Every single day in 2020 has been a roller coaster from one day to the next. From the current stages of re-opening in Canada to the continuing riots just south of our national border, the globe is continuously changing on a day-to-day basis. The same can be said for our pets, especially all of the extra walks most dogs are experiencing with owners staying home. Not that more exercise is a bad thing, but if Fido is running downstairs at 6PM to hide from you and the leash… maybe it’s time to calm down with the walks.
The current pandemic is also a period to spend extra time taking care of your psychiatric wellness. Unfortunately, many people are experiencing bouts of anxiety or depression symptoms more frequently due to COVID-19, and just as we ride along with this virus, so do our dogs. I mentioned previously that my family cat, Charlie, had positive results from an anti-anxiety ear paste that was recommended to us by a vet. The symptoms of depression and other psychiatric conditions may go far beyond a topical medication, however, and dogs experience the ups and downs of some psychiatric states like humans do.
Dogs have been a subject of study for many decades in the science world, and are commonly used in studies as model animals. Russian psychologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov worked extensively on different systems within the canine body during his career. His two major research studies on digestion and conditioning are still referred to in theoretical literature in modern times. Pavlov also provided a basis of the canine mind, and how to interpret dog language correctly.
Currently, several studies have lead to a major gene discovery in canines. In 2017, two canine genes found in domestic dogs were synonymous with genetic mutations associated with William’s syndrome in humans. Over-friendliness is a defining characteristic in William’s syndrome in people, and the genetic findings hint at our dog’s friendly nature is linked to domestication through actual genetic evolution. Their outgoing character is also what induces comparable anxiety symptoms to humans.
Unfortunately, while our canine companions are wired to bond with humans exceptionally well, they still aren’t able to communicate with us with any human language. When it comes to communication, dog owners have to rely on other non-verbal forms when our dogs start getting anxious.
Anxiety starts off in small, barely noticeable ways, like separation anxiety. Your dog may start to pant as you prepare to head for work, and by the time you’ve walked out the door, their anxiety has escalated. We must distinguish anxiety from fear, however. “Anxiety can escalate to panic, and coping mechanisms may fail when the apparent jeopardy of a context is inflated, as affected animals overreact to ambiguous or unpredictable situations” (Schwartz, 2003). In the case of separation anxiety, a dog will begin to worry over people leaving them rather than the actual instance of abandonment taking place to induce fear and act in a manner that gets them out of that situation.
Dogs aren’t able to communicate with human language, so owners may miss the less noticeable symptoms of anxiety before they evolve into behaviours that are much more noticeable. Increased panting and lip licking are just a few subtle ways dogs express anxiety. Some other anxious symptoms and behaviours may include:
Trembling, hiding in closets or under furniture, chewing or scratching doors to escape, pacing, barking, whining, and defecating or urinating in the house“Decoding the Canine Mind” Berns, G. (2020)
Some of these behaviours, like barking, are often interpreted as aggression. You think that the mailman inserting letters through your door isn’t intrusive, but the sound of someone making noise by the main door is interpreted fearfully by anxious dogs. When attempting to observe possible sources for these characteristics, view it from your dog’s perspective and with an open mind.
My previous article touched on the benefits of using medication as part of personal treatment for mental illness. The same remedies, selective-serotonin inhibitors, help stabilize your dog’s mood, so they don’t experience depression or bouts of extreme anxiety.
“Interestingly, dogs with behavioral problems often improve when they are treated with human medications for depression and anxiety. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, like fluoxetine (Prozac), are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in veterinary behavioral medicine. Others include benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, beta-blockers, and even lithium. Indeed, the psychopharmacopeia for dogs is nearly the same as for humans.”“Decoding the Canine Mind” Berns, G. (2020)
To disrupt anxious behaviour, anti-anxiety medications provide a calmer mind for training and tools during periods of high stress. It’s much easier to focus on techniques designed to reduce anxiety levels when they aren’t out of control in the first place. If your dog experiences severe anxiety during thunderstorms, for example, you may want to consider lowering their overall anxiety through medication before attempting to imply calming techniques as the dog will be more receptive. Working with an experienced trainer will also set you up on the right path to deescalating anxiety for your dog in the future.
As science, governments, and businesses frequently adapt to the current COVID-19 pandemic, our home lives have also faced the same routine changes. For many, those changes lead to permanent alterations that our pets are also experiencing (including more walks). It’s important to notice the small signs that our dogs are experiencing some anxiety to prevent further unwanted behaviours, like marking or severe separation anxiety. You may even notice some of the common symptoms are happening to you too!
If you do believe an anxiety disorder is interfering with your dog, medication is a proven treatment to help set a better baseline for your dog when it comes to fearful situations. Anxiety is a normal experience that can be managed and diminished by taking the time to observe you and your pup’s well being. Stay safe out there!
Berns, G. (2020). Decoding the Canine Mind. Cerebrum: the Dana Forum on Brain Science, cer-04-20.
