Category Archives: Pet Care

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golden retriever dog walking with a striped leash and his owner

January is National Walk Your Dog Month!

January is Walk Your Dog Month and as you look at those frosty temperatures it might be hard to fathom bundling up and walking when the fireplace feels so nice. That’s the point behind January’s designation as Walk Your Dog Month. When it is cold and there are limited hours of sunlight, we all need a little extra motivation.

Your Dog is Your Best Exercise Partner

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get more active and lose some weight in 2023? Lots of us did, and while our intentions are strong most of us have a nagging doubt that we’ll stick to our program. I have a helpful suggestion: how about tackling your workouts with a buddy? Research has shown that people who have an exercise partner tend to continue with their exercise routines much longer than people who try to go it alone. Now, I can hear you grumbling that having an exercise partner is not convenient: arranging schedules, extra driving, they are crabby in the morning, you’re too tired at night, etc. Yes, all of this may be true, but do you know you may already have the perfect exercise partner right under your own roof? Who is that you ask? Your dog, of course!

No arranging schedules or extra driving. He’s right there, probably holding his leash and begging to go out on an adventure with you. Never crabby in the morning, at noon, or at night, your dog longs to explore new avenues with you. Keywords – with you. Dogs are pack animals and crave the attention of their pack leader, you, so you have a built-in exercise partner sitting beside you right now eager to begin.

How to Know if Your Dog is Healthy Enough

If your dog is older or has medical issues his exercise options may be limited. Always consult your vet before making any activity changes in a dog with physical problems. But if your dog is fit or only a little overweight, he should be able to join you in your exercise program without any problems, especially if you start slowly and increase distances gradually. Remember to factor in your dog’s age. If you have a puppy, short walks will be the rule until his joints are fully mature. A general rule is the larger the dog the longer it takes for his joints to develop. Dogs over 100 pounds are not fully grown until around 18 months, smaller dogs range from around 9 months to 15 months depending on size. Once your dog is full-grown, walks can increase in length and intensity.

Where Should You Walk Your Dog

If your day is going to be super busy or you aren’t feeling motivated, speed-walk your dog around your neighborhood, but for more interesting walks you might try visiting local parks, wildlife areas (always leashed, of course), and other open environments. Since this is a mutually beneficial exercise program and you may be working toward cardio goals for yourself, be sure to allow some warm-up and cool-off times for your dog to enjoy some good sniffing.

Your Dogs Goals in a Walk

Remember that while you have walking goals, i.e., increased heart rate, weight loss, etc., your dog has goals, too. His dominant sense is olfactory so sniffing new smells is how he gathers information about his world. This is prime mental stimulation for your four-footed friend which is as beneficial as the physical exercise itself. So be sure to give your dog some opportunities for sniffing during your walks.

Start the New Year out right with the healthy goal of a walk a day with your dog and moving forward aim to make every month Walk Your Dog Month. It will be an engaging experience for both of you.

By Carol Kendig

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A light brown dog raising his paw against a white garage door background

Dehydrated vs. Freeze-Dried Pet Food – Know the Difference

Many people mistakenly use these two terms interchangeably, but they are very different processes. Since both procedures produce similar nearly moisture-free foods it is understandable that there can be confusion in people’s minds. Let’s explore some of the important differences.

Dehydrated Dog Food

Dehydration has been used for centuries although modern technologies have vastly improved the quality of foods produced. Dehydration involves slow, gentle cooking that uses warmed air to waft away the food’s natural moisture. This process requires heat, usually over 104 degrees, at which most protein enzymes are killed. It is a moderate process, easier on food than canning, extrusion, or baking, all of which require very high heat. Foods made through canning, baking and extrusion are considered “dead food” because they are processed in ways that absolutely kill all enzymes. Sadly, most dehydrated foods, certainly dehydrated proteins, will also not contain live enzymes.

So Why Use Dehydrated Food?

Dehydration’s main advantage in food preservation is that done right, it reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. Molds, fungi, yeast and other contaminants need moisture to thrive, and correctly dried foods eliminate most moisture. Another boon to using dehydrated foods is they do not require preservatives as they are naturally preserved if stored away from moisture, heat and light. These foods will absorb about 70% of original moisture when re-hydrated, making them a good choice for pets unwilling to drink sufficient water.

Freeze-Dried Dog Food

While the freeze-drying process is not new, it has only been in popular usage since the 1950’s. Through the process of sublimation, moisture is drawn out of the frozen raw ingredients without entering a liquid state.  This very gentle process using low heat (normally under 104 degrees) retains ingredient’s flavor, texture size and shape, and most importantly raw enzymes remain intact. This process does not denature the food in any way, retaining full nutritional value and resulting in less risk of allergies.

Why Use Freeze-Dried Food?

If stored properly away from moisture, heat and light, freeze-dried foods remain viable for many years without the necessity of preservatives or additives of any kind. Freeze-dried foods are lightweight, easily portable and extremely clean and bacteria-free. The slower, lower heat process of freeze-drying is worthwhile as more nutrients are intact resulting in a healthier food.

The Healthiest Choice is Freeze-Dried Food

Both dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are considered “live foods” because they use far lower heats than other traditional food treatment methods. Unfortunately, to kill bacteria dehydrated meats must be processed at temperatures around 150 – 165 degrees, hot enough to kill all raw enzymes. However, using highly exacting temperature standards, freeze-dried foods preserve raw enzymes, making them a true raw food. If you are interested in the healthiest choice in food preservation, there is no doubt that freeze-dried foods would have to be your choice.

By Carol Kendig

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The Best Present for your Pet this Holiday Season

Most of us lead busy, full lives with demanding jobs, family responsibilities, health concerns, engrossing hobbies, etc. As pet owners we often feel a sting of remorse that we are not spending enough time and attention on our pets. As the holidays approach, perhaps the best gift we can give our pets in this season of giving is the gift of our time.

How much time do you currently spend with your cat or dog? Of course, you prepare their meals, clean their waste, freshen their bedding, take them to vet appointments etc., but how much quality time do you share with them? Unfortunately for them, after the new-puppy phase has passed our pets are often taken for granted.  This doesn’t happen overnight, and it is usually not purposeful on our part.  We simply have more responsibilities as we grow older and our priorities expand to include children, spouses and more complex careers.  As fellow human beings we understand this life dynamic, but do our dogs? I don’t think anyone can fully answer that question, however, we can speculate that in general our “best friends” would appreciate more attention from us.

Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s place and usually refers to our relationships with other human beings. This ability can also be expressed with our pets.  There are many ways to strengthen the bond between you and your pet, to deepen your empathy with the glorious canine or feline living in your home.  One simple way is to practice meditation with your pet. James Jacobson has written a book on that subject, How to Meditate with Your Dog: An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers.  This is a calming, centering experience we can share with our pets that can reduce stress for everyone. Other quiet activities would be more mindful play, introducing interactive toys and games and pet massage.  Most of our pets thrive on daily touch, and massage takes that pleasure to a higher level. The Healing Touch, by Dr. Michael W. Fox gives clear instructions for massaging cats and dogs along with other great information. The sensual satisfaction of physical touch helps deepen your connection to your pet.

Loving observation of our pets improves our empathy, and for some people that observation will take a more active form. Dog sports such as rally, nose work, dock diving and weight pulling, (to name just a few) are good ways to deepen your relationship with your dog.  These activities epitomize your dog’s definition of quality time, especially if you minimize competitive drives and focus on enjoying each other’s company. With cats, perhaps some new interactive toys might be in order or teaching your cat how to walk on a harness for some outdoor adventures.

Yes, all of these quiet or active ventures will take some time, but it will be time well spent.  Being rewarded with happier dogs and cats and a deeper relationship with them sounds like a pretty wonderful present for one and all!

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small dog with head down looking sad while laying in grass

How to Keep Your Pet’s Pancreas Healthy & Strong

Every organ in our pet’s body serves a necessary function, but too often we ignore the importance of the pancreas by feeding inappropriate foods to our dogs and cats. It is commonly reported that overconsumption of fats is the main cause of pancreatitis, and that is most likely true of sudden, acute attacks of pancreatitis. However, feeding high carbohydrate diets for multiple years, to dogs and cats who are carnivores, undoubtedly weakens the pancreas, creating an inflammatory response and damaging to the organ.

Foods & Function

The pancreas performs two main functions:

  1. Produces the hormone insulin and stores glucose to regulate blood sugar.
  2. Produces pancreatic enzymes amylase, lipase, and protease that digest carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the digestive tract.

Without a properly functioning pancreas, it is impossible to utilize the foods that are eaten. If the pancreas is severely compromised, even if we feed our pets large amounts of food, we could be watching them waste away, as the food passes through them undigested.

Healthy diets for our dogs and cats consist mainly of raw meats, along with their naturally occurring animal fats. Often, for dogs, a limited number of low-starch vegetables and fruits are added for extra nutritional benefits. Yet today many pet parents exclusively feed their pets kibble diets, high in carbohydrates, which puts an incredible strain on their pet’s pancreas. After years of inappropriate foods, and sometimes in a much shorter time, the pancreas loses its ability to successfully perform its functions.

Stress, Inflammation, & Damage

When the pancreas is stressed, the inflammatory response can be to activate the digestive enzymes before they are sent to the intestines, causing the pancreas to begin self-digestion. No this isn’t a horror movie scenario; it actually may happen in your cat or dog’s body. Eventually those digestive enzymes can leak into the abdomen, damaging the abdominal lining and other nearby organs. This would result in a very serious case of pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a sensitive organ, easily damaged, slow to heal and absolutely necessary for your pet’s life. Therefore, preventing problems is much smarter than creating pancreatic stress and dealing with the consequences. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • diets high in carbohydrates
  • poor quality fats and oils used in pet foods
  • lack of trace minerals
  • sudden consumption of large amounts of fat
  • obesity
  • sulfa drugs, seizure drugs, chemotherapy
  • trauma

Does Your Pet Have Other Disorders?

Pets with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are especially susceptible to pancreatic stress. Also certain breeds of dogs are more prone to this condition than others: Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Collies, and Boxers. In the cat world Siamese cats are at greater risk.

How To Prevent Pancreatitis in Your Pet?

Pancreatitis is a serious disease and should always be evaluated by a veterinarian. Your pet may need hospitalization or be treated at home, but your vet will be your first line of defense.

