'Tis the season for gift-giving! Here are some safe presents to get your pets in the holiday spirit.
4. The gift of good health
Pumpkins, costumes, and scary skeletons - it's October! Here are some tips so that both you and your pets can enjoy the holiday in style.
Photo credit: Mike McCune www.flickr.com
Pumpkins are for more than pie
Did you know that pets can enjoy eating pumpkin right along with you? It is a healthy addition to food for many pets. Dogs, cats, parrots, many reptiles, rabbits, and small mammals can all benefit from pumpkin.
How much food should you give your pet? Here's a hint: it's a lot less than what's printed on the bag!
First thing to do: use your eyes and hands to find out your dog or cat's body condition score. Use the picture below to compare your pet's body shape.
Now, is your pet underweight, ideal, or overweight? We'll be happy to assess for you if you're unsure. While highly athletic pets can be healthy at underweight, very thin pets are ill and need to be checked out as soon as possible. All overweight and obese pets need to be helped to lose the excess weight - you will lengthen their life by as much as 2 years for a large dog and decrease painful arthritis.
Your next step is to grab a measuring cup. Find out how much food you are currently giving in a day, and then find the calories/cup on the label. Some foods contain around 300 cal/cup, but others can be as high as 600! Next add in all the treats and snacks your pet receives. It can take some work to find out how many calories are in each treat, but the manufacturer can tell you if you call them (and if they can't, you probably shouldn't be feeding it to your pet). For example, a small milkbone has 20 calories, and a large one has 125.
Your individual pet may need more or less depending on activity level, but here's a rough guideline to calorie needs:
Approximate Daily Caloric Needs for Indoor Pets
Treats should total no more than 10% of your pet's daily calories. The secret to success is portion control - choose the tiny size milkbones (7 calories), or break larger treats into tiny portions. Green beans and baby carrots (3 calories) make great treat alternatives.
If your pet is overweight, a good starting point is to decrease the amount of food and treats by 25%, and then reassess in 2 weeks. For example, if you currently feed 1 cup of food per day, you would go to 3/4 cup per day. You can add green beans and carrots as healthy fiber if your dog seems hungry.
For weight loss, your pet will need to consume fewer calories than he or she is using. Increased exercise in combination with decreased food and treats will be the most effective. The best tool for cats are food-dispensing toys. Portion the day's kibble into several toys and let your cat chase them around the house. Meals will take longer so your cat will be more satisfied, and he will be exercising while he eats. No more food bowl required!
If you have more questions about what and how much to feed, give us a call. We can talk about your specific pet's needs and come up with a plan together.
We adore our pets, and want to keep them healthy and happy - and spoil them rotten sometimes. So we need to make sure that the food we give every day is nutritious and safe. The pet food market has exploded in recent years, and there are excellent foods available. But how to separate the truly great from the great marketing?
First, look for the teeny tiny letters "AAFCO" somewhere on the bag. Every bag of food must have an AAFCO statement by law.
Here are the 3 questions you MUST ask your pet food manufacturer. You won't find the answers on that beautiful glossy bag - look for the company's contact information and call their 1-800 number. The best answers according to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association nutrition committee are given.
1. Who formulates the food, and what are their credentials?
If you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, continue feeding with confidence. If you have any doubts after your call, switch brands. For example, the Hills (Science Diet) customer service representative was extraordinarily helpful and open about all the credentials of their employees and the extensive research and testing that goes into their foods. I had two horrible phone calls with a different brand whose reps refused to answer the questions and told me that "normal" pet parents don't ask these questions. So I encourage each and every one of you to hold your pet's food company accountable. Your pet deserves it.
We love our birds, and want to give our pets the best food to keep them as healthy as possible. Here’s the bad news: there is no single diet on the market that you can scoop from a bag and be done. But don’t be discouraged. The good news is that there are great diets available for our birds, and it’s easy to supplement them with a variety of healthy foods that you have right in your own kitchen.
Why don’t we have a single perfect diet? That’s a great question - and the answer comes from our birds themselves. Our pet parrot species originate all over the world, and each adapted to their native habitats. So a wild cockatoo from Australia is eating a completely different variety of plants than an amazon from Brazil. Then, each individual bird’s nutritional needs change over time: a mature adult needs far fewer calories per day than a growing chick, and an egg-laying hen needs far more calcium than when she’s not reproducing. Lastly, think of how smart and social your bird is - they often form strong food preferences in the first months of their lives, and self preservation instincts can prevent them from trying new foods (think about those poisonous berries out in the wild - the birds that survive are the cautious ones who only eat what their flock-mates are eating).
Can’t birds just eat seeds? Nope. Seeds are high in fat and deficient in many vitamins. They’re pretty much the bird equivalent of eating at McDonald’s every day: delicious, but so not healthy.
So, what’s the recipe for success?
Parrots don’t need grit or cuttlebones. While many cockatiels will happily ingest small quantities and be perfectly fine, some individuals will swallow large pieces of cuttlebone or too much grit and obstruct their intestinal tract. Parrots hull their seeds before swallowing, so they don’t need grit to break down seeds like pigeons and doves do. That’s also the reason that fortified seed mixes aren’t as healthy as the marketing would have you believe - the added vitamins get left in the seed cup along with the hull.
Help - my bird only eats seeds! What do I do?
This plan applies to any new food - fresh or pellets - whether we’re starting with an all seed diet or just trying to add some variety to a more healthy diet.
Be patient and DON'T GIVE UP!
Parrots are naturally suspicious creatures, and it usually takes over 20 times of seeing a particular food before they will accept it.
Tips and tricks for seed addicts:
With lots of patience and persistence, your bird can learn to enjoy a variety of foods. Not only is a balanced diet the foundation for a healthy pet, but you'll get to have fun at mealtime with your feathered friend, too.
Photo credit Geek2Nurse, www.flickr.com