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The Evolution of Pet Food

Like the human diet, pet food has evolved through time. Recently, the industry has adapted to meet the needs of not just our furry friends, but of the humans that buy it. “This transformation of pet food,” stated an article published in the Atlantic that discussed the huminifaction of dog food, “reflects a broader trend, in which people go to ever-greater lengths to address the human needs they project onto their pets, almost as if the animals were their children.”

But why now? Some people theorize that with this generation of millenials waiting longer to have children, people are dedicating more time, money, and care into their furry children. We see this reflected in pet owner’s actions beyond just food — pet health insurance, for example, has increased in the last decade, and in recent years, the introduction of “pawternity” leave as a desirable employee benefit shows just how much people are considering their pets as true members of the family.

Plus, pet owners, now more than ever, are shopping for pet food in the same way that they shop for their own food. Quality ingredients, appealing packaging, transparent and ethical processing and manufacturing are all factors that play into how people are choosing the food they feed their pets. In fact, the amount of money Americans spend on pet food has nearly doubled from 2009 to 2017. And with the rise of meal-kit delivery services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh, pet food companies have begun to offer at-home delivery of freshly prepared dog food as well. Nom Nom Now, for example, offers complete meals for your four-legged friend delivered fresh with enticing names such as “porkalicious potluck” and “tasty turkey fare” with ground turkey, brown rice, carrots, spinach and fish oil. The Farmer’s Dog, another dog food delivery service, states on their website that “you shouldn’t be the only one eating healthy.” Made with human grade USDA ingredients, they say it’s food humans could eat.

According to the Pet Food Institute, in the 1400’s, people were advised to feed their dogs bran bread, some meat, and a mix of goat’s milk and bean broth or buttered eggs if the dog was sick. We find it fascinating to think about how pet care has evolved since then.

But is this trend of marketing dog food as appealing to humans making the actual food better for dogs? According to Merck Manual’s Veterinary nutritional guide, “Nutritional problems occur most commonly when dogs and cats are fed imbalanced homemade diets, when cats are fed diets formulated for dogs, or when dogs or cats are fed certain human foods.” We think this speaks to the importance of making sure your pet is receiving the proper balance of nutrients, proteins and caloric intake, regardless of whether your furry friend is eating dry food, canned food, homemade food, or high-end prepared food.

To read more about the history of pet food, click here.

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Everything You Need to Know About Crate Training Your Dog

Crate training a dog is sort of like sleep training a baby – it’s an entirely different experience depending on the baby or dog — and the parents! Here are our tried and true tips, whether you’re thinking about it for your puppy, or wondering if it’s the answer to some unwanted behavior with your furry friend, we think you’ll find something useful below….

Dogs feel safe in enclosed, den like areas, and it’s their natural instinct to seek out areas around the house that make them feel secure. It isn’t a weird habit of your furry friend to take a nap under the coffee table — it’s genetics! However, while many dogs gravitate towards enclosed areas, some dogs are a little more skeptical. Still, there are times when a crate is an excellent solution to solving a behavior problem. For example, dogs with separation anxiety may actually feel soothed being in an enclosed area. For puppies, crate training can be a great way to introduce routine and boundaries for your furry friend, and once puppies hit the curious and mischievous phase of puppyhood, a crate can be an excellent way to curb any house-related destruction. If you would like to crate train your furry canine, there are a few ways to get your dog accustomed to crate time:

  1. Make it cozy! The comfier the set up, the more enticing it will be for your four-legged friend. We recommend putting a nicely padded dog bed inside, a soft blanket, and a few of his favorite toys. Throwing a towel or throw over the top also makes the crate feel extra den-like.
  2. Give meals inside the crate. When first introducing the crate, placing the dog bowl in the crate will help Fido begin to associate the crate as his space.
  3. In the beginning, leave the crate door open and let your pup explore it freely.
  4. Start to use a command with the crate like “kennel” and always follow up with treats!
  5. Limit the time your puppy/dog spends in the crate to less than 3 hours.
  6. Stay away from negative associations by using the crate as a form of punishment or time out, i.e. “you were bad, go in your crate.” Once your dog has that negative association, they’ll avoid the crate all together (no one puts themselves in time out!).
  7. Lastly, make sure you include a good walk before your dog goes in the crate.

You may find that your furry friend will begin to use the crate as his den for napping or even as his place to sleep at night. It can become a positive, calming and secure place for your canine, and may even help him regulate anxiety. Plus, it prevents from accidents happening when you aren’t home. Just remember, every dog is different – some take more time to feel comfortable in a crate, but with the proper introducing and a little patience, you’ll find your pup using the crate as a comforting and safe space of their own.

Have you tried crate training your dog? Please feel free to share your tips in the comment section below!

 

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Are Cats Trainable After All?

