The good in yellow

By Sindhoor Pangal, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jul 19, 2016, 10.27 PM IST

20150611_110515
Turmeric can bea extrmely beneficial to canine health

I’ve been hearing a lot on about “turmeric latte” and the commentary that this is just “haldi doodh” that we’ve been having for ages. Here is another such term – “golden paste” – a western adaptation of an Indian blend of turmeric, coconut oil, pepper and water. Turns out this paste is absolutely wonderful for our dogs.

The bio-active compound of turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties that can be a godsend for our dogs suffering from aches and pains.

A paper written for the American Academy of pain management states “Turmeric is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatory available”. Studies have shown that
curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and it’s antioxidants that neutralise free radicals which cause painful inflammation.

Curcumin is believed to stimulate bile production. Bile is necessary for metabolism of fat in the liver. This is important because the liver plays a very critical role of flushing out toxins. Our dogs, like us, are exposed to a lot of toxins as part of our dense urban living and “packaged food” lifestyles. In addition if your dog has health problems and is on and off any medication for a sustained period, then the liver can use all the help it gets.

Curcumin seems to also have some great anti-cancer properties. A UCLA study showed curcumin to block the cancer promoting enzyme. Another study showed that curcumin has the ability to shut down blood vessels that feed tumour, that preventing tumours and in some cases even shrinking it. With so many of our dogs prone to all kinds of cancers these days, this is a very real concern for many of us pet parents.

Turmeric is also known to benefit the heart. It brings down bad cholesterol levels and thins the blood, reducing the risk of clots. In addition, turmeric seems to have a host of other benefits like weight management, parasite control, allergy prevention, healing of some digestive problems etc.

Turmeric however does not dissolve in water and hence is hard to get absorbed by the body. Making a paste with coconut oil helps increase absorption. You can further increase the absorption by adding crushed pepper corns. Pepper contains a compound called piperine, which when combined with turmeric, in the tiniest of doses, makes the curcumin 2,000 per cent more available in the body. And one final trick to increase the absorption of turmeric is to feed it in several small doses a day, instead of one helping.

To make the paste you’ll need half a cup of organic turmeric, 1 cup of water, 1/3 cup of unrefined coconut oil, 2 tsp of freshly ground pepper. Boil the turmeric and water together for 10 minutes, stirring till it’s a smooth thick paste. Add more water if required. Take it off the heat. Then add in the pepper and oil and whisk it till the oil gets incorporated in the paste. Cool and refrigerate.

The recommended dosage seems quarter teaspoon for every 5kg body weight. So if your dog is 20kg you can give up to one teaspoon a day. So you could start with quarter teaspoon two to three times a day and gradually increase it if need be. Remember that any diet change can cause the dog to have loosies. Curcumin is also known to cause constipation. So make sure your dog is getting plenty of water at all times.

This is a very interesting use of Ayurveda in our dogs’ lives. If our dog is suffering from chronic pain, most times we are at a loss on how to relieve the pain, because sustain pain killer usage is not advisable. We just might have our answer right here.

Snipping puppy dog tails?

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Apr 12, 2016, 02.49 PM IST

Today I’d like to share my thoughts on tail docking, earcropping and removal of the dew claw. Such practices have been around for a long time, and each time, different reasons are cited for them. At one point, dog shows mandated such amputative procedures, making them “trends”. Now new information is emerging that suggests that we need to rethink the ease with which we opt for these procedures. Kennel clubs are gradually changing their stance on this, and governments are banning such procedures as well. It’s time for more pet parents to have informed opinions on the matter.

The dew claw is the little claw on the side of the foot, mostly in front paws, sometimes in the rear paws as well. You could consider it a bit like your thumb. Though not really an opposable thumb, it still plays a critical role in the anatomy and movement of a dog.

A bit about the anatomy of a dog: There are five tendons that attach to the dew claw. Tendons are attached to muscles. Removal of the dew claw will cause those muscles to atrophy. This is not good for the movement of a dog.

