black and white cat sitting under Christmas tree with shiny garlandThe holidays are here! And during this busy season of giving, merriment, and Zoom calls, it’s easy to leave the gift shopping until the last minute. Life happens, but just because you didn’t feel like putting on pants today doesn’t mean you can’t finally buy Aunt Janet with 9 cats the best gift she and her felines have ever seen. It’s not too late! 

 

But where to start? You may lament. Fear not, animal lovers, for we have compiled a list to help you choose the right gift for those special pet people in your life. Whether you are buying for a Dog Dad or Cat Companion, you’re sure to find something for everyone below. 

1. BarkBox or KitNipBox Subscriptions

The gift of a monthly box subscription to BarkBox for dogs or KitNipBox for cats provides endless entertainment for our furry friends, and keeps the fun coming throughout the year. Simply sign up and get a customized box of goodies for your pet shipped directly to you, every month! Stocked with tasty, healthy treats and original toys, and starting at just $23 per Bark Box and $19.99 per KitNip box, the value can’t be beat. The haul changes monthly to keep it fresh for your furry friends. Check it out, and give the gift that keeps on giving to your pet-owning friends. 

 

2. At-Home Pet Camera

Ever wonder what your pet gets up to while you’re away? Have a family member that can’t bear to be away from their fur baby? An at-home pet camera takes the worry out of leaving home. Keep an eye on your dog or cat from an app on your phone while you work, run errands, or travel. Camera options even allow two-way communications for giving commands, laser pointers for play, and treat dispensers to reward good behavior. 

 

For dogs, we like Furbo Dog Camera as a functional and interactive option. Check on your pup and dispense treats no matter where you are. With sharp 1080p video, a treat dispenser, barking alerts, two-way audio, and photo capture capabilities, the fun doesn’t stop after you leave the house! 

 

Cat lovers aren’t to be left out on the excitement–occupy your feline with the Petcube Play by taking advantage of its 1080p video, speaker, and laser toy. With good night vision and optional cloud storage service, this camera is entertaining for both cat and owner. 

 

3. Pop Your Pup

Make your loved one’s day by putting their pet’s face on a morning cup of joe. Mugs, masks, socks, blankets, and so much more can be adorned with their adorable pup (or any pet!) as the perfect gift for pet parents. With reasonable prices and a wide variety of products to print on, Pop Your Pup is sure to have something that your loved one will enjoy. What better way to show people you care than plastering their beloved Spot’s face on some pajama pants! Good dog, Spot!

 

4. Interactive Feeders for Both Dog and Cat

Stationary meals quickly gobbled up from a bowl are a thing of the past. Add some spice to snacktime by encouraging play and learning with interactive dog and cat feeders. Entertaining for both human and pet, interactive feeders challenge your pet just enough to slow down eating and keep them motivated to munch away. 

 

Great for dogs who eat too quickly or both cats and dogs who need more stimulation throughout the day, the Outward Hound Hide N’ Slide Puzzle Game makes pets work for their food as they move the pieces around to find food hidden in the compartments. Or gift a feeder that’s a bit more mobile like the SlimCat Interactive Feeder by PetSafe. Felines and canines alike love batting around interactive feeder balls to dispense their treats. And we humans love to watch them enjoy their playtime and mealtime!

 

5. Custom Pet Portrait

We all know that our pets are beautiful and deserve to be forever memorialized as a piece of art. Now, it’s as easy as submitting a photo online and getting an original pet portrait shipped back to you. A fun and quirky gift for those who are as pet-obsessed as we are. Shop Etsy to find real artwork from small businesses in a variety of styles. For something really unique, check out Crown and Paw to make your loved one’s pet a superhero, astronaut, or Renaissance princess.

 

6. Sponsor a Shelter Pet or Make a Donation

This season, one of the best gifts we can give to other animal lovers is a donation to an animal shelter or sponsorship of a shelter animal. Donations and sponsorships allow these shelters to find happy homes for pets, provides low-cost/no-cost spay and neuter programs, and supports legislation and educational efforts that save the lives of future animals. Sponsoring a shelter pet is so needed, and doing so in the name of a friend or family member is the perfect way to show support for what they love. Humane Animal Rescue even allows you to pick out the pet you’d like to sponsor. Consider a donation to help save a life and spread your loved one’s compassion to even more animals.

 

7. Pet Sits and Dog Walks from Your Local Sitters at Whiskers to Tails!

Whether or not you are traveling this year, it’s hard to be around for your pets at all times. Life gets busy, but that’s where we come in! Give the gift of peace of mind by purchasing future pet sits or dog walks for your loved one. Let them rest easy knowing that we are caring for their fur baby as if it was our own. With expert services designed to keep animals of all kinds happy and healthy, we are thrilled to help you with all your pet needs through the holidays and beyond. 

 

Support local small businesses, and contact us today!

 

cream goldendoodle with puffy gray winter hat onWe all know that we have to winterize our cars and our homes, especially those of us up here in Minne-snow-ta, but did you know that you should also winterize your pets? It is important to ensure that your pets have proper gear to safely endure the cold weather months. Here are 10 tips to help you help your pet through winter.

1. Have the proper winter wear.

According to veterinarian Nancy Kay, dogs can’t layer up in the winter without our help and likely need a coat to help stay warm, especially if they have short hair and spend a good deal of time outside. Find a coat for your pet that provides warmth without limiting their mobility. It’s best to find one that covers the chest and abdomen. Smaller dogs in particular seem to have a hard time staying warm without an additional layer. But if your pup is an arctic breed, no need for a coat since their own does the job!

*I can highly recommend coats from Hurtta or Ruffwear. Here is Office Pup Piper in her Hurtta Summit Parka and Ultra Paws boots.

cream goldendoodle walking on a leash with pink jacket and black boots on

2. Make sure they have plenty of water.

Since your dog is both wearing extra layers and burning more calories to stay warm in the winter, they’ll need to drink extra water to stay hydrated. Good hydration is essential to your dog’s ability to regulate their body temperature. If you have water for your pet outside, be sure it is in a plastic bowl. Metal bowls can freeze and pose a risk to your pet’s tongue. Also consider a water heater or a fountain that keeps the water moving if your water bowl is outside to help prevent freezing.

3. Provide proper paw care.

Booties are ideal to help keep your pet’s paws clean and dry while romping outside in the winter. But many pups dislike wearing things on their feet. (I know we’ve all seen those videos of dogs walking in boots. While they may be funny, boots can be pretty stressful to your pup if not introduced properly!) The Dog People‘s blog has some good options for dog boots if you want to try them. If your dog doesn’t want to wear protective coverings, then keep the fur in their paws clean and trimmed short, but not too short. Hair gets wet in the snow and freezes and stays cold and wet once back indoors. You can also consider putting Musher’s Secret or another paw balm on their pads to provide some protection.

