All posts tagged 'pet stress'

Pudgy Pet? Surprisingly Easy Fixes

woman-and-pug

The latest surveys indicate that over half of the dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight. Moreover, a sizeable percentage fit the criteria for moderate to severe obesity. The extra heft puts pets at-risk for serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, painful arthritis, high-blood pressure, kidney disease and cancer, all of which can shorten their lifespan. The good news is that solving your companion animal’s weight problem might be easier than you’d expect.

A pet parent’s strongest weapon in the fight against obesity is small and powerful … a measuring cup! If you’re like many pet parents, you guess at the amounts, or simply replenish the bowl when it’s empty. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that as few as 10 extra pieces of kibble can lead to excess weight gain in smaller dogs. Amazingly, just by measuring meal portions, you can help your dog or cat shed unwanted weight!

While the feeding guide on a label offers a good rule of thumb, remember that most of these standardized charts are based on the needs of young adult dogs. If you’re feeding an older “couch potato” based solely on the label, you could be over-feeding your dog by about 20%. Each pet’s metabolism is different, so it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian … they can calculate your pet’s ideal daily intake.

Another vital measure towards curbing weight is also a simple one … selecting the perfect food. Choose a diet that states an animal-specific protein source (such as chicken or fish) as the number one ingredient. Avoid foods pumped up with corn, wheat and glutens, as carbo-loading will sabotage any weight-loss efforts. Made for canines with weight issues, Life’s Abundance Adult Weight-Loss Formula has 28% less fat and 32% fewer calories per cup compared to our original formula. This recipe also features higher protein levels to aid metabolism, and is enhanced with L-carnitine to support a healthy metabolism and weight management.

happy-frenchie

Now, let’s talk about treats. You know that great feeling you get when you give your pup an edible goodie? Yeah, you might not be doing them a favor, because too many treats on the market aren’t much better than canine candy bars. Again, stick with a trusted brand, one that commits to only selling treats with a targeted health benefit. For example, Life’s Abundance offers a whole line of baked treats, each made to promote overall health and happy tummies. Wholesome Hearts are delicious, low-fat dog treats, perfect for dogs who need to be careful about their weight. The rich aroma makes Wholesome Hearts simply irresistible. Break treats into smaller pieces and dole them out as mini-rewards for your pupper.

Lastly, research has proven the most effective way to living a long, disease- and pain-free life is daily exercise. Dogs make the best exercise partners … they’ll never tempt you to skip your new routine in favor of a flavored latte. We’re not talking about going out and running a marathon. As little as 20-30 minutes of brisk walking can have a remarkable effect, improving cardiovascular health, enhancing mood and boosting immune function. Plus, you’ll likely eliminate behavioral problems common among cooped-up canines. Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks.

If you implement these simple suggestions, your companion animals will be well on their way to slimmer figures and healthier lifetimes.

Be sure to share this post with other pet parents. It just might be the first step in the process toward a better life for an overweight pet.

Why is My Dog So Nervous?

scared-pug

My neighbor’s dog Chuckie is, by all accounts, an anxious canine. Sweet as can be, but nervous. Chuckie hides behind his mom when new people show up. He still doesn’t trust his dad, who is the one who lobbied so hard to bring Chuckie home in the first place (three long years ago). He runs away from him and wedges himself under a table whenever my friend's husband looks at him directly - about which the poor guy feels rather despondent.

When a dog is this fearful, many people assume that at some point he or she has been abused. It’s the catch-all people use whenever a dog whose history is unknown shows stress or fear. We say, “He’s scared of men so he must have been abused by one." Or, "She’s scared of ballcaps, so she must have been abused by someone who wore one.” The same sentiments are expressed for men with beards, people wearing sunglasses, pulling out a camera, you name it!

It would be horrifying to think that every dog who exhibits fear (chiefly because there are a lot of them) do so out of a direct result of abuse. While it certainly happens, and it's terrible when it does, a much more likely and less harrowing explanation is that these dogs may not have been adequately socialized as a pup.

nervous-lab

After puppies are born, a great deal of neurological development takes place, much of it occurring in the first 16 weeks. Their early experiences in this crucial time make a lifelong impact on their ability to react to stress. During this period, they are most open to new experiences, sights and sounds. From vacuum cleaners to cats to children (and, yes, men with beards wearing sunglasses and baseball caps), a dog who has a positive experience with these things during this critical time is much less likely to react negatively to them down the road.

