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.

Winter Care For Dogs: 3 things to watch for

by Melissa Kullman – Master Groomer, Puckabee’s Eco-Friendly Grooming

Wisconsin winters take their toll on our four-legged family members, and because our pets don’t complain, we sometimes forget that their needs change through the year. Some of the most common winter problems that ail our pets are the simplest to treat and prevent.

Dry Skin
Heating our homes not only dries our skin but our pets, too. Many dogs and cats suffer from dry skin. Whether it’s due to allergies or dry winter air, there are a few easy ways to treat and prevent this problem. Feeding a high quality dog food supplement that contains not just vitamins and minerals, but digestive enzymes, probiotics and omega 6 are essential.  Intestinal wellness is the secret to healthy skin and coat, as well as overall health and wellness. Fido-Vite is a locally produced supplement that guarantees their product or your money back (www.fido-vite.com).

Herbs are also a great way to treat dogs and cats. Plants like nettle and oats are just a couple of herbs that make a huge difference when it comes to your dog’s or cat’s skin. Our eco-friendly salon, Puckabee’s, offers a skin soother treatment that includes an oatmeal bath and fresh organic herbal infusion rinse. *Remember, when bathing at home use a shampoo that is plant based and chemical free to avoid further irritation.

Cracked/Dry Paw Pads
Walking over those salted sidewalks irritates your dog’s paws by drying the pads and causing painful cracks. Change to a pet friendly sidewalk salt, and apply Nose to Toes balm to pads to rehydrate, soothe, and protect before and after walks. Nose to Toes balm was created by a local herbalist specifically to soothe a wide variety of skin irritations (cuts, dry noses, hot spots, etc.) for dogs and cats. Since it’s all natural and chemical free, you don’t have to worry about your dog ingesting the balm.

Chill & Frostbite
Consider getting your dog groomed more frequently during the winter months. Hair that picks up snow gets wet and becomes matted quickly. These matts dry slowly, leaving your dog feeling chilled. Excessive matts lead to one of two things: a very short (and chilly) haircut or a lot of painful combing.

Puckabee’s Eco-Friendly Grooming uses products that are biodegradable, plant based, cruelty free, chemical free, and locally made. For questions about products and services, please call 715.514.1003 or stop in the salon at 24 South Barstow Street, Eau Claire.

Balanced Living » March/April ‘12

Yogurt Cups Get Their Day of Glory

If are like me, you always feel guilty throwing away cottage cheese, yogurt, and three bean salad containers. Thinking there has to be a better way!  There is! As of January 1st, Veolia Waste Removal started taking ALL plastic containers! All of them! So no longer do you have to store #5s to take them to Whole foods the next time you’re heading to the cities. No more saving them in your basement to send to Gimme 5, where you pay the shipping. No more guilt for eating your Stoneybrook Vanilla every morning. Plus they also take the deli containers that your ham spread or potato salad comes in, which are generally #7. So begin noticing people! Look at your plastics and if it’s #1-#7, you are free and clear to take it out with your trash.  And enjoy the feeling of doing one more good thing today!

Who Would Have Thought …

That olive oil is a great makeup remover. It is cheaper than cosmetic removers and serves as a great moisturizer.  That is about as organic as you are going to get.

Keep Recycling Those Batteries

A whopping 13.1 percent increase over 2010, totaling more than 7.6 million pounds of rechargeable batteries collected for recycling.

Since 1994, Call2Recycle has diverted more than 70 million rechargeable batteries from landfills with the help of a network of 30,000 drop-off locations.

Sprint Goes Greener

Sprint announced in early January that it will require all new phones to go through third-party testing to improve repairability, recyclability, and energy efficiency.

The testing criteria, includes materials used, impact on health and environment, energy management, sustainable innovation, performance, and product stewardship.

Through the 2012 standard, which includes packaging as well as product design criteria, Sprint will also introduce a line of sustainable packing materials for its phones. To up the green factor of its packaging, the company plans to eliminate plastic laminate, print with vegetable-based or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) inks and use water-based or eco-friendly adhesives.

New packaging standards are expected to encourage the reduction of packaging volume and size, increase the use of recycled fiber and post-consumer waste, and minimize the use of glues, inks, labels, and plastics.

To learn more about green phones visit Earth911.org.

Woof Woof Wash

GOOD TO KNOW: A helpful blend of essential oils made just for our four-legged friends! This soap is sure to get rid of those pesky fleas and keep mosquitoes away! Gentle enough for sensitive skin.

ELEMENT: Water, Fire
$4.00, mycleanaura.com

Spinach Strength

We all know where Popeye got his strength from, but did you know it may have kept him skinny too? Swedish researchers have discovered that spinach contains thylakoid, a substance which slows down metabolism. When fed to rats, those who ate the spinach with thylakoid gained less weight and had lower blood sugars and blood fats.

Sweet Dreams

Did you know that our sleep duration and quality depends on our sex, race, and socioeconomic status? University of Chicago researchers discovered that African Americans sleep less than Whites and men sleep less than women. The mean scores are as follows: Time spent in bed: 7.5 hours; Time to fall asleep: 21.9 minutes; Sleep duration: 6.1 hours; Time spent sleeping: 80.9 %.

We have all experienced those sleepless nights. Give these ideas a try the next time you are counting your 276th sheep.

Guided Imagery: A study in 2007 in Brazil found that 12 insomniacs slept better after listening to guided imagery CDs for 5 consistent weeks.

Herbal Tea: Many herbs like passionflower, chamomile and skullcap have sedative properties.  Look for them in tea form at your natural health food store and relax with a cup about an hour before you head to bed.

5-HTTP: This is a new drug that is derived form tryptophan, which helps up serotonin levels, a brain chemical that helps regulate sleep. Natural Medicine doctors recommend taking 1 capsule of 100 milligrams nightly.

Smart Tips

Tired of sweeping out the soot in your fireplace?
Add ½ cup of salt to natural wood every time you burn; the sodium chloride forms a weak acid that dissolves the creosote (black soot) that is left after a fire.

Have a dresser knob that won’t stay tight no matter how many times you’ve tried?
Unscrew the knob and coat the screw with clear nail polish. Reassemble while wet. When the nail polish dries, the knob will be glued in place.

Clean candleholders are right around the corner.
Mist the inside of a candle holder with cooking spray and a few drops of water before inserting your candles. The oil stops the wax from sticking to the sides of the glass, and the water provides moisture, which allows the burned candle to be easily removed.

Good Stats

HEALTHIER FOR ME AND MY CHILDREN: Number one motivator cited by parents for choosing organic for the third consecutive year.

78% of U.S. families are buying organic food, up from 73% in 2009.

Four in Ten families are buying more organic products than they were a year ago.

Seventy Two Percent of parents are familiar with the USDA Organic seal, up from 65% in 2009.