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Episode 21: The link between diet and behaviour in dogs

00:00:33 Glenn:       Welcome back to Natural Health for People and Pets. I'm co-host of the show, Glen Cooke, and I'm going to introduce the host of the show. Narelle Cooke.  

00:00:40 Narelle:       Hello everyone.  

00:00:41 Glenn:       What's our topic for today?  

00:00:43 Narelle:        Really interesting today, a bit different. We are going to shift as much as I can away from health, and talk about behaviour and how what we're feeding our dogs impacts behaviour. 

00:03:12 Narelle:        I find this topic really interesting because when it does come to behaviour, not many people really think about diet and how that might be playing a role. I'm really happy to hear that there are dog trainers now that are incorporating diet as part of their overall dog training and dog behaviour modification programs.  

00:03:30 Glenn:        Well, Cana does it too.  

00:03:31 Narelle:       Yeah, the girls here are great.   

00:03:32 Glenn:       Cana and Kristen the girls from Canine Evolution, they're doing it under your guidance. I mean, they're coming to you and they're speaking to the clients about what are you eating, when did you last have a vet checkup, have you had a blood panel test? And then they're organising consults with you so you can crosscheck what's going on health-wise so we can rule out the biology issues before we get into the behavioural issues.  

00:03:58 Narelle:        Absolutely. And yeah, the girls do a great job with that. And it sounds cliche, but we literally are what we eat. And you know, what impacts mood and drives behaviour, whether it's us or our dogs, are biochemical processes in the body. And what drives these biochemical processes are the nutrients that come in from the foods that we feed our dogs day in and day out. So what this means is that pretty much everything we choose to feed our dogs, it's either going to directly or indirectly be affecting their biochemistry, their physiology, including the brain, which will ultimately impact on how they behave.  

00:04:31 Glenn:        That makes complete sense to me.  

00:04:33 Narelle:        It does and I really think it's important to bring it back to that biochemistry level because a lot of people might be aware, when it comes to human behaviour, that the main drivers are, you know, hormones and neurotransmitters. But we don't often think about that when we're thinking about how our dog's behaving. And the thing with hormones and neurotransmitters is, like I said, the end result or sort of their, along the way of biochemical pathways in the body. And you know, our body's just got hundreds of thousands of different biochemical pathways going on. But for those hormones and neurotransmitters to be made, they need what we term, you know, essential nutrient cofactors. So let's take an example. Serotonin is our calming neurotransmitter, for us and our dogs. But to get to serotonin, firstly we need to start off with the amino acid tryptophan, and then tryptophan needs to get converted to 5 hydroxytryptophan and then that gets converted to serotonin.  

00:05:29 Narelle:       But  to go from step A to B to C we need enzymes, and it's those enzymes that need certain nutrients like zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium. So if a dog's diet is deficient in any of those, then you are going to compromise the body's ability to make key neurotransmitters, key hormones that are going to impact their behaviour. That's a really simplistic overview, but it still covers the crux of how that works from a nutritional perspective. The other major connection point between what we're feeding our dogs and how they might be behaving is due to what's called the enteric nervous system. If we step back for a second, we think of the nervous system as one big umbrella term. The first breakdown of that is you've got the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and the spinal cord, and then you've got the peripheral nervous system, which is pretty much everything else other than the brain and spinal cord.  

00:06:25 Narelle:        And then the peripheral nervous system has lots of subcategories as well, one of which is the autonomic nervous system. So the enteric nervous system falls under the autonomic nervous system, along with things people might be familiar, particularly dog trainers, with the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. And just while we're on that and talking about diet for good health long-term, we really need to, and our dogs really need to be suspending most of their day in the parasympathetic dominant state. So that's considered our rest and digest state. But because of the world we live in, and I think it's just as applicable to our dogs as well, because you know, they do pick up on our energy and our mood and behaviour, is that most of us are living in that sympathetic nervous system dominant state. Again, most people will be familiar with that as the flight or fight response.  

00:07:12 Narelle:        Every analogy when it comes to fight or flight, it's all about running away from the lion. But our bodies seriously don't know the difference between, if we're stuck in peak hour traffic fighting road rage, or if we're literally running away from the lion. The physiological response in the cortisol response is the same. But what happens in terms of digestion when we're in that flight or fight response, the body considers that a threat to life. So it's going to prioritise all of those bodily functions that support life and it's going to minimise any bodily processes that aren't essential. So, and one of those that isn't considered essential when you are running away from a lion is digestion. So when we are in that sympathetic dominant state, or our dogs are in that sympathetic dominant state, digestion is shutting down. We're not producing as much gastric acid, we're not producing the enzymes. Blood flow is diverted from the gut to the muscles because we're not going to be sitting down and eating a meal when we are trying to survive.  

