Posts tagged Cat

Food + Chemicals + Dust = Hyperthyroid Kitties?

A serious disease affecting cats’ thyroid glands has risen to epidemic proportions since the first cases were diagnosed in 1979. It is a worldwide phenomenon, though worse in the U.S. than other countries.

The disease itself, called hyperthyroidism (hyper = too much, thyroid = a hormone-making gland), is seen mostly in older cats age 10 or more. Thyroid hormone regulates the body’s basic metabolic rate. Too much of it is like drinking too much coffee—it speeds up every reaction in the body.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism are related to excess thyroid hormone: excessive hunger, weight loss, restlessness, yowling, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart disease. However, about 20% of cats are “atypical” and do not show these symptoms. (Dogs also develop thyroid disease—but in the opposite direction. They are more prone to hypothyroidism; a deficiency of thyroid hormone.)

Many theories have been proposed to explain the dramatic rise in feline thyroid disease. Because it affects so many cats, the focus has been on widespread, environmental causes.

Studies have found several suspects in cat food:

  • One theory implicates the large excess of iodine found in many cat foods. Humans can develop hyperthyroid disease from too ingesting much iodine; might cats do the same? Iodine is difficult and expensive to test for; instead, pet food makers routinely add extra, just to make sure that minimums are met. But how much is too much? So far, nobody knows; and nobody is really looking.
  • Several studies found an increased likelihood of developing thyroid disease in cats who eat a lot of canned food. Specifically, they found a higher incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats that ate fish or “giblet” canned foods. “Giblet” is another name for organ meats commonly listed on pet food labels as “by-products.” Better-quality, natural cat foods do not contain by-products, although some include specific organ meats like liver.
  • Recent research suggests that the culprit may be a chemical (bisphenol A and similar compounds) found in can linings of pop-top cans that can leach out into the food and cause toxicity (the smaller the can, the more chemical exposure the food has). However, there are at least 25 different types of can linings, and the particular type used by a manufacture may change over time. It is difficult to know which foods may be affected, and to what degree. The FDA, however, has stated that the amount of chemicals that may leach into the food is unlikely to cause disease.

A new study that recently captured media attention suggests that fire-retardant chemicals known as PBDEs may be a factor in feline hyperthyroidism—even though the study itself clearly states “no association was detected between hyperthyroid cats and PBDE levels.” The authors note that PBDEs were introduced at about the same time hyperthyroidism was first described in cats. California was particularly aggressive in promoting these life-saving fabrics, which could explain why the veterinary school at U.C. Davis saw so many early cases of hyperthyroid disease in cats. Additionally, the rate of feline hyperthyroidism has roughly paralleled the use of PBDEs in other countries. This particular study looked at only 23 cats (less than half with hyperthyroid disease; and the case controls were not well-matched in age or gender.

The main route of exposure in cats was hypothesized to be the PBDEs contained in carpets, upholstery, and mattresses—and the dust mites that live in these fabrics. Electronic equipment, which attracts dust, is also a suspect. Since cats often sleep on carpets, sofas, chairs, mattresses, and nice warm TVs and stereos, their exposure could be high and prolonged. Subsequent grooming would then cause the cat to ingest a fairly large amount of dust. This may explain why hyperthyroidism is also more common in indoor cats.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in this recent study is that PBDEs were also found in cat food. For two major types of PBDEs, high levels were found in canned food, especially fish- or seafood-based cat foods. However, high levels of other PBDEs were also found in dry cat food.

The double (or triple) whammy from PBDEs, can liner chemicals, and excess iodine may be too much for many cats to handle. However, outdoor cats who never eat canned food can also develop the disease—so other factors that haven’t yet been discovered are likely to be involved.

What can you do to minimize the risk for your cat? Well, it wouldn’t be smart to push your cat outdoors—the dangers outside are far worse, and most of them will kill your cat long before the age where she’s at risk for thyroid disease. Ripping out all your carpets and throwing away your furniture probably isn’t practical.

However, we also would not recommend feeding only dry food. There are many health risks for cats that eat too much dry food, including obesity, diabetes, arthritis, urinary tract disease, constipation, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. A variety of high-quality, natural foods—including at least 50% canned food—is your cat’s best bet for a long and healthy life.

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Please Don’t Give Pets as Gifts!

‘Tis the season for giving, and that means shopping for special, unique gifts for our loved ones. Who doesn’t have visions of a spouse, friend, or niece or grandchild opening a beautifully wrapped box with an adorable kitten inside, or of covering their eyes and leading them into a room where a puppy or a cat wearing a big bow is waiting. We aren’t to blame—we have these very images of holiday serenity lingering from our own childhood as well as sentimental TV commercials. In a pet, it seems we can give the gift of unconditional love, especially to a child.

Now, here’s a dose of reality: right now, animal shelters are getting ready for a flood of animal surrenders right after the holiday season. The intended happy surprise turns out to be  just a surprise—and not necessarily a pleasant one. The solution to the problem for many families is to get rid of the unwanted pet. What’s up with that?

•    The holidays are already hectic; it’s not a good time to bring in a new pet that needs to feel safe and secure in its new environment, and more importantly, needs quiet one-on-one time with its new family.

•    The recipient—even though he or she may have said that they’d love to get a pet, doesn’t actually want such a serious commitment in an already-busy life, especially a schedule- and travel-disruptor like a pet that needs to go outside on time.

•    A household member may be or become allergic to the new pet.

•    Some children become frightened of the strange new creature, which in turn spooks the new pet, creating an air of distrust for all involved.

•    Even though children ask for pets, the parents must be involved in the decision; not all kids are ready for the responsibility, and the parents may not want to get stuck with it either. Ultimately, no one takes care of the pet, and it ends up shut in a basement, tied up in the yard, abandoned, or relinquished.

•    Although the previous guardian’s paperwork might say the pet was good with kids, its actual socialization might not have included what the next child wanted from a pet when begging for a live Christmas present (playing dress-up, putting in a stroller, etc.).

•    Resident animals in the home also get the short end of the stick. If any significant holiday activity was going on in the home, i.e., family staying over, holiday parties, etc., resident pets (especially cats) were already having tough time adapting their sense of “stable-sameness” to the unusual activities. Add another animal, especially of the same species, and—more often than not—disaster is imminent.

•    Winter is not puppy or kitten season; the young animals that are available at Christmas time very likely come from puppy or kitten mills—and may continue to surprise the new guardian with serious health and behavior issues. This is virtually guaranteed to be the case if the puppy is a breed that was recently featured in a movie, such as 101 Dalmations, Marley and Me, or Beverly Hills Chihuahua. To avoid pets from mills, never ever buy a dog or cat from a pet store.

Now you know the reasons not to surprise family and other loved ones with animals as gifts, the good news is that there are many ways to bring four-legged love home for the holidays without such risk.

For a creative surprise, give a gift certificate for pet supplies; or present them with a collar and leash or a package of cat toys. When the recipient looks confused, you can reveal that the real present is a trip to the shelter plus the adoption fee, to choose a furry friend.

Many animal shelters have gift certificates you can buy to place in a box instead of an animal. These generally cover the cost of adoption, and may include spay/neuter and initial vaccines (but be sure to read our article on vaccination first!). If your local shelter doesn’t offer gift certificates, make one yourself. That way, the next day or next week—or whenever the time is right—your loved one can look for a new companion.

Nowadays, many shelters have websites with pictures of their adoptable animals, so the whole family can go online and check out the choices. Or browse Petfinders, the original online adoption site. There is also empowerment in a child in going to a shelter and picking out his or her own companion. It’s also a perfect time to let them know that caring for a living being requires responsibility. It’s never too early to instill the concept of stewardship.

It is essential to introduce everyone who lives in the home, from children to housemates to other pets, to the new pet before adoption. In fact, many shelters require this. There’s nothing to lose, but important lessons to gain. For instance, the adoptive family may discover that the resident dog requires a bit of work on the “down-stay” so that it doesn’t relentlessly pursue the new addition. A housemate’s allergy may or may not act up in the presence of specific animals.

This method also allows time to prepare the home itself before bringing a new pet in.

Remember, no surprises are good surprises when it comes to animals this holiday season. Have a great one, and congratulations to all of you who bring a homeless pet into your heart and home this year!

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Special Advice for Senior Cats

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 litterbox 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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Senior Pet Month

Supporting Senior Pets

As with senior people, senior pets have well documented physical changes that we can anticipate and prepare for. Although we live with our pets, their accelerated life span often takes us by surprise. It’s easy to overlook changes associated with aging and assume that the behavior change results from a pet’s lack of interest or change in mood. Your pet may lose interest in activities or have mood changes, but often these result from physical impairments that cause pain or discomfort. Healthy pets can retain kittenish or puppy-like traits well into their senior years if they are feeling well. Here are the top seven things you can do to support healthy aging in your pet:

Keep Them Moving: If your once playful cat or fetch-fiend dog loses interest in play activities, consider their joints, and don’t assume that they have simply lost interest in their regular play routines. We hear many stories from pet parents whose pets regain interest in playtime once joint pain is addressed through the right supplements to support joint health. Joint support can begin before any age-related deterioration is detectable. Supplements can help your pet’s body keep joints supplied with the right joint building nutrients, which can slow joint deterioration considerably. Pets with more severe joint issues benefit from antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory remedies for discomfort. We’ll have more to say about this in our article newsletter at the end of this month.

Keep Them Comfortable: A dog or cat that slept anywhere comfortably when a youngster may suffer on the floor or be less comfortable in their usual sleeping and resting spots. Many contemporary beds are both eco-friendly and non-toxic, and though they can’t tell you directly, your aging pet will be very grateful for a comfy bed, blanket, or sleeping mat to provide extra skeletal support and warmth. Also, consider elevated feeding bowls, a walking support harness, and even a pet ramp to provide your aging pet with access to car, bed, furniture, etc., to let them comfortably go wherever they are used to going.

Keep Them Engaged: If your pet seems to be less connected to goings-on in your home, find ways to keep them engaged in activities that they enjoy. If they don’t have the strength, flexibility or stamina for games they enjoyed when younger, modify the game to make it easier for your pet. Pets that are stimulated with toys, games, and experiences stay “tuned in” to their daily life much more than pets that are allowed to slowly disengage. If your pet experiences hearing and/or vision loss due to age, don’t stop trying to connect with them. Clever pet parents can work around these age-related deficits and keep senior pets vitally connected to daily life – prolonging the joyful time they have with their beloved companions.

Address Digestive & Metabolic Issues: It’s a fact – our pets’ digestion and metabolism usually deteriorate with age. Diminished digestive strength may show up as vomiting or changes in stool consistency. Decrease in pancreatic functioning is a common problem, as the pancreas has a limited supply of enzymes to help your pet break down and process food. As most cooked (dry and canned) pet food has nearly zero percent enzymes present, it’s helpful to supplement your pet’s food with digestive enzymes to help them break down food properly and absorb the nutrients it contains. Digestive supplements can also help. Changes in diet may be needed, but stick with holistic foods if you can (see the information below on the benefits of natural foods for seniors).

Support the Immune System: Pets’ immune function deteriorates with age, which manifests in many ways. Your aging pet may be more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, demonstrating poor immune response to pathogens. It’s also common for aging pets to have abnormal cellular functioning, which may result in benign or cancerous cell growth, and increased cellular break down due to free radical damage. We offer a wide array of immune support products to help your pet with strengthened response to infections, increased cellular health support, and antioxidant support to reduce free radical damage.

Watch for Behavior Changes: So many senior pet health issues are caught early and corrected by vigilant pet parents. Watch your pet closely, and note on a calendar any changes in behavior that deviate from the norm. Our companion animals are very much “creatures of habit,” and even slight variations from their normal behavior can indicate health issues. Changes in movement behavior may indicate joint problems, circulatory, ear or eye issues; changes in elimination patterns often indicate kidney, blood sugar, digestive, hormonal or metabolic issues. Paying close attention to your pet’s patterns, and noting variation from normal activity can help you and your veterinarian determine whether organ systems may be compromised and help you address or accommodate changes.

Take Action: Many normal age-related health concerns can be improved, slowed, or even reversed through the use of natural remedies and supplements. We always suggest that you consult with your (holistic) veterinarian to diagnose your pet’s health concerns and plan treatment. Check with your vet if your pet has a diagnosed health issue to see whether natural remedies and supplements may be beneficial to your pet’s heath regimen. Click here to see some of our natural supplements for senior pets.

For more information on supporting your aging pet, please see our articles on aging pets in our Holistic Healthcare Library, and in particular the article, “Supporting Your Aging Companion.”

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Dental Care for Pets

Keeping your dog or cat’s teeth and gums healthy will go a long way to preventing not only bad breath, periodontal disease, and an uncomfortable or even painful mouth, but also more serious chronic conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, heart conditions and joint problems.

The normal adult dog has 42 teeth, while the adult cat has 30. These carnivorous (meat-eating) teeth are very sharp and highly specialized. In the wild, these teeth would perform a variety of tasks such as grooming (the 6 small incisors at the front of each jaw), grasping and killing prey (the 4 long canines, also called “fangs”), and crushing and shearing the meat off the prey’s bones to eat (the pointy molars and premolars along the sides of the jaws, also called “cheek teeth”).

In the wild, the carnivore’s diet and eating habits keep the teeth clean and strong. However, the typical diet of a domestic pet—typically commercial dry or canned food—does not. Therefore, proper dental care throughout your pet’s life is essential to optimal health.

Dental disease is the #1 most common health problem seen by veterinarians. By the age of 3, virtually all dogs and cats have some degree of dental disease, ranging from a mild accumulation of tartar to severe infection and tooth loss. All pets benefit from an annual dental exam, as well as cleaning if needed, but it is also important for you to take care of your pet’s teeth at home.

Within hours after brushing or cleaning, bacteria start to re-colonize the surface of the teeth. They secrete substances to attach themselves more firmly, and to protect themselves from the immune system. The combination of bacteria and their secretions is called plaque. If plaque is not removed, minerals in the saliva turn it into calculus, more commonly called tartar, within 48 hours.

Some of the substances secreted by mouth bacteria cause inflammation of the gums (gingiva), resulting in gingivitis. Untreated, inflammation can progress and even break down tissues in the mouth, leading to periodontal disease. Eventually, infection and erosion cause the teeth to decay, abscess or fracture. Decayed, broken, and abscessed teeth are very painful, and may hinder the animal from taking in enough nourishment. They also deteriorate the pet’s quality of life.

There are other serious health risks associated with tooth decay. Bacteria living in these “slums” can enter the bloodstream and seed infection in critical organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys; as well as causing inflammation in joints and other areas. In my personal experience, many a cranky critter has become happy and playful again after hidden dental problems were corrected.

While diet plays a role in dental disease, there is also a genetic component. Some breeds, such as Abyssinian cats and toy-breed dogs, have a tendency to develop severe gingivitis. Bulldogs, boxers, pugs, and Persian cats often have overcrowded, cavity-prone teeth due to their “smushed” faces. Some pets may need very little dental care, while others might require full cleanings under anesthesia once or even twice a year.

Excellent dental health requires help from your veterinarian as well as a firm commitment to home care from you. If your pet already has dental disease, the first step is to have his teeth cleaned under anesthesia by your veterinarian. While no surgery is risk-free, modern anesthetics, together with appropriate monitoring and supportive care, make this a very low risk procedure, even for older animals (who usually need it the most!).

Steps to prevention of dental and periodontal disease:

1. Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is important for dental health, just as it is for overall well-being. The healthier the animal, the better the immune system, and the less infection will develop. A meat-based diet is essential as meat helps maintain a healthier mouth environment.

However, one persistent myth that is completely false is the notion that “dry food cleans the teeth.” The best that can be said for dry food is that it may produce slightly less tartar than canned food. Pets eating only dry food can and do develop the same dental problems as those who “never touch the stuff.” One study showed that food itself is completely irrelevant; test subjects developed tartar even when fed by stomach tube, even when no food touched the mouth at all! There are a few dry foods that do live up to the claim, but they consist of very large, specially-textured kibbles designed to fracture so that the fragments scrape tartar off the teeth. However, the major ingredients are poor quality (by-product meal, corn gluten meal, corn meal or ground yellow corn, cellulose; Friskies even contains glycerin, a form of sugar – now, how is that good for teeth?!). Plus, these foods suffer from all the usual problems of dry food (extreme processing, high carbohydrates, low moisture). Because of the health risks associated with corn-based dry food (such as obesity, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, FLUTD, and kidney disease), we don’t carry them, or recommend them as a regular diet.

2. Brushing at Home

The best way of removing plaque and preventing dental disease at home is brushing the teeth. Ideally, you should brush your pet’s teeth daily. Brushing removes plaque on the outside of the crown (above-gum portion) of the tooth, and stimulates the gums to keep them healthy. However, plaque can still accumulate below the gum line; so an annual check-up is still an essential part of your pet’s dental health. Even if you don’t see any problems, it is best to have your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned prior to beginning a home-care program, to make sure there are no painful areas in the mouth that might jeopardize your success.

Your veterinarian can show you how to brush your pet’s teeth, but it may still turn into a battle at home, which is the last thing you want! Here are a few tips to get you going:

* Buy a finger brush and toothpaste designed for pets. Do not use a human brush or even a pet brush on a stick; these can severely injure the gums without you knowing it (other than by your pet’s very negative reaction!). A finger brush is a soft plastic cone with bristles on one side that fits over the tip of your finger. It is very safe and can make brushing tolerable or even pleasant for your pet.
* Cats especially love having their faces rubbed at the corners of the mouth (because of the scent glands there), and most dogs tolerate it and even enjoy it. Gently rubbing in that area is a good place to start. Each time you do, run your finger a little farther forward along the lips.
* Gradually extend your rubbing by slipping your finger under the lips and massaging the gums gently. Take this step slowly and back off immediately if your pet objects. You don’t want to make this an unpleasant experience, so let the pet dictate how fast you progress.
* Put a little pet toothpaste (never human toothpaste!) on your finger when you’re rubbing. Most pets love the taste.
* Put the brush on your finger with a little toothpaste. This will be only slightly different from what you’ve been doing and should be tolerated. If not, remove the brush and go back a step. A piece of damp gauze can substitute for the finger brush.

It’s best to brush every day; then if you miss a day, it’s not a crisis. However, if you plan to brush every other day, and then miss a session, you’ve lost several days that cannot be reclaimed, and plaque will have a good head start.

3. Dental Care Products

There are many dental care products marketed for pets. Oral rinses, gels, and water additives will not control plaque by themselves, although they will help with general dental hygiene. The following are my favorite dental products for pets, based on experience and recommendations from veterinary dental experts:

Wysong’s “Denta-Treat” is a cheese-flavored powder that you can sprinkle on the pet’s food or use as toothpaste:

Triple Pet Oral Care Products include specially designed pet toothbrushes and pastes.

ProDen PlaqueOff is another food additive that promotes dental health:

TrueBlue Fast and Fresh Dental Swipes, while not as good as a thorough brushing, can be useful when time is short or when you’re traveling:

Most dog chews, including nylon bones, rawhide bones, hooves, real bones, and other hard chews, tend not to significantly reduce plaque accumulation, and some can actually cause a dog’s teeth to fracture. Broken teeth are a source of infection and pain to the dog, and expense to you when they have to be extracted. If a dog swallows a chunk of any of them, it can cause a life-threatening intestinal blockage. If you have a “ball dog,” don’t let it chew on tennis balls; the tough synthetic “fuzz” rapidly wears teeth down. Thin chews, such as rawhide strips and pig ears, are fine, and may have some benefit by mechanically abrading off the tartar, but be aware they add quite a bit of fat to the diet.

Most treats do not do much for dental health, even if they are labeled “Tartar Control.” The exception to the rule is Feline Greenies, which I can tell you from personal experience can work wonders in just a few weeks.

4. Regular Check Ups

Regular check ups are vitally important, especially for the older animal. At least once a month, you can give your pet a general dental wellness check; be sure to lift the lips enough to see the farthest-back teeth, which are often the source of trouble. If you smell an unpleasant odor, see any redness in the gums, or find a lot of tartar buildup on the teeth, then seek the help of a veterinarian. Supplementing with Vitamin C and CoEnzyme Q10 can help promote the health and healing of gum tissue as well. Every 6-12 months (depending on your pet’s age and history), have your vet do a complete wellness exam and thorough assessment of the mouth.

5. Dental Procedures

If your veterinarian finds tartar build-up or any periodontal disease, consider having a full dental cleaning performed under anesthesia. Your companion will definitely benefit from a healthier and much more comfortable mouth. No matter the age or health of your pet, if there is significant dental disease, it is much preferable to have your vet take care of the problem than to let the problem get worse and cause pain and suffering to your pet.

Great dental care can be the best gift you can give your companion. It requires a commitment of time and effort on your part, but it goes a long, long way toward preventing disease and discomfort; it will help keep your pet healthy and undoubtedly extend her life.

Click here to see all of our dental care products.

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Vegetarian Pets?

People have many reasons for choosing a vegetarian (no meat) or vegan (no animal products) lifestyle: to lower cholesterol, lose weight, conserve water, save rainforests, stop animal cruelty, and many other personal, health, environmental or ethical reasons. Sometimes, these reasons are so compelling that they want to extend this major life choice to their pets as well.

Dogs are classified as carnivores, but as a practical matter, they are omnivorous and can easily survive without meat, as long as they eat a balanced diet. Dog relatives like foxes and coyotes consume lots of fruit or other vegetation at certain times of the year. While not ideal for every dog, most dogs can be successfully converted to a vegetarian or even vegan diet, and there are several suitable commercial dog foods as well as homemade diets. If you are considering a vegetarian rather than vegan diet for your dog, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet has more flexibility by allowing dairy products and eggs as protein sources.

Cats, however, are exclusively carnivorous by nature and by physiology. The cat’s body has made many specific adaptations to its expected diet of prey, which consists mostly of protein, fat and moisture. While you may hear stories about successfully vegetarian cats (including one lion), as a veterinarian, I cannot recommend trying to make a cat exclusively vegetarian or vegan. I’ve just seen too many problems from it. However, one company makes a good canned food that can be helpful in reducing the amount of meat you need to feed your cat:

Evanger’s Canine/Feline Vegetarian Canned Food

There are lots of products being marketed as “vegetarian” dog foods. However, many contain corn gluten meal or soybean meal—both of which are already common meat substitutes in mass-market pet foods. Dogs have difficulty digesting soy, which along with soy’s naturally high phytoestrogen content, makes soy problematic as a protein source. Corn gluten meal contains about 60% protein. Today, it is being promoted as a lawn fertilizer and weed killer! When considering a vegetarian dog food, corn and soy are key ingredients to avoid. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that when you’re shopping at Only Natural Pet Store—we don’t carry foods containing those ingredients! We carry dry, canned, and even “raw” vegetarian dog foods:

Natural Balance Vegetarian Dog Food Allergy Formula

Evanger’s Canine/Feline Vegetarian Canned Food

Raw Advantage Organic Vegetarian for Dogs

As we’ve talked about before, variety is essential to your pet’s diet, so don’t get stuck on a single food–a mix of homemade and commercial foods may be ideal for both variety and convenience.

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New Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Formula for Dogs & Cats!

Only Natural Pet Store is happy to introduce Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Formulas!

Finally, a dry food for dogs and cats good enough to be called “Spot’s Stew”. Created for all life stages, Halo blends a unique combination of proteins from meat or fish, eggs and vegetables for pure nutrition and easy digestibility.

  • No rendered meats or meals
  • Nothing artificial
  • No by-products
  • No fillers
  • No chemicals or preservatives

Click Here to View Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Food.

Halo also offers a complete line of pet care products for dogs and cats, all specifically created to achieve and maintain optimal health for your pet. They guarantee all their products will deliver noticeable results, or your money back!

Click Here to Check Out All Halo Products.

. . . and coming soon at Only Natural Pet Store. . . Ziwi Peak!

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