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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

From the time I got my first pup, I have always been on the lookout for safe, constructive chews that would occupy my dog while serving as a wholesome yet worthy decoy from my shoes, furniture, pillows, etc.

Rawhides always seemed to be an immediate go-to option.  After all, they are readily available almost anywhere; sturdy enough to withstand some serious gnaw-time, and even promoted, in many cases, as “all-natural.” But after feeding rawhides for a period of time, I began to notice my dog would break out in a rash and sometimes would have loose stools, gagging and vomiting.  After doing a little research, I made the connection that the rawhides were the cause.

It turns out that if rawhide manufacturers were held to the same standards as drug makers, many would wind up expanding their required list of label warnings to include phrases like “may cause vomiting, diarrhea, salmonella poisoning, and/or exposure to chemical residues.”

The more I learned about the manufacturing journey of the typical rawhide chew – which frequently includes some time spent in China, at one point or another – the more I realized how awful this product really was. While chews made from rawhide, bone, or other animal parts are consumable (and therefore considered “food” under FDA law, so long as the label doesn’t specify a nutritional value), not all manufacturers observe regulations that we humans would consider safe or healthy.rawhide-danger-bones

Rawhide is a by-product of what’s known as a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) – a key component of the industrialized farming industry.  The EPA defines a CAFO as “a production facility or multi-step process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined places.” In the book The Meat You Eat, by Ken Midkiff, he elaborates by describing standard CAFO animal living conditions as overcrowded, dark, neglectful, “nasty, brutish, and short.” He also mentions that CAFO cattle ingest a sustained cocktail of antibiotics, arsenicals, and hormones specifically intended to increase production output.

So when it comes to rawhide, what does that production involve? Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, typically derived from the cattle mentioned above.  The “top grain” is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the “inner grain” is kept in a pseudo-raw state and reserved for pets.  Of course hair first needs to be removed from these hides; and this often involves a toxic and corrosive process call sodium sulphide liming, which is designed to strip this hair away.  A typical practice is to obtain rawhide in this “split lime state” as a by-product from tanneries.  In the post-tannery stage, hides are then washed and whitened using a solution that commonly consists of hydrogen peroxide along with certain additives.  When tested, the poisonous residues that have often shown up in rawhide includes arsenic and formaldehyde.

RawhideAlternativesSo let’s say you’re considering rawhide alternatives for your pet. What are some healthy options? It all depends on what kind of chewer(s) you have at your house…we have a large range of alternatives that include bully sticks (such as Boston Bullies), veggie and sweet potato-based chews (such as Sam’s Yams products), chews made from Yak and/of Cow milk (such as Himalayan), even raw carrots!  Over the next few weeks, we will go into more detail about some of these chew alternatives.  If you or your pup have a particular favorite, share your thoughts below!

 

 

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Dog for Dog is an all-natural pet food and treat company with a driving mission to help dogs in need. For every single Dog for Dog product purchased, the company donates a second product to one of these deserving canines. It’s called the “Buy One/Give One” program. The company’s goal is to deliver pure, natural nutrition to dogs at every life stage, in every situation, everywhere.

All-natural DOGSBUTTER is one of Dog for Dog’s most popular products – and why doesn’t that surprise me? After all, nearly all pups adore peanut butter … and USA-made, USA-sourced DOGSBUTTER takes peanut butter to a brand new plateau. It’s basically peanut butter, pumped up (see our previous blog post from Heather and her adorable Corgi girls here)! There are actually three varieties of DOGSBUTTER. Each one is completely free of sugar, salt, soy, artificial ingredients, and hydrogenated oils. Each one is also chock-full of protein and inflammation-calming Vitamin E:

1) DOGSBUTTER with Flaxseed contains nothing but all-natural peanuts, golden flaxseed for a healthy Omega-3 boost, and palm fruit oil. Palm fruit oil comes from the fleshy part of the fruit rather than the kernel, and is rich in monounsaturated or “good” fats. It contains only half the saturated fat of the more popularly used palm kernel oil.

