Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf

Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf

Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf

Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf


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From the tiniest teacup poodle to the most massive Great Dane, dogs' digestive systems are pure wolf. Fido's ancestors enjoyed a diet that was 45 to 50 percent protein, 40 to 50 percent fat, and less than 10 percent carbohydrates. Walk down the pet food aisle, however, and you'll find that typical commercial kibble is made mainly of starchy ingredients like peas, potatoes, corn, wheat, rice, and oats—nothing a prehistoric pup would dream of eating. This "healthy" mix is proving anything but: About 85 percent of dogs eat commercial dog food, and at least half of them are overweight or obese, with cancer killing 42 percent of all dogs and half of dogs over the age of 10.

So how do you feed a wolf disguised as a pug? Paleo Dog - by Jean Hofve, DVM, and Celeste Yarnall, PhD - guides readers through an assessment of their dogs' diets and helps them find the right balance of healthy ingredients. In addition to recipes and nutrition info, the book offers advice on what treats are safe, training tips, the benefits of exercise, massage, and other alternative therapies, and how to ensure that dogs receive the love and attention they need. Paleo Dog is the ultimate manual for any pet owner who wants to give her pet the longest and best quality of life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623361464
Publisher: Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

JEAN HOFVE, DVM, is a holistic veterinarian with over 20 years' experience in conventional and alternative veterinary medicine and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care.

CELESTE YARNALL, PhD, is the author of Natural Dog Care and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care.

Read an Excerpt




That's how it all started.

Of course, it took a few billion years for stars and planets to form and for life to evolve from stardust into the vast complexity we have today on Earth.

The earliest life forms, simple bacteria, set the stage for everything that followed: more complex bacteria, algae, fungi, insects, fish, birds, and mammals—including us humans and our dogs.

The first bacteria were very basic, no-frills, single-celled organisms. The next step was to get together, since a community functions better than just one individual. One speculated result was the formation of more-complex bacteria containing "organelles," little mini-organs that took on certain specific functions, such as respiration, elimination, and reproduction. Those organelles may have started as other free-living bacteria that became incorporated within the new cells. These new and improved bacteria were so successful that they became the template for all life forms to follow.

The Paleolithic period, or Stone Age, began about 2.5 million years ago, as the earliest humanoid ancestors began using crude stone tools, and lasted until about 10,000 years ago, when agriculture began. Fully developed Homo sapiens may have entered the scene as early as 1.4 million years ago.1 During the Paleo period, humans lived as hunter-gatherers, eating what they could kill, scavenge, or harvest. Also during that time—probably around 400,000 years ago—humans learned to control fire and use it for cooking (although jambalaya and beef bourguignon weren't on the menu quite yet).

The endpoint of the Paleo era was when early humans, the hunter-gatherers, figured out how to make food stay in one place—and agriculture was born. Once people settled down in groups that no longer wandered around looking for something to eat, civilization, as we know it, emerged.

But looking around at what civilization has become—we're fatter and sicker than ever before—people have started looking back at our evolutionary diet and rethinking how far away our modern diet is from those basic beginnings.

The Paleolithic, or Paleo, diet (also called the Stone Age or Caveman diet) has become a popular concept for modern people. Surely it's not just wistfulness for days gone by; after all, those days were pretty harsh! No, it's appealing because folks think of our most distant ancestors as thinner and healthier (not to mention hairier—maybe good news for those suffering from male pattern baldness!). Since the Paleo diet first took off in 2007, its popularity has skyrocketed, as more and more people return to this ancient way of eating.

Proponents of the human Paleo diet suggest that people should eat a diet similar to that eaten by their great-great-great-great-great-great—well, you get the idea—grandparents: fresh animal-based foods, and the rest from plants. This diet is thought to have been high in protein (20 to 35 percent of calories), high in fat (30 to 50 percent), and low in carbohydrates (20 to 40 percent, composed mostly of complex carbohydrates). Fortunately, the conveniences of modern life make it possible to hunt and gather right there in the grocery store.

The wolf ancestors of today's dogs began associating with humans about 130,000 years ago, according to DNA evidence. They were hanging around the hunters, picking up scraps, for a very long time before people settled down to farm.

Canines, although classified in the order Carnivora (meat-eaters), more typically live as "facultative" or "opportunistic" omnivores. This means that, given the opportunity, they'll eat just about anything! But the canine family in general is designed to eat primarily prey animals. That sort of diet contains more protein and fat, and much less plant material, than the early human diet. The nutrient ratios for dogs would be closer to 45 to 55 percent protein, 40 to 45 percent fat, and less than 10 percent carbohydrates.

But the Paleo Dog Program is about much more than diet. Our dogs' ancestors were physically and mentally active, lived in the fresh air and sunshine, and had a rich social life with both humans and their own kind. They weren't vaccinated, they weren't neutered, and they weren't medicated. On occasion, they also had to deal with some serious problems: food shortages, infectious diseases, injuries, and parasites.

Nevertheless, the canine species not only survived but also thrived! We can learn a great deal from their example, and we can bring the best of both worlds—Stone Age and modern—together to create the healthiest lives for our dogs today.


There are more than 78 million dogs living in American households today. About 85 percent of them eat commercial dog food.2 At least half of them are overweight or obese.3 More than three-quarters of them have significant dental disease by the age of 3.4 Cancer kills 42 percent of all dogs and 50 percent of the dogs more than 10 years of age.5 None of these problems plagued dogs in prehistoric times.

The typical dog's life today goes something like this:

1. Born of mixed-breed heritage

2. Dewormed, vaccinated, and re-homed before the age of 3 months

3. Eats one brand of dry "kibble" dog food for most of his life

4. Neutered between 2 and 6 months of age

5. Spends 8 to 10 hours a day alone at home

6. Is confined mostly to a fenced yard, or goes on occasional walks

7. Gets revaccinated annually, has flea-protection applied monthly, and gets a heartworm pill every month

8. Gets less exercise with increasing age

9. Dies between 10 to 13 years of age, most likely from cancer

As it turns out, wild wolves also live about 10 to 13 years, despite their hazardous lifestyle (up to 17 years in captivity).6 This suggests that, despite loud and frequent claims that "better nutrition" (i.e., commercial dog food) and better health care (i.e., lots of vaccinations and drugs) have greatly extended dogs' life span, it hasn't actually increased by much, if at all. The main difference in life span among today's dogs is primarily genetic and size-related: Small dogs live longer, and big dogs die younger; mixed-breed mutts tend to be healthier, while purebred dogs often have hereditary health problems that can cut their lives short.


Ninety-eight percent of dog guardians consider their dogs healthy. Unfortunately, most of them are wrong, simply because they do not recognize the early signs of ill health; nor do most veterinarians.

There are many signs or characteristics of internal imbalance—harbingers of overt disease—that most people would consider "normal."7 But while they may be common and average, they are not normal. As our dogs become healthier, we find that these "normal" things go away. In young, healthy- appearing animals, the "normal" issues listed below may be the only indication that trouble is brewing.

A recent study of 45 dogs age 9 or older found that 80 percent of them had at least one health problem that was previously recognized.8 The mean number of problems was seven to eight per dog. Issues found in the exams included heart murmurs and arrhythmias, dental disease, ear infections, liver disease, arthritis, and several cancerous tumors. It's essential to have a thorough health screening of your dog at least once a year, especially as he gets older.

Subtle Signs of Imbalance


Doggy smell


Dry, oily, or dull coat

Excessive shedding

Ear problems—waxy, oily, itchy

Recurrent mites

Eye discharge

Excessive tearing

Matter in corner of eyes

Raised third eyelid

Discoloration or spots on or in the eye


Fears (loud noises, thunder, people, life)

Too timid

Too rough or aggressive (even at play)

Too hard to train

Barks too much or too long

Suspicious nature

Bites when petted too long

Hysteria when restrained



Overlicking or sucking on objects


Bad breath

Tartar accumulation

Periodontal disease

Loss of teeth

Poor appetite

Craving or eating weird things (rubber bands, plastic, dirt, paper, poop, rocks)

Excessive thirst

Redness along gum line

Frequent vomiting

Mucus-coated stools

Diarrhea with any change of diet


Anal gland problems


Stiff when getting up

Early hip dysplasia

Tires easily in hot or cold weather

Cannot go up or down steps

Fragile, thickened, or distorted claws

Claws painful or sensitive to trim


Low-grade fever (normal for healthy dogs is 100 to 101.5°F)

Age and Reproduction

Diminished life span (large breeds should live up to 17 years, giant breeds up to 12)

Difficulty conceiving easily, delivering normally, and passes along "genetic breed" problems


It's estimated that more than 55 percent of American dogs are overweight or obese, so there's a pretty good chance that your dog, or a dog you know, is one of them.9

Sorry, but we have to be brutally honest with you: Fat dogs are not cute, or cuddly, or even comfortable—they are sick. Excess weight reduces life expectancy and increases a dog's risk for many serious health problems, including (but definitely not limited to) the following:

• Joint disease (including arthritis)

• Heart disease

• Hypertension (high blood pressure)

• Respiratory problems

• Asthma

• Pancreatitis

• Diabetes

• Liver disease

• Skin and coat problems

• Anesthetic complications

• Impaired immune function

• Reduced life expectancy

• Cancer

While there may not be a known causative link between diet, obesity, and specific diseases, there is certainly a dietary effect in the risk for and management of those diseases.10

Is your dog too fat? A dog is overweight at a body condition score of 6, and obese at a score over 8. Ideally, you should be able to easily feel your dog's ribs; from the side, the belly should tuck up, and from the top, there should be a discernible waist.

