The Future of Canine Nutrition

brown medium coated dog at the beach

My wife and I attended the Raw and Natural Dog Summit in Chicago last year. Totally recommend going if you can.  Aside from meeting really great dog lovers and people committed to making dogs’ lives better, we also got a brief yet intense education from doctors and scientists on where we’re headed in canine nutrition, and canine wellness.

Some of the speakers included Rich Patton, Sue Armstrong, Isla Fishburn, Julie Anne Lee, Dee Blanco, PJ Broadfoot, Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, Chris Bessent, Rita Hogan, Kathleen Prasad, Brandy Vaughan, Todd Cooney, Billy Hoekman, Carol Smeja, Larry Bohlen, Holly Ganz, Angela Ardolino, and Ann Marie Unger.

Top 5 Key Takeaways

  1. The microbiome is everything.  We now know what the bacteria composition looks like in healthy dogs, and what it looks like in sick dogs.  The composition of your dog’s gut bacteria today can warn you of potential future illnesses.  In other words, the microbiome is a leading indicator of current and future health.  Also, bacteria cultures have food preferences.  As in, you can change your dog’s microbiome by changing your dog’s diet.   By getting your dog’s microbiome tested (roughly $75 per test), you can learn the specific foods he/she needs to consume to correct his/her bacteria composition, and prevent future illnesses and costly vet bills.
  1. Every dog is unique.  Two dogs of the same breed, age and even litter living in the same home being fed the exact same food will have two completely different bacteria compositions in the gut.  What this tells us is that every single dog has their own unique nutritional input requirements!  Even softer topics like stress, stimulation, and emotions play a significant factor in the microbiome as well.  What nutritionists believe is that at some point in the future, dogs will be all fed a specific diet based on how their gut bacteria responds to the food and everything going on with each dog’s unique life.
  1. Fatty acids ratio is a priority.  Dogs need both omega 3s and omega 6s.  But, the optimal ratio is 1:1.  Once dogs start consuming foods with a ratio of 1:10, the body starts to get sick, the bacteria begins to shift its composition allowing for less ideal cultures to dominate.  McDonalds fast food is roughly measured at 1:50, just to give you a reference point.  Most kibble is around 1:20, the worst kinds being 1:30 (coloured kibble at Shoppers anyone?).  By focusing on lowering that ratio (by adding more omega 3s), you can drastically improve your dog’s life.  
  1. Owner involvement and advocacy.  There is no silver bullet solution for canine nutrition & wellness.  Every commercial dog food that you buy will always require the owner’s participation in completing their dog’s full nutritional requirements.  For instance, omega 3 oils don’t store well, and don’t freeze well.  So relying solely on the food means that your dog won’t be getting the necessary omega 3s.  So you might start by giving your dog a small salmon steak every other weekend, or cracking a raw egg (including shells) on their food.  Free range is noticeably better.  In the future, owners will be more knowledgeable and active in providing their dogs some missing key requirements.
  1. Total canine wellness. This concept that nutrition and wellness are one in and of itself is biggest take away from the conference.  That everything your dog experiences impacts everything else about your dog.  Stress, nutrition, your stress and nutrition and your happiness, their environment, fitness, social.  All of these things impact your dog’s microbiome, not just food.  And when you impact the microbiome, you impact everything relating to your dog’s health & wellness.

Over the course of this year, we’ll be further exploring these concepts in more detail to help us all become a little bit better at providing for our furball canine beings.

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