Obesity in Pets


Obesity in Pets | As owners go, so go their pets. The obesity epidemic began in the US in the 1980s, with a dramatic increase noted over the last decade. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 40% of all adults over the age of 20 in the U.S. are currently classified as obese. This trend is directly mirrored in the pet population.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs classified as overweight or obese. Just as obesity plays a key factor in your overall health and wellness, your obese pet is also at risk from a multitude of diseases and health concerns.

What does obesity mean for your pet?

Obesity in dogs and cats is a serious medical condition. In fact, it is one of the most common medical conditions diagnosed on routine physical examination. In general, obese pets are more at risk in surgery, more prone to injury, and have more stress on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and joints. They are more prone to breathing issues and cardiovascular dysfunction. Excessive body weight can worsen osteoarthritis, can cause respiratory problems in hot weather and during exercise, increase heat intolerance, lead to type 2 diabetes, and generally lessen the quality of life for your pet. In several studies, dogs with a healthy body weight had a mean lifespan of nearly two years longer, as well as delayed onset of many chronic diseases commonly seen in the aging pet.

How can I help my pet reach a healthy body weight?

The weight loss process in dogs is no different than in people, which is why they are a perfect partner for a weight loss and fitness program. Diet and exercise are the key to reaching and maintaining a successful body weight/condition for both you and your pet. Learning to make smart decisions in feeding our pets, including choice, portion, and treats is an important first step in the weight loss program. As a general rule, treats should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie requirements. For instance, if Fido’s recommended calorie consumption is 500 calories per day, only 50 calories should come from treats. Pets are not people and, as such, do not have the same emotional attachments to food. It is important to remember this and to change the ways in which we show affection to our pets.

One of the best ways to show affection to your pet is through a walk, tossing the ball, or a chase session with the laser pointer. Remember, you control your pet’s diet exclusively and are solely responsible for their weight loss success. There are no late-night refrigerator raids for your pooch; they only consume what you offer. Making smarter decisions for our pet can increase longevity and improve their overall quality of life.

Dr Kari Nugent is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian for sixteen years.  She owns Unleashed Pet Care, a quaint companion animal clinic located in Westland Michigan.

Exercise Tips


Exercise Tips | If your pup is part of your 2020 fitness goals, it’s important to start off on the right foot with any an exercise program. Just like people who aren’t used to a strenuous exercise routine, dogs should start off slow. The first step when making your fuzzy buddy your exercise partner is an evaluation by your veterinarian.

It is important to check for signs of arthritis, musculoskeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, etc., prior to starting any workout program with your pet. Dogs with inflamed joints or ligaments may need to start with a low impact exercise program, such as swimming or walking on an underwater treadmill.

If your pooch gets a clear bill of health, start with moderately paced walking or swimming. These activities allow canine athletes to build their cardiovascular and muscle strength without putting too much stress on their joints. A daily 10 to 15 minute walk or swim is a good start, building gradually depending on how your pup is doing. If he is doing well and can handle long, fast paced walks, he can graduate to jogging with you. Keep in mind that if your dog is still growing, it is best to wait to start a strenuous exercise program until his growth plates are closed.

Below are a few precautions when exercising with your furry pal:

  • Avoid overdoing it. You are working too hard if you can’t speak comfortably. Your dog may be overdoing it if he is breathing fast, panting excessively, staggering, or refusing to follow. If your pup wants to stop, let him. Dogs that overdo it can suffer from heat exhaustion, strained tendons, ligaments, or other orthopedic problems.
  • Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. Working out in hot, humid weather can lead to heat exhaustion for both you and your pup. Schedule your workouts in the morning before the temperatures soar. Always have fresh water with you and a collapsible bowl for your dog. Watch for desperate panting, stumbling or staggering, difficulty breathing, collapse, etc. Again, if your pup wants to stop, let him. Take frequent water breaks.
  • Protect those paws! Long walks on rough surfaces can damage paws. Start slowly to allow your dog to develop thicker, tougher pads. If it’s hot avoid asphalt or sand as these may burn your pup’s pads. On those cold, snowy days, be sure to check for ice build-up. If you will be hiking or walking on rough terrain, you may want to invest in a sturdy set of boots for your dog.
  • Always, safety first. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when you run, hike, or walk. Even the best-trained dogs can run into the path of a car, a territorial animal, or a number of other dangers. While your dog may be friendly to everyone, remember that not everyone’s dog is. If you will be walking or running when it’s dark, put reflective garb on your pet, as well as yourself.

Take it easy in extreme weather. If it’s freezing cold or hot and steamy, either keep your workout light and short or play indoors.

Dr Kari Nugent is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian for sixteen years.  She owns Unleashed Pet Care, a quaint companion animal clinic located in Westland Michigan.

Cruisin’ for Snacks


Cruisin’ for Snacks! Cruise ship vacations are notorious for their boundless buffet offerings, around the clock food availability…and inevitable weight gain from the 24 hour indulging. To our dogs, we are the esteemed chefs presenting delicious delicacies for their around the clock indulgence.

As the chefs, it is our job to make sure we regulate the buffet line and incorporate both healthy meals and tasty nutritious snacks over the course of the day. For most dogs over a year old, feeding twice a day (normally morning and evening) and providing some snack times in between meals helps create a routine dogs crave. You can also use these times to reinforce training, teach new behaviors, and build the bond between you and your hungry diner. When feeding your dog his breakfast or dinner, have him sit and stay until you put the bowl on the floor and release him. If you walk past the counter and decide he needs a snack, have him shake or a give a high five to show his appreciation of the tastiness to come.

Our role as chefs also includes a bit of nutrition management, as it is our responsibility not only to regulate the quality of what we are “cooking”, but the quantity served. Just like cruise patrons, our pups are perfectly willing to devour mass quantities of any cuisine we provide.

Although there is no definitive amount of treats you should give, we do need to be aware of the caloric value of snacks during the course of the day and adjust snacking and mealtime quantities accordingly. Just like cruise ship vacationers, mindless 24 hour snacking and eating can result in some unwanted extra pounds.

Relax and enjoy spoiling your pup with some healthy treats every day, however don’t let them talk you into daily buffet-style binge sessions. By using a bit of moderation, this is one vacation that doesn’t have to end.

—Kim P.
Canine behavior coach, behavior advisor, training counselor.

If your pup is cruisin’ for snacks, treat them today!

Easing into the Golden Years – Enhancing the Life of Your Senior Dog


Easing into the Golden Years: Although we can’t stop time slipping away, there are several things we can do to help our furry family members age a bit more like Betty White than Keith Richards.

Determining when your dog is ready for her AARP card depends to some extent on her size. Larger dogs tend to have shorter life spans than smaller ones, so a Newfoundland would be considered a senior around age 7, where as a Chihuahua wouldn’t reach golden status until closer to age 10.

As she gets older, moving to twice per year wellness checks can help keep your dog active, comfortable and healthy as possible. Discuss having a full blood work panel performed. Not only can it provide an early warning to potential problems now, but it will serve as a baseline for the years to come. Your vet can compare future blood work against it, making changes easier to spot and address early.

There are a variety of holistic treatments, vitamins, and herbal remedies, as well as prescription medications that can address some of the challenges aging throws our way, such as arthritis. Besides downward dog pose, dogs are rarely good at yoga however they may benefit from other options we use such as massage, acupuncture or physical therapy. Always work with a veterinarian or certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist when utilizing supplements, medications, or treatments.

Additional options to help with mobility and fall prevention are non-slip treads on stairs, orthopedic beds, and stairs or ramps to get on/off furniture or in/out of vehicles.

Quality food and treats, exercise, and mental stimulation are still important in the golden years, but just like us, dogs’ abilities and needs change as they get older. You may need to switch or cut back on food, feed smaller portions more frequently, change the intensity, type, or duration of exercise. Daily exercise keeps both us and our dogs mentally engaged as well as physically active, however she may need to adjust the 5-mile run you always took with her down to a 3-mile walk.

Being able to communicate with your dog is important at any age. When I am instructing my students, I teach both hand signals and voice commands. This is due in part to how dogs learn, but it can also be beneficial later in life. Should your dog lose one sense, such as hearing, you still have the ability to communicate her via hand signals.

Even though becoming a senior doesn’t get your dog great perks like free coffee at McDonald’s or early bird dinner specials at the local diner, she can still enjoy an active and comfortable life throughout her golden years.

—Kim P.
Canine behavior coach, behavior advisor, training counselor.

The Mealtime Mystery – Solving the Case of Food Sensitivities


The Mealtime Mystery: Sherlock Holmes notices how seeming unrelated events are actually intertwined, and ultimately solves the mystery. Usually the culprit is the character who appeared to be the most innocent.

Sometimes with our dogs, we need to channel our inner Sherlock. Some clues being presented are recurrent skin or ear infections, chewing at her feet, missing areas of fur, potty issues, or very bad! These seemingly unrelated events potentially point to an apparently innocent culprit…food.

True food allergies in dogs are rare, but food intolerance or sensitivities are on the rise. Common offenders tend to be protein sources, with chicken, eggs, and dairy being at the top of the list.

Seeing your veterinarian is the first step in addressing potential food intolerance. Although currently no reliable tests for food allergies exist, you want to rule out other troublemakers such as a parasite, virus, or infection.

Once you’re sure some sort of alien invader isn’t the problem, the next step is to make a diet change, including both food AND treats. Make sure to remove all traces of the item(s) you believe to be the culprit. You want to switch to a protein source your dog hasn’t been exposed to previously. Lamb and Turkey are common alternatives, but there are many options, including venison, bison, salmon, or even kangaroo!

Investigate food labels carefully, confirming there is no mention whatsoever of the item(s) you are trying to avoid. For example, some foods and treats may have salmon as the primary protein source but also utilize chicken meal in smaller portions. If chicken is the issue, even this small amount could trigger a reaction.

Confirm everyone who comes into contact with your dog is aware of the importance of feeding her only the “approved” food and treats. Of course everyone wants to spoil her with “just a little taste” of some contraband occasionally, but it’s important to keep her away from the things you think may be triggering her symptoms, especially during the initial switch.

It can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks after you make dietary changes to see a noticeable decline in the symptoms. By utilizing your keen powers of observation, the assistance of your vet, and making dietary changes, solving the mystery of a food sensitivity can my quite elementary.

—Kim P.
Canine behavior coach, behavior advisor, training counselor.

Holiday Pet Safety Tips


Photo found via Pinterest

The holidays are fast approaching!
It can be quite a joyful experience gathering loved ones to enjoy the holidays together as a family—indulging in family recipes and carrying out traditions. As much as it can be the “most wonderful time” of the year, it can however be very stressful for our pets. Keep your pets healthy and safe with the following holiday tips:

Keep a Regular Routine
Pets can be extremely sensitive to sudden change. It is important to keep your pets on a regular schedule to reduce unnecessary stress. With all the different holiday plans, company, and/or travel, be sure to maintain scheduled feedings, walks, exercise and play sessions.

Avoid hazardous holiday trappings
While the Christmas trees are up and decorated, it is important that we pay close attention to our dog’s surroundings. Make sure your Christmas tree is very sturdy; pets tend to explore and may try to climb the tree—which can cause it to tip over and possibly cause an injury!
It is recommended to keep pets away from tinsel, popcorn strands, ribbon, string, and other wrapping accessories as serious injury, even death can occur if it is ingested.
Also, please consider using electrical cord containers for excess cords illuminating those festive holiday lights. Pets may chew on electrical cords when we’re not looking, which can cause electrocution. You can even run cords them through PVC to prevent any electrical accidents.

Avoid giving your pets holiday foods
Keep your food and other people’s food away from your pet. Those holiday cookies may look delicious, and your dog may be begging, but don’t give in! Avoid giving your pet any chocolate, baked goods, turkey (including the skin), yeast dough and table scraps. If you want to include your pet in the holiday food festivities, make or buy treats formulated just for them. (Happy Howie’s is a great option…)

Enforce positive training with Happy Howie’s
Happy Howie’s dog treats are a great training tool to help keep your pet calm during the holidays, especially with busy traffic in and out of your home. With Thanksgiving less than a week away, we would recommend our Turkey Premium Meat Rolls. Our meat rolls are the trainer-preferred treats throughout the country—slice it, dice it, break it or freeze it! Order here and your dog can enjoy some turkey (or beef or lamb if you prefer) too!

For more holiday pet advice, visit:

Dangers of Halloween Candy

hh-october-blogPhoto found via Pinterest

Dangers of Halloween Candy – Halloween can be a fun event for your family and pets. It’s a time to dress your children, pets, and even yourself up in creative costumes! With all the commotion of trick-or-treating and indulging in our favorite candy, it is important we take the time to make sure our pets are safe.

We all know pets have just as big of a sweet tooth as their owners but be sure your pets avoid consuming Halloween candy this October. Avoid the dangers of giving your pets gum, mints, baked goods, and chocolate containing the “sugar-free” sweetener xylitol which is potentially very poisonous.

It is important that we try healthier alternatives for dog treats such a Happy Howies! Our all natural dog treats do not contain any corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, artificial colors or artificial preservatives. Eating healthy natural treats can help promote nutritional boost, reduce excessive weight gain and can help prevent disease and illness after consuming over a lifetime!

Fall Pet Health Tips

Photo source via pinterest

Fall is near—literally, this weekend! Let us help keep your dogs healthy and happy this season with some Fall health tips from Pet Health Network:

Watch out for those nasty ticks
Just because Fall brings colder weather, this does not mean those lurking ticks will not be near. According to the University of Rhode Island, many species of ticks are active even into the winter, and can survive the first frost— which is why it is so important to look out for ticks. Here is some great tips to help keep them away:

  • Eliminate their favorite environment, such as: leaf and garden litter (these help them survive during the winter months)
  • Frequently check your dog’s fur for ticks
  • Use tick control and other repellent products, especially if you are outdoors often
  • Consult with your veterinarian about regular annual screening for tick-borne infections

Keep your Pet away from rat poisons and other rodenticides
Rodents always seem to find their way into our homes during the colder months, which is why many set up rat poison-type traps. Please be sure to keep the pets away from these poisonous products. Many on-the-market products can be very hazardous to our animals, even deadly. Try using live traps instead poison products. If you see a tail dangling in your pet’s mouth make sure you tell them to drop it, remove the rodent & keep an eye on them. If you think your pet has accidently ingested a rodent, please consult with a veterinarian immediately.

Feed your pet the right foods
Since its starting to get cold, pets need more energy to help them stay warm. You might need to increase your pet’s food intake—food generates body heat. Before you increase your pet’s food intake get an approval from your veterinarian. Perhaps a serving of Happy Howie’s treats will help give them the energy they may lack!

Beware of the antifreeze toxicity
Some people tend to use the Fall season as an opportunity to winterize their vehicles, which often involves regularly changing their antifreeze. This can potentially be deadly for your pets—one to two teaspoons of antifreeze can kill a 10-pound dog! Antifreeze contains a substance called ethylene glycol; Ethylene has a sickly-sweet smell that entices pets to lick it up. It is important to clean up spills immediately before your pet gets a hold of it.

Stay away from chocolates and hearty foods
The holiday season is approaching fast! We tend to indulge in hearty foods and sweets during this time, and it is important to make sure your pet eats none of it. Hearty foods and sweets can cause dogs to become very sick. Eating rich, high-fat foods can cause major stomach problems such as diarrhea, gastroenteritis even more serious conditions like pancreatitis. This is very important with Halloween coming up next month—keep chocolate away from your pets!

For more Fall Health Tips, click here

Check back with us soon for more of Howie’s Howl!

Dog Nutrition Tips


In honor of today being National Dog Day, we want to share some nutritional tips to help keep your dog healthy thanks to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

It is very important that dogs maintain Read more

How To Tell If Your Pet Is Happy


These happy, smiling dogs and more can be found on Pinterest.

Anyone can think that his or her dog is happy, but how can you tell? Sure you can do the best you can to ensure your pup is satisfied, but unless your dog has learned how to talk (and no we aren’t referring to being trained to “speak”), how can you know for sure?

Thanks to iheartdogs.com, we are happy to share a couple signs that indicate your dog is truly happy:

Relaxed Eyes

Often times we hear that the eyes are the window to the sole. The same goes for animals! According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), dogs eyes form different shapes during different times of the day, or when doing activities. When paying attention to its shape, Read more