Possible Link Between Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

As pet parents, we are solely responsible for our pet’s health. A big responsibility, but one that should be relatively easy to navigate with all of the knowledge at our finger tips these days.  After reading the latest news from the FDA regarding the possible link between “grain-free dog food and Heart Disease” a few of us started to feel uneasy about our own dog’s diets. Should I be worried? Should I keep feeding my dog their current diet? Have I been doing damage? To help, we did some digging and hope the following advice is helpful to you as well.

In the simplest of terms, here’s what’s being looked into.

WHO:

The Food and Drug Administration announced that it is investigating a link between grain-free diets and a common type of canine heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).

WHAT:

Eating grain-free pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legumes or potatoes as their main ingredients. The carbohydrates are intended to replace grains.

WHEN: 

The investigation was announced July 12th 2018 and is currently being conducted by the FDA.

WHERE:

DCM is typically found in giant breed dogs such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. The FDA is encouraging dog owners and vets to report DCM cases in dogs who are not predisposed to the disease. They have found atypical cases in Golden and Labrador Retrievers, a Whippet, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog, and Miniature Schnauzers as well as mixed breeds.

WHY:

Most of the reported cases of non-predisposed breeds showing signs of DCM involve grain-free diets, but not all 145 cases involving 160 dogs and 39 deaths were attributed to a grain-free diet. It’s too early to tell, but some guess low levels of Taurine (needed in consuming grains) may be the culprit in certain breeds while others say the majority of these cases involve dogs that were not taurine deficient.

SYMPTOMS:

Loss of appetite, pale gums, increased heart rate, coughing, difficulty breathing, periods of weakness, and fainting are signs commonly seen.

CONCLUSION:

We agree with experts saying not to panic and wait to see if the investigation finds direct correlation to grain-free diets or other issues related to these cases of DCM such as taurine deficiency. As veteran specialists in dog nutrition, we do believe grains, in moderation, provide an important source of protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, trace vitamins and minerals and other benefits if your dog is not food sensitive to grains. Like your diet needs, your pets’ needs are unique. A well-balanced diet high in protein, balanced omegas, vitamins, minerals, and fiber are the key to a healthy base along with supplementation to make sure their unique needs are being met (like hip & joint, skin & coat, digestion health, life stage adds, etc).

Link Between Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

Our supplement powders are “heart healthy” and do not contain ingredients that are part of this issue. In addition to heart healthy ingredients such as flaxseed, kelp, and nutritional yeast, we also include taurine in both our dog and cat products. While dogs are able to synthesize taurine in their bodies, it is not usually added to dog foods but is required to be in cat food under AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) guidelines. However, dogs with certain diseases, such as heart disease, may be taurine deficient. Certain breeds, such as those predisposed to DCM, are likely to be taurine deficient as well.

We’ll continue to watch this closely and provide updates and information. For information purposes only, consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Link Between Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

Articles for reference:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/health/grain-free-dog-food-heart-disease.html

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/FDAInBrief/ucm613355.htm 

10 Tips for Senior Dogs Aging Healthfully

September is Healthy Aging Month, and we believe that focusing on the positive aspects of growing older isn’t just for us humans.  As our pets move into their later years, there are steps we can take to help them age gracefully, happily, and comfortably.  After all, we want the best for our babies, no matter how old!

At The Missing Link®, we haven’t just studied and learned about senior dogs, some of us live with them!

Here are 10 tips for senior dogs aging healthfully:

1. Listen.  If our older dogs could talk, they’d tell us that they tire more easily, their joints are sore in the morning, they get confused sometimes, or that it is getting harder to reach the food bowl on the floor.  Of course they can’t talk, so they rely on us to “listen” in other ways.  Watch how he or she moves, pay attention to when they seem more energetic, give them a bit more time to do what they used to do quickly, and be prepared to gently guide them if needed.

