Saturday, 30 September 2017

Pet Food Ingredients: Their Bark Is Worse Than Their Bite

You turn that bag of dog food over and look at the ingredient panel.  OMG, WTH, YGBKM.  Those aren’t the ingredients, they’re your response…Oh my goodness, what the heck, you gotta be kidding me (you may be familiar with a slightly different version of this texting shorthand).

But they might as well be the ingredients since you can’t pronounce them, either.  You picture some mad scientist formulating the food with toxic chemicals, knowing that dogs are gonna die…bwahaha.

Some pet food labeling has wording for which there is no legal or regulatory definition as it pertains to pet food.  Think “Holistic,” “Organic,” “Super Premium,” “Large Breed,” “Small Breed,” “Senior,” “Low Fat,” “Indoor Formula,” “Hairball Formula,” and other such designations which mean whatever the manufacturer says they mean.

In the US, the only formulations for which standards have been established are: gestation and lactation (puppy/kitten food), maintenance (adult food), all life stages (must meet the puppy/kitten standards), and large breed puppy (dogs 70 pounds or more at maturity).

Then there are ingredients that have vague, loosely regulated meanings.  Think “Byproducts.”  Some people think they’re beaks, feet, feathers and guts all chopped up.  Those people are mostly wrong.  The guts could be in there.
“Byproducts” means anything but muscle meat.  In pet foods, they’re mostly organs…digestive organs, reproductive organs, brains, and assorted other organs that you’re quite happy to let the dogs and cats have, thank you. 

If it’s any consolation, some byproducts are considered delicacies elsewhere; tripe (stomach), sweetbreads (the thymus gland) and tongue for instance.  And they’re nutritious.  Other byproducts you shell out good money for as treats…bully sticks (what bulls have that cows don’t), moo tubes (cattle trachea), porky pumpers (pig hearts), lammy puffs (sheep lung), to name a few.

Then there are the scary sounding ingredients.  Those have very specific meanings and the scientific names must be used to pinpoint the ingredient.  Think of it this way:  there are several types of foxes: red fox, arctic fox, fennec fox, etc.  If you’re talking about the red fox, the scientific name is Vulpes vulpes.  

Requiring the use of that multi-syllable, toxic sounding name is akin to requiring the use of the name “Vulpes vulpes” instead of just “fox.”  So, in spite of how dangerous the ingredients may sound, they’re simply not.

Remember, also, that everything that is ingested has a threshold for toxicity.  You take one blood thinner and it saves your life; you take five and you bleed to death.  That’s why you shouldn’t freak out when you see propylene glycol in pet food or treats. 

Yes, it’s the active ingredient in pet-safe anti-freeze, but the key words are “pet-safe.”  Propylene glycol has a low freezing point and a high toxicity threshold, making it a safer alternative to ethylene glycol, the highly toxic active ingredient in regular anti-freeze.  And, don’t look now, but it’s in some human foods, too.  It’s usually used as a moistening agent.

By law, to be a “natural” food, there can be no ingredients that were made in a lab.  That’s almost impossible, if a pet food is to be complete and balanced.  A truly “natural” formulation may not be complete and balanced. 

A complete and balanced formulation will contain synthetic vitamins and minerals.  What it cannot contain are synthetic preservatives.  That’s why you see “preserved with mixed tocopherols” following the fat.  Tocopherols are what the mad scientists call Vitamin E.

If you’re feeding a “natural” dog or cat food, look closely at the bag.  You’ll probably see the words “with added vitamins and minerals.”   That puts it in compliance with the law.

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in Southeastern Massachusetts, USA. He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behaviour and his articles appear at 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

My Cat Doesn’t Like Being Hugged- Why?

I’d like to hug my cat but they won’t let me – why?

Here are 10 common reasons why many cats really don’t like too much close and personal handling:

1. Cats prefer choice. This means that if your cat approaches you and wants to get close and have a cuddle, then by all means engage in some mutual loving.

2. Cats do not like to feel trapped and most dislike being restrained especially if they have no option to escape. Try and avoid picking them up and hugging them tightly. If they have all four paws on the ground they will feel happier.

3. Research has shown that if we handle kittens properly they will be more likely to respond to being handled as adults. The crucial time for this is between 3 and 8 weeks. Short, gentle and regular handling sessions throughout the day is recommended. Try and ensure that a range of different people get involved so that they will be socialized to men, women and children (under supervision).

4. Cats generally do not like their tummies being touched. This is a vulnerable area for cats so avoid tickling or stroking them there.

5. A large number of cats have a low threshold for time spent cuddling. Try and have regular but shorter episodes of contact.

6. In cat language, a raised tail in the shape of a question mark is a greeting. If a cat approaches you like this it’s usually an invitation to stroke and pet them.

7. Cats have a number of scent glands on their body. An abundance of these are found on their face. When they rub you, they are exchanging their scent. You can take this as a compliment as they are sharing their scent profile with you.

8. Cats show affiliation to another cat by mutual grooming and licking. If your cat likes to lick you it’s likely that they see you as a member of their social group.

9. Some cats are just not tactile. Many show their affection by choosing to sit close to you. If this describes your cat be content that they are wanting to be around you.

10. A slow blink is another way that a cat will show you affection. Try doing it back – most cats will respond.

So if your cat isn’t the hugging kind, just show them affection in different ways and be grateful that they choose to live with you.
Remember to give them choice and respect their species’ specific behaviours. By doing this your cat is more likely to want to be with you.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Some Interesting Dog Owning Statistics - Check These Out!

Dog owners are in for a bit of a treat with this post (excuse the pun!). I recently came across a set of statistics that threw up some interesting findings.

For example - Did you know?

Walking our Dogs

Worldwide, the most popular time-slot to walk dogs is around 6pm. A leading dog monitor survey also found that afternoon walks tended to be twice as intense as morning walks. No surprise there for some of the early-riser dog owners perhaps?

Europeans Are More Active With Their Dogs

Statistics showed that Switzerland has the most active dogs in the world. Not to be out-done, dogs belonging to European neighbours in Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and The UK also enjoy a highly active lifestyle compared to dogs in other areas around the world.

These Breeds Are Good Sleepers!

Dogs that scored highly when it came to enjoying a good quality of sleep included Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Siberian Huskies. It seems that larger dog breeds love a snooze!

Phobic About Fireworks

Bigger breeds figured highly here too. Monitored activity showed that bigger dogs seemed to be less disturbed by fireworks than smaller dogs. Beagles and Golden Retrievers showed a higher degree of calmness than many other breeds when it came to celebrations involving fireworks.
On the other end of the spectrum Maltese dogs showed a high degree of discomfort and restlessness when it came to dealing with the noise associated with pyrotechnics.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Why Is My Cat Weeing Outside Its Litter Tray?

As a behaviour counsellor with a special interest in feline behaviour, one of the most common problems I am called about is inappropriate urinating in the house.
Here are ten reasons why this might be happening:

1. Aversion to the type of litter used. Sudden changes to the type of litter can put them off using it. Ones that have a very strong scent are often not tolerated.

2. A negative association with using the litter tray. For example if a cat has a urinary tract infection they will experience pain each time they pass urine. This often results in them linking using the tray with something unpleasant and so they start urinating in other places.

3. Insufficient litter trays. In multi-cat households each cat requires its own tray (plus another extra). Plenty of space between each of them is important too.

4. Intimidation by another cat. In multi-cat households, a confident cat may prevent another, more timid individual, from using the tray.

5. Over- zealous cleaning. This can be very off-putting especially if very strong smelling disinfectants are used.

6. Stress is often linked to inappropriate urination. Urine can sometimes be used as a self-appeasing behaviour. Identifying conflict and the emotional status of the cat is important

7. Physical pain. Elderly cats can suffer from arthritic changes, making it difficult for them to climb into the litter tray. Because cats hide pain, inappropriate urination can be the first indication that there is a problem

8. Lack of privacy. Placing a litter tray in a busy place in the house is not a good idea. Some cats even prefer a covered one. Provide them with an open and closed one to assess their preference.

9. Urine is used as a marker to advertise territory. If urine is primarily around doors, windows and cat flaps it can indicate that the cat feels threatened from something outside.

10. Cats do not like to toilet close to where they are fed. Place the litter tray some distance away from their core territory.

If you want to learn more about feline behaviour I run full day courses throughout the year. Or if you are experiencing behaviour problems with your cat I can arrange a home visit or if you are out of my area a skype consultation can be arranged.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at

Cat Spraying No More

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Elephant In The Waiting Room: Vet Bills At An All-Time High

Many pet owners have concerns regarding the rising cost of Vet bills and we asked UK pet insurers Insurancefair for an insight into why this might be and for any tips that may help owners meet the costs.

The shocking cost of veterinary bills can often hit pet-owners with devastating effect. It’s a horror story that we have heard many times before, beloved pets are taken to the vets for a check-up or to investigate a change in behaviour and the animal is diagnosed with a medical condition that requires treatment. A common example of this is hip dysplasia, known to be prevalent in dogs and especially so in certain larger pedigrees. Hip dysplasia in severe (but not uncommon) cases is treated by a full hip replacement. A procedure that comes in at an eye-watering £9,000, depending on your area and vet.  Pet owners now more than ever need to have the correct pet insurance in place to cover themselves against these eventualities.
In 2016, we saw the average cost of veterinary treatment reach £810 and as a country we are set to see it continue to rise this year to new heights. Figures from major insurers show that the most common claims were for joint conditions with an average cost of £452.92. There are of course much higher bills such as ruptured tendons in cats setting owners back up to £4,000 or more.

But why are these costs on the rise? This is a complicated question with several key factors affecting the industry as a whole. The area you live in plays an important part of the overall cost of the treatment, there can be a difference of up to 400% between the North and South of the country. It may not surprise you that prices in London on average at the highest while Scotland and Northern Ireland on average are the cheapest. As technology and medicine develop, alternative treatment options became more viable for our furry companions. More intricate surgeries or advanced medicines may now be available for medical conditions; however, these treatments may have a higher price tag due to their complexity, or the increased price of medication due to their development. There is also a shortage of incoming veterinary students according to the British Veterinary Association, leading to higher costs and wages to attract new professionals and established and qualified international veterinary surgeons. Combine this with the compulsory needs to maintain a 24hour service and specialised equipment all year round and the overheads begin to mount.
With the mounting cost of vet bills continuing to rise it is more important than ever to have some financial security in place in the event that your pet falls ill. Some pet owners may choose to ‘self-insure’ which means that they allocate money aside each month into a fund to be used in the event that their pet falls ill, the benefit of this is that if your pet does not get ill then the money is still your own. However, if your pet falls ill early on, you may not have had the opportunity to build up a big enough pot to cover the bills or if your pet requires lots of treatments in a short period of time or several expensive procedures, this pot may not be sufficient to cover it. Now for the majority of UK pet owners (some 52%) this security is provided by pet insurance paid through either a monthly or annual premium. It cannot be stressed enough that if you are purchasing insurance for your pet that you fully understand the cover available, some insurers or policies may exclude conditions that your pet is prone to and this can mean a nasty surprise waiting for you down the line. If you are in any doubt, research the most common medical conditions or treatments that your pet is prone to. Then ensure that your policy will adequately cover this condition for the rest of the pet’s life should they receive a diagnosis, this means both the cover and the financial limit. 

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Any of our team here at Insurancefair are more than happy to discuss your policy requirements and which of our policies will best suit your animal companion’s needs. With our pet insurance, you can cover your pet for up to £7,000 per condition for your pet’s lifetime as well as up to £1,000 of vet-recommended alternative treatment. We have designed our policy wording and summary to be as accessible as possible and have limited the use of insurance jargon so that you can ensure you are  covered for what best suits your needs. For further information on pet insurance and the cover that we provide at Insurancefair, please follow the link below: