Join the family and feed the love.
X

Koda’s Story

Posted on Thursday, May 23, 2019 by Laura Amiton
Stefani & Koda

We all love a feel good story…

One of the most rewarding aspects to my profession is learning about the special connections between pets and their people and the love shared between them. I sometimes wish that I had kept a daily journal to keep track of notable stories so that the names and dates wouldn’t blur together over time. But when I meet Stefanie Murray and she told me about her 12-year-old mini Australian Shepherd Koda, I knew I needed to share their story with you.

Stefanie met Koda in May 2007. At just 10-weeks old, Koda was the “shy one” and she immediately knew that he was her heart dog. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the saying “heart dog”, “heart cat” or “heart animal”, it means that the bond is deeper than usual. Often times I hear pet owners describe their heart animals as being easy to communicate with because they just “get it” and that they feel connected in ways they never felt with other pets.

Koda was like most Australian Shepherds: Energetic, bright and bonded with those he knew well. A check up in April 2017 at the age of 10 revealed no issues. However, just six months later, Koda began coughing so Stefanie took him back for an exam. An x-ray confirmed an enlarged heart and fluid in his lungs. Poor Koda was struggling to get enough air to breathe! Shocked, Stefanie was referred to a veterinary cardiologist who diagnosed Koda with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and a grade 5 (out of 6) heart murmur. The news was devastating to Stefani. She was told that he had maybe 10 months left.

Mitral Valve Disease is the most common heart disease in dogs. In the U.S., however, the only treatment option involves medication to keep the dogs comfortable for the few months they have left.

“After Koda was diagnosed, I just refused to believe there was no hope for him. I scoured the internet looking for anything that I could possibly do to help keep Koda around and healthy for as long as possible. I found all kinds of supplements and diet recommendations, and then stumbled upon the Mighty Hearts Project (MHP) website and Facebook group. I was in shock that there was an actual treatment for MVD, not just Band-Aids through medication. I sent them a message and they immediately got back to me with compassion and gave me hope that this didn’t have to be a death sentence for Koda” recounts Stefani.

The Mighty Hearts Project led Stefani to a potential cure: Surgical repair of the mitral valve by veterinarian Dr. Uechi at the JASMINE Clinic in Japan. “Dr. Uechi has a 97% success with dogs still thriving 3 years post-surgery. But the veterinarians at the JASMINE Clinic warned me that Koda would be one of worst dogs they’d have done surgery on, hurting his prognosis. Typically, they prefer a dog who is MVD stage B, Koda was a stage D” remembers Stefani.

This didn’t stop Stefani from needing to find a way to get Koda to Dr. Uechi. After a six-month at home quarantine, it was finally time to fly Koda to Japan. By the time they arrived last July, Koda was failing so they rushed him to surgery immediately. After the surgery, the doctor told Stefani that his heart was so weak, it was likely he only had a couple of days left had he not come in.

“I’ve made it a mission of mine to inform people that there is hope for their dog diagnosed with MVD. While it may be cost prohibitive for so many, unfortunately, the more people who know and go through with the surgery then the more widespread the practice will become; the more surgeons being able to perform the surgery, the lower the costs can be. While I logically couldn’t afford it, I wish I was given the option to consider, because in the end I did absolutely everything in my power and made it work. Had I known surgery was an option sooner, Koda could’ve arrived in Japan sooner and been healthier for his surgery”.

The University of Florida is hoping to pioneer this surgery in the U.S. as soon as enough donations are secured through a fundraising effort called Mandy’s Mission to Mend Hearts. This mission supports the development of an open-heart surgery program at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital. Donations will help provide necessary funding to support the program, and the training of cardiac surgeons to perform mitral valve repair surgery under cardiopulmonary bypass.

In just a short time since his surgery, Koda is doing very well. “He’s been incredibly stable. It’s a night and day difference in his happiness and wellbeing. He’s back to being playful and sleeping contently, while he was in obvious pain and had extreme difficulty sleeping and breathing before”.

http://www.mightyheartsproject.org/pet-profile-posting/koda-murrayKoda’s profile on Mighty Hearts Project:


University of Florida program funding:http://www.uff.ufl.edu/giving-opportunities/022269-mandys-misson-to-mend-hearts


Pets Aging Gracefully

Posted on Thursday, February 7, 2019 by Laura Amiton

We can all agree that we want our pets to live long, healthy, happy lives. It was an honor for me to see one of my cats reach 20 years old and my previous dog live to 15. Their aging wasn’t perfect, in fact, my cat survived cancer as a senior when she was diagnosed at age 15. My dog experienced hip and joint pain that left her unable to get up on her own at the very end of her life. And although we like the idea of our pets living like youngsters until the end, gradual changes to the body due to aging are prone to happen.

 

Since opening my stores, I’ve learned a lot more about the aging process and have found ways to help increase longevity and push away disease. In fact, I believe my 20 year old kitty and 15 year old dog could have had a better aging process knowing what’s become available via information, services and products.

 

It’s my opinion that it should begin with nutrition. It’s not to say that a pet cannot live a long life on non-nutritious foods, as it’s been proven time and again that they can. It’s about quality of life. It’s about providing foods that are actually metabolized and feeds the cells in the way they are intended to be fed. Diseases, such as diabetes and cancer in many cases (not all cases, some cancers have a strong genetic link), can be avoided. Weight issues, severe flea infestations, and chronic ear and skin infections should never be an issue.

 

The body is a remarkable “machine”that when fed the appropriate nutrients, can heal itself. The immune system, when strong, is fighting off cancer, viruses, bacterias and environmental toxins all day long.

 

It’s never too late to start on a nutritious food! You’re dog or cat may be young or old, but it’s never too late. Picking a right food can be extremely confusing for a pet owner. And, the pet food industry is very competitive so the companies do a great job with marketing their brands as “the best” even if they’re not. In fact, there is not one best food or way to feed. Our dogs and cats are as individual as we are, but following basic principles on what kind (kibble, canned, freeze-dried or raw) and understanding the source of those ingredients is very important. (Be wary of anyone who suggests that food ingredients isn’t important).

 

In addition, finding a veterinarian that combines holistic medicine approaches, rather than straight traditional western medicine, will offer you many suggestions on how to best care for your pets’physical needs. Please understand that western medicine is important and has it’s place in our pet’s lives. But aligning with a holistic practitioner in addition allows you to avoid many of the chemicals, prescription foods and medications that may be a band aid approach rather than a whole body approach.

 

Our aging cats and dogs can experience similar age-related issues to ours. Knowing this, it’s never too early or late to think about prevention. Does your dog love to run and play? Is yours the one leaping high to catch the ball at the park? It’s never too early to begin a joint support. Has your cat gained enough weight that they no longer have that “ideal”figure? There are ways to keep your cat happy and trim and thus avoid issues such as joint pain and diabetes.

 

Need help? We offer complimentary nutrition consultations every day. hello@tfspets.com

CBD Pet Products: Are they worthy of the hype?

Posted on Monday, January 14, 2019 by Laura Amiton

The last couple of years has shed light on a new trend in pet supplies: CBD oils and treats to help relieve anxiety, inflammation and joint pain. To decipher if this growing trend was a fad, or truly held merit, my team and I went on a fact finding mission.

 

Knowing that the pet industry is big business, and seeing how quickly the products were coming out on the market, we were rightfully cautious. I’ve seen many new trends attract companies that may not be thinking about your pets’best interest, and it was our goal to find out two things:

 

1). What is CBD and what impact does it it have on our pets?

2). What are the best products out on the market? If we are going to carry any of these products, how do we vet out the companies?

 

Tigard Store Manager and Director of New Products, Shandell Hodges, became the project leader. She was familiar with the oils, as she worked at a store in another state who carried them. Over the last couple of years, we’ve had so many companies producing and selling CBD products for pets that it simply was overwhelming. What set these companies apart? Why one company over another?

 

In the meantime, the customer requests for these oils elevated to the point where we were special ordering them all the time. Pet owners were hearing from their friends and veterinarians that they were helping anxious dogs and cats and they were seeing the oils help relieve joint pain, digestion issues, seizures and more.

 

Anectodatlly, the positive stories were amazing. We would hear things like
“my dog with severe joint pain is now running like a puppy again”and anxious dogs and cats that were scared of going to the vet were able to do so without stress. These stories continued to be told and we were sure we’d be bringing in something, as soon as our research was complete.