00:08:07 Narelle:        And this is why as humans, we shouldn't really be sitting down and eating a meal if you are upset or if you've just had an argument, because literally that food's just going to sit there like a heavy lump in your gut and not do you any favours. I digress with that but it's really important. The sympathetic nervous system and its effect on health and behaviour is really important. But coming back to the enteric nervous system, it governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract and actually links it to the central nervous system. The enteric nervous system is often referred to as the second brain. What this means is that every time we eat something, or every time our dog eats something, the enteric nervous system is sending messages to our brain, which affects our emotional state. So we know that food components communicate with our genome, with the genome of our microbiome. We know that diseases of the brain can impact gastrointestinal health and function. And we know that diseases or any dysregulation of the gut, particularly the microbiome, has been linked to mental illness such as things like depression and even neurodegenerative diseases. So there's an expression in the naturopathic world, which is ‘leaky gut, leaky brain’. So it's really, really important that what we are putting into our stomach does have a powerful impact on our brain and our mood. 

00:09:28 Glenn:       One of the areas that I've learned from you, and listening to other people who appear to know what they're talking about in these areas, including veterinarians, veterinary behaviourists, anybody worth their salt really in the industry talking about the impact on inflammation on the system.  

00:09:45 Narelle:        Absolutely. Inflammation now it's so widely accepted. It's pretty much the root cause of every disease state, whether it's physical, whether it's emotional. Like a lot of the mental health disorders now they're coming back to an inflammatory driver. And when it comes to our dogs, this is, I guess skipping ahead a little bit, you know, if you go back and listen to my episode on kibble, you'll learn that kibble by the very way it's manufactured, is a highly inflammatory food. And research is starting to come out now that supports that when dogs are fed a kibble based diet every day for their entire lives, it is having a significant impact, not only on their physical health in terms of you know, all the diseases that it can sort of contribute to, but also on their behaviour. And it doesn't even have to be overt. You know, a blood test is like red flagging problems. Even low grade subclinical inflammation can be impacting on health and behaviour and neurotransmitters. So there was some good research done in 2019 on the effect of low grade inflammation on neurotransmitter function and behaviour in humans. But like I said, it's just as applicable to our dogs as well.  

00:10:53 Glenn:        I really like that phrase that you used before. Leaky gut, leaky brain.  

00:10:57 Narelle:        Yeah, it's a good catchphrase. But it's true because what impacts one, like they're so linked, what impacts one is going to impact the other and it's bi-directional. Really important. So I guess what I might do to simplify things, 'cause this is a topic that I could literally talk for hours on, and I did a similar presentation recently for the International Association of Canine Professionals, which was an awesome conference that they held. Unfortunately it was virtual because of Covid, but it was a lot of great information presented. And when I originally put my presentation together, I had well over a hundred slides and I'm like, oh, I've only got an hour and a half. So I managed to pull it back to about 75. And so today it's going to be even more condensed. I'm really just going to touch on the key points that the average pet owner can take on board, think about, and just make some simple changes to what they're doing with their dog's diet.  

00:11:46 Glenn:        One of those things that they should be doing is downloading your course that you've got on how to read kibble brands and so forth.  

00:11:53 Narelle:        Yeah, how to understand commercial pet food labels. It's available on my website and it's like a really short two hour course, with lots of mini lessons on just how to understand every aspect of a label. How to interpret what the name means, what all the different words mean, the ingredients mean, any claims that really aren't regulated most of them and mean nothing. A really great place to start.  

00:12:16 Glenn:        Well it helps you do the work and helps you understand what you're actually putting into that mouth, and ultimately into that stomach that leads to the brain and the behavior of the dog. 

00:12:26 Narelle:        We touched on it before, but yeah, there's so many trainers now that are insisting that dogs come off kibble as part of the training program because of just how detrimental it is, and what a significant difference they see when they put dogs onto a raw food, or even a cooked food diet. Because of everything we're going to talk about today. 

00:12:44 Glenn:        Well look at the impact and the difference it's had on our own dogs with their energy levels, with their improvement in the problems that they've had with ears and all sorts of things in the past. 

00:12:54 Narelle:       Yeah. I don't know, have we spoken about Opie? Probably have before, but was it Oppi or Quincy? Opie because..  

00:13:01 Glenn:        Opie.  

00:13:02 Narelle:        Because you know, like everyone else, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. And you know, I used to feed all my dogs kibble and Opie used to be such a quiet, and well we used to call him our potato.  

00:13:14 Glenn:        So we still do.

00:13:16 Narelle:        We still do. But seriously, when we switched him to a raw food diet, within probably a week he just went from this sort of lethargic little potato that would sit in the corner, to like doing zoomies around the place. His whole personality picked up and now we've got this lunatic Frenchy.  

00:13:33 Glenn:        Well he is not really a lunatic, he's just happy. Like before he had nerve issues and all sorts of things where he was very mistrusting and used to…  

00:13:40 Narelle:        Vomit a lot.  

00:13:41 Glenn:        Yeah, he did, he used to projectile vomit. He'd go and eat and within probably 10 minutes he'd bring half of it or all of it up on the carpet. So there was a range of problems that he had, but one of them that was significant was he just seemed really withdrawn from everything. It was incredible to see the transformation within a very short amount of time. Once his diet had been corrected that was more suitable for him and his digestion. It changed his personality and it changed the joy that he actually had for life again. 

00:14:11 Narelle:        It was great to witness, you need to see it. So that's why I encourage all dog owners to try and make some of the changes I'm going to talk about today. Because once you see it, it's mind blowing and you wouldn't wanna not do that for your dog if you've got the opportunity.  

