Spring Into Health

Addressing your pet’s health seasonally can work wonders in keeping their health in balance.

Have you seen your pet’s health change in the Spring? Some pets eat more grass, others get more itchy or have skin eruptions or ear infections appear. These can all be a sign of their body needing some extra seasonal help.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Spring is the season that governs the Liver. The liver in turn governs the body – you can’t live without it! It’s responsible for filtering just about everything the comes into the body, and in Spring it springs to life. If your pet’s liver isn’t functioning optimally this is the time of year you’re most likely to see overt symptoms.

What does the liver have to do with allergies?
A healthy liver produces an enzyme called histaminase which acts as a natural antihistamine. When the liver is stressed it cannot produce enough of this enzyme, so the natural protection is gone and allergy symptoms appear. Mast cells release histamine, and dogs have ten times more mast cells in their skin the humans, so itching all over the body is a common symptom.


Herbs – herbal supplements are an essential component for improving liver function, reducing allergy symptoms, and improving the immune system.

We love Pet Wellness Blends Detox/Liver Cleanse for dogs suffering from symptoms of spring allergies. It includes ingredients to help repair and invigorate the liver, draw out impurities through the digestive tract, chelate heavy metals, and support the adrenals.

We also love the Detox Blend and Liver Defense liquid formulas from Animal Essentials that provide gentle support for the liver.

Digestive Enzymes and Pre/Pro-biotics – these should be a part of every pet’s diet. They reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and improve the immune system. Enzymes improve the assimilation of EFAs by 71%.

Essential Fatty Acids – fish oil added to the food is the best source of Omega-3 EFAs. EFA’s reduce the body’s inflammatory response to invading allergens and improve skin integrity. Absorption of allergens through the skin is one of the primary routes.

Joint Supplements – those containing MSM, Chondroitin, and herbs help inflammation throughout the body, not just in the joints, so pets who have chronic symptoms of inflammation can benefit from these supplements.

Healthy Diet – it’s essential that your pet get the best food possible. Including fresh food is important for good functioning of the body. Older animals in particular need highly digestible food in order for them to have a healthy immune system.

Come in and talk to our staff about what will work best for your dog or cat this Spring, and help them have a comfortable and healthy season.

Our Favorite New Year’s Resolutions – For Our Pets!

Eat Clean in 2016

“Let food be your medicine” is as relevant today as it was in ancient Greece – and it applies to your pets too. Nothing is more important to your pet’s long term health than their diet, and including healthy fresh food should be a goal for every pet owner. This isn’t an all-or-nothing “call to raw” but a shift in habit to promote optimal health throughout your pet’s life.

2016.RawResolution_3x3_smDexter’s can help you navigate the change with suggestions that will fit any pet’s needs. Get started by trying Primal raw foods and take advantage of their Raw Resolution offer, come in to Dexter’s to pick up a coupon for a free Starter Pak or $3 off any one package of their Primal Formula diets.

Play Your Way to Better Behavior

Training your pet doesn’t have to be tough or hard, it can be playful and enjoyable. Find an educated positive reinforcement trainer to teach you how to teach your dog. A well behaved dog is welcome in more place, which means more time with your furry companion (which is what you know THEY want more of for the New Year).

brittatrainingDexter’s is partnering with Britta Wilson to bring classes to you on our lovely Del Mar patio. Take time for five Saturday mornings to enhance your relationship with your pet while learning to teach them good manners. Whether you have a new puppy, a teenage renegade, or an adult adoptee, there’s a session for you. Sign up at our store or directly with Britta’s Animal Training.

Ask Questions: Be Your Pet’s Advocate

There’s no such thing as a dumb question. Never be afraid to ask, it’s how you learn, and (to paraphrase Maya Angelou) when you learn better you do better for your pets. For the 20th anniversary of Dexter’s Deli we want you to ask questions.

squarepuptextMake it a habit to ask your vet questions. If you don’t understand why they’ve recommended something, ask them to explain it again. If they want to revaccinate your adult pet, ask them why. Ask them if they’ve read the current science, or even the current professional guidelines on core vs. non-core vaccines. If they want to give your pet an even more “comprehensive” flea-killing treatment ask them what kind of safety testing this product has undergone, and whether any animals have been made ill or have died from it. If they want you to feed your sick dog a “prescription” processed food ask them for a fresher alternative (or a referral to a practitioner who can) that can help your pet thrive, not just survive.

Listen & Learn

Make it a goal to learn your pet’s culture listen to them with an open heart to begin to see the world through their eyes. Leave your phone at home when you take your dog for a walk so you can walk with them and use the time to enliven your partnership. What does your cat notice at the window? Perhaps it’s time to “catify” your home to give your feline more ways to “act cat.”

bordercollieeventsquareiconA unique way to learn about what your pet is thinking is through the assistance of a professional animal communicator. Our well-regarded Talk To The Animals fundraiser event will happening on February 6th where you can dip your toes into the process of working with an animal communicator while also supporting a local animal charity.


Our pets are the experts at teaching us love and compassion. May we learn the lessons and bring that love and compassion into all of our actions on this planet.



Does your pet have the Autumn Itchies?

It’s November and for the past month we’ve had lots of folks asking for help for their itchy pets, so let’s talk about what some of the causes might be and what you can do about to help your dog or cat feel better.

Here in California we can almost consider Autumn our “Other Spring.” We get another round of plants blooming, which can trigger environmental allergy symptoms. Our pets will most likely show this as itchy skin because they have ten times the number of mast cells in their skin that we do – that’s why what gives us sinus problems gives them skin problems.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Autumn is also associated with the skin. The Element for the season is Metal, and the Meridians associated with this time of year are the Lungs and Large Intestine. So dryness, skin and hair, immune system – all of these come together at this time of year.

No wonder we’re feeling, dry, itchy, and susceptible. If our overall health is out of balance you will see this indications come to the front. They are symptoms telling you to take good care of the inside of the body.


Be sure your pet is getting enough healthy fats in their diet with Fish Oil and Coconut Oil
Fish oil is a must. We also recommend coconut oil, especially for older animals that may be having a harder time fatty foods, or for younger dogs who are too thin or feeling dry. Coconut oil also has benefits for the immune and endocrine systems. Your pet’s fur should become more in just a few weeks.

Bone broth provides many benefits
We have both frozen and freeze-dried beef broth available, but we also encourage you to make your own. It provides collagen which nourishes dry cells, and it’s a tasty way to ensure your pet is getting enough moisture in their diet.

Medicinal mushrooms provide deep sustenance to the immune system
Medicinal mushroom powders (we carry locally produced Mushroom Matrix) are easy to add to the diet, making an especially good combination with warm bone broth. Reishi mushroom is nourishing to the lungs, adrenals, and kidneys, as well as increasing the immune cells in the blood which help prevent disease. Combination formulas provide a well-rounded balance of benefits for all animals.

Reduce troublesome allergy symptoms naturally
Even with the benefits of nourishing foods, some pets need more direct help at reducing the symptoms of allergies. Vet’s Best Seasonal Allergy Support contains the most well-regarded natural antihistamines (like stinging nettle leaf and quercetin), and can help reduce bothersome symptoms without burdening the body with the side-effects of pharmaceuticals.

Stimulate the skin without drying it
Gentle grooming is a wonderful way to stimulate blood flow to the skin. Our favorite tool for this is the Zoom Groom because the rubber “teeth” are pleasant for the pets and easy to use no matter how long or short the hair. It can also be used (softly) on the legs and feet, areas that usually don’t get much in the way of rubbing. You might be tempted to wash your pet when their itchy, but be mindful of using the most gentle options to rinse off allergens without stripping the natural oils of the skin. Look for “non-soap” options or those containing nourishing oils.

Safe & Happy Holidays for your Pets

Halloween…. Thanksgiving…. Christmas, New Year’s Eve….. holidays are out of the ordinary for pets but problems are easy to avoid with a little bit of forethought.


It goes without saying that dogs and cats shouldn’t be able to get access to Halloween candy. If you are passing it out be sure you’ve got it safely up and out of reach while waiting for the next trick-or-treaters.

Decorations can seem like novel playthings to cats and dogs, so keep an eye out for anything that may attract the wrong kind of attention from animals. Fake cobweb material in particular could be problematic if your pet grabs it and gets it in their teeth or even swallows it.

Costumed visitors can be scary for pets. Some dogs may bark and growl from the anxiety, while others may hide. The best thing you can do for your pets is to let them hang out in a quiet part of the house away from the front door. Putting some calming music on can be really helpful. Give them a calming supplement like Sleepytime Tonic or Dr. Becker’s Calming Solutions treats and let them relax.


It’s sadly common for pets to end up at the vet for pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) because their family thought it was a good idea to share the scraps from their Thanksgiving turkey dinner. The amount of cooked fat in poultry skin, gravy, sweet potato casserole, and pan drippings can send their body into a tailspin that some dogs never fully recover from. If you want to share the meal give them plain meat and a little bit of plain sweet potato on top of their usual food. If your dog is already a raw food eater you can offer the raw neck and giblets before you start the cooking.

The crowds that can fill a happy holiday house can be overwhelming for dogs and cats. Be sure they have a quiet place to retreat to, and ensure that kids understand that they need to ask permission before petting and not intrude on the chosen quiet space. Calming aids like those mentioned above can be helpful. It can also be a good time to have your foraging toys ready to go so when you sit down to dinner your dog can sit down to a stuffed Kong in another room.


Christmas has many of the same potential trouble spots as Halloween and Thanksgiving. If you’re expecting a crowd for Christmas use the earlier holidays to try out different calming aids and contingency plans so that when the big day comes around you’re well prepared.

Presents under the tree can prove irresistible to pets. It’s usually a good idea to supervise them when they’re around those temptations, and avoid risky decorations like tinsel and glass ornamentsDecorated trees can really confuse them sometimes because it’s bringing the outdoors in. It can seem perfectly normal to a cat to climb a tree and for a dog to urinate on it – but think of it from their point of view and resist punishing them – preventing an accident is a much more thoughtful way to manage the scene.

New Year’s Eve

Fireworks are the biggest risk to pet’s on New Year’s Eve. If you know that your dog or cat is sensitive to noises like that you can help them the most by planning ahead. Start using flower essence formulas like Pet Essences Fear & Anxiety two weeks before the big day. Once the evening starts use that same formula frequently, or use Five Flower Formula from Healing Herbs several times an hour. In addition some pets may need more direct calming aids like Sleepytime Tonic, Happy Traveler, Dr. Becker’s Calming Solutions Treats, and others available at Dexter’s Deli. Having the TV on or using music designed to have a calming influence on pets can provide an additional buffer to the loud noises at midnight. Many animals also benefit from the safe feeling of a Thundershirt. If you think your dog might panic it’s best to stay home – many pets go missing annually because they try to escape the mysterious sounds from the sky and go through windows and over fences. No party is worth losing your pet.

Choosing the Right Treat

Treats can be divided into a few basic categories:

+ Biscuits

+ Meat-only treats

+ Soft treats

+ Chews

You’re probably shopping for treats to fill specific needs:

+ According to their ingredients or nutritional profile

+ As a simple daily hand-out

+ As a training treat

+ To use as a meal enticement

+ To occupy your dog for a period of time chewing or using a foraging toy

+ To enhance their diet and improve their wellbeing

Let’s look at these categories and needs, and how you can better understand the choices available.


A basic biscuit is a great handout for dogs. You should look for a short list of wholesome ingredients. Any sweeteners should have nutritional value, like fruit or molasses. Some young, active dogs have trouble keeping weight on in the winter, and a daily biscuit can add just enough starch to their diet to keep their energy going.

A simple biscuit can be a nice stomach settler too, for early mornings or late nights (a bedtime snack for a dog who tends to vomit a little bit before breakfast).


These are an excellent option for many needs. They may be roasted, air-dried, freeze-dried, or dehydrated, so there are no preservatives. They are usually single-ingredient treats so dogs or cats that need to avoid certain ingredients are easy to shop for. There are often organ meat options which are extra enticing.

Meat treats provide an easy way to enhance the diet, and many are soft-enough to crumble over meals as an enticement. Many of them can make an excellent addition to your training treat pouch (for cats too!), and most make good dry pocket treats for walks. Some are in larger pieces making them last at least a few minutes longer than other treats, and they can be put into foraging toys along with less tempting treats to encourage play.

Soft Treats

Best for training treats and for dogs with dental issues. These are often made with a mixture of ingredients that allow for a soft texture. Be sure to read the ingredient panel, you want high-quality stuff, no propylene glycol or Red #42! You can also find some simple freeze-dried meat treats that are soft.  If your pet has health issue be sure the ingredients match their needs.

Some soft treats are designed to be very small training treats, but bigger ones can be easily broken into smaller bite-size bits for quick furbishing and to avoid overfeeding. Some even come in tubes and are designed to be sliced and diced for customized sizes. These can be refrigerated for longer shelf-life.


There are three basic sub-categories of chew treats: starch-based dental chews, dried parts (bully stix, ears, fish skins, etc), and raw bones. It’s important to buy a chew that matches your dog’s size, chewing style, and nutritional needs.

It’s important to supervise your dog or cat when giving chews so that you know how carefully they chew, how hard they chew, and if they have a habit of swallowing inappropriate items. If your dog is a resource guarder you should work with a positive reinforcement trainer on this issue before offering chews.

Starch-based chews made with ingredients like potato or rice are designed to dissolve in the stomach, making them safer for reckless chewers. You do need to account the amount of calories they consume in this way, and consider limiting chew time for that reason.

Dried parts like bully stix, ears, and fish skins are a good option for animals that need to avoid the ingredients in starch-based chews. They vary a lot in the toughness and digestibility, so learning your dog’s chew style is important.

Raw bones deserve their own detailed discussion, so we’ll put that discussion aside for another time.

It’s always important to get the right size of chew to prevent choking, and to take it away when it’s been reduced to swallowing size. It can also be a good idea to buy a larger chew and simply remove it after 20 minutes so they don’t eat too much of it at once.

It’s important to start interacting with your pet early on when providing chews so that you can calmly take away a high value chew safely. Trading for it with a smaller delectable treat is the best way to remove a high-value chew. Practicing this (including handing the chew back) is an important safety habit to have.

Dry Food Safety – Storage Is Up To You

Dry foods, while designed to be stable for storage, can actually degrade quickly once the bag is opened and oxidation begins.  This is especially true of foods containing fish and fish oil, which go rancid more quickly than other fats.

Trust your nose (and your dog’s nose)!

Rancid fats may make your dog sick, or they may just refuse to eat. If your dog refuses their food or throws it up give it the sniff test yourself. If this type of thing occurs when that large bag of kibble is almost gone it’s a pretty sure bet that the food has gone rancid and you need to up your game on purchasing and storing your pet’s food.

Aim to feed your pet’s dry food within two weeks of opening the bag.

Yes. Two weeks.

If you cannot reliably do that and cannot buy a smaller bag, freeze the food in one week packages as soon as you open it (use proper freezer bags to ensure no moisture gets in).

Always store dry food in a cool, dry place. That means for most folks the garage is off-limits.

Always keep the original packaging. This is important in case there is a recall or your pet gets sick and you need to return the food and report the illness to the company. The bag has the information the company needs to track the exact batch of food.

The original bag also provides a safer surface than your typical plastic bin, so if you’re used to dumping out your pets food into a plastic bin please keep it in the bag and put the whole bag in (and if you can’t fit it that might be a another clue that you need to freeze some of it or simply buy a smaller bag.

Always check the production or “best by” date when purchasing your food. Dry foods are generally considered shelf stable in a sealed bag for one year, so if there is only a “best by” date be sure it’s not coming up soon. If you do find a bag that’s close to or past the “best by” date inform the store. Even stores that are diligent about rotating their stock can lose track of a bag here or there and will thank you for bringing it to their attention. You may find that you need to special order your favorite food if it’s not a big seller, but that’s much better than buying a bag that’s been sitting around a store for months.

Dry food is convenience food, but it’s not indestructible. For more details about this issue read this short article by Steve Brown.

Is the FDA out for blood?

If you feed raw pet food you might be concerned about the recent uptick in recalls by raw pet food manufacturers. You might be starting to second-guess your choice of a raw diet for your dog or cat because you keep hearing about raw food being recalled.

Here are some important things to know to put these recalls in perspective.

The FDA has decided that, unlike other kinds of pet food or even the meat you purchase for yourself, they will have zero tolerance for any pathogenic bacteria in prepared raw pet food diets.

They are targeting raw and minimally processed pet foods only, looking for any sign of e.coli, salmonella, or listeria.

This testing is not being done on dry or canned pet food, even though they have also been found to have these pathogens (not to mention the added danger of aflatoxins and mycotoxins in dry pet food, and the ongoing problem of dangerous hidden ingredients from large, less-than-honest companies).

This testing is also not being done in response to complaints. Yet they make no move to recall dry foods that are implicated in the deaths of many pets (even getting the attention of Congress).

The rates of contamination are quite low in raw pet foods, much lower than the meat you buy for your own meals. How does a 7% rate of pathogenic bacteria in pet food vs. a 39-81% rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat for human consumption sound to you?

The FDA does not believe raw meat foods for animals are consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks.” They say it’s all about safety for the pet owners, but apparently they feel that you have the ability to handle raw meat in your home when feeding yourself, even though the rate of contamination is much higher in meat intended for people (in their full statement they do reiterate the commonly-known precautions of handling any raw meat, yet state in terms specifying raw pet food… huh?)

Pathogenic bacteria in dry food is actually more dangerous to pet owners because most of us don’t use the same care in handling that they do with raw food, and reports of dry pet food as a source of human illness have been appearing for many years.

We know that healthy dogs and cats are well-suited to handling small amounts of these pathogens as they occur in nature (we sure know that they survive eating dirt and licking their butts). It has been proven that healthy animals neutralize pathogenic bacteria. This is especially true of raw feed dogs because their diet helps their GI tract maintain a healthy gut full of beneficial bacteria and a digestive system with a proper pH level to help kill of pathogens naturally.

You are also safer from pathogenic bacteria if you take care of your gut, with a healthy diet and plenty of foods that provide naturally occuring beneficial bacteria, so remember to take what you learn about fresh food for pets and apply it to your own wellbeing.

All manner of foods, for people and pets, can be sources of pathogenic bacteria when mishandled: spinach, peanut butter, and even pet food. The natural world is full of bacteria. Our own bodies are actually outnumbered within; we have 10 times more bacterial cells than human ones! The key for humans, cats, dogs, everyone – is having a healthy balance of bacteria.

Small raw food companies, people we have known for years, are on the verge of being driven out of business due to the high cost of responding to the FDA’s witch hunt. Other companies have felt forced to change the processing of their diets and use high-pressure-pasteurization, which kills ALL bacteria, both good and bad, thus reducing one of the important benefits of raw foods.

We all need to be concerned about