Counter surfing, begging at the table, and destructive behavior – not in Christine Filardi’s house. Until recently, her four dogs, four cats, and herself shared a one bedroom apartment and no, the cats were never meals on wheels! Christine firmly believes the behavior of her pets is due to their biologically appropriate diets. Now more than ever, she is asking pet owners to consider the link between diet and behavior.
In June 2018, she will complete her course work and be certified in Applied Animal Behavior. Upon discussing the behavioral problems her professor saw in his practice, he stated that the majority of the dogs he saw had anxiety issues. Christine was hardly surprised. Dog training today is a big business. But is anyone thinking about the root of our pets’ behavioral issues? In her lecture “Home Cooking for Dogs and Cats” she drives this point home when she asks the audience how they feel when they are hungry. Christine compares it to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The basic needs address food and water, those things needed for physical survival. This need in turn motivates behavior. Now imagine your dog and cat walking around unsatisfied day in and day out. What type of behavior would you expect from an animal that is not having their basic needs met?
Depression, aggression, and home destruction are just three problematic behaviors expressed in dogs and cats. Depression can be the result of a fatty acid deficiency. Hunger may also trigger aggression. Dogs that display aggressive and/or destructive behavior could benefit from a decrease in protein consumption and an increase in fat and carbohydrate consumption to help them feel calm.
It’s important to understand the role of the neurotransmitter serotonin, to see the link between diet and behavior. Serotonin is believed to regulate mood, anxiety, social behavior, and happiness. Serotonin is found in the central nervous system of animals. Serotonin neural circuits help to counterbalance the tendency of the dopamine and non-adrenaline circuits to encourage aggression. Adequate production of serotonin, however, requires tryptophan. Equally important is the fact that tryptophan is one of the 10 essential amino acids that a dog cannot manufacture on its own. A dog’s diet therefore must contain animal protein otherwise known as complete protein to cover essential amino acid requirements. Foods like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs provide the essential amino acids a dog needs.
Based on the role of serotonin in the central nervous system, we see the importance of a dog’s diet containing biologically appropriate foods that contain tryptophan. Numerous testimonies from clients confirm my belief that there is a link between diet and behavior. Reported improvements in behavior include less anxiety, less restlessness, improved sleeping, and more responsiveness in everyday activities.
A simple recipe to get you started includes the following ingredients: ground beef, pureed celery, a hard boiled egg, and sardines. Your dog’s meal should contain 75% ground beef. The remaining 25% should contain raw pureed celery. Depending on your dog’s size, add anywhere from ¼ hard boiled egg – 1 hard boiled egg and anywhere from 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon of sardines. You can cook the beef or feed it raw. Only feed cooked or canned fish. Raw fish has a high bacteria count and would need to be frozen for 2 weeks to ensure safety.
Let this article be your guide in thinking about the effect of diet on your pets. You can find more recipes like this and a serving size chart in Christine’s book, “Home Cooking for Your Dog.” For information on how to transition your pet to homemade meals, visit Bow Meow Raw.
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