How to bathe your dog without irritating his skin

                                                      bathing-a-dog-can-be-fun

It can be a real chore to bathe your pet. Especially when your dog doesn’t like water and you try to keep the soap out of his eyes. If it is a dog with long and thick hair, it takes time to clean him thoroughly, and instead of standing still, your pet will wiggle around and try to jump out of the bathtub. But this is part of the fun!

The good news is, dogs don’t have to be bathed every week. This is not really recommended, because the animal’s skin is naturally oily and helps to keep his hair and coat healthy.

It is important to choose a shampoo that does not dry out your pet’s skin. A shampoo that contains harsh ingredients can harm the natural balance of oils on your dog’s skin and can lead to skin irritations.

How often do you give your dog a bath?

That depends on several factors. First of all, it makes a difference if your dog mostly lives outside or if it is an inside dog.

If you have a very active dog that likes to jump into puddles or roll around in chicken poop (like our dogs sometimes do) and then comes into the house, walks on the carpet and climbs on the sofa …. well, then it might be time to put him in the bathtub. Usually, we bathe our inside dogs about once a month.

The time of the year also makes a difference. We like to wash our dogs more often in summer. It’s just easier to air-dry a dog outside on the porch when it’s warm or even soap him in outside and rinse him off with the hose.                                                  bulldog-in-garden-tub

Summer is also when fleas and other insects proliferate. You might treat your dog regularly with a special shampoo that fights fleas and ticks.

We have 2 dogs that mostly stay outside in the yard and around the porch. They get bathed mostly in summer when it’s hot, that’s just easier on them. Also, it wouldn’t be a good idea to remove the natural oils from their skin and hair since a healthy coat protects them from harsh weather.

 

There are various types of dog coats

Just by looking at different dog breeds you will notice that their fur can vary in length and thickness. Each type of fur also requires specific care, because not all dogs need the same amount of grooming.

Dogs with a smooth (and short) coat, like bull terrier or dachshund, are very easy to keep clean. They don’t need a lot of grooming, and after bathing, dry him with a towel and then he just air-dries on his own.

Some dogs have a double coat. It means they have a dense and soft undercoat and an outer coat with coarse, longer hair. Examples are collies, golden retrievers, huskies, Newfoundland dogs. This coat, combined with the oil their skin produces, protects the dog against harsh weather. Needless to say, this type of fur requires more grooming and every day brushing. When he gets a bath, detangler and conditioner may be necessary.

Wirehaired dogs have a coat with a coarse texture that feels kind of rough to the touch. These breeds are relatively low maintenance and they don’t need to be brushed on a regular basis. Examples of wirehaired dogs are German pointers, Scottish terrier, Fox terrier and wirehaired dachshund.

Dogs with a curly or wavy coat do not need a lot of brushing but their curls need to be clipped regularly. This type of dog hair does not develop a lot of mats or tangles, but after shampooing the dog it is recommended to use a conditioner or cream rinse to hydrate his coat. Examples are poodles, bichon frise.

Longhaired dogs can either have a coarse or a silky coat. Long hair requires regular brushing and a detangler might be necessary to get out the tangles. Besides shampoo, a conditioner is recommended. Some people recommend using a hair dryer after bathing a dog with long hair (even though I am not sure if this is really the right way to dry a dog’s hair). Examples of long haired dogs are Maltese, Yorkshire terrier, Shi Tzu.

The last category: dogs with a hairless coat. Yes, they really exist, for example the Chinese Crested, Peruvian Inca Orchid or the American hairless terrier. All they really need for bathing is soap and a soft sponge!

chinese-crested-puppy

What shampoo to choose?

The most important thing is to keep in mind that a dog or cat cannot be washed with soap and conditioner that is destined for humans.

A dog’s or cat’s skin does not have the same pH balance than human skin, not to mention that the natural oils on our pet’s skin and coat protect them from harsh weather conditions. So, we don’t want to irritate their sensitive skin by using products that have too many harmful ingredients like sulfates, phosphates, colorants or other chemicals.

Also, we don’t want to dry out our pet’s skin because we have to bathe him, so choosing a shampoo that hydrates and nourishes his skin and coat while cleaning it at the same time is another important aspect.

Natural and organic dog shampoos and soaps are usually specifically formulated for your pet’s skin condition.

One of them is BURT’S BEES OATMEAL SHAMPOO for dogs. Its main ingredients are colloidal oat flour, honey and beeswax. Colloidal oatmeal is known to improve dry skin and soothe eczema and honey helps to hydrate hair and skin.

It’s unscented and it foams less than some other commercial products.

This shampoo is about 97 % natural, does not contain harsh chemicals and it’s cruelty- free.

If you are looking for a completely natural dog shampoo consider the line of pet shampoo made by EARTHBATH, for example EARTHBATH OATMEAL & ALOE or EARTHBATH TEA TREE OIL & ALOE VERA, formulated for dogs and cats.

These products do not contain any kind of toxins or chemicals and claim to be 100% biodegradable.

EARTHBATH shampoos work wonders on your pet’s itchy skin and I also like the fact that each variety has it’s own natural fragrance, for example a fresh citrus scent if you go with EARTHBATH DIRTY DOG SWEET ORANGE OIL or vanilla and almond scent for EARTHBATH OATMEAL & ALOE.                                puppy-in-yellow-bath-tub

Flea shampoos

Even if you are treating your pet for fleas, sometimes you still find those pesty little critters in your dog’s or cat’s fur. Then bathing your dog with a special formulated shampoo can help to get rid of insects fairly quick.

If you are worried about DEET or other synthetic pesticides on your pet’s skin and coat opt for flea shampoos that repel fleas with natural ingredients, safe for adult dogs and cats and safe for puppies and kitten.

If you are more hand-on and you don’t like shampoo bottles, then DERMAGIC SHAMPOO BARS might the right thing for you and your pup.

DERMAGIC are handcrafted shampoo bars with all natural ingredients like a variety of essential oils. Choose the one with DIATOMACEOUS EARTH in it, a natural powder that eliminates fleas (if you want to know more about the wonderful properties of diatomaceous earth see my article “Natural ways to repel fleas and ticks“).

Besides getting rid of fleas and providing some anti-microbial protection this soap is gentle and soothing on your dog’s skin and also has a pleasant smell.

DERMagic Certified Organic Shampoo Bars                                                          click here         

                                       

NATURAL CHEMISTRY NATURAL FLEA & TICK SHAMPOO WITH OATMEAL is another great product that uses essential oils like cinnamon, clove oil and cedar oil. It not only nourishes and hydrates your dog’s skin and coat, it also kills fleas and ticks and is supposed to be effective for up to 7 days.

These are just two examples of flea shampoos made with natural ingredients, but of course there are more great products out there. By the way, most of these flea shampoos can be applied if even your dog has been treated with a topical flea product.

                                  adorable-springer-spaniel-in-bathtub

Waterless shampoo

For the days when you are on a tight schedule and you don’t feel like going through the ordeal of giving your pet a bath, there is “bath in a bottle” waterless shampoo. This is for spot-cleaning only and of course does not replace the more thorough ritual of bathing with water and soap.                                                                                                          

SHOW SHEEN waterless shampoo by ABSORBINE does not only clean without rinsing, it also helps to condition and detangle long and short hair such as horses, llamas or dogs.

ABSORBINE is a well-known company that started out with making tinctures with blended herbs and essential oils to relieve joint and muscle pain in horses. Since then, this company has developed many innovative products not only for horses.

ABSORBINE waterless shampoo is fortified with vitamin E to keep the animal’s coat shiny. Otherwise, I am not sure which the exact ingredients are, since there is nothing listed on the label. It does say that the product is combustible, that makes me think that it may contain alcohol.

Nevertheless, we love ABSORBINE products and we always have them in the house, and not only because we own horses.

If you prefer something 100% natural and alcohol-free, try BODHI DOG WATERLESS SHAMPOO. It’s non-toxic and gentle and works for very sensitive pups, cats, kittens, guinea pigs … for all kinds of animal fur.

This product comes in different scents like lemongrass or lavender and besides putting it on your dog’s coat it can also be sprayed on upholstery and bedding to freshen up.

 

Wash your dog, yes, but only when necessary

If you own a longharired dog or one with curly hair, it is important to brush him every day, because this helps getting the tangles out of his coat and get rid of dust and loose dirt.

When you clean your pet, don’t use detergent, shampoo or conditioner made for humans. It’s ingredients can damage the sensitive balance of oils on your pet’s skin and dry it out. In general, I recommend using a gentle soap/shampoo with natural ingredients, one that can sooth and relieve dry and itchy skin and keep your dog’s coat soft and shiny at the same time.

If you are on the go and you need to freshen up your dog, a waterless shampoo will do the job temporarily.

