7 Signs Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies

It’s April and everyone in my home is sneezing, wheezing, coughing or scratching… including our dog.

Spring is a beautiful time of year.  Everything’s in bloom.  The bees are buzzing.  And the landscape is vibrant… no matter where you live.  But with all that pollen comes allergies.

And our pets suffer too.

Pets may have some of the same symptoms as humans.  But unlike humans, the telltale sign of seasonal allergies in pets is a lot of scratching.

Their allergies usually manifest in allergic dermatitis—skin irritation or inflammation.

Because their symptoms are different than ours, their suffering often goes unnoticed. But they can be just as miserable.

Here are 7 signs your pet has allergies:

1)  Chewing or licking their feet

You’ll notice redness between their pads or toes from excessive licking or chewing.

2)  Constant licking of their body or groin

If the licking continues, this can cause loss of hair, redness, scabbing and hot spots.

3)  Rubbing their face on furniture, carpet, grass, walls

Excessive itchiness is so uncomfortable, your pet will rub against anything to relieve it. The stress of itching and scratching can even cause loose stools.

4)  Inflamed or infected ears

Head shaking, ear scratching, hair loss, odor or discharge around ears, are signs there’s a problem.  Allergies can cause yeast or bacteria to grow in the ear resulting in infection.

5)  Recurrent hot spots (dogs) or facial scabbing (cats)

The scratching can make your pet’s skin inflamed and infected.  In dogs, a hot spot may form.  This is a loss of hair on a patch of skin that becomes red, oozy and inflamed.  On your cat, you may see scabs on the face.  Not likely hot spots though.  They’re rare in cats.

6)  Wheezing (more likely in cats)

Pets rarely have the same respiratory allergy symptoms as people. But it can happen. The may wheeze, particularly cats. Or they may have a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing or coughing.

7)  Generalized redness (eyes, oral tissue, chin, paws, anus)

The inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to something in your pet’s environment can cause their mucous membranes to become inflamed and red.

What causes pet allergies?

Pets can have seasonal/environmental allergies, food allergies, flea bite allergies and contact allergies.

But you’ll know it’s a seasonal allergy if you only see the signs at certain times of the year—typically spring, summer or fall.

If you live in a place where there is no hard freeze, environmental allergens can cause problems year-round.  As a result, it can be difficult to differentiate between seasonal allergies and food allergies.

Food allergy symptoms can be the same as seasonal allergies.  Read more about how to know if your dog has a food allergy here.

Pollen, grass, mold and dust mites cause seasonal allergies in pets, just as they do in people. So minimize your pet’s exposure to these allergens to ease their misery.

How can you treat allergies in your pet?

The best way to help your pet is to keep them and their living areas as free from allergens as possible.

During the warmer months:

  • Soak their feet in a footbath or wipe them with a wet towel after a walk to keep allergens from coming into your home.
  • Bathe them frequently using a hypoallergenic shampoo, or one for sensitive skin.
  • Wipe them down with a grooming wipe after they’ve been outside.
  • Vacuum and clean floors and pet bedding often, using nontoxic cleaning agents.
  • Keep your pet off the grass if possible. If that’s not feasible, try booties.

You may want to try some allergy fighting supplements too.

Quercetin suppresses histamine release.  Bromelain and papain increase the absorption of quercetin which makes it more effective.  The three taken together decrease pain and inflammation from irritated mucous membranes.

Then there are Omega-3 fatty acids.  They decrease inflammation and reinforce the skins barrier.  Salmon oil is a great source of Omega-3.  Look for a food like Husse that already has it in most of their recipes.

And coconut oil is good to add to your pet’s diet.  It has lauric acid which helps decrease yeast production, a cause of infection in the ears.

Talk to your vet before you give your pet any supplement as it can cause an adverse reaction if your pet suffers from other health problems or takes medications.

And talk to your vet, too, if your pet’s symptoms are so severe that the itch/scratch cycle is causing the skin to become inflamed and tender.  This can progress to open sores, scabs, hair loss and infection if allowed to continue.

You want to get a handle on allergies quickly because seasonal allergies can become year-round with continued exposure to allergens.

Particularly for older pets, the more exposure to environmental offenders, the more intense and longer lasting the allergic response becomes until the allergy season just doesn’t seem to end.

Firstly, your vet will tell you to feed your pet a high-quality well-balanced diet free of fillers and animal by-products.  A food like Husse.

Also, avoid a high carbohydrate diet.  Just like in humans, carbs increase inflammation in the body.

Your vet may also recommend an antihistamine to help the itching.  And in severe cases, your vet may prescribe a steroid.

Steroids have many serious side effects and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Because they can cause high blood pressure and kidney disease, your pet will need regular blood work and urine tests if they’re on them long-term.

And if the scratching has caused a secondary skin infection, the vet will prescribe an antibiotic.

If your pet’s allergies are so severe they need steroids, it may be time to talk to the doc about allergy testing and shots.

Yes, that’s right… allergy shots aren’t just for human kids anymore.  They can be very effective in pets.

With the right combination of intervention and prevention, allergy season doesn’t have to be miserable for you or your pet.

What do you do to minimize your pet’s allergy symptoms?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon

Several years ago, my home was infested with little moths.  Mostly in the kitchen.  My husband and I could not figure out where they were coming from.

When the exterminator came, he knew exactly what they were.  To our surprise, he went right to the pantry to assess our problem.  He told us these moths were in one of the dry food products on our pantry shelves.

We could never identify which food item it was—even after we emptied every packaged dry food into plastic containers.   We found nothing.

But knowing what I do now, I suspect they came from our dogs’ food.

We never found bugs in any of their food or ours.  But these common household invaders love pet food!  And other dry food.

What are these things and where do they come from?

These pantry pests can come into your home in any dry food package.  You can just as easily infect your home from a box of cereal as you can a bag of dog food.

The most common food pest—and the one that infested our home—is the meal moth.  You may find these moths in the food package or flying around your home like we did.

Larder beetles, cabinet beetles and carpet beetles are also common pantry pests.  Thankfully, we didn’t have those.

Moths and beetles go through the typical life cycle you would expect from a bug… egg, larvae, pupa and adult.

If you open a bag of dog food and find bugs in any of these life stages, don’t panic!  Believe it or not, it’s not that unusual.

If you’re wondering how you’d know, the moth eggs are white grey and measure 1 to 2 hundredths of an inch.  The mother will lay about 400 eggs at a time—hard to miss.  And beetles can lay between 45 and 90 eggs at a time.

The larvae look like worms.  Yuck!  They’re caterpillars that will turn into moths or beetles.

The worms will move away from the food before they pupate (make a cocoon).  So you may find them on your pantry shelves, or the walls or ceilings in the kitchen.

Once they spin their cocoon, there may be webbing or silk in the corners of the pantry or in the food packaging itself.

Adult moths are small, only 1/2 to 5/8ths of an inch, and can be reddish or grey/white depending on the type of moth.

However, light attracts the beetles.  You may see them on your windowsills.

But if you open a bag of dog food and find worms or beetles, you have a problem.

If you find these in your pet food should you change foods?

Not necessarily.  Pet food manufacturers try their best to minimize the likelihood of these creatures getting in their pet food.

They heat the food to high temperatures during the manufacturing process.  This eliminates these pests.  But often the problem occurs after the food leaves the manufacturer.

In a warehouse, a store, or your home, pet food is a magnet for these moths and beetles.

Pet stores sell many brands of food that come from lots of different locations (manufacturing facilities and warehouses) where the contamination could have occurred.

Also, pet stores sell birdfeed, a common source of food for these moths and beetles.

Birdfeed does not go through the heating process during manufacturing that dog and cat food does.  So contamination of the bag of pet food can happen at a pet store that sells birdfeed.

Remember too, these bugs may already be living in your pantry when you bring the pet food home.  They will be attracted to your pet’s food and find their way into the bag.  This is a good reason not to store your pet’s food in the pantry.

Likewise, if the pests are in the bag of pet food, they will find their way to the other dry foods in your pantry.

Storing pet food in another part of your home won’t eliminate the problem.  But if these pests are in your pet food when you bring it home from the store, keeping it out of the kitchen may prevent spreading the pests to your food.

But don’t store pet food in the garage. It can get too hot causing the nutrients to break down.

Although pet food manufacturers do their best to eliminate these pests, it’s still not uncommon for them to get into your pet’s food.  And it’s not a reflection on the food manufacturer or the quality of the food.

If you open a bag of food and you find eggs, worms, silk webbing, moths or beetles, return it to your pet food retailer.  The retailer should take the food back without question and exchange it for a fresh bag.

If your pet has eaten the food before you notice these guys are living in the bag, don’t be too concerned.  They may be repulsive but they’re harmless.

If moths or beetles are living in your pantry, how do you get rid of them?

Inspect the dry food in your pantry.  If you find pests in any life stage, throw out the whole package.