Based on research, the "ideal" score for body condition is about 4.5, a little less than the ideal on the chart. Most people would consider that thin, or even too thin. However, a longevity study conducted on 48 paired Labrador Retrievers showed that life expectancy was significantly longer in the leaner animals. In addition, age-related conditions such as arthritis developed much later in thin dogs.11

VERY THIN Body Score = 1

THIN Body Score = 3

IDEAL Body Score = 5

OVERWEIGHT Body Score = 7

OBESE Body Score = 9

Did you see the movie Super Size Me, about a guy who decided to eat at McDonald's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for a month? After a couple of weeks, his doctors begged him to stop because they could see the devastating impact his experiment was having on his health.12

Commercial pet food has a lot more in common with McDonald's food than its manufacturers want you to know (including the fact that spoiled and discarded food and waste grease from McDonald's may actually be an ingredient in your dog's dry food).13 Fast food is cheap, full of carbs, and loaded with fat—but the carbs (especially sugar) and fat make it taste good, and may even make it addicting!14

Adipose (fat) cells are quite active. They produce hormones and other chemical messengers, including inflammatory proteins. The chronic low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress that goes along with obesity causes or contributes to arthritis, heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions15—even cancer.16

Veterinary nutritionists rely on three basic concepts:

1. To lose weight, burn more energy than you eat.

2. A calorie is a calorie.

3. Ingredients don't matter, only nutrients matter.

However, if these simple ideas were the whole story, neither we nor our dog companions would be facing the current obesity crisis. Individual genetics may play a larger role in canine obesity than in human obesity; for both, however, the biggest culprit is diet—though not in the way veterinary nutritionists typically frame it.

"Energy" is just another word for "calories"—a calorie is a measurement of energy. Protein and carbohydrate each provide 4 calories per gram of food; fat contains 9 calories per gram. This makes fat more "energy dense." Therefore, veterinary nutritionists who formulate pet food substitute carbohydrates for fat. It's a nice bonus for pet food makers that carbs are also the cheapest ingredient.

However, ever since "low-fat" foods were introduced, the Western world has gotten fatter. Recent research makes it abundantly clear that fat is not the problem; carbohydrates are—and in particular, highly digestible carbohydrates. (Fiber is also a carbohydrate, but it is indigestible and does not contribute to the calorie count.)

Modern research makes it clear that a calorie may be a calorie in the lab, but in a living organism, other factors affect metabolism, obesity, and weight loss. Whether calories come from carbs, proteins, or fats appears to have a significant impact on health.17

Weight management or "light" dog foods, which research has shown vary tremendously in calories, are not reliable.18 And simply substituting a different kind of kibble isn't the healthiest way to lose weight for your dog, either. Kibble is energy-dense—that is, there are a lot of calories in those tiny packages.

While most veterinary nutritionists are still stuck in "low-fat" mode, it's actually simple carbohydrates that are the problem. Starches, like those found in corn and potatoes, rapidly increase blood sugar and have deleterious effects on insulin metabolism.19 Research shows that a high- protein, low-carbohydrate diet is the safest and most effective weight-loss program for dogs. It helps them lose more body fat and retain more lean muscle mass.20

The ideal diet is also low in energy density. Diet density can be lowered by increasing either indigestible fiber, water, or both.21

To illustrate the effect of dietary water, think about potato chips versus mashed potatoes. Potato chips are high-density: almost no moisture and a lot of fat. In contrast, mashed potatoes (without butter or gravy!) are lower in density. They contain a lot of moisture. Most folks can eat a lot of potato chips before they feel full, but mashed potatoes tend to fill them up in a hurry. A high-moisture diet will help your dog feel full on fewer calories.

Additionally, high dietary protein has been shown to increase satiety; this means that subjects stayed satisfied longer after eating a high-protein meal than after consuming a meal with other formulations.22

Research shows that nearly half of dogs who lost weight regained it, largely because they didn't stay on their diets—or more accurately, their guardians did not keep them on their diets. Only you have the power to solve this problem for your dog.


One thing that science has discovered is that inflammation is at the root of many diseases, as well as the process of aging. Aging and disease occur because of free radical damage, also called oxidative stress. We need to look at this phenomenon in more detail to understand how and why the Paleo Dog Lifestyle is so important.

It's a fundamental truth that all animals live and die at the cellular level. If our cells aren't healthy, then it's a quick trip to cellular dysfunction, organ malfunction, disease, and death.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction xi

Part I The Paleo Dog

Chapter 1 What Is a Paleo Dog? 3

Chapter 2 History of the Dog 21

Part II Why Your Dog Should Go Paleo

Chapter 3 Benefits of Being a Paleo Dog 31

Chapter 4 The Problems with Commercial Dog Food 42

Chapter 5 Menaces of Modern Life 62

Chapter 6 Vaccination and the Immune System 81

Part III Going Paleo

Chapter 7 Feeding the Paleo Dog 101

Chapter 8 Paleo Dog Recipes 117

Chapter 9 Potential Problems and Solutions 140

Chapter 10 Paleo Dog Lifestyle Guidelines 155

Chapter 11 Paleo-Compatible Therapies 176

Afterword 237

Appendix A Supplements 238

Appendix B Food-Borne Diseases 256

Endnotes 263

Glossary 273

Resources 284

Index 292

Customer Reviews