Pet Nutrition: What Kind of Food, How Much, and How Often?October 3, 2017
“What kind of food, how much, and how often?”
These three questions are the ones that most clients hesitate to answer. There is usually a long pause followed by a hesitant “uuuhhh, dry, a scoop and twice a day?” Many clients don’t seem to like to answer questions about what they feed their pets, especially dog owners. There are many possible reasons for this hesitation, some may be:
1. They honestly don’t know. Often, feeding is the responsibility of one family member and if that isn’t the person at the visit this can be a question that they weren’t prepared to answer.
2. They are worried that they will be judged for the type of food or how they feed their pet. I worry that this is more often the reason than any other. There is a ton of marketing out there bombarding pet owners with messages about pet food that are often designed to make pet parents feel bad about their current diet so they will switch to the brand in the commercial. We all love our pets and marketing strategies use this to their favor.
3. They feed a variety and the brand can change from bag to bag. Sometimes feeding is a question of availability and some pet parents mix it up from bag to bag to give a “change of pace” to their pets.
Below is a list of basic recommendations to help start this conversation with your pet’s veterinarian:
1. We will not judge your feeding choice. If you would like a recommendation or to discuss the diet you are currently feeding, just ask. We are happy to answer questions and discuss what food options would be best for your pet. Some veterinarians will not routinely offer unsolicited advice in this area unless we see there is a systemic condition or illness that would be benefited by a food change (i.e. therapeutic diets). Many times, if your pet is doing well and you are happy with the diet then we will say “Keep up the good work!”
2. Consistency is key. Most dogs and cats do best with a stable commercial diet that does not have a lot of variability. They will have consistent bowel movements, it is easier to judge their appetite level, and their weight will be more stable. I recommend to stick to a single diet and provide “interest” in the form of treats, toys, and play. This also goes for timing of feeding too. Meals that are fed 2x (3+ times in very young puppies) a day at consistent times will lead to more predictable digestion and can aid in housebreaking, especially in young dogs. This is also helpful to catch changes in appetite early. We know often within a day if there is a decrease or increase in appetite or willingness to eat because we are feeding meals rather than “free choice.”
3. Make sure your diet meets AAFCO standards for the life stage (puppy, adult, small breed, large breed, etc). There should be a seal on the back of the bag. (more on this topic later)
4. Don’t believe everything that you see in a pet food commercial. They are selling food first and foremost. This doesn’t mean that all foods being sold in commercials are bad, it just means that you should always remember their primary goal is getting you to buy the food. This also goes for the feeding recommendations on the bag. They are often high and most non-athlete pets do not need that amount of food. If your pet is overweight you should be gearing your feeding amounts toward what they would need at their goal weight, not to maintain their current weight.
5. Measure your pets meals with an actual measuring cup. This helps your vet know exactly how much you are feeding. This is important for weight loss plans and feeding consistency. We want to know that 1 cup = 8 oz. Your vet probably has measuring cups available because lots of pet food suppliers will drop them off with food shipments and they are free!
6. Do not feed a raw diet to your pet. These diets are often nutritionally deficient and can cause severe illness and infection. There is also a risk to you and your family with handling and storing raw meats. Dogs and cats that eat a raw diet can carry salmonella and other bacteria in higher quantities in and on their bodies that can make it possible to get sick from handling your pet even if you never touch their food or bowls.
7. If you have a question, call your vet! They should be happy to answer any questions you have about food and be able to give you reputable sources for more information.
This is a great website for veterinary nutrition information. They have a regular blog on many trending topics in pet nutrition: www.vetnutrition.tufts.edu
***A quick word about “nutritionists.” You want to seek nutrition information from your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. These doctors are veterinarians who have completed a residency in nutrition following veterinary school to become specialists in nutrition just like a cardiologist or orthopedic surgeon. They have also passed a rigorous board certification exam and have published research in the area of nutrition. Breeders, groomers, and other self-proclaimed “food experts” have not had the extensive training and board certification that a veterinary nutritionist has earned. While they may have great intentions, these folks may not always have good information to support their recommendations. Remember, if you have a question, always call your vet!
Why a Heartworm Preventative is Essential for Your PetSeptember 26, 2017
Do you give your dog heartworm preventative? How about your cat? Do you want to know why this is important? Read on!
When we think of “worms,” we mostly think of intestinal worms; we diagnose those by sending a stool sample to the laboratory. Heartworms are different; they are spread by mosquitos, and the adult heartworms live in the big blood vessels that take blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen. The mosquitos carry the tiny heartworm larvae, called microfilaria, and these enter your dog’s system when he or she is bitten by that mosquito. In case you are thinking that your dog spends very little time outside, remember that mosquitos come into the house very easily. That’s how even indoor cats get heartworm disease.
In dogs, if we catch the heartworm disease before the dog has any symptoms, such as coughing or lethargy, we can treat him or her and get rid of the heartworms; this is a 4-month process, and it costs more than a 10-year supply of heartworm preventative! In cats, there is no successful treatment, and cats are more likely to die of heartworm than dogs are.
For dogs, there are 3 ways to prevent heartworm disease: most people give a monthly chewable; many people get the 6-month injection (brand name ProHeart), and some people use the monthly topical (brand name Revolution). We also recommend an annual blood test; if your dog were to get heartworm disease, and you have been getting annual heartworm tests and have been purchasing 12 months of heartworm preventative every year, the companies that make the preventatives have guarantees that state that they will pay for the cost of the treatment needed to cure your dog.
For cats, Revolution is the treatment of choice; it also prevents fleas, and it’s easier for many cats than a pill would be, even a chewable one.
Litter Box HygieneAugust 9, 2017
By Dr. Nina Beyer
Almost all cat owners consider litter boxes to be essential. Very few of us, these days, think it’s safe for our cats to go outdoors to eliminate, in order not to have a litter box in the house. And as soon as something goes wrong, like the cat urinating or defecating outside the box, we tend to blame the cat…but usually, it’s because the poor cat is finding the litter box to be a problem. How can we make the litter box NOT a problem for our cats, so they’ll use it happily?
First of all, the great folks at the Cornell Feline Health Center have studied cats’ litter preferences for years. They’ve found that most cats prefer unscented litter. Cats also prefer clumping litter, and they prefer the finest texture possible (sand-like). If you are using scented, coarse-textured, or other types of litter, try putting unscented, clumping, fine-textured litter in one of your boxes, and see how your cat(s) like it.
Second, we know that cats don’t always want to share boxes. The Cornell researchers recommend that you have at least one more litter box than you have cats (three cats? Four litter boxes!). From a cat’s point of view, boxes that are in the same room might as well be the same box; if you put all four boxes in the basement, the three cats feel like they’re all sharing one box. Spread those boxes around the house! Cats like some privacy, but they also like easy access to the bathroom (just like we do!).
Third, most of us don’t recognize the role that stress plays in our cats. Often, cats that are eliminating outside the box are experiencing stress. Cats can be stressed by living with other cats (our living spaces are smaller than cats prefer for their home ranges), by the presence of dogs or toddlers, by seeing other cats through the window, by their early life experiences before you adopted them, and especially by a genetic predisposition to higher stress levels (brain biochemistry differences). If you are experiencing urine or stools outside the litter box, please talk to your cat’s doctor for help! Most cats can be helped significantly!
Should You Spay or Neuter Your Pet?July 18, 2017
When it comes to spaying and neutering our pets, owners have many different opinions. Some feel that they are taking away the “manhood” of their male pets, and some owners feel that their ladies should be able to have babies of their own before being fixed. The truth is, we as owners tend to be rather anthropomorphic, we put our own feelings and opinions onto our animals. The fact is, our pets would generally be healthier and would be safer being spayed or neutered.
To make a more informed decision about the procedure, it would help to understand just what happens during a spay (ovariohystectomy) and a neuter (castration). Females are spayed, and involves the removal of the internal reproductive organs, namely the two ovaries and the uterine body. The earliest age at which spaying is done in the veterinary hospital setting is around six months of age. If done before a female dog’s first heat (around 8 months in a small breed dog, later in a larger breed), spaying greatly reduces her risk of developing mammary cancer later in life. For cats, there is no difference in risk for mammary cancer. Also, a spay eliminates the risk of developing a pyometra, or infected uterus, which can be life-threatening for cats and dogs. Spaying can be done in the traditional way, with a scalpel blade or surgical laser, or even laparoscopically. There have been recent studies that are very early in their research that suggest that spaying early, as in before the first year, can increase a dog’s risk of osteosarcoma later in life. Again, these studies are still young in their development.
Castration involves surgically removing the male internal reproductive organs, or the testes. It is typically done around six months of age or later in a typical hospital setting. Removing this source of testosterone will help to reduce roaming of males in search of female in heat, thereby reducing the risk of being hit by a car and other dangers. In dogs, it also eliminates the risk of developing various testicular cancers and other conditions that may occur with the presence of extra testosterone. Benign prostatic hypertrophy is a condition in dogs in which the prostate, under the influence of testosterone, enlarges and can make urination difficult and painful. It is cured by castration. Again, there are studies that show that there is a higher incidence of prostatic cancer in castrated males versus intact males, but there may be other factors involved.
