The Happy Beast - Blog - Dog Health

How To Choose the Right Bone for Your Dog or Cat

We believe strongly in the benefits of chewing on bones for both cats and dogs. Your animal’s mouth is her greatest tool, so it is important to take good care of it! Chewing bones is a great way for them to exercise their jaw muscles, clean their teeth, and provide mental stimulation. (Check out our previous blog posts on the benefits of bones for dogs and cats!)

However, chewing on bones does carry risks, such as breaking a tooth and/or choking. It is important to be aware of the risks and how to safely choose a bone to maximize the benefits and reduce the potential risks.

In order to minimize the risks of chewing on bones, you should take into consideration size, density, and chewing tendencies of your animal:

  • Size: Bones should be large enough that the dog or cat cannot fit the bone entirely into their mouth. If it is too small, the animal could choke on it.
  • Density: Stronger chewers should stick to bones that are more dense or stronger, such as a shank bones, antlers, goat horn, and beef or bison femur bones. Less aggressive chewers may be safe with less dense bones such as lamb or pork bones.
  • Chewing Tendencies: Bones are intended to be gnawed on over a long period of time, not crushed and swallowed. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, and can break large pieces of bone off, then it is important to take the bone away and discard the pieces.

In addition, you should always supervise your animal when she is enjoying a bone just to make sure that she is chewing properly and there are no choking risks.

Finally, if you are ever unsure of what the right bone may be for your cat or dog, please ask us and we’ll be happy to walk you through the various options.

Understanding Puppy Food

What’s different about puppy foods?

Dog food for puppies, or any food labeled for “growth and gestation” are required by the FDA to have higher levels of protein and fat than foods labeled for adult dogs. More specifically, puppy food must have a dry matter minimum of 22.5% protein and 8.5% fat, compared to minimum 18% protein and 5.5% fat for adult dogs.

Many dog food brands will cut the amount of protein and fat in their adult formulas because nutritionally-dense ingredients are expensive. These companies can use less expensive ingredients and still meet the FDA requirements. However, just because dogs can survive with these nutrient levels doesn’t mean they will thrive.

Instead of taking this approach, at The Happy Beast, we recommend quality brands and foods for puppies that are labeled for ‘All Life Stages,’ meaning the diet is appropriate for dogs from puppyhood all the way through their senior years. Instead of replacing high quality meat with less expensive fillers for adult dogs, the brands we recommend choose to promote a high protein diet in line with the nutritional requirements of a canine for the entire life of the dog.

Special Consideration for Large Breed Puppies

The term ‘large breed’ is generally used for dogs that are at least 70 lbs when they are full grown. Conservatively, we can lump puppies who will be 50 lbs or more into this group when we look at feeding requirements. The most up-to-date research tells us that we need to control calorie and calcium intake to make sure these puppies don’t grow too quickly. While many hip and joint problems are caused by genetics, slow and consistent bone growth throughout puppyhood is thought to reduce the severity of conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis, and developmental orthopedic disease.

If you have a large breed puppy, carefully regulate how many calories are consumed on a daily basis, including bones, chews, and treats. Check your puppy’s weight frequently. You should be able to feel his ribs without using too much pressure when you run your hands over his sides.

Fresher is always better!

Incorporate as much fresh food into your puppy’s diet as possible, which will naturally include a variety of beneficial nutrients and enzymes, which help promote digestion. There are a variety of fresh food options, but a few of our favorites include:

  • Treats: Air-dried or freeze-dried like The Real Meat Co, Smallbatch, and ZiwiPeak
  • Raw Goat Milk: Bark n’ Big, Pure, or Answers
  • Meal Toppers: Rehydrated Sojo’s or Grandma Lucy’s

In summary, puppyhood is a critical time for your dog to develop a healthy digestive system, which helps build and strengthen your dog’s overall immune system. While there can be a lot of hype around “puppy food” labels, we recommend you simply choose a balanced, raw food (frozen, air-dried, or dehydrated) as a simple way to ensure you’re giving your puppy everything he needs to live a long, healthy, and happy life.

Got a new puppy at your house? Stop by the store to talk more and we’ll help you figure out the best option for your pup.

Restricted Exercise? The Five Things That Helped Us Survive My Dog’s Injury Recovery

Restricting exercise is often a first line of healing for dogs with soft tissue injuries, but is also prescribed for dogs recovering from surgeries (including spay, neuter, and ACL repair) and broken bones. Your vet may recommend keeping your dog kenneled when you aren’t home, short leashed walks lasting 5-30 minutes, no running in the yard and no jumping on furniture.

For my super active Aussie-mix, restricted exercise sounds like torture, but we’ve made it four weeks and only have two to go!

These are the five things I brought home from The Happy Beast that are helping her heal faster and bust through the boredom.

FYDO Bagel Bed

I’m a total sucker when it comes to dogs on the furniture. The FYDO Bagel Bed is so plush and snuggly that my dog thinks it’s an appropriate substitute for sleeping on my bed.

Tip: I turned all the furniture to face the wall so there’s no temptation for her to jump up. If you don’t want to lose access to your sofa and chairs, put heavy books on the cushions or block them with baby gates.

InClover’s Connectin

Connectin was developed as a joint support with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, so it’s amazing for dogs with joint pain and arthritis. My dog has a soft tissue injury, so I chose Connectin for its anti-inflammatory and circulatory-stimulating properties. InClover’s clinical studies were done on volunteered animals who already showed joint problems (which I find to be more ethical than studies done by other companies where healthy animals were inflicted with joint pain as part of the study- yikes!) InClover’s studies “show significant relief in weight bearing discomfort and increase in mobility”.

Tip: Connectin is available in three different forms. My dog is taking a crunchy tablet dipped in peanut butter every morning. I saw noticeable improvement after 14 days.

CBDRX Hemp Oil

CBD is quickly gaining popularity for treating pain and inflammation and decreasing anxiety in animals. (Read our blog on how it works.) CBDRX grows their own organic hemp plants in southern Colorado and extracts the CBDs in their facility in Boulder.

Tip: You want to use the lowest effective dose- which their representative described to me as one drop less than what makes my dog sleepy. I started with four drops, and worked up to half of a dropper. When I went over that dose, she slept really hard. (CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive properties, so you don’t have to worry about your animal getting “high.”)

Clicker and Training Treats

Since my dog is getting limited physical exercise, I’m increasing her mental exercise! Check out these stationary games we’re playing this month. My dog loves clicker training, so I chose a few tricks that can be done without her standing up and moving around. She almost has “lick your lips” figured out and it’s so funny!

West Paw Brain Toys

West Paw’s Zogoflex are stuffable and more challenging than a traditional Kong. Load them up with canned dog food, peanut butter or treats and freeze for a longer lasting “puzzle.”

Tip: It’s extra important to watch calories since your dog is getting limited exercise. On days when your dog is getting a lot of treats, feed less food at meal times. You can also use a Zogoflex toy in place of a dog bowl, and make mealtime into playtime!

Brain Games for a Dog on “Crate Rest”

My dog, Pi, has been prescribed 4-6 weeks of restricted exercise, meaning she has to be kenneled when I’m not home, no running in the yard and walks no longer than 10 minutes. Restricting exercise is often a first line of healing for dogs with soft tissue injuries, but is also prescribed for dogs recovering from surgeries (including spay, neuter, and ACL repair) and broken bones.

For my very active, Aussie-mix, who is accustomed to at least two hours of walking, running and agility practice each day, restricted exercise feels like torture. It’s hard to explain to your animal why you’ve taken their fun and routine away for the sake of healing. So, I’m pulling out old and new resources and looking at this as an opportunity to practice calming exercises and brain games.

Teach and Practice Tricks: Eye Contact, “Ears Up”, “Lick Lips”, and “Leave It”

Pi loves clicker training. If you’ve never tried it, check out this video for the how-to. Clicker training essentially allows you to “capture” a behavior and eventually put it to a command. Eye contact is an easy place to start. Sit in front of your dog and simply click (or say yes!) and treat anytime she makes eye contact with you. For dogs who know how the game works, increase the difficulty by choosing a new behavior to capture. You can click and treat to reward any behavior. We’re working on licking her lips and sneezing.

Practice “Settle”

“Settle” is one of my dog’s favorite games. When she’s healthy the game is actually quite active, beginning in a standing position and running across the room to end lying flat on a mat, repeated over and over. She also gets rewarded for any calm signals when she’s on the mat: shifting her weight to one side, licking her lips, dropping her ears back, resting her chin on the ground. I adapted this game by removing the run and just rewarding the calm signals. Get detailed instructions here.

Beginner’s Scent Work

Canine Nose Work is a sport where dogs learn to identify scents (birch, anise and clove) and search them out in different settings. This problem-solving activity is toted for building confidence and burning mental and physical energy. I adapted this tutorial to teach Pi the basics without requiring her to move around the room.

You’ll need four small boxes, a plastic tub with holes poked in the lid, and smelly, tasty treats.

In the tutorial, your dog waits in another room while you hide the plastic tub in a box. In our adapted version, I’m using only four boxes, because I will be the one moving from the other room to where my dog is.

In a separate room, where your dog can’t see what you’re doing, put a few treats in the plastic tub. Place the tub in one of the boxes, then bring the boxes into your dog’s room and place them on the floor in front of her. Let her smell each one and once she indicates that she’s found the box with treats (for Pi, this was a nose poke to the side of the box) open the tub and let her have her loot! Repeat the game 3-4 times each session and play a few times a day for an excellent brain workout!

Simple Diet Solutions for Anti-Inflammation

Inflammation is a healthy and normal response the immune system uses for healing, but if not kept in check, can cause pain and more damage. For animals suffering from chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases, we look for diets that are anti-inflammatory instead of pro-inflammatory.

When is inflammation a good thing?
Inflammation is a useful response of the immune system to attack foreign debris, objects, viruses and bacteria. When the body is attacked, white blood cells surge to the affected area to combat possible infection and to repair or destroy affected cells. The increase of blood flow and the release of healing chemicals cause the affected tissue to warm and swell, which creates pressure or pain. In acute cases, inflammation is a great response, it lets us know we are hurt, and it helps us to recover.

Inflammatory Disorders
Chronic inflammation results in conditions like ear infections, allergies, arthritis, colitis, IBD and IBS, dermatitis and pancreatitis, and can cause cancer and chronic pain. Most inflammatory disorders begin as a healthy immune response. Inflammatory disorders develop for a few different reasons. 1) The cause of initial inflammation is not eliminated, 2) the immune system responds to the pain resulting from the initial inflammation and more inflammation occurs to treat the existing inflammation, or 3) the body suffers from an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes healthy tissue for a pathogen, and the body attacks itself.

Anti-inflammatory Diet
Unfortunately, we can’t control everything that contributes to inflammation, but we can control what our animals eat. Because the body’s natural response is inflammation, we choose foods that keep that response in check. This is especially important for animals suffering from disease, but healthy animals benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet as well.

  • Feed raw, species appropriate foods
    Remember, inflammation occurs when something foreign enters the body, so we want to feed our animals foods that the body recognizes and accepts as natural nutrition. Our animals evolved eating fresh meat, and we can mimic that with species appropriate raw diets that are either frozen, freeze-dried or dehydrated.
  • Dogs may benefit from added fruits and vegetables
    Fruits and veggies with anti-inflammatory properties like berries, cruciferous vegetables (like brussels sprouts, kale and spinach), and dark leafy greens. Some commercially available raw foods, like SmallBatch and Bravo include these ingredients in their dog food formulas. For cats, we always want to avoid plant-based proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Avoid kibble and other highly processed foods
    High cooking temperatures actually increase the pro-inflammatory property of the food. Processed, dry dog food (we call “kibble”) are heated to temperatures of 400°, resulting in denatured proteins and high levels of AGEs, both of which can trigger an inflammatory response.

Inflammation Fighting Supplements