By Kim Campbell Thornton - msnbc.com contributor
BARF. It’s what’s for dinner. Your dog’s dinner, that is.
The acronym stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, which is not so much a diet as it is a movement among pet owners who believe their pets will benefit from eating the same kinds of food their furry ancestors gobbled: bones, raw meats and veggies. Just as a raw food trend has turned more mainstream among people, a small but vocal community of pet owners is using the same quality ingredients they buy for themselves to create homemade raw meals for their critters.
But most veterinarians are wary about the trend toward raw food, or even meals that are cooked, but homemade. The idea of feeding pets raw meat, which has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella or E. coli bacteria, or a home-cooked meal that may not be properly balanced, gives them the shudders. “So many of these people are just trying to make their pets happy and have no concept of nutrition,” says Dr. Patty Khuly, who practices in Miami.
Although no studies have been conducted to assess the benefits of a raw food diet for cats and dogs, believers in the raw pet food movement say the evidence speaks for itself: Their pets have shinier coats, stronger teeth, fewer ear infections and improved weight control.
Bob Kurtz, who was already feeding his retrievers a high-quality dry food, recently turned to a commercial raw diet to solve a young Labrador’s skin allergies.
“Since switching to raw, we have found several major benefits,” he says. “Our dogs’ weights have stabilized perfectly. They now rarely change weight by more than a pound between checkups. They are lean and muscular, with coats that are even more beautiful and glossy than before. The ground bone in the diet does a great job of scouring their teeth, and all signs of plaque and tartar buildup have disappeared.”
Pat Puckett, a founder of SoCal BARF, a buying association based in Orange County, Calif., began feeding a raw diet to her American pit bull terriers in 1998.
“My breed has a tendency toward skin problems, and I had spent quite a bit of time at the vet for various problems,” she says. “One of my friends who also has the breed had talked about switching over to raw for her dogs. I moved in that direction and never went back.”
Kurtz says the diet gets a mixed reaction from the veterinarians who see his dogs.
“Our practice has two vets. The senior vet is very wary about bacterial growth, E. coli, salmonella, etc. She has recommended to us many times that we cook the food instead," Kurtz says. "The younger vet is very excited about the growth of raw and homemade diets, is not particularly concerned about bacteria in the dog's shorter digestive system, and is very pleased with our results. As she says about our Labrador, ‘Ooh, look at her coat — she's sleek, like a seal!’”
A raw diet isn't as easy as dropping a chicken bone into Baxter's bowl. It’s essential to use a trustworthy recipe that provides all the nutrients a dog or cat needs or to feed a great enough variety of fresh foods that the diet is balanced over time, in the same way that a person who eats a variety of foods achieves a balanced diet. People who are concerned about providing a correct balance of nutrients or who don’t have time to prepare a pets’ meals can purchase commercial frozen raw diets at pet supply stores.
Dr. Deborah S. Greco, an internal medicine specialist, advises dog breeders who fed a raw diet to rotate protein sources rather than relying exclusively on a single protein, such as chicken.
“What I usually recommend for people who are feeding homemade diets is to call a nutritionist and say ‘This is what I’m feeding; is it balanced?’”
Dr. Khuly, the Miami veterinarian, proffers the same advice to her clients. She will consult a nutritionist for them, for a fee, or refer them to a veterinary nutritionist for a personal consultation. She says there is another reason veterinarians are conservative when it comes to recommending raw or homemade diets.
“Veterinarians want to be legally safe, and there are things that can go wrong with feeding anything,” she says. “If there’s a commercial entity to back you up, it makes it so much easier. If there’s just your diet, your recipes and your recommendation, you’re the one out on the line."
When done right, the greatest benefit of a homemade diet is the ability to select the ingredients. Puckett and the approximately 400 members of SoCal BARF want to know how the food animal was fed. They prefer to avoid soy-fed poultry and rabbits, for instance, because soy is a common pet allergen. That’s difficult, though. Soy is in almost every poultry and rabbit feed, she says.
