Monday, December 9, 2013

How to buy a gift for your dog or cat

Frank's Christmas Cheer
When you are running around doing your holiday shopping don’t forget about picking up a treat for your dog or cat.  There are so many products out there to choose from it can be completely overwhelming so let this serve as your furry friend’s holiday gift guide.

First off, reconsider that fancy, super yummy looking, giant bone or food type treat that he has never had before and wolfs down in no time at all.  This is a sure fire way to cause an upset stomach and result in a trip to the emergency room with your dog having crazy diarrhea.  I have had so many clients with the very best of intentions unintentionally make their pets sick by trying to spoil them with special treats.

If you can’t resist that amazing 3-foot long, peanut butter stuffed, bacon wrapped rawhide bone then try to limit chewing time to minimize how much he ingests at once.  Regardless of the time of year, you should know what type of chewer your dog is.  Does he nibble daintily at things or does he rip off huge pieces and swallow them as quickly as possible?  If it the latter then he should NEVER be given a rawhide and watched very closely with any other type of toy to prevent gastrointestinal obstruction.

Now on to the fun stuff!  Rather than just a food treat I like the types of toys that make your dog or cat use their brains and work for those treats.  The issue I have found with a lot of treat dispensing toys is that it can be too hard and the pets get frustrated and don’t play with it or its too easy and they are bored again in minutes. Here is a list of my favorite dog and cat toys:

Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball – I like this because it has little nubs at each opening that you can trim if you find that your dog is having a too hard of a time getting the treats out.  They can push it around with their nose or learn to bounce it so the treat fly out.

Busy Buddy Waggle – This is similar to the Chew Ball and again I like that you can trim the flaps so your dog doesn’t get frustrated when playing.

JW Rockin Treat Ball – This is great to feed kibble out of so that each meal is interesting for your dog.

Funkitty Egg-cercizer – This is by far the best treat ball I have found for cats.  All of the other ones I tried were completely ignored and rejected by my kitties.

Kitty tree and scratching post – All homes with cats should have one of these.  It gives your cat vertical surfaces to explore and an appropriate place to exercise their natural desire to scratch.  The one pictured is exceptionally elaborate and I’m sure very expensive but you can find all different types at varying price points.

I hope this helps you navigate the many choices when it comes to picking the right toy for your cat or dog!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Toxic Jerky Treats

The FDA released a report this week on the extensive investigation and testing they have done to try and determine why jerky treats are making pets sick.  As of September 24th 2013 the agency has received reports of 3,600 dogs and 10 cats becoming ill after eating jerky treats with 580 reported deaths.  This issue has been under investigation for the past six years and despite the FDA’s efforts little headway has been made.

What they do know is that the treats are a jerky style duck, chicken or sweet potato.  They are made by many different brands but almost all of them are made in China.  In January 2013 the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing found that many of the jerky treats contained antibiotic residue that was not allowed in food products.  This led to a recall of several brands and a sharp decrease in the number of reported illnesses.  While the FDA is still investigating, they do not believe that the antibiotic residue is the true cause of the toxicity related to jerky treats.

The FDA is now asking for all veterinarians to help spread the word and keep our eyes open for signs of jerky treat related illness.  They have provided detailed instructions for an online reporting system so that veterinarians know how to report a case and what samples to collect from affected patients.  This will be a combined effort between pet owners, veterinarians and the FDA to get to the bottom of what is in those jerky treats.

What you can do as a pet owner is to be aware.  Early signs of illness to watch for are decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and increased urination.  If you see these signs and have been giving your pet jerky treats stop the treats immediately and contact your veterinarian.  It is critical to tell the doctor that you had been giving the treats, as this will help guide us towards diagnostics and treatment.  If possible save the bag and any left over treats in case the FDA would like them for further testing.

