Dog Food Part 2: Working Through The Tips

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qualitycontrol            In our last post, we discussed four tips to help you navigate the pet food industry: (1) Do your research, (2) Price does equal quality, (3) Consider country of origin, and (4) Know your canine’s needs. I specifically wrote the post from a neutral standpoint because it is an industry needing clarification and is already filled with opinions, false statements, varying “safe standards” and even research with opposing results.

So, you have done your research… still feeling lost? Did you jump onto DogFoodAdvisor.com and see the hundreds of different food listed and think: How will I ever know what is right?

What is THAT Ingredient!?!

What is THAT Ingredient!?!

Below, we will discuss each section listed last week as a whole – using my particular viewpoint as the base for examples so that you can see the research process in action. Finding the right food isn’t too overwhelming, but it is about reading labels and making informed decisions when choosing the optimal nutrition for a new or existing canine family member. Knowledge is power and the effectiveness of our decision is based on the time we spend looking into product.

Steps:

1. Does the canine have any pre-existing medical conditions, such as allergies or gastrointestinal limitations, that require us to immediately refine our search based on key ingredients, or ease of digestion, etc.? For some, our adopted canines don’t come with this information so mediccarefully watch their eating and “business” (poop and pee) habits to give you some insight into this area. Do they already have coarse fur, dry skin and lots of dander, or maybe itchy paws? It can be as simple as a hygiene fix, but for others these are signs of an allergic reaction and are indicators that a change is necessary.

2. Then, I start with DogFoodAdvisor.com. Begin by looking through the products listed under the 5-star rating. There are lots to choose from, but you will then see what brands keep showing up and the specific products they order. This is your starting point. Why?

In general, the five star rated foods will be more expensive (large bag between $65-80 CAD), but these producers know where their individual ingredients are being sourced from; they will have higher standards for their finished product, check their quality more frequently and offer, in general, a product with “available nutrition” for the dogs being the primary driver – pushing fillers and less nutritious items much further down, or completely off, their ingredient list. There are a few outliers that have managed to produce products that are fairly nutritious and more cost effective and these will fall into the 4-star range (e.g. Kirkland Dry Food), HOWEVER, these products have ingredients sourced from multiple locations based on the size of their corporations’ reach and the cost effectiveness for them in doing so. But remember, not all countries follow the same rules and standards, etc. Unlike Petco, Costco still sells food products from China, which as we discussed last week, have been found to make dogs very sick and even kill.

3. Write a list of a few brands and specifics types (e.g. chicken, beef, fish, or lamb) that you think will suit your canine best. Now jump online and go to their individual company webpages. Look at areas such as their mission and mottos. While they will (of course) want to look as favorable to potential consumers as possible, the companies that really care about their products will tell you all about how they source their ingredients, how the food is prepared stampand why (listing benefits), and will sometimes give you a more in-depth nutritional breakdown and ingredient list. Still can’t decide? Contact your veterinarian to see what products they endorse and add that to your information gathering (NOTE: some veterinarians are sponsored by companies to promote their products so while they are a wealth of information, if they only sell one brand out front you might want to contact a variety of veterinarian offices to see what they might recommend).

4. Call your local vendors to determine availability and price point. You don’t want to necessarily pick a food that is iphonehard to find, or one that always needs to be ordered in. If they don’t carry it and instead offer you an alternative or two, write those brands down and do a little more research before committing.

5. Start with small bags, a few cans or a couple weeks of a raw food diet. Transitioning to new food takes time, so transition to new products slowly over two weeks, by gradually incorporating larger proportions of new-to-existing kibble for each meal time so that, by the end of the transition, they will just be beginning to eat only their new kibble. Then, try the new diet on its own for an additional 1-2 weeks to determine if it is working for your canine (through obvious and less obvious signs such as energy level, stool analysis, etc.).

Always consult your veterinarian or canine dietician when it comes to your canine’s nutrition. Many veterinarians have acknowledged the role nutrition plays in our canines’ lives and have kept up with the rapid changes that have occurred in the dog food industry. However, the more knowledgeable you are going into that discussion, the more specific your questions can be about your own canine’s needs, and the more confident you will feel leaving the vet’s office.

It’s a great feeling to know that the time you spent researching food for your canine will help them live a happy and healthy life, free from the impacts that a less nutritious diet can have on their mental and physical health. Have any more questions? Contact me and I’ll be glad to use my resources and colleagues within the pet food industry to answer your questions as best I can.

Happy Kibble Hunting!

Dog Food: 4 Considerations When Choosing Treats and Dinner

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Happy Hour DogsThe dog food industry has come a long way since the days of generic “dog chow” – and it continues to change all the time. It seems like everyone has an opinion these days on their preferred all-protein, no-carb, low-carb, raw-based, home-prepped, homegrown diets and which brands are best and/or should be avoided at all costs. And, even amidst all these changes and new approaches to dog nutrition, we still see ads for “old-school” products like pigs ears, bully sticks, and products imitating foods like bacon (come on… the dogs know it isn’t bacon).

What we can infer from the fluctuations of the pet food industry is just that… it is changing. Like the field of canine behaviour, we are learning new things everyday. With behavioural training, while the traditional approach to the ways we interact and “command” dogs still exists, it has given way to a softer, positive and far more educational approach (for both the canine and caregiver). The food industry is the same – it is transitioning based on academic study and knowledge. What we know about canine health is developing rapidly, and this knowledge is setting higher health standards by producers and industry regulators, contributing to nutritional guidelines and teaching us what it means to feed our dogs a balanced diet.

As caregivers, it can be overwhelming. Who do we listen to? How do we know what is right? To help, here is general guideline that I follow when I enter a store and look through the various food and treat-related products on the shelves:

  1. Do your research before you go. A good starting point is dogfoodadvisor.com. This third-party website has reviewed most dog foods on the market and can offer feedback regarding theirstudying-large ingredients, the level of quality regarding production (e.g. use of chelated minerals versus none), the nutrient breakdown of the product and even highlight controversial ingredients* if they exist. READ LABELS. Just like your mom told you to do for your own food purchases, if you are reading the ingredient list and can’t, at least, pronounce the first five ingredients, put it back on the shelf and look for a more natural, less processed option.

*Controversial Ingredients: Those ingredients that exist in the product that have yet to be tested for their nutritional value, created as a by-product of another process (e.g. tomato pumice), or are not usually found in canine food products but do exist in other animals food (e.g. sun-cured alfalfa).

  1. Price = Quality: Unfortunately for our bank accounts, the pet food industry has a direct relation between price and quality. Much like buying certified organic, free-range or pesticide free products means a larger grocery bill for our family, the same 100% Qualityapplies to canines. A finished product cannot be magically better than the parts that make it up, so in many ways you get what you pay for. Be very careful when buying “deals” at discount stores, box stores and even pet-specific retail locations. Last week I discussed costs and lifestyle changes that occur when you bring a dog into your life. If you are working through this process, budget high for food and treats just to make sure you cover off any unforeseen changes that might occur in this area inflating the monthly costs (e.g. a change from kibble food to raw food because of severe allergy issues).
  1. Country of Origin Matters: Canada and the United States have similar, but different, food standards between our countries. One comparison that always makes me chuckle is that kid-approved Kinder Surprise Eggs are completely legal here in Canada – but are very much illegal in the United States (They are not something you ever want to bring over the border!). If these differences exist within the “human” food industry, you canworldmap expect them to also be present in the pet food industry. In fact, the pet food industry is even less regulated… by a substantial degree (although this is beginning to change). It is therefore important you take this into account. If products produced in North America are not subjected to strict standards before our pets ingest it (e.g. safe bacterial load levels after the drying process in bully sticks and pig ears), you can be certain that there is even more variation when you start to look at other countries with completely different cultures and belief systems (scary, isn’t it?). While a large corporation might save money by outsourcing production, the savings passed onto us might come with some qualitycontrolvery real dangers. In fact, Petco announced January 5th, 2015 that it will no longer carry ANY Chinese-imported food products in their stores across the United States because of the canine deaths and sicknesses associated with the consumption of these products. (These products are killing dogs everywhere). Petco even went as far as to say that they will only source products from countries with similar standards (like Canada, U.S., Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and South America), even though it risks tens of millions of dollars from the changeover.

NOTE: It should be stated that even the best of the best dog foods created in North America are not immune to recalls and issues, but they are far more likely to be caught early through standard checks. Dogfoodadvisor.com also offers an e-mail service for any recalls that occur. Sign up with them through e-mail and if a recall occurs, you will receive an e-mail notification.

  1. Not All Canines Are the Same: As I stated above, not all canines are the same. Some canines have special dietary restrictions, allergies or have gone through surgeries and trauma that prevent them from partaking in particular food stuffs. What works for one, may not work for another. If you are, or think you are, one of those caregivers, then you will want to be very careful about the products you purchase and what ingredients they contain.   A new trend in the pet food industry is single food-bowl-281980_1920source protein kibbles, raw food and treats. This is a blessing for those of us that have canines with allergies as it allows us to begin to eliminate and determine what the source of the allergy is… Imagine trying to do that with a kibble that has beef, chicken and fish present in it! Start with small bags, a few cans, or a couple weeks of a raw food diet. Transitioning to new food takes time, so transition to new products slowly over two weeks, then try those products on their own for an additional 1-2 weeks to determine if it is working for your canine (through obvious and less obvious signs such as energy level, stool analysis, etc.).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Always, always, always consult your veterinarian or canine dietician when it comes to your canine’s nutrition. Nutrition’s influence on their underlying health is just as critical for canines as it is for our bodies so you need to make sure they are healthy and eating well. If you are unsure of how to achieve optimal nutrition for your dog, get a second, and even a third, opinion.

Being educated, using these three guidelines, and staying up-to-date with pet food industry changes is the best way to make sure your canine is fed right and feeling great!

Minimizing Canine Anxiety: Steps to Take and Products to Try

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This room need's a "Safe Space" for this pup

This room need’s a “Safe Space” for this pup

In an ideal world, canines would be raised in positive, enriched environments that are free from fear and punishment, where their interactions within the community (both canine and human) are constructive and educational. Free from negativity, their potentials could all be met, allowing them to lead dynamic and integrated lives.

The world is… imperfect. As hard as we try, things happen. Sometimes on a grand scale, such as being involved in a car accident and developing a deep seeded fear of vehicles and travel, or being born into hostile situations where every food scrap is closely guarded for fear of not eating again. Things can happen on a smaller scale too. Sometimes, we have to shift our schedules because of a new job, or because we are moving to a new location. These changes disrupt what was once a familiar day, and can cause anxiety in ourselves and those around us. Same is true for our dogs.

Where the Two Roads Diverge

Where the Two Roads Diverge

Negative encounters, swings in schedules, new additions to the family, and changes within the home structure can all be a cause for anxiety in canines. At Canines By Design, we often talk about setting our canines up for success, proofing, and regular, dynamic socializing as being corner stones to creating a well balanced dog. If our canines can lead dynamic lives, enjoying new experiences, meeting new people, and going to new places, we are in a sense setting them up for success by creating an environment in which “change” and “new” becomes a regular part of life and their vocabulary, and not something to be fearful of.

But as I said, even in these situations, things can happen, fears can be created, and anxiety can be seen and felt. So what can be done?

... Well It Looks Comfy For Him Still!

… Well It Looks Comfy For Him Still!

Lets use the example of separation anxiety in canines. Separation anxiety is when the act of us leaving our canine causes a stress response in them, which can be acted out in a variety of behaviours such as soiling in the house, property destruction, self mutilation, pacing, excessive barking, etc. Regardless of how the behaviour arose, separation anxiety causes unrest in our dog’s lives and in turn causes the same unrest in our own lives. We will worry about what they are doing, maybe their behaviours have become destructive, and we will worry about what is being destroyed or if they have eaten something they shouldn’t have and if they should go into the veterinarian.

Sound familiar? We all want our canines to feel safe “in their own skin”. As caregivers and there are a few things we can do to help decrease the stress involved when canines have to spend some time on their own and suffer from separation anxiety:

  1. First and foremost, separation anxiety is treatable with patience and regular work to address the problem areas. Using customized desensitization programs (something we do here at Canines By Design), a program can be developed for your specific case that will take you and your canine through small incremental changes that help bolster understanding and comfort, rather than shock and fear.
  2. Create a safe space for your canine. This, along with environmental enrichment, is a specialty of Canines By Design. Whether it is in the office space at work, or your house (inside or out), or even in the car, it is important that we make sure that if they do have to spend time alone, we create an environment that they cannot get hurt, especially if their anxiety overwhelms their “common sense”. Items like power cords, plugins, chewable items like buckles, and even what is on the counter are all part of the considerations we take into account when setting up your “safe space”.
  3. Utilize your friends and family around you to help take the anxiety off of you and your canine. Puppy play-dates, good doggy day cares, and house sitters are all ways to keep your mind at ease, and make sure your pup is out having good experiences and leading dynamic lives. While this doesn’t address the separation anxiety directly, it gives you a way to avoid the behaviours that can be harmful to their health (mental and physical) while you work through your desensitization program.
  4. Make sure their needs are met before they spend some time alone. If they have just had a wonderful play with their best friend at the local park, and they are good and tired, they will be less likely to act out of boredom and stress, and be more likely to sleep and relax. Physical release such as exercise has a wonderful cascading effect on our physiology, releasing positive endorphins that make us, and our dogs feel good.
  5. Leave music or the T.V. on for them. Silent rooms cause our senses to become heightened and hyper vigilant. Same for our canines, and their senses such as hearing are already many fold stronger than our own. Utilizing the T.V. or radio (easy listening music) helps to dull them. You can even use a fan as the white noise will interrupt the noises they may hear outside their homes (whether it’s a house or apartment) and help them relax and worry less about what is going on. Need a portable solution? Load up your smart phone with your canine’s favorite tunes and play it off the speaker.
  6. Another sense to think about is smell. A great product line called Adaptil has focused on this, where they use products that mimic the pheromones released by a nursing mother. While pheromones don’t exactly have a “smell”, they act on a deep level, and the pheromones released by a nursing mother act to calm and ease anxious puppies. Their product lines are geared for canines of all ages, and from my experience have been very successful in helping ease many different types of anxiety including separation anxiety.
  7. Canines are social animals. They like to be around their piers, whether it is other dogs or humans. For some, separation anxiety stems from the lack of comfort that comes from being touched or snuggled in with their favorite person or playmate. Anxiety vests were created to help ease these cases. One brand, Thundershirts, are probably the original, and these snug fitting vests were created to give the wearer the feeling of being constantly hugged and touched.  Check out their sizing information for a size that works for your canine.
Ellie Having a Stress Free Moment

Ellie Having a Stress Free Moment

Anxiety related behaviours including separation anxiety are treatable. They require patience, positivity, and diligence to work through, but with the right tools and desensitization program, all canines can feel comfortable in their own skin and anxiety related behaviours CAN be drastically reduced if not completely cured. Not sure if your dog suffers from anxiety? Check out this blog on anxiety symptoms for more information.

Nose to Tail: Canines By Design Product Review: Ruffwear® Booties!

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Ruffwear GripTex Booties and Web Master Harness.  Photo from gearfordogs.com

Ruffwear GripTex Booties and Web Master Harness. Photo from gearfordogs.com

Wet, snowy, muddy paw prints… ah, the joys of oncoming winter! With much of Canada and the United States enduring cold, wet weather for up to 8 months at a time, we can’t exactly just press pause on our normal routines and wait for a better day. Kudos to all you weather warriors – rain or shine, sleet or snow – we get on our gear and get our canines out to play, walk and run. I do want to give a special shout out to our canine companions here: While we usually have appropriate footwear on for snow or rain, our canines head out on the bare paws their momma gave them!

Paws are amazing things; incredibly engineered and designed to work. I could write an entire article about their physiological design and how incredibly robust they are… but that wouldn’t get to what I’ve found to help you, and your canine, with those extra-extreme weather days. I would rather introduce you to a company and product line they offer that will not only help with cleanup each time you come back from a messy outing, but also help your canine paws guard against the extreme cold, irritation from being constantly wet and dirty and exposed to man-made items such as snow melt, cut pads or webbing, and even help those dogs prone to yeast infections.

Ruffwear®, Inc. is a company that, according to their website, is inspired to keep people and their canines enjoying their outdoor pursuits, whatever the climate, and since 2000, have been creating functional dog products. You might be interested in their high visibility jacket for your canine so you can be safe on dark wintery night runs. For those of you with extreme adventuring dogs, they do make a harness designed specifically to allow you to lift and lower your dogs safely while out mountain climbing. Ruffwear® thinks outside the box when they come up with new products and, I find, their final piece is always well engineered and does just what they say. Check out their website to view their expansive product line.

Ruffwear Snow Trex Boot.  Photo courtesy of www.ruffwear.com

Ruffwear Polar Trex Boot. Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

With all that said, I want to focus on Ruffwear’s dog boot line. You might be thinking “a whole line”!? Yes, they make three different boots for three different purposes. They sell them as a set of four, or individually if you need to replace a lost or worn out one. For Northerners that find themselves in deep snow or on ice, their Polar Trex™ boots are a great option. With a secure buckling system and built in insulation, these boots are designed to stay on and provide traction and warmth for both short and longer outings on the ice and snow.

Does your dog have dewclaws up front and on the back? Their Bark’n Boot Liners™ can enhance the fit of the boot if your canine’s legs are thin, and also make putting on the boots a cinch since the dewclaws and other pads are already in the sock!

Polar Trex Boots and Omnijore Ruffwear Harness System.  Photo from blessthisstuff.com

Polar Trex Boots and Omnijore Ruffwear Harness System. Photo from blessthisstuff.com

For less snow but still cold climates, where our canines might be playing in muddy or frosty parks, running on wet rocks and shells at the beach and walking over ice melt (or other abrasive/caustic surfaces), their lighter duty Summit Trex™ Boots might be the right fit. They are great for everyday traction needs and for runs on the bike path.

GripTex Boots in Action!  Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

GripTex Boots in Action! Photo courtesy of ruffwear.com

If you are like me and other West Coasters that are owned by their adventurous dogs, we tend to find ourselves on a mix of surfaces. Muddy trails, wood chips, beaches with sharp rocks and shells, and the occasional jaunt on concrete… the Grip Tex™ boots answer the call. With a robust Vibram® outsole, these boots will make sure that your canine is sure-footed and safe no matter what their day brings along.

Determining functionality and purpose is so important in a marketplace being blasted with new companies and concepts everyday. We want products to do what they are being sold to do: to work and to perform. Ruffwear boots meet these expectations and, in many ways, exceed them. Best of all, their boots can be washed and air-dried so they are clean and ready for the next adventure!

I wasn’t paid or incentivized by Ruffwear® to write this. I just believe that they are doing the right stuff when it comes to canine focused products. Check out their “find a retailer” to locate a dealer close to you. I can’t wait for Canines By Design to have a store in Victoria! When it happens, this is definitely a company you will see well represented on my shelves.

Please contact me at jeremyryder[@]caninesbydesign.ca if you have questions or comments about Ruffwear products or this blog post. Happy Trails!

Restricted Lifestyle? No Problem! Canine Hydrotherapy Might Be Right For You!

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Husky Hydrotherapy

Husky Hydrotherapy

This week’s article is all about alternative medicine and exercise plans for canines. Specifically, I thought we’d take a look at hydrotherapy. What is dog hydrotherapy? Well, we’ll get there. But first, I want to introduce the concept of appropriate exercise.

Body and brains: What appropriate exercise means!

When professionals in the dog world talk about exercise, the phrase “appropriate exercise” often arises. Used as a blanket term, the notion that not all exercise is appropriate for all ages and sizes of canines can get one thinking. A simple comparison would be comparing the activity level of a young German shepherd to that of a geriatric Pug. Appropriate activity isn’t saying that the Pug is incapable of any activity, but rather the type activity the Pug engages in should be incorporate variables such as his age, any underlying medical conditions such as heart condition and any physiologic limitations such as arthritis.

The equation gets even more complicated when we start to think about physical and mental exercise.   Both mental and physical requirements change throughout a canine’s lifetime, just as they do for humans. Finding a balance to keep their lives enriched and happy can become tricky when genetic and age-related changes (like arthritis) begin affecting the exercise equation. While an older or injured (or both) canine might not have the physical ability to run and play on land, their mental well being is reliant on them maintaining a lifestyle balance that still includes exercise, play and all those things that make a dog a dog!

What is canine hydrotherapy?

This is where hydrotherapy comes in. The dictionary defines hydrotherapy as the therapeutic use of water where wet heat and wet cold are applied to help in medical treatments, strengthen muscles, restore motion, and clean and heal flesh. (Merriam-Webster, 2014). In other words, we can think about it as time spent in the water, walking, swimming, and exercising.

Golden Relaxing

Golden Relaxing

Hydrotherapy offers many, many benefits for both humans and canines. Because of the properties of water, the effects of gravity are lessened when our bodies are submersed, making us feel lighter. While this takes pressure off joints, the submersion in varying temperatures of the water can help with inflammation of joints and muscle recovery from major surgeries and other musclo-skeletal damage (Mooventhan and Nivethitha, 2014). Hydrotherapy has even been shown to help with cardiovascular issues such as blood pressure (Mooventhan and Nivethitha, 2014).

These findings are now being applied to canines! We once thought that canines with restricted lifestyles, whether it was due to age, medical or otherwise, meant having a very bored pup giving us those long looks and big eyes saying “please, lets go for a run… if only for a minute.” There are many applications of hydrotherapy (and physiotherapy) and resources to help you try them, with long-term rehab facilities for canines and animals becoming the norm in many cities across Canada and the United States. Check out this example: Coastal Canine Hydrotherapy and Fitness Centre on Vancouver Island.

For anyone who is scratching their head, wondering what sort of fun things they can do with a canine who has special needs or a restricted lifestyle, maybe hydrotherapy is an option for you! You may find that a trip to the beach and a dip in the ocean is exactly what you both needed!!

NOTE: It is always important to consult your veterinarian before introducing a new exercise platform for your canine, especially when there may be physiological limitation/conditions that could cause compounding issues.

In 2014, a book was released, “No walks? No worries!: Maintaining wellbeing on restricted exercise”, by Sian Ryan and Helen Zulch. A good source of information, this book will help you understand more of what appropriate exercise is from the viewpoint of entering a period of restrictive lifestyle (e.g. having a major surgery) and provide you with the questions you should ask your veterinarian when the times comes.

Finally, if you have an extra 2 minutes, watch this loving video of Schoep, a canine who lived to TWENTY years of age who benefited from the wonders of hydrotherapy (and A LOT of Love!):

Looking for a good canine life jacket for your new found love of water?  Check out this great line by Ruffwear.  Called the K-9 Float Coat: http://www.ruffwear.com/-9-float-coat?sc=2&category=694, it comes it various sizes and two colors to fit your lifestyle and canine needs.

References:

Merriam-Webster (2014). Hydrotherapy Definition. Retrieved from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hydrotherapy. Accessed on: September 16, 2014.

Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. (2014). Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. North Am. J. Med. Sci.; 6: 199-209. Retrieved from: http://www.najms.org/text.asp?2014/6/5/199/132935.Accessed September 16, 2014.

Nose to tail Product Review: Improving Intelligence In Your Pup, and Preventing Age-Related Cognitive Dysfunction in senior dogs

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Zoom enjoying the sun, sand, and his toy!

Zoom enjoying the sun, sand, and his toy!

If you’re like me, you are always on the lookout for new and creative ways to entertain and enrich the lives of our canines. You know who you are… if there’s a new toy at the pet store, you’re all over it! Luckily, a Swedish company has been thinking this way since 1990. If you haven’t heard of Nina Ottosson before, you’ll be excited to learn that their Dog Activity Toys have been designed and tested to challenge your dog both physically and mentally through educational play.

Just like “brain games” for you and me, the games are meant to motivate your canine to learn, whatever their age, increasing their problem solving skills and intelligence as the difficulty level increases. They have developed a variety of interactive products with different difficulty levels (in both plastic and wood options) depending on the needs and play style of your canine.

Owners of senior canines take special note: they promote their products for older dogs. Activities change as their bodies age, so it’s great to find new, accessible ways for them to play and have fun. Keeping seniors mentally engaged is important for preventing or helping with Age-Related Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, and introducing mental puzzles is a great way to do it (Cline, 2014).

These products work well enough in creating dynamic challenges for canines that even service groups have integrated them into their programs to help develop problem solving skills in their up and coming service canines!

Quality is carefully controlled, with usage of choice materials that meet strict rules geared minimize or eliminate the impact to both the environment and your dog’s health. All of their products are recyclable and non-toxic, which is evidence of the detail they put into their design.

My Tips:
1. Using some of their dinner kibbles as the treats you put into the puzzle is a great way to make sure you are keeping your canine at their proper weight while still giving them food rewards.
2. Set them up for success. Start with level 1 puzzles and work your way up.
3. Lots of reward and praise through the process and make it fun!
4. Always supervise your canine!
5. Don’t forget to wash your puzzles frequently to keep them sanitary. Plastic puzzles can be cleaned easily and work well if you are using wet, canned or raw food, and/or are being used by multiple dogs. Wood puzzles can be wiped with a slightly damp cloth and a little mild detergent (Dawn dish soap) then wiped dry.
6. Check out all of Nina Ottoson’s tips and tricks!!!

Canines By Design wants you to know what cool and interesting products are out there. Do you know of a product that everyone should have, or at the very least, know about? Contact me (link) and let me know so I can feature your product!

References:
Cline, Dr. Jill. (2014). Cognitive Changes in the senior dog patient. Retrieved from: http://www.veterinarmagazinet.se/content/images/list_5/7467_1702620309.pdf. Accessed on: Aug. 12, 2014.

Whats Next!!?!

Whats Next!!?!

Canine Label Wars: Santa Checks His List Twice. You Should Too.

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net Doctor Dog

Yet another disturbing case has surfaced this morning about how a lack of industry standards is making it tough on canine caregivers and dog lovers everywhere to make informed, educated, and safe decisions. CBC News published an article this morning about Costco selling, and continuing to sell, a jerky–treat product that has been linked by a veterinarian to renal failure and death, in as little as three weeks of starting to ingest the products.

What does this mean for us? I would like to believe that no canine-caregiver would ever intentionally feed, or harm a dog by feeding it something toxic or known to be toxic. Obviously animal cruelty cases exist, but what about the population of caregivers who are genuinely proactive, who try to ensure that they understand the products they are supplying for their canine?

The easiest way is to read the labels on everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I grew up in a family who was taught to read and understand labels when we were at the grocery store. Later, as I grew into a young teenager pulled in many directions by brands, slogans, and promises for goods, this practice translated from food-related items, to all kinds of consumer goods. It seems simple that the quality of whole products are affected by its parts and that understanding these differences should be straight forward, but things get messy when governmental regulations, standards across countries, and the drive to make a profit are injected into the equation.

Let’s start with food and edible products: First off, never take the front message of the package at face value. Turn it over and get right into the nitty gritty of the ingredients list. Read everything, even the small print at the bottom just to make sure you know the whole story. The front of the package is there to sell you; the back of the package is there to inform you. Natural, Organic, Pet-Friendly, not tested on animals, etc. are widely used terms that draw us in, but these terms rarely give us the whole story. In the CBC article, the jerky treat in question has a label on the front that says “quality checked in Canada certified laboratories” but, in actuality, the testing had been done in China. While this statement was likely not completely fabricated, the more complex the story becomes, the higher the chance that brand messaging isn’t revealing all the details.

To truly “read” the ingredients, make sure you understand what the ingredients in the products are for. I use this rule of thumb: If I cannot understand the first five ingredients on the list, the product goes back on the shelf. Ingredients higher on the list compose a larger percentage of that particular product than ingredients lower on the list. Simplicity is best.

For non-edible products such as stuffies, bowls, balls, puzzles, and ropes, the same due diligence applies. Look at where the product was made. Why does this matter? Each country has different policies when it comes to manufacturing processes. Companies manufacture or source in other countries because it is profitable to do so, and it is up to those companies to ensure that their own countries standards are upheld in the final product. While many industries have developed tests and standards, the pet industry is not one of those yet. How do you get around that? Shop Local!! Many companies are very proud of their heritage, of their products, and the high-end “ingredients” or “parts” that go into making their final products. Again simplicity is best. Single ingredient balls (e.g. high grade rubber) manufactured in Canada will likely have less variation in all aspects of the product than a toy composed of multiple ingredients (e.g. rubber and plastic) that was manufactured in one country, assembled in another, and sold in yet another.

There is no easy answer for canine caregivers as we navigate the ever-expanding world of pet-related products except be vigilant and read the labels, stay educated, and let others know when you have found that amazing product! Whistleblowing on poorly constructed products and/or unsafe food is how recalls get started, and how we can all help keep our dogs safe!