4. Avoid salt/de-icer on driveways and sidewalks.

While there are some pet friendly ice melt chemicals on the market, not all of your neighbors may think to use them. Try to avoid any areas that have been treated just in case. If your pet does walk on a treated road or sidewalk, be sure to wipe off their paws with a damp cloth when they get home. This will also help keep their pads from drying out from contact with the salt. In addition to salt on the sidewalks, prevent access to antifreeze in your home or garage. The sweet flavoring may tempt your pet but antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets.

5. Offer thicker bedding or a heated bed at home.

A slight draft in your home may not bother you, but it could put your cats or smaller dogs at risk for a chill. Put out some soft, cozy blankets or bedding that your pet can burrow into to stay warm.

6. Brush your pet consistently.

Keeping your pet knot and mat free will help them regulate their body temperature. Fur that is matted does not insulate as well and takes longer to dry. Brushing out your pet and keeping their coat clean will remove old fur and allow a fuller coat to grow in.

7. Keep an eye on their health.

Elderly pets with arthritis may have a harder time in the winter, especially in the mornings. If your pet is stiff or having difficultly with their mobility, contact your veterinarian to discuss options for treatment. In addition to their mobility, keep an eye on your pet’s weight. Some dogs and cats are less active in the winter and may need fewer calories. Some are more active or spend a good deal of time outside where they burn calories to stay warm. In that case, you may need to add a bit more to their food to keep them at the ideal weight.

8. Beware of ice, both on water and sidewalks.

We have all slipped on the ice at one point or another. Typically we recover and are not harmed, but a fall on the ice can cause injury to you or your pets. Be careful on sidewalks to avoid any icy patches. If you are out for a walk in the woods, keep your pet close to you if you reach a lake or river. If the ice is too thin your pup could fall in, creating a disastrous situation for them as well as a dangerous situation for you as you try to rescue them. The Bark website suggests keeping your pet leashed to prevent any attempts to walk out on the ice.

9. Keep your pet visible in the dark.red goldendoodle with green light up collar standing in snowy field at dusk

It gets dark pretty early in the winter so make sure that you and your pet have reflective gear so that motorists can see you on your evening walks (or so that you can see your pup in the dark on their last potty of the night). You can find reflective leashes, collars/harnesses, and safety jackets for your pet at multiple retailers to keep them in sight. Check out Chewy.com’s available items here.

 

10. Learn about your breed’s needs.

Some dogs need more or more specific care in the winter. While some breeds like Malamutes, Newfoundlands, or Samoyeds have a thick double coat designed to keep them warm, other dogs may need a coat, limited exposure to the elements, or extra care to ensure they stay safe and healthy. BarkPost suggests you can check with the American Kennel Club or ASPCA for more breed specific information. A good rule of thumb for all pets though, is if it is too cold for you it is too cold for them! Bring your pets inside when it becomes too cold.

Bonus tip: If you park your car outside in the winter, be sure to tap on the hood and make some noise before starting your car. Warm engine blocks are tempting to cats and small wildlife, who may curl up inside where you cannot see them. You may want to bang on your hood to shoo them away before you turn over the engine.

 

Or you could just move to Arizona and never have to deal with a winter again! It’s up to you, but my pups love the snow too much to ever leave. So if your pup is like mine, be sure to keep them safe while they romp (or snooze) through the winter.

 

This year our holiday season is going to be a bit different. There will certainly be adjustments to stay safe and healthy. Maybe your family will eat Thanksgiving dinner over Zoom. Maybe you’ll be mailing a lot of Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. We have one constant though, and that’s our pets! Our four legged family will be there with us like they have been all year. However, holidays can be a stressful or potentially dangerous time for our pets. Here are some tips to keep your pet safe and stress free during the holiday season!

gray and white tabby cat staring at camera sitting next to Christmas treeHoliday Stress

Typically, the holiday season is a time of change in your pet’s environment. There are more people visiting their home and changes to their owner’s routine or work schedule. Pet owners put up decorations in the home and move furniture around. There may even be fireworks or boisterous gatherings that can be too noisy for pets. With a little planning, you can reduce the stress your pet may feel at these changes.

  • Create a safe space for your dog or cat to retreat to when events become too loud or chaotic for them. Put it in a quiet place in your home with their favorite bedding and toys and even a fan or white noise maker to help mask any stressful sounds. Make sure it is a space that they are willingly go to, do not force them to retreat there (especially for pets with separation anxiety, they might rather be with you). You might even consider leaving a longer lasting special treat there, like a stuffed kong or bone, to encourage their enjoyment of this safe space. For cats, if they are being closed into a room, make sure they have access to their litter box and food/water.
  • If your pet prefers to be near you and the action, keep a close eye on their behavior to ensure they are not becoming overwhelmed or anxious. Be sure to let your guests know how to interact appropriately with your pets. Ask them to not follow or chase your pet if he or she walks away from them. Be sure that if your pet retreats to their safe space guests do not bother them. Consider requesting that guest not feed your pet any treats by hand, especially human food! If they’d like to give your pet a treat, they can offer pet friendly treats by placing them on the floor nearby to reduce the risk of a stressed pet lashing out.
    • If your guests are bringing pets of their own, consider asking them to come before the others so that you can introduce both pets in a less chaotic environment where you can closely monitor their reactions to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
  • Watch the doors as you greet guests as they enter your home. Even a pet who is comfortable around people may make a break for an open door to get away from any stressors. Be sure your pet is wearing their collar/ID tags and has up to date microchip information just in case.
  • Keep countertops and trash cans secure. Even the most well behaved pet can be tempted by all that delicious food. Be sure that you are watching your countertops and trash cans (or have secured them when you leave the room) so that your pets cannot get into something that could harm them.
  • Consider forgoing the pet costume. Many pets do not appreciate wearing clothes. If you attempt to put a costume on your pet and they react anxiously or negatively, quickly remove it to decrease the amount of stress they are experiencing.
  • Use pheromone diffusers or collars to help your pets cope with any stress during the holidays. Adaptil and Feliway are well known and effective brands of pheromone based products that could help your pet.

Holiday Decorations

Festive decorations in and around our home are important to many of us. We love our Christmas trees, garlands, and candles galore. Decorations can pose a hazard for pets though, so make sure you have secured them all safely and do not bring any toxic decorations or plants into your home where your pet can reach them.

  • Secure your Christmas tree. Consider tying your tree to the ceiling or nearby doorframe with fishing line to prevent it from tipping if your pets climb up or try to play with the lights and ornaments. The AVMA also recommends hanging lemon scented air fresheners in your tree to deter cats from climbing up (and your house will smell lemony fresh!).
  • Ensure your tree’s water source is kept away from pets. Be careful if you put any additives in your tree’s water, but even tree sap can be harmful to pets if ingested. Some Christmas trees also have fertilizers that could be harmful to your pet. Try to prevent your dog or cat from drinking out of your tree stand.
  • Keep your pets away from lights, tinsel and ornaments. PetMD suggests keeping lights, tinsel, and ornaments off the bottom third of your tree to reduce temptation. Those shiny ornaments, especially homemade ones out of natural materials or salt dough, are a great temptation for pets. Make sure any that could be broken or ingested are out of your pet’s reach. If eaten, they could cause a blockage or toxicity. Tinsel is another great temptation for pets, especially cats. Consuming them can cause intestinal blockages that may require surgery. Chewing on electrical cords can be harmful and may cause burns. Zoetis Petcare recommends spraying cords and even trees with bitter spray as a deterrent for pets.
  • Do not place toxic plants within reach of pets. Several popular holiday plants are dangerous for pets. According to the ASPCA, Amaryllis, mistletoe, poinsettia, balsam, pine, cedar, lilies, and holly are all poisonous if ingested so be careful not to allow your pets near them or better yet, make sure you don’t have any in your home.
  • Watch candles and potpourri around your pet. Open flames can be tempting to pets so make sure you are always supervising your pet if you have lit candles around. Both liquid and solid potpourris contain essential oils and ingredients that can damage your pet’s eyes, mouth, and skin if inhaled or eaten. Be especially careful with essential oils if you own a cat, they are extremely sensitive to most oils.

Don’t forget to unplug any decorations, blow out any open flame, and secure trash cans before you leave your home. Electrical cords can be a temptation for both dogs and cats.

Holiday Food

We all want to share our holiday meal with our pets. What harm is a little taste of turkey going to do? However, experts advise against feeding your pet human food for multiple reasons. Your food may have ingredients or additives that are toxic to your pet. While some people food is technically safe for pets, feeding your pet from the table can result in some pretty excessive begging (not to mention the drooling!) so it’s not a good habit to get into. If you’d like to be extra safe, you can feed your pet homemade pet treats or specifically formulated commercial treats with a holiday flair. However, there are a few human foods that your pet can share with you:

Holiday Pet Safe Food list

If you suspect that your pet ate something that could be harmful, contact your veterinarian or call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline (a fee may apply). Be sure that your veterinarian’s contact information, as well as an after hours emergency clinic, is easily accessible.

ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435 

Bonus: DIY Treats for Your Pet

Your pet may not be allowed to eat much of the people food you’re enjoying, but they could have some special treats of their own. Check out this recipe for turkey and cranberry meatballs for your pup or these tasty treats for your cat.

Happy holidays to you and your family, two and four legged! Stay safe and stay well!

Do you like cacti? Are you looking for a new home project for the coming winter months, especially now that COVID-19 rates are on the rise? Check out this holiday cactus cat scratcher. It’s a beautiful addition to your home and a wonderful new toy for your cat!

Contributing author: Timi Smith

Timi teamed up with Buy Rope to put together this guide for every cat owner who wants to surprise their furry friend with a unique cat scratching post. As a cat mom and DIY lover she thinks this is the purrfect project that will make you and your cat happy. Follow her and her kitty Coconut: @timischmidtt @coconutthecat.2020 https://www.buyrope.co.uk/

As busy pet owners, it can be difficult to keep up with the current trends and research. Should you feed grain free or is that detrimental? What proteins are best for your pet? How old should your pet be when she is spayed? What immunizations should your pet have? The list can go on and on. There is always new information, new technology, and new safety protocols for caring for our pets. One of the newer trends is the increased use of CBD products for pets. What is CBD? Should you consider using it for your pet?

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound extracted from the cannabis sativa, or hemp, plant. It is derived from the non-intoxicating portion of the plant (high in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, omega-9, amino acids, proteins, and other healthy nutrients) independently of THC, as opposed to marijuana. Definitions of hempseed oil or CBD versus marijuana are dependent on the amount of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol – a psychoactive compound, in the product. According to the Pet Safety Crusader, “the top portion of the cannabis plant where the flowers are, include the highest concentration of THC, while the stalk, stem, seeds, roots, and lower leaves house shallow levels of THC and a more significant concentration of CBD. The hemp plant’s medicinal and therapeutic properties live here.”

Products that are derived and labeled as hemp or CBD must contain less than 0.3 percent of THC. The American Kennel Club’s chief veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein says “it is essential to note that in most cases, CBD oil does not contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. In fact, most CBD products are derived from hemp and not from marijuana.”

CBD is an all-natural supplement that partners with the endocannabinoid system. This system, in both humans and pets, is comprised of multiple receptors that interact with other body systems to maintain balance and well-being. For more detail about CBD and the endocannabinoid system the Pet Safety Crusader has a great post.

CBD comes in a variety of forms and formats. According to Only Natural Pet, CBD can come in 3 forms: Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate.

  • Full Spectrum: Full spectrum CBD is a hemp extract that contains all of the naturally-occurring compounds in the plant, including terpenes, essential oils, and important cannabinoids (such as CBC and CBG) that have been shown to support healthy inflammation response and cell health. Full spectrum hemp-derived CBD contains trace amounts of THC (less than the legal limit of 0.03%). Since the amount of THC is so low, full spectrum CBD is non-psychoactive.
  • Broad Spectrum: Broad spectrum CBD is a manufactured alternative to full spectrum. During the manufacturing process, the hemp plant components are isolated and then reintroduced in specific ratios. This allows any THC (the psychoactive component) to be completely removed from the final product.
  • Isolate: CBD isolate is pure CBD that has been isolated from other parts of the hemp plant. It may be sold as a powder or mixed with a base oil (like MCT oil). CBD isolate does not contain any other cannabinoids (including THC) or compounds that occur naturally in the hemp plant.

The most commonly found format for CBD is an oil or tincture, but you can also find capsules, topical lotions or creams, and infused treats and food. Finding non-GMO, quality CBD is as important for pet consumption as for human consumption. Most CBD experts recommend getting an organic CBD oil. Being organic means it is free of any pesticides, fertilizers, or fungicides. Especially be certain your pet’s CBD is free of additives. Oils are ideal because you can dispense or adjust the correct dose by an individual drop.

What to consider (is it safe)?

Because CBD products are still fairly new and have not been subjected to FDA oversight or regulation, it is difficult for veterinarians to recommend their use. The American Veterinary Medicine Association cannot allow veterinarians to make recommendations without extensive research being completed. While several universities and clinics have begun studies on the efficacy of CBD products, their long term results will not be known or widely circulated for some time. The laws regarding recommendation and dissemination of hemp products (as opposed to marijuana based products) are also often hazy or complex. Many veterinarians are unable to legally discuss any cannabis based products, either hemp or marijuana, depending on state regulation.

However, this does not mean you should not use it. The studies that have been performed all found potential benefits without harmful side effects. CBD could offer many of the same benefits to pets as it does to humans. According to the AKC “while there’s no scientific data on the side effects of CBD usage for dogs, there are potential side effects based on how CBD affects humans.” These potential side effects of CBD usage for pets include temporary drowsiness, temporary drop in blood pressure with high doses and increased thirst and are considered very mild. For this reason, CBD is considered safe as long as you follow the dosage instructions and any of your veterinarian’s recommendations.

The biggest risk seems to stem from buying from a less-than-reputable supplier. As with any medical decision, extensive research as a pet owner is critically important when selecting a supplier! Regardless of where you get it, the label should indicate the strength of formulation and recommended dosage. The products should also come with a certificate of analysis. According to Dr. Downing, a veterinary pain specialist researching CBD, “this is a way for a producer to affirm and assure the public that what they produce is consistent, not contaminated, and has a specific concentration of active ingredients. Reliable companies are interested in acquiring and repeating independent analyses.”

Does it work?

Many pet owners have reported positive results when giving their pets CBD products. In theory, CBD can provide the following benefits:

  • Pain relief: CBD has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help relieve pain associated with joint disorders, arthritis, and even tumors. Joe Wakshlag, DVM, a veterinarian at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, completed a CBD study that showed a reduction of pain in dogs with osteoarthritis.
  • Anti-Tumor/Cancer properties: Cancer is scary and many treatments for cancer in both humans and pets can be harsh, with plenty of unfortunate side effects. CBD can help alleviate those side effects and can potentially help shrink tumors if taken internally.
  • Anti-Nausea properties: Your pet may be prone to car sickness or has eaten something that makes her ill. Several studies have shown that CBD can reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • Epilepsy/Seizure relief: Much like in humans, CBD can help to calm the neurotransmitters that tend to over-fire in epileptic pets. CBD can reduce the number and severity of seizures, often without the side effects of traditional drugs
  • Stress/Anxiety relief: Anti-anxiety meds are expensive, sometimes addicting, and can have negative side effects. CBD interacts with serotonin receptors in the brains of animals with anxiety giving them some relief from stress and/or anxiety.
  • General health and balance: If your pet seems a little “off” but you and your vet cannot put a finger on it, CBD might be beneficial. Because CBD triggers the endocannabinoid system to promote overall health and balance, it might helpful in getting your pet back to normal and helping to keep her that way. Natural Living Ideas states that CBD can restore appetite, protect the nervous system, and even help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Where can I find it?

Finding a supplier of a CBD product that is trustworthy, derived from hemp-only and containing only CBD is absolutely essential. We recommend purchasing your pet’s (and your) CBD from Healthy Solutions, right here in Minnesota.

Healthy Solutions is a women-owned local business with extensive knowledge and ties to national leaders in the industry. Teresa and Tessi, the owners, only distribute locally sourced organic products that are top of the line. We’ve personally known these two women for over a decade and are confident in their knowledge of CBD products and their passion for improving the lives of people and their pets.

Healthy Solutions offers a full menu of products for pets and humans. For information on what products would be best for you and your pet, contact Tessi or Teresa.

Healthy Solutions has partnered with us to offer our clients a 10% discount on their first purchase. To purchase their products click here. Be sure to enter the discount code word “pets” to get your Whiskers to Tails discount.

 

When using CBD, it’s recommended that dog owners start with the smallest possible dose, watching for signs of improvement before moving to a higher dose. As with any substance, careful observation and starting slowly is absolutely essential.

The spookiest time of the year is coming up soon! (And I don’t mean the election…) Our pets have done a lot to keep us sane and entertained this year, so make sure you let them celebrate Halloween in style. We’ve collected some of the most pawsome ideas for costumes for your pet. Check out our list below!

Clothing Optional: Always be sure your pet enjoys their costume and that it fits well. Costumes can be uncomfortable, difficult to move in, or downright scary for some pets so be certain that your pet gets as much enjoyment out of their costume as you do!

1. HotDog

We are suckers for the classics. This hot dog costume looks good enough to eat! For some extra fun, try dressing yourself up as ketchup or mustard, or put a creepy spin on it as the hot dog vendor!

2. Yodog

“Judge me by my size, do you?” Did you binge watch the Mandalorian? Does your pet love Star Wars as much as you? Then this Yoda costume will be right up your alley.

3. A Fearless Duo

If you have multiple pets in your household, consider dressing them up as a famous duo, like these Woody and Buzz costumes. To infinity, and beyond!

4. UPS Dog

We all know and love @upsdogs (and if you don’t, you should check them out for adorable pups and heartwarming stories). This Halloween let your pup dress up as their favorite Man or Woman in Brown. They could even carry some Milkbones to hand out to friends!

5. Batcat

“Holy Halloween, Batcat!” Just turn on the Bat Signal and the cutest batcat will arrive to save the day!

6. Ghostbuster Dog

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! In this costume your pup will be ready to take on Gozer or the Staypuff Marshmallow Man in style!

7. Ursula and Ariel

Are you a Disney fan? Do you want to get into the Halloween spirit too? Then this combo Ursula and Ariel costume is perfect for you and your pet! Or try any princess & villain or princess & sidekick combo for some Disney fun this Halloween.

8. Hear me roar!

Let your pet’s wild side out with this lion mane for your dog or cat. They truly are the king of the beasts!

9. Where’s Waldo?

You might have a hard time finding your pet in this costume, but never fear! Waldo will turn up eventually on all of his adventures.

10. Captain America

Is your dog a su-paw hero? Can she leap tall buildings in a single bound? Does he fight for truth and justice? Then check out this (and many other) super costume to unleash the hero within.

11. Prisoner K9INM8

Maybe that supaw hero caught your pet in the act! He may not be the Joker or Jean Valjean, but if your pet is a mischievous munchkin then consider this costume and let your pup’s personality make a jailbreak.

12. Penny Wise

If you and your pet are into terrifying thrillers, then this Penny Wise costume is perfect for your pooch. But make sure IT doesn’t scare the neighbors!

13.

And if you are over Halloween and can’t wait for Christmas, this walkable tree costume is definitely for you!

This list is by no means complete. Use your imagination or check out Chewy.com for plenty of great ideas.

And don’t forget to keep your pets safe this Halloween! Keep candy, wrappers, and decorations away from your pets so that they do not ingest them. Be sure that their costumes do not limit movement, hearing, and sight or impede their ability to breathe, bark, eat/drink, or go potty. Watch the front door to prevent potential escape by stressed or overwhelmed pets. Check their ID tag and/or microchip so that you can recover your pet if they do escape. Consider putting your pet in a quiet space away from the front door with their bed and some favorite toys to help them stay happy and calm this Halloween.

