with a moderate amount of fat, and almost no carbohydrate, Most of the health problems discussed here are either radically improved or eliminated by eating a diet that meets the needs of a carnivore – one that closely resembles the nutritional balance provided by a mouse.

To prevent disease, feed your cat a meat-based diet complete with water!

The benefits of “prehab” swimming

The best time to get your dog comfortable in the water is BEFORE surgery!

Many dogs come to us for fitness and rehab after a surgical procedure and are learning about swimming for the first time. They are not at their best. They’ve been restricted and frustrated for weeks even if their humans have done their absolute best to take care of them. Things aren’t working quite right, and they may be in pain. They’re a little worried about their bodies!

Learning something new can be stressful, even if it’s a good stress. Optimal results in the pool depend on giving the nervous system only what it can handle and no more. If we can eliminate the “new thing” piece from the experience of rehabilitating an injured or repaired part, we can be many steps ahead in the healing process by not activating the hormones of fear.

If your dog gets comfortable in the pool before surgery, they come to an activity they are familiar with, a place they feel safe, and the outcome is much improved.

An added and not infrequent benefit is that those who do “prehab” are in better shape for their surgery and recover faster. Non-weight bearing exercise allows a dog to use their muscles in more appropriate ways than has been possible for those with chronic or acute problems

Help your dog have a better post-surgical experience! We have rehab packages that can be used pre or post surgery. Come in and visit!

Beth Taylor, LMT, CVMRT
The Puddle

Skin Problems

When all systems in the body are humming along in balance, immune substances produced by the body protect the skin, eyes, ears, and digestive system. Your dog and cat feel good. In a healthy animal (dog, cat, or human) normal inhabitants of the skin coexist in harmony, each doing their jobs and living their lives in a symbiotic relationship.

If an animal’s immune system is under more stress than it can manage, this symbiotic relationship is upset. Skin problems – hot spots, rashes, yeast overgrowth, and bacterial infections – are often the first symptom seen. Medical interventions include antihistamines, antibiotics, and steroids. All of these medications modify and suppress the immune system. Our goal should be to help the immune system work properly, not to suppress it.

Chemical intervention may be needed. However, with good nutrition, bathing when needed, and proper exercise, many animals regain their health and thrive without medication.

“Allergic” Skin Problems. The Staphylococcus bacteria that normally inhabit the skin usually cause skin infections. They are one sign that there’s not enough of the immunoglobin IgA protect the skin. The underlying cause of an IgA deficiency on the skin is often over utilization of IgA in the gut. Because things are not well balanced in animal’s gastrointestinal tract, the IgA is needed more there, and there’s not enough to protect the skin. After this has gone on for a while, production of IgA is disrupted.

Yeasts are also natural inhabitants of the skin, but when the proper balance is disturbed, they can multiply rapidly and cause skin and ear problems. You’ll know your dog has yeast by the characteristic corn chip (some think cheese popcorn) smell. Yeast causes intense itching and can grow in localized areas (causing a creamy white accumulation between toes), in the ears, or can affect the whole body. An overgrowth of yeast is a signal that your animal’s immune system is not functioning well.

These conditions cause a variety of symptoms. Fur may feel “sticky”, there may be lots of flakes on the skin, or red spots with little white heads, which often have black areas around them. You may see red, inflamed skin covering large areas of the body, and your animal may be “itchy” Your dog might lick her legs, chew her pads, and there may be inflamed spots between toes, in armpits and inner legs.

“Hot Spots.” are an inappropriate immune response, and in some ways a mystery to medicine. They seem to appear in an instant and can spread at an alarming rate. These oozing sores are extremely painful and can easily become infected.

Keep Skin Clean. If the immune system is highly reactive, environmental substances (ragweed, grass, pollen, mold) animals pick up just by walking outside can provide enough irritating substances to cause a reaction.

Allergic animals aren’t the only ones with skin problems

Elderly animals and those in poor health often exude an unpleasant fragrance. Their bodies are getting rid of toxins that should be removed to help support the detoxification process in the aging system.

If we humans have a rash, scab, infection, or injury to our skin, we don’t have much question about what to do – we keep it clean! The same is true for dogs and cats. Our animals will feel better, smell better, and heal faster if their skin is kept clean. However, in the case of cats, they may not be happier: bathing is not usually on their list of favorite activities.

Why don’t we wash our animals more often? Because we have been told not to, or because it’s one more thing to add to our busy lives.  We may have read that we’ll disturb the balance of our animal’s skin if we wash them too much, and their skin will get dried out. Healthy animals may not need frequent bathing: each animal is different. Bathe them when they need it.

Animals with skin problems do well with weekly baths. However, at the height of the “allergy” season, many dogs require baths daily or every other day.

Between baths, rinsing problem areas that are not infected can be extremely soothing. Localized inflamed areas may be washed without washing the whole animal, and this may help to stretch the interval between baths. For example, if your dog has irritated and inflamed feet, you can devise a simple system to immerse one foot at a time in a bowl of soapy water, and then rinse them the same way – in just a few minutes.

Tips on choosing shampoos: From the wide variety of commercial pet shampoos available, choose as you do for yourself, trying to avoid toxic ingredients.

Avoid shampoos that include oatmeal. Oatmeal has a great reputation as a soothing ingredient, but animals that have a problem with grain are likely to have problems with oatmeal shampoos. Grain-based shampoos may also provide a carbohydrate food source for unwanted yeast and bacteria on the skin.

“Health” shampoos including essential oils should be used only with extreme caution. Do not use them on cats. Consult with someone knowledgeable about oils if you’re interested in this approach. Always test shampoo first on a very small area!

Critical points for successful and pleasant bath time: Wash thoroughly! Use comfortably warm water, not too hot. On very hot days, many dogs enjoy cool water, which can also reduce inflammation and irritation. Wet your dog completely and use highly diluted shampoo to help spread it all over the dog, Dogs with water-repellent coats (Labradors, Portuguese Water Dogs) are hard to get wet at all: diluted shampoo makes the job easier.

Be gentle! Keep soap out of eyes and ears. Irritated skin is delicate and easily injured. Animals will be worried that you are going to cause them pain — do your best to avoid that. Hot spots in particular are exquisitely painful.

Rinse, and rinse, and rinse! Soap left on skin is very irritating.

Dry the skin completely! This might be difficult, depending on your animal’s coat, but it’s extremely important.  Bacteria love to grow in warm, damp setting.   Breeds with heavy coats may develop bacterial problems just from staying wet. “Hot spots” can develop in damp areas very quickly in a dog prone to them.

Some dog’s coats air-dry very nicely while others require work. Human hair dryers are not appropriate unless used with a “NO HEAT” setting! Allow some distance between the dryer and the animal. Trim back his/her coat around any affected areas to allow air to get to the skin and to help these areas dry faster. Stay away from “hot spots” with the dryer!

Some animals benefit from a close cut during the summer. This makes keeping an eye on skin much easier!

Prevention: do a body scan. Every day when you’re just sitting together, talking about life, look your animal friend over thoroughly. You can see, feel, and smell when it’s time for a bath. Take the time to do it when it’s needed: skin conditions can flare out of control rapidly.

Look closely for little black specks in your dog’s coat. This may be “flea dirt”, and though you may see no fleas, there might be some. It takes only one flea to trigger a very nasty skin problem in a sensitive dog. Get veterinary assistance when needed!

Feed Real Food. Good nutrition includes whole food antioxidants and ample fresh, non-oxidized essential fatty acids.  These components are critical for healing. Without the support of good nutrition, acute episodes may become chronic and possibly life-threatening conditions.

Fresh food provides the best nutrients and helps to proved healthy conditions in the digestive tract, so that the immune system is strong. Without good digestion, an animal cannot be healthy. Good food is the foundation for good health

© Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

Help Your Senior Dog Live Better

We’d all like to keep our animal buddies around forever.  A good diet and appropriate mental and physical exercise can help your dog elders live better and longer!

Our dogs have many of the same needs we do. To be at their best, dogs need real, fresh food, in the balance that’s best for their individual needs, just like we do. For dogs, real food in its natural balance means meat and vegetables.

Do dogs need “senior” food? All too frequently, we are advised to feed our dogs “Senior” food, often for dogs starting as young as 6 years old. There is no “life stage” formula food for humans: why would it be good for dogs? It’s not. It’s the result of some old “science” that’s still hanging around.

Veterinarians started recommending senior food years ago, when research seemed to show that dogs (and humans) with kidney problems would do better on a reduced protein diet. So, the reasoning went, we could avoid kidney failure by feeding a reduced protein diet as dogs aged.

This has not proved to be true for dogs or humans, and research done by big pet food companies agrees.(1-4) “Senior” foods are higher in grain than “adult” foods, which will cause increased insulin and inflammatory chemicals to be made. They are designed to be lower in fat and protein, with increased fiber. Older dogs need better protein and more protein. (5) In our opinion, “senior” and “light” diets are detrimental to the health of older dogs.

If Sparky could talk, he’d tell you it’s true. When we met Sparky, he was nine, a stout Brittany Spaniel who was not feeling very well. His family switched from “senior” dry food to a fresh frozen diet as an experiment, to see if a lower carbohydrate diet would help him lose weight. In four months, he lost about 10 pounds—as well as losing these health issues: flaky coat, itchy skin, frequent bladder infections, multiple aches and pains, and most of the tartar on his teeth. He has plenty of energy these days, and no longer qualifies as an old dog.

A species appropriate diet, based on meat and vegetables, provides the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to keep the immune system and the brain working well. Good fats keep inflammation in check and hormone systems functioning properly.

In a 14-year study that compared two groups of Labradors (one group free-fed and the other kept lean), lean dogs lived two years longer. The muscle wasting associated with old age was delayed by two years compared to the group allowed to become overweight. In addition, the lean dogs did not develop arthritis until many years after the overweight dogs, who began to show arthritic changes at 2 years of age. (6) Even if your dog has not been kept lean, you may see most of these benefits when you help your dog shed those extra pounds with a meat and vegetable-based diet.  It’s never too late!

Those with achy and overweight dogs will be amazed to see the difference in how their dogs feel and act when they are fed meat and vegetable based diets. Often dogs who are quite tottery are transformed by a change of diet. Dogs with common chronic medical conditions need the supervision of a veterinarian who is skilled with fresh food diets to supervise and fine-tune a fresh food diet.  Almost all chronic conditions (diabetes, arthritis, Irritable Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, liver and kidney problems, dental disease) will improve on a home-prepared diet designed to support the specific issue.

Good food helps to keep dogs lean, but dogs also need exercise. If our older animals are not fit, the best diet in the world won’t keep them with us. At your veterinary wellness check, find out what level of activity your veterinarian thinks is suitable for your animals to start with, and work up from there. Many conditions we have discounted as “just old age” diminish or disappear with good exercise. Digestion improves, elimination becomes more regular, animals are less achy and their brains work better. Getting more oxygen circulating builds lungs and heart, improves overall muscle tone and general health immensely. Brisk walking is a great start, but dogs need to get moving enough to get out of breath as well. For smaller dogs, this is easy to accomplish. Very out of shape dogs get winded pretty quickly, but as their fitness increases those with big dogs need to find ways to get them really moving (which will require increased fitness for the human).

Dogs often fade away from simple boredom. With an improved diet, dogs are likely to feel more like being active, but they need mental stimulation as well.

• Include your dog in family activities, and play with him. 

• Small games like “catch the popcorn” and “find the treat” take very little human effort, and provide fun and mental stimulation.

• Modify activities your old guy is no longer able to do so he can do them. For example, throw the ball so it lands closer to you and make sure he sees it before letting him go for it. Help him in and out of the car.

• Many dogs have self-appointed tasks: encourage them to keep at their jobs! Being needed keeps a dog happy.

• Learning something new keeps dogs happy, too. It’s a mutually beneficial activity—both human and animal brains get a workout, and your connection to your dog gets even better.

Supplements or food?  Supplements abound for older dogs and cats. They may prove to be of great benefit, but more to the point is good food and good exercise. Studies have shown supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to be of use in joint issues – but the need for these supplements is minimized when an animal eats real food and gets enough exercise to make use of the food.

If you do use supplements, look for those made with whole foods. We consider a wide range of oils (fish oil, cod liver oil, salmon oil, krill oil, sardines) to be necessary in a good diet: and we consider them food, part of the diet, not an isolated ingredient.
Read See Spot Live Longer for more information on commercial diets and adding real food to your dog’s diet.  If your dog has a specific condition, we suggest that you consult with a veterinarian who is experienced with fresh food diets to fine-tune the diet to your dog’s needs.

Let’s keep them as long as we can! Get them moving, feed them well, engage their brains: you’ll see a dog who is more interested in life, a dog who feels much better. We’ve spent a long time perfecting our relationships with our old dogs, we want them around for as long as they can stay.

1 Newburg LH, Curtis AC. Production of renal injury in the white rat by the protein of the diet. Arch Int Med. 1928; 42:801-21.

2 Brenner BM, Meyer TW, Hostetter TH. New England J. of Medicine. 1982; 307:652.

3 Finco DR. Proc the Waltham/OSU Symposium on Nephrology and Urology, Columbus, OH. Oct. 1992, p. 39.

4 Kronfeld DS. Aust. Vet. J. 1994; 71:328.

5 Churchill J, Polzin D, Osborne C, Tet. al. Proceedings ACVM. 1997:675.

6 Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., et al. 2002. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220(May 1): 1315-1320.

© Steve Brown and Beth Taylor  See Spot Live Longer



Fresh Food Diets

All of our animal companions — reptile, avian, rodent, equine, canine, or feline — benefit from eating diets natural to their species, whether raw or home cooked.

rawfoodDogs and Cats Thrive On Meat Based Diets

It’s simple! Balanced fresh food (meat, bone, and vegetables) diets are more nutritious than the modern (dry food) diet, because raw, fresh foods provide much more complete and balanced nutrition than that found in highly processed foods.

The natural diet of dogs and cats contains a variety of raw, real foods teeming with bacteria. These foods are high in protein and low in carbohydrate. Below are approximate levels for dogs; natural cat diets are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate. (1)

Natural Diet of Dogs:55%  Protein (Dry Matter),  14% Carbohydrate (DM)

Dry Dog Food: 25% +/- Protein (DM), 40 –70% carbohydrate (DM)

That’s a really big difference! In the natural diet, micronutrients include the natural, organic forms of vitamins and minerals, and thousands of different antioxidants. In dry food diets, many of the micronutrients are human-synthesized vitamins and minerals. Formulas contain only the 23 components deemed “essential.”

This is far fewer than are considered essential in human foods. There is a world of difference between synthesized vitamins and minerals and those found in highly processed, cooked commercial foods. Hundreds of studies show that people and laboratory animals that eat fresh vegetables and fruits are healthier and have a lower incidence of cancer, stroke and heart disease than those whose intake of micronutrients is primarily from human-made forms. There is no reason to think that our animals are different, yet most of them get almost all their vitamins and minerals in synthetic, human-made, forms.

Dogs and cats diagnosed with “unsolvable” problems (arthritis, diabetes, a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, allergies) often recover completely when eating a properly prepared fresh food diet. There are conditions for which a cooked diet might be better, and a veterinarian with extensive fresh food experience should closely supervise animals with health problems.

Whether we can totally solve health problems or not, by providing stressed bodies with the tools for healing, we can optimize the outcome.

Dogs and cats are designed to eat food in its natural state. Canine and feline digestive systems have not changed from the time when they were feral carnivores. There is little debate about this. Dr. Buddington of Mississippi State University, a noted expert on the physiology of mammals, summarizes: “Comparative studies have revealed a close relationship between intestinal characteristics, the evolutionary diet, and requirements of energy and nutrients”. (2)

Dogs and cats live in a bacterial world. Your dog goes out for a short walk in your garden. She absorbs just a few grams of soil, and then comes in and licks her pads. In those two grams of soil, there were probably billions of bacteria of hundreds of different species, some friendly and some not. Consumption of bacteria is natural for dogs and cats.

The Safety of Commercial Raw Diets. Commercial raw diets have been on the market for more than 20 years. Combined, the raw diet manufacturers have fed more than 100,000 dogs without a single documented death due to bacterial problems.

Some people worry about bacteria, and a small percentage of animals have trouble with some foods. Raw meat based pet food companies and veterinarians who use fresh food diets in their practices investigate reports they hear of problems with food. They are often able to sort out what the difficulty was, and food has rarely been the problem.

Safety of Commercial Dry Food Diets. The safety record of the dry pet food industry is not as good as that of the raw diet industry. We can all recall episodes of dozens of dogs dying from eating bad or moldy dry dog foods. In 2003, for example, 48 dogs were reported to have died soon after consuming a so-called “natural” dry dog food. These deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. Read See Spot Live Longer to learn about mycotoxins, toxic waste products from molds which are unavoidable in dry dog foods that use low-cost grains. Poor home storage contributes to these problems. Only a few of the animals that consume mycotoxin-contaminated foods will die quickly. Chronic, low level ingestion of these toxins causes cancer 3 to 5 years later. Consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated dry pet foods may be a major contributing factor to the cancer epidemic in pets.

Choosing Commercial Fresh Food Diets. To feed your animals the absolute best diet, grow your own livestock and produce on your organic family farm. If you can do this, or patronize a family farm coop, you’ll be doing the best you possibly can.

Commercial products make it easy to feed a fresh food diet. Dozens of raw food brands are now available at many pet food and natural food stores. Some are available by mail. If you do some research, it is easy to tell the difference between excellent commercial raw diets and poor ones. Use products with all human-edible ingredients. The F.D.A. Center for Veterinary Medicine issued model guidelines for raw pet diet manufacturers in 2002. The guidelines recommended the use of human-edible ingredients. However, manufacturers are not yet required to follow this recommendation.

The best manufacturers combine knowledge of modern canine nutritional science with an understanding of the ancestral diet of dogs and cats to produce a “complete and balanced” raw diet. The labels on these packages have a statement that the food meets the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials, the people who regulate pet foods) nutrient profiles. “Component” raw products supply “meat and bone” or “meat, bone and vegetable” mixes, with instructions to buyers to add the missing ingredients. These products can be excellent, as long as you follow their supplementation recommendations.

Conscientious manufacturers test their foods regularly. They provide complete nutrient profiles and technical support to you and your veterinarian.

Making Your Own. If you want to make a fresh food diet for your animals, go slowly, do it right, and learn first. Improperly prepared diets can be a health hazard. There are many books about raw and fresh diets. You’ll learn that there is no one definitive “right” answer. Some books are rather casual about nutrition and some are difficult to understand. We urge you to read several books before deciding what the best choice is for your animals, always comparing recommendations to the natural diet of the species. “Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats”, by Beth Taylor and Karen Becker, outlines a program for cats and dogs that provides all the nutrients needed in a simple rotation program.

Is Fresh Food Best? We Think So! The health benefits of a fresh food diet for your four legged friends are similar to those for humans, and just as important. Even a small amount of fresh food can have a big impact. In almost all animals the switch to a fresh diet, in the balance natural to the species, improves health, and can prolong life and vitality.

There’s no substitute for fresh food! Your animals will thank you.

(1) Calculated using data from Landry and Van Kruiningen, “Food Habits of Feral Carnivores: A Review of Stomach Content Analysis” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, Nov 1979.

(2) Buddington, Randal.  “Structure and Functions of the Dog and Cat Intestine,” Proceedings of the 1996 Iams International Nutrition Symposium. 61- 71.

© Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

This article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included

Do Dogs and Cats Need Grain?

landingbanner-rightThe natural, ancestral diet of dogs and cats included minimal amounts of grain, yet even the “healthiest” dry foods are half grain. Help your animals live longer- feed them diets more appropriate for their bodies! Learn about the differences between the natural diet of dogs and cats and the modern diet of dry foods.

Dogs and cats are designed by nature to be primarily meat eaters. Dogs are scavengers. Their diet included almost any food that provided calories – but rarely grain. A major factor in the domestication of dogs was the food available at the human garbage dump: The “tamer” wolves, those least afraid of humans, became our close companions over a period of tens of thousands of years. According to a recent study by biologists Ray and Lorna Coppinger, the natural diet of dogs included

”Bones, pieces of carcass, rotten greens and fruit, fish guts, discarded seeds and grains, animal guts and heads, some discarded human food and wastes”

Cats are more selective about food by nature and anatomy: Their ancestral diet consisted of small rodents. Their usefulness to humans had much to do with their eagerness to dispatch the rodents so plentiful around human habitats.

There is almost no grain in the natural diet of dogs and cats

The natural diet of both cats and dogs includes high levels of protein, fat, and water, and very little carbohydrate. The “recommended” diet of dry foods, which is the diet of most cats and dogs, is the complete opposite of this natural diet: High in carbohydrate, low in protein, fat, and with almost no water.

