Nutritional Supplements for Your Pet

pet supplementsA recent study showed that nearly half of adults in the U.S. take one or more nutritional supplements regularly in an effort to improve their overall health and well-being. Supplements do just as the name suggests – they supplement our diet with the vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be lacking. Ideally, we would get all that we need from the food we eat, but with today’s society of fast, processed and pre-packaged food, that just isn’t the case. So, if people benefit by adding supplements to their daily diet, wouldn’t it make sense that your precious pet would benefit as well?

Your pet’s nutrition is important for living a long, happy and healthy life. As with the food we eat, many of the pet foods on the market today are overly processed and contain fillers to provide non-nutritional bulk. While premium foods are ideal and often provide a well-balanced diet, a bit of supplementation based on your pets needs can be quite beneficial.

Choosing the Right Supplements

The most common supplements for pets are used to aid joint health, condition and protect the skin and coat, improve digestion, and increase overall well-being. While there are several marketed supplements, it’s likely you have what your pet needs right at home in your kitchen pantry or medicine cabinet.

Coconut Oil. We’ve all heard of coconut oil’s many benefits for humans, but did you know it is also safe and effective for your pet? Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a “healthy” saturated fat that boasts antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Fed regularly to your furry friend, coconut oil can clear up skin conditions, prevent yeast and fungal infections, soften and deodorize coats, improve digestion and nutrient absorption, increase energy, reduce kitty’s hairballs, aid in ligament and arthritis issues… just to name a few.

Pumpkin. It’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore! Fiber-filled pumpkin is safe for your pet and can aid in constipation relief; promotes a sense of fullness for pudgy pooches, possibly aiding in weight loss; helps with hydration (pumpkin is composed of 90% water); and is a natural source of vitamins and minerals that benefit day-to-day cellular function. Be sure to use all-natural, canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling!

Vitamin E. Key for healthy skin and eyes, as well as strong immunity in people, those Vitamin E softgels in your medicine cabinet can also be beneficial to your pet. Great for dry skin, softgels can be popped and the liquid inside massaged directly into your four-legged friend’s skin, added to bath water, or dribbled onto your pet’s meal. Vitamin E, when ingested, also benefits pets who experience mild arthritic discomfort.

Yogurt. Plain yogurt is a delicious treat for your cuddly companion. Just as with humans, the live cultures in yogurt keeps the good bacteria in Fluffy and Fido’s gut balanced. If you have a puppy or a dog on antibiotics – both of which are prone to yeast infections – a little yogurt as a snack can help keep the infections at bay. Keep in mind, adult cats are lactose intolerant, so don’t overdo it!

Turmeric. This pungent, bitter flavored spice is used as a supplement for preventing cancer and to reduce inflammation from arthritis. Simply sprinkle on your pet’s food, beginning with just a quarter teaspoon per day, and gradually increase to up to one teaspoon. Introduce the spice slowly to avoid shock to the digestive system, and discontinue if side effects appear.

While the above supplements are safe for most pets, always consult with your veterinarian before using, to determine the proper serving size, and to avoid any possible adverse reactions, particularly in pets taking medication.

Selecting Your Child’s First Pet

pet ratChoosing a first pet for your child can be a daunting task. A young child may not comprehend the needs of a pet or be able to recognize the proper way to handle one. And, with pets having much shorter life spans than humans, introducing a new pet may also result in your child’s first experience with death. Yes, there are many questions to ask yourself before making the commitment to bring a pet home for your child – Is my child old enough? Will he be kind to the pet? What pet would be best suited for him?

If you have a toddler, it likely isn’t a good choice to introduce a pet such as a hamster or fish. Not only do they have short lifespans – which will inevitably lead to the explanation of death – they are small, fragile and require sensitive care. Yes, it may be a good learning experience, but always keep the animal’s safety and needs in mind.

Hermit Crabs. Believe it or not, hermit crabs are actually an ideal first pet for a child. They are interesting, low-maintenance, extremely social and can live ten plus years with the proper care. And their regular molting and new shell growth will likely intrigue your child. Yes, a hermit crab is a great option for introducing your child to the world of responsible pet ownership.

Rats. If you and your family aren’t the skittish type, a rat may be an ideal first pet. Though they come with a negative association, rats are actually quite intelligent, social and easily tamed creatures. They often become emotionally attached to their humans and even enjoy a good cuddle. Despite popular opinion, rats are quite clean, when purchased from a reputable source. They can live up to two or three years, with proper care and exercise, and thrive when they have a rat companion by their side.

Cats and Dogs. Of course, when most of us think of a proper pet for our child, we think of a cat or a dog. Indeed, cats and dogs are wonderful pets, but be conscientious of the fact that cuddly kittens and precious little pups usually aren’t an ideal choice. They require a lot of patience and training in order to grow into well-adjusted adults, and a child likely can’t fulfill that need. Sure, you can take on the task yourself, but do you have the time and the composure to handle a child and a fur baby? Instead, consider adopting a more mature dog or cat. Adult animals are typically more tolerant of children and have likely been trained to some extent, making it an easier transition into your home and into your child’s heart.

A first pet can be a lesson in responsibility for any child. To ensure a pleasant experience for everyone – including the animal – be confident that your child is ready for a pet and do your research before making a pet choice. And, as importantly, be willing and prepared to take on the responsibility yourself, as any pet comes along with certain expenses (food, veterinary care, etc.) and requirements (regular feedings, exercise, training, etc.).

Four Nail Trimming Tips for Your Furry Friend 

pawGiving your four-legged friend a paw-dicure can be quite the task for some. Whether it’s the result of an accidental cut of the quick in a previous nail trimming session or the dislike of having his paws touched, your pet’s aversion to nail care can take a stressful toll on both. Seeing the fear in your beloved pet’s eyes can be heart-wrenching, but if that fear results in flailing, snapping or biting during the nail trimming process, it can also be dangerous for you both. But don’t despair; if your dog or cat runs for cover at the mere sight of nail clippers, there’s still hope!

It’s important to keep your pet’s nails trimmed for many reasons: doing so prevents breaking and bleeding of nails that grow too long; long nails can interfere with normal paw movement; and unkempt nails can scratch your furniture and floors – not to mention you! –  as well as snag your rugs and upholstery. While it’s ideal to familiarize your pet with nail clippers and regular nail trims early on in his life, that isn’t always possible. Teach your furry companion to relax during trim time with these helpful tips…

Begin with a clean slate. Pets often have a negative association with clippers that have been used on them in the past. Think about it… if your mother nipped your skin while clipping your nails as a child, making you bleed, wouldn’t you be a bit hesitant to let her have a go at it again? Try purchasing a new pair of clippers that are distinctly different in appearance from your current pair.

The first time you introduce the new clippers to your pawsome pet, act excited, with a positive and happy tone in your voice; be fun and dramatic; reward him with ample treats, rub downs and cuddles. After a few minutes, put the clippers away, as well as the treats. A few moments later, let the party begin again. Repeat this process as often as necessary to allow Fluffy and Fido to grow a new, positive association with the clippers. It may be helpful to bring the clippers out of hiding periodically, even if it’s not time for a trim, just to reinforce the positive association.

Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t attempt to get all of your pet’s nails trimmed at once. Start with one, and reward your fur baby with a treat. You can even enlist a partner to hold a spoon of peanut butter within licking distance to keep Fido’s thoughts otherwise occupied. Speak as you trim, maintaining a calm and soothing tone, as you progress slowly, working your way from one nail to the next. If you’re weary of accidentally cutting the quick, trim a little bit of each nail at a time, and have styptic powder nearby just in case. Remain mindful of your pet’s body language to alert you if you cut too close or if agitation sets in. If he becomes anxious or uncomfortable, stop the session and start again later, allowing him time to relax and unwind.

Scrub-a-dub-dub. Your pet’s nails soften while being bathed, so clipping after his bath may make the process easier – although this probably won’t help if your fur baby is a feline! If your pet is fond of bath time, try combining the two activities. A friend of mine suggested I clip my ornery Pug’s nails while he was in the tub, his feet soaking in warm water. I was skeptical, but it actually did the trick! The warm water soothed and distracted him, softened his nails for easier clipping, and made the process virtually stress-free for us both. Be sure to clip the nails prior to bathing, to avoid any exposure to soap or other irritants should an accidental bleed occur.

Seek professional help. If all else fails, there’s always your trusty veterinarian. If you or your pet are still weary of nail trimming time, make an appointment for a nail clipping at your vet’s office. The staff there know all the tricks of the trade and will get it done painfully and correctly. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Interesting Facts About Your Favorite Feline

catHave you ever looked at your whiskered, finicky, four-legged friend and wondered about her heritage, capabilities, habits and so on? Have you ever thought to yourself, “it sure seems like Fluffy sleeps too much”? Well, perhaps these interesting, amusing and remarkable cat facts will shed a little light on your ponderings about your favorite feline!

