Monday, March 20, 2017

Your Personal Trainer Has 4 Paws!

Take the Spring to Summer Dog Walking Challenge!!

In October of 2015 I read an article about National Walk your Dog week that stated that about a third of dog owners admit to rarely walking their dog.  I was shocked by this and wanted to get a sense if this was true of the people I know so where else better to find out but a Facebook post. Many of my friends were very active with their dogs by participating in dog sports, going to classes and playing games in the yard but I found that most didn’t take their dogs on walks.    My dog Lizzie is going to be 7 years old this month.  Lizzie was a VERY active puppy and we don’t have a fenced in yard so daily walks became part of our normal routine early on.  My favorite part of most days is the quiet time I spend walking my dog and exploring new areas.  I knew my friends, and their dogs, were missing out on something special.

As a result I came up with an idea to challenge people to commit to walking their dog for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for 30 days and called it the “30 for 30 dog walking challenge.”  I figured that a handful of my friends would join the private Facebook group but as people continued to invite their friends we had almost 300 people participate. 

About a month or so after the challenge wrapped up a few people reached out to me about when the next challenge would be. To be honest, I hadn’t planned on doing another challenge but we had developed a community of dog walkers from literally around the world and so I decided to challenge the group to walk 100 miles with their dog between the first day of spring and the first day of summer.  This time almost 700 people committed to the challenge.  Most recently, this past fall we added a scavenger hunt so not only were people accumulating 100 miles between fall and winter but this time they took pictures of 100 different items from our scavenger hunt list.

While I have really enjoyed all of the pictures of dogs walking in so many varied places around the world as well as hearing the success stories of improved health through pounds lost and relieved stress  (for both dog and human), the thing I have enjoyed most about the challenges is the people.  People connected with others who lived near to them to create small groups that got together to walk. One person created T-shirts that could be ordered when you completed the 100 miles. And these dog walkers always keep the group fun and positive….seriously, we survived an election season without one comment about either party in our group and THAT is a miracle on social media these days. This diverse community with a wide range of ages and physical abilities cheers for you every mile you walk whether exceed the 100 miles or don’t come close to meeting the goal.  For me, who already was walking my dog every day I challenged myself to get back into running (at age 40) and participated in several 5K events after learning and training cani-cross with Lizzie.

What started as a little idea I had one day while walking my dog has turned into something I never could have imagined. This Monday March 20 the 2nd Annual 100 by summer dog walking challenge kicks off and I would like to invite you and your dog to be a part of it.  To learn more visit my Facebook page at


About the author:  Amy Porto, PhD, RD is a registered dietitian, former fitness instructor and associate professor of nutrition and dietetics whose mission is to push others to live inspired through good nutrition and fitness.

Lizzie Porto competes in canine nose work, enjoys swimming in the lake, playing with her dad, going to camp with the Dog Scouts of America each summer and taking in the sights and sniffs on her daily walks.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Does it Really Matter What You Feed Your Dog?

My doctor likes to talk during my physical and after talking about music, we got into how Nature’s Nibbles, the natural pet food business my wife and I own, is going. I immediately asked him if he had a pet and what he is feeding it/them. His wife wanted a Schitzhu and was told by the breeder to feed Iams. He said they also feed the Fresh Pet brand pet food. I told him I haven’t done much in depth research on the Fresh Pet, but from just glancing at the ingredients, it looked fine. Then I asked him if he has read the ingredients of the Iams. I wasn’t surprised when he said, “No” and …”Iams isn’t a good food?”

I figured the best way to speak about pet nutrition, to a doctor, is logically!

