Archive for September, 2012

Important Info About Your Pet’s Nutrition and Feeding

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by PetMAC

What should I feed my pet?

Most likely your pet has come from a shelter where he was eating a low-quality donated food. Sadly, many of the animals we rescue have poor feeding histories – many having had to eat scraps, garbage and poor quality food. A bad diet can affect your pet’s health, energy and outlook on life (both in the short and long term). So this is your chance to start your pet out on a positive, healthy path for the rest of his life.

“We are what we eat”, so they say.  Healthy eating makes for a long and healthy life.  And a good diet can (literally) save you thousands of dollars in vet bills. Most commercial pet foods have effective marketing campaigns designed to make you believe that their foods are good quality, but most are not. Even the more expensive commercial foods can/do contain ingredients that can be harmful to your pet on a number of levels. Foods containing any kind of by-products, chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, or inferior ingredients such as wheat and corn gluten, which are cheap sources of protein, can harm your pet by not providing the healthy nutrition he/she needs.  Many animals have grain allergies that are never properly diagnosed – and yet grains are found in most commercial foods.

Many people say, “But my dog lived till he was 15 on XYZ Commercial food.” Yes, that is true, and some of us could live long lives eating McDonald’s. However, our doctor bills would be higher, our energy levels lower and our medical issues more numerous. The same goes for your pet. Why not do better for your pet?

Benefits to feeding natural foods include: reduction/elimination of common allergies (often caused by foods but not always diagnosed by vets); reduction in inflammation of joints; stronger/healthier digestive tracts; cleaner/healthier teeth; decreased infections of ears and mouth; less shedding; smaller/firmer stools and a happier, healthier pet!!!

Also consider that the USDA does not regulate the quality of ingredients that go into commercial pet food. 4-D animals (dead, dying, diseased and down) animals can be used in your pet’s food with no restrictions. And many commercial pet food companies use such animals to save money. Do you want your pet eating diseased or badly-handled meat? All-natural and organic foods are strictly regulated and must meet standards of care and feeding for the animals that go into such foods. These regulations not only dictate a safer, healthier food for your pet, but also more humane treatment of the animals that go into the food.

Should I feed dry kibble or canned food?

Generally, canned food is healthier for your pet, as it is less-processed and closer to their natural diet.  Cats evolved in the desert and do not have a well-developed thirst mechanism like people and dogs do, so often don’t drink enough water.  The lack of moisture in their diet can contribute to urinary problems, kidney problems and crystals. For these reasons, canned food for cats is a must for good health, either instead of or in addition to dry food. Contrary to what most folks have been told about the benefits of kibble (scraping of teeth to clean tartar), vets today are actually finding that a canned or soft diet is healthier for teeth and gums (especially when used in conjunction with strong chewing objects like bones.) The carbohydrates in kibble get caught between their teeth much like crackers do in human teeth.  If we’re not diligent and brush their teeth every day, then the carbs turn to sugars, then tartar, ultimately causing gum disease and producing bacteria that can damage the heart. Using kibble is still quite common, as most people have schedules that limit the time they spend preparing their pet’s food. And so using a high-quality, all-natural kibble in conjunction with canned food is certainly acceptable. Be sure to consider brushing your pet’s teeth and/or providing hard, safe objects for them to chew on. We will be happy to make suggestions on specific foods, toothpaste and safe chewing objects for your pet.  Beware of bones that could splinter easily – always give them under supervision.  Raw marrow bones provide safe chewing (they are softer and don’t splinter) and offer hours of entertainment for the dog working the marrow out!

What is the BARF Diet?

BARF stands for Bones and Raw Food. This diet most closely emulates what your pet would eat in the wild. Pure raw food with no additives, preservatives or harmful by-products makes the BARF diet a fantastic choice, and pets love it. You can purchase raw food in a variety of forms: frozen in patties and nuggets; dehydrated (you add water); or you can purchase human food at your local grocery store and cook for your pet. At PetMAC, we sell raw foods in both the frozen and dehydrated forms.  You can feed these exclusively, or in conjunction with a canned or kibble diet if necessary.

My pet is overweight – should I switch him to a Light food?

Unless your pet has some medical reason for needing a lower protein food, then there is no reason to put them on a Light diet.  Most Light or Weight Management foods simply reduce the protein and fat, therefore increasing the carbohydrates.  Dogs and cats (especially cats) are not designed to get their nutrients from carbs, and carbs make us ALL fat!  The best option is to keep him/her on a regular adult diet and adjust the serving size as necessary.  Feeding a canned food also helps with weight control as the water in the canned food helps to fill him/her up faster with fewer calories. Also consider feeding your pet several small meals throughout the day and supplement with healthy snacks (fruits and vegetables or dried meat treats, as opposed to carb-heavy biscuits.) A lot of dietary tricks that work for people also work for pets.  We have had success with some of the high-protein, low-carb weight management foods, such as EVO Weight Management.

What is the best food for my senior pet?

As with Light foods, most Senior foods have lower protein and fat and higher carbohydrates.  If your pet has no medical reason to need low protein and fat, then it’s best to leave him or her on a regular adult diet and modify the portion as necessary.  Some older pets can benefit from Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin to prevent or treat arthritis.  We recommend feeding this via a treat or supplement, as Senior foods don’t list how much G/C is actually in the food as fed.  Older pets need a very healthy diet, and getting the by-products and additives out of your dog’s system will only help to make him healthier. It’s never too late to switch your pet to a healthier diet!

Where Can I  Learn More? – A great website to check out for comprehensive information on many foods, health issues, supplements and other important tidbits on animal health and diet. – excellent website giving a quick overview of what dogs and cats need and don’t  need. – a great resource for cat nutrition and health. – a great listserv for people wanting to learn more about dog health and nutrition, and for sharing ideas on feeding and supplements for daily use and for special needs, such as puppies, seniors, and dogs with specific medical conditions. – excellent magazine, kind of the Consumer Reports for pets! – excellent magazine! – interesting list of articles about all aspects of pet health

What’s Really in Pet Food – by the Animal Protection Institute (Now Born Free USA) (

Selecting a Commercial Pet Food – by Animal Protection Institute (Now Born Free USA) (

Importance of Rotating Your Pets’ Foods

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by PetMAC

Once you have selected a good quality dog food, that’s all you need to feed, right? Not really. You should vary your dog’s food periodically. There are many good reasons for this:

  1. Dogs (actually all mammals) are designed to consume a range of different foods, and to obtain differing vitamins and minerals from each. They are not designed to eat “only chicken” or “only lamb” or any other food item for eternity. Changing foods, importantly the contents of those foods, every so often helps to give them the variety their bodies were designed to thrive on.
  2. There is no one dog food in existence that “has it all”. And remember, the feeding trials that foods go through only last for six months (and not all foods are even trialled). Changing foods periodically helps to ensure that no dietary deficiencies or excesses build up over time.
  3. Variety is the spice of life. Who wants to eat the same food day in and day out? Could you do it? For months or years? Feeding your dog something different helps to ensure that he does not become bored and frustrated with his food. This will not make your dog picky – we are talking about periodic changes here, not serving up something different or adding goodies to tempt him every time he doesn’t like his dinner.
  4. And most importantly of all: It helps to avoid the development of allergies. In a few extreme cases, you (or your dog) may be instantly and violently allergic to something. But that is a few extreme cases only – the vast majority of allergies are things that build up over time and with constant exposure. The surest way to develop an allergy to chicken, for example, is to consume it daily for an extended period. It is no coincidence that the most common allergens are things that have commonly been used in dog foods for many years. The (modern) advice given by nutritionists is that feeding a wide variety of different foods, preferably from a young age, can help to avoid the development of allergies in the first place (that’s the advice given for humans too).

Common signs of allergies are itchy skin, red itchy paws, chewing paws, yeast infections, ear infections, and skin infections that may respond to antibiotics but reappear as soon as the antibiotics are discontinued.

That all adds up to changing the food you feed every once in a while. That means changing to a food with different main ingredients. There is very little benefit to switching from one chicken/rice food to another, for example. If you have been feeding a food with chicken as the main ingredient, then it is far better that the next food is based on lamb, or turkey, or fish, or beef, etc and that the other main ingredients are also varied.

Taken from

How to Read Pet Food Labels

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by PetMAC

What to look for:

Whole, named meat sources:  chicken, salmon, turkey, beef, lamb, venison.  You know what you’re getting and they are good quality, human-grade meats – not by-products.

More protein than carbs:  Dogs and cats are meat-eaters. They are NOT designed to have a diet full of carbs and grains.  Dogs can tolerate more carbs than cats, who are obligate carnivores and have little to no need for carbs.  Ideally, at least 2 of the first 3 ingredients should be a named protein (fresh or meal).

Whole Grains, Vegetables, and Fruits:  Foods are meant to be consumed as nature intended.  Breaking them up alters how they are digested and used by the body.  The less processed they are going into the mixture, the more likely they are to retain their nutrients.

A Good Reputation:  Just like with human-food, you want to look for a company that not only makes a good quality food, but is an honorable company that has the animals’ best interest in mind.  Smaller companies are able to maintain better quality control and are more likely to use better quality ingredients.  Mass-produced “anything” is never as good as those made by small, specialty companies.

What to watch out for:

Unnamed meat sources:  i.e. poultry instead of chicken, meat instead of beef – You don’t know what kind of meat it is or how it has been handled.

Meat By-Products:  These are ingredients that are not fit for human consumption.  Therefore, there is no guarantee of what they are or how they have been handled.  Ingredients called the 4Ds: dead, diseased, dying, downed, are not allowed in human food but are allowed in pet food – and can be found in the cheap, lesser quality pet foods.

Grain By-Products:  Products like brewer’s rice and wheat bran are left-over by-products from other food manufacturing processes.  They are cheap sources of protein that make the protein levels look good on paper, but do not provide the meat-based protein that dogs and cats need.  Look for whole grains like brown rice or barley, or better yet, no grains!

Too many carbs:  Ideally, at least 2 of the top 3 ingredients should be named protein sources; i.e. chicken, chicken meal, deboned chicken.  Plant proteins are a cheap source of protein.  While they may make the protein level look good on the label, they are not as beneficial to animals as meat proteins.  Additionally, an over abundance of carbs in the diet increases the risk of diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Fractionated grains – the sum of the parts is larger than you might think:  For example, instead of putting “whole brown rice,” they may put “rice bran” and “rice flour,” each weighing less than the first ingredient, but the sum of the two would weigh more.  Using whole grain ingredients is not only healthier, but it also offers a more accurate accounting of the ingredients used and their true proportions.

Fresh vs. meal – the trick:  Ingredients are listed by weight, so you may look at an ingredient list and see: “chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal” (Purina One Adult for Cats), and think “Chicken is the first ingredient, so that must be good.”  The problem: 80% of the weight in fresh chicken is water.  Once it is cooked and the water is removed, the chicken now doesn’t weigh as much and falls farther down the list of ingredients, so essentially, your ingredient list by weight is more like: “brewers rice, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal, chicken” – not so good!

Unnecessary Chemicals:  Chemical preservatives like BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin can potentially cause cancer, create a weakened immune system and speed aging.  Farmers use ethoxyquin as an insecticide in their fields and are required to wear mask and gloves to handle!  Propylene glycol is used to help keep foods moist (think the Bits in Kibble ‘n Bits) and add sweetness, yet it is a less-toxic version of antifreeze!  Also steer clear of artificial colorings – who cares if the food is a natural brown or an artificially dyed red (think Beneful)?  If the food is made from actual meat instead of corn, wheat or other non-meat products, artificial flavorings are unnecessary because it will taste good naturally!


  • Vets get little to no training on nutrition?  Companies like Hills, Iams and Purina provide books, food and sponsorships to vet students and have a huge presence at veterinary conferences.  Unless they search it out on their own, most traditional vets simply buy-in to these large companies’ mantra.  For an alternative, consult a holistic vet, look for a vet who understands how good (or bad!) nutrition can affect an animals’ overall health, ask an educated staff member at your local independent pet supply shop (like PetMAC!!), or do some independent research on the internet (see suggested reading at the end).
  • AAFCO “complete and balanced” markings on bags of pet food are based on the assumption that dogs are omnivores and can be sustained on plant and vegetable matter – but that is not the case.  Dogs, and cats more so, NEED MEAT PROTEIN!  Additionally, feeding trials determine the minimum standards necessary for the average dog or cat.  Since there is no “average dog or cat,” some may do fine on the food for a while, but others may need additional protein, nutrients, etc.  Just like each human is different in what we need to make us healthy, the same is true for our pets.  Be a critical thinker.  Observe your dog or cat and make adjustments as necessary.
  • A dry coat, flaky skin and/or excessive shedding could be a sign of a nutritional deficiency.  The life-critical systems use the nutrients first and if there are any left over, the skin and coat get them.  Salmon or fish oil is an excellent supplement for any dog because it is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to the heart and immune system (just like for us!)

Suggested Reading:

Just a few of my favorite magazines and books to get you started!

How to Grade Your Pet’s Food

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by PetMAC

A natural, healthy diet for your pet is paramount to his or her long term health.  It pays to be an educated consumer and review the ingredients of the food you feed your pooch.  It is also very good to rotate among well-rated pet foods for variety.

An additional good resource is this link below where it allows you to compare ingredients from various foods side by side:

Start with a grade of 100:

  1. For every listing of “by-product”, subtract 10 points
  2. For every non-specific animal source (“meat” or “poultry” meal or fat) reference, subtract 10 points
  3. If the food contains BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin, subtract 10 points
  4. For every grain “mill run” or non-specific grain source, subtract 5 points
  5. If the same grain ingredient is used 2 or more times in the first five ingredients (i.e. “ground brown rice”, “brewers rice”, “rice flour” are all the same grain), subtract 5 points
  6. If the protein sources are not named meat or meat meals (ie:  chicken, turkey, etc) and there are fewer than 2 meats in the top 3 ingredients, subtract 3 points
  7. If it contains any artificial colorants, subtract 3 points
  8. If it contains ground corn or whole grain corn, subtract 3 points
  9. If corn is listed in the top 5 ingredients, subtract 2 more points
  10. If the food contains any animal fat other than fish oil, subtract 2 points
  11. If lamb is the only animal protein source (unless your pet is allergic to other protein sources), subtract 2 points
  12. If it contains soy or soybeans, subtract 2 points
  13. If it contains wheat (unless you know that your pet is not allergic to wheat), subtract 2 points
  14. If it contains beef (unless you know that your pet is not allergic to beef), subtract 1 point
  15. If it contains salt, subtract 1 point

Extra Credit:

  1. If any of the meat sources are organic, add 5 points
  2. If the food is endorsed by any major breed group or nutritionist, add 5 points
  3. If the food is baked not extruded, add 5 points
  4. If the food contains probiotics, add 3 points
  5. If the food contains fruit, add 3 points
  6. If the food contains vegetables (NOT corn or other grains), add 3 points
  7. If the animal sources are hormone-free and antibiotic-free, add 2 points
  8. If the food contains barley, add 2 points
  9. If the food contains flax seed oil (not just the seeds), add 2 points
  10. If the food contains oats or oatmeal, add 1 point
  11. If the food contains sunflower oil, add 1 point
  12. For every different specific animal protein source (other than the first one; count “chicken” and “chicken meal” as only one protein source, but “chicken” and “turkey”, etc as 2 different sources), add 1 point
  13. If it contains glucosamine and chondroitin, add 1 point
  14. If the vegetables have been tested for pesticides and are pesticide-free, add 1 point


94-100+ = A     86-93 = B     78-85 = C     70-77 = D     69 = F

Here are some foods that have already been scored.

