Are you Stressing Your Dog Out?

 

Part of why we love out dogs so much is the way they seem to always comfort our moods.  Nothing says empathy like a big sloppy kiss when you are down.  A few years back I was going through multiple personal crisis’s and then it was compounded by the fact that my dog’s reactive fear behavior seemed to reach a fever pitch.  I reached out to an animal communicator that simply told me-” it’s you”.  They didn’t mean it in a blame sort of way but simply that my dog was feeding off my own state of mind and that it was important for me to take a breath and get myself in a better place if I wanted my dog to make progress.  This is obviously over-simplifying how we reached a solution but the fact that out dogs are impacted by what we are feeling did not surprise me.

We all might have assumed this and there have been studies that reflect the behavior from short periods of acute stress mirroring the behavior in our pets, called emotional contagion.  Emotional contagion, the mirroring of emotional or arousal states between individuals, is commonly seen among group-living species.  But a recent study done by Linkoping University in Sweden provides some additional science that supports this to a greater degree than we probably realize.

One reaction in the body when you are under added stress is for your body to produce more of a hormone called Cortisol. This study looked at 58 dogs and their owners and measured the Hair Cortisol Concentrations (HCC) of both owner and dog.  Measurements were taken at two separate occasions, reflecting levels during previous summer and winter months. The dogs’ activity levels were continuously monitored with a remote cloud-based activity collar for one week because physical activity can affect cortisol levels.  Shetland sheepdogs and border collies, balanced for sex, participated, and both pet dogs and actively competing dogs (agility and obedience) were included to represent different lifestyles. The results showed significant inter-species correlations in long-term stress where human HCC from both summer and winter samplings correlated strongly with dog HCC.  The personality traits of both dogs and their owners were determined through owner-completed surveys about their personalities.  However, although dogs’ personalities had little effects on their HCC, the human personality traits neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness significantly affected dog HCC. Hence, they suggest that dogs, to a great extent, mirror the stress level of their owners.

When I was going through my stressful period someone could have told me (and they did) I needed to take a break and make some time for my own mental health and the suggestion went in one ear and out the other.  When I realized the impact, my issues were having on my dog…. well that is a completely different thing!  The last thing in the world I would do is put my dog under stress that was not necessary.  Be thoughtful about what affect you are having on the loved ones around you.  For me I felt a little like it would be selfish to close my eyes to the bad things going on to get a massage or meditate; but the truth was that I was being selfish by not doing that.

Have you seen your personal stress change your dog’s behavior?

The entire study can be reviewed at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-43851-x

Top Tips for Feline Hygiene

Cats are usually totally into hygiene all by themselves; constantly self-grooming.  In fact, cats spend up to fifty percent of their waking hours grooming themselves. Cats start grooming their kittens right away and it is an instant bond between Mom and kitten.  This can be the case between owner and cat as well.  There are definite reasons that grooming your cat is a good idea.

  • Hair balls are a common issue for cat owners and brushing or grooming your cat is the best way to reduce the hair they will ingest doing their own grooming and will greatly reduce hair balls.
  • Detecting injury or illness.  Grooming is a good chance to pay close attention to any boo-boo’s or other concerns around you cat’s health.
  • Accustoming a cat to regular handling and providing valuable interaction between cat and owner.  If you cat ever does have an injury it will be easier for you to assess if your cat is accustomed to being touched everywhere by you.
  • Long haired cats or cats that spend time outdoors do get dirt that is more difficult to clean away.

For many cat owners the thought of grooming their cat sounds like something they would put on their wish list right after root canal!  If you are going to take on grooming your cat yourself make it as easy on yourself as possible.

The right tools.  Like any important job, there are tools that can make the job easier.

The Basics:

  • Brushes- Slicker brushes are curved or slanted brushes with very thin teeth. They are ideal for medium- to long-coated cats. The Pin Brush helps to remove knots and tangles in fur to prevent matting. The pins easily go through long fur to carefully comb and neaten the coat. And cats with short, sleek hair can often be groomed with a bristle brush.
  • Combs- A Fine toothed comb (sometimes also called a flea comb) can be run through your cat’s coat from head to tail, being sure to always brush in the direction of the fur to avoid any discomfort. Concentrate on one section at a time to remove any dead hair, dirt, and debris, and take extra caution when brushing around the face and belly as the skin is particularly delicate. Steel Toothed combs (sometimes two sided) are popular to reach below your cat’s topcoat to gently remove loose hairs and reduce shedding.  They can also be great to remove mats. Mats can occur anywhere, but main problem areas for long haired cats include behind the ears, on and around the legs, under arms, tail and around the anus.  These areas are also among the most sensitive areas on the body. Exercise great care in brushing and combing through them.
  • Cat Wipes– These are a must have to quickly and frequently wipe away dander, dirt, and saliva residue. Make sure to choose a product that is unscented and free from parabens, chlorine, and other harmful ingredients.
  • Grooming Glove– These are an awesome option especially for cats who distrust traditional brushes and grooming tools. You just slide the glove onto your hand and stroke your cat like you would normally do petting them. The velcro-like surfaces will feel like a cat’s tongue to them; like a massage similar to grooming they got as a kitten.
  • A Toothbrush and Paste- I know this is a lot to ask but…you should try to brush your cat’s teeth daily. At minimum 3 times a week.   If you are very regular about brushing it will be less stressful for your cat.  Plaque begins to harden in less than one day, so it is most effectively removed before it turns to tartar.  Poor dental hygiene can lead to many health risks for felines.

More Advanced:

  • Professional Pet Nail Clippers- The main reason cats’ claw at things is to keep their nails in good shape. You may want to choose a pair with a safety guard to keep you from cutting too much or too close to the nerve.  You should also keep a nail file to smooth out the rough edges right after a cut.
  • Grooming Clippers- A popular option is a “silent” trimmer to safely remove fur without the buzzing and vibration of conventional clippers. This will be less stressful alternative for sensitive cats.  If the mats are to tight be very careful not to cut the cat with the clippers also. It takes just one fast movement of the cat to do this, especially the loose areas.  The mats can be tight and pull on the skin and make it very uncomfortable to the cat.  Make sure to get the correct size blades.

When grooming matted fur do not use scissors because it is very easy to cut the cat.

In closing…remember to always have lots of your cats’ favorite treats around with all the above to make grooming a fun rewarding activity if you can.  Also; there are some cats who just do not tolerate being groomed. If your cat fights the grooming process, and there is some potential that injury could occur to your cat or yourself it is safer for everybody to make an appointment with a professional groomer or a veterinarian to have your cat groomed.

 

The Great Grain Free Debate Continues

If you are a Happy Healthy Husse customer, you know that our pet nutritionist have never taken a “grain free for all” approach.  Feeding only grain free to our pets is yet another fad that took over the pet food marketplace in the United States without any long term science.  By 2015 about 30% of the pet food market in the US had become grain free, this is compared to 1-15% in European countries.  In France for instance only about 1% of the pets eat grain free pet food.

The recent warning from the FDA has grabbed the attention of many pet owners that rode the grain free wave.  The warning is about a higher than normal occurrence of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.

Again, before everybody catches the most recent wave of knee jerk reaction to a trend let’s take a more educated look at the warning.

-The language in the FDA warning reads “pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients”. A high-quality food will not use a carbohydrate as the main ingredient. Carbohydrates should not be used to replace high quality animal protein. Carbohydrates are part of a balanced diet for dogs, regardless of if the carb is a grain or not.

All grains are not created equally. The grain free frenzy has been so popular in the United States because so many animals claim to be sensitive to grains. The fact of the matter is this is not the case in other parts of the world where grains are not genetically modified. I have found case after case after case of dogs that do beautifully eating high-quality GMO-free grains when they have always thought they had a “grain allergy”.  If you are feeding a grain free recipe you should still care about the peas or potatoes being free from GMO’s or carcinogenic pesticides as well. This is true for humans too!

A common misconception about grains are that animals cannot digest them.  Uncooked grains would not be easily digested by animals BUT neither are potatoes or legumes in their raw form.  So, if you are feeding a grain free kibble the carbohydrate; regardless if it is a potato, a bean or a grain it has been cooked at high temperature to make them easily digestible for your pet.

-High quality grain free pet foods are often modeled on the paleo diet. This means that food will contain a high percentage of protein and fat, and a lower carb content. Not all dogs will benefit from this eating plan. The dog that will do well on this type of diet is a very active dog that is of a healthy weight.

-Low quality foods will simply be choosing a cheaper ingredient (carbohydrate) than animal protein.  Just because the carbohydrate is not a grain it still should not be replacing high quality animal protein.   Grain free does not mean healthy…it may be the furthest thing from the truth.

Who should eat grain free? 

-Grain free foods do provide a low glycemic index; meaning the affect on glucose in the blood increases at a slower rate than that of other carbohydrates.  Grain free is often a good recommendation for some pets that are managing diabetes.  Some veterinarians will also prescribe a paleo style grain free formula for cancer survivors for this reason as well.

-Grain free foods that are based on higher portions of high-quality protein and fat will provide energy for very active dogs that are burning that fuel.  Working dogs or dogs with a very active lifestyle may be a good candidate for grain free.

-Obviously if you have a pet that has a diagnosed allergy to a specific grain this would be a reason to choose grain free.  While this is a very low percentage of pets it can happen.

For more detailed info on the warning or about DCM in general check out the following links.

Link to FDA warning: https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm

More about DCM: https://happytailsfromhusse.com/2017/09/20/the-silent-dog-killer-youve-never-heard-of/

Prescription Food….Is It Medicine?

Last month you learned about how common Chronic Kidney Disease is in older dogs.  The first recommendation you will get when you receive a diagnosis like this is to change your pet’s diet to a prescription food. Recent lawsuits against the major producer of prescription pet food bring some questions to light.  Let’s break down some basic factual things that are true and untrue about prescription food.

Prescription Pet Food IS:

-Food formulated with out of the norm ratios of the major components of pet food such as fat, protein, carbohydrates and minerals.

-Food that is formulated to accommodate a specific health condition that hinders their body function in some way.

-Food that is not ideal for a normal healthy pet and should be recommended at the advice of a veterinarian.

-Food that is more expensive than other non-prescription pet food…even premium brands.

-Food that is marketed with the “RX” symbol and often requires a prescription from your veterinarian to purchase.

Prescription Pet Food IS NOT:

-Food that contains a drug or ingredient that requires FDA approval or a prescription under federal or state law.

-Food that is regulated or known to have any ingredients of higher quality than non-prescription food.

The companies that produce prescription foods are limited so it is often something that puts a pet owner in a position with few options.  Responsible pet owners may have done extensive research in choosing a pet food that uses high quality ingredients, avoiding by-products or ingredients grown with pesticides or other known carcinogenic chemicals.  The health of their pet depends on their adhering to a diet that is an odd mix and ratio of proteins or fats that they cannot find in the quality food they have been feeding.  When they look at the 2 options given by their vet, they will often find the ingredient list something they would not normally consider feeding their pet.

Let’s take the Chronic Kidney example we talked about last month.  We outlined the key changes to diet include low protein, low phosphorus and low sodium coupled with being rich in omega fatty acids.  The ideal protein percentage being as low as 14%.  This is lower than you will find in any standard pet food option.  Kidney disease means that the organ of their body that would normally filter out waste products and toxins from the blood has lost functionality.  Yet the food that would be prescribed is neither organic or GMO free.  This seems crazy since pesticides and genetically modified foods are known to be more taxing for the organs to filter!  Another example might be a pet managing pancreatitis.  A prescriptive diet treating this condition is going to be an extremely low-fat recipe, like 4-5% with lower than normal fiber.  Again, this is something that will not normally be found in a traditional recipe even if it is a low-fat recipe.

So what options do you have?

-Feed the prescription food.  If the life of your pet depends on this delicate balance of nutritional elements, then you might have to try and choose the lesser of evils of a prescription diets.

-Modify your pet’s current healthy diet.  If you are feeding a healthy organic or GMO-free diet check and see if they have a recipe closer to what you are trying to achieve.  Then perhaps you can reduce the kibble intake and balance it with other healthy ingredients.  For instance, if you are trying to reduce the percentage of their diet that is fat then reduce the amount of low-fat kibble they are eating and feed other fat free foods that make up their total diet.  Or in the case of the low protein kidney example choose a lower protein recipe food reduce the amount and supplement with organic low phosphorus fruits, vegetables and rice for example.  The additional fatty acids could come from a salmon oil supplement (oil is fat…not protein).

-Customize a home cooked diet to the specifications required for their condition.  Often you can find recipes for home cooked diets for specific conditions.  You must choose high quality ingredients, and this can be very time consuming.  Unfortunately, there is still risk that you will unintentionally throw something off with even a small error.

The two latter options must be pursued with caution.  It is extremely difficult to achieve precise balance necessary for chronic health conditions which is why your vet will probably recommend a RX food.

Have you had to switch to a prescription food that you were unhappy with?

If you wanted to read about the recent litigation related to RX food here is a link to an article.   https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/article226199940.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

The Most Common Disease in Old Pets

The kidneys have many functions but very importantly they filter out waste products in the blood.  These waste products are filtered by the kidneys and then excreted in urine.

Kidney failure in animals can be caused by the ingesting toxins, including antifreeze, certain medications, tainted foods, etc.   This is very dangerous and would have specific treatment at your emergency vet.  But the most common threat is Chronic Kidney Disease which is one of the most common diseases that affect aging pets.

Watch for the warning signs:

The most common first sign of the kidneys struggling are when your pet has increased drinking and urination.  This is caused because the body is sending more blood flow through the kidneys in an attempt to increase filtration.  Unfortunately, less and less of the metabolic toxins are being removed each time.  This results in more urination.  This will cause your pet to drink more to avoid dehydration.  Sadly, by the time you see this symptom it is likely that your pet has already lost about 2/3 of the functionality of their kidneys which they will not get back.  Other warning signs of likely more advanced disease are:

  • Loss or decreased appetite
  • Chemical odor of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in urine
  • Mouth ulcers or pale gums

Your vet will diagnose chronic kidney disease by analyzing your pet’s urine and blood.  In cats they may do X-rays, an ultrasound may be needed (an image of your cat’s insides), or biopsy (tissue sample) might also be needed to make a diagnosis.

In general terms the information will help to determine how compromised functionality is.  For instance, a dog with marginal kidney function may only have irregularities in their urine. A dog with more advanced disease will also have elevated BUN and CREA in their blood work.  These additional signs may mean their kidney function is as little at 25%.  And in more severe cases you’ll see elevated Phosphorus levels as well and this could mean that they may be functioning with only 10-15%.

How do you treat Chronic Kidney Disease?

Diet

The following will detail the content of what a kidney impaired pet should eat.  Unfortunately it is often difficult to get your pet with CKD to eat because they suffer from nausea.  If this is the case a natural remedy that might help is to give them raw apple cider vinegar or dried ginger root.  For animals up to 20 pounds you just need a 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon up to 40 pounds etc.  The powdered ginger root comes in capsules that could be given to larger dogs but for smaller animals open one and take a pinch of the powder.  Both can be mixed with a small amount of unsweetened applesauce in a syringe and squirt into their mouth.  You can do this up to 3-4 times a day to keep their upset tummy in check.

-Reduced Protein.  Less protein means less need for the excretion of protein through the filtration system.  So decreased protein will slow the progression of the disease.  The recommended percentage of dietary protein will be dropped to as little as 14% but should be under 20%.

-Reduced Phosphorus. Phosphorus is tied to protein, so when you reduce protein it will lower the phosphorus.  But the “acceptable range” your vet will probably recommend will be .2-.5%.

-Low Sodium.  Recommended sodium will be not more than .3%

-Omega 3 fatty Acids are good.  You will want to make sure you have .4-2.5% Omega 3’s in their diet.  Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce protein “leaking” through the kidneys.  Omega’s are also known to be a natural anti-inflammatory that can reduce stress on the kidney tissue.

-Often wet pet food is a recommended addition because it provides another opportunity to get more fluid into your pet’s system.

Prescriptions

The vet may recommend additional support besides diet change.

-There are drugs that can bind excess phosphates in the intestinal tract so that they are not absorbed into the bloodstream.  You can even ask your vet about using ground egg shells as a natural phosphate binder.

-A drug can regulate the parathyroid gland and calcium levels.  Calcium and phosphorus must remain at a 2:1 ratio in the blood.  The increased phosphorus in the blood could stimulate the parathyroid gland to then increase the blood calcium by removing it from the bones.  This can then cause brittle bones.  Your vet will tell you if this is needed.

-The kidneys produce erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells.  When this is not functioning in the kidneys it can result in low red blood cell count causing anemia.  There is a synthetic version of this hormone, but it does come with complications and you should be aware of these in advance so speak to your vet.

Home Fluid Therapy

You MUST provide an unlimited supply of fresh water to your pet if they have kidney disease.  Fluids are critical to continue flushing toxins through the kidneys.  Another way to prevent dehydration might be to give maintenance fluids under your pet’s skin.  Your vet can teach you how to inject these at home.

Chronic Kidney Disease is one of the unfortunate side affects of aging in many pets.  It is a condition that you must manage closely because it can deteriorate quickly.  You must get your pet’s blood levels monitored regularly.  The goal is to implement everything you can to maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible.

 

Have you been successful managing your pet’s kidney disease?  Tell us how?

Corn…is it as bad as everybody says?

If there is an ingredient in pet food today that seems to get an immediate negative reaction- it has to be corn.  Ever wonder why that is?  When I was growing up nobody ever said, “oh honey you better ask your Mom before you eat that” when I reached for an ear of corn on the cob!

Let’s examine the truths and myths about corn and give you a clearer picture of when and if corn is acceptable for your pets.

GMO’s/PESTICIDES

Corn is the most genetically modified food there is.  To transform a plant into a GMO plant, the gene that produces a genetic trait of interest is identified and separated from the rest of the genetic material from a donor organism.  If you need a better understanding of GMO’s reference a post we did https://happytailsfromhusse.com/2015/11/25/genetically-engineered-food-and-our-pets/

Corn has many variations of modification.  In the US we have “Roundup Ready Corn”, “Liberty Link Corn” and “BT Corn”.  All of these are approved in the US by the FDA, but many people avoid eating GMO crops.  If you feed you pet food produced in the United States and it is not certified GMO Free or Organic it is almost certain it contains Genetically Modified ingredients, and if it contains corn it is most certainly GMO corn.

Crops in the US are commonly treated with Glyphosate as a pesticide.  This is a chemical that has been banned in many countries around the world.  The World Health Organization has stated it is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

If you do not feed a GMO free or Organic pet food, then choose one that does not contain corn (or other grains grown in the US).

CORN AS A FILLER

Corn is cheap.  Many lower cost food producers will use corn as a primary ingredient as a lower cost alternative to high quality animal protein.  Corn is not a protein.  A balanced diet for a dog or cat (just like humans) means having a portion of your diet protein and carbs.  Dogs and cats need the primary ingredient in their diet to be high quality protein.  Protein with the highest biologic value (this is the scale that identifies the nutritional value of protein) will be protein derived from animal meat (chicken, fish etc.).  While there is some protein in corn or wheat it is not enough or the quality of protein you would look to as a primary source.

Assuming you feed a GMO free or Organic pet food then you still want corn to be added to the food in a reasonable portion.  It should not be the first ingredient.  While all pet foods will disclose the percentage of protein the food contains, not all foods will disclose the percentage of that protein that is derived from animal protein (Husse does disclose this).  This is an excellent way to understand where the protein in the food is coming from.  

CORN CAUSES ALLERGIES

There is no real evidence that corn is more likely to provoke allergic reaction than other carbohydrates such as wheat, rice or potatoes.  All these carbs must be cooked to become digestible for animals.  Again, many people and animals report having allergic reactions to pesticides or GMO crops, so all these carbs need to be identified as certified GMO free or Organic.

So, to answer “Is corn bad?”.  Simple answer is no…BUT unfortunately the quality of the corn in the U.S. is not the greatest. Maybe today I would get permission from my Mom before eating that corn on the cob!  Additionally, pet food companies have mis-used this ingredient because it is cheap.  If the corn is high quality and used in an appropriate portion it is an acceptable carbohydrate.

 

Let’s chew the fat…. about fat

Fat is an important part of the basic elements of a balanced diet.  Dogs and cats require fat in their diets to stay healthy and strong, in greater amounts than humans do. In fact, dogs do not suffer from atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, like humans do, so fat does not hold the same risks in dogs and cats as it does in humans. Dogs who don’t get an adequate amount of fat will not have the energy they need to run and play. Their coats will be dull and flaky, and they could even have reproductive problems from eliminating fat from the diet.  And, of course the fat is what makes your pets food yummy!  That doesn’t mean that they can eat as much fat as they want…obesity is deadly in animals, but we have talked about this in other articles.  We want to analyze this specific ingredient today to help you realize quality makes a difference.  As with most things; all fat is not created equally. It is yet another example of one of those ingredients that are very difficult to really tell the quality when you read a label.

While we usually keep these articles as a very high overview of the entire pet food industry, on this subject we will tell what Husse uses and WHY.  This will give you the best understanding of how broad “fat” can be.  Husse uses pork fats combined with salmon oil.  We’ll walk you through why.

There are both nutritional and physical parameters that are considered when you choose a fat.  For example, the optimal melting point and stability of the fat. Which fats are most resistant to rancidity, etc.?  Below is a picture of a typical high-quality pork fat and a picture of chicken fat. The advantage of pork fat is that its melting point is below normal room temperature, so it is solid. Chicken fat is also nutritionally high quality, but it is liquid at room temperature.  So, if chicken fat is used it would cause sticky kibbles which would not be easy to use; the fat would stick everywhere.

When using a certain type of fat (pork fat), quality is very important. It is important to understand that there are different types of pork fat. The most important differences are between moulting fat and pressure-rendered fat.  Moulting fat means only white, high quality fats are cut.  By moulting, you obtain perfectly white pork lard, suitable for human consumption.  The alternative is to use “pressed fat”.  This is obtained by pressing meal, obtained from byproducts.  Generally, it is safe to say in the pet food world anything that is a “by product” should be avoided. Pressing fat, also called destruction fat, is a cheaper rendered fat; a lower quality fat with a different color; it is less stable; it is more oxidized, and it does not have a good palatability. This fat is not used by Husse.

moulting vs pressed image

Fat must also be quality tested to make sure the quality is high.  One of the tests is with Rancimat equipment to control the stability of the product.  This means we test whether the fats have been protected against rancidity. When old fats get in contact with oxygen they oxidize, and they lose flavor. For example, butter, after one or two weeks, gets a bad flavor; it becomes rancid (oxidized). The same reaction can occur during the aging of animal fat used in pet food.  Therefore, antioxidants are added as early as possible in the production process. For premium products natural antioxidants are used – tocopherols and rosemary extract.  The aim of the Rancimat test is to see if the fats are protected against oxidation.  Another regular test is the Lovibond colorimeter test. This checks to ensure a good white color and is done by heating the fat.  It is then checked to see if any has changed to a red color…if it is not the white stable fat then it is rejected.

One last fun fact about fat.  Often pet owners will inquire about fat as a precaution if their pet has a protein allergy.  When it comes to allergic reactions, does it make any difference if it is pork, beef or chicken fat?  No! There is no difference, because allergic reactions are caused by protein not fat.  Because fat does not contain protein, it cannot cause allergic reactions.  So, for example if your pet is allergic to chicken, they would not have an allergic reaction to chicken fat.