Iams (as well as Purina, Science Diet, Eucanuba and other commercial pet food brands) has by-products. By-products are everything but the actual meat. Wheat and soy are in the formulas to provide the protein that by-products lack. Wheat and soy are allergens and can dry out the skin, make hair brittle, create itching, hot spots and can also cause digestive issues. Corn sweetens the formulas. I asked the doc what corn does in a system… “It metabolizes into glucose and fructose (sugar) and eventually fat.” BOOM! A light went on in his head . 
Now, all natural dry food, with no by-products, wheat, soy, corn or gluten is still the most processed of all the all-natural food choices; The furthest from the source materials that make it. Feeding mostly or all dry to a dog or cat, every day for years, can lower the Ph of a system and make that system more acidic. Acidic systems cause problems. One of the first signs of an acidic system is a urinary tract issue. Whether it’s a tract infection or struvite crystals in the urinary tract, it can get even worse with bladder or kidney stones, etc. Not to mention digestive issue, skin issues, eyes, ears, etc.

Fresh foods are key to good nutrition! Fresh foods are metabolized through a system more efficiently and a body benefits more from fresher foods than processed foods.

What are “Fresher Foods”?

Canned, Raw or your own mix…

Canned foods are fresher, cleaner and have fewer ingredients than dry foods.

There are companies that make raw meals for dogs and cats and from my research, their instinctual diets! The next best thing to making the food yourself!

“Make food myself”? It’s not as hard as you may have thought. How did these animals survive hanging around with humans since before the Mesolithic period? Even the late Stone-age? Meat, bones, etc. Our scraps!

Why do we have dry food? Well, most importantly, it’s economical. It last longer than fresher foods and it’s convenient. Scoop and pour. It also helps us, economically, feed our bigger dogs or if we have multiple animals, but even then, at least half of the meal should be the fresh alternative.

"How did you get into the natural pet food business?", asked my doctor

Our dog Gypsy was having some horrible skin allergies.  After doing extensive research on pet nutrition I found that Gypsy’s diet was the main culprit.  We were feeding her by-products, wheat, soy, corn and gluten!  I switched her food to all natural brands and, voila, her health improved and her energy level was back! Anne, my wife and I decided this is something we need to, not only supply the food, but educate pet owners that there are better options available. That’s how Nature’s Nibbles was created. We've been in business for over 11 years.

My doctor thanked me for the advice, told me he was going to change his dog’s diet and gave me a clean bill of health! “Not bad for a 52 year old…” he said.

Thanks Doc!

Chris and Anne Gabriel are the owners of Nature’s Nibbles in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia.  And while they sell high quality dry food, Chris will always tell customers that “fresh is best” and offer advice on how to introduce more fresh food into your pet’s diet.

Here is more information about introducing fresh fruits and vegetables to your pet.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Leaving your dog for the weekend is one thing, but an oversees vacation is something else!

Takin’ Off Without Tessie
With the excitement of planning a trip to Greece in November came the unexpected anxiety of leaving Tessie. We’d been away from her since she arrived in March, but this is the longest – and the first time she’d be at someone else’s house. The good news was this “someone” was my lovely and loving in-laws who would give her the very best care.
The worries ran through my mind: What if she thinks we abandoned her? What if she acts out and chews up my in-laws’ couch? What if she gets off her leash and runs off in unfamiliar, wooded land?

She has never been destructive – except for the time she (gasp!) rifled through a bag of laundry – so I did my best to set aside my fears. However three nights before our departure, Tessie woke us up in the middle of the night – a behavior reserved for the two times she had urinary tract infection several months back. I mentally prepared myself to take her to the vet the following day and hoped my in-laws wouldn’t mind creatively tricking Tessie into take her medication.
But the next day – and night – she was fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. Great, an isolated incident. Expect for the night before our trip when she woke us up yet again. She whined, then ran around the backyard like a lunatic. This is when I realized she also had anxiety, triggered by our suitcases. What terrible people we are to put our dog through such trauma, I thought, without a hint of sarcasm.
After reassuring her we’d be back and reminding her that Grammy and Grampy would take great care of her (can you tell we don’t have kids?), we dropped her off. Well, my husband did. I was too chicken to go, so I loaded her in the car and cried as I waved good-bye.

