What is the one thing you could do to make your dog live longer or healthier?
Would you feed a different food? Would you give your dog more exercised attention? What would you change?
Over the years, I’ve made many lifestyle changes for my dogs and some of these changes have had a massive impact on their health. So, in the spirit of sharing, I’m going to reveal the top five changes that have had the biggest impact on my dogs’ health.
PS: #5 is, by far, the most important, but read them all …
5 Steps To Improve Your Dog’s Health In One Year
1. Feed A Raw Diet
One of the best ways to immediately improve your dog’s health is to toss that bag of kibble in the trash and start feeding him a fresh, raw diet. There’s really nothing magical about what’s in the raw diet … what’s important is what’s not in it …
Kibble needs to contain at least 30% starchy carbohydrates to hold it together (and even canned and dehydrated foods contain a lot of starch because kibble has set the bar really low for dog owners). Some kibbles contain as much as 60% starch (and kibble manufacturers aren’t required to say how much is in the food).
Why is starch a problem? There are a few important reasons …
Starch is a breeding ground for a molds, which produce a by-product called mycotoxin. Mocotoxin can contaminate crops before they’re harvested or after your dog’s food is made. The most common sources are corn, barley, wheat, beets, peanuts and cottonseed, but other frequently affected foods include sorghum, pearl millet, rice, wheat, soybean and sunflower seeds.
Mycotoxins are extremely harmful to your dog and one mycotoxin in particular, aflatoxin, is the most potent carcinogen (cancer-causing compound) found in nature. Yet a 2015 study in Animal Feed Science & Technology found that nearly all pet foods (both lower priced and premium) were contaminated with mycotoxins.
Antinutrients are naturally occurring or man-made substances in food that can interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and interfere with digestive enzymes. The most common source for antinutrients is grains, beans, legumes and nuts.
The glycemic load of foods is an indication of how quickly it raises the blood sugar. A small, steady amount of carbohydrates or starch in the diet is fairly harmless, but when large amounts of starchy carbohydrates are added to the diet (and most dry dog foods are 30-60% carbohydrate), this can cause obesity and insulin resistance.
When your dog eats a large amount of starch or carbohydrates, it gets broken down into sugar in the body and the hormone insulin is released to move the sugar in the blood into the body’s cells. How fast this happens is called the glycemic load.
The only food that causes a quick spike in blood sugar is carbohydrates.
Why is this a problem?
Over time, your dog will become less sensitive to insulin and his pancreas will have to work harder to produce more and more insulin and can become exhausted … and your dog can develop pancreatitis and diabetes. Insulin resistance can also increase the risk of thyroid disease, obesity and some types of cancer.
Carbohydrates are also the preferred fuel for the harmful bacteria that live in your dog’s gut … and cancer cells. They’re also an incomplete source of protein, many are genetically modified, they’re sprayed with pesticides (which also harm your dog’s gut bacteria) and, most importantly, your dog has no nutritional need for carbohydrates!
So why would you feed him a food that’s 1/3 to 2/3 carbohydrates when he has no need for it and it can cause health issues? Answer: it’s cheap. If you can afford better, I’d encourage you to feed a raw diet or add raw foods to your dog’s meals to reduce the harmful carbohydrate content.
Related: Learn more about the problems of starch. [Read up on it here]
2. Replace Dewormers With Herbs
For most dog owners, tapeworms, whipworms or other parasites can mean a trip to the vet. It’s great that you care about your dog, but …
Conventional chemical dewormers contain really harmful ingredients that can have dangerous side effects. Here are some of the most common:
- Fenbendazole – can cause vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, inflammation, even death
- Pyrantel – can cause vomiting, weight loss, depression, even death
- Praziquantel – can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, even death
Many of the most widely prescribed dewormers contain these ingredients in combination with other nasty drugs, often making them even more risky.
As part of your plan to improve your dog’s health, you can skip these and replace them with herbs and other natural dewormers. Hopefully you’ll find a good holistic vet to help you out, but you can try these on your own to get started:
Herbs For Worms
- Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE can reduce the number of worms in your dog. Just make sure it’s food grade DE, never pool grade. Feed small dogs a teaspoon per day and dogs over 55 pounds up to a tablespoon per day. Make sure it’s well mixed in his food as inhaling DE can irritate your dog’s lungs.
- Oregon Grape. Oregon grape is an anti-parasitic, so it’s a perfect natural dewormer. Give it as a tincture, using 12 drops per 20 pounds. It’s also a very effective antibiotic and liver tonic. Note: Don’t give this herb to dogs with liver disease or to pregnant dogs.
- Chamomile. Chamomile is great for preventing and getting rid of roundworms and whipworms. In glycerin tincture form, give 0.25 ml to 50 ml per 20 lbs of body weight twice daily, placed in your dog’s mouth or added to water.
For more stubborn cases, try:
- Black Walnut. Black walnut is a very effective natural dewormer, but it can be harsh on your dog’s system, so keep it for cases that don’t improve with the more gentle solutions listed above. While it can effectively get rid of parasites (even heartworm), the strong ingredients in black walnut can cause vomiting, diarrhea and gastritis. It’s best to use it in consultation with a holistic vet.
- Wormwood. Wormwood is similar to black walnut and should only be used when other options fail. Don’t give it to dogs who suffer from seizures, kidney problems or liver disease or dogs who are pregnant or lactating. Also like black walnut, it’s best to use it only after consulting with your holistic veterinarian.
Foods For Deworming
Along with herbs, there are several different foods that you can give your dog to both prevent and get rid of worms. Remember that a healthy gut is unattractive to worms, so a raw food diet is a really good start in preventing worms.
- Fermented vegetables. Fermented veggies like sauerkraut, kimchi or carrots help build your dog’s digestive system, giving it the ability to fight those pests. Start slowly with fermented veggies. Work up to 1 to 3 tsp per day per 20 lbs of body weight with his food.
- Pumpkin seeds. These are one of the safest and most effective ways to treat worms. Just grind up the seeds and give ¼ tsp per 10 lbs of your dog’s weight in his food.
- Pineapple and papaya. Both are full of enzymes that help fight worms. Give 1 tsp per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight per day as a snack or with his food.
- Grated carrots, watercress, fennel, cucumber. All are great ways help your dog fight worms. Add 1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight per day to your dog’s food.
3. Replace Fish Oils With Healthier Oils
Fats are a very important part of your dog’s diet. Fats play several different roles … they provide energy, form the membranes of all the body’s cells, help the body absorb fat soluble vitamins and control important hormones.
A good way to make sure your dog is getting enough fat (and enough of the right types of fat) in his diet is with oils.
This may have you reaching for the fish oil, but fish oils are a bad idea. I know, this seems radical to you, but here’s why .…
Fish Oils Can Cause Disease And Inflammation
You might not know this, but fish oils are heated and processed foods. And that heating and processing damages the fats and causes oxidation or rancidity. Even oxygen can cause oxidation … so even if you buy a really high quality fish oil, every time you open the bottle, it becomes more and more rancid (and oxygen can travel through plastic bottles).
Oxidized fats break down into smaller compounds, like malondialdehyde (MDA), and they create oxygen-containing molecules called free radicals. Both MDA and free radicals cause premature aging and disease because they damage proteins, DNA, and other important cellular structures.
This damage is called oxidative stress and it leads to health problems, including gene mutations and cancer, and inflammatory conditions (which is ironic because you were giving your dog fish oil to fight against inflammation, not create inflammation)!
Fish Oil Contains Toxins
Although fish oils are loaded with healthy fats, fat is where fish and other animals store toxins … and the oceans are becoming more and more polluted by the minute. Heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury end up in fish oil, along with toxic compounds like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and furans. These toxins can cause nervous system disorders, cancers, liver and kidney damage and skin problems.
And don’t think your dog’s fish oil is safe … independent lab analysis found that even tested fish oils still contained dangerous PCBs.
Fish Oil Kills The Ocean
Menhaden fish is one of the most sought-after fish for omega-3 fats – and it’s commonly used for pet foods. The menhaden fish are important to the ocean because they eat algae blooms and this keeps the ocean waters clean and full of oxygen. An adult menhaden can filter 5,760 gallons of water in one day and this filtration allows sunlight to penetrate the water and allows aquatic plant life to grow and support the entire ocean.
But it’s estimated that half a billion menhaden are fished from our oceans every year and the oceans are now developing dead zones – which are areas with a lack of oxygen. The fertilizers that are used to make our foods run off into the oceans and create these algae blooms – and without the menhaden fish, theses algae blooms are killing our oceans.
Related: There are 5 excellent reasons to dump your fish oil. [Find out more]
Instead of fish oil, try hemp oil. It’s a good Omega-3 oil if you feed your dog a diet made primarily of meat from ruminants (like beef, goat, lamb, bison, venison). To add hemp oil to your dog’s diet, give 1 tsp of hemp oil for every 1 to 1¼ lbs of food.
Feeding hemp oil with poultry can lead to too much polyunsaturated fat (from LA – linoleic acid) in the diet, so you need to choose something different when you’re feeding poultry. One easy option is to give flaxseed oil or chia seed oil plus canned sardines (in water or olive oil). Add 1 tsp of oil along with ¼ can of sardines (in water or olive oil) for every 1 to 1¼ lb of lean chicken, turkey or duck you feed.
Phytoplankton is also an excellent source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, along with important trace minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. Phytoplankton is absorbed by the body as soon as it gets in your dog’s mouth, so it delivers key nutrients without your dog having to digest it first. Learn more about feeding phytoplankton, including what to buy and how much to give.
Coconut oil is another healthy oil to add to your dog’s diet. It’s not an omega-3 oil but a medium chain fatty acid and has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, so it’s a good idea to rotate it into your dog’s diet to help with things like skin issues, allergies and immune support. Give up to 1 tsp per 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight.
