6 Tips for Pet Dental Health

Our beloved pets bring immeasurable joy and companionship into our lives, becoming cherished members of our families. While we shower them with love and care, one aspect of their well-being is often overlooked, their dental health. Just like humans, pets require regular attention to maintain a healthy mouth, as dental issues can significantly impact their overall wellness. The bacteria and plaque harden on their teeth to create tartar. This results in receding gums, gingivitis, pain, and tooth loss. When left untreated these dental infections can spread to the heart, kidneys, and other vital organs of our loved ones.

By understanding and implementing the following practices, we can ensure our furry friends not only flaunt a bright smile but also enjoy a life of vitality and happiness. So, let’s delve into the world of pet dental care and discover how simple steps can lead to a lifetime of optimal health for our four-legged companions!

Regular Brushing

Regular brushing is a cornerstone of maintaining optimal oral health in pets, playing a pivotal role in preventing the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Many may feel it is outdated, but veterinarians stand by it; brushing is the best way to prevent tartar build up and gum disease. By establishing a routine of brushing your pet’s teeth, we can effectively remove the plaque before it solidifies into tartar, minimizing the risk of dental issues. We all know it is not as easy as it sounds, but this practice can play a vital role not only in their dental health but also their overall well-being.

Choosing the right toothbrush and toothpaste is essential to make the brushing experience as comfortable and effective as possible, for both us and our pets. We are in this together! There are a pet-specific toothbrushes with a variety of sizes so we can find the appropriate size for each furry friend. Some may be more comfortable with a handle while others prefer the finger toothbrush. Additionally, there are pet friendly toothpastes and gels in a variety of flavours like peanut butter, chicken and bacon that can make the experience more enjoyable for our four-legged companions. We do want to stay away from human toothpaste and avoid any products that contain xylitol, which is toxic to our pets. Introducing our pets to brushing requires patience and a gradual approach. We want to begin by allowing them to sniff and lick the toothbrush and toothpaste to help them get familiar. Progress into gentle touches around the mouth, slowly incorporating short brushing sessions until they become accustomed to the process. This can take a few days or weeks and positive reinforcement with treats and/or praise can go a long way in making the process as positive as possible.

Dental-Friendly Diets

The impact of diet on oral health in pets can be profound; it is not just about providing them nutrients, but also about ensuring their pearly whites stay gleaming. Luckily, there are a few options out there to suit everyone. Opting for a kibble that is designed to promote dental health can do wonders. These specialized diets often boast big kibble pieces and rough textures that encourage chewing and help scrub away plaque and tartar in the process.

On the flip side, avoiding sugary foods and treats is crucial in avoiding dental dilemmas. Sugars can be villains in our pets’ dental health adventure, promoting growth of harmful bacteria wreaking havoc on their mouths. As these bacteria feast on sugars, they produce acids that, over time, can erode tooth enamel and create a breeding ground for plaque and tartar. This is where fresh, cooked, or raw diets come in handy. They contain more natural enzymes that help to control the bacterial growth and are low in carbohydrates that feed the pesky plaque forming bacteria. When it comes to our pet’s meals, we want to make choices that not only satisfy their taste buds but also contribute to a great dental regime.

Dental Chews & Toys

Dental chews and toys are not just your pet’s playtime buddies; they’re the superheroes of oral hygiene, on a mission to keep their teeth clean and strong. The benefits of these dental delights extend far beyond a blissful, fulfilling chew session. As our furry friends enthusiastically gnaw on a dental chew or toy, they are not only satisfying their natural instinct to chew but also engaging in a full-scale battle against plaque and tartar. Whether it is a raw-meaty bone, challenging chew, or sturdy toy, selecting the right match for our pet’s size, chewing style, and preference is crucial. A chew that is too small may pose a choking hazard, while one that is too large can discourage our pets. When providing a bone or chew, we want to ensure it is larger than the length of their muzzle and if we are uncertain or between sizes, it is best to go larger. For more voracious chewers, opt for more durable options, while more delicate chewers may benefit from softer materials. So, when playtime rolls around, make it a dual-purpose affair by incorporating dental chews and toys into the mix. Your pet will thank you with a sparkling smile and wagging tail, ready for the next adventure.

Water Additives & Oral Gels

In a world where dental care for pets meets convenience, water additives and oral gels emerge as the unsung heroes, offering a brush-free approach to maintain those sparkling smiles. Dental water additives, a.k.a. the magic elixirs for oral health, are designed to mix seamlessly with your pet’s drinking water. As they take their sips, these additives work behind the scenes, helping to break down plaque and fight off pesky bacteria. Many are made to be completely, tasteless, scentless, and invisible, so you can add it in, and they will never know.

Now we will jump into the world of oral gels. Just a few drops a day will result in a gorgeous smile by harnessing the power of the carefully formulated ingredients. These gels are often enriched with antimicrobial agents and enzymes that target and reduce harmful bacteria, plaque, and tartar buildup. The drops are applied to the gum line and take affect while our pets lick it and spread it around their mouth. These gels are crafted to freshen breath and promote optimal gum health, leaving your pet with fresh breath instead of stinky kisses.

Monitoring Signs of Dental Issues

Embarking on the journey of monitoring your furry friend’s dental well-being is like being a paw-some detective on a mission to crack the case of the bad breath. Start by keeping a keen eye on their eating habits and chewing antics; could be clues pointing towards potential dental issues. Is our once voracious eater suddenly approaching meals with hesitation? Or our enthusiastic chewing sessions have turned lackluster? These are the clues for dental concerns that warrant our attention. Ideally, experts recommend checking our pet’s oral health every day, but for some this can be unrealistic. If we can aim for a few times a week or weekly, it can be beneficial. Recognizing the tale-tell signs of dental problems is a lot more than just catching a whiff of bad breath. We want to watch out for subtle cues like swollen gums, excessive drooling, or even reluctance to chew and play with their toys. When we do stumble on these hints, it is time to take prompt action and speak with our pet’s veterinary team.

Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

Picture these check-ups as your furry friend’s personal spa day, the professionals dive into the task of keeping our pets healthy and their chompers in tip-top shape. These physical exams give our veterinarians the chance to look at their oral cavity; they are crucial line of defense against potential dental dramas. They can spot dental concerns that may elude even the most vigilant pet parent during at-home checks. These check-ups not only provide the opportunity for examination but also to talk about pet parent concerns, preventative measures, and professional cleanings. The frequency of these check-ups can vary based on age, breed, and overall health. Our veterinary check-ups play a pivotal role in addressing dental issues at their earliest stages. Early detection allows for prompt intervention, preventing the escalation of dental problems that could lead to discomfort, pain, or more extensive treatments. Together, with a vigilant eye and the guidance of your pet’s trusty vet, you’ll be well on your way to securing a lifetime of gleaming smiles and tail-wagging happiness!

Pet dental health is a vital aspect of overall well-being, often overlooked but crucial for a happy and healthy furry friend. We’ve explored simple yet effective tips – from regular brushing to dental chews and professional check-ups – all contributing to a brighter smile and a better quality of life for our pets. The benefits extend far beyond immediate oral hygiene; they pave the way for a future where our pet enjoys lasting comfort and joy. So, let’s embark on this journey of proactive dental care, ensuring our pets not only flaunt radiant smiles but also live their happiest, healthiest lives by our sides.


Written By

Taylor Luther

Marketing Lead, Customer Engagement

Taylor completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph and has built up experience within the pet nutrition industry and the animal medical field. She has a passion to share all insights on pet nutrition and health for all of our furry (feathery, scaly or otherwise) friends.

Common Illnesses in Senior Pets

As our furry companions gracefully age, they become more susceptible to a range of common illnesses that can impact their health and vitality. The golden years bring wisdom and charm, but also potential health challenges for our senior pets. Understanding and recognizing these common illnesses is crucial for pet parents to provide the best possible care, ensuring our aging companions enjoy a comfortable and happy life. Let’s dive in!

Obesity

As pets enter their golden years, metabolic changes and decreased activity levels make them particularly susceptible to weight gain. Obesity in senior pets can lead to a myriad of health problems, including joint issues, diabetes, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular diseases. The added weight exacerbates conditions like arthritis, making movement painful and contributing to a sedentary lifestyle that further compounds the problem. This not only diminishes their overall quality of life but also increases the risk of chronic ailments, limiting their ability to enjoy their senior years with us to the fullest.

Diet plays a pivotal role, and our healthy pet care specialists may recommend a specialized senior pet food that addresses their nutritional requirements without excess calories. Smaller portions spread out multiple meals, coupled with regular exercise, can aid in weight loss, and improve overall mobility. It’s essential to monitor progress closely with regular body condition checks and adjust the treatment plan as needed. Additional interventions may be recommended such as medications or supplements to support weight loss and manage associated health issues.

Preventing senior pet obesity is key to ensuring  healthy and active sunset years for our furry friends. Losing the weight once already on is much more difficult than preventing the weight gain to begin with. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor weight and identify potential health concerns early on. Pet owners should focus on providing a balanced and age-appropriate diet, adjusting portions as needed to maintain a healthy weight. Incorporating regular, low-impact exercise into a senior pet’s routine, such as gentle walks and interactive play, can help prevent weight gain and promote joint health. By being proactive in both treatment and prevention, pet owners can contribute to a longer, happier, and healthier life for our senior companions.

Arthritis

As our beloved furry friends gracefully enter this period, they may encounter arthritis, a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. It can be both managed and prevented with a little extra care but if left unaddressed, it can significantly alter their quality of life. You might notice your once sprightly companion taking a bit more time to rise from their cozy spot or showing a preference for leisurely strolls rather than high-energy play. Unfortunately, many symptoms of arthritis are mistaken as part of the “normal” aging process.

Symptoms
– Difficulty with stairs and getting on/off furniture
– No longer using their favourite perches
– Less active and sleeping more often
– Limping or lameness
– Loss of muscle mass in backend
– Trouble squatting for bathroom or more accidents in the house
– Increased irritability or sensitivity to touch

The diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive examination, where your pet’s joints are gently assessed, and blood work and X-rays may be recommended to rule out any underlying condition, such as bone cancer. X-rays are also used to assess the degree of degeneration. There is no cure for arthritis but there are treatments to slow the progression and ease the discomfort. Treatment options often include medications to ease pain such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and joint supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3s, and much more to promote flexibility and mobility. In some cases, alternative therapies such as massages, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture has been shown to improve mobility and quality of life.

Preventing arthritis involves embracing the role of a proactive pet parent. Keep those tails wagging and kitty paws padding by maintaining an ideal weight through a well-balanced diet, as extra pounds can put unnecessary stress on joints. Including joint supplements before symptoms occur can help hold off any progression.  Regular exercise, even in the form of gentle play or short walks, is the key to keeping those joints limber. With a combination of love, attention, and a watchful eye, you can ensure your senior companion continues to age gracefully.

Diabetes Mellitus

While navigating the world of senior pet health, we often encounter the challenge of diabetes mellitus, a condition that affects our older furry friends much more frequently than their younger counterparts. Keep an eye out for an increase in water consumption and more frequent bathroom breaks—key signs that your pet might be dealing with diabetes. You may also notice cloudy eyes, especially in dogs, and reoccurring infections. If your once spry companion is suddenly less enthusiastic about playtime and seems to be losing weight despite a hearty appetite, it’s time for a trip to the vet’s office.

Diagnosis is made based on the clinical signs discussed and persistently high levels of glucose in the blood and urine. Fear not, for the treatment journey is paved with love and care. Managing diabetes in senior pets may involve a combination of insulin injections, a carefully tailored diet, and regular monitoring of their glucose levels. Their diet and feeding schedule is very important. Pet parents will want to feed them the same food, in the same amount, at the same time each day so our furry friends can achieve consistent insulin regulation. Prognosis is good, as long as we are committed to treatment and monitoring. If caught early, treatment may lead to remission, where they are no longer considered diabetic and do not require insulin therapy, though regular monitoring is still recommended.

Preventative MeasureTips/Reasoning
Maintain a healthy weight – Obesity is a well-known leading cause of diabetes
– Control portion sizes, treats, and access to human food
– Regular exercise
Healthy diet – Quality ingredients with high protein content and minimal carbohydrates
– Single ingredient high protein treats are best
Regular Vet Visits – To discuss their eating habits and identify any subtle changes
– Regular blood work/urinalysis to diagnose and treat early for best chance of remission

Kidney Disease

Embarking on the delightful journey of senior pet companionship may bring us face to face with kidney disease, a condition that demands a thoughtful approach to our aging friends’ well-being. The kidneys act as a filtration system, removing many waste products from their blood. Normally, these waste products are eliminated through the urine. When kidneys are not functioning to full capacity, due to damage, aging or other processes, waste products are no longer filtered and build up in the bloodstream.

Symptoms
Compensated Kidney FailureThe earliest signs:
– Increased thirst
– Increased urination
Advanced Kidney Failure – Loss of appetite and weight loss
– Lethargy
– Vomiting & Diarrhea
– Bad Breath

If you spot these signals, a visit to the veterinarian’s office becomes a necessary step towards understanding and addressing kidney concerns in our furry companions.

Blood tests and urinalysis take center stage, unveiling clues about our pet’s kidney function and overall health. The bloodwork will assess the levels of waste products such as blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatine (CREA) which indicate decreased kidney function. Also, high levels of SDMA (a naturally occurring indicator of kidney function) can help indicate the early stages of kidney disease before BUN and CREA levels will indicate an issue. The blood test will also show levels of substances like albumin, minerals like phosphorus and calcium, as well as white blood cells to help determine the best course of treatment.

Kidney Disease Treatment
Phase 1Phase 2
– High doses of intravenous fluids are given to flush out the kidneys and bloodstream.
– Helps mildly damaged kidney cells function again
– Helps replace various electrolytes, especially potassium
– The second phase of treatment is to help keep the kidneys functioning as long and as normal as possible by using one or more of the following:
– The Diet
– A Phosphate Binder
– Home Fluid Therapy
– Proteinuria Therapy

Preventing kidney disease can be a tricky task as there can be a variety of causes. Kidney disease can be inherited, and many responsible breeders have taken steps in preventing the chronic disease within their breeding program. Many acute cases are due to our little friends ingesting toxic substances such as antifreeze, grapes, pesticides, and some plants, so we need to do our best to prevent their access to these items. The infectious disease leptospirosis is also a culprit behind kidney disease and can be prevented through regular vaccination. The best prevention we can provide our pets is a healthy diet, appropriate exercise, and regular vet visits to keep them healthy and happy for as along as possible and catch any changes right away.

Hyperthyroidism & Hypothyroidism

On our senior journey with our pets, and especially our cats, we might encounter thyroid imbalances, where hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism play their quirky roles. Hyperthyroidism is increasingly common in senior cats and becomes a higher and higher risk as they get older. This is similar to its counterpart hypothyroidism, though not as common, and is seen mostly in senior dogs.

HyperthyroidismHypothyroidism
The overproduction of thyroid hormone and the subsequent increase in metabolism. Many organs are affected, especially the heart Most commonly seen in senior catsCondition caused by the inactivity of the thyroid gland leading to low levels of thyroid hormone and a low rate of metabolism. Affects many organ systems.
SymptomsSymptoms
Restless, increased aggression, increased vocalization, weight loss despite ravenous appetite, high blood pressure The high blood pressure can lead to cardiomyopathy, retinol detachment and kidney disease.Weight gain without appetite, lethargy, cold intolerance, dry coat & increased shedding, increased ear & skin infections, high blood cholesterol, and slow heart rate. It can also cause abnormal functioning of the nerves causing lameness and lack of coordination.
DiagnosisDiagnosis
Blood test performed to look for high levels of TT4.Blood test performed to look for low levels of TT4. Confirmed with low levels of T4 when a “Free T4 by ED” test is performed.

When it comes to hypothyroidism, there is no cure, but treatment with lifelong medication can help them live a normal happy life. Hyperthyroidism has a few treatment options. They do have the option of oral medication to restore the normal levels of thyroid hormone that requires regular blood tests to monitor for rare, but serious side effects. There is also the choice of treating our purrfect friends by feeding an iodine-limited diet to lower the levels, but must be the only food fed, including treats. In some cases, your veterinarian may be able to offer radioactive iodine therapy which destroys the abnormal thyroid tissue without endangering the other organs. With surgery, they may also be able to remove the affected thyroid gland(s) to treat the condition. In both of these cases, recurrence is rare.

As we wrap up this exploration of common illnesses in our senior pets, let’s remember that each sneeze, shuffle, or slower tail wag tells a unique tale of aging and resilience. Our furry friends may face their share of health hiccups as they gracefully enter their golden years, but with a sprinkle of love, a dash of veterinary care, and a pinch of preventive measures, we can ensure that their senior journey remains as charming and delightful as their youthful escapades. Understanding and embracing the quirks of our senior companions allows us to be the best partners in their journey through the whimsical landscape of aging. Here’s to more years of cuddles, joy, and health for our beloved senior pets!!!


Written By

Taylor Luther

Marketing Lead, Customer Engagement

Taylor completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph and has built up experience within the pet nutrition industry and the animal medical field. She has a passion to share all insights on pet nutrition and health for all of our furry (feathery, scaly or otherwise) friends.

Tips for Senior Pets

We all know aging is a natural part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept when our furry companions start to show signs of the process. Though some deep searching, there is no cure for aging. However, we can do our best to slow down the progression with different lifestyle modifications and keep them healthy and comfortable so we can share many happy memories with them.

There are several factors that contribute to the overall health and the aging process of each individual pet. Breed, genetics, physical activity, and nutrition are just a few factors that affect the age at which pets enter this life stage. For instance, large and giant breeds may enter their senior stage at 7 or 8 years of age, while small breeds may reach it at 11 or 12 years of age. When it comes to our feline friends, they are typically considered seniors from 10-12 years of age. As they reach this milestone, we may see their pace slow, nap times increase, weight loss or gain, and coats become thin and grey. There will also be some harder to spot changes that could include a slower metabolism and a decreased immune function. Many pets, and especially cats, are very good at hiding their pain and discomfort, so it is a good idea to know all the signs and symptoms to look out for.

A few changes to take note of for your next vet visit would be:

Some of the signs are just a part of being senior, but some may be indicative of a serious health concern that we want to get ahead of.

Mental and Physical Exercise

Mental and physical stimulation helps our pets enjoy their life as normal as possible for as long as possible. Many studies show you can slow the progression of age-related degeneration for both areas by adding a few activities and exercises into your routine. These moments are also an excellent chance to bond with our pets even further, and it is never too late to get started. For cats, environmental enrichment is essential to provide the physical exercise and mental stimulation that’s needed. This ranges from places to climb, places to hide, places to scratch and ways to hunt/play. Keeping them active with daily play time is very important and the use of interactive feeding toys will keep them physically and mentally stimulated for overall great health. As our cats age, we may need to look at these categories a little differently and consider mobility, but we will touch on that later on. With our canine counterparts, we have a lot more research and options for improving and maintaining their physical and cognitive health, though you could attempt some of the below suggestions with more adventurous kitties as well.

Keeping our Canines Sharp

Mental stimulation is a perfect way to prevent boredom, encourage engagement with people, other pets, and their environment, keeping them happy and healthy. Taking our forever pups on sniff walks is an excellent option for mental stimulation. Not only does it let them explore at their own pace, but it also allows them to track every scent that interests them with the safety of our supervision. We can also never get enough of our puzzle feeders and snuffle mats for our furry friends. They are an excellent mental stimulation tool leading up to and throughout their golden years as they come in such a wide variety of difficulty levels. Another suggestion is trick training. Of course, keeping their abilities in mind, trick training can be another fun way to add mental enrichment to their routine no matter the weather.

Appropriate Exercise & Canine Calisthenics

Increasing age does not have to mean decreasing activity. Our furry friends still want to play, sniff, and explore. Like many things in life, moderation is key. There may be some trial and error, but we want to find the exercise that works best for us and our pet that keeps them limber, prevent unnecessary weight gain or loss, and encourage appetite, while still keeping any limitations in mind. The more common options are slower strolls and low impact activities like swimming, but there are also canine calisthenics.

Canine calisthenics are strength and flexibility exercises that are meant to target the areas that our seniors need help with the most. These exercises can have a big impact on their quality of life both physically and mentally as they are able to continue their normal routines. Many are focused around preventing the loss of strength in the limbs, especially the rear limbs, as well as the loss of proprioception, which is the ability to know where their feet are. We are going to go over 3 calisthenic exercises that we can do at home with minimal equipment. It is a good idea to start with a warmup and finish with a cool down such as a 5-minute leash walk. You will need treats for encouragement as we want to aim for 1-3 sets of 2-5 reps of each exercise, every other day.

Power Posing
Performing a few basic obedience moves on various surfaces.
The BenefitsHelp to tone the abdominal wall, spine, shoulders and hips.
SuppliesStart on a non-slip floor. Can also use a yoga mat, pet bed, or mattress. Start on the floor and progress to harder surfaces.
How ToStart with pet standing on all fours with paws on the surface of choice. Progress through the commands of sit, down, sit, down, stand, down, stand. That equals one repetition. If they do not know the cues, we can lure them into each position using treats.

Building up the Rear
Placing front feet on an elevated platform and stretching neck up lightly.
The BenefitsNaturally, pets frontload 60-70% of their weight onto the front limbs. This exercise shifts weight onto rear limbs and firms them up.
SuppliesAny platform. A thick book (or multiple books taped together), non-slip step stool or step up on porch or deck.
How ToUsing a treat, lure them to a standing position with their front feet on the platform. Their shoulders should be directly over their wrists as they look slightly upwards. While they do this, we stand in front of them and slowly feed about 10 small treats over 10 seconds to get them to maintain the position. This would be one rep. Once they’ve mastered 10 second repetitions, try working up to 30. *If our pet is eagerly leaning forward for the treat, the weight and shoulders have shifted over the wrists, and you end up working the forelimbs instead of the hindlimbs. If their position is ever off, walk them off the platform and try again.
Lateral Walking
Stepping sideways in a step-together-step move.
The BenefitsEngages the supporting muscles of the hips and shoulders in a sideways motion, called adduction and abduction. Helps to prevent shoulder and knee injuries and fortifies the stabilizing muscles. They will be better at changing direction, regaining balance after a misstep and getting on and off furniture safely.
SuppliesAn area with enough space, such as your living room. You may use a textured surface or mats.
How ToTo laterally step left, start with your pet on your left, facing the same direction. You want your pet’s shoulder to be aligned with your leg. With one hand, put treats in front of their nose and take a small step with both feet towards them but without touching them. Your personal space bubble will knock into your pet’s personal space bubble. For most pets, it is an automatic reaction to take a lateral step to the left to alleviate the special pressure between you. When they take the step, immediately praise them, and provide a treat. Continue the process and after going a few feet switch sides and go to the right. This would complete one repetition.

Senior Nutrition

As we mentioned earlier, there are many changes our pets will go through as seniors and some of these changes have a big effect on their nutritional requirements. This could be due to lowered activity levels, unnecessary weight loss or gain, lowered immunity, dental disease and much more. The goal of proper senior nutrition is to help minimize the effects of aging. Providing the right nutrition for our seniors is considered essential to healthy aging and enhancing their quality of life.

Our older pets are typically less active and do not require the same amount of calories as their younger selves, but they still need to maintain muscle mass. They are more prone to obesity which adds an additional burden on their aging joints and can lead to many other health issues like diabetes. We want to help them maintain their optimal weight to give them the best quality of life. For the majority of our seniors, we want to be feeding a diet that is high in protein with less carbohydrates. When it comes to those with kidney disease, a high protein diet may not be best for them as it could put more burden on their kidneys. It is always best to consult with your veterinarian before changing a diet of a pet with a medical condition. Of course, there are some senior pets that are struggling to keep weight on. This is normally due to loss of smell or taste, or dental issues but could be due to an underlying condition and is best to monitor and see a vet to be safe. In these cases, we want to entice them to their food and maintain their interest. Increasing the fat in the diet will help increase palatability as well as help them gain weight. Adding tripe to the diet could help with this too.

With the decreased immune function, our seniors may also experience decreased digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is a good idea to avoid foods with too many fillers and focus on high-quality ingredients. It can also help their digestive systems if we spread out their meals to be smaller and more frequent. Many of our seniors, and especially cats, have difficulty staying hydrated, making kidney/urinary issues and constipation more likely. It is always a good idea to have multiple sources of fresh water available to them. As they get older, they may have trouble reaching higher surfaces, so try to keep the water bowls low. The use of water fountains can help entice them and remind them to drink more often as well as the use of Cat Water for our feline friends to keep urinary issues at bay. You can also keep them hydrated by increasing the moisture content in their diet by feeding more wet food which will also be great for the kidneys and easier on sensitive teeth and gums.

Supplements to Consider

There are a few nutritional supplements for our senior friends that can have a significant impact on their health. These supplements are meant to combat and prevent the health issues they need the most support with during this life stage. It is always a good idea to keep in mind that not all human foods are safe for pets, and to do a little research or ask your pet care team if you are unsure. Moderation is key and a slow introduction is typically the best way to go.

FocusReasonSupplementExamples
DigestionSeniors experience a decreased ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients.  We want to help breakdown the nutrients, so they are more easily digested.Probiotics Prebiotics Postbiotics Digestive EnzymesSprouted Seeds Beet Pulp Chicory Root Goat’s Milk Green Tripe
ImmunitySenior pets have decreased immune function. We need to help support the immune system by targeting free-radicals that damage their tissues, reduce inflammation, and promote cell membrane health.Antioxidants (Vitamin A, C & E) Omega -3s (EPA & DHA)Leafy Greens Carrots Berries Fish Oil/Fish Shellfish Flaxseed
Cognitive FunctionWe can improve memory, communication and overall cognitive function when combined with behavioural enrichment.Antioxidants (Vitamin A, C & E) Omega -3s (EPA & DHA)Leafy Greens Carrots Berries Fish Oil/Fish Shellfish Flaxseed
Joint HealthWe want to help them improve or maintain normal mobility to enjoy their life as long as possible. A great idea as early prevention as well as throughout the progression of joint issues. Safe for long term use, possible alternative to pain medication.Glucosamine Collagen Chondroitin Omega -3s (EPA & DHA)Bone Broth Tendons Fish Skin Leafy Greens Fish Oil/Fish Flaxseed

Keeping Them Comfortable & Confident

Typically, the more sedentary they become, the more rapid of a decline they may experience. For our pets, just getting around the house from bed to water bowl can be a daunting task, let alone make it all the way to the door for a washroom break. The struggle can erode their confidence and stop them from trying, especially if they have fallen and hurt themselves. The following are a few improvements we can make around their environment to help them navigate through as comfortable as possible and give them opportunity to truly relax and refuel.

Anti-slip Surfaces & Accessibility

Adding more carpets, mats, and anti-slip surfaces around the house can make a big difference. These should be placed in their usual routes, at their food and water bowls, on slippery floors, base of staircase and even on the stairs themselves. Hardwood and tile floors can be especially tricky for them. For our feline friends, the jumps between perches may be becoming too challenging. We want to provide more frequent perches so they can work their way up and try to keep necessities at ground level for easy access. The litter box may also become an issue as they age so we want to keep the entrance very low and more frequently placed throughout the home as they tend to get confused and may not be able to find it. Including pet stairs and ramps throughout their environment can help ease stress as well as minimize the risk of injury and ramps can double as cat scratchers. It helps them get in and out of the house and vehicles and is perfect for inside when trying to get on and off furniture safely.

Extra Grooming

As they stiffen with age, it may be hard for our furry friends to reach every area of their body for proper grooming. This may be escalated further if they are struggling with extra weight as well. This is the time to prevent matting with regular brushing and trimming if needed. This is also an opportunity for nails to get longer as they are not worn down as much from regular physical activity. This can lead to them becoming too long and causing discomfort which then limits their mobility. The more frequent grooming sessions provides the perfect chance to bond, examine your pet’s whole body, and pamper them with lots of love. Thoroughly look and feel for matts, lumps and bumps, ear infections and any sores. Regular grooming helps us catch issues early and intervene before it gets too serious.

The Right Bed

Unlike their younger selves, our older friends may struggle to get comfortable curled up on the floor. The hard floor does not give and is not typically forgiving on their sore bodies and the couch or human bed can be too difficult of a jump. Having a thick high-quality bed in a few of their favourite places can help them get the restorative sleep they need, stick to their preferred routine and be close to the people they love. If your beloved has joint issues like arthritis, it is a great idea to consider an orthopedic bed or one with memory foam for joint support. A heating pad or heating bed can also soothe stiffness and aches to give them some much deserved relief.

Outdoor Safety

We have covered a lot of tips for inside the house, but we don’t want to lock them inside all the time. When it comes to the outside surroundings, we want to ensure they are not going to get themselves hurt. We want to restrict access to areas that have now become potentially dangerous due to mental or physical decline. This could include blocking stairways with gates and using ramps to get them in and out of the house. You will also want to check for areas like firepits, pools and window wells. While we are out on our slow strolls, we may notice they could use some extra grip to prevent them from straining too much. We can provide some additional traction through paw grips, and a variety of booties.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

As a guardian of senior pets, we often focus all our attention on them, but we need to take care of ourselves too. It can be very stressful and draining, both emotionally and physically and that is a completely normal feeling, we are not alone. Many find that making a schedule or tracker for feeding, bathroom breaks, and medication make life a little easier. It removes the stress of missed meals or double dosing and helps prevent accidents inside. We may also experience feelings of guilt at times. That we should be doing more or that we are doing too much. We are doing our best and making them feel loved and that is what matters most. Remember to take time for yourself to have fun and destress as that is a lot of weight to carry. If we do not take care of ourselves, it is much harder to provide the extra support they may need from us.

These senior years are special, and our furry friends can teach us a lot while they transition through this stage. They encourage us to slow down and have patience, try things we normally are too busy for like taking a random nap with them in the sun. They also help us perfect celebrating the small things. Our seniors help us to enjoy the more leisurely walks and truly stop to smell the flowers. Most of all, they remind us that there is nothing like unconditional love and our bond with our beloved pets.


Written By

Taylor Luther

Marketing Lead, Customer Engagement

Taylor completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph and has built up experience within the pet nutrition industry and the animal medical field. She has a passion to share all insights on pet nutrition and health for all of our furry (feathery, scaly or otherwise) friends.

The Importance of Body Condition Scoring

In most cases, our furry family members are typically visiting the vet every 6-12 months. Of course, unless they get sick and need to visit more frequently. During the vet visit our pets will have a physical exam and the vet will determine their body condition score (BCS), but a lot can change in 6 months, and especially in 12 months. This is why it is important for us pet parents to know how to determine their body condition score at home.

Pet obesity is the number one nutritional disorder in pets, and it can be very easily managed and monitored. It is not the only concerning condition that BCS can help identify and monitor, but it is estimated that 59% of dogs and 63% of cats are overweight and may be struggling with the health implications that come with it. It is a big issue that we need to tackle. We all want our furry family members to be healthy, happy, and with us as long as possible. Unfortunately, a high body condition score puts them at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint ailments, arthritis, high blood pressure, and surgical/anesthetic complications. BCS can help with better communication with our veterinarians and a better understanding of the risks in order to come up with a treatment plan together.

Typically, owners are focused more on the number on the scale, but measuring body condition can provide more detail on their health. Weight may stay the same while fat percentage increases and lean body mass decreases with age. We can monitor their body condition and health between visits and have the ability to warn our vet team so they can provide any treatment that may be needed. This early intervention may allow for better treatment options and may prevent a disease from occurring or at least worsening.

What is BCS?

We know that people come in all different shapes and sizes and the pet world has an even bigger variety of both, especially with canines. We needed a method that not only can be used accurately for cats and Chihuahuas but also Bulldogs and Great Danes. Despite this variety, we needed a consistent system used by all veterinarians. BCS is the standardized method of predicting a patient’s body fat percentage and assess if they are carrying a healthy amount. To develop and validate the method they used a machine called DEXA, Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. It uses low doses of radiation to assess the body condition, the proportion that is fat, lean tissue (organs, muscles, etc.) and bone. You may be thinking, “well why don’t we use DEXA machines to determine their condition?”. The machines are extremely expensive and are not available to most veterinary practices, which is why they came up with body condition scoring. BCS is not just opinion, it is a scientifically validated system, and is species specific. It relies on several visual cues as well as palpation of various regions of the body allowing the veterinarian to monitor their health, approximate their ideal body weight and make any recommendations they feel is needed in each individual case.

The System

Veterinarians may use one of two scoring systems, 1-5 or 1-9. The standard BCS is based on the 9-point system as it helps to identify the more subtle changes in condition. Now the scores are not just numbers, they represent a category of body condition and an approximate body fat percentage of our furry friends.

How to Assign a Body Condition Score

Assigning a body condition score involves both a visual assessment and physical touch component through palpation. You will want to visually examine your pet while they are standing facing forward. Having a helping hand to keep their attention and stance is a great idea if possible.

First, we will want to view them from above and we want to see that the waistline curves in between the ribcage and the hips in dogs. We may also see the last rib or two in our canines and that is okay. From above our cats, we want to see a slight inward curve at the waist, but not as defined as dogs. The cats are likely overweight if they have no inward curve or have an outward curve visible from above.

Next up, we will want to examine our furry friends shape from the side. In dogs, we want to see a defined abdominal tuck though the degree of tuck will be varied between breeds. A slight abdominal tuck will may still be visible in overweight or obese patients, but it is more likely to see an outward curve with them. Keep in mind, an abdominal tuck in cats may be a sign they are too thin.

Speaking of our purrfect friends, we want to do a visual and tactile assessment of the abdominal fat pad. There should be a minimal layer of fat, any more could be a sign they are overweight. Many cats who were previously overweight will have a pouch of loose skin.

The last visual aspect of body condition scoring are the bones beneath the skin. We will start with the ribcage. In dogs, being able to see the last 1-2 ribs is healthy and we may be able to see more if they are moving around, sniffing or have a short hair coat. If we are able to see the ribs of our beloved kitties, they are too thin. Now moving along to hip bones or pelvis, if they are visible our furry friend is most likely too thin at a score of 3/9 (2/5) or less. This is also the case if the spine is visible. If the pet has lost weight and possibly muscle mass, other bones may be evident without touch as well.

Palpation

A very important component to body condition scoring is touch, called palpation, especially of the ribcage. Fat will typically accumulate over the top 3rd of the ribcage so this is where we will assess. We want to feel for the fat covering by placing our thumbs on their spine and spreading our fingers across their ribcage and working our way from head to tail. If our pet’s ribcage is easily palpable without applying pressure, they are most likely at a score between 3/9 and 5/9 (2/5 to 3/5). With an emaciated pet with a score of 1/5 or 1/9, they will have a ribcage that is not only easy to feel without pressure but also visible. Obese pets with a score of 5/5 or 9/9 would have a thick layer of fat covering the ribcage making it very difficult and, in some cases, impossible to feel the ribcage. Feeling the ribcage is less uncomfortable for our furry friends then feeling their hips and pelvis, and many may think we are just showing them some love with extra pets. For our arthritic friends, we will want to stick to just the ribcage as they may experience pain with any pressure on their back or hips.

Now, what does a healthy fat layer feel like? There is a great trick using just our hands to demonstrate the feeling. Let’s try it out! Our left hand will represent our furry friend’s ribcage, while our right hand is our hand palpating. First, we will hold our left-hand limp and with the right, feel the bones on the back of our left hand. This is what an ideal fat layer feels like. Now, make a fist with our left hand and feel the knuckles with our right hand. This is what very little fat covering feels like, our pet would be too thin. Lastly, let’s flip our hand over, palm facing up, holding it limp. If we feel our left palm with our right hand, we have to push harder to feel the bones. This represents the ribcage of an overweight pet.

What Do We Do Next?

Now that we know the two scoring systems and how to assess their condition both visually and through palpation, we can give our beloved pets a score. If our cats are at 5/9 or 3/5 and our dogs at 4-5/9 and 3/5 they are at a healthy body condition. Congratulations! From here we know we don’t need to make any changes to their exercise routine or their diet and feeding amount. If our assessment is indicating that our pets are above or below a healthy body condition score, there are a few things we can do but first it is best to discuss with your veterinarian. We will want to ensure there is no underlying condition causing the change in weight and condition before we start switching food amounts or changing their daily activity. Having this knowledge does not replace the need for physical exams, consultations, and diagnosis performed by our veterinarians, but helps monitor health and pass along any insights since our last visit. No matter their score, we suggest monitoring both body weight and body condition every 2-4 weeks and adjusting feeding amount as needed, with the guidance of your pet health team.

If after performing our assessment we are concerned about our pet’s condition, here are a few things to keep track of and document to bring to our next appointment or relay to the veterinarian and team.

Early Identification of Conditions

Body condition scoring and monitoring weight helps to identify health issues early to provide the best care and treatment that is needed to get them back to feeling their best! Many health conditions may be the underlying cause of our pet very quicky gaining or losing weight. Below we will go over both conditions that may cause them to lose weight and those that may make them gain weight. The more we know the better chance we will have to catch these conditions early before they have a big effect on our pets’ lives.

Conditions Causing Weight Loss

Conditions Causing Weight Gain

There are many reasons a pet may gain weight, but it is typically more of a gradual progression over time such as when we are simply feeding too many calories or not getting enough exercise. We are going to go over a few conditions that can cause of furry family members to lose a lot of weight and fast.

All of these conditions and diseases can be better diagnosed, treated, and managed with early intervention thanks to pet parents monitoring body condition score at home. If you have any questions about checking your furry friend’s body condition score, feel free to reach out to your local Global Pet Foods to speak with their healthy pet care specialists or your veterinarian’s office.


Written By

Taylor Luther

Marketing Lead, Customer Engagement

Taylor completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph and has built up experience within the pet nutrition industry and the animal medical field. She has a passion to share all insights on pet nutrition and health for all of our furry (feathery, scaly or otherwise) friends.

Feline Upper Respiratory Infections

Some of us cat parents may have heard the phrase feline upper respiratory infection at the vet clinic or from friends and family and it sounds like a mouthful and a little scary. We want to take away some of the fear and mystery and explain what it is and what we can do to help our purrfect friends. First off, the upper respiratory tract includes the nose/nostrils and nasal cavity, mouth, throat, voice box and the mucosal membrane that lines the whole system. Feline upper respiratory infection (URI) is the common term for a respiratory infection caused by one or more viral or bacterial agents within the upper respiratory tract. It may also be referred to as feline infectious respiratory disease or feline upper respiratory disease complex. Typically, the most consistent symptoms include sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelids), and discharge from the nose and/or eyes. This discharge may be clear or cloudy in colour. There are also a few general symptoms that you may also see with other illnesses. They may experience lack of appetite, lethargy, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, squinting and in severe cases, difficulty breathing.

Cats will experience inflammation and drainage in the mucous membranes of their nose and throat. This drainage is the body’s defenses trying to flush the infectious material from the body to eliminate the infection. The excessive sneezing, coughing and secretions also help to spread the infectious material from one cat to another. Most URIs are not considered a medical emergency, however, severe URIs can lead to depression and lack of appetite. This can be fatal for young kittens or senior cats who grow weak quickly without proper nutrition and adequate hydration. It is unfortunately common in URIs for the patients to contract an additional infection as their immune system is dampened, and the secondary infection may be more severe and require hospitalisation.

The Cause

Feline upper respiratory infections can be caused by different viruses and/or bacteria. The most common viruses that cause URIs in cats are feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), also known as feline herpesvirus type 1. The most common bacteria that cause URIs are Bordetella bronchiseptica (B. bronchiseptica) and Chlamydophila felis (C. felis). There are less common agents such as mycoplasma and feline reovirus. With this said, FCV and FVR are the most concerning because they are responsible for approximately 90% of feline URIs. Now, how do our cats become infected? The viruses and bacteria that are responsible for URIs in cats are highly contagious. An infected cat will shed the contagious materials in the saliva or secretions from their nose or eyes. Other cats are susceptible from direct contact as cats love to groom each other, and this makes it more of a concern with shelters and multi-cat households. Our cats can also be exposed through aerosol transmission where the infectious particles are released into the air through sneezing and coughing. It can also be transferred through fomites, which are objects that have been contaminated by one cat and then that object is exposed to uninfected cats. These objects can include kennels, food & water dishes, bedding, toys, and litter boxes. Environmental exposure is also a higher concern for those will multiple cats. It is thought to be more likely to contract URIs through direct contact and not as common through the environment. This is due to the fact many viruses and bacteria only survive a limited time in the environment and are also destroyed with disinfectants. FVR can survive less than 18 hours outside the host’s body while FCV can survive for up to 10 days and can survive laundry detergents that do not contain bleach. It is a good decision to take some extra precaution and disinfect all common items regardless.

Infectious Period

When talking about exposure to infected cats, whether direct or through the environment, we also need to think about how long they are contagious for and when is it safe to bring them around other cats. Once exposed our furry friends will go through an incubation period before they develop any clinical signs for us to pick up on. The incubation period is typically 2-10 days. In most cases the infection and clinical signs will last for 7-10 days after the incubation period, but signs can persist for up to 21 days in some cases. It is this entire period where the infected cat could be exposing other members of the house, boarding facility, or shelter.

Carrier State

The carrier state is a concern since the carrier cat no longer shows any clinical signs but is still contagious. With FVR, all cats become chronic carriers, meaning they will have the virus for life. For the most part, the virus would be dormant, and they would not suffer from any symptoms but periods of stress from illness, surgery, change in environment can reactivate it. With FCV, about 50% of infected cats will become carriers of the virus. In many cases the carrier state only lasts a few months with FCV, but in a small percentage of cases they will be a carrier for life. With FCV the virus is continually shed and does not go dormant. In these cases, the cats are still shedding the viral particles that are infectious to other cats. In addition, female carriers of either virus can pass it to their kittens without showing any symptoms themselves.

Most Susceptible

There are certain aspects that can make a cat more susceptible to feline upper respiratory infections than others. This includes kittens and senior cats who have less robust and effective immune systems. Cats may also have an underlying condition taxing their immune system, making them more susceptible as well. Those with a diagnosis of feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are significantly more prone to URIs as their immune system is already strained so much. Some breeds of cats are more prone to URIs due to facial structure. Breeds with shortened noses or “smushed” faces have shorter bones in the skull causing the pushed in appearance, these breeds are called brachycephalies. Due to this facial structure, Persians, Himalayans, and Burmese have a limited ability to clear mucus containing viral or bacterial materials of a URI. This means cat parents of these breeds may want to take further preventative measures, and if contracted the URI may take longer to clear their system. Shelter cats and multi-cat households are more at risk as well since cats are infectious prior to showing any symptoms. It is very difficult to isolate the sick individual before any others contract the infection. We all love the freedom of being outside and unfortunately for cats this does put them at more risk. They are more likely to come in contact with an infected cat than and indoor only cat would. Of course, these points are only to bring awareness and does not mean your cat is guaranteed to contract a URI if they match some of these criteria.

Diagnosis

It may be surprising that with URI cases diagnosis is done through a physical exam and typically no diagnostic testing is required. Diagnosis is mostly based on the clinical signs such as the runny nose and eyes, sneezing and conjunctivitis. Identifying the causing agent, which bacteria, or virus, is not always necessary unless they are not responding to treatment and may also be recommended in breeding cats. To identify a viral agent, they can collect samples of cells from the discharge at the eyes, nose and back of the throat to be sent off for testing. Depending on the symptoms exhibited, veterinarians may be able to identify to a certain extent whether it is FCV or FVR. FVR will typically cause red and swollen mucous membranes of the eyes and nose as well as an inflamed larynx and trachea. While FCV may create ulcers of the oral mucosa and lesions on the tongue or hard palate. When it comes to Chlamydophila felis, organisms can be identified through conjunctivitis scrapings.

If symptoms are long lasting or reoccurring, further diagnostic testing may be recommended. The additional testing could include chest and/or skull x-rays, blood tests, bacterial culture & sensitivity testing, and PCR testing of the abnormal discharge. X-rays also help to confirm that there is not lower respiratory involved like pneumonia. The veterinarian may want to rule out any underlying concurrent infections such as feline leukemia and FIV through quick and simple snap tests using a small blood sample. The more thorough testing for more severe cases helps them create a more targeted treatment plan for the specific viral or bacterial cause.

Treatment

Most cats who have a URI can be treated symptomatically at home. This means that the veterinarian may prescribe medications to treat the specific symptoms each cat is experiencing such as eye drops, or nose drops for cloudy discharge, but many cats can recover with intervention from home. If the cat is not eating well the veterinarian may also prescribe an appetite stimulant. Whether it is a viral or bacterial URI, the veterinarian may prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics. A viral infection does not respond to antibiotics, but this does help to prevent any secondary infection occurring while the immune system is burdened, further complicating the condition. If further testing was performed and the URI was confirmed to be caused by either Bordetella or Chlamydophila, it would be treated with specific antibiotics to target the culprit more effectively. It is very important to follow all antibiotic labels exactly as instructed. Do not discontinue the medication before completing the course of treatment and try your best to not miss a dose. If you are ever unsure, please call your veterinarian with any questions or concerns. In severe cases where the cat has become dehydrated, depressed, or is having serious difficulty breathing, hospitalization may be recommended for fluid replacement therapy and/or oxygen therapy.

Apart from medications and hospitalization there are a few things veterinarians recommend that you can do yourself to help with their recovery. For cats that are experiencing a lot of congestion, they may benefit from increased humidification or steam therapy. You can do this by bringing them into the bathroom with the hot shower running for about 10-15 minutes and this can be done several times a day. It is important to make sure they are staying hydrated when doing steam therapy. Additionally, pet parents can use a moist cloth or wipe to avoid further irritation to the nose or eyes while gently wiping away discharge. Since it is common to have a decreased appetite, having a highly palatable wet food will help get them eating and hydrated. Lastly, a probiotic supplement and a Lysine supplement may be recommended to help support the immune system while fighting the infection. The probiotics can also help with any gastrointestinal upset experienced as a side effect for medications like antibiotics.

Prevention

Since feline upper respiratory infections can be caused by a variety of viral and bacterial agents, it can be difficult to prevent against, but there are a few things pet parents can do to minimize the risk. One prevention method we will look into is vaccinations. Part of the core vaccines recommended to all kittens and cats is FVRCP which helps to prevent FVR, FCV, and feline panleukopenia. There is also a vaccine against feline chlamydiosis (an eye infection caused by C. felis) that is not part of the core vaccines and is usually only recommended if the veterinarian feels they are at a higher risk of exposure to C. felis. Also, there is a rare but serious form of FCV known as hemorrhagic calicivirus but there is an increased risk of reaction with the vaccine and veterinarians will want to ensure you understand the risk and benefits before administering. Since a feline leukemia diagnosis makes cats more susceptible to URIs, it is also a good idea to ask your veterinarian about this core vaccine. The forementioned vaccines would require a booster on a scheduled basis of 1-3 years dependant on the vaccine and vaccine history of the patient. While vaccines are great tools to minimize the risk, none of the vaccines will completely prevent an infection but they will significantly reduce the severity of the infection and shorten the length of illness.

Another way to prevent feline URIs is to minimize exposure. Preventing direct contact between your cat and others greatly minimizes the chance they will pick up any bacteria or virus leading to the infection. Indoor cats are at a great advantage due to their minimal exposure. Unfortunately, cats in humane societies, shelters, boarding facilities, and cat shows have a harder time preventing both direct contact and environmental transmission. It may be surprising to some but we ourselves can be exposing our cats to viral and bacterial agents through hands, toys, and clothing. If you yourself have been exposed to other cats it is a great idea to change our clothes and wash our hands, and of course clean or keep any dishes and toys separate. Minimizing exposure for the first couple weeks of bringing a new cat home is also a great recommendation to consider. This not only helps to minimize stress for current furry family members, but it also gives a chance to monitor for any symptoms and help to prevent an infection spreading to the rest of the home. Most would recommend at least 2 weeks of separation with proper hand hygiene and separate toys and dishes. Some pet parents are extra careful and would wait till the new member is fully vaccinated and has a clean bill of health before direct contact with their new friends.

Boosting the immune system and minimizing stress is another method to help prevent feline URIs. This is especially important for cats that are carriers of viral agents as stress is an added burden to the immune system putting them at a higher risk for viral shedding. You can minimize stress by providing perches to get away or watch out a window. Having a variety of toys for them to play with and lots of space to wonder and relax also helps to prevent stress and therefore, prevents shedding of the virus. A big stressor for cats is a crowded, dirty litter box so it is a great idea to ensure you have enough litter boxes in low traffic areas that are cleaned often. Another way to minimize stress is through pheromone treatment that you can plug into the wall or spray areas like their bed, litter box and perches. There are a few things we can add to their diet to boost their immune system to minimize the risk. As we had talked about before with at home treatments, you can add a probiotic and lysine supplement that helps to strengthen the immune system to then fight off infection. The addition of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories can also help keep the immune system running at peak performance to tackle any viral or bacterial agents ahead.

We hope whether a single cat or multi-cat household, and indoor or outdoor, that we have given you some insight on feline URIs and some preventative methods to help keep all our furry friends as healthy as possible.

Dangers of Feeding from the Table

We all love to share with our pets to show love and form that tight bond, at the same time we need to ensure we are not causing any harm with these special treats. It can be so hard to say no to those pleading puppy-dog and kitty eyes, but it may be the best answer for them to live a healthy and happy life with us. It can be confusing to all the different foods that are good or bad for them, so we have broken down three key factors to keep in mind with any type of food or treat and their common health effects. Sharing may not only lead to health problems so we will look into how they can affect behaviour as well. To wrap everything up we will touch on a few of the top toxic treats and safe alternatives for our furry loved ones.

Three Key Factors

Many pet parents may feel the table scraps they are feeding are not toxic to pets, so what is the problem? We need to keep in mind that just because it is not poisonous does not mean it is healthy for them. There are a lot of “safe” human foods that can have many adverse effects on our pets through considerable amounts of sugar, fat and/ or salt. Even feeding small amounts of our meals can go above their daily nutritional requirements, causing them to gain weight leading to poor overall health. Those at an optimal weight are less likely to suffer from joint, bone, and mobility issues. Pets that are overweight are at higher risk of developing many health conditions such as heart disease, breathing issues, and decreased liver function.

Dangers of High Fat Treats

Sharing our breakfast like bacon or letting them have a bite of your cheeseburger are seemingly innocent gifts that may lead to dangerous health conditions and possibly an emergency vet visit. A small piece of cheese for us does not make up that much of a daily fat requirement but for a 20-pound dog it is a lot for their little body. These small bites can lead to a lot of weight gain and overtime you will notice the negative effects on the body. The added burden on our pets’ bodies can be seen as joint pain, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Many human dishes are just too rich and fatty for a beloved pet(s) to properly digest leading to gastrointestinal issues. After a fatty treat you may see vomiting, diarrhea and this habit could lead to severe conditions like pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. It can be life threatening and may be hard to identify as symptoms are similar to many other conditions. Some symptoms they may experience are lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, reduced appetite, and hunched posture. When the pancreas is functioning normally it works with the digestive tract by releasing digestive enzymes that only become active once they are present in the small intestine, where most of digestion occurs. If the pancreas is inflamed, the enzymes can be released and activated early, leading to the digestion of the pancreas and surrounding tissues. This is extremely painful for dogs and cats as this can significantly damage the pancreas and surrounding organs in the abdomen. Without intervention it can cause internal bleeding and even death. Pancreatitis can come about for a variety of reasons, but the leading cause is a high fat diet. This may be part of their daily meals or if they suddenly consumed a large amount of fatty food in table scraps or through the garbage. The condition requires veterinary treatment and long-term management as flare ups may now occur from even the slightest trigger. Management will include a complete diet change, and possibly a change in feeding frequency and amounts as well as some physical activity and extremely limited treat options. Like many health conditions, pancreatitis is much easier and less costly to prevent than to treat and manage. The pancreas is also responsible for the production of insulin, resulting in diabetic patients being at a higher risk of pancreatitis and those with pancreatitis are more likely to get diabetes as well.

Dangers of Too Much Sugar

Speaking of diabetes, providing a lot of sugar to our pets over an extended period of time can cause numerous health issues. Along with diabetes, your pet may experience gastrointestinal upset, obesity, metabolic changes and in severe cases it can also lead to pancreatitis. Even semi-regular consumption can cause varying weight gain, impacting various organ systems and metabolic processes. Sugar treats are also a top cause of tooth decay and gum disease because the harmful mouth bacteria thrive off sugars. We do not want there to be confusion. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are safe in moderation. They contain water and fibre that helps slow down the body’s absorption of fruit sugars like fructose preventing the dangerous spike in blood sugar levels. They also benefit from the various micronutrients found in fruits and vegetables. It is best to stay away from all forms of added sugar including products using artificial sweeteners like xylitol found in gum, candy, and some peanut butters. Xylitol is toxic to pets and can cause liver failure and seizures.

Just like humans, it is not completely certain why some pets have developed diabetes. Some pets are genetically prone but there is evidence that being overweight increases the risk of your pet developing diabetes. Excess sugar that is not needed for energy is stored as fat as the pet becomes overweight their cells become increasingly resistant to insulin, resulting in the condition. Symptoms to watch for include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, change in appetite, sweet smelling breath, lethargy, UTIs, and loss of eyesight. There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed. This may include regular insulin shots up to twice a day, regular blood glucose testing, monitoring for changes and symptoms, and changing their diet. It is especially important for these pets to stick to a healthy low sugar diet. They also need lots of water to keep hydrated and flush the sugars sitting in the bladder. Saying no to human scraps, sugary treats, butter, oils, salt, and other seasoning is crucial. It is best to go for single ingredient, dehydrated treats if you want to offer them something special.

Dangers of Too Much Salt

Everyone loves a good, seasoned fry and the salty, crunchy bite of a potato chips including our four-legged friends. A rare treat may not hurt but too much salt can lead to health concerns just like too little salt. Salt helps to replenish their electrolytes, which are essential minerals that are vital to many functions in the body. This is why most pet foods are balanced to meet their daily salt requirements. Pets can exceed this limit by sharing treats like our fast food, seasoned meat, deli meat, and salty snacks leading to many health problems down the road. There are three main health concerns with excessive salt intake. Our first concern is dehydration since the high salt content in the blood stream causes water to rapidly drain from the cells to dilute the salt content in the blood. This severe dehydration will cause confusion, lethargy, and neurological effects due to brain swelling. Our pets can experience muscle cramps and joint pain causing them to lose balance and mobility. The flow of water leads us into our next health concern, high blood pressure. This can be especially hazardous if the pet also suffers from anemia. The influx of water to offset the salt puts a lot of pressure on the walls of the circulatory system. High blood pressure can have damaging effects on many internal organs such as the kidneys, heart, and brain. If the salt levels in the blood are extremely excessive, your pet may experience salt poisoning. This is caused by an extreme sodium imbalance; it is a severe condition and if left untreated can result in death. Treatment is not as straight forward as removing the salty culprit and providing more water. Rehydrating too quickly can actually exacerbate their symptoms and can even result in brain swelling and heart attacks. The signs to watch out for include, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen abdomen, excessive thirst, excessive urination, muscle tremors, incoordination, and seizures. If you suspect your pet may have salt poisoning it is best to seek veterinary assistance.

Effects on Behaviour

Another downside of sharing with our furry family members is the potential effects on their behaviour when food is around. This can start to form bad habits like begging, and we reinforce them by giving them a piece. They may start to think begging and mooching is acceptable and beg for food all the time and from everyone they see with food. Some pet parents are unknowingly reinforcing this unwanted behaviour by providing a piece of food just to get the pet to leave them alone, if only for a brief moment. A little drool in your lap as you eat your food may not be a big issue for you, but you may reconsider if it progresses. With some pets this might encourage them to steal food from young kids or skip the middleman and steal right from the plate. This not only introduces a danger to any children but for the dog as well, as somethings we are eating or might drop are toxic or a hazard to them. It can lead to food aggression with their own and human food making it difficult to remove if it is a danger to them and it can be incredibly challenging to correct this behavior. This can also result in very picky eaters. They may not want their food if they think they can get a slice of your pizza when they hold out long enough. Many of these issues are very frustrating and time consuming to correct and may take months of training and continued commitment to limit the unwanted and potentially dangerous behaviours.

Food Products to Avoid

Many human foods are unfortunately, toxic, or unsafe for our pets to consume and it can be hard to be aware of them all. We encourage pet parents to stop and consider if the treat your about to give is a safe and healthy option before we let them have it. The following table is here to help navigate a few human treats to avoid and the reasoning behind it.

Human Food/TreatHealth Risks
AlmondsNon-toxic but is not safe. Almonds can block the esophagus and tear tissues along the digestive tract with the sharp pieces. If salted, it is a higher concern due to side effects of excessive salt.
BreadNon-toxic but is unhealthy. Bread is remarkably high in sugar, preservatives and does not provide much nutritional value.
Chocolate & CaffeineToxic. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine which can not be properly metabolized by our pets. Affects their circulation, heart, and smooth muscle control, and can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, irregular heart function and seizures.
CinnamonNon-toxic (oil is toxic) but not safe. It can lower their blood sugar too much and lead to diarrhea, vomiting, irregular heart rate and liver disease. If inhaled it can cause coughing, choking and difficulty breathing.
Cooked BonesNon-toxic but extremely dangerous. Cooked bones are likely to splinter and cause punctures or tears in the digestive tract. It can also cause a blockage within the digestive tract.
Deli MeatNon – toxic but not safe. All lunch meats are extremely high in salt and fat and can lead to obesity along with heart disease, diabetes, and pancreatitis.
Fast Food/Processed FoodsMay be toxic; is not healthy. Can contain toxic ingredients like onions, toxic herbs, and unsafe spices. They also contain excessive amounts of fat, sugar and salt leading to many health conditions.
Grapes/RaisinsToxic as it contains tartaric acid. This acid causes vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, kidney damage and even kidney failure.
Ice CreamNon – toxic but is unhealthy. Ice cream is extremely high in sugar leading to many health issues. Some pets are sensitive to dairy and could lead to vomiting and diarrhea. What is great is that they are so many pet-safe ice creams and alternatives to treat them with instead.
Macadamia NutsVery Toxic. Can induce signs of poison after ingesting only a couple nuts. Watch for signs of fever, vomiting and lethargy.
OnionsAll varieties are toxic, including chives due to disulfides. If our pets ingest a large amount, whether over time or all at once, they can damage their red blood cells, causing anemia.

Safe Alternatives

Not all human foods are bad. There are many healthy food options to treat our beloved pets without the harmful effects. With many things, it is all about moderation. Treats should only make up 10% of their daily diet and the rest should be balanced meals to ensure our pets are getting everything the need to thrive. We will go through a few examples below.

Human Food/TreatHealth Facts
CheeseSafe in moderation. Cheese is high in fat and should be given in small amounts. Some pets may have a sensitivity and experience gastrointestinal upset.
CoconutCoconut and coconut oil is a great option for a treat as it has many health benefits for the skin and coat. It is also good for bad breath.
EggsEggs are safe to eat in moderation. They are high in protein, fatty acids, and many vitamins. If feeding raw should only be given a few times a week as raw egg whites can cause a biotin deficiency. *Eggshells are an excellent source of calcium, and the shell membrane is a great joint supplement.
FishSafe and healthy treat. A fantastic source of omega-3s for skin & coat and to reduce inflammation. Remember to remove all bones that can cause GI tears, except for sardines which have very soft, digestible bones.
FruitsMany fruits and vegetables are safe for pets as long as they are seedless and have pits removed. Many fruits provide fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Berries are fantastic antioxidants.
Meat ProteinSafe in moderation. Offer them the meat they crave with many single protein options of breast, liver, and heart. Be careful in excessive treats as this can disrupt their balanced diet and lead to GI upset.
PeanutsSafe in moderation. An excellent source of protein. They are high in fat and can lead to pancreatitis if given too much too often. Stay away from salted or seasoned peanuts as it can lead to salt poisoning.
Peanut ButterSafe in moderation. Very crucial to read the ingredients and stay away from any containing salt and the toxic artificial sweetener, xylitol. Contains heart healthy fats, vitamins, and niacin.

For more safe treat suggestions please visit your local Global Pet Foods where our healthy pet care specialists are happy to help.


Written By

Taylor Luther

Marketing Lead, Customer Engagement

Taylor completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph and has built up experience within the pet nutrition industry and the animal medical field. She has a passion to share all insights on pet nutrition and health for all of our furry (feathery, scaly or otherwise) friends.

Urinary Tract Health

The Urinary Tract

Before we dive into all the different types of urinary tract diseases and other health concerns, I want to make sure we break down the different components of the urinary tract and understand why it is so important that it stays healthy and able to perform its duties. The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The ureters are tubes that connects the kidneys to the bladder. The urethra is the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to outside the body. The urinary tract can be separated into two parts to better identify a concern or describe a diagnosis. The upper urinary tract includes the kidneys and ureters. The bladder and urethra make up the lower urinary tract. An issue affecting urinary health can occur at any point, but concerns are most commonly seen in the lower urinary tract.

Urinary tracts perform several important tasks and can have big effects on health when not functioning properly. One key role it plays is filtering the blood of waste products from bodily processes such as converting food to energy. It also helps to maintain the correct balance of water and electrolytes and helps process vitamin D. The urinary tract has a role in the production of hormones that maintain healthy blood pressure, blood cell production and ensures our bodies are absorbing salt correctly.

Common Urinary Tract Issues & Symptoms

We are going to go through the common urinary issues and a few that are not too frequently seen but can be quite serious. One of the most common urinary issues, also well known for humans, is the UTI. It stands for urinary tract infection, but it is used to describe infection of the lower region of the urinary tract, the bladder and urethra.

Another term you may frequently hear if your pet suffers with a urinary issue, is Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This is a general term to describe multiple health problems of both the bladder and urethra. This could include infection, sterile cystitis (inflammation without infection), and the presence or signs of crystal formation.

Specifically for cats, the term FLUTD is used, meaning Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. It is not a specific condition but a general term to cover a variety of lower urinary tract issues like infections, crystal & stones, and FIC (feline idiopathic cystitis/inflammation). FIC is a very common condition where there is inflammation of the bladder from an unknown cause. This can lead into secondary infections, but the infection is not what causes FIC.

A urinary issue that can go unnoticed for quite some time is bladder stones, though these can be very serious when left untreated. This is when crystals have formed into stones in the bladder. These stones can build up and are more likely to block the opening from the bladder to the urethra. Some stones may even travel down the urethra and get stuck at a narrower opening, completely blocking the flow of urine. This results in the bladder filling up which causes a lot of pain and discomfort for our pets. This is called an obstruction and is an emergency situation as urine cannot exit the body. Since the urine has no where to go it can back up to the kidneys, causing permanent damage or it can rupture the bladder and release toxins into the abdomen, causing the patient to become septic. This helps explain why prevention is so crucial; it can go from completely unnoticed to an emergency situation within a day or two that could possibly result in death. We will get to treatment and prevention information, but identifying the type of stones comes first. The two most common minerals that make up the stones are calcium oxalate and struvite. Now slightly less common but still a concern is ammonium urate crystals and stones.

Sadly, some urinary issues can be explained by bladder cancer, though this is not nearly as common as the above lower urinary tract issues. The most common type is transitional cell carcinoma. It typically develops in the trigone area of the bladder which is where the urine exits into the urethra, and it is very painful. Its placement is what causes the similar symptoms to UTIs and lower urinary tract disease.

The last lower urinary tract issue we will discuss is urinary incontinence. It is most often seen in females, but it can also occur in males as well. It is the leaking or spotting of urine, in large or small volumes and our beloved pets are unaware it is happening. It is the loss of control that can happen while they are asleep/relaxed and may also dribble while standing or walking.

It is very hard to diagnose specifically between these issues just based on symptoms as they share many of the same, apart from incontinence signs. This includes frequent urination, small urine volume, blood in urine, straining to urinate, fever, and urinating in inappropriate places. You may see your pet frequently licking their genital area, hiding, or you may notice subtle, unusual behavioural changes. It is very important to take your pet in to be seen to ensure the correct treatment plan is administered for this specific concern.

Upper Urinary Tract Disease such as infections are much less common but can be very serious and painful for our beloved pets. This is the infection of the kidney or ureters. Kidney issues are not as common and not as high up on the list of concerns for urinary health, but it is still important knowledge to know. This includes issues like kidney failure, kidney infections and kidney stones. If they are experiencing a kidney issue it may be confused with a Lower Urinary Tract Disease because they show the same initial signs. Those experiencing kidney issues, such as kidney failure, may also experience decreased appetite, urinating in large volumes, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea.

Causes & Predispositions

For many pet owners, the big question is “why did this happen?” Some pet parents will have cats and/or dogs with no history of urinary issues and then they have one pet that experiences reoccurring urinary issues with no obvious explanation. There are many factors that can affect our beloved pets’ urinary tract health, and it may be more than one depending on their circumstances. Age, breed, activity level, stress, diet, drinking habits, injury and underlying conditions can all play a role in the development of urinary tract issues.

Urinary Tract Disease/ConcernPotential CausesThose at Increased Risk
Lower Urinary Tract Disease & Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseaseo Genetics
o Cystitis (inflammation)
o Diet
o Dehydration
o Imbalance of bacteria
o Poor hygiene
o Stress (FIC)
o Sometimes unknown
o Age – our older pets have a decreased immune system performance and/or grooming issues due to mobility.
·  More likely for bacterial imbalance or inflammation to occur.
o Those suffering from underlying conditions such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and immunocompromising disease
o Those with diabetes mellitus
·  Increased glucose in the urine making the perfect environment for bad bacteria to thrive.
o Poor body condition
·  Are not able to groom themselves thoroughly and may result in bacterial imbalance
UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections)o Abundance of bad bacteria
· From outside the body to urethra and bladder
· Most commonly E. coli
o Can occur secondary to another underlying urinary problem (crystals, stones, or cancers)
o Genetics
o Diet
o Dehydration
o Cystitis (inflammation)
o Poor Hygiene
o Stress 
o Females
· More likely to experience UTIs as the vulva and anus are so close in proximity.
o Pets experiencing gastrointestinal issues.
· More likely to experience diarrhea or loose stools, leading to increased chance of bacteria entering the urethra.
o Age – our older pets have a decreased immune system performance and/or grooming issues due to mobility.
· More likely for bacterial imbalance or inflammation to occur.
o Those suffering from bladder stones/crystals
· Irritation of the bladder and urethral lining can lead to UTIs.
o Those suffering from underlying conditions such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and immunocompromising disease
o Those with diabetes mellitus
· Increased glucose in the urine making the perfect environment for bad bacteria to thrive.
o Poor body condition
· Are not able to groom themselves thoroughly and may result in bacterial imbalance.  
Urinary Incontinenceo Weak Sphincter muscle control (at the bladder exit to urethra) due to:
· Genetics
· Injury
· Cystitis (inflammation)
· Stress
· Cancer
· Hormone imbalance
· Sometimes unknown
o Age – Our older pets have decreased sphincter control.
o High anxiety pets
o Females – more likely to have/develop weak sphincter muscle control.
o Urinary Tract Issue History
· Damage from past urinary tract diseases/concerns
o Urine retention
· Holding urine from stress or fear
Calcium Oxalate Crystals/Stoneso Genetics
o Cystitis (inflammation)
o Diet
o Dehydration
o Imbalance of bacteria
o Poor hygiene
o Stress
o Sometimes unknown
o Age
· Our older pets have a decreased immune system performance.
· Increased levels of calcium in the blood and urine
o Those suffering from underlying conditions such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and immunocompromising disease
o Those with diabetes mellitus
· Increased glucose in the urine
o Urinary Tract Issue History
· Damage from past urinary tract diseases/concerns
o Miniature Schnauzer, Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apsos, Yorkshire Terriers, and Shih Tzus are genetically predisposed.
Struvite Crystals/Stoneso Genetics
o Cystitis (inflammation)
o Diet
o Dehydration
o Imbalance of bacteria
o Poor hygiene
o Stress
o Sometimes unknown
o Age
· Our older pets have a decreased immune system performance.
· Increased risk of infection leads to struvite formation.
o Is the most common stone found in younger pets as well due to hygiene and immune performance.
o Those suffering from underlying conditions such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and immunocompromising disease
o Those with diabetes mellitus
· Increased glucose in the urine
o Urinary Tract Issue History
· Struvite formation is commonly due to a UTI, bacteria produce urease (increases mineral concentration)
· Damage from past urinary tract diseases/concerns
o Miniature Poodles, Pekingese and Dachshunds are genetically predisposed.  
Ammonium Urate Crystals/Stoneso Genetics
o Cystitis (inflammation)
o Diet
o Dehydration
o Imbalance of bacteria
o Poor hygiene
o Stress
o Sometimes unknown
o Age
· Our older pets have a decreased immune system performance.
o Those suffering from underlying conditions such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and immunocompromising disease
o Those with diabetes mellitus
· Increased glucose in the urine
o Urinary Tract Issue History
· Damage from past urinary tract diseases/concerns
o Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Pugs, and Miniature Schnauzers are more likely to have a congenital liver condition that increases ammonia in the blood, leading them to be more likely to experience ammonium urate stones.
o They may also be more predisposed if they have inherited a defect in uric acid metabolism, seen in English Bulldogs and Dalmatians.  
Obstructiono Build up of crystals and/or stones blocking the flow of urineo Those with a history of bladder stones and UTIs
o Male cats
· Urethra is long and narrower than females

How Do We Diagnose & Treat

As many of the symptoms and potential causes overlap across different urinary tract diseases and concerns, diagnostic testing is key to pinpoint the problem and offer the most effective treatment. The minimum diagnostics performed for urinary issues is a physical exam and urinalysis. A basic urinalysis checks for specific gravity (ability to concentrate urine), pH levels, presence of bacteria, blood, protein, inflammatory cells, crystals, glucose, and other indicators or urinary tract health and abnormalities.

Your veterinarian may also suggest further testing such as bloodwork, x-rays, or ultrasound to get a better idea of any underlying conditions or structural abnormalities that may be contributing to urinary tract symptoms and concerns. For UTI suspicions they may also recommend a urine culture and sensitivity. This helps to guide antibiotic usage to ensure the treatment is effective and decrease the chance of developing antibiotic resistance.

While waiting for diagnostic results, they may prescribe a pain medication and/or anti-inflammatory, as these conditions can be very painful and stressful for our pets. These help to provide relief and decrease the inflammation of the bladder to aid in healing and discomfort during urination. If your pet is prescribed antibiotics, it is crucial to give the entire course! Do not stop the medication because your fluffy friend is feeling better and back to their normal selves. The infection can return very easily if not taken care of properly and can lead to antibiotic resistance and tougher treatment route down the road.

Treatment for urinary incontinence may be a combination of a few medications as well. The treatment plan can consist of medications for sphincter tone, hormone replacements, and anti-anxiety medications. For severe cases, surgical intervention is sometimes a suitable option too.

If your pet is experiencing or suspected of experiencing an obstruction, confirming with an exam and possibly x-ray will be the first priority before jumping right into treatment. Obstructions will require sedation, flushing, and placement of a catheter to relieve the blockage and pressure on the bladder. This is followed by a few days of hospitalization as the stones shifting and blocking the flow again is possible. This is then followed by treatment to dissolve the stones. If the stones are too large to dissolve, surgical intervention to physically remove the bladder stones may be required.

Many of the urinary tract diseases will include a recheck exam or repeat urinalysis within the treatment plan. This may seem like your veterinarian is over doing it, but it is to ensure any infection, inflammation or signs of stones are truly gone or to ensure there are no negative/unexpected side effects occurring. Severe UTIs may require a longer course of medication. If the symptoms are not improving, your veterinarian may request an additional urinalysis or further testing to ensure there is no underlying condition that is causing the persistent infections. We do not want to leave any underlying condition untreated as the pet is bound to suffer from another secondary health condition.

Prevention

Now you may be saying, “We have identified and treated the problem, but how do we stop it from happening again?” Now prevention is not guaranteed, as some causes are not fully understood, and some pets are prone due to their breed & genetics. About 50% of pets with bladder stones experience a reoccurrence within 2 years. With this said, many researchers have found preventative methods that can be used in combination to decrease the likelihood of a persistent urinary issue or developing a urinary issue to begin with. There are a few areas that we can implement changes to help boost urinary tract health. This includes their diet, hydration, grooming practices, bathroom practices, stress management, and supplements/medications.

Preventative MethodDetails
Dieto High moisture content
o High in protein, low in carbohydrates
· Quality ingredients help limit inflammation.
· High carbohydrate diet is linked with stone formation.
o Helps to prevent the formation of stones and flush out the crystals.
o Foods low in phosphorus  
Hydrationo Adequate water intake dilutes the minerals, toxins and irritants building up in the bladder.
· Flush crystals before they can form.
o Constant access to fresh, clean water
o Entice them with running water or flavour with bone broth.
o Cat water is a great option to help maintain the correct pH balance of the urinary tract.
· Minimizing stone formation and bacterial imbalance.
Grooming & Body Conditiono Maintaining a healthy weight helps to ensure proper grooming practices and a healthy skin & coat.
o Mats keep bacteria from urine and feces close to the urethral opening and leads to increased infections and possibly stone formation.
o Regular brushing and/or bathing can help reduce matting and debris accumulation.
o Pets who are overweight or suffer from arthritis are more likely to need assistance with grooming as they cannot reach the crucial areas.
Bathroomo Dogs may benefit from more frequent bathroom breaks.
o Provide an area to do their business that is a quiet and low traffic area.
o Cleaning litter boxes more frequently
· Helps to monitor any changes and catch the problem early.
o Have an adequate number of boxes/cats.  
Stress Managemento Stress can occur from anxiety over a recent change or addition in the house, boredom, or the inability to perform their natural tasks.
o Work on anxiety coping training methods or medications.
o Ensure cats have high places to relax in.
o Toys, scratching posts, safe space and playtime can help limit their stress levels.
o Feliway, Adaptil pheromone sprays and other calming products can help minimize stress when unavoidable circumstances occur
Supplements & Medicationso Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe calming medications to help ease their stress & anxiety levels.
o They may also be able to provide medication to keep the urethra more open to allow for better urine flow.
o Supplement antioxidants into their diet to support their natural defenses.
· They protect against free-radicals that damage the tissues and can cause chronic urinary issues.
· Free-radicals are produced as a product of inflammation, which occurs from irritants in the bladder.
· Cranberries, blueberries, kale
o Supplement anti-inflammatories into their diet to slow the effects of aging and boost the immune system.
· Reduces pain & discomfort caused by inflammation of the urinary tract.
· It blocks the production of prostaglandins which causes inflammation.
· Turmeric, omega 3s, spirulina

Prevention may seem like extra research, work, and cost, but it helps to avoid the pain & discomfort our pets will experience, making it all worth while. Not to mention it helps to avoid those big vet bills.

If you have any further questions on urinary health and what you can do to boost their health, please see our Healthy Pet Care Specialists that are happy to discuss tips and tricks to maintain a healthy urinary tract.

Pre & Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes

Many of us pet parents have heard of maybe one or all three of these digestive aid supplements, but do we really know what each are and what they do? In order to really understand each of their functions and how they can help, it is important to know a few things about the digestive tract. Normally, there are millions of bacteria that live in the small and large intestines of healthy animals. We call this population of bacteria, microflora. This would be a mix of good and bad bacteria, like pathogens.

The beneficial bacteria help to digest food, maintain intestinal mucosal integrity, participate in metabolism, and stimulate systemic immune function. The mucosal barrier in the intestines they must maintain is responsible for blocking the entry of pathogenic bacteria (the bad bacteria), while also allowing nutrients through to be absorbed. The pathogens enter the body orally and travel through the digestive tract, to avoid getting sick, the intestinal defenses must be in tip top shape to handle the constant exposure of pathogens and foreign substances.

As our pets eat, their pancreas must produce enough digestive enzymes to begin the digestive process in order for the body to absorb the nutrients. The better the food components are broken down the better the absorption and benefits to the pet. Due to many health issues, use of medication, and just aging, the production of the enzymes may be reduced, resulting in decreased digestion, and therefore decreased absorption.

Now that we are a bit more familiar with the roles of enzymes and the microflora on digestion and the digestive tract, we will touch on the three digestive aid supplements.

Let’s dive into more detail of each of these digestive supports.

Prebiotics

Many people are confused about the actions of prebiotics and probiotics and cannot define them separately as they are rarely talked about individually. As we briefly stated before prebiotics are a source of nutrition for the beneficial bacteria, and it is also a fibre source for our companions and have beneficial affects on the body. They can be easily added as a supplement or as a whole food component of their diet.

Prebiotics are normally carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, but noncarbohydrates have also been used as a prebiotic source. Researchers say that there are two carbohydrates that fully meet all the criteria in order to define them as prebiotics, those are oligofructose and inulin.

Oligofructose

Inulin

When using an oral supplement of prebiotics, the ingredient panel should list fibre sources, but it may not specify whether it is inulin or another fructo-oligosaccharides.

We have gone over that prebiotics are the food source for bacteria, but what are the other benefits to the body? Dogs and cats lack the enzyme that is needed to break down prebiotics while passing through the small intestines. This is why it reaches the microflora that help break it down through fermentation, creating their energy source. This process also releases compounds that results in a lower colonic pH and stimulates normal sodium and water absorption from feces. The lower pH inhibits the growth of the pathogenic bacteria. The prebiotics encourage further production of normal cells while preventing pathogenic or transformed cells from multiplying.

If you are using probiotics it is recommended to supplement with prebiotics as well as they do enhance the benefits of probiotics and together, they maintain the balance of healthy bacteria. Many food manufacturers include prebiotics in their food formulations and are listed in the ingredients. Many probiotics include prebiotics, which can be found in the label along with dosing instructions. Each manufacturer may have slightly different directions, so it is always best to contact them with any specific questions. There are no detrimental effects of long-term use of prebiotics, though if too high a level was to be administered, it may result in reduced protein digestibility. In other words, digestive upset such as diarrhea.

Probiotics

They are the beneficial bacteria that help rebuild or maintain a healthy gut biome within our beloved pets. They are known to protect against pathogens, strengthen the immune system, aid in digestion, and help maintain a healthy weight. The gastrointestinal tract is so important for the immune system because 70% of immune cells are located in the gut. Improving gut health is crucial for overall health and longevity. It is key to fighting off infections and resisting disease.

The use of probiotics may vary from pet owner to pet owner. Some may use it every day to ward of side effects of medications or to simply aid in digestion, or only after a bout of diarrhea or antibiotics to help rebuild the healthy microflora in the gut. Probiotic usage ranges from chronic health issues to general maintenance. Here are a few health concerns that probiotics are proven to help with.

Research is still being done on the effects of probiotics in the following conditions, but many pet parents have experienced the following:

The most common reasons for probiotic supplementation are:

There are two main ways the probiotics benefit our pet’s health. Probiotics help control symptoms, like diarrhea, that are caused by a bacterial imbalance or parasitic infection through competitive exclusion. The probiotics out-compete the pathogenic bacteria for nutrients and binding sites on intestinal/immune cells, resulting in an improved immune response. Probiotics also benefit the body by releasing antimicrobial compounds known as bacteriocins which improve the functionality of the epithelial barrier. The epithelial barrier is a protective layer of the intestinal wall that controls what passes through and what is absorbed. This results in better control of the immune response from the mucosal tissue in the gastrointestinal tract.

To truly function as a probiotic, there are a few things the bacterial strain must be able to do:

There are three primary bacterial populations included in supplements that have a proven benefit, and they are lactic acid bacteria. Lactobacilli, bifidobacterial, and enterococci have been shown to be especially beneficial. It is always a good idea to check the label of your probiotic source to ensure it has the correct bacterial populations for dog and cats. It is not recommended to give probiotic supplements made for humans; it may cause you more trouble. You may find probiotics and prebiotics together as mentioned above, as well as in many forms including, powder, capsule, treat, and whole food sources. There are no detrimental effects of long-term use of probiotics, though it is always best to read and follow the directions on the label.

Digestive Enzymes

Though it is not a requirement to add digestive enzymes to your pet’s diet, they are known to aid in digestion, improve immune system performance and their overall health. They help breakdown and process the food molecules for better digestion and absorption to be utilized by the body. Digestive enzymes are present in the body by one of two ways: produced by the body and found in the digestive tract or those found in the food making its way through the digestive tract.

The body produces the most important digestive enzymes in the pancreas. A relatively small organ that is located near the stomach and small intestine. Whether it is through a health condition, medication side effects, or just old age, the pancreas’ ability to produce these enzymes can be diminished and it could use a little extra help.

The most common enzymes included in supplements and produced naturally by the body are:

They can also include other digestive enzymes such as:

Researchers find that if the pet is not suffering from pancreatic or digestive issues, you may not experience any difference in digestion with or without digestive enzyme supplementation. On the other hand, it can be very beneficial for pets with pancreatitis or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) as the pancreas cannot function as well as is needed. Pancreatitis is described as inflammation of the pancreas; it can be chronic or acute. The symptoms you may see in your pet if they are experiencing pancreatitis are lethargy, painful abdomen, restlessness, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea (blood may be present). EPI is a disease where the pancreas does not produce enzymes as efficiently or possibly not at all. It is more common in German Shepherds but has been seen in other breeds and can be confirmed by a blood test. Symptoms our beloved pets would experience are being underweight but always hungry and constant, smelly diarrhea. A few other symptoms or conditions they may help with are diarrhea, weight loss, flatulence, bad breath, irritable bowel syndrome (IBD), coprophagia (eating their own poop), leaky gut syndrome, acid reflex, and indigested food in their poop.

There are many areas where your pets may experience some benefits after providing digestive enzymes. Since they aid in digestion, they also improve absorption and nutrient utilization and therefore increased energy. They also provide immune system support and can improve joint comfort and motion. It has shown to help maintain normal cholesterol levels and a healthy weight. Lastly, its ability to reduce digestive upsets like constipation, bloating, heartburn, gas, and skin reactions.

Just like pre & probiotics, digestive enzymes can come in many forms and directions may vary between products and manufacturers. Always ready the label for directions and storage or contact the manufacturer with any questions. Though effects typically wear off within 24 hours, always follow dosage instructions and do not double dose. High doses can result in ulcers in the mouth, vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet suffers from food allergies, always check the enzyme source to know which to avoid as they can cause an allergic reaction. Many digestive enzymes are sourced from animals, and you may see facial swelling, hives or difficulty breathing if they have an allergy to that protein.

For some pets it may be best to wait and discuss with their veterinarian prior to supplementing with digestive enzymes. If they fit under the following description, please seek veterinarian advice:

There are some worries in the Veterinarian world that continuous supplementation may result in dependency, the pancreas will reduce production and not meet requirements on its own. Since there are so little studies done on the topic in pets so far, this has not been studied or proven but it is always best to take caution and do your research before deciding to use digestive enzymes.

Whole Food Sources

Many of you may be thinking that your beloved furry family members could really benefit from prebiotics, probiotics, and/or digestive enzymes but how should you add them? We are all individuals, including our pets, and some may not have any troubles administering a powder or capsule format, others really enjoy the convenience of a treat format that fools them. Many enjoy incorporating whole food options into their pet’s diet to include a digestive aid. Below are a few examples on how you can include prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes into your pets’ diet.

Digestive AidFood Source
PrebioticsKelp
Chicory Root
Green Tripe
Beet Pulp
Flaxseed
Oats
Pumpkin
Yucca Extract
Wheat Grass
Fermented Vegetables (Leafy Greens and Root Vegetables)  
ProbioticsGreen Tripe
Kefir
Raw Goat’s Milk
Fermented Vegetables  
Digestive EnzymesGreen Tripe
Kefir Raw
Goat’s Milk
Papaya (no seeds or skin)
Raw Honey/Bee Pollen
Spinach
Tomatoes
Apple Cider Vinegar

As always, if you have any questions about the use of digestive supplements or how to get started, our Healthy Pet Care Specialists are always happy to help.

Dangerous Plants for Pets

Plants can be a wonderful addition to the home and garden. Not only do they help enhance the beauty of the home, but they can improve air quality, boost moods, and limit feelings of stress. Some of these beneficial plants can also affect our pet’s health in negative ways and in some situations may even be fatal.

Us humans typically don’t think about eating our plants and the consequences but unfortunately, licking, smelling, and tasting their surroundings is how our companions get familiar with new additions to their home. Even though some poisonous plants give off a pungent smell that deters our curious critters, we cannot rely on our pets to know what is dangerous and stay away from them, many are just too investigative to resist.

We don’t want you to worry! We are going over the common indoor and outdoor plants that are toxic to our pets, some safe and gorgeous alternatives, and what you should do if your beloved furry family members show signs of toxicity.

Poisonous Plants for Pets

We will go through different types of plants, flowers and bulbs, shrubs, trees, herbs, fruit & vegetables, and succulents, their identifiers, and their toxicity symptoms.

Garden Flowers & Bulbs

PlantPhotoToxic ComponentDetails
Amaryllis Lycorineo   Like the above examples, they resemble lilies but are not close relatives.
o   They have large trumpet-shaped flowers that come in a variety of colours and can be two-toned and striped as well.
o   If consumed, it can result in excessive drooling, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and decreased appetite.
Autumn Crocus/ Colchicum Colchicineo   They have cup-like blossoms that are pink or purple, typically white inside.
o   If ingested they can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, severe vomiting, kidney and liver damage, respiratory failure, bone marrow suppression, and shock.
BegoniaCalcium oxalate crystalso   Dark green or bronze leaves with single or double flowers of white, pink, red and bicolour.
o   If ingested they can cause intense burning of the mouth, throat lips and tongue. It comes with excessive drooling, swelling of the throat and difficulty swallowing.
Chrysanthemum Lactones, sesquiterpene, pyrethrins, and other potential irritants.o   The flowers have varying petal arrangements from daisy-like to pompoms and can range in colour from white and yellow to deep burgundies and purples.
o   When consumed you may see vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, loss of coordination and dermatitis may develop with skin contact.
CyclamenSaponinso   They have dark green leaves with white veins or blotches and solitary flowers of pink, white, red, and purple.
o   If ingested, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, abnormal heart rhythms, seizures and even death.
DaffodilLycorine and other alkaloids.o   They are identified as a single flower on a green stalk, usually yellow or white petals surrounding a trumpet.
o   The petals, bulbs, and even the water in the vase is toxic.
o   They may experience excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, low blood pressure, convulsions, and irregular heart rhythms.
FoxgloveDigitalis and other cardiac glycosideso   It is a pinkish purple, funnel-shaped flowers that can grow up to 2m tall.
o   All parts of the plant or toxic from the seeds to the petals.
o   You may see frequent urination, excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure and may even result in death.
GeraniumGeraniol and linaloolo   It’s identified by its fragrance, green leaves, and rose-coloured flowers. Flowers may be bicoloured.
o   Ingestion can cause lethargy, low blood pressure, loss of appetite and skin contact can result in skin rashes.
HyacinthLactones and other alkaloidso   A plant with a lot of small flowers grouped together closely around the stem. Usually blue, white, or pink.
o   The whole plant is toxic, but the bulbs are the most concentrated.
o   It can cause irritation of the mouth and esophagus, intense vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate and tremors.
IrisIrisino   Has radiant, upright six-pedaled flowers. Traditionally purple but can be seen in a variety of vibrant colours.
o   Ingesting any part of the plant can cause excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Direct contact with skin can result in skin rashes.
Lenten RoseSaponins and glycosideso   Most known for rich green foliage and cup like flowers with light yellow-green to red petals.
o   When ingested it can cause colic, depression, diarrhea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, seizures, heart arrhythmia, and even death.
LilyCalcium oxalate crystalso   Normally feature six petal-like segments that can appear on a variety of shapes and colours.
o   The petals, stems, and even the water in the vase is toxic.
o   Toxicity symptoms can become quite serious from excessive drooling, loss of appetite and vomiting to lethargy, and kidney failure.
o   There are so many different varieties with some being much more toxic than others, but it is best to stay away from them all.
Day LiliesCalcium oxalate crystalso   They are similar to lilies, but stems are shorter, and flowers normally grow from a grass-like foliage at ground level.
o   These are extremely toxic for cats with similar symptoms to lilies, and it typically only causes gastrointestinal upset in dogs.
Calla LiliesCalcium oxalate crystalso   The plant has tall stems and tubular shaped flowers with pointed tips and finger-like spadix at the center.
o   Symptoms are like lily poisoning and can range from mild to severe. They also release a substance that burns and irritates the mouth and stomach.
Lily of the ValleyCardiac glycosideso   Identified by its nodding white bell-shaped flowers that cluster on a leafless stalk.
o   They may experience diarrhea, vomiting, a drop-in heart rate, and cardiac arrhythmia.
TulipsTulipalin A and Bo   Best known for long, broad, parallel leaves and cup shaped flowers that can be found in a wide range of colours.
o   The whole plant is poisonous, but it is most concentrated in the bulbs.
o   They can cause irritation of the mouth and esophagus, vomiting, excessive drooling, diarrhea, depression, and in severe cases, increased heart rate and irregular breathing.

Shrubs

PlantPhotoToxic ComponentDetails
Azaleas & Rhododendrons Grayanotoxin o   Azaleas have funnel-liked flowers, one flower per stem. The plant is so filled with stems it appears to be covered in the flowers.
o   Rhododendrons have bell-shaped flowers that grow in clusters and have fewer stout stems.
o   Entire genus is extremely dangerous, just a few leaves can cause serious issues.
o   When eaten, both can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, paralysis, cardiac failure and even death.
Castor Beanricino   Toxic component: ricin.
o   It can have glossy green leaves, black and purple, or a metallic red with white veins. Flowers are bright red with feathery branches.
o   When consumed it can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, seizures, coma, and even death.
DahliaPhototoxic polyacetyleneo   They are bushy plants with big, gorgeous flowers that come in every colour of the rainbow.
o   They can cause skin irritation, sensitivity to the sun, vomiting, and diarrhea.
HollySaponino   The varieties range in toxicity, though it is best to avoid them all.
o   The have dark green leaves, spikes, and bright red berries.
o   They may experience excessive drooling, head shaking, irritation of the mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, and the spikey leaves can cause gastrointestinal injury.
HydrangeaCyanogenic glycosideso   They are shrubs with flowers in round or umbrella-shaped clusters which colours range from white, pink, blue and purple based on the acidity of the soil.
o   All parts of the plant are toxic, but it is most concentrated in the leaves and flowers.
o   If eaten, pets may experience excessive drooling, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.
IvySaponins and calcium oxalate crystalso   It is a vine rather than a shrub but is used frequently in landscaping.
o   Can cause irritation and burning of mouth, throat, tongue, and lips. Excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing and swallowing may also occur.
OleanderCardiac glycosideso   They have long, narrow, dark green leaves. Their showy flowers are funnel-shaped and appear in clusters that range from white and peach to deep burgundy.
o   All parts of the plant are toxic.
o   Ingestion can cause extreme vomiting, abnormal heart rate, seizures, hypothermia and even death.
PeonyPaeonolo   They have green leaves and flowers with fluffy petals that creates a full sphere in a variety of colours.
o   If ingested in large amounts it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and lethargy.
Umbrella PlantCalcium oxalate crystalso   They have long, green, oval-shaped leaves that droop down resembling an umbrella.
o   If our pets were to consume it, it can result is burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue, drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
Verbena ShrubTriterpenoido   The leaves are simple while the five-petaled flowers are small and clustered into a spike.
o   The berries are the most concentrated, but the whole plant is toxic.
o   Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, excessive urination, jaundice, and liver damage.
WisteriaLectin, wisterin glycosideso   It is a climbing shrub with pendants of scented flowers, typically blue or violet.
o   If eaten it can cause a burning mouth sensation, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.

Trees

PlantPhotoToxic ComponentDetails
Cherry, Plum, Apricot,
Peach, Apple,
and Avocado
Tree
Cyanogenic glycosideso   The pits and seeds are a choking hazard.
o   Our pets are finding the fruit once already fallen to the ground.
o   Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, trouble breathing, seizures, and cardiac arrest.
Chinaberry
Tree
Melia toxins A and Bo   It is a multibranched tree with dark brown bark and lacy, dark green leaves.
o   Bark, leaves, berries, and flowers are all toxic.
o   It may cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lowered heart rate, shock, and seizures.
Buckeye (Horse Chestnut)
Tree
Saponin and glycosideso   It has a rounded canopy and dark grey, thick bark and they have shiny, mahogany nuts with an eye at one end.
o   Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, seizures, and even a coma.
EucalyptusEucalyptolo   Many varieties and can be classified as a tree or shrub.
o   It is popular for its mind-soothing fragrance.
o   If enough leaves are ingested, the pet may experience excessive drooling, vomiting, decreased appetite and diarrhea.
Walnut, Pecan, Hickory & Macadamia Nut TreeJugloneo   The tree itself is not dangerous, but the nuts that fall to the ground are.
o   The nuts also decay very quickly and produce mold.
o   Eating the nuts can cause our pets to experience vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and seizures.
Yew TreeTaxineso   All varieties are toxic.
o   They are best known as a popular holiday decoration with bright green leaves and red berries.
o   They can cause vomiting, tremors, difficulty breathing and seizures.

Herbs, Fruit & Vegetables

PlantPhotoToxic ComponentDetails
MarijuanaTetrahydrocannabinol (THC)o   Their stems are thin with thin green leaves and usually have five to seven branches. Their flowers are small, green and grow in clusters.
o   Ingestion by our pets can cause depression of the central nervous system resulting in loss of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and seizures.
Onion Disulfideso   All varieties are toxic, including chives.
o   If our pets ingest a large amount, whether over time or all at once, they can damage their red blood cells, causing anemia.
ParsleyFuranocoumarinso   An herb grown for its flavourful and has dark green leaves.
o   If consumed in large quantities, or consistently over a longer period, it can cause photosensitization, making them more susceptible to sun damage and sun burns.
TomatoSolanineo   Their green vine and unripen fruit can cause toxicity symptoms.
o   When eaten it can cause drooling, loss of appetite, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, and a slowed heart rate.

Succulents & Other Houseplants

PlantPhotoToxic ComponentDetails
Aloe Vera Saponins and anthraquinoneso   The gel itself is safe but the thick, spikey, plant material surrounding it can cause toxicity symptoms.
o   Ingestion of the plant can cause swelling of the throat, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain.
Birds of ParadiseTannins and hydrocyanic acido   Leaves are paddle-shaped attached to an upright stalk, and they have boldly coloured blooms that resemble birds in flight.
o   Ingestion can cause eye discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, and laboured breathing.
Chandelier PlantCardiac glycosideso   They have grey-green foliage with brown-red spots and dangling orange flowers in clusters.
o   If eaten it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and abnormal heart rate.
DumbcaneCalcium oxalate crystals and proteolytic enzymeso   All varieties are toxic.
o   They are resilient and easy to care for, can grow up to 6 feet tall and have big bushy leaves that are yellow at the vein and turn to darker green as it spreads outward.
o   It will cause irritation and intense burning of the mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting.
Elephant’s EarCalcium oxalate crystalso   These house plants are well liked as they are easy to care for and have big leaves with bold vein patterns.
o   When eaten it can lead to excessive drooling, swollen tongue, eyes and lips, vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney failure.
FicusFicino   The toxin is incorporated in the sap, all parts of the plant are toxic.
o   Ingestion of the plant will cause mouth pain, drooling, diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
o   Contact with the skin can cause irritation and sensitivity to the sun.
JadeSaponinso   Their fleshy leaves can be round or oval and can be dark green, grey-blue or edged in red. Mature plants will flower in the winter.
o   If ingested it can cause vomiting, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing, depression, and seizures.
Moss RoseCalcium oxalate crystalso   Its green leaves are fleshy and narrow while its five-petaled flowers come in red, orange, yellow, white, and other pastel colours.
o   If ingested it can lead to drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, kidney failure and even death.
PoinsettiaSaponinso   Usually seen around the holidays with dark green leaves with coloured bracts ranging in red, pink, and white.
o   It can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, eye irritation and skin irritation.
Sago PalmCycasino   Every part is extremely toxic especially the seeds.
o   They have dark green feather-like leaves resembling a miniature palm tree, with red and orange oval-shaped seeds.
o   They may experience vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nosebleeds, liver damage and may even lead to death.
Snake PlantSaponinso   They have sharply pointed, sword-like leaves that are dark green with light grey-green stripes.
o   If chewed on or ingested it can cause vomiting and diarrhea, swollen mouth and throat, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
ZZ PlantCalcium oxalate crystalso   They have rich green, wand-shaped stems with fleshy, oval-shaped leaves.
o   It can cause swelling of the eyes, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Safe Plants for Pets

PlantDetails
African Daisy o   A great alternative to moss rose.
o   They prefer lots of sun and weekly watering.
o   Flower consists of showy outer petals in bright colours and a compact eye in the center.
African Violeto   A great alternative for chrysanthemums.
o   Bloom beautifully when in indirect sunlight.
o   They are compact plants with dark green, thick leaves and violet-like flowers.
Baby Tearso   Needs plenty of water and filtered light.
o   A dense, delicate mat of fine round, or bean-shaped leaves.
Basil, Rosemary, Cilantro & Thymeo   Love direct light and lots of water.
o   Basil has rounded, slightly cupped, green leaves. Has a sweet, pungent, slightly spicy flavour.
o   Rosemary repels mosquitoes like eucalyptus. Is a fragrant shrub with needle-like leaves. Has notes of evergreen, citrus, lavender, pine, sage, pepper, and mint.
o   Cilantro is a great substitute for parsley. Looks like parsley with its delicate, bright green leaves.
o   Thyme is a shrub with slender, wiry, spreading leaves. Has an earthy, minty, and slightly lemony flavour.
Bird’s Nest Ferno   Thrive in low light and varying humidity, like in bathrooms.
o   Known for its unique squiggly, green fronds.
Boston Ferno   They like cool spots with indirect sunlight and high humidity.
o   Has tight clumped, arching, feather-like fronds that are typically pale green.
Bromeliado   Require plenty of air flow and indirect sunlight.
o   They have multicoloured leave sin red, green, purple, orange, and yellow.
Calathea Orbifoliao   Fantastic replacement for elephant’s ear.
o   Requires partial shade and regular watering.
o   It has beautiful, large, round leaves striped with pale silver-green.
Camelliaso   A colourful replacement for azaleas and tulips.
o   Plant in an area that has sun in the morning, shade at night.
o   They are small shrubs with glossy green leaves and large flowers with many overlapping petals of white, yellow, pink, or red.
Chinese Money Planto   A great replacement for Devil’s Ivy.
o   Prefer indirect sunlight in a warm spot, with regular watering.
o   Green shoots grow up ending in a single saucer-shaped leaf.
Date Palmo   Do not over water and keep in bright, indirect sunlight.
o   Has a crown of graceful green pinnate leaves.
Freesiao   A fantastic replacement for daffodils.
o   They prefer full sun and regular watering.
o   They have a sweet-spicy fragrance and can come in a variety of colours and bicolour patterns. Their funnel-shaped flowers grow in dense clusters on the slender stems.
Friendship Planto   Prefers moderate to bright, indirect sunlight and thorough watering.
o   They have deeply textured, rich green leaves with bronze-silver veins.
Gloxiniao   They thrive in bright rooms with indirect sunlight.
o   Flowers come in bright shades of purple, pink, red, or blue.
Haworthia Retusao   Great alternative for a jade plant.
o   Forms star-shaped rosettes with its fleshy leaves.
o   Prefers indirect sunlight and little watering.
Orchido   Great alternative to lilies and amaryllis.
o   Do best in indirect light and warmer, more humid rooms.
o   They have wide-spreading, broad, flat petals that can come in a variety of colours.
Parlor Palmo   Great alternative for sago palm.
o   Slow growers that prefer indirect sunlight.
o   A single-trunk palm with arching green leaves comprised of narrow leaflets.
Petuniaso   Terrific replacement for Wisteria.
o   Require regular watering and to be in full sun.
o   They have funnel-shaped flowers of five petals, come in a variety of colours and patterns.
Polka Dot Planto   They need bright, indirect sunlight and moderate amount of watering,
o   Normally oval-shaped leaves with pink base colour and green spots but can be seen in a variety of spotted patterns.
Ponytail Palmo   Easy to care for and do not need much water.
o   Long green, feathery leaves drape down from the stem, resembling a ponytail.
Prayer Planto   Great replacement for dumbcane.
o   Prefers bright, indirect sunlight and little watering.
o   Leaves are pale green to purple-green and fold at night to resemble praying hands.
Rattlesnake Planto   Large, green, oval-shaped leaves with a plum-purple underside.
o   Best if placed away from direct light.
Snapdragono   A great alternative to hyacinths.
o   They prefer full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
o   They have tubular flowers that come in a variety of colours from pastels to brights.
Spider Planto   Fantastic replacement for a snake plant.
o   Incredibly resilient and are great air purifiers.
o   Long leaves that are either solid green or have a lengthwise stipe of white or yellow.
Staghorn Ferno   Can thrive in both direct and indirect sunlight with little watering.
o   Its fronds are meant to resemble split antlers from a deer or elk.
Venus Flytrapo   Considered low maintenance, needs a few hours of direct sunlight.
o   Each leaf has a flat stalk that ends with a trap, the trap has a reddish centre lined with teeth.
Watermelon Peperomiao   Like to be kept out of direct sunlight and do not need much watering.
o   Named due to the shape and colour of its leaves resembling a watermelon rind.
Zebra Planto   Fantastic alternative for aloe vera.
o   They like direct sunlight and light watering.
o   They have dark green leaves with distinctive zebra-like stripes.
Zinniaso   A fantastic replacement for hydrangeas.
o   They prefer full sun exposure and regular watering.
o   They have stiff green stems and bountiful flowers, can be in any colour but blue.

My Pet Ate a Toxic Plant – What do I do?

The most common mistake pet parents make is waiting to see if the pet becomes ill before contacting their veterinarian. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry. If you believe your pet has eaten a possibly poisonous plant, please follow the below steps.

  1. Try to identify the plant as best you can. Take photos, a sample or sample of any vomit from the pet.
  2. Contact your veterinarian.
  3. Contact Pet Poison Helpline. (Veterinarian may call on your behalf)
  4. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by the veterinarian. Specific poisons require specific treatment, vomiting can make some cases worse.

We hope with this list, pet parents can feel more confident and comfortable with the plants they bring into the home and garden. We can still enjoy plants and their benefits while also making sure our pets can enjoy them too. We all love our curious critters and do all we can to keep them happy and healthy. Keep up the great work!


Marketing Lead, Customer Engagement

Taylor completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph and has built up experience within the pet nutrition industry and the animal medical field. She has a passion to share all insights on pet nutrition and health for all of our furry (feathery, scaly or otherwise) friends.

The Lowdown on Litter

The kitty litter type and litter box options out there these days can be overwhelming. What may be the right choice for one cat or owner my not work for you and your cat. There are many reasons one might be looking for a new litter or litter box. Maybe you are bringing home your first cat or bringing a new addition to your home, and you want to make sure you are still up to date on your options and making the best choice for them and yourself. Whether you are switching to help ease some strain on your shoulders or switching to find your cat’s preference, we are here to help. We have gone through all the litter types and boxes out there, their downfalls and upsides, so you can make the best decision for you and your furry family members.

Litter Types

With so many different litter types out there, it can be hard to narrow down what’s right for you, your lifestyle, and your beloved cat. We all have different priorities, such as an easy clean up and little dust, or being more environmentally cautious or keeping your budget in mind.

We are going to breakdown many of the varieties available so you can be more confident in making that right choice for you and your cat(s).

Litter TypeProsCons
Non-Clumping Clay Litter– Absorbs its weight in urine.
– Much less expensive than Clumping Clay litter.
– Most, if not all cats like it, typically no litter training needed.
– Easy to find, many brands fall into this category.
– Covers smell to a certain extent.  
– Heavy and dusty.
– Tracking occurs.
– Since it is non-clumping, must be changed frequently (at least once a week).
– Not biodegradable, sits in landfills.  
Clumping Clay Litter– Made with bentonite clay, allows urine to form into solid clumps to be scooped.
– Easy to clean.
– Most, if not all cats like it, typically no litter training needed.
– Easy to find, many brands fall into this category.
– Good at neutralizing the smell.
– With good routine, can be changed monthly.  
– Heavy and dusty.
– Tracking occurs.
– Not biodegradable, sits in landfills.  
Crystal Litter (Silica-gel)– Absorbs liquid and traps odour better than clay litter.
– Crystals draw in urine inside them leaving the outside dry, no clumps to scoop.
– Less upkeep, only scoop the poop, switch out monthly.
– Very light weight.Little to no dust, bigger crystals result in less tracking.  
– More expensive.
– Different texture, litter training may be needed, refusal is possible.
– Not biodegradable, sits in landfills.  
Wood Litter– Made of wood like pine, absorbs liquid well and then turns to saw dust.
– Lasts longer.
– Less expensive.
– Natural smell to control odour.
– Biodegradable, more environmentally friendly.  
– Different texture, litter training may be needed, refusal is possible.
– More frequent cleaning/labour intensive.
– Must sift out the dust and keep the pellets regularly.  
Paper Litter– Uses recycled paper made into pellets, biodegradable.
– Light weight.
– More absorbent than clay litter.
– Dust-free, little to no tracking.  
– Different texture, litter training may be needed, refusal is possible.
– Expensive.
– More labour intensive and must switch out weekly.
– Can be messy, not the best odour control.  
Corn Litter– Lighter than clay litter.
– Can be formulated as a clumping litter.
– Biodegradable, more environmentally friendly.
– Less dust than clay litters.
– With good routine, can be changed monthly.  
– Expensive.
– Not as good at odour control.
– Some tracking occurs.
– Different texture, litter training may be needed, refusal is possible.  
Tofu Litter– Made of edible soy, biodegradable and flushable.
– Highly absorbent, quick clumping to scoop out.
– Dust-free and low tracking.
– Light weight.  
– Expensive.
– Different texture, litter training may be needed, refusal is possible.
– Not the best odour control, dependent on brand.
– Can go moldy if stored in a high moisture area.

Litter Boxes – Quantity, Placement & Types

As many cat parents know, cats can be very particular about their litter box such as, size, shape, depth, and placement. Just like the litter, what may work for one cat does not always work for another, or what worked last week isn’t to their liking this week and it can be hard to figure out why. If cats are spooked by their box or “inconvenienced” by the size or complexity of it, they are more likely to find somewhere more comfortable to do their “business”. We want to help you avoid that scenario as much as possible.

N+1 Rule

Before we jump into what litter box is right for your cat(s), it may be best to consider how many litter boxes you need. The general rule or recommendation is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in the home.

Number of litter boxes = n + 1, n represents the number of cats in the home.

Ex. If you have 3 cats, n = 3 in this instance. Therefore; Number of litter boxes = 3 +1

Total number of litter boxes = 4

Of course, this is a recommendation. Many single cat households are perfectly content with just one litter box, especially in smaller homes where locating multiple appropriate areas is not feasible. In multi-cat households many find that having that extra box helps provide the cats the options they desire and minimizes the chances of them going outside the box.

Box Placement

The first instinct for many is to keep it out of the way, and typically out of sight. This is normally for our own convenience, but there may be a placement that meets everyone’s needs. It is best place it in a cool, dry, and quiet spot. A low traffic area that is away from their food and water. As much as we want it out of the way, we must also choose a spot that is easily accessible, and not likely that they will get locked in or out of that area.

Litter Box Types

Similarly, to cat litter, there are many litter box options available. All different colours, sizes, depths, and different entry ways. We are going to touch on the big litter box questions, shedding some light on the more popular options.

A big question out there is whether to go with a covered or uncovered box. Every cat seems to have their own preference on the issue. A covered box does help eliminate some mess and odour for us humans. With that said a covered box also traps more dust and odours, which may irritate them than an uncovered box. If you happen to have a cat that is perfectly happy using a covered box, it is even more important to scoop everyday to keep it clean and comfortable.

Our next topic is for those pet parents that are dealing with sprayers or kickers. These cats can leave quite the mess of litter or pee outside the box. Some older cats or those with joint issues may not be able to crouch down as far anymore and this causes them to pee higher than the side of the box. Its best to look for a box with high sides but still a low enough entrance to enter and exit with ease. A covered box is a great choice for these cats as well, if they don’t mind the lid.  A top-entry litterbox is another fantastic option for more mobile cats, and it really cuts down on the mess left around the litter box.

Self-cleaning litter boxes have been growing in popularity. These can help keep things clean and sanitary. It can be very beneficial for those that travel and don’t feel comfortable with pet sitters. It provides the convenience of not having to scoop daily while keeping the litter box clean and comfortable for the cat(s). The convenience does come with a bigger price tag, but that may be worth it for many cat parents. Keep in mind, the noise and movement as our cat(s) pass by may scare and make them more prone to avoiding the box and finding somewhere else to go.

The choice of litter box is not always up to us, some of our cat(s) may have more of an input on the decision than others.

Making the Switch

Some cats take to a new litter right away and do not require any transition process and make it easy on us. Most of us, unfortunately, are not that lucky. Using a transition method can greatly decrease the stress on the cat(s) during this change. There are two common transition methods we will be going over.

Slow Transition

This process is very similar to the traditional approach to switching their food. You add the new litter to the bottom of the litter box and then the old litter on top of it. This way when the cat first steps into it, the texture feels and smells familiar. As they dig and bury, they will get accustomed to the new litter underneath. Gradually increase the amount of the new litter at the bottom and decrease the amount of old litter on top. It may take up to 7 days for the whole transition, and by the end they will be using only the new litter.

Positive Association

This is another way to transition cats to a new litter or box. It may seem a little weird or gross, but it has worked for many cats and cat owners. This involves taking some of your cat’s feces from the old litter or old litter box and adding it into the new litter or new litter box. This creates a positive association for them. It signals to them that this is where they do their “business”, making them more comfortable as it smells like them.

Another great tool when trying to get them accustomed to a new litter or litter box is positive reinforcement. It can be a great addition to any litter or litter box transition. It may seem silly but rewarding your cat after using the litter box helps associate that behaviour to treats or attention, encouraging them to keep using it. This is especially helpful and effective if they are highly food motivated.

Extra Tips and Tricks

If your cat is going outside the box, is it always best to visit your veterinarian and rule out any underlying condition such as a UTI, crystals, or a blockage. It is always best to catch urinary problems as early as possible to prevent the irritability and pain they are feeling. It provides a great peace of mind before you tackle to task of changing litters or litter boxes to find your solution.

If you are unsure of which litter your cat will like most, you can fill two separate boxes with different litter. Over a few days keep track of which box they seem to be using the most or visiting the most. This process will give you great insight on their preferences.

It is also a good idea to avoid too many big changes at once. If you do choose to change the litter, you should keep the box and box location the same. Too many changes at once can overwhelm and stress out your cat leading to them refusing any of the changes. Keep this in mind if there are changes to their general environment as well, like adding a new family member, doing home renovations, or moving. It is best to avoid changing their box or litter if you are in any of those situations.

Are you having a problem with tracking? Litter with larger granules and top-entry boxes help cut down on tracking. Litter mats set up outside the box can also help with tracking as it catches the litter while the cat walks across and can also catch any being thrown out of the entrance.

If you do happen to choose a cat litter or litter box that helps cut down on the daily scooping, keep in mind that our biggest clue into our cats’ health is in their litter box. It can show us if they are having digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea, or urinary problems that lead to blood in the urine. Regularly checking the litter box also lets us know that there may be a gastrointestinal or urinary blockage by the absence of feces and urine. The earlier these issues are caught, the better, and may even be life saving. Whether you need to scoop daily or not, you should always check the litter box(es) regularly to stay up to date on their health.

In the end, our cat(s) are the final judge. If they continuously refuse to use the box or litter, no matter how much we want them to use it, it is time to try something else.

If you are struggling or have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask our healthy pet care specialists in store. They are happy to help come up with solution together that meets everyone’s needs.