We know that the cornerstone to optimal health for our dogs is providing them with a healthy balanced diet so do we really need to be adding anything else into their diet? Do dogs need supplements, pills and potions?
The answer to this is yes, quite possibly! What is really exciting is that we can actually go one step further than providing a balanced diet and support health in certain key areas depending on the needs of our individual Schnauzer. One of the ways we can begin to adapt nutrition to support health is through the use of neutraceuticals. This is just the posh term for ‘health nutrients’, which are very interesting things indeed! A health nutrient is a nutrient which, at certain levels can provide a specific health benefit over and above its nutritional value. Some of these you will see have already added into dog foods such as antioxidants and fibre and others may be given as a supplement.
These health nutrients have a huge potential to be used in both preventative health and for the management of conditions such as overweight/obesity, joint and skin care. Here we will take a look at some of the really good ones to see if there are any which may be benefit the Schnauzer in your life.
For General Health and Vitality
We have all heard the term ‘superfoods’ and they are just as beneficial for dogs as they are for us but what actually are they?
They are the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which, as well as their nutritional benefits, act as powerful antioxidants. They are found in many fruits and vegetables and for this reason they have been termed, ‘superfoods’. But why are these antioxidants so good for us and our Schnauzers? The reasons are numerous and include protection from harmful free radicals (present in pollutants) that cause disease, potential ability to slow signs of ageing such as oxidative stress to tissues and cells and also their ability to support a healthy immune system. This could be very beneficial to those Schnauzers who may have existing medical conditions.
Berries are rich in anthocyanins which have been shown to reduce cancer cell proliferation and inhibit tumour formation. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries are excellent sources for dogs. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and cabbage contain certain compounds which studies have shown can detoxify certain carcinogens (cancer causing agents). For dogs, a very small portion will do. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones and are also very convenient – just take out the amount you need from the freezer and leave overnight in the fridge ready to add to food the next day. If you make your own dog food, some of these foods can be added to the recipe like sweet potato.
Overweight and Obesity
Preventative health is so important in maximising the quality of life of dogs and one very common condition where neutraceuticals could help is in overweight and obesity.
It is estimated that around 60% of dogs in the UK may be overweight and this, of course, has major health implications. Specific neutraceuticals like soluble fibre and L-carnitine can be used to help with weight maintenance.
Soluble fibre is a useful addition to the diet because it forms a gel in the gut, allowing a slow, sustained release of energy (glucose) into the blood. This helps the dog to feel fuller for longer so they are less likely to feel hungry between meals. Look for the following sources in dog food (or add them in yourself): sweet potato, pulses, vegetables (peas, mixed vegetables, green beans) and fruits.
L-carnitine, a non-essential amino, helps the body to switch to using fat as the primary fuel for working muscles. This could be very beneficial for older dogs where we would particularly want to ensure that dietary protein is used to preserve muscle mass, which declines with age, rather than it being used a source of energy.
For dogs who suffer from digestive health issues, there are a few neutraceuticals which could help to support a healthy gut.
Including a dog food with a source of insoluble fibre in the dog’s diet is especially beneficial for healthy digestion. Insoluble fibre is not actually a source of nutrients in the diet as it passes through the digestive tract unchanged. What is does do is give the gut muscles something to work against which ensures that digestive contents are moved through the digestive tract at a good rate (improved gut transit time). It therefore plays an important role in faecal quality – helping to achieve those healthy formed stools we have seen on the chart at the Vets.
When increasing the fibre content of the diet, do so gradually and ensure that the dog has a readily available supply of clean, fresh water. Too much fibre, however, can reduce absorption of essential nutrients so more is not necessarily better. Ideally, diets should contain 2.5-4.5% dry matter as fibre.
You may see some dog foods as having added FOS. This is a form of soluble fibre which is effective as a prebiotic and provides nutrition for the good bacteria already in the gut, as well as the cells of the gut wall.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil have many benefits and are important to the health of the digestive tract where they have been shown to help minimise the inflammatory response.
Skin conditions are common in Schnauzers. Ensuring a source of good quality protein is essential in the diet for healthy skin and coat as both are constructed mainly from protein. In addition, it is also worth considering incorporating omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids as they have been shown to help alleviate skin conditions.
Over time, cartilage can be damaged due to everyday wear on the joints. Specific neutraceuticals can help to maintain joint health in dogs throughout life and may be especially helpful for our golden oldies. Glucosamine, which comes from cartilage can be used by the body to build new cartilage and Chrondroitin which also comes from animal or fish cartilage can help to slow the rate of cartilage damage. Therefore, these two neutraceuticals can be used together either as a preventative measure early in life and also as a treatment once damage has occurred. There are lots of varieties on the market.
Another neutraceutical of benefit to the joints is green lipped mussel (GLM). Studies have found that its flesh has a naturally occurring combination of many nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids which benefit joint health. There is some evidence from well-controlled clinical trials supporting the use of green lipped muscle in osteoarthritis in dogs where it has been used to help in pain control with no side effects. It has not been shown to be as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) but it may be helpful for dogs that cannot use NSAIDS or who need pain control over long time periods.
Also of interest is a substance called curcumin which is found in the spice turmeric and has been shown to contain a powerful phytochemical which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Existing research suggests it may be a beneficial complementary treatment for osteoarthritis in dogs. If you would like to try curcumin for your dog, it is worth bearing in mind that it is poorly absorbed across the wall of the intestine and rapidly cleared from the blood so it would need to be given as a high quality (pharmaceutical grade) supplement in conjunction with oil or fish oil to maximise its absorption.
Alternatively you could make your own ‘Golden Paste’. Simply combine one part organic turmeric powder (it has more curcumin) with 2-3 parts water and a few drops of coconut oil. Adding a little freshly ground black pepper has also been shown to enhance absorption. Stir it over a low heat until it forms a thick paste and add the pepper once it has thickened. Just like turmeric can stain our fingers when we cook with it, it can temporarily stain the dog’s whiskers if they have a light coloured coat!
Overall, there are a number of positive options here which can be incorporated alongside a healthy balanced diet, that may help to support health throughout the life-stages both preventatively and as complementary treatments for existing conditions to ensure the best quality of life for our Schnauzers.
Carole Sandhu – Bio
Founder of the Dog Dietitian, Carole is passionate about dogs and providing high quality, evidence based information on all aspects of nutrition for them. She has over 25 years of experience in Nutrition and holds an Honours Degree in Nutrition, a Master’s Degree in Sport Science and a Certificate in Companion Animal Nutrition (COAPE). She writes the feature article on nutrition for Edition Dog Magazine and works with pet professionals, pet food companies and pet parents. Carole runs two help and advice groups on Facebook: Special Diets for Dogs and Performance Nutrition for Sporting Dogs.
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