All posts by author

05 Dec 2019

What you need to know before feeding a raw dog food diet

What is a raw dog food diet?

A raw dog food diet consists of meals that are freshly prepared at home and contain a variety of fresh ingredients such as uncooked meat like muscle and organ tissue, bones that are either whole or crushed, fruit, vegetables, and occasionally dairy, including eggs.

Primarily, there are two popular schools of thought regarding raw feeding.

The first, known as the “Prey” model, is said to represent the type of diet a dog would have if they lived in the wild and hunted for their food. This method typically consists of 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% organs (half of which is liver.)

The second popular raw feeding method is referred to as “BARF: Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.” First coined by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst in 1993, the “BARF” method of raw feeding similarly reflects the way a dog would eat if they were not domesticated. The diet is slightly different from the “Prey” method in that it leaves room for additional ingredients such as vegetables, fruit, and seeds. The ratio for “BARF” raw feeding is 70% muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 5% liver, 5% other secreting organs, 7% vegetables, 2% seeds or nuts, and 1% fruit.

According to Billy Hoekman, the Natural Science Coordinator for Answers Pet Food, dogs are facilitative carnivores. This means they eat mostly meat and some fruits and vegetables. Hoekman recommends a diet of mostly meat, with less than 10% of caloric intake being provided by plants. He also suggests adding unprocessed foods such as raw milk and eggs.

Jake Love Raw Dog Food

Why are pet parents turning to raw food?

The theory regarding raw feeding for pets is that dogs have been eating raw food far longer than then they have been eating mass-produced, processed food such as canned meals and dry kibble. The processed food industry didn’t start mass-producing dog food until the 1950s-1960s, but dogs have been eating raw food for thousands of years throughout their evolution from wolves.

Pet parents also claim that after their transition into raw feeding, their pets have benefitted dramatically in terms of their health, quality of life, and more.

In Dr. Billinghurst’s book Give Your Dog a Bone, he states that after experimenting with a raw diet on his own dogs, he immediately noticed that their skin problems cleared up, there was a decrease in dental and eye problems, the dogs experienced better growth and reproductive success, and more.

We spoke with The Pet Gal’s resident raw feeding experts about their experiences with raw food and asked how their pets’ lives were improved. Here’s what they had to say:

Every time my dog, Ditka, went off antibiotics she would pick up another bacterial infection and get another case of diarrhea. We washed her, wiped her, and kept her away from high bacteria environments, but she still kept getting sick. We were spending close to $250 a month on veterinarian bills, stool samples, and antibiotics. We needed a veterinarian who would look at this problem a whole new way. We consulted a holistic veterinarian, and she started us on the process of slowly changing our dog to a raw diet and adding vegetables and supplements to boost her immune system. Within a month, Ditka slimmed down, had a shinier coat, increased energy, and she hasn’t had an infection in almost one and a half years. The transformation from a very sick to a healthy dog in a short period of time was astounding. Changing our dog Ditka from kibble to a raw food diet saved her life by boosting her immune system and giving her the healthy nutrients she needs. Pet Gal Laura

Raw feeding not only opened up a world of health for my dogs, past and present, but it also opened up a whole new interest in pet nutrition on my part.

When I first began feeding raw, I thought giving my dogs raw chicken legs was enough. After researching the topic and joining a raw feeding coop, however, I became much more aware of my dogs’ nutritional needs. We humans like to say, ‘You are what you eat,’ and, ‘Food is medicine,’ but this is true of our animal friends, too!

I am now taking coursework in pet nutrition, which I hope will benefit not only my pets but those of our clients.

I had a geriatric pack of three, and they all lived long healthy lives. I attribute this to proper raw feeding, as well as the implementation of other holistic practices. I have high expectations for my current pack, raised on raw food since puppyhood! Pet Gal Debbie

What are the benefits of raw food?

Stories like the ones above have led more owners to change their dogs from kibble to a raw diet. Pet parents claim that the benefits of raw feeding run the gamut from digestion and dental health to disease prevention. Listed below are some research-backed benefits of a canine raw diet.

Easier Digestion
Dr. Richard Patton, an animal nutritionist for over 40 years, has found that raw food is often easier to digest than processed kibble. When dog food kibble is created, many of the nutrients are taken away during the processing and cooking of the food, making it more difficult for your dog to digest. In Dog’s Naturally Magazine, Dr. Patton calls this process “protein denaturation” and says during this time the proteins, and many of the good bacteria for our gut are killed. In comparison, he points out that “natural enzymes and numerous beneficial bacteria are found in raw pet foods.”

Weight Management
Dr. Patton explains that additives that are introduced to processed pet food have led to a higher carbohydrate and sugar content in the kibble, which can lead to weight gain. In addition, processed dog food has had its important nutrients stripped.

Personally, I have seen dogs who wouldn’t touch their kibble gobble down their raw food when they made the switch. Even though they were eating more food, they were slimming down because they were eating more proteins and fewer carbohydrates and sugars.Pet Gal Laura

Better Stools
Dr. Patton says that when the food is more digestible, dogs will have healthier and smaller stools. This claim was also backed by Dr. Billinghurst (Give Your Dog a Bone), who added that his dogs’ stools were less smelly after they began eating raw.

Increased Energy
Dr. Billinghurst also noted in his book that his dogs experienced an energy increase after changing to a raw diet. Other pet parents have said the same. The theory regarding this is that carbohydrates and sugars in kibble give your dog an energy spike, which is followed by a plunge into tiredness. Raw food advocates say that raw food reduces energy spikes, giving dogs more consistent energy levels.

Preventing Diseases
Dr. Jean Hofve, a Holistic Veterinarian and Dr. Peter Dobias, has found that changing a dog’s diet can help prevent some of the risk factors associated with canine diabetes and other related conditions. Dr. Dobias says that since he started recommending raw diets to his clients, the incidence of pancreatitis cases has decreased drastically in his veterinary practice.

Dog food kibble is heat processed and tends to be high in sugar and carbohydrates, which are all risk factors for canine diabetes, pancreatitis, and weight gain. Raw diets tend to have lower carbohydrates, lower sugars, and higher proteins, meaning dogs are less likely to be overweight. Similar to humans, obesity in animals can predispose them to more diseases.

Other benefits that pet owners have attributed to raw feeding include better teeth and dental hygiene, shinier coat, healthier skin, fewer food allergies, and a boosted immune system.

Texas Tripe Raw Dog Food

What is the correct way to feed raw?

When changing your dog to a raw food diet, you must do it the right way.

As with any dietary change, the transition to raw should be done slowly. It is recommended that a Certified Animal Dietician or Holistic/Integrative Veterinarian help you design a raw diet plan and transition schedule that is individualized to your dog.

In addition, it’s crucial to ensure your dog’s raw food has adequate nutritional balance. Raw food manufacturers offer pre-made mixes that contain all the essential nutrients, but many people prefer to make their own raw food for their pets. Whether you purchase your raw food or make it yourself, it’s crucial to have the correct mix of proteins, vegetables, and other nutrients. Consulting with an expert and making sure you purchase high-quality food are very important steps.

Veterinarian Dr. Katie Grzyb states there are a few common mistakes people tend to make when switching their dog to raw food. The biggest of which is that they don’t understand the basics of pet nutrition. Some people fail to realize that raw food is more than just meat. Raw food should also include many other ingredients, such as eggs, fruits, vegetables, and supplements such as Omega 3 oils. These ingredients together can provide all the nutrients that dogs need.
Consult with a professional who can help you understand your pet’s nutritional needs.

The most important part of doing a fresh or raw diet is balance. A lot of people have a misconception about raw diets. They think if you feed meat, bone, and organs, it’s a complete diet. It’s not. If a dog were to catch an animal, they would also be eating the fur/feathers, and sometimes dogs can be found grazing on fruit. A lot of meat we purchase in the stores are lacking certain macro and micronutrients due to the environment they are raised in and their nutrition. Therefore, it is important to supplement. I love using bioavailable foods such as mussels, oysters, sardines, fermented seeds and nuts, kelp, and veggie blends to fill in the gaps. Meghan Jerolaman, Lava Paws

Another vital factor in raw feeding is protein variety. Dogs and cats should have a variety of 5 proteins (fish not included). Protein rotation helps with boredom and getting a wide range of nutrients (every meat provides different nutrients).

What precautions should pet parents take when considering raw food?

Some of the most widely discussed criticisms of raw feeding are the concern of foodborne illness due to ingesting bacteria from raw food and the potential for cross-contamination to humans when preparing raw meals. However, supporters of the raw food movement point out that many processed pet foods, including kibble and canned food, can also contain salmonella and E.coli bacteria.

Pet owners need to make the decision that is best for their pet based on research and conversations with their vet. It is equally as important that those who choose raw food make sure that the ingredients are from a reputable source that prioritizes safety standards and only sells high-quality meat.

The final thing to remember is to follow the same guidelines as handling raw meat you consume. Raw meats contain bacteria, so it’s also important to keep both you and your animals safe. Here are some helpful safety guidelines:

Store raw food in sealed containers in the freezer.

keep raw food separate from other food by using different containers.

When placing the food in the refrigerator, keep the temperature below 40°F and only store 2-3 days’ worth of food. Like meat that would be used for human dinners, if raw food is in the refrigerator too long, it can get harmful bacteria and should be thrown out.

If taking raw food out of refrigerator to let it come to room temperature before feeding, limit the time the food is out of the fridge.

If your dog hasn’t eaten the raw food in a couple of hours, throw it out.

When handling raw food, wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Clean all cutting boards, utensils, and countertop surfaces thoroughly after handling raw food.

Dr. Richard Patton states that if pet owners don’t want to feed straight raw, they should consider freeze drying food, a process that helps preserves nutrients and good bacteria much better than cooking.

Local Raw Feeding Resources

Whether you’re just starting to feed your pet raw food or are looking to find a community of like-minded raw feeders, getting educated and connecting with others are great ways to integrate raw feeding into your life further.

To learn more about raw feeding, consider reading Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst or Dr. Becker’s Real Food For Healthy Dogs & Cats: Simple Homemade Food by Karen Becker, DVM.

Austin, Texas
For those who live in Austin and the surrounding areas, check out the Austin Raw Feeders Co-op (ARF), a purchasing cooperative for people in the Austin area. The group is an excellent way to connect with other pet parents who choose to feed raw and can be helpful toward lowering the costs of raw food, as the co-op makes bulk food purchases from a variety of suppliers.

If you’re looking to make the switch to raw food but don’t have the time to make it yourself, consider finding a local raw food supplier or check with your local specialty pet store for frozen, ready-to-use products. Texas Tripe is a Texas-based company that supplies affordable, “Prey” model food and Tomlinson’s carries “BARF” model food from Steve’s Real Food.

Kona, Hawaii
We spoke with Meghan Jerolaman at Lava Paws in Kona about her upcoming raw food products.

Lava Paws is a developing business whose goal is to be a one-stop-shop for all raw feeding needs. Currently, they offer dehydrated meat treats for dogs and cats (muscle meat or cartilage), but eventually, they hope to provide meat, bones, organs, veggies, ferments, vitamin supplements, and much more.

Until then, Meghan does consultation diet plans for pet parents who feed raw. If you are interested in a consult with Meghan, visit the Lava Paws website and submit a contact form or email

Pawniolo Pets is a new pet food company run by husband and wife team Nick and Miki. Based in Waimea, all of their pet food products are produced and processed on their family cattle ranch using only grass-fed beef. They make a meat blend consisting of 90% lean ground beef, and 10% ofal meat (liver, kidney, spleen, lung), as well as, several other products. You can get more information by calling them at 808.389.3789 or at the Waimea Midweek Farmers Market (open Wednesdays from 9 am -2 pm) at Pukalani Stables.

Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op is based in Kona and provides members with a wide variety of food products from Hawaii Beef Producers. Unlike, many of the mainland raw food producers all Kona Raw is human grade without antibiotics. Additionally, the product is in whole form requiring the purchaser to butcher it down to the correct weight. For example, you purchase a ten-pound cow heart and butcher it into quarter-pound meals for a 60-pound canine.

Colorado Springs, Colorado
For pet parents in Colorado Springs and nearby areas, Raw Dog Food and Company is a direct-to-consumer raw food provider based out of Colorado. They sell high-quality, small-batch, and handcrafted raw dog food in a variety of blends.

When first beginning with raw food, it can be great to connect with locals in your area who are passionate about raw feeding. We suggest reaching out to find local groups or local pet stores and getting as much information as you can about the raw food scene in your area.

Patton, Dr. Richard (2017). Why Feed Raw? Dogs Naturally Magazine.
Hoekman, Billy (March-April, 2018). Feeding Carnivores: Dissecting New Moral Landscapes. Dogs Naturally Magazine.
Hoefve, Dr. Jean (March-April, 2018). Link between Canine Nutrition and Diabetes. Dogs Naturally Magazine.
Tobias, Dr. Peter (November, 2014). Understanding Pancreatitis. Dogs Naturally Magazine.
Kerns, Nancy (2002). The Evolution of Raw Dog Food Diet. Whole Dog Journal.
article by Pet Gal Kirstie.

10 Jan 2019

Did You Get A Puppy For Christmas? A Simple Guide To Puppy Parenting

Did You Get A Puppy For Christmas? A Simple Guide To Puppy Parenting

Getting a puppy as a gift during the holiday season can be a tremendous moment, especially if you’ve wanted one for a long time. However, becoming a pet parent is a huge commitment and can be an overwhelming experience once the excitement of the holidays has worn off.

In fact, shelter intakes have been shown to increase during the first few months of the new year. According to monthly reports in 2016, there was an average of 14% more owner-surrenders of puppies and dogs during the months of January to March than the rest of the year. In 2017, this number jumped to 22%.

Luckily, there are many things that owners can do to make the first months with their puppy as stress-free as possible. To ensure that life with your new puppy or dog goes smoothly, the key is to set them up for success by following these important steps.

Set Up Your Puppy’s Healthcare

Preventative veterinary care is the number one thing pet parents can do to avoid costly vet visits in the future. After adopting your puppy, arrange for a preliminary vet visit to establish a primary care doctor for your new family member.

The vet will do a check-up to see where your puppy’s health currently stands and go over important healthcare information such as immunization, de-worming, flea and tick prevention, spaying or neutering, heartworm prevention, and nutrition.

Your dog’s vet will also go over important health considerations for puppies, such as when it is safe for them to be around other dogs and what kind of behaviors pet parents should expect. These types of details are especially important for first-time puppy owners.

By setting up veterinary care early on in your dog’s life, you are protecting them from potentially dangerous (not to mention expensive) health conditions that could arise.

Christmas Puppy, Puppy-Proofing

Puppy-Proof Your Home

In the same way, parents must child-proof their homes to protect their young kids from hurting themselves or destroying valuable things, pet owners should prioritize puppy-proofing before bringing a new pet into the house.

Because puppies are in the early stages of their behavioral training, pet parents cannot expect them to stay out of the trash or know the difference between a favorite pair of shoes and a chew toy. Keeping things out of reach from puppies while working on their training is the best way to set them up for success.

Some helpful puppy-proofing steps include:

Put the trash in an inaccessible location and use a can with a secure lid.

Keep personal items such as purses, backpacks, shoes, clothes, toys, etc. up and out of reach of puppies.

Use cord covers or bitter, no-bite spray to keep puppies from chewing on power cords.

Be cautious about the location of food, medicine, and household cleaner storage to make sure puppies never have access to potentially dangerous materials.

Check that your houseplants are not poisonous to dogs. You can refer to the list of pet-toxic plants from the ASPCA.

Some pet parents may find it easier to simply keep puppies contained to the living space until they are older and more well-trained. While keeping doors closed is helpful, there is always the chance that someone in the home forgets to shut a door, so all rooms should be properly pet-proofed regardless. And, of course, your puppy should always have proper supervision to ensure they are safe.

Begin Potty Training

A top struggle for many pet parents is potty training. While accidents are to be expected, proper potty-training techniques can help new pet owners get their dog housetrained more quickly and easily.

According to the American Kennel Club, there are three primary potty training methods for puppies – crate training, paper training, and frequent trips outdoors. There are varying opinions on which method is best and, ultimately, the choice is up to you.

Crate training involves stimulating a dog’s instinctual nature as a den animal by making a crate their main resting space. Dogs will typically not go to the bathroom where they sleep and eat, so by utilizing a crate, pet parents gain a bit more control over where and when their puppy potties.

Paper training refers to teaching the puppy to go on potty pads in addition to outside. This method can be confusing for dogs as it gives them permission to potty indoors, but it is a helpful tool for people who work long hours or live in places with especially harsh winters.

The method of frequent trips outside is a top choice for many pet parents and can be used in conjunction with crate and/or paper training. The more a puppy is outside, the more likely they are to potty outdoors. When this happens, a ton of positive praise and training treats can be given to reinforce the habit of going to the bathroom outside.

Regardless of which method you choose to use, puppies should be on a schedule when it comes to feeding, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. Puppies should be taken out after they eat a meal after they wake up from a nap, and after they finish play time. Having a consistent schedule regarding their time spent outdoors will help encourage them to go potty when and where they’re supposed to.
The keys to potty training are to have patience, be diligent, and utilize positive reinforcement.

Christmas Puppy Training

Begin Behavioral Training

When your puppy is small and oh-so-adorable, the temptation to let them do whatever they want can be strong. However, it’s important to remember that puppies do not stay small forever and behaviors such as jumping, nipping, pulling on the leash, and chewing become more troublesome when your small puppy grows into a large dog. Begin training as early as possible to make life with your dog happier and easier.

The Pet Gal’s preferred training method is positive reinforcement. From learning basic commands such as “sit” or “stay” to learning not to chew on household items, positive reinforcement training is extremely effective.

Dogs are people pleasers who are eager for positive reactions from their owners. In positive reinforcement training, owners reward their dog for doing things correctly and as a result cultivate the behavior they want.

As with potty training, behavioral training requires dedication, consistency, and patience. Everyone in the home should be on the same page when it comes to training. All who interact with your puppy should use consistent commands and have the same standard of behavior to avoid confusing your little one.

Behavioral training classes, whether in a group environment or working one-on-one with a trainer, can be very helpful in training you how to train your dog. The Pet Gal often partners with Tara Stermer at K9 Workingmind to educate our pet sitters on dog and cat behavior as well as best practices for training. Tara offers group and individual training options that can be extremely helpful.

Christmas Puppy Socialization

Ensure Your Puppy Gets Plenty of Attention, Socialization, Play, & Exercise

Adopting a puppy is a big commitment – one that requires a lot of time and effort. But it should also be an exciting and fun time for the whole family. One of the best things new pet parents can do for their puppies is to spend as much time with them as possible.

Taking your new dog for walks, making time for play sessions, and allowing it ample opportunity to socialize with other dogs and humans will positively impact the puppy’s behavior.

Since socialization, exercise, and consistency with training are so key, parents should consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to step in at times when being with their pet isn’t an option. Whether you work during the day or are traveling, The Pet Gal’s team of experienced, trained sitters can ensure that your puppy stays on schedule, has fun, and learns positive behaviors while you’re away.

Christmas Puppy Owner Surrender

What To Do If Things Are Not Working Out

If for some reason you and your family are hitting roadblocks with your new dog or puppy that are making you reconsider your decision to adopt, contact others for support. Reach out to friends or family members for help. Contact veterinary offices, trainers, rescues, and shelters in your community. All are good resources for advice and most will always be happy to provide alternatives to rehoming, such as training and behavioral resources, low-cost healthcare options, support, and more.

The Pet Gal has aided many in puppy parents make the transition to keeping a happy puppy by offering puppy pet sitting and walking visits. Our sitters follow the same instructions given by your behavioralist so that we reinforce everything your puppy is learning while you are away. We can provide daily visits so your puppy is not left home alone for too long or help out if you need to leave town for a few days.

If the moment comes where you decide that giving the puppy up is the best option, be sure to surrender them to a reputable, no-kill shelter or rescue group. Luckily for Austin residents, the city has been no-kill since 2010, making it the largest no-kill city in the United States.

Organizations like the Austin Animal Center, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, and Hawaii Island Humane Society serve as shelters for lost or stray animals and owner-surrendered pets. All these groups are committed to rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming pets regardless of age, breed, or health status.

While, of course, the preference is for you to have a long, happy relationship with your puppy, these organizations are great options.

article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.

18 Dec 2018

These Naughty Holiday Foods Can Be Hazardous For Dogs

These Naughty Holiday Foods Can Be Hazardous For Dogs

The holiday season is all about spending quality time with loved ones and that, of course, includes our pets! Often, holiday celebrations also include a variety of traditional meals and special treats that help make get-togethers even more festive.

As delicious as some of these classic holiday foods are for us humans, many of them can be extremely dangerous for our dogs. Whether pets find a way to sneak some off the table, use their puppy dog eyes to convince guests to give them a taste, or manage to get into the trash when their parents aren’t looking, there are many ways in which dogs can get ahold of dangerous foods and drinks this time of year. Pet owners must be extra diligent during this busy time to keep their pet safe and healthy.

The following foods are harmful to pets and should be kept out of reach throughout both the holiday season and the rest of the year.

Naughty Holiday Foods That Can Be Hazardous To Dogs

Download Naughty Holiday Foods Can Be Hazardous For Dogs (PDF)

Meat Fat, Skin, and Bones

Perhaps the most likely food item to be given freely to pets during the holiday season is meat scraps. Pet parents often think that fatty pieces of beef, turkey or chicken skin, and ham or poultry bones are acceptable treats, however, these scraps can cause a variety of health issues for dogs.

Large pieces of fat can be difficult for some dogs to digest, so it’s best to avoid giving meat trimmings to pets.

The fat content of turkey skin can potentially cause pancreatitis and the seasonings which are typically used to season the skin of poultry (onion, garlic, spices, and herbs) can cause upset stomachs.

One of the most common meat scraps people tend to give their pets are bones. However, veterinarians advise against the practice. Cooked bones are lower in nutrients than raw bones and can splinter in a dog’s mouth, throat, or digestive system, causing pets to choke or experience serious internal damage.


Between punch bowls and seasonal cocktails at holiday parties, alcohol tends to be more within a pet’s reach throughout the holiday season. Since a dog’s system is not designed to process alcohol in the same way a human’s is, consumption of alcohol – even in minor doses – can be potentially dangerous.

Pet parents should keep all sources of alcohol away from their dogs, including unsuspecting sources such as alcohol-based cakes and flavored extracts. Used for baking, extracts such as vanilla and almond have high alcohol content and may contain essential oils which can be very harsh on a dog’s digestive system.

Chocolate & Sweets

Everyone enjoys a delicious festive dessert, so homes are often filled with high-sugar treats and chocolate of all varieties during the holidays. Its very important to keep pets away from sugar and chocolate, as they can upset a dog’s stomach and even cause serious illness.

Chocolate contains theobromine, a component which is easily digested by humans but toxic to dogs. While a small quantity of chocolate may only produce an upset stomach, large amounts of theobromine can cause seizures, internal bleeding, heartbeat irregularity, and even heart attack.

Various types of chocolate – baking cocoa, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate – all have different amounts of theobromine. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous to dogs, with merely 1 ounce being enough to poison a 44lb dog. It is best to be safe and keep all chocolate out of reach of your pet.

Certain Herbs & Spices

While some herbs and spices (basil, cinnamon, ginger, parsley, and turmeric) can be healthy additions to your dog’s diet when used in moderation with a vet’s approval, other common holiday spices can be dangerous to your pet’s system.

Nutmeg contains a component called myristicin which is toxic to dogs. In large quantities, it can cause nervous system damage, seizures, stomach upset, and even death.

Black pepper, while alone is not necessarily damaging to pets, can affect the way a dog’s system absorbs the medication. This increases the chance of accidentally overdosing on prescription medications, so it is best to keep black pepper out of reach.

High amounts of salt can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also cause dehydration, as it increases thirst and urination.

Onions and garlic (as well as leeks) are a part of the Allium family, which is poisonous to dogs and cats in the right dose. Onions contain a compound called thiosulphate, which can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs.


Although humans often love how caffeine helps get them through the busy holiday season, it’s important to remember that pets are much more sensitive to caffeine’s effects. Ingesting sources of highly concentrated caffeine such as coffee grounds, espresso flavored desserts, or used tea bags can cause caffeine poisoning in pets in merely 30 minutes.


