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)
Our furry friends bring us lots of joy; we cuddle with them and treat them like family. They respond by licking our hands and face and showering us with unconditional love and attention. Close contact with our furry bundles of joy can also unknowingly cause microorganisms to be passed along to us, which can cause zoonotic diseases. A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between animals and humans. Read on to learn about some of these common zoonotic maladies, and how to safeguard your pet and family from them.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It can lead to potentially fatal infections of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart. Dogs are most often affected by Lepto. They commonly become infected and develop leptospirosis from exposure to, or drinking from rivers, lakes, or streams.
Humans commonly develop leptospirosis through exposure to the urine or bodily fluids of an infected dog. It’s important that you see your veterinarian so they can recommend vaccines that can effectively protect your dog against many strains of this disease.
Hookworms & Roundworms
Hookworms can be acquired in puppies and kittens from their mother’s milk. They can then be transmitted to humans from your pet’s feces, or from contaminated soil when walking barefoot. Hookworms live in the small intestine and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and blood loss leading to anemia.
Roundworms are typically acquired by your pet when they eat the infected feces of another animal. They most commonly become transmitted to humans through the ingestion of roundworm eggs from contaminated soil in your garden or backyard.
It’s very important that puppies and kittens be de-wormed as they commonly carry hookworms and/or roundworms. If you suspect your pet has been exposed, you should drop off a stool sample at your local veterinarian for analysis.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans and pets through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Blacklegged ticks are also known by the name Ixodes Scapularis, and the common name: Deer ticks. Acute Lyme disease causes fever and lethargy. While Lyme disease cannot be spread directly to you from your pet, they can bring infected ticks into your home or yard. Protect yourself and your pet by asking your veterinarian about tick control products for your pets.
Giardia is a microscopic parasite that can live in the intestines of animals and humans. It is often transmitted through contaminated water and is one of the most common waterborne diseases in the United States. Common signs and symptoms in both dogs and humans include diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.
Puppies and kittens have a higher risk of illness from Giardia so it is important to not allow them to drink water from areas where other animals may have left their feces. Your veterinarian can test your pet’s feces to see if giardia is present and prescribe a safe, effective treatment for control of the disease.
Safeguarding Measures You Can Take
Contracting a pet-borne disease requires very close contact with your pet or their excretions, so zoonotic diseases can be avoided with these common sense approaches:
- Annual Exams! Make sure your pet gets an annual preventative exam by a licensed veterinarian, including a parasite screening test, and is current on all vaccinations.
- Practice good tick protection! Regularly check for ticks on your pets and the humans around them and ask your veterinarian about tick control products for your pet.
- Pick up the poop! Keep your environment free of feces. Make sure you have a clean yard and litter box at all times.
- Cleanliness! Thoroughly wash vegetables from your garden and hands or other exposed skin that come into contact with soil frequented by pets.
- Fresh, Clean, H20! Avoid drinking improperly treated water.
See Your Veterinarian for Testing & Safe, Effective Treatment
If you suspect that your pet is ill or may be infected take them immediately to an AAHA accredited animal hospital. While information on the internet may provide you with some ideas, only a licensed veterinarian can provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
As our pets age, they continue to hold a very special place in our hearts. Senior pets require additional care to help them carry on long and fulfilling lives. It is important to be aware of the changes in our senior pets’ health and to provide them the care they deserve. Here are some ways to help care for your senior pet:
Regular Health Check-Ups
It is recommended that all pets receive annual physical exams to ensure that your pet is in good health. As our pets age, it is even more important that they receive regular health care. As with people, dogs experience a number of health changes as they age. Preventative care is key to keeping your senior pet happy and healthy. It is recommended that your senior pet receive a health examination every 6 months. During each exam, your veterinarian can monitor health and recommend changes to help keep your senior pet comfortable.
At Centreville Animal Hospital, we are pleased to provide the Senior Wellness Bloodwork Panel. This panel is a wonderful aide in keeping track of your senior pet’s health. This invaluable panel measures many important body systems, including organ values, red and white blood cells, and includes an urinalysis. All of these components can tell a lot about your pet’s health. If the levels are abnormal, it can be an indicator of cancers or diseases. If such diseases are detected early, medications or dietary changes can be made to help restore health.
Senior pets are susceptible to discomfort changes such as arthritis. Sometimes your senior pet may seem stiff while getting up or moving around. This is certainly uncomfortable and can easily be managed by administering pain medication at home. A simple, daily dose can greatly impact your pet’s comfort. At Centreville Animal Hospital, we perform a pain assessment during your pet’s physical examination. By determining your pet’s level of pain, your doctor can provide recommendations for keeping your pet comfortable.
Keeping Comfortable with Rehabilitation
With aging joints and limbs, your senior pet could greatly benefit from rehabilitation exercises. After a consultation with your veterinarian, she can customize a plan that will allow you to perform exercises during rehabilitation appointments and at home. Keeping your senior pet active is very important as it will help maintain muscle mass and more comfortable movements. Acupuncture is a method of rehabilitation that involves applying very small needles to certain points of the body. This provide relief for a wide range of conditions, including relieving discomfort. Acupuncture is a painless, natural method that has been very effective for both pets and humans.
Recognizing Nutritional Needs
Your pet’s nutritional needs are important to help sustain health. What your pet consumes can greatly impact his overall health. By referring to the Senior Wellness Bloodwork Panel results, modifying and supplementing your senior pet’s diet can greatly impact the necessary vitamins and minerals your pet may be lacking as he ages. There are several prescription diets that are designed to help treat certain diseases and others for general senior care.
By recognizing changes in your pet’s health as he ages, these preventative and treatment methods will greatly impact your senior pet’s health and comfort. As pet owners, we want nothing but the best for our furry companions, and Centreville Animal Hospital is committed to providing you with options that will offer a better quality of life.
He was abandoned on the side of a busy road, without food, water, shelter or the ability to walk.
Life was looking bleak for a dog named French Fry until kind-hearted volunteers from Centreville Animal Hospital
and the Fairfax County Animal Shelter made it their mission to get him up, rolling and into a ‘forever home.’
With so many pet food options on the market today, it’s easy to get mixed up in all the labels and articles about what is healthy vs unhealthy, best vs worst, organic vs natural.. etc. It’s a lot to take in, even for a seasoned pet owner. And every day new things products added and old recipes get upgraded; your go-to brand becomes “new and improved!” and you ask yourself, “what was wrong before?!” Well, in today’s blog brought to us by Royal Canin, we’re giving you the basics of what you need to know about what you’re feeding your pets- regardless of which brand you love, and busting any myths about nutrients that you may have heard or seen.
• AAFCO confirms that by-products are suitable for animal food and may include clean internal organs such as liver, lungs, and heart
• By-products are a valuable source of energy, vitamins and minerals
Grains provide valuable nutrients for your pet:
• Grains such as corn and wheat are excellent sources of quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber
• Many grains are highly digestible sources of protein
• Excluding the rare dog with a true allergy, there is no evidence to support claims that grains cause health problems
• Many “grain free” diets substitute potato or tapioca (for the grains), which contribute fewer nutrients than grains
Wheat gluten provides a valuable source of protein for your pet:
• Wheat gluten is more than 80% protein, highly digestible and has an amino acid profile similar to other proteins
Chicken Meal is an excellent source of protein for your pet:
• Chicken meal consists of dehydrated and defatted chicken and provides a very digestible source of concentrated protein
Flax seeds contain a precursor to EPA and DHA:
• Flax seeds do NOT actually contain EPA or DHA, but instead contain a precursor from which your dog must
manufacture EPA and DHA itself
• This manufacturing or conversion process is not efficient.
• Most veterinary research supporting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the support of the skin, joint, kidney and heart
has been done evaluating EPA and DHA (Found only in certain marine plants and fish)
• Does NOT refer to quality of the raw material or final ingredient; It’s a description of process (under which plants/animals are grown/raised).
• There are NO scientific data to back up the “claim” that organic is healthier for pets.
• Organic diets frequently use flax seed instead of marine plants and fish as source of fatty acids.
• The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states raw meat diets for animals are not “consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks particularly when such products are brought into the home and/or used to feed domestic pets.
• The FDA has not seen any objective evidence to suggest that raw meat diets are better than other kinds of diets.
Human-grade & Holistic:
• Not defined by AAFCO and therefore cannot be accurately used to describe a pet food.
We hope with this nutrition myth-busting, that you can go out with more food knowledge and insight than you had. Our pets are a big part of our families, and we take care of them like they were our own children. Part of that care includes feeding them the best food to keep them active, healthy, and happy.
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
Maintaining your pet’s weight is very important so that they can live a longer, healthy, and happy life. Without proper weight management your furry friends run the risk of possibly developing diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lung disorders, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, and cancerous tumors. Here we’ve listed a few tips to help keep your pets happy and healthy by maintaining their weight!
Much like some of us, our pets will eat when they’re bored. Refraining from giving them 24/7 access to their food is always a good start. Keeping that in mind, it’s also a good idea to talk with your veterinarian so you know just how much to feed and what type of food would be best for your pet. It is also highly recommended to not feed them any table scraps. We all know it can be difficult to tell them no when they give you that look, but stay strong!
Exercise is very important for any pet. At least 30 minutes a day of active play will reduce the risk of weight gain and help them lose weight. Not only does exercise help maintain your pets weight it also has great health benefits that include, reducing the risk of heart disease, digestive issues, and the chances of urinary tract infections. If your furry friend is more active they also have less of a chance of developing depression, which means a longer, happier life span.
It might be a strange thing to consider, but keeping track of your pet’s calorie intake is actually a very huge help! Unfortunately, a lot of people forget to include treats in their counting. A lot of treats are high in calories so it is very important to factor those in and adjust your pet’s food intake accordingly so that they receive the correct amount of calories.
Having a set schedule for when your pet eats and exercises will not only be helpful for you, but will also benefit your pet greatly. Make sure you feed your pet at the same time, in the same place every day to help establish healthy eating habits.
AAHA Weight Management Guidelines for Cats and Dogs– https://www.aaha.org/public_documents/professional/guidelines/weight_management_guidelines.pdf
ASPCA Dog Nutrition Tips– https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-nutrition-tips
ASCPA Cat Nutrition Tips– https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cat-nutrition-tips
AVMA 7 Things to do to Keep your Pet Healthy– https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/pet-health.aspx