Your dog's true identity is… Super Dog! Dog's are naturally fast metabolizers, which is why they grow and develop so quickly. By optimizing your dog's metabolism, you will ensure that your companion has the cellular energy their body needs to thrive. With the right nutrition, you have the ability to improve their overall performance and even slow the aging process.
A great deal of research is applied to improving food producing animals by using "enhanced" nutrition. This has resulted in an evolution of super-breeds. For example, while the total number of dairy cattle has decreased, total milk production has increased. Augmenting the nutrition of the chicken has resulted in stronger eggshells (decreasing losses due to breakage during shipping), and larger birds grown at a faster rate. Modern understanding and application of nutrition has increased the performance of food-producing animals, and the economic gains have been significant. Properly applied, nutritional science is being used to increase performance in both animals and man. Optimum performance can be enhanced in any animal whether the animal is used for work, show, stud service, or athletic competition.
The scientific application of animal nutrition has largely been directed at attempting to correct or prevent deficiencies of vital nutrients. Less consideration has been given to the biochemical balance of these nutrients; the most important of which are the trace elements.
Trace elements (minerals) are more important than are the vitamins, in that they cannot be synthesized by living matter. Thus they are the basic spark-plugs in the chemistry of life, on which the exchanges of energy in the combustion of foods and the building of living tissues depend. Henry A. Schroeder, M.D., The Trace Elements and Man
Due to the circulatory system's homeostatic regulation, testing for mineral levels in blood has not been adequate. This is because minerals are usually maintained in the blood at the expense of tissue concentrations. What this means is, a tissue deficiency of an element can develop without noticeable deviations occurring in the blood levels. For example, bone loss of calcium can become advanced enough to cause increased fragility and fractures - while blood calcium levels remain within "normal" limits. Another example; Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can develop long before low iron levels can be detected in the blood. These examples help to illustrate that the minerals being retained (or lost) in the body's tissues, are equally as important as the nutrients contained in the diet.
Laboratory analysis of hair tissue for its mineral content is an accurate, comparatively inexpensive means of determining storage levels of minerals. Extensive research over the past century supports the view that the trace element content of the hair reflects metabolism, and is a revealing and precise source for evaluating nutritional needs of minerals.
A major consideration in the nutritional support of the performance canine should be geared toward improving nutritional balance, rather than simply supplying nutrients to correct or prevent a deficiency. It is important to appreciate that an excess of a nutrient can be as dangerous as a deficiency. In fact, many deficiencies in animals are not due to a lack of nutrients, but are actually induced deficiencies brought about by excessive supplementation.
Hair tissue mineral analysis (hTMA) can aid in determining what the animal is utilizing from its diet, as well as be a guide in directing appropriate supplementation. Laboratory hTMA can be used to closely monitor the effects of supplementation and provide information for modifying diet and supplements, revealing not only what may be needed, but just as importantly, what should be avoided.
Figure 1: The graph shows Saya's first hair tissue mineral analysis (hTMA). Despite the excellent diet that Saya was being fed, many of her nutrient minerals appear low, particularly iron. Iron deficiency is common today. She also shows evidence of both arsenic and aluminum in her tissues. Aluminum is a neurotoxin that can induce behavioral agitation, it also can cause anemia due to its antagonistic effect on iron. Arsenic toxicity can cause numerous problems (see information below).
Figure 2: This graph shows Saya's second hTMA (four months later). Saya was given some diet recommendations and mineral supplements to help correct imbalances. As you can see in the graph, nutrient mineral levels are adjusting. Now that Saya is being provided with the needed preferred minerals, more toxins are being mobilized (visible by the increase in the arsenic and aluminum levels in the tissues). As toxins are mobilized and eliminated, the irritation they cause can raise tissue sodium levels due to the initiation of the stress response.
