Posts filed under ‘pet food allergies’

Flea & Tick Defense…au Natural, or Not…Requires Multiple Lines of Defense

Well there’s one good thing about the New England cold spring seasons, and it’s that bugs lay dormant that much longer.  As soon as the temperatures climb, it’s time to figure out your plan for flea and tick prevention.  All dog owners should be thinking about heartworm prevention too.  Heartworm preventative works retroactively remember; it kills any larvae that exist in your dog already.  Many of us only give heartworm preventative during the warm months (looking backward one month, the daily temperature is 70 degrees or above).  If you don’t use a year round heartworm preventative you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your vet for a heartworm test, and you can pick up the preventative at the same time.


As far as fleas and ticks, you’ve got some choices to make.  At Fetch/Fish & Bone, we try to help you support your pet’s health holistically first, and if that isn’t what you are looking for, then (in the world of flea and tick prevention anyway) we have the big guns for you as well (Frontline and Advantix).  However, keep in mind that a chemical product all by itself often doesn’t work!  For flea and tick prevention, whether you go all-natural or chemical, you really need to think in terms of multiple layers of defense.  Best defense is to use as many layers as possible.  All of the products mentioned below (except for diatomaceous earth) are available in our stores, over the phone, and within a month or two, on Fish & Bone’s new website.

Itchy Dog

First layer of defense:  protect the immune system with a natural diet that is appropriate for your pet.  Foods with low quality ingredients, or that have artificial preservatives, dyes and flavors wear down the immune system.  Why is that relevant?  Because fleas and ticks are parasites, and they seek out weak ‘hosts’ before healthy ones.  The weaker your animal is, the more susceptible he or she is to being a target for fleas and ticks, and mosquitoes too.  Come visit either store and make my day by asking me if we can talk about pet food J


Second layer:  Supplement a healthy base diet with an anti-oxidant rich vitamin, mineral and essential fatty acid supplement that will further strengthen the immune system (you should actually be adding this to your pet’s food year round); and with a supplement specifically designed to repel fleas and ticks.


Essential fatty acids are important to protect skin cells, which are irritated by flea bites.  Many times the ‘itch’ is caused by an allergic reaction to a flea bite, rather than the fleas themselves.  Help minimize the itch by lubricating the skin cells from the inside out.  The EFAs in fish oil are ‘long chain’ fatty acids, and are better absorbed by dogs than flax oil.  Don’t bother with capsules unless you can’t get your pet to take fish oil straight; remember, you are paying for that extra step of making the gel caps.  And with oils, you get what you pay for.  Cheap oils may be heavy with mercury and PCBs, and they can be rancid or oxidized from exposure to too much heat in transport or storage.  Rancid oils smell bad; never use an oil that smells bad.  For my dog Zip, I use Wholistic Pet Salmon Oil or Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil.  Why those two brands? Because both companies are clear about the purity and handling of their oils.  Neither are fishy-smelling. The Wholistic Pet is more viscous, and it’s pink; the Nordic Naturals is clear and a little bit thinner.  Prices similar.  I love both companies.  Local- and regional-vores, Wholistic Pet is a New Hampshire company J.


This is our first year selling Earth Animal’s Healthy Powder (also in tablets, and yeast-free Herbal Powder) but I am expecting great results.  Dr. Sue & Bob Goldstein, the vets behind the label, have been holistic vets for a long time.  Their Healthy Powder shifts the blood chemistry (B vitamins, selenium) to not only support the immune system but also to make the blood ‘bitter’ to biting insects.  I’m using the Healthy Powder on Zip too.


Third layer:  choose a potent natural flea and tick (and mosquito too while you are at it) repellent.  Ingredients like neem, eucalyptus, rosemary, erigeron, rose geranium, cedarwood and tea tree oil are some of the active ingredients to look for.   My go-to repellent is Quantum Herbal Products because they are very clear about their manufacturing process (6 month distillation of essential oils), and they are so un-marketing oriented.  I’ve been using it for 10 years now.  It’s also highly recommended by Dr. Martin Goldstein (you may have seen him on Martha).  Ark Naturals, and Buzz-Off are also great picks. I’ve just brought in Earth Animal’s flea and tick repellant, and I trust it’s as good as Quantum unless I hear otherwise.  Most products will last a couple of days between application, but I always re-apply, especially to legs, neck, belly and hindquarters, before walking in high grass or in woods.   Or the Shoo Tag, which alters the magnetic field around your pet (or you…there are Shoo Tags for people too) to repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.  Seriously.  We brought in the Shoo Tag based on customer testimonial; and, there’s a guarantee on the tag.  If you are not satisfied for any reason, you can return it to the manufacturer for a full refund (one per household).  I’m going to try one this year.


Fourth layer:  Shampoo as needed with a natural flea and tick repelling shampoo, or use your usual shampoo and follow with a natural spray or an herbal dip like Cloud Nine by Halo.   Soapy water removes fleas and their eggs, and kills them by washing them drown the drain.  Be careful about shampooing too often as that can cause more itch by drying out the dermis.


Fifth layer:  monitor the situation by brushing and flea combing regularly.  You will see how well your flea and tick prevention plan is going by penetrating the coat, and you can physically remove any fleas and ticks.  You’ll need a few good tools: a brush and comb, and tick remover.  Everyone absolutely needs a flea comb.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  The teeth need to be extremely tightly spaced though, and it helps if the comb is stainless, or white or pale in color, so that the little black buggers will show up easily.  Ticks, too, are tiny before they have eaten and become engorged.  Brush thick coats first, outside preferably, or in the garage.  It’ll be easier to follow up with the flea comb.  When flea combing it’s a good idea to have a bowl of soapy water nearby.  After every pass of the comb, dunk it in the soapy water. Why?  Because the soap changes the surface tension of the water, and the fleas will fall in the bowl and drown.  If you come across an attached tick, use a tick remover tool rather than tweezers.  The tweezers can leave the head intact, and you want the whole tick to come off your animal.   Once you have removed the tick, if you are concerned that it might be a deer tick carrying Lyme’s Disease, you can save it in a ziplock baggie and send it to Maine Medical Center’s Disease Lab for testing.


Sixth layer:  wash pet bedding often in hot soapy water, and vacuum more than usual.  When vacuuming, you can place an inexpensive chemical flea collar in the vacuum bag to kill any ticks, fleas or eggs that have been sucked up; otherwise, you will need to throw away the bag each time to ensure you aren’t providing a nice spawning ground for parasites in your vacuum.


Seventh layer:  Line thresholds to outside doors, and the perimeter of warm, moist rooms like the bathroom (which fleas prefer) with diatomaceous earth.  DE is made up of the skeletons of diatoms (one-celled creatures).  The skeletons are microscopically thorny, and they puncture the exoskeletons of all kinds of insects.  Once the buggers have come in contact with the DE, they slowly dehydrate and die.  It’s not a quick fix, but it does interrupt the life cycle; and it’s safe for allergic households.  If you use DE, be careful not to shake it into the air; it can scratch the esophagus if inhaled.  You can buy DE at natural gardening centers.


June 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

Probiotics & Enzymes…do I need to add them to a raw diet?

Living foods, from plants or animal sources, contain enzymes (but they are wiped out by heat beginning at 110 degrees…so cooked food does not contain active enzymes) .  The body, human or animal, manufactures enzymes.  But as we age, our store of them and our ability to make them gets depleted.  And they’re important not only for digestion but  for immune system response, and to catalyze all kinds of chemical activity in the body.  I believe enzymes, and proper digestions,  might behind the vitality you see in a really healthy person or animal:  ask what they eat, and I would bet 9 times out of ten the diet has a huge raw component.  Think of the opposite of Morgan Spurlock after a month of eating only at McDonald’s (‘Super Size Me’).  Remember his girlfriend, the vegan chef?  Who brought his liver back to health at the end of the documentary?

Probiotics are the ‘good’ bacteria.  They help with digestion and they  maintain balance in the digestive tract.  They even kill the ‘bad’ bacteria.

My pancreatic pug Zip will always get enzymes (and probiotics) added to any food he’s given, simply to lighten the load of his pancreas (which secretes enzymes to break down protein and fat).  I take enzymes and probiotics too, even though I eat a lot of raw food, because I’m getting older and I think it helps me get the most benefit out of my diet.  But do you really need to add these supplements to a pet’s raw diet?

For the first month of a raw diet, yes, I think you do.  The body needs time to produce the enzymes it needs for this new regimen.  Though the raw food itself contains enzymes, the load on the body to digest the new ‘material’ will be eased (as will your pickup duty) by sending some backup enzymes down the hatch.  And then after 4-6 weeks, most animals will be fully transitioned into the  new diet.  But because you will be rotating among different proteins in the raw diet (you will, won’t  you?), keep those enzymes and probiotics (sealed, at room temp, for max potency) for the next change in diet.

And dogs  don’t have the ability to break down cellulase, which is found in the cell walls of fruit and vegetables.  So if you aren’t pureeing the carrot your dog loves to chomp, it won’t do any harm but he won’t get the nutrients trapped inside either.  Unless you add an enzyme mix containing cellulase.  For some quick straightforward questions & answers, read the FAQ page on Prozyme here.

There’s some controversy over whether or not enzymes make it through the acid bath of the stomach to the small intestine.  Steve Brown writes in See Spot Live Longer (along with co-author Beth Taylor) that enzymes are designed for the environment where they do their work; so an enzyme destined to break down protein in the stomach has the ability to withstand the acid.  This article I found on the web (not on Prozyme’s site)  says that Prozyme will withstand the stomach acids.  Interesting stuff; to be continued.  Comments welcome.

May 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm Leave a comment

Raw Bones

I went to a dental talk at a reputable neighboring vet’s office last fall.  It was actually a sales pitch for annual anesthetized dental cleanings.  I have a real  fondness for vets; I absolutely believe that they are drawn to their profession for love of healing animals.  But I disagree openly with the ones who routinely recommend Science Diet, or who over-vaccinate, or prescribe steroids or antibiotics as a first response to symptoms like scratching or vomiting or ‘leaking’, or who categorically trash raw bones.

Raw bones are controversial.  As a raw feeder, and someone who sells natural pet foods, I’ll never gloss over controversy.  I provide resources and information, and my customers can decide for themselves what to buy and feed.  My dog in fact has pancreatitis, and can’t tolerate the fat in marrow or in chicken skin, so I don’t feed him raw bones anymore.  I don’t even feed him closely trimmed bones because I’ve seen an acute pancreatic episode, and it’s  not worth the risk.  So I don’t tell my customers that all dogs must be fed raw bones.  But, most dogs don’t have pancreatitis, and all dogs need to chew; and further, dental health doesn’t just happen in the modern dog world of biscuits and kibble and cans without some plan in place.  So I do generally recommend raw bones.  But  I’ll never say  ‘don’t ever get your dog’s teeth cleaned by your vet’. I wish vets who are inclined toward categorical stances would, for the benefit of animals everywhere, soften their language and concede controversy (rather than implying, or outright stating, that there is only one valid points of view:  theirs).

I  wondered,  why did the vet not mention the risks of putting your animal under anesthesia yearly (and didn’t mention, either, the cost of this treatment)?  And further, why is it that vets who sell foods like  Science Diet don’t mention that feeding your animals an exclusively highly processed food whose ingredients list starts with  by-products  and fractionated grains (grain, usually corn, then slips under the radar as the #1 ingredient) can cause obesity, diabetes,  food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, myotoxin poisoning, kidney disease, and dental problems.  Not to mention the nightmarish food recall lessons we learned in 2007.

When I refer to bones, I’m not just referring to beef  marrow bones, which can be too hard for some aggressive chewers who won’t give in (they are the ones who are likely to crack a tooth); I’m referring to turkey and chicken backs and necks and wings, and fish bones (from whole raw fish), and knuckle bones, and bison/buffalo/elk bones.  When you see the dental benefits of a reversal of severe tartar to white teeth (I’ve seen this in a customer’s adopted border collie), not to mention the instinctive attraction of puppies to bones, it’s hard to imagine excluding raw bones from the diet without a good reason.

May 5, 2011 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Food of the Month, January…

Wellness has some strong products in its line of natural dog and cat foods.  My sense, from 4-footed customer ‘feedback’ is that the palatability is best in their canned foods, and their dry cat kibble.  They just seem to hit it square on in those areas, while the dry kibble for dogs has had just consistently OK reviews.  Some dogs love it, but enough have not been overly excited over the years (reported by our customers) that I would write this.  Again this is in terms of taste and/or texture, it’s not about effectiveness or quality of the ingredients.  But then again, who’d want to eat the same thing for too long, twice a day, if you aren’t getting some kind of yummy raw, canned, dehydrated or homemade top dressing?

Wellness Simple Food Solutions is a go-to food for dogs with sensitivities or allergies.  With one protein, and one carb, it’s a good start to an elimination diet.  The protein sources are novel proteins, which means that their profiles are unique compared to commonly-fed mainstays like beef or chicken (and because they haven’t commonly been fed to dogs, dogs haven’t had a chance to develop an allergy to them).  Keep in mind though that the carbohydrate is ground white rice, which is considered easier to digest than brown, though brown is more nutritious (I’m sure they make up for it in added vitamins and minerals); but whether brown or white, if your dog doesn’t tolerate rice or any kind of grain, you’ll want to wait for next month’s Food of the Month (we’ll choose one that’s grain-free next month to make sure you don’t miss out two in a row).

Wellness doesn’t make a Simple Food Solutions for cats, so we’re offering the Wellness Cat Food cans (original, as opposed to Evo, which we featured recently) as our cat food of the month.  In the spirit of hypo-allergenic foods, most of the Wellness cat cans are appropriate for cats with allergies (most of the cans are grain-free), urinary tract issues (especially topped with an acidifier like Wholistic Pet WholeCran IntenseWysong Biotic Ph Minus, or Solid Gold Berry Balance).  The moisture in the cans do make a difference in supporting the urinary tract (kidney disease is irreversible….and very common…the more water in their diets, the better). And cats love Wellness cans.  One of my two cats used to be prone to ‘sending his food back’….up, that is….and Wellness was one of the only food he could consistently keep down.  I’d top his food with Digest All Plus, a probiotic/enzyme powder from Wholistic Pet (I do recommend an enzyme/probiotic as a supplement to any processed pet foods).  Check our January Newsletter for a coupon for a discount on any of our enzyme/probiotic supplements.

January 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm 2 comments


I love Canidae.  I’ve been recommending it for years, not only for price, but for a high quality kibble, you can’t beat the value.  Chelated minerals, essential fatty acids, and probiotics/digestive enzymes augment the high quality base diet.  I still ask them how they can afford to make such a good food and keep prices reasonable, they still say it’s because they put the money into the ingredients rather than marketing.  The results are their best marketing anyway, and consistently we’ve found the results to be great.  Shinier, softer coat; clear ears; no digestion problems. It’s not appropriate for every dog (the original formula has turkey, chicken, lamb and fish…4 proteins makes it an unlikely choice for sensitive dogs).  Their grain-free formulas are too new for comment, but I’m optimistic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always recommend raw or homemade first, then canned, then kibble; but in the world of highly processed kibble, this is one that agrees with dogs very well, and at a price that attracts customers who are just starting to read pet food labels for the first time.  And yes, I would rather see ‘lamb’ over ‘lamb meal’ as the protein source, but again, given the performance and value, I recommend Canidae as one of the foods in your dog’s rotation.

Felidae gets high marks for palatability too, but really that’s mostly for their dry.  The wet hasn’t been consistently the most popular with cats, at least in our store.  Must be the rice.  And dry is in my opinion not a good idea for cats. Too much grain, which contributes to unhealthy urine PH and urinary crystals.  It’s also too dry, which means over time it seems to put too much stress on the kidneys.  Kidney disease is the most common cat killer, and it’s irreversible once cats are showing the signs.  How many cat owners have you heard talk about having to give their geriatric cat subcutaneous fluids?  It’s getting really common.  Pretty soon there’ll probably be an OTC product for doing it yourself. Dry all by itself isn’t the best thing for your cat.  If you have to feed dry cat food, go at least go 50% wet, and if you can turn your cat on to raw turkey necks, fantastic.   

We’re featuring Canidae and Felidae throughout April at 10% off, but you have to mention it at checkout to get the Secret Sale.  Let us know what you think.

April 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm 2 comments


I love the sentiment that makes people want to bake for their dogs, and I am approached often by aspiring dog biscuit bakers, dear well-meaning people whom I usually manage to deflate when I tell them that there are so many treats on the market that to make a go of it, you’d need more than the endorsement of your neighborhood dogs.  You’ll need a hypo-allergenic recipe that is unique….just dropping wheat from the ingredients isn’t enough….you need a good name that isn’t already taken (that in itself is getting hard to find), a really nice visual identity to go with it, and, if you are interested in the high-end green consumer, you need to address sustainability (where are your ingredients sourced, are some or all organic, what’s your recycled/recyclable packaging commitment).  And of course, the treats need to taste good, and you have to make a consistent product.  This isn’t a kitchen/cottage industry anymore; you’ve got to be really savvy.  Just think about how much capital you’d need to launch a serious effort like what I’ve just sketched out.

Barkwheats does it all. I love of course that they are form Maine, made out of local (to Belfast), organic, and fair trade ingredients.  The primary ingredient is buckwheat, which is naturally gluten-free as it’s really a berry, not a grain.  But it gets even better…they come in two natural flavors, Ginger Parsley and Sea Vegetable Chamomile….the packaging is compostable…and beautiful to look at, as are the treats themselves, which are stamped with the swirly Barkwheats logo….and yes the dogs do love them.  Great for dogs with wheat or gluten allergies, or dogs who need to cut down on carbohydrates.  There’s just no downside.  Come on down or give us a call; we’ll ship.

November 14, 2008 at 3:55 pm 2 comments

Allergy Update

Just a quick note re the urticaria Zip was experiencing a couple of posts back.  As soon as I stopped giving any rice, the bumps started receding.  The response was almost immediate.  Within a couple of days, the bumps were almost completely gone.  So it seems certain that he has a rice allergy, and that’s simple enough to deal with.  According to Dr. Keniston I need to cut way back on his protein to curb his chronic pancreatitis, so I’m giving him about three quarters the meat/organ/bone he normally would get, and filling out the bowl with ground vegetables.  He really likes kale, beets, carrots, asparagus, tomato and some broccoli but to tell you the truth, I pretty much use what I’ve got, emphasizing the known likes.  And when I’m in a hurry, I just rehydrate the Honest Kitchen Preference for the veg content.  So far so good.  As far as allergies go I consider us very lucky.

September 29, 2008 at 9:53 am

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