Wednesday, July 1, 2020

How Quality of Food Can Make a World of Difference

As many of you may know, I keep both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
A few months ago, I was offered a royal gramma for my saltwater aquarium. The owner was moving and did not want to take the fish with him when he did (it was the only creature in the tank). Since this saltwater fish is one of my absolute favorites, I agreed to take it.
Pale/faded Royal Gramma
The fish was quite pale/faded when I got it, as shown here. These pictures actually make the purple look better than it did in person. The purple was very grayed-out in person. The yellow was paler than normal as well but the purple was the most dramatic.

After doing some research on why that might be, I narrowed the possibilities down to two:
1. Lighting in previous tank was too bright. These fish are from relatively deep water so they're not used to extremely bright lights.
2. Food that the fish had been getting was not great quality. This matters for all fish but is especially important for saltwater fish, which normally eat foods that are rich in nutrients.

Pale/faded Royal Gramma
The lighting was a possibility but since the previous owner had used the same lights that I use (and I've never had a royal gramma become pale under mine), I thought it was less likely to be lighting. But again, lights were not ruled out since individual fish can react differently.

The food that the previous owner had been feeding TetraMin Tropical flakes, a common brand found in many stores, but a variety of that brand that is meant for freshwater fish, not saltwater. I don't use that brand for my saltwater fish. The food I feed most often is OmegaOne (I often use the SuperColor varieties, but I use others as well). I focused on nutrition as the most likely cause of the royal gramma being pale/faded and within just a few months, it has gained its color back and looks amazing! This just goes to show how important nutrition is for all creatures, even fish!
Royal Gramma after getting color back!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Allergies in Dogs (Atopic Dermatitis)

My dog, Owen, gets itchy around this time every year. It began to occur when he was about 2 years old and has gotten to be more severe each year. This year it has been severe enough to need to be medicated. Dogs with atopic dermatitis will, in addition to the itching, often have fur that is tinged brown from licking themselves. They also will sometimes develop discolored areas of skin in areas that are most affected. You can see the brownish fur in some areas on Owen's paws in the picture below, because he has been licking them a lot.
Aside from the necessary trip to the veterinarian (which you should do!) to diagnose and begin treatment, here are five things you can potentially do at home to help with allergies in your dog (with your veterinarians consent).
1. Bathe your dog.
Bathing your dog will help to remove pollen and other allergens from their skin and therefore help to reduce the reaction. This can be done at varying intervals depending on your individual dog and what your vet recommends. I bathe Owen every week. I use a shampoo that has natural ingredients and that has a conditioner built in. This helps to condition his skin to make a better barrier. Bathing will also help prevent infections from dirty skin. There are many good brands so find one that you like and that works for your dog!
2. Apply topical sprays/creams to help relieve the itch.
This one, especially, needs to be done on the advice of your veterinarian. I use a spray that contains both hydrocortisone and lidocaine. It will help with particularly itchy areas and help prevent sores from developing due to scratching.
3. Administer antihistamines (ONLY IF YOUR VETERINARIAN SAYS THIS IS OK).
My veterinarian recommended that I start administering an antihistamine to Owen. I am not going to mention which one here or a dose because that varies from dog to dog. Some dogs will not be helped by this treatment so working with your vet is crucial here.
4. Wipe your dog off with pet wipes or other wipes every time they go out and come back inside.
This is the same idea as the bathing, only is done more frequently.
5. Consider adding an omega-3 supplement to the food or feed a food that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids (a food designed for dermatological conditions, for example).

I hope that these tips help your itchy dog to recover faster! As always, contact your veterinarian with any concerns you have about your pup and stay happy and not itchy!

Chew Items for Dogs

As some of you may know, Owen is not really a big "chewer" but he does enjoy some items.
However, when he was a puppy, he did a lot of chewing. A family member recently got a new puppy and asked me about what types of chews I recommended because the pup was wanting to chew a lot.
Here's my list of chews and what I recommend vs. don't recommend.

1. My top choice for a chew for dogs is the Himalayan Dog Chew (yak cheese chew). These are tough, irresistible to most dogs, and edible (so they shouldn't cause issues with blockages as easily). The original one is here and is available in many sizes. There are other brands as well but this brand is fantastic!
2. Rawhide. Not all rawhide is created equal. If you're going to give your dog rawhide, don't give him the stuff from bulk bins at stores. Get one of the enzyme-treated rawhides such as the ones from Virbac.
3. Elk/deer antlers. I generally don't recommend these because they are more likely to fracture teeth. If your dog is not a big chewer, it might be safer but you don't really need them in that case.
4. Nylabones/nylon chews. I don't usually recommend these because of concerns about dogs who might chew off larger pieces and due to concerns about chemical contamination in plastics/nylon. If your dog likes them (Owen never has) and you are not concerned about those issues I listed above, they can be OK.
5. Pig ears/hoofs/roasted bones. I don't recommend these. The pig ears are often contaminated with salmonella or other bacteria. The hoofs can be contaminated and also are hard enough to fracture teeth. The roasted bones can potentially splinter or fracture teeth as well.

