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Foodie Support for Eye Health in Dogs

Many of our group members ask me if there is anything they can do for a dog with dry eyes. The answer is yes. There are many nutrients / foods that can support eye health and in turn, dry eye. This information is also applicable to humans as increased cases of dry eye are currently being reported and correlated to excessive screen time, so this information might help you too :)

My Top Foodie Tips for Supporting Eye Health:

Hydration! Our cells are made up of oil and water and a hydrating diet is vital for eye health. If you are feeding a dry diet then perhaps consider a more hydrating food, such as a wet food.

Organ Meat and Orange Vegetables. Vitamin A is associated with eye health. Vision loss, dry eye and ulcers are common in Asian and African communities due to low intakes of vitamin A. The best sources of vitamin A is liver. The plant form of vitamin A, beta-carotene, is found in orange fruits and vegetables but with a lower absorption rate than from protein. Orange vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin or squash can be beneficial for your dog but it is important to make them digestible, chopping small and mashing or blending are good ways to enhance digestibility. Steaming helps to retain nutrients, should the nutrients leech into the water (the water becomes coloured), add a couple of spoons of the water to your dog's dinner. Starchy foods, such as sweet potato, may suit some dogs but less so for others so feed moderately as excessive amounts may cause loose stools - a spoon or two should be fine. As for liver there is a lot of information to mention. Firstly vitamin A is theoretically toxic in high doses but unless you are feeding full plates of liver day in day out you should be fine. A couple of pieces of liver each day for a small dog should suffice; black stools indicate excessive feeding of organ meat so so stop until stools return to a normal colour before continuing to feed once again. Perhaps more importantly, and often overlooked, is the ratio of zinc to copper in the diet. Livers contain varying amounts of copper, with beef liver being the highest; zinc is often low in home-prepared diets often creating an imbalance. In small dogs, chicken liver has a more suitable zinc:copper ratio so something to be aware of.

. Oily Fish contains substantial amounts of omega 3, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Essential Fatty Acids. Our body is made of oil and water and the oily membranes of our cells hold water in place which is vital for aiding lubrication. The correct ratio of omega 6: omega 3 is very important as this controls inflammation; most commonly I see excessive levels of omega 6 which creates inflammation which can damage the delicate tissues, contributing to degeneration. Some examples of oily fish include: sprats, salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. If you are using canned fish it is best to buy the ones packaged in spring water or drain excess oil off before feeding. Kibble diets are often high in omega 6 and therefore can benefit from the addition of a little oily fish, in particular.

Fatty fish also contains vitamin D. A Korean study showed a correlation between low levels of Vitamin D and dry eye, with vitamin D promoting tear production. A particularly good source of vitamin D can be found in canned red salmon, with a spoon or too being a tasty top up for a small dog.

Chickpeas and turkey are high in protein. The body is made out of single units of proteins called amino-acids, 10 of which are essential and must be consumed through food as they can not be made by the body. A study in 1981 (Vainisi et al.) found that cataracts were prevented in wolf-puppies which was assumed to be due to arginine - one of the essential amino-acids. Whilst there were many other possible factors involved in the study and the mechanism remains unknown, I have great results for dry eye from a few additional chickpeas. It should be noted legumes can be hard to digest and mashing can aid digestion; if you are feeding canned chickpeas it is important to drain and rinse to remove added salts and sugars. I find

Beef contains valuable amounts of the micronutrient Zinc. Zinc has many roles in the body particularly important in fertility and cellular replication. In the case of eyes, Zinc helps to release vitamin A from the liver to produce melanin in the retina of the eye which is a protective process.

Purple Sweet Potato, Beets, Blueberries - Yep, there is a theme. Purple foods contain the valuable antioxidants called anthocyanin which protects cells from damage, particularly the eyes and vessels. I personally have always given fruit away from main meals times to support digestion. Beets are best cooked whole to retain nutrients but once again it is important to increase digestibility and feed, like all suggestions, as an addition to their staple diet and in moderation.

The key to dry eyes is keeping them hydrated. A simple option is to soak a piece of un-dyed, organic, cotton cloth in boiled water with a drop of coconut oil, which is lubricating. Once the water is cool I lightly soak the cloth and simply place over the eye area when my dog is at rest to create an aqueous environment - especially in centrally heated homes which can produce very dry air. I leave the cloth over the eye area while it remains wet and my dog is comfortable. You can also wipe around the eye area with a little coconut oil too but make sure you hands are nice and clean; in the flat-faced breeds if the fold above their nose is left damp can exacerbate fungal growth so always carefully dry their folds afterwards with a dry piece of the cloth.

It is important to understand a few things: nutrients never work alone nor do they have a single function; a complete and balanced diet is vital to make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need for optimal health long-term. This food list below should be considered as short-term help and as an addition to a current diet. Single foods should not be relied upon for any lengthy period of time as each food has a varying nutrient profile, potentially leading to imbalances within their given diet, which can, in some cases, cause serious disease. Further, the foods mentioned will not suit all dogs as they vary in tolerance so always introduce new foods slowly and stop if they don't suit. If your dog suffers from a pre-existing condition it is prudent and responsible to get in touch and ask for advice before making dietary changes, e.g. pancreatitis (where a low-fat diet is required and therefore oily fish is not ideal) or kidney issues (where low-protein is required) etc. The recommendations are for a healthy dog and the list provides foods which support eye health. Any information taken outside of a consultation is taken at your own risk. For additional help please visit:

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