A Fish Dish With Balls

February 28th, 2012


Fido & Wine producer extraordinaire Jen Mitchell has a great new dish posted on her blog, My Dog’s Breakfast. It’s a recipe for salmon balls (insert joke here) — an idea she came up with in an effort to introduce more fish into her dog Miko’s diet. As Jen explains, Miko had a bit of an (ahem) odor problem — she refers to it as “THE STANK” — and fish like salmon help  to promote healthy skin, which in turn is one of the keys to keeping your canine pleasingly unscented. So: salmon balls. Here’s the what and how:


1 1/2 cups cooked salmon (poached, baked, etc.)

I cup cooked brown rice

1 egg

1 tbs sesame oil

1 tbs ground ginger


1/4 cup white sesame seeds

1/4 cup black sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients (except for sesame seeds) in a bowl and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into a bowl. Have your sesame seeds at the ready for rolling.

Using a large spoon, begin to form balls of salmon.

Roll each ball in sesame seeds – yields approximately five white and five black balls.

Bake in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes.

Follow Jen’s blog HERE.


Wild At Heart

February 28th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

Our recent online survey has shown that an overwhelming majority of you are opposed to the keeping of wild animals as pets. As a veterinarian and a former zookeeper, I wholeheartedly agree. Regardless of where they live, there are immense differences between a “tame” or captive animal and a truly domesticated one.

Domestication is a long, gradual process that involves far more than the “taming” and keeping of individual animals. In the case of the dog, this evolution has been going on for about 10,000 years. We know from DNA evidence that dogs descended from wolves, but newer theories have changed dramatically our understanding of how this likely happened.

We used to think that early humans must have raised orphaned wolf cubs, and that the descendants of those animals evolved into our domestic dogs. The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t explain why, even after generations of being raised in captivity, wild wolves don’t become domestic wolves. It also ignores the fact that, in primitive societies, food was a scarce and guarded resource. The idea that early humans would have voluntarily added another mouth to feed seems highly improbable. Wild wolves almost certainly represented danger and competition for food, not working companions. Moreover, we know that generations of other wild species raised in the company of humans, such as large cats or primates, do not become domesticated.

Turns out that the ancestors of our modern dogs likely played an active role in the domestication process. It is now believed that some wolves, as a result of naturally occurring genetic variations, were less wary of humans than were their relatives. These wolves probably approached the hunting and living areas of humans more readily, taking advantage of discarded or unattended food sources. More food meant an advantage in the struggle for survival, and a better chance to breed and produce surviving offspring.

Insightful humans may also have seen the advantage of following wolves to find prey. And they may have realized that the protective company of a predator made them less likely to become dinner for other animals.

This helps to explain the significant differences we see today between wolves and dogs. While wolves are predators, feral or semi-wild dogs tend to be scavengers. In a wolf pack, breeding is restricted to only the alpha pair, while dogs breed indiscriminately. And social structure within a dog pack (or a dog and human pack) tends to be flexible. Changes in pack order, or the social position of pack members, occurs readily and usually with little conflict. Changes of status within a wolf pack, by contrast, most often require the death or removal of a pack member.

The special qualities of dogs that make them uniquely suited for life with humans actually represent a genetic retention of juvenile characteristics. That is to say, a pet dog more closely resembles a wolf cub than a “tame” wolf. Interestingly, these behavioural traits are also linked to a number of physical traits that we see in adult domestic dogs but not wild canines: floppy ears, blunt faces, curly tails, and large white patches or a piebald (spotted) pattern. An experiment in Siberia on silver foxes, spanning the greater part of fifty years, clearly illustrated this phenomenon. Researchers seeking to breed tame foxes that were easier to handle succeeded in doing so within a few generations; in the process, however, they also changed significantly the foxes’ physical appearance and biochemical physiology.

When people attempt to keep wild animals as pets, the dramatic impact of that centuries of domestication have had become clear. While things may go fairly smoothly when the animal is young, things often fall apart once the normal changes that accompany sexual maturity begin to manifest themselves. Previously gentle youngsters begin to exhibit typical adult behaviours. In captivity they become aggressive, unpredictable and, in the case of carnivores, highly predatory.

Wild animals will behave this way, regardless of their upbringing, because they are genetically programmed to do so. Domestic animals are a result of genetic changes: selective breeding for not only physical traits, but for the behavioural traits that make them compatible for life with humans.

Each day, millions of us interact with our pets happily and safely. They live in our cities and farms, and share our homes. They ride in our cars, play with our children, and bring comfort to the elderly, ill and infirm. We trust them to carry us safely on their backs, to lead the visually impaired, and to give lifesaving assistance to law enforcement and military personnel. We don’t often stop to think how amazing it is that such different creatures have come together for their mutual benefit.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.

A Feline In The Family

February 21st, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

Adding a cat to your household can be a joyous occasion  – and a little preparation can go a long way toward ensuring the success of this new relationship. Maybe you’ve been planning for the new arrival for quite some time. Or maybe a lonely stray found her way to your front porch. In either case, a visit to your family veterinarian should probably be your first step.

Stray cats and kittens, as well as cats from a shelter, should be examined for signs of illness before being brought into your household. Problems to watch for include upper respiratory infections (which may look like a cold), eye infections and other diseases. A blood test may also be advisable, to check for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). These are diseases that depress the immune system and can have fatal consequences. Cats may carry these diseases for years without showing any outward signs, and mothers can pass on the infection to their kittens. Your veterinarian will also check for parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms and ear mites. He or she can let you know what vaccinations are needed, and can provide information about spaying and neutering as well.

Even if you purchase your kitten from a breeder, it’s still recommended that you make a timely visit to a veterinarian for a physical exam and all the appropriate vaccinations. Be certain to research your breed of choice carefully before buying, as some purebred cats are prone to genetic conditions that may cause kidney, heart or respiratory issues.

If you have no other pets, a new feline friend is pretty low maintenance. Most kittens virtually house train themselves when given easy access to a clean litter box. Keep in mind, though, that individual cats may have different preferences when it comes to the type of litter, and many dislike scented litter. Not surprisingly, cats would rather have their food and water dishes placed away from the litter box. And who can blame them — would you want to eat in your bathroom?

If you do have other animals in the house — particularly other cats — the introduction process can be a little trickier. Keep in mind that cats are territorial by nature, and will identify their personal space by marking — urine being the preferred mode of communication. You can help to avoid turf wars by providing each pet with his or her own feeding and elimination areas. The general rule: have one more litter box than you have cats.

Cats moving into a new environment also need safe resting and hiding areas. Try to provide elevated locations where cats can climb to observe activity from above. This allows them to acclimate more readily, while reducing their need to hide in closets or under beds.

Pheromone products are available that may also help to reduce stress. You can spray these in areas of the house where the cats reside, or buy plug-in dispensers that work much like a household air freshener. Keeping everybody’s claws trimmed short will help to avoid injuries if a newcomer does have a difference of opinion with an incumbent.

Cats and kittens have an amazing tolerance for rough handling from toddlers and younger children. They will endure a great deal of unintentional abuse, and will generally resort to escape rather than defending themselves with teeth or claws. For this reason, it is important that youngsters be taught how to handle their new pet gently and appropriately. With vigilant parental supervision, even pre-school children can take some responsibility for the care of the new family member. (Cats especially like fresh water, so youngsters can perhaps take on the task of replenishing the water dish several times a day.) Make sure the kitten’s needs have been tended to before the child sits down to eat breakfast or dinner.

Finally, remember that cats and kittens are curious creatures, and will investigate anything new and interesting. Be sure to keep doors and windows closed or screened off to prevent escape. Craft materials such as yarn, thread or ribbon can be extremely hazardous if swallowed. Take inventory of your houseplants, and check to make certain that your cat doesn’t have access to any plants that might be toxic. When choosing cat toys, try to find those that are durable, and don’t let your cat play with delicate toys unsupervised — there’s always a risk of ingesting small parts. Interactive battery-operated toys are a great way for your kitten to burn off excess energy, and food-puzzle toys help to channel hunting instincts in a constructive way.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Her Dog’s Breakfast

February 17th, 2012


Jen Mitchell, the producer of our series Fido & Wine, has a new blog devoted to her current passion: home cooking for dogs. We’ll be reposting recipes and insights from My Dog’s Breakfast whenever we can. Here’s her recipe for a hearty treat called Pumpkin Rye Crunchers, made with Ryvita crispbreads:

-6 Ryvita crispbreads, crumbled 

-1 cup pure pumpkin puree

-2 cups rye flour or whole wheat if you don’t have it

-1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds

-1/3 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add the two cups of flour to your mixing bowl. Then add the pumpkin puree, seeds and peanut butter. Mix together. Crumble in two of the Ryvita crisps and the pumpkin seeds. Mix again. On top of the rough dough ball you’ve formed, sprinkle remainder of crumbled Ryvitas on top, let them fall off the sides to bottom of bowl. Lift the ball and and gently place the bottom on top of these fallen Ryvita crumbles.

Form cookies of any size you like from the dough ball, by gently making cookie balls. Place them on parchment lined baking tray and press down to make into a cookie shape. Don’t manhandle these ones too much,you want the crispy crumbles to stay somewhat on top of the dough so that they are still crisp after baking.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Follow Jen’s blog HERE.


Fido & Wine Video Blog: Sausages!

February 13th, 2012


Check out the first in a new series of new Fido & Wine video blog posts! Melissa Auger reveals some of the fascinating sausage-oriented trivia the production team learned when they visited Rowe Farms for some doggie-friendly turkey and lamb sausages.


Fit Or Fat?

February 8th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

We all want the very best for our pets — but these days it seems that our pets may be getting too much of a good thing, in the form of food and treats. Obesity in dogs and cats has reached epidemic proportions in recent years. No longer required to burn calories by hunting game, herding livestock or ridding the farm of unwanted rodents, most pets are now creatures of leisure. Little energy is expended lounging on the couch, and modern pet foods are densely packed with protein, fats and carbohydrates. For many pets, this combination of dietary excess and inactivity is a recipe for disaster.

Really, though, what’s a few extra pounds? How bad can that be? Turns out, over the course of the pet’s lifetime, it can have serious — sometimes fatal — consequences.

First, let’s put things in perspective. Let’s say your 5.5 kg (12-pound) pet should actually weigh closer to 4.5 kg (10 pounds). That’s only one little kilogram, right? But for your pet, that’s an extra 20 percent on top of their ideal weight. That’s the equivalent of adding 30 extra pounds on a person who should weigh about 150 pounds. In my practice, I commonly see 45 kg dogs whose ideal body weight should be around 34 kg. These poor dogs are tired, sore and don’t like to do much. And no wonder! It’s like a person carrying around a 40 pound backpack, 24/7.

And the story is even worse for those dogs with short legs and long backs — the extra weight on their frame puts tremendous stress on the spine. Think of it as being like putting several pairs of wet jeans on a coat hanger. The vertebral column sags and puts pressure on the soft disks between the bones. This crushing effect causes pain, arthritis of the spine and — not uncommonly — paralysis. This condition, known as intervertebral disk disease, often requires expensive surgery to prevent permanent paralysis.

Cats don’t get off so easily, either. Excess weight in these pets — just as in humans and in dogs —dramatically raises the risk of diabetes. And diabetic pets require the same kind of treatment as diabetic people. They must receive insulin injections at strictly spaced intervals, usually once or twice a day. Their blood sugar must be monitored frequently (yes, with a needle!), and they must eat special food when they receive their medication. And, since there is no known cure for diabetes, the disease must be managed for life. Some lucky felines — if they are diagnosed early and their blood sugar is brought under control quickly — will go into remission. Even these cats, however, must be monitored closely for recurrence. And if they remain overweight, the problem may recur.

In addition, overweight cats are at risk of a life-threatening condition called “fatty liver syndrome” or hepatic lipidosis. This can occur quite suddenly when an overweight cat stops eating regularly, for whatever reason. The liver becomes overwhelmed when the cat’s body starts using its stored fat as a source of energy. This process can quickly prove fatal without hospitalization and intensive treatment. Serious cases may require the surgical placement of a feeding tube, which may need to stay in place for weeks until the cat recovers.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, some evidence suggests that overweight animals are more susceptible to certain kinds of cancers. And we know for a fact that one of the best pain-relief remedies for arthritic pets is to maintain them at their ideal body weight.

So how do you know if your pet is overweight? Like watching the grass grow, it can be difficult to notice, since it happens so gradually and we see our pets every day. Plus, our concept of what a slim, fit pet looks like has changed over time. We see so many overweight animals now that it skews our perception of what normal actually looks like.

Determining your pet’s level of fitness — officially known as the Body Condition Score, or BCS — requires a hands-on approach. You need to work your fingers through the coat and feel for fat deposits that indicate that your pet is packing a few extra pounds. There are different BCS scoring charts available online to help guide you through the process.

Your veterinarian is the best resource for determining if your pet’s weight is appropriate, or if there are steps you need to take to help your pet achieve an active, healthy life.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Five Foods You Didn’t Know Were DANGEROUS FOR PETS

February 8th, 2012


A new monthly pets column by Laura Ducharme and Jen Mitchell, host and producer, respectively of The Pet Network original series Fido & Wine, makes it debut in the February issue of On the Go magazine. Congratulations, Laura and Jen! We’ll be reposting their columns here, so check back every month for more great advice and insight on living with and caring for pets.

On the Go is available at TTC and GO Train stations in the Greater Toronto Area. CLICK HERE to check out the current issue.

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