Archive | February, 2017

Cat Nutrition

Cat Nutrition

Cats are not far removed from their ancestors, the African wildcat. It is important to keep this in mind when you are rooming with a feline friend. The most important characteristic to remember is that they are obligate carnivores. This means they NEED to eat animal protein to live. They cannot be vegetarians, and thrive best on meat-based, grain-free diets. They are also skilled hunters, making them the biggest threat to local wildlife and conservation efforts (besides humans). These two traits alone play a major role in their overall health and behavior. Here, we will make some recommendations on how to feed your cat to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep them happy and health.

FIRST: Stop free feeding! Cats are built to hunt and stalk their food. We do not recommend allowing your cat to hunt outdoors for the sake of local wildlife, but giving them a way to burn off energy and use their brains and bodies is vital to their overall well-being. Feeding 2-3 meals a day tends to keep cats more physically active and more mentally stimulated. Puzzle feeders are a great option for dry meals because they are required to work for their food. Trixie Pet Products (can be found on Amazon) have great cat puzzle feeders. There is also a No Bowl movement going on, where cat behaviorists are encouraging cat owners to ditch feeding in a bowl altogether, and to find creative ways to offer dry food. More information can be found at https://nobowlcat.com/

We recommend actively playing with your cat before each meal. A typical feline behavior sequence around mealtime goes: stalk, ambush, eat, groom, and sleep. Playing with your cat before feeding helps to mimic this. All cats are playful, you just have to find the right toy and put some imagination into it (some cats do not like to play alone, which is why it is important to set aside special times to play with your cat). Feeding meals also makes cats more receptive to training! Yes, training. Just like your dog, cats can learn commands, and can even be clicker trained. It is all about finding the right motivation. A cat who can feed itself whenever it wants has no reason to listen to you. When you feed meals, your cat has to listen to you at least 2-3 times a day. Ask your cat to sit on a mat before receiving a meal. If you have a vocal cat, wait until they are quietly sitting on their mat.

See? Cat training: four cats quietly, patiently waiting on their mats for dinner.

NEXT: Never feed a dry-only diet! Dry food is very convenient and cost effective for us, but is not good for cats as the sole mode of nutrition. Cats obtain most of their water from food. They do not have a strong thirst drive, so when you only feed dry food you are severely limiting their water-intake. If you have a male cat, this is especially important since they can build up crystals in their urine and become blocked. A blocked cat can cost you thousands in vet bills, so it is better to be proactive and feed wet food. Many vets are now saying ANY wet food is better than ANY dry food. At TGDS, we often advocate for high-quality, meat-based products for your dogs and cats. We do recommend this for your cat as well, but if you cannot afford the high-end canned or raw food for your cat, we still recommend feeding any wet food you can afford at least once a day.

We hope that this information is beneficial to you and your cat. Even though we are called The Good DOG Spot, our staff members are knowledgeable about cats as well, and we are happy to answer any questions!

 

 

Nutrition for Your Dog

Dog Nutrition

At TGDS, we believe the key to a happy life starts with a healthy diet. A well-balanced, nutritious diet is a major component of preventative medicine in both humans and animals. We get a lot of questions from clients regarding dog nutrition, particularly wondering what is the best food to feed.  

Recently, there has been a surge in dog foods claiming to be natural, holistic, grain-free, and organic. So, what does that all mean? Foods claiming to be “natural” use natural preserving agents, and no added colors or flavors. The term holistic is simply a marketing technique and has no implications for the ingredients in the food. Holistic pet food companies may have personal philosophies regarding nutrition that are admirable, and may lead to a great product, but legally there is no requirement for the term ‘holistic’ in pet food. Grain-free foods exclude the use of corn, soy or wheat. Corn, soy and wheat are cereal grains that can be used as protein fillers in dog foods, and can also cause food sensitivities. Grain-free foods use other carbohydrate sources such as potatoes and rice that may not cause the same allergic reactions as cereal grains. Organic pet food has to adhere to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program regulations.

Dogs should be fed a species-specific diet, according to their age, size, and activity level. Choose what is best for your dog. Do not choose a food based on fads, trends, clever marketing or long-standing history. Think about your dog’s needs and lifestyle and do some research. If you have a lazy couch potato dog, a grain-free high-protein diet might be overkill for that lifestyle. If you and your dog are very active, that diet would be appropriate for your dog. The food should be AAFCO approved. The first ingredient in the food should be a specific meat source (chicken or beef vs. animal product). Stay away from foods where cereal-grains make up the primary protein source. Avoid foods with lots of preservatives and color-additives. Some pet owners choose to make homemade food for their dogs. This can be a great option, but be sure to consult a veterinarian as dogs have specific nutrient requirements that may be lacking in poorly homemade diets.

Monitor your dog always. Even if your dog has been eating the same food for years and seems fine to you, evaluate critically. Dogs’ nutritional needs change as they age, and dogs can develop food sensitivities to foods they’ve eaten for years. Symptoms of food sensitivity include gas, goopy eyes, stinky or infected ears, bad breathe, diarrhea or loose stool, chronic infection of fleas or worms, and tartar buildup on the teeth. If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms take a look at the ingredients in their food. Beef, chicken, corn, wheat, cow’s milk, soy, eggs, and fish are the most common allergens in dog foods.

  TGDS offers a variety of foods we trust in our pet boutique. We offer foods that our own staff use and/or are familiar with, and work with companies that are responsible and ethical. TGDS staff members are constantly educating themselves on dog nutrition and are happy to offer handouts or consultations. Come to us with any questions or concerns and we will point you in the right direction!

 

Food Enrichment for Dogs

Enrich Your Dog at Meal Time

Mealtime is a great opportunity to stimulate your dog, which is often missed by offering dry food in a bowl. There is no rule that says you need to feed your dog in a bowl, and many behaviorists and trainers would absolutely encourage you to ditch it in favor of methods that provide more interaction or mental and physical stimulation for your dog. Here are some ways you can make mealtime more fun for your dog:

 

  • Use mealtime as an opportunity to work on training. Mix some cheese, hotdogs, or other yummy treats in with their regular food, bring out the clicker, and get to work. Use this as a chance to brush up on the basics or teach fun new tricks. There is no end to the number of behaviors you can teach your dog, so get creative and have fun.
  • Make your dog use their nose. If you have a dog who loves to sniff, make mealtime an opportunity for them to do that. Hide food around the house or throw the kibble into the yard. You may need to teach your dog the game first. Start by throwing a piece of food by your feet and having them find it, then a couple more pieces, and so on until they understand they are supposed to sniff out the food.
  • Let your dog make a mess to get to their food! Hide food in a cardboard box or paper bag and let them tear into it. Again, you may have to teach your dog the game, start with having the box or bag slightly open then gradually close up the box or bag so that the only way they can get the food is to break it open.
  • Use puzzle feeders. There are a wide variety of puzzle toys on the market that are perfect for providing mental stimulation at meal times. If your dog is not used to puzzle feeders, it might be good to start with a simpler model, and then as they learn, provide more complex feeders.
  • Place part of their meal in a stuffed or frozen Kong. This encourages your dog to chew on the Kong and work for the food for a prolonged period of time, keeping them actively engaged.
  • Mix up the meals by adding fresh food. There is plenty of human food that is perfectly safe for dogs, so add a small amount of new food items into their food. You can provide fresh fruits, veggies, and meats. Just be sure you check what is toxic for dogs beforehand and monitor how they feel afterwards.
  • Get creative! You know your dog best. Think about what they enjoy doing and use that as a way to provide food enrichment.

 

 

Food as Medicine

How Smarter Food Choices Shape our Health

The food we eat is as important a part of our overall health as getting enough sleep, exercise, seeing the doctor, and managing stress is. Food is meant to nourish our body so that it can function properly. Providing your body its required nutrients can help ward of injury, illness, and infections. When we’re busy and stressed, it is easy to fall into a pattern of eating quick meals, such as frozen food or take out, but taking the time and energy to properly feed your body can have long-lasting benefits.

The idea of using food as medicine promotes eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats (or plant-based proteins), and healthy oils and fats. It encourages using your diet as your primary source of health, rather than relying on medications and supplements. One of the easiest ways to be sure you are providing your body with proper nutrients is meal planning and preparation. When we are tired and busy in the middle of the week, we are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods that make us feel good in the moment, but do little to boost our overall energy or mood. Having meals planned and the ingredients ready, or even already prepared, makes it more likely you will eat healthy, beneficial food. Meal planning might take a little big of extra time and thought, but spending a couple hours on a Sunday preparing food saves you valuable time during the week, and has such positive health benefits that it is worth it. Prepare meals with flavors you crave the most so that you look forward to eating them. Eating healthy does not mean depriving yourself of food you desire, it just means putting a healthy spin on them or allowing them in moderation. Allowing yourself the things you crave on a regular basis prevents binge eating unhealthy foods and sets you on a path of success. Pinterest is a great place to find healthy recipes for any craving you might have.