GMO in Pet food

This is a very important reason to carefully scrutinize not only the ingredients in your pet’s food, but where they come from. What does GMO mean?  GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, and they are becoming more and more prevalent in our food supply every day.  Crops are modified to increase profit by increasing resistance to disease, or increasing production.  What is the problem with GMO?  Genetic engineering is done in such a way that the DNA of the plant is permanently altered.  The scary part is that very little testing is done to determine what effects the altered genetics will have on the person or animal ingesting the food.  The modified genes can be unstable and even incorporate into intestinal cells, modifying their DNA!

This can explain increases in diseases such as allergies, food sensitivities, autoimmune syndromes and cancer, even when supposedly ‘healthy’ foods are being consumed.   You can learn more details about the genetic modification of our food supply at: https://responsibletechnology.org/

What does this mean for your pet and how can you feed foods that are GMO free?  The answer is to read labels and ask questions of food producers.  Anything labelled organic will be GMO free by definition.  Avoid soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn, and sugar from sugar beets.  These are the crops with the highest prevalence of GMO.  Remember too that there are many byproducts of these crops, especially corn, such as syrup, starch additives.  Many companies are now labeling their products that are GMO free.  You can find a more comprehensive shopping guide at http://nongmoshoppingguide.com/.

In general, fresh organic ingredients will provide the best chance of avoiding genetically engineered foods.  Companies that do not use genetically modified ingredients will typically make that obvious on their packaging.  Remember – pay attention, read labels and ask questions if labels are unclear.  The time you spend will be worth the health benefits to you and your pets.

When it is time to say good-bye

Our pets bring so much to our lives – love, companionship, joy, playfulness.  It is devastating to face the moment of truth when a beloved pet may be leaving our lives.  There are difficult decisions to make, finances to consider, and most importantly, we do not want our pet to suffer needlessly.  These decisions can be heart-wrenching, to say the least.

How do you decide how long to treat your pet, and with what?  Do you feel selfish by keeping your pet alive in order to avoid the loss?  There is often a dead end reached in allopathic medicine where ‘no more’ can be done.  In alternative medicine, however, there are many options to choose from regardless of your pet stage of life.

This is not to say that we can stop your pet from aging or stop the progression of disease, but there are definitely options that can improve your pet’s quality of life both mentally and physically.  These options include energy work, essential oils, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, homeopathy and animal communication.  Within each of these modalities, there are many options available to help your pet.

As you pet reached its ‘golden years’  seek out alternative therapies that you are comfortable and you will find great comfort for both you and your pet.

Summer bugs

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Summer Bugs

We are well into our summer weather and the question often arises – what do we need to do to protect our pets against bugs such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes (the carrier of heartworm disease)

The need to protect your pet is based on the risk of exposure to the bugs:

Fleas are often brought to your pet from other animals, including wildlife.  They will make your pet itch, and are visible, brown bugs that hop on and off your pet.  Fleas can live in your house and yard, making them difficult to get rid of.  There are several spot-on type flea preventatives that are applied once monthly – these are effective, but are also toxic as the insecticide is absorbed into your pet’s body.  There are natural sprays that can repel fleas but do not kill them.  I do not recommend using a flea preventative unless you have actually seen them on your pets.

Ticks typically live on the vegetation and drop on your pet as it walks by.  Ticks can spread diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichia, and anaplasmosis.  These diseases are potentially serious and it is definitely worth checking your pets for ticks after it has been outside.  Many of the same insecticides that are used for fleas can also be used to kill ticks.  I recommend checking your pet for ticks and removing them as soon as you see them.  A simple tweezer attached to the tick just above the skin should remove it uneventfully.

Mosquitoes are the insect that spreads heartworm disease If your dog is exposed to lakes, ponds, or other pools of water, there will likely be some mosquito exposure during the summer months.  The heartworm larvae must go through a life-stage cycle in the mosquito in order to be able to infect your dog, and this transition requires a temperature of 57 degrees or higher for 30 consecutive days. Here in Colorado, we have cool nights, so the risk of heartworm disease is much lower.   In warmer climates, the risk is much higher.   There are natural repellents to keep mosquitos away from your dog, and regular heartworm testing is also a good idea to be sure that there has not been any exposure.

In Colorado, I recommend heartworm prevention only during the warm summer months of June, July, and August.  In my experience, finding a heartworm positive dog that lives in Colorado is extremely rare.  In other parts of the country, where mosquitoes are more prevalent and the temperatures are warmer, the risk will be much greater.  If you live in, or travel to other areas of the country, your dog should be on prevention for more of the year.

I recommend choosing your pet’s prevention based on its risk of exposure.  If you do not see the bugs, then there is no need to use potentially harmful pesticides.  If the problem is mild, you can try one of the natural repellent sprays.

Have a happy and hopefully bug-free summer!

Summer travel with pets

Summer is just about here, and many of us are planning our adventures for the season.  But what about the pets?  As an alternative to boarding or using a pet sitter, many pet parents choose to travel with their pets.  This can be a feasible option, but you will want to take some time to prepare first.  Here are some things to consider:

1. Before you decide to take your pet along on a trip – consider how you think it will handle the traveling.  Many pets get stressed when they are away from home and dealing with a constantly changing routine.  You may enjoy the peace of mind in having your pet accompany you on vacation, but does your pet feel the same?

2. Consider where you are going and what activities you will be doing – are they pet-friendly?  City trips will require your pet to be left alone in a strange place for hours at a time.  Your pet must be well house-broken and not prone to excessive barking.  Many National Parks do not allow pets in certain areas, and only a few have kennels in which to leave your pet as you enjoy exploring the park.

3. Remember the heat.  Even a 70 degree day can create excessive heat inside a vehicle and leaving your pet inside on a 90 degree day can be lethal.  Even with the windows cracked, most summer days will be too warm to leave your pet in the car. 

4. Things to take with you:

Water and food dishes

Food – or research stores along the way that sell the food your pet is used to.  A sudden diet change may bring on unwanted diarrhea or vomiting.

Water – keep a supply in the car so your pet can have a drink at any time

Extra leash in case you misplace one

5. Remember to stop every few hours to allow your pet to eliminate and stretch its legs.  Pets get stiff in the car just like we do.

6. If you are interested in having your pet transported for you, here is a link that may help:

http://www.petrelocation.com/frontpage/

7. This site will help you find pet-friendly lodging:

http://www.petswelcome.com/

Traveling with pets can be fun, just remember to be prepared so that you pet receives proper care during your journey.

Have a wonderful and safe summer!

Have a wonderful and safe summer with your pets.

Feeding your cat

There are 2 main ingredients that are essential in your cat’s diet:  1. Meat    2. Water

1.Cats are obligate carnivores.  This means that cats must eat a diet that is about 85% meat or they will not get the nutrients that they need.  Certain nutrients that are found in meat  meat can be synthesized internally by other species such as humans and even dogs, but not by cats.  For example, taurine is an essential amino acid that cats must have or can develop heart disease along with vision problems, poor coats, and low energy.

Nutrients such as taurine can be chemically synthesized and added into commercial diets, but there are many benefits to feed it from a natural source.  Every nutrient found in nature comes with ‘hidden’ benefits that aid its digestion, absolution, and utilization.  Chemical reproductions of nutrients may not be as compatible with your cat’s physiology and some of the benefits may be lost in the processing of the diet.

2. Cats should eat a diet that is 70% water and will likely be healthiest when they get moisture from their food rather than drinking it from a bowl.  Why?  Cats were originally desert animals, and there was not a lot of water around to drink.  Many cats, therefore, do not have a big enough thirst drive to drink what their body needs, especially if they are eating a kibble-type diet, which are typically about 10% moisture.  When eating a kibble diet, a cat must drink enough to make up for the moisture lacking in the food, along with some extra to meet their metabolic demands.  Many cats end up with kidney and bladder disease because they live their lives in a state of chronic dehydration.

Cats are also picky water drinkers.  Have you ever know a cat that will only drink out of a running faucet or a glass of water?  These cats are often the ones that do not take in enough water to stay healthy.

So now, what do you feed your cat?

Learn to read pet food labels so you are familiar with what you are feeding your cat.  A fresh(ideally raw), balanced commercial diet is the simplest way to feed your cat. See my post on reading ingredients.

You will likely need to experiment and find the texture and type of meat that your cat likes best, and it is a good idea to change the food around a bit.  Many cats will stop eating a certain food if it is fed for long enough.  Remember also that there is no guarantee that the pet food will remain the same – ingredients and processing methods typically change over time, and this may be the reason that your cat loses interest in a certain diet.

 

 

Which bones are safe to give dogs?

Bones can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet,  providing entertainment, teeth cleaning, and a valuable source of calcium and phosphorus.  But which ones are safe? 

Here are a few simple tips:

1.  Never feed ANY cooked bone.  Cooked bones can splinter and fragment causing damage to the digestive tract.

2.  Long bones such as marrow bones and some knuckle bones are hard enough to crack some dog’s teeth. These are ok, but only allow your dog to chew on them for a few minutes at a time in order to minimize tooth damage.

3.  Soft bones such as chicken or turkey necks, chicken backs, legs, breasts, and wings, patellas (knee caps) and others that are cartilage are the best to feed, but must be fed RAW.  Raw chicken bones??  Yes!   My only caution is to introduce these raw treats gradually to allow your dog’s digestive tract to adapt.  The benefits of this type of bone are many:

     The raw meat that is attached to the bones provides a healthy source of protein.

     The bones are an excellent source of calcium and phosphorous 

     The cartilage provides the building blocks for sturdy joints

     There is no better toothbrush in the world – I have even seen this type of treat remove tartar from teeth – amazing!

Real bones can be a real treat for your dog.  Don’t let your pet miss out on this valuable addition to its diet!

What are the best treats for your pet?

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Pet treats are available in many sizes, shapes and flavors.  How do you decide which are healthy and which are junk food?

First of all, read the ingredients – treats that are full of grains and by-products will likely be the equivalent of feeding your pet a candy bar.

The healthiest treats will contain natural ingredients and be made from mostly meat – I recommend avoiding biscuit-type treats as they will contain grains and filler. Meat – based treats are the healthiest for dogs because meat is their natural diet.  Commercial treats are available, but be careful to read the label to find out where the treats are from and if chemicals are used in the processing.    You can also feed scraps of pasture-raised meat – just cut cooked or dried meat into small pieces and your dog will love you for it !  Limit cheese and other dairy products.

There is a large variety of treats made from left-overs of the meat processing plants.  These are in the form of body parts that are not typically consumed.  These are products such as tracheas, ears, snouts, hooves, and bones.  While this may be a bit disconcerting at first, using all parts of the animal is actually a more sustainable approach.

These treats have the benefit of providing entertainment in the form of chewing as well as a good teeth-cleaning in some cases.  See my post on bones for more information on bone safety.  These products are available in most natural pet stores and from most raw pet food distributors.  It is also important to be sure that these products are well-sourced, and not factory-farmed. We want to be both feeding treats that are more nutritious and not supporting the cruelty of confinement farming.

Treat your dog well!!

Prescription diets – how healthy are they?

You have likely heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’.  There is a great deal of truth in this for our dog and cat companions as well.  The options and information about what is best to feed your pet are nothing less than overwhelming these days, and it is very important that you read carefully the actual ingredients that you are feeding your pet.

Prescription diets have been  the mainstay of therapeutic nutrition in veterinary medicine for many years.   These are diets that claim to give you a handy package containing the proper nutrition for whatever ails your pet.  Let’s take a look at a few examples for the sake of comparison:

1.  Here is the partial ingredient list for a diet claiming to help with canine liver disease:

Brewers Rice, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Dried Egg Product, Soybean Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Flaxseed, Pork Protein Isolate, Chicken Liver Flavor.

2. And another claiming to promote bladder health in cats:

Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Chicken Liver Flavor, Fish Oil

3. For contrast, here is the label ingredients from a commercial raw food product:

Ground chicken (including ground bone), chicken gizzards, chicken hearts, organic squash, organic apples, chicken livers, organic greens, organic broccoli, organic blueberries, organic apple cider vinegar

4. And another from a grain-free dry dog food:

Bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum

Now just use your common sense for a moment – which of these diets do you think provides the most well-rounded nutrition for your pet?  It will be the diets with the most whole-food ingredients and minimal procesing.

I have not recommended a prescription diet food in years now. These diets typically target a specific condition and the diets can actually cause imbalances over time.

In fact, my basic nutritional recommendations change very little from pet to pet, though I may modify slightly depending on the health condition.  Fresh, whole foods and a diet that is meat based and minimally processed is the best pick for your companion.

It is always important to perform appropriate diagnostics such as bloodwork and ultrasound when indicated, and there are other supplements and herbs that can help with certain health conditions.

A species-appropriate diet, however, is always the best place to start in keeping your pet healthy.

 

 

Lifestage diets – is the change necessary?

Many commercial pet food companies these days have foods grouped into categories based on a pet’s age.  You will likely see varieties such as puppy, adult, senior, weight loss, and even some breed-specific diets.  Is all this necessary for proper nutrition?  I say, absolutely NOT!! Dogs and cats are basically designed to eat the same diet from the day they are weaned until the day they die.  I would like to clarify that this is for maintenance only – certain disease conditions may require some variation in the diet.  In my way of thinking, however, it is absurd to think that just because a pet reaches a certain age, its diet must change.  This is nothing more than marketing hype.  The best fundamental nutrition for a dog or cat is a fresh, meat-based diet with a 70% moisture content.  I may sometimes use a diet that is more bland or lower in fat or protein for certain disease conditions, but my basic nutritional recommendations do not change.

My recommendation is to feed whole, fresh foods whenever possible and avoid by-products, chemicals and preservatives in your pet’s diet.  Many of the healthiest commercial foods available do not have life-stage diets – don’t let this keep you from feeding your pet the best diet possible.

Nosodes – fact or fiction?

Nosodes are a type of homeopathic vaccination that will not cause the potential side-effects of traditional vaccines – see vaccine reactions .  Nosodes are made from exudates or discharges from an infected animal.  These substances are diluted to a degree such that there is no real biological substance remaining.  The reasons that nosodes cause fewer side-effects include:

1. There are no toxic preservatives or carriers that can cause the reactions seen when traditional vaccines are given. 

2. Nosodes are given on the mucous membranes of the mouth which is a more natural route of exposure than traditional vaccines, which are injected. 

When an unknown substance is injected into the body, there is often no established way for the body to deal with it at that level.  This causes unusual inflammatory reactions that can result in disease elsewhere in the body.  These reactions are not necessarily immediate, but can occur up to several months later, and recur on the anniversary date of the vaccine.

Nosodes do not generate a measurable antibody level in the blood, and can thus be a hard sell in traditional medicine.   There is, however, a great deal of clinical evidence from veterinarians that have used nosodes in clinical practice that they are equally as effective as vaccines, and most importantly, NO side effects.  I believe that a great deal of disease is caused by the overuse of vaccines in veterinary medicine.  If there is an alternative that is equally as effective, with no side effects, then it should be the treatment of choice.

Nosodes can also be used in the face of exposure, unlike traditional vaccines that are only effective if given in advance.  This is a huge advantage, especially in very contagious diseases such as kennel cough.

There are legal issues when it comes to vaccines, and Rabies is required by law in most places.  There is a homeopathic remedy called lyssin that can be given after the Rabies vaccine to help prevent adverse effects of the vaccine.

Nosodes can be a very effective alternative to traditional vaccinations.  A variety of different protocol have been used effectively, so it is best to treat your pet under the guidance of a holistic veterinarian.