If you're going to let your dog chew on things, make sure you get the right type of chew to be safe, and always supervise them while chewing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Car harness restraints for dogs

This is a post that I've had in mind for a while now but didn't have time to write.
I travel with my dog in the car often, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.
Owen has always been a good traveler and has never gotten in my way or been a distraction when I drive. However, I still decided early this year that I would get him a car safety harness. The reasons for this are: to protect him if I'm ever in an accident with him, to protect me if I'm ever in an accident with him since he could become a projectile, and to keep him restrained in the car (even though he's never been a distraction before).
Car harnesses are not all created equal, though many have gotten better over the years since testing of them was first initiated.
Zip-line restraints and some booster seats are not crash-tested. Some harnesses that claim to be crash-tested don't say if they passed those tests or not. The market is not regulated so one must be careful when selecting a harness.
The harness that I selected for Owen is one that passes those tests and has been tested multiple times (the tests are based on child safety seat tests in the US). I feel safer and know that he is also safer when he wears his harness. I selected the PetSafe Happy Ride Safety Harness in size medium. This harness has passed safety tests since it was first launched and is now a safe harness for dogs.
While I have not had to use customer service at this time, the company will replace a harness from ANY company if you are in an accident with your pet with that harness, because they believe that harnesses should be replaced after an accident due to the forces on them.
One thing that you must also do is ALWAYS use the harness. If you get into the habit of not using it because you're "just going down the street" or something like that, using it won't become a habit and it won't help you because you'll use excuses to not have it on your dog.
So, to keep your dog safe, consider getting a car harness!
PetSafe Happy Ride Safety Harness ratings:

Monday, January 13, 2020

New Year, New Goals!

Happy New Year everyone.
I hope that 2020 is going well so far. This year, I think all of us as pet owners should strive to do better for our pets. Here are some suggestions for ways to be a better pet owner.

1. Feed a better food. Food quality makes a huge difference in the health of your pet(s). Because of this, we should all try to feed a better food this year. That can mean different things for everyone. Feed a better kibble if that’s all your pet eats. Introduce wet food into your pet’s diet. Introduce fresh, homemade (make sure it’s balanced) or raw food. Just make sure to keep portions correct.

2. Help your pet lose weight. To go along with the previously mentioned suggestion of better food, make sure you are not feeding too much. Extra pounds make your pet more likely to have health problems so help them to get that extra weight off. Exercise, feed less, use lower calorie treats, etc.

3. Exercise and play more. If you have a dog, make sure to walk them as often as you can. Play with your pet(s) to make sure they get mental stimulation as well as exercise. You are your pet’s caretaker and are responsible for making sure they get to experience fun.

4. Take your dog to the vet on a regular basis. This one is important. Dogs in all places are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases, parasites, and other illnesses. The best way to protect your pet and get things diagnosed and treated is to regularly visit a vet.

5. BE A BETTER DOG OWNER. This one is specifically for dog owners. Frequently dog owners get a “bad rap” because of a small number of owners who ARE irresponsible. Because of these “bad” owners, dogs are frequently banned from public places and are prohibited from activities. Be better and do better. If you’re out in public with your dog, CLEAN UP after him or her. No, it’s not the most pleasant thing but it is YOUR dog and therefore YOUR responsibility. Teach your dog to have good manners and to be friendly. If your dog is not good with people or other dogs, etc. don’t bring them out in public. Follow the law and don’t let your dog off leash in areas with leash laws. Don’t let them run up to people without making sure it’s OK with the person first. I’m tired of seeing people who don’t do these things because honestly, it ruins things for all other dog owners (the responsible ones). If we want people to accept dogs and dog owners in public places then we need to make sure to be responsible.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

"Quality control" plans are only good if followed through with

This is an article that I’ve wanted to write for a while, but now I have published facts to back up my post.

As many may know, the dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) issue in dogs (which may or may not be nutritional in nature since the cause has yet to be determined) has led certain people and groups to basically say that anyone who feeds their dog(s) anything but the “big five” foods, which for them are Hill's, Purina, Royal Canin, Iams, and Eukanuba, is doing harm to their dogs. These people and groups tout the research done by these companies and the “quality control”/in-house manufacturing as what sets them apart from other pet foods (which by the way is not something that actually sets them apart as many other pet food companies do research and manufacture their own food). I’ve heard these arguments many times and I don’t buy them at all. Here is an example of why. Hill's Pet Nutrition had a major recall early this year (2019) that started in late January with 25 different varieties of canned dog food due to excessive vitamin D levels. At the time Hill's said that they had identified all the lots affected by the issue and had removed them all from shelves. Then on March 20th (48 days after the initial recall!), Hill's expanded the recall to include 20 additional lots of food of 8 new varieties. Another lot of food was added to the recall on May 20th.

After the recall was initiated, the FDA went to the manufacturing facility and collected samples and evaluated the protective measures (quality control measures) that Hill's had in place to try to find out what went wrong. What they (FDA) found was quite interesting. Hill's, indeed, had safety plans to prevent this type of issue from occurring. However, they did not follow through with those plans. Specifically, they did NOT test ingredients prior to implementing them into foods as their plans required. They also were supposed to obtain a certificate of analysis from ingredient suppliers that showed the ingredients being delivered were within the specifications. Guess what? They didn’t do that either!

So while a company can say that they have amazing quality control and will tout this on tours—as I’ve heard people who have toured the facility aver that Hill's does—and say that they are better because they make their own food, that is not necessarily true. Hill's has been saying for a long time that they do testing of ingredients and that they have excellent quality control, and yet they had dog foods get onto retail shelves that had 33x the upper safe levels of vitamin D and are responsible for the deaths of numerous dogs.

So when I see these DCM groups promoting these brands (and spamming other pages and posts on social media and on retail sites) based on supposed “research” and “quality control”, I have to laugh because they are completely suckered in in the very same way they accuse others of being with other brands and don’t see it. No one knows the answer to the DCM issue yet and, even if it is a nutritional issue with some formulations, it does not affect all (or even a majority of all) foods that are not the "big five" so the recommendations being pushed are incorrectly narrow and not based on facts.

Specifics on dates, products, and violations retrieved from FDA Warning Letter to Hill's Pet Nutrition: