Unveiling the Mystery Behind Paw Licking

I often caught my dog incessantly licking his paws. After a while, I began to wonder what was…

2 Simple Tips for Mental Enrichment: Straight From a Dog Trainer

As everyone is going back into the office or back to school, our dogs will soon be home alone and left to…

Can Your Dog Really Have Too Many Toys?

Dear NPP,

I love spoiling my dog with new toys. I bring home new ones for him all the time but he gets bored of them so quickly. Nothing really holds his interest for longer than a couple of days. What can I do to keep his interest?

Sincerely,

Drowning in Dog Toys

Giving toys to your dog is a great way to encourage play, enhance mental stimulation, and increase bonding. However, like with everything good in life, moderation is key.

NorthPoint Pet Tips

  1. Lump your dog toys into groups. Each group should have at least one toy for each type of play: tug, fetch, puzzle, and chew. You can customize these categories for your dog’s favorite activities like outdoor play, swimming, etc. You can determine how many toys is appropriate, but 4-5 should be plenty. Put each group of toys into their own basket or storage container. One toy group may include: Mammoth rope toy for tug, a Kong tennis ball for fetch, a West Paw Toppl for mental enrichment, and a Benebone for chewing.
  2. Put away all but one collection of toys. Each week, swap the “old” toys for a new group of toys. At any given time, your dog should have access to just one of those collections of 4-5 toys. When you dig out those new toys, offer them with as much excitement as you would if you brought home a brand-new toy.

Pro Tip: When exchanging toy collections, inspect them for damage that may be hazardous to your dog. If the toy can easily become a choking hazard, discard the toy immediately.

This is also the perfect time to give those toys a good cleaning! Some rubber and plastic toys are dishwasher safe, but most can safely be cleaned with mild dish soap and warm water. Most plush toys are machine washable.

Why It Works:

Having a huge assortment of toys can actually have an adverse effect on your dog. He can easily become overwhelmed and overstimulated, resulting in a lack of excitement around playtime. By removing the “old” toys and replacing them with some that he hasn’t seen in a few weeks, you’re refreshing his play drive with a brand-new variety for him to engage with.

Pet Food Storage: Could Dry Pet Food Be Making Your Pet Sick?

Feeding your pet dry food is convenient. You don’t have to worry about any special handling requirements or finding extra space in your refrigerator or freezer. However, that convenience can come with a price that can harm your pet.

Our Top Four Tips for Safely Storing Your Pet’s Dry Food.   


1) Keep your pet food in the original package.

Pet food bags are designed to keep the food as fresh as possible. After opening, fold over the top of the bag to press as much air out as possible. If you’d like to use a storage container, put the whole bag inside the container, but do not dump the kibble out of the bag. 

Why?

Dry pet food formulations include necessary animal fats, which start to go rancid once exposed to oxygen (right after manufacturing, even inside the sealed bag). These fats coat the inside of storage containers and continue to oxidize over time and interact with compounds of the storage container itself (metal, plastic, etc.), which then contaminates the fresh kibble you just poured in.  In fact, improper storage of kibble is a large reason for food-related illness in pets.

2) Keep your pet food in a cool, dry place.

To prolong freshness and maximize nutritional value, keep your pet food in the same places that you store your own food: away from sunlight, heat, and moisture.

Why?

Moisture and food can be a fatal combination. Humid and warm areas create a perfect environment for mold and harmful bacteria to thrive. The worst of these bacteria, called aflatoxins, can cause severe liver damage and even lead to life-threatening emergencies.  Learn more about how to properly store your pet’s dry food here. 

3) Purchase a bag of food that will last your pet for roughly one month.

For optimal nutrition, freshness and palatability, we recommend buying the smallest bag of food that is appropriate for your pet – about 30 days’ worth. A small bag (4 – 5 lbs) is appropriate for a small dog, and a large bag (20+ lbs) for a large dog.

Why?

When pet food is stored for a long period of time, opened or not, the risk of rancid fats, mycotoxin contamination, pathogenic bacteria, and storage mites are significant risk factors. We often hear pet parents state that their pet gets bored by the end of the bag, but if that bag is 2+ months old, it’s likely that your pet can smell that the food has spoiled. In fact, one of the largest reasons pets turn their nose up to food midway through the bag is because it has turned rancid. Here are more considerations for bulk buying pet food.

Our team is always happy to discuss these topics on an individual basis. If you have questions regarding the storage of your pet’s food, please see one of our pet nutrition experts in-store.

How to Trim Your Pet’s Nails Safely

Have you ever wanted to trim your pet’s nails at home but were scared that you would damage the blood vessels inside the nail? 

While trimming your dog’s or cat’s nails is pretty straightforward, there are some important details to remember so you can safely, and confidently, trim your pet’s nails on your own. 

Your Pet’s Nail Anatomy

The first step of trimming your pet’s nails is understanding the anatomy of the nail. Start by looking at the top of your pet’s paw where the nail grows out and forward from the toe. This part of the nail is made of a tough, protective protein called keratin, the same protein found in animal hooves and human fingers and toenails. 

Inside the keratin, from the tip of the toe to the middle of the nail, is a pulp filled with highly sensitive nerves and blood vessels called the quick. And right after the quick ends (towards the tip of the nail), you will see a bit more keratin. That extra keratin is what we want to focus on for trimming. 

Choosing the Right Nail Trimmer

After you are comfortable with assessing your pet’s foot altogether, you will then move on to which trimmers would be the best fit for you and your pet. To purchase the right tool, it is best to understand each tool that is available.

  1. Scissor Clippers

This product is designed to function similarly to a normal pair of scissors. When you squeeze these to trim the nail the blades will come together and slice that part of the toenail off. This product is best used for medium to large breed pets. Scissor clippers are great for quick nail trimming and for first-time users. Some have a safety feature that helps you know when to stop before the quick.

  1. Guillotine Clippers

This product has a ring where you would insert your pet’s nail. Once you put your pet’s nail into this ring (taking caution not to include the quick) you will then squeeze the handles together and a blade will slide up and slice the tip of the nail off. Guillotine clippers are best used in small breed pets but aren’t recommended if you’re new to nail trimming or if your pet is uncomfortable with trims. Guillotine clippers may cause damage to the quick if the pet pulls away.  

  1. Nail Grinder/Dremel

This product is best used in pets who struggle to cooperate with nail trimming sessions. A nail grinder is a powered nail file that spins at a high speed and will slowly file your pet’s nail down. This product is great as it can reduce the chances of hitting your pet’s quick in the nail. Pets tend to alert you when you may be too close to the quick when using a grinder. Another great reason to use a grinder is the fact that it does not leave the nail sharp. This product rounds out the nail to leave a smooth edge. 

Expert Tip: We recommend keeping styptic powder nearby when trimming your pet’s nails. This powder will clot any bleeding that may happen if the quick is accidentally cut. 

Once you can determine which product is best for both you and your pet, you then can start the trimming process. 

Acclimating your Pet to Nail Trimming

If your pet has never had their nails trimmed before, it can seem like a scary event for them, and it’s important not to add additional stress. It may be helpful to work on desensitizing them to the process through several training sessions. 

Ideally, we recommend introducing the nail trimming process at a very young age with your pet to get them comfortable with it being an easy, rewardable task. Stay calm and relaxed and start with touching and rubbing your pet’s toes, nails, and paw to get them comfortable with the process. Reward your pet – with training treats or verbal commands – after they stay calm and happy. Then try with one nail at a time and gradually work your way to doing more at a time. Eventually, you will be able to do all nails in one session and have an even stronger bond with them! 

How often should I trim my pet’s nails?

This may vary depending on your pet. The average recommendation is anywhere between every 2-4 weeks. Dog’s nails are known to file down when walking on asphalt or hard surfaces and cats are known for sharpening their front nails on scratching posts and/or trees. But these processes do not always keep your pet’s nails at a safe length which is why nail trimming is always recommended. 

Why are routine nail trims important?

When a pet’s nails are left to grow too long, there are multiple health issues that can arise. Long nails may overgrow back into paw pads which is very painful and can lead to infections in your pet’s paw pads. Overgrown nails can also lead to issues with their gait (the way they walk) as it can cause the feet to lay flatter than usual (imagine trying to keep weight off your toes when walking) and causes pressure on the bones in the ankle and leg, making it very uncomfortable for them to walk.

REFERENCES:

Randall, Samantha. “How to Choose the Right Dog Nail Clippers.” Top Dog Tips, 16 Nov. 2021, https://topdogtips.com/how-to-choose-the-right-dog-nail-clippers/. 

Staff, AKC. “Nail Neglect Can Lead to Health Problems for Your Dog.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 23 Jan. 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/nail-neglect-can-lead-to-health-problems-for-your-dog/. 

Palika, Liz. “Nail Anatomy 101: Keep Trims Safe, Not Scary.” Fear Free Happy Homes, 31 Mar. 2021, https://www.fearfreehappyhomes.com/nail-anatomy-101-keep-trims-safe-not-scary/. 

Gauntt. “The Importance of a Pedicure.” VMBS News, 11 Mar. 2022, https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/the-importance-of-a-peticure/. 

 

Why Your Pet’s Skin Issues Aren’t Always at the Surface?

Grooming is an essential part of owning a pet. But have you ever asked yourself why? 

Regular brushing, bathing and nail trimming can assist with not only the overall appearance of your pet but also have some physiological benefits. Brushing your dog’s coat regularly removes the dead hair, prevents mats, and even allows their coat to breathe and grow new hair. Brushing your pet is also essentially a massage—and who doesn’t enjoy a massage? It provides great bonding time between you both.

One of the more common issues that bring dog owners to NorthPoint Pets is a dog’s skin. Allergies, itchy skin, flaky skin, hot spots and more—are all common complaints from pet owners. But rather than looking at the obvious symptom—the pet’s itchy skin—we want to figure out WHY your pet is itchy and that starts in the gut. 

Our pets have good (and sometimes bad) bacteria in their gut. This colony is called their microbiome which is in their intestines and gut. The microbiome is essential for immune health, which includes our pet’s skin and coat. When the microbiome is compromised, their skin is also compromised. This results in a dull coat, a stinky dog, and more. 

The best thing you can do for your pet is to feed a good diet with an addition of fresh foods. We can also recommend supplements to help your dog look and feel their best!

 

Picking the Best Pet Grooming Brush

Brushing your dog’s coat is essential to your pet’s health. Regular brushing removes loose hair before it sheds on your carpet and clothes. It also clears out dead hair and straightens tangles. Tangles can cause painful skin irritations and infection if left unattended. 

Brushing is also good for your dog’s skin. By running the brush through the fur, the movement stimulates the production of natural oils in the skin.

Finding the right brush to use on your dogs can be confusing. Many of our customers feel overwhelmed by the options and which brushes work best on the many coat types. 

Fortunately, we have decades of dog brush expertise to help you pick the perfect brush for your pet based on coat type. Make sure to check out our recommendations based on coat type at the end of this article. 

Dog grooming brushes fall into four main types:

  1. Brushes
  2. Combs
  3. Rakes
  4. Deshedding

Brushes

Brushes are used daily grooming to untangle minor mats, remove dead hair, and stimulate your dog’s skin.

  • The bristle brush has densely packed bristles and is best used for removing loose hairs and massaging the skin. The longer your dog’s coat is, the longer and more widely spaced the bristles should be. 
  • The pin brush is usually oval-shaped with a set of flexible wires capped with rubber or plastic tips. This brush is often used on dogs with thick or curly coats and tackles minor tangles since it won’t pull the hair as it moves through the fur. This brush is gentle on your dog’s skin and safe for most breeds.
  • Like a pin brush, a slicker brush has shorter wires but is mounted much closer on a rectangular head. This design removes mats and dead hair from the undercoat. Apply gentle pressure so you don’t scratch your dog’s skin.

At first, many dogs don’t care about being brushed. If your dog refuses to be brushed, try a grooming glove. These gloves have textured rubber surfaces that pick up loose hair and provide a massage, just like when you’re petting your dog.

Combs

There are many types of combs to help you keep your pet’s coat healthy.

A general grooming comb is best for long-haired dogs to help remove tangles and knots. Make sure to use wider-spaced teeth to start tackling knots, then progress to a comb with more tightly spaced teeth. 

A dematting comb has ridged stainless steel blades to cut through mats instead of pulling on them or ripping the fur from the skin.  

A flea comb has tightly spaced teeth that catch fleas and dirt as they move through the coat. 

PRO TIP: Always brush in the natural direction of your dog’s fur. This minimizes the chance of you ripping or tearing the skin. 

Rakes

A rake is designed to get deep into thick coats to gently remove tangles and dead portions of the undercoat. 

A standard rake resembles a comb but with longer, wide-spaced teeth. Looking like a miniature garden rake, the teeth have rounded tips and excel at gently removing dead fur and tangles in longer-haired dogs.

An undercoat rake has curved small blades with sharp edges to remove mats and loose fur from dogs with heavy undercoats. While this type of rake will remove mats, we’ve found it not as effective as a mat comb.

Deshedding

Built for dogs that shed, the deshedding tool acts like a stripping knife to pick up and pull out dead hairs, leaving a low-shedding topcoat behind. This tool mimics a groomer’s clippers when they were not turned on but used to gently rake through a dog’s coat. 

There are many sizes to choose from when picking a deshedding tool. Please feel free to contact us with questions so we can ensure you have the right size to make the grooming experience more productive and more pleasant for your dog.

Dog Coat Types

Here’s what we typically recommend to help you find the right brush for these common canine hair types. 

Short Hair, Smooth Coat

This group’s breed includes Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs, Corgis, Dobermans, and Great Danes. Use a bristle brush to distribute the dog’s natural oils for a shinier and healthier coat. A slicker brush can also be used to remove any dead hair.

Wiry Coats

Breeds in this group include Airedales, various Terriers, and Schnauzers. We recommend weekly brushing with a slicker brush or pin brush. 

Curly Coat

Breeds in this group include Bichon Frise, Poodles, and most of the Doodle varieties. Weekly grooming with a slicker or pin brush will help keep your dog’s permanent perm fashionable.

Long Silky Coat

This group’s breed includes Afghan Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terriers. We encourage DAILY grooming for these breeds using a pin brush to keep those silky locks under control. 

Double Coats

These breeds include Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Huskies, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and St. Bernards. A double coat has two layers that grow independently and are often of different lengths. The outer coat is coarse, and the undercoat is soft and dense. We find that a rake brush, matched to your dog’s coat length, helps pull out loose undercoat fur.

Ensuring Grooming Success

Taking care of your dog’s coat is a vital part of grooming. As you’ve just seen, many types of dog brushes are available to handle everything from basic coat care to removing the thickest hair mats. 

Having the right kind of grooming brushes on hand will make the experience easier and create a stronger bond between you and your dog.

What’s the Best Way to Keep My Pet’s Coat Healthy?

What’s the best way to maintain your pet’s coat? While grooming needs will vary from pet to pet, here are a few basics to consider. 

First, it’s important to note that your grooming regimen should be customized for your pet. Some pets simply require weekly brushing, while others may need daily brushing with the help of topical treatments to prevent knots and matting. The term “grooming” refers simply to topical maintenance of the coat and not necessarily a visit to the groomer. 

Routine grooming is essential to maintaining your pet’s healthy coat. A regular routine has plenty of benefits not only for your pet but also for you:

  • Helps keep coat fresh and clean
  • Reduces friction between hair follicles
  • Helps ventilate pores to reduce levels of oil buildup
  • Prevents knots and mats from forming
  • Familiarizes yourself with your pet’s body to determine any abnormalities
  • Builds a bond between you and your pet
  • Stimulates your pet’s brain from the interaction
  • Helps regulate body temperature with a well-brushed coat
  • Help find ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, etc.)

Knowing when to and how to properly brush your pet will help enhance these benefits. The frequency of brushing will depend on multiple factors, including your pet’s breed. Normally, we recommend short-haired pets to be brushed once weekly, and pets with longer-haired coats should be brushed roughly 3 to 4 times weekly. Long-haired coats need more maintenance as they are more prone to creating mats and/or knots if unkempt. 

Two products that may assist with your weekly routine are detangling sprays or grooming wipes. Detangling sprays are great because they leave your pet smelling wonderful and help reduce friction between the hair follicles, therefore causing less damage to the coat when brushing. Grooming wipes come in handy to spot clean dirty areas, wipe paws and faces, or just freshen up between baths. Grooming wipes are also excellent for pet owners who have allergies to things like pollen or weeds because you can wipe your pet down when they come in from outside to reduce allergens being carried in on their fur. 

Without Proper Grooming

When your pet’s coat isn’t groomed frequently enough, it can cause the buildup of dead hair and skin cells that will ultimately lead to painful mats. These problems can lead to mild or moderate itchiness, sores, or even severe wounds. They can even cut off blood circulation in severe cases. 

Coat Health through Diet and Supplements

If you notice itchy skin, dry patches, sores, hotspots, redness, or swelling on the skin, you may need to consider making changes to your pet’s diet regimen. Several factors come into play here because the food your pet consumes directly impacts the health of their gut microbiome, which reflects the skin and coat health. 

For example, cereal and starchy foods can often lead to inflammation which can cause itchiness. Sensitivities to other ingredients should be discussed to determine if a food change and/or elimination may be helpful. 

Another factor in maintaining coat health is omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are essential fatty acids that have great benefits for the skin and coat. Dogs and cats cannot produce their own, so supplementation through diet is key. Omega 3’s contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which are essential for anti-inflammatory purposes, growth development, heart function, brain function, and vision. 

Despite how crucial omega 3’s are, they are not required in commercial pet food. Therefore, it is recommended to still supplement your pet’s food with omega 3 capsules or liquid (we recommend Nordic Naturals). Visit us in-store to discuss appropriate dosing for your pet. 

References:

Solomon, Dr. Donna. “Fish Oil for Dogs and Cats: Six Benefits.” Animal Medical Center of Chicago, 15 Aug. 2018, https://www.animalmedicalcenterofchicago.com/fish-oil-for-dogs-and-cats-six-benefits/. 

Easter, Fanna. “Are Dog Wipes Worth It?” Dog Training Nation, 17 Jan. 2017, https://www.dogtrainingnation.com/equipment/are-dog-wipes-worth-it/. 

“A Wonder-Fur World: Why Pets Need Regular Grooming.” Ethos Veterinary Health, 29 Oct. 2021, https://www.ethosvet.com/blog-post/a-wonder-fur-world-why-pets-need-regular-grooming/#:~:text=Dogs%20can%20get%20greasy%20hair,irritation%20and%20other%20skin%20problems. 

Ontario SPCA and Humane Society. “The Benefits of Brushing Your Furry Friend.” Ontario SPCA and Humane Society, 6 Jan. 2022, https://ontariospca.ca/blog/the-benefits-of-brushing-your-furry-friend/. 

Craig JM. Atopic dermatitis and the intestinal microbiota in humans and dogs. 

Veterinary Medicine and Science, (2016), 2, pp. 95-105 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, accessed August 26, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5645856/pdf/VMS3-2-095.pdf

 

Should My Pet Switch to Raw Food?

 

Switching your dog or cat to raw food can bring positive benefits to your pet — often within 2-3 weeks. 

 

Pets who switch from kibble to raw frequently experience cleaner teeth, smaller and firmer stools, improved gut health, and healthier skin and coats. 

 

However, switching from packaged food to a raw diet can be intimidating.

 

Some vets don’t like their patients eating raw food (I’ll cover that in a minute).

 

Pet food manufacturers hate the competition.

 

Plus, there’s no shortage of misinformation on the pros and cons of raw food vs. kibble…

 

Or even how to make the transition easy for your pet’s digestive system.

 

Before we decide if a raw diet is right for your dog or cat, let’s take a few steps back and better understand what a raw diet is.

 

Raw Diet 101

Raw diets typically (should) include a combination of meat, skeletal muscle, organs, cartilage, soft bone, pet-safe vegetables, fruit, and supplements. 

 

These diets can be commercially prepared (like those we offer at NorthPoint Pets) or made at home. 

 

Whether you feed your pet fresh or frozen food, a well-balanced raw food diet includes all the nutrients your pet needs to thrive. 

 

Why are people switching their pets to raw diets?

While science has continued to improve the nutritional value of pet kibble, this product has only been around for about 100 years. As kibble use has increased, there is no argument that nutrition-related disease in our pets has risen. 

 

Many experts in human health and nutrition attribute these diseases to the consumption of processed food, and it is logical to suspect much of the same is happening in our pets

Pet owners switch to raw because they want to know exactly what their pets are eating, but also to be able to reduce the amount of processed food consumed 

 

With processed options like canned and kibble, nutrients and beneficial components like antioxidants and enzymes are diminished or lost altogether. Vitamins and minerals are usually supplemented through vitamin packs. 

 

A responsibly formulated raw diet typically consists of a balanced blend of muscle, fat, connective tissue, organ, and bone. Raw diets are popular with those who prefer to avoid excess carbohydrates, preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors.

 

In a nutshell, raw diets mimic what our dogs and cats would eat in the wild. 

 

Why doesn’t my vet like raw food diets?

Most people make their pet’s raw food meals at home, and this is what gives vets heartburn.

 

The reason is two-fold: bacterial contamination and unbalanced diets that lead to critical nutrient deficiencies. Both are legitimate concerns arising from the fact that the human food supply is legally allowed to be contaminated with pathogens like Salmonella.

 

Without experience or professional guidance, most people creating raw food meals in their kitchens can sometimes cause more harm than good to their pets. This is why we often advocate for a well-made commercial raw food option or work with a qualified nutritionist to help you formulate a homemade raw diet. Food safety is a huge component of a responsible canine or feline diet – regardless of the diet being kibble, raw, or a combination of both.

 

Commercial foods (kibble or canned) provide a level of safety and security when seen through the eyes of a veterinarian. These foods are formulated by animal nutritionists to be complete and balanced. They are also produced in facilities to ensure all safety and pathogen mitigation techniques are in place.

 

Good vets wait for the scientific literature to document why specific nutrition strategies work or don’t. Big pet food manufacturers fund the research into their products, so while there are indeed documented studies on manufactured pet food, there is still a significant knowledge gap and lack of literature for ALL types of pet food. In fact, we still don’t know what ‘optimum’ nutrient levels are for most pets or even specific breeds.

 

Science also takes time.

 

Several scientific studies are being conducted on raw and fresh diets by reputable organizations at the university and manufacturer levels. These include DogRisk at the University of Helsinki, Finland, Instinct Pet Foods in the US, the Companion Animal Wellness Institute, and the University of Georgia. Some of the work is already published and includes topics like reduction in inflammatory biomarkers, benefits for atopy (skin issues), and arthritis. Others in progress include the effects of various types of food processing on disease risk and more. 

 

Most of the information you’ll find about raw diets is based primarily on personal experiences rather than rigorous scientific research and won’t hold much weight with veterinarians. 

 

Despite the researchers at CANWI, UGA, DogRisk, and the University of Helsinki studying raw diets, there hasn’t been enough published research to influence veterinarians….but they’re working on it!

 

This is why our highly educated veterinarians aren’t always on board with their patients switching from engineered kibble to naturally balanced raw foods. 

 

This is also why you must consult an experienced nutrition professional about your pet’s health and eating habits. By discussing the pros and cons of raw diets and food safety with this expert, you can make an informed decision about how to improve your pet’s health and longevity.

About the Author:

Nicole Cammack

Nicole is the founder & owner of multiple-award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut, USA. She has completed undergraduate work in biological sciences, business and holds an M.S. in Nutrition. Currently, Nicole is pursuing a PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences (Canine Nutrition/Metabolomics) at the prestigious University of Georgia in the USA.

Her background includes experience in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading figures in the human and pet health industries. Nicole has been heavily involved in police canine nutrition within the USA, helping to improve the modern care and feeding of working dogs. Her interests include working dog nutrition, raw feeding, pathogens, metabolomics, and nutrition’s relationship to disease in humans and canines. Her current research involves the exploration of the canine urinary metabolome and the relationship to diet.

Publications: Cammack, N.R., Yamka, R.M., and Adams, V.J. (2021). Low Number of Owner-Reported Suspected Transmission of Foodborne Pathogens From Raw Meat-Based Diets Fed to Dogs and/or Cats. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.741575. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2021.741575/full Contact: www.northpointpets.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-cammack-8400084b/?trk=author_mini-profile_title

5 Important Tips You Need to Know About Pet Hydration

Water is vital for life. In both humans and our pets, water helps regulate body temperature, supports cell function, keeps skin and joints healthy, aids in digestion, and cleans the body of various toxins. 

Optimizing our pet’s daily water intake is critical to their well-being and longevity. 

 Our top five tips to keeping your pet hydrated.

1 – Many pets are what we call ‘sub clinically dehydrated’. This means that there aren’t outward signs that tell us your pet is not getting enough water – but during times of stress, exertion, excessive heat/humidity or illness signs of dehydration show up quicker. This can exacerbate whatever signs are present because your pet wasn’t optimally hydrated in the first place.  Signs of dehydration include lethargy, loss of appetite, excessive panting, dry and/or pale nose, and gums. If you notice any of these seek veterinary care!

Solution: Be sure to offer fresh drinking water each day, and replace the water when it gets low. Offering multiple water bowls, water fountains (cats!), or adding things like bone broth, fresh fruit and vegetables, water to your pets food at mealtime can also provide additional water – especially during warm weather!2 –  The TYPE of water you choose to provide matters! While you can utilize distilled water these options have had minerals removed, which may not be ideal. Various minerals and ions are important for many processes in the body and could lead to less than optimal hydration and nutrition. In fact, some research does indicate dogs experience potassium deficiencies and heart problems from long term consumption of distilled water.

Solution: Use regular tap water, filtered if possible. You can also use filtered “bulk” water that comes in the 5-gallon water bottles.3 – Say NO to ‘alkaline’ water! While many tests have concluded that many bottled waters that claim to be alkaline actually are not alkaline when pH tested, it’s not worth the risk. Alkaline water has several health concerns that are controversial for both humans and pets:

The pH of the stomach is highly acidic, and the acidity is required to digest food optimally, control bacteria and regulate the passage of stomach contents into the intestine. When this is disrupted all these factors could be negatively affected.

If your pet is at risk or has kidney disease, urinary conditions (e.g. crystals or stones, diabetes or other conditions like infection or that require surgery alkaline water could complicate matters.

Solution: Stick with regular tap or “bulk” water (see #2).4 – Size matters – Cats and dogs can develop aversion for water (and food) because the whiskers on the side of their face are sensitive! When their whiskers constantly hit the sides of the bowl when they are eating and drinking it can be painful. 

Solution: Offer a bowl with an opening wider than the span of their whiskers. Even if you don’t think it is bothersome for them, you will likely notice them drinking more water!5 – Type matters! – The topic of materials used in pet food and water bowls has received a lot of attention over the years and has been the subject of some heated debates.  Here are the facts:

  • Like baby bottles (even BPA-free), plastic water bowls can leak hormone disrupting chemicals and micro plastics into the water (and food) especially when they are exposed to the high heat of a dishwasher or a microwave. Additionally, once the surface of plastic becomes worn it becomes hard to clean them which leads to bacteria risk. Some pets even react to the material of some plastic bowls resulting in redness, and rashes on the snout. Avoid plastic food and water bowls.
  • Stainless steel historically has been most recommended as the safest option. However, new technology has provided insight into the dangers of the chemicals these bowls also leak into food and water. These chemicals are known as ‘cutting fluids’ which are used in the manufacturing process. Additionally, many tests have shown that there are other elements often incorporated into these bowls and they are not quality stainless. Avoid stainless steel food and water bowls.

Solution 1: Ceramic and glass bowls are generally the safest options as long as they are made with quality materials meant for culinary use and designed for exposure to high heat (e.g. dishwasher, microwave). There has been some controversy linking these bowls to having a higher risk for harboring bacteria – however, that is only if you do not properly clean your pet’s water (and food) bowls as you would clean your own dishes. This is a critical factor that is always overlooked. 

Solution 2: There are several plant-based plastic alternatives to traditional bowls that are also great options! Some of our favorites include Beco bowls which include grooves to accommodate pets whiskers, and Mine Pet Platters (for food) which promote interactive feeding. Silicone pet bowls are also a great option (and travel-friendly!) but be sure to clean these regularly as they have been found to grow algae quite easily.