Pet Advice & Ideas

What to Know About Pet Joint Health

cat playing on couch

Age is not a disease.

We say that all the time in medicine, because it’s true. “He’s slowing down” is an observation, but it’s not a diagnosis. All too many times, when I’m asking someone how their pet is doing they will say, “Well, he’s slowing down, but he’s old. What are you going to do?”

Lots! We have lots of things we can do, especially for one of the most common diseases of aging dogs and cats: degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis (OA). In fact, one out of five pets are experiencing this right now. And many of them could be feeling a lot better.

DJD is more complicated than it might appear at first blush, but it’s also one of the most gratifying to treat when you’re able to improve a pet’s quality of life so significantly. Whether you have a senior pet with diagnosed or suspected DJD, or a younger pet you want to keep in good health for a good long time, there are things you can be doing right now to maintain their joint health.

Anatomy of a Joint

Unlike a heart or a kidney, a joint is not a discrete organ but a term used to describe the connection between bones. Joints vary in terms of structure, function, and components. Your knee joint, for instance, is a back-and-forth hinge joint, while the joints that connect the bones in your skull move very little. In both cases, this is a good thing.

Joints have multiple components such as cartilage, connective tissue like ligaments and tendons, and capsules that enclose the joint and keep everything contained. Depending on where the joint is located, its purpose is to protect the bones, allow free movement by reducing friction, and act as a cushion.

Cartilage is a critical tissue in the joint. It is comprised of cells called chondrocytes suspended in a matrix of collagen and proteoglycans, which trap water and keep the cartilage nice and plump. Healthy chondrocytes keep that matrix fully hydrated, which is essential for the joint’s ability to absorb forces without damage. Cartilage creates the joint cushion.

The synovial membrane is the tissue that surrounds the joint and keeps it sealed. The membrane secretes synovial fluid into the joint, which is critical for lubrication.

If there is any disruption to the cartilage, the synovial membrane, or the bone underneath the cartilage, your dog or cat can begin to develop a joint disease.

Causes of DJD

While DJD can result from the normal aging process, it is often accelerated in pets by an injury or other underlying health condition that causes stress or inflammation. Inflammatory compounds in the joint space disrupt the cartilage matrix, reducing its ability to retain water. As the cartilage dehydrates, it starts to become more brittle and rubbery, like a piece of cheese you left out overnight. It also becomes more likely to splinter. If it gets bad enough, the underlying bone can also be affected.

dog playing with ball

Treatment and Prevention

Unfortunately, DJD in dogs and cats is an irreversible process. Treatment is aimed at slowing down the progression of the disease, reducing pain, and maintaining movement in the joint. It is a complex process with a lot of different elements, which means one thing: the best treatment hits the disease process on multiple fronts. We call this ‘multimodal disease management,’ and it’s the gold standard in DJD therapy. Here are the different fronts from which we attack DJD:

    1. Anti-inflammatories. Remember when I mentioned those inflammatory compounds? There are a lot of them. No one medication or supplement gets them all, which is why we tend to combine them for better results.
      1. NSAIDS- These are the most recognizable of the bunch for most of us, and are nice because they reduce both inflammation and pain. In pets, these are prescription meds such as Rimadyl, Metacam, or Deramaxx. Please don’t use over the counter people medications like Advil or Aleve- they simply aren’t as effective and can be dangerous to your pets.
      2. Nutraceuticals and supplements- This is an ever-expanding group of treatments that gets lots of attention for being effective across many species, with a low incidence of side effects. The most recognizable names here are glucosamine/ chondroitin sulfate, but newer players on the market such as green lipped mussels are also giving great results.
      3. Adequan injections- This is an injection available through veterinarians that stimulates the cartilage to improve the matrix.

    2. Weight loss. If your pet is overweight- which describes about half the pets in the US! -this can accelerate the stress that causes cartilage to degenerate. If your pet is overweight, talk to your vet about what their ideal body weight should be. If they are the correct weight, well done! Keep it up.

    3. Alternative treatment modalities. I trained and became certified in veterinary acupuncture specifically to treat arthritic pets, with good results. I’ve also used lasers, a product that uses pulsed electromagnetic fields, and physical therapy. The more layers you add onto your treatment, the better the results.

    4. Prevention. Unfortunately, by the time a pet starts to limp or shows signs of pain, they have usually had DJD for some time and it is fairly advanced. That’s why preventive measures are so important. Here’s what pet owners should do from the get-go:
      1. Maintain a healthy weight for your pet.
      2. Maintain a regular exercise program to keep joints mobile and healthy.
      3. Keep your pet on a healthy diet and add omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
      4. If your pet is highly active or in a higher-risk category for DJD, consider adding nutraceuticals and supplements to their diet sooner rather than later.


Age isn’t a disease, but DJD is. It’s not often I say, “the more the merrier!” when it comes to treatments, but in this case you really can’t begin joint healthcare early enough. From diet to exercise to supplements, put your plan in place now to keep your pet in good health long into their senior years!

Wishing you and your family health and happiness,

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V

Disaster Planning for Pets

With September being National Preparedness Month, it’s a good time to remember that disasters, like hurricanes and wildfires, can happen at any moment with little to no notice. It can be difficult to remember what you need as you evacuate, especially when you have a furry friend, so planning in advance is key! Dr. V hosted a live video stream to share some essential planning tips for pet parents. Read on for a recap or watch the video above!


Check ID Tags

  • Make sure your pet’s ID tags are up to date as addresses and phone numbers change.
  • Check with your dog’s and cat's microchip manufacturer to ensure they have updated contact info.


Updated Contact List

  • Double check that you have important numbers, like your vet’s number, saved for emergencies.
  • Shelters may require paperwork, like proof of vaccination, so be sure to put important documents onto a smartphone app for easy access.
  • As a backup, make paper copies of records for when you don’t have access to your digital copies.


Get Connected on Social

  • There are many social network groups that are local to your town or neighborhood. Join in advance to keep in touch with the community! Dr. V. told us about her experience of hearing from a neighbor that her neighborhood was on the news because of an evacuation order. Thanks to her network, she was able to get her pets out safely and quickly.
  • Apps like NextDoor and local Facebook groups can be great resources to stay up to date on local news, updates, and evacuations.


Make a “Go Bag”

  • With little time to prepare in the midst of disaster, making a go bag for your pets in advance is essential for a quick evacuation.
  • Always have a week’s worth of dog food, cat food and water for them.
  • Continuously rotate bags of food as you receive them so you are not left with an expired bag.
  • Rotate your pet’s water supply every six months.
  • Don’t forget dog treats and cat treats to help keep your pets occupied in stressful situations.
  • Include your pet’s carrier, bowls, leashes, and toys.


Pro-tip: Always keep your carrier empty so you don’t spend valuable time unloading any items to make way for your cat.

It is crucial that you prepare for emergencies before they happen. To watch Dr. V’s entire live stream for more details and her own harrowing story, watch the video above. Stay safe everyone!

How To Massage Your Cat

woman scratching cat

Are you looking for a way to bond with your cat while you also work to improve her health? Even for aloof cats, one way to build a positive bond and make your cat more responsive to contact is with cat massage. Sure, it may seem far fetched that the introverted animal that shares your home would respond, but you just might be surprised.

The Health Benefits of Massage for Cats

Massage stimulates the nerves and muscles in your cat's body. It also creates a relaxing response in the lymphatic system. Just like us, this can help with pain and muscle spasms, which may help reduce stiffness and discomfort. It can also create feelings of relaxation and calm.

Massage also has an effect on the circulation. As you massage your cat, the circulation increases. This flushes away toxins that can build up in the muscles, which can help reduce pain and inflammation. It can encourage a better immune system response as well. Will massage cure all of your cat's health problems? No, but it can set the stage improvement in health, especially if your cat needs a little extra care for her muscles and joints.