I recommend avoiding all jerky type treats in general.  Your dog may love them but I guarantee there is another treat that he likes just as much that hasn’t resulted in widespread illness.  Also I personally avoid giving my pets something I know was made in China.  This is easy to avoid if it states “Made in China” on the label but companies are not required to list where each of their ingredients are sourced from and it can get confusing.  However, if the product carries a “Made in the U.S.A.” label then it must be made from all ingredients that originated in the United States.

For now, be informed, be alert and avoid giving jerky treats to your pets.  For more information on the FDA’s investigation please visit their jerky treat website by clicking here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

How to have your dog be a part of your wedding

My husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary this past weekend.  As we were looking back through our beautiful pictures I thought it would be fun to share with other pet lovers how we incorporated our dogs into the big day.

Now having four dogs like we do it was a bit of a challenge to work them into the plan without things getting ridiculous.  We had a small bridal party consisting of my matron of honor Hilary and his best man Ryan, who happen to be married to each other.  I thought it would be delightful to have all four dogs walk down the aisle in place of a traditional wedding party.  Unfortunately, this brilliant idea was quickly nixed by both my husband and the Church as a bit too much.

So I consented to have one dog, our Labradoodle Frank, meet us after the ceremony for pictures.  Frank was bestowed this honor as Hugh and I got Frank together when he was a puppy in fall of 2010.  It really would have been a bit dicey with all four dogs jumping around my pristine white dress.  It was well worth the effort, the pictures with Frank are by far my favorite from the wedding.

In order to include all of the dogs I did find little ways to incorporate them into the wedding festivities.  I found someone on Etsy to make custom toppers for our cake, this was another one of my favorite parts of the wedding.  I also had a map drawn up for the guest bags and asked that the artist include the dogs in the illustration.

If you do have your dog around for the wedding festivities make sure there is someone who is responsible for him, things can get hectic and you don’t want to be worried about his whereabouts.  Also keep in mind, not all dogs love a party.  If your dog is timid or fearful perhaps it is best to have him stay safely at home.  Even if your pets can’t be physically present for the actual day there are plenty of ways to include them, after all they are a part of the family!

Thank you to our wonderful photographer Ashley O'Dell -

Monday, September 23, 2013

Leah's story

On Friday morning a one year old, eleven-pound Yorkie mix named Leah was rushed to Friendship in shock and near death.  She had been attacked by three large dogs while her owners were walking her in their neighborhood in Northeast DC.  The dogs had broken out of their fenced yard and were savagely attacking Leah as her owners and the dogs’ owner stood by unable to break up the fight.  A passing police officer stopped to help and unfortunately was forced to shoot one of the dogs in order to stop the attack.

Leah presented to us with severe wounds to her chest, abdomen and left rear leg.  Her owners expressed significant financial concerns when they learned how serious her condition was.  We initially thought that the bite wounds penetrated her abdomen and she would need an emergency exploratory surgery.  One of our amazing and generous clients happened to be in the lobby when the owners arrived and offered to donate money to help with Leah’s care.  Friendship stepped in and matched the donation with money from our Brudder-Sullivan fund.

She was started on intravenous fluids to address the shock, pain medication to make her more comfortable and antibiotics to prevent infection.  Luckily after multiple x-rays we determined the wounds did not enter her abdomen and emergency surgery was not needed.  She would need an extensive wound explore of her left leg and belly once she was stable for anesthesia.

Leah responded well to initial treatment and we put her under general anesthesia Friday afternoon to assess the extent of her wounds.  She had a small puncture wound on her abdomen where the left leg meets the belly surrounded by a large dark purple bruise that extended down her left leg.  The puncture was opened up to better allow us to visualize what was going on under the skin.  Underneath there was extensive damage to the muscles of her inner thigh and the surrounding connective tissue.  Additionally the femoral vein, which is the main blood supply to the leg, had a small tear and was leaking. 

 Given how close the femoral artery and vein were to the wounds Leah was a lucky dog indeed.  If either of these important vessels had been torn during the attack she would have died almost instantly.  We cleaned her wound thoroughly and packed them with an antimicrobial dressing.  She will need daily bandages changes done under sedation while we wait to see what tissue is going die before we can move to surgically closing the wound.  This can take up to a few weeks and will be very expensive.

