News Item | PAWS Chicago

Longevity for Dogs

by Monica Ginsburg | Jan 08, 2016

Go raw, and other tips from Dr. Barbara Royal

Want to cure what ails your aging pet? Start by using foods that pack a higher nutritional punch, says Dr. Barabara Royal, owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center in Chicago and a pioneer in integrative veterinary medicine.

In her practice, Dr. Royal says she regularly sees how better nutrition can improve an animal’s overall health, reduce inflammation and ease symptoms of chronic diseases like arthritis. “Aging is not a disease,” she says. “You should be functional until you go.” Here’s what else she has to say about the importance of wild nutrition, food no-no’s and why your dog could use a massage, too.


Tell us what’s new in the field of antiaging and longevity for pets.
The latest news is actually the oldest: Better nutrition is the number one thing we can do to combat aging. Improve the diet and you’ll see an incredible amount of resilience, even in a very old body. I see lots of animals come in with chronic ear infections, arthritis, vision problems or animals who are overweight. Many noncommunicable diseases are entirely based on nutrition.
How can we improve our pets’ nutrition?
We need to look at things we already know from nature. The GI tract of a carnivore does not expect processed grains. I see dogs come in with what the owner says is a sensitive stomach. Dogs are scavengers. They should never have a sensitive stomach. Usually it’s the body saying it’s getting the wrong food. We’ve created a diet of carbohydrate rich food that is quick, convenient and easy to store, instead of food that will actually make a body healthy. By far the best option is raw food, which is closest to what dogs would eat in the wild. Prepared raw food come in a variety of meat sources and is packed with vitamins, minerals, and supplements to make a complete and balanced meal. They typically come in frozen patties and nuggets, which you thaw before feeding to your pet.
A good-quality canned food would be better than dry kibble. It’s not as highly processed and it doesn’t need the same carbohydrate level to keep it shelf-stable. The protein in canned food is closer to its original form, which makes it easier for the body to assimilate in an appropriate way.

And don’t forget to look at the label. The five foods to avoid– corn, soy, wheat, white potato and peanut butter–are off limits because they are carbs and inflammatory. They are present in many varieties of kibble and treats.

We know diet and exercise go hand in hand. What about older dogs who have trouble walking?
Movement is your friend! If your pet hasn’t had a lot of exercise, start with short, frequent, low-impact exercise. Older dogs with arthritis often benefit from walking in water. Walking in any water at armpit level is a low-impact way to encourage movement. When you’re on a walk outdoors, don’t take the easiest path. You want your pet to get the full range of motion rather than shuffling along on the sidewalks. A pre-walk rubdown of your dog’s feet is an amazing massage therapy to increase circulation. Massage is also excellent to start with younger pets and it’s great for bonding with your dog.
What about people who are scared of raw?
There’s a perception that raw food is too rich for some dogs or that raw food carries a risk. There’s a risk with any meat product you bring into your home, and you have to follow manufacturer’s instructions for freezing, thawing and preparing. Percentage-wise, there’s more risk and recall associated with dry and canned food than with raw food.
How about an older dog who may be ill or nearing the end of its life?
I never underestimate the healing power of the body. My optimism is eternal. There’s never a good reason not to get an optimal diet for your pet.