HEALTH AND WELLNESS
It's never too late to paws and breathe.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
AT the recent Intrapets show in Tokyo, several companies exhibited pet products that are normally kept out of sight: pet toilets. But made automatic, some even fitted with data-collecting features, the new pet toilets and accessories gave the old standard litter box and dog pee mats their much-awaited upgrades so that they are now must-have products designed for pet loving homes.
First is the Wan-wan Meister which claims to be the world's first fully-automated pet toilet. Developed by Japan First Step Co., Ltd., the flat-bed toilet features self-winding absorbent sheets made from special paper. It also has indicator lamps, a waste tray and sensors.
Designed for indoor use, particularly in small apartments or condominiums, the Wan-wan Meister automatically rolls away soiled sheets and brings forth fresh ones thanks to its built-in sensitivity sensors that controls the conveyor belt. The sensors work the moment the dog leaves the platform.
This product allows a home, especially where a dog has to stay alone for hours, to stay tidy by cleaning after the dog with very minimal human intervention. However, the Wan-wan Meister comes with a steep price tag: JP¥188,000. (see related story)
Not to be outdone, Sharp Corp. also displayed its smart toilet for cats. Driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies, the Pet Care Monitor can analyze a cat's urine and frequency, body weight as well as detect health problems early on. It sends a report to the cat owner's smartphone.
Built-in sensors allow the Pet Care Monitor to gather relevant information, be it good or bad, which are to be analyzed by Sharp experts and their counterparts at Tottori University. For all these great features, the Pet Care Monitor is priced at 24,800 yen ($225), plus tax. Sharp will also charge users a monthly JP¥300 plus tax.
Also making heads turn during Interpets is the patented Kitty Twist'r, a litter disposal system that makes cat poop its primary business. Michelle Yan, COO of Red Rocket Asia which makes the Kitty Twist'r, told MetroPets that they could guarantee a no-smell cat litter bin even if cat owners collect two weeks of cat poop there.
-- Who wants to store that many cat poop? Probably no one, but the Kitty Twist'r at least gives cat owners a way not to keep using plastic bag every time they need to dispose their kitty's “No. 2”. Masking the almost unbearable cat waste stench are activated charcoals kept at the Kitty Twist'r cover. The active charcoal can last for up to three months.
After every use, the Kitty Twist'r can wring the opening of its seven-layer plastic garbage bag so no bad smells can escape.
For the convenience of not taking out the cat's trash daily, the Kitty Twist'r will set back cat owners around US$44.99. -- MetroPets
THERE'S this notion that if you are fat, chances are your pets are fat, too. Pet owners' own lifestyles and the choices they make for their pets play a huge role in determining their furry companions' overall health.
A recent piece in The New York Times point to veterinarians' growing concern over pet obesity in the United States. The report cited how animal doctors are alarmed to find nearly half the dogs they see as overweight or obese. It's a problem made worse by how only few owners admit that their pets are overweight because of what they do or not do.
The alarming increase in pet obesity cases is happening not only in America but in other advanced economies, too, like Hong Kong. Cooped up in small apartments while their owners work long hours, thousands of pets in Hong Kong are reportedly on the heavy side because they have nothing to do while alone in the house but sleep and eat.
Pet obesity brings with it a raft of other ailments, effectively shortening a pet's life expectancy. Common obesity-related sickness in cats and dogs include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis and other conditions that similarly occurred among overweight people.
Veterinarians recommend the following to help dogs and cats lose weight:
* Take pets' weight regularly to get an understanding of how much food they need to take daily.
* Cut back on treats and replace them instead with activities that stimulate their mind and body.
* Measure the dog or cat food and follow the minimum suggested amount on the pet food label.
* Discourage food begging especially if you know your pet has already sufficiently eaten its meal.
* Try to exercise your pet 15 to 30 minutes a day.
* Ask veterinarians about prescription diets designed for pet weight loss.
* Ask your veterinarian about other possible medical reasons for your pet's weight problem.
THE influential Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the largest animal welfare charity in the United Kingdom, is warning cat owners against feeding their cats solely vegetables.
Unlike dogs which are omnivores that can eat food of plant and meat origins, cats are carnivores and need more meat protein than dogs. However, there seems to be a growing trend that turns cats into vegans, which prompts the RSPCA to remind cat owners that such is deemed illegal under UK's Animal Welfare Act which requires owners to ensure that all their pet’s needs are met, including species-appropriate diet.
Cats are strict carnivores and depend on some very specific nutrients that are found in meat including taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid. Forcing cats to become vegetarian could make them seriously ill in the long run.
“Owners could be slapped with a huge fine or even a jail sentence if convicted under the Animal Welfare Act if the animal is very malnourished,” an RSPCA spokesman said.
Despite the health and legal warnings, the number of pet food companies that develop and sell vegan pet food and non-meat alternatives products seem to be growing. They make pet food derived from soya, wheat, maize, rice and beet pulp with synthetic vitamins and amino acids naturally found in meat.
Pet owners are advised not to extend their personal views on ethical diets onto their pets' food. Animal nutrition experts say a cat's diet must include at least 20 percent meat protein, oherwise feeding an inappropriate or incomplete diet becomes a welfare issue, said the RSPCA. -- MetroPets
Can't sleep? If you are a woman, the solution could be as easy as getting a dog as sleep buddy.
A scientific study called "An Examination of Adult Women's Sleep Quality and Sleep Routines in Relation to Pet Ownership and Bedsharing," studied 962 American women to find out how pet ownership affects their sleep. The respondents were women who sleep with at least one pet dog in their beds (55%) and women who shared their bed with a cat (31%).
The study underscored dog's natural or innate ability to comfort people and help them sleep soundly, as they often sleep soundly, too. In contrast, cats (like humans) are not peaceful bed companions and are known to disturb their ladies' sleep, frequently at the most ungodly hours, too. -- MetroPets
DOGS have very sensitive ears which probably explains why they hate and are terrified of loud noises. Thankfully, dogs that are terrified of excessive and booming noises caused by fireworks and firecrackers, traffic, gun shots and other commotions can now take a new drug to calm them down.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the drug Pexion (imepitoin) for veterinary use.
Pexion is used in some countries to treat epilepsy in human. For dogs with aversion to loud noise, Pexion can reduce it as established in clinical tests by the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
“The owners of 66 percent of dogs receiving Pexion scored the overall treatment effect as excellent or good, compared with 25 percent of dogs receiving the placebo,” said the FDA.
To be available by prescription only, Pexion can be given to a dog twice daily starting two days before a known noisy event and until the actual occasion. One of the loudest and nerve-racking occasions for dogs are New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Dogs scared of fireworks are known to shake uncontrollably, pant, cry and hide. Hopefully with Pexion, dogs can also enjoy fireworks display with their owners.
But the FDA also warned to administer Pexion on dogs with caution and to monitor the dogs' reaction to it carefully In their tests, three of 90 dogs that received Pexion reportedly became aggressive by growling at a child and lacking self-control towards other dogs.
“Certain drugs used to reduce anxiety, such as Pexion, may lead to lack of self-control of fear-based behaviors and may therefore result in a change in aggression level. The label information accompanying Pexion notes the recommendation that owners should carefully observe their dogs during treatment,” the FDA said. -- MetroPets
By ALMA J. BUELVA
CATS, the obligate carnivores living with us under one roof and habitually rejecting the expensive food we give them, are not exactly finicky eaters; we just have to understand the essentials of their diet.
In a visit to the Philippines, Dr. Elena Pagani, a veterinary nutritionist from Monge, a leading Italian pet food manufacturer, shared with groups of cat lovers an overview of cat nutrition and the ingredients that must be present in its food at all times.
For a cat to be heathy and live its reputed nine lives, it needs enough proteins, fats, fibers, vitamins, minerals and water. To understand the role of each nutritional item, Pagani provides the following insights:
Cats need more protein than dogs for normal body functions. Pagani said humans typically need about 14 percent of protein in their daily diets. Dogs, on the other hand, need to have at least 18 percent to 25 percent of protein in their meals. As for cats, they need a quarter (25%) or more (35%) of protein in their food.
All cats, even kittens or seniors, can benefit from a moderate protein level of 23 percent to 33 percent.
Pagani also said cat owners should make sure they are giving their cats high quality protein.
“The protein should provide all the needed amino acids. A 100g of good meat has high digestibility so cats can absorb all the available nutrients, unlike poor quality meat which has only about 70 percent protein content that the cat can use,” she explained.
Animal-based protein helps promote an acidic urine for optimal urinary tract health and to provide essential amino acids, Pagani added.
She also noted that contrary to popular belief, quality chicken meat is the best source of protein for cats and not fish.
Of the 22 different amino acids (protein building blocks) that make up proteins, Taurine and Arginine are very important to cats, Pagani said. Both are found only in animal, fish or egg proteins.
Arginine is necessary for normal metabolism while Taurine is necessary for healthy heart, eyes and reproductive system.
Pagani warned cat owners about serious health disorders resulting from taurine-deficiency such as blindness, tooth decay, digestive illness and, in severe cases, the weakening of the muscle cells in the heart.
Of the various protein sources, eggs contain all the amino acids required by cats.
Fats are essential for the absorption of some vitamins that strengthen pets' immune system, particularly Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 benefits cats by fighting inflammation and supporting natural healing process, while Omega-6 helps by improving a cat's skin, coat and joints, among others.
Omega-3 fatty acids are in fish meal, fish oils and flax (linseed). Omega-6 oils are in animal fat, corn oil, vegetable oil and sunflower oil.
Pagani said cats can better absorb animal fat than vegetable fat.
Wondering why there's ash on your cat kibble? Pagani reassured cat owners that ash is only a measure of mineral in pet food.
“Don't be scared in the amount of ashes shown in the pet food label. Ashes are minerals,” she said.
A high ash content in a pet fod diet may indicate a lesser quality protein source since poor quality protein sources will often raise the ash level.
Cats also need their alphabet—of vitamins that is. Just like in humans, vitamins provide substances that the body needs to grow and develop normally.
Monge's resident pet nutritionist said fibers don't provide much nutrients, but cats need them for their gastro-intestinal wellness.
Grains such as barley, maize, rice, sorghum and wheat are common carbohydrates starch sources used in pet food.
Pagani said dogs and cats don't really need much carbohydrate but, since domestication, their systems learned to absorb it and convert it into energy. Cats, however, cannot store large amounts of carbohydrates which is a quick energy source, so they also need fats.
But carbohydrate is a key ingredient in the production of kibble or dry cat food.
“Check the pet food label and I'm pretty sure it will show that it is 50 percent starch because it is needed to make the kibble.
Pet foods usually have additives. Pagani busted that all food additives are bad by saying that there are certain additives that are good for cats that are not available in homemade diets.
Additives commonly used in pet foods include colorants, flavors, preservatives and emulsifying and gelling agents.
This doctor said no to vegan diets, especially for cats which cannot adapt to low-protein diets. As obligate carnivores, cats have a high protein requirement. Also, while dogs can absorb vegetable protein, cats simply can't, said Pagani.
Pagani is also not a fan of raw feeding which she said is something that animals in the wild adapted to, but not domesticated pets.
“Raw meat is full of microorganisms that could be dangerous to cats. Animals in the wild can destroy the microbiota in raw meat. But not cats that have been domesticated for so long. Always cook the meat for cats,” she emphasized.
Biases aside, Pagani also recommended that cat owners feed their cats quality manufactured pet food over homemade pet dishes.
“Using technologies, pet food manufacturers can standardize everything. Home-made pet food, although usually more palatable than processed ones, is subject to mistakes as no one is checking unlike in pet food companies where everything is being checked (including by a third party veterinarian),” she said.
She also noted that many diseases in cats and dogs can be prevented and cured with specific dietary formulations which a pet nutritionist like her can provide.
When switching to a new type of cat food, Pagani advised cat owners to allow a one-week transition period for the cat's gastro-intestinal tract to adjust.
Pagani attended the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Turin (Italy) and took a three-year doctorate at the University of Utretch (The Netherlands) while also doing an internship in Animal Nutrition.
Planet Paws, a Web and social media-based resource on pet health, calls rawhide the most dangerous pet chew ever. Almost two years ago, Planet Paws founder, Rodney Habib, a pet nutrition blogger, ran a substantive article on how rawhides are made that shocked and educated thousands of dog owners. But though the article was seen, read by thousands of people and shared over 1 million times to date, rawhides are still being sold and bought in many places around the world today.
In a bid to save dogs from what it believes to be toxic “raw” leather stick and to educate pet parents, especially the newbies, Planet Paws' article pointed out the following ugly truths about rawhides.
* A rawhide stick is not the by-product of the beef industry nor is it made of dehydrated meat. Rather, rawhide is the by-product of the “leather industry”, said Planet Paws.
* Rawhides have been repeatedly treated with chemical baths that includes a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming to strip away hair and fat attached to the hides. The outer layer of the hide becomes leather used for human items, while the inner layer is used for dog chews.
* Rawhides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach to remove the smell of rotten leather.
* Rawhides are painted with artificial dyes and flavors or even a coat of titanium oxide to make them look nice on pet shelves. The toxic confection of chemicals and preservatives make for slow, low-dose poisoning according to thebark.com.
* Rawhides, when tested, have been found to have lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals. Glue of questionable nature is also used at times to hold the rawhide's shape and form, said Planet Paws.
Rawhides usually come with a printed warning as to how it could block a pet's esophagus or digestive tract leading to surgery or death. Planet Paws said this should already discourage dog owners from purchasing rawhides and feeding it to their dogs.
IT'S good to have a garden, even a small one, if you have pets. What's even better, however, is a garden with plants that are non-toxic to animals so they can stop and smell the flowers or chew a leaf here and there without getting sick.
The website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA®) has a long list of plants that are poisonous to dogs and cats in varying degrees. The plants on the list have been reported to have systemic effects on animals and/or intense effects on their gastrointestinal tract.
We scrounged that list for plants that are commonly found in the Philippines, both toxic and non-toxic, and the result might surprise you.
COMMON PLANTS TOXIC TO CATS & DOGS
A succulent flowering tropical plant with petals fused into a tube. The common colors of its flowers are yellow, red, red orange and pink.
Additional Common Names: Mother-In-Law-Plant, Devils Backbone, Chandelier Plant, Mother of Millions
Toxic Principles: Bufodienolides
Clinical Signs: vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm (rare).
A perennial flowering plant with aromatic flower clusters (called umbels) that can be a mix of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white florets.
Additional Common Names: Shrub Verbena, Yellow Sage, Red Sage
Toxic Principles: Pentacyclic triterpenoids
Clinical Signs: vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, weakness and liver failure (though more common in livestock).
This plant is extensively cultivated as a flowering evergreen ornamental plant. Because the plants are low and spread quickly, they are often used as ground cover in garden landscapes and container gardens.
Additional Common Names: Running Myrtle, Vinca
Toxic Principles: Vinca Alkaloids
Clinical Signs: vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, depression, tremors, seizures, coma, death.
Commonly grown as ornamental houseplants for their bright colorful flowers, which have sepals but no petals.
Additional Common Names: Over 1,000 species and 10,000 hybrids
Toxic Principles: Soluble calcium oxalates
Clinical Signs: kidney failure (in grazing animals), vomiting, salivation in dogs/cats. Most toxic part is underground.
