Category Archives: Information

Informational Posts

Juno the Olive-Obsessed Kitty


Juno the Olive-Obsessed Kitty

Several years ago I was contacted by Susan, one of my radio listeners in New Hampshire, with a question that remains a fascinating phenomenon.

My two year old cat Juno steals Kalamata olives. Not only does he steal them, he will scream and beg for them if he sees me eating them or smells them in the room. He’ll gnaw on my fingers if he knows I’ve held one. He is normally a very composed furry gentleman. Once Juno secures an olive he literally goes wild — he shakes with excitement and devours the olive in an ecstatic frenzy. I’ve never witnessed such behavior. Days after consuming an olive and, with a wistful look on his face, Juno will even lick the floor where it once was. Is this a nutrition issue? Is my kitty missing an essential nutrient in his diet? Juno receives three small cans of food daily and has a water fountain which is always on and clean, as well as fresh tap water placed in a dish daily. We keep a steady crop of cat grass available, and he gets dried protein treats about once a month, for fun. I’d welcome your thoughts, Tracie. Should I give him olives, or refrain? What could be driving this obsession of his?

Since other radio listeners had mentioned their kitties being nuts about olives, I looked for a scientific explanation for Juno’s olive mania.

“Green olives (Olea europaea) and pimentos (Capsicum annuum) contain isoprenoids, which are structurally similar to the active chemical in catnip methylcyclopentane monoterpene nepetalactone. The chemical in the essential oil of these plants binds to receptors in the cat’s vomeronasal organ and has a similar effect on the same receptors that are responsible for getting her high on catnip. The vomeronasal organ is what cats (and most other animals, with the exception of humans) use to sense pheromones. This part of a kitty’s nose/brain is where the nepetalactone in catnip stimulates pheromone receptors, accounting for the mind-altering effect a cat can experience, resulting in “space-kitty.”

bowl of olives

I remembered that back when I first got the question about Juno’s olive obsession, I had put the question to Jackson Galaxy (proud to say I knew him way before he achieved fame and acclaim as Cat Daddy). Funnily enough, he came back with the same explanation about pussycats and olives, with a more down-to-earth explanation. Jackson said:

“Believe it or not, this story is commonplace. Reason being, both in varieties of green olives, like Kalamatas, and in pimentos, there are high levels of certain compounds that actually resemble pheromones. There’s a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo that I’m sure nobody (like me!) is interested in reading, but the bottom line is that these olives have components in their essential oils that cause a reaction very similar to catnip. Yes, Juno is ‘olive-high.’ And no, there is nothing “bad” in kalamatas, although they are pretty well empty in terms of the nutrition they offer. Susan may be trying to make a connection between what Juno might lack in his diet and the olive-eating (like when animals eat dirt, for example), when in reality Juno is just looking for a cheap thrill!”

There appears to be no toxicity to olives (although one of my listeners mentioned diarrhea) but they don’t have the Happy Making effect on every cat. Another treat you can consider for your cat – that is also much-needed environmental enrichment, is to put some freeze dried protein treats inside a good dispenser toy and let your kitty put her brain to good use trying to extricate the tasty morsels!

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credits: CeresB via photopin ccpedrosimoes7 via photopin cc

My Godmother Joan Rivers Absolutely Loved Dogs

Tracie with sister Holly (left) and Joan Rivers (right)

Joan Rivers with me (center), several years ago, at dog-friendly book party for THE DOG BIBLE at the Museum of Arts & Design, of which my sister Holly [left, holding her Brussels Griffon puppy, Lulu] was the Director.

My Godmother Joan Rivers Absolutely Loved Dogs

Joan Rivers was my godmother — and her daughter Melissa is my goddaughter. (We came together 43 years ago in Los Angeles, as East Coast transplants, and formed our own patchwork family. My own mother had died when I was only a girl.) It was a cherished relationship for me, and because of her celebrity I rarely mentioned our connection to others because it was the private person whom I loved and depended on for support, advice and encouragement. (Once I hit my own middle-age, Joan began calling me “her good friend” to others because I think it made her feel too old to be godmother to someone no longer a spring chicken — especially since I disappointed her by declining her offer of a face lift and not electing to follow in her footsteps of trying to stay eternally young!)

While I knew Joan enjoyed her celebrity and I greatly admired her brilliance, work ethic and was thrilled for her many professional successes, the Joan whom I loved was the person inside all that plastic surgery and glamorous dressing and grand living — the one who insisted on being called “Mrs. Rosenberg” at home and in her non-showbiz life, who loved to paint on the easel set up in her dressing room (after taking up art as part of her friendship with the Prince of Wales, mind you!), paid for the education of the children of anyone who worked for her, and who was happy to curl up with her dogs by her side and read a good book while nibbling on low cal chocolate snacks (sharing them with the dogs when she discovered that most commercial human treats like that don’t actually contain any chocolate). For me, her beauty came not from all the elegant trappings, but from her core values of generosity, intelligence, and kindness. How could you not love a woman who, when push came to shove, called her doggies her best friends and in later years said they were better companions than a husband because “they didn’t leave the seat up!”

Her recent death has given me the opportunity to recall decades of memories. In my pet-centered life, one thing that struck me was how Joan had never been without at least one dog in her life, doting on them and paying close attention to their physical and emotional needs. She loved her dogs dearly, and they meant so much to her because with her hectic lifestyle of travel and performances, her pooches were her touchstone to normalcy and genuine affection — just as they are for the rest of us! With Joan gone, I wondered what plans there were for her most recent sidekick Max (her re-homed black Pekingese, who had bounced to two other homes before he clicked instantly with Joan many years ago) and her rescued Havanese-mix, Samantha. Sam was black, too, and Joan thought it was wonderful to walk two black dogs down the block in New York city — so chic! She was especially proud that her dogs were rescues, not purchases, and would have loved to fill her house and heart with even more of them.

I thought back to the first dogs she got after moving to Los Angeles with her husband Edgar and Melissa as a little girl, which was when I was first swept up by Joan’s unique energy and the enchantment of Melissa, who was a bewitching child, and I became Family with them. Joan was worried about security — back in the Seventies the FBI often had to intervene when she received threatening notes and phone calls because people took offense at Joan’s outrageous humor — so she got what was supposed to be a German Shepherd protection dog and named her Tiger, for good measure, thinking it made her seem more threatening. As it turned out, Sweet Tiger was a wash-out as a guard dog, rarely motivated to get up and do so much as bark when the gate bell rang — which I often thought might have been because she got so chubby and happy because of the snacks Joan would sneak to her. (I never did manage to get her to feed a healthy balanced diet to her doggies, although they clearly enjoyed the can of Spot’s Stew I brought over, trying to convert Joan to a healthy diet for them — and for herself and Melissa as a child, too!)

They got a second dog as a companion for Melissa, who named the black Lhasa Apso Sparky, a spunky little guy whom they wanted to take with them in a hand carrier when they traveled. However, they feared being turned away at the airport no matter how carefully they had made plans. (This was back in the days when almost nobody except Elizabeth Taylor took dogs on board airplanes.) The first time they did it, Edgar and Joan were horribly worried about the plan going off smoothly, fearful the dog might not be allowed into the cabin at the last minute and they would be unable to travel. I offered to meet them at the airport very early on a Sunday morning in case there were any last minute problems, in which case I’d keep Sparky with me. All went well, but Joan never quite got over thanking me for being Sparky’s “safety net” — she never missed a chance to mention her lifelong gratitude to me. Having that dog with them — and making sure he was fine — meant so much to her.

At her funeral there were some amazingly funny and heartfelt eulogies, first from Howard Stern, who mentioned that Joan’s foremost concern about dying was how Melissa, her grandson Cooper and her dogs would do afterwards. It was funny because the dogs mattered at that level of importance. I knew she made sure to leave very clear provisions for all of them; it struck me that in our world today, dogs have become accepted as such essential family members that providing for them well in life, and after death, is considered quite normal, whereas not that many years ago it would have been considered eccentric to mention children, grandchildren and dogs in the same context.

Another fantastic speaker at the funeral was Deborah Norville, the TV personality who had delicious tales to tell of her travel adventures with Joan. I have decided to take to heart Deborah’s admonition that instead of feeling too blue about losing Joan, that instead we make an effort to bring a smile or laugh to someone in Joan’s honor. She said we should do something silly, say something funny, anything to spread some cheer, which was what Joan’s life was dedicated to. Deborah threw down the challenge to do that, using the hash-tag #joanriverschallenge and I hope some of you may want to follow suit.

If you’re out in the Hamptons or on Long Island this coming Saturday, I’ll be dedicating my NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) to Joanie on 88.3, Peconic Public Broadcasting — and then the show will be podcast on my Radio Pet Lady Network next week. The show will consist of two interviews I did with Joan about her dogs — one on the prior incarnation of the NPR station when it was called WLIU, and the second on WOR-AM radio in New York City, where I had my own Saturday night pet talk show in 2010. We discuss canine problems like “welcome tinkling” that I tried to help solve, and questions I answered. Joan reminisces about her long-gone dog Spike, her “heart dog,” her perfect little Yorkie who went everywhere with her and was a perfect gentleman (except for dragging around and humping the pink fuzzy slipper he was in love with); Veronica, the little Yorkie she got as a girlfriend for Spike (who wouldn’t so much as look in her direction for an entire twelve years!); Lulu, a sprightly Boston Terrier, given to her by a paramour, a dog who wound up living the final year of her life as a tripawd, after bone cancer forced a rear amputation. Then there is her most recent pal, Max the Peke (who wears a belly band to stop him from marking on the damask silk drapes!) and Samantha the Havanese-mix.

Perhaps most startling about these interviews, which she did with me four years ago, is that she talks about having cremated her dogs and wanting to be cremated herself — and then having all their ashes mixed together in “one big barking urn.” Although she left many instructions about her funeral and beyond, I don’t believe that the concept of a big cremation urn actually wound up as her final wish, but she didn’t want to be separated from them, that’s for sure. Parting from them when she went away on work was sweet sorrow for her, and I will always remember the joy in Joan’s voice when she would come home and be greeted by balls of flying fur. Joan said, “Hello my darlings, my little darlings” and I think she knew she was with her greatest fans of all.

–Tracie Hotchner

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

How Diet Can Help A Kitty Cat With Heart Failure

Cat lying down on bed

How Diet Can Help A Kitty Cat With Heart Failure

I received this plea for advice and help from an understandably distraught owner who was caught off guard by her cat’s sudden diagnosis with a serious heart condition. Linda wrote to me:

“My seemingly healthy 10 year old cat was diagnosed with advanced hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure (with atrial fibrillation) last week. I’m absolutely devastated. She is currently taking furosemide, enalapril, clopidogrel, and atenolol and is responding well to them. Are there any other meds or treatments that you could suggest we look into? Also do you know of any cats that have actually lived another year or more with these conditions?”

I really felt for Linda because I know how frightening it can be when your middle-aged pet, who seems to have only lived half her life, can suddenly be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. I immediately reached out to Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, my co-host on the Radio Pet Lady Network show CAT CHAT® to ask whether this medical regimen seemed appropriate and complete and whether there was anything else Linda could do to improve and prolong her pussycat’s life. I was so relieved and thankful that Dr. Elizabeth gave “paws up” to the choices Linda’s vet had made in treating the condition. Dr. Elizabeth said:

“Sounds like her vet is fairly well versed on how to manage this disease with medication so that is good. Kitty should be on a high quality diet (high protein, low carbs) of course to minimize any negative nitrogen balance that would further harm the heart. So many heart diets are poorly accepted by sick cats and don’t have enough quality protein in the first place so she wants to be sure the kitty eats well and eats plenty of good protein. And a low stress lifestyle, of course.”

I wanted to be able to steer Linda away from any dry food (all of which I call “kitty crack” because of the harm of highly processed carbohydrates to any cat, even one who is well) and to suggest the highest quality protein/lowest carbohydrate canned cat foods. I was fortunate that Dr. Donna Spector (my co-host on our radio show THE EXPERT VET, also on the Radio Pet Lady Network has helped to formulate some of the very low carb cat foods for Halo Purely for Pets, where she is their expert vet! She took the time to let me know which Halo foods have less than 10% of calories coming from carbohydrates–making these foods great for every cat to maintain natural health, and to assist those with medical challenges. Dr. Donna also mentioned that Linda should watch her kitty’s sodium (salt) intake and keep it stable to help ease her kitty’s signs of congestive heart failure.

4 Extremely Low-Carb Halo Cat Foods:

Spot’s Pate Whitefish [1.95% calories from carbs], Spot’s Pate Chicken [3.65% calories from carbs], Spot’s Pate Turkey & Duck [4.76% calories from carbs], and Spot’s Pate Salmon [1% calories from carbs].

8 More Very Low Carb Premium Halo Cat Foods:

Spot’s Stew Succulent Salmon [9.29% calories from carbs], Spot’s Choice Shredded Turkey [9.62% calories from carbs], Spot’s Choice Shredded Chicken [8.76% calories from carbs], Impulse Pate Rabbit & Garden Greens [7.27% calories from carbs], Impulse Pate Quail and Greens [7.51% calories from carbs], Vigor Turkey & Quail [9.39% calories from carbs], Vigor Salmon & Venison [9.82 % calories from carbs], Vigor Chicken & Trout [6.77% calories from carbs].

Unfortunately, no one can give Linda the news she wants most of all: to know that her pussycat is going to live to a healthy, ripe old age. However, by feeding the right kind of food she will be providing important nutrition in a feline-appropriate diet. In addition, I wanted to assist in the “low stress” part of Dr. Elizabeth’s advice. In order to help maintain an emotionally happy and peaceful environment for Linda’s kitty, I am sending her a Feliway diffuser and refill, so that she can put pheromones into the cat’s environment to keep the stress low and happy thoughts high! Feliway is a synthetic version of a cat’s natural cheek gland secretions, which they rub on things in their environment to mark them in a positive “it’s all good” sort of way — a chemical communicator to the cat’s brain that “all is well” — which I certainly hope things will be for them.

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Halo and Feliway are sponsors on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Does “Grain Free” Dog Food Solve Health Problems?

Collie scratching

Does “Grain Free” Dog Food Solve Health Problems?

Recently I got an email from a radio listener complaining that their dog was “allergic to grain” and wanted my advice on whether a “grain free” dog food would solve their problems. I have found that “grain-free” is a distorted concept in pet food, even though some dog owners believe that “grain free” food is of special value to their dogs and give it credit for solving problems that it actually cannot really address. In addition, dog owners and some veterinarians have a mistaken perception that dogs have food “allergies” which cause skin problems — when the fact is that food is the least likely cause of those problems. I am eager to clear up some fundamental misunderstandings about the word “grain” and the word “allergic” by pet owners.

Let us start by clearing up what is meant by “grain” — something I know a lot about since I happen to have celiac sprue disease (which means an intolerance to the gluten in grains). I am supremely aware of what constitutes a grain since I have to carefully avoid grains in any form, with wheat (as bread or flour) being the one most often seen in foods. This is also true of lower quality pet foods — the presence of wheat is a red flag about a product. Wheat is the grain primarily seen in dog food. Even though dogs do not get celiac disease, wheat is generally considered a possible intestinal irritant and it is also not a quality source of nutrition. Pet foods based on corn are also seen on the list of lower quality foods, which is because it is high on the glycemic index and can cause obesity and blood sugar issues. The presence of corn indicates that a pet food is heavily carbohydrate-based rather than relying on a good protein source as the primary ingredient. When I was the PETCO spokesperson in 2011 for their natural foods, the signs on the wall in the natural section of their stores said everything you needed to know in choosing a high quality pet food: No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy. However, I also want to make sure to clarify that corn is not really considered a grain and is fully allowed on a human celiac diet, as is rice — wheat is the big no-no, as other people who are gluten (grain) intolerant will confirm.

I have written before that “grain free” is not really what it seems to be because it does not mean “carb free.” One reader wrote that her Pomeranian Spunky began having seizures at 5 years old and sniffling and scratching a lot, losing much of his hair. I bought him expensive dog food which I thought was GOOD dog food. I sat up for hours one night researching allergies in dogs and found that grains in dog food, corn and wheat in particular, caused allergies in dogs like intense scratching and biting of paws, groins, and near top of back end, but also seizures. I have wheat allergies, my daughter has gluten allergies. I put Spunky on a grain free dog food and all his symptoms cleared up in less than two weeks.

I can pretty much assure her that if any of Spunky’s symptoms were food related (which was not actually established with elimination diet or allergy testing like SPOT Platinum) they went away because she stopped feeding the previous food. She believed it to be a “good” food but apparently it contained various sub-optimal ingredients, which she didn’t know because she had not read the label before feeding it. I think there was probably something in the previous food (preservatives, chemicals, poor basic ingredients) that had something to do with his scratching if it resolved that quickly — it was fixed by eliminating the previous food, not substituting it for a new better food. However, the “sniffling” that she mentioned is an upper respiratory reaction probably from the environment (like people who take antihistamines) and not food related. Lastly, seizures in a 5-year-old Pomeranian are most likely an inherited genetic trait but in any case cannot possibly be caused by grains, no matter what someone said on the Internet!

I recall when a man named Bill wrote into HALO in response to a blog I had written and said: “My vet says absolutely no grain for my allergic five-year-old mini-Sheltie, Bonnie. She came from a shelter with a bad yeast infection of her skin and ears. The vet said no grains, beef or poultry, because they are the most likely cause. I certainly don’t want to keep aggravating a food allergy. So, what can you suggest?”

To Bill I would respectfully suggest changing to a veterinarian who actually understands food allergies in dogs, because that advice is so general and without scientific logic! A dog that has been in any shelter can arrive with all sorts of conditions, including previous neglect, poor hygiene and often poor nutrition. Trying to avoid chicken, beef and wheat “just in case” would be a lifetime of management without any proven reason. As far as wheat or wheat gluten (or corn for that matter), you won’t find them in any premium dog food. One step on the path to improved health would be to switch to a high quality premium pet food like HALO as a powerful tool for ongoing health. Many shelters have the privilege of feeding Halo to their dogs thanks to that spread Halo’s generosity. I’ll bet little Bonnie has left those problems in the rear view mirror, now that she has a Forever Home with Bill!

Here are a few take-away points when making a nutritional decision for your pets:

  1. Issues with human nutrition and digestion are not parallel to the dog digestive system or immune system.
  2. Reading anecdotes on the Internet is not a good way to diagnose or treat any medical or health issue, for our pets or us.
  3. Dogs are rarely allergic to food ingredients — poultry (including eggs) is the number one allergen for dogs (not grains), but the only way a responsible veterinarian instructs owners to discover if their dogs are genuinely food allergic is to go on a two month elimination diet in which ALL commercial food is removed from the diet and the owner cooks a simple diet of chicken and rice. Dr. Donna Spector, my co-host on THE EXPERT VET on Radio Pet Lady Network has spoken on our show about how to utilize an elimination diet, and written about it on her blog for Halo.
  4. Never let guesses or assumptions about pet food be a substitute for a visit to a smart veterinarian who will help you figure out your pet’s problems using common sense, medical skill and modern technology.

