Volunteer therapy teams honored

Pet Partners national human-animal therapy organization will celebrate its 11,000 volunteer therapy animal teams with Treats & Sweets Day, a national fundraiser that coincides with the first annual National Therapy Animal Day, May 18.  Across the nation, bakers will whip up treats for people and pets to raise funds for their therapy programs. 

Therapy teams are becoming increasingly popular with hospitalized patients, nursing home residents, veterans and others.  In Portland, Jo Rockower saw therapy dog potential in her adopted Goldendoodle, Max.  She registered with Pet Partners in 2008, and volunteered at various facilities before settling in at The Dougy Center, where Jo and Max participate in a peer support groups for children grieving the death of a sibling, and families experiencing the advancing illness of a family member.  Jo has witnessed firsthand the healing power of Max’s presence and unconditional love.

To become a baker for the Pet Partners fundraiser, visit TreatsandSweetsDay.org.  To learn how to become a volunteer animal therapy team, go to PetPartners.org/TAPInfo.

Petco drops China-made treats

One of the nation’s largest retailers of pet products, Petco announced last May it would begin phasing out all China-made pet treats from its 1300 stores, including online retail and the new Unleashed by Petco stores. Six months later, the transition is complete, making Petco the first national pet specialty retailer to uphold this policy.

“As a trusted partner for pet parents, we believe this is the right thing to do,” said Petco CEO Jim Myers, “and we’re proud to take this step in the best interest of pets.”

Food safety continues to be a growing concern for pet parents. A recent survey by Packaged Facts reports that 55% of dog guardians, and nearly the same percentage of cat guardians, agree that fear of pet food contamination is key when considering food purchases. More than half of those surveyed said they prefer to purchase food made in the US.

Petco and PetSmart pulling foods from China

In response to consumer outcry over tainted pet food and treats made in China, two mega pet store chains are clearing their inventory of all Chinese-made treats.  Petco issued a statement that all such products will be off its shelves by the end of the year, while PetSmart has vowed to rid its stores of such products by March 2015. 

Recent reports of dogs becoming seriously ill or dying after consuming jerky treats made in China have made pet guardians across the nation increasingly vigilant about what they feed their dogs and cats.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not officially made any specific recalls as of presstime, but the agency has been cautioning dog owners about purchasing chicken jerky products sourced in China.  In a press release in May, the FDA reported it had received approximately 4,800 reports of pet illnesses possibly related to jerky treats, including more than 1,000 canine deaths.  The FDA has begun a joint study with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to further investigate the issue.  Learn more at fda.gov

High Hopes — great treats doing good

Spot receives some sweet surprises in the mail now and again, and recently The High Hopes For Pets Company LLC, which sells natural baked treats for dogs, sent an “XOXO” heart-shaped cookie with peanut butter and blueberry.  Spot K9 team member Roxy did the tasting honors, and gave her hearty bark of approval.  What makes this treat company really special — beyond delivering healthy yummy treats packaged in “happy” — is that up to 15% of profits from daily sales go to The High Hopes for Pets Foundation, which donates to local shelters and rescue groups.  Pick up an XOXO treat, and learn more at highhopesforpets.com.

Pet Owners Should Be Aware but Not Panic about Tainted Pet Treats, MU Expert Says

Tim Evans is an assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.

Tim Evans is an assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – On Oct. 22, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a request to veterinarians around the country for their assistance in identifying pets that were potentially sickened as a result of consuming tainted chicken jerky pet treats. Since 2007, the FDA has received more than 3,500 reports of pet illnesses related to the consumption of jerky treats, resulting in 580 pet deaths. Tim Evans, an associate professor of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and a veterinary toxicologist, says that while pet owners should be aware of this issue and watchful for signs of illness in pets that have been consuming these treats on a regular basis, it is not a cause for alarm for the majority of dogs and cats.

“While the loss of any pet is tragic, only a very small percentage of pets has been affected by this strange illness during the past six years,” Evans said. “If pet owners have been feeding their dogs or cats jerky treats containing chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruits, I would recommend they stop feeding the animals the treats immediately and monitor their pets’ health. While there may not be a cause for immediate alarm, owners of small-breed dogs that have consumed these treats on a regular basis, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, might want to have their pet examined by their regular veterinarian and have some laboratory testing performed. If an owner’s pet should begin to show signs of illness, such as decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and/or increased water consumption and urination, owners should immediately bring their pets in for evaluation by a veterinarian, because the sooner this illness is detected the better the chances that it can be treated effectively.”

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Evans says the primary illness stemming from these tainted treats involves kidney disease and failure if the illness progresses without treatment. Evans believes that while this issue has been occurring since 2007, it does not mean the FDA has been negligent in any way. He says that the FDA, in cooperation with veterinarians, veterinary diagnostic laboratories and pet food manufacturers, has spent much time and effort investigating potential infectious and toxic causes of this illness. They have also inspected the manufacturing plants of several different brands of jerky treats in China, but have been unable identify any cause of the illness as of yet.

“The FDA and scientists around the country have been working on this problem tirelessly for many years, but it has been a very difficult process because no obvious ingredients in the jerky treats have been found to cause this illness,” Evans said. “Hopefully with this latest call for help from veterinarians nationwide, the FDA will collect enough information soon to determine why this illness is occurring.”

Because chicken jerky treats are not a part of an essential diet for any pet, Evans recommends that pet owners refrain from feeding them to their pets if they are concerned about this illness. He also recommends regular annual checkups for pets, including baseline blood work as the animals get older. He says this will help veterinarians catch any potential health issues before they escalate into more serious problems.

To read more information about the FDA’s request to veterinarians and fact sheets for pet owners, visit: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm360951.htm

Story Contact(s):

Nathan Hurst, hurstn@missouri.edu, 573-882-6217

 

 

Dog Joy Ready to Bake Cookies for Dogs

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Dog Joy Ready to Bake Cookies for Dogs by Freshpet 

I've always wanted to make treats for my dog, but I’ve never gotten so far as to pick a recipe, get the ingredients and get to work.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Freshpet has come up with cookies that are just as easy to make as the ready-to-bake cookies available for people.  

The baking part is uber easy:  put them on the pan, put them in the oven, and wait 12 minutes.  For once I was pulling something out of the oven that actually was for the dog, not just something she thought was for her. 

I baked the Oatmeal and Cranberry and the Peanut Butter and Oatmeal cookies and gave samples to both our dog and one that was visiting.  After enjoying the first cookie, they both sat very still and stared at me, waiting for another.  They watched me put the lid on the cookies, and as I headed to the next room they did what I can only describe as “mob” me.  Our dog and her friend are no food snobs, but this reaction let me know they really loved these cookies!  I also offered the treats at a recent pet event, and people were amazed at how much they looked like cookies for people.  

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The ingredient list is all natural and includes foods like cranberries and eggs, and the remaining ingredients seem to balance each other out.  For example, palm oil is high in saturated fatty acids, while cane juice is a healthy alternative to refined sugar.  Like many treats, the cookies are not low in fat so should be factored into your pup’s daily food intake.  

Several chains such as Fred Meyer, Wilco and PetSmart carry Dog Joy Ready to Bake Cookies and other Freshpet products.  For nutritional and other information, visit Freshpet.com.

A peek inside the trainers’ treat bags

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Asking dogs to learn tricks without any treats is a downright scary proposition!  So, just in time for Halloween, we asked some trainers to let us peek inside their treat bags.  From sardines to string cheese, they’ve got some pretty good stuff in there.

“Especially in the shelter, I’m a huge fan of a product called Red Barn,” says Stephanie Collingsworth, CPDT-KA at Multnomah County Animal Services.  “It comes in a big log that looks like a sausage roll, and sometimes comes in other brand names like Natural Balance.  It crumbles nicely so you can sprinkle it over food, it smells great, and it freezes — so you can freeze little blocks to use for training treats.  Otherwise, my other go-to is string cheese sticks.”

String cheese gets a thumbs-up from just about everybody, partly because most dogs go nuts for it.  It’s considered a high value treat, meaning it’s extra delicious.

“I love using it at the shelter with dogs that might not be feeling so friendly,” says trainer Micaela Frank of Eugene.  “There's often a moment where they get this look as if to say, ‘Oh! There's cheese involved!  Okay, let's talk.’”  String cheese is the go-to treat for other reasons, as well.  As Frank points out, it’s portable, easy to pocket for quick access, affordable, and convenient to obtain during routine grocery shopping.

Another string cheese advantage:  it’s low-fat, says Cindy Rich, MS, KPA-CTP of Learned Dog in Yamhill, OR.  But string cheese isn’t the only goody in Rich’s treat bag.  “For super-duper high-value treats, my dogs like cooked chicken, canned meaty baby food, canned cat food, and occasionally sardines,” she says.  Turkey or chicken dogs are another favorite, and preferable to Rich as they’re lower in fat than beef hot dogs.

Helix Fairweather, KPA-CTP of Your Dog’s Personal Trainer in Keizer, OR, likes to cook some of the fat out of turkey dogs by cutting them into very small pieces, placing them on a paper towel, and microwaving until they’re dried out.  “The fat goes into the paper towels, which you can then put into covered containers to flavor kibble or cheerios to use for training treats.”  Fairweather also likes freeze-dried liver.  Occasionally she’ll pick up a bag of frozen meatballs at the grocery.  “I cut them into small pieces, when they’re still mostly frozen and easy to cut,” she adds.

The true trick about treats is finding what truly motivates your dog.  Giving her a reward that really grabs her attention is the bottom line.  And speaking of bottoms, Fairweather points out that some dogs are most motivated by butt rubs and skritches or other non-food treats — including permission to do ordinarily “naughty” behaviors “like permission to jump on the trainer, or to run off and play (on cue, of course).

A final tidbit to stash in your bag of tricks:  keep track of the portions.  Obesity is as much of a problem for pets as humans, and in addition to keeping fat content fairly low, we need to control quantity.  “If we’ve had a long training session and gone through a couple cheese sticks and a hot dog, I’m going to cut the meal by ¼ cup that night,” says Collingsworth.  “I’m also a fan of using the dog’s daily portion of food for a treat.  You can stash a pocketful of their breakfast kibble and reward them for sitting while you go about your household chores.”

Want to try something unique?  Trainer Helix Fairweather posts recipes for her favorite homemade treats, from Mackerel Snackers to Tuna Brownies, at HelixFairweather.com.

FDA adds products to jerky treat warning

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Based on high numbers of customers complaining of illnesses in their dogs, the Federal Dept. of Agriculture issued a cautionary warning last November regarding chicken jerky products from China.  Last month the agency updated its warning to include jerky treats made with duck and sweet potato pending a full investigation.  Samples of the treats are being tested for a variety of health risks, including Salmonella, pesticides, metals and other toxins, though to date scientists have been unable to “determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses.”  Find more information at: FDA.gov/AnimalVeterinary.

The Lickety Stik

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The Lickety Stik has an important place in the dog treat world for its low calorie count and compact, travel-ready design.  The small rollerball bottle holds a liquid treat (chicken, liver or bacon flavor) that rolls right onto your happy dog’s tongue.

Here’s what PetSafe has to say about this new product:

“No mess.  Just hold the Lickety Stik bottle and your pet gets all the enjoyment while your hands and clothes stay dry and clean.  Virtually no calories — just one in every 10 licks.  The 1.69 oz bottle easily fits in a glove compartment, back pocket and purse, so you can maximize your pet's training with on-the-spot rewards.”   

As a consumer I agree with each statement — except we did spill some liver flavor on the floor during training class.  My partner said I didn’t need to squeeze the tube, just let the dog lick the treat off the rollerball.  Overall, I found the product very clean; and appreciated that it doesn’t crumble like dry dog treats.  Our dog (a Lab) can’t eat solid food due to Mega-esophagus so she doesn’t get many traditional treats.  For training classes the Lickety Stik is ideal.  Bonus:  the bottle lasts a long time. 

As for the nutritional value, it’s a fairly natural and healthy treat.  Take the ingredients in the Braised Liver formula for example:  natural liver flavors, cultured milk, lecithin, mixed tocopherols (natural preservative — a source of vitamin E), ascorbyl palmitate (source of vitamin C), rosemary extract, green tea extract.

5 OUT OF 5 PAWS

Find a retailer near you at Petsafe.net.