My key teachings on dog nutrition, and dog foods, is a focus not on what problem ingredients might be in the different foods, but what is actually missing from them.
It is easy to make arguments in terms of one kibble versus another or one diet or another if you are looking at what is in the foods, and yet the things that are missing from all processed dog foods are so pivotal to your dog’s health and behaviour choices for me it is far more important for us to understand what these are, their value and even why they are not included in processed dog foods. I call them the nutritional elements.
One of these missing elements is: Water. This seems obvious, clearly its dry food so it is, kind of, not even supposed to be there. Yet water content in your dog’s food is actually pivotal for your dog’s health.
Here is just one of the reasons why.
Thirst and hunger are both regulated by the Hypothalamus gland.
This gland also happens to be the home of Histamine in the brain.
Just as the body has many ways to cope with a lack of food it also has ways to cope with and adapt to a lack of water too.
The foremost way it does this is through the production of histamine. Histamine is the hormone related to the amount of inflammation in your dog’s body.
The body actually uses water when creating energy for its cells. When the body lacks water, it begins to compensate by using histamine to release cellular energy instead.
This means two things.
Firstly, the released histamine adapts the dog to the lack of water, and for a period of time we don’t notice the problems a lack of water can have on the body. E.g. histamine issue happen within the body, way before symptoms appear.
Secondly the dog’s own ability to sense its thirst gets influenced.
Essentially the dogs body begins to rely on the response of the histamine and loses its ability to regulate and experience thirst at the needed levels. Our dogs don’t always appear thirsty to us.
In addition, because thirst and hunger centres are both in the hypothalamus the thirst your dog’s body is really experiencing is very easily confused as hunger rather than thirst.
You see a hungry dog, more often.
As this continues water is only searched for after the food has been asked for. The eating of the food sends signals that satisfy the hypothalamus, and this ‘feeling hungry’ becomes another adaption process to dehydration.
Behind-the-scenes of your dog’s body, the lack of water hydration continues to cause internal issues for the organs or physical processes it is most required for.
Symptoms (of cellular dehydration) include: Asthma, Allergies, Diabetes, Constipation, Auto-Immune Diseases, Colitis, Heartburn.
The excess continual release of Histamine can also cause Water Retention as the Histamine cause blood capillaries to dilate and release water. Sleep disturbances.
Over-excitability or alertness, often quoted as ‘’my dog just doesn’t relax’’, in behaviour.
As Histamine is so closely linked with inflammation, if we are to continue feeding a dry diet to our dogs we are in fact contributing to Allergies and Digestive Issues – even if the food is ‘anti-allergenic’ or ‘easy-digest’ food.
Not only that, too much Histamine is known to reduce the secretion of Gastric acid in the stomach of dogs. It is a lack of stomach Gastric acid that makes foods harder to digest, and leaves dogs less able to cope with bacteria they collect from eating things on the street or ground. The dog with a ‘sensitive stomach’ is a dog that needs more Gastric acid. This is not achieved by feeding them processed foods, especially food labelled as ‘sensitive’ or ‘easier to digest’.
Like most nutritional and diet based issues it is the continuation and the build-up of the issues that causes the more damage, mostly unseen inside the dogs body, until it is much harder to treat and reverse.
‘’Surely my dog could drink more water to make up for this? – or I could add it to the dry food?”
Firstly, as mentioned above many dogs mistake thirst for hunger when in a cellular dehydrated state, and do not actually head for the water bowl by choice to make up the deficiency.
Secondly, water that is in Real Food, actual meat (lightly cooked or raw) is in a different state to water from the tap. It is more bio-available to the dog’s cells, and also holds information about the food too, nourishing your dog on more than just the physical level. Think of Water as holding a 4th state of being, when in the body it is neither ice, gas or liquid – it is in it molecular state. When food is consumed with a water content that state is mostly already there, and this supports the body better than the liquid state.
Thirdly, dry dogs foods can also become bacteria laden due to fermentation if they are soaked.
So, you can of course encourage your dog to drink more water or add to the food but is not going to make as big a difference as switching to Real Food with a proper water content. With the ready prepared, just remove from freezer and defrost in bowl real foods available, its is actually quicker to feed fresh dog food than kibble these days too.
‘’Are cans, tins or tray packs better then?’’
From the water hydration point they are a bit better yes. However there are many things ( nutritional elements) still missing from these products too. They are not the full answer, I’m afraid.
‘’My dog doesn’t seem interested in drinking water?’’
This is due to the adaptive processes mentioned above reducing their healthy ability to self-regulate. It is more likely a sign the dog needs water.
– how ever this will depend on the diet as some diets contain a lot more water to begin with and thus the dog doesn’t look to drink.
You could try Treat-Bobbing. Remember the games of the 80’s where you would have a bowl of water and you would try to reach an apple or another fruit from within it for a prize? (perhaps it was only me subjected to these party games as a child… ;))
Well, start sprinkling some treats into a small bowl of water (obviously not treats that will disintegrate in the water, choose the treats wisely). Your dog should try to reach these treats and find themselves drinking the water to reach them, or at least consuming some in the process of eating them.
This is fun thing for them to do too! This will up the water content reaching the dogs body. But, as mentioned extra water is not the only part of the story.
Want to Learn more?
# What all the Nutritional Elements are
# Why they are important
# How you can provide them easily
# Why they are not already in dog foods, even though these say they are Complete!
# and lots more juicy dog diet, pet food industry and nutrition info
in my Canine Nutrition seminars.
Watch the event space of this website and your newsletters for the next dates.
**Links to studies on the bodies adaption processes, compensating Histamine for the lack of water hydration.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016451/ Histamine in the regulation of wakefulness