Authority Harvest Baked / Score 116 A+

Bil-Jac Select / Score 68 F

Canidae / Score 112 A+

Chicken Soup Senior / Score 115 A+

Diamond Maintenance / Score 64 F

Diamond Lamb Meal & Rice / Score 92 B

Diamond Large Breed 60+ Formula / Score 99 A

Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Ultra Premium / Score 122 A+

Dick Van Patten’s Duck and Potato / Score 106 A+

Hund-n-Flocken Adult Pet (lamb) by Solid Gold / Score 93 B

Iams Lamb Meal & Rice Formula Premium / Score 73 D

Innova Pet / Score 114 A+

Innova Evo / Score 114 A+

Kirkland Signature Chicken, Rice, and Vegetables / Score 110 A+

Merrick Grammy Pot Pie/ Score 118 A+

Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy / Score 87 B

Pet Gold Adult with Lamb & Rice / Score 23 F

ProPlan Natural Turkey & Barley / Score 103 A+

Purina Beneful / Score 17 F

Purina Pet / Score 62 F

Purina Come-n-Get It / Score 16 F

Royal Canin BullPet / Score 100 A+

Royal Canin Natural Blend Adult / Score 106 A+

Sensible Choice Chicken and Rice / Score 97 A

Science Diet Advanced Protein Senior 7+ / Score 63 F

Science Diet for Large Breed Puppies / Score 69 F

Wellness Super5 Mix Chicken / Score 110 A+

Wolf King Adult Pet (bison) by Solid Gold / Score 97 A


***Source unknown – widely circulated on the internet

Ten Tips for a Healthier Dog or Cat

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by PetMAC

1. Good food!

A wholesome diet made from ingredients that are as natural and organic as possible is crucial to your dog or cat’s wellness. Choose from a raw frozen or premium canned food and avoid low-end commercial diets that include by-products, high grain content, and artificial additives. Round out his diet with plenty of fresh, pure water. Avoid city tap water – it’s full of chlorine. Use good spring or reverse osmosis water.

2. Vitamins

Your best buddy may also benefit from supplements to boost his wellness. Antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, grape seed extract and CoQ10 are important, as are Omega 3 essential fatty acids, found in salmon and flax oils. Probiotics and digestive enzymes enhance GI health. Consult a holistic vet before starting a supplement program.

3. Don’t overvaccinate

Too many vaccines have been associated with a host of health problems in dogs and cats. Stick with the core vaccines for kittens and puppies and avoid annual boosters. The duration of immunity for core vaccines ranges five to nine years – that’s half a lifetime in most cases! The exception is rabies, which is currently required by law in most regions.

4. Let’s get moving

Regular exercise is as good for your animal as it is for you. It strengthens bones and immunity, oxygenates the blood and organs, and increases mental and emotional well being. Take your dog for a daily walk, or schedule an outdoor playtime. If you have an indoor cat, encourage a few short periods of play throughout the day.

5. Visit the vet

Because your animal can’t talk, he can’t tell you when he’s experiencing unusual symptoms, especially if they’re subtle. Annual veterinary check-ups can catch potential problems before they become serious. It also gives you a regular chance to talk to a professional about the best way to ensure a long and healthy life for your companion.

6. Open wide

A healthy mouth means a healthy body. Gum infections can spread to other body organs and cause serious disease. A proper diet, including raw meaty bones, goes a long way towards good dental health, but it’s also wise to regularly check his teeth and gums for problems, and if necessary, clean his teeth with a holistic dental product for animals.

7. Safe surroundings

A safe, stress-free environment is vital to your animal’s well being at all levels. Avoid using toxic household and lawn care products, including pesticides, and make sure your home and garden don’t pose any safety hazards. Be aware of and remove or minimize any elements or situations that may be causing your dog or cat emotional anxiety.

8. Don’t go hairy

Grooming is something a lot of animal guardians overlook, especially if their companions have short hair. But regular bathing and brushing actually contribute to good health by helping to keep fleas away, getting rid of dirt and dead hair, and preventing skin problems. Brushing also spreads the natural oils over the hair and massages the skin.

9. Training tactics

Just like kids, dogs and cats can develop bad habits if they’re not taught how to behave, and that causes tension for everyone. Make positive training an integral part of your companion’s daily life (consult a professional if you need help). Gentle, reward-based training ensures good behavior and a relationship free of conflict and power games.

10. Lots of love

Last but far from least, your dog or cat needs loads of love and attention. It’s easy to get side-tracked by our jobs and lives, but make sure you spend quality time with your animal every day, petting him, relaxing with him, and telling him how much you appreciate the unconditional love and companionship he gives you. You’ll both benefit!

Animal Wellness Report –