In our last article, we talked about the health benefits of berries for our canine companions. Now that the garden season is in full force and farmers’ markets are popping up on every corner, we thought it would be great to discuss what vegetables are considered to not only be safe for your pups, but are also serve as beneficially healthy alternatives to those overly processed store bought treats.
As we plot out our gardens, here are some of the vegetables we ensure we make extra room for so that we can share with our fur-kids:
Our girls LOVE carrots! While I am sure they enjoy the taste of carrots, I personally think they enjoy the crunchiness even more. Not only are carrots a low calorie snack, but they are also a great source of fiber and vitamin A. Furthermore, the crunchy texture can also help to support healthy teeth and gums.
Another staple in our garden is celery, which is the perfect low-fat, low-calorie snack for all of our waistlines (humans and canines alike)! Celery provides a number of essential nutrients and vitamins including vitamins A, C, and K; folate; potassium; and manganese. Furthermore, it is an excellent source of fiber. It can pose as a choking hazard, so we recommend cutting it up in smaller pieces to avoid this from occurring.
While cucumbers may not offer a ton of beneficial nutrients to your canine companion, they do offer a healthy low calorie, non-fat treat option with a satisfying crunch. We like to use cucumbers as an alternative training treat on especially hot days as their high water content can help keep your pup hydrated while they are working hard to keep up with you on that afternoon walk.
I consider green beans to be a “super treat” for our dogs. They are not only full of fiber and low in calories, but they are also loaded with beneficial nutrients such such as iron, calcium, protein, and vitamins B6, A, C, and K. It is important to note that while all green beans (chopped, steamed, raw, or frozen) are good for our canine friends, they should be served plain (no added salt or spices.)
If our dogs could talk, they would tell you their favorite season is Fall. Why is that? Well, that is the time of year when we harvest the pumpkins and those are their most favorite vegetable of all! Pumpkin is high in fiber, low in fat and cholesterol, and loaded with beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and vitamins A and C. Furthermore, it’s high fiber content has been proven to be beneficial to your pet’s digestive tract. One tip though: if using canned pumpkin, please be sure that it is pumpkin puree and NOT canned pumpkin pie. For ideas on how to serve up this tasty treat for your pup, check out our pumpkin treat recipe we shared in a prior article!
As with all things, even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. So, be cautious of over-feeding your pup with any kind of treat, including any of these healthy options.
Till next time, “Keep Calm and Hug your Labrador!”
It is spring, right? Although it may still feel like winter throughout much of the country, the calendar says that it is, in fact, spring, so that means here at the farm we are gearing up for another busy garden season. The seedlings are growing strong, the flowers are all peaking through the ground, and the buds on the trees are ready to burst open…if only the weather would cooperate.
Like every year at this time, when plotting out the garden, I always take into consideration what fruits and vegetables are suitable for providing healthy snack options for our canine kids. We spend a lot of our day training for the show ring and field, so having a variety of low-fat, low-sugar treats helps to not only to keep their waistlines trim, but also to hold their attention.
Since we are headed into berry season, here is the low-down on our two favorite berry treats we enjoy sharing with our canine friends:
We grow our blueberries in containers located in a sunny spot right outside the kennel. The easy access is perfect for that quick need to reward a good behavior, though I will be honest and say I have also caught one of the girls helping herself to a blueberry or two! But that is okay, as these “superfoods” are not just good for humans, but they also provide an array of healthy benefits for our pooches. In fact, you will find a number of health conscious dog food companies, such as Life’s Abundance, who include blueberries in their food and treat products. Why are they so healthy? Well, to start with, they provide a plethora of vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, all of which help boost your pup’s immunity, strengthens his brain, and helps to fight off cancer.
Another staple in our garden is strawberries. Like blueberries, these sweet treats contain antioxidants, plenty of vitamin C and fiber, and even contain an enzyme that helps to whiten your pup’s teeth. Strawberries are also a great source of folate, potassium, and manganese, all of which support the immune system, help muscles to function normally, and fight cellular damage.
I am often asked about feeding raspberries to our dogs. Similar to blueberries and strawberries, raspberries can be a healthy snack option for your pup; however, we caution you to exercise moderation when rewarding your furry friend with this sweet treat. While raspberries are a great source of vitamin C, K, B-complex, antioxidants, and fiber, they also contain high amounts of naturally occurring xylitol, which is considered to be very toxic to dogs. As with all things, even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. So, be cautious of over-feeding your pup with any kind of treat, including any of these healthy berries.
Till next time, “Keep Calm and Hug your Labrador!”
Whether you have a lifetime of experience raising Labradors or are planning to adopt your first furry friend, it is always helpful to have resources to turn to when struggling with anything from behavior issues and nutrition questions, to looking for helpful tips on training and appropriate exercises to help keep your pet healthy.
Over the years, I have researched and collected a number of resources to help guide me in the process of raising our Labradors. Below is a list I have complied to help make it easier for you to access these resources when in need for general answers:
Health and Nutrition
The American Kennel Club - The AKC is a great resource for all things dog related. Visit this link to access a number of articles related to your Labrador’s nutritional needs. If you have questions about their general health, you can visit this link to access articles covering a wide variety of topics for all canine life stages.
Dog Food Advisor - This is a great site to refer to when considering what to feed your canine friend. The organization has researched over 4,500 dog food products and offers unbiased reviews and ratings on each of them. You can also sign up to be alerted of any and all dog food product recalls.
Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. 4th Edition, 2007, written by Debra Eldredge, DVM, and Delbert G. Carlson, DVM. This is an excellent resource for general health conditions. While we always depend on our veterinarians for the care of our Labradors, we find that this to be an indispensable resource when caring for our Labradors.
Exercise and Training
The Labrador Site - We love this website as it is specific to raising and training the Labrador Retriever. There are hundreds of articles that cover everything from basic training tips to behavior modification. Also, you can find a number of product reviews on items such as dog beds, toys, grooming tools, and books. Definitely a site worth “bookmarking”.
Labrador Training HQ - An excellent resource for all things related to the Labrador Retriever, especially when it comes to training your Labrador.
Whole Dog Journal - Although not Labrador specific, this website has numerous articles covering topics related to training and behavior modification.
While there are a number of other resources available out there on the web, we have found these to be our most valuable source of information. Of course, having a good relationship with your veterinary office is extremely important, as they too are an excellent resource for all things related to the care of your furry companion.
Be Calm and Hug Your Labrador
As a professional dog breeder and trainer, I am regularly fielding through a numerous questions about how to keep pets healthy with the overwhelming increase of viruses and illnesses impacting the canine community. While the complexity of the issue is frightening, there are a few steps you can take at home in order to help keep your pet healthy during these challenging times:
Second to regular wellness exams, your pet’s diet is the most important step you can take to ensuring his health and well-being. Here at the farm, we feed all of our dogs Life’s Abundance All Life Stages Dog Food. We take a holistic approach to raising our Labrador Retrievers. One of the ways we do this is by ensuring that our dogs are getting the nutrition they need to live a happy and healthy life. This is why we have shied away from commercial pet food brands, preferring homegrown and reliable businesses that care about the product they are creating, and the beloved pets that are consuming it. Life’s Abundance All Life Stages Dog Food not only provides your dog with the essential vitamins and nutrients necessary for long term health, but also contains important pre and probiotics that aid in your dog’s overall GI health and digestion. These key ingredients, including several other needed vitamins, also support your dog’s overall immune system.
To learn more about the importance of canine diet and nutrition, check out our blog series on Dog Nutrition.
Even the very best brands in the canine dry kibble category fall short of providing all of the essential vitamins and nutrients necessary for canine well-being; therefore, at Ashling Place, we complement their diets with Life’s Abundance Wellness Supplement. What we like most about this supplement is that all of the nutrients are sourced from real foods such as chicken liver, cranberries, carrots, eggs, pineapples and several others.
Aching and stiff joints are just as much a part of life for aging dogs as it is for humans. To help provide support for overall joint and connective tissue health, we give our senior dogs Life’s Abundance Agility Formula. This supplement not only helps to maintain healthy joint cartilage and connective tissue, it also aids in the production of healthy synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints. It also features Glucosamine, MSM, sea mussels and hyaluronic acid.
It is our strong belief that overall canine health begins and ends in the GI tract, which is why we supplement our dogs’ diets with Nusentia’s Miracle Enzyme and Miracle Probiotic. Oftentimes, illnesses can be traced back to the imbalance of “good” vs. “bad” bacteria in the intestines. Usually referred to as "good bacteria", probiotics helps to support a healthy immune system and digestive system. Adding the Enzymes to the mix helps during the digestion of their processed food and helps to support a healthy environment in the digestive tract so that the probiotics can do their thing. This duo is especially helpful with pets who may be suffering from mild food intolerances and allergies.
Arming our pets with the proper nutrition, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, is an important step in helping them prevent and fight off illness. If you have any questions about these products, please don’t hesitate to contact us any time. Also, if you are interested in completing a complimentary wellness survey on your pet, please contact us by clicking here.
With the influx of dog food recalls, I cannot help but be wary of any pet food product found on the shelves at the local pet supplies stores. My concern is not just with the dog food, but also with the treats. After scanning the ingredients list of several brands, I was alarmed at the number of ingredients that are not only unidentifiable, but also contain wheat, corn, gluten, and soy - all ingredients that are commonly connected to food allergies in dogs. Furthermore, have you ever looked at the treat aisle, packed with hundreds of varieties of treats, and wondered how long they have actually sat on those shelves? How fresh could they actually be? Taste aside, would you even consider eating those treats without knowing how fresh they are? I am guessing the answer is no, so why would you think about feeding them to your best pet-friend?
I feel the same way as you, which is why I am constantly looking for recipes to make yummy treats at home. You can find a number of excellent recipes on Pinterest, many of which I have tried at home and have been dog approved by the “girls”. Additionally, I have tried to come up with some tasty creations of my own.
I already shared with you the dog-house favorite: Pumpkin Cookies. Now, I am excited to share with you another recipe that is not only easy to make, but also quite popular with my quality control team…
Peanut Butter Press Cookies
1 ½ cups Oat Flour
1 ½ cups Brown Rice Flour
½ cup All Natural Peanut Butter (no sugar added…I like to use Krema Nut)
½ cup water
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Combine all the ingredients into one bowl, mixing thoroughly.
4. Roll dough into 1” balls and place on lined cookie sheet. You may place them close together as these will not spread out while baking.
5. Using a fork, press down on each ball to slightly flatten out.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and hard when pressed.
7. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving to your pups.
**These can be stored in an airtight doggie treat container.
***As with all of my recipes, I like to use organic ingredients whenever possible.
The best thing about these cookies is that you can take comfort in knowing that you are feeding your canine companion a healthy, preservative-free treat that he or she will thoroughly enjoy!
Choosing the right food for our pets is a serious decision. Because our pets eat the same food every day for their entire life, it is critical to understand whether or not the food we decide to feed them is providing them with the necessary nutrients and vitamins that they need for a long and healthy life. Furthermore, identifying potentially harmful ingredients is essential in preventing long-term illness and disease.
The first step in keeping informed about canine nutrition is to know where to find unbiased information. Fortunately, there are a few websites that you can refer to that provide a wealth of insight into dog nutrition, pet food recalls, and food ratings. Two invaluable sights are:
www.dogfoodadvisor.com - An informational sight that provides unbiased dog food evaluations and ratings, analysis of brand specific ingredients, and up-to-date dog food recalls. You can sign up for free to receive instant notification of all dog food recalls.
www.dogfoodproject.com - An informational sight that provides research based information on canine nutrition and how to read and understand the good, the bad and the ugly of dog food labels and ingredients. Furthermore, you can find current information on dog food recalls and class action lawsuits related to recalls.
There is not one perfect dog food out there; however, if you can determine the difference between the good and the not-so-good, you are one step closer to making one of the most important decisions on your dog’s health and well-being. Understanding the label is the fist step, but also being aware of the brand’s manufacturing methods, storage procedures, and shelf-life is just as critical. While the ingredients in one brand may look similar to another, how it is prepared and stored can mean the difference between a nutritious vs. non-nutritious food. The fist step in responsible pet ownership is taking responsibility for their health needs, which includes proper nutrition, so please, take the time to understand what’s in your pet’s food.
If you are interested in completing a free Canine Wellness Assessment, please contact me by clicking here to make your request.
In our first segment on Dog Nutrition, we talked about the essential nutrients that should be present in a quality dog food. In part two, we offered insight into the ingredients that could be lurking in your pet’s food that are not always identifiable simply by reading the label. Today, we will review commonly used ingredients that should really should NOT be in your pet food.
Additives such as Glyceryl Monostearate, Phosphoric Acid, and Propylene Glycol are often found in poor quality pet foods and should be avoided. These ingredients are unnecessary and in some cases can be toxic if consumed in large amounts. These chemicals should not be present in a food that your pet is eating on a daily basis.
Inexpensive fillers such as corn gluten meal and wheat gluten, while not necessarily harmful (though there is an alarming increase in gluten intolerance amongst our canine friends), offers virtually no nutritional value to your pet. What exactly is "gluten"? Well, it’s an inexpensive human by-product of what's leftover from various grains like wheat, barley, and rye. What's left is a "rubbery protein residue" known as gluten.(www.dogfoodadvisor.com). Unfortunately, there are a number of pet food manufacturers that use this as a cheap protein replacement to inflate the protein percentage noted on the label - remember, not all proteins are created equal. If you see these ingredients listed anywhere, you should question the nutritional value of the food you are feeding your beloved pet.
Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates/Fiber:
Similar to protein, not all grains are created equal when it comes to their nutritional value. Human food by-products such as brewer's rice, oat hulls, corn cobs, wheat middlings, grain fragments, and other cereal fines are inexpensive, low quality carbohydrate substitutes considered unfit for human consumption. Sadly, you will find these ingredients in many of the dog foods not only sold in the big box commercial pet food stores, but also in some over-priced prescription foods found on the shelves of many veterinarians' offices.
Various sugars and sweeteners are sometimes added to your pet's food as a way to improve the flavor, while also masking the bitter taste of some less desirable ingredients. Sugar comes in various forms ranging from natural sugars like honey and molasses to processed sources such as sorbitol and corn syrup. Even the controversial beet pulp ingredient, touted as a digestive aid, is made from sugar beets, adding to the total amount of sugar present in your pet’s food. Our canine friends suffer from sugar addictions just as we do, and feeding them a food high in sugar can lead to the same health issues that humans face when consuming with too much added sugar. Obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and allergies are just a few examples of the growing list of health concerns connected to this unnecessary ingredient found in a number of pet foods.
Perhaps the most alarming of ingredients that may be present in your pet food are the use of artificial preservatives such as ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). BHA and BHT are banned in many countries for human use, yet are still permitted in the U.S. and often used in pet food to preserve fats and oils for extended shelf life. Government directed studies have shown the use of these artificial preservatives to be human carcinogens "based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals" (National Toxicology Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). If these preservatives allow the food to have an unnaturally long shelf life, what do you think they could be doing to your pet's digestive system?
The list of potentially harmful, or at best, unnecessary, ingredients commonly found in pet foods goes on and on. I encourage you to do your research so you can find comfort in knowing that the food you have chosen to feed your pets on a daily basis is providing them with the necessary nutrients they need to live a long and healthy life. They trust us unconditionally...let's make sure we are giving them the best of what they deserve!
Association of American Feed Control Officials, www.aafco.org
Dog Food Advisor, www.dogfoodadvisor.com
National Toxicology Program, US Department of Health and Human Services, www.ntp.niehs.nih.gov
The Dog Food Project, www.dogfoodproject.com
In our first segment on dog nutrition, we talked about the essential nutrients you want to ensure are part of your dog's daily diet. Though it is important to read the labels on the packaging of the food you decide to use, you should realize that the list of ingredients won’t tell you everything about the contents inside the bag.
What you won’t see on the list of ingredients are possible contaminants such as salmonella, pesticides, herbicides, and even ethoxyquin, which is commonly used to preserve fish meal products before the company buys it.
Understanding Protein Content:
The label may claim high quality protein, but what does that mean? Understanding the difference between the various types of protein that could be present in your pets’ food is critical. There is a significant difference in the nutritional value between a “meat” meal and a “meat” or “animal” by-product. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell from the label what percentage of the protein meal actually consists of meat versus bone meal, ligaments and tendons.
Cooking times and temperatures are a critical component of creating a nutritious food for your pet. With many of the commercial brand foods, where food is produced in mass quantities, as much as 50% of the nutrients and vitamins are lost before the food is even packaged. While the initial ingredients procured may contain key nutrients, many of them are lost due to over processing and extended storage length.
Storage and Shelf-Life:
While the label may contain an extensive list of key nutrients and essential vitamins, what it doesn’t tell you is how long the food has been sitting in a warehouse before you finally feed it to your pet. Many large market products have been stored in warehouses for extended periods of time before it enters your home. Over time, vitamins and minerals begin to deteriorate, food can become stale, and any probiotics that are sensitive to air and temperature changes will die off and become ineffective at promoting immunity health.
Of course it is important to read the labels and list of ingredients noted on the packaging of your pets’ food. This is the first step in becoming an educated pet-parent when it comes to pet nutrition. However, don’t fall victim to the labeling gimmicks. If you want to take the extra step to ensure that the food you choose is providing the best nutrition for your pet, contact the company directly and ask them about their processing procedures, storage guidelines, and their guiding principles for testing the nutritional value of the finished product. Any company that truly cares about the health and well-being of your pet will take the time to talk to you about the steps they are taking to ensure your pet leads a long, healthy life.
There is no question that we all want to believe that the food we are feeding our furry friends provides them with all the essential nutrients necessary for a long, healthy life. With so many options out there, how do we really know what is the most nutritious food for your pet? While there is no one food that can claim to be the “best” food out there, there are some things that we can do to ensure that we are informed about the food we do choose to feed our companion pets.
All of our dogs have unique dietary needs and to ensure that these needs are being met, you will want to ensure that the food you are serving them includes all of the following: a diverse selection of high-quality proteins; healthy species-specific animal fat; a guaranteed amount of the antioxidant Vitamins A, C and E; a guaranteed amount of omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3’s should be scientifically balanced with omega-6 fatty acids to ensure optimal benefit); prebiotics; a guaranteed amount of probiotics; an array of vegetables; and fruits. Additionally, to minimize health risks, the food should not contain any wheat or wheat gluten or corn or corn gluten-based.
Why are all of these ingredients important for your dog’s nutrition?
Diverse Selection of High-Quality Proteins: All proteins are not created equal, therefore all dog foods should contain at least three different protein sources to ensure a wide array of amino acids, which are the body’s “building blocks.”
Healthy Species-Specific Animal Fat: While vegetable oil may sound healthier to us humans, dogs need nutrients only found in animal fats. Make sure the listed animal fat source is species-specific like "chicken fat", and not generic like "animal fat”.
Antioxidants (Vitamins A, C and E): Antioxidants are essential to promoting and maintaining good health. Vitamins A, C and E are some of the most effective antioxidants and evidence supports the food we feed our dogs should include a guaranteed amount to ensure the adequate antioxidant intake necessary for wellness.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s are some of the most extensively researched, naturally occurring, nutritional ingredients in the world. Dog foods should feature a guaranteed amount Omega-3 Fatty Acids that are scientifically balanced with Omega-6 fatty acids for optimal benefit. A perfect balance will support healthy skin, shiny coats and help maintain overall health.
Prebiotics: Non-digestible ingredients that promote the growth of "healthy" and "friendly" bacteria in the digestive system. Similar to vitamins and minerals, prebiotics occur naturally in foods.
Probiotics: Often referred to as "friendly bacteria" or "healthy microorganisms", probiotics support a healthy immune system and digestive system. For this reason your dog's food should feature guaranteed amounts of probiotics.
Vegetables: Dog food should contain a variety of vegetables such as carrots, beets, celery, parsley, spinach, watercress and broccoli because they each have a unique, health promoting properties. The skin and flesh of each contain vital nutrients, including phytonutrients, essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Fruits: Fruits such as blueberries and pomegranate should be part of your dog's food. Similar to vegetables, the skin and flesh of each contain a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
What your dog food should NOT contain is grains like corn, wheat or gluten. These are used as inexpensive and inferior sources of protein and are highly susceptible to toxic mold contamination, leading to significant health risks.
What I hope you take away from this is the importance of reading the nutritional labels on the food you give to your fur-kid. A nutritional food will not have any unidentifiable meat ingredients or generic animal fats, and will contain significant amounts of meat-based protein. It will be free of artificial colors, fillers, and controversial preservatives. Furthermore, it will provide a guaranteed amount of essential nutrients that help to promote a healthy immune system, a healthy digestive system, and a healthy skin and coat.
Since your dog eats the same food every day, the brand you choose to feed is the most important decision you can make as a pet parent. The food you feed is your pet’s primary source of nutrition, so ensuring that you choose a superior dog food can help to promote a solid nutritional foundation, which can help to foster a long and healthy life.
Here at Ashling Place, we strive to live a healthy life by eating healthy and keeping physically active. This philosophy does not just apply to the humans in our household, but also our dogs. We care deeply about the health of our furry friends and in addition to giving them plenty of time for chasing tennis balls and swimming in the lake, we also strive to ensure that they are receiving the most nutrition out of the food they eat.
As Labrador breeders, we had to make a critical choice in foods when considering the specific dietary needs of our breed. Labs are very sensitive to various food allergies, so it’s very important that we save our clients and their pets from suffering the heartbreak of a sub-par diet that may plague their new family member with a multitude of health issues including allergies and GI issues.
There are a number of brands available and it can be overwhelming when trying to find the best food for your favorite companion. With companies merging and all the pet food recalls, how do you know what is best? We understand your challenge, and after researching a number of brands, looking at all the options, we feel we have finally found the right food that we can trust and feel confident in feeding to our dogs.
With veterinarian Dr. Jane Bicks as the pet product formulator, Life’s Abundance was founded almost 20 years ago. Life’s Abundance Grain Free All Life Stage Dog Food is not only grain-free, but it also contains important pre and probiotics that aid in your dog’s overall GI health and digestion. These key ingredients, including several other needed vitamins, also support your dog’s overall immune system. This food is one of only two I know of that have never had a recall, nor stooped to using the latest cheap ingredients as so many other premium kibbles have in the past couple of years.
We believe so strongly in LIfe's Abundance that I am now a Field Representative for them. If you care about ensuring your pet-kids are getting all the important nutrients they need, or if you are interested in taking a Wellness Assessment for your furry companion, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.