Importance of Nutrition for Animals: Black Rhino Study

Though there has been an increase in overall numbers of African rhinos in the world, the Black Rhino, in particular, has been declining quickly. In fact, they have been declining faster than any other large terrestrial mammal that has been documented in recent history.

The Black Rhino is one of five types of the rhinoceros species, and both their numbers as well as their available habitat has been experiencing a considerable downward slope.

Habitat encroachment, as well as poaching, are the culprits currently contributing to the Black Rhino’s rapid deterioration in numbers, and to date, there are no effective management techniques that have been developed to prevent this or slow it down. This is the reason that a lot of effort is being put into maintaining this disappearing species in homes like zoos and other protected environments.

Unfortunately, however, public zoos often have significant cost and availability limitations when it comes to what they can feed their animals to keep them healthy and nourished.

In the case of the Black Rhinoceros, the costs are simply too prohibitive to import their native African diet to North America, and sadly, there are not very many places here in the States that offer a suitable habitat and suitable temperatures to grow native African plants.

Because of these limitations, it means that most Black Rhinos get fed a diet very similar in composition to that which is given to White Rhinos, despite their significant differences both chemically and physically when it comes to what these two beasts eat in the wild.

For instance, the White Rhino likes to graze, and typically consumes more grass instead of shrubs and trees. The Black Rhino, however, mostly consumes trees and shrubs, and rarely eats grass unless by accident while eating shrubbery.

A White Rhinos main diet in captivity is typically alfalfa sprouts and green pellets as well as grass hays. Obviously, when this same diet is fed to the Black Rhinoceros, it does not do a great job of mimicking their natural diet in the wild at all.

As a result, many of the Black Rhinos in captivity appear to be developing a whole host of health concerns and diseases that are not being seen in other rhinoceros species like the White Rhino. This is thought to possibly be related to the different nutrient requirements of the Black Rhinoceros and the nutritional differences in the native diet of trees and shrubs versus the diet they are fed while in captivity, which is largely a blend of hay and grain pellets.

In particular, differences in essential fatty acid composition is thought to be a big culprit to the health concerns and diseases that are being seen, as the fatty acids that Black Rhinos consume in captivity are a poor match for what they would normally consume in the wild, both in levels as well as ratios.

In the case of the Black Rhinoceros, a study was done giving them a fatty acid supplement from The Missing Link® on a regular basis. This supplementation resulted in marked improvements in their health and well-being.

The Black Rhinos were fed The Missing Link, giving them important and effective ratios of both linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid, and alpha linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid.

It is thought that for rhinos, as well as other animal species who may be given fatty acid supplements, it is much more important to determine the proper ratios of fatty acids to give them than it is to determine the overall levels of fatty acids they should consume. Quantity doesn’t matter as much as a proper balance does.

One Eastern Black Rhino, in particular, seemed to benefit amazingly well from The Missing Link supplement: a younger, female Black Rhino named Lucy. She first came to the United States from a South African elephant park.

When she arrived in the States, she was three years old and had a healthy balance of linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids as her baseline. Within a year of arrival, she suffered a series of concerning blood health problems thought to be related to diet and the ratios of EFA’s she was consuming.

During the study, Lucy was flown in food from Zimbabwe, and because of the diet changes, researchers noticed a significant improvement in her health. This led them to begin to look for other ways they could meet Black Rhinos nutritional requirements, without importing weekly food from Africa.

They did some blood testing to measure Lucy’s fatty acid profiles as well as the profiles of four other Black Rhinos, in order to establish some baseline levels. Before supplementation, Lucy and her friends were also fed a diet of ground aspen feed pellets and alfalfa hay, as well as some oranges in small amounts. They were also fed various plants like honeysuckle, willow, and mulberry, plus given a small salt block to lick. The selected rhinos were then given The Missing Link nutritional supplements that are composed of (at minimum) 18% linoleic acid, and 50% linolenic acid.

As the researchers monitored these Black Rhinos over the course of four months, they noticed that not only did the animal’s fatty acid ratios improve, they also noted that the Black Rhino exhibited no ill side effects from the supplementation.

Lucy, the Black Rhino that was so ill at one point, was given only The Missing Link supplement, and her aspen feed pellets. The supplement played a big part in her health improvements and she showed no signs of the issues and diseases she had previously suffered from.