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: kmac989 via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Afraid Better Dog Food Might Give Your Dog “The Trots”?

dog, looking glum

Afraid Better Dog Food Might Give Your Dog “The Trots”?

What do you do if you adopt a dog like my sweet young Blue Weimaraner, Maisie, and she develops horrible diarrhea when switching her to a better food? When I picked her up from Mid-Atlantic Weimaraner Rescue in Virginia Beach, they were feeding her and all the rescues a lamb kibble from a big warehouse store. It’s a perfectly good choice when you have to consider price when feeding large breed dogs in a rescue, but my ultimate goal was for Maisie to eat Halo. Halo is the kibble I always feed my dogs as part of their daily meals–I feel it is the best chance at a long healthy life using a dry food with optimal ingredients that avoids any rendered meals. I was shocked when she got terrible diarrhea when I switched her over — even after making the transition over a couple of days.

I knew just whom to ask for advice, since Dr. Donna Spector is not only my co-host on our own Radio Pet Lady Network show THE EXPERT VET, but she’s also Halo’s Official Vet (which is where I met her and loved her advice to customers on the Halo blog). First Dr. Donna made sure I had gotten fecal samples to my own vet, which did show Maisie had some parasites and she was given a de-wormer. Unfortunately the “puddles of poo” persisted and became a serious problem, even when I switched her to nothing but white rice and boiled chicken breast.

That was when Dr. Donna surmised that Maisie might have a condition that afflicts many young, large breed dogs: Fiber Responsive Diarrhea (called FRD). FRD often becomes apparent in young dogs when they change from a lower quality food — because those foods often have more fiber in them when compared to foods like Halo. The good news is that dogs affected by this condition can be fed a high quality dog food successfully–you just need to add more fiber to the food–which is easy to do! If you have a dog that gets an upset tummy when you try to give a super premium food like Halo, please listen to August’s THE EXPERT VET show in which Dr. Donna explains this phenomenon in more detail.

Description and information about The Expert Vet (8-04-2014) #5029: Dr. Spector explains how adding Fiber One cereal and psyllium husk powder to all meals in a dog affected by Fiber Responsive Diarrhea is a way to ease the transition to a new higher quality lower fiber food. Most of these dogs will require some additional fiber even after the transition is complete without diarrhea. Even though Maisie has no issues with weight, we decided to choose Halo Healthy Weight Management kibble because it actually has a lot of really healthy fiber in it. Now I can feed Maisie her Halo along with the other healthy ingredients I include, just so long as we keep adding the Fiber One cereal and psyllium husk, and Maisie is the picture of health. (And poop clean up is finally manageable, too!)

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: thefleeg via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Dog Kibble: How Much Is Way Too Much?

Dog's head in profile

Dog Kibble: How Much Is Way Too Much?

Do you wonder how much kibble really belongs in your dog’s bowl? Many of us who have large breed dogs are suspicious about the enormous amount of dry food that some pet food companies recommend feeding. We cannot help wondering whether it is self-serving for a company to advise customers to feed a great deal of their food? People have reached me through my radio shows and asked whether they are reading a dog food label correctly when it gives directions on the bag to feed a 100 lb. dog eight to ten cups of dry food a day! I checked on the bags of some dry foods at a local pet store and, sure enough, the less-than-premium dog foods did recommend that amount for a dog 75 lbs or larger, which would blow up like a balloon!

When I was researching THE DOG BIBLE I came to an early, cynical conclusion that if a pet food company gave directions for 8-10 cups a day, those gigantic portions meant they would use up a bag more quickly and have to buy more food! But over time I came to understand that the companies might have to recommend cups and cups of daily kibble in order to achieve complete and balanced nutrition and calories — because the nutritional value in every cup is so much lower than feeding a super premium brand, like Halo, as I do.

Recently, I adopted a gorgeous young Blue Weimaraner named Maisie — who arrived pretty skinny. (At any rescue, the dogs tend to be lean because food is pricey giving a dog “just enough” makes sense economically.) They had her on 6 cups a day of a lamb-based kibble from a big box store — which sounded like an awful lot of food for a 9 month old puppy, yet I quickly discovered that it actually wasn’t half enough to quench her appetite! To satisfy her hunger I had to give as much as 12 cups a day. It seemed absurd and I also worried about her gaining weight, even though she was still a growing girl who was getting loads of exercise. I bought a bag of that food from the Big Box store so that I could transition her slowly off of it and on to Halo Spot’s Stew, which turned out to be quite a challenge. (More on that next week!)

What I discovered made me love Halo and their food even more. The directions on the bags of the chicken, salmon and lamb kibble that my dogs were lucky enough to eat (I rotate protein in every bag) suggest I should feed 4 ½ cups of kibble for a 100 lb dog. Now that makes sense! If I was feeding nothing but kibble (which I am not) that would be a very reasonable amount to see in their bowls — about 2 cups per meal. What that means to me is that in Halo I have picked a truly high quality food that I actually need to feed much less of to get even better nutrition — which means better health.

It’s not hard to see why I favor Halo, choosing a food made from top quality ingredients, with real meat, no rendered meals or by-products and no chemicals. And the price is fair because it lasts me twice as long as a lower quality food would. Some decisions in life are true no-brainers!

-Tracie Hotchner

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Why VECTRA 3D is Better Against Dog Ticks

2 dachshunds in yard

Why VECTRA 3D is Better Against Dog Ticks

I am pretty concerned about ticks since all my dogs run free in fields and forests every day — which are crawling with ticks — and each has tested positive for a different tick-borne disease. So I am grateful that Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins — my co-host on Cat Chat works for the French company CEVA that makes the newest topical “anti-tick potion” called Vectra 3D. Elizabeth is one of the most honest, moral people I know, so I immediately trust the company which makes Vectra 3-D and has tested its safety extensively. My dogs had not been getting good protection from other anti-tick products and I needed reliable protection — beginning with repelling the ticks so they can’t even get a chance to attach. People in my audience have been worried about whether the repellent ingredient in Vectra 3D — is dangerous to their pets. Dr. Elizabeth put my mind at rest and now that all my dogs are Vectra 3D dogs — they can safely run through fields of ticks — that leave them alone!

Few dogs react to the active ingredient Permethrin, but clearly some do — just as some will react to virtually any other product. The thing about Permethrin is its high potency and repellent properties for ticks — properties that other popular products do not have. There is a reason that it is used to “tick-proof” soldier’s uniforms and to “mosquito-proof” netting in places where ticks are such a problem and a threat to human life. Permethrin is almost always the active ingredient of choice for these purposes. In studies, the big problem with other tick products was that the potency fell off before the end of the month. With Vectra 3D they also saw more rapid and thorough “tick kill” at the beginning of the month against most tick species. Remember: Do not use Vectra 3D on cats.

As Dr. Elizabeth explains, localized reactions are not a consistent problem. The important thing to remember is that every health care product out there, from antihistamines and laxatives to antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs can (and have) caused reactions in the target species (pets, livestock and/or humans). There are no exceptions to this rule. We use these drugs anyway, despite the small amount of risk involved, when the benefit outweighs the overall risk. In the case of Permethrin, its effectiveness against key debilitating and even fatal human and pet diseases is so great, and the risk of serious reaction to the treated animal is so small, it is obviously an excellent active ingredient for preventing tick-transmitted diseases. The efficacy and safety studies of all of Vectra’s products are available on the company’s website.

–Tracie Hotchner

Vectra 3D is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Fat Dog? Halo Healthy Weight Food Helps Shed Pounds

Overweight dog

Fat Dog? Halo Healthy Weight Food Helps Shed Pounds

Dr. Donna Spector is Halo’s veterinary advisor and she is also my co-host on our internet radio show THE EXPERT VET on the Radio Pet Lady Network, where we’ve been having a good time choosing candidates for our Halo Healthy Weight Challenge. We knew that when the Healthy Weight food was combined with regular exercise and strict calorie-counting, that many dogs would be able to shed those unwanted pounds!

Our first contestant was Fritz, a lovely young rescued dog from the South. He received a three-month supply of Halo Spot’s Stew canned food along with the Healthy Weight kibble, and his people agreed to document every single thing he ate during a day, including treats and human leftovers. Then they followed a detailed feeding plan from Dr. Donna, which was a total-calorie approach (i.e., treats and table scraps count, too!) and included chunks of steamed zucchini when Fritz got “the munchies.” As proven by his weekly weigh-in at his vet’s office, Fritz dropped weight slowly but surely.

We have just chosen a second candidate for the Healthy Weight Challenge, a beautiful purebred Siberian Husky from California named Faith. I look forward to hearing how Dr. Donna’s calorie calculations and encouragement — along with the reduced calories and hunger satisfaction of the Halo Healthy Weight food — works to get Faith back down to her two-year-old weight. [By the way, anyone who has an overweight dog and wants to be considered as part of our mission to slim down America's dogs, please write me to and describe your dog's weight issue.]

But for those of you who are shy and don’t want the world to know that you let your dog “get her blimp on,” you can do the “Cliff’s Notes” version of our weight challenge just by switching to the Healthy Weight food and going it on your own. Here’s a doggy weight-loss story that confirms my confidence that even without sophisticated calorie calculations and very much effort on the owner’s part, this food can help achieve weight loss (but don’t forget to keep up the daily exercise and smack your own hand when you try to dole out too many treats!).

My friend Bob has a middle-aged black Lab named Maverick who is his good buddy and his sidekick, goes everywhere with him, they are inseparable. Bob is a fitness buff and goes to the gym every day, eats healthy foods and watches his weight like a hawk. But he admitted to me that he had allowed Maverick to get beefy — and he knew that obesity was a serious health risk for his best friend, and could shorten his life by as much as two years. Other than sharing his egg-white sandwich with Maverick every morning, the dog ate only an adult lamb dry food twice a day, nothing else. Bob had listened to The Expert Vet show and heard Dr. Donna and me talking on the air about the Halo Healthy Weight challenge. However, he told me that even though he could never get organized enough to weigh the dog at the vet every week, that he really wanted to take the challenge.

I told Bob he could strike out on his own by substituting the Halo food for his own kibble over 3 days (to avoid digestive stomach upset) — substituting a quarter, a half and then three-quarters of his old food for the new one each day. All Bob would have to do was weigh Maverick before beginning the Healthy Weight food, and then again four to six weeks later. I was as thrilled as Bob was to find Maverick had lost over eight pounds in five weeks and was really enjoying the food, too! The wonderful discovery for me was that if you don’t have the patience to wait or the time to embark on the Weight Challenge our way, then you can do it your own way, and see this food help bring back your dog’s youthful waistline as part of an overall exercise and calorie control plan! [And if you try it and want to share your results with me, I'll shout it to the rooftops!]

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: Jeremy Vandel via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

5 Easy Tips For Successful Puppy House Training

Black Lab Puppy

5 Easy Tips For Successful Puppy House Training

1) Learn to Recognize When a Puppy Needs to Go

If you take the time to notice the signals that can tell you what a puppy is thinking or wanting, it can save you time and trouble. If a puppy whines or cries at you, this is probably an attempt to communicate the urge to eliminate. Think of this like a little kid being potty-trained who says urgently, “Daddy, I need to go. NOW!” If that parent doesn’t respond instantly to the child’s plea, the next thing he’ll hear is, “It’s okay. I don’t need to go anymore,” followed by a little puddle at the child’s feet. If you don’t want to wind up like that with your pup, you’d better learn to notice the ways she tries to signal her needs! A puppy probably needs to go out if she suddenly puts her nose down and starts sniffing the floor, going in circles. Likewise if she starts panting, but she hasn’t gotten hot from running around. If a puppy lifts her tail while doing any of this, take note of whether her anus begins to open: this is the main sign that she needs to move her bowels. This may sound as though I’m suggesting you be disgustingly over-attentive, but watching body language for signs of impending evacuation really can save you from an even grosser fate: scraping up fresh dog-doo from your floor!

2) Get the Puppy Outside Quickly!

You need to take your puppy to her potty area immediately after opening the door to the crate. If the puppy leaves the crate on her own, the first thing she’s going to do is relieve herself, a habit you do not want her to form. When you open the crate door you need to pick up the pup and take her outside. You really should be doing this every time the puppy eats, drinks, plays hard or chews a toy (which stimulates defecation). Always take her to the same area: she will remember why and it will stimulate her. Take the puppy out on a regular schedule so her body gets into a rhythm. And do not confuse things by trying to introduce a different schedule on the weekends — the puppy’s bladder is going to get used to a certain schedule. Get up and keep the same schedule every single day of the week—it’s not as though her bladder knows when it’s the weekend!

3) Give Happy Praise Immediately After Your Dog Does Her Business

As with all positive reinforcement in the learning process, you want to reward the desired behavior immediately when it happens. This is slightly different with teaching a puppy to eliminate outside the house because you don’t want to interrupt the dog with praise while she is going. In addition, you should not give a food treat once she’s finished — just happy verbal praise and physical affection — because some dogs might think they will get a food treat wherever they go, even inside the house! (this idea had never occurred to me when I wrote The Dog Bible, but it’s logical!) You want to reward the puppy for eliminating outdoors right after it takes place — with an enthusiastic song and dance instantly after the correct choice by the puppy, which is a display of delight she’ll want to elicit from you again!

4) No Water in the Evening

Pick up your puppy’s water bowl by 5 or 6 o’clock so that when she eventually goes to sleep after a late night potty break outside, she’ll be going in her crate with an empty bladder — not filling your puppy’s bladder makes it a lot easier for her not to pee during the night. If a pup seems really thirsty at night, give her an ice cube, which can be refreshing without filling her bladder.

5) Be Prepared to Get Up in the Middle of the Night

If the puppy wakes up and fusses or whines, you have no choice but to take her out. She is probably communicating her understanding that she should not empty her bowels or bladder in the house — which means you must get up — and pretty darn quickly! You might even want to keep some sweat-clothes or other easily donned clothing beside your bed so you can pull them on, snap on the puppy’s leash and carry her out to her “potty spot” (where she has been regularly relieving herself). Note that a puppy’s bladder is smaller and her digestive system works quickly, so when she realizes she has to go out there’s only a small window of opportunity between her realization of that need-to-go sensation and that sensation becoming reality. (When you get outside, use your word cue for elimination to hurry up the process.) Don’t make a middle-of-the night outing seem fun: praise the puppy quietly once he goes but then go right back inside. No feeding, playing or cuddling, or you’ll teach him the benefits of waking you up. Put him back in the crate and get right back into bed yourself (as if you need encouragement at 3:00 A.M.!

–Tracie Hotchner

Tracie’s Top Tips for Creating Love and Peace in a Multi-cat Household

Multiple Cats in Harmony

Tracie’s Top Tips for Creating Love and Peace in a Multi-cat Household

Thinking of expanding your feline household? There are some changes in the household that can trigger inter-cat problems. You will want to be on the lookout and nip problems in the bud before things can escalate. Issues can include adding or losing a cat; illness of a cat (which lowers a cat’s status beneath all other healthy cats); a cat reaches sexual maturity (at six to seven months); and a cat reaches social maturity (at two to four years). All these are prime times for jockeying for social position.

There are many practical ideas in my book THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know and I’m going to share just a few of them here.

Bring home litter-mates. People often find that two kittens or cats from the same litter often make great housemates. A brother and sister are a better choice than two litter-mates of the same sex, who might have a built-in drive to challenge each other once they hit maturity.

Choose a cat already used to group living. One of the many benefits of adopting from a shelter or rescue center is that you are able to see how each particular cat tolerates others, allowing you to pick one that can cohabit without making issues.

Avoid two males of equal age. When two male cats reach social maturity at the same time—which is generally between two and four years of age—they may have disputes about rank and who is top cat, which can become an ongoing management problem.

Avoid extreme personalities. Cats who are at either extreme of the personality spectrum—those who are very timid, fearful and shy, or those who are confident, active and high-energy—may not blend as easily with other cats.

Avoid multiple Burmese cats. Burmese are a loving breed, but they can be more territorial than other cats and therefore problematic in a group situation unless an experienced and knowledgeable person knows how to manage their complicated feline issues.

Some cats should fly solo. Keep in mind that some individual cats whose personalities are most true to feline nature do best as the lone cat in a household.

Ways to Increase Harmony

Create more vertical territory. Cats need high places where they can escape to feel safe. A big, open, one-level room is a cat’s worst nightmare: nowhere to hide, no vista point from which to survey it all. A cat without options feels vulnerable, and by adding other cats to the mix, you put all the cats in a position of defensive fear.

Add furniture. The easiest way to make your cat feel more comfortable is to add one stuffed armchair to the room. With that chair, you provide multiple perches: two arms, one back, and the seat, with multiple levels, too. An ordinary chair, table or bookcase achieves the same purpose: different elevations and surfaces to occupy.

Time-shares. You may have thought that humans invented the concept of a time-share in a resort community, but cats have been practicing time-sharing right at home for as long as they have lived with people. For example, a higher-ranking cat will lay claim to a favorite chair in the sun, and that will become “her chair”—but there is an understanding that a subordinate cat can use it when she leaves.

Feeding Arrangements are Super Important

You have to create a home environment where the cats feel safe and peaceful, so that none of them feels endangered by the simple decision to eat dinner.

Scheduled feeding is best. Two meals a day of canned food is the most efficient and nutritious way to feed your cats. You will know that each cat got her due and that even the lower-ranking cats get a fair portion.

Individual Saucers Promote Harmony. Each cat needs to have her own dish with her own portion of food and a deep saucer is most comfortable. Avoid bowls with high sides, which are not comfortable for a cat because the sides interfere with her whiskers.

Each Bowl Should Have Its Own Position. Each cat should know where you are going to set her bowl down. Before long, she will go there to wait calmly for her meal. Cats thrive on routine and predictability, and dinnertime is no exception. Providing a protected place for a cat to eat means you are dramatically increasing her well-being.

Watch Where You Place a Bowl. A few spots are inconvenient positions for a bowl. Placing it in a corner or against a wall is no good for a cat because she may feel trapped, with her back to potential enemies (her feline housemates!). Make sure that bowls are positioned so that no one cat has to cross the pathway of other cats to get to the chow.

Tension Between Cats Can Be “Cured” at Dinner. If there are pecking order issues between cats, one way to defuse that tension is to put their dinner bowls far from each other, but still in each others’ line of sight. The theory behind this is that being able to see each other while enjoying a tasty meal will create a positive association, which over time may cancel out any historical problems between them.

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: DDFic via photopin cc