ASK DR. CHIP – NOVEMBER EDITION

Want to be featured in next month’s newsletter? Email our very own Dr. Chip at info@petsplusus.com and make sure you reference ‘Ask Dr. Chip’ in the subject line.

About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.


Question:

Hi Dr Chip,

I am wondering if you can weigh in on the cooked whole food/raw vs kibble debate, and let us know if there is any new research for either case? I have a 2 -year-old French Bulldog named Hugo. I found out early on that Hugo is allergic to any food, even heavily processed food, that has a poultry protein base. He also didn’t do particularly well with beef/bison and lamb. When he has a reaction, he breaks out in hives and looks incredibly miserable.  

Hugo’s original diet was a fish blend kibble from a small Canadian producer. While the fish blend solved the allergy riddle, his stools were on the loose side and smelled like death warmed over, he was quite flatulent, and he often wouldn’t eat all the food offered. Our Vet began to show concern over his weight calling him “ribby”. I tried many different brands without success and only similar results.

After doing a bit of research online we briefly tried a raw diet. All the videos on the net of dogs dragging a raw chicken thigh around their owner’s kitchen made it easy to understand why so many professionals don’t’ back the raw diet, so we started with a pre-made raw patty containing vegetables, bone, and offal. He showed a little more interest, but I was horrified with him jamming his face in the bowl and then wiping his jowls all over every surface he could find. This required a full recon of our living space and a bath for Hugo after every meal. We typically feed him on our way out the door to work and in the summer months I noticed there was often food left in the bowl with an army of flies hovering over it. Obviously not cool, so I decided that the food safe concerns far outweighed any of the benefits of raw. I started to cook his food to reduce the chance of harmful bacteria.

Fast forward to today and I am currently feeding Hugo a diet of lean ground pork, salmon, about 10% ground pork bone and fish bone, 5% pork offal, and a blend of veg that typically includes kale, carrot, cauliflower and broccoli. I cook all of that together to increase the food safety aspect and then mix in a tablespoon of pumpkin. Occasionally Hugo gets a table spoon of coconut oil added to the mix. He is fed 3 times a day and devours everything we offer. On this diet he has had no signs of allergies, he has almost zero flatulence, his stools are firmer with little foul odor, and all signs of “ribbiness” have been replaced with good lean muscle. I would say his energy level seems to have increased, but during this time he had BOAS surgery, so I think that has more to do with a clear airway than his diet.

Even though we have perceived an improvement in his well-being our regular vet, an internal medicine specialist we saw for an unrelated issue with Hugo, and a family friend that is also vet; have all gently suggested we reconsider Hugo’s diet choices and investigate kibble again. They all say that while he obviously loves what we are feeding him, it is next to impossible to ensure that he is getting the broad variety of minerals and nutrients he requires in the long run. I am not typically one to question Professionals over the hype machine, and if you travel in Frenchie circles the raw food craze is hype with a capital H, but it is hard for me to reconcile their advice with Hugo’s current health. Kibble is certainly easier, but I am worried about his pickiness reoccurring. What do you say? Are there things I could add to assuage their concerns (multi vitamin)? Are there new studies or evidence for either case?

Hugo and I thank you in advance!

Regards,

David Meikle

 

Answer:

Hi David,

I get a very strong sense from your lengthy letter of your frustration and feeling of helplessness over Hugo's plight. Personally, I adhere to the same worries, of which you are already aware, that have been preached to you by other veterinarians. The two big concerns with a raw diet are 1. bacterial contamination (same as with people) and 2. is the diet balanced. 

If I have understood what you said correctly, you have dealt with the potential bacterial issue by cooking the food first. That leaves the question as to whether or not the diet is balanced. Obviously, we have no way of knowing that, but I would share your concern that if you start mixing in kibble in an effort to try to balance the overall diet, that the allergies will return. An alternative would be to ask one of those veterinarians for a recipe for a home cooked diet that is known to be balanced. Hill's provides these recipes and have published them in veterinary text books, as well as providing them to people who call them directly. If I recall correctly, most of these diets contain a balanced proportion of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat along with a canine multi-vitamin and a powder you can get from a pharmacy called calcium carbonate to ensure the recipe has an adequate source of calcium for proper bone maintenance.

Although I share their concerns about ensuring his diet is balanced, I am just as concerned about his quality of life. A life plagued by allergies with the accompanying plethora of drugs is far from ideal. You clearly have found a diet that works. The challenge now is to try to make it balanced. Try to get a copy of a canine maintenance recipe and tweak it using the ingredients you know are presently not trigger factors. If that cannot be achieved, (although I cannot go on the record as recommending this), as an absolute last resort, continue doing what you’re doing, adding some calcium carbonate based on a recipe and a canine multi-vitamin. Then every year have routine blood work done and an X-ray to make sure his organs are functioning well, and his bone density looks good. The blood work is a good preventive anyway.

