There’s an old adage: “you are what you eat”. It applies to all of us, including our dogs. While dogs are opportunistic omnivores who need a good source of protein, they also thrive on a diet that includes wholesome, nutritious plants. Fortunately, nature has provided us with some power-packed options. Look for them in fresh, dried, oil or supplement form.
Getting help from KELP
Juliette de Bairacli Levy first introduced seaweed to the veterinary world in the early 1930s, but kelp and other seaweeds have enjoyed a long history all over the world. In the East, the Chinese used these sea plants as medicine as long ago as 3,000 B.C.
Kelp is the richest single source of trace minerals, which benefits pituitary, adrenal and thyroid glands. Kelp supports the immune system, helps regulate blood sugar levels, soothes the gastrointestinal tract, and helps alleviate joint pain. It contains protein, iodine, calcium, sulphur, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, along with Vitamins A, B, E and D. Kelp reduces cholesterol levels, helps flush harmful bacteria from the bladder, reduces inflammation in injured tissues, and supports healthy skin and coat.
Always seek out sustainably harvested sea vegetables that have been tested for heavy metals, herbicides, PCBs, fuel oil, and bacteriological contaminants.
HEMP for health
In 1606, a French botanist named Louis Hebert planted the very first hemp crop in North America. Hemp was cultivated for its fibre well into the 20th century, and many immigrants from Eastern Europe brought hemp seeds to their new homes in Canada, planting them for their fresh oil and using them in a variety of baked dishes.
Hemp Trade Canada tells us that hemp is botanically classified as Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae), but cannabis is a diverse plant species with over 500 different varieties. Marijuana is a “distant cousin”. Regulations stipulate that hemp be defined as having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is recognized as the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. This very low level makes hemp unsuitable for drug and therapeutic purposes. However, hemp is a super food with great nutritional benefits.
Hemp’s fatty acid profile is closer to fish oil than any other vegetable oil, and it provides a healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative to fish oil. It is also a valuable source of gluten-free protein, vitamins C and E, and chlorophyll, and has an excellent amino acid profile. Hemp does not contain the gas-producing substances found in many legumes. It’s a super-food that can help ease joint pain and inflammation, support cardiovascular health, improve the condition of skin and coat, and even act as a digestive aid.
CHIA checks all the boxes
Chia appears on many of the world’s “healthiest foods” lists, but this is nothing new, since the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas cultivated it centuries ago. In the Mayan language, “chia” means “strength.” It’s the perfect descriptor for this super-food, which is a member of the mint family. In Aztec and Mayan times, chia seeds were part of the warrior diet, and they were also used during religious ceremonies.
Chia seeds are a rich source of B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and zinc, and they are packed with antioxidants. Chia is also a very valuable source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based form of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Chia seeds are gluten-free, a popular alternative to flax seeds, and a valuable source of fibre. These tiny seeds support healthy skin and coat, and their high levels of Omega 3 help combat inflammation. They help boost the immune system, fight stress, promote healing, stabilize blood sugar levels, and are the perfect food for endurance, since they keep dogs hydrated and support electrolyte balance.
Oregano is often referred to as the “cure in the cupboard”, since it’s recognized for both its nutritional and medicinal properties. While native to northern Europe, oregano has been cultivated in France since the Middle Ages. It is integral to Mediterranean cuisine, and only became popular in North America when World War II soldiers brought home a taste for the plant after the war.
Known as one of the most powerful healing herbs, oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron, manganese and dietary fibre. It is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamins A and C, and even Omega 3 fatty acids. Preliminary evidence suggests oregano may be able to induce death in cancer cells, because of its rosmarinic acid. Research also demonstrates that beta-caryophyllene, a chemical found in oregano, may inhibit inflammation. Scientists believe this anti-inflammatory effect may have an impact on the treatment of osetoporosis, arteriosclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. Oil of oregano has powerful antibiotic-like properties so it can be used both internally and externally as a topical. Its strong phenol antioxidants and volatile oils have been shown to destroy bacteria, viruses, and yeast overgrowth.
PARSLEY is packed with nutrition
More than just a garnish, parsley is recognized as the world’s most popular herb and is one of the most concentrated food sources. It originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and has a long history as a medicinal herb, going back over 2,000 years. In fact, parsley was used medicinally before being considered a food source.
Parsley is rich in vitamins A, C and K, iron, folate, and a variety of minerals. It also contains a variety of volatile oils, including myristin, which is thought to inhibit tumor formation, especially in the lungs. Histadine, an amino acid found in parsley, has also been found to inhibit tumor growth. Parsley is referred to as a chemoprotective food because it may help neutralize a variety of carcinogens, including the benzopyrenes found in cigarette smoke. Parsley helps support the bladder and kidneys, and is great for freshening breath.
Audi Donamor has been successfully creating special needs diets for companion animals for two decades. She founded the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Smiling Blue Skies® Fund for Innovative Research. She is the proud recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for her work in cancer, from the University of Guelph/Ontario Veterinary College. The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund is also the recipient of the “Pets + Us” Community Outreach Champion Award.