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Choosing Healthier Treats For Our Pets

Choosing Healthier Treats For Our Pets

We certainly wouldn’t want to feed our favorite, four-legged friends trash, so we want their treats to be the very best that money can buy. Many us remember recent headlines about dog treats being recalled due to multiple illnesses and deaths amongst our pets blamed on these products. These so-called treats seem to be centered around jerky-type pet foods, chews, toys and treats coming from places like China.

Always read the label…….

Reading labels is always a good place to start when buying products for our pets, but sometimes it’s unclear where these treats were actually produced. While the name brand on the package may sound American enough, it still could be manufactured somewhere outside of the United States where the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has no jurisdiction, control over the ingredients, how they’re packaged, preservatives used, etc.

For these reasons, many pet owners have opted for more natural and healthier options when it comes to treating our beloved animals. Some of us may not know that many cats and dogs actually enjoy consuming fruits and vegetables as opposed to pre-packaged treats that may (or not) contain meat.

Let’s first take a look at which of these “people foods” are good for our pets……

● Apples (careful of the skin, seeds, stem and other parts of the core that could pose a choking hazard)

● Apricots (same warning with the rest of the fruits listed below)

● Bananas and Blueberries (careful with too many blueberries that could cause an upset stomach or other unpleasant reaction)

● Cantaloupes and cranberries

● Mangoes and Pears (yummy for the tummy)

● Pumpkin (solid-pack only without added sugar and salt is great for animals with digestive issues or having trouble “passing” something)

● Raspberries and Strawberries (with tiny, unremovable seeds, keep portions down)

● Watermelon (especially during summer months, containing 90% water, they’re very refreshing during this much warmer time of the year)

●Beware of citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes and even pineapple) since these can cause stomach problems due to their acidic nature.

 

Things we shouldn’t be giving our pets…..

When it comes to vegetables, avoid adding salt and fats (like butter or oil). Great options include steamed or raw asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, spinach and many other veggies. Celery and carrots, especially given to pets in a raw form, helps them with healthier teeth and gums, not to mention all the vitamins and minerals they pack into a very small serving.

According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), we already know we should avoid giving table scraps to our pets. But these are also on the radar for any of these other types of food that can be hazardous or even deadly on some circumstances:

Seriously, don’t give your pets the things below this line…..

● Anything containing alcohol (for obvious reasons)

● Avocadoes (although they don’t produce many problems with dogs and cats, they’ve been problematic with other animals and are high in fat – not worth the risk)

● Coconut Oil (the jury is still out since many swear by the attributes of this tropical treat, but many say excessive consumption of these oils can cause digestive issues)

● Grapes and Raisins (scientists haven’t been able to identify an unknown substance in grapes and raisins that causes kidney failure in many pets)

● Nuts (especially fatty ones like the Macadamia variety that causes numerous problems with pets, almost too many to list)

● Onions, Garlic and Chives (another acidic culprit that can cause a lot of damage to a pet’s innards even in small amounts)

We all know better than to give our pets chocolate, but this also includes foods that contain caffeine, which has the same type of adverse reaction with our pets that could be deadly dependent upon the dosage. A Cautionary Tale

Yo. Call your vet first…..

As always, please check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s food intake, daily dietary requirements or treats to ensure they’re safe for your best friend. Also, when introducing new choices into your pet’s palate, start off with small amounts to make sure they tolerate them and don’t have any kind of adverse or allergic reaction to these new foods no matter how healthy they seem.

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation

 

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Pet Massage

Cat getting massage

Cat getting massage

Yup, you read correctly. The latest thing in caring for your pet is pet massage. Before you convince yourself it is useless, let me assure you, it has been proven to have positive benefits, just as it does for humans. First of all, it can help strengthen the bond between you and your pet. It has also been known to relieve some pain in the instance of arthritis, muscle stiffness, or pain from previous injury. Massage can stretch the muscles and relax inflamed areas to relieve the stress that is causing pain.

Before you decide that it’s not worth trying, I suggest going to get a massage yourself. If done correctly I guarantee you will feel refreshed and energized. After receiving one yourself if you still believe it’s not worth the trouble, than it’s of course not for you.

If you do decide you like this option for your pet, there are a couple ways to handle it. You can talk to your vet (which is always a good idea for any decision), search for a pet massage therapist in your area, or look up the techniques yourself on the internet. Your vet may be able to do some massage in the office or suggest someone in your area.

If you are going to do it yourself, please do lots of research, done the wrong way massage can cause injury. Here is a website that has quite a bit of information including videos that show you how to massage specific body parts. http://www.monkeysee.com/play/2163-how-to-massage-your-dog. A widely used technique is the T-Touch, or the Tellington Touch named after Linda Tellington Jones. She has books and videos on how she has used this technique to help and comfort animals with both physical and mental conditions. Not only is it easy and effective, it is also safe to practice at home. She also does workshops. You can find more information at the website http://www.ttouch.com.

Best of luck to you and your pet!

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Hardest Decisions

old dog

old dogIf you have been caring for a sick or very old pet, the choice of putting them down may have come up or be in your near future. This is never a easy decision. Losing a member of your family is never something anyone wants to face. When considering euthanasia ask yourselves these questions:

Can your pet still be a pet?

Can they still do the activities that they love?

Are they able to “do their business” on their own?

Do they stand and move around, or spend most of their time in one spot?

Has there been dramatic weight loss that can’t be changed, even with a good appetite?

Do they avoid others or hide when they would usually not?

Do they have a condition that can no longer be treated due to severity or cost to you?

Do you just feel as though they are unhappy and miserable all the time?

If you have asked yourself these questions, and found the answers unfavorable, you may need to seriously consider putting down your animal. It’s never an easy thing, and in the end it is really up to you, the owner. If your pet can live the remainder is his life comfortably, then by all means don’t do it. If you’re watching your beloved pet suffer daily, perhaps ending his misery is a better choice. Talk to your vet as this is never a decision to be entered into lightly. God bless you and your pet, and may he be with you during this difficult time.

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Natural Options for Fleas

itching dog

itching dogIf you have a problem with fleas making a meal of your canine friend, but are looking for an option that doesn’t consist of putting harsh chemicals on your pet, here are some tips for you!

Instead of over the counter chemicals and drops, try essential oils! You can use red thyme, cedar wood, citronella, or (my favorite) peppermint oil! Just remember that essential oils are concentrated so try to keep contact with your pet’s skin to a minimal as it may cause a reaction.

One thing you can do is put the oil on a bandana or cloth around the animal’s neck (loose of course as to not chock them!). This will work similar to a flea collar. Of course just like a flea collar there is an entire rest of your pet those pesky fleas may still find appealing. If this is the case with your pet, here is a recipe for a natural pest repellant. (This recipe is for a large dog)

Two or three drops of essential oil (any of the above listed)

One cup of distilled water. Spring water may be used as well.

Put into a spray bottle, shake well, and apply to your pets coat before walks or prolonged periods of being outside.

You may need to try each above listed oil before you find one that works best for you.

Here are a few precautions to remember:

Essential oils are TOXIC TO CATS. Use on canines only.

Watch for signs your dog isn’t feeling well after application, this could mean he is having a reaction. Chemically sensitive dogs may get nausea or headaches.

Do not let your pet, or children, chew on the cloth or bandana! Essential oils may cause diarrhea or vomiting if ingested. This is more likely in pets with sensitive tummies.

Enjoy your pest free pet!

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Safe Dog Chews

kong toy chew

kong toy chewIf your dog is the type that likes to chew (most dogs do) you might be wondering what chew toys, rawhides, ect, would be a safe option for your pet. After talking to a vet and doing a little research on the subject, here is what I have found.

Most vets recommend that you stay away from rawhides, pig ears, pig hooves, deer antlers, sterilized marrow bones, and bully sticks. These can lead to an intestinal blockage in some (some, not all) dogs.

When deciding what type of chew toy you need to know if your dog gulps things down, this means, even if the chew toy is strong, your pet could potentially swallow pieces too large to pass through his system. Dog stomach acid is much stronger than ours and can digest a lot, but not everything.

If you choose to go with a rawhide, the most recommended type is C.E.T. Hextra Dog Chews. They contain chlorhexidine, which is an oral antiseptic and can help control dental disease. They are also must less likely to cause intestinal issues.

Kong Toys seem to be the most recommended chew toy. It comes in many different colors, sizes, shapes, and strength. You can get ones the hold treats, food, or even ones that you fill with water and freeze. These will keep your dog happy for hours. Just be sure you get a strength that is not too hard or soft for your pet.

There are other brands that may not satisfy the need to chew but are great for cleaning his teeth. If your pet doesn’t really chew but likes to play, that might be a better option as Kongs can get expensive.

Another option is C.E.T. VeggieDent chew treats. They are like a cross between Greenies and Listerine. They are usually consumed quickly so you are not something you want to give your pet often. They are great to freshen breath and clean your pet’s teeth.

There was a lot of warning for sterilized marrow bones. They are the most common cause of slab fractures in your dog’s teeth.

The best thing you can do is know your pet, ask your vet for ideas, and watch them to make sure you made the right choice for them. Happy chewing!

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Controlling Cats and Clawing

Cat with claws out

One of the hardest things to do is train your cat. However, most of the time, it can be done. Here are a couple tips I have learned to help control and “train” your cat. As much as they allow you to train them. The great thing about cats is they defiantly have personality, although part of that personality can often be stubbornness. If you are taking on this project I wish you luck and hope these tips work for you as they have for me.

One thing you can do when a cat is doing something you don’t want them to, is make a hissing sound and sort of run at them. This is startle them. Another thing you can do is buy a spray bottle and spray them while making a hissing sound when they are doing something you don’t want to do. Of course this only works if your cat is typical and does not like water. If you already noticed the pattern it is the hissing sound. I’ve learned by combining these 3 in random patterns I can get my cats to stop doing pretty much anything at this point by simply making the hissing sound, the rest is no longer required.

Although the above tricks are things that work for me and should work for you, sometimes you just cannot help having to do slightly meaner things to get them to cooperate. They do make a pad that will send an uncomfortable but not hurtful shock through kitty if they climb on something you don’t want them on or in. Something else that is now made, is a low voltage shock collar that has a button you can push to again stop them from doing whatever they were not supposed to be doing.

Hopefully you will try the less harsh treatments first before submitting your animal to anything unpleasant. Whatever you do, best of luck and I hope you found some working ideas from my efforts. It is also very important for your cats to be wearing pet tags in case the are lost.

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Hypothermia, Frostbite, and your pet

Dog in snow

Hypothermia and frostbite are two possible problems; your pet can suffer from during the winter months.

Both may occur when your pet has been exposed to the cold for too long, and although hypothermia and frostbite are mostly treatable, they may leave lasting tissue damage if the symptoms are not noticed and treated right away.

Which pets are most susceptible you ask?
• Short or thin haired pets;
• small dogs;
• wet pets;
• pets sensitive to cold weather; and
• Pets that are outdoors for extended periods of time, and do not have access to a warm and dry shelter.

Why- because for some reason (perhaps an environmental, genetic or health reason) these pets find it difficult to keep their little bodies at a normal temperature than pets who are made to withstand cold weather.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when your pet’s temperature drops, and stays, below the normal range of 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

When your pet suffers from hypothermia he/she is losing body heat faster than he/she can replace it. One way this happens is when your pet is walking around outside, the heat from his paws will (rather quickly) transfer to the freezing cold ground he is walking on. On a very cold day your pet wouldn’t even need to take very many steps before your pets paws are freezing cold from him/her not being able to replace that heat in his paws before it is again.

In cold weather your pet will be constantly trying to regulate and maintain his/her body temperature. The way pets regulate their body temperature is by conserving body heat or by creating more body heat. The main ways for them to do this are similar to how we would react to cold weather:
• shivering is the primary way pets use to produce heat;
• Piloerectionis the dog equivalent to goose bumps. Basically your dog’s hairs will stand on end, trapping a layer of warmed air beneath them helping them conserve heat. Vasoconstriction is another way your dog can conserve heat, and it’s when his/her blood vessels narrow and restrict the amount of blood that flows through them. The purpose of vasoconstriction is to help keep the blood flowing the most to the parts of your pet’s body that are most important for his/her survival at the expense of the “losable” areas.

The symptoms of hypothermia include:
• shivering
• lethargy (abnormal drowsiness, or sluggishness)
• muscle stiffness
• lack of co-ordination
• low heart and breathing rates
• fixed and dilated pupils
• collapse
• coma

With mild Hypothermia your pet will be lethargic and shivering. If you notice an increased amount or other symptoms, quick treatment is necessary or Hypothermia can be fatal. Remember at the later stages, your pet is restricting blood flow to things like toes, legs, ears, ect.

Treating hypothermia

The treatment for hypothermia is mainly warming your pet up so that his core temperature returns to normal.

If you are out with your pet and you notice symptoms, you need to prevent him from losing greater amounts of body heat. This is easier with a small pet you can pick up and use your body heat to warm them while you make your way home. With a larger pet, the best you can do is get home as quick as possible.

Here some ways to treat it:

If your pet is suffering from mild hypothermia, he’s shivering and his muscles seem stiff, try to move him to a warm room where the floor is well insulated (areas with carpet are usually good) and wrap your pet in a warm dry blanket. Though warming the blanket first will warm him too quickly. Do these until you notice him shivering less and moving better. The only way to be sure his temperature is back to normal is by taking his temperature.

For moderately severe hypothermia(meaning your dog’s body temperature is around 90 – 94 degrees Fahrenheit) you will need to re-warm him, he cannot do it without help.

Re-warming techniques include using hot water bottles, warmed towels, heating lamps, warm baths, and hairdryers or heating pads. Don’t be tempted to use hot water in an attempt to warm your dog up more quickly because you can much too easily burn his skin. The water temperature should only be a few degrees above your pet’s normal body temperature, which is about 103 – 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

As you are warming your pet take care. He may be nip or snap as he is unsure what is happening to him and can become agitated.

Severe hypothermia requires immediate treatment from your vet!

Hypothermia can leave lasting damage. The lack of oxygenated blood flowing to your pet’s body tissue may cause that tissue to breakdown. The extent of damage will depend on how long your pet has been suffering from hypothermia.

If you have treated your pet for Hypothermia please be sure to take him to the vet for a checkup soon after.

Preventing hypothermia
• Don’t leave your pet outside for extended periods of time without giving him access to a warm dry shelter
• If you decide to take your dog out during cold weather, do it in smaller amounts and consider investing in a coat and booties for your dog
• Try to ensure your pet is NEVER outdoors for very long when wet.
• If your dog is sensitive to the cold, only let him outside to do his business and bring him right back in.

Frostbite

Frostbite is the name given to tissue damage that is caused by exposure to extremely cold conditions.

As we discussed above, your pet conserves heat by reducing the amount of blood flow to the peripheral parts of his body. These include his ears, paws and tail.A lack of blood to these areas of warmth and oxygen, cause ice crystals to form in the tissue which can then cause that tissue to die.

Symptoms of frostbite

It’s not easy to spot frostbite when the areas affected are covered in hair. However, a sign to look for is very pale skin (where you can see it) which is also very cold to the touch.

The areas usually affected are the ears, toes, paws and even the “private area” of males.

As the skin warms it will become redden and swollen, and be can be very painful for your pet. After a few days the skin will dry up and can look scaly. Depending on severity, frostbitten, dead tissue will slowly turn black and eventually come off.

Treating frostbite

Frostbitten areas need to be warmed quickly, using similar methods to those used for treating moderate hypothermia.

Resist the urge to rub or massage the affected area. This can do more harm than good. Massaging may release toxins that can further damage the tissue.

Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible so that he can start monitoring your pet to determine the extent of any tissue damage. This monitoring can sometimes last several days (so please be patient) as it can take time for the severity of the frostbite to be revealed. During this time your vet is likely to prescribe pain killers and even antibiotics to help ease your pet’s pain. Your vet may even look into removing any black or damaged tissue.

In severe cases of frostbite your pet may need to have a limb, or part of a limb, removed. The reason amputation is necessary, is because the dead and dying tissue will attract bacteria which can be life threatening for your pet.

Preventing frostbite

Just like with hypothermia, the way to prevent frostbite is to take precautions and prevent your pet from being outside, in freezing temperatures, for extended lengths of time.

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Pet Insurance

Veterinarian Petting Dog

I have noticed that owning pets can become costly. If you are a pet owner this is something you have no doubt noticed as well. Especially if your pet has some sort of medical problem. What a lot of pet owners do not have, is pet insurance. While I am sure you have heard about it, most people have never looked into the cost and benefits of having it. I have done some research and this is what I have discovered. Now obviously, if you only need to take your pet in once a year and occasionally for a small problem here or there, there is no need for this added expense.

 

However, if your pet needs costly medication, yearly blood work, and x-rays on top of that yearly appointment, pet insurance is defiantly something you should look into. I have found you can usually find a basic plan for one animal at around $25-$30 per month. So all together we are talking around $300-360 a year. Most of the plans you can find will cover basic exams, 2 per year blood work, and most vaccines as well as heartworm tests ect. Some have a deductible and some do not. If you do the research you can find a company with a plan that is suitable for you. To some people spending $360 a year may sound like way too much money for an animal. On the other hand once you have added up the cost of office visits, blood tests, medication and all the other expenses $360 may not sound so bad.

 

Really in the end it’s up to you to make the best decision for you and your pet.  And as always,  make sure your pets are wearing Pet ID Tags.

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Dog ear Infections

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Every dog has some bacteria and yeast in their ears. Sometimes this balance can be thrown off, which can lead to an ear infection. This over growth can be very uncomfortable and even painful for your dog. It can even lead to hearing loss if left untreated for too long. Your dogs ear infection can last anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks. As always it is important to check with your vet for proper treatment.

If an ear infection is very severe your dog may yelp when it is touched or whine when itching his/her ear. Ear infections are easily treated if you know what you are looking for, I will try to give you the information to tell the difference between an ear infection, ear mites, or allergies.

Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Discharge from the ears will usually be black or yellow and chunky, the discharge may even contain blood.
  • If you notice excessive scratching, rubbing, or shaking of the head. You may also notice head tilting.
  • Redness and swelling may be noticed in the inner ear flap or the ear canal.
  • You may notice an unusual or foul smelling odor coming from your pets ears.
  • Eye movements that seem abnormal from left to right (or right to left)

You may also notice your pet seeming off balance. Head shaking can cause tissue damage leading to blood-filled blisters.

Swimming, dogs with allergies, and dogs that grow hair in the inner ear are more prone to ear infections.

 

Signs it is ear mites or caused by allergies:

Mites may become present if an ear infection is present. Often times the two are confused because they have similar symptoms. It is important to treat ear mites right away because they attack the blood vessels in your dogs ears. If your dog has ear mites, keep your eyes open for mite feces or eggs. Ear mites are more common in puppies. The only way to be sure if it’s ear mites, is a trip to your vet.

Dogs may develop an ear infection due to allergies. If you notice your pet wheezing, sneezing, if they have watery eyes, or if you notice excessive itching it could be an allergy.

Ear infection medical treatments:

  • Otomax ear drops-treats acute and chronic ear infections
  • Cephalexin antibiotics-used for serious skin infections
  • Mometamax ear drops-Once a day infection treatment
  • Baytril Otic-treats outer ear infections
  • Mita-clear –used for ear mites

 

Home treatments:

  • Warm compress-apply the towel to the outside of the ear and press down for 30 seconds. Can be repeated a few times a day
  • Green Tea-steep a few bags in boiling water, cool completely, and use to flush ears twice a day, or use as a towel compress
  • Vinegar-mix one part white or apple cider vinegar and two parts warm water. Apply with a spray bottle (set on mist) or a warm cloth and dab dry. This can be done 2-4 times a week. Do not use this method with open sores.
  • Vitamin E Oil-Gently massage a few drops into the ear for 10-25 seconds.
  • Garlic Oil-Apply 2-3 drops and massage for 10-25 seconds. Garlic is a natural antibiotic.

 

These supplements may also help:

  • Probiotics
  • Enzymes
  • Fatty acids
  • Antioxidants

Please remember that although some of these may help, the best course of action is always to contact your vet.

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Dogs and Arthritis

old dog

old dog

 

It is always a sad experience to hear your beloved pet has arthritis. The good news is there are some ways you can make your pet more comfortable. The first step to understanding how to help your animal, is understanding what it is you are dealing with.

Arthritis is a painful yet common condition usually (as with people) in older dogs. It causes swelling of the joints. One in Five adult dogs are affected by arthritis. There are two types of arthritis in canines. These are known as degenerative and inflammatory. However the symptoms for both are basically identical.

Symptoms of canine arthritis:

Weight loss/gain- Your dog may lose or gain weight if they are suffering from arthritis. Depression is another symptom which may also cause your pet to eat more or less than normal.

Difficulty sitting/standing- If you notice your pet shifting a lot while laying down, or taking longer than normal to stand, this too could be caused by arthritis. It is very painful and can make it very difficult for your dog to get comfortable.

Hesitancy to climb stairs/jump or play- When suffering from arthritis you may notice your pet is no longer jumping on the couch/bed to sit or lie with you. He/she may also stand at the bottom of stairs and take a more zigzagged approach to climbing them. Some animals will refuse to climb them all together. You may also notice your pet less willing to play their favorite game, or take that evening walk than previous times. Even coming to get a treat may seem like it’s a chore for them.

Limping or favoring a limp- Of course this could mean they hurt themselves somehow and should never be disregarded. You may notice your pet first limping to baby one leg, then switching to baby another. If it is arthritis you will notice the lameness come and go, and often switch limbs.

Sleeping more than usual- You dog may sleep often to dull the pain he/she is in. Lethargy is a common symptom of arthritis.

Changes in mood- Your pet may all of a sudden stop listening when called and seem reluctant to move. He/she may become easily agitated and growl, whine, nip, or show his teeth when touched or forced into an activity. This is because of the pain so please try to be understanding. These aggressive behaviors are more likely to happen, to those who are not “his people”. Your pet may also become ill due to arthritis and you may notice a fever, or your pet may lick certain spots often trying to relieve the pain, these areas, when touched, may feel warmer due to the swelling.

There are a ton of supplements and even medications you can buy to help your animal. There is even the possibility your pet may need surgery to get relief, depending on the severity of the case. Contact your vet and they will be able to point you in the right direction of what is best for your pet.