Meanwhile, as Lucy was being treated and monitored, another female Black Rhino, also three years old, arrived in the United States and showed the same ratios of essential fatty acids as Lucy had when it was thought they could be potentially harming her health.

Based on the results of the study, the conclusion was reached that supplementing with The Missing Link essential fatty acid supplement helped to maintain in the Black Rhinos a healthy and balanced ratio of linoleic acid and linolenic acid that is so important for their well-being. Lucy continued to receive the supplement after the study, and even one year after the study was complete, she was still presenting as healthy and appeared to be doing well.

This study does an excellent job of highlighting the importance of essential fatty acids (which in this case were derived from flax) in an animal’s diet, both large and small. Also, more critically, the importance of maintaining a healthy ratio of fatty acids, not just adequate levels of fatty acids. Since the study, other wild animals held in captivity have been given The Missing Link fatty acid supplements to improve their health and diet, with great success.

This is a partial list of the many different species currently consuming and benefiting from The Missing Link’s fatty acid supplement:

  • Golden Lion Tamarin
  • White-Nosed Coati
  • Coquerel’s Sifaka
  • East African Grey-Crowned Crane
  • Mountain/Woolly Tapir
  • Harris’ Antelope Squirrel
  • Four-Toed Hedgehog
  • Black Lemur
  • Greater Malayan Chevrotain
  • Donkey
  • Jaguar
  • Lion
  • Cat
  • North American Black Bear
  • Dog
  • Giant Eland
  • Mandrill
  • Gelada Baboon
  • Pied Tamarin
  • Red-Tailed Mustached Monkey
  • Prevost’s Squirrel
  • Red Uakari
  • De Brazza’s Monkey
  • One-Horned Rhinoceros
  • Toggenburg Goat
  • Emperor Tamarin
  • Sierra Nevada Black Bear
  • Buff-Cheeked Gibbon
  • Anoa
  • Chimpanzee
  • Black-Handed Spider Monkey
  • Red-Capped Mangabey
  • Orangutan
  • Masai Giraffe
  • Turkmenistan Markhor
  • Horse
  • Japanese Serow
  • North Sulawesi Babirusa
  • Bactrian Camel

The Importance of Essential Fatty Acids

So, just why are these essential fatty acids so important and fundamental in the diet of these animals? Good question. There are actually two types of essential fatty acids, sometimes called EFA’s for short, called omega-3 and omega-6. These EFAs are important because the cell membranes that make up an animal’s skin, fur, and nails are composed of them.

Because of this, EFA’s play a vital role in maintaining the health of an animal’s skin and coat. EFA’s are also used by animals to produce eicosanoids, which is a hormone-like substance that contributes to many necessary and important biological functions in an animal’s body.

These functions can impact body temperature, open and close bronchial passages, stimulate the production of hormones and even give nerve fibers their sensitivity. EFA’s do the same thing in humans as well.

If that’s not enough to convince you of the importance of EFA’s in an animal’s diet, recent research is also showing that not only are they necessary for health, but animals must have an essential balance of these omegas in order for their bodies to function optimally. In other words, they don’t just need the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids at any level, they need them in a particular ratio to each other, properly balanced so that they can work together synergistically to keep an animal’s health in top shape.

Unfortunately, because diet does play such a large role in how EFA’s are obtained, it is easy for animals to suffer deficiencies. Sometimes, diseases and health conditions can create deficiencies, while other times, the deficiency could be contributed to a lack of proper nutrition for that species.

For instance, EFA’s are found in abundance in the leafy plants that roaming animals typically consume in the wild, which is why the Black Rhino that was fed her native diet improved so much. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, it’s much more difficult to get those fatty acids in a domesticated or captive animal’s daily diet without costly importing expenses, or supplementing.

Signs of an EFA Deficiency

When an animal is suffering from an EFA deficiency, they may commonly experience a myriad of skin and coat problems. You could notice symptoms like greasy, dry, or dull hair and coat, and dry, flaky skin, similar to dandruff.

You may also notice sores, scabbing, and itching, plus notice a slow rate of healing when lesions develop. Balding and loss of hair sometimes occurs, and ear inflammation is a common symptom as well. Sometimes even weight loss and a reduction in growth may occur.

Common conditions that are a result of a deficiency of EFAs are recurrent seasonal pruritus, dermatitis, and eczema. Self-mutilation is often the result of skin problems, especially when combined with compulsive behaviors like itching, constant licking, and scratching.

As you can see, there are many benefits to be found from supplementing with omega fatty acids, including those EFAs derived from plant sources like flax. EFAs are used to help successfully treat and prevent many unhealthy skin conditions, and they may also help to reduce the joint inflammation that can cause stiffness, swelling, and pain.

The Missing Link is a leader in discovering and utilizing the benefits of EFAs in keeping animals both wild and domestic, healthy, happy, and disease-free.

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

References:

Kirk Suedmeyer, Wm & Dierenfeld, Ellen. (1998). Clinical experience with fatty acid supplementation in a group of black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). Proceedings of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

How The Missing Link® is Saving Zoo Animals

When it comes to giving an animal the dietary nutrition they need, especially animals that normally live and eat in the wild, human attempts at properly nourishing them can fall flat, to say the least.

Providing domesticated diets to animals can even cause some animal species harm if they aren’t careful to provide the animals exactly what they need, in the ratios they need it, and in the form that it is most readily used by their bodies.

That’s a tall order, but The Missing Link has strived hard to develop products that meet those needs, both for domestic pets as well as for captive zoo animals that would normally consume a wild diet.

When animals in the wild eat, they instinctively eat foods that will provide them with almost perfect nourishment. It’s just the way animals are designed, and it is what makes it hard for humans to emulate.

For humans to mimic that, one must study the animal’s diet, study their body composition, (and other factors too), and then come up with solutions that can meet those nutritional needs best. The Missing Link is a leader in dietary supplementation for animals, providing them with all the benefits of whole food nutrition, even when their overall diet may not be the most ideal.

So, what makes The Missing Link Products so special? The short answer is that they are packed with superfood nutrition. Superfoods are foods that are dense with vital nutrients and wonderful for helping an animal to gain and maintain optimal health.

The nutrients from superfoods are naturally sourced from veggies and fruits that are packed with high levels of health-benefiting antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Superfoods are the best of the best when it comes to nature and what it offers. When animals are supplemented with The Missing Link products, their bodies are flooded with all the nutrition that can be found in superfoods like flaxseed (an excellent source of omega-3, vitamin B, manganese, fiber, and micro nutrients), kelp, blueberries, eggs, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, fish oil, salmon, and apple cider vinegar.

Animals that are given The Missing Link supplements on a consistent basis often times enjoy a stronger and healthier immune system, healthier, more elastic skin, a shinier and softer coat, increased and sustained energy levels, a properly functioning digestive system (which is vital for good health), and even improved soft tissue, joint, and muscle function and mobility. This is all because of the beneficial superfoods and how powerful they are. With their Zoo and Rescue initiative, The Missing Link has donated over 1600lbs of superfood pet supplement to animals in captivity and endangered species that are desperately in need of a healthy, balanced nutrition.

This includes animals like the Black Rhino, whose numbers are dwindling due to habitat encroachment and poaching. The rhinos are benefiting from The Missing Link products and improving their health because of the balanced ratio of fatty acids the supplements provide, ratios that are now being found based on new studies, to be necessary for optimal health.

Essential fatty acids contribute to a wide range of body functions, and new studies have revealed that it’s not just about getting “enough” fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 in an animal’s diet, it’s about getting the right ratio of those fatty acids, and getting them from a quality source, such as flax. When animals get the correct ratios of EFA’s that their body’s need, then their levels of health and vitality improve remarkably. The Missing Link products help make this happen, and are benefiting zoo animals living in captivity everywhere.

Some of the animals given The Missing Link superfood pet supplement include:

  • The Black Rhino
  • Gelada Baboon
  • Chimpanzee
  • Jaguar
  • Lion
  • North American Black Bear
  • Sierra Nevada Black Bear
  • Golden Lion Tamarin
  • Black-Handed Spider Monkey
  • Orangutan
  • Masai Giraffe
  • Gelada Baboon
  • One-Horned Rhino
  • Red-Tailed Mustached Monkey

And many more! As you can see, The Missing Link is making great strides in helping wildlife that’s in captivity become healthy and even thrive, despite a less than ideal diet. Feeding them food they would eat naturally in their home habitat is best, but it’s not cost efficient over the long-term. The Missing Link is stepping in and providing solutions to these problems, and helping to make animals that may be on the endangered list healthier and happier.

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

References:

Kirk Suedmeyer, Wm & Dierenfeld, Ellen. (1998). Clinical experience with fatty acid supplementation in a group of black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). Proceedings of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

http://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-exotic-and-zoo-animals/overview-of-nutrition-exotic-and-zoo-animals

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-exotic-and-zoo-animals/nutrition-in-zoo-carnivores

What Causes Itchy Skin in Dogs?

In vet speak, itching is also known as pruritus. Your dog could be excessively licking, chewing, or itching on one area of his body, or he could be itching all over.

Where and how much your fur baby itches depend on the underlying cause of the itching, and nailing down the source can sometimes be challenging.

Unfortunately, if itching is not addressed quickly, it can lead to inflammation and infection, as well as major discomfort for your four-legged friend. Excessive itching can be highly stressful and cause significant distress, and should never be ignored.

Some Causes of Itching in Dogs

Hormonal Imbalances

If your dog’s endocrine system is not working properly, hormone levels such as cortisone and thyroid can also become out of whack. When this imbalance happens, it can affect your dog’s skin and trigger itching.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections can easily be confused with yeast or bacterial infections, so it’s important to see your vet to get an accurate diagnosis. Fungal infections can affect any part of the body, and fungi such as ringworm are extremely contagious.

Medications that are used to treat bacterial infections will not work with fungal infections, which is why it’s important to know the difference and treat appropriately.

Yeast Infections

All dogs carry yeast, both inside and outside their bodies, as well as in their ears. However, the yeast numbers are low, and don’t cause any health issues. It’s only when a yeast overgrowth occurs that infection becomes a problem. Yeast overgrowth tends to be most prevalent in all the moist places on your dog, such as folds of skin, ears, and anus.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections are very common, and can easily mimic other canine skin conditions. The best way to determine if your dog has a bacterial infection is to see your vet. Then your dog can receive the proper antibiotics recommended for treating the problem.

Environmental Allergens

Sometimes dogs itch because of common irritants such as pollen, dust, grasses, molds and mildews, and even tobacco or wood smoke. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if you can be allergic to it, so can your fur kiddo.

Food Allergens

Again, just like with people, dogs can be allergic to certain foods. It’s best to start by eliminating foods that are known to be allergens, such as beef, corn, and wheat. If you don’t see improvement in doing that, then look to other ingredients in your dog’s food. Your vet may even recommend an “elimination diet” to narrow down the source of your dog’s allergy and treat them effectively.

Flea Allergy

Another very common allergen source with dogs is flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD for short. This allergy is a reaction to flea saliva that is injected into your dog’s skin with a flea bite. You may notice your dog biting and scratching around his tail, and you may notice hair loss in that area.

Flea allergies can also trigger excessive grooming, so much so that it can sometimes be hard to find an actual flea. Your dog has licked them all up and ate them already. However, even the bite of one single flea on a dog with a flea allergy can cause an intense reaction and make your dog miserable.

Mange

Mange is the result of sarcoptic mites proliferating and plaguing your dog. Mange is also known as scabies, and can cause extreme itching as well as redness and irritation, hair loss, pustules, and even broken skin, bleeding, and infection when it’s bad. Unfortunately, scabies can be contagious, so it’s important to catch this condition early and treat it aggressively.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are a common affliction for dogs. Ear mites like to chow down on your dog’s ear wax and ear oils, both in the internal and external ear canal. This can cause itching and irritation, and can lead to more serious skin issues and ear infections down the road. If left untreated, even hearing can be impaired! So, ear mites are certainly an ailment you don’t want to ignore.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of health concerns that can cause itchy skin in dogs. A dog’s skin and coat can be every bit as sensitive as a human’s skin, so it’s important to make sure you are feeding your pooch a healthy diet.

Make sure it’s one that promotes healthy skin and fur, and make sure your fur kiddo is getting plenty of water, as well as activity and exercise. Water will help keep your dog’s skin hydrated, and exercise will help to combat boredom and emotional issues that can lead to scratching, biting, and chewing behaviors.

If you suspect there is infection going on, or some other underlying medical cause that is contributing to your dog’s itching, then seeing a vet as soon as possible is important for early and effective treatment. The less your dog must go on suffering, the better. No one likes itchy skin, especially not your dog.

 

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

References:

1 http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dogs-and-compulsive-scratching-licking-and-chewing

2 http://thebark.com/content/vet-advice-relief-your-dogs-itchy-skin

3 http://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_common-dog-skin-problems

4 http://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/care/reasons-for-dog-scratching-himself

What to Do If Your Dog Has Itchy Skin

So, your dog has an itching problem. Unfortunately, the cause of itching can be shrouded in mystery, and take some serious detective work to uncover.

The treatment of itching can be just as complicated, and will depend entirely on the accuracy of your detective skills in figuring out the underlying problem.

If you are not treating your dog for the right problem, then you will not be able to correct the problem. In some cases, you could even make the problem worse by administering the wrong treatment for your fur baby.

With that said, here are some things to do if your dog has itchy skin:

Determine the Source

See your vet if necessary. The right diagnosis will determine the right treatment. Once you determine a course of treatment, follow it through to completion. In many cases, if your dog is prescribed medications such as antibiotics or steroids and you do not treat them for the prescribed length of time, the condition could reappear, and you’d have to start all over.

For some itch relief you can try at home, consider these options:

Give Your Dog Supplements for Itchy Skin

Skin and coat supplements for dogs like vitamin E and fatty acid supplements like flax can be very beneficial to the health of your dog’s skin and coat. Check out the best dog supplements for itchy skin on our website. A daily serving of our supplement adds Omega fatty acids to your dog’s bowl to support a healthy skin and coat. You can also rub vitamin E oil directly on your dog’s skin, especially in the areas that are dry and prone to itchiness. This can help reduce skin irritation.

Feed Your Dog Yogurt

Make sure it’s plain though. A regular intake of yogurt can help keep gut bacteria in balance, and stave off potential yeast infections. A daily dose of plain yogurt in your dog’s diet can also help build hiss immune system, and by extension, keep his skin healthy.

Use Epsom Salts

Soak your dog in a warm bath with Epson Salts. Just like with people, Epsom Salts can be soothing and help speed up healing, especially when your dog’s skin is cracked or is riddled with sores. Epson Salts are also great for reducing inflammation and swelling.

Spray Him Down

Try an apple cider vinegar spray. You can mix it with equal parts water, and use it to spray your dog’s itchy areas and provide soothing relief. There are also anti-itch sprays that you can purchase and try as well.

Bathe and Groom

Bathe your dog often and groom them every day. Keeping your dog clean can go a long way in keeping your dog’s skin healthy and itch-free. Just don’t overdo it, as too much bathing can sometimes dry out his skin and making itching worse. Brushing regularly can help your dog too, by stimulating natural oils and helping to control itching and irritation.

Try Coconut Oil

Give your fur kiddo a daily dose of coconut oil by simply mixing it with his food. Coconut oil can be a great addition to a healthy diet. Not only does it give your dog energy, but it’s wonderful for your dog’s coat and skin as well.

Consider Soothing Oatmeal

Try an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal has been used to treat itchy and irritated skin for ages, and in some cases, it can offer almost immediate relief from agitated itching. You can either make your own shampoo, or buy one already mixed in the store. Either way, your furry friend will thank you.

Dietary Tweaks

Sometimes itching can be relieved with simple diet changes. Experiment and see what works for your dog.

Be Proactive

Prevent parasites. In many cases, your dog’s itching may be preventable, especially if they are related to parasites. There are medications that can help prevent parasites, and keeping your dog up to date with these methods is important.

Know Your Dog

Some breeds are predisposed to certain skin problems, including conditions that can cause itching. It’s important to know this information, and if you have a dog breed such as this, you need to take the steps necessary to treat and/or prevent future health concerns.

Schedule Check Ups

See your vet regularly. It’s important to let your vet monitor your dog’s health and well-being, and make sure that he is functioning at optimal performance. A healthy dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog?

…Is one that doesn’t itch. Check out our supplements for dogs with itchy skin today.

 

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

References:

1 http://thebark.com/content/vet-advice-relief-your-dogs-itchy-skin

2 http://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/evr_dg_home_remedies

3 https://www.rover.com/blog/stop-dog-allergies/