Caring for Your Senior Pet (Article)

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM, Consulting Vet for

Getting older… it’s happening to all of us every day, including our pets. And just like humans, dogs and cats are prone to a number of medical problems as they get older. With diet, supplements, and extra care, many of these conditions can be prevented, delayed, or managed, to give your pet the best possible quality of life throughout the senior years. Here are a few of the health issues you may run into as your pet ages, and some things you can do treat them naturally:


Most older pets eventually develop arthritis. What is usually considered “slowing down,” or “a little stiff,” or even sleep disturbances (because they just can’t get comfortable) may be a sign of significant joint disease. Extra weight makes arthritis that much worse, so an older dog may need a good weight loss program (older cats tend to lose weight by themselves). A high protein diet helps protect lean muscle mass while shedding fat. Proper weight and moderate exercise are the keys to comfort.

Joint protectors and anti-inflammatories can help, and they include glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, and MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane); all of which can be added to wet food. Other herbs and minerals may also be helpful. Antioxidants provide good anti-inflammatory action and pain relief. It may take 3-5 weeks for improvement to be noticeable.

Digestive Slowdown

AbigirlAs they age, pets experience a decreased ability to digest and metabolize protein and fat that occurs with age. Older pets need more and better quality protein. Wet foods are ideal for older cats and dogs — this includes food in cans or pouches, as well as frozen raw diets. They’re easier to digest, and much more palatable. Adding digestive enzymes and probiotics will help your pet get the most nutrition from food, and there are specific digestive support remedies available for more severe issues.

Kidney Disease (Chronic Renal Failure, CRF, or Chronic Kidney Disease, CKD)

The kidneys have a lot of responsibility, and they work hard 24/7. Over time, cells die and are replaced by scar tissue. Only when 75% of kidney function is irreversibly lost will signs of kidney disease occur. CRF is very common in older cats, but dogs can also develop the disease.

One thing you’ll hear from friends and even from vets is that protein is bad for the kidneys. But dietary protein has nothing whatsoever to do with the development of kidney disease (in dogs or cats). In fact, in older pets without pre-existing kidney disease, canned food or other high protein, high moisture diets are recommended.

Antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil or cod liver oil) are proven to be highly beneficial for pets with kidney disease. There is new evidence that probiotics can also be helpful. There are also specific kidney support products available.

Dental Disease

This is the most common problems that vets see in dogs and cats. It often begins by the tender age of 3 – and gets worse from there! Many dogs and most cats are relatively stoic about pain, and problems such as abscessed teeth and oral tumors can easily be missed. One solution is to take your older pet in for a thorough checkup twice a year instead of just once. (But don’t let the vet vaccinate your older pet, unless the rabies vaccine is required by law.) Try to brush your pet’s teeth at home, or use one of the products that help minimize plaque.

Cognitive Dysfunction (Senility)

Both dogs and cats can develop cognitive (learning and memory) problems as they get older, which are increasingly recognized as a form of dementia or even “Alzheimer’s.” Antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids (cod liver oil is best for this condition) are valuable in keeping your pet’s brain functioning at its best.


Half of dogs over age 10 will develop cancer, the most frightening diagnosis of all. At its most basic, cancer is the result of immune system failure – itself the result of poor diet, over-vaccination, genetics, and environmental factors. Keeping the immune system in peak condition is, of course, fundamental to good health overall, but given the role it may play in so many degenerative diseases, including cancer, is just good sense. Besides exercise, fresh air, and great nutrition, there are supplements especially designed for immune support. Antioxidants and Omega-3s are vital to the immune system. There are also ancient healing remedies such as herbs and medicinal mushrooms that have been used for generations or even centuries to deal with serious health issues.

(Reprinted with permission from

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Consumers And Veterinarians Should Take Note of New FDA Decision

By Susan Thixton, Pet Food Safety Advocate

The latest Pet Food privilege announced by the FDA is regarding prescription cat and dog food. All pet food consumers and veterinarians should take note of this recent FDA Compliance Policy…

For decades the FDA has strictly enforced their idea that drugs are the only cure or treatment for illness — refusing to allow any food to make health or wellness claims. A claim such as “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is forbidden.

But in the FDA’s infinite collusion with Big Industry, the agency allows pet food the same privilege of a drug (to claim it can cure or treat disease) without any of the requirements of a drug. Pet food is allowed to claim it can cure or treat disease without having to prove the effectiveness or even the safety of the pet food.

Below are the ingredients of a prescription dog food — Purina Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Canine Formula Dry/Kibble. This dog food, sold through a veterinarian, is allowed to make the claim of treating kidney disease in dogs:

Ingredients (bold added for emphasis): “Whole grain corn, brewers rice, dried egg product, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), sugar, dried whey, sodium caseinate, animal digest, calcium carbonate, vegetable oil, potassium chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, fish oil, salt, potassium citrate, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, niacin, manganese sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.”

The FDA believes that “Whole grain corn” — certain to be GMO corn, certain to contain glyphosate (recently classified as a “possible carcinogen” by the World Health Organization) — can cure or treat kidney disease.

The FDA believes that “Animal Fat & Animal Digest” — products of the rendering industry, allowed through their legal definition to be sourced from diseased or non-slaughtered/dead animals — which is a violation of federal law (the same laws FDA is supposed to enforce), these same ingredients FDA testing determined are “from animal sources that could include euthanized animals” (and include the lethal drug used to euthanize the animal) — can cure or treat kidney disease.

Never to be held accountable, the FDA admits in their Compliance Policy Guidance document that “Animal health may suffer when dog and cat food diets intended to treat or prevent disease, but which are not approved as new animal drugs, are fed to pets. These products have not been evaluated by FDA for safety, efficacy, or nutritional adequacy.” In other words, FDA states pet foods that are allowed to claim they treat or cure disease have not been tested to assure consumers the product can actually treat or cure any disease and — even worse — the agency states they might not be safe.

In an interesting (and serious) twist, the FDA places the responsibility of safety of these prescription pet foods on veterinarians.  The new Compliance Policy Guidance states (bold added):

“Because these products have not been evaluated for safety and efficacy, veterinary oversight is especially important to provide periodic assessment of how the animal is reacting to the diet and to discontinue the product’s use when warranted.”

The FDA is telling veterinarians THEY are responsible for this “food drug” because it has not been tested for safety and effectiveness.

Below are the ingredients of another prescription pet food — Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets UR Urinary ST/OX Feline Formula Can. This cat food, sold through a veterinarian, is allowed to make claims of treating kidney disease in cats:

Ingredients (bold added for emphasis): Meat by-products, water sufficient for processing, liver, chicken, poultry by-products, rice, calcium gluconate, oat fiber, guar gum, sodium bisulfate, potassium chloride, caramel color, carrageenan, salt, taurine, Vitamin E supplement, calcium phosphate, zinc sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, copper sulfate, niacin, Vitamin B-12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, calcium pantothenate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), Vitamin D-3 supplement, folic acid, potassium iodide, biotin.

The FDA puts veterinarians in a position to learn the legal definition of “Meat by-products,” which allows it to be sourced from animal intestines or diseased animal parts rejected for use in human food.

The FDA puts veterinarians in a position to learn the legal definition of “Poultry by-products,” which allows it to be sourced from ground whole poultry – including feathers, feet and intestines – and including ground alive spent laying hens (hens no longer producing eggs).

The FDA puts veterinarians in a position to learn the research on “Caramel Color,” which is linked to cancer.

And the FDA puts veterinarians in a position to learn that “Animal studies have repeatedly shown that food-grade ‘Carrageenan‘ causes gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumors.”

And should a veterinarian not invest the time to learn the risks of many ingredients used in prescription pet foods — because the FDA dumped responsibility of the safety and efficacy of these pet foods into the lap of veterinarians — it appears the the FDA just set them up for consumer lawsuits (should the prescription pet food cause additional illness to the pet).

Every practicing veterinarian should carefully read the FDA Compliance Policy regarding prescription pet foods.

One more thing…

Are prescription pet foods really different than other pet foods? Below is a comparison of the first 13 ingredients of Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets UR Urinary ST/OX Feline Formula Can and the first 12 ingredients of Purina Friskies Classic Page Country Style Dinner Can…

Purina RX Friskies

As you can see, the ingredients of the two pet foods are almost identical. Identical except for the price…

Purina Rx Friskies cost

Source of pet food prices: Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diet. Purina Friskies Diet.

Nicely done FDA. The new Compliance Policy provides your friends in Big Pet Food another easy way to profit; selling Rx pet foods that include illegal/waste ingredients while putting the sole responsibility of the safety and effectiveness of the Rx food on the shoulders of practicing veterinarians.

Learn much more at

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Health Benefits of Coconut Oil for Your Pet

Coconut Oil Benefits

Source: Rodney Habib, Pet Nutrition Blogger

The health and nutritional benefits that can be derived from consuming coconut oil have been recognized in many parts of the world for centuries. Nutiva Virgin Coconut Oil is the richest natural source of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).

Fed to pets it may have multiple benefits including…

Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
Helps control body and breath odor
Aids in elimination of hairballs and coughing
Aids healing of digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel syndrome and colitis
Contains powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agents that prevent infection and disease
Prevents and treats yeast and fungal infections, including candida
Promotes normal thyroid function
Helps prevent or control diabetes
Aids in arthritis relief
Reduces allergic reactions
Improves skin health and hair condition
Disinfects cuts and promotes wound healing
As an antioxidant, it is 50 times more potent than Vitamin E, 15 times more potent than carrots, and 300 times more potent than tomatoes.

Most of coconut oil’s health benefits come from medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). According to former University of Maryland biochemist and dietary fats researcher Mary Enig, PhD, “The lauric acid in coconut oil is used by the body to make the same disease-fighting fatty acid derivative monolaurin that babies make from the lauric acid they get from their mothers’ milk. The monoglyceride monolaurin is the substance that keeps infants from getting viral, bacterial, or protozoal infections.”

Coconut oil’s capric and caprylic acid have similar properties and are best known for their antifungal effects. Like lauric acid, capric acid helps balance insulin levels.

In addition to protecting the body against infection, medium-chain fatty acids are efficiently metabolized to provide an immediate source of fuel and energy, enhancing athletic performance and aiding weight loss.


Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil available at Only Natural Pet Store in 15 oz (approximately 30 tbsp) and 29 oz liquid (approximately 59 tbsp) >>

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Homemade Itchy Dog Spray

Homemade Itchy Dog Spray

This body rinse can be useful to restore skin pH, soothe itchy skin, calm rashes and welts, and has some added benefits for keeping biting flies, fleas and gnats at bay.

Mix the following ingredients together in a bottle/jar with cap and shake well before use:

Apple Cider Vinegar: 1/2 cup
Brewed Green Tea (cooled): 1/2 cup
Distilled Water: 1 cup

Apply to clean skin and coat, massage, rinse, and pat dry.

Source: Pet Nutrition Blogger, Rodney Habib

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Heads up to avoid Blue Buffalo brand pet food…

Blue Buffalo pet food class action lawsuit

It seems that even so-called “trustworthy” alternative pet food brands are deceiving the public into believing that they use only the best ingredients. Is this really a surprise to anyone? My advice is not to protest, but to simply avoid this brand, and do your own research as to which brand of food you should feed your dog or pet. Read this article below about Blue Buffalo’s class-action lawsuit settlement of $32 million dollars. Be sure to share this…

A Heads-Up to Fellow Pet-Owners!

The fastest growing major pet food company in the United States, selling dog and cat food has been accused of lying to pet owners. BLUE is a billion dollar brand based on sales at retail and is the #1 brand in the Wholesome Natural market.

“Pet-food maker Blue Buffalo will pay $32 million to settle 13 consumer class action suits, the company announced last month.

The consolidated action centers on Blue Buffalo’s “True Blue Promise” labels, which allegedly appeared on all Blue Buffalo products. Blue Buffalo’s True Blue Promise was that its brand of pet food contains “Only the Finest Natural Ingredients,” with real meat first ingredients, “NO Chicken or Poultry By-Product Meals,” “NO Corn, Wheat or Soy,” and “NO Artificial Preservatives, Colors or Flavors.”

These True Blue Promise claims were allegedly restated on the front and back labels of every Blue Buffalo product and in other Blue Buffalo promotional materials. The class action plaintiffs also asserted that they paid a higher price for Blue Buffalo’s products because of the True Blue Promise.

But according to the class action plaintiffs, independent tests showed that some Blue Buffalo products did, in fact, contain chicken and poultry by-products. In addition, the tests indicated the presence of rice and corn in some products, including products from Blue Buffalo’s “Wilderness” and “Freedom” product lines, which were advertised as being grain-free.” National Law Review


Rodney Habib – Pet Nutrition Blogger

And in case you did not already know, avoid Purina brand dog food like the plague, especially its “Beneful” line, which according to the label is “100% Complete & Balanced Nutrition.” Do you think that Kellogg’s Fruit Loops is a healthy cereal? Well, Beneful looks like Fruit Loops for dogs…

Avoid Beneful Purina Brand

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Purina is Killing Your Dogs, Cats and Pets

Eric here with DogPerDay. Purina brand dog “food” is pure garbage. No… it’s worse than garbage. Garbage would be healthier. Purina’s so-called “food” is partly made from dead animal by-products. And it isn’t just Purina that does this. Every mainstream pet food manufacturer uses horrible ingredients in their foods. One hidden ingredient in many mainstream brands is ground-up roadkill. Another is euthanized animals. I’m not writing this to just be shocking. Look it up for yourself.

And don’t be fooled by brands that sound helpful like “Science Diet.” I’m talking about all popular, mainstream, commerical brands. And also don’t be fooled by deceptive terms like “All Natural.” There are pet food brands that really are All Natural, but the diabolical mainstream companies use the term simply as a marketing ploy. These companies are certainly aware of the “all natural” and “organic food” craze of the past several years, and so they market food as “all natural,” when really there is no care at all as to what goes into their product.