Store all foods that aren’t contaminated in plastic or glass containers.

Vacuum the entire pantry especially in cracks and corners where bugs or bits of infested food can be hiding.  Then throw out the vacuum cleaner bag.

You may find a stray moth flying around for up to 3 weeks.  But if you still see them after 3 weeks, you haven’t gotten rid of the source.

If there’s a food product you’re not sure isn’t contaminated, you can put it in the freezer at 0 degrees for 4 days.  But personally, I’d throw it out if in doubt.

Don’t ask your exterminator to spray an insecticide.  That won’t work.

You’d only be spraying the empty cabinets where you keep your food.  You’re not going to spray your food, or your pet’s food.  And if you don’t get rid of the source, the bugs will live on.

Since my experience with meal moths, I empty the dog food bag into a dog food bin as soon as I get it home from the store.  If there’s anything living in the bag that’s not supposed to be there I’ll find it before the pest can contaminate other food in my home.

Have you ever found worms, moths or beetles in your pet’s food?  Share at the top of the page.

 

7 Herbs That May Be Good For Your Cat

You may or may not believe in using herbal supplements to treat what’s ailing you. But have you ever thought about using them for your cat’s medical conditions?

They can often help where traditional medications have fallen short. And they can also be a terrific complement to traditional medicine.

Just as herbs are beneficial for treating conditions in people, they can help our pets too.

But always check with your vet before giving herbs to your cat. Some herbal supplements can be toxic if you give your cat too much. And they can be inadvisable if your pet is taking other meds.

And remember that a supplement can be good for one condition, but make others worse. Only your vet can tell you if your cat is a good candidate for herbal remedies.

Here are 7 herbs to consider for your feline.

1) Valerian Root

People use valerian root to help them sleep. In cats, it has the opposite effect. Valerian root will give your cat a boost of energy. This is helpful if you have an overweight, lazy cat you’d like to get moving.

Valerian root is a great alternative to catnip if your kitty isn’t a fan. Or you can use both on different occasions. It makes them feel euphoric and can reduce stress. Actinidine is the active ingredient in valerian root that produces the euphoric response.

You can sprinkle valerian root on their scratching post or toys. You can even find toys laced with it.

2) Dandelion

Dandelion root is a diuretic. It promotes liver detoxification and keeps the urinary tract healthy.  The root of this pretty yellow flower is just good for digestion.

And how about a laxative?  Does your cat need one? Dandelion root’s a natural remedy.

You may be wondering about the flower itself.  Well, it can be a safe and gentle pain reliever.

3) Catnip

If you have a cat, you know catnip is kitty crack. It’s an herb in the mint family. If a cat eats catnip, it acts like a sedative. But if your kitty sniffs it, this herb also known as Nepeta produces a “high” that lasts for about 10 minutes.

Nepetalactone is the compound in the leaves and stems that produces the response in your cat. The scent mimics that of feline pheromones. The “high” your cat feels from sniffing this herb may make them act hyper.

Cats inherit the sensitivity to Nepetalactone and only about half of all cats are actually sensitive to the herb.

Because the sensitivity takes time to develop, young kittens won’t react to catnip. Your cat must be several months old before they experience the “high”, if at all. And if your cat is exposed to it often, they may lose their sensitivity.

4) Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic. Make a goldenseal tea.  Strain, cool, and make a compress for infected or irritated eyes.

You can also use goldenseal as a disinfectant on wounds. Turn the powdered root into a poultice and apply it to skin infections or ulcers.

Goldenseal has anti-inflammatory properties too.

5) Eyebright

Eyebright is an herbaceous flowering plant. It’s one you might never have heard of.  But this is an herb that seems to be a panacea for upper respiratory infections. Eyebright helps nasal mucous, sneezing, and breathing difficulties, as well as eye rubbing. It also supports the immune system.

Eyebright is often made into a tea—1 to 2 teaspoons added to your cat’s food. Or use it as a wash for the nose or eyes.

6) Nettle

You may choose to buy this one in supplement form to avoid having to harvest it from your garden. The little hairs that cover the nettle plant will sting your skin and cause blisters. Its other name is stinging nettle… for a reason.

But nettle packs a health punch!

A tea of nettle is helpful in treating seasonal allergies. There are histamine-like substances in nettle. These substances may slow the body’s own release of histamines… the cause of those allergic reactions.

Nettle is rich in vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C and iron. These nutritive properties make nettle an all-around great addition to your cat’s food.

It also reduces itchy skin from fleabites when used topically. And there’s evidence nettle may help with kidney function.

