February 23, 2023
From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/karen-becker-forever-dog/
[00:01:09] Podcast Sponsors
[00:05:16] Guest Introduction
[00:07:29] What Karen thinks about the BARF diet
[00:13:32] Problems with processed dog food available in stores
[00:22:53] Adopting a mutt and genetic tests
[00:29:21] Podcast Sponsors
[00:33:40] BARF diet
[00:39:24] DOGS strategy
[00:40:50] What would a dog supplementation protocol look like?
[00:43:00] Dogs are amazing athletes
[00:48:32] Sun and Red Light Therapy
[00:50:58] Common things in a house that are toxic for pets
[01:02:21] How to discipline a dog?
[01:09:20] Dr. Becker’s Bites
[01:11:55] Shine Sedona
[01:12:58] End of Podcast
Ben: My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.
Karen: Pet food companies have a long and rich history of trying to convince owners that once you start a dog on a certain brand of food, hopefully their food, that you should never switch brands or proteins or flavors because the dog could get upset tummy, it could be bad for the dog to switch brands of foods. That's just simply not true. So, the same microbiome principles for dogs and cats also go for humans, which means our goal for our dogs would be to set up this gut of steel, a strong robust microbiome which we would build slowly and succinctly as a puppy over a lifetime. So, one of the factors of creating a really strong microbiome, which in turn makes a really strong immune system is nutritional diversity.
Ben: Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.
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Alright, folks. I don't think I've ever done a podcast about dogs, not specifically at least. I've mentioned dog food, taking care of your pets in a healthy way, not necessarily biohacking pets, but maybe a little bit here and there. I think I even talked about a red light cage for my dog I got at one point. But, I get asked lot by my listeners such as you about how we can take a lot of the healthy lifestyle principles that go outside the box that we do for ourselves and apply that to our precious pets.
Well, my guest on today's podcast has not only written a book called “Forever Dog,” which kind of goes into all these concepts, but she has an entire pet prescriptive plan. It goes way beyond just not feeding your dog kibbles, its movement and environmental exposures and stress reduction and digging into the genetic predisposition for certain diseases in particular breeds and mixes, all the things that commercial dog food manufacturers don't want you to know, recipe, solutions, tips. I guess, I would describe her as the vet I wish lived really close to my house to take care of my own dogs. And, she's actually one of the most followed veterinarians in the world because of her common sense approach to creating and maintaining health and are companion animals. So, she has an entire website based around this. She's one of those people who, no surprises, incorporates pharmaceutical interventions, is kind of a lash-ditch resort and instead really focuses on preventive medicine and well-being in pets.
She's actually the first veterinarian ever to give a TEDx talk on species-appropriate nutrition. And so, she is, I think, the perfect person for you to learn from when it comes to taking care of your pet the same way that you probably think about taking care of yourself.
So, her name is, again, Dr. Karen Becker. Karen, welcome to the show.
Karen: Hey, Ben. Thanks for having me. It's great to be here. I really appreciate you encompassing animals into healthy lifestyle and well-being. They're important members of our families.
Ben: I know. We have two pets. My wife gives them the, what's it called, the BARF diet, the raw food diet. What do you think about that?
Karen: Well, I think that fresh food is an integral part of humans being healthy and animals being healthy, too. If you think about it, we introduced ultra-processed food like eating fast food. About 50, 60 years ago is when the first bag of “dog food” came out. But, prior to that, animals were eating what they could catch outside on the farm and whatever scraps farmer and his wife threw to them. But, certainly, this whole concept of raising an animal from birth till death, eating just ultra-processed food is a brand-new concept. So, before I was a vet, I was a wildlife biologist and I will tell you that as a wildlife biologist that animals need to eat what is biologically appropriate for them.
And so, cats are obligate carnivores, dogs are scavenging carnivores. They need a lot of fresh foods and roughage to keep their microbiome healthy and their bodies healthy. So, this whole idea of only eating a little brown ultra-processed piece of highly refined kibble from their whole lives is when you stop and think about it, it makes no sense. So, I think that your wife is brilliant and that she's recognized that your family needs some living foods in their diet. And, I agree wholeheartedly.
Ben: You said dogs are obligate carnivores?
Karen: No, kitties are obligate carnivores and dogs are what we call–
Ben: Cats are obligate.
Karen: Yeah. Dogs are called scavenging carnivores or opportunist facultative carnivores. And, what that means, Ben, is that they do just fine. If we had a farm dog right now–I grew up in Iowa and lots of farm dogs. If they came across baby bunnies, they would eat every single one of them like Tootsie Rolls. Just eat them all. Gross but true. Dogs will catch and kill food, but they're also fine in eating–they'll eat some vegetable matter. They will eat grasses. Most people that have dogs recognize that dogs will eat grasses for digestive purposes. So, dogs are more omnivorous in the sense that they can handle more plant matter per kilogram of body weight than cats. Cats are snakes where they just need to eat their evolutionary diet of mice, bowls, moles, small birds that would be a species-appropriate diet for kitties.
The species-appropriate equivalent for dogs would be rabbit. Rabbit meat's a good source of protein. But, if you think about it, dogs evolutionarily not just wolves, which is our domestic dog's cousin but all of the Canis family, Canis lupus familiaris is dogs, but dingoes, jackals, coyotes, wild dogs all evolved really taking advantage of their environment in terms of resources and food. So, dogs evolved eating human garbage outside as humans and dogs co-evolved. They scavenged a lot, literally just our human food leftover waste. And, out of that, humans and dogs evolved this similar dietary intake strategy where when humans started the agricultural era, dogs upregulated their amount of digestive enzymes amylase to digest more starch. And, that was because humans started eating more starch. And, because dogs ate our leftovers, dogs needed more enzymes to process starch.
So, it's kind of cool when you look at the evolutionary parallels of human and dog evolution because we did co-evolve. So, dogs, even to this day, Ben, if you think about it, they're trapped in our homes, they're basically at the mercy of how knowledgeable we are in terms of what we choose to feed them or not to choose to feed them. And, most of us just listen to our vet. And, because the vet schools are funded in part, there's only 32 vet schools in the U.S. and they are well-supported by ultra-processed pet food companies.
Ben: Yeah, that's kind of what I suspected. So, it's almost like humans and pharmaceutical companies, huh?
Karen: It's just like that. It's just like that. You got it. So, young veterinarians don't know anything about fresh food because we're not taught it in medical school for animals. And so, we come out parroting what we've learned. And, veterinarians are amazing people, but all we know is what we were taught unless you keep learning. And so, what happens is veterinarians really are the last group of health and wellness professionals that still only recommend feeding ultra-processed foods. Just imagine pediatricians saying only give your kids ultra-processed food from birth to death. Every mother would scream foul play, but we do that for our dogs and cats. So, it's a little bit shocking and veterinary medicine is backwards in the sense of nutrition has not caught up with the fact that we claim we want to do what we can to extend the life and longevity of our animals, and yet the foods that we feed them aren't doing that.
Ben: By the way, just real quick, you mentioned rabbits as being a perfect food. Is there a way to find rabbits in your local community? Is that even a thing that you can find or do you just need to find dog food that actually has rabbit components in it?
Karen: So, like your wife feeds BARF, which is for your listeners that aren't familiar with that, it has two acronyms: Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or there's Bones and Raw Food, but–
Ben: Oh, I didn't know bones and raw food was also an acronym for it.
Karen: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: I always thought it was Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
Karen: Yup. And, that can be available both either you have a recipe that you follow, which means you're following a nutritionally complete recipe that involves a whole rabbit. And yes, you can. You can find whole-dress rabbits. I order mine online, but we actually have an awesome–I live in outside of Scottsdale and we have a really nice beautiful organic meat co-op that I can buy dressed rabbits from locally.
But, you can also buy commercially available foods that have been demonstrated to be nutritionally complete but that are minimally processed or unprocessed. So, you can do both if you feel like making nutritionally complete pet food at home, you can do that. If you feel buying minimally processed pet food like your wife does, you can do that. And, you can get rabbit and a whole variety of other types of proteins, either with homemade recipes or with commercially available fresh food.
Ben: Okay, got it. I have so many questions for you, and I know you get environment and vaccines, all sorts of stuff in your book. So, people may want to read that as a companion. I'll link to our entire podcast shownotes at BenGreenfieldLife.com/ForeverDog. By the way, for those of you who want the shownotes, that's also the name of Karen's book.
But, before we move on to things aside from food, tell me about besides just the dry aspect of it or the non-fresh aspect of it, what you think the biggest problems are with the average dog food people are buying off the grocery store shelves for their dogs right now.
Karen: There are two kind of big issues. First, and people may not know about how food is inspected in the U.S., but all foods in the U.S.–and, we'll just kind of hold the conversation to the U.S. right now. So, foods, thankfully, we have an FDA and we have a USDA. And, the USDA inspects food, and foods that are inspected and passed go into the human food chain. Foods and meats that are inspected and failed, so in USDA meat inspectors working at a slaughterhouse, if there's an abscess or a tumor on a cow coming through, that part of the body gets condemned, which means it does not enter in into the human food chain, that goes into what's called the feed category. So, there is a proof for human consumption and then there's animal feed. And, everything that's rejected for human food consumption goes into animal feed, including pet food.
So, first, we have a massive quality control issue within the pet food space because less than 5% of pet foods are made with human-grade ingredients. And, that's one of the things that you'll see me stress quite a bit in the book is it's just important that pet guardians, dog owners, understand that the quality of the raw materials going to their pet foods have failed inspection for human intake unless it's specifically marked as human grade ingredients. So, that's number one.
The second thing that I think your listeners will understand because you have a healthy 2.0 level of listeners that understand health and well-being and that food is an integral part of that, the second big issue that is a little bit like feeding your kid through the dollar menu. If you want to eat ultra-processed junk food or fast food, every now and then, okay, fine, because our bodies are resilient and we can hold up to it. But, if you think about the fact that human food intake in the U.S., 50% of the calories right now they say come from ultra-processed foods or fast food, 50%. But, for dogs, 85% to a 100% of the calories that they ingest their whole life only come from ultra-processed foods, which means these are foods that have undergone high heat refinement at four times. And, that's a lot of heat, which means not only are nutrients destroyed, Ben, but then you have these advanced glycation end products. And, I don't know how educated your audience is about–
Ben: Yeah, we've talked about these ages before. Yeah.
Karen: Yeah. It's a massive problem in pet food. But, of course, the pet food industry isn't talking about it and we certainly didn't learn about ages in vet school because you're going to damn your own industry. So, unfortunately, if you think about the issues with eating fast food or junk food for human, all those same principles apply for pets. So then, you just got to reverse engineer the equation when it comes to, “Okay, I never made that correlation,” I'll just back up real quick and tell you. The premise of forever dog was my writing partner, Rodney's obsessed with the oldest dogs in the world. And, I'm obsessed with the research and the science behind why things die young or live a long time. Rodney said to me, “Listen, if I find the top 12 oldest dogs in the world then we interview their owners about what they did and didn't do, and we collect this massive amount of data about what they did and didn't do, will you go to the top geneticist scientist Nobel prize-winning chemist, longevity experts?” You go and you interview the top scientists and let's reverse engineer the equation. And, that's the premise of the book. So, that's what we did. We found the oldest dog; some of them 30, 30-year-old dogs.
Ben: Are you kidding me? Isn't that considered to be 210 or whatever years old. And, I don't know if that's accurate or do you multiply by 7?
Karen: You don't. You don't multiply it by 7, but the reason that that is out there is that that gets you in the ballpark.
Karen: Larger dogs and certain breeds die much, much, much, much, much younger than smaller dogs. And, that's because they have more IGF receptors and genetics and a whole bunch of stuff, but it's not a score seven years, but a 30-year-old dog is a damn old dog. And, we just wanted to know like why is that, like did–and, there's a farmer in Australia, his name is Brian McLaren, and he had a 30-year-old Kelpie named Maggie. And, we wanted to know what he did and didn't do. And, there's all of these amazing lifestyle variables that are just exactly what you would expect from people. Unbeknownst to him, he was doing intermittent fasting for his dog. His dog got 10 kilometers of exercise a day. His dog ate fresh food every day. His dog was able to have a low-stress life and make decisions for herself. All of these things. His dog was not exposed to chemicals.
So, all of these things that we can put into our own lives, it does make sense that we start thinking about what we are doing to either intentionally create health in our dogs or unintentionally allow disease and degeneration to occur. And so, those are kind of the questions that we asked these extra long-lived owners of these dogs that were living these exceptional long periods of time, what are you doing and what aren't you doing. So, it's a pretty fascinating concept when you think about the fact that these dogs, most of their owners intentionally did things that were a part of their natural lifestyle that they just extended to the dogs in their lives that ultimately created super long-lived dogs.
Ben: Yeah. And, like human longevity, it's a real multimodal approach it sounds like with relation to environment and stress and food and drink and probably even relationships and things along those lines. So, it's no surprise is that you can't necessarily do a double-blinded dog clinical research study on what's making them live long versus what it sounds like you guys did, which is more kind of like case analysis from an epidemiological standpoint.
Karen: Yup, that's exactly right. And interestingly, it's pretty similar. So, what the Broad Institute told us was that about 10% of diseases in humans are genetic and we need to account for that in terms of if you've got just missing genes for functional organ systems in your body, they're just not going to function. 90% of disease degeneration is within our control in terms of making wise lifestyle decisions. What the correlative for dogs that we determined was it's about 20%. The top geneticist told us it was 20%.
So, dogs have a stronger genetic component and partly because we got in there 500 years ago and started breeding. We were breeding brother and sister before we had DNA testing. We were breeding father and daughter and mom and son and brother and sister and we created a lot of our own narrowing and lack of diversified genetics within our dog pools. We did this inadvertently early on. And, if you have purchased from a puppy mill or you know anything about puppy mills, it's still going on today. That's one of the reasons I'm a stickler where if you're going to shell out cash for a dog, you damn well make sure that you're spending money on really good genetics. You interview your breeder exceptionally well. So, we have this free 21-point breeder questionnaire ask every single question on it so that you're getting the most genetically diversified dog on the planet when you drop cash for a dog. If you rescue like I do, you're not rescuing based on amazing genetics. So, what that means is the Broad Institute said that about 80% of a dog's health and well-being lifestyle longevity correlates to their owners making correct decisions, wise decisions, beneficial decisions for them.
So, genetics do play a bigger role, but it's interesting because epigenetic potential is something that I really underestimated before I wrote this book. And, when we talked to Dr. David Sinclair who is the Harvard longevity scientist–
Ben: Oh, yeah, he's been on the podcast before.
Karen: Yeah. So, he's a great guy and he's really into dogs and he was super supportive of the book. And, he was saying that epigenetically, we are guardians and that should put the fear of God in us that can either be super empowering and that we make all of our lifestyle decisions for our dogs or that can be horribly frightening depending on how much information you have to make great decisions.
So, that's the other reason I wrote the book is that so many of my clients, so many people I know say, “If I only knew then what I know now, I would have made totally different decisions for my animals.” And, regret is a powerful motivator and I just wanted to get all of the latest signs. There's the slow trickle from human medicine down to veterinary medicine. Veterinary medicine is about 20 years behind. I'm a [00:21:51] _____ girl, and I know the science is out there and I am not waiting 20 years for veterinary medicine to shift and pivot to start instituting some of these principles, I just went and got it and wrote a book about it. It's being published now in 14 languages and it hit number one in the New York Times bestseller. All things I didn't anticipate, but that shows you how committed we are to making our dogs as healthy as possible. And, I think all people are lacking is the information to make better decisions.
Ben: Yeah. And, by the way, the questions to ask your breeder while you were talking, I found that PDF, so I'll link to it in the shownotes if people want to check that out and review those questions even though honestly our family after having gone through purebreds, primarily boxers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, both breeds that are boys absolutely grew to love but sadly that also seemed to die early or that needed to go to the vet constantly after going through that, we kind of shifted to just adopting mutts from the local adoption.
What do you think about, and this might be kind of a loaded question, but this whole idea of genetic predispositions to disease? I have kind of a two-part question. First, is there a way to genetically test a dog like you would a human to see what they might be susceptible to so they can act preventively? And then, secondarily, what do you think about just adopting mutts?
Karen: Both great questions. First of all, I love adapting mutts. I grew up in a kill shelter. I started volunteering at my local shelter at 13. I became a certified euthanasia technician at 17. I am a neurotic supporter of adopting dogs because there's so many homeless animals and shelters that are amazing companions that are unnecessarily euthanized. So, I'm a big proponent of rescue.
However, if people have a specific need for a dog for a purebred, either they just like the way that certain dogs look or many functional breeders are producing dogs for working lines where they have jobs and you want certain genetics for those jobs.
Ben: Or, hunting or bloodhounds, for example, for criminology or for hunting.
Karen: You bet. And, for all of those reasons, I totally support–in my practice, I have a lot of amazing functional heritage preservation breeders that are doing amazing things. But, these are breeders that they will question you more than you will question them. I mean, they're only going to sell to the best pet parents in the world and they will stand behind their dogs. And, you have a lifelong relationship with your breeder. And, your breeder is there to answer questions. It's almost like a marriage with your breeder.
If you find a good breeder, it becomes a lifelong friendship but a partnership because that breeder will want to know if your dog does get cancer, your breeder is going to hold your hand every step of the way saying, “Oh, my gosh, I need to know this” because they're going to take notes and then potentially not repeat that breeding again with that dam and sire.
On the flip side of that, when you do rescue, knowing what you're in for and even if you, let's just say that you have not heard any of this and you're like, “Oh, my god, I bought a dog from a pet store,” which means you supported a puppy mill. And, I was really glad you mentioned the emotional mental aspects of heritable diseases and genetic and epigenetic potential because puppy mill dogs, the generation after generation of filthy conditions, inbreeding DNA, horrible nutrition, but really profound an ongoing stress from birth till death, the amount of cortisol that these animals are chucking 24/7 is just astronomical. And, that plays into then not only behavior when we adopt these little babies, it plays into health, well-being, and then their ability to be resilient and strong genetically, which none of those things take place if you get a poorly bred dog, which is what–puppy mills, of course, are breeding dogs for profit but not for health or well-being.
So, it is important to me that there's no whimsical decision of, “Oh, my gosh, it was so cute. And, I know I should have done more investigation.” It's a little bit like just deciding to have a baby on Tuesday, just get just getting pregnant I would strongly recommend that you put a lot of thought into the breed that you are interested in acquiring and why. And then, do your homework on an appropriate breeder if you decide to go that route. If you don't or if you rescue like me, genetic testing is such a killer, an amazing great thing to do. So, I'm a proactive functional veterinarian, which means I'm all about getting all the information I can to make the best decisions for my patients. And, part of those decision-making processes is recognizing where each weak link is in the body. And, every physical body, whether you have diversified genetics or not, we all have some SNPs, we all have some genetic variants that are not amazing. But, because of epigenetics, we have the ability to either turn on those genes or turn those genes off. And, that's the empowering piece of doing genetic testing.
So, for instance, I just rescued a dog three years ago, he was a 12-year-old dog, he lived in a nursing home in my little town. His daddy died and he literally was free to get home. So, I didn't know what he was. I did some genetic testing. So, he's a Glen of Imaal Terrier, but he's got double dominant genes for heritable blindness. In dogs, it's called progressive retinal atrophy. For humans that have, let's say, macular degeneration, it's very similar.
So, my dog, Homer, when I got him, when I look in his eyes and do an ophthalmic exam, his eyes look good, but I know that he's carrying that DNA. So, the first thing I did when I adopted Homer is I swabbed his cheek and did his DNA test. It's super cheap. I like a company called Embark and it gives you so much information.
Ben: And, correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't have to go through a physician for that, you can order an Embark test off of Amazon, right?
Karen: You bet. And, what I tell my clients is give it to your dog for a Christmas gift or a happy birthday gift or a rescue, I got you birthday gift. Give your dog, which is really yourself, the gift of knowing what's happening inside. Not to freak you out, but to empower you. So, if you know that your dog is carrying the DNA for heart disease, which three out of four Dobermans are, three out of four Cavaliers are, if you know, I mean, if you see that on paperwork, it's so empowering because you can start a proactive protocol right now. You can put your dog on ubiquinol. You can put your dog on carnitine and taurine and a whole bunch of amazing things.
Ben: Yeah, make some pomegranate and cordyceps and stuff into their raw diet.
Karen: You got it. That's exactly right. And, by doing that, you are downregulating the potential for some of these genetic predispositions to surface. And so, part of how we make good decisions is just having enough information to be able to make better decisions. So, I'm a big believer in DNA testing.
Ben: This begs the question, though, you're doing the DNA testing after you already have the dog. Is there a way to request from a breeder that they give you the genetic test you could decide if that's something that you want to put up with in the dog?
Karen: That's maybe the number one question on that 21-point questionnaire.
Ben: Oh, it is?
Karen: Show me the DNA. Of course, because as I mentioned, all breeds have “flaws.” There's no such thing as a genetically perfect specimen. But, what you want to make sure that the breeder is doing, and the breeder will happily show you, if the breeder is proud of their lineages, they will happily show you DNA testing. And, what you want to see is that if there are, let's say a mom has a carrier, mom is in a carrier state for disease, then she's being bred to a male who is not a carrier, so that you are diluting the potential for those recessive genes to show up. And, good breeders happily share medical records for mom and dad. They will happily tell you what great-grandma died of and they will happily share DNA tests with you.
Ben: I am basically one of those guys who's putting salt on everything, electrolytes and everything, heavily salting my food. And, I feel amazing when I do that. Usually, I used to think salt was bad for you, it turns out it's really, really not. Maybe the isolated sodium chloride iodized crap on the table at the restaurant, but man, good salt and good electrolytes. Electrolyte deficiencies or imbalances can cause symptoms, and headaches, and cramps, and fatigue, and weakness. And, a lot of times, you're eating low carb or keto, your body excretes electrolytes at an increased rate when in that ketogenic or facet or low carb state. So, especially if you're restricting carbohydrates, electrolytes are a game changer. That's probably one of the reasons I feel them so much is I don't do a lot of carbs, but man oh man, they're amazing. And, the primary electrolyte loss is sodium. Athletes can lose up to 7 grams per day, which can cause fatigue and sleep issues and a whole host of other problems. But, the thing is that you can get electrolytes, you can get electrolytes without sugar and artificial ingredients and coloring and crap in them.
This company called LMNT, L-M-N-T, they make some of the best-tasting and best-functioning electrolytes out there. They've relied upon Robb Wolf, a biochemist, New York Times bestseller guy in the Navy Resilience Committee, and a super smart man when it comes to all things, diet and nutrition, to help out with this formula. Robb uses it. Once I found out he used it, I got my hands on it, and it really is amazing. And, they're citrus salt, by the way, tastes great for a dynamite no sugar Margarita. So, there's that.
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I'm asked a lot. What do I eat? How do I train? What's that weird fringe biohack you talked about on a podcast and is it for me? When do I do gratitude and meditation? How long do I do red light? What's the best heat-cold option for me? I'm traveling, where do I work out of this gym I just checked into? Hey, Ben, I'm going to a restaurant tonight, what should I eat? Here's the menu. These are the type of questions I get from my VIP clients who I coach. And, a lot of people don't realize I take on a small number of people each month who I help out with their health, their fitness. I got everything from pro athletes to celebrity actors to executives of big companies who rely on me to help them out. I'm basically just the external brain for their health. They wake up in the morning. I use a special program to show them exactly what to do each day. They just look at their calendar and do it and don't have to worry about deciding how many sets, how many reps, which gym, hot, cold, what temperature, blah, blah, blah. I just do it all for you.
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Back to the food piece, I mentioned the BARF diet, and it's my understanding that that actually isn't just dumping a bunch of liver and leftover meat and a couple of raw eggs into a blender, but there's an actual kind of a macronutrient or a percentage that's recommended for that diet. I looked into it a while ago and it was a certain percentage of meat, a certain percentage of raw bone, a certain percent of organs or liver if you have access to them, and then a certain percent of vegetables and fruit. And, it kind of got me thinking, does this vary from dog breed to dog breed? Or, can you paint with a pretty broad brush when it comes to dogs?