A metabolically individualized nutrition program provides many benefits to an canine athlete's performance, including;
A professional canine athlete's nutritional program may contain a variety of nutritional supplements, some of which are unnecessary, incorrect, and can even be dangerous. A thorough assessment and analysis of your dog's diet, nutrient mineral balance, and toxic load provides important parameters to help determine the correct supplementation needed to balance body chemistry. We now have a better understanding of biochemical individuality and the stimulating and sedative effects of nutrients upon metabolism. Vitamins and minerals also exhibit synergistic and antagonistic effects upon one another. In fact, minerals can interfere with or reduce absorption of other nutrients, or enhance the absorption and utilization of others.
You may have read (or been advised by an expert) that a specific supplement is good for your dog, or that all dogs are deficient in a certain nutrient. However, the only way you can be sure what supplement to use to address your animal's specific needs, is to analyze their current biochemical status. Otherwise it's just ‘best guess’ supplementation, which wastes your money and worse — is potentially damaging to your dog's health.
Typical multiple vitamin and mineral supplements contain ingredients that have antagonistic relationships. For example, excess calcium intake can produce a phosphorus and magnesium deficiency, resulting in symptoms almost identical to that of calcium deficiency. A continued loss of magnesium will contribute to increased sodium retention and eventually a vitamin A deficiency. Chronically low magnesium levels can lead to nervous behavior, insomnia, increased blood pressure, tremors, muscle spasms, noise sensitivity and other symptoms. Nutrient interrelationships like this example demonstrates, are quite complex. Each individual mineral has over twenty different factors that determine its therapeutic efficacy. This is why a clinical lab test that detects imbalances, as well as indicates the correct procedure for restoring normal balance, is so important.
Having an excellent training program is vital for canine athletes, but how well a canine is able to perform, especially throughout an entire career, begins at the cellular level. This is where nutrient mineral levels and ratios determine physiological and cognitive performance capability. When you optimize cell function, you optimize performance.
Nutrient interrelationships are exquisitely complex. Every vitamin and mineral affects several other vitamins and minerals in an interconnected, intricate, ever-changing web of association (synergism and antagonism). Here are two simple examples;
Providing your canine with the required nutrients at optimal levels and ratios, enables their body systems to perform the infinitely complex cellular interactions necessary to support ideal functioning. Extensive tissue mineral research has led to significant advancements in the understanding of nutrient mineral interrelationships. This knowledge also can be applied to vitamin and endocrine interrelationships for a comprehensive approach to nutritional therapeutics.
The performance index identifies cellular stress response ability, or how well the dog can respond to and recover from stress. How you choose to optimize performance will depend on your dog's needs. Different working dogs have different performance needs based on their specialty. Here are three examples of optimization strategies:
Ideal Balance. This optimization strategy is suited to most dogs and is indicated by both endurance and speed indices being close to ideal on the performance index.
Endurance Optimization. This optimization strategy is suited to long distance sled dog and is indicated by endurance being slightly dominant over speed.
Speed Optimization. Optimized performance for a dog who performs in agility competitions is indicated by speed being slightly dominant over endurance.
Aluminum is one of the most common toxic elements found at high levels in hTMA assessments of dogs. The most common source is processed dry and wet foods. Other sources include vaccinations, medications, and in-utero transfer. Aluminum has a tendency to accumulate in the brain and nerve tissues and in the bones and teeth, where it interferes with the absorption of a number of essential elements including iron, fluoride, phosphorus and calcium. It inhibits gastric muscle contraction and can cause constipation. This disrupting effect on the essential minerals leads to endocrine gland dysfunctions as these glands all depend on balanced mineral ratios. These dysfunctions include hypo- or hyperthyroidism, hypo- or hyper-adrenal, hypoglycemia, diabetes, dry dull coats, dry or flaky skin, and digestive disorders due to lack of pancreatic digestive enzymes and lowered stomach hydrochloric acid.
Aluminum is a neurotoxin. An array of behavioral symptoms (both common and unusual) can result from aluminum toxicity. Since aluminum has an affinity for brain and nerve tissue, it can affect any organ in the body via the central nervous system. This can lead to a multitude of health problems and a weakening of the immune response.
Mercury toxicity is everywhere, some sources are industrial and power plant smoke stack releases, tar-sands mining in Canada, vaccines and fish. Mercury is one of the most studied toxic heavy metals and the lethal effects of both acute toxic exposure and chronic low-level exposures are well documented. Exposure to mercury occurs from breathing contaminated air, ingesting contaminated water and food, and having dental and medical treatments. Mercury, at high levels, damages the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Mercury antagonizes and prevents the absorption of important nutrient minerals such as zinc, iron, selenium and sulfur.
Mercury accumulates in the brain and central nervous system. Mercury also adversely affects your dog's overall immune system by attaching to the immune cell structure and altering their ability to function normally. Mercury can cause kidney and cardiac diseases, respiratory problems, arthritis, and gum disease in your dog.
Lead can be found in all parts of our environment. Much of it comes from human activities including burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing. The concentration of lead in polluted air varies inversely with altitude. Because lead is a heavy element, it settles out of the air onto the ground. Consequently, lead poisoning occurs frequently in dogs who spend their lives close to the ground. Epilepsy can result from lead toxicity in dogs. In young children, hyperactivity may be the first presenting symptom, so if you have a hyperactive dog you can suspect high tissue lead levels. It can take years before lead exposure reaches dangerous levels, so you might not recognize symptoms until your dog is older.
Calcium inhibits lead absorption and protects against lead accumulation in bones and teeth. Both young children and dogs are naturally fast metabolizers with lower levels of tissue calcium and magnesium. This low calcium to lead ratio leads to higher lead absorption into the bones, where it displaces calcium. During times of stress, when the body would normally release more calming calcium, it will release this stored lead into the bloodstream. This can bring lead into any of the body's organs, leading to cancer and organ failure.
Arsenic is number one on the ATSDR's 2011 Priority List of Hazardous Substances list. It is a known carcinogen and affects the skin, digestive system, liver, nervous system and respiratory system. Arsenic compounds can create reactions in the body that disrupt enzymes that are involved in respiration of cells, fat and carbohydrate breakdown and their metabolism.
Organic arsenic compounds are mainly used as pesticides, while inorganic arsenic is primarily used to preserve wood. Once arsenic is released in the environment it cannot be destroyed. To make matters worse, arsenic compounds also dissolve in water. Organic forms of arsenic are actually fed to pigs and poultry to improve production, and in the case of swine, to treat diarrhea. This meat is then used in commercial dog foods.
Cadmium is a naturally occurring metal, and can be found in food, water and cigarette smoke. It is a known carcinogen that appears to act in two ways:
Like other heavy metals, cadmium stays in the body for a long time and accumulates after long-term exposure (even to low levels). Cadmium is released into the air from mining, industry, burning coal and household wastes, where it then binds to soil particles and dissolves in water. Fish, plants, and animals accumulate cadmium from the environment.
Dogs are exposed to cadmium not only through food but through drinking water and breathing contaminated air (e.g., burning waste, battery manufacturing, metal welding). Animal studies suggest cadmium accumulation leads to liver disease, high blood pressure, nerve and brain damage.
Heavy metal toxicity levels can be determined with hTMA screening. Lab results provide data used to design a corrective protocol using nutrition alone to safely replace toxic heavy metals with biologically preferred minerals. The cells and organs are supplied with essential nutrients in the appropriate ratios needed to support your dog's unique biochemical profile. An optimized nutritional plan also meets the increased biochemical demands that are placed on an athletic dog from the stressors they encounter in their sport and training program.
Dog's are naturally fast metabolizers, which is why they grow and develop so quickly. With a comprehensive metabolic profile as a guide, you can support their body's biochemical demands by providing them with the nutritional resources they need to express their full potential.
Agility competition (with rescue dogs). This delightful video demonstrates how all dogs love athletic play. You also can see the types of challenges agility athletes are accustom to. We imagine that with hTMA and simple diet changes, these amazing dogs would be even better performers and enjoy longer, more fun-filled lives.
When you optimize your dog's metabolism, you will both have more fun! The simple act of discovering how to improve your dog's health (naturally, with hTMA) is surprisingly fun to learn. Watching your "best friend" transform is fun too, because improvements are often quick and dramatic. And by balancing your dog's metabolic rate, you can slow the aging process and enjoy each other's companionship longer. What could be more fun?