2) DOGSBUTTER Skin & Coat also adds coconut to support supple skin and nice, thick fur growth.

3) DOGSBUTTER Immunity & Digestion adds not only coconut but also ginger, to help keep pup tummies calm and happy.

Now here’s possibly the best part of all: With every single jar of DOGSBUTTER purchased, Dog for Dog donates an all-natural, nutritious meal to a precious pooch in need. What a fantastic way to help nourish and sustain a sweet homeless dog who desperately deserves some pure, healthy TLC.

Here are just a few yummy ways we’ve used DOGSBUTTER in our house. Tell us about some of your own!

  • *Make peanut butter popsicles to cool your pup down. We just mix water or rice milk with small spoonfuls of Dogsbutter in the compartments of an ice cube tray or in tiny paper cups, then freeze. Sometimes we even add a Bully Stick or one of the Sam’s Yam Bichon Fries as a tasty edible “handle.” These pops keep in the freezer indefinitely, and Grant and Maizy go crazy for them after a long hike or a morning run.
  • *Hide a pill in some refrigerated Dogsbutter, which molds around the pill’s shape to hide it completely. Our pups are so busy inhaling that they don’t even realize there was any medication involved.
  • *Use it to stuff empty raw bones or Kong toys. A little goes a very long way, because Grant and Maizy spend hours trying to get at every last bit.
  • *Help with toothbrush training by initially massaging a new pup’s gums with a tiny bit of Dogsbutter on your index finger. They’ll focus on the yummy taste, and — once they get used to having you touch their teeth — you can move on to a finger brush with a little dab of toothpaste.
  • *Drizzle it over kibble for picky eaters. BOOM. Food all gone.

Don’t forget that all of our Two Bostons stores collect almost-empty peanut butter and DOGSBUTTER jars, which we then donate to area shelters and rescues so their adoptable pups can have a tasty, protein-packed snack as well! So next time you stop by, drop off your almost-empties and pick up a new jar or two of yummy DOGSBUTTER. That way, multiple dogs will have YOU to thank!

 

 

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Do you have a pup who tries to bolt every time you open the door? It’s a discouraging problem. As caring pet parents, we try to give our pets the very best of everything: a safe living space, a snuggly bed, healthy food, yummy treats, companionship. So why would they try so hard to get away?

“The majority of dogs are naturally curious,” notes Dr. Natalie Tate, DVM. “They like to explore and discover — so if they’re only taken out for occasional short walks and potty breaks, they make decide to seek out more activity.” Fortunately, not every dog is a natural runner. Just like people, certain canines are natural homebodies. Others simply lack the height, speed, or agility to ever make a serious go of it. Still others have a somewhat timid temperament, and would never dream of exploring uncharted territory on their own. But if you have a dog with a taste for increased adventure, there are steps you can take today to prevent problems later on.

Amp Up Excitement at Home
Nice, long walks provide physical exercise and mental stimulation. Natural, healthy, tasty chews like Bully Sticks, Antler Chewz, or Sam’s Yams veggie rawhide keep even relaxation time interesting. Interactive puzzle toys (including most of the amazing creations from Nina Ottosson) engage your dog’s natural curiosity and enhance his innate intelligence.

Teach Proper Recalls – and Teach Recall Properly
Getting your canine to come when called is part of basic puppy socialization training, but it definitely takes some work and practice. Always give your pup a really good reason to come back to you –reinforce the behavior with delicious treats (like Cloud Star Tricky Trainers), tons of praise, and/or lavish attention. Even if it takes your dog awhile to respond to your command, do NOT reprimand him when he finally does come back. Ever. This only teaches your pup that if he allows himself to get “caught,” bad things will happen. You want your dog to believe that, when it comes to being part of your awesome family “pack,” getting “caught” is a fantastic thing.

