August issue out July 8th

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Sensitive subject

I have an extremely fussy dog with a very delicate digestive system, is there an alternative out there to expensive veterinary diets?
My vet only sells one brand and the answer to almost every question seems to be to switch to that one! I've looked at the ingredients and I have to say there doesn't appear to be anything significantly different!
What else can I try?
Gayle Peters, London

Also posted on our Think Tank blog

This is such a common question for us at Arden Grange! We are sorry to hear that your dog requires a veterinary prescription diet. These specialist diets are formulated to help manage nutritionally responsive disease. Whether a regular commercial complete food would be a suitable alternative depends largely on the diagnosis. In some cases regular food (even very highly digestible brands such as Arden Grange) may not be appropriate. For example, dogs with renal dysfunction require a food which is low in phosphorous; dogs with liver disease may require a restricted fat and low copper diet. Regular dog food is designed for canines with a "normal" requirement for these nutrients, and all of the others which are necessary to support their health and wellbeing.
However, for some dogs, Arden Grange can offer a nutritious and economical diet which may be suitable in place of a prescription food. A prime example is in cases of skin disease and digestive problems caused or exacerbated by food allergies and intolerances; particularly reactions to the more common dietary allergens which are wheat, beef, soya and dairy products. We have also supplied food to many dogs with inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy, behavioural issues and many other problems. In such cases we always assess each dog individually. It is vital to keep in contact with your vet and discuss whether he or she feels Arden Grange could be viable, and we will then pass on full details of our suggested diet's ingredients and nutritional analysis so that your vet can make the final decision.
When your dog suffers from digestive problems, you should always follow the advice of your vet. There are numerous possible causes and the nutritional management and treatment will vary. Most dogs with diarrhoea do tend to benefit from a low fat diet as this helps to prevent further residue from accumulating in the large bowel, but a dog with pancreatic problems would require long term fat restriction, whilst a dog with a bacterial infection can usually be weaning back to a normal food following recovery.  The Arden Grange Sensitive Ocean White Fish and Potato is designed especially for dogs with sensitive skins and stomachs and can often be used in place of more expensive prescription hypoallergenic diets, but again, its suitability for your own dog really does depend on his medical status. If you are able to get back to us with more details about his condition as well as his age, breed and activity level we will be able to assess him properly and give some more in depth advice. There is a questionnaire on our website where you can enter this information:- 
Dogs with digestive problems are often fussy through no fault of their own. Our canine friends have inherited an innate ability from their wild dog ancestors that can mean certain foods are refused if they are likely to make a problem worse. Also, imagine how you feel if you have stomach ache, indigestion or feel sick - a large meal is the last thing you'd want. If your dog is recovering from recent tummy upset, small frequent meals of home cooked chicken/white fish and rice/potato is bland and usually well accepted and well digested. Once his problems have been diagnosed and treated accordingly, his longer term dietary management can be planned and a gradual change back to a regular diet undertaken in many instances. Arden Grange is often ideal due to its super-premium quality, high digestibility and lack of artificial additives.
For truly fussy dogs, we do have a fact sheet available on request which contains all manner of hints and tips to get your dog back into the habit of clearing his bowl.
We hope that your dog is making a good recovery!
Ness Bird RVN, Nutrition Adviser,

An ill wind

Can anyone help me with this problem?
Blake is an eight-year old Lab x Golden Retriever and has just had to have major surgery to release a build up of gas in his stomach and intestines. This is the second time this has happened, the first being two years ago.
He has two meals a day of Chappie Complete as recommended by my vet and is not allowed to exercise before or after meals. He is a fit and active dog, weighing 32kgs and has no other health problems.
Can you suggest what might be causing this? 
Is there anything I can do to prevent it happening again?
Is surgery the only option? In the latest operation the gas was removed with a stomach tube, did he need to be opened up for this procedure?
I would be grateful for any advice.
Helen Lane, by email

Also posted on Think Tank

Hi Helen,

My James (StaffiexLurcher) is prone to bloat so I understand your feelings of frustration and worry.
The technical name for bloat is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) and usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and sometimes food in the stomach. As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to 360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus and at the duodenum.This twisting traps air, food, and water in the stomach  while the bloated stomach itself obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. 

There are lots of reasons for the onset of bloat which may include some or all of the following:

1. Eating Habits: Eating too quickly, drinking too quickly, eating foods high in fat,eating dry food, eating gas producing foods such as those containing soya or brewer's yeast products - may all contribute.
2. Exercise: Even moderate exercise one hour before or two hours after a meal may trigger an episode.
3. Build/Physiology: Deep chested breeds, older dogs and male dogs are all prone to bloat more than others.
4. Stress: Anxiety, nerves or a change in circumstance can also be contributing factors.
5. Heredity: Unfortunately, some dogs regardless of breed are just more susceptible to bloat than others, especially those that have close relatives who also suffer from the same problem. If you haven't done so already, it would be a good idea to have Blake checked for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), which occurs when the part of the pancreas that produces digestive enzymes no longer functions properly. Although it's not a very common aliment, it would be worth exploring the possibility with your vet.

Managing bloat usually involves incorporating lots of small changes to diet and daily routine. One of which is moving from dry food to tinned or perhaps consider feeding Blake a Natural Diet.  As your vet has recommend Chappie, let me just say that in my experience, Chappie has suited dogs with all manner of digestive complaints, so if your vet is happy with the move from dry to tinned  I would go down that route first. Although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with dry kibble, it can swell in the stomach and is never normally advised for dog's prone to bloat.

Feeding Blake from a raised bowl may slow him down, but the jury is still out as to weather or not it will have an effect in preventing bloat. I work with several vets who feel that feeding from a raised bowl actually does more harm than good, but I also work with some who highly recommend them.  Regardless of your decision, it's a good idea to split Blake's current two meals a day into three with that third being offered in a puzzle toy such as a Kong or similar.  This will help to slow him down, as well as engage his mind.  If you do switch to tins, try not to mash his food up in his bowl but leave it in largish chunks so that he needs to chew his food before swallowing. The very act of chewing triggers the production of digestion enzymes which in turn will help him digest his food properly.

Thinking outside the box, you may wish to look into Canine Massage Therapy if you feel stress may be playing a part in Blake's condition.  My James has a bi-weekly session in order to help manage his back problem, but I've also found that since starting the regime he is much more relaxed and we haven't had any major issues with his digestion. If you do decide to give Massage Therapy a try, make sure you find someone who is properly qualified and is happy to work with your vet (ie provide professional reports etc).

If all of the above do not address Blake's issue, then you may need to consider surgery. Laparoscopic assisted gastropexy is an operation that fixes the stomach to the body wall permanently in order to prevent the twisting of the stomach. However, since no operation should be considered lightly, a full and frank discussion of the pros and cons for Blake should be had with your vet.

Claire Goyer

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Thursday, 3 June 2010

Prey, tell us more about wolves!

I've been hearing about how the 'the prey diet' is the best diet. And I've heard the counter argument of 'why should we feed dogs this way as wolves usually die really young and basically needs be able to run pretty fast and long to catch their dinner'. I'd even heard it said that 'wolves' teeth are usually terrible, too - so much for the raw meaty bone diet!' The argument goes, 'we want a long dog's life, without prey drive and without the need to reproduce, so our couch potato dogs' lifestyle is more suited to lower protein and carbs.'
But what do captive wolves eat if they don't have to catch their own dinner or fight for survival? And how long do they live in the wild compared to captivity? What is the normal cause of death in the wild? And do they really have such poor teeth?
Kevin Dorling, Edinburgh

Also posted on the Think Tank blog.

Dear Kevin
Thank you for your post regarding wolves’ diets. I have worked with captive wolves and world class wolf experts for 10 years and I can definitely say that wolves do not die due to their diet. Wolves have the same number of teeth as dogs; the only difference is that theirs are much bigger. They also have a higher bite power which is around 1500 pounds per square inch, roughly twice that of a Pitbull Terriers. Wild wolves teeth, if they live long enough, can get worn down and they do some times suffer from spiral and slab fractures but this happen as a result of bringing their prey down not the eating of prey or the lack of nutrition in their diet. Think of wolves as lean athletes, they eat only what they need to survive and are feast or famine feeders i.e. will eat up to 20 pounds of meat in one sitting and then nothing at all for days. Captive wolves' teeth are general really clean. In 10 years I’ve never seen one of the wolves I work have with dental issues.
A colleague of mine Josip Kusak who works with wild wolves in Croatia wrote a paper on dental issues in 2007 called ‘Prevalence of Dental Pathology in Wolves in Croatia’. This provided some credible data regarding dental issues with wild wolves. 34 skulls were examined for dental changes. The skulls originated from wolves which had died due to various reasons in Croatia between 1997 and 2006. Age of examined animals ranged from seven months to eight and half years. Only three skulls had changes to teeth or the alveolar bone (the sockets of the teeth in the jaw bone). Periodontitis, with changes in the alveolar bone, was determined on the alveolus of the lower fourth premolar in two individuals and on the alveolus of the mandibular first molar in one specimen. Complicated crown-root fractures were found in two individuals. All caries lesions (tooth decay) were found on premolars and molars, (except on one incisor), Caries were also found on the upper jaw in one animal and on the lower jaw of another animal, while a third animal had decay in both jaws. None of the animals died because of dental issues and of all the skulls examined the pathological changes belonged to females older than two years. Out of all the skulls studied 8.9% had dental changes. Dental disease is rare in wild canids and evidence shows that they seem to cope by changing sides for chewing. Fractures of teeth also seem to be rare but not unheard of.  Possibly lesser fractures where the tooth crown is lost but the pulp is not exposed would be quite common.
Captive wolf diet will mimic the wild. We feed deer, rabbit, beef, chicken carcases, fish, sheep stomach, (called paunch) and any other meat we are donated. It’s all raw with the bone and fur. Their digestive system is very robust and can cope with eating carrion. They also eat fruit, nuts and berries both in the wild and in captivity. Ungulate faeces is consumed for its nutritional value; wolves stomachs are naturally very acidic so digesting plant material is difficult but if its been through the prey species stomach first then the wolves can utilise the vitamins and minerals.
It is true that in the wild wolves do not live long; on average only six to seven years but the cause of death is normally disease, malnutrition i.e. lack of food, parasites, man, other wolves or even their prey causing injury whist they hunt. In captivity they live very long lives and it’s not unheard of for wolves of 14 year plus. The oldest wolf I have heard of was 20 years old.
So to sum up wolves both captive and wild who eat raw meat and bones have very good teeth. Problems come from not the eating of raw food but the actual bringing down of the prey which can exert immense pressures on the dentition of wolves.

Toni Shelbourne
Education Officer and Senior Wolf Handler
UK Wolf Conservation Trust

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Raw and raring to go!

I've read the books, I've done my research. I think raw is definitely the way to go... but I am still not sure where to start!
Should I start with a leap or rather more of a gentle step in the right direction?
How should a complete beginner get started?
Any hints?
Stephanie Page, Harrogate

Stephanie, I am the slow small steps type myself!
While circling the issue of feeding raw with interest I always tried to feed the best natural prepared food I could find. For me that meant buying food in the 'Nature' genre as I'm not a big fan of dried. Of late I've been feeding canned Natures Menu which, while not raw, does appear to be a very simple honest food that looks and smells real.
After much nudging to get on with it, I cleared a little bit of space in my freezer and took delivery of a box of Natures Menu's frozen raw foods from the same range.
As I have previously confessed, freezer space is something I am very short of so some of the food was also shared out between friends and colleagues who all tried the raw experiment at the same time.
I soon found defrosting the nuggets in advance became part of my routine.
But from the first bowl I put down, I found I was getting dramatically different reviews from my two dogs.
I discovered Oscar (our Beardie) wasn't a big fan of raw, he was slow to eat and seemed to be chewing every mouthful just in case there was anything in there he didn't like. He preferred some varieties more than others, but he still would much rather have had his tins.
Tess on the other hand, a Working Springer who loves catching rabbits, was in her element and loved everything we put down with a passion. Her eyes were so very bright at the prospect of each meal.
All the other dogs trialling the food loved it, too -  so it perhaps our Oscar has forgotten how to be a real dog!
But I have to say, the frozen nuggets were a very, very easy way to try raw! I'm sure other people have got tips for putting that first toe it the water, but I also found the UK BARF website very helpful.
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Thursday, 18 February 2010

I know it's not a cat blog, but...

