Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lying Labels – Don’t be Fooled

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We all realize that proper nutrition is the foundation for health. Choosing the best diet is one of the most important factors for a pet’s well-being. Every pet food claims to be superior to the rest in their flashy ads and packaging can be quite enticing. It is important to read the pet food label carefully and not be taken in by pretty pictures. But choosing the right pet food is tricky because the labels themselves can be very misleading.

Conceal the Carbs

Most pet owners know that dogs and cats are carnivores. In fact, these pets do not require starch-laden carbohydrates in their diets at all. And yet, most pet foods are loaded with carbohydrates. There are two main reasons that pet foods contain a lot of starch. The first is that carbohydrates are a cheap source of calories. The second is that convenient, dry food requires carbohydrates to bind it into kibble. Cost and convenience, not nutritional soundness, are the reasons for excessive carbs in pet food.

Many people relate carbs in pet food to the grains the diets contain. It is certainly true that most pet foods supply the carbohydrates in the form of grain. However, “grain-free” does not mean “carb-free.” If it is dry pet food it contains starch in some form. Look closely at the label and you’ll find potatoes, tapioca or some other carbohydrate source.

Deceptively Boost the Meat

Pet food manufacturers often manipulate the raw materials in the food so the ingredient list looks good to the consumer. The companies know that conscientious pet owners are looking for foods with the meat component at the top of the ingredient list. There are several clever ways to accomplish this.

For example, “whole chicken” on the ingredient list of a dry dog food sounds good.  However, whole chicken is 70 percent water. This water is removed during the processing of dry food, reducing whole chicken to chicken meal.

Three pounds of whole chicken cooks down to one pound of chicken meal. Now, the ingredients are listed on the label in order of pre-processed weight. So having “whole chicken” on the list, as opposed to “chicken meal,” is just a ploy to move that meat up on the list.

Here’s another trick. Wheat flower and ground wheat can be listed as two different ingredients even though the only difference between the two is the size of the ground particle. The only logical reason to do this would be to make the label look like the food contains less grain because if the total amount is split in this way, then it falls lower on the ingredient list.

Another ploy is to include several grains so there is proportionately more meat than any one grain. Both of these techniques allow the meat component to be brought to the top of the ingredient list and this makes the food look more healthful.

Soy?

Speaking of grains, one of the most common grains in pet foods is soy. Soy contains chemicals called phytoestrogens that mimic the body’s estrogen. It has been found that some dog foods contain enough soy that they can wreak havoc on an animal’s endocrine system when fed long term. Another study linked excessive soy in cat food to hyperthyroidism – one of the most common hormone diseases in cats.

Pet food labels are so deceptive I can’t fit all the tricks into one post. Stay tuned for next week’s Lying Labels – Part II.

In the mean time, look at your pet food label and see if you can spot any of the above and tell us about it.

Animal Crackers

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Chiropractic care can be a very effective treatment for back pain. More than that, I think chiropractic is essential for any organism with a spine to achieve the highest level of health and performance. Let me explain.

The Spine

The spinal cord is the channel for information between the brain and the organs and tissues of the body. It is made up of millions of long nerve fibers which carry electrical messages, like a living telephone cable. This precious pathway for bodily communication is totally encased in bone.

The bony spine is a mechanical marvel. It supports the skeleton, acts as an attachment for many of the body’s muscles, protects the internal organs and protects the spinal cord. At the same time, it allows for incredible flexibility.

The spine owes its suppleness to the fact that it is made up of a series of small bones called vertebrae (pleural of vertebra). There are 27 vertebrae in all, from a pet’s head to his pelvis. These 27 bones are joined together by a series of over 150 joints. All of these joints must move in a coordinated fashion for proper locomotion of the entire body.

Furthermore, there are small openings on both sides of the spine, between the vertebrae where each bone joins to the next. Spinal nerves travel through these openings carrying information between the body and the spinal cord. Any malfunction of the 150 vertebral joints can constrict the openings and disturb the spinal nerves.

Subluxation

The word “subluxation” is used by chiropractors to denote an abnormally functioning spinal joint. A subluxation is not so much a bone that is out of place as it is a joint that is not moving properly. Even slight glitches in spinal joint motion can cause the surrounding tissue to swell and muscles to spasm. This can lead to pressure on the spinal nerves as they exit the spine. A 1986 University of Colorado study demonstrated that the amount of pressure equivalent to the weight of a dime on a spinal nerve was enough to cause it to malfunction in as little as 24 hours.

Subluxations have numerous causes. Trauma is the most obvious. This includes not only severe trauma but also more subtle disturbances such as slips, falls and missteps — basically living life. In fact, birth itself sometimes causes damage to the spine, starting the poor dog off on the wrong foot. Plus, some pets have been bred for traits, such as long backs and short legs, which predispose them to back problems. Finally, performance dogs are especially prone to back-jarring incidences. Jumping, racing and lead jerks can all knock the neck and back out of whack.

Spinal problems can manifest in many ways. Subluxations may cause neck or back pain and sensitivity to touch. Pacing or other gait abnormalities might be signs of a back issue as well as weakness or stumbling. Finally, stiffness, lameness and a decreased range of motion can all indicate the need for an adjustment.

The Adjustment

The job of the animal chiropractor is to locate and correct spinal misalignments. Several techniques exist for adjusting animals. Fortunately, none of them involve laying the dog down, belly up, on a chiropractic table and wrenching his neck from side to side. Most commonly the animal is adjusted while standing. The doctor gently presses on one vertebra at a time to locate any joints that are not moving appropriately. When a subluxation is located, a quick, accurate thrust is delivered to correct the problem.

Who You Gonna Call?

When taking your pet for a chiropractic treatment, be sure to seek a professional with proper training. Your chiropractor may do a great job on you, but because of anatomical differences between people and dogs, without special training a chiropractor is not the ideal candidate to treat your dog. America Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) certification assures education and skill in the specialized field of animal chiropractic. For a list of local, certified animal chiropractors log on to www.animalchiropractic.org.

Is your pet well adjusted?

Do You have a Pet Connection?

Judy

For most of us pet caregivers these days, our animals are not possessions but rather members of the family with whom we share our homes, our beds, and our lives. All living beings have in common the same life force or Spirit. It is very common for people to form strong energetic bonds with their four-legged companions.

Benefits of Pets

I believe it is this spiritual connection between man and beast that explains the amazing research documenting the benefits of sharing life with pets. For example, one study showed that heart attack victims who have pets live longer than those who do not. Another study demonstrated that people with pets are less likely to have a heart attack in the first place. Amazingly, interacting with animals can be more effective than drugs at lowering blood pressure.

Research with children has shown that pet ownership helps kids learn compassion and responsibility, think more independently, have higher self esteem and coping skills, and have less stress, aggression and sadness. Another study proved that having animals in inner city schools dramatically lowered truancy and increased test scores. Contact with companion animals has also proven beneficial for children with autism and attention deficit disorder.

Introducing animals into nursing homes has been shown to reduce death rates and lower the need for medications. People of all ages who have pets also have fewer doctors’ visits and they live longer than those who do not share their lives with a special animal.

Family Connection

As a veterinarian I have been witness to a very revealing phenomenon. I’ll never forget my first encounter with it. I saw Max the poodle who was very sick with nausea and diarrhea. After examining Max and running a blood panel, I gave his caregiver the bad news. Max had liver disease. I was surprised when his person responded by saying, “That’s so weird. My doctor just diagnosed me with liver disease.”

Of course, in my early years as a veterinarian I was steeped in the Western, medical model and thought this was simply a strange coincidence. Now, with more than two decades of veterinary practice under my belt, and a mind that is more open to the spiritual connections we all share, I don’t think twice about the fact that people who are especially close to their pets often have the same physical ailments. I see it all too frequently to think it is a mere chance occurrence.

In fact, today I have a running joke that I invariably use on a weekly basis. When I diagnose a problem with a pet and the pet parent chimes in that they have the same issue, I say, “It must run in the family.” Everyone gets a chuckle out of the idea but I have come to understand that we share more than a home with our special pets; we also share non-physical connections that defy logic.

Some think that animals “take on” the physical maladies of their caregivers in a purposeful attempt to ease the suffering of their people. That certainly is one possible explanation for the phenomenon. Equally plausible is the possibility that we simply resonate energetically in a complementary way that causes us to communicate disturbances between us. Our energy fields overlap and co-mingle.

Scientist and writer, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake had a lot to say about the energy connections we share with pets. In his book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home Sheldrake documented hundreds of cases of animals who display certain predictable behaviors at the moment their caregivers decide to return home. Furthermore, Sheldrake convincingly proved that there is no physical basis for this phenomenon. He proposes the existence of what he calls “morphic fields” to explain the non-material connections we all share with our special companions.

I believe that individuals do not meet by chance. There is always an opportunity for soul development linked to every relationship we have. It is obvious to me that this concept applies to the human-animal bond just as much as it does to inter-human relationships. We are meant to enjoy, learn from and grow with our animal family members. One way to really connect with your pet is through meditation.

Have you been affected by a special pet?