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January, 2022 Newsletter

Sharing information on nutrition and holistic health for your dog

What's New...

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Hello and welcome to January, 2022. Happy New Year (fingers crossed)! I hope you all had an enjoyable festive season. Let's get started!


In the Nutrition Questions section of this month's newsletter I explain why different types of liver are not interchangeable in canine diets. Then, I continue the discussion of liver in News to Share with information about a liver protective herb.


Don't miss the featured vegetable this month in Fresh Food Facts. It's an interesting choice!


In other news, I've been accepted into a Clinical Nutrition and Diet Formulation course which runs online via Zoom in January and February, and I am so excited! I expect the course to be intense and I am thrilled to be expanding my canine nutrition knowledge!


As always, thank you for reading, and feel free to share my newsletter with other pet parents who might be interested in fresh food and holistic health tips for dogs.

Nutrition Questions


Question: Can I use either beef liver or chicken liver in my dog's diet?


Answer: If you're feeding your healthy dog bits of dehydrated or freeze dried liver as occasional treats then there is not a big concern if you feed liver from different animals (unless there are protein sensitivities).


On the other hand, if you rely on liver to provide essential nutrients in your dog's diet then the type of liver you feed does make a difference.


Liver from different animals and birds is not created equal.


Typically, liver is included in the diet in very small quantities and it is an abundant source of vitamin A. Liver from ruminant animals such as cows and sheep contains much higher levels of copper than liver from chickens.


The chart below illustrates the different nutrient profiles of beef liver and chicken liver. For example, if the diet relies on beef liver for copper but a pet parent uses chicken liver instead, then the diet could contain insufficient levels of copper. Or, if a dog requires a diet that is lower in copper but still needs the retinol that liver supplies then chicken liver and not beef liver would be the better choice.


Interestingly, pork liver is not considered to be a bioavailable source of copper and it shouldn't be relied upon for its copper content in canine diets. (Source: NRC, 2006)


General guidelines that promote feeding a certain percentage of liver without taking into account that there are significant nutritional differences between various animal livers are not all that accurate and could lead to nutritional deficiencies - which is one of the many reasons why I use nutritional guidelines to evaluate and formulate diets.



Source: USDA Nutrient Database

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Fresh Food Facts

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Fresh food facts about rutabaga … 


Each month I like to feature a vegetable, fruit or protein that can be added as a topper to your dog's meals or fed as a treat whether your dog eats kibble, cooked food, or a raw diet. 


The rutabaga isn't a vegetable that jumps out at you from the produce section of the grocery store or farmer's market. It's an interesting vegetable in that it is a root vegetable and a member of the Brassica family which include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale.


It's a handy vegetable to have around because it's inexpensive and can be stored for a long time in a cool location in the house, similar to other root vegetables. 


Here are some reasons why you might want to add cooked rutabaga to your dog's diet:


  • Rutabagas have a low glycemic load and are low in calories. 1 ounce (28 grams) of cooked rutabaga has only 9 calories.

  • 1 ounce of cooked rutabaga also has .5 grams of fiber and 62 mg of potassium, which is fairly similar to pureed pumpkin.

  • Rutabagas are rich in antioxidants and glucosinolates which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.



Good to Know!


  • To prepare rutabaga, peel, chop and boil until tender with a fork. 

  • If your dog experiences gas from cruciferous vegetables he may have the same reaction to rutabaga - although cooking may help to reduce this.

  • Consider combining cooked rutabaga with other veggies or fruit (unsweetened applesauce, for example) to make it more appealing to your dog.

  • Rutabaga is a higher oxalate vegetable and should be avoided if your dog needs a low oxalate diet.



Always test your dog's tolerance for new foods by offering a small amount of one new food at a time, and increase slowly over a few days.

News to Share


News to Share is where I like to share interesting and helpful information for pet parents.


Did You Know … 


Since we were just talking about livers, we should take a few minutes to appreciate what an amazing organ the liver is.  Most people know that the liver plays a large role in the body's detoxification system, but it also performs many other critical functions.


The liver is responsible for protein synthesis. It stores, or in some way alters triglycerides, fatty acids, and fats. The liver plays a central role in keeping blood glucose levels within a certain range. Minerals and fat-soluble vitamins are manufactured, stored or regulated by the liver. So, the liver is a very important organ! 


Things to Know About Milk Thistle


  • Milk thistle is frequently recommended for dogs who have liver health concerns.

  • Silymarin is the active ingredient in milk thistle and its protective effect on the liver has been confirmed in numerous scientific studies.

  • Some pet parents choose to do a course of milk thistle if their dog has been on any type of pharmaceutical drugs including flea, tick, and heartworm chemicals, dewormers or anticonvulsant drugs.

  • Unless recommended otherwise, milk thistle is reserved for periodic use when the liver has been under stress.

  • Silymarin is also useful in the treatment of kidney disease, pancreatic disorders, and certain cancers.

  • Milk thistle is known to be relatively non toxic and safe, perhaps only causing minor digestive upset. It may reduce insulin requirements in diabetic patients.


Sources: Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Susan G. Wynn and Barbara Fougere

             Herbs for Pets, Gregory L. Tilford and Mary L. Wulff



And finally... 


Is your dog a Gifted Word Learner? Scientists discover what's going on in a dog's mind when they tilt their head.


Often, people who are interested in canine nutrition are also interested in human nutrition. If this is you then I have a terrific documentary to recommend on CBC called The Nature of Things: Food for Thought. It focuses heavily on the link between high consumption of ultra-processed food and disease.


Here's the link to the documentary (you have to sit through a few commercials at the start but I think it's worth it):

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