Tag Archives: Food

She’s Not Fat…She’s Fluffy!

My friend Mark and I lived in a basement apartment when we first moved to Washington DC.  The family who owned the house had a rather humongous tabby named Athena who would waddle around in the backyard to sit in the sun or knock at our basement window to come for a visit.  This cat was a chunk!

One day, as I was sitting on the toilet, a set of eyes peered at me from under the bathroom door.  Then it had the nerve to squeeze itself under the door and stood on its hind legs just wiggling its little mouse whiskers and pondering what I was doing sitting there. I stood up and he ran under the door and back to where he’d been staying, our kitchen toaster.  We named him Mitch the Kitchen Mouse.


Unfortunately, Mitch wasn’t by himself.  I really didn’t want to set mousetraps.  He and his friends really were cute.  So Mark and I decided we’d get rid of them the “natural way” and one day when Athena knocked on our window to come for a visit, we catnapped her!  We figured the presence of a cat would convince Mitch and his friends that they should leave.

Athena loved staying in our apartment – it was cool and we gave her cold cuts since we didn’t have any cat food.   But Athena was so overweight that when Mitch came out of his toaster and walked right up to her, sticking his little mouse fingers in his ears his tongue out at her, daring her to chase him., she just sat there looking at him. She couldn’t pull herself up to go after him.

Athena is only one of many cats that suffered from obesity.  Cats don’t have a job anymore.  Very few kitties are keeping barns clear of mice and vermin. Most of our domesticated cats are living the high life snuggled on a cushion. It’s not like you can put your kitty on a treadmill and most people don’t strap on a harness and take Fluffy on a walk!

So how can we keep our kitties in shape?  First look at the food you are feeding your feline.  Remember, domesticated cats are really carnivores and many commercial cat foods have a lower percentage of protein and lots of grains that are high in carbohydrates.  The food is really marketed to the kitty parents with fun colors and fish-shaped kibble and singing cats on the commercials. Cats are unable to digest carbohydrates because they don’t have the enzyme amylase in their saliva that digests carbohydrates. Nature didn’t intend for them to consume large amounts of carbohydrates. Due to this issue, a cat’s body converts carbohydrates into fat, and it gets stored in their system.

Second, as hunters and predators, cats were not intended to have a “free style” diet.  In other words, if you put down a bowl of kibble for your cat to nibble on throughout the day, Fluffy may be consuming double or triple the amount of calories they should.  Stick with set feeding times and a high protein diet.

Last, try to get your furry friend active!  There are many cat toys you can purchase but before you go out and spend money, try a good old-fashioned yarn ball!  Ribbons on a stick also seem to be a favorite.  Laser pointers are a popular cat toy too but remember, don’t shine it directly into Fluffy’s eyes as it can burn your kitty’s corneas.  The bottom line is that playing with your cat will not only keep her healthy but I guarantee it will put a smile on your face too!

Stupid Pet Tricks — Watch Me Put My Paw in My Mouth, Ma!

Phoebe, my yellow lab, can put her entire front paw in her mouth.  This is not a stupid pet trick!  When she first started doing this, I thought there was something wrong with the pad on her paw and examined it thoroughly.  There was nothing there – no ticks between her toes or cuts on the pad.

Phoebe in the cone of shame with an ear infection

Phoebe in the cone of shame with an ear infection

What I didn’t know was that itchy feet are a classic symptom of dogs that suffer from allergies.  We humans may sneeze or have itchy eyes during pollen season but dogs show allergic reactions differently.  And, they have as many different allergic reactions as we humans do.

In addition to the paw biting, you might notice your pet has red, raw, itchy skin or increased scratching.  A common sign for flea allergy is itchiness at the base of the tail.  My “All American” Mutt, Bailey, has a severe allergy to fleas and every summer even though she is on a flea preventative, she has a reaction and loses the hair on the back of her legs and develops hot spots from licking certain areas, usually on her ankles and feet.  As soon as the weather starts to warm up, I want to put her in some kind of hermetically sealed jumpsuit that won’t let the fleas or any of the summer pollens near her.  Bailey on steroids is not fun!

Dogs can also be allergic to the common allergens that make us humans sneeze like the following:

  • Tree, grass and weed pollens
  • Mold spores
  • Dust and house dust mites
  • Dander
  • Feathers
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Food ingredients (e.g. beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Fleas and flea-control products (The bite of a single flea can trigger intense itchiness for two to three weeks!)
  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products
  • Fabrics
  • Insecticidal shampoo
  • Rubber and plastic materials

Phoebe, it turns out, is allergic to grains (corn specifically) and chicken.  She gets a special no grain, salmon food.  Her food allergy also manifests into terrible ear infections.  We can tell when she sneaks one of the other dogs’ foods because within a day, her ear becomes smelly and has a black yeasty discharge.  We’ve also had to change treats to be no grain, no chicken biscuits or freeze-dried liver treats.  You’d be surprised what has wheat and corn in it when you read the ingredients.

I recently read an article on allergies from Drs. Foster & Smith that broke dog allergies into three areas:  atopy, contact dermatitis and food allergies.



Atopy is the most common form of allergy in dogs and cats. Atopy is often seasonal. If a pet is allergic to ragweed, symptoms occur in the fall. Pets who are allergic to spring tree pollen will show signs in April and May. If a pet is allergic to dust mites, the symptoms may be most dramatic in the winter, when more time is spent inside. Signs of atopy include:

  • Chewing at the feet
  • Constant licking of the flank (side) and groin area
  • Rubbing of the face
  • Inflamed ears or recurrent ear infections
  • Recurrent hot spots in dogs and pinpoint facial scabbing in cats
  • Asthma-like wheezing and respiratory problems (more likely in cats)

Contact Dermatitis

Less common allergies include contact dermatitis, which include allergies to carpets, cleaners, or plastic. These allergies may cause:

  • Red itchy bumps or blisters on sparsely-haired areas of the skin and those exposed to the allergen such as the belly, feet, or muzzle
  • Intense scratching
  • Hair loss (in chronic conditions)

Food Allergies

Food allergies account for about 10-15% of all allergies in dogs and cats. Food allergies may show up concurrently with allergies to pollen, dust, etc. Symptoms include:

  • Itching, especially face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal area
  • Ear problems, often yeast-related
  • Skin infections that respond to antibiotics, but then recur as soon as the antibiotic therapy ceases

In any allergy case, the best reaction is to work with your vet to find the fastest relief for your pet.