Does the quality of your pet’s food matter to you? It should. Just like what we put into our mouths and stomachs determine our overall health, the same is true of our pets. What we feed them matters. If people tried to live on potato chips, cookies, and cupcakes, our health would be negatively affected in many ways. What our pets digest can also negatively, or positively, impact their health.
Obesity and cancer are two major health concerns in both humans and pets. Therefore, both species need proper nutrition to combat these, and other, health issues. According to the Pet Nutrition Alliance, our pets “need over 30 essential nutrients including protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals.” Even though their needs are the same, dogs and cats have different nutrient requirements.
There are many and varied pet foods on the market. Some are less expensive but also possess the least amount of quality nutrition. Ingredients such as corn and wheat have become less acceptable due to several factors, including that, in the wild, canines and felines don’t eat such products. Coyotes, wolves, bobcats and cougars and carnivores; therefore, our dogs and cats require protein. Reading labels is an important way to know what’s in your pets’ food. For example, is the food comprised of meat or meat by-product? There’s a difference. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, meat is “the muscle tissue of the animal, but may include fat, gristle and other tissues normally accompanying the muscle, similar to what is sometimes seen in raw meat sold for human consumption,” and meat by-product is “the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents.”
How do you choose your pet’s food? If you don’t want to read hundreds of labels, or if you want a place to start, there are many online reviewing sites. One such site, PetFoodReviewer.com, started last year and doesn’t contain information on all dog and cat foods, but could be a good resource starting point. DogFoodAdvisor.com and DogFoodGuru.com are two other good sites to research. These sites also provide a listing of recalls. For cat food, check out Reviews.com, We’re All About Cats, and Catological. The American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) also maintains a list of pet food and treat recalls. Check their website to find out about any recalls: https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/RecallsWithdrawals/default.htm.
Nearly all experts tell us to not feed human food/table scraps to our pets. However, some people prefer to make their own pet food at home. Although that’s a subject for another newsletter, with Christmas on the horizon, there may be plenty of leftovers you’re not sure what to do with. The folks at Personal Creations, who shared a post last month, created a guide on using leftovers to create pet treats; in that guide, they also have a list of foods that are good for pets (such as pumpkin and turkey) and foods to avoid giving to pets (mushrooms, turkey skin, and onions). If you didn't see that publication previously, you can find it by clicking here: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/thanksgiving-pets.
As you shop for your pets and for pet lovers on your Christmas list, look for nutritious foods and treats to keep your beloved animals healthy!
In related news, PetCo recently announced it will stop selling pet food and treats which contain artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Read more here: http://www.petproductnews.com/News/Petco-Plans-to-Stop-Selling-Food-and-Treats-with-Artificial-Ingredients/
Does your dog ever get the hiccups? Mine does.
Sweet Jeremiah, who has been part of my household for a year now, occasionally gets a bout of the hiccups. I don’t remember this experience happening to previous dogs I’ve had, but Jeremiah gets them somewhat regularly. I admit, it’s cute to watch his 12-pound body twinge and a slight “burruup!” come from his tiny mouth. Recently, though, I began to wonder if many dogs get the hiccups since I’ve not had the experience before adopting our little Shih Tzu. Here’s what I learned researching “hiccups in dogs.”
According to PetMD.com:
If your dog does experience hiccups, here are a few things you can do to assist your canine friend through the experience:
Hiccups in dogs are generally not life-threatening nor require a trip to the vet. Just as with humans, they eventually go away; in fact, doggie hiccups usually only last a few minutes. However, there are rare instances when hiccups can be a sign of a more serious health problem, such as respiratory defects, pneumonia, asthma, pericarditis, or heat stroke.
If your puppy or adult dog experiences hiccups, don’t be overly concerned unless the episode lasts longer than 30 minutes. Then, experts say, contact your veterinarian for recommendations, which may include making an appointment to learn if there is an underlying health issue that needs to be investigated.
Here's to cuteness hiccups, not concerning ones!
Most of us have experienced cancer in our lives, whether in ourselves, a friend, a family member, or a pet. I’ve lost two dogs to cancer during the past 20 years. The disease came on suddenly in both dogs, and one of them, Sage (our blind springer spaniel) died less than two weeks of the diagnosis.
Experts estimate nearly 12 million dogs and cats are diagnosed with cancer every year. Nearly 50 percent of pet disease-related deaths are due to cancer. According to PetPlan’s Guide to Pet Cancer website, one in four dogs will develop a tumor at some point in their lives,
Cats don’t seem to get cancer as often as dogs, but cats also mask pain and disease well, so it’s often more difficult to detect feline cancer by cat owners. Lumps and bumps are ways to notice potential cancer as well as vomiting and diarrhea. One of the most common cat cancers is lymphoma, which oftentimes shows few symptoms.
A seven-part docu-series is set to begin this week to help pet parents learn and understand more about this deadly disease. Starting Wednesday, April 4, you can watch the free series, which features 30 pet health experts. Ty Bollinger, the founder of The Truth About Cancer, has created this program, The Truth About Pet Cancer. Learn more and watch the documentary trailer here; you can also sign up to receive emails with links to the free seven-part series at this same website: https://thetruthaboutpetcancer.com/.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), nearly half of dogs over 10 years of age will develop cancer. Many different breeds are susceptible to cancer, including Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, basset hounds, boxers, and Boston terriers. Dogs suffer from many of the same cancers as humans, including prostrate, bladder, mouth, lymph nodes, and brain tumors. Some cancers develop in the nose, causing nose bleeds. A cocker spaniel I adopted in 1989 died ten years later, at age 12 ½ from cancer that began in his nasal cavity.
Although there is no sure-way to prevent cancer claiming our pets, there are some things we as pet parents can do to help off-set the chances of the disease. Here are a few ideas:
Cancer is a terrible disease, and though cures still allude scientists, doctors, and veterinarians, we can all do something to lessen this deadly pestilence in ourselves and our pets, that includes greater knowledge through the upcoming docu-series. Sign up here: https://thetruthaboutpetcancer.com/.
For many people, January brings thoughts of better health – new year, new you. We can also resolve to get (or keep) our pets healthier, even if we haven’t started yet. One of the easiest ways for people, and pets, to become (or stay) healthier is by walking.
January is Walk Your Pet Month. Here are five good reasons to walk your pet:
If your dog is one of those that doesn’t walk well on a leash, and therefore, you avoid walks with your canine friend, there are many avenues you can take to train him/her. One includes visiting PetCo or PetSmart and enrolling in a training program offered at the store or enrolling in a class offered by your local Kennel Club chapter. Another is to hire a trainer. Or, you can do it yourself by reviewing instructions on sites like YouTube. There are also many great articles online about training your dog, including ones by Cesar Milan and the American Kennel Club, which you’ll find below:
Dogs aren’t the only pets that can be trained to walk on a leash – ferrets can as well and so can cats. Both my mother and I have had cats that were leash-trained, and when I visited and volunteered at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah, I took one cat for a walk on a leash and took another for a stroll in a baby buggy. Walking on a harness and leash allows kitties to explore the outdoors and breath fresh air safely. Learn how to train your cat to walk well on a leash by visiting this Best Friends’ site: https://bestfriends.org/resources/walking-cat.
Even though winter is upon us, walking with your pet outdoors can still be done. See the infographic below, created by NorthStar VETS of New Jersey, on how to walk safely outdoors with your pet during the cold and snowy months.
Keep your New Year’s resolution to get and stay healthy – and resolve to keep your pet healthy, too, – by sharing quality walks with your furry friend.
My dog Mary turned 11 recently, and during the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a bit of a “hitch in her get-along.” She’s missed the bed at least twice when she’s attempted to jump up on it, and after a night of sleep, she’s appeared a bit stiff. What do dog owners do when their canine companions begin to experience stiffness, soreness, and arthritis?
I wrote a similar article regarding cats and arthritis last year. Unlike with cats, pet parents can usually tell when their dogs are experiencing trouble with joints. Cats can tolerate a great deal of pain without showing signs; that’s been the case with my two cats, who will be 12 years old in August. However, with my current dog, Mary, and dogs I’ve previously owned that turned 11, 12, or 13 years old, the stiffness and pain they experienced was evident: when they rose from sleeping on a dog bed (or in my bed), when they attempted to jump on furniture and either seemed hesitant or when they missed the mark, and as the temperature went down during winter months.
So, what can we as dog owners do to help our furry friends? There are many products on the market; here’s a short list:
A list of helpful products is available on the Drs. Foster & Smith website:
and also at PetCareRX:
DogsNaturally provided information on holistic treatment; read that article here:
Management of arthritis in dogs comes down to three primary things: slowing the progression of the dog's joint condition; improving your dog's comfort; and encouraging your dog to move with moderate activity like walks or swimming. Experts also recommend keeping your dog at a healthy weight, which includes feeding proper food and low-calorie treats as well as providing exercise.
Keeping our senior dogs comfortable and healthy is a significant part of our job as pet guardians. Help your dog age more gracefully and more healthy by alleviating its joint discomfort using some of the tips given – by doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy life together longer and with less pain.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.