Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ATTN: Angie's List Members

Happy with our service? Want to share your experience? We are now listed as a service company (in Bellaire) on AngiesList.com! If you are a member of Angie's List, you can now make a service company report/review on us. We would love to hear from you!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Water - The Basic Nutrient

While most people don't consider water a nutrient, it is without a doubt the most important one. Our pet's body, just like our own, is made up of mostly water. Water accounts for 60 to 70 percent of an adult pet's body weight. An animal can survive after losing most of it's fat or protein, but a 10% decrease in body water can cause serious illness, a 15% loss results in death!

Body water serves several useful functions. First, water is used for body heat regulation. Second, water is used for transportation of body nutrients from the food into the cells for energy production, cellular metabolism, and making hormones. Third, water allows the body to transport waste material from the cells to the outside of the body (in the form of urine and feces). Finally, water assists in lubricating the various body surfaces such as joints, intestines and organs of the chest and abdomen.

Most people forget how important water is to a pet's diet. Too much or too little water can be fatal. While your pet's food can supply a little or a lot of your pet's daily water needs, (dry food contains up to 10% moisture and canned foods have up to 78% moisture) water is the one thing to which your pet should have unlimited access. Animals know when they're thirsty and they should have free access to clean containers of pure, healthy water.

Because tap water contains chlorine and fluoride (among other things), it's best to provide your pet with filtered water, just as it is for us. Many holistic pet owners prefer structured water -- the best water there is, for themselves and their pets. All animals love structured water and benefit from it (as do we!).

Never give animals distilled water. Distilled water is void of any minerals (which is why it is used in appliances such as steam irons, decorative water fountains and aromatherapy diffusers) and has a detoxing effect on the body. Distilled water will actually pull minerals from the body resulting in mineral deficiencies over time. Even humans are advised to only drink distilled water for short periods of time when attempting to detox the body.

Water should be increased in times of illness, when a fever is present, when the environmental temperature increases, if your pet pants excessively, or when your pet is taking certain medications (such as steroids or diuretics) that result in an increased urinary output.

We have both cats and dogs who have free access to the backyard, so I keep a couple big bowls of water on the back patio, two bowls in the kitchen and a couple more smaller bowls in locations that only the cats can get to. I also have a water fountain like the one pictured above that the cats like drinking out of. (Cats -- or dogs for that matter -- that like to drink running water out of the faucets, really like the water fountains! It aerates the water and keeps the water fresher than water that just sits in the bowl.) I use bottled or filtered water in the fountain.

(Update 2017): Upon learning that electricity makes water hard, I no longer use pet water fountains for this reason. Instead, I give our pets structured water -- water that is naturally soft and instantly available at the intracellular level. Since 2013, I have also been providing our animal clients with structured water while under our care -- an extra health benefit just by using our service -- not offered anywhere else! This is a unique benefit offered only by Cozy Critters Pet Sitters of Bellaire. (Learn more about this amazing water by clicking on the structured water tab on our website!) 

Cats can be picky about their water. Some like to drink out of certain things such as a coffee cup or a tall glass or the faucet. We had a cat that was very particular about her water, especially in her later years. She would meow (very loudly and non-stop) if the water was not fresh and filled to the very top of the bowl! You may want to offer your cats various types of water containers in multiple places around the house as cats are not naturally big drinkers and encouragement to drink more water is always helpful.

The best kind of bowls to use are stainless steel, glass or ceramic. (Ceramic and glass bowls can crack, so keep an eye out for that.) Plastic bowls can contain a number of carcinogenic substances and they can be chewed and scratched (which can harbor bacteria). Some pets are allergic to plastic, causing acne around the face and chin. (We had a cat that was allergic to plastic bowls.) Be sure to clean out the water bowls daily. If you do use water fountains be sure to buy extra filters and change them out regularly.

Sometimes it's the simple, basic things in life that make a big difference.

Resources

Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats, S. Messonnier, DVM, 2001
The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care, C.J. Puotinen, 1998
Water Codes - The Science of Health, Consciousness and Enlightenment, Dr. Carly Nuday, PhD., 2014
Dancing with Water, The New Science of Water, MJ Pangman, MS and Melanie Evans, 2011
The Water Puzzle and the Hexagonal Key, Dr. Mu Shik Jhon, 2004
The Hidden Messages in Water, Masaru Emoto, 2001
Your Body's Many Cries for Water, F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., 1992
Structured Water teleclasses by Clayton Nolte, Natural Action Technologies, 2013 - 2017

(Note: This article was updated on 2/20/17.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pet Food - Variety Is the Spice of Life

In the veterinary literature, there are many documented cases of animals with nutritional deficiencies (or excesses), and in virtually every one, the problem arose (or was discovered) because the animal was kept on one food for a long period of time.

We think of the production of pet food as a fairly scientific affair, but the truth is, all pet food manufacturers make mistakes in formulation or production that result in nutrient excesses or deficiencies. No matter how good, bad or indifferent the manufacturer's reputation may be----at one time or another they fail one or more tests for protein, calcium, magnesium, or other nutrients.

Here are some things to consider:
  • The standards by which pet food is made aren't perfect. Animal nutrition is an evolving science and we don't yet know all there is to know.
  • The exact amounts of nutrients in a given ingredient may not be known, or may be inaccurately assessed. A vitamin/mineral premix added to the food may guarantee minimum levels of each item, but if the quality control on that premix was poor the finished pet food will compound the error.
  • Also, because of the nutritional standards themselves, which specify minimums for most nutrients but not maximums, pet food makers may not test for the probability that their finished product is too high in some nutrient. Excesses of certain minerals, like zinc for example, can wreak havoc on dogs' health. Even a big difference between the stated and actual amount of something like protein or fat can cause problems for some dogs. Cats have been the victims of nutrient deficiencies more frequently. Cats on some foods for long periods of time have turned up with taurine, copper, vitamin E, and potassium deficiencies.
  • Some manufacturers develop a formula and/or recipe for making their food, and they will stick with that recipe no matter what. If that recipe results in a food that is typically at the very low or high end of acceptability for some nutrients, you can imagine that after years of eating the same food, your dog's body will eventually exhibit the effects of that chronic over- or undersupply of those nutrients.
A different pitfall of feeding a single food for years and years is the potential for your pet to develop an intolerance or allergy to one or more ingredients. Food intolerances and allergies can often cause similar symptoms, but there are significant differences between them.

A dietary intolerance is a reaction to something in the food, but this reaction does not involve an immune response. Signs of gastrointestinal disturbances (especially vomiting and diarrhea) are far more likely to be caused by food intolerance than by a food allergy. A food tolerance can develop at any time in the pet's life.

True food allergies----immediate immune responses triggered by exposure to a certain food----are thought to be fairly rare. Food allergy usually causes skin reactions, such as papules, rashes, and ear infections. (What actually happens is the inflammation sets up the scene, and then bacteria and yeast that are normally present cause secondary infections.) Keep in mind, however, most skin reactions are due to inhalant allergies; only a small portion turn out to be caused by food. It usually takes months to years of exposure to a food to develop a food allergy, and food allergies are usually caused by proteins. (Proteins are found in animal products and also to some degree in cereal grains.)

Another good reason to periodically change foods is to prevent finicky eating. Many pet food makers use palatability enhancers, and pets fed a single food can sometimes become "addicted" to one particular flavor.

For all these reasons it's a good idea to change foods occasionally----as often as every three to four months. There is some evidence in people that avoiding a particular "problem food" for four months may resolve the issue and the body will again tolerate it. Also, that's a short enough period that allergies are unlikely to develop.

Although feeding a mixture of commercial foods is not recommended, it's good to vary the pet's diet by switching brands and varieties including the source of protein (i.e. from chicken to lamb or turkey, etc.).

When you get ready to change from one food to another, be sure to plan ahead. A sudden switch could cause tummy upset. For most dogs and cats, a four-day or eight-day changeover works best. Younger pets usually adjust quickly; older pets may take longer. For the first day (or two), feed 75 percent of his/her old food mixed with 25 percent of the new food. After a couple of days, feed 50/50, then 25 percent of the old food and 75 percent new food, and then finally all new food.

For the first two weeks on a new food, monitor your pet's appetite, stool quality, and energy level. Watch for any unusual symptoms----itchiness, runny eyes, diarrhea----that could indicate the food is not right for him. Eventually, you'll be able to settle on three or four different foods which you can rotate.

Variety is the spice of life...so change your pet's food occasionally. Feeding the same kind, year after year, can cause health problems. Not to mention it gets boring to your pet. Would you like to eat the same thing for every meal, day after day, month after month, year after year? If it was up to them, they wouldn't!

Resource: Handbook of Dog & Puppy Care and Training by The Whole Dog Journal, 2008

Update: (Here's a perfect example!) On May 21, 2009, Nutro Products recalled some of it's dry cat foods due to excessive levels of zinc and under-supplemented potassium. This was caused by a production errror. Read more about it at The U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Proper Storage of Dry Foods


Proper storage of dry pet foods is important. No matter what type of preservative is used in your pet's food, it can quickly turn rancid if exposed to oxygen and hot temperatures. Pet food is supposed to be stored "in a cool, dry place." (That's not the garage.) Pet food bags were designed to prevent anything from either entering into or exiting from the food.

Many people keep their pet food in plastic containers. Keeping the food in the wrong type of plastic (non-food-grade) can actually speed the decay of the food. Some plastics can actually absorb much of the vitamin C out of the food; it leaches out & gets sucked into the plastic material. This effects shelf life as it causes the fat to oxidize and accelerates spoilage. If you keep your pet food in a food-grade plastic container, be sure to wash it out and dry it thoroughly before putting new food in. If you dump new, fresh food on top of remnants of old, rancid food, those remnants of oxidizing old food can spread the oxidation of the new food.

Using metal containers (such as trash cans) to store pet food doesn't necessarily cause spoilage, but they can effect the taste of the food.

The best way to store your dry pet food is to keep it in it's original bag, in a cool, dry place. If insects are a concern, keep the bag of food inside an airtight plastic or metal container.

Another good reason to keep the pet food in it's original bag is so you have the expiration date and the product code in case you ever need it. If your pet ever becomes sick and you suspect the food, you will need the codes when reporting it to the manufacturer. Considering the recent pet food recalls, I'd say that's a very good idea!
Resource: Handbook of Dog & Puppy Care & Training by The Whole Dog Journal, 2008