Category Archives: Information

Informational Posts

Halo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: Faith’s Successful Week 2!

Faith, on Halo's Healthy Weight Loss ChallengeGuest blog by Dr. Donna Spector, the Expert Vet

Faith’s owner had been very disappointed last week when Faith had ZERO weight loss.

Remember: Weight loss is often not appreciated during the first two weeks of any new program! Be patient but persistent–don’t give up!

Right on the heels of last week’s weigh-in, Faith has had a huge success at the scale and lost 1.2 pounds this week!

Using the Halo diet plan our target for Faith is to lose between 0.6 and 1.3 pounds each week (which is 1-2% of her starting body weight) so she is right on track. Way to go, Faith–keep up the good work!

Faith is the second participant enrolled in the Halo Healthy Weight Challenge on THE EXPERT VET of the RADIO PET LADY NETWORK. Faith is eating a specially designed meal plan of Halo Healthy Weight natural dog food and extra veggies to aid her in shedding unwanted pounds.

Stay tuned for next week’s update on Faith!

Halo’s Weight Loss Tips!

This blog post originally appeared at

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

Beijing’s Animal Markets and “Week Long Dogs”

sitting puppy on leash

Mary Peng is a visionary in China, working to open hearts and minds to the wonders of pet ownership. I am proud to have her as my co-host on our new Radio Pet Lady Network show Tails From China and to share this article.

The end of summer in Beijing is traditionally associated with a wave of newly relocated families that have moved to China during the season. The frenetic period of finding a home, enrolling the kids into school, navigating the city and settling into life eases into daily routines and a comforting sense of familiarity. The one remaining aspect of truly making a house into a home is the addition of a pet.

For many first time pet owners and newcomers to Beijing, finding a pet leads many to the animal sales markets or to online vendors. The puppies and kittens from the breeders, pet vendors and online shops are usually quite young and taken away from their mothers at four to five weeks of age or even earlier. Ideally, newborns should stay with their mother until at least eight weeks old to breastfeed and learn socialization skills from momma and littermates. Because of this early separation, the puppies are too young to start vaccinations and their immune systems are not strong enough to ward off viruses and other potentially fatal infectious diseases common in China such as distemper and parvovirus.

As a result of these practices, a term has been coined for these prematurely weaned puppies called xing qi quan (星期犬) or “Week Long Dogs.” Many of these pups will not survive for more than a week after they are sold. These puppies have a poor start in life with their mothers kept continuously pregnant to produce multiple litters for maximum profit. These large volume breeders, also known as puppy mills, minimize costs by feeding the animals leftovers instead of nutritionally balanced pet foods, especially if the dogs are mixed breeds and command a lower sale price. Vaccinations for the dogs are often skipped or vaccines may be procured from the black markets and injected by the breeders to save on expenses. Vaccination schedules are not well understood so most puppies start vaccinations much too early on improper schedules leaving them inadequately protected and susceptible to canine distemper, parvovirus, coronavirus, kennel cough (bordetella) and other infectious diseases that are so common in China.

Puppies that are purchased from the animal markets or online vendors may appear fine for the first few days, but the enormous changes associated with new owners, environment, food and routines means a lot of stress for these young animals. Their immune systems may not be strong enough to handle these stresses and any incubating viruses to which they have been exposed may break out into full-blown diseases. For owners that then bring their pets to the animal hospital, the shock of learning that their seemingly healthy and active puppy may have a potentially fatal infectious disease can be overwhelming, especially when children are involved that have already formed a bond with the pet.

Based on statistics from the Beijing Animal Husbandry Bureau’s Animal Disease Prevention and Control Center, viral diseases such as canine distemper or parvovirus, may have fatality rates of 70 percent or higher among young puppies and adult dogs with a poor history of vaccinations.

Because there are no cures for these viral diseases, the key to treatment is supportive care to boost the body’s immune system to fight the viruses. Veterinarians must treat accordingly against clinical symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, eye and nose discharge, vomiting, diarrhea and poor appetite with fluids to prevent dehydration, antibiotics to fight secondary infection, nebulization to sooth coughing and respiratory distress, medication to alleviate vomiting and to control pain and nutritional supplements to provide energy. These diseases are highly contagious to other dogs and are spread via contact with stool, urine, nasal and respiratory discharge. Parvovirus is presenting the stool of infected animals and can survive outside the host organism for three months or more. So keeping sick puppies with these diseases under strict hospitalized quarantine and away from all other dogs is crucial.

Treatment periods are based on the condition of the puppy and may range from one to three weeks or more, depending on the severity of the disease. And as with any medical treatment, there is no guarantee of success. The shock of the initial diagnosis may turn into a confusing, frustrating and expensive experience for the pet owner that could still end with the death of the puppy. Out of desperation and despair, some owners may abandon their pets with puppies left outside in boxes or bags or released to roam freely in courtyard compounds or on the streets.

So please exercise caution when you acquire a new pet and always keep your new pet away from all other animals for at least three weeks as incubating diseases may not break with symptoms immediately. And please ensure other pets in the household are up-to-date with annual distemper and rabies vaccinations to protect from potential exposure.

Please consider adoption instead of purchase as the many rescued animals living with foster families and in well-managed shelters have often already been to the pet hospital for check-ups, vaccinations and found to be in generally good health. By reducing demand, we can also reduce the supply of the animals being bred solely for profit.

If you are thinking of adding a new furry member to the family, please visit the ICVS Adoptable Pets web page to see the many beautiful and healthy pets available for adoption! (Generous 50 percent discounts are available on examinations, vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries for stray, rescued and rehomed pets at ICVS.)

You can follow ICVS on WeiboTwitter and Facebook.
Mary Peng is the Co-Founder & CEO of International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS).

photo credit: Matt Elsberry via photopin cc

This blog originally appeared at

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.