Life is Better with Pets!

Part 2 – Corn in Dog Food and Other non-meat ingredients

For an interesting and useful look at the use of corn in dog food, check out this Dog Food Advisor article regarding corn in dog food. In a nutshell, finding corn as an ingredient in dog food if not necessary a BAD thing, but there is nothing really GOOD about it either. Basically, it is nothing more than a cheap filler and therefore it benefits your dog or cat to look for a pet food with non-meat ingredients that have at least somewhat more nutritional value, such as oats, brown rice, and other somewhat healthier grains.

And what about another frequently listed ingredient – Gluten?  So what is gluten and why is it less than ideal? To quote from this article, by Mike Sagman:

Basically, gluten is what’s left over from certain grains (like wheat, corn or rice) that’s had all of its starchy carbohydrate (the good stuff) washed out of it. The rubbery protein residue that’s left is the gluten.Think of gluten as a sort of vegetable-based protein concentrate.

Now, although gluten can come from other grains, corn gluten, is the most common type you’ll see on a dog food ingredients list. The Three Most Common Problems with Gluten Ingredients:

1.  Glutens are less nutritionally complete than meat based proteins. They’re low in some of the ten essential amino acids dogs need to sustain life

2.  Glutens are more difficult to digest than meat

3.  Glutens can raise the protein reported on a food label. So, manufacturers frequently add them to a recipe to make a product look better than it really is

The Bottom Line

Whenever you discover gluten on a dog food ingredients list, you should always question the true meat content of the product.

So now that you know what you might want to avoid, what ingredients should you look for instead of Corn and Gluten? Some that are higher quality non-meat ingredients include:

Brown Rice – a complex carbohydrate that once cooked is fairly easy to digest.

Barley – a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index (like rice), barley can help support stable blood sugar levels in dogs.

Rolled, Ground & Whole Oats – oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber and are low in gluten.

Rice Bran – a healthy by-product of milling whole grain rice. The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain containing starch, protein, fat as well as vitamins and minerals.

Flaxseed Meal – one of the best plant-based sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Flax meal is particularly rich in soluble fiber.

In addition, other higher quality ingredients can include:

Chicken Cartilidge – a natural source of both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate — natural substances believed to support joint health.

Chicken Fat – Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

Next time, we will compare the ingredients from some generally highly though of and more expensive supermarket/large pet store brands with the ingredients in some other brands that we personally would recommend.

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The truth about dog & cat food – Part 1 – The myth of “real meat” as the first ingredient

So does real meat as the first ingredient really make a difference in the quality of pet food? It might surprise you (as it surprised me when I first started doing this) that the answer is no. Ingredients in pet food – as they are in people food – are listed by weight, and “real,” “deboned,” or “whole” chicken, lamb, beef, fish etc. contain A LOT of water, often close to 80% of the weight of the meat.  Essentially, whether or not real meat is listed as the first ingredient or not, means nothing in regards to the quality of the food.

While it doesn’t sound as tasty, what you ACTUALLY want to see somewhere in the top five ingredients (and ideally in the top 3), is some sort of meat meal, like chicken meal, lamb meal or fish mealMeat meal is the dry rendered product from the clean flesh and skin of the meat product which contains almost 300% more protein by weight than the fresh meat product.  Essentially, it is the good stuff left behind from the meat after the fat and water are taken out.  Meat meal, however, is not to be mistaken with meat by-product meal.  While meat by-product meal also is a fine source of protein, the protein itself does not come from actual meat.  Still, while meat by-product meal is slightly less favorable as a top ingredient, it, along with bone meal, does provide protein and is a natural source of glucosomine and chondroiten.

So, next time a food claims to be a better food because it has “real meat as the first ingredient,” I strongly urge you to look at the ingredients after the “real meat” and make sure that there is some sort of meat meal listed as one of the top 5 ingredients.

Next in this series, we’ll be discussing corn, corn gluten meal, and the other non-meat ingredients you ideally would or would not want to see in the top 5 ingredients of your pet’s food.


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Pets in the Classroom!

Hey Teachers, even if you aren’t local, check out this program called Pets in the Classroom – it provides small grants to teachers to bring pets or fish into the classroom – what a great idea!  We will also help you out by often being able to offer you at least a 10% discount on my items, as well as providing everything you use for the classroom tax free!

And hey, teachers, right now we have a sale on Guinea Pigs – Buy one for $25, 2 for $45 or three for $60!  People keep bringing them in for us, when they don’t want them anymore 😦  They are all so sweet and deserve a nice new home – maybe in a classroom, with lots of kids to keep them company?

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More Rat Babies!

Lot’s o’ babies to choose from – as of 4/2/12 there appears to be 14 girls and 17 boys that will be ready to be taken to their new homes in about 3 weeks!

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Orphaned Baby Bunnies

In lots of rural and suburban areas people often come across what seems to be nests of orphaned baby bunnies, whether by simply stumbling upon them, or when the nest is destroyed either by accident or by an animal.  We’ve had several people come into the store now asking questions about “orphaned” baby bunnies and, while I don’t claim to be any sort of an expert on the subject, here are the most important points I’ve found through some research:

*Unlike many other mother animals, mother rabbits only nurse for around 5 minutes per day and are generally only in their nests once or twice a day, usually in the early morning or late at night.  Therefore what often SEEMS to be a nest of abandoned baby bunnies has not been abandoned at all.  The best thing you can do if you stumble across a nest of baby bunnies is simply to leave them be and the mother will most often come back for them. Removing them from the nest greatly decreases their chances of survival.  Especially before their eyes are opened, wild baby bunnies generally only have about a very small chance of survival without a mother, even with expert care.

*If you accidentally destroy a nest or if your animal destroys a nest, the best thing to do is to attempt to “rebuild” a nest no more than 10 feet away from the original nest.  Use gloves to move the babies and materials to avoid leaving your scent.  Dig a small hole/depression and create a nest with straw/hay or grasses and as much from the original nest as possible including any of the mother’s fur.  Creating a pattern over th nest with straw or small twigs can help to determine if the mother is coming back to feed the babies.

*If you come across a baby bunny outside of the nest, if they eyes are open, they are likely just exploring.  This is common and is rarely a cause for any concern.

*If you are SURE that the mother has been killed, the best thing you can do it to contact a wildlife rehabilitator.  Local vets, animal control and humane societies can often be a good resource.  Wild rabbits DO NOT have the same nutritional needs as domestic rabbits so it is critically important to get them to a wildlife rehab or rabbit to give them a better chance of survival.

For more info and resources, check out this link:

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February is Pet Dental Health Month!

Your pet’s teeth need care and cleaning too!  Here are some quick, easy and affordable suggestions for keeping your pets teeth clean and healthy.

While trying to brush your pets teeth is always a good plan, it can be a bit daunting!  Even if you can’t manage to use a tooth or finger brush, if you can get your fingers onto the teeth at all, a good enzymatic toothpaste like those made by petrodex in a yummy beef or poultry flavor for dogs, or in malt flavor for cats, can simply be quickly rubbed on.  If you’d rather not risk sticking your finger in your pets mouth, Tropiclean makes a clean teeth gel with a convenient applicator tip.  Just do your best to squeeze a small amount of gel onto the teeth with the plaque and tartar buildup about once daily for 30 days, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive!

Another product worth trying which has also gotten very good customer reviews, is ProDen Plaque Off, adding a small scoop to your pets food every day can supposedly help significantly reduce plaque in 3-8 weeks!

For help with maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping your doggie’s breath fresh, Tropiclean Instant Fresh Foam, and Tropiclean Oral Care Water Additive are also good additions to any dental care regime.  In addition, Tropiclean has a fresh breath floss spray which comes individually (to spray on your dogs favorite toy) or with it’s own rope toy to spray and help to floss the dogs teeth while they chew.

There are also a wide variety of dental and breath treat options out there, may of which are low in fat and corn and gluten-free, including: Greenies for cats and dogs, Nutrident, Blue Buffalo Blue Bones, Terrabones, Zukes Z-Bones, Paragon dental chews, Smart n’ Tasty for cats and dogs, and, as a treat and toothpaste mix, Ark Natural Brushless Toothpaste treats!

While certain chew toys can also been great for your dogs teeth, if your dog is a big time chewer, Elk Antlers are a great natural chew that are also great for helping with oral hygiene.  They aren’t terribly cheap, running from around $7 for a small to around $16 for a large, but they last a LONG time, even with the heaviest of chewers, don’t smell, don’t splinter, don’t stain and, because your dog simply chews it down over time, you don’t have to worry about the digestive upsets that some other items like rawhide can cause.  Another great toy/chew for fun and dental hygiene for all dogs, but especially those tough chewers, is the Premier Busy Bone, which comes in fours sizes from tiny to extra large with tough nylon bone ends with nylon bristles and rubber nubs for teeth cleaning while they chew, and replaceable rawhide treat rings to provide extra interest.

For the entire month of February all dental health chews, treats and products are 10% off at Paws and Claws, so come on down, your pet and your vet with thank you!

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Rattie Update!

We still have plenty of ratties left that are up for adoption – around 6 boys and 9 girls currently, most of which are the mostly solid brown tan babies of mom’s Mishka and Nikita and daddy Zoidberg.  Mishka is also up for adoption, as is Whiskers, a hooded female, around 8 month old, who is somewhat shy, but still friendly.  For Whiskers especially, as she is definitely more attached to other rats than she is to people, we will require that she go to a home with at least 1 other female rat.

We have three main different rattie homes available for purchase, ranging from around $50 to around $175.  We also have available for purchase lots of cute and easily washable options for rattie hammocks, as well as plenty of wheels, treats (Their favorite seem to be seeds and, of course, yogurt drops!), toys for chewing and enrichment (they seems to especially like nut knot nibblers), and cage accessories like Lava ledges which provide extra perching space plus are good for their nails and for them to chew on.  We also carry Rainforest Rodent – our preferred seed mix for our ratties – which we mix with mazuri rodent pellets and/or Oxbow Regal Rat, as well as total cereal (I like the one with raisins to give them an extra treat!).  Ours also seem to love Kale, Broccoli and carrots.

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Once you go rat, you never go back!

The first two sets of babies are ready to go starting this week! As of now, all of the peach colored “Zoidberg” babies have been spoken for and in a few months I’ll be attempting Line Breeding for the first time to hopefully get more babies with Zoidbergs coloring and, most importantly, his personality!

In regards to the other babies, here’s the scoop: Hurricane was the first to be adopted to a wonderful family who travelled from an hour away just to get him! That family was also one of the lucky ones to get a peach Zoidberg baby and they will be picking him up around the beginning of February when Nikita’s litter is ready to go. Sunny is mine (all mine!), and Lightning, Storm and Fog are also all on hold, but we still have plenty of wonderful, sweet babies to go around!

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Baby Ratties Update!

Nikita, a blue girl, who we didn’t think had gotten pregnant (she didn’t really look it!) gave birth on New Years Eve to 14 babies!

Our slightly older rats, the kits of Mischka and Nikita just opened their eyes the other day and will be ready to go in a little less than 3 weeks!  We’ve named Mishka’s babies the alphabet litter, and Nikita’s are the Weather litter.  Nikita’s babies will be named soon!

Below – 25 rat babies in a basket!

Gallery from Left to Right:

Row 1: Trinity’s Litter – Sky (f), Sunny (rex – m), Rain (f), Lightning (f), Fog (m)

Row 2: Trinity’s Litter – Storm (m), Rainbow (rex- f), Hurricane (rex – m), Cloud (rex -f), Blizzard (f)

Row 3: Mishka’s Litter – Buttons (rex – m), Dharma (rex – f), Gaby (f), Hagrid (rex – m), Rex Black & Tan Babies (not all pictured) 1 male – Evan, 4 females – Caramel, Flora, Ingrid, Lily

Row 4: Mishka’s Litter – Silky Black & Tan babies (not all pictured) 1 female – Anna, 3 males – Jake, Klauss, Marvin; pile of babies – 8 and 10 days old.


Blue Buffalo

Our store will soon be carrying Blue Buffalo Dog Food and Treats – here’s my question:  For those of you who already use Blue Buffalo or those of you that are thinking of switching to Blue Buffalo, what are the foods and treats you buy or are interested in buying?  There are A LOT of options and we have a limited amount of space – while we can always special order things, I want to get an idea of what people are/would be most interested in.

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