Most puppies go to a new home at eight weeks at the youngest, ideally even a little older than that. Back when I started out in veterinary practice, vets were trained to advocate from a health standpoint: keep puppies at home and away from potential sources of illness until they are fully vaccinated at 16 weeks. Unfortunately this "common knowledge" means pups may be missing out on some key socialization time.

As our understanding of the importance of socialization has increased, many trainers are opening up puppy classes to 12-week-olds and veterinarians are re-evaluating the four-month quarantine rule. Each of us needs to assess the risk/benefit analysis of taking puppies out into the world, but in a controlled environment around dogs who are healthy and up-to-date on vaccines, many of us find the socialization benefits are well worth it!

When Dakota came home with us, he was 14 weeks old. He spent his early weeks in a house with nine adult dogs and all of his littermates, which was quite chaotic. But, it led to him being super comfortable meeting new pups. Before coming home with us, he had already gone home with an elderly couple who returned him after a couple days when the reality of living with a puppy set in. So he had been exposed to quite a lot! Nonetheless, as he was current on his preventive care, we also attended socialization classes from the get-go. Based on his reactions at the door, it’s clear he was never exposed to men in UPS uniforms, but we’re working on it. 

happy-poodle

When talking to friends who are experienced breeders, I learned there are several formal programs you can use to socialize puppies at the very early stages of life (aka, “puppy preschool"). These programs are great because they walk people through each important aspect of social exposure needed for good socialization, from touching to meeting strangers, to music and doorbells. In fact, the breeder we are getting our next Golden puppy from is doing it as we speak, and started when the litter was only one week old! And yes, that is my way of saying I am bringing another puppy into the house this summer, which is insane but at least I will have lots to talk about here on the blog! 

As for Chuckie, his family has come to love and accept him as he is. That isn’t to say that dogs can’t change or improve after 16 weeks of age has passed! I often see Chuckie walking to the dog park with the husband, who learned that when Chuckie is in the presence of other dogs he also relaxes more with people. Their patience and love has helped him adjust and modulate his fear, even as an adult.

Have you ever used a puppy kindergarten training program with a new litter? Do you think it helped? What have you done to diminish your dog's outsize fear?

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Make Vet Visits Less Stressful

car-trip

Does your dog experience mild-to-severe apprehension when it comes time for a veterinary check-up? If so, you’re definitely not alone. My own dogs, Oliver and Zelda, are well-adjusted happy campers. But when it’s time to go to the vet’s office, they both start to freak out before we’re barely out of the door.

Until something dawned on me. I had been going about vet visits all the wrong way. Even though I had incorporated all the tricks I’ve learned over the years – travel to places other than the vet, trips to the vet where we just visited with the techs and no exam was given, taking a pocket full of Tasty Rewards or Turkey & Berry Chewies – and though there was marginal improvement, the fear factor continued to be all too real for my puppers.

My realization? Dogs are fundamentally pack animals. I know, I know, everybody knows this. But how might I apply that to vet visits? What if, I thought, instead of one person taking one dog to the vet, we made it a family outing? And so it was settled. Both my wife and I decided we’d BOTH make the time to take BOTH of our dogs, even though Zelda (the younger) was the one with the appointment.

And the most amazing thing happened. There was no jittering or shaking. There was no rapid panting, just the regular riding-in-the-car excitement. We were traveling as a pack. I truly think dogs feel like they can handle anything as a complete pack.

Traveling-to-vet
Zelda accompanied by her big little brother/therapy dog Oliver

We arrived 15 minutes early at the vet’s office, and we walked all around the building, taking our time. I think not being in a rush helped too. We entered the office as a united front, and low-and-behold both dogs were fine!

When it was time to go into the patient room, we all went in and hung out on the floor. The vet tech came in and asked us about Zelda’s history as she fed both doggos some of the treats I had brought. We asked that any tests be done while we were together, which they were happy to do. Of course, it helps to have a great veterinary staff, which we’re fortunate enough to have found. When Zelda was getting her exam, we were all nearby and talking calmly and cheerily. And for the first time in nearly four years, she barely even noticed when she got her vaccines or had blood withdrawn. We were all honestly amazed at the difference!

We hope you’ll try this "power of the pack" strategy to make your next vet visits less stressful … maybe even enjoyable! And feel free to submit your own ideas in the comments section below.

For those interested in learning more about the effects of pet stress, be sure to check out Dr. Jane’s insightful post on pet anxiety.

Dave Mattox
Content Editor

The Secret to Finding a Lost Dog

Chevy-Koko

Few feelings of dread are as harrowing as the moment you realize your dog is missing.

Late Sunday afternoon, our long-time employee, Dawn Tate, experienced just such a moment. After hanging out with her two dogs, Chevy and Koko, in an open field near her home, Dawn realized that her Florida cur, Chevy, had not returned from her recent romp. Minutes later, as Dawn’s searches became more and more frantic, she realized that Chevy had vanished.

After a several minutes of fruitless searching, Dawn launched a full-out rescue attempt. Not only did she contact her local Animal Control Department, but also the police. Both agencies expressed concern for Chevy’s welfare and were only too happy to receive her emails with photos of Chevy, so they could keep an eye out. In addition to contacting the authorities, Dawn turned to social media for help. She posted images of Chevy and shared her last-known location with her friend network. Unfortunately, there were no sighting reports of Chevy.

frantic-phone

Dawn was determined to bring her baby home, searching the surrounding areas as late as 2 a.m. and then was up before the crack of dawn to resume search efforts.

Thanks to a helpful friend, Dawn decided to try a recovery strategy that someone shared online. It’s a method that’s popular among outdoorsmen for lost hunting dogs. The trick is this … return to the location where you first became aware you were separated from your canine. At the scene, place at least one article of recently worn clothing (not anything freshly clean from the wash). The more scent it holds, the better. If at all possible, also bring along a crate or carrier and two or three of your dog’s favorite toys. It is recommended that you also provide a bowl of water (not food, as it may attract wildlife that might scare off your dog). You might also consider leaving a note for any people who happen by, requesting that the items remain undisturbed and why.

The basic concept here is that your dog wants to return to you, he just can’t find you. Thanks to their incredible sense of smell, they will be able to find their way back to these familiar items. Time and time again, this method has proven highly successful in reuniting lost dogs with their caretakers.

Why is it so effective? Dogs have an amazingly keen sense of smell. Their noses possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors, which is 50 times more than humans. To convert all of the sensory data picked up by these detectors, there’s a great deal of processing power. The canine brain allocates 40 times more brain power proportionately, compared to people.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how much better a dog is at detecting scents compared to ours. Some experts say it’s a 1,000 times better, while others say it’s one million times better. And humans actually have well-developed sniffers. All of us have had the experience of returning home and opening the front door to smell that someone’s been cooking. You were probably even pretty sure what dish was being made. If we can smell this, a dog could detect the same in a house the size of an average-sized city!

Dogs are able to pick up on a whole host of information from smells. When it comes to knowing their pet parent, they can read unique chemical markers (such as hormones) that we’re not even aware we’re emitting. With one breath, they can easily determine if we’re fearful, anxious or sad. That’s astonishing! Just remember, the next time you’re walking your dog and she lingers to smell the grass, she’s reading all sorts of information from the last dog that passed by. In this scenario, veterinary experts would say that your dog’s interior thoughts probably sound like, “Let’s see, you’re also a girl, you’re about 4 years old, you had a chicken-based meal this morning, you were super excited on your walk, etc.”

A HAPPY RESOLUTION

It was a frightening 24 hours, both for Dawn and for Chevy. But thanks to the innovative strategy we just explained to lure her back to the exact spot where they were separated, Dawn, Koko and Chevy are now safely back under the same roof. Yay!

Chevy

Have you ever become separated from your companion animal? What strategy did you use to search, and were you successful? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Share your stories in the comments section below!

Vitamin E for Stressed Pets

domestic-short-hair

As a holistic veterinarian, I feel it is incredibly important to take the whole animal into consideration when it comes to nutrition. And, whenever practical, my preference is to provide nutrients, minerals and vitamins in their natural forms. In this post, I’d like to talk to you specifically about vitamin E, to review both the strengths and weaknesses of natural and synthetic forms.

Vitamin E is an incredibly complex and important nutrient that, among other things, functions as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are naturally occurring nutrients that promote health by slowing the destructive aging process of cells (a breakdown called “peroxidation”). In peroxidation, damaged molecules known as free radicals steal pieces from other cells, like fat, protein or DNA. The damage can spread, damaging and killing entire groups of cells. While peroxidation can be useful to destroy old cells or germs and parasites, when left unchecked, free radicals produced by peroxidation also damages healthy cells. Antioxidants can help to stem the tide of peroxidation, thus stabilizing free radicals.

Antioxidants like vitamin E are crucial to the health of companion animals of any age. They can improve the quality of the immune response and the effectiveness of vaccines in young pets, and help maintain a vital immune system in seniors.

Vitamin E occurs in one of two forms, either natural or synthetic. Natural vitamin E is a collection of eight chemically unique compounds that are derived from plants, including four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. More commonly used and less expensive, synthetic vitamin E is one compound – alpha-tocopherol.

For me, the choice of using natural or synthetic vitamin E in my formulas couldn’t be clearer, and neither could the evidence. The synthetic form of vitamin E is not as active or easily absorbed as the natural form of vitamin E. The molecular structure of vitamin E determines how well the body can utilize it. In human trials, researchers found that proteins in the liver specifically select the natural form of vitamin E and largely ignore the synthetic form.

In a Japanese study, scientists found that it took three times the amount of synthetic vitamin E to equal the blood levels of natural vitamin E. In the U.S., researchers found that body tissues and blood retained far higher levels of natural vitamin E versus synthetic. In addition, synthetic alpha-tocopherol vitamin E has only half the vitamin activity of the natural alpha-tocopherol vitamin E.

Why is there such a difference between synthetic and natural forms of vitamin E? The key to understanding how the body absorbs these two types differently lies on the molecular level.

best-buds-napping

The cellular structure of mammals more easily recognizes natural forms of vitamins. And cellular proteins and blood plasma bind to natural forms more readily than their synthetic counterparts. Unfortunately, synthetic vitamins are cheaper and, therefore, are more prevalent in many products on the market today.

So, how can you determine if the products you are using contain the synthetic or natural form of vitamin E? Simply check out the ingredient labels! Natural vitamin E is listed as a-tocopherol acetate, d-alpha tocopherol, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate or d-alpha tocopheryl succinate. Alternately, synthetic forms of vitamin E are labeled with a “dl-“ prefix.

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM

REFERENCES:

Kiyose C, et al. Biodiscrimination of alpha-tocopherol stereoisomers in humans after oral administration. Am J Clin Nutr 1997 (Mar); 65 (3): 785-9

Burton GW, et al. Human plasma and tissue alpha-tocopherol concentrations in response to supplementation with deuterated natural and synthetic vitamin E Am J Clin Nutr 1998; 67: 669-84

Traber MG, et al. Synthetic as compared with natural vitamin E is preferentially excreted as a-CEHC in human urine: studies using deuterated a-tocopheryl acetate FEBS Letters 1998 (Oct 16); 437: 145-8

Yu W, Jia L, Wang P, et al. In vitro and in vivo evaluation of anticancer actions of natural and synthetic vitamin E forms. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008;52:447-456.

Blatt DH, Pryor WA, Mata JE, et al. Re-evaluation of the relative potency of synthetic and natural a-tocopherol: experimental and clinical observations. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2004;15:380-395.

Weiss WP, Hogan JS, and Wyatt DJ. Relative bioavailability of all-rac and RRR vitamin E based on neutrophil function and total a-tocopherol and isomer concentrations in periparturient dairy cows and their calves. J Dairy Sci. 2009;92:720-731.

Lauridsen C, Engel H, Jensen SK, et al. Lactating sows and suckling piglets preferentially incorporate RRR- over All-rac-a-tocopherol into milk, plasma and tissues. J Nutr. 2002;132:1258-1264.

Sen CK, Khanna S, and Roy S. Tocotrienols in health and disease: The other half of the natural vitamin E family. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. 2007;28-692-728.

Hayek MG, et al. Dietary vitamin E improves immune function in cats. In: Reinhart GA, Carey DP eds. Recent Advances in Canine and Feline Nutrition, Vol III: 2000 Iams Nutrition Symposium Proceedings. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 2000; 555-564.