Pet Advice & Ideas

Protect Your Dog from Heat Exhaustion

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Every summer, our local parks department posts warning signs at the trailhead of my favorite hike warning of the dangers of overheating. Not for people. For their dogs.

The trail is five miles round trip, winding up a rocky mountain with little shade and no access to water. If you get into trouble out on the trail, you have to either be carried out or airlifted. Fortunately, most people heed warm weather warnings for themselves, bring enough water and have the appropriate hiking attire, all of which help make rescues a rare event. The same cannot be said for their dogs, unfortunately … hence the sign.

Dogs love us and want to go along with whatever we ask them to do. This leads to dangerous situations when well-meaning nature lovers, who just want to include their canines in summer activities, forget the very real risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs.

Risk Factors

Heat exhaustion doesn’t come out of nowhere, making it a problem we can both anticipate and prevent. That’s a good thing! While any pet or person can experience this condition, there are specific risk factors that you need to be aware of that make some dogs more susceptible to heat than others:

Age: Both the very young and the very old are more affected by heat. Regulating body temperature is a complicated physiological process, and pets at both ends of the age spectrum have more difficulty fending off temperature extremes.

Breed: You can’t walk ten feet these days without encountering an adorable Frenchie or Boston Terrier, but hopefully those walks are taking place early in the morning (hint, hint). Any squishy-faced breed (referred to as brachycephalic) is more prone to heat stroke due to their anatomy.

Coat: When I first adopted my black lab Kekoa, I was shocked at how much more quickly she heated up during walks. Why? Dark-coated fur absorbs more heat. In addition, those beautiful thick coats that keep breeds like Huskies toasty in the snow can also predispose them to heat-related illness.

Weight: As if we needed another reason to warn against carrying extra pounds, obesity is a known risk factor for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

All of these risk factors add up. Let’s just say, if you have a black-coated, overweight, senior French bulldog, you might as well just follow them around with a fan and a thermometer all summer (and get them on a diet!).

Early Warning Signs

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are progressive illnesses. It takes time for a pet to go from normal body temperature to dangerously hot. During that process, he or she may exhibit any one of the following signs, meaning it’s time to stop what you’re doing and get into the shade.

Panting: Yes, dogs pant as part of the normal cooling process- but if they’re panting so much they can barely pause to take a sip of water, they’re too hot.

Drooling: Excessive drooling is a sign of heat exhaustion. Paradoxically, so are dry gums. A pet’s mouth should be moist but not dripping with saliva, nor should the gums be dry to the touch.

Red gums: Gums should be pink. Dark gums, which can look nearly red, can signal a problem.

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Late-Stage Warning Signs

If your pet exhibits any of these during hot weather, I would proceed to a veterinarian immediately. Left unchecked, heat stroke can sadly lead to kidney failure or even death.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Staggering gait
  • Seizures
  • Petechiae (pinpoint red spots on gums & mucous membranes)
  • Blood in stool or tarry, dark stool

What Should You Do if You Suspect Heat Exhaustion or Stroke?

If you’re not sure how severe your pet’s symptoms are, you can always call your local veterinary ER for advice. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially with something as dangerous as heat stroke.

Avoid the temptation to douse your pet in cold water. It can actually worsen things by causing the peripheral blood vessels to constrict. You can spray your pet with cool (not cold) water while you proceed to the ER.

The best solution is, as always, prevention. Make sure pets have plenty of access to shade and cold drinking water when they’re outside during warm weather. Keep them indoors entirely during significant heat waves. Avoid walks during the middle of the day. If you’re going on a hike where help is not likely to be easily accessible if you run into trouble, over-prepare.

Have a fun, and SAFE, summer!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Why Consumers Trust Life's Abundance Pet Food

Lifes-Abundance-Cares-About-Your-Dogs-Health

NOTE: Life’s Abundance is not the subject of any FDA investigations or cases of DCM.

The FDA’s June 27 update linking 16 dog food brands to reports of the canine heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has pet parents understandably concerned. Our hearts go out to affected families, and we’re happy to address your questions about our brand.

