Friday, May 15, 2015

Knucklehead, Knuckle Bones, Knuckled Over

Let's talk a little about the condition commonly known as "knuckled over".  We here behind the scenes of the Dog Scoop recently went on this journey with a pup.  In reading up on the condition, I've seen a myriad of conjecture, opinion and theory, so I thought I could try to coalesce them into one rational conversation on the subject.  Note, I don't promise any answers!  Only thinking points.

This picture, from a seemingly defunct site, shows a pretty typical expression of the condition.  Which brings us to our first point; What is it?

Carpal Flexural Deformity is a description of a condition wherein the pups' front legs (usually it only affects the front) display visible weakness through the ankles.  Shaking or trembling in the front legs can also be a symptom.  It is usually considered self-limiting, disappearing within 2 - 4 weeks.  Age of onset is typically between 6 and 12 weeks.

Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst describes CFD well in his book "Grow Your Pup With Bones".

The pup stands with its carpus (one or both) bent forward.  If any weight is placed on the limb, the carpus or wrist gives way and buckles forward.  It commonly quivers at the same time.  The pup walks on the outer edge of the paw which tends to turn inward.  The condition is not painful, and there is no swelling.  Upon examination there is no detectable instability.  Sometimes only one leg is affected.  Radiographs do not show any abnormalities.
According to an article in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, CFD is a growth rate imbalance, where the bone grows faster than certain tendons.  According to this site, specifically it is the "slow growth of the  flexor carpi ulnaris tendon relative to the bones and extensor tendons".  The below diagram shows the ulnar carpal flexor tendon on the back of the leg. 

 With this diagram it is easy to see how the back muscles being short and tight and contract the leg.

In the next post, we'll look at the second thinking point, why does it happen?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Do As I Say, NOT As I Do.

The latest fad in pet training leans heavily on what is technically called "social learning" to teach your dog new tricks. Some of us might just call it 'monkey see- monkey do'.  

I tried this with my pup.  He caught on really well, but I'm not sure it's such a great idea after all.  For example, this morning we were out in the yard and I spotted the first iris in bloom.  I bent over to smell it, and as soon as I raised my head pup stuck his nose in the flower.  I guess his teeth had olfactory sensors too, because when he drew his head back, the entire blossom was stuck in his teeth.  He didn't learn that from me!

Later, when we were in the kitchen, pup stood right beside me at the counter, with his front feet resting on the countertop, just like me!

Earlier in the evening he took the lid off of the tray of cookies, just like the kids did!

So I've come to some conclusions.  Dogs have been imitating people for thousands of years.  Until now, we've just been to smart to encourage it.  In fact, I think the whole point of developing training systems has been to discourage imitative behaviour.

No!  Don't put your feet on the countertop, even if I do.

No!  Don't pick the flowers, even if I do.

No! Don't stand on your hind legs, "speaking" to and pawing at the guests at the front door, even if I do.

Et cetera.

Maybe it is just a system for tiny ankle biters.  Unfortunately my pup will be around 100 pounds full grown.  

Perhaps I'll try it with the cats.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

If a cricket chirps in a can,

Can anyone hear it?

If you thought kibble was problematic, my furry friend, you ain't seen nuthin' yet!

Ms. X, your intrepid writer, enquired in a health food store once "Why is it impossible to buy a can of dog food with actual animal fat in it, and without carrageenan?"  For a response she got... you guessed it... crickets chirping.

Do you know what the ingredients are in a can of cricket? Just one.  Crickets.

Do you know what the ingredients are in a can of cat food?  (No, it's not cat.)  Or a can of dog food?

Keep reading.

Ms. X doesn't want to tell people what to put in their AAFCO approved dog food, but she doesn't mind telling them what not to put in.

The list of no-no's are pretty much the same as the kibble.  No vegetable oil, no grains (no soy), no carrageenan or gums.  And then the other, lesser stuff, which in the case of canned food includes, of all things, dirt.  (That's not even in the canned cricket ingredient list).

Gaining in popularity as a health supplement, "Montmorillonite Clay" or "bentonite clay" will show up on the ingredient labels of canned pet food from time to time.  Bentonite is an aluminum silicate that will dissolve in the stomach or intestines (according to Dr. Ray Peat) thereby increasing the body's aluminum burden.

Just what little Fluffy needs.

As with the kibbles, I have a sampling of canned foods to review ingredient-wise with you.  Let's start on the cheap end, with Pedigree Choice cuts this time.  Amazon sells a case for $1.31 per 13.22 oz can.
Ingredients for the choice cuts with beef:
Sufficient water for processing, Chicken, Meat By-products, Wheat Flour, Beef, Liver, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Caramel Coloring, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Natural Flavors, Guar Gum, Vegetable Oil (source of Linoleic Acid), Minerals (Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Copper
Sulfate, Potassium Iodide), Sodium Alginate, Natural Smoke Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Onion Powder, Bay Leaves, Vitamins (Vitamin E, A & D3 Supplements, D-calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate {vitamin B1}, Biotin), Garlic Powder, Sodium Nitrite (for color retention).
That's a lot of wheat.  And vegetable oil.  And thickeners, though guar gum may be somewhat less problematic than carrageenan or xanthan gum.

Let's move up the price curve a bit.  Canidae Grain Free Pure Elements canned dog food, $3.17 per 13 oz can (per Amazon).  Ingredients are:

Lamb, lamb broth, turkey, turkey broth, chicken, peas, sweet potatoes, suncured alfalfa, cassia gum, carrageenan, salt, guar gum, choline chloride, minerals (dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium
selenite, calcium iodate), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, biotin, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid). 

Whoa!  Triple whammy on the thickeners.   Now, I realize I haven't gone into much detail about what exactly I find so objectionable in these "no-no's", other than to put lots of links up.  My goal here is to get through the problem statements and onto the solution, then we'll come back and analyze the problem in more detail.

So in the Canidae above, we see a lot of cheap protein (peas and alfalfa) and a lot, lot, lot of thickeners.   It is impossible to get away from the thickeners in canned pet food.  Even the Wysong Au Jus line, which has so few ingredients that puts a disclaimer that it is a "supplement only" and "never intended to be fed as a complete and balanced canine diet", has guar gum.

Yup.. Duck Au Jus - Ingredients: Duck, Water Sufficient for Processing, Animal Plasma, Guar Gum.

Bloody thickeners Batman!

Now the Canidae is pricey.  $3 per can may not sound so bad, but if you have your average 80 pound dog you will need to feed it 4 cans a day.  $12 a day to feed the dog.  Now if a dog eats 2-3% of his body weight in meat each day, our 80 pound dog is going to eat about 2 pounds of lamb, which Ms. X priced at the bulk goods store recently in the $4 per pound range.  Still cheaper than Canidae.   And please, the food quantity numbers are only to play the pricing games.  Ms. X is not advocating here any sort of feeding style.

Now just in case you are made of money, or you are caring for Leona Helmsley's dog (which only lived to 12, btw, despite being a small breed and having - one presumes - the most expensive food in the world), let's look at the upper echelon of canned foods.

Addiction New Zealand Venison and Apples EntrĂ©e, $4 per 13.8 oz can on Amazon.  Ingredients?
Venison, Apples, Carrots, Potatoes, Peas, Carrageenan, Cassia Gums, Dried Seaweed Meal, Taurine, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulphate, Ferrous Sulphate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Sulphate, Manganese Sulphate, Niacin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid

Now I know there is probably not a dog alive that doesn't want to sink his fangs into some New Zealand deer (or bushtail, they offer that too, you know), but look at this for a second.  Just like we saw in the kibble realm, the more expensive the more it looks home made.  Deer meat, apples, carrots, potatoes and peas.  Stew's On!   Is it deer season yet?

What was that T.C. Hawley said?
The dog will thrive on any diet which will keep man healthy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Food Fights

Before we launch ourselves into the brawl, Ms. X would like to write a public disclaimer.  She has no accredited nutritional or medical training.  Nothing she writes should be construed as advice.  So there.  You're on your own.  But you all ready knew that.  That's why you are here, right?

Never fear.  Ms. X isn't the type to rest on her own laurels anyway.  Her only job is to switch on the truthlight.

Let's focus on kibble first.  A lot of pet owners ask,  "I can buy a 50 pound bag of Ol' Roy at Walmart for 20 dollars.  Why should I buy some expensive bag of kibble that costs more than my family's food?"  "What's wrong with kibble?"

Good question.  The answer is "probably nothing".  That's right.  Millions and millions of dogs (and cats) have lived reasonably long and reasonably healthy lives on crap-in-a-bag, and some argue that pet breeding should focus on pets that thrive on "crapple".

It really is a difficult position to argue with, so Ms. X will simply say that taking that argument to its logical conclusion, the pet food corporations should also take over the breeding.  They just need to expand their feeding trials a bit, team up with the registries and viola!  You want a Hills puppy or a Purina kitten?

We're not actually too far from that, are we?

Ms. X, being of a more natural bent, would prefer to breed her own dogs (she doesn't), hunt her own meat (she doesn't), and farm her own vegetables (she tries).

So why not feed kibble?  Well, I do sometimes.  Overall though, I want better.  My requirements for store bought food are simple:  No vegetable oil.  No carrageenan or gums.  No grains.  No soy.  Easy, right?  There are a lot of little things too, but those are the things I simply won't pay for.