Related: Fats are a very important part of your dog’s diet – but you have to get them right. [Read this next!]
4. Feed The Gut (Not The Dog)
Bacteria that live in your dog’s gut form 80% of his immune system. These friendly bacteria also produce your dog’s vitamins, help him digest food and more.
But these friendly bugs can be easily damaged by some foods (like starchy carbohydrates, which feed the harmful bacteria in the gut and crowd out the friendly bacteria colonies). Antibiotics, poor diet, radiation and even aging can also affect the gut bacteria colonies … so you need to help your dog’s gut replace the friendly bacteria. Here’s how …
You can boost the number of good bacteria in your dog’s gut by adding a probiotic supplement to your dog’s diet or by giving probiotic foods such as fermented vegetables, raw goat milk or kefir.
If you buy a probiotic supplement for dogs, follow the dosing directions. If you buy one for humans, assume the directions are for a 150 lb human and adjust for your dog’s weight.
You can also add these probiotic foods to your dog’s regular food or give as a snack.
How much to give:
- Dogs up to 15 pounds – 1 tsp a day
- Dogs 16 – 30 pounds – 2 tsp a day
- Dogs 30 – 60 pounds – 3 tsp a day
- Every additional 30 pounds, add 1 tsp.
Raw goat milk:
- Dogs up to 20 lbs – 2 oz a day
- Dogs 20 to 50 lbs – 4 oz a day
- Dogs over 50 lbs – 6 oz a day
- Give your dog ¼ cup per 25 lbs daily.
One thing to remember with probiotics is that you need to introduce them slowly. If your dog is new to probiotics, they can cause a die-off of the harmful bacteria, which could cause gas, loose stools and stomach rumblings. So just go a bit slow if your dog has a history of digestive upset.
Probiotics need food too, and that’s the role of prebiotics. They support the healthy probiotic bacteria.
It’s easy to add these too. Bananas are good in moderation (they contain a lot of sugar). Green leafy vegetables and apples are also great sources of prebiotics – and you don’t even have to worry about how much you give.
Garlic is also great, in moderation. Fresh organic garlic is best. Give up to 1 tsp for every 30 lbs of your dog’s weight per day.
Related: Want to find out more about why probiotics are so important for a healthy gut? [Check this out]
5. Avoid All Unnecessary Vaccines
Here’s an important tip … most vaccines your dog gets are unnecessary!
Over-vaccination costs you more than just money … it can seriously harm your dog. Vaccine reactions are more common than you think and they’re well documented. Vaccine damage can range from minor reactions (lethargy, hair loss) to moderate (chronic allergies, lameness, respiratory diseases), to severe (seizures, myocarditis, death).
And there’s actually no need to put your dog’s health at risk …
Research shows that the core vaccines (parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus) your dog gets as a puppy protect him for at least 7 to 15 years. That means that he’s covered for most, or probably all, of his life after his puppy vaccination. It also means that anything more than those first puppy shots is over-vaccination (which means your dog gets all of the risk and none of the benefit) …
Even though your vet wants you to vaccinate your dog every year or even every three years, there’s no research showing this is necessary. Nearly every dog who’s vaccinated at or after 16 weeks of age has been shown to be protected for life. So the next time your vet tells you it’s time for your dog’s regular vaccination, ask her for the research showing your dog is actually due for that shot. Or, better yet …
Dr Schultz’ original research on the duration of immunity is available online. [Read it here]
Related: Want to know more about vaccinations? [Get all the important facts here]
If you’re worried about skipping your dog’s vaccines this year, you can check to see if he’s protected before vaccinating. Ask your vet for a titer, which is a blood test that measures the level of protective antibodies your dog has to certain diseases. You can either have your vet perform the titer or you can ask for the blood to be drawn for you ($15 to $20) and mail the blood yourself to Hemopet to be tested. Fill out the online Test Request form, selecting the Distemper & Parvovirus Titer (which costs only $52) and you’ll get the results back in a few days, telling you if your dog is protected or not.
Related: Getting a titer test is one of the most important things you can do to stop over-vaccination for your dog. [Read more about titers]
AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) vaccine guidelines have been updated to say a positive titer can replace vaccination for the core vaccines, so if your vet presses you to vaccinate, you can refer her to these guidelines. Don’t just give in and vaccinate, your dog’s life might rely on that decision!
So, what about non-core vaccines like Bordetella, Lyme or Leptospirosis?
Well, they’re unnecessary too. What’s worse, they often don’t work and carry some of the most dangerous side effects.
Even rabies, which is required by law, is only required every three years in all US states and most Canadian provinces.
Related: Does your dog need non-core vaccines? [Find out here]
So, before you make an appointment for your dog’s vaccines, think about how they might affect his health. Remember, nobody can force you to vaccinate your dog. Stick to your guns and don’t let your vet guilt you into changing your mind (you’ve made your decision for a very good reason).
Start the year off right with these five simple changes. I can virtually guarantee they will seriously improve his health and reduce his risk of disease. They did for my dogs. 🙂