Getting to Know Your Maine Coon Cat

The next breed for us to examine in our Getting to Know Your Breed series is the Maine Coon Cat. The Maine Coon Cat is #3 on the list of favorite cats per Cat Breeders Association.

Life expectancy: Maine Coons have a good life expectancy and can live up to 11-13 years.

Size: Maine Coons are one of the largest cat breeds, big boned and muscular with males weighing up to 13-18 lbs and females 8-12 lbs. They range in height from 10-16 inches and 3 feet in length – including their tails.

Color: These beautiful cats are known for their size as well as their luxurious fur and long bushy tail. They come in a variety of colors, most frequently shades of brown, but cross breeding results in any normal cat coloring. They have longer soft, silky fur with somewhat of a lion’s ruff around their neck.

Origins: There are several myths surrounding the origins of the Maine Coon. Some say they were beloved pets of Marie Antoinette and she shipped several of her Turkish Angora’s to the United States as part of a failed escape plan. These cats then bred with local short-haired cats to produce today’s Maine Coon.

Another tale involves a ship’s captain, Captain Charles Coon, who frequented the ports of Maine and cats from his ship would breed with local cats and result in what the locals would call “Coon’s Cats”.

A third hypothesis, that local cats bred with raccoons, is genetically impossible, although the Maine Coon’s tail does resemble a bushy raccoon’s tail.

Personality: The Maine Coon is one of your friendlier cats. They enjoy being around people and are friendly and good natured to all, even dogs.

Health Issues: Maine Coon’s are known to have three genetic disorders, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a form of heart disease, hip dysplasia – severe arthritis of the hip and spinal muscular atrophy which impacts the spine and limbs. It’s important to know your breeder and to question them about these disorders before purchasing a Maine Coon.

Fitness/energy level: The Maine Coon cat loves the outdoors and is known to be willing to learn to walk on a leash, making them a good walking or hiking companion. They are medium energy and intelligent, so it’s important to challenge them with cat toys and other games to keep them at top performance. They are known to be excellent mousers.

Grooming: Their heavy, shaggy coats needs minimal grooming, a once-a-week combing should suffice unless your cat is outdoors more.

Native foods for the Maine Coon: Native proteins found in the New England area of the 1800’s would include deer, rabbit, cod, salmon and vegetables such as tomatoes, apples, cranberries.

Good foods to feed your Maine Coon: Based on the Maine Coon’s New England origins, here are a few foods that contain some of the key ingredients that the original Maine Coon’s would have likely eaten. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather provide ‘food for thought’.

  • Fromm, Four Star – Hasen Duckenpfeffer
  • Instinct, Original – Original Real Salmon
  • pawTree – Real Turkey & Oatmeal

Fun facts about the Maine Coon:
The Maine Coon is the official state cat of Maine.

Contrary to most cats, the Maine Coon loves water and will jump in the tub with you if you’re not careful.

A Maine Coon named Stewie holds the record for the longest cat, measuring 48.5 inches from nose to the tip of his tail.


Should I Get My Pet a Valentine?

You’ve probably noticed all the red hearts, cupids and candy adorning the aisles of your local stores. The Christmas decorations come down and the Valentine’s Day hearts and cupids go up.

The history of St. Valentine’s’ Day is a bit muddled. There appears to be several “Valentines” recognized by the Catholic church dating back to 270 A.D. The most recent was canonized by the church in 1988.

There are also several legends as to how Valentine’s Day came to symbolize love. One is a story of a temple priest who helped Christian couples marry when marriage was outlawed by Emperor Claudius II because he believed single men made better soldiers. Another tale claims Valentine was imprisoned and fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, sending her love notes signed “Your Valentine”.

However it came about, it’s an annual holiday celebrated in most countries around the world.  And it’s big business too. Even though only roughly 55% of the population in the US celebrate the holiday, Valentine’s Day spending was $18.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to hit $19.6 billion this year with the average consumer spending $143.56 on holiday merchandise and services.

Cards, candy and flowers are the top gifts with roughly 250 million roses estimated being offered to Valentines according the Society of American Florists.

If you’re wondering whether you should get your pet a Valentine, you are in good company. Valentine’s spending on pets is expected to jump 27 percent this year, to $751 million, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). That same survey by NRF showed almost 20% of respondents were buying their pet a Valentine’s gift.

But, candy, flowers and a card may not make an impression on Buddy and Sparkles. Something in the food or toy family might be a better way to their heart.

Here’s a few ideas for heart winning pet gifts:

  • Candlelight dinner: fix up a bowl of your pet’s favorite foods and top it off with a special dollop of ice cream, making sure it contains no chocolate or splenda (in the case of lower calorie ice cream). Sit together and eat by candlelight.
  • Moonlight walk: dogs are always up for a walk, day or night, so get the leash and take a stroll together.
  • Cuddle up and watch a movie together: we recommend Lady & the Tramp or the Incredible Journey. Here’s a list of top dog and cat films to inspire you.
  • New outfit: get your dog or cat a fancy new collar with a matching lead.
  • Spa Day: take your pet to the spa for a bath, mani-pedi, massage and pampering.
  • Treats: skip the chocolates as they can be dangerous for your pets, but visit your local pet store for some yummy holiday themed treats or better yet, make some homemade treats with your pet.  Easy DIY Dog Treats.
  • Toys & games: you can never go wrong with a new squeaky plush toy for your dog or feather wand for your cat.
  • Learn about other suitable food choices for your pet using the food recommendation tool.  This tool can help you find more compatible pet foods based on your bets breed and known food allergies.
  • Donate to your local shelter or pet rescue: you can score some points with your pet by helping other pets in need.

Whatever you do to celebrate the day, even if it’s just some extra snuggles or belly rubs, remember and appreciate the unconditional love your pet gives you every day. It’s like everyday is Valentine’s Day to them.


Petnet Exercise Tips for Your Pet: Exercising Your Large Breed Dog

121-1-fitness-large_breedAt Petnet, our mission is to help you make intelligent decisions when it comes to your pets. That includes not only helping you find the best food for their health and well-being and guiding you to proper portions , but also helping you keep them healthy and fit. We want all pets to live a long and happy life, just like you do.

One of the most important things you can do for your pet, second to feeding them well, is to make sure they get proper exercise. This week in our Exercise Tips series, we’re going to focus on large breed dogs.

First, let’s define large breed. We consider large breed to be over 40lbs and under 100lbs. Dogs outside that range will have somewhat different exercise requirements, so we will look at them separately.

If we examine the AKC Registry at larger breed dogs, you will see that most of these dogs fall into the Working, Sporting and Herding groups. These dogs were bred to do a job, possibly pulling a sled (Siberian Husky), jumping into water to fetch dinner (Labrador) or protecting the home from lions (Rhodesian Ridgeback). If you think about the jobs they perform, you can see that they require strength, focus and energy. Couch surfing is not enough for these dogs, they need real exercise that makes use of the muscles, brain power and energy they were born with.

Here’s a few tips for keeping these dogs in tip-top shape:

  • Daily walks, runs or hikes of 30-60 minutes minimum duration. These outings should be aerobic enough to raise their heart rate, just like humans. Sustained aerobic activity is required, three 10-minute strolls around the block won’t cut it.
  • Mental challenges. Dogs are smarter than you think and you want to work their mind, just like you work their bodies. This could be a game of fetch, hide & seek or a maybe dog puzzle toy. Training your dog to sit, stay, or other tricks are good brain games for your dog.
  • Find them a job. There are all sorts of dog training camps that offer fun classes beyond puppy training. We’re all familiar with agility classes for dogs, but just like running isn’t for every human, agility isn’t for every dog. There are tons of other options out there. Look into nose work, dock diving, herding classes or even flyball or disc dog for those high energy Belgian Malinois and Border Collies!
  • Doggie Day Camp. You will find these day care centers all over the place now. They are great for improving your dog’s socialization as your pet will mingle with a variety of other dogs, but they are also excellent for the energy release that comes with playing.
  • Whatever exercise options you choose, be sure an monitor your pet’s level of interest and enthusiasm. If they aren’t into swimming, dock diving is a poor choice. Also watch for signs of fatigue. Dogs, especially when they are having fun, aren’t adept at self-monitoring and will just keep going till they drop. It’s up to you to monitor them and call it quits before they do too much.


Healthy Ingredients: Salmon

119-1-salmonThe next ingredient we’re covering in our ongoing series on Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet is salmon. For humans, salmon is recognized and promoted as a superfood, so it’s logical that it is great for your pets too.

What is Salmon?
Salmon belongs to the Salmonidae fish family along with char, trout and whitefish. Their native habitat is the cold waters of the North Atlantic and the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are also widely ‘farmed’ or grown and harvested from fish farms. They have pink flesh and the largest salmon ever caught was 126 lbs.

Why is salmon  in pet food?
Salmon has great benefits for your pets. It is an oily fish, but is low in saturated fats and very high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D – all good for your pet. Salmon and other fish also score high in amino acids which are critical to maintain healthy coat and skin.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon fortify your pet’s immune system and promote brain health. They also aid in controlling arthritis pain and fighting off high cholesterol.

You might also see “salmon oil” listed in the ingredients of your pet’s food. While not as good as ‘whole’  salmon, salmon oil does contain some of the benefits.

Are there any risks to feeding your pet salmon?
Cat owners know their cats love fish whether salmon, tuna or whatever and you may be tempted to just open a can of it for their meals. While that piece of sautéed salmon or a canned salmon will probably make them happy, it does not provide all of the essential vitamins and minerals your cat needs. In particular, salmon contains only small amounts of Taurine, an essential amino acid for cats. Taurine deficiency can cause blindness so if you do feed them human-grade canned fish, be sure they are getting proper amounts of Taurine from other sources.

As with any fatty food, too much of a good thing may cause stomach upset or diarrhea and raw salmon can carry a parasite, so be sure it is cooked. If feeding raw salmon, you also need to be careful of bones as they can catch in your pets throat.

Farmed salmon may contain high levels of dioxin which is why wild salmon is recommended.

Interesting facts about salmon:
Salmon are anadromous which means they spawn and hatch their eggs in freshwater but live in saltwater. You’ve probably seen stories of salmon swimming upstream to return to their original spawning ground. This homing behavior is said to be based on odors.

“Atlantic salmon” sold in the U.S. are all farm-raised. Naturally spawning Atlantic salmon can only be found in Maine and this small population is at a very high risk of extinction.

Salmon can travel up to 3500 miles to spawn and they do not eat while traveling upstream to spawn.

A sampling of pet foods that contain salmon:

  • pawTree – Real Salmon & Potato
  • Artemis – Salmon and Garbonzo Beans
  • Fussie Cat – Salmon & Chicken


Getting to Know the Beagle

118-1-beagleThe next featured breed in our Getting to Know Your Dog Breed is the Beagle. The Beagle is part of the Hound group of the AKC and ranks #5 in the AKC most popular breed list.

Life expectancy: Beagles have a good life expectancy and can live up to 12-15 years.

Size: Beagles come in two sizes 13-15 inches and over 15 inches.

Color: Beagles are multicolor with shades of brown, tan, white and even black markings. Many Beagles have a white-tipped tail, thought to be helpful for spotting them in thick brush.

Origins: Beagles look like a smaller version of the Foxhound, and were bred to hunt rabbits. They are skilled hunters and their keen sense of smell makes them excellent trackers. Dogs of a similar size and coloring to the Beagle have been around for thousands of years and can be traced to Ancient Greece. The modern era Beagle was first recognized in Britain in the early 1800’s and the National Beagle Club was formed in the US in 1890. Some of their predecessors were called ‘glove hounds’ or ‘pocket hounds’ describing their size.

Personality: Beagles are known for their fun-loving and pleasing personality. They make excellent family pets and love nothing more than a good romp with the kids. It’s important to provide enough exercise for your Beagle or they will become bored and possibly destructive or loud – they are known for their howling. Beagles can also show some stubbornness, so proper obedience training will be imperative. Their short hair makes grooming simple.

Health Issues: Beagles are generally healthy dogs, but there are a few issues common to Beagles that you should be aware of. These include: cherry eye (a disorder of the nictitating membrane, also called the third eyelid), glaucoma, ear infections (those big floppy ears catch lots of dirt), hypothyroidism, epilepsy and intervertebral disk disease.

Fitness/energy level: Even though they are small in stature, they have a fair amount of energy and would make good hiking or running companions as long as it doesn’t overstretch their shorter legs. It’s important to keep your Beagle in a fenced yard or on leash as their strong sense of smell (they are hunters after all) and natural wanderlust will lead them on adventures you may not want them taking. They are also climbers and diggers, so they should be monitored carefully.

Native foods for the Beagle: Foods the Beagle and their ancestors may have been fed in Ancient Greece include boar, black bear, anchovies, and oranges or pomegranates.

Good foods to feed your Beagle:

  • Nutram – T23 Grain Free Turkey, Chicken & Duck
  • Acana – Wild Atlantic
  • Nature’s Variety – Venison Recipe

Fun facts about the Beagle:
Beagles are very vocal dogs. They can make three different distinct sounds: a standard bark, a yodel-like sound called a bay (used when hunting), and a howl.

There is team of Beagles called the Beagle Brigade who, along with their human handlers, inspect luggage at U.S. airports searching for agricultural products as part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The most famous Beagle of course, is Snoopy.


Can My Pet Catch the Flu?

122-1-pet_fluFlu season is upon us and experts are predicting that this year’s flu season is going to hit us hard. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you protect yourself and your family with a flu shot. It is particularly important for the elderly, children, pregnant women and people with immune systems disorders as they are more vulnerable to severe complications from the flu.

But what about our pets? Do we need to get a flu shot for them too? Can they catch the flu from us?

Both dogs and cats can contract a canine or feline variation of the flu. Canine flu displays many of the same symptoms as human flu including fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and exhaustion. The symptoms of cat flu are similar to a human cold with runny nose, scratchy throat and maybe even loss of voice.

While both of these types of influenza are contagious, they are not zoonotic. Zoonotic is a term used to identify illnesses that can be transmitted from animals to people or a disease that normally exists only in animals, but can infect humans (like rabies or anthrax).

So, rest assured, even though you might end up waylaid by the flu this winter, your pet won’t catch it from you.

But that doesn’t mean they are safe, since the canine and feline flu can be pretty nasty too.

Canine flu (Canine Influenza H3N2) is highly contagious and easily spread from saliva through barking and playing. A dog can even pick it up in a contaminated dog park. Luckily, it is not found everywhere in the United States. To see if your area is susceptible, Cornell University tracks locations where the canine flu has been reported.

Cat flu, also contagious, is caused primarily by two viruses, feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus and sometimes feline chlamydia. It’s spread pretty easily between cats during grooming or playing so if you have multiple cats and one gets sick, quarantine them.

Your best way to protect your dog or your cat from the flu is by getting an annual flu vaccination. It might not stop them from catching the flu, but it will certainly reduce the severity of their symptoms (much like the human flu vaccination works). If your pet is a house pet and doesn’t interact with other cats or dogs, the likelihood of them getting sick is probably pretty low.

Just as with humans, the youngest and oldest are most susceptible and likely to suffer the hardest. If you have any concerns about your pet or if they are exhibiting any of the flu symptoms, see your vet.


Healthy Ingredients: Sweet Potatoes

117-1-sweet_potatoThe next ingredient we’re covering in our ongoing series on Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet is sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a favorite around our house and sweet potato fries have become a staple in most steakhouses and family restaurants. Sure, they’re delicious, but are they good for your pet?

What are sweet potatoes?
The sweet potato is a distant relative to a regular potato and is in the morning glory family. They are tubers – meaning they grow underground, but they also produce a lovely flower. They range in color from yellow, orange, red, brown, purple, and beige and produce a somewhat sweet, starchy mash.

Why are sweet potatoes in pet food?
You’ve probably seen sweet potato chews (dehydrated sweet potatoes) for dogs in your local pet store. They’ve been around for years and make a nice alternative to rawhide which is not very good for your pet. But sweet potato can also be found in many dry and wet pet foods.

Sweet potatoes are great for your pet. They are low in fat and contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese. Given their high fiber content they are also good for digestive health. Their yellow color comes from beta-carotene, a powerful anti-oxidant which converts to Vitamin A in your pet’s body which not only promotes healthy skin, coat, eyes, nerves, and muscles in dogs, it is known to help ward off some types of cancer and lower the risk of heart disease.

Sweet potatoes are often used in grain-free diets as they provide an alternative to the carbohydrates found in grains.

Are there any risks to feeding your pet sweet potatoes?
As with anything eaten in excess, too much sweet potato can cause intestinal distress and too much Vitamin A can cause bone issues and muscular weakness. You should also be mindful that like any carb, it turns to sugar in the body so moderation is the key.

Interesting facts about sweet potato:
Sweet potatoes have more nutritional value than regular potatoes.
George Washington grew sweet potatoes on his farm in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
The sweet potato is the state vegetable for the state of North Carolina, the leading producer of sweet potatoes in the US.

A sampling of pet foods that contain sweet potatoes:

  • Evanger’s Hi Bio – Chicken Superfood
  • Zuke’s Ascent – Adventure Tender Blend Trout & Sweet Potato
  • Blue Buffalo Healthy Living Chicken & Brown


Petnet Exercise Tips for Your Pets

116-1-exercise_tipsExercise is one of the most important activities for our health and longevity. It is equally important for our pets. Many owners think a walk around the block, or a game of fetch in the backyard is sufficient for their dogs, or a little bit of catnip gets their cat moving enough, but it isn’t. Most dogs, large and small need more exercise than they are actually getting for both physical and mental acuity. Surprisingly to many, cats need exercise too.

Because this is such an important topic, we will be writing several posts so that we can cover different size dogs and cats uniquely. We will kick it off with some of the basic considerations when considering an exercise program for a dog.

Many owners ask us how much exercise their dogs need. The amount and intensity of your dog’s daily exercise depends on your dog. There are several factors to consider including:

Breed: some dogs are natural couch potatoes, and some are natural runners or agility champs. When you choose a dog, be sure and do your research regarding their level of activity and exercise requirements. If you own a mixed breed dog, base their needs on their most predominant breed and on their behavior. You shouldn’t leave a Border Collie in the house all day and you shouldn’t expect a Bulldog to be a running companion.

Age: a puppy needs more exercise than a senior dog, that’s just logical. Exercise levels increase as your pup grows and then decrease as they age. Be careful not to overdue any exercise with a puppy since they’re still growing they may be more prone to injuries.

Weight: an overweight dog is going to find a new exercise regime challenging just as overweight humans do. Starting with low impact, short duration exercise will minimize the strain on their internal organs and joints. Adjusting their feedings to reduce their weight to a more reasonable level will also help reduce the strain on their bodies.

a dog that has recently been sick or is dealing with any type of illness should be watched closely during any exercise. It’s still good for them to get out and move, but you don’t want to put any unnecessary stress on their body or immune system.