7) Parsley

Veterinarians use parsley to support urinary tract health. It helps prevent kidney stones and is used to treat cystitis.

Parsley stimulates appetite in cats that are poor eaters. And it’s good for digestion, not to mention fresh breath!

Parsley has a lot of folic acid… very beneficial to heart health. And some claim parsley discourages tumor growth, particularly lung tumors.

In cats that have given birth, parsley is useful in promoting lactation and contracting the uterus. But never give parsley during pregnancy. It can cause contractions.

You can also rub parsley leaves on the skin to help with bruising and itching.

These are only a handful of herbs that are natural remedies for what’s ailing your kitty. There are many other herbs that can be helpful where traditional medicine hasn’t been. You can get lots of information on this topic from a holistic veterinarian.

And if you decide to grow any of these herbs in your garden, you’ll want to research the best and safest ways to use them. A holistic vet can help.

But if you decide to buy herbs in supplement form instead of growing them, buy from a reliable source. Reputable sellers should be more than happy to tell you how to use them effectively and safely.

Herbs are generally not harmful when used topically.

But as I said at the start, herbs taken orally can endanger your cat. Some herbs are poisonous. Some are only poisonous in high doses. Some are contraindicated with traditional medications. So always talk to your vet before starting your cat on any herbs or herbal supplements.

Do you give your cat herbs? How have they helped? Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

Pumpkin for Dogs and Cats… 6 Reasons To Give It To Your Pet

Fall is here and pumpkins abound this time of year. Halloween brings them out in all their glory. Now that the tricking and treating is done, what do you do with that big orange squash?

Well, if it’s carved… enjoy it a little longer and then throw it out. But if your pumpkin is untouched and undecorated consider cooking, pureeing and adding it to your pet’s food.

From the flesh to the seeds, pumpkin’s got essential fatty acids, nutrients and fiber that are beneficial for our cats and dogs.

Here are 6 reasons you should consider feeding it to your pet… if not fresh pumpkin then canned pumpkin from the store. It’s full of good stuff.

1) Digestive Health

Because pumpkin is such a fantastic source of fiber, it’s helpful for constipation and diarrhea.

Constipation is common in senior cats. If your kitty suffers from it, talk to your vet about adding a little pumpkin to your cat’s food.

The increased fiber—3 grams per cup—makes the stool bulkier. Bulkier stool stimulates the colon and makes the muscles contract to move the stool through the colon and out the tush.

And pumpkin’s helpful with diarrhea too. If your dog eats something they shouldn’t and they end up with loose stools, give them a little pumpkin.  The fiber in pumpkin bonds together in your pet’s digestive tract and acts like a sponge to absorb excess water in the diarrhea.

Pumpkin is good for general stomach upset in your dog or cat.

2) Urinary Health

The seeds of the pumpkin are a healthy treat for your pet too. They are rich in essential fatty acids (omega-3) and antioxidants (Vitamin C) that support a healthy urinary tract.

If your pet suffers from incontinence, kidney stones or crystals, talk to your vet about pumpkin seeds as a wholesome treat.

3) Weight Loss

The high fiber and water content (90%), and low calories and fat in pumpkin can help your overweight pet slim down.

Replace a little of their food with pumpkin. It tastes great. And even though you’ve cut calories and fat, the fiber helps your pet feel full.

4) Nutrient Dense

Pumpkin is not only high in fiber and low in fat and calories, it’s full of nutrients.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in pumpkin are good for the skin and coat. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory benefits as well. My post Omega-3 Fatty Acids… Your Pet Needs Them Too! talks all about that.

Pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene (cancer fighting), magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and Vitamins A and C.  So although there’s no documented science that pumpkin is beneficial to the immune system, it seems logical that it couldn’t hurt.

Beware… some of these vitamins and minerals can be toxic though if levels get too high. So never give your pet more than a teaspoon or two of pumpkin a day. And always check first with your vet to be sure it’s okay for them to have it.

5) Hairballs

Are hairballs a problem for your cat? Well, pumpkin’s a natural solution. The fiber helps move hairballs through the cat’s digestive tract. And if your cat eats pumpkin regularly, it can prevent hairballs from forming in the first place.

6) Hydration

If your pet eats dry kibble, their bodies need to secrete more gastric acid and pancreatic enzymes for digestion than with wet food. Adding a moisture rich food like pumpkin to dry kibble reduces the dehydrating effect.

How do you make pumpkin edible for your pet?

Well, definitely don’t feed it to them raw. Cook it or buy it canned.

But if you buy the canned stuff, be sure it’s just pureed pumpkin. Don’t buy pumpkin pie filling. It’s loaded with sugar, spices, preservatives and fat, which can all add up to stomach upset for your pet.

If you’re going to cook fresh pumpkin, it’s simple. Cut the pumpkin into small pieces. Cut off the pith and the seeds. Put the pumpkin skin-side down in a roasting pan. Add ¼ inch of water and bake uncovered for 1 hour or until tender at 300 degrees. When the pumpkin’s cool, cut off the skin and mash or puree the flesh.

To feed the seeds, cook them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Roast them at 375 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Let them cool and then give only 1 or 2 a day as a treat. They are high in fat which can cause diarrhea if you give your pet too many. Store the leftovers in an airtight container.

Because pumpkins are big and canned pumpkin is plentiful too, you can end up throwing most of it away if you don’t plan.

Pumpkin puree will only last a week in the fridge. And since you will only give your pet about a teaspoon a day, a good amount will end up in the garbage at the end of the week. But here’s what you can do.

Use ice cube trays to make individual daily servings. Once frozen, separate a weeks worth into small containers. Then each week defrost one container at a time.

If you freeze the pumpkin puree, be sure to mix it when it defrosts because the water will separate from the pulp.

You can feed your pet a teaspoon of pumpkin by itself as a treat, or mix it in with their food. But get the okay to add pumpkin and find out the right amount from your vet.  Otherwise, you may end up with a case of diarrhea.

Do you feed your pet pumpkin? If so, do you buy canned or feed fresh pumpkin? Tell us the effect it’s had on your pet in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 fruits and vegetables your pet will love

Summer is the time for delicious fruits and vegetables. So while you’re enjoying this season’s abundant harvest, why not share some with your beloved pet?

There are many fruits and vegetables your pet will love.  And they’re good for them too. Just like any new food, start slow. Try small amounts first to see how your pet reacts. If you notice any stomach upset that fruit or vegetable may not be a good choice.

Some fruits and vegetables are dangerous for pets. We’ll talk about those next week. But this week, let’s look at the delicious and healthy treats your pet can enjoy along with you.

Apples

They’re a great source of vitamins A and C. They also contain a lot of fiber. Because they’re low in fat and protein, they’re a better snack choice for senior and overweight pets than store-bought treats.

Slice them and freeze them for a refreshing summer treat. Don’t feed the seeds or core. As with many fruit pits and seeds, they contain cyanide and that can be dangerous to pets. And the core is a choking hazard.

Bananas

They’re a mineral powerhouse high in magnesium, potassium, biotin, and copper. Bananas are also a great source of fiber. But they are high in sugar. So don’t overdue it.

You can stuff a Kong toy with banana and freeze it for a great treat and an entertaining activity for your dog.

Avoid giving your pet the peel. Although it isn’t toxic, it’s hard to digest.

Watermelon

This fruit’s high in vitamins A, B6, C and potassium. And it’s 92% water which makes it great for keeping your pet hydrated in the summer.

Remove the rind. It can cause stomach upset. And the seeds can cause an intestinal blockage.

Strawberries

There’s lots of fiber and vitamin C in this fruit. But it’s also high in sugar, so go easy. Cut the berries into small pieces to avoid choking.

A bonus… strawberries have an enzyme that can whiten your pet’s teeth.

Oranges

Not all pets will like the tartness of oranges. But they are high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber. You can give a big dog a whole orange (minus the skin). But smaller dogs should have only a third.

One or two segments are really enough for a treat. Oranges are high in sugar too. So an overweight pet shouldn’t eat too many.

Some pets have a hard time digesting oranges. So start with just a small amount until you’re sure it agrees with them.

Blueberries

This fruit is considered a super food for humans and pets. It’s full of fiber, phytochemicals (beneficial plant compounds), and antioxidants. It’s low in calories and high in vitamin C.

And just like in people, antioxidants prevent cell damage, strengthen the immune system, and reduce the effects of brain aging… great for our elderly pets.

Pineapple

I’m talking about the raw, fresh kind only. No canned pineapple in syrup for your pets. It’s got way too much sugar in the syrup.

As long as you feed your pet the raw yellow flesh without the spiny skin or core, pineapple is a delicious treat.

It’s nutrient dense containing vitamin C, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium and iron.

If you give your pet pineapple, feed small quantities. It’s very high in fiber which can cause diarrhea. And very high in sugar… that’s not good for anyone.

