Health Benefits of the ABC Plans
Summarized from Chapter 3 of "Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, Healthier Dog Food the ABC Way"
Amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrate based upon the ancestral diet
Balance the fats
Complete the nutrition with fresh foods
We all know that if we eat a healthy diet, which includes lean meats, balanced fats, and plenty of vegetables, we are more likely to live longer, healthier, happier lives. The science is indisputable. The same is true with our dogs. The closer we get to feeding them their ancestral diet, the better off they are.
The health benefits of feeding the ABC plans—whether as an ABC day once a week or full time—are substantial and increasingly well documented (references are listed in the book).
These health benefits include:
- healthier cells
- better brains
- better eye health
- stronger hearts
- keeps extra weight off
- less chance of common health problems
- lower risk of cancer
The balance of fats a dog consumes has a profound influence on the dog’s cell membranes, the semi-permeable layers that allow cells to receive nutrients and eliminate wastes. Because every cell in the body has a cell membrane made mostly of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, consuming the proper amounts of omega-6s and -3s has the potential to affect every organ system in the body. A good dietary omega-6/-3 balance, which includes consumption of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), makes the cell membranes fluid, permeable, flexible and healthy. Too much omega -6 (from chicken fat, corn oil, safflower oil, soy oil, canola oil, etc), on the other hand, makes the cell membranes, including those in the brain, brittle, sluggish and inefficient, so that the dog thinks and moves a little slower. Likewise, too much DHA in the diet can make the cell membranes prone to oxidation, which leads to premature aging.
This is why I focus so heavily on making sure that the ABC plans provide dogs the right amounts and balance of fats.
Puppies learn faster and remember more, older dogs retain the ability to stay mentally sharp, and all dogs are happier.
Following the ABC plans will improve the functioning of your dogs’ brains by improving the balance of the fats and providing a complete range of nutrients known to be beneficial for brain health. Improving the balance of fats is most important because the brain is 60% fat, 25% of which is DHA, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid.
DHA is the nutrient with the most evidence for enhancing intelligence and improving behavior. DHA is a major building block of the brain and a critical element in the development of vision and the central nervous system. It is one of the primary fats in the brain, eyes, nerves, sperm, and most rapidly moving parts of animals. With 22 carbon atoms and 6 double bonds, DHA is one of the most fragile fatty acids, which means it turns rancid quickly when exposed to air. The dog’s ancestral sources of DHA were parts of prey animals, and, if living near fishing villages, fish, fish heads and guts, and aquatic plants (algae, plankton, seaweed). The ABC plans add DHA with sardines and other seafood.
A proper balance of fats is especially important for puppies and dogs undergoing training. Studies throughout the world show that for humans—and even rats and mice—an excess of omega-6 shortens attention span and undermines self-control. I believe the same thing happens with all mammals—an excess of omega-6 and insufficient amounts of DHA reduces their ability to learn and remember. DHA is essential for a young mammal’s brain development; without sufficient dietary DHA, young mammals do not learn as quickly as those who have sufficient DHA in the diet.
DHA is almost as important for adult dogs in order to keep the brain functioning properly. The adage “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” can be true if the dog doesn’t consume DHA. Dietary DHA is critical for the dogs’ brains to have the capacity to grow new tissue and neuron-to-neuron connections, or, in other words, learn new things. Many studies with older dogs show that, with sufficient amounts of DHA and antioxidants to protect it, older dogs are more alert, remember more, and are more capable. In other words, proper DHA consumption helps prevent cognitive dysfunction or “doggie Alzheimer’s.”
For raw feeders, the ABC recipes ensure that dogs do not consume too much fat—studies with mice suggest that high-fat diets (in which more than 60% of the calories from fat) can lead to brain deterioration and liver cancer. Fat provides more than 60% of the calories in many raw diets.
In addition to balancing the fats and adding DHA, the ABC plans provide a complete range of nutrients that are reported to help improve brain functions….
Dogs see better and have fewer eye problems as they age. Can following the ABC plans help prevent, or at least delay the onset, of eye problems in older dogs? If fed at a young enough age, yes, I believe that most cases of progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts prevalent in many breeds can be prevented. The data I’ve seen suggest that if a bitch is fed a balanced fat diet with ample antioxidant protection, the puppies are much less likely to develop eye problems. Great nutrition starts in the womb. For adult dogs, improving the ABCs will probably delay the onset of geriatric eye problems.
In order to maintain good eye health, it is crucial to balance the fats in the diet and provide a source of defended-from-oxidation DHA, the primary fat in the dog’s retina. Even if supplemented with DHA, an unbalanced fat diet (for example, high in omega-6s or saturated fats), may promote retinal degeneration, diminishing the dog’s ability to see. Lack of DHA in the diet or consumption of oxidized DHA can also be contributing factors to eye problems. The DHA in the ABC plans is from sardines, an excellent source of DHA.
The ABC plans also provide important antioxidants and other nutrients known to protect the eyes.
A stronger heart has many benefits, especially better athletic performance.The ABC plans help build strong hearts by improving the fats and adding nutrients known to benefit the heart. A strong, efficient heart is a key to excellent athletic performances, whether for short bursts like flyball and agility work or for the all day needs of hunting dogs.
Dogs stay lean and strong—and lean dogs live longer. Many published studies, led by Purina’s long-term research, show that high protein diets, i.e., diets with protein amounts similar to the ancestral diet, help dogs lose weight without losing muscle mass. When we lose weight, we want to lose fat, not muscle mass. The same is true for our dogs.
Following the ABC plans will help dogs stay lean and strong by increasing the protein content of their diets, while providing important nutrients reported to help them stay lean and strong.
An ABC oriented diet will reduce common canine concerns such as skin, allergy, arthritis and other inflammatory problems. One of the most remarkable studies I read during the research for this book came from Sweden. The study concluded that feeding any homemade or non-commercial foods to a bitch during lactation protects her offspring from subsequently developing skin allergies. The odds of the puppies developing skin allergies were twice as high among the offspring from bitches that ate only commercial foods. Hopefully other researchers will replicate the results of this study, and then widely disseminate the message: “feed table scraps.” But I doubt many dog food companies would want to fund studies showing the health benefits of table scraps!
The best proven dietary approach to reducing inflammatory problems is, once again, to return to our ABCs by feeding the proper amount and balance of fats, including non-oxidized EPA and DHA, and a complete range of antioxidants (often from table scraps) to defend the fats in the dog’s body, as discussed in Chapters 5 and 8.
Welcome words for any dog owner—your dog is less likely to get cancer if fed the proper diet. In my first book, See Spot Live Longer, I discussed some of the many studies showing that the consumption of vegetables and fruits exert protective effects against cancer, the number one disease killer of dogs. Since then, more detailed and long-term studies continue to show that consumption of vegetables, especially vegetables like broccoli, protect humans, mice, and dogs from cancer. All the ABC plans include fresh vegetables.
Consumption of green vegetables is especially important for dogs who eat dry foods. Dry foods are susceptible to aflatoxin (a highly toxic substance produced by some molds) contamination. Even though small amounts of aflatoxin are considered acceptable in the grains used for dog foods, with lesser amounts allowed in human foods, green vegetables can help offset its negative effects. Green vegetables contain chlorophyll and have been shown to help delay the onset of symptoms of liver cancer caused from consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated grains.
Of course, improving the fat balance and consuming non-oxidized DHA help protect against cancer since the fats consumed affects every cell in the dog’s body. Following the ABC plans and my advice on storing foods in Chapter 7 also help ensure that a dog consumes fewer rancid fats, the consumption of which, as we’ve seen, may contribute to cancer.
Disclaimer: This book was written and published for educational purposes only, and it not intended to take the place of veterinary care. Please consult a veterinarian should the need for one be indicated. The author shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person, pet, or entity with respect to loss, damage, or injury caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly by the information contained in this book. Some breeds, such as Dalmatians, can have problems with the purines in beef liver and hearts. Giant breed puppy owners should consult with their veterinarian or their puppy’s breeder before making any dietary changes.