Nutrition: Is it a Factor in Bloat and Torsion? (First of three parts)
by Linda Arndt
It has been some time since I have written an article, so before I discuss the topic of nutrition and its potential role in the cause and prevention of bloat and torsion, I would like to take this opportunity to pass on some other information that will be of interest.
I want to make breeders aware of a product that is helpful: "Liquid Chlorophyll"-100mg. I have found it to be extremely helpful in masking season and urine odors. For seasons I use 1 teaspoon in A.M. and P.M. feeding and I have found my males will continue to eat even when caged right next to a bitch in season. Do not, I repeat, do not trust putting the animals together or you may end up with a litter and, of course, don't use chlorophyll if you are intending to breed your bitch. It may interfere with the male's interest in your girl! I have found the liquid works much better than the capsules and it can be purchased from health food stores or contact: World Organics Corporation, P.O. Box 8207, Fountain Valley, California 92728. The cost is approximately $10.00 per pint which will last for more than one season
There are herbal remedies available for prostate problems as well as to aid in the prevention of future problems. Several breeders have reported using these products on their males with great success. For information on the following products call: Prostata-Nutritional Support for Prostate Health 1-800-926-9601
Prosta-Max (Prod. 54-1602) 1-800-338-7979.
MSM (Nutritional Sulfur) is one of the nutrients I will discuss in this article and its potential relationship to bloat and torsion, but this nutrient has many other benefits too. I was working with a breeder that had a 12 week old puppy that appeared to be a wobbler, or had some growth problems, metabolic disorder or injury that has manifested itself in "wobbler-like" symptoms. MSM is frequently used for yearlings when there are growth problems present. We have noticed the addition of MSM (Nutritional Sulfur) to this animal's diet has made a considerable difference in simply 3 days and by six months of age everything was back to normal.
We have been using 1/4 teaspoon in A.M. and P.M. feedings and will continue along with the Bioguard for joint soreness, a product which I have discussed in my previous articles. To order: 1-800-937-1104.
I would like to take a look at the potential role diets can play in the diseases of bloat and torsion. I refer to these as two separate diseases because we can have one without the other as well as spleen torsion. Of all my articles, this one is probably the most difficult to write because of the painful subject matter. The topic of bloat and/or torsion conjures up a multitude of feelings for any individual who has had first hand experience with these terrifying diseases. The feelings of frustration and helplessness are only compounded by the fact that there has been no new research information on the cause or prevention of these diseases. We have been told to watch the consumption of water, particularly after exercise and to soak food before feeding (which can destroy nutrients and actually cause fermentation). Then we have the controversy over the use of beet pulp as well as the concern regarding extruded versus pelletized foods. Frankly, I am not sure, in the final analysis, how much any of these concerns have to do with the cause and prevention of bloat and torsion. Therefore, I would like to offer another viewpoint for you to consider.
For the past 25 years research has been looking at these diseases, as well as other health issues, through old paradigms (models) and with no input from the professional breeders and their practical experience. In spite of the thousands of dollars donated to the Morris Foundation, we are no further ahead in solving these problems. I believe there must be input and dialogue between the research and professional breeders. Gathering data, after the fact, really does little in addressing the cause or prevention and thus calls for a more creative approach to solving these dreaded diseases.
It has been my ongoing personal investigation into nutritionally caused diseases that has led me to question our approach to bloat and torsion. It is important to understand what I am about to discuss is only my opinion, based on 22 years of experience in this breed, personal nutritional investigation and information on health issues shared by researchers, nutritionists and thousands of other breeders.
I believe there are things we can do nutritionally to narrow our chances of having bloat and torsion. I have found it very interesting to see a significant drop in the number of incidents of bloat and torsion over the past few years in my animals and animals of my friends and breeders across the country. Understand, I am not guaranteeing if you follow the program I choose to use that you will never have a case of bloat, torsion or spleen torsion. There is no such thing as a guarantee, but I feel this is a healthy step in the right direction.
I lost my first Dane to bloat/torsion over twenty years ago and it changed my life and the way I view these dogs. I now realize they are extremely fragile and every day with us is a gift. I have learned to love the breed as a whole because of this fragility and not a day goes by that I don't think about bloat and torsion especially when I leave the house. My whole life's schedule is geared around my dogs and I would not think of traveling to a dog show without a bloat kit. (To purchase a bloat kit call "The Farmacy" 1-800-733-4981.)
It has been my experience that the number of incidents of bloat/torsion have dropped dramatically over the past few years probably due to better quality meat based foods and the incorporation of whole foods, probiotics and digestive enzymes into the diet. I base this comment on the fact that I have had very few calls regarding bloat and torsion in 4+ years. Before that, I would average 2-3 calls for assistance per week. It is because of this experience and my interest in the prevention of disease through quality nutrition that has made me consider taking a closer look at the effects diet can have on the cause and prevention of bloat and torsion.
