The Dangers of Commercial Flea & Tick Treatments

The pet care industry is oversaturated with toxic commercial flea and tick repellents, in the forms of “spot on” treatments, collars, powders, sprays, shampoos & pills. These products use pesticides, which are detrimental to the health of you and your loved ones. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate these drugs due to their hazardous natures. In 2008, the EPA received more than 44,000 reports of adverse reactions to commercial flea and tick medications, including 1,600 reported pet deaths. Reactions to these treatments are the most severe in small dogs, puppies, and cats. See the table on Page 2 for more information.

Safe Alternatives to Pharmaceutical Pesticides 

  • The strongest defense against parasitic insects is the health of your pet. A pet that has a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise is less likely to be afflicted with flea & tick infestations. A strong immune system repels pests.
  • Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar has been shown to boost pet immune systems, and can help keep bugs away. You can hide a teaspoonful in your pet’s water or food each day.
  • Consistent grooming helps control flea & tick populations. Regular flea combing makes a great addition to your at-home grooming routine.
  • Frequent vacuuming, and washing fabric items in the pet’s environment are effective for flea & tick control. Certain products like FleaVac aid in killing bugs while vacuuming.
  • Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE), a powder made from the fossils of unicellular plants called “diatoms,” can be sprinkled in any place where fleas seem prevalent. It is non-toxic to humans and pets, but to insects it is lethal. Do not use “Pool Grade” DE, as it is not effective for pest control and is a known human carcinogen if ingested.
  • Herbal remedies, including the oils of Lemongrass, Neem, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage and Peppermint, can be topically applied to dogs to repel pests. Extreme caution should be used when using essential oils around cats, however. Cats do not metabolize these oils in the same way as dogs and humans; therefore, they can become dangerous if inhaled or ingested by a cat.
  • Garlic is another natural flea & tick repellent, when used in very small dosages. Caution: high doses of garlic can potentially lead to red blood cell damage and gastrointestinal problems in both dogs and cats. Most supplements formulated specifically for pets are safe. A veterinarian should be consulted if you have concerns about the health of your pet.
  • Use a teaspoon of unprocessed Brewer’s Yeast daily for cats and small dogs. A tablespoon may be given to dogs that are greater than 50 pounds. Animals that are yeast intolerant may experience allergic skin reactions. Discontinue use if this occurs.
  • At night, a bowl of warm, soapy water can be placed beneath a light source to attract and trap adult fleas. Be sure to keep the soapy water in an area that pets cannot access.


Common Flea & Tick Treatments and Their Side Effects


Active Ingredient Brand Name Adverse Effects
Fipronil Frontline, Fiproguard, PetArmor Possible human carcinogen; linked to thyroid cancer in animals; can cause organ damage and enlargement; can cause loss of appetite, lowered or increased activity, convulsions, body tremors, incoordination, labored breathing, excessive salivation, reduced fertility, decreased litter sizes, and skin issues such as inflammation, ulcerations, sloughing, burns, itching, and hair loss.
Imidacloprid Advantage Possible carcinogen; evidence of thyroid lesions in dogs; can cause damage to liver, kidneys, thyroid, heart, lungs, spleen, adrenal glands, brain, gonads; linked to increased cholesterol levels in dogs; can cause incoordination, muscle weakness, labored breathing, and an increased risk of miscarriage
Methoprene Altosid Linked to increased liver size; causes headaches, eye and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, confusion, dizziness, and nausea in humans.
Permethrin Coulston’s, Repel, Sawyer Known animal carcinogen (causes liver and lung tumors), possible human carcinogen; damages lungs and kidneys; can cause tremors, incoordination, elevated body temperatures, increased aggression, decreased fertility, and bone marrow density changes.
Pyriproxyfen Advantage, K9 Advantix Causes reduced weight gain; toxic to puppies; may be carcinogenic.
Butyl-hydroxytoluene (BHT) Common preservative Known animal carcinogen, possible human carcinogen.
Butylhydroxanisole (BHA) Common preservative Known animal carcinogen, possible human carcinogen.
Carbitol Secondary ingredient in many products as a solvent Can cause headaches, depression, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, brain lesions, lung damage, and bone marrow depression.
Amitraz Amitraz Flea Collar Classified as a carcinogen by the EPA.
Selamectin Revolution, Stronghold Can be dangerous to humans with frequent exposure according to an NIH study
Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) Rabon, Gardona Interferes with an essential enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, which controls messaging between nerve cells, leading to neurological disorders.

Don’t just take our word for it, though.  Click the link below to read what the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) has to say about topical flea and tick treatments.


So, you’re spending the money on this expensive food for your dog or cat so, in an effort to save a little money, you buy the bigger bag.  Here’s the problem, that food has a shelf-life, and it’s a lot shorter than you think it is.  We recommend not keeping dry food (kibble) any longer than a month, and some say, you should be aiming for 2 weeks.  Why?  Because of oxidation.  What we’re talking about here is a meat-based pantry item, and that makes for an unstable shelf-life.  As soon as you open your bag of food, the oxidation process begins, and it is exacerbated each time you open the bag for feeding time.  Oxidation causes the fats and oils in the food to go rancid.  Not only can that make your dog or cat sick in the short-term, but it can have long-term effects as well.  Rancid oils and fats cause inflammation, and inflammation is a major contributing factor for a whole host of diseases including cancer and heart disease.

“But I keep my food in a plastic bin,” you say.  Well, believe it or not, that’s actually worse, unless you’re dropping the actual bag inside the bin, then it’s about the same.  Why is it worse?  Because plastic is porous.  The fats and oils from the food settle in these pores and oxidize.

When a customer comes into the store complaining that their pet spontaneously became ill while eating their food, we ask the same questions:

“How old is your pet?”

“Have you introduced any new food or treats recently?”

“Have they gotten into anything?”

If the answer to the last two questions is no, the next question is, “How long ago did you buy the bag?”  The answer usually goes one of two ways.  Either the food was purchased months ago and is long past the recommended 2 – 4 weeks for freshness, or it’s a fairly new bag.  If it’s a new bag, the next question is always, “How are you storing your food?”  Four out of five times, the food is being stored in a plastic bin and that bin hasn’t been cleaned in months, if ever.  Just as you wouldn’t continue to use the same container to store your lunch every day without washing it, you shouldn’t do it with your pet’s food either.  The rancid oils that have gathered in the pores of the plastic have now contaminated your brand new bag of food.  Time to cut your losses, throw out the food, clean the bin thoroughly with HOT water and soap, and buy a new bag because there’s no saving this one.  Because of the porous nature of plastic, it is best not to bother with it, but if you do, put the entire bag into the bin so that the food is contained within the bag, keeping the oils from settling into the plastic.  Even better, invest in a stainless steel food bin.  It is important to remember that you still must clean the bin thoroughly after each bag to remove the oils and fats.

Remember, it may cost a little more in the long run to buy smaller bags, but one trip to the vet for uncontrollable diarrhea will sink any savings you achieved buying the bigger bags.

*Side note*  What you CAN do to get more for your money is freeze a portion of the bag.  So, if you have an extra freezer in your garage or basement, you can keep a small amount of food out at a time and store the rest of the bag in the freezer to prevent the food from oxidizing.  You’re still going to want to make sure to seal the bag well to preserve freshness and prevent freezer burn.


Always check the first 5 ingredients in your pet’s food. A specified protein such as chicken, beef, lamb, etc… should be listed as the first ingredient. This is not a complete list, but one to give you a basic idea of what to avoid when choosing a pet food. Read the ingredients list on your bag of pet food; if it lists any of these items it’s time to get a new food!

BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) A white, waxy antioxidant, C11H16O2, used to preserve fats and oils, especially in foods. It is banned from human use in some countries, but is still permitted in the United States. A possible human carcinogen, apparently carcinogenic in animal experiments also. The oxidative characteristics and/or metabolites of BHA and BHT may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorogenicity.

 BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) A crystalline antioxidant, C15H24O, used to preserve fats and oils, especially in foods. Banned from human use in many countries, but still permitted in the United States. A possible human carcinogen, apparently carcinogenic in animal experiments also. The oxidative characteristics and/or metabolites of BHA and BHT may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorogenicity.

 By-products In many cases, by-product meals are derived from “4-D” meat sources – animals that have been rejected by the human food industry because they were presented to the meat packing plant as “Dead, Dying, Diseased, or Disabled.” By-products can include heads, hooves, tails, feathers, beaks, and other undesirable or “waste” parts of animals.

 Corn & Corn Gluten MealCorn has minimal nutritional value. Corn gluten is a by-product of corn, produced during the wet milling process. Corn and/or corn gluten is added to absorb the toxins that may be in the rendered parts when added to the cooking process. Corn is the #3 cause of allergies in dogs. Dogs do not digest corn well, and would not eat corn in the wild. Corn and corn gluten meal are cheap, and used by many companies as filler and to raise the protein level of the food without using meat. 88% of all corn grown in the US is genetically modified.

 Ethoxyquin People who worked in the rubber business and were exposed to Ethoxyquin contracted skin cancer, blindness, leukemia, liver damage, and diarrhea. In animals, it can kill the immune system and get rid of the animal’s only line of defense against diseases. It has been shown to cause certain kidney cancers and stomach and colon tumors. The Department of Agriculture lists it as a pesticide.

Propylene Glycol A colorless, viscous, hygroscopic liquid, CH3CHOHCH2OH, used in automobile antifreeze solutions, in hydraulic fluids, and as a solvent. Used as humectant in semi-moist kibble to keep it from drying out. Can be toxic if consumed in large amounts, and should definitely not be an ingredient in a food an animal will eat daily for weeks, months, or even years of the pet’s life.

Soy Most experts on pet nutrition agree soy isn’t good for cats or dogs. It is a low-quality, incomplete protein well known to create food allergies in pets. Soy has been linked to gas and deadly bloat in dogs. It is high in purines and is therefore an inappropriate protein source for urate-forming dogs. It is also high in silicates, promoting the formation of silica stones. The carbohydrate action of soy can cause a rise in blood sugar in many cats. Soy is also linked to seizures and thyroid damage and, since hyperthyroidism is common in kitties, this is yet another reason it should not be part of a feline’s diet. Soy has also been shown to interfere with estrogen levels in female animals. 93% of all soy grown in the US is genetically modified.

Sugar/Corn Syrup Sugar or sweetener is an absolutely unnecessary ingredient in pet foods, added to make the food more attractive to animals. Continuous consumption can promote hypoglycemia, diabetes, obesity, nervousness, cataracts, tooth decay, arthritis, and allergies. Pets become addicted to foods that contain sugars, so it can be difficult to get them to switch to a better food.

Food Coloring – Due to overwhelming evidence of their influence on hyperactive behavior and their possible link to certain cancers, artificial food dyes are banned all over Europe.

Wheat & Wheat Gluten An inexpensive by-product of human food processing, wheat gluten has almost no nutritional value left. It serves mainly as a binding ingredient and is a well-known cause of allergies in humans and their pets.  Wheat is a cheap and frequently allergenic ingredient which is present only in low quality foods.


We get a lot of questions about the raw diet but there are some we get more than others.  We’ve put together an FAQ to answer some of the most common ones.


     A raw diet is comprised of meat, organ, ground bone, and usually, some vegetable. It is put together in a variety of formats including tubes, containers, patties, and nuggets.


For the same reasons you eat fresh food every day. There are a number of reasons feeding a raw diet is beneficial. Food in its natural, uncooked, unprocessed state, is rich in all its naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. Think about how you would feel if you ate everything out of a box or a bag, never consuming a single whole food. That is how we’ve come to feed our animals. Even the best kibble foods cannot offer the same benefits of a whole food diet.

Moisture content is another benefit of the raw diet. The importance of moisture IN THE FOOD cannot be understated. For cats, this is especially true. Cats are desert creatures. They originated there. It is not in most cats’ natures to drink a lot of water, as most of the water they would have consumed came from their prey. When you feed a cat or dog a dry diet, most will never consume enough water to keep both themselves hydrated and to rehydrate this incredibly moisture-absent food. What this means is that many dogs and cats live their entire lives in a state of low-level dehydration. This can lead to kidney disease or renal failure later in life.

Another reason to feed a raw diet is that your dog or cat is a carnivore. Did you know the cat is the most carnivorous land mammal? It’s true! Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that 95% of their nutrition should come from a meat source. Most dry foods on the market aren’t coming anywhere close to that and literally only one actually hits that mark.

There are some out there who are trying to push the idea that dogs are omnivores. This is simply untrue. A quick visit to the dictionary can clear this up.

Dog: [dawg, dog] noun, verb, dogged, dog·ging.


  1. a domesticated canid, Canis familiaris,  bred in many varieties.
  2. any carnivore of the dog family Canidae, having prominent canine teeth and, in the wild state, a long and slender muzzle, a deep-chested muscular body, a bushy tail, and large, erect ears. Compare canid.

Car·ni·vore: [kahr-nuh-vawr, -vohr]


  1. an animal that eats flesh.
  2. a flesh-eating mammal of the order Carnivora, comprising the dogs, cats, bears, seals, and weasels.

Just because a dog eats vegetables, doesn’t classify him as an omnivore. To push this idea is to buck biology entirely. It is shameful and negligent that there professionals (and certain celebrities) out there who are perpetuating this falsehood.


     There is a prevalent misconception about the safety of raw food vs the safety of dry food. If you visit the FDA’s website, you will find a list of pet food recalls dating back to 2008. There are 7 total raw food recalls in the last 6 years as compared to more than 40 dry food and treat recalls (and that’s just for salmonella). The proof is in the numbers but, yet, many professionals continue to push the fear of pathogens as a reason not to feed raw.

The companies producing raw dog food are held to almost impossibly high standards of cleanliness in terms of both their facilities and the product being produced. The foods are batch tested for pathogens. If salmonella is detected, the meats are sent to the human side of processing where so many parts per million of certain pathogens are allowed to exist since it is assumed we are going to cook our meats. In other words, your pets are eating better than you are.

It is important to understand, though, that salmonella poses very little risk to our carnivorous pets. Their digestive systems are much different than ours. They are built to handle a moderate, and in some cases high, pathogenic load.

All that being said, we are exposed to salmonella every day. I bet you didn’t know there have been 12 multi-state recalls for salmonella contamination of raw tomatoes since 2000. And that’s just one fruit of the hundred or so fruits and vegetables available to us at the grocery store.

For a great article on this topic from Dogs Naturally Magazine, please click the link.


     First, for the reasons discussed above. Meats for human consumption are permitted to have a certain pathogen load. The meats used in raw pet food are held to a zero tolerance standard.

Second, there is a lot more to feeding your pet than just throwing some chicken breast his way. Dogs and cats require a pretty significant amount of organ meat, which is essential for a host of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids; bone, which is essential for calcium; and in the case of dogs, usually a small amount of roughage in the form of various vegetables. Chicken and rice does not a complete diet make.


Any change in diet has the potential to cause some digestive upset. If you are concerned about this, go slowly with any transition, feeding only small portions as treats initially. Watch the poop! It will tell you whether you can proceed or whether you need to slow down. Canned pumpkin or probiotics can also be a useful tool when changing your pet’s diet.


     This depends entirely on which one you buy. Just like any food sold, whether it’s for your pet or for yourself, the cost of the raw materials, location of production, and convenience all play a role in price. Most raw is comparably priced to high-end kibble diets and tends to be less expensive than feeding canned food.


These foods are intended to be fed in their raw, uncooked state, so apply the same safe handling rules you use for your own meats. Raw should be kept in the freezer and thawed in the fridge. In a pinch, you can put it in a Ziplock bag and put the bag in a sink of hot water to thaw it quickly. Do not microwave! Raw food can be kept for 2-3 days in your refrigerator before it starts to go bad. The simplest way that we’ve found is to simply take out what you need for the next meal when you feed. I.E. – when you feed breakfast, take out what you need for dinner and put it in the fridge.


     That depends on the formula, but, all brands are available in “complete” formulas so in that case, no, you do not need to feed anything else. Some brands also make supplemental feeding tools like plain ground chicken. These are for owners who are a little more advanced in their knowledge of the raw diet and are formulating the diet themselves. They are also frequently used simply to add variety to a pet’s diet. These options can also be useful when doing elimination diets with allergy dogs and cats.


Just like kibble, all the diets are slightly different in their feeding requirements. Quantity also varies depending on your pet’s individual needs, activity, age, and metabolism. A good rule of thumb for most raw diets is ½ pound for every 25 pounds of dog PER DAY. Cats typically eat slightly more, with an average 10 pound cat needing roughly 4 ounces a day. As with any diet, watch the weight. It will tell you whether to feed more or less.


If you’re used to feeding canned, you will be pleasantly surprised by the lack of odor in feeding a raw diet. Raw has very little odor (except for fish or tripe formulas). If your raw has a strong odor, chances are, there is something wrong with it.


     If you let it thaw completely, cutting up a 10 pound tube of raw can be pretty messy. That’s also why it’s a lot cheaper per pound than patties are. Patties and nuggets offer the benefit of virtually no mess. The best way to portion tubes is to put them in the fridge. Usually after about 12 hours, they are just thawed enough that you can barely pinch the sides of the tube (10 pound tubes may take slightly longer). As long as you have a good, sharp knife, this is the perfect time to portion and weigh it. It is still basically frozen so mess is minimal. It is also generally safe to refreeze it at this point.


Purina did a great job of convincing everyone of a few things in the 80s. The first was, you should never change your pet’s food. The second was, dry food gives them healthy teeth. Both are completely false. Equating dental health to the consumption of dry food is the same as adopting a regiment of hard pretzels for your own dental health would be. Crunching does nothing to clean teeth or make them stronger. Chewing, however, does. Meaty bones, rawhides, bully sticks, things of that nature, that they chew for 15-20 minutes at a time, will help to remove plaque and tarter from the teeth or to keep already clean teeth clean. But, just as it is with us, regular brushing will offer the greatest benefit.


     We used to hear this question a lot. It has become a less common concern, but every once in awhile, we still hear it. Do you or anyone you know, like your steak rare? After consuming said steak, do you/they go “Twilight” on anyone? No? There you go.

What can happen with any pet who really likes their food, is resource guarding. If your dog has never really loved his food or treats and suddenly you give him a meaty bone to chew on, he may growl when another dog comes near him or if you try to take it away. That’s not because he has developed bloodlust, it just means he really likes it. Do not allow this behavior, however. You should always be able to take food, treats, toys, etc. away from your dog without him growling at you. That is a matter of training.


The raw diet is naturally high in moisture. This is part of what makes it an ideal diet for pets with kidney or bladder issues. If your pet needs to drink more water, simply add water to his raw to make it more like a slurry.


     One of the things cancer likes more than anything is sugar. Unfortunately, even the best kibble diets have a higher than necessary carbohydrate load. Carbohydrates are converted into sugar by the body. Raw has a very small amount of carbohydrate, and in some cases, none at all.

*Please see the attached handout from Answers for more detailed information on this topic relating to their food. Click here -> Cancer


     Absolutely! There has probably been no group of pets who has benefitted more from the raw diet than those with food allergies. With a raw diet, you eliminate all grains and white potato. This is especially good for pets with yeast issues since these starchy ingredients will only fan the flames of yeast production. You can also limit ingredients to only 1 or 2 for the purposes of elimination diets. Some pets also will have no reaction to a raw chicken product but will react to chicken once it has been extruded (the process to make kibble). The other issue that can be avoided with many raw diets is that of synthetic vitamins and minerals. All dry foods (except for Nature’s Logic) use synthetic vitamins and minerals to make the foods “complete and balanced” as dictated by AAFCO’s guidelines. Many raw diets are naturally complete, thereby eliminating the need for a bunch of synthetics, which some pets are sensitive to.

On top of that, you will save money over buying one of the “Hypoallergenic” veterinary diets and will be feeding a far superior quality food.

*A note about hypoallergenic foods. The way they make them hypoallergenic is by hydrolyzing the primary protein used in them. For instance, Hill’s ZD hypoallergenic diet uses both hydrolyzed chicken liver and hydrolyzed chicken. What hydrolysis means is that the ingredient is washed in an acid solution until the protein that makes it chicken is completely destroyed. Therefore, it is technically no longer chicken, so the body no longer recognizes it as chicken. Then, so your dog will still eat it, they add MSG.


     As discussed under the heading of salmonella, statistically speaking, your pet is safer eating a raw diet than a kibble diet. The Diamond manufacturing dry food recall of 2012 left over 40 PEOPLE sick just from handling the food.

That being said, there are some raw food companies who employ HPP (high pressure pasteurization) and UV technology to sterilize the food. While we at Pet Barn feel that this is not the ideal circumstance in which to feed a raw diet because pasteurization changes the food, for those who are worried about pathogens, companies like Stella & Chewy’s, and Primal would be a good fit.


     Here’s what happens: The food is put in a plastic bag. The plastic bag is submerged in a chamber of water. The chamber is then pressurized to a pressure greater than that found at the bottom of the ocean. Some companies choose to do this because under that kind of pressure, pathogens like salmonella and E.coli can’t survive. The problem we at Pet Barn have with this idea is that, when you kill the bad, inevitably, you kill the good along with it. Damage is done to proteins, enzymes, amino acids and vitamins. So, while pasteurization does not cook the food, thereby leaving it raw, it does change it and, to us, that’s not really what raw is about.


Veterinary school does not focus on nutrition; it focuses on medicine. It is not unlike medical school for MDs in that way. That is why nutrition is a completely separate field of study and degree. It’s also why, if you ask your doctor about diet, you’ll likely be handed a copy of the food pyramid. While it seems logical that these two fields be synchronized, too often, they are not. Most veterinary training offers very limited coursework and, in some cases, little more than one week of nutrition. If everything that we needed to know about nutrition could be learned in a week, we’d all be healthier. The classes are also, more often than not, sponsored in some way by one of the major veterinary food companies (Science Diet, Royal Canine, etc). So, the information being taught is often fraught with agenda.

Colgate-Palmolive, the company that manufactures Hill’s Science Diet, spends “hundreds of thousands of dollars a year funding university research and nutrition courses at every one of the 27 US veterinary colleges. Once in practice, vets who sell Science Diet and other premium foods directly pocket profits of as much as 40%” (Parker-Pope, T. 1997. For You, My Pet. The Wall Street Journal. 3 November 1997. In Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. p266).

There are some forward thinking vets out there who do endorse the raw diet. These vets have decided to do their own research and think outside the box, attending elective seminars during their schooling in addition to their required coursework, instead of listening only to what a toothpaste company has to say on the subject. To those vets we say, “Bravo! And thank you!”



Considering nearly 10% of the US population has diabetes, it should come as no surprise that diabetes is on the rise in our pet population as well.  It has become clear in talking to customers who are battling this disease in their pets that many of them do not understand how the disease works, so, we’re going to try to break it down without getting too long-winded.
First of all, let’s address some common misconceptions about health and weight loss in general:

Foods made with whole wheat flour are healthier than foods made with white flour.
OK, in the sense that it hasn’t been bleached and then enriched, yes, this is true.  However, your insulin response recognizes almost no difference between white flour and whole wheat flour.  As far as your body is concerned, you’ve eaten flour from the wheat plant.  That’s what it knows.  The insulin response is the same.

Low fat is healthy and helps us lose weight.
This is simply untrue.  Low fat diets are, quite possibly, the primary reason obesity is at record highs in our countryWe have Ancel Keys and his “Seven Countries Study” to thank for this bit of destructive dogma.  What the study showed was that dietary fat seemed to be clearly linked to heart disease, which was Keys’ hypothesis.  Here’s the problem: the study started with 22 countries.  The other 15 were thrown out because they didn’t support his hypothesis.  It is this study upon which the demonization of fat is based.  One more of many other issues with the study was that no distinction was made between types of fats, namely trans fats, which, as we’ve learned in recent years, are a major culprit in all manner of health issues including obesity.  For more on Ancel Keys and why his study is akin to junk science, see this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Just this year, a removal of the upper limit on fat intake was recommended by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie…
   Wrong again.  The source of the calories is extremely important.  When you consume sugar, the pancreas secretes insulin, which prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage.  If you aren’t active after eating a high sugar/high carbohydrate meal or snack, the sugar you’ve consumed is stored as fat.  Why are carbs a problem?  Because the body very quickly converts them into sugar upon ingestion.  The more refined the carbohydrate, the more quickly it is converted.  The more sugar we consume, the harder the pancreas has to work secreting insulin.  In addition, the liver is also overworked as its role in maintaining blood sugar levels is to “take up” glucose from the blood.  When a diet low in sugars and refined carbohydrates is consumed, the pancreas has to release less insulin and at a slower pace.  Basically, every time sugar is consumed, the pancreas sees it as an attack that must be neutralized as quickly as possible.  Foods high in fiber can aid the pancreas in its fight since fiber naturally mitigates many of the negative effects of sugar by slowing sugar’s release into the bloodstream.  Therefore, fruits eaten in their whole form, despite their sometimes high sugar content, are still considered a healthy option because of the balance of fiber.  Fruit juice, however, is pure sugar.  Don’t fool yourselves; fruit juice is not a health food. The average 8oz serving of orange juice contains 24 grams of sugar; 8oz of Red Bull contains 27 grams of sugar.  The new recommendation for sugar intake for the average adult is 25-50 grams per day.  You just took care of at least half in an 8oz glass, likely at breakfast, which is, by far, the worst time of the day to consume large quantities of sugar because it sets the tone for the pancreas for the whole day.
But getting back to that whole “a calorie is a calorie” thing…  Why are we discussing sugar and insulin?  Because the more sugar you consume, the more insulin you have present in your bloodstream.  The more insulin you have present in the bloodstream, the more calories you will end up storing as fat.  That’s why a calorie is not just a calorie.  (And no, diet soda is not a healthy alternative.  Step away from the soda!)

What does this have to do with diabetes?
Everything!  There are two types of diabetes.  Type 1 affects only about 5% of those who have diabetes.  In this type, your body does not produce insulin and you must give yourself insulin shots in order for your body to metabolize glucose.  Type 2 is the far more common kind of diabetes, affecting roughly 95% of those with the disease.  It is essentially progressive pancreatic fatigue from a diet high in processed foods, sugars, and sometimes too much alcohol.  In Type 2, one of two things occur.  Either the pancreas still produces insulin but the body has become inefficient at using it, or it no longer produces enough insulin.  As a result, too much glucose remains in the bloodstream so the pancreas produces even more insulin to try to counteract the glucose.  Over time, this constant strain causes the pancreas to slowly wear itself out. 

So what’s the answer?
It’s complicated and simple, all at the same time.  Prevention!  There is a reason this disease is on the rise.  It is estimated that 9 in 10 cases could have been prevented with a better diet and lifestyle changes.
Eat fewer refined grains (i.e. flour-based foods like pasta, breads, etc), fewer deserts and other sugar-heavy foods and drinks such as cereal and soda, and eat more foods in their whole form.  And always read labels!
There is no one right way to eat that fits every animal or person perfectly but if you simply do these few things, you will improve your/your pet’s health.
Beyond that, educate yourself.  Google responsibly.  There are a lot of nuts out there.  Netflix is also a wonderful resource for great documentaries about food and health.  Understanding your own health makes you inherently more equipped to handle and understand your pet’s health.
Be your pet’s advocate!  Knowledge is power.  You do not have to partake in any medical treatment you don’t feel comfortable with just because a doctor told you to.  Get a second opinion if you’re really uncomfortable.  If you don’t like your vet, find a new one!   You should feel comfortable discussing options and concerns with them.

Pet-specific advice:
   Quantity!  Most of the time, our pets are smaller than we are.  Even your average lab is roughly half the size of a healthy, adult female.  Yet, many people try to feed them in similar quantities to what they, themselves eat.  We hear the following all the time, “But it just doesn’t seem like that much food.”  Maybe not for a 150 pound person, but for a 50 pound dog, 2 cups of food a day is usually adequate.  And your 5 pound chihuahua?  Think about how tiny his stomach is inside that little body.  Now look at how much food you’re trying to fit in it.  For more information on this topic and obesity risks, please see our blog post on this topic:

Think moisture. We offer many options for your pet in this area, whether it’s raw, freeze dried, air dried, dehydrated, or even canned.  Listed in order from least to most processed, all of these options offer great benefit to your pet in water content alone.  No, wetting kibble is not the same.  This is important for many reasons, one of which is that diabetes leaves you and your pet vulnerable to kidney disease.  Moisture-rich foods are easier for the body to process.  Foods in their raw format are, in nearly all cases, also easier for the body to process.

Get off the grain!  With that being said, not all grain-free foods are created equal.  Steer clear of foods high in white potato and tapioca.  We are very picky about what we carry at Pet Barn.  We have gone rounds with some food manufacturers because of our refusal to carry their brand due to their prolific use of these ingredients.  We sometimes hear from customers, “Well, I’m not worried about that because my dog/cat doesn’t have that problem.”  The secret end of that sentence is, “yet.”  We all age.  Our goal is to help prevent that “yet” from becoming a reality.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Either way, they have to eat.  Why not make it food that will help them to thrive rather than simply survive?


How Much To Feed

The first thing we need to address is this. It is physically impossible to have a picky, overweight dog. If your dog is overweight but you feel he is picky, he’s trying to tell you he’s full, but you are not listening. So, you put canned food or “people food” in his bowl to make the food enticing so he’ll eat. Essentially, he’s being force-fed. Conversely, just because your dog acts hungry, does not mean he needs more food. Dogs are very bright and they figure us out quickly. They know which behaviors will be rewarded in desirable ways. Often times, they simply want our attention.

When determining how much to feed, there is a good rule of thumb to follow. For an average adult who gets moderate daily activity, the rule is 1 cup for every 25 pounds of dog PER DAY. You can split that into as many meals a day as you’d like (most prefer and we recommend 2). Keep in mind, this applies to a good quality food. Some of your low quality foods like Purina, Beneful, Pedigree, etc. require that you feed more food because they are nutritionally lacking and are grain laden with very little animal protein. It is also of utmost importance to understand that you should be feeding the dog you SHOULD have, not the dog you do have. That means, if your dog is 65 pounds but should weigh 50, you should feed him as a 50 pound dog (2 cups a day).

Small dogs seem to present a bigger issue for pet owners as many owners can’t wrap their heads around the seemingly small quantity of food they should be feeding. Step back and really look at your 5 or 10 pound dog. Now imagine their stomach inside their tiny little body, competing with all the other organs and intestines for space. Their stomach is extremely small.

The most common complaint we hear from small dog owners is, “My dog is picky.” Nine times out of 10, the dog is simply being overfed and, therefore, has little interest in his food because he’s still full from the last meal. Typically, these dogs really love a new food for a day or 2 and then they lose interest. The reason this happens is because the food is new and different. It’s the same reason we can be full from dinner but will eat ourselves to misery if dessert is put in front of us. But, after a few days, the food is no longer new and the dog is unwilling to overeat anymore, making the owner think they are picky when, really, they’re just full. If fed the appropriate amount, the dog will likely continue to eat the food you’ve purchased.

Another problematic area is treats. Many owners do not factor treats into their pet’s daily food intake, which can be a huge mistake. If it helps, take a measuring cup and fill it with food and treats every morning until it is at the appropriate quantity for the day (1 cup per 25 lbs) and then feed and treat from the measuring cup until the end of the day.

Probably the most important part of feeding is to remember that these are only guidelines. The recommendations on the food bags are only guidelines. Your dog may need more or less food based on his individual metabolism, activity, and age. Watch his weight. It will tell you how much to feed.

Obesity Facts & Risks

  • An estimated 54% or 93 million dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese
    • An estimated 55.6% or 43 million US dogs are overweight or obese
    • An estimated 54% or 50 million US cats are overweight or obese
  • An estimated 21% or 36 million US pets are in the obese category
    • 20% or 16 million US dogs are estimated to be obese
    • 22% or 20 million US cats are estimated to be obese
  • Primary Risks of Excess Weight in Pets
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • Many Forms of Cancer
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

Click the links below to see Body Condition Scoring charts for dogs and cats to find out where your pet falls on the scale.




This is the Pet Barn Blog! Here we will be posting and discussing relevant articles pertaining to the health and well-being of our furry loved-ones. We may sneak in a few fuzzy baby animal pictures too.