The innermost and outermost claws play critical roles in controlling the pronation of a dog’s foot. If the innermost claw is removed, the dog’s foot will roll inward when walking. The runners among us know that pronation can cause severe injuries in the knees and the rest of the leg. Leg injuries are particularly painful because there is just no escaping movement. This affects behaviour.

Then there’s the tail. Part of the spine, it is used extensively in movement, communication and expression. When a dog runs he uses his tail like a rudder, to set direction. The tail also seems to have a role in breaking when running and banking.

Anyone who has seen a dog will agree that the tail is also used extensively for expression. In fact, to most of us, the tail is the most expressive part of a dog. Latest studies seem to point to observations that might indicate that they are used in communication as well.

One might suggest that these organs get hurt if not removed. True. But that’s true of most organs. The only difference is that we perceive these organs as being unnecessary. But here’s the thing. Our appendix is unnecessary. And it does get infected too. But we don’t remove it pre-emptively. And these organs in a dog are not vestigial like an appendix. They play an active role in a dog’s everyday life. Why not address the injury when it happens instead of preemptively removing it?

Consider our street dogs. They have most of these organs intact. It’s easy to observe that not all of these dogs go around with dew claw injuries and tail injuries. In fact many of the street dog mixes have dew claws on their front and rear leg. And yet, the injuries sustained in these parts are not significantly more than injuries sustained in other parts of the body.

Nature is rarely wrong. Dogs were given these organs for a reason. While we might have erroneously assumed that they did not play a significant role in a dog’s life, we now know otherwise. So it’s perhaps time to reconsider if we really need to go around pre-emptively amputating our animals or give them the benefit of what nature designed for them.

Good food for dogs

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | May 18, 2015, 10.45 PM IST

Ayurveda teaches us that the digestive system is the single most important determinant of health and well-being. This principle is very much true for dogs too. Provide the right kind of diet to a dog and you will see several of the behavioural issues and recurring health issues go away. So it is important to understand what a good diet for a dog is.

Packaged dry food or kibble is becoming quite popular these days. Kibble is convenient. However understand the effectiveness of kibble, we need to know something about gut flora. Gut flora is the good bacteria that lives in our digestive tract. If an organism is on a single kind of a diet for extended periods, this gut flora becomes specific to that food and it is incapable of handling change. So every time the dog eats something accidentally, he is at risk of falling sick. Such dogs frequently have constipation or loose stools or vomiting. To prevent this, it’s important to introduce variety into a dog’s meal. If you are using kibble, selecting a few different brands and rotating between them may be one way to achieve this.

Kibble manufacturers claim that the product is nutritiously balanced. Some of our breakfast cereal make the same claim. But we know that one can never really get all the nutrition required by staying on a breakfast-cereal-and-water diet, all three meals a day, day after day. Apart from being terribly depressing, such a meal could cause deficiencies and toxicities. While convenient, kibble comes with all the trappings of processed food – plenty of preservatives and lack of diversity in food groups.

A mix of a home-cooked meal and high grade gluten-free kibble might be the right mix of wholesomeness and convenience. When cooking at home, do keep a few things in mind. In terms of the protein source, chicken is the best. It is high in tryptophan which gets converted to serotonin and calms the dog down. Gluten-free carbs are preferred. Of these, brown rice is the best, followed by red rice and then white rice. Rice and sweet potato form a good source of carbs and work wonders on stressed and hyper dogs. 


Spinach, red pumpkin and papaya are good to add. Coconut oil, sesame oil, turmeric and curds are power foods that do wonders to health and behaviour. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, strawberries, avocados, chocolates, grapes, raisins and caffeine are absolutely not to be fed. A dog’s meal is only complete with big bones (not chicken bones). A good ten-minute chewing session in the morning and evening can take all that stress away. See most behavioural problems vanish with this secret recipe.

