Grain-Free Dog Food and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy: What’s the Issue?

Grain-Free Dog Food and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy: What’s the Issue?

As we’ve already discussed on this blog, picking the right food for your pup can be difficult. There are so many different foods on the market and diets that are trending, but the most important thing is to choose a pet food that is safe for consumption.  Recently, the FDA issued a warning about grain-free pet food and its link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Since 2018, the FDA has investigated more than 500 reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) that appear to be linked to grain-free pet food. There is no clear answer as of yet as to what about the grain-free foods cause heart disease, but there is a link according to the FDA.  This article will explore what we know about grain-free foods and their link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

The FDA has seen an increase in the frequency of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs eating foods containing a high proportion of peas, lentils, legume seeds, and potatoes in various forms as main ingredients. The greater frequency of reports may signal a potential increase in cases of DCM in dogs not typically genetically predisposed to it. The FDA hasn’t established exactly why certain diets may be associated with the development of DCM in some dogs and it doesn’t suggest that owners stop feeding grain-free dog food brands to their pets, but it does recommend that clients work with veterinarians to determine the appropriate diet for a dog’s specific needs.

The pet food brands most frequently linked to reports of DCM by the FDA are:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • California Natural
  • NutriSource
  • Nature’s Variety
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

Many of these pet food brands have made statements regarding these accusations. Blue Buffalo made a public statement confirming that they are working with the FDA and the Pet Food Institute to study this issue and that Blue Buffalo scientists have come together with other pet food producers to further advance the general understanding of canine DCM and its causes. As of yet, there is no causative scientific link between DCM and grain-free pet products, ingredients, or diets as a whole.  The FDA is encouraging pet owners and veterinary professionals to report both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of dogs suspected to have DCM connected to diet online on the FDA website.

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a primary disease of cardiac muscle that results in a decreased ability of the heart to generate pressure to pump blood through the vascular system.  Researchers still debate whether the cause is mainly nutritional, infectious, or due to genetic predisposition. DCM is characterized by dilation of the ventricles with ventricular wall thinning. In many cases, dilation of all four chambers of the heart is seen. The ability of the heart to pump blood is diminished so dogs display signs of lethargy, weakness, weight loss, and they may even collapse. Dogs may also begin coughing and breathing rapidly on a regular basis.  DCM is typically diagnosed by echocardiography. Once diagnosed with DCM, the life expectancy for the average dog is between 1 and 3 years depending on their size.

If your pup is on a grain-free diet from one of these grain-free brands, consider talking with your vet about whether you should switch to a different brand or diet.

Vacation with the Pups: Best Dog Friendly Places to Stay in Massachusetts

Vacation with the Pups: Best Dog Friendly Places to Stay in Massachusetts

The summer is one of the best times of year to take a nice vacation and explore new places and experiences. There are many amazing destinations across the United States, and Massachusetts is no exception. With lots of coastal locations and vibrant cities, Massachusetts is a great place to spend the summer. When traveling it can be hard to make the decision to leave your pup behind until you return. Once you set up transportation for your pup, it can be just as hard to find a place where dogs are welcome. This post will explore some of the best dog-friendly hotels in Massachusetts.

The Liberty Hotel Boston

Formerly the Charles Street Jail, the building was renovated with many of its historic 1800’s based architecture kept in place and it was turned the Liberty Hotel. The Liberty is a 4-star luxury hotel and so the prices are higher than many of the other hotels in the Boston area, but the luxury accommodations and historic building are worth the price if it’s in your budget.  If you are looking to bring your canine companion, you are allowed to bring two dogs of any size for an additional fee of $100 per stay. The hotel staff will provide you with treats, a bed, and bowls at check-in. There are designated pet relief areas on the property and outdoor yappy hours are held seasonally, particularly in the summer.  Pet-friendly rooms are located on the 6th and 12th floors. If you are looking for a luxury hotel experience with your canine companion in a historic building than The Liberty Hotel is for you.

The Cottages and Lofts at Boat Basin – Nantucket

This location is one of the best places to go if you are looking to vacation in Nantucket, but you don’t want to rent a house. The Cottages are located by Nantucket Harbor and have a great view of the beautiful blue water. The cottages are located one block from Nantucket Town. If you are looking to bring your pup, then you should book one of their Woof cottages. These are their dog-friendly cottages. Upon check-in, you are given a basket of treats and toys, pet bed, and food and water bowls. They also offer dog walking services, provide you with a directory of vet clinics and pet stores, and they have a pet concierge named Bailey who is a Black Lab/Brittany Spaniel Mix. If you are looking for a dog-friendly vacation by the water in Nantucket, then this location is perfect for you and your canine companion.

Fairmont Copley Hotel – Boston

The Fairmont Copley Hotel is one of the best pet-friendly hotels in Boston and they even have their own pet ambassador,  Carley Copley the Black Lab. She can go on walks with you and your pup and is always available to greet guests and puppy pals. You are not permitted to leave your dog in the hotel unattended, but they do offer dog beds and bowls if you ask. There is a park located across from the hotel that is perfect for pet relief. Opened in 1912, the Fairmont Copley is a perfect example of the early 19th-century style and is a pleasure to walk around. They also have a great in-house restaurant/bar, OAK Long Bar + Kitchen. Like the Liberty, this is the perfect place for you and your canine companion to enjoy a luxurious and historic vacation in Boston.

Kimpton Onyx Hotel – Boston

The Kimpton Onyx is located in downtown Boston and is a more modern style 4-star hotel. Located in the heart of historic West End, it is located near The Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Boston Waterfront and North End. If you book the pet package you can have two pups of any size stay with you for no additional fee. You can also leave your pup in the room unattended, as long as you provide a cell phone number to the front desk.  This is one of the only hotels that will allow you to keep your pet there unattended so keep that in mind when looking for locations.

These are some of our favorite hotels around Massachusetts that are dog-friendly, mostly concentrated in Boston as that is what we know best here at Elliot’s House. Let us know if you know any great pet-friendly hotels around Boston on social media!

A Match Made in Doggie Heaven: How to Find the Perfect Pup

A Match Made in Doggie Heaven: How to Find the Perfect Pup

rescue d

Have you ever felt an instant connection with someone? Like you were on the same page since moment one? It’s rare to meet people that you click with immediately and it’s the same way when you’re looking to adopt a pup. Finding a pup whose personality and temperament match your lifestyle can be a daunting task. Luckily, there are more ways than ever to find a canine companion who is your perfect match. In this post, we will explore some of the best ways to determine what kind of pups are a good fit for you and the resources you can use to find the perfect canine companion.  At Elliot’s House, we know how integral our pups are too our families and we want to help you find the perfect new addition to your family.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when you decide you want to adopt a pup. These are a lifestyle, personality, size, cost, and living situation. Cost is the first factor you should consider when adopting a pup. If you rescue a pup, then the initial cost is mainly just to ensure that they are vaccinated and chipped. The long-term cost of owning a dog is something to consider though. You should ensure that you could comfortably feed and care for your pup without economic concern. Your pup is like your baby and extra expenses will always pop-up.  Some breeds eat more than others and require more maintenance (grooming, vet check-ups, etc…) Look up and understand the needs of each breed and find one that best fits your budget.

Every dog has his or her own personalities, quirks, and interests. Huskies love to run in the snow, Labrador Retrievers love to swim and Chihuahuas would prefer to be in someone’s arms at all times. Your lifestyle and personality play a very important role in what dog you decide to adopt. Breeds have typical characteristics that make it easier to know what they like to do and how they may act, but it’s best to get to know the dog you’d like to adopt and ask the rescue members about their personality and quirks. Just because a dog is a Lab doesn’t necessarily mean that they will love the water, but it’s common for the breed.  If you love to run and swim and are missing the perfect exercise partner, you may want to adopt one of the larger more energetic dog breeds like a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever. If you work all day and just want someone to come home and curl up into a ball with, smaller more low energy pups like a Pug, a Peekapoo or a Shitzu might be the right fit for you.  If you are looking for a companion who can play outside but prefers to sleep and act as a guard dog than an American Bulldog or a Pitbull could be perfect for you.

There is a web service by the name of PawsLikeMe that helps to match you with the perfect pet to adopt near you. You take a simple personality test and answer a few questions about your preferences and lifestyle, and in seconds they provide you with a description of da dog that will fit you and a list of potential adoption candidates that are the perfect fit for you. This service makes your search for the perfect pup much easier and we highly recommend it as a tool to be used during the adoption process.  Another good resource is Pedigree’s Breed Match program. You go online and give info about your living space, yard size, how long the dog will be left alone, your age, and other demographic information. With this info, the Pedigree Breed Matcher will give you the type of dog breed that best fits your lifestyle. Both of these resources are great for narrowing the funnel during the adoption process, but nothing is more important than your first few meetings with your potential pup. Every rescue pup is waiting to find their forever family, but some pups open up quicker than others. Once you’ve found a pup that you think fits your lifestyle and will do well in your living situation, we encourage you to really put in the time to get to know your future family member. Some dogs can take three or more visits to truly show their personality and the more time you spend with the pup before adoption, the more likely you are to know if they will be a good fit for your family.

If you are in your 20’s or 30’s and looking to have come to a new pet parent, this article breaks down the 16 best breeds to adopt in your 20’s and 30’s. People in their 20’s and 30’s often move into new cities or find a job in a new country and are suddenly without any real support networks. Adopting a dog ensures that you have a forever friend to go on adventures with and to make the long nights less lonely.

How did you adopt your pet? How did you find the perfect pup to match your lifestyle? Let us know on social media!

Ruff, Ruff, Rescue: Why to Adopt a Rescue Pup

Ruff, Ruff, Rescue: Why to Adopt a Rescue Pup


These days it seems like you can’t go a day without seeing a pup in-person or on screen. On any given day, you can find pups walking the streets of Cambridge, running on the beaches of Cape Cod, or teaching your children about the importance of safety on-screen in Paw Patrol. American’s are obsessed with dogs. They are our precious fur babies, popular culture icons, but, most importantly, they bring love and joy into our lives. According to statistics from 2018, there are around 89.7 million dogs in households in the United States. This is a staggering number, but that is just dogs that are reported as being part of a household. There are around 3.3 million dogs in animal shelters across the United States. Dogs reproduce in larger numbers than humans, and, many dogs live their lives on the streets until they are picked up and taken to an animal shelter. The United States love of dogs is a positive thing, but, it does lead to issues like pup overpopulation and high shelter populations. The number of dogs in shelters each year is going down, it was at about 3.9 million two years ago versus the current number of 3.3 million, but over 670,000 dogs are still euthanized in shelters each year. At Elliot’s House we understand the importance of rescuing and rescue groups. Our beloved mascot, Elliot, was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles. Rescue groups do amazing work and it’s because of them that the number of dogs in shelters has gone down over the past couple of years. One of our partners, Paws New England, is filled with volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure every possible pup finds a home. They find pups in need and help them to find a good home.  These groups do great work, but it is up to us as puppy lovers and pet parents to help make sure that rescue pups find a good home. In this post, we’ll discuss a couple of the major reasons to adopt a rescue pup. Every pup deserves a good home and we as a society can create a positive change that ensures that every pup has a warm bed and a full belly.

Reason 1: Saving a Life

As previously stated, hundreds of thousands of dogs are euthanized in shelters every year because of a lack of space and resources. When you choose to rescue a pup, you are literally saving a life. First and foremost by bringing a rescue pup into your family, but also by freeing up space in the shelter for another pup who may desperately need it.

Reason 2: Helps to Fight Puppy Mills and Unethical Breeders

There are many ethical and compassionate breeders out there, but it’s hard to always tell without doing extensive research. When you are adopting a pet from a rescue, you know that you’re saving a life and not supporting unethical business and breeding practices. Adoption also helps you to fight puppy mills specifically. Puppy mills are factory-style breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs. Pups are housed in shockingly poor conditions with improper medical care and are often very sick and behaviorally troubled as a result. The moms of these puppies are kept in cages to be bred over and over for years, without human companionship and with little hope of ever joining a family. After they’re no longer profitable, breeding dogs are either killed, abandoned, or sold at auction. Rescuing a pup from a shelter helps to take away from the profits of these puppy mills and ensures you rescue a pup who really deserves it.

Reason 3: Lower Cost

Usually, when you adopt a pup, the cost of spay/neuter, first vaccinations (and sometimes even microchipping) is included in the adoption price. This helps you save on the upfront costs of adding a new member to your family. Depending on the pups past, you may also save on housebreaking and training expenses.

Reason 4: It’s Relatively Easy

New technology makes it even easier to find shelters and pups near you. You can go to the Shelter Pet Project website to find pets near you of every size, color, temperament, and breed. Purebred and mixed breed animals alike are waiting for their forever homes!

These are just a few of the many great reasons to rescue a pup. When you rescue a pup you change one pups world, while at the same time saving the lives of pups in the future. Have you rescued a pup? Send us a picture and tell us your story on social media!

Pups, People, and Emotions: Exploring Dog Anxiety and the Emotional Relationship Between People and Dogs

Pups, People, and Emotions: Exploring Dog Anxiety and the Emotional Relationship Between People and Dogs

dog Anxiety

In this day and age, it’s hard not to feel a little anxious sometimes. Life moves quickly and, with the advent of the Internet and social media, it seems like there is always something to think about. There are more and more people opening up about their struggles with anxiety, but humans aren’t the only ones that deal with anxiety. Dogs experience anxiety as well. For most pups, just like with humans, a little bit of anxiety is healthy. When dogs show signs of anxiety frequently and in certain situations, then they may have an anxiety disorder. Recent studies have also shown that humans may have a greater impact on their dog’s emotional state than believed in years past. This article will explore the signs and causes of dog anxiety as well as some of the emotional impacts humans have on their canine companions.

Just like humans, a lot of things can cause dogs to feel anxious. Some of the most common causes of dog anxiety are fear, separation, and aging. Let’s explore each of these causes in-depth.

Fear-Related Anxiety

This type of anxiety is usually caused by loud noises, strange people or animals, visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas, new or strange environments, specific situations (veterinary offices, car rides, etc…) or surfaces like grass or wood floors. Although some dogs may have only a brief reaction to these stimuli, they may have a greater impact on anxious dogs. Fear-related anxiety is the most common form of anxiety in dogs with anxiety disorders. Most dogs are afraid of new places, but dogs with anxiety disorders may shake and exhibit extreme discomfort in new or uncomfortable situations. It is best to understand what stimuli make your pup anxious and work out methods of calming them down in these high-stress situations.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is reported to affect ~14% of all dogs. Dogs with separation anxiety are unable to find comfort when they are left alone or separated from their family members. Dogs often express this form of anxiety through undesirable behaviors such as urinating and defecating in the house, destroying furniture and furnishings, and excessive barking. If your pup gets separation anxiety there are methods to help keep them calm like leaving the TV or radio on so they hear people talking. If your dog gets separation anxiety, consider their behavior when you leave them alone and make sure they are in a safe environment.

Age-Related Anxiety

This form of anxiety affects older dogs and can be associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). In dogs with CDS, memory, learning, perception and awareness start to decline, similar to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. These cognitive issues lead to confusion and anxiety in senior dogs.

Symptoms of Dog Anxiety

The most common symptoms of dog anxiety are:

o   Aggression

o   Urinating or defecating in the house

o   Drooling

o   Panting

o   Destructive Behavior

o   Depression

o   Excessive Barking

o   Pacing

o   Restlessness

o   Repetitive or compulsive behaviors

o   Aggression

Some of these symptoms may be the result of occasional anxiety-causing events, but any of these can become recurrent, resulting in more serious issues. The most dangerous symptom of dog anxiety is by far aggression. This aggression can be targeted directly or indirectly, depending on the situation. Direct aggression occurs when a dog acts aggressively toward people or other animals. Indirect aggression occurs when some factor, be it a dog or a person, gets in the way of a dogs direct aggression target. If you know your dog gets aggressive when anxious, try your best to avoid situations that trigger this anxiety when possible.

Treating Dog Anxiety

The best way to treat dog anxiety is to talk with your veterinarian and identify your dogs’ triggers and potential ways of easing anxiety in those situations. Your veterinarian will help you come up with a treatment plan. Since excessive anxiety is often caused by a variety of factors, the best way to treat it is usually through a combination of training, preventative strategies, and in some cases, medications. Training usually involves extensive behavioral training with an expert in order to curb negative behavioral responses to anxiety. Training can also help your dog deal with situations that bring about stress and anxiety.  In terms of medications, many veterinarians prescribe SSRI’s and anti-depressants for dogs with anxiety disorders. For predictable anxiety-producing events like thunderstorms, fireworks, or car rides, your veterinarian might prescribe benzodiazepines in conjunction with an antidepressant to help your dog cope with the stress. Some pet owners and veterinarians recommend dog safe CBD products to cope with low-grade anxiety and many people advocate it for low-grade anxiety events in dogs.

The Emotional Connection Between Humans and Dogs

Everyone has noticed a time where it seems like your dog was reading your mind. Whether it’s laying down with you when your sick or jumping into your arms after a tough-day, dogs always seem to know how we feel in any given moment. Dogs have evolved since they were first domesticated to interpret non-verbal cues in people. This stems from the domestication process. Dogs that could readily respond to humans, both direct commands and their indirect body language, had an advantage over their more wary and socially challenged counterparts. Some people are naturally more anxious and emotionally reactive, a trait called neuroticism. Experts have hypothesized that an owner with self-reported anxiety could cause chronic stress in their pet. The research team recruited 58 dog-owner pairs, including 33 Shetland sheepdogs and 25 border collies. To discern stress levels, the research team measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their hair and fur. The only major variable that corresponded to the dog’s anxiety level was their owner’s anxiety level. In other words, an owner with a high amount of cortisol in their hair also had a dog with a high amount of cortisol. The relationship didn’t work in the reverse direction. There was no evidence that anxious dogs created nervous owners. Instead, the dogs likely picked up on subtle changes such as differences in their owner’s body odor and behaviors such as pacing, nail biting, and irritability. Even if you are anxious, owning a dog is never a bad thing. In fact, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America recommends adopting a pet as a potential way to cope with the stressors of everyday life. Medical research has also shown being around dogs can lower blood pressure.

This is just a brief glimpse into the world of dog anxiety and the emotional relationship between humans and dogs. There is a lot more research out there but these tips are a good place to start. Let us know how you help your pup with their anxiety!

Taking the Carnivore Out of Canine: Exploring the Risks and Benefits of a Vegan Dog Diet

Taking the Carnivore Out of Canine: Exploring the Risks and Benefits of a Vegan Dog Diet

two dogs

Veganism continues to rise in popularity as consumers learn more about the negative impacts of factory farming and the health benefits of vegan diets. Eating meat isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but industrial farming definitely has its fair share of downsides. 2 in 3 farm animals in the world are now factory farmed and worldwide about 70 billion farm animals are reared for food each year. This number is staggering when you think about the waste that these factory farms produce. Confining so many animals in one place produces much more waste than the surrounding land can handle. As a result, factory farms are associated with various environmental hazards, such as water, land, and air pollution. These animals are fed corn, wheat, and soy that are grown through intensive industrial farming that uses large amounts of pesticides, which can remain in their bodies and are passed on to the people, and pups, that eat them. These can cause serious health hazards in humans and some health hazards in dogs.

Whether you are a closet carnivore or a staunch vegan, we can all agree that factory farming has its downsides. Every dog has their dietary needs and, as pet parents, we need to make sure that these needs are met. In the past, most veterinarians and canine dieticians worked under the assumption that all dogs were carnivores and that meat was an integral part of their diet. While a meat-based diet is still the best way to ensure that your pup has all the nutrients they need, new research into canine dietary needs has found that properly structured canine veganism is an option. This article will discuss what we know about canine veganism as well as the overall risks and benefits of switching your pup over to a vegan diet.

For years pet care specialists and veterinarians worked under the assumption that dogs, like cats, are pure carnivores. Recent studies have shown that this isn’t quite the truth.  Dogs are actually fully capable of extracting the nutrients they need from plant-based sources. In fact, dogs are more accurately categorized as omnivores than carnivores. Wolves, a close relative of the modern domesticated dog, are carnivores and this is often part of the argument for why dogs should eat meat. Carnivores are their closest relation and so it would make sense that dogs are carnivores as well. However, recent studies show that one of the key things that differentiate dogs from wolves is that dogs are much more capable of digesting starches. This doesn’t mean that veganism is a perfect fit for dogs, but it does mean that dogs are capable of living on a vegan diet composed fully of plant matter. At this point, most of the arguments for doggie veganism are theoretical, as veganism has not been a trend in dog nutrition for that long and there have not been that many field studies conducted.

There are two key issues with dog veganism at this moment. For starters, it is difficult to find a vegan diet that perfectly fits each dog’s nutritional requirements. Each dog is different and those differences are only amplified between dog breeds. This means that when putting your dog on a vegan diet you must work closely with a veterinarian and a nutritionist to construct the diet and frequently check to make sure that your pup is getting all the nutrients he/she needs to live a full and healthy life. The other issue is that the vegan pet food/treat industry is just beginning and standards are still being established. There are some tested and approved brands but because this form of dog food is so new, there are not that many on the market. The end result of both of these issues is that dog veganism is possible if you are willing to put in the time and effort, but, at this point, feeding your dog a balanced diet with some animal products is the safest way to guarantee that they are happy and healthy.

The biggest benefit of vegan dog food is knowing that your dogs’ diet is not contributing to the issues related to factory farming. There are also nutritional benefits.  Vegan foods are allergen friendly which is beneficial for dogs that have minor allergies to chicken, beef, and eggs. These allergies can cause skin rashes and other minor discomforts that can be alleviated by a vegan diet. Vegan foods are also easily digestible, which is great for pups with sensitive stomachs. Vegan foods are also anti-inflammatory and can help with improving your pups energy levels and managing their weight.

Do you have any thoughts on vegan diets for dogs? Has your pup ever tried vegan dog food? Let us know on social media!

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