2. Short strolls. Your senior pup probably still loves to get out of the house and away from the same old yard.  But long fast walks are likely a thing of the past.  Shorter distances are better, and slow that roll – let the outings be more about sniffing and exploring than beating any speed records.  Frequent stretches are good for stiffening joints and bones, and you can help your pup with gentle stretches at home – you both can enjoy some downward dog time with doggie yoga.  “Dogmaste.”

3. Sir Pants-A-lot. Just like older humans, aging pups have a harder time regulating their body temperature.  So temperature extremes can be a challenge.  In the summer, watch for excessive panting, and keep them out of the heat as much as possible. In the winter, they may need more help staying warm with a cozy bed, blankets or even fashionable outdoor wear.  What’s not to love about looking cute AND being warm?

 

tips for aging dogs

 

4. Slip & Slide. Along with potentially achy joints, our aging doggos have a harder time maintaining their balance on slippery surfaces. Tile and hardwood floors become scary places.  It may be time to relinquish some of your home style choices to make certain areas easier for your pup to get around.  Even if it means adding half a dozen non-slip throw rugs in a tile floor kitchen. Not a design look to love, but easier and safer for the dog you love.

5. Say What? Our pups may be coping with changes in their hearing and eyesight.  They could be dealing with diminished senses, OR they may become more sensitive to loud noises.  My boy is now scared of “loud” kitchen noises so when it is dinner prep time, he leaves the room and hides until it is time to return for taste testing.  If changes happen drastically and quickly, see your Vet. Otherwise, be your pups’ additional eyes and ears to help keep them safe. Consider gates to keep them from dangerous situations if failing eyesight may lead them astray.

 

tips for aging dogs

 

6. Playtime. They may not be able to run for a ball or leap high for a frisbee, but one of the most important tips for aging dogs, regular playtime, is still an important way for your dog to feel loved and stay active physically and mentally. Playing with a favorite squeaky toy, splashing in puddles, playing doggy poker (which hand is hiding the treat?) or even just getting on the floor for tummy rubs and light wrestling are all good ways to stimulate a dog’s brain and muscles – and does wonder for our moods too!

7. Spa-ahh. A little TLC goes a long way, and can really help our fur kids age gracefully.  If you visit a Groomer, make sure they are equipped to handle older dogs and any possible mobility or comfort issues.  At home, brush their coat frequently (also a great way to check for ticks, or any new lumps or bumps), brush their teeth to help keep their chompers healthy, and if suggested by your vet, keep their ears cleaned.  We all feel good after a bit of Spa time.

8. Not “just”.  Don’t assume that problems or drastic changes are “just old age.”  If you notice fairly dramatic decreases in appetite, changes in personality, bathroom habits, activity levels, or abnormal lumps and growths, these could be a sign of a medical problem, so schedule a visit with your vet.  Once diagnosed and treated, our senior dogs can get back to being more like their “old selves”.

9. Dinnertime. Nutrition is just as vital in dogs’ later years as it is when they are young and growing.  Check with your vet for any suggested changes to daily diets to get the right balance of calories, fiber, protein and fats.  With a slowdown in exercise level and metabolism, it may be time to cut back a bit on the quantity they eat to avoid weight gain which is harder on joints and heart.  No matter what kind of diet you’re feeding your dog, it’s hard for them to get all of the age appropriate and necessary nutrition at mealtime.  Adding supplements from The Missing Link® family of products is a great way to fill in nutritional gaps.  The Missing Link® Senior Formula is especially effective, with balanced Omega’s, probiotics, dietary fibers and glucosamine to support your aging dog’s flexibility, mobility, digestive system, skin & coat and even energy level.  With just a spoonful a day, your doggo can go from good to best.

 

tips for aging dogs

 

10. Smile! You probably have hundreds of photos of your fur kid when he or she was a puppy and an active teen.  Be sure you continue to snap those pics to capture those beautiful eyes, great expressions and natural handsomeness or beauty. Share your dog-and-me selfies with friends to support the love of senior pets and encourage older pup adoptions.  You’ll get aww’s in return, and you’ll be glad to have those memories preserved.

We hope you can use some of these tips for senior dogs to help your wizened, experienced, oh-so-cherished just don’t call them “old” senior pups have happy and healthy golden years!

How Does The Missing Link® Flaxseed Deliver Visible Results?

The Invisible Problem Pet Owners Face.

We’ve all heard of Omega Fatty Acids and specifically the elusive Omega 3. The story is familiar: Our pets (and ourselves for that matter) get too much Omega 6 in our diets from grain and grain-fed meat. Omega 6 causes our bodies to increase inflammation. The problem is we don’t get enough Omega 3, which our body uses to suppress inflammation.

Omega 3

While most pet foods are adequate, they’re usually over-processed using high cooking temperatures and extruding pressures that degrade naturally occurring vitamins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria. Another hidden issue many pet owners do not consider – the livestock that makes up the meat in your dog food is fed a diet of corn and soybeans, both high in Omega 6. The meat in your dog food (unless grass fed) concentrates Omega 6 in your pet’s cells. The Missing Link® Original Powdered Supplements provide 2:1 Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. This provides cats, dogs, birds and many other species a therapeutic level of Omega 3, rebalancing your pet’s nutrition to optimum levels. But what exactly makes The Missing Link® product so different from any other Omega 3 supplement?

Omega 3

The Power of a Small Seed.

Truly a unique and powerful nutrient storehouse, flaxseed is the richest vegetarian source of the vital Omega 3 essential fatty acid in the form of alpha linolenic acid, and is the core ingredient in The Missing Link® supplements. Flaxseed also has the richest source of lignans, a class of phytochemicals which are powerful antioxidants that protect our pet’s immune system. The combination of omega fatty acids, dietary fiber, phytonutrients, and lignans in the flaxseed also supports a healthy, beautiful coat, healthy digestion, brain function, and helps sustain energy levels.

What Makes The Missing Link® Flaxseed Different?

Our whole-ground flaxseed, patented cold-processing and hermitically sealed packaging make the difference for your pet’s health. Once a flax seed is cracked and the natural barrier is no longer intact, the essential fatty acids begin to rapidly oxidize and turn rancid. Other manufacturers are using flaxseed that is pre-ground before they buy it, and the nutritional efficacy has already been compromised. Another major difference with other products is that our product retains the entire contents of the flaxseed. Many ground flaxseed products offered are only the ground hulls of the seed, a byproduct of extracting the oil. The Missing Link® flaxseed still contains the vital oil and germ, which makes our flaxseed products more effective.

Omega 3

What Is The Proprietary Process of The Missing Link®?

The Missing Link® uses a patented cold-processing method that ensures the flaxseed is ground fresh in a controlled environment to retain its nutritional value. The Missing Link® flaxseed is ground fresh in a matter of seconds before being filled into a bag. This proprietary cold processing technique results in a far superior product from a nutritional standpoint. We use foil laminated polyethylene bags that are nitrogen flushed and hermetically sealed. Nitrogen flushing allows us to displace the oxygen reducing oxidation and ensuring the product (and the Omega-3s inside) are fresh and stable.

 

What About Fish Oil Supplements?

You will find much information about fish oil supplements, and how they have the best Omega 3 fatty acids. This might be true if your pet was eating fresh salmon. What they don’t tell you is that bottled oils quickly go rancid if not consistently refrigerated and shielded from light, and feeding your pet rancid oil is worse than none at all. To address this, some products claim to be “stabilized”, yet that also greatly degrades the Omega 3.

Omega 3

What Does This Mean For My Pet?

In our pursuit to preserve the nutritional integrity of the flax used in our products, we can change the modern pets diet and correct the imbalance of Omega Fatty Acids pets have endured for decades eating commercially available pet food. Having freshly ground flaxseed rich in precious Omega 3 Fatty Acids preserved naturally with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives means The Missing Link®  supplements offer the nutritional edge every pet deserves.

