Cat Nutrition

IMG_5020_2Nutrition can be the key to keeping your kitty healthy, avoiding chronic illness and ultimately saving lots of money at the vet. We might be called Green Dog, but the owners and staff of Green Dog are actually made up of some pretty serious cat people. We know there’s a lot of info in here, but after 10 years of serving the cat community of Portland, our hearts are often heavy from the overwhelming numbers of cats with chronic illness, much of which we feel could have been prevented with better nutrition. Whether you’ve gotten a kitten or an adult cat, we hope that these tips will come in handy for you:

                                    Types of Food

We are lucky to live in a time and in a town that has a tremendous selection of ways to nourish your cat. Food is the absolute cornerstone of health, for us and for our cats. Many foods will allow your cat to survive, but the quality and types of ingredients and the amount of processing a food goes through both matter quite a bit, and these factors can often be the difference between surviving and thriving.
Most people automatically pick up a kibble for their new cat, but we’d like to let you know that there are other options as well. Kibble is of course very convenient, and kitties like it a lot. In our opinion, kibble has come a long way in the past 10 years or so and some are very much better than others (later in this article, we’ll tell you how to identify the good from the bad). However, this is still a highly processed form of food, and as many people realize that for our own health, the less processed food and the more whole food in our diets, the better. The greater problems with kibble for cats are that many are too heavy in carbohydrates for cats, and also that kibble is so moisture deficient. Meat and Moisture are the two cornerstones of good nutrition for cats. There are some great moisture-rich cans and excellent commercially prepared diets made with fresh minimally processed foods on our shelves and freezers, and we encourage you to try to integrate them, at least in part, to your cat’s diet. (You could of course make their food. Though we realize that not everyone has the time or inclination to make their cat’s diets, if you want to, check out www.catinfo.org, written by a vet and has lots of tips and instruction). Regardless of how you provide it, we’d like to tell you why meat and moisture are such valuable options to the health of cats.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.16.07 AM              Sabertooth image by Christine Mallar, copyright Green Dog Pet Supply. Tiger and cat images courtesy of free-extras.com

First, cats are obligate carnivores, and are designed inside exactly like their wild counterparts. The term “obligate carnivores” means that unlike coyotes or dogs that can be more opportunistic and take advantage of many different varieties of foods that they find, scavenge or hunt, house cats (and tigers and leopards) are specifically designed to eat a diet made up of fresh meat, bone, organs and the moisture that accompanies them.
Recently, a team of researchers sequenced the genes of several species of large cats, and found that the common house cat shares 95% of its DNA with Siberian Tigers. In her discussion of this study, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM says, “In big cats, several genes are altered in the metabolic pathways linked to protein digestion and metabolism. Those adaptations, which evolved over tens of millions of years, are thought to be what allows felines, as obligate carnivores, to digest and live solely on a diet of animal meat.” Unlike many other species, cats cannot manufacture certain amino acids in their bodies that are critical to their survival (ie: Taurine), and instead must get them from their foods. These amino acids are only found in meat proteins, hence the term, “obligate carnivore”.

    Meat, not plants

Carbohydrates: Cats were not designed by Mother Nature to make very good use of plant based proteins, as they lack specific metabolic (enzymatic) pathways that would allow them to use plant proteins efficiently. A diet low in quality meat proteins contributes to many chronic illnesses in cats. In fact, studies have shown a strong link between high carb diets and urinary tract disease. In a discussion of feline heart disease, Dr Karen Becker, DVM says, “I firmly believe the unnecessary carbohydrates found in most cats foods offsets the amount of protein cats need, making carbs a significant nutritional contributing factor to feline heart disease. The amount of taurine, carnitine and CoQ10 found naturally in unprocessed meat is critically important to feline heart health. In my opinion, these vital nutrients are not found in adequate quantities in most dry foods, and processing further diminishes their bioavailability. This is another reason I recommend starch free foods (no grains or potatoes) for cats.” All kibbles must contain some amount of starchy carbs to hold it together to make those little crunchy bites. There are definitely some better kibbles, meaning some that are meatier with fewer carbs than others. “Grocery store” kibbles are especially inappropriate for cats, as almost all of the protein in these foods is derived from plants like corn and wheat (as they are far less expensive than animal based proteins), with some meaty flavorings and some meat by-products. Corn is an extremely high glycemic food – each time they eat it their blood sugar spikes, and a lifetime of this sort of food could lead to diabetes. Carbs also create weight gain for cats instead of energy – a grain free diet will keep them leaner and more satiated with a smaller amount of food. When shopping for cat foods, look for foods that are grain free.

Moisture

Another very critical component of cat food is moisture. In fact, if there’s one single aspect we would identify as most important in cat food to help avoid many common chronic illnesses of the urinary tract and kidneys, it would be moisture content. Cats have not had to evolve a very strong thirst drive, as their natural prey contains quite a bit of moisture. In fact, many carnivores in nature derive most or all of their moisture from the prey that they eat. A mouse or a bird is about 75% moisture, similar to the moisture content of canned and raw foods. Cats on dry foods will appear to drink more water than cats on cans or raw, but if you add the amount of moisture in a kibble (about 10%) to the amount they drink, they still are usually consuming only about 1/2 of the moisture they would be getting from a moisture rich diet. This can lead to a state of chronic low-level dehydration, which over a lifetime can lead to stress on the kidneys. We have so many customers whose cats have kidney problems that we’ve actually had to come up with a special system in our food room to make it easier for owners to shop for foods appropriate for feeding to kidney-compromised cats. A lack of moisture also causes the urine to concentrate, which can lead to crystals in the urine “clumping” together, causing dangerous and painful blockages. Kidney and urinary tract problems are so incredibly common in adult cats that we believe that a moisture rich diet is very important. Studies back this up, showing that a moisture rich diet results in fewer urinary tract issues for cats. Certain dry diets designed to manage urinary tract problems are often higher in carbs, contain added acidifiers, as well as added salt to stimulate more drinking. We feel that an easier and more natural strategy could be to feed a grain free canned or raw diet, as meat is naturally acidifying, and the moisture is already integrated into the diet.
Tip for getting your cats to drink more: Put water somewhere away from where their food is. Whether it’s a human drinking glass on the floor of the dining room, a fountain in the living room, or a bowl on the bathroom vanity, cats drink best when there is additional water somewhere novel in the house. It is sometimes a remarkable improvement in the amount of water consumed! This is a great tip for kitties that refuse anything but kibble, but all cats can benefit from a bit more water. Try to use glass, ceramic, or stainless bowls for water.

Biologic Value

“Biologic value” refers to how digestible and nutritionally complete a food is for the species that eats it. The closer a food is to what that species has evolved to eat, the easier it is for them to make use of it. Meat would have a very low biologic value for a horse, and even if it had lots of alfalfa flavoring and vitamins that horses need, one could understand that this sort of diet would at least be difficult for a horse to digest and would almost certainly cause chronic problems. A somewhat similar analogy can be drawn with feeding carnivores a diet made primarily of plant proteins, with meat flavors and a few critical amino acids added back. Think of every nutrient that is in whole foods, from the many amino acids found in meats, the enzymes the animal uses to digest them, the vitamins, minerals, etc. all as puzzle pieces, each with important roles to play in the health of the animals eating them. The more we cook and process foods, the more puzzle pieces are damaged or destroyed, and toxins can also be created in the process (Google “Acrylamide” for an example). Some puzzle pieces are deemed to be so critical to survival that they must be replaced (like the amino acid Taurine for cats), but others, even though they are in fact important to their long term health, are not necessarily replaced.
Remember that AAFCO (the organization that is responsible for overseeing pet food ingredients) creates guidelines that represent the minimum standards to sustain life and body weight (which are of course important), but not necessarily more than that, and has no guidelines as to the quality or bioavailability of the ingredients. In fact AAFCO disallows statements of the quality/grade of ingredients on the label, so it’s up to us as pet parents to look for ingredients that are the most appropriate for the animals we’re feeding.

This is the reason that we love commercially made raw foods for cats. If you think of what the many millions of feral cats eat when they are not fed by humans – they default to their ancestral diet – one made of meat, bone, organs, and moisture, complete with enzymes, a wide range of amino acids, and without unnecessary carbohydrates and heat processing. There are many prepared foods on the market that provide interesting, safe and convenient ways to give whole food, species-appropriate nutrition as some or all of your cat’s diet. These including dehydrated or freeze dried foods that you reconstitute with water, and commercially prepared balanced raw food meals in the freezers. Over and over we see chronic health issues improved or resolved with a diet made from whole, minimally processed foods, so it stands to reason that these diets could have prevented these problems to begin with, extending lives and saving tons of money at the vet. These types of foods don’t have to be an all or nothing proposition – some people feed raw food in the morning and kibble at night, or they sneak a little raw food in by mixing it in with some of their canned food. Incorporating even one ounce of raw per day to their regular diet in this way could be considered a fantastic whole food supplement (a 3# bag contains 48 one ounce frozen nuggets and costs something like $16.99 – that’s cheaper than any synthetic vitamin supplement on the market!). In fact, feeding raw food is sometimes cheaper than feeding canned foods.

Tips for transitioning a picky cat to a new food:

  • Be very patient. Be open to experimenting. If you’re willing to be patient enough and creative, you will almost certainly be successful.
  • Go very slowly. Sneaking a tiny amount of something new into a favorite food can help them acclimate to a new flavor. Introducing a new food slowly also helps avoid digestive distress a sudden change could create.
  • The most important thing to remember is that it can be dangerous for cats to go more than a day without eating, as they are prone to a serious liver problem when they fast for too long. Being hungry at mealtimes is perfectly OK, but they shouldn’t skip eating altogether if they refuse what you give them.
  • That being said, picking up their food between meals is a great way to make sure they eat better at mealtime, helps to control their weight, and lets their digestive system rest between feedings. Feral and wild cats must find, hunt and then eat their food, and then they relax and digest it before starting the process again.
  • Cats are very sensitive to changes in smells and textures. Some may love a new food right away, but some cats may take some creativity on your part to help them through the transition. Kibble can be a very addictive food for cats, so if you’re trying to transition to a wet or raw food, sometimes putting their kibble in the food processor to make a powder that you can sprinkle onto the top of a wet food can provide them with a familiar taste and smell. This is also a great trick for trying to get cats off of a very addictive grocery store kibble, which can be filled with artificial flavorizers: put the grocery store food in the food processor and “shake and bake” the new food with it! Put some of your new kibble in a ziplock, add the powdered grocery store kibble, and shake it around to coat the new food with the old flavor (or add it right to the bag of new food and shake well).
  • Raw foods are sometimes immediately accepted by some cats, but many cats are thrown off by its lack of fragrance. If you think about it, a raw chicken breast doesn’t (and shouldn’t) smell like much of anything to our nose (but when you cook it, it smells fragrant), and if you consider how fragrant a can of cat food can be, you can understand why they might think that you have just put something inedible down in front of them. For these cats, sneaking a little bit of raw into a favorite canned food can trick them into trying it, and they can acclimate to the flavor as you increase the amount slowly.
  • Freeze dried meat treats can be very useful to provide extra flavor. Most freeze dried meats can be easily crushed with your fingers into a powder and sprinkled on top of anything they’re unenthusiastic about. They come in many flavors like salmon, liver, chicken breast, etc. Even if they’re marketed for dogs, if it’s just a freeze dried meat with no other ingredients, it’s perfectly appropriate for cats. The water from a can of tuna can be useful, as well as chicken or turkey baby food. (These things are also useful tools for older cats who might lose their appetite due to chronic illness).

                                              A Few General Tips for Feeding Kittens:

  • Integrate some variety in the early days. Cats are what we call “imprint feeders”, meaning that they become very loyal (and sometimes painfully exclusive) to what they were fed as a kitten. If you only feed one type of food, it can be very difficult later if you want to change it. If a cat has only eaten dry food and you need to get medicines or supplements into them later, it’s difficult to mix them into food if they won’t eat wet food. If you feed cans, try using a good quality kibble as an occasional treat, or if you feed dry, reward them for a nail trim with a little canned food. Exposing them to real foods like small pieces of chicken is great for rewards for handling/nail trims/brushing, etc but be careful about feeding any animal from the table for behavioral reasons.
  • Choose feeding times and stick with them. Cats become good at begging for food if they are rewarded by food when they beg for it! If they know when feeding time is and when it is not, they are less likely to bug you at other times.
  • It’s worth noting that kittens eat quite a bit more than adult cats do for their size. Choose a food that says it is approved for all life stages of cat, and check the feeding guidelines for their weight and age, but feed less if your kitten’s getting pudgy or more if his hip bones are visible.

In 2013, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reports that almost 60 percent of U.S. cats are overweight or obese. Viewed from above and from the side, a waistline should be visible. Feeling his ribs should be easy to do – if you have to dig for them to feel them, your kitty is getting too fat. Keeping a cat lean is an excellent thing to do to help avoid chronic illness and to keep his energy level high.

Tips about kibble ingredients to avoid and strategies for feeding that can help you avoid health problems later:

Though we’ve said here that we prefer wet foods to dry, we do realize that some cats might not be able to be convinced to switch. We also realize that kibble can sometimes be a more economical and convenient way to feed. Because of this, we’ve tried to stock the very best kibbles on the market, made with human grade ingredients and verified safe manufacturing processes. Some even have some freeze-dried raw ingredients applied after cooking, or are made without the use of synthetic vitamins and minerals.

Important things to look for when shopping for a kibble at any store:


  • Avoid By-products and any meats or fats that don’t specify the species used. For example, you want it to say “Chicken Meal” or “Herring Oil” and not “Meat and Bone Meal” or “Animal Fat”. These are the ugliest ingredients in the pet food industry. According to the FDA, ingredients like “Meat and Bone Meal”,  “Animal Fat” and “Animal Digest” are the most likely to contain euthanized animals and 4D meats (dead, dying, disabled or diseased) and the drugs that were used to euthanize animals can be detected as well when tests are done.
  • Avoid artificial colors (ie: yellow #5) and chemical preservatives (ie: BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin which are banned in other countries for their carcinogenic properties).
  • Avoid extremely grain-heavy foods, especially those with wheat, corn, and soy. Not only are these allergenic for some cats, they are simply a less expensive source of protein than higher quality meat proteins, necessary for cats to thrive. Grains like corn are very prone to dangerous, toxic grain molds like aflatoxin. Corn, soy, and beet pulp are also likely to be GMO, so could have pesticide residues. Corn is a very high-glycemic food as well. High carb foods are the fastest way to put weight on your cat, and grains are high in phytic acid, which inhibits mineral absorption, possibly causing tooth and bone problems.
  • Occasionally Rotate your foods. Don’t get in a rut where you feed the same brand and flavor for years and years. Think about it this way: no matter how much thought and care we might put into it, we couldn’t create a single plate of food for ourselves that would provide every nutrient we could possibly need, so that we could eat it for every meal of every day of our lives. It makes sense that doing this might eventually create a deficiency in something we need, or a nutritional excess in something that we’re eating that isn’t well suited to us. Each protein has a unique combination of amino acids, and each brand of food has chosen a different mix of fruits, veggies, fats, etc. Rotation allows for a greater variety and balance of nutrients over time. We also see pets that have developed an intolerance to certain proteins from eating the same one for many years – their bodies just start to reject it, reacting to it as if it’s an allergen. Occasionally rotating to different proteins within a brand helps to prevent this. Then, occasionally also rotating brands allows you to provide a different variety of nutrients. Pets that never rotate are the ones that have the most difficulty (digestively) changing foods, so occasional rotation helps to avoid this. Always try to blend when you switch foods to avoid digestive upset (though cats may just pick out what they like if they can!). Rotation also allows you to observe changes in your cat’s appearance and vitality as you try a new protein or a new formula – every cat is different, and trying new things allows you to see what suits your individual cat. Some vets worry that people who change foods a lot won’t be able to identify what might be causing a problem for your cat if he has one, and for this reason we encourage you to make only one change at a time, blend between old food and new, and stay on a new formula for a few months to make sure it suits your cat before introducing another one. Always return something that isn’t working for your cat. Some brands have frequent buyer cards or we have computer records which help you to track what you’ve been feeding and how long it takes you to go through it.
  • If you think there is any chance that there is something wrong with a food you are feeding, always at least report it to the company and also to the store you bought it from. If you feel sure that a food has made an animal sick, report it to the FDA Always keep the packaging for a few days on any food, so that if you need to report it, the lot # will be available. These efforts can help to protect other pets from safety problems as well as helping the store to notice patterns in returns that could indicate safety/manufacturing problems.

                                                                   A Few Food Myths: 



  • Myth – Kibble cleans teeth – First, cats and dogs are carnivores; their teeth are not designed for chewing or grinding like ours are, they’re designed to shear through meat, bone and organs like scissors. The best they’ll do is crack a kibble and swallow it, which does not clean the teeth. Even for ourselves, no matter how crunchy something was that we could eat, it wouldn’t clean our teeth either. Furthermore, the starches in kibbles can adhere to the teeth and cause tartar. Raw food, on the other hand, contains enzymes that help to control bacteria in the mouth, doesn’t require starchy binders like kibble does, and doesn’t adhere to the teeth as much as kibbles and cans do.
  • Myth – You should never feed your cat “human food”- True, some foods like pasta and Doritos would be inappropriate to feed your cat, but things like cooked chicken or other small pieces of meat are just better whole food versions of things that are already used in pet foods, and nothing magical happens to these ingredients when made into pet foods to make them more appropriate for cats. There of course could be behavioral problems that can occur if people are feeding these foods from the table or rewarding begging, but nutritionally speaking, whole foods make great training treats and food toppers. Note: when adding whole foods to a balanced diet, they shouldn’t make up more than 20% of the total amount fed without needing to discuss how to make them more balanced, and one should always consider portion sizes/calories when additions are made.
  • Myth – Raw foods are more dangerous than kibbles – This is a misconception. Saying raw foods are dangerous implies that other forms of foods are inherently safer, and this is just not the case. The number of recalls for reasons such as Salmonella, Aflatoxin (a dangerous grain mold) and other problems like Melamine from China in kibbles, cans, and natural chews have killed and sickened thousands of pets and many people, though the CDC has no case on record of anyone confirmed to have been sickened by commercially prepared raw foods. The commercially prepared raw foods that we carry are made with the intention that they will be fed raw (unlike grocery store meats for humans which have allowable amounts of bacteria due to the fact that they are intended to be cooked) and are sourced, handled, and tested with care from farm to store to prevent problems. There are even some that are pasteurized using high pressure instead of heat. If your vet thinks raw foods are dangerous, please direct them to the Green Dog Blog’s article, “Claiming Raw Foods are Dangerous Isn’t Backed Up With Data”, which can also be found on the blog by searching “Raw Food Safety”.  Also check out these tests done by an independent lab, sponsored by concerned pet owners who want to know that their commercial foods are safe. The bacteria results are very concerning

                                                                              Supplements

When feeding a quality diet, you generally will have little need for supplements, but    there are a few things that help to maintain good health, especially for kittens.

  • Probiotics and digestive enzymes: Just like in humans, 70% or so of a pet’s immune system is generated in the lining of the gut. The good bacteria in the gut does a lot of work including fighting bad bacterias.  The good flora in the gut is easily damaged by antibiotics, steroids, over-vaccination, toxins in our environment, stress, etc. Supplementing with probiotics is important to support healthy gut function and a strong immune system. This is especially important for kittens – they’re encountering many stresses and challenges to their immature immune system with vaccines and even the normal stresses of their world changing for them so drastically from baby to adolescent. Enzymes (normally supplied by fresh foods but destroyed by cooking) help to break down foods into the nutrients their bodies need, and supplementing enzymes can ease the burden on the pancreas.
  • Omega 3s – Fatty acids like the Omega 3’s found in fish oil provide many benefits to the body. They not only support the maintenance of healthy skin and coat, but studies on puppies have shown that those fed a diet higher in DHA (found in fish oils) improved cognitive, memory, psychomotor (movement, coordination and dexterity), immunologic and retinal (vision) functions in growing dogs. Cats would of course receive similar benefits. As cats age, these fatty acids also help to fight inflammation in the body and support joint health. A good rule of thumb with all supplements is to always only introduce one new thing into a cat’s life at a time, at a smaller dose than is recommended on the label. Your cat might be one of the rare cats that has a problem with a specific ingredient, and you can’t “un-give” something if they start to show a sensitivity to it. Introducing every new thing slowly and building up to the recommended dose prevents digestive surprises as well.

                                                    Hairballs and Vomiting Issues



Many people come to think that vomiting is just a normal inconvenience all cat owners have to deal with, but frequent vomiting is a sign that something is out of balance in the body. This might be the result of a diet that contains ingredients that are not very digestible or are irritating to the cat’s digestive system (tip: check your cans for “carrageenan”, a common irritant). Many people assume that a vomiting cat must have hairball problems, which may or may not be true. Cats are designed to be able to tolerate a certain amount of hair in their diets (much of their natural prey is hairy or feathery) and they do groom themselves with their mouth, ingesting hair as they clean themselves. However, a cat who is shedding too much (perhaps from poor quality or moisture deficient foods, allergies, parasites,  stress or other causes), who isn’t groomed frequently, or is undergoing a seasonal shedding period can have trouble with irritating amounts of hair. There are a few supplements that help with reducing shedding and helping to move hair through the digestive tract, which can be helpful in the short term. The most important thing would be to try to increase the amount of moisture in the diet to help hair move through, and increase the digestibility of the food that you’re feeding. Raw diets have been the most useful foods we’ve seen to help to heal certain chronic digestive problems over time, and raw fed cats tend to shed a great deal less than cats on processed foods. (Changing foods can be less expensive than buying supplements to add to your current food.)
Holistic vet, Dr. Karen Becker, says “a digestive tract compromised by an inflammatory condition like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), parasites, foreign objects, cancer, or another serious disorder may not be able to process even normal amounts of hair. A chronic hairball problem should be investigated by your veterinarian, since there could be an underlying disease requiring treatment. Remember: chronic vomiting in a cat – even a long-haired one – is not normal. It’s important to identify the root cause of your kitty’s digestive dysfunction and work with your holistic vet to resolve it, and sooner rather than later. This will help prevent more serious GI issues down the road, like IBD, which in cats is linked to lymphoma”.

             Zoe’s story (Green Dog owners Mike and Christine’s kitty)





We took in a 1 or 2 year old cat that Christine had rescued – someone had dumped her at the zoo where Christine worked as a keeper and the poor thing was starving to death. She was well loved, but after a lifetime of Iams and Science Diet kibbles, she was overweight with bad teeth and a big problem with puking up her food right after she had eaten. We tried Science Diet Sensitive Stomach, then Hairball Formula to no avail. We thought that she was eating too quickly and tried to feed her more and more slowly, but she threw up every day. Christine was teaching puppy classes at a big box store when another employee interested in nutrition mentioned that though different brands might cost the same, not every company spends the same amount of that cost on ingredients vs. marketing. She pointed out that a food label might say “corn” or “chicken”, but that one company might spend $300 a ton on corn or be using chicken muscle meat, and another might spend $30 a ton or be using largely chicken skin and bones instead of the meat, but that on the the label a company is only allowed to state “corn” or “chicken” and the customer won’t be able to tell the difference in the quality of the ingredient. When Zoe started eating other brands, her vomiting slowed down. Christine and Mike were instantly hooked on learning more. Zoe’s blood work showed some trouble in her liver values, which can reflect a poor diet and contribute to vomiting issues. As her kibble diet continued to improve, the vomiting got far better (every week or two) but didn’t resolve. By age 17 or so, she had developed early stage kidney disease, and our new holistic vet recommended integrating cans that were low in phosphorus. We thought she could be qualified as doing “well” for her age and her conditions, but she still looked old, and her liver and kidney values were still off. She was 18 before she agreed to eat raw food. We tried it because she was aging so quickly, and we suspected that we wouldn’t have her for too much longer. She felt bony under her coat, the way many old kitties feel, as she had lost a lot of her muscle mass, especially noticeable in her hind legs and hips. She had a hard lump on her arm. She was a black and white cat but her coat looked brownish, and it looked greasy and dry at the same time, separating  when she moved and she shed a lot. We attributed all of these things to age, not being able to groom herself as well due to stiffness, etc.  It took a great deal of creativity, sneaking tiny amounts into her canned food and topping it with crumbled freeze dried meat treats or her favorite kibble ground in the food processor and sprinkled on top. It was challenging because her appetite was poor. But she started to acclimate to the changes, and what we saw was amazing. Within 2 weeks she was black again and her coat was shiny and sleek again. No joke. This was a big lesson to us to learn that cooking can damage or destroy amino acids that have important roles to play in the body, but might not be supplemented back by the food company if their absence does not mean death in the short term, like in the case of Taurine. That her coat changes were not due to “age”, but were a sign of a nutritional deficiency. Within 2 months her muscle mass had largely returned, and she felt like a cat again when you pet her. She could jump into her favorite window again, which she hadn’t been able to do for a while. Less than a year later, her liver values were normal, her kidney values had improved (we can never fully heal damaged kidneys, but we can certainly improve the values and support their function), and she no longer had that hard lump on her arm. She almost never vomited in her later years, and she lived to be about 22. She looked more beautiful at 20 (photo below) than she ever had at 7 or 8 years shinykittyold. This pattern has repeated with customers over the years, with seemingly ancient cats given new life. We’ve seen bowel problems resolved, vomiting clear up, muscle mass restored, and stories like this are absolutely why we have this store. We wish we had maintained Zoe’s teeth (she never had a dental and wound up with very bad, certainly painful gum disease) and that we had known more about cat nutrition earlier in her life, as we wonder how much longer and better she would have lived. We can’t know that, but we are certain that all living things can stay healthier when nourished properly. We’ve learned that food is powerful medicine, that whole foods are better than processed foods, that not all chronic illness is inevitable, and supporting good health is so much easier than reversing illness. We believe that our goal should be to do the best that we can to support the health of our beloved pets through the power of good nutrition.

                                    We Understand That Cats Are Tricky

Being cat lovers, we certainly realize that cats have a unique ability to decimate your best intentions with their occasional inflexibility. They are slaves to routine, and changing any part of it can be difficult, to say the least. Often patience and persistence will provide you with a positive outcome, but we know that sometimes you must compromise, and perhaps try again soon. We also realize that not everyone can afford to do the very best things for their kitties. This does not make them bad people, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t devoted to their cats. We simply hope that with more information, you will be able to choose the best food you can afford. Sometimes better alternatives are available for the same price point, if you know what to look for. Chronic illnesses are time consuming, can be very expensive, and can be emotionally draining for their owners. We truly hope that this article can help you to make good choices and inspire you to persist through pickiness to maintain better health and keep them with you as long as you possibly can. Please ask us questions if you have them!

copyright, 2015 Green Dog Pet Supply

For further reading:

www.catinfo.org – a fantastic website written by a veterinarian, with articles about specific common health concerns, diet tips, instructions for making your own cat food, and additional tips for switching foods for picky cats.

Check out other cat health articles on this blog for articles on dental health for cats, articles that address claims about raw food being unsafe, and an article from veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker explaining the association between feeding a dry diet and urinary tract problems in cats (as well as links to articles about how to keep cats more active and tips for helping cats lose weight.)

See the foods we carry at Green Dog here for suggestions on brands to look for.

Happy Halloween – a Few Tips

Happy Halloween!10626878_10152327038381761_2622935969487730386_n

Fun Stuff
check out this link to cute dog breed stencils for your pumpkin carving! Each one can be downloaded by clicking a link under the description

Beware of Toxic Things on Halloween

Don’t forget to be on guard for dogs getting into that Halloween Candy stash! Chocolate isn’t the only thing that’s toxic to dogs; macadamia nuts, raisins, and the sweetener xylitol are all on the list of things that can be very poisonous to dogs, but the wrappers and other decorations can also cause problems when ingested. Check out this link to other common household items that are toxic to dogs, and what to do if your dog gets into them.

Behavioral Tips

Make sure that if your dog is stressed out by strangers to have him in a secure area of the house where he won’t be plagued by constant scary monsters ringing the doorbell. Conversely, if you’re up for it this is a great time to work on door manners with a dog that isn’t frightened, just excited. The doorbell rings, dog on leash sits, door opens, dog and costumed kid both get their own treats. Lots of repetitions available on Halloween equals lots of chances to practice how to act when people come to the door.
Hints:

-Practice this a day or two beforehand with someone familiar that rings the doorbell, rehearsing the routine 8 or 10 times of sit quietly while the door opens (the first time is hard, then it gets easy as it’s the same person over and over. This lets the dog get better and better at the behavior because you’ve removed the novelty of someone at the door)
- work on a leash for control, but reward the sitting calmly without lots of yanking. The familiar person can hang out on the step for a few minutes while you work on achieving a sit before you open the door.
- on Halloween, have two people work the door, one for kid treats and one for working with the dog
- when the doorbell rings, don’t jump up. Walk calmly to the door.

If you have a new puppy this can be a good socialization exercise: monsters = good treats for puppy! First put on masks or hats several times in the few days before Halloween, but don’t act scary, just be yourself and encourage your puppy to come get treats and interact with you in this strange get-up. Do multiple repetitions at different times until your puppy isn’t reacting fearfully. On Halloween night, encourage them to say hi to the funny monsters, but don’t force them into it – you want socialization exercises to be positive. Offer your puppy really delicious treats like bits of cheese while they interact with the people in costumes, and if you feel like it’s safe, have the monsters offer the puppy some yummy dog jerky or pieces of cheese. Soon the puppy will think people in costumes are a good thing!

Other things to keep in mind:

- Make sure all of your pets are wearing i.d. tags, even your indoor cats. That door is opening and closing many times during that evening, giving opportunities for your pets to slip out.

- Watch out for candle flames – often there are decorations that might be novel to the pet who wants to investigate them.

- Keep indoor/outdoor cats inside for the night – you do hear strange and terrible stories sometimes of cats who are the victim of cruel treatment on this night.

Foods We Carry at Green Dog

Here is a list of the current foods we carry at Green Dog Pet Supply DSC01177

Some of our guidelines for pet foods:
Our criteria for foods are that they all be made from human grade ingredients. None of our foods have corn, wheat or soy and are naturally preserved. We also make every effort to evaluate the safety standards of the company that manufactures the foods, seeking transparent companies that have 3rd party inspections with excellent marks for manufacturing safety and quality control. We also want to ensure that ingredients like fish meal are not pre-preserved with chemical preservatives that would not be on the label, and that they are making an effort at sustainability with sourcing. We try hard to avoid factory farming of meats (battery cages for poultry, feedlots (CAFOs) for cattle, and gestation crates for pigs). We are opposed to the use of farmed salmon in foods and treats. Our treats and foods contain no chemical preservatives, nitrates, propylene glycol, or artificial flavors/colors. Note: We can often special order foods for you that are not stocked on our shelves.

