By Dr. Becker
Today, I'm thrilled to be chatting with a wonderful group of canine health and nutrition experts with whom I'll soon be sharing a stage Down Under at an exciting event called MasterChops 2015.
MasterChops is a forum dedicated to connecting the worldwide canine community, all in the spirit of learning. The unique event promises to challenge existing notions and philosophies about animal health, and to start a conversation about the role food plays in preventing and treating disease.
MasterChops will be held in Victoria, Australia at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre on Saturday, November 14, 2015. The event will also be broadcast worldwide via live online pay-per-view.
My guests today are:
- Award-winning Canadian pet nutrition blogger, Rodney Habib
- The UK's Dog Listener, Tony Knight
- Victoria's own Phivo Christodoulou, the Dog Health Guy
- Creator of the B.A.R.F. diet, Dr. Ian Billinghurst of New South Wales
- Brian Borg, dental specialist
- Dr. Bruce Syme, owner of Vet's All Natural pet diets, supplements, and treats
Rodney Habib of Planet Paws
"It's a place where I write for pet owners, as a pet owner, and try to take complicated subjects, such as research and studies, and make them very understandable for today's pet parents," says Rodney.
Rodney was inspired to launch Planet Paws after doing what many pet owners do, which is buy expensive processed pet food based on slick marketing and advertising campaigns. But in 2007, Rodney's cat became a victim of the melamine pet food poisoning catastrophe.
Then about a year later, his dog's kidneys were destroyed by tainted chicken jerky dog treats.
"It was one of those situations where I had to make a decision in my life. What was I going to do? It was humiliating and embarrassing. It's one of the most terrible things that could happen. But it's what put me on my path today. I made a commitment that I was going to start researching and I would never make that mistake again for my pets," says Rodney.
Rodney became obsessed with wanting to help other pet guardians avoid making the same mistakes he did, and since he also loves to write, that was the inspiration for Planet Paws.
Rodney is really looking forward to the MasterChops event in Australia. He knows through his experience hosting online lectures throughout the world that it can be very confusing today for the average pet parent to decide how to feed their dog or cat.
He's hoping to see lots of people at the event who are feeding processed pet food, but want to improve their pet's diet. He wants to talk to them about all kinds of wonderful things they can add to their pets' diets to improve their health and longevity.
Many people who can't afford to feed an entirely fresh, living food diet tend to feel ostracized by the fresh food community – but that won't be the case at MasterChops. Rodney wants to offer pet guardians practical ideas, tips, and tricks for filling in some of the nutritional gaps in processed pet diets.
For example, he recommends adding "just a little bit of anything fresh" to a processed pet diet. Studies show that adding just a few fresh vegetables a few times a week can provide protection against cancer. There's also the wonderful herb turmeric, which has thousands of studies proving its benefits to pets.
Tony Knight, the Dog Listener
My next guest is Tony Knight, who is known in the United Kingdom as the Dog Listener.
"Dog listening is about understanding that dogs have their own method of communication, using their instincts," says Tony.
He shows dog owners how to tap into those instincts so their dogs can relax and trust their humans to take responsibility and make good decisions.
It was actually Tony's mom, Jan Fennell, who created the process he now uses, which is called Amichien® Bonding. Jan became overwhelmed with requests for help from dog owners throughout Britain, so Tony volunteered to be trained so he could help out. He thought peoples' interest would eventually wane, but 16 years later, he's still at it.
The number one piece of advice Tony gives dog lovers is to call a dog to them rather than approaching the dog. Over 95 percent of dog bites occur when people approach dogs. When you call a dog to you, if he comes to you it's by choice, and all will be well.
He also tells people that when it comes to canine communication, the age of a dog isn't important – all dogs have their own language, no matter their age. "So what we're going to do is respect them for that, manage their nature, and show them that they can relax," says Tony.
Both Tony and I have encountered lots of dog owners who assume certain things about their pet based solely on his breed. Many people also assume all dogs of the same breed are the same. But anyone who has ever had two or more dogs of the same breed knows they are not clones and can have distinctly different personalities. "The personality of a dog is what drives his behavior," says Tony.
At MasterChops, one of the topics Tony plans to cover is how dogs use food to communicate.
Phivo Christodoulou, the Dog Health Guy
My third guest today is the organizer of MasterChops 2015, Phivo Christodoulou. For almost two decades, Phivo has been helping dog owners change their pets' diets to improve their health. Now that so many people around the world are doing something similar, he decided to bring a group of experts together to show the general public and veterinarians some of the new methods and techniques we're using to improve the health of dogs.
The MasterChops event will feature a very diverse lineup of speakers who'll be offering a lot of great advice on a number of different subjects.
Privo's inspiration is his dog Augustine, who had serious digestive issues when he first brought her home. He tried lots of different processed foods – kibble, canned diets, etc. He also tried the traditional bland diet of chicken and rice, but nothing seemed to help.
So Privo began researching the subject of dog food ingredients, and he wasn't pleased with what he was learning about the quality of the commercial pet food he was feeding Augustine. He began experimenting with fresh food recipes, and soon, Augustine's digestive issues disappeared and she regained her health.
"Augustine approved the food; hence, the name of the business, Augustine Approved," says Privo, about the pet food company he launched.
As Privo explains, while there's an ideal canine diet, the reality is that not everyone can afford or has access to the best pet diet. We all have our own budgetary and time constraints, and not everyone is able to prepare fresh food for their pet every day.
"You can make very simple changes to your dog's diet that are not costly and they're easy," says Privo. "Even that will make a big difference. Even a small change is better than no change."
Dr. Ian Billinghurst, the Grandfather of Raw Feeding
My next guest, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, really needs no introduction, as he is the creator of the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet. Recently, however, Dr. Billinghurst has been diving into the issue of cancer in both pets and people, and I asked him to talk about the research he's doing.
"My interest in cancer stems from both being a veterinarian and also a family member in the human sphere, and watching people I love dearly pass away from cancer after treatment with orthodox medicine… and seeing animal cancer patients treated with orthodox medicine dying as well," says Dr. Billinghurst.
"We have a huge problem," he continues. "We are not winning the war against cancer, and I think a lot of people realize this. Thirty percent of deaths in humans, cats, and dogs are from cancer. This is an enormous problem."
About 1,500 people die of cancer every day in the US. According to Dr. Billinghurst, modern medicine hasn't improved the results of treatment for metastatic cancer one iota since the 1970s. The toxic drugs used against cancer don't usually work, and there's a lot of science now that proves it. Targeted therapies aren't effective – they work for maybe three to four months, then stop working.
Dr. Billinghurst believes we should not be looking at cancer mutations as the primary problem. He believes we need to focus on epigenetics, which are the factors that control how genes express themselves. Cancer isn't necessarily caused directly by gene mutations, but rather by external factors that determine how those genes behave.
"It turns out that cancer is actually a mitochondrial disease. It's not 200 diseases as we think. It's one disease with one set of answers," says Dr. Billinghurst. "We now know how we can attack this disease. We can do so without harming the patients, and that's the most important part."
He plans to delve into this incredibly important subject when he speaks at MasterChops on November 14th.
Dr. Billinghurst will also explain how diet influences cancer, and how we can use nutrition to defeat cancer. His goal is to help people understand and accept that there's a direct relationship between diet and disease.
Brian Borg, Canine Dental Specialist
My next guest is Brian Borg. Brian was born in Australia, but lived in the US for over 25 years and just recently moved back to the Melbourne area. While in the US, he was recognized as a top equine dentist.
Now that he's back in Australia, Brian has launched a new business called Fresh Breath Doggie Dental, which is one of the first anesthesia-free teeth cleaning services available in that country.
As many of you are aware, there's quite a bit of controversy surrounding anesthesia-free veterinary dentistry here in the US, so I asked Brian to explain his technique.
"In most veterinary clinics," says Brian, "the dog comes in and the veterinarian looks at the dog and says, 'Okay, we have a problem. There is calculus and plaque buildup.'"
"The vet will recommend bringing the dog in to have his teeth cleaned under anesthesia," Brian continues. "It's an all-day thing, and even after the dog is back home, the anesthesia can linger in his system. This makes many pet owners apprehensive about the procedure."
Brian explains that in reality, there's not a huge of amount of danger with anesthesia – even in older dogs and dogs with health problems. However, many pet parents remain inherently concerned about putting their pet under it.
The result is that dog owners often wait to get their pet's teeth cleaned. They put it off because they feel so uncomfortable about the anesthesia part of the procedure.
"With anesthesia-free teeth cleaning, they're more likely to do it right away," says Brian. "Therefore, the dog's dental health doesn't deteriorate to the point it would if the owner put off the procedure indefinitely due to anesthesia fears."
Brian provides anesthesia-free cleanings for clients who just can't bring themselves to have their dog anesthetized, as well as clients with dogs who aren't good candidates for anesthesia. He has an extremely interesting approach to the procedure, which I asked him to explain.
He does most cleanings at clients' homes, which is wonderful for dogs who are stressed by car rides and vet visits. For the first 10 to 15 minutes of each visit, he ignores the dog, and instead has a cup of tea with the owner while he observes the dog's behavior. He doesn't immediately engage with dogs that are nervous, excited, or aggressive. He waits until they relax, and then he introduces himself.
Next, Brian gets out a little harness he created. "It's like a little jacket," he explains. "I call it a swaddle coat. It's basically a pillowcase with a Velcro opening."
Once on, the swaddle coat keeps the dog's legs out of the way. He lays the dog on her side on a pillow on the ground, where he has placed a light and all his dental tools. Once the dog relaxes lying on her side, he begins to assess her mouth. He lets her get used to the feel of his fingers in her mouth.
Everything Brian does is in small increments, and he gives the dog time to accept each new thing he does. He moves slowly, but typically within about five minutes, he's scaling plaque. He's even able to get under the gum lines and gingiva to do a thorough cleaning.
If he finds a loose tooth or another problem, he lets the owner know the dog needs to see a veterinarian. Dogs with dental issues aren't candidates for anesthesia-free cleaning because they need extractions or other specialized procedures that will require anesthesia.
Brian also doesn't work with dogs who don't have the capacity to work with him, so to speak. An example would be a senior or geriatric dog with dementia who tends to get panicky. Sometimes it's difficult to know right away if a dog will comfortably accept the procedure, so in those cases Brian proceeds very cautiously, and at the first sign of anxiety or panic, he stops.
At MasterChops 2015, Brian will be talking about good oral health in dogs, including the role diet and recreational bones play. He talks with all his clients about their dogs' diet and encourages feeding raw. For those who can't or won't feed raw, he offers advice on high quality commercially available diets.
As Brian sees it, "We all have busy lives. I want to get across to people that even if they can't do everything I suggest, just at least do something. Start on the road to bettering your dog's health."
Dr. Bruce Syme, Founder of Vet's All Natural Pet Products
My final guest today is Dr. Bruce Syme, who has been a practicing veterinarian in Australia for over 25 years. For most of that time, Dr. Syme has focused on the link between nutrition and disease, specifically allergies, in dogs and cats.
"I'm recognized as somewhat of a holistic expert on managing allergies without drugs," says Dr. Syme. "That's been the cornerstone of my practice."
He has grown his office from solo practitioner to a large private practice in the Victoria area, and he also created Vet's All Natural pet diets, supplements, and treats.
At the MasterChops event, Dr. Syme will talk about how pet guardians can manage allergies in their dogs and cats without drugs. The foundation of his approach is biologically appropriate nutrition in the form of a balanced raw diet. He'll also talk about the key supplements he recommends, which include probiotics, antioxidants, and immune-modulating herbs, both Chinese and Western, that help to normalize the immune system.
"It's quite a little bit like having a virus in your computer," says Dr. Syme. "Everything's going haywire and what you want to do is push the reset button to get everything back to normal."
He continues, "That's basically what I attempt to do with the immune system, by using diet and supplements. You hit that reset button and get everything functioning normally again."
If he could give just one tip to pet owners, it would be to look at their dog's or cat's nutrition. Avoid the temptation to use convenience (processed) foods, as they tend to have the same effect on pets as the Western diet does on us, creating obesity, diabetes, and all types of inflammatory disease.
"Probably the single most important message I give to people is, don't rely on processed foods," says Dr. Syme. "Get back to raw foods."
Another important tool is probiotics, and an understanding of the microbiome, which is the living system inside the gut of an animal. Gut bacteria are absolutely critical to a healthy immune system. Dr. Syme believes adding a good quality probiotic to your pet's diet on a daily basis is one of the most fundamentally important things you can do to improve the long-term health and longevity of your dog or cat.
Dr. Syme is extremely excited to attend and lecture at MasterChops on November 14th. He feels it will be a great opportunity to educate pet owners, particularly those interested in holistic veterinary medicine.
For more information on MasterChops 2015, including how to attend the event either in person or via live worldwide online pay-per-view, visit the MasterChops website.