New York Post: Thousands of dogs killed by Purina pet food, lawsuit says

Read all about Purina’s deadly “Beneful Dog Food” line at Dog Food Advisor

There are also all kinds of chemicals and preservatives used as ingredients in commercial pet food, as the following video talks about. You need to watch this…

Take your dog, cat or other pet off of any mainstream pet “food” right now! Your best friend will thank you… big time!

Take a good look at Only Natural Pet Online Pet Store. You will find banners for Only Natural Pet Store all throughout DogPerDay. They have all kinds of non-mainstream, high-quality brands that you should take a look at. And it’s possible to even save money by ordering your dog food online in bulk and having it delivered straight to your door. But whatever you do, get your dog or pet off of mainstream food as soon as possible.

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Top 10 Reasons Your Pet May Be Itching

By Dr. Jean Hofve, Veterinarian Advisor for Only Natural Pet

Itching, and the scratching, biting, and licking that goes with it, is one of the most common health problems in dogs and cats. Frequent head-shaking, scratching, rubbing, chewing, or licking some area of skin (including ears) means there’s a problem with itching, technically called “pruritis.” Left untreated, itchy skin can be damaged by the pet’s scratching, rubbing, or licking, which may lead to “hot spots” (areas of oozing, dry or inflamed skin), as well as secondary infections. Finding out what is causing the itch, and resolving that cause, is essential to your pet’s quality of life.

Itchy Dog

In very general terms, itchy-skin problems in pets fall into just a few main categories: poor nutrition, infections, parasites, and allergies are the major players; but endocrine diseases, primary skin disorders, neoplasia (cancer), autoimmune, pyschogenic (mental-neurological) causes, and drug reactions may also occur. Sometimes more than one factor may be contributing to the problem.

Here’s a list of the top ten itch-causing factors, as well as some suggestions on what you can do to help eliminate that irritating itch. Before your pet damages the skin, starts pulling out clumps of fur, or is forced to wear a cone-shaped (Elizabethan) collar, consider these common causes of itchiness in dogs and cats, and work with your veterinarian to get your pet some needed relief:

1. Nutrition

This doesn’t include food allergies; but diets containing lower-quality nutrients are at the root of many an itchy pet. We know that good nutrition is the foundation of health, and the corollary is also true: cheap ingredients (such as corn and by-products) make for expensive vet bills. Unfortunately, even vets tend to be poorly educated on nutrition, and often recommend grocery store or “prescription”-type diets. Be sure to read this article, “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food“, become a label-reader, and choose only good-quality natural foods for your cat or dog. Also consider supplements, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and digestive enzymes, that will enhance your pet’s digestive and immune systems, and help avoid nutritional deficiencies that can cause so much misery.

2. Infection

Skin infection (pyoderma) is surprisingly common in pets. The major infectious culprits are ringworm (not actually a worm, but a fungus that is highly contagious to other pets as well as humans), Malassezia (yeast), and bacteria. Ringworm is especially common in kittens and cats, while yeast and bacterial infections are more typical in dogs. The ears are lined with skin, so itchy ears in both dogs and cats are an extension of the same types of infections. Your veterinarian will need to make the correct diagnosis in order to properly treat the infection.

However, one thing that vets don’t talk about much is why infection occurs. In holistic terms, infections are always secondary; the skin is unhealthy for some reason (often nutrition-related), and then invaders like bacteria, yeast, and fungus can get a foothold. Keeping the skin healthy via good nutrition (with wholesome meat proteins and plenty of essential fatty acids) is the best prevention. Please see our article, “Chronic Ear Infections,” for more details. Minor skin infections and hot spots may respond well to natural topical products offer by Only Natural Pet.

“We know that good nutrition is the foundation of health, and the corollary is also true: cheap ingredients (such as corn and by-products) make for expensive vet bills.”

3. Fleas

These nasty bugs deserve a special place in the itch-causing chronicles. Bites from fleas are itchy all by themselves, but many pets develop a specific allergy to flea bites. This is most commonly seen as hair loss or rash at the base of the spine and tail, not to mention that the dog or cat will constantly be chewing at the area. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is an intensely itchy allergic reaction to flea saliva that can be triggered by a single flea bite! You may never see a flea or flea dirt on your pet (though daily flea-combing is never a bad idea!), and many people are quite confused as to how their flea-less pet can have such a severe reaction. If you live in an area where fleas are present (which includes most of the U.S. at least part of the year), always keep in mind that just one flea can cause intense itching for your pet that can last for weeks. There are prescription veterinary flea-prevention products available, but natural flea & tick control products are safer, and definitely worth a try before resorting to toxic pesticides. For more information, please read our article, “The Natural Approach to Flea Control.” Only Natural Pet also offers aids for flea & insect bites.

