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Thursday, February 23, 2017

New product may enhance your efforts in using positive reinforcement training with your cat


I'm always on the lookout for interesting ideas to help create a better life for companion animals. 

While I was in a local pet store picking up a couple of things this week, I stumbled on one new product—Inaba Ciao Churu treat paste—and I think it would be a terrific tool to accentuate your efforts in training your cat using positive reinforcement. 

Also, I touch on another possible use for this product, which I found at Huron Pet Supply, as well as why you might want to seek out free samples found in better pet stores.




Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Second pet food company issues recall over potential pentobarbital contamination

On the heels of a nationwide recall of dog food by one company over concerns of pentobarbital contamination, yet another has issued one for the same reason. On February 14, a recall of a single lot of canned dog food product manufactured by Against The Grain was listed on the Food and Drug Administration's website. 

The product, Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs, was manufactured in 2015, and sold in 12 oz. cans. The packaging bears a lot number of 2415E01ATB12, and the second half of the UPC code is 80001—the latter of which can be found on the back of the product label. The food was distributed to independent retail outlets in two states, Washington and Maryland, and has an expiration date of December 2019.  

No other pet foods in the Against The Grain product lines are thought to be affected, and no illnesses or deaths have been reported at this time. 

If ingested by pets, pentobarbital can cause dizziness, drowsiness, loss of balance, nausea, excitement and in some cases, death

The company is urging consumers to return any can of food with the lot number listed above to their point of purchase. Customers may contact the company with any inquires at 1-800-288-6796  between 11:00AM – 4:00PM (CST), Monday-Friday. Click here for the company's statement. 


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Evanger's launches voluntary recall of one pet food product due to potential pentobarbital contamination

Illinois-based Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company is voluntarily recalling specific lots of one of its products as it may be contaminated with pentobarbital. 

If ingested by pets, pentobarbital can cause dizziness, drowsiness, loss of balance, nausea and in some cases, excitement. Death can result in some cases. Evanger’s indicated on their website that a few weeks ago, 5 dogs had taken ill after consuming the product matching one of the lot numbers. 

Though the substance was found in only one lot of Hunk of Beef Au Jus (12 ounce cans), the company made the decision to recall additional lots of the product—5 in all—that were produced the same week. Evanger’s uses suppliers that are USDA approved. A few weeks ago, after learning of the illness of the 5 pets and subsequent death of one of them, an investigation was launched by the pet food company. It was first thought that a toxin or bacteria might be the culprit, but on January 29, they learned the cause. But how pentobarbital, a barbiturate, made its way into the manufacturer’s supply was something that Evanger’s wanted to know.  

Quoting from a statement about the matter on the company’s website (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here):


Something like this seemed impossible.  We were unaware of the problem of pentobarbital in the pet food industry because it is most pervasive in dry foods that source most of their ingredients from rendering plants, unlike Evanger’s, which mainly manufactures canned foods that would not have any rendered materials in its supply chain.  All of our raw materials are sourced from USDA-inspected facilities, and many of them are suppliers with whom we have had long-standing relationships.


In our investigation, we spoke with many suppliers to learn how it could even be possible that an animal that had been euthanized could ever possibly end up in the animal food stream.  What we learned was that pentobarbital is very highly controlled, and that, if an animal is euthanized, it is done so by a veterinarian.  Once this process has been done, there is absolutely no regulation that requires the certified Vet to place any kind of marker on the animal indicating that it has been euthanized and guaranteeing that product from euthanized animals cannot enter the food chain. This is a simple task, and goes a very long way to ensure safety in many areas.



The following lot numbers are included in the recall: 1816E03HB, 1816E04HB, 1816E06HB, 1816E07HB, and 1816E13HB. The cans also bear a expiration date of June 2020 and a barcode, 20109, which is found on the back of the product label. Manufactured the week of June 6 – June 13, 2016, the pet food was distributed to retailers and sold online in the following states: Washington, California, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.

The company is asking consumers to return any unused product to the point of purchase for a full refund, and to call 847-537-0102 between 10:00 AM-5:00 PM (CST), Mon-Fri with any questions. 

Click here to read the company statement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Staying focused on your dog -- not your smartphone -- and using the right equipment on walks can help avert tragedy

I run up against a lot of carelessness in my day-to-day adventures with dogs. That has nothing to do with the dogs themselves, mind you. It’s always the humans: the unnecessary distractions on the biped’s part (usually because of mobile phones, and more on that in a minute), people who insist on interacting with my charges, dogs off-leash, the ‘my dog is friendly!’ folks and most of all, the guardians that insist on using retractable leashes. Yes, that last one, oh, so annoying. And dangerous.


I’ve written about retractables in the past; while they seem like the perfect solution when walking a dog, the dangers are numerous and aren’t limited to the dog.


Admittedly, I use them in some situations, but they are extremely rare. When my dog, Bruiser had been diagnosed with cancer, his sleep and potty schedule was off kilter. I found a retractable (one with an LED flashlight attached!) quite useful so that he could have some autonomy to go potty at any hour of the day/night, while I could remain sleepily barefoot on the deck. I work with a lot of families whose pets are in hospice, and I recommend a retractable for this reason to help make their lives a little more manageable. Retractables are often used when a pet is recovering from TPLO or other surgery and need to be kept from exceeding their prescribed activity level while in their yard, while still indulging their need to walk around unencumbered.


I’m no stranger to expressing exasperation with many pet products, and this week has been no exception, I’m afraid.


Browsing Facebook, I noticed that there’s a new “leash” slated to hit the market. Not only is it retractable, so it can give your dog more physical space (in theory, a great idea), but it aims to help address some vexing issues, one of which the fact that humans are too distracted by their mobile phones to pay attention to their dog while they’re in a public place. No, seriously -- that’s what the company’s founder said in a video, seen by clicking here. I'll assert how horrified I was with the seemingly comedic lightness of the caricatured scenarios with dogs (off camera) making an abrupt and unwanted approach with another dog, getting hit by a car and 'scaring' a child. None of these situations are funny.


“Bad things can happen in the blink of an eye, and let’s face it: with smartphones, the distractions can be ridiculous.”


You don’t say!

(All of this is disappointing, as I am otherwise an ardent fan of the company's flagship product.)


I have more mindful solutions -- things I employ on a daily basis -- that can save you a few dollars and more importantly, a tragedy.


  • Use some self-control and turn your mobile phone off when you’re out and about your dog and pay attention to them.


  • Skip the retractable and opt for a 25-foot + dog lead. These trusty products don’t get enough press nor praise. You can keep the lead gathered up securely as you need (yes, you’ll need your full attention on things and both hands free) or allow your pet to roam more freely while still being safely tethered to you.

You’ll thank me one day, but in the meantime, your dog will stay safe and happy and likewise, everyone else will, too. Watch a long lead in action below.




Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Friday, January 27, 2017

'NoBowl' Feeding System slated to appeal to a cat's inherent nature as hunters, improve overall well-being

When chatting with a pet owner for the first time, they often describe their cats as finicky eaters, sometimes turning their nose up at food they are offered or just picking away. This leaves their humans alarmed at times, but most often frustrated with the amount of food that can get wasted.

I always recommend that if their furry friend hasn’t seen their vet recently, to do so to rule out any underlying health issues that can be a contributor, especially if it's a departure from their usual behaviorThe good news is that most often, the fussiness over food isn't a sign of a health issue per se; ennui grasps cats easily, especially when it comes to chow time. 

If all is clear on the health front, I encourage a few suggestions that might include tricks that typically pique a cat’s interest (primarily renal kitties): offering canned food that’s been warmed up, trying a different texture (pet food companies offer varieties of wet food in pâté, shreds, chunks and even in a smooth puree and with dry, companies are producing kibble in several pleasing shapes), or even feeding the pet in a new place. 

What might be seen as the ultimate in pickiness makes sense once deciphered: some serving dishes are displeasing to cats. With their long, sensitive whiskers, it can be uncomfortable to dine from a dish that is too deep and narrow. Wide, shallow dishes, preferably crafted from ceramic or glass—plastic can harbor bacteria—provide the perfect balance of comfort and functionality. 

A bigger problem 

Indoor life for pet cats is something that veterinary professionals routinely espouse, and for good reason: there's protection from being injured by other animals or hit by vehicles, not to mention the lessened risk of being exposed to disease. But living solely indoors is by its very nature, incompatible with a cat's inherent nature: they're hunters. But that doesn't mean your cat should be let loose to roam. 

A superior solution

Foraging or puzzle toys, a topic that I've discussed before, are the preferable choice to provide the mental stimulation that felines crave when it comes to getting their food, no matter if one decides to go the homemade route, or buying a commercially produced version. In keeping with that idea, one product that's fairly new-to-the-market grabbed my attention. From the looks of it's design, any frustration that your favorite feline may experience during mealtime would be easily quelled.

The NoBowl Feeding System pushes all of the right buttons; it indulges a cat's inherent need to hunt for their food—a part of the species' constitution that behaviorists have long understood—while boosting activity levels. Mitigating behavior and health issues related to bowl feeding is a benefit as well. Dr. Liz Bales, VMD is just one of the minds behind the successful product, which began as a project launch on Kickstarter in early 2016.

She and I chatted by phone earlier this week, and she emphasized the need to understand the feeding behavior of cats. 

"Cats are solitary hunters; they want to hunt and eat alone," Bales adds that the way that that we feed our feline friends—plopping a bowl of food in front of them, and in multiple-cat households, all together, is counter to their nature. And because they're crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), and unlike us humans—who are diurnal—that adds to the problems that cats face in life alongside us. 

"Cats hunt 9 to 20 times in a day [a 24-hour period], and 60-80% of their waking time is spent hunting. They're eating small, frequent meals during those twilight hours, and they'll kill multiple small prey," Bales noted. 

Those small meals amount to about a tablespoon or two each time (a cat's stomach can accommodate that much food), which is far less than cats are traditionally served at one serving in a bowl. And, as Bales points out on the NoBowl website, cats engage in a series of behaviors—referred to as the seeking circuit—that include hunt, catch, play, eat, groom, sleep. 

"Mealtime isn't just about eating; they need to interact with their food. The way that we feed cats today doesn't serve them well. We're overfeeding their bodies, and starving their minds."

(Dr. Temple Grandin touched on the concept of 'seeking' in her book, Animals Make Us Human, and something that neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp wrote extensively about in Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions.)

The design sets the NoBowl apart. Though it's designed to hold a ration of food like other feeders, that's where the similarities fade. The product's tactile design includes a shape and size that mimics that of a bird or mouse, and as importantly, it has a soft skin that allows cats to use their teeth and claws to pick it up and roll it around like they would prey. 

Bales points out that the frustration that cats feel from being bowl fed and not engaging in the seeking circuit isn't limited to diminished emotional well-being. It manifests physically as well. Besides the weight gain (a result of the limited activity), issues in the urinary tract, including Pandora syndrome and cystitis, are suspected to be connected. 

According to Bales, over 13,000 cats are now using the NoBowl Feeding System, and that's a lot of pets who will likely be avoiding complications in health and behavior. 

While attending a veterinary conference, she recalled that at least one of the speakers, after ticking off a list several diseases like cancer, stated, 'What is the number one cause of death in cats?' Their follow-up answer? Euthanasia.

That resonated with Bales, and it ultimately changed the trajectory of her life's work. And so the NoBowl was born.

The unfortunate truth is that each year, countless numbers of cats are regularly relinquished to shelters because of behavioral issues, inappropriate elimination and other problems that families are at a loss to address. In many cases, the cats don't even get that far. Families may decide to euthanize because they feel they've no choice.

"We are raising the standard of care for our cats, and by giving them what they need, we can in a lot of cases reduce the need for medical treatment—and costs."

And by all accounts, far more than that. 

Click here for more details, and watch a video of a cat using the NoBowl Feeding System below.




Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pet behavior professionals can enhance a companion animal's hospice care

Pet hospice is an area of veterinary medicine that is emerging, and for good reason. Our pets are living longer and healthier lives, and when terminal illness and the like rear their head in twilight or even in the prime of life, addressing a pet's comfort and quality-of-life is key. That goes for the family and caregivers in their life, too. That's the work that hospice vets and professionals who are a part of the periphery, but very involved with the day-to-day happenings—such as pet sitters and dog walkers, like myself—strive for. 

It's not uncommon for a family to reach out for some extra help during times like this; work and familial responsibilities don't stop because a pet's needs necessitate palliative and hospice care. Often, experienced caregivers like me fill that void to keep medication doses on track, see that potty breaks and comforts are seen to as well as offering a fresh, clear perspective on how things might be going. Respite for the family members, not to mention a 'hey, how are you feeling? How are you handling things? Any concerns?' is as vital as any care that the pet receives, I assure you. I've been there, and not so long ago.

We can also give insight into options for less stressful ways of medicating pets, including compounded medications and fear-free approaches.

You might be surprised that other professionals, like accredited positive reinforcement dog trainers, animal behaviorists and veterinary behaviorists, can be an integral part of the equation, too. 

'How can that be?', you might be wondering.

In my experience, yes, there's a lot of focus on the pet's health and physical well-being, and their mobility, and their safety—of course. But one core thing that I always ask a family is (and hopefully all of the humans important to the pet are present during that initial consultation) 'So what do they like to do? What's fun to them?? What brings them joy???' 

Usually, when that is unpacked, faces light up. Tensions are released. Voices speak up readily. That familiar joy emerges. 

Ah, yes... it's important to remember that simply because a pet is in a time of life that looks very different than when they were less fragile, they still crave joy and enrichment. They very much do. And the humans need it as much as the pets do. I will admit that often, I'm able to help unearth that part of sharing life with a pet that often gets buried easily. Toys, modified-versions of games that suit a pet's changing needs, thinking outside the box when it comes to what's fun. 

But other times, situations are outside my realm of training or expertise. Maybe there are some cognitive issues that even the hospice or regular vet isn't as in tune to. That's where an experienced and qualified trainer (or, in some cases, a veterinary behaviorist) can really untangle things and come up with solutions to a challenging situation, for example, helping to counter-condition and desensitize a pet to experiences that they troublesome. 

It's not that uncommon these days for companion animals to be part of a multiple-pet household. Let's think about how challenging that could be: each pet has their place in the hierarchy, then an illness or age-related decline shakes things up. I've had households where a cat being treated (reluctantly, at first) feeds some apprehensive vibes to the other cats in the tribe. Those other cats can at times pick up and transfer any tension to humans in the house, or sometimes, other pets, causing physical harm. Does the order of things change with dogs? Certainly, and situations can be complicated. In many cases, a protective tenderness emerges amongst the non-human members of the family. This isn't always the case, though, and the pet needing that extra care can get picked on by one or more of the group. A qualified professional can help sort things out and restore a sense of balance to the household. 

As much as its important with us humans to address emotional well-being when facing profound health changes, it's important not to underestimate the value of bolstering our companion animal's needs just the same. Having the insight of a professional can make a lasting difference for each member of the family. 

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Treating osteoarthritis in dogs has come a long way, but communication about it between vets and families is slow

Yesterday, I had meet and greet with a family that included two 14-year old Labs. We had a great time getting to know each other. I'll admit that as we went over the care regimen, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that both dog's osteoarthritis (OA) pain is being well-managed by maintaining a healthy weight, mindful activity and prescription medication. And because their kidneys are doing well, the latter includes a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).

People love to talk about their companion animals. No matter how the topic of arthritis comes up with a pet owner, as it does often--in my work, even casual conversation in my travels--I find that it's not uncommon that there isn't enough solid dialogue between families and clinicians about the disease and the discomfort and pain that results from it.

"I had no idea that there was medication available to help my dog. And something like acupuncture--wow... who knew? So, I just ask my vet about this, right?"

It's unclear why there's such a disconnect between the two parties, but nonetheless, as a professional who has the unique position of being on the periphery, I do what I can to change that.

The misinformation about treatment options, including what is and is not safe to give both dogs and cats clearly pulls ahead in most conversations--something else that I regularly spend time untangling, too.

The good news is that there are several approaches and modalities to manage OA adequately in pets, even if renal issues make NSAIDs prohibitive in those dogs who are at a stage in the disease where they could benefit from them. (Gabapentin, available by prescription from your vet and is a safe and effective option for these pets.)

Click here for a great article from The Bark that covers what OA is and the facts on treatment. It can be a helpful starting point in talking with your veterinarian about options for your pet.


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.