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Raw Pet Food: Transitioning and Trial Tips

If raw food seems like a good idea, but you worry that your pet won’t take to a raw food diet, read on! The benefits of a raw food diet can be astounding, and if you make the commitment and persevere, your pet can greatly benefit from your efforts. Here are some tips to get you started:

Take Your Time – Incorporating raw food into your pet’s diet is a big step, and your pet’s digestive system and palate need time to adjust to the change. Plan to transition your pet over a 2-4 week timeframe, depending on how picky your pet is and the state of their health. Gradually increase the proportions of new to old food so your pet’s system has time to adjust. If you are concerned about your pet not getting enough to eat while they are trying raw food, alternate meals, giving raw in the morning (when appetite is keenest and pets are usually most open to whatever you offer) and give the usual canned or dry at night.

Skip the Stress! – Some pet parents unknowingly ruin the “fair trial” experiment with new foods with their own anxiety. Your pet picks up on your mood and subtle body language signals when you offer them a new food. If you are feeling anxious or worried, your pet may think, “Mom sure is worried about this food – now I’m a little worried myself!” Not every pet will like every food, but remember to act and talk positively when you are giving your pet a new healthy food. Say “Oooh, what a lucky one you are! You get some raw food today!” Then retreat from the kitchen and let your pet try out your offering without your hovering anxiously nearby!

Taste Test First – You don’t have to go all out and buy pre-packaged raw pet food from the get-go! Try giving your pet a small bit of raw meat when you are preparing meat for family meals – this can give you an idea of how receptive your pet may be to a raw food diet. Try different meats and see if your pet has a preference. Often a pet that dislikes raw beef will take to raw turkey or chicken. Many cats prefer small “game” meats like chicken, duck or rabbit that are most like what their wild ancestors ate.

Whet Your Pet’s Appetite – If your pet is used to free feeding (having dry food left out all day), start by cutting back to two or three meals per day. This is healthier for your pet’s digestive system, and will increase your pet’s appetite – and usually, their willingness to try whatever you put down at meal time. You can also try adding a tasty “topper” to encourage your pet to try something new. We have many excellent freeze-dried treats and our Only Natural Pet Health Meals Freeze-Dried Patties that can be crumbled on top or mixed in with raw food to get them more interested. Also, canned tripe foods or freeze-dried tripe treats can help whet your companion’s appetite for raw or any new food. Even just a tasty natural canned food can do the trick. We especially like Merrick, Nature’s Variety, Natura (Innova & California Natural) and Weruva for fresh flavors that help pets transition to raw foods.

Take Baby Steps – Especially for picky pets, a change to raw food may best be done gradually. Start out slow, and try mixing a bit of raw meat into your pet’s usual canned food or kibble. Many pets will accept raw food more easily if you warm it up, or even cook it lightly first by pan searing the outside to release the aroma. Over time, you can cook it less until your pet accepts it raw. Also, consider that raw doesn’t just have to be meat. Many dogs and some cats eat salad greens – especially when tossed with a bit of salmon oil or canned food “dressing.” Try fresh or steamed veggies and even fruits – we know of one cat that is crazy for cantaloupe! Keep trying – the results are worth it!

Raw food can enhance your pet’s quality of life and overall health, and help them live a longer life. It’s easy to take our pets for granted, and investing in a raw food diet is one of the best ways to give back to your pet for all of the love they give you every day.

Click here to see some great raw pet food options.

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All About Raw Food for Pets

Our animal companions are natural hunters and carnivores – just look at their ancestry.  The dog at your feet (or on your sofa) has evolved from the wolf, and his digestive system is virtually the same despite thousands of years of domestication. They have very short intestinal tracts geared to the consumption and digestion of raw foods. Dogs are considered “omnivores” as they eat a variety of grasses, berries and vegetables in addition to prey. The cat on your lap is a true or “obligate” carnivore (meat only diet) and is specially designed by nature to hunt small rodents and birds. Her digestive tract, as well, is intended to assimilate raw meat best.

The Benefits of Raw

Diet is the foundation of health. The fresher the diet, the more nutrients are available for the animal’s system to utilize in building immunity, healing from illness and warding off disease. Raw food diets have been shown to help the body deal with many common ailments such as flea infestations, hot spots, continual shedding, poor dental & gum health, allergies, gastro-intestinal problems such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, immune disorders and degenerative diseases.

Raw diets have been common practice in European countries for decades, especially Germany, where it is commonly recommended by veterinarians. The fear of feeding raw meat in this country seems to stem from a fear of salmonella, E. coli and parasites. In over 10 years of feeding raw food and seeing countless animals on raw food diets, salmonella and E. coli have not been seen to be a problem. Remember, pets’ digestive systems are designed to accommodate raw meat. Parasites could be contracted through eating wild, whole prey or game meats, but is much less likely to occur with properly handled human grade meats. Infection is more likely to occur through a pet’s ingestion of feces or soil, or from poorly handled meat.

The actual research sited in the US in support of a raw diet is rather convincing. A long term study conducted by Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD, between 1932 and 1942 was initiated a bit by accident. Dr. Pottenger kept cats as laboratory animals for experiments in human health. As his research and cat population grew, he resorted to feeding them raw meat scraps from a local packing plant instead of cooked kitchen leftovers. Within a few months, he noticed distinct improvements in the cats eating raw meat. This prompted Dr. Pottenger to undertake a whole new experiment. He segregated cats into different groups – some of which were fed a cooked meat diet and others who received a raw meat diet. All observations were noted in great detail over many generations of cats. At the end of the study, Dr. Pottenger concluded that cats fed a heat processed diet were deficient and suffered from innumerable ailments ranging from low immunity, irritability, and allergies to skeletal deformation, organ malfunction, poor development during kittenhood, low birth rate, birth defects, infertility, and shortened life-span. If you wish to learn more about the Pottenger study, you can purchase a summary of the study as book or video from the Price-Pottenger NutritionFoundation.

Some exceptions to “raw is better” are the older, weaker animals who may not tolerate raw food, or animals with certain gastrointestinal problems where the gut has to be restored to a healthier state using herbs and/or supplements. In these cases, a home prepared, cooked diet the best substitute for a raw food diet.

Raw Food Diets

Ideally, our companions would eat an all raw diet that includes some organ meat and bones. Generally, the more raw food you can include in your companion’s diet, the better, but some is better than none. Some guardians choose to feed their companions a ½ raw and ½ dry (dehydrated or kibble) diet – either mixing the two or feeding raw for one meal each day and dry or cooked for the other. It does not have to be complicated – you can feed raw chicken and turkey necks and chicken backs as part or all of a meal several times a week. Raw poultry bones do not splinter, they crunch. This is a great way to clean teeth, exercise chewing muscles, and provide a natural source of balanced calcium and phosphorus, as well. As always, naturally raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free or organic meat is best.

When introducing raw bones to dogs they may experience diarrhea, constipation, or both as their systems adjust. Remember to go slowly and feed small amounts at first. When beginning the introduction of raw bones, it may be helpful to crush them with a hammer or in a meat grinder until your dog becomes fully transitioned to a raw diet.  For cats bones should always be ground.  If your companion has a delicate digestive system, consider grinding meat and bones through a 1/4 inch blade before feeding.  Ground bones do not have the same teeth cleaning benefits as whole bones, however. You may also see similar symptoms as your companion’s system goes through a detoxification process during the transition to a healthier diet. Again, the key is to go slowly and persevere. In the long run, your companion’s increased health and vitality will be the ultimate reward.

Only Natural Pet Store offers a wide range of commercial frozen raw foods that are available either in a formula of raw meat, grains, and fresh vegetables designed to provide complete nutrition, or as pure raw meat designed to be added as a supplement to other types of food. We also offer vegetable and/or grain-based mixes by Sojo’s and Honest Kitchen – Preference that are designed to be added to raw or cooked meat. You simply rehydrate the mixture and add the meat. The Honest Kitchen Verve Formula can be used this way as well.

Obvious precautions should be taken when feeding raw meat – wash hands thoroughly after handling the raw meat.  Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not sitting on the counter at room temperature. Warm water can be used to thaw or warm the food after it has been mostly thawed in the refrigerator. Do not microwave raw food as the live enzymes are damaged and bones will harden even in just 30 seconds of microwaving. We do recommend avoiding pork as it has been shown to be a source of Trichinella.  If you are concerned about bacteria, you can rinse it with several drops of food-grade hydrogen peroxide in a sink of water or 1/2 teaspoon liquid grapefruit seed extract in a sink of water to help kill surface bacteria.

Transitioning to Raw Food

It is best to introduce raw food slowly into your companion’s diet over the course of two weeks. If your companion is used to having food available throughout the day, first transition him or her to eating only once or twice per day for dogs, and two to three times per day for cats before beginning the transition to raw food. Consider transitioning fully to raw in the beginning even if you ultimately intend to feed a mix of raw and cooked or dry. This will give your companion’s digestive system the optimal environment for generating healthy enzymes and flora. Start with 1 teaspoon for small dogs and cats and 1 tablespoon for larger dogs for three days or so. Then increase to 2 teaspoons or tablespoons for several days, decreasing the amount of regular food by ¼ to ½ in general proportion to the raw. Work up to replacing at least ½ the normal diet for several days. Finally replace one full meal with raw for a day or two, then fully transition to raw.

We recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics for at least the first two weeks to help your companion’s natural digestive processes kick back in after eating cooked foods for so long. If your animal is resistant to the raw at first, you may want to use a bit of canned food to entice them. Cats, in particular, can be resistant to a change in diet. They tend to fixate on whatever food they are weaned onto and will resist switching to a healthier diet. We have found that grinding or shredding their favorite treat on top of the food can help.

Freeze dried treats
work well for this. Transitioning a cat will most likely take some persistence on your part, but it is well worth it for the health of your companion.


For more information
please see these articles in our Holistic Healthcare Library:

Raw Food Feeding Guidelines

Safety of Raw Meat Diets

Resources for Raw Food Diet Information


Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats
, by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn, M.S.



Raw Meaty Bones
, by Tom Lonsdale


The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care
, by CJ Puotinen.


The Nature of Animal Healing
, by Martin Goldstein, DVM

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Natural Alternatives for Arthritis & Joint Stiffness in Pets and How to Prevent and Treat

by Dr. Larry Siegler

As our companions age, many will develop arthritis, a common degenerative joint
problem. Gradually you may notice that your feline friend no longer jumps up on
the counters or furniture as easily. Your dog may hesitate to jump in the car or
will climb stairs more slowly. You may notice your companion is stiff upon rising.
These are all signs of painful joints. Up to 25–30% of companion animals suffer
from osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic, slowly progressing condition that is caused by the
deterioration of the cartilage surrounding a joint. As this deterioration progresses,
the bony structures begin to rub against one another causing pain and discomfort.
Hip Dysplasia is a genetic disease that leads to joint deterioration and arthritis.
It is more common in large dog breeds. These and other degenerative joint disorders
involving cartilage and joint deterioration can be treated quite successfully with
a comprehensive treatment program developed for the animal.

There are many ways ways to treat arthritis and joint stiffness or soreness from
a "natural" approach. While NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) such
as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, EtoGesic and others are commonly prescribed for arthritis,
I prefer to reserve their use until after all other means have been exhausted and
the animal is still showing signs of suffering. NSAIDs can be damaging to the liver
and gastrointestinal system when taken over long periods of time and can have other
side effects as well. NSAIDs provide pain relief, but do nothing to help repair
damaged tissue and prevent further deterioration. Arthritis and joint pain can often
be controlled for years using diet, supplements, herbs and acupuncture, and many
animals may never need NSAIDs.

One of the best defenses and treatments for arthritis is a high quality Glucosamine/Chrondroitin
sulfate supplement
. Glucosamine stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans
(GAGs), important proteins found in cartilage, and proteoglycans, the water-holding
molecules that make up cartilage. Glucosamine has been shown not only to help with
pain, but also to rehabilitate damaged cartilage. These nutrient compounds may also
have anti-inflammatory activity within the joints. A typical dose would be at least
1000 mgs. per 50 lbs. of body weight daily, but this should be determined for your
companion's specific needs with your veterinarian. I often recommend that dogs be
started on a good joint supplement that includes Glucosamine by the time they are
8 or 9 for larger breeds, and 10 or 11 for smaller breeds, even when no symptoms
are present. Preventing joint deterioration can go a long way to easing the effects
of aging for your companion.

View Joint Support Products from Only Natural Pet

MSM, (Methylsulfonylmethane), is another supplement used in the prevention
and treatment of arthritis. MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in
every cell of the body, which helps to maintain healthy connective tissue and membrane
flexibility. It can assist in reducing inflammation and swelling associated with
arthritis and other diseases or injuries.

View an assortment of products containing MSM

Diet is a key factor in the treatment of any chronic condition. Feeding
your companion a quality diet is the foundation of good health, and this is the
most important thing you can do for your dog or cat. Many animals with chronic conditions
such as arthritis have shown dramatic improvement on a raw food or home-prepared
diet
. Please see our  articles

What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food
and

All About Raw Food
for more information on this important health topic.
Some people are not comfortable with feeding raw food. If this is true for you,
I recommend a combination of home-prepared cooked meals, a very high quality canned
food or dehydrated food, and the best quality kibble you can afford.  If the
animal has food or environmental allergies, these must be addressed, as allergies
can contribute to inflammation and many degenerative health conditions.

Weight control is of utmost importance. An overweight animal will suffer
much more from arthritis pain and the disease process will be accelerated. Gentle
exercise is very helpful whether the animal is overweight or not. For dogs the ideal
exercise is swimming or using underwater treadmills. Dog “spas” and therapy pools
are becoming more common all over the country. See the website for the
Association of Canine Water Therapy for a practitioner and pool listing in your state.

Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics are essential. They aid the digestion and
assimilation of the nutrients in cooked and processed foods. Poor digestion and
leaky gut exacerbate and contribute to chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis,
allergies and degenerative conditions.  Maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal
system will go a long way in preventing these complications. Good options here are
digestive enzymesand
probiotics.

Essential Fatty Acid Supplements (preferably one with fish oil) help
reduce inflammation and can be quite helpful in the treatment of joint problems.
In addition, essential fatty acids help maintain gastrointestinal health and aid
in the treatment of allergies. I often recommend giving a higher dose than recommended
on the label. If your companion develops loose stools, reduce the dosage a bit to
allow the system to adjust.

There are a variety of herbal remedies and supplements available to address
degenerative joint problems, which can be safely used in conjunction with Glucosamine
and other nutraceuticals. Keep in mind, however, that response to these or any remedies
will vary by individual. It is sometimes necessary to try one at a time until the
best option is found (giving the supplement or remedy a minimum of two weeks, and
preferably longer, to determine effectiveness).

Here are several good products offered by Only Natural
Pet Store

Chinese herbs can also be very beneficial in the treatment of joint disorders. 
It is best to have the guidance of a veterinarian trained in Chinese Medicine to
select the proper remedy for your companion's specific condition.

See our assortment of Chinese Herbs

Adequan® is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan similar to Glucosamine. 
It is also a cartilage component similar to Glucosamine, but Adequan is derived
from the windpipe cartilage of cattle. Adequan has numerous beneficial effects including
the inhibition of harmful enzymes involved in joint cartilage destruction, stimulation
of cartilage repair, and increasing joint lubrication. Adequan is only available
by injection from a veterinarian.

Acupuncture can be extremely helpful for animals with arthritic conditions.
I have seen dramatic improvement in both dogs and cats with arthritis following
acupuncture and with regular treatments. For a list of practitioners in your area
see the American Holistic
Veterinary Medical Association Directory
.

Chiropractic adjustments and massage can also be quite beneficial as an
animal will often contort their spine when trying to move in a way to minimize joint
pain.  For a list of practitioners see the
American Veterinary
Chiropractic Association
website, or the
International
Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork
website.

Constitutional Homeopathy using single, high potency remedies has also
produced good results for some arthritis patients.  For a list of practitioners
see the The Academy of Veterinary
Homeopathy
website.

Additional supplements such as high-potency antioxidants are also commonly
recommended for the arthritis patient.  The inflammatory reactions of arthritic
joints contributes to the oxidation activity of free radicals in the body, which
is very damaging to cells and can increase the risk of cancer.

View antioxidant
supplements offered by Only Natural Pet Store


View All Joint Support Products

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Garlic’s Many Health Benefits for Pets

There is plenty of information and misinformation available on the internet about
the use of garlic in food and supplements for dogs and cats. Garlic has many health
enhancing effects such as aiding digestion, eliminating internal and external parasites,
stimulating immune functions and increasing killer cell activity, lowering blood
cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and acting as a a tonic for the cardiovascular
system. Fresh garlic also has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties.
It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Holistic
veterinarians have been recommending garlic for many years for its multiple health
benefits.

Garlic Clove

Garlic’s impact on health has come into question recently due to its properties as a member of the lily family, along with onions and shallots. A compound found in onions, n-propyldisulfide, can – in large doses – cause oxidative damage to red blood cells, creating Heinz bodies and triggering the body to reject these cells from the bloodstream. If large doses of this compound are ingested frequently enough, the process can lead to anemia and even death. The dosage level and frequency of consuming the offending compound are the key here. Typically an animal would need to ingest over 0.5 % of it’s body weight in onions (a 5 ounce onion for a 60 lb. dog) to even begin the oxidative process. Since red blood cells are constantly regenerated from the bone marrow, a dog would likely need to ingest this much onion on a repeated basis to cause permanent harm. Garlic contains less of the n-propyldisulfide compound than onions do.

In The Nature of Animal Healing, Dr. Martin Goldstein recommends adding garlic to home-made pet food and, in fact, feeds garlic to his own cats and dogs on a regular basis. According to Gregory Tilford in All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets, dogs can quite safely consume 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder per pound of food 3-4 times per week. Cats probably should be given a bit less, as they are more sensitive to the compounds in garlic. Tilford cautions cat guardians to watch for behavioral changes or digestive upset, and to listen to the cat if she rejects food or supplements containing garlic. Fresh garlic is less concentrated than dried garlic. In The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Dr. Richard Pitcairn recommends up to ¼ clove of garlic per day for cats and ½ to 3 cloves for dogs. As with most herbs, at least one day off per week or a periodic week off from garlic is a good idea.

The key in feeding or supplementing with garlic is moderation and common sense. Using garlic and brewer’s yeast tablets during flea season has long been a common practice among savvy pet owners to help make pets less attractive to fleas. Using garlic in the diet or as a supplement for any of its health benefits is not likely to cause problems for healthy dogs and cats. Obviously, any animal that has a pre-existing anemic condition should not receive garlic. Puppies under 8 weeks of age should also not be given garlic, as they do not begin reproducing new blood cells until after 6-8 weeks of age.

View our selection of garlic supplements from Only Natural Pet Store

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Daily Supplements for Healthy Companions

The Foundation

Diet is the foundation of health.  Nothing can replace a healthy diet for promoting optimal health, and in warding off both acute and chronic disease.  A healthy diet for dogs and cats includes as much fresh food as possible – and food of the highest quality you can provide, (see the articles about food & diet in our Holistic Healthcare Library). Yet, even the best quality diet will not provide optimal wellness if your dog or cat is not digesting it properly. And even the freshest homemade diet can often be missing key nutrients. We recommend regular daily supplements depending on the individual’s specific diet and lifestyle, but there are some essentials that almost every cat and dog can benefit from.  Here is what we recommend for a healthy companion animal for general health maintenance and “health insurance” – insuring your pet has everything he needs to best ward off immune stressors and disease:

Digestive Enzymes

When food is not properly broken down before reaching the large intestine, particles that are too large for the body to process are absorbed into the bloodstream setting off an immune response that can lead to inflammation, allergies and chronic health problems. Nature’s way of preventing this was to endow every vegetable, fruit and animal food source with enzymes that help break it down. These enzymes are destroyed, however, by heat and processing.  Every dog or cat that is eating processed food (anything other than raw or lightly cooked) should receive digestive enzymes with every meal. This will not only improve digestion and the assimilation of nutrients, but it will also help protect against the development of allergies and immune disorders such as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) which can be caused by poor digestion. Improving digestion and utilization of nutrients can help to prevent and eliminate a host of diet-related problems such as eating stools, body odor, excessive shedding, flatulence and itchy skin. Digestive Enzymes are a crucial part of improving digestion and gastrointestinal health.

Click here to view digestive enzymes for dog & cats.

Probiotics

The first line of defense for your dog’s or cat’s immune system is the digestive tract, and helping to maintain the right balance between among the various strains of organisms there can play a critical role in supporting your pet’s overall health. The so-called “bad” bacteria are a normal part of the intestinal environment but they can easily over-multiply when “friendly” bacteria are depleted due to stress, diet change, illness, and with the use of medications, particularly antibiotics. Probiotics are often used to help occasional diarrhea, flatulence and foul smelling stools, and are absolutely essential for any animal receiving antibiotics or any other prescription drugs that deplete intestinal microflora. A daily dose of probiotics can help your pet’s GI tract maintain the right ratio of bacterial strains and keep this key part of your pet’s immune system functioning optimally.

Click here to see probiotic products for your pet.

Essential Fatty Acids

Dogs and cats require both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids in their diet for optimal health, and there is no more natural place to get them than fish oils. Usually, pets receive plenty of Omega-6 fatty acids (found in oils from soy, sunflower, grape, corn and poultry fat) through their food, but that is not true for the Omega-3 fatty acids. The positive effects of Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily due to two fatty acids called EPA and DHA. EPA is a precursor for the formation of prostaglandins that have beneficial effects on the liver, immune and cardiovascular systems. DHA is important for the development and maintenance of neural structures such as the retina and brain. In addition, these essential fatty acids act to reduce inflammatory processes in the body, lessening the effects of arthritis and many other problems associated with inflammation.

Rotating or alternating the source of essential fatty acids for your companion is beneficial, especially for those sensitive animals that may be prone to allergies. Sardine or salmon oil in summer and cod liver oil in winter is a common rotation. The higher vitamin D content in cod liver oil is a valuable asset during the colder, darker winter months. Some oils blend both plant and fish oils to provide a wider range of essential fatty acid sources.

Supplementing with natural fish oil facilitates your companion’s optimal health in many ways:

  • Nourishes the skin & coat; reducing itching and hot spots
  • Supports the immune system
  • Supports the health of the digestive and reproductive systems
  • Supports healthy cardiovascular function and heart health
  • Helps reduce inflammation and maintain joint health
  • Supports proper brain and eye development in growing kittens and puppies

Click here to view Essential Fatty Acid Supplements.

Multi Vitamins

Many of us take a daily multi-vitamin to insure we receive an elemental amount of important vitamins and minerals. The typical American diet does not provide a well-balanced source of these nutrients for most people, so we take supplements as “insurance.” Our companions can benefit from a daily multi-vitamin as well. Much of the vitamin and mineral content  in packaged dog and cat foods is destroyed during processing. Even when added back in after the cooking or extruding processes, the vitamins and minerals break down rapidly when exposed to light and air. The first bowl of kibble from a bag may contain most of what the label claims, but each time the bag or container is opened, the nutrients are affected. It is difficult to know how much, if any of the vitamins are left in the last portions from the bag. Even the best diet for our dogs and cats of fresh raw foods can be lacking in some essential vitamins and minerals. Many whole food sources no longer contain the high vitamin content they have in the past due to depleted soils and modern farming practices. This is why a basic vitamin and mineral supplement is a good investment for most of our companions. Think of it as health insurance – making sure the body has everything it needs for proper cell function and health maintenance will keep your companion healthier, possibly reducing your veterinarian visits and costs in the long run.

As with any other supplement, all multi-vitamins are not created equal, and not every dog or cat needs the full dosage suggested on the label. While supplementing for “insurance” is helpful, too much of a good thing can be harmful. If you are feeding a fresh food that is professionally formulated, then your companion does not likely need the full dose of a daily vitamin; half would likely suffice. If you are feeding homemade food, then a full dose of a multi-vitamin supplement is a good idea. Also, when feeding homemade food or raw food, pay close attention to the calcium content of the food and be sure to supplement if need be. Raw diets tend to be higher in phosphorus, and calcium must be supplemented to insure a proper balance. Raw bones are an EXCELLENT way to do this – especially raw chicken and turkey necks. (They do not splinter when raw, only when cooked).

Ideally, vitamin supplements should be rotated. Just as rotation and variety in the diet is important for complete and balanced nutrition, rotating vitamin supplements can provide greater balance through a wider assortment of vitamin and mineral sources.  You can rotate from one bottle to the next or even from one day to the next.

View our selection of green and nutritional boosts.

At any given time you can keep 3 or 4 different vitamin/mineral and greens or whole-food supplements on hand to rotate in your companion’s diets. There is no hard and fast rule about adding nutrient supplements. An easy way to add vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes are the ONP Super Daily Vitamin and Enzymes powders. The skin and coat version even includes flax for essential fatty acids, and the senior version includes both flax and joint support.

You know your dog or cat best, so watch them closely and notice when they seem livelier or more sluggish, when their eyes are brighter or their coat a bit more shiny or dull, and adjust your supplement regimen to meet their needs. Amino acids deserve a special mention here. Some amino acids are required in the diet, while some are produced by the body. A healthy, well-rounded diet will provide all the essential amino acids required from food, except for the amino acid taurine required by cats. Commercial cat foods are almost all supplemented with this essential amino acid, but if you are making part or all of your feline friend’s meals at home, then be sure to add taurine to their diet.  This can be accomplished with a good multi-vitamin made for cats or by including mackerel, clams or raw hearts (beef, lamb, chicken or turkey) in the diet.  Taurine is destroyed by heat, however, so be sure these are fed raw or the supplement is added to food after it has been cooked. If you are unsure or overwhelmed by the process of choosing supplements, consulting with a holistic veterinarian can set you and your companion on course with a healthy diet and supplement regimen that meets your lifestyle and your companion’s health needs.

Extra Support for Puppies and Kittens

Puppies and kittens are more vulnerable to parasites and disease than mature animals because their immune systems are still developing. In addition, they are under a great deal of stress as they leave the safety and familiarity of their mothers and try to learn the ways of living with a human family. We highly recommend that all puppies and kittens diets be supplemented with colostrum to help boost their immature immune system for at least a month or two after weaning.

Aging Animals

As animals age they need extra support to stay healthy and maintain the best quality of life well into their senior years. Holistic vets often recommend starting dogs on extra support for joint health at the age of 8-9 years old, and cats at the first signs of stiffness. A good joint supplement including glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as MSM is helpful in reducing the symptoms of arthritis and joint degeneration. Supplements with ingredients like bromelain and boswellia, and Chinese herbal formulas can be added for additional joint support as needed.

Click here to view a variety of joint support supplements. A senior vitamin or extra antioxidants added to their vitamin regimen can help fight the damage caused by free radicals and give their immune system a little extra help in keeping illness at bay. CoEnzyme Q10 is another nutritional supplement holistic vets often recommend for older animals to help protect the heart and support gum health. For senior animals beginning to show cognitive decline, supplements such as Clear Thoughts by Nutri-Vet can be very helpful. Some Chinese herbal formulas containing tonic or adaptogenic herbs can be quite supportive for the aging animal. Again, working with a holistic veterinarian is the best way to insure you choose the right support for your companion.

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Special Needs of Senior Cats

By Dr. Jean Hofve

Since November is Senior Pet Month, it’s appropriate to talk about the special needs of senior cats.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are lots of senior diets available, but most of them rely on lower fat and protein, and higher carbohydrates. It’s really important to know that dietary protein really has nothing whatsoever to do with the development of kidney disease (in dogs or cats).

It turns out that, while most middle-aged cats are overweight, starting around age 10-12 they typically start to lose weight. This is due to a decreased ability to digest and metabolize protein and fat that occurs with age. So most senior diets are exactly the opposite of what older cats need—more and better protein and fat.

Wet foods are ideal for older kitties—this includes food in cans or pouches, as well as frozen raw diets. They’re easier to digest, and more palatable. (If your cat is a dry food addict, check out my previous blog post on Switching Foods.) Wet foods tend to contain higher levels of protein and fat, and because of the way they’re handled and/or processed, the ingredients are generally better quality than dry food.

Other Age-Related Changes

Just like humans, cats are prone to a number of medical problems as they get older. With diet, supplements, and extra care, many of these conditions can be prevented, delayed, or managed, to give your cat a good quality of life in her older years.

Arthritis

Ninety percent of cats over 12 years of age have arthritis. What is usually considered “slowing down” or “a little stiff” may be a sign of significant joint disease, and is probably quite uncomfortable for most older cats. Treating arthritis holistically is simple and inexpensive. The basic mix is glucosamine sulfate (250 mg per day) and MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane, 200 mg per day), which can be added to the cat’s wet food. Other herbs and minerals may also be helpful. These provides good anti-inflammatory action and pain relief. It may take 3-5 weeks for improvement to be noticeable. Here are my favorite joint supplements for cats:


Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)

Many older cats experience some degree of kidney (renal) disease as they age. The first symptom is usually an increase in both drinking and urination. This reflects the kidneys’ inability to reabsorb water and concentrate the urine. As time goes on, most cats lose weight, sometimes dramatically.

It is vital that CRF cats get plenty of fluids, either through consumption, or by administration (intravenous or subcutaneous), to stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major problem in these cats, as it compounds the problems of poor appetite and weight loss. Wet food, such as canned or raw, is an essential part of the diet.

The conventional treatment for CRF is a low protein, low phosphorus diet, and potassium supplementation. However, low-protein renal diets are not indicated until the disease is relatively advanced, because these diets are so restricted in protein that they don’t provide enough for normal body repair. The cat’s body will break down its own muscles to obtain enough protein, causing further weight loss and muscle wasting.

Many cats won’t eat a renal diet, and will do much better on a regular canned food. Experts agree that it is far more important that the cat eats and maintains her weight, than to worry too much about what she is eating. Hydration is also critical; many guardians learn how to give fluids at home to save the cat from the stress of frequent trips to the vet. Here are our best supplements for CRF in cats:

Hyperthyroidism

This problem is typically due to a benign thyroid tumor. The thyroid regulates the body’s metabolic rate, so the increase in hormone from the tumor is sort of like drinking espresso around the clock. Symptoms include increased appetite, weight loss despite eating more, increased heart rate, anxiety or “hyper” behavior, howling at night, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. Not all cats will have all symptoms, and about 20% of hyperthyroid cats will be sluggish and depressed instead of hyperactive. Untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause a serious heart problem called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that will ultimately be fatal.

The cause of hyperthyroidism is unknown, but research suggests a link between hyperthyroidism and feeding canned food, particularly fish and giblet flavors. Environmental contamination with fire-retardant chemicals may be part of the problem; fish are commonly loaded with them. Easy-open “pop top” cans also appear to be a contributor, possibly due to chemicals in the can lining. Feeding canned food is very important to an older cat’s overall health, but it may be wise to stick to poultry, beef and lamb flavors that don’t contain fish, liver, or giblets; or go with a homemade or raw diet so you have better control over the ingredients. Other remedies that might help include:

Constipation

A small percentage of older cats develop constipation as they age. Many times this is related to feeding dry food, especially high-fiber (hairball or weight control) diets. There is so much fiber and so little moisture in the diet that the colon can’t keep things moving along properly. Other causes include breed (Manx cats are susceptible), trauma, and litterbox avoidance behavior.

If constipation persists and is not treated, there can be serious complications, including irreversible damage to the muscles of the colon. So clearly, it is best to deal with constipation early before it becomes unmanageable. Watching the quality and quantity of your cat’s stool in the box is vital to keeping your older cat healthy. A healthy stool looks like a tootsie roll; if it’s small, hard and dry, or if the cat spends a lot of time in the box, strains excessively, or cries as he’s defecating, it’s time to act. Any change in an older cat’s litter box habits should be discussed with your veterinarian promptly.

As actress Bette Davis once said, “Age is no place for sissies.” Getting old can be stressful. Essences may also be helpful to keep your cat’s mental and emotional balance. “Graceful Aging” by SpiritEssence is designed to support and balance the body’s cells and organs, and to help deal with the changes that naturally happen with age.

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The Scoop on Litter

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

Recently I was helping a friend who was recovering from surgery. She asked
for a particular type of kitty litter, so off to the pet superstore I went. When
I got to the litter section, I was dumbfounded by the sheer number of choices as
well as the astonishing variety. Clearly, niche marketing had arrived in a big
way. However, many of the litters appeared to distinguish themselves simply by
labeling. For instance, one brand had half a dozen sub-types; all the litters
looked identical, but had different labels touting one special
ingredient or function. There was multiple-cat strength, fragrance or no
fragrance, fast or long-lasting odor control, anti-bacterial, low-dust
or dust-free, hard-clumping or plain clay–it was all pretty overwhelming. Thank
goodness I had a specific order from my friend, or I would have spent all day
gawking at that wall!

Since house-soiling is a major cause of cats being abandoned or relinquished,
the whole subject of cat litter and boxes is much more important than one might
think. Despite the dozens of choices of box size and shape and litter type, the
one who really makes the decision about which to use is the cat. Our mission, as
humans, is to provide whatever our cat prefers, since the consequences of
failing to do so are extremely unpleasant.

So, what do cats want?

  • Openness. Most cats prefer an open box (as opposed to
    one with a hood). Privacy is not so important to cats, and in fact a wide
    field of view–so that nothing can sneak up on them–is often a higher
    priority.
  • Cleanliness. This another human responsibility, and
    again, the cat will definitely let you know if you’re falling down on the
    job. Remember, their noses are only inches away from the litter–that gives
    them the right to be picky! Clay and pelleted litters needs to be dumped and
    replaced every few days. Clumping litter should be scooped daily, and the
    whole box emptied and washed at least once a month.
  • Pleasant texture. Since they have to walk on it with
    their very sensitive paws, most cats prefer the soft texture of scoopable/clumping
    litter over clay or pellets.
  • Sufficiency. There should be plenty of boxes in a
    multi-cat home (experts recommend 1 box per cat + 1). Sometimes you can get
    away with less (my 5 cats shared one enormous box for years–until one day
    they didn’t!), but if litterbox issues develop, adding more boxes in more
    places is one of the main ways to solve such problems. But just lining up a
    bunch of boxes in the basement won’t do. There should be a box on every
    floor; this is especially important for older cats for whom stair-climbing
    may be uncomfortable.
  • Comfort. This means that the box should be big enough
    for the cat to easily turn around in (large plastic storage bins work well).
    Also, overweight, arthritic or declawed cats may be especially sensitive not
    only to the texture of the litter, but also its depth. If there’s too much
    litter in the box, the cat could feel like it’s sinking into quicksand.
    About 1-1/2 to 2″ of litter is plenty.

Now, within this framework, we can make certain choices. Automatic
litterboxes work very well in many households, but some cats just won’t use
them; the only way to know is to try, and it’s a potentially expensive
experiment. Hooded boxes may be acceptable if you’re diligent enough about
keeping them clean, but in a multi-cat home the “ambush factor” can discourage
their use. High-sided storage bins are great for preventing litter from being
kicked all over the room; but they may be too difficult to get in and out of for
very young and very old cats.

Then we’re back to the choice of litter. Most litters are made from clay of
some kind, often bentonite (which swells and clumps when wet). However, clay has
some serious drawbacks. For one thing, it’s dusty. The dust contains silica,
which can contribute to kitty and human lung diseases. Asthmatic cats (and
people) should consider alternatives, since scooping the litter stirs up quite a
bit of dust. (My own asthma virtually disappeared when we switched to World’s
Best.) There have also been scattered (but largely unconfirmed) reports of
intestinal blockage from cats ingesting the litter. Young kittens (who don’t
know to avoid the wet spots), and cats with a lot of fur between their toes can
get quite a bit of litter stuck on their feet; and of course they clean their
paws by licking and will swallow whatever is on them. A natural cat litter made
from corn or wheat does not carry this risk, as the body can break those
materials down.

As a vet, I strongly recommend avoiding clay litter and the dusty clumping
varieties, not only because of the health risks to you and your cat, but also
because plant-based litters are a renewable resource. Clay comes from
strip-mining and is very environmentally unfriendly. There are many

natural alternatives
available today. Offering your cat a “buffet” of 2 or 3
kinds will be a guide to your cat’s preferences. If you do change litters,
remember to do it gradually to minimize stress and increase acceptance of the
new product.

View cat litter at Only Natural Pet Store

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