Karen: Great question. And, I'm so glad that you bring up the point that the diet needs to be nutritionally complete. So, right now, we're going to talk about if you decided to do a homemade diet, you are absolutely not guessing. And, I appreciate you bringing this up. Think of it as guessing at making human infant formula. Let's say that you have a baby, you decided not to nurse for whatever reason, you're going to give your kid formula your brand-new baby formula, you're not going to be like, “Alright, I don't really feel like buying formula, I'm going to whip up some formula. I'm going to make up my own recipe for my brand-new infant.” You just don't do that because chances are you're going to guess wrong and create a nutritional deficiency. The same is true with animals. So, you have to follow a recipe. And, there's a bunch of free ones on foreverdog.com if you want to just look at them. But, you have to make sure that you're covering your bases in terms of minimal nutrient requirements so that you are not inadvertently creating a nutritional deficiency.
But, to answer your question, yes, so let's just take for instance northern breeds. So, let's say huskies and malamutes and akitas, those dogs evolved from northern areas and they ate a diet that was richer in fish. And, out of that, they have a higher DHA and EPA requirement. They have a higher zinc requirement and they have a higher vitamin E requirement than let's say a schnauzer or a dog that did not evolve from that environment.
So, proactive or wellness or functional veterinarians not only are aware of this, but when we see a little brand new husky from an amazing heritage reader, not only will the heritage reader have already informed the buyers of the puppy, “Hey, listen, yes, of course, you can feed generic dog food but why would you when we can customize a diet to the lineage and the DNA of where these dogs came from and we can best provide the nutrients they need to have this functional immune system response, to have the healthiest skinning coat, to have a vibrant microbiome. There are things we can do as a puppy to lay the groundwork for that.” And, those are really important questions that you would think about when you're beginning to think about getting a dog in your life. Long before you get it, those are really good questions to ask like, “Okay, what am I going to feed by babe?” And, “How often am I going to switch foods?” That's the other thing that a lot of times dog owners don't think about is the pet food industry is not going to recommend that you switch brands because they're basically cutting off a sale. So, what's the default propaganda that they're going to serve you? Never switch your dog's food. Have you heard that before?
Ben: Never switch your dog's food, no. What's that mean?
Karen: Veterinarians even are sometimes guilty of this. Pet food companies have a long and rich history of trying to convince owners that once you start a dog on a certain brand of food, hopefully, their food, that you should never switch brands or proteins or flavors because the dog could get upset tummy and it could be bad for the dog to switch brands of foods. That's just simply not true. So, the same microbiome principles for dogs and cats also go for humans, which means our goal for our dogs would be to set up this gut of steel, a strong robust microbiome, which we would build slowly and succinctly as a puppy over a lifetime.
So, one of the factors of creating a really strong microbiome which in turn makes a really strong immune system is nutritional diversity. And, that's one of the things that I am a huge believer in is trying to create as much nutritional diversity in an attempt to support microbial diversity that we can for dogs. So, when you open your fridge, all those dented blueberries that are soggy and gross, feed them to your dog. The end of carrots that you might not like the end of the carrot that has a little root on it, feed it to your dog. Those little morsels that we treat our dogs with throughout the day, that's the prebiotic fiber that feeds those amazing short-chain fatty acids in the colon that do amazing things for energy as well as microbial diversity in the gut. So, just beginning to think about diversifying our dog's microbiome is one easy simple free cheap step we can take to boost their overall immune system.
Ben: Now, what about when a dog's outside eating grass. Is that going to act as a prebiotic fiber?
Karen: Yeah, of course, it is. But, you have to remember, most people treat their grass. And, I tell you one of the most shocking things that we found is that the incidence of lymphoma, lymphoma is the number one cancer that dogs get. And, there is a 70% increase in the incidence of lymphoma from dogs that live in homes that have treated grass, 70%.
Karen: So, it's a little scary. If you think about it, dogs are naked and fuzzy and they don't shower every day so they're not rinsing those chemicals off, they go out and roll around in pesticides and herbicides that is genomically toxic. That does shift their microbiome. If they're eating chemically treated grass, that is killing off some of their microbiome. So, you have to be aware and those are those little decisions that we oftentimes don't think about is what is my dog's chemical exposure from my dog's point of view. It's like them drinking out of a plastic food and water dish. People don't think anything of it and yet those endocrine-disrupting hormones are also affecting our dog's thyroid as much as they're affecting our own.
Ben: Okay, interesting. Okay, this is good to know.
Now, you've got something called, because I read this on your bio, the D-O-G-S diet, the DOGS diet. Is that different than the BARF diet?
Karen: So, it's not a diet. The D-O-G-S is a strategy. And, when I was writing this book, I was trying to think about what do I need dog owners to think about to cover all their bases so that they don't have regret. So, D stands for diet and nutrition, O stands for optimal movement or exercise, G stands for addressing genetic predispositions, and S stands for stress. And, that's both mental-emotional but also chemical stress as well as veterinary stress like flea and tick pesticides. So, the DOGS strategy is a way for dog lovers to think about encompassing all of the points they need to intentionally create well-being in their dog's life.
Ben: Okay. Now, you also have some kind of an app that you can use to take some of the guesswork out of home preparing the food, what's the app do?
Karen: So, the app is just the animal diet formulator. Actually, it's not my app, but there's this amazing company called animaldietformulator.com. And, if you decide that you want to do homemade diets, it's a great way to make sure that you're not missing selenium and iodine and vitamin E and vitamin D. And so, let's take your example you're going to throw some meat and some eggs together, that's a great base. That's awesome. But then, you got to make sure you're adding in all the other foods that make the diet complete and balanced. And, the animal diet formulator does that.
Ben: Okay, got it.
So, what about supplements? I mean, you mentioned that if you do genetic testing, there are certain supplements you could throw in. I forget the ones that you mentioned. But, how big of a part of a dog's diet with nutritional supplements be? Because obviously some humans who I've interviewed in the anti-aging and longevity sector, guys like David Sinclair, they're taking 30 different things: NAD and special yogurts and stem cell precursors and all sorts of stuff. What about for the dog? What would a dog supplementation protocol look like?
Karen: Well, we have a whole section of the book on supplements because supplements can be an amazing addition. So, if you've identified that your dog has a genetic predisposition to certain things, supplements can literally be life-changing and yet there's no amount of supplementation that's going to supplement you out of a terrible diet. So, the biggest thing I see, Ben, is pet parents come to me, they're buying food at their local big box store and then they want to put their dog on 250 bucks a month on supplements to try and undo their really crappy nutrition. And, what I would tell your listeners is supplements can be amazing. There's not a reason to go hog wild with them. My best recommendation is you supplement for a reason, which means if you know, like in Homer's situation, he's got progressive retinal atrophy, he is on astaxanthin, he is on lutein, he is on CoQ10, he's on vitamin E, he's on things that will help support his eye structure health and help scavenger free radicals. So, I specifically have him on those things because he's got a genetic presupposition. So, he's also 15, so his joints hurt. So, I have him on chondroprotective agents. He also tends to lick his paws, and so I have him on intermittent olive leaf to help control his little secondary staph infection.
So, what you don't do is just wantonly see an ad on Facebook and say, “Here's a multivitamin that's going to make my dog better.” It's not that that's a poor choice, it's that you're probably wasting your money. And, if you don't have a reason to be offering a supplement, then don't do it. But, oftentimes there are very viable reasons to offer targeted supplementation that can make a world of difference if your dog needs it.
Ben: Now, kind of similar to the diet and the nutrition supplement protocol being something that would be similar to the way that you'd approach a young growing human or a baby or yourself if you're trying to optimize longevity, there's the whole movement component too. And, you've mentioned that a couple of times. When I'm working with a client, for example, I will make sure there's a strength component, a mobility component, a fat loss component, some type of thermal stress like heat and cold, light exposure, and some type of lactic acid tolerance and then a muscular endurance component. When it comes to dogs, do you go beyond just saying, well, take your dog for a walk on a daily basis and let them get a little fresh air? Are there certain forms of exercise, even stuff like strength training that dogs should be doing?
Karen: That's a great question. Of course. And, if you think about it, dogs by nature, even the 4-pound chihuahua, they are wired as athletes. Dogs are amazing athletes. Even the dogs that can't breathe well, the brachycephalic bulldog, those dogs still need modified cardiovascular strength training, they need lymphatic drainage, their joints need to go through their full range of motion every day. We want to work on muscle building and tendon ligament strengthening. Dogs blow more ACLs than humans do. So, all of those factors play into what type of exercise protocol or movement therapy you'll design for your dog.
So, what I say as a wellness veterinarian is you want to customize your dog's movement based on your dog's age, their body style or type, their breed. And then, if they have restrictions, if your dog is losing their sight or let's say a three-legged dog, if you've had to have amputation or you rescue a dog, and as well as personality. If you have a reactive dog that is not good around other dogs, that's going to dictate partly what you do. If you live in a freezing cold climate with a bunch of ice and snow, you may have to train your dog to a treadmill. If you do have a 2-pound chihuahua who hates to leave the house, you can swim them in your bathtub. So, you have to become creative at creating exercise protocols customized really around your dog's needs, wants, personality, body shape, style, age, just like you would do for a human. But, all of those components are very important. And, most importantly, dogs need to move their bodies like humans every day. They need to move every day. But then, the specific type of exercise is geared around what your dog likes and what he can do.
Ben: Now, you have a an article that I saw about all the different kinds of walks that a dog could go on. I never really even thought about taking a dog for a walk besides just putting on a leash or letting them run free and walking with them. Why do you have all these different kinds of walks? What would be examples of something different than just taking your dog for a walk? It's very complicated.
Karen: It sounds more complicated than what it is. So, Dr. Alexandra Horowitz. She has a canine cognition lab in New York. And, she has coined the term sniffari. And, what her research just shows, it's quite compelling and it goes back to the stress relief component of this, that dogs take in their world through their noses. And, how they process where they are and what's around them and what's happening, their social life, their biochemical molecule intake all comes through their nose.
So, when your dog is outside sniffing, they are collecting cues and information about their environment that allows them to process and ground themselves to recognize their time-space reality, where they're at, and what's happening around them. Most humans tend to be really busy and not necessarily focused on what their dog wants to do more so than what the human needs to do. So, when you say what other kind of walks are there, the best gift after we have done our cardio with our dog, which means their strength training walks, you can walk up hills to strengthen your dog's quads and hams. You can do curbs on and off curbs to help with proprioception.
But, after you've done cardio, after you've done some strength training, I do think one of the best ways of these alternative walks you can give your dog is what we call a sniffari, which means you let your dog for at least five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night, you let your dog choose whether they want to turn left or right, whether they want to sniff the telephone pole for two minutes or they want to sniff a fire hydrant for three minutes. You let your dog choose. And, by letting your dog choose where they want to go and what they want to sniff, it's basically giving them the emotional and mental ability to process their environment without pulling them on the leash.
When we don't let our dogs sniff anything, they are not fully integrated to their environment. And so, one of the biggest lessons that I learned when writing this book is that our dogs deserve to not be yanked on the leash at least twice a day that we will give them the opportunity to thoroughly investigate their environment for up to five minutes. And, if you feel you want to go above and beyond, which I recommend, let your dog at least twice a day sniff as long as they want in a location that they choose. Now, people are like, “Well, what the heck? What does that matter?” The amount of stress reduction that occurs when dogs are basically allowed to have their happy hour, that's what we call these walks, it is unbelievable, the biochemical shift that happens in the positive direction by letting dogs choose where they want to go and what they want to sniff, it's a part of them being happy. And, one of the ways that we can help our dogs become more happy is to give them more sniffaris.
Now, Dr. Satchin Panda at the Salk Institute was very clear that if dogs–and, really I feel extra bad for cats because most cats are inside the house, oftentimes people leave their drapes pulled, they don't know if it's morning, they don't know what the hell time of day it is. And, that's a shame, not only because if you think about it, their circadian rhythms are messed up badly.
But, Satchin Panda went one step beyond it. He said, the best thing, if people have to leave, please, for the love of God, open your drapes, get as much natural sunlight into your apartment or houses possible before you leave for work, and allow your animals the ability to just know if it's day or night outside, number one. And, number two, by taking your dogs outside for even five minutes in the morning and allowing the direct sunlight, blue light to hit their retinas, they're going to secrete melanopsin, a hormone that helps regulate neurochemical well-being. And, at night time, when the sun's setting, if you can take your dog out for another sniffari and allow the setting sun orange hues to hit their retinas, they will begin producing melatonin, which means they're not going to get you up at 3:00 in the morning and they will sleep better at night and they will have a more healthful restful sample sleep. So, just allowing our dogs out twice a day to acclimate with their circadian rhythm is another type of walk that is a really good gift to their biochemical physiology.
Ben: What do you think about, I mentioned briefly that idea of red light therapy, somebody actually did recently send me this thing called a Glowbie, which is a red light cage that the dog can sit in. Is there anything to using red light therapy, either in the morning or the evening to stimulate circadian rhythm or skin health or anything like that?
Karen: Sure. All of those things. I'm familiar with this technology. The same benefits for humans apply to dogs. The difference is you have to make sure that your dog can choose to participate. You don't put your dog in the cage and have them scratching and having a panic response trying to get out. But, I use red light therapy, infrared therapy. In practice, I have a rehab facility in terms of what I do as a dog physical therapist. And, red light therapy has many benefits for humans and for dogs. And so, I think what's important is to understand that your dog needs to be a willing participant in any of the things you sign your dog up for, you're going to ask him to do it, you're not going to force him to do it.
Ben: Yeah. It's kind of funny. Our dogs didn't seem to like it that much just because they didn't like to be caged up. So now, I use it to do things like charge up water with infrared light and it'll put kefir and stuff in there.
So now, you talked about glyphosate as being one issue if your dog is out in the backyard eating grass and that type of toxin exposure. Are there other things–because I know you've got a toxic home safety guide in the book and on the website, what kind of common things in a home, whether it'd be like, I don't know, plastic food, dishes or bedding materials or things like that do you think more people should know about when it comes to things that might affect their dog's health deleteriously?
Karen: I would say across the board, so the same home toxins that affect your child's health affect your dog's health. In fact, the environmental working group is starting to use cats and dogs as sentinels because dogs and cats spend more time in the home than humans do. So, they're actually a perfect model to study in terms of home toxicosis because they bioaccumulate a much more accurate level of environmental chemicals because they don't leave the home as often as humans do. They also don't shower.
So, we're using dogs and cats as translational models for studying how toxic U.S. homes are. And, I think it's a really brilliant study design. But, let me tell you the result so far are frightening, they're frightening. So, if you purify your water for your kids, please purify your water for your dogs, which means if you live in Flint Michigan and you've got some chemicals, you've got some metals in your water, filter your dog's water as well. If you are a smoker, please get air purifier inside your home because the second-hand smoke affects your dogs and cats substantially more than it affects your human kids. If you live in a radon or mold-filled home, you need to remediate those issues.
Can you guess what the number one toxin is in homes that negatively impacts pets?
Ben: Number one? I'm going to guess household cleaning supplies.
Karen: That's a solid choice. We should touch on it because whatever you spray in your home, you have to assume it's going to be in your dogs' and cats' bodies. In fact, dogs and cats accumulate 64% more environmental chemicals than humans because they lay on surfaces without protective clothing. So, number one, this is my plug to go green, use green cleaners, ditch the chemical cleaners inside your home if you have pets. But, the number one issue are candles and plug-ins.
Ben: Wait, what's a plug-in?
Karen: Okay. So, I like a good-smelling house as much as everyone else, but a lot of humans in the U.S. have an obsession with having, in the fall, they want pumpkin spice smells throughout their home and you can use these perfume-scented electrical plug-ins that you plug into your outlet and it scent your home synthetically with everything from vanilla and lavender to pumpkin spice to cinnamon latte and your house smells amazing but your house is highly toxic to your pets.
Ben: They're the toxic equivalent of those Christmas trees that you hang in the cars.
Karen: Yes. Only your animals can't get away from them and they cause a lot of metabolic and endocrine immunologic stress. Massive amounts of stress. So, just recognizing that your animals–first of all, dog's and cat's noses are significantly more sensitive than ours. They have way more nasal receptors. The amount of smells that dogs and cats have to live with in an unventilated home literally can be nauseating for pets. It can cause GI issues. It can cause ocular issues. But, most importantly, we see endocrine disruption. Their thyroid adrenal issues can be a problem. Cats have kidney disease because of this. We see liver enzyme elevates in dogs that can't process the secondary chemicals that they're breathing in. So, if there's a warning on the back of any product you buy that says “Call Poison Control if ingested or exposed for a long period of time,” those are the products that you want to remove from your house for your dogs and cats.
