Category Archives: Pet Safety & Health

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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 https://www.petco.com/

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


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Northwest Naturals freeze-dried meal packets and dog and cat snuggling

How to Feed Freeze-Dried Raw Diets to Your Pets

What is Freeze-Drying Food?

Do you actually know what freeze-drying is?  This food preservation process is relatively new, having been commercially developed in the middle of the 20th century, yet offers many nutritional advantages over older storage/preservation methods such as dehydration, canning, smoking, etc. Those methods all involve heating of the foods being preserved which destroys their vital enzymes.  Because freeze-drying uses extremely low heat and the moisture in the frozen food is sublimated directly into water vapor instead of going into liquid form, the enzymes remain viable and the nutrients are not denatured, making  freeze-dried foods ‘living foods’ as opposed to kibbles and canned foods which are labeled ‘dead foods’ in the pet food industry.

Convenience of Freeze-Dried Raw Pet Food

The advantages of using freeze-dried foods for your pets are many.  Freeze-dried foods are quite convenient to use, requiring no special treatment other than keeping the bags sealed and moisture-free to retain maximum freshness.  When rehydrated, the flavor, smell and texture are practically identical to fresh.  Fed dry the texture is chewy to slightly crispy.  But the most important advantage in freeze-drying is there is no significant loss in nutritional value between raw frozen foods and their freeze-dried counterparts (less than 1-2%).  Plus traveling with your raw fed dog becomes a breeze when you pack a lightweight bag or two of freeze-dried treats instead of an ice chest holding heavy bags of frozen food.  And for treats during sustained work or performance activities, using nuggets of complete and balanced freeze-dried diet makes good nutritional sense.

Rehydration and Freeze-Dried Nuggets

Some dogs prefer freeze-dried meals given dry in their bowls with water available on the side. This is perfectly acceptable if your dog drinks water and doesn’t get dehydrated.  However, most manufacturers recommend adding liquid to freeze-dried meals to prevent dehydration which can cause some serious health issues.  And, you may ask, what is the correct amount of liquid to add?  That answer varies with each pet.  Some prefer the nuggets to be soaked, others enjoy just a splash or spritz of liquid. One of my dogs dislikes any moisture added to her meals at all, but immediately after eating takes a long satisfying drink at her water bowl.  A tablespoon of liquid might be enough to add to a Pomeranian’s dinner while a Bullmastiff might require a cup.  If you crumble the freeze-dried nuggets there is more food-to-water surface so less water is necessary for maximum absorption.

Using Nutritional Liquids for Rehydration

Most people rehydrate freeze-dried pet food with water, however if you are looking for a nutritional boost you can use meat broth, veggie broth, cream-style yogurt or liquids from stews or fermentations of your own.  Picky eaters may also enjoy the addition of different flavors to their diets. Use your imagination, but it’s best not to add liquids that contain salt, unknown herbs or any type of chemicals.  Keeping your pets’ diets as natural as possible is always the wise choice.

The Benefits for You and Your Pet

Freeze-dried pet foods rate high in convenience, palatability and nutritional worth. They make a great pet food topper and often assist the transition from kibble to a raw diet, making the switch easier.  Northwest Naturals is a big proponent of frozen raw diets and freeze-dried diets, knowing the value and unique characteristics of each.  If you haven’t already checked out our full selection of freeze-dried diets, please do. Choose a protein your pets will enjoy and watch for brighter teeth, better breath, better digestion, a shinier coat, smaller stools, improved body weight and healthier joints for your beloved best friend.  You and your pets will become big fans of the living food diet. Check out more products for Raw Food Diet for Dogs & Cats and contact us with any questions or to learn more.


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Cat eating grass with a crazy look on it's face

A Most Mysterious Habit!

All of our pets have habits, some more baffling than others.  Why, for example, does one of your cats like to lurk on the top of your bookshelves after dinner every evening while the other cuddles on your lap? Why does your dog nudge you for bedtime around 7 PM every night?  I have a friend whose dog only barks when Ben Affleck appears on their television set. Why? Do we have a cat sentry, a sleepy dog with an incredibly accurate internal time clock, and a canine film critic?  All possibilities, but most likely these are simply quirky habits of those individual pets.

A Nearly Universal Quirk

However, there is one habit that is nearly ubiquitous with our canine and feline friends and has puzzled dog and cat owners for years. Why do our pets eat grass? Dogs and cats are both carnivores and should have no need to consume grass nor does either species have the specialized system to digest grass. It simply passes through their systems. Yet most of us have witnessed our pets munching on our lawns at some time or another. So the burning question of the moment is: Why do our dogs and cats eat grass?

Truthful disclaimer: the dogs and cats are not talking so no one really knows, but below are some of the most plausible theories.

Theories to Chew On: Why Do They Eat Grass?

Our Pets are Nutritionists

World-renowned veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter says our dog’s and cat’s kibble/canned food diets are so low in nutritional value that our pets are desperately trying to ingest needed nutrients from an available source, grass, which is high in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is nutrient rich and can act as a detoxifier for the liver and digestive system and helps fight infections.

Instinct

Which brings us to our second reason for grass eating: your pet may be feeling sick and instinctively realizes the healing and immune boosting properties of grass. Or if your pet is having digestive problems, the fiber in grass can act as a laxative, helping normalize the bowel. Often pets vomit soon after consuming grass, ridding themselves of hairballs or something inedible. Some observers think our pets eat grass as a method of purging internal parasites. All are interesting theories but unproven.

For the Thrill

Maybe your dog simply enjoys eating grass and your kitty likes it, too.  If your pets are eating an all-cooked, dead food diet, the sensation of live food in their mouths may be an instinctive longing. The live enzymes may trigger ancestral sensations that are pleasurable. Some people have suggested that eating grass is an attention-getting ploy that our pets use so that we will notice them and react to them.

Grass Alternatives

If you worry about your pet consuming pesticides along with their grass snack, you might want to add some chlorophyll-rich alternatives to their diet.  A few suggestions would be parsley (high in vitamin A), cabbage (high in vitamin C and immune enhancing), green beans (high in vitamin A) and sugar peas (high in vitamin K). All should be very finely ground and fed intermittently.

Wild dogs and cats have been observed eating grass so the behavior may be perfectly normal though not fully understood at this time. For normal, healthy dogs and cats occasional grass eating is not worrisome. But please, if your cat or dog confides the secret for this curious behavior to you, share it with the rest of us and end the rampant speculation. Then again, maybe they just like to keep us guessing, the little darlings.

By Carol Kendig


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Vet doing a checkup on a german shepherd

Xylitol by Any Other Name Would be as Deadly

In “Romeo and Juliet” Shakespeare famously wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” indicating that the name of a thing does not alter its essence. While this is a true statement, it is obvious that Shakespeare had not encountered any ingredient or flavoring specialists and witnessed the devious tactics some of them employ. Sadly, attempts to hide ingredients and confuse customers are common practices in the food industry. Today I want to discuss two serious labeling cautions for you to be aware of and avoid.

Where is Xylitol?

Did you know that the fairly common ingredient, xylitol, is a deadly poison to canines? You should never find this ingredient on your dog food label; however, xylitol may be found in other products you use (it is not harmful to humans), and these products should be strictly forbidden for your dogs. Sugar-free foods are often sweetened with xylitol so never give those to Fido, even if he needs to lose a pound or two. Sweetened yogurts may also contain xylitol, so if you include yogurt in your dog’s diet make sure it is plain, whole-milk and organic. Peanut butter and ice cream often include xylitol in their recipes. Check the labels on vitamins you are adding to Fido’s diet. Yes, some contain xylitol. Other sources of this deadly ingredient can be found in toothpaste, mouthwash, nasal sprays, deodorants and some makeup products to name a few. Check personal care items for xylitol and do not leave them accessible for your pets to grab and chew.

Other Names & Hidden Xylitol

Looking for xylitol on food labels sounds simple, right? Sorry to say, it’s not that easy because xylitol has other names that you need to be aware of, and under those names it is just as deadly. Xylitol can also be called: birch sugar, sucre de bouleau, the European code E967, Meso-Xylitol, Xlitol, Xylite, and Xylo-pentane-1,2,3,4,5. If any of these ingredients are listed on items you feed to your dogs, stop using them immediately. Xylitol can cause liver failure and dangerous drops in your dog’s blood sugar leading to death.

Another labelling red flag is the term “natural flavor.” Listening to a Harvard professor lecturing on flavoring agents, I was shocked when he unequivocally stated, “One thing you can be sure of when you see ‘natural flavor’ on a package is that it is not ‘natural.’” He then went on to explain how there are over 2000 GRAS* (Generally Regarded as Safe) ingredients, that can all be added to products under the “natural flavor” phrase. Many of these ingredients are ones health-minded pet owners want to avoid both for themselves and for their pets. And while “natural flavor” sounds better than “artificial flavor” there is actually very little difference between the two as both are highly synthesized, laboratory produced substances with little or no relationship to the natural products from which they were derived.

The problem for the consumer is we don’t know whether the “natural flavor” listed on a bag of dog or cat food is an unhealthy flavoring ingredient or an innocuous flavoring ingredient such as recaptured steam from boiling meats. As careful consumers, we do not want mystery ingredients in our pet foods or in our own. And if your pet has allergies, you should always shun the “natural flavor” phrase since you have no way of knowing which one of the 2000 “natural flavor” ingredients are in that particular product. Beware, it could be one that is deadly to your pet.
Transparency in labeling is a goal all food manufacturers should strive to achieve. Vague terms such as “natural flavor” and potentially harmful ingredients such as xylitol have no place on a product’s bag and certainly no place in your pet’s food bowl!

Northwest Naturals Raw Pet Food

Here at Northwest Naturals we invite you to read our ingredients list with a critical eye. We do not include either of the ingredients mentioned in this article nor to we include any fillers, binders or unnatural ingredients. Eighty percent of our product ingredients for the dog food recipes are muscle meat, organ meat and finely ground bone. Eighteen-and one-half percent of the recipe is locally sourced vegetables and fruit, and the remaining one-and one-half percent is natural, non-synthetic vitamins and minerals to ensure each bag of food you purchase for your dog provides a complete and balanced diet.

Our feline diet is even simpler: ninety-eight percent is muscle meat, organ meat and finely ground bone and two percent is natural, non-synthetic vitamins added to make sure your cat has a complete and balanced diet at every meal.

I urge you to carefully check your pet’s food label. Please understand what you are feeding your pet for a long and healthy lifetime with your best friend.

By Carol Kendig


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Cat and dog on the edge of a couch lounging

Life Expectancy and Epigenetics

Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence. Check out the CDC’s article on Epigenetics to learn more.

I remember as a youngster wishing my dog would live forever. Alas that was not meant to be and the pain from losing my first dog has been mirrored through the years with each subsequent pet loss. I don’t need to tell you; losing a pet simply never gets easier.

Life Expectancy for Cats and Dogs:

Cats vary slightly by breed, but in general: 12 – 20 years

Dogs vary by size:

  • Small dogs (2-22 lbs.): 12 – 16 years
  • Medium dogs (23-55 lbs.): 10 – 15 years
  • Large dogs (56-99 lbs.): 9 – 12 years
  • Giant dogs (over 100 lbs.): 6 – 8 years

What Does Research Say?

These are not exactly jolly statistics for someone longing for a forever dog or cat. And it is obvious from these statistics that the larger your dog, the shorter its’ life. Why is that? Research in this field is ongoing with no definitive answers yet, but Stanley Coren, PhD, DSc, FRSC has written some fascinating articles about this phenomenon and compiling research from reputable sources he notes that in larger dogs “cell division and cell growth… (proceeds at) …a much faster pace of living, with the body working harder simply to reach its normal adult size.” This puts higher stress on a large dog’s body at the cellular level, not visible to us, but occurring nonetheless. One theory about the result of this accelerated cell division and cell growth is that the telomeres which cap the DNA chromosomes shorten with every cell division and thus wear out more quickly in larger breeds. As the telomeres shorten, they eventually die, leading to aging and death of the dog. Coren’s article “The Life Expectancy of 165 Breeds of Dogs” is eye opening. If you search your breed and are getting worried, please don’t panic. Keep reading.

The Role of Epigenetics

Life expectancies are generalized averages of age statistics. They are not written in stone. What can dramatically influence your own dog’s life span is a magic little word – epigenetics. Epigenetics is defined as the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes are expressed or repressed. You cannot change your genes, but you may be able to change their functioning. For example, if your family has a predisposing history of heart disease you may delay or even avoid heart problems by eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising, and minimizing stress. Your genes haven’t changed, but you have influenced their activity/non-activity.

A Carnivore’s Diet

Let’s talk about epigenetics on a very simple level, our pet’s diets. Many of us have trouble controlling our own diets, but there is no excuse for feeding your dog or cat anything less than a species appropriate diet. It is universally true that optimal nutrition is the key to a long, healthy life. Cats are obligate carnivores meaning they need to get all of their nutrients from a meat diet. Dogs are facultative carnivores meaning their healthiest diet is meat-based but they can survive on a slightly broader range of foods. This is not theoretical news; it is common fact based on their ancestry, their dentition, their enzyme profile, stomach acids, length of their digestive systems, ad infinitum. Although slightly different types of carnivores, both our cats and dogs should be fed as such. This is their genetic makeup, and no slick advertising campaign or trendy fad diet ingredients can alter that.

Help Defy the Odds

The bottom line is if you want your pet to live a healthy life and perhaps defy their predicted life expectancy you will need to feed them a diet founded on his genetic requirements which for cats and dogs is a raw, meat-based, carnivore diet. Northwest Naturals has been producing frozen raw and freeze-dried raw diets for many years in our USDA certified plant. We are committed to the day-by-day health as well as the longevity of your cats and dogs. We cannot promise you a forever pet, but in partnership with a responsible owner, we will come as close to that goal as is possible in 2022. Find all of our products in a store near you!

By Carol Kendig


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Wet rocks with seaweed and moss on a sandy beach

Dulse is not Carrageenan and Carrageenan is not Dulse

By Carol Kendig

First, let me admit I am not an authority on algae or seaweed. If you combine these two species together there are over 350,000 varieties of collected species throughout the world and new species are frequently discovered. However, as a consistent user of kelp and dulse in my own diet and those of my dogs for over 50 years, I have some knowledge and experience with these incredible sea vegetables.

What is Dulse?

Dulse refers to a few varieties of red seaweed or red algae and I have seen it referred to as both. These varieties have been used in human diets and animal diets for at least 500 years, probably longer. The crisp, slightly salty taste of Dulse is pleasant and reminiscent of bacon. None of my dogs have ever objected to the addition of this powder to their food, and the health benefits of Dulse are many. It builds strong bones, safely regulates blood pressure and increases blood circulation, helps prevent thyroid diseases, boosts immunity, and strengthens the nervous system. With high levels of natural Vitamin A, specifically good for eye health and immunity, Dulse’s healthy fiber content also aids digestion.

What is Carrageenan?

When food scientists tinker with whole foods, fractionating them apart, they can create problems. This seems to be the case with Carrageenan, a polysaccharide extracted from Dulse by heat and an alkaline solution. Dulse in its’ whole natural form is not heat or alkaline treated so no carrageenan is formed. Carrageenan must be labelled as such on any edible products for humans or pets. If you see “Dulse” listed as an ingredient, you are getting the whole, natural product. If “Carrageenan” is listed on the ingredient panel you are getting the fractionated, heated and treated product, which is a controversial ingredient. At this time, Carrageenan is USDA approved and widely used in the human food chain for its’ gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties. There seems to be valid arguments both pro and con for this ingredient and the studies done on it, but rest assured that Dulse is NOT Carrageenan and Carrageenan is NOT Dulse. Northwest Naturals is proud to use natural, whole Dulse in our pet foods for its’ valuable nutritional goodness.

Trace Minerals for Pets

Are you worried about you and your pets getting sufficient trace minerals from vegetables grown in today’s depleted soils? Add Kelp and Dulse to your diets. In addition to vitamins and fiber, these sea vegetables are rich in trace minerals such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, potassium, and iodine. Dulse, in its’ natural whole state, is truly a magnificent addition to our diets and our pet’s diets, too.


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Dog licking its lips looking up at its owner

It’s Rawgust!

By Carol Kendig

A Biologically Correct Diet

Ever since some clever marketing person came up with the idea of combining raw feeding with the month of August we have been subjected to the awkward —  Rawgust. While it is not exactly a lyrical word, it does serve as a timely reminder for all of us to continue including more raw foods into our dog’s and cat’s diets.  If you are feeding 90 – 100% raw food to your pets give yourself a big pat on the back. Your lucky pets are eating a biologically correct diet and their health benefits are numerous. If you are in the 50 – 90% raw category in pet feeding, congratulations on your efforts and your pets are receiving some notable health benefits, too. However, if your pet’s meals are under 50% raw you may want to raise that percentage for greater well-being.

“Living Food”

Adding appropriate raw food to a kibble or canned food diet is an intelligent idea. For example, using NWN’s complete and balanced nuggets as a topper to a commercial kibble will make your pet’s diet more palatable and nourishing. At last, your pet will be getting some “living food” in the form of raw enzymes. Plus, the nutrients will be whole and not denatured by heat. Obviously, the higher amount of raw food in your pet’s diet the better his or her body will respond to these live foods. Here are a few of the many benefits you may notice once you begin feeding your dog or cat a wholesome raw food diet.

  1. Less shedding, shinier coat
  2. Less likelihood of allergies and lessening of current symptoms
  3. Maintain proper weight
  4. Smaller less odorous stools
  5. Healthier teeth and gums, better breath
  6. More efficient digestive system
  7. Maintain proper hydration
  8. Healthy skin, indicating a healthy immune system
  9. Healthier joints

A Year-Round Goal

Feeding our dogs and cats a complete and balanced raw food diet is a year-round goal, not just for Rawgust. Consider adding more Northwest Naturals frozen raw or raw free-dried to your pet’s current diet. Consider feeding the nutritional apex of 100% raw because all our beloved pets deserve to eat a biologically correct diet. For thirty years NWN has been committed to providing our pets the best in raw nutrition, giving each and every one of them better health for a longer life and giving all of their parent’s peace of mind.