Our Purpose is You

At Life’s Abundance we are fueled by our passion for helping families, including pets, live longer, happier, healthier lives. You and your family are at the top of our minds as we develop products, select ingredients, choose suppliers and answer your questions.

If you already feed your companion Life’s Abundance food, thank you for placing your trust in us. If you or someone you know is considering making a switch, we hope you will choose Life’s Abundance.

Our way of thinking sets us apart, but it doesn’t end there.

  • Authenticity. We don’t buy into fads and marketing gimmicks. Our formulas are based on proven science and evolve only when research confirms that an adjustment will provide a nutritional benefit. In fact, because we are proactive in our approach, we were among the first to include guaranteed probiotics in our foods.
  • Guaranteed Taurine. We guarantee minimum amounts of taurine in all of our dry dog foods. Though this nutrient is not required by AAFCO, we have always seen it as an important and beneficial supplement in our dog foods.
  • Regular Testing. We regularly test all of our dry foods. Some tests are standard protocol and some go above and beyond standard requirements. For example, after a 2018 FDA report indicated there may be a link between DCM and taurine deficiency, we re-tested taurine levels in all of our dry dog food diets. Then, later that year we re-tested Vitamin D after a series of recalls due to an excess of this nutrient. In all cases, we remain vigilant about the safety of our products.
  • Proven Results. For two decades families like yours have trusted us to provide the best nutrition for their pets. Generations of dogs and cats have thrived on our products and thousands of pet parents have shared their experience through reviews we can be proud of.
  • Feeding Trials in Process. We recognize the importance of standardized, scientific testing and the value of Feeding Trials and we are underway with the process to trial all of our dry dog foods.
  • Quick Notification System. We are proud of the fact that we have never had a recall. But, what we are most thrilled with is our Quick Notification System. Unlike most brands, because we have a direct relationship with customers, in the event there is ever an issue with a product, we will be able to notify consumers immediately. Rather than waiting to hear about a problem in the news, from a friend, or never hearing about it all, Life’s Abundance will contact you directly by email, phone or even mail. That’s a level of service you simply can’t get anywhere else.

As a company and as pet parents ourselves, news of events like DCM makes us pause to acknowledge what it means to be based on a foundation of integrity, and to appreciate those families whose well being our products support.

Be assured, we are monitoring this investigation closely and will provide updates as they become available.

Bulletin: FDA Named 16 Dog Food Brands Involved in Official Reports of Heart Disease

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NOTE: NO LIFE'S ABUNDANCE PET FOODS ARE INVOLVED IN THIS FDA REPORT OR DCM.

In July of last year, the FDA's investigation of consumer reports concerning an increase in the number of incidents of a heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The dogs did not have a predisposition to DCM but they did frequently eat dog foods containing peas, lentils and other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients.

The FDA has updated their investigation into the DCM cases and named 16 brands eaten by dogs involved in the official report. Only brands named 10 or more times are in this list while some reports listed multiple brands and other listed none.

Top 16 Pet Food Brands Associated with DCM Cases:

  1. Acana - 67
  2. Zignature - 64
  3. Taste of the Wild - 53
  4. 4Health - 32
  5. Earthborn Holistic - 32
  6. Blue Buffalo - 31
  7. Nature's Domain - 29
  8. Fromm - 24
  9. Merrick -16
  10. California Natural -15
  11. Natural Balance -15
  12. Orijen -12
  13. Nature's Variety - 11
  14. NutriSource - 10
  15. Nutro - 10
  16. Rachael Ray Nutrish - 10

Officials said “The FDA is working with the pet food industry to better understand whether changes in ingredients, ingredient sourcing, processing or formulation may have contributed to the development of DCM."

If you or someone you know is feeding one of the brands listed above, now may be a good time to make the switch to a premium Life's Abundance diet. If you already feed Life's Abundance to your companion, you can remain confident in your choice and our commitment to helping families, including pets, live long, healthy lives!

Related Post: Why Consumers Trust Life's Abundance Pet Food

DIY Projects to Make Your Home Pet-Friendly

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If you're like a lot of new and prospective first-time home buyers, having your own home gives you the opportunity to do something you've always dreamed of ... welcoming a companion animal into your family!

In fact, it turns out that home buying decisions rely significantly on pet-related considerations. For pet parents, a house in a community with pet-oriented features will almost invariably win out over a community with numerous pet restrictions. With over 60% of American households that include a pet or want one, that's many millions of home buyers focused on their pets' needs.

Our love of pets is not just affecting buying habits, it's driving renovation decisions. This summer, countless families will be starting do-it-yourself projects with an eye toward making their homes more suitable or more comfortable for dogs and cats. In this post, we'll be taking a deep dive on some of the most common DIY projects for pet parents. So strap on your toolbelts, recharge your power tools, dig out your measuring tape, crack your knuckles and let's get down to brass tacks. Or, nails, probably nails would be better. To the list!

Hot Dog a Doggie Door!

Your dog wants to go outside. Then he wants to come back in. Then he wants to go outside again. And the cycle repeats. Rather than giving yourself over to the whims of your dog, who quite frankly will be much happier if he can run around the yard whenever the inclination strikes, why not remove yourself from this equation entirely? A dog door offers the ideal solution. And, as far as renovation projects go, relatively easy to install.

Project Difficulty: pretty simple, actually.

Laying Down the P-Lam

Life is not always neat. Dogs and cats can track in all sorts of crud into your home. And sometimes they have accidents, too. Rather than risk a pee incident with your carpeted house, why not upgrade your flooring to something decidedly more pet-friendly? Scratch-resistant, stain-proof plastic laminate flooring offers a great way to avoid the unpleasantness of carpet stains. New homeowners, be forewarned, though ... tearing out old carpet and pads and laying down all new flooring is a bit of a challenge.

Project Difficulty: moderate, but big payoff.

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The Wonderful World of Built-Ins

Like the groovy conversation pits of 60's post-modern ranch houses, the understated elegance of built-ins to accommodate pet food and water bowls, not to mention pet beds, are all the rage with your fellow DIYers. There's no better way to demonstrate that your pets truly matter to you (as in, this house was literally made for you to be here). Functionally, they're a dream. Straightening up for company has never been so simple. Though it is a bit more labor-intensive than first-time DIYers should tackle, if you have a good plan, anything is possible.

Project Difficulty: complex, unless you've had woodworking experience.

The Deluxe Mud Room

Mud rooms are not just for ranches and farm houses anymore. If you have rambunctious doggos who love to romp and wallow in the dirt, and maybe young children who enjoy the same, having a room between the messy great outdoors and the cozy cleanness of your living areas can provide the perfect buffer. Now, savvy homeowners are outfitting their mud rooms with plumbing! While some install an oversized sink that functions as a doggie bathing area, other deluxe mud room conversions also function as a laundry room as well as a changing area. Wouldn't it be nice to peel off dirty clothes and drop them in the wash before you enter your inner sanctuary? The benefits are tangible and numerous, if you're ready for a bigger project.

Project Difficulty: challenging (as they say, when plumbing's involved, best to leave it to the professionals).

The best part of committing to pet-friendly renovation projects, aside from the obvious benefits of each, is that not only is there very little chance you'll regret your decision but also that you'll almost certainly derive great satisfaction from these renos. A recent survey showed that four out five people were very satisfied post-project, even when they paid someone else to do all the work. And that number only goes higher when you do the work yourself! 

So, the only question left now is, what will you build?

Fire Safety & Prevention for Families with Pets

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When my mother was five years old, her house burned down due to a stove that was accidentally left on overnight. Decades later, she still remembers that night as if it were yesterday … the smoke filling the hallways, the feel of the grass under her bare feet. It happened, she said, so fast. Fortunately, everyone made it out alive.

When it comes to fire safety, most of us know the basics: pre-plan evacuation routes and during a fire, don’t open doors without first feeling for heat. But do your plans include your pet? An estimated 500,000 pets are adversely affected each year by house fires. For this reason, July 15th is designated as National Pet Fire Safety Day in order to raise awareness of pet safety during house fires and help you prepare so everyone is protected!

Safe Pet Evacuation

The first part of your pet fire safety plan should be to review your evacuation protocol, if you have one. And if not, today’s the day to make one!

1. Designate specific people for specific pets. Knowing in advance who grabs Oliver’s leash and who gets Fiona’s cat carrier streamlines the evacuation. Ideally the leashes and carriers should be kept in easily accessible locations.
2. Know your evacuation routes. A second story window is not going to be an accessible route for a large dog, so plan for exits pets can use whenever possible. It is important to remember that family members should never put themselves in danger for a pet, as difficult as that may be. First responders are trained to rescue our four-legged family members when it is unsafe for us to do so.
3. Display a window cling. Speaking of first responders, did you know you can put a vinyl adhesive sticker near your front door that alerts firefighters that there are pets in your home? Many fire stations make these available to the public, or you can easily shop for them online. Make sure they are updated regularly so first responders know how many pets are living in the home, should an emergency arise when you are away or incapacitated.
4. Keep collars on at all times. This is good practice in general, but in the specific case of house fires this makes it much easier for a firefighter to safely bring your pet out of the house. And, should they escape during an evacuation (not uncommon in times of extreme distress), he or she will have their contact information readily available on their tags.

Fire Prevention

Did you know dogs and cats are blamed for about 1,000 house fires every year? No, these are not deliberately destructive acts of arsonist-inclined companion animals. But still, yikes! Take the time to employ a few preventive strategies to ensure your dog or cat doesn’t inadvertently cause a flammable disaster.

1. Use flameless candles. Pets and open flames are a dangerous mix, particularly when you have a curious cat who likes to knock things off the coffee table. Flameless candles powered by LEDs are a pretty and safe alternative. If you really want to light that scented candle, make sure your pets are never left unattended in the same room.
2. Use knob covers on the stove. Did you know that stove tops are the number one way pets accidentally start fires? One minute they’re trying to get a look over the counter to see if there’s any food up there, the next thing you know you’re getting a call from the fire department while you’re in the middle of a work meeting. Knob covers- the same type used to prevent toddlers from starting the stove- work like a charm.
3. No glass on wooden decks. Many people like using glass bowls for pet dishes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but glass can act like a magnifying glass and set a wooden deck aflame. It might seem crazy, but it happens! Switch the bowls out for ceramic or plastic, and you’re all set.
4. Use a monitored security system or smart alarm. Traditional smoke alarms are a vital component of fire safety, but they’re only useful for people in the house at the time. Pets home alone have no way of alerting us if there’s a problem, but monitored security systems can react quickly before a fire gets out of hand no matter where you are in the world. Conversely, a good alternative to monitored systems are smart alarms. Today’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors function not only as in-house alarm systems, they can also send text and push notifications wherever you’d like. Our system controls the thermostat, the smoke detector, security camera, and tells us if one of the kids left the front door open.

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We’ve come a long way since that chilly night decades ago where my mother watched her house disappear. With today’s safety precautions, there’s a lot you can do to make sure your family doesn’t endure a similar tragedy. Or if you do, that everyone makes it out quickly and safely. By taking steps now to minimize the dangers and to develop a well-defined plan, everyone in your home can have peace of mind and rest a little easier.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The Changing Needs of Senior Cats

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Cats are wonderful, mysterious creatures. And that's just two of the many reasons we love having them as a part of our family! On the other hand, cats are notorious for masking symptoms of disease, which can make determining their health needs increasingly challenging as they age. The signs are there, however, if we know what to look for. In what follows, we'll review the signs and reveal several things pet parents can do to optimize their cats' nutrition as they age.

When are Cats Considered Senior?

Generally speaking, cats can be considered senior if they're somewhere between 7-10 years of age. There is not one specific age, largely due to differences in quality of nutrition and the varying health states of individual cats. Unlike dogs, which have a wide variation in aging due to size differences between breeds, cat breeds all age at about the same rate.

Common signs of aging in cats include decreased jumping due to arthritis, weight changes (either gain or loss), changes in sleeping patterns, changes in drinking and/or urinating behavior, and cognitive changes such as seeming disoriented or lost. Although these symptoms are associated with age, they also reflect disease processes. If your cat exhibits any of the above symptoms, visit your veterinarian to make sure that you're not dealing with a dire medical condition that might require immediate treatment! Better safe than sorry.

Dogs vs Cats - More Differences

While older dogs have decreased energy needs, the same is not true for cats. The caloric needs of cats decrease until age 11, then start to increase again (which is why you see many obese 9 year olds but very few obese 16 year old cats). Cats are obligate carnivores so their nutritional needs are very different from omnivores such as dogs and people.

Protein & Fats

Senior cats may not digest protein and fat as efficiently as they age. Thus, the takeaway here is that not only the quantity, but the quality of protein and fats, matters. If protein intake remains too low, your cat may experience impaired immune function and muscle wasting. Digestibility is the key obtaining nutrients from foods, so it’s best to feed high-quality protein sources that are easily absorbed by a gut that may not be performing at optimal levels.

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Four Age-Associated Diseases You Need to Know

Diabetes is usually associated with obesity. High-protein, lower-carbohydrate diets can help blood sugar stabilize and reduce the need for insulin. Weight loss greatly improves the condition. Signs of diabetes include increased drinking and urination, sudden weight loss. Note that these symptoms are very similar to those of hyperthyroidism, another common disease in older cats.

Dental disease can make it harder for cats to crunch on kibble, leading to weight loss secondary to pain. Soft foods can help minimize oral pain. Signs of dental disease include reddened gums, bad breath and tartar.

Hyperthyroidism: a very common disease in elderly cats that is also associated with heart disease. Diet can help these cats maintain weight, but this is a disease that is best treated with medication, surgery, or radiation. Many cats do very well with treatment.

Renal disease: while kidney disease is often treated with protein restriction, this may not be the best bet for all cats. Too little protein can result in weight loss and muscle breakdown. Some cats benefit from phosphorous-restricted diets to reduce strain on the kidneys, but these decisions are best made in conjunction with your veterinarian. Signs of kidney disease include decreased appetite, weight loss, bad breath, vomiting, dehydration and increased urination.

Nutritional Challenges in Older Cats

As your cats age, they're at a higher risk of diminished appetite due to medical conditions, a loss of smell and taste due to age, all of which can lead to muscle wasting. Pet parents can help with warming food, soft food (canned is often more aromatic than kibble), or adding gravies or meat-based baby foods to improve smell and flavor.

Older cats are prone to dehydration, so getting enough water in them can be a challenge. Again, adding canned or soft foods may help, as does providing multiple water stations throughout the house.

Don't forget that premium supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants can help address some of the signs and symptoms of aging.

So What's the Bottom Line?

As we've seen, cats are a mystery and sometimes a challenge. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to senior diets in cats, so each kitty should be evaluated on an individual basis to come up with a diet plan that will help them live their longest, happiest and healthiest lives!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Amazing Greyhounds: Fun Facts About the Fastest Dog

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Greyhounds are one of the oldest purebred canines. Ancient paintings of these noble creatures grace the walls of tombs in the great Egyptian pyramids. In fact, Greyhounds are the only breed mentioned by name in the Bible!

Aside from being one of the fastest animals on the planet, they are so good-natured that they are commonly referred to as “Velcro dogs” by their people. 

Would you like to learn more about this elegant, ancient breed? Then look no further, because here’s a handy infographic that reveals some of the most amazing Greyhound facts. To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below!

PDF Document

What Does It Mean When Your Dog Bows to You?

Dog Playing

Pet parents often ask me, “Why does my dog bow?” The answer is more complicated than you might think, as it often is with our wonderfully complex canine companions. Dog bows serve as building blocks of dog communication and also have a physiological function in the stretching referred to as pandiculation. The reason behind each bow depends on when the dog engages in the behavior. Let’s talk about this unique form of stretching first.

Pandiculation is a brain-reflex-action pattern in which many animals engage. The word originates from the Latin ‘pandere’, which means "to spread out" or "stretch oneself". Next time your dog gets up from rest, watch what he does. Most often, he’ll put his front paws out and lengthen his back as he relaxes his belly. Then he may pandiculate in reverse, by contracting the anterior muscles into a flexed posture. This “wakes up” the muscular system, particularly the rear extensor muscles responsible for running. In a very real sense, this motion activates the connection between the brain and the muscles.

Stretching and yawning upon awakening is one healthy habit that we could relearn from our companion animals. As children, we instinctively do this, but many of us lose the habit.

Remember when you used to stretch? You'd wake up, gently tighten your arms and legs, feel a yawn coming on. Then, you’d reach your arms above your head, then reach down to one leg and then the other. You would first contract your muscles, then lengthen them, followed by complete relaxation. Try it some morning … you might be surprised at how good it’ll make you feel!

Dog bowing is most commonly expressed with what we refer to as the ‘play bow’. This common posture serves as a cornerstone of dog communication. Most often, it functions as an expression of ‘let's play!” Or, it can signal an apologetic tone, such as, "Oops, I didn't mean to bite so hard. I wasn't trying to hurt you. Let's keep playing!”

With a play bow, social hierarchy is not a factor. Dominant dogs can offer play bows to lower-ranked dogs and vice versa. When two dogs meet for the first time, they may initiate interaction with play bows as a way of making friends. Sometimes as part of the mating ritual, canines will initially assume the play-bow position to communicate amorous intent. Even if you don’t know exactly what your dog is attempting to communicate, the context of the behavior can help clue you in.

Want to try something fun? Try doing your own version of the play bow to your dog, and watch your pup go from serious to goofball in a heartbeat. Use a silly voice, plop down and invite your dog to play - you will likely be delighted at your dog’s response!

If dogs are not properly socialized, they may not know how to respond to another dog’s play-bow invitation. Rather than responding in-kind, they may feel threatened and growl fearfully. If you witness any fearful or aggressive reactions, I recommend working with a professional dog trainer.

If your dog invites you to play with a bow, accept the invitation! Chances are that you’ll boost her well-being, as well as yours, by simply engaging in purposeful play for only five minutes. It’s a great way to take a break from the day and begin a game of tug of war, tag or fetch.

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks

Why Does My Pet Eat Grass?

Tempted to Graze

It’s a question pet parents routinely ponder. While there are competing theories regarding why dogs and cats consume grass, a conclusive answer has yet to be supported by scientific study. Here’s a brief overview of the current speculation behind your companion animal’s impulse to graze …

1. It’s an ancestral thing. The prey of wild dogs and cats frequently have grasses in their intestinal system, so domesticated dogs and cats still retain a yearning for a spot of grass in their diet.

2. Our companion animals know of some nutritional value in grasses that we have yet to uncover (such as antioxidants).

3. They do it to provoke vomiting if they’ve eaten something that has upset their stomachs.

4. They are augmenting their keen sense of smell with taste to discover more about their environment.

5. They simply like the taste and texture of grass, so it’s just for the sake of satisfaction!

Although we may never know the exact reason why, we do know that this is one of the most commonly asked questions that veterinarians hear from their clients. If you notice excessive grass-eating with either your dog or cat, please consult your vet.

What Should I Feed My Senior Dog?

Aging Dog

A lot of folks don’t realize it, but as companion animals grow older, their nutritional needs often change. As their caretakers, we owe it to them to provide the best we can, based on their current nutritional requirements. The truth is, when it comes to senior dogs, appropriate, targeted nourishment can make a real difference in terms of longevity and long-term happiness. More...