We've just had a call asking for our advice about cat food. And as lots of people have both cats and dogs, why not!
What's the best dry or wet?
And what's the difference between the pouches and the little tiny cans? Why so many formats?
Why can't you just go down the tinned fish aisle and pick up a tin of pilchards which are often cheap as chips and 100% fish? Will there be something missing?
What's the best economy, premium and super-premium brand?
Best ethical?
And, silly question, if you do feed raw - anyone out there to hold your hand and give advice? I know some cats can find raw meat without our help, but what is the ideal diet for a cat?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Raw deal?

I thought we had given both sides on the raw re prepared food debate - but as this reader thinks not, thought I'd share it... What do you think? I think John's views on raw need airing and if anyone wants to engage in debate, this is the place to do it!

Hi Beverley
Hope you don’t mind me emailing this. I wanted to post something on CWN blog but don’t think I can.
I have just finished reading March's Dogs Today, and after digesting (excuse the pun) your feature on "Read Raw and Still Feeding Cooked" I felt that I really needed to air my views.
Every month I look forward to reading your magazine, but I also get very irritated at "expert" advice on feeding by Mr John Burns. It is more than obvious that he is very against Raw Feeding and I found that article very one sided. John Burns manufactures his own dried food, and hence has more than a personal interest in dishing a raw diet. Why wasn’t a nutritional expert without any vested commercial interest asked to comment, or a view given by Richard Allport to balance the article out?
Yes, I predominantly feed Raw, but also some cooked, some carbs and the occasional naturediet for convenience. I also advise on the feeding section on our forum and never ram Raw down people's throats because I know it's not always for everyone. I tend to advise on the importance of food labelling and value for money versus quality on complete foods. However I find John's forever negativity on raw and the constant comments on the need for Carbohydrates very uninformed. A dog's digestive tract and teeth are designed to eat meat, and bones and they don’t have the digestive enzymes to break down complex carbohydrates like grains. That isn’t ramming Barf down anyone’s throat, that’s just Scientific Canine anatomy fact and as a vet he should know that. 
Anyway, feel free to post it if you want to, but I just wanted to get that off my chest.
Many thanks

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Far from crystal clear

I'm copying this over from the Think Tank. Are there any alternative diets for dogs with this problem?

My dog is a seven-year old female collie-terrier cross and I have had her for six years.  Recently she has been drinking more water and urinating slightly more than usual.  She also leaked a little urine a few times after coming in from her evening walk. 
A urine specimen was analysed and the vet advised that calcium oxalate crystals were present in the sample.  (Apparently there was no glucose, signs of infection or blood present).  As a result, the vet has put her on a prescribed diet, Urinary S/O by Royal Canin, and has told me she'll have to be fed this food exclusively for the rest of her life, to avoid crystals forming and developing into stones in her urinary tract.  This seems to me to be a very drastic diagnosis based on the analysis of only one urine sample.  Should any further tests be done to confirm this is the correct diagnosis? 
Another urine sample is to be tested in three months' time to check that the prescription diet is working.  In the meantime she is to get no extra treats of any kind.  She loves cheese but I suspect this is the worst thing I could give her.  Are there any treats that are safe to give a dog with this condition?  Can she still have rawhide chew bones?  Should I be giving her eg filtered water as opposed to tap water?  What are the possible causes of this condition, or is it genetic?  Will this condition affect her longevity? 
Up until now, she's been a healthy, lively, happy little dog.  She's never had a weight problem and her only recurring complaint is a seasonal itch which is apparently an allergy to pollen in August/September each year.  
I would be grateful for any advice or information regarding this calcium oxalate diagnosis.
Thank you.
Jeanette Macleod