Human Foods You Can Donate To Animal Shelters – Don’t Throw That Out!

Disturbing Lab Results Prove Top Dog andWe’ve all been there… you think you’ll finish those leftovers in the fridge only to end up feeling guilty when they spoil and go to waste once again. Or when you’re going out of town and know the food will be spoiled when you get home, but you aren’t sure who to give it to. Friends? Homeless shelter? What about the homeless pets at the animal shelter! The shelters actually need your leftovers, and you may never guess just how many items you can donate to them. 

- Peanut Butter -

DSC07198Shelters can’t get enough of this stuff! Whether it’s filling Kongs to keep pups occupied for the night in their crates or administering pill medication, shelters need as much peanut butter as you can give them!

DSC07210However: when purchasing or donating peanut butter for dogs, make sure it doesn’t have poisonous xylitol in it.

- Cheese -

cheeseHave you ever met a dog that doesn’t like cheese? Me either! Shelters love having it on hand as a quick treat for the dogs, and they love it of course! If you have a few uneaten packages in the fridge, or your family didn’t care for the new brand you tried, do yourself and the dogs a favor and donate to a hungry pup!

- Baby Food -

Jem thought the baby food pack made a great chew toy!

Jem thought the baby food pack made a great chew toy!

Baby food is always in demand at shelters. Have you met a dog recently that loves to eat dry dog food without a little wet food added in for flavor? Because my dogs certainly won’t! They’ve trained me to realize that they would rather starve before they eat dry food without wet food added. Baby food is a relatively easy thing to donate, and a perfect way for you to rid your pantry of old jars you’ll never use. Dogs love it!

- Canned Tuna -

Zoey and Jem aren't wild about the idea of eating tuna...

Zoey and Jem aren’t wild about the idea of eating tuna…

When I hear “tuna” cats are the first thing I think of! They can’t get enough of it, and I can bet that most of us have a few cans in the pantry that we had high-hopes for at some point but never ended up using. 

- Hot Dogs -

Halloween 2013!

Halloween 2013!

Shelters love to cut them up and use them as treats for the dogs. And what tastes better to a dog than a hot dog?! They’re practically named after pups. 

DSC06997

- Veggies -

DSC07041With the dogs eating so much dry and canned food, this may surprise you. Munchable veggies like carrots are awesome for dogs! Veggies like onions are toxic to dogs. Our family gets a big box of fresh organic veggies from a local farm every week, and we have never been able to eat it all because there’s so much! The animal shelter is an awesome place to bring the leftovers rather than letting the veggies sit in the fridge and go to waste. 

Dogs Can’t Eat Everything We Can

I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of times before, but dogs can’t digest all of the human foods that we can. For your dog’s sake and all of the dogs at the shelters that you’ll be donating food to, read our blog post on common foods that are toxic to dogs before you show up at the shelter with a box of avacados! 

 

Can you think of any other human foods the animals at the shelter would love? Or have you ever donated your food to the shelter?

How To Understand Pet Food Labels: Know The Red Flags

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If you’re anything like me, you may be starting to worry that there isn’t a healthy pet food that you can trust. It seems like each week there’s a new “pet food recall” notice. And with brands bragging that their food is “made with real beef or chicken,” it makes me wonder what the other food is made of?! 

DSC06727Dog food has a “3% With Rule” which states that any food that claims to be made “with chicken” only needs to consist of 3% chicken to make that claim true. For example, “Honest Jack’s Dog Food With Chicken” only needs to consist of 3% chicken in order to meet guidelines. Crazy, right?! 

Pet food labelsI’ve been working on my own research to clear up some of the controversy that’s on peoples’ minds about pet food, but it’s incredibly difficult to find concrete answers to my questions and concerns. It’s proved to be close to impossible to get a straight answer about pet food truths and lies. The confusion about which pet foods are healthy and which ones are fooling us can’t be clarified as easily as I’d hoped. It’s going to take more than one post to get some of this confusion sorted out, so stay tuned!  

Why It’s So Important To Research Your Dog’s Food

DSC06728We have the responsibility to research dog food brands ourselves and learn as much as we can beyond what the companies are telling us on the surface. Almost every aspect of our dogs’ health starts with their diet. A healthy diet can make all of the difference in the world for your dog throughout her entire life.

DSC06730So what should you look for when reading pet food labels? Should we buy labels that say “gourmet, premium, natural, or organic?” Or do companies know that these words are going to trigger us to purchase and they’re using them as marketing techniques?

The government’s rules and regulations on pet food have nothing to do with the advertising and marketing claims that these companies use. That means they can say anything they want regardless if it’s true. Has the Blue Buffalo controversy come to your mind yet? 

 The FDA’s Regulations: Do They Protect Our Pets?

The FDA “establishes standards applicable for all animal feeds: proper identification of product, net quantity, manufacturer’s name and address, and proper listing of all ingredients.” Seems pretty bare minimum to me… so what about the company’s claims to us that they are a superior brand? No regulations on that?

The FDA states on its website: “Pet owners and veterinary professionals have a right to know what they are feeding their animals. The pet food label contains a wealth of information, if one knows how to read it. Do not be swayed by the many marketing gimmicks or eye-catching claims. If there is a question about the product, contact the manufacturer or ask an appropriate regulatory agency.”

So what I get from that explanation is that we’re pretty much on our own to learn how to read labels in order to understand what we are purchasing. Now that’s a hefty task… 

AAFCO Regulations: Do They Protect Our Pets?

Not all states require the FDA to enforce their labeling regulations. Many of the states have adopted the pet food regulations established by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). These regulations are more specific and “cover aspects of labeling such as product name, the guaranteed analysis, the nutritional adequacy statement, feeding instructions, and calorie statements. 

 The AAFCO website provides a lot of contact information from state to state, but it says little about what the committee does. It does state that, “AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee has created a great tool for small pet food businesses to learn what is required when they wish to make pet foods and treats. Though this information is very beneficial in explaining what is necessary for a company to start up their business, it is just a tool. For further information regarding what is required by the state where you live, contact your State Feed Control Official.”

The words “it is just a tool” was a red flag for me. They also state that, “While AAFCO doesn’t help consumers directly, AAFCO has clearly stated in its philosophy regarding feed regulations in the Official Publication that “The most important aspect of feed regulation is to provide protection for the consumer as well as the regulated industry. A major function of feed regulations is to safeguard the health of man and animals. Another important function of feed regulation is to provide a structure for orderly commerce.” We also use expert nutrition opinions to establish nutrient standards (profiles) for dogs and cats.”

Look For The AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement On The Pet Food Bags

The AFCCO states that the nutritional adequacy statement is quite possibly the most important thing to look for on the pet food bag. It will state that the food meets AFCCO standards.

IMG_1931Nutritional adequacy statements may look like any of the following examples:

  • “___________ is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog (or cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for ___________.”
  • “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that ______________ provides complete and balanced nutrition for _____________.”
  • “_____________ provides complete and balanced nutrition for ___________ and is comparable to a product which has been substantiated using AAFCO feeding tests”

 Nutritional adequacy statements that do not meet AFCCO standards that you should beware of will look like these:

  • ““A nutritional or dietary claim for purposes other than those listed above provided the claim is scientifically substantiated”
  • “This product is intended for intermittent or supplementary feeding only”

Don’t Trust “Gourmet” or “Premium” Food Claims

You may be surprised to know that the FDA has no regulations or guidelines to protect consumers from misleading claims like “gourmet” or “premium.”

DSC06710FDA labeling guidelines state, “products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products.”

That bothers me, what about you?!

Beware of “Human Grade” Pet Food Claims

The AAFCO states that although many food companies have claimed to provide human grade ingredients, this term has no legal definition in animal feed regulations.

“Extremely few pet food products could be considered officially human edible or human grade.” The AAFCO also states that a dog food that truly met human standards would be extremely expensive.

There are official standards that must be met in order for food to be deemed “edible” by definition for human consumption. If these qualifications are met then “human grade” claims can legally be made even though there is no official definition for the term. However, a product created for a pet is very unlikely to be nutritionally adequate for human consumption. There are foods that humans can eat, such as chocolate, that are toxic to dogs. Therefore, “human grade” does not by any means indicate that a food is nutritionally safe for dogs. 

“Natural” Pet Food: While It’s Better, It’s Still Unclear

The word “natural” is being used on tons of food labels both in the dog and human food industries. It makes us feel good when we think we’re getting an honest product, and we hope that the label is telling us the truth. Some people confuse the terms “natural” and “organic” as being interchangeable, but they are absolutely not the same.

DSC06719PetMD veterinarian Dr. Hughes tells us that the word “natural” means that the FDA deems the product to contain no chemical changes to the ingredients. Of course we don’t want our dogs to ingest chemicals day after day. This can greatly deteriorate their health. Purchasing a dog food that can provide FDA certified “natural” ingredients should be part of your dog’s daily diet. 

DSC06722The AAFCO says that the word “natural” is a descriptive term that sounds positive, but there are misperceptions about the word. The term was undefined in the past by state and federal agencies, but in an effort to appeal to consumers, marketers have used the term for their food. 

The AAFCO Definition for “Natural” Pet Food: 

DSC06716“A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal, or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subjected to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”

DSC06729However, the FDA labeling guidelines states, “the term ‘natural’ is often used on pet food labels, although that term does not have an official definition.” The FDA does recognize the AAFCO definition for natural. Unfortunately, it’s up to us to do the remaining research for us to be sure that the company’s claims to be natural are in fact truthful. Furthermore, not all states have adopted the AAFCO definition for “natural.” The FDA admits that ingredients can still contain trace amounts of chemically synthetic compounds and still be considered natural. 

Are you even more confused than before? Don’t feel bad, I am too! It feels like there still isn’t a concrete, defined, trustworthy answer to the natural vs unnatural debate. 

Don’t Believe “Holistic” Pet Food Claims

DSC06720There is no legal definition of the word “holistic” for pet food. Any manufacturer can claim their food is “holistic” regardless of the ingredients. To me, this word would be a red flag for ‘marketing scam!’

DSC06723

“Organic” Pet Food: Look For The Seal 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, organic ingredients must be grown with only animal or vegetable fertilizers such as manure, bone meal, compost, etc. When a product has the USDA Organic Seal, it is certified to meet these standards. If the product does not have the official USDA Organic Seal, it’s claim to be organic has not been proven true by any official agency. 

According to the AAFCO, Organic pet food is “produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used.”

 

Now that was a lot to take in! The pet food controversy is one that I believe is far from over. More consumers than ever are demanding answers from manufacturers, and I hope that in only a few more years we will be able to grab a bag of dog food off the shelves without all of these worries and concerns. Stay tuned for more information on reading pet food labels and understanding what all of the chemically-named ingredients truly are. 

Do you have a rule you abide by when picking out your pet’s food? Or is there a tried and true method you believe works when choosing a reputable manufacturer? 

Brain Foods That Will Extend Your Dog’s Lifespan

Brain Foods That Will Extend Your Dog's LIfe SpanEating healthy is about more than looking slim and trim on the outside. Most importantly, it keeps our bodies healthy on the inside – especially our minds! And our dogs are no different. Their overall health – mind, body, and soul – is greatly affected by what foods they eat every day. 

Watching our dogs age can seem like the quickest and most gut-wrenching process of life. We want them by our sides forever, and seeing their muzzles getting grayer or their energy slowly getting weaker can make us feel hopeless. 

The nutrients in your dog’s food help support her muscles, joints, and skin. But they also affect your dog’s healthy brain function, and the right nutrients can vastly improve her lifespan. Dogs are just like humans when it comes to experiencing degradation in brain function with age. Senior dogs can develop dementia and other forms of brain deterioration that diminishes their quality of life. 

The best way to support your dog’s healthy brain function and improve his quality of life is to make sure his diet consists of the proper nutrients.

healthy foods to improve your dogs life

Omega 3 fatty acids

A very common issue for aging dogs is canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) which is extremely similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Dogs will begin to forget how to do things they could do before, become disoriented, forgetful, and have accidents in the house.

Flax is a great brain food for dogs!

Flax is a great brain food for dogs!

Omega 3 fatty acids are linked to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and have been used to treat mood disorders. Good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids for dogs include salmon or other fatty fish, flax, and krill.  

Vitamins C & E

Just like humans, dogs will experience changes in their brains such as beta-amyloid accumulation and oxidative damage causing cognitive dysfunction. Older dogs that are fed a diet high in antioxidants have shown improved learning and spatial attention within only two short weeks of the diet starting. The improvement was even greater when this was combined with mental stimulation through walks, housing with another dog, and training exercises. 

The antioxidants in vitamins C & E protect the brain from free radical damage. Diets that are high in antioxidants are believed to help delay cognitive decline. In a study conducted to test dogs’ spatial memory and ability to choose between two different objects, recognize items, and adapt to new situations, dogs on diets that were high in antioxidants tested far better than dogs that were fed a normal diet.

Berries, Kale, and Carrots are great sources of antioxidants.

Berries, Kale, and Carrots are great sources of antioxidants.

Dogs can find antioxidants in berries such as blueberries and raspberries, carrots, and leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli. 

B vitamins

B-6 helps form neurotransmitters to help with healthy brain development. B-12 is an essential vitamin for brain and nerve function. It also helps form red blood cells and DNA.

We always have spinach in the house - and the dogs love it!

We always have spinach in the house – and the dogs love it!

Studies have also shown that consuming B-6 and B-12 has positive effects on memory. Dogs will ingest B vitamins from food when they consume:  most meats, sea food, chickpeas, and spinach. 

Luteolin    

This is a plant compound that tames inflammation in the brain which restores memory. It is found in celery, carrots, peppers, and rosemary. 

Celery gives your dog's food a yummy (healthy!) crunch.

Celery gives your dog’s food a yummy (healthy!) crunch.

 Introducing Brain Foods Into To Your Dog’s Diet

As with anything in life, prevention is always better than treatment. This means that you should start as early as birth with preventing cognitive disorders through a healthy supplemented diet. Your dog will live longer and experience a more enriched life if these brain disorders are prevented rather than treated once they are developed later on in life. 

Jem and Zoey Love Brain Foods!

Jem and Zoey Love Brain Foods!

A healthy lifestyle balanced with physical activity, socialization, cognitive-enhancing activities, and an adequate intake of dietary antioxidants will vastly improve your dog’s overall health, quality of life, and increase her lifespan. 

Remember! Always consult your veterinarian or pet nutritionist before making any drastic diet changes to your dog’s routine. Some pet foods already contain high levels of vitamins and antioxidants, so you don’t want to overdo it and cause damage. If you do make the decision to supplement your dog’s food after consulting with your veterinarian, introduce the change slowly so as not to upset his stomach. Most importantly when introducing human foods to your dog: familiarize yourself with which foods are poisonous to dogs! 

Learn more about brain stimulating tricks for your dog at Modern Dog Magazine!

URGENT: Some Peanut Butter Brands Are Deadly For Dogs

RadioFence.com reports that some peanut butter brands contain Xylitol which is poisonous to dogsIf dogs could talk, I’d imagine that most of them would say they’ve tried peanut butter before – and loved it of course! Whether their human used it to hide a pill, let them lick the spoon, or gave them a dollop to witness how funny it is when it gets stuck to their tongues. Peanut butter has kind of always been associated as a healthy treat for our dogs to indulge in. 

But what happens when the manufacturers change the recipe? Would they tell us? And do we always read the food label on the jar without fail before giving our dogs a taste? If you’ve been buying the same brand of peanut butter for many years the answer is probably no. You may think you know what ingredients are in your favorite peanut butter, because there’s no way it’s changed since you started buying it…right?

Wrong! Some peanut butter manufacturers have added xylitol to their ingredients! Why are they adding xylitol? Because they’re trying to lower the calorie count while still preserving the sweet flavor. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that you see most commonly in candy, desert, and especially gum. It’s even hidden in some vitamin supplements and medications. It’s a relatively newer ingredient in food items that is extremely poisonous to dogs, so we have to start being extra careful to read labels before feeding our dogs any human food. 

Nuts N More Contains Xylitol which is toxic to dogsNuts ‘N More, P28, and Krush Nutrition: Nutty By Nature brand peanut butters all contain xylitol. However, these are not necessarily the ONLY brands that contain xylitol, which means it is up to you to check the ingredients in the brand you are purchasing before you feed it to your dog. According to Dr. Kathryn Primm, dogs can’t properly process xylitol the way humans do, so it causes a drop in blood sugar and liver damage that are both life-threatening. Dogs that are poisoned with xylitol will stagger when they walk and collapse. If your dog is poisoned, it is critical that she is rushed to the vet. 

Most of the peanut butter brands that contain xylitol are the ones sold in health food stores that specialize in vitamins. For now most, if not all of the big-brand peanut butters are safe and so are our dogs. We’ve used peanut butter to give our dogs medication countless times, and we also use it in some of our homemade dog treat recipes.

Jem and Laci love Smucker's Organic Peanut Butter! Only 2 ingredients: peanuts and less than 1% salt.

Jem and Laci love Smucker’s Organic Peanut Butter! Only 2 ingredients: peanuts and less than 1% salt.

 As for any food or treat you give your dog, it’s always vital that you check the ingredients list for anything that could be poisonous to her. Make it a habit to read every ingredient on the list, and if you ever see a word you don’t recognize ask your vet if it is safe for your dog to consume. There is a long list of human foods that are poison to dogs, and it’s important to have these printed out on the refrigerator or some place where family members and guests that may not have experience with dogs can view it to remind them of what is acceptable and unacceptable to share with your dog. 

Buddy loves the occasional tasty peanut butter treat!

Buddy loves the occasional tasty peanut butter treat!

Spreading the word about what is safe and unsafe for dogs to eat can save thousands of lives! Make sure your friends know the rules :) 

Has your dog ever eaten anything she wasn’t supposed to?

 

Jerky Dog Treats “Made In The USA” Still Not Safe

RadioFence.com jerky treats made in the USA and china are not safe

By now we’ve all probably heard about the toxic dog treats from China that have caused so many tragic dog deaths and complications. Since 2007, that FDA has received more than 5000 reports of illnesses believed to be related to consuming jerky treats. Since these tragedies, there has been a mass movement to take all treats that are made in China off the store shelves and most pet parents have been paying attention to where the treats are made before giving them to their dogs.

jerky treats from china recalledBut come to find out… even if the treats have the “Made In The USA” sticker/label, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the treats are healthy for your dog to consume. One of the scariest facts about this whole issue is that the specific toxin or poison that has caused all of these illnesses and deaths hasn’t been determined. The FDA believes that there is an association between these illnesses and the treats made in China, but it has not been proven that this is the cause. The truth is that they still haven’t determined the cause of these deaths. 

china treats recalledThe FDA warns consumers that until they can determine which ingredients in jerky treats are poisonous, there may not be a single jerky treat brand on the shelves that is safe for consumption. “I don’t recommend pet owners feed their pets jerky treats until the FDA can actually tell us what in the jerky treat is actually causing the sickness,” said Studio City veterinarian Dr. Julio Lopez

Jerky treats at Petco - some make claims of their ingredients being sourced in the USA

Jerky treats at Petco – some make claims of their ingredients being sourced in the USA

The FDA warns us that jerky treats labeled “Made In The USA” may pose just as many health risks as the treats made in China because while many of these treats are “assembled” in the United States, they are likely to include ingredients from China. The Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer for the FDA explained that “manufacturers do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products.”

"Family-Owned Spot Farms" makes it known that the chicken is raised in Kentucky

“Family-Owned Spot Farms” makes it known that the chicken is raised in Kentucky

Los Angeles residents Henry Alvarez and Lynn Thanarajakool say they’ll never feed a pet a jerky treat again, no matter where it’s manufactured, after their beloved Dachshund Kingsley died within days of eating a treat from a package labeled “Made in China.” “I only gave him one treat and it was Wednesday night and he started feeling sick by I would say noon the next day,” Alvarez recalled. The veterinarian ruled Kingsley’s cause of death as kidney failure which is a consistent symptom that the FDA associates with feeding pets chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats. 

The FDA is continuing to investigate all jerky treats and the causes of these illnesses and deaths. If you choose to continue to feed your dog jerky treats purchased in stores, the FDA warns:

  • Adhere to weight guidelines listed on the package: smaller dogs may be more vulnerable to health problems related to the treats
  • Monitor your pets for signs of sickness
  • Report any serious symptoms to the FDA and your vet 
  • If your pet gets sick, keep the packaging so the FDA can track the origin of the ingredients if your

For more information from the FDA on jerky treats, visit this website.

Homemade, organic, locally-grown, inexpensive, quick & easy... what more could you ask for?!

Homemade, organic, locally-grown, inexpensive, quick & easy… what more could you ask for?!

 We make homemade jerky treats for our dogs because it’s much less expensive, we can be sure where the ingredients are coming from and that they are healthy ones, and our dogs have given us clear and obvious signs that they prefer their treats homemade – can you say spoiled?! Zoey was given a treat at a friend’s house the other night that was made by a family company in Texas and kept putting it in her mouth, spitting it out, putting it in her mouth, spitting it out, and so on. She only ended up eating it because the other dogs wanted it and were trying to take it from her! She didn’t want the treat, but she wasn’t going to surrender her treat knowing that another dog would get to enjoy it – typical alpha dog behavior. 

I’m confident that I can make homemade jerky treats for less money than the store-bought kind and with less hassle than going out to the store, so why would I take the chance on the store-bought treats when we don’t know what’s causing these deaths? Have you or anyone you know experienced anything out of the ordinary with treats or dog food? And do you trust the store-bought brands?

For more of our healthy homemade treat recipes: