This new feature will consist of five random things I want to share with readers, every Friday. They might pertain to a specific nutrient, to a food, a health condition, an individual herb, a method of herbal preparation, or even a quick recipe. I’ve been inspired to do this after reading the blog of a “Friend of a Friend” on Facebook, a lovely, creative, unique young woman who had a feature of the same name on her blog. She died last week at 36, and her story impacted me deeply; I decided that sharing a few quick tidbits on canine health every Friday, might be a nice way to honour her. And, I HOPE, it might teach ME to be just a  little more succinct, so, you know, I can blog more often. 🙂

My Five Things for this week. <3

  • Selenium is an important mineral that is very often low in canine home made diets. When you read about food sources, you’ll see it is almost ubiquitous in foods we use for dogs daily – like liver (most kinds) fish, oysters (but not too many people feed oysters) and it’s easy to think a varied diet will provide enough. In truth that’s not always the case, some home made diets are actually low enough to require supplementation, depending on which foods your dog tolerates and how much food overall he needs. As with all nutrients, dogs who have slow metabolisms and require fewer calories overall, may come up short in the essentials. Brazil nuts are the richest source, but don’t overdo them – one average (5 gram) nut contains about 100 mcgs –  about what a forty pound dog needs IN TOTAL for one day, so much too much for littler guys. As always, your best bet is to calculate your dog’s actual requirement, tally up what’s in the diet and add a Brazil nut here and there to cover gaps. Selenium is a potent antioxidant, supports thyroid  and cardiovascular function, is likely to help prevent some cancers. Don’t assume your variety-based diet is giving your dog enough, do the math. ?

  • We hear a lot of talk about how inflammatory various carbs are, but did you know that fats can be just as unhealthy or more?  I know you did, but a reminder – an “anti-inflammatory” diet is not a carb free nor even, necessarily, starch free diet – it is one in which nutrients are balanced (including fatty acids) and food sources are wholesome, varied and rich in the essentials. Dogs who do not do well on very low carb diets can benefit from calorie-dense foods like sweet potato and chickpeas, and inflammation can be offset (it’s impossible to avoid entirely, yep even in  carbfree diets) by adding plentiful herbs and veggies which LOWER inflammation, and by balancing fatty acids, including marine lipids like fish oil and krill, and consider a GLA source as well (more on that below).
  • GLA – gamma-linolenic acid – is a unique fatty acid found only in breast milk, evening primrose, borage and black currant seed oils. Although it’s an Omega 6, a type of fatty acid that is considered both essential and pro-inflammatory, GLA is quite powerfully anti-inflammatory. I use GLAs with some osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, with allergies, with all kinds of skin conditions (to name a few). Because this is a fatty acid we don’t hear as much about in the popular press these days, and it’s so great, I thought I’d mention it today. There’ll be much more about GLA in my second ebooklet “Supplements and Superfoods”, or feel free to ask about it on the Facebook Group or Page.
  • Milk thistle is THE “liver herb” in popular culture and there’s no question it’s a superb hepatoprotective/restorative medicine. That said, many other herbs support the liver in a variety of ways. Think about dandelion root, burdock, artichoke, schisandra, the ever-popular turmeric, and dan shen. When we consider adding an herb for anything, we have to consider many things beyond what conditions it’s “good for” – how does that herb act on the tissue/organ involved, what other actions does it have, is it a warm/cool/damp/dry herb, and not to forget potential drug interactions. So I’m not suggesting just go grab all of these and start giving them to your dogs, but read good reliable sites, talk to a qualified herbalist or holistic vet – look beyond the commercial and popular.
  • Just a piece of personal advice from someone who has been doing this work for a long time, and who can get just as tied up in knots as the next obsessive, madly-in-love-with-dogs, human information sponge (you know who you are). And in case that sounds weird coming from me, who is always, always going on about nutrient balance and not relying on variety and memorizing all kinds of antioxidants to make sure we get them all in there and so can really drive oneself crazy after a certain point. Yes I believe with all my heart in using the science we have to provide a balanced diet. Yes, I have seen how a sloppy diet turned precise makes an astonishing difference, time and again I’ve seen it. And yes, I am embarassingly, over-the-top anxious if something seems off with one of my own. But the truth is, science is always changing, the superfoods of 15 years ago are barely mentioned now (and they’re still good foods) and nobody, ever,  always gets everything perfect. Doing the best we can, and remaining open to learning, to enjoying life with our dogs, is a great gift of love.
    Understanding that more than one way of doing things can work,  is humbling and very interesting. I’ll get off my rant about this now, but I see so much tension around me everywhere, regarding food, it would be hard to believe our dogs are not picking up on some of our stress. Selenium, liver herbs, GLA and antioxidants notwithstanding – love and respect and a low toxin environment and fresh air all count so much towards health – let’s never lose sight of that bigger picture. I have a few beers on the weekend, I cannot resist good fresh white bread, and I do give my dear old dogs a little vanilla ice cream once in a while. Life is short,  and dogs are treasures on loan.   My “words of wisdom”, thinking of the inspiration for this feature (Kelly Clark of ) who loved her dogs, and lost her life so early last week, at only 36….take them for what you think they’re worth.