When you think of vitamin D, the first thing you consider is the sun. Humans can convert a chemical precursor from sunlight and utilise it as a source to manufacture our own vitamin D. Dogs and cats, on the other hand, can't meet their requirements from sunlight to produce their own.
So where can dogs and cats obtain the correct vitamin D? Good sources come from eggs, pork, wild salmon, sardines and liver ( care needs to be taken when feeding liver as they are abundant in other nutrients and can cause excess problems). While vitamin D can also be found in plant sources in the precursor form D2, cats cannot utilise D2 efficiently. Not enough research has been performed to know if dogs have this ability, so it is preferable that dogs also obtain vitamin D through animals sources ( which contain D3)
But here is the catch, you are what you eat plays a role. Let's take the egg, for example—a 2013 study assigned three groups of chickens to various conditions. One group were kept indoors, one outdoors and one with an indoor/outdoor option over 4wks. It was found that the vitamin D3 content in eggs was three to four times higher in the groups that were exposed to sunlight compared to the indoor group. In contrast, free-range eggs from supermarkets had low vitamin D content. Why is this so? Definition of free-range can be very vague. Free-range means that birds are given "access to a fixed space" that can be as small as one sqm per bird. Free-range can also mean birds are free to forage over expansive tracts and rotated land. That is a big difference in describing free range. Sunlight is not the only form where chickens obtain vitamin D but also in the plants and bugs they forage.
Given that supermarket-bought eggs are mass produced, it's easily guessed which definition of 'free-range' most would fall under. So how can you tell the eggs you are purchasing are from foraging chickens? Their are two ways, 1. Look for labels that contain pasture-raised eggs; a new definition farmers use to differentiate themselves from mass-produced eggs 2. Get to know your local egg farmer and ask how the chickens are raised, how many chickens per hectare, do they rotate on different land and how much outdoor time do they receive and exposure to sunlight ( exposure to sunlight does not mean a window on a shed which I have heard a few times)
Wild-caught fish are shown to be more beneficial compared to farmed fish. They contain higher levels of vitamin D, can be leaner in fat and have a better-balanced ratio of omega 6:3 ( a whole different topic I will eventually cover). Fat has a higher calories density than protein and carbs and does not contain vitamins and minerals. While the right fat plays an important role, too much can mean the ratio of nutrients is low for the amount of daily KJ required for your pet, not to mention the risk of overweight pets as KJ requirements can easily be exceeded.
So why is vitamin D important? Not only does it play a role in calcium/phosphorus conversation and absorption for healthy bones, but we are also learning, it plays a role in many chronic diseases. Cancer, arthritis and skin health, to name a few. In fact, many of the body's tissues contain Vitamin D receptors and plays its part in cell growth, immune function and reduction of inflammation.
So let's recap what we have learnt. Dogs and cats need to obtain vitamin D from quality food sources as they can't efficiently absorb through their skin. Vitamin D plays many roles in the body to keep it functioning and healthy. Lastly, sourcing pasture-raised and wild animals, create an excellent opportunity to support local farmers who make positive farming environments and also encourages humane farming practices, with a better understanding of where your food comes from and how they are treated.
If you would like to know more, links and sources are added below. If you would like a detailed description on vitamin D and the role it plays in dogs and cats, I highly recommend reading the link below from The Possible Canine a great source of information in all things dog health.
Ever seen your dog swallow a piece of food whole, or eat something that would make you sick? Here’s a break-down on how they digest their food.
Human jaw- can move up and down side to side and in a rounded motion. Teeth are designed for grinding having a flatter surface.
Dog jaw- can only move up and down. The teeth are designed to crush dense objects, having a three root system and are solid and sharp.
Human- used for breaking down food and lubricating digestion.
Dog- also used for lubricating food but they lack the enzymes to break down food. Instead their saliva contains enzymes that kill off bacteria. If you've ever seen your dog eat something old and gross and not get sick? Now you know why.
Humans- helps keep food from entering the wind pipe and designed for food to stay in our stomachs
Dogs- Good gag reflex. Even though dogs cannot chew up their food before it goes down the throat, it must still be the right size and amount to fit. If not, the dog simply throws up! Your dog is not sick. It's just his body telling him to try again. I know it's gross but completely natural.
Humans- food takes about one hour to move through our stomach, but depending on the amount and complexity sometimes longer.
Dogs- this is where most of their ability to break down foods take place. Their stomach is more acidic so it can break down large pieces of meat and bone. Food is kept in the stomach for a longer period of time, allowing the acid to break down animal proteins, bones, and fats. This explains why dogs can live with being fed only once or twice a day. They feel full longer because the food remains in their stomach longer.
Humans- where absorption of food takes place, the human intestinal tract is a lot longer than a dogs and therefore the body has more time to absorb nutrients from more complex foods such as plant and grain based foods.
Dogs-Digestive tract is a lot smaller. This means the dogs have less time to absorb nutrients from their food. This is why dogs do better on foods that are easily broken down such as meats bones and organs. But can struggle on complex foods such as plants and grains. This also means that bacteria have less time to multiply and cause problems. Ever seen your dog eat poop? Yes very gross, but plant based nutrients found in poo have been pre-digested making it a very convenient meal for our canine friend.
Yes some of our doggy friend’s habits may not be socially accepted by human standards but as you can see there may be reasoning behind their behaviour. Just maybe hold back from those doggy kisses!
We hear about a lot of foods that we should not feed our dogs but sometimes it’s hard to get an understanding of why? Here is a list of foods that can be dangerous to your dogs and why:
Macadamia nuts are unlikely to be fatal in dogs, it can cause very uncomfortable symptoms that may persist for up to 48 hours. Affected dogs develop weakness in their rear legs, appear to be in pain, may have tremors and may develop a low grade fever. Fortunately, these signs will gradually subside over 48 hours, but dogs experiencing more than mild symptoms can benefit from veterinary care. The mechanism of toxicity is not known. Dogs need to ingest more than 2g of nuts per kilogram of their body weight before signs are shown.
Many of us have heard not to let dogs eat chocolate, but why? Chocolate contains a caffeine-like substance called theobromine. Dogs metabolize theobromine more slowly and can get sick and die from eating too much chocolate. How much is too much? It depends on the type of chocolate, so if your dog has ingested chocolate it is best to contact your vet immediately so they can advise you on the next step to take. This affects a dog's nervous system and can result in vomiting, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeat, tremors, seizures, and even death.
Fruit Seeds and Stones
The pits in stone fruits can obstruct your dog's bowels. They also contain small amounts of cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs (and humans).
Apple Seeds - The casing of apple seeds are toxic to a dog as they contain a natural chemical (amygdalin) that releases cyanide when digested. If a large amount was eaten and the seeds are chewed up by the dog, this can cause the chemical to enter its blood stream. To play it safe, be sure to core and de-seed apples before you feed them to your dog.
When it comes to bones, the danger is that cooked bones can easily splinter when chewed by your dog. Raw (uncooked) bones, however, are appropriate and good for both your dog’s nutrition and teeth.
Corn on the Cob
This is a sure way to get your dog’s intestine blocked. The corn is digested, but the cob gets lodged in the small intestine, and if it’s not removed surgically, can prove fatal to your dog. Additionally, too much corn kernels can upset the digestive tract as well so be cautious to not feed too much.
Just as the wrong mushroom can be fatal to humans, the same applies to dogs.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins have been found recently to induce kidney failure in some animals. This failure can be permanent and life threatening. It does not seem to relate to the volume ingested, and not all animals seem to be equally susceptible. Although some dogs have been eating grapes for years, the safe course is to avoid grapes and raisins completely.
Onions are tasty for our pets as well as us, but too many onions can be dangerous. High levels of onion ingestion in dogs and cats can cause life-threatening anaemia.
The levels of thiosulfate found in onions means that even small amounts can hurt and quickly kill your dog, cat and other pets. Onions also contain allyl propyl disulphide, which causes permanent damage to red blood cells, causing anaemia and oxygen deprivation. Animals that eat onions can suffer from liver damage, discoloured urine, difficulty breathing, dermatitis and anaemia.
I love to spoil Chase! He just needs to give me that look over his shoulder and I want to drown him in food and love, but it’s the food part that can sometimes be dangerous for our dogs. Not only can it add kilos to their waist line, some products contain ingredients that may not be good for our pets.
So here are some healthy snacks that can keep your pets happy and their waist line trim.
1. Raw Meaty Bones
This is one of my favourite snacks/meals for Chase. Not only are they a great boredom buster, they can also give your pet a good workout (watch how your dog uses the muscles in their legs upper body and jaw to eat) and can offer your pets a lot of good nutrients.
What are some bone no no-s?
· Never feed your pet cooked bones. This can splinter into shards and cause health issues for your pet.
· Be careful when giving bones around young children. Dogs may become aggressive or guard bones if they have not been taught to relax around people and their bones. If you have children or even strangers at your house make sure the dog has its own private space to eat that bone and people are aware that your dog has a bone in its possession.
· Appropriate bones for your dog’s size and eating habits - If your dog tends to swallow their food whole or eat fast, larger bones are best that you know they cannot swallow whole. Same goes for smaller dogs to get the best nutrients from a bone you want to give them ones they can chew and eat all of.
What are my favourite types of bones for Chase? The No. 1 bone I love to give him is lambs necks. For smaller dogs chicken necks are great as well as chicken wings and legs. You can also give lamb shanks, whole chicken carcases, and large beef bones for those scoffers.
2. Vegetables and Fruits.
Chase’s favourites are raw carrots, raw broccoli, cooked pumpkin, apples (make sure seeds are removed) pears (also seeds removed) capsicum and zucchini.
Other vegetable and fruit suggestions for your dogs can be: spinach, oranges, asparagus, blueberries, strawberries, peaches
3. Dried Treats
While these should be very occasional foods, they can also be great treats. This includes dried liver, pigs’ trotters, roo meat as well as dried sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots. If you own a food dehydrator, why not make your own!
Bianca is the owner and groomer at Funky Fur dog grooming and always looking for ways to help you care for your pet.