Let's look at kibbles available.  On the cheap end of the spectrum is the aforementioned Ol' Roy.  The ingredients are pretty benign at first glance.

 Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition (ingredient list is from dogfoodadvisor). Ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, poultry by-product meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid), corn gluten meal, natural flavor, brewers rice, salt, potassium chloride, color added (titanium dioxide, yellow #5, yellow #6, red #40, blue #2), choline chloride, zinc sulfate, vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, niacin, copper sulfate, vitamin A supplement, biotin, manganous oxide, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), riboflavin supplement, sodium selenite, calcium iodate, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, cobalt carbonate 
Of the major "no-no's", soybean meal is the obvious. Soybeans are awful in 99% of formations.  Bone meal is sometimes high in heavy metal contaminants. BHA - love the animal fat, but not fond of the carcinogenic preservative.  Corn gluten meal - corn is a grain, corn gluten meal, like the soybean meal, is a cheap low-quality protein.    And then there are the added colors.  Red #40 alone is notorious.

Well, maybe for a little more money, we can do better.

For a "middle of the road" kibble, let's look at something we have all heard of.  If you own a TV, you have seen the commercials for Blue Buffalo.  They advertise constantly, claim they are better than other leading dog foods, and believe it or not, the advertising works!  Internet forums are full of people who have "made the switch".  So why not Ms. X?  Well, here are the Blue Buffalo ingredients.
Life Protection Formula Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe for Adult Dogs

Deboned Lamb,   Oatmeal,   Whole Ground Barley,   Turkey Meal,   Whole Ground Brown Rice,   Peas,  Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene),   Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids),   Natural Flavor,   Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols),   Alfalfa Meal,   Whole Potatoes,  Sunflower Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids),   Whole Carrots,   Whole Sweet Potatoes,   Blueberries,   Cranberries,   Apples,   Blackberries,   Pomegranate,   Spinach,   Pumpkin,   Barley Grass,   Dried Parsley,   Garlic,   Dried Kelp,   Yucca Schidigera Extract,   L-Carnitine,   L-Lysine,   Glucosamine Hydrochloride,   Turmeric,   Dried Chicory Root,   Oil of Rosemary,   Beta Carotene,   Calcium Carbonate,   Dicalcium Phosphate,   Vitamin A Supplement,   Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1),   Riboflavin (Vitamin B2),   Niacin (Vitamin B3),   d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5),   Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6),   Biotin (Vitamin B7),   Folic Acid (Vitamin B9),  Vitamin B12 Supplement,   Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C),   Vitamin D3 Supplement,   Vitamin E Supplement,   Iron Amino Acid Chelate,   Zinc Amino Acid Chelate,   Manganese Amino Acid Chelate,   Copper Amino Acid Chelate,   Choline Chloride,   Sodium Selenite,   Calcium Iodate,   Salt,   Caramel,  Potassium Chloride,   Dried Yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae),   Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product,   Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product,   Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product
Wait a sec.  Where is the animal fat?  Instead, we get Flaxseed, Canola and Sunflower oils.  Yuck.   The lamb and turkey meal are okay, though I'm not so thrilled with the cheap pea protein.  Then there is a long list of "so what's?". There is nothing wrong with dogs eating fruit or berries or parsley, but are they so critical they need to be embedded in Fido's daily rations?  There also is the requisite Alfalfa meal and Dried Kelp.  What is the fascination with alfalfa meal?  People love feeding it to carnivores.  It figured prominently in the early days of raw diet formulations.  Turns out it is another cheap and plentiful low-quality protein.  Then there is the kelp.  In other words, supplemental iodine.  A topic in and of itself.

What about a "natural" higher end kibble (that doesn't advertise in PrimeTime), for example?  Organix, by Castor and Pollux has a grain free formula that is just the thing.  Organix Grain-Free Adult Dog Food:
Organic Chicken, Poultry Meal, Organic Tapioca, Organic Peas, Organic Soybean Meal, Organic Potato, Dried Egg Product, Salmon Meal, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Organic Chicken Liver, Natural Chicken Flavor, Organic Flaxseed, Salt, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Vitamins  (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2 Polyphosphate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium
Pantothenate, Niacin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Yeast Culture (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus
Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Solubles, Rosemary Extract.
There's that soybean meal again, just like Ol' Roy, though this time it is organic.  Doesn't matter.  Organic soybeans are still soybeans.  The cheap protein "peas" crops up again, as well as salmon meal and flaxseed.

Salmon meal has a lot of problems.  There is the high omega 3 content; if they are farmed salmon there are concerns about high levels of toxins; if they are wild caught, well, there is the whole Fukushima polluting the Pacific problem.

And why tapioca meal?  All this, by the way, is up to $4 per pound.

This stuff is close to the upper end of the standard cooked kibble pricing, but not the upper end of dog food pricing.  Not by a long shot.  The absolute upper echelons of kibbles is reserved for a class called "freeze dried".

Fifteen years ago, the only easily available freeze dried food was Abady, a sort of hippy holdover.  Fifteen years ago, the cats didn't really like Abady.  They had no appreciation for how expensive it was.

These days, at almost $8 per pound, Honest Kitchen has one of the most expensive freeze dried foods on the market.

It has:
Dehydrated free-range chicken, organic flaxseed, potatoes, celery, sweet potatoes, apples, alfalfa, organic kelp, honey, pumpkin, green beans, cabbage, bananas, papayas, basil, garlic, rosemary, tricalcium phosphate, choline chloride, zinc amino acid chelate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, iron amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate.
Pretty simple, huh?  Almost throw that together in the kitchen yourself.  As long as you have the requisite flaxseed and kelp on hand, that is.  Who decided flaxseed was essential for dogs anyway?  I think it is part of that whole "Essential Fatty Acid" fad.  And just because the government forces iodine supplementation doesn't mean we have to mix kelp into our homemade dog food.  But I digress.

Flaxseed, kelp (and bananas and celery) aren't the only objectionable quirks to this freeze dried food.  Freeze dried food is very susceptible to lipid oxidation.

It is interesting though, is it not, that the closer the ingredient list gets to something you could easily make in your kitchen, the more expensive it becomes?  So why not throw together an oxidized mess of chicken and bananas in your kitchen?  Fear.  What if it's not BALANCED!

Remember T. C. Hawley:
The dog will thrive on any diet which will keep man healthy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Feeding the Beast

The arrival of a new pup or kitten sparks a flurry of research, how to train the new pet?  where should it sleep?  and most importantly, what should it eat?  

A mere 10 years ago, or maybe 15 now, raw feeders were a fringe group and corn meal was the prominent ingredient in all kibble.   Now, feeding a raw diet is widely accepted and for those who won't, there is a rainbow of kibble options in all levels of grain, gluten free, and grain free, organic, holistic etc. etc..  Recipes for raw diets or even cooked homemade diets are plentiful.   Science Diet's share of shelf space in the pet supply store has dwindled considerably.

Vets are getting in on the act, following the famous footsteps of Ian Billinghurst, the Australian veterinarian who brought the BARF acronym into the mainstream.  There is constant chatter and worry among owners about a "balanced" diet and IS their furry baby getting enough cranberries and fish oil?

Times have changed.  But like the old adage, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   15 years ago Ms. X took a deep breath and plunged into raw food.   She tracked down a early copy of Pottengers' Cats (which hadn't been reprinted then).  She studied Billinghursts' Grow Your Pup With Bones and meticulously followed the Feline Future's recipe for raw cat food.   She worried about the dreaded bacterial infections from raw meat, would the bones puncture their intestines? And was she giving them enough fish oil?

Then the furry babies grew up, the fur-less babies arrived and after a few years Ms. X switched the furred portion of the household back to crap-in-a-bag or "crapple" as it is called these days.  The pets grew and lived and died and the cycle has begun again.

And once again, Ms. X is asking (and answering) the question, what should they eat?

We'll talk about this in detail over the next several posts, but for now I'll leave you with this quote, by T.C. Hawley, the famous Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder. 

The dog will thrive on any diet which will keep man healthy.

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated...

Hello Furry Friends!  Welcome again!  The world has changed a lot in the five years since I last posted on the dog blog, and I'm sure we'll talk about many of those changes in the coming months.  Lucky you!

I jest.  Lucky me!  To live in an era when I have an ever open forum to pound out my deepest darkest contemplations for the NSA to record for posterity.  Forever.

Hope they like cats.

Yep, cats.  They are just small dogs after all, right? In seriousness, this blog follows the four footed interests of Ms.X and after 5 years those interests have a renewed focus on dogs, and cats, and health and nutrition and the evil of the modern times (that was a freeby for the posterity recorders).

So put on your sunglasses, that old truthlight is charging up!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

BAT Behaviour Adjustment Training

One of the greatest shortages in dogdom is, in this writers' opinion, free dog training resources. Thanks to the internet, we have many more now than just what books your local library has on file.

This webpage give a detailed description of some training, complete with video of the training in action. The technique is called Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT). The page is from Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle, where Grisha Stewart describes BAT

"BAT is the use of the natural environmental cues and reinforcements (positive or negative) for alternative/incompatible behaviors. This is the core protocol for BAT."

It seems to be basically operant conditioning, gradually moving the dog through its discomfort zone and rewarding it for progress. Do note in the video the dog is wearing BOTH a head halter and what appears to be a no-pull harness. The harness gets the most leash pressure. Those might be essential equipment to make progress with the dog in this type of scenario.