“Many pets develop a specific allergy to flea bites. This is most commonly seen as hair loss or rash at the base of the spine and tail, not to mention that the dog or cat will constantly be chewing at the area. “

4. Other Insects and Arachnids

Just like they often do in humans, mosquito bites can cause severe itching in sensitive pets, and in many areas of the country, can transmit heartworms, Lyme, and other diseases, so keep a natural insect repellent handy during bug season to help your pet stay bite-free.

Lice are an uncommon cause of itching in pets. Fortunately they are highly species-specific; a dog cannot get cat lice, and vice versa. Lice are visible to the naked eye, but don’t jump like fleas. Good hygiene, grooming, and clean bedding are usually enough to prevent lice infestations.

Ticks and mites are not insects, but members of the 8-legged arachnid family (along with spiders and scorpions). Ticks, while not usually itchy, can carry many diseases, and are well worth avoiding. Many flea repellents are also effective against ticks.

“Mosquito bites can cause severe itching in sensitive pets, and in many areas of the country, can transmit heartworms, Lyme, and other diseases, so keep a natural insect repellent handy during bug season to help your pet stay bite-free.”

There are half a dozen species of mites that can infest pets, from the highly contagious and severely itchy scabies (sarcoptic mange) to the mild-mannered demodex that inhabits normal skin, but in immune-compromised animals can cause itching and hair loss over the entire body. Mites are diagnosed through skin scrapings taken by your vet, although a negative sample may not guarantee there are no mites. Scabies in particular hides deep in the skin and is notoriously hard to find. If more than one animal in your home is itchy (including human animals), it may be smart to treat everyone for mites.

For more information, please read our article, “Ask the Vet: Natural Treatment for Demodectic Mange.”

5. Airborne Allergies (Atopy)

Many animals are allergic to the same things that cause human allergies (dust, grasses, pollen, etc.). While humans’ allergies tend to affect the upper respiratory system with sneezing and watery discharges, dogs’ and cats’ responses are more likely to involve dermatitis, or skin inflammation. While this is a major cause of pets’ itching, these allergies are tough to diagnose, and other causes usually need to be ruled out first. Blood and skin tests can sometimes be helpful for dogs; less so for cats. Like humans, pets can also be allergic to chemical irritants like pesticide residue and household cleaning products. Allergies can be difficult to control, and almost impossible to eliminate. However, hypoallergenic diets, allergy support products and essential fatty acid supplements can be helpful.

Dog Itching

6. Food Allergies

Food allergies are not quite as common as most people think, and they are actually more common in cats than dogs. Fortunately, food allergies can be resolved with diligent detective work, eliminating all common allergens from the diet (beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, and milk), then reintroducing one at a time to see which ones cause an allergic reaction. Strict avoidance of irritants can resolve most cases of pure food allergy. Grain-free and novel protein foods as well as raw food diets can do much to alleviate food-based allergies for many animal companions. Our articles, “All About Raw Food,” “Is Grain-Free Food Right for Your Companion?” and “The Role of Protein in Good Nutrition,” provide further details on this important topic.

“We recommend trying to find a holistic veterinarian who can guide you on natural flea control products.”

7. Genetic Factors & Breed Predisposition

Some breeds and lines of cats and dogs are more prone to sensitive skin, or are more likely to develop allergic itching due to skin folds and ear shapes. Siamese and Persian cats often have immune system issues; and many breeds of dogs are more prone to allergies that cause itching skin. Dogs with many skin folds, especially around the muzzle (Shar Peis, Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs), floppy ears (Spaniels, Hounds, and Retrievers), or internally hairy ears (Poodles, Schnauzers), often become itchy from yeast or bacterial infections in those warm, moist environments. Temperament also plays a role; if yours is a sensitive breed, consider a holistic anxiety remedy to help ease your pet’s emotional reactivity.

8. Vaccine Reactions

Although not usually recognized by veterinarians, vaccine reactions can include dermatitis and itching. This occurs in both cats and dogs, and can result after just one vaccine. Please read our article, “Vaccination Basics,” for more details on this important health issue. The homeopathic remedy, Thuja can be helpful for pets that may have vaccine-related issues, particularly skin issues occurring after vaccination.

“Vaccine reactions can include dermatitis and itching. This occurs in both cats and dogs, and can result after just one vaccine.”

9. Glandular/Hormonal Imbalances

Several glandular imbalances can cause skin problems that contribute to itching in some pets. Glands within the skin itself can malfunction and cause skin itching, odor, and discharge. Systemic conditions related to major endocrine glands, such as the thyroid and adrenal glands, may also occur.


(decreased thyroid function) occurs naturally in dogs, and rarely in cats, usually after treatment for overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). There is some evidence to suggest that autoimmune hypothyroidism (about half of cases) may be related to vaccination. Hypothyroidism can cause the skin to become greasy, foul smelling, and in some cases itchy; the hair often becomes very thin and brittle, starting at the tail.

Cushing’s Disease

(hyperadrenocorticism) is a condition of adrenal gland over activity that may stem from an adrenal tumor, or from the pituitary gland. Skin problems are common in Cushing’s disease, including thin skin, hair loss, and sometimes itching. Endocrine diseases are serious problems that require veterinary treatment, so always have your pet examined when unusual skin issues or other symptoms arise. Our article, “Thyroid Disorders in Cats and Dogs,” provides additional information.

10. Detoxification

The skin is the largest organ of elimination. Many irritants, residues, and compounds can be excreted through the skin. This is part of why pets develop skin symptoms from allergies that, in people, cause respiratory discharges. A temporary bout of itchiness or rash, especially after a change in diet, or after holistic treatment such as homeopathy, it may be part of the healing process. This shouldn’t last long (usually 2-3 weeks), depending on your pet’s history and initial state of health. We carry an excellent homeopathic detoxification aid, Newton Homeopathics Detoxifier, which can help pets eliminate toxins as part of an overall health program. Of course, please work closely with your veterinarian during any detox process. Please see our articles, “Fifteen Steps to Detox Your Pet,” and “When Is It Time to See the Vet?” for more information.

While this “Top Ten” is not an exhaustive list, it will give you a place to start with the most common causes of itchy skin.

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Top 10 Myths About Pet Food and Nutrition

By Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, contributor for Only Natural Pet

Whether it’s weeding through the “prescription” diets offered or just understanding the difference between raw food and dry food, separating the fact from the fiction will go a long way in letting your pet enjoy a happy, healthy life. Here are the top 10 food myths that we hear and the truth behind them:

1. The best foods are those endorsed by veterinarians

While large brands sold in veterinarian’s offices may be marketed as premium, top of the line foods, one look at the ingredients tells a different story. These formulas, made by large conglmorate food manufacturers, derive far more protein from grains or grain by-product sources such as corn gluten meal, brewer’s rice, and wheat, than from healthy meat sources.

These brands, and so many like them found in grocery stores, also contain poultry by-product, which consists of the leftovers unfit for human consumption, like feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs, and intestines; everything BUT clean meat. It’s a cheap, low quality source of protein that is far less digestible than clean chicken meal. These ingredients are a tell-tale sign of poor quality food and are no different than discount brands at the grocery store. Although the formulas may contain a few specialized ingredients to position them as a special diet for health conditions such as joint support, urinary tract health, etc., a better way to treat these conditions is with a truly healthy food and one or more daily supplements.

When looking for the best food, meat and a named meat meal, like chicken meal or lamb meal, should be listed before any grains. Our dogs and cats are designed by nature to eat protein from meat sources, not grains. The high grain content of many pet foods is a primary contributor to the growing obesity and allergy problems in pets (this does not mean that all grains are bad for dogs and cats; see myth #7). For more information on selecting a truly premium food for your companion, see our articles, “Quick Guide to Natural Pet Foods,” and “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food.”

2. Dry food cleans your dog’s and cat’s teeth

This one is very common, even among some veterinarians, but it is most definitely not true. Dogs and cats have very pointed teeth; even their molars are sharp edged, not flat. These teeth are designed to bite, tear, and chew raw meat, so when a dog or cat eats kibble, they either swallow it whole or shatter it. Kibble does not scrape down onto the lower parts of the teeth or near the gums, which is where dental problems start. In fact, kibble can contribute to dental problems when the shattered bits lodge between the teeth, promoting bacterial growth. Just like with your diet, carbohydrate food debris breaks down into sugar, which dental bacteria feeds upon.

“Dental care for dogs and cats is vitally important because poor dental health can lead to chronic disease conditions.”

However, kibble isn’t going to help. Healthy teeth start with a natural diet, healthy chews, and regular brushing. Please see our article, “Dental Healthcare for Your Companion,” for detailed information on caring for your four-legged friend’s teeth.

3. Pets need life stage appropriate diets, like puppy, kitten, and senior formulas

Life stage diets were created as a marketing tool! The more formulas manufacturers develop, the more shelf space they command. While it is true that puppies and kittens need more food for their size than adults, they don’t need a specially formulated puppy or kitten diet. A high-quality, varied diet is the best option for your young pets. For puppies this can include dry food, canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated, and raw food.

For kittens, kibble is not recommended to be a large portion of the diet as it can contribute to dehydration, urinary tract issues and less than optimal health over time. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they eat mostly meat and very little carbohydrates. High meat, grain-free foods are a good option if you’re supplementing with kibble, but canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated and raw are the best choices.

Feeding younger animals more frequent meals, like 3 times per day, is helpful while they are in their biggest growth phase. After three or four months of age, two meals per day is sufficient for most animals. Puppies and kittens should be kept slim, just like adult animals; keep an eye on your little companion’s waistline and don’t let them get round.