                                                      dog-in-bathtub-being-shampooed

                                           Otherwise: Happy bathing!

 

Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you purchase something.

How to feed your cat a balanced diet

calico-cat

Our cats like kibbles, especially when it’s mixed with their favorite wet food. But I am wondering if that is really the right type of food for cats or if it wouldn’t be better to offer food that is closer to what felines eat it in the wild.

There is a lot of high quality cat food on the market that is organic, grain-free, rich in nutrients, in form of dry food, canned or dehydrated meat, and also the so called “raw food diet” for pets which has been gaining more in popularity.

In order to consider what would be the best food for cats offering essential vitamins and minerals, we need to look at the diet that cats eat in the wild. Unlike dogs, who are scavengers, cats are carnivores which means a balanced feline nutrition mostly consists of protein and animal fats.

kibbles-in-bowl

How do cats eat and drink?

Some cats devour their food and others are more finicky and like to pick at their meal. The best times to feed a cat is at dawn and dusk, that’s when they usually catch their prey in the wild.

They prefer several small meals during the day instead of one big one. It’s best to have set mealtimes instead of letting your cat nibble during the day since she might overeat easily. They don’t really need to eat continuously because a cat can survive without food for quite a while.

Cats are carnivores but they will eat grains, fruit and vegetables like carrots, peas, corn, salad and catnip. You can see outdoor cats nibbling on grass and other greens.

They will drink water but they do not drink as much as dogs do. Cats get most of the hydration through wet food, the moisture content of wet food is about 60 % to 75 % whereas the moisture content of dry food is about 10 % (according to pets4Homes.com). That’s why it is not recommended to feed cats only dry food because they might get cat-in-grassdehydrated.

Indoor and outdoor cat food

Always wondered why some dry cat food varieties are labeled as “indoor cat”?

It’s because the composition of the food destined for indoor cats is a little different. Some companies came up with the idea that cats who live inside don’t need the same calorie intake as cats who roam outside. Indoor cat food is usually made with less high-quality meat, contains less fat and the protein is substituted with high fiber vegetables.

If a protein-rich food is essential for a cat’s health, is it really necessary to cut back on protein because a cat only lives inside? It would be better to give indoor cats an opportunity for more exercise, which would be a healthier for cats anyway, and give her the same high-quality food than outdoor cats.

I think when it comes to weight management for indoor cats, different factors are important: the quality of the food, serving size, feeding frequency and exercise.

Cats and fish

A cat sitting in front of a can of tuna, nobody would think there is anything wrong with that picture.

Cats usually love fish, especially tuna, but from an evolutionary point of view fish is not part of the feline diet.                                 cat-and-fish-bowl

 Eating too much fish can actually cause allergies in cats. Some canned food varieties for cats use different fish parts like guts and fish bones which contain harmful substances like phosphorus. This can cause some medical issues in cats like kidney and urinary tract infections.

Especially canned tuna that is sold for human consumption should not be offered to cats. It doesn’t really contain the necessary nutrients that cats need and too much tuna can lead to mercury poisoning.

Besides tuna, salmon and ocean white fish (tile fish) are contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins. Salmon that is used in cat food is raised commercially by factory farming and contains high levels of PCB, pesticides and antibiotics.

So, no wonder feeding too much fish can create some serious health issues in cats!

But there is nothing wrong with offering your kitty some fish once in a while. Just look for some high quality fish products, preferably products based on fish raised by sustainable farming. After all, fish contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, excellent supplements for your cat’s diet, since omega fatty acid are very beneficial for her skin, coat and joints.

Should cats eat raw meat?

There are many opinions about the so-called BARF diet for cats and dogs. BARF is an acronym and stands for “Biologically appropriate raw food”.

If you own a cat who likes to roam outside at night you know that she likes to kill mice and birds. But that’s usually all she does, cats who are fed by their owners on a regular basis will not eat their prey.

In the wild, felines don’t only eat the meat of their prey, they consume bones, tissue and organs as well. They can eat carcasses of animals that have been left out for several hours and they don’t get sick.

Some experts in feline nutrition think that cats should eat a diet that contains raw meat just like their counterparts in the wild do. And indeed, the idea of feeding your cat raw meat sounds pretty convincing.

Here are some benefits of the raw meat diet:

  • Raw meat and bones are better for cat’s digestion than grains and carbohydrates.
  • Taurine is an important amino acid that can be found in raw meat. Taurine helps cats’ eyesight and heart health.
  • High protein in raw meat fuels energy (and ultimately a more active pet) and other nutrients like fatty acids make for a shiny and healthy coat.
  • Switching cats to a raw meat diet can give them relief from food allergies.

 What are the drawbacks of feeding raw meat to pets?

If you think about feeding your kitty raw meat from your kitchen, you have to be aware that it comes with some risks.

Salmonella and E.coli bacteria can be present in raw meat and bones which can infect the person handling the meat. These bacteria and other parasites can be passed on to your cat and compromise her health.

If there are bones involved, be careful  because certain bones might easily splinter and your cat can choke on it.

The cost of a raw food diet for pets might be an issue for some people. Besides the fact that preparing pet food from scratch at home is very time-consuming, the weekly trip to the grocery store to purchase quality meat can become a strain to your budget.                  meat-and-dry-dog-food

In case you decide to follow the BARF diet and prepare your own cat food, it is recommended to follow some nutritional guidelines and talk to a veterinarian first for advice.

Here are some general guidelines for those who are considering feeding raw food:

  • Choose mostly poultry meat, chicken wing, turkey necks and liver. Only a smaller percent of the meat should come from beef. Lamb and duck meat can also be added.
  • About 10 % of the food can come from raw vegetables like carrots, zucchini and broccoli.
  • Cats can eat raw eggs but only in moderation.

As I mentioned earlier, switching your cat to a raw food diet can be beneficial if she suffers from food allergies. However, some cats might not like it if they are used to eating commercial cat food.

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Ready to go raw cat food

For people who do not want to prepare raw food at home, there are a few brands that offer freshly prepared, high quality and healthy meals for cats.

DARWIN’S NATURAL PET PRODUCTS or BALANCEDBLENDS.COM are just two companies who specialize in organic and wholesome fresh pet food. For cats, it’s usually raw poultry or lamb meat, chicken necks and organs. No grains, no animal by-products or preservatives added.

There are always health concerns when it comes to handling raw meat. Certainly, safety rules and regulations are in place, just be aware that there have been recalls of raw pet food in the past due to bacterial contamination.

Freeze-dried cat food is another way to feed minimally processed meat to your cat. ONLY NATURAL PET’S RAW NIBS made from cage-free chicken with added vegetables are grain-free and only need to be put in water for a few minutes and then are ready to be served.

Or try INSTINCT RAW BITES by NATURE’S VARIETY. Minimally processed organic chicken, liver and bones in bite-sized pieces that thaw in minutes.

Dehydrated meat has also gained in popularity. The gentle dehydration process of fresh meat and vegetables does not destroy its nutrients and artificial preservatives become unnecessary.

ZIWI PEAK CUISINE for example offers air-dried and jerky-style meat from poultry, lamb, beef, venison and fish including organs and bones.

HONEST KITCHEN offers well-balanced dehydrated cat food made from poultry, eggs and some vegetables added, it just needs be hydrated in warm water for a few minutes before serving.

My final thought

Why has the raw meat diet for cats gained so much attention? It’s the idea to offer your pet balanced nutrition that is close to what an animal would eat in the wild. That means, for cats, food with only a few ingredients and minimally processed.

You don’t have to ban kibbles or dry food completely from your cat’s menu as long as the list of ingredients contains the right nutrients, not too many carbohydrates and as long as you offer some variety.

If you don’t want to feed raw meat exclusively, for example because you are on a budget, you can always get some freeze-dried or dehydrated meat and mix it with dry food.

It is also a good idea to give your cat some Omega 3 +6 oil (like cod liver oil) if you are not sure about feeding fish.

I like to invest in balanced quality food  for my pets to make sure they stay healthy and happy, and that cuts down on the vet bill for sure.

                                                               

 

Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you purchase something.

This is my review of 3 different types of cat litters: high-quality, non-toxic and natural

graphic-of-cat-in-good-smelling-litter-box

Okocat Natural Wood clumping cat litter, the earth-friendly cat litter

 Main ingredient: Wood chips (or paper materials, depending on the type)

Where to buy:  Only Natural Pet

 

OKOcat Natural Wood Clumping Cat Litter

                                        Click on image for details

 

For cat owners who want to stay away from traditional clay litters Okocat offers a different type of cat litter made from 100 % wood or paper materials, that is reclaimed and recycled materials.

The fibers of the wood chips can bind and trap liquids easily which makes this cat litter super absorbent. And it doesn’t only bind the cat urine as good as any traditional clay litter, it also blocks odors successfully for several days without the use of artificial scents and chemical additives.

Besides using natural materials only, Okocat cat litter is biodegradable. Since it does not contain chemical additives or otherwise toxic materials, it can be easily disposed of without damaging the environment. Just think of the amount of clay/silica cat litter that ends up on landfills.

By the way, Okocat litter claims to be flushable when it comes to disposing of used litter, which seems to be another practical advantage when using this product. The only thing is we are not supposed to flush cat litter down the toilet, see my article “How to find non-toxic and natural cat litter”.

 

Here are the main benefits when using Okocat:

  • It is made from renewable materials (wood chips or paper pellets), which makes it eco-friendly and biodegradable.
  • It is highly moisture absorbent and keeps odors at bay, even if the litter box is not emptied regularly.
  • No synthetic scents or perfumes, no additives that are harmful to cats. Litter has a pleasant light woodsy smell.

  • Okocat is a clumping litter and can be easily dumped and sifted (Note: scoops with larger slots are best for this type).
  • This litter doesn’t cling to cat’s paws as much as other litters might.
  • Here is another feature I like: The packaging is made from cardboard instead of plastic, therefore eco-friendly. This litter is lightweight and easy to carry and has a spout for pouring out the litter. I really dislike having to lift heavy litter boxes …

Drawbacks when using Okocat Wood Clumping litter

The main complaint I have when using this type of litter is that it leaves tracks of wood pellets over the house. This seems especially true when you have a long-haired cat, since the wood pieces may stick to her hair. But OKOCAT has a litter option for long-hair cat breeds.

If you use a sifter or litter scoop with small slots, the wood pieces in this OKOCAT version might be too large, that means in this case scooping might be harder.

OKOCAT claims to be almost dust-free, but after scooping the litter box out for several times there will be a dust cloud, since the wood pieces break apart into smaller pieces. So, if you suffer from allergies, this kind of litter might not be the best option.

In this case, you might consider OKOCAT NATURAL PAPER CAT LITTER, which is virtually dust-free and for people who suffer from allergies.

By the way, OKOCAT is a biodegradable product, but the manufacturer states it is not really recommended putting it in the compost bin.

Final thoughts

If you are a pet owner who is looking for a high-quality cat litter made only from natural ingredients and, at the same time, you want to be environmentally responsible, this could be the right cat litter for you. Great for people who want to get away from the traditional clay litter and who are not afraid to try something new. But most important, let your cat try it and see if she likes

Dr Elsey Cat Attract cat litter

Ingredients: Sodium Bentonite clay mixed with natural herbal ingredients

Where to buy:  Only Natural Pet

Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract

                                   Click on image for details

This litter is made from high quality clay (sodium bentonite) and not mixed with other cheap clay. It’s main feature is it’s highly clumping ability.

DR ELSEY CAT LITTER was developed by Dr. Bruce Elsey, a veterinarian with many years of experience when it comes to cat behavior.

The critiques of clumping clay litter are worried that it may not be safe for cats, if ingested it could damage the intestinal tract. On Dr. Elsey’s website he states that in his many years of veterinarian experience there has never been a cat in his office that had a health problem due to clumping clay, and in his opinion clumping clay litter is fairly safe.

Key features of Dr. Elsey Cat Attract litter

  • Litter is extremely moisture absorbent and forms hard clumps. This makes it easy to sift and scoop up and it is ideal for mechanical litter boxes.
  • High quality clay mixed with natural herbal scents to attract cats to the litter box.
  • Very effective when it comes to odor control, even with several cats using the same litter box.
  • It is supposed to be 99% dust-free, but in reality there is still some dust noted when changing the litter. But it is still less dust ( and less irritating to allergies) than other litter products.
  • Another great benefit: this litter causes very little tracking when your cat steps out of the litter box. After all, who wants to clean after your pet all the time?

Problem cats love it

This is a great litter when it comes to cats that reject traditional litter. Especially adopted cats that try to fit in a new household seem to take to this litter easily, maybe because the special scents decrease their anxiety? It is also a good training litter for kitten, and because the clumps are rather small it doesn’t bother their sensitive paws.

Some drawbacks

There are not many, as far as I can tell.

Compared to other clay litters, Dr. Elsey’s cat litter is fairly high priced.

But I find that the saying “You get what you pay for” is still true, because high quality always costs more.

One of this litter’s main feature is that it clumps easily after the cat is done with her business. There is a downside to it, because when this clay litter gets in contact with too much cat urine, it can turn into very hard cement-like clumps that might require some effort to scoop up. Therefore: This litter is not flushable and it is not biodegradable!

Final words

Dr.Elsey’s Cat Attract litter is a high-quality clay litter with added natural herbal scents developed for cats who have trouble adapting to litter boxes. It is perfect for cat owners who do not want to give up clay litter but, concerned for their cat’s well-being, are looking for a superior cat litter that does not jeopardize the animal’s nor the owner’s health.

Naturally Fresh Multi-cat litter

(BY BLUE BUFFALO)

Main ingredients:  Walnut shells 

Where to buy:  Only Natural Pet

 

Blue Naturally Fresh Quick Clumping Multi-Cat Litter 14lb

                              Click on image for more details

 

This is another eco-friendly cat litter worth a try. It is a quick clumping cat litter made from a blend of walnut shells and its fibrous material is very efficient in absorbing moisture. The litter has a grainy consistency and it actually looks like coffee grounds.

It’s environmentally-friendly because it’s made from renewable sources (walnut shells) and does not have added chemicals or toxins. Since it only uses natural ingredients, it is not hazardous to your cat’s health.

And by the way, the walnuts are homegrown in the USA.

Some great features of Naturally Fresh cat litter

  • Excellent clumping ability for easy scooping.
  • It does a great job when it comes to odor control, not much of a lingering smell even after not emptying the litter box for a day or two.
  • Since this litter is made of larger grains, they do not stick to kitty’s paws and hardly leave any tracks in the house.
  • Litter has a smooth texture and no sharp pieces, cats with sensitive paws will like this.
  • Since it is made from all natural materials, it is biodegradable and also compost-friendly, I even heard from somebody using the old litter as mulch for the yard. (Well, there better not be any dogs around!).
  • Litter has no artificial smell but a nice natural earthy scent.
  • The litter bags are fairly lightweight.
  • Due to this litter’s superior moisture absorption, 1 bag equals 3 bags of conventional clay litter according to the package label, but one small bag of cat litter lasts about 1 month if the litter box is cleaned daily. 

What I don’t like

Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat litter is supposed to be virtually dust-free.

There seems to be an inconsistency though when it comes to the quality of different bags of the same kind of cat litter. I have heard some pet owners complain that when pouring out the litter there is a dust cloud forming and there is also dust when scooping up the litter.

Since the litter has a brown color, the dust can be very annoying when it gets into your cat’s fur and paws and then leaves tracks on the carpet and sofa.

But I have also seen bags with almost no dust. I am not sure why there is a difference in the bags, but this seems to be the brand’s weak point.

Naturally Fresh cat litter claims to be a quick clumping litter and generally it clumps really well but the clumps are not as hard as with clay litter. When trying to scoop them up, the clumps tend to crumble into pieces and that can make cleaning up the litter box a little tedious.

My final thoughts

Naturally Fresh Multi-cat litter is a great alternative for people who want to try something else besides traditional clay litter and who want to shop environmentally-friendly products. It’s a versatile cat litter that is biodegradable, compost-friendly and lasts long.

If you don’t mind the dust it might produce and you don’t necessarily care for hard litter globs then this is a litter worth trying and worth it’s money.

Cats that are used to clay litter might take some time to warm up to it but just let your cat decide if she likes it.

 

Affiliate disclosure –  I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you purchase something.

 

 

 

 

How to keep your dog’s teeth clean naturally

dog-with-jaw-open

 

I have always wondered if it is really necessary to brush my pet’s teeth.

And is there a way to keep my pet’s teeth clean without having to use harmful substances? Also, I have a busy schedule and having to brush my dog’s or cat’s teeth every day seems time-consuming to me,

At the same time, dogs seem to scoop up anything that’s on the ground and I don’t even want to think about the bacteria that form in their mouth. And every dog owner knows how disgusting our doggie’s breath can be!

Every pet expert agrees that our pets’ teeth and gums need to be taken care of because dental problems can lead to infections and ultimately to heart, liver and kidney disease.

Finding the right toothpaste for your pet

Ideally, you should do this once a day with a tooth brush designed for dogs and just a child’s toothbrush. A cotton swab also works. If you have several dogs, each dog gets his own toothbrush.

Additionally, it is also recommended that your dog gets a professional cleaning by a veterinarian about once or twice a year.

When you brush your pet’s teeth, what kind of toothpaste should you use? seafood or peanut butter flavors are added to make it more attractive for animals.                                                                                                                  dog-having-teeth-brushed

ARM & HAMMER offers a toothpaste for dogs and cats that contains enzymes to fight plaque and tartar. It comes in various flavors like vanilla-ginger or poultry to freshen your dog’s breath. All Arm & Hammer products contain baking soda, which can be controversial to some people. When I looked at the list of ingredients used I am wondering if they are really safe for pets.

Virbac CET toothpaste for dogs and cats also comes in several flavors that your pet will like. It contains enzymes to fight dental plaque and keep your pet’s mouth fresh. Since it doesn’t contain foaming agents, it is supposed to be safe to swallow.

For pet owners who take the idea of “all natural” seriously and who prefer homeopathic products with the least amount of chemicals and other harmful ingredients there are these dental products to be considered:

  • Dr Mercola Dental Gel claims to be 100 % natural, no toxins or other harmful substances. It is purely plant-based and contains essential oils like neem oil, cardamom, grape fruit and peppermint for flavor. It prevents periodontal disease and keeps gums healthy by mixing with the dog’s saliva. It’s easy to use because it can be applied with your fingertips and your dog can lick it.
  • Vet’s Best Dental Gel toothpaste for dogs uses natural ingredients like neem oil, grapefruit seed extract, aloe and enzymes. It has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties to fight dental plaque and tartar and keeps your dog’s mouth fresh. If you don’t like toothbrushes, this gel can be applied with your fingertips, 2 or 3 applications per week are sufficient.
  • TruDog Spray Me is a dental spray/dental mist made with 100 % natural ingredients containing essential oils like neem oil and peppermint oil. It reduces harmful bacteria in your dog’s mouth, maintains healthy teeth and gums and freshens your dog’s breath. It is a mist-like spray which means it is easy to administer and it beats tooth brushing for sure.
  • LEBA III dental spray for dogs and cats works through enzymes found in animal’s saliva and keeps teeth clean by maintaining the chemical balance in his mouth and not killing good bacteria. If used on a regular basis, there is almost no brushing required.

I want to mention that it is not a good idea to give your pet human toothpaste simply because most of them contain fluoride which is poisonous to dogs and cats.

Also, there are a lot of DIY ideas on the internet on how to make your on tooth- brushing kit for your pets. Most of them use baking soda as one of the main ingredients. Some experts (according to an article on vcahospitals.com) advice refraining from using baking soda when it comes to pets because of its high alkaline content. When swallowed, it can upset the acidic balance in the animal’s digestive tract.

Taking care of your dog’s teeth with dental chews

Dental treats or dental chews are an additional way to maintain your dog’s teeth and it is surely less tedious for the pet owner and more fun for the dog. Some chews claim to be as effective as brushing teeth.

MILK-BONE is a company offering popular dog treats, and their BRUSHING CHEWS DENTAL DOG TREATS come in various sizes for small, medium and large dogs. These dental treats are shaped like a bone and come with bristle-like nubs and ridges to clean teeth that are hard to reach. They are very effective in fighting plaque and tartar and reduce your dog’s bad breath. They are very nutritious because they contain a list of essential vitamins and minerals.              giving-dog-milk-bone

Nevertheless, some ingredients are not as natural and healthy as some dog owners would like them to be. These treats contain chicken by-products and chicken meal instead of quality meat, they contain added starch and preservatives. Still, our dogs love them!

Another popular dental treat for dogs are GREENIES, also available for cats. These treats have a chewy texture that helps in maintaining healthy teeth and gums and freshens your dog’s and cat’s breath. Besides added vitamins and minerals they are made with natural ingredients highly soluble for easy digestion. Note: they contain wheat.

If you are especially concerned about your dog’s diet and like to opt for grain-free treats, you will like BLUE BUFFALO dental bones. These dental chews shaped as bones are made with real ingredients, no poultry by-products. They are grain-free, no wheat, no soy, no corn, no preservatives and easy to digest, perfect for animals with food allergies. At the same time they take care of your dog’s dental hygiene and freshen his breath.

NATURAL BALANCE offers dental chews with grooves and ridges to help the dog’s chewing action. Besides being grain-free they are rich in nutrients and high in protein.

VIRBAC CET ENZYMATIC ORAL HYGIENE CHEWS for dogs are made from select beef hide. Their anti-septic quality and abrasive texture reduce tartar and keep teeth clean. Downside is the smell which can be pretty bothersome to pet owners, but your dogs won’t care!

This is just a selection of dental chews that caught my attention. Since they are edible, they should be in addition to a regular meal and should be limited. Make sure you give your dog that right chews for his size, otherwise he is eating additional calories and not benefiting his teeth.

Dental chew toys for dogs

They are not edible and made from hard and preferably durable material. Chew toys are perfect for dogs because they activate the animal’s chewing instinct and the right toy can distract him from chewing on other things. Some chew toys have grooves and ridges to massage the gums and remove dental plaque, so while doggie is having fun chewing he is taking care of his oral hygiene.

If you are looking for a tough chewing product there is the NYLABONE Durachew bone made from durable plastic and nylon. They can be flavored e.g. with peanut butter (allergen-free). The bone has ridges and knobs so that with the chewing action doggie cleans his teeth at the same time. Bones come in different sizes, for gentle to extreme chewers. I have heard of negative accounts of dogs chewing the nylabone apart too quickly and swallowing the pieces. Since this type of toy is not edible, some pet owners are afraid that swallowing pieces of it may harm the dog. But the package clearly states for which size of dog a particular bone is intended.

dog-with-chew-toy

For pet owners who prefer ecofriendly and organic products there are several companies that offer natural and non-toxic dog chew toys:

Earth animal.com has products for pets that are veterinarian formulated, organic and comply with the highest standard of quality. The MULTIPET CHILLY BONE for puppies and adult dogs is freezable and promotes healthy teeth and gums. It is made from durable, natural and non-toxic materials.

Another great chew toy that your dog will love to gnaw on are elk antlers. Besides keeping the tartar off your dog’s teeth antlers are a great source of minerals. They don’t splinter and they don’t have that unpleasant odor as hooves or bully sticks.

Loofah Dental Dog Toy is made from natural and organic materials. When chewing on this bone-shaped toy your dog is practically flossing his teeth in a playful way. It can be used several times and if your dog swallows a piece it will not cause any digestive issues.

So, do I really have to brush my dog’s teeth?

Honestly, we never did and we have dogs (and they are mixed breeds) now several years old and their teeth are just doing fine. That’s just my opinion though, a vet would tell you differently. But the proper nutrition is important also, in general it is better to give your dog dry food instead of wet food because the kibbles are more abrasive and don’t get stuck in his teeth.                 bowl-with-dry-food

I should mention that certain dog breeds are more prone to periodontal disease and bad breath than others. Chihuahuas and other small breeds, short-faced dogs like English and French bulldogs and pugs usually struggle with dental issues. Dogs like shelties can have a genetic predisposition that affects their dental health.

If you own one of those breed you should pay special attention to their oral care and follow your veterinarian’s advice.

It helps tremendously to give your dog quality dental chews and treats on a regular basis. A nutritious chewing bone or other quality chew toy also helps to fight tartar and massage the gums. This is a good way to cut down on brushing teeth if you have to, because we know we have days with really busy schedules, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to find safe and non-toxic cat litter

cat-litter-scoop

For a pet owner whose cat stays mostly indoors it can be tricky to find the right litter. Kitty wants to be comfortable when using the litter box and you, as cat owner and busy person, prefer litter that’s easy and convenient to deal with.

Yet, the responsible pet owner might go one step further and wonder if the cat litter in use is safe and non-hazardous for cat and human.

What is conventional cat litter made of?

In general, there are two types of conventional cat litter: clumping and non-clumping cat litter.

Both are made of bentonite, which is actually clay. More specifically, clumping cat litter consists of sodium bentonite clay and the non-clumping version consists of calcium bentonite.

Many clay litters also contain silica, which is a form of quartz. Silica is a clumping agent and helps absorb moisture.                                  clumping-cat-litter

For odor absorption either carbon or baking soda are added.

Numerous brands use certain fragrances to make the cat litter smell more pleasantly. The question is if the fragrance is as pleasant to kitty as it is to us humans.

The different aspects of clay litter

Bentonite clay litter serves its purpose very well and has several advantages.

Clumping clay cat litter is also called “scoopable” litter because of its property to form clumps with cat urine and feces. This means waste can be easily discarded without having to change the whole litter box. Clay litter also keeps odor at bay when scooped up on a regular basis.

The non-clumping kind of clay litter absorbs waste to a certain point until the litter box is saturated (and this can take a few days) and it has to be replaced with new litter. That means cat waste doesn’t have to be scooped up every day and people with a busy everyday schedule will like this.

Another advantage of this type of litter is the fact that it won’t get stuck to the paws of your kitty like the clumping kind does and therefore won’t leave any litter traces in the house.

What are the hazards of clay litter?

Even though bentonite clay litter is still popular among cat owners for obvious reasons, being exposed to this type of litter comes with some health risks for cats and humans:

  • When using clay litter, silica dust is produced. This may cause respiratory problems for cats and humans (silicosis!).                        cat-in-hooded-litter-box
  • Clay litter (especially the clumping kind) can get stuck in the cat’s paws and when she grooms herself she tends to ingest some of it which can cause gastrointestinal problems. After all, silica is toxic and not only kitty may ingest it but also your dog if there is one in the house. Remember that dogs like to explore the litter box and might take chunks out of the box if not secured properly.
  • In order to make the litter smell better, some brands add fragrances. These are added chemicals and can be harmful to animals. If the scent is too strong, kitty might not like it due to her keen sense of smell.

fresh-litter-box

  • Environmental hazards: First of all, clay litter should never be flushed down the toilet because it can clog the plumbing. Bentonite clay is not biodegradable, and truckloads of clay/silica cat litter are dumped on landfills.

Second, bentonite clay is obtained by strip/surface mining. This may be of concern to some people because it is destructive to the environment. miningLayers of topsoil and rock are removed in order to get to the mineral underneath which means destruction of landscapes and soil erosion. By the way, a large area of strip mining to gain bentonite clay is in Wyoming.

Litter crystals, another favorite

It’s also called crystalline silica litter and it consists of silica gel crystals which are a combination of silica dioxide sand, water and oxygen. Depending on the brand, dyes are added to make the litter look more attractive and also fragrances.

One of the main properties of silica crystals is its high absorption of cat urine, which keeps the litter box dry and the cat owner doesn’t have to change the litter every day. Since there is not as much litter needed to keep the litter box clean silica crystals are sold in smaller bags than conventional clay litter and I am sure some people may appreciate the lightweight.

With silica crystals, less dust is produced when filling the litter box and there also seem to be less growing bacteria compared to boxes with clay litter.

Are there any risks when using silica cat litter?

Litter crystals seem to be the perfect cat litter, but there are some health hazards connected to silica crystals that we need to be aware of.

Even though silica cat litter doesn’t produce as much dust as clay litter, cats and humans will still be exposed to silica particles which are known to be cancer-causing. In cats, silica dust can cause severe respiratory problems.    silica-cat-litter

I want to mention that there is a difference in quality when it comes to silica gel cat litter and that some brands claim that the silica cat litter offered is safe and specifically formulated for cats and does not contain any harmful substances.

Sometimes litter crystals can get stuck in your cat’s paws, and here again, depending on the brand you use. When kitty licks her paws, she might ingest some crystals, which can cause intestinal problems.

If your cat is declawed, she might not like litter crystals because stepping on it might harm her paws.

Cat litter alternatives

For pet owners who do not only care about the health of their cat or dog but are environmentally conscious there is a decent selection of natural, non-toxic and ecofriendly cat litter on the market.

If your cat likes clumping clay litter, look for a brand that uses premium quality clay without harmful additives, e.g. BOXIECAT. This litter is supposed to be dust-free, and if you like gently scented litter this company offers one that uses natural scents, with calming properties and safe for kitty.

Cat litter made from wooden chips are gaining in popularity, usually cedar chips or pine are used. Kitty might like OKOCAT, made from all natural wood and plant particles and highly moisture-absorbing.  Or your cat is a cedar lover with  CEDARIFIC (by NEPCO), litter made from aromatic cedar chips for odor control and dust-free.

If your cat likes to think outside the box she will ask for DR MERCOLA Biocharged Kitty Litter, made from recycled pine trees and using biochar, a type of charcoal, for moisture absorption.

These are just a few examples of brands that only use all natural ingredients and are biodegradable. I especially like the kind that can be used for composting and added to the flower garden.

Corn cob litter is another alternative to clay litter, but look for one that uses non-GMO corn. Corn cob litter is usually dust-free and corn granules have a very effective moisture and odor absorption. Corn cob litter is biodegradable, therefore ecofriendly.

Cat-and-corn

There is one drawback with corn cob litter to be considered: It can be a breeding ground for aflatoxin mold which can make your cat gravely ill.

There are other innovative ideas makers of cat litter come up with, like litter made from recycled paper, e.g. YESTERDAY’S NEWS by PURINA. Supposedly it has a higher moisture absorption than clay, it is dust-free and ecofriendly. The only drawback (and an  article on  Dr. Mercola’s website points this out) is the fact that recycled newspaper is also used for this type of litter, chemical residues of the newspaper ink still present in the paper pellets.                                                   paper-pellets

Cat litter made from 100% grass is another natural alternative and is also biodegradable. Your kitty might like it because it doesn’t hurt her paws if she is declawed. Even though no harsh chemicals are added to the product, the question still remains how the grass was grown, were pesticides used or was it grown organically?

Do-it-yourself litter

If you are a DIY person and are thrifty, you will find a lot of suggestion online as to how to make your own cat litter.

Honestly, I have never seen home-made litter and I do not know how work-intensive it is and if it really works with your cat.

You can find anything online from using old newspapers, wood chips, walnut shells, chicken scratch or chicken feed and more. A lot of instructions use baking soda to neutralize the odor.

I have even seen posts from people trying out orange peels as cat litter! Cats don’t like citrus scent and it actually drives cats away, so I don’t think that really works.

orange-peels

So, which litter do cats really prefer?

There is a consensus among cat experts that cats really like litter that is clumping. They prefer small granules and material that resembles sand. Just          think how much kitty likes to scratch!Cats have an extraordinary sense of smell and they definitely don’t like overpowering scents, no floral or citrus fragrances, also be careful with too much baking soda.

Clearly, cats like to do their business in an environment close to nature. High quality clay litter, wooden chips or anything similar to that with the least amount of harmful additives, as long as kitty is comfortable with it. And when kitty is happy, you are happy.

cat-reading-newspaper

Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and my earn a commission if you purchase something.

My dog and cat are afraid of thunder and how I can keep them calm

 

storm-clouds

It’s summer, and here in Mississippi it’s hot and muggy. That means thunderstorms almost every day, especially in the evening time. Dark clouds are forming out of nowhere, booming sounds in the distance, the first rain drops are falling.

My little dog can sense bad weather coming, as soon as the first rain clouds start to show up, she looks at the sky and gets seemingly nervous. She hears thunder rolling and it’s still far away, but she refuses to go outside, she puts her tail in between her legs and looks for a place to hide.

She is panicking when it comes to thunderstorms, but in general she dislikes very loud noises. She gets anxious when we turn on the vacuum cleaner and hides under the bed, or she runs off when my husband starts using his power tools.

Loud noises cause stress

Are dogs and cats really that noise sensitive?                                           cat-under-sofa

As a matter of fact, our pets do not only have an extraordinary sense of smell, they also have a very fine hearing. Cats have a hearing range of 40 -64,000 Hz, dogs 40-60,000 (human range 20-20,000 Hz). That means they can detect very high-pitched sounds as well as sounds in the low frequency range and of course they can detect noise from a far distance before the human ear can hear it.

Due to their sensitive hearing cats and dogs may react differently to loud noises, and the sounds of fireworks, thunder and vacuum cleaners are mostly uncomfortable to them. Especially dogs like to act out their stress and anxiety and can become quite agitated when it comes to loud noises.

Cats can get anxious also but usually they don’t get as frantic and self-destructive as dogs. Cats jut like to hide somewhere.

I also want to mention that especially in older dogs noise sensitivity can be accompanied by musculoskeletal pain. I ran across an article on phys.org which points out that the cause for the physical pain that a dog might experience while hearing loud noises could be due to an underlying medical problem. The connection between noise and pain makes the dog even more anxious of explosive sounds.

cat-in-blanket

Common drugs for anxiety in pets

For milder forms of dog anxiety an over the counter medication like Benadryl for dogs can be used. It causes drowsiness but it can help to calm your pet during a noisy event.

For more severe cases of noise phobia a veterinarian can prescribe certain sedatives or anti psychotic drugs like acepromazine in pill form that have to be administered before the thunderstorm or fireworks start. Some anti-anxiety drugs prescribed have to be taken for several weeks to be more effective and the animal has to be weaned off slowly.   blue-pill-bottle

Some medications work by altering serotonin levels (responsible for mood) in the brain, and in that case the pet owner has to be very careful not to give his dog certain types of food that contain l-tryptophan (in peanut butter, turkey meat) since this can cause serious side effects.

About SILEO

SILEO is a new pharmaceutical anti-anxiety drug for dogs that works by blocking the chemical norepinephrine in the brain. It is administered with a syringe into the dog’s cheeks, which is supposed to be easier than giving pills to a dog. Lot of veterinarians and pet owners like the drug because it seems to be very effective in cases of severe anxiety. I have read several testimonials from pet owners stating that after taking the drug their dog was visibly calm.

Even though SILEO seems to have only minor side effects and it its hailed by many pet owners, the drug is still somewhat controversial and there are certain risks that need to be addressed:

  • The dog stays drowsy for several hours.
  • There is always a risk of overdosing because most pet owners are inexperienced in administering drugs. If that happens, the animal’s blood pressure can drop and his breathing and heart rate may slow downing and possibly leading to cardiac arrest.
  • The medicine’s instructions recommend that the person administering the drug should wear disposable gloves to prevent the drug from touching the skin. Does this precaution suggest that the drug may contains toxic ingredients not safe for humans and animals?

anxious-dog-in-blanket

Calming your pet without drugs

For moderately stressed pets I would definitely try alternative methods first. One way is to use an “anxiety wrap” in form of a vest called thundershirt. It’s an anti-static vest that provides comfort to dogs during noisy events by applying pressure. By the way, thundershirts also work on anxious cats.

There is also a calming collar available which is less costly. It’s drug free and works by imitating calming pheromones that naturally occur between mother and puppy.

Electric dog diffusers (plug-in) use the same concept of releasing calming pheromones when your pet is in a stressful situation.              aromatherapy

Natural supplements

There are different types of nutritional supplements that work as anxiety relief and that you should try out without having to expose your pet to strong pharmaceutical drugs.

One supplement is Melatonin for dogs, a hormone that exists in human and animal bodies. People take Melatonin as a sleeping aid, but for dogs it has a stress-relieving and calming effect besides making them drowsy. It is always a good idea to check with the veterinarian which brand to use because some of them use the ingredient xylitol harmful to dogs.

Homeopathic remedies are always a good option to try when it comes to natural treatments. There is a variety of anxiety relief remedies on the market, mostly in form of drops that are added to your pet’s food or water.

A popular brand is Bach  Rescue Remedy for noise sensitive pets  (or pets who are anxious in general), works for cats and dogs and is also approved by veterinarians. Besides adding the medicine to your pet’s food it can be applied topically by rubbing it on your pet’s ears or paws. The great thing about homeopathic remedies is the fact that they don’t leave your pet loopy or drowsy.

essential-oils-bottle

Calming with essential oils

The aroma, that is the specific fragrance of each essential oil triggers certain feelings in the human and animal brain. This is why aromatherapy has been used for ages to help us relax and keep calm when we are stressed.

When using essential oils on pets always be aware that what works for humans does not necessarily work for your pets. They can be very therapeutic but only in small amounts. Remember that dogs have a strong sense of smell and when it comes to cats, some essential oils are harmful. If an animal cannot handle the aroma of a certain oil, don’t force it on him.

chihuahua-in-bed

Aromatherapy for pets is available in various forms:

  • In spray form: Spray bottles can be used when you mix your own oils and diluted with water. There are also dog and cat calming sprays (referred to as “calming mist”) on the market to choose from. When it comes to cat safety, consider getting a so called hydrosol spray, a non alcoholic steam distillate drawn from the aromatherapy still.
  • As topicals: For example calming oils as roll-ons behind ears, paws, belly.
  • Essential oil diffuser: If you have pets in the house, use a high quality one to regulate the amount of fragrance. If you have cats, be especially careful and make sure essential oils are heavily diluted.

If you choose to blend your own mixture of essential oils, make sure to only use high quality therapeutic grade oils, organic if possible. It is also recommended to use carrier oils like sweet almond or jojoba oil because you do not want to put undiluted essential oils on a pet’s skin. If you do dab them on your pet’s body, don’t apply them around the animal’s nose, ears and genitals.

The best essential oils for noise sensitive and anxious dogs:

Citrus oils (for mood improvement), Ylang Ylang for anxiety, lavender oil, neroli and melissa oil for calming.

Calming oils for anxious cats:

Lavender, rose oil, neroli, scented geranium oil.

Note: There are different opinions on the safety of lavender oil for cats, also see my article “How to repel fleas and ticks naturally”.

Final thoughts

When choosing the right way to relax your pet in a stressful situation you have to determine if your cat or dog suffers from moderate anxiety or a severe phobia that’s very hard to manage. If your pet shows general signs of noise sensitivity I would try to soothe him with essential oils or homeopathic drops for pets, get a calming collar or a thunder vest. In case of extreme panicky behavior and after everything else fails to calm your pet, I would definitely consult a veterinarian and get help with conventional methods. After all, it’s a personal choice : Do I like to be knocked out with drugs and do the same to my pet?

dog-wearing-ear-phones

 

 

Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you make a purchase.

 

 

Natural ways to repel fleas and ticks

cat-scratching

When you have a dog or a cat living with you inside the house, they can spend a good amount of time scratching themselves. And not only that, they might lick parts of their body intensely and chew on certain spots. Having a dog around you that can’t stop scratching can be very noisy and the constant rattling and jolting can be very annoying. And because you want a healthy pet, you want to got to the root of the problem. In this post I am looking at some natural and non-toxic ways to fight external parasites.

Why is my dog or cat scratching?

Scratching in dogs and cats can have different reasons:

  • Psychological reasons like boredom or anxiety. Especially young dogs need to be kept busy, give them a bone to chew on for distraction!
  • Hormonal imbalances such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. If your pet’s body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone it can cause skin irritations and bald spots.
  • Allergic reactions to plants and pollen your pet comes in contact with. Or your pet might be allergic to the shampoo you are using to bathe him with. Food allergies caused by the ingredients in pet food can also be a reason why your dog or cat has itchy skin.
  • Your dog or cat might have ringworm. This is a fungal infection that causes round lesions on the skin and is transmitted by fungal spores. Common symptoms are a ring-like red skin irritation with and crusty and scaly skin, this may or may not cause itching. Your veterinarian will prescribe topical and oral fungus medication. If you suspect ringworm, have your pet treated immediately since this fungus is very contagious to humans.
  • Your dog or cat has external parasites like ticks, mites and fleas and this is the most common cause for your pet’s constant scratching.

How do fleas affect your pets?

I think that fleas are the main reason as to why a dog or cat may be constantly scratching. Fleas thrive outside in grass or sandy areas and inside the house in carpet. Fleas can lay about 40 – 50 eggs a day. Besides itchy skin, there are more signs that your dog might have fleas:

  • Fleas can cause skin irritations with hair loss.
  • Flea bites can cause allergic reactions in some animals and they develop a skin condition called allergic dermatitis. That means severe itching and scratching with red skin and scabs. Even after flea medication is given, some symptoms still persist.
  • Flea infestation is even more harmful to puppies. Besides infected skin with hot spots, puppies may develop anemia, pale gums and weight loss.

Natural flea and tick prevention in your yard             basket-with-herbs

It makes sense to fight fleas and ticks before they even get to pets and humans. If you do not want to spray the usual pesticides in your yard you can opt for more natural and proven ways to deter pest:

  • There are certain plants you can grow that are supposed to keep fleas away, but be careful what you choose because they might be toxic to cats and dogs. Some safer plants to grow as natural flea repellents are mint, catnip, rosemary (the actual rosemary herb), chamomile, lemongrass, lavender, says Linda Cole in her blog on canidae.com.
  • A chemical-free way of treating your yard is using nematodes. They are worm like microscopic parasites that live in soil and kill fleas and their larvae and other bugs like termites. Nematodes are available as a solution that can be sprayed in your yard and garden and it is safe for pets.
  • Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is also effective in killing fleas and ticks. It’s a powder like natural substance made of microscopic particles. It can be sprinkled on your pet’s bedding or outside on your porch. It can also be sprinkled on your dog or cat, just be careful not to inhale the dust. It is a very dusty product so keep that in mind if your pet likes to sleep on your bed or sofa.

Conventional flea and tick repellents

The simplest way is to go through your pets fur with a flea comb and remove the fleas. This gets harder though when your dog or cat has very thick and long hair. I would recommend this method in combination with an additional treatment.

Popular are tick/flea collars and can be bought anywhere. They work for dogs and cats, but if you use them for your cat be sure to buy a break-away collar so she doesn’t get stuck anywhere. There are different types of flea collars used to kill fleas/ticks or to repel them. If you opt for a conventional flea collar, you should know that they are treated with toxic substances like insecticides to be effective (and this can be worrisome to some pet owners).

Often recommended, and instead of using a flea collar, is flea medication taken orally in form of tablets or pills. Some of them can only be bought through a veterinarian or need a prescription. There are quite a few types on the market, for example daily pills to kill fleas fast and long term pills (like monthly pills) to prevent flea eggs from hatching.                                                                                                             veterinarian-giving-flea-medicine

Dogs are more affected by ticks than are cats, but cats can get ticks as well. The majority of the tick/flea prevention pills (like the monthly pills) are made for dogs, so if you want to get one for your cat, look for medication that’s made for small dogs. When it comes to cats, it’s important to watch the dosage.

Different types of topical flea repellents are also available in abundance, from flea shampoos, soaps to sprays. Sprays are usually spot-on skin treatments which contain neurotoxins that kill fleas. These chemicals, if used in small doses, are considered as safe for pets, but be cautious with spot-on sprays, they can be harmful to people (and children!) when inhaled. Also, small dogs and cats don’t need large doses, and what is safe dogs might not be safe for cats.

Natural and non-toxic flea repellents

Like I mentioned before, conventional medications and topical products used to kill fleas and ticks contain harmful substances like DEET and other chemicals. You don’t only expose your pets, it’s also not safe if you have small children in the house (because small children like to put their hands on a pet that has been sprayed).

Not all natural methods work equally well and it’s recommended to combine several methods for them to be effective. There is a lot of literature on the use and effectiveness of essential oils on pets to deter fleas and ticks. Essential oils can be controversial, especially when it comes to cats. Cats don’t have the liver enzymes to break down the substances present in essential oils which makes them more harmful to cats than to dogs.

Neem oil

It’s a natural pesticide gained from the seeds of the neem tree which has gained in popularity. It is a potent anti fungal and antibacterial and used in a lot of cosmetics, hair products and pet shampoo. It has a garlic/sulfur smell and is therefore often combined with other essential oils. While neem oil is safe for dogs and humans, a lot of sources warn to use neem oil on cats. One of the reasons maybe that products containing neem oil also contain other essential oils harmful to cats.

essential-oils

Other essential oils

They can be used in form of sprays mixed with other ingredients like water and vinegar and applied on the animal (but be careful with cats when applying directly on skin) or the can be sprayed around the house. The fragrance of the oils is supposed to deter fleas and ticks. There are many types of natural sprays on the market, but the good thing about essential oils is that they can be mixed easily at home. Especially lavender oil, citronella or lemon oil are popular due to their fresh fragrance and are safe to use for dogs.

Collars dipped in essential oils are also available as flea and tick repellents and you can even make your own dog collar by dipping a scarf in lavender, rosemary or cedar oil.

There are conflicting opinions on the use of certain oils on cats but if you are trying to protect your cat from fleas and ticks, the safest essential oils to use are products that contain catnip oil (often diluted with a carrier oil), peppermint oil, rosemary and cedar wood.

All citrus oils like lemongrass (citronella), lemon and lavender oil can be toxic to cats, same with tea tree oil and several other essential oils  (christinedemerchant.com).

Note: Opinions on lavender oil for cats are conflicting. I have read articles on aromatherapy for cats recomending lavender as a calming oil.

Brewer’s yeast for dogs and cats

This is another natural method to repel fleas, ticks and other biting insects. It is somewhat controversial and not scientifically proven but many sources claim it works. It might be the smell of the regular use of the yeast or the changes in the taste of the blood that keeps parasites away.

Brewer’s yeast, used in bread and in beer, is rich in vitamins and minerals and has many health benefits if taken as a supplement. It can improve your pet’s coat and keeps your dog’s or cat’s skin healthy and less itchy. I think it is worth giving brewer’s yeast a try to see if it keeps parasites away, the only drawback is it stimulates your pet’s appetite and he might gain weight.

Apple cider vinegar                                                                 dog-with-apple-cider-vinegar-and-lemons

Apple cider vinegar is good for so many things and yes, it’s supposed to help prevent fleas on pets. It can be mixed with other essential oils like geranium oil or citronella oil and sprayed on dogs as flea repellent. Or, it can be added to your pet’s drinking water: 1 teaspoon of vinegar for one quart of water and for cats just half a teaspoon of vinegar. I am currently trying this to see how it works in the long run.

In my opinion

If your dog suffers from a bad infestation of fleas and his skin is irritated I would seek the advice of a veterinarian and treat him with conventional medication to kill the fleas quickly. But as follow-up treatment to keep fleas and ticks away I like the idea of using natural products to avoid exposing my pets to harsh substances.

When it comes to natural flea repellents keep in mind that they work best and more efficiently when combined. For example, use a collar dipped with essential oils but also use a natural flea repellent spray on your dog regularly.

I also want to mention that a healthy cat is able to control fleas much better than dogs. Cats groom themselves extensively and are able to get rid of fleas that way. This also means that if you use chemicals on cats these substances get easier into their system. On the other hand, when it comes to products with essential oils be aware that cats are much more sensitive and what works for dogs does not necessarily work for cats.

puppy-being-bathed

 

Why are dogs always hungry?

One of the behaviors typical for dogs is they always seem to beg for food. We are sitting at the dinner table and here they come, all three of them. One sits quietly next to us, her eyes fixed on my plate, observing every move I make. The other one lays by our feet, sometimes putting her paw on my foot like she is saying “don’t forget about me”. The youngest dog is more daring and not so well-behaved yet, she is putting her front paws on my lap and trying to put her nose close to my plate. So, are they really that hungry?

dog grabbing chicken bone

Dogs are scavengers

Dogs don’t need to eat every day. Their ancestors were scavengers and picked up food wherever they could, getting scraps from humans as well. Once they get hold of food, they wolf it down out of fear that there might not be enough. They have a tendency to overeat because the next time they might not get enough food. Dogs are attracted by the smell of food and will accept every bite regardless if they are hungry or not.

Even if your dog just had a big meal, he might still hunt for food inside or outside the house. If you live in the country like I do, there are plenty of smelly and rotten-looking things that a dog will pick up and eat. Our dogs will walk around with their nose on the ground looking half-dead critters or chicken excrements and then will proceed to the barn where they eat horse manure like it was dessert.

How much food is enough

It is always recommended following the directions printed on the dog food you buy. Of course, if it is a puppy or a very young dog, it may eat several times a day. Adult dogs usually have one good meal a day. In my opinion, it also depends on how active your dog is. Younger dogs tend to be more playful and energetic and therefore have a bigger appetite. Dogs are related to wolves, and in the wild these animals may only eat 2 or 3 times a week. But when they finally hunt down their prey, they are able to gobble down several pounds of food since their stomachs are able to stretch considerably. So it s not uncommon for a dog to wolf down his food and feel the need to eat more if he is stimulated by the right smells, but at the same time he will be able to stay without food for a number of days if necessary.

Be careful what you feed your dog

We love our pooch and in the event we cannot resist those wet eyes begging for food when we sit at table, here is a selection of different types of human food your dog shouldn’t eat at all.

  • Don’t give your dog chocolate, especially no dark chocolate which contains more caffeine.
  • Limit food that contains a lot of salt, too much salt can lead to water deprivation.
  • Don’t let your dog eat grapes and raisins, this can lead to kidney failure.
  • Be careful with onions and garlic, even onion powder. Garlic and onions contain compounds that are toxic to dogs.
  • Don’t give your dog avocados, they can be harmful.
  • Be careful with caffeine, especially coffee, tea and soda. Caffeine is toxic to pets and large amounts can damage organs like liver, hart and kidneys. The ingestion of 9 mg/pound of caffeine can harm a small dog,  so we are talking about several cups of coffee that a dog would have to consume to get seriously ill ( https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/caffeine-toxicity-in-pets).  It is not unusual that your dog will take a few licks from your morning cup of coffee without you noticing, but that shouldn’t affect him much. Still, be careful, especially if there is a lot of sugar in your coffee.
  • That brings me to the dangers of sugars as an ingredient in candy bars, other sweets and sodas. Too much sugar can seriously harm your dog and cause pancreatitis.

What if my dog is not eating

We know that dogs, under normal circumstances, are voracious eaters, and if you do notice an increase in appetite for no obvious reason there may be an underlying medical problem like diabetes. But the opposite can be true too, if a dog has no appetite he may be feeling ill. I know from my dogs’ eating behavior that if they are constipated they won’t eat. Another reason why dogs might not eat is their emotional state of mind. A dog might have anxiety because the owner is leaving the house or he might be grieving because his playmate died or a person close to him is not there anymore.

Dogs have taste buds and they get used to their specific food. When the owner for some reason or another changes the type of dog food, it can happen that the dog won’t eat it. Dogs can be really picky sometimes and a small change to their feeding routine can have a negative effect on their appetite. A dog can go without eating for one or two days but after that I would consult a veterinarian if he still does not eat.

Can I stop my dog from begging

I don’t think it is really possible to stop dogs from begging for human scraps, but there are certain ways to limit this behavior. First of all, make sure you give your dog the right amount of food to make sure he doesn’t go hungry all the time. You could supplement his food with some vegetables (meaning more fiber) to make your dog feel fuller.

It is also a good idea to split up feedings: Instead of giving him one big bowl of food, give him 2 smaller bowls throughout the day.

Some people train their dogs to sit several feet away from the dinner table, but I don’t think this method has ever worked in our house, especially not with a couple of dogs around.                                                       dog sitting at the table

Another suggestion is feeding your pets at the same time the owner sits down for dinner. Some dog trainers say since the pet owner should establish himself as the leader of the pack there should be a pecking order when it comes to who gets to eat first. Dogs should have to wait until their master is finished eating, and if there are several dogs in the house, the oldest dog eats first. All this makes sense, but if your dog is happier eating at the same time you do? Whatever works.

The gluttonous dog

I am wondering, are there dog breeds that have a bigger appetite than other dogs? Well, I started researching a little and it turns out that there really is a dog breed more gluttonous than any other breed, and that is the Labrador retriever. Labradors are obsessed with food and have a strong instinct for scavenging. And not only that, according to scientists they have a genetic disposition that is responsible for the Labrador’s big appetite. Researchers found a gene mutation in the Labrador’s brain (in the hypothalamus) that affects unconscious processes like the control of appetite. According to a survey of veterinarians, about 60% of all Labs are overweight.

And here are some funny facts, according to Vox.com the Labrador’s appetite has lead to some interesting and strange eating choices: a whole bar of soap, a plastic baby Jesus, lawnmower clippings.

We know as pet owners that giving out dog treats is like an act of love. It is so hard to resist that cute face with those begging eyes asking for a handout. But if we really love our dogs we need to stick to the recommended amount of food. Dog obesity (and cat obesity) has become a big problem among pets and this leads to other medical problems like diabetes. Rather, feed your pet less but more nutritious and quality-oriented food that leaves him satisfied instead of giving your dog or cat a large meal with no health benefits at all.

english bulldog overweight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does your cat like milk?

 

cat drinking capuchino

Honestly, I have 2 cats and I have never given them milk to drink because I was always told it wasn’t a good idea. But most cats do like cow milk, they are drawn to it because as kitten they drank milk from their mother and they love the fat and the nutrients it contains.

Is milk really bad for cats?

Cow milk, and also cheese, contains more lactose and casein than a cat can digest. Too much of it can make them sick and can cause diarrhea and constipation. If you want to give your kitty milk, do it in moderation as a special treat.  Give your cat lactose -free milk  if she really enjoys milk! But do not give a cat soy milk, because soy is an allergen and can cause digestive problems.

cat drinking milk

Even though milk can upset the cat’s stomach, she enjoys drinking it.

Continue reading Does your cat like milk?

How safe are your dog’s favorite treats

Chewing and gnawing is one of your dog’s favorite pastime, be it a puppy or an adult dog. There is so many treats and chews on the market that it can get really confusing. With this article I am trying to present the main categories of dog treats and dog chews and discuss how safe and wholesome they might be.

dogs love their treats

 

Rawhide chews and bones

These chews are made from the inner layer of cow or bull hides (which is skin) and sometimes horse hide. During manufacturing, the hide is cleaned, cut and pressed into chewable shapes and sizes. Sometimes flavors like beef, chicken, liver or peanut butter are added to make these treats more attractive.

Rawhide chews a very popular treats since they support the dog’s natural chewing instinct. They are mostly considered as natural and safe, but there is also that group of dog owners and veterinarians who point out the dangers of rawhide chews. Puppies love them because they relieve teething pain and they reduce your dog’s tartar and plaque build-up and keep his jaws strong. When you look in your local grocery store, there is a big selection of all kinds of rawhide chews and they are usually affordable.

rawhide bone

Rawhide chews come with certain risks that cannot be ignored and there are even dog experts who would consider these chews as very unsafe and dangerous. First of all they can be a choking hazard for your dog. He can swallow a bigger piece of rawhide and it can get stuck in his esophagus. There could be digestive complications if your dog is sensitive to the rawhide and the substances it is treated with. Depending on where the rawhide is coming from, it could be processed with chemicals or contaminated with salmonella or E.coli bacteria.

Especially rawhide produced outside of the US in countries like Thailand and China may contain toxic substances like formaldehyde and arsenic. There even have been reports of rawhide mixed with skin from slaughtered dogs. are rawhide bones really safeEven if produced in the USA, there is still the risk that rawhide may contain toxic animal by-products and chemicals like mercury simply because there are no FDA regulations that limit the type of ingredients used.

Nevertheless, if you want to buy safe and premium natural rawhide for your dog, it is still the best option to look for real beef hide made in the USA.

Bully sticks

Bully sticks, also known as beef sticks, are made of beef pizzle and come in different sizes, for smaller and for larger dogs. Even though the package might say “dried muscle”, they are in reality bull penises from mostly North dog treat made from pizzleAmerican cattle. They are thought to be a fairly safe chewy treat for dogs, one reason being the fact that they are 100% natural. They are rich in protein (crude protein ca. 80%), contain crude fat, fiber and about 20% water and are easy to digest. They are also beneficial to your dog’s dental hygiene as they reduce plaque and build-up. Another reason why they are so popular among dog owners is that they are long lasting, a larger dog for example can chew on a bully stick for several days.

One draw back can be their odor. Some of them smell pretty bad, and if you have dogs that like to chew in the living room you know what I am talking about. It depends on how they are manufactured, and if they are cleaned and processed the right way they are not as smelly. For highest quality, choose natural bully sticks from grass fed cattle, this also reduces the odor. dog chewing on bone

Other natural dog chews

Another healthy alternative for rawhide are pig ears or cow ears. They are perfectly digestible, and if you are looking for pig ears, choose the ones that are oven baked. As a matter of fact, there are recipes for baking chewy pig ears at home.

Cow ears are most wholesome if they come from free-range cattle, not treated with antibiotics or preservatives. They are low in fat, high in protein and keep your dog’s teeth clean. This is definitely a natural and wholesome treat which is affordable, available by the piece or in bulk.

If you or your dog do not like pig or cow ears, there is still natural chews made from Pacific salmon. These are very nutritious chews, rich in omega 3 & 6 fats. They are especially great for dogs who are food sensitive, so make sure they are made with natural ingredients, no by-products, no sugar, no preservatives or added colors. To ensure the best quality, look for processed in a US facility.

MILK BONE, a popular dog biscuit

My husband likes to buy these dog cookies, he gives them to our dogs at bedtime, and they love these cookies! MILK BONE biscuits is a US based brand that has been around since 1908. They are very popular dog biscuits and besides being a tasty treat they are supposed to keep your dog’s teeth clean and refresh his breath. But are they really natural and wholesome dog treats?    dog-eating-treat

 

The company claims the biscuits are made with wholesome ingredients, and it is true that they seem to contain various minerals and vitamins. Also, their texture helps remove dental plaque and tartar. They also contain nutrients like protein (15% crude protein) and beef fat. The percentage of protein is lower than I have seen in other wholesome dog biscuits, and the package doesn’t say what kind of meat is used, but it lists turkey and poultry by-products. They are definitely not grain-free, wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat bran and malted barley flour are listed, which means plenty of carbohydrates for added calories. Another drawback to me are artificial ingredients like preservatives, added flavors and colors.

Dog cookies can be all natural

There is a large variety of all natural dog cookies on the market, but there is one type that recently caught my eye. They are made from invasive Asian carp, and I like this idea of being environmentally conscious. They are grain-free and soy-free and have no artificial ingredients. They contain lots of nutrients, over 20% protein, omega 3 & 6 fats, fiber, calcium zinc and more. And even though the list of ingredients sounds pretty basic, they must be tasty because our dogs eat them gladly.

black-dog,eating-bone

 

What about that good old bone

We know that dogs love to chew and gnaw on bones. So why not giving them a real bone every day and be done with it instead of buying all kinds of dog cookies and treats? Not all the bones are the same. Cooked bones, besides being less nutritious, are more brittle which makes them splinter easily. That’s why they are considered a choking hazard for pets, they can get stuck in the dog’s esophagus or digestive tract and cause inner injuries.

The best bones are raw bones, they are safer and contain various nutrients, especially in the bone marrow. Big bones from beef or bison are great for dental hygiene and help break down tartar. And the constant gnawing is definitely a great exercise for your dog’s jaws.

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