How we can give our dog's the nutrients that are being depleted from their food
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without human presence? Why is it that we humans can’t resist the urge to tamper with natural systems that are flawless and replace them with artificial imitations that are seriously flawed?
Today, I would like to invite you on a journey deep into the African savannah and also inside of your dog’s hair. If you are wondering how these two topics go together, all you need to do is read on to learn why.
A lesson from Serengeti
My mother turned 80 this year and my sisters and I wanted to do something special to celebrate her life and good health. First, it was decided that we would take her on a cruise from Venice to Istanbul. I have never been on a cruise before, but one look at the webpage made me feel rather uneasy. I love connecting with nature and spending a week on a floating monstrosity with more than a thousand other people made me rather worried. I decided to see if I could derail the cruise ship plan with another alternative.
“How about if you check where you can get free nights and we can use my free air miles instead of a cruise?” I asked my sister Hana who works in the hotel industry and gets a number of free nights per year. It took a few phone calls and we were on the way to Africa!
Spending a week in the middle of the pristine Serengeti Game Reserve was breathtaking. We saw thousands of animals roaming the savannah plains in peace and harmony. Serengeti is a real example of a complex ecosystem where one piece of the natural puzzle fits flawlessly into another creating a closed ZERO waste systems. In the Serengeti, nutrients cycle from soil to plants and insects to herbivores and carnivores and back to the soil.
This is nature’s take on recycling: no bins, no trucks, just a seamless process that can go on for thousands and millions of years.
Witnessing the natural perfection in its full force made me feel happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I could see an environment where animals do not need any supplements because the food they eat is rich in nutrients. Sad because I could see how much we humans have disturbed the cycle of nutrients in nature. Such disturbance leads nutritional deficiencies and toxicity that lead to chronic disease and a shortened life span.
What can we do about the consequences of the modern world
There are many lessons one takes away from a trip to the pristine environments such as the Serengeti. As a healer and a vet, I could see how healthy the wild animals are when food wholesome and unaffected by intensive agriculture and soil nutrient depletion.
Naturally, the next question is, what can you do to ensure that you and especially your canine friend gets all that he or she needs? How can we fix the broken down system where nutrients do not return to the soil.
Most farmers would tell you that it is not possible to replace missing nutrients because it is too costly. For example, food that we grow in California is transported to colder climates such as Canada and there is no way to transport the compost and manure back to California.
Our society faces two main problems. How to ensure better care of our planet and agricultural resources and how to replace the nutrients that are missing in the food.
Factory that is missing parts
Some people still do not fully understand how serious the problem of missing nutrients is. Mineral deficiencies especially are one of the primary causes of disease and premature aging. The body is designed to run metabolic cycles that depend on trace elements and the body cannot synthesize any minerals.
Imagine a bicycle factory or car manufacturer that is missing parts for production. Every single part has its function and we all know that a bike without a chain or spokes is a useless pile of metal.
The body’s design is such that it can survive on the nutrient-deficient diet for some time, but over time problems start cropping up. A disease is a state where the body lacks ability to maintain proper organ function and repair.
Missing nutrients are not the only consequence of industrial food production. Industrial pollution is another one. The levels of mercury, lead, arsenic and radioactive pollution are on the rise. Polluted waters from factories and mining carry vast amounts of chemicals through our fields in food and the oceans where they accumulate and infiltrate sea life.
Naturally, one would ask, how we can solve these serious problems and the answer is not easy. There are some countries that protect the environment more successfully than others but the issues are not contained to country boundaries. They are global and will take many years to solve if we are lucky.
I am an optimist and believe that we will eventually smarten up, but when it comes to our dogs, we need to know what nutrients are missing and supplement them now. That is one of the reasons why in the past years, I have focused my work on the formulation of all natural and certified organic supplements for dogs.
There is a message in your dog’s hair
Naturally, finding out what nutrients your dog is missing is the next logical step. Blood testing is common in veterinary medicine, but when it comes to minerals their blood levels do not reflect the overall situation very well.