Senior animals tend to slow down as they age, so while their calorie requirements may shrink, their need for the healthiest food you can provide is never greater. As animals age, they require excellent nutrition to keep their immune system as strong as possible and their joints in good working order. Continuing to feed a high quality, varied diet is the best thing you can do, just feed a little less of it; older dogs and cats are the most susceptible to the many health issues that obesity can contribute to, including diabetes, arthritis, and urinary tract problems.

4. Table scraps and other “people foods” are bad for your dog and cat

Most holistically trained veterinarians encourage the practice of feeding “people food” to our pets. Healthy leftovers are an excellent supplement to your companion’s regular fare.”There are only two rules with people food for pets:

  1. It must be healthy for them: meat, steamed and finely chopped veggies & fruits, baked sweet potato, rice, oatmeal; no junk food; and
  2. If you give them some of what you are eating, remember to feed less of their own food so that they don’t put on extra pounds.”

It’s important to note that not all healthy foods for us are healthy for our pets: onions, grapes and raisins can all be toxic to dogs and cats. If you’re not positive it’s safe, don’t feed it.

“Even beyond leftovers, home-cooking is becoming popular among dog and cat lovers. Homemade food has never been easier to create.”

There are a number of homemade pre-mixes available to which all you need to add is meat and an appropriate oil for healthy fat content. Pre-mixes contain vegetables, vitamins and minerals, and sometimes grains to make the meal complete. Sojos has varieties with and without grains. Honest Kitchen offers Honest Kitchen Preference, a grain-free blend. Dr. Harvey’s makes pre-mixes for home cooked food that contains organic grains with an amazing blend of herbs, and also a grain-free pre-mix. You don’t have to cook every meal for your companion to benefit from fresher food: even the occasional homemade dinner is a wonderful healthy treat!

5. Your dog and cat should only eat food labeled as “complete and balanced”

Pet food companies have a pretty big interest in perpetuating this myth. Is every meal you eat complete and balanced? Even the most health-conscious among us don’t worry about meeting the proper balance of nutrients at every meal. We know that over the course of the day or week our diet will be fairly complete, so we don’t have to worry about eating exactly what the food pyramid recommends on a daily basis. Many of us take vitamins and supplements to fill in any gaps because even eating a very healthy diet of whole foods may not provide all the vitamins and minerals our body needs to stay healthy.

Variety is the key to a healthy diet for dogs and cats as well. If you’re feeding at least 50-60% commercially prepared foods that are designed to be “complete,” then you are well on your way to providing a majority of the balance of nutrients. Adding canned, raw or cooked meats, people food, fresh vegetables or other non-formulated foods to your companion’s meals will boost the overall nutrition of the diet as long as it is not overdone. Providing a daily multi-vitamin adds extra insurance. One caveat here: meat is higher in phosphorus and lower in calcium, so when adding more than 15 – 20% extra meat to your companion’s diet on a regular basis, keep the calcium and phosphorus ratio balanced over time by including raw bones or adding a calcium supplement.

6. Feeding raw food is dangerous due to the risk of Salmonella and E. Coli

The digestive tracts of dogs and cats are very different than those of humans. The human digestive tract is approximately 25 to 28 feet long with a stomach acidity between 1.5 and 2.5, whereas dogs and cats have a much shorter digestive system at an average of 10 to 13 feet for dogs (shorter for cats) with an acidity of less than 1. This means that raw food moves through your pet’s system in less than half the time it would through a human’s system, and the high acidity kills most bacteria. Even if the food was contaminated, it is likely that the microbes would not enter the animal’s bloodstream. Commercially prepared raw food manufacturers take measures to control against the presence of unwanted organisms such as salmonella and e. coli, so if you’re concerned about contamination, frozen raw diets are a good option.

If you eat meat, then you are aware of the precautions to take when handling raw meat. The same precautions apply to raw pet food: wash bowls, utensils and your hands after feeding and handling the meat. Keep the meat frozen until two to four days before feeding, and thaw in the refrigerator. Don’t leave the food down for your pet for more than 30-40 minutes, and throw any leftovers away after this time. If you use common sense, feeding raw food is no more difficult or dangerous than any other pet food, and the health benefits are unparalleled. For more information see “All About Raw Food” in our article archives.

7. High protein diets are hard on your pet’s kidneys, especially as they age

This myth is a result of poor quality food manufacturers. The truth is that high plant protein diets are hard on your pet’s organs; high animal protein diets aren’t only healthy for your aging pets, but essential. Poor quality, mass produced pet foods are packed with protein from soy and corn. Unfortunately, your dog and cat are unable to properly digest and assimilate these sources of protein. It lets the food manufacturer boost the protein content of the food without actually offering your pet any substantial protein they can use. High plant protein diets can put added strain on your pets because their bodies aren’t designed to process those ingredients. As they try to assimilate protein from these sources, their organs need to start working overtime.


“Animal protein is hugely important to our pets throughout their entire lives. High quality protein from actual meat sources contains important amino acids that your pets need to thrive.”

When choosing a healthy, high protein diet for your pet, avoid any bags that feature corn or soy as a prominent ingredient (or better yet, avoid them altogether). You want named meat meals (like chicken meal or lamb meal) or quality meat as the primary protein source. This is a sureproof way to make sure your pets are eating the diet nature intended.

8. Ash Content is an important guideline in choosing your cat’s food

Concern about ash content in pet foods came about as veterinarians and cat guardians were looking for the cause of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD – formerly known as FUS). In the 70”s & 80’s, veterinarians thought ash was a factor in causing crystals in urine. There are, however, a variety of causes and ash is no longer considered a factor in causing FLUTD. The main problem was the formulation of commercial pet foods: most pet foods were creating a more alkaline urine (higher pH) which leads to an increase in struvite crystals. Most dry kibble diets are formulated with a high vegetable and grain content which creates a more alkaline urine. An all meat diet such as a cat would eat in nature creates a more acidic urine.

A high protein diet is the best way to maintain a low urinary pH naturally. Cats eating canned diets have fewer problems with FLUTD than those eating primarily dry kibble diets. This is due both to the higher meat content of canned diets as well as the higher moisture content; increased hydration also prevents crystal formation. A frozen raw food diet is ideal for maintaining a lower urinary pH and providing proper hydration. Focusing on low-ash foods will not solve FLUTD problems, but a healthier diet and proper hydration will.

A more effective means of preventing FLUTD than stressing about the amount of ash in your companion’s food is focusing on stress reduction for your pet and you. Stress is an often overlooked contributing factor to FLUTD, along with lack of exercise. When our companions are stressed, their immune system are compromised. Furthermore, when you are stressed, your companion is far more likely to be stressed. Flower Essences are an excellent stress reduction and emotional support tool; cats are especially responsive to flower essences and can benefit greatly from their use. There are flower essences designed for every emotional state, so look through the large selection and choose the one or two remedies that best match your companion’s issues. Dosing is as simple as adding a few drops to the water or massaging them onto your pet’s ears or paws.

If you would like to learn more about handling your cat’s FLUTD, please read our other articles: “Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease,” “Ash, Magnesium and FLUTD,” “Flower Essences and How They Work,” and “Treating Mild Anxiety.

9. Changing formulas or brands of pet foods is hard on your dog’s or cat’s digestion

A healthy dog or cat can eat a different food at each meal without issue as long as they are high-quality foods. Holistically minded guardians and veterinarians know that variety is important for several reasons, the most important being to avoid the development of sensitivities to any particular food or protein type. When the same food is fed for many months or years at a time, animals can develop allergies or sensitivities to specific ingredients in the food. Plus, many holistic veterinarians believe that feeding the same food for many years is a contributing factor to inflammatory bowel disease.

Variety provides a wider range of nutrition for your companion as well. Even though a food may be formulated to meet AAFCO standards, that does not mean it meets the standards of every dog or cat. As a matter of fact, many foods that meet AAFCO standards cannot be tolerated by our pets due to the heavy use of grains and grain by-products. A diverse diet will meet the nutritional needs of your companion over time, and, besides that, would you want to eat the same meal everyday? Remember, every meal doesn’t need to be perfectly balanced as long as the diet is balanced over the course of a week.

Whenever feeding any diet, it’s important to remember to include supplements. Digestive enzymes are hugely important and will help your companion transition from one type of food to another with ease. They help animals maintain a healthy digestive tract and get the most nutrition from their food. Essential fatty acids, especially from fish oil, provide the omega 3 fatty acids missing from most processed pet foods that nourish the skin, coat and digestive tract. Probiotics are important for animals on medication or those experiencing digestive upsets. For animals in need of increased support due to chronic digestive issues, Only Natural Pet GI Support provides herbs and nutrients to soothe and heal the lining of the digestive tract.

10. It’s fine for dogs and cats to eat each other’s food

While there are a few canned formulas available that meet the needs of both species, most foods are designed specifically for cats or dogs. Cats require a higher percentage of protein and fat than most dogs and they have specific requirements for additional taurine. Dogs that eat too much cat food are at risk of weight gain and even pancreatitis. Cats that eat dog food are at risk of weight gain when the food is high in carbohydrates, as well as more likely to develop deficiencies in important amino acids like Taurine.

(Reprinted on with permission from Only Natural Pet. The articles and information in the Only Natural Pet Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product. The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian. Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff, guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care products.)

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