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August 11, 2015

What is REALLY in Our Dog’s Food (never ending!!) & Does Your Dog have Behavioral Issues?

Staying on Top of What’s in Our Pet’s Food

Ass’n for Truth in Pet Food
Our dogs’ basic health plays a huge part in their lives. What we choose to feed them is one of the most important factors.  Major issues include the fact that there are no laws guiding pet food ingredients.  The Association for Truth in Pet Food’  exists to better define the ingredients and chemicals used in the pet food we buy, and to create laws enforcing safe products.

The Association for Truth in Pet Food
‘The Association for Truth in Pet Food is the only organization that works to provide pet food consumers a voice within the pet food regulatory process and with pet food manufacturers themselves.  We encourage all pet food consumers to become members to support our efforts.

Voice for Consumers in the Regulatory Process
The Association has established advisory positions on two AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) Committees; the Pet Food Committee and the Ingredient Definitions Committee.  AAFCO develops model pet food regulations that become law in most states.  The positions within AAFCO provide consumers a voice as new regulations are being developed.  Previous to these positions being established, only industry representatives (via their trade associations) held advisory positions at AAFCO.  This effort took several years, but they are now there – a voice for the pet food consumer.

As well, the Association has been recognized by FDA authorities as a industry stakeholder group (consumers).  Previous to the organization of the Association for Truth in Pet Food, FDA ignored requests for meetings with consumer representatives.  Since their development in early 2013, they have been provided several phone conferences with FDA administration.

Ongoing Work towards Pet Food Transparency
The Association’s most significant effort is The Pledge to Quality and Origin.  This ongoing effort is providing pet food consumers with transparency unlike anything that has ever been achieved in pet food.   Briefly, they are asking pet food and pet treat manufacturers to provide the public with their Pledge to Quality and Origin of ingredients.

They represent our members when they are left without answers from their pet food company.  Two recent examples are…

A pet food retailer member recently reported a few of their clients dogs had gotten sick from a particular pet food.  Nothing serious (loose stool) but still concerning.  This store owner had no success in getting the pet food company to respond to questions.  The next day they received notice from another member retailer reporting several sick dogs (same symptoms) with the very same pet food.  They as well were not successful with getting a response from the pet food company.Contact was made by the Association on their behalf in which both store owners were provided with a complete explanation to the lack of contact and the issue with the pet food.  Both store owners felt confident this company took the proper action in protecting their clients.

  1. A pet food consumer member contacted the Association with a concern of a pet food’s shipping problem.  This consumer purchased the pet food directly from the manufacturer, the product is a soft food shipped in plastic containers.  During shipping, some of the pet food packages had become slightly damaged causing the seal on the containers to be broken.  Damaged seals on the moist pet food allowed bacteria to grow – swelling the containers.  Had this consumer not noticed the slightly swelled containers, her pet could have gotten very ill.  She addressed her concerns with this manufacturer and received little more than a form letter response. Contact was made by the Association on this consumers behalf.  The company agreed to including a warning on the label of each product to ‘Not Feed if container appears swollen’, however the company did not address the need for improved packaging and shipping containers.
  2. A pet food consumer member contacted the Association with a concern of a pet food’s shipping problem.  This consumer purchased the pet food directly from the manufacturer, the product is a soft food shipped in plastic containers.  During shipping, some of the pet food packages had become slightly damaged causing the seal on the containers to be broken.  Damaged seals on the moist pet food allowed bacteria to grow – swelling the containers.  Had this consumer not noticed the slightly swelled containers, her pet could have gotten very ill.  She addressed her concerns with this manufacturer and received little more than a form letter response.Contact was made by the Association on this consumers behalf.  The company agreed to including a warning on the label of each product to ‘Not Feed if container appears swollen’, however the company did not address the need for improved packaging and shipping containers.

They won the first battle, and a partial win with the second.’

 

Do You Have a Dog with Behavioral Issues? This Can Make a Huge Difference…

All companion and captive animals can benefit from environmental enrichment. Here are some simple suggestions to enhance your dog’s quality of life.

What is Environmental Enrichment?

Environmental enrichment for pets, also called behavioral enrichment, means enhancing an animal’s surroundings and lifestyle so that he is presented with novelty in his environment, opportunities to learn, and encouragement to engage in instinctive, species-specific behaviors.

Environmental enrichment is used to address many behavioral disorders in dogs, including “rowdiness,” cognitive dysfuntion system, storm and noise phobias, separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and behaviors resulting from boredom and/or frustration.

In addition to treating behavioral disorders, environmental enrichment should be viewed as an essential part of providing an excellent quality of life for all pets due to its proven positive effect on the health and well-being of animal companions.

Dog Toys

When you offer a new toy to your dog, you’ve probably noticed that while she’s very excited by it initially, she loses interest within a day or so (or within hours or even minutes, depending on the dog and the toy). That’s because dogs habituate to toys, meaning they get used to them. The new toy quickly becomes just another inanimate object in your dog’s environment.

You can work around the problem by rotating your pet’s toys. Provide your dog with a supply of different types of toys in varying shapes, sizes, textures, colors, and scents. A general guideline is to offer three toys per day. At the end of the day remove them, and reintroduce them about every five days so they remain “new” to your dog.

Exercise

Dogs need daily exercise to be optimally healthy and emotionally balanced, and this goes double for young pets and high-energy breeds. It’s important to understand that your dog – no matter how small – can’t get adequate exercise running around the backyard by himself.

In a perfect world, every dog would have opportunities to do some high-intensity endurance running on a regular basis to release endocannabinoids, which are the “happy hormones” responsible for the “runner’s high” in both humans and canines.

Most dogs don’t engage in intense exercise with their owners for a variety of reasons, but your dog really does need your help to get the most out of exercise and playtime. There are lots of activities you can enjoy with your pet, no matter your own level of physical fitness or limitations. Suggestions:

  • Take a walk or hike with your dog
  • Roller blade or jog with your dog
  • Play a game of tug-of-war
  • Take a bike ride alongside your dog, suing a special dog/bike leash
  • Take your dog for a swim and play fetch in the water
  • Play fetch the ball using a ball launcher to extend the distance your dog runs to retrieve and return the ball
  • Play hide-and-seek with treats or your dog’s favorite toys

Walking Your Dog

Another way to enhance your dog’s experience of her environment is to take her on a variety of different types of walks. For example:

    • There are short purposeful walks in which your pet will only be outside long enough to relieve herself.
    • There are mentally stimulating walks during which your dog is given time to stop, sniff, investigate, mark a spot, and discover the great outdoors with her nose and other senses.

Most leashed dogs don’t get to spend much time sniffing and investigating. Allowing your pet time to explore canine-style is good for him mentally. Dogs gather knowledge about the world through their noses.

  • There are training walks that can expand your dog’s skills and confidence. You can use them to improve his leash manners, teach basic or advanced obedience commands, or for ongoing socialization opportunities.
  • You might also want to consider power walks to improve your dog’s fitness level (and yours!).

Social Enrichment

If your canine companion does well at the dog park, visits there can provide opportunities for dog-to-dog interaction, exercise, and vigorous play.

If you have friends with dogs, arrange play dates. These can be excellent low-pressure social situations for dogs that need to hone their interaction skills without being overwhelmed by too many dogs, or an overly dominant dog.

Involve your dog in agility, obedience, nose work, tracking, flyball, canine freestyle, or another dog-centered event.

Additional Enrichment Strategies

      • Provide your dog with visual enrichment by giving her a view outside through a window (unless she’s reactive to external stimuli).
      • Provide auditory enrichment by leaving a television or radio on, playing music or outdoor sounds on a CD, and offering your dog toys that make noise.
      • Provide tactile enrichment by petting, massaging, and brushing your dog. Make sure to follow her cues for what type of touch she does and doesn’t like.
      • Appeal to your dog’s olfactory senses by placing her toys in the clothes hamper so they pick up the scent of her humans. Use essential oils that are safe for dogs. Hide treats around the house or in cardboard boxes.
      • Puzzle and treat release toys can help focus the attention of high-energy dogs, and keep dogs with storm phobia or separation anxiety occupied before and during anticipated stressful events.

It’s a good idea to stuff the toys with small amounts of healthy, species-appropriate treats, your dog loves so they’ll hold his interest. You can also try freezing the toys to keep your dog occupied for longer periods. And since you want to avoid weight gain in your pet (unless he’s underweight), be sure to account for the calories in the treats by adjusting the amount of food you offer at regular mealtimes.

 

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