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Busting the Most Common Myths About Pet Behavior and Care

We hear many misperceptions about pet food and pet care from our customers here at Only Natural Pet Store.  We would like to debunk a selection of these myths that we hear most often so that we can separate fact from fiction for our readers.  Here are the top 20:

  1. The best foods are those the veterinarian sells such as Iams and Science Diet.
  2. Dry food cleans a dog's or cat’s teeth.
  3. Dogs and cats should be fed a food appropriate to their life stage - puppies need puppy food, kittens need kitten food and senior pets need senior diets.
  4. People food is bad for dogs and cats.
  5. Only complete and balanced meals should be fed to cats and dogs.
  6. Feeding raw food is dangerous due to the risk of Salmonella and E. Coli.
  7. Dogs and cats should not eat grains.
  8. Ash Content is an important guideline in choosing a cat food.
  9. Changing formulas or brands of pet foods is hard on a dog or cat’s digestion.
  10. Spaying or neutering an animal will cause it to gain weight.
  11. Dogs and cats need vaccination boosters annually.
  12. One year for a dog or cat's age is equal to 7 human years.
  13. A wagging tail is the sign of a happy, friendly dog.
  14. Nervous or skittish dogs and cats were abused when they were young.
  15. A hot dry nose means your companion is ill.
  16. Eating grass is a sign that a dog or cat has an upset stomach.
  17. It is fine for dogs and cats to eat each other's food.
  18. Animals lick their wounds to promote healing.
  19. Only male dogs "hump" other dogs or lift their legs to urinate.
  20. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.


1. The best foods are those the veterinarian sells such as Iams and Science Diet.

While many pet guardians have been under the impression that these brands and others sold by their veterinarian are premium, top of the line foods – one look at the ingredients by an educated eye will reveal the truth. Most of the formulas from these large, heavily marketed manufacturers derive far more protein from grain or grain by-product sources such as corn gluten meal and brewer’s rice than from meat sources.

Moreover, these so-called “premium” foods contain ingredients such as “chicken by-product meal” which consists of the leftovers in meat processing that are unfit for human consumption including head, necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines – basically everything BUT clean meat. It is a cheap, low quality source of protein – and far less digestible protein than clean chicken meal.  Truthfully, if it is unfit for human consumption, then it is unfit for our companions as well.

Meat, and specifically a named meat meal (i.e. chicken meal, lamb meal, etc) should be listed before any grains in a pet food. Dogs and cats are carnivores – they are designed to derive protein from meat sources, not grain. The high grain content of many pet foods is one of the main contributors to the growing obesity problem and increase in allergies in dogs and cats – they just do not do well on such high-carbohydrate foods. (This does not mean that all grains are bad for dogs and cats – see myth #7)  For more information on selecting a truly premium food for your companion, see our Quick Guide to Natural Pet Foods and What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food.

2. Dry food cleans a dog's or cat’s teeth.

This one you might even hear from some veterinarians - but it is most definitely not true.  Actually, if one wanted to stretch things a bit, kibble might clean the very tips of the teeth, but that's about it.  Take a look in your companion's mouth.  Dogs and cats have very pointed teeth; even their molars are sharp edged, not flat.  These are teeth that were designed to bite, tear and chew raw meat. When a dog or cat eats kibble they either swallow it whole or, when they manage to bite down on a kibble or two, it will shatter.  Kibble does not scrape down onto the lower parts of the teeth or near the gums - which is where dental problems start.  In fact, kibble can contribute to dental problems when small bits lodge between the teeth and promote bacterial growth. 

Dental care for dogs and cats is vitally important as poor dental health can lead to other chronic disease conditions.  Healthy teeth start with a healthy diet of course, and with regular brushing.  Please see our article "Dental Healthcare for Your Companion" for detailed information on caring for your four-legged friend's teeth. 

Raw meat and bones are a terrific way to promote healthy teeth and gums as they require the dog or cat to gnaw and chew in a way that the sinews of the meat and hard bone will scrape teeth and massage gums.  The longer they gnaw and chew the cleaner the teeth become - so big chunks of meat or meaty bones like chicken or turkey necks are ideal.  The size of the meat or meaty bone should be appropriate for the size of the animal; for example cats can chew chicken necks, but not turkey necks.

If raw meat and bones are a bit more than you bargained for in caring for Fido's or Max's teeth, then brushing is a must.  In addition to regular brushing, powder supplements such as Proden PlaqueOff or Wysong Dentatreat can assist in discouraging the bacteria that cause plaque buildup on teeth.  Jaw exercise and gum massage are important components of dental care, so try Zukes Z-Bones for a healthy, non-raw chew.  Some cats like to chew, too.  Catnip filled toys such as the Chase the Hemp Cat Tails or the Yeowww! Organic Catnip Fruit Cat Toys are enticing to many kitties. Feline Greenies Dental Cat Treats are a tasty dental treat for cats as well.

3. Dogs and cats should be fed a food appropriate to their life stage - puppies need puppy food, kittens need kitten food and senior pets need senior diets.

Stage of life diets were really created as a marketing tool.  The more bags of food a particular manufacturer could come up with, the more shelf space they could command.  While it is true that puppies and kittens need more food for their size than adult animals, they do not necessarily need a specially formulated puppy or kitten food.  A high-quality, varied diet is the best option for most youngsters.  For puppies this can include dry kibble, canned, freeze dried, dehydrated, and raw food.  For kittens, kibble is not recommended to be a large portion of the diet (nor for adult cats) as it can contribute to dehydration, urinary tract issues and less than optimal health over time.  Cats are obligate carnivores - which means they are designed by nature to eat meat and very little carbohydrates.  The newer higher meat content grain-free foods may be a good option if kibble is to be fed to kittens, but canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated and raw are better choices.  Puppies, especially large breeds, can be at risk of growing too fast and experiencing joint problems - so overfeeding a high-protein food can be detrimental.

Feeding younger animals more frequent meals - 3 times per day, is helpful while they are in their biggest growth phase.  After three or four months of age, two meals per day should be sufficient for most animals.  Puppies and kittens should be kept slim, just like adult animals.  The pictures shown in many puppy or kitten food advertisements of round, roly-poly fur-balls are misleading.  It is just as unhealthy for younger animals to be overweight as it is for adults.  If you choose to feed a puppy or kitten food for the first few months, keep an eye on your little companion's waistline and don't let them get round.  Transition to adult foods by three to six months of age. 

Senior animals tend to slow down as they age, just as we humans do.  While their calorie requirements may shrink, their need for the healthiest food you can provide is never greater than in the senior years.  As animals age they require excellent nutrition to keep their immune system as strong as possible and their joints in good working order.  Continue to feed a high-quality varied diet right into your companions final years, just feed a little less of it.  Again, watch their waistline.  Older dogs and cats are the most susceptible to the many health issues that obesity can give rise to including diabetes, arthritis, urinary tract problems and a shortened life span.

4. People food is bad for dogs and cats.

This is another one you may have heard in the past from your veterinarian.  Most holistically trained veterinarians, however, encourage the practice of feeding people food to pets.  Healthy leftovers are an excellent supplement to your companion's regular fare.   There are only two rules with people food for pets: 1) It must be healthy for them - meat, steamed or finely chopped veggies and fruits, baked sweet potato, rice, oatmeal; you get the picture - no junk food.  2) If you give them some of what you are eating, remember to feed less of their own food so they do not put on extra pounds.  And skip the onions, grapes and raisins - those can be detrimental for dogs and cats. 

Even beyond leftovers, home-cooking is becoming quite a new trend among dog and cat lovers. Homemade food has never been easier as a matter of fact.  There are a number of pre-mixes available to which all you need to add is meat.  The premix contains vegetables, vitamins and minerals to make the meal complete.  Sojos has varieties with and without grains as well as an organic blend.  Honest Kitchen offers Preference, a grain-free blend.  Dr. Harvey's makes a premix for home cooked food that contains organic grains with an amazing blend of herbs. You don't have to cook every meal for your companion to benefit from fresher food - even the occasional homemade dinner is a wonderful healthy treat!

