Many pet owners are extremely careful when choosing their pet’s diet. They study ingredient panels and reject brands that are less than transparent. However, some of these same vigilant owners will casually grab an eye-catching bag of treats to take home for Fido or Fifi. Often, we see the word “Natural” on a bag of treats and don’t investigate further until we get home, finally read the ingredients, and are shocked at what we have bought.
Many treats contain artificial and low-quality ingredients made from animals previously pumped with antibiotics and hormones. Hormones increase muscle development and fast growth, and antibiotics protect against illness. If you feed your pets such treats, it may lead to immunity buildup against antibiotics. This means that if your pet ever needs the protection of that antibiotic, it will not be effective. Ingesting hormones can also lead to hyperactivity and cause other health problems as well.
High Quality Ingredients
All natural pet treats, on the other hand, do not contain any hormones or antibiotics. These high-quality natural treats are a better choice for pet parents who want the best for their furry friends. They will also be gentle on your pet’s digestive system without the synthetic colors or artificial flavors so abundant in most treats.
If your pet has an allergy, checking ingredients on treats before you buy is essential. Soy, wheat, corn, and “natural flavoring” tend to be key components of many treats and these substances can trigger allergies. If you don’t know what an ingredient on the label is, please don’t risk your pet’s health. Always look for treats with the fewest number of ingredients and only healthy ones that you understand.
Inflammation and Imbalance
Highly processed treats with unknown ingredients cause irritation and create an imbalance in the gut flora, which is integral for positive mood and good mental health. Moreover, just like in humans, your pet’s stomach, heart, and brain are sensitive to what they eat or drink. Any kind of imbalance can contribute to inflammation and stress throughout their bodies, thus affecting them mentally. Natural treats will be gentle on your pet’s stomach, thus reducing inflammation and lessening the chances of bad reactions.
Quality of Food = Quality of Life
Our pets love their treats so it’s up to us to make sure we are feeding treats that do no harm. High quality natural treats contribute to better digestion, lowering the risk of diseases, strengthening immunity, and increasing energy. This speaks directly to good physical and mental health which increases quality of life. Adding single ingredient meat treats to your pet’s diet will be a welcome source of enjoyment as well as a nutritional boost to them.
As we all get older so do our beloved pets. And it’s simply a fact of life that aging bodies suffer more stress and injuries, resulting in pain. Arthritis is one of the most common age-related problems plaguing humans and animals alike, and while no one has found a cure for this disease the condition is treatable with varying degrees of success.
Glucosamine: A Natural Remedy
Focusing on the natural remedy glucosamine which has proven beneficial in many cases of arthritis, we note there are two readily available types of glucosamine: glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine chondroitin. Glucosamine sulfate is a simple single compound artificially made from the sulfate salt of glucosamine, originating in the shells of shellfish where it occurs naturally. Glucosamine chondroitin is a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin both from cow cartilage. While each type of glucosamine is helpful against pain, glucosamine chondroitin is considered the most effective of the two.
Some of you may have already tried glucosamine on yourself or your pets for pain. Often it proves efficacious, but others may be disappointed in the results. This is typical when using natural remedies which often have variable track records. For example, three of my dogs get great benefits from using CBD while my fourth seems to get no benefit at all. Idiosyncrasies of metabolism often account for these discrepancies in effectiveness. In the case of glucosamine chondroitin, I suggest you try it with your pet for a good two-month trial. If you see no results, it may not be the right supplement for your pet. But if your pet is fortunate enough to utilize the supplement the relief can be profound. Definitely worth a try!
Lack of Absorption
Absorption can be the main problem in your pet’s response to taking glucosamine. Recent studies have shown that dogs usually absorb only 2.5 – 12% of the amount they ingest in supplement form. Plus, lab results have shown high levels of lead in most glucosamine pills which is counterproductive for your pet’s health. Used as a selling point in many kibble dog foods, the added glucosamine supplement is nearly non-existent and of doubtful benefit. This is discouraging for pet owners who sincerely want to help their arthritic pets using natural rather than synthetic products. But don’t despair. Read on.
Two Methods that DO Work
As someone who has always advocated for holistic solutions for health problems, I am happy to report on two completely natural methods to get glucosamine into your pet’s diet and even your own. The first is Green-Lipped Mussels and the second is Bone Broth.
Green-Lipped mussels, found in New Zealand, are a rich source of glucosamine and chondroitin along with the powerful and very rare Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA). Working synergistically these three substances have proven highly effective against arthritic conditions. Northwest Naturals produces a 100% natural Green Mussel treat that many pet owners are using for their older pets for arthritis relief as well as using on younger pets to help prevent bone and joint problems in the future. Freeze-dried at low temperatures these mussels retain all the active enzymes and non-denatured proteins, vitamins and minerals with which Mother Nature endowed them. Green Mussel treats are an easy way to get healthy, natural occurring glucosamine into your pet’s diet. Our line of FUNctional Toppers also includes a Chicken Breast with New Zealand Green Mussels recipe which can be a tasty, although not a therapeutic, addition to your pet’s diet.
The second way to safely add glucosamine is by adding bone broth to your pet’s meals. There are commercially produced bone broth products available in most pet supply stores that are convenient but tend to be expensive. Why not try making your own bone broth? It is easy, cheap and extremely healthful for your pets and yourself. There are a plethora of recipes online for making bone broth, but the basic ingredients are bones, water, apple cider vinegar and that’s it! The long simmering time pulls the nutrients from the bones, transferring valuable minerals into the highly nourishing broth, rich in glucosamine and chondroitin. Northwest Naturals has convenient packages of raw bones that can be used for making a delicious bone broth that your dogs and cats will enjoy while providing them with a totally natural source of glucosamine.
Benefits of Glucosamine
Studies have proven that glucosamine increases the fluid in joints and helps with joint, bone and digestive repair. This is one nutrient that in its natural form cannot harm your pet, strengthens healthy joints and often provides welcome pain relief for compromised joints. Much as we would like to stop the aging process, we can’t. However, using naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin can certainly make the senior years a less painful part of life for our pets and ourselves.
As discussed earlier cats do not need any plant material in their diets so this article will focus solely on fruits and vegetables that are either life enhancing or detrimental for our canine companions. This is not a definitive list, simply some of the more common ones our pets crave or ones that are nutritional powerhouses and make beneficial inclusions in our dog’s diets.
Beneficial Fruits and Vegetables for Dogs
Image by Petco https://www.petco.com/
APPLES: Many dogs love a chunk of apple tossed to them; others find the fruit too acidic for their taste. High in vitamins A and C and the immune boosting antioxidant quercetin (allergy fighting flavonoid found mostly in apple skin), apples also contain pectin which is a beneficial prebiotic for gut health.
BLUEBERRIES: Berries, in general, are palatable to dogs, but blueberries are the nutritional star. Full of vitamins, surprisingly they also contain some valuable minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, iron and zinc. They happen to be one of the richest sources of antioxidants with their free-radical scavenging properties. Research has shown that they help reduce the incidence of cancer, and since around half of our dogs will get cancer, blueberries are an important preventative measure we can add to their diets.
BROCCOLI: This is probably the most nutrient dense green vegetable dogs will eat, containing over 33 cancer-preventing compounds. A very low glycemic addition to your dog’s diet, this vegetable should be given in moderation as all cruciferous veggies can reduce thyroid function if given in excess. Cooking may make it more palatable.
CANTALOUPE: Another food high in beta carotene, also rich in B-6, C, folate, niacin and potassium. Very tasty for most dogs and rarely an allergen.
CARROTS: A popular, crunchy, sweet snack for most dogs, carrots provide beta carotene which can be converted into vitamin A and is a powerful antioxidant along with vitamins C, D, E and K. Carrots promote good vision and supports collagen production.
CELERY: A mild flavored vegetable that is low in calories but high in fiber. A good weight loss addition that also helps the immune system and detoxifies. Some dogs prefer it cooked.
GARLIC: Used from the days of the Roman Empire to strengthen their war dogs, this vegetable or herb, used raw and in small amounts is entirely safe for your dog. For many years I have used it daily with my dogs for the antibacterial, antifungal, anti-viral effects. It is a fierce immune stimulator and has anti-cancer properties. Also reported to ward off fleas which has been true with my dogs.
GREEN BEANS: Another low-calorie vegetable often recommended for weight loss. Containing some omega-3 fatty acids and loaded with vitamins C and K, many dogs like the fresh crunch of raw green beans, others prefer them cooked.
MUSHROOMS: Medicinal mushrooms are an amazing addition to your dog’s diet. Used for thousands of years specific mushroom varieties have well documented health benefits. For example, Lion’s Mane is noted for increasing cognitive strength while Shiitake is noted for heightening immune function. When adding mushrooms, do not use wild mushrooms; use only medicinal mushrooms and usually cook them.
ROMAIN LETTUCE: My dogs love the firm lettuce ribs and beg for them as I create a salad. Very low in calories (lettuce is mostly water) this variety of lettuce is safe for dogs to eat. Endive, dandelions and chicory should be avoided, but Romain, containing vitamins A, C and K, is high in antioxidants and healthy for your dog to eat.
SWEET POTATOES: A valuable adjunct to your dog’s diet on occasion, this highly sweet and starchy vegetable should be added in moderation. Like all brightly colored edible plant material, sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins, notably E, A, B-6 and C in this tuber. Most dogs love their sweet taste, but like kids with candy, please monitor carefully as sweet potato’s high sugar content can be hard on a dog’s digestive system. Usually preferred cooked or dehydrated.
WATERMELON: A great source of lycopene, studies have shown this melon has anti-cancer properties, particularly from lung, bone and prostate cancers. Diabetes and heart disease reduction are also linked to high lycopene intake. Chock full of vitamins A, B-6 and C, this palatable fruit aids hydration and appeals to most dogs.
Other fruits and vegetables that may interest your dog are asparagus, bananas, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and pears, to name a few. And when cooking plant materials, a light steaming will protect more of the vitamins and minerals than other methods.
Fruits and Vegetables to Avoid
ALLIUMS: Onions, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots can all cause anemia in dogs.
LEGUMES: Legumes contain lectins which can block valuable nutrients from being absorbed. They are considered by many experts to be anti-nutrients. Examples of legumes are peas, lentils, beans such as kidney, white, black, navy, pinto, etc., peanuts and soybeans to name a few of the most well-known legumes.
THE NIGHTSHADE FAMLY: Members of the nightshade family are also not appropriate foods for canines. These would include but are not limited to potatoes (uncooked), tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. These vegetables contain a substance called solanine which tends to increase inflammation and can be toxic to some dogs. It is especially harsh on arthritic conditions.
DRIED FRUITS: Dried fruits are far too sweet for dogs except in very small amounts. Drying intensifies the sugar content by removing the water, making the treats quite tasty but disproportionately high in carbohydrates which are hard on the canine digestive system. A treat to use sparingly!
Scientifically Tested As Beneficial
In a 2005 Purdue University study, researchers wanted to discover what effects if any adding vegetables to canine diets had on the incidence of bladder cancer in dogs. The test animals were Scottish Terriers. One group ate only kibble while the other group ate kibble plus different vegetables 3 times a week. At the end of the study the results were stunning. The dogs eating green leafy vegetables along with their kibble reduced the risk of developing bladder cancer by 90%. Wisely adding beneficial fruits and vegetables into the canine diet can have dramatic health enhancing results.
Dogs are individuals with different dietary needs and preferences. Some do better with more plant materials in their bowls and some do not. Always remembering that your dog is a carnivore, you may want to thoughtfully experiment with supplementing their meat/organ/bone diet with some valuable vegetables and fruits for the nutritional rewards they offer.
Working in the pet industry, I consistently hear stories about people’s dogs. Many of these conversations revolve around pet nutrition and, knowing that a dog’s digestive system cannot break down the cellulose in plant material, the stories about how much their dogs love certain fruits or vegetables were puzzling to me. Why would dogs eagerly gobble down blueberries, apples, cantaloupes, pears, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and other favorites if they truly couldn’t digest them?
Your dog’s digestive system is designed to absorb nutrients from proteins and fats and needs very little carbohydrates. In fact, the cell structure of plants is formed from cellulose which cannot be broken down in your dog’s gut except in three ways. If the plant material has been:
Raw and pureed smaller than the point of a pencil in a food processor
Only if the fruits or vegetables are treated in one of these three ways will the cellulose break down enough so that your dog can assimilate the full range of nutrients from plants.
What Are the Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables?
Low-Hanging Fruit – The Easy Benefits
Yet our dogs beg us for a slice of cantaloupe or dance for a broccoli floret. Evidently, they did not get the memo that their digestive systems don’t handle these foods very well. Perhaps our dogs sense something bigger is going on when they are munching fruits and veggies, and they would be right! No matter how you are adding fruits and vegetables your dog will benefit from the added fiber in their diet plus they will get a few raw enzymes which will encourage cleaner teeth and fresher breath.
So if your dog loves it when you toss a slice of raw apple, although they will not be getting the full nutritional benefits of the apple, they are getting some small health rewards and enjoyment. Certainly, these benefits are worthwhile, but let’s consider the significant full nutritional value your dog can get out of raw, pulverized (smaller than a pencil point) fruits and vegetables.
The Full Range
As Facultative carnivores, dogs do not need many fruits and vegetables in their diets. Experts suggest amounts varying from 5% – 20% as ideal amounts to accrue the nutritional benefits plant materials provide.
Briefly, those nutritional advantages would be the vitamins and minerals which are abundant in vegetables and fruits. Additionally, fruits contain flavonoid compounds which are the most well researched segment of plant polyphenols (there are over 5,000 different types discovered so far). These vitamins, minerals and flavonoids are extremely valuable for both human and canine health and provide a huge nutritional boost to meat-based diets.
The Health Benefits of Fiber
While raw meats are especially rich in natural minerals and should form the backbone of a carnivorous diet, meat is not a great source of dietary fiber. Fiber is readily available in most plant materials and is a valuable addition to your canine’s cuisine. Prebiotic fiber enhances immune function, reduces instances of constipation, helps regulate blood sugar levels for diabetes and is important for heart health. It supports healthy skin, gut bacteria, longevity and helps maintain correct weight. Abundantly available in fruits and vegetables, fiber should be a component of a complete and balanced diet for our dogs.
A Fountain of Youth
Polyphenols, found in some spices, certain nuts, vegetables and mainly in fruits, are not available from meats. Research has proven they protect against degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease (including blood pressure problems) and diabetes. They reduce bodily inflammation which generates the very destructive free radicals. Free radicals cause aging and disease so consuming veggies and fruits is a bit like a fountain of youth. Rich in antioxidants, vegetation is the only source for these compounds.
Other benefits of including fruits and vegetables in your dog’s diet are their alkalizing effects on your dog’s body; they encourage healthy hydration levels; their high range of enzymes fuel metabolism and digestion; and their vitamin and mineral content is diverse and dense.
We know our dogs are carnivores and meat, organs and bone should be the foundation of their diets. However, why not include an appropriate amount of correctly prepared vegetables and fruits? Their unique and outstanding nutritional rewards promise a longer and healthier life for our best friends.
Coming Up Next
Next month is the 3rd and final segment of this article we will be dealing with a few specific fruits and vegetables that are worthy inclusions in your dog’s diet and talking about some plant materials to avoid.
As Homo sapiens we know the importance of a varied diet for our health. Human beings are omnivores, meaning we can assimilate nutrients from a wide array of foodstuffs: fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, fungi, etc. Some members of the animal kingdom with their own unique digestive systems have a more limited repertoire. Cats are a classic example of this limitation.
Cats – Obligate Carnivores
Being obligate carnivores, cats can get all of their nutrients from prey animals which provides them a basic meat-organ-bone diet. They do not need grains, fruits or vegetables in their diets, and, in fact, if given consistently those starchy foods will degrade a cat’s health, requiring its’ digestive system to process foods that are foreign to feline biology. The more stress put on the cat’s system from an incorrect diet the shorter and less healthy its’ lifespan will be. While humans find fruits and vegetables naturally appealing, please avoid them for your cats as they are at best unnecessary and at worst a potential root cause of major health problems.
Dogs – Facultative Carnivores
Dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, are also carnivores, but they are facultative carnivores, meaning their primary food source should be a meat-organ-bone diet but they can digest and assimilate small amounts of other edibles as well. Ask ten certified canine nutritionists what the correct amount of plant material for an optimal canine diet should be, and you will most likely get ten different answers. Perhaps looking at our dog’s wolf ancestor, Canis lupus, will give us a hint at how to best feed our domestic dogs.
Wolves vs. Dogs
Wolves in the wild are apex predators (top of the food chain), and their meals of choice are large hooved herbivores. They consume almost all of their prey, including muscle meat, organs and some bone material. Often they eat the stomach contents of their game but vastly prefer the stomach lining itself (tripe). If there is a shortage of their favored prey, wolves will consume smaller animals, and if a food shortage lasts too long, they will eat whatever they can find, such as old, cached kills, to fend off starvation. These survival foods would only be consumed under the harshest conditions. Additionally, wolves’ diets reflect seasonal food opportunities such as the consumption of apples, berries, melons and some roots when available. Biologists have noted these high fiber carbohydrate foods are usually consumed in an advanced state of ripeness which they term a “predigested condition,” making them more easily metabolized.
How Much Do Dogs and Wolves Differ?
Right now you may be thinking, but my domesticated dog is not a wild wolf, and you would be correct. Although wolves and dogs share DNA that is 98.6% to 99.9% identical (experts do not agree on an exact percentage), their lifestyles are quite different. Wolves run in packs for many hours a day. Wolves need to strategize for safety and have larger brains. They have larger jaws and teeth, reach sexual maturity later and cannot be truly domesticated. And while all of these features have an effect on their nutritional requirements, a wolf’s digestive system is nearly identical to a dog’s. It may be hard to believe that little Tinker Belle, your 7-pound Chihuahua, needs to eat a diet similar to her wolf ancestor, nevertheless it is true.
The Whole Prey Diet
So, if Canus lupus’ proper diet consists of meat-organs-bones, why not simply feed our dogs the same mix? Should we even consider feeding our domesticated dogs any vegetables and fruits at all? To answer the first question, many people do feed their dogs what is called a Whole Prey Diet. Proponents of whole prey feeding suggest that the fur, feathers, intestinal contents, brains, secreting organs, etc., provide a wider variety of nutrients and fiber for our pets than can be found in a typical raw diet of 80% meat (including10% organs, 10% bone), 18.5% vegetables and fruits, and 1.5% natural supplements. They feel that feeding a domesticated dog a wild wolf diet is adequate for their pet’s nutritional needs. I applaud the dedication of Whole Prey Diet feeders but have three major concerns.
Why is the Whole Prey Diet Not the Answer?
1) Anxiety Over Deficiencies and Proportions
First, very few people will take the time to procure the correct panoply of ingredients needed in a whole prey diet nor will they be willing to spend the money for those foodstuffs. Having fed my dogs a raw diet for over 40 years I know how difficult it is to find eyeballs, true green tripe, glands, feathers or fur, ad infinitum, which are all needed to construct an accurate prey model diet. And without the whole prey animal to consume nutritional deficiencies will inevitably happen. The anxiety I witness on prey animal feeder websites tells me these people are not enjoying feeding their dogs. There is constant worry about the accurate proportions of their choices. Instead of their dog’s mealtime being a relaxing, bonding experience, the prey model feeders seem stressed, and we all know our emotions affect our dogs. Uncertainty and tension during meals creates a negative atmosphere which can upset the pet’s digestion and mental state. The effects of this may be subtle but can be cumulative and damaging.
2) Lifestyle and Environment
Second, very few domesticated dogs live a lifestyle that is remotely similar to their wild ancestors, and lifestyle absolutely affects dietary needs. Most dogs in industrialized societies are companion pets, living indoors with limited exercise and problem-solving opportunities. They are usually spayed or neutered at an early age, surrounded by synthetic furnishings, unnatural electro-magnetic fields and are highly vaccinated and medicated against pests. Modern day dogs are also exposed to much higher levels of environmental pollutants than are wolves living in the wild. All of the above factors directly influence their nutritional needs and must be considered when choosing an optimal diet for your dog.
3) Better Genes to Break Down Starches
Third, nutritional science is constantly moving forward. Recent genetic research by geneticist Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, et al, and reported in “Nature” 3/21/13, has determined that there are ten genes in dogs that give them an increased ability to “break down starches and metabolize fat” better than wolves. Three of those ten genes “make dogs better than meat-eating wolves at splitting starches into sugars and then absorbing those sugars.” This confirms what we have all observed, domesticated dogs can absorb some nutrients and survive on a starchy diet.
How Your Pet Can Thrive
Of course, mere survival is not what we want for our precious pets. We want our dogs to thrive, avoiding degenerative diseases and living a long healthy life. This is where a limited number of targeted fruits and vegetables can offer your dog great nutritional benefits. Ideally, you are feeding your cats an exclusive meat-based diet without added carbohydrates. But what about your dog? Ideally, your dog should predominately be eating a meat-based diet with the addition of a small number of highly nutritious vegetables and fruits for optimal health in their far from natural way of life and polluted environment.
Do the best you can when feeding your pets. Relax and relish guilt-free mealtimes with your dog or cat by using a complete and balanced raw food diet which includes a limited number of vegetables and fruits. The most nutritious raw diet when fed confidently is a key ingredient in the recipe for your pet’s lasting health.
All of our pets have habits, some more baffling than others. Why, for example, does one of your cats like to lurk on the top of your bookshelves after dinner every evening while the other cuddles on your lap? Why does your dog nudge you for bedtime around 7 PM every night? I have a friend whose dog only barks when Ben Affleck appears on their television set. Why? Do we have a cat sentry, a sleepy dog with an incredibly accurate internal time clock, and a canine film critic? All possibilities, but most likely these are simply quirky habits of those individual pets.
A Nearly Universal Quirk
However, there is one habit that is nearly ubiquitous with our canine and feline friends and has puzzled dog and cat owners for years. Why do our pets eat grass? Dogs and cats are both carnivores and should have no need to consume grass nor does either species have the specialized system to digest grass. It simply passes through their systems. Yet most of us have witnessed our pets munching on our lawns at some time or another. So the burning question of the moment is: Why do our dogs and cats eat grass?
Truthful disclaimer: the dogs and cats are not talking so no one really knows, but below are some of the most plausible theories.
Theories to Chew On: Why Do They Eat Grass?
