Mimi is ready for her lunch
When thinking about your best buddy’s health, digestion is the first thing to consider. Their ability to digest and absorb what they eat is the critical first step to nutrition and health.
Health begins in the gut. Your dog has a short digestive system, so it only takes about 8 to 9 hours for food to go from teeth and tongue to tail.
But before his food ever goes into his greedy little mouth he has to smell it and he must like the smell. Dogs can out-sniff you a million to one. No kidding, a dog literally has between 120 million to more than a whopping 220 million scent cells, depending on the breed. As mere humans, we have only about 5 million scent cells. And these canine super sniffers can store smells in their brains like we store data on a computer. Their heightened sense of smell helps with their more limited sense of taste. Our canine buddies have only about 1,700 taste buds enabling them to taste sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. We humans have about 9,000.
It seems the stronger the smell, the better dogs like it. Commercial dog food companies have understood this and have taken advantage by spraying fat smells and smoky scents directly onto kibbles, tricking dogs and dog parents. If you knew what some of these kibbles were made from, you probably would not buy them for your pet. And without the fat smell and added scents, your dog probably would not eat them.
Unlike humans who savor a good steak by chewing it thoroughly, when dogs think something smells good and tastes good, they tear it apart and swallow it in as few bites as possible. Their incisors teeth cut the meat, and the back molars crush. Canines do not chew their food, like humans, because their jaws never go sideways they only move up and down.
The saliva in a dog’s mouth does not have any enzymes that help break down food. But do have an enzyme in their mouth known as lysozyme. Lysozyme kills bad bacteria. That’s why our sweet little angles can eat something rotten off the street not get sick.
Strong enzymes and stomach acids in the canine stomach digest raw chunks of meat and bones, turning food into chyme (a semi liquid mass of partially digested food.) The chyme passes from the stomach through the pyloric sphincter into the duodenum, where it then is passed on to the small intestines. There, the food is broken down even further so that it can be absorbed into the intestine wall and into the blood stream, feeding the nutrients to the body. By the time the chyme arrives in the large intestines, most of the nutrients have been absorbed and the waste is then eliminated.
When talking about digestion we can’t leave out friendly bacteria. They are a big part of the equation. Our dogs need to have a garden of friendly flora in their little guts to insure they are healthy. These friendly little bacteria support the immune system, help protect against food allergies, and may help with eliminating joint pain. They also may prevent ear infections, and itchy skin usually caused by yeast. They can also improve digestion and help normalize bowel movements. These friendly bacteria have about a thousand other tasks they perform in the body from building “B” vitamins to protecting against bad bacteria. I use Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics for my Canine kids. They are a little expensive but well worth it for my little treasures.
To have a healthy, happy furry companion, feed him/her a balanced diet, with fresh and high quality human grade food. Use plenty of good protein (grass- -fed if possible), fresh vegetables, and some fruit.
According to the 2005 Perdue Cancer Center studies of invasive urinary bladder cancer (invasive urothelial carcinoma or InvUC) in dogs, the findings were that “…reduction in InvUC risk is attributed to ingestion of vegetables. In fact, dogs in the study who consumed vegetables at least 3 times per week had a 70 percent reduction in bladder cancer risk.” The vegetables with the most reduction were green leafy, yellow and orange vegetables.
But our canine kids need to be able to digest those meats and vegetables. Because of the canine’s short digestive system, puree any raw vegetables that you feed them to help break the food down.
Herbs are another much overlooked ingredient that helps with digestion and a myriad of other uses. Three herbs that are inexpensive and excellent for digestion are fennel, ginger, and turmeric. Just a pinch is all that is needed for these super stars.
Fennel seeds, bulbs and leaves -Fennel is good for digestion, reducing gas and bloating and has been used for infant’s colic and for pain. Place the seeds in a coffee grinder and grind them into a fine powder or puree in a food processor with other vegetables. The fennel bulb may be used raw or lightly braised and the raw leaves can be pureed in the food processor.
Ginger – use either dried ground or the fresh roots. Finely mince or puree the raw root. Ginger is known for its digestive properties, for nausea and inflammation.
Turmeric -aids in digestion and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Used for pain, arthritis, and to help protect the liver. Turmeric is called the poor man’s saffron because it turns food a beautiful orange or yellow.
A good digestive enzyme especially designed for dogs is another way to help insure your dog’s ability to digest his food.
If your dog’s digestion is healthy then you have a healthy dog.
Always consult your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet.