How Dog Diseases Can Inform Human Medicine

Ever since dogs first came into contact with humans, they have been serving us in extraordinary ways. Dogs are not only our companions, they can also herd, help us hunt, and be trained to work as service dogs, therapy dogs, police dogs, and military dogs. And according to recent studies, dogs can now provide another benefit to humans by allowing us to study their diseases.

Disease-Causing Genes

Domestic dogs can suffer from hundreds of the same diseases as people can, and the diseases present in similar ways. While that may not be a happy thought, what it means is that we can study our four-legged friends in order to better understand and find new therapies for human hereditary diseases.

Dogs are great study subjects because they make it easy to find disease-causing genes (much easier than it is in people). This is because domestic breeding of dogs has resulted in some inbreeding, and thus the spread of certain disease-causing genes within certain breeds. This type of breeding also means that all dogs within a certain breed are genetically similar, and therefore disease-causing genes can be identified in smaller groups of dogs as opposed to thousands of human patients and controls.

More Than Just Genes

Dogs are useful in studying human diseases not only because we can examine their disease-causing genes, but also because they share our environments.

This is important because things in our environments — including stressors and what we eat — can directly impact how genes are expressed, and so environmental factors that influence disease formation in humans can also affect our dogs.

RELATED STORY: Diets To Treat Cat And Dog Stress

We’re Seeing Results

The study of diseases in dogs has already had some amazing results. Some studies have influenced the development of a new gene therapy for hemophilia, and another study that identified the genetic basis of narcolepsy in dogs allowed researchers to discover a previously unknown pathway in the brain.

It will be fascinating to see what else this partnership between human and veterinary medicine can accomplish.

Read the BBC’s full article.

For all the good that dogs can do for us, we should do good for them, too. Take care of your pet’s health by keeping up with veterinary visits, and consider signing up for PetPlus to save on your pet’s medications, boarding, and more.

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3 Brilliant Box Hacks For Cats

Next time you receive a gift or get a package in the mail, don’t kick the box to the curb! Instead, turn it into a fort, puzzle feeder, or scratcher for your favorite feline. These hacks are so simple and satisfying that the whole family will want to join in. So come along! It’s time to think inside the box.

Box Hack #1: Cat Fort

Cats love to explore, climb, and hide, which explains why there is a such huge market for cat forts and cat condos. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to give your cat the playhouse of their dreams; all you really need is some boxes and a box cutter or X-Acto knife.

When it comes to designing a fort, the possibilities are endless. You can cut holes for your cat (or cats) to squeeze through, create small square windows for peeking, or fashion arched doorways for a fort that’s fit for royalty. Stack boxes, line them up side by side (secret tunnel, anyone?), or spread them out around the house.

If you really want to get creative, you can get out the art supplies and paint the fort to look like a little house, a castle, a hotel, or whatever you dream up.


Box Hack #2: Cat Puzzle Feeder

What if you could feed your cat, provide them mental stimulation, and satisfy their hunting instincts all at once? Puzzle feeders — games that require your cat to problem solve in order to get their food — do just that. There are plenty of cat puzzle feeders for sale at pet stores, but you can easily make your own at home.

What will you need? A small cardboard box and a box cutter or X-Acto knife should do the trick.

Instructions:

1. Seal up the box if it is open. If it is a box with a lid, tape or glue the lid so that it will not separate from the box.

2. Cut holes into the top of the box. The holes should be big enough that your cat can reach their paws through and fish out the food.

3. Give it a test drive. Put the box on the ground and let your kitty have at it. If they are having trouble reaching the food, make the holes a bit larger. You can also cut off the bottoms of plastic water bottles (make sure they are sanitized!) and stick them into the holes, then fill those with food. This will give your cat easier access, but will be less challenging.

You can also use the puzzle feeder for games that don’t involve food. Stick your cat’s favorite toys into the holes — a mini mouse, a bell, a fuzzy ball — and watch them go wild.

RELATED STORY: How To Play With A Cat

Box Hack #3: Cat Scratcher

Cats love to scratch, and sometimes, our furniture or pocketbooks suffer for it. Fortunately, making a cat scratcher at home is ridiculously easy. All you’ll need is some corrugated cardboard boxes, a ruler, a box cutter/X-acto knife, glue, and masking tape.


Instructions:

1. Cut strips of cardboard that are all the same width. You can make the scratcher as wide or narrow as you want. For a wider scratcher, you’ll need more strips.

2. Once you have all of your strips cut, you can make either a round or square scratcher. To make a round scratcher, simply wrap the strips around each other with a line of glue between each layer. Once you have all of the strips wrapped, seal the whole thing off with masking tape (you can even get a decorative kind with a fun pattern).

To make a square or rectangular scratcher, run a line of glue along the center of each strip, stack them all together, and then apply pressure for several minutes until they are packed tightly. Then, seal off the edges with masking tape, or place the scratcher into a box where it will fit snugly (like a shoe box).

Your cat will probably be waiting in the wings to get access to their new scratcher, but if they need a little encouragement, sprinkle some catnip on top.

RELATED STORY: Treat Your Cat To A Catnip Surprise

Making DIY projects at home is just one savvy way to save on your cat’s supplies. If you want to save even more, consider signing up for PetPlus. PetPlus offers discounts of up to 75% on pet medications, and ordering is so easy! Have any other money-saving tips for pets? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Help Aide the Rescue Dog Heroes of the Oso Mudslide

Last week, the nation reeled after hearing reports of the mammoth landslide in Oso, Washington that claimed dozens of lives. A wall of earth carrying uprooted trees and boulders downhill at breakneck speeds, what is now being called the Oso Mudslide quickly obliterated everything in its path.

With the death toll still rising, our hearts go out to the families effected, as well as those brave men, women, and dogs out searching for the lost. If you would like to donate, or to simply know whom to keep in your prayers, these are the search and rescue organizations out there getting their paws dirty in search of those still unaccounted for.

Northwest Disaster Search Dogs

One of the premier search dog organizations in the Pacific Northwest, the NDSD had 7 teams (dogs and handlers) on site searching for lost persons, leading the charge for the search dog teams.

Donate

Snohomish County K9 Airscent Team

Local K9 rescue outfit, the Snohomish County Airscent Team were among the first search and rescue teams on the scene.

Donate

King County Search Dogs

A search and rescue team from the surrounding area, the King County Search Dogs were quick to help out the cause.

Donate

German Shepherd Search Dogs (GSSD)

A search and rescue group that specializes in training German Shepherds, the GSSD sent a few teams to aide in the relief.

Donate

King County Explorer Search & Rescue

One of the largest search and rescue groups in the Northwest, KCESAR sent a number of teams to the location, both with and without search dogs.

Donate

Pacific Crest Search Dogs

After the full magnitude of this undertaking was completely understood, the PCSD sent a couple of dogs to help with the search for missing people, helping rebuff the second wave of searchers.

Donate

Evergreen Search Dogs

Another organization that had dogs on the scene, the Evergreen Search Dogs were quick to lend a paw to the rescue effort.

Donate

If you want to help those effected by the mudslide, all of the aforementioned organizations are accepting donations. Since the area has been barred off from the public for safety reasons, actual volunteer assistance is impossible. A charitable contribution, a donation of resources, or your thoughts and prayers are the best ways to help for those of us unable to physically lend a hand.

This video shows just how devastating the mudslide was to people and pets alike.

 

View more from Sam Bourne

PetPlus is pleased to help in a small way by offering each of these rescue dogs a free annual PetPlus membership plan. Please help us spread the word to support these brave men, women, and canines.

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6 Ways To Calm Your Pet Before And At The Vet

Going to the veterinarian can be an intimidating experience for a pet, whether it is their first visit or they’ve learned over time what awaits them at the end of a car ride. However, there are ways to calm your pet and teach them that the vet’s office is nothing to fear. Ready to learn how?

1. Take A Drive

Whether or not you are going to the veterinarian, some pets find riding in a car scary, and some even get car sick. If you want to have one less stressor when it’s time to visit the vet, practice taking your pet on car rides. Take short rides at first, end at fun destinations where they can run and play, and give your pet special treats or toys that they’ll associate with being in the car. If your pet suffers from car sickness, you can try withholding food before a ride or have them lie down in a crate or carrier where they will feel safe and comfortable.

RELATED STORY: 5 Steps To A Safe Drive With Your Dog

2. Visit Before The Visit

One thing that makes the vet’s office intimidating is that it is a new environment filled with unfamiliar people and smells. To deal with this problem, you should socialize your pet, and one way to do this is to visit the vet’s office at times when your pet won’t be having an examination or receiving shots. Walk your pal in, let them sniff around, say hello to the vet and some strangers, and munch on some treats. Before you know it your pet will feel right at home.

3. Play Doctor

If your pet has never had a thorough once-over, a pair of hands in their mouth, ears, and paws may give them a fright. Practice examining your pet at home, but make it a pleasant experience. Run a finger over your pet’s gums, then offer them a treat. Lift up one of their ears and look inside, then throw a favorite toy. Feel in between your pet’s paw pads, clip their nails, then give them a tasty morsel. Keep practicing, and soon your pet will learn that being handled is not only perfectly safe, it also comes with rewards.

4. Lead By Example

Pets pick up on our attitudes and behaviors, and if you are feeling anxious before or at a vet visit, your pet is likely to notice and feel anxious, too. Your anxiety tells them that something is wrong, and that they should be looking out for danger. Before and at the vet’s office, try to have a calm demeanor. Practice deep breathing, listen to soothing music on the way there, and have a cup of chamomile tea if it will help. Your pet will feel a lot more calm and comfortable if they see that you are calm and comfortable, too.

RELATED STORY: How To Know If Your Dog Has Anxiety

5. Conquer The Waiting Room

Barking dogs, hissing cats, anxious owners, strange smells — the waiting room can be a very frightening place for a pet. But there are ways to handle it. Before taking your pet inside, always make sure that they’ve had a chance to use the bathroom; a pet who has to “go” may act like an anxious toddler. If you have a dog, put them on a leash and offer them a treat before walking through the door. Once inside, have them sit close by and offer them treats, a chew, or a favorite toy. If you have a cat, it’s best to keep them in a comfortable carrier. If you know that loud, high-pitched greetings set your pet off, ask other pet parents to refrain. Stay calm, and if you notice that things are getting a little hectic, you can always take your pet outside for a short break.

6. Easygoing Exam

When they call your pet’s name, lead your pal confidently back to the exam room, and offer a treat once inside. When your vet arrives and begins doing their thing, you can keep feeding your pet treats, give them a chew or toy, or offer a gentle touch. Most vets will allow you to stay right next to your pet the entire time. It is also helpful if your pet knows some basic commands, like sit, stay, lie down, and watch me. When it’s time for vaccination shots, ask your pet to lie down, offer them a treat, and then ask them to watch you. Your pet will feel more at ease if their eyes are on you and not on the needle.

RELATED STORY: The Ever-Important Dog Physical Exam

Have any other techniques for calming your pet before or at the vet? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Vet Waiting Room Etiquette: 5 Rules To Remember

Ah, the veterinarian’s waiting room. It can be a stressful place for both pets and pet parents, with lunging dogs, whining cats, loud voices, and peculiar smells. Chances are you’ve been a witness to some annoying or unsafe behaviors before, but have you ever evaluated your own waiting room etiquette? It can be easy to forget our manners when we are worried about our pet’s health, distracted by the chaos of the office, or simply having a bad day. Here we’ll look at some rules for how to be a courteous owner while waiting to see the vet.

Rule #1: Cats In Carriers, Dogs on Leashes

It can be tempting to carry a sick kitty in your arms, or let your dog off the leash to socialize once you get inside. However, both of these behaviors are unsafe for your pet and the other pets and people in the waiting area. Cats should always be in carriers. Carriers not only make cats feel safe and comfortable, they also keep a cat from leaping out of your arms, urinating on the floor, or scratching people or animals with their claws. Dogs should be on leashes, but not retractable leashes. Use a leash that will allow you to keep your dog close.

RELATED STORY: 11 Cat and Dog Leash Options Your Pet Will Love

Rule #2: Don’t Let Your Pet Bother Other Pets

The waiting room is already a stressful place for pets and pet parents, and it can be made even more stressful if an excited pet is trying to approach, sniff, or play with other animals. In addition, some pets in the waiting room are seriously ill, and may even have painful injuries that could cause them to lash out, or contagious conditions that could be passed to other pets. And in some cases, your pet might be the sick one.

Even if your pet is just trying to be friendly, the safest and most courteous thing to do is leave other pets alone. Cats should always be in carriers, so you won’t have to worry about this with them. Dogs, however, are on leashes, and owners sometimes give them too much leeway. Keep a short leash and train your pal to “stay.”

Rule #3: Don’t Let Other Pets Bother Your Pet

Just because you aren’t going to let your pet bother other pets doesn’t mean that all owners are going to follow the same rule. Regardless of what anyone else is doing, it is your responsibility to keep your pet safe. Avoid sitting next to lunging or barking dogs, and if a pet is bothering you or your pet, ask their owner to stop it or get up and move.

Rule #4: For Scared Or Aggressive Pets

If you have a pet who becomes fearful or aggressive around other animals, people, or specifically at the vet’s office, ask if you can wait in your car. Don’t let children or adults approach your pet, and keep a good distance from other pets when you do need to go inside. If you are finding it difficult to correct your pet’s unsafe behaviors, consider contacting a trainer or animal behaviorist; your veterinarian should be able to provide recommendations.

RELATED STORY: The Causes of Aggression in Dogs

Rule #5: Dealing With Accidents

Accidents aren’t uncommon in waiting rooms — nerves can get the best of many pets. To avoid accidents, allow your pet to go to the bathroom before going inside. If an accident does occur, don’t try to rush your buddy outside; that will only create a bigger mess. Instead, let nature happen, then let the front desk know so that someone can clean it up.

Have any waiting room etiquette rules of your own? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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The 5 Biggest Pet Expenses

We know that pets aren’t cheap — what with vet bills, food, toys, medications, pets can quickly end up costing you a pretty penny. Beyond the obvious, however, there are a number of underlying ways your new furry pal could end up shrinking your wallet. Here are 6 of the most common, yet unexpected, pet-related expenses.

1. Emergency Vet Visits

petexpensesBeyond your pet’s annual, which (all things considered) should not leave such a hefty dent in your bank account, should your pet fall ill, or end up injured, you are going to have to take them to the vet; and this time it might end up seriously costing you. Depending on the cause of the emergency trip, a last minute vet bill can quickly range into the thousands of dollars.

2. Bye-Bye Security Deposit

If you are renting, chances are you laid down a considerable amount of money at signing time, fully expecting to get that money back. Well, should your new pet decide to claw at any corners, or make the living room carpet their wee-wee pad, you can kiss a considerable chunk of that security deposit goodbye.

3. Pet-Proofing Your Home

It may not look it, but your house probably has a few aspects that, in your pet’s mischievous paws, could end up being dangerous. Things like making sure that every trash can has a lid, hanging up all your potted plants, or fencing in the yard — while only one time expenses – can certainly start to add up.

 4. Replacing Destroyed Possessions

Most pets are unaware of the fine line between “theirs” and “yours,” which can quickly become a problem when they get bored with their chew toy and decide to gnaw on your iPad. Not only can this be dangerous to their health, but constantly having to replace things like shoes, belts, phones, pocketbooks, stuffed animals, or anything else they can get their paws on, can quickly add up.

Not to mention if they are not housebroken

5. Vacation Expenses

Next time you get home from a vacation, take a look at how much you spent. Then tack on an extra $40 a day and see what that number looks like, because that is what it will probably run you to have your pet put up in a boarding facility.

6. Bump Up That Insurance!

Pet related incidents make up for almost a third of all homeowners insurance claims, and insurers are no dummies. They know exactly how much risk they are assuming by insuring you, and are going to adjust your premium accordingly. So, if you have a dog (not to mention a breed that is considered dangerous), insurance companies can quickly start to jack up the price on you.

View more from Sam Bourne

Some of the extra costs associated with having a pet are unavoidable, but over-paying on pet medication is not one of them. If your pet is taking any medicine, prescription or not, consider ordering them the savvy way, and learn more about PetPlus.

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7 Easy Ways To Prepare Your Pet For Spring

It’s officially spring, and soon we’ll see higher temperatures and plenty of chances to take our pets outside for some fun in the sun. As nice as that sounds, warm weather and outdoor activities also present certain dangers to our pets, like increased risk of heartworm disease and seasonal allergies. The good news is that we can protect our pals. Read on to learn how.

1. Get Your Pet On A Heartworm Preventative

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that are transmitted via mosquito bites. If you’re thinking: “I don’t see many mosquitos where I live, so I don’t need to worry,” think again. The American Heartworm Society suggests that all pets — regardless of where they live — should be protected. Get your pet on a heartworm preventative, such as a tablet or topical treatment, before letting them loose in the yard.

RELATED STORY: How Do Dogs and Cats Get Heartworm Disease?

2. Prepare Your Pet From Fleas and Ticks

Mosquitos aren’t the only pests you need to watch out for in the spring; fleas and ticks also come back in full force. While fleas and ticks can be picked up any time of year, your pet is more likely to come into contact with them if they are out romping in the grass, hiking with you, or playing at the dog park. Fleas and ticks not only irritate your pet, they can also carry disease and cause serious health problems. Protect your pet with an oral or topical treatment and/or collar.

3. Stay Cool

When temperatures climb, so too does the risk of your pet overheating. On warmer days, you may want to walk your pet in the morning or evening to avoid high midday temperatures, and if you have the option, choose a grass or dirt path over hot asphalt; your pet’s paws will thank you. Be sure to bring water for your pal on long walks or hikes, and look out for signs of heatstroke, like excessive panting, staggering, and high body temperature. Heatstroke can be deadly, so take your pet to the veterinarian right away if you see symptoms.

4. Prepare your Pet For Seasonal Allergies

Pets can suffer from seasonal allergies in much the same way that people do, having particular sensitives to grass, pollens, flowers, or plants. If you notice your pet itching, scratching, or sneezing after playing outside, they might be having an allergic reaction. Contact your veterinarian; after testing your pet they may prescribe an antihistamine and/or suggest more frequent baths.

RELATED STORY: Know Your Options: Allergy Meds For Dogs

5. Beware of Poisons

Certain foods, plants, and rodenticides/insecticides are poisonous to pets, and you should be aware so that you can keep your pet safe when BBQing or hanging out in the yard. The most poisonous foods for pets are garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, apricots, caffeine, chocolate, gum, alcohol, and salt. There are many toxic plants, so check this list and then check your yard.

6. Steer Clear of Foxtails

Foxtails are grass-like weeds that show up between May and December in most of the US, but especially in the West. If your pet comes into contact with a foxtail, it can become easily embedded in their feet, ears, eyes, nose, or skin due to its sharp point and tiny barbs. Foxtails are not only uncomfortable for your pet and tricky to remove, they can also cause swelling, pain, abscesses, and even death if they are absorbed into your pet’s body and make their way to the lungs, brain, or spine. Protect your pet by learning the species of foxtail native to your region and avoiding overgrown areas. You should also brush your pet out and inspect them for foxtails every time they come in from outside.

7. Time To Microchip

More time spent outside means more chances for your pet to sneak off or get lost. You should always keep an eye on your friend, but if they do happen to escape your sight, a microchip is a great way to get them back. A microchip is a small device about the size of a grain of rice that contains a unique ID number. After the microchip is injected into your pet, you will register online using the ID number, and if the pet is ever returned to a shelter or vet’s office, a quick scan will reveal their information. Used in combination, a collar ID tag and microchip offer the best chance for getting your pet home safely. If you plan to purchase any medications for your pet this spring — including heartworm preventatives, flea and tick treatments, or allergy medications — consider signing up for PetPlus. You could save up to 75%, and ordering is a breeze. 

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Dog Scents: Your Dog Knows Your Smell, Even From Afar

Lets talk dog scents. Dogs love to sniff around. It is a major part of how they experience their surroundings; but did you know that your dog could probably pick your scent out of a lineup, even when you aren’t around?

In a recent study, piggybacking on recent developments in getting dogs to sit still for an MRI scan, 12 dogs were put through an MRI and presented with a sampling of different smells. Their brain patterns were recorded and analysed, helping to determine what type of scent produced the strongest response.

The Study

Each dog, once inside the machine, was made to smell five different scents: their own odor, an unknown dog, a dog they know, a person they don’t know, and a human member of their household. The study made sure to choose a member of the household that was not present during the study, since each dog required a handler throughout the study, and it would have skewed the results if the scent came from a person with whom they had recently interacted.

The results of the study were not far off base of what was hypothesized — each scent evoked a similar response, with familiar odors causing a stronger reaction. There were, however, a few details that surprised the researchers.

While nobody was surprised that the dogs had a stronger response to familiar scents, the fact that they only displayed a positive reaction to familiar people was a bit of a shock. One would have assumed that the scent of a familiar dog would be cause for joy as well, yet it seems that positive association is a response reserved for their people. Also, this positive association to familiar human scents drastically increased in those that were trained service dogs.

RELATED STORY: 20 Dog Commands You Need to Know

The conclusion

This study confirms the belief that dogs are capable of remembering smells that they are familiar with, both human and canine, and that they draw a stronger connection with the people they live with than other members of their own species.

For the researchers, this study provided some useful insight. “Dogs play many important roles in military operations. By understanding how dogs’ brains work, we hope to find better methods to select and train them for these roles,” said project leader Gregory Berns.

RELATED STORY: Salute to US War Dogs: An Infographic on Military Dogs

So, while this study gives us the warm fuzzies — confirming that our dogs love us and miss us —  for the researchers, this added insight into what triggers the strongest response in the doggy brain will help to pinpoint the best ways to train a service dog.

View more from Sam Bourne

What do you think? Why might our dogs respond strongly to our scent? Leave us a comment below!

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2 Great Healthy Homemade Treat Recipes for Cats And Dogs

Browsing the treat aisle at the pet store can be fun, but many of the tasty tidbits offered on the shelves come with a big price tag. This doesn’t mean that you should cut treats out of your pet’s routine (of course not!), but there are ways to save on indulging your furry friend.

Many pet parents have discovered that they can easily make pet treats at home. It’s not only a fun activity to do with friends or family (kids love it!), it’s also a way to cut spending. In addition, you’ll know exactly what healthy ingredients are going into the treats, so you can feel good offering your pal a reward when the time is right.

Here are two of our favorite dog-and-cat-friendly recipes from around the web. Check the ingredients to be sure that your pet isn’t allergic to anything, and then head to the kitchen!

Homemade Treats for Cats

Homemade Treats for Cats and Dogs

via PawNation

These treats are so, so easy to make, and they are also wonderfully healthy. The main ingredient — mackerel — is packed with fish oil that supports coat, skin, joint, kidney, heart, and immune system health. Fish oil has also been shown to provide benefits for some more serious health issues, such as cancer.

Ingredients:

– 1 15-oz can of mackerel

– ½ to 1 cup whole grain flour

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Empty the contents of the mackerel can into a mixing bowl, and mash thoroughly

3. Add the baking powder and enough flour to make the mixture into a thick dough

4. Spread the dough out to about  ¼” thickness on a greased baking sheet

5. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into small squares

6. Bake for 30 minutes or until brown

7. Allow treats to cool and then break into squares

8. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months

RELATED STORY: The Best Dog Treats For Every Occasion

Turkeyballs for Dogs and Cats

by Dr. Karen Becker

These super simple treats are loaded with lean protein, and the added parsley will give your pal a fresh breath. Choose to include cheese or chopped veggies for added taste and nutrition.

Ingredients:

– 1 pound ground turkey

– 1 egg

– 1 teaspoon chopped parsley

– ¼ cup shredded cheese (optional)

– ½ cup chopped veggies (optional; do not use onion or garlic, as they are poisonous to pets)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl

3. Shape the dough into small, bite-sized balls and place on greased baking sheet

4. Bake for 10 minutes or until brown

5. Cool and serve, or store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer

RELATED STORY: Cat Treats For Your Kitty’s Every Need

Have a favorite homemade treat recipe you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!

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Simple Tips to Make The Most Out of Your Pets Mealtime

When your pets mealtime rolls around, many pet parents follow a similar routine: scoop out the food, put the food in a bowl, place the bowl on the floor, and let Fido or Boots have at it. The entire process is usually over in a matter of minutes.

But what if feeding time was more than just a meal? Lots of pet parents use their pet’s dinner hour as an opportunity to teach or reinforce commands. Others use stuffed puzzle toys to slow down speed eaters, provide mental stimulation, zap energy, and satiate their pet’s prey drive.

So how can you make the most of your pet’s mealtime? Read on to learn some tips.

Tip #1: Turn Mealtime Into Training Time

Pets MealTime

Many pet parents think that training should only happen at a designated time, and that the only appropriate reward for a job well done is a special treat. In reality, training can happen anywhere at any time, and a hungry pet will usually respond just as well to their normal food as they will to a delicacy.

You can feed your pet their entire meal by hand while teaching or reinforcing commands like sit, stay, lie down, and heel. When your pet performs, offer them a few pieces of kibble. For safety commands that you really want to reinforce (like come and “watch me”), offer a larger handful (this is sometimes referred to as a “jackpot”).

Training your pet with their food not only reinforces important commands and stretches out feeding time (which can help with digestion), it also provides your pet with daily mental stimulation, which can improve their behavior.

RELATED STORY: Teaching Your Dog Basic Commands

Tip #2: Stuff Puzzle Toys With Your Pet’s Portion

Puzzle toys come in all shapes and sizes. Some are complex games and others look like regular toys, but have small openings where treats or food can be stuffed. You can also make your own puzzle toy at home; for example, a tennis ball with a flap cut into it.

Puzzle toys make your pet problem solve in order to reach a treat or food. Some puzzle games require a pet to move game pieces around to release a morsel. Other puzzle toys simply need to be dropped, nudged, or swatted to shake a piece of food free.

Feeding your pet their food using puzzle toys not only slows down eating and extends meal time (some pets are occupied for 20 minutes or more!), it also provides mental stimulation, a bit of exercise, and will satisfy a pet’s desire to “hunt” for their food.

If your have a large dog or large cat who eats large portions, you can buy or make several puzzle toys and divide the portion between them.

Leave a comment and let us know how you make the most of your pet’s mealtime! 

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