If mineral storage is depleted, the blood levels may still be normal for some time as the body usually attempts to maintain proper mineral levels that are essential to life. In other words, blood mineral levels may be normal despite their overall depletion.
Most nutritionists would agree that minerals have a more important role in health than vitamins and monitoring their levels is crucial to keeping your dog healthy and long living.
Unlike blood testing that gives you only a snapshot of your dog’s mineral levels, hair testing is much more accurate in diagnosing deficiencies and toxicity.
Why is hair testing much more accurate?
The root of the hair is in direct contact with plasma that contains minerals from food and storage. As the hair shaft grows, it seals these minerals in the hair it's self, creating series of mineral content snapshots. All we need to do is to measure the minerals content in hair to accurately evaluate your dog’s nutritional status.
The method currently used to measure mineral content in hair is called the inductively coupled plasma method. We usually suggest collecting about one inch of hair closest to your dog’s skin as it reflects a time frame of the past four to six months. In short hair dogs, we collect the whole hair length.
The hair sample is then heated to extremely high temperatures until it ‘dissolves’ into individual mineral ions that are measured by the mass spectrometer. This method quantifies the presence of individual minerals with an extreme accuracy of one billionth per part. It is a perfect way to get a very good sense what is missing in your dog’s diet and what toxins are present.
Hair testing is the answer to disease prevention
I mentioned before that one of the most common causes of chronic disease is poor nutrition and trace elements deficiency. No one would expect to build a functioning bicycle without all the parts being available and the body is no different. Even with the same diet and the best natural supplements, each dog’s ability to absorb nutrients is different based on the breed, health status and the individual.
The purpose of this article is not to go through the role of each element in detail. However, I hope that the following examples of a few studies will help you understand the impact of mineral deficiencies on the body.
1. Hair analyzed in diabetic patients compared to non-diabetic controls showed that the mean levels of zinc, manganese and chromium were significantly lower in the blood and scalp hair of patients diagnosed with diabetes. Higher levels of copper and iron were also found in the scalp hair of the diabetic group as well.
Copper, Chromium, Manganese, Iron, Nickel and Zinc Levels in Biological Samples of Diabetes Mellitus Patients. Kazi, TS, et al. Biol. Trace Elem. Res. 122,1, 2008.
2. Patients that consumed diet high in fish and fish oils have higher mercury levels in the body. Patients suffering from epilepsy appear to have higher mercury levels.
3. Changed element status (Zn, Mg, and Cu) in hair may be an indicator in the diagnosis of epileptic patients.
Ilhan A, Uz E, Kali S, Var A, Akyol O., Serum and hair trace element levels in patients with epilepsy and healthy subjects: Does the antiepileptic therapy affect the element concentrations of hair?, Eur J Neurol. 1999 Nov;6(6):705-9.
4. Changes in the hair's iron concentrations were accompanied by similar changes in the concentrations of the markers most commonly used to diagnose and monitor iron deficiency. The results suggest that quantification of hair iron may be useful to complement evaluations of the body iron status.
Bisse E, Renner F, Sussmann S, Scholmerich J, Wieland H., Hair iron content: possible marker to complement monitoring therapy of iron deficiency in patients with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases?, Clin Chem. 1996 Aug;42(8 Pt 1):1270-4.
5. Hair may provide a continuous record of nutritional status.
Maugh, T. H. Hair: A Diagnostic Tool to Complement Blood Serum and Urine. Science1978; 202.
I can only testify that the studies reflect what I have seen in my veterinary practice.
Since we had started HairQ test in 2012, I have seen clear patterns that allow me to adjust nutritional supplement profile of each patient. I have seen high levels of heavy metals in dogs that consume fish and fish oil, and high levels of arsenic in dogs that eat rice. We have also detected a variety of deficiencies and excesses linked directly to health problems.
Hair testing in domestic animals is still not as common in veterinary practice as blood testing. In my opinion, testing hair twice a year can give you invaluable information about your dog’s nutritional status at relatively low cost.
Ultimately, the key to your dog’s good health and longevity is a well nourished and toxin free body.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM