All posts tagged 'anine wellness'

Back to School Tips for Pet Parents

It's that time of year again. Parents across America are sending their kids back to school. For those who are also pet parents, there's an added dimension to this big routine change ... concerns about how the family's companion animals are dealing. 

Fortunately, we have some helpful tips, food for thought and some of the telltale signs of troubled behavior to watch out for, all to help guide anyone who's concerned about how to handle the transition.

To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below. And be sure to share this post with your friends and family!

PDF Document
PDF Document

5 Reasons Why Dogs are the Absolute Best

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August 26th marks National Dog Day, giving us ample opportunity to celebrate everything we love about dogs. To honor this special day, Dr. V shares her personal observations and some truly amazing facts about why Americans love dogs so much.

It is perhaps fate that I was destined to consider myself a dog person … after all, my birthday falls on August 26th, National Dog Day. From the first time I held my floofy little Lhasa Apso puppy in my arms when I was seven years old, I knew that I felt a special camaraderie with canines. Often, I felt more comfortable with them than I did with people. I thought I was a weirdo for feeling that way, until I met other dog people and realized it’s just who we are.

Dogs have always made me stop in my tracks the way my friends stopped for babies. Don’t get me wrong, I love children. But I’ve never felt compelled to stop a stranger and ask to pick up their baby the way I have pretty much every puppy ever. I look at them and see patterns: the way their coat so often matches their caretaker’s hairstyle; the easy way a dog will run up and comfort someone without a word being said; the sudden brightening in children's faces when they first see their dog after a day at school. The easy bond between people and pups has been thousands of years in the making.

Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to share life with a canine companion. That being said, dog lovers share some common reasons for why they enjoy life more when there's a dog around. Here are the most frequently cited explanations for being an enthusiastic supporter of Team Dog …

1. Family. Dog lovers often share that their dog feels like a member of the family, as opposed to a roommate who just hangs out, eats a lot, and makes a mess. This deep bond explains why many people say that the death of a dog is just as hard emotionally as losing any other family member.

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2. Personality. With 190 recognized dog breeds and countless lovable mixes, dog personalities are as varied and unique as we are. People often spend a great deal of time researching, visiting breeders and shelters, and getting to know different dogs before finding the one whose temperament, activity level, and size are the exact right fit for them.

3. Loyalty. A dog’s loyalty to his or her family is unmatched. As pack animals, they truly depend on us for all the necessities of life plus lots of love and interaction. In return, we are rewarded with boundless love and a friend who doesn’t care about morning breath, what we look like before our first cup of coffee, or what we sound like when we sing in the shower.

4. Understanding. Many of us intuitively sense that our dogs understand us, but does the science back it up? Researchers in Brazil and the U.K. studied a group of dogs and determined that dogs could correlate the tone of our voices with the expressions on our faces.* Up until this study, that particular cognitive ability was thought to only be found in primates! Turns out that dogs often have a better read on us than we do on one another!

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5. Forgiveness. A friend recently recalled an incident when she had accidentally closed a door on her dog’s tail, whereupon she burst into tears. Seeing this, her dog immediately ran over to comfort her! His concern was not over his own well-being, but over his guardian’s distress. While dogs exhibit so many wonderful traits we value in each other, they seem to be missing some of the really ugly ones we humans sometimes suffer: greed, malice and holding a grudge (to name a few). They live in the moment, and never seem to hold our failings against us. So amazing!

When I speak about the most profound moments I’ve shared with my dogs, I often get choked up. Like even right now. Even in our worst moments, they provide the comfort of a loving presence that’s continually by our sides, without judgment. All they ask in return is a warm bed, nourishment and loving scritches. I think members of Team Dog will agree, that’s a small price to pay for one of the most joyful relationships a person can have!

Why are you a dog person? Share your reasons why in the comments section below.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Reference:

 * www.reuters.com/article/us-dogs-emotions-idUSKCN0VP1DH

Antioxidants and Canine Wellness

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Many of us are familiar with the idea of antioxidants, and we know they are a good thing for both dogs and humans, but do you know why? There’s a reason we put so much thought and effort into our formulations at Life’s Abundance, and antioxidants are some of our favorite ingredients!

To understand why antioxidants are vital to health, you need to know about free radicals, a by-product of normal metabolism. When oxygen molecules are split into two oxygen atoms, they are missing one electron ... thus a free radical is born. These little guys are highly reactive, so they steal electrons from other molecules, which also become free radicals. Cellular components such as proteins, DNA and cell membranes can be negatively affected, further creating more free radicals. Why is this problematic for health? Well, the DNA damage causes cells to reproduce incorrectly, which can lead to abnormalities.

How do antioxidants work? They can donate an electron to a free radical without becoming unstable themselves. In fact, many scientists now refer to antioxidants as ROS, or Reactive Oxygen Species. In essence, they neutralize damaging free radicals and break the replicating cycle.

Why do dogs need antioxidants? As pets age, the free radical damage accumulates and accelerates. It contributes to the natural declines due to aging, and can trigger some illnesses due to damaged cellular DNA. So, how are free radicals counteracted? Perhaps the best, most natural way is through antioxidants!

Why are antioxidants so often linked with brain health? With aging, many canines experience some degree of cognitive decline. This can manifest as changes in behaviors, lapses in house training, altered sleep cycles, disorientation and repetitive behaviors such as pacing or licking. Learning and memory deficits may begin in pets as young as six years of age, though many pet parents don’t notice until pets are quite a bit older. There’s good news, however. Senior dogs fed a diet high in antioxidants actually perform better on tests that assess their ability to problem solve!

Who should be taking antioxidants? Everyone, including your dogs! While the benefits are most obvious for seniors, all of us are exposed to free radicals on a regular basis. Early nutritional support with antioxidants is a great way to maintain vibrant health. Even though the body produces some antioxidants on its own, the most significant way to get antioxidants into the body is through nutrition. Fruits, vegetables and even some herbs are high in antioxidants such as lycopene, carotenoids, lutein, and vitamins E and C.

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Antioxidant Health Bars help maintain a healthy immune system

What’s an easy way to make sure my dog is getting guaranteed amounts of antioxidants? This month, I encourage you to try one of our premium baked treats, Antioxidant Health Bars. Featuring the great taste of apples, peanut butter and honey, dogs just can’t resist these delicious bars, which also include oatmeal, brown rice, ground flaxseed, dates, rolled oats, flaxseed oil, eggs, cranberries and carrots. Since antioxidants are so important to maintaining a healthy immune system, we’ve added a hefty helping of vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene. And the amounts of these important nutrients are guaranteed, so you know exactly how much nutrition your dog is receiving on a daily basis.

Thank you for everything you do to make the world a better place for companion animals!

Dr Jane Bicks  

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM

Effects of Aging on Canine Cognition

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In observation of National Pet Month, Dr. Jessica Vogelsang takes an in-depth look at how canine cognition changes as dogs age, and provides tips to help keep them healthy for many future National Pet Month celebrations!

I can’t tell you how often I ask pet parents about their senior dog and the response is “okay, but … I guess he’s just getting old.” I love this conversation opener, because it tells me two things. One, the pet parent is paying enough attention to know something has changed, even if they don’t think it’s anything to be concerned about. Two, there’s probably something I can do to help!

All living things grow old. The aging process is complicated and messy, encompassing a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Some we can control, others we can slow down, and the remainder we just manage the best we can. The good news is, there’s almost always something we can do to make a companion animal feel better.

When we think about what it means to be old, most of us jump to the most obvious complaint of age … aches and pains. The body stiffens, the joints dry out, the discs in our spines shrivel up, and we end up shuffling around like Carl from the movie Up. Almost all senior dogs develop symptoms of osteoarthritis, which is one of the reasons I recommend joint supplements for seniors. If a pet parent says, “He won’t climb the stairs anymore,” or, “He doesn’t want to go for long walks,” then I know we’re likely dealing with pain.

But what about cognitive dysfunction, the age-related decline in neurologic function? Referred to as “canine cognitive dysfunction” in veterinary medicine, some laypeople call it “doggie Alzheimer’s”. While the symptoms can be similar to what humans experience, it’s not exactly the same thing.

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Unfortunately, cognitive decline is quite common in senior dogs. More than half of all dogs over the age of 11 show at least one clinical sign. Since we don’t know for certain all the biological changes that occur in an aging brain, we describe canine cognitive dysfunction as a collection of symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Changes in activity level
  • Changes in sleep/wake cycle (e.g., wandering around in the middle of the night)
  • House-soiling
  • Anxiety
  • No longer adhering to an established routine

For many years, we simply accepted this condition as a price for living a long life. However, we’re learning that there are ways we can actually decelerate cognitive decline in dogs.

One way veterinarians manage cognitive dysfunction in dogs is through medications. Certain drugs that increase the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine may improve brain function. In fact, the same drug used by dogs can also be used to treat Parkinson’s!

curious-dog

The other way we manage cognitive decline is through the nutrition and personal attention we provide our dogs. New and exciting research is showing that certain types of antioxidants and dietary ingredients can positively impact the brain function of senior pets! I love this because these are safe, easy changes we can use to improve the aging process for all our senior friends:

1. Feed a diet rich in antioxidants. Free radicals in the body accelerate the aging process. Antioxidants, such as those found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, can be added to a dog’s diet to limit the free-radical damage. Several studies have shown that seniors who eat a diet rich in antioxidants exhibit clinical improvement in cognitive function within just a few weeks.

2. Exercise the brain. Keep your pet’s neurons working through lots of daily playtime, walks, and puzzles. We joke that the brain is a muscle; it’s not, of course, but like a muscle it does benefit from regular workouts!

3. Fatty acids. We all know essential fatty acids are good for the skin and coat, but there’s also increasing evidence that a subset of fatty acids called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) serve as a preferred energy source for the brain and can actually improve mental sharpness.

If your dog is getting a little grey around the muzzle, don’t accept “he’s just getting old” as a fact of life. Yes, we all age, but we can do it better by taking steps to preserve health and quality of life.

All my best to you and your lovable, aging dogs!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Infographic: Soothing Doggie Stress

Unless you’re truly tuned in with your canine companion, you might be missing the “tail-tell” signs that your puppy’s got stress issues.

By learning to recognize the symptoms and gaining a clearer picture of the potential causes, you’ll be well on your way to helping your canine chill out on a regular basis. If that weren’t enough to perk up your ears, Dr. V also drops some helpful tips for alleviating dog stress. Definitely worthy of further investigation!

Take a page out of our pet-care book and save this handy infographic for future reference … it might just help your dog find his way back to bliss!

How-to-Avoid-Dog-Stress

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Is a Paleo Diet Right for Your Dog?

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As pet parents ourselves, all of us here at Life’s Abundance know just how overwhelming it can be to choose the right food for your dog. There is so much conflicting information out there: you have to be grain free! Your canine needs to eat like a wolf! You should be putting antioxidants on everything! Home made food is better than commercial! How do you possibly make sense of all the conflicting information from so many different sources?

One of my goals when formulating a new food is to keep up with the most current thinking in nutrition while making sure our foods live up to the highest standards possible. Two of the most popular buzzwords right now are “paleo” and “limited ingredient.” But what do these mean? Are paleo or limited ingredient diets what your companion animal really needs?

Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Paleo diets have been all the rage in human nutrition for the past few years. While there isn’t any one strict definition, the general idea is that if a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you (or in this case, your dog). In its most basic sense, the paleo diet avoids all processed foods such as cereals, pastas, and added sugars. The paleo diet also frowns on grains, keeping carbohydrate sources limited to those occurring naturally in vegetables and fruits.

Despite the fact there is no one true ‘paleo’ definition, we can certainly look at the overall concept and see something to like. A paleo diet is nutrient-dense, with every ingredient chosen for a purpose. The carbohydrates chosen are those that cause less peaks and valleys in blood glucose and energy levels throughout the course of the day. Given its reliance on unprocessed ingredients, a paleo food is going to avoid things like fillers and artificial colorings and flavorings. One of the major drawbacks to a classic paleo diet is the fact that it does not allow the use of legumes such as peas or lentils, which are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. 

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Limited ingredient diets came about due to a wave of pet parents being concerned their dogs had food allergies. The number of dogs who actually have food allergies is not as large as the number of dogs who have food allergy symptoms (there are complex reasons for this, which perhaps I’ll cover in a future post). Regardless, the idea for limited ingredient diets is to limit intake to novel proteins (meaning an unusual source that a pet has not eaten before), and novel carbohydrates, the diet is less likely to trigger a dog’s food allergy symptoms. This is how we ended up with diets like kangaroo and oats, or duck and peas. The most common food allergens in dogs are beef, chicken, lamb, wheat, corn, and egg. This correlates to the most commonly used ingredients in pet foods, which makes sense.

If your canine has a true food allergy, he or she is probably going to need to undergo an elimination trial and all sorts of testing to see what is going on, and then move onto a special diet for the rest of his or her life. But if he or she has some minor symptoms of food intolerance or if you are just trying to avoid the major allergens in dog foods, it can be cost prohibitive to put your pet on a novel protein diet; many are prescription-only or are not meant for all life stages. Some diets are based on hydrolyzed soy, which is as appetizing to dogs as it sounds! It just doesn’t make sense to seek out one of these diets if you don’t have to due to medical necessity.

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For many pet parents, their dog may not have food allergies but they still want to avoid the common triggers by feeding high quality, novel proteins that taste delicious and support optimal health. And it’s with these needs in mind that we developed the newest addition to the Life’s Abundance family of foods: our Pork and Venison Grain Free Recipe Dog Food.

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This formulation holds to the paleo ideas of being grain-free. The carbohydrate sources are peas and lentils, which are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The protein sources are pork and venison, which are very rich, nutrient-dense protein sources that taste amazing. Canned foods are great for triggering the appetite because they have more potent smell. Trust me, we’ve all taken a whiff of the new formula and agree … the aroma is pretty yummy! Best of all, it’s formulated to be appropriate for all life stages, from weaning puppies to geriatric seniors, even if they’re missing some teeth.

We are so proud of this new formula and we can’t wait for you all to try it. As soon as you do, post a comment here and let us know what you think. We hope your dogs love it as much as ours do!

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals! And, happy feeding!

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM

New Year’s Goals for Pet Kids

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Ah, January. A season for new beginnings, new resolutions, and some measure of regret for all the indulgences of the holiday season. If my gym is any indication, “get more exercise” is still on the top of most people’s list of New Year’s resolutions.

Fur kids don’t make resolutions, but if they did, half of them would be joining us in our pursuit of a healthier weight. Here’s a few facts about canine and feline weight you might not know:

1. More than half of dogs and cats in the US are considered overweight. It’s right up there with dental disease in terms of how frequently it is diagnosed. Because it creeps up slowly over time, many pet parents don’t even realize it’s happening until an annual vet check. Suddenly, your 12-pound cat is now 15 pounds. Yikes!

Tabby

2. Being overweight increases other health risks. Diabetes, joint disease, heart and lung disease, some forms of cancer and high blood pressure are all linked to excessive weight in dogs and cats. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same list we see in people. We all need to make an effort to go out and play, walk or run as a team!

3. Weight loss is a process. Some companion animals lose weight more easily than others, so it may take some experimentation to figure out the best course of action for your own dog or cat. One of the most common pitfalls is neglecting to measure food portions. When my dog Brody put weight on after my son took over feeding duties, I was shocked to realize that he was dumping food in the bowl without measuring. Brody was being overfed by almost 30%!

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4. Helping your fur kid be healthier can make you healthier, too! The Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that people who live with dogs are 34% more likely to walk at least 150 minutes a week. And if your fur kid is a puppy, guess what? You walk faster than people walking without a dog. Sometimes not in a straight line, am I right?

5. Pet kids at a healthy weight live longer. Dogs and cats at a normal weight have an average life expectancy up to 2.5 years longer than those who are overweight. So commit today and add more and better years to not just your own life, but your companion animal’s as well!

The great thing about weight, compared to other medical conditions, is that it is reversible. Talk to your veterinarian about the course of action that’s right for you. They can help you figure out your companion animal’s caloric requirements and ensure weight loss is done gradually and safely.

Here’s to a fruitful and healthy 2017, and successful squad goals!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Compulsive Paw Chewing

Picture in your head a really itchy dog. Got it?

Now what did you see? Chances are, you envisioned a dog scratching away at his ears or belly, or maybe rubbing his rear end on the corner of your couch. And while all of this is indeed very common for itchy dogs, we often tend to overlook one of most frequent symptoms of allergic disease … paw chewing.

If you were to request a referral to a veterinary allergist, I would send you to a dermatologist. I know that’s odd compared to people, but we do that because in dogs, most allergic diseases manifest in the skin. Referred to as “pruritus” by veterinarians, the type of itchiness that we are talking about with allergic disease isn’t the minor irritation of a flea bite but the unrelenting, keep-you-up-all-night, horrifying discomfort that we humans associate with conditions like chicken pox or poison ivy. Yes, it’s bad for these little guys. Well-meaning pet parents try to dissuade their dogs from biting and licking by using e-collars or putting socks on their feet, but none of that addresses the underlying itchiness. As soon as the physical barrier is removed, they’re right back to the destructive reaction.

Oftentimes a dog begins by licking very gingerly at their paws. Being a good pet parent, you check their toes and pads for causes of the irritation, such as burrs, ticks or cuts, but – alas – find nothing. As the irritation worsens, the dog begins to chew instead of licking, plucking fur out and gnawing at their toes like they were little rawhide chews. After a while, the skin becomes weakened (or worse, broken) by the constant chewing, which almost invariably develops into secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections. Sometimes by the time the pet arrives at the vet, their poor little toes look like ground beef.

What are the types of allergic disease?

What causes this infernal itchiness? Chances are, it’s allergies. Dogs suffer from three main categories of allergic disease: fleas, environmental allergies (referred to as “atopy”) and food allergies. So, which one is your dog experiencing?

Flea allergies are the most common allergic disease in dogs. However, flea allergies result in itchiness primarily on the hindquarters and at the base of the tail. Atopy is the second most common form of allergic disease. Dogs react to the same environmental allergens that humans do … things like trees, grasses and pollens, molds, dander, perfume, dust mites, even cats and people! Depending on the cause, these allergies may be seasonal.

And, so, what remains are food allergies. Food allergies are the least commonly diagnosed form of allergic disease, although it may be underdiagnosed in canines. In our post "The Scoop on Grain-Free Pet Foods", we discussed the prevalence of food allergies:

Food allergies or adverse food reactions are abnormal reactions to ingredients found in everyday foods. Recent estimates indicate that less than 5% of skin diseases in dogs and cats are accurately diagnosed as being caused by a food allergy. Even though the incidence of adverse food reactions remains unclear, a lot of pet parents believe that grains are prime suspects. However, the most commonly identified food allergens among dogs and cats are proteins in beef, dairy, chicken, soy and corn. Food allergies can cause itchy skin alone or even gastrointestinal problems as well.

How are allergies diagnosed?

Truthfully, it takes a good bit of medical detective work. Flea allergies are the simplest … if you find fleas on an itchy dog, mystery solved! Atopy is diagnosed by ruling everything else out first since there is no one specific test for it. When it comes to food allergies, it takes a good bit more effort and time. Blood tests, even though they are available on the market, are somewhat unreliable. The only way to truly know if your dog is allergic to food is to perform a strict 8-12 week elimination trial with a hypoallergenic diet and see if the condition improves.

What does this mean for you? Many times, when a pet is experiencing unrelenting itching and paw chewing, we start treatment before arriving at a specific diagnosis to try and get the pet some immediate relief. Regardless of the actual cause of the allergies, eliminating potential allergens across the board can push them below the “allergen threshold” and help them feel better. When it comes to compulsive paw chewing, here’s what I recommend:

  1. Start with a trip to your vet. Your veterinarian will help you sort out the problem sooner rather than later; a detailed history will give her clues as to what type of allergy your dog may be experiencing. She can run tests, prescribe medications and determine whether your pup has secondary bacterial or yeast infections that require treatment.

  2. Check those toes! Contact dermatitis can occur when the skin comes in direct contact with an allergen such as grass. It’s always a good idea to give the paws a good rubdown with a damp cloth when your dog comes indoors after playing outside. Witch hazel is a gentle cleaner that can help with mild irritation. Whatever you do, avoid products that contain alcohol … ouch!

  3. Investigate your dog’s diet. Even for pet kids who don’t have food allergies, a high quality diet with a new protein source can reduce the immune burden. Omega-3 fish oils can help the skin remain an effective barrier against the environment.

  4. Consider other causes. If nothing else changes, don’t forget that itching is not the only reason pet kids chew on their feet. Pain from arthritis and anxiety are often culprits. Like allergies, arthritis pain and anxiety don’t simply go away on their own.

The take-home message here is, paw chewing is uncomfortable but treatable! While there are plenty of things you can do at home to help the symptoms, addressing the underlying cause is key to nipping those problems in the bud. With some attention and love, your dog can be back on his non-itchy feet in no time.

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang