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.



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?


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.


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.


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

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 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.  


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.


Do you have good Petiquette?

We have talked about dog behavior here before.  What we will be talking about now is DOG OWNER behavior.  A perfectly behaved dog can have an owner that does not follow some basic etiquette that comes with being a respectful pet owner and it really gives dogs a bad reputation.

You would not think you would need to be a “seasoned” dog owner to have common sense.  Yet there are some basic common courtesy type things that many pet owners just do not respect. Let’s talk about a couple:

It is never OK to walk your dog off leash.  The only public area designed for off leash activity is the dog park; otherwise use your private enclosed property.  It is likely not just rude but illegal to do otherwise.  The responses that people think make it OK…”my dog is friendly”, “my dog listens to me”.  Perhaps if these dog owners could understand the number of issues that this can cause to other pet owners as well as their own pet, we can reduce the incidents of this happening.

When other dogs see your dog, especially if your dog is approaching them off leash their behavior can change.  The on-leash dog recognizes they have a restriction and that can give them a feeling of vulnerability.  If another animal (dog or human) presents defensive or fearful energy your own dogs’ behavior can also change, it is an instinct.  So, the norm for behavior is thrown out the window and this can cause a dangerous situation for the humans and the dogs.

For a moment consider what other dogs and humans might have experienced in their past.  Dogs that have worked to overcome issues with fear around other dogs can digress from having made progress by having an altercation with an off-leash dog.  These dogs and their owners are entitled to enjoy being out following the rules without the threat of an off-leash dog.  There are many people that have had bad experiences with dogs and are fearful of them.  An off-leash dog can be terrifying for them trying to enjoy a walk as well.

Good Petiquette On-Leash.  Do not assume other people or dogs want to engage with you and your dog.  Always ask a pet owner if they and their pet want to say hello.  If you see an approaching owner and pet that are trying to re-route to avoid engagement try to be accommodating.  When passing by walkers keep your pet on a short enough leash that they do not jump on the passing person…not everybody is a dog person.

Make sure your pet has tags just in case they get out.  A dog getting loose from their owners’ home should be the exception.  Owners need to be responsible for the care of their pets, this includes making sure they are safe and secure even when you are not home.   If you have a gate, make sure it has a lock and is locked when you leave.  If your dog digs under the fence or is a jumper and can jump over the fence YOU NEED TO MITIGATE THIS.  If you are leaving your house to take your dog for a ride in the car, make sure they are secured in the car before you open the garage door.  If you are opening your front door, make sure your dogs are secured or on a leash.  So, let’s assume you have done everything right securing your home and something terrible happens and your pet gets out.  They need to have a quick and easy way for a good Samaritan to get them safely back in your care.  Being able to call you on a cell number listed on their tag is the best way to do this.  It is great to have your dog chipped but please also make sure they have tags.  It will make it that much easier for a stranger to call you instead of animal control. 

Your pet is in danger if it is out too. It could be hit by a car, attacked by a wild animal.  Frankly people will do anything to defend themselves or their pets up to and including macing or shooting your pet if they feel they are in danger.

Let’s Talk Poop.  It is such a common problem…WHY?  I live in a neighborhood that provides poop disposal stations stocked with free poop bags and people still don’t scoop their poop.  This just gives your neighbors a bad taste in their mouth about dogs in general.  The two previous examples of unattended dogs only perpetuate this problem.  I am a crazy dog person and I actually look at poop pick up as an opportunity to see that everything in my pets’ body is working like it should…I know this is not the norm.  The norm is that it is stinky to pick up poop…but come on people just do it.

In a nutshell DOGS ROCK.  Let’s make sure that humans don’t make them look bad.  We get these precious souls in our life and our responsibility is to care for them and keep them safe.


Do you have a story about bad Petiquette?


The exploding number of obese humans in the US is mirrored by the exploding number of obese pets.  We want to show our pets that we love them, but sometimes we are loving them into shorter and less fulfilling lives.  Before we even talk about food and treats let’s establish if our pet is fat or fluffy.  We see photos of clearly overweight animals and think…my pet is not that fat!  So maybe your pet is not obese…but are they overweight?

Dogs and cats with longer hair make it that much harder to detect if your pet is carrying a bit too much weight.  It can be a slight difference and in smaller pets it can be something as small as a pound.  What should you look for?  Here is a transition of a dog or cat from underweight to overweight.

If your pet is furry then I would suggest you go by feel.  If you feel your pet’s mid-section softly you should be able to feel their rib cage without fat covering them.  Their ribs should feel like the back of your hand.  Your pet should have visible a waist (which is most easily judged from looking down over them).

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This can be a delicate subject.  In general people do tend to over feed their pets and it is more common than not that pets are slightly over-weight.  Did you know that a pet that maintains a healthy weight averages 1.8 years longer life?  The consideration of quality not just quantity of life is important too.  Healthy weight will lower the risk that your dog will have pain in their joints etc., reduce risk of injury, but also research tells us they suffer lower amounts of anxiety and have more general well-being.

OK, so my pet might be a little pudgy…. what next?  Here are some tips to getting your baby in tip top shape:

#1- Portion Size.  This is a more complex question than you might think.  Every food has general feeding instructions for a pet based on weight, but this can vary drastically based on the activity level of your pet and frankly the quality of the food.  Every pet can also have a different metabolism, so one 40-pound dog may need a different portion than another 40-pound dog.  The best thing to do is to start with what the current portion is and reduce it from there.  If you are going to keep the same food start with a 15-20 percent reduction in portion and see if their weight changes in 1-2 weeks.  If you have not seen a difference then you will want to cut their portions by another 10%, until you can find a portion that causes weight loss.  When the ideal weight is reached, increase 5% at a time to determine a portion that maintains their current weight.  The goal is to see a gradual reduction, not a sudden swing.  A 5% change in weight in a two-week period is good progress.  Premium pet foods with higher quality ingredients will tend to have smaller portions prescribed for the pet to receive balanced nutrition.  A high-quality food designed for limiting fat and calorie intake is a great idea.  Choose a food that uses good quality ingredients with high digestibility, so they are getting the most nutrition from their calories and stay satisfied.  A couple excellent choices in the Husse line up for dogs are Optimal Light, Prima Plus or Senior.  For your fat cat try Husse Exclusive Light.

#2- Feeding Schedule.  If you are still free feeding your pet this is a great place to start.  Control the amount of their daily intake at scheduled times throughout the day.  Once you have identified their portion size divide that into at least 2 meals.  If your schedule allows for 3 per day even better.

#3- Reduce/Discontinue Snacks.  Who doesn’t want to show our pet we love them by giving them a treat…right?  Food rewards will only perpetuate their weight problem.  Especially difficult to gauge the calorie consumption for their proportional size are the human foods.   You must realize a 1 oz. cube of cheese given to a 25 lb. dog is the equivalent of a human eating 2 cheeseburgers!  One single potato chip is like us eating an entire chocolate bar.  So even if you have a 25-pound dog on a strict diet of 2/3 cup twice a day, that can all be ruined with an ounce or two of cheese.  If you must give an occasional human treat try a small piece of apple, banana or a bite of carrot.  Remember our pets most valuable reward in the world is our attention.  Reward your pet with love, hugs, kisses and snuggles.  Our undivided attention and praise are just as valuable to them as food.

#4- Increase Activity.  The same principles apply with pet fitness as with humans…increase the burn and reduce the intake.  Adding some exercise will make a huge difference.  Start with a short walk and increase gradually.  Maybe your schedule does not allow long walks.  Get a ball and have your pet chase the ball even if it is while you sit on the couch watching TV.  Also practice obedience, the mental exercise can provide increased calorie burn.

Be strong for your loved one.  They may act like they are starving all the time, begging etc.  Their stomach will begin to adjust to their new plan.  Once you see them in ideal physical condition you will realize what a great thing you have done for them.  Let your pet be their best…. overweight pets really are not to blame for their condition, we are the hand that feeds them and exercise them.  It is worth repeating- maintaining a healthy weight will prolong their life and will reduce their likelihood of painful injury.

Always review your pet’s fitness plan with their vet.


I don’t think we need to go through the obvious issues that can be dangerous for your pets during the Halloween season.  Obvious…don’t let your pets get into the candy.  Obvious… don’t let them hurt themselves on lit candles in the jack-o-lantern.  But there might be some more subtle tips this October you haven’t thought about.

There are so many things happening at this time that can simply stress your pet out.  This can be very stressful for your furry family members that are not used to it.  Even if your pet dog loves kids it is can be too much with the constant ring of the doorbell or knocking, the sheer number of visitors and the weird appearance of their human friends.  Get your pets into a safe room and maybe turn a TV or radio on before the night starts.  If your pet likes their crate this might be your best bet.  Do not leave your pets in the yard to avoid the front door traffic.  There will still be too much activity, not to mention there are many creatures that are nocturnal may be out at night.

I want to remind people that when dogs have stress or anxiety they get diarrhea.  People will often think…they didn’t eat anything out of the ordinary so why does my dog have diarrhea.  They wear their feelings in their stomach and stress is a very common cause of soft poo.

Halloween is second only to 4th of July for the number of pets that are “spooked” and wind up at the shelter.  So, no matter what make sure your pet has ID or is chipped.

Maybe you are not planning to host strangers to your home, but hosting some close friends for a small costume party?  Even if these are people your pet is familiar with costumes can look and smell different and it may catch your fur kids off guard.  Again, it is probably best to let them stay in a safe place.

Like we said…you know your pet can’t eat candy.  But also, be aware of those candy wrappers…the pup will eat those up too.  Foil or cellophane wrappers can cause dangerous obstructions.  The dangerous food you DON’T think about is raisins.  People hand them out as a healthy alternative to candy, but it is equally as dangerous to your pet.

Love to play dress up?  Well you have already read the articles about how your pet may not like dressing up as much as you like seeing them dressed up.  But the risk you probably have not thought about related to this are the “parts” of costumes that can be chewed off and ingested. This is something that ER Vet offices see this time of year.

When you have safely made it to November 1st don’t throw that pumpkin away.  First you should be starting with a whole organic pumpkin.  If you carved it and it sat on the porch it could be growing bacteria so pitch it.  But, if you have a whole pumpkin that is still fresh it can now be yummy post Halloween treats.  Both raw and cooked pumpkin is safe for pets. (If your dog or cat has diabetes or chronic kidney disease, always ask your vet first.)  The pumpkin seeds can be roasted and used as individual treats too!  Pumpkin actually has health benefits for your pet…we wrote about this previously