The Emotional Benefits of Massaging Your Cat

Not only can massage for your cat provide health benefits, but it can also provide emotional benefits. Massage has a calming effect on cats that are hyper or anxious. It creates a better emotional bond between you and your cat. It can also build trust between you. With practice, massage is something you both will grow to enjoy.


woman petting cat on carpet

How to Massage a Cat

If you're ready to embrace these benefits, here's what you need to do. First, find your cat in a calm time when they will be more receptive to what you are going to do. Extend your hand to your cat, and wait for them to accept your touch, especially if you have a cat that is easily startled. Then, follow these steps as you learn how to massage a cat:

1. Start with the shoulders
Start the massage at the shoulders. Bring your thumb and index finger together at the base of the neck, and massage down the shoulders, following the contour of the bone. Then, stroke down the spine, then return to the shoulders.

2. Move to the head
After massaging the shoulders and spine, move your hands to the head. Pet your cat's head for a moment, then move to the ears, an area that cats enjoy having touched. Rotate a finger slowly around the ear and watch as your cat relaxes under your touch.

3. Massage the tailbone
Now move to the other end of the cat. Place your hand on the top base of the tail, and massage. This is an area that can stand a little more pressure and even some scratching, as it is not as delicate as the ears and shoulders. Most cats like being massaged in this area very much, and you may find your cat leaning into your touch.

4. Consider the tummy
Not all cats like a tummy rub, but if yours does, you can massage here too. Gently massage the tummy, watching your cat's reaction carefully. If the reaction is positive, continue massaging this area a little.

5. Tickle the chin and chest
Now you are ready to finish the massage on the chin and chest. Most cats enjoy chin and chest rub. You can use a bit more pressure as you gently massage this area of your cat's body.

Tips for Giving Your Cat a Massage

While this process works for most cats, remember that each animal is unique. Consider these tips to tailor the massage to your cat's needs:

  • Avoid surprising your cat, unless you want to be pulling a hissing feline off of the ceiling.
  • Pay attention to your cat's response. If something seems uncomfortable, move on to a different area.
  • Go slowly. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Use a soft voice. Repeat a phrase or calming sound during the massage, but maintain a calm, soothing tone to your voice.
  • Reward your cat with a nutritious treat after the massage or to encourage her to be patient with the process.
  • Practice! If you don't get the hang of it the first time, that's okay. Keep practicing, and soon you will both be massage experts.



Cat massage is just one way to help your cat live a healthy, happy life, and build a fulfilling bond. Nutritious food is also important. Because it is their daily source of nutrition, choosing the right food is the surest way to have a positive impact on your cat's happiness and quality of life.

4 Ways To Celebrate National Dog Day This Year

“Woman

In a time when nothing is as it should be and the script seems to change every day in terms of what our lives are going to look like, it’s more important than ever to try and find those moments of normalcy, of joy, and of presence. 

It is times like these where the love of a dog takes on entire new levels of meaning.

When California shut down back in March, it felt apocalyptic. The streets were empty of cars, Google Maps showed green on every single highway at the height of what should be rush hour, the smoggy skies over Los Angeles as clear as they have ever been. The only way you even knew humans were still around was the presence of the dog owners, dutifully masked up and walking the dog because as far as the dog is concerned, they gotta do what they gotta do.

In the ensuing months, I’ve gotten to see what these constant companions have meant for people. Shelters cleared top to bottom as people took on fosters or new adoptions. Seniors unable to visit their grandchildren found themselves relying on a dog more than ever for that ever so important daily connection to another living being. Phones at the vet clinic ringing off the hook as pet owners, now spending hours upon hours a day with their dog, suddenly noticed a problem that may or may not have been there since last year (that’s ok, we are happy you found it!)

As our connection to each other feels especially fragile, our connection to our dogs has taken up a lot of the slack. And that is something to celebrate.

August 26th brings us to National Dog Day, the greatest day (ok, one of the greatest days) of the year. If you forget, your dog won’t mind. But if you do think of it, there really is no greater time to acknowledge how your pet has helped you and your family cope with unprecedented circumstances. There are so many ways to thank them for the smiles, the love, the smelly toys dumped in your lap, the drooly kisses. Here are just a few:

    1. Find a new hike. Getting outside is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your dog, both physically and psychologically. Depending on your area’s current social distancing guidelines, many areas do have hiking trails open as long as you bring a mask and it’s not too packed to stay safe.

