Cat Food and My Self-Led Crusade

What started as a simple idea- find a few differences between wet and dry food for cats- has now officially escalated into a self-led crusade to rid the world of dry cat food. Or, more realistically, start a conversation about what we are feeding our cats. Now before I surge onward I want to profess that my kitties, yes all four of them, have been eating premium dry food for years and all are healthy. I might add that my six water stations, including a water fountain, contribute greatly to this. But much of what I learned helped me to round out my knowledge of their dietary needs, understand which part of their diet is lacking and gave me the knowledge to make better, informed choices on what my kitties should be eating.17603-a-cat-licking-his-mouth-pv

Cats, I have learned, are obligate carnivores meaning they need muscle based meats in their diet. Specifically, cats require the essential amino acid taurine, exclusively found in animal protein and critical for normal heart function, vision, digestion and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Aside from needing taurine, our kitties rely on food for one other vital component –water. Wild cats get nearly their entire required water intake from prey. This means 70%-80% of prey is water. This means cats that receive 70% of their water from food do not drink much water on their own. This also means that cats eating a diet less than 60% water can become dehydrated if they are not drinking enough additional water.

I will divert off my food expedition and stop for a moment at the waterfront. Cats, unlike dogs, take longer and are much slower to initiate water drinking when dehydrated. Kitties often do not consume enough water when dehydrated to fully restore themselves to a hydrated state. A quick comparison at the watering hole: dogs will replenish six percent of body weight in one hour whereas cats take 24 hours.

Now, as my steady procession propels me forward, let’s peer a little further into water content. Wet food is typically around 78% water. On average most dry foods contain a whomping ten percent. This low water content has one upside- it is cheaper to buy. However, cats on a strictly dry diet are only consuming half the amount of water needed to stay hydrated. Continue reading

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Four-Legged Resolutions for 2016

Well, it is officially a new year and that means new resolutions but I’m not talking about your new year’s resolutions. I’m talking about your pet’s new year resolutions. Some of you probably never thought about making a resolution for your tail wagging family member but now is a great time to get into a few new routines with your pets.
Below are a few simple, easy and quick wellness habits to start performing with your pets. These pet goals are a great way to get a little extra bonding time in, keep up with and prevent some major health issues.
Pet Body Assessment. This one is easy and something you are already doing without realizing it. The Pet Body Assessment (PBA) is when you check the entire body of your pet for any lumps, buPBAmps, bruises, cuts, sores, smells and anything else that seems out of the ordinary. 
How to do it: Take about ten or fifteen minutes to sit down with your pet and start with their head working down to their tail. Focus on “painting their body” with your hands. You want to touch every part of their eyes, ears, nose, legs, even between their paw pads. If anything is sore, oozing, causing pain or fowl smelling, call up your vet for an appointment. By doing this daily or weekly you will be able to catch anything abnormal and get it checked out right away. You may consider doing an extra PBA after a trip to doggie day care or the dog park as an extra precaution.
Coat Health. Routine brushing for both cat and dogs are beneficial for several reasons. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that it prevents fur from getting knotted, dirty and matted, which can cause pain for our long-haired furry friends. When matting occurs and is not brushed out immediately mattes get twisted, grow larger and pull painfully on the skin. Brushing also helps with blood flow and circulation. Creating time to brush your pet gives you a second time, aside from the PBA, that you are running your hands over your pet allowing another opportunity to spot any problems.
Nail Health. Along with regular brushing, getting your pet’s nails trimmed regularly is important. Just like their human owners, pets do not like having long nails, which are susceptible to chip, break Nailsand splinter. Pet nails will curl the longer they get causing infections if left unattended. Lastly long nails create the most damage in the long term by changing where a pet places pressure when walking. This pressure change can lead to a realignment of the foot bones over time to cause arthritis and joint pain.
Dental Care. Keeping your pet’s mouth as clean as yours should be a top priority for you this year. Just like you, your pet’s mouth can build up plaque that can cause fractured teeth and periodontal disease. If left unattended bad teeth can cause your pet pain that reduces their appetite and may even change their natural, happy temperament. Regular bushing, preferably daily, will help prevent these common ailments from entering your pooch’s mouth. Any dog, regardless of age can be conditioned to teeth brushing. 20150611_070515 (1)
How to do it: The best advice I can give is to go slowly. Your dog needs to get familiar with the brush before it gets poked around in their mouth. Put pet toothpaste on the brush and let your dog lick the brush as if it were a treat. This can be done daily and will help the dog associate the brush with a treat or reward. Once your pooch is comfortable with the brush you can slowly start brushing, do not force it upon your dog, you want this activity to remain as stress-free as possible for both of you. When brushing it is crucial to use pet toothpaste and only pet toothpaste. Like little kids, dogs do not understand the concept of spitting out toothpaste and will swallow it. Pet toothpaste is made with nontoxic ingredients so your pet can swallow without harm.
Vets understand the importance of dental hygiene and have dedicated the entire month of February to promoting dental education. Many vet clinics offer discounts on dental services during February, so call your vet now to get more information and an appointment scheduled!


It’s All About the Food

Culturally, we have seen and are still experiencing a drastic shift in the food we consume. Processed foods are being replaced by fresh, local, organic and holistic alternatives. We are willing to pay a little more for pesticide-free, grass fed and free-range fruits, veggies and meats. High-end grocery stores and farmers markets are doing better than ever thanks to a new found love for getting “back to basics”. 

Being aware of what is put in the food we consume is shaking up many fast food chains, some of the most iconic staples to the American food industry. McDonald’s is no exception. They are slowly on the decline with drooping profits and store closings because they are struggling to meet this change. 
We demand the best for our bodies and rightfully so. But we should also be demanding the best for our pets’ bodies too. Eating McDonald’s every day is detrimental to our overall health and many dog foods are the same equivalent. As pet parents, we should be demanding the same quality, care and safety in pet food that we look for in our own food. Eating is one the most enjoyable experiences, for me at least, and our pets should have the luxury of enjoying this experience too!

But how do you know what foods uphold the standards you require? Walking down the aisles at the grocery store we are saturated with a plethora of health proclamations all stating the product is “natural”, “organic” or “gluten free.” Dog food packages are no different. So how do you start? 

You start much the same way you do when buying for yourself, by reading the ingredients label. The first five ingredients are the most important since ingredients are listed in order of quantity. So checking the first five ingredients will give you a quick look at the quality and type of food your dog is consuming. Lets look at two ingredients lists:

1. Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E)

2. Trout, white fish meal, whole ground millet, potatoes, oat flour

Option one shows the first and most potent ingredient is ground yellow corn followed by chicken by-product, whereas option two shows us trout is followed by white fish meal. I know if I had to eat one of these I would be choosing option two, along with many of you. 

The first list is from Beneful and the second is Flint River Ranch. Almost every pet owner knows about Beneful, but how many know about Flint River (who has never had a recall)? My guess is probably not many because Flint River does not have ads on television or eye level placement on store shelves. Advertising and placement do not enhance the quality of food!Several other factors go into eliminating pet foods that are not suitable for consumption and lucky for me, and you, I found a website that did exactly that. Reviews.com has done many, many reviews on various items, and most recently…dog food!

Check out the review here!

The researchers go through each step detailing their process and talking through each decision they made and why. At the end you have a beautiful listing of the 125 best dog foods, narrowed down from the overly saturated market of 2,223.

This is one fantastic resource that will hopefully get you thinking about what you’re putting in your dog’s body the same way you think about what you’re putting in your own body.