“Whisker Fatigue” Could Be the Cause of Your Cat’s Finicky Eating

Cats are famous for being picky eaters, but the reason behind this may not be the brand of cat food you bought.  Many cats also like to fish pieces of food out of their bowls and eat them off the floor…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re just playing with their food.  If your cat is exhibiting some odd eating behaviors, the culprit could be “whisker fatigue.”

Whisker fatigue is the term used by veterinary experts to describe the stress and discomfort your cat feels when his sensitive whiskers rub up against the sides of a food bowl.  A recent article about whisker fatigue in The New York Times sheds some light on this little-known issue.  Your cat’s whiskers are highly sensitive, like antennas, and pick up signals from the environment that can be as subtle as a light breeze.

What happens when your cat’s whiskers rub on her food bowl while eating?  Many experts describe it as a stressful feeling, sort of like sensory overload.  The solution is surprisingly simple.  Choose shallow food dishes instead of deep ones, and make sure your cat’s water bowl is as shallow as possible.

The article points out that you can use a flat dish you already have, or buy a bowl with shallow sides specifically designed for whisker fatigue.  One company mentioned in the article called Dr. Catsby makes a wide, shallow stainless-steel bowl with a non-skid bottom.  Stainless is also preferable to plastic or ceramic because it is less porous and inhibits the growth of bacteria (a primary cause of feline chin acne).

Just like dog bowls that are made for dogs of different sizes, and long or flat faces, your cat’s bowl should be whisker-friendly too!

 

GOdogs Project Investigates the Genetics of Canine Obesity

The scientists at the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories are looking for a few good—and chubby—dogs!  Their GOdogs Project is conducting cutting-edge genetic research on why certain dog breeds tend to become overweight (Labrador Retrievers, we’re talking to you!).  They also hope that this research will shed light on the genetics of human obesity.

If you own a Labrador and live near the Cambridge University Veterinary School in the UK, your dog can become an important part of this ongoing study.  The researchers also welcome input from the owners of other types of dogs.  Owners of all dog breeds can answer a questionnaire about their dog’s eating habits, and if you have a Retriever, Pug, or Bulldog, the Project is looking for DNA samples from your pup.  Click HERE to learn more about participating in the study.

The GOdogs website has lots of great information about obesity in dogs.  Did you know that between 34 and 59% of dogs can be classified as overweight?  Obesity causes significant health problems in our pets, including:

  • Joint disease
  • Heart and lung problems
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Incontinence
  • Cancer
  • Shorter lifespan

Why are so many dogs overweight?  The Project points to the modern lifestyle of pampered pets as a prime cause.  Your dog’s body stores fat as an energy reserve to draw on in times when food is scarce.  Today’s dogs aren’t running around and hunting, so a sedentary lifestyle combined with lots of food that’s high in fat and calories can lead to obesity.

The fact that some dog breeds are prone to obesity suggests that genetics play a role in this, particularly when it comes to appetite and hunger.  Previous studies on obesity in humans and other animals have shown that certain genes affect a part of the brain that controls hunger called the hypothalamus.

What about the link between genetics and obesity in dogs?  The GOdogs Project has been collecting canine eating behavior and genetic data since 2013.  In 2016 they published their first findings about a genetic cause for obesity in Labradors.  One particular gene called POMC has been found to be associated with obesity in Labradors (and flatcoated retrievers).  A quarter of UK Labs have this gene and these dogs were found to be around 4 lbs. heavier than Labs without the gene.  POMC plays a role in regulating feelings of hunger and fullness.

Whether your dog has a genetic predisposition to being overweight or not, there are practical steps you can take to manage your dog’s weight.  Check out these strategies for monitoring your dog’s weight, regulating food intake, minimizing your dog’s feelings of hunger, and making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, all courtesy of the folks at GOdogs.

 

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance in Dogs

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When our dogs are experiencing problems like itchy skin or an upset stomach, many owners will begin to suspect that their pet has a food allergy. Veterinary experts say that food allergies in dogs are not as common as people think, and that a food intolerance may be the cause of your dog’s issues. What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Read on.

While an allergy is caused by an immune system reaction, an intolerance is a sensitivity.  According to the nutritionists at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, out of all the dogs they see for suspected food allergies, only around 10% of them have an actual food allergy. What about the other 90%?

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Some of the dogs with skin issues are having allergic reactions to airborne particles in the environment like pollen, dust, and mold. For dogs with digestive problems, a food intolerance is more likely to be the culprit than a food allergy. Food intolerance can be more subtle than a sensitivity to a particular ingredient. For some dogs, it could be the amount of fat or fiber in a dog food, or even how it was cooked.

What are the most common food ingredients to cause intolerance in dogs? According to the experts at PetMD, owners should be aware of lactose, gluten, artificial additives like coloring, and table scraps containing things like spices.

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Of course, all dogs are different, so you should talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s particular food sensitivities. The standard way of identifying an intolerance or allergy is to exclude likely causes one at a time from your dog’s diet and see if the symptoms improve. Once the food is identified, avoid feeding your dog anything containing the offending ingredient, and be especially careful about people giving your dog “treats.”

 

Thanksgiving Food Safety for Pets

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Thanksgiving is coming next week, which makes it official…the holiday season is here!  We love to share the holiday festivities with our pets, and this sometimes includes a treat from the table.  Thanksgiving is always a good time to remind well-meaning pet owners to go easy on feeding our dogs and cats scraps from the table.

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While some people food is OK in moderation, there are definitely some things that need to be kept away from hungry pets. Here’s a handy guide on what foods you should avoid feeding your best friend this Thanksgiving:

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The Healthiest Fruits and Vegetables for Your Dog

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We all know it’s a good idea to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to our diet. Just don’t forget to share some of those yummy fruits and veggies with your dog, too! According to an informative article on the website One Green Planet, adding certain fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet can help improve her overall health, including things like teeth, coat, bones, and eyesight.

Fruits and vegetable provide your dog with essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimum health. What are the best fruits and veggies to give to your dog? Here’s a list of the healthiest ones:

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Apples. A great source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. Crunchy apple slices can also help clean your dog’s teeth. It’s important to always remove the stem, core, and all seeds before feeding apples to your dog.

Carrots. One of the more common people food choices for your dog. They are loaded with beta carotene, potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K. Also great for cleaning teeth.

Sweet Potatoes. A popular treat for dogs, sweet potatoes are a great snack for pups who need to lose a few pounds. They are high in fiber and vitamins A, C, E, and B.

Celery. Celery is a good breath freshener and also contains many vitamins, plus other valuable nutrients like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and sodium.

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Watermelon. Because watermelon contains a lot of water in addition to vitamins and minerals, summer is a great time to feed your dog watermelon to keep him well-hydrated.

Green beans. Another great choice for dogs on a diet because they’re filling and high in fiber. They also contain many essential nutrients.

Bok choy. This healthy green is not just for your rabbit. Feeding your dog some bok choy will provide her with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium.

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Pumpkin. Pumpkin has long been a favorite people food for dogs. It has lots of fiber if your dog has digestive issues, plus other important vitamins and minerals.