Humans are advised to check with their doctor before starting a new exercise program, and pet owners should do the same and ask their veterinarian what an appropriate exercise routine would be for your pet. You don’t want to take Buddy out for a run and have him tear an ACL joint or overheat. You must build up their stamina slowly and consistently just as you would do for yourself.

Most all dogs would benefit from a minimum 30-60 minutes of focused aerobic exercise per day. Dogs in the Sporting Breed like Labradors or Weimaraners or Working Breed dogs like the German Shepherd would need considerably more. Focused aerobic activity would be exercises like walking, running, biking, agility, hunting, swimming – anything that raises their heart rate.

In addition to the overall health benefits from a regular exercise program, a well-exercised dog is likely to be better behaved. Dogs have lots of energy that they need to burn off and if it’s not expended through exercise, it’s likely they will turn that energy into unruly behaviors we don’t want such as chewing, digging, barking or garbage raiding. Common sense tells you, a well-exercised dog is a well-behaved dog.

Owners often wonder what type of exercise their dog would like. Luckily, because dogs are so agreeable and up for most anything, you have lots of options. Next up in our series on Exercise Tips, we’ll look at appropriate exercises for small-medium sized dogs. Stay Tuned.


Getting to Know the Bulldog

115-1-english_bulldogThe next breed we are featuring in our Getting to Know Your Dog Breed series is the lovable English Bulldog. We’ll cover the French Bulldog in a separate post in a few weeks.

Life expectancy: Bulldogs have a short life expectancy of only 8-10 years.

Size: The average Bulldog stands 14 – 15” tall and weighs about 40-50 lbs.

Color: The Bulldog has a short, smooth coat of red, white, fawn or a combination of these colorings.

Origins: The Bulldog is thought to be a mixture of Pug and Mastiff. As their name suggests, these dogs were originally bred and trained to fight bulls or for ‘bull-baiting’. This practice was popular in Great Britain from the 15th century until the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 outlawed bull-baiting and the dog was no longer useful as a ferocious fighter.

The dogs were also used in the New World to help farmers capture bulls as they would fearlessly grab the bull by the nose until the farmer was able to lasso the animal.

Eventually, the dog evolved into a loving and gentle family pet and although they can no longer perform the duties they were originally bred for (too short, heavy and with a snout that is much too short), they can be a faithful companion and excellent watchdog.

Personality: Despite their bloody past, Bulldogs are known for their endearing lumbering gait and sweet disposition. They are also known for their patience and gentleness with children and so they can make great family pets.

Health Issues: Unfortunately, the Bulldog comes with many health issues. They are members of what is termed the brachycephalic breed class with the signature short head and snout. While this characteristic is sought after by breeders, it makes them susceptible to health issues related to their eyes, ears, nose and breathing. They tend to snore, snort, wheeze and are susceptible to sleep apnea. They are also known for their flatulence.

According the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the Bulldog breed has the highest occurrence of hip dysplasia, so it is imperative to keep their weight controlled. They are voracious eaters, so daily walks and controlled diet are critical to their health.

While they are well-known for their distinctive wrinkly face, those wrinkles can be another source of problems for the dog and must be kept clean and dry to prevent infection.

Fitness/energy level: Bulldogs are low maintenance when it comes to physical activity and would be happy to just sit on the couch all day. Due to their brachycephalic issues, they have limited stamina. They have difficulty in cooling themselves as other dogs do, so overheating from too much exercise or heat should be avoided. Their short and squat physique can also make it a challenge for them to be physically active.

But, given their health issues as noted above, it is imperative that Bulldog owners don’t let them veg out on the couch and get them out for daily exercise to help keep them trim and fit. Remember that Purina study we wrote about in our recent Get Your Dog and Get Moving! post. A thin Bulldog can be expected to live 1-2 years longer than an overweight one. Try short periods of exercise, 15 minutes at a time, instead of long sessions. This type of exercise is more well suited for the English Bulldog.

Native foods for the Bulldog: Some common foods that the Bulldog may have been fed back in the 1500-1800’s include deer, hare, salmon, apples and cherries.

Good foods to feed your Bulldog:

  • Nature’s Variety – Rabbit Formula
  • Orijen – Tundra
  • Canine PowerFood – Only Natural Red Meat Feast

Fun facts about the Bulldog:

Bulldogs come in ten different varieties including brindle, white, fawn and piebald!
President Warren G. Harding owned a Bulldog named Oh Boy.
Bulldogs are frequently used as mascots for sporting teams, including the University of Georgia and U.S. Marines.


Food Related Pet Allergies Part II

114-1-allergies_2A few weeks ago, we began a two-part series on Food Related Pet Allergies. You can read Part I here. In Part II we want to discuss the most common treatment to aid in the diagnosis of a food allergy called the elimination diet.

The Elimination Diet
In order to determine what food(s) might be at the root of your pet’s allergy (or food reaction, which is non-allergic but physical reaction to certain foods), you begin by making a complete change in their diet. You stop feeding the foods you have been feeding and provide completely different foods.

This is not simply a change in brands, but a change to the proteins and carbohydrates contained in the food. Start by reading your pet’s food label to see what proteins and carbs they are eating. If your current food is chicken based with corn meal, then you stop feeding them anything with chicken or corn. You must also eliminate the proteins and carbs in their treats, so if you feed treats that are beef based then you stop feeding anything containing chicken, corn or beef. You can also utilize Petnet’s pet food rating system to see just how “healthy” your pet’s food rates according to our analysis.

It’s important you carefully monitor anything they put in their mouth, so be sure and also stop feeding things like pig’s ears or kong’s with peanut butter. You must restrict their diet to ingredients their system has not encountered before. That is the key to the elimination diet, anything they eat is “novel” , something they have not been fed before.

There are many commercially prepared foods for this purpose, but it requires diligence on the owner’s part to know what proteins and carbs are in the food they’ve been eating and carefully reading the labels on their new food to ensure those proteins and carbs are not introduced. You continue with this diet for at least 12 weeks to totally flush their system of the harmful allergens. Make sure you keep them away from table scraps, other pet’s food bowls and watch them carefully outdoors too as many pets can get into garbage or horse/cow dung.

Once their system has been cleansed by this special elimination diet, you can slowly start to add those eliminated ingredients back into their diet to see if their allergic reaction recurs. It usually takes at least a few days for the allergens to react in their system, so be certain to give it time. It’s also critical that you introduce only one new ingredient at a time so that you can isolate and identify the culprit.

Do not to stop the trial once you’ve found one ingredient they react to. There may be several, so continue introducing the ingredients until you’ve reintroduced everything they were formerly eating and identified all potential sources of the allergy. Once completed with the reintroduction process, you will know what foods to eliminate completely from their diet in order to alleviate their allergic reaction.

Preventing Food Allergies
It certainly would be easier to just prevent food allergies from arising in your pet. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. What you can do for them is promote good digestive health in your pet. Feeding a good quality food that contains whole proteins and a limited number of processed filler ingredients like ‘meal’ or chemical sounding things you can’t pronounce, will help keep stomach issues at bay.

It can also be helpful to try a rotation diet to prevent food allergies or food reactions. A rotation diet is one that changes the key protein sources that you feed your pet over time, essentially rotating which proteins they get every few months. This strategy can be effective in two ways. First, it reduces the possibility of a pet’s body developing a food reaction due to feeding the same exact protein for extended periods of time. Second, by changing up a pet’s diet, it helps their digestive system become used to a variety of food choices instead of the same food every day, which can lead to overall better nutrition and a stronger digestive system in general.

Do your best to keep your pet’s food choices simple and straightforward and read the labels so you know exactly what you are feeding your beloved pet.

Additional Readings:
What every pet owner should know about food allergies
Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies
Food Allergies