Selecting The Right Dry Dog Food

From Whole Dog Journal….

How to select the right dry dog food (kibble) for your unique dog in 10 steps.

How do you select your dog’s food? Do you just buy what your dog’s breeder recommended? Get whatever dog food is on sale? Ask the sales clerk for his opinion? Well, that’s too bad; none of these methods allow for a thorough dog food analysis, or take into account all the factors that should be considered in order to buy and feed the food that best suits your dog and you. There’s a better way!

whole dog journal dog food review

1. Buy the best dog food you can afford.

Good dog food costs a lot more than low-quality dog food because good dog food is made with better-quality ingredients, which cost more than low-quality ingredients.

That said, the most expensive food is not necessarily the best, nor does the price always correlate precisely with a food’s quality. There are lots of low-quality foods that are sold for good-food prices, because some companies spend a ton on marketing and advertising!

There are bad, better, good, and best foods at every price level. You should have an idea of how much you are willing to spend; look for the best foods you can find at the level you can afford.

How can you determine which foods are the good and bad ones at your price point? Read on!

If you have more than one dog, don’t forget that you can, and maybe should, feed each of your dogs a different food. Your adolescent Lab-mix might be able to eat practically anything and look like a million bucks, but your arthritic, allergic Border Collie might need a grain-free food with a novel protein in order to keep physically sound and not constantly itching.

 

2. Don’t always choose the same dog food, or even dog foods from the same company.

Many companies use the same vitamin/mineral pre-mix in every one of their products. This means that the nutrient levels in all the foods in the company’s product line will likely have very similar nutrient levels. If you feed the same food (or even different foods from the same company) for months or years on end, your dog could develop problems caused by nutritional deficiencies or excesses.

It seems odd, but there is a wide range of nutrient levels allowed in foods that are legally described as “complete and balanced.” Some products have levels of some minerals or fat-soluble vitamins that are inadequate or excessive. These imbalances won’t cause problems in a short period of time, but if you never vary your dog’s diet, the deficiencies or excesses compound over time and can cause health problems. Periodically switching your dog’s diet to products from different companies prevents this.

3. Look for the AAFCO statement on your dog food’s label and make sure the food is “complete and balanced” for dogs in your dog’s life stage.

Some foods are formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of adult dogs only. If you are feeding a puppy, a high-performance athlete, a pregnant or nursing female, a dog who needs to gain weight, or a debilitated dog, you should look for a product that is formulated for dogs “of all life stages.” Products labelled with that statement must meet the higher nutrient requirements of puppies and pregnant or nursing mothers.

4. Check the protein and fat levels in the dog food’s Guaranteed Analysis.

The minimum levels of protein and fat that are guaranteed to be present in the food are listed in the “guaranteed analysis” (GA) section on the label. When you switch your dog’s food to a new one, you should be aware of how much protein and fat the old food contained, and how much is present in the new food. If the new food contains a lot more fat than the old food (as just one example), you will probably need to reduce the amount you feed your dog.

5. Look for the “best by” date on the dog food.

In general, you want to buy and feed the freshest food available. If a product is within six or fewer months of its “best by” date, we’d look through the pile for a fresher bag.

6. Save so-called “novel” proteins and exotic carbohydrate sources in store-bought dog foods for dogs who really need them.

There is zero benefit to feeding ostrich or alligator or even rabbit or quail to a dog who easily digests the most common animal proteins used in pet food (such as chicken, beef, lamb, and pork). However, if your dog ever develops an allergy to or intolerance of these common animal proteins, it will be invaluable to be able to employ more exotic animal proteins in an “elimination diet” (in which a protein that the dog has never eaten before is used).

The same principle applies to exotic carb sources. Carbohydrates such as quinoa, chickpeas, peas, and others are showing up in mainstream foods more and more frequently. Avoid them unless you need them for an elimination trial.

7. Look for dog food ingredients that your dog is allergic to or intolerant of.

This is (obviously) so you can avoid feeding a product that will distress your dog.

If you have proven, through your own feeding trials of various products, that your dog reacts badly to certain ingredients, you should be reading the ingredients list of every product you buy, to make sure the problematic ingredient isn’t present in the product. Don’t count on the fact that the ingredient wasn’t present in the last bag of the same product; food manufacturers do change their formulas from time to time.

8. Look for the following; these are good things you want to see on the ingredients list of your dog food:

Lots of animal protein at the top of the ingredients list. Ingredients in pet food, just like human food, are listed in order of the weight of that ingredient in the formula, so you want to see a named animal protein or named animal protein meal first on the list. (“Named” means the species is identified: chicken, beef, lamb, etc. “Meal” means a dry, rendered product made from an identified species.)

When a fresh, named meat is first on the ingredient list, there should be a named animal-protein meal immediately or closely following that fresh meat. Fresh meat contains a lot of moisture (which is heavy), so if meat is first on the list, it acts like a diluted protein source; while it adds an appealing flavor and aroma to the food, it doesn’t actually contribute that much protein. That’s why another named source of animal protein should appear in the top three or so ingredients.

When vegetables, fruits, grains, and or carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, chickpeas, or sweet potatoes are used, they should be whole. Fresh, unprocessed food ingredients contain nutrients in all their complex glory, with their vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants intact. Don’t be too alarmed by one or two “fractions” (a by-product or part of an ingredient, like tomato pomace or oatmeal), especially if they are lower on the ingredient list. But the more fractions present in the food, and the higher they appear on the list, the lower quality the result.

9. Don’t buy dog foods that contain the following ingredients; these are things to look out for:

Meat by-products, poultry by-products, meat by-product meal, and poultry by-product meal. Many of the animal tissues that are defined as animal by-products are highly nutritious, but they are also considered waste products of the human food industry.

“Generic” fat sources. “Animal fat” can literally be any mixed fat of animal origin; it need not have originated from slaughtered animals. Meaning, it can be obtained from renderers that process dead animals. “Poultry” fat is not quite as suspect as “animal fat,” but “chicken fat” or “duck fat” is better (and traceable).

Added sweeteners. Dogs, like humans, enjoy the taste of sweet foods. Sweeteners effectively persuade many dogs to eat foods comprised mainly of grain fragments (and containing less healthy animal protein and fats).

Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives (such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin). The color of the food doesn’t matter to your dog. And it should be flavored well enough with healthy meats and fats to be enticing. Natural preservatives, such as mixed tocopherols, can be used instead.

10. Contact your favorite dog food makers and ask them for the complete nutrient analyses of their products.

It was a shock to learn, not long ago, that pet food companies don’t have to show regulators (or anyone else) any sort of proof that their foods contain all the nutrients that dogs need. Instead, they fill out and sign an affidavit stating that “This product meets the nutrient levels established in the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for (growth/reproduction, maintenance, or all life stages).”

In our opinion, since pet food companies make food that’s meant to provide 100 percent of the nutrients dogs need, they ought to be able to show some proof that their finished products do, in fact, contain the nutrients, in appropriate amounts, that they are supposed to, so we have begun asking companies to provide us with these analyses.

Do You Buy Pet Food From Any of These 6 Con Artists?

Reprinted from http://healthypets.mercola.com/

By Dr. Becker

I frequently discuss “prescription” pet diets here at Mercola Healthy Pets in terms of the cheap, biologically inappropriate ingredients they contain, much like most other processed pet foods on the market.

I typically don’t talk as much about the high cost of these diets or the fact that there’s nothing in the majority of them that requires a prescription, because my focus is usually on the low-quality ingredients instead.

But if you’ve ever purchased one of these “special” dry or canned diets for a pet, you know how expensive they are, and you might be interested to learn that a group of pet parents recently filed a class action lawsuit against several pet industry companies, alleging they engaged in price fixing of prescription dog and cat food in the U.S. in violation of anti-trust and consumer protection laws.

Defendants Include 6 of the Biggest Pet Industry Players

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California and lists the defendants as Mars Petcare, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Nestlé Purina Petcare, Banfield Pet Hospital, Blue Pearl Pet Hospital and PetSmart. Read the full complaint.

The plaintiffs, pet owners who purchased prescription diets from one or more of the companies, assert they conspired with each other to falsely promote “prescription” pet food. The specific pet diets mentioned in the complaint include:

  • Hill’s Prescription Diet
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet
  • Iams Veterinary Formula

The complaint points out there’s no reason for the foods to require a prescription, since they contain no drug or other ingredient not commonly found in non-prescription pet diets. The lawsuit further alleges:

“Retail consumers, including Plaintiffs, have overpaid and made purchases they otherwise would not have made on account of Defendants’ abuse and manipulation of the ‘prescription’ requirement.”

Lawsuit Accuses Big Pet Food of Abusing Their Dominant Position in the Marketplace

Mars PetCare is the largest supplier of pet food in the world. Nestlé Purina Petcare is in second place, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition is No. 4.

PetSmart is the largest pet supply chain in the U.S., Banfield is the largest veterinary clinic chain and Blue Pearl is the largest veterinary specialty and emergency care chain.

The lawsuit argues that these companies abuse their position as the biggest players in the industry to promote “prescription” diets for dogs and cats.

Veterinarians actually hand pet owners written prescriptions for a certain kind of pet food, and the pet owners go to PetSmart or another location to purchase the prescribed food. These pet guardians, according to the complaint, are typical of people who consistently follow the advice and direction of medical professionals.

Why Is a Pet Product Containing No Drugs or Other Controlled Substances Being Sold by Prescription Only?

However, the “prescription” dog and cat diets manufactured by Mars, Purina and Hill’s are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they don’t contain drugs or other controlled substances. According to Tim Wall, writing for PetfoodIndustry.com:

“The case document states that the American public reasonably expects a prescription requirement implies that a substance is medically necessary, contains a drug, medicine or controlled ingredient, has been FDA evaluated and legally requires a prescription. The plaintiffs allege that the prescription pet foods do not meet these criteria.”1

The lawsuit asserts that the prescription requirement allows the defendants to “… market and sell Prescription Pet Food at well-above market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of the Prescription Authorization.”

There are legitimate reasons why “prescription” diets for specific medical conditions should not be fed to healthy animals.

For instance, feeding a diet intentionally lower in protein and phosphorus may be warranted for end-stage kidney disease patients, but it would be a poor choice for healthy or growing animals.

The deception about “prescription” ingredients in the foods, for the most part, is legitimate. There is one exception. One human-grade, fresh pet food company producing medical diets that actually do contain therapeutic ingredients, such as Chitosan to bind phosphorus in their kidney formula.

‘Defendants Are Engaged in an Anticompetitive Conspiracy’

The complaint further asserts that the positioning of the pet food as “prescription” is effective in part because all the defendants work together to promote it. The veterinary clinic defendants write the “prescriptions” for the food, which is made by the pet food company defendants, and sold by defendant PetSmart.

Many people are unaware that Mars owns 79 percent of Banfield. Guess who owns the remaining 21 percent? PetSmart (which is why many Banfield clinics are located inside PetSmart stores). Mars also owns 100 percent of Blue Pearl. According to the complaint:

“Defendants are engaged in an anticompetitive conspiracy to market and sell pet food as prescription pet food to consumers at above-market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of their collusive prescription-authorization requirement.”

The lawsuit alleges that selling the pet food as “prescription” is unfair and deceptive under California consumer protection laws. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for activity on this class action lawsuit and update you when there’s progress.

Meanwhile, if your own veterinarian is in the habit of recommending “prescription” pet food for your dog or cat, I encourage you to ask for balanced, homemade recipes instead. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of money for poor-quality pet food that will not improve your furry family member’s health in the long run.

 

8 Tips for Wintering with your Pet

from PetMD

Living in a Winter Wonderland?

 

 

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones living in one of the balmier states, you’ve felt the cold chill of winter arrive. For some of us, cold weather is regarded as a mere nuisance; for others, it’s a fun time filled with snowboarding, skiing and other winter joys; and still others will find this time of bone-chilling weather and huge piles of snow a veritable nightmare to endure.

 

Whatever your viewpoint on winter, one thing remains the same for all of us with pets: it’s a time when our beloved babies need a little extra care. Luckily, PetMD has compiled a list of tips to protect your pet from the dangers of winter.

 

1. In or Out?

Does your pet spend most of the time in the backyard? You might want to keep her indoors during the freezing months, especially if you live in bitterly cold areas. No one wants an icicle for a pet — they’re simply not that cuddly.

 

2. Bare Naked Truth

If you must keep your pet outdoors, consider this: Would a fur coat alone (even if it is faux mink) keep you warm against the elements? No? Well, your pet’s fur coat isn’t enough protection for your pet during winter, either. Be a pal and provide your dog with a warm, dry, and draft free shelter outside; the shelter should also comply with any state laws that apply.

