Archive for December, 2015

Puppy Le Pew

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Relief for Gassy Dogs

by Dr. Matthew Heller

Many a pet owner has been offended by the intestinal sounds and smells emanating from their favorite canine companion. How could your cuddly, four-legged friend possibly emit such malodorous vapors? How is it possible that even a small fluffy lapdog can clear a room? But don’t despair; there is hope for a gassy dog.

While Shrek, America’s favorite green ogre, is often shown breaking wind only to remark, “Better out than in, I always say,” few dog owners likely share his carefree view. People’s responses to a pet’s stench range from embarrassment if company is visiting to a backyard timeout.

Sniffing Out the Source
It helps to take a closer look at the health issues behind the smell: Flatulence results from the accumulation of gases in the gastrointestinal tract, but not all such gas is bad. In fact, 99 percent of intestinal gases comprise non-odorous forms, such as hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. Odorous gases—consisting of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and certain protein byproducts—account for the other nauseating 1 percent. So, what is the source of these noxious intestinal gases in a dog? Most have two primary origins:

Aerophagia, or the swallowing of air, may occur when a dog gulps his food, causing that air to pass rapidly through the intestinal tract, initiating bloating and belching.

Bacterial fermentation of not readily digestible foods can occur because dogs are carnivores, meaning they generally do not digest carbohydrates as well. When a dog consumes commercial foods that contain filler carbohydrates and indigestible fibers, they begin to ferment, and anyone within range knows the result. Generally, it takes a day or two for the undigested component to be excreted in the form of flatulence.

The following foods are risky from a flatulence standpoint:

  • Low-quality meats or grains that may contain indigestible proteins
  • Dairy products, because a dog is unable to metabolize the lactase enzyme
  • Vegetables with complex sugars such as potatoes, corn, soybeans and peas
  • Excessive amounts of fermentable fiber
  • Spoiled food sources, including expired meats and items nosed out from the trash bin

Such common flatulence is benign, although nonetheless stinky. Outbreaks may occur as a result of overindulgence in treats or other rich foods such as greasy table scraps never intended for animals. This type of flatulence is usually short-lived and has an identifiable cause. But if a dog suffers from persistent flatulence, it may indicate a more chronic health problem, so consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Various conditions that may produce persistent flatulence include food allergies (prompting the gastrointestinal tract to react with an immune response); inflammatory bowel disease; virus-related gastrointestinal infections; hepatic or pancreatic abnormalities; or the presence of intestinal parasites, such as Giardia, roundworms or hookworms.

Additional influencing factors can also come into play. Puppies, for instance, are often susceptible to intestinal maladies because they have not yet established a healthy balance of intestinal flora in their immature gastrointestinal tract. Likewise, obese pets are more likely to generate offensive odors due to their lack of exercise; activity increases the metabolizing of foods, thus reducing both the amount of time that food sits stagnant in the intestinal tract and the possibility of bacterial fermentation.
Focus on Solutions
In the case of a flatulent dog, an ounce of prevention is well warranted.

Alter feeding habits. Dogs fed smaller, more frequent meals are less likely to experience flatulence as a result of aerophagia. In multiple-dog households, feeding a food-anxious member of the pack in a separate setting will reduce its rate of ingestion. Another way to slow down eating is to use an automatic feeder.

Choose high-quality pet food. The adage, “You are what you eat,” also applies to Fifi. The caliber of commercial dog foods varies widely. Select a highly digestible diet with an appropriate fiber content designed to aid in balancing intestinal bacteria.

Review ingredients closely. Discount-priced dog food brands often contain low-quality grains and grain byproducts chock full of carbohydrates that do not promote optimal nutrition. Soybeans, for example, are high in proteins that are difficult for a dog to digest, thus leading to excessive gas. Likewise, avoid poor-quality meats and meat byproducts, as well as generic meals, such as beef meal, lamb meal and chicken meal.

Pay attention to how a dog responds to a new diet; it may be sensitive to a food’s main protein source, whether it is beef, chicken, lamb or another meat.

