We love our pets as much as we love our children and we want them to eat the best quality food possible. Does this mean that we should be cooking for our pets or buying them a raw or high-end diet? It is important to know that most pet food companies put a lot of research and effort into developing these diets specifically for dogs and cats. Their dietary requirements are different from ours and something as simple as excess nutrients can have an impact on a pet’s health.
This is especially important with homemade diets and raw foods, where the diet is not scientifically calibrated for a pet. When making a homemade diet for a pet, it is not sufficient to feed them a portion of a protein, a carbohydrate, and a vegetable each day. The diets need to be much more balanced and orchestrated than that. Some examples: excess sodium may play a role in heart failure and cause the progression of renal disease; and excess calcium may cause skeletal disease or urinary bladder stones. In large breed puppies, too much calcium can predispose to diseases like hip dysplasia. Magnesium, which is a nutrient we don’t traditionally think much about, can worsen feline lower urinary tract syndrome, which is an ailment many domestic cats struggle with. In general, the nutrients are more important than ingredients, despite the claims of the pet food companies that emphasize grain free, or no corn.
Corn is overall a great ingredient in pet food and it is low cost, making the foods more affordable. Corn provides good energy, fatty acids, and protein; it is a carbohydrate with the added power of vitamins and antioxidants because of the color (vs. rice with a general lack of color). There is no evidence that grains are bad for your pets. This is a marketing strategy employed by pet food companies that has become a fad in the pet food industry. Ingredients such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments count toward the protein level in pet foods, but they’re not good proteins.
The quality of the protein provided in the pet’s food is important. The higher the quality of the protein, the less of the actual protein you will need to include in the diet. For example, eggs offer a higher quality protein available to your pet than other products like wheat, rice or whole corn. Of the protein in an egg, your pet can use 94% of those proteins, compared to the amount in beef, chicken, or pork where only 74% of those meat’s proteins can be used. This does not mean chicken is a bad protein. It is still a great protein source, especially compared to something like rice, which only 64% of the protein is available to your pet. The quality of the protein is especially important in pets with kidney disease; the less protein volume a pet has, the less strain on those ailing kidneys.
Pet Food Labels:
When evaluating a pet food for your pet the first thing you want to look for on the bag is the AAFCO Statement. Check for it to say “feeding test” vs. “formulated”. Feeding test will indicate that the food was actually tested for a minimum of 6 months following requirements set by AAFCO before going on the shelf, whereas formulated indicates no testing was done. We are all in the habit of looking at the nutrition facts on our own food and the “guaranteed analysis” is the pet food equivalent, but it does not offer all of the same information. The analysis does not provide an actual percentage of a nutrient, just the minimum and maximum amount that could be found in that food.
Here are some guidelines for how they label foods to give you more of an idea of the actual content of the diet.
- If the food is called an “entree, dinner, formula”, 25-95% of that diet contains that ingredient. That is a large range! If the word “with” precedes an ingredient in the title, then only 3%-24% of the diet is made of that ingredient.
- If a diet is turkey “flavor”, then 3% or less of the food in the bag is actual turkey.
- If you are looking for a diet food, the label “light” has to follow AAFCO standards, “Lite” does not.
- To label a diet as “organic” it must have a USDA organic seal on it which indicates that 95% or more of the ingredients are truly organic. The diet does not have to be 100% organic to obtain the label!
- If a label says “organic ingredients” and does not have a seal visible on it, then that is not an organic diet.
- The term “natural” on the label would indicate that there are no chemical alterations to the food. However, it is important to note that GMO ingredients are not restricted from a natural diet, only from organic diets.
- If you are looking for a holistic diet, interestingly there is no legal definition, and this has no guarantee if you see it on a label.
- If you are hoping for a diet labeled as “human grade” then the USDA must monitor the entire production process and no pet food at this time qualifies as human grade.
Dr. Destiny Coleman
(with her dog, Rex)
This Fourth of July, it’s important to be prepared for all the celebrations, and not just in terms of fireworks and food. Read on to learn more about how to keep your pets safe and happy this Independence Day.
Make sure your pet has proper identification! A collar with an ID tag and accurate, up-to-date contact information is very helpful in the event that your pet accidentally escapes. Another option is to consider microchipping your pet. This is helpful if your pet’s collar comes off- if someone finds them, then they can take him/her to most shelters or veterinary hospitals and find your contact information just by scanning the microchip. An extra safety measure to help prevent a possible runaway is to make sure your yard or fencing is secure so that if your pet gets anxious or afraid and decides to make a break for it, they will at least be contained on your property. Extra Tip: Don’t change their diet! It could give your pet some unexpected tummy upset or diarrhea, and if your pet has an unknown noise anxiety, it might spell trouble later in the evening.
During the Festivities:
If you’re having a get-together or barbecue, it is good to keep your pets away from any grills or cooking areas to prevent any mishaps with hot surfaces or charcoal. The same should be done for any beverages or human food that may be around. Make sure that if you or neighbors are setting off fireworks that your dogs are indoors and/or away from any and all fireworks, sparklers, or glow sticks. The loud noises and lights can be frightening and disorienting. It’s also a good idea to ask your guests to help out in keeping an eye are your pets as well if they will be roaming around the house. If you’re going to be heading elsewhere for a celebration, make sure you pet-sitter has the information they need to care for your pet. Especially if your pet has known anxiety with loud noises or thunderstorms, your pet sitter will need to know how to best deal with that and know how best to keep your loved-one calm and happy.
After it all Dies Down:
After all the fun, of course, comes time to clean up! Not just for you, but for your pet as well. Make sure to get any and all food and beverage trash that might be lurking around waiting for a pet to get into. When you throw things away, also make sure that the trash is completely sealed and out of reach to your pets! If you had guests over and lit fireworks, it’s very important to go through your yard or property to properly dispose of any leftover debris. Even if you didn’t personally set off fireworks, other debris might have made its way into your yard.
Teresa Mundy, Boarding Technician and Social Media Coordinator
Valentine’s Day… a time of love letters, boxes of chocolate, giant teddy bears, and… a sick pet?! It only takes one moment to turn a great day into a disaster, but we’d like to help you avoid that altogether with some quick and easy to remember Valentine’s Day Pet Safety Tips! While you’re celebrating with your better half and showing them how much you care, make sure to show your pets how much you care for them, too. Follow these easy tips and tricks to make sure everyone feels the love this Valentine’s Day.
Chocolate is a year round hazard to pets, but on Valentine’s Day there always seems to be a lot more of it floating around. While sweet and delicious to us, chocolate contains stimulants called methylxanthines that, if ingested by your pets, will negatively affect their neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiac function by causing vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures, diarrhea, and an atypically increased heart rate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are higher in fats which can lead to life-threatening pancreas inflammation, while dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate have some of the highest levels of methylxanthines because of the high cacao percentage.
Don’t Break my Candy Heart
If you’re planning on getting your loved one gum, candies, or other sweet treats, make sure that they stay far from the reach of your pets! Candy is never recommended for consumption by our four-legged friends, but it is especially an issue when those sweets contain xylitol. This sugar substitute is very dangerous and potentially fatal to pets. If ingested, xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (a sudden drop in blood sugar), which can cause your pet to suffer from seizures, depression, and loss of coordination.
Flowers Aren’t a Cat’s Best Friend
Flowers and bouquets of all sorts are everywhere during Valentine’s Day. While not all flowers are toxic to pets, Lilies in particular are toxic to cats. They can cause kidney failure, lethargy, diarrhea, or vomiting. If you are unsure of what flowers are toxic or non-toxic- reference this handy ASPCA plant guide. Another flower that should be mentioned is the Rose. The flower itself isn’t toxic, but the spiny thorns pose a big threat. If ingested, bitten, or stepped on they can cause major infections if they break the skin.
You Got Me a What?!
