Purina® Pet Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | All in the Family

Great Danes have been members of Bob and Laura Walsh's family since before they were even officially the Walshes.

"Before Laura and I were married, we were living together in the mid 1970's," Bob said. "Laura insisted on having a Great Dane. I thought, 'What in the world do you want a Great Dane for?' but guess who won that argument."

Looking back, Bob's glad Laura did.

"Though we love all dogs, we completely fell in love with Great Danes," Bob said. "They are a breed that really needs to feel like a part of the family, and if you train them from a pup, you'll find their spirit is loyal, fun loving and they will go out of their way to make you proud of them."

Since their first Great Dane puppy back in 1975, it's the only breed that has graced the Walshes' home. They currently have three: Annalise, who will be 10 years old in August, and Beasley and Elsa, who are both 8 years old and litter mates.

"Annalise is alpha and mommy's baby. She is the only dog we've had that just worships Laura. She loves her brother and sister, too, but loves all kids more than anything," Bob said. "Beasley is the shyest dog we've ever had. He's a big chicken but very loveable. Elsa is a perfect dog. She always minds and is playful like a puppy with a true happy-go-lucky personality. They love toys and have more than 50 in their toy pile."

This animated, amusing spirit is one of the many things that really caught Bob and Laura's interest about the breed.

"You can watch these guys and without saying a word, just burst out laughing at what they do individually and as a group," Bob said. "It can be as funny as watching a good comedy on TV, or it can be as loving and sweet as watching a nature show on PBS."

But because of their playful personality and giant size, Bob stresses the importance of obedience and socialization.

"All of our Danes, since the day we got them at 8 weeks, have been to beginning and intermediate obedience training, and these three went on to receive their CGC or Canine Good Citizen certification," Bob said. "Giant breeds like the Great Dane need to be started on the basic commands like sit, stay and come immediately. I'm talking 8 weeks old. These guys grow fast and they get strong even faster."

Some of Bob's tips for training include praising and rewarding dogs for good behavior and not overtraining.

"When they're a puppy, just work with them three or four times during the day for five minutes until they get a little older. Then, you can move onto the advanced training," Bob said. "Make it fun, don't break their spirit and socialize them. They love all ages, one to 91!"

The Walshes don't show or breed their dogs, but Bob encourages anyone looking at getting a giant breed to go to their local or nearby dog shows and speak with breeders or handlers.

"They should be able to give you a world of great information and help you to make a more educated decision on if a certain breed is the right one for you and your family, and also, a right decision for the dog," Bob said.

Bob and Laura have been feeding their Danes Exclusive® Lamb & Rice Formula Adult Dog Food, which they get at Divide Feed in Divide, Colorado, since they first heard about it from a breeder 10 years ago. One of things that attracted them to the food is that the first ingredients are lamb and lamb meal, not by-products. They also like that there is no corn in the food, helping their dogs' bodies absorb vitamins and minerals and have less frequent stools.

"In our 35 years of buying dog food we have yet to come up with any other dog food that best meets the needs of our animals being extremely healthy besides the Exclusive® Lamb & Rice," said Bob. "They don't get anything else, just this dry food, and they and their healthy bodies love it!"

With a giant breed like the Great Dane, Bob and Laura have no problem catching other people's attention.

"We've been surprised how much other people, strangers, approach us and want to pet the dogs and ask questions," Bob said.

But with their playful and loving sprits, endless joy and curiosity, love of house guests, the fact that there's not a mean bone in their body, and that they're always there to greet you with wagging tails, Bob and Laura understand the attention and have plenty of stories to share.

"With 35 years, we could write a book," Bob said. "Love your dog, train your dog and you will have cherished memories for a lifetime!"

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PET TIPS | Geriatric Pets

As much as we resist accepting it, the fact is that our beloved pets do grow older and inevitably the day comes when they are classified as "geriatric". Cats age more slowly than dogs and do not appear to show breed differences in aging characteristics. Dogs, however, show great variation in aging due to both size and breed, with small dogs generally aging more slowly than large dogs. Indeed, large dogs can become geriatric as early as 7.5 years of age.

Like humans, dogs and cats experience numerous physiological and behavioral changes with aging. Organs function less efficiently, senses are dulled, and skeletal and muscle mass decline. Hence, geriatric pets have specific nutritional needs that must be met to ensure that they experience the highest quality of life possible during their golden years.

Dogs typically lose lean body tissue as they age, changing their ratio of body fat to body lean. Indeed, body fat can almost double in older dogs. This occurs in conjunction with a decrease in the animal's resting metabolic rate (basically how fast it burns calories at rest), since muscle is considerably more metabolically active (calorie-burning) than fat. Many older dogs also tend to be less active, which further contributes to a decrease in muscle mass and metabolic rate. Therefore, unless an older dog reduces its food intake or maintains it activity level, it will likely gain weight. A decrease in both activity and metabolic rate can reduce daily energy requirements by as much as 40%!

Nutritional products designed for the older dog become important to a continuance of quality of life for your pet. A decrease in energy content of the diet may be appropriate for more sedentary older dogs, but high-quality protein must continue to be supplied in order to maintain lean body tissue. Research has shown that older dogs actually need more dietary protein than younger dogs in order to maintain optimal muscle mass. Historically, people have believed that high dietary protein contributed to renal (or kidney) failure in older dogs. Research has disproved this; high dietary protein will not harm a healthy kidney or contribute to its decline. However, dogs of any age with renal disease do need dietary modification to support their metabolism in the face of clinical kidney insufficiency.

The older dog also experiences changes in fat metabolism, one of which is a decreased ability to synthesize certain omega fatty acids from other dietary fats. There is some evidence that these changes may be breed- as well as age-related. This suggests that food designed for older dogs should be supplemented with omega-3 and –6 fatty acids in order to maintain healthy skin and hair.

Age can also impair the canine immune system, and this may, again, be breed-specific. Early research indicates that antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta carotene and lutein may be beneficial in supporting immune health in the dog.

It is of primary importance for overall health to keep your older dog as active as possible. While the aging canine may not be able to chase down a tennis ball or follow a bicycle as he once did, he still needs significant exercise to maintain muscle mass, metabolic rate, and joint health. Two brisk 15- to 30-minute walks per day will keep your dog far healthier than allowing him to settle into a sedentary lifestyle or assuming that he will get enough exercise on his own if left in a fenced yard. He will need your help to ensure that he stays physically active and as healthy as possible.

Your aging dog must rely on you to keep the quality of his life as high as possible. Remember to make sure he has adequate exercise, plenty of clean, fresh water, regular trips to the vet, and a senior dog food (such as Exclusive® Senior) designed to meet his very special needs. After all, he's been your very special friend for years – he deserves the best!

As in most things, cats are different from dogs in how they age. Cats do not appear to show breed or size differences in aging, perhaps because the difference between a small and large cat is not nearly as great as that between a small and large dog. In addition, the metabolic rate of a cat does not decline with age as much as a dog's, possibly because young adult cats are not that much more active than older cats. Cats also lose less lean tissue and gain less fat tissue than dogs due to aging alone, though this certainly does not mean that they cannot become obese or that their body composition does not noticeably change as they age.

Aging cats do experience a decline in dietary energy digestibility, primarily due to a decreased ability to digest fat, which can also decrease the availability of the omega fatty acids. Most older cats will make up for this deficiency by simply eating more food. However, like the dog, the cat's energy requirements decrease with age, so the older cat that increases its intake may eat too many calories and gain weight. Some cats will need to be fed controlled portions to aid them in weight management. This means the fat in the diet will need to be high in omega-3 and –6 fatty acids in order to meet the needs of the older cat whose intake must be regulated. Cats will also need an adequate source of high-quality dietary protein in order to maintain muscle tissue. Being true carnivores, cats have a high need for dietary protein, and this does not diminish with age.

While only preliminary research has been done with cats, indications are that antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta carotene and lutein may be beneficial for enhancing sagging immune systems in geriatric cats. More work is needed in order to more specifically determine the effect of age and dietary antioxidants on immune system health in cats.

Exercise can benefit a cat just as it does a dog. Playing with your elderly cat or encouraging him to move around will help to keep him healthier longer and help him manage his weight better than if he lapses into a completely sedentary lifestyle. Try keeping his litter box and food at opposite ends of the house or on different floors to encourage more movement.

Foods designed for geriatric pets should contain adequate levels of high-quality protein, the appropriate amount of energy from fat rich in the important omega-3 and –6 fatty acids, and antioxidants. The right food will help your aging pet receive the nutrition he needs without risking the weight gain that can predispose him to obesity-related diseases. You just add the exercise and the love to help your best companion continue to be your buddy for many more years!

References: Biagi, P.L., A. Bordoni, S. Hrelia, et al. 1991. Gamma-linolenic acid dietary supplementation can reverse the aging influence on rat liver microsome delta-6-desaturase activity. Biochem. Biophys. Acta 1083: 187.

Brace, J.J. 1981. Theories of aging. Vet. Clin. North Am. Small Anim. Pract. 11:811-814.

Case, L.P., D.P. Carey, D.A. Hirakawa, and L. Daristotle. 2000. Geriatrics. In: Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals. Mosby, Inc., St. Louis, MO.

Chew, B.P., T.S. Wong, T.S. Park, et al. 1998. Role of dietary lutein in the dog and cat. In: Recent Advances in Canine and Feline Nutrition. G.A. Reinhart and D.P. Carey (eds.) Vol. 2. Iams Nutrition Symposium Proceedings, Orange Frazier press, Wilmington, OH.

Finco, D.R., S. Brown, W. Crowell, et al. 1994. Effects of aging and dietary protein intake on uninephrectomized geriatric dogs. Am. J. Vet. Res. 55:1282-1290.

Griffith, B.C.R. 1968. The geriatric cat. J. Small Anim. Pract. 9:343-355

Kearns, R.J. 1999. Effect of age, breed, and dietary omega-6 (n-6):omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid ratio on immune function, eicosanoid production, and lipid peroxidation in young and aged dogs. Vet. Immunol. Immunopathol. 69:165-183.

Meydani, S.N., MG. Hayek, D. Wu, et al. 1998. Viatmin E and immune response in aged dogs. 1998. In: Recent Advances in Canine and Feline Nutrition. G.A. Reinhart and D.P. Carey (eds.) Vol. 2 Iams Nutrition Symposium Proceedings, Orange Frazier Press, Wilmington, OH.

Meyer, H. and G. Stadfeld. 1980. Investigation on the body and organ structures of dogs. In: Nutrition of the Dog and Cat. Pergamon Press, Oxford, England.

Mosier, J.E. 1989. Effect of aging on body systems of the dog. Vet. Clin. North Am. Small Anim. Pract. 19: 1-13

Reinhart, G.A., D.M. Vaughn, M.G. Hayek, et al 1997. Effect of age on canine hepatic delta-6 and delta-5 desaturase activity. J. Anim. Sci. 75 (suppl.): 227. Abstr.

Strasser, A. H. Niedmuller, G. Hofecker, et al. 1993. The effect of aging on laboratory values in the dog. J. Vet. Med. 40: 720-730.

Taylor, E.J., C. Adams and R. Neville. 1995. Some nutritional aspects of aging in dogs and cats. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 54: 645-656.

Wannemacher, R.W. and J.R. McCow. 1966. Determination of optimal dietary protein requirements of young nd old dogs. J. Nutr. 88: 66-74

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GET TO KNOW | Exclusive® Chicken & Rice Formula Cat Food

Formulated to provide premium nutrition for normal, active adult cats and growing kittens, Exclusive® Chicken & Rice Formula Cat Food starts with fresh chicken as its number one ingredient. Chicken is an excellent source of high quality protein for building strong muscles and lean, healthy bodies, is highly digestible for less litterbox waste and odor and is rich in essential fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. All Exclusive® formulas are thoroughly researched and quality assured for balanced nutrition your pets will love.

  • DHA—naturally found in mother's milk, supports brain and vision development in kittens
  • High protein—helps build strong, lean muscles
  • Antioxidants—help support a healthy immune system
  • Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids—help keep your cat's skin soft and coat shiny
  • Free of fillers—contains no wheat, soy or fillers
Exclusive® Chicken & Rice Formula Cat Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages.

Available Product Sizes
NET WT. 35 LB (15.88 kg)
NET WT. 18 LB (8.17 kg)

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