Here are a few ways you can provide on-going pancreas support:

  • Billberry acts as a powerful antioxidant
  • Dandelion Root supports both the liver and the pancreas
  • Slippery Elm and Milk Thistle both aid in gastrointestinal function and the addition of digestive enzymes through probiotics will all be helpful
  • Getting the proper amount of exercise is also good for your pet’s digestive system and aids in preventing obesity
  • One of the most influential change for pancreatic support will be the gradual transition to a raw food diet, high in protein, medium in animal fat and very low in carbohydrates. This is the diet your pet was designed to eat, the diet that will reduce inflammation and keep all systems functioning correctly.

Pancreatitis is a painful and difficult to control disease in dogs and cats that can ultimately be life threatening. If you take your pet’s health seriously, please make every effort to support his or her healthy digestion by providing a complete and balanced raw food diet for your best friend.

By Carol Kendig

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Dog licking snow near cats face, cat cringing away

Glucosamine for Pain Control

We Can’t Turn Back Time, But We Can Eat Better

As we all get older so do our beloved pets. And it’s simply a fact of life that aging bodies suffer more stress and injuries, resulting in pain. Arthritis is one of the most common age-related problems plaguing humans and animals alike, and while no one has found a cure for this disease the condition is treatable with varying degrees of success.

Glucosamine: A Natural Remedy

Focusing on the natural remedy glucosamine which has proven beneficial in many cases of arthritis, we note there are two readily available types of glucosamine: glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine chondroitin. Glucosamine sulfate is a simple single compound artificially made from the sulfate salt of glucosamine, originating in the shells of shellfish where it occurs naturally. Glucosamine chondroitin is a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin both from cow cartilage. While each type of glucosamine is helpful against pain, glucosamine chondroitin is considered the most effective of the two.

Varied Results

Some of you may have already tried glucosamine on yourself or your pets for pain. Often it proves efficacious, but others may be disappointed in the results. This is typical when using natural remedies which often have variable track records. For example, three of my dogs get great benefits from using CBD while my fourth seems to get no benefit at all. Idiosyncrasies of metabolism often account for these discrepancies in effectiveness. In the case of glucosamine chondroitin, I suggest you try it with your pet for a good two-month trial. If you see no results, it may not be the right supplement for your pet. But if your pet is fortunate enough to utilize the supplement the relief can be profound. Definitely worth a try!

Lack of Absorption

Absorption can be the main problem in your pet’s response to taking glucosamine. Recent studies have shown that dogs usually absorb only 2.5 – 12% of the amount they ingest in supplement form. Plus, lab results have shown high levels of lead in most glucosamine pills which is counterproductive for your pet’s health. Used as a selling point in many kibble dog foods, the added glucosamine supplement is nearly non-existent and of doubtful benefit. This is discouraging for pet owners who sincerely want to help their arthritic pets using natural rather than synthetic products. But don’t despair. Read on.

Two Methods that DO Work

As someone who has always advocated for holistic solutions for health problems, I am happy to report on two completely natural methods to get glucosamine into your pet’s diet and even your own. The first is Green-Lipped Mussels and the second is Bone Broth.

Green-Lipped Mussels

Green-Lipped mussels, found in New Zealand, are a rich source of glucosamine and chondroitin along with the powerful and very rare Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA). Working synergistically these three substances have proven highly effective against arthritic conditions. Northwest Naturals produces a 100% natural Green Mussel treat that many pet owners are using for their older pets for arthritis relief as well as using on younger pets to help prevent bone and joint problems in the future. Freeze-dried at low temperatures these mussels retain all the active enzymes and non-denatured proteins, vitamins and minerals with which Mother Nature endowed them. Green Mussel treats are an easy way to get healthy, natural occurring glucosamine into your pet’s diet. Our line of FUNctional Toppers also includes a Chicken Breast with New Zealand Green Mussels recipe which can be a tasty, although not a therapeutic, addition to your pet’s diet.

Bone Broth

The second way to safely add glucosamine is by adding bone broth to your pet’s meals. There are commercially produced bone broth products available in most pet supply stores that are convenient but tend to be expensive. Why not try making your own bone broth? It is easy, cheap and extremely healthful for your pets and yourself. There are a plethora of recipes online for making bone broth, but the basic ingredients are bones, water, apple cider vinegar and that’s it! The long simmering time pulls the nutrients from the bones, transferring valuable minerals into the highly nourishing broth, rich in glucosamine and chondroitin. Northwest Naturals has convenient packages of raw bones that can be used for making a delicious bone broth that your dogs and cats will enjoy while providing them with a totally natural source of glucosamine.

Benefits of Glucosamine

Studies have proven that glucosamine increases the fluid in joints and helps with joint, bone and digestive repair. This is one nutrient that in its natural form cannot harm your pet, strengthens healthy joints and often provides welcome pain relief for compromised joints. Much as we would like to stop the aging process, we can’t. However, using naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin can certainly make the senior years a less painful part of life for our pets and ourselves.

By Carol Kendig

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Holistic spelled by scrabble tiles and a couple dried flowers all on marble

Northwest Naturals and Traditional Chinese Medicine

What does the Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach Say?

Dating back nearly 23 centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) focuses on balancing the yin (hot) and yang (cold) energetic forces existing in all life.  When these forces are in harmony the resulting state of neutrality produces wellness. According to TCM, we can bring our diets, and our pet’s diets, into a healthy state of equilibrium by using the HOT-NEUTRAL-COLD food classification system they developed and have effectively used for many, many years. These HOT-NEUTRAL-COLD terms are not descriptive of the food’s temperatures themselves but rather the effect the foods have on the consumer’s own body: a cold response or a hot response.

Is your pet a HOT dog or do you have a COOL kitty?

Here are some clues:

HOT pets (too much yin) seek cool places to rest, may be warmer than normal to touch, may be anxious, may be excitable, often have allergies, excessive water consumption but dark urine, may be malodorous, skin rashes are common as are excessive panting, red eyes, dry eyes, and may have dry stools or constipation.

COLD pets (too much yang) love their snug beds and seek heat sources, strongly dislike cold weather, may be finicky eaters or lack appetite, may have cold extremities, dry/brittle hair, colorless urine, typically are quieter or seem depressed and may suffer from loose stools.

Strive Towards Balance

Of course, not all pets will exhibit all of the above symptoms, but TCM strives to bring all creatures toward balance, avoiding extremes that are detrimental to optimum health. If you believe your pet is exhibiting a few signs of imbalance you might try some diet changes to bring him or her back toward center. HOT pets should be given neutral to cold foods while COLD pets should be fed neutral to hot foods. Since dogs and cats are both carnivores, below is a short list of proteins commonly found in pet foods.

  • HOT FOODS: goat, venison, lamb, chicken, shrimp, eggs, goat’s milk
  • NEUTRAL FOODS: beef, pork, turkey, quail, salmon, sardines, tripe
  • COLD FOODS: duck, rabbit, most fish, cheese

How Does Northwest Naturals Fit Into This?

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very intuitive system and lists of the hot to cold food categories differ slightly according to different practitioners.  Northwest Naturals raw and freeze-dried diets for dogs and cats fit nicely into these basic categories.

Dog recipes:

  • Beef – NEUTRAL
  • Beef and Bison – NEUTRAL
  • Beef and Trout – NEUTRAL to COLD
  • Chicken – HOT
  • Chicken and Salmon – HOT to NEUTRAL
  • Lamb – HOT
  • Turkey – NEUTRAL
  • Whitefish and Salmon – COLD to NEUTRAL

Cat recipes:

  • Beef and Trout – NEUTRAL to COLD
  • Chicken – HOT
  • Duck – COLD
  • Rabbit – COLD
  • Turkey –NEUTRAL
  • Whitefish and Salmon – COLD to NEUTRAL

A Holistic Life

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses our everyday diets as therapy toward balanced health. In the Western world we might say, “You are what you eat” to express the same idea. But however you express it, a thoughtful, holistic approach to good nutrition using the best of both Eastern and Western theories will always be beneficial to us and our pets; and with centuries of experience behind it, the wisdom found in Traditional Chinese Medicine has much to offer us today.

By Carol Kendig

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Fruits & Veggies Part 3 - Green crop rows with NWN bags of Veggie & Fruit product

Friendly and Not-So-Friendly Fruits & Veggies for Dogs Part 3 of 3

Part 3 of 3

As discussed earlier cats do not need any plant material in their diets so this article will focus solely on fruits and vegetables that are either life enhancing or detrimental for our canine companions. This is not a definitive list, simply some of the more common ones our pets crave or ones that are nutritional powerhouses and make beneficial inclusions in our dog’s diets.

Beneficial Fruits and Vegetables for Dogs

Fruits and Veggies that are healthy for your dog

Image by Petco

APPLES: Many dogs love a chunk of apple tossed to them; others find the fruit too acidic for their taste. High in vitamins A and C and the immune boosting antioxidant quercetin (allergy fighting flavonoid found mostly in apple skin), apples also contain pectin which is a beneficial prebiotic for gut health.

BLUEBERRIES: Berries, in general, are palatable to dogs, but blueberries are the nutritional star. Full of vitamins, surprisingly they also contain some valuable minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, iron and zinc. They happen to be one of the richest sources of antioxidants with their free-radical scavenging properties. Research has shown that they help reduce the incidence of cancer, and since around half of our dogs will get cancer, blueberries are an important preventative measure we can add to their diets.

BROCCOLI: This is probably the most nutrient dense green vegetable dogs will eat, containing over 33 cancer-preventing compounds. A very low glycemic addition to your dog’s diet, this vegetable should be given in moderation as all cruciferous veggies can reduce thyroid function if given in excess. Cooking may make it more palatable.

CANTALOUPE: Another food high in beta carotene, also rich in B-6, C, folate, niacin and potassium. Very tasty for most dogs and rarely an allergen.

CARROTS: A popular, crunchy, sweet snack for most dogs, carrots provide beta carotene which can be converted into vitamin A and is a powerful antioxidant along with vitamins C, D, E and K.  Carrots promote good vision and supports collagen production.

CELERY: A mild flavored vegetable that is low in calories but high in fiber. A good weight loss addition that also helps the immune system and detoxifies. Some dogs prefer it cooked.

GARLIC: Used from the days of the Roman Empire to strengthen their war dogs, this vegetable or herb, used raw and in small amounts is entirely safe for your dog. For many years I have used it daily with my dogs for the antibacterial, antifungal, anti-viral effects. It is a fierce immune stimulator and has anti-cancer properties. Also reported to ward off fleas which has been true with my dogs.

GREEN BEANS: Another low-calorie vegetable often recommended for weight loss. Containing some omega-3 fatty acids and loaded with vitamins C and K, many dogs like the fresh crunch of raw green beans, others prefer them cooked.

MUSHROOMS: Medicinal mushrooms are an amazing addition to your dog’s diet. Used for thousands of years specific mushroom varieties have well documented health benefits. For example, Lion’s Mane is noted for increasing cognitive strength while Shiitake is noted for heightening immune function. When adding mushrooms, do not use wild mushrooms; use only medicinal mushrooms and usually cook them.

ROMAIN LETTUCE: My dogs love the firm lettuce ribs and beg for them as I create a salad. Very low in calories (lettuce is mostly water) this variety of lettuce is safe for dogs to eat. Endive, dandelions and chicory should be avoided, but Romain, containing vitamins A, C and K, is high in antioxidants and healthy for your dog to eat.

SWEET POTATOES: A valuable adjunct to your dog’s diet on occasion, this highly sweet and starchy vegetable should be added in moderation. Like all brightly colored edible plant material, sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins, notably E, A, B-6 and C in this tuber. Most dogs love their sweet taste, but like kids with candy, please monitor carefully as sweet potato’s high sugar content can be hard on a dog’s digestive system. Usually preferred cooked or dehydrated.

WATERMELON: A great source of lycopene, studies have shown this melon has anti-cancer properties, particularly from lung, bone and prostate cancers. Diabetes and heart disease reduction are also linked to high lycopene intake. Chock full of vitamins A, B-6 and C, this palatable fruit aids hydration and appeals to most dogs.

Other fruits and vegetables that may interest your dog are asparagus, bananas, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and pears, to name a few. And when cooking plant materials, a light steaming will protect more of the vitamins and minerals than other methods.

Fruits and Vegetables to Avoid

ALLIUMS: Onions, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots can all cause anemia in dogs.

LEGUMES: Legumes contain lectins which can block valuable nutrients from being absorbed. They are considered by many experts to be anti-nutrients. Examples of legumes are peas, lentils, beans such as kidney, white, black, navy, pinto, etc., peanuts and soybeans to name a few of the most well-known legumes.

THE NIGHTSHADE FAMLY: Members of the nightshade family are also not appropriate foods for canines. These would include but are not limited to potatoes (uncooked), tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  These vegetables contain a substance called solanine which tends to increase inflammation and can be toxic to some dogs. It is especially harsh on arthritic conditions.

DRIED FRUITS: Dried fruits are far too sweet for dogs except in very small amounts. Drying intensifies the sugar content by removing the water, making the treats quite tasty but disproportionately high in carbohydrates which are hard on the canine digestive system. A treat to use sparingly!

Scientifically Tested As Beneficial

In a 2005 Purdue University study, researchers wanted to discover what effects if any adding vegetables to canine diets had on the incidence of bladder cancer in dogs. The test animals were Scottish Terriers. One group ate only kibble while the other group ate kibble plus different vegetables 3 times a week. At the end of the study the results were stunning.  The dogs eating green leafy vegetables along with their kibble reduced the risk of developing bladder cancer by 90%. Wisely adding beneficial fruits and vegetables into the canine diet can have dramatic health enhancing results.

Dogs are individuals with different dietary needs and preferences. Some do better with more plant materials in their bowls and some do not. Always remembering that your dog is a carnivore, you may want to thoughtfully experiment with supplementing their meat/organ/bone diet with some valuable vegetables and fruits for the nutritional rewards they offer.

Check out the first segment on Fruits and Veggies for your pets and as well as the second segment on Benefits of Vegetables and Fruits in Your Dog’s Diet.

By Carol Kendig

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Fruits & Veggies Part 2 - Green crop rows with NWN bags of Veggie & Fruit product

Benefits of Vegetables and Fruits in Your Dog’s Diet Part 2 of 3

Part 2 of 3

A Dog’s Digestive System

Working in the pet industry, I consistently hear stories about people’s dogs. Many of these conversations revolve around pet nutrition and, knowing that a dog’s digestive system cannot break down the cellulose in plant material, the stories about how much their dogs love certain fruits or vegetables were puzzling to me. Why would dogs eagerly gobble down blueberries, apples, cantaloupes, pears, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and other favorites if they truly couldn’t digest them?

Your dog’s digestive system is designed to absorb nutrients from proteins and fats and needs very little carbohydrates. In fact, the cell structure of plants is formed from cellulose which cannot be broken down in your dog’s gut except in three ways. If the plant material has been:

  1. Cooked
  2. Fermented
  3. Raw and pureed smaller than the point of a pencil in a food processor

Only if the fruits or vegetables are treated in one of these three ways will the cellulose break down enough so that your dog can assimilate the full range of nutrients from plants.

What Are the Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables?

Low-Hanging Fruit – The Easy Benefits

Yet our dogs beg us for a slice of cantaloupe or dance for a broccoli floret. Evidently, they did not get the memo that their digestive systems don’t handle these foods very well. Perhaps our dogs sense something bigger is going on when they are munching fruits and veggies, and they would be right! No matter how you are adding fruits and vegetables your dog will benefit from the added fiber in their diet plus they will get a few raw enzymes which will encourage cleaner teeth and fresher breath.

So if your dog loves it when you toss a slice of raw apple, although they will not be getting the full nutritional benefits of the apple, they are getting some small health rewards and enjoyment.  Certainly, these benefits are worthwhile, but let’s consider the significant full nutritional value your dog can get out of raw, pulverized (smaller than a pencil point) fruits and vegetables.

The Full Range

As Facultative carnivores, dogs do not need many fruits and vegetables in their diets. Experts suggest amounts varying from 5% – 20% as ideal amounts to accrue the nutritional benefits plant materials provide.

Briefly, those nutritional advantages would be the vitamins and minerals which are abundant in vegetables and fruits. Additionally, fruits contain flavonoid compounds which are the most well researched segment of plant polyphenols (there are over 5,000 different types discovered so far). These vitamins, minerals and flavonoids are extremely valuable for both human and canine health and provide a huge nutritional boost to meat-based diets.

The Health Benefits of Fiber

While raw meats are especially rich in natural minerals and should form the backbone of a carnivorous diet, meat is not a great source of dietary fiber. Fiber is readily available in most plant materials and is a valuable addition to your canine’s cuisine. Prebiotic fiber enhances immune function, reduces instances of constipation, helps regulate blood sugar levels for diabetes and is important for heart health. It supports healthy skin, gut bacteria, longevity and helps maintain correct weight. Abundantly available in fruits and vegetables, fiber should be a component of a complete and balanced diet for our dogs.

A Fountain of Youth

Polyphenols, found in some spices, certain nuts, vegetables and mainly in fruits, are not available from meats. Research has proven they protect against degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease (including blood pressure problems) and diabetes. They reduce bodily inflammation which generates the very destructive free radicals. Free radicals cause aging and disease so consuming veggies and fruits is a bit like a fountain of youth. Rich in antioxidants, vegetation is the only source for these compounds.

Other benefits of including fruits and vegetables in your dog’s diet are their alkalizing effects on your dog’s body; they encourage healthy hydration levels; their high range of enzymes fuel metabolism and digestion; and their vitamin and mineral content is diverse and dense.

We know our dogs are carnivores and meat, organs and bone should be the foundation of their diets. However, why not include an appropriate amount of correctly prepared vegetables and fruits? Their unique and outstanding nutritional rewards promise a longer and healthier life for our best friends.

Coming Up Next

Next month is the 3rd and final segment of this article we will be dealing with a few specific fruits and vegetables that are worthy inclusions in your dog’s diet and talking about some plant materials to avoid.

And make sure you check out the first segment on Fruits and Veggies for your pets.

By Carol Kendig

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Fruits & Veggies Part 1 - Green crop rows with NWN bags of Veggie & Fruit product

Should Vegetables and Fruits be a Natural Part of Your Cat’s and Dog’s Diets? Part 1 of 3

Part 1 of 3

The Differences in Diets

Humans – Omnivores

As Homo sapiens we know the importance of a varied diet for our health. Human beings are omnivores, meaning we can assimilate nutrients from a wide array of foodstuffs: fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, fungi, etc. Some members of the animal kingdom with their own unique digestive systems have a more limited repertoire. Cats are a classic example of this limitation.

Cats – Obligate Carnivores

Being obligate carnivores, cats can get all of their nutrients from prey animals which provides them a basic meat-organ-bone diet.  They do not need grains, fruits or vegetables in their diets, and, in fact, if given consistently those starchy foods will degrade a cat’s health, requiring its’ digestive system to process foods that are foreign to feline biology.  The more stress put on the cat’s system from an incorrect diet the shorter and less healthy its’ lifespan will be. While humans find fruits and vegetables naturally appealing, please avoid them for your cats as they are at best unnecessary and at worst a potential root cause of major health problems.

Dogs – Facultative Carnivores

Dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, are also carnivores, but they are facultative carnivores, meaning their primary food source should be a meat-organ-bone diet but they can digest and assimilate small amounts of other edibles as well. Ask ten certified canine nutritionists what the correct amount of plant material for an optimal canine diet should be, and you will most likely get ten different answers. Perhaps looking at our dog’s wolf ancestor, Canis lupus, will give us a hint at how to best feed our domestic dogs.

Wolves vs. Dogs

Wolves in the wild are apex predators (top of the food chain), and their meals of choice are large hooved herbivores. They consume almost all of their prey, including muscle meat, organs and some bone material. Often they eat the stomach contents of their game but vastly prefer the stomach lining itself (tripe). If there is a shortage of their favored prey, wolves will consume smaller animals, and if a food shortage lasts too long, they will eat whatever they can find, such as old, cached kills, to fend off starvation. These survival foods would only be consumed under the harshest conditions. Additionally, wolves’ diets reflect seasonal food opportunities such as the consumption of apples, berries, melons and some roots when available. Biologists have noted these high fiber carbohydrate foods are usually consumed in an advanced state of ripeness which they term a “predigested condition,” making them more easily metabolized.

How Much Do Dogs and Wolves Differ?

Right now you may be thinking, but my domesticated dog is not a wild wolf, and you would be correct. Although wolves and dogs share DNA that is 98.6% to 99.9% identical (experts do not agree on an exact percentage), their lifestyles are quite different. Wolves run in packs for many hours a day. Wolves need to strategize for safety and have larger brains. They have larger jaws and teeth, reach sexual maturity later and cannot be truly domesticated. And while all of these features have an effect on their nutritional requirements, a wolf’s digestive system is nearly identical to a dog’s. It may be hard to believe that little Tinker Belle, your 7-pound Chihuahua, needs to eat a diet similar to her wolf ancestor, nevertheless it is true.

The Whole Prey Diet

So, if Canus lupus’ proper diet consists of meat-organs-bones, why not simply feed our dogs the same mix? Should we even consider feeding our domesticated dogs any vegetables and fruits at all? To answer the first question, many people do feed their dogs what is called a Whole Prey Diet. Proponents of whole prey feeding suggest that the fur, feathers, intestinal contents, brains, secreting organs, etc., provide a wider variety of nutrients and fiber for our pets than can be found in a typical raw diet of 80% meat (including10% organs, 10% bone), 18.5% vegetables and fruits, and 1.5% natural supplements.  They feel that feeding a domesticated dog a wild wolf diet is adequate for their pet’s nutritional needs.  I applaud the dedication of Whole Prey Diet feeders but have three major concerns.

Why is the Whole Prey Diet Not the Answer?

1) Anxiety Over Deficiencies and Proportions

First, very few people will take the time to procure the correct panoply of ingredients needed in a whole prey diet nor will they be willing to spend the money for those foodstuffs. Having fed my dogs a raw diet for over 40 years I know how difficult it is to find eyeballs, true green tripe, glands, feathers or fur, ad infinitum, which are all needed to construct an accurate prey model diet. And without the whole prey animal to consume nutritional deficiencies will inevitably happen. The anxiety I witness on prey animal feeder websites tells me these people are not enjoying feeding their dogs. There is constant worry about the accurate proportions of their choices. Instead of their dog’s mealtime being a relaxing, bonding experience, the prey model feeders seem stressed, and we all know our emotions affect our dogs. Uncertainty and tension during meals creates a negative atmosphere which can upset the pet’s digestion and mental state. The effects of this may be subtle but can be cumulative and damaging.

2) Lifestyle and Environment

Second, very few domesticated dogs live a lifestyle that is remotely similar to their wild ancestors, and lifestyle absolutely affects dietary needs. Most dogs in industrialized societies are companion pets, living indoors with limited exercise and problem-solving opportunities. They are usually spayed or neutered at an early age, surrounded by synthetic furnishings, unnatural electro-magnetic fields and are highly vaccinated and medicated against pests.  Modern day dogs are also exposed to much higher levels of environmental pollutants than are wolves living in the wild. All of the above factors directly influence their nutritional needs and must be considered when choosing an optimal diet for your dog.

3) Better Genes to Break Down Starches

Third, nutritional science is constantly moving forward. Recent genetic research by geneticist Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, et al, and reported in “Nature” 3/21/13, has determined that there are ten genes in dogs that give them an increased ability to “break down starches and metabolize fat” better than wolves. Three of those ten genes “make dogs better than meat-eating wolves at splitting starches into sugars and then absorbing those sugars.” This confirms what we have all observed, domesticated dogs can absorb some nutrients and survive on a starchy diet.

How Your Pet Can Thrive

Of course, mere survival is not what we want for our precious pets. We want our dogs to thrive, avoiding degenerative diseases and living a long healthy life. This is where a limited number of targeted fruits and vegetables can offer your dog great nutritional benefits. Ideally, you are feeding your cats an exclusive meat-based diet without added carbohydrates. But what about your dog? Ideally, your dog should predominately be eating a meat-based diet with the addition of a small number of highly nutritious vegetables and fruits for optimal health in their far from natural way of life and polluted environment.

Do the best you can when feeding your pets.  Relax and relish guilt-free mealtimes with your dog or cat by using a complete and balanced raw food diet which includes a limited number of vegetables and fruits. The most nutritious raw diet when fed confidently is a key ingredient in the recipe for your pet’s lasting health.


In Part 2 we will learn the benefits of including fruits and veggies in your dog’s diet.

By Carol Kendig

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Chocolate lab puppy asking to be let out of crate

How to Crate Train A Puppy

Give your Pup a Feeling of Security

Since dogs are denning animals, meaning they feel safe and comfortable in small, dark spaces, crate training your puppy should be quite easy. However, if introduced to a crate in a negative or harsh manner, your puppy may become crate resistant and fight being in a crate for the rest of its life. Because crates are a useful tool in containing and training your dog, we want to avoid crate resistance from day one.

Choosing the Type of Crate

Before your puppy comes home you will need to get a crate and set it up for your pups’ arrival. Your first decision will be between a hard plastic shell or a wire style. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Plastic crates are easy to assemble and lightweight compared to many wire crates. A hard plastic shell crate makes a cozy den, nice for winter months but often too warm and stuffy in the summer months. The privacy offered in a plastic shell crate may be welcome for some pups while others will find it isolating. Also, you cannot see your puppy easily, and having raised puppies for over 20 years, I know it is always preferable to keep an eye on what your puppy is doing. It’s amazing how creative the little ones can be and not always in a good way!

I prefer wire crates with two doors, one on the front and one on the side, offering more versatility in crate placement. Wire crates are generally heavier than their plastic counterparts and less mobile. Often new puppy parents will buy a wire crate for stationary use in the family room and a plastic crate for the bedroom and trips in the car. With a wire crate you can see your puppy and it can see you because although they do love a small private space of their own, dogs are pack animals and proximity to their family is very important to them. A wire crate will be pleasant in the summer months and a blanket can be draped over the top and sides in the winter months for added warmth. A word about fabric/mesh crates. They are fine for traveling with dogs, but most puppies seem to consider them a great big toy, one that must be chewed on until dead.

What Size Crate is Best?

Once you have decided on the type of crate or crates you want, you will need to determine the size. Most wire crates come with a wire insert to confine the puppy into one section of a large crate. This is handy because you should buy a crate based on the adult size of your puppy, use the insert to restrict the dog to the front part of the crate and remove it as it grows. When your pup’s crate area is too large, it may use the back of the crate as its potty zone and not bark to alert you that it needs to go outside. This can form a habit of defecating in the crate which you will definitely want to discourage. Confining the dog to a smaller area in the crate and making sure you take it outside for regular potty breaks should stop that problem before it begins.

Choosing a Bed for the Crate

Now you have a large wire crate set up in your family room and perhaps a plastic crate set up next to your bed and you are eager to bring home your new pup. Wait. You are not quite ready yet. Your puppy’s new room needs to be appealing to the dog, not a sterile, blank space. Dog beds are great, but for puppies I always suggest you go to a thrift store to stock up on some inexpensive towels, wash them well, and use those for puppy bedding. Puppies will be teething soon, and they seem to favor the gourmet taste of $80 cushy beds. When it shreds the $2 towels from Goodwill you won’t be as tempted to lose your temper. Save the lovely, spendy beds for adulthood.

Ensuring Enough Water

In my opinion, water should always be available for your puppy. Some people advise no water after 9pm and pick up all water bowls at that time. I cannot imagine the distress of a thirsty puppy on a long night in its crate. A puppy with a small hanging metal water dish with an inch or two of water can certainly survive just fine. Some water-loving breeds might be better off with a hamster-type water lick container to avoid messy water games. I did mention that puppies are creative, didn’t I? Oh yes!

Treats, Toys, & Environment

For the first few months, anytime the puppy goes into the crate, such as bedtime, nap times, or when you need to leave, toss in a small treat or two. And you can also keep a larger chew treat for it to gnaw on and call its own that stays in his crate. An antler, smoked trachea, large puzzle-treat, Kong™ toy with treats inside or other rawhide-free chewy treats will all work well as its own personal snack. Please remember, teething pups find relief through chewing, and the crate will help you control what the pup is wrapping its mouth around; a dehydrated lamb lung treat or your best shoes. It’s a happy world when the lamb treat is in its crate and the shoes are safely in the closet.

A toy or two might also be welcome. Just make sure there are no toys the puppy can break chunks off and swallow, another creative and potentially expensive talent some pups have. No one wants to risk the safety of their pup or pay for a $3000 blockage surgery. But, safe treats and safe toys are fun distractions, making the crate a pleasurable place where it enjoys hanging out.

Through your lifetime you will find that some puppies are easier to crate train than others; even so, creating a welcoming crate environment, being patient and being consistent will greatly aid the process. Just make sure you do not commit the following common mistakes:

  • forcing your pup into the crate,
  • leaving the dog in it for too long a time,
  • locating the crate in a cold/hot/noisy/dangerous location; or,
  • using the crate for punishment.

All of these activities will have negative consequences and may very well make your pup crate resistant.

Training & Behavior Basics

Basically, we want our puppy to be happy and feel safe in its crate, and probably the best way to ensure this is to feed the dog in it. My current 6-month-old puppy rushes to her crate at mealtimes, leaps in, sits quietly at the back waiting for her release signal and then devours her food. That level of compliance didn’t happen immediately. I broke down each phase of behavior I desired and trained in stages. The first phase was learning that good things happen in her crate. Next came “watch me” so she could recognize I am her leader and focusing on me results in interesting things happening. And finally came “sit,” and “stay.” Hurrah, she loves her crate and I have some puppy-free-sanity time when she is in it.

Crates Can Be Life Saving

If the above facts don’t convince you of the benefits of having a crate trained puppy, maybe this will: being crate trained may save its life. In emergency situations such as hurricanes, devastating fires, etc., rescue shelters often will not accept dogs that are not crate trained. Dogs involved in auto accidents that are in a crate have much higher survival rates than dogs riding loose in cars. Puppies are curious creatures and can get into deadly mischief in seconds. When your puppy is in its crate, it is not rummaging through your cupboards getting into poisonous substances or digging under your backyard fence to escape into traffic or getting bitten by a stray dog. If emergency responders need to rescue your dog when you are absent, they can more easily find and transport your dog out of dangerous situations if the pet is crated.

A Place of Their Own

There are still people who feel putting a dog in a crate is cruel. They call them cages or prisons, but these are simply semantic games that show their ignorance of the crate’s function. Call it whatever you want, a comfy crate gives your dog a quiet, private place of its own to relax in, apart from the hustle and bustle of its’ human’s lives. I wonder if Virginia Woolf was thinking of dog crates when she wrote A Room of One’s Own? Well, probably not, but it is a great way to think of your puppy’s new crate.

By Carol Kendig