Coming In October 2015!
Please come meet me this coming Sunday (AUG 25) where I’ll be from 2-5 PM at a whopper of an adoption event in Westchester. The ground floor of the fancy Westchester mall in White Plains New York will welcome the Fur-Ever Home event where twelve local rescue groups will be strutting their adoptable dogs! There will also be a doggy fashion show with up-to-the-minute must-have canine couture.
Be one of the first 200 visitors to see me and I will give you a doggy bag full of goodies — including some from our very own friends at HALO. Because of HALO’s long association with shelters and rescues across the country, it will mean a lot to me to have HALO there with me at this stellar adoption event. HALO believes shelter dogs deserve the same fine nutrition we can offer our pets at home — and maybe offer a nice home to a dog while we’re at it!
You can find me at the Pepe Infiniti Dog Travel Pop Up shop — where I will be demonstrating all the car safety equipment I have installed in an Infiniti QX. Pepe Infiniti is the sponsor of the dog adoption afternoon and they share my enthusiasm for teaching folks about canine auto safety. I’ll be showing people the very best canine auto safety and comfort equipment they can buy — from Kurgo harnesses and booster seats for little dogs, to the unique Twistep that lets big dogs easily enter and exit an SUV. We’ll even have groovy Doggles with the newest designs, so dogs can put their heads out the window in stylish safety (while wearing a must-have harness). I’m excited to think there will be visitors who will give a Fur-Ever home to one of the adoptable dogs, in a car outfitted with car seat covers from Kurgo that really work, booster seats with harnesses for little dogs to be able to look out the window, a backseat barrier for dog and driver safety, and the harnesses they have pioneered to make car travel safe and easy for everyone. And remember to always take along some Halo treats to reward your dog for having good manners in the car. I keep a jar of Liv-a-Littles right in my console compartment just for that reason.
KURGO has just become a sponsor of our DOG TRAVEL EXPERTS radio show on Radio Pet Lady Network, and to celebrate that, they are offering my listeners a staggering 40% off — nearly half off! — until September 9th. Check out all the equipment like great car seat covers and barriers at the event you can — how can you afford not to with this discount!?
Last summer I participated in an adoption event for the Southampton Shelter [the Official Shelter of my NPR show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) which originates out of Southampton]. It was in Bridgehampton on the sidewalk in front of a darling little shop, J. MacLaughlin, which sponsored the event. I had put together goody bags for anyone who made a donation to the shelter, or visited with the lovely adoptable dogs and the wonderful volunteers who brought them out looking for their Forever Homes. In the bags were tiny sample jars of Halo’s amazing Cloud Nine Herbal Healing Salve.
I started getting rave reviews for the salve on my Facebook page — Barbi in Sagaponack said that she had been using it on her dog, cats and even her horse for nicks, cuts and irritations. However, her friends in the Hamptons had realized it was great for their own little boo-boos and were hoarding their small jars for any healing they needed! It says right on the jar “Helps support healing for cuts, wounds, abrasions, and scabby areas within days. Also helps soothe hot spots.” and it doesn’t say that people cannot try it themselves! Barbi begged me for another sample jar and I shipped off the only one I could find — with her promise she’d keep it only for when her Corgi Bean (who came from CorgiAid rescue) really needed it. Those other Hamptons gals wouldn’t make any such promise!
Do you have a really picky dog? Does your dog ignore the food you put in her bowl or does she pick at it without enthusiasm and then leave the rest, looking up at you with disappointed, pleading eyes? There’s a good chance you fret about it and urge her with words and actions to “Come on Sweetie, just eat a little for Mommy” and give her lots of attention for not eating? And then do you start bribing her with all sorts of edible enticements added to her food bowl and begging her to “Pleeease eat your food”? There’s a good chance that with just such reactions you have created a finicky eater — but there is no reason you can’t turn your dog back into a happy eater. These feeding games are unnatural to dogs and totally unnecessary for their well-being.
Dogs are Individuals with Different Appetites: If you have a multi-dog household you know how differently each dog approaches the food bowl. Like people, each dog her own particular metabolism, hunger levels and attitude toward eating. Some pooches are “chow hounds” who will vacuum up anything edible at any time; other dogs don’t experience hunger and on some days they have no appetite at all.
Make Sure Your Dog is Not Sick: The first thing you need to eliminate is the possibility that there is any medical reason for a lack of appetite. If your puppy or dog does not want to eat and has other symptoms of illness — such as lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea — you should take her in to the vet for an evaluation. You should always be alert to taking note of any behavior that is unusual for your dog, or any new circumstances in the environment that might be affecting her, because change in habits is a symptom that something is not quite right. This information is important for the vet to be able to figure out why the dog does not want to eat. However, not ever having much of an appetite may be your dog’s normal response to food.
Your Dog “Has Your Number”: A dog that insists on one kind of food instead of another is usually manipulating the humans because her people have taught her that not eating will bring better things. This is a game that the people initiate and then encourage, without realizing they are creating a finicky dog. As soon as a person caters to a dog’s reluctance to eat by offering something better and tastier, the person is teaching the dog to hold out until the really good stuff gets served. If you establish a complex ritual of what goes in the dog’s dish and how it is presented, your dog will come to expect that “negotiation” and will refuse anything else.
An Ongoing Lack of Appetite: A dog’s lack of appetite is usually a passing thing, so don’t turn it into something more. Do not make a fuss over the dog and hand-feed her or offer ever-more delicious treats instead of the nutritionally balanced dog food you have gone to great lengths to put in her bowl. If you create drama over a dog not eating, you are creating a problem that really isn’t there.
Next week, some solutions to the Finicky Dog problem.”
I spend a lot of time telling dog owners the good ingredients to look for on the bag of a dry dog food to help them decide whether or not to buy it. But just as important as what you hope to find in your dog food (starting with a named protein source with one word like “lamb,” “chicken” or “salmon), there are also three major ingredients that you don’t ever want to see on the label of a dog food. A simple and clear way to distinguish a high quality dog food from a mediocre one is to look for these three Red Flag words: corn, wheat and soy. I remember how easy PETCO made it for their customers in the new natural section of their stores, which opened the year I was their spokesperson in 2010. There was great big signage on the wall above all the brands they had gathered in the special section of the store that spelled out the message in a very few words: NO CORN, NO WHEAT, NO SOY. I always thought that said it all!
1. NO CORN: One problem with corn is that it is a carbohydrate with a high “glycemic index” (which is why diabetic people have to avoid it because of the way it affects their blood sugar). While corn can provide calories, it doesn’t possess the nutritious qualities of lean meat protein or vegetables. However, it is relatively cheap to use, which explains why foods that use it can be so much less expensive than their super-premium counterparts that feature real meat protein. Because corn is in such abundant supply in our food chain, and is a relatively inexpensive ingredient, using various forms of corn in the recipes of lower quality dog foods allows a pet food company to keep their prices low. However, you are getting what you pay for: because there is such an abundance of corn used in the production of food for people, what often winds up in pet food is the waste products that are left over after human foods have been made with the actual whole nutritious corn.
2. NO WHEAT: The problem with allowing wheat in dog food is that it is known to be an allergen. Many people are diagnosed with bowel problems and some are identified as having celiac sprue disease and told to eliminate all grains from their diet. While celiac sprue is uncommon in dogs, they too can also become sensitive to wheat in their food—often resulting in skin or digestive issues—therefore wheat is best avoided.
3. NO SOY: Studies have shown that some dogs are not able to digest soy as well as meat proteins. Soy can cause digestive disturbance in some dogs, and is also not believed to be naturally “bio-available.” This means that a dog’s body can have a hard time digesting soy or absorbing it, so her body cannot use it effectively as fuel for energy needs.
All you have to do is remember those three words as they appeared on the wall of the PETCO natural food section and avoid corn, wheat and soy. You know by now that a top quality dry dog food will have a named protein at the beginning of the recipe; it will also contain nutritious and digestible grains like oats, rice, or barley. Potatoes are a substitute carbohydrate you’ll see in many pet foods, but there is a glycemic index issue there, too. White potatoes should be used in moderation. Sweet potatoes are a better choice as a carbohydrate ingredient, but they are also more costly. So yet again we can see that “you get what you pay for” and to make our choices accordingly since food is the most important thing we can do for the health of our dogs every day.
No, that is not a typo — I do mean “carbo” as in CARB as in carbohydrate (not his carbon) paw print!
My book The Dog Bible explains why we have to consider kibble as only a part of our dog’s daily diet. If you are feeding dry food only, it’s important for your dog’s overall health and weight to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in their bowl and replace it with a protein source and some form of vegetables. We know for ourselves that a balanced meal with a variety of items on our plate is healthier because we then get our nutrients from different sources. Eating in this balanced way can also keep us slimmer, rather than eating a diet that is carb-heavy. Dogs also need variety in their diet from a variety of sources..
If you take kibble as a foundation, then you can add whole, less-processed foods including protein and veggies. A great way to do that is to feed about half the amount of kibble you usually feed and then add some protein like meat, fish, cottage cheese or eggs — and a variety of cooked or raw vegetables, too. Halo’s Spot’s stew in a can is a perfect way to do this because you can rotate different proteins and all the recipes include whole cooked vegetables just the way a stew for people would — and you don’t have to worry about supplementing the diet to make it balanced.
What I have done for years is to use Halo kibble as the foundation of my dogs’ dinner, rotating proteins so I serve a different one with each new bag. Many friends and radio listeners who have switched to Halo because of its superior recipes, have also discovered that they need to feed smaller quantities because it is made from such nutritious ingredients that you need less of it to satisfy hunger. This means they are lowering their dog’s “carbo paw print,” and in so doing are reducing one of the possible causes of obesity.
Less carbs overall means less kibble. Feeding a “grain free” kibble does not solve the problem because all kibble is carb-heavy by its very nature. All kibble has to begin as a dough of some kind, before it can become the kibbled shape.
Just as people gain weight from eating foods that are heavy in carbs, so does a dog pack on the pounds when his diet does not have enough quality protein to balance the carbohydrate load. Many of the successful diets for humans depend on reducing carbohydrates and increasing protein — to lower that “carbo pawprint” for your dog, give the High Protein idea a test run on your dog. I’ll bet you’ll be trying it soon on yourself!
Many people wonder how much kibble really belongs in their dog’s bowl. Dog owners are worried — and even suspicious as I was — about the enormous amount of dry food that many companies recommend feeding. Some of the dog food labels I have read have directions on the bag which stun me, suggesting that I feed my 100 lb. Weimaraners EIGHT to TEN cups of dry food a day!! Holy cow! (that sounds more like as much as a cow should eat of her pelleted food!) If I fed my dogs that enormous amount of highly processed carbohydrates, they would blow up like a balloon!
Myself, I would certainly be worried if I was feeding those foods requiring 10 cups of food a day, especially because the brands with those directions are often the ones with no named protein source as the first ingredient (which is my first criteria for evaluating a brand) and then they have lots of the ingredients which are always on my No-No list: corn in any of its versions, wheat, or brewers rice. (I actually recently came across what I used to think of as a lower quality dry food and was pleasantly surprised to see they suddenly had the word “chicken” at the top of their ingredient list, but then I was really annoyed to find many variations of the word “corn” following it, which basically “canceled out” one good aspect of the recipe list with the others!)
I used to cynically think that those companies with the 8-10 cups a day directions were telling dog owners to feed those gigantic portions in order to have them use up a bag more quickly and sell more food! But now I understand that they probably have to recommend that vast quantity of daily kibble in order to get the right amount of balanced calories into the dog, because the nutritional value in every cup is so much lower than a true super premium brand. Like Halo. This is yet another reason I love this company and their food. The directions on the bags of the chicken, salmon and lamb kibble that my dogs are lucky enough to eat (I rotate protein in every bag) suggest I should feed 4 ½ cups of kibble for a 100 lb dog. Now that makes sense! If I was feeding nothing but kibble (which I am not) that would be a very reasonable amount to see in their bowls — about 2 cups per meal. What that means to me is that I have picked a truly high quality food that I actually need to feed only one half as much to get even better nutrition — which means better health, and also less chance of obesity (and less dog poop to pick up from all the indigestible cheap fillers in some dry dog foods!) It also justifies the price of Halo because it lasts me twice as long as a lower quality food with those instructions would.
It’s not that hard to decide in favor of Halo: should I feed a food made from top quality ingredients, with real meat, no rendered meals or by-products and no chemicals? Or feed a food that uses rendered meal, indigestible plant fibers, colorings, fats of unknown origin and synthetic ingredients — and would require me to feed so much of it it would be like stuffing my boys like a sofa cushion? Some decisions in life are true no-brainers!
This week I learned something really worrisome that I had never heard about before: young female Labrador Retrievers are dying all over the country from liver disease that shows no symptoms at all! These seemingly healthy young pooches are succumbing to fatal liver failure that their owners and veterinarians did not realize was going on when they saw elevated liver enzymes in routine blood work. The saddest part is that if people understood the warning signs of liver disease, they could step in early and manage the problem, helping their dog to live a good healthy life.
The issue of elevated liver enzymes is one topic we discussed this week on THE EXPERT VET — my Internet radio show at RadioPetLady.com — that is co-hosted by Halo’s own Dr. Donna Spector. Dr. Donna is “the expert vet,” as she is a board certified veterinary internist, specializing in diagnosing medical problems that other veterinarians may not be aware exist. Certainly the owners of Labrador Retrievers, Westies, Dalmations, Dobermanns and Cocker Spaniels — to name a few — have not been alerted that their breeds have a genetic predisposition to irreversible progressive liver disease.
Once Dr. Donna sees these dogs between the ages of 6 and 10 years old — and they are in liver failure, there is nothing that can be done medically and their lives will end tragically early. However, Dr. Donna has found that if she goes back in their history, these dogs often had elevated liver enzymes when they had blood tests earlier in their lives when something could have been done.
The problem is that these liver enzymes are only mildly elevated — and the dogs seem perfectly healthy — and so this early warning sign is often ignored. The veterinarian usually advises that “we’ll just keep an eye on this,” when something should be done immediately. Unfortunately, Dr. Donna has seen many cases where “an eye was kept” on a dog’s blood tests year after year, and the enzymes remained only mildly elevated so nothing is done about it while the liver was being irreversibly damaged. Then one fine day the dog is in full liver failure and it is a tragedy for the dog and for her whole human family, too.
So please note: if you have one of these breeds in your family, you need to keep a vigilant watch on your dog’s liver enzymes. Ask for periodic blood tests from an early age. Each time, ask your vet for a copy of those lab results. As Dr. Donna says, we dog owners have to take a more proactive approach and follow up relentlessly on this topic — especially the millions of owners of the most popular breed in the country, the Lab. You need to keep an eye on the situation and the minute you see an even a mildly elevated liver enzyme level you will know this is an early sign — the warning flag — of hepatitis or cirrhosis. If your own vet is not aware of how to manage this, then you need to immediately reach out to an internist like Dr. Donna, who does consultations with owners and their vets to help the dogs live a long, healthy life. You can listen to the podcast of this week’s show (and any previous ones) at radiopetlady.com/archives-expert-vet.htm
It is such a privilege to be sharing a weekly radio show with Halo’s own Dr. Donna Spector because she helps explain many misunderstandings people (and sometimes their veterinarians) have about the relationship between the food they are feeding their pets and how it affects their teeth.
Many pet owners have embraced the illogical belief that dry food will clean their pets teeth. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins (the author of YOUR CAT and the previous Official Vet of my show CAT CHAT® on SiriusXM before they canceled the Martha Stewart channel) has often said, “The idea that dry food cleans a pets’ teeth is as ludicrous as your dentist handing you a bag of corn chips after a dental cleaning and telling you to eat some every day to clean your teeth! Instead, he hands you a toothbrush and little toothpaste and tells you to use it every day — which is exactly what we need to do for our pets — with species-appropriate toothpaste!”
Dr. Donna and I were discussing this myth of dry-food-as-tooth-cleaner on THE EXPERT VET this week — our new live call-in show on the Radio Pet Lady Network (RadioPetLady.com). Dr. Donna was clear as a bell in stating that food does not take the place of brushing your pet’s teeth. Dogs and cats of all ages need to get regular check-ups at the vet, especially of their teeth and gums, and when he recommends a professional dental cleaning they need to get it. Many pet owners have gotten the message that dry pet food cleans their pets’ teeth, but common sense should tell them that food is not a tooth brush! Whether it is people or pets, food serves the purpose of nourishment, nothing else. For pets, whether you feed dry food or canned food it is not going to help with dental health. As Dr. Donna points out, no commercial food can mimic the tearing and chewing action that the ancestors of a cat or dog would have gotten from ripping up the carcass of their prey. We all need to brush our pets’ teeth — just as we teach our children to do — and have done ourselves at least twice a day for our entire lives! There are responsibilities we have to our pets as we do with children — the only difference being that you cannot teach a pet to brush his own teeth, while it is an early lesson that all children learn! Dogs and cats need to have their teeth brushed to avoid issues with plaque and periodontal disease.
If you want to hear this week’s THE EXPERT VET with Dr. Donna Spector, you can listen to the podcast.
For those of you who don’t know this yet, just this week was the launch of the Radio Pet Lady Network (RadioPetLady.com) and the very first show on the very first day of the debut of the network was THE EXPERT VET, with Halo’s own Dr. Donna Spector, who truly is an expert vet as a board-certified veterinary internist (who, when she isn’t helping HALO followers with their questions, consults with pet owners and other vets get to the bottom of confusing or stubborn medical issues). The show was such a blast for Donna and me because being a new show, we didn’t have callers so we could go to town on topics that fascinate us — like the incorrect advice many vets still give about reducing protein in the diet of cats and dogs with kidney issues (just the opposite is true) or the myth that dry food cleans dogs or cats teeth, or the real cause of urinary tract problems in cats (it’s stress, not infection, which many vets mistakenly assume it to be and inappropriately prescribe antibiotics).
One of the other things we discussed is eliminating carbohydrates in a cat’s diet (instead choosing a good quality wet food like Halo’s Spots stew in a can) and generally lightening up on carbs in our pets’ diets, replacing it with quality protein. The funny thing is that I have one dog who defies my attempts to reduce carbohydrates by adding other ingredients to the Halo kibble I feed all my dogs as part of their meals (the only brand I would ever feed because I know there are no rendered products in it, just real meat). I have always included a raw dehydrated fruit and vegetables mix, along with home cooked vegetables and quality protein from a can or prepared by me. But as time has gone by, I have found that my Collie-mix Jazzy was refusing her meals. Just flat refusing to eat, even though otherwise she was in tip-top spirits. Dogs do not really have to eat two meals a day if it doesn’t suit their individual metabolism but I need her to eat her meals since I have a glucosamine powder in there and her anti-inflammatory liquid medication and her omega-3 supplement: not eating should really not be an option for Jazzy. In fact, little by little, I have discovered that she has an appetite, but she doesn’t really want to eat anything but her salmon or lamb Spot’s stew dry food — she loves those! So I came up with a solution when I realized how hungrily she gobbles up her Halo kibble if I give her just that — nothing else at all, thank you! — in a bowl. I serve one small bowl with all the good stuff that is wet enough to incorporate her medicine and supplements and when she finishes, I give her a separate bowl of Halo kibble. Wow, does that put a smile on her face! Jazzy lives for her Halo kibble. I mean she treats it like the most delicious treat in the world. I think of it as her dessert. “Finish your dinner, dear, and you can have your Halo. It’s what’s for dessert!”
Please do check out the live call-in pet shows with wonderful co-hosts every day of the week on RadioPetLady.com! And if you want to meet Dr. Donna yourself, remember we are live every Monday at 12 noon ET, 9 AM PT and you can listen from any device right off our website!