People often think of cats as untrainable creatures with their own agendas. While dogs can be easily taught to sit with just a handful of treats and about fifteen minutes of repetition, a cat may not be as willing of a participant. But is it true that cats are simply not able to be trained? The answer may surprise you…

In trying to understand how cats operate, we often make inaccurate assumptions about the species. In fact, a recent study showed that cat owners often struggle to interpret and understand their own cat’s behavior, specifically around stress. Whereas dog body language appears fairly straight forward (a tucked tail, ears pinned back, and a growl can all send the clear signal that a dog is under distress), cats can be harder to decipher. A few months ago, we wrote about decoding a cat’s tail (include link), and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that a flick of the tail can be a subtle but important indication that your kitty is trying to communicate.

While the past few decades have shown advances in studies around canines, there hasn’t been as much emphasis on trying to understand the four-legged felines that so often behave in ways completely mysterious to us. More recently, there’s been an increased interest in feline behavior.

Many people believe that cats are not trainable simply because they are not as food motivated as dogs or eager to please. “But we have things that cats want, and that’s all that matters,” argues Melissa Chan, a behavior analyst at the Houston SPCA.

So how do you train a cat? Cats often thrive when tasked with “work” that involves problem-solving. Since they’re hunters, they greatly enjoy working for their food. Especially if it’s extra delicious food! Cat trainers recommend raising the stakes when trying to train your cat, and not attempting to do training session for any longer than five minutes.

To begin, figure out what peak’s your cat’s interest, whether it’s a little bit of tuna, some extra tasty canned food, or a game of toy mouse. Choose a simple task at first, like nose-to-hand-touch, which most cats learn quickly, and make sure to reward. So how is this different than training a dog? The key is to hold your cat’s attention long enough that your furry friend understands that a specific behavior results in a reward (that they’re actually happy about!). “The animal learns, when I do this, you’re happy, and I get a piece of food. I guess I should focus on making you happy,” says Chan. There’s an important piece to training a cat: once Shadow can successfully do the trick or command, reward and move on quickly. One last tip: attempt a short training session when your cat seems energetic or in the mood to engage. This way, the kitty doesn’t lose interest. Good luck!

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What to Do With All That Shedding

So, you have a pet, and your home is covered in a fur. Join the club! While it’s impossible to fully stop a pet from shedding (unless of course you have a hairless dog or cat), there are tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way that are helpful in keeping the fur balls under control. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years…

First, consider your dog or cat’s coat. Different brushes are designed for different types of fur – and it’s worth doing a little research. The right brush will eliminate tangles and mats, remove loose hair or fur, and – bonus for your furry friend — increase blood flow. A silicone brush that you massage into the fur works for very short-haired dogs, a rake brush works for dogs with thicker, longer coats, and a bristle brush works for dogs with medium length hair. For felines, if your short-haired cat tolerates it, a brush glove works best for removing excess fur. For longer haired pets, a greyhound style medium coarse comb is best for lifting the loose hairs and smoothing out the coat. Pro tip: if you start when they’re young, your kitty will grow to tolerate and even love grooming, the equivalent of a spa day for them.

Alternatively, hand the heavy lifting over to us at Pampered Pets! Grooming is considered to be the most effective way to not only keep your pet’s coat and skin healthy but to eliminate excessive shedding and unwanted odors. A great way to keep shedding at bay in between grooming appointments is to include a quick brushing a few times a week.

In addition, feeding your four-legged friend a high quality diet can have a positive impact on their fur, including their natural oil productions. For dogs, look for food that contains eggs, salmon, or liver, and for cats, look for food that includes a high-quality protein source as the first ingredient. You can also look for nutrients such as copper, vitamin A, Biotin, and Zinc, as these ingredients are known to improve skin health at the cellular level.

Lastly, when all else fails, we swear by a high power, cordless vacuum to remove the inevitable shedding in the apartment or house. Good luck!

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How Smart is Your Dog?

Last month, a study came out that dogs are not as smart as we think. While we have a bone to pick with the title of the article (pun intended!), we do think it makes a good point. “Dogs have a unique set of cognitive abilities,” states the article, “but they’re not inherently smarter than other animals.” Here’s our takeaway…

In the study, dogs were compared to other animals that check off the key characteristics of our furry friends, including domestication and pack mentality. The animals — wolves, cats, dolphins, chimpanzees, horses, and pigeons, were run through a series of tests that assessed their problem-solving abilities and social intelligence. The results? Dogs performed on similar levels as the other animals, and in some cases, worse.

One common assumption about our four-legged canines is that domestication has made them cognitively more attuned to humans and thus more intelligent. While it’s true that dogs are exceptionally equipped to work alongside humans and be excellent guides for the blind, for instance, it doesn’t mean they are actually smarter. The article goes on to argue that part of the reason we find dogs so smart is because of our love for them and thus our bias. They’re lovable, and so we enjoy making them the topic of research studies and we like to know that the animals in our homes are just as smart as we think they are. Of course, this has just as much to do with how we’re defining “smart” here. What does a smart dog look like? Does he have a large vocabulary and know the difference between “stick” and “ball”? Does he push harder on a door when it appears stuck? Can he guess which hand is holding the treat?

