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.

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.

Increase Your Dog’s Daily Dose of Exercise with These Simple Tips

exercise dogAs a pet parent, your dog’s health is your responsibility. And an integral part of keeping your pooch healthy is providing him or her with sufficient exercise. We all know walking has the best benefits for overall health in humans, but what about for our canine companions?

It just so happens your dog’s primal need is to walk! Just as horses need to run and squirrels need to climb, dogs need to walk; it’s in their DNA. Sure, letting Rover run around the backyard can be good exercise, it is no substitute for taking him for a walk. Activities like time in the yard, visiting the dog park and playing catch in the house don’t offer the same mental stimulation your dog gets by investigating every sight, sound and smell when you take him for a walk. As you and your dog walk, he’s gathering information about how his territory has changed since the last time he was there, and taking him to new locations generates a sensory excitement like no other.

So how can you find time in your busy day to give Rover the walking wonderfulness he so craves and deserves? It’s simple ~ find a way to include him in your plans!

In the mood for some window shopping? While you obviously can’t bring Rover with you when you visit the mall, you can take him along for some window shopping in your favorite downtown area or outdoor shopping plaza. As long as he’s well-behaved and securely leashed, you should have no objections from shop owners, fellow shoppers or authority figures as Rover stays by your side as you take in the window views.

Need to chat with your neighbor? Rather than pick up the phone and call your neighbor two streets over to ask if she wants to join you for dinner, throw a leash on Rover so the two of you can walk over to ask in person. It may not equate to a long walk, but a short walk is better than nothing!

Heading to your parent’s house for a family get together? Even if their home isn’t within walking distance from your home, you can still drive and get some stroll time in by parking at a nearby restaurant or store and walking the rest of the way.

Need to pick up a few things from your local grocery store? Enlist a family member or friend to join you and Rover on a walk to the store, where your people partner can take care of Rover while you’re inside picking up what you need.

Is a trip to the hardware store on your weekend to-do list? Take Rover along for the ride, then leash him up and bring him inside. Many hardware stores allow dogs (ever notice the woman at Lowe’s pushing her puffy Pomeranian around in the cart?), so take advantage and bring Rover with you on your next visit (check with the store first, of course!). Either before or after your shopping spree, walk him around the grounds for some extra exercise and mental stimulation.

Craving some ice cream? Most ice cream shops have outdoor seating and welcome dogs. Some will even give Rover a complementary doggy sundae! If you live within walking distance of an ice cream shop, take Rover over for a special treat; if not, drive most of the way and park within a mile or so, then walk the remainder of the way.

Whatever your daily plans, chances are there’s one way or another to include your precious pooch in a way that will allow for some extra activity. Not only will an impromptu walk in undiscovered territory be a thrill for your pooch’s senses, but it will also enhance your already strong bond.

Socializing Your Adult Dog

dogSocialization does not end after puppyhood. While it is ideal for the foundation for acceptable behavior to be laid early on (pups are most adaptable between three and twelve weeks of age), continuous encouragement and reinforcement is a must. But what if you were lax in the socialization department when Bella was a baby, or you adopted Angus when he was four years old… is it too late for them to learn? Absolutely not! Most canine behaviors can be positively impacted with effort, time and – most importantly – patience.

Just as socialization among humans is important, teaching us how to get along with others, it is also vital for your canine companion. Proper socialization teaches her how to respond in a healthy way to things that may make her anxious or afraid, such as people, other animals, noises and objects. Help your adult dog become confident and friendly with the following exercises.

Family First

Your family is your dog’s pack; the group with whom she will spend most of her time. The safer and more comfortable your dog feels at home, the less fearful and anxious she will be. When welcoming a new, adult dog to your pack, keep attention and affection set at a slow yet consistent pace. You don’t want to overwhelm her or, on the other end of the spectrum, invite separation anxiety to develop. In the beginning, it’s better to have a slightly bored dog than one who is over-stimulated. Spend a few weeks to allow your furry friend to build a bond with her pack. In this time, do not introduce her to anyone outside her pack, or take her to any new places.

Introduce New People Slowly

Try to introduce your dog to only one new person each week. If your pooch is aggressive, it’s best to keep her on a leash during introductions, until she becomes familiar and settles down. On the other hand, when introducing a nervous or timid pooch, let her take her time approaching her new friend when she sees fit. Upon meeting, have the visitor speak in a happy, low tone and offer your pooch a treat, imprinting the interaction as a positive one.

Visit the Dog Park

It is important for your adult dog to develop a well-balanced behavior around other dogs; you don’t want her to be too ambivalent or too aggressive. After her first few weeks alone with her human pack, leash her up and take her to the local dog park. But… stay outside the fence, giving her an opportunity to smell the smells, see the sites, hear the sounds… get accustom to her surroundings. Each time a dog comes to the fence to check her out, give her verbal praise and a treat to make the experience a positive one. It may take just a few visits, or a dozen, but once you feel she is comfortable with her surroundings, and confident she will interact well, take her inside for some more personal interaction.

Enroll Her in Class

If your own training techniques fall short, or it seems your adult dog is just set in her ways, enlist a professional trainer to help. Not only an obedience class a great way to socialize her with other dogs and people, it will also teach you both learning commands that can make the socialization experience a more comfortable and successful one.

Are Animal Bones Safe for Fido?

animal bones“Like a dog with a bone.” How many times have you heard that saying? Dogs and bones – the two seem to go hand-in-hand, with pet parents giving their canine companions bones for entertainment, to prevent bad breath, to help clean their teeth, and for sheer enjoyment. But are animal bones safe for Fido, or do they cause irreparable damage?

Dental Health. One of the surefire ways to ensure your pet is happy and healthy is to maintain his good dental health. Do you treat Fido with the occasional animal bone in an effort to keep his teeth and gums healthy and clean? Well, you may be doing more damage than good. It’s not uncommon for a pooch to suffer from a fractured tooth when chowing down on a bone. Think about it – a bone that is strong enough to hold the weight of a large cow is pretty tough… which means those very persistent chewers can easily break a tooth or two before the bone gives way.

Besides the risk of possible tooth fracturing, aren’t animal bones good for cleaning a dog’s teeth? Not really! You see, for an object to successfully clean teeth, it needs to scrub the teeth enough to clean off tartar, but not so much that it damages the gums or the protective enamel coating on the teeth. When your dog chews a bone, you’ll notice he tends to use his rear teeth to chew and break the bone, meaning the bone never does what is needed to prevent periodontal disease.

Digestive System Issues. When Fido manages to break the bone apart and swallow the pieces, what damage could it do? The fragments can cause digestive ailments such as esophageal blockages, pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, bowel obstruction and/or perforation, and constipation.

  • Esophageal Blockages. When a dog tries to swallow a bone fragment that is a bit too big, it can get stuck in his esophagus, resulting in difficulty breathing and even vomiting, which can be life-threatening and typically requires emergency surgery.
  • Pancreatitis. As Fido chews on an animal bone, fat that is attached to the bone and within the marrow is ingested as well. An increased fat intake can result in pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas – which can be extremely painful and will likely require hospitalization.
  • Gastroenteritis. Once a large piece of bone makes its way to the stomach, it can cause irritation and/or ulcers, which results in vomiting. In most cases, stomach acids will dissolve the bone fragment within a few days, but in the interim Fido can experience abdominal pain, dehydration, lethargy and other symptoms that go hand-in-hand with excessive vomiting.
  • Bowel Obstruction / Constipation / Perforation. On its way through the intestinal tract, bone fragments can obstruct or irritate the colon, resulting in constipation. In severe cases, the colon can be perforated, causing loose/bloody stool.

Bacteria. One last thing to consider before you give your dog an animal bone – does Fido have a tendency to chew for a while then save the bone for later? Once the bone reaches room temperature it is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can result in a plethora of digestive ailments.

While you may be inclined to pick up an animal bone as a treat for your four-legged friend, think twice before you do. There are many other options available for Fido’s chewing pleasure that are much safer and sure to be appreciated!

The Battle Against Bloat

Dog BloatGastric Dilatation Volvulus, commonly referred to as dog bloat, is one of the most heart-wrenching medical emergencies that can be experienced by a pet parent. One moment, your dog is healthy and happy, and the next he is fighting a battle between life and death; a battle in which the odds are stacked against him.

What is Bloat?

Imagine your canine companion’s stomach expanding like one of those balloons clowns use to make balloon animals. Then imagine the clown twisting the balloon to make his animal creation. This is similar to bloat, with your dog’s stomach rapidly expanding with fluid and gas, then being twisted on each end. When this happens, the stomach contents fester, pressure builds, and the blood supply to the stomach is cut off. As a result, a portion or even all of the stomach may die.

Sadly, a domino effect then begins and, if left untreated, bloat can lead to death within just a few short hours. Even sadder, up to half of the dogs who suffer from bloat will not survive, even with emergency treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Bloat?

Keep in mind, some dog breeds are more susceptible to bloat than others, particularly large chested breeds like Great Danes, Weimaraners, Rottweilers and Boxers. If you’re unsure if bloat may be a possible problem for your pooch, consult with your vet.

Bloat develops suddenly and is more common in middle-aged or senior dogs. Often times, the first symptoms may appear after your dog has eaten a large meal, ingested a large amount of water, or has been exercising vigorously before or after eating.

Be aware of these five early warning signs:

  1. Your dog is drooling more than usual.
  2. Your dog is retching, but unable to vomit.
  3. Your dog’s stomach is tight or swollen.
  4. Your dog is visibly tired but can’t seem to rest.
  5. Your dog appears to be uncomfortable or in pain. He may groan, whine or grunt – particularly when his stomach is touched or pressed.

As the problem progresses, your dog may go into shock. His gums and tongue may appear pale, his heart rate my increase greatly, his pulse weaken, and he may experience difficulty breathing, and perhaps even collapse.

Even if you have just the slightest suspicion of bloat, take your pooch to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately. If the stomach has twisted, emergency surgery is the only option.

What Can You Do to Prevent Bloat?

Unfortunately, there is no clinically proven cause for bloat in dogs. There is debate in the pet medical community about genetics, temperament, stress and a host of other factors.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to try to prevent your dog from getting bloat, including:

  • Feed your dog a few times per day rather than just one big meal.
  • Slow down a speedy eater. Try a slow feeding dog bowl or put a tennis bowl in your dog’s food dish to slow his roll when it comes to scarfing down his food.
  • Provide a raised feeding station for your dog.
  • Try soaking your dog’s dry kibble in water, or try a wet food diet.
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink too much water at once.
  • Prevent your dog from exerting excessive energy just before or just after eating.
  • Consider preventative surgery. If your pooch is an at-risk breed or has a close family member who suffered from bloat, preventative gastropexy may be the answer. During the procedure, a veterinary surgeon will stitch the side of your dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall, preventing the stomach from twisting.

Bloat is a scary situation that many pet parents don’t consider, and few are prepared to recognize. Keep your dog’s best interests at heart by doing what you can to prevent bloat and, if the situation arises, to recognize it so that every effort can be made to save your precious pooch.