HEALTH AND WELLNESS
It's never too late to paws and breathe.
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
THE stork has visited your cat, what will you do?
A pregnant cat can use some extra tender loving care and there are ways you can help to make her and her kittens healthy and comfortable. The same is true with pregnant dogs.
Experts from Pet Food Institute and the Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines have the following tips to ensure a safe and sound maternity for cats and dogs.
ENSURE THAT YOUR PET IS IN BEST HEALTH
Balanced and sound nutrition is essential for any cat or dog, and pregnant pets may have additional specific nutritional requirements. It’s important to discuss your pregnant pet’s food needs with a veterinarian.
Providing measured portions of food can help in regulating the size and weight of the pet. You don’t want your pet to gain or lose excess weight during pregnancy, which may lead to delivery complications. For dogs, doing regular exercises, like going for a walk or a game of fetch, can help them stay healthy before labor. Plenty of rest is also important for them to recharge and refuel.
PROVIDE A WELCOMING ENVIRONMENT
A safe and secluded spot in the house is the most ideal place for your pregnant pet to rest. Make all her necessities, such as water and food, accessible, and place soft bedding for her to rest on. Remember that she needs her personal space, so keep her away from areas of heavy foot traffic around the house to avoid stress.
KEEP THEM CLEAN
Your soon-to-be-mom cat or dog should be clean and free of ticks and parasites. Give her a regular wet or dry bath and brush her fur regularly.
PROVIDE DRINKING WATER
Pregnant pets should always have clean and fresh water available to them. Try putting up water stations around the house for their convenience.
GIVE COMFORT AND SUPPORT
Stay with and watch over your pet closely once she goes into labor, probably even if she's delivering her litter at a clinic. The presence of abnormal amount of blood and or colored mucous or pus should make you want to get veterinary help immediately.
After giving birth, your mother cat or dog will need more nutrition to feed her litter. Necessary adjustments to her diet should be made to maintain her health and that of her new family.
PFI aims to promote pet health by encouraging pet owners to choose carefully formulated, nutritionally complete, and balanced US-commercial pet food products. With their Well Fed, Well Nurtured campaign, PFI seeks to drive awareness of responsible pet ownership throughout the Philippine pet community through proper feeding and regular veterinary care.
A balanced diet, regular exercise, proper grooming and regular veterinary care are essential in keeping your pet healthy. However, pets can only express themselves through barks, meows and movements, so it's not always easy to tell if they are experiencing pain or discomfort.
Pet Food Institute and the Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines, through its Well Fed, Well Nurtured campaign, impart a head-to-toe checklist that identifies signs of a healthy pet.
Healthy cats have clear and bright eyes. Any irregularities like redness or mucus excretion can mean infection or nutrient deficiency. If the cat squints or blinks with one eye, it could indicate injuries like a scratch, or a foreign matter may be stuck in the eye area.
Dogs should have bright and shiny eyes. It’s normal for dogs to have mucus and tears in their eyes, but it should be minimal, clear and not yellowish. Swollen or reddish eyes are not normal and could be a symptom of a bigger eye health problem.
The ears of both cats and dogs should have minimal to zero amount of wax. Any crusty build-up could lead to swelling inside the ear. If they shake their heads frequently, it might be a symptom of ear mites or ear infection. Unpleasant odor that lingers after ear cleaning could mean an infection.
A healthy cat’s nostrils should be mucus-free. A cat may sometime sneeze due to allergies or dust but continuous sneezing accompanied by gagging hints of a possible foreign matter inside its nasal passage.
A dog’s nose is leathery, cool, and moist. They sometimes have nasal discharge but it should be minimal and never yellowish. A dog's wet nose does not always mean it is healthy, and a warm and dry nose does not always mean it's sick.
Both cats and dogs have pink or black lips, depending on the breed. As they age, they may develop black spotting around their lips. Inside their mouth must be pink, including the tongue, and their teeth should ideally be white and tartar free. Any evidence of dental diseases such as foul breath odor, gum bleeding or gum redness should be examined by a veterinarian.
COAT AND SKIN
Cats and dogs should have shiny coats that don't harbor ticks and fleas. Shedding is normal but must not be too excessive. Depending on the breed, cats and dogs' coats can turn lighter or darker as they age. However, a very dull coat is a sign that the animal may have a health concern.
APPETITE AND BOWEL
The consistency and appearance of a pet’s stool can say a lot about its overall health. Most dogs have bowel movements twice a day, while cats do it at least once a day. Their urine should not be too yellow, while their feces should neither be too hard or too soft. If both their urine and stool have blood or parasites, it might be a case of rectal or anal dysfunction.
A healthy pet is the result of responsible pet care with the right balance of safe and nutritious food and exercise. Dogs and cats should be provided with pet foods that are carefully formulated to meet their unique nutritional requirements. Pet Food Institute maintains that safe and nutritious pet food contributes to the total well-being of the pet that leads to a long and healthy life.
TREATMENT for bites, scratch and lick of potentially rabid animals is now compensable with PhilHealth and available in more accredited clinics.
The agency recently announced that there are now 154 accredited animal bite treatment centers (ABTCs) with the capacity to provide vaccines to combat rabies problems among PhilHealth members and their dependents.
Also, PhilHealth members and dependents undergoing anti-rabies treatment are entitled to avail of the Animal Bite Treatment Package (ABT), fixed at P3,000 to any of the accredited Out-Patient Animal Bite Treatment Center (ABTC) and Animal Bite Center (private facilities) in the country.
The ABT package include payment for treatment due to bites of dogs, domestic and livestock animals such as cats, pigs, horses, goats and wild animals like bats and monkeys. Transdermal bites, even exposure to rabies patient through bites and those handling infected carcass and ingestion of raw infected meat can also be covered.
This package includes Post–Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) services like rabies vaccine, rabies immune globulin, local wound care, tetanus toxoid and anti-tetanus serum, antibiotics and other supplies used.
The total costs of treatment for animal bite patients who are PhilHealth Sponsored Program members shall be entirely covered by the said package, whereby “no balance billing” policy of PhilHealth applies. However, employed and self-employed members are required of three months payment within six months before the month of confinement to qualify for the package, while OFWs, Lifetime and SP members are covered within the validity of their membership.
CATS and dogs are at high risk of getting cancer when exposed to secondhand smoke.
This is one of the key take-away points shared by scientists from the University of Glasgow which is completing a study into the effects of secondhand smoke on domestic pets.
Aside from possibly getting cancers, dogs and cats exposed from secondhand cigarette smoke at home will likely suffer from cell damage and weight gain.
Between dogs and cats, the latter proved to suffer more from the direct impact of secondhand smoke, said the Scottish institution. This is because cats not only can inhale the smoke, they can also take it in when they self-groom themselves.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
A FRIEND sent me a video link of cats getting startled by cucumbers and asked: “Are cats really scared of cucumbers?” I said “No!”, as swift as a cat scampering away from a, well, cucumber?
With the recent deluge of Internet videos showing unsuspecting cats getting startled and scared by cucumbers that people secretly placed behind them, animal behaviorists are now asking cat owners to not pull this kind of mean joke on cats anymore as it endangers the animal's well-being.
Getting cats scared this way usually become severely stressed and experts warn that it could create a more permanent psychological problem.
It's not the cucumber per se that scares the cats, but the element of surprise. Even people could get scared at anything and everything that happens to creep up from behind them.
The videos usually show cats getting surprised by cucumbers when and where they are eating. There is a chance a cat will no longer want to visit its food area if a “cucumber apparition” happened there because cats like to eat where they feel safe and in peace.
Aside from the emotional trauma, the sudden surprise can also get cats hurt as they uncontrollably leap through the air and run mad, sometimes colliding with furniture and doors.
The prank is quite mean and no self-proclaimed cat lover should put a cat through such a fur-raising experience.
If you want to introduce a cat to a cucumber, make it part of its diet or make it a spa-treatment as shown in this photo:
* No urgent need for a Covid-19 vaccine for pets