To clarify before I share my own approach to handling three of the most common ailments I hear about – parasites, obesity and paw chewing – I am a certified animal naturopath. I help my clients learn how to care for their dogs through the laws of health (naturopathic principles) with the foundation on nutrition. Typically I can give them a “what I’d do if it were my dog” answer.
I have lumped all three symptoms of parasites, obesity and paw chewing together for a reason. They all come together under poor nutrition and a weakened immune system which can often be addressed through a proper species appropriate raw diet along with some natural modalities to control the parasites. Before I elaborate on just exactly what a proper diet is for a dog, let’s ask a couple of questions first so I don’t get any arguments regarding the diet. I’m just eliminating some of the typical responses beforehand!
1. What does a wolf eat?
2. What does a coyote eat?
3. What does a wild dog eat?
I’m betting most of you answered they eat what they catch in the wild – prey animals. You’d be right of course and we all know that because we watch the Discovery Channel or wildlife shows, videos, etc. All three of the species I just mentioned have a few things in common:
1. They are all scavenger carnivores
2. They all have sharp pointy teeth designed for ripping, shredding and tearing.
3. NONE of them have teeth made for chewing grains or cud and they all have shorter intestines to more quickly digest the animal flesh they eat.
4. They do not have the enzymes for digesting grains in their saliva. They do in their pancreas but that is for “emergency dipping” when their normal diet of prey animals is scarce and they are forced to eat anything to survive.
It is not meant for them to dip into on a daily basis – if they do, then there are consequences in the form of “dis-ease”.
I’m sure all of you already know all this and are wondering why this lesson in anatomy, right? Well, because our dogs are in the exact same family of species as the wolf, coyote and wild dog. They are also scavenger obligate carnivores. Contrary to popular belief they also have not evolved into omnivores or carnivore-biased omnivores. They are also not any less dependent upon needing raw meat, bones and organs in their diets than are cats making them obligate.
So what does all this have to do with obesity, parasites and paw chewing? Everything! We keep trying to feed our dogs things herbivores were designed to eat so it’s no wonder they are having major problems with their health. As I stated earlier obesity, parasites and paw chewing are a result of a weakened immune system that has been taxed beyond what it can handle. By not feeding our dogs properly we’re just setting them up for all these problems and yes that does include obesity.
The next problem is parasites. Parasites are typically only attracted to a weakened host – or there as a clean up crew as nature intended. If your dog has a strong, healthy immune system, parasites will do their clean up work, and then move on to the next specimen that is either in a weakened state or needing a clean up crew and leave your dog alone. How do I know? Well it’s worked very well for me to switch my own dog to a natural, raw meat, organ and bone diet. This natural, species appropriate diet will also help the obesity problem because raw fed dogs don’t typically have a problem with weight gain (with the exception of a few, because people want to feed them more or too often).
The grains and all the other toxic ingredients such as MSG, corn syrup, synthetic vitamins, etc., in commercially packaged foods are the problem with obesity in most dogs because they just can’t properly digest this overcooked, indigestible junk food. They don’t have the proper enzymes to digest foods made for herbivores and omnivores never mind all the additional toxins, including the toxins in the packaging that leech into the food. Just because it is in the packaged food and that dogs will eat it does not mean it is good for them to do so. All animals will eat what they need to survive but that does not mean they will thrive.
Grains are carbohydrates that will convert to sugars, as well as the added corn syrup and other ingredients not meant for anyone to eat, never mind a carnivore. This all taxes the pancreas and liver as well as increasing weight leading to obesity and other health problems such as diabetes. So we’ve solved TWO of the problems by just changing your dog’s diet to a natural raw diet.
The last problem is paw chewing: that annoying, licking, biting chewing problem that will leave your poor dog’s feet soggy, sore, red, raw and even bleeding. Typically this can be either a food allergy, contact allergy, yeast overgrowth or possibly even a behavioral issue.
Allergies are a SYMPTOM alerting us to an imbalance wrong in the body. Whenever I’m approached about this problem my first question is always: “what are you feeding your dog?” My second question is: “has your dog been vaccinated and if so, how often and when was the last one?” BOTH can lead to allergies that will lead to paw chewing – allergies are the first warning sign that the body is definitely seriously going out of balance. If it is a contact allergy, often it is something of a toxic nature that sets it off such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, household cleaners, topical flea/tick medications, the list is pretty endless. Once that imbalance and toxicity begins in the body, then contact allergies to “normal” things such as grasses, pollens, and plants will become triggers – an abnormal response.
I’ve experienced all of the above problems with my own dogs in the past before I became a naturopath. My own dogs have always been my gauge for discovering better, more effective ways to care for dogs in general. Once I switched my former dog, Shadrach, to an entirely raw meat, organs and bone diet ALL of the above problems he was challenged with were resolved. His conventional veterinarian couldn’t believe how shiny his coat was, how clean his teeth were, and how slender he was. Apparently she is used to seeing dogs of his breed (Neapolitan Mastiff) at his age (7 years old at the time) being obese with dirty teeth. When I put him on a raw diet, stopped the vaccines, stopped the pesticides, and switched to an all-natural lifestyle in our home, yard, and my own personal care (in other words when I removed ALL contributing toxins) that eliminated his paw chewing, parasites and any weight problems typical to his breed.
As for parasites and raw meat, well they are much more of a problem with kibble fed dogs. Kibble-fed dogs don’t have the nutritional support to their immune systems they need to fend off parasites – and all wild animals carry a bit of a parasite load. There is a reason for that – it helps to boost the immune system naturally.
Most people seem to think (as do veterinarians at large) that parasites and pathogens are a major problem with raw fed dogs but it is exactly to the contrary since a raw fed dog has the food his body needs and was designed to eat in order to thrive. There is often much more of a problem with a kibble-fed dog having parasites, particularly because the proper acidity needed in his stomach will change to more alkaline, leaving the carnivore body weakened and susceptible – but don’t expect your veterinarian to agree with that concept, especially since they are taught next to nothing on nutrition, and virtually nothing on TRUE nutrition for a CARNIVORE. Instead they are taught myths such as “dogs are domesticated so they don’t need to eat raw any longer” – myths perpetrated by the pet food industry that gives them their “nutrition” training. Domestication has never changed the anatomical or physiological needs of ANY species.
I think it is therefore a simple solution to the above, aforementioned problems to just change your dog’s diet to a more natural method of feeding. Also, as regards allergies or paw chewing, seek to eliminate any possible toxic environmental problems in your home and in your yard that could be contributing to allergy problems – which could be a part of the problem with paw chewing and pulling out fur. This means getting rid of regular toxic household cleaners, toxic personal care products (as those off gas and do affect our pets as well as us), and switching to more natural, environmentally friendly products along with switching your yard products to organic fertilizers using natural pest control. There are natural parasite removers you can also use such as food-grade diatomaceous earth. I personally will also use Young Living essential oils to support healthy digestion*. Coupled with doing a natural detox on your dog that will help to jump start your dog’s immune system back into full gear. Think of this as a periodic tune up like you do on your – and the parasites, paw chewing and even obesity will eventually become a thing of the past.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Copyright 2013 Aspenbloom, Dr. Kim Bloomer, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author/Publisher. This article is intended to be educational. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a qualified animal health professional. Dr. Kim Bloomer and Aspenbloom Pet Care, do not assume any legal responsibility for misuse of the products discussed in this article.