Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pet Health Tip #7- Premium Pet Foods

Over the course of my career, I have had a lot of people ask me whether or not I think premium pet foods are really that much better than the cheaper brands.  By premium pet foods, I am referring to the more expensive brands of commercial dog foods, not the pet foods prepared by a pet food bakery.

Here is my answer:

Premium pet foods have been formulated to provide a well-balanced diet for your pet.  These brands of pet foods do not contain as much "filler" as many of the less expensive or “off” brands.  The lack of filler leads to several benefits.  First of all, you do not have to feed as much to your pet for him to get the same amount of nutrition.  This actually lowers the cost per feeding, making the premium foods a little more comparable to the cheaper brands.  In addition, when your dog is on a premium diet, the volume of feces that he will eliminate is significantly decreased.  This is due to the fact that you aren't feeding him as much, as well as the fact that the foods have less "filler" in them.  Finally, the consistency of your pet’s stools will be more solid.  This is especially important for dogs.  Dogs have glands that are naturally expressed when he eliminates.  If the stool is too soft, then the glands will not be expressed.  This can lead to problems if the glands become impacted (See #9 Impacted Anal Glands).

So, to sum it all up, do I think that premium pet foods are worth it?  Definitely!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pet Health Tip #6- Canine Heartworms

Heartworms are transmitted from dog to dog through mosquito bites.  An immature stage of the worm is picked up out of an infected dog's bloodstream by a mosquito.  It goes through a developmental stage inside the mosquito and then is injected into another dog’s skin.  It then migrates through the skin into the blood stream and eventually ends up in the dog’s heart.  The heartworm can grow to be several inches long and live up to four years inside the dog’s heart.

Heartworms can be very dangerous.  One mosquito is capable of delivering anywhere from 1-100 of these worms into your dog.  A low burden (only a few worms) may not cause your dog any problems.  However, a high burden can cause several problems.  First, they could cause your dog’s heart to have to work harder than normal due to the resistance to the flow of blood through the heart and vessels.  Occasionally, a dog will have such a high burden of worms they will actually block the flow of blood completely causing heart failure.  Additionally, these worms can also set up residence inside the lungs or other places in the body and cause allergic reactions.

There are several medications on the market to control heartworms.  Most of these medications are designed to prevent heartworms from maturing into adults; therefore, keeping them from setting up housekeeping in your dog's heart.  Because they are preventive in nature, these medications need to be taken regularly, with most being recommended monthly.  You should consult your veterinarian on the type of preventive medications that he or she recommends.

Heartworm infestations are treatable.  However, the treatment can be dangerous.  The risk of the treatment depends on several factors including your dog’s age, health, and the potential burden of worms.  Unfortunately, the tests for the presence of heartworms don’t tell us if your dog has a few worms or a hundred worms.  They only tell us whether or not the worms are present.

When having your dog treated for heartworms, it is imperative that you follow your veterinarian’s advice carefully.  Your dog will have to be confined for an extended period of time (possibly several weeks), while the worms are dying.  It is essential to keep the dog from getting overly excited because these worms do not just disappear when your dog is given the medication.  They are killed, and then it takes time for them to be absorbed and metabolized out of the bloodstream.

Heartworm prevention can be expensive.  However, it is safe and very effective.  By not giving your dog a prevention, you are taking a big risk with the result being that your dog will develop an infestation and have to undergo an expensive and dangerous treatment.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pet Heath Tip #5- Dental Hygiene

Dental health is as important for your pet as it is for you.  Chronic dental disease is the number one cause of heart disease in older pets.  This is one area that most pet owners neglect.

The idea of brushing your dog's or cat's teeth is not very appealing.  However, it is the most effective way to prevent dental disease in your pet.  There are two main ways to brush your pet's teeth.  The first, do it the same way you brush yours, with a toothbrush.  There are a few dogs that will allow this, but most will fight pretty hard when you stick a toothbrush in their mouth.  The usual result is that you end up jabbing your dog in the gums with the end of the toothbrush, and that is the last time you are allowed to do that!

The next alternative for brushing your pet's teeth is to use a finger brush.  This is a little toothbrush that fits on the end of your finger.  It allows you to have a little more control and will help avoid injury to your pet.  This is the safer method for your dog, but not very pleasant for you.

The good news is that although brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to ensure dental health, it is not the only option.  One good preventive measure is to make sure you feed your pet kibble and not canned food.  The kibble will naturally keep tartar from building up on your pet's teeth.  Feeding your pet canned food is one of the worst things you can do for dental health.

Another important thing you can do for your pet's teeth is to have them cleaned on a regular basis.  For most dogs, that means having a dental cleaning every three years.  There are some breeds of dogs, such as Greyhounds, that need dental cleanings on a more frequent basis.  The best way to know if your dog needs his teeth cleaned is to lift up his lips and take a look at the teeth.  If they have tartar build up, then they need a cleaning.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013



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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pet Health Tip #4- Obesity

In the same way that obesity has become a problem for people, it has also become a problem for our pets.  Several health issues can arise as a result of obesity.  Many of these health concerns are the same ones that obese people face.


For cats, the major health problem that can arise as a result of obesity is diabetes.  Overweight cats are at a significantly higher risk for diabetes than cats who are at a healthy weight (See #31 Diabetes Mellitus in Cats).


For dogs, the main health concerns associated with obesity are heart failure and arthritis.  Just like in people, when a dog is carrying around more weight than he is meant to carry, his heart has to work overtime.  When the heart has to work extra hard, it wears out before it would have otherwise.  In addition, the extra weight puts too much pressure on the dog's joints causing extra wear and tear that leads to arthritis.


Bottom line: Obesity will significantly reduce your pet's lifespan.  So, stop killing your pet with kindness!  What do I mean by that?


The number one contributor to pet obesity: Feeding your pet people food!  I hear all the time, "But he really likes it and will throw a fit if I don't give it to him."  First of all, if you don't start, then you don't have to stop.  Secondly, just like a child will choose donuts over green beans, your pet will choose people food over pet food.  There are some perfectly acceptable pet treats that your pet will appreciate that are much healthier than people food.  Your pet will adapt to the change, just be consistent.


The next question is, "How do I know if my pet is obese?"


There is a simple illustration:  First, make a fist.  If your pet’s ribs look like your knuckles when you make a fist, then it is too thin.  Second, turn your palm face up with your fingers straight out.  If your pet’s ribs look like the pads over your knuckles on your palm, then he is too fat.  Finally, turn your palm face down with your fingers straight out.  If your pet’s ribs look like your knuckles, then he is the ideal body weight.  In other words, you want to be able to easily feel his ribs when you rub your hands over them, but you don't want to see his ribs.


Finally, "What do I do if my dog is obese?"


First, stop feeding him people food.  Second, cut back on the fatty treats.  By that, I mean things like rawhides and pig's ears.  There are some very good low fat treats that you can use.  Alternatively, one of the easiest things to do is give him a piece of his kibble (dry food).  Since it is being given outside of his normal feeding time, he will think of it as a special treat.  Also, if you are feeding canned food, either stop all together, or cut it back significantly.  Canned pet foods are much higher in fat than dry kibble.  Additionally, canned food is a major contributor to dental disease.  Finally, just like people, pets need to exercise.  So, get him moving.  This will not only help him slim down, it will also improve the health of his joints.


Again, a pet at a healthy weight will live significantly longer than an obese pet. I don't know about you, but I want my pets around for as long as I can have them!