Omega-3 Fatty Acids…Your Pet Needs Them Too!

There’s a lot of shared science between the human and animal medical communities. There are many differences between the human body and your pet’s body, but there are also a lot of similarities.

Human medical research holds the key to good health for our pets and us.

One example of that is the research that’s been done on the role of essential fatty acids in human health.   Veterinarians know as a result of this research that it’s important for our pets too.

What is an essential fatty acid?

Fatty acids are chains of carbon molecules that are present in dietary fats and oils, and they’re important in the prevention and treatment of disease.

As you may remember from our post about taurine, “essential” means the nutrient must come from the diet because the body doesn’t produce it.

There are two categories of essential fatty acids for humans, dogs and cats, Omega-3 and Omega-6.

In this week’s post, we’ll talk about the importance of omega-3s in your pet’s diet. Next week we’ll learn more about omega-6s.

How will your pet benefit by taking omega-3s?

Just like in humans, omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect that’s beneficial in treating many conditions including allergies, cognitive dysfunction, arthritis, skin conditions, intestinal problems, heart disease and cancer.

But if you’re going to give your pet a supplement, know that not all omega-3 supplements are created equal. Supplements contain varying amounts of the component fatty acids. Purity is always an issue, and rancidity can be a problem with omega-3 supplements too.

What’s the best way to assure that your pet is getting a beneficial form of omega-3s?

ALA (alpha-linolenic), DHA (docosahexaenoic) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic) acids are the 3 acids that comprise omega-3s. DHA and EPA are responsible for the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s. ALA is the starting point for DHA and EPA.   In humans, ALA turns into DHA and EPA.  In dogs and cats, it does not.

So you’ll want to be sure that you’re giving your pet DHA and EPA directly.   Cold water fish like salmon are good sources of DHA and EPA.

You can give your pet a fish oil supplement, but assuring the effectiveness of a supplement isn’t always easy. They can also have varying amounts of DHA and EPA. And the purity and rancidity issues make supplements the least desirable option for giving your cat or dog omega-3s.

Today, it’s pretty well accepted that a complete pet food should contain marine oils as a source of DHA and EPA. And you’ll find that many super premium dog and cat foods add omega-3s to their recipes.  This is an easy and cost effective way to give your pet the essential fatty acids they need.

Husse’s Optimal, Light Optimal, Optimal Giant, Prima Plus, Senior, Senior Mini, and Valp dog foods; and Husse’s Exclusive Lean and Exclusive Sensitive cat foods all have salmon oil in their recipes to ensure that your pet gets a well-balanced diet…a diet that contains omega-3 fatty acids to minimize inflammation, promote healthy brain development, and prevent disease.

Is there any downside to giving your pet omega-3s?

There are some risks to giving your dog or cat too much of these fatty acids. Some of the risks are pretty benign and easily remedied—like fishy breath and weight gain from the added fat—but some can be very serious.

An excessive amount of EPA and DHA can interfere with platelet function. This can lead to increased bleeding which is very dangerous if your pet is having surgery or suffers from a condition that causes bleeding.

Too much EPA and DHA can also interfere with wound healing. Some inflammation is necessary as part of the healing process. Too much of an anti-inflammatory can have a negative effect on the healing process. Again, a problem if your pet needs surgery.

EPA and DHA can also contribute to inflammation rather than reducing it if you give too much to your dog or cat.

For all of these reasons, you should be sure to talk with your vet if you are planning on including omega-3 fatty acids in your pet’s diet. You want to be certain you’re not giving them too much.

And be sure to remind your vet that your pet is taking omega-3s if they need to undergo any type of surgical procedure.

You should also know that the effects of long-term high dose use of omega-3s have not been studied.

Do you give your dog or cat Omega-3s? Share your experience in the comment section above.

Dehydration in dogs and cats…not just a summer problem

Temperatures are cooling in most areas of the country. Even here in Arizona our mornings and evenings are finally pleasant.

