Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hydration supplements for working dogs

I honestly paid very little attention to the hydration products on the market until I was recently asked about them.  I am a stickler about water intake though. It is a key nutrient and one that I feel often gets left out when we are talking about other macronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  Many of my clients have been told to add water if they feed kibble and in fact I feel everyone should.  Water is one of the main nutrient differences between raw meat diets and kibble diets, including grain-free.  Whole prey and raw diets contain approximately 70% water while kibble contains only about 10% (yes, kibble does contain some moisture).  To me it's no wonder why we see kidney problems in cats when they are fed kibble diets their entire lives.  So, those that feed kibble, add a little water to it when you feed.

When I looked up the ingredients on the main products that consumers have access to, I was surprised to see all of them contained maltodextrin as their main ingredient.  One of them was very clever and actually "named" their sugar "glucose polymers".  One of the company websites even stated directly that "maltodextrin is rapidly absorbed without an insulin release...".  Let's stop there for a second.  First off, maltodextrin is nothing more than chains of D-glucose units of variable lengths produced from the hydrolysis of starch typically from corn, rice or potatoes.  The company is absolutely correct in their statement that maltodextrin is rapidly digested and absorbed.  All you need to do is look on the labels of many enteral formulas and you'll see maltodextrin added.  The problem I have is the statement that maltodextrin does not produce an insulin release.  Comments like those floating around the internet frustrate me.  Maltodextrin indeed produces an insulin response just like other sugars in fact it has a higher glycemic index than table sugar, honey, or fructose.  I would caution anyone that may have a dog with sensitivities to gluten being that maltodextrins can pose issues for those suffering from Celiac disease.  So why start off with a simple carbohydrate as the main ingredient in these formulas?

That answer is based on muscle glycogen recovery research in various animal models including dogs.  Dogs involved in high intensity, short duration exercise such as agility or flyball obtain most of their energy from muscle stores through anaerobic metabolism (Cline and Reynolds, 2005; Rovira et al., 2007). So, these products are likely better for muscle recovery rather than "loading" per se, and indeed they indicate that with their product information.  Muscle glycogen synthesis post-exercise after depletion occurs in 2 distinct phases.  An initial short phase that does not require insulin and lasts 30 - 60 minutes after exercise.  The 2nd phase may last several hours after exercise and is insulin dependent.  When amino acids and proteins are added to maltodextrin solutions, there is an enhanced insulin response and stimulation of protein anabolism (synthesis).  This response is significantly lower when carbohydrate only solutions are used (Jentjens and Jeukendrup, 2003). 

The four products I reviewed include: Animal Naturals K9 Go Dog, CPN Power Boost Advanced Rehydration and Energy, CPN Vertex Canine Essentials, and Glyco-Gen Shake. As I did with grain-free products I'm only going to look at the top ingredients in each product. 

K9 Go Dogs: Glucose polymers, resistant starch, medium chain triglycerides, beef fat, glutamine, leucine
CPN Power Boost: Maltodextrin, whey protein concentrate, canola oil, medium chain triglyceride, glutamine, lactobacillus
CPN Vertex: Maltodextrin, whole dried egg, whey protein concentrate, poultry liver hydrosylate, canola oil, olive oil
Glyco-Gen Shake: Maltodextrin, whey protein, vanilla

The protein and fat concentration of K9 Go Dog, Power Boost and Vertex are 6 and 9%, 8 and 11% and 24 and 24%, respectively.  The fat sources used are very different and range from highly saturated fatty acids (beef fat), monounsaturated fatty acids (canola and olive), medium chain triglycerides (MCT), and omega 3 fatty acids (flaxseed oil).  When it comes to dogs (and other carnivores), their efficiency at utilizing fat sources is tremendous.  There is little data to support one type over the other; however, I would hypothesize that the beef fat used in K9 Go Dog would make it more palatable than the others but that might be the only advantage (in my opinion).  I do like the use of  MCT's as they are often digested and absorbed easier than other fats.  There are some cases where MCT's have been associated with diarrhea; however, for the vast majority of dogs (and humans) they are digested very well.

Protein sources are primarily whey protein, egg, or free amino acids.  All are suitable and highly digestible sources of proteins for this purpose.  The amino acid glutamine is listed both for K9 Go Dog and Power Boost.  Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid; however, may become conditionally essential particularly after exercise and during periods of protein turnover.  It is also a preferred fuel for cells in the gut. 

As the ingredient lists continue the products vary in their additions of probiotics (lactobacillus), branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine), alfalfa, algae, and ginseng to name a few.  None of the additional ingredients pose any issues or concerns for me, in fact they all likely contribute some nutrition.

A price analysis indicates that per Tablespoon serving (approximately 20 grams) the cost for K9 Go Dog, Power Boost, Vertex, and Glyco-Gen Shake are $0.88, $0.46, $0.40 and $0.63, respectively. 

Based on the purpose of replenishing glycogen stores and rehydration after exercise, ingredient lists, and cost, I would choose to use CPN Power Boost.  Although I think the Vertex product has a lot to offer in the ingredient list and certainly nothing that would harm, I feel it's just too high in fat and protein to be used as a "rehydration" or recovery product.  The product information indicates that it could be used as a daily conditioning supplement and that might be a better purpose for it.  It likely would boil down to which product my dogs liked better between K9 Go Dog and Power Boost. 

I actually don't use any of these products but I do "rehydrate".  I use a mixture of meat-based baby food, honey, and some glutamine mixed with water.  I'm sure the inclusion of honey might stimulate more discussion and this post has already gotten long so I'll leave that for further discussion.  The thought process; however, is along the lines of these products and my little Keegan loves it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Comparative nutrition for you!

I truly never thought I'd do this on my blog but I can't help it.  I have found something that I believe in and feel the need to share it.  Let me start by reminding you that I am a scientist and as a scientist there is a certain degree of data and repetition that must go into an argument to provide sufficient "proof" for me that something works.  The other part of being a scientist (the really fun part) is experimenting and I experiment A LOT...even on myself.
Many of you are familiar with Standard Process supplements.  I absolutely love the company and use many of their products for me, my dogs, and some of the animals at the zoo. Some time ago, I ordered some Immuplex for frogs (yes, frogs).  The problem we had with the frogs ended up being related to vitamin A and carotenoids so we never used the Immuplex. 

I am one of those people that tended to get sick every time I heard someone sneeze.  One day at work I went in the lab and took some of the Immuplex along with Echinacea when I started to feel a sore throat coming on.  I was surprised the next day when I felt better so I kept taking them and continued to feel better by the end of the day.  So, I kept them both in my desk and got some for home.  Every time I started to feel sick, I took them both 3 times daily.  It worked every time.  My husband on the hand, never gets sick (I find that very annoying).  So, on Friday when he came home with a sore throat you might guess what I made him take.  Saturday morning I woke up with a sore throat and started taking both.  Sunday, we felt tired but better.  By today we were back to normal and even Danny thought we'd found a "cure". 

I absolutely don't believe it's a cure but Echinacea is a fabulous immune boosting medicinal herb that is safe for dogs and I have used it on my "kids" on various occasions.  Immuplex is a combination of minerals and vitamins, primarily Vitamin B6, zinc, and vitamin C.  The link for Immuplex is included below.  The dose we've been using for us is 400 mg Echinacea + 1 Immuplex capsule together three times daily as soon as you feel symptoms coming on.  Keep taking it 3 days after your symptoms stop.  I don't take either supplement any other time.

Sorry for the commercial but it's worked for me multiple times and when it worked for Danny, I felt it was worth sharing, especially this time of year when we are all under the stress of the busy Holiday season and all of our immune systems could use the extra ammunition.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dietary Variety

This week was particularly fun for me.  I was helping another zoo with their collection diets.  The vast majority of zoos in the U.S don't have nutritionists, let alone a nutrition laboratory.  You can hear me blab about this topic on the video on our page:

What I found so entertaining about this week was that this particular zoo had  a much smaller collection than ours but many of the same species.  Their diets however, were very different than ours...consisting of different ingredients all together.  When I analyzed them, the nutrients fell out where they needed to for the majority of the diets.  How could their diets be so different yet nutritionally sufficient?

With domestic species we have the luxury of having known nutrient requirements to follow.  All we need to do for dogs and cats is match those nutrient requirements with nutrients in ingredients and ta-da...we have a petfood.  That luxury is one I don't have at the zoo.  We don't know nutrient requirements for the vast majority of species that we manage in zoological institutions.  Yet, zoos have been rather successful at managing endangered species for decades (some much better than others).  So, how can that be? Luck or is there some magical secret formula that zoos use to feed their animals?

Although it's not magical, there is something that zoo's do very different in their approach to nutrition that we don't see with domestics and it's called VARIETY.    It never fails I show up to work one day and our hospital staff tells me we've just received an animal that I've never heard of that needs a diet.  Think about that...being challenged with an animal you've never heard of (Hadada ibis comes to mind), no known nutrient requirements to compare to and it needs a diet...NOW.  All I can tell you is Thank God for Google.  Thankfully, ecologists and biologists have studied most of the animal kingdom in enough detail to at least tell me what these animals eat in the wild.  Then there is usually someone that's looked at a dead one to tell me what the animal looks like on the inside.  In other words is it put together like a cow, a chicken, a horse, a dog, a cat, etc...?  From there the challenge starts.  The piece that's lacking is actually in understanding the nutrient profiles of those items the animals are eating in the wild.  That's where variety comes in handy.  We can't obtain the very same fish that the Fishing Cat is eating in the wild but we can get a variety of fish.  Rather than just try one, we'll use several different types in order to better try and match the "unknown".  "Fruits" from Madagascar are VERY different than an apple and a banana here in the U.S. so we use a variety of "seasonal fruits" and "seasonal vegetables" to provide a more rounded nutrient profile to our lemur species. 

So, why then do we still stick to the "one" diet rule for our pets? I struggle with that concept.  If we can feed variety that changes daily to our exotic species, knowing that it helps them behaviorally and nutritionally, why can't we do it for dogs and cats? There is no rule that says you can't, in fact, you should.  Let's think about the natural history of our domestic dogs.  They were domesticated and evolved alongside humans.  They were not domesticated on the diets that exist today, they were domesticated with "leftovers" and "scraps".  Dogs are an incredible species truly designed and adapted to deal with variety.  Cats also evolved with humans but the difference was that they thrived on the fact that civilization brought with it, pests.  Cats evolved to still consume whole prey and raw meat.  They continue to be obligate carnivores having a significantly higher protein requirement than dogs (among other unique nutrient requirements). I'm sure the topic of dogs and wolves will be another blog post as it always brings up a lot of controversy. 

If you've ever been told that you should only feed your dog or cat one diet, I hope you'll consider throwing that out the window.  If you could talk to my dogs and ask them to recall what they ate over the last week, they'd be challenged to think of everything.  I feed raw (various meats), produce, grains (oatmeal, some pasta, etc...), whole prey, raw meaty bones, and I do feed a variety of canned and kibble foods and often at the same time.  Do I see digestive upsets? RARELY...and I do mean that quite literally.  My dogs, and cat are so used to a rotated and varied diet that their guts do extremely well. 

I will stick up for vets here simply because you need to recognize that they get to see the sick ones. My vet gets to only see my dogs when I want blood work done or they need a rabies vaccination or teeth cleaned. I guarantee that he'd never recommend how I feed to his typical pet client; however, he's certainly never argued with me that my dogs are just darn healthy.  If animals have not been exposed to varied diets, it is difficult for their guts to keep up with the change which then results in digestive upset and unhappy veterinarians.  Variety should be added slowly to allow the gut time to compensate for the changes.  This means that the microflora in the gut must adapt to this change and that takes some time to develop.

There are animals that just can't handle variety for one reason or another; however, the vast majority of pets would be behaviorally and metabolically healthier on a varied or rotated diet.  It can simply mean you rotate kibble diets.  Chicken meal used in 1 company's petfood is not exactly the same as the chicken meal from another company and certainly formulations are different.  Simply alternating diets between and among petfood companies will help add to the overall nutrition of your pet.