In a perfect world, we would not need supplements. That said, this is not a perfect world. Far from it. No corner of the globe, however remote, escapes the far-reaching side effects of today’s society: air and water pollution; topsoil erosion and soil depletion; radiation; exposures to toxic chemicals from pesticides, herbicides, immunizations and medications; and, with all due respect to those who deny its existence, climate change.
Even if we have state-of-the-art air purifiers and top-drawer water filtration systems, unless we live in our very own biosphere, never receive vaccinations or take pharmaceuticals, grow all our own produce, and raise and butcher our own animals, we will most likely have to resort to supplementation in order to combat the ravaging effects of the modern age, and to meet our nutrient requirements. And as we age, this becomes even more important.
The same is true for our dogs. No matter what we feed our canine companions, I would wager my beloved home on the fact that, if we were to send samples of our dogs’ suppers out for laboratory analysis, we would be surprised at best, and horrified at worst, to learn how many nutritional gaps would be found.
As guardians of older dogs in particular, it is up to us to ensure these animals are getting enough critical nutrients to prevent, and in some cases, minimize the effects of, age-related issues like inflammation (such as gastrointestinal conditions or arthritis) and oxidative stress.
As I am first and foremost a holistic nutritionist, I believe in the concepts of Fix It With Food First and Food as Medicine. If we approach supplemental support for these conditions from a holistic perspective, we may be able to avoid, or at least reduce the need for, NSAIDs, steroids and pain medications, and drugs like Adequan and Anipryl, which come with both high price tags and serious health risks.
Back to Basics
Let’s take a closer look at three, all natural, easy-to-find, affordable, and most importantly, safe whole food supplements that you just might already have in your kitchen cupboard.
First on the list is bone broth. Ridiculously popular with Paleo and GAPS diet devotees, bone broth has been enjoyed by myriad “primitive” societies for centuries, albeit without the stoneware slow cookers and mason jars.
All you need to brew a great batch of this rejuvenating superfood is a large stockpot, filtered water, raw apple cider vinegar, and, you guessed it, bones (though feel free to get creative and toss in some carrots, celery, parsley or even mushrooms). It’s best to select cartilaginous bones such as beef knuckle bones, chicken feet, or even that turkey carcass from last Saturday’s soiree in order to yield plenty of collagen, glucosamine and other gut- and joint-supporting nutrients.
The key to good bone broth is to take it slowly. Start a batch early in the morning, and let the apple cider vinegar work its magic as the hours pass, even overnight, as the acetic acid extracts the minerals from the bones. It’s best to cook the broth for 24 hours or more on the lowest possible heat setting, stirring occasionally, and then allow to cool before you remove and discard the cooked bones; and then refrigerate, de-fat, and finally strain, the remaining contents of the pot.
I fasten a piece of fine cheesecloth over open mason jars for one last strain when I am ready to pour the final product, then I simply pop the sealed jars in the fridge, where the broth keeps for as many as five days — though it never lasts that long! (If this seems like too much work, you can always purchase ready-made or instant, powdered bone broth. Just be sure it isn’t made with onions, as onions are toxic to dogs.)
Next on the list is the antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid. This powerhouse nutrient is found in every body cell, and works hard to convert glucose to usable energy.
Antioxidants fight free radical damage, which occurs as a by-product of cellular metabolism. This damage contributes to oxidation (think about what happens to metal when it is exposed to the elements – a sort of rusting process occurs that, over time, degrades and ages the metal), hence the need for something that attempts to combat this: an “anti-oxidant.”
Some holistic veterinarians call alpha-lipoic acid the Fountain of Youth because it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier in order to assist in prolonging sound mental and emotional states of dogs well into old age. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks? Take that, canine cognitive disorder!
There are many ALA supplements on the market, but why not feed your dog his ALA? It is found in abundance in foods including beef heart and liver, broccoli and spinach.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Finally, don’t forget about omega 3 fatty acids. Many people feed their dogs commercial dog food that contains fish oil. I do not support this, for these reasons: even the best fish oil is very fragile, and starts to turn rancid when exposed to heat and/or air, and even when frozen; and most of the fish oil that is used in commercial pet food is not suitable for human consumption, and has been chemically treated, often times with dangerous solvents.
A better option would be to feed your dog a fish oil-free commercial or home-prepared fresh food diet, and add human-grade (small bodied) fish oil, or phytoplankton to his meals just before serving. This way, your dog will benefit from the stable, inflammation-fighting, brain-building fats he was designed to eat.
Hippocrates had the right idea when he advised: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” After all, some say he lived to be over 85 years old, during a time when the average life expectancy was 40 years! Just food for thought.
This post was kindly written by Dr, Reema Sayegh. She holds doctoral degrees in Holistic Nutrition and Naturopathy, and has over 20 years experience in the field of integrative medicine and holistic health. After she rescued a nine-year-old Great Dane mix named Zeus in 2004, Dr. Reema was inspired to “shift gears” and has since become a Reiki master teacher, certified holistic pet consultant, published author, public speaker, and animal welfare advocate. She works in tandem with veterinarians and their clients to provide companion animals adjunct natural wellness modalities, and, when indicated, specialty geriatric and hospice care. Dr. Reema resides in California with her husband and the love of their lives: a spirited canine teacher, healer, and gigantic, fun-loving goofball named Dakota. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.