 

Boston Terrier in pink harness and leash, in front of owner's legsIt’s National Walk Your Dog Week! I know, I know, your dog is probably thinking “oh dear, not more walks!” What else have we had to amuse ourselves and stay active during these long months of Covid-19 besides 6 walks a day with our four legged friend? (I’m definitely not speaking from experience here…) An active dog is a healthier and more well-behaved dog, as we are all realizing after months of daily walks to get out of the house. But did you know there are different kinds of dog walks? Have you tried any of these listed below? If not, try some of them out on your next stroll around the block. Bonus – they are all socially distanced for your safety!

Why walk your dog?

There are 4 main reasons to walk your dog: exercise, elimination, stimulation, and training. Every one of your walks does not need to include all 4 reasons. It may actually be better for you and your pup to distinguish between longer exercise walks and shorter elimination walks at different times in your routine. Ideally, almost all of your walks would incorporate some training depending on what you and your pup need, but that does not have to be the sole focus (and shouldn’t be!) of all walks. Stimulation walks give your pup a time to interact with his/her world at large and learn about how he/she fits into the environment.

Before you start walking, make sure you have the proper equipment and get you and your dog some training if you need assistance with leash walking manners. Many dogs who pull do best in a harness, particularly a front clip or head harness. Trainers like Kate Perry caution against using a retractable leash. Retractable leashes can be dangerous for both your pet and surrounding pedestrians and can actually encourage your dog to pull.

Types of fun walks

  • Sniff Walks:

Dogs experience their world through their noses.  A dogs’s sense of smell is approximately 10,000 times better than that of humans! It’s therefore important for dogs to have time to stop and smell the roses or check their “pee-mail” while out on walks. Allowing your pup to sniff is an important way to improve your dog’s mental stimulation during walks. Instead of pulling your dog away from a fascinating smell, consider giving your pup some time to really get into the good sniffs. Reward any good behavior with a chance to sniff around for a few minutes. It’s a great way to bond with your dog while allowing him to wear his brain out. Let’s face it, what else do you have to do?

  • “Bark”-cour Walks:

Instead of walking along peacefully on the sidewalk, why not find your pup an obstacle course and test her “bark”-cour skills? Benches, steps, logs, rocks, curbs, or empty bike racks can be great opportunities for your pup to improve her balance and agility while providing mental stimulation and developing her confidence. Find a vacant playground or dog park with agility structures for a more intense version.

  • Training Walks:

This is a tried and true walk. While it may not be as intricate as the bark-cour or follow the leader walks, or as relaxed as a sniff walk, training walks are important to keep your dog’s skills and manners intact. You can chose to work on one aspect, like loose leash walking or dealing with distractions or other dogs, or work on several areas that you and your pup could improve upon. Training is a constant throughout your pet’s life to keep them safe and happy, so every now and then dust off your clicker and work your dog’s brain! Remember to bring high value treats and make training as fun and interesting for both of you as you can!

  • Follow the Leader:

Walking the same route can get boring for both you and your pup. Consider switching up your routes to give your dog new smells and sights. Or better yet, try following your dog for a walk or two! Sure you may spend 20 minutes sniffing the Magic Baguette Bush of ’18 and then zig zagging between all of the garbage cans, but your pup will love the freedom to explore and you can feel great knowing that you are giving them all the stimulation they could want.

  • Walk for a Cause:

Since March you’ve taken approximately 7,349 walks with your dog, right? Well, why not make all of those steps do some good? Apps like WoofTrax and ResQwalk are free and let you raise money for donations and resources for your favorite “people,” the four legged kind!

  • Walk in the Park:

We’ve been taking the same walks every day for the past few months. We see the same sights and our dogs have the same smells. If you have extra time every now and then, consider taking your pet to a state or regional park to explore new vistas in a safely socially distanced way. Bring along some special treats for training or toss them into the grass for your pup to “hunt” for even more stimulation (and a break for you if you’re tired!). There are many great parks in Minnesota to check out: here are a few from CBS and Sidewalk Dog.

Whether you’re taking a stroll around the block or hiking through the woods, make sure to do so safely. Be sure your dog always has proper identification just in case (collar tag and microchip), keep an eye on the temperature of the pavement under your pet’s feet, and bring plenty of water to keep you and your pup hydrated. If you regularly walk at night have both you and your pup don some reflective gear to be sure motorists can see you.

If you would love for your dog to enjoy more walks but you are unable to find the time to take them, that’s where we can help! Check out our dog walking services to see how we can improve your pet’s health and happiness, and your life!

It’s Happy Cat Month! Even though Happy Cat Month is winding down we can still chat about one of my favorite topics: how to keep your pet happy and therefore healthy. We often joke about our cats’ self sufficiency, but do they have what they need to live a happy and full life? Do you know the five pillars of feline enrichment?

Why does feline enrichment matter?

Cats maintain a behavioral instinct for survival that is not present with most other domesticated animals. Many behaviorists believe that is because cats still are not fully domesticated. Those of us who wake up at 2am because darling kitty is pouncing and chewing on our toes can attest to that! Cats are highly adaptable as a result of evolving as both a predator and prey animal. While this is wonderful for apartment living, we have to remember that because of that adaptability and semi-“wildness” our cats need plenty of stimulation to stay healthy.

gray tabby cat staring at camera while hiding in a boxBoredom for your cat can lead to destructive and disruptive behaviors, as well as stress. Cats who are bored will sometimes scratch inappropriately (your brand new sofa) or exhibit aggression or excessive vocalization. According to veterinarian Dr. Liz Bales, cats who are provided with an appropriate environment and plenty of enrichment are less prone to stress induced illness such as obesity, feline lower urinary tract disease, respiratory infections, aggression or other behavioral issues, and over-grooming or other compulsive conditions.

An “appropriate environment” consists of ways for your cat to express all of his or her catty behaviors and I don’t mean a major cattitude! Cat’s natural behaviors include scratching, chewing, stalking, climbing, eating, and elimination. In a study by veterinarians at Ohio State University, Meghan Herron and C.A. Tony Buffington developed a set of five systems to take into account in environmental enrichment: physical resource (space), nutrition, elimination, social, and behavior. These are similar to the five pillars of enrichment developed by expert cat behavior consultant Marci Koski, PhD.

5 Pillars of Feline Enrichment:

1. Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources.

These key resources include food, water, elimination areas, scratching areas, play areas, and rest/sleeping areas.

Most cats prefer to eat in a quiet, out of the way area that will not be disturbed. If you have multiple cats/pets be sure to place their food where they cannot see each other, which could result in increased tension between the “competing” pets. Finding a place that is above eye level, if your cat can safely reach it, can feel much safer to your finicky friend. Often cats, with their fastidious nature, prefer running water to still water that has been sitting in a bowl (regardless of how frequently you replace that water bowl). In this case, try buying a water fountain for your cat to enjoy fresh running water and encourage hydration.

