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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

Taurine is one of those things you’ve probably seen mentioned all over the place lately but when you go to research, every article you find is written in medical gibberish. Fear not, pet parents, we’re here to break down exactly what it is and why your pet needs it–no dictionary required!

In a nutshell: Taurine is an amino acid that is exclusively found in animal-based proteins. It works to keep our pets’ bodies functioning properly, especially for normal vision, heart health, digestion, and reproduction.

Why it matters: While cats and dogs naturally can produce taurine, dogs just barely produce what they need and cats are physically incapable of producing enough to ensure healthy functions. While this might sound a little alarming, your furry friends can get more taurine through their diet!

Where does taurine come from: As mentioned above, taurine only naturally occurs in animal proteins, which is one of the many reasons it’s crucial for your pets to get as much meat as possible! Hearts are especially jam packed with it, but there are also supplements available. Most pet food brands are conscious about the amount of taurine in their recipes and add in additional taurine if necessary.

How to make sure your pet gets enough taurine: Feeding fresh is almost always the answer when it comes to boosting your pet’s health! Even if they only eat two fresh meals a week in addition to their current diet, you’ll see a world of difference in everything from your pet’s coat, energy levels, poop (it’ll become less smelly and smaller!), and, of course, taurine levels. Fresh food is the closest you can possibly get to what an animal would eat in the wild without actually releasing them in the woods to catch their own dinner–that means it has optimal nutritional benefits!

Another option is to start including fresh or freeze dried treats into your pet’s routine. Remember how we said that hearts are one of the best sources of taurine? You can actually feed freeze dried hearts as a yummy snack! Some of our personal favorites are the Freeze Dried Chicken Heart Bites by Fresh Is Best. It’s a single-ingredient snack that’s 100% American-made. They’re even so tasty that both dogs AND cats love them! You can check them out in our stores or order them online here.

You can also easily add daily supplements to your pet’s diet. There are quite a few good ones available but our go-to and most trusted is Herbsmith’s Taurine Boost powder. It’s as simple as adding a spoonful to your pet’s bowl and giving it a quick stir!

 

In conclusion: Taurine isn’t as complicated and scary as the internet makes it out to be!  Remember: if you still feel unsure, confused, or have questions, reach out to us. We aren’t kidding when we say we could talk about pet wellness all day!

Have you caught the Bowl Boosting Bug? Check back with us every Tuesday to learn more little ways to add big nutrients to your pets’ bowls!

If you look at a wild canine’s teeth, you’ll see clean, white shiny teeth.

Why? They are eating what nature intended, raw meat, bones, and organs of their prey.

If you look at a domestic canine’s teeth, many times you will find tartar buildup, yellow or brown discoloration, inflamed gums, and maybe even some loose teeth.

Why? They are eating food that has no dental benefits. It is a myth that kibble can help control your dog’s tartar. In reality, it will control tartar just as well as trying to clean your own teeth with granola. Many kibbles also contain ingredients such as sugars, carbohydrates, and starches that cause the kibble to stick to a dog’s teeth. These ingredients are also a food source for opportunistic oral bacteria, which will actually cause further tartar to form. Since these foods do not contain live nutrients and many times contain things like preservatives and dyes, they will disrupt normal flora in the body and can lead to tartar that way as well.

Many people view dental disease as a normal process when there is nothing normal or natural about it. The reason this unnatural process is happening is because dogs are eating food that they are not designed to eat. 

Raw food is the natural diet of your dog and it has a variety of benefits, with the focus of this article being to improve or maintain good dental hygiene.

Raw meaty bones are the best option to control tartar as they provide an abrasive, cleaning action on your dog’s teeth. It’s important to emphasize four areas when providing raw meaty bones to your dog.

  1. The bones must be raw. Cooked bones splinter and can cause harm to your pet.
  2. It is important to always supervise, know your dog and choose a size appropriate raw meaty bone for them. If they tent to gulp, the bone needs to be larger than their mouth or head so that they can gnaw rather than gulp.
  3. If your dog is an intense chomper, it is important to not give them a bone that is very dense as this can cause a tooth fracture. Dense bones are those which are weight-bearing bones of adult cattle, such as a marrow bone.
  4. Remember to handle raw meaty bones the same as you handle your own raw meat. Have your dog work on them in an area that you can sanitize such as a create or outside. Do not allow them to run around your house with a raw bone. Refrigerate or freeze the bone if they have more to work on later.

Raw meat contains live enzymes and probiotics. The enzymes help to keep teeth clean by breaking down bacteria on your dog’s teeth. The probiotics found in a raw diet also maintain normal balance and populations of bacterial flora in the mouth. Both also help to retain pH balance, making it less likely that any harmful bacteria can thrive in your dog’s mouth. Furthermore, it does not stick to a dog’s teeth like a dry food.

Healthy teeth & gums of my raw fed German shepherd

In terms of maintaining healthy teeth and gums, nothing compares to a raw diet. A raw diet is a species appropriate diet for our dogs, meaning it is the easiest diet for them to digest and assimilate nutrients from, as it is in the natural state that a dog’s body recognizes and utilizes. Prevention of dental disease is not feeding a kibble diet and doing regular dental cleanings. Rather, prevention is honoring the natural design of our dogs and feeding and caring for them accordingly. Their body will be better able to maintain health the way it was meant to in the first place.

Pictured are my raw feed dogs: Lolo (border collie), Bella (Italian greyhound), and Onyx (German shepherd)

Dr. Erin O’Connor is an AVCA Animal Chiropractor and ACAN Naturopathic Carnivore Nutrition Consultant. She sees patients out of her clinic, Vitality Chiropractic Center in Aurora, as well as Autumn Green Animal Hospital in Geneva. For further information, visit myvitalitychiropractic.com or email Dr. O’Connor at drerinoconnor@myvitalitychiropractic.com.

 

During the month of January as a New Year’s resolution for you and your pet, we are challenging everyone (if not already) to incorporate Fresh (raw) Food into your pet’s diet.  You have probably heard at one point or another a Two Bostons team member talk about Fresh or Raw Diets for cats and dogs. Even just adding fresh food into your pet’s diet twice a week, has its benefits! Here are just a few:

It’s extremely cost-effective. 7ffd54b6ee423e8ac437ee1df4e590f1

Very often, allergies and ailments that our pets experience while on a commercial or kibble-based pet food diet tend to resolve (or greatly diminish) once a raw diet is in full effect. Why? Because raw diets are more consistent with the biological makeup of our canine and kitty friends, whose bodies need naturally occurring proteins, minerals, and enzymes to function optimally. Commercial pet food diets are loaded with fillers, artificial preservatives, and worrisome animal by-products that do not meet approval standards for human consumption.  High-carb kibble diets are very high in starches and sugars while being low in natural proteins and enzymes. This often contributes to lethargy, skin and coat issues, “doggie breath,” thyroid problems, even diabetes and pancreatitis, and over time these issues lead to more frequent vet visits. Do your dog and yourself a favor and add two or more fresh food meals a week to help improve your pet’s health.

It’s extremely safe and environmentally friendly.
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Commercially-prepared fresh and raw foods (such as products from Stella & Chewy’s) have some of the best and most consistent safety records on the market today.  This is because many are produced in very controlled batches, and subject to stringent inspection practices that greatly minimize the incidence of things like Salmonella, E. Coli and Campylobacter. These raw foods are made in USDA-certified facilities with extreme concern for cleanliness, humane treatments, and environmental impact.

 

It’s extremely easy!

Easier than you probably think…simply go slowly, as you would with any new dietary change. Puppies can often transition over the course of just a few days, while geriatric or ailing pets may require a few weeks. Remember that one or two loose stools often signals nothing more than detoxification (a very beneficial thing), so just keep a close eye on your pet while you transition. It is also very easy to serve! You just put the fresh pieces into their bowl, let sit to defrost for a few minutes, and serve!rawfoodbowls

Stop into Two Bostons today and learn more about the benefits and our extensive selection of raw food products.  Our team members are always excited to offer firsthand insights that can help you customize a feeding plan for your specific pet – and get your furry friend well on their way to add fresh food into their diet, overall vitality and a lifetime of wellness!!

 

I’ve been a vegetarian for maybe 12 years. Just a personal preference, but in some ways a health decision too. So there have been times I’ve wondered about my pets. Would vegetarianism also be a good option for dogs and cats?

One day I asked a friend of mine who’s a Vet Med professor at the University of Illinois (my alma mater, GO ILLINI). He explained that, for many reasons, dogs and cats are really designed to be meat-eating carnivores. When I gave him my best “skeptical salad-eater” look, he described a whole bunch of physical clues that back this up.

Let’s take teeth. Humans are omnivores, meaning we can eat a range of foods. Our saliva is designed to break down carbohydrates and simple sugars before they go through our digestive tract; and our teeth include squared, flat molars that are good for crushing (think about a flat potato masher creaming parsley and steamed potatoes). But my friend said that dog saliva is actually formulated to break down proteins — and showed me how a dog’s teeth are very sharp and pointy, all the way back. These teeth are designed to tear and slice (think about a wolf taking down and devouring prey). He also told me that scientists now realize dogs are only .02% genetically different from their direct ancestors, wolves. So a dog’s body is actually optimized to process and thrive on the amino acids, fatty acids, and enzymes found in meat-based proteins – and a cat needs many of these compounds just to survive.

 

Humans are omnivores, and our flat molars (left) are optimized to crush and mash. Dog and cat teeth (right) are all sharp and pointed -- designed for tearing meat proteins.

Humans are omnivores, and our flat molars (left) are optimized to crush and mash. Dog and cat teeth (right) are all sharp and pointed — designed for tearing meat proteins.

It made sense, and we started feeding our dogs a raw diet of Stella & Chewy’s. This company stood out because it places such a strong emphasis on holistic pet nutrition. Stella & Chewy’s has been in business for ten years, and their formulations are minimally processed. They’re made with organic produce; raw, free-range, USDA-inspected meats; wild-caught fish; plus added vitamins, minerals and probiotics.

I spent years nursing multiple rescue dogs through a series of health and allergy woes. I finally started checking labels, and realized that commercial pet food is some of the most hyper-processed stuff on the planet. Heating food above 117 degrees Fahrenheit breaks down much of its nutritional value. Stella & Chewy’s natural dinners and treats are made in the company’s own Wisconsin plant, but they aren’t cooked like most commercial pet foods. They’re either frozen raw, or freeze-dried using Hydrostatic High Pressure (HHP) processing. This is a heat-free method used with many human-grade meats and cheeses. It kills bacteria that can cause spoilage and food-borne disease, while preserving natural flavor and nutrients.

Not to sound too overjoyed, but feeding freeze-dried has made pet parenting WAY easier. Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried patties are great as a food-topper for picky eaters (even mine). They come in a lightweight bag that’s super-easy to take along on trips, and you can serve them dry or add water for a complete, balanced meal. I’ll admit that early on, I was still unsure about food safety – I’d see the word “raw” and picture scary microscopic squiggly things, like E. coli and salmonella.

So I did a little more checking. Did you know that Stella & Chewy’s is the only national pet food brand that has never had a recall? Their dedicated cleaning crew comes in for 8-10 hour shifts to dismantle and disinfect ALL of their equipment EVERY DAY. You can read more about their strict food safety protocols here . This patent-pending process made me feel a lot better – and Stella & Chewy’s makes my pets feel a lot better.

 

The small freeze-dried patties are easy to break or crumble, so they're even great as treats or food-toppers.

The small freeze-dried patties are easy to break or crumble, so they’re even great as treats or food-toppers — and they’re lightweight, because liquid has been removed.

Want to see for yourself? Stop by any Two Bostons store and ask a Team Member about their favorites, plus handy single-serve packs (we might even sneak you a sample or two)! Take it from this vegetarian – when it comes to doing what’s best for your best furry friends, it’s never too late to turn over a new “leaf.”

 

 

Our pets depend on us to make the right food choices for them!

Our pets depend on us to make the right food choices for them!

As pet parents, we have SO many options when it comes to feeding our furry friends! Package labels can be vague, confusing – and in some cases, downright misleading. But in the case of Nature’s Variety, the product name means exactly what it says! This natural pet food company is heartland-based in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s staffed with proud pet parents (just like us, just like YOU!) who are passionate about providing a wide range of balanced and whole-food-based dog and cat nutrition options – which, by the way, our pets find totally delectable.

Nature’s Variety Instinct raw foods are made with pure, simple, raw meats and vegetables – the kind many of us would chop up and mix ourselves, if we could spare the extra time — either frozen, or in convenient freeze-dried form. They provide all the nutrients and benefits of a natural whole-food diet, in convenient shapes and formulations that are quick and easy to serve. You can choose from frozen miniature medallions or patties that make meal preparation a snap; or bite-size frozen nuggets that thaw within minutes and offer the speed and convenience of kibble. The freeze-dried Meal and Mixer formulas can be stored at room temperature, so they’re super-easy to take on trips or use on-the-go. All varieties are totally grain-free and gluten free, and are offered in specific formulas for both dogs and cats.

Since we’re pet parents too, we totally get it: Life can get crazy, and some people like the convenience of picking up their pet food where they buy their own groceries. The thing is, dogs and cats are natural carnivores — their instinctive nature is to eat a much higher proportion of meat, poultry, or fish protein in relation to grain. Grocery store cans and kibbles contain a lot of filler to keep them price-competitive – but that also means a whole lot of grain. Nature’s Variety Instinct raw foods are minimally-processed and uncooked, so every bite is extra-appetizing and packed with whole-food energy.

This week, we did a quick, unrehearsed comparison between a box of Milk Bones, a box of Beneful Baked Delights, and a package of Instinct Raw Bites. Here’s how the first five ingredients stacked up:

MILK BONES:
Wheat flour, wheat bran, wheat meal, bone meal, poultry by-products (we couldn’t pronounce most of the stuff that came after these)
Okay, some food for thought: Wheat is a grain, and a common allergen in dogs and cats. Wheat gluten, difficult for many humans to digest, is extremely challenging for your pooch’s system to process – causing everything from gastro-intestinal irritation to blockages. Plus, do you know what animal by-products are? They’re what’s left after the parts that are approved for human consumption are removed. They often include diseased tissue, parts that have been left unrefrigerated, and other elements declared unfit for human intake. And you’ll find them used extensively in most store-bought pet foods – just look on the label.

BENEFUL BAKED DELIGHTS:
Wheat flour, ground corn, glycerin, sugar, corn gluten
A couple more notes: Wheat and corn are two of the top allergens for dogs and cats. They can cause itchy skin, dry coat, eye discharge, ear and digestion problems, plus a range of other issues. Glycerin adds no nutritional value. Sugar is added because it’s tasty to your dog, but it can be as damaging to your pets as it is to your kids. The ingredients that come after these first five include chicken by-products and artificial food dyes.

INSTINCT RAW BITES:
Chicken, turkey, turkey liver, turkey heart, pumpkin seed
Notes: These are natural whole foods and high-protein organ meats. No irritating grains, no by-products. Pumpkin is great for an animal’s coat and digestive tract. We should also mention that the rest of the ingredient list is comprised of apples, carrots, butternut squash, flax-seed, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, dried kelp, vinegar, parsley, salmon oil, citric acid, rosemary, blueberries and other fruits and vegetables. That’s it, plain and simple – and it can make a world of difference to the well-being of your pet.

Want to give Nature’s Variety Instinct raw foods a try? Or perhaps you already know that your best furry friend adores them? Either way, stop by today – we can help you pick the flavor and ingredient mix that’s just right for your pet! (Psssst … and don’t forget: Through the end of September, you can SAVE $4 on a 4-pound bag of Instinct Raw Bites at any Two Bostons store.)