 

  • According to a study done by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats who fall from a distance of 5.5 stories up to 32 stories have a survival rate of approximately 90% (assuming they are treated for any injuries that may occur because of impact with the ground).
  • Talk about a cat nap ~ cats spend 70% of their lives sleeping!
  • When cats grimace, they are usually “taste-scenting.” The expression permits air, which contains organic molecules, to waft close to a special organ (located between your cat’s nose and incisor teeth) for processing. The cat’s tongue may be recruited to help move and circulate the air, sort of like the feline version of wine tasting.
  • The average litter size for a cat is four to six kittens. But, in 1970 a Burmese/Siamese cat gave birth to a record 19 kittens!
  • In the 1960s, the CIA tried to turn a cat into a bona-fide spy by implanting a microphone into her ear and a radio transmitter at the base of her skull. She survived the surgery but sadly was hit by a taxi on her first mission.
  • Cats’ ears are quite amazing. They can hear sounds as high as 64 kHz – compared with humans, who can hear only as high as 20 kHz; they can move 180 degrees; and they can move independently of each other.
  • King Charles I of England(1600-1649) had a black cat that he loved dearly. Stories have been passed down through the generations that the king’s black cat brought the king good luck. The day after his black cat died, the king was arrested and later beheaded, thus supporting the belief his cat provided his luck.
  • Most cats don’t like water because their coats do not insulate them well enough. However, a cat breed known as the Turkish Van does not have the insulation problem and LOVES water!
  • Adult cats spend as much as half their waking hours grooming (licking) themselves.
  • In ancient Egypt, cats were held in the highest esteem. When a cat dies, their human family would go into a deep mourning and shave their eyebrows as a sign of respect. The cat would be mummified and buried in a pet cemetery or family tomb along with such provisions as milk, mice and rats. A tomb in Beni Hassan (an ancient Egyptian burial site) discovered in 1888 was found to contain approximately 80,000 buried felines.
  • The oldest cat video on YouTube dates back to 1894 (the year it was filmed, not the year it was posted on the internet!). It features two cats boxing and is aptly named “The Oldest Cat Video on YouTube: 1894 Boxing Cats.” Check it out!

We’ve always known cats are incredible creatures, but did you ever realize their history, abilities, habits and lives were so intriguing?

With Cats, a Bite Isn’t Always Just a Bite ~ Find Out What Your Cat’s Nip Means!

CatYour fluffy feline may be the sweetest cat around, but that doesn’t mean a nip here or a bite there might occur. While the action may seem unprovoked to you, it makes complete sense to your cat. Some kitty custodians lovingly refer to their cat’s nip as a “love bite,” while others take it as a form of aggression. Well, both are correct. Here’s how you can determine what your cat’s chomp means and how to curb it.

Play Aggression

 Remember when your kitty playfully nibbled at your toes and you thought to yourself “Oh, that’s the cutest thing ever!”? What may have been cute when Fluffy was just a tiny fur ball, likely isn’t so cute now. Cats stalk, chase, grab, leap and ambush random objects in the name of fun, and to catch vermin. Your bare toes wiggling around may look like something tasty to your cat, resulting in him pouncing and taking a bite.

So what can you do to keep Fluffy from pricking her teeth into your little piggies? Well, the obvious option is to wear socks! But another solution is to use playtime as a learning experience in how to be careful and gentle. Start by inviting your feline friend to a mellow game of play “fighting.” Consistently praise her while she remains gentle, and gradually increase the intensity of the game. As soon as you see Fluffy getting overly excited or exposing her teeth or claws, tone down the play session or quickly freeze and “play dead.” This technique should result in a calmer kitty. If not, and Fluffy proceeds to pounce, abruptly scream “OUCH,” and walk away, ignoring Fluffy. Unexpectedly ending a play session sends a very powerful message. After a few repetitions of this scenario, your cat will recognize that her own aggressive behavior equals the end of an enjoyable play session.

Petting-Induced Aggression

Remember last week when you were sitting on the sofa, watching your favorite TV show with Fluffy in your lap as you gently caressed her from head to tail? And remember when, out of nowhere, she bit your finger and ran? Animal behaviorists theorize that too much physical contact may irritate a cat if she has a low threshold for stimulation.

Watch for warning signs of an impending bite that include a quick turn of the head toward your hand, flattening or rotating of the ears, twitching of the tail, restlessness and dilated pupils. If you notice any of these warnings, stop caressing your kitty and place her gently on the floor. Or, if you realize your cat often becomes over-stimulated at the five minute mark of petting, then stop after three minutes. Be aware of her behavior and you’ll likely be able to foil an attack.

Redirected Aggression

Remember when Fluffy became irritated when she spotted another cat on your patio, and she took out her irritation on you in the form of a bite? That was the result of her perceived inability to defend her territory. Since she couldn’t reach the trigger of her anger (the cat on the patio), she lashed out at you because you were in close proximity.

To keep from being bitten in situations like this one, simply steer clear of your agitated cat. Walk away and give her time to calm down.

There are many solutions for curbing your kitty’s biting behavior, but the most important step to any solution is to be realistic and patient. Don’t push your cat beyond her limits and then get frustrated because she isn’t catching on as quickly as you’d like. As with most things in life, patience is a virtue!

Have You Ever Heard of Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures?

Birman CatDoes the sound of someone chewing their food or tapping their fingernails make you cringe? Is there a common sound that doesn’t typically bother others, but can easily and quickly send you over the edge? If you have a kitty companion, you may not be alone.

Discovered in the United Kingdom

 A bizarre seizure disorder affecting felines was discovered a few years ago in the United Kingdom. Common, everyday sounds seemed to trigger these epileptic-like seizures, accompanied with various symptoms such as loss of balance, convulsions, running in circles, restlessness and freezing in place. Noises that induced these seizures included things as simple as the clicking of a TV remote control, rustling of a newspaper and a variety of other normal household sounds.

Researchers began investigating this odd phenomenon and soon learned pet parents from around the world witnessed the same reactions to certain sounds in their own felines. The one factor almost all cases had in common was the affected cat’s veterinarian having no explanation for the condition, and the general disbelief that sound was the trigger.

FARS, a.k.a. the Tom and Jerry Syndrome

With these findings, the researchers became even more determined to study the anomaly and find answers. They collected data from 96 affected cats and concluded that some cats do indeed suffer from seizures caused by sounds. The disorder was named Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures (FARS), otherwise known as “Tom and Jerry Syndrome.”

Research found some sounds did indeed cause the afflicted cats in the study to experience non-convulsive seizures, brief jerks of a muscle or group of muscles, or full-body seizures that lasted up to several minutes. The sounds that most often trigged these seizures were:

· Aluminum foil being crinkled

· Tapping of a metal spoon against a ceramic bowl

· Clinking or tapping of glass

· Crinkling of a plastic bag or paper

· Typing on a keyboard

· The clicking of computer mouse

· Clinking of coins and keys

· Hammering of nails

· A person clicking their tongue

Among the 96 cats studied, all were affected by one or more of these sounds, but the Birman breed proved to be particularly vulnerable.  The cats in the study all ranged in age from 10 to 19 years, with the average age being 15, leading researchers to conclude a seizure disorder may be overlooked by veterinarians as older animals naturally tend to have other health issues that are more obvious and recognizable.

Thanks to the UK researchers, FARS is now a known and recognizable disorder and the kitties who suffer can be treated with sound aversion and anti-seizure medication.

If your kitty companion experiences any of the signs that go along with FARS, seek veterinary attention and mention your suspicion that your kitty may have the disorder.

Enhancing Your Senior Pet’s Quality of Life

Senior

Have you noticed your aging pet’s personality changing? Is Gus becoming grouchy, or has Cutie Pie been more cantankerous? As our cuddly companions age, we have a tendency to tolerate the various changes in their behavior and physical aptitude, conceding to them as inevitable factors of aging, rather than challenge these changes.

Your pet feels the effects of aging, just as we do. Wear and tear on her body takes its toll, making arthritis and muscle degeneration common in our senior canine companions and feline friends. The discomfort that comes along with these ailments can turn Rover from his usual affectionate, gentle self to more of a grumpy loner. And, to make matters worse, the discomfort will likely impede your pet’s desire to move, which will spark further degradation of the muscles, which will reduce bone and joint support. It’s a vicious circle of events!

Accept the Change?

Should we, as loving pet parents, simply sit back and accept these unwelcome changes in our fur friends? NO! The physical and psychological symptoms experienced by pets as they age can come to a halt, and maybe even reverse, with weight control and regular exercise. Here are a few tips that should help Fluffy and Fido feel better in no time:

  • Keep your senior pet dry and warm at all times. Extreme temperature changes and even dampness can cause your pet’s arthritis to flare-up, just as it can humans. Heating pads and warm water soaks can help relax muscles and increases blood flow, which can help alleviate arthritic pain.
  • Help your pet maintain a healthy weight, as added weight adds undue stress to your pet’s joints. Most major pet food companies offer “senior” brands that are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and contain added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which brand will be most beneficial to your furry family member.
  • Become a pet masseuse. Massaging your pet will move fluids through his muscles and remove tension from the tendons that surround the joints. One area at a time, rub around the joints to warm the underlying tissue. Next, place your hands over the area and apply gentle compressions over the area, establishing a rhythm as you press and release. Once you complete a full-body massage, end the experience with soft caressing to soothe your pet’s nerves. Regular massages for your pet may help prevent and/or alleviate the stiffness and pain that accompanies arthritis.
  • Invest in an orthopedic pet bed, which provide extra cushioned support and reduce stress on pressure points.

Sadly, there is no cure for the inevitable aging process, but there are effective practices that can make it less stressful on your pet. Your four-legged friend has blessed you with the best years of his life. Do all you can to ensure his senior years are comfortable and pleasant.