Schwartz, S. (2003). Separation anxiety syndrome in dogs and cats. J Am Vet Med Asso, 222:1526-1532. Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/resources/javma_222_11_1526.pdf
Protein has been established as one of the most significant subjects to include when discussing nutrition and health. Any fitness professional will suggest tracking protein type and intake, and the pet owners are starting to do the same for their animals. For those feeding a raw diet, it’s essential to understand how consuming protein influences our overall health right down to the cellular level. When it comes to choosing protein sources for our pets, the main goal is meeting their essential amino acid requirements provided by organizations such as the NRC (National Research Council).
We consume various protein types in our diet through different foods, like meat, fish, and beans; it’s also one of the most abundant macromolecules in our body. Not all protein is created equally, nor does it have a single purpose. While it’s common to hear protein is essential for building muscle, it’s also vital for organ, tissue, and cell functions. Simply, “a primary function of dietary protein is as a source of essential amino acids and nitrogen for the synthesis of nonessential amino acids” (Sanderson, 2013).Some examples of protein found in our body include dietary enzymes, regulatory hormones, and cell structure components. Without protein, we wouldn’t have proper cell structure or communication, among other functions that are essential to life.
A protein’s molecular structure dictates its function and purpose. Amino acid chains, known as peptides, are crucial to cellular function. Proteins can be thousands of amino acids long where others are smaller than 100 amino acids in length. Working proteins are found in these different structural levels throughout our bodies. Here we observe protein from the most complex to basic structures: quaternary, tertiary, secondary, and primary. We breakdown protein to understand how the smallest unit influences the entire protein.
The quaternary structure of a protein consists of multiple subunits that are joined through molecular interactions. Human hemoglobin (Figure 1) is a classic example of a functional protein found in a quaternary final structure, as 2 alpha-helixes and 2 beta-sheets complete the 4 subunits of the protein. It should be noted that quaternary formation is not needed to form a functional protein. Yet, many biologically active proteins are found in this structure.
Next, the tertiary structure consists of multiple polypeptides (peptides larger than 100 amino acids) interacting with each other through intermolecular forces (between separate molecules). This gives a polypeptide it’s characteristic folded appearance. For example, insulin is an important hormone, secreted from the pancreas, to regulate blood sugar levels; it’s found naturally in a tertiary structure. Each interaction between polypeptides dictates the turns and twists found in a tertiary structure.
Polypeptides form two types of secondary structures: an alpha-helix, or a beta-sheet. Each unit within the peptide interacts with side groups found on other units, to create a helical twist or a flat sheet. Similar to forces acting in tertiary structures, the intramolecular forces found in a peptide are based on the unique combination of side groups for each protein. The primary structure is a peptide – connecting amino acids with a peptide bond. Amino acids feature a base with distinguishing side-chains, as shown in Figure 5—interactions between side-chains cause folding needed for functionality.
Now, molecular forces are mentioned repeatedly in quaternary, tertiary and secondary protein structures. These chemical interactions are based on the unique side-chains found on different amino acids. The different combinations of amino acids that are bonded lay the foundation for the overall structure from primary to quaternary levels. Meeting amino acid requirements is essential to catabolizing functional protein molecules.
Not all amino acids need to come through diet. Specific genes in an organism’s genome allow for the production of some amino acids through metabolic processes. These amino acids are regarded as non-essential since a body can produce sufficient amounts through metabolism and catabolism processes alone. Amino acid catabolism is unique to each species, just as each creature has a unique digestive system.
|Amino Acid||Daily Min. (g/kg)|
|Methionine + cysteine||0.015|
|Phenylalanine + tyrosine||0.025|
|Amino Acid||Daily Min. (g/1000kcal)|
|Methionine + cysteine||1.30|
|Phenylalanine + tyrosine||1.48|
However, the amino acids they can’t produce through cell processes are known as essential amino acids. These must be ingested through food matter, and can’t be created within the body alone. Missing these vital nutrients will diminish the body’s overall function, as we noticed earlier where all protein is reliant on the correct combination of amino acids.
A diet consisting of varied protein sources is vital to meeting the essential amino acids your dog needs. We need different amino acids (Table 1) than our dogs (Table 2). Formulating a raw diet requires thoughtful consideration for the variant amino acid profiles of common meats like beef, chicken, and pork. To maintain good health for our dog on a raw diet, essential (and non-essential) amino acids must be met to ensure proper protein function. It’s critical not to take human dietary information and apply it to our pets, or crucial nutrition will be missed while formulating a raw diet for your dog.
Protein is an incredibly important biomolecule and energy source. The amino acid content in the meat of common livestock species is not the same across all. For example, similarily weighed cuts from beef and pork will not contain the same amino acid profile. Meeting intake requirements is vital for overall health and bodily function, from the primary peptide to complex quaternary proteins that act as enzymes, hormones, and other regulatory biomolecules.
Part 2 will extend on our knowledge of amino acid requirements to correctly source different animal proteins to meet minimum protein requirements for your dog. Stay tuned!
With the second Friday of May comes my second post on mental health for blank. Last week I dove into a review of adopting a pet during COVID-19 and the pros and cons of dog ownership with mental illness. I’ve had pets my entire life, and I wouldn’t want to go without one again. I feel the same about my anti-anxiety medication.
Many acclaim the joys of pet ownership to be beneficial for mental illness, but the opposite is true regarding medication. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication have a negative stigma attached to their prescriptions. My experience with mental illnesses and their associated medications started late into elementary school, and I remember a few friends who took them complaining of side effects. Some of these included a foggy head, tiredness, and mood swings. I must admit, when I heard of these complaints repeatedly until college, I believed that those pills we’re a terrible thing too.
In my third year of college, my boyfriend looked at me and said, ”please get help.” I knew it was time to head to my campus’ physician, and I booked the appointment. At first, there was a slight push to go for traditional counselling, but previous attempts I hadn’t found to be very valuable. My plea was for medication to help myself calm down, going into tests and such, but I walked out of that office with a prescription for a mild, daily antidepressant. Try it out over the summer going into my senior year to see if we needed to make adjustments come fall.
Boy, we changed my medication. That fall, I changed medicines on the first day of my fourth year and started seeing a counsellor and psychiatrist. I also changed my medication again eight weeks later. Finally, in January 2019, I was given a prescription for Lorazepam and Paroxetine. I have stuck with the latter to this day, and I am now a massive supporter of using the medication as part of daily self-care.
If you’re wondering whether an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication will work for you and your current state of mental health, keep reading.
The full diagnosis I received was a generalized anxiety disorder (some aspects of panic disorder, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In my day to day life, every decision or thought could trigger my overactive fight or flight response. By the time third year had ended, I had multiple panic attacks a day along with crippling agoraphobia (and I needed help).
The benefits of taking medication should outweigh the side effects experienced. The first two medications I tried didn’t work due to the lack of improvement in my anxiety, and I stopped taking lorazepam as it made me sleepy. Working alongside my psychiatrist at the time helped explain his reasoning for using different medications for different mental illnesses and specific symptoms. Common side effects like insomnia or tiredness are unfortunate, but often mild compared to the benefits experienced. There are many doses out there along with formulas, so if one drug doesn’t work, there is always another that will work better.
Several techniques were given to me to aid in calming myself down when I started experiencing anxiety or panic. Until I began to Paroxetine, the methods never worked for very long, and I found myself repeating some techniques obsessively. Being on an anti-anxiety drug reduces my overall anxiety level and the tricks that didn’t work before I started to feel relaxation from them finally. I began using the self-care techniques in tests and exams, and my professors noticed an improvement in my clarity in responses and grades.
Our family cat, Charlie, is a handful. Her vet recommended an anti-anxiety medication to help minimize her mood swings and overall demeanour with people. During her transition period onto the drug, Charlie was much more willing to get her claws trimmed, and chest brushed (two tasks impossible before). The ear cream did its job, and we took her back to the vet a month later – purring.
Social anxiety and depression can affect humans and our furry friends alike. Just like your dog’s training program or your self-help routine, medication is available to establish a better baseline for your mental health. Looking back, I wonder if the experiences I heard could have been different with different drug trials or concentrations. A psychiatrist (and their prescription) are there to help you in the right direction, and moderate to severe symptoms shouldn’t stop anyone from an antidepressant or anti-anxiety that is the right fit for them.
It’s finally mental health week here in Canada. I hope all my readers take this coming weekend to dedicate a bit more time to themselves (and our pets) in celebration!
There are a lot of products on the market today for managing your pet’s oral care. Greyhounds have a bit of a reputation for nasty teeth, and when I adopted Crowley, I made sure to have the right tools on hand to get the job of keeping those pearly whites clean. I would like to have him through a dental cleaning, but maintenance and proper care of Crowley’s teeth will keep putting that appointment off for a while.
Between peanut butter and chicken flavour, how do you know what your dog will like and work best for their mouth? There is the Veterinary Oral Health Council, but unfortunately, next to none of the products recommended are here in Canada. So… here is plan B! I’ve tried two kinds of toothpaste in Crowley’s mouth for up to 8 weeks at a time, and noticed a varied response in physical brushing, texture, and enjoyment.
When my mom bought a tooth cleaning kit for the family cats, I decided to take advantage of having two brands to compare how different formulations function. I ended up later purchasing a tube of the Nylabone toothpaste for myself.
Here are the ingredients (common are found in bold):
The ingredients in toothpaste (for people and pets) can be grouped into categories.
To create the thick consistency that many of us consider standard for toothpaste several compounds must be added.
Sorbitol, glycerin, Sodium carboxyl cellulose, magnesium aluminum silicate, cellulose gum
Abrasives are the small, hard particles that actually perform the physical action of removing plaque and cleaning the tooth. The second ingredient in both products is hydrated silica, which is a gentle abrasive agent.
To maintain the shelf-life of many products, chemicals are added to prevent microbial growth and extend product life.
Potassium benzoate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate
The same molecule that creates the suds in your shampoo also produces the froth while you brush your dog’s teeth.
Sodium lauryl sulphate
The production of calculus (tartar) is due to bacteria residing in the mouth. Molecules are able to inhibit specific microbes for a specific action like plaque removal and calculus prevention.
Trisodium citrate, citric acid, zinc chloride, ascorbic acid phosphate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, sodium copper chlorophylin
White teeth don’t always mean healthy teeth, but staining isn’t ascetically pleasing.
Titanium oxide, sodium hexametaphosphate
Luckily, Mr. Crowley is a very patient boy. From the day I brought him home, I’ve never had trouble sticking a toothbrush in his mouth and brushing away. I usually brush his teeth after he finishes breakfast, but I don’t have a hard rule about timing his oral care. Continuous, daily care for his teeth is my larger priority (as noted below).
Specific variables about Mr. Crowley to note:
The first thing I noticed about the bluestem Toothpaste was it’s odd colour. It was an almost transluscent yellow, similar to a diluted bone or chicken broth. The paste itself wasn’t very sticky and I had some trouble having a pea-sized blob remain on Crowley’s Toy Story toothbrush. I did find the nozzle and cap to be much easier to clean without the stickiness though.
After several weeks of using this toothpaste, I noticed a lot more staining on Mr. Crowley’s teeth. It wasn’t plaque or calculus buildup, but almost as if he had been taking some sips of my morning coffee while I wasn’t looking. The lack of lather was accompanied by spread reduction, and therefore I wasn’t able to clean every single tooth with the recommended pea-sized amount. More than once I had to touch up my toothbrush while taking care of his entire mouth.
The Nylabone toothpaste appears similar to a regular human toothpaste; sticky, thick white paste that is slightly gritty. It doesn’t have a strong smell similar to the bluestem toothpaste, but the consistency isn’t gel-like. The first difference I noticed is that this paste lathered a lot more, and I could spread the product around Crowley’s mouth much better. He wasn’t pleased with froth flying onto his nose after licking, though!
A second observation I noticed is that after a few days, Mr. Crowley’s teeth were looking brighter than they had in a few weeks. The staining along his back molars seems to want to stick around, but his front teeth didn’t look like he’s had one too many coffees in the morning. His breath also appears to be fresher overall throughout the entire day, not just after brushing his teeth. Part of my morning alarm is having a wet nose stuck in my face. Crowley’s breath wasn’t intense the few weeks following the continuous use of Nylabone toothpaste.
Clearly, my preference in toothpaste to use on Mr. Crowley’s mouth is the Nylabone brand. The addition of SLS allows for a better cleaning job and spread of product, so I didn’t use more than the recommended amount. Additionally, the combination of sodium hexametaphosphate (a stain remover, preventative) and titanium oxide (whitener) visible makes a difference in the yellow staining that happens over time. The Nylabone toothpaste also contained more compounds (ascorbic acid phosphate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, and sodium copper chlorophyllin) to tackle the bacteria that cause bad breath. I suspect this aided in reducing the morning breath Mr. Crowley has a tendency to develop. Citric acid, found in the bluestem toothpaste, is known to both inhibit bacteria and cause enamel damage due to its low pH. Ascorbic acid phosphate is a higher-pH salt with the same antimicrobial properties, so I would argue it is safer to use over a more extended period. Finally, the stickiness of the Nylabone toothpaste from binders (magnesium aluminum silicate and cellulose gum) worked better with the toothbrush I had. There was far less toothpaste that ended up on the floor.
The bluestem toothpaste is an option for other dogs, though. Some studies (and consumer reports) have found it irritates gums and induce canker sores in some patients, so avoiding detergents for sensitive mouths is an option. If your dog requires a gentle toothpaste with fewer antimicrobial compounds for their sensitive mouth, then the bluestem toothpaste is an option rather than the harsher Nylabone paste.
When it came to figuring out the best routine for Mr. Crowley’s oral care, part of the equation was the right toothpaste. Reading and understanding the ingredients in the products you use, whether you like then or not, assists in the decision of future purchases. Using the bluestem toothpaste, then the Nylabone one, I noticed the formulation contributed to the issues I was facing with continuous use of the bluestem brand.
With quarantine still kicking, I hope you’ve taken some time to dedicate for your dog’s oral care!
Every year, the Canadian Mental Health Association hosts Mental Health Week to support those diagnosed and future research into mental illnesses.
For the month of May I am going to post every Friday on a mental health topic. Hope you enjoy this week’s!
Throughout the internet, there are plenty of articles tout that pets are an excellent addition to our lives and offer positive benefits for those who have a mental illness. There is a determined link between pet ownership and significant health benefits – both physically and mentally. There have been many studies supporting human-animal interactions for health benefits, but fewer regarding the benefits of companion animals despite that close to 50% of the US has a dog. Some of the ways dogs are beneficial is increasing physical exercise through walking, a decrease in loneliness, and an increase in social stability according to one review. Other research has claimed there is no positive benefit or even a negative correlation to owning a pet.
As the pandemic continues to keep Canada indoors, there is an increasing number of reports of people wanting to adopt a pet. Even with the protests to break quarantine getting louder, the US has also seen the same surge in people seeking a cuddly companion. The current pandemic has meant we’re working under more stressful, heinous conditions in the workforce than ever before. Even if you’re not working on the front lines, the overwhelming everyday news of COVID-19 has many people experiencing depression and anxiety. Does that mean you should open your home to a pet, though?
If you’re getting the urge to welcome a new friend into your life, please read ahead to see if it’s genuinely beneficial for you. You may be surprised by what recent studies have shown!
After a long day of work, it’s a fantastic feeling to have your buddy wagging his tail because they’re excited that you’re home. For frontline workers, you may be leaning on your pet for more comfort than ever, but if you’re seeking to foster a dog while you handle the front lines, this 2020 study doesn’t think it’s a wise idea. Up to 84% of frontline workers, like police officers or paramedics, experience at least one traumatic event due to the nature of their careers; in contrast, only 70% of the average population experiences at least one.
The purpose of “The Relationship between Dog Ownership, Psychopathological Symptoms and Health-Benefitting Factors in Occupations at Risk for Traumatization” by (Hennessen et al. 2020) was to replicate the same benefits of dog ownership, assumed by the general public, in volunteers that worked in a high-stress environment. The study consisted of “individuals in high-risk occupations with many working shifts and overtime” (Hennessen et al., 2020). It was assumed [hypothesis] that as frontline workers, they would benefit from the companion of a dog. The researchers focused on two aspects of human-animal interaction between non-dog owners and dog owners, observed health benefits and human attachment level to the animal.
The findings were completely opposite to what the researchers had hypothesized. Volunteers in the study didn’t report any more health benefits to pet ownership than non-dog owners. The statistical data showed a link between a strong attachment to the dog and a higher display of mental illness symptoms, like anxiety and depression. A reason behind this may be the increased stress pet ownership can have on someone. Aspects like keeping food in their bowl, making sure their exercise requirements are met, gives some people more stress than not.
It depends on the individual, though, the authors reiterated, and many can move past traumatic experiences without experiencing any symptoms of mental illness. The 2020 study also considers the compatibility between dog and owner in receiving the most out of pet ownership. Mixing a high-energy dog with a person who wants to have a nap on the couch when they get home from work isn’t a great match. Before looking into getting a pet, consider what you want out of pet ownership before moving forward.
Other studies are supporting the use of pets as part of treatment for those suffering from severe mental illness, despite the 2020 results. If the pandemic has you feeling anxious or more lonely as you’re couped up, a pet may help deal with those emotions.
Pets have been found to aid in those diagnosed with severe mental illness (such as schizophrenia) and assist with treatment. Many with mental illness deal with periods of extreme loneliness and despair, and those within the study stated that they found the pet to be a central connection to life. To quote Brooks et al. (2019), “relationships with pets were free from the obligations and complexities associated with other types of network members and provided an extension and reinforcement to an individual’s sense of self which militated against the negative experiences associated with mental illness.” As I mentioned before, waking up to a pet happy to see you, and providing physical attachment helps if you’re experiencing depression symptoms from being cooped inside during COVID-19.
A review found similar results in studies identical to Brooks et al. (2019), focusing on children and teenagers with mental illness. Through the analysis of 7 studies, the review found that children attending therapy and had a companion dog showed better “secondary factors” (2019) such as attention-span and reception to therapy methods. This was found in addition to benefits to the primary symptoms of the children and their mental illness.
Overall, the initial study and review both highlight the need for further studies on the actual benefits we receive from interacting with companion animals. Current research, as presented, has found there are subtle links to alleviating the symptoms of mental illness with a combination of traditional therapy and self coping mechanisms.
It’s always important to consider all aspects of your habits and schedule before bringing your new friend home. Even if you were considering taking a pet home before COVID-19 hit. Consider the stress levels you usually experience, and whether the additional stress of becoming a pet owner would do more harm than good to your mental health according to (Hennemann et al. 2020). Lifestyle compatibility is also key to having positive pet ownership – no one benefits if you want to relax when your dog wants a walk!
For those new to experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, and anyone already diagnosed, a pet still may be beneficial for you. Physical exercise associated with walking your dog has repeatedly shown oxytocin increases in empirical studies, and the companionship you’ll receive sets of loneliness experienced during this pandemic. That’s the same feel-good hormone runners always tout about getting after a run.
Mr. Crowley has really benefitted my anxiety and OCD in the 6 months I’ve owned him. Not only do both of us benefit from having a rigorous schedule, but he’s also a clingy dog that doesn’t let me feel lonely anymore. My anxiety can cause a lot of noise in my head that repeats unwanted thoughts and having Crowley does add the stability I need to get through some days. Sometimes he needs to be in my face whining for a walk to get myself out of bed, but I’m grateful to have them on those days I’d like to hide from the world.
I never had a dog growing up.
My mom had cats since college, and we always had a cat in the family. There wasn’t a reason for owning a dog. As I moved out and attended college I realized I had a desire for a walking buddy. My then (and current) boyfriend still won’t walk with me!
After some intense research and speaking to greyhound advocates, here are the 3 main reasons why I chose the greyhound as my first dog.
Greyhounds may be the fastest sprinters in the dog world, but they are equally impressive acting as couch potatoes. They’re a very sweet, mild-mannered breed that enjoys as much time they can get with their people. Whether you wanted an additional seat warmer while you’re watching a movie or not, your greyhound is more than happy to just relax on the couch with you.
Separation anxiety is known to pop up (especially in retired racers), so establishing a schedule with your greyhound is essential for their overall happiness. Crowley is an easygoing dog, but disruptions to his schedule can send him into a bit of a frenzy.
My lifestyle consists of being outdoors… a lot. I’ve gone from working in horse barns, to a bug farm, and spend my weekends finding new trails to hike. A dog needed to have enough energy to have fun on the trails with me, but could also adapt to my work schedule. Greyhounds have a great mix of high energy and low maintenance.
Greyhounds need around 20-60 minutes of exercise (minimum) per day, and this doesn’t only mean walking. An enclosed area for a sprint is a great way to give your greyhound exercise. Perhaps a puzzle toy that requires mental stimulation will tire your hound out more? I use physical and mental exercise to keep Crowley happy at home.
I don’t intend on moving out of an apartment any time soon, so I knew going into dog ownership that my living space would restrict my choices. Good thing most sighthounds, including greyhounds, are great in small spaces. Whether you live in a 1-bedroom apartment, or a house with a fenced in yard a greyhound will suit most households and their lifestyle.
Have you ever considered a greyhound for your home?
Crowley has mild arthritis in his right front carpal joints (as diagnosed by his current vet). He’s only four, but as a retired racer his racing career did cause some damage as his other scars show. I want to keep him moving with me for years to come, so I put him on a joint supplement for pets in his first meal with me. Crowley has been on the same supplement ever since, but I wondered if the common joint supplement ingredients helped.
Recent studies have thrown a mixed bag of results on the efficacy of different ingredients for joint support, but it seems conclusive that it can help with osteoarthritic dogs like Crowley. Maintaining the cartilage and synovial fluid in osteoarthritic joints by using joint supplements may reduce pain levels and improve mobility. Osteoarthritis has no cure and symptom management is key to keeping your pet pain-free and happy.
Here are three ingredients that have been found beneficial for dogs – glucosamine, chondroitin, and creatine.
An essential amino sugar, glucosamine, is the base for many compounds that compose cartilage (such as chondroitin sulphate). Glucosamine provides both stimulatory and anti-inflammatory effects on dogs, but the method by which it does this is still up for future research. It does increase collagen and cartilage production, as past studies have confirmed in human trials.
Current research has shown that glucosamine, unfortunately, is metabolized by bacteria in the intestinal tract. It often isn’t available in high enough quantity for your dog to be useful. Studies have shown glucosamine sulphate is the best form of glucosamine in terms of bioavailability (25-40%) after digestion. The metabolites after glucosamine digestion may be of benefit, however, to managing osteoarthritis anyways by stimulating anti-inflammatory responses. Giving your dog the purest and most accessible form of glucosamine is essential for the supplement to affect their cartilage and inflammation.
Specific enzymes in synovial fluid within joints accelerates cartilage degradation that is associated with osteoarthritis. The damage done by these enzymes increases the amount of inflammation and pain experienced. Chondroitin Sulfate acts as an inhibitor to these enzymes and, in turn, increases the body’s anti-inflammatory response. Supplementation alone has shown positive results in rabbits with osteoarthritis by increasing cartilage (around knee joints) and the body’s anti-inflammatory response. Common sources of chondroitin are in crustaceans (crabs, lobsters).
The nitrogen-based molecule creatine is stored in skeletal muscle for future energy production. The molecule supports the high-production of ATP during high-intensity exercises (sprinting or weight lifting). Often associated with bodybuilders, this supplement has also gained recognition in reducing inflammation surrounding painful joints. A study from 2019 highlighted the different mechanisms on pro-inflammatory and inhibitory pathways that creatine effects in dogs with osteoarthritis. The supplementation of creatine showed a positive anti-inflammatory response and reduced pain levels, making creatine a possible supplement for dogs with arthritis.
As always, start with a discussion with your current vet on options for your dog. While there are very few adverse affects recorded with most joint supplements, it’s always best to be safe for your dog.
That being said, obtaining the purest ingredients that have maximum bioavailability is key for high-quality supplements. TRI-ACTA is a joint supplement for pets that contains pure ingredients within a small dosage. It contains glucosamine (HCL, sulphate), chondroitin sulphate, and MSM in a fine powder. After having Mr. Crowley on the supplement for 6 months I can see a more supple gait, and I also feel his joints are moving better during stretches after a 45min walk.
Tracking carbohydrates is common among people that consider themselves healthy eaters, but it may benefit to watch the intake of fibre for your dog too. Often ignored, dietary fibre can be a key factor in your dog’s gastrointestinal health. Whether you feed a raw or kibble diet, understanding the benefits of fibre on your dog’s GI microbiota is vital for their long-term health.
Carbohydrates and dietary fibre are not the same though. Carbohydrates make up a large macromolecule family that includes sugars and starches, and they’re meant to be metabolized for energy sources. This is not the case for dietary fibre.
The exact definition of dietary fibre has been up for debate for decades. The FDA stated in 2016, “non-digestible soluble and insoluble carbohydrates (with 3 or more monomeric units), and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants […] determined by FDA to have physiological effects that are beneficial to human health” (Nogueira, et al, 2019). Dietary fibre, in short, consists of plant matter that you or your dog can’t digest. This is where intestinal microbes come in to aid in digesting the food that your body can’t. It’s the same for dogs, and the type of dietary fibre they have access too will alter how their GI tract will digest food.
Dietary fibre can be broken down into two categories: fermentable and non-fermentable. Let’s break down the ingredients on a common kibble from Royal Canin:
Fermentable fibre sources support intestinal bacteria by providing the nourishment they need to thrive. As microbes ferment the fibre, they produce metabolites that your dog can use. A common product of fermentation is short-chained fatty acids.
This kibble contains two fermentable dietary fibres, beet pulp and psyllium husk. The latter is a good source of fermentable fibre and promotes higher fecal moisture by absorbing water as it passes through the intestines. This increase in viscosity also increases intestinal transit time and leads to overall better nutrient absorption, but can lead to soft stool with too much water absorption. Beet pulp is more common as a fermentable dietary fibre because it also contains non-fermentable compounds that act as a stool bulking agent.
Non-fermentable fibres contribute mainly to fecal bulking. As they’re not digested by intestinal microbes, these fibres decrease transit time and increase stool mass when added to the diet (NRC, 2006). Unlike psyllium husk, a non-fermentable dietary fibre doesn’t increase water absorption in the stool while passing through the intestine. Cellulose is a very common non-fermentable dietary fibre to increase stool mass that does not contribute to overall gut health. It should be noted that these non-fermentable fibres have not shown any nutritional benefit only water retention and stool bulking capabilities (in current studies).
As non-fermentable fibres may decrease digestibility and nutrient absorption in the intestines, it’s important to combine it with a fermentable fibre source to aid in overall gut health. A blend of fermentable and non-fermentable fibres will stabilize your dog’s intestinal transit time, water retention, and stool mass. Similar to when someone takes a laxative to regulate their bowels, a combination of these fibres promotes healthy intestinal flora and stool regulation.
Including fermentable fibres has positive benefits on overall metabolism as a 2016 study showed in dogs using beet pulp and guar gum. The addition of these two fermentable fibres increased amino acid levels in blood samples taken from dogs – signalling a reduction in amino acid metabolism through the large intestine. The authors concluded that the short-chain fatty acid production induced by the fermentation of these fibres shifted the dogs to use these fatty acids, rather than protein, as an energy source. This example of metabolism change shows the benefits that dietary fibre has on your dog when including in their diet.
If your dog’s regular diet doesn’t contain a fermentable dietary fibre, you should consider adding one. Many large pet stores will have a prebiotic or probiotic supplement with these fibres added, so you don’t have to worry about finding individual ingredients yourself. For more on how carbohydrates act on your dog’s system, I would read the Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats from the NRC.
Right when I got the email confirming I would be adopting Crowley back in October 2019, the first task I crossed off my list was finding a leash and collar. The adoption group I went with already informed me of a greyhound’s need to wear a martingale style collar versus a regular clip-on, but I wasn’t sure which leash to purchase. I didn’t find anything particular that I liked, but I knew a leash similar to a horse’s lead was more my preference. Amazon lead me directly to the leash I have been using daily for the last 6 months.
The Haapaw 5ft leash is an excellent daily leash for the price point, when bought off Amazon.ca in a pair. It features two cord widths based on your dog’s weight (in pounds). Here are some of the key features:
The Amazon description reads, “The new Haapaw dog leash is inspired by many dog lovers’ suggestions. The concept is getting firm and comfortable grip without rope burn even when your dog pulls hardly [hard] with a perfect length that you dog has enough freedom, but everything under control. The rope should be durable and strong with reflective threads for safe walking in the dark.”
I’ve found the leash is very lightweight to hold for long hikes (some weekends we’re out for over 2 hours), and it doesn’t interfere as Crowley is walking or jogging beside me. The foam handle can be held or put over the wrist – either position is comfortable. I don’t use the clip for poop bags, but it’s incredibly handy to use as a clip holder when I hang the leash up. I can also hold and grip the 0.5″ cord in my very small hands.
Over the 6 months I have used the leash neither the cord, foam handle, or plastic has shown any signs of wear and tear. Crowley has walked through grass, bushes, mud, and ponds with this leash and it doesn’t show. What does show is the reflective threading around the leash – it’s very bright (and helpful) at night when you’re walking through a crosswalk. There are also additional colours to choose from!
Ordering two leashes is also very handy at $20CAD. I keep a backpack on me while walking my dog and the second leash that came with the order sits inside. I would strongly recommend keeping a second leash either in the house or in your car in case something does happen to the first. With these leashes already coming in a bundle, you can rest assured you always have a backup leash.
Lastly, the plastic portions on the leash aren’t bulky or distracting, and surprisingly strong. I managed to step on it and it came apart in two pieces that easily clipped back together.
Unfortunately, the plastic pieces I mentioned earlier are still on the flimsier, cheaper side when it comes to hardware. With the position of the plastic buckle near the clip end, I also find using the leash with a harness is best as to not hit the front legs as the dog puts their head down to sniff. The black paint on the clip is chipping off, but I expected this and it is a minor cosmetic flaw. Black shows the accumulated dirt very well, and I haven’t found the leash easy to clean with soap and water, or baby wipes. The foam handle is easy to wipe down, however, with a baby wipe.
When we walk through conservation areas and parks I do find the length of this leash is hindering. Everything to sniff means that Crowley prefers to have a bit more freedom. That being said, on sidewalks or near roadways the length of this leash is ideal for reducing the chance of your dog walking onto the road.
Finally, my dog is not a heavy puller, so the leash may show more wear sooner if your dog is the opposite. With the strength and durability of this cord, however, I would argue this leash would withstand a heavy pulling dog.
When you consider how often you’ll need to use a leash with your dog, it makes sense to try and find one that is comfortable for you and your dog. The Haapaw leashes on Amazon make a great bundle for the price point if you have a dog that needs a heavy duty leash, or you’re just looking for a shorter leash that’s also comfortable in your hand.
I find the 5ft cord best suited for strolling in neighbourhoods or narrow pathways, but it makes a great leash for general use day or night with the reflective threading throughout.
Healthy eating is not just for people anymore – the supplement market has stretched into the pet industry too. While many pet diets, including raw and kibble, meet your dog’s or cat’s minimum dietary requirements there is a supplement that most will benefit from – a quality omega-3 source.
It’s no longer simply adding a spoonful of cod liver oil to your pet’s kibble, however, and research has highlighted the best sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (FAs) for your pet based on their unique lipid metabolism. For a better understanding of how pets (and us!) metabolize and utilize these fatty acids, please see my previous post on fats. Balancing your pet’s polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) will have a positive effect on their skin, coat, and even inflammatory responses.
Dogs and cats are able to synthesize most omega-6 FAs through their metabolism except linoleic acid, and therefore must be supplemented through diet. Linoleic acid is the precursor to many other essential fatty acids that are used in each individual cell making up tissues. Furthermore, the essential omega-3s required for mammals are alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Each omega-3 can be found in plant and animal sources at different concentrations, so understanding how to balance between each 3 is necessary.
The most abundant sources of the omega-3s EPA and DHA are fish (oils) and marine algae. For raw-fed pets a variety of fish should be given rather than one type to achieve a balance of EPA and DHA. Not all fish are the same in omega-3 quantity or quality, and predatory fish like tuna should be avoided due to high mercury levels.
As Table 1. demonstrates, whole mackerel, fresh salmon, and sardines (canned or whole) are great omega-3 sources to rotate in a raw-fed diet. Likewise, a few sardines from a can added to your pet’s kibble is another method of supplementing omega-3 based on your pet’s current diet.
You can also purchase a pressed fish oil supplement that has already been balanced for ALA, EPA, and DHA content (and other present fatty acids). Be cautious about adding supplements containing fish or crustaceans if you don’t know your pet’s intolerances and/or allergies!
The best plant sources for omega-3 supplementation are seeds. Flax, chia, and hemp seeds can be fed to pets in small doses. Ground and soaked seeds are best for maximum absorption in the small intestine. Seeds are easily accessible to most pet-owners in grocery and health food stores and are great sources of the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA.
Seeds don’t contain all 3 essential omega-3 FAs required by pets as shown in Table 2. Cats can’t convert ALA to EPA or DHA, and dogs can minimally convert ALA to EPA, so seeds alone won’t meet dietary requirements for proper daily function. Therefore they must be coupled with another supplement to meet EPA and DHA requirements.
Table 2: Omega-3 content in chia, flax, and hemp seeds per g/100g.
Marine algae is an alternative source of EPA and DHA for your pet’s diet if they are intolerant to fish, but it is usually pricier than fish oils and harder to find. There are other benefits to include omega-3 plant sources in any diet such as additional vitamins and minerals.
Before you add any supplements please consult your veterinarian. They will be able to give you an in-depth evaluation of your pet’s diet and what is best for their specific needs.
An omega-3 supplement is suitable for most pets on any diet – kibble, freeze-dried, or raw. Popular brands of kibble like Purina Pro Plan usually have a higher omega-6 content than omega-3 because they’re based on animals high in omega-6. These include chicken and pork. To supplement omega-3, however, you must aim to balance it along with your pet’s diet.
What is “balanced” omega-3 supplementation? Giving your pet access to all 3 essential omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA, and DHA). If you feed raw, a balanced supplementation may look like whole mackerel coupled with ground chia seeds; atlantic mackerel will contain a lot of EPA and DHA, and the ground chia seeds provide ALA. Pre-made omega-3 supplements, like Omega Alpha’s Shiny Coat, will contain a balanced blend of omega-3, 6, and 9 FAs for your pet and are excellent for kibble feeders.
The National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats (2006) advises against aiming for a 1:1 ratio due to the lack of evidence proving that it is required to have an even balance of omega-3 to omega-6. They do, however, recognize the benefits of adding omega-3 to a pet’s diet to counteract the heavy omega-6 content in most kibble.
With studies proving omega-3’s are able to stimulate anti-inflammatory proteins when supplemented it’s hard to argue against trying to balance your pet’s fatty acid intake.
I hope this has convinced some of you to add some omega-3 supplementation for your pet if you don’t already. This information also applies to humans too!