In the colder months of the year, I'm sure lots of us get out our crock pots and slow cookers to make something yummy for dinner. Lately, the time of year has little to do with why my crock pot is out and everything to do with BONES.
There is an Ayurvedic saying - "Without proper food, medicine is of no use, and with proper food, medicine is of no need". Now, there are certainly exceptions and living by that saying doesn't mean that you'll never need to take medicine. In my opinion, it's more a way of saying that our health begins with food, and I couldn't agree more. In the day and age of putting everyone and all our pets on supplements and prescription medications, I love looking to food for natural sources of those things. While my sweet dog May isn't on any prescribed supplements or meds, I like to add things to her diet that keep her ahead of the curve and will hopefully prevent her from ever NEEDING to be on anything.
Bone broth is one of my favourite supplements. One of her favourites, too.
Yesterday I was going through my freezer because it is far too full of dog food (I have an insulated box sitting on the balcony in the good old Canadian Freezer since we couldn't fit it all inside...) and starting pulling out some bones - a nice big beef knuckle and some small marrow bones. The knuckle is WAY too big for May to eat (and dangerously hard, for that matter), but she loves nibbling on a marrow bone (and burying it in our bed - yuck!). Then I took a quick stroll to the local butcher and got a pig's foot. At home, I found some baby bok choy, fresh turmeric root and garlic and the most important addition - Apple Cider Vinegar. I covered everything with water and cooked it on low for 24 hours.
Let me explain the magic part!
I get knuckle bones specifically for broth - there's not much meat on them and they are full of good stuff like glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. Glucosamine is a popular supplement and almost every larger dog is on it in some way, and I love giving it to May in a natural and more easily accessible source. Glucosaminoglycans are a biomolecule (they fall under the umbrella of collagens) and they are necessary in maintaining bone and joint health. When glucosaminoglycans are extracted from bones in broth, they are resistant to digestion, which means they are absorbed intact and behave like hormones. They stimulate fibroblasts and these cells increase collagen in joints, tendons and arteries.
The pig's foot - the Trotter - is absolutely loaded with collagen, and really helps get that gelatinous consistency with your broth. That's how you can see that you got all the good stuff out. I also like to use a variety of bones for flavour.
Turmeric is a powerhouse anti-inflammatory. It can be added to your dog's diet in Golden Paste (which is a mixture of coconut oil, fresh pepper, ground turmeric and distilled water) or you can slow cook it in broth to extract the active ingredient, curcumin.
Garlic is an excellent addition to a dog's diet. There has been much discussion over garlic and whether or not it is dangerous for dogs (based on the fact that it contains thiosulphate, which can be dangerous. However, garlic contains such small traces of thiosulphate that a dog would have to consume an enormous quantity to see any detrimental effects) and I feel pretty strongly that the benefits outweigh any potential dangers, when fed in appropriate quantities. It is antiviral, antifungal, it's a natural antibiotic, it boosts the immune system, makes the dog less attractive to fleas and is helpful in preventing other parasites.
I added the bok choy because I had it, and because I like to add something leafy to the broths I make. There's something like 70 antioxident phenolic compounds (basically these are great at scavenging free radicals and are being researched as cancer prevention). It's the 11th richest food in vitamin A, it's full of zinc, omega-3s; we should all be eating more bok choy! I am a big fan of adding whatever is in my kitchen - carrots, celery, broccoli, spinach, kale, the list goes on. May won't eat vegetables if I give them to her, so I disguise them in meat flavoured juice and it works.
Apple Cider Vinegar is the last ingredient and arguably the most important (maybe after the bones...). I add a few tablespoons over the bones directly and then add water. The ACV draws minerals out of the bones so you're getting the most that you can. Some people use lemon juice too, and that's not wrong either. I just drink ACV every day and always have it in the fridge, and it's well known for extracting minerals out of plants as well.
On top of all the good stuff that bone broth will introduce to your dog's system, it also helps the liver filter out the bad stuff - pesticides, chemicals, toxic treatments (dewormers, flea treatments, tick preventatives etc.). Our livers can only do so much and is limited by the availability of glycine, which, you guessed it, is abundant in bone broth!
It's also gentle enough to be given to a sick pup, especially when it comes to diarrhea. Bone broth is soothing and helps improve digestion.
Though I haven't mentioned it yet, bone broth is just as good for humans as it is for dogs - maybe even better! The healing benefits that it offers work for everybody. If you're not one for eating a scoop of it (I fall into that category, it's just too gelatinous!) add it to soups or stews or sauces!
I've added some links with extra information and some step by step bone broth recipes!
Let TAB know your favourite Bone Broth recipes, and get slow cooking!
Changing My Mind on Early Spaying and Neutering
November 21, 2014
Growing up, watching the 'Price is Right', I really appreciated when Bob Barker would sign off saying to spay and neuter your pets. We have thousands upon thousands of animals in shelters and being fostered - there always will be - and all of those animals are spayed or neutered before they are eligible to be adopted, strictly to prevent continuing this cycle. This makes a lot of sense to help control the problem, but with it come a slew of issues that we are just starting to notice.
When you pick out and adopt or buy a puppy or kitten, you immediately have an idea of the timeline within which you will spay or neuter your new baby. We make the decision we think is responsible and safe. We make it out of love and we go by the advice of our veterinarians. New research has started to change our veterinarians' minds and I think that we all need to have all the facts when we make such a life altering decision.
Firstly, let's take a step back and think about what we are doing when we sterilize an animal. We are eliminating their sex hormone producing reproductive organs. When humans go through puberty, our bodies change and develop from the dramatic increase of hormones. What could absolutely be described as a complicated and frustrating time in our lives, our bodies grow from adolescence to adulthood, and it's essential to life. Think of how castration affects human males. Think of the recovery women go through when they've had a hysterectomy. Hormones are in control of much of our health. Now, with animal sterilization, we are abruptly disrupting the normal life cycle of our pets and eliminating important sex hormones that will forever affect them. This ritual 'de-sexing' of our pets can leave them with endocrine imbalances which can quickly become a related issue.
The following are a brief summary of some of the issues now correlated directly to de-sexing animals too early:
Joint issues and abnormal bone development - removal of estrogen producing organs (for both males and females) cause bone plates to remain open, and stunt the animals' growth. Studies have shown that animals spayed/neutered after they go through puberty grow taller. Their bone plates grow to their natural state. This helps prevent joint issues like hip dysplasia and a higher incidence of CCL ruptures. Beyond that, if an animal's bones don't fully develop, their joints will be under more stress and may be put under too much strain in more active breeds. They will experience abnormal growth patterns and bone structure, joint conformation issues and possible cartilage issues.
Bone cancers and cardiac tumours - the incidence of cancer development and tumours can increase 4-6x in dogs (breeds that have been studied specifically for this are Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers).
It is uncommon for veterinarians in North America to wait to spay or neuter pets - that's what they've been taught. If you have concerns, discuss it with your veterinarian. Ask about vasectomies and tubal ligation. Ask about waiting a few years. And if you have a pet that's been spayed or neutered on that typical North American schedule, stay on top of their health. Find some supplements that take care of their joints (fish oils/omegas). Feed them clean food. And get them in to see a Bowen Practitioner! (or Chiropractor, or Physiotherapist, or Massage Therapist)
Every morning, while I make my dog's breakfast and give it a few minutes to let it lose its chill (raw food, cold from the fridge), May waits not-so-patiently. She watches my every move and wags her tail expectantly while I work and any time I look at her, she bounces up on her hind end and begs with her hands (excited for food much?). Lately, I've been giving her a splash of kefir to keep her busy and it's been a fantastic distraction, and healthful one to boot!
Kefir itself (pronounced kah-fear) is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains. It originated in the Caucasus Mountains and is full of good stuff - bacteria, healthy yeasts, protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 (and B12 depending on which milk was fermented), D, K2 and folic acid. Despite its main ingredient being milk, the fermentation process nearly eliminates the lactose within the drink and so animals (and people) with lactose intolerance are able to drink kefir without issue! In recent years, kefir has become very popular and is widely available at grocery stores and natural health stores all over.
Now, why did I start giving it to May? When our adorable dog came to us through an amazing rescue organization (From My Heart Rescue), she had been through a LOT. Found on the street in Taiwan, she was scooped up, taken to the veterinarian there and got ALL her shots, was spayed, de-wormed, tested for Lyme and was being treated for heart worm and a skin infection that was due to food allergies (so add antibiotics in there, too!). Needless to say, her little body was overwhelmed with a lot of foreign (but necessary) substances, and that's the cost of bringing a homeless dog from the other side of the world to a safe, healthy, warm and loving home in Toronto!
To the point, the natural balance of her digestive tract was out of whack, her liver was under stress trying to eliminate any toxins from all her vaccinations, her skin was itchy and her breath…well…it was…unpleasant. Along with a big diet change, kefir was a nutritious way to naturally target the issues at hand.
It's important that I point out that it is NOT an overnight miracle. It certainly makes a difference immediately, but in order for ANY body to eliminate toxins and heal, you need consistency and time. May has been here for 7 months and I'd say that it took about 3 months to see big changes and now it's a part of her every day diet to help maintain health.
There is a fantastic article here. That's full of information and gives you an idea about dosages for your fur baby.
So, I love kefir (I do drink it everyday myself) for the way it has helped balance my dog's health and May loves it, well, because it's delicious.