Tips for New Pet Parents from the Texas Farm Bureau

the Texas Agricultural Bureau recently published advice from Dr. Bob Judd, a longtime Waco-area veterinarian, on welcoming a new pet into the household.

This included choosing the right food, as Judd said customers often ask him what he thinks is the best food for dogs and cats. In response, he said pet owners should consider the digestibility, quality control measures and nutritional content of the food.

“There are hundreds of pet foods on the market, and just because the food is expensive doesn’t mean it’s high-quality food,” Judd said.

Bioavailability and digestibility testing should be done by the manufacturer, Judd said, along with nutritional content analysis. The manufacturer should also be able to provide information on quality control procedures such as Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification and testing for pathogens or toxins.

In addition, each food must have a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials that the food is complete and balanced and indicate what life stage the food is intended for use, such as puppies or dogs adults.

“If you read carefully, some foods say they’re only approved for supplemental or intermittent feeding and aren’t balanced for complete nutrition,” Judd said. “Food trials are the most accurate method of determining balance, and companies that do food trials likely provide better foods.”

There are also many human foods and medications that can be dangerous or fatal to pets, including over-the-counter medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofin or naproxen, which include brands like Advil or Raised. These can cause stomach bleeding, intestinal ulcers and kidney failure in pets.

Acetaminophen or Tylenol can damage red blood cells in cats and limit their ability to carry oxygen, while they can cause liver failure and red blood cell damage in dogs.

A wide range of prescription medications, including antidepressants, amphetamines for attention deficit disorder, sleeping pills, hormonal contraceptives, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors for blood pressure and heart conditions , can cause serious illness or irreversible organic damage in pets. Judd recommends storing medications in upper cabinets, out of reach of pets and children.

There are also certain human foods that pets should avoid.

“You always think of chocolate, and although chocolate is toxic to dogs, there are many other ingredients in foods that are also toxic,” Judd said.

Onions, garlic and other members of the Allium family are very common ingredients in family meals that are toxic to dogs and cats. Dried and powdered ingredients, such as dried minced onion or garlic powder, contain higher concentrations and therefore may pose an even higher risk.

Eating these foods can damage red blood cells in dogs and cats, leading to anemia. Judd noted that cats are about twice as sensitive to these ingredients as dogs. Common signs of overingestion include gastrointestinal upset such as decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or drooling.

According to the report, ingesting large amounts that cause damage to red blood cells often results in weakness, increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate or rapid, shallow breathing or gasping, pale gums and bloody urine.

Symptoms of kidney damage in dogs with red blood cell destruction include increased alcohol consumption, significant increase or decrease in urination, vomiting, and decreased appetite. If a pet is observed ingesting onion, garlic or any other related ingredient, Judd advised the pet owner to call the veterinarian immediately.

Inducing vomiting or administering activated charcoal may be necessary to prevent serious damage. He said some pets will even need IV fluids or a blood transfusion to survive. Although not as dangerous, Judd added that baked goods can also cause illness in pets.

“They are generally high in fat and can lead to pancreatitis if fed frequently enough,” he said.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include gastrointestinal upset and abdominal pain. Without treatment, the disease can progress to a more serious level requiring long hospitalization or even become incurable.

It is best not to give pets human food. Judd said small pet treats formulated specifically for occasional feeding are the best alternatives to pet food or human table treats. Pet treats can satisfy the human need to reward pets while helping to maintain the pet at a healthy weight.

The Farm Bureau said to consult local veterinarians for more information on new pet care.

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