This plant features large round flowerheads resembling pom-poms. In most species the flowers are white, but in some species (notably H. macrophylla), can be blue, red, pink, light purple, or dark purple.
Additional Common Names: Hortensia, Hills of Snow, Seven Bark
Toxic Principles: Cyanogenic glycoside
Clinical Signs: vomiting, depression, diarrhea. Cyanide intoxication is rare (usually produces more of a gastrointestinal disturbance).
This prolific plant is widely seen in South Asia. Garden shops sell them for cheap, too, as an ornamental plant for annual bedding or as a container plant. In the Philippines, it is also called uru-alas dose or like twelve o'clock because it loses its bloom by noon.
Additional Common Names: Moss Rose, Rock Moss, Purslane, Pigwee, Pusley
Toxic Principles: Soluble calcium oxalates
Clinical Signs: kidney failure (rare in dogs/cats), tremors, salivation
This vine can be seen in its full glory in the morning, hence the name. The blue flowers bloom early in the early morning and start to close or fade a few hours before the "petals" start showing visible curling.
Toxic Principles: Indole alkaloids (Lysergic acid, lysergamide, elymoclavine and chanoclavine)
Clinical Signs: Vomiting, large amounts of seeds may cause hallucinations
Interestingly, the ASPCA classified Catnip (a.k.a catswort or catmint) to be possibly toxic to cats due to the Nepetalactone element found in the plant. Many cats love catnip, the ASPCA said, but it can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in some. It makes some cats sedated and others stimulated.
Following ASPCA's list of poisonous plants to pets, it would be best to plant the following non-toxic plants which are also very common in the Philippines:
COMMON PLANTS NON-TOXIC TO CATS & DOGS
This hardy plant is like a staple in many gardens around the country. They can have yellow, pink, red and sometimes white and light purple flowers.
Additional Common Names: Iron Tree, Maui Sunset, Flame of the Woods
This plant can produce flowers almost all year if the climate is not too hot. The largest impatiens grow up to about 2 meters. It has flat petals in vibrant colors.
Additional Common Names: Giant Touch-Me-Not, Buzzy Lizzy, Patient Lucy, Patient Plant, Tangerine Impatience
This succulent looks like a flower itself given its compact rosettes of succulent fleshy, often brightly colored leaves. It is often seen being sold along various kinds of cacti.
Additional Common Names: Maroon Chenille Plant, Painted Lady, Copper Rose, Wax Rosette, Plush Plant
This plant has an interesting way of turning red at its center when it's about to flower, which is where the common name (blushing) is derived from.
Additional Common Names: Crimson cup, Marbled fingernail, Blushing Bromeliad, Ossifragi Vase, Miniature Marble plant, Aregelia
Popularly known as gumamela in the Philippines, it's a pet-safe plant that can beautify any garden with its single or multi-petal flowes in red, orange, yellow, pink colors, among others.
Additional Common Names: Rose of Sharon, Rose of China
We believe everyone knows what a rose is so we'll skip the description. This plant is thorny, which can be good and bad for marauding pets in the garden. But even humans eat its petals, so it's safe for pets, too.
Scientific Name: Rosa species
Like the rose, sunflower is a very familiar plant. It's good to know it's safe to have around in a house with pets. Humans either eat or extract the oil of sunflower seeds.
Additional Common Names: swamp sunflower
Philippines' national flower, the Arabian Jasmine, is safe for pets, if they happen to eat it.
Scientific Name: Jasminium species
The delicate Petunia produces large single or double flowers that form mounds of colorful solid, striped, or variegated blooms. They are usually planted on hanging pots.
Scientific Name: Petunia species
The ASPCA highly recommends bringing an animal or pet that is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance to a veterinarian right away. To know more about plants that can be harmful to your pets, visit the ASPCA website. -- MetroPets
SUMMER is here and if you can feel the heat, so can your pets.
It may be bright and sunny outside, but summer has a dark side – excessive heat that can be harmful to pets. The main reason hot weather is a serious issue for dogs, cats, rabbits and other furry pets is because they are not able to cool off as efficiently and so they can easily suffer from dehydration, heat stroke, and sunburn.
Heat stroke, for example, can send an energetic dog to a comatose state if its temperature reaches over 40°C or higher or around 104-110°F. Heat stroke's symptoms include heavy panting, salivating, staggering, vomiting and diarrhea. Time is of the essence to bring the dog's temperature down before it reaches a clinic.
To beat the heat, follow these simple and practical ways to cool pets down:
TO KEEP BUNNIES COOL:
* Keep rabbits away from the sun, even when they are outdoors. See to it that there are shaded spots where they could run to.
* On a hot day, a rabbit should always have cold water to drink and a ceramic tile to lie on. Putting ice in their water bowl is a good idea, so is setting an electric fan to blow air into their cage.
* Occasionally wet or lightly spray the rabbit's ears with water because heat dissipates from their ears.
* Trim or remove excessive fur by brushing. Summer calls for short coat.
* Leave a sealed icy bottle of water or any frozen item inside the rabbit's cage as a cooling medium.
* Keep rabbits hydrated by providing not just water, but also fruits and vegetables.
* Bring them indoors, if possible, if the temperature outside becomes unbearably hot.
TO KEEP CATS COOL:
* Give cats access to fresh, cold or chilled water.
* Give them a bath.
* Make them “catsicles” or a big ice dome they could lick.
* Let them stay in cool places in and out of the house, especially during the hottest time of the day (from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
* Provide them with shady places outside where they could stay.
* Get them a cooling pad to lie on.
* Don't leave kitty inside the car.
* If kitty hates bathing, just wipe them down with cold, damp towel.
* Be kind to let them inside the house, especially when the air conditioner is on.
Are black cats and other animals covered in dark fur more likely to feel hotter? Some argue that they could because black attracts heat, but many cat owners also say they don't see much difference between their black and other light-colored cats' handling of excessive heat and humidity.
However, pale-colored cats are more susceptible to getting sunburned, particularly where fur is thin such as in their ears, noses and the sides of the foreheads. A cat's sunburned skin can become red, tough and flaky so it's recommended to protect and treat the areas mentioned with a non-toxic waterproof sunblock made for pets.
TO KEEP DOGS COOL:
* Give them cold water and cold treats such as an ice cube, a frozen treat or a pet-friendly popsicle.
* Let them swim or give them more baths
* Don't walk the dog on hot asphalt roads or concrete that can blister or burn their paws
* Use pet sunscreen for light colored dogs such as white pit bulls and great Danes as they easily get sunburned.
* Cut excessive long furry coats.
* Avoid involving your dog in strenuous activities in the heat. Dogs should walk in shady places only early morning or late afternoon.
* Don't use muzzle on dogs, especially on hot days. Dogs need to be able to pant to release body heat.
* Bring them inside the house when the weather is at its hottest.
* Don't take them on long road trips, and don't leave them inside the car even for just a few minutes.
* Give your dog a cooling pad. It help dogs feel relaxed even when the weather is hot.
CALLING all pet owners. February 28 is World Spay and Neuter Day, a good time to have your dogs and cats fixed if you haven't already.
Spaying and neutering dogs and cats benefits not only them but also their human families and their neighborhoods. Fixed pets are healthier and calmer and obviously are no longer in danger of having unwanted litters.
Overpopulation leaves many unwanted animals in the streets where they are exposed to the elements, starvation and abuse or cruelty. When the population of cats and dogs are kept in control, so are the cases of neglect, abandonment and euthanasia at pounds.
For a more affordable spay/neuter procedure for your pets, contact animal welfare groups such as the Philippine Animal Welfare Society and CARA Welfare Philippines or inquire at the UP Veterinary Medicine office inside the UP Diliman campus. -- MetroPets
* New technologies address pets' toilet needs