Check out our blog posts on how to read a pet food label and learn which ingredients to avoid (and why):
Your Bag of Kibble Might Have Pretty Pictures, But Do You Kow What’s Inside?
Just Say No to Soy in Pet Food
A Discussion of Sustainable Choices in Foods for Pets
Claiming Raw Foods Are Dangerous Isn’t Backed Up With Data
Why Dry Pet Food Isn’t The Best For Your Cat

Raw Foods:
Rad Cat
Answers Foods (cat and dog), Cultured Goat’s milk and Cultured Fish Stock
Small Batch (cat and dog)
Primal foods (cat and dog) and bones
Nature’s Variety (cat and dog)
Northwest Naturals (breeder bars for dog and some bones)
Max Meal Food Topper (dog)

Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Foods:
Honest Kitchen (dog)
Sojos (dog)
Pureformance (dog)
Stella and Chewy’s (cat and dog)
Orijen (dog)
Ziwi Peak (dog)

Kibbles:
Nature’s Logic (cat and dog)
Orijen (cat and dog)
Acana (cat and dog)
Nutrisource Grain Free (dog)
Pure Vita (cat and dog)
Natural Planet Organics (dog)
Pulsar (dog)
First Mate (cat and dog)
Nature’s Variety Prairie (dog)
Nature’s Variety Instinct (cat and dog)

Cans:
Nulo (dog)
Cocolicious (dog)
Nature’s Logic (cat and dog)
Lotus (cat and dog)
Evanger’s (cat and dog)
Hound and Gatos (dog)
Nature’s Variety Prairie and Instinct (cat and dog)
Tiki (cat)
Weruva (cat)
Tripett (dog)
Wellness (limited selection, cat and dog)
Wild Calling (cat and dog)

Note: (we strive to eliminate carageenan from our shelves – we have just one line of cat cans that have this thickener (due to overwhelming customer demand), though we are working with the company to try and change this. We have effected change at three different companies, convincing them to eliminate carageenan in their foods, and dropped a few other lines of food that were not open to change at this time)

Raw Foods Unfairly Treated (Again) By the FDA

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 2.27.36 PMThis is an excerpt from the Truth About Pet Food’s article about this issue. We at Green Dog are frustrated by
the lack of logic that seems to go along with pet food safety warnings. Saying raw foods are dangerous implies that kibbles are inherently safe, but kibble recalls are far more frequent for bacterial contamination. This is frustrating, as no warnings are ever issued warning people of the dangers of salmonella in kibble, which had 400% more incidents in the past 12 months than raw foods. Even more upsetting is that even though more than 1000 dogs have died and many many more sickened (many with permanent kidney damage) from eating Chinese chicken jerky, there has never been a warning issued by the FDA suggesting it could be unsafe to feed it. Why is there a warning against raw foods when they refuse to issue a warning against these treats which have killed so many? It just doesn’t make any sense!

FDA Warns Against Raw Pet Food (Again)

July 2, 2014 9 Comments

FDA “suggests consumers carefully consider the risks of feeding a raw pet food to their pets”. This is not only a bias against raw pet foods, it is a lack of understanding (on FDA’s part) of lightly processed pet foods. Here’s the story and what our consumer association asked FDA regarding this bias.

In a not so surprising FDA press release, the FDA again tells consumers that raw pet foods are a risk to not only your pet’s health but a risk to human health as well. In a very strong statement (strongest I have noticed yet) the latest press release from FDA says…

FDA does not believe feeding raw pet foods to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks.

The FDA’s Dr. Burkholder states “Feeding raw foods to pets increases the risk that both the pet and the people around the pet will encounter bacteria that cause foodborne illness, particularly if the products are not carefully handled and fed,” Burkholder says. “This is certainly one factor that should be considered when selecting diets for your pet.”

In the past twelve months…

  • There have been five recalls for bacteria contamination of dry/kibble pet foods – in total 37 different varieties of kibble pet food recalled.
  • There have been 3 recalls for bacteria contamination of various dried jerky treats, 5 varieties of pet treats recalled.
  • There have been 2 recalls for bacteria contamination of raw foods – 9 varieties of raw foods recalled.

Statistically – based on number of products recalled during the past 12 months, a consumer has had a 400% higher chance of exposing their family to a bacteria from kibble than it has with raw pet food. Where is the FDA warning that ‘Consumers should carefully consider the risks of feeding a kibble food to their pet’ – ?  There is no such warning against kibble pet food – the FDA did not issue a warning against kibble pet food.

Where is the FDA statement ‘FDA does not believe feeding jerky treats imported from China to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting pets from significant health risks’ – ? There is no such warning against jerky treats from China.

Jerky treats imported from China have killed and sickened thousands of pets for more than seven years – yet the FDA has never once warned consumers to ‘carefully consider the risks of feeding jerky treats from China to their pet’. The agency has issued “alerts” sharing that the agency continues to investigate the treats – but never a warning. The strongest FDA stance on jerky treats from China has been “Pet treats are not a necessary part of a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets.”

Clearly, the FDA has an unfounded bias against raw pet foods. Actually, I believe the agency is biased against any pet food that does not come in the form of kibble or can and that is not made with typical ‘feed grade’ ingredients. This is a significant problem for all educated pet food consumers (not only to raw pet food consumers). FDA’s bias hurts us all. Read more of this article, including Truth About Pet Food’s letter to the FDA in response to this warning

Read more – Green Dog’s Christine Mallar wrote a blog post last fall detailing this strange discrepancy in recalls – check out all of the salmonella recalls for kibble in the past few years, including a few that have sickened fairly large numbers of people. There have been no documented cases of humans sickened by raw pet food…Why doesn’t the FDA warn about the dangers of handling all pet foods? Why isn’t there ever a warning about the safety of feeding kibbles, when they are more commonly recalled for Salmonella?

Tips for New Puppy Owners

10329266_10152016183111761_227844732552835172_n

By Christine Mallar (This was written as a handout for customers, and we thought it might be useful to others as a blog post. If you share it, please give credit to Green Dog Pet Supply. Thank you)

Congratulations on your new puppy!

What a fun time you’ll have! We very much want your new baby to live a long, healthy, happy life, so we thought we’d compile some of the nitty-gritty dos-and-don’ts of puppy care. We want to be a resource for you as you take this journey, so please don’t hesitate to ask questions if you have them, and if you live nearby feel free to visit often just to say hi, get treats and love from our staff, and to socialize your puppy – we love to see you!
Here are a few tips that we hope will come in handy for you:

Socialization is of utmost importance. Though we realize that it’s important to keep your puppy physically healthy, there are definitely also big behavioral risks to keeping your puppy away from the world for too long. Puppies only have about a 4 month window of opportunity for their primary socialization to occur. Beyond that, it becomes harder to convince them that the world is a fun and inviting place. One of the primary reasons that dogs are given up to shelters is for difficult behavioral issues. Fear aggression towards strangers, reactivity around other dogs, and trouble relating to children are issues that may be prevented with better socialization early in life. Well socialized dogs are a pleasure to bring out into the world and lead calmer, less fearful lives. If you’ve adopted an older puppy and they’re a little nervous about the world, don’t worry – significant strides can be made with positive reinforcement training! Your major goal with all new dogs is to try and create as many positive experiences with new things (or with things they already find worrisome) as you can, and to not push them into anything they don’t feel comfortable with. Be their cheerleaders and they’ll gain confidence.
We strongly recommend a puppy class, whether this is your first or your 10th puppy. Classes are a wonderful way to expose this new puppy to the many other shapes and sizes of dogs, and give them early positive playtime experiences with other dogs under the watchful eye of a trainer in a clean environment. If you do a class together as a family, everyone in the household gets to hear the same instructions (which is great for preserving family harmony) and everyone can work together as a team to work on new behaviors (great for kids to have a mission). Best of all, you have access to the same trainer for the duration of the class – a great resource for the little problems that can pop up. A class also gives you the unique opportunity to work on behaviors in a distracting environment (if they can practice focusing on you with puppies and people all around them, they can learn to do it anywhere!) Most puppy classes allow a puppy to enter class by about 10 weeks of age as long as they are current with their vaccinations for their age, and we say the sooner the better. It’s far easier to prevent problems than to try to fix them later, and it’s often a big help to have the advice of a trainer in the early weeks where patterns of behavior in the home are being established. Ask us for referrals to great classes in our area. There are also a few places in town that have socialization play groups just for puppies!

Other socialization tips:
* If you have friends with healthy, well-socialized dogs that like or tolerate puppies, make play dates with them. The more positive experiences with other dogs, the better.
* Think of places you can bring dogs – garden supply nurseries, some hardware stores, restaurants with patios, etc. On our street, Beaumont Hardware and Umpqua Bank are two places that welcome dogs (and they have treats). The Fremont Commons Building at 46th and Fremont has an elevator that sometimes works – take your puppy for a ride to expose them to a new experience. Brainstorm for things like this to show your puppy experiences that they might encounter later in life, and work to make that a positive experience. Make a point to meet children, men with beards, people in wheelchairs, walk on different surfaces, etc. Don’t forget, you are welcome to bring your puppy as often as you like to Green Dog just for the socialization. We often know the other dogs that might be in the store and which of them are good with puppies, and of course there will be lots of nice people to meet. We don’t expect you to buy things – we’re just happy you’re working on socializing your pup and we’re happy to help you if they’re nervous.
* If there are things in the world that are a little scary, use your happy jolly voice to tell them all is OK. You might say, “Wasn’t that a big funny dump truck!” instead of acting very concerned, as they’ll pick up on your mood and body language.
* Treats can go a long way to making a dog less fearful of strange new people. Pairing something yummy with something that’s a little scary truly works well to convince a dog that that thing or person will not be harmful to them. Asking people to bend their knees also makes them less intimidating than when they loom over them. It also allows the puppy to approach the stranger and retreat a little if they need to as they build confidence. They can even toss a frightened pup a tasty treat – the puppy will be more likely to approach a person after they see something good comes from them. Don’t force them into interacting with something that’s scary, just cheerlead them into it with a happy encouraging voice as they make progress.
* If a puppy is nervous about approaching an exuberant dog, have the owner hold that goofy dog in one place and allow the puppy to approach and retreat and build confidence that way. This will help them not to be overwhelmed by the experience. As they approach, cheer them on and tell them they’re great! It helps!
* Avoid dog parks in the early months. Public parks carry a greater risk of interacting with a sick dog or their excrement, and many dogs that aren’t well socialized are brought to parks by misguided owners that think it will help their poorly socialized dogs. Even being greeted by a group of well socialized, excited dogs can be very intimidating for a young puppy, making them less likely to want to interact with strange dogs in the future. Try and stick to cleaner environments with a stronger likelihood of good experiences with other dogs, like puppy socialization groups.
* If your puppy is meeting another dog on a leash, ask the owners if their dog likes puppies and then keep their leashes slack so that you’re not unintentionally giving your puppy a warning signal that it’s not safe to meet. Keep on-leash meetings with strange dogs fairly short to make sure they stay positive.
Food
We are lucky to live in a time and in a town that has a tremendous selection of ways to nourish your puppy. Most people automatically pick up a kibble for their new dog, but we’d like to let you know that there are other options as well. Food is the absolute cornerstone of health, for us and for our dogs. Many foods will allow your dog to survive, but the quality of the ingredients and the amount of processing a food goes through can help deliver the nutrition needed to truly thrive. In our opinion, kibble has come a long way in the past 10 years or so and some brands have made great strides towards supporting health with quality ingredients.  However, it is helpful to understand that kibble is still a highly processed form of food. Many people realize that for our own health the fewer processed foods we consume and the more whole foods, the better. We realize that not everyone has the time or inclination to prepare their dog’s diet at home using fresh meats and veggies, (though if you want to, we’ll give you good resources so that you can make sure it’s balanced), but any amount of whole foods in the diet are a good step in the right direction. (When foods are cooked, vitamins and nutrients are damaged, proteins become less digestible, and valuable enzymes and important amino acids are destroyed. While some may be supplemented back in with synthetic versions, many are just lost.) Remember, AAFCO guidelines (AAFCO is the organization that makes the rules about what is required in pet food) represent the minimum standards to sustain life and body weight, but not necessarily more than that, and have no guidelines as to the quality or bioavailability of the ingredients. (“Bioavailability” refers to ingredients that are the most digestible and nutritious for the species you’re feeding). The rates of cancer, obesity, allergies, and other chronic illnesses in our pets these days is astounding, and we feel that a lifetime of processed food can play a role in the development of many chronic conditions.
Other kinds of foods that we carry offer interesting, safe and convenient ways to provide whole food nutrition as some or all of your dog’s diet. These include dehydrated or freeze dried stews that you reconstitute with water and commercially prepared balanced raw food meals in the freezers. Over and over we see chronic health issues improved or resolved with a diet made from whole, minimally processed foods, so it stands to reason that these diets could have prevented these problems to begin with, extending lives and saving tons of money at the vet. Note:These types of foods don’t have to be an all or nothing proposition! Some people feed kibble in the morning and whole food at night, or they have one or two days a week that are kibble-free, or some even add a nugget of frozen raw to their dog’s dinner as a little whole food supplement. For example, a 3# bag contains 48 frozen nuggets and costs something like $16.99 – that’s cheaper than any synthetic vitamin supplement on the market!
That being said, we know that kibbles are convenient, and we’ve tried to stock the very best kibbles on the market, made with human grade ingredients and safe manufacturing processes. Some even have some freeze dried raw ingredients applied after cooking, or are made without the use of synthetic vitamins and minerals.

How To Avoid Buying Food That Could Create Chronic Health Problems For Your Dog

There are some pretty scary ingredients out there in the world of pet food, so we want to give you some pointers as to what to look for as you shop, and some strategies for feeding that can help you avoid troubles later:
* Avoid by-products and any meats or fats that don’t specify the species used. For example, you want it to say something like“Chicken Meal” or “Herring Oil” and not “Meat and Bone Meal” or “Animal Fat”. These are the ugliest ingredients in the pet food industry, by far.
* Avoid artificial colors (ie: yellow #5) and chemical preservatives (ie: BHA and BHT, banned in other countries for their carcinogenic properties).
* Avoid extremely grain-heavy foods, especially those with wheat, corn, and soy. Not only are these allergenic for many dogs, but they are a less expensive source of protein than higher quality meat proteins which are necessary for dogs to thrive. Grains like corn are very high glycemic and prone to dangerous, toxic grain molds like aflatoxin. Corn, soy, and beet pulp are likely to be GMO, so potentially could have pesticide residues. High carb foods can put weight on your dog, and grains are high in phytic acid, which inhibits mineral absorption, possibly causing tooth and bone problems.
* Rotate your foods. Don’t get in a rut where you feed the same brand and flavor for years and years. Think about it this way: no matter how much thought and care we might put into it, we couldn’t create a single plate of food for ourselves that would provide every nutrient we could possibly need, so that we could eat it for every meal of every day of our lives. It makes sense that doing this might eventually create a deficiency in something we need, or a nutritional excess in something that we’re eating that isn’t well suited to us. Each protein has a unique combination of amino acids, and each brand of food has chosen a different mix of fruits, veggies, fats, etc. Rotating foods allows for a greater variety and balance of nutrients over time. We also see dogs that have developed an intolerance to certain proteins from eating the same one for many years – their bodies just start to reject it, reacting to it as if it’s an allergen. Occasionally rotating to different proteins helps to prevent this, and occasionally rotating brands allows you to provide a wider variety of nutrients. Dogs that never rotate are the ones that have the most difficulty (digestively) changing foods, so occasional rotation helps to avoid this. (Always blend the new food slowly into the old food when you switch to avoid digestive upset). Rotation also allows you to observe changes in your dog’s appearance and vitality as you try a new protein or a new formula – every dog is different, and trying new things allows you to see what suits your individual dog. Some vets worry that people who change foods a lot won’t be able to identify what might be causing a problem for your dog if he has one, and for this reason we encourage you to make one change at a time, blend between old food and new, and stay on a new formula for a few bags to make sure it suits your dog before introducing a new one. Always return something that isn’t working for your dog. Some brands have frequent buyer cards (with a free bag after 10 or 12 bags) which can also be useful to help you to track what you’ve been feeding and how long it takes you to go through a bag. Some customers rotate flavors within a brand and then use the free bag they get at the end of a card as the reminder to start blending it with a new brand next time.
* If you think there is any chance that there is something wrong with a food you are feeding, always report it to the company and also to the store you bought it from. Always keep the packaging for a few days on any food, so that if you need to report it, the lot # will be available. This can help to protect other dogs from safety problems as well as helping the store to notice patterns in returns that could indicate safety or manufacturing problems.
Read More:
A bag of kibble might have pretty pictures, but do you know what’s inside?
A discussion of Sustainable Choices in Foods for Pets
Saying no to poor quality pet food…even when it’s recommended by your vet

A Few Food Myths:

* Myth – Kibble cleans teeth – First, cats and dogs are carnivores; their teeth are not designed for chewing or grinding like ours are, they’re designed to shear through meat, bone and organs like scissors. The best they’ll do is crack a kibble and swallow it, which does not clean the teeth. Even though we humans have teeth that chew and grind, really crunchy human foods don’t clean our teeth either, actually. The starches in kibbles can adhere to the teeth and cause tartar, and the best way to clean them is with chews (see below) and brushing. Raw food, on the other hand contains enzymes that help to control bacteria in the mouth, and doesn’t adhere to the teeth as much as kibbles and canned foods do.  
* Myth – You should never change your dog’s food -  (see discussion of rotation above).
* Myth – You should never feed your dog “human food”- True, some foods like Twinkies and Doritos would be inappropriate to feed your dog, but things like cooked chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans are just better whole food versions of things that are already used in pet foods, and nothing magical happens to these ingredients when made into pet foods to make them more appropriate for dogs. There of course could be behavioral problems that can occur if people are feeding these foods from the table or rewarding begging, but nutritionally speaking, whole foods make great training treats and food toppers. Notes: when adding whole foods to a balanced diet, they shouldn’t make up more than 20% of the total amount fed without needing to discuss how to make them more balanced, and one should always consider portion sizes/calories when any additions are made.
* Myth – Raw foods are more dangerous than kibbles – This is a misconception. Stating that raw foods are dangerous implies that other forms of foods or chews are inherently safer, and this is just not the case. Salmonella, Aflatoxin (a dangerous grain mold) and other problems like Melamine from China in kibbles, cans, and natural chews have sickened and killed thousands of dogs. Incidents of salmonella in kibble have also sickened many people, however the CDC has no case on record of anyone confirmed to have been sickened by commercially prepared raw foods. The commercially prepared raw foods that we carry are made with the intention that they will be fed raw (unlike grocery store meats for humans) and are sourced, handled, and tested with care to prevent problems, and a few are even pasteurized using high pressure instead of heat. If your vet thinks raw foods are dangerous, please direct them to the Green Dog Blog’s article, “Claiming Raw Foods are Dangerous Isn’t Backed Up With Data”

A good resource: www.dogaware.com is a great site for advice on home prepared diets and feeding dogs with specific health problems.

Vaccinations: Dr. Karen Becker, DVM says, “Once your puppy or kitten is fully immunized against viruses, he is immune for years, and often for a lifetime. Vaccines, like any pharmaceutical drug, are not without side effects. So re-vaccinating for the same pathogens year after year is more than just a waste of your money – it also poses ever increasing risks to your pet’s health.”  She also says:

“Discuss what kinds of vaccines your pet needs, and how often, with your veterinarian. I strongly encourage you to seek out a holistic vet to care for your pet, and especially when it comes to vaccinations.
“If you can’t locate a holistic vet in your area, make sure not to take your pet to any veterinary practice that promotes annual or more frequent re-vaccinations, or sells “puppy packages,” where you get all the vaccines at once for a “bargain price.” And don’t use any boarding facility, groomer, training facility or other animal service that requires you to vaccinate your pet more than necessary.
“At my clinic, Natural Pet Animal Hospital, we tailor make all vaccine protocols to minimize risk and maximize protection, taking into account the breed, background (was the pup orphaned, etc.), nutritional status and overall vitality. Most of the time, with healthy animals, we follow the protocol of providing a single parvo and distemper vaccine at or before 12 weeks of age, and a set after 14 weeks of age. We titer pets 2 weeks after the last vaccine and if they have been successfully immunized, they are protected for life.
“We do not use or recommend combination vaccines (six to eight viruses in one shot), which is the traditional yearly booster. When deciding whether to revaccinate, consider a Vaccine Titer Test. This test will help you and the doctor determine whether your pet has adequate immunological protection from previous vaccinations. Should the titer tests indicate vaccine levels are low, we recommend a booster for only the specific virus or viruses that titered low. Hence the importance of working with a holistic vet that carries single vaccines”.
A good discussion of vaccine risks and recommendations, written by veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker – http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2010/03/31/high-cost-of-pet-vaccinations.aspx

Supplements:
When feeding a quality diet, you generally will have little need for supplements, but there are a few things that help to maintain good health, especially for puppies.
*Probiotics and digestive enzymes: Just like in humans, 70% or so of a dog’s immune system is generated in the lining of the gut. The good bacteria in the gut does a lot of work, including fighting bad bacterias and yeasts. Enzymes (normally found in fresh foods but are destroyed by cooking) help to break down foods into the nutrients their bodies need. The good flora in the gut is easily damaged by antibiotics, steroids, over vaccination, toxins in our environment, stress, etc. Supplementing with probiotics is important to support healthy gut function and a strong immune system. This is especially important for puppies – they’re encountering many stresses and challenges to their immature immune system with vaccines, exposure to the new world, and the normal stresses of their world changing for them so drastically from baby to adolescent.
*Omega 3s – Fatty acids like those found in fish oil provide many benefits to the body. They not only support the maintenance of healthy skin and coat, but studies show that puppies fed a diet higher in DHA (found in fish oils) improved cognitive, memory, psychomotor (movement, coordination and dexterity), immunologic and retinal (vision) functions in growing dogs. As dogs age, these fatty acids also help to fight inflammation in the body and support joint health.
A good rule of thumb with all supplements is to always only introduce one new thing into a dog’s life at a time, at a smaller dose than is recommended on the label. Your dog might be one of the rare dogs that has a problem with a specific ingredient, and you can’t “un-give” something if they start to show a sensitivity to it. Introducing every new thing slowly and building up to the recommended dose prevents digestive surprises as well.

Chewing
All puppies need to chew, and throughout a dog’s lifetime, chewing remains an important activity for both physical and behavioral reasons. Chewing helps to keep teeth and gums healthy and clean, which is critical in maintaining overall health. It is also a form of exercise that comes in handy on bad weather days to keep boredom at bay and relax a hyper dog. We have come to realize that all forms of chews for dogs have some kind of benefit, and they all carry some type of risk. Risks depend on not only the quality of the chew, but also the dog’s chewing style. All hard chews are more durable, long lasting and less likely to be choking hazards, but do carry the risk of a weak tooth breaking if a dog is trying to break the chew instead of just gnawing it. Senior dogs are even more at risk of breaking a tooth. Chews that soften as they chew and are ingested as they go (like bully sticks and tendons) are very beneficial for gum health (as they soften and get in between the teeth) but carry the risk of choking and in some cases (like rawhides) impaction if they were to swallow too much at one time. The general rule of thumb is that you need to watch puppies with every new thing that you give them, and realize that they’ll become more proficient at destroying things as they get older. Throughout a dog’s life, it’s important to supervise them the first few times they get a new kind of chew. Once you feel comfortable that they’re handling the new item well, then you can make the judgement call to leave them alone with it.

A Few Chews we like:
* Kong – the Kong is an institution for a reason – these toys are generally very durable, safe to leave alone with a dog, and economical, as they can be filled with things from your kitchen. They are the best option for senior dogs or dogs who have had previous tooth damage. Kongs can be be frozen (and cleaned on the top shelf of a dishwasher), so if you’re creative, they can be a very valuable tool to keep dogs busy. Kongs should be big enough for them to fit their tongue inside. Start with foods or treats that fall out easily, and then graduate to smearing a little bit of peanut butter (without extra sugar or salt), a small amount of cream cheese, or canned dog food on the inside walls. Big cookies can also be crammed inside. Once they are emptying Kongs easily, start using your freezer. Many moist things can be frozen – plain yogurt with a few slices of banana, canned pumpkin, cooked sweet potatoes, canned dog foods, applesauce without extra sugar, etc. You might even prepare one the night before with a portion of their breakfast meal mixed with a little something else from the list above and freeze it. The rest of their breakfast can be fed as usual, but the portion in the Kong could be left with them on your way out the door. Fun hint for summertime: plug the small hole with a little piece of cheese, put the Kong upside down in a cup and fill the Kong with chicken broth. Freeze and give as a popsicle outdoors.

* Bully sticks – Bully sticks are natural beef chew sticks that are like a thick tendon that softens and is eaten as they are chewed. They are valuable because they are so much more digestible (safer) than rawhides when swallowed, they soften and get between teeth like floss so help to keep gums and teeth healthy, and they are apparently super delicious, so they hold a dog’s attention. They can get a little stringy, and you probably don’t want them to swallow a big piece at the end of the stick, so we recommend using bully sticks and other tendons while you’re with your puppy, perhaps while you want them to relax while you watch a movie. You can even hold one end while they work on the other. Some bullies are stinky and some are not, depending on the store’s standards for sourcing.

* Raw Meaty Bones – Raw meaty bones from our freezers can keep a dog very busy for a long time, can have nutritional benefits, and are very effective at cleaning teeth. Enzymes from the raw meat help to break down bacteria in the mouth, and the bones help to scrape it away. Raw bones are generally not as hard as smoked bones and so are less likely to splinter or to break teeth, though teeth can be broken on any hard chews if the dog is prone to trying to break it instead of gnawing it. Starting puppies earlier on raw bones gives them more experience with how to handle them. As a rule, recreational bones are best if they’re bigger – ideally for safety it would be a knuckle the size of their head, as they’d be less likely to be able to fit it between their back teeth (though those are hard to find!). Marrow bones aren’t as messy as you think they might be, but some owners teach their dogs to chew bones on a blanket or towel by making a rule that if they leave the blanket, they lose the bone. Marrow can be a little rich at first, so you can either thaw one and give it to your dog for 15 or so minutes and then put it back in the fridge for the next day, or you can scoop some of the marrow out at first until you know they do well with it. Safety tip – take away marrow bones after they’ve cleaned off the meaty bits and finished the marrow, so they don’t try to work on breaking the bone.

* Chicken necks, duck necks, and turkey necks can be very good teeth cleaning chews as well. Though they don’t last as long as a marrow bone, they are safer for the teeth and are packed with nutritional benefit. It is true that cooked poultry bones can be very dangerous, but raw poultry necks have lots of collagen/cartilage and more pliable bones than weight bearing bones. NEVER FEED HOME COOKED BONES OF ANY KIND – THEY COULD BE SPLINTERY AND DANGEROUS! (Slow smoked bones in pet stores are less likely to splinter than home cooked bones, but they do become extra hard when cooked). Another healthy benefit: feeding 3 necks a week is an effective joint   supplement! Check the Green Dog Blog for a post called, “Chicken Necks for Cats and Dogs” for videos of both a cat and a dog eating necks and for more tips and info.

*Antlers: Antlers are interesting – they’re fairly sustainable, as they’re naturally shed every year and they regrow. Even people who are vegan that have trouble with the concept of animal chews can rest easy with these as the animals are unharmed. They don’t stink or stain the carpet, and they’re less likely to splinter than bone. They also won’t be consuming anything that would stimulate their need to potty (like a full Kong might) and as long as an appropriate size is chosen, they won’t be able to choke on or swallow one, so we feel these make safe appropriate chews to leave alone with a puppy in a crate. They’re an animal product, so they are very interesting and hold their attention much better than something like a Nylabone. They’re also a great value, as they last such a very long time compared to any other chew. Though this is another hard chew, we’ve sold thousands of antlers in the last 10 years and have had only 2 or 3 reports of cracked teeth, though any hard chew like this can carry a risk of fracturing a tooth if they try to break it. Please note: “Split” antlers are more likely to cause slab fractures of the teeth than whole antlers, so strong chewers should avoid these. Choose the largest size you can to help to minimize this risk and watch them to see what their chewing style is like. When gnawed, they wear away slowly and should be discarded when small enough to be swallowed.

* West Paw Zogoflex toys: These USA made rubber toys are far more durable than any other we’ve found – they often stand up to dogs that can chew up Kongs. These might be a good option for senior dogs or dogs with previous tooth damage. They come in fun shapes – especially the Hurley (stick) and Tux (has a hole for stuffing), and best of all are guaranteed against chewing damage. There’s no toy or chew that’s invincible though, so if you have a dog that can get a piece off, you can bring it straight back to the store and we’ll swap it out for something else. Best of all, we mail the pieces back to them and they melt them down and make new toys. Note: we carry several brands of guaranteed toys.

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
People sometimes seem intimidated by brushing a dog’s teeth, or think that it’s a little silly. Dental health is so important though, and if you’ve done a good job maintaining healthy teeth and gums, your dog’s life could be extended. Gum disease can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream, causing damage to organs. Brushing is a good way to help keep plaque at bay, and can save you big money at the vet as a result. Remember, visiting the vet for preventative care including occasional dentals to check for damage and clean below the gum line are important, but if the dog’s nutrition is solid (poor nutrition can result in weaker teeth), they are chewing a lot, and their teeth are getting brushed, you can avoid a lot of extractions and the expense of frequent surgical cleanings and treatments. And it’s not that hard! Luckily doggie toothpaste is yummy and makes the job easier.

Some Tips:
* A puppy’s mouth is changing rapidly and vigorous brushing is not recommended, but now is the time to get them used to the routine and getting them used to you investigating their mouths and touching and rubbing their teeth and gums. First, get them used to you opening and looking at their whole mouth. This will be very valuable to you later in life, where noticing changes in the color of the gums, or noticing a new spot that has developed could be the key to catching a developing condition. Perhaps each night when you brush your teeth, you call the puppy in for an inspection of the mouth and then reward them with a little treat. This will help you to set up a routine with them for brushing later.
* To get them used to brushing, start with letting them have a lick of the toothpaste. They come in yummy flavors like chicken, peanut butter, and vanilla to help you make the experience positive for them. (It’s important not to use human toothpastes, as those are designed not to be swallowed).  Once they’re loving the taste, you can simply rub your finger with toothpaste over their gum line on the outside (most plaque builds up in the back on the outsides of teeth). Once they’re OK with this, wrap a piece of gauze around your finger and rub the teeth along the gum line – even this will help to remove food particles and starches that adhere to the teeth. As the dog gets older you can move on to finger toothbrushes and then when adult teeth are in place, a doggie toothbrush will do the best job.
* A few customers have told us that brushing the dog’s teeth at the same time of day that you brush yours helps them to keep a routine – brushing for everyone!
A few helpful dental supplements are mentioned in this blog post: Dental Health for Dogs and Cats

Toys
When choosing soft toys for a brand new puppy, toys without fluffy stuffing are safer, but remember all kinds of material can be shredded and ingested. Ropes can be stringy, rubber can be chewed into pieces, leather seems like an edible chew to a dog, etc.  So, always supervise when any new toy is introduced and remove toys if you’re worried about pieces being ingested. It’s a good practice to rotate your toys to keep them exciting. Put away some toys and in a few weeks swap them for things that are laying around that aren’t fun anymore – the novelty may be helpful to save you money. When shopping the first time for a very young puppy, something soft and rubbery like the Planet Dog Lil’ Pup Bones or other Orbee toys work well, as well as something fun and plush like a braided fleece tug.

Potty Training  
A few quick tips:

* Find a really high value treat (like a soft jerky that can be torn into small pieces) and keep it by the door so you can grab it on the way out.
Bring them out on a leash to the same spot in the yard (this spot can be a scent cue for them for future potties). Praise them calmly as they potty. As soon as they finish, give them a treat and a party! Rewarding right away ensures that they know that it’s the potty that is being rewarded. If they’re far away and you are calling them to you when they’re done with potty and then giving them a treat, they will associate it with the recall and not necessarily with the potty. Recalls are great things to reward, but immediately rewarding the potty when they finish will be important to getting faster results.
Get them out frequently in the early days, but do figure out a few regular times in the day that they can count on being able to get out. If there’s a schedule they can rely on, this may help them to start to learn to hold it and be able to “cash in” on the potty outdoors for that treat, instead of letting it go in the house and getting nothing.
* If you see them start to potty in the house, try to interrupt it quickly and get them outside. If they finish outside, they get the same treat and party that they would have gotten if they’d done it right. If they don’t finish outside, keep them with you if you go back inside, and try them again in a moment. When they eventually get it right, give them the treat and party! You want them to know that potty doesn’t make you mad, it’s the location they have to get right. Punishing an accident inside may make them wary of going potty in front of you and feel it’s safer to sneak off and potty out of your view.
* If you find an accident and never saw the dog doing it, there’s nothing to be done but clean it up. Punishing them or “showing them” the potty after the fact will be meaningless to them  – just like getting angry at a human infant that has smeared spaghetti in her hair – showing it to her and being angry will likely make her cry, but not because she understands that it was a consequence of her previous actions. In the same way, a dog can look “guilty” but might just be responding to your anger and not understanding the cause. Better to interrupt and redirect the behavior, rewarding when they get it right and they’ll want to do it right again!
*It may be helpful to keep your water and food bowls on the counter during potty training. You can offer them as often as you like, but if you know just when something went in, you can predict that they’ll need to get out soon after.
* When you need to leave the house, the puppy can be left in the crate for short periods (they can only physically hold it for so long when they’re young) or in a puppy-safe area without carpeting (perhaps with an open crate with their bed in it).
*Set them up for success: When you’re home, try to keep them in a puppy-safe area when you can’t watch them (a crate or a room like the kitchen with a baby gate) and when you can watch them, keep them with you in the same room. The fewer times they make mistakes when you’re not watching, the faster you’ll have a potty trained dog!

Have fun with your new puppy!! Please ask questions if you have them – we’re here to help! Sign up for our newsletter on the “Contact Us” page for news of events & Secret Sales (just for our newsletter list), check out our blog for more articles, and “Like” us on Facebook for neighborhood news and other fun stuff!
                                 www.GreenDogPetSupply.com

July 4th is Coming Up – a few tips

 

By Christine Mallar fireworks

The 4th of July is a bad time for many pets around the country, but in places like Portland where most fireworks are legal and larger illegal fireworks are so easy to get, it’s often a complete nightmare for people whose pets are terrified of the noise. Some people choose to camp in remote areas with their dogs, and one customer routinely gets in the car with her dog on the 4th and just drives and drives for hours, around and around the city beltway to avoid the stress of the night. Here’s a few tips we hope can help if you’re staying at home this 4th of July.

BEFORE JULY 4th:

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 2.31.05 PM- Are your ID tags current? Make SURE that every pet, perhaps even your indoor cats, are wearing their tags – fearful animals can often bolt for the door, and so many pets are lost every year! There’s still time to order a fresh ID tag from us, but I’d recommend doing it very soon to ensure you’ll get it in time. Many big box stores have machines where you can get tags engraved on the spot.

- If you have a new dog, please don’t make plans to bring them to a fireworks display. The crowds and the very big noise and smells of the explosives can all be very overwhelming to a dog, and could create a fear of fireworks or loud noises where they might not have had one before.

-
As people generally start setting off a few fireworks in the days leading up to July 4th, you can use these IMG_2636intermittent pops and bangs as opportunities! Keep some very high value treats nearby and when you hear a pop, act like that’s a really great opportunity for your dog for fun and treats. If nothing else, at least don’t act like you’re worried that they will be frightened by the noises, or they might pick up on that and be frightened. Best to either ignore the noise or act like you think it’s fun and treat-worthy.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 2.34.52 PM- We do have a variety of calming treats in the store that are worth trying out. We’ve had great results with each of them, but each pet responds differently to different formulas – now’s the time to try them to see how they affect your pets, so you have time to return one and try another if it didn’t help during these pesky “warm-up” days where people start setting fireworks off in the evenings before the 4th. NOTE: do NOT use the sedative Acepromazine for noise phobias as it heightens noise sensitivity! See this video for more information.

 

thundershirt

- Thundershirts can be a useful tool. These snug wraps can really help to calm and reassure dogs in stressful situations. Click here for a blog post about the Thundershirt, how it works, with a few great testimonials.

On July 4th day:

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 2.49.52 PM - Make sure to get all of your pets lots of exercise (don’t forget the kitties). Getting them tired will help them not to be so amped up over noises. Burn off that nervous energy! Keep them inside – don’t leave them outside as they can panic and run off, or be injured accidentally or purposely by people playing with fireworks.
- Offer dogs something new and exciting to chew on that night – chewing often helps dogs deal with stress.

- Close the blinds and do what you can to minimize the intensity of the stimulus. Turning on some white noise or music, a movie on the TV, or even the clothes dryer or a noisy dishwasher can be helpful to drown out the fireworks noise. Check out “Through A Dogs Ear” CD’s for soothing any animal – available on itunes. http://throughadogsear.com/

- Consider staying home that night – your presence does a lot to calm and comfort your pet. It’s OK to hold your pet if she needs comfort, as long as you are very calm as well. A few of our customers have told us that they’re already feeling anxious about the 4th – your pets will pick up on that! Make sure you do things to calm yourself like exercising that afternoon, drinking chamomile tea that evening, or taking some Rescue Remedy yourselves. Be positive!

- If you must go out that night please make sure your pets are in a secure location without access to the outdoors.

Here’s wishing you a fun and safe Fourth of July!

Dental Health for Dogs and Cats

Final

February is Dental Health Month, so it seems a good time to address the health and maintenance of your pet’s mouth.

Dental health is so important to the health of your pets, and if you’re doing a good job maintaining healthy teeth and gums, your pet’s life could be extended. Gum disease can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream, causing damage to organs, so just like us, pets need regular checkups and occasional cleanings. Luckily, there are definitely other ways to maintain the health of the teeth and try reduce the number of cleanings necessary.

Diet: A fresh, species appropriate whole food diet goes a long way towards keeping the teeth cleaner. Foods whose proteins are primarily derived from grains are high glycemic (quickly releases sugars into the bloodstream)  and high carb diets put weight on your pet. They also are hard on the teeth, as the starches adhere to the teeth, becoming plaque if they aren’t cleaned off. Grains are also high in phytic acid, which inhibits mineral absorption during digestion – the minerals that are needed to maintain healthy teeth and bones.  Raw foods do not have all of the starches that can adhere to the teeth, they aren’t generally sources of phytic acid, and they contain natural enzymes that help to break down bacteria in the mouth. Check out what happened when this veterinarian realized that “Since he had become accustomed to seeing drastic improvements in dental health with the change from kibble and commercial pet foods to a raw diet, he wondered “How quickly will healthy dogs start to deteriorate if we feed them ‘junk food’ ?” It’s alarming, but not surprising, as we see the differences every day in dental health between dogs who are kibble fed and those that are raw fed and include meaty bones.

It’s a myth that kibble cleans teeth – First, because cats and dogs are carnivores, their teeth are not designed for chewing or grinding like ours are; they’re designed to shear through meat, bone and organs like scissors. The best they’ll do is crack a kibble and swallow it, which does not clean the teeth. Even though we humans have teeth that chew and grind, really crunchy human foods don’t clean our teeth either, actually.

No matter what, we have to help our pets keep their teeth clean, and the best ways to clean them is with chews and brushing. There are also a few supplements worth mentioning, but manual removal of the biofilm (the sticky layer of bacteria that turns into plaque) that forms on teeth is critical to maintaining a healthy mouth, for us and for our pets.

Chewing
All puppies need to chew, but throughout a dog’s lifetime chewing remains an important activity for both physical and behavioral reasons. Chewing helps to keep teeth and gums healthy and clean, and is a form of exercise that comes in handy on bad weather days to keep boredom at bay and relax a hyper dog. Coyotes and bobcats eat a diet that’s mainly meat, bones and organs. Their teeth are scraped clean by crunching through little bones and shearing meat and tendons with their back teeth. Coyotes and other canids (dog type animals) also gnaw on larger bones after their main meal is done. We can replicate this to a degree with many kinds of recreational chews available for pets.

We have come to realize that all forms of chews for dogs have some kind of benefit, and they all carry some type of risk. Risks depend on not only the quality of the chew, but also the dog’s chewing style. All hard chews are more durable, long lasting and less likely to be choking hazards, but do carry the risk of a weak tooth breaking if a dog is trying to break the chew instead of just gnawing it. Senior dogs are even more at risk of breaking a tooth. Chews that soften as they chew and are ingested as they go (like bully sticks, tendons, and rawhide) are very beneficial for gum health (as they soften and get in between the teeth) but carry the risk of choking and in some cases (like rawhides) impaction if they were to swallow too much at one time. The general rule of thumb is that you need to watch dogs (especially puppies) with every new thing that you give them, and realize that they’ll become more proficient at destroying things as they get older. Throughout a dog’s life, it’s important to supervise them the first few times they get a new kind of chew. Once you feel comfortable that they’re handling the new item well, then you can make the judgement call to leave them alone with it.


A Few Chews for dogs we like:

* Bully sticks – Bully sticks are natural beef chew sticks that are like a thick tendon that softens and is eaten as they are chewed. They are valuable because they are so much more digestible (safer) than rawhides when swallowed, they soften and get between teeth like floss so help to keep gums and teeth healthy, and they are apparently super delicious, so they hold a dog’s attention. They can get a little stringy, and you probably don’t want them to swallow a big piece at the end of the stick, so we recommend using bully sticks and other tendons while you’re with your puppy, perhaps while you want them to relax while you watch a movie. You can even hold one end while they work on the other. Some bullies are stinky and some are not, depending on the store’s standards for sourcing. Other types of tendons (like achilles) have similar benefits and might come smaller than bully sticks if you have tiny dogs.

* Raw Meaty Bones – Raw meaty bones from the freezers of retail pet supply stores (safest, as they were produced and handled with the intention of animals eating them raw) or very fresh from a good butcher can keep a dog very busy for a long time, can have nutritional benefits, and can be very effective at cleaning teeth. Enzymes from the raw meat help to break down bacteria in the mouth, and the bones help to scrape it away. Raw bones are generally not as hard as smoked bones and so are less likely to splinter or to break teeth, though teeth can be broken on any hard chews if the dog is prone to trying to break it instead of gnawing it. Starting puppies earlier on raw bones gives them more experience with how to handle them. As a rule, recreational bones are best if they’re bigger – ideally for safety (bearing down on a hard chew causing tooth damage) it would be a knuckle bone the size of their head, as they’d be less likely to be able to fit it all the way between their back teeth. Marrow bones are the hardest (as they are weight bearing bones), and you want to pick one that has no chance of fitting over their bottom jaw/lower canines when emptied of marrow (we don’t think it’s at all common, but we have seen a photo online of a dog with one stuck this way). Marrow and knuckle bones are fairly easy to find, not that expensive, and aren’t as messy as you think they might be. Good tip – some owners teach their dogs to chew bones on a blanket or towel by making a rule that if they leave the blanket, they lose the bone. Marrow can be a little rich at first, so you can either thaw a marrow bone and give it to your dog for 15 or so minutes and then put it back in the fridge for the next day, or you can scoop some of the marrow out at first until you know they do well with it digestively.

* Chicken necks, duck necks, and turkey necks can be very good teeth cleaning chews as well, and though they don’t last as long as a marrow bone, they are safer for the teeth, and are packed with nutritional and behavioral benefits. It is true that cooked poultry bones can be very dangerous, but raw poultry necks have lots of collagen/cartilage (and therefore a great natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin) and have more pliable bones than weight bearing bones. Check the Green Dog Blog for a post called, “Chicken Necks for Cats and Dogs” for videos of both a cat and a dog eating necks and for more tips and info.

NEVER FEED HOME COOKED BONES OF ANY KIND – THEY COULD BE SPLINTERY AND DANGEROUS! (Slow smoked knuckle and marrow bones in pet stores are less likely to splinter than home cooked bones, but they do become extra hard when cooked, and could conceivably splinter).

* Antlers: Antlers are interesting – they’re fairly sustainable, as they’re naturally shed every year and they regrow, and even people who are vegan that have trouble with the concept of animal chews can rest easy with these as the animals are unharmed. They don’t stink or stain the carpet, and they’re less likely to splinter than bone. They also won’t be consuming anything that would stimulate their need to potty (like a full Kong might) and as long as an appropriate size is chosen, they won’t be able to choke on or swallow one, so we feel these make safe appropriate chews to leave alone with a puppy in a crate. They’re an animal product, so they are very interesting and hold their attention much better than something like a Nylabone. They’re also a great value, as they last such a very long time compared to any other chew. They wear away slowly and should be discarded when small enough to swallow. Though this is another hard chew, we’ve sold thousands of antlers in the last 10 years and have heard only 2 or 3 reports of cracked teeth. We believe that split antlers (cut longwise to expose the “marrow”) are great for gentle chewers, but carry a greater risk of slab fractures than round (whole) antlers, due to the flat surfaces on a split antler that are easy to bear down on with the back teeth.

* West Paw Zogoflex toys: Though rubber doesn’t generally clean the teeth as well as some other chews do, sometimes for allergy reasons or damaged teeth, they start to become one of the only options. These USA made rubber toys are far more durable than any other we’ve found – they often stand up to dogs that can chew up Kongs. They come in good shapes – especially the Hurley (stick) and Tux (has a hole for stuffing), and best of all are guaranteed against chewing damage. There’s no toy or chew that’s invincible though, so if you have a dog that can get a piece off, you can bring it straight back to the store and we’ll swap it out for something else (or send it back to the company). Best of all, we mail the pieces back to them and they melt them down and make new toys.

Beams: These dried fish skin chews are also great for puppies, older dogs and those with a history of tooth damage. Remarkably, these chews seem to be well chewed even by dogs who usually gulp things (they sort of chew them like gum, switching sides with a big piece in their mouth). Even if they’re gulped, they are very digestible.

Chews for cats: There aren’t as many options for cat chews, but our favorites are one inch pieces of raw chicken necks (some cats might even do well with whole chicken necks if they’re good chewers). Remove the skin before giving, as it’s very high in fat. Pieces of chicken gizzard are also abrasive and chewy. Check out the blog posting about chicken necks for a video of our cat Otis eating a piece of chicken neck. Otis generally chews a chicken neck piece about 40-80 times before swallowing it. We’ve also known a few cats that will chew dried fish skin treats like Honest Kitchen’s “Beams”.

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
People sometimes seem intimidated by brushing a dog’s teeth, or think that it’s a little silly. Brushing is a very good way to help keep plaque at bay, and can save you big money at the vet as a result. (Nothing’s silly about that). And it’s not that hard! Luckily doggie toothpaste is yummy and makes the job easier.

Some Tips:

* A puppy’s mouth is changing rapidly, and vigorous brushing is not recommended, but now is the time to get them used to the routine and getting them used to you investigating their mouths and and touching and rubbing their teeth and gums. First, get them used to you opening and looking at their whole mouth. This will be very valuable to you later in life, where noticing changes in the color of the gums, or noticing a new spot that has developed could be the key to catching a developing condition. Perhaps each night when you brush your teeth, you call the puppy in for an inspection of the mouth and then reward them with a little treat. This will help you to set up a routine with them for brushing later.

* For any dog, to get them used to brushing, start with letting them have a lick of the toothpaste. It’s important not to use human toothpastes, as those are designed not to be swallowed (dogs won’t spit). They come in yummy flavors like chicken, peanut butter, and vanilla to help you make the experience positive for them. Once they’re loving the taste, you can simply rub your finger with toothpaste over their gum line on the outside (most plaque builds up in the back on the outsides of teeth). Once they’re OK with this, wrap a piece of gauze around your finger and rub the teeth along the gum line – even this will help to remove food particles and starches that adhere to the teeth. As the dog gets older you can move on to finger toothbrushes and then when adult teeth are in place, a doggie toothbrush will do the best job.

* A few customers have told us that brushing the dog’s teeth at the same time of day that you brush yours helps them to keep a routine – brushing for everyone!

Tips for brushing your cat’s teeth:

It can be done! If you have a kitten, we’d recommend following the steps for puppies outlined above. Take it slowly and do not force them into anything. Reward it well, and you might just be able to do more than you think. Check out this great post by Dr. Karen Becker, DVM on how to brush a cat’s teeth. Note: some cats who won’t allow brushing (like our Otis) might very well be willing to just bite down on the bristles of a toothbrush with kitty toothpaste pushed into the bristles. We let Otis chew on the brush facing up, and then facing down.

Supplements:

Plaque Off – We like supplements like Plaque Off which use a species of kelp that has been proven with clinical trials to reduce plaque in the mouth. When ingested each day, it changes the saliva a little bit to make food less likely to adhere to teeth (it interrupts the biofilm). Within 2 weeks we see better breath and within 6-8 weeks we often see noticeable changes in the amount of visible plaque on the teeth. They have a human version as well, which Mike and I both use – we definitely had measurable results at the dentist after 6 months of being on it. It’s pretty economical as well, the smaller 60g size sells at our store for $23.99, and lasts a cat or small dog over a year. The only animals (or people) that shouldn’t be on it have hyperthyroid disease, as kelp naturally contains some iodine, which can stimulate the thyroid. If it’s already over stimulated, it’s not advised to eat foods high in iodine. Otherwise, sea vegetables have nice nutritional benefits for healthy animals and people.

Petzlife – a gel or spray that can be applied topically to reduce tartar build-up. We think it works but haven’t had too much luck with palatability, as they’re all pretty minty, but they’re worth trying.

DentaTreat from Wysong – a cheesy powder that pets generally looove the taste of has lots of digestive enzymes and probiotics that help with bacteria in the mouth, and apparently some cheeses have unique properties that help to prevent tooth decay. Check out the link at the bottom of that page that says “product monographs” for an excellent description of how diets and tooth decay are intertwined, as well as a good description of each component of DentaTreat. Makes a good food topper for picky animals and makes a really nice “toothpaste” – dip your brush into the powder and use it to brush the teeth. Yummy!

Remember, visiting the vet for preventative care, including occasional dentals to check for damage and clean below the gum line are important, but if the dog’s nutrition is solid, they’re chewing a lot, and their teeth are getting brushed, you can avoid a lot of extractions and the expense of frequent surgical cleanings and treatments. And it’s not that hard!

Claiming Raw Foods are Dangerous Isn’t Backed Up With Data

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 2.27.36 PMThe FDA and the AVMA seem to have mounted a significant campaign against raw foods for pets, and we’d like to speak to that, as sometimes their information seems strangely skewed.

Last August (2012), the AVMA issued a statement warning against the safety of feeding raw food due to the risk of salmonella. The biggest problem we have with this is that this implies that there are no risks of salmonella exposure with other pet foods like kibbles. In fact a remarkable number of kibbles, chews and treats for dogs have been recalled for salmonella contamination.

Most concern about salmonella contamination is for the health of the humans involved, as humans are more susceptible to illness from handling salmonella contaminated food than the pets who eat them. What is never acknowledged is that to date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have no confirmed cases of human illness linked to raw pet foods. In stark contrast to this, the same year that the AVMA issued this warning, one of the largest salmonella recalls for kibble occurred in Gaston SC at the Diamond Manufacturing facility, shutting down the production of at least 15 brands of pet food, and resulting in 49 confirmed human cases of Salmonella Infantis linked to kibble pet food manufactured at Diamond’s facility. At least 10 of these people were hospitalized, though reporting is poor for this, so it may have been more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the journal Pediatrics that an outbreak of salmonella in 79 people between 2006 and 2008 was caused by contaminated dry pet food. The infections, half of which struck children, were the first known human salmonella cases linked to dry dog and cat food (from Mars Pet Care)

(more…)

Safety Warning for Dogs in the Northwest

IMG_0018 photo and article by Christine Mallar

This time of year the weather is wet and mushrooms pop up constantly in our yards. Dogs who investigate them and nibble on them are at great risk of liver damage. This silver mushroom I found might attract your attention, but there are some really poisonous mushrooms (one called the death cap) that look like all the other little brown mushrooms you might just overlook if you’re not being vigilant (see link below for a good photo). We’ve had many customers with dogs that have had close calls with mushrooms, and even a death. Dr Heidi Houchen of VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists, an emergency clinic in Clackamas, says she sees 1 or 2 cases of mushroom toxicity a week during the rainy season. Keep an eye out for mushrooms and pluck them as they pop up, to keep your dogs safe. If you do see your dog eat a mushroom, grab a sample if you can and bring it with you to the vet. Better safe than sorry! Read more here

Chinese Jerky News – Please Remain Vigilant

1381324_318485964955945_1243522223_nPlease make sure that you and your friends feed only jerky that is made in the U.S. and is also made from US chickens/ducks, etc. The FDA just posted an “update” saying they still haven’t figured out the cause, and are still not issuing a recall. Deaths since January = 100 dogs (600 total so far and one cat), and illnesses since January = 400 dogs and 10 cats (3600 total). It’s interesting that the FDA mentions the illnesses in this PDF, but not he deaths. Reports are down this year because many popular brands have issued recalls themselves after illegal antibiotic residues were found, but illnesses and deaths continue from other brands of Chinese jerky, including chicken, duck, and sweet potato.
We like Kona’s Chips chicken jerky, made in the U.S. from humanely raised chickens. Also available in organic chicken.
This graphic shows recalled brands, and also pictures other brands of Chinese jerky that haven’t yet agreed to recall their products, so we thought it would be handy for you to help recognize the brands.
Here’s a previous Green Dog Blog posting on the issue with more detailed info about the whole crazy situation
Here’s an interesting article which explains why we think it’s possible that illegal antibiotic residue might still be shown as the cause. Time will hopefully tell, and get whatever it is off the market for good.