For her bandage changes on Saturday and Sunday we were very happy with how her wounds are looking.  The leak in the femoral vein stopped thanks to a special material we applied called Vetspon that helped to seal over the vessel.  We removed some muscle tissue that had started to die and replaced her bandage.  Her red blood cell count and blood protein levels dropped due to loss through her wounds but she is eating well and seems comfortable on her intravenous pain medications.  It is heartwarming to see her perk up when her owners come to visit.

Monday we removed more dead muscle and switched to a dressing called Calcium Alginate that will stay in the wound for the next 48 hours.  We are trying to wean her off of the IV medications and switch her to oral medications so she can go home.  We will then have her owners bring her back and forth for the bandage changes.  On Wednesday we will reevaluate the health of the tissue and see where we need to go.  Please check back in for more updates and keep sending Leah good thoughts to help with her healing!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Flea and tick prevention - always important!

Summer is in full swing – hello heat wave!  The only creatures enjoying this weather are the creepy crawlers so now is the time to be extra vigilant with your flea, tick and heartworm prevention.

Everyone knows how annoying those relentless mosquitoes are when you are trying to enjoy your yard or back porch. But these pests are more than just irritating – they can endanger your pet’s health by transmitting heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your dog or cat.

Monthly heartworm prevention is essential year round for dogs and cats, even indoor kitties. There is NO treatment for heartworm in cats, and sudden death is a common result of heartworm infections. While it’s true that infected dogs can be treated, the treatment itself is very dangerous—and can even be fatal. Left untreated, heartworm disease will kill a dog.

Protecting your dogs and cats against fleas and ticks is important as well. Tick borne infections such as Lyme disease, Erlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are transmitted when an infected tick bites your dog.  The best way to ward these infections off is with topical flea and tick preventatives like Frontline, Parastar Plus, K9 Advantix II, Revolution, or Advantage Multi.  I recommend sticking with the brand names for these medications.  The generics are not as good and some are downright dangerous, especially for cats.  I also do not trust any “natural” product enough to effectively repel fleas and ticks.   I know the though of applying chemicals to your pets is unappealing but so are the diseases these critters transmit.

Lyme disease is an especially tricky beast as it is very common and the medical community does not yet fully understand how it affects dogs making diagnosis and treatment a challenge.  Many dogs will test positive but this does NOT mean they have the disease, only that they were bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  In fact the vast majority of the Lyme-positive dogs I see never develop clinical signs of the disease. The best way to protect your dog from Lyme disease is through a combination of prevention and monitoring.

Fleas can be extremely itching and irritating to both you and your pets. Some animals are allergic to fleas and one bite can lead to a significant skin infection. Once a flea infestation invades your home it can be very difficult to clear it out. The best bet is to prevent that from happening by applying the same topical medications that protect against ticks.

Luckily, prevention is easy: just a pill and a topical medication once a month, every single month.  If only everything were that simple.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fireworks and dogs - how to keep your dog relaxed and happy

 Happy Fourth of July week!  For most of us that means cookouts, fireworks and fun but for owners of dogs that suffer from noise phobia this particular holiday can be an absolute nightmare. Fireworks and other loud noises such as thunderstorms can cause panic in affected dogs.  My parents had a Jack Russell terrier (she passed at the age of 20) that used to tremble, pant and hide under the toilet at the mere thought of an approaching storm.  Once the thunder was cracking or the fireworks were bursting she was inconsolable and destroyed many a door, baseboard, crate or any other item that she turned her attention to during her state of terror. 

If you have experienced this to any degree with your own dog don’t despair there are steps you can take to help ease their fear and calm them down.  You want to be sure and start treating any anxiety as soon as you notice the signs, as it will only get worse with time.

Create a safe space for your dog to weather the storm.  Some dogs will pick a place and if this is the case just leave them there; don’t force them into an alternative space that you choose.  You can offer them toys stuffed with tasty treats to help get their mind off the noise and hopefully start to create a positive association.

Adaptil is a synthetic compound that mimics a pheromone that lactating mother dogs give off and this compound has been clinically shown to reduce anxiety.  Adaptil comes in a spray that can be applied to blankets or a neck bandanna for intermittent use.  Alternatively it comes as a collar that emits the pheromone continuously for a month. 

The Thundershirt is another option and I have clients that swear by it.  It works by applying constant gentle pressure that is thought to clam anxiety.  This is the same idea as swaddling babies or Dr. Temple Grandin’s development of the “Hug Machine” for helping people with Autism.

Finally medication should be considered and discussed with your veterinarian.  It is best to not wait until the phobia progresses but to intervene early and hopefully prevent development of worsening anxiety.  A sedative called acepromazine has long been used for noise phobia but it is no longer the drug of choice and can actually make things worse. With this particular medication the dog is sedate which may hide many signs of anxiety.  The problem is that they are still anxious; they’re just too knocked out to do anything about it.  The preferred medication will target anxiety directly to help address and hopefully eliminate the underlying problem.

I hope these tips help to make for a happy Fourth of July celebration for you and your dog!  These pictures are from last summer of my dogs enjoying a swim and some beach time in Massachusetts.

Friday, May 24, 2013


I think almost everyone knows about rabies virus and that it is just about 100% fatal - really scary stuff.  What you may not realize is how prevalent it is and that your pets have a real risk of exposure which is why vaccination is so critical in our companion animals.  In 2012 there were 60 animals that tested positive for rabies the District of Columbia.  That means in one year Animal Control confirmed 39 raccoons, 20 bats and 1 fox tested positive in the 68 square miles that make up DC. 

These critters aren't staying holed up in Rock Creek Park either, they are around our neighborhoods and in our backyards.  In April a raccoon ran up to a man in Georgetown while he was loading his car and bit him on the leg.  That raccoon was later captured by animal control and tested positive for rabies.  A few years ago we had clients bring their cat into the hospital after a raccoon climbed down their chimney, popped out of the fireplace and attacked their cat. 

This is as close as my cats get to the outdoors

I routinely have a conversation with owners of cats who are indoor only and never venture out into the world about why they need to be vaccinated for rabies.  The short answer here is that it is required by law; unfortunately that is not always a convincing argument for some people.  I then tell them that bats can worm their way into tiny spaces including a hole in a screened window.  These tiny bats have tiny teeth that don’t always leave a mark on the skin after a bite.  It is entirely possible that your indoor only cat could be exposed to a rabid animal without you knowing about it.

If that doesn't sway them I then refer to a recent story out of Georgia about a 15 year old, indoor only cat that had been vaccinated for rabies in the past but the vaccine was past due.  The cat bit the owner and ended up testing positive for rabies.  You can read the story by clicking here

Finally dog and cat owners need to keep in mind that if at any time their pet bites someone and is not up to date on the rabies vaccine the person who was bitten can request rabies testing.  Rabies testing is done by euthanizing the animal and taking sample of the brain.  In my opinion, unless there is a medical reason not to vaccinate it is much safer for everyone to just keep your pet up to date on the rabies vaccine.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Brachycephalic Airway Disease - what you need to know!

Frank the Pug

As the weather is heating up I want to send a special advisory out to my smushy-faced canine pals.  I am talking to the owners of those adorable Pugs, Frenchies, Boston terriers and bulldogs that need to be the most watchful for heat stroke as the temperatures rise.  You must know what Brachycephalic Syndrome is so you can keep your dog safe from heat stroke.

The anatomy of brachycephalic (fancy word for smushy-faced) breeds is not compatible with efficient breathing and when combined with high temperatures and humidity can be extremely dangerous.  Selecting individuals for breeding that had the most “smushed in” muzzles created these breeds.  This then resulted in dogs with highly abnormal airways and excessive soft tissue formation in the throat.

The components of Brachycephalic Airway Disease are as follows:

  • Elongated Soft Palate – Through evolution these breed’s noses got pushed back and the soft palpate went with it.  As a result the soft palpate is too long for the throat and will intermittently obstruct the windpipe making it difficult to breathe.  This causes the dog to struggles to suck in air and over time the soft palate gets even longer making the problem even worse.
  • Stenotic Nares – This refers to the size of the dog’s nostrils.  If you look at the nose of a brachycephalic dog you will usually see two slits rather than nice oval openings as in non-brachycephalic dogs.  To see why this is a problem, I will ask you to lightly pinch your own nostrils, obstructing them just a bit and breathe deeply.  You should notice how much more difficult it is inhaling than with normal wide open nostrils.   Once again this causes the dog to struggle to breathe in which creates increased negative pressure in the throat adding to the elongation of the soft palate. 
  • Everted Laryngeal Saccules – These are two meaty clumps of soft tissue that normally sit on either side of the windpipe tucked out of the way.  With the constant negative pressure created by the above two conditions these pop into the throat and can further obstruct the trachea.
  • Hypoplastic Trachea – The trachea, also know as your windpipe, is a hollow tube and the entrance to the lungs.  Brachycephalic breeds are born with a very narrow trachea, which serves to limit airflow into the lungs.  Think about the difference in breathing normally verse trying to suck in air through a straw.
Crash the French Bulldog

I hope you can see from the above descriptions that brachycephalic breeds are not designed to breathe easily.  If you then consider that the main way a dog dissipates body heat is by panting you can see how these breeds can so easily and so quickly overheat.

Here is where the cool part of preventative medicine comes in!  We can help minimize and at times even prevent Brachycephalic Airway Disease.  The best time to start is when your dog is young, before too much damage has occurred.  At Friendship we recommend that at the time of spay or neuter all brachycephalic breeds have their stenotic nares widened and their soft palate evaluated to see if it needs to be shortened.  

Stenotic nares before

After repair - note how much more open the nostrils are

These two simple procedures can go a long way to helping your adorable smushy-faced friend enjoy the warm weather AND live a longer, more comfortable life.  Sounds like a win-win to me!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fashion for Paws 2013 was a huge success!

Fashion for Paws was absolutely amazing this year!  Frank and I were thrilled to have raised nearly $18,000 of the more than $700,000 the event brought in overall this year for the animals of the Washington Humane Society.  That put us third in the fundraising competition between models and we were honored to be invited on stage to accept an award.  The winner, Susan Ostrowski, raised an astounding $38,000 - big congrats to her!

I wore Lilly Pulitzer who is a personal favorite of mine.  I am such a fan of Lilly that I actually named my Chihuahua mix after her.  Lilly the dog does not participate in Fashion for Paws as she would absolutely hate being dragged up onstage but Frank is a natural on the runway.  You can see him below greeting is adoring fans after the show.

Thank you to everyone who supported us by donating, you have made a huge difference in the lives of the 30,000 animals that WHS cares for!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Paws Spring Fair - April 7th

Fashion for Paws is rapidly approaching; the dogs take over the catwalk at the Nation Building Museum in a little over a week.  Frank and I are thrilled to have raised over $14,000 so far.  To raise as much money as possible to help the nearly 30,000 abused, abandoned and neglected animals that WHS cares for each year we have teamed up with Happy Paws to host a Spring Fair on Sunday, April 7th. 

We invite everyone, dogs included, to join us for a day of family fun.  There will be games for the kids, a raffle with amazing prizes, a professional photographer taking dog portraits and Friendship veterinarians to make sure your dog is a healthy weight.  The WHS Adopt Force One van will be there with adorbale animals looking for forever homes.

The raffle prizes alone are worth the trip – 10 days of boarding or day care at Happy Paws, Friendship Hospital for Animals gift cards and 6 months of food from Hill’s Science Diet!  In addition Rito Loco food truck will be serving up the best burritos in town for lunch.  All proceeds from the day will go to support Frank and me in Fashion for Paws.

I hope to see you there!

April 7th 
11 am to 1 pm
Happy Paws
4904 Wisconsin Avenue NW

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lilly Loses Weight Too!

Here is Akanya after 1 week on her new diet of Hill’s new prescription weight loss food Metabolic.  Her owner, Erin reports she is loving the food and doing great.  We will plan on weighing her in one month to see how she is responding.  Based on Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol I expect her to lose about 0.2 pounds per week so she should be under 12 pounds and one paw closer to her ideal weight of 8 pounds.

I was so excited about this new breakthrough in weight loss for our pets that I decided to sign my dog Lilly up for the challenge.  Lilly is an eight-year-old Chihuahua mix and being so tiny she has always struggled with her weight.  Due to her size and love of sitting on the couch she simply can’t consume that many calories without gaining weight. 

About a year ago she topped out at over 13 pounds and I think she felt the extra weight.  She would run around at the dog park but at home she would sit by herself and not really interact much with my other dogs.  I have been feeding her and my 11-year-old rat terrier Hill’s j/d (joint diet) because Sparkle has knee issues.  Lilly was getting a quarter cup of food twice a day, which is really not that much.  I further decreased the amount to an eighth of a cup and she lost about 2 pounds over the next 6 months. 

With this drop in weight her energy level and attitude completely changed.  She became much more interactive with both the people and animals in the house.  Still I thought she was a bit chubby at 11.3 pounds so I decided to measure her using Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol.  After entering her measurements and current weight into the computer program it came out that her body fat index was 48% and she should weigh 7 pounds!

I have to admit I was shocked and immediately re-measured her about three more times, each time getting about the same thing.  I knew she weighed more than I would like but this put her at serious risk for some nasty diseases.  She started eating Metabolic that night!

So far Lilly seems to be happy with her new diet.  She gobbles down her food and gets to eat a whole third of a cup of food, clearly way more than she was eating before.  I also add in a fish oil supplement to make sure she has enough omega-3 fatty acids in her diet.  I am looking forward to seeing how she responds and watch those pounds melt away.  If only they made a food like this for people….

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tackling Obesity One Cat at a Time

Meet Akanya!  She is a two and a half year old kitty owned by Erin who works as one of Friendship’s Client Care Technicians.  Erin has graciously volunteered to let Akayna be my guinea pig in testing out Hill’s new Healthy Weight Protocol and corresponding Metabolic Diet. 

Akayna has come a long way from the streets of Botswana where Erin rescued her while serving the in Peace Corps.  She is now a fat (literally) and very happy housecat who needs to shed a few pounds.  As I’m sure most cat owners know this is no easy task and unfortunately this is the most common recommendation I make to owners during annual exams. Click here to read my post about the obesity epidemic cats.

Hill’s has teamed up with the University of Tennessee to create a better system to estimate body fat in overweight animals.  They found that if we could more accurately determine how much a pet was overweight then we could devise a more precise feeding plan that would results in more effective weight loss.

Erin brought Akayna to Friendship so that I could take a few measurements and get a baseline weight.  We then entered this information into a computer program and found out that at 12.4 pounds she had a body fat index of 47.5% and was in the “serious risk” category.  Her ideal body weight was given as 8.1 pounds.
Click on chart for better visualization

Armed with this information we then calculated she should eat one-quarter cup and one half of a can of Hill’s new Metabolic prescription diet every day.  This is the newest of Hill’s diets that was formulated using nutrigenomics to affect gene expression working with the animal’s metabolism for more effective weight loss.  

I am so excited to track Akayna’s progress!  Obesity is something that so many pet owners struggle with and it is one of the few concrete things we can address to ensure our pets live a long and healthy life.  Let me know if you are interested in joining us on this weight loss endeavor!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fashion for Paws 2013!

Spring is on the way and with it comes Fashion for Paws!

 My husband Hugh, Frank and I kicked off our fundraising by attending A Sugar and Champagne Affair last week.  This wonderful event, now in its 12th year, honors the hard working humane law enforcement officers of Washington Humane Society (WHS).  We meandered around the Ronald Regan Building with other dogs and their humans while sampling tasty treats from pastry chefs around town.  Hugh and I also indulged in champagne tasting - Frank was not allowed because he is not of age.

This week launches the eight week countdown for fundraising until the Runway Show on April 13th at the National Building Museum.  Below are some numbers that will hopefully persuade you to donate (preferable in support of me and Frank) to WHS.  They provide critical care to countless abused, neglected and abandoned animals of the District.

  • WHS Field Officers (Animal Control & Humane Law Enforcement) responded to nearly 14,212 calls for help in 2012
  • WHS provided low-cost spay/neuter services to more than 7,460 cats and dogs in 2012
  • WHS' low-cost vaccine clinic vaccinated approximately 8,000 animals in 2012
  • For the past 26 years, WHS has been teaching DC school children about the importance of respect and compassion for all living beings. The WHS Humane Education program worked with more than 2,630 students and adults at schools, workplaces, career fairs and special community events in 2012.
  • WHS' DOG TAGS program brings together wounded warriors in the DC metro region with homeless dogs at WHS, providing therapy and training for both the soldiers and dogs
Please consider giving to this truly wonderful cause!  You can visit http// for more information or to make a donation

Me and Frank on the runway in 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The dreaded "by-product"

With the New Year upon us I have once again made a resolution to focus on my heath, specifically my eating habits.  This inspired me to write a few posts about healthy food choices for our pets.  Last summer I had the great opportunity to visit the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Kansas, my first post about my time there can be read by clicking here.  As a follow up let us focus on the ingredient list and the misunderstood phrase “by product”.

Many pet food companies will make a big deal of stating on their label, in big letters “No by-products”!  When you look at what a by-product actually is I don’t really mind my pets eating them.  The exact definition of a by-product is “anything produced in the course of making another thing.”  I feel that using by-products actually honors the animal that gave its life to feed us since we make use of the entire animal and not just its skeletal meat.

So in regards to a chicken, the by-products are feet, undeveloped eggs, necks, and organs; feathers and beaks are excluded.  This sounds really gross and I certainly wouldn’t want to eat anything with those ingredients but I am quite sure my dogs would have no problem.  In reality organ meat is a source of high quality protein and actually more nutrient dense than skeletal meat. 

When you see “chicken is the #1 ingredient” this is also a clever ploy by pet food marketing teams.  Chicken is listed first because it is 80% water and the heaviest of all the components that make up the diet.  This doesn’t equate to a diet that is mostly chicken skeletal meat that one would pick up from the grocery store.  If something is listed as “meal” on the label that just means whatever it was has had the water removed.  So “chicken meal” is dehydrated chicken backbone, skin and bits of muscle – basically whatever is left over after the chicken has been processed for human consumption.

That is not to say all by-products are equal, as with any product there are varying degrees of quality.  One must know the other aspects of their pet’s food in order to ensure they are feeding a high quality diet. 

For example:

  • ·      Is there a veterinary nutritionist consulting on the makeup of the food
  • ·      What other safe guards has the company put in place to make sure the diet is safe
  • ·      Have feeding trials been done to see how the food affects actual animals
  • ·      Is the company willing to give out their exact nutrient profile (they should be!)
  • ·      Where are the meat and other ingredients sourced from
  • ·      Where is the product made

There is so much that goes into making a quality pet food, it can be amazingly overwhelming to choose one.  I encourage you to speak with your veterinarian and use the above information to research the available diets out there.  I hope knowing the right questions to ask will help you sift through all of the clever labels and marketing tools pet food companies throw at you.