To us, it has less to do with intelligence and more to do with the remarkable ease in which dogs have acclimated to human life. How they just seem to know that couches are man’s greatest creation. How they can sense their owner is upset and most importantly, know exactly how to comfort us. How they are equally as happy to see us when we return from a trip or return from taking out the garbage. To us, that makes them the smartest animals alive!

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A Sweet Rescue Story from Hurricane Florence

We are saddened by the recent reports of damage caused by Hurricane Florence. It seems like only yesterday we were sharing ways to help pets impacted by Hurricane Harvey and we hate to have to have to write another post on the topic. A few days ago, a news story caught our eye, and we were touched so much that we thought you might be, too. Continue reading to learn more…

In the middle of the night on Wednesday, September 12th, as Hurricane Florence ravaged the Carolinas and extensive flooding forced many residents to evacuate, Tony Alsup was driving an empty school bus into the storm to retrieve cats and dogs left behind. The animals, according to The Saint Frances Animal Center in Georgetown, were “the dogs with blocky heads, the ones with heartworm.” In total, Tony’s rescue operation included 53 dogs and 11 cats, all of which piled into the bus and made it safely to a shelter in Foley, Alabama. Because of Tony’s big heart, these animals, deemed the “leftovers” are now safe and sound and up for adoption. As for Tony, his rescue mission has gone viral around the country as animal lovers salute the truck driver for his act of kindness. When asked if the bus full of animals was chaotic, he remarked, “They know I’m the alpha dog and I’m not here to hurt them!” Bravo, Tony, on behalf of the team at Pampered Pets, we love you!

Tony provided video updates during his trip to and from the Carolinas. You can see them all on his facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/tony.alsup.7

If you are looking for ways to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, click here or here.

Photo via Sheiley Mays/The Tennessean

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What Is Your Cat’s Tail Telling You?

Pop quiz: when a cat flicks his tail, he is feeling:

  1. A) Playful
  2. B) Agitated
  3. C) Hungry
  4. D) Depends on the situation

Cat owners are experts at decoding their furry friend’s body language. As for everyone else? We’re often left scratching our heads trying to figure out what the mysterious creatures mean when they crouch, or suddenly have a frenzy of energy, or walk by with their tails pointing straight up. While we could talk for hours on this topic, today we’re focusing all on the tail (and if you were wondering, the answer to the question above is D!).

Cats send many messages through their tail. Understanding what a certain position or movement in their tail means is key to understanding them – and once you’ve got it down, you’ll be surprised how communicative cats are, with just a subtle flick of their tail!

The basics:

-A tail that is pointing straight up with a slight curve on the end is an amicable position, and is often the position of a cat happily greeting his or her owner at the door. If you’re at a party and a cat approaches you in this manner, they’re saying hi!

-On the contrary, a tail that is pointing straight down or back without a curve is a cat feeling aggressive or agitated.

-A languid swinging motion is often a cat in a playful or focused mood. You’ll see this as cats hunt or focus on a bird outside the window.

-When a cat wraps its tail around its body they may be feeling nervous, submissive or unsure.

– A whipping tail or active wag is often a sign of an agitated or excited cat and generally means, “Do not touch!”

-A puffed, rigged tail is the sign of a fearful cat.

Of course, even with this information, all cats are unique and exhibit unique behavior when it comes to their tails. How does your kitty communicate with his or her tail? We’d love to hear in the comments!

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Is Your Pet Overweight?

Last month, the New York Times ran a piece about overweight pets. Many of our four-legged pals are marked overweight during routine check-ups at the vet. In fact, 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are considered over their BMI in the United States, with a total of over 100 million pets nationwide.

A week after reading this article, I was at the vet with my dog for her annual check-up and vaccinations. With this article on my mind, I asked the veterinarian if Juniper’s weight was healthy for her size. At 74 pounds, she is almost entirely muscle. Because of some vizsla in her blood, she can sprint with remarkable speed, climb trees, and jump off of high ledges. At age 5, her energy and agility keeps me on my toes. Even with a busy schedule, I aim to give her at least an hour of exercise a day. So I was surprised to hear the veterinarian say she was actually 5-7 pounds over her ideal weight. Despite providing her with an active lifestyle and healthy routine, there was one thing I was overlooking: how much I was feeding her. I hadn’t considered the fact that as a five-year old dog, she doesn’t need quite as much caloric intake as a highly energetic puppy. The vet instructed me to cut the amount of food I was giving her by 20% and watch for fatty treats (and table scraps!).

Pets that pack the extra pounds are at risk for a slew of health issues; diabetes is a common concern for cats, and arthritis for dogs, along with high blood pressure. So how do we keep our pets svelte and healthy? Ask your vet about your pet’s ideal daily calorie intake, instead of relying on the back of the food bag, which doesn’t account for lifestyle, breed, etc. Avoid free feeding and table scraps. Schedule in fun exercise for your pet, too – whatever it is that gets him or her excited to play, whether it’s chasing a ball or toy mouse, having a play date, or going for a long, vigorous walk. Lastly, I’m not sure if my vet would have addressed Juniper’s weight if I hadn’t asked, so you may have to initiate the conversation. Here’s to a year of healthy dogs and cats!