5. Only complete and balanced meals should be fed to cats and dogs.

Pet food companies have a pretty big interest in perpetuating this myth.  Is every meal you eat complete and balanced?  How about every meal you feed your kids?  Even the most health-conscious among us do not worry about meeting the proper balance of nutrients at every meal.  We know that over the course of the day or week our diet will be fairly complete, so we don't worry about eating exactly what the food pyramid recommends on a daily basis.  Many of us take vitamins and supplements to fill in any gaps because even eating a very healthy diet of whole foods may not provide all the vitamins and minerals our body needs to stay healthy in this day and age. 

Variety is the key to a healthy diet for humans, for dogs and for cats.  If you are feeding at least 50 - 60% commercially prepared foods that are designed to be "complete", then you are well on your way to providing a majority of the "balance" of nutrients.  Adding canned meats, raw or cooked meats, people food, fresh vegetables or other "incomplete" foods to your companion's meals can boost the overall nutrition of the diet as long as it is not overdone.  Providing a daily multi-vitamin adds extra insurance.  One caveat here - meat is higher in phosphorus and  lower in calcium.  When adding more than 15 - 20%  extra meat to your companion's diet on a regular basis, keep the calcium and phosphorus ratio balanced over time by including raw bones or adding a calcium source.

6. Feeding raw food is dangerous due to the risk of Salmonella and E. Coli.

The digestive tracts of dogs and cats are very different than those of humans.  The human digestive tract is approximately 25 to 28 feet long with a stomach acidity between 1.5 and 2.5.  Dogs and cats have a much shorter digestive system at an average of 10 to 13 feet for dogs (shorter for cats) with an acidity of less than 1.  Raw food moves through the dog or cat's system in less than half the time it would through a human's system, and the high acidity kills most bacteria such as salmonella.  Even if the food was contaminated, it likely would not enter the animal's bloodstream.   Commercially prepared raw food manufacturers take measures to control against the presence of unwanted organisms such as salmonella and e. coli, so for those concerned the frozen raw diets are a good option. 

If you eat meat, then you are aware of the precautions to take when handling raw meat.  The same precautions apply to raw pet food as to raw meat destined to be cooked for human consumption: wash bowls, utensils and your hands after feeding and handling the meat.  Keep the meat frozen until two to four days before feeding, and thaw in the refrigerator.  Don't leave the food down for your pet for more than 30 - 40 minutes, after this time throw any leftovers away.  With a bit of common sense, raw food is no more difficult or dangerous to feed than any other pet food. 

Some folks like to argue that the wild relatives of dogs and cats have shorter life spans than our companion animals and blame this shortened life on consumption of raw food.  While it may be true that wild dogs and cats (or their close relatives) are less long-lived than our pets, it is not due to their diet.  Animals living in the wild are at far more risk from predators, competition for food and the harsh elements than they are from eating raw meat.  Our companions are living longer lives due to their comfortable living conditions with regular meals provided - no hunting required, and no stress other than whether or not they'll get caught on their favorite sofa. 

For more information see "All About Raw Food" in our article archives.

7. Dogs and cats should not eat grains.

This particular "myth" can be true for some animals - especially cats.  Again we must look at the teeth and digestive tract for clues here.  Humans and herbivores have flat molars that can move back and forth to grind grasses and grains into fine particles.  We produce the enzyme amylase in our saliva which begins to break down carbohydrates - even before they reach the stomach where the job is finished.  Dogs and cats do not produce amylase in their saliva.  Their teeth have sharp edges and do not move from side to side - they cannot "grind" anything in their mouth.

Dogs are considered omnivores of sorts - they can eat and digest grains and vegetables IF they have been somewhat pre-digested as they would be in an herbivore's stomach or intestines.  Therefore cooked grains are an acceptable source of carbohydrates for most dogs - note that they are an acceptable carbohydrate source, NOT an acceptable source of protein.  Cats on the other hand are obligate carnivores.  They do not digest grains well and become far more easily dehydrated eating dry foods high in carbohydrates.  Cats in the wild tend to derive all their moisture from their prey - they rarely drink water.  Many holistic veterinarians believe the growing prevalence of obesity and diabetes and many other chronic diseases can be at least partially blamed on diets too high in carbohydrates for cats.

Grains should be whole or whole ground grains such as rice, oats, barley, millet, etc. Wheat is a common allergen, so is avoided in the top quality pet foods as is corn.  Wheat and corn are also less digestible for dogs.  Grain by-products such as corn gluten meal, brewers rice, cereal fines and others are less expensive and less nutritious options than whole grains.  Any time a food with grains is fed to a dog or cat digestive enzymes should be added to the food.  This helps improve digestion and enhance utilization of the nutrients in the food.  Digestive enzymes are one of the two most important supplements you can provide for your companion, along with essential fatty acids (fish oil).

For more information please see "Is Grain Free Food Right for Your Companion."

8. Ash Content is an important guideline in choosing a cat food.

Concern about ash content in pet foods came about as veterinarians and cat guardians were looking for the cause of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD - formerly known as FUS). In the 70’s & 80’s veterinarians thought ash was a factor in causing crystals in the urine. There are, however, a variety of causes and ash is no longer considered a factor in causing FLUTD. Further research has shown that the main problem was the formulation of commercial pet foods: most pet foods were creating a more alkaline urine (higher pH) which lead to an increase in struvite crystals.  Most dry kibble diets are formulated with a high vegetable and grain content which creates a more alkaline urine. An all meat diet such as a cat would eat in nature creates a more acidic urine.

A high protein diet is the best way to maintain a low urinary pH naturally. Cats eating canned diets have fewer problems with FLUTD than those eating primarily dry kibble diets. This could be due both to the higher meat content of canned diets as well as the higher moisture content. Increased hydration also prevents crystal formation. A raw food diet is ideal for maintaining a lower urinary pH and providing proper hydration.  Focusing on low-ash foods will not solve FLUTD problems, but a healthier diet and proper hydration will.

A more effective means of preventing FLUTD than stressing about the amount of ash in your companion's food is focusing on stress reduction. Stress is an often overlooked contributing factor to FLUTD.  (Lack of exercise is another.)  When your companion is stressed their immune system is compromised.  Furthermore, when you are stressed, your companion is far more likely to be stressed.  A great way to ease the stress for both of you and create a deeper bond is through meditation. It may sound a bit "new age," however scientific studies at major universities have demonstrated the power of meditation and healing with visualization.

Flower Essences are another excellent stress reduction and emotional support tool.  Cats are especially responsive to flower essences and can benefit greatly from their use.  There is a flower essence designed for every emotional state, so look through the large selection and choose the one or two remedies that best match your companion's issues.  Dosing can be as simple as adding a few drops to the water or massaging them into the ears or paws.

Please see the following articles in our Holistic Healthcare Database for more information:  "Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease", "Ash, Magnesium and FLUTD", "Flower Essences and How They Work" and "Treating Mild Anxiety".

9. Changing formulas or brands of pet foods is hard on a dog or cat’s digestion.

A healthy dog or cat can eat a different food at each meal without issue - provided they are high-quality foods.  Holistically minded guardians and veterinarians know that variety is important for several reasons.  The most important of these is to avoid the development of sensitivities to any particular food or protein type.  When the same food is fed for many months or years at a time, an animal can develop an allergy or sensitivity to that food or a specific ingredient in the food.  Many holistic veterinarians believe that feeding the same food for many years is a contributing factor to the development of inflammatory bowel disease.

Variety provides a wider range of nutrition for your companion as well.  While foods may be formulated to meet AAFCO standards, that does not mean that every food that meets those standards meets the needs of every dog or cat.  As a matter of fact, there are many foods on the market that meet AAFCO standards that many cats and dogs cannot tolerate due to the grains and grain by-products used as protein sources.  A more diverse diet is more likely to meet the nutritional needs of your companion over time.  Besides all that - would YOU want to eat the same meal day in and day out for months at a time?  Even if there was a "people kibble" that was formulated to meet all your nutritional needs - would you really enjoy that?  And remember - every meal does not need to be perfectly balanced as long as the diet is balanced over the course of a week or so.

Whenever feeding a diet of cooked or processed food, digestive enzymes are essential, and will help your companion transition from one type of food to another with ease.  Digestive enzymes  help animals maintain a healthy digestive tract and get the most nutrition from their food.  Essential fatty acids from fish oil provide the omega 3 fatty acids missing from most processed pet foods that nourish the skin, coat and digestive tract.  Probiotics are important for animals on medication or those experiencing digestive upsets.  For animals in need of increased digestive support due to chronic digestive issues, Only Natural Pet GI Support provides herbs and nutrients to soothe and heal the lining of the digestive tract.

10. Spaying or neutering an animal will cause it to gain weight.

Sorry, but that one just doesn't hold up.  Spaying and neutering may alter hormone levels, but it does NOT cause obesity.  The causes of obesity in our companions are overfeeding, feeding high carbohydrate diets to less active animals, and not enough exercise.  Spaying and neutering our companion animals is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.  Spayed and neutered animals live longer, are protected from a variety of health problems and are much less prone to behavioral problems than intact dogs and cats.  Thousands of unwanted animals are killed every day in shelters across America.  These are preventable deaths, and the best means of prevention is the spaying and neutering of our companion animals.

The myth about weight gain in spayed and neutered animals may stem from the fact that most cats and dogs are spayed or neutered around 6 months of age, which is the time when their greatest growth period slows dramatically.  Many guardians continue to feed the same amount of high-energy food they were feeding during their companion's growth phase, and this leads to weight gain.  Feed a high-quality diet appropriate to your companion's activity level and watch their waste line.  Weigh your animal periodically if you cannot judge their condition through visual evaluation and feeling their ribs. 

Exercise is vital for your companion's physical and mental health.  10 to 15 minutes of "chase the feathers" or "catch the mouse" twice a day can go a long way toward keeping your kitty happy and healthy.  Try the Go Cat Da Bird or the Laser Keychain Cat Toyfor lots of fun and exercise.  Play time encourages bonding and will ease the guilt you may feel from being away all day. 

Exercise is a bit easier for dog guardians since they can snap on the leash and go for a brisk walk.  Some dogs may need more than a walk - they may need a vigorous game of fetch (can't beat the Chuckit for that) or the West Paw Zisc to really get their energy out.  A great way to provide a bit of exercise and mental stimulation for your dog is to make them work for their dinner or treats using the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee.  This is also handy for easing the guilt of leaving your companion behind - leave them with a Mazee full of kibble and they will be occupied, fed and happy. 

An overweight pet is susceptible to many chronic health problems.  Please see the article "Weight Management for Dogs and Cats" in our newsletter archives as well as updates on our Only Natural Pet Blog about the rise in obesity among companion animals for additional information.

11. Dogs and cats need vaccination boosters annually.

Vaccinations do not need “boosting”. Studies have shown that a single vaccination for parvovirus, distemper and panleukopenia results in long-term protection from disease - from 7 years to a lifetime of protection. Simple blood tests can determine if your companion’s antibody levels for parvovirus and distemper remain high enough to resist infection. Even the American Veterinary Medical Association has changed it's recommendations to suggest vaccinating very 3 years (for adult animals) rather than annually.  Yet, many veterinarians continue to send yearly reminders to their clients urging vaccination boosters.  Next time your veterinarian suggests a booster shot, request the blood test first (called a serum antibody titer). 

Research which vaccinations are truly necessary in your area and for your companion's lifestyle.  A dog that does not go to doggy daycare, stay in a kennel or go to dog shows does not need a vaccine for kennel cough (bordatella).  Other vaccines that may be unnecessary include lyme disease, corona virus, canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, FeLV, FIP, ringworm, and rota virus infection.  Contact holistic veterinarians in your area or pet associations to learn which vaccinations are absolutely necessary in your region of the country.

While preliminary studies show that rabies vaccines can provide protection for 7 years or longer, all states require the vaccine be administered at least every 3 years with some states still requiring annual vaccinations.  A group of dedicated veterinarians and concerned guardians have created the Rabies Vaccine Challenge Fund and Study to complete the research necessary to change these regulations.  We strongly encourage you to support this study and help change the laws that are forcing over-vaccination. 

Homeopathic Nosodes are an alternative some guardians are using when choosing to limit vaccines. They can safely be used before three months of age if an animal is at risk or is exposed to disease. Many guardians use these homeopathic medicines to help protect their companions against Parvovirus, Distemper, Kennel Cough, Panleukopenia and FIP. Some nosodes seem to work more effectively than others. Homeopathic nosodes are not vaccinations. They do not produce titers against these diseases like a vaccination. They do seem to offer some protection by reducing the severity of illness if the animal is exposed, even if they don't prevent it.  PetAlive offers several homeopathic combination remedies that can be used in this way.

For additional information about vaccinations please see the article "What You Need to Know About Vaccinations" in our newsletter archives.

12. One year for a dog or cat's age is equal to 7 human years.

Well, if that were true, a one year old dog or cat would be equivalent to a 7 year old human.  However, both dogs and cats can reproduce at the age of 1 year, but humans do not reach sexual maturity until almost twice that age.  Determining your companion's age is a bit more complicated than straight multiplication.  A simplified but a bit more accurate calculation is generally to compare a 1 year old dog or cat to a teenager of approximately 15 years, and a 2 year old dog or cat to human of about 24 years old.  For each of your companion's years after that add 4 years.  

Dog ages are even more complicated due to the size differences between breeds - a 7 lb. Yorkshire Terrier ages more slowly than a 150 lb. Mastiff.  Here is a helpful graph showing approximate dog years versus human years, followed by a chart showing approximate cat years versus human years. 

 

The chart for cats shows the approximate age that cats are considered seniors as 7.  Dogs are considered senior somewhere between 7 and 9 years old, depending on size.  This delineation varies by individual, of course,  but it is a good marker for when to consider extra support for your companion's aging immune system, digestive system and joints.  Most holistic veterinarians will recommend a transition from regular multivitamin supplements to a senior formula or the addition of an antioxidant formula around this age, as well as preventative supplementation for joint support.  As our companions age, their digestive systems become less efficient and they produce less of the enzymes necessary for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients.  While all animals on a processed or cooked diet should receive digestive enzymes with their food, this becomes even more important as your pet reaches her senior years. Geriatric support daily vitamins, like Only Natural Pet Vitamins and Enzymes Senior Formula are a convenient way to improve your senior friend's nutrition while also providing extra help for his joints.  For additional antioxidant support, a supplement such as Only Natural Pet Whole Food Antioxidant Blend or Dr. Harvey's Coenzyme Q10 Dog & Cat Supplement are excellent choices. Many of our older companions can benefit from an herbal tonic to support energy levels and mental clarity such as Animal's Apawthecary Senior Blend.

13. A wagging tail is the sign of a happy, friendly dog.

Not always!  Canine body language is a study unto itself, but some basics are very helpful to know when approached by a dog you are not familiar with.  Check out the rest of the dog's posture; walking stiffly with the head and tail raised high and wagging slightly or twitching can be an aggressive stance - be especially cautious if the dogs hackles are raised.  If the dog's head and front legs are lowered in a play-bow style, then she is being friendly.  Recent studies have also shown that dogs wag their tails asymmetrically depending on how they are feeling about the person approaching.  Wagging more strongly to the right indicates positive feelings and curiosity, wagging more to the left indicates negative feelings or apprehension. 