It is no news that most breeders and research people believe these diseases have multi-factorial causes:
I would like to list some other elements, seldom considered, that need to be addressed as potential factors in the cause of these diseases:
It is my opinion the disease of bloat/torsion manifests itself when the animal is under stress due to many factors. Sometimes the stress is external and obvious and other times it is internal and goes unnoticed. Bloat and torsion may appear to be triggered by one event when in reality it is a condition that has been building due to a number of circumstances. I believe the disease is multi-factored and is in response to a chronic deterioration of a total system affected by environmental, dietary, psychological, physiological factors. These factors, singly or in combination, cause excessive wear on an animal's system, changes the pH balance and can encourage pathogenic bacteria growth causing bloat and alters the body's electrical and chemical balance which under the right conditions will cause stomach or spleen torsion.
It is important to look at solving this problem from a holistic viewpoint. Instead of looking for a single cause for these diseases, like excessive water intake or the size of the animal's chest, we must understand the total picture. "The parts are not greater than the whole" and, therefore, everything has a tremendous impact on the animal's total well-being.
Stress and the Effect on Bloat and Torsion
Stress drastically affects the body chemistry of any living organism and it alters the pH balance of the system. I believe this is an important factor in the cause of bloat and torsion. There has certainly been enough scientific research done to prove when an organism responds in a negative way to stress. The results can be detrimental to one's health and well-being. Stress is not this thing, lurking out there. Stress in itself does not exist. It is instead the way in which an organism (you, me, the dogs) responds to certain situations or stimulus. Some of us and some dogs, due to genetics, body chemistry, nutrition and personality, seem to handle negative stress better than others. But as humans we can make a conscious choice as to how we are going to handle and reduce stress from our daily lives (exercise, diet, meditation, crying). But for our animals, this is an area seldom considered. Recognizing stress as a problem and altering their situation is determined only by how in tune we are to their needs. Stress can effect the pH balance of an animal's system which in turn can set up an internal environment ideal for the fermentation of food and the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Exercise is important in the elimination of stress for humans as well as animals, and dogs that are kenneled and caged without adequate exercise for muscle/bone development as well as for psychological reasons (boredom and inertia) are primary candidates for these diseases. This is no different than when an individual retires, becomes inactive and succumbs to death far too early in life.
As humans, we also have choices when it comes to our dietary needs. We attend to those cravings and fulfill our dietary needs, unlike the dogs who are relegated to a boring diet of processed dead foods day in and day out for their entire life. They seldom have access to a variety of foods in order to compensate for nutrients lacking in a diet. The idea of feeding raw meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables to our animals has been taboo in our country for the past 25 years. In Europe, Australia and other parts of the world a natural raw diet has been an important part of the feeding program. It is interesting to me that breeders overseas believe there is a direct correlation between the increase of bloat/torsion, growth problems and other diseases when they have incorporated processed foods partially or totally into their feed program. This is an area worth researching, the comparison of European natural diets to our processed foods. (If you know of someone looking for a good doctoral dissertation on the relationship to disease in the giant breeds, put them in touch with me and I can point them in the direction of numerous breeders that can be of great help!)
We remove these animals from their natural environment, bring them into our homes as a family member and alter their life style to fit ours. (Yes, my grandma's dog loves to be covered up with my good down comforter.) These are some of the areas in which animals may respond in a stressful manner because of being subjected to certain conditions that are not really suited to our four legged friends: sudden changes in diet after being fed the same thing daily; use and over-use of antibiotics; emotional trauma; psychological stress; ingestion of chemicals in food or water (chlorine, preservatives, nitrites, etc.); pollution; excessive noise; travel; boarding; breeding; showing; shipping; changes in environment; exposure to continual artificial light; disease; excessive inoculations; medications; loss/death or abandonment; and personal changes in their habits such as removal or changes in crates, toys, feeding stations, family upheaval and various other changes too numerous to mention. Some animals are able to handle stressful situations while others are not and I suspect the animal who is hypersensitive and internalizes stress is a primary candidate for bloat and torsion. If our animals are able to "work" or to "function" in a more natural way, and this means exercise and not being caged or kenneled the majority of their lives, this would help expend pent up energy and to manage stress.
When we limit our gene pool to specific kennel names, bloodlines, color families as well as remaining within each specific breed, this prevents us from maintaining hybrid vigor. It maximizes our chances for doubling on negative traits with the increased potential for animals that are more sensitive to stimulus (light, sound, movement) and affect the total physiological system (body functions) and their psychological system (mental/behavioral functions).
In the past 10+ years I have observed a deterioration in the correct reliable and stable temperament of our breed. Because breeders have bred for that "up" dog with an edge, the current generation of breeders think this is correct and normal for this breed! Any more we have a great deal of noise, light, movement sensitivity, dog aggressiveness and appetite problems in this breed and this is not correct temperament. I believe it is imperative that we choose only temperamentally sound animals for breeding stock in order to increase our chances of producing generations of animals are more stable, trainable, reliable, intelligent and above all flexible and able to handle stress. Younger breeders need to look at the whole picture and realize they may have to undo, for the sake of the breed, what breeders of my generation have done for the sake of the show ring.
Diet and its effect on bloat and torsion is the main focus of this article. The processed commercial foods are an area I will continue to address as a cause for many of our current health problems. The commercial dog food industry is relatively young and has developed because of a financial need to utilize foods that are substandard for human consumption. The industry needs to take a closer look at the nutritional requirements, feeding habits and patterns of the dogs/cats in order to help eliminate some of our current food related health problems.
The research done by F. Pottenger, M.D. in his book "The Pottenger's Cats - A Study in Nutrition" is a fascinating look at a controlled study of cats fed raw versus cooked foods. This study detailed clinical and pathological findings in cats as well as humans which provided convincing evidence that processed foods are a modern day villain. The book includes several photos of animals and human dentition (teeth), showing the actual difference in those eating a modern processed diet to those of isolated cultures where whole raw foods are the natural diet. There are actual physical changes in jaw structure with teeth overlapping and decay present in individuals raised on modern processed diets.
I believe there is a direct correlation between the lack of whole, fresh, raw foods in our animals' diet and the problems of bloat, torsion, disease, short life span, fertility and numerous degenerative diseases. The vast majority of the problems we have been told are genetic are actually the result of feeding inadequate, incomplete, inferior grade, processed, fractionated, synthetic, hormone raised and pesticide ridden food stuffs to our animals and ourselves.
We have come to use a commercial processed diet in a matter of a few short years, yet our animal's dentition (teeth) and digestive process have not evolved slowly or had ample time to catch up to being fed a processed commercial food. Just take a look at those teeth. They are still waiting to tear, chew and saw for survival. It is no wonder doggie dentistry is a fast growing business these past few years. Some companies even have a dog food that removes tartar!
There are a handful of commercial dog food companies that are visionary and are working to add back to the diet those important missing components. I commend the Eagle, Wysong, Nutra, Innova, Martin, Solid Gold Companies to name a few who have worked to incorporate some of these "life supporting" missing components into their products and pride themselves in working with professional breeders in the improvement of these feeds.
In my previous articles ("Vegetable Soup" and "Blackwatch Feed Program", for a copy send SASE-4 stamps) I have discussed in great detail the fact that heating and processing of food stuffs kills or alters the "living" elements normally found in fresh raw whole foods. Therefore, dog food companies spray vitamins, minerals, amino acids back onto the dog food after processing and before bagging.
Most of the vitamins are synthetic and minerals are in such crude forms the animals cannot use them. (Example: milk and chalk are both calcium sources. Milk is a usable form derived from a whole food but chalk is a mined mineral and not a very usable form of calcium because it is not from a food). Then there is the even greater issue of getting each of these synthetic and mined nutrients from separate sources and mixing them together and thinking they will work together like they do when found in a natural state. Wrong! When we extract the part from the whole it is not the same.
I believe the following nutrients can be most critical in helping to prevent bloat and torsion and are often disregarded by the majority of nutritionists, veterinarians, physicians and of course dog food manufacturers.
Linda Arndt Blackwatch Great Danes 9000 E. Susan Lane Albany, Indiana 47320
Part II will appear in the next issue
(Linda Arndt has been involved in breeding Great Danes for 21 years, having produced champions in both conformation and obedience. She is the author of "Watchword," a column published in the Great Dane Reporter as well as articles in The Great Dane Quarterly and other breed magazines, here and overseas. The primary focus of the column is canine nutrition and diseases plaguing the large and giant breeds.
Linda's breeding philosophy: "My primary concern as a professional breeder is the improvement and preservation of the breed through a "designed," limited breeding program with emphasis on temperament, intelligence, longevity and classical beauty."
Also to her credit, Linda is an accomplished Artist and Professor of Fine Arts at Ball State University, where she teaches Strucutre/Design and chairs a major crafts program. Her porcelain works have been shown in national and international exhibitions, museums, galleries and public and private collections as well as represented in textbooks, documentary films and national television. Linda Arndt is also listed in "Who's Who of american Women" and "Who's Who of American Artist."