Be sure that you have enough litter boxes in your home and that they are in a safe, quiet area. The rule of thumb is have a litter box for every cat plus one. This does not mean if you have 2 cats, you should line 3 litter boxes up next to each other. Your cats should have multiple locations for safe litter box use. This way all boxes cannot be blocked by another pet in the case of resource guarding or an argument. You should attempt to set up all of the boxes in locations that have options for entrance and exit so that they could not be blocked at all.

Scratching is an important part of a cat’s routine. It provides an opportunity for stretching and allows the removal of nail sheaths to maintain nail health. Scratching can also allow your cat to leave visual marks and scents for other animals to show rank, gender, or other pertinent details. Many cats like to scratch and stretch after a nap, so placing scratching posts and pads near favored napping spots for each cat can be beneficial.

Often you’ll find that your cats have differing play styles. Giving your cat a designated space for their preferred play/toys can prevent disruption, disagreements, and unwanted behaviors when it isn’t playtime.

2. Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior.

Your cat has crinkly balls, strings, fuzzy mice, and wads of paper scattered around the house, but never plays with them. While providing multiple types of toys is wonderful, cats are rarely interested in things that don’t move (like with their water). Sure, they could bat at a fuzzy mouse with their paw, but how can that compare to a bunch of feathers whizzing through the air and under the sofa like a bird trying to escape! Movement and novelty are important for cats’ play because they so closely resemble hunting. Cats in the wild would need to hunt birds, mice, snakes, or bugs who all move, smell, and look differently. Providing interactive play for your cat is essential to keep him or her active and engaged. The paper bag you brought your groceries home in or the box that your groceries were delivered in could provide your cat with hours (or minutes) of new entertainment.

Think about the 4 C’s of play for cats: challenge, choice, change, and control. Cats should be physically and mentally stimulated with play. Find games that encourage problem solving like puzzle toys or trick/behavior training. Believe me, it’s possible! Just ask Charlie, a super smart tortie cat I visited for years. She learned how to high five and spent much of the visits smacking me (not always my hand!) to get treats and loving every minute of it. Provide your cats with a choice of toys/games to increase their confidence and engagement. Switch up toys often to prevent boredom. Behaviorists recommend that you change out your cat’s toys every 3-7 days. Providing multiple options or opportunities for toys, new scents or objects to explore, or training lets cats have some control over how they interact with their environment as well as the whether or not to do so. Cats require both that control and choice to fee secure and confident in you and in their home.

Because most of our cats either free feed throughout the day or are given a pre-portioned amount of food at a set time each day, they have lost the need to hunt for their food. Finding unique ways to feed your cat can spice up his or her meal time and provide cognitive and sensory stimulation. If your cat eats wet food try putting their soft food into an ice cube tray or muffin tin or smearing it inside of a mug (just make sure your cat can comfortably fit his/her head in the mug, some cats do not like such tight spaces so this is not for everyone). For cats who eat kibble, treat dispensers like these and food puzzle toys are an excellent way to dispense your cat’s kibble in a more interactive and stimulating way. There are even treat toys that are shaped like mice that you can hide from your cat to emulate stalking and chasing prey! If you don’t mind some extra cleaning, many of the available puzzle toys can be utilized for wet food as well as kibble. Be sure to start with an easier puzzle toy for your cat to ensure success and subsequent motivation.

3. Provide a safe place.

Orange cat napping on green blanketCats are particularly sensitive to disruptive environments: your dogs barking, your children playing, or your disco dancing while singing to “Mama Mia” at the top of your lungs (definitely not speaking from experience). You do not need to halt all of those activities, indeed it would be quite difficult to do so. But creating a micro-environment or “safe haven” for your cat(s) in separate places is essential for their well-being. Put together a comfortable, contained, preferably elevated location for your cat to retreat when the world becomes too much to handle. If you have a multi cat household then be sure to have more safe spaces than cats to not cause resource guarding or arguments. Consider utilizing vertical space. Cats often feel most secure at heights so providing cat trees, window perches, or shelves can allow your cat to rest, hide, and perch to survey their domain in comfort.

4. Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human-cat social interaction.

Cats are sociable creatures; even feral cats live in colonies. However, they do develop social relationships at a unique rate. They are sometimes slow to trust and providing consistent interaction on their terms can make it easier for your cat to come to enjoy your attentions. Abrupt, loud, and sporadic/spastic movements are particularly offensive to cats and will cause them to retreat to a safe location if possible, or lash out if retreat is not an option. Ensuring that your interactions and reactions are always calm and smooth will go a long way toward helping your cat understand you and how to interact. Always give your cat the option to end interactions and never force attention on your cat.

5. Provide an environment that respects the importance of a cat’s sense of smell.

Cats have over 200 million scent receptors (humans only have 5 million), which means they have an incredibly keen sense of smell. A cat’s sense of smell is the primary way in which he or she interacts with the world. Their vomeronasal gland allows cats to detect pheromones that are released both by other animals and humans. Because cats can smell so much better than us we may forget that the body lotion or glade diffuser or even the scented litter that we think makes the house smell fresh can be overwhelming to your cat. Essential oils can be especially harmful to your cat so be sure to diffuse them in areas that are well ventilated and away from your kitty.

cat hanging on his belly from broken window blinds saying "human I request your assistance

So there you have it: the importance of feline enrichment and the core ideas behind creating a safe, happy, and healthy life for your cat.

Are you a catvocate for your cat’s mental and physical health? If you weren’t before, are you now?

smiling golden retriever puppy sitting on a deckSeptember is National Pet Insurance Month. Many of us have homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, car insurance, and health insurance. But what about our pets? Could adding pet insurance for your furry friends be a worthwhile expense?

Pets are a popular part of the American family, with 67% of households owning at least one. The number of families who own pets, despite the potential economic hardship, is on the rise. In 1988, only 56% of households included a pet. Dogs, cats, aquarium fish, birds, reptiles, and other animals are now seen as valuable and integral family members who serve as companions, helpers, entertainers, and even protectors of the home.

With approximately 85 million households in the United States owning a pet, caring for these nonhuman family members has become a $99 billion a year industry, more than doubling since 2010. This statistic not only attests to their popularity, but also to the level of financial sacrifice many pet owners make to keep their pets healthy and happy.

The cost of veterinary care alone is expected to reach $30.2 billion this year. As veterinary care continues to incorporate many of the advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques that are commonplace in human healthcare, the cost of veterinary care will likely continue to rise. And with many pet owners facing economic strains due to the pandemic, a sudden pet health emergency, even if not grave, could have them facing the possibility of “economic euthanasia,” having to put their pets down because they lack the funds to cover sudden veterinary expenses.

What is pet insurance?

An increasingly popular option to prevent this type of situation is a pet insurance policy. Unlike human health insurance, which usually pays out directly to the medical provider, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You must first pay the veterinarian for the procedure needed and then request reimbursement from the pet insurance company. The reinstatement amount is rarely 100% of the cost, although some of the more complete plans cover up to 90 percent of vet costs. The reimbursement process is usually simple, requiring only the vet’s invoice (and sometimes some treatment records) along with a completed claim form.

Like other types of insurance, pet insurance is essentially a package of many different types of coverage. Some packages cover only the bare essentials, while others are more comprehensive and include preventive care and rehabilitation. Dental coverage for pets is rare, but a few carriers are now offering it as an option in their pricier policies. However, nearly all pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions and specific conditions such as hip dysplasia. They also can include payout caps on particular procedures, on the yearly payout, or even on the total the policy will pay. Most pet insurers will reimburse you for care rendered by any licensed American vet, but some limit policyholders to certain veterinary clinics and networks.

All pet insurance plans have a deductible of one type or another. Most insurers give their customers a choice of deductibles; policies with lower deductibles cost more. Being able to adjust the deductible allows customers to pick a policy with a monthly payment that fits their budget.

Why consider it?

The cost of veterinary care is increasing due to improvements in technology and higher costs in training, equipment, and facilities. We all hope that our pets will never have an emergency, but the current estimate is that 1 out of every 3 pets will need emergency care every year. If your pet is that 1 pet who requires care, pet insurance can help defray those costs. This could be the difference between getting your pet help and being forced into a decision about “economic euthanasia.” If you have pet insurance and are not worried about a large expense, it may allow you to consider more treatment or diagnostic options. Pet insurance can also help cover the cost of boarding or pet sitting if you are hospitalized, a definite bonus during this pandemic. For more information and some examples of whether pet insurance could be worth it for your fury family member, check out this information from Washington Consumer’s Checkbook.

How to compare policies

There are a wide array of pet insurance policies available to pet parents these days. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are comparing companies to find the best fit for you and your pet:

  • Does the policy provide comprehensive coverage or accident-only coverage? Some companies will allow policy holders to add on wellness and routine care (things like spay/neuter, dental cleanings, vaccines, and flea/tick treatments) and a very few provide that coverage normally. Remember that most policies do not cover hereditary diseases or pre-existing conditions and often have a maximum age limit.
  • What is the total cost? You should compare the monthly price, options for premiums and deductibles, and potential limits on payments/payouts. The average monthly price of pet insurance is $47 for dogs and $29.50 for cats. Keep in mind that you always have to pay the veterinarian out of pocket and then you can be reimbursed.
  • What is in the fine print?
    • Does your policy require you to go to a specific in-network veterinarian or can you visit anyone?
    • Check for any exclusions involving species, breeds, or conditions that are not covered.
    • What is the waiting period for claims reimbursements and what is the reimbursement rate? Many companies will provide up to 90% reimbursement for claims.
    • Is there a payout cap and if so what is it? Is it an annual cap, a per-incident cap, or a lifetime cap?
    • Is the deductible a per-incident or annual rate? Per-year deductibles provide a better value for most pet owners.

Where can you get it?

There are many companies out there that provide pet insurance. You may even be able to combine it with your home or auto insurance from places like Progressive or Nationwide. If you are more interested in companies that specialize in pet insurance, this list can help you get started:

  • Healthy Paws – Ranked #1 for customer satisfaction, no maximum payouts, and fast claims processing, does not raise rates as pets age
  • Embrace – Includes dental care and allows for shrinking deductibles
  • PetPlan – Can begin plan as early as 6 weeks of age, covers up to 90% of some claims
  • Trupanion – Offers one policy regardless of species, covers some hereditary diseases, and has no set limits, does not raise rates as pets age
  • ASPCA – Provides a discount for multiple pets and does not require in-network vet visits
  • PetFirst – Includes preventative care as well as accidents and emergencies
  • Pets Best – Good for elderly pets because does not have an age limit
  • FIGO – A newer company with easy online access and up to 100% coverage
  • Prudent Pet – Covers preventative and wellness care with low deductibles
  • Trusted Pals – Adjustable co-pays and deductibles without requiring in-network visits

Are there other options?

As an alternative to pet insurance, some veterinary clinics, like VCA and Banfield, are providing “care plans” to help owners defray some of the unexpected costs of veterinary care. Many of these care plans provide differing levels based on the age and type of animal, but most include annual exams, vaccinations, lab work or diagnostic testing, and non-emergency office visits.

While more and more pet owners today are looking into pet insurance, it comes down to your personal opinion. Can you afford pet insurance now? Will it likely save you money in the future? And will it provide you the peace of mind knowing that you have help if something drastic or expensive happens to your pet?

Contributing Author:
José A. Sánchez Fournier is a writer with ConsumersAdvocate.org. Previously, he spent 15 years as a journalist with El Nuevo Día, the largest daily newspaper in Puerto Rico.

black and white Border Collie sitting next to brown tabby cat, both looking happily at cameraThe month of August is also known as “Rawgust” for both people and pets. Have you wondered if all the hype about raw food for your four legged friend is real? Have you considered switching from commercial kibble to raw food for your pet? The practice of raw feeding is still highly debated in veterinary, behavioral, and nutritional circles. There are many anecdotes about how well a pet has done with a raw diet and there are just as many veterinarians who do not recommend it.

There’s no “perfect” pet food out there. We all have to decide for ourselves with the help of the experts (of which I am not one!) what is best for our four legged family members. But if you have been curious about the new raw feeding trend, then read on my friend!

What is raw food?

The concept of a raw food diet is based on the carnivorous nature of dogs and cats. We know that dogs are pretty good scavengers (especially when you have steak thawing on the counter) and cats are obligate carnivores, meaning meat is biologically essential to their survival. Therefore, many people have seen a reason to start feeding their pets closer to what their ancestors would have eaten in the wild, raw meats and plants. A raw food diet consists mainly of animal protein, including muscle meat, bones (either whole or ground), organs (such as liver or kidney), and raw egg or eggshell. In addition, raw diets should also include fruits and vegetables, some dairy (like yogurt), and supplements to balance the meal.

According to a US News article, a study on pet diets performed in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom is showing a new trend. “New research found that only 13% of dog owners and about one-third of cat owners exclusively fed their pets conventional pet foods as their main meals all of the time. Nearly two-thirds of dogs and about half of cats were given homemade meals at least some of the time. And more than two-thirds of pooches and more than half of kitties sometimes got raw meals.”Fewer dogs and cats are being fed conventional, heat-processed foods,” said study author Dr. Sarah Dodd, a veterinarian and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College in Canada. “There’s nothing wrong with feeding different food sources, providing that you can obtain assurance that the diet meets nutritional requirements,” states Dodd.”

What are the pros and cons?

Pros:

  • According to Pets-WebMD proponents of raw diets have seen benefits such as:
    • Shinier coats
    • Healthier skin
    • Cleaner and healthier teeth
    • Higher energy levels
    • Smaller stools
  • Raw food diets do not contain additives, sugars, or dyes that could lead to potential digestive issues or health problems.
  • If you feed a homemade raw diet you know exactly what is going into your pet’s diet. You can also adjust the amount of grain in your pet’s food. Many of us have heard about the Dilated Cardiomyopathy scare in dogs in relation to grain-free food. While I am not going to touch on that here, providing your pet with either a grain free or a whole grain inclusive diet can be easy with raw feeding. Whole grains are typically better for dogs nutritionally than highly processed grains such as corn meal, that have often lost many of their nutraceutical benefits.
  • Raw feeding can potentially reduce the risk of bloat, a very serious and often fatal condition most common in deep-chested, large dogs. One study showed that dogs were less prone to bloat when eating wet food and more prone to bloat when eating dry food.
  • Some pets who eat dry food tend to be dehydrated. Raw food has enough moisture to keep your pets hydrated and to reduce the strain on their liver and kidneys that dehydration can cause.

Cons:

  • Many veterinarians and conventional pet food experts cite the danger of raw food pathogens in both commercial and homemade raw food diets. This is a legitimate concern and there is always a risk of pathogenic contamination that is rarely present in processed canned or kibble foods. Although, all of us who feed our pets kibble know about pet food recalls as a result of contamination, so there is no completely “safe” pet food. (For more information about potential contaminants in pet foods, check out this blog post from the Holistic Pet Radio.)
  • Veterinarians are also concerned about the unbalanced nature of raw food. The raw food industry is fairly unregulated at this point, much like the pet food industry as a whole was when it was developing. There are no rules, requirements, or restrictions for any commercial raw food supplier. Veterinarians worry about that lack of regulation in providing complete and balanced nutrition for our pets. Feeding your dog a whole chicken or cutting up a steak for them is also definitely not a nutritionally complete meal. There are a lot of parts to a nutritionally balanced diet for cats and dogs and vets may justifiably worry, particularly with homemade foods, that the diet is not being prepared or balanced properly.
  • Raw feeding is unsuitable for some pets. Dogs with liver disease or kidney failure should not eat raw food due to the high protein content. Dogs with cancer or who are taking immunosuppressant drugs are more susceptible to bacteria and infection. Many experts caution against puppies under a year, especially large breed puppies, eating raw food. It is difficult and extremely important to balance the calcium and phosphorus in a raw diet. If they are not balanced properly the puppy could grow up with bone loss or bone deformities.
  • The final concern with a raw food diet is the potential for an animal to crack a tooth or receive an internal puncture from a bone in a raw meal. Bones can potentially lodge in airways or cause bowel perforations as well. This is a legitimate concern for pets frequently eating whole bones, however, raw bones are much softer than cooked or dehydrated bones and do not often splinter when eaten. Many raw feeders will grind the bones and add them to the pet’s food to get the benefits of bone meal without the dangers of a broken bone.
  • Not to mention that feeding your pet raw food is both time consuming and expensive!

How is commercial different from homemade?

According to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, the biggest mistake that pet parents make when feeding raw to their pets is not understanding nutritional requirements for canines and felines. Many homemade diets and even some commercial raw diets can be nutritionally unbalanced, resulting in deficiencies in minerals or vitamins and ultimately causing problems for your pet. However, most commercial pet food diets are made to AAFCO standards and include all necessary nutrients for your pets. Pet parents making their pet’s diets at home must learn how to vary protein types, include fiber or roughage as well as fruits and vegetables, and add necessary vitamins, minerals, and supplements to keep their pets eating a balanced diet.

Another difference between commercial and homemade raw food diets is the protein processing. When you purchase meat from the store for your pet you can run the normal risk of having non-sterile meats in your home, just like when you do when you purchase chicken or hamburger for your dinner. There is always the chance of contamination or inclusion of pathogens in human-grade meat. However, many commercial raw diets are created using High-Pressure Pasteurization (HPP) to sterilize the food to reduce any possible pathogens. I’m not saying that process is perfect but it does carry a somewhat lower risk, than accidentally coating your kitchen counter in chicken necks.

Where can you get it?

Many commercial raw foods (either freeze dried or frozen) are available now at your local pet stores. Brands like Stella and Chewy’s, Nature’s Variety Instinct, and Primal are frequently sold in local or small chain pet supply stores like Chuck and Don’s, Bentley’s and Pet Valu. Your Dog Advisor has created a pros and cons list of some of the most popular commercial raw foods here.

Another option for purchasing raw food is a delivery service. Some raw food brands provide a delivery service right to your door. Companies like Darwin’s, Nature’s Logic, and Raw Bistro will deliver frozen raw meals nationwide. For a more comprehensive list of raw food providers look at Primal Pooch’s guide.

The third and final option for purchasing a raw diet instead of making it yourself is a local store. Those of us who live in the Twin Cities are lucky enough to have Woody’s Pet Food Deli, which provides nutritionally balanced and customized raw diets with a variety of proteins. Many of these stores are opening in urban areas and some in smaller rural areas as well. Check with your local pet food store to see if there are any near you.

What are veterinarians saying?

This is one of the most debated subjects in the pet world. (Although don’t even get a veterinarian started on immunizations!) Many conventional veterinarians are opposed to raw food diets. Lisa M Freeman, DVM, PhD, evaluated several raw diets and cautions owners against them due to a lack of science-based research. She states that several of the benefits raw feeders claim, such as shinier coat, are a result of a high-fat diet, which most raw diets are. A commercial high-fat diet would have the same results without the danger of being unbalanced. Freeman recommends a cooked homemade diet with proper supplements created by a veterinary nutritionist for those pet parents who do not want to feed their pets commercial foods.

On the other hand, veterinary clinics like Holistic Veterinary Healing in Maryland utilize pet food therapy on a daily basis and support the feeding of BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) to minimize digestive issues, behavioral issues, allergies, and skin/coat problems. Lisa Pierson, DVM, a well respected holistic veterinarian who focuses on feline care fully supports raw feeding for cats and has even developed specific recipes for pets with Irritable Bowel Disease, Chronic Kidney Disease, or Urinary Tract Infections.

Ultimately, there is no real consensus between the experts in the pet food industry on what is the best type of food to feed your pets. But most agree that varying your proteins and brands to provide a wider and more interesting range of food and doing your research before switching to a new trendy diet is important. Raw feeding is not for every pet and every owner. The vast majority of commercial pet foods, both kibble and canned, are made to be nutritionally balanced and abide by AAFCO standards. There’s nothing wrong with feeding your dog these diets, and in some cases, your vet may recommend a specific kibble diet. You can also supplement their diet with snacks like raw bones and fruits and veggies that pets can eat. They’re healthy and are also a great way to reward your furry family members for being awesome!

 

Disclaimer:

The contents of this post, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this site (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website! If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is entirely at your own risk. If you have medical concerns or need advice, please seek out your closest veterinarian.