To Flush or Not to Flush – disposing of pet waste

By Green Dog Pet Supply

Not long after we first opened the store, we found a product that we thought sounded like a no-brainer for a green store – doggie poop bags that broke down quickly in water so that they could be safely flushed. It seemed quite logical that pet waste would be best disposed of in a system already in place to treat sewage, so we bought them. However, it occurred to us that we had only worried about the safety of the home sewer system before we bought them, and had not considered to ask what happens to the water supply when pet waste was flushed. We were already selling flushable cat litter and advocating the flushing of litter. Is flushing really the best way to dispose of pet waste?  We contacted the city of Portland about this issue, as we wanted to make sure that it would truly be a good idea on all sides. They vehemently opposed the idea at the time, and we ended up not reordering those bags again (and they weren’t selling that well anyway, so we left it at that).

We heard recently that a few of our distributors were probably bringing in flushable bags, which concerned us a bit, as it means  they would then be actively promoted to local retailers and therefore marketed more widely to the public. As some years had passed and I knew that Portland has made some upgrades to the system in recent years, I called again to discuss the issue. (more…)

Saying No to Poor Quality Pet Food… Even When It’s Recommended by Your Vet

By Dr. Becker

Recently the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) added a fifth ‘vital health assessment’ for veterinarians in determining the health status of their cat and dog patients.

The four existing assessments are: temperature, cardio function, respiratory health, and pain.

The new “5th Vital Assessment”1 is nutrition.

Per Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, and executor director of the AAHA:

“Incorporating nutritional assessment into the routine examination protocol for every patient is important for maintaining optimal health, as well as their response to disease and injury.

The goal of the new guidelines is to provide a framework for the veterinary practice team to help make nutritional assessments and recommendations for their patients.”

Integrative and holistically-oriented vets have always done nutritional assessments on our patients.

In fact, I view species-appropriate nutrition as the first and most influential of the three pillars of health – the other two pillars being a sound, resilient body and a balanced, functional immune system.

And while I applaud the traditional veterinary community’s addition of a nutritional assessment in determining the well-being of dogs and cats, I’m a little concerned with where this initiative could be headed.

Here is how the AAHA introduced their new “5th Vital Assessment” initiative in October 20102:

DENVER — Nutrition is integral to optimal pet care. However, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) found through its Compliance Study that only seven percent of pets that could benefit from a therapeutic food were actually on such a regimen.

The compliance discrepancy along with the many factors considered in assessing the nutritional needs of a healthy dog or cat, as well as the pet with one or more medical conditions, led to the development the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines.

The phrase ‘therapeutic food’ gives me pause, especially when I see that a major manufacturer of ‘therapeutic’ pet food has provided an educational grant to print the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats3 in several languages.

Coming Soon to a Veterinarian Near You …

… a big push to switch your pet to a ‘therapeutic’ dog or cat food.

My discomfort with the therapeutic food angle grew when I came across a article in January of this year.

According to the article, the same pet food manufacturer who provided an educational grant to the AAHA “… will make regular visits to more than 22,000 veterinary hospitals and clinics to help build support for and implement nutritional recommendations as the ‘5th Vital Assessment’ in pet healthcare.”

To accomplish this the pet food company plans, among other things, to add sales staff to call more frequently on vet offices across the country in order to sell more therapeutic pet foods.

Then I came across another news item, also from January, announcing that a pet health insurance provider is adding coverage for therapeutic pet food.

According to the article, “… coverage now includes half the cost of therapeutic pet foods purchased through a veterinarian to assist in care of a pet for two months.”

‘Therapeutic’ Pet Food Ingredients Revealed

The following is a list of the first five ingredients in some of the therapeutic pet foods you may hear a sales pitch for the next time you take your pet to the vet for a wellness exam.

A can of cat food marketed as capable of improving feline bladder health:

  • Pork By-Products
  • Water
  • Pork Liver
  • Chicken
  • Rice

A bag of kibble advertised as good for feline gastrointestinal health:

  • Chicken By-Product Meal
  • Brewers Rice
  • Corn Gluten Meal
  • Whole Grain Corn
  • Pork Fat

A can of dog food to improve cardiac health in senior dogs:

  • Water
  • Corn Flour
  • Pork Liver
  • Rice Flour
  • Beef By-Products

Dry dog food marketed for canine renal health:

  • Brewers Rice
  • Pork Fat
  • Dried Egg Product
  • Flaxseed
  • Corn Gluten Meal

Regular readers here will immediately recognize the remarkably inferior, species inappropriate ingredients in these pet foods.

For the uninitiated:

  • By-products are what are left after all the good stuff is harvested for the human food industry. Beaks, feet, feathers, wattles and combs are chicken by-products. There could be something beneficial thrown in, like the heart or gizzard, but because there’s such potential for undesirable pieces and parts in ‘by-products,’ it’s better to avoid them altogether.
  • Corn in any form (including corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, corn flour, etc.) is an extremely allergenic food and difficult to digest. It’s also one of the three crops most highly contaminated with aflatoxins.
  • Brewers rice is a low quality ingredient that also happens to be a by-product. In addition, it’s a grain. Grains are not species-appropriate nutrition for carnivores.

Read here for the secret to cracking the code on your dog’s (or cat’s) pet food label.

Just Say No to ‘Therapeutic’ Pet Foods

Unfortunately, veterinary students don’t learn much about nutrition in their coursework. They graduate, go into practice, and become easy targets for pet food companies eager to fill their reception areas and storage closets with inferior quality ‘prescription’ diets for dogs and cats.

Now that the AAHA has added nutrition as the 5th vital assessment of a pet’s health, I think many pet owners will be hearing more about diets during vet visits. I also suspect many of these conversations will end with a recommendation to buy a ‘prescription’ (therapeutic) pet food to take home with you.

I absolutely do not recommend the extremely low quality, species-inappropriate pet food formulas being sold through vet practices as ‘therapeutic.’

I encourage my Natural Pet clients and all of you reading here to learn everything you can about the vital importance of biologically appropriate, high quality nutrition to the health and longevity of your pet.

I believe the more informed pet parents are about the type of food dogs and cats need to thrive, the less vulnerable they’ll be to a sales pitch for low quality pet food – even when it’s recommended by a veterinarian.


What the Heck is Target Training?

A Tapir learns to touch a target in a zoo

A Tapir learns to touch a target in a zoo

By Christine Mallar

We just brought in some nifty extendable target training sticks to the store, and so I thought I should write up a description of what it’s used for, as targeting is such a fun and really easy activity to do with your pets, no matter what species – I’ve even taught a fish to target. No, seriously! This isn’t an indication of what a good trainer I am, it’s just an illustration of how easy it is to teach and learn this behavior. (In fact, I have to laugh as I just Googled “Target Training a Fish” and came up with lots of results! Here’s one).

To ask an animal to target, you are asking the animal to deliberately touch an object, and you are marking the moment with a sound (like a click from a training clicker, or even the word “Yes!”). The animal knows this sound means that a treat is coming their way, and allows them to pinpoint the exact thing the trainer wants them to do to earn that treat.  This clever concept was created by dolphin trainers. Dolphins are very smart, but slippery. Trainers couldn’t possibly have used traditional methods of training that required physical domination of the animals (like cowboys did with horses, or dog trainers did with leashes and choke collars) – it just isn’t possible. With a whistle and a bucket of fish, dolphins participated voluntarily in their own training (and if they weren’t having fun they could easily swim away).

