Features

Cut visits to the vet and turn the frown upside down on an unhappy pet by focusing on good dog and cat nutrition. We outline how to do that through nutritious treats for your pet.

If it is good for you, it is good for your pet.  Well, not exactly.

For dogs, I do recommend fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats as treats, but you should always avoid grapes, raisins, as well as, fresh onions and garlic.  I also recommend my dog patients stay away from tomatoes.

Dog and cat nutrition: Comfort food

Giving your dog comfort foods once in a while can be okay, in moderation. For instance, if you give your dog a bite of pizza crust every now and then (not the whole slice), it won’t hurt him as long as he is not overweight or doesn’t have any underlying medical issues.

 

For cats, only use protein such as plain chicken or turkey as a treat.

Dog and cat nutrition: Read the ingredients

For both dogs and cats, commercial pet treats are always an option. Read the labels. Treats should be made in the USA, and I recommend whole food products with the fewest number of ingredients. Avoid by-products, gluten and grain-based products such as corn or soy. (And, I use the same guidelines in choosing a commercial brand for their regular meals). When it comes to commercial treat brands, here a couple brands I’ve found to be good from a nutritional standpoint:

  1. Steve’s Real Food for dogs and cats www.stevesrealfood.com
  2. CloudStar https://www.cloudstar.com/

To keep your dog or cat healthy, what treat you give them is important. How you give it to them is also important. For healthy treating, the key is moderation—too much of a good thing is never a good thing.

For more information, read part 1 and part 2 of the series.

 

-Juli Potter, DVM 

Cut visits to the vet and turn the frown upside down on an unhappy pet by focusing on good dog and cat nutrition. We outline how to do that by feeding supplements for your pet.

Have you ever noticed the supplements shelf at your local pet store and wondered if you should be giving them to your dog or cat? Or, maybe your pet is already on a supplement, but you aren’t sure how to tell if it is doing any good. Dog and cat nutrition is more nuanced than you might think. While commercial pet food must meet basic regulated standards, the truth is that most pets on a commercial diet would benefit from a good multivitamin everyday.  Prebiotics or probiotics and joint supplements can also promote overall health. In fact, good-quality supplements can be beneficial for your dog or cat in both health and disease states.

Dog and cat nutrition: supplements

If your dog or cat has a disease, supplements can be an important part of their treatment plan.  For example, fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories that can help treat skin, joint, heart, or kidney disease, as well as behavior disorders.  Glucosamine products can help protect the joints in the presence of osteoarthritis (OA) and they have been shown to help treat cystitis in cats. When it comes to liver disease, there are several liver supplements, such as S-Adenosyl-Methionine aka SAMe and milk thistle, that help protect the liver and prevent further damage.  SAMe has also been proven to be helpful in the face of OA and cognitive dysfunction.  L-Theanine has been shown to help with anxiety in both dogs and cats.

Prebiotics and probiotics can supplement prescribed treatments to aid in GI, urinary and renal disease.  I prefer prebiotics over probiotics; unstable probiotic bacteria can make it unreliable, whereas a plant-based prebiotic feeds your pet’s own good bacteria to stimulate a healthy gut and immune system. With prebiotics, you can help build a healthy gut biome without adding foreign bacteria.

Make sure you do your research before adding a supplement to your dog or cat’s diet.  Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so I recommend choosing a supplement endorsed by the National Animal Supplement Counsel (NASC) https://nasc.cc. The mission of the NASC is to ensure animal supplements are safe, high-quality products. NASC members are required to have their facilities regularly audited.  You can spot endorsed products because of the NASC seal on the label and the members listed on the NASC website.

Dog and cat nutrition: Research vet and product

In determining which products are optimal for your dog or cat, also consider the credentials of the people who create and recommend them. For example, the founder and President of In Clover, Rebecca Rose, is a biochemist who worked in the health-care research industry for many years before developing supplements for small animals.  She is also a board member of the NASC. In addition, you can get supplement recommendations from veterinarians who have experience with putting their pet patients on them. My clients have taken supplements from several different manufacturers such as Vetriscience, Nutramax labs and most recently, In Clover.

Sometimes it is difficult to know if a supplement is working.  Usually, supplements are part of a multi-modal treatment plan, so how can you be sure?  There have been some reports by my clients who claim that their dog seems more comfortable after starting a joint supplement.  Some studies have shown that fatty acids help to decrease the symptoms of inhalant allergies after chronic use.  After taking liver supplements, some animals have shown a drop in liver enzymes on a blood profile. Since it is difficult to tell and your pet can’t tell you, it takes close watching for behavior and physical cues as well as diagnostic testing.

My philosophy is “above all else, do not harm.” If a supplement is safe and will not cause harm, I always recommend adding one, when appropriate to the treatment plan. You should check with your vet about specific supplements that they recommend to help optimize your dog and cat’s nutrition. You can also always speak with a vet at Ask.Vet for advice on your specific situation by texting VET to 67076, or visiting https://ask.vet for more information.

-Juli Potter, DVM

For more information, read part 1 and part 3 of the series.

Cut visits to the vet and turn the frown upside down on an unhappy pet by focusing on good dog and cat nutrition. We outline how to do that through nutritious meals for your pet.

Did you know that feeding your dog or cat high quality pet food with whole-food ingredients can prevent chronic health issues such as diabetes mellitus, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, renal and urinary disease, osteoarthritis, and other complications?  Your pet’s wellness over a lifetime depends on a good diet. Choosing a good diet will likely minimize visits to the vet and all the associated cost and discomfort that go along with that. In fact, making good lifestyle choices for your pet is an investment in a long, happy and healthy relationship together. Unfortunately, choosing a good dog or cat food is not as simple as it sounds.

While the Association of the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets the nutritional standards for commercial pet foods, determining the amounts of grains, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals needed for different animal species, it’s important to keep in mind that a variety of whole, fresh foods are important to a dog and cat’s nutrition requirements. For instance, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require an animal-based protein source, good quality fats and low carbohydrates/grains. Dry food, which is mostly grain based, should be limited or avoided in cats for this reason. In fact for both dogs and cats, I typically recommend good quality canned food over dry food.

I recommend always reading the label when buying commercial pet food. There are several things I consider when choosing a food for a dog or cat. First, the food must be made in the USA. I also prefer fresh, whole ingredients and limited grains. The protein source should be animal based such as chicken or beef and not plant based such as soy or corn. Ideally, the first 3 ingredients should be a named meat and not a meat by product.  The fewer manufactured ingredients listed, the better.

Sample ingredient list from pet food to avoid in dog and cat nutrition:

Beef meal, peas, cracked pearled barley, pea flour, ground white rice, chicken fat, fish meal, pea protein, dried beet pulp, egg product, natural flavor, flaxseed, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, kale, chia seed, pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, quinoa, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus reuteri fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, beta carotene, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.

Raw or Homemade?

Raw, frozen diets are a good option for owners who are willing to give it a try. Good alternatives to raw frozen include dehydrated/freeze-dried diets. Another good option is making your pet’s meals yourself. When you decide to give your pet a homemade diet, make sure you use a reliable resource for balancing the nutrition to make sure they are getting everything they need.

Resources for raw, frozen and freeze-dried diets:

Resources for homemade diets:

  • com https://www.petdiets.com/
  • com https://secure.balanceit.com/
  • com http://www.susanwynn.com/
  • The Whole Dog Journal https://www.whole-dog-journal.com

If your pet has medical concerns or you have diet-related questions, your veterinarian is always a good resource. You can also text VET to 67076 and a veterinarian at Ask.Vet can help you navigate pet food questions. Other good resources include Petdiets.com and Balanceit.com, and several veterinary schools have a nutrition center for pet owners, Ohio State University, Tufts, and University of California, Davis, to name a few. Finally, the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition lists resources for veterinarians, students and pet owners.

Dog and Cat Nutrition Resources

I’m hoping these recommendations will help you choose your pet’s diet wisely. Stay tuned. In parts two and three in our nutrition series for cats and dogs we will be discussing supplements and treats.

For more information, read part 2 and part 3 of the series.

-Juli Potter, DVM

Pet training doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow these 11 steps to make your dog sit, come, heel and much more!

Do you have a dog that needs to learn some manners or a new pup you’d like to show a few tricks? Dogs of any age can learn, and you can train them if you use patience and rewards. Make pet training fun for you and your dog.

Pet training in 11 easy steps

These eleven steps will help your dog learn your commands in no time.

  1. Train everyday, two to three times per day, five to ten minutes each session.Break up your training sessions—conduct them in approximately four-hour intervals to maximize efficiency for learning.
  2. First, train the commands come, sit, stay, down, and heel. Once your dog becomes efficient with a command, be progressively more demanding, for instance the length of time he sits or adding the next command or changing up the environment. If the dog fails at any level, stop. Don’t reward the dog. Start again where your dog was last successful. After your dog does that command correctly, progress forward with his training. You may find that your dog’s motivation to perform decreases as the complexity of the task increases. When that occurs, start again where your dog was last successful.
  3. Use one-word commands. It is easy to talk too much to your dog. If you do, the command you are trying to teach gets lost in all the verbiage and makes it difficult for your dog to know what you want. Only use your dog’s name to get its attention. Do not combine the dog’s name with the command, as it increases confusion.

  1. There are two methods to teach your dog a behavior, food lure and shaping. An example of a food lure is holding a food treat at the tip of your dog’s nose and slowly raising the treat over his head. As the treat lures the dog’s nose up, his rear will fall to the ground in a sit position. At this point, you give him the treat as a reward. With shaping, you wait for a behavior to happen and reward it as it happens. This technique is frequently used in clicker training, where the trainer indicates target behaviors for the dog with an immediate click on a clicker and a subsequent reward—the dog learns to associate the clicker sound with desired behaviors.Regardless of the method you use, once your dog is reliably performing the behavior, add the command. Initially, say the command as the dog is performing the behavior so that he associates the behavior with the word. Once you teach a command, never repeat the command more than twice; doing so will teach your dog that the command is “Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit”, not “Sit!” If you ask your dog to “sit,” and he doesn’t respond the first time, use a food prompt/lure to get the behavior to happen and then reward him. Never give a command unless you know you can make it happen!
  2. When teaching a new behavior, train your dog in a quiet environment with few distractions. Once your dog learns the behavior in that situation, start training in progressively more stimulating environments. In each new environment, you will want to train your dog as if he has never heard the command before. But the more you do this, the quicker the dog will catch on and soon, he will be able to do it anywhere.
  3. Appropriate responses should be rewarded within ½ second of the behavior.

  1. Your dog will learn more rapidly if you reward every desired response as he is learning. Once your dog has learned the behavior, reward intermittently. Intermittent reinforcement makes a learned behavior more permanent and less likely to be forgotten.
  2. Use very small pieces of food, no bigger than ½ the size of your fingernail, to reward desired responses. As the training progresses, mix up the type of rewards given. Reserve the most valued rewards, i.e., food, for the most difficult tasks. When your dog does really well, give him a “jackpot” – a handful of treats!
  3. Once your dog has learned the command from one person, have other members of the family train him to respond to them. If your dog knows the commands well, this should not take long.
  4. The longer your dog has had an unwanted behavior, the longer it takes to recondition it.
  5. I do not recommend the use of punishment when teaching new behaviors. Punishment is actually used to stop a behavior from occurring. Usually, it is very difficult to administer punishment correctly. In order for punishment to work, it must be administered within ½ second of the unwanted behavior, every single time the behavior occurs, and with the proper intensity to stop the behavior. This must be done without inducing fear or fear aggression. If not used correctly, punishment may potentially increase anxiety, induce fear and induce or worsen aggression. If you totally ignore unwanted behavior and the dog gets no inherent reward in performing it, it will eventually stop! So, if your dog is doing unwanted behavior that can be ignored, ignore it! If you cannot ignore the behavior, interrupt the behavior by clapping your hands or whistling or making a loud noise, to get your dog’s attention. Once you have the dog’s attention, give him a command, such as come and then sit, make sure he performs the command by using a food lure and then reward him for the appropriate behavior.
  6. Have fun. Training should be fun for both you and your dog. Your goal should be to always practice success.

Pet training can make your relationship stronger

To that end, always start from the place of last accomplishment and reinforce your dog’s behavior with positive incentives and rewards, but most importantly enjoy the journey and the relationship you are creating with you dog—investing the time and effort to train your dog properly is worth it.

 

– Juli Potter, DVM

We spoke with a veterinarian to bust the myths of healthy pet food and to tell us once and for all what’s safe for our pets and what isn’t.

With so much information on the internet, it can be really confusing for new pet owners to figure out what’s the best food for their pet. With the overwhelming amount of information and research, sometimes it feels like there’s more bad stuff out there than good.

The myth about grain-free food

In the pet owner community, you often hear how grain-free food is good for pets. But that’s nothing more than a myth. Extensive research reveals that while a grain-free diet doesn’t hurt animals, it doesn’t benefit them much either.

Grains are not a common allergen in pets, and because of this, they are considered a “safe” food for animals with food allergies.

Common food allergens

The number one food allergen in both dogs and cats is beef. The second is dairy products.

According to PetMD, “In a study of 278 cases of food allergies in dogs where the problem ingredient was clearly identified, beef was by far the biggest culprit (95 cases). Dairy was number two with 55 cases. Wheat came in third with 42 cases.” Contrary to popular opinion, soy and corn barely accounted for food allergies in the study.

It’s important to identify food allergies in your pet as early as possible. If it isn’t obvious what your pet is allergic to, make an appointment with a vet who will do allergy testing of multiple food groups in a controlled environment.

Study the ingredients

Read beyond the label at the front of the box food you’re purchasing for your pet and look at the ingredients on the back as well. You’d be surprised to find some unexpected ingredients there mixed in that are not reflected on the front label. We’ve often caught chicken or beef written at the back of a can for salmon, so don’t just go with what’s written on the front.

Don’t fall for gimmicks

One thing that pet owners often fall while food shopping for food are gimmicks like “gluten-free” or “grain-free”. These are usually pulled from trends in human eating and research, but do not have much application in the animal world. You can always do a quick Google search in the store to see if they’re relevant to your pet.

Search for the AAFCO label

Veterinarian Dr Gardner advises pet owners to look for food labeled from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). She says, “AAFCO governs what goes into food. Any foods that are stamped with that label means they have been quality- control sampled so they are balanced. They are a complete nutritional option for your pet. AAFCO labels ensure that the food are of good quality. They will be a balanced meal with a good protein source, carbohydrate source and fats. They will also contain a strong trace of minerals and vitamins that every dog will need to sustain good health. So as long as you have that stamp on the product you’re picking up, you’ll know that’s a good quality food.”

You can find a statement and logo from AAFCO certifying the food is nutritionally balanced on the packaging – usually on the top left or right corner.

Wet food or Kibble?

There’s basically two kinds of food for pets – the wet food that comes in cans, and dry kibble. Between the two, veterinarians advise giving kibble or dry food to your pet. They aren’t as high in fats and carbs as canned food, and they last longer.

Do not rule out canned food completely, since you can give it as a treat once in awhile. Food in a can usually lasts for 36 hours once open while an open kibble box lasts much longer. More importantly, your dog feels fuller and more satisfied afterwards after a kibble meal.