Comforted by the fact that my in-laws are amazing, I got into vacation mode. We arrived at the airport and it was almost comical how many dogs we saw pre-flight! Like a cruel, cosmic joke. All the people who loved their dogs enough to travel with them.
And of course, during our stay in Greece, we saw many dogs, including Diva and Giselle, my cousins’ fabulous Poodles. I couldn’t help but think of my sweet girl who’s wondering when or if we’ll ever be back. Grammy and Grampy’s daily updates and photos reassured us that she was doing just fine.

When we returned, 10 days later, we debated on whether or not to surprise Tessie at my in-laws’, but I was too worried she would combust from excitement. So my mother-in-law dropped her off at our house, and she bounded into our backyard where we were waiting for her. Whining with delight, she crowded us hoping for scratchies and rubbies, which we were happy to give her. She stayed close by for the next couple of days, thrilled we were home.

Not to say that she had a terrible time with Grammy and Grampy. She had an excellent report – she loved sitting in the sun porch where she could look out the windows laying down, she slept through the night just fine and she really bonded with my father-in-law whom she barked at a couple of times previously (and Tessie is not a barker).
Aside from her eating a plant leaf and vomiting it up, which we learned about a month later (thankfully), her stay went smoothly.  

This was a relief, but hearing how much my in-laws enjoyed having her is such a joy. They loved her company, especially after the loss of their beloved cat Pookie, and Tessie’s low-maintenance demeanor wasn’t too much of an imposition. She has since had a weekend stay with them, and it’s safe to say the feeling is mutual.
While we can’t take credit for Tessie’s incredible manners and laid-back energy, weare very proud parents. She received exclusive invitations from both sides of our family to attend our Christmas gatherings. This was our first one with Tessie, and I am truly grateful we spent it with such a special little girl.

Maria Poulos Pimentel is a New Jersey transplant now settled in New England.   Maria works in marketing and publicity by day and snuggles with her sweet collie/shepherd/husky Tessie by night. She was a reluctant dog owner at first, but she's quickly learning the ropes and discovering all the joys of doggie parenting. Maria will be sharing more of her adventures in dog love with PawsGo.  Tessie was adopted from Odie's Place in Massachusetts --

Monday, January 16, 2017

Has Your Dog's Diet Evolved?

The History of Dog Food – Has Your Dog’s Diet Evolved?

By Dr. Janice Elenbaas
People and dogs have been intertwined throughout history. Some say the relationship goes back 15,000 years, while others say even longer. Dogs have been eating our table scraps for millennia. So how did the current trend of feeding dry kibble come to be?

The first recorded book on farming was written over 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The first recipe for dog food was barley bread soaked in milk and added to sheep bones.

During the Middle Ages, royalty had cooks to prepare stews of grains, vegetables, and meat mixed with the hearts, livers, and lungs of whatever livestock was available. In the 1800’s, the Empress of China fed her Pekinese shark fins, quail breasts, and antelope milk. But common folk fed their dogs whatever they ate. Their dogs were lucky to have crusts of bread, bones, potatoes, cabbage and other leftovers.

Socio-economic status throughout history has always had an impact on the way we eat and feed our family. The Industrial Revolution in the mid 1800’s brought the growth of the middle class. Now there was more money and with more money came more pets. In 1895, veterinary medicine came to be.

But the turning point for our dependency on dry dog food came from a different professional, an electrician from Cincinnati, named James Spratt. His travels, selling lightning rods, often took him to the docks of London.

There, he watched sailors tossing leftover ‘ship’s biscuits’ to the local dogs. These biscuits, made from flour, salt, and water, needed no refrigeration and were the staple of the crew’s diet during long sea voyages.

Spratt made a few variations to the sailor’s biscuits and created his own dog biscuits. His recipe used wheat flour, beetroot, and vegetables mixed with beef blood. He named his creation ‘Spratt’s Patent Meal Fabrine Dog Cakes’ in 1860. He took it to the United States 10 years later and the American pet food industry was born.

This man was an entrepreneur with vision. He hired a young British salesman named Charles Crufts. Crufts went on to organize the canine dog show for the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris. His involvement with the Allied Terrier Dog Club of Westminster in 1886 inspired the largest pet show in the world, the Crufts Dog Show. Charles Crufts never had a dog, only cats!

As with most popular ideas, other folks copied Spratt’s cookies. 1908 saw the first bone shaped biscuit and the first kibble dog food created by F.H. Benner. Benner sold his company 30 years later, in 1931, to Nabisco and they renamed his cookies Milk Bones. Now dog food was in grocery stores!

The 1930’s seemed to be the golden age of processed dog food. Ken-L-Ration brought the first canned horse meat option. They sponsored a popular radio show, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. 50,000 horses a year were slaughtered for the production of dog food. By 1941, 90% of dog food was canned.

The 40’s also saw a dramatic change in the American diet. Feeding the troops during WWII was a priority. A stable shelf life for food and portability became crucial. Products like Spam were popular and the start of the processed food revolution began.

But the war also meant rationing both of meat and tin. Canned dog food sales fell. Companies like Ralston Purina borrowed technology from their cereal division to puff up dry kibble to keep it crisper and make it more palatable. Dogs seemed to like the change and so did consumers.

The post war economic boom saw an increase in home sales and a move to the suburbs. Supermarkets were now filled with processed and fast foods. There was now an abundance of agricultural scraps from slaughterhouses, grain mills, and processing plants. Pet food companies saw opportunities. They now had a way of capitalizing on the waste products of the human processed food industry. People wanted convenience in the foods they ate and the foods they fed their dogs. Kibble fit right into that trend, it was cheap and easily available.

By 1964, the newly created Pet Food Institute went on a mission to stop people from feeding their dogs table scraps. They funded ‘reports’ explaining the dangers of table scraps and encouraging the use of packaged dog food as the more responsible choice. During the next 10 years the industry grew to include 1,500 brands of dog food. The major players were all processed food companies: Mars, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor and Gamble, and Delmont.

Today, there are over 80 million dogs in the United States. Pet food is an 11.5 billion dollar industry. Kibble is still the way most people feed their dogs, but times are changing. Processed foods for human consumption are being questioned as 68% of Americans are overweight (CDC – 2010). 53% of dogs in this country are also overweight or obese. Obese people and dogs are prone to many ailments such as arthritis, diabetes, increase blood pressure, heart and respiratory diseases, ligament injury, kidney disease, cancer, and decreased life expectancy. In the case of dogs, life expectancy in overweight dogs decreases by 2.5 years.

America’s dog owners are worried about what to feed their best friends. According to Psychology Today, 81% of people consider their dogs members of the family. 4,150 dogs and cats died due to melamine contaminated pet food in 2007. The Canine Cancer Research Foundation states that cancer rates in dogs have gone up dramatically in the last 10 years and now one in two dogs will be diagnosed with the disease

Author and respected leader in pet nutrition, Dr. Donald Strombeck, DVM, PhD, shows concern, “Why are so many pets getting cancers, renal failures, hepatic diseases, multitudes of skin and coat problems? Diseases and illnesses we simply shouldn’t be seeing. Illness and poor nutrition affect each other.”

The awareness of the connection between health and our diet is driving a dramatic rise in sales of organic foods and beverages. Over the last 10 years the industry has grown from $1 Billion in 1990 to $26.7 Billion in 2010 (Organic Trade association – It is not surprising to see the popularity of a diet rich in natural, whole foods for our dogs, growing too.

Our dogs need us in every way. We are responsible for the quality of their lives. They have lived with us for thousands of years. Over time we have seen how our attitudes, customs, and knowledge about food have evolved. Today our dogs’ health issues are mirroring our own conditions. Economics and convenience still play a major role in how we feed our families. Let’s hope that the next decade reflects our growing awareness of the benefits of fresh food, fresh air, and clean water – our health, our dogs’ health, and the health of the planet depend on it.


With four years of nutritional training and twenty years as a Doctor of Chiropractic for both humans and animals Dr. Janice Elenbaas is the founder and owner of Lucky Dog Cuisine.