How to Decipher Pet Food Labels

Let’s be honest, most food labels, being human or for our pets, are not really designed for your average Jo… you really do need specialist detailed knowledge if you wish to fully understand what you or your pet are eating. Human food labelling is slowly getting better, the regulations are changing and some labels are becoming straight forward, but what about pet food? Not so fast to change, so how do you go about deciphering that?

Well, this is a good question. Unclear terms and tons of marketing babble can make it really hard to truly understand what’s inside the packet.

Recently, I came across an article “Calls for clearer labelling on pet food” by Dogs Monthly, which features an infographic by Data Label. There was a part which really made me think.

What is Meat Meal?

Well, apparently there is no official definition of it, but it seems to be a high concentrated lower grade protein powder obtained from rendering down parts of an animal, which cost a fraction of the whole animal…

Every time you read on your label dehydrated, powder, dried, meal, concentrated… this is not whole meat, those are parts of the animal which are either surplus requirements in the human food industry or are not intended for human consumption… doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?

Now here is another pet food labelling dilemma. Let’s say, I just bought a puppy and I want to buy a high protein dog food to help him grow up big and strong… I look at the labels, I study all the numbers and tables and pick the one which shows the highest amount of protein… sounds good, right? Well, not really… it’s maybe not the right choice or even a good choice because I have no idea what type of protein they are using… protein from the whole chicken does not equal proteins obtained from say chicken beaks or feet… yet looking at the labels I will never know which grade of protein is in the pack.

A lot of people think that naturally the more expensive the food, then the better quality it is… I personally strongly DO NOT agree with this! I think if this would be the truth then there would be no need for mystery labelling… I think the company would be proud to clearly state what’s in their food for everyone to understand without having a degree in deciphering mystery labels. Don’t ever underestimate what a fully funded marketing department can achieve.

If you hoped this post will give you an answer as to how to read pet labels, well, I am sorry I couldn’t help…

Pet food labelling shouldn’t be a mystery, it should be clear, simple and understandable to everyone, to all customers.

I hope one day this will become a reality!

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More on the topic:

The Science of Pet Food Labels

How to Read a Pet Food Label

Understanding Pet Food Labels

The Best Vegetables To Feed Your Dog For Optimal Health

* By Jeffery Roberts

Many people make the mistake of thinking that dogs are mostly carnivorous, and therefore do not need to eat vegetables. The truth is that vegetables, and some fruit, are an important part of your dog’s diet and a primary source of micronutrients.

The vitamins and nutrients in vegetables can help your pet live a longer and healthier life. Whether you are feeding a raw diet, and need to add in nutrients, or you are simply looking to supplement your pet’s current food regimen, these are the fruits and vegetables you should be focusing on:

Beets

Fresh, oven-roasted beets are a nutritional powerhouse for your dog. They contain B vitamins and are powerful detoxifiers due to their high antioxidant levels. They may help to reduce allergy sensitivities in your pet and reduce itching. They also fight inflammation and can help reduce the symptoms of arthritis in older pets. Be sure to not overfeed beets because they are naturally high in sugar, and never feed your pet beet greens. The greens contain oxalic acid, which can be toxic in high amounts.

Carrots

Carrots are high in many nutrients including beta-carotene and vitamin A, both of which support eyesight. Vitamin A is also important for the immune system and gives a boost to your dog’s skin and coat. Carrots can also help to improve dental health, acting as a natural toothbrush as your pet chews away. They are also low in calories, which makes them safe to use as treats on a regular basis.

Berries

Berries, especially blueberries, are rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation and may also help to prevent cancer. They also hinder the growth of bad bacteria and can help to fight infections. Berries are easy for dogs to digest and can be fed regularly in moderation.

Broccoli

Broccoli can be given to your dog either raw or cooked, and should be a regular part of your pet’s diet due to its nutrient-rich super powers! Broccoli helps with detoxification, maintaining skin and coat health and helps protect the heart. Broccoli is high in vitamin C, which helps boost immunity for your pet much like it does for humans, and is also high in fiber.

Kale

Kale helps to prevent heart disease, allergies, arthritis and urinary tract infections. It’s packed with vitamins and nutrients, including B vitamins that help maintain a healthy coat and nervous system. It’s low in calories and high in fiber, making it ideal for regular supplementation to your pet’s food.

Asparagus

Asparagus is another vitamin-packed vegetable that is non-toxic to dogs. Asparagus, unlike some other vegetables, is also high in minerals like copper, phosphorous and potassium. It is also high in B-vitamins and vitamin K. It is known to help with immune health, nervous system function and to help regulate blood sugar, making it great for dogs who are at risk of diabetes. Asparagus is tough when raw, so it is best served to your pup after lightly steaming it.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin is high in vitamins like potassium and iron, and can also offer a great digestive aid for dogs. It can be served raw, cooked or even canned and can help promote regularity if your pet suffers from diarrhea or constipation. Some holistic vets will also recommend pumpkin to aid in weight loss for dogs, by replacing a portion of their regular food with a similar amount of canned pumpkin on a daily basis.

Sweet Potato

Like pumpkin, sweet potato is also a helpful vegetable for regulating your pet’s digestion and can have a soothing effect on the digestive tract. Dogs also love its sweet flavor! They’re also high in vitamin B6, vitamin C and manganese. Sweet potatoes have become common in many reputable dog foods, so check your wet or dry food’s label before adding additional sweet potato to your dog’s diet.

Introducing your dog to new fruits and vegetables

Your dog has a much less varied diet than you do and is likely not accustomed to many new foods. A dog’s digestive tract also functions best with consistency, so practice awareness as you introduce more fruits and veggies into your dog’s diet. It is recommended to introduce each one separately, in small amounts, so that your dog can get acclimated and you can observe to see if it causes any upset to his unique digestion.

Conclusion

Fruit and vegetables provide important nutrients that boost your dog’s health and help to protect him from diseases like arthritis, diabetes and cancer. When introducing new fruits and veggies, start slow to give your pet time to get used to them. Before you know it, your pet will be loving his new diet and be healthier than ever!

 

About the author: Jeffery Roberts

Jeffery is a pet enthusiast and volunteer at his local pet shelter. His passion for animals started at an early age and through his work on becoming a veterinary student he understands and cares for pets of all species. Jeffery currently writes for The Happy Pooch and has 2 cats, a bird and a dog – Lucy.

 

4 Reasons Your Cat Isn’t Using The Litter Box And How To Fix It

Raising a cat or any pet for that matter is not a walk in the park. It´d be great if the pets just “did their business” in their designated areas, but it is often not the case. And, if your cat pees outside the litter box, you know exactly how difficult and arduous it is to clean after it. However, before putting the blame solely on your cat, it is necessary for you to understand why your cat dislikes using the litter box.

Here are 4 reasons why your cat is peeing outside of the litter box… and easy ways to fix the issues.

  1. Undesirable litter type

Cats tend to have a ¨litter type¨, a sort of personal preference they usually start developing by the time they turn a month old. Therefore, if your cat doesn’t use the litter box, it could perhaps be because of the change in the type of litter. Some of the common types of litter are non-clumping clay, clumping clay, silica gel crystals, and recycled paper etc. Hence, what one particular cat likes may not be preferred by another cat.

  1. Dirty litter box

Let’s be honest here — no one likes using a dirty and smelly toilet and the same goes for cats as well. Therefore, if your cat doesn’t use its litter box, it could be because it is dirty and unhygienic. Hence, it is imperative for you to clean the litter box thoroughly on a regular basis. You should know that compared to us humans, cats tend to have a heightened and enhanced sense of smell. Therefore, although the litter box may seem clean and fresh to you, it could still be dirty and smelly to your cat.

  1. Bullies

One of the primary reasons why your cat does not use the litter box could be because of a bully. Let us elaborate—if you have several cats at home, one of them could potentially be a bully, preventing the other cats from using the litter box. So, how do you take care of this situation? Well, during such times, it is necessary for you to install numerous litter boxes in your home. It is also not advisable for you to have covered litter boxes when you have several cats in your home.

  1. Health issues?

If your cat has health issues, it could be difficult for it to pee in the litter box. For instance, it can get extremely difficult for a cat suffering from arthritis to get into a litter box that boasts of a high cover and sides. And, according to vets, cats that suffer from diseases such as kidney problems, diabetes, and UTI, also tend to avoid using their litter boxes. If a cat feels unsafe or feels that its health and wellness is threatened, it is unlikely to use the litter box. Therefore, if your cat doesn’t use the litter box as often as you’d like or barely at all, you should perhaps take it to a vet clinic for a thorough check-up.

Have you ever experience this issue with your cat?

How did you go about resolving the problem?

How To Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs

* by Casey Dickson

Whether you’re watching someone else’s pup or on an adventure with your own, keeping canines cool in the heat of the summer is a top priority. In a season full of dog-friendly lakeside lounging and strenuous hikes, it’s best to stay afloat of these key tips to prevent heat stroke.

Preventing the signs before they happen

If your dog has any of the following traits, be extremely careful in hotter climes. Make sure they have plenty of water, access to shade, and time to rest.

  • Long and/or thick coat
  • Short-nosed, flat-faced breeds—brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Chow Chows, and Chihuahuas suffer from airway troubles that make panting less effective at cooling them down in more extreme temperatures
  • Extreme age: young puppies and older dogs are more vulnerable to high heat conditions
  • Obesity or prior case of heart trouble

And be extra-vigilant in extreme heat and humidity—and not just from outdoor adventures. Make sure your four-legged pals aren’t enclosed in unventilated conditions such as hot cars, rooms, or grooming dryer cages.

And if Fido starts to show signs of heat stroke…

Which is generally thought to be a body temperature above 106° F. If left untreated, heat stroke (also known as a non-fever form of hyperthermia) in dogs can cause multiple organ dysfunction. The symptoms are plenty, but the most common are along these lines:

  • The more obvious include excessive panting and drooling, and abnormally small quantities of urine
  • Other signs include reddened gums and rapid heart rate and an irregular beat
  • At the worst phases of heat stroke, your dog may vomit blood, produce black stool or have a wobbly gait, known as ataxia. In these scenarios, take your dog to the nearest vet right away.

And to move from the grim to the more fun tips…here’s some pup-friendly summer fun that will keep energetic pups happy and healthy!

  • Find a dog park that’s attached to a beach and add an extra splash to rousing rounds of fetch
  • Keep chopped pineapple in the freezer for a sweet and icy treat that will quench summer heat better than the everyday bone or pig’s ear
  • Fill a kiddie pool with water for your own makeshift puppy pool, or turn on the sprinkler during at-home games of tug or fetch

As long as you’re careful, prepared and vigilant, there’s no reason to worry about Buddy getting sick from heat stroke. So enjoy all that summertime has to offer, with these easy-to-remember tips in mind.

* About the author: Written by Casey Dickson, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.

What To Do If Your Dog Suffers From Anxiety

Many people don’t know this but just like us, dogs have anxieties too. The most common form of canine anxiety is separation anxiety. It is important that you notice signs of stress early so that you can act on it quickly and efficiently. And, luckily for us as dogs communicate their emotional state through behaviour and body language you’ll be able to easily detect the signs once knowing exactly what you need to look out for.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Dog Anxiety?

  • Urinating and Defecating
  • Hiding
  • Destruction and Chewing
  • Escaping
  • Excessive Barking and Howling
  • Coprophagia
  • Pacing
  • Seeking Comfort
  • Aggression
  • Excessive Energy
  • Panic Attacks

What Causes Dog Anxiety?

Usually, an adult dog may show signs of anxiety due to all that extra attention and fuss they were once showered with as a pup decreasing. They are naturally trusting animals and love close companionship so when the 24/7 attention suddenly decreases to neglect, they become stressed which then leads to anxiety.

They may experience separation anxiety when the people whom the dog have become attached to leaves. They perceive the absence of their owner or guardian as a dangerous threat which causes them to wreck the household or even attempt to escape.

Fear is present in a lot of different animals. When responding to threats or even perceived ones this can instinctively flare up your dog. Fear is what signals the brain to get ready for trouble whether that being from a situation, thing, or person and in turn prompts a freeze or fight response and the fear they feel can cause them to feel stressed which in turn triggers anxiety.

More specific causes of anxiety of fear in dogs that you’ll no doubt encounter are;

  • Trauma/unfamiliar settings that may frighten your pet
  • Physical problems that cause pain or serious illness
  • Lack of exposure to healthy social influences
  • History of rehoming, abandonment, neglect, or even multiple owners
  • History of being trapped/crated
  • Changes that come with aging

Treating a Dog with Anxiety

Dog separation anxiety is most often unknowingly caused by dog owners, which is why you should never, ever punish an anxious or fearful dog. We make such a big fuss when we come and leave home, which in turn provokes their stress when we leave. By punishing a dog for being anxious you are only going to make them even more stressed and fearful which could potentially lead to even worse reactions.

If your dog’s anxiety is severe and you are looking for long-term ways to reduce anxiety in dogs, I would advise you to read up on professional advice from dog experts. If you want some short-term tips to soothe anxiety in dogs, here are 5:

  1. Exercise

Anxiety can create energy that isn’t easy to control. Just like humans, when told exercise helps to relieve stress, it can be the same for dogs too. By taking your dog for a run, walk or even some playtime on a park or in your garden you will find that it burns off some of that built up tension. It will not only tire them out, but can also calm them and they’ll really enjoy the time they have spent with you.

  1. Cuddling

Contact from others helps dogs and humans to relieve any stress, fear, and anxiety they feel. A dog’s anxiety begins to exceptionally increase when they feel cut off from their owner. So, ensuring you regularly cuddle and pet your dog rather than make them feel neglected will help to relieve them of their anxieties.

  1. Toys

A stressed dog especially if left home alone and dealing with separation anxiety can cause them to become destructive. The energy they have is not easy to channel, which is why a chew toy can be a great distraction and will hopefully stop them from causing destruction to your house and belongings.

  1. Keep a Calm Demeanour

It is always best to stay calm when your dog is feeling stressed, dogs can sense what is going on with their owners and if you begin to act tense when reacting to their anxiety they will feed of your anxiety, which then becomes a massive cycle. Have a calm demeanour and voice when dealing with your dog, if that means taking a break and having a few deep breaths first, then do it!

  1. Invest in an Thundershirt

Thundershirts are fairly new products that are useful for dogs with noise phobias, travel anxiety and separation anxiety. The effect of these pressure wraps has positive results in helping with relaxation and the reducing of anxiety as they are extremely comforting when the dog is alone.