Peaches

Peaches have vitamin A and fiber. They are a tasty treat but never feed your pet the pit. It has cyanide as many pits and seeds do.

And once again, only the fresh version. No canned peaches soaked in sugary syrup.

Raspberries

They have anti-inflammatory properties making them a good snack choice for elderly pets with joint pain.

They’re high in fiber, manganese and vitamin C, but low in sugar and calories. And they contain antioxidants. But you don’t want to feed your pet too many because they contain a small amount of Xylitol which can be deadly to your pet.

Mango

A mango has vitamins A, B6, C, E, and potassium, beta-carotene and alpha carotene making it a healthy snack option for your pet. But again remove the pit. It has cyanide and can be a choking hazard.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is a great year-round treat. It’s got vitamins A, B6, and C, along with beta-carotene, fiber, folate, niacin and potassium.

Beta-carotene helps prevent cell damage and reduces the risk of cancer.

But again, skip the rind and feed only the flesh.

Pumpkin

This is a great addition to the diet if your pet has gastrointestinal problems. It can alleviate diarrhea and constipation. It’s also good for cardiovascular health.

Pumpkin is full of fiber, vitamin A and antioxidants.

Carrots

These are good raw or cooked but the crunchiness of a raw carrot is great for your pet’s dental health.

They’re high in fiber and beta-carotene.

Cucumbers

My Greyhound came running when he heard the peeler come out of the draw.

Cucumbers are terrific because they’re low in carbohydrates and fat, making them great for overweight pets.

My Greyhound had the metabolism of a tri-athlete and could have used a little fat on his bones. But that didn’t stop him from loving cucumbers.

They contain vitamins K, C, B1 and potassium, copper, magnesium, and biotin. And they say cucumbers can give your pet an energy boost.

Celery

Not only does celery contain vitamins A, B and C, but it also can freshen doggy breath. That sounds good!

Sweet or white potatoes

Washed, peeled, boiled or baked, potatoes are a great source of fiber. But never feed potatoes raw… way too hard to digest. White potatoes contain iron. Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, and vitamins B6 and C.

Stay away from mashed potatoes that contain butter and milk, and sweet potato pies with added sugar or marshmallows.

Green beans

This is the super power of veggies for pets. They contain omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins A, C, and K; calcium, copper, fiber, folic acid, iron, niacin, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin and beta-carotene.

Wow… this one’s worth keeping at the ready!

Although there are many great options your pet can enjoy, I realize not everyone wants to feed their pet fruits and vegetables. And you don’t have to. If you are feeding your pet a well-balanced nutritious food like Husse, your pet is getting all it needs.

But if you like to give your pet a treat, fruits and vegetables are better options than store bought packaged treats.

Regardless of your treat choice, remember moderation is always best. And if ever your pet has a negative reaction to something you feed them, stop giving them that food and call your vet if problems persist.

What fruits and vegetables do your pets enjoy? Tell us in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

Meat, poultry, byproduct, meal… 9 common ingredients in your pet’s food explained

In my last few posts, I’ve talked about food… Decoding the Dog Food Label and Digestibility and Dog Food.

But what’s really in those ingredients on the label? The terms are either vague or incomprehensible.

Well, this week I will give you the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) guidelines for what’s allowed to be included in each of the ingredients on your pet’s food label.

I have to warn you that the permissible ingredients will horrify you. It’s another argument for feeding your pet the highest quality food you can afford.

Premium pet foods have ingredients you can understand.

Here’s how AAFCO defines 9 of the most common ingredients found in your pet’s food.

Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that part which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. It shall be suitable for animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Just like the meat we eat, the term meat on the label means mostly muscle tissue. It can also include fat and gristle just like when you buy meat for yourself.

But meat in pet food can also include some very unappealing things like heart muscle or the muscle that separates the heart and lungs from the other organs.

It doesn’t include bone. And because the muscle is mechanically separated from the bone, it has the consistency of paste.

The manufacturer can also name the species the meat comes from in the ingredient list like beef or pork. But if they use the term meat, it must come from cattle, pigs, sheep or goats. Any other mammal must be identified by name.

Poultry and fish wouldn’t fall in this category either. They have to be identified separately on the label.

Meat By-Products are the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Rendering is the process of extracting proteins and minerals from the animal carcass using heat and pressure to remove water and fat. By-products are not rendered.

These parts have to come from cattle, pigs, sheep and goats just like meat.

By-products are scary. You want to avoid them in your pet’s food because they’re a very poor quality source of protein. They’re almost everything except the muscle tissue… including organs and bones.

Some of those organs may be organs we would eat, but many are not fit for human consumption. Like udders for instance. The USDA considers these parts to be safe for animals though. But does that mean you want to feed it to your beloved pet?

And remember too that lower quality ingredients may mean lower digestibility. So your pet’s body isn’t able to use the nutrients in those ingredients.

Poultry is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto. If the bone has been removed, the process may be so designated by use of the appropriate feed term.”

It’s basically the parts of the bird you’d find at the grocery store if you bought a chicken or turkey. Often it’s the parts that most people don’t want like backs and necks.

Poultry can also include bone, unlike meat which cannot include bone. If the processor removed the bone, it would say “deboned poultry”.

Pet food makers will often be more specific and list the poultry ingredient as chicken or turkey.

Poultry By-Products must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Similar to meat by-products, you don’t want your pet’s protein source to come from poultry by-products.

The next 5 ingredients are rendered ingredients.  Rendered ingredients are cooked to destroy harmful bacteria. They’re made up of the extracted proteins and minerals from animals and are called meals because they’re ground to a uniform sized particle.

Meat Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition… {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}… If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin it must correspond thereto.”

If the manufacturer doesn’t specify what mammal the meal came from, like beef meal for instance, it can come from any mammal. The maker is not required to specify the mammal. And it doesn’t have to come from cattle, pigs, sheep, or goats.

Meat and Bone Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition… {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}… If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin it must correspond thereto.”

This is similar to meat meal but it includes added bone, not just the amount of bone normally found on the whole carcass of the animal.

Animal By-Product Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition. This ingredient definition is intended to cover those individual rendered animal tissues that cannot meet the criteria as set forth elsewhere in this section. This ingredient is not intended to be used to label a mixture of animal tissue products.”

Who the heck knows what this means. Seems like anything and everything that can’t be specifically identified. Yuck!

AAFCO says it can be the whole carcass, but it includes more by-products than you’d find in meat meal or meat and bone meal. Hmmm…

Poultry By-Product Meal consists of the ground, rendered clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices… {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}… If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

This is the same as “poultry by-products,” but it’s rendered. Most of the water and fat has been removed to make a concentrated protein/mineral ingredient.

Poultry Meal is the dry rendered product from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Again, poultry meal is like “poultry” but in rendered form to make a concentrated protein/mineral ingredient.

Beyond these 9 ingredients, there are lots of other things found in pet food. For instance,

animal and vegetable fats and oils for energy and added flavor;

plant ingredients such as corn, barley and peas for energy and to bind the kibble;

dried beet pulp, dried chicory root and powdered cellulose for fiber;

vitamins and minerals like cobalt, copper, iodine and selenium to name a few;

DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, and L-Threonine are amino acids;

and you’ll find preservatives, conditioning agents, thickeners and emulsifiers

If you’re interested in the details of these other ingredients, the AAFCO website is a great resource.

Next time you’re in the pet store, take a look at pet food labels and compare them to a Husse label. Now that you understand the specifics behind the vague ingredient names, you’ll see that Husse ingredients are exactly what you think they are.

Husse premium pet food is made with only the highest quality non-GMO human grade ingredients.

Are you surprised what’s allowed in pet food? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

Does your pet need a grain-free diet?

Happy Tails from Husse is a pet health blog. So logically, diet and nutrition is an important part of that. Because I’m feeling like the grain-free diet fad is becoming the elephant in the room, I thought it would be a good time for me to write about it.

Tell me you haven’t been wondering if you should switch your pet to a grain-free diet because some of your friends have. You’ve been seeing all the grain-free food on the shelves at the pet store and feeling a little guilty that you haven’t jumped on the grain-free bandwagon.

If you’re a Husse customer, maybe you’ve been wondering why they don’t offer a grain-free food and if they ever will.

Well, wonder no more. Husse’s grain-free food is on the way. And whether it’s right for your pet is what we’re talking about this week.

And to allay your concerns that you’re not a good pet parent if your pet eats grains, here’s what you should know.

What is grain-free and what isn’t it?

A grain-free diet is not a low-carbohydrate diet. The most common grains found in pet foods are wheat, barley, rye, rice and corn. Any pet food claiming it’s grain-free will not have one of these grains in its recipe. But it will have other carbs like potatoes or yams.

Sometimes grain-free foods are actually higher in carbohydrates than pet foods that include grains. So if your vet has suggested a low-carb diet because of diabetes or another health condition, a grain-free diet may be a bad idea.

Grain-free diets were developed in response to consumers wanting to feed their pets a diet that mimics their own. Since many people are going gluten-free, they think their pets should too.

But here’s the thing… gluten-free and grain free are not the same.

Does grain-free mean gluten-free?

Gluten is the protein found in certain grains, like wheat, barley and rye. But some grains, like rice and corn, are gluten-free.

So gluten-free pet food may or may not be grain free, if it has rice or corn in it. But grain-free will always be gluten-free because it will have no grains… either with or without gluten.

Some people have legitimate gluten intolerances. Some even suffer from celiac disease, which makes eating gluten very painful.

But dogs don’t get celiac disease, except for one genetic line of Irish Setters in the United Kingdom.

Cats can get a celiac-like disease. If your vet suspects your cat is gluten intolerant, they will likely recommend a gluten-free diet.

To find out if your pet is gluten intolerant, veterinarian, Ken Tudor, suggests trying a grain free diet for a while and then introducing a small amount of pasta to their food. If they’re okay with the pasta, they aren’t allergic to gluten.

What’s the argument for a grain-free diet?

Proponents of grain-free diets argue that grains are not a natural part of the canine diet. Their wolf ancestors never ate grains so domestic dogs shouldn’t either.

It could be argued that, the potatoes that replace the grains in many of these grain-free foods weren’t a natural part of the wolf diet either.

In earlier posts, I’ve talked about how dogs have evolved over thousands of years of domestication. And it’s not a realistic comparison. Domestic dogs—their behavior and their biology—don’t look like their wolf ancestors.

In fact, over the course of their evolution dogs’ genes changed, allowing them to easily digest carbs, including grains.

There’s also a misconception that grain free is better for pets with allergies. That is true if you’re certain your pet is allergic to the grain in its food. You can read my post to learn the 5 signs your dog has a food allergy.

Grains are not the most likely culprits of food allergies. Beef and dairy are the most common food allergens. And believe it or not, the grain that most often takes the rap—corn— is the least likely to cause allergies.

But when someone switches their dog to a grain-free food, they often see an improvement in symptoms and assume the grains in the old food caused the problem.

What’s really happening is the dog is now eating a better quality and more expensive food (eliminating the grains is expensive for the manufacturer), and the dog is responding to the overall improvement in the ingredients, not necessarily the lack of grains.

You’d be surprised how many offending ingredients are in a low quality food.

All premium dog foods, with or without grains, will include a protein source, usually chicken, as one of its main ingredients. That’s always preferable to a food with corn, wheat, or soy as one of the first ingredients listed on the label.

If you’re uncertain what the best protein source is for your dog, read my post.

Is there a potential downside to a grain-free diet?

There can be. First and foremost your pet’s diet should be nutritionally balanced and complete. Excesses or deficiencies of any nutrient can cause problems. And that’s true of grain-free diets too.

The nutrients derived from the grains need to be replaced if the grains are removed. Fiber and the energy from carbs are critical components that must come from a different ingredient if the grains are gone.

And a lack of fiber can have an effect on your dog’s poop—making the stool loose or causing constipation.

If you own a puppy, a diet high in protein is not good. In fact, many grain-free diets are recommended for adult dogs only. Be sure to talk to your vet about your puppy’s diet before switching to a food that’s grain-free.

Always remember there’s no such thing as a one-size fits all diet. You just won’t find a diet that’s right for all dogs. It’s important to know what YOUR dog needs. And give them a food that meets those needs.

Could GMOs (genetically modified organisms) cause grain allergies/intolerances?

I talked about genetically engineered food and our pets in my post a few months back. And there’s still no definitive answer to this question.

But it seems that there may be some link. In the U.S., many dogs suffer from food intolerances that might be because of the GMOs in our food supply.

In Europe, dog food does not contain GMOs and many fewer dogs are on grain free diets.

Corn and soy are almost always genetically modified in the U.S. (unless the crops are organic). This might lead some to conclude that if dogs in the U.S. show a greater intolerance to these ingredients—an intolerance uncommon in Europe— GMOs could be to blame.

Husse’s new grain-free food

Husse, a Swedish company, has never had a grain-free food because there just isn’t a demand for it in Europe. And because all of Husse’s foods are GMO free, pets that eat it are rarely intolerant or allergic to it.

But undeniably there are dogs with a true allergy or intolerance to certain grains. Husse can now meet the needs of those dogs that need a grain-free food with Opus, its line of super premium grain-free food for dogs. Grain-free cat food is coming soon.

Does your pet eat a grain-free diet? Tell us why you made the switch at the top of this post.