Water-The Most Important Nutrient for Horses

by Nutrena Roy J.

Water is the most important nutrient that we provide for horses on a year around basis. Horses need 2 to 3 times more water than other feedstuffs. An 1100 lb horse on a dry forage diet at an average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit will need a minimum of 6-7 gallons of water per day or 48-56 lbs of water, and many horses will drink more water than the minimum. We all appreciate that the water requirement may double at high temperatures, but may not realize that at -4 degrees Fahrenheit; the quantity required is about 10-12 gallons per day, or actually higher than at moderate temperature. The onset of cold weather can actually increase the requirement for water because there is no fresh grass and the air is very dry.

There is a misconception that domestic horses can easily eat enough snow to survive. While horses in the wild do adapt to lower water intakes, partially because food intake is also frequently reduced, horses can survive longer without food than they can without water. Reduced water intake can also impair digestion and potentially contribute to the incidence of impaction colic.

It also requires a great deal of energy to eat snow, melt the snow in the body and raise the fluid temperature to normal body temperature of 99.5- 100.5. Increasing the temperature of 10 gallons of water from 32 degrees to 100 degrees takes about 1372 Calories or about the amount of digestible energy in a pound of feed. Melting the snow to get to water will take a great deal more energy and the horses will not readily eat a pile of snow the size of 20 five gallon buckets. It takes about 10 inches of snow to have one inch of water.

Providing horses with fresh clean water at an appropriate temperature all year around is a great management tool to reduce the risk of colic, maintain healthy digestion, maintain body condition and even save a bit of money on feed cost!

The Truth About the ‘Special Food Needs’ of Small Breeds

The Truth About the ‘Special Food Needs’ of Small Breeds

By Dr. Karen Becker comments by Diane Weinmann

Those of you with small dogs may have noticed that the pet food marketplace is exploding with diets created for the so-called “special needs” of small breeds. Clearly, the processed pet food industry has found another cash cow: dog food formulas marketed to owners of small breeds.

According to the PetfoodIndustry.com, “… as smaller dogs appealing to both millennial and baby boomer lifestyles increase in popularity, the pet food industry is taking note.”1

According to the article, millennials (now the largest demographic of pet owners) aren’t moving as quickly toward home ownership as previous generations, instead choosing to remain in apartments or condos as city dwellers. Baby boomers are becoming empty nesters, downsizing to smaller living spaces, and doing more traveling.

Neither of these lifestyles is conducive to owning a large dog (or so the theory goes), but since both groups still want to be pet parents, small dogs are the solution.

“Small dogs, which are more portable, more likely to meet apartment weight limits,” writes the author of the article, “and can in some cases even be trained to be completely indoor animals, with litter or puppy pads ensuring they don’t need to go down an elevator or several flights of stairs to find relief in the nearest patch of grass.”

As an important point of clarification, no dog should be a “completely indoor animal.” Walks outdoors, visits with friends and family with yards, adventures to the dog park, and other pet-friendly outings are essential in keeping dogs of all sizes and ages exercised, socialized, mentally stimulated, and grounded to the earth.

Big Pet Food Wants Us to Believe Small Dogs Need Special Diets Simply Because They’re Small

The processed pet food manufacturers would like to convince you that small dogs have unique health issues and nutritional requirements that only they can meet. This is a red flag for me, because processed pet food isn’t the answer for the health issues faced by small dogs (or any size dog), and it’s certainly not the answer to small dogs’ (or any dog’s) nutritional needs.

Processed pet food producers want to position small dogs as so different from “real” dogs that they need specialized diets. In fact, one “global director — nutrition and technical communications” for a pet food company goes so far as to say, “They’re not carnivores.” Actually, yes, they are. All dogs are.

Canines are scavenging carnivores, and need to be, in order to maintain health. Making dogs omnivores or vegetarians creates metabolic disease; however, it’s the stance the pet food industry must take to sell the biologically inappropriate products they produce.

If Big Pet Food’s pitch is successful, it opens up limitless opportunities to expand their product lines and develop marketing plans to sell diets specifically for small breed dogs. Now, these diets will be, for all intents and purposes, identical to diets for every other size dog — it’s really only the marketing, packaging and kibble size that will be different.

And you can bet there won’t be any independent (or even company-sponsored) pet food research substantiating the claim that toy and small breeds have a totally different set of nutritional requirements than other sized dogs. There also won’t be any long-term studies determining the safety or efficacy of feeding these fast-food diets for the lifetime of a pet.

From what I’ve been able to tell comparing formulas for small dogs and regular formulas, the differences are primarily in package sizes, product names and the way they’re marketed, and in some cases, kibble size.

Obviously, repackaging standard formulas and giving them cute names like “Wee Bits” and “Mighty Minis” does nothing to address the supposed “unique health issues and nutritional needs” of small dogs as advertised by pet food companies, but they don’t expect dog owners to connect the dots.

So that’s Big Pet Food’s play for the hearts and minds of small dog parents. Hopefully all of you reading here today won’t be fooled.

Your Dog’s Size Shouldn’t Dictate His Diet

In an ideal world, processed pet food manufacturers would put their significant resources toward getting the basics of canine (and feline) nutrition right and focus less on finding ways to re-engineer existing poor-quality formulas to expand their product lines.

Dry pet food with little or no high-quality animal protein and minimal moisture, but plenty of grains, carbs, starches, allergenic ingredients, non-nutritional fillers, synthetic amino acids, vitamins and minerals, additives and preservatives, is not species-appropriate nutrition for any dog, regardless of size. The fact is, when comparing a Great Dane to a Yorkie, they are all canine, specifically Canis lupus familiaris.

What is becoming apparent, through new canine DNA studies, is that a dog’s evolutionary lineage can play into expressed behavior traits and may dictate dietary preferences. For instance, dogs that evolved from northern parts of the world (Akitas, Huskies, Malamutes, etc.) may crave a diet higher in fish (or omega 3 fatty acids), which was a part of their evolutionary nutrition many moons ago.  Diane’s husky, Neko, loves all fish in his food.

In theory, customizing macronutrients and ingredients to a dog’s genetic lineage may prove to quite beneficial, but this isn’t what Big Pet Food is doing with their “breed specific” diets.

Sadly, humans have chosen to breed certain types of dogs down to sizes so small their organs often don’t function normally. And the AKC and other kennel clubs still condone (and paper) inbred animals. Since nature doesn’t design dogs to be that small, health problems are to be expected, including congenital organ problems which may require owners to feed a lower protein diet.

But assuming all small breeds require low protein diets is misguided. Certainly size, energy output and health problems are a consideration when determining any animal’s nutritional requirements, but a dog is still a dog — a carnivorous canine.

Those of you who have been readers for years know how I feel about this topic: unless breeders complete every possible genetic test for both parents and intentionally breed for “reparative conformation” (so the next litter may carry fewer genetic predispositions), they shouldn’t be breeding, and smaller isn’t better.

That being said, there are some small dogs who are born with poorly functioning livers or kidneys and must be on customized diets their whole lives: this is a result of bad breeding, not an evolutionary adaptation from being small.

Tips for Feeding Small Dogs

It’s very easy to overfeed and under-exercise any dog, and especially a small one, so it’s important to start out on the right foot and stay there.

Currently, AAFCO doesn’t link feeding instructions on dog food packaging to a dog’s energy requirements, so according to the bag or can, a super active 10-pound dog and a super lazy 10-pound dog should eat the same amount. Common sense says this can’t be true.

  1. Ignore pet food advertisements that suggest healthy small dogs need special diets.
  2. Calculate how much food your dog needs each day, then scale that amount up or down, depending on activity level.
  3. Feed an optimally balanced, species-appropriate, fresh food diet to your little one. Regardless of her size, your dog needs the right nutrition for her species, which means real food that is made from healthful ingredients (not feed-grade, rendered, slaughter house waste), high in human-grade animal protein and moisture, with low or no grain content or starches/carbohydrates.
  4. Practice portion control — typically a morning and evening meal, carefully measured. A high protein, low carb diet with the right number of calories, controlled through the portions you feed, will help your small dog remain at a healthy weight. And don’t forget to factor in any calories from treats.
  5. Use small training treats — Tiny dogs need only tiny training treats. Otherwise, you’ll have a not-so-tiny dog in no time. Anything more than, say, a treat the size of a quarter of a pea, is too big. You can buy or make treats to break into very small pieces; you can also use your dog’s regular food as treats.
  6. Regularly exercise your dog — Daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes of consistent aerobic activity, will help your pet burn fat and increase muscle tone.
  7. Evaluate your dog monthly — If she is losing weight, adjust calories. If she is gaining weight, adjust calories.
  8. Small and toy breeds are prone to dental disease because 42 teeth in one tiny mouth leads to crowding, and crowded teeth get dirtier faster. A raw diet and recreational raw bones or nontoxic dental chews will help keep plaque and tartar under control, but small breeds also need to have their teeth brushed daily, as well as routine veterinary dental exams.

The key to keeping your small dog healthy has nothing to do with offering “wee” or “mini” sizes of biologically inappropriate pet food. Help your little one stay at a healthy weight and nutritionally fit with a high animal protein, moisture rich diet fed in controlled portions, and augmented with plenty of physical activity.

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The 10 Funniest Questions Pet Nutritionists Have Been Asked


Animal nutritionists and experts know that their clients love their pets, and sometimes, they can ask some interesting questions. Needless to say, if you’ve ever felt silly asking something about your dog or cat, don’t — you’re certainly not alone!


We asked dozens of pet professionals from around the world the funniest question they’ve ever been asked, and the results are definitely entertaining. One thing we have to add, though: you should never feel strange asking your vet or pet nutritionist your questions because chances are, they’ve heard it all!


Don’t have a pet nutritionist yet? That’s okay! Check out How To Find The Right Pet Nutritionist For You & Your Pet to find the perfect match and have all your burning questions answered.



1. “Is it okay for my dog to eat cat food?”


Lynes Downing of Pet Sitting Professionals in Novato, California said he’s heard this question before. The short answer is, if Fido sneaks a few bites of your feline’s food, it’s probably fine; however, cat food will not provide a balanced diet for dogs, and should never be given as a meal.



2. “Can I eat this dog food?”


“We sell a dry food that it is made fresh monthly, a customer asked if they could eat it themselves,” says Carlos Deleon of Pet Wants San Antonio North in San Antonio, Texas. “I said, ‘There’s nothing bad in the food, all good, high-quality ingredients, so it should be fine … she proceeded to eat it. She said, ‘it tastes good!’ I was crying!”


How’s that for some human-grade kibble?



3. “Can my dog eat the same meals that I do?”


There are some healthy human foods that can add nutrition to a dog or cat’s diet, but the nutritional needs of pets are not the same as humans. “It still boggles my mind that some people believe that their pets can eat the same meals that their owners eat,” says Concetta Ferragamo of King’s Cages International, LLC in East Brunswick, New Jersey. She continues, “and, they seem to usually be a poor choice of meals, such as hotdogs or beans and rice (with nothing else) … Yikes!”



4. “Can I neuter my female puppy instead of spay her?”


“One time a client asked us if she could neuter her puppy instead of spay her since it was much cheaper,” recalls Kyle Goguen of Pawstruck.com.


Neutering is for males and spaying is for females, so needless to say, that would be impossible.



5. “Can my pet be vegan?”


Lisa Bliss of Fluffy Mustaches Pet Grooming in Mustang, Oklahoma was once asked by a client, “Can my dog live on strawberries? I think I want him to be vegan.”


It’s not natural for pets to live without meat, especially cats, who are obligate carnivores. That means they’ll eventually die without meat in their diets. This is because meat provides more than protein; it’s full of other essential nutrients, too.



6. “Is bread nutritional?”


This question was asked to Richard Nowak of Avian Sanctuary and Protection in Utah.

A bite of bread won’t hurt your pet, but it’s not very nutritional (and all those carbs can back on the pounds), so they should only enjoy small bits, if any at all.



7. “What’s a bully stick made of?”


According to Diana Farrar of Fifi & Fidos Pet Boutique & Holistic Nutrition Center in San Antonio, Texas, the funniest part about this question is the answer.


Farrar remembers a hilarious exchange with customers that went something like this:


“What’s that?”

“A bully stick.

“What’s it made of?”

“A bull penis!”



8. “What food would help calm my dog?”


Margaret and Steve Gelinas of Market Pet Shop recalls hearing this question from a customer. In actuality, diet can sometimes help with hyperactivity in pets. However, most naughty or anxious behaviors must be addressed through training.



9. “Why should your animal be fed human-grade food?”


George Craft of GGC Healthy Paws in Willingboro, New Jersey has heard this question before. Pets should be fed humane-grade food because it’s the safest, most nutritious way to maintain a healthy diet. Also, they’re family!



10. “My dog likes to eat cat poop. Should I feed it to him every day?”


A client asked this to Chris White of The Urban Zoo in Hamilton, Ontario … and his answer was likely a resounding “no!”


Eating cat poop is a common habit of dogs who live with felines, however indulging in this “snack” should definitely be discouraged.



We hope you found these questions entertaining, and more importantly, we hope you don’t feel silly asking your own questions after reading them!

The next article in our pet nutrition series is called 7 Healthy Dog & Cat Homemade Treats Recommended By Vet and Pet Nutritionists, containing ideas from experts around the world. If you’ve ever wondered about the healthiest snacks to feed your dog or cat, stay tuned for lots of amazing ideas!


Written by:
Suzie Cyrenne


Suzie Cyrenne co-founded HomeoAnimal over five years ago, and has worked in naturopathic pet medicine for more than six. Day-to-day, she works as the lead manager for the homeoanimal staff and specializes in training the team to have thorough knowledge of pet health and the company’s extensive line of naturopathic remedies.

Although Suzie has gained a lot of experience from years spent in the pet health field, she is studying at the School of Classical Homeopathy in Quebec, Canada, (a partner of the European Academy of Natural Medicine (AEMN) in France), in order to earn her degree.

Feel free to contact me anytime at support@homeonanimal.com






Pet-Safe Indoor Plants

Pet-Safe Indoor Plants

By Dr. Karen Becker

If you’re like a lot of pet parents, you’d love to fill your home with greenery, but are unsure which indoor plants are safe for dogs and cats. Whereas some pets are utterly uninterested in sampling houseplants, others — especially cats — can’t resist a nibble or even a mouthful, so your concern is warranted.

Actually, if you have cats that like to sample your houseplants, I recommend providing them roughage that is more palatable and safer than houseplants. You can do this in the form of cat grass, which is wheatgrass, or by offering fresh sunflower sprouts.

In addition to adding beauty and color to your home, plants improve the air quality as well by removing toxins like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene from the air you and your family (including pets) breathe. These toxic compounds are released into the air each time you use chemical-based products inside your home.

Plants also increase the level of health-inducing oxygen in homes by absorbing the carbon dioxide exhaled into the air by both humans and pets and replacing it with oxygen.

“Oxygen is critical for good brain and muscle function,” veterinarian Dr. Cathy Alinovi tells PetMD. “Therefore, stagnant air can lead to tiredness and brain dizziness, and can even affect heart function. The good news is, safe indoor plants help clean the air and increase oxygen concentration while decreasing waste products.”1

The following is a list provided by PetMD of a few plants that are safe for cats and dogs:2

Perennials Herbs Succulents Palms Ferns
African Violet Basil Blue Echeveria Areca Palm Boston Fern
Aluminum Plant Cilantro Christmas Cactus Dwarf Palm
Bamboo Dill Haworthia
Friendship Plant Lemon Balm Hens and Chicks
Spider Ivy Rosemary
Swedish Ivy Sage

For an extremely comprehensive list of both safe and unsafe plants, visit the ASPCA’s “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Dogs” and “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Cats.” The lists are in alphabetical order, and each entry links to a picture of the plant.


Is Your Guinea Pig’s Diet Providing the Right Nutrients?

By Dr. Sandra Mitchell


Feeding your pets seems like such a simple process: buy a bag of food and feed it to your pet, right? But in reality, it is a lot more complicated than that.


Guinea pigs have some very specific dietary needs, and these may differ from their dietary “wants.” Add this to the fact that some guinea pig foods favor taste appeal over good nutrition, which makes it difficult for pet parents to know if their pets are getting the nutrition they need to thrive.


All of that being said, feeding a guinea pig doesn’t have to be hard; however, it isn’t quite as easy as picking up a bag of guinea pig food and pouring some into the bowl, either.


Let’s take some of the mystery out of making sure your companion is getting everything necessary for good health!


The “Natural” Guinea Pig Diet


Understanding what guinea pigs used to eat in the wild is the cornerstone of figuring out what their diet should be today.


Guinea pigs are designed to be herbivores, which means their biology has been adapted over the years to strictly digest plant materials and fibers. As natives of the Andes of South America, wild guinea pigs ate primarily forage—grasses and plant materials that are low in nutrition and high in fiber. 


When we domesticated the guinea pig, we also adjusted their diet to include nutrient-rich foods, such as yogurt drops, dried nuts and fruits, commercial guinea pig pellets and sweet and sugary treats.


Their bodies have not adapted quickly to these changes in diet, so the foods we often offer them—although well-loved by the guinea pig with a sweet tooth—are likely to cause disease.


Additionally, guinea pig teeth continue to grow throughout their lives, and if they are not properly worn, it can cause massive (and even fatal) health problems.


What Should a Guinea Pig Eat?


In reality, guinea pig diets are pretty simple. In fact, if I had to pick one item for a guinea pig to eat, it would be hay—lots and lots of hay!


Did you know that hay comes in different flavors and varieties? And, each of these different types of hay has a different nutrient profile. By balancing out differing types of hay, it is possible to create a balanced diet for a guinea pig as well as provide some interesting variety of tastes.


A few types of hay that you can offer to your guinea pig include timothy (e.g., Oxbow western timothy hay), orchard grass (e.g., Oxbow western timothy and orchard hay or Oxbow orchard grass hay), barley hay, bromegrass, bluegrass, oats (e.g., Oxbow oat hay), wheat and fescue. In general, the only hay I routinely recommend avoiding for most animals is alfalfa. It is quite high in calcium and can cause stones in some animals.


It is quite possible for guinea pigs to eat a well-balanced and complete diet alone through a variety of hays. Hay also has the additional advantage of being a food that the guinea pig intestinal tract is designed to process—and it even helps keep the teeth worn down in a proper fashion.


If you purchase a sun-dried hay, there is the added benefit that it may contain more vitamin D as well.


Fresh Vegetables in a Guinea Pig’s Diet


Guinea pigs benefit tremendously from fresh vegetables. Notice I’m not saying fresh fruit, which is high in sugar, and we already know that most pigs have a sweet tooth.


I recommend about a cup of vegetables per guinea pig per day. If you haven’t been feeding any, you might need to start slowly and work up because we certainly don’t want to cause an upset tummy with a diet change—but a cup a day is a good goal.


You can also use vegetables to provide vitamin C and other nutrients that are not found in high amounts in hay to help round out your guinea pig’s diet while also continuing to help grind those teeth down.


Some of the best vegetables for guinea pigs include green or red peppers, parsley, romaine lettuce (not iceberg, which is not very nutrient-rich), cantaloupe, dandelion greens, corn husks and silk, cilantro and carrots. Be creative and try different varieties to see what your pig likes the best! But with nutrition, the more variety, the merrier.


Just make sure to discuss the introduction of new foods and portions sizes with your veterinarian beforehand.


Vitamin C Is an Essential Part of a Guinea Pig’s Diet


Guinea pigs have a unique metabolism that does not allow them to create their own vitamin C; they rely on what they eat to provide them enough this essential vitamin—which is about 10-30 mg/kg/day.


There are a number of vitamin C supplements on the market, but I prefer to supplement it the natural way—through their diet. Some fresh veggies that are rich in vitamin C include beet greens, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, swiss chard, dill and parsley—just to name a few.


If you do feel the need to add supplements to your guinea pig’s diet, it is best to talk to your veterinarian to find the best option for your guinea pig.


I don’t recommend adding the vitamin C to their water because some pigs do not like the taste and will avoid drinking it, which causes them to become dehydrated. Offering some vitamin C drops or children’s tablets may be the best alternative in that instance, but you should talk to your veterinarian to find the best option and dosage for your guinea pig.


Don’t Forget About Fresh Water


Guinea pigs need lots and lots of fresh water. Some will drink best from a sipper bottle—like the Kaytee chew-proof small animal water bottle—while others simply plug up the sipper with hay and do better from a bowl—like the Ethical Pet stoneware crock cat dish. No matter the vessel you choose, fresh water should be readily available 24 hours a day.


Commercial Guinea Pig Pellet Food


In reality, guinea pig pellets are not a necessary or required part of their regular diet. In fact, guinea pigs that overeat pellets can develop obesity as well as dental disease, so the amounts should be restricted.


Additionally, guinea pig pellets are often made from alfalfa, which is often too high in calcium and may cause bladder stones.


If you choose to feed your guinea pig pellets, limiting the amount to 1 tablespoon per day might help to round out the diet without causing harm. You will want a timothy-based pellet with no added fruits or nuts that is formulated with a stabilized vitamin C. However, pellet food is not needed if you are careful to round out the remainder of the diet.


Guinea pigs do best on a wide variety of foods, including multiple types of grass hays, several different vegetables (preferably that contain vitamin C) and lots of fresh water. So, head out to the grocery store and see what special vegetable treat your piggy can enjoy for dinner tonight!


Grow Fresh Air With Plants That Are Safe for Cats and Dogs

By Carly Sutherland

Plants that are safe for cats and dogs are great for decorating, but they can provide the benefit of fresh air for pets and pet parents alike.


Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM, author and pet health expert, explains it like this, “These days, many houses are built for energy efficiency. This can mean fewer fresh air opportunities for people or their pets. For those who can open their windows wide, city living/pollution might make it such that the better air is on the inside.”


She goes on to say, “Stale air can adversely affect health. Stale air has higher levels of carbon dioxide, possibly carbon monoxide and other waste gases. Higher wastes mean less oxygen availability.”


Houseplants cleanse the air we breath from toxins found in many household products—formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide, just to name a few. These toxins are found in household cleaners, paint, solvents, vinyl, cigarettes—the list goes on. Plants play a vital role in improving indoor air quality and helping to remove trace levels of toxic vapors from the air.


Indoor, Pet-Friendly Plants Release Oxygen


One standout benefit is more oxygen. You may be wondering why more oxygen in the home is ideal. When we breathe, we inhale oxygen, and when we exhale, we are releasing carbon dioxide.


During photosynthesis, plants essentially do just the opposite. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which creates a healthy and symbiotic relationship between plants and animals (both human and nonhuman). Plants undoubtedly increase oxygen levels, and our bodies—as well as our pets’ bodies—certainly appreciate it!


Dr. Alinovi goes on to explain, “Oxygen is critical for good brain and muscle function. Therefore, stagnant air can lead to tiredness and brain dizziness, and can even affect heart function. The good news is, safe indoor plants help clean the air and increase oxygen concentration while decreasing waste products.”


As Dr. Alinovi explains, plants make great natural air purifiers!


Houseplants Can Raise the Humidity Level


According to a study conducted by Virginia Lohr of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University, increased oxygen in the home isn’t the only benefit plants provide for both pets and owners. They also raise the air’s humidity by releasing water in the form of moisture vapor. This means softer skin, less dandruff on your furry family members, and clean and healthy airways for both you and your pets.


In a natural environment, a plant’s roots tap the groundwater table, and through a process known as transpiration, the water evaporates through its leaves. Evidently, the same thing happens in our home—of course with a different water supply.


Choose Plants That Are Safe for Cats and Dogs

Dr. David Dorman, DVM and professor of Toxicology at North Carolina State University of Veterinary Medicine, explains the importance of researching safe plants for dogs and safe plants for cats.


“Exposure of dogs and cats to household plants occurs commonly, especially with younger animals that tend to be very inquisitive. Some plants are extremely toxic to our pets. For example, cats ingesting small amounts of Easter lily leaves can develop life-threatening kidney failure. This is just one of many examples,” he says.


Dr. Dorman goes on to explain, “It’s important to remember that your pet cannot distinguish between safe-to-eat plants and those that are dangerous. The key to preventing poisonings in your pets is to prevent exposure.” Thus, don’t bring poisonous plants into the home with cats and dogs, period.


“Some plants can cause vomiting without actually being poisonous. Poinsettia and spider plants are an example [of this]. On the other hand, many lily species are poisonous, can cause kidney failure and should not be used in the home with pets,” says Dr. Alinovi. She suggests trying succulents and herbs in the home.


If you’re concerned that you pet has ingested a poisonous plant, or they’re showing symptoms of poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately. The ASPCA and Pet Poison Helpline have valuable information regarding safe, non-poisonous plants for use around pets.


Here a few examples of plants that are safe for cats and dogs:



  • Boston Fern


  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Lemon Balm
  • Rosemary
  • Sage


  • African Violet
  • Aluminum Plant (aka Watermelon plant)
  • Bamboo
  • Friendship Plant
  • Spider Ivy (aka Spider Plant)
  • Swedish Ivy


  • Blue Echeveria (aka Wax Rosette, Painted Lady)
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Haworthia
  • Hens and Chickens


  • Areca Palm
  • Dwarf Palm (aka Good Luck Palm)


Consider Edible Grasses

The benefits of pet-friendly plants in the home will only work if they aren’t eaten or chewed-on, Dr. Alinovi explains. “The downside of trying to grow cat mint or edible grasses is they both taste great, and the challenge will be to keep pets from eating the plants. (If the plants are eaten, they will have difficulty cleaning the air.),” she says.


Having cat-safe houseplants and plants that are safe for dogs doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be nibbled on from time to time. This is where adding pet grass, such as The Cat Ladies organic pet grass kit with planter, comes in handy!


Dr. Dorman explains why some cats enjoy nibbling on indoor plants. “Some cats enjoy chewing on these types of grass materials. Other cats may occasionally develop vomiting even from this ingestion. Most high-quality cat food based diets are complete, meaning they provide all of the nutrients your cat needs—so supplementing their diet with plant materials is not required,” he says.


If your dog or cat enjoys a pet grass to munch on and doesn’t get stomach upset, then pet grass kits, like Pet Greens self-grow garden pet grass, might be the solution to keeping a happy pet.


Do your research on plants that are safe for cats and dogs, and add functional décor to you and your pets’ most treasured spaces for a healthier and happier home!




When to Worry if Your Pet Refuses to Eat

By Dr. Karen Becker


Generally speaking, healthy dogs and cats love mealtime. That’s why a change in appetite — especially a decreased interest in eating — is something pet parents and veterinarians must closely monitor. Cats, in particular, can’t go long without eating due to the risk of feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. There are actually three different forms your pet’s lack of appetite can take:1

  • Anorexia is a complete lack of food intake. There is no such thing as partial anorexia.
  • Hyporexia is a reduction in food intake, regardless of the reason or cause.
  • Dysrexia is distortion of normal appetite or eating patterns, for example, a dog who refuses to eat his regular diet but will eat cooked chicken and rice.

While it’s beneficial to keep these terms in mind, what’s most important when a pet’s appetite suddenly decreases or disappears is finding the root cause.

8 Potential Causes of Lack of Appetite in Dogs and Cats

In the vast majority of cases, when a pet loses interest in eating, it’s a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Some potential triggers include:

  1. Pain — A painful condition anywhere in the body, and especially in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, can cause your dog or cat to eat less or refuse to eat.
  2. Nausea — While relatively uncommon in dogs and cats, nausea can certainly put your pet off her food. Unless there’s an underlying illness, nausea most often accompanies car travel.
  3. Illness — A pet who feels sick will often show little or no interest in eating. Sometimes it’s just a passing GI disturbance; other times it’s much more serious, such as liver or kidney disease, or cancer.
  4. Obtundation — This describes a lack of alertness more pronounced than lethargy, and is usually the result of an underlying medical condition such as hypercalcemia, or trauma.
  5. Dental or gum disease — Sometimes a problem in your pet’s mouth can make eating unbearably uncomfortable. This can be a broken or loose tooth, severe gum disease, an oral tumor or a condition such as feline stomatitis.
  6. Recent vaccination — Loss of appetite can be an immediate adverse effect of vaccination.
  7. Stress — If your pet is feeling stressed for some reason, he may turn away from his food bowl. For example, some dogs don’t have much appetite when they’re in an unfamiliar place, or when their favorite human is away from home. Your cat may refuse to eat if her food bowl is in a high traffic area or there are other pets around at mealtime.
  8. Food aversion or “pickiness” — Food aversion can occur if you make a sudden change to your pet’s diet. It’s almost never a good idea to do this quickly because it often causes diarrhea. If you want or need to change the diet you’re feeding your pet, do it gradually by mixing the new food in with the old food in a slow transition.

Some pets, especially kitties, refuse to eat certain foods for reasons that may or may not make sense. And some animals are simply notoriously picky eaters who often require special menus or lots of coaxing.

Loss of Appetite Always Requires a Veterinary Visit

If your dog or cat refuses to eat for longer than a day, especially if there are other symptoms, or if there’s a sudden noticeable reduction in her food intake, it’s important to see your veterinarian right away. If the decrease is gradual, it’s just as important to get her checked out, but it’s not as urgent a situation as a sudden, dramatic change.

It’s crucially important that your veterinarian searches thoroughly for the underlying cause of your pet’s loss of interest in eating, because there almost always is one, and her appetite isn’t likely to improve if the problem isn’t identified and addressed.

It’s also important to know that appetite stimulants (which were originally designed as antidepressants) prescribed by your veterinarian can be useful in the short-term, but they don’t address the underlying problem of inappetence. In other words, they may for a time successfully treat the symptom (refusal to eat), but not the cause.

When it comes to treating a pet who won’t eat, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Your veterinarian must do a thorough physical exam and diagnostic workup, and investigate metabolic changes such as hypertension, blood potassium levels, anemia or vomiting. He or she should also consider any medications or supplements your pet is taking to rule those out as a cause.

You’ll also want to fill your vet in on any changes that have occurred in your household or daily routine that might be causing stress for your pet. The cause of your dog’s or cat’s disinterest in eating will determine an appropriate treatment approach. If there’s an underlying disorder that can be successfully treated or managed, your pet’s appetite should pick up as the condition resolves.

Sometimes, In appetence Disappears With a Change to a Better Diet

Needless to say, the diet you feed your pet can play a big role in both maintaining his interest in food and for his health and overall vitality. As always, I recommend a nutritionally balanced, diverse, species-appropriate fresh food diet.

Over the years, I’ve known many dogs and cats on processed diets who were considered fussy eaters, or who spent as much time playing with their food as eating it. When their owners gradually transitioned them from a kibble or feed-grade canned diet to raw or gently cooked fresh food, the weird eating habits disappeared.

One client of mine adopted a tiny dog who came home with a bag of the same dry food he’d been eating at the shelter. She knew to continue the diet until he was settled in to avoid tummy troubles, but she wasn’t prepared for his odd eating behavior.

At mealtime, the little guy approached the bowl of kibble slowly and pushed it around on the floor with his nose. Eventually he’d pick a piece of food out of the bowl and drop it on the floor. Sometimes he ate it, sometimes he didn’t before pushing the bowl around some more. He seemed anxious about the whole experience.

Since he was tiny to begin with and slightly underweight, she was concerned he wasn’t getting enough calories. She noticed he seemed quite interested in her cat’s canned food, so she went out and bought a couple cans of high-quality dog food and mixed it with the kibble.

He immediately gobbled up the moist food and left the kibble in the bowl. He did have loose stools for a few days from the sudden change in diet, but since he was eating like a champ, she just kept a careful eye on him until his poop was firm again. From there, she did a gradual transition to a nutritionally balanced, commercial raw diet. He’s been a chowhound ever since, with no sign of his initial odd eating behaviors.

If your cat or dog gets a clean bill of health from your veterinarian but still isn’t eating well, review the diet you’re offering and see where it falls on my latest ranking of best-to-worst pet foods. Make upgrades as you’re able to, and see if your pet’s appetite improves.



1 in 3 Household Pets are Overweight

1 in 3 Household Pets are Overweight



By Aly Semigran  comments by Diane Weinmann   


Over the past decade, there’s been a steady climb in the number of obese domestic cats and dogs, according to an eye-opening report released by Banfield Pet Hospital. 


The State of Pet Health report breaks down the obesity epidemic with shocking numbers, including a 169 percent rise in overweight cats and a 158 percent rise in overweight dogs since 2007. 


The report found that 1 in every 3 household pets is overweight, stemming from both overfeeding and a lack of exercise. 


“Obesity is so common that many people underestimate their pet’s body condition, preventing them from taking action to manage their pet’s weight,” the report stated. (The Banfield report was conducted by its BARK Research Team, which analyzed data on over 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats from Banfield’s 975 veterinary hospitals.) 


Though some pet breeds are more prone to obesity, Banfield breaks down how to determine if your pet is at risk (by calculating their body condition score), and also offers diet and exercise tips. Maintaining your pet’s weight is important, considering excess pounds can lead to conditions like arthritis and diabetes.


The report also points out that pet parents take a hit financially when their pet is obese, estimating that overweight dogs can cost their owners over $2,000 more a year in medical costs. 


While these guidelines can help educate pet parents on how to prevent their cat or dog from becoming a statistic, it’s always wise to consult with your veterinarian first to determine the best plan for your pet. 

Being certified in canine nutrition, most pets can benefit from veggies and fruits in their food bowl.  My husky is tricky – he will only eat his bigger veggies with dip (guess where he learned that from? … my son!) so we chop the broccoli, carrots and cauliflower until it’s almost ground up then mix it with his regular food.  We also do that with melon and berries, although once in a while, he will eat a whole blue berry.  Be sneaky and your pet will benefit!


Common Uses of Lemon Balm on Dogs and Horses

Common Uses of Lemon Balm on Dogs

Lemon balm contains, amongst other things, volatile oils, tannins, and flavonoids. These elements give the herb a number of therapeutic effects, including calming and relaxing, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, muscle-relaxing and pain-relieving effects.

In dogs, lemon balm can be used for numerous health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and digestive problems, especially gas.

In older dogs, lemon balm can be used to address sleep disorders and reduce agitation and anxiety caused by canine cognitive dysfunction.

Topically, it is also an effective disinfectant for minor cuts and wounds, as well as an effective muscle-relaxant for sores and pains.

On horses, lemon balm’s anti-spasmodic effects on muscle pains and stomach issues is [perfect for stress related situations or environments, like stall rest. Lemon balm can also help horses with metobolic issues by reducing the production of thyroid hormones and ease the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

How to Use Lemon Balm on Dogs

There are quite a few ways that our dogs can reap the lemon balm benefits. The herb can be used orally or topically depending on what your dog needs. For example:

For Oral Use

To make a lemon balm tea that is strong enough therapeutically, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped fresh leaves (or 2 tablespoons dried herb per cup of water). As this herb is non-toxic and extremely safe, you don’t have to worry about exact dosages or measurements too much.

Cover the brewing tea and let stand until it cools to room temperature.

To give the tea to your dog, either add it to his food or water, or both! Add up to 1 tablespoon of the tea per 20 pounds of body weight twice or three times daily. If you are trying to treat a specific health condition, such
 as gas or anxiety, double that amount.

For Topical Use

Freshly brewed lemon balm tea can also be used topically as a disinfecting rinse for minor cuts and other wounds. To make the rinse even more effective, add 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt to each cup of tea and stir to dissolve. Simply pour the tea over the wound (be sure that the tea is not hot).

To use lemon balm tea as a cold compress (good for acute injuries), soak a clean wash cloth in the cold
 tea, apply, and hold the compress in place for several minutes. To keep the area cold, soak the compress again and reapply.

As mentioned above, lemon balm has muscle-relaxing and antispasmodic properties. Therefore, it can be used to help ease some aches and pains in dogs caused by chronic conditions like arthritis, hip or elbow dysplasia, or old sports injuries. To this end, make a hot compress using lemon balm tea. The tea should be reasonably hot (but not scalding hot). Soak a wash cloth in the tea, wring just enough to stop dripping, then apply to the affected area and hold it in place for several minutes. Soak the compress again and reapply as needed to keep the area warm for 10 to 15 minutes.

Herbal Honey

Since lemon balm is anti-viral and anti-bacterial, it is a good herb to use to make herbal honey, which can be used topically to dress wounds and treat skin infections, and orally to prevent bacterial or viral infections, help with indigestion, and generally boost the immune system. See this page for instructions to make herbal honey.

Safety of Lemon Balm

As mentioned above, lemon balm is an extremely safe herb, and the only contraindication is, in large amounts, it may interfere with the body’s assimilation of iodine, and may therefore affect the thyroid. However, the amounts of lemon balm used for dogs are not high enough to cause hypothyroidism in dogs.

How to Use Lemon Balm on Horses

Horses can eat the fresh or dried leaves or you can make a tea from the leaves  or a tincture and pour it right on their grain or hay. 




Do Horses Need Hay Around the Clock?

Do Horses Need Hay Around the Clock?

By Clair Thunes, PhD

Q. I have heard that horses need hay kept in front them all the times, but also that they don’t need 24-hour access to hay. I feed my 20-year-old horse 8 ounces of protein feed in the morning with two to three flakes of hay, and then turn him out on the pasture in afternoon until it gets dark. Now that it’s dark at 5: 30 p.m., I bring him in but don’t give him any hay for the night. Am I feeding him enough?

A. Accurately evaluating if you’re currently feeding the right amount of hay is challenging because I don’t have all the information I need about your horse and what you’re currently feeding. There are really two ways to look at your question:

1.      The first is are you feeding enough to meet your horse’s nutritional requirements; and

2.      Are you feeding enough to maintain gut health?

I will try to address both using some general considerations and hope you’ll find it helpful.

You’re correct that some owners/barns keep forage in front of their horses 24 hours a day while others meal feed. If you think back to where horses come from, they evolved in an environment where they could eat around the clock. Because available forage was low in nutritional value, they had to eat a lot of it, and their digestive tracts evolved accordingly. As a result, their digestive tracts are set up to receive small amounts of food almost constantly and always secrete stomach acid; most of their digestive tract volume is dedicated to forage fermentation.

Traditionally, our domesticated horses were fed in the morning before they went to work. They might receive a meal during the day in a nose bag or similar and then would receive another meal or be turned out on return from work at night. Meal feeding has remained our model for feeding horses even though few horses work all day and this pattern of feeding goes against how their digestive tracts are designed. Feeding this way was a necessity of the lifestyle, and meal feeding remains a mainstay of feeding practice in many barns.

When we apply these considerations to your horse, you’re doing a combination of both as you meal feed, but your horse also gets access to pasture for at least some of the day. It sounds as though your horse likely has feed for most of the daylight hours, assuming the morning hay lasts until turnout. However, overnight there is no feed available. Having no forage available overnight goes counter to the way your horse’s digestive tract is designed. Yet it’s how many horses are fed.

That said it’s also true that the risks of developing issues such as equine gastric ulcer syndrome and some forms of colic increase when horses are meal fed and go for long periods without forage access. So feeding some forage after return from pasture might benefit gastrointestinal health especially now that you are bringing your horse in earlier and the time spent in the stall without forage has increased.

This brings us to the other consideration: Are you feeding enough to meet your horse’s nutritional needs? The first consideration, and what I am going to focus on here, is calories–are you feeding enough calories to maintain body condition? Reducing your horse’s turnout time on pasture means less time for him to consume pasture and the possibility he’s consuming fewer calories. I say possibility because horses have actually been shown to consume the greatest amount of pasture when they are initially turned out, so reducing turnout time might or might not have a significant impact on total pasture intake.

However, at this time of year pasture quality drops off considerably. Rate of plant growth is reduced, so there’s a strong likelihood that your horse is not getting the calories from the pasture that he did over summer and early fall. This could lead to a loss of condition. Not knowing what condition your horse is in currently, I can’t determine whether this would actually be beneficial or not for your horse.

If current condition is ideal, then a loss of condition should cause concern and would require that these missing calories be provided some other way such as additional hay. This could be achieved by feeding some hay when you bring your horse in which would also help solve the issue of the long overnight period without feed.

If your horse needs to lose a little weight, or the reduction in pasture intake does not cause a loss of condition, then you could look at restructuring your current feeding program to spread out the hay you are feeding throughout the day and overnight. Instead of increasing hay intake in this scenario you could feed some of the morning hay in the evening.

Whether you feed more total hay or spread out the current hay fed, consider using a slow feeder so that it takes longer for your horse to eat the hay you are feeding. Some horses can handle constant access to forage without gaining undesirable weight. This typically requires finding an appropriate hay that has low nutritional value and restricting access with slow feeders. However, not all horses adjust to this even when the hay is of low nutritional value and display undesirable weight gain and therefore must have their intake limited.

One last general rule of thumb to keep in mind when debating the issue of whether you’re feeding enough total feed is how much feed your horse is consuming as a percentage of body weight. Research suggests that most mature horses in grazing situations consume 1.5-2% of their body weight per day as dry matter. While studies have shown wide variation in the amount consumed by each individual, veterinarians and nutritionists typically recommend a minimum of 1.5% of body weight as dry matter to maintain gut function.

Hopefully as you consider these general guidelines and your current feeding program they will help you to determine how best to make feeding adjustments if you decide changes are necessary.