Our Pets are Nutritionists
World-renowned veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter says our dog’s and cat’s kibble/canned food diets are so low in nutritional value that our pets are desperately trying to ingest needed nutrients from an available source, grass, which is high in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is nutrient rich and can act as a detoxifier for the liver and digestive system and helps fight infections.
Which brings us to our second reason for grass eating: your pet may be feeling sick and instinctively realizes the healing and immune boosting properties of grass. Or if your pet is having digestive problems, the fiber in grass can act as a laxative, helping normalize the bowel. Often pets vomit soon after consuming grass, ridding themselves of hairballs or something inedible. Some observers think our pets eat grass as a method of purging internal parasites. All are interesting theories but unproven.
For the Thrill
Maybe your dog simply enjoys eating grass and your kitty likes it, too. If your pets are eating an all-cooked, dead food diet, the sensation of live food in their mouths may be an instinctive longing. The live enzymes may trigger ancestral sensations that are pleasurable. Some people have suggested that eating grass is an attention-getting ploy that our pets use so that we will notice them and react to them.
If you worry about your pet consuming pesticides along with their grass snack, you might want to add some chlorophyll-rich alternatives to their diet. A few suggestions would be parsley (high in vitamin A), cabbage (high in vitamin C and immune enhancing), green beans (high in vitamin A) and sugar peas (high in vitamin K). All should be very finely ground and fed intermittently.
Wild dogs and cats have been observed eating grass so the behavior may be perfectly normal though not fully understood at this time. For normal, healthy dogs and cats occasional grass eating is not worrisome. But please, if your cat or dog confides the secret for this curious behavior to you, share it with the rest of us and end the rampant speculation. Then again, maybe they just like to keep us guessing, the little darlings.
March is memorable for festive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, green beer and four-leaf-clovers. While I wouldn’t recommend feeding your pets beer or clover, there is a green food you might want to try instead: Green Mussels, also called Green-Lipped or Green-Shell Mussels (usually shortened to GLM). While humans can enjoy these tasty mollusks in our diets, so can our dogs and cats.
Functional and Tasty
Why feed your pet Green-Lipped Mussels, you ask? Usually given as a treat to our pets, this treat is called a functional treat. Functional treats have dual functions. First, they are palatable, hence they are a treat. But in addition to being a treat they have superior nutritional benefits, making them doubly valuable. The functional aspect of GLM is their high concentrate of omega-3 fatty acids and a unique fatty acid called eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA). ETA appears to have superior anti-inflammatory effects and is an immune modulator as well. Both are very effective against arthritic-type conditions.
GLM are also rich in chondroitin sulfate, an important structural component of cartilage. This combination of fatty acids and chondroitin helps ease pain associated with degenerative joint diseases and assists in building healthy joints. Yes, you read that right – GLM can reduce your pet’s pain and strengthen their joints at the same time. And without any of the harmful side-effects of NSAIDs which are commonly prescribed for arthritis in humans and pets.
We Prepare it for the Best Nutritional Value
The most effective way to consume GLM is in a freeze-dried form. This way the all-important fatty acids are not destroyed, and the other heat sensitive properties are not denatured. Northwest Naturals understands the crucial nature of keeping nutrients intact when freeze-drying. With years of experience in this technology, NWN has produced a healthy functional treat in our Raw Rewards freeze-dried Green Lipped Mussels. This slightly chewy treat is available in a 2 oz. portion bag that includes plenty of the lightweight mollusks. Freeze drying locks in the aroma, texture, and freshness that our pets crave and is the healthiest way to feed GLM. So, while we might sip a green beer this St. Paddy’s Day how about tossing your pet a Green Lipped Mussel treat! It’s a light-hearted way to keep them healthy and happy.
Lately, there has been ample publicity about the benefits of medicinal mushrooms for human usage but not nearly as much information is available for our canines and felines. First, we must acknowledge the difference between wild fungus species growing in the forest or in your backyard and medicinal mushrooms.Never let your pet consume mushrooms growing wild. Even if you can positively identify a fungus species as non-poisonous to humans, it may still be harmful to your pet. Please do not take a chance because the results could be fatal to your best friend.
Three Beneficial Mushrooms for Your Cat or Dog
However, medicinal mushrooms are a different story. These valuable fungi have been studied for centuries and their advantages are well documented. Three mushroom species that have been thoroughly researched and deemed extremely safe for canines and felines are: Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes).
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake, also called Hen of The Woods, is best known for its immune enhancing properties. That makes sense because these mushrooms are an outstanding source of vitamin D2, the sunshine vitamin. To increase the vitamin D2 content of any of the mushrooms you use, simply slice and place them gill-side-up under direct sunlight for a few hours. Maitake is a well-known anti-inflammatory that supports the immune system. This species has naturally occurring antioxidants, phenols, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid; all of which help protect against diseases. Maitake is a flavorful mushroom, semi-firm, chewy, aging to toughness.
Maitake is used for:
Support during chemotherapy and radiation treatments
Help with managing diabetes
Support for the liver
Regulating blood pressure
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi is called The Mushroom of Immortality for its life-extending properties. This species contains Zinc, Vitamin C, and Selenium, which fight free radicals and support healthy cells. Numerous clinical studies have verified that Reishi mushrooms have impressive anti-inflammatory effects and other broad health benefits, including energy enhancement. This mushroom has a bitter taste so is better suited for powder or supplement form.
Reishi can help:
Boost immune system
Increase cardiovascular function
Upper respiratory infections (viral)
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Shiitake mushrooms are well known for their anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-Candida effects. These powerhouse mushrooms stimulate white blood cell production and improve circulation. They are high in B vitamins, selenium, vitamin D2, pantothenic acid, and other helpful nutrients. Shiitake’s benefits include fighting infections and aiding bone health. This mushroom is tasty.
Shiitake is used for:
Reducing side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
Help in treating Cushing’s Disease
Lowering cholesterol levels
Improving cardiovascular health
Make Sure You Are Getting Quality Mushrooms
If possible, always use organically raised mushrooms that have been grown on a species-appropriate growing matrix (straw, wood, compost, etc.). Many mushroom products today are grown on grain which produces copious amounts of mycelium. Unfortunately, according to most mycologists, mycelium does not have the nutritional benefits of actual fruiting-body mushrooms, so investigate thoroughly before purchasing mushroom powders or capsules. Everyone wants an effective product when purchasing supplements: caveat emptor (buyer beware)! Capsules can be given by hand and powders can be sprinkled over food.
If you are going to feed your dog or cat whole mushrooms, you will find cooked rather than raw mushrooms are easier on their digestive systems. One easy way to feed your pet whole mushrooms is to make Mushroom Broth.
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, if using dehydrated milk soak until soft and then slice
Sauté in a pan with butter
Add 2 cups of water
Simmer for 20 minutes
Blend for a soupy consistency
You may add herbs to this broth for even more healthful benefits.
Give your pet 1 tablespoon per 25 pounds of body weight. Freeze leftover the amount in ice cube trays. One cube equals 2 tablespoons.
Medicinal Benefits Take Time
Remember that medicinal mushrooms work slowly. Most benefits will not be noticed before 1 – 3 months have passed, and those effects are often subtle. For example, you may notice a general sense of increased well-being or lessening of negative symptoms but be assured good things are happening internally. These three varieties of mushrooms are also considered to be nutraceuticals or medicinal foods. They are true adaptogens, generally safe for everyone, good at lowering stress, reducing infections, and working to balance hormones. Adding any one of these fungi to your pet’s diet may make the difference between average health to vibrant health and standard life expectancy to increased longevity. Explore medicinal mushrooms for your own pet. They might prove to be the powerful, nutrient-packed ingredient that improves your best friend’s life.
As soon as fall’s crisp days arrive and all through cold winters into chilly springs there is a large kettle of bone broth simmering on the back burner of my stove. The pot radiates some cozy kitchen warmth, my home smells yummy and most importantly I am creating a delicious and nutritionally rich food for myself and my dog.
Ember, my Australian Labradoodle, and I both love bone broth and it is truly a satisfying food. With an abundance of vitamins and minerals, high in amino acids and natural essential fatty acids bone broth is a valuable diet addition. This gelatin rich food is also loaded with collagen with all its health benefits. Beef is my staple broth ingredient followed by chicken and pork. I have not tried making fish bone broth yet but have heard good reviews.
Authentically made bone broth has been a staple in the diets of humans and animals through the ages. It is simple to make and the ingredients are inexpensive. However, in the 1950’s when convenience foods became popular, bone broth disappeared from most urban households. Recently it has been “rediscovered” and become a popular healthy food trend, first for people and second for their carnivorous pets.
Here are some of the claims made for bone broth:
Helps protect joints
May fight osteoarthritis
Reduces inflammation, boosts healing
Helps heal the gut
May aid sleep
Supports the immune system
Aids in weight loss
Supports healthy skin
Sounds like a super food, right? Yes, its nutrient profile is impressive, and those nutrients are easily absorbed…both very good features. But bone broth is not a miracle cure. What it does is boost your general health, especially in the areas listed above. Consider bone broth a soothing restorative drink, and if you or your dog feel some of those benefits, they will be a welcome bonus.
Make it! Drink it! Enjoy it!
My Favorite Bone Broth Recipe
1 lb. of bones from beef, poultry, pork, lamb, fish
4 cups cool water (cover an inch over bones)
1 -2 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 raw chicken foot for extra gelatin (optional, makes broth very thick)
1. Bake raw bones @ 385 oven for 1 hour to release flavor
2. If using cooked bones eliminate Step 1.
3. In large pot combine all ingredients, let stand for 30 minutes
4. Place pot on stove and bring to a boil
5. At boil, turn down heat and skim off froth floating on top
6. On very low heat simmer broth:
Beef, Pork, Lamb — 48 hours
Chicken – 24 hours
Fish – 8 hours
7. If adding vegetables, add to broth 1 hour before end of cooking
8. Remove pot from heat and take out bones
9. Strain remaining liquid for beautiful, clear bone broth
You can store broth in the refrigerator for up to five days and freeze for several months. Broth can be made in a crock pot or slow cooker with very good results in a shorter time. Vegetables and herbs make interesting flavor additions. Be aware that the vegetables of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) usually are not used as they can turn bitter during the long, slow cooking process.
My dog and I savor the warm goodness of bone broth every day. She loves it added to her raw diet, and I love to drink a cup of it each morning as an energy boost and at night relaxing before bed. Try this simple-to-make super food for yourself and your dogs and cats. At the minimum it will improve your sense of well-being and it may do a whole lot more. Bon Appetit!
Now, before you dismiss me as socially challenged, I’ll admit that the New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel may not be everyone’s idea of a perfect pal. However, this amazing shellfish has so many sterling qualities that after you read this article you may be tempted to befriend him, too.
Born and Raised Sustainably
Found in only one place in the world, the beautiful Ninety Mile Beach area in New Zealand, green-lipped mussels are a powerhouse of nutritional goodness. These mussels which can grow up to 9” have distinctive green edges on their shells and are highly prized for their unique healthful qualities. They are carefully and sustainably raised and harvested under the strictest NZ aquaculture standards. GLMs are rated one of the top two ‘eco-friendly seafoods’ in the world by the International Conservation Organization Blue Ocean Institute.
Are you starting to see the attraction? This mussel lives in one of the world’s most gorgeous locations, is big and colorful, deeply appreciated by New Zealanders and good for pets and humans alike. And we’ve not even touched on the real appeal yet. Drum roll: green-lipped mussels are an amazing joint support with NO side effects (unless you are allergic to shellfish when they should not be used).
Our Mussels vs. Prescription Drugs
If your dog is getting older and feeling pain from stiff joints, conventional veterinarians will probably want to prescribe NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These drugs can appear to alleviate symptoms, but they all have side effects such as serious liver, kidney and digestive complications that, in my opinion, negatively outweigh the benefits. And with long-term usage NSAIDs can make joint problems worse. We don’t want to do that to our pets or to ourselves!
Here is where our friend the green-lipped mussel has a distinct advantage over the NSAIDs. Not only does the GLM contain COX inhibitors (anti-inflammatory benefits) like the NSAIDs, but they have none of the drug’s side-effects, and some studies have shown GLMs help to reduce gastrointestinal irritation brought on by previous NSAID drug usage. So, if you have been giving your pets NSAID drugs, GLMs may help alleviate some of those adverse side-effects.
Green-Lipped Mussels Go Above and Beyond
GLMs have very high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and also contain eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA) which is unique to green-lipped mussels. ETA appears to be a superior COX inhibitor working on dual pathways in the body for added effectiveness. Plus, GLMs are loaded with sea-rich vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our pet’s health.
There is evidence that not only do GLMs aid in inflammatory conditions, they also help maintain young, healthy joints. Many people and their pets are taking GLMs as a preventative measure while their joints are still fully functional thus preventing eventual joint deterioration.
Your Friend is Our Friend
So, if you are interested in your joint health and your pet’s joints too, Green-Lipped Mussels are something you should consider trying. While you will probably ingest supplements your dogs and cats may enjoy Northwest Naturals Green Mussels treats. Correctly freeze-dried to retain all their beneficial components, these mussels can be given as individual treats or crumbled over food, whichever works best for your pet. They come in a 2 ounce package and are simply whole GLMs that have not been denatured by heating and whose nutrients are bioavailable to your dog or cat.
I have to admit that my true best friend will always be my dog, but if a Green-Lipped Mussel can help keep us both healthy and pain-free, well, that tasty little mussel has our gratitude and admiration, just before we eat them up. What a way to treat a friend!