As you have already surmised the need for the surgery and his diet are completely unrelated.

Good luck,

Cheers,

Dr. Chip

 


Question:

Hi Dr. Chip,

I am currently taking care of my mom’s two Yorkshire terriers. One has always been thin, however she has recently lost a bit of weight. I also noticed once in a while she has loose bowel movements. I’ve started switching over her food to a grain-free protein rich diet? Is this the right approach?   

Thank you,

Lauren H.

 

Answer:

Hi Lauren,

There are a lot of questions that I have with no potential answers based on the information provided, so I will have to be general. If your mother has not already discussed the thin body weight with a veterinarian, then I would make that the first priority, along with a thorough physical exam and potential blood tests for internal organ function. Additional weight loss in an already thin small dog is not a good trend, so ruling out some underlying problem is the first priority.

If everything checks out, then finding a good quality balanced food for that particular life stage is the next step. Being grain free is not an issue with dogs, so should not be a focus on the diet choice. High protein also needs to be approached cautiously. Dogs' diets are not as high in protein as cats and usually range from 18-24% on an as fed basis. Feeding too much protein can produce too much work for internal organs (liver and kidneys) and cause problems. If the weight loss happens to be due to an early internal organ issue, then feeding a high protein diet is not a good idea. 

The other consideration is that the label of a pet food tells you the amount of protein, but not how bioavailable it is to the body. Egg white is the perfect protein, with no waste products. Shoe leather is useless to a dog as a diet. However, they would both register as protein on a pet food label.

So, to reiterate, it would be best to start with a thorough check-up.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

Dr. Chip

 


Question:

Bonjour, mon chiot Luna a maintenant 8 semaines, ça fait 1 semaine que je l’ai. Les 2 premiers jours elle ne mangeait pas du tout, le 3e jour elle mangeait seulement si on lui donnait la nourriture directement dans notre main. Après maintenant une semaine, elle mange un peu par elle même, mais peu. Alors on verse la nourriture au sol et elle en mange un peu plus. Mais elle ne fini jamais ses portions, sauf si on met la nourriture dans notre main. On lui donne 1 tasse 1/2 par jour comme l’éleveur nous conseillait et on met de l’eau dans sa nourriture. Merci de m’aider!

Translation:

Hello, my puppy Luna is now 8 weeks old, it's been a week since I got it. The first 2 days she did not eat at all, the 3rd day she ate only if we gave her the food directly in our hand. After a week now, she eats a little by herself, but little. So we pour food on the floor and eat a little more. But she never finishes her portions unless we put the food in our hand. We give him 1 1/2 cup a day as the breeder advises us and we put water in his food. Thank you for helping me!

 

Answer:

Chère Alix,

Les premières semaines où un chiot vient dans sa nouvelle maison, loin de ses compagnons de portée, peuvent être très stressantes. Son manque d'appétit pourrait simplement être ceci, même si cela me surprendrait. Nous supposons que parce que les chiots sont "tout nouveaux", ils sont en parfaite santé, mais ce n’est malheureusement pas toujours le cas. Pour être honnête, ma première suggestion est qu'un vétérinaire lui fasse subir un examen physique complet pour s'assurer de sa santé. En espérant qu'il le soit, vous pourriez essayer de lui donner de la nourriture en conserve pour chien mélangée à la croquette. Le réchauffer au micro-ondes le fera sentir mieux et par conséquent mieux goûter. Savoir quelle race est Luna serait utile. Je vais deviner qu'il est une petite race et il est vrai qu'ils peuvent être plus difficiles à manger que les grandes races. Votre vétérinaire aura probablement des boîtes de conserve et des sacs d'échantillons d'excellents aliments pour chiots à essayer. Vous avez mentionné que vous avez ajouté de l'eau à la croquette. Si l'eau est chaude, cela aidera à libérer les graisses contenues dans la croquette et cela devrait la rendre plus savoureuse. J'espère que cela t'aides,

À votre santé,

Dr. Chip

 

Translation:

Dear Alix,

The first few weeks that a puppy comes to its new home, away from its litter mates, can be very stressful. His lack of appetite could simply be this, although this would surprise me. We assume that because puppies are "brand new", that they are completely healthy, but this is unfortunately is not always the case. To be honest, my first suggestion is to have a veterinarian give him a thorough physical exam to make sure he is healthy. Hoping that he is, you could try giving him canned dog food mixed in with the kibble. Warming it up in a microwave will make it smell better and hence taste better. Knowing what breed Luna is would be helpful. I am going to guess he is a small breed and admittedly they can be pickier eaters than larger breeds. Your veterinarian will likely have cans and sample bags of excellent puppy food to try. You mentioned you added water to the kibble. If the water is warm, this will help release the fats in the kibble and this should make it tastier.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

Dr. Chip