00:14:23 Glenn:       It’s kind of a shame that you and I don't video a lot of the things that we do with our dogs and there's people out there who video every movement of their day. From their bowel movements to the brushing their teeth to everything that they do. And you and I don't do that and don't get in the habit of it 'cause we're not really…  

00:14:39 Narelle:        Especially me, yeah,  

00:14:40 Glenn:        We're not really camera. Well, I mean I do some funny things on Instagram and so forth, but we just don't sort of document everything. But you know, some people show every single movement that's going on with their dog. But there are some significant things that have happened both in diet behaviour and training that really we should have documented to show people this has happened, and this is the before and after so they could actually see it themselves and bear witness to the work or whatever changed. 

00:15:09 Narelle:        Unfortunately, I was going to say, oh we can do that with the next dog. But with any dogs we get now they're all going to be on a species appropriate raw food diet from the very beginning. So we're not going to have that before and after. So if we just start with protein, many pet parents might be surprised to hear that the majority of commercial kibbles, particularly a lot of the supermarket brands that are bordering on being vegan dog foods, they really don't contain much animal protein at all. And if you do my online course on understanding commercial pet food labels, you'll get a really good insight into how that can actually be the case and the protein that is there, most of it's coming from cheap sources like soy and corn and gluten meal. And the problem with that is that then they have a lower biological value because they don't contain all of the essential amino acids that our dogs need.  

00:15:55 Narelle:        But they also have a lower digestibility, which is why a lot of companies have to add back in synthetic amino acids so our dogs basically don't die. But there was a really interesting study done, and it assessed the protein levels in several mainstream puppy kibble formulas and it found that only 75% of the protein that was listed in the guaranteed analysis was actually available for the pup to absorb and utilise at a physiological biochemical level. So what that meant was the pups were consuming less protein than what AAFCO recommend as the minimum level required for normal development in puppies. So that's really scary.  

00:16:36 Glenn:        That's terrible. That's not scary. That's abominable. 

00:16:39 Narelle:        Yeah, because most of those minimums are set to prevent disease. So if you're not even hitting the minimums for normal puppy growth and development, then yeah, I mean puppyhood, it's such a critical time for growth and development. And aside from the more obvious effects of insufficient protein, things like reduced muscle mass, poor growth, cartilage and bone issues. Inadequate protein has been associated with shortening of the gastrointestinal villi. So the villi are these little finger light projections in the small intestine which enormously increase the surface area of the gut, which means our dogs can maximise absorption of the nutrients that are coming in from the diet. So if those villi are compromised, automatically you're reducing the amount of nutrients that your dog can actually absorb. So it's not what we eat, it's what we absorb. You can eat the best diet in the world but if you're not absorbing any of it then you know, you might as well be eating cardboard.  

00:17:35 Narelle:       Insufficient protein is associated with reduced organ weight, particularly the brain, thinning of the myelin sheath, disruption of endocrine function, so they are  hormone generating organs, and behavioural and learning defects. So these puppy dog kibbles, the dogs weren't even getting the minimum protein that they needed from them for normal growth and development, so all of those issues could potentially happen to those dogs. So if you are feeding like a standard kibble, one of the best things that you can do is to add in some real whole food sources of quality protein. And it doesn't have to be complicated. Things like eggs, you might add an egg two or three times a week to your dog's food, muscle meats, things like beef mince, chicken, turkey. If pet owners are comfortable they can add in some chicken hearts or some organ meats like liver and kidney.  

00:18:24 Narelle:        I mean you can get all of those from the supermarket. It doesn't have to be anything crazy, all really easily accessible. Canned sardines are really cheap and easy, just drain off the fluids that's going to be adding some quality protein. So there's really no excuse if you don't want to go down the whole raw food feeding, or even cooked whole foods. Adding in some human quality protein sources is going to have enormous benefit for your dog. So that's protein. Really important fundamental macronutrient for our dogs. So the next nutrient category is carbohydrates. And unlike protein, carbohydrates aren't essential for our dogs. There are times when it can be beneficial for our dogs to have higher levels of carbs, but the problem is that most kibble contain between 30 and 60% carbohydrates where dogs will naturally select a diet that's around 7% carbs. And you know, studies have shown wolves will select a diet that's around 1% carbs and whatever the source of the carbohydrate, ultimately it's broken down into glucose or sugar in the body.  

00:19:21 Narelle:       And because kibble’s so highly refined, and it's the same with human diets. The more processed a carbohydrate is, the more rapidly it's absorbed by the body and the greater glucose or blood sugar spike it creates. And some researchers have now described how this sugar high, because that's really what it is, can manifest in dogs as hypersensitivity to normal everyday stimuli. It can lead to uncooperative and disobedient behaviour and just a general hyperactivity and lack of focus. So you know how many dogs out there that are displaying all of those behaviours, and it could simply come back to they're having a sugar high from their high carb diet. But whenever blood glucose levels spike, that's a dangerous position for the body to be in. So it's counterbalanced by insulin release, which pulls the blood glucose down, but often it drops to even lower than baseline. And again, researchers are starting to show that this can lead to dogs becoming lethargic, moody, nervous, irritable. And it's not that it'll be every dog. Some people are much more sensitive to blood glucose fluctuations than others. I mean you and I are a classic example. We could both have a high carb meal and you could probably go another like six hours and feel completely fine, whereas an hour later I'm getting moody and I can't concentrate and I'm getting hangry.  

00:20:45 Glenn:        Yes, I'm very aware of that. Hence how we have to carry the emergency protein bar in your bag.  

00:20:50 Narelle:        Yeah, we used to before we got locked down in Covid for 2 years almost. We don't go anywhere anymore. But yeah, whenever we used to leave the house, if it was going to be more than three hours, I needed to have like a stash of protein in my bag so I didn't get hangry. in let  

00:21:03 Glenn:       And let everybody know about it.  

00:21:04 Narelle:        And unpleasant to be around. The same situation can happen in some dogs so it's definitely worth considering. And the other issue with carbs, especially those containing gluten and wheat's the main one that you're going to find in dog food in that regard. But it triggers the release of zonulin, which is just a compound in the body. But the sole role of zonulin is to increase what's called the gap junction in the gastric mucosa. So in the cells lining our guts and our dog's guts, they should be nice and closely packed together, but zonulin causes them to come apart and leads to what most people will know as leaky gut. So this whole situation of leaky gut, and gluten sensitivity has been linked to dozens of diseases including impaired brain function, learning disabilities and just general behavioural changes. So one of the big problems from the proteins that are in the gluten molecule, is that once they get into the bloodstream, it's like anything that shouldn't be in the blood.  

00:21:57 Narelle:        Once it gets into the blood because of a leaky gut situation for example, the body sees whatever it is as a foreign invader and will mount an immune response. So the problem with gluten is, well the problem with gliadin which is a component of gluten, is that it really closely resembles the thyroid tissue. So if you think about whether it's us or our dogs, if you're eating a really high gluten containing diet day in and day out, and you've got a leaky gut and that gliadin proteins, you know lots of it's in the bloodstream, day in and day out and the body's just constantly mounting an immune response to try and get rid of it. It's inevitable that the body's accidentally going to attack its own thyroid tissue because it looks so similar to the gliadin molecule. So that can then trigger autoimmune thyroiditis, and the research around thyroid dysfunction and behaviour is huge.  

00:22:49 Narelle:       Most people when they think of an underactive thyroid, they think of weight gain and lethargy and dry skin and a poor coat. Humans and dogs are very similar in that regard. But with underactive thyroid in dogs, some of the symptoms might be unexplained aggression, which is a lot of the work I do with Canine Evolution girls, the trainers here. So unexplained aggression, anxiety, hyperactivity, phobias, and just generally erratic behaviour. So most people wouldn't think of testing thyroid hormones when their dog's presenting with spontaneous unexplained aggression or any of those other symptoms that I mentioned. 

00:23:24 Glenn:        That’s the T4 marker isn't it?  

00:23:26 Narelle:        Yeah, in Australia they really just test T4. over in the States with, I think it's Dr. Jean Dodds, they do one of the most comprehensive thyroid panels because for  Jean Dodds, thyroid is such a big thing. She's written a whole book on it. It's really great. I think it's called the thyroid epidemic. So you should Google it people and if that's something you're interested in, or suspect might be a problem for your dog. So there are other thyroid markers and ideally, you know, you would get everything to see a full picture but just testing T4, at least it can give you a bit of an insight as to whether it's sort of part of the problem. And if T4 is normal, then you could probably just assume that it's not playing a part, the thyroid's not playing a part in the behavioural problem.  

00:24:05 Narelle:        Definitely worth checking. I know this is off the behaviour thing, but the other thing I see a lot of with gluten kibble that are very high in cereal grains that contain gluten, is that it's also been linked to IgE allergic reaction. So IgE is like a true allergy in dogs, it can promote histamine release from Mast cells. So you know, that's what causes our dogs to have that red itchy skin and ear issues and even inflammatory bowel disease, which is really common in a lot of dogs too. So that's sort of the carbohydrate picture. But when it comes to carbs, I'm certainly not anti carbs because not all carbs are created equally. There's lots of research around the benefits of adding plant matter into both our diets and our dog's diets, particularly for senior dogs. So when we're talking about behaviour in diet, the brain, it's extremely vulnerable to what's called oxidative damage.  

00:24:54 Narelle:       So, that's where free radicals, you know, these little molecules that zoom around the body and damage our cells, damage the DNA within the cells. And they can cause the death of our brain cells and our dog's brain cells. And this can lead to reduced cognitive function and changes in behaviour. So senior and geriatric dogs, they often display what's called canine cognitive dysfunction, which is pretty much equivalent to our Alzheimer's disease. But it can manifest as impaired learning and memory, so you know a lot of people say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, well not always the case. Increased anxiety, disorientation, a reduced ability to interact socially, house soiling, destructive behaviours and disturbances in sleep patterns, they're all really common symptoms for dogs, like older dogs that are suffering this canine cognitive dysfunction. But lots of emerging research shows that feeding these older dogs a diet rich in antioxidants that comes from our fruits and vegetables can actually counteract the effects of that free radical damage on the brain, and lead to reduced decline in cognitive function and improvements in all of those behaviours. Every time I read papers around, I don't know, I've got a soft spot for old dogs who doesn't. But whenever I read those papers around, you know how senior dogs, just by having fruits and veggies added to their diet can literally make a significant difference to how they're feeling, and how they're behaving. I love it, it just makes me smile every time. Because it just gives me so much hope that so many people just write off our senior dogs as, oh well… 

00:26:26 Glenn:       They’re old, it's just their time.  

00:26:27 Narelle:        Can't train them. You know, it's inevitable they're going to get sick and diseased and all of that. But it's not inevitable. It's just what society has come to accept with old age because it's usually the end result of a lifetime of bad diet, whether it's us or our dogs.  

00:26:40 Glenn:        Yeah. It's kind of the same when people enter retirement homes when they're getting into more of that elderly palliative care sort of situation. If you've seen some of the diets that they give them there, it's just cereals and porridges. 

00:26:53 Narelle:        Tea and toast is how it's described.  

00:26:55 Glenn:       Yeah, tea and toast. 

00:26:56 Narelle:        Which is certainly not conducive to good physical, let alone mental health.  

00:27:01 Glenn:       Well I think the tea would probably be okay.  

00:27:03 Narelle:       Well tea has antioxidants. But looking at the carbohydrate category, it's really easy for pet owners to incorporate some plant matter. So like with the protein, it doesn't have to be complicated. You might want to start by just giving your dog some of the leftover veggies that the kids don't want to eat. Some broccoli and zucchini, or whatever it is, brussels sprouts, you know, all of those would be great additions to a dog's diet, some fruit. You know, I just bought a couple punnets of blueberries so no doubt when Glen's eating the blueberries he'll be throwing the dogs a blueberry or two. And little things like that can really make a difference to a dog's health and their behaviour. And so it doesn't have to be complicated.  

00:27:41 Glenn:       I agree.  

00:27:42 Narelle:        So we've sort of spoken about protein and carbs, if we move on to fats now. Fats really are fundamental when it comes to the brain and the body and absolutely have a significant impact on the behaviour of our dogs, because the brain is 60% fat, so we need lots of good fats in our dog's diets for brain structure and function for hormone production. All of our hormones are pretty much based on cholesterol. So it's not good to have too high cholesterol, but you also don't want to have too little either, we need that for our hormones. Our dogs need a lot of good fats for just the integrity of cell membrane. So if you think about every single cell in the body has what's called a bilipid layer, two layers of fat that move across each other. And we need those lipid bilayers to be really fluid and flexible to get all the nutrients into the cells and to get the metabolic waste products out of the cells, and you know, for our neurotransmitters to be able to communicate with each other, really important from that aspect. But our dogs also need good fats for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Things like vitamin A, D, E, and K and they're particularly important for immune function. 

00:28:52 Glenn:       You've always got to have that caveat around fats that people understand, that there are essential fats and there are trans fats, which are terrible for human consumption and for animal consumption as well.  

00:29:03 Narelle:       There absolutely are good fats and bad fats, and it's really unfortunate. Maybe the whole keto movement’s changed a lot of people's perception of fats in the human nutrition world. But you know, so many, and I have to say women in particular still have this fat phobia in their diets. And you know they think, if I can by eating low fat it's going to keep them slim and healthy, and it's the complete opposite that is true. It took me, I don't know how old I was, probably took me till I was 30 to flick that switch of my twenties fat phobia, and I started embracing fats. And the ironic thing is, as soon as I embraced fats, I kind of remember it's been years since the day has gone by where I haven't had a minimum of like at least half an avocado. You know, I have lots of nuts and seeds in my diet but once I started embracing fats, like my weight has been the most stable ever.  

00:29:52 Glenn:        But that's the thing, right? I think people are conditioned to hear the word fat and it triggers an alarm bell in their head. So when they hear it, it has this intrinsic reactive state where you think, oh fats are bad. I've always been told that eating fat makes you fat.  

00:30:06 Narelle:       Yeah and like I said, hopefully most people understand that's not the case anymore. Sugar makes you fat and bad fats are not healthy, but good fats are absolutely fundamental for everything that I've just mentioned for our dogs, you know, for us as well. For regulating appetite hormones, hormones generally, skin health, gut health, yeah we need fats. Don't be afraid of fats. So most dogs probably do get enough fats in their diet, but you know there are some dogs that have had chronic pancreatitis and actually need to be on a super low fat diet for their entire lives. So that can become a problem for those dogs. And the other thing with fats is, that most dogs' diets, like us, 'cause you know dogs nutritionally reflect a lot of the bad habits we have as humans with our diets.  

00:30:50 Narelle:        But most dogs' diets are disproportionately high in what's called omega 6 fatty acids, relative to omega 3 fatty acids. So in a really generalised explanation, omega 6 fats are basically pro-inflammatory and can contribute to chronic disease, and omega 3 fats have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. And the reason why dogs' diets tend to be so disproportionately high in omega 6 fats is because a lot of the ingredients in kibble, things like corn and soy and the vegetable oils, they're all really high in omega 6 fats. So what we need to do to counterbalance that in our dog's diet, so again, if you've got a dog on a standard kibble, chances are they're getting way too much omega 6. If you feed a lot of chicken, chicken is actually disproportionately high in omega 6 as well, and because chicken's so cheap, a lot of people who do feed raw, probably feed a lot more chicken than is ideal.  

00:31:44 Narelle:       But the best way to counterbalance that in either instance, is to add in some omega 3 sources of fat. So the best sources are the marine sources. So things like our fatty fish, salmon, sardines, mackerel, are like really easy to source examples there. And the reason the marine sources are so important is because they're directly providing those active constituents EPA and DHA, which are doing the good work. So the EPA and the DHA are what have the anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Whereas you know, a lot of pet owners will add in things like chia seeds, and flax seeds and you know, other nuts and seeds into their dog diets as a source of omega 3 fats. And it's true that they are, but they're actually providing what's called alpha linolenic acid, which is the base omega three fat in the body.  

00:32:32 Narelle:       And like we spoke about earlier with the neurotransmitters, there's these biochemical pathway so that alpha linolenic acid needs to get converted up the biochemical pathway until it finally reaches EPA and DHA. Unfortunately for our dogs, and to us to an extent as well, the research has shown once dogs have passed weaning, they can't convert the enzyme that's needed to convert that alpha linolenic acid into EPA and DHA. It just doesn't work anymore. And for humans it's only about anywhere from 5 to 15% efficient, based on what source you're reading. So things like flax and chia and nuts and seeds, they're awesome. Don't not put them in your dog's diet, because they are providing lots of essential trace nutrients. Things like zinc and manganese and selenium, which are really, really critical for our dogs' immune systems, their joints and ligaments and tissues and just overall health.  

00:33:22 Narelle:        But don't rely on them as a source of EPA and DHA. So if you've got a dog you know, with let's say arthritis that really needs a high anti-inflammatory diet, you need to be adding in marine sources, and you probably need to supplement with a fish oil. I love Antinol Rapid, so that's a combination of krill and green-lipped mussel. But I do also use and sometimes need to recommend  a regular sort of omega 3 fish oil as well. But the thing is when it comes to fish oils, regardless of whether it's krill, green-lipped mussel, you know, regular fish oil quality matters. This is one of my soapbox topics when it comes to fish oil because I cringe when I see what's out there on the market and what people are giving to their dogs and themselves as well.  

00:34:05 Narelle:        So if you are, let's say a lot of people with dogs prefer to give a liquid omega 3 product because it's easier to dose and dispense. But if you are buying a large tub of liquid fish oil in a plastic tub, I mean that's terrible because one fish oil is not one of these things you want to economise on by buying bulk. As soon as you open that bottle or turn that pump, 'cause a lot of the big bulk animal fish oils, omega 3 products have those pump heads on them, that oil's starting to oxidise and go rancid. So giving your dog rancid fish oil is far worse than not giving them any fish oil at all. And the other thing with liquid fish oils in plastic tubs, is plastic. Even though it's not perceivable and it's not going to be like leaking oil out of it, it's still porous to some degree.  

00:34:50 Narelle:        So if that container is in, you know, been sitting on a shelf for a long time, or sitting in your cupboard for a long time, it is breathing. So for me, I always recommend to clients if they're going to use a liquid fish oil, buy it in a brown, dark amber glass bottle, and just buy small amounts. And whatever fish oil you buy, I don't care what it says on the label, keep it in the fridge. Most, I mean most say refrigerate after opening, but absolutely to me not negotiable, you need to refrigerate fish oils. The capsules are less prone to oxidation than the liquids but they still can easily oxidise. And the other potential risk with fish oils when it comes to quality is that they contain a lot of heavy metals. They contain a lot of persistent organic pollutants and like all these other toxic compounds because our oceans are so contaminated these days.  

00:35:38 Narelle:        And if you are just buying a bulk tub from a local discount shop at bargain basement prices, chances are they haven't spent the money to remove those heavy metals and those toxic compounds. That's why I'm so particular about the fish oils I use for my human clients and my dog clients. So I will only use a practitioner only branded oils. The reason for that is I know I can ring their tech support and say, hey, email me the third party report that shows me that there's no toxins or heavy metals in this product, and I can have that within minutes. So I love that piece of mind, because again, you know giving your dogs toxic compounds and heavy metals and rancid fats is not doing them any favours. And I don’t know if I've said this before in this show, but there are some naturopaths, if they're dealing with humans with serious health issues, particularly cancers, who are immunocompromised or couples that just are really struggling to conceive…  

00:36:34 Narelle:       so a lot of fertility issues. Those naturopaths will point blank say, do not consume anything that comes out of the ocean because of how contaminated the ocean and anything in it is. So I mean that's pretty full on. I feel like we've gone off track again with the quality issue, but it's really important to be aware of the quality while we're talking about fats in terms of behaviour. There's lots of evidence now for both people and dogs to suggest that omega 3 deficiency may be associated with mood and behavioural disorders and a lot of research done on puppies, because DHA, which only comes from marine sources, is absolutely crucial for optimal neurological development in puppies. Studies have shown that when they supplement the diet of puppies with a pure DHA, it leads to improvements in learning behaviour and trainability.  

00:37:23 Narelle:        There was a really interesting study on German Shepherds done just over 10 years ago that showed that aggressive dogs actually had lower blood levels of DHA and a higher ratio of that omega 6 to omega 3 than non-aggressive dogs. Now I always say, well, well I always think well, that's just one study and I haven't seen anything that that's replicated it, but it's still really interesting and it's still I think really important for dog owners, where aggression is an issue to consider something like supplementing, you know, a high quality, high strength EPA, DHA product. Because one, it's not going to hurt and if it could potentially help then why wouldn't you? I mean, it's such a cheap and safe option to try with our dogs. But you wouldn't do that exclusive to getting a professional trainer to come in and work with you as well if you're dealing with aggression.  

00:38:11 Glenn:       Well, I think it's the combination of all of the above.

00:38:14 Narelle:        Absolutely. But I just realised that I'm saying if you try fish oil for aggression, it may help, but it's never one thing. You do need to consider the bigger picture of what else might be going on. It's like with humans with behavioural disorders if they're on an antidepressant medication for example. But there's really good evidence to show that antidepressants work better with talk therapy and work even better when certain nutrients are supplemented alongside it. So it's the combination. 

00:38:45 Glenn:        I agree. I think it all compliments each other. It's a round table handshake that needs to assist each other.  

00:38:50 Narelle:        Absolutely. And just another study while we're talking about fats, is with senior dogs again, this is one of my happy studies with senior dogs is that just adding in some MCT oil. Most people might be familiar with the medium chain triglyceride oil, which comes most often from coconut, and it's available in the supermarkets. Just adding some MCT oil into the diets of senior dogs with that cognitive dysfunction led to significant improvements in their learning, their trainability, their mood, they were less anxious, they were more social. So again, really awesome outcomes. And I guess rounding things up a little bit, I mentioned at the beginning that there's lots of research and evidence that highlights, you know, that powerful link between the gut microbiome and the brain, and our mood and behaviour. So making sure that our dogs are getting a really wide variety of different whole foods, that includes prebiotics and probiotics is also going to be really important.  

00:39:43 Narelle:       Not just for their health, but also for their overall behaviour. So when we are talking about prebiotics, they're just a type of fibre that feeds the bacteria in our dogs' large intestines. By doing that, it leads to the creation of metabolites called short chain fatty acids and they actually act to reduce inflammation in the body. They promote better gut health and basically reduce disease risk overall. And that's the same with us as it is with our dogs. So things that you might want to try and add into your dog's diet, asparagus. Most people don't think of adding asparagus to their dog's diet, ust lightly steaming or sauteing of asparagus is a really awesome source of prebiotics. Mushrooms, bananas, apples, sweet potato, oats, flax, flaxseed. So they're all really dog appropriate sources of prebiotics. Then when it comes to probiotics, the research is super clear that diversity is key.  

00:40:35 Narelle:        So the more diverse the microbiome, the better health overall and the lower disease risk, again for humans and dogs. So probiotic rich foods that you might wanna consider giving your dog. Things like kefir, sauerkraut, plain sugar-free yogurt, usually like a Greek pot set yogurt, kombucha. Or you might just do a probiotic supplement with those fermented foods, things like sauerkraut and kefir and kombucha. You do need to start small and build up. If you just dump a heap of those into your dog's food, chances are, they're going to get very bloated and very gaseous and uncomfortable and probably get loose stools as well. So starting small amounts, building up. And you know, with probiotic supplements, I always recommend that people rotate through them. So when you finish one bottle, buy a different brand with a different variety of bacterial strains in it because every bacteria has its own health benefit.  

00:41:28 Narelle:       So unless someone is targeting a specific health problem that requires a specific strain of probiotic, you really are better just getting those multi-strain, high strength, multi-strain formulas and just rotating through them as you go. I think we'll leave it there. That's a lot of information, but it's also a lot of really simple tips that you can start doing today to help with your dogs, not only their health but their behaviour. And I mean, I'm always going to say that a raw food diet is the best diet that we can give our dogs, particularly if there's behavioural issues, or even like a fresh whole food cooked diet would be like the next step. If that's something you're not comfortable with doing yourself, that's fine. You don't have to spend hours in the kitchens, preparing your dog's food every week. There's some great commercial options out there now for both raw and cooked foods.  

00:42:18 Narelle:        And you know, I'm a big fan of Big Dog because of the variety that they have. It caters to every taste preference that dogs have and you know, fat level and calorie level. So you might just start by incorporating some of those commercial raw patties in addition to kibble and just slowly try and wean out the kibble. Again, this is particularly if you have dogs with behavioural issues, and do that for a few months and just while you're getting the trainers in and working on that aspect. And I think people will really be surprised at the difference that it can make.  

00:42:48 Glenn:        Absolutely. And if you're going to choose something like a commercial raw pattie like we did when we went on our journey to do it, just make sure you check the transparency and the backup that you actually get from them. Which again was something that Narelle extensively did. And that's why we chose to have Big Dogs as a sponsor, primarily because, A we looked into it, B we had good people in the industry who were highly recommending it as well, who'd been to their factory and researched it, which was Brittany Young. People that we trust and people we acknowledge are right up there have already gone out there and sought out the information that we needed to get back. And when Narelle went and looked at it for herself, she came back and said, yep, this is what we want to give our dogs. This is the grade and the care that a commercial food can actually offer us without losing integrity.  

00:43:33 Narelle:        And I know I give kibble a hard time, you know a lot of the time. But within the raw food world as well, because it's becoming such a popular way to feed our dogs, there are people in the raw food feeding world, like commercially, that aren't doing the right thing by our dogs. And you know, a while ago now, I was asked to support a particular company and brand and when I looked at their ingredient list, there was absolutely, and this was like a food marketed for puppies, for adult dogs, but there was absolutely no source of calcium in their meals. I mean, giving that to a puppy, I was just like, there's no words. I was so shocked to read that and to learn that, I confronted the company about it and they've since changed their formula. But there was a long period of time where that company was selling food to puppies with no calcium. And the detrimental effect of that on the long-term health of those dogs is just so upsetting to think about. You need to be careful, you need to do your due diligence even when it comes to commercial raw companies as well, which again is why we go back to Big Dog. So I think we'll leave it there.  

00:44:33 Glenn:        Before we do wrap up though, you've got a few products that have been successful for you that we've talked about over a couple of episodes. Talk about that and then we can wrap up the show.  

00:44:42 Narelle:        The Vet Activ8 range has been hugely popular. They've got two turmeric based products. One's a powder that contains rosehip and the pepper as well, to really optimise absorption and get the most ban for your buck out of that turmeric. And then they've got an even more potent liquid curcuminoid blend. It's got seven different curcuminoids in it. I find that particularly beneficial for dogs with severe inflammatory states and joint issues. So you know, our Frenchy Ladybug with the spinal condition and like she was a perfect candidate for the liquid version because you pop it in the mouth and it gets absorbed through the capillaries in the mouth and bypasses digestion. And to know why that's important, go back and listen to my episode on the difference between turmeric and curcumin. And my liquid herbal range is just going through the roof. So there's the Pure Milk Thistle and if you want to hear about the amazing health benefits of Milk Thistle for dogs, just jump onto Dr. Karen Becker or Rodney Hibbs pages because they just don't stop highlighting. It's just what every dog literally needs for every day of its life given the world we live in. So that's really popular. And my mushroom elixir is super popular, so that's a great one for any dogs, particularly with cancer. But any chronic illnesses or immune deficiencies or that's struggling to recover after surgery, but lots of different blends on the website, so you can sort of scroll through and see if there's something that suits you.  

00:46:07 Glenn:        Turkey Tail has just exploded through the industry.  

00:46:10 Narelle:        Yes, Turkey Tail is in my mushroom elixir, so as of next week I will be also selling a Pure Turkey Tail through my website shop, so naturalhealthandnutrition.com au to access both the Vet Activ8 range and the liquid herbal tonics. And again, Dr. Karen Becker said that Turkey Tail is probably the most important thing that you can give your dog generally for health and wellbeing. If you don't find something that you think fits your dog when you look through the shop, just gimme an email. I have lots of people that send me…  

00:46:41 Glenn:       Bespoke requests.  

00:46:42 Narelle:       Yes. I make up custom blends and you know, I get some really interesting situations that dogs are in that requires custom herbal blending. So that's all possible. I just need to know about it. So shoot me an email if that sounds like it might be for you.  

00:46:54 Glenn:        And it's one thing to order it, but I guess the side that compliments it is the backup there where people are writing back to you and saying it's been transformative, it's had an amazing effect on the dog. And that's really what you want to hear. You don't wanna hear that people are just listening to a podcast and getting talked into buying a product. What we actually want to hear is that it's actually working, and it's having an overall holistic effect on the dog. People are sending Narelle amazing information back, which she comes in and shows me and says, oh look what such and such has said, and this dog's benefiting and this it's changed behaviour, or this one's had a health change. And that's why Narelle's doing this. It's not just to sell products and try and make a little cash off the side. It's actually to help pet owners and their dogs live their best life. So talk to her. You can get a lot of information. She backs it up. Narelle's always looking at the science behind it rather than just the woo. So it's not just something that makes her feel good, she actually needs to know that it's scientifically backed as well.  

00:47:49 Narelle:        Yeah. And I must say it does make my day when I get stories back on, you know… 

00:47:55 Glenn:        Testimonials.,  

00:47:55 Narelle:        That's the word. Testimonials, just makes my heart sing. That sounds really cheesy, but it does. I can't stop grinning because it's literally to change the quality of life for a dog is just so rewarding, which is why I do what I do as you said. If you want to get in contact with me, it's narelle@naturalhealthnutrition.com.au, or jump onto my website, naturalhealthandnutrition.com.au. There's the Facebook page, Natural Health for People and Pets. So if you've got any questions…  

00:48:20 Glenn:        And Instagram.

00:48:21 Narelle:       Oh yeah,I'm really bad at Instagram, but I'm on there, I'm going to get better. So watch that space too. Otherwise, that's the show for today.  

00:48:29 Glenn:     Goodbye everyone.  

00:48:30 Narelle:       Thanks everyone. Bye. 

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