Friday, February 11, 2011

Maverick's New Diet

Well, poor Maverick has been battling yeast infections for 10 years.

I questioned his last vet as to whether it could be allergies. His reply was probably; however, he offered no suggestions as to how to handle these allergies, as he assumed them to be environmental.

As time has gone on, I have wondered if the allergies might be more than environmental allergies. I started thinking, shouldn't environmental allergies be seasonal? Which, then, would mean, Maverick's allergies should be seasonal. Problem is, Maverick's allergies seem to be year round.

I heard once dogs can have food allergies. I started checking into food allergies recently and what to do about them. It turns out, food allergies can cause a great deal of skin issues with dogs from chronic yeast infections in the ears to yeast infections between their toes, on their faces and on their belly and groin area. Dogs lick incessantly causing these areas to become red and raw.

Maverick has been on medication for his ears for years, as well as medication to rid him of yeast infections on his feet and belly/groin area.

I spoke to his most recent vet about food allergies. She agreed it is possible he could have them. I asked her what food she recommended. I also did some searches on the Internet for hypoallergenic dog food.

The dry foods I came up with that are suppose to be the best are...
(I have not checked all brands, but some of these also come in canned/wet food)
  1. Blue Basics(R) by Blue Buffalo
  2. Wellness Simple Solutions(R)
  3. Taste of the Wild(R)
My vet recommended Taste of the Wild(R). Blue Basics(R) is available at both PetSmart & Petco. Wellness Simple Solutions(R) is available at Petco, but may soon be available at PetSmart, as PetSmart is beginning to carry the Wellness(R) line. You may be able to request it at your local PetSmart. Taste of the Wild(R) may be a little more difficult to find, unless you have a feed store or a Tractor Supply store. You can also search the Taste of the Wild(R) website for a location near you. Taste of the Wild(R) can also be purchased over the Internet if you cannot find it sold near you.

If you are looking into changing your dog's food to one of these foods, be sure to read the guaranteed analysis and ask your vet if it is OK for your dog, especially if your dog has any other medical conditions. Because one of Maverick's house buddies, Chico, is diabetic, I asked my vet about the protein content of Taste of the Wild, as two of the flavor varieties has protein over 30%. I was told, because none of my dogs are working dogs, I do not need to feed any of them a food with protein content over 30%.

I also read, in some cases, dogs can acquire food allergies by eating the same food for years with no change. In this case, they can become allergic to the meat in that food, as well as the additives for color, preservatives, gluten and grains such as wheat, corn, rice.

The above mentioned foods are meat, veggie & fruit based, with meat as the first ingredient. The Blue Basics(R) & the Wellness Simple Solutions(R) have very limited ingredients in them. They have items you will actually recognize as food.

My dogs have been eating Beneful(R) Healthy Weight their entire lives. This is a grain based food with chicken and some veggies.

It is said, you should note the first 5 ingredients of your pet's food to be sure you are feeding them good food.

If you need a low carb food, look for food low in grains and sugars. Sugars are anything ending in 'ose': glucose, fructose, etc. or the natural sugars: sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, etc. These should not be in the top 5 ingredients. Sugar is a quick energy boost; so, foods advertising to be for energetic dogs just may be high in sugar content. Read the labels, both the ingredient & guaranteed analysis.

As of February 1, 2011

Maverick has been off of Beneful(R).
The foods I am using for Maverick right now are:
  1. Blue Basics(R) dry dog food by Blue Buffalo
  2. Taste of the Wild(R) dry dog food
  3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness canned dog food
    (This is a low carb pate-style food that is mixed with chicken; beware if your dog is allergic to beef. Read the ingredients, as some include beef.)
  4. Taste of the Wild(R) canned dog food
    (This is a chunky-style food that from what I can tell from the ingredients may also be a low card food; although, it is not advertised as such.)

I am alternating between Blue Basics & Taste of the Wild(R) Pacific Stream dry dog food for Maverick.

For Breakfast and lunch, Maverick gets one of these two dry foods dry.
For Supper, Maverick gets one of these two dry foods mixed with some water and a portion of canned food. I split the can between Maverick & his 4 other house mates according to their size. (For instance, he gets more than Chico, who is a lot smaller.)

I will try to chronicle his progression, if any, here.

At the moment, I can't tell if he has had any progression because he has been on medication to try to get the yeast infection on his belly/groin under control.

I have noticed, whatever the reason, food or medication, he is licking his feet less.

Please stay tuned for updates...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Caring 4 Pets During Winter

As we are fully into winter, we should really be practicing good animal/pet husbandry.
For some reason, unbeknownst to me, some people believe animals can withstand all of winter’s fury. Why?
When animal protection organizations say you need to provide food, water & shelter, they do not mean rotted leftovers, filthy rain puddles & the underside of the stairs to the deck.
True, animals usually bulk up for winter by putting on weight and getting a winter coat.
False, animals cannot put on this extra weight by still eating the same amount of their same diet, and a ‘winter coat’ can be interpreted differently. A Great Pyrenees’ winter coat is a great deal different than that of a Great Dane.
Just because an animal is deemed an ‘outside’ animal, does not mean it can handle all the weather that is thrown at it. In the wild, a great number of animals perish because of winter’s harshness. When these animals are cared for, or at least, in the care of humans, you would think they would stand a better chance at surviving the cold reality of winter.
But, alas, some people think animals can survive on their own in their pens or fenced areas with no compensation for the cold.
Here are a few things you can do to help keep your friend/pet safe and warm during the cold, wet winter months:
       I.      Get your dog or cat a warm place to stay. Dog houses come in a variety of shapes and styles. Make sure it is facing a direction that is not going to allow rain/sleet/snow to blow in. Place warm bedding in it. Some animal rescues believe hay/straw is better than blankets because it stays dry & dries better than a cold, wet blanket. Regardless of what you use, remember to check it after storms to make sure it is dry. If it is not, change the bedding. If using a blanket, it can always be placed in the dryer to quickly dry it or to add instant warmth. You can entice your dog or cat to go into the doghouse by putting their bowl of food inside with them. Doghouses such as the Dogloo® are the better than most, as they have offset entrances that will help keep the wind and wet weather out in addition to being insulated.
    II.      Yes, your best friend would probably love to finish your leftovers, but it should not be their only diet. You should find a good, quality dog/cat food that fits the requirements of your dog or cat during the winter months. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian. You may need to give them more food in order for them to survive outside, as they will need extra nutrition to make sure they maintain a healthy weight that will keep them warm. Fresh food should be given daily in a clean bowl.
 III.      True, a rain puddle may be nature’s water bowl, but it is not clean enough for your dog/cat to drink. Puddles can carry bacteria. During freezing temperatures, these puddles can and do freeze. Fresh, clean water should be provided in a clean bowl at least once a day. When temperatures are at, near or below freezing, your dog/cat’s water bowl should be checked multiple times during the day. If it freezes, you will need to remove the frozen water and replace with fresh, clean water.
 IV.      Other dangers for pets during the winter months can include:
A.    Ingestion of anti-freeze. Be sure to never leave anti-freeze lying about, as it is a deadly toxin which entices its victims with a sweet taste. The ASPCA recommends using products containing propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol
B.     Cats will sometimes crawl up inside the engine compartments of vehicles to escape the winter chill. Be sure to check your engine before starting your vehicle. You can bang the side of the vehicle or blow the horn to try to startle the cat into leaving. As said, a small doghouse is a great alternative to an engine compartment.
C.     Keep pets off frozen waterways. Ice can be thick or thin. It is a dangerous game to guess. Always assume ice is thin and will crack beneath your pet’s weight.
D.    Hypothermia & frostbite can strike any pet at any time it is left to the cold icy conditions of winter. Ears, feet and tails can often become frostbitten. Be sure to keep pets indoors or at least provide adequate warm shelter for he/she to stay. If your pet is an indoor pet you let outside, you may want to invest in a sweater to keep the pet warm while outside.
1.      Signs of frostbite: paler or even blackened skin, frosty coverings (particularly on paws, ears and/or face), excessive shivering. If your pet exhibits any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.
2.      Signs of hypothermia: dilated pupils, pale gums, uncontrollable shivering (even after being indoors), weak pulse, wobbly unsteady walk, dizziness, unconsciousness. If your pet exhibits any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.
E.     Salt to melt snow & ice is also a potential hazard. The salt used to melt snow & ice can accumulate on your pet’s feet. When your pet licks their feet, they can ingest the salt, which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. If you must use salt to melt snow & ice around your home, be sure to wash your pet’s feet, legs and stomach after he/she comes in contact with the salt.
F.      Never let your pet off their leash or allow them to roam freely. Winter storms can become dangerous. According to the ASPCA, more dogs are lost during the winter months than any other time of year, as dogs can lose their direction on snow covered ground with more snow accumulating.
G.    Remember to never cut your dog or cat’s hair during the winter. Their winter coat aids them in keeping warm. Some shorter haired breeds may even need a sweater to keep warm especially elderly pets.
H.    Puppies & kittens do not handle the cold outdoor weather well. It is recommended all puppies & kittens should be kept indoors during cold winter months. House breaking puppies may even prove to be difficult. If you have a puppy that is difficult to house train, you may find it easier to train him/her to use specially treated ‘pee pads’ until the weather warms up, allowing proper house training.
Here are a couple more risks for inside pets:
       I.      Space heaters. Space heaters are great to heat small areas. Some people use them to warm the space their pet sleeps. This can be a potential hazard to the pet. If the pet is sleeping nearby, they can move too close and become burned. The space heater could get knocked over and overheat pet bedding and start a fire. Some space heaters come with a safety function that automatically shuts the heater off if it is tipped. The cords for the space heaters cause yet another potential hazard for pets, as cats and dogs alike sometimes chew cords. NEVER leave pets unattended with space heaters.
    II.      Carbon Monoxide. Old furnaces can produce the deadly gas carbon monoxide, which can kill small animals. If you have an old furnace, you may want to get your home tested for carbon monoxide.
 III.      Fireplaces. Be sure to use a fireplace guard/screen to keep pets out of fireplaces. Hot ash can burn pets. Pets who sleep too close to the fireplace can also experience burns.
 IV.      Fire. A large number of fires happen during winter months due to space heaters and candles. Candles can be extremely dangerous with cats or dogs with wagging tails. Candles should be kept away from flowing curtains, drapes, human & pet bedding and all other flammable materials. NEVER leave candles unattended with pets in the house.
There are also specialized care for inside birds & rodents for winter; unfortunately, I am not versed in caring for these critters. If you have questions regarding the winter care for your critter, please do your research online or ask your veterinarian.
Also, remember other outside pets like rabbits, goats, horses, etc. They, too, need special care during the winter. Heat lamps can be purchased to keep barns warm; however, please use them with caution. Heat lamps can cause fires. Be sure these outside pets have fresh food & water and warm bedding. Be sure to check water often when temperatures are below or at freezing, as the water will freeze.
It is a responsible pet owner/caretaker who tends to those in his/her care making sure their winter needs are met.
And remember… always paws 4 critters with 4 paws!