A commonly used artificial sweetener, xylitol is most often found in peanut butter, sugar-free candies, sugar-free desserts, and chewing gum. When absorbed into a dog’s bloodstream, it causes a quick release of insulin that results in decreased blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can be life-threatening if not treated quickly.

Grapes & Raisins

Commonly used in seasonal stuffing, desserts, and snack mixes, grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs and should be kept out of reach. Small quantities can result in severe consequences, including kidney failure, digestion issues, and sudden renal failure.
Grape toxicity and its causes are still being studied. Although some breeds are more susceptible to experience it, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid consumption by all breeds.


Whether served in holiday desserts and meals or alone as a snack, nuts are common in homes throughout the season. Many nuts are very high in fat, particularly pecans and walnuts, and should be kept away from pets. The high fat content can cause digestive upset.

Macadamia nuts are highly toxic to dogs, even in small quantities, causing neurological damage such as tremors, disorientation, and even short-term paralysis.

Bread Dough

While baking holiday rolls or desserts, be sure to keep uncooked bread dough away from dogs. If ingested raw, the yeast in the dough can activate with the moist, warm environment of your pet’s stomach, causing the stomach to distend. This can escalate to an even more dangerous, often fatal, condition called GDV, or bloat.

If You Notices Changes In Your Dogs Behavior

It’s important to be aware of any unusual changes in your dog’s health or behavior during the holidays. If there are signs or symptoms that your dog has consumed harmful foods or drinks, contact an emergency vet immediately so they can be properly treated.

Stay Off The Naughty List With Healthy Treats

If you are in the mood to share some yummy holiday treats with your dog, feel free to give them lean, cooked turkey that is free of flavorings and spices. Or opt for healthy fruits and seasoning-free vegetables such as peeled apples, blueberries, carrots, dehydrated sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, green beans, and celery.
They will not only love the food but will also love you for keeping them happy and healthy!

article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.

03 Dec 2018

Surprising Way to Treat Your Dog’s Pain Without Medication

Surprising Way to Treat Your Dog’s Pain Without Medication

Interest in holistic health care for pets is on the rise. Now more than ever, people are searching for safe, natural ways to ensure pet wellness in the form of non-traditional therapies and holistic approaches. Pet parents are finding that when paired with proper veterinary care, holistic methods are extremely effective for everything from chronic conditions to injury treatment.

Some of these holistic treatments include acupuncture, natural and/or raw diets, natural supplements, and perhaps most surprising… pet massage!

We spoke with our very own Pet Gal Laura, owner of Heart Hound Massage, to learn about her pet massage business and find out what pet massage is all about.

Heart Hound Dog Massage

About Heart Hound Massage

Laura Riley, Ph.D. has always had a passion for helping pets, and while she loves caring for pets as a sitter through The Pet Gal, she knew she wanted to make an even bigger difference in the lives of animals. Her passion for holistic treatment began when she witnessed the benefits it provided for her basset hound, Yeager.

At 8 years of age, Yeager was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. The vet recommended daily doses of Rimadyl – an anti-inflammatory drug which can potentially cause liver damage if taken long-term. Laura was hesitant to expose Yeager to the risky side effects and decided instead to turn to acupuncture. She says the benefits of the treatment were amazing and Yeager was able to stay off medication for 4 years. Though he passed away last year, Laura has no doubt that holistic treatment increased his quality of life.

Afterward, Laura decided to make it her mission to study various holistic methods and eventually open a business that offered great holistic care to animals.

Laura’s dream came true when she recently launched her pet massage business, Heart Hound Massage. Named after her beloved Yaeger’s heart of gold, the business’ mission is to honor of Yeager’s memory by providing effective, holistic care to pets. Laura says she’d dedicated to using her therapeutic massage abilities to “help other amazing dogs live a longer, quality life to spend with their owners.”

She says the best part of her job is when clients tell her the positive effects her massage treatment has on their pets. She told us, “It’s rewarding when someone goes, ‘Oh my gosh! My dog’s been walking longer than they were before!’ It makes you feel really good.”

What is pet massage?

Laura explained that animal massage is actually very similar to human massage. In the same way humans use massages – for relaxation, as a preparation and recovery step for athletes, or as part of holistic treatment for health conditions – pet parents can utilize massages similarly to benefit their dog.

During a massage, the therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues in a specific, intentional way that gets the blood circulating, reduces lactic acid, and stimulates the cells, resulting in a variety of positive health and wellness benefits.

What are the benefits of pet massage?

The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage (NBCAAM) states that animal massage, “promotes various physiological, neurological, and psychological effects in the animal’s body supporting both physical and emotional wellness.”
Laura told us that pet massage offers benefits such as increased circulation, reduced lactic acid, increased lymph node function (which aids the immune system), and decreased muscle soreness, tension, and weakness.
Although massage is never a replacement for veterinary care, it can be used to help treat chronic conditions such as arthritis. Laura says that alongside glucosamine supplements, massage can be an excellent choice for arthritic dogs who cannot take anti-inflammatories due to negative side effects.
Like human massage, different types of massages offer different benefits. Laura is certified to perform three varieties:

Basic Massage

This type of massage is good for general holistic care for dogs of all sizes and breeds. It helps the pet’s immune and lymphatic systems and promotes a sense of calm and wellbeing.

In fact, basic massage is a great option for pets who are chronically anxious or tense. The Pet Gal’s owner, Susan Anderson, used Laura’s massage services for her dog, Jake, to help reduce his generalized anxiety prior to flying. Laura said that Jake’s tendency to be jittery and anxious was reduced, and he was better able to handle the stress of the flight.

Puppies can also benefit from basic massage, as it helps their growth, immune system development, and bone development.

Sporting Massage

Good for dogs who participate in agility or sporting competitions, sporting massage is tailored for the athletic animal. Often used before or after events, this style of massage helps to loosen up the muscles, improve gait, and helps limit injury.

Senior Massage

For aging dogs, a senior massage can help increase circulation, reduce muscle tightness and soreness, improve digestion, and help alleviate aches and pains caused by arthritis. Laura explained that massage is an excellent choice for older dogs who cannot handle the harsh effects of medication.

What kind of certification/training do pet massage therapists get?

As with any treatment your pet receives, it is important to research the provider and know that they are properly certified to provide care for your animal. When it comes to pet massage, the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork provides information and education to promote, advance, and grow the field. They offer a list of accredited schools at which therapists can earn their certification.

Laura studied at the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Massage in Colorado where she learned physiology, anatomy, ethics, and massage technique. After class work and a written exam, she was required to do various massage case studies before earning her certification.

She is dedicated to continuing her education by taking classes that will enable her to incorporate more holistic techniques into her massage services. For instance, Laura is actively studying Linda Tellington Jones’ TTouch technique, which is a holistic method used similarly to massage to enhance the quality of animals’ lives and to help them recover from injury or chronic conditions.

What does a typical pet massage treatment plan look like?

If you’re interested in getting your dog set up with a massage treatment plan, begin by consulting your vet. While massage can be highly beneficial, it may not be suitable for all pets and each state’s laws differ regarding animal massage.
For those located in Texas, the law requires a vet approval before treatment can begin. Start by visiting the Heart Hound Massage website to download the veterinary release form and submit a contact form to schedule your initial consultation with Laura.

Ideal for all sizes and breeds, Heart Hound Massage treatments are personalized for the specific needs of your pet. During consultations, Laura works one on one with her clients to get to know the dog’s temperament and health history. Then she establishes the pet parent’s goals and creates a unique treatment plan.

Typically, massages are scheduled weekly. Laura suggests scheduling massages during the time of day at which your pet is most relaxed. The massage itself is performed the same way one would expect a human massage to. Soft music is played, gentle touches called Effleurage Strokes are used along the dog’s calming points to get them into a relaxed state, and once the dog feels comfortable, Laura begins the massage.

For most dogs, the Effleurage Strokes get them into a calm enough state to receive massage. For anxious pets or those who are more energetic, Laura explained that she will break the massage into sections, giving the dog time in between to get their energy out. In her experience, she says the dogs often return to her quickly because the massage feels good. After the massage is complete, Laura provides the client with a full report on how the massage went.

For those interested in pursuing holistic pet massage, Laura is offering a special 10% discount for Pet Gal clients! Visit her website to schedule a consultation for your pet.

article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.

18 Nov 2018


[contact-form-7 id=”10294″ title=”XiBmP”]