Whole Food Toppers are Important

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 11.04.27 AMWe try to carry the best dry foods on the market, but it’s important to realize that even the best ones are still a heavily processed food. Some ingredients are put through multiple layers of processing, and the whole batch is baked or more often extruded, which can damage nutrients, enzymes, and valuable amino acids that have important jobs to do in the body.

Most pet owners find one kibble that works and just stick with it, but this really limits the number of nutrients available to your pet. Some pet food companies say you should never ever  switch your dog’s food, but that doesn’t make much sense (they just don’t want you to feed someone else’s food!). Why should you sometimes switch your pet’s food? No matter what, even the best brands of kibble are highly processed foods that lack whole food nutrients and enzymes that can help their bodies thrive. Topping off their kibble diets can make a huge difference for their health! Even the nicest raw food diets can be lacking nutrient diversity – no matter how thoughtful and knowledgeable we are, we couldn’t make a single meal for ourselves that we could eat every single day of our lives and not have a deficiency or excess of something for our personal nutritional needs. We can certainly say the same for our pets! Variety over time creates nutritional balance. Adding whole food toppers are a great to help to round out their meals, especially if you rotate through different ones!   Just like for people, a diet for pets made entirely of processed foods with no fresh whole food nutrients is a recipe for chronic illness. With the rapid rise in chronic illnesses like cancer, we should (in our opinion) be doing everything we can to boost the diets of our precious, short lived pets to try to take advantage of whole food nutrients. But what to give?

This is where whole food toppers come in handy. Most kibbles rely heavily on synthetic vitamins and minerals to make sure that valuable nutrients that are damaged by cooking are not missing. However, whole foods have valuable qualities that trump any single synthetic vitamin. For example, a carrot has valuable Vitamin A, but to quote http://www.whfoods.com, “carrots actually contain a fascinating combination of phytonutrients like betacarotene and other carotenoids (especially alpha-carotene and lutein); hydroxycinnamic acids (including caffeic, coumaric, ferulic); anthocyanins (in the case of purple and red carrots); and polyacetylenes (especially falcarinol and falcarindiol). Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). In addition, they are a very good source of biotin, vitamin K, dietary fiber, molybdenum, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. They are a good source of manganese, niacin, vitamin B1, panthothenic acid, phosphorus, folate, copper, vitamin E and vitamin B2”. WOW! Just trying to isolate single vitamins makes you miss out on the incredible complexity of nutrients that were designed to work together.  So, we don’t recommend getting a supplement made from synthetic vitamins, we recommend rotating through a variety of Whole food toppers one at a time to help to cover all of their nutritional bases.

We’ve decided to create a tag called “Whole Food Toppers”, and to add a series of articles about our favorite whole food toppers for pets. Some will be things you can make or just add from your own fridge, and some will be our favorite ready-made commercially available toppers that you can look for at your favorite local pet supply store. Most will be for dogs, but we’ll point out what would be appropriate for cats of course.

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 11.05.10 AM

photo from www.greenjujukitchen.com

The most awesome thing would of course to switch entirely to a fresh, minimally processed diet. Over and over we see chronic illnesses and conditions solved by doing this. However, many people are not able to do this for themselves, let alone their pets. There’s a lot to be said for the convenience and price effectiveness of kibble. But as I always say, whole foods don’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Any amount of whole foods in our own diet is a good thing, and the same goes for our pets.

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Important Tips:

– Introduce all new things slowly. If your dog is tiny (and of course this goes for cats), start very small and build up to the suggested serving size. It’s a good rule of thumb for all foods and supplements. What if your pet had an allergy you didn’t know about and you heaped on something new? You can’t “un-give” it if they’ve started to show a reaction to it. What if your pet’s digestion is affected by something new? No one likes a blowout.
– Use something for a few weeks to get a sense of its long term benefits, and then rotate into something new. Or if it’s a fish oil, try a new kind of fish for your next bottle. (Been on salmon oil for a while? Try anchovy or sardine.)
– Always try one new thing at a time, so you can see whether it does or doesn’t agree with your pets- Watch your portions. If more than 20% of their meals are something you’re adding, you may need to consider if it’s balanced. Variety does help to create balance over time, but regularly adding even a little whole food to your kibble will create benefits. Sprinkle stuff on. If you normally add a few spoonfuls of canned food for variety and flavor, that’s great. Maybe try to introduce other things in the same amount to your dog’s kibble. Added perk: they’ll almost always be less expensive than canned foods.

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Featured Topper!!
Here’s a great product that we love. We sell a ton of Answers brand raw goat’s milk from our freezers, but these have added nutritious benefits and travel well when you’re on the road with your dogs

FREEZE DRIED RAW GOATS MILK FROM STEVE’S

Group-with-BottleThese are supercharged with Mother Nature’s most powerful superfoods! No matter what, even the best brands of kibble are highly processed foods that lack whole food nutrients and enzymes that can help their bodies thrive. Topping off their kibble diets can make a huge difference for their health! Even the nicest raw food diets can be lacking nutrient diversity – no matter how thoughtful and knowledgable we are, we couldn’t make a single meal for ourselves that we could eat every single day of our lives and not have a deficiency or excess of something for our personal nutritional needs. We can certainly say the same for our pets! Variety over time creates nutritional balance. Adding whole food toppers like these (or the Green Juju we featured in the last newsletter) are a great to help to round out their meals, especially if you rotate through different ones!
Each freeze dried goat milk enhancement made by Steve’s Pet Food is packed full of carefully chosen superfoods that are designed to alleviate specific health issues. They package it in a reusable glass milk bottle, so all you need to do is fill it with water, shake, and pour over your pet’s food, or give it to them as treat or bedtime snack. When you run out, you can buy their 8 oz. refill containers and reuse the milk bottle to make another batch of your favorite enhance product. Here is a description of the three amazing flavors:
CannaGurt is a raw cannabis product that takes raw goat milk yogurt and infuses it with high-quality hemp oil. With 2.9 mg of CBDs per oz, CannaGurt is designed to help to dogs (or cats) with seizures, anxiety, pain, cancer, cognitive disorders and a suppressed appetite. CannaGurt has three simple ingredients that pack a big nutritional punch. First, the goat milk, which is incredibly nutritious and healthy for pets. They have added hemp protein which is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also high in fiber, which helps prevent blood sugar spikes and maintains energy. The bonus is that hemp is a sustainable crop that thrives without pesticides, and purifies and enriches the soil around it. The third ingredient in our powerhouse CannaGurt is Hemp Oil. Hemp  oil contains Cannabidiol, or CBD, which does not alter the mind but safely contains incredible medicinal benefits.
DogNog is a recipe that takes raw goat milk and boosts it’s health properties by infusing it with whole, freeze dried eggs. They then add turmeric and yucca to heighten the anti-inflammatory powers, making it ideal for pets with mobility issues, allergies, or pets with inflammatory diseases such as IBD. It supports the urinary tract by providing high levels of Vitamin C coming from both Yucca and Cranberries. Cranberries also contain flavonoids comprised of a complex profile of anthocyanins and pronthocyanidins.  They perfect the enhancement by adding bromelain, a protein extract derived from the stems of pineapple, which acts as a binder to help with the absorption of the turmeric & yucca and also provides anti-inflammatory benefits.
CarnaForage is a super green smoothie that is perfect for dogs with digestive issues. It is packed with a wide variety of  greens that provide high levels of L-glutamine, a conditionally essential amino acid that the body uses in large amounts. L-glutamine is primarily responsible for digestive health and can ease symptoms of IBD, diarrhea and leaky gut. We compliment the tummy soothing raw goat milk with liver supportive dandelion, known for its high levels of Lecithin and Vitamin A. We finish this digestive enhancement with milk thistle, cilantro, and spirulina to strengthen and protect the liver from toxins, making it perfect for those pets with a sensitive stomach, chronic indigestion, pancreatitis, or GI tract inflammation.
read more here

 

Safety First – A Reminder When it Comes to Pet Food

We really try very hard to carry products that we trust from companies who have rigorous safety protocols for their manufacturing facilities and who source good ingredients. These pet food companies are pretty big companies though, providing a lot of product nationally to a great number of pets. Problems are fairly uncommon, though they are still possible. Remember, we can’t report problems to the company unless we have the date codes and lot numbers. If your pet’s food seems to have changed, or your pet suddenly doesn’t want to eat something they usually like, or you open a new bag and your pets suddenly start having issues:

Bring it back and let us know about it. It really might not be the food causing the problem, but why take a risk? Also, if your pet supply store starts to hear the same problems from multiple customers, it lets them see a pattern they might not be able to notice otherwise. There are of course many reasons pets might not want to eat or have sudden GI problems, but what if others are seeing the same thing? We’d like to alert the company and ask them if they’ve been hearing any reports of issues.

If your pet is ill, take them to the vet. More importantly, If your vet strongly suspects a problem with the food, ask them to report it!

Whenever you start a new bag of food, hang on to the bag for a little bit. Many people use storage containers and immediately discard the bag, but there is no way for a company to respond to a problem if they don’t know which batch to test.

Report it! The internet is overflowing with people saying they’ve had problems/illnesses associated with all sorts of pet foods and medications, but when you ask the companies they often have had no reports, or even when you look up FDA reports of illness there is very little reported. Message boards and comment section complaints are not a good way to make sure problems are addressed. Here’s a new effort to encourage reporting of pet food problems: Please read it and share this link widely! http://truthaboutpetfood.com/report-it-please/

Here’s the quick link to the safety reporting portal of the FDA

Colostrum for digestive health and immune system support

whol_cancolostrum_rgb300For the first few days after giving birth, all mammals produce something called colostrum in their milk. This amazing substance is critical for the early development of newborns, as it serves as a concentrated source of proteins, growth factors, and antibodies. Its properties have been revered for thousands of years across many cultures, as it is a powerhouse of nutrition and tools for healing and protecting the body.  Many human health benefits have been attributed to bovine colostrum including: increased energy levels, lower risks of upper respiratory illnesses, reduced risk of intestinal damage from anti-inflammatory drugs, increased ability of the body to burn fat and increase muscle, and the acceleration of injury healing. 

The immunoglobulins in colostrum have specific immune system activity against many common pathogens such as E.coli, Cryptosporidium, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Rotavirus. Another of the many beneficial attributes in colostrum is that it is rich in “Proline-Rich Polypeptides” or PRPs, which are specifically designed to modulate the activity of the immune system, stimulating its activity when needed to fight off an infection or quelling its activity to prevent tissue damage once the infection has been defeated. PRPs have also been shown in studies to be potent stimulators of natural killer (NK) cell activity (cancer fighters).
One of the most important things that colostrum can do is to help seal the lining of the gut. The gut lining (ours and those of our pets) is fragile, and can be damaged easily by the many stresses of life which include a poor diet, chemical exposure, vaccines, medications (especially NSAIDS), and adrenal stress. The lining is naturally permeable to allow tiny nutrients to enter the blood stream, but when the lining is damaged, larger gaps are created, allowing things like toxins, microbes and waste materials to travel into the blood stream. The immune system is designed to spring into action to prevent these things from hurting the body, but when this condition is chronic, it can cause the immune system to become over reactive. Holistic vets and Naturopathic doctors believe that it can lead to a host of symptoms, such as seasonal allergies and asthma, skin issues, yeast overgrowth, chronic problems with stool quality, food intolerances, and IBD.  Colostrum has a unique ability to help to seal and heal the lining of the gut and calm and support the immune system. It also helps probiotics to work more efficiently, preventing their loss through that leaky gut, and providing the soil for the seeds of probiotics, so to speak. 

Colostrum can also be used topically! On the VCA Hospital’s website it says that it’s “useful for accelerating the healing of insect bites, wounds such as abscesses or ruptured cysts, warts, and surgical incisions”.

Photo by: Magnus Rosendahl

The good news is that the benefits of colostrum are not species specific – the colostrum produced by cows is just as beneficial to humans and pets as it is for cows. When cows are born, their needs are met first, as calves will likely die or have serious health issues without colostrum in the first hours of life. Luckily, the mother continues to produce enough extra colostrum that it can be collected for use in supplements.  The other piece of good news is that colostrum has been proven to be safe and therapeutic. Colostrum is food and should be thought of as such. There have been no significant side effects from supplementation with bovine colostrum reported in the abundant literature. It is best taken on an empty stomach with liquid – you could also add it to a small spoonful of food, like yogurt, cooked sweet potato, etc, or even better, added to Answers brand of probotic-rich goat’s milk! When shopping, look for colostrum that is from grass fed cows, ideally organically raised. Read more about colostrum here

Cat Nutrition

IMG_5020_2By Green Dog Pet Supply

Nutrition 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:

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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 (especially 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, carrageenan 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 Know What’s Inside?
A Discussion of Sustainable Choices in Foods for Pets
Cat Nutrition – Please read this if you have a cat
Tips for New Puppy Owners
Claiming Raw Foods Are Dangerous Isn’t Backed Up With Data
Why Dry Pet Food Isn’t The Best For Your Cat
Carrageenan and our Quest to Change the World One Ingredient at a time
Just Say No to Soy in Pet Food

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)
Open Farm (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 and dog)
Tripett (dog)
Wellness (stews for dog)
Wild Calling (cat and dog)

 

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

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By Green Dog Pet Supply

(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!DSC01291

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:

 

it's very nice when big dogs get low to meet puppies. Hold the adult dog in one place on a leash and allow the puppy to approach and retreat as they gain confidence.

It’s very nice when big dogs get low to meet puppies. Hold the adult dog in one place on a leash and allow the puppy to approach and retreat as they gain confidence.

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!

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Dental Health for Dogs and Cats

FinalBy Green Dog Pet Supply

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

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By Green Dog Pet Supply

The 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)

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Chinese Jerky News – Please Remain Vigilant

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By Green Dog Pet Supply
Please 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.