Much like on Christmas, birthdays, and other gift-giving occasions, Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect day to surprise your loved one with that dog or cat they’ve always wanted. This can be an amazing experience- for the animal and your loved one, but make sure you are both prepared for what the idea of owning a pet means. Animals are a lifelong commitment that take time, patience, money, and attention. If you do decide to get a pet for someone, drop some subtle hints beforehand and make sure that they would be fully prepared and capable of taking care of a pet. An alternative to the “surprise, take care of this animal!” is to find out if your local shelter offers gift certificates; then you can go with your better half to the shelter and pick out a pet together!
- If you’re getting cozy by the fireplace, make sure your pet is cozy away from any flames!
- After you’re done opening gifts, make sure you properly dispose of all bows, wrapping
paper, ribbons, balloons and tape. Fun to look at, but not fun to ingest!
Extra: Show animals how much you love them, too!
- Visit a local shelter and spread the love by volunteering.
- Give your furry friend some pet-safe treats and toys:
Boarding Assistant & Social Media Coordinator
During the Winter months it’s easy to feel tired and a little blue because it’s so cold and the sun isn’t out as much. While we may be able to cope with the cold, our dogs have to rely on us to get them up and moving! There are plenty of indoor activities and remedies for the winter blues associated with the season. From doggie daycare to trick training sessions, rest-assured that your dog (and you) will keep yourselves active!
Brave the cold- take a nice walk outside!
A good amount of dogs will enjoy a nice walk in chilly weather. Although, please remember that the sidewalks are treated with salt and/or chemicals to help prevent any ice from forming, which can be harmful to your dog. Try booties to keep their paws safe, or rinse them off once you get home to stop irritation and keep them from ingesting any chemicals that may have been left behind. Lastly, if your dog has a short or thin coat of hair, consider having them wear a jacket or sweater.
Make meal time exciting!
There are many ways to stimulate your dog’s body and mind without having to venture out into the cold weather. You can try presenting the meals in a feeding toy instead of the usual food bowl. Studies have shown that dogs will enjoy their food more when they have to work for it. This will also help your dog eat slower, which improves digestion and nutrient absorption, and helps prevent some serious gastrointestinal conditions such as tummy aches, and bloat in larger dogs.
Giving treats can be exciting, too!
There are two easy ways to make giving your dog a treat more interesting: First, try using a treat-dispensing toy, similar to the one you would use for his meal time. Secondly, play a game of hide-and-seek. Keep your dog in one room while you hide treats in another. Then let him loose to find all the hidden treasures you’ve left! Make sure the treats are fairly obvious to find at first so he understands the game. The more he understands, the more difficult hiding places you can add.
Work on new tricks inside!
There are endless amounts of tricks and training exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home. Start with simple dog tricks such as “stay,” “shake,” or “sit,” and slowly work up to something more complex like “roll over.” These tricks will result in well-mannered behavior and help you bond with your dog. Tip: try to keep the dog training/trick sessions to about 15 minutes. This will help keep your dog’s attention, which will make sure everyone has a good time.
Consider day boarding!
If your job requires you to be out of the house for more than eight hours a day, or you can’t head home to let your dog out, Doggie Daycare would be a great option! Here at Centreville Animal Hospital, we offer excellent day boarding options. Your dog will be catered to and taken care of with the same love and attention we give to our own pets. With group or individual playtimes for at least an hour, and a minimum of four walks a day, you can be assured that your dog will be very active! And to give you peace of mind, we also send out daily photo updates to let you see just how happy your dog is! Plus, we have an indoor playroom for those cold, snowy days, and a treadmill, for those pups that need a little extra activity.
Last, but not least- Stay Attentive!
While it’s good to keep your dog healthy and in shape, make sure to keep a close eye on them during Winter. Changes in your dogs daily routine because of the season may lead to weight gain or loss, so keep a close eye on their body conditions and talk to your veterinary care provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Stay active, and warm this Winter!
Hill’s Pet: www.hillspet.com/en/us/dog-care/play-exercise/keeping-dogs-active-in-winter
Lillian Forney, Boarding Attendant