Picture this: a dolphin trainer wants the dolphin to jump out of the water and touch a ball that is suspended way up high. First, the trainer might toss the ball onto the water and wait until the dolphin investigates it. The trainer is watching for the moment the dolphin touches the ball with its nose, and they mark that moment exactly with a whistle. This noise means a piece of fish, which the dolphin happily goes to collect from the trainer. When the dolphin happens to touch the ball again and hears that whistle, it starts to become quite clear to the dolphindolphin that she can touch that ball on purpose to make that trainer give her another fish. Now that the intent is clear that the behavior is to touch the ball with her nose, the trainer can introduce a hand signal or word right before she touches it, which becomes the command. The trainer might suspend the ball from a rope right at water level, and ask for and whistle/reward touches to the ball. Then the ball can be raised a little at a time and the dolphin must now stretch to reach it, and then jump to reach it, etc. Targeting can also be used to teach her to touch other parts of her body to objects or even a trainer’s hand, allowing the trainer to perhaps shake a flipper (first a “trick”) and then this trick is used to slowly shape a far more difficult behavior, like allowing a vet to take blood from a vein on that flipper – all with voluntary participation from that dolphin. It removes the fear of that procedure as it’s taught gradually, and is certainly easier and much less risky for everyone involved than corralling that dolphin and herding her into some sort of restraint device that would enable them to get that blood sample forcefully, and good luck getting that done a second time! With positive reinforcement training, it became possible for trainers to get voluntary participation from the dolphins for complex behaviors like veterinary procedures, helping to greatly lower the stress for the dolphins if they needed care.


Why Dry Food is Not the Best Food for Your Cat







Here’s another great article by Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker:

By Dr. Becker

More evidence has emerged linking dry food diets and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

A study was conducted at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Koret School of Veterinary Medicine to evaluate urethral obstruction (UO), which is an extremely common, life-threatening condition in cats.

The urethra is a small tube through which urine flows from your cat’s bladder to the outside of the body.

Urethral obstructions are usually mineral crystals or stones, or plugs of inflammatory material that form in the kidneys (a process known as urolithiasis), pass down into the bladder, and get stuck in the urethra, blocking the passage of urine from the body.

The urethra in male cats is longer and narrower than in females, so obstructions are more often seen in males.

Once a blockage develops in the urethra, the kidneys continue to produce urine and the urine starts building up in the bladder.

This is not only painful for the cat, it can also quickly interfere with kidney function.

The job of the kidneys is to flush waste from the body, and when they aren’t working properly, toxins accumulate in the bloodstream.

Feline urethral obstructions, if not treated promptly, can result in death in a matter of days.

Dog Diagnosed with Megaesophagus? Don’t despair!


By Green Dog Pet Supply

“Megaesophagus is a condition in which a dog’s esophagus is enlarged to the point that food remains in the esophagus and never makes it down to the stomach and is instead regurgitated. The muscle contraction and relaxation that normally takes place to move food down to the stomach doesn’t work. Megaesophagus can be present since birth or can develop in adult dogs. If left untreated, it can cause a range of problems, including starvation and aspiration pneumonia.” This quote was extracted from a site called The Pet Project and their post details how to get a hold of “Baily’s Chair” which enables dogs to eat in a way that lets food get down into the stomach more easily, as well as giving many great resources for where to go for support and information about this condition. Check out this fantastic You Tube video of a dog using a chair like this – it’s so flippin’ cute how the dog jumps into place!

In the “Answers from Experts” (03/99 issue) of the Whole Dog Journal, Holistic vet Dr Carolyn Blakey suggests that homeopathy can help, as well as acupuncture, “which would be great for stimulating whatever tonal ability the dog may have. With megaesophagus, the whole problem is a lack of innervation (sufficient supply and activity of the nerves). The messages are just not getting through to the esophagus to constrict and move food down; it gets all flaccid. But acupuncture can get those neurotransmitters working, or at least, get them working better than before.”
She also mentions that it would be important to have a good vitamin mineral supplement as well as digestive enzymes to help the dog (or cat) to absorb more nutrition from the food that makes it into the stomach.

Simple Solution for Dogs that Bark out the Windows

By Green Dog Pet Supply

A customer shared her very clever solution to a long time problem she was having. Her dog loves to bark out of the window, and was not only creating a lot of noise for her close neighbors, but she was also shredding her blinds. The shredded blinds not only looked terrible, they were an expensive loss. Then she hit upon the great idea to purchase a sort of contact paper made for windows that made them look frosted, and the problem was solved! They still let plenty of light in, they look attractive, they provide valuable privacy for houses that are close to the neighbors, and by only frosting the bottom panes, the owner can still look out the top part of the window if she needs to see outside. The dog can’t get up that high though, so the visual stimuli that were causing her to bark (squirrels, people passing, etc) were removed. She’s calmer, the neighbors are happier, and the new blinds remain unshredded, as there’s nothing to see by pushing them out of the way. Check out this awesome DYI site that shows beautiful ways to embellish the frosted glass look with a paint pen. Beautiful!

