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January 2014

Reading Your Dog Food Ingredient Label: What You Should Look For and What You Should Avoid

 by wai on 22 Jan 2014 |
4 Comment(s)
When it comes to feeding your dog, you have a lot of options to choose from.  You know that table scraps won't provide the nutrition your pup needs, but you may not realize that certain dog foods can actually contain potentially harmful ingredients as well.  Even the pricier, organic brands may not be all they're cracked up to be.  If you're confused about what should and shouldn't be in your pet's food, understanding a few simple guidelines can help you make a choice that will be both nourishing and tasty for your dog.  Let's take a look at what you should look for and what you should avoid when purchasing dog food: 1.    Make sure a specific meat is at the top of the list.  When you're reading the label, meat should be the first ingredient listed.  This means that there's more meat in your dog's food than anything else.  However, it's important for the label to list a specific type of meat.  A lean meat like chicken is best, especially if your dog has weight issues.  While beef may not be quite as healthy, it's still an acceptable protein option as well.  On the other hand, you'll want to stay away from dog foods that just list something generic like "meat meal" or "animal byproduct meal."  This can include anything from horse meat to pig hooves and everything in between.  Stick with basic "chicken" or "beef" so you know exactly what's in that bag you'll be pouring or scooping from daily. 2.    Be wary of certain fillers.  Most dog foods are going to contain at least a few grains.  However, you don't want those grains to be too high on the ingredient list.  Many manufacturers skimp on the meat and instead use high levels of fillers like corn meal, oatmeal, rice and soybean meal.  High levels of these ingredients can cause allergic reactions in some dogs.  They can also be a bit difficult for their digestive systems to process, particularly for pups with tender tummies.  Don't be fooled by popular brands that proudly tout organic ingredients.  Just because they use organic fillers doesn't necessarily mean those are the foods your dog should be eating.  Choose a primarily meat-based brand with ingredients like chicken and chicken meal listed first.  Anything else will mean too many carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain and sluggishness in your dog. Image credit 3.    Keep things simple.  When it comes to your dog's food, simplicity is key.  It's best to avoid dog food that uses artificial colors, flavors or other additives.  Those brightly-colored bits and pieces may look appetizing, but there's no point in giving your dog something artificial if you don't have to.  Dogs don't perceive colors as vividly as we do, so those bright hues are really there for your benefit anyway.  You should also examine the ingredient list carefully to be sure that it doesn't include any kind of sweetener, whether it's real or artificial.  Things like sugar, corn syrup, molasses or brown rice syrup have no place in your pet's food.  In addition, steer clear of ingredients like butylated hydroxysanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene.  The bag will typically list these as BHA and BHG.  They've actually been banned in some countries because they've been linked to cancer in some pets.  Other preservatives like ethoxyquin and propylene glycol should also be avoided.  The former has been used in pesticides while the latter is related to antifreeze.  Bottom line, if you can't pronounce it, it probably shouldn't be in your pet's food.  Go with a brand that only has ingredients you can easily identify. You probably consider your dog an important part of your family.  If you want your pup to stick around for many years to come, you need to make sure he or she is getting the nutritional benefits his or her body requires.  Selecting the right dog food will help you do that.  By following the guidelines on this list, you can make sure Fido's food has all the proper nutrients he or she needs and none of that potentially harmful fake stuff.  Remember to read the ingredient label carefully so your dog can stay healthy and live a long, happy life!

Heartworm Disease in Cats

 by wai on 15 Jan 2014 |
5 Comment(s)
Until recently, most experts would say that cats did not get heartworms.  Over the past few years, research has begun to show that heartworms are much common in cats than was previously thought.  Prevalence of Heartworm in Cats There have been laboratory confirmed cases of heartworm in cats in all 50 U.S. states. One researcher who presented at a 1998 heartworm symposium performed random blood tests in cats and found that heartworm disease was more common than feline leukemia (FLV) and FIV or feline AIDS.  Anywhere that dogs are at risk for heartworm, cats are now also considered to be at risk.   This apparent increase in feline heartworm infection is actually a sign of better detection and understanding of the disease.  Cats may develop only one or two adult worms and, as a result, older heartworm tests that worked on dogs may not be sensitive enough to identify a heartworm infection in a cat. In addition, heartworm disease in cats may be misdiagnosed due to the lack of awareness of the prevalence of the disease as well as the different symptoms that cats develop. Symptoms of Feline Heartworm Disease Heartworm in cats often presents differently than in dogs.  Respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and difficulty breathing, are common in cats with heartworm and may be misdiagnosed as asthma.  These symptoms, along with vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, and loss of appetite, may become a chronic disease.  Heartworms can also cause neurological symptoms, seizures, fainting, and death in cats. Treatment of Heartworm Disease in Cats Heartworm treatments that work on dogs are dangerous in cats. As many as 70% of cats will die if canine treatments are used.  The best practice for cats with heartworm is to treat the symptoms and allow the adult worms to die a natural death over the course of a couple years. In some cases, the inflammation that occurs when the heartworms die may be life threatening for the cat.  Image credit Prevention of Heartworm There are medications available that can prevent heartworm in cats.  If you have a dog and your veterinarian recommends seasonal or year-round heartworm protection, ask about prevention for your cat too.  Heartworm is extremely common in the southeastern U.S. year round and many other parts of the country have a risk of heartworm, especially during warm months.   If your vet is not familiar with the risks of feline heartworm disease, there are guidelines put out by the American Heartworm Society that can help you and your vet make an education decision. Heartworm and Indoor Cats It is not just outdoor cats that are at risk of heartworm.  One study found that about 28% of cats that were diagnosed with heartworm were indoor-only cats.  Some researchers theorize that indoor cats may actually be at increased risk since they do not have a built up immunity.  Cats may particularly be at risk if they lie against window or door screens as many indoor cats enjoy doing.  If you live in an area that has a high risk of heartworm disease, consult with your veterinarian about the need to treat your indoor-only cats.  Heartworm disease in cats is still not completely understood and more research is needed into the prevalence, symptoms and treatments.   In addition, many veterinarians are not aware of the latest research and may not regularly recommend heartworm preventatives for cats.  

Dog Depression: Common Signs, Causes And Easy Solutions

 by wai on 06 Jan 2014 |
5 Comment(s)
Dogs, like people and many other animals, get depressed. Major change, a substantial loss, or even the weather can create prolonged, intense sadness in canines. Fortunately, dog depression symptoms are easy to recognize and solutions are usually evident and simple to implement. Care must be taken, however, not to inadvertently reward the dog for sad behavior. Instead, there are easy ways to encourage happy behavior and uplifting activities.   Although dogs live for the moment, this doesn't mean that whatever happens will not affect them in the long run. Consider how important a dog's human and animal companions are to him. His people provide not only food, water and shelter but also attention and love. They provide him with endless interesting ways to fill his waking hours. Other pets in his household enrich his playtime, downtime, and provide moral support and security within his family environment. In short, his human and animal friends are the highlights of his each and every day. When one of these companions leaves him, permanently through death, or temporarily as through a long hospital stay, his world turns upside down. His loss can be tremendous. Just like people, dogs need help to fill this void.   In fact, since dogs are animals of habit, major changes of any sort can upset them immensely. A move to a bigger, better home can leave them without their favorite shade tree or familiar living room picture window view. The friendly children next door he'd run along the fence and play with may now be replaced with less friendly people or with nothing at all. Potentially as upsetting as a change in environment is a change to a dog's daily schedule. A dog can be overcome with loneliness if his owner is working longer hours or a different shift, leaving him with one less long walk per day. This type of separation anxiety is also common when there's a change in the dog's family dynamics. A new spouse, new baby or even a new pet may leave him feeling left out, insecure and insignificant. Image credit   Just like people, dogs can simply get the blues. A change of season, extended bad weather, or even just the shorter daylight hours of winter can leave dogs with less happy time outdoors, less trips with their owners, and basically with much less to do. What's important to remember is that dogs pick up the emotions of the people around them. A person who's depressed about the weather, or anything else, is likely to have a dog that mirrors the emotion. In determining what's causing a dog's depression, it's crucial to rule out medical problems first. For instance, a dog that's eating less and inactive may be stiff and sore from arthritis. Depression without another medical or environmental cause may actually be due to a chemical imbalance. Only a veterinarian can determine this conclusively and treat it accordingly.   One of the most common signs of dog depression is a decrease in both food and water consumption. Depending on how much less a depressed dog is eating, there can be a corresponding loss of weight. The weight loss can be drastic and sudden if the dog virtually or totally abstains from food. Depending on how little the dog is drinking, varying levels of dehydration can occur. Occasionally, depressed canines markedly overeat and this can be as dangerous as not eating enough. Sleep patterns may also be altered, with depressed dogs either sleeping excessively or having trouble sleeping at all. They may be restless and anxious. Some shake and abnormally shed. But basically, if a dog becomes listless, inactive or lethargic, depression should be a concern. Some dogs get excessively clingy while others become withdrawn, even hiding to avoid contact and to avoid doing the things they previously enjoyed. Any distinct personality change can signal depression but only a veterinarian will know for sure.   Fortunately, once depression is diagnosed, treatment is usually simple and based directly on the cause. For example, a dog mourning the death of his dog companion will benefit tremendously from interaction with other dogs. Dog parks or long walks in a dog friendly neighborhood work wonders if it isn't feasible to get another dog. Lonely dogs whose owners must suddenly work longer hours can benefit greatly from the addition of a new family pet they'll enjoy. In general, depressed dogs need lots of extra affection and attention. More exercise and activity is best given doing the things they most enjoy. Herbal supplements may work wonders as can anti-depressants for chemical imbalance but these must be prescribed by a vet. Drugs should be a last resort, however, as they may cause unpleasant side effects. Whenever possible, depressed dogs should be cheered up in natural ways. Since rewarding sadness encourages it to continue, hugs and treats should be given only once a dog's been coaxed into happier behavior.   The good news is that dogs suffering from depression are usually back to normal within a few months, sometimes even in just a few days. Unlike humans, long term depression in canines is extremely rare. Because dogs are more present-day oriented than their human companions, treatments employed for whatever is causing their blues are more readily accepted and their resulting uplifted mood and behavior are more easily retained.
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