Category Archives: Pet Safety & Health

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Crushing plants with a mortar and pestle

How to Ensure your Pets are Absorbing their Minerals

Not all Pet Foods Contain the Minerals Needed for a Healthy Diet

Minerals are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet, for people and pets alike. While people have the luxury of opting for fresh, organic meals, pets often do not. Or, they did not until recently. While pet nutrition has come a long way, not all pet foods are properly formulated so that the right nutrients are able to be absorbed from the food.

How Do You Know What to Look for in Your Pet’s Food?

Natural and organic minerals are the best form. These can easily be absorbed by our pets’ bodies during digestion. It might sound like common sense to look for natural sources of minerals but there are both natural and synthetic, inorganic and organic minerals.

Natural vs Synthetic

The difference between natural and synthetic is pretty obvious. The reason synthetic minerals aren’t ideal for your pet’s nutrition, is that they aren’t as easily absorbed. They also differ slightly from natural sources, and those that are absorbed, aren’t as beneficial in terms of nutrition.

Organic vs Inorganic

This is where the terminology starts to get a little tricky. Organic here means plant based rather than plants that were grown without pesticides. Organic in terms of minerals does not get into that distinction. It becomes a bit clearer when we look at the next definition. Inorganic minerals are those in their natural state whether in the soil, rocks, or water. Minerals in the inorganic state are harder for pets and humans to absorb and utilize.

Formulating Minerals to Make them Easier to Absorb

Now that we’ve talked about minerals and where we can find sources of these nutritional building blocks, let’s look at how they should be incorporated into pet food for optimal nutrition. Naturally sourced organic minerals can be formulated to have high absorption rates. One of these formulations is called chelation in which a broad range of organic molecules are bound to the mineral molecule.

Of the various forms of chelation, proteination is the most effective. Proteination is currently the most effective mineral formulation and the highest standard for mineral supplementation for people or pets. The efficacy ranges from 15-30% higher than non-formulated natural minerals.

Why Get This Technical?

This post got pretty technical, but we went there because both you and your pets should have a healthy and whole diet. When selecting mineral supplements for yourself and your pet, look for natural, organic, chelated, or proteinated minerals. If these terms are absent, you might be getting a synthetic variant which is essentially empty nutrition.

Northwest Naturals has made it easy to find the best source of nutritional minerals for your pet. We go the extra nutritional mile in all of our pet food products to ensure the very best quality and nutrition. We use whole food sources to get the best minerals into our pet foods. Our raw frozen and freeze-dried diets are packed with natural organic minerals, and then we add proteinated minerals to ensure your pet gets their Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). Stop wasting your money on empty pet foods. Give your cat or dog the very best. Give them Northwest Naturals.


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Dog and Cat wearing St. Patricks Day Hats, drinking green beer, and eating Green Lipped Mussels to celebrate

It’s Not Exactly Irish, But it’s a Green Treat!

March is memorable for festive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, green beer and four-leaf-clovers. While I wouldn’t recommend feeding your pets beer or clover, there is a green food you might want to try instead: Green Mussels, also called Green-Lipped or Green-Shell Mussels (usually shortened to GLM). While humans can enjoy these tasty mollusks in our diets, so can our dogs and cats.

Functional and Tasty

Why feed your pet Green-Lipped Mussels, you ask? Usually given as a treat to our pets, this treat is called a functional treat. Functional treats have dual functions.  First, they are palatable, hence they are a treat.  But in addition to being a treat they have superior nutritional benefits, making them doubly valuable. The functional aspect of GLM is their high concentrate of omega-3 fatty acids and a unique fatty acid called eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA). ETA appears to have superior anti-inflammatory effects and is an immune modulator as well. Both are very effective against arthritic-type conditions.

GLM are also rich in chondroitin sulfate, an important structural component of cartilage. This combination of fatty acids and chondroitin helps ease pain associated with degenerative joint diseases and assists in building healthy joints.  Yes, you read that right – GLM can reduce your pet’s pain and strengthen their joints at the same time. And without any of the harmful side-effects of NSAIDs which are commonly prescribed for arthritis in humans and pets.

We Prepare it for the Best Nutritional Value

The most effective way to consume GLM is in a freeze-dried form. This way the all-important fatty acids are not destroyed, and the other heat sensitive properties are not denatured. Northwest Naturals understands the crucial nature of keeping nutrients intact when freeze-drying. With years of experience in this technology, NWN has produced a healthy functional treat in our Raw Rewards freeze-dried Green Lipped Mussels. This slightly chewy treat is available in a 2 oz. portion bag that includes plenty of the lightweight mollusks. Freeze drying locks in the aroma, texture, and freshness that our pets crave and is the healthiest way to feed GLM. So, while we might sip a green beer this St. Paddy’s Day how about tossing your pet a Green Lipped Mussel treat! It’s a light-hearted way to keep them healthy and happy.


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Brown and White Shepherd dog with mouth open in a smile

Do Wolves Go to the Dentist?

Pet Dental Health Month

Since this is Pet Dental Health Month, we here at Northwest Naturals decided to tackle this subject. Interestingly, we didn’t have much to share since raw fed dogs who are occasionally given raw bones rarely have dental problems. Dr. Katie Kangas a Californian veterinarian writing in “Dogs Naturally Magazine” (May 2020) had some great points about dental health for our pets which I am going to summarize for the benefit of all of our dogs.

Diet and Nutrition for Dental Health

Dr. Kangas’ first point is that a pet’s diet and nutrition is of paramount importance. She suggests that a raw diet including finely ground bones and raw meaty bones are your animal’s first defense against tooth decay. This is because raw bones provide natural enzymes that help fight plaque. Here is her advice on choosing an appropriate bone:

“Veterinary dentists report that large types of raw bones, such as
Marrowbones, rarely cause broken teeth…in contrast to small
bones. This has to do with dog anatomy and how your dog chews
his bones. Larger, bulky objects aren’t chewed with the same
angle and force on the large teeth at the back of the cheek and
mouth compared to smaller and longer objects. In fact, common
items known to break dogs’ teeth are nylon bones, cooked bones,
antlers, hooves and bully sticks.”

Northwest Naturals Raw Marrowbones

Northwest Naturals provides packages of raw marrowbones in these sizes:
1” — 8 in pack
2” — 4 in pack
4” — 2 in pack

If in doubt about size, go larger to reduce any chance of choking, but always monitor your pets when eating bones.

Also our packages of freeze-dried chicken, duck, and turkey necks provide raw bone benefits, with the cleanliness advantage of being freeze-dried. Dogs love these necks which are totally consumable and are full of collagen and glucosamine as well as providing the teeth cleaning advantages of all raw bones.

Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Next Dr. Kangas mentions the benefits of antioxidants in guarding against chronic oxidative stress. Fruits and vegetables are prime sources of antioxidants and fresh vegetables and fruits make up 18.5% of our canine diet formulas. Coenzyme Q10 has been associated with reducing periodontal disease and folate is helpful in aiding gum tissue. Both nutrients are abundant in organ meats and fatty fish.

Probiotics and Fatty Acids

Other players in the dental health field are probiotics and fatty acids. According to Dr. Kangas fatty acids “help manage dental inflammation… of the gingival tissue.” Probiotics, according to her, “provide oral health benefits when you give them orally or apply them directly to the gums…use a gel or liquid or powdered probiotic and rub it on the gums.”

Toothbrushing Tips

Most dogs fed a raw diet will never have to have their teeth brushed, but Dr. Kangas reminds us that manual toothbrushing may still be necessary for some pets, particularly small dogs who are especially susceptible for dental problems. She recommends diluting a “pure therapeutic oil… (such as) clove, lemon, peppermint, orange, basil, myrrh and copaiba” and applying one of them to the toothbrush for added benefits. Let’s give Dr. Kangas a big “Thank you!” for some wonderful suggestions on how to keep our pet’s smiling during Pet Dental Health month and all year round!

Our dogs are simply familiar, domesticated wolves albeit many generations removed from their ancestors. Feed your dog a species-appropriate raw diet, take reasonable dental precautions and you, too, will rarely have to take him or her to the dentist.


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Bone Broth in the making / boiling in a pot

Bone Broth for Dogs and Cats

The Perfect Cold-Weather Soup

As soon as fall’s crisp days arrive and all through cold winters into chilly springs there is a large kettle of bone broth simmering on the back burner of my stove. The pot radiates some cozy kitchen warmth, my home smells yummy and most importantly I am creating a delicious and nutritionally rich food for myself and my dog.

Ember, my Australian Labradoodle, and I both love bone broth and it is truly a satisfying food. With an abundance of vitamins and minerals, high in amino acids and natural essential fatty acids bone broth is a valuable diet addition. This gelatin rich food is also loaded with collagen with all its health benefits. Beef is my staple broth ingredient followed by chicken and pork. I have not tried making fish bone broth yet but have heard good reviews.

Authentically made bone broth has been a staple in the diets of humans and animals through the ages. It is simple to make and the ingredients are inexpensive. However, in the 1950’s when convenience foods became popular, bone broth disappeared from most urban households. Recently it has been “rediscovered” and become a popular healthy food trend, first for people and second for their carnivorous pets.

Here are some of the claims made for bone broth:

  • Helps protect joints
  • May fight osteoarthritis
  • Reduces inflammation, boosts healing
  • Helps heal the gut
  • May aid sleep
  • Supports the immune system
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Supports healthy skin

Sounds like a super food, right? Yes, its nutrient profile is impressive, and those nutrients are easily absorbed…both very good features. But bone broth is not a miracle cure. What it does is boost your general health, especially in the areas listed above. Consider bone broth a soothing restorative drink, and if you or your dog feel some of those benefits, they will be a welcome bonus.

Make it! Drink it! Enjoy it!

My Favorite Bone Broth Recipe

Ingredients:
1 lb. of bones from beef, poultry, pork, lamb, fish
4 cups cool water (cover an inch over bones)
1 -2 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 raw chicken foot for extra gelatin (optional, makes broth very thick)
Directions:
1. Bake raw bones @ 385 oven for 1 hour to release flavor
2. If using cooked bones eliminate Step 1.
3. In large pot combine all ingredients, let stand for 30 minutes
4. Place pot on stove and bring to a boil
5. At boil, turn down heat and skim off froth floating on top
6. On very low heat simmer broth:
Beef, Pork, Lamb — 48 hours
Chicken – 24 hours
Fish – 8 hours
7. If adding vegetables, add to broth 1 hour before end of cooking
8. Remove pot from heat and take out bones
9. Strain remaining liquid for beautiful, clear bone broth

You can store broth in the refrigerator for up to five days and freeze for several months. Broth can be made in a crock pot or slow cooker with very good results in a shorter time. Vegetables and herbs make interesting flavor additions. Be aware that the vegetables of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) usually are not used as they can turn bitter during the long, slow cooking process.

My dog and I savor the warm goodness of bone broth every day. She loves it added to her raw diet, and I love to drink a cup of it each morning as an energy boost and at night relaxing before bed. Try this simple-to-make super food for yourself and your dogs and cats. At the minimum it will improve your sense of well-being and it may do a whole lot more. Bon Appetit!


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Sleepy older golden retriever

November is National Senior Pet Month

When are Pets Considered Seniors?

Is your dog 7 years old or older? That’s the magic number for determining senior status in most dogs. Smaller breeds aren’t considered golden oldies until they are 10 years old while the giant breeds hit senior status at age 6. Cats are seniors from age 10 – 14 years and are called super seniors above age 15.

The Perks and Pitfalls of Being a Senior Pet

Our senior pets are special. We’ve shared more heart-warming experiences with them through the years and loved them longer so when those muzzles start turning grey and we see them slowing down it can be distressing for us. Some of the problems we may see in our older pets are painful joints resulting in general reduced mobility, and because of less activity weight gain is not uncommon. Slowed digestion can also be an issue. Higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, dental problems and kidney problems often materialize with advancing years.

Improving Quality of Life Through Diet

To help our beloved cats and dogs in their senior years we need to focus on feeding them the highest quality and least processed proteins available. If you are feeding a raw diet continue to do so. If you are feeding kibble, try adding some raw food as a topper. If it agrees with your pet, try increasing the raw up to 50% of her diet. Definitely lower the amount of carbohydrates you are feeding as carbs slow digestion and add weight. Adding some healthy fiber to your dog’s diet will also aid her digestion and provide her with needed phytonutrients.

Cats simply need higher quality protein without added fruits and veggies. Since cats are obligate carnivores, raw protein is the most biologically appropriate diet for them. However, it can be very difficult switching a kibble fed cat to a raw diet in her senior years. Some cats adjust to freeze-dried raw easier than frozen raw diets because of the dry texture. But it may take a while to convince your cat that her new frozen raw or freeze-dried raw high-quality protein food is what she really wants to eat. If you own a cat, you know they have opinions!

The raw diets formulated at Northwest Naturals are appropriate for senior dogs and cats. The proteins are of the highest quality, minimally processed and are the primary ingredient in our dog food. At 80% protein the diets are palatable and healthy. In NWN dog food veggies and fruit comprise 18.5 % of the diet. They provide needed fiber and are rich in antioxidants, both important elements in a senior’s diet to protect against cancer and diabetes. Natural supplements are the final 1.5% of the recipe to make sure all nutritional bases are covered.

Cats will thrive well into their senior years eating a 98% raw protein diet with the addition of 2% natural supplements to ensure each meal is complete and balanced for their unique nutritional needs.

Other Tips for Taking Care of Your Senior Pet

Providing our senior pets with optimal nutrition is one of the most important elements in making their declining years their golden years. But we cannot overlook such simple things as perhaps providing more comfy orthopedic beds, switching to raised bowls and making sure toys are appropriate for aging mouths. Puzzle toys and feeding games can also be helpful for slowing cognitive decline. Shorter walks give you both time to stop and smell the roses as your pet enters this slower more contemplative time of life. Spend time looking deeply into your pet’s eyes and savor the love and contentment you see there. Hopefully, we will all age as gracefully as our beloved pets.


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Green-Lipped Mussels Freeze Dried Treats

Green-Lipped Mussels, Your Pet’s New Best Friend

The Merits of the Green-Lipped Mussel

Now, before you dismiss me as socially challenged, I’ll admit that the New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel may not be everyone’s idea of a perfect pal. However, this amazing shellfish has so many sterling qualities that after you read this article you may be tempted to befriend him, too.

Born and Raised Sustainably

Found in only one place in the world, the beautiful Ninety Mile Beach area in New Zealand, green-lipped mussels are a powerhouse of nutritional goodness. These mussels which can grow up to 9” have distinctive green edges on their shells and are highly prized for their unique healthful qualities. They are carefully and sustainably raised and harvested under the strictest NZ aquaculture standards. GLMs are rated one of the top two ‘eco-friendly seafoods’ in the world by the International Conservation Organization Blue Ocean Institute.

Are you starting to see the attraction? This mussel lives in one of the world’s most gorgeous locations, is big and colorful, deeply appreciated by New Zealanders and good for pets and humans alike. And we’ve not even touched on the real appeal yet. Drum roll: green-lipped mussels are an amazing joint support with NO side effects (unless you are allergic to shellfish when they should not be used).

Our Mussels vs. Prescription Drugs

If your dog is getting older and feeling pain from stiff joints, conventional veterinarians will probably want to prescribe NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These drugs can appear to alleviate symptoms, but they all have side effects such as serious liver, kidney and digestive complications that, in my opinion, negatively outweigh the benefits. And with long-term usage NSAIDs can make joint problems worse. We don’t want to do that to our pets or to ourselves!

Here is where our friend the green-lipped mussel has a distinct advantage over the NSAIDs. Not only does the GLM contain COX inhibitors (anti-inflammatory benefits) like the NSAIDs, but they have none of the drug’s side-effects, and some studies have shown GLMs help to reduce gastrointestinal irritation brought on by previous NSAID drug usage. So, if you have been giving your pets NSAID drugs, GLMs may help alleviate some of those adverse side-effects.

Green-Lipped Mussels Go Above and Beyond

GLMs have very high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and also contain eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA) which is unique to green-lipped mussels. ETA appears to be a superior COX inhibitor working on dual pathways in the body for added effectiveness. Plus, GLMs are loaded with sea-rich vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our pet’s health.

There is evidence that not only do GLMs aid in inflammatory conditions, they also help maintain young, healthy joints. Many people and their pets are taking GLMs as a preventative measure while their joints are still fully functional thus preventing eventual joint deterioration.

Your Friend is Our Friend

So, if you are interested in your joint health and your pet’s joints too, Green-Lipped Mussels are something you should consider trying. While you will probably ingest supplements your dogs and cats may enjoy Northwest Naturals Green Mussels treats. Correctly freeze-dried to retain all their beneficial components, these mussels can be given as individual treats or crumbled over food, whichever works best for your pet. They come in a 2 ounce package and are simply whole GLMs that have not been denatured by heating and whose nutrients are bioavailable to your dog or cat.

I have to admit that my true best friend will always be my dog, but if a Green-Lipped Mussel can help keep us both healthy and pain-free, well, that tasty little mussel has our gratitude and admiration, just before we eat them up. What a way to treat a friend!


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Northwest Naturals Raw Beef Bones multipacks

Tips on How to Boost Your Pet’s Health with Raw Bones

Throughout history, pet owners have been reaping the benefits of raw bones as a staple of their dog’s diet.

To Gnaw or Not to Gnaw: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis safer for the stomach to digest the bits of grit from a very big bone,
Perhaps, forsooth, to lose a tooth or tearfully eschew the chew.

Would Shakespeare Have Given His Dog Raw Bones?

Up until the last century, for as long as humans and dogs lived together, our canine’s main diet consisted of prey animals and unwanted human food scraps. In Shakespeare’s time that would have been standard fare for canines. So, if the Bard did have a pup, he most likely fed her a diet that included raw meaty bones. These bones boost your pet’s nutrition and offer many benefits.

I imagine Shakespeare’s dog would be a small, scruffy Terrier-type, bouncing along by her master’s side to the local ale house or sitting alertly at his side during rehearsals. Will probably wouldn’t have known the scientific benefits of feeding bones to his dog. Veterinary science was rather rudimentary in the 16th Century. But what was nutritionally appropriate for a dog’s digestive system in Shakespeare’s day is still appropriate for our dogs today. No matter the date, bones are a worthy addition to a canine diet.

How and Why to Give Your Dog Bones:

Raw is Safer

First in order of importance is to only feed your dog raw bones, not cooked or smoked, which can cause dangerous splinters. Not only do raw bones offer the best health benefits (raw enzymes), but they do not fragment into slivers as smoked or cooked ones may.

Size Matters

Second, chose the correct size of raw bone for your dog.  An easy rule about size is to match the size bone to your dog’s head. Chewing on a larger bone does not usually present a problem, but bones that are too small can create a choking hazard or be swallowed and cause problems. If Shakespeare had a twenty-pound Terrier, a femur would be an excellent choice. If he owned an English Mastiff, a large knuckle bone would be perfect. If the bard preferred a Pug, he might toss her a lamb breastbone or rib to chew.

Always Supervise Your Dog with a Bone

Third, always monitor your dog when she is eating a bone. Aggressive chewers can break off chunks of even a raw bone. Those pieces should be removed before they can be swallowed and cause esophageal trauma or a bowel obstruction. These determined pets can also fracture or chip teeth through the pressure they exert on these raw bones. If you are considering adding raw bones to your dog’s diet, careful supervision is the best policy when feeding bones whether yours is bone-driven or a nibbler.

The Added Benefits of Raw Bones

A fourth consideration when feeding raw bones, are the substances accompanying the actual bone: marrow and cartilage. Marrow is highly nutritious, and most dogs crave the taste.  However, it is quite rich and can cause digestive upsets and loose stools if consumed in excess. Obviously, a Saint Barnard can tolerate more marrow than a Pekingese. For smaller dogs scoop out and freeze some of the marrow and divide for later feedings or limit the amount of time she can spend with her bone, remove it, refrigerate or re-freeze it and feed again at a future time. Cartilage is a natural source of collagen which helps keep a pet’s joints and ligaments healthy. It is a nutritious bonus when feeding raw bones.

Raw Bones are Messy

The fifth point involves cleanliness.  Raw bones are messy.  Your dog’s face and paws might be too, after enjoying her bone. They are best fed outside, in a crate or on a cleanable surface. Personal note, I feed raw bones in the backyard when weather permits, but on inclement days my dogs get freeze-dried poultry necks which they totally consume, leaving no debris. Again, chose an appropriate size from chicken, duck or turkey necks.

Finally, remember that a raw bone is one of a dog’s greatest pleasures. Not only will it satisfy her innate desire for raw meat, marrow, cartilage and the small particles of bone itself, but it is a naturally interesting activity for her. Shakespeare’s dog may have jogged all over London with Will and been entranced by his plays, but too often modern dogs lead a rather boring life without much mental stimulation.

Bones provide both mental and physical challenges. Have you ever watched you dog eat a bone? There is a lot of physical exercise going on: mouth, jaws, forelegs, paws, head and neck all get a good workout as the mechanical process of ripping, grinding, holding, positioning, pulling and gnawing contribute to a dog’s well-being. Mood elevating endorphins are released through this pleasurable activity, creating a happy, relaxed dog.

In answer to the question, would Shakespeare have given his dog a bone? Yes, he most certainly would, and probably many bones over her lifetime. While some people will choose to forgo bones for a variety of personal reasons, as a healthful, mentally and physically stimulating addition to your dog’s life, a nutritious raw bone can’t be beaten.


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Dog swimming in a pool carrying a toy in the summer

Dog Days of Summer – Protect Your Pet in the Heat

Tips for Pet Pawrents

Heat wave! This summer has been no joke. The temperatures have soared, and it looks like they’re stuck up there. With this increased heat and sun exposure, your pets are likely feeling the effects. But what are we to do?  Dogs need to go outside to do their business, love to sunbathe, and need their exercise. In this post we’ve pulled together some tips and some products that can help you protect your dog from the high temperatures and safely get their vitamin D.

Damage Caused by the Heat

First, before we get into how to protect your pet this summer let’s look at some of the conditions caused by overexposure to heat and sun. It’s helpful after all, to know what you are protecting them from. Knowing these conditions will help you to watch for signs and symptoms so that you can keep them cool and healthy.

Hot Spots:

Either caused by overheating or bacterial infection, hot spots are areas of inflamed skin. These start developing as a small red spot, which can often be mistaken for a bug bite. While they start small, these spots can grow rapidly and eventually turn into a painful lesion.  You can find various over the counter treatments for hot spots but it’s best to consult your vet.

Overheating:

Increased respiration, and heart rate, and panting are the most obvious signs of your dog overheating. Dogs who are suffering from overheating or heat stroke will also appear a bit weak, out of sorts or in a stupor. Your dog may collapse, have a seizure, vomit, or have bloody diarrhea as well.  You can also check for an elevated body temperature.

If you have a flat-faced brachycephalic pet, either cat or dog, they are more susceptible to overheating as they have more difficulty breathing. Since respiration helps regulate body temperatures these pets are heat intolerant and should be monitored carefully in hot weather.

Burned or Blistered Pads/Paws:

If your pet stays on hot pavement or asphalt for too long, the pads of their paws will burn.  Similar to the way our skin burns these can range from red and sore to blistered paws. Before walking your pet on these surfaces check the heat with your hand. You can use pet booties to help keep your pet’s paws safe but avoiding these hot surfaces is the best way to keep them safe.

Dehydration:

Excessive panting is the obvious sign of being hot and getting dehydrated. Watch for bloodshot eyes or pale or light-colored gums are another sign. You can also do a gentle pinch test: take some of your dog’s skin between your fingers and lift it up, when they are dehydrated it takes longer to go back into place.

Keeping your Dog Safe from the Heat

Take Advantage of Cooler Parts of the Day

Generally, the mornings and evenings are cooler as you are avoiding the blazing afternoon sun. You can help protect your pet by taking your walks or playing outside earlier or later in the day. This will allow your pet to get their exercise without the risk of overheating, dehydrating, etc.

Walking or Playing on the Grass

Grass generally stays cooler than concrete or asphalt. These harder surfaces absorb the heat and can get really hot. Even your deck or patio can get overly hot if it’s in direct sunlight for any length of time. Much like our feet, our dogs paw pads can burn or blister on hot surfaces. When we don our tennis shoes for a walk, we can forget how hot these surfaces can get as our feet aren’t directly touching them. Use your hand to feel the sidewalk or street and if it’s too hot, try walking your pet on the grass.

Cool Off in the Shade

Find shady spots to play as they are cooler both in ambient temperature and the ground temperature. Laying on cool grass can help dogs lower their body temperature. Playing in the shade is a bonus.

Consider giving your buddy a break on digging holes. Digging down into the dirt is a dog’s natural way of cooling off. The dirt underneath will be cooler than the grass on top of the ground.

Splash Around

Offering a pool is a great way for your pet to cool off, provides a creative space for your pet to play, and gives your pet a drink whenever they want or need it. Just be careful to empty the water when you are done playing and refill for the next use. This will help to cut down parasites like heart-worms.

Products that Help Your Pet Stay Safe in the Sun

There is a wide range of products available to pet owners that help keep your fur baby safe on hot days. It is important to remember however, that these are not 100% effective or effective for long periods of time. You should always keep an eye on your pets and give them breaks indoors as relief from the sun and the high temperatures.

Cooling Pads or Blankets

If you don’t have shade or want to make a cool spot for your pet to lounge, there are pads and blankets that help create a cool spot. Some of these products simply do not retain heat, while others can actually be placed in the refrigerator to be physically cool to the touch. There’s nothing like a cool place to rest for your pet on a hot day.

Cooling Jackets and Vests

If you have a more active pet and are worried about them playing at the park or in your yard, you can find jackets or vests that help reflect the sun and/or keep your pet cool. These are similar to the cooling pads you lay on the ground, only these are fitted to your dog.

Booties

While we typically think of booties as winter boots or rain boots for our pets, you can find variants that are designed for higher temperatures in the summer sun. Follow the sizing guides to get the appropriate fit which will enable your dog to maintain their footing on walks and in the park.

Salves and Ointments

From hot spots, to burned pads, to dry skin and noses, there are now many products both natural and medicated, to treat your pup’s skin. Consult your veterinarian for trusted brands or recommended products.

Sunscreen for Pups

Similar to the products designed for humans, there is now spray sunscreen available for pets. Follow the directions on the packaging for a bit of safe sun. This is great for pets with short hair, bald spots, scars, etc.

Hot Weather Eating Tips

Some dogs develop a picky appetite when it gets hot. Freeze bone broth in an ice cube tray and add a cube or two to their meals. Summer is definitely the season for feeding frozen raw bones. Dogs love holding the cold bone in their mouths until it warms enough for them to begin serious gnawing. If you are giving your pets raw frozen dog food or cat food and normally letting it thaw before feeding, try feeding it straight from the freezer. A quarter section of a NWN dinner bar fed frozen may perk up a languid appetite. And sometimes smaller more frequent meals help break up the monotony of those dog days of summer.

Things to Absolutely  Avoid

Do Not Shave Your Pet

If your pet has long hair, they can most certainly go for a trim. But pets should not be shaved down. While we might think that this will help keep them cool, their fur actually helps regulate their body temperature and protect them from sunburn. Instead, consider brushing your pet more frequently. This will help to excrete and spread their fur’s natural oils which can help to hydrate skin and protect it from heat and sun exposure.

Do Not Leave Your Dog in the Car

We’ve heard the warnings, but the consequences are dire. Left in a hot car, your pet can go from fine to in danger or dead quickly. It’s best to leave your companion home on hot days, even if you are just running a quick errand.  This has become such a problem that now in some states it is legal for strangers to break the windows of a car to rescue an overheating pet. Other states have made it legal for law enforcement or first responders to break the windows of a vehicle. If you see a dog that is suffering in a vehicle, first call and report the incident. Find more information on the American Veterinary Medical Association website.

 

Be smart, be safe and sound, and have a wonderful Summer!


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Bulldog laying down on kitchen rug looking mopey

Make a Happy Home for Your Pets – Returning to Work

Adjusting to Life on Their Own at Home – After COVID

After months of being at home all day every day with your best friend, your pet’s state of bliss may be about to come to an end. Sheltering in place might have been frustrating for us humans, but our pets thought it was just about a dream come true. Yes, for many dogs it meant less trips to the park, but that was made up for with all the walks they could handle. We’re fairly certain that most dogs think that they finally convinced us to quit our jobs and stay home with them…however the jury is still out on whether cats enjoyed their serfs being in their presence for hours and days at a time. Who knows what birds, reptiles, and other pets thought?

Many states across the country are preparing to re-open, which means a return to work for many pet parents. Dogs, some cats, and other pets who have grown used to our company will be once again left on their own for a large portion of the day. Simply returning to work after weeks if not months of being at home can cause some major anxiety and depression for pets. If you are getting ready to go back to work, take the time to prepare your pet as well. In this post, we’ll look at some tips and suggestions from the experts on how to smoothly adjust your dog, cat, or other pets to being alone for hours at a time.

How Do I Prepare My Dog for Hours of Alone Time?

Get Back to a Routine

Meals, walks, treats, and play time might have shifted or become more frequent during our social distancing and self-quarantine. The first step in preparing to go back to work for humans and pets alike, is to get back into a routine. The closer you can get to your actual work routine the better. Pets thrive on schedules. Have you ever noticed how accurate their body clocks are? They can sense mealtime down to the minute! Routine becomes an important part of their mental health. It gives them upsides to look forward to and prepares them for the downsides, like when you leave for work.

Start by waking up or getting your pet up at the same time every day and feeding them at the same time. If you typically walk them before leaving for work, re-institute this morning walk rather than your more random COVID-19 rambles.

Create a Safe and Comfortable Space for Them

Creating a space either in their favorite room or by making their crate cozy can help to mitigate the stress of you returning to your pre-quarantine routine. Leave an item that smells like you such as a t-shirt you’ve worn or a blanket that you both snuggle. Put a few of their toys here as well. This will give them some additional comfort when you do start to leave them.

Start to Leave Them on Their Own Incrementally

Reestablishing their routine may take a bit of time. Throwing them back into their previous routine all at once can be like ripping off a band aide: at best it’s uncomfortable and at worst it’s downright painful. So before you go back to work it’s a good idea to start leaving your pet for short lengths of time and then increasing the amount of time that you are away little by little. Your pets will start to pick up on signals that you are getting ready to leave the house – noticing a change in clothing, you showering at a certain time of the day. These cues plus leaving them for lengthening periods of time will help get them back onto your “normal schedule”.

It can be tempting to bring them along for car rides while you run errands, or if you’re eating out on a restaurant’s patio, but try to resist those sad begging eyes. This second step is truly important.

Provide Distractions

Keeping pet safety in mind, you may want to find toys that stimulate and engage your pet while you are gone. Some pet parents find that puzzle toys are a great way to break up the boredom. Other pets love when their parents leave the TV on for them. Just be cognizant of the dangers that some potential toys may have. Soft toys that can be eaten should be left for supervised play.

What If Your Return to Work is Sudden?

Not everyone will have the luxury of a planned return to the office or place of employment. Some of us will only receive a few days’ notice to report for work. If this is the case, try not to panic. Most pets are resilient and while yours might experience some anxiety, they will quickly adjust to the new routine.

If you have a friend or family member who can check on your pet, having them do so is a great idea. Hiring a dog walker is another means of breaking up the long day away from you. For your dog who might be used to potty breaks on demand, this can help prevent accidents as you re-train their bladder. In terms of socialization it can help break up the monotony or boredom until you return home from work. You could even start with two visits per day and slowly taper them off.

How to Spot Stress:

Despite our best intentions and efforts our pets might still become stressed out. With dogs, excessive barking can be a sign of stress. Couple this with pawing at doors or windows (as if trying to remove the thing that is separating them from you) and you have other good indicators of stress. If this is typical behavior when you leave the house, try to gauge whether this behavior now is prolonged or exacerbated.

Being destructive is another potential sign of stress, especially in dogs. Now we know that some dogs just play rough and like to tear apart their toys, but when it comes to stress they’ll typically turn this destructive habit on things that they don’t typically destroy: Chewing doors, furniture, cabinets, shoes, etc. This can also be a sign of boredom, so if your pet starts to exhibit this behavior try playing with them to wear them out before leaving the house. If the behavior persists it is likely stress.

Pay Attention to Your Own Emotions

Pets are really in tune with our emotions. They can pick up on our stress and anxiety often better than we can ourselves. When you get ready to leave for work in the morning try to remain calm. Refrain from raising your voice or rushing. These behaviors can increase our pet’s anxiety.

How to Reduce Stress:

Exercise and playtime are great ways to help mitigate stress and prevent it. Build time to interact with your pet into your morning routine and take time to do so again when you return home from work.

If your pet is still exhibiting stress there are aids that can help alleviate some of this stress, such as snug fitting vests or shirts. The downside to using these items is that you will potentially be leaving your pet in this clothing all day so consider your schedule with using these items.

And don’t forget about Animal Behaviorists. These skillful workers are trained observers and can have insightful suggestions about preventing problems when you return to work or solving problems later. An in-home consultation with an Animal Behaviorist is usually an enlightening and highly rewarding experience for both you and your pet. However, if the mental and/or physical problems persist, you may ultimately have to consult with your vet.

Following the hints mentioned in this article will definitely help normal pet anxiety about changes to their routines. As we begin returning to the 9 to 5 world let’s be extra aware of the needs of our furry and feathery best friends and do whatever we can to make the transition a happy one!


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SAD dog on couch - black and white image

Do Cats and Dogs Get Seasonal Affective Disorder?

If your pet is acting a bit withdrawn this winter, it might be SAD.

Not much research has been done on whether the dreary, grey whether of the winter months has an effect on our pets, they do share some of the same brain chemistry as humans.  Studies have been done on their behavior and moods – but you don’t have to tell a dog or cat parent that.  So, it takes no stretch of the imagination to see that the lack of sunshine and colder temperatures might have your cat or dog down in the dumps.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder in Humans then?

During the winter, levels of the “feel good” hormones like Serotonin drop and our dreary mood matches the weather.   Some of those who accept that the winter months affect our pets believe that the cause could be simply that it’s our moods that are bringing them down.

How to Spot SAD or Depression in Your Pet

No one knows your cat or dog better than you do.  Monitor your pet for changes in appetite, or a drop in energy.  Take note if they do not play with you or others as much.  There can be other indications as well.  In some species of cats and dogs, hair caused by to alopecia due to a drop of sun exposure.

 

Remedies for SAD in our pets

Take Care of Yourself

If the cause is really their mirroring of our mood, the most obvious solution is to improve your own mood.  The following steps might be outlined for your pet, but they also work to greatly improve your own mood.

Mental and Physical Stimulation

By exercising both their minds and their bodies, you can have a great impact on their mood.  Stimulation can come from simple items you have around the house to puzzle toys.  With the right toys, you can combine both mental and physical stimulation!

Sunlight

Whether indoors or out of doors, sunlight does wonders for combating SAD.  If you have a window through which the natural sun shines through, making a space for your pet to lounge or play here for a time each day.

Simulating Sunlight with a Lamp

Sun lamps or full spectrum bulbs are an alternative to natural sunlight, if the latter is in short supply.  Devote some time each day to playing with your fur baby in the rays for a boost in their mood.

Diet

Another source of Vitamin D when sunshine is in short supply, is through diet or supplements.  Speak with your vet about the appropriate amount for your cat or dog, as well as the available sources suitable for them.