In general, if one is not planning on breeding their pets, it is recommended that they be spayed or neutered. If you have any questions or concerns or need advice, please do not hesitate to ask the doctors at Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital. We would be more than happy to sit down with you to discuss the option best suited for your fur baby.
Are Retractable Leashes Safe?June 28, 2017
By Dr. Nina Beyer
A lot of people use retractable leashes! For years, they’ve been very popular. Speaking as a veterinarian, though, I wish they’d never been invented. Wanna know why?
First, they give your dog the wrong message. When he pulls against the leash, he is able to move further away from you. He learns that pulling on the leash is a good thing to do! Compare this to a no-pull harness or head collar; these discourage him from pulling and reward him for not pulling. He naturally stays near you.
Second, they make your dog unsafe. She can quickly dart 20-25 feet away from you (that little button is hard to use, to stop the leash from unspooling), so she could jump into the path of a car, or run up to a dog that will hurt her. If you’re in the middle of a deserted area, that much freedom is fine, but in our typical neighborhoods and parks, that much distance makes it difficult to keep your dog safe. Also, if she takes off when you’re looking the other way, the awkward handle can be jerked right out of your hand. Now, your dog is loose and is being “chased” by the plastic handle, which is gaining on her because it’s retracting…a lot of dogs in this situation panic and keep running!
Third, they make you unsafe. I hope you’ve never grabbed the cord when your dog is running; if you have, you may have sustained a burn or cut from the friction of the cord (there are actually people who’ve lost a finger that way!). If they wrap around your leg, they cause a lot more pain than a flat nylon leash would.
There is nothing safer than a sturdy 6-foot leash with the loop around your wrist and your hand gripping it firmly.
Dog Park EtiquetteJune 12, 2017
The idea behind dog parks is wonderful; they’re safely fenced-in places for your dog to run and play with other dogs. But sometimes the experience is not what you expected, usually because someone hasn’t used good judgment. So, let’s think about what good dog park etiquette would be.
- Only take your dog to the park if she loves it. If she is worried, anxious, easily upset, or aggressive, the dog park will make her worse.
- When you arrive, look around at the other dogs & people BEFORE you let your dog off leash. If someone has brought their large dog into the “small dogs only” section, your little dog might not be safe, for example. Look at the body language of the other dogs, before you let your dog off-leash.
- Watch your dog while he’s loose; don’t get caught up talking to people you meet & ignore what your own dog is doing. If he looks afraid, or doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself, go get him & leave.
- Also, if your dog is bullying another dog, go get him. All of the dogs in the park should be enjoying themselves; if your dog is going after another dog who is cowering or rolling over & showing his belly, it’s up to you to get your guy leashed back up.
For most people, it’s hard to read a dog’s body language. Even if you’ve had dogs all your life, most dogs accommodate us fairly successfully, so you may never have been forced to learn to read a dog. Luckily, there are excellent online resources; check these out! You’ll love them!
- Zoom Room’s videos:
- Dog Body Language
- Dog Play Gestures Body Language
- Association of Pet Dog Trainer (APDT) videos; this is a wonderful website
- Whole Dog Journal Dog Body Language Dictionary of Stress
- www.dogdecoder.com (they have a $3.99 app that’s excellent!)
- Eileenanddogs Dog Body Language Collection
Pet Dental CareFebruary 9, 2017
Dental care for pets is just as important as it is for people!
Dental care for your pet is extremely important. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats and is entirely preventable. Here are a few facts about dental pain and disease so you can make an informed decision about a dental visit for your pet.
What is periodontal or dental disease? Periodontal disease is a progressive inflammation of the supporting structures around the teeth.
What causes periodontal disease? Periodontal disease starts when bacteria form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. These bacteria can then travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys, and liver.
How is dental disease diagnosed? Dental disease is diagnosed by examining the teeth and supporting structures while the pet is under anesthesia. Some dental disease can be reversed such as gingivitis through dental cleaning and polishing. Loss of tooth attachment and bone loss cannot be reversed.
Here are some signs of Dental Disease or Pain:
- Bad breath
- Redness or bleeding along the gum line
- Drooling, which may be tinged with blood
- Difficulty chewing
- Facial swelling, especially under the eyes
- Loose or missing teeth
Schedule your pet’s dental consultation with one of veterinarians now to see if your pet qualifies for our 20% OFF Routine Dental Promotion. It’s a quick, easy and important way to prevent serious problems.
Keeping Your Pet Safe at ThanksgivingNovember 22, 2016
While it’s wonderful to include your pets in your holiday traditions, it’s important to remember that our canine companions cannot indulge in the same feasts that we prepare for ourselves. Some of the common Thanksgiving foods that fill our plate can actually be very dangerous for your pooch to ingest.
- Turkey bones are small and can become lodged in your dog’s throat, stomach, or intestinal tract. They may also splinter and cause severe damage to the stomach or puncture the small intestine.
- Fat trimmings and fatty foods like turkey skin and gravy are difficult for dogs to digest. In fact, consuming turkey skin can result in pancreatitis. Symptoms for this serious disease can include vomiting, extreme depression, reluctance to move, and abdominal pain.
- Dough and cake batter contain raw eggs, so the first concern for people and pets is salmonella bacteria. What’s more, dough may actually rise in your dog’s belly, which can lead to vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and bloating.
- Mushrooms can damage your dog’s internal organs, including kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. Symptoms can include seizures, coma, vomiting, and possibly death.
The best way for your pet to partake in the holiday cheer? Stick with traditional treats that are safe for dogs! Food puzzles and interactive toys like a Kong filled with peanut butter are a great way to keep your canine entertained and feeling satisfied all holiday long.
Love is AgelessNovember 1, 2016
Most senior animals are surrendered by owners who could no longer keep them due to health or financial reasons. Though they may not know every trick, they are usually already housebroken and leash-trained.
The transition into your home will likely be easier and less destructive. While younger pets need constant supervision and training, most senior pets are already housebroken. They may even understand several commands already.
While an older pet can still have a lot of energy, they tend to have more stable personalities and require less excessive attention than younger animals. This makes them an ideal choice for the elderly and young children.
Senior pets seem to know that you saved them and are grateful for the second chance at life that you have given them. There is no better gift than adopting a senior pet and giving them the best last years of their life. Unfortunately, they are most often passed up for puppies or kittens and spend far too long looking for a home to live out the rest of their golden years.
This November, please consider adopting one of our wonderful senior pets at Berk’s ARL or Hillside S.P.C.A. There are many sweet animals waiting to be your next best friend! To find a senior pet see all the adoptable animals at these local shelters’ websites at: Berk’s Animal Rescue League (ARL) http://www.berksarl.org/ or Hillside S.P.C.A. http://www.hillsidespca.com/
Happy Cat MonthSeptember 16, 2016
In case you didn’t know, September is Happy Cat Month. This was created by the CATalyst Council to improve cat wellness by focusing on happiness. Studies have been shown that a happy cat is a healthier cat. Providing opportunities for your cat to act on these feline instincts is a core component of an enriching environment.
Below is a list of the top 10 ways owners can keep their cats happy:
- Provide toys. One of the easiest ways to make a cat happy is with a new toy. Not all toys have to be store bought. Paper sacks, wadded up paper and empty boxes will entertain cats for hours.
- Train your cat together. Cats are smart as well as food oriented and can be trained to do fun tricks–the mental and physical stimulation is great for felines. Training your cat can strengthen the bond between you and your feline buddy.
- Make your cat work for food. Feline obesity is a huge problem in this country and one way to combat it is to make cats work for their food. Food toys are available to channel a cat’s natural hunting instincts. The toy releases kibble in small amounts as the cat play with it. Another option is to hide a cat’s food in different places so that they have to find it.
- Acclimate your cat to the carrier. Many cat owners find that the worst part about taking their cat anywhere is getting it into the carrier. The time to work with your cat on making their carrier seem like a safe, secure and inviting place to be is prior to veterinary visits or family vacations – not when you’re ready to get into the car.
- Visit the veterinarian. Healthy cats are happy cats. Many veterinary practices are cat-friendly or have doctors who specialize in cats. Yearly wellness visits can help catch medical problems early.
- Microchip your cat. In addition to a collar and identification tag, microchipping provides permanent identification in case your cat becomes lost.
- Go outside (appropriately). Yes! There are ways owners can safely take their cats outside to allow them to broaden their horizons. Cats can be walked on a leash with a harness or confined in a special outdoor area—always under supervision, of course—so they can periodically and safely experience the world outside their window.
- Provide proper scratching posts. Scratching is an important aspect of feline behavior. Cats should have places they are allowed to stretch and care for their claws. Providing a long and sturdy scratching post in a vertical, horizontal or angled position is a good way to keep your cat happy.
- Provide preventive medications. No one likes fleas, ticks, mites or heartworms, especially your cat. Even if your cat is kept strictly indoors, they can still be attacked by these little creepy creatures. A parasite-free cat is a happy cat and preventive care will keep your family healthier, too.
- Think about getting another cat. Cats are social animals, so you might want to consider visiting the shelter and adopting a best buddy for your current kitty. Cats love to play, and a playmate will make them happy—provided they are properly introduced and have the right places to eat, hide, play and go the bathroom.