 

Senior Mutterings… A Note to My Hoomans

Hey. It’s me, Juke.  We’ve been together a loooong time. You say it’s only been a bit over 10 years, but to me it feels more like 80.  You hoomans have always been funny about math and time, but I agree with you on one thing – I’m officially a senior dog.

So, here’s the deal – by now, we get each other. We are way past that pesky phase of me having to train you, when I had to listen to you repeat things over and over.  Although I do miss the extra  treats you used to give me when you finally did something right. We’ve been in a good groove for quite a while.

Even so, there are a few things I feel I need to clarify. Times are changing, and I’d like to continue to enjoy my later years in the style to which I’ve grown accustomed. So be a good hooman, will you, and allow me to point out some important senior pup rules:

  • Hurrying and rushing are no longer something I will do. Meandering and sniffing is my jam.
  • Routines are an even more vital part of my existence. Don’t even think about changing our schedule or how we do things, or I will resort to a sit-in protest, give you side-eye, or worse — use the sad pathetic pup face you hate.
  • Speaking of routines, I will determine the direction of our slow walks. If it is the same loop every day, just go with it. Remember, I weigh 87 pounds, you won’t be able to budge me. Oh, and if I don’t feel like going for a walk, no amount of your pretend excited-voice will get me to go with you. Some days are meant only for resting.
  • I will chase and woof after bunnies and squirrels for a distance of 8 feet. After that, I deem them no longer a threat, and will move into silent observation mode.
  • If I’m feeling especially perky, I will chase the ball. Once. I’m done picking up after you. Besides, after all these years, you have still failed to explain why, if you want the ball, why you throw it in the first place?
  • I live for eating, belly rubs, and butt scratches. Yeah, I know you like the “cute end” better, but you try to reach that spot to itch when you are my age.
  • I snore. Live with it.
  • I’m lumpy. Sure, some of those lumps may be something evil lurking, but most of them are just old man lumps. Just be glad I have fur covering me so I still look cute.
  • I will do my business wherever and whenever the urge strikes. I know for most of my life I’ve deposited my poo in the reserved area of the yard. Well, guess what, I can’t always get there in time now. So watch your step. And really, I’ll never understand why when we are on walks you feel the need to collect and save it. I mean, that’s gross.
  • I will stop in my tracks and blatantly stare at other hoomans who approach, sizing them up and assuming they will do the right thing and stop to introduce themselves to me with pats. I will be totally confused if they ignore me. However, if they are wearing a hat or gloves, I don’t trust them and they should move on by. Quickly.
  • You exist even more than ever to give me comfort and attention. I come first. And I really want whatever is on your plate.
  • Speaking of food, make sure you keep adding that yummy Missing Link powder stuff to my meals. It it tastes really good, makes me look and feel great and makes it easier for me to get up and down the steps. And I gotta still look cool in front of my friends.

I wuv you. Thanks for listening. Now give me my daily treat. In exactly the same spot on the rug as always. You know the rules.

Benefits of Flaxseed for Dogs

When it comes to flaxseed, there are many potential health benefits that can contribute to the increased vitality and well-being of your canine friend, especially as a regular supplement to a healthy diet.

Flaxseed has historically been used for thousands of years in the creation of things like fabrics and linen and other textiles. It has also been used to make linseed oil, otherwise known as flaxseed oil.

The flax plant itself produces little seeds that are golden and brown in color, with a taste that is somewhat nutty in flavor. The seeds can be eaten as-is, although it’s not recommended. In its whole form, it is most likely to pass right through your dog’s system undigested. In fact, they are so stable, they’ve found in-tact flax seeds in Egyptian tombs!

Other ways flax may be eaten is in its ground form, either sprinkled in your dog’s food or encased in a supplemental capsule. Sometimes you may also find certain brands of dog food that have flaxseed already added as a prime ingredient, although most dog foods tend to lack vital nutrients such as those found in flax supplements, so be sure to clearly read the ingredients label.

Fatty Acid Wonders

Flaxseed is an extremely healthy food because they are loaded with essential fatty acids like omega-3. Omega-3 is otherwise known as alpha linolenic acid, or ALA. Flaxseed is also full of dietary fiber, protein, manganese, and lignans.

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that has been shown to be an important factor in the good health of a dog and animals in general. Omega-3 essential fatty acids, in particular, contribute to cell function, cell membrane structure, immune function, the health of your dog’s skin and coat, normal reproduction, and even the growth of your dog.

Fatty Acid Ratios

Even more important than mere consumption of essential fatty acids, is the importance of having omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids consumed by your dog in the proper ratios they require, in order to reap the full health benefits.

It is thought that dogs that suffer from autoimmune, allergic, or inflammatory health conditions may benefit from increasing omega-3 fatty acid levels.

Flaxseed Helps Support a Healthy Coat and Hair

One of the first signs you may notice in your dog if his nutrition is suffering is dryness in his skin, and/or a lack of luster in his coat and hair. When a dog is not getting the proper nutrition that its body needs, it manifests itself in the appearance of a dog’s coat.

Hair can appear dull and dry, look wiry, and even develop dandruff and present with skin that is dry and irritated, which can open them up to potential infection. This can happen in dogs that are not eating properly, that are sick from other health conditions, or that are not getting a good balance of essential nutrients from their food source.

Plus, when the lipid barriers of a dog’s skin are reduced, which is what happens when a dog’s natural coat oils get depleted, your dog may run a higher risk of developing skin conditions, especially if they are scratching excessively.

So, supplementing with flaxseed on a regular basis could help with conditions related to the health of your dog’s skin and fur.

Flaxseed Helps Support Healthy Joints

The same anti-inflammatory properties of essential fatty acids (i.e. alpha linoleic acid) that aid your dog fighting off skin irritants, could also help your dog’s joints and range of mobility, especially in dog’s that suffer from conditions like canine arthritis.

This means that a regular consumption of adequate doses of flaxseed could provide your dog with relief when it comes to occasional or minor joint problems, as well as help to improve their ability to get around.

Flaxseed Helps Support a Healthy Immune System

Flaxseed also possesses something called lignans. Lignans are antioxidants that can help your dog’s immune system do its job, and further improves your dog’s ability to mitigate inflammation.

This means that your dog may be better able to deal with the pain of arthritis and other chronic inflammatory disorders that affect his joints and decrease his mobility, and even possibly fight off infections that may be related to inflammation.

Flaxseed Helps Support Healthy Kidneys

The essential fatty acid omega-3 can also help to reduce kidney inflammation in dogs with kidney disease, by helping your dog produce other anti-inflammatory agents in his body. Reducing inflammation of the kidneys can also help to increase vital blood flow to essential organs, and help your dog keep their lipid levels up so that they produce more triglycerides. This is beneficial for dogs suffering from kidney problems because by elevating their triglycerides, it could help extend the dog’s life.

Flaxseed May Improve the Health of Dogs with Adrenal Issues

 Flaxseed may possess potential for treating dogs with adrenal problems, due to the high content of lignans that are found in flaxseed, especially in the hulls of the seed.

Adrenal issues in dogs is a problem that secretes excess hormones in a dog’s body. It’s a condition that often results from a tumor, either on the pituitary gland or from a tumor of the adrenal glands. Experiments with lignan therapies have been made in an effort to improve and increase a dog’s quality of life, with encouraging results.

Though you can find lignan in many other plant sources, flaxseed appears be the plant that contains the most amounts of it. Flaxseed hulls possess something called SDG lignan, and they contain it in levels that are 20 times higher than the entire rest of the flaxseed, making it a premium source for these valuable, health-supporting agents.

Flaxseed hulls are also loaded with fiber, which is of great benefit to many dogs since being low on fiber is relatively common in canines. This is because a lot of dog foods that are currently available on the market tend to be low in fiber too.  

Because of the high fiber content, it is thought that flaxseeds help to soak up toxins as well as increase the frequency and volume of bowel movements. This makes it easier for a dog to rid itself of harmful waste in a more efficient manner, which may be the reason why it is so helpful in treating dogs with adrenal problems. 

Lignans also perform other functions in a dog’s body related to phytoestrogen activity, and lignan takes the place of estradiol in a dog’s tissue estrogen receptors. Lignans also lower estradiol in their system by inhibiting aromatase enzymes, and lowers cortisol by inhibiting 3-beta HSD enzymes.

Therefore, an increase of flaxseed in a dog’s diet may be a beneficial and effective way to manage the symptoms of a dog suffering from adrenal issues. 

Flaxseed Helps Support Healthy Digestion

 Flaxseed is sometimes recommended for dogs that suffer from digestive disorders. Because flaxseed is adaptable, that means it is able to support a dog suffering constipation and support a dog suffering loose stools. However, it must be given in proper and adequate dosages, and every dog is different.

 Generally, stools should appear firm and well-formed if they are healthy. If you notice your dog’s stool becoming softer, or your dog appears to be constipated as a result of giving them flaxseed, you may need to adjust the dosage.

Remember That Flaxseed is a Food

Keep in mind that flaxseed is a food, so there is generally very little risk of negative side effects. This is because you can’t really feed a dog flaxseed in toxic levels. However, if you do happen to feed them a little too much for their bodies to digest properly, it will become evident in your dog’s skin and coat. As far as overfeeding signs to look out for, side effects could be diarrhea and upset stomach. Because flaxseed contains a lot of fiber, it helps your dog’s digestive system clean itself out and function properly. It’s important to make sure your dog is drinking plenty of water, otherwise the added fiber won’t get excreted properly. With flaxseed especially, because of the thickening agent called mucilage, hydration is important.

What Are The Recommended Amounts of Flax?

If you are using ground flaxseed, the dosage is generally based on your dog’s weight. You can add ground flaxseed to your dog’s food in the following dosages, or administer it to your dog in supplemental capsules, then adjust the dose as needed. Be sure to follow the recommended dosage and schedules provided on the ground flaxseed product.

It’s recommended that you divide these dosages in half and administer the first half in the morning and the remainder in the evening.

  • In dogs that are teacup size, you can start with 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon per day.
  • In small dogs, start with a 1/2 teaspoon to 1 full teaspoon each day.
  • In medium-sized dogs you can start with 1 1/2 teaspoons to 2 full teaspoons per day.
  • In large dogs, you can start with 2 1/2 teaspoons to 1 full tablespoon per day.
  • In giant breeds like Great Danes, start with 1 1/2 to 2 full tablespoons daily.

Keep in mind that if you have a dog that is diabetic or hypoglycemic, it’s important to check with your vet before supplementing with flaxseed.

Also, remember that dogs who are fed whole flax seeds will most likely not see any benefit from them, because they will pass the seeds undigested. This makes it a wasted effort, and a waste of money. Though doing this doesn’t harm your dog, it also doesn’t do them any favors.

Also, because it is sometimes said that dogs have a harder time converting ALA into EPA and DHA, it’s important to make sure you are feeding them a very high-quality flaxseed supplement. When a dog does have a problem converting ALA into EPA or DHA, it is largely a result of feeding your dog poor quality flaxseed.

To avoid this, do your due diligence and find a quality source from a proven provider, and watch your dog flourish as a result.

Shop our high quality fresh-ground flaxseed supplements for dogs today!

*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.

References:

https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/healthy-foods-checklist-flaxseed-dogs

https://www.vetinfo.com/flax-seed-oil-dogs.html/

https://flaxcouncil.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/FlaxFeed-Nutrition-Benefits-final.pdf