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I live in constant fear of asking stupid questions.

Because I am by nature a perfectionist, even when I’m given an explanation, I usually have lots of seemingly inconsequential clarification questions. I know I can drive doctors, teachers, bosses — anybody — mad with my line of, “Just to make sure…” questions.

Because of my need to know ALL the details, especially when it comes to food — my pets’ or my own — it usually doesn’t bother me when customers at our store ask me lots of very specific questions. As many of you may know, most of us who work here can talk your ear off about pet health and nutrition if you give us a chance! We all have our “pet” products.

There really are no such things as stupid questions. I’d rather a customer ask a “stupid” question, than hold back and do something “stupid” to their pet. (Seriously though, I’m amazed at how smart and savvy our customers are. We rarely, if ever, see truly STUPID things — TRUTH.)

So let me help you out a little. I offer you the CALVIN & SUSIE CHEAT SHEET.

I love cheat sheets.

The CALVIN & SUSIE CHEAT SHEET is a quick reference for your basic pet feeding needs. Most of it may look familiar to you, but it’s nice to have the details spelled out sometimes.

So take a look, maybe print it out and pin it to your fridge, and maybe put some of your “stupid” or not so stupid questions to rest.

How Do I…Transition My Pet From One Food to Another?

Better safe than sorry, it’s best to always mix your pet’s old food with their new food to avoid stomach upset. If you are switching within a brand that your pet is used to, or they have been on a rotation diet for a while between several foods, than you don’t need to do the transition. However if you are going from a food that is richer than their old food, cooked to raw, with grain to grain free (or vice versa), or just a relatively different type of food than they’re used to, I’d always recommend a transitional period. Here’s how we recommend doing it:

  1. Mix 1/4 of the new food to 3/4 of their old food. Do this for 2 days.

  2. If they do well after 2 days, switch up to 1/2 and 1/2, new food to old food. Do this for 2 days.

  3. If your pet does well in the half and half ratio, move up to 3/4 of the old food to 1/4 of the new food for a day or two.

  4. By the 5th or 6th day, if your pet is doing well, you can start giving them full servings of their new food for one or all of their meals. By the 7th day they can be fully on their new food.

  5. NOTE: If your pet gets an upset stomach at any point in the transition, it’s not unheard of. Just back off the new food a little bit (you may be just giving them a few kibbles at a time or a finger full of wet, but that’s okay) and keep slowly mixing their foods together. Just give each stage a little time to take hold, then keep increasing the amount of new food. Most transitions take 5-7 days, but if it takes longer that’s okay too. Better to go slow than to cause stomach distress. It took me 2 weeks to transition my cat to raw food!

How Do I…Make Sure My Pet Doesn’t Choke On Their Chew Treat?

If your pet has a tendency to gobble down their bully sticks, tendons, antlers, beef sticks, or any chew treat, the best option is to never leave them alone with it. If you are going to leave your pet alone with a chew, make sure A) they are not going to gobble it down so fast they are quickly left with a “nub” they can easily inhale and choke on, and B) it is a tough enough chew that they will safely have it for as long as you plan to be away.

When in doubt, don’t leave your pet alone with it.

And always, when a chew gets down to a swallowable size, TAKE IT AWAY.

Our toughest chews in the store are the deer antlers, Himalayan Dog Chews, and bully sticks. FYI.

How Do I…Firm Up My Pet’s Stool?

If your pet is having a bout of diarrhea due to the introduction of a new food, or simply because something they ate does not agree with them, our go to product to firm things up and make their soothe their stomachs is pumpkin – or Kabocha, which more easily available in Hawaii.

No salt, no sugar, just plain pureed or mashed steamed pumpkin.

We sell a freeze dried variety as well as a canned organic pumpkin here in the store. You can also steam and mash your own. One tablespoon per 10 lbs is a good rule of thumb (though for cats, I’d start with a teaspoon). Simply mix it into your pet’s food until the stomach upset passes. Usually 1-2 days. Another way to settle a tender tummy is to feed boiled chicken and rice for a few days, which is very easily digested. If diarrhea doesn’t appear to helped by these measures in the first couple of days, we advise that we keep your pet hydrated and see your vet.

And remember, if your pet has diarrhea, make sure to make lots of water available to them, and add extra water into their food, to avoid dehydration.

How Do I…Know How Much Water to Add Into My Pet’s Dehydrated or Freeze Dried Food?

Most dehydrated or freeze dried raw foods will give you guidelines on the back of the box or bag. That is a good place to start. However, every pet is different, and you may find that your pet prefers a soupier or thicker version of their food than what is prescribed on the box.

What we recommend is to measure out the appropriate amount of dry dehydrated or freeze dried food for your pet’s weight, then slowly add water in until it gets to the desired consistency. Remember, you can always add water, but you cannot take it out.

If you are using a food like The Honest Kitchen or Grandma Lucy’s, a food that in it’s non-hydrated form is “powdery”or a dry meal as opposed to a patty, then just make sure the food has enough water to rehydrate before feeding.

If you are feeding a freeze dried food that is in patty or nugget form, like Primal or Stella & Chewy’s, then it’s okay if the food is a little on the dry or “crunchier” side, as these foods are safe to feed “dry”. However, if you are feeding it not as a topper, but as your pet’s primary food, we highly recommend rehydrating freeze dried food as it is more nutritionally viable to your pet that way.

How Do I…Know If My Pet is Suffering From a Food Allergy or Sensitivity?

The most common symptoms of an allergy or sensitivity from food are:

  • Constant, even obsessive, licking of their paws. Paws will often appear red, pink and/or inflamed.

  • “Hot Spots” or patches of skin that are itchy, inflamed, sensitive, or losing hair.

  • Bumps or inflamed, sensitive skin most commonly on the belly, between the legs, on the legs, or around the hindquarters. Though, these bumps can appear anywhere.

  • Dry, flaky, itchy skin.

  • Constant scratching or biting at self.

  • Bloating, excess gas.

  • Tear stains

If your dog is suffering from some of these symptoms, you may want to consider changing their food or getting them tested for allergies. Sometimes, these same symptoms could be from yeast build-up, but we will save that topic for another day.

The first thing we typically recommend, if we only see or hear about the symptoms but do not know the cause of the food allergy, is trying a grain free food and/or cutting chicken from your pet’s diet. Especially with dogs, chicken is the most common protein sensitivity encounter, followed by poultry in general, then beef.

Grain, and sometimes potato is another common cause. A good place to start, if your dog is itching or licking obsessively, is removing grain and chicken from their diet for at least 2 weeks and watching what happens.

We also recommend, in sensitive pets, introducing a novel protein — venison, pork, maybe a fish or lamb — into their diet, pets are less likely to be sensitive to these less common proteins.

Which brings us to…

How Do I…Stop My Pet From Developing Allergies?

I say this almost everyday:

“Just like you wouldn’t live a very happy or healthy life ONLY EATING CHICKEN FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, neither will your dog/cat. Your dog/cat needs variety to avoid allergies and stay healthy.”

Dogs especially can develop allergies. If they eat one protein for too long, like chicken, they can activate an allergic response and start exhibiting symptoms after even years of eating what previously seemed like an innocuous food. The way to protect against this is by rotating your pet’s diet. Feed a variety of proteins, at least 3 if possible, to not only avoid allergies but also to give your pet a variety of nutrients. A pet can have a balanced diet on chicken and on salmon, but they get different benefits from different proteins.

If you have been feeding your pet the same protein for years, we highly recommend finding another protein that agrees with them.

How do I introduce another protein into my pet’s diet? See the top of this list — How Do I…Transition My Pet From One Food to Another!

How Do I…Safely Give My Pet Bones to Chew On?

Only give your dog or cat raw bones. As carnivores, your dog and cat (assuming their teeth are intact and healthy) are built to be able to consume raw bones.

Raw bones, unlike cooked bones, typically will not shard and cause damage or perforations to your pet’s throat or digestive tract. Never give your pet cooked bones!

If your pet’s teeth are weak or in some way compromised (history of broken teeth, decay, falling out), then bones may be the wrong choice for your dog. Be aware of your dog or cat’s dental health by regularly checking his or her teeth, sticking to a home dental care regimen (teeth brushing, dental care food or water additive, teeth cleaning spray), and having your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned regularly.

Also, make sure your pet’s bones come from a reputable source. Primal is one raw pet food company that sells and distributes a clean, safe, healthy variety of animal bones for pet consumption. You can also get raw bones from your local butcher, but please be sure that there are no sharp protrusions from any bones you acquire. Another good rule of thumb, for bones is if you wouldn’t consider eating it (old, smelly, discolored), then don’t feed it to your pet.

How Do I…Know If My Pet’s Food Has Gone Bad?

This is very simple. Open the bag. Smell the food. Does it smell bad? Like old oil? Pungent? Overly gamey? Stinky? Then it’s gone bad. Don’t feed it.

I always recommend that the first thing you do when you get a new bag of food is to smell the food so you know what it is SUPPOSED to smell like.

And in case you forgot, here are some Tips to Keep Your Pet’s Food Fresh.

Hope this cheat sheet helps! And remember, if you ever have questions — “stupid” or not — always feel free to stop the store or give us a call!

~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger

NOTE: Please, always check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.

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