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Gut Feelings: How to Balance Your Pet’s Microbiome
Cats
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5+ MIN

Gut Feelings: How to Balance Your Pet’s Microbiome

Over the past few years, no connection — with the expectation of maybe Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski — has gotten as much attention as the one between your mind and gut. Not unlike the championship duo, each heightens the wealth of the other, as well as the success of their system. If you've ever had a 'gut feeling' or felt butterflies in your stomach, you've experienced a limited version of this relationship. Inside every stomach is a mini-ecosystem — trillions of microbes and healthy bacteria that live in your gut producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA — that plays a key role in physical and mental health by regulating mood and cognition.  However, the organic phenomenon that is the 'gut microbiome' is not reserved for solely humans — your pet endures the same subtle experience within their body every day as you do. Trillions more organisms (including bacteria, viruses, and fungi) also call your pet's digestive tract home, working away to break down food and generate essential nutrients. 'The sheer number of organisms in a healthy gut is tremendous; any one of us has more organisms living in our GI tract than there are people on the face of the earth,' says Dr. Audrey Cook, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. 'Although we used to think that those bacteria were just along for the ride, we now know that they play a key role in maintaining health.' Scientists have yet to discover the gut microbiome's full impact, but they do know that it plays a large role in a pet's overall health and well-being, impacting GI tract function, nutrient absorption, immune status, body condition, and many important hormonal responses. What is Intestinal Dysbiosis? A healthy pet's microbiome can be compared to an ecosystem, such as a coral reef or rainforest, where organisms work both independently and in relationship with each other. Unfortunately, many things can disrupt this complex system of microorganisms. When that happens, it's called dysbiosis. In simple terms, dysbiosis occurs when a cat or dog's gut microbiome becomes imbalanced due to the loss of beneficial bacteria or the emergence of bad bacteria. 'These disruptors include many medications, particularly antibiotics; infection with GI tract pathogens; changes in diet; anesthesia; stress; and starvation,' says Dr. Cook. 'It can take a long time for the microbiome to return to normal after an upset.' Over-treatment with antibiotics is one of the most common causes of intestinal dysbiosis in pets. Dr. Robynne Chutkan, one of the leading gastroenterologists in the country and the author of The Microbiome Solution, shares these concerns. 'The public still sees antibiotics as the life-saving miracle workers they were in the first part of the last century, not as the overprescribed menace they're becoming,' she says. 'We're seeing the emergence of new 'modern plagues,' not just from infection, but from not enough microbes.' The consequences of dysbiosis go beyond the gut. Health conditions linked to changes in the microbiome span the body and include allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease. Though the full impact of dysbiosis is still unknown, there are a variety of symptoms that can occur because of the condition. 'Dysbiosis in pets can result in weight loss, bloating, flatulence, poor appetite, and changes in stool consistency, such as diarrhea,' says Dr. Cook. 'Some research in other species suggests that an abnormal microbiome may also contribute to numerous non-GI disorders, including obesity, mental illness, and type 2 diabetes.' Finding the Right Balance for Your Pet To avoid the effects of an unbalanced microbiome, there are several ways for pet parents to foster a healthy community of gut microorganisms in their pets. 1. Limit unnecessary antibiotics. Both Dr. Cook and Dr. Chutkan recommend avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics, because even a short course of antibiotics can have a big impact on their gut microbiome. Antibiotics are prescribed to kill bad bacteria that cause illness or infection, but they also kill good gut bacteria in the process. 'Dogs tend to go easy on the hand sanitizer and antibiotics and eat a less processed diet (all habits worth emulating),' says Dr. Chutkan. Ask plenty of questions and follow your veterinarian's recommendations. 2. Nutrition is key. The food choices you make as a pet parent can have a huge impact on your pet's health. Commercial dog and cat foods contain the essential nutritional building blocks of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, but there are a plethora of superfoods that can give your pet an added health boost. 'Feeding a consistent, high-quality diet is also helpful, and we certainly want to avoid introducing pathogens such as Salmonella by feeding [certain] raw foods,' notes Dr. Cook. 3. Probiotics offer benefits. Probiotics are live, good microorganisms found in some foods and supplements that can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. Some ways probiotics can improve your pet's well-being include: Aiding digestion Boosting the immune system Preventing and managing diarrhea Promoting overall intestinal health Reducing inflammation Adding 'good' bacteria Many pet products claim to contain probiotics, but pet parents should consult with a veterinarian before choosing one of these options, as some are poorly researched. Similarly, some commercial pet foods contain prebiotics, such as soluble fibers that feed good bacteria, but there is only limited evidence of these foods effectively improving the health of the gut microbiome. 4. Live dirty and skip the groomers. It's not just okay to be a little sweaty and dirty; it's actually great for you and your pet's microbiome and overall health. 'We need exposure to dirt and germs (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, etc.) to train our immune systems to recognize friend from foe,' says Dr. Chutkan. 'Not enough exposure to germs, especially when young, leads to a confused immune system that tends to overreact. The result is allergies and autoimmune diseases.' While feeding your pet and giving medications, pay attention to the effect they may be having on the gut microbiome. Though an altered microbiome can have negative consequences, a GI tract full of good microorganisms can be the key to a healthy pet. BY DANIELA LOPEZ

What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)?
Cats
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4+ MIN

What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)?

 Now, let's look even deeper into FIV, your cat's risk, and treatment for infection: Which cats are likely to be infected with FIV? FIV is transmitted primarily through bite wounds that occur in cat fights. However, other interactions between cats, like sharing food and water bowls or grooming tools, have not been shown to be significant in transmission. What are the clinical signs of FIV infection? A cat can actually be infected with FIV for a prolonged period before becoming noticeably ill. This period is known as 'viral dormancy.' In fact, this dormancy, or incubation, can be as long as six years! This means that FIV is generally not diagnosed in very young cats. When signs of illness start to surface, you'll likely see signs that the kitty just doesn't feel well: refusal to eat, weight loss, and lack of self-grooming. Most commonly cats will experience a severe infection affecting the gums, just around the teeth. Also, any wounds that occur could be quite slow to heal. The same is true for respiratory infections; they may linger much longer than would be normally expected. A cat with FIV might also struggle with persistent diarrhea. Ultimately, widespread organ failure can occur. How do we diagnose FIV? There is a simple blood test to check for exposure to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. A positive test means the cat has been infected with the virus and will likely remain infected for the remainder of his or her life. A negative test may mean that the cat has not been exposed; however, false negatives do occur. Why would an FIV test have a false negative result? It may take up to three months after the initial infection for an FIV test to show a positive result. This means that, for up to three months, the test may be negative even though the virus is present in the cat. Rarely, the test may also turn negative when a cat becomes terminally ill with FIV. This occurs because antibodies (immune proteins) produced against the virus become attached and bound to the large amount of virus present. Since the test detects antibodies that are free in circulation, the test may be falsely negative. FIV Testing in Kittens The vast majority of kittens under four months of age that test positive for FIV have not been exposed to the virus. Instead, the test is detecting the antibodies that actually were passed from the mother to the kitten. These antibodies may persist until the kitten is about six months old; therefore, the kitten should be retested at that time. If the test remains positive, the possibility of true infection is much greater. If the kitten tests negative, there is no cause for worry. If an FIV-infected cat bites a kitten, he or she can develop a true infection. However, the FIV test will usually not turn positive for several months. If a mother cat is infected with FIV at the time she is pregnant or nursing, she can pass large quantities of the virus to her kittens. This means of transmission may result in a positive test result in just a few weeks. How is FIV treated? It is important to note that there is no cure for FIV. However, the disease state can sometimes be treated with antibiotics or other drugs to stimulate the immune system, restoring the cat to relatively good health. The virus may become active at a later date, so FIV is a chronically-managed condition. If you have a cat that tests FIV-positive but is not ill, as long as the cat does not fight with other household cats or those of your neighbors, transmission is not likely to occur. But if the cat is prone to fight or if another cat often instigates fights with him or her, transmission is likely. In fairness to your neighbors, it is generally recommended to restrict an FIV-positive cat to the house. Owners of infected cats must be responsible so the likelihood of transmission to someone else's cat is minimized. Can this virus be transmitted to me or my family? The feline immunodeficiency virus is cat-specific. It does not infect humans. How can I prevent my other cats from getting infected with FIV? Spaying or neutering your cats and keeping an infected cat indoors are the best preventive measures for this virus. Depending on the cats in your household, it may be recommended to keep an FIV-positive cat separated from your other kitties. Talk with your veterinarian for specific recommendations. Currently, no vaccine is available to prevent infection. If you have any questions about FIV or any conditions that may affect your cat, please don't hesitate to reach out to us! Chronic conditions can be managed, and we want to be your allies in keeping your beloved cat as healthy and happy as possible! by The Drake Center for Veterinary Care

Natural Cat Food Trends to Watch in 2022
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6+ MIN

Natural Cat Food Trends to Watch in 2022

Cat owners are increasingly interested in better-quality foods, and manufacturers are offering natural diets with the intention of providing cats with the nutrition they need—without unnecessary ingredients and processing. Amelia Perches, social media and PR manager at Nulo Pet Food, a manufacturer in Austin, Texas, said that many of the current cat food trends have been in line with human nutrition trends. People are avoiding highly processed, synthetic and GMO ingredients, she added. 'To Nulo, 'natural' means our cat food aligns with the nutrition required for carnivores and that the ingredients are high-quality sources from reputable suppliers,' Perches explained. 'This means most of the protein in a cat's diet should be coming from meat, poultry and fish rather than plants; that carbs should be kept at minimal levels; and that unnecessary ingredients should never be used—like artificial or controversial additives.' Rob Cadenhead, general manager at St. Francis, Wis.-based Gott Pet Products, parent company of pet food brand Hound & Gatos, said that to qualify as 'natural,' a food should be sourced from whole food ingredients, prepared without additives or artificial preservatives and be as minimally processed as possible. Consumers are looking for a brand they can trust and food with recognizable ingredients, said Dan Markenson, head of retail at Dr. Marty Pets, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer. 'They are looking for an ingredient deck that's easy to understand and a food their cats will love, naturally,' Markenson added. 'They're also looking for a high-protein diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they need a diet rich in real meat to thrive.' As more options become available, many cat owners are doing their research. 'Today's cat parents are more enlightened than they used to be,' Cadenhead said. 'Besides looking for a diet that features real animal protein, they're seeking diets with ingredients that serve a functional purpose, such as sweet potato, broccoli, berries and whole eggs. They're steering clear of wet recipes with controversial ingredients such as rendered animal fats, carrageenan or guar gum, and avoiding dry recipes prepared with highly processed, rendered poultry meals. Every Hound & Gatos recipe is specifically designed with these requirements in mind.' Shoppers are taking a closer look at what is in their pets' food, agreed Sherry Redwine, owner of Odyssey Pets, a retailer in Dallas. 'When customers come in and say they want a 'natural food,' what they really want is a food that's healthy with high-quality ingredients,' Redwine said. 'But it's not enough for them to just see the word 'natural' on the bag. They still want to look at the ingredients—as they should.' Elements such as high-quality protein, life-stage and breed-specific formulas, and superfood ingredients are important to cat owners, Perches said. 'But even more influential are the health benefits tied to them such as unique formulas for growing kittens, indoor adults and senior cats—as well as special-need solutions like weight and hairball management,' Perches added. 'Premium cat food consumers expect the same solutions as conventional products with the added confidence that what they are putting into their pet's bowl really is the best choice for long-term health.' Cat owners who want the best for their pets are willing to pay a bit more, according to Cadenhead. 'Freeze-dried diets are gaining in popularity, despite their relatively high price,' he said. 'I'd attribute this to the perceived quality and purity of the ingredients. Wet diets also remain a top choice for pet parents.' Serving Up Hydration The natural cat food category continues to broaden with new varieties, and many manufacturers are turning their attention to offering cats more hydration. 'Current trends in the marketplace show an increased focus on the hydration needs of cats,' Perches said. 'Cats have evolved from ancestors which had very little access to free water, so our cats have a low thirst drive and are metabolically oriented to obtaining water from their food sources. Providing moisture during mealtime through a canned food, topper or broth will increase a cat's water intake in a way that is in sync with its natural behavior.' Perches said that Nulo is innovating in the cat hydration space with a variety of wet foods and toppers including Hydrate water enhancers as well as three recently introduced product lines for cats: Nulo FreeStyle Signature Stews, Nulo FreeStyle Pâté Cans and Nulo FreeStyle Chunky Broths. 'Nulo's new recipes for cats include irresistible options like silky smooth pâtés, rich and hearty stews, and tender morsels in a savory broth,' Perches said. 'In addition to delivering high-quality, animal-based protein for cats, these new recipes also feature high moisture levels to help cats get their daily hydration.' Cat owners are seeking fresher formats, including raw food or gently cooked, human-grade food, Markenson noted. 'They're beginning to understand the potential problems with kibble that is cooked at high temperatures, and then coated with palatants,' Markenson added. Dr. Marty Pets launched Dr. Marty Nature's Feast Essential Wellness last year, which is selling well, he reported. The freeze-dried raw cat food line includes three formulas with different protein blends: Poultry; Fish & Poultry; and Beef, Salmon & Poultry. 'Each formula is made with premium meats for protein and omega-3s to support healthy teeth and skin, easy digestion, balanced energy and vital organs—and antioxidants and prebiotics from real seeds, veggies and fruit to support lasting health,' Markenson said. Upgrading Cats' Meals Cats are notorious for being picky eaters, so even those pet owners who want to make a switch to a higher-quality, natural food may face an uphill battle. But independent pet specialty retailers are well suited to help. Kaitlin McGrath, owner of Belmont Pet Shop in Belmont, Mass., said that many of her customers do require some guidance. This includes education on why making a switch to a more healthful food is worth the effort. 'Temperature, taste and texture are three of the most important factors to a cat,' she said. 'If the cat is already eating a pâté, stick with a pâté, but find a healthier option. If they really like shredded meat, look at the shreds. We can help to transition a cat by keeping it similar to what they're used to eating.' Mark Tincher, manager at The Pet Bowl, a retailer in Delaware, Ohio, agreed and said that cat owners commonly need some guidance. 'We only carry higher-quality brands here, but about half of cat food sales are issue driven,' Tincher said. 'The cat is experiencing a problem, so they make a switch. The other half are customers who realize there are better options out there but need some help. We are very selective about what we carry, so any choice here is a quality choice.' Amelia Perches, social media and PR manager for Nulo Pet Food, a manufacturer in Austin, Texas, said that with cats being so picky, trial sizes, free samples and/or a money-back guarantee can be excellent tools to encourage cat owners to try something new. 'Additionally, adding clip strips and endcaps with trial-sized packets within the primary kibble aisles can help to suggest a mixed feeding approach, while clip strips in sections like nutritional supplements can suggest a tailored solution for those searching to resolve a common issue like dry skin,' Perches continued. 'For those owners who aren't ready to commit to a diet overhaul, having small packages placed around the store can be an intriguing invitation to try it.' by PPN

More Cat Owners Are Turning to Premium Foods
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7+ MIN

More Cat Owners Are Turning to Premium Foods

The premium cat food category has seen steady growth over the past few years, with sales driven by factors such as greater awareness of pet nutrition, increased availability of formats beyond kibble and canned, and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic. 'Not only did cat ownership grow over the last two years, but people have become more concerned about their own personal health, as well as that of their pets,' said Rob Cadenhead, general manager for St. Francis, Wis.-based Gott Pet Products, the parent company of manufacturer Hound & Gatos. 'With that, consumers have started taking the time to read ingredient labels more carefully. … They seek brands that take a science-based stance and utilize clean, simple and natural ingredients.' The Natural Pet Enrichment Center, a retailer in North Royalton, Ohio, carries only super-premium brands. Owner Christine McCoy said the store's cat food sales were up more than 16 percent in 2021, with wet cat food up more than 27 percent. 'I feel that cat customers are purchasing premium foods at a faster rate than dog owners [are] switching,' McCoy said. 'It may be that cats are fed a smaller portion and there are so many options now available for premium diets.' Upgrading a cat from a value diet to a premium diet can cost just a few extra dollars per week, whereas sustaining a dog, especially a larger breed, on a premium diet is simply a larger financial commitment, explained Roman Shpak, senior brand executive for Kormotech, a Lviv Oblast, Ukraine-based manufacturer. Kormotech is the parent company of Optimeal, a new-to-the-U.S. pet food brand. The likelihood of cat owners to convert to premium diets varies by location, said James Conaway, the Southern California territory manager for NutriSource Pet Foods, a manufacturer in Perham, Minn. 'In the cities, consumers are just as likely [as dog owners] to buy premium food for their cats,' he explained. 'They are well-informed and concern themselves with the details. In my more rural areas, I see more of our middle price point foods leading sales. I find that there are more animals per household in the rural areas. The pet food budget has to spread further.' Raw and freeze-dried options for cats continue to increase in availability, though there are still significantly more options for dogs, said Brandon Forder, vice president of Canadian Pet Connection, a retailer in Meaford, Ontario, Canada. 'Freeze-dried and dehydrated raw foods across the board are the fastest-growing segment of my business,' Forder said. 'Cats, as obligate carnivores, should really be on a raw diet, but for whatever reasons, people may have bacteria concerns or they don't want to handle raw meat all the time. The dehydrated raw offers all of the benefits with really none of the inconvenience [of raw feeding].' Another trend Forder is seeing is cat owners focusing on finding foods with a specific measurable like grain free, organic or a particular protein. There is also huge consumer demand for sustainably minded brands, he noted. 'A lot of customers are not necessarily looking for the brands that just make the healthiest food,' he said. 'They're looking for brands that make healthy food but also have smart, environmentally conscious, sustainable philosophies.' Shelf-worthy Solution Diets Many cat consumers are seeking specific attributes in pet food, but with manufacturers offering foods that are formulated to meet cats' varying health needs, retailers are well positioned to offer the solutions their customers expect. Optimeal introduced its entire cat food line to the U.S. in late 2021. The company's meat-first options include eight dry recipes like Grain Free Chicken & Veggies and a Turkey & Oatmeal weight management formula, as well as four wet pouch recipes. All Optimeal products are specifically formulated to provide immunity support, Shpak said. Optimeal diets are available for distribution through Phillips Pet Food & Supplies. Evanger's Dog & Cat Food Co. in Markham, Ill., rolled out its new EVx Restricted Diet line for cats in late 2021. The company identified common feline health issues and created five solution recipes: Weight Management, Senior and Joint Health, Low Phosphorus, Bland Diet and Urinary Tract. Consumer response to the canned diets has been so positive that it has been a challenge to keep up with demand, said Evanger's owner and president Holly Sher. Retailer Education -  Lean on Your Manufacturers With the right product knowledge, independent pet supply retailers can boost sales in the cat food category and establish themselves as the go-to pet nutrition source for cat owners in their community. 'It's important that retailers are well educated in this category and the specific brands they carry,' said Rob Cadenhead, general manager for St. Francis, Wis.-based Gott Pet Products, the parent company of manufacturer Hound & Gatos. To build their understanding of the benefits and differentiators of the cat foods they carry, retailers should be able to turn to their manufacturers for a wide range of educational materials and trainings for store leadership and employees, manufacturers agreed. As Optimeal introduces its products to the U.S. for the first time, arming retailers with the information they need to speak knowledgeably about its product line is a priority. 'We recently sent our retailer partners a 40-page training booklet as well as a comprehensive catalog that covers every item in our dry and wet food line,' said Roman Shpak, senior brand executive for Lviv Oblast, Ukraine-based Kormotech, Optimeal's parent company. 'Our sales force is constantly in the field conducting training sessions, and store staff members can always contact our help desk for advice. In short, we do everything we can to help them confidently recommend a range of immunity support formulas that are unique to the industry, with innovative packaging that's second to none.' For nearly 20 years, manufacturer Evanger's Dog & Cat Food Co. in Markham, Ill., has put out an annual calendar that includes a problem-solution feeding guide and lets retailers know its specials far in advance. For example, one month the manufacturer may run a sale on all its Against the Grain canned diets, and another month it may offer a deal on all its organic SKUs. 'The calendar is just a wealth of information—it's a great, great tool,' said owner and president Holly Sher. 'It talks about problem-solution, rotational feedings, optimal nutrition, what to do with allergies, organic [foods]. … Everybody submits their dogs and cats to get in the calendar, and they win prizes. The retailers get it for free; the general public just pays whatever it costs me to send it out.' Marketing - Give Them a Taste Retailers can promote premium cat food in a number of ways, and some of the best strategies to encourage owners to try new foods—samples and satisfaction guarantees—take into consideration the picky nature of cats. 'Sending home sample bags of food for cat owners to place in a small bowl next to their current foods, that will give their cats an opportunity to try [it], and if they do like it, it offers variety,' said Christine McCoy, owner of The Natural Pet Enrichment Center, a retailer in North Royalton, Ohio. Even giving out cat food samples to customers buying dog food can be beneficial, said Kelly Burns, territory manager of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah for NutriSource Pet Foods, which is based in Perham, Minn. 'In over 50 percent of dog households, there's a cat, and if we can give them a taste of what we have to offer, we're sure to get a new customer,' Burns said. McCoy also suggests retailers guarantee the food they sell, especially canned foods. She tells customers to rinse out the can or pouch and bring it back for a refund if their cats turn up their noses. Owners are more willing to try new foods with picky cats if they know they can be refunded, she said. The Natural Pet Enrichment Center has also had success with mix-or-match buy 12 cans, get 10 cents off deals. Brandon Forder, vice president of Canadian Pet Connection, a retailer in Meaford, Ontario, Canada, said cat owners are hungry for nutritional information. The retailer offers only premium brands in the top 5 percent tier of quality. Each year, the store ranks the top 10 Canadian cat and dog foods on its blog. Forder said the lists are unbiased, as the store has no exclusivities or partnerships that help certain brands rank higher than others. 'That is a tremendous resource for cat owners when they are looking to find healthy options for their pets but they're not exactly sure what to go with,' he said. 'They want to know what is the best and how does it stack up with the others.' The top 10 lists create a great sales funnel and 'real quick call to action,' Forder said. Customers are able to click links that go right from the list to the store's site, where they can purchase the products directly, often with a promo code. by Page Gilbert  

To Chelate or Not to Chelate Minerals?
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3+ MIN

To Chelate or Not to Chelate Minerals?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has published minimum requirements for each of the 12 essential mineral for dogs and cats. Currently, AAFCO nutrient profiles only set maximum amounts for iodine for cats and iodine, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium for dogs. Minerals in pet foods come from the main ingredients – liver is a good source of copper and iron, bone meal is a good source of calcium and phosphorus, and potatoes are high in potassium – or can be added as concentrated supplements if they are not in high enough amounts in other ingredients to meet the AAFCO minimum requirements. Minerals that come from pet food's main ingredients The minerals that come into the diet from the main ingredients like meats are often called 'organic' or chelated minerals. This has nothing to do with the definition of organic we usually think about for pet or human foods, but instead is the definition of 'organic' based on chemistry – it means that these minerals are chemically bound to proteins and other biological molecules. Similarly, the term 'chelated' means 'attached to a biological molecule'. Supplemental minerals Concentrated mineral supplements added to pet foods can be lab-created chelated versions or they can be the mineral as it is found outside the body in nature – as an 'inorganic' mineral. Copper sulfate, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride (table salt) are examples of inorganic minerals used in pet foods. Commercially-made chelated minerals are a newer ingredient in the human and pet food chain. An example of a chelated mineral ingredient in a pet food is 'zinc proteinate', which is zinc attached to a small piece of protein. Because they more closely resemble the minerals that come in with other pet food ingredients, chelated minerals can sometimes have higher absorption by the dog or cat – so less of the chelated mineral may be needed than the inorganic mineral to result in the same effect in the body. Many 'premium' pet foods use chelated minerals in place of inorganic ones and market them as being better, healthier options than inorganic minerals. Which types of minerals are the best? The truth is that chelated minerals are not always more easily absorbed by pets and even when they are, greater absorption is not always a good thing. The majority of the research over the past decades that has developed safe minimum and maximum levels of minerals for pets such as those in the AAFCO nutrient profiles, has used inorganic minerals, not chelated minerals. Therefore, substituting a chelated mineral at the same amount as an inorganic mineral could increase the risk of toxicity and adverse health effects. We need new studies that look at the minimum and maximum doses of chelated minerals for healthy pets and those with certain disease conditions to help ensure that if chelated minerals are included in a diet, they only benefit the pet, not potentially cause harm. Generally speaking, chelated minerals probably have the most potential for pets with known digestive issues that could reduce their ability to absorb nutrients from their food, or when used as supplements for pets with confirmed mineral deficiencies. For pets at risk of excessive minerals, like pets with copper storage disease or bladder stones, diets that use inorganic sources might be preferable. Always talk to your pet's veterinarian if you have questions about your pet's mineral needs before adding a supplement! Bottom Line For the majority of pets, the type of minerals in the food probably doesn't matter as long as the diet you choose is high quality and 'complete and balanced'. Based on our current knowledge, it is unlikely to be worth it to pay more for a diet with chelated minerals for the average healthy pet. Always talk to your veterinarian before adding any mineral supplements to your pet's diet.  by Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVIM (Nutrition)

Managing Feline Stress
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5+ MIN

Managing Feline Stress

Dogs have a reputation for being the expressive and sensitive pets, while cats are seen as emotionally aloof. However, looks can be deceiving. In fact, felines can suffer greatly from stress and anxiety, just like their canine counterparts.  '[Cats] are far more creatures of habit and even the slightest change in routine, diet, environment or schedule can cause anxious or fearful actions, aggressive behavior or improper elimination,' explains Michele Crowley, senior vice president of marketing for H&C Animal Health. Relieving cats' stress is about more than simply righting behavioral issues, though. If left unaddressed, it can place strain on or even break the relationship between the pet and the parent. 'The number one reason cats are returned to shelters is inappropriate peeing,' says Julianna Carella, founder and CEO of Treatibles. 'Often, this behavior is rooted in stress. Being back in a shelter can cause even more stress. It's a viscous and sad cycle. Helping cats reach a state of calm can literally be a life-or-death situation.'   Luckily, pet specialty retailers can play a key role in stopping this unfortunate cycle by providing owners with the education, resources and calming aids they need to manage their cats' stress.  Symptoms and Triggers The first step to addressing feline stress is determining when and why they feel this way. Since cats can't talk, though, pet parents must rely on other means of communication.  Retailers can help bridge this communication gap by educating owners about the common symptoms of stress in cats, including self-isolation, pacing, excessive shedding, overgrooming, weight loss, lack of appetite, diarrhea/constipation, aggression, spraying, increased vocalization and urinating or defecating outside the litter box. Pet parents may also need assistance identifying the root cause of their stress. While every cat is different, triggers may include things like boredom, overstimulation, loud noises, new people or pets, moving houses, changes in routine or invasion of their personal space.  'Even simple grooming tasks like trimming claws can cause stress for both cat and owner,' says Ashley Stafford, brand manager for Paw CBD. 'And almost every cat owner dreads anything that requires getting a cat into a carrier, from veterinary visits to travel.'  Aids to Address Stress In an ideal world, pet parents would be able to remove all the stressors from their kitty's life. However, since we don't live in an ideal world, manufacturers have created other solutions to help keep cats calm.  'After years of being misunderstood, cats are finally having a moment,' says Carella. 'Pet parents have more access to information from top cat behavior experts and feline-only veterinarians. They understand that managing a cat's stress is important for the whole family. And they are seeking products to help.  'It is a great opportunity for retailers to carry a variety of products and to equip themselves with knowledge about what each one offers.'  This is especially true as the world begins to open back up, adds Crowley. 'More people will be hosting guests, traveling, and celebrating holidays, which can trigger a cat's anxiety response,' she explains. 'Having calming solutions on shelf will be important as pet specialty stores and their employees are a great 'go to' source for pet parents.' Since every cat is different, it's important for retailers to offer a robust and diverse selection of calming aid products. One tried-and-true option: products like sprays, chews and infusers that harness the power of pheromones and cats' natural instincts. 'Felines have a specialized organ on the roof of their mouth called the vomeronasal organ, also known as the Jacobson's organ,' says Crowley. 'This gives cats 10-times the smell receptors as humans, making pheromones critical in the way they communicate. For example, a mother cat uses facial pheromones to help her young ones feel safe. Tapping into this natural communication, pheromone-based products like bSerene, mimic these signals to help reduce stress related behaviors in a safe, drug-free way.' Another increasingly popular calming solution are products for cats featuring cannabidiol or CBD. According to a recent Brightfield Group report, there has been a 4 percent increase in CBD product use for cats between 2020 and 2021. 'People who have used CBD for themselves and been happy with the results are naturally turning to this hemp-based option for their pets,' says Stafford. 'With that, calming-specific products have seen a surge in the last few years. As with any trend, people see what works best for them and seek out similar options for their pets, wanting to share the same positive benefits.' It's important to note that research is still being conducted into the actual effects of CBD on pets. However, many owners find that CBD is an effective way to not only relieve cats' stress, but also benefit their overall wellness.  'There is nothing more holistic than CBD,' says Carella. 'It works with the neurological, physiological and immunological systems – the whole body. And with the correct administration of top-quality hemp-derived CBD, most cats experience relief.'  Selling Serenity Although dogs often appear to dominate the pet industry, studies show that within pet-owning households, cats actually outnumber dogs. One way to take advantage of felines' growing popularity – and distinguish your store – is by creating a wellness area just for cat-specific products. 'Cats are not small dogs, and products should be species-specific,' says Stafford. 'Unless they have both dogs and cats in the house, pet owners want to know the products they are trusting their cats to are made just for felines and aren't interchangeable.  'Retailers need to carry more cat-specific options, ones made specifically for the unique needs and physiology of cats.' Of course, given the relative newness of the category, one of the most effective selling tools at retailers' disposal is education.  'Retailers should have at least basic knowledge about the highlighted ingredients in the calming products they carry (whether they be herbs, flowers, amino acids, vitamins or CBD),' advises Carella. 'It is beneficial to carry brands that offer educational materials and training sessions for staff.'  Since many pet parents begin their search for a solution before they ever step foot in a store, retailers should meet them where they are – online. Consider adding educational materials and resources about calming on your website or social media platforms.  For the in-store experience, category signage should also be heavily based in education to help customers find the best calming aid product for their situation. This could look like signs touting the benefits of calming aids or signs connecting behavioral issues, like aggression or bathroom issues, to stress.  In-store events, like behavior education classes with local shelters or product demonstrations, are also a great way to engage and educate customers. 'For bSerene, we have also had a great deal of success with executing in store demos,' adds Crowley. 'One-on-one conversations have provided hands on education for shoppers regarding the benefits of using pheromone-based products. As a halo effect, these demos have also proved to be a great opportunity to educate store employees.'  PB By Carley Lintz

High-Protein diets help control Glucose in Cats
Cats
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3+ MIN

High-Protein diets help control Glucose in Cats

The feeding of companion animals plays a key role in their correct development, as well as in the general health of pets, which may have specific needs depending on their size, age or pathologies. To know the effects that different types of diet have on companion animals, there are different scientific studies. In this regard, new research has recently been published that has evaluated whether diets rich in protein and carbohydrates exert differential effects on serum concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides and fructosamine in healthy cats. To carry out the study, a randomized crossover diet trial was performed in 35 healthy shelter cats. After the baseline health exams, the cats were randomly assigned into groups that received a high-protein or high-carbohydrate diet during 4 weeks. The cats were subsequently fed a wash diet for 4 weeks before switching to either of the two diets studied that they had not yet received. Fasting serum cholesterol, triglyceride, and fructosamine concentrations were determined at the end of each 4-week diet period. The researchers note that cats on a high-carbohydrate diet had significantly lower serum cholesterol concentrations compared to baseline measurements. They also note that cats on a high-protein diet had significantly higher serum cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, but lower fructosamine concentrations compared to baseline measurements. In contrast, overweight cats (body condition score [BCS]> 5) had lower concentrations of cholesterol and triglycerides in the high protein diet than cats in other BCS groups. All this indicates, according to the researchers, that high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets appear to be beneficial for short-term glucose control in healthy cats. A high-protein diet was associated with significantly elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in healthy cats, although the increase was significantly less pronounced in overweight cats. "This finding suggests that overweight cats process rich in protein diets, cholesterol, and triglycerides differently from non-overweight cats," the researchers conclude in the study. THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTEINS IN CAT DIETS The results of the study are in line with the recommendations recently published by Virbac on some important factors to consider when choosing a food for pets. Thus, from the company, they emphasized the importance of choosing the diet based on the pathologies that the animals present, since, as this study has shown, for example, overweight cats may not process diets in the same way as cats that do not suffer from this pathology do it. In addition, the company has always stressed the importance of taking into account the nature of pets when feeding them. In this sense, Sébastien Huron, CEO of  Virbac Group, recalled in a video the carnivorous nature of cats and the importance of providing them with a diet rich in animal protein. For this reason, from Virbac they insist that the premise of "high in protein of animal origin and low in carbohydrates" must always be taken into account, something very present in their Veterinary HPM range of food. And the fact is that the Veterinary HPM range, thanks to a low-carbohydrate and high-protein nutritional profile and the precise selection of functional ingredients, provides multiple benefits to companion animals, allowing them to enjoy greater protection of their condition. physiological and maintain good general health by Jorge Jiménez - Animal's Health

Four ideas to keep our cat busy
Cats
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4+ MIN

Four ideas to keep our cat busy

"Although our cats no longer need to hunt to eat, they retain the need to pounce on objects and play," experts say. A bored cat is a destructive cat, so it is necessary to have different options to entertain a cat at home. Felines remain in their homes and, unlike dogs, require greater imagination on the part of their owners so that they do not get bored and cause damage to the home. Playing with them will be a very beneficial activity, not only for adults and children, but for the pets themselves, since by playing with the cat the mental health of the animal is taken care of and the emotional ties with it are strengthened. "The games with the cat are important to provide the feline the stimulating environment that he needs to stay healthy and happy", indicated a study on feline behavior carried out by the University of Tufts, in Massachusetts, USA. The ancestors of the urban cat needed to hunt insects, birds, mice, and other small mammals to survive. "A wild cat can hunt between 10 and 20 small prey a day," explained scientists from the University of Ohio, USA, who carried out research on the importance of play for cats. These wild cats are prepared to pounce on any possible prey as soon as they detect it. "Although our cats no longer need to hunt to eat, they retain the need to pounce on objects and play," said these experts. Therefore, they explained, games are a basic need, which keeps the furry friend happy and motivated. Playing with the cat also helps its owner to bond with his pet, in addition to helping him smile more and be happier. Depending on the type of game, toy or activity and the interaction that the activity needs, the time that must be dedicated will be. If he gets bored easily, it is because he did not find the game attractive. There are many elements to entertain cats, from toys to food, but the best way to do it is by playing with them. Cats are a lot of fun, but depending on their personality they can be troublesome. Especially puppies and even adults are full of energy and eager to practice their predatory behavior all day and sometimes at night as well. Without a plan that allows coexistence, this could mean that the hands and feet of the closest humans will become prey. Therefore, directing this energy and practicing predation through acceptable channels is the key to a positive and long-lasting relationship with a cat in the home.   Here are some tips to get feline energies back on track 1 - Play with him twice a day for five to 15 minutes Specialists recommend that direct contact with the body is not part of the game. Cats need the consistent message that the body is not to sink its teeth or claws. Toys should be used to recreate the chase a cat needs to do. It is best to use something light, such as a crumpled piece of paper, or a fishing pole as a 'mouse'. It is good to start with the toy near the cat and then remove it. Cats are innately attracted to short, quick movements away from their body. You need to be careful of hair ties, bows and laces that turn into dangerous intestinal obstructions if accidentally eaten. Always end the play session by letting the kitten catch its prey and then give it a treat. Cats need to complete the hunt-catch-play-eat cycle to relax and know that playtime is over. Otherwise, they will be frustrated. Another fun way to play is to distribute several boxes of different sizes around the room. Cereal boxes, shoe boxes and even some larger ones can be used. Now, it only remains to hide an edible prize in them and invite the cat to find it. Another fun alternative to cat play is to put this paper bag inside a cardboard box. The cat will be able to jump into the box and out during the game. 2 - You have to provide the cat with places to explore, climb and hide in its environment To attract them, put treats in various places. This will help them establish a routine of going where you want them to rest and relax. Cats' fondness for shelters, such as boxes, closet interiors, among others, can come in handy to create a great and fun game; Since cats love boxes, you can spread some around the room and hide edible treats inside. The intelligent feline will not take long to recognize the pattern of his play if, upon finding him, his owner offers him an affectionate hug and shows him his joy. 3 - Two cats The advantage of having two cats at home is that they can play together is the best way to keep them busy and happy. It should be taken into account that incorporating a new cat into the home where there is already another feline is a complicated task, although not impossible. The simplest thing will be to raise two kittens together, it is the best way for several cats to live in harmony. 4 - Never miss the opportunity to recreate the hunt Food in a bowl is a missed opportunity. Divide the food for the day into many small portions and use hunting feeders to hide their food around the house and puzzle feeders to keep them busy. Save half of the day's food to hide overnight; in this way they can hunt and their owner sleep.   Source: Infobae

Feline Hyperthyroidism: What is the influence of the food?
Cats
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4+ MIN

Feline Hyperthyroidism: What is the influence of the food?

Hyperthyroidism is the most common feline endocrine disorder today, and is a major cause of mortality in middle-aged cats in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. In 98% of the cases of cats with hyperthyroidism, the enlargement of the thyroid gland is the result of a non-cancerous tumor also known as an adenoma. When the thyroid gland becomes enlarged, it can speed up its process and produce more thyroxine, which is the hormone known as T4. For the proper functioning of the entire endocrine system, this hormone must be properly regulated. 95% of cats have benign adenomas, and present with changes in the thyroid gland at the time of diagnosis. In about 70% of hyperthyroid cats, both lobes of the thyroid are enlarged. Feline hyperthyroidism was first documented in 1979 in New York and 1980 in Boston. Since that time, several studies have documented increases in the feline population around the world, for example: • In North America, it went from 0.3% in 1979 to 4.5% in 1985. • In Germany, it went from 0.2% in 1987-1994 to 2.6% in 1998.   The risk factors currently being analyzed fall into two categories: Nutritional deficiencies or excesses in cat food, leading to thyroid dysfunction. Compounds that alter the thyroid, present in the environment or water.   Causes of feline hyperthyroidism Currently there are many theories that try to explain the causes of hyperthyroidism in cats and the exponential increase of this disease in animals older than 10 years of age. The studies carried out have detected certain components as possible causes: • Several studies found that there is a greater chance of developing the disease when cats have been fed a lot of canned food. Specifically, a higher incidence of hyperthyroidism was found in cats fed canned giblets in their formula, that is, with organ meats or meat by-products. • Studies showed that BPA (bisphenol A) and other similar compounds, found in the walls of cans, can transfer to food and thus cause toxicity. Despite the results of these investigations, the FDA stated that it finds that the amount of chemicals that can leak into food is unlikely to be high enough to cause illness. • Another study suggested that flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) may be a determining factor in feline hyperthyroidism. The authors make this claim because they found that PBDEs began to be used around the same time as the first discovered and documented case of hyperthyroidism in cats. Furthermore, the rate of feline hyperthyroidism has been similar to that of PBDE use in other countries. In any case, the sample that was analyzed is too small to be taken as a statistic. It was also hypothesized that the main route of exposure to PBDEs were from items such as carpets, upholstery and mattresses, and since cats often spend a lot of time in these places, the exposure could be high and prolonged. This may also explain why hyperthyroidism is more common in cats that live indoors. However, the most interesting thing about this study for our industry is that PBDE was found in cat food. Elevated levels of PBDEs were found in canned foods, especially those based on fish or shellfish (which is consistent with the relationship with canned foods mentioned above). Likewise, high levels of PBDEs were also found in some dry cat foods. • Another study tends to determine the cause of feline hyperthyroidism in the amount of iodine found in many foods. The problem with iodine is that the minimum intake is known, but not the healthy maximum. In addition, it is not yet known, since the analysis of this chemical is very expensive, but it could be that excess iodine affected cats as well as humans, causing hyperthyroidism.   What diet is considered the most appropriate for feline hyperthyroidism? In contrast to other results Mark E. Peterson, veterinarian and recognized researcher, affirms that the food for cats with this disease is better if it is canned, and it should have high-quality protein and low content of carbohydrates and phosphates: Proteins and carbohydrates Dr. Peterson, along with Dr. Eirmann recommend, for cats with hyperthyroidism, foods with 40% protein, since a consequence of the disease is sarcopenia due to age-related changes and increased metabolism caused by hyperthyroidism. In addition, as older cats find it difficult to digest proteins, it is important that they be of animal origin and easily digestible. They also recommend foods with carbohydrates below 15% to help stabilize blood glucose levels to prevent diabetes. Iodine restriction Iodine increases the production of thyroxine, so a treatment option for feline hyperthyroidism from food is the restriction or reduction of iodine. Iodine levels in foods for hyperthyroid cats should be limited to 0.32 ppm or less. Today, the best known food sold as 'ultra low iodine' is Hill's Pet Nutrition. The company claims that this food, if given exclusively, will normalize a hyperthyroid cat's hormone levels within 3 weeks.   Conclusion Despite the paucity of studies and accurate results, there is currently a wide range of treatment options for hyperthyroidism. From our side, as we know that diet can play an important role in controlling the disease, we must continue to develop safe and healthy products for this portion of the feline population that, unfortunately, is growing every day.   Source: All Pet Food

Increased Pet Food Turnover in the EU
Cats
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2+ MIN

Increased Pet Food Turnover in the EU

An estimated 80 million European households own at least 1 pet. This high number of pets has increased the pet food turnover. This is according to the latest annual figures from the European Pet Food Federation (Fediaf) that show that pet ownership across Europe remains at a high level, Cats remain the most popular Cats remain the most popular pets in European households with a stable population of 74.4 million in the EU and 102.7 million in Europe and Russia. Dogs are growing in popularity with 66.4 million dogs in the EU (84.9 million in Europe and Russia) in 2017 compared to 63.7 million (82.2 million) in 2016. In terms of other pets, small mammal and reptile ownership has increased slightly, the population of ornamental fish (measured by number of aquaria) has remained relatively stable at 9.4 million. Pet birds, however, have seen a 10% decline in the region bringing the total population to 35.4 million. Boost for the European economy The growth in pet population is good news for the European economy with the pet care sector contributing a significant turnover of € 36.5 billion. In 2017, the pet food industry alone delivered € 20.5 billion in turnover, an increase of € 1 billion on the previous year, with related products and services remaining stable at € 16 billion. Mechthild Exner-Herforth, new President of Fediaf said: 'The importance of pet ownership is evidenced by the large number of direct and indirect employment created. The pet food sector is responsible for providing approximately 100,000 jobs in the industry and we estimate a further 900,000 jobs in related pet care sectors. Included in this are the suppliers to the pet food industry, approximately 200,000 veterinarians in Europe, 60,000 specialist pet stores, the pet accessories industry, trade shows, pet press, breeders, animal welfare organisations and transport.' by Emmy Koeleman -All About Feed & Dairy Global

Skechers, Royal Canin Support Animal Shelters During Pandemic
Cats
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3+ MIN

Skechers, Royal Canin Support Animal Shelters During Pandemic

Several brands are jumping to the assistance of animal adoption organizations during the pandemic.  Many shelters nationwide are operating on skeleton staffs and are open for intakes but closed for adoptions. Without the adoption fees, operating funds are becoming an issue. Skechers is donating more than $509,000 to the Petco Foundation, bringing the company's total contribution to over $5.45 million for animal welfare agencies since 2016. Through sales of its Bobs from Skechers collection, donations are aiding shelters and agencies closed due to the coronavirus crisis. 'Animal welfare organizations across the country have been forced to innovate and operate in new ways, including mobilizing record numbers of foster homes to care for pets to support social distancing measures while saving animal lives,' says Susanne Kogut, president of Petco Foundation, in a release. 'Thanks to Bobs, many of our organizations can continue their lifesaving work.' For every Bobs from Skechers item purchased in the U.S., a donation is made to the Foundation to help save and support animals in its 4,000+ shelter and pet adoption network. Bobs also launched in Canada in January 2020; for every purchase made in that country, a donation will support Canada's shelter dogs and cats. Cats in particular are being impacted by the pandemic, according to Royal Canin. Shelters are anticipating the largest kitten season ever, given the reduction in spay and neuter services during the pandemic. Because of this, even more people need to be recruited to sign up to foster. Many are doing it for the first time, and may not have all the same resources that would normally be made available to them. That's where Royal Canin and cat rescue expert Hannah Shaw, The Kitten Lady, come in. Shaw wants to help these first-time kitten fosters succeed by offering a four-week webinar series called 'Catology' that shows how anyone can care for kittens. Royal Canin is sponsoring the effort to help provide the series for free. The brand will also provide a month of free food, valued at $30, to the first 1,000 new kitten and cat fosters and adopters who sign up for the webinar. The webinars will be streamed live on the official Facebook and Instagram of Royal Canin and the official Facebook and Instagram of The Kitten Lady and will be available to rewatch. Additional support is available in the Catology Facebook Group, a new community for cat owners, where veterinarians, nutritionists and other feline experts will host chats and share resources. 'We are going through an unprecedented time right now -- but it's incredible to see kindness emerge in times of need,' said Tony Wild, director of cat acceleration for Royal Canin, in a release. 'While shelters and rescues are facing a crisis of their own in placing and caring for animals, people nationwide are opening their homes to pets in need. We are inspired by these actions and want to help.' Those interested in learning more about fostering can visit StayHomeAndFoster.org to connect with a shelter or rescue in their area. Out of an abundance of precaution, many shelters offer foster pet delivery or low-contact pet pickup. Source: Marketing Daily

Our Fat Pets
Cats
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9+ MIN

Our Fat Pets

Sixty percent of cats tip the scales at unhealthy weights, slightly more than the 56 percent of dogs. It's not good for them. Like most cats, Max had a swagger in his walk. But because he was slightly overweight, the 15-year-old Maine coon began having trouble 'jumping up on things,' his owner says, the extra pounds worsening his arthritis. So his owner, Jaime Wilson, decided her pet needed to go on a diet — barely two tablespoons of dry food in the morning and again at night, along with a larger portion of canned wet food once a day and a supervised exercise program that included treadmill work and running through stationary poles. 'He was ravenous all the time,'  his owner concedes. But after six months, 'he's very sleek and thin,' says Mrs. Wilson, who works at the University of Florida's Small Animal Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. 'Not having the extra pounds has been great for his joints.' The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that in the United States, veterinarians now classify more than 100 million dogs and cats as overweight or obese, up from 80 million five years ago. Sixty percent of cats tip the scales at unhealthy weights, slightly more than the 56 percent of dogs. Worse yet, many pet owners fail to recognize the potential severity of the problem, finding their pets' weight gain of little concern or even 'cute,' says Dr. Justin Shmalberg, service chief of integrative medicine at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville. And show animals, often held up as exemplary models, he says, sometimes tend toward the pudgy side. 'In part, it's an issue of perception,' Dr. Shmalberg says. 'Generally, the public is more tolerant of obese animals than they are of thin ones. There's not as much stigma with animals being overweight as with people.' Obesity and the inflammatory effects of excess fat can bring a host of health problems. Max's six-month journey to a healthier weight reduced his risk for insulin-dependent diabetes, the most common health problem veterinarians see in overweight or obese cats. Overweight dogs rarely develop this form of diabetes, veterinarians say, though large breeds often face joint injuries from excess weight, while smaller ones can have breathing difficulties if airways collapse. Along with diabetes and arthritis, extra heft puts pets at increased risk for liver and kidney diseases, high blood pressure, heart failure and even some cancers. And at least one widely cited study in Labrador retrievers found that even moderately overweight dogs have shorter life spans than their lean counterparts. Veterinarians assess a pet's overall body health using a system similar to the body mass index, or B.M.I., used in people. Emaciated dogs or cats get the lowest score on a nine-point scale, obese ones the highest, with a desirable weight usually in the four to five range, says Dr. Deborah Linder, head of Tufts University's obesity clinic for animals in Boston. An animal at six is considered clinically overweight, with a score of seven or more, obese. Veterinarians also complete a physical exam to assess obesity, feeling over the rib cage by the animal's armpit, 'where tissue should be no thicker than the back of your hand,' Dr. Linder says. Another sign of healthy girth, she says, is a tuck in the belly, similar to an 'hourglass figure.' Although some pets are genetically vulnerable to unwanted pounds, others may have diseases like hyperthyroidism or Cushing's disease, in which the adrenal glands pump out too much of a stress hormone, stimulating appetite. Once these conditions are ruled out, veterinarians say, aging itself poses an ongoing risk as metabolism slows — the pet version of middle-age spread. Neutering or spaying also decreases an animal's energy needs by a third, Dr. Shmalberg says, so 'calories in, calories out,' takes on greater importance in maintaining a pet's proper weight. Researchers have recently identified another risk factor for pet obesity: rapid growth in early life, though the reasons for this remain poorly understood. 'Dogs and cats that grow quickly are highly likely to become obese later in life,' says Dr. Alex German, a professor at the University of Liverpool in England. But veterinarians single out overfeeding as the greatest contributor to pet obesity. Giving pets easy access to food around the house, or 'free feeding,' can quickly add unwanted pounds, they say, as can an overindulgence in high-calorie treats. Throw small children into the household mix with 'sneak feeding' and the situation becomes worse, says Dr. Sarah Nold, a staff veterinarian at Trupanion, a Seattle-based pet insurer. 'It's definitely not uncommon,' she says with a laugh. Whether pets, like some owners, 'stress eat' is difficult to measure. 'In my experience, when animals are stressed, they tend to go off feeding,' Dr. Nold says. 'But we don't know.' 'Pets don't open the fridge by themselves,' so stressed owners may stress-feed their pets, Dr. Linder says. 'The concept of food and love are tightly interconnected, and we need to address it.' Some veterinarians cite the pet food industry's push to include better labeling on foods, including calories per serving, as an advance in helping with weight control. But others describe the print as too small and the calorie information unhelpful because calorie needs vary widely by breed, genetics and current weight. Many dogs and cats that are overweight will need their calories reduced by at least a third, according to the University of Florida's Dr. Shmalberg. An average-size indoor cat needs between 150 to 200 calories per day to maintain weight, while dogs' ideal weights are trickier to assess. But the most important factor, Dr. Shmalberg says, is that owners adjust food to reach an 'ideal body condition,' such as the dog and cat weight charts suggested by the pet food company Purina. Experts also disagree on which type of food promotes better weight loss, wet or dry. Some data suggests wet food's higher water and protein content carries more benefit because it reduces appetite, says Dr. Jonathan Stockman, who runs the clinical nutrition service at Colorado State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, in Ft. Collins, Colo. But dry food has a higher fiber content, he says, so a similar argument can be made for that. 'One really is no better than the other,' Dr. Stockman says. 'We usually go with prescription diets because the nutrient density can be controlled and you can cut calories without causing a nutritional deficiency.' Other options, such as fat-blocking drugs or stomach-shrinking surgeries available to people, seldom play a part in veterinary medicine. Most veterinarians feel that weight loss can best be managed through diet. The goal is to get to a healthy weight before health issues take hold, veterinarians agree. Even though diabetes in cats, for example, can be reversed by aggressive dietary measures, says Dr. Lori Teller, a veterinarian at the Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston, they work only with early diagnosis. Diabetes in dogs, rarely related to obesity, is considered irreversible, she and others say, because insulin production shuts down completely. Some veterinarians cite the pet food industry's push to include better labeling on foods, including calories per serving, as an advance in helping with weight control. But others describe the print as too small and the calorie information unhelpful because calorie needs vary widely by breed, genetics and current weight. Many dogs and cats that are overweight will need their calories reduced by at least a third, according to the University of Florida's Dr. Shmalberg. An average-size indoor cat needs between 150 to 200 calories per day to maintain weight, while dogs' ideal weights are trickier to assess. But the most important factor, Dr. Shmalberg says, is that owners adjust food to reach an 'ideal body condition,' such as the dog and cat weight charts suggested by the pet food company Purina. Experts also disagree on which type of food promotes better weight loss, wet or dry. Some data suggests wet food's higher water and protein content carries more benefit because it reduces appetite, says Dr. Jonathan Stockman, who runs the clinical nutrition service at Colorado State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, in Ft. Collins, Colo. But dry food has a higher fiber content, he says, so a similar argument can be made for that. 'One really is no better than the other,' Dr. Stockman says. 'We usually go with prescription diets because the nutrient density can be controlled and you can cut calories without causing a nutritional deficiency.' Other options, such as fat-blocking drugs or stomach-shrinking surgeries available to people, seldom play a part in veterinary medicine. Most veterinarians feel that weight loss can best be managed through diet. The goal is to get to a healthy weight before health issues take hold, veterinarians agree. Even though diabetes in cats, for example, can be reversed by aggressive dietary measures, says Dr. Lori Teller, a veterinarian at the Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston, they work only with early diagnosis. Diabetes in dogs, rarely related to obesity, is considered irreversible, she and others say, because insulin production shuts down completely. Some veterinarians cite the pet food industry's push to include better labeling on foods, including calories per serving, as an advance in helping with weight control. But others describe the print as too small and the calorie information unhelpful because calorie needs vary widely by breed, genetics and current weight. Many dogs and cats that are overweight will need their calories reduced by at least a third, according to the University of Florida's Dr. Shmalberg. An average-size indoor cat needs between 150 to 200 calories per day to maintain weight, while dogs' ideal weights are trickier to assess. But the most important factor, Dr. Shmalberg says, is that owners adjust food to reach an 'ideal body condition,' such as the dog and cat weight charts suggested by the pet food company Purina. Experts also disagree on which type of food promotes better weight loss, wet or dry. Some data suggests wet food's higher water and protein content carries more benefit because it reduces appetite, says Dr. Jonathan Stockman, who runs the clinical nutrition service at Colorado State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, in Ft. Collins, Colo. But dry food has a higher fiber content, he says, so a similar argument can be made for that. 'One really is no better than the other,' Dr. Stockman says. 'We usually go with prescription diets because the nutrient density can be controlled and you can cut calories without causing a nutritional deficiency.' Other options, such as fat-blocking drugs or stomach-shrinking surgeries available to people, seldom play a part in veterinary medicine. Most veterinarians feel that weight loss can best be managed through diet. The goal is to get to a healthy weight before health issues take hold, veterinarians agree. Even though diabetes in cats, for example, can be reversed by aggressive dietary measures, says Dr. Lori Teller, a veterinarian at the Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston, they work only with early diagnosis. Diabetes in dogs, rarely related to obesity, is considered irreversible, she and others say, because insulin production shuts down completely. 'Our current approach is failing,' Dr. German says, citing the need for new strategies and more vigorous prevention. Studies have found that only half of dogs and cats placed on weight-loss  programs achieve their target goal, he says, and half of that number rebound to unhealthy weights. Instead of aiming for a complete or 'perfect' weight loss, he suggests, it might be more realistic to push for a modest weight loss, which can still have benefits. Studies have shown that in overweight people, for example, even a relatively modest weight loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight can delay the onset of diabetes, and the same may apply to pets. Max's weight loss was more extreme, and he is faring well.  His owner is vigilant about not letting his diet and exercise routines lapse.  
'If I free feed him now,' Mrs. Wilson says, 'he would just balloon back up, I'm sure.' By Susan Jenks

Learning the Ropes – How Computers and Big Data are Shaping the Future of Pet Health
Cats
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5+ MIN

Learning the Ropes – How Computers and Big Data are Shaping the Future of Pet Health

What do you think of when you hear the term artificial intelligence? Skynet running the world? Computers replacing humans? It's becoming a pretty well-known concept, with a plethora of movies and novels devoted to it. But, of course, AI is already all around us. It's in the e-passport system at the airport – recognizing your facial features and matching them to the photo in your travel documents. It's at work when Netflix recommends TV programs similar to those you've already watched. It's Alexa and Siri and the thing in your smartphone's camera that can tell what's a face, and what's not. But, what if humans want computers to give them an answer, but don't know how to program them to get it? This is where machine learning comes in. Machine learning is a particular type of AI, in which computer systems use large amounts of data to spot patterns which aren't easily seen by the human eye – at least, not without many decades of hard work and analysis. Rather than working according to instructions set by a person, the computer tests its own algorithm - refining and improving it until it's as accurate as possible. Spot the difference Here's an analogy. I expect you'd easily recognize a picture of a Dalmatian dog if I showed you one. You've probably seen quite a few, either in real life or in movies. But what features are your brain recognizing to tell you it's a Dalmatian? White fur with black or brown spots – definitely. But there are other dogs with those markings that are clearly not Dalmatians. Their ears may be a different shape, their coat longer or their tail shorter. You may not consciously realize it, but what you've learnt through experience is coming together for you to distinguish between 'Dalmatian' and 'not Dalmatian'. Your brain, a complex neural network, has developed a kind of algorithm and refines it through experience to come to a more accurate conclusion. However, if I showed my almost-4 year old daughter a picture of any white dog with black spots, she'd say it was a Dalmatian for sure. Due to her age she's just not as experienced in detecting the other features which you would use to tell apart one breed from another. You might say her algorithm is just not sufficiently refined yet! In machine learning, computers learn from data and use artificial neural networks to identify patterns or relationships between different variables to make predictions or decisions - but with minimal human intervention. Big data Machine learning is being used in human healthcare for diagnosis, prognosis and to make treatment decisions. For example, machine learning has been used to predict mortality of patients admitted to an Intensive Care Unit and calculate their likely length of stay. But to do this kind of work requires access to large datasets. In pet health, this has been a real challenge. Traditionally, clinical data about pets have been siloed in many different places; within individual veterinary hospitals, diagnostic providers and pet owner records. There is no single database to store and compare health records, and data on individual pets are often incomplete due to lack of regular vet visits. At Mars Petcare, we have the big data to change this. Our veterinary health group has over 1800 hospitals across the US and more than 250 across the UK and continental Europe. The integrated information collected from millions of pets as they visit a hospital, have tests carried out and receive treatment provides an unparalleled opportunity for research in data science. Through our Pet Insight Project - utilising Whistle FIT activity trackers synced to Banfield hospital data - we are even working out how patterns in behaviour can indicate a possible health issue at an early stage. We're now bringing this to life in another way; applying machine learning techniques to our big data to develop a predictive test for feline chronic kidney disease. Turning ideas into reality Between 8 and 31% of geriatric cats suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), a debilitating illness for which there is no known cure, and is a common cause of death. Current diagnosis of this complex disease only occurs once at least 40% of the kidney is damaged. This makes intervention and treatment challenging. The goal of any therapy is to slow down the rate of further kidney damage and is usually tackled with modified diets – with adapted protein levels and lower in phosphorus than regular cat foods - and medications to reduce the side effects of kidney dysfunction, such as high blood pressure. But it can be frustrating for vets and cat owners to know they've come into the game rather late. Imagine if cats who were at risk of developing this condition could be identified earlier, before the kidneys have become so extensively damaged. Using machine learning on routinely collected clinical data and veterinary medical records from Banfield hospitals - incorporating 700,000 visits from more than 100,000 cats over the last 20 years - we have developed a novel algorithmic tool that can accurately predict the likelihood of onset of CKD up to 3 years before the appearance of clinical signs. This will give vets and owners the power to take steps to intervene much earlier in the disease process. Of course, the skilled physical examination and clinical history taken by the veterinarians will still be an irreplaceable part of the process, and it will be veterinarians who work with their clients to identify which cats would benefit from the algorithm. Few pet owners, I suspect, want their vet to be replaced by a computer! At Mars Petcare, this is a way of improving pets' lives that is clearly aligned with our purpose: A Better World for Pets. Our research in this area is ongoing and there's a real sense of excitement about the potential of this approach. And for individual pets - thanks to machine learning, their future health is fast becoming something we can predict better than ever before. by Darren Logan - Head of Research, WALTHAM at Mars Petcare

Complete Commercially Prepared Cat Foods Deliver Optimum Nutrition For Cats
Cats
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Complete Commercially Prepared Cat Foods Deliver Optimum Nutrition For Cats

Most recently, a piece of consumer research highlighted many pet owners may not be aware of their cat"s nutritional needs and may not be providing a healthy diet. The industry is worried this may cause pet owners unnecessary concern about the quality of food they are feeding their pet. The nutritional needs of cats are complex and they require over 40 nutrients in their daily diet to remain healthy and happy.  The easiest way for cat owners to ensure they are providing the right nutrition is by feeding a "complete" prepared cat food. Most pet food is designed to be "complete and balanced," which means each serving is a complete meal and provides all the nutrition a pet needs to be healthy. This is usually visible on pet food packaging. To ensure a "complete" diet, PFMA members formulate their pet foods diets in line with the FEDIAF (European Pet Food Federation) Nutritional Guidelines for Cats and Dogs. These guidelines detail the nutritional needs of cats and dogs at the varying life stages.  They are written and reviewed by independent experts such as vets, scientists and animal nutritionists throughout Europe. A survey of vets at the London Vet Show highlighted that 91% of vets believe that prepared pet foods for cats and dogs deliver optimum nutrition when fed properly. There is a wide range of "complete" pet foods available to meet all consumer needs and preferences. Whatever the consumer chooses, all pet foods are subject to the same stringent legislation to ensure safe products of a high quality.  Why are pet food labels so difficult to decipher? We recognise that pet food labelling isn"t always consumer friendly and that sometimes the terminology can be confusing. Pet food labelling falls under EU legislation for farm animal feed, meaning that the way information is listed on-pack is not always understandable for pet owners. Despite the regulatory constraints, PFMA and its members are committed to providing pet owners with a better understanding of what is in their pet"s food. This is why many pet food manufacturers provide full product information on company websites and have dedicated customer care lines to provide further support. Why do some pet foods list ingredients and others are vague – using terms such as "cereals"?  Current legislation means manufacturers can label ingredients by category or by individual ingredients. Listing ingredients by category means manufacturers can select ingredients based on supply without having the high cost of changing labels constantly and means they can deliver an economical product of high quality. When a label says meat and animal derivatives (4% chicken) on the pet food label does this really mean that there is only 4% meat in the products?  The pet food industry works hard to help consumers understand the legislation particularly surrounding labelling. For example, when a pet food label states 4% of a certain meat ingredient, this does not mean that the product contains only 4% meat. The 4% declaration is a legal labelling requirement which represents the minimum percentage content of the named ingredient guaranteed to be present by the manufacturer. Each recipe includes a blend of different ingredients which are all combined into a food which will meet, in part or entirely, the daily nutritional requirements of the pet. Why do prepared pet foods include carbohydrates when they are not nutritionally essential for cats and dogs?  Carbohydrate in pet food provides a useful and readily available source of metabolisable energy. By using carbohydrate instead of fat or protein to obtain energy, these other nutrients can be used to optimise healthy skin, coat, immune systems etc. The existing science highlights that the carbohydrate levels found in prepared pet foods, both wet and dry, are well tolerated by both dogs and cats and are important for the nutritional contribution they bring. The classification of carbohydrates also includes dietary fibre. Certain fibres, for example moderately fermentable fibres (e.g. beet pulp or rice bran), can also have a beneficial effect on the health of the digestive tract and possibly in reducing the risk of disease. Can pet food (or ingredients in pet food) cause health problems?  No there is stringent legislation in place to ensure that pet food is safe and of high quality. Furthermore, pet food and pet nutrition is subject to intensive study to provide optimum nutrition. It is widely recognised by vets that pets are living longer, healthier lives and that improved nutrition has played an important role in this. John Foster MRCVS, Chairman of the Pet Health Council[1] explains: "The amount of nutritionally related problems we encountered 30 years ago was legion.  We saw bad coats, poor teeth, poor digestion, rickets and shortened life spans.  This was all as a result of inadequate nutrition.  The widespread feeding of prepared pet foods and advancements in these diets has made a major difference. The majority of modern diets are sophisticated, constructed on the back of intensive research, and trustworthy." Why don"t pet food labels provide more information on ingredients?  There is limited space on a pet food label and it is important that the minimum legally required information (e.g. description, directions for use, ingredients and feeding guidelines) is provided to the consumer. To support consumers, pet food manufacturers often provide full product information on company websites and via telephone help-lines.  All companies provide contact details to allow consumers to obtain further information and are legally required to disclose the specific ingredients within a labelled category on a product upon request. What ingredients are typically used?  There is strict legislation covering what ingredients can be used in pet foods to ensure they are safe and nutritious. With regards to the animal based ingredients in pet food, these must come from animals that have been inspected under veterinary supervision and are considered fit for human consumption. Cuts that might not sound appealing to the UK consumer but which might be regularly on the menu in other cuisines or that have been eaten in the UK in the past (e.g. pigs trotters, or fried pig ears, udders) are used. The main concern for the pet food manufacturer is to source nutritionally valuable raw materials. Some of the less favoured cuts could be a perfect source of protein, essential amino acids or other valuable substances.
Source: www.pfma.org.uk