Go for a walk or run. Casual daily walks stimulate digestion as food passes through the intestinal tract and encourages elimination of stool. It is not advisable to vigorously exercise a dog immediately before or after it eats; when a dog exercises vigorously—such as playing ball or a game of tug—it may swallow too much air, which can be problematic as noted.

Try nutritional supplements. Supplements that contain digestive enzymes and probiotics with beneficial bacteria such as bifidus and acidophilus can help promote proper food digestion, and thus reduce gaseous bacterial fermentation.

Most dogs that suffer from flatulence don’t have an underlying medical problem of greater concern. In many cases, the condition can be remedied by addressing the pet’s diet and nutritional needs.

Dr. Matthew J. Heller is a holistic veterinarian and owner of All About PetCare, in Middletown, OH. Find more tips at AllAboutPetCare.com.

Gluten: Trust Your Gut

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Scientists Confirm Widespread Sensitivity

by Claire O’Neil

Walk through the gluten-free product aisles a. t the grocery or health food store and many people might wonder: “Is this a food fad? Who has a problem with gluten?”

As it turns out, more people have gluten sensitivity than scientists, physicians and researchers previously thought. A study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Celiac Research estimates that 6 percent of the U.S. population, or more than 18 million individuals, have some sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale.

Research published online by BMC Medicine and CeliacCenter.org in 2011 provides the first scientific evidence of what many people allergic to gluten already know: While gluten sensitivity presents less serious negative health effects than celiac disease, its host of symptoms can become problematic. An earlier study in Ailmentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics concluded that for dealing with both wheat allergies and celiac disease, the dietary avoidance of gluten-containing grains is the only effective treatment.

Case in Point

Carol Mahaffey, a tax attorney in Columbus, Ohio, was experiencing intermittent joint pain and what she calls “living in a fog,” in the summer of 2009. Because she had read that joint pain can sometimes be caused  by gluten sensitivity, she decided to eliminate gluten from her diet.

Although her new regimen didn’t relieve the joint pain – she was later professionally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis – she found that after four to five weeks, she looked and felt better overall. “I was losing weight, my digestive system was better and I found it easier to mentally focus. Somebody at work also happened to mention that I didn’t sniffle anymore,” she relates. Although Mahaffey’s blood tests were negative for celiac disease, she had all the signs that she is gluten-sensitive.

“Imagine degrees of gluten ingestion along a spectrum,” sayd Dr. Alessio Fasano, a professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology and director of the Center for Celiac Research. “At one end, you have people with celiac disease, who cannot tolerate one crumb of gluten in their diet. At the other, you have the lucky people who can eat pizza, beer, pasta and cookies – with no ill effects whatsoever. In the middle, there is this murky area of those with gluten reactions, including gluten sensitivity,” says Fasano, who led the new study. “This is where we are looking for answers on how to best diagnose and treat this recently identified group of gluten-sensitive individuals.”

Until more definitive answers come to light, those who suspect they might have an issue with gluten can try going gluten-free for a period of time, like Mahaffey. “I had to become a label reader,” she advises, “because even things like bottled soy sauce can contain gluten.” She buys baked goods at a local gluten-free bakery, still enjoys wine with gluten-free snacks, uses gluten-free dough to make her own pizza at home, and has become a fan or risotto.

For people that travel on a similar path, the feel-good benefits of a gluten-free diet can more than make up for some of the inconveniences. “You just make it work,” says Mahaffey. On a recent get-together with longtime college friends at a chalet in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Mahaffey brought her own snacks and breakfast foods, asked questions about the menu when they went out to dinner, and ended up having a great, gluten-free time.

Claire O’Neil is a freelance writer in Kansas City, MO. 

Saying Goodbye to Pets

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Memorials Help Ease Grief

by Sandra Murphy

After Penny Mitchell lost her Birman cat, Patrick, to cancer, she cried at work. “Do you want me to bring you another cat? My grandmother has a barn full,” said a co-worker. When another cat, Quickie, passed away, she heard, “You had him 17 years; what more do you want?”

Mitchell wanted more time with her cats, but more than that, she wanted understanding and respect for her feelings of loss and grief—something a funeral provides. Dog and cat people can be wary about sharing their feelings over the death of an animal and, as Mitchell discovered, subjected to insensitive remarks. The American Pet Products Association estimates that 63 percent of American households include animal companions. Coleen Ellis, owner of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center (TwoHeartsPetLossCenter.com), observes that when the inevitable happens, “People in the other 37 percent can’t relate or empathize; they just don’t get it.”

Ellis opened the first standalone pet funeral home in 2004. She explains, “A funeral brings closure, gives permission to grieve and offers an opportunity to remember a life well-lived. Why not do the same for your dog or cat as you would for any other family member?”

Compassionate Services
Funeral homes are beginning to understand that animals are part of the family. Separate rooms may be set aside for memorial services or full funerals, including viewing. The death of your special animal companion is stressful; dealing with professionals can ease the pain and help achieve the kind of service and memory you want.

“Grief is what we feel on the inside; mourning is grief shown. A cemetery marker often tells only the name, date of birth or when the pet joined the family and date of death,” Ellis says. “A funeral is for talking about the life lived between those dates.”

So, what’s the best way to invite friends and family to a funeral for a dog or cat without feeling awkward? Try, “This has been a hard time for me. It would be a big help if you would be with me when I say goodbye. Remind me of some of the stories I told you about Sparky.” Plan all details beforehand to eliminate the pressure to make on-the-spot decisions during such an emotional time.

Burial or Cremation
If burial is your choice, check local ordinances; some communities forbid backyard burials for health reasons. Also keep in mind that you may eventually relocate.

A pet cemetery is one option, and some allow humans to be buried there, too. As a rule, human cemeteries are not as flexible—for example, some states say no to animals, while others require separate sections for animals and humans.

You can select a standard casket that will protect the body for the long term, or go green with a biodegradable version, made from recycled paper products, cardboard, wicker or sea grass. Elizabeth Fournier, owner of Cornerstone Funeral Services & Cremation (CornerstoneFuneral.com), advises, “A green burial avoids the use of formaldehyde-based embalming and concrete vaults. It’s the way funerals used to be.”

With cremation, the decision is between private (your animal only, with ashes returned to you) or communal (more than one animal, no ashes returned). Fournier adds, “I have placed urns with a dog’s or cat’s ashes in caskets of their [human] loved one. The person making the funeral arrangements for the deceased will sheepishly ask if I can do this. They’re always so surprised that it’s quite common.”

Viewing or Memorial Service
If an animal has been euthanized at the vet’s office or died in an accident, children may not understand the loss. A viewing, after the animal has been bathed and groomed, may help both youngsters and other family pets understand why the missing animal is no longer around.

Additional Choices
“At the funeral for a Pomeranian named Miss Thing, she was in a white knit dress and looked like she was asleep,” recalls Fournier. “I also helped organize a tribute for a cat named Brutus. It included readings from the owner’s journal and all the grandchildren sang What’s New, Pussycat?” Children can choose photos, favorite toys or treats for a tribute table. A memorial service can also accompany a cremation.

Formal or Relaxed Setting
Full honors were given to Bo—a cross-trained narcotics/patrol dog with the Indianapolis Police Department, killed in the line of duty—including an honor guard, floral arrangements and a eulogy by K-9 Commander Lt. Benny Diggs. The local chief of police and sheriff spoke of Bo’s responsibilities and contributions to the community. Stories of Bo’s family life with Scott Johnson, his K-9 handler, rounded out the ceremony.

“It wasn’t just the handlers that came—about 100 officers and 50 people from the community also attended,” reports Diggs. “While losing a K-9 [team member] is not the same as losing a human officer, it still has an impact on the whole department. We’ve spent time training, living with and counting on these dogs. They deserve a service.”

A golden retriever named Mike had a more casual sendoff. A pet portrait and family photos set next to his urn and a bowl of his favorite treats inspired friends and family to share their favorite Mike stories.

Remembrances and Keepsakes
A plaster cast of a pet’s paw print or a clipping of fur for a scrapbook or locket can also keep memories close. Have a guest book for those that come to the service to sign, and also take photos of the tribute table.

Hosting a funeral or memorial service for a pet may not be for everyone, but they are becoming increasingly available for those who choose to say goodbye to a beloved companion animal, surrounded by friends and family. They are an outward sign of respect; both for your feelings and the life your four-legged friend lived. Who doesn’t deserve that?

