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 www.petagogypgh.com.

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 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