“The dogs are healthier than any I’ve ever had who were primarily kibble-fed,” says Shirley Thistlethwaite, who lives in a rural area near Columbia, S.C., and feeds her six dogs cooked homemade meals using a rough ratio of one-third meat, one-third grains and one-third vegetables, fruits or herbs.
Thistlethwaite buys the highest-quality foods she can work into her budget each week.
“I try to get wild-caught fish, free-range meats, and organic and local foods if I can,” she says. Often, she and her dogs eat similar meals.
But not everyone has such a positive experience. After a massive pet food recall in 2007, Margaret Alexander of Newton, Mass., began cooking for her three Cavalier King Charles spaniels. She read a lot and consulted her own veterinarian as well as veterinarians at Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston. A year later, however, all three of her dogs developed various problems that may or may not have been related to their diet.
“The oldest one developed very serious liver and gall bladder problems and was hospitalized for several days,” she says. “The youngest dog developed slow digestive processes and lots of vomiting in the summer. The third one, in the fall, developed some type of problem which was initially thought to be a blockage. He has had what are euphemistically called 'dietary indiscretions' since we got him.”
Alexander suspects that the food she was preparing was too high in fat. Now her oldest dog is eating a diet prescribed by the veterinarian and the other two are back on a high-quality dry food. She’s happy with the foods they’re eating now, citing cost and convenience.
“The dry food is measurably cheaper than home cooking," Alexander says. "Expecting a pet sitter to prepare the dogs’ food is a little more than we think we can ask, and it is hard to prepare enough in advance.”
Khuly has a handful of clients who feed their pets a raw diet, and she herself has moved from ambivalence to cautious acceptance. Her two French bulldogs now enjoy regular raw meaty bones. Clients who want to start feeding their pets a raw or homemade diet are referred to a veterinary nutritionist for expert advice on what and how to feed.
“I believe in raw feeding, I believe it can be done well, I believe it can be helpful, but I have a lot of conditions because I’m still new to it,” she says. “I tell people to have a good relationship with a high-quality butcher and make sure they understand that the meat needs to be human-grade, every bit as high-quality as they would expect you to want to eat. You have to work hard at it.”
By Stacy Baker - bankingmyway.com
Everyone wants to attach a value to things these days, even to man’s best friend.
Although the cost of pet ownership can be high (even without pet insurance) MainStreet thinks it’s pretty darn hard to put a price on unconditional love. If unwavering affection and attention aren’t enough of a draw, check out these three ways pets can actually help you save a dime.
1. She’s your 24/7 on-call therapist. Pet owners have less stress and marital tension, lower rates of depression and quicker recovery times from stressful events, according to a growing body of research from the Center to Study Human Animal Relationships and Environments and the National Institutes of Health.
In urban areas, the going rate for shrinks can be $200 an hour. (And no, we're not saying you should shun therapy.)
Practically speaking, we love the little ones because they put up with our sour moods and stress long after friends and family write us off. You can complain endlessly about [insert current obsession that everyone in your social circle is tired of hearing about] and they’ll look at you like they care, without charging you for their time. Finally, even the pet-averse have to admit it’s virtually impossible to feel alone in this world when you’ve got a furry creature under your toes at all times.
2. He knows how to work the room (and the park and the Web). Happy hours, movie nights and dinners out can break the bank, but Fido is an on-command fun maker and social butterfly for free. He loves to window shop (free), is a hit at dog runs (free), finds low-budget ways to use every square inch of the park (Frisbee, jogging, or chewing on a stick, all free) and has basically never met a stranger he doesn't like. Even the most socially awkward of us can chat up someone new with Fido as the wingman. In fact, studies suggest that pet ownership can increase confidence, improve self-esteem and heighten social skills (which can lead to a bigger Rolodex, which can lead to a better job and salary).
For those who can’t be bothered with face-to-face human interaction, social networking for pets is happening, too. Web veterans Dogster.com, Catster.com and Petster.com are joined by newer networks like CuteAsHell.com, PetNetwork.ws and a host of others that allow users to connect with fellow pet lovers, share photos, ask questions and offer (free) advice.
3. Hello, built-in gym membership! Depending on where you live, gym costs can range anywhere from $50 to $200, and higher, a month. But effective calorie burning doesn’t have to happen behind closed doors. NIH studies show dog owners may get more exercise than non-pet owners. Plus, fitness research has shown that a few 10-minute bouts of cardio activity throughout the day are as beneficial as a single sweat session lasting the same amount of time. So even quick walks with the pooch add up to trimming your waistline. Finally, even if you and Rex are more meanderers than marathoners, every step you take on a stroll will contribute to the 10,000 steps a day that many studies suggest you shoot for.
During a recession, it’s good to know that even Baxter can lend a paw in your cost-cutting strategies.
Dogs will eat just about anything. Even the most scrupulous pet-proofing doesn't guarantee that your dog won't scarf down something like a chicken bone or piece of string that could endanger his health, or even his life.
Pet health insurance claims for "foreign-body ingestion," are ranked among the top-10 claims by PetPartners Inc., provider of the American Kennel Club Pet Healthcare Plan.
According to case files, some of the strange household items dogs swallow, and the average cost of removing them, include corncob, $1,915; chicken bone, $2,700; string, $5,000; sock, $2,205, threaded needle, $2,329; doll head, $1,014, and rubber ball, $1,418.
To keep your dog out of the emergency room, animal behaviorist Mary Burch offers these tips:
Dog-proof your house
If the items aren't accessible, your dog won't eat them. Make sure you secure the garbage and put clothes, shoes and children's toys away.
Provide chew toys
Make sure electrical cords and other household items don't attract your pet's attention by giving your dog chew toys large enough so they can't swallow them.
It's best to supervise your dog during playtime with toys.
Within a month of enrolling in the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan, the owner of a French Bulldog was recently reimbursed with more than $660 for the removal a piece of toy from her dog's stomach, a bill that could have been much higher if not for the owner's quick action.
She was supervising her dog with the new toy when she noticed a piece of it was missing. She immediately took her dog to the veterinarian, where an X-ray showed a piece of toy in the dog's stomach.
A specialist was called in to remove it by endoscopy. Had the owner not been around to act so quickly, the piece may have moved into the colon, with potentially serious consequences requiring much more expensive and complex surgery.
Schedule regular exercise
Well-exercised dogs get into less trouble. Obedience, rally or agility classes offer a fun way to work out together and socialize your dog while meeting other dog lovers.
Train your dog
Training will give your dog something to wrap his mind around and keep him out of trouble.
More tips are available at the American Kennel Club Web site at www.akc.org.
American Kennel Club
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori - Universal Press Syndicate
In recent years, the popularity of "house rabbits" – litter box-trained bunnies with as many house privileges as some cats – has made these quiet, surprisingly playful pets more popular among adults. Now's a great time to adopt one, since it's not long after Easter that the thrill wears off for many children given a baby rabbit – and for the parents who realize that they will be caring for a pet that their child will no longer care much about.
So whether you're thinking of adopting a rabbit as a pet for yourself or are one of the lucky parents whose child is still in love with that real-life Easter bunny, you'll want to care for your pet the best you can. Here are some tips:
• Housing: Indoor rabbits are more fun! Your rabbit will need a home base of a small pen or a large cage with food, water and a litter box. Rabbits do well with a plain cat box filled with a shallow layer of recycled paper pellets, covered with a layer of fresh grass hay. You don't scoop a rabbit box – you change it completely every day. (The ingredients you toss are great for your compost pile.)