So you probably think you don’t have to worry about your pet becoming dehydrated at this time of year. It’s true that heat is less of a factor now that the summer is winding down, but it isn’t only heat that causes dehydration.

According to the Mayo clinic, dehydration is when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water to carry out its normal functions.

Other things besides heat can cause that to happen.

The body needs water for all biological processes including circulation, digestion and waste removal. Water is critical to the overall health and well being of your pet.

What causes dehydration?

Yes, dehydration can be a problem for our pets when they are active in the heat and don’t consume enough water. But what if your dog isn’t eating or drinking enough because they are ill and feeling lethargic? They may not be taking in enough fluids and they can become dehydrated.

Reduced water intake is not the only cause of dehydration though. Increased fluid loss can cause it as well.

Our pets naturally lose fluids when they pee, poop and breathe but other things cause fluid loss.

When our pets have diarrhea, are vomiting, or are panting excessively they lose water and can become dehydrated.

Kidney failure, diabetes and other illnesses that cause pets to urinate in large volumes can also cause dehydration.

Dehydration can result in serious health problems for our pets. Be aware of changes in your dog’s drinking habits and their urine output. And know the signs of dehydration.

How do I know if my pet is dehydrated?

If your pet is dehydrated, you will know it if they have:

Sunken eyes

Lethargy

Loss of appetite

Dry mouth

Depression

Elevated heart rate

Decreased skin elasticity

If you think your pet may be dehydrated, you can check skin elasticity by pinching a little skin on the top of their head. If it returns to its original position immediately, they aren’t dehydrated but if the skin stays pinched for a while, that’s a problem.

If your dog is extremely thin or fat, their skin may stay “tented”. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dehydrated.

If your pet is showing signs that they are dehydrated, they should see the vet to determine the cause. Serious underlying health problems can lead to dehydration. You want to diagnose a problem quickly.

A pet that suffers from a kidney disorder, cancer, or hyperthyroidism is most at risk of becoming dehydrated. And elderly pets or nursing pets are at greater risk also. A diabetic pet that isn’t carefully monitored may also have problems staying safely hydrated.

How much water should your pet consume?

A dog needs 1 ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day to stay healthy. They will get some of their water from their food.

If you feed your pet a dry food diet, they will need to drink more because dry food, dog or cat, is only about 10% water…while canned food can be as much as 80%. The moisture content of your pet’s food can be found on the label.

Cats are different than dogs. Cats are not inclined to drink but they also don’t need nearly as much water as a dog.

A cat needs between 5 and 10 ounces of water a day. Because cats don’t have a strong thirst drive, canned food tends to be better. They’ll get almost 80% of their water requirement from their food, so they won’t have to drink as much to get what they need.

If you feed your cat a dry food, they will drink more but not enough to offset the difference between the water content in wet vs. dry food.

Steps you can take to prevent dehydration

It isn’t hard to prevent dehydration in a healthy pet.

  • Provide clean water at all times. Change it frequently to keep it fresh, and clean the bowl daily to eliminate biofilm, which can be dangerous.
  • If you have a cat, place multiple bowls around the house and away from their food. Cats often won’t drink from a water bowl that’s too close to its food.
  • If your pet is recovering from diarrhea or vomiting, give small amounts of water at regular intervals.
  • When travelling, be sure to provide regular access to water, especially after flying.
  • Avoid chaining your dog outside. If they get tangled, they may not be able to reach their water bowl.
  • Monitor water intake. Call the vet if you notice any significant changes.

In a pet that has health issues, you have to monitor their water intake closely enough to notice changes. And call the vet immediately if things seem different.

Water is a critical and often overlooked nutrient in your pet’s diet. It’s important to give as much thought to providing the right amount of water for your pet as the right amount of food.

Has your pet ever become dehydrated? Tell us about it in the comment section above.

Vitamin C…do dogs and cats need it?

Vitamin C is critical to the immune system. It heals and protects the body.

Centuries ago sailors, pirates and other people at sea for long periods developed a condition called scurvy.

This disease was nasty. Bleeding gums, spots on the skin, opening of old wounds, loss of teeth, a weakened condition and often death befell these people who were eating very few fruits and vegetables. They were at sea longer than fruits and vegetables could be kept from spoiling.

In 1747, James Lind, who was an officer and naval surgeon in the British Royal Navy figured out that if people with scurvy ate oranges and lemons, the disease went away.

Scientists discovered years later that it was the vitamin C in these fruits that was missing in the diets of people who had the disease. They realized vitamin C had to be added to the diet because the human body doesn’t produce it on its own.

Unlike humans, dogs and cats do produce vitamin C naturally. And they too need it for healthy immune function.

There’s a great deal of debate in the veterinary community over vitamin C. Do cats and dogs need vitamin C added to their diets, or do they produce enough naturally?

Some veterinarians feel it’s unnecessary, but others believe there are benefits to adding vitamin C to your pet’s diet.

The benefits of vitamin C

Vitamin C has been shown to improve the quality of life in dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia. It has been shown to help cats that suffer from urinary tract infections and feline leukemia.

It’s very helpful in the treatment of bladder infections. If you’ve ever heard that you should drink cranberry juice when you have a bladder infection, the same science applies to your pet.

The vitamin C in cranberry juice passes through the kidneys unchanged and acidifies the urine. The high acidity level makes it more difficult for bacteria to survive in the bladder.

If dogs and cats make vitamin C, why would you need to give them more?

According to cardiologist, Dr. Thomas Levy, wild animals produce 4 times more vitamin C than domesticated dogs and cats, and pets are “more easily stressed into a state of vitamin C deficiency”. This becomes an even bigger problem as dogs and cats age.

“Dogs and cats are generally healthier than people; but their limited vitamin C-synthesizing ability is eventually overwhelmed as they grow older and face greater, cumulative, toxic stresses, resulting in more disease than is seen in wild animals,” according to Levy.

When your pet is sick or injured, they need very high levels of vitamin C to heal. Some veterinarians feel that dogs and cats are unable to produce such high levels on their own, no matter their age. The high levels of C a dog or cat would need under these circumstances just aren’t produced by domesticated animals.

In addition, many vets feel the everyday stresses our pets are subjected to like pollution, noise, changes in their living environment, etc. have a detrimental effect on their immune system. These docs believe that bolstering the immune system with a vitamin C supplement is a good idea.

How much vitamin C should you give your pet?

Since most vets won’t recommend adding vitamin C to your pet’s diet, you may not get much guidance from yours. It’s probably easiest to just use a food that incorporates vitamin C in the recipe.

But if you choose to use a separate supplement, most holistic vets recommend between 100 and 500 mgs per day depending upon the dog. If you have a small dog, less than 25 pounds, 100 mg should be fine. You can add 100 mg per 25 pounds of weight.

The maximum dose of vitamin C a cat can take is 250 mg a day.

If you were to give your pet more vitamin C than they need, it’s not usually dangerous. They will excrete it in their urine. Your dog, however, may suffer some stomach upset or diarrhea if they have too much.

Of course, you should always check with your vet before giving your pet any kind of supplement to at least get their opinion, and to be sure it’s not contraindicated with any other meds your pet may be taking.

How can I give my pet additional vitamin C?

You can give your dog or cat an oral supplement or you can feed them a food that has vitamin C added to the formulation. Using a food with vitamin C in it will be easier than using a supplement and may be more cost effective.

Be aware that only super premium foods will have the best quality vitamin C in their recipe.  This will usually mean a more expensive food but one that’s well worth it.

Lower cost foods may add natural vitamin C to their recipe, but natural vitamin C is very unstable. It decomposes very quickly when exposed to air, and it’s virtually destroyed when the food is heated during production.

In a food supplemented with natural vitamin C, 60% of it will have disappeared after 3 months on the shelf. After one year, approximately 95% of the natural vitamin C in the food will have disappeared.

You’ll want to look for a food that uses stabilized vitamin C. Husse premium dog food uses phosphorylated vitamin C in their food, which is a stabilized vitamin C developed by the pharmaceutical company Roche. It’s 4 times more expensive than natural vitamin C, but it’s much more stable and reacts better to unfavorable storage conditions.

It’s also heat resistant. More than 90% of phosphorylated vitamin C will remain in the food after the heating process required to produce the food.

Husse’s Light Optimal, Optimal Giant, Senior and Senior Mini super premium dog foods add phosphorylated vitamin C to their recipes.

Do you add vitamin C to your pet’s diet? Tell us about it in the comment section above.

Getting your new kitty to use their litter box is easier than you think

If you’re bringing home a kitten, or a new adult cat that’s lived outside, and you’ve never had a cat before how will you get them to use a litter box?  You may be thinking that training your new friend to do their business in a box is going to be a lot of work…like housebreaking a new puppy. Well, you’ll be glad to know it won’t be that hard at all.

Using a litter box is instinctive for a cat. Cats in the wild cover their waste to hide their scent from predators and competitors. So cats look for soft dirt or sand to do their business because they have something to cover it with.

You should know that in a group, a dominant cat may not cover its waste to show they’re in charge. So if you have more than one cat, and one of them doesn’t cover their waste, this may be why.

In a household, a cat will consider themselves subordinate to the humans and will most of the time want to cover their waste.

From the time a kitten is 3 to 4 weeks old, the natural tendency to cover their poop  will have started to kick in. By the time you bring them home, you’ll just need to show them where their litter box is, and take them to it when you think they need to go.

If you’re wondering when that might be, it’s pretty simple–when they wake up in the morning, after they eat, after they’ve played, and after they’ve woken up from a nap. Put them in the litter box and scratch at the litter a few times with their front paws. Then give them some time—and privacy—to get down to business.

Keep at it until your cat is consistently going over to the box on their own.

There will be accidents but don’t ever scold your cat for going outside the box. They won’t understand why you’re upset. Just pick them up and put them right in the box.

And don’t yell at them once they go into the litter box because they’ll think going in the box is a bad thing. Just clean up the mess with an enzyme cleaner that eliminates pet odors so they don’t go back to the same spot to do their business.

It’s helpful to leave a little poop and pee in the box until your kitten gets the hang of what they’re supposed to be doing in the box. In a day or two, they’ll be using the box consistently so be sure to scoop the box at least once a day. Wash the box and change the litter at least weekly.

Making the potty experience optimal for your cat

Like bringing home any pet, you need to prepare. You’ll need to give thought to what type of litter box you’ll buy, what type of litter and where you’ll put the litter box.

You want to have one litter box for each cat you have plus one. So if you have one cat, you’ll need two litter boxes…two cats, three litter boxes. Cats are fastidious and don’t always like to go where another cat has gone.

Place them in different spots in the house. Some cats like to poop in one box and pee in the other. If you live in a multi-story home you’ll need a box on each floor.

You’ll want to put the litter box in a quiet place where your cat can do its business in peace. That wouldn’t be the laundry room where dryer buzzers are going off. Or the middle of the kitchen where the kids and dogs are passing through regularly.

The spot should be away from the cat’s food bowl and should give the cat easy access. Don’t hide it in an out-of-the-way place that’s hard to get to.

If you have more than one cat or a dog, be sure the cat has an escape route out of the box should your other pet try to corner them.

If you need to move the box once your cat has gotten used to it, move it to the new spot very gradually—a little bit at a time.

Litter box…open or covered?

When you buy the litter box you’ll have to choose between an open box and one with a hood. A covered box makes a cat feel secure and can be good for a cat that likes to really throw the litter when they are covering their waste. But a covered box doesn’t let the odor escape so you’ll have to clean the box daily.

Buy the largest box you can find because your kitten will grow into a cat, and your full-grown cat will need room to do their business.

Also be sure that at least one of the sides is low enough for a kitten or an old cat to get in and out of.

Choices, choices…so many choices of litter

There is clumping clay litter, non-clumping clay litter, silica gel crystals, recycled paper litter, pine litter, corn litter, wheat litter, walnut shell litter, and grass litter. There’s even diagnostic litter that can detect changes in urine pH, urine glucose levels and blood in the urine.

Hmmmm…how to choose. Well, most cats prefer fine textured litter that clumps when it gets wet, which makes it easy for you to scoop. But some kittens will eat the clumps, so choose a non-clumping litter until they’re about 4 to 6 months old.

Avoid scented litters because studies show that cats really don’t like scented litter. If you have to get one with an odor neutralizer, go for activated charcoal instead of baking powder. Cats seem less averse to charcoal.

You may want to choose a natural litter that’s better for the environment than the bentonite that’s used in clumping clay litters. Bentonite is not biodegradable and can be dusty. A litter made from pine or recycled paper is biodegradable. They’re also less dusty. If you have a cat with asthma or one that’s highly allergic, less dust will be the better option.

Check out Husse’s Eco Kattstro, an ecologically friendly cat litter system that is odor and dust free.  Watch this video to learn more about the system.

You can try a few different litters to see which your cat likes. Put them in different boxes and see if your cat has a preference.

If you are rescuing an older cat that has lived outside, you may need to use dirt or sand in your litter box at first. Gradually introduce the litter, one cup added to the dirt at a time.

If you need to change to a different litter once your cat is accustomed to using their box, you’ll want to use the same method to make the switch. Introduce one cup of the new litter into the old litter for a few days. Then add another cup and another cup until you’ve completely changed to the new litter.

You’ll always want to cover the bottom of the litter box with about two inches of litter. The directions on the litter may recommend more, but it’s better to use less and change it more frequently.

When you empty the litter each week and clean the box, be sure not to use harsh or scented chemicals. Also, be sure to bag the litter and throw it out in the garbage. Don’t flush it–it will settle in the pipes like gravel. And don’t use it as fertilizer–it will attract flies and other cats.

What if your cat is doing their business outside the box?

This could be a behavioral issue or a health problem.

If your cat has diarrhea, is straining to go or spending a long time trying to go, get them to the vet. This could be a serious problem like a blockage.

If they urinate and cry right in front of you, they’re trying to tell you there’s a problem. Get them to the vet.

If there’s another cat or a dog in the house that is bullying them when they are in the box, or cornering them when they try to leave the box, they will avoid the litter box.

If you aren’t cleaning the litter box often enough, your cat will find a better smelling location to do their business.

It’s also possible they don’t like the litter or don’t like the box.

The box may be too far away from where they spend most of their time, and not accessible enough.

Has something in their routine or environment changed?

They may think their litter box is a punishment if they’ve been yelled at for going outside the box and then immediately placed in the box.

If you’ve ruled out a health problem and know it’s behavioral, try changing one thing at a time or you may make the problem worse.

What has your experience been getting your cat to use the litter box? Share your comments above.

How do I know how much to feed my dog?

When you first got your dog, how did you figure out how much food to feed them? Was it a good guess? Maybe your friend told you how much they feed their dog and you do the same?

Well, there really is more to determining the right amount of food for your dog than just guessing. You don’t want them to get fat or be too thin. Both can be dangerous to their long-term health.

Factors that affect the amount of food

There are lots of factors that play into the calculation but in general, how much your dog needs is based on their size and energy output.

Your dog’s energy (calorie) needs are determined by age, reproductive status, activity level, health, and weather–believe it or not. If a dog lives outside in a cold climate, they’ll use more energy to stay warm and will need to eat more food than if they lived inside a heated home.

A dog that is sick or recovering from surgery will also have higher energy needs to heal and will need more food.

Senior dogs are typically less active and require less food, or a lower calorie food.

Pregnant and nursing dogs have higher energy needs and will need to eat more.

Working dogs and dogs that participate in sports with their owners will have higher energy needs than the average couch potato and will need to eat more.

Calculating your dog’s needs

To figure out how much your dog needs, take a look at this formula. Calculating your dog’s resting energy requirement (RER) is a good starting point. RER is the amount of energy (calories) your dog would need each day if all they did was rest.

