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Don't Stress Out Over Stress in Dogs

Bob Fritz, Animal Naturals

These 5 Natural Nutritional Weapons Can Help Tip the Balance of Power In Your Dog's Favor In The Stress Wars. The Performance and Health Results They Help Produce Have to Be-Seen-to-Be-Believed. They're 100% Natural, And Beginning to Show Up in Health and Pet Stores. Welcome to The Drug-Free Future of Advanced Canine Performance.

"Dog stress" is a term casually thrown around in dog magazines and wherever fanciers meet. While stress has a specific scientific meaning, the misunderstanding of the true nature of stress has been used to describe and explain everything from poor performance to lack of appetite. Worse, misunderstanding the cause-and-effects of stress on the canine body often results in time and money spent trying to reduce stress, while actually increasing toxic stress effects!

By understanding what dog stress is, you gain power over it. By becoming aware of the new breakthroughs that help reduce stress's toxic effects, you can improve your kennel's performance and health to a degree previously considered impossible.

"By becoming aware of the new breakthroughs that help reduce stress's toxic effects, you can improve your kennel's performance and health to a degree previously considered impossible."

Science's modern understanding of stress comes from a brilliant biologist named Dr. Hans Selye, often called the "father of stress". Based on early human and animal studies, and using truly remarkable insight and intuition, Dr. Selye developed an explanation of stress that's still valid today. His funny sounding stress model was called GAS--General Adaptation Syndrome. Until many scientific models, the more modern science learns about stress with advanced research tools, the more Dr. Selye's ideas have been validated.

First, there is a stressor, which upsets--"disrupts"--the body's metabolic balance of "homeostasis". For example, a hard workout will begin this stage.

The next stage is the "alarm reaction". During this stage, the body reacts to stress though a predictable (stereotyped) chain of chemical and hormonal events. This is also called the 'stress reaction". No matter the cause of the stress, the response of the body is the same. In that way, the stress response is said to be generalized.

The third stage is the "adaptation". This is when the body adapts to, or "accommodates", to the stress. For example, after the workout, the body will adapt by developing more enzymes, greater muscle strength, etc.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Dr. Selye's stress model is the observation that the stress response is generalized. In other words, almost any event can kick off the same stress response. In other words, whether a dog undergoes a workout, travels to a new place or is in cold weather, the body reacts the same in important ways. Remember that stress is generalized.

The Next Wave  The next advance in stress research began in the late 1960's when sport scientists started to use a new technology called isotope labeling, which enables researchers to track the metabolic fate of a substance. Isotope labeling gave scientists a much more detailed view of metabolism during and after exercise.

Using isotope labeling, researchers were astonished to find that an unexpectedly large amount of protein was used during exercise. In one study, the essential amino acid L-Leucine was found to be utilized at a very high rate--90% of the day's total recommend intake was burned in just two hours of exercise.

Reading scientific journals of that time, it's clear researchers conducting these studies almost could not believe their early findings. The amount of amino acids burned during and after exercise seemed to conflict with earlier theories before the advent of isotope labeling. Until these newer studies, it was believed that muscle tissue was only broken down to supply energy during starvation, trauma or wasting diseases like cancer. The notion that somebody's body would actually "cannibalize" its own muscle tissue during "healthy" exercise seemed confusing.

After a while, their research papers began to reflect the type of idea connecting what good scientists are noted for. Simply, they realized the muscle breakdown syndrome of athletes during and after workouts was remarkably similar to that found in starvation and trauma patients in hospitals. They concluded that the body's response to workouts was much like its response to trauma. Not surprising when you remember Dr. Selye's model, which states whether it's workouts or trauma, the stress response of the body is essentially identical. After all, training is trauma.

"…the body's response to workouts was much like its response to trauma...after all, training is trauma!"

The recognition that training is trauma marked a milestone in sports medicine. For the first time, scientists were able to confirm why chronic workouts appeared to be damaging to the body--the stress response ending in muscle breakdown. And the harder, longer and more frequent the workout, the more muscle broken down. Another important insight they gained from this research was that muscle loss did not occur just during the workouts, but often for many hours after the end of exercise.

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle  Now that the true nature of stress was understood, another group of scientists contributed new, very powerful weapons to fight stress. The latest phase of stress research involved testing and developing various natural nutrients that might actually reverse the stress response resulting in muscle breakdown. Until this time, anabolic steroids were the primary agent to combat muscle loss. Of course, these drugs have serious negative side effects. The idea that 100% natural nutrition could someday make these drugs obsolete was considered remote 25 years ago.

At first, these nutrients were used in clinical situations, typically on burn and other hyper metabolic (abnormally fast metabolism) patients. Later, they were used on athletes to assess their ability to reverse muscle loss. To summarize years of study, these nutrients have been shown to be both safe and highly effective. Their ability to promote protein synthesis and reverse stress response is, at this point, well documented. However, outside the world of elite athletic nutrition or medical foods, these findings are largely unknown.

"…the research and real world-record suggests that in some cases, these nutrients are actually more effective on dogs than humans."

However, the research and real world-record suggests that in some cases, these nutrients are actually more effective on dogs than humans. In fact, the use of some anti-stress nutrients was first tested on dogs prior to human test subjects. The anti-stress nutrients listed below are in some way related to amino acids.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BSAAs)- L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine are the three amino acids comprising the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) group. BCAAs are important in understanding how and why stress degrades your dog's health, and how supplying certain extra amino acids in the diet can help reverse stress effects. Fully 35% of the protein in muscle tissue is made of BCAAs. Not long ago, it was discovered that BCAAs were found in high amounts in blood of stressed individuals. These high concentrations were caused by the breakdown of BCAAs from muscle tissue to supply energy. One study revealed that 90% of entire day's supply of L-Leucine was used in less than two hours of aerobic exercise.

In an attempt to reverse muscle breakdown for stressed individuals, medical researchers and sports scientists have given extra BCAAs in the diet in numerous studies. In general, the results have been very positive. When BCAAs are given during stress, protein synthesis was stimulated. This is important because during stress, protein synthesis is typically depressed.

The bottom line lesson of these studies is that either by diet, or by breaking down muscle, the body is going to use BCAAs for energy during stress. The body doesn't care where the BCAAs come from, just that they're available. When you provide extra BCAAs in the diet, you help reverse the stress response because the body does not have to break down muscle to supply them. But supplementing BCAAs in the diet appears to do more than reverse stress. A recent study suggests dietary BCAAs also increase lean muscle mass and endurance.

"When you provide extra BCAAs in the diet, you help reverse the stress response because they body does not have to break down muscle to supply them."

Ironically, the better conditioned the canine body, the more BCAAs burned as energy, and the more muscle broken down. This surprising fact makes sense when you realize that muscle just doesn't move the body, it also supplies energy during stress. In fact, workouts actually help develop enzymes that help breakdown and use BCAAs from muscle for energy, just as enzymes that utilize fats and proteins are enhanced from physical training. Remember--muscle is stored energy, and the canine body "cannibalizes" this tissue during stress. Accordingly, stressed performance dogs have an increased need for BCAAs in the diet.

"Remember - muscle is stored energy, and the canine body "cannibalizes" this tissue during stress".

Creatine  Wild canines, and therefore domestic dogs, have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to benefit from consuming Creatine. Creatine is a natural component of meats, and may be a principle reason why meat often adds an added dimension to the canine diet. When dogs consume meat, they take in fairly large amounts of Creatine; the more meat eaten, the more Creatine along with it. French studies suggest wild game meats contain more Creatine than sedentary, livestock animals. The canine body also produces Creatine from amino acids in the diet.

The value of Creatine to dogs is not so much in enhancing performance directly, though it can benefit certain types of athletic events and training. Instead, Creatine fights stress by stimulating protein synthesis and nitrogen retention. In other words, Creatine causes the dog's body to retain more of the protein it eats, and therefore, less is lost though urine urea nitrogen (UUN). This "sparing" of lean muscle tissue is at the core of fighting stress.

Creatine is also documented to help fight dehydration by its ability to increase fluid volume in muscle cells, and recent evidence suggests it may even help build aerobic enzymes. Interestingly, dogs appear to benefit from smaller dosages per pound than human athletes. The first major Creatine study used dogs as test subjects.

L-Glutamine  This remarkable anti-stress amino acid benefits performance dogs in several important ways. Recent studies reveal that just as in human athletes, hard training dogs can quickly deplete L-Glutamine levels. Then, they begin to break down lean muscle. At this point, it may require up to 4 days rest to return to normal L-Glutamine levels, during which recovery is slowed and immunity blunted. Added L-Glutamine, however, has been demonstrated to help reverse, or in some case, perhaps even largely bypass, these negative low-glutamine events.

Critically, glutamine also helps spare BCAAs from being broken down from muscle to provide energy. L-Glutamine also boosts insulin production. Insulin is important because this hormone is the principle facilitator (driver) of amino acids into cells. Glutamine has even been implicated in fighting infection. With its many anti-catabolic roles, it's easy to see why glutamine may be the single most important anti-stress amino acid.

OKG  This amino acid derivative of L-Orthinine has been clinically demonstrated to reverse muscle breakdown and enhance recovery in another highly stressed group--burn patients. Additionally, OKG boosts insulin production, which helps promote the uptake of amino acids into muscle cells for repair and growth. OKG is also a powerful ammonia scavenger. Clearing ammonia can enhance performance because ammonia is a cause of fatigue.

KIC  Another potent amino acid spin off, this one of L-Leucine, KIC has been shown to be especially effective at reversing muscle breakdown during trauma. It also detoxifies ammonia, as well as stimulates insulin production. KIC is a very powerful anti-stress nutrient.

These 100% natural amino acid related stress fighters are but a few of the new anti-stress weapons scientific research has given today's performance dog fancier. These nutrients can be easily and safely worked into your canine nutrition plan. Best results are obtained when taken together and at very specific times.

The Bottom Line to Stress  The bottom line to stress is simple. Stress is a generalized response to almost any stimulus. Avoiding stress with performance dogs is almost impossible. Workouts, traveling and breeding are just a few of the factors that trigger the stress response.

If you can't avoid stress, the smartest strategy is to take lessons from sports medicine research, which include providing safe and natural nutritional supplement tools demonstrated to help reverse the toxic stress effects.

Caution  The importance of selecting and feeding pharmaceutical grade versions of the high-tech nutrients reviewed in this article cannot be overstated. The nutrients used and these and other studies are almost invariably human or pharmaceutical grade. In fact, even studies using dogs as test subjects use human or pharmaceutical grade nutrients. This is because these human or pharmaceutical grade nutrients are highly purified and safe.

In contrast, feed grade amino acids are typically much less pure, and more likely to be contaminated. Generally speaking, feed grade nutrients are those rejected for human intake. Although feed grade nutrients may cost less, more is often needed to obtain a therapeutic effect, so they often represent false economy.

Human or pharmaceutical grade anti-stress nutrients can now be easily obtained by companies who specialize in them for canine use, or from health food stores including chains like GNC.

Bob Fritz, the author helped develop the original commercial use of BCAAs and creatine for humans and dogs in the 1980s.

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