Have Fun and Be Safe on Thanksgiving


By Green Dog Pet Supply

So of course tomorrow, watch out for your pets when your house is full of people:

  • Make sure if they’re overwhelmed they get moved to a quieter place in the house with a nice raw bone or bully stick or stuffed Kong to work on.
  • Make sure they’re wearing their ID tags in case they sneak out the door as people come and go.
  • Make sure no one slips them too much turkey, especially skin and gravy, as Pancreatitis can set in quickly with too many rich fats. Of course, cooked turkey bones are extremely dangerous for dogs – cooking any poultry bones changes them from edible to sharp and splintery.
  • Be careful of the wrappings, strings and foil etc that were involved with turkey cooking, as they seem yummy too. Protect this sort of garbage from your pets.
  • Raisins, grapes, rising bread dough, onions and chocolate often play roles tomorrow in the big meal, and they are all toxic to dogs.
  • Raw turkey necks, however, are a great treat for dogs (unless their Thanksgiving day is filled with too many other treats – maybe save that for a quieter day if they haven’t had one before), and the raw liver and heart are worth cutting up and giving little pieces to both the kitties and the dogs.
  • Keep your emergency vet # in an easy to find place in case your pet eats something they shouldn’t
  • Have a wonderful holiday!

Good News About the Latest Canine Vaccination Guidelines


By Dr. Becker

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine Vaccination Task Force has updated their vaccination guidelines for 2011.

According to

Developed in a manner consistent with best vaccination practices, the 2011 Guidelines include expert opinions supported by scientific study, published and unpublished documents, and encompass all canine vaccines currently licensed in the U.S. and Canada. The task force that developed the guidelines included experts in immunology, infectious diseases, internal medicine, law, and clinical practice.

I’m encouraged by, if not blissful about the new guidelines.

The absolute highlight is that all core vaccines with the exception of the 1-year rabies are now recommended at 3-year or greater intervals.

Even more exciting is the task force has acknowledged that in the case of the non-rabies core vaccines, immunity lasts at least 5 years for distemper and parvo, and at least 7 years for adenovirus.

Hopefully these new guidelines will help more dog owners understand the long-lasting effect of those puppy shots! And hopefully, more dog owners will now request titers rather than automatically revaccinating their canine companions for distemper, parvo and adenovirus.

Summary of New AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines for 2011

Please note: My vaccine recommendations and those of Dr. Ronald Schultz, follow this summary.


Canine Distemper (CDV)

Initial vaccination in puppies < 16 weeks of age

  • Starting at 6 weeks, vaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks (6, 10, 14 or 8, 12, 16 weeks) up to 14 or 16 weeks; final shot should be given between 14 and 16 weeks to minimize risk of maternal antibody interference

Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age

  • One dose


  • For puppies who received initial vaccination series by 16 weeks, a booster no later than 1 year after completion of initial series, then ≥ 3 years thereafter
  • For dogs who received initial vaccination after 16 weeks of age, every ≥ 3 years thereafter

Notes: Among healthy dogs, distemper vaccines are expected to induce immunity for at least 5 years.

Canine Parvo (CPV-2)

Initial vaccination in puppies < 16 weeks of age

  • Starting at 6 weeks, vaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks (6, 10, 14 or 8, 12, 16 weeks) up to 14 or 16 weeks; final shot should be given between 14 and 16 weeks to minimize risk of maternal antibody interference

Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age

  • One dose


  • For puppies who received initial vaccination series by 16 weeks, a booster no later than 1 year after completion of initial series, then ≥ 3 years thereafter
  • For dogs who received initial vaccination after 16 weeks of age, every ≥ 3 years thereafter

Notes: Among healthy dogs, distemper vaccines are expected to induce immunity for at least 5 years.

Canine Adenovirus (CAV-2)

Initial vaccination in puppies < 16 weeks of age

  • Starting at 6 weeks, vaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks (6, 10, 14 or 8, 12, 16 weeks) up to 14 or 16 weeks; final shot should be given between 14 and 16 weeks to minimize risk of maternal antibody interference

Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age

  • One dose


  • For puppies who received initial vaccination series by 16 weeks, a booster no later than 1 year after completion of initial series, then ≥ 3 years thereafter
  • For dogs who received initial vaccination after 16 weeks of age, every ≥ 3 years thereafter

Notes: Among healthy dogs, distemper vaccines are expected to induce immunity for at least 7 years.

Rabies 1-year

Initial vaccination in puppies < 16 weeks of age

  • One dose not earlier than 12 weeks or as required by law

Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age

  • One dose


  • For all dogs: annually as required by law

Rabies 3-year

Initial vaccination in puppies < 16 weeks of age

  • One dose not earlier than 12 weeks or as required by law

Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age

  • One dose


  • For all dogs: within 1 year of initial dose regardless of age at time of initial dose, then every 3 years thereafter as required by law


Measles Vaccine (MV)

This vaccine is supposed to provide temporary immunization of young puppies against distemper by ‘cross-protecting’ them against the disease in the event there are still maternally derived antibodies present. It is always given in combination with other vaccines — distemper plus measles, or a 4-way combination of distemper plus measles plus adenovirus plus parainfluenza.

It is only recommended for healthy dogs between 6 and 12 weeks of age.

Canine Parainfluenza (CPiV)

There are two delivery systems for this vaccine — intranasal and parenteral (injected).

This is a flu vaccine. The intranasal form prevents clinical signs of illness, infection and shedding. The injected form prevents clinical illness, but not infection or shedding. It is used for dogs that aggressively resist intranasal delivery.

The parenteral vaccine is always given in combination with certain core vaccines; the intranasal form is always given in combination with the bordetella vaccine alone, or with bordetella plus adenovirus.

It is always given in a single dose. Revaccination recommendations, depending on the form of the vaccine (intranasal or parenteral), are per the combined core vaccine schedule, annually, or more frequently for ‘high risk’ animals.

Bordetella (Bb) Vaccine

The bordetella vaccine can also be delivered intranasally or by injection.

Parenteral administration requires two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart. For the initial vaccination, it is recommended the second dose be given at least a week before the dog is boarded, attends a dog show, etc. Revaccination is recommended annually

The intranasal vaccine is single dose, with revaccination recommended annually or more often for ‘high risk’ dogs. Some dogs experience side effects for 3 to 10 days after vaccination, including coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge.

Canine Adenovirus (CAV-2) — Intranasal

The intranasal form of the adenovirus vaccine is a non-core vaccine.

It’s recommended for dogs at risk for respiratory infection caused by the adenovirus, and it may not provide immunity against canine hepatitis. It should not be considered a replacement for the injectable form of the vaccine.

This vaccine is available only in combination with the intranasal bordetella and parainfluenza vaccines.

Canine Influenza

Vaccine is given in two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart, in dogs older than 6 weeks. Annual revaccination is recommended.

Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)

Vaccine is given in two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart, in dogs older than 12 weeks of age. Revaccination is recommended annually and/or at the beginning of tick season as determined regionally.

Notes: Recommended only for use in dogs with known risk of exposure, living in or visiting regions where exposure risk is high or where Lyme disease is endemic. Tick control products are required in addition to the vaccine.

Leptospira interrogans

This refers to the 4-way killed whole cell or subunit bacterin. The 2-way killed bacterin form of this vaccine is not recommended.

Vaccine is given in two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart, in dogs older than 12 weeks of age.  Revaccination is recommended annually, but only for dogs with reasonable risk of exposure.

Notes: Vaccination should be based on known geographic occurrence/prevalence and exposure risk of the individual dog.

Canine Oral Melanoma

This vaccine is only available for treatment of dogs with malignant melanoma. It is not intended for the prevention of oral melanoma.

Crotalus atrox (Western Diamondback rattlesnake vaccine) (toxoid)

Field efficacy and experimental challenge data in dogs are not available at this time. (Vaccine efficacy and dose recommendations are based on toxin neutralization studies conducted in mice.)

Canine Coronavirus (CCov)

This vaccine is not recommended. Neither the modified live nor the killed CCov vaccine has proved effective against combination coronavirus/parvo disease. Only the parvo vaccine is protective against dual viruses.

What Dr. Ron Schultz Recommends

For those of you not familiar with Dr. Schultz, I recommend you watch my 4-part video series with him. You can find links to all 4 videos and articles here.

Dr. Schultz is one of the preeminent experts in the field of veterinary vaccines. If you read the full AAHA vaccination guidelines report, you’ll see his work referenced throughout.

Dr. Schultz recommends not starting a puppy or kitten core vaccination program before 6 to 8 weeks of age, with revaccinations no more frequent than every 4 weeks. So for example, if you start the program at 8 weeks, you would give another dose of the core vaccines at 12 weeks, and the third dose at 16 weeks.

Dr. Schultz’s core vaccine protocol for his own family’s pets differs in that he actually runs antibody titers on the mother to know exactly when the best time is to effectively immunize the puppy or kitten for the 3 core viruses. Then he titers the little ones 2 or more weeks after the vaccine, and as long as the response is adequate, he doesn’t in most cases revaccinate for the rest of the pet’s life.

When it comes to rabies vaccines, Dr. Schultz gives the first vaccine after 4 months of age, revaccinates in a year, and then again in 3 years and every 3 years thereafter. In other words, he follows the law for 3-year rabies vaccines, even though he doesn’t believe a vaccination every 3 years is necessary for immunization.

Currently Dr. Schultz is in year 4 of a 7-year study of the rabies vaccine. You can read more about the study at the Rabies Challenge Fund. His goal is to be able to recommend that after an animal is vaccinated at from 12 to 24 weeks for rabies, there’s no need for re-vaccination every 3 years.

Hopefully we’ll see the results of his 7-year study reflected in a future revision of the AAHA’s canine vaccination guidelines, as well as in state and local laws.

My Vaccination Protocol

My protocol at Natural Pet is a first round of the 3 cores before 12 weeks of age, usually around 9 to 10 weeks. Then I boost between 15 and 16 weeks. Then I titer 2 weeks after the second round to see if the animal has been immunized and not just vaccinated.

My rabies protocol mirrors Dr. Schultz’s, except I prefer to wait until 6 months of age before giving rabies vaccine.

As for the non-core vaccines, I don’t recommend any of them. Visit the following pages for a discussion of:

Note several non-core vaccines are only available in combination with other vaccines, some of which are core. I recommend you check with your vet to ensure none of the non-core vaccines are being piggy-backed on core vaccines your pet receives. Most traditional vets do not carry single vaccines, so ask to see the vaccine vial before assuming your pet is only receiving one agent at a time.

Fantastic Videos to Help You Pick the Best Foods for Your Pets

These are two videos I wish I had made myself, as we have these discussions with people on a daily basis. I also wish Dr. Becker was here in Portland – I’d give anything to be able to refer customers to her veterinary practice, and to have her out to the store for lectures, etc. The good news is that she has a great website/e-mail newsletter that addresses so many important health issues for pets. I highly encourage you to sign up for her free e-mail newsletter, and to peruse the archived articles on her website.

Here are two short videos filmed at our friends’ store, “Bad Dog Frida” – a great independent pet supply store in Madison, WI.
This one tells you about the best types of foods to feed your pets:

and this one outlines the types of foods you should avoid and how to recognize them:

Time to ditch the old couch for our pets’ sake?


By Green Dog Pet Supply

I just stumbled upon an interesting article about flame retardants in furniture having agreater cumulative effect in the bodies of our pets than in people. Apparently many of these chemicals were phased out in 2004 in the U.S., but of course many of us own furniture manufactured before that time. It’s very important to try to minimize chemical exposure for our pets and our children- those little bodies are even more susceptible to toxins than we are.  Here’s the link.