    2. Learn a new trick (or two). The key to effective dog training is repetition and consistency - and maybe some Life’s Abundance treats - so why not take advantage of your time at home to bond through training? Whether it’s a simple new trick to master or practicing a sport like dock diving or agility, dogs love the attention and mental exercise!

“Dog

  1. Give them an end-of-summer makeover. If, like me, your local businesses are still shut down to services like grooming, the hair situation may be getting dire. Regular grooming helps maintain clean and healthy skin, and many pets also need regular nail trims that may have fallen by the wayside. It may be messy and it may not look nearly as neat as it does when the pros have at it, but sometimes you just have to roll with what you have. And if what you have is, like me, a Doodle, there may be a terrible clipper job involved. The good news is, they don’t even get embarrassed.

  2. Donate to help homeless dogs. As we all know, there are many pets in search of loving homes and many wonderful organizations and individuals working to make that happen. In honor of your dog, why not make a donation to your favorite charity in their name to help another dog become as lucky as yours? At Life’s Abundance, a portion of every sale supports rescue organizations - so get an extra bag of Porky Puffs or (Ollie’s favorite) Tasty Rewards knowing your selections are helping pets in need!

While we’re not past challenging times by any measure, most of us are now trying to figure out what the new normal is going to look like. Fortunately for all of us, our dogs have been one of the few consistent bright spots throughout. Are you going to celebrate National Dog Day this year? Hope you can join us!

Wishing your family health and love,

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

3 Ways Dogs Help With Mental Health

“Dog

Millions of people around the country love having dogs as a part of their family — what they may not know is how greatly their furry friend can benefit their mental health.

Recent studies exploring the bond between humans and animals have started revealing what so many of us have suspected all along - having a dog has many benefits! This research is how we found that dogs are great at interpreting our mood through our tone of voice, body language and gestures. 

Now we have started to better analyze precisely how our furry friends benefit us mentally and emotionally. Here are three ways dogs can help with our mental health:

1. Early exposure to dogs decreases the chance of psychiatric disorders

A recent study showed that adults who had a dog during childhood were 25% less likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.  

The apparent effect of exposure to a pet dog is the most evident when the dog is present at a child’s birth or joins a family before the child turns three years old. Exposure to a family dog during this time was associated with a 50% less chance for a schizophrenia diagnosis.

2. Dogs can help battle depression

Studies have found that dog parents are less likely to suffer from depression than those without dogs. Playing with dogs and even feeding them treats has shown to raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, which helps pet parents relax and be happy. 

Companionship from a dog can help fend off some triggers of depression such as isolation and loneliness. Studies have shown that having a dog can even prevent illness and add years to your life!

“Playing

3. Dogs promote a healthy routine and self-care

A lack of routine and structure in a person’s life can make them feel unorganized or anxious. Many people who struggle with maintaining a healthy, normal routine may benefit from bringing a dog into their life.  

If you don’t wake up early enough, your dog most likely will! Going for a walk in the morning and eating breakfast is a staple in every dog’s life. This gets you up and out of the house for walks, hikes or runs — just being outdoors provides its own mental health benefits. Taking care of a pet reminds us to take care of ourselves. 

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Of course, bringing a dog into your home isn’t the answer for every person or family, but people should be aware of the mental health benefits that come with the furry package! Remember, dogs can help us just as much as we can help them.

 

Common Houseplants That Are Safe For Pets

“Cat

Having plants in your home is a great way to add beauty, keep your air clean and boost your overall mood. However, you have to be careful when choosing houseplants when you have pets — some are toxic and can even cause life-threatening health problems. 

No need to worry — we’ve compiled a list of pet-friendly plants that are safe if you have dogs, cats, or both. 

Pet-Friendly Houseplants

African Violets

African violets can add touches of vivid color to any part of your home. These flowering plants can thrive in low light and don’t require a lot of care in order to grow, so they’re a great option if you’re not used to having plants around. Since they’re non-toxic, you also don’t have to worry about curious dogs or cats chewing on them. However, it doesn’t hurt to distract playful pets with healthier items to chew, such as our nutritious dog treats or cat treats.

Boston Ferns

Boston ferns can add some bright greenery to your home with their long, shaggy leaves. They do like humidity and some light, but they don’t need direct sunlight. Since their long fronds might become chew toys for dogs or cats, you might want to consider keeping these ferns in an out of the way spot that your pets don’t frequent, such as bathrooms or a guest bedroom.

Bromeliads

“Bromeliad

Bromeliads are beautiful plants with hardy leaves. These flowering plants can make any room more inviting.You will want to keep them in an area that gets bright light and some humidity. In addition to being safe for dogs and cats, one of the other perks of bromeliads is that you can grow them on logs rather than in soil, making them a good option if you have cats that might dig in potted soil.

Friendship Plant

If you’re looking for a small plant that’s easy to care for, consider friendship plants. These plants have fuzzy leaves and normally won’t grow taller than a foot high. You can keep these plants on counters, shelves, or other surfaces in more humid areas of your home, but make sure they have low or medium light. You can also set up a terrarium to keep friendship plants out of reach of pet claws and teeth.

Maidenhair Ferns

Maidenhair ferns are a bit more challenging to care for than Boston ferns. If you decide to get these non-toxic, pet friendly plants, just make sure to give them plenty of water and some bright light. These ferns have long, delicate leaves with a feathery shape, so they might catch the eye of your cats. Having healthy cat treats around might lower the risk of having your cats paw at or chew on maidenhair fern fronds.

Polka Dot Plants

Polka dot plants are another colorful houseplant you can enjoy without fearing for your pet’s safety. These plants have wide leaves with a spotted or speckled appearance, giving them a visually interesting look. Keep these plants in bright light rather than low light to deepen their coloring, or they’ll end up with a more muted look. If you’re going to get polka dot plants, plan on replacing them from time to time. While your pets might leave them alone, these houseplants usually don’t have a long lifespan.

 Spider Plants

“Chlorophytum

Spider plants (or chlorophytum) are among the most common plants that are safe for both dogs and cats. You can decorate shelves or window sills with potted spider plants or place a few hanging ones near windows. These plants are easy to grow if you don’t have a green thumb. They just need a bit of water every so often, indirect light, and some pruning so their leaves don’t get too long. In fact, cutting back the leaves regularly might help prevent pets from playing with them or chewing on them.

 Succulents

Succulent plants are ideal houseplants if you usually forget to water plants. However, some succulents, such as jade and aloe, are toxic to pets when ingested. Safe succulents that won’t hurt dogs or cats include echeveria and haworthia. These plants just need to be kept in areas with bright light and watered about once a week in order to thrive.

Houseplants That Are Toxic To Pets:

Now that you know several plants that are safe for pets, there are some you should immediately remove from your home if you have them. Ingesting any of these plants can lead to serious health problems for your pets and require a visit to the nearest animal hospital. The following are common houseplants known for being toxic to pets:

  • Asparagus fern
  • Caladium (elephant’s ear)
  • Jade
  • Lilies
  • Pothos
  • Sago palms

When you're a pet parent, it's important to be thorough and protect your furry friend in every way that you can when they're at home. Double-checking your houseplants is just one more way you can ensure your pet's safety!

3 Ways To Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer

“Woman

My heart always skips a beat when I see a “Lost Pet” flyer in the neighborhood. That sinking feeling when you look around the house and your pet is nowhere to be found is the absolute worst. You call their name, look under beds, stand in the front yard calling their name, roam the neighborhood…nothing.

And then you wait.

According to the National Humane Society, 1 out of every 3 pets will be lost at some point in their lifetime. Every year, 10 million pets go missing. It can happen even to the most cautious of pet owners- doors accidentally left ajar, a gate that doesn’t latch all the way, or a panicked pet reacting to fireworks. 

Accidents happen to everyone, so it’s best to prepare in advance and do everything you can to prevent a permanent loss. As July is Lost Pet Prevention Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to remind pet lovers how to keep their pets safe and sound.

  • Buy new ID tags and update microchips

The best way to have your pet reunited with you quickly is the good old ID tag. Make sure it’s up to date if you move or change phone numbers, and check yearly to make sure it’s still legible.

Your pet’s name and your phone number are the minimum, but tags can get elaborate. Some manufacturers even embed QR codes on the tag so if someone finds your lost pet they will have access to your information, the vet, and the pet’s medical conditions!

Microchips are, of course, a wonderful tool to help pets when a collar is lost or missing. It does require the pet be somewhere with a reader, like the vet or the shelter, so it’s really a backup if the ID tag isn’t present. Like the ID tag, make sure your information remains up to date in the database.

  • Leash Them Up Right

This summer, families are staying together and if they travel at all, it’s usually on road trips. These are great ways to stay connected, but also provide an opportunity for a spooked pet to be lost in a strange environment.

Make it a habit that no door gets opened without the pet on a leash. That can mean car doors, hotel room doors, anything when there is a chance a pet might dart. If your pet is not in a carrier, they are likely secured in a harness to begin with, so that makes the switchover easier. Don’t ever secure a pet to a seatbelt or the car with anything attached to their neck.

“Woman

  • Watch For Anxiety Triggers

If you live in an area where people shoot off fireworks all summer, you know how terrifying this can be for a pet. It’s hard to overstate what panic can do to a pet. We’re talking doors chewed through, six foot fences scaled, even teeth broken. If your pet experiences this level of anxiety, you would do well to consult with your veterinarian about prescription meds that can help, which work well in combination with training and soothing items like Thundershirts. Sometimes simply comforting your pet while feeding healthy dog treats or cat treats can help calm them.

Note: If you’ve used acepromazine in the past, veterinarians are no longer recommending this for anxiety. Why? Because we’ve discovered that it sedates the pet but doesn’t make the anxiety go away. Imagine being terrified AND unable to move or do anything about it. The good news is, we now have lots of better alternatives. 

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If your pet is lost, take a deep breath. Most pets are reunited with their owners. The knowledge that your pet has an ID tag on can make a huge difference! In the meantime:

  • Call local shelters and veterinarians to let them know your pet is lost
  • Have a current photo attached to the email, if you go that route
  • If you have security, like a Ring doorbell, see if you can tell which way your pet ran
  • Ask your neighbors to keep a look out.
  • Get on Nextdoor! If you’re not using this local community page, it is one of the easiest ways to quickly reach your neighbors.

And most importantly, don’t give up! I once had a client whose Boxer roamed the hills for two months, evading attempts to catch him, before they were finally reunited. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Carole King, who quit her job in Washington to look for her dog who was lost on vacation in Montana. After 57 days, she found him!

If your pet is a Houdini, don’t beat yourself up. Just do all you can to stay one step ahead. I found out the hard way that our side gate had an issue when my neighbor showed up to let me know Dakota was hanging out in his courtyard. It happens! And now we have a backup bungee cord on the gate.

Have a safe and healthy summer!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

5 Pet Safety Tips For 4th of July

Safe dog wrapped in flag on 4th of July

July 5th is one of the busiest days in both veterinary hospitals and animal shelters for many reasons — panicked pups bolt over fences leading to injuries and lost pets, unattended food gets scarfed down causing gastric problems, overheated canines experience heat exhaustion, and the list goes on.

The good news is that we know what to anticipate, which means we have the opportunity now to plan ahead and help keep the Fourth fun and safe for everyone. Here are five tips to make sure you and your pet have a great Independence Day.

  1.  Keep the barbecue food away.

    Summer barbecues are delicious for us but full of hazards for pets. High-fat foods like burgers and hot dogs can cause pancreatitis, kebab skewers can wreak havoc in the stomach, corn cobs are a leading cause of GI surgery, and ribs have bones that can splinter and pierce the intestines. Make sure all your grilled goods  are securely out of the way of nosy pets, and keep an eye out for party guests (especially kids) who accidentally leave plates in precarious locations.

  2. Avoid putting glow-sticks on your pet.

    Although they may look cute, please resist the urge to put a glow stick around your pet’s neck. They really aren’t designed for pet use, chiefly because the liquid they contain can be quite irritating if ingested. Fortunately, there is another option! If you want your pup to look bright and patriotic, LED-lighted collars are designed to be both adorable and perfectly pet-safe.

    Woman Keeping Dog Safe on 4th of July

  3. Update your pet’s ID info.

    Is your pet’s tag and microchip up-to-date? If you’ve recently moved or your phone number has changed, getting a new tag and calling your vet to update a microchip are inexpensive forms of insurance for a potentially scary problem. When fireworks go off, even well-behaved, mild-mannered pets can panic and bolt. One of the main reasons pets languish in shelters after the 4th is due to incorrect or missing identification.

  4. Provide a happy distraction at home.

    If you must leave your companion animal home alone when fireworks are likely, take some precautions to help minimize anxiety. Some may even surprise you! For example, some pets find classical music soothing, while others enjoy TV. There are non-drug calming options such as the Thundershirt or a pheromone collar. And, last but not least, try the tasty distraction offered by a treat-dispensing toy filled with healthy dog treats or cat treats!

  5. Consult your vet before the 4th.

    If your dog or cat are prone to levels of anxiety that over-the-counter remedies can’t address, your veterinarian might prescribe medications to help him or her through the night. We can’t stress enough how important it is to plan ahead for this holiday! Vet’s offices are often slammed on July 3rd with pet parents in a panic asking for a new prescription, and it may not be available on short notice.

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While the Fourth of July can be a source of stress for many canines and felines, it doesn’t have to be! As you can see, just a little bit of planning can make a world of difference.  We wish you a safe and happy Independence Day!

 

5 Ways To Optimize Your Cat's Health

Woman Plays With Healthy Cat At Home

I don’t know about you, but one of the unexpected benefits I’ve gotten from working from home so much lately is the abundance of cats I’ve seen on various Zoom calls. Dogs can be put on the other side of the door, silenced with a snap of the fingers or at least a distracting treat, but cats - no one puts kitty in the corner. This is their space, we’re just borrowing it for a while, and don’t you forget it.

In honor of World Cat Domination Day this June 24th, let’s celebrate our feline friends who hold such dominion over our homes and our hearts. It’s summer- yikes! Where did the time go? - and with all the extra time you’ve spent together, why not spend some of it making sure your cat is set up for optimum health! Here are five ways you can optimize your cat’s health and honor the fantastic feline in your life:

  1. Schedule that overdue vet visit.

    Even before the COVID-19 lockdowns, people were a little reticent to bring their cat to the vet unless they really had to. I understand this. It’s hard to get them into the carrier, they freak out, and it can be an overall super stressful experience for your pet.

    With businesses easing back into the swing of things, most veterinarians are open for business as usual in terms of providing wellness services and yearly exams for pets. Even if curbside drop off is still being implemented, think of it as a silver lining- with you waiting in the parking lot, staff members are doing their absolute best to work efficiently and minimize the time you and your cat spend away from home! And if that is still too stressful, calling in a home visit vet is a perfect solution.

  2. Teach your cat a new trick. 

    No, I don’t mean the one where they walk on your keyboard and stick their rear end straight into the webcam every single time you’re trying to start a video call (or is that just my cat?)

    Start with a simple sit command, as you would a puppy. Incentivize your cat with a delicious treat or whatever they find motivating. And if it’s not their thing, it’s not their thing- but for the right prize, you can almost always make it their thing.

    Woman Monitors Her Cat's Health

  3. Get in that deep-cleaning.

    OK, this one isn’t nearly as fun as crocheting a cat bed but it’s really important. Most people are good about cleaning out the cat’s food and water dishes, but when’s the last time you cleaned out the litter box?

    I’m not talking about scooping it, which should be done daily regardless, but a full top-to-bottom clean where all the litter gets dumped and the box cleaned thoroughly and left to air dry before filling with all new litter. Ideally you can use eco-friendly cleaners once-a-month part of your routine, but if you’ve fallen behind, you’re not the only one. If your human commode needs regular cleaning, don’t forget the cat’s does too.

  4. Become a cat chef.

    Like most of you, I have to say cooking for my cat is a bit of a stretch, especially when I have an entire pantry full of Life’s Abundance food and treats at my disposal. It’s not something I would do all the time, but if you’re cleaning out the freezer and have some chicken breast or fish that’s probably a little freezer burned, you can make it into treats for your kitty with a dehydrator.

    Cats don’t need much, so I usually slice the meat into thin, 1-inch squares before putting them in my dehydrator for 6-7 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use the oven on its lowest setting. These treats are best kept in the fridge where they’ll stay good for about three weeks, and voila! New best friend. 

  5. Take on some cat-friendly home improvements. 

    Time to toss that old, scratched up cat tree where the carpeting is all unraveled? Why not build your own!

    OK, maybe that particular project doesn’t appeal to you and, like me, you shy away from anything that involves wood cutting. Fair enough. Maybe you prefer cloth-based projects, and in that case I direct you to the arm-crocheted cat bed I tried a few weeks ago. I mean, it’s a cat bed, and it’s yarn- two of their favorite things combined! No sewing required. Watch here:

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As we speak, my cat is dominating my dog by sleeping in his massive bed while her little cat bed sits unoccupied five feet away. Is there any better analogy for life with a cat? And we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

Why Taurine In Dog Food Is So Important

“Happy

At Life’s Abundance, we believe that every ingredient should provide a benefit. We also believe  in a whole-health, or holistic, approach to product formulation.  Our dog foods include all the nutrients that we know their bodies need — including some cutting edge ingredient choices we’ve made over the years that can pay big dividends to your dog’s health, taurine among them.

As the canine heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), started making headlines in 2018, taurine publicly emerged as an important nutrient for dogs. For many, many years, our dry dog foods have included taurine at guaranteed minimum levels.  That’s because we don’t believe that formulating to just be “good” is good enough. 

What is taurine?

Taurine is an amino acid that dogs need in order to maintain proper body function, including keeping your dog’s heart pumping strong.  Because dogs can naturally make it themselves and it doesn't build protein, taurine is not considered to be an essential amino acid. However, there are other health benefits of adding guaranteed taurine to their diet. 

Here are some of the benefits of taurine for dogs:

  • Strengthens heart muscles and vascular function

  • Promotes reproductive health 

  • Supports healthy vision and retina health

  • Promotes healthy liver function

“Corgi

What is taurine deficiency in dogs?

Just like people, dogs can have nutritional deficiencies.  Sometimes they are harder to diagnose because many times there are no obvious symptoms of taurine deficiency in dogs. 

When taurine levels in your dog’s blood are low, the heart will become weaker and will not be able to circulate blood through the body properly. Taurine deficiency is one of the causes of a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) — this is when the heart muscle thins and the chambers become enlarged. Research to uncover more about DCM and its possible causes is ongoing by the FDA. 

Although DCM can be genetic, it can also be caused by, you guessed it, taurine deficiency. Some breeds that are predisposed to taurine deficiency include:

  • Golden Retrievers

  • Cocker Spaniels

  • Doberman Pinschers

  • Great Danes

  • Dalmations

  • Newfoundlands

How do I support my dog’s heart health with taurine?

Keeping an open dialogue with your veterinarian about your dog’s health is an important first step. Next, choosing a food with guaranteed amounts of taurine for your dog’s daily diet will add nutritional support for your dog, and peace of mind for you. Check out our line of dry dog food at Life’s Abundance, which includes taurine in every kibble.   

Here’s an insider tip when it comes to dog food formulas: Taurine isn’t considered an essential or traditional amino acid because its primary function is not to build proteins, like other amino acids do. This is why finding taurine in dog food brands other than Life’s Abundance has been practically unheard of. At Life’s Abundance, your search for dry dog food with taurine is at an end.

You only want what’s best for your dog.  We know because we’re pet parents too.  Armed with a bit of useful information, we hope you can feel confident in making the right, informed choices for your furry friend.