In this edition you will find: 
Choosing a Pet Food
Avoid Winter Weight Gain
Fall Safety Hazards

Choosing a Pet Food

This year in the United States we are expected to spend over $23 billion (yes billion) on pet food. There are a tremendous number of companies producing pet foods, each with multiple formulas.

So how does one go about choosing a pet food? This is a daunting task.

We are constantly bombarded with marketing terms like “human grade” and “natural” that have no definitions in the industry nor in the regulations. They tell us nothing about the nutritional content of the product.

Even looking at the ingredient list can be very misleading. Ingredients are listed in order according to weight. So ingredients with a lot of water in them are often near the top of the list and we cannot tell if there is only 1 gram more of this high water containing ingredient than the next dry ingredient. How is that for misleading?

Has the food been developed by a veterinary nutritionist? (This means by a veterinarian with an advanced degree in veterinary nutrition who has been board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition or the European College of Veterinary Comparative Nutrition. These are the only recognized nutritionists in the world.) If not, it likely has nutritional deficiencies or excesses that can be harmful to your beloved pet.

Please look at the links below. They provide reliable information to help you pick a pet food. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association is a not for profit organization.

Nutrition on the Internet - Dogs

Nutrition on the Internet - Cats

Tufts FAQ about general pet nutrition

Recommendations on Selecting Pet Foods

Avoiding Winter Weight Gain

Did you know that a dog can eat about 16% of its body weight in a sitting? They are gluttonous and opportunistic.

Before dogs were domesticated a mere 10,000 to 20,000 years ago they had to find food for themselves and compete for it with their pack. Meals were often few and far between. They had to eat a large amount quickly when the food was available if they wanted to survive. They did not have food provided to them every few hours.

Translated to today: Dogs will overeat when given the opportunity.

Cats are not small dogs. Cats are designed very differently. In the wild our “domestic” cats eat multiple small meals throughout the day but are most active in the hours around dusk and dawn. But our house cats do not hunt for their food. Therefore, they are often quite sedentary. They get bored and like to eat. Afterall, a lean time might be coming.

When any animal eats more than required for immediate use, the extra calories get stored as fat. This is a wonderful survival mechanism when food is not consistently available. So when food is always available and we feed too much, our pets become overweight.

We humans do not help this situation much. When a dog or cat is spayed or neutered their caloric needs drop by 25% immediately. The body expends a lot of energy maintaining the ability to reproduce. If feeding habits do not change, the extra calories are stored for the lean time that is coming. But is a lean time coming?

What about winter weight gain? This too is something to avoid. In the fall/winter there are hormonal changes that cause appetite to increase so fat is stored for the long lean time to come. During the winter months we are all less active so we are not burning as many calories. We live in heated houses so we do not need to burn as many calories to maintain body temperature. Does the food intake need to change? With food present all the time and being less active, what needs to happen to the amount of food ingested?

To avoid unwanted and unhealthy weight gain in the fall and winter, we need to feed only enough to maintain body weight. This means that many pets actually need fewer calories. To judge how you are doing with your pet, you can do a body condition score at home like we do at every appointment. Then you can adjust the amount you are feeding as needed.

The links below will take you to the body condition scoring charts that we use here at Bobtown Pet Clinic. The YouTube videos shows you how to check the body condition at home.

Dog Body Condition Score Chart

Cat Body Condition Score Chart

YouTube - Dog BCS Scoring

YouTube - Cat BCS Scoring

Fall Safety Hazards

Fall is upon us. The leaves are falling and the snow will be soon. Most of us are busy getting our homes, cars, campers, cabins, boats and the like ready for the long cold winter.

While doing this many people put out poisons for pests like mice, moles and voles. All of these are also toxic to our domestic animal friends and other wild animal neighbors. One of the most common poisons used is bromethalin. It causes brain swelling that leads to death. There is no antidote. Be very careful with these types of toxins.

Engine radiators are also important to maintain. Whether in the car, truck or motor home, the ethylene glycol used as a coolant is extremely toxic. If you are changing out the antifreeze, be extremely careful to keep it away from your pets. It tastes sweet so dogs in particular are drawn to it. Treatment can be very expensive with no guarantees.

Please be careful with anything you are using in and around the house and shop.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a poison. Please call us immediately or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.