3 Ways to Determine if Your Cat is Overweight

by VetDepot

You probably already know that keeping your cat at a healthy weight is essential for her overall health. A healthy weight helps reduce your feline companion’s chances of suffering from arthritis, heart disease, and other serious health issues. Below are three easy ways to keep an eye on your cat’s weight:

1. The Rib Check: This physical check is one of the most reliable because the fur makes visual methods a little more difficult. Place your thumbs on your cat’s backbone with your hands on her rib cage. You should be able to feel her ribs easily without excess padding between the skin and the ribs.

2. The Overhead Check: Look at your cat from above. Her waste shouldn’t extend too far out beyond her ribs.

3. The Profile Check: Get on your cat’s level and look at her body from the side. Ideally, her abdomen should be tucked behind her rib cage. For a more detailed explanation, see below:


Of course, breeds all differ in stature and no two cats are the same. Consult with a veterinarian to determine if your feline companion is overweight. Extra weight can be remedied with the right portions of a healthy cat food and plenty of exercise.

The Health Benefits of Bananas for Dogs

by VetDepot

Bananas may not seem like a likely choice when it comes to choosing a treat for your dog, but there are actually quite a few health benefits to sharing a little of that yummy yellow fruit with Fido.

The Benefits

For both humans and dogs alike, bananas are a great source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, biotin, and copper. Bananas help boost the immune system, replenish electrolytes, and promote skin and coat health. In moderation, bananas can make a healthy, low-calorie treat for dogs.

But, Don’t Go Overboard

Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Since bananas are high in natural sugar, dogs should only eat them as a treat, not as part of their regular diet. Excess banana consumption can lead to constipation in dogs. Also, dogs should never be fed the peel, which can cause a serious blockage.

Do Dogs Even Like Bananas?

The simplest answer is that some dogs do and some dogs don’t. Start off with just a little bite to test how your dog reacts. Try a swipe of peanut butter on top for an extra-special canine snack.

Remember, you should always discuss any questions or concerns about your dog’s diet and nutritional requirements with a veterinarian.

Just chillin’ and eating a healthy banana snack… 🙂

Posted by This needs a love button on Sunday, 14 June 2015

Dog Food Calculator

Dog Food Calculator


This Dog Food Calculator can help you estimate the proper serving size for your pet. It’s based upon a scientific study1 published by a respected veterinary research institute.
Please click here to use the calculator.

To use the calculator you’ll need to know…

  • Your dog’s ideal weight (what you believe he should weigh)
  • Your dog’s approximate activity level
  • The calorie content of your dog’s food

A Dog Food Calculator
for Adults Only

The Dog Food Calculator was designed to be used for adult dogs only — not for puppies. And it should never be used for pregnant or lactating females.

Small to medium breeds may be considered adults after about six months of age.

But large and giant breeds shouldn’t be fed as adults until they reach somewhere around one to two years — depending upon the breed.3

When Is a Dog a Senior?

Older dogs have significantly lower energy needs than younger ones. So, it’s easy for them to put on extra weight.

In general, small to medium dogs are considered seniors at about seven years of age.  However, larger breeds reach senior status much sooner — some as early as five.4

Converting Calories to Serving Size

Once you’ve entered your dog’s ideal weight and activity level, you’ll know the number of calories per day.

However, to convert calories into something you can use, you’ll need to enter the number of calories in your dog’s food.

The number of calories in a given amount of dog food is known as its metabolizable energy (ME, for short). It’s usually reported somewhere on a dog food package like this…

  • Calories per cup (kcal/cup)
  • Calories per kilogram (kcal/kilogram)

By the way, the calculator assumes you’re feeding your dog just once a day.

If you prefer to feed your dog twice a day, be sure to divide your result in half so that both meals add up to the full daily calories suggested.

The Bottom Line

Since each dog has its own unique energy needs, it’s impossible to accurately predict the exact serving size that’s right for your pet.

So, start with the package’s feeding instructions — or the amount suggested by our calculator.

And be sure to weigh your dog every few weeks.

Then, simply adjust that suggested serving size up or down to reach and maintain your pet’s ideal weight.

Sure, it’s a little work. But in the end, it’s the only real life method you can scientifically rely on.


  1. Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (1999), Canine Life Stages and Lifestyles, The Waltham Course on Dog and Cat Nutrition, p. 14
  2. ME (kcal/day) = 110 (body weight in kilograms)0.75 to maintain a typical adult dog
  3. Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (1999), Canine Life Stages and Lifestyles, The Waltham Course on Dog and Cat Nutrition, p. 4
  4. Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (1999), Canine Life Stages and Lifestyles, The Waltham Course on Dog and Cat Nutrition, p. 16

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The Truth About Animal By-Products by Mike Sagman

This article was written by Mike Sagman of the dogfood advisor.

Animal by-products… what could be more controversial to dog food shoppers than animal by-products?

By-Products of Poultry Slaughter

These common pet food ingredients are despised by many. Yet they’re accepted… and even revered by others.

Fans claim animal by-products are equal in quality to fresh meat. And they blame the ingredients’ noted unpopularity on the unsavory mental image they invoke.

Something proponents like to refer to as “the yuck factor”.1

Critics, on the other hand, insist these ingredients are nothing more than inedible waste of inferior nutritional value.


What Exactly Are Animal By-Products?

Basically, animal by-products are what’s left of a slaughtered animal after the edible parts have been removed. They include the waste2 of meat processing not intended for human consumption. For example…

  • Feet
  • Backs
  • Livers
  • Lungs
  • Heads
  • Brains
  • Spleen
  • Frames
  • Kidneys
  • Stomachs
  • Intestines
  • Undeveloped eggs

But there are exceptions…

Giblets (livers, hearts, gizzards and necks) as well as other organs can be sold as edible meats or used generically to make hot dogs, bologna and sausage.

Unfit for Human Consumption
OK for Dog Food?

However, what makes some by-products edible (and others not) isn’t just a matter of what they are… but how they’re handled after slaughter.

For example, giblets not refrigerated immediately after slaughter but stored for up to 24 hours in a hot offal3 trailer cannot be sold for human consumption.

Yet they can still be legally used for making pet food.

Likewise, dead-on-arrival animals or other condemned parts4 that have been declared inedible and unfit for human consumption can still be used for making pet food.

Chart of Animal By-Products

Turning Tons of Inedible Waste
into Profitable Products

As you can see from the diagram, there are two primary uses for meat by-products…

  • Canned pet food
  • By-product meals

Inedible by-products not processed into canned pet food can be rendered.

Rendering is a process similar to making stew. Except that the stew is intentionally over-cooked.

With rendering, the idea is to start with a stew of by-products and cook away the water.

Then, skim away the fat and bake the residue.

What you end up with is a concentrated protein powder commonly known as by-product meal.

The Two Grades of By-Product Meal
(and the Only One Suitable for Your Dog)

In the specific cases of chicken or poultry by-product meals, there are two recognized grades…

  • Feed grade by-product meal
  • Pet food grade by-product meal

In an important 2003 study5, pet food grade by-product meal was compared to feed grade by-product meal.

The result? Pet food grade by-product meal was found to be…

  • Higher in protein6
  • Lower in ash
  • More digestible7
  • More consistent8

Bottom line? All things considered, pet food grade by-product meals are superior to feed grade by-product meals.

The Two Ways to Describe Animal By-Product Meals

Based upon the source of their raw materials, there are two ways to identify by-product meals.

  • Named by-product meals
  • Generic by-product meals

Named by-product meals have one thing in common. They all clearly identify the source species of the by-products that was used to make the meal.

These common pet food ingredients can include…

  • Chicken by-product meal
  • Turkey by-product meal
  • Poultry by-product meal
  • Beef by-product meal

And although named by-product meals may not be considered the highest quality ingredients, they can be considered acceptable.

And the One Type You Must Never Trust

On the other hand, generic by-product meals do not identify the source of the meat. Instead, they use vague and non-specific names like…

  • Meat meal
  • Meat and bone meal
  • Meat by-product meal
  • Animal by-product meal

What’s more, generic meat meals can also contain

Because you can never know the source of the meat used to make generic by-product meals, purchase of pet food products containing them should be avoided.

Nutritional Differences… Real or Imagined?

When comparing animal by-product meals with their “regular” meal counterparts, the differences can be nutritionally insignificant.

For example, in the case of rendered ingredients, the digestibility, biological value and amino acid content of both poultry and poultry by-product meals are nearly identical.9

So, if there’s little nutritional difference between the two, why then do some companies use meat by-products… while others don’t?

The Real Reason Dog Food Companies
Use Animal By-Products

There’s one glaring and indisputable reason animal by-products remain so popular with some manufacturers… and not others.

Animal by-products are simply cheaper… notably cheaper than most any other comparable meat product. They’re used for making dog food because they save money. Not because they’re more nutritious.

Why is this important to a pet food shopper?

Although finding animal by-products in a recipe doesn’t guarantee you’ve discovered a good or a bad dog food, their presence must always be considered a reliable clue the food is made with cheaper ingredients.

The Bottom Line

With the sole exception of precisely identified organ meats, two rules will help you more intelligently navigate the confusing world of meat-based dog food ingredients.

First, watch what you spend. Never pay top dollar for any dog food that lists animal by-products on its label.

And lastly, never buy any dog food containing anonymous animal by-products sourced from materials a manufacturer refuses to clearly identify.

Notes and References

  1. M Nestle, “Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine”, University of California Press, Edition (2010)
  2. Association of American Feed Control Officials, Official Publication, 2008 Edition
  3. Slaughterhouse waste
  4. Carcasses, parts or organs officially marked unfit for human consumption and intended to be destroyed
  5. W. A. Dozier, III, N. M. Dale and C. R. Dove, “Nutrient Compostion of Feed Grade and Pet Food Grade Poultry By-Product Meal”, University of Georgia, Journal of Applied Poultry Research (2003)
  6. Crude protein 66.1% vs. 58.1%
  7. Average amino acid digestibility coefficient
  8. Batch-to-batch protein variability
  9. Watson, Hillary. “Poultry Meal versus Poultry By-Product Meal“, Dogs in Canada, January 2006

3 Tips for Dog Parents Who Feed Their Dogs Dry Kibble

We wanted to share this helpful post written by Kimberly of


3 Tips for Dog Parents Who Feed Their Dogs Dry Kibble

This is a quick post and completely unplanned.  Linda, a reader who also follows me on Facebook, asked a great question this morning and I wanted to share it today, because this is in response to the article about feeding our dogs feathers for protein…

“ Do you have any tips for people who want to continue to feed their dogs a dry kibble but at the same time want them to have the healthiest diet possible?”

1) Read the ingredients; get to know what is going into your pet’s food, especially the first 5 ingredients, because it’s ordered by quantity. If the first ingredient is a carb/grain, put it back on the shelf. It should be a protein (and a real one, not feathers). I would also pass on anything that isn’t clear about the meat. Chicken or chicken meal (which some disagree with, but is actually chicken without the water, so in some foods, it’s more protein) is a great example.

If you notice an ingredient that you’re not sure about, hit up Google.  So many of us have smart phones, Google while your at the store.  If this isn’t possible, as a sales clerk.  If they don’t know – pass until you get an answer that you understand.  The best example that I have is beet pulp, which I used to think was great for our dogs.  It’s beets right?  No, apparently it’s the biproduct of processing beets.  I don’t want our dogs eating the run off from a manufacturing process.

The above ingredients are from a dry kibble created by a very popular brand that is sold in grocery stores.  Looking at these ingredients, I wouldn’t buy this food because…

  • The first ingredient is corn; this is a known allergen for many dogs and corn is a carb – to have a carb as a first ingredient doesn’t seem right to me.  It should be a meat.  I’m not suggesting that dogs shouldn’t eat carbs, it’s an energy source, but their food shouldn’t be carb heavy and since corn is the first ingredient, I take that to mean there is a high percentage of carbs in this food.
  • Chicken by-product meal; chicken meal isn’t bad, this is just chicken with all the water taken out and some say that it allows the food to hold even more chicken.  That’s great!  What raises a red flag for me is the “by-product.”  What is that?  Does that mean it’s all the left overs not fit for other food?  The product is the meat; the by-product is what they throw away – or at least that’s what I’m thinking.
  • Uhh oh, we see corn again; corn gluten meal.  Wow, this food seriously isn’t for dogs with known corn allergies.  Stay away!
  • Rice flour; I underlined this one, because I know that brown rice is great for dogs and I’ve been told that white rice isn’t so great.  For dogs with allergies, it’s suggested that wheat flour (of course, some dogs are allergic to wheat) or brown rice flour be substituted for rice flour.  I’ve read some great information about grains, thanks to Kate of SlimDoggy (you rock!) and in my reading, rice is seen as the least problematic by some, but it’s still raised often enough to be a concern – but it’s lower on the ingredients list so let’s move on.
  • Beef; why so low on the list?
  • Soy flour; like rice flour, I keep seeing people suggest alternatives, because soy is an allergen for some dogs.
  • Meat and bone meal; whenever food just says meat and doesn’t identify what type of meat, my brain goes to some dark places.  I want to know what type of meat.
  • And the veggies are so far down on the list that it seems like they shouldn’t be counted in the ingredients.

Now here’s an example of an ingredients list of dry kibble that we used to feed our dogs and I still think is an excellent brand (Halo Purely for Pets)…

A protein is the first ingredient and all you see are great stuff for our dogs as you continue to read.  I don’t think dry kibble is ideal for my dogs, but I will not start telling people to stop feeding dry kibble to their dogs; instead, I want to encourage them to buy the best they can afford.

In my completely biased (raw food, premium dry kibble fan here) and totally inexperienced (I’m not a nutritionist) opinion, I think the first example isn’t great food for our dogs.  But that’s just my opinion.  Hopefully this gives you an idea of how I look at the ingredients.  It’s not overly complicated, because I don’t have time for complicated.

Read more about dogs and allergies from Dr. Becker.

2) Bookmark Dog Food Advisor and do a little research. The great thing about this site is that the owner has taken on most of the work – we just need to read his findings. I return to it regularly both as a blogger and a pet mom.  You can also check them out on Facebook.

3) Don’t buy from the grocery story or Walmart. Go to local pet food store where they’re going to have truly premium dry kibble; not popular foods they’re calling premium. What I like about local pet food stores is that you can probably speak with the owner and get their input on brands without feeling like your being pushed towards one.  I’m not knocking Walmart; I venture in their from time to time for the deals too, but I doubt that their employees can educate me about the pros and cons of the pet foods they carry.

And don’t be fulled by buzz words like ‘Natural’ or ‘Organic.’ Some pet food companies have clued in that this attracts buyers; it’s still up to us to ask the question “what makes it natural?”


Remedies for Kennel Cough

Natural, gentle remedies to prevent or treat kennel cough.

By CJ Puotinen

Anyone who’s heard it will recognize the dry, hacking, something’s-stuck-in-my-throat cough that won’t quit. It’s the signature symptom of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as Bordetellosis, Bordetella, and most commonly as kennel cough. Whatever you call it, tracheobronchitis is one of the world’s most widespread canine diseases.

Like the common cold in humans, tracheobronchitis is highly contagious, rarely fatal, and runs its course in a few days. Fortunately, there are several ways to help make canine patients more comfortable, speed recovery, and prevent future infections.

Shelters and kennels are infamous for spreading the viruses and bacteria that can cause “kennel cough.” However, outbreaks are not necessarily due to poor disinfection practices. Stress and crowding can make a dog’s immune system vulnerable to this infection, which is much like the common cold in humans.

Tracheobronchitis is called kennel cough because of its association with boarding kennels, animal shelters, veterinary waiting rooms, grooming salons, and other areas where dogs congregate in close quarters. It can strike dogs of any age but is most common in puppies, whose immune systems are still developing, and adult dogs with conditions that impair immune function.

Although often referred to as Bordetella, tracheobronchitis isn’t caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria alone. Several infectious agents contribute to the condition, primarily parainfluenza. Other viruses that may be involved include canine adenovirus, reovirus, and the canine herpes virus.

When Bordetella and parainfluenza combine to cause tracheobronchitis, symptoms appear within a week of exposure (usually after three to four days) and continue for about 10 days. Even after symptoms disappear, the recovering patient remains contagious, shedding Bordetella bacteria for up to 14 weeks.

In mild cases, infected dogs remain active and alert, with good appetite. In more severe cases, symptoms may progress toward pneumonia and include lethargy, fever, and a loss of appetite.

The main symptom of tracheobron-chitis – its cough – has been described as unproductive, throat-clearing, goose-honking, hacking, dry, harsh, gut-wrenching, gagging, wheezing, and croup-like – not to mention annoying to the dogs who can’t stop coughing and the humans they live with. Vigorous exercise triggers it, but even resting dogs may cough every few minutes throughout the day.

The cough is caused by irritation and damage to the lining of the trachea and upper bronchi. In the trachea, exposed nerve endings are aggravated by the passage of air over damaged tissue as the dog inhales and exhales.

Just as the virus that causes the common cold is carried by water vapor, dust, and air, the bacteria and viruses that cause tracheobronchitis spread in all directions. When inhaled by a susceptible dog, they attach to the lining of upper airway passages whose warm, moist conditions allow them to reproduce and eventually damage the cells they infect.

Risk factors
Some people catch frequent colds and others never get sick. Some dogs are susceptible to tracheobronchitis and others never get it, even after repeated exposure.

According to Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, Educational Director of, “The normal respiratory tract has substantial safeguards against invading infectious agents. The most important of these is probably what is called the mucocillary escalator.”

Cilia are tiny hairlike structures that protrude from the cells that line the respiratory tract. They are covered with a protective coat of mucus, and they beat in a coordinated fashion. As viruses, bacteria, and other debris become trapped in the sticky mucus, the cilia move everything up (hence the escalator analogy) toward the throat, where it can be coughed up or swallowed.

Conditions that damage the mucocillary escalator include shipping stress, crowding stress, heavy dust exposure, exposure to cigarette smoke, viruses, and poor ventilation. “Without this protective mechanism,” says Dr. Brooks, “invading bacteria, especially Bordetella bronchiseptica, may simply march down the airways unimpeded.”

Poorly ventilated, crowded conditions increase the odds of contracting tracheobronchitis, but dogs can catch the disease almost anywhere. All they need is exposure to a dog who has an active infection or is recovering from one – or to the viruses and bacteria an infected dog left behind.

Most veterinarians treat tracheobronchitis the way physicians treat the common cold. They let it run its course while keeping the patient comfortable. Some veterinarians routinely prescribe antibiotics, which are effective against bacteria, thus addressing part of the infection. But because antibiotics have no effect on viruses, this treatment is not a cure, and most vets save antibiotics for more serious conditions, such as the secondary infections that sometimes develop in dogs with tracheobronchitis.

For partial relief of symptoms and to help the dog feel more comfortable, minor cases are often treated with nonprescription cough remedies such as Robitussin (dextromethorphan). Recommended for chronic, dry, unproductive coughing, Robitussin should not be used for moist or productive coughs. Products that contain acetaminophen or caffeine should not be given to dogs.

Prescription cough suppressants and most antibiotics are reserved for cases in which a fever develops, symptoms last longer than a few days, or the cough becomes more severe.

It might be something else
Tracheobronchitis usually clears up on its own without complications. If it doesn’t, there may be a secondary bacterial infection (such as pneumonia), or the problem may be due to something entirely else entirely. Dogs cough for many reasons.

For example, dogs can create their own tracheal irritation by pulling on the leash. A body harness with a leash attachment in front of the chest or on the back instead of the collar can prevent this cough-inducing problem.

Dogs with heart disease, including congestive heart failure and heartworm infestations, often cough after exercise or excitement. Heartworm disease is endemic in some parts of the country, and less common in others, but is a possibility in any area where mosquitoes are common. Congestive heart failure, which occurs when the heart’s valves leak, is most common in middle-aged or older dogs, including small breeds.

Coughs due to tracheal collapse can be triggered by drinking water.

Diseases of the larynx or esophagus can cause coughing after eating. A damaged larynx may not close properly, allowing swallowed food to enter the trachea. Paralysis of the larynx is more common in large breed dogs.

An abnormally dilated esophagus may allow food to pool, then pass back up to the mouth and down into the lungs, causing infection and coughing. Tracheal collapse is most common in middle-aged and older, overweight small-breed dogs.

The cough resulting from tracheobronchitis is usually dry. A moist cough sounds that way because of accumulated fluid in the lungs or airways. The fluid can be water, blood, or pus. Hunting dogs and dogs who spend most of their time outdoors may inhale seeds, pollen, grasses, or other foreign matter that travels through the nose to the lung, causing pyothorax, an infection that produces a large amount of pus.

Dogs of any age can develop allergic lung disease from exposure to dust, pollen, or smoke.

While lung cancer is unusual in dogs, it too can cause coughing. Short-nosed breeds exposed to second-hand smoke and any dog exposed to asbestos may be at risk.

Pneumonia and other secondary bacterial infections can develop in pet store puppies with tracheobronchitis and in older dogs with weak immune systems or other illnesses.

Any dog who doesn’t recover quickly from what appears to be tracheobronchitis should receive a thorough veterinary exam. To help your veterinarian reach an accurate diagnosis, keep track of your dog’s symptoms, noting on a calendar or notebook the date of each symptom and its description.

It’s not the flu
Three years ago, canine flu seemed to be an epidemic affecting dogs of every description (see “Fending Off the Flu,” Whole Dog Journal, December 2005).

The cough produced by the canine flu virus is soft and moist, and it’s usually accompanied by a high fever and nasal discharge, none of which are symptoms of tracheobronchitis.

Fortunately, of the strategies that help prevent and treat tracheobronchitis work for canine flu as well as other infectious diseases. The herbs, supplements, and treatments described here can help your dog stay healthy when exposed to many different viruses and bacteria.

Most boarding facilities require proof of Bordetella vaccination for dogs who will be visiting. However, because there are many strains of Bordetella, and because no vaccine protects every patient, some immunized dogs contract tracheobronchitis despite being vaccinated. Veterinary recommendations range from vaccinating every four months to not at all.

“There are two kinds of Bordetella vaccine,” says Stacey Hershman, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. “The intranasal vaccine is highly effective and very safe since it is not systemic but goes down the nose into the throat. I do not recommend the injectable vaccine since it can cause negative side effects like lethargy, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.

“I never vaccinate animals more than once a year for kennel cough, and then only if they are going to a boarding kennel. Kennel cough is not fatal in adult dogs, who usually board, therefore it would be over-vaccinating in my opinion to do it more than once a year. Healthy, strong immune systems are resistant and do not catch it, which is another reason not to vaccinate unless the dog is going to a kennel that requires it.”

No matter what your dog’s vaccination status, a few natural preventives can’t hurt, especially whenever your dog is exposed to dogs with active or recent infections.

Honey and coconut oil
The single treatment for tracheobronchitis that conventional veterinarians, holistic vets, and caregivers of every description agree on is honey. Honey soothes the throat, but it does far more than that.

Honey and coconut oil are powerful health-boosters for you and your dog. They are also inexpensive and easy to find in your local health food store.

As noted in “A Honey of a Cure” (September 2007), all honey has disinfecting properties. One of the most expensive honeys sold in the United States and around the world is manuka honey from New Zealand, where bees harvest nectar from the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium). Twenty years of research at the University of Waikato show that manuka honey has impressive antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. While all honeys share these properties, they are especially pronounced in manuka honey.

Most dogs enjoy honey’s sweet taste, so it’s easy to feed from a spoon or, if the honey is thick, you can roll it into a treat-sized ball. Honey can be fed by itself, mixed with powdered herbs for additional benefit, or added to herbal teas that double as cough syrups.

There is no specific recommended dose, as both larger and smaller doses are safe and effective, but for most dogs ½ to 1 teaspoon of honey three or four times per day works well.

In recent years, coconut oil has become a popular supplement for people and pets (see “Crazy about Coconut Oil,” October 2005). Because its medium-chain fatty acids kill harmful bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi, and parasites, its advocates call it an all-purpose infection fighter. As coconut oil expert and book author Bruce Fife, ND, explains, “Taking coconut oil daily is like a daily inoculation. It will help prevent your dog from becoming infected.”

The recommended maintenance dose is 1 teaspoon coconut oil per 10 pounds of body weight per day in divided doses, always starting with smaller amounts and increasing gradually. When your dog has been exposed to tracheobronchitis or any other infection, the dose can be doubled. The only adverse effects of a too-high dose of coconut oil are loose, greasy stools and a temporary feeling of fatigue (thought to result from detoxification). Most dogs adjust easily to a coconut oil regimen, and because they’re usually fond of the taste, coconut oil can be fed from a spoon or added to your dog’s food.

Honey and coconut oil work well together. Combine these two infection fighters for both the treatment and prevention of tracheobronchitis and other contagious diseases.

Herbs for tracheobronchitis
Most natural foods markets and pet supply stores sell herbal products that help coughing dogs.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra or G. uralensis) is a favorite of herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy. In her book, The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat, which describes her “Natural Rearing” approach to pet care, Levy recommends making a strong infusion (steeped tea) by combining 1 tablespoon dried licorice root with 2 cups cold water, bringing it to a boil, removing it from heat, and letting it stand until room temperature. Add 1 teaspoon honey to each tablespoon of licorice tea and give 2 tablespoons to the dog before meals. Small dogs and puppies can take less and large dogs more, but precise measurements aren’t necessary. Refrigerate leftover tea for up to five days.

Levy also recommends as cough remedies teas made of sage leaves (Salvia officinalis), blackberry leaves (Rubus spp.), elder blossom (Sambucus nigra), and thyme (Thymus vulgaris). “Sage is the best,” she writes.

Apitherapy Honey Wild Cherry Bark Syrup from Honey Gardens in Vermont, sold in natural foods markets, contains raw honey, apple cider vinegar, wild cherry bark (Prunus virginiana or P. serotina), elecampane root (Inula helenium), propolis (a bee product), rosehips (Rosa spp.), ginger root (Zingiber officinale), licorice root, slippery elm bark (Ulmus fulva), and the essential oils of lemon, peppermint, and eucalyptus.

All of these ingredients are traditionally used to support upper respiratory health and soothe sore throats. The human adult dose is 1 teaspoon every other hour while symptoms persist. Adjust the dose for your dog’s weight, and to make the product more palatable, try mixing it with honey and/or coconut oil or add it to a small amount of interesting food.

Kennel-Koff, an herbal product from Amber Technology, contains infection-fighting olive leaf (Olea Europaea), mustard seed (Brassica spp.), black seed (Nigella sativa), and pau d’arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa).

Described as an antimicrobial that aids upper respiratory infections, Kennel-Koff is given orally four times per day for up to 10 days. The recommended dose for most dogs, based on weight, is 15 drops at a time. According to the manufacturer, this product is designed to stimulate immunity, rid the lungs of congestion, kill viruses and bacteria, soothe digestion, rid the body of free radicals, and protect pets who are exposed to illness.

Australian herbalist Robert McDowell’s favorite treatment for tracheobronchitis is a blend of rosehips, garlic (Allium sativum), fenugreek (Trigonella fornum), marshmallow, elecampane, coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), kelp (Laminaria digitata), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and mullein (Verbascum thapsus), which he makes in a base of apple cider vinegar.

“All this sounds like a lot,” he says, “but the old-fashioned way of treating chest and respiratory infections works well. These herbs provide important minerals and vitamin C, and they act as healing tonics, expectorants, and lymphatic supplements. The result is an herbal mix that gets rid of the cough, and by continuing for several weeks after the cough has gone, it builds up the immunity. I recommend that it be kept on hand and given to the whole kennel at any signs of cough showing up, at which time all dogs should be given a short course. One dog recovered quickly when given this blend after six prescriptions for antibiotics failed.”

Juliette de Baircli Levy’s famous Natural Rearing (NR) Herbal Compounds tablets contain garlic, rue (Ruta graveolens), sage, thyme, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), and vegetable charcoal.

Levy recommends giving dogs 3 to 6 tablets daily to help fight and prevent disease. “These tablets maintain health and promote a cure in the sick,” she explains. “Use them daily for prevention, especially before and after your animal is exposed to any public place where other animals have been.”

Holistic health consultant Marina Zacharias recommends Bioprin, a Chinese blend of 21 herbs.

“This formula is the best for any type of viral infection,” she says, “as well as helping the overall immune system, and it acts like a natural anti-inflammatory. Combined with the kennel cough nosode (a homeopathic remedy designed to help increase the body’s defense against the infection), Bioprin usually brings quick relief, often within one to three days.

“Most of the people I work with have multiple-dog households, so we give the remedies to everyone preventatively whenever we know there has been exposure or when one of the household members has contracted the infection. The results are great as no one else in the house gets sick.”

Clearing the air
When Faith Thanas, an aromatherapist who lives in Leicester, Massachusetts, adopted a Doberman Pinscher from Louisiana one year after Hurricane Katrina, Sasha arrived in a van carrying 20 rescued dogs. A few days later, she started coughing.

To help soothe Sasha’s throat, Thanas mixed a blend of essential oils to spray in the air around the dog. She started with Ravensare (Cinnamonum camphora), one of the “must have” essential oils listed by Kristen Leigh Bell in her book Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals. As Bell explains, this gentle and tolerable antiviral, antibacterial essential oil supports the immune system and has tonifying effects.

Faith Thanas’ Doberman, Sasha, was a Katrina dog. After being shipped in a van with about 20 other rescued dogs, she developed a severe cough. Thanas, an aromatherapist, developed Cough Drop! to treat Sasha’s cough.

Thanas then added Eucalyptus radiata, the gentlest of the many eucalyptus varieties available. It is known for its antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant properties. Bell writes, “Due to its gentleness, it is very appropriate for use in blends for animals for congestion, and it makes an excellent room air cleaner, deodorizer, and flea repellent.”

Eucalyptus globulus, the next ingredient, is the eucalyptus commonly found in chest rubs, cough drops, and cough syrups. It has a fresh antiseptic fragrance and, when inhaled, acts as a decongestant.

Thanas added Spike Lavender (Lavendula latifolia) for its powerful antibacterial properties.

After diluting the essential oils, Thanas used a spray bottle to mist the air around Sasha. “The results were instantaneous,” she recalls. “She stopped coughing, she was able to breathe, and she was so much more comfortable.”

Thanas wasted no time adding Cough Drop! to her AromaDog line of aromatherapy pet products. She describes it as an all-natural cough suppressant that works quickly, helps open breathing passages, acts as an expectorant (antitussive), soothes the chest and respiratory system (balsamic), reduces swelling (antihistamine), helps reduce excess mucus secretion (anticatarrh), and acts as an immune system stimulant.

“The bottle should be shaken well for at least three seconds before use,” she says.” Repeat the application every three hours. In households with other animals, or in boarding kennels, spraying the air, bedding, and other surfaces can help keep the illness from spreading.”

Another way to disperse essential oils into the air is with a diffuser. Aromatherapy supply companies, such as Aromatherapeutix, sell different models. A nebulizing diffuser consists of a nebulizer (glass receptacle) attached to the hose of a small air compressor. Drops of essential oil placed in the nebulizer are atomized into tiny droplets that are sprayed into the air.

Bell notes that disinfecting essential oils dispersed by a nebulizing diffuser effectively clean the air, deodorize the room, and help clear up and prevent contagious illnesses.

A new type of ultrasonic cold mist diffuser runs silently (unlike nebulizing diffusers with their noisy air compressors) and can be set for constant or intermittent dispersal. To use, simply fill the unit with water, add a few drops of essential oil, and turn it on. Buttons on the unit control the frequency and duration of misting. Simpler models, such as the SpaMist diffuser, run constantly. Ultrasonic diffusers have become popular accessories for aromatherapists and those who use essential oils.

Any blend of disinfecting essential oils, such as Ravensare, Eucalyptus radiata, or Spike Lavender, can be dispersed into the air with a diffuser.

Canine nutritional consultant Linda Arndt has a favorite remedy for clearing the air and helping dogs recover from and avoid respiratory infections. The Nzymes product Ox-E-Drops (not to be confused with Oxy Drops, an eye drop from a different manufacturer) contains sodium clorite, which breaks down to form chlorine dioxide, a microbiocide.

To use in a warm steam vaporizer (an inexpensive appliance sold in pharmacies), mix 1 teaspoon Ox-E-Drops Concentrate with one gallon of water. For severe cases, use up to 1 tablespoon. In a small bathroom, other enclosed room, or in a crate covered by a sheet, direct the vapors toward the dog’s head, keeping the vaporizer far enough away so that its hot steam doesn’t pose a safety hazard.

“Allow your pet to breathe the vapors for 15 to 20 minutes each hour for four to five hours,” says Arndt. “Repeat the procedure for two to three days until symptoms improve.”

It’s in the water
Ox-E-drops can be added to drinking water as well as spayed in the air. “Use 1 drop per 20 pounds of body weight, diluted in 1 to 3 teaspoons of water,” says Arndt, “and give this amount three times per day for all types of illness or respiratory problems.”

Faith Thanas at AromaDog created Lickity Spritzer, a blend of colloidal silver and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) hydrosol, to help keep dogs healthy while traveling as well as at home. Colloidal silver, a suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a colloidal base, is promoted as an all-purpose disinfectant and infection-fighter.

In her book Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy, Suzanne Catty writes that the hydrosol (distilled flower water) of lemon balm makes a good prophylactic in flu and allergy season and has both immune-stimulating and infection-fighting properties.

“Together,” says Thanas, “these two super-power ingredients knock out the potential for infection from bacteria, fungi, and viruses, stimulating the immune system and emotionally calming your pet. Lickity Spritzer purifies your pet’s yucky water bowl so it becomes a clean source of good health. This product is great for dogs or cats and multiple pet households.”

Special supplements
According to San Diego veterinarian Stephen R. Blake, DVM, the most important defense against any infection, whether fungal, viral, or bacterial, is the gastrointestinal system.

Dr. Blake’s favorite supplement for immune support is bovine colostrum from New Zealand, where all cattle are pasture-fed and organically raised. Colostrum is the “first milk” a cow produces after giving birth, and it contains all the immune support a calf needs to avoid infection. Cows produce colostrum in greater quantities than their calves can consume, so the excess is collected for supplement use.

“I recommend a dose of 500 mg colostrum per 25 pounds of body weight once or twice a day, depending on the dog’s risk factor,” says Dr. Blake.

Other supplements that support the gastrointestinal tract include probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and other “friendly” or “beneficial” bacteria, which help make up the body’s first line of defense against viruses and other pathogens.

Probiotics are especially important for dogs who have been treated with antibiotics, as antibiotics destroy these beneficial microbes. Several probiotic supplements have been developed for dogs and are sold in pet supply stores or veterinary clinics. And don’t neglect vitamin C. Consider giving your dog 500 mg vitamin C three times per day, or half that amount for small dogs, in addition to the animal’s usual supplements for as long as the infection lasts.

The best defense
Controlling your dog’s exposure to other animals is one way to help prevent tracheobronchitis, canine flu, and other contagious diseases. Another is to disinfect the air and surfaces around her.

These are commonsense precautions. But your dog’s best defense against infection is a strong immune system, which you can boost with nutrition, exercise, and supplements like those mentioned here. And if your dog ever contracts a respiratory infection, you’ll know how to use simple remedies to turn it around in record time.

CJ Puotinen is a frequent Whole Dog Journal contributor and freelance writer living in New York. She is also the author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care and many books on holistic health care and herbal remedies for humans. See “Resources,” page 24, for information on her books.

Basic Feeding Guide: Puppies and Adult Dogs


The first ingredient in your dog’s food should be a specified meat.  Not a meat by-product, but the real thing. Puppies and adult dogs were not meant to eat corn and wheat. If the first ingredient in your dog food is a corn, wheat, meat by-product, bone meal or anything but a real specified type of meat, steer clear. By-products are the leftovers, such as the eyes, hooves, skin, feathers and feet, that are not good for human consumption (unless the dog food specifically states otherwise.) Beware of ingredients that do not list exactly what it is, such as words like “animal” and “meat” as opposed to “chicken,” “beef,” “duck,” etc. See Rendered Products in Dog Food.

The first ingredient on the label should represent what the dog food is most made out of, but beware, as this is not always the case…

Using chicken as an example, when a dog food lists a meat in the ingredients such as “chicken” it is going by the weight in the meat’s raw state, before it was cooked.

Chicken in its raw state weighs about 80% more than it does once it is cooked and processed into a dry pellet. Once it is processed you are left with only 20% of the actual meat.

The word “meal” in an ingredient is something that was weighed after the water was taken out. For example “chicken meal” is chicken which is weighed after it has been cooked and the water has already been taken out, giving you more meat and protein per weight volume.

Therefore be aware that if the ingredients read “chicken” first and “corn meal” second, the food may contain more corn than chicken. Corn is a filler that a dog’s body does not utilize well, if at all. The corn gets pooped out and the dog must eat more food in order to get enough protein and nutrients that their bodies can use from the other ingredients in the food.

Corn can also cause many issues. Dogs were not meant to eat corn or other grains. Corn has been linked to skin allergies, joint swelling and bloat in dogs, among other things. See Corn in Dog Food. Really?

Take a look at your dog’s teeth. Notice that he does not have any grinding molars. They are all ripping canines. This tells us that dogs were not meant to eat grains, as they lack the teeth to grind them up. Dogs have pointy canines for ripping into meat. A lot of dogs develop skin problems and other health issues, including bloat, due to the grains they are being fed in their dog food.

It is best to feed dogs a grain-free diet. While the better quality dog food may cost more, the dog can eat less of it since their bodies use more of what they are eating, producing less waste. Not to mention the vet bill if your dog develops issues from consuming a low quality food. Be sure to read the ingredients label of the dog food you are using. You may have trouble finding a good quality food at a grocery store and may have to go to your local pet store to find a higher grade food.

A poor diet can also cause a dog to shed more, have a dull coat and have body odor.

How much should I feed my dog?

Below is a daily basic feeding guide for puppies and adult dogs. An individual dog’s requirements may differ from this chart. It is best to consult with your vet about the specific needs of your pet.

Sadie and her puppies

The first 8 weeks

Puppies should not be separated from their mother before they are 8 weeks old. Puppies that leave their mothers sooner have a rougher time adjusting and a higher incidence of illnesses. I do not know if it is due to weakened immunity or mourning the premature loss of their family. Their mother’s milk provides them with the nutrition and antibodies they need to become healthy dogs. At three to four weeks, puppies should begin eating some solid food. You can try mixing three parts food with one part water or puppy replacement milk. This will make the food easier for the puppy to digest. If your puppy begins eating a little solid food before it leave its mother it will have an easier time adjusting when you bring it home. One way to tell if a puppy is ready to come home with you is if it prefers human company over its mom or siblings.

6 to 8 weeks

Feed your puppy 3-4 times a day. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs. Choose a puppy food that provides the appropriate balance of nutrients your puppy needs. Be sure it is getting the right amount of protein and calcium, and the proper amount of calories. Check the label to determine if you are feeding your puppy a balanced diet. A specified meat should be the first ingredient on the label.

After 8 weeks

Feed your puppy twice a day.

3 to 6 months

Your puppy will be teething. He may become a finicky eater or lose his appetite. Keep feeding him nutritious food twice a day. If he has an upset stomach for more than one or two days, take him to the veterinarian.

6 months to 1 year

Your puppy may look all grown up but he is still a puppy. He should still be fed a highquality food for the added nutrition. Note, in some very high quality foods the company does not make a separate food for puppies because the food is of such a high quality that it provides for both puppy and adult equally. For example, a real human grade chicken is what it is for all ages. If you are feeding a puppy food ask your veterinarian when you should switch to adult food. Make sure the adult food you switch to is still a balanced high quality diet with the first ingredient being a specified meat that is not a by-product.

8 to 9 months

Feeding should be twice a day.

1 year

In most breeds feeding should be twice a day.

Below is the daily basic feeding guide for adult dogs. An individual dog’s requirements may differ from this chart. It is best to look at the directions of the food you are feeding for their recommendations. This chart is a general reference. The feeding directions are based on using an 8 oz. measuring cup. Puppies can be fed up to one time the highest amount listed in their category. It is sometimes best to split the amount into two or more separate feedings rather than just one big meal, often twice a day. Puppies should be fed more often than adult dogs. When adding in canned food, cut the dry by up to half the amount and substitute the same volume that you cut with canned food, so the dog is getting the same amount of food, some dry and some wet. Note, if you are feeding a good quality dog food you will be able to feed less as the dog’s body will utilize more and poop out less. If you are feeding a food that contains a lot of fillers (grain fillers such as corn are often used by some companies) you may have to feed more in order for the dog to get the proper amount of protein.


Typical Breed

Weight as an Adult Dog

Dry Food

Dry Food Mixed with Can Food 

Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle

Up to 10 pounds

1/4 to 3/4

Cut dry up to ½ the amount and substitute the same volume with a can

Miniature Poodle, Scottish Terrier

10-25 pounds

3/4 to 1 cup

Cut dry up to ½ the amount & substitute the same volume with a can

Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Springer Spaniel

25-50 pounds

1-2 cups

Cut dry up to ½ the amount and substitute the same volume with a can

Collie, Boxer,  Labrador, Golden Retriever

50-75 pounds

2-2 ½ cups

Cut dry up to ½ the amount and substitute the same volume with a can

Great Dane, Malamute, St. Bernard, Mastiff

Over 75 pounds

2-4 cups

Cut dry up to ½ the amount and substitute the same volume with a can

Good Basic Feeding Tips

  • Dogs should be fed at the same time every day. Feeding at the same time will keep your dog on a bathroom schedule. Ask your vet how many times a day you should feed your dog.
  • Feed your dog the same type and brand of food every day. Unlike humans, a dog’s digestive system cannot handle changes in food. It can cause upset stomach and diarrhea.
  • When switching to a new food gradually transition him to the new food by mixing portions of both foods until you slowly phase out the old food. Your dog may experience diarrhea if his food is suddenly changed.
  • If you are mixing water into dry food you should mix 4 parts dry food to 1 part water.
  • Keep fresh drinking water available at all times. Change the water at least once a day, more for dogs who drool.
  • Keep food and water bowls clean.
  • Don’t overfeed your dog.
  • Follow the guidelines on the dog food package for recommended feeding amounts.
  • Monitor your dog’s weight and activity level, and make feeding adjustments as necessary.
  • If your dog has loose stool feeding sweet potatoes is a natural stool hardener. Unlike some medicines, giving too many will not make them constipated. They sell sweet potato chips for dogs in a lot of pet supply stores.

Interesting bits of info…

Dogs have about 1,700 taste buds. Humans have about 9000 taste buds, and cats have about 470.

Dogs have water taste buds, something humans do not have.

Dogs do not crave salt the way humans do.