 

3. No More Frozen Dinners!

Because it takes more energy to stay warm when it’s cold, outdoor animals eat more during the winter. Likewise, fresh, running water is vital for maintaining your pet’s health. Keep an eye on the water bowls and make sure they haven’t turned into little skating rinks for fleas (boo, fleas!). While ice pops might be a fun treat, your pet really doesn’t want to have to lick a frozen lump of ice to get his water.

 

4.  Diet?

Indoor animals, meanwhile, have different dietary needs. They conserve energy by sleeping more in the winter. Dogs and cats also exercise much less when they do go outside, so you may need to adjust the amount of food accordingly. After all, no one wants an overweight pet.

5. Frosty the Biting Snowman

We’re not talking about the latest horror movie offering from Hollywood. Frosting is a serious problem during winter, especially for paws, tips of tails, and ears. This makes it even more important in keeping your pet warm, especially if they’re an outdoor pet. Get special booties, coats, and maybe a hat for your pet during her walks, and look for early warning signs of frostbite such as firm, waxy skin and blisters.

 

6. The Deadly Drink

The worst of all the wintertime chemical spills is antifreeze, which often leaks from a car’s radiator. It may taste delicious to your cats or dogs, but it is extremely deadly — even the smallest sip can be fatal. If your pet starts acting “drunk” or begins to convulse, take him to the vet immediately. Better yet, keep all pets away from the garage and clean up any accidental spillage. You should also not let your dog wander too far during his walks. Who knows what dangers lie in your neighbors’ driveways?

 

7. Salty Solution

Do you live in an area with cold and icy winters? Then you are probably accustomed to salt on the sidewalks and roads. However, the types of salt (typically calcium or sodium chloride) used to melt ice and snow and keep it from refreezing are somewhat harsh on delicate paws — not to mention they corrode concrete and damage the beautiful vegetation. Protect your pet’s paws, and keep him warm during walks, by outfitting him with booties.

 

8. Joy Ride

Cars are particularly attractive to animals in the winter-time, especially frigid cats that love to climb up under the hood and curl up on the warm motor. This, as you can imagine, has led to many mishaps when motorists start their car … ouch! Avoid such accidents by tapping your car’s hood before starting the vehicle. Sure, you may wake Kitty from her deep slumber, but she’ll thank you in the long run.

 

Wintering with your pet is mostly common sense. If you’re cold, your beloved pet will most likely be cold too. So snuggle up, keep your pet warm and safe, and sooner than you can say “Jack Russell,” we’ll all be hitting the beaches for some summertime fun.

 

 

Creative Marketing Does NOT Make a Healthy/Nutritious Pet Food!

The makers of Beneful have made some minor changes and launched a new marketing campaign:

 

beneful-claim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw meat is allowed to be added to the ingredient panel in it’s wet weight.    So by weight it frequently can occupy the first place on the ingredient panel.   However, once included the product dries down in processing and falls way down the list.    Looks like the rest of the ingredients look pretty much like they used to:

beneful-chicken-ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So even though they now include a little bit of meat in the diet you will find  an ingredient list that includes whole corn, chicken by-product meal, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, beef tallow, soybean meal, poultry by-product meal and my favorite…..egg and chicken flavor.     So grain and grain by-products still constitute the majority of the dry product composition.

It’s all about marketing to these folks.

 

 

Tips for fall pet health!

 Excerpted from the Pet Health Network

#1. Watch out for ticks in fall
Just because fall is here doesn’t mean that ticks aren’t still lurking. In fact, according to the University of Rhode Island, many species of ticks are active even into the winter and can survive the first frost. Here are some tips to keep your pet tick-free this fall:

  • Don’t let ticks cozy up. Eliminate their favorite environments, such as leaf and garden litter, where ticks can sometimes survive even into winter.
  • Check for ticks frequently.
  • Continue using tick control and repellent products, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors with your pet enjoying activities like hiking, camping, or hunting.
  • #2. Beware rat poison and other rodenticides
    Fall is the time of year when mice, rats, and other rodents start to scurry for warmth.
  • Be careful when it comes to mouse traps and rodenticides like rat and mouse poison. Nobody wants an infestation of mice, but many poisons that are currently on the market can be very harmful to dogs and cats. Direct ingestion can be deadly.
  • Even if you don’t have a rodent problem or choose to deal with mice and rats humanely using live traps, you never know what methods your neighbors are using. The carcasses of rodents that have been killed by rodenticides can also be dangerous, so if you see the telltale tail dangling from your pet’s mouth, make sure he drops it and keep an eye on him, and if you think your pet has eaten any of the rodent, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • #3. There is a fungus amongus!
    In some regions of the country, fall is just as wet as spring. That means that more mushrooms dot backyards and forest floors. While most mushrooms are perfectly safe, there’s a small percentage that are highly toxic to our furry friends (and to us!).
  • #4. Feed your pet right
    It’s getting colder out there, and cool temperatures mean more energy is needed to stay warm. You’ll probably need to feed your pet a bit more food – food generates body heat, so pets who spend a lot of time exercising outdoors need to eat more than in the summer.
  • #5. Watch out for antifreeze toxicity
    In preparing for the winter months ahead, people tend to use fall to winterize their cars. This often involves changing fluids such as antifreeze, which can be deadly for pets. Consider this: one to two teaspoons of the stuff can kill a 10-pound dog! Less can kill a 10-pound cat.1
  • Part of the problem is ethylene glycol, a substance in antifreeze that has a sickly-sweet smell that entices pets to lap it up. That’s why it’s important to clean up spills immediately and make sure your pets steer clear of the garage while you’re working on your vehicle.
  • #6. Beware chocolate and hearty foods
    The fall and winter parallel our holiday seasons, when we ramp up our intake of hearty, heavy foods and sweets. It’s important to make sure your pets don’t get into any foods that can make them sick; for dogs, this means chocolate, grapes, and raisins are off limits because they are toxic.
  • Just because some foods aren’t technically considered toxic to pets doesn’t mean they’re safe. Rich, high-fat foods can cause stomach problems such as diarrhea andgastroenteritis and even more serious conditions like pancreatitis.
  • #7. Be careful with decorations
    Holidays mean decorations! But be careful about leaving irregularly shaped objects and trinkets around the house. While you might like to get into the seasonal spirit, dogs and cats do too – in the form of sampling, say, decorative gourds or other fall props. Eating strange objects can be dangerous and lead to foreign body obstruction.

Meet Andrea!

WPE EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT! Meet our groomer, Andrea!

“Growing up we always had dogs and cats, among other creatures. Around the neighborhood our house was known as “the neighborhood zoo”.

I had always known that I wanted to work with animals in some way, but didn’t always know exactly how. I started my work with animals volunteering at a shelter near Waterloo. I loved being able to give dogs and cats love when they most needed it. From there I worked for our family vet and that made me realize that I definitely want to be working one on one with the pets and making them feel good.

I started looking into a grooming career and found a job at PetSmart where I went through their grooming academy. From there I became the salon manager of the Waterloo PetSmart. After 4 years there, I moved to the Des Moines area with my boyfriend, Joe, for better job opportunities. Shortly after that, I found myself at Wholesome Pet Essentials.

I have been delighted to spend this past year (and the future) at Wholesome Pet Essentials as a groomer. I really enjoy the one-on-one attention that I can give to the dogs and cats being groomed. It is a very relaxing environment for both the groomer and the pet. I love being able to really get to know the regular clients, both the pet and pet parent. In my 5 years of grooming, I can truly say this is the best place for grooming hands down just on environment alone.

As far as pets that we currently have in our little family we have: Wall-ee (a Persian cat), Professor Farnsworth (a Himalayan/Persian cat mix), Tiny Rick (a Chihuahua mix), and Phillipe (a bearded dragon).”

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Meet Carissa!

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT!!!

This week we are featuring Carissa. “I have been around dogs my entire life. Growing up we always had dogs and cats on my parent’s acreage. I have also had some parakeets, fish, turtles, and rabbits growing up. I have always had a passion for animals. I graduated from Iowa Central Community College in 2012 with an interest in pre-vet tech. After ICCC I went to Iowa State for a year taking animal science classes.

Currently my life is controlled by my two favorite fur kids; my 4 year old Rat Terrier mix Zoey and my 3 year old Black Labrador Retriever Copper. Zoey is my love bug – always wanting to cuddle, but she does have a wild side, she loves refereeing her brother when out in the yard playing fetch. She runs behind him barking and cheering him on. She also loves doing the “zoomies” around the house. Copper is my hard worker. My Boyfriend and Copper just recently received his AKC Junior Hunter Title and his NAHAR Started Retriever Title. They will be working for more titles in the future. This fall/winter we are going to be working towards his CGC title.

I volunteered at an Animal shelter while I attended college and loved every minute. I also worked at 3 Earl May Lawn and Garden stores extending over 5 years. Starting at the age of 16, where I worked with the animals there taking care of them and educating new owners. I worked at a doggie daycare for a year, where I fell in love with handling and working with each of the dogs on a day to day basis. I also enjoyed hearing stories from the passionate owners.

When I started at Wholesome Pet Essentials I found a whole new group of passionate pet owners and I absolutely love helping them and their dogs and finding healthy holistic options. I have been working at Wholesome Pet Essentials since they opened in March of 2015. It has been a great year and a half.”

Meet Carol!

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT!

Carol joined us at WPE in November of 2015. She came to us with 22 years experience, both personal and professional including: animal care & husbandry, assistant vet tech work, some grooming, and essential oils. She really enjoys learning new natural approaches to animal care.

Carol has had a variety of pets from dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and other small animals; along with longhorn cattle and poultry on the farm. She now has four rescued dogs-Brittany (age 18-Bassett/Collie Mix), Star (age 10-Greyhound), Zoey (age 10-Beagle) and Faith (age 10-Pomeranian). She has a rescued cat named Gracie and some reptiles.

Carol enjoys spending time with her animals, reading, gardening and staying involved with church activities. Carol and her husband (Kenny) have been married for 27 years and have been amazing parents to many fur kids with the hopes of rescuing and enjoying many more in the future!

Experienced Pet Stylist Needed

Wholesome Pet Essentials is growing fast and the demand for pet grooming is high! We are looking for an EXPERIENCED pet stylist with a positive attitude to add to our team. This can be a part-time position.

Minimum requirements : Ability to groom dogs of all sizes according to breed standards or customer request, Excellent scissor cutting skills, excellent customer service and neat appearance. Must have your own tools (clippers, blades, etc.), be self motivated with good work habits and have a love for dogs (cats are a bonus). Must be available to work two weekends a month. At least 2+ years experience is a must!

Candidates should be prepared to groom a dog as part of the interview process. Pay is negotiable.

Email Tracy at tracy@wholesomepetessentials.com or call (515)289-2006 for more details.

Pets and Seasonal Allergies

(excepts from healthypets.com)

 

Did you know your dog or cat can suffer from seasonal allergies just as you do?

According to a survey conducted by Novartis Animal Health, over half of pet owners aren’t aware their fuzzy family members can also spend the spring season feeling miserable thanks to pollens and other environmental allergens.

Two Categories of Pet Allergies

There are primarily two types of allergies: food allergies and environmental allergies. If your pet gets itchy during spring, summer or fall, she’s probably reacting to seasonal, environmental allergens. But if her symptoms continue year-round, it’s more likely her sensitivity is to something more constant in her environment, or to something in her diet.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a hard freeze in the winter, environmental allergens can build up and cause year-round issues for your pet. In addition, seasonal allergies can progress to year-round allergies, which I’ll discuss shortly.

Signs Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies

Unlike humans whose allergy symptoms usually involve the respiratory tract, allergies in dogs and cats more often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation – a condition called allergic dermatitis.

If your pet has allergies, her skill will become very itchy. She’ll start scratching excessively, and might bite or chew at certain areas of her body. She may rub herself against vertical surfaces like furniture, or she may rub her face against the carpet. She’s trying to relieve the miserable itchiness by any means possible.

As the itch-scratch cycle continues, her skin will become inflamed and tender to the touch. Other signs of allergic dermatitis include areas of hair loss, open sores on the skin, and scabbing.

Hot spots can develop as well in dogs (hot spots are rarely seen in cats). A hot spot is inflamed, infected skin that occurs when your dog’s natural bacteria overwhelms an area of his skin. Typically the skin will be very red, and often there is bleeding and hair loss.

Other Signs to Watch For

Pets with allergies also often have problems with their ears – especially dogs. The ear canals may be itchy and inflamed as part of a generalized allergic response, or they may grow infected with yeast or bacteria.

Signs your pet’s ears are giving him problems include scratching at the ears, head shaking, and hair loss around the ears. If infection is present there will often be odor and a discharge from the ears.

While respiratory symptoms aren’t common in pets with allergies, they do occur. A running nose, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing are typical allergic symptoms in both two- and four-legged allergy sufferers.

Typically pets with seasonal allergies to ragweed, grasses, pollens, molds and trees, also develop sensitivity to other allergens inhaled through the nose and mouth. Animals with weaknesses in their lung fields can develop sinusitis and bronchitis, just as people do.

Another sign to watch for if you suspect your pet has allergies is generalized redness. Allergic pets often have puffy red eyes, red oral tissue, a red chin, red paws and even a red anus.

How Seasonal Allergies Can Turn Into Year-Round Allergies

Allergic reactions are produced by your pet’s immune system, and the way his immune system functions is a result of both nature (his genetics) and nurture (his environment).

I often see the following history with allergic pets who visit my practice:

  • A young pup or kitten, maybe 4 to 6 months old, begins with a little red tummy, itchy ears, and maybe a mild infection in one ear. His regular vet treats the pup symptomatically to provide him some relief.
  • The following year as soon as the weather warms up, the pet is brought back to his regular vet with very itchy feet, another ear infection, and a hotspot or two. Again, the vet treats the symptoms (hopefully not with steroids) until the weather turns cold and the symptoms disappear.
  • Year three, the same pet suffers from May through September with red, inflamed skin, maybe some hair loss, more hotspots, frequent ear and skin infections, and a tendency to chew his paws or scratch until he bleeds.
  • By year five, all the symptoms have grown significantly worse and the animal’s suffering is now year-round.

This is what usually happens with seasonal environmental allergies. The more your pet is exposed to the allergens he’s sensitive to, the more intense and long-lasting his allergic response becomes.

With my regular patients (those who start out life as patients of my practice), I begin addressing potential root causes at the first sign of an allergic response, which is usually around six months of age. I do this to reduce the risk of an escalating response year after year.

Helping a Pet with Seasonal Allergies

Since the allergen load your environmentally sensitive pet is most susceptible to is much heavier outdoors, two essential steps in managing her condition are regular foot soaks and baths during the warmer months when all those triggers are in bloom.

Dermatologists recommend this common sense approach for human allergy sufferers. If you have hypersensitivities, your doctor will tell you to shower at night and in the morning to remove allergens from the surface of your body. I recommend you do the same for your dog or cat.

  • Frequent baths give complete, immediate relief to an itchy pet and wash away the allergens on the coat and skin. Make sure to use a grain free (oatmeal free) shampoo.
  • Foot soaks are also a great way to reduce the amount of allergens your pet tracks into the house and spreads all over her indoor environment.
  • Keep the areas of your home where your pet spends most of her time as allergen-free as possible. Vacuum and clean floors and pet bedding frequently using simple, non-toxic cleaning agents rather than household cleaners containing chemicals.
  • Because allergies are an immune system response, it’s important to keep your pet’s immune function optimal. This means avoiding unnecessary vaccinations and drugs. And I do not recommend you vaccinate your pet during a systemic inflammatory response. Vaccines stimulate the immune system, which is the last thing your pet with seasonal environmental allergies needs. Talk to your holistic vet about titers to measure your pet’s immunity to core diseases as an alternative to automatically vaccinating.
  • If you haven’t already, move your pet to an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods that create or worsen inflammation are high in carbohydrates. Your allergic pet’s diet should be very low in grain content.
  • Research has shown that ‘leaky gut,’ or dysbiosis, is a root cause of immune system overreactions, so addressing this issue with a holistic vet is an important aspect of reducing allergic reactions over time.

Allergy-Fighting Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation throughout the body. Adding them into the diet of all pets — particularly pets struggling with seasonal environmental allergies – is very beneficial. The best sources of omega 3s are krill oil, salmon oil, tuna oil, anchovy oil and other fish body oils.

Coconut oil. I also recommend coconut oil for allergic pets. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which helps decrease the production of yeast. Using a fish body oil with coconut oil before inflammation flares up in your pet’s body can help moderate or even suppress the inflammatory response.