Anxious dogs are frequently more likely to show aggression. Help your furry friend relax with new friends by supporting her emotional well-being. Pet Naturals Calming Formula is an excellent remedy for those occasions when you know your companion will be faced with stressful circumstances or will be meeting new friends. For the those animals struggling with aggression, try Pet Alive Aggression Formula or Pet-Essences Out of Control/Aggressive Blend.

14. Nervous or skittish dogs and cats were abused when they were young.

While abuse as a puppy or kitten can lead to nervous or anxious behavior later in life, it does not always.  Furthermore, countless companion animals that have been in loving, caring homes since shortly after birth have anxiety problems.  Making broad assumptions about the cause of a skittish animal's behavior can be quite misleading.  The importance of socialization before the age of six months should not be discounted, but even well-socialized individuals can still suffer from anxiety. 

If you hesitate to adopt a dog or cat from a shelter for fear of coming home with a nervous pet, keep in mind that most animals will respond beautifully to lots of love and the security of a dependable guardian.  Dogs and cats thrive on routine, and given a month or two to acclimate will typically ease into their forever home and relax. 

For those animals who do have anxiety issues the proper training (yes, cats respond to training, too) and support through calming remedies can provide a solution.  Sentry Pheromone Calming Collars or Only Natural Pet Phero-Soothe are a great way to provide a calming atmosphere in the home.  In addition there are many herbal, homeopathic or flower essence remedies to address an individual's needs (click here to see our full selection).  Finding the best remedy for your companion can take some trial and error, but is worth the effort.  Please see our Holistic Healthcare Library for more helpful articles and information about helping a nervous or anxious companion. 

15. A hot dry nose means your companion is ill.

Your dog or cat's nose will not tell you whether they are ill or have a fever - you'll need a thermometer for that, (the rectal kind).  Normal dog and cat temperatures can range from 100.5 to 102.5.  So, how do you know if your dog or cat is under the weather?  Through changes in appetite and behavior for the most part.  While a single episode of stomach upset resulting in a day of poor appetite, vomiting or diarrhea is not usually cause for concern, repeated episodes can be a sign of serious illness.  If your companion becomes more withdrawn and lethargic, a trip to the vet is due.  For more assistance in determining when you need to seek professional help, see our article When Is It Time to See The Vet? 

A great tool in monitoring the health of our furry friends is the PetCheckup Kit.  This home-monitoring kit can be especially helpful for those aging pets that are more susceptible to some of the chronic diseases that can develop slowly without obvious symptoms. 

16. Eating grass is a sign that a dog or cat has an upset stomach.

Well, maybe - but not usually.  While it is true that dogs and cats will sometimes seek out and chew grass to ease an upset tummy, a perfectly healthy animal is just as likely to graze on fresh green grass.  There are a wide variety of theories about why some companions like to nibble on grasses, no one has a definitive answer.  Some feel it may be a craving for fresh food containing live enzymes.  Others think this behavior may result from a craving for the tripe, or digestive tract contents, that dogs and cats would enjoy when consuming prey in the wild. 

Whatever the reason, there is no need to deny your furry friend's craving as long as they are grazing on clean, untreated pastures.  If you do not know if the lawn or park grass has been treated with chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, then find a better source for their daily greens. Animal Essentials Organic Green Alternative, Halo's Vita-Dreams Daily Greens or Ark Naturals Nu-Pet Granular Greens may satisfy your companion's needs.  You can also grow your own with the Kitty's Garden kit.

17. It is fine for dogs and cats to eat each other's food.

While there are a few canned formulas available that meet the needs of both species, most foods are designed specifically for cats or dogs.  Cats require a higher percentage of protein and fat than most dogs and they have specific requirements for additional taurine.  Dogs that eat too much cat food are at risk of weight gain and even pancreatitis.  Cats that eat dog food are at risk of weight gain when the food is high in carbohydrates, as well as deficiencies of important amino acids. 

If Fido and Fluffy insist on sharing, try a food formulated to meet both their needs such as Nature's Variety Instinct Canned Diets - the pictures on the cans are different, but the contents are the same.  Or try an all-meat variety like Evanger's Game Meats to supplement their individual meals. 

18. Animals lick their wounds to promote healing.

Dogs and cats will lick any area that irritates them - whether it be a wound, bug bite or itchy spot.  Some animals will tend to lick more than others, and this does not promote healing.  A wound or hot-spot that is over-licked can heal more slowly or become infected.  It is best to discourage your companion from fussing over it's sore spot.

Bandaging the are will be enough to discourage some animals, but not all.  Try Herbal Ointment to soothe irritation and speed healing.  For hot spots or itchy skin try Fido Derm Herbal Spray or Doc Ackerman's Hot Spot Relief Spray.  While Elizabethan collars (known as e-collars) can look like a torture device to sympathetic guardians, sometimes it is necessary for proper healing of wounds or sutures.

19. Only male dogs "hump" other dogs or lift their legs to urinate.

Male dogs will exhibit these behaviors more consistently than others, but even female dogs will lift their legs and urinate to mark territory or hump another dog to establish dominance.  Some dogs can become downright obnoxious about it and may begin humping it's human companions or even pillows or furniture.  Others are so determined to be top-dog they are continually marking and posturing for dominance.  Overly-assertive behaviors can be quelled through proper training and behavior modification techniques.  A calming remedy or two can help as well, including Pet Alive Problem Pet or Dr. Harvey's Relax. Flower Essences, like Spirit Essences Bully or Peace Maker formulas may be helpful as well.

20. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

You didn't really believe that one, did you?  Dogs are trainable at any age and even cats can be trained with the right combination of patience, practice and the proper motivation.  Proper motivation, of course, comes in the form of irresistible treats!  Try Northwest Naturals Liver Treats, Whole Life Pet Treats (chicken is most cats' favorite), or  Newman's Own Organic Training Treats.

Need some helpful hints from an expert?  Our training consultant recommends the books The Other End of The Leash or Don't Shoot the Dog.

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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product. The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian. Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff, guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care products.

We always offer you the lowest of the sale price, the price with a coupon code discount, or the Simplify Life automatic delivery price. You can tell which one applies because it will say "Sale Savings:" if the item is on sale and that is the lowest price, "Coupon Savings:" if you have applied a coupon code discount and that is the lowest price, or "SLP Savings:" if you have selected the Simplify Life automatic delivery program and that is the lowest price.

Special Offers at Special Prices!

Click the checkbox next to any items you would like below and we will add them to your order with no increase in your shipping cost.

Only Natural Pet EasyRaw Turkey 4 oz Trial Size

$1.99
$3.49
  • Made with real raw, freeze-dried turkey and dehydrated vegetables
  • Completely grain-free and rich in naturally occurring vitamins and minerals
  • All of the health benefits of a raw diet with the convenience of kibble
Save 43%!

Only Natural Pet Wild Salmon Bites 1.7 oz Bag

$2.99
$9.99
  • Made with real raw, freeze-dried wild caught salmon
  • Completely grain-free, high in protein and allergy-friendly
  • Delicious raw taste cat's love
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Only Natural Pet Pure Salmon Oil 8.75 oz Bottle

$6.49
$15.99
  • Packed with Omega-3 essential fatty acids, including EPA and DHA
  • Supports skin & coat, joint health, cardiovascular health and overall wellness
  • Comes in a recyclable aluminum bottle with an easy to administer pump included
Save 59%!

Only Natural Pet Pure Salmon Oil 8.75 oz Bottle

$6.49
$15.99
  • Packed with Omega-3 essential fatty acids, including EPA and DHA
  • Supports skin & coat, joint health, cardiovascular health and overall wellness
  • Comes in a recyclable aluminum bottle with an easy to administer pump included
Save 59%!
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