Make It Easy for Others to Return Your Dog
With the sheer speed of travel these days, a pup who does get separated can literally end up miles away from you in a matter of minutes. The good news is, there are animal-loving good samaritans who want to reunite dogs with their pet parents … so make their job as easy as possible. Inexpensive, etched aluminum tags may seem like a cost-effective option when you buy them, but it doesn’t take long for your information to wear away. Think about it: even a hazy digit or two could mean the difference between a tearfully happy reunion and a tragic end at the shelter. So ALWAYS purchase a good-quality steel or pewter tag that’s engraved to last (super-sturdy options we especially love at my house include Hot Dogs, Red Dingo, and Silver Bones tags). Then make this tag, along with your contact information, as large as possible and fasten it to a sturdy, dependable collar like any of the offerings from Up Country. After all, you want the tag in place, and very easily seen, if a total stranger attempts to lean in and help your nervous pup. As a backup, also get your dog microchipped and keep the information up-to-date. This way, a shelter, rescue team, or vet will be able to retrieve vital data with a special scanning wand.

Stop by any Two Bostons store, and ask a Team Member for additional suggestions on items that can help keep your own hot-to-trot hound safe, secure, and close to home.

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A lot of us dog owners may not be aware that tennis balls can actually be quite dangerous to our furry friends. They can turn a typical game like playing fetch, for example, into a scary situation. There are times your dog might catch the ball in his mouth, but farther back than it should go. The ball could get stuck in your pup’s throat, and once this happens it usually blocks off breathing. This requires immediate action — and if the blockage is not removed right away, you dog may not survive.

There have also been studies showing that the glue used on tennis ball seams can erode tooth enamel. That’s because the natural stickiness allows this glue to stay on teeth long after your pup is finished with the ball itself. If your pooch likes to chew or eat tennis balls, pieces can also get stuck in the throat, esophagus, or anywhere along the digestive tract. Fragments can often get lodged in the bowel, for instance, and this can require emergency surgery.

These problems are seen most often in breeds like Labs, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. Why? Mainly, sheer size. These larger breeds are more likely to enjoy catching tennis balls and playing a bit more roughly with their toys. They also have mouths that are large enough to wrap around the entire ball. But tennis ball fragments can still pose health and choking risks for breeds of any size.

Like tennis balls, there are other toys that are smart to avoid for safety reasons. They include:

  1. Any ball-shaped toy that your dog can fully fit inside his mouth
  2. Bones that are thin, small, or splinter too easily
  3. Jerky treats made (or partially sourced) in certain overseas countries
  4. Commercial rawhide chews, which are not digestible and often contain formaldehyde or bleach

Fortunately, there are many great alternatives that are safe to use with correct supervision. For instance, here are Two Bostons we only offer treats and chews that are completely digestible for cats and dogs. Our products are made and sourced in North America – often locally – with natural ingredients subject to stringent safety standards. Most toys we carry are made of safe, non-toxic, and/or recycled plastic or rubber. Many are reinforced with extra-durable seams and stitching.

Tennis Ball Alternatives

Many dogs can hold one entire tennis ball (or more!) in their mouths — and even smaller fragments pose a serious choking hazard. Fortunately, there are safe, healthy, fun, and tasty alternatives to meet your pup’s chomping and romping preferences.

We’ll talk about some firsthand Team favorites in a future post, but there are a few that are especially awesome. When it comes to toys, for instance, check out the Planet Dog line (see football photo, above). These non-toxic, clean-rinsing toys are made in the USA with energetic players and assertive chewers in mind. First of all, they smell like peppermint, so they offer a great little breath-freshening boost with every chew. But they’re also made of pliable, super-durable Orbee-Tuff material. The special rubberized consistency allows the toy to bounce and float; and it stands up to even the most aggressive chewer because it encourages a dog’s teeth to rebound off the toy instead of puncturing the surface. Plus, Planet Dog toys are 100% guaranteed against defects … and many are also recyclable.

If you’re interested in chomper-friendly alternatives that your dog CAN digest, we carry a number of safe, healthy, non-splintering chews as well. Our customers just love bully sticks, which are made from fully digestible free-range beef with no added hormones, antibiotics, or animal by-products. Himalayan Chews (far right, above) are another huge favorite, which offer a long-lasting boost of flavor and calcium. Then there are Yaky Sticks, which wrap a Himalayan Chew around a bully stick for the best of both worlds! Sam’s Yams are a safe, yummy, all-vegetable hit that are totally digestible. Crocodile Bones are a super-healthy and safe option as well. And don’t forget about antlers (center, above). These are full of calcium and phosphorus and very clean-chewing – no gunky mess on your carpets. At Two Bostons, we carry only the naturally-shed variety in deer, elk, and moose flats.

So stop by and ask us for more firsthand suggestions — then stay tuned for more fun, safe, healthy Team insights in future posts!

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This winter has been pretty hard on all of us, and I know that it’s been hard on our pups too.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my dog Hunter has a lot of energy. Training and interactive games help use some of that energy on the crazy, cold days we’ve had – and healthy treats can be a great part of those activities.

When it comes to Hunter’s favorite treats, Sam’s Yams top the list. What I especially like about these sweet potato treats is that they only contain ONE ingredient. Hunter has a lot of food allergies, so this is a perfect option for him. Sam’s Yams contain only sweet potato — that’s it. No added sweeteners, colors, artificial preservatives, or processed fillers.

Which brings me to another great perk: that they’re low in calories. Most of us try to watch our pups’ weight, but we all love giving treats when we can. That makes Sam’s Yams a perfect diet-friendly option.

Sam’s Yams are also very chewy, which dogs seem to love.  Front Porch Pets, the makers of Sam’s Yams, cut ridges into fresh, human-food-quality sweet potatoes (yams). These slices are then dehydrated using a specialized drying process that transforms the sweet potato into a chew with characteristics similar to rawhide or jerky. Basically, it’s a rawhide-like vegetable chew! While Sam’s Yams aren’t as long-lasting as certain other chews, they’re 100% digestible – so they make an especially great treat at nighttime, or in situations where you’d like to keep your pup occupied for several minutes while you’re busy around the house.

This special chewy texture also makes Sam’s Yams a fantastic addition to your pet’s regular dental routine; because while dogs are chewing on this slice of dried sweet potato, it helps scrape away the plaque on their teeth. Don’t forget, too, that sweet potatoes themselves are loaded with health benefits. They’re high in fiber to help improve digestion.  They’re also high in key “fido-nutrients” like vitamins A, B6, C, and D; plus calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and potent antioxidants.

Sam’s Yams come in three different size options for your pet:

  • A small, fry-like shape called Bichon Fries (get it?).  These are great for small dogs, and also ideal training aids for larger pups.  I particularly like this size for Hunter (who weighs 85 pounds) because I can cut them with scissors, use them in training, and tuck them inside his treat ball.
  • A medium-sized option called Veggie Rawhide. Again, no worries — these aren’t really “rawhide” at all, just a great sweet potato alternative. This size is perfect for small-to-medium sized dogs.  It looks like a slice of dried sweet potato with those special teeth-cleaning ridges.
  • A large-sized option called Big Boyz. These are larger, extra-thick slices that give big pups just a little bit more to keep them busy.
Bichon Fries and Treat Ball

Hunter enjoys playing with his Tricky Treat Ball (above, right) using the Bichon “Fries.” He’ll actually bring me the toy to set it up! I simply cut the chews up with scissors and insert them inside. Hunter loves to work at getting them out — and I love that they’re healthy, natural, and low in calories.

 

Other Sizes and Special Ridges

Sam’s Yams also come in “Veggie Rawhide” (not really rawhide at all) and “Big Boyz,” which are great for large pups and dedicated chewers. The special ridges are very effective at cleaning teeth.