Sandra Murphy is a freelance writer at StLouisFreelanceWriter@mindspring.com.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

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A Dozen Ways Children Teach Us to Eat Mindfully

by Dr. Michelle May

Children are born with the ability to eat instinctively, fully tuned in to internal cues of hunger and fullness.

Parents are usually the main facilitators of life lessons for their children, but in some arenas it’s best to let the kids do the teaching. Their natural eating behaviors, for example, exemplify smart choices for us all. Here are some surprising rules of thumb:

Eat when you are hungry. From birth, babies know when and how much they need to eat and cry to let us know. As youngsters grow this vital instinct can be unlearned, so that by the time they are adults, most have learned to eat for other reasons besides hunger. By recognizing the difference between needing to eat and wanting to eat, adults can also relearn when and how much to eat.

Stop eating when you are full. Infants turn their head away when they have had enough to eat and toddlers throw food on the floor when they’re done. But as adults, we clean our plates because we were admonished as youngsters about starving children, feel a social obligation or something just tastes good.

Being hungry makes you grouchy. Being hungry, tired or frustrated makes a child crabby and affects adults in the same way. Take care of your mealtime needs instead of taking out your crankiness on those around you.

Snacks are good. Kids naturally prefer to eat smaller meals with snacks in-between whenever they get hungry. That pattern of eating keeps their metabolism stoked all day; adults’ too.

All food fits. Children are born with a natural preference for sweet foods and quickly learn to enjoy fatty foods. Such fun comfort foods can be part of a healthy diet. In fact, studies show that overly restrictive food rules can cause children to feel guilty or ashamed and lead to rebellious eating. Everyone eats healthier when they learn to enjoy less nutritious foods in moderation without deprivation.

Be a picky eater. Kids won’t easily eat something they don’t like. Consider how much less you’d eat if you didn’t settle for food that only tastes so-so.

You can learn to like new foods. Healthy eating is an acquired taste, so provide a variety of healthful foods at the family table. If children observe us eating a variety of healthful foods, then they will learn to as well. It can take up to 10 different occasions of two-bite exposures to a new food, but kids often surprise themselves by liking something they never thought they would.

Make the most of your food. Eating is a total sensory experience for children as they examine, smell and touch each morsel. You’ll appreciate food aromas, appearance and flavors more if you aren’t driving, watching television, working on a computer, reading or standing over the sink.

Eating with your family is fun. Babies and toddlers naturally love eating with other people. Family mealtime is a golden opportunity to model good habits and conversational skills and connect with each other. With older children, play high-low around the dinner table, where each family member takes a turn sharing the best and worst parts of their day.

There is more to a party than cake and ice cream. Invite children to a party and they’ll want to know what they are going to get to do; invite adults and they’ll wonder what food will be served. Instead of avoiding food-based get togethers, focus on the social aspects of the event.

Sleep is good. Children need a good night’s sleep to prepare for the adventures that tomorrow will bring. Everyone benefits from a consistent bedtime and good rest.

Live in the moment. Kids are masters at living in the present; they don’t waste a lot of energy worrying about what has already happened or what might happen tomorrow. They are fully engaged in small, enjoyable pursuits. Adults will do well to reconsider the true joys of life and we can learn a lot from children.

Michelle May is a medical doctor, founder of the Am I Hungry? mindful eating program (AmIHungry.com) and the award-winning author of Eat what You Love, Love What You Eat. Her mission is to help individuals break free from mindless and emotional eating to live a more vibrant life. 

Kitty Snacks

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Here’s one more homemade snack for your kitty-cat. For another cat snack recipe and a dog snack recipe, be sure to check out our monthly newsletter!

Go Go Balls

Yields: 30-32 balls

  • 1/2 cup water-packed tuna fish or salmon (from BPA-free pouch)
  • 4 oz light cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp dried catnip (or more to taste

Drain the fish. If using salmon, remove the skin and bones.

Using a fork, flake the fish into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.

Form small, marble-sized balls by hand and store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Recipe courtesy of Janet Cantrell, Fat Cat Spreads Out.