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By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

While vegetables should represent only a small percentage of your dog's or cat's nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet, they are actually very important to your pet's health. Dogs need them for essential nutrients (such as powerful antioxidants) not provided by other foods like meat and bones. In the wild, wolves and coyotes consume grasses, berries and wild fruits and vegetables as sources of these crucial nutrients.

Wild cats, being strict carnivores, consume only the predigested vegetable matter contained in the gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of their prey and occasionally nibble on grasses. To mimic their ancestral diet, only very small amounts of veggies are added to commercial and homemade cat food. The goal is to provide a biologically appropriate amount of roughage, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

The Best Way to Feed Vegetables to Your Pet

There are a few different ways to prepare vegetables to make them optimally digestible for dogs and cats, and one of the best and most nutritious methods is to ferment them. Fermentation actually imitates the digestion of plant foods in the GI tracts of the small prey animals that dogs and cats eat in the wild.

Fermented vegetables are a staple of virtually every native diet, and are highly valued for their health benefits. But what many pet parents don't realize is that fermented veggies can also be beneficial in keeping pets healthy, thanks in large part to their probiotic effect.

Beneficial gut bacteria play a critical role in managing digestive...

Ozzie was undisputed “king” of his half of Hanover Street until Prince showed up. But the younger male feline didn’t want the throne — only to be loved by area humans.

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to quit smoking, congratulations! And if you're also a pet parent, you have an extra incentive to put down those cigarettes — the health of your animal companion.

"Smoking's not only harmful to people; it's harmful to pets, too," says Food and Drug Administration (FDA) veterinarian Dr. Carmela Stamper. "If 58 million nonsmoking adults and children are exposed to tobacco smoke, imagine how many pets are exposed at the same time."1

Studies show pets are at greater risk from passive smoking than even humans are, because furry family members spend more time at home and on the floor, where carcinogenic particles tend to linger. And there's also the problem of third-hand smoke particles, which are thought to be more hazardous than secondhand smoke. Third-hand smoke is the residue that remains in the smoker's environment on furniture, rugs, curtains, fabric lampshades, clothing, human skin, animal fur and other surfaces.

"Like children, dogs and cats spend a lot of time on or near the floor, where tobacco smoke residue concentrates in house dust, carpets and rugs. Then, it gets on their fur," Stamper explains. "Dogs, cats and children not only breathe these harmful substances in, but pets can also ingest them by licking their owner's hair, skin, and clothes." 

Living With a Smoker Puts Pets at Increased Risk of Serious Disease

Recent research at the University of Glasgow in Scotland has clearly demonstrated a direct link between pets living...

Yuki, an adorable Shiba Inu pup, stamps his feet in excited anticipation when he hears the noises that mean his favorite human is home, and their interaction is so sweet!

With his orange face and breast feathers and all the rest bright green, a cute, colorful and chipper lovebird is also quite tame, and adores having his head and neck rubbed.

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Just like human feet, dogs' paws have a lot of jobs to do. And since our furry pals aren't really into footwear and tend not to worry about what they're stepping in or on, their paws and nails can take quite a beating. This is especially true for working and hunting dogs, as well as canine athletes.

Fortunately, canine feet are tough and durable, so minor paw and nail problems tend to heal quickly on their own. However, many dog parents don't realize there are a number of canine disorders and diseases that seem unconnected to their pet's paws and nails, but that can have a significant effect on them, including the following conditions.

5 Disorders That Can Damage Your Dog's Paws 1. Yeast infection. Dogs have a normal amount of healthy levels of yeast that occur naturally on the body, including on the paws. Healthy levels of flora are possible thanks to a balanced immune system. Dogs with an underactive immune system or who are immunosuppressed can end up with a yeast infection, as can dogs with overactive immune systems that result in allergies. You'll be able to tell if your dog has a yeast infection by the way she smells, because yeast has a very characteristic odor. Some people think it smells like moldy bread; others liken the odor to cheese popcorn or corn chips. In fact, some people refer to a yeast infection of a dog's paws as "Frito Feet." It's a...

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

One look at the sleek silhouette of the cats known as Orientals and you’ll see why they’re known as natural athletes. From their large, pointed ears to their long, thin, tapering tails, words like “lithe,” “svelte” and “muscular” describe these beautiful felines very well. Besides being physically engaged, Orientals like to be involved in whatever’s going on; they love having fun. As Vetstreet1 observes, they also enjoy chatting you up while they’re doing it, which can be funny and entertaining as they have loud, raspy voices.

Most domestic cats have a similar look, with variations in the length of their fur and the width of their faces. Orientals, however, are unique; when you see one, you know exactly what they are. They can have any one of more than 300 pattern and color combinations — more possibilities than any other breed. While Orientals were created as an offshoot of the Siamese cat breed, the latter has gently blending point colorations, or overall pale coloring with darker extremities, such as their faces, tails, ears and feet.

But Orientals don’t have points, because when they were bred from the Siamese, cats with no pointing were used. These cats have upward-slanted, almond-shaped eyes that are typically blue, green or one of each, and flared ears that sometimes seem quite out of proportion to their rather small, wedge-shaped heads.

Their bodies are longer, too, in proportion to the rest of their features, and their necks and...

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

It’s often recommended that cats be kept indoors to keep them safe, and it’s quite true that outdoor cats face an increased risk of injury, poisoning and human abuse and theft, as well as risks posed by wildlife, extreme temperatures, vehicle traffic and infectious agents. But keeping a cat cooped up indoors does deprive him of many joys of cat life, like watching birds go by, climbing trees, feeling the sun on his fur and experiencing beneficial grounding.

In a position statement released by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), an indoor/outdoor living arrangement, in a safe environment, is described as the best for cats, with AAFP noting, “Consideration for longevity often underlies the decision to keep cats indoors. However, a lifestyle choice made with the sole intention of increasing longevity — but in an impoverished or inadequate environment for each cat in the household — is not in the cat’s best interest.”1

If letting your cat out to roam freely is dangerous, but keeping him solely indoors runs the risk of becoming boring, what’s a viable alternative that’s growing tremendously in popularity? Build a catio!

Luxury Catios Are Growing in Popularity

The U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is among those who have jumped on the catio bandwagon, recommending them as an excellent option for otherwise indoor cats. RSPCA cat welfare expert Alice Potter told The Telegraph:2

“Keeping your cat as a house...

While the human is trying to teach Sampson to return the pillow “nicely” with no game-playing, the little human in the house, Sierra, is just looking for a quiet place to study.

Newborns kittens are “fostered” by adult rats, who groom them, play with them and even snuggle with them at night. It started with a rat named Ivory and a kitten, Ebony.

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By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

If you’re like most dog parents, you probably don't give much thought to the health of your pet’s peepers, but there are actually an astonishing number of things that can go wrong with your canine companion’s eyes and his ability to see, including the following conditions.

10 Common Eye Conditions in Dogs 1. Cherry eye. The medical term for this condition is prolapse of the third eyelid gland. Dogs have a membrane in the corner of each eye, located underneath the lower lid, which houses a tear gland. When this gland is healthy it's not visible when you look at your dog. But occasionally this gland will pop or bulge out and you'll see red, thickened, irritated-looking tissue inside the corner of your pup's eye. And once this gland pops out, it can become increasingly inflamed and even develop an infection. Fortunately, cherry eye isn't typically painful for dogs. However, because the gland is no longer seated in its normal position, it can prevent adequate lubrication of the eye. 2. Corneal ulcer. Corneal ulcers are wounds to the cornea usually caused by an abrasion, scratch, puncture or other trauma to the eye. Other causes can include a foreign body in the eye, a chemical burn, infection, lack of adequate tears, inability to completely close the eyelids, entropion (where the eyelid folds inward), disease and facial nerve paralysis. These...

It’s time to go to bed, so Mikey, a beautiful macaw, dutifully climbs many stairs to his own room, which is decked out just for him — it’s his “go-to” haven.

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Sadly, I've lost count of how many years pet obesity has been on the rise, along with all the disorders that inevitably result when animals are overfed and under-exercised. According to pet insurer Nationwide, in 2016 over 1.3 million pet owner claims totaling more than $60 million were submitted for obesity-related diseases, which equates to a 23 percent increase in just 3 years.1 Per Nationwide, the top 10 obesity-related diseases in cats in 2016 were:

Cystitis/urinary tract disease Chronic renal disease Diabetes Asthma Hepatitis/Hepatopathy Osteoarthritis Hypertension Congestive heart failure Gall bladder disorder Spondylosis

Obesity-related diseases are often entirely preventable, and yet they continue to increase in cats year after year. Most of them shorten an already short lifespan and often destroy the animal's quality of life along the way.

As a proactive wellness veterinarian, it's incredibly frustrating to me to see so many kitties these days being overfed and under-exercised to the point of developing one or more potentially devastating diseases. Especially when it's so easy to keep them at a healthy weight and in good physical condition.

Is Your Cat Overweight? Here's How to Tell

One of the problems pet obesity experts have uncovered is that unfortunately, overweight kitties have become the "new normal" and as a result, many people can't tell the difference between a fat cat and a normal-sized cat. If you're not sure...

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Animals have many intriguing ways of surviving harsh winters. Hibernation is one survival trick, used by animals such as bears, who fatten themselves up during the summer months then fall into a state of near suspended animation over the winter. Not all animals have this luxury, however, including shrews, which are too small to store up enough fat to hibernate. Plus, they have high metabolisms that require near-constant eating in order to survive.

Some animals that don't hibernate get around winter by migrating to warmer, more hospitable locales. Here, too, shrews miss out, as they are unable to migrate. Forced to hunker down in place even as temperatures plummet, they've got a different trick up their sleeves that makes winter survival possible: shrinking skulls.

Shrews' Shrinking Skulls May Help Them Survive Winter

In the 1940s, zoologist August Dehnel noticed that shrews seemed to have different-sized heads at different times of the year.1 The "Dehnel phenomenon," as it came to be named was not scientifically proven, however, until now.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany and colleagues captured shrews from the summer of 2014 to the fall of 2015.2 Their body mass was measured and an x-ray taken of their head before they were microchipped and released. Thirty-seven of the animals were later recaptured and measured once again.

The findings revealed that along with a seasonal change in body mass index (rising by more than 83 percent in...

Harper watches with interest as a big box is opened and his new bed is pulled out. He plumps it up a little, rolls on it to give it a good puppy smell and settles in.

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By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Most dogs are good eaters, which is a nice way of saying they'll eat anything that isn't nailed down. Dr. Jules Benson, Vice President of Veterinary Services at Petplan Pet Insurance, explains the phenomenon this way:

"Looking at the domestic dog's nearest wild relative, the grey wolf, they are adapted to a feast-or-famine diet and can go many days without fresh prey. They achieve this through eating large amounts when food is available, food caching (may be analogous to burying bones in the garden!) and scavenging (watch out for the kitchen trash can!)."1

In other words, it's natural for our canine companions is to eat whenever food is around, and not necessarily because they're hungry right that second, but because they never quite get it through their doggy brains that mom or dad will continue to make meals available like clockwork every day of their lives. Sadly, it's also possible some adopted dogs harbor memories of starvation from earlier life experiences, and will forever view food as a rare and precious resource.

With that said, it's often difficult to tell if a seemingly food-obsessed dog is just following his natural instinct to eat at every opportunity, is driven by a fear of starvation, is being fed a diet that doesn't nourish him at the cellular level (more about this shortly) or has simply mastered...

The sight of it is quite intriguing, and Shiva soon learns that while stepping in snow might be chilly, she can push it around with her paw, eat a few bites and like it!

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By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Giardia is a one-celled parasitic organism found not only in the small intestine of dogs and cats, but also in most wild animals and human populations living in third-world countries. It's generally assumed that while exposure to giardia is common, acquiring disease from the parasite is less common.

Giardia is ubiquitous in the environment and is found in rivers, ponds, puddles and many other cool, moist locations. It's a zoonotic disease, meaning if the family dog has it or a human family member has it, the entire rest of the family — humans and animals — can be infected.

Animals bred in puppy mills and other facilities that house lots of dogs commonly carry the giardia parasite. Your dog can acquire giardia by ingesting an infected cyst contained in another animal's feces. Contamination can occur directly or indirectly through contact with infected cysts, and the most common route of transmission is through feces-contaminated water.

Once inside your pet’s small intestine, the cyst opens and releases the active form of the parasite. These forms are able to move around and attach to the walls of the intestine, where they reproduce. Eventually, the active forms of giardia encyst (build cysts around themselves) and are passed from the animal's body in feces. The poop then contaminates water sources, grass, soil and other surfaces.

Another way the infection can spread is through licking. If a dog is giardia-positive, licks his backside and then licks another dog, cat or...

When his favorite human returns after being gone for three days, a jubilant Chihuahua can’t help wriggling, yipping with joy and planting kisses all over his human’s face!

Resting on the couch, Maeby, a Husky, seems to find it quite natural when a kitty, Farina, jumps up, gently flexes her claws in his fur and settles on top of him for a nap.

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