Hi everyone, and thank you for joining me on this first episode of 2023. Another year has flown by and when I think of all the topics we have discussed it really is mind boggling to think of all things that are important and interesting to pet enthusiasts. As a new year brings forth a look back at the past and a look forward to new things, I thought that maybe I can take a look back at some of the pet questions and issues that this past year’s pet parents have presented to me. Many conversations can last up to an hour with a pet parent as we navigate through the issue and figure out the best way to deal with whatever is going on. As well, new pet parents are often looking for advice and direction. So, how about I give everyone the topics and questions that have been forefront this year and perhaps you might find that some of the interests and questions you have is exactly what other pet parents have. So let’s go! In a sort of order, with the big one saved for last, what was on the minds of pet parents in 2022?
In 2022, although there was the great surrender happening with Co-vid dogs being surrendered at an exponential rate to shelters, there was still quite a lot of adoptions and I hate this word, purchases of dogs and cats. Now to be fair, I have had the pleasure to deal with more adoptees than purchasers of pets. As new pet parents come in they want to know the basic questions about having a new pet. When it comes to dogs, the questions surround food, toys and training. When it comes to training most puppy parents are wondering about equipment and the scale tips towards getting harnesses. Now a harness can be a great tool, but it is important to remember that the pup needs to get used to wearing a normal collar as well that you can put an I.D. tag on and its municipal license. And I have had a few people think that the pup will wear the harness all the time. I would say, this is not the best practice as it will be uncomfortable for a pup and the pup needs to learn that when he or she wears the harness it means time for a walk and time to learn walking manners. I do have an episode on collars and harnesses that go over all the types and purposes, so if this is one of your questions, there is all kinds of info on this topic in that episode.
With new pup parents there is still actually quite a large misconception about chewing. The question about what can I get for my pup because he is teething and chewing everything is still quite prevalent. The question I always ask is, how old is the pup? And the answer is more often than not, somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks. Well, as I have pointed out in other episodes, the pup is not teething. A pup that is chewing away at this age is mouthing. Pups will put their mouths on your hands, feet, furniture, other pets, you name it. Usually mouthing doesn’t include biting down, but those little baby teeth are sharp so it really feels like being bit. This is the way the pup is exploring its new world and mouthing is a very natural thing that puppies do. The best thing to do is to try and redirect the mouthing to an appropriate toy but be prepared as little baby teeth bites is a given when you have a puppy. Those baby teeth are also fragile so it is important to make sure that chewing toys or edibles are pup appropriate, meaning that they are not too hard and won’t break a baby tooth. I say be specific and ask your pet expert for pup appropriate toys and chews.
When it comes to food, new or returning pup parents are usually looking for a good quality food appropriate to the size and type of pup they have. At this point I ask what kind of dog it is or what different breeds are in the dog, how old it is and the question now that is part of every conversation about food, do you want grain free or grain inclusive? This is usually when the DCM conversation comes up. Some pup parents have had a conversation with the vet about Dilated Cardio Myopathy and are adamant about a grain inclusive diet, but really have no idea why and many have no idea what I’m talking about. The problem is that sometimes we just can’t get all the requirements into one food. For example, trying to find a pup food that isn’t chicken based can be challenging although there are a few alternatives. Trying to get a large breed pup food that is grain inclusive can be challenging as well. If the pup parent wants a grain inclusive food and the pup is a large breed dog, well we may have to compromise on one or the other. Bottom line here is that pup parents are usually looking for a good quality food and are open to hearing about options. At least that is what I have found in this last year. And if you need to find out the scoop on DCM, I have a full and comprehensive episode for you to access.
Moving away from the pup questions, kitten questions are actually less complicated. New kitten parents basically want a good food, litter, litter box and toys. When asked about food, personally I do like to gravitate to grain free for our carnivore kitties. When it comes to litter, if the new kitten or cat parent for that matter is open to learning more about litter, I do like to introduce the alternative litters that are sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly. I also have an episode on litter as well. Who knew that would be a whole episode?
Let’s stay with cats for another question. This one is ongoing as well, where a cat parent is trying to desperately find an answer to why their cat pees outside of the litter box? Well everyone in the animal field, vets included, wish they had the perfect answer to this. But, we don’t. After ruling out any health issues, the next steps are to make sure the area is cleaned with a pet urine cleaner, not a grocery cleaner that most likely has ammonia in it, moving the litter box to the area where they are peeing, having a box for each cat, decipher if there are any stressors happening; the solutions are then pretty much exhausted. If the cat is a senior, the box may be too high sided for the senior cat to get into with ease. But, if not, the reason why cats pee in laundry clean or dirty, or in a certain spot that is not their box, really is an enigma. But, we can suggest the previously mentioned aids and hope that we strike on one that will solve the problem. I can tell you most times, after we ask the questions, we often find out, there are stressors involved. For example, moving house, a new pet addition, renovations, vacation absence, routine changes, divorce, you would be surprised. If that is the case, the best that we can offer is calming products, of which there are a pretty good selection, so at least there is some help.
The next question I hear a lot, and I mean a lot, is, what toy or chew will last a long time with my dog? Well, it depends on what you mean for a long time. Most times a dog parent wants something that will last a least an hour. Well that is a very tall order. No, there isn’t anything I can guarantee as a long lasting chew. Real bones, or pizzles are a suggestion, but it’s up to the pet parent what they are comfortable getting for their dog. I do find that when someone looks at the real bones and are concerned about the mess that may be made, it makes me kind of wonder because the question is what will last. Having both just may not be in the cards. Do you want something that doesn’t make a mess or something that will last longer? If a dog is a veracious chewer, finding something that lasts or isn’t destroyed is a real challenge. I can give Tundra a $20.00 thick pizzle and he will eat is in 20 minutes. That’s a dollar a minute!! And having said that, I do not know how long a golden retriever will take to chew something. Telling me the breed and weight of a dog will not in any way give me the information to make an accurate estimation of chew time. A pet parent knows their pet. The parent has to rely on what they know. Tundra eating a pizzle in 20 minutes, means nothing to what can be estimated for other dogs. So, the answer to what toy or chew will last the longest, is relative. I wish I had the answer but I can only direct a parent to what may last longer, but don’t hold me to it.
One thing I really noticed in 2022 with regards to questions and advice sought, is that more and more pet parents are actually familiar with the benefits of Probiotics and how many are open to giving their pets a probiotic. In many of my interviews with holistic practitioners, they mention how beneficial probiotics are especially for dogs. Sometimes many ailments may seem like one thing but actually can be traced to the gut. In my interviews with Joanne Carr from Omega Alpha pharmaceuticals, she has always espoused the benefits of probiotics and how important it is for dogs to be routinely on a probiotic. A question that has become more frequent this past year, is digestive issues with dogs. The first thing I look to is the addition of probiotics. People will tell me their dog has pooping issues or that they eat poop, or they throw up food, or have goopy eyes, and even skin issues. The addition of probiotics can really address these issues and the fact that this knowledge is becoming more acceptable in pet health care is a real positive direction that I really saw coming forward in 2022. When it comes to probiotics the idea is to look for a variety of cultures and strains. 9 strains would be a really good product. Also, the CFU’s culture forming units, should be high. The more the better. There is a probiotic that is available through the veterinarians that has 1 million CFU’s in a gram, whereas Probiotic 8 by Omega Alpha has 3 million per gram. Doing some label reading and research on probiotics is a good idea but the fact that 2022 has seen a real forward direction with pet probiotics is a real positive.
And lastly in conjunction with probiotics is the question about food for pets that experience intolerances. Pet parents will often ask for a hypoallergenic food but the fact is that there really isn’t such a thing. Research on hypoallergenic food often leads to LID, limited ingredient diet or single protein formulas. These formulas have one protein, no other and are most likely grain free. The other option is to try a hydrolyzed formula. In this case as petmd.com points out, “hydrolysis uses water to chemically break proteins into pieces that are so small that the immune system no longer reacts to them.” Trying a protein the pet has not had is often a direction as well and some can be found hydrolyzed. There are formulas hydrolyzed in pet specialty so I would look around if this is something that may help a pet with intolerances. And if a pet is experiencing food intolerance, get that probiotic! Balancing the gut cultures can in many cases completely mitigate food intolerance. At the very least it will go a long way to minimize the reactions.
So, there you have it. 2022 has wrapped up with a really good trend that pet parents are looking to know more about the nutrition their pets are getting and showing an openness to some nutrition directions that can really help our pet’s overall wellbeing. And if in 2023 any listeners have some questions please forward them as I would love to explore some options and answers moving forward.
Let’s make 2023 a year to explore some new ideas and some tried and true ideas that can help our pets live their best lives with us right beside them, with cuddles and love. Cheers to 2023, let’s get researching because as I say, knowing is caring.
Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.
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