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Pet owners are more frequently questioning the safety of using cat litter: “How does it affect the environment?”  “Is it even safe for my cat?” and “What are the natural alternatives?”

THE PROBLEM:

In clumping cat litter sodium bentonite, a natural clay ingredient that expands and hardens when it comes into contact with moisture, is the main villain. It’s purpose is to make cleaning kitty’s box a little easier but at what price? While digging in their litter, cats can inhale fine sodium bentonite particles which expands when it hits their lungs. This can cause asthma and other lung problems. There is also a risk of ingestion as cats are cleaning their paws. Lastly even the pads of their feet may develop sores from contact. 

Another danger lies in using silica-based litter. A porous granular form of sodium silicate, it absorbs odors and moisture. However, being easily inhaled by humans and felines, it has been linked to lung cancer, bronchitis and even tuberculosis. A fatal form of pulmonary tuberculosis called silico-tuberculosis has been found in some cats.

The effects on our pets is bad enough but they also negatively impact our environment as well. The process of producing these conventional litters involves strip milling which is destructive in itself. The secondary affect comes in to play after disposing of the litter which fills up land fills, unable to be decomposed any further resulting in about two million tons of cat litter being sent to the land fills each year. 

THE SOLUTION: 

Luckily, some natural alternatives do exist. One to consider is Swheat Scoop. As you may have guessed by its name, it is made from a processed non-food grade wheat. Its admirable qualities include being biodegradable, free of chemicals and fragrance while still maintaining its clumping abilities. It comes in pellet form and clumps when wet so you do not have to sacrifice convenience for health. It has a velvety texture which will not irritate paws.

Another great alternative that many companies are turning to is recycled newspaper. Newspaper is naturally biodegradable and absorbent. Fashioning them in to soft, paper pellets makes them friendly to use and they wont cling to your pet when he is done doing his duty. Good Mews and Yesterday’s New are two popular brands sold in pet stores. 

The options are plentiful with Corning litter being another safe choice made of…you guessed it, corn! Corn has a unique ability to capture ammonia which is that nasty smell you may have noticed when cleaning Fluffy’s box. One Earth Cat Litter utilizes fast clumping corn cob granules while featuring yucca and pine for a natural fragrance. These two brands are compatible with self-cleaning automatic litter boxes.

Feline Pine uses remaining pine sawdust from lumberyards.The dust is cleaned, kiln-dried, and pressurized to remove oils which results in sterile, dust-free pellets that are super absorbent. Vets have been known to recommend using this litter for post-surgery since it has been sterilized.

Although these green litters are biodegradable and may be septic- and sewer-safe, it’s best not to flush them down the toilet into our waterways. Cat feces is known to contain a parasite known as Toxoplasmosis gondii (TG) which is extremely dangerous to pregnant women and marine life.You may however throw your used litter into the compost bin but it is only suitable for use on trees, shrubs, flower or r potted plants, not vegetables or fruits. Cats are known for being finicky, so you may have to try a few before you find the green litter that works best for your kitty.

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With so many varying opinions available today over what is healthy and what is not for your pet, many pet owners are looking for answers. Knowledge is power and we hope that laying out the pros and cons regarding this popular chew treat for dogs as well as answering some basic questions will help you to make an informed choice about what is best for your pooch.

What is it?

A rawhide is made from the inner soft hide of an animal. It is most commonly made from the skin of cows but can also be from pig, sheep, or horse.

Pros:

· Can relieve teething pain in puppies. When a puppy chews it helps to counter the pain from teeth pushing through the gums as well as help to strengthen jaw muscles.

· Satisfies your dogs chewing desire. Dogs have an instinctual desire to chew. In the wild their meals consisted of plenty of animal bones to chew on.

· Promotes healthy gums and teeth. Chewing a rawhide causes friction on your pets teeth, rubbing off any plaque buildup which leaves teeth and gums clean and can reduce his risk of dental problems.

· An alternative to chewing valuable items. Fulfilling that instinct to chew and keeping your dogs jaws busy for hours can help to prevent him turning to your valuable household items as his chew toys.

Cons:

· Not all rawhides are safe to ingest. Rawhides  produced outside USA have been reported to be made from toxic chemicals including arsenic and formaldehyde. Check the packaging and only select rawhides that are made in the USA.

· A potential choking hazard. Ifyour dog swallows a small piece of rawhide, it can get lodged in his throat causing him to choke. Once the rawhide becomes small enough to be swallowed whole toss it in the trash.

· Can cause digestive blockage. If your dog does swallow a large piece of rawhide, the outcome could be fatal. The rawhide can expand inside of the stomach, or even wrap around his intestines, causing an obstruction.

· Some rawhides contain skin from other dogs. The Humane Society International stated in an investigative report, “In a particularly grisly twist, the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in Thailand are mixed with other bits of skin to produce rawhide chew toys for pet dogs. Manufacturers told investigators that these chew toys are regularly exported to and sold in U.S. stores.”

There you have it, the good, the bad, and the ugly truth about rawhide chew treats. For many, the risks outweigh the benefits and pet owners will seek out alternative chewables for their pets. For those who would continue to use these timeless treats, knowing where and how they are manufactured is key for your pets safety.

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When a beloved pet leaves our lives, there is no easy way to deal with the void that is left in our hearts. The grieving process is necessary while painful. Each individual may express their grief in different ways. While some may prefer to move on as quickly as possible, others find closure by memorializing their pet. This may be done through a number of simple ways as well as holding a private or public memorial service. At Family’s Pet, we offer a wide variety of services from individual and private cremations to viewing and memorial/funeral services, so that our clients can choose how they want to say good bye while preserving their fondest memories in the midst of departing. 
Our brand new modern facility in Arlington Heights, IL is beautifully constructed with a memorial/funeral room where you can hold a service for your pet or simply serve as a quiet setting where you can privately say your good byes. Whether you decide to preform the service on your own or with the help of a professional, we offer some suggestions of practices that may be appealing for you to include. An opening word is helpful in some cases giving reassurance to those who are attending. State the purpose of your coming together. While it may be a new experience for some, it is an opportunity for loved ones to comfort one another and give closure as they express their love for the departed.

Lighting a candle is one way to remember your pet. You may choose to say a heartfelt word or allow the beauty and warmth of the flame to speak for itself. The warm flame of the candle is a reminder of the way our pets have warmed our hearts with their presence and love. May they be guided to safety and rest by the light of its flame. It’s power compels us to move forward with courage as we face the future.

Sharing a Memory is a great way to celebrate the life of your pet. It may be a particular event or experinece you shared such as an outing or funny moment. It may be what you will remember most about your pet’s character such as the way he greeted you when you arrived home each day. Our lives are different because of their love and hearing how they have touched the lives of others compounds that love.

Offering a blessing is a way for you to express your faith at a time when you may need it most. Though death is a difficult reality, we find comfort in the promise of life after death. You may ask for God’s peace and strength to be with you and all who are grieving. Knowing that your pet has passed to a joyful place with no more pain is a great blessing and offers the hope of reuniting with him again one day.

Reading a poem or singing a song can be a beautiful and constructive outlet to outwardly express what many are already feeling inside. You may choose to prepare your own words or select the author that you feel best communicates how you feel. One such poem that has provided comfort to grieving pet owners for many years has been The Rainbow Bridge in it’s many variations.In closing, you may decide to pray as well as read an excerpt from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, as is customary at many funeral and memorial services:

3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

A Memorial Service is a tangible way to demonstrate the significance your pet held in your life. When a great companion is laid to rest it is appropriate for those that held him dear to stop and recognize his absence. It is by far the greatest honor that can be given.

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We are always looking to Blog and speak and seek the opinions of people in order to see how we may best come along side pet owners living in the Chicago land and Metropolitan area who may be making preparations for their final moments when it comes to their family pet, I personally have found that most pet owners DO NOT even think about the final moments or after care when it comes to their pet passing on, which is why we here at Family’s Pet Cremation strive to raise awareness through Social Media plug ins and blogging like we are doing right now!! If you have not seen the virtual tour of our facility, please take the time in order to do so it will give you a glimpse into what it is that we offer as a family owned business and pet owners ourselves. We have a private viewing area, pet funeral services and onsite crematoriums that cater to the requests of any and every family pet whether small or large, folks are able to stay here at the facility during cremation being offered cable t.v., free WIFI and refreshments if in fact they want while they wait. Our facility is pet friendly, therefore if you have other family pets in which you would like to bring in order to say good-bye we would invite you to do so, we have even provided tennis balls for pets to play fetch across the way in the open field and then water to cool down. We have always sought to go the extra mile in all aspects for each and every pet as well as pet owner who walks through the doors of our facility. I always tell each and every pet owner who comes to our facility…….every pet has a face here at Family’s Pet Cremation….EVERY pet!! If you are facing a time right now of uncertainty and are unsure about the provisions you have set in place for your pet, we encourage you to please give us a call and we will guide you through in a loving, gentle and compassionate way- we are not one of those companies that just wants to take advantage of your feelings and emotions as well as your finances during a very unfortunate time, we are the family that wants to come along side you and help you to have a pleasant and memorable experience despite the circumstances before you.Building

 

 

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Feeding your dog or cat a raw food diet is more closely related to the primitive diet of their ancestors. Many pet owners are opting to return to this more natural approach to feeding their pet in order to decrease the side effects associated with ingesting processed dry foods. While not all dry foods are created equal, some can contain harmful and unnatural ingredients like grains. Not all grains are bad but some such as corn and wheat are not typical in a wild dog or cat’s diet as they are mainly carnivorous. These grains are not easily digested and can lead to health problems including allergies and obesity. Synthetic chemicals and preservatives are also not meant to be eaten by animals, or humans really, and pet owners are seeking healthy alternatives.

Though their intentions are good, it is important to do some research in order to avoid problems such as dietary deficiencies which can lead to illness and disease. Taking on the task of feeding your dog or cat raw means that you will be responsible for creating the right balance of macro nutrients (protein, fats, and carbs) as well as micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, probiotics, etc).

The four primary components in a balanced nutritional program for your dog or cat should include:

  • Meat, including organs and bones
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamin and mineral complex
  • Beneficial supplements like omega, probiotics, and enzymes

An optimal diet for a canine should contain about 75 percent meat/organs/bones and 25 percent veggies/fruit which closely resembles the GI contents of prey they would be feasting on in the wild. For felines, the ratio is a bit different and should be about 88 percent meat/organs/bones and 12 percent veggies.You are what you eat and your pet is what he ate. This means that the quality of meat is also very important in order for it to be a rich source of nutrition for your pet since you are no longer relying on the synthetically formulated nutrients added to dry food.

Fresh, whole food provides the majority of nutrients pets need. It is important for them to consume the entire animal carcass of small animals of prey such as rabbits and chickens, though they will gladly indulge in beef and veal portions (pork however is not recommended). This is because key nutrients are stored in different parts of the animal carcass from the bones to the muscle and each of the different organs offer a variety of important nutrients. Depending on the quality of the animal, much like with our human diet, a micronutrient vitamin/mineral supplement can help to take care of any deficiencies that do exist. Dog and cat specific formulations are available.

Trouble can arise when any of the four categories are neglected. For example, a meat only diet without bones or organs will be detrimental to your pet’s health and severe nutritional deficiencies will likely occur. Choosing to add supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and probiotics will further enrich your pet’s quality of life by protecting against some allergies, skin, and coat issues, as well as helping maintain gut health.

If you have decided to go au naturel and feed your dog or cat a raw food diet, then do it with excellence. Continue your research in order to develop a meal plan that is nutritionally balanced adding supplementation where necessary. When done right, a raw diet offers immense health benefits and disease prevention, and can save you money on vet bills in the long run. That is an improved quality of life that you will both enjoy.

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As summer approaches here in the mid west, you are not the only one seeking relief. Your pet may be giving you some cues that he needs to cool off as well and panting is a sure sign. But have you ever wondered how this built in cooling system works? Keep reading to find out as well as discover some tips for helping your pet cool off.

Dogs can pant when they are tired and need to catch their breath the same way humans do. They can also pant when they are hot because that is how their bodies cool off whereas humans sweat to cool off.

Have you ever wondered how it all works and why our bodies have such dramatically different ways of arriving at the same outcome?  Well, as humans, we sweat because water locks in heat to carry it away from our bodies. Since there are pores all over our bodies it is an effective means of releasing the excess heat efficiently. By comparison, dogs can seem to be at a disadvantage since their bodies are covered in fur with no pores. The only place where a dog can sweat is on the pads of his feet.

Hence the panting is a dog’s way of releasing the heat through his mouth in order to regulate his body temperature. When a dog opens his mouth and pants, he’s using moisture to release the excess heat as humans do. When he opens his mouth his tongue expands to help push out the hot, moist air.

While panting is a natural and important mechanism of your dog’s body, be aware that certain medical conditions can cause your dog to pant due to being out of breath. This includes heart failure, injuries and respiratory disorders like pneumonia. If your dog is panting more than usual and it is not due to exercise or heat then you may want to get him checked out at the vet to be sure all is well.

An overheated dog is going to pant relentlessly in an attempt to cool down.  While he is doing all he can with his seemingly limited technique, there are some ways you can help. A first step is to bring him into a cooler environment. If outside take him into the shade or indoors, preferably air conditioned. Put your dog directly in front of the air conditioner or a fan if no air conditioning is available. Another option is to give him a cool bath not cold since the dramatic shift in temperature can cause him to go in to shock. Provide cold water for your dog and even some ice cubes which he will enjoy licking and chomping. If you suspect overheating or heatstroke, take him to a vet as soon as possible.

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The Dutch Shepherd is not a commonly sought after breed among typical dog owners. While their unique talents come to life in the fields of police and military work, they are increasing in popularity for their protective nature and loyal disposition.

Known as a “working” dog, the Dutch Shepherd comes in three varieties, long, short, and wire-haired. They tend to be brindle in color or shades of gold and silver. The typical weight of a Dutch Shepherd is 50-70 pounds. They have a life expectancy of 12-15 years. Their bodies are sleek and muscular. They are excellent in areas of agility, catch, obedience competitions, guard work, herding, field trailing and companionship. Their protective nature makes them the ideal guard dog while their love and loyalty allows them to fit in well in a family setting. Maintaining a strong pack leader position is key in keeping this intense dog under control while providing regular opportunities for them to exercise such as daily walks, fetch, biking, and hiking. They tend to do well in all types of weather. Snow or sun they will be up for a run and playing about outdoors.

The Dutch Shepherds are very similar to the Belgian Shepherds. While they differ slightly in size and color, they both originate in the continental herding dogs that also created the German Shepherd around the same time as the Belgian and Dutch Shepherd. The breed evolved in the early 1800s in the southern part of the Netherlands. The Dutch Shepherd is almost unknown outside Holland where it is valued for its ability as a herder and for its quick reflexes. Originally an all-purpose farm guard, herder, cart-puller, guard, police and security dog.

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There are a variety of reasons why your dog may be eating grass. Though it doesn’t seem appetizing for humans, there could be a good reason why your dog is doing this. The key to stopping the unwanted behavior is finding out why your dog chooses to eat this convenient terra firma treat.

Grass is the most commonly eaten plant by dogs, but why? Each dog may have his own unique reason. So, putting an end to this behavior will lie in finding out your dog’s motivation.

Some dogs simply find grass to be a tasty treat. They may be drawn to it out of their natural desire to scavenge for food or it may be meeting a nutritional need that your dog isn’t receiving through his food, such as fiber. Make sure that your dog is receiving a quality and balanced diet with enough fiber.

Dogs have a natural desire to chew on things. Wild dogs eat whole carcasses of small animals and chewing the raw bones is one way they savor their meals while absorbing vital nutrients and cleaning teeth to boot. We can take our dogs out of the wild but we can not take the wild out of our dogs, at least not all of it. Our dogs can become board and seek out stimulation through chewing on things they are not supposed to, like grass. Try giving him some chew toys and bones to provide the entertainment and stimulation that he is seeking as well as maintaining an adequate exercise routine of daily walks and some yard play, such as throwing the ball, to outlet any stored energy.

Some believe that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting when their stomach is upset. This may be the case if he suddenly and anxiously starts eating it and vomits afterward. Studies show this to be in rare cases, less than 25%, with only 10% showing signs of illness before eating the grass. If you believe that your dog is feeling ill then inform your vet since this can be a sign of more serious illness.

Even if your dog doesn’t seem to fit in to any of the above scenarios he may not be a lost cause. As long as there are no dangerous fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides used on the grass then your dog will not be harmed. If you suspect that your dog has ingested grass treated with these toxins then contact your vet immediately or call the ASPCA’s 24/7 Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435.

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Deciding to spay or neuter your pet is one of the most important decisions you will make on behalf of your pet. Some of the benefits of this procedure include reducing unruly behavior, improving pet’s health, as well as reducing the number of homeless pets in the community.

Unfortunately, there are homeless animals within every community of every state in the United States with an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year. Less than half of these animals are adopted leaving the rest to be euthanized. One may think that these homeless animals are simply the offspring of other homeless “street” animals, but in reality, many of these are the puppies and kittens of family pets and even purebreds.

Tragically, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters annually. Spaying and neutering is the only effective method of birth control for dogs and cats.

According to a USA Today (May 7, 2013) article, pets who live in states with the highest rates of spaying and neutering also live the longest. They report that neutered male dogs live 18% longer than un-neutered male dogs and spayed female dogs live 23% longer than un-spayed female dogs.

One reason for their longer life span is the avoidance of dangers that pets in heat encounter. Pets in heat have an increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, getting hit by cars, and other mishaps.

A second contributor to the increased longevity of altered pets is the reduced risk of cancers such as pyrometra (a fatal uterine infection), uterine cancer, and other cancers of the reproductive system. Females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier while males can eliminate their chances of getting testicular cancer and have lowered rates of prostate cancer, as well.

One hesitation that pet owners have is the fear that getting their pets spayed/neutered will change their fundamental personality, like their protective instinct, but professionals say that’s not likely. On the contrary, spaying/neutering your pet may reduce unwanted behaviors while preserving the personality traits of your pet.

Unneutered dogs are much more prone to urine-marking than neutered dogs among both males and females. In males cats, it is best to neuter by 5 months of age, before marking becomes a problem, as ridding your home of the smell is painstakingly difficult. It can also minimize the urge to roam, howling, barking, mounting, and fighting with other males.

There are many low cost spay/neuter clinics which help to cut costs in the long run as you avoid many of the potential health risks of not “fixing” your pet as medical treatments could be in the thousands.

While we can not possibly find a home for each of the millions of pets that are homeless and euthanized each year, we can greatly reduce the amount of homeless pets in our communities by spaying and neutering. Let your friends and family members know how spaying/neutering can save them money as well as save lives and contact your vet today.

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Summer is here! You and your pet may be anxious to get out and have some fun in the sun. Hiking is a great opportunity for enjoying the outdoors and provides a physical challenge to boot. At the same time, there are dangers such as dehydration or losing your pet. If you are planning an outing with your pet be sure to bring some of these essential supplies to keep him happy and safe in the great outdoors.

  • Fresh water and a collapsible bowl
  • Food and treats
  • Current ID tags and a well-fitting collar
  • A sturdy leash for walking or securing your pet to a specific area
  • A proper car restraint like a kennel or seatbelt
  • A bed or blanket to lie on
  • Doggie bags for waste
  • Pad protective booties for rocky/rough terrain, snow, ice, cacti or nettles
  • First aid kit
  • Towel to clean your dog
  • Snake bite kit (if appropriate for your area)
  • Dog sunscreen/hat
  • Doggie backpack for sharing the load. Use only if your dog is used to doing this.

Evaluate the level of difficulty of the hike or excursion you are preparing for. You may be able to handle it, but what about your pet? You may need to start off on smaller hikes of lesser difficulty or shorter distance to start. As your pet completes these challenges he will be ready to take on more challenging ones.

Adding a doggie backpack offers more challenge to your pooch while giving him a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. The key is starting off with a lighter load and increasing it over time as he becomes conditioned.

Consider that there might be elevation changes on some trails. Be sure that dogs are allowed on the trails you plan to hike and take note of the nearest emergency veterinary clinic in the area.

It is important to stop frequently and offer your dog water throughout your hike. Don’t feed your dog a large meal before a hike instead, feed a portion of his/her meal and supplement treats throughout the hike.

Don’t forget to check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is up-to-date on his/her vaccines, as well as flea and tick preventives, and properly microchipped before you head out on a trip.

You never know what your pet can pick up in the great outdoors. Many parasites and viruses are shared by wild animals, such as distemper, lepto, intestinal worms, fleas and ticks.

Also, avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day and keep walks to a reasonable pace and distance. Watch for signs of overexertion, such as excessive panting, drooling, weakness or bright red gums. Also look out for hypothermia, frost-nip, injury to paw pads, lameness and exhaustion.

While on the trail remember to:

  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times while hiking
  • Steer clear of poison ivy, oak and sumac (look for leaves of three-and let them be!)
  • Stay away from snakes, porcupines, bears, mountain lions and coyotes
  • Allow time for frequent rest and water breaks, preferably in the shade
  • After the hike, check for fleas and ticks

In general, sporting, herding and working dogs are good hiking breeds. This includes: Beagles, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Golden/Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Huskies, Malamutes, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds.

With a little planning, hiking can be a rewarding experience for both you and your dog to spend quality time together and build a stronger bond of trust.

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