Ben: Yeah. It's funny that more people don't just use things like essential oil diffusers or one thing my friend, Dr. John Lieurance who's been on the podcast before, he gave me this ozone generator air purifier, which generates very, very low amounts of ozone, but it makes everything smell super fresh, super clean. I throw my backpack and travel with it and plug it in when I get to hotel rooms because I figure if there's a little bit of mold, it might help a bit with that too. But, it's between that and all the house plants and the NASA clean air study, along with the essential oil diffusers I mentioned. It's shocking that people still use this kind of stuff to make their home smell good.
Karen: Yeah, it is. It is shocking. And, I think a lot of times it just goes back to people haven't thought about living in their dog's and cat's bodies and what their day-to-day experience would be like living from their dog's perspective. And, that's one of the things that I think once you hear it, you're like, “Oh, my gosh, of course, it makes sense.” But, until you're prompted to think about it, a lot of people don't.
Ben: Do the dishes that a dog eats or drinks out of matter that much, say like plastic or are there certain metal dishes that would leach metals? Do you have a preferred source for the dishes or just go with glass?
Karen: So, I'm a big believer in glass. I like myself some Pyrex just for food and water, easy, simple, fairly cheap. 18-gauge stainless steel is also very good. I will tell you that the cheap bowls that you buy from big box pet stores or the cheap metal bowls you buy from the dollar store, those have been recalled for cadmium and a whole bunch of other toxic contaminants found in poorly made cheap, what we would call stainless or metables but it's not even stainless. So, if you don't want to shell out 55 bucks for an 18-gauge stainless steel food and water bowl for your dog, just go with Pyrex because it's safe, it's easy to clean and you can buy it at Walmart and you're not going to have a problem.
Ben: Okay. Got it, that's helpful.
Now, this might be kind of a loaded question, but I think it's part of your book. So, I want to ask because it is controversial amongst humans right now especially. But, what about vaccinations because it just seems like a thing, like you send your dog off to get vaccinated. Do we run into the same issues with dogs as we do with humans?
Karen: I think we run into more issues with dogs because Ben, certainly it's controversial on the human space but here's the difference, we vaccinate our kids usually up till 21 and then some people go on to get whatever they want to get a flu booster or whatever later on. That's a prerogative. But basically, mandatory vaccines up to 21 and you stop.
Here's the kicker for pets. We'll just take dogs for an example, they get parvo, distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, corona/lepto, rabies, Bordetella, and sometimes Lyme every year till they die. It's not that we give them vaccines until they're adults like we do with humans, we vaccinate them annually until death. So, of course, it's an issue, it's an issue that my profession doesn't necessarily want to address, not to mention we give the 2-pound chihuahua the exact same dose of vaccine as the 200-pound mastiff. So, the same vaccine principles apply for modified live vaccines for humans and dogs. I'll just go over with you briefly.
After your puppy, after one or two all-time puppy shots, after they have established protective immunity, which means their immune systems have competently responded to that vaccine and they are producing antibodies giving a “booster,” you can't boost an already immunized immune system. They're immunized for life. So then, the question should be, well, hell, if my dog is protected for life, why am I getting that postcard that says “Come in every year for parvo, distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, lepto, Bordetella, and rabies”? Why am I getting that every year?
So, rabies is required by law but at least, thank God, you can choose a three-year rabies, which is the exact same thing as a one-year rabies. So, you're not going to be able to skate a three-year rabies every three years. It's law. But, all of those other vaccines, you can do a simple easy blood test called an antibody titer test. And, an antibody tighter test proves to your vet and to your boarding facility and to your groomer that you are being a responsible proactive guardian and you are making sure that your dog is protected and therefore does not need further vaccines. And, that satisfies everyone's need to make sure, “Oh, my gosh, I want to make sure your dog is not shedding cooties,” and you can prove that your dog is well protected for life for those core vaccines and you don't have to continue over-vaccinating them.
Ben: Okay. So, these antibody titer tests, can you order those yourself and get them yourself or do you go to a vet to get an antibody titer done?
Karen: You end up having to go to the vet unfortunately because, Ben, the blood draw. Most people can't do their own dog's blood draw, nor would I recommend it. It breaks trust, your dog thinks you're crazy. So, I don't recommend necessarily home procedures that ruin the human-animal bond between you and your dog, including blood draws. So, you do have to go to your vet.
But, here's what's cool. Both of the national labs that every veterinarian uses in the country, Antech and IDEX, they both offer these vaccine antibody titers. And, some people say, “Listen, my vet's not going to do that or I don't even have a vet locally that will do it.” You can do telemedicine now, thank goodness. There's a website, the College of Integrative Veterinary Therapy. So, CIVTedu.org. You can go to this website. It'll give you a listing of veterinarians around the world that will do telemedicine consults if what I'm saying in this podcast say resonates with you and you're like, “Oh, my gosh, I'd love to find a veterinarian who is more proactive and will prevent disease from occurring and I really want to partner with someone who has this shared philosophy as I do,” you may not be able to find that veterinarian in your local community, but you can find that veterinarian and do telemedicine. And, that veterinarian will be able to help to instruct you on where you need to go to have a blood draw to be able to have vaccine antibodies done.
Ben: Similar to human apps, is there a telemedicine app for vets that you would trust or use?
Karen: There is. You can go to the CIVTedu.org and find one locally. You'd have to go through the whole directory. And, there again, you want to investigate the doctor you want to partner with. Some of them may be amazing, some of them not, but these are doctors that at least are open and understanding to recognizing that annual vaccines may be overkill for the vast majority of our patients. And so, there is sadly not one universal app that everyone could go to to find this.
But, the goal is, our family and as individuals, people listening to your podcast, they are empowering themselves to take the best care of their family members. And, that probably has shifted how they approach medicine, disease, medications, as well as their professional relationships with their healthcare providers. The same thing will happen once you start getting into food as medicine for my dog and I want to be proactive in the amount of chemicals that I'm putting on my dog–and, if I am going to use chemicals on my dog, let's say heartworm prevention or flea and tick, I think I'm going to do a little milk thistle or a little liver detox because yes, I live in an area where I have to use these chemicals, but yes, I want to support detoxification.
These are all conversations that you would have with a wellness or proactive veterinarian that may not be the vet that you are currently at. That doesn't mean you fire your vet, just like human medicine, you're like, “Listen, I love you, general practitioner. I can tell that you are a reactivate. I can tell that we're going to wait till my dog gets sick and then you want to see me. I am a proactive dog mom or dog dad and I don't want to do that.” If your vet's on board, awesome. But, if your vet's like, “What are you talking about?” And, I don't do any proactive medicine, just like with our own bodies, we go find the healthcare professionals we need that align with our own personal viewpoints, and the same will hold true with your veterinarians.
Ben: Okay, that makes sense. You talked about stress in dogs and this has always been a little bit of a head-scratcher for me because I'm just not sure what to do. When your dog does something wrong, how do you discipline it? Because my go-to is, oh, spanking really hard on the butt and say no. But then, the dog cowers the next time you're around and the back of my mind, I'm like, “Gosh, was that the right thing to do?”
Ben: It's kind of like spanking with kids, you don't just want to hit them, but at the same time you have to send a message. So, what do you do?
Karen: I opted in my life to not have human kids, I have dogs. But, I know that you have human kids, so this would be like me saying to you, “Hey, Ben, what's the best way to discipline your kids?” You're going to say, “Well, that's like a really massive question.” What I will tell you Ben is this that dogs don't speak English. Dogs have no idea. They can tell you're pissed. They can tell you're mad, but they don't know what you're mad about. If you come home and there's crap on the floor, you can't hit your dog. Your dog doesn't know that when you poop on the floor four hours ago, you came in and you're mad about that, he can't relate going poop to you being mad four hours later.
Ben: Not even if you grab them by the collar? Because people do that, I've done this. You kind of put their nose in and you say, “No” and spank them on the butt.
Karen: No. And unfortunately, it's a little bit like your three-year-old kid who does something bad, you grab their face by the back of your head–if your three-year-old colors the wall with a crayon, you don't grab your kid by the back of the collar, shove their face up to the crayon and say, “No, why did you do this?” Your kid just thinks that you are a monster and begins to fear you and the same is true with dogs. But, at least kids understand a little bit of English a little bit.
Dogs have all they see is you are an untrustworthy occasionally kind but occasionally crazy individual. And, I'm going to put some distance in between us because sometimes you're cool but sometimes you're not cool at all and I don't understand, you're unpredictable and out of that, you're untrustworthy. So, what I will tell you is there is an entire just like you can beat your kid into fear and submission and your kid may listen to you or there are other ways of parenting that could be potentially safer for your relationship and potentially better for the long-term mental health of your kids. The same is true for dogs.
So, let me tell you what I want you to do. I want you to go to Fear Free, fearfreepets.com.
Karen: Yup, Fear Free. And, Fear Free is a movement that allows you to find veterinarians, trainers, groomers that do not rely on abrasive, aggressive, painful, or physically abusive training methods. And so, it's called fearfreepets.–it's not .org, I'm sorry, it's fearfreepets.com, and you will be able to not only understand what you can be doing in a more positive way to redirect your dog but most importantly, Ben, help your dog learn.
When we just get angry at our dogs, we're not teaching them to not do the behavior. Again, we're teaching them to fear us when we raise our voice. Your dogs are pretty smart, so they'll figure out, “Oh, dad's mad.” They have no idea about what and they certainly don't know what behavior they shouldn't repeat again. Dogs are very smart enough to learn but you have to teach them when you are calm, what you expect from them, so that they understand the rules. You have to remember that your dog's inability to understand what you expect of him is because you failed him as a trainer. You haven't been the trainer he needs to know what the boundaries and the rules are. And so, the best thing you can do is partner with a Fear Free trainer to help your dog learn better English, to help your dog the boundaries, to live within the boundaries that you're setting forth.
So, we're not all born dog trainers, but by default, Ben, if you own a dog, you are a dog trainer. Most people are really crappy dog trainers and they don't know what they're doing. And, out of that, the number one thing that we see, dogs with massive behavior problems dumped at shelters because people messed them up didn't know what they were doing and they're going to start over with a new dog. The problem is because they haven't fixed themselves and they don't know how to train anything. The problem is just perpetuated. So, the best thing you can do is you need to get a grasp on how to establish a relationship with your dog that allows for clear trust and communication and then you work daily on him mastering the behaviors that you want and you helping to mitigate the behaviors that are frustrating and annoying to you. But, this is a lifelong relationship that's built on trust that needs to undergo training on a consistent basis so you have a good communicative relationship with your dog. Your dog doesn't speak English and you don't speak dog. So, you got to come to a mutual ground between the two of you.
Ben: If you don't have the ability to get the Fear Free trainer certification program or you can't find somebody in your area, if somebody had the book that at least gets some information to get started and that along with this Fear Free program.
Karen: So, my book is about health, wellness, longevity, and how to intense actually create longer-lived dogs. It's not a training manual, but we do have great resources in there about where to go to get training. Training is an essential part of your dog's happiness and health. So, I don't want to, in any way, underestimate or undermine the fact that all dogs from day one need to be trained. But, you have to remember, every interaction you have with your dog is a potential, it's a moment for training. Every single time you interact with your dog, you are shaping his or her behavior.
So, training is ongoing. You're training your dog whether you know it or not. The question is, do you like how you're training him? And, if you don't like what your dog is doing, then that is a reflection of you not necessarily communicating well with him or her. So, we do have resources in the book on where you can go to get solid good training, but it is not, it's 400 pages of how to help your dog live a healthier longer life through making better decisions. One of them being training; however, it is not a direct training manual. But, that's a really good question because it's one of the number one reasons that dogs end up at shelters.
Ben: Yeah. And, I just checked out this fearfreehappyhomes.com. And, if you're not a professional, just click on Pet Owner, they have a bunch of podcasts and they also have articles for puppies, articles for cats, articles for dogs, behavior problem solving, fear of thunder and fireworks. So, it looks like somebody could even if they're to go there and just send a bunch of articles to their kindle. They could probably get some good information to get them started on the disciplinary tactics.
Karen: Exactly, exactly. And, I think that that's the key is that you don't–it's not cookie cutter discipline, you have to form your response to an unwanted behavior, has to be based on your dog's sensitivity level, what they've been through, your dog's reactivity level. There's a bunch of factors as well as situational. You treat these things all very, very differently. So, it's not a one-size-fits-all, it's about you being wise enough and astute enough to recognize that you have not done your part in training your dog adequately and that in you recognizing that now you're going to preemptively work on the issues that are annoying to you because you can help your dog better master them by taking a better more soundful approach that's not destructive to your relationship.
Ben: Okay. Million-dollar question, you've got Dr. Becker's Bites, which are free-range organic B flicker with longevity superfoods put in them, all these little packaged like bison and beef and veggie bites. Million-dollar question, you ever just get bored or hungry during the average day and eat your own bison bites? Can humans consume these things?
Karen: It's so funny you say that. First of all, Dr. Becker's Bites is not mine, believe it or not. When I opened my animal hospital, there was literally–so, this is 25 years ago, Ben. 25 years ago, there was no, I mean, zero, there was not a single USDA inspected human grade all meat treat on the market. There was none, zero.
So, I grew up in Iowa. My mom was still in Iowa. I'm like, “Hey, mom, I'm opening a massive animal hospital, there's all these crappy treats on the market I refuse to even put them, I refuse to buy them, I refuse to support these in this crappy grain-based filler disgusting mycotoxin filled grain-based cookies for dogs, I'm not having it. Will you make me human-grade all meat treats?” And, she did and my mama, my 83-year-old mama owns Dr. Becker's Bites. I don't have any part of her treat company, but they are the best treats in the world. I also don't eat my patients. I think that doctors should not eat their patients, but I will tell you my dad eats them all the time. So, if you're into beef–so, what my dad says is, “Ben, you have to add salt.” So, obviously, it's just free-range meat, they're not flavored with any spices, but my dad regularly eats them and says, “If you add a little salt, they'd be perfect.”
Ben: Yeah, I like a little raw liver sometimes, a bit of maple syrup and salt added to it. So, I could wrap my gaping maw around these. Okay. So, I'll link to that. I'll link to your book and everything that we talked about in the shownotes. And again, those are going to be at BenGreenfieldLife.com/ForeverDog.
We've kind of scratched the surface in terms of what's in there, but gosh, I thought it was high time we actually talked about a lot of things we do for ourselves and consider doing those for our dogs. So, Karen, you're just a wealth of information, I'll link to your website, I'll link to the book. Folks, if you're listening and you have questions or comments or feedback or your own pet recipes to add or anything like that, just head over the shownotes at BenGreenfiedLife.com/ForeverDog and leave them over there. I've got all sorts of new ideas for walking and training and feeding and all sorts of stuff. So, Karen, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all this with us. It's absolutely fascinating.
Karen: Well, thanks, Ben, for including dogs and our decisions to be better happy owners. And, out of that, we have a better happy relationship with potentially longer-lived dogs. I appreciate you having me.
Ben: Yay. Alright. Well, folks, I'm Ben Greenfield along with Dr. Karen Becker signing out from BenGreenfieldLife.com. I hope you and your precious pet have an amazing week.
One thing you should know that's super cool is that on the evening of March 11th in Sedona, I'm hosting a VIP dinner that's catered by me and my family using a bunch of biohacked recipes from my “Boundless Cookbook,” live music and intimate Q&A, and an absolutely unforgettable once in a lifetime taste bud entertaining experience where you just come and hang out with me. So, we're hosting at our house with only 25 seats available, so it's going to fill up fast, it's a VIP dinner, only a select few. We want to keep this small, intimate, but super fun with amazing food. So, if you want to get on the VIP dinner as a part of this event that I'm doing down in Sedona, go to BenGreenfieldSpeaking.com/Sedona-dinner, BenGreenfieldSpeaking.com/Sedona-dinner.
More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be, and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.
Are you ready to learn how new science can teach us how to delay aging and provide a long, happy, healthy life for our canine companions?
My guest on today's podcast – Dr. Karen Becker – is a true expert in natural pet care.
See, like their human counterparts, dogs have been getting sicker and dying prematurely over the past few decades. Why? Scientists are beginning to understand that the chronic diseases afflicting humans—cancer, obesity, diabetes, organ degeneration, and autoimmune disorders—also beset canines. As a result, our beloved companions are vexed with preventable health problems throughout much of their lives and suffer shorter life spans. Because our pets can’t make health and lifestyle decisions for themselves, it’s up to pet parents to make smart, science-backed choices for lasting vitality and health.
In this show, Karen gives practical, proven tools to protect our loyal four-legged companions. She galvanizes the best wisdom from top geneticists, microbiologists, and longevity researchers and reveals people whose dogs have lived into their 20s and even 30s!
Her pet prescriptive plan focuses on diet and nutrition, movement, environmental exposures, and stress reduction, and can be tailored to the genetic predisposition of particular breeds or mixes. She discusses various types of food—including what the commercial manufacturers don’t want us to know—and offer recipes, easy solutions, and tips for making sure our dogs obtain the nutrients they need. Dr. Becker also explores how external factors we often don’t think about can greatly affect a dog’s overall health and wellbeing, from everyday insults to the body and its physiology, to the role our own lifestyles and our vets’ choices play. Indeed, the health equation works both ways and can travel “up the leash.”
Medical breakthroughs have expanded our choices for canine health—if you know what they are. This podcast is your definitive dog-care guide that empowers you with the knowledge you need to make wise choices, and to keep your dogs (and pets in general) healthy and happy for years to come.
So who is Karen, exactly?
Karen Shaw Becker is the most followed veterinarian in the world, and for good reason: Dr. Becker believes in a deliberate, common-sense approach to creating and maintaining vibrant health in companion animals. She advocates a functional medicine approach for re-establishing wellbeing in ill pets, choosing species-appropriate whole food nutrition and lifestyle medicine as the primary modes of recovery. When managing chronic disease, Dr. Becker incorporates pharmaceutical interventions last. Millions of pet lovers around the world have embraced Dr. Becker’s refreshing, purposeful approach to creating (or restoring) wellbeing. Her “Longevity Junkies” movement is growing exponentially, as pet lovers experience first-hand the incredible benefits of intentionally creating health. Dr. Becker opened the first proactive animal hospital, exotic animal hospital and rehabilitation and pain management center in the U.S. over twenty years ago. She has spent her career as a small animal clinician and wellness consultant for a variety of health-focused companies and organizations. This is her 35th year as a federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She writes and lectures extensively and is the first veterinarian to give a TEDx talk on species appropriate nutrition, a lifelong passion of hers. Dr. Becker finds immense satisfaction in empowering animal guardians to become knowledgeable advocates for their animals.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
- Dr. Karen Becker, DVM
- The Forever Dog by Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib
- Healthy lifestyle principles for dogs and other pets
-The raw food diet for dogs…07:28
- Animals need to eat what is biologically appropriate for them
- BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food/Bones and Raw Food) diet
- follow nutritionally complete recipe
- minimally processed
- Eating processed food for the whole life makes no sense
- Cats – obligate carnivores
- Dogs – scavenging carnivores
- more omnivorous
- can handle more plant matter than cats
- dogs evolved eating human leftovers
- There are 32 vet schools in the U.S.
- Vet schools are well supported by pet food companies
- veterinarians are not thought about fresh food for animals
- they are thought to recommend processed food
- Rabbits as dog food
-Problems with average dog food available in stores…13:13
- Animal feed – everything that is rejected for human consumption
- Less than 5% of pet foods are made with human grade ingredients
- 85% to 100% calories come from ultra-processed food
- A.G.E.s (Advanced Glycation End products)
- Finding the oldest dog in the world – nearly 30 years old kelpie named Maggie
- intermittent fasting
- 10km of exercise a day
- fresh food
- low stress life
- Larger dogs die much younger than small dogs
- In humans, only 10% of diseases are genetic
- In dogs, 20% of disease are genetic
- Broad Institute
- Podcast with Dr. David Sinclair:
- Question the breeder when buying a dog
- Dogs' health and longevity depend on owner’s decisions
- Being informed is crucial – reason for writing the book
- Veterinary medicine is about 20 years behind human medicine
- The Forever Dog is now published in 14 languages
- Proponent of rescuing and adopting a dog
- Good breeder – life long relationship
- Puppy mills – breeding dogs for profit
- Genetic testing – getting all the information to make best decisions
- Embark genetic testing
- Requesting a test from a breeder
35:16 BARF diet
- Make sure to cover minimal nutrient requirements
- avoid nutrient deficiency
- Different breeds need different nutrients
- “Never switch dog food” is propaganda
- The goal is to build strong, robust microbiome
- nutritional diversity is essential
- Dogs eating grass
- the grass is mostly treated and toxic
- D.O.G.S – a strategy for dog lovers to create well-being for their dog
- D – diet and nutrition
- O – optimal movement and exercise
- G – genetic predispositions
- S – stress
- Product mention: Animal Diet Formulator app
- Supplement protocol for dogs
- can be an amazing addition
- cannot supplement bad diet
- you need to have a viable reason for supplements
43:00 Dogs are amazing athletes
- Dogs need trainings
- Customizing your dog’s movement
- exercise protocols
- Different kinds of walks
- Dogs process the world through their nose
- Sniffari – let your dog choose what to sniff and for how long
- reduces the amount of stress
- Exposing dogs to morning and evening sun
- Red light therapy for dogs
- Product mention: Glowbie
- red light has the same benefits as for humans
- a dog must be a willing participant
50:47 Common things in a house that are toxic for pets
- Dogs and cats are longer at home
- Do as you do for your kids
- Use green cleaners
- No.1 toxin at home – candles and plug-ins
- Dishes for dogs
- stainless steel
- Product mention: Pyrex
- Dogs are over-vaccinated
- You can’t boost already immunized system
- Antibody titer test
- Finding the right veterinarian – wellness and proactive
1:02:20 How to discipline a dog?
- Similar to a little kid
- Raising voice and beating – teaching them to fear you
- If you discipline with fear, dog sees you as unpredictable and untrustworthy
- Dog who doesn’t know the boundaries means that you are a bad dog trainer
- Importance of building trust and commutation with your dog
- Every interaction is training – shaping the behavior
- The book contains some advice and resources but is not a training manual
1:09:19 Dr. Becker’s bites
- Dr. Becker’s mom owes the company
- Human grade, all-meat treats for dogs
-And much more…
- Six Senses Retreat: February 27, 2023 – March 3, 2023
Join me for my “Boundless Retreat” at Six Senses from February 27th, 2023 to March 3rd, 2023, where you get to improve on your functional fitness, nutrition, longevity, and the delicate balance between productivity and wellness. Complete with a healthy farmhouse breakfast, yoga spa sessions, and sound healing, you learn how to live a boundless life just like me, and I'd love to see you there. Learn more here.
- Shine Event / VIP Dinner: March 10th – March 12th
I want to personally invite you to an intimate VIP dinner experience with my family and I in beautiful Sedona, Arizona. I'll be in AZ during that time presenting as a keynote speaker at the Breath, Body & Beyond ‘Shine' event from March 10th to the 12th, and I'd love to see you there for my formal dinner on the 11th. At this dinner, you'll be presented with an exquisite home-style dinner personally prepared by the entire Greenfield family, a free signed copy of Boundless Cookbook, a personalized Q&A with me, and entertainment by local vocal artist and my younger sister, Aengel Greenfield. Learn more here.
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar!
Resources mentioned in this episode:
20 Questions To Ask Your Dog's Breeder
The Embark DNA test for canines
https://drbeckersbites.com/ <get affiliate link, etc. for this
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BG Coaching (Boundless Family Challenge) is a 4-week challenge created to prepare your family to be Boundless. My team will teach you how to make fitness fun and how to get fit together as a family. Head over to bengreenfieldlife.com/boundlessfamilychallenge to claim your seat at the family table today!
Shine Sedona: Join my family and me in Sedona Arizona from March 10-12, 2023 at an amazing event hosted by SHINE. I'll be giving a keynote talk on breathwork and biohacking, and hosting a VIP Greenfield-style home-cooked dinner prepared by my family. For tickets to the Shine Event where I'll be a keynote speaker visit bengreenfieldlife.com/shinesedona. To book your spot for our VIP dinner visit bengreenfieldspeaking.com/sedona-dinner.