 

What did we learn? CBD oil comes from the cannabis plant: Hemp, a part of the plant, which contains less than .3% of the mind-altering THC,  and contains 20% of CBD oil. This is markedly different from the marijuana part of the plant, which contains more than 20% THC and 10% of the CBD oils.

 

The CBD oils from the hemp plant are just a part of the oils in that plant. In fact, there are 70 phytocannabinoid oils in the plant and CBD oils are one part of that. Phytocannabinoid, or PCR, is non-psychoactive.

 

What we learned is that some companies extract these oils chemically, such as with ethanol, and others extract the oils more safely with a carbon dioxide method. Being a company that only carries natural products, we then focused our energy on companies extracting the phytocannabinoid oils without chemicals. We also looked at how the plants were grown and where they were grown. We learned that historically, most of the hemp was being grown in China. Knowing these were going to be ingested, we refocused our research to USA and organically grown.

 

We also learned that these phytocannabinoid oils really work best when they are together, which is called full spectrum. Isolating just the CBD oil from the rest of the oils won’t give the best results for generalized anxiety and pain issues.

 

After six months, Shandell was happy to report that two companies, Holistic Hound and Pet Releaf, stood out amongst the hundreds out on the market. That’s not to say that there weren’t others that we might have missed, but the ones we found we were very happy to add to our stores.

 

It’s been just a couple of months since carrying these products and we are happy with the results we are seeing in our own pets as well as our customer’s pets. It was a long process, but we are glad that we took the time to do the research that was necessary to feel completely confident in the products we introduced to our store and to you.

Are Grain Free Foods Harming Our Pets?

Posted on Thursday, September 6, 2018 by Laura Amiton

 

 

 

I recently had one of the most incredible experiences of my career. I was invited, along with some other pet supply owners and pet professionals, to western Pennsylvania to learn how one pet food company, Answers Pet Food, does what they do.

I’ve visited and toured other manufacturing facilities, but this was different. We weren’t just shown where the finished product ends up, in a clean room facility getting packaged. Rather, we were taken to several farms to watch how the chickens, goats, cows, and pigs lived. We saw where they grow their organic vegetables. And we met the farmers who did all of it.

We learned how they are a part of Global Animal Partnership (GAP), an organization, in summary, of farmers, scientists, retailers, manufacturers and animal advocates whose main purpose is to make sure the animals are treated with respect from beginning to end. GAP farms comply with strict regulations that allows the animals a humane experience, being able to come and go freely rather than being penned their entire existence. They are also fed species appropriate diets. The cows, for example, are grazing and eating grass that is not treated with pesticides. The chickens get to forage for bugs in the fields for hours at a time. Ultimately, the end result is a humane life, treated with respect until it’s ended for pet food. For that and many other reasons, Answers is arguably the best pet food in the country.

What we were able to experience is a “farm-to-bowl” movement. Answers Pet Food was the first of it’s kind to deliver this sort of product to the pet food consumer. Anyone who has watched Pet Fooled, the documentary that came out in 2016, or the famous Super Size Me from 2004, might be surprised that there are companies like Answers today. These films highlight how much our country has shifted how we grow food for humans and our pets. Natural, organic agriculture has made way to the mass-production, pesticide-laden, animal cruelty existence that has become our new normal.

Just after returning from this trip came news that the FDA is investigating taurine levels in dry pet food. They are trying to determine if foods high in vegetable starch, such as some grain free foods, could be contributing to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a potentially deadly disease for dogs and cats. We all agree that dogs and cats are carnivores with high amino acid requirements. The amino acids necessary for longterm survival are only found in animal protein, including muscle, heart, kidney and liver.

To allow a dry (kibble) food to cook appropriately, it cannot be 100% meat, so starch of some sort must be added. In the more recent past, corn, rice and wheat were predominantly used, but then about a decade or so ago there became a big push to remove glutens from the diet, realizing that our dogs and cats cannot process them. This is when we began to see foods being made with other starch binders such as potato, sweet potato, peas, lentils, garbanzo beans and tapioca starch.

It’s very important that this research is completed and the foods that are deficient are either fixing their mistakes or are taken off the market. What I am seeing, however, are blanket statements that “grain free foods are bad for pets” and “boutique pet foods are contributing to Dilated Cardiomyopathy”.

We are getting many questions from concerned pet owners every day about this and I can see why. Honestly, it comes down to reading and understanding pet food labels. It is agreed in the pet food industry that foods high in vegetable starches rather than animal proteins are not species appropriate. In other words, dogs and cats, without a doubt, need a food high in good, quality animal proteins and low in starch. When the first ingredient is not a high quality (by-product free, meal free), the food is not adequate. The ingredients are listed in order of weight, so you need to see animal protein as the first, hopefully second and even better yet, third ingredients in the food. If vegetables, such as peas, lentils, potatoes, tapioca, rice, wheat or corn are listed in a number one spot, avoid this food, as it will have less high quality protein.

So, it’s my assessment that the issue here is not specifically about grain free foods. The concern is about quality of ingredients inside that bag. Because grain free foods are now the predominant food on the market, particularly in natural pet food, the news is confusing the pet owners in to thinking that every grain free food is inadequate. This isn’t necessarily true.

We see our role in our animal community as educators and is the exact reason we exist with two natural pet supply stores. Feeding our beloved pets species appropriate diets is not just important, but it’s our duty as pet owners to understand what it is they need to live long, healthy lives.

The pet food industry is not unlike other industries, as there are excellent companies and then there are those attempting to capitalize on pet owners. It is my opinion that there are brands trying to fool the pet owners in to believing their foods are high quality, when in reality, they are exactly the opposite. These are the foods to be concerned about.

So, what to do now? If you feed a kibble, read the label. Feel free to come in and ask any one of us to help you decipher the ingredients, as we are more than eager to help you. We do this all day, every day and help give you ideas on what you can do to make any changes, be it a new food, a food supplement, or more.

We can help you with transitioning pet food from one brand to another, we can offer suggestions about adding taurine rich treats to add to the daily routine, and we can help you understand the role of raw food and it’s importance to your dog or cat’s diet, even if it’s not every day.

The cause is not lost. Rather, it’s us understanding and honoring the nutritional needs our pets have.

I applaud Answers and am eagerly watching other small pet food companies who are making great efforts as well. It is Answers, and others like My Perfect Pet, Open Farm, SmallBatch and Farmina amongst others, that take great care and pride in what they are creating for our cats and dogs.

Early Detection Can Save Your Pet’s Life

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 by Laura Amiton

Our pets are our family, so if they become sick it can be emotionally and financially devastating to us. We know our pets better than anyone else, and because they are reliant on us to take care of them, it’s our responsibility to recognize when they don’t seem themselves. Little issues can become major when we miss or ignore the signs.

 

The most common of the serious issues I hear pet owners talk about are urinary infections and blockages, digestive issues, kidney insufficiency and joint weakness that affects mobility. There are countless other illnesses that can and do occur, however, we’ll focus on the more common ailments and many of the tips here may apply if you’re dealing with something else.

 

Prevention is key. Take for example arthritis. Every pet, if they live long enough, may experience arthritis. It’s just what happens with age. If you start with joint supplements prior to symptoms, you may prevent the arthritis from ever becoming a debilitating issue. In addition, keeping your pets at an optimal weight will keep extra pressure off the joints. If your pet injures a joint, tendon or ligament, I recommend starting a joint supplement immediately upon recovery. My dog partially tore her Achilles Tendon as a 9-month old puppy. I started her on supplements immediately and now at 7 years old, her old injury doesn’t appear to bother her at all.

 

Early Kidney disease can generally be prevented by diet. A high-quality diet comprised of canned, raw or freeze-dried food free and of by-products, artificial ingredients such as colors, flavors and preservatives is one of the best choices you can make for your pet’s health. A diet solely of dry food, or kibble, can contribute, over time, to dehydration and kidney insufficiency.

 

Urinary infections and blockages are common and can become extremely serious very quickly. This affects dog and cats, however cats seem to be more prone to this disease. Dehydration is one of the first symptoms. If your cat is drinking more water than usual, keep your eyes peeled for another symptom: Frequent trips to the litter box, and/or urinating outside of the litter box. Cat owners tell me all the time that their cat urinated just outside the litter box, in a sink or bathtub, or on a pile of dirty laundry. This, I believe, is your cat telling you that something is wrong. Please do not ignore this, rather, make a vet appointment immediately. This can turn from what most people view as an annoying behavior to an extremely serious, even life-threatening condition in a matter of hours.

 

It is widely known that the digestive tract plays a major role in health for all animals, including humans. Digestive issues may indicate inflammation in the body and left untreated can lead to any number of issues. If your pet is experiencing chronic constipation, diarrhea or gas, consider this a warning for potential issues down the road if left untreated. Unless your pet is in obvious pain, I generally recommend giving their digestive tract a “rest”by feeding a very bland diet for 24 hours to rest their gut. A home-cooked diet of boiled meat and rice is a good way to start with dogs. For cats, a simple, natural canned food diluted with water can work. Adding a probiotic specific for dogs and cats may help. We don’t suggest using probiotics designed for humans, as our bacterial needs do vary. Raw goat milk,raw cow kefir and bone broths can be some of the easiest and tasty ways to add probiotics in to the gut.

 

Diagnosing digestive issues can be complicated and time consuming, however, should never be ignored. If your pet is not doing better after a rest period on a bland diet, see your veterinarian to rule out parasites, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel or other issues.

 

Quick take-aways:

 

1). You know you’re pet better than anyone. If something is off, act on it before it becomes major.

 

2). Lethargy should not be ignored. Lethargy with a complete loss of appetite is a major sign to see your vet.

 

3). Cats that won’t eat for more than 48 hours do need to get in to the vet. No exceptions. Keep a close watch on your dog if they have stopped eating. If they become lethargic, see your vet.

 

4). Make sure you and your veterinarian are in alignment with your values. For example, if you are holistic minded, choose a vet who treats symptoms from that perspective.

Does your pet need to lose weight? You’re not alone!

Posted on Sunday, June 3, 2018 by Laura Amiton

It is estimated that more than 50% of dogs and cats in America are overweight or obese. There are several reasons for what has become an incredibly serious issue, leading to potentially life changing diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, dental and heart disease.

 

Pet food, in many cases, is the culprit. With extremely loose regulations on what ingredients can go in to pet food in our country, we find that many companies load their foods with cheap carbohydrate fillers and not enough high quality proteins. These carbs then break down to sugar, which their body cannot use so it metabolizes to fat. Foods with less than 25% carbohydrates are considered okay. Anything above 25% can lead to issues. Want to know what percent of your cat or dog’s food is carbohydrates? See below for a simple formula.

 

Food quality isn’t the entire story, however. For many pets, they are simply eating too many calories. What’s the best way to monitor calories? Always use the suggested feeding amounts on your pet’s food label as your guideline. If you feed a combination of foods, such as dry and canned, make sure you are taking into consideration the volume percent. For example, if you want your cat 50% dry food and 50% canned food, look at the feeding guidelines for daily feeding amount and half it on both.

 

How many calories does my pet need?
Cats:
10 lbs.=180 to 200 calories
Dogs:
10 lbs.=200 to 275 calories
20 lbs.=325 to 400 calories
50 lbs.=700 to 900 calories
70 lbs.=900 to 1,050 calories
90 lbs.=1,100 to 1,350 calories

 

Carbohydrate calculator:
To calculate the percentage of carbohydrates in a commercial diet, subtract the percentages of protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber (an indigestible part of carbohydrates), and ash from 100. If ash isn’t listed, use 7% as an average.

 

Other things to consider are:

 

-Don’t give in! Begging can be cute, but it can also lead to overweight issues. Offer snacks that are natural and that you can understand the ingredients.

 

-Most commercial pet treats are equivalent to a bag of potato chips. Count the calories that  you’re feeding (adding calories of treats too).

 

-Add longer or more frequent walks, interactive toys for cats (laser pointers, wand-style toys).

 

-Introduce food dispensing toys. For dogs we love Kongs. For cats, Slim Cat Treat Ball and Indoor Hunting Feeder by Doc & Phoebe’s are exceptional ways to feed your feline.

 

Have questions or need help? We offer free nutritional consultation that can help you achieve optimal weight with your pet.