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The following information is primarily for dog owners (as cats and other animals have different dietary needs), but knowing what is in the food versus what is not in it, is important across the board.

In recent years it has become easier and more likely for the average consumer to examine the ingredients list on your dog’s food bag to see what they are eating; but have you ever looked at what your pet is eating?  If we look at the front of a dog food bag, which is probably how most of us pick our foods you are likely to see bright colorful packaging with pictures of fresh meat, grains, produce, and happy, healthy dogs.  There may also be bold claims of ‘prime cuts’ or ‘meatier’; but how honest is the packaging and these claims?  Would you be surprised to learn that a package could show a beef stew but be made almost entirely of wheat or corn? dog eating

A very popular brand in a bright yellow bag states ‘Chicken Flavor’ and ‘Meatier Recipe’; but upon examination of the ingredient list, we find the first mention of chicken (listed as ‘chicken by-products’) to be the seventh item on the list. The primary ingredients of that particular food is corn, with ‘Meat and Bone Meal’ listed as well, but the kind of meat is not known.  Would you ever grab a package at the supermarket labeled ‘Meat’ for dinner? Hopefully not; so why feed that to your dog?  According to multiple sources, this can be slaughtered or euthanized animals not fit for human consumption, road kill, and expired meats along with the Styrofoam packaging.

Flavor (as the above food used) is a term that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) allows to be included on labeling,  but producers are only required to provide enough product to be detected in laboratory testing.  Formula requires at least 25% which can also be split with other ingredients (such as chicken and rice). With must contain at least 3% of the named ingredient.

Terms that have no AAFCO definition include Weight Management or Weight Control, Super-premium, gourmet, or holistic and are just buzzwords to get your attention on packaging.  If you are looking for organic foods, look for the USDA seal.

Dogs do not require a carbohydrate (starch) component in their food, but dry kibble does need a starch component to be made (it is part of a process where the starch melts and helps bind the kibble together called gelatinization).  The type of starch can vary and there are some types better than others such as sweet potatoes and whole grain rice as opposed to corn or brewer’s rice (which are fragments of milled rice containing fewer nutrients)dog food.

So what should you be looking for in a good quality dog food?  Overall, a basic rule of thumb is that the more named meat items in the first 5 ingredients, the better the food.  Foods listed without Meal listed behind them will always fall a little further down the list by weight after cooking (Turkey, Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Salmon, etc).  ‘Meals’ are animal products that have already been cooked down and may or may not include some bone (which increases the calcium content).

A slightly more accurate rule of thumb would suggest that you should consider all the ingredients before the first mention of FAT, as that is the last significant ‘weight’ added to the kibble, everything after is generally flavor, preservatives and added nutrients.

Try to avoid food coloring, artificial preservatives (like BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin), sugars, and sweeteners.  Additionally, consider your pet’s treats as well, many popular types contain many of the things that should be avoided.  Finally, do a little research on your own, sign up for email updates of recalled foods, consider what your pet is eating, and he will love you for it.

A few websites that may be of help:

*If you have been instructed by a veterinarian to use a specific food please seek their advice before switching food.

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Summer is here, and it can be extremely dangerous for pets. Spreading the word on the importance of keeping your animals safe from those harmful UV rays and heat can save lives! Just like humans, dogs and cat’s skin can be extremely sensitive to the sun. Those with a lighter, shorter coat (Labs, Pit bulls, Boxers, etc.), or even hairless coats are more susceptible to becoming sunburned, and may cause extreme discomfort to your pet.

During the hottest parts of the day, and when the sun is at its peak (typically between 11am and 4pm), is when the UV rays are the strongest. Any animal, whether it’s a farm animal or pet should always have shelter outside so they can remove themselves from the sun. Try to limit their outdoor time as this may also prevent heat stroke or heat summerexhaustion. If you leave your dog outside while you are away because they are destructive inside your house, try entertaining them inside with fun activities such as, bones, busy toys (slow treat feeders), safe chew toys and peanut butter Kongs, so they don’t even think of destroying anything.

If you are unable to keep your pet inside, consider putting pet friendly sunscreen on your pet. It is important to apply the sunscreen to the tips of their ears, the top of the nose and other areas that may be vulnerable to the sun (places with little, to no hair). Some areas that can easily get sunburned are the ears, nose, and their stomach. These areas often have little to no hair on them and are very susceptible to sun damage. Remember, try avoiding getting any sunscreen into their eyes – it burns! Some human sunscreens contain ingredients that may be toxic if you pet ingests the sunscreen. Please consult your veterinarian for recommendations on different types of sunscreen to apply to your pet’s skin and other ways to keep your pet safe from that sun. Don’t forget to have water available to your pets at all times!


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Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), also known as “bloat,” stomach torsion or “twisted stomach.” Bloat is an extremely serious condition that it most common in large, barrel-chested dogs (Great Danes, Doberman, Boxers, Mastiffs, etc.) and should be considered a life-threatening emergency when it occurs. The gastric dilatation is one part of the condition and torsion is the second part. Bloat is due to a number of different and sometimes unknown reasons. The stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. There are no home remedies for bloat, therefore, a trip to your local emergency vet is a must. GDV is life-threatening if it is not treated immediately.  Even with a treatment, it has been known that 25-33% of dogs with GDV don’t survive. Understanding the signs, prevention and need for immediate treatment will help reduce the risk of mortality if your dog develops this problem.


This picture shows a dog “bloating.” You can see him uncomfortably hunched over and his abdomen is enlarged.

There isn’t one specific activity that leads to the development of GDV, but there can be several reasons as to why bloat occurs. Bloat is caused by swallowing air, but unlike humans, dogs cannot release this air by eructating (burping). It is unknown why d  ogs cannot release this unwanted gas. Some of the obvious symptoms of bloat can be:

  1. Attempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-30 minutes – This seems to be one of the most common symptoms. This may even sound like a repeated cough.
  2. “Hunched up” appearance – This seems to occur pretty frequently.
  3. Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum)
  4. Heavy breathing or salivating
  5. Excessive drinking

Some recommendations from a licensed veterinarian include feeding your dog with a slow feeder bowl (to make sure it takes longer for them to ingest the food). It’s also recommended to hold off on any physical activity for at least 2 hours after a meal. Sometimes even cutting their meals into four smaller portions will help prevent bloating. In the hotter seasons, make sure your dog drinks water in small portions and drinks fairly slow. Drinking too much water too quickly can cause them to swallow a lot of air.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is unfortunately very common in dogs and since it can be fatal, it is important to follow these instructions to help prevent bloating. If you see your dog have these symptoms, transport your dog to the vet immediately. For more information on GDV, consult with your veterinarian.