If feeding meat is not an option for you, then I will admit that it will be a lot more work. You will need to actively look for protein sources. In particular, tryptophan is what you are looking for. Paneer, cheese, nuts, spinach, drumsticks, amaranth, sesame oil, chickpea and kale are some good sources. The bigger challenge, however, for you will be replacing bones. Rawhide or “fake bones” available at pet shops are a possible replacement. But they rarely elicit the kind of interest a bone does and so it’s rare that a dog will chew on it for ten whole minutes at a stretch. Secondly, you need to be aware that these raw hide bones are made of bleached leather.


Work on figuring out the right diet for your dog. Ayurveda and my experience say that if the gut’s okay, then all’s okay, well, most of the times. 

Channa Nut Torte

In India, not all of us are comfortable cooking non-vegetarian food at home. So, I have been on a quest to identify vegetarian alternatives to essential nutrients in a dog’s diet like for example, chicken. As most people are aware, chicken is a rich source of protein. But just replacing one form of protein with another is not sufficient. We need to delve a little deeper. When we say protein we use the term loosely to refer to several amino acids. The brain converts one such amino acid, tryptophan, into the snooze-chemical, serotonin. It is this chemical that kicks in after that heavy feast and makes us full, happy and sleepy. So if you are looking for your dog to be a bit less hyper and settle into a happy siesta after a meal then you need to replace chicken with ingredients that are rich in tryptophan.

The Channa nut torte is rich in this specific type of protein. Make a few batches of it and store it in the fridge. You can feed your dog some torte half an hour before a meal rich in carbohydrates — raagi or rice. Then sit back and watch your dog drift into blissful slumber.

This recipe makes a dense cake, hence I am calling it a torte. My doggies love it and beg for it even as the tortes are being baked.
INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 eggs cups tsp til cooked / seasame channa oil 
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, til 
  • 2 tsp  seasame tsp dried dried thyme or basil even a mix of all)  
  • honey 30 gms to butter taste.

METHOD:

Grind the channa in a mixer adding the oil and eggs slowly. Soften the butter, cube it and add it to the ground channa. Knead well. Fold the nuts, honey and herbs into the mixture. Line a baking dish with butter or oil and then with butter paper. Pour the mixture in, about 3/4 inch deep. Bake at 210 degree C for 35 – 40 mins. Turn off the oven and let the torte rest in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Finally, remove the torte, and let it cool before cutting it into cubes.

SERVING:

Cut the full cake into four big portions; slice each portion in eight cubes. For every four kilo body weight of the dog, serve one cube of torte per day. So if your dog is about 15 kg, then feed around four pieces a day; perhaps two pieces before each meal. If your dog is 20 kg, then feed your dog five cubes a day.

This article was published in Bangalore Mirror; Date: Feb 25, 2014; Section: City; Page: 4

Giving choice at meal times

Jul 08 2014 : Mirror (Bangalore)

What should I feed my dog?“ is the most common question that I get asked. Back in the day, most of us fed our pets rice and left over food. With the explosion of the dry dog food market, we are spoiled for choice. There are brands at every price bracket, containing all kinds of different ingredients. One brand even sells different food for different breeds. Then there are wet foods or semi dry food. They claim to be fresher, less processed and hence better for your dog. Then there are those who make home cooked food and deliver it at your door step. And now there is a whole new sub culture of feeding raw food to dogs. All these choices often leave pet parents bewildered about what to feed their dog.

As a behaviourist, I would say: let him decide. Of course, it has to be something that fits your budget and other constraints too. But otherwise, let your dog decide whether he prefers one kibble over the other or if home cooked food over kibbles. It gives your dog tremendous sense of satisfaction to be able to have control of a few aspects of his own life.
Of course, there are some special considerations. The most common is allergies. Yes, dogs too can be allergic to certain foods ­ nuts, eggs, gluten, some meats etc. Unlike humans, dogs do not go into anaphylactic shock. Their allergies manifest as rashes, vomiting, sudden loss of fur etc. In those cases you may have no option, but to restrict the diet. If you are feeding commercial food, be careful to learn all about the ingredients in the product.
The next thing to consider is the protein-carbohydrate balance. If you have a hyperactive dog, or a dog recovering from physical or emotional trauma or a dog that is at a high stress level, then inducing sleep through carbohydrates would be a good choice for your dog.
Your vet might put your dog on some special needs based on medical requirement ­ renal health, weight reduction etc. We are lucky to live in a city where products that meet all these needs are available in pet shops and online stores too.
Some people like to cook. If so, consider cooking for your dog too. While cooking for your dog, consider interacting with your dog. Talk about the ingredients you put in. Let him sniff it, taste it. Such interaction is great for strengthening the bond between you and your dog.
Coming to how how many meals a day you should feed your dog….I’d say for a normal dog, I would leave it up to the dog to determine the number of meals he prefers to have.
Dogs naturally tend to eat two meals, but there are a few dogs that prefer three meals.However, if we are talking about hyperactive or stressed dogs, I would recommend three meals, so that the dog is not hungry at any point; hunger can add to the stress.
I also recommend that the food be followed with something to chew on. If you are open to feeding non-veg, then meat bones and un-salted dried fish make good choices. If not, there are plenty of non-meat products in the market. Again, it’s a great idea to offer various choices to your dog and let him pick what he wants.

I keep emphasising allowing the dog to choose. This is because the more choices we present to a dog, the more the dog feels more in control of his life. This leads to a more confident dog. Confident dogs are well behaved, content and happy. Most behavioural issues arise out of lack of confidence on the part of the dog. Providing choices in everyday life, through these small gestures, we can go a long way in shaping the personality of a dog. Who knew food could make such an impact on behaviour, right?

I heart liver

I walked in last evening and the house was smelling lovely. Something was cooking and I had just finshed a long day of consulting. I looked hopeful and smiled at Uttam. He shook his head, ensuring I did not get my hopes high and said “for the girls”. He frequently bakes this liver bread for the girls and it smells so great that I wish I could eat it. Well, I may not be allowed to eat it. But I sure can share his recipe here. This is a old blog post by him where he put up his recipe. Let me know if your dogs love it as much as mine do. This post is in Uttam’s words, not mine :

Here is a recipe that I just tried and has turned out to be a huge hit – especially with Nishi. Which is saying a LOT. It takes less than a half hour.
I bought some chicken liver to add to Nishi and Tigger’s usual meal (which I will get to later). Then I remembered that Sindhoor keeps complaining about the lack of good quality treats that come in “training sizes”. So, after a quick look at various resources online, I decided to make what I can only describe as my version of liver bread for now.
Caveat emptor – I suck at baking as i prefer cooking by feel rather than by measurement and this has  been my one and only attempt at it.  But, I think I will definitely try it again, given how much the mutts love it. So, unlike to other baking recipes, this will have approximations :) .
 Image
Ingredients:
  1. 1/2 kg of chicken liver(with its juices if you have it, else some chicken stock)
  2. 1 to 1 and 1/2 cup of whole grain flour(i used atta, but ground oatmeal will be better)
  3. 3/4 to 1 cup of maida
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oil
  6. Herbs – dried or fresh(I used basil, thyme, oregano – I suggest you experiment)
Cooking method:
  • Pre-heat oven to 180-190 degrees Celsius
  • Put the liver (with liquid), eggs and oil into a blender/food processor and blend till there is an emulsified liquid. This should take 4-5 minutes.
  • Mix 1 cup of whole grain and half a cup of maida with the herbs till it forms a uniform mixture.
  • In a large bowl, mix the wet and dry ingredients till the mixture has the consistency of a slightly runny cake dough. Use whole grain flour to get to that point.
  • Coat a baking tray(ideally an inch deep) generously with fat, pour the mixture into it and bake for 15-20 minutes(the time will depend on the moisture content of your dough and the depth of your tray). You need to watch it raise and cook fully. Let it rest till it completely cools.
  • The resulting consistency will be that of a heavy bread. And very easy to cut into 1 cm x 1 cm cubes.
Image