April/May 2012 Newsletter

Spring is here!  In this issue, we will talk about  prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes, Giardia, quack grass and the 2011 Veterinary Vaccination Guidelines.   If there’s any topic you’d like to get more information on, please let us know and we’d be happy to dig up the dirt!

Dog grass:  it’s all it’s quacked up to be!

If your pet chows down on grass, don’t worry!  It’s perfectly normal.  All three of my dogs – Jamie, Stanley and Sadie – have a hearty appetite for grass all spring and summer long!  Even with a diet of fresh, healthy foods, a holistic veterinary perspective believes the urge to eat grass comes from an instinctive drive to fulfill special needs that cannot be addressed by diet alone.
Dogs may be particularly attracted to sprigs of common quack grass or “dog grass” as it’s known.  Each blade of dog grass contains silicon for strong joints and connective tissues, essential fatty acids for vibrant skin and coat, enzymes for good digestion, chlorophyll for antioxidant support and soap-like saponin constituents that combine with stringy fibers to help cleanse the digestive tract and keep parasites in check.  The roots of this persistent weed are medicinal too, with anti-inflammatory and tonic properties that help strengthen mucous membranes, maintain urine pH, and safely reduce inflammation in the urinary tract.
All said, eating grass is quite beneficial!

Prebiotics, probiotics and enymes:
why they might be important for your pet


Many people believe that you can achieve only a certain level of nutrition from food and therefore supplement their diet with various vitamins and minerals.
Similarly, for dogs and cats, there are many reasons why supplementation becomes important.  Foremost, the quality of nutrition is always an issue in processed pet foods.  Most pets eat that food exclusively; some pets only get food made up of mostly grain that is not only hard for carnivores to process but also difficult to extract sufficient nutrients.  As well, pet foods are heat-processed and the nutrients from all those wonderful ingredients advertised so prominently on the bag are compromised, if not lost.   Because of that, the pet food industry adds synthetic nutrients back into the formulation to attempt to make their foods “complete”.
As you may know, research on cat and dog nutrition is not an exact science – most formulations are based on what is believed to be the minimum nutrient requirements from short-term feeding trials.  With differing nutritional needs, some pets simply may not be getting the levels of vitamins and minerals they need.  Further, whether cats and dogs digest and absorb the synthetic nutrients added to their processed diets with the same ease as natural sources is hotly debated, even among many holistic pet nutritionists.  And even with real food diets, food is just not as nutritious as it once was due over-production of the soil, erosion from water run-off and wind and environmental conditions.
Probiotics and Prebiotics The digestive system is the largest immune organ of the body – roughly 70% of the body’s immune cells, enterocytes, goblet cells and other immune warriors reside in the mucosal linings of the intestinal tract.  Probiotics work in conjunction with these immune warriors by producing special enzymes and other chemicals that support immune functions at many levels.   Prebiotics are food for the resident microflora.

Digestive enzymes are useful as well if a pet has a difficult time deriving the nutrients they need from their diet.  Enzymes are chemicals that the body uses for all cellular reactions.  They allow the body to digest and absorb nutrients from food.  Each enzyme has a relatively specific activity.  For example, lipases digest fat, amylases digest starches, and proteases digest protein.
These enzymes, along with probiotics, are particularly useful when changing diets (especially from dry kibble to raw food) or if your pet is ill and needs help digesting food.  Cooking can deactivate the enzymes in foods.  Raw or gently cooked foods contain a greater amount of active enzymes.
Enzymes are building blocks for good digestion.  Animals that suffer from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency have a shortage or absence of digestive enzymes and are unable to properly digest food.  Diarrhea and weight loss result from this condition and lifelong supplementation is necessary.   Similarly, aging animals are believed to have a decreased production of digestive enzymes.
Enzymes can also be helpful for hairballs, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, cancer, allergies and other autoimmune diseases and post surgery to speed up healing.  When choosing a product, find one that contains a variety of digestive enzymes – some form of amylase, lipase and protease enzymes.  You may find many products contain cellulose.  This enzyme which digests the cellulose skeletal structure of plant materials is not made by dogs and cats so having it in the enzyme product you buy can increase digestion of fruits and vegetables and other plant materials.  Powders are easily mixed with food and that is probably the best way to administer digestive enzymes for animals with gastrointestinal problems.  Some nutritionists recommend that for other conditions, a better response is seen if they are administered on an empty stomach or with only a tiny amount of food so that they are used by the body specifically for that specific condition.
Bacteria and your pet’s digestion

There are two types of bacteria that colonize our bodies – good and harmful.  Good bacteria normally inhabit the intestines and are critical in maintaining the correct balance of intestinal microflora.
Widespread and excessive use of antibiotics destroys good bacteria as well as bad.  Stress, poor eating habits, pollutants, environmental changes, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and soil sterilizers all affect the bacterial population in the gut, reducing both transient and colonizing species.  This in turn allows harmful bacteria to multiply, producing large quantities of toxins and carcinogenic agents.  Once released, these toxins inhibit the normal function of the digestive system and increase the demands placed on the liver and kidneys, speeding up the aging process and leading to various diseases.
Probiotics, also known as “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria”, are live microorganisms that are similar to the ones normally found in the intestinal tract.  In humans, probiotics help optimize digestive, immune and respiratory function, improve or prevent specific conditions such as gastroenteritis, IBS, eczema and other skin conditions, urinary tract infections, arthritic conditions.  They are particularly useful after antibiotic therapy to re-colonize the intestinal tract with healthy bacteria.
Two strains of probiotics that have been developed to promote better intestinal health are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.  These bacteria produce natural antibodies that can protect against harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E.Coli and shigella.
Prebiotics are substances (such as certain carbohydrate sugars) that are not digested, and when they reach the large intestine, stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria.  For animals where the probiotics don’t appear to work, they are especially important because they feed the bacteria that are in the probiotic formula.  Prebiotics are selective about what is actually fed – good bacteria flourish while the growth of “bad” pathogenic bacteria like salmonella, peptidococci and clostridia is inhibited.  Studies have shown that as the bifidobacteria (the good guys) count increases, acid levels in the gut increases and the environment is less hospitable to harmful strains of yeast and pathogenic bacteria.  In the colon, prebiotics may also raise levels of short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which can help protect against carcinogenesis, inflammatory bowel disease, and even some forms of chronic allergy.
Oligosaccharides:  Prebiotics that are soluble carbohydrates naturally found in many foods including whole grains, onions, bananas, garlic, honey, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes and in many herbs including burdock root, dandelion root and chicory root.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS):  Prebiotics that are plant sugars occurring in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and cereals.  They are produced commercially by partial hydrolysis of chicory insulin or from sucrose using an enzymatic process.
As the use of prebiotics flourishes in the pet food and treat industries, the value of adding prebiotics is debated.  How much prebiotic is really available to your pet from processed pet food sources?  Dogs and cats do not digest grains, fruits or vegetables as effectively as humans and herbivores and therefore may not gain full benefit from the prebiotics contained in the food they eat.  On the same note, diets comprised primarily of meat will be pretty much void of prebiotic oligosaccharides.   FOS can be an easy addition to your pet’s diet, feeding the “good guys” in your pet’s gut.
Some natural nutritionists prefer feeding prebiotics from herbal extracts.  As mentioned, chicory root, burdock root and dandelion root all contain inulin that is is highly soluble and easily extracted into hot water.  The also provide much more than prebiotic support.  They are known for their antioxidant properties and their abilities to strengthen various functions of the liver and gall bladder that in turn, helps to improve digestion and aid in removal of systemic waste.
One cautionary note:  while adding FOS to the diet is considered safe, too much of a good thing can lead to flatulence and bloating.
Give a probiotic supplement that offers a variety of strains of beneficial bacteria.
 Nourish those “good guy” bacteria with a prebiotic supplement.
Remember each dog and cat has unique nutritional requirements so monitor your pet for signs that the diet may need to be adjusted in some way.  What benefits one pet may not benefit another.

  Here comes Giardia – it must be spring!

Giardia is a common parasite and is more common in the spring.  Symptoms are characterized by a loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, gas, bloating or weight loss.  The most common means of infestation innocently comes from drinking water (like puddles) that has been infected by an organism in the fecal matter of fish or other animals.  Animals tend to be more resistant to it than humans are.  The severity of the infestation depends on the overall health of the host.  Symptoms manifest  7-10 days after ingestion.
Giardia can also be caused by contaminated food.  The organism infects the lining of the digestive tract and can invade the liver.  Mal-absorption of nutrients occurs when the parasites damage the absorptive surface of the intestinal lining (intestinal villi).  If it is left untreated. it can lead to other diseases such as eczema, arthritis or irritable bowel/Crohn’s disease.  Giardia can affect both cats and dogs.

   Did you know?

That every cat reacts differently to catnip?  Some will be giddy, some dazed, and a large percentage won’t react at all!  The ability to appreciate this herb is genetically programmed, with slightly more cats in the catnip fan club than not.  Catnip contains a substance called “nepetalactone” in its leaves and stems and this is what sets cats off.  Rolling, rubbing, leaping, purring and general uninhibited happiness are all normal for a few minutes after exposure.  The “high” is harmless and non-addictive.  Catnip is fairly easy to grow for your pet.   Be sure to protect young plants, or your cats will pull them up by the roots.  Clip pieces from established plants for your cat, stuffing them into toys or rubbing them on cat trees.

New at the store!

Do you have a picky pet? McFinn’s Gourmet Sprinkles might help. Made in Winnipeg, this is a blend of bonito flakes, organic catnip and digestive enzymes. Sprinkle some on your finicky cat or dog’s food and have them begging for more!

       American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)
Canine Vaccination Guidelines
for General Veterinary Practice – 2011

CDV (MLV) or rCDV – Distemper
AAHA Comments/Recommendations:  Among healthy dogs, all commercially available distemper vaccines are expected to induce a sustained protective immune response lasting at least > 5 years.  Among healthy dogs, the rCDV vaccine has been shown to induce a protective immune response lasting at least 5 years.



AAHA Comments/Recommendations:  All MLV-CPV-2 vaccines available today are expected to provide immunity from disease caused by any field variant recognized today (CPV02a, -2b and –2c).  Among healthy dogs, all commercially available MLV-CPV-2 vaccines are expected to induce a sustained protective immune response lasting at least 5 years.

 CAV-2 (MLV parenteral) – ADENOVIRUS

AAHA Comments/Recommendations:  Among healthy dogs, all commercially available MLV-CAV-2 vaccines are expected to induce a sustained protective immune response lasting at least 7 years.


AAHA Comments/Recommendations:  Parenterally administered CPiV vaccine does prevent clinical signs but has not been shown to prevent infection and shedding.  Veterinarians who elect to administer parenteral CpiV vaccine should follow the same administration recommendations as outlined above for the core vaccines.


Here is the link to AAHA’s full document:  http://www.aahanet.org/PublicDocuments/CanineVaccineGuidelines.pdf 


Have you entered to win the Darford Treats & Zero G Dog Food?

If you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to fill out a form to win all these goodies –
 Darford treats + two large bags of Darford Zero G!
  The draw will be April 25th.







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