Canine Gait Assessment

Gait assessment for the dog requires a working knowledge of the various gaiting patterns that are normal for the dog. Each breed of dog is meant to do some type of work. The lap dog will have a structure that is suited for sitting in a lap and hopping up and down off of the couch or someones lap, the Greyhound is built for speed, a Rottweiler is built for pulling power and strength, a field dog is built to chase fox or flush out game etc. etc.. Function and form work hand in hand and must be balanced to meet the working needs of the dog in question. There are seven basic types of dogs:

1. Sporting dogs (For a list of Sporting dogs click here)

A. Rangers

B. Springers

C. Retrievers

2. Sporting Hounds

A. Scent trailers

B. Gaze trailers

C. Dogs that go to ground

3. Gazehounds (Hounds that hunt mainly by sight and rather then by scent. Click here)

A. Greyhounds

B. Saluki

C. Whippet

D. Borzoi

E. Afghan

4. Terriers (Used to hunt vermin like rabbits, foxes, mice and weasels) For a list of terriers click here.

5. Working dogs (For a list of working dogs click here)

6. Herding dogs (For a list of herding dogs click here)

7. Toy dogs (For a list of toy dogs click here)

Once we have checked the dogs conformation by posing them and checking the angles of the forelimb, hindlimb, pelvis and neck, checked the top line, pads, toes, face and other static structural features of the dog; we will want to see how these structural parts operate in kinetic motion. We will need a few tools to work with:

1. Video camera with tripod (Your cell phone will work if that is all you have)

2. Leash

3. A surface for the dog to walk on that is not to hot in the summer like an empty parking lot or the track at the high school football field. A long grassy short cut field would work as long as you can see the dogs foot strike. A long flat sandy beach would help show you the footfall patterns if you are near and uncrowded beach. It is best to pick a quiet time when there is not a lot of distraction for the dog. Pick a time of day when the dog is not to energetic if they are young and if they are old mid-morning would be best so that they have some time for their joints to warm up and they won’t be to tired.

4. A Chuck It or something for the dog to chase if they are full of energy and need to be calmed down a little. If you can get the dog to run and play around before checking the gait you will start to see the weak areas better when they get tired. For dogs that are older or don’t like chasing balls and running around you can check the gait right away.

5. A checklist of gait and conformation irregularities. Click here for a sample form.

6. A friend to help you walk the dog while you film the dog or someone who can film the dog while you walk them.

7. Some treats for the dog to keep them interested in doing what you want them to do.

Once you have the dogs energy settled down whoever is filming the dog should set up so that they are not filming into the sun or shade and the person who is handling the dog should walk away from the camera person while they are filming. The handler should not talk to the dog but should just walk calmly forward at a pace that will not rush the dog. The handler should walk far enough that the camera person can get a nice long shot of the dog walking away. The handler should them turn around and walk back to the camera person. Do this at least three times. The camera person should then set up to take film footage of each side of the dog as they are coming and going. The dog handler will have to switch sides so that they will not be in the way of the camera. Next we want to film the dog while it is chasing a ball or running without the handler if possible. If the dog is not a ball chaser the handler can run with the dog on the leash and the film person should set up for coming and going shots of both sides and both ends of the dog. It would be very helpful for the person who will be analyzing the gait to watch the dog without filming as well. It is easier sometimes to pick irregularities in the gait out without the camera. For dogs who are working dogs we can film them in the actions that they are bred for and get a better idea of what is and is not working correctly. For an agility dog we should film them during training, for a herding dog we should film them while they are herding etc. etc. Filming the dog while they are not distracted and to controlled will give us a clearer picture of how they are moving.

Once we have all the film we need and have finished noting what we are seeing on our checklist we should load the film onto a computer and look at it in full speed while taking notes of what we see and noting at what time in the timeline we see the gaiting irregularities. We can then start to look at these noted places in the timeline in slow motion to get a better picture of what is going on under the skin. Once we have all of our notes documented we should do some research on the breed of dog we are working with to make sure that the gaiting irregularities that we are seeing are not bred into this specific breed of dog to serve a functional purpose. At this point we could do an online search on Youtube and see if we can find a few videos to compare the dog we are examining to. The breed registries will also have some good information on what the breed should look like in motion and for those of you who are really motivated I suggest you buy Dog Steps by Rachel Page Elliot and Dog Locomotion and Gait Analysis by Curtis Brown and study them more then once.

For mixed breed dogs we will have a harder time figuring out what is the correct conformation and gait of the dog but we should be able to see where things are not working correctly when we compare the different quadrants in motion and see what looks out of balance.

For a good look at the different gaits of the dog you should go to this website and study it as much as possible until you can see the gaiting patterns and can name them when you see the dog use them in the field. Kinesiology of the dog is a very large subject and obviously it can’t be covered in a single blog or class. Generally after we have gathered the information from static conformation and kinetic movement we should start to look at the bones, muscles, past pathological conditions, surgeries and repetitive use patterns that might be causing the gaiting irregularities. In the next blog we will look at the steps we should take to track down the causes of the problems and how to make a treatment plan to address these problems.


Canine Conformation Assessment

Whether you are a canine massage therapist, animal physical therapist, dog trainer, canine agility trainer or a canine caretaker you will want to know more about how the dog moves when they are healthy and how to determine when their gait and posture are out of balance. Structure and function go hand in hand so knowing the desired conformation of the dog you are examining is very important. This can be challenging when the dog you are examining is a mix of two or more breeds. When looking at a mixed breed dog we will have understand what the different breeds were bred for. What the dog breed was bred for in terms of desired working functions and how their structure lends itself to the desired function is important for us to examine. We can find the desired conformation for each breed of animal by doing a thorough online search of the breed registries and contacting reputable breeders when we can’t seem to find the information we need online. An classic example of what we are looking for is the English Bull Dog. An online search for this dogs conformation will bring us to this website that clearly shows the desired conformation of the English Bull Dog.We might not be so lucky when we dog a search for breed standards and breed conformation on other dogs though. Dog breed standards refers to the description of the traits and movement of the ideal specimen of a breed, generally based on form and function. Breed conformation refers to the structure and physical characteristics of a dog. What we will generally find is a written list of the breed standards and breed conformation on the AKC website or we might end up looking at the Canadian Kennel Club site and end up trying to figure out which of the seven groups this dog belongs to and then looking at the written descriptions.  Neither of the written breed standards on either of these sites has pictures integrated into the text to help the lay person see clearly what the standard actually looks like. Personally as a professional massage therapist I want more then written guidelines, I would like to see more pictures and videos. A lay person might not even understand the terminology used and could use even more information. Doing a search of the various dog breed clubs will not help us much either since most of them lead back to on of the various country centered breed clubs that are nearly as precise and information as the English Bull Dog website. The various clubs could certainly learn from the English Bull Dog website. If we look look at the Wikipedia page for a breed at least we get a page which is more easily navigated and laid out clearly. The Standard Poodle Wikipedia page is a good example. Another place we might want to look is on Youtube. A search on conformation of the German Shepard lead me to a video that would be helpful to the lay person or therapist. Where else can we look for up to date comprehensive information on the conformation and structure of the dog? A search on in the anatomy and gait section of the website leads us to several very good books on the conformation and gait of the dog and a few great videos of the canine gaiting patterns.

I require my canine massage students to watch Dog Steps and I personally have watched the video over thirty times with my animal massage classes and I get something new out of this DVD every time I watch it. If there is one resource that I would recommend that every professional and layperson get to learn more about the dogs conformation and gait it would be this DVD. Several of he books that are listed above are ebook versions so you can get going right away if you want to learn more about this subject. In the next blog we will dig deeper into how conformation of the dog affects the gait and we will learn how to chart and keep records of what we see for future reference. For professionals we will learn how to share this information with other allied professional health care practitioners and with the dogs caretaker.

Grooming, A Prerequisite for Therapeutic Massage for Cats

One of the first signs of sickness or disharmony in a cats internal environment is when the cat stops grooming themselves on a regular basis. Anyone who has been blessed by the presence of cats in their home knows that cats groom themselves frequently throughout the day. This is an instinct that is passed on from mother to child. Mothers immediately start licking their children and they make sure to lick the anus of their children to stimulate the anal reflex nerves so that the kittens will have a connection from mouth to anus along the gastrointestinal tube. One of the best things we can do to get a cat who is fickle about being massaged is to break out the grooming brush and let them sniff it until they start to rub up against the brush, signaling that they want to be groomed. There are many good grooming gloves and tools on the market. Some are cheap and fall apart really quickly. The clothe ones with little rubber nubs glued onto a cloth mitt will work just fine and are very cheap for those of you who can’t afford much. My favorite and my cats friends favorite tool is the KONG ZoomGroom for cats. You can get these for $7.49 at PetSmart. They are very flexible and sturdy and will probably last the life of the cat. One last little grooming tool is a small plastic flea comb which you can get at any pet store for a dollar. I generally start with the KONG tool because you can start gently with this and control the amount of drag on the hair and pressure you use on the cat. With older cats you will need to start very slowly and work with softer pressure, stroking from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. Using two KONG tools at once will put you cat friend into an very blissful state which is very unique to cats I think. I wish I could be in that state myself sometimes. Look for signs of the cat moving away from any area that you are grooming over. If the cat starts to react to any area by moving away or tightening up to the work, make a mental note of this. This is a sure sign that there is some pain in this area and we will want to investigate this later when we start the therapeutic part of the massage. Try to avoid this area if it hurts them or be very gentle over this area if they will tolerate it without a guarding response.The cat will probably guide you to areas that they want massaged more by moving into the brush or lying down and exposing the side they want you to work on, or pushing strongly up against the brush when you are stroking that area. Make sure you lighten up on the pressure when you work on their sides. The ribs are very fragile in the cat. They look like a medium sized fish bones in some cats and so we don’t want to use so much pressure that we damage a rib or bruise the tissue over the ribs. There is really no muscle to speak of over the ribs so please be careful here. Also while many cats love their belly groomed there are many cats that will scratch you if you try to groom them there or will respond by going into play mode, especially if they are young. If you watch cats play fighting with each other they are often going after the stomach. It is also better to switch to the plastic flea comb when working on the stomach and the limbs. After you have spent a lot of time grooming with the KONG tool then go to the plastic flea comb and move gentle over the body with the comb, making sure you hold the cat with one hand near the site where you are grooming so you can focus the pull of the comb in one area and make it easier for the cat to relax. If you take twenty minutes to do this every other day you will have a very relaxed and loving cat that will not be throwing up so many hairballs and you will have a flea less cat who will be healthy and happy for the rest of their life. You should end the session by stroking the cat from the head to the tip of the tail and from trunk to the toes with your hands. Linda Tellington calls this Noah’s March and in Swedish Massage we call this effleurage. The proven therapeutic action of this type of stroke, with the hands or the brush is to move blood and lymph fluid to the skin and underlying subcutaneous tissues, stimulation of the peripheral nervous system and propagation of parasympathetic signaling to all organs of the body, stimulation of endogenous endorphin production via pleasure signaling neurons in the brain, reduction of pain, and in Chinese medicine you will be clearing the cou li space and moving wei chi (defensive chi) so the the cat can resist invasions of the pathogenic factors better. You will also find doing this to be very therapeutic for yourself. It is a wonderful meditation in loving kindness and if you are attentive and gentle you will find yourself calming down and becoming more loving, kind, and attentive to others needs. This is the warm up stroke for all other types of massage strokes and is probably the most therapeutic type of massage stroke that you can do to improve your cat friends health and provide some preventive maintenance. A quick tune up for the entire system. In fact if you got this kind of stroking every other day you would be a much happier and more relaxed person. I will be covering pressure point and trigger point work for cats in the next blog so be sure to RSS feed this blog. I will also be adding some videos on the effleurage stroke for cats soon as well so you can see this work in action. Make sure you check out video gallery because we are loading some uncut recording of dog massage on our video page. I hope this blog finds you all in a happy state of mind and in good health. Until next time, I hope you will have a peaceful and joyful day.

California Assembly Bill 1980

California Assembly Bill 1980
This bill was almost passed through the California legislature without opposition. The original wording in this bill would have prevented musculoskeletal manipulation from being practiced by anyone other then a veterinarian in this state. Thanks to the IAAMB and other concerned individuals who brought this to the light of day. Those of you who called in and emailed certainly made a difference in the ability of animal caretakers and healers ability to help heal animals. I just got off of the phone with Rebecca May who works with the author of this bill and she said that the bill just passed through the legislature today and is on the governors desk for signing into law so we can all breathe a little easier. Rebecca said that their intention was not to exclude complementary health care practitioners from working with animals and that they no one, even the veterinary board wanted to go after massage therapists. All physical therapists and massage therapists can now relax about whether massage and physical therapy is legal in this state.

The Role of Lipids in Animal Nutrition

Lipids are any one of a group of fats or fatlike substances, characterized by their insolubility in water and solubility in fat solvents such as alcohol, ether, and chloroform. . The term is descriptive rather than a chemical name such as a protein or carbohydrate. It includes true fats (esters of fatty acids and glycerol); lipoids (phospholipids,, cerebrosides, waxes); and sterols (cholesterol, ergosterol). All lipids like carbohydrates contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen but the proportion of oxygen in lipids is much lower. In addition, phosphorus is found in some of the more complex lipids.

Triglycerides which are also called neutral fats are commonly known as fats when solid or oils when liquid. Triglycerides are made up of two types of building blocks, fatty acids and glycerol, in a ratio of 3:1 of fatty acids to glycerol. Triglycerides are large molecules and ingested fats and oils must be broken down into their building blocks before they can be absorbed. Oils or fats do not mix with water because polar and non polar molecules do not interact. Triglycerides provide the body’s most efficient and compact form of stored energy, and when they are oxidized, they yield large amounts of energy. Triglycerides are found mainly beneath the skin, where they insulate the deeper body tissues from heat loss and protect them from trauma.

Fatty acid chains with only a single covalent bond between carbon atoms are referred to as saturated. Their fatty acid chains are straight and, at room temperature, the molecules  of a saturated fat are packed closely together, forming a solid. Fatty acids that contain one or more double bonds between carbon atoms are said to be unsaturated  (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). The double bonds cause the fatty acid chains to kink so that they cannot be packed closely enough to solidify. Hence, triglycerides with short fatty acid chains or unsaturated fatty acids are oils (liquid at room temperature) and are typical of plant lipids. Examples include olive and peanut oils (rich in monounsaturated fats) and corn, soybean, and safflower oils, which contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Longer fatty acid chains and more saturated fatty acids are common in animal fats such as butter fat and the fat of meats, which are solid at room temperature.

Trans fats which are common in many margarines and baked products, are oils that have been solidified by the addition of hydrogen atoms at the sites of double carbon bonds. Trans fats are very harmful to body cells and should be avoided altogether in the animals diet. Trans fats have been linked to atherosclerosis and are considered by many scientists to be carcinogenic.

Phospholipids are modified triglycerides with the addition of a phosphorous-containing group. Phospholipids are the chief material for building cellular membranes.

Steroids are basically flat molecules made of four interlocking hydrocarbon rings. Steroids are very important molecules which the animal gets from ingestion of  animal products such as eggs, meat and cheese. The steroids cholesterol, bile salts, Vitamin D, sex hormones, and adrenocortical hormones are extremely important to the animals health. Cholesterol is the structural basis for manufacture of all body steroids and is a component of the cells membrane. Bile salts are manufactured by the liver from the breakdown of cholesterol and are stored in the gall bladder for release into the small intestine where they aid fat digestion and absorption by helping to emulsify fats into smaller absorbable molecules.Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin produced in the skin on exposure to UV radiation and is necessary for normal bone growth and function. The steroid sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are necessary for reproductive function. Adrenocortical hormones like cortisol is a metabolic hormone necessary for maintaining normal blood glucose levels. Aldosterone another adrenocortical hormone helps to regulate salt and water balance in the body by targeting the kidneys.

Other lipid substances include the fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Vitamin A is ingested in orange-pigmented vegetables and fruits and are converted in the retina to retinol and are a part of the photoreceptor pigments involved in vision. Vitamin E is ingested in plant products such as wheat germ and green leafy vegetables and protects the cell membrane against oxidative damage. Vitamin K is made by bacterial synthesis in the intestine and is also found in green leafy vegetables and it regulates the formation of clotting factors in the blood.

Eicosanoids (prostaglandins, leukotrienes and thromboxanes) are a group of molecules that are derived from fatty acids found in all cell membranes. Prostaglandins stimulate uterine contractions, regulate blood pressure, control gastrointestinal tract motility and secretory activity. Both prostaglandins and leukotrienes are involved in inflammation. Thromboxanes are powerful vasoconstrictors.

Lipoproteins are lipoid and protein based substances that transport fatty acids and cholesterol in the blood stream. The major lipoproteins are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL is healthy for the body and high levels of LDL is lousy for the body.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) are fatty acids that the animal can not synthesize themselves and so it is essential for the animal to get these in its diet. Essential fatty acids in the dog and cat include linolenic acid, linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. Adult dogs are able to synthesize linolenic and arachidonic acid from linoleic acid.  Adult cats, however, can synthesize linolenic acid but not arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is only found in fat sources from animals and for this reason cats are obligate carnivores.

Deficiencies in lipids can cause a dry coat and scaly skin. A reduction of lipids on the skin can cause pyoderma. Wound healing can also be impaired due to the requirement of phosopholipids within the cells membranes. If there is a chronic deficiency of lipids, especially of the EFA, symptoms of alopecia, edema and moist dermatitis can occur. Severe deficiencies can result in emaciation of the animal.  Deficiencies of  Vitamin A can cause night blindness, infertility, crusting lesions of the nares, seborrhoeic coat conditions, and increased susceptibility to microbial infections. Deficiencies of Vitamin D can cause rickets in the young and osteomalacia in adults. Deficiencies of Vitamin E can cause pancreatitis, skeletal muscle dystrophy, reproductive failure and impairment of the immune response in dogs. Deficiencies of Vitamin K is rare due to its synthesis in the intestine.

In the next post on animal nutrition we will wrap up the subject of nutrients by covering water soluble vitamins and minerals.

Hydrotherapy for Animals-The Basics

Hydrotherapy for animals must be distinguished from aquatic therapy for animals and physical therapy rehabilitation in water for animals. While aquatic therapy for animals is technically hydrotherapy because of its use of water for therapeutic purposes, the techniques of aquatic therapy are focused on physical rehabilitation for animals through exercise in water with or without a submerged treadmill. For more information on aquatic therapy or water therapy for dogs check out the Association of Canine Water Therapy website or the Canine Hydrotherapy Association website. Generally in the veterinary medical field a well trained veterinary physical therapist would be doing the treatments with a focus on physical rehabilitation after injury or surgery. To find an animal physical therapist go to Animal Rehabilitation Special Interest Group which is a part of the APTA. At this point in time there is a lot of interest in the veterinary physical therapy field and the animal massage therapy field in working with animals in water for rehabilitation purposes. I am sure that the AVMA, the APTA and different animal massage special interest groups will be butting heads over this field soon.

The focus of this blog will be on the use of water in its three forms; solid, liquid and gas and the various applications of these three forms to treat specific pathologies that present themselves in the animal. Since this will be an ongoing topic I will start with basics. Animals have been treating themselves with hydrotherapy since the beginning of their existence. In fact without water there would be no life and dehydration in any life form leads to disease. The water hole has been the site of many a cross species truce when water supplies are low. Animals have been bathing for health forever and many roll in the mud after. Drinking water at various temperatures with various ingredients added is a form of hydrotherapy. Water is the closest thing we know to a universal solvent. Whether we are using water to treat internal conditions through infusions or applying water to the surface of the body with various degrees of temperature, mechanical pressure or friction we will cause a physiological response to the treatment and this is where we will start.

When we apply a heated pack on the surface of the body the body responds to the heat by initiating vasodilation thereby moving more blood to the area to pick up the heat. Blood is approximately 82% water and one of the major qualities of water is it’s high capacity of heat which means it has the ability to absorb and release heat. Blood coming to the surface picks up the excess heat that is being applied to the surface of the skin and redistributes the heat evenly throughout the blood stream. When we apply cold packs to the body the blood comes to the surface to heat up the area under the pack. There are primary responses and secondary responses in the systems of the body as we apply hot or cold packs to the body. We can apply hot and cold packs at varying degrees of temperature and varying lengths of time duration. In general, the higher or lower degrees of temperature that are applied to the body have a more powerful physiological effect and the shorter the time the pack is on, the more powerful the response will be. So duration of treatment and degree of temperature are critical in getting a desired therapeutic effect.

There are three phases of reactions that the body goes through with the application of hot or cold to its surface: circulatory, nervous and metabolic. The nervous system reacts to temperature changes at the surface of the body through its thermoreceptors. Thermoreceptors in the integumentary system sense changes in temperature at the bodies surface and relay this signal through the spinal cord to the area of the brain that regulates the bodies temperature. This regulatory center then responds to any temperature changes that vary from desired homeostatic norms by releasing chemicals or by triggering a motor neuron response to the stimulus. For example if cold is applied to the surface of the body a thermoreceptor under the skin in the area that the cold is applied sends a signal to the lateral spinothalmic pathway of the spinal cord which then sends this signal to the somatosensory cortex of the brain for interpretation. Once this signal is interpreted by the somatosensory cortex it then sends a signal down a motor tract to the errector pilli muscles that cause them to contract and lift the hair up on end to provide loft to the hair coat to trap heat close to the body. Another motor signal will be received by muscle cells to cause them to contract and shivering will start to take place. The shivering will generate heat as the muscle cells break down glucose into ATP for muscle energy. Simultaneously the autonomic nervous system will cause its sympathetic branch to stimulate contraction of muscles around the blood vessels to constrict the blood vessels to prevent the cold from reaching the more vital organs of the body. This last response would be a circulatory system response to the cold. Muscles contracting to promote heat build up in the area would be a metabolic response to the cold. The stronger the cold the stronger the response will be.

The size of the area of applications must be considered as well. Whole body applications of hot or cold will have different effects on the systems of the body. So we need to understand local responses to hot and cold and whole body system responses to hot or cold applications.

Definitions of water temperature are as follows:

Possibly injurious temperature is 125 degrees F. or 50 degrees C. In cases of diabetes even 110 degrees F. can be injurious.

Painfully hot temperature is between 110-120 F or 42.8-46 C

Very hot temperature is between 104-110 F or 40-42.8 C

Hot temperature is between 100-104 F or 38-40 C

Neutral temperature is between 94-97 F or 34.4-37 C

Warm temperature is between 92-100 F or 34-38 C

Tepid temperature is between 80-92 F or 27-34 C

Cool temperature is between 70-80 F or 21-27 C

Cold temperature is between 55-70 F or 13-21 C

Very Cold temperature is between 32-55 F or 0-13 C

In the next hydrotherapy for animal blog I will talk about applications of cold to very cold therapy and the physiological effects of these applications.

Proteins the Basic Structural and Functional Material of the Body

Proteins are the largest molecules in the body. Some scientists say that the main function of the cell is to produce proteins. Proteins make up 10-30% of the cells mass and can either be functional or structural molecules. Proteins are a class of complex nitrogenous compounds that are synthesized by all living organisms and yield amino acids when hydrolyzed. Proteins in the diet provide the amino acids necessary for the growth and repair of animal tissue.  All amino acids contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and some also contain sulfur. About 20 different amino acids make up animal proteins, which may contain minerals such as iron or copper. A Protein consists of from 50 to thousands of amino acids arranged in a very specific sequence. The essential amino acids are those that the liver cannot synthesize (tryptophan, lysine, methionine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, threonine, arginine and histidine); they are essential in the diet, and a protein containing them is called a complete protein. An incomplete protein lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. The nonessential amino acids are synthesized by the liver. Sources of amino acids in the diet are: Milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, and some vegetables such a soybeans are the best sources. Proteins are found in both vegetable and animal sources of food. Many incomplete proteins are found in vegetables; they contain some of the essential amino acids. A vegetarian diet can make up for this by combining vegetable groups that complement each other in their basic amino acid groups. This provides the body with complete proteins. Ingested proteins are the source of amino acids needed to synthesize the body’s own proteins, which are essential for growth of new tissue or the repair of damaged tissue, proteins are part of all cell membranes. Excess proteins in the diet may be changed to simple carbohydrates and oxidized to produce ATP. High levels of exercise, menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and convalescence from severe illness require increased protein intake. Excess protein in the diet results in increase nitrogen excretion in the urine. Amino acids are strung together through dehydration synthesis to form a complete protein. There are two classes of proteins in the body; fibrous and globular. In the next blog post we will look at the varied functions of both classes of proteins. Since dogs and cats are primarily carnivores it is important to know how proteins work in the body and what their daily requirements for proteins are. Once we are finished with discussing the basic nutritional elements we can begin to look at the sources of quality nutrients and how these nutrients enter into the body for use by the cells.

Enzymes and Catalysts, Essential for Animal Health

Enzymes are chemically specific in the body and as we have seen in the last blog are made up of a protein part and a cofactor or coenzyme. Enzymes are named for the type of reaction they catalyze. Hydrolases add water during the hydrolytic reactions and oxidases add oxygen. When we see the suffix -ase at the end of a term we know it is an enzyme. Some enzymes that were found before the common use of the suffix will not have an -ase at the end of the term like pepsinogen, pepsin and trypsin. Enzymes are manufactured by the cells in an active or inactive form. The inactive forms need to be triggered to become active by the presence of a specific molecule. There are six classes of enzymes; hydrolases, isomerases, lipases, lyases, oxireductases and transferases. Each class of enzyme has its own function in either breaking down or building up substances in the body. For instance lipase breaks down fat lipid molecules, proteases break down proteins into amino acids, fructase breaks down fructose, galactase breaks down galactose, amylase breaks down simple sugars, and the list could go on and on. Digestive enzymes break down the food the animal eats in the process of chemical digestion into smaller molecules that can be absorbed into the intestinal cells for transportation across and out of the cell and into the blood and lymph vessels. Enzymes are critical to all of the cells internal functions as well. Enzymes in the cell trigger a variety of metabolic processes that are vital to cell functions. Sources of enzymes in the animals diet are from fresh fruits and vegetables, fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and buttermilk or organ meats like the pancreas and liver organs of the animals they eat if they are meat eaters. In order for enzymes to work correctly they need to maintain their shape so substrates can bind to them and the anabolic or catabolic activity can take place. In anabolic processes substances are built up by the removal of a water molecule and in catabolic processes water is used to split apart the substrate. The oxireductase enzymes use oxygen in this process instead of water. Enzymes change their shape and become unusable under certain conditions. When body temperatures rise above 104 degrees or when the acid-base balance is disturbed enzymes lose their shape and become incapable of functioning correctly. Biological enzymes need to live in an environment that remains in homeostatic balance. Live unprocessed foods are the best sources of biologically active enzymes. Any time you cook a vegetable, fruit or organ meat you would be destroying the enzymes by altering their shape. Processed foods are have the least biologically available enzymes and raw or fermented foods have the most biologically available enzymes. Certain cells in the body manufacture enzymes from the raw amino acid, vitamin and mineral resources that enter into the body through the diet. If the animal does not get the correct kind and amount of amino acids, vitamins and minerals in their diet the bodies cells will not be able to manufacture the enzymes that are needed in the cellular processes. Many of the digestive problems that animals have today are a direct result of food processing processes that apply heat and radiation to manufacture what I call animal junk food. If the animal is having digestive and elimination problems that is not caused by a parasite, genetic disease, or an allergen you can be certain that there is a lack of enzyme production in the cells due to poor nutrition. In subsequent blogs we will look at how to remedy this problem once we have covered the basics of nutritional elements.

Carbohydrates-The Fuel Source

Carbohydrates or watered carbons are the fuel source that provides the body with ATP ( Adenosine Triphosphate). Every cell in the body uses ATP to provide power for the bodies metabolic activities. In the cell the mitochondrion breaks down glucose molecules and transforms the energy that is stored in glucose into ATP. The energy that is stored in the high energy phosphate bonds is then transfered to the organelles within the cell that do the work of the cell. What is left after the transfer of energy from the phosphate bond is a molecule of ADP or ( Adenosine Diphosphate) which can be broken down further and the remaining high energy phosphate bond can be used by the cells as a energy source. What is left is AMP or ( Adenosine Monophosphate) . Carbohydrates are classified according to size; monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. Two monosaccharides joined together through dehydration synthesis is called a disaccharide and many monosaccharides joined together through dehydration synthesis is a polysaccharide. Monosaccharides are either hexose or pentose sugars meaning that they either have a six carbon or five carbon structure respectively. The monosaccharides; glucose, fructose, and galactose are hexose monosaccharides and deoxyribose and ribose are the common pentose sugars used by the body. Ribose and deoxyribose are important sugars found in our DNA. Sucrose, maltose and lactose are the primary disaccharides that the body uses. Sucrose is made up of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose joined together, maltose is made up of two glucose molecules joined together and lactose is made up of galactose and glucose joined together. The polysaccharide glycogen is made up of many monosaccharides joined together and is the primary energy storage carbohydrate. When the animal gets more carbohydrates then it uses in its diet these carbohydrates are joined together in the liver and transported through the blood for storage between muscle cells or remain in the liver where they will be broken back down into glucose when blood sugar levels drop. The disaccharide molecules that the animal consumes in its diet come from plant sugars like beet sugar, cane sugar, fruit sugars and milk sugars. The disaccharides are to large to pass through the cells of the lining of the intestine and must be broken down through hydrolysis with the assistance of an enzyme into simple sugars (monosaccharides). Polysaccharides that are polymers of simple sugars that the plant produces by dehydration synthesis are starches that the plant uses as a storage molecule and these large sugar molecules must also be broken down by hydrolysis with the aid of enzymes into simple sugars that can cross the intestinal cells membranes. Starches in the animals diet come from potatoes and grains that contain large amounts of starches. What is hydrolysis and dehydration synthesis? Hydro- means water and -lysis means to split apart or break down. Synthesis means to build up or combine together. So hydrolysis is to spit apart compounds or molecules by adding a water molecule and dehydration synthesis which is the opposite of this process is to join two molecules together by removing a water molecule. Both of these processes use an enzyme to assist in this process. Enzymes are globular proteins that act as catalysts. Catalysts are substances that regulate and accelerate the rate of biochemical reactions but are not used up or changed by these reactions. Each enzyme is made up of a protein part and a cofactor that can be a metal element or an organic molecule like a B complex vitamin. Each enzyme in the body is specifically formed to work with only one substrate ( the substance that any enzyme interacts with). In the next blog we will look at the important roles of enzymes in the body and the sources of carbohydrates commonly found in the animals diet.

Strategies For Increasing Water Intake In Cats And Dogs

In the last blog we talked about the importance of water in the animals diet and what the qualities of water are. There are many conflicting statements about how much water and animal should get. The same holds true with human water consumption requirements. Some experts talk about requirements based on animal weight and a certain amount of water with a specific pound of body weight to ounce of water ratio. The animal generally knows when they need water and all that the caretaker needs to do is supply an easy to access water supply from a clean untreated water source. There is a plethora of water bowls and automatic feed water units on the market. The one thing to remember with water bowls is to clean them thoroughly every we fill the water bowl especially if several animals share the same water bowl. If your animal companion has a plentiful supply of fresh water available to them and they are still dehydrated then we can encourage them to drink more water by adding a flavoring agent to the water that tastes good to that particular animal. Organic, free range beef bullion cubes can be found in the health food store and we can add this to a separate water bowl beside the fresh water bowl and see if this will encourage the animal to drink more water. Fish emulsion or bonita flakes can be added to a cats water bowl to see if the cat will drink more water. We should make sure that at all times a separate bowl of fresh water is available. We can also prepare a vegetable or meat stock and put it in a separate bowl for the animal to consume. Find a flavor that your dog or cat likes and they will most likely drink more water. The signs of dehydration in animals are, scanty and dark urine, constipation, straining while defecating, dry skin, dry nose, dry foot pads, over breathing to cool down the body, loss of skin elasticity, lethargy, depression, sunken eyes, dry gums and a general lack of energy. We need to remember that with dehydration there generally is a shortage of electrolytes in the fluids of the body. If the animal is dehydrated we can add a little pinch of natural sea salt to the water to build the electrolyte balance back up. If the animal gets severely dehydrated hyperthermia will set in and this can lead to shock. Dehydration is can be a dangerous condition for an animal. Anyone living in a hot climate will need to monitor there companions water intake during the dry hot months. I see a lot of people out on the hiking trails where I live with their dogs and they often fail to bring a water bottle for the dog. Just as we need water while we are sweating and using our body so do animals.