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A new year means a new resolution for many of us. As you’re thinking of ways to better yourself, you should also consider the life and wellbeing of your pet. Would you feed a different food? Would you give your dog more exercised attention? Here are the top five steps to improve your dog’s health in one year, from Dogs Naturally Magazine:

1. Feed a Raw Diet

One of the best ways to immediately improve your dog’s health is to toss that bag of kibble in the trash and begin feeding a fresh, raw diet. There’s nothing magical about what’s in the raw diet, but more importantly is what’s not in it.

Kibble needs to contain at least 30% starchy carbohydrates to hold together. Some kibbles contain as much as 60% starch, and kibble manufacturers aren’t required to say how much is in the food. Starch is a problem for a few important reasons:

  1. Mycotoxins – Starch is a breeding ground for molds, which produce a by-product called mycotoxin. Mycotoxin can contaminate crops before they’re harvested or after your dog’s food is made. Mycotoxins are extremely harmful to your dog and one mycotoxin in particular, aflatoxin, is the most potent carcinogen (cancer-causing compound) found in nature. A 2015 study in Animal Feed Science & Technology found that nearly all pet foods were contaminated with mycotoxins.
  2. Antinutrients – Antinutrients are naturally occurring or man-made substances in food that can interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and with digestive enzymes. The most common sources of antinutrients include grains, beans, legumes, and nuts.
  3. Glycemic Load – The glycemic load of foods is an indication of how quickly it raises the blood sugar. A small, steady amount of carbs or starch in the diet is fairly harmless, but when large amounts are added, this can cause obesity and insulin resistance. Over time, your dog will become less sensitive to insulin and his pancreas will have to work harder to produce more insulin and can become exhausted, which can lead to pancreatitis and diabetes. Insulin resistance can also increase the risk of thyroid disease, obesity, and some types of cancer.

2. Replace Dewormers With Herbs

For most dog owners, tapeworms, whipworms or other parasites can mean a trip to the vet. Conventional chemical dewormers contain really harmful ingredients that can have dangerous side effects. Here are some of the most common:

  • Fenbendazole – can cause vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, inflammation, even death
  • Pyrantel – can cause vomiting, weight loss, depression, even death
  • Prazinquantel – can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, even death

Many of the most widely prescribed dewormers contain these ingredients in combination with other drugs, often making them even more risky. As a part of your plan to improve your dog’s health, you can skip these and replace them with herbs and other natural dewormers. Hopefully you’ll find a good holistic vet to help you out, but you can try these on your own to get started:

  • Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – Food grade DE can reduce the number of worms in your dog. Feed small dogs a teaspoon per day and dogs over 55 pounds up to a tablespoon per day. Make sure it’s well mixed in his food, as inhaling DE can irritate your dog’s lungs. You can pick up DE at your nearest Brookside Barkery.
  • Oregon Grape – Oregon grape is an anti-parasitic, so it’s a perfect natural dewormer. Give it as a tincture, using 12 drops per 20 pounds. It’s also an effective antibiotic and liver tonic. Note: Don’t give this herb to dogs with liver disease or to pregnant dogs.
  • Chamomile – Chamomile is great for preventing and getting rid of roundworms and whipworms. In glycerin tincture form, give 0.25 ml to .50 ml per 20 lbs of body weight twice daily, placed in your dog’s mouth or added to water.

Along with herbs, there are many foods you can give to prevent and get rid of worms. Remember that a healthy gut is unattractive to worms, so a raw food diet is a really good start in preventing them. Fermented veggies, pimpkin seeds, pineapple, papaya, grated carrots, watercress, fennel, and cucumber are all great ways to help your dog fight worms.

3. Replace Fish Oils with Healthier Oils

Although fish oils are loaded with healthy fats, fat is where fish and other animals store toxins… and oceans are becoming more and more polluted by the minute. Heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury can end up in fish oil, along with toxic compounds like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and furans. These can cause nervous system disorders, cancers, liver and kidney damage, and skin problems.

Instead of fish oil, try hemp oil. It’s a good Omega-3 oil if you feed your dog a diet made primarily of meat from ruminants (like beef, goat, lamb, bison, venison). To add help oil to your dog’s diet, give 1 tsp of hemp oil for every 1-1.25 lbs of food.

If you’re feeding poultry, hemp oil can lead to too much polyunsaturated fat in the diet, so you should choose something different. Options include flaxseed oil or chia seed oil plus canned sardines (in water or olive oil). Add 1 tsp of oil along with 1/4 can of sardines for every 1-1.25 pounds of lean chicken, turkey, or duck you feed.

Phytoplankton is also an excellent source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, along with important trace minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Phytoplankton is absorbed by the body as soon as it gets in your dog’s mouth, so it delivers key nutrients without your dog having to digest first.

Coconut oil is another healthy oil to add to your dog’s diet. It’s not an omega-3, but a medium chain fatty acid and has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It’s a good idea to rotate into your dog’s diet to help with skin issues, allergies, and immune support. We recommend giving up to 1 tsp per 10 pounds of body weight.

4. Feed the Gut (Not the Dog)

Bacteria that live in your dog’s gut form 80% of his immune system. These friendly bacteria also produce your dog’s vitamins, help him digest food and more. But these friendly little bugs can easily be damaged by starchy carbohydrates, which feed the harmful bacteria in the gut and crowd out the friendly bacteria colonies. Here’s how you can replace the friendly bacteria in your dog’s gut:

  • Feed Probiotics
    You can boost the number of good bacteria in your dog’s gut by adding a probiotic supplement, or adding probiotic foods such as fermented vegetables, raw goat milk, or kefir. Probiotics assist in digestive help by keeping the gut healthy and full of good bacteria.

Remember, when you introduce probiotics to your dog’s diet, it’s best to do it slowly. If your dog is new to probiotics, they can cause a die-off of the harmful bacteria, which could cause gas, loose stools, and stomach rumblings. Go slow if your dog has a history of digestive upset.

5. Avoid All Unnecessary Vaccines

Here’s an important tip. Most vaccines your dog gets are unnecessary!

Over-vaccination costs you more than just money, it can seriously harm your dog. Vaccine reactions are more common than you think, and they’re well documented. Vaccine damage can range from minor reactions (lethargy, hair loss) to moderate (chronic allergies, lameness, respiratory diseases), to severe (seizures, myocarditis, death).

And there’s actually no need to put your dog’s health at risk…

Research shows that core vaccines (parvovirus, distemper, and adenovirus) your dog gets as a puppy protect him for at least 7 to 1 years. That means he’s covered for most, or probably all of his life after his puppy vaccination. It also means that anything more than those first puppy shots is overkill, which means your dog is getting all of the risk and none of the benefit.

Even though your vet wants you to vaccinate your dog every year or every three years, there’s no research showing this is necessary. Nearly every dog who’s vaccinated at or after 16 weeks of age has been shown to be protected for life.

If you’re worried about skipping your dog’s vaccines this year, you can check to see if he’s protected before vaccinating. Ask your vet for a titer test, which is a blood test that measures the level of protective antibodies your dog has to certain diseases.

Getting a titer test is one of the most important things you can do to stop over-vaccination for your dog. Learn more about titer tests on Dogs Naturally.

Note: Some conventional veterinarians may charge much more than a vaccine cost for a titer test. Stop in the Barkery for information about affordable titer testing before paying hundreds of dollars for this simple blood test!

AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) vaccine guidelines have been updated to say a positive titer can replace vaccination for the core vaccines, so if your vet presses you to vaccinate, you can refer to these guidelines. Don’t just give in and vaccinate, your dog’s life might rely on that decision!

Start the year off right with these five simple changes. We can virtually guarantee they will seriously improve your dog’s health and reduce risk of disease!