You’ve seen the headlines – as a population, we are getting fatter. Close to 40% of adults are obese and that number continues to grow. But you may not know that this same epidemic is effecting our pets. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 52.7% of dogs and 57.9% of cats are overweight or obese. Now consider that more than 60% of the owners of overweight dogs don’t think their dogs are obese, and you can understand why this situation is not improving.
How did this happen? Most experts blame rising pet obesity on the shift in pet diets toward highly processed, grain and carb heavy foods, and less and less exercise (incidentally, some of the same factors that drive human obesity). No matter the cause, the results of pet obesity are clear – osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, ligament injuries, kidney disease, cancer, and an overall decreased life expectancy of more than two years.
As pet owners who believe in natural nutrition, we are not immune to this issue. As a result, here is a five step plan for recognizing and tackling pet obesity.
Look and feel – Real scientific measurements such as the body condition score (BCS) is a great diagnostic tool, but you can start by doing a quick assessment at home using your eyes and hands. Start by feeling your pet’s ribs. You should be able to feel each individual rib with a slight layer of fat over them. You should not need to work at finding those ribs. Then look at your dog or cat from above. You should see a waist behind the rib cage of a cat or dog in the healthy weight range.
Talk to your vet – a trip to the vet will obviously give you a very clear picture of your pet’s ideal weight, but with blood and urine tests you can also rule out other factors that may be causing weight gain, including issues related to the thyroid, metabolism or hormonal problems.
Meal timing and portions – The next step is to look at how often and how much your pet eats. It’s a myth that pets can always self-regulate their diets, so no more free feeding. Also, you’ll want to limit the amount of treats and no more table scraps for Fido.
Get moving – Taking your pet out for a short walk to do his or her “business” is not enough. Exercise needs vary based on a dog’s age, breed and size, but in general, dogs should be active between 30 minutes to 2 hours every day. It’s a great opportunity to engage with your pet, introduce some fun new fetch toys and get moving yourself.
Finally, be patient. If you go through these steps you should see results. But remember that healthy weight loss takes time. As long as your dog is continually losing weight – even very small amounts per week – you are on the right track.
It’s a new year, which often signals a fresh start and time to think about your goals for the next 12 months. But here’s a fresh twist on the New Year’s Resolution–why not kill two birds (not really) and make some commitments to your pet parenting and your personal health and wellness? Read on for great ideas for resolutions for you and your pet.
#1 Get Moving
We know, we know. It’s at the top of everyone’s resolution list. But isn’t it more appealing to exercise with your dog, rather than in a gym? Commit to upping your daily walk game – but don’t limit yourself to just walking. Throw in some intervals (walk or run faster for short periods) or some games of catch or even a set of push-ups. It’s good for you, it breaks up the monotony of the walk, and your dog will love time spent with you.
#2 What’s Up Doc?
Chances are, you have health screenings or doctor’s appointments you should make in the New Year. The same is true for your pet. Yearly examinations by your veterinarian are important to good preventive care. Vet visits are also the perfect time to ask for advice, talk about nutrition, or get an expert opinion on any behavioral issues.
#3 Think Outside the Walk
Daily walks are great, but consider going a little bigger. Try hiking, trail running, skijoring (combination of cross country skiing and dog sledding), snow shoeing, kayaking or any other activity that gets you outside and moving! It’s a great way to bond and the physical activity and mental health benefits are great for both of you.
#4 Primp and Polish
No one wants a stinky pet. Regular grooming – bathing, nail clipping, brushing teeth and coat – will make your pet more pleasant to be around and (bonus!) it’s healthier for your pet. Plus, all that nurturing and daily grooming is a great bonding activity for you and your pet. But pay attention – any skin and coat problems that don’t resolve with regular grooming, please see your veterinarian.
#5 All Work and No Play….
…makes pet parents very dull. More play time is a fun and positive resolution for people and pets! It’s a great stress reliever for you and who doesn’t embrace unconditional love and attention? Cats love the thrill of chasing a laser toy or catnip toys or fetch toys, and dogs are happy with most any game, like fetch, tug of war, hide and seek. It all works!
Lastly, it’s a New Year so don’t forget to take a moment to be thankful for all you have, especially the beautiful and loving pets who enrich your life every day.
Everything You Need To Know About the Different Types of Pet Food
Recently our CEO & Founder Marty Grosjean wrote an article for the Natural Papa blog to help natural pet parents sort through all of the amazing pet food options available. Take a look to learn about all of the types out there and demystify your pet’s diet!
Our friends over at Fidose of Reality love and care for your dogs just as much as we do. That’s why they’ve put together this useful guide of 8 Hacks to Prevent Dog Fleas and Ticks. Packed with natural solutions to the nastiest biting insects, this post is all-natural and a must read for any dog parents out there who want to protect their dogs from fleas and ticks and from dangerous chemicals and pesticides.
Halloween is definitely one of our most unique holidays: we celebrate the beginning of autumn by dressing up in costumes, decorating with jack-o-lanterns, and giving out candy to our neighbors. And when we’re asked why we do these silly things, we inevitably answer, “That’s just the way it is.”
As intuitive as our pets may be, if that’s the best answer we have for people, how could we begin to explain this bizarre day to our pets? With that in mind, it’s best for us to have a game plan in mind so we can keep our pets healthy, happy, and most importantly, safe, on what can be a very hectic, confusing, and over-stimulating day.
People Treats Can Be Pet Trouble
One of the most important things for us to remember on Halloween is that people treats can be dangerous, and often poisonous, to our pets.
The Pet Poison Hotline reports a 12% increase in call volume during the week of Halloween, most of them associated with pets consuming chocolate, raisins, and wrappers. These are all dangerous to our pets and should be treated as a poisoning if they’re accidentally ingested.
Chocolate is one of the most toxic treats for pets. Dogs and cats both struggle to metabolize it and when it’s ingested, it can cause everything from vomiting and diarrhea to elevated heart rates and even seizures. The culprit is a caffeine-like chemical called methylxanthines. This compound is more highly concentrated in dark chocolates, but is still present in all forms, so make sure all chocolate is kept out of reach.
Whether they’re in the form of healthy raisin treats or a peeled grape trick, even a small amount of Raisins & Grapes can cause kidney failure in your pets. These must be kept out of reach! If you suspect that your pet has ingested either of these (symptoms can include vomiting, abdominal pain, & lethargy), make sure you contact your veterinarian immediately.
Unfortunately, our pets don’t always remove wrappers from treats before they eat them, making even non-poisonous treats dangerous. Plastic and foil can cause serious bowel obstruction, which sometimes needs surgery to correct. Even if the candy is eaten, your pet may still be attracted to the discarded wrapper, so keep the trash bin closed and inaccessible.
Keep Calm & Celebrate On
One of the biggest issues for our pets on Halloween is the constant line of trick or treaters or party guests. This can be especially troublesome if your pet is protective or hates when things are out of place. Fortunately, some small steps can go a long way in keeping them calm.
Make sure you have plenty of stress & anxiety remedies available and administer them before the trick or treaters start. A multi-faceted approach always works best, including flower essences, pheromone soothers, and swaddling products, like a Thundershirt. If you wait until after your pet is nervous, these aren’t as effective, so introduce them to your pet gently throughout the evening; when the visitors start arriving, your pet will be calm enough to handle it.
Safe spaces are important for letting our pets feel protected, so allow them access to them on Halloween and make them extra safe. Nervousness can induce extreme panting, so have plenty of water available.
Finally, try to meet the trick or treaters on the porch. Preventing the doorbell from always ringing or stopping the constant knocking at the door can give you a huge advantage in limiting your pet’s anxiety. And with the calming aids, your pet might not even realize anything out of the ordinary is happening!
Keep the Costumes Comfy & Safe
Our pets are part of the family, and if they’re comfortable with it, there’s no reason they shouldn’t enjoy the fun part of Halloween… the costumes! There are some things to keep in mind:
If your pet doesn’t want to wear a costume, don’t force it. Just like people, some pets don’t always like dressing up. If your pet is one of them, just let them go as they are, or better yet, make their lack of costume part of their costume… World’s Best Pet comes to mind.
If your pet loves dressing up, make sure the costume fits properly. If there is any kind of rubbing or constriction, it can remove fur and irritate your pet’s skin. Also, keep it simple so your pet isn’t tempted to think the costume is a toy. We might see a fully functioning robot pet with all the buttons and switches, but your pet sees something that needs to be destroyed, and possibly lodged in their gastrointestinal system.
Decorate with Your Pets in Mind
Commonplace Halloween decorations can be trouble for our pets. Candles in jack-o-lanterns can be singed whiskers and tails for our curious companions. If you’re using open flames, try to put them at a level where your pets won’t be tempted to get at them.
Fake cobwebs and glow sticks that are bad for pets can also look like a tempting toy; cats especially love to chew on these. Unfortunately, these are bowel obstructions (and a surgery) waiting to happen. Keep pets away from the decorations as much as possible. If you do catch them playing with decorations, it’s best to grab the pet rather than the camera.
They Only Stay in at Night
With hectic neighborhoods on Halloween, your best bet for safe pets is to keep them inside. This will keep everyone calm and happy. As an extra precaution, make sure all of your companions are wearing their collars with appropriate contact information. Halloween can be a nervous night, and often our pet’s first instinct is to flee.
Don’t Get Spooked
Most importantly, don’t let all of these potential dangers frighten you from a fun night. The most important steps for us to take are to keep our pets calm, be mindful of their actions, and make sure they’re having as much fun as we are!
Back to school time can be a mad rush when it comes to getting kids ready, adjusting our work schedules, being out of the house, and preparing for daylight savings time to end. But we have to remember that all of these changes in our lives can be just as stressful on our pets. Whether they’re missing a child that’s going to be at school or just picking up on our anxiety, these events can cause a lot trouble for our furry friend’s well-being.
Thankfully, there are some surefire techniques that can not only help your pet through these transitions, but help make them a healthier, happier pet.
Routine, Routine, Routine
One of the biggest factors that give our pets the back to school blues is the change in routine. This could be anything from waiting longer for their nightly walk or waking up earlier. The most important thing to remember during these transitional times is to keep the habit that works best for everyone. If this means walking your dog before work in the morning then make sure you take that walk every day. Or if your cat needs attention right after you set down your briefcase, then make sure that always happens.
Our pets are creatures of comfort and the small, routine actions can make all the difference. Try out these tips or create some new routines of your own:
15 minutes of play every day when you get home. It offers exercise, bonding, and is a routine you’ll both enjoy.
Try homemade food that you prepare the same every meal. Your pet’s will start jumping for joy when they hear the spoon start stirring.
Keep Them Entertained
With our busier fall schedules, our pets can end up spending a good deal more time in the house alone. If this time is left unstructured, destructive behavior and bad habits, like excessive barking and furniture destruction, can develop. Keeping your pets entertained during these times alone and giving them plenty of exercise when you are around can make all the difference.
Try your hardest not to leave your pets alone all day. If you can run home during a lunch break or have a pet sitting company stop in, that can mean the difference between a happy pet and a shredded couch.
Double up your pet’s exercise during the especially hectic times. You’ll notice your stress slipping away and you’ll wear your pets out so they’ll spend their time alone sleeping.
Interactive toys are a great way to keep your pets concentrating on something productive. Whether they’re working towards a reward or chasing a toy, will keep them content and focused.
Limit the Stress
Our pets have a tendency to pick up on our stress easily and to create stress when their routines change. This can lead to shaking, nervous panting, pacing, and even poor stool quality. Combating this can seem like a challenge, but using a multi-faceted approach can make it easy and safe for your pet. Exercise and play are a great way for our pets to work out that nervous energy, and supplements are always an effective, safe way to remedy anxiety issues1
Flower essences are great for calming your pets quickly and they have no side effects, so they can be dosed often for effective relief.
Thundershirts hug your pet’s body tight, giving them a sense of security. Make sure you put it on well before the stressor will start so your pet can get used to it.
If your pet is struggling with poor stool quality as a result of stress, probiotics and other digestive supplements are a great choice. They support proper digestion and will maintain healthy stool quality.
Get Them Learning
Finding time to spend with your pets and helping them to learn some new tricks is not only a great way to improve your bond with your companion, but it also helps keep them mentally stimulated. Mental stimulation is like exercise for their brains, keeping them focused when they’re on a task and wearing them out so they can get the restful sleep they need.
Training treats work wonders when you’re teaching new tricks. And natural ones will let you keep feeding without worry about dangerous fillers or chemicals.
When it comes to training, repetition is the name of the game. Try repeating the same command and hand gesture in unison, and always reward with a treat when the trick is done right.
Remember Their Health
Unfortunately, one of the biggest things that can be overlooked during stressful or hectic times is your pet’s health. Remember that diet is the foundation of a healthy life, so make sure you’re always feeding your pets a natural diet made with quality protein sources and from whole foods. Along with a proper diet, make sure you’re feeding quality treats and supplementing properly.
Choose a healthy pet diet that your pets like and is not going to aggravate any food allergies they might have. If you’re noticing allergic reactions, steer clear of grains and common proteins, like chicken.
Supplements are a great benefit for our pets overall health. Make sure you’re including a pet daily multi-vitamin every day and also using an essential fatty acid supplement, like fish oil. Along with these, treat with supplements accordingly, whether your pets need joint support, senior care, or anything else.
Back to school is going to be stressful, but following these steps will have some great consequences. It will help calm you and your pets and strengthen the bonds and relationships that you share.
When it comes to chewing, our dogs aren’t always the pickiest: sticks can be shredded in minutes; couch cushions are always fair game; and what’s-that-in-the-yard-I’ll-eat-it-anyway can be a daily occurrence. It has been suggested that dogs chew for every reason from curiosity to boredom, and it’s because of this “chew anything” mentality that the power of pet parenting is even more important.
Go to any pet store and you’ll find entire aisles dedicated to chews for your dog.
Most chews look innocent enough: bright white “bones”, twisted sticks, and even multi-colored braids, but the truth is these chews are not only unhealthy for our dogs, they can be downright dangerous!
To help you find the perfect dog chew, we have some simple things to keep in mind that will go a long way towards caring for your dog:
What’s In Your Dog’s Chews? (Or Better Yet, What’s NOT In It?)
Natural chews are sourced from single ingredients and gently processed, meaning you know exactly what you’re giving your dog. When your dog chews on a cow ear dog chews, you can see that it’s a cow ear. Processed chews, like rawhides, on the other hand, have some ingredients to hide.
Commercial chews undergo a bleaching process that features numerous caustic chemicals; those are soaked into the treat and waiting for your dog to ingest. And the added colors and “dental themed” rawhides are even worse, featuring artificial coloring, artificial preservatives, and fillers like corn sugar.
Where Are Your Dog’s Chews From?
We’ve heard a lot recently about dangerous chicken jerky treats associated with antibiotic fed livestock, but did you know that the cattle used for rawhides are often given similar, unsafe antibiotics? Not to mention the added growth hormones and terrible, unnatural feed. Natural chews are sourced from grass fed cattle, raised without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics. The cattle are also free range, meaning they enjoy a healthy, open environment.
Are Your Dog’s Chews Healthy?
Dog health is very similar to human health: the less processed the better! Unfortunately, most commercial rawhides are hugely processed, going through multiple cycles of bleaching, coloring, and cooking.
All natural chews are single ingredient and go through minimal processing. Most of them are high in protein, low in fat, and free of those nasty fillers and preservatives present in commercial rawhides.
This means your dog is getting the nutritional benefits of a healthy snack, not the empty calories of a junk food chew. Plus, different chews can have added benefits!
As important as all the other decisions are when choosing a chew, there’s one that you have to leave up to your dog: the experience. Your dog might not be picky when it comes to chewing, but there is a difference between going through the motions, and truly enjoying something.
Do your dog’s ears perk up when you grab a natural chew? Does he sit with perfect posture, like a grade schooler ready to please?
And taste is just the start! Is the chew long lasting? Natural chews like bully sticks can last significantly longer than rawhides, giving your dog a satisfying experience from start to finish. How does your dog feel afterward? Are they content; or on the opposite side of that, feeling sick and even throwing up? Natural chews are single ingredient and completely digestible, which is gentle on your dog’s stomach.
Why Homemade Food is the Best Choice for Your Pet!
When we think about the finer things in life, food is always at the top of the list; and when we think of fine foods, we don’t think of them as plain, processed or overcooked.
We want our food full of fresh, colorful, whole ingredients exploding with flavor and nutrition. This slice of paradise isn’t exclusive to people…
our pets love it too!
Their sense of smell and taste are highly developed, meaning they dream of the fresh, bountiful ingredients just like we do!
So why are we feeding them boring kibble and canned food for every meal? It’s time to make a change; it’s time for homemade! But don’t panic; homemade doesn’t mean buying lots of ingredients at the grocery store and toiling away in the kitchen. There are a number of packaged homemade pet foods that only need to be mixed with water and served. It might sound simple, but it offers a whole new level of taste and nutrition for your pet.
Homemade isn’t just a food type, it’s a food choice! And it’s one of the best choices you can make to give your pets the gift of a long, healthy, and, most importantly, better quality life.
(Be warned: Pets love it so much, they won’t go back!):
1. Homemade Means “Nature Made” as well
Your dog and cat are not “kibblevores”. They both have extremely advanced digestive systems that crave fresh, nutrient dense, raw foods. In nature, they would be eating an entire animal: this means plenty of raw meat with digestive system supporting probiotics and essential fatty acids; the stomach content of their prey, which would be filled with plant matter that’s high in vitamins and minerals; and a good amount of hydrating fluids from the blood and water rich organs.
Homemade pet food diets recreate this raw meat and vegetable feast, without all the mess!
Some of them feature large, appetizing chunks of raw meat that have been freeze dried, so the protein doesn’t lose the beneficial nutrients that are mostly absent from processed foods. And all of them contain human quality meat with an array of dehydrated fruits and vegetables. These fruits and veggies are not only delicious to your pet, but they’re rich in nutrients missing in the meat, like vitamin C and other antioxidants. Plus, homemade diets are prepared by you with fresh water, which hydrates your pet and offers them a delicious broth.
2. Variety Is the Spice of Life
When you buy your pets’ kibble, you know the type and relative amount of protein because of the guaranteed analysis and ingredients list. But if you were to just look at the food out of the bag, would you know the ingredients? Probably not. That’s because most kibbles and canned foods are so processed and cooked, they become a single texture, with a single color, and a single flavor.
Homemade diets are different! Once you add water, you’ll see quality proteins that plump up, a flavorful broth form, and shredded vegetables that you can actually see. These combine to give your pets a variety of textures and flavors that will keep them happy and healthy.
3. Who Wants Cornflakes Everyday Anyway?
When you commit to a kibble or canned diet for your pets, the most effective way to feed them is to buy the largest bag or case. Unfortunately, this is like buying a 40 pound bag of cornflakes or a bucket of canned pasta! With their relatively short shelf lives and depleting freshness once you open them up, kibble and canned diets are not the first choice when looking for a freshly prepared, homemade diet.
Homemade diets are preserved in unique ways (by freeze drying, air drying, or dehydrating) giving them a stable shelf life.
This lets you mix and match your flavors, so you won’t be feeding the same meal over and over again, giving your pets the diet diversity they crave. (To learn more about the importance of variety, please read our article “Why Switch Foods.”)
4. Your Pet Is Family
Preparing meals for your family isn’t just a means of feeding them; it’s a ritual that teaches us the importance of connection, patience, and love.
Nothing disrupts this experience more than simply dumping kibble or a can into a bowl. Homemade food lets you include your pet in the process! Their food can soak while you prepare yours, and even though most homemade mixes are complete meals, there’s no rule against adding some of your cooking scraps (Only healthy ones, of course. To learn more, read this article about dangerous pet foods to avoid by the ASPCA).
This process lets you bond with your pets in more ways than you might think. It lets you see their food first hand, so you know you’re giving them whole, nutritious meals. Plus, it’s a great way to reinforce your role in your pets’ lives. They’ll know you’re the one who decides when it’s time to eat. You’re not merely providing a meal, you’re providing a routine.
5. Who Doesn’t Want a Homemade Meal?
The truth of the matter is that homemade tastes better, and is healthier for our pets! Most homemade meals allow you to just add fresh water, wait, and serve, which makes a huge difference when compared to processed, premade foods.
They’re things that we take for granted: our dogs can hear the crinkle of their food bags from the complete opposite corner of the house and our cats stalk and pounce on a slippered foot on even the darkest night. And even though our pets’ senses of sight and sound may always amaze us, this doesn’t mean they’re impervious to injury.
From common aging to specific disorders, their eyes and ears face numerous challenges; but with some simple observations, added knowledge, and natural help, you can care for your pet’s eyes and ears the healthy, natural way.
Eye health covers everything from vision to the physical & cellular health of the eye. It’s a hugely important sense for our pets and can experience several struggles. Here are some of the most common disorders, how you can recognize them, and what you can do to combat them naturally.
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Healthy eye lenses are made up of mostly water and protein and cataracts are formed when proteins begin clumping together in an abnormal way, resulting in clouding and decreased vision. They’re usually associated with older pets, but they can easily affect younger pets with certain congenital issues or chronic conditions, like diabetes. Surgery is often required, but the urgency and even the need for surgery can be put off with a proper regime of prevention and treatment.
As with most natural care, prevention and treatment both begin with the basics: a high quality diet supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Diet is the foundation of good health and is the most important thing you can do for your companion; many chronic degenerative eye diseases, like cataracts, develop as a result of inadequate nutrition and exposure to toxins in low quality food. Thankfully, there are so many quality diets on the market, pleasing even the pickiest pet is simple. Dehydrated and freeze dried diets are delicious and packed with nutrients needed for a species appropriate diet, and even high quality canned pet food and high quality pet kibble diets have been improving drastically over the years. The basic rule of thumb is the fresher the better; but remember, your pets should enjoy what they’re eating as well!
Herbal supplements can be extremely helpful for cataracts, especially bilberry. Bilberry supplements maintain proper circulation in the eye, delivering needed nutrients to eye tissue; plus it supports cardiovascular health. Along with a bilberry extract, high quality antioxidant supplements support eye health, maintaining your pet’s ability to battle the progression cataracts.
Conjunctivitis is the fancy name for eye inflammation and usually occurs in animals with preexisting immune or allergy-related problems. When your dog or cat has sore, red eyes with a discharge, the first thing to do is determine the cause. It
may be as simple as a minor scratch, irritating debris, or airborne allergies, or a more serious issue, like feline herpes or glaucoma. If you’re uncertain about what’s causing your pet’s irritation, a trip to the veterinarian is crucial; waiting can mean the difference between saving your pet’s sight and losing it.
For common irritations, eye washes are helpful for soothing they eyes and removing any foreign debris, and eyebright herbal washes are effective at controlling symptoms and minor infections. Traditional Chinese herbal blends can also be helpful for boosting the immune system and clearing minor eye infections.
If allergies are suspected as the cause of conjunctivitis, it’s best to confront the two most common culprits: food & airborne allergies. Switching to a hypoallergenic diet will help eliminate food borne allergens. Nutraceutical allergy formulas regimen will help maintain your pet’s ability to battle airborne allergies, plus, they act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agents to control inflammation. Solutions are also helpful for gently cleaning and removing foreign debris, like pollen.
If your cat’s eyes are watering and producing a thick whitish discharge, feline herpes may be the cause. Feline herpes is a common, highly contagious upper respiratory infection that can have far reaching effects on your cat’s health. On the eyes specifically, the inside lining of the eyelids becomes inflamed, and shallow, painful ulcers develop.
Feline Herpes is generally a result of a weakened immune system, so a healthy diet and immune support are essential. To help control the virus, the amino acid L-lysine may be helpful; L-lysine, along with other vitamins and herbs, can support the immune system during infections and on a long-term basis. Specially formulated blends to fight viral and bacterial infections and boost the immune system can be very helpful as well. Plus, eyebright eyewashes will soothed the painful eye ulcers and gently clean the thick discharges.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), involves the shrinking of the retina of the eye and is more common in dogs than cats. PRA usually develops slowly and begins with night blindness; if you notice your companion hesitating to go outside at
night or down a darkened hall, suspect vision problems and consult your veterinarian.
In cats, PRA is most commonly related to a taurine deficiency, which is now less of a problem since all commercially available cat foods are fortified with added taurine. Raw diets that include organ meats provide the most natural source of taurine, and for those feeding home-prepared diets, taurine supplementation is essential. Look for daily supplements to ensure your cat’s health.
Preventing PRA in your pet is best done with a multi-faceted approach. Obviously, proper diet and nutrition are giant steps you can take to confront and degenerative or chronic condition. Supplements are also hugely important: bilberry is useful for PRA for the same reasons it may help with cataracts – increased circulation and nutrients to the eye tissue. Zinc and vitamin E deficiencies are also linked to PRA, so supplementing with both of these is valuable in preventing PRA. Finally, essential fatty acids, particularly DHA from fish oil, also support in preventing or slowing the progression of PRA.
Ear health is vital for your pet to not only have healthy hearing, but clean, irritant free ears. Troubled ears often result in excessive scratching and shaking, not to mention they can smell pretty terrible. Here are some of the most common offenders and how you can help your pet.
Ear Infections & Yeast Problems
Chronic ear infections and yeast problems are frequently a sign of food allergies, but diet, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and essential fatty acids are great for treating allergies and hence chronic ear problems from the inside out.
Many animals with food sensitivities and allergies have seen dramatic improvement on raw, freeze dried, and dehydrated diets; again, the fresher the diet, the better it is for your companion’s health & immune system. Dry kibble can be part of a healthy diet for pets; however dogs with chronic ear problems or allergies require hypo-allergenic food, meaning no wheat, corn or soy and sometimes no beef or chicken too, due to protein sensitivities. Make sure your read your labels and find a diet that’s friendly for your pet’s allergies and palate.
Most pets suffering food allergies also have unhealthy gastrointestinal systems and can’t digest food properly. Leaky gut develops, letting molecules that are too large to process pass through the gut wall, setting off allergic reactions and even yeast infections. The symptoms may appear in the ears, but you have to heal the gut to really get rid of the allergies. Digestive enzymes break down the food so that there is less of a chance of the larger molecules passing through the intestinal walls, probiotics support a healthy balance of flora in the gut and aid digestion, and fatty acids maintain proper inflammation response, supporting a healthy gut.
Digestive enzymes break down the food so that there is less of a chance of the larger molecules passing through the intestinal walls and should be added at every meal. The enzymes work quickly and don’t remain in your pet’s system beyond digestion of the food immediately present in the digestive tract.
Probiotics support a healthy balance of flora in the gut, aid digestion, and are especially important if your pet has been on steroids or antibiotics, which kill the healthy gut flora and set up conditions for the allergies to worsen. Probiotics are helpful for any animal that has had chronic gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea as well.
Essential fatty acids, preferably fish oil, maintain proper inflammation response and support a healthy gut. Allergies involve inflammation of the gut and often affect the joints as well. Plus, fish oil is an irresistible topper on your pet’s meals.
Finally, if the change in diet and adding enzymes and fatty acids do not completely solve the issue, then consider a supplement high in plant sterols and sterolins that help balance the immune system over time and reduce allergic reactions.
Ear mites are part of the arachnid family (along with ticks, spiders, and scorpions) and are parasitic. These little buggers result in excess scratching and unfortunately, can lead to other infections and irritations as your pet is looking for relief. They spread quickly, so if you have multiple pets, get all of them checked. If you suspect your pet has ear mites, take them to your veterinarian to be tested and treated.
Thankfully, one of the best things you can do for ear mites is prevention. Putting your pet on a healthy diet, probiotics, digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids (the same program you follow to prevent ear infections) will support your pet’s natural ability to fend off these nasty invaders.
General Ear Relief
Topical ear washes are a great way to relieve and ease any ear irritation your pet may be experiencing. Echinacea and tea tree oil are both mild disinfects that will help clean the ear canal. Plus, tea tree oil is anti-fungal and can be helpful in controlling yeast as well.
Final Thoughts on Natural Eye & Ear Care
Ear and eye problems are not only nuisances for your pet, but can lead to serious issues, including loss of sight and hearing. But with attention to detail, a helpful holistic veterinarian, and a natural approach, you can keep your pet seeing, hearing and feeling great!
Please keep in mind that although these are common eye and ear disorders seen by veterinarians, they are not all of the symptoms of a diagnosis. If you’re noticing any changes in behavior, squinting, excessive scratching, or loss of hearing or sight, contact your veterinarian immediately.
The words “toxic” and “toxin” get thrown around a lot; from toxic waste to pop star lyrics, they’re often overused and misunderstood. But the truth is: toxins can cause, worsen, or accelerate numerous health problems in your pet. And since these toxins are often hidden in our pet’s food, air and environment, it can be difficult to pinpoint how many they’re actually receiving.
Our pets are in an extremely difficult situation because of their size and their inability to communicate. We may affectionately call them our little friends, but the truth is that “little” moniker can be a big problem. Since they’re smaller, small amounts of toxins can have a greater impact on their health. Plus, they can’t say to you, “This water is making me sick,” or “You’re going to spray the lawn with what?!” so we can’t know everything that’s effecting them.
Thankfully, there’s help! With a little primer on what toxins are most likely hurting your pet, and some easy to follow steps on how to stop them, you and your furry friend will be well on your way to living a healthy, toxin free life!
Tracking Your Pet’s Toxins
Toxins get into your pet through several means; including eating, licking, breathing, touching, and even normal biological processes. Outdoor toxins like weed killers, pesticides, automotive exhaust & motor oil, and chemical road or sidewalk de-icers get into our pets when they breathe them in, eat chemical-laden grass, lick dust or residue off their paws and fur, or absorb them through their paws. Household products like cleaners, air fresheners, laundry products and other chemicals can invade where your pets sleep and lounge. Toxins in drinking water, commercial food and treats, and medications are usually directly ingested by your pet. Finally, some toxins, like ammonia, are produced within your pet’s body, either through their own metabolic processes or by microbial activity, most often bacteria and/or yeast in the GI tract.
The Ill Effects of Toxins on Your Pet
In a healthy body, toxins are rounded up and eliminated quickly through the organs of elimination, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin. Our pets’ wild counterparts have very efficient toxin elimination systems that have developed over centuries to handle the natural toxins they encounter. But in the modern world, our domesticated pets are bombarded daily with an overwhelming number of toxins, most of which their bodies have not had enough evolutionary time to adapt to.
In the short run, our pet’s bodies react to toxins like ours do: the immune system ramps up processes like inflammation, mucus production and diarrhea to help an army of cells resolve the problem and purge the offending “invaders” from the system. But when the body is overwhelmed with too many toxins, it is forced to store them until there is an opportunity to eliminate them at a better time. For many pets, the better time never arrives, and these toxins will accumulate indefinitely, causing symptoms like lethargy, fatigue, and proneness to infection. Ultimately, toxic overload can impede the work of your pet’s immune system to the point where tumors and cysts may form, and serious health conditions may develop as organ function is impaired.
Detoxing Your Pet
1. Upgrade Food & Treats – Improving the quality of your pet’s diet is the best thing you can do to improve well-being and longevity. Stop giving your pets any grocery store or pet store chain foods & treats; you are feeding them chemical additives, artificial colors & flavors with every bite. Along with these toxic indigestible ingredients, they are filled with poor quality proteins and fillers that tax your pet’s digestion and increase the toxic load in their bodies. Choose natural, high quality food and treats. Only Natural Pet Store offers only the best in highly digestible, additive-free natural dog foods & natural cat food and natural dog treats & natural cat treats.
2. Filtered Water Only – While the water that flows through your household pipes may be technically “fit to drink,” it is filled with toxic minerals, metal levels, chemicals like fluoride and chlorine, and even trace amounts dangerous prescription drugs. Your pets deserve better! Water filtration units are readily available and you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good one. Pet fountains from Drinkwell and Pioneer Pet Water Filters not only filter the water, but entice pets that don’t like to drink water: a great benefit to their kidneys. It’s well worth the investment and, after all, what’s more valuable than your pet’s health?
3. Add Nutraceuticals and Cleansing Herbs – Nutrient supplements that contain “greens” and cleansing herbs can help your pet tremendously. Greens supplements add a wide variety of nutrients commonly missing from even the best pet foods, including full spectrum amino acids, chlorophyll, antioxidants, trace minerals, and essential fatty acids. Cleansing herbs have unique properties that support the health of essential organ systems and are extremely easy to administer. We offer many excellent greens and cleansing herb supplements.
4. Eliminate Household Chemicals – Along with obvious products like bug killers and cleaning solvents, beware of things like perfumes, air fresheners (including scented plug-ins), and laundry products like dryer sheets These are laden with chemicals unregulated and untested by US health protection agencies, and many of them are known to cause or worsen respiratory conditions like asthma. Choose 100% natural cleaning products. Check out our selection of natural, biodegradable cleaners, or make your own natural cleaner. There are many online resources for making effective cleaning products from ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice.
5. Exercise Every Day – Your pet needs exercise as much as you do, and daily workouts have many benefits for protecting your pet from toxins. Exercise improves the movement of waste materials through the digestive tract, reducing the toxic effects of a too-sluggish bowel. Exercise also improves circulation of blood and lymph fluid, two primary means of eliminating micro-toxins and cellular debris from the body. Exercise also improves respiration and helps remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract. Don’t let a dog’s bad walking behavior or a cat’s boredom prevent you from giving your pets the exercise they need. Walking harnesses can curb your dog’s pulling tendencies, making walks easier, and outdoor walking harness for cats allow for safe outdoor exercise. Plus, some interactive toys for dogs & interactive toys for cats will keep your pet’s muscles toned from “hunting prey.”
6. Improve Air Quality – Indoor air pollution can come from household chemicals, cigarette and cigar smoke, gaseous chemicals emanating from new synthetic household items like flooring, carpeting, and furniture, and even dust. If you have new household items that are giving off that tell-tale “new” smell, be sure to keep these areas of the house well-ventilated, keep pets off and out of these areas and consider using window fans or leaving windows open for some fresh air while the items are exuding high levels of volatile organic compounds. Use bathroom fans to reduce chemical residues from spray-on cosmetic items like hair spray and perfume. And consider purchasing an air purifier to continually cycle and filter your house’s air.
7. Minimize Exposure to Outdoor Pollutants & Chemicals – Pets that spend time outdoors will undoubtedly encounter chemicals used for pest control, weed killers, fertilizers and more. If your dog likes to munch on grass, keep a close eye on them when you walk near neighbors’ yards and in public places like parks, where use of chemicals is common. Adding greens to the diet may help curb this tendency in both cats and dogs to graze on grass outside. For cats, a great solution is the SmartCat Kitty Garden, which lets you grow a healthy assortment of grasses free of contaminants.
8. Keep Conventional Meds in Check – Toxic compounds are plentiful in conventional flea and tick products, heartworm medications, and many conventional drugs, including vaccines. While chemical treatments and conventional medications may be needed, it pays to be mindful of the frequency of dosing, and to look for natural alternatives when they are appropriate. We offer many natural flea and tick control products, as well as natural remedies for common pet health conditions that offer safer alternatives to their conventional counterparts; check with your vet about natural remedies that may be of benefit. We also suggest carefully considering the misguided notion that every pet requires annual boosters for vaccines. Read our article, “The Truth About Pet Vaccinations,” for more information on this critical topic.
9. Support the Liver – Your pet’s liver does the lion’s share of eliminating of toxins. Antioxidants assist the liver in this process, and many detoxification remedies have herbs like milk thistle that are of great value to your pet’s liver. While young, healthy pets are unlikely to require daily liver support, older pets and those taking medications may benefit from regular use of liver support products. As always, consult a holistic vet to determine whether and how liver-supporting remedies may be of benefit to your companion. Read more about liver support in our article, “Taking Care of the Liver,” by our consulting holistic veterinarian, Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM.
10. Provide Immune Support – Your pet’s immune system works in tandem with the elimination organs to flush toxins, and supporting immune health keeps your pet’s liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin healthy so they can do their detoxification work. For healthy pets, daily immune support is found in a quality multivitamin & mineral supplement. Extra immune support, especially important for older and active pets, is provided by antioxidant supplements.
11. Skin Salvation – Your pet’s skin and coat is the first line of defense against toxins, and a regular brushing regimen will help your pet’s skin “breathe” and facilitate this process. Regular grooming also removes dust and debris that may contain toxic residue, making personal grooming far less worrisome. Consider the quality of your pet’s bath products, and choose natural grooming products that skip the toxic ingredients, preventing your pet from absorbing fewer toxins at bath time. Natural skin health products and natural shampoo & bath products support healthy skin and are just as effective as their toxic counterparts.
12. Support Healthy Digestion – Most eliminated toxins pass through the colon, and a healthy digestive system keeps them moving through before they damage the intestinal walls or are reabsorbed. A sluggish bowel (constipation), or an irritated one (diarrhea) suggests a microbe imbalance, which complicates elimination of toxins. With constipation, toxic materials can be released back into your pet’s bloodstream before they pass through. Plus, microbes out of balance (for example bacteria and yeast) can produce their own toxins. Look for products designed to help your pet’s digestion which contain probiotics or digestive enzymes, or complete gastrointestinal support formulas that contain both.
13. Support the Kidneys – The simplest thing you can do to support health kidneys is ensure your pet drinks an ample amount of filtered water every day. Toxins are highly concentrated in chronically dehydrated pets and can damage the kidneys’ filtration system. Likewise, mineral particles can form when urine is highly concentrated, resulting in the formation of dreaded stones that are painful, cause blockages and set the stage for recurrent infections. If your pet doesn’t drink much water, consider a pet fountain and provide more liquids with meals by adding broth, gravy, or water to their food and using canned food to provide extra moisture. For pets with urinary tract issues, consider remedies for urinary tract and kidney support.
14. Keep It Clean – Studies show that the home environment generally has far worse air quality than the outdoors. Much of the toxic material found in our homes, however, blows into our houses from dust and outdoor pollutants. Keep your home free of dust with regular dusting and vacuuming; this greatly reduces toxic particulate matter that our pets breathe and ingest. Another place to be strict with cleaning is your pet’s food and water bowls. Change water daily and wash your pet’s bowls, as dust and germs accumulate here in abundance.
15. Gently Detox with Herbs & Homeopathics – Because our pets live with us and ingest many toxins in our shared environment, even the healthiest cats and dogs can benefit from regular intervals of gentle detoxification. We carry several excellent pet detoxification formulas with herbs like milk thistle, red clover, dandelion, and astragalus that support your pet’s organs and help eliminate stored toxins.
Keeping Your Pet Toxin Free
Keep in mind that as the body is eliminating toxins, it is not unusual for there to be a brief “healing crisis,” in which a cat or dog may develop symptoms like a runny nose or changes in bowel function or appetite. Such symptoms usually subside in a few days. As always, observe your pet closely and stop any remedy if concerning symptoms develop. Always consult with a holistic veterinarian for appropriate guidance. Please see our article, “Administering Remedies to Your Companion,” for additional suggestions.
The good news is that for most pets, their bodies are remarkably well-equipped to handle disease, eliminate a reasonable amount of toxins, and restore their own organs and body systems to health – with your help. When a natural diet and clean environment are combined with adequate nutrients, rest, exercise and joy, your pets are capable of a level of health you never thought possible.