Resting Energy Requirements (kcals/day) = 30(weight in kg) + 70

Weight in kg = lbs/2.205

If your dog weighs 60 pounds, their RER would be 886 kcals/day, using this formula.

Of course, your dog doesn’t just rest. They’re hopefully involved in lots of activities from fetch to swimming to nice long walks. The table below tells you what your dog’s daily energy requirements are over and above their RER based on their activity level or life stage.

Daily Energy Requirements
Weight loss 1.0 x RER
Neutered adult normal activity 1.6 x RER
Intact adult normal activity 1.8 x RER
Light work 2.0 x RER
Moderate work 3.0 x RER
Heavy work 4-8 x RER
Pregnant dog (first 42 days) 1.8 x RER
Pregnant dog (last 21 days) 3.0 x RER
Lactating female 4-8 x RER
Puppy – weaning to 4 months 3.0 x RER
Puppy – 4 months to adult size 2.0 x RER

http://www.peteducation.com

Converting your dog’s energy needs into cups of food

Once you’ve done this calculation for your dog, read the guidelines on your dog’s food. The suggested amounts are based on the energy (calories) in the food and your dog’s energy needs based strictly on their weight–but not on their actual activity level.

The guidelines on the food will be in cups but somewhere on the bag will be the calorie content. You’ll have to do a little middle school math to convert the calories per kilogram to cups. The dry measure conversion is approximately 7 cups of food to 1 kilogram.

Let’s look at our 60-pound dog again who would require 886 calories a day. We’ll assume that dog is a neutered adult with a normal activity level. From the chart above that dog requires:

1.6 X 886 = 1,417.60 calories per day

If this dog needs 1,417.60 calories a day and the food has a calorie content of 4,200 calories per kilogram, here’s how many cups a day the dog needs:

1,417.60 calories needed/4,200 calories in the food = .3375

.3375 X 7 cups = 2.36 cups a day

How close is your calculation to the recommended amount on the bag of food? Probably not too close. Start by feeding an amount that falls somewhere between your calculation and the number on the bag of food.

The calculation you did and the guidelines on the food are daily so if you are going to feed twice a day, divide the amount in 2…or 3 if you feed 3 meals a day.

Does the amount you feed vary from food to food?

How much you feed your dog will vary from one food to the next because the energy in the food will vary. Of all the nutrients in your dog’s food, only fat, carbohydrates and protein provide energy. The energy density of these three elements in the food you choose will determine how much of that food you need to feed them.

A higher quality food generally provides more energy, so you’ll be able to feed less than you would with a lower quality food.

How do you know if the amount you’re feeding is correct?

Check your dogs weight once a month to be sure the amount of food you are feeding them isn’t making them fat–or causing them to lose weight.

You can put them on the scale—good luck with that—or you can look at your dog to see if they have a “waist”. You should be able to feel their ribs with your fingertips beneath a thin layer of fat. But you really don’t want to be able to see their ribs–unless they’re a greyhound, or similar breed, in which case their ribs are almost always visible.

Adjust the amount of food up or down slightly until they consistently maintain a good weight.

If you’re not sure what a good weight is for your dog, talk to your vet.

But remember that showing your couch potato how much you love them by feeding them too much is a bad idea.

Instead, try indulging your dog with affection and attention—like a nice long walk—not food.

If you feed your dog Husse, your pet food professional will be able to help you determine the right amount of food for your dog. They’ll ask you more specific questions about your dog’s lifestyle.  And by looking at your dog, they’ll be able to tell you if you need to adjust your dog’s food up or down.

Husse is a super premium dog food. It contains more energy and has a higher digestibility than the average dog food. This means you can feed your dog between 10 and 15% less than you would other foods.

And here’s another bonus–higher quality food like Husse produces less dog waste than lower quality food does. And who doesn’t like having less poop to scoop?

How did you calculate the right amount of food for your dog?  Let us know in the comment section above.