NUTRITION & HEALTH BASICS
How can I assess my pet's overall health?
Keeping an ideal weight is a result of a balance between a nutrition and exercise, and is crucial for your pet’s long term health. The term ideal weight is used to refer to the optimal weight for a specific dog or cat based on breed, age, and overall build. Here are some quick checks to see if your pet is in a good weight range:
- Touch: You should be able to feel ribs below the surface of the skin, and a healthy layer of tissue over the ribs and spine.Put your hands on your pet’s ribs and spine. You pet may be underweight if their spine and ribs are significantly protruding, or overweight if you cannot feel the outline of their ribs.
- Visual Inspection: You should visibly see a waist, when viewing you pet from above. Belling should be tucked up higher than the chest, when viewed from side. You pet may be underweight if ribs, hip bone or spine is highly visible. Your pet may be overweight if no waist is visible and belly is rounded when viewed from side.
The most common reason for obesity comes from over-processed, grain-filled diets. These diets contain high carbohydrate content that converts to sugar and results in excessive calories getting stored as fat. Switching to a diet consisting of real, whole foods promotes easier and more natural digestion and helps pets return to and maintain their ideal weight. Changes can start to show in as little as two weeks! For more information about weight, check out our Feeding Guide.
Coat and Skin
The health and appearance of the skin and coat is often a reflection of the internal health of your dog and cat. Many believe that your pet’s skin and coat really constitute an organ that performs many tasks vital to your pet’s survival, including maintaining body temperature and protecting from external infections. A healthy skin and coat should be shiny, soft and odour-free. If your pet has any of the below indicators, they may have an internal health imbalance:
Below are some typical skin and coat conditions that are indicators of health issues:
- Dull or scaly coat
- Dry flaky skin, and “pet” odour
- Overly oily and smelly coat
- Sores or hotspots on skin
- Excessive scratching of same spot
Mouth, Teeth and Gums
Healthy gums are firm and pink, black or spotted, just like the dog’s skin. Healthy teeth should be white and smooth. In nature, dogs chew bones, which clean their teeth and strengthen their jaw muscles. In addition, their mouths are naturally acidic, which deters any bacteria overgrowth. Feeding a commercial dry diet can often change the pH levels in their mouth and digestive tract, making your pet more susceptible to unfriendly bacteria overgrowth.
While certain commercial foods and treats contain plaque-reducing ingredients, the grains in these products promote bacteria growth.
Healthy eyes are bright and shiny, with minimal tearing and discharge.
The skin inside your pet’s ears should be light pink and clean. There should be some brownish wax, but a large amount of wax or crust is abnormal. There should be no redness or swelling in or around the ear area.
As pet owners, we spend a lot of time talking about poop! It gives us an insight into our pet’s inner workings – especially their digestive system. A healthy stool should not be excessive in size, and should be fairly firm and low in odour.
Is a high protein diet healthy?
Of course! There have been many studies published roundly debunking the high protein myth, often fuelled by marketing companies that still produce or sell low-protein, grain-based foods.
Many conventional pet foods today are lower in actual digestible protein, but higher in carbohydrate content. Because carbohydrates are not part of a natural diets for dogs and cats, it doesn’t make sense to include them as an essential nutrient in their diets.
Feeding high-protein diets ensures the food your pet is eating is more species-appropriate, promotes good organ health and immune function, and helps preserve healthy muscle mass as your pet ages.
YOUNG PETS - Is Red Dog suitable for my puppy or kitten?
Yes! If you have a new puppy or kitten in your family, we recommend introducing Red Dog within a few days, as soon as they are more settled. Most can make the transition overnight regardless if they are on kibble or canned food. Work up until you are feeding approximately 5-10% of their body weight, and remember that you may end up feeding more than this percentage if you notice they are very energetic and burning through the calories! Make sure to monitor their body composition and overall health to determine any adjustments. Just like human babies, proper nutrition is most important when the body and brain are developing.
For more information on how much to feed, check out our Feeding Guide.
SENIOR PETS - is Red Dog suitable for my senior pet?
Absolutely yes! Traditionally, veterinarians have recommended feeding lower protein diets to senior pets, but this thinking has been strongly dismissed by recent studies. As pets age, a protein-rich diet is especially important for maintaining peak health, because when protein is high, carbohydrates are low and this reduces the metabolic stress on a dog or cat’s already aging organs.
PREGNANT PETS - Is Red Dog suitable for my pregnant pet?
Yes! Just like humans, pregnancy creates an even greater need for proper and accessible nutrition. During this exciting time, it is completely normal for feeding amounts to be dramatically increased. We recommend setting up an appointment with a raw-supporting veterinarian (or your own veterinarian, if they support raw) to set up a specially tailored diet to fit her needs.
CALCIUM & PHOSPHORUS - Why do they matter?
Dogs and cats need a balance between the amount of calcium and phosphorus they get in their daily diets. The recommended ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be about 1:1, but preferably with slightly more calcium.
Calcium is a very important mineral and is a major component of bone and cartilage. It plays a vital role in hormone transmission, nerve function, muscle contraction, digestion, cognitive function, and blood clotting. Getting the right amounts of calcium ensures strong bones and teeth.
In the wild, dogs and cats get their calcium from chewing on the bones of their prey. When feeding at home, we suggest including consumable bones (such as buffalo or beef bones, chicken or turkey necks) into your dog or cat’s diet to provide them with adequate calcium intake. A recommended approach is feeding a meal with bones (either poultry or salmon) 2-3 times per week, and supplementing with consumable bones 1-2 times per week).
Make sure to always supervise your dog or cat when feeding bones, and always choose a bone that is larger than your pet’s mouth capacity to avoid choking concerns. Do not feed cooked bones because they are very brittle and splinter easily, which can cause all kinds of injury if ingested.
*Yellow and powdery stools mean your dog is getting too much calcium.
*Runny and dark stools mean that your dog may be getting too much organ meat.
The main function of phosphorus is in forming bones and teeth, and meat contains an especially high amount of this mineral. Phosphorus plays an important role in the use of carbohydrates and fats within the body, and it is responsible for synthesizing protein for growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues. Working alongside B vitamins, phosphorus helps with muscle contraction, kidney function, heartbeat regularity and nerve conduction.
Phosphorus is also crucial for the production of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is a molecule that the body uses to store necessary energy.
Bone Powder & Eggshell Meal
If your pet will not eat consumable bones for whatever reason (for some pets it can be as simple as a texture issue), fear not! There are still ways that you can ensure your dog or cat is getting enough calcium.
One alternative is to mix bone meal (powder) into the meal. Red Dog offers this product in 200g containers. This product is limited quantity.
A second alternative is eggshell meal (powder). This type of supplement can be either purchased through pet stores or made at home.
Eggshell meal recipe (from Rick Woodford’s book “Feeding Your Best Friend Better”):
- 12 eggshells, cleaned and dried
- Once clean and dry, eggshells can be left at room temperature in an airtight container until you save enough to make a batch.
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Spread the eggshells evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes. The eggshells will still be mostly white or brown, but might have a light tint, which is okay. Baking eggshells longer can product an unpleasant smell.
- Allow the eggshells to cool, then grind in a blender or clean coffee grinder for 1 minute, or until you achieve a very fine powder with no sharp edges.
- Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
** Please note that some Red Dog meals do contain ground up bone (chicken, turkey, salmon, herring, rabbit, and cornish hen).
** To ensure adequate calcium amounts, we suggest a combination of the following strategies:
- Consumable raw meaty bones 4-5 times a week.
- Meals with bones such as chicken or turkey 3 times a week – you will need to feed other non-poultry bones 2 times per week in addition to this, to avoid feeding excessive amounts of poultry.
** Don’t over-supplement. Too much calcium in a diet can be just as problematic as not enough. In dogs, it can result in bone deformities, and joints breaking down, especially in larger breeds. In cats, it can lead to poor growth, increased bone mineral density, and an increased requirement for magnesium.
TAURINE - Why is it important?
Taurine functions in the brain and heart to help stabilize cell membranes, and regulates metabolism. It assists with functions of the gallbladder, eyes, and blood vessels and appears to have some antioxidant and detoxifying activity. Taurine also aids the movement of potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium in and out of cells and thus helps generate nerve impulses. It is found in the central nervous system, skeletal muscle, and heart; it is very concentrated in the brain and high in the heart tissues.
Dogs and Taurine
Dogs possess the ability synthesize taurine using the sulfur amino acids cysteine and methionine. However, some dogs (larger and giant breeds, American Cocker spaniels, labradors and Golden retrievers) can are more susceptible to developing a condition called DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) and may need to have their blood tested for adequate levels of taurine. Most often, dogs that have DCM do not have taurine deficiencies, but if levels are found to be low, taurine supplementation can help in management of the condition.
Cats and Taurine
Cats are not able to synthesize taurine, so must rely on supply direct from the source. Adequate amounts of taurine must be provided in their diets. Taurine deficiencies primarily occur from use of plant-based proteins instead of meat proteins, and a high amount of carbohydrates. This deficiency can cause blindness, heart trouble, tooth decay, and other maladies. In severe cases, it may even result in death. When it was noted that the majority of commercial cat diets were deficient of taurine, it was put on the list of “essential amino acids” for cats, and modern day cat foods now must ensure they provide adequate amounts.
For this reason, Red Dog cat meals contain extra levels of heart.
One of Thunder’s favorite activities!Denise W.