Dogs and cats do not need carbohydrates, and most veterinary textbooks agree:

More Grain, More Insulin, More Inflammation A highly processed, grain-based diet fed to an animal designed to thrive on a meat based, fresh food diet is very likely to produce symptoms of ill health over time. Diets to address disease most frequently address the symptoms that are the result of a lifetime of inappropriate food, not the cause of the symptoms. The optimum diet for a dog or a cat should closely resemble their natural diet.

Canine and Feline Nutritionco-authored by two scientists from Iams®: “The fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrate is immaterial because the nutrient content of most commercial foods include (carbohydrates).ii

Small Animal Clinical Nutrition III, written by the founder of Science Diet® (Mark Morris Sr.) and his son (Mark Morris Jr.): “Some question exists regarding the need of dogs and cats for dietary carbohydrate. From a practical sense, the answer to this question is of little importance because there are carbohydrates in most food ingredients used in commercially prepared dog foods.” iii

The Waltham Book of Companion Animal Nutrition: “There is no known minimum dietary requirement for carbohydrate….” iv

A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory chemicals. Over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain the correct weight, and can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more aches and pains.

Improve the balance of your dog’s diet by reducing grain, and you may not need the dangerous Non-Steroidal and Steroid drugs so commonly prescribed for achy animals. Less grain means less inflammation! Toxic drugs make animals more comfortable, but are likely to shorten their lives.

What if eating the right food took care of the problem?

Diabetic animals (and those with other medical conditions) making a switch to a more protein-based diet should be under the close supervision of a veterinarian.

It is our opinion that the best diet for a dog or cat is a fresh meat, bone and vegetable diet. We can’t always follow that advice due to financial constraints; the following suggestions will help you to move toward that goal. Every step helps.

Add Meat To Promote Health

Reduce the grain content of your animal’s diet by adding meat. The following steps can have a profound effect on your animal’s well-being! Remember – reduce the total amount of dry food your pet eats.

Add up to 15% fresh meat, raw or cooked. Increase protein and reduce the carbohydrate content of the pet’s food. This simple step will not unbalance the levels of any essential nutrient in your animal’s diet. Be sure that the meat scraps you’re adding are mostly meat! Your doggie bag is likely to have much more fat in it than meat. Fat is a very important nutrient, but it’s one that needs to be kept in balance.

Fat has double the calories of the same amount of protein or carbohydrate.

Don’t use “senior”, “lite” and “diet” foods. These varieties usually have fewer calories per cup because the manufacturer increased the fiber and carbohydrates, and reduced protein and fat, compared to adult maintenance diets. This is the opposite of what is needed. Dog and cat foods follow the trends in human nutrition, but they’re usually quite a bit behind human products. New science has disproved the ideas of high fiber and high carbohydrate diets for overweight and senior dogs and cats.

Older and overweight animals need meat, not grain.

Add canned food. Good canned food has no grain, and has more protein and fat than dry pet foods. Some good choices are Nature’s Variety, Wellness, Merrick, and Spot’s

Stew. “Complete and balanced” canned diets may be fed as an animal’s sole diet. Canned foods vary a lot in fat and calories, so read the fine print carefully to make sure you don’t over- or under-feed your pets.

For cats, we highly recommend switching all the way to wet food. Cats should not eat dry foods. Urinary tract problems and kidney failure in cats have been closely related to dietary water, which has a different effect on the body than water an animal drinks. It’s much better for the cat to eat her food with the water in it!

Add a commercially prepared “complete” frozen raw diet. As with canned foods, if these are “complete” they can replace all other food fed to your animals.

Research proper homemade meat, bone and vegetable diets and supplement with good dry food to cut cost. Homemade foods can be nutritious and affordable, but must be made correctly. The booklet, Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Dogs and Cats provides a tested, balanced program for homemade food. This option provides the protein and fat our pets need, reduces the amount of grain they eat, and is affordable by most people.

Feed your animal a meat and vegetable based diet. It is the best choice for almost every animal.

i Coppinger, Ray and Lorna, Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution, Scribner, 2001. 59 – 78. ii Case: Cary, and Hirakawa, Canine and Feline Nutrition, Mosby, 1995. 93. iiiMorris, Mark, Lewis, Lone and Hand, Michael, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition III, Mark Morris Associates, 1990. 1-11.

iv Burger, I., Ed. The Waltham Book of Companion Animal Nutrition, Pergamon 1995. 26-27: 10