By Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital
Pet owners want to provide their furry friends with a healthy diet, but all the available pet food options can be overwhelming at times. Here are some tips to help you select the right food for your pet.
It’s helpful to read pet food labels before making a purchase. Here’s what to look for:
Make sure the food meets the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Review food ingredients and the order in which they’re listed, since ingredients are listed in order of relative amounts. Feeding cats carbohydrates such as corn may lead to health issues including obesity and diabetes. Dogs are omnivores, like us, and as such are more nutritionally flexible.
Foods labeled as gourmet, premium, or super or ultra premium are not required to contain higher quality ingredients, and are not held to higher nutritional standards; the term natural also does not have an official definition.
When the label lists meat by-products, this refers to animal parts that we may not choose to eat but are not intrinsically unhealthy for pets. The term by-productmeal refers to animal tissue that has been rendered, an industrial process converting slaughterhouse offal and deceased animals from various sources into a more stable material; some owners prefer to avoid foods containing meat meal.
If you prefer to make homemade food for your pet, read these helpful tips:
You can prepare healthy meals at home if you ensure that the diet is balanced for your pet’s species, stage of life, and any health conditions. An unbalanced diet can lead to serious problems, such as bone fragility, heart disease, and blindness. Homemade diets must be balanced by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Pet Diets and Balance It provide helpful guides for at-home pet food preparation.
If you prepare food for your pet, ensure all meats are cooked properly. Raw meat can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, presenting a health hazard not only to your pet but to your family as well, and can be found in the stool of pets who consume uncooked meat.
Ever wondered why dogs and cats need different foods?
The nutritional needs of dogs and cats are very different. Dogs are omnivores and can do well on either meat-containing or vegetarian diets, while cats are strict carnivores with very precise nutritional needs.
Because their ancestors lived in desert environments, cats often don’t drink enough and they produce urine with relatively little water in it. Therefore, it’s a good idea to include moist foods in your cat’s diet to help prevent the formation of crystals and stones in the urinary tract. Another characteristic of cats is that they can become seriously ill if they resent a food change or go on a hunger strike so any diet change must be made slowly and carefully. When switching foods, watch your cat’s appetite closely, and never try to starve a cat into eating a new food!
Always be sure to check with your pet’s veterinarian regarding the best diet for your companion, and discuss any special dietary needs your pet may have.
Every single day, ASPCA staffers have the privilege of meeting some of the most wonderful, spirited animals you could ever encounter. In fact, one of the hardest parts of our job is resisting the urge to adopt each and every one of them! But every now and then, we’ll meet an animal that inspires us to throw that resistance out the window. Such was the case with our very own Dr. Colin Dwyer, DVM, and an abused Pit Bull named Zeus.
As a veterinarian for the ASPCA, Dr. Dwyer has seen his fair share of dogs. He’s also seen his fair share of heartbreak. “I’ve met a lot of dogs that are ideal in every way, but that get ignored because they’re too big, or are of a demonized breed such as Pit Bulls,” he says. Determined to make a difference for one such dog, Dr. Dwyer waited patiently for the perfect fit.
In January, members of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group and the Adoption Center’s behavior staff all recommended that he meet a dog named Zeus. “They knew my love for big dogs, and everyone in the hospital had fallen in love with Zeus while caring for his injuries,” says the vet. The two were introduced, and it was an ideal match. “Zeus was the dog I’d been waiting for: a large Pit Bull covered in scars, but housetrained and as sweet as can be,” he says. “He is one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever met—amazing given his history of neglect and abuse.”
After adopting Zeus, Colin changed his name to Goose. He tells us, “Goose is adjusting well to our house, aside from shamelessly hogging the bed! He is quiet, cute, well-trained and also very playful.” Everyone at the ASPCA is so happy for Dr. Dwyer and Goose, not only for proving that all dogs—including big ones, scarred ones and bully breeds—can make perfect pets, but also for demonstrating how lucky we are to work with these truly extraordinary animals every single day.
Do you have a Happy Tail you’d like to share? Email your story to [email protected] and we might feature it on the blog!
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Recently, we told you about Baby, an adorable pup who has been in our care for more than a year and a half. This sweet dog, a victim of animal cruelty, has come a long way since we first met her, and she’s still waiting to find a loving home.
In July 2012, a Good Samaritan found Baby tied to a tree, abandoned in the summer heat. Fortunately, they contacted the ASPCA, and Baby began her road to recovery that day at the ASPCA Animal Hospital.
Dr. Bonnie Wong, the ASPCA veterinarian who treated Baby, recalls that she had a severe neck wound consistent with having a chain embedded in her neck for a long period of time. Baby’s body was in poor condition; she had a skin infection and scars on her face where it appeared other dogs had attacked her. After extensive treatment, including repetitive wound care and antibiotic treatments for her skin, Baby’s condition improved and she was ready for adoption.
Since then, Baby has waited and waited for someone to take her home. In the time she’s spent at our Adoption Center, our staff has grown immensely fond of this “oversized lap dog.” She is incredibly friendly and loyal, and we can’t wait until she has a permanent place to call home.
If you’re interested adopting Baby, please call our Adoptions department in New York City at (212) 876-7700 ext. 4120. To learn more about Baby, please visit her page.
Charesse W. calls her five-month old pit bull mix, Petey, her “miracle dog” for good reason. On Christmas Day, Charesse left her Brooklyn apartment to spend time with family. Petey stayed behind, and when Charesse returned a few hours later, nothing seemed amiss. In the days that followed, however, Petey grew very sick. He stopped eating and drinking, and his weight declined rapidly.
Charesse rushed Petey to the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where he received care through the ASPCA’s Trooper Fund—a program in place to cover medical costs for animals whose guardians need assistance with veterinary expenses.
Veterinarian Dr. Juline Holland noted that Petey was severely dehydrated and thin, and she could feel a tubular object extending the length of his abdomen. She stabilized Petey before sending him to radiology, where she was shocked by his radiographs. This small pup had swallowed something strange. Doctors and nurses gathered around the X-ray, studying a long, thin object that extended almost the entire length of Petey’s body.
Petey needed emergency surgery—foreign objects, especially one so large, can cause severe damage to the throat, stomach or intestines if swallowed. The resulting complications can be fatal.
Dr. Yvonne Kline, along with Dr. Marisa Altieri, performed surgery on Petey, and what they found in his the abdominal cavity was astounding. It turned out to be a toilet brush, approximately 15 inches long! The brush end was stuck in Petey’s esophagus, while the handle stretched his stomach to several times its normal length.
ASPCA Veterinarian Dr. Yvonne Kline (left) with Petey and Charesse (right)
The doctors considered pushing the brush from Petey’s stomach, but it was lodged tightly in his throat. The only other option was to make a small incision into the stomach and extract it. They did so, and gently removed the brush.
“It was the one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen in veterinary medicine and the strangest surgery I have ever performed,” Dr. Kline says.
The next day, Petey was eating again, and staff noticed how affectionate he was. Petey is taking medicine to relieve gagging symptoms and eating multiple meals a day to gain weight.
After days and sleepless nights spent worrying about Petey, Charesse was immensely relieved. Her “miracle dog” is working on one important New Year’s resolution: not to swallow anything larger than dog kibble, or maybe the occasional treat!
Marcus Graham, ASPCA senior animal care technician (left) with veterinarian Dr. Yvonne Kline (right)
While winter weather poses many threats to animals, perhaps one of the most serious dangers occurs when cats and other small animals seek warmth from the engines of parked cars. One such unlucky cat was Flapjack, a tiny kitten found on the side of the road in New York City last December. Fortunately, a Good Samaritan spotted Flapjack and brought him to the ASPCA Animal Hospital.
It was clear that Flapjack had been caught in a car’s engine. He was suffering from multiple serious injuries, including a fractured lower jaw, a severe tongue laceration and other wounds.
ASPCA Veterinarian Dr. Maren Krafchik says the hospital staff performed the first of three surgeries on Flapjack that same day, including using wire to repair his jaw and inserting a feeding tube to help him eat.
This brave little kitten is now happy and healthy with his foster parent, an ASPCA veterinary technician. He had his feeding tube removed and can now eat normally, and the swelling he experienced as a result of his injuries has gone down a great deal.
We’re so relieved that Flapjack has recovered, but his story provides a valuable lesson to anyone who drives during the winter months. According to Dr. Krafchik, there are multiple ways to prevent such injuries, including:
knocking on the hood of your car
honking your car’s horn
checking under your car’s hood to ensure that a small animal is not inside. If you start your car and hear something unusual, turn off your engine immediately.