 

Front Porch Pets prides itself on creating healthy, natural treats for our dogs. This is why Sam’s Yams don’t contain any highly processed ingredients, non-food components, or leading allergens such as wheat gluten, corn, starch, plastics, polymers, animal by-products, animal digest, or rendered animal meat or fat.  They are simply pure, chewy, nutritious sweet potato – USA-sourced, and made right up in Wisconsin. So stop by any Two Bostons store and ask one of our Team Members for a sample. We’re betting your pup will become a huge fan, just like Hunter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been to our Naperville Downtown store, odds are good that you’ve already seen Anna in action! If you haven’t, please stop by soon to say “hi” and ask her about her sweet pup Dixie.  In the meantime, here’s our “Top Ten Team Member Tidbits” list to help you get acquainted:

Q: At which Two Bostons store do you work, and what type of role do you play?
A: I work at our Naperville Downtown store on the sales team. So you can normally find me out on the sales floor, helping customers find the best possible products for their furry friends!

Q: Do  you have any pets at home?
A: Yes, I have one dog named Dixie. She’s about 7 years old, and we think she’s a rat terrier/cattle dog mix — but since we rescued her, we aren’t completely sure. She loves to sit in the path of sun beams. She basically follows the sun beams coming in through our window all morning long, and sleeps in the rays of light. She also likes to explore outside when it’s nice, chasing voles in our yard. When it’s cold, she likes to play hide-and-seek inside. Dixie gives the best high-fives and is such a smart, fast learner. People are her favorite thing. When she sees anyone coming toward her, she gets so excited and has such a waggy tail and butt that her whole body moves!

 

Dixie Pictures

Meet Anna’s adorably photogenic pup, Dixie. Products Dixie digs include Charki-O’s, Carnivore Crunch Duck, Sam’s Yams sweet potato chews, and Bravo Duck Feet (which she’s enjoying above, right, as a Kong toy waits patiently in the background).

 

Q: What first got you interested in working at Two Bostons? How long have you been on the team?
A: When I first got Dixie, I came into Two Bostons and loved the atmosphere! I absolutely love dogs, so the idea of working in such a fun place – one that lets me help animals live the best lives possible — was really appealing. I started in November of 2013.

Q: If you had to pick one “top favorite” Two Bostons product, what would it be?
A: I love Bravo Duck Feet – Dixie cannot get enough of these! Like all Bravo treats, they’re made with natural ingredients … without preservatives, grain, or other additives. They’re easy to digest, and also provide calcium plus other key vitamins that dogs need. Plus, they keep Dixie busy and happy for several minutes while she’s chewing them! We also have several “runner-up” favorites: Charki-O’s, Carnivore Crunch Duck, Sam’s Yams, Go Dog dinosaur plush toys, any flavor of Fruitables, Texas Taffy, Hare Sausage, and Plato Farmers Market chicken and vegetable treats.

Q: What’s  your very favorite type of pet?
A: DOGS! It still amazes me how much love we can have for our dogs, and how much love they give us in return. They’re such great companions, and always there to provide comfort. I think it’s one of the greatest human/animal relationships there is … because while you’re taking care of your dog, your dog is taking care of you—sometimes more than you realize!

Q: What are some of your favorite petrelated activities and locations?
A: We love walking through Seager Park in Naperville — and we also like just sitting in our yard and enjoying the sun! We haven’t had Dixie through the really warm months yet, so I hope to explore some great local dog parks this spring and summer.

Q: What other things can you tell us about yourself? What are some common pet-related terms that describe your personality?
A: I was born and raised in Naperville, and I’ve always loved living here. I think downtown Naperville is the perfect place all year round! I’m currently attending Benedictine University in Lisle, majoring in Communication Arts. I love video editing, playing my ukulele or guitar, and baking. After a tea-tasting at Adagio Teas this past winter, I am a tea addict. I have one older sister who goes to college in town. Chicago is my favorite city, and I love taking the train downtown when the weather is nice! Pet terms that describe me would be loyal, stubborn, snack-loving, excitable, and friendly.

Q: If  you could be any breed of dog or cat, which one would you choose?
A: I would be a Collie. They are just so elegant and beautiful — not to mention smart and a great dog for any age group. I’ve loved Collies since I was a child.

Q:  Who  is your favorite famous /celebrity dog or cat (either living or historical)?
A: Mr. Winkle! Mr. Winkle was big when I was in school at Ellsworth Elementary in Naperville — he was an Internet sensation that came before Boo the Dog. He was so adorable, with his tongue always hanging out. One of my teachers and I would always discuss Mr. Winkle-related things and check his website for updates. I even had his calendar.

Q: What’s the most helpful petrelated piece of advice you ever received?
A: You need a dog.

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Awhile back, we talked about the dangers of traditional rawhide, and the ways product packaging and marketing can sometimes obscure questionable ingredients and practices that might place our pets in jeopardy. We also discussed some of the well-documented risks of pet chews and pet chew ingredients sourced from China – and the fact that these products are still being sold in the U.S.

Many dogs experience extremely adverse reactions when they ingest these types of products – with symptoms that extend all the way from troubling skin allergies and digestive issues to life-threatening organ failure. But it’s hard to know where to find safer products that you can feel comfortable feeding your pet. A blog we posted recently talked about some safe and healthy alternatives we carry at Two Bostons, including Bully Sticks, Sam’s Yams and Himalayan Dog Chews – and now, there’s yet another surprising new alternative.

We don’t see many alligators and crocodiles here in Illinois. Sure, some of us may have been adventurous enough to try alligator-on-a-stick at Naperville Ribfest  — but in most cases, that’s been our only encounter. So you might be interested to learn that crocodile meat is extremely high in antioxidants, Omega 3, Omega 6, and essential fatty acids; contains more protein than chicken; and is naturally lower in fat that a lot of other meats such as beef and pork.

Barkworthies recently began introducing Midwestern pups to these superior health benefits with Crocodile Bones. These tasty, durable, strip-shaped chews are made from all-natural Australian crocodile, with NO preservatives, NO chemicals, NO antibiotics, and NO added hormones. They’re extremely palatable to most pooches, and a great source of naturally-occurring antioxidants. They’re also fully digestible, so you can feel comfortable letting your pup chow down on the entire chew.

Crocodile Bones

Barkworthies Crocodile Bones capture all the superior health benefits of natural Australian crocodile meat in one safe and tasty chew!

 

Plus, here’s more good news: Crocodile Bones contain glucosamine and chondroitin, nutrients which help to lubricate joints and support overall joint health. They’re also sturdy and long lasting, so they provide important dental benefits like tartar removal, plaque build-up prevention, and natural gum massage that can help minimize vet visits and reduce vet bills (after all, remember that February is National Pet Dental Health Month!).

Perhaps most importantly, Crocodile Bones are a treat you can give your dog with confidence. Barkworthies makes a wide variety of premium-quality, eco-friendly, all-natural dog chews and treat sticks, including bully sticks and elk antlers. Their ingredients are exclusively sourced from the United States, South America, and Australia – in fact, many Barkworthies products contain only a single ingredient , thereby eliminating worrisome, hard-to-pronounce mystery additives. Throughout the entire production process, the company’s treats and chews are regulated and tested by both the FDA and USDA. That means they’re continually inspected, sorted, and counted by hand to ensure safety and give all of us pet parents added peace of mind.

And here’s the best news of all: we now carry 12-ounce bags of Barkworthies Crocodile Bones at our Two Bostons stores! We can already tell that our customers love them, because they’re practically flying off the shelves. So stop by today and ask any Team Member for assistance. If we’re temporarily sold out, we’re always more than happy to do a special product request for you and your best furry friend!

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Back in 2006, reports linking grave illness to various pet treats imported from China began to pop up here and there. If you were to search Google and YouTube for various news reports, you might notice that the dried treats associated with these problems go by a wide range of names: twists, tenders, chews, bites, strips, chips, and many more. In the fall of 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) started to issue formalized consumer warnings about these treats, increasing the frequency and urgency of these warnings as reports of illness continued escalating right through 2011. By 2012, thousands of complaints had been logged throughout the U.S. and Canada, including reports that several hundred pets had died.

Over the past year, additional dried treats imported from China have fallen under suspicion as well, including chicken jerky, duck jerky, and dehydrated sweet potato/yam treats. Health officials are beginning to express concern that the problem may even extend to pork products like pig ears, as well as certain cat treats made in China. As we move into 2014, this “suspect” list remains longer than ever.

All of these treats have been associated with liver problems, and/or a certain type of kidney failure in dogs. This kidney condition is called Acquired Fanconi Syndrome, and it’s already killed some animals while leaving others with chronic and debilitating lifelong kidney disease. If an animal does recover from this condition, recuperation can take 6 months or more — so it’s important to closely monitor your pet’s behavior. Affected dogs may exhibit any (or all) of the following signs:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Increased drinking and urination

According to most vets, blood tests will sometimes show increased creatinine and BUN (which are signs of kidney failure), along with low potassium, mildly increased liver enzymes, and acidosis. Urine tests may show glucose and granular casts.

Jerky Treat Worries

Posters and signs like the ones shown above have begun to appear in the offices of concerned vets and independent retailers across the U.S. and Canada, as reported problems with jerky treats imported from China continue to escalate.

 

Interestingly, this exact problem surfaced in Australia around the same time we began noticing symptoms here in the U.S. However, reports of Fanconi-like syndrome in pets decreased sharply there — after certain products were completely recalled in 2008 and 2009. Unfortunately, the FDA’s web site maintains that it can’t issue an actual recall of these treats in our country until it’s able to isolate the definitive agent(s) or ingredient(s) causing the illness.

In early 2012, the FDA began inspecting several facilities in China that produce pet jerky treat products, but these findings have yet to be publicly released. So as pet parents, it’s important to realize that the companies importing these treats have so far refused to stop marketing them; and most stores that sell them (with the exception of certain independent pet food stores) have not removed them from shelves. As you read this, these products can currently be found and purchased at large, reputable stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Petco, PetSmart, and major grocery store chains.

To date, according to the FDA, approximately 600 dogs have died and more than 3,600 have gotten sick after consuming these imported chicken, duck, and sweet potato jerky treats. More than 10 cats have also fallen ill. The FDA reports that most of the treats in question were made in China, but it’s the how and what that remain a mystery – what specific processes and ingredients were used? Many vets consider these numbers quite worrisome, suggesting that pet owners may want to avoid these treats completely. For example, Dr. Tony Buffington, a veterinary nutritionist at Ohio State University’s Veterinary Medical Center, recently created a poster to warn clients about the potential risks of feeding their pets these types of products. An excerpt from this poster reads, “Until a cause or explanation can be found, we urge our clients not to purchase or feed” such products to their pets.

Seeking out safe treats can be tricky, though, because product marketing and strategic packaging can obscure the issue. A product may trumpet the words “manufactured in the U.S.,” for example, without revealing that its ingredients were sourced from China. In other cases, the words “Made in China” may appear in tiny print on the back or bottom of the package. To be absolutely safe, stick with treats you know for certain are made using wholesome and/or human-grade ingredients from a documented source with a proven track record of safety. Two Bostons, for example, refuses to carry foods or treats that have been manufactured in, or sourced from, China until more information is known. Healthy, safe, satisfying chew alternatives we carry include Bully Sticks, Texas Taffy, Himalayan Dog Chews and Puffs, Sam’s Yams, and more. We also carry an extensive range of nourishing treats and festive bakery case items that are made locally, with human-grade ingredients, to industry-leading safety standards.

Rawhide and Treat Alternatives

Concerned, independent retailers like Two Bostons make it our mission to do our homework on your behalf. Our award-winning selection of tasty treats and chews includes only products made with pure, whole-food ingredients to the most stringent, documented safety standards.

 

If your pet experiences any of the symptoms noted above after eating treats imported from China, it’s a good idea to stop feeding those treats immediately. If signs are severe or persist for more than one day, get right to your vet for tests and treatment. It’s also important to save the bag of treats in case they’re needed for testing in the future. The FDA suggests that you and your vet file an FDA report; and alert both the company that manufactured the treats, and the corporate office of the store where they were purchased.

The sobering take-home message is two-fold: 1) buyer beware, because the “treats” we give our furry friends can serve up tragic consequences; and 2) there are safe, healthy alternatives available, if you simply know where to look. Do your homework — and when you shop for your pet, never take things at face value. At Two Bostons, we welcome and encourage your specific questions. It’s our mission to empower you with the knowledge you need to safeguard the health and well-being of your pet!

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From the time we adopted our very first pup, we’ve always been on the lookout for safe, constructive chews that would occupy our dogs while serving as wholesome yet worthy decoys for our cherished throw pillows, shoes, and furniture (not to mention ballpoint pens, slippers, heirloom quilts, etc.).

Rawhides always seemed like an immediate go-to option. After all, they were readily available almost anywhere; sturdy enough to withstand some serious gnaw-time; and even promoted, in many cases, as “all natural.” But after feeding rawhide over time, I would notice several of our dogs breaking out in rashes or small bumpy sores. A few also experienced loose stools, or began gagging and vomiting. Initially, I didn’t connect these ailments with rawhides in any way. It was only when we finally put two of our dogs on an extreme “allergy diet” — and then re-introduced their rawhides — that a connection became apparent.

So we stopped feeding rawhides, but I didn’t really understand why they would be causing any problem. I felt pretty skeptical, so I began chatting with pet nutritionists and doing some research. It turns out that if rawhide manufacturers were held to the same standards as drug makers, many would wind up expanding their required list of label warnings to include phrases like “may cause vomiting, diarrhea, salmonella poisoning, and/or exposure to chemical residues.”

The closer I looked at the manufacturing journey of a typical rawhide chew – which frequently includes some time spent in China, at one point or another—the more I realized that certain alternatives might represent a smarter option. While chews made from rawhide, bone, or other animal parts are consumable (and therefore considered “food” under FDA law, so long as the label doesn’t specify nutritional value), not all manufacturers observe regulations that we humans would consider safe or healthy.

Rawhide is a by-product of what’s known as a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) —  a key component of the industrialized farming industry. The EPA defines a CAFO as “a production facility or multi-step process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined places.” In his book The Meat You Eat, author Ken Midkiff elaborates by describing standard CAFO animal living conditions as overcrowded, dark, neglectful, “nasty, brutish, and short.” He also mentions that CAFO cattle ingest a sustained cocktail of antibiotics, arsenicals, and hormones specifically intended to increase production output.

So when it comes to rawhide, what does that production involve? Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, typically derived from the cattle mentioned above. The “top grain” is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the “inner grain” is kept in a pseudo-raw state and reserved for pets. Of course hair first needs to be removed from these hides; and this often involves a toxic and corrosive process called sodium sulphide liming, which is designed to strip this hair away. A typical practice is to obtain rawhide in this “split lime state” as a by-product from tanneries. In the post-tannery stage, hides are then washed and whitened using a solution that commonly consists of hydrogen peroxide along with certain additives. When tested, the poisonous residues that have often shown up in rawhide include arsenic and formaldehyde.

These steps are further detailed in several books. If you’d like to learn more, I found the book CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories by Daniel Imhoff to be especially informative. You can see more about it here.

Rawhide Alternatives

It’s encouraging to know that rawhide isn’t our only option — there are a number of healthier, safer (and even nourishing!) alternatives designed to satisfy our pups’ chewing needs and preferences.

 

So let’s say you’re considering rawhide alternatives for your pet. What are some healthy options? Well, depending upon what kind of chewer(s) you have at your house, there are a pretty broad range of alternatives that include bully sticks (such as those made by Boston Bullies), veggie and sweet potato-based chews (such as Sam’s Yams products), chews made from Yak and/or Cow milk (such as products from Himalayan), grain- or rice-based chews, jerky treats, naturally shed antler-based treats (such as Antler Chewz products), and even raw carrots! Check back over the next few weeks, when we’ll be discussing some of these items in more detail. If you or your pup have a particular favorite, share your thoughts below!