Monday, June 30, 2014

Petagogy Blog: Pet Foods for All Ages and Stages

By the Staff at Petagogy

 I have a 10-pound miniature poodle puppy and a 60-pound lab that’s 5 years old. Can I feed them the same food?

My cat just turned 9. Do I need to switch him to a senior food?

My dog is overweight. Should she eat a “diet” food?

We get questions like these every day! There are so many pet food choices out there and the differences are not just the types of protein used. Some foods are good for puppies, some for seniors, so what is the difference between puppy or kitten, adult, senior, small or large breed, weight control, etc. pet foods? 

Let’s start by looking at foods labeled puppy or kitten, adult and “all life stages.” These foods labels are determined by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), a private advisory board made up of representatives from state, federal and foreign government agencies who regulate animal feeds in the US and develop uniform definitions for pet food ingredients and labeling. Pet foods that follow AAFCO guidelines can call their foods “complete and balanced.” There are currently only two standard nutrition profiles AAFCO uses to label pet food: (1) “Growth and Reproduction,” for puppies/kittens and pregnant or nursing females; and (2) “Adult Maintenance,” for adult, or fully grown, animals. On each bag or can of food there is an AAFCO statement that tells consumers which profile the food meets. If the food is labeled “All Life Stages” it means it meets the stricter guidelines for “Growth and Reproduction” and can be fed to pets of any age. 

How Does AAFCO Determine Food Ratings?
There are two ways pet foods can get their AAFCO rating: (1) a food analysis, which is a lab test to ensure the food contains the 36 essential nutrients that AAFCO considers to be essential for “complete and balanced” nutrition (although these tests do not evaluate the quality of the nutrients); and (2) a food trial, which consists of feeding the food to a certain number of animals (sometimes as few as eight animals) for 26 weeks and monitoring the animals’ health before, during and after the trial. Foods that do not meet AAFCO requirements are labeled “supplemental” or for “intermittent feeding.” 

What about the Other Categories?

There are no regulations or guidelines for large breed, small breed, senior or weight control foods. Large breed foods tend to have less protein and fat to help balance the calcium to phosphorus levels. The correct ratio will help with proper bone growth and body weight, because if a large breed puppy grows to fast it may result in abnormal joint development, which can lead to arthritis. Small breed dogs have a high metabolic rate and burn through food rather quickly. Couple that with their tiny little bellies, they tend to need a calorie-dense food to get the fuel their bodies need.

Senior dogs tend to be less active so their foods are often lower in calories and higher in fiber than the adult varieties. However, if your senior dog or cat still loves his walks or playtime, there is no need to switch to a food labeled for “senior” animals. Some brands also advertise glucosamine, Omega 3s, probiotics or other supplements to boost the food’s nutrients--just be aware that the amount added is usually too minimal to do any good, so additional supplementation is needed for joint, skin and digestive health. 

So What Does this All Mean?
“The food says it’s ‘complete and balanced’ for my pet, so that’s all I need to know, right?” Unfortunately no. The AAFCO statement that the food is “complete and balanced” has led some pet owners to believe that they can feed the same food for the lifetime of their pet. Unfortunately, this is a common way some animals develop food allergies. Ideally, pet owners should rotate both proteins and brands in order to give their pets a fuller nutritional experience.

More importantly, not all nutrients are created equal. A food that is labeled “complete and balanced” by AAFCO may meet the protein standard for Adult Maintenance foods by filling the food with proteins from cheaper plant sources, which are not as biologically appropriate for carnivorous animals like cats and dogs.

So What Should I Do?
You need to look at more than just the AAFCO statement, or the fact that the food is for puppies, seniors, etc., when choosing a pet food. Look at the ingredients list and the guaranteed analysis to make sure the food contains appropriate levels of animal proteins and no cheap filler ingredients (like corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors, preservatives and byproducts). It’s also important to know where the pet food company manufactures its food and sources its ingredients from. Independent pet stores (like Petagogy) usually know a lot about the foods they carry and can help you choose a food that best suits your pet’s needs.

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reunited: Rusty and Julia

Guest Blogger: Julia S.

This was my dog, Rusty.

In November 2010, I was in Florida with my mom when my dad took Rusty to the Indiana County Animal Shelter and didn't tell me for almost a week. I visited him twice. Being a minor at the time, I couldn't save him.

Almost 4 years later, after endlessly searching Petfinder, I put an ad in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette saying that I lost my dog and that I knew he had been adopted from Animal Friends (thanks to Petfinder). 

Animal Friends called me and in two weeks it was confirmed that we knew where Rusty was! I was put in touch with his new mommy, Barb, and we decided to meet.

1,317 days after he was given away and 1,303 days since I last laid eyes on him, I got to meet him again. Rusty was always super hyper when he met new people. But when I fell on my knees after seeing him, he came up to me, sat down, and gently kissed my nose. He knew my voice. We all had a great day together. 

I just want to say thank you for helping me become a part of his life again. Rusty (now Quincy) means everything to me and I can never thank you and his new family enough.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home Adoption Program presents: Harley

I’m a shy, sweet girl urgently in need of a home due to my owner’s hospitalization.   

Here’s some of my info.:

8 years old, spayed, de-clawed

Up-to-date on all of my shots (and FIV & Leukemia negative)

Really cute!

Indoor kitty with one owner my whole life

Love daily petting sessions 

I am ideally looking for a home with adults only and no other pets, as this is how I’ve lived all of these years.  I like things quiet and easy going.  

If you love kitties and have a nice home you’d like to share with me, I’d love to meet you.  I also come with a litter pan, litter, food, toys, and a recent June 2014 vet visit that I passed with flying colors. Patiently waiting for my new best friend!

If you can help Harley, please contact Susan at 412.370.7931 or email at

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Black Cats ARE Lucky: Zelda

By: Jeff Geissler

It was supposed to be a lighthearted story about black cats and why they're such a part of Halloween folklore. But the story soon grew serious, and I ended up writing the article more as a warning than entertainment.

I was working for a newspaper in Myrtle Beach S.C. We had a special Halloween section planned for the October 31st edition, including information on neighborhood gatherings, shopping specials, bar celebrations and a few stories about the history of the holiday. Even though I wasn't a cat lover at the time, I decided to take the black cat assignment. I thought it'd be easy, but it ended up changing my life.

For my first interview, I headed to the local Humane Society. I had a good relationship with them because I frequently photographed the weekly POWs (Pets of the Week) for the paper. Plus, I was a volunteer dog walker on my days off.

"Black cats? This time of year? No way," I remember the manager saying. 

"To be honest, we don't adopt them out all in October. And sadly, that's when people ask for them," she said slightly choked up. "Unfortunately, we have a hard time adopting them out any other time of the year. It's that bad luck stigma they carry."

When I asked why she didn't adopt them out in October, she said the police might have a better answer. I headed to the station and talked with a few officers who told me stories of the horrific scenes they had worked in the past. On more than a few occasions, they were called to spots in the woods where evidence of rituals, or other sick types of gatherings, had taken place. Sadly, the evidence usually included the remains of one or more black cats.

I even found some locals who had concerns about the holiday. I talked to a family who had 3 black cats that were very protective of their home and pets around Halloween.

So, I wrote the story, mostly as a warning to all who have black cats but also as encouragement to all who love cats to adopt a black cat.

Coincidentally, this came at a time when I was feeling rather lonely in my bachelor life. Being a news photographer provided hectic and unpredictable hours - no time for a dog. But my friends suggested that perhaps a cat might fit into my schedule a little better. 

So I went back to the Humane Society and asked for a black cat. They took me into the cat room and pointed into a kennel where a tiny black ball with large glowing yellow/green eyes was cowering in the corner. I reached in, pulled her out, and was promptly swatted in the face.

I immediately adopted her.

I rarely saw her for the first couple weeks as she hid under my couch. She soon warmed to me and began to venture out from the couch. Finally, one night while I was lying in bed, she jumped to my pillow and gave me The Head Butt. Any cat owner knows that's the ultimate gesture of friendship and love.

A year later, Zelda and I left Myrtle Beach for New York City. A few years after that, we traveled across country to live in San Francisco, then we trekked to live in Santa Fe. About three years ago, we moved back to my home town of Pittsburgh.

And after 17 years together, I had to say goodbye to my sweet pea a couple winters ago.

She was my best friend, my confidant, and a constant in my life. I could write a book about our adventures together. She was the perfect creature who brought me nothing but happiness and joy.

Was I lucky that I adopted a black cat? Absolutely, unequivocal, and with-out-a-doubt YES!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rabbit Care Workshop: Testimonial

We've had rabbits for ten years and thought we knew almost everything about their behaviors and how to care for them. The rabbit care workshop at Animal Friends proved us very wrong. We have a finicky little mini lop named Gabriella whose behavior had us seeking help. Mary, Tammy, and Nathan taught us new ways to train her and referred us to an excellent veterinarian. We even got some tips on how to repair chewed carpeting! 

They told us stories about rabbits they've lived with that made us realize rabbits are so much smarter than most people think. Bunnies are unique and sometimes difficult to understand, but with the right knowledge owners can see how intelligent and affectionate they really are. I think all rabbit owners should attend this workshop. You will definitely learn something new and your bunny will thank you!

- Doug & Julie

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home adoption program presents: Rocko!

Rocko has been with us since he was an adopted puppy. He's 5 years old, born 4th of July! He is a good, loyal, family dog. We believe he is a plott hound with possibly some lab in him. He loves to run and be on the outskirts of any park. He loves people and exercise. We used to ride bikes with him at our side. We now have a newborn and cannot regretfully give him the attention and exercise he needs. 

Rocko would be great with an outdoorsy family and/or one with lots of land for him to run freely on. He is good with kids after warming up and great with cats--has always lived with one.  Rocko would like to be the only dog in the home, however. Rocko also has Separation Anxiety Disorder. 

We hope we can find him an even better home for his temperament and one where he can get lots of attention!

If you can help Rocko find a home, please contact

Elisa Akpo-Esambe

Keep Your Pets Flea and Tick Free This Season

By the Staff at Petagogy

Hopefully we have seen the last of the Polar Vortex this year, and the temps will start to climb. Despite the brutally cold winter we experienced flea and tick populations are expected to be at least at their normal levels. Although the traditional flea and tick medication is effective, there are many natural alternatives that are less toxic to pets and their families. These alternatives lack the pesticides and chemicals that are in the normally prescribed preventatives.

Simple remedies such as bathing your dog or cat often and giving your pet supplements, including omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and B complex vitamins that boost your pet’s immunity and natural ability to repel insects, can help keep your pet flea and tick free. Another great supplement is natural brewer’s yeast, which, given daily, will help repel all types of bugs. Other dietary additions that will boost the ability of your pet to repel bugs include seaweed, fresh garlic (in small quantities), and organic apple cider vinegar. Further, certain scents and oils repel insects naturally including rosemary, lemon, lavender and peppermint. Before you depend on the chemical treatments for your animals and home this flea and tick season, give natural products and remedies a try.
Use a natural dog wash with ingredients and essential oils that repel fleas and ticks.  Cloudstar makes both lavender and mint and rosemary and mint scents. Sentry Natural Defense makes a flea and tick shampoo that kills and repels pests without the use of pesticides.

Both Ark Naturals and Sentry Natural Defense make safe and effective flea and tick sprays for both dogs and cats that contain ingredients like geranium, clove and peppermint oil. These sprays will protect your pets from fleas and ticks if sprayed liberally once a week or whenever your pet will be outside or in wooded areas. Sentry Natural Defense also makes a safe monthly topical application made entirely of natural oils and ingredients that will kill and repel fleas and ticks on contact and is safe to use around children and other pets.

An important part of flea prevention is treating the environment your pet lives in. Only adult fleas live on your pet: eggs, larva and pupa are found in the bedding, flooring, and couches and might be living in your yard. Vacuum your carpets and wash bedding often until you are sure the fleas are gone. Putting pet bedding in a hot dryer for 15 or 20 minutes should kill adults, larvae and eggs. Additionally, Diatomaceous Earth is a natural insecticide, made from fossilized diatoms, that works by “drying out” insects. It can be used in and around the house to kill fleas and their larvae. Although Diatomaceous Earth is safe for mammals, precautions should be taken when using Diatomaceous Earth, so make sure you do your homework before using it. 

To check for fleas, brush through your dog or cat’s hair with a flea comb. Doing this above a white sheet or white paper allows you to see if there are actually fleas. After walks, thoroughly check you pets for ticks. If you find any, use the Tick Key to remove them, which is the easiest and safest way to remove the entire embedded tick.

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home Adoption Program presents: Kaiser!

Kaiser is a two year old shepherd/husky mix that was found as a stray. He has been neutered, microchipped and is current on all vaccinations. Originally very shy and skittish, he has blossomed in his foster home into a happy and playful dog. Though he can still be shy initially, with a little patience he is quick to warm up to adults and kids alike. An ideal home for Kaiser would be one with an active family, preferably with a large fenced yard. While an adult, he is still very playful and energetic!

He loves trips to the dog park and playing 'keep away' with a squeaky toy. Very well mannered, he is house trained, quiet, and gentle. His prey drive is very strong and cannot go to a home with cats or other small animals, but another dog would be great. Sometimes headstrong, Kaiser needs someone with dog experience and patience, but most importantly love.

If you think Kaiser may be just the addition to your family, please call Melanie at 724-766-2634.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Volunteer Therapy Dog Birdie Speaks about Animal Friends' Cancer Caring Center

Hi there! My name is Kaitlin Hilinski.  I am the Therapeutic Services Program Assistant here at Animal Friends.  One of the many programs I manage is our monthly visits with The Cancer Caring Center. Each month (when the weather’s nice!) we welcome families whose lives have been affected by cancer.  Children of all ages are invited to join our Therapets team and an art therapist.  We talk about feelings and share struggles that many of us face when dealing with a family illness or loss.  While we gather for a sad purpose, we often leave feeling refreshed and relaxed, or at the very least that our feelings are valid and shared. 

This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of our regular therapy dogs; Birdie Salvador.  Birdie is an 11 year old Border Collie.  She and her mom Ruth visit nursing homes, elementary schools, and of course, Animal Friends.

Kaitlin: Hi there Birdie, good to see you as always. *editor’s note: there was a pause here for the required petting.  Birdie patiently demands to be petted by almost every human she meets.* Now then, would you please introduce yourself for our readers?

Birdie: Yes, I’m a therapy dog named Birdie and one Saturday a month I volunteer at Animal Friends with the Cancer Caring Center’s free program for children coping with cancer in the family.

K: Perfect! Can you tell us a little bit about how your day at Animal Friends gets started?

B: Sure! I greet the children and their families as they arrive. While the adults speak with the Cancer Caring Center’s therapist, the children and I spend time together.

K: I think I’ve seen you playing games with some of the boys – It’s my understanding that you’ll do tricks for ice cubes?

B: OH man.  You bet I will.  They’re my favorite treat.  Well, besides cherry tomatoes.  My mom says ice is great because it doesn’t have any calories.  I don’t know what a calorie is, but I think it’s fine that they’re not in ice cubes.

K: So what else do you do after you play with the kids for a while?

B: Playtime is followed by lunch prepared by an Animal Friends volunteer. Dessert is usually homemade cookies or brownies. I can’t have most of the people food, but boy does it smell good. Yum!

K: We’ve talked about food a lot here, Birdie.  Let’s discuss the session a little more, huh?

B: Oh, okay. Right, well after lunch I join the families as they meet with the therapist.  I try to help everyone feel comfortable enough to share during the session.  I sit or lie nearby ready if anyone needs a warm and furry friend.

K: That’s really great of you, Birdie.  I know the kids, and their families, really enjoy your company.

B: Well, when we say good-bye I always hope the children will be better able to cope after their Saturday afternoon with the therapist and me.

K: I’m sure they will, Birdie.  There’s nothing like the unconditional love of an animal to help us feel better when we’re sad or scared. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, and thank you to your mom, Ruth, for translating!

Birdie and Ruth: You’re welcome!

If you’d like more information about The Cancer Caring Center, or their therapy sessions at Animal Friends, please contact Stephanie at 412-622-1212 or  

Our next session is scheduled for April 26th at 1:00pm. Advanced registration is required so we know how much food to make – and ask Birdie, it’s a great lunch!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Animal Friends presents Happy Tails: Layla

Guest Blogger: Patricia A

My 11-year-old son, Robert, and I have wanted a dog for years.  I grew up with dogs, but worked such long chaotic hours as a hospital nurse that it didn't seem fair to adopt.  Now that I have a more regular work schedule, I decided it was time to expand our small family to include a canine companion.  

We met with four amazing dogs and spent time with each of them.  It was a tough decision, but Layla, with her sweet demeanor and playful nature, seemed to be the best fit for our family.  Layla is an 8-year-old brindle Boxer.  She is loving and spends quite a bit of time snuggling or lying on our feet.  She loves to explore the neighborhood on our rambling walks and I think she has sniffed everything at least twice! 

She is an older adult dog and that has unique benefits.  Layla is very well-behaved and seems to understand what objects belong to her and which are ours. She came to us knowing some basic commands and we did not have to worry about housebreaking her. Layla still has enough energy for our walks and play sessions, but also requires lots of down time.  Our household is a calm one and she fits right in.  We could not have picked a better furry friend than Layla.  This sweet girl is much loved!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Animal Friends presents Happy Tail: Karma

Guest Blogger: Patty Gongaware

It was a cold dark night in January 2012. Potty breaks were all done, so I decided to treat myself to some "puppy cuddling". A litter of three-month-old collie-husky mix puppies had come in that day, and they were such sad, scared, unsocialized little ones. I got comfortable on the Karunda bed with three of them on my lap, but struggled to get the fourth, a fuzzy gold and white girl, to come to me. Finally, reluctantly, she settled in with her siblings as I held them and told them stories of the loving families that they would soon be part of. This is my first memory of the puppy named Karma.

A few days later, an email went out asking for a foster home for the little gold and white puppy. The other pups were coming around thanks to the attention volunteers were giving them, but Karma was still very scared and shutting down. I immediately said that we'd take her for a few weeks. One of our Labs had been a very shy puppy, so we had experience with that. And I knew that being around our two gentle, older Labs would help her too.

The first few weeks with Karma were alternately challenging and rewarding.
She always tried to run and hide when we approached, ears down and fluffy tail tucked, never making eye contact. We hand-fed her each morning and evening. She'd come to our outstretched hand, grab one piece of kibble, then run away to eat it...feeding often took almost an hour! (However she had no problem chewing our shoes and socks when they were left in her reach.) As the weeks passed Karma remained wary of us, but eventually trusted us enough to pick her up, and hug and pet her. She relaxed and fell asleep when we rubbed her belly. We could tell that she was very smart. Karma quickly learned basic commands, enjoyed being in a crate, and house-trained easily. I even taught her to ring a bell on the door when she had to go out. She enjoyed playing in the snow and learned how to retrieve a stick, although she preferred playing keep-away from the Labs.

After a month with us, Karma had made lots of progress. She was still cautious around people but was acting like a happy puppy - curious, playful, and sometimes even soliciting attention from us. She became very vocal, almost like she was talking, a collie trait called "singing." Scott tapped into her husky side and taught her to howl, too! And she had stolen my heart. When the email came asking if she was ready to come back and find her forever home, I knew that she already had. On February 29, 2012 (Leap Day) we became "foster failures" and adopted our Karma; and we even kept the name she had been given at Animal Friends because it just seemed perfect for her.

Karma became more confident and outgoing with time. Like all collies, she is very intelligent and observant. And like most collies, she needed a "job."

We got in the habit of taking her to visit my father-in-law at his assisted living facility. We noticed that she was very comfortable in that atmosphere. I decided to take her to training classes with a goal of taking the Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International tests. We started with basic obedience (sit, down, stay, heel, come, leave it, etc.) and also worked on how to approach people in wheel chairs, walk calmly through a crowd, and not startle if something was dropped. Karma learned quickly and in August 2013 she passed her tests! I was so proud of her!

Now Karma and I are a therapy team. We visit a local nursing home several times each month, and it's always a rewarding experience. The residents really look forward to seeing Karma, petting her soft fur, shaking her gently offered paw, and getting kisses. They marvel at how friendly and calm she is, and how sweet. They tell me stories about the dogs that they've had and how much our visits mean to them. Karma is very empathetic and always knows which person to go to, who will enjoy her the most at that time. Some of the residents can't speak, but their smiles say it all. Karma has also provided some much needed stress relief to college students during finals week! A totally different atmosphere and age group than the nursing home, but the comfort of petting a dog is something that benefits people of any age.

Karma has come so far....from a scared, shy puppy to a friendly, playful, outgoing dog who loves adults and children. She enjoys making new doggie friends at the park; going on hikes and swimming; and she's the official greeter for our Christmas tree farm each December. She gives comfort to her senior friends at the nursing home; to her Lab "sisters" when they are afraid of thunderstorms; to me and Scott when we've had a bad day. She's grown from a dog that ran from human contact to one that insistently pushes her nose under a hand for even more petting. With lots of patience, understanding and love, her personality has truly blossomed. She's such a special girl and we're so glad that she's part of our family! Her story is unique but not unusual. There are many dogs out there just waiting for the right family to bring out their best qualities if you're willing to give them a chance.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is Your Bunny a Bully? - Spaying and Neutering Can Help!

Guest Blogger: Cortney Ressler

If you’ve been following Animal Friends for the last month you probably know February is National Adopt a Shelter Rabbit Month. Did you know that February 25th is the 20th anniversary of World Spay Day? There will be events happening internationally to celebrate the life saving efforts put forth through organizations to spay and neuter companion animals as well as street cats and dogs. This month Animal Friends wants to point out the importance of spaying and neutering your pet rabbit.

I recently worked with a potential adopter that mentioned she had resorted to leaving her pet rabbits outside in partitioned hutches all year round. She had gotten three sister bunnies from a local farm. Although her intentions were altruistic, she became frustrated when the three growing, female rabbits started having problems. She explained her efforts of trying to keep them inside, but the fighting and territorial urinating was too much to handle. Not to mention they were biting and boxing her. None of them were spayed. As we know, living outside in a hutch is no place for a rabbit. I informed her about local low cost options to spay her rabbits that would help get them back on track to living safe and comfortable inside the home.

The solution to most behavior problems with rabbits starts with spaying and neutering. We will never know for certain if altering her rabbits earlier on would have prevented every problem she encountered, after all raising three rabbits is no easy task! But what we do know is that unaltered rabbits, whether they’re male or female, have a very difficult time keeping companions due to sexual frustration and aggression triggered by hormones. Rabbits are extremely social pets and will crave the companionship, but left unaltered, they will become aggressive not only towards other bunnies but towards other pets and humans as well.

Aggression and territorial problems are just two of many reasons to have your pet rabbit fixed. Rabbits are dying in overwhelmed shelters everyday, just like cats and dogs. Left in the wrong hands many unwanted rabbits are turned loose outside to fend for their lives, where they quickly perish. When faced with the staggering figures of how many wonderful, healthy rabbits are waiting to find a home in animal shelters and rescues, it is looked down upon to keep your rabbit intact for breeding purposes. A baby rabbit will reach sexual maturity within the first few months of their life. An experienced rabbit veterinarian will perform surgery on a female around 6 months and on a male as young as 3 ½ months. If left unaltered, your rabbit can have a litter every 30 days, even if they're only a few months old!

Getting your rabbit fixed will be sure to prolong their life and your relationship. You will eliminate any chance of reproductive cancers or infections that may arise and your bunny will care less about reproducing and territory and more about cuddling and bonding!

Please make the best decision for your pet rabbit and contact Animal Friends’ Low Cost Spay and Neuter Department at 412-847-7004 to schedule an affordable surgery today.