Because some rabbits can be chewers, you'll want to make sure any rabbit-friendly area has electrical cords tucked away and that you deny access to the legs of nice furniture and the corners of good carpets.
• Nutrition: Fresh water needs to be available at all times. For food, you can use high-quality commercial rabbit pellets for a base diet (read the label for daily portions and adjust over time to keep your rabbit from getting fat). Or you can skip the commercial pellets. Offer fresh grass hay at will and a wide variety of fresh green leafy vegetables twice daily. Treat your rabbit, too: Bunnies love little bits of fruit and root vegetables.
If you have storage space, hay is cheaper by the bale and lasts for weeks in cool, dry storage when protected from the elements. And stop throwing away veggie trimmings from meal preparation – give them to your rabbit!
• Health care: Get your rabbit spayed or neutered. In addition to keeping your rabbit from reproducing, you'll have a better pet. Unaltered rabbits can have behavior problems such as aggression and urine-spraying. Your rabbit will need a wellness check, just as a cat or dog would, and a good rabbit vet will help you catch little health problems before they become big ones. Check with your local rabbit rescue group for the names of veterinarians who are known to be good with rabbits.
• Exercise and play: Make sure your rabbit is allowed time outside the cage or pen every day. If you can't manage letting your rabbit roam at will indoors, block off a single rabbit-proofed room. A secure, supervised area outside is fine as well, but don't leave your rabbit unattended. Rabbits can be scared literally to death by cats, dogs and even jays and crows.
Rabbits love toys. Cat toys, dog toys, hard plastic baby toys and even the cardboard tubes from inside toilet paper and paper towel rolls are fun for rabbits. Cardboard boxes stuffed with hay and treats are also fun for bunnies.
Once you've gotten the hang of rabbit care, think of adding another such pet. Rabbits are social animals and do very well in pairs.
For more information, check out the House Rabbit Society (www.rabbit.org).
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. E-mail them at email@example.com or visit www.petconnection.com. Back columns: www.sacbee.com/spadafori.
(NAPSI)-There's news that may bring a smile to both pet owners and their loyal companions. Services and products are making it easier to address a pet's need for oral care.
According to American Veterinary Medical Association, periodontal disease is the most common health issue in pets. It's also estimated that almost 80 percent of U.S. pets suffer from periodontal disease by age 3.
This is a cause for concern, since periodontal disease encourages the growth of bacteria and development of other overall health risk factors that can get into the pet's bloodstream.
Blood-borne bacterial infection from periodontal disease is strongly implicated in the development of heart, kidney, liver and respiratory diseases.
The good news is that periodontal disease is preventable. Comprehensive dental care--oral assessment and treatment by the veterinarian at least annually, and daily prevention at home--helps to ensure a healthy pet. This is more than a luxury, since many veterinary dentists believe that good oral health can increase a pet's life span--on average--by about two years.
A leading manufacturer of pet treats with a health benefit, The Greenies Company, offers canine dental chews and feline dental treats.
Clinically proven to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup, the canine dental chews are recognized by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) with its Seal of Acceptance for plaque and tartar control.
The canine chews are said to be nutritionally complete and balanced for adult dogs. Fortified with vitamins and minerals, they contain antioxidants derived from fruits and vegetables. Plus, they're chewy and highly soluble for safe digestion.
The feline treats are proven to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup and are said to be preferred by cats four to one over their regular brand of treat.
They're made from a natural formula, contain less than two calories per piece and are nutritionally complete and balanced for adult cats, fortified with vitamins, minerals and taurine for optimum feline health.
Both the canine dental chews and the feline treats--from Greenies--are available from many veterinary clinics and at most independent and pet specialty stores.
The Greenies Company is a division of Nutro Products, Inc., a leading manufacturer of natural pet food products.
For more information or a free sample, visit www.greenies.com.
Comprehensive dental care--including annual checkups and daily prevention at home--can help to ensure a healthier pet.
How Does Music Influence Your Pets?
By Patti Lamb
There has been more and more work done with animals to understand the impact of music on them. Of course, for humans, we know that music can be a calming relaxing influence. But just how true is that saying "music calms the savage beast" when applied to a true animal?
Veterinarians, zoo keepers and other animal lovers that work with them day in and day out have come to the opinion that music has the same impact of animals as it does on humans. Certainly it can be at a different level but still there does appear to be an impact between animals and the music they hear.
Cats have been known to be drawn to the piano. This could be partially because of the vibrations that they feel but still they are absolutely drawn to the music and it does tend to calm them. Even other animals are impacted by the piping in of music.
Horse stables pipe in music to keep their horses calmer. It is a course of action that occurs more often than you would think. Cows also have been known to be impacted by music. It relaxes them while they are being milked as well as in general.
Veterinarians use music when they are operating on a dog to get them to relax and again when they come out of the anesthesia to keep them calm. Music is also is piped throughout the kennels to keep the animals as calm as they can be considering the pack like atmosphere in the kennels. Anything to work on their calmness is a bonus.
So what type of music do animals like? It is a pretty interesting question and is answered differently depending on the animal. As mentioned before, cats and kittens tend to really like piano and piano music as well as the vibrations that the piano gives off.
For the healing process such as before and after operations, soft soothing music tends to work and the type of instrument is not really that important but in a few different scenarios one instrument has risen above all the rest, and you probably would never guess it. The instrument animals tend to listen to and enjoys the most is the harp.
Harp music tends to be extremely soothing and for animals it appears it touches a core that allows them to be even more calming than other times. It works for stress, trauma, illness and abandonment issues. And it appears to work very well.
Harp is so popular with animal enthusiasts now that there are actually harp collections out on CD specifically for the listening pleasure of your animals. Not just one or two harp cd's either, a least a half dozen. And considering the topic, that's not too shabby.
There are also collections of music for birds, dogs, horses and other animals. If you look you will find a number of different collections specifically for the calming and relaxation of your animal. It might seem a little strange, but it works and your animal will thank you for it.
The author is a former guitar teacher and life long musician who believes in the power of music and the senses. For more about music-body-soul and mind and their interactions go to http://www.AcousticPleasure.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Patti_Lamb
5 Must Ask Questions For Hamster Adoption
By Emily Brock
In order to make the best decision in hamster adoption, several factors need to be considered. After all, your new pet will be a member of your family for a few years, so doing a little research now can save you problems down the road.
1. Where should I go to buy my hamster?
Hamsters can be adopted through several sources: breeders, animal shelters, pet stores, or though the classified ads. Breeders are a good choice if you can find a good one because they are careful with bloodlines to ensure that you have a healthier pet. Animal shelters are a good choice as well, but the hamster you find there may be older. You can find a good hamster at pet stores but make sure the cages look clean and that the hamsters have been handled regularly. This ensures that your hamster will be friendly and not bite.
2. What should I look for in a healthy hamster?
Look for a hamster that's fairly young, at least 5 weeks and at most 4 months. Stay away from any hamster that shies away from you or shows signs of aggression. Hold the hamster and check him over carefully. If his fur is patchy, his teeth are crooked, his weight is too high or low, or he seems to have any mobility problems, choose another hamster.
3. Who will be the primary caregiver?
If the hamster is being adopted for your child, you have to be prepared to step in and monitor the care and feeding of this pet. Small children under 10 should probably not have a hamster because they can be too rough with these delicate creatures. Your hamster's cage will have to be cleaned out weekly. Hamsters also should be handled daily to ensure they remain tame so the pet owner should be prepared to do this.
4. When is the best time to find a hamster?
Time is an important factor when you're looking to adopt your hamster because they sleep all day until around dinner time. So shopping in the evening is the best time to look for your hamster because they will be the most active and less likely to bite you if you wake them.
5. How much will it cost?
The cost of the hamster itself is quite cheap, generally $10 - $15. The cost of the cage and equipment can be around $100. Don't skimp on the cage because hamsters need lots of room to run around so if you can afford it, buy cages that can be added onto with tubes that mimic tunnels found in your hamster's natural habitat. Your hamster will thank you.
So if you're looking at hamster adoption in the near future, make sure you keep these factors in mind.
Emily Brock is a hamster enthusiast. For more great tips and advice on how to buy a hamster visit http://HamsterLifeAnswers.com/
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Emily_Brock
How to Administer Pet Wormer
By Sandy Scott
It is inevitable that once in the life of a dog, no matter how healthy it may look, will have parasites in its body particularly the intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites feed on the host by absorbing the nutrients in the intestine. Among these parasites, the most common are hookworm, tape worms, round worms and whip worms. These parasites are transmitted in various ways and through different carriers whether it is the mother of the dog, eggs in the stool, infected animals and insects like rodents and fleas and so forth. It is important that dogs are dewormed in a scheduled chart so as to flush out these parasites. However, there are instances where administering pet wormer could be hard. Yet, as veterinary medicine progresses, there are new ways to administer the drug without making the dog distress.
Intestinal parasites can be deadly especially when they are not immediately attended to. Since these parasites feed on the host's nutrition, the health of the dog suffers greatly. Some of the recognizable symptoms are loss of weight and appetite, vomiting and bleeding. In case of tapeworm infections, the eggs of the tapeworms may dry up at the anus which looks like dried scales or dried rice. There are also parasites that could not be wipe out with a single wormer and therefore it is necessary that deworming is done on a series.
There are several ways to administer wormer. Pet wormers have evolved into several varieties making deworming easier. Some wormer comes in the form of tablets where there are also flavored varieties, dog suspensions, and syrup. Most of these kinds are dosed from 2 to 12 weeks or every 3 months. One famous brand is Drontal that comes in suspensions and tablets. And another is Panacur with drug fenbendazole as its main ingredient, which is effective against all roundworm and most tapeworm infections.
To administer the drug, you should follow the instructions by the vet or through the product instructions. There are wormers that should not be given to pregnant dogs and lactating ones. There is also a new technology called "spot on" drug which is better to be administered by the vet itself.
If you are unsure in administering the wormer, you should let someone who knows it or better have a vet do it for you.
Worm infections are definitely inevitable but it could be avoided by having a good hygiene and clean environment at home. Make sure that you give the dog regular worming schedule and use of the right pet wormer to fight the infection. Worming the dog is not only for the sake of the animal but the entire family as well since the mentioned parasites can be transmissible to humans too.
Sandy Scott is the webmaster and author of http://www.ivet.co.uk . IVET consists of a team of dedicated professionals including a pharmacist, a pharmacologist, and two veterinary surgeons who oversee sales and provide the free, practical advice for your pets such Pet Wormers in the form of numerous on line information sheets.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sandy_Scott
Becky Smith - Salt Lake Large Dogs Examiner
Just as parenting, there are several varying philosophies regarding training and disciplining your pets.
The strictest of us allow only those privileges prescribed by only the most rigid doctrines of rules; crate-training as opposed to potty-training pads being one example. Another would be how free or limited your pet's access is to your home, as well as whether or not you choose to allow them on the furniture. (Click here to continue reading)
Jonelle Simons - Salt Lake City Dogs Examiner
If you are a person who constantly tries to do the right thing when it comes to the environment, then maybe it's time to take a look at your pets! Here are a few ideas to help you pooch get his green on!
Feed organic pet food! With the recent recall of more than 100 brands of pet food (some considered 'premium'), it might be time to take a closer look at what you're feeding your pets. I recommend Only Natural Pet Store for an excellent selection of all natural and organic pet foods! For treats and other pet products - another great resource is Jake's Doghouse - cool stuff for cool dogs! (Click here to continue reading)