What’s Your Pet’s Fitness Paw-proportionality?

By Margaret Meier Jones, DVM, CVSMT, Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley

Each year I make a few New Year’s resolutions, and perhaps like many of you, the one that usually tops the list is to get outside and get moving more. I resolve to grab Quinn’s leash and hit the pavement “running,” and as an eighteen-month-old border collie, he’s eager and able to join me on my task. In a study published in June 2017 in the journal BMC Public Health, dog owners on average walked 22 minutes more per day compared to people who didn’t own a dog. That’s great news for us humans, but is it equally good news for our four-legged best friends?

In general, whether we are two or four legged, we have to “move it or lose it,” and exercise is one of the best ways to keep our muscles, joints, and even brains healthy. However, with our canine companions, we have to take several things into consideration to ensure we are helping them put their best paw forward. Breed, age, weight, haircoat, past injury, and overall body conditioning has to be taken into account when we consider how much to exercise with our pets. Other considerations, such as the elements, also play a roll. For example, what’s the temperature outside? January in Wisconsin typically means sub-zero temperatures and wind-chills, so even if your dog is bred for Nordic climates, a coat and protective footwear is a must when going outside for any considerable period of time. Animals are susceptible to frostbite and other injury from the elements, so if you need an extra layer to be comfortable, so do they.

Maybe I’m a math geek, but have you ever considered the proportional difference between your stride length and that of your dog’s? If you take the average human’s in-seam of 30 inches and compare that to a dog who’s inside leg measurement may only be 10 inches, that’s a three-fold difference in strides! Add a few extra holiday pounds that resulted from Santa Paw’s stocking stuffer treat binge, and Fido may have to work much harder than you realize just to keep up with you on that walk. It’s best for us, and our dogs, if we gradually work into a more vigorous exercise regime, adding distance and speed as our cardiovascular conditioning improves. As you walk with your dog, paying attention to the effort and rate of their breathing can be a great indicator as to how hard their bodies are actually working on that walk.
Have you been noticing that your dog is lagging behind, breathing harder than before, or even demanding a rest by lying down on your walks? Are you hearing them shuffle across the floor, and you’re just attributing it to getting older? Happily, I can assure you that may not be the case! You’re beloved walking companion may be experiencing the slowdown of his nervous system that occurs when vertebral subluxation complexes (VSCs) accumulate, and regular chiropractic care may get you both back out fulfilling that exercise resolution!

How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?

By Margaret Meier Jones, DVM, CVSMT, Animal Wellness Center of Bullalo Valley


Is it just me or does reading this make you want to break out in the Pattie Page song by the same title? In that song she wants to buy the dog for her sweetheart, singing, “If he has a dog, he won’t be lonesome, and the doggie will have a good home!” We all have certainly been tempted to buy a pet for a loved one, especially during the holiday season, but is this really a good idea? Does our sweetheart have the space, time, energy, and financial resources needed to properly care for that doggie and ensure it will truly have a good fur-ever home?


So many considerations must be made when we look to add a pet to our homes, and the family members who will be involved with the pet’s care really need to be part of the decision as to whether or not this should happen. Should we get a cat or a dog? A bird or a lizard? A guinea pig, a hamster, or a ferret? A fresh water or a salt water fish tank? Or should we settle on something even larger, like a pony or a pot bellied pig?


Settling on one of these species then brings even more questions such as which breed matches our family best? What health problems is that breed prone to? Does this breed have any special needs or other things that add to our financial commitment? For example, if it is a brachycephalic breed (i.e., Bull dog or Himalayan), the soft palate is functionally elongated so they snore and have increased anesthetic risks during surgical procedures. Or, are we getting a giant breed, such as a Great Dane, that has larger spatial requirements and a shorter life expectancy?


Next we must ask ourselves if we are going to get our new pet at the pet store, shelter, rescue group, breeder, Craigslist advertisement, or through friends and family via Facebook? Will they join our family as a puppy/kitten, a young adult, or would a senior citizen work better for us? I know what you might be thinking: does each answer really just lead to more questions? I like THAT doggie in the window I see right now! Why can’t I just buy him and take him home!? You certainly can, but…..


Do you have the supplies he needs? Good food and bowls, leashes, kennels, and space inside or outside your home that’s a safe shelter for him? Litter boxes, scratching posts, and age-appropriate toys? Are you ready to deal with accidents that might happen in your new environment with potty training and/or separation anxiety? Do you have friends and family willing to let you bring your new friend with you when you visit them this holiday season or do you need to secure space at a boarding facility? Are they current on the immunizations that the kennel requires and does that facility have vacancy?


Have you asked your sweetheart these questions? When you do, and the answers come easily, we congratulate you and look forward to meeting your new furry friend too!


What’s in that Pet Food Anyway?

By Margaret Meier Jones, Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo County

If you’ve watched TV lately, you’ve likely seen a commercial advertising a dog food that is “New or Improved.” Or perhaps you’ve seen a blog or a news report through social media that states a particular food was the demise of a friend of a friend’s dog. The latest and greatest today seems to be that every manufacturer seems to have a “grain-free” food that you should rush out and buy. Is this really important or just the latest, greatest marketing strategy?
Dogs, like people, are omnivores, which means their metabolism is based on meat, fruits, and vegetables; whereas cats are truly carnivores and need a diet based primarily on meat. So those commercials showing how your cat is dreaming of carrots and tomatoes aren’t actually based on biological facts. And, perhaps your cat actually does love tomatoes, but your sister’s cat only wants sardines. Why is that, exactly? One of the best answers may come from the Chinese “archetypes” of personalities and metabolisms based on the five seasons, a system that can be applied to our pets as well as ourselves. The Web That Has No Weaver, by Ted J. Kaptchuk, O.M.D., is a great book to read if you’d like more detailed information on diet and the Chinese theory of the five seasons.

So, does my pet actually need to eat “grain free”? Like many questions, the answer to this one is it depends. In general, however, grains are not typically the villains they are made out to be. The quality of the food and how much it is processed should always play a major role in determining if we should feed it to our pets rather than whether or not it contains any grain. Unfortunately the pet food industry is not as regulated as it is for humans, and pet foods aren’t even required to be balanced and nutritious to be sold to the consumer.
So, how do I navigate the world of pet foods? I strongly recommend that you compare the food you are feeding your dog to others on the market at dogfoodadvisor.com. This website uses the familiar “5 star” rating system to rank foods based on the following seven criteria according to their website:

1. No controversial chemical preservatives
2. No anonymous meat ingredients
3. No artificial coloring agents
4. No generic animal fats
5. Substantial amounts of meat-based protein
6. Fat to protein ratio of 75 percent or lower
7. Modest carbohydrate content

Notice that they refer to it as carbohydrate content, not grain free. The most common misconception I hear from my clients is that grain free equals carbohydrate free, which is far from true. Unfortunately, sometimes the grain-free version of a food can be much higher in carbohydrates than any other ingredient, which leads to weight gain and health issues related to obesity. So, check dogfoodadvisor.com, and while you’re there, be certain to register for the free food recall alerts. This way you’ll know what food you feed your pets is not only the best, but also the safest out there!

Pet’s Paws for Earth Day Too!

As we celebrate Earth Day this April 22 we honor Mother Earth and look for ways to ensure that she remains healthy for generations to come. We have all been told one of the best ways to do this is to reduce our personal carbon footprint, but did you know that your pet also has a carbon footprint? According to the HealthyPawsPetInsurace.com’s random facts about pets “a medium-sized dog has the same eco-impact as a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6,000 miles a year, while a cat is equivalent to a Volkswagen Golf, based on the amount of land needed to grow food for each.” Rather surprising is it not? Here are five ways to green-up our world with our pets.

 Get out and walk with your pet.

As we all know, getting out and enjoying the great outdoors is one of the hallmarks of Earth Day. Taking our pets out for a walk is a great way to do this. While you’re out on your walk, consider recycling those plastic grocery store bags to not only pick up your pets waste, but the environmental litter you encounter as well. It only takes a brief moment of time to pick up the waste products other humans leave behind. You’ll not only have a cleaner view on your next walk, but you’ll feel better knowing you helped keep litter from entering the waterways and possibly causing harm to wildlife as well. Don’t have a pet of your own to walk? Consider volunteering at your county’s shelter, or Bob’s House for Dogs, and take a walk with one of the shelter pets that’s longing to share the great outdoors too.

Choose pet- and eco-friendly products.

As you go through your house on the spring cleaning spree, consider using pet and eco-friendly cleaning products such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. As you purchase your cleaning products, read the labels closely and choose products that are all natural and avoid those with long chemical names that no one can really pronounce. These products are becoming easier to find and more affordable than ever before as consumer’s demand increases. Using these products to clean your home along with rags made from t-shirts greatly decreases the waste produced by using paper towel products.  And, as you clean your closets and sort through the items you no longer need, consider donating your gently used towels, rugs, sheets, blankets, leashes, and even collars to the local shelters as they are often in need of these products. Looking to replace a donated item with something new? Consider purchasing replacement products made from renewable sources such as bamboo, hemp, or other renewable sources such as vegetable based chew bones rather than plastic ones.

Recycle, reuse, reduce.

There are many ways our pets can help us recycle, reuse, and reduce waste.  As I mentioned earlier, using the plastic grocery store bag as a pooper scooper on our walks is an easy choice, but what if we use cloth bags when we purchase our groceries? Consider using biodegradable pet bags, such as BioBags, to pick up the waste on the walk, or ask your non-pet-owning neighbors to save their plastic grocery bags for you to use. What about my cat, you say? Consider the Kitty Scratch Pole made here in the United States from 100 percent recycled cardboard materials for your kitty’s scratching post. It even comes with refillable disks to provide hours of scratching fun. Scooping the cat litter pan daily as recommended? Place the empty cat litter container next to your cat litter pan with a liner in it to make the scooping convenient and reduce the amount of plastic you typically use. Not a fan of the scoopable litter? Consider litter made from renewable sources such as wheat, pine, or recycled paper. My personal favorite is Yesterday’s News litter, which is made from recycled paper.

Try to eliminate purchasing anything in a plastic bottle, but if you have one, it can make a great dog toy. I know my puppy absolutely loves chewing them up after I’ve removed the top and the label, and the recycling center certainly doesn’t care about the teeth marks he leaves behind in them. And, always remember, if the plastic bottles come held together with the plastic rings, take a brief moment to cut each ring (including the handle) with a scissors to prevent harming wildlife should they come into contact with them. Changing the water in your pet’s water bowl? Consider using the “dirty” water to water your plants and/or your compost pile. Finally, one of the easiest, yet most often over-looked ways to reduce waste is to feed your dog and cat a good quality food such as Taste of the Wild. It may be a bit more cost initially, but the savings in both quantity of food consumed and waste produced will pad your wallet in the long run.


Composting is a great way to reduce the overall waste we each produce. There are many ways you can incorporate your pet’s waste products into a composting program and produce amazing fertilizer. You can check out websites such as findacomposter.com for local composting sites that accept pet waste. If making compost on your own, be sure to maintain the proper temperature to produce a final product that is safe to use.

Spay, neuter, adopt.

Helping reduce the over-population of pets by spaying, neutering, and adopting your next pet from the shelter can perhaps have the greatest impact for Mother Earth on this Earth Day. It’s a sobering fact to realize that approximately 8 million, yes I said million, pets are euthanized each year as a result of the pet overpopulation in this country alone. Each step we take to reduce this tragic number helps us all breathe a bit easier, and helps Mother Nature smile as we all work together to take care of her children that are already here.

Pets Are Good “Medicine” for Seniors

Did you know that, come this March 2013, anyone age sixty and over can adopt a dog or cat FREE from the Eau Claire County Humane Association (ECCHA)? If you are in that age bracket, here are ten reasons why adopting a pet might be a good idea.

Senior pet owners have better physical health. This includes:

• Lower blood pressure
• Lower resting heart rate
• Lower cholesterol
• Increased activity/improved strength and mobility (walking the dog, playing with the cat)
• More limber arthritic hands from brushing and petting

Some cats or dogs have been known to notice and alert others when their owner is having a seizure or when the owner’s blood glucose drops dangerously low.

Senior pet owners have better mental health. This includes:

• Less loneliness and depression, keeps one’s mind off problems
• An increased interest in life
• Higher level of self-sufficiency
• A constant, non-judgmental, affectionate companionship
• Opportunities and ways to connect with others socially centered around your pet

Pets can contribute to a person’s emotional stability in times of crisis—from personal health problems to the death of a loved one.

If you’d like to bring home a new and healthy-to-you pet, visit the ECCHA today.

Adopters age sixty and over receive free adoption from Eau Claire County Humane Association thanks to Nestle Purina’s Pets for People TM fund. Nestle Purina currently works with more than 160 humane societies across the United States to provide senior citizens free pet adoption. ECCHA provides a temporary home to over 2,200 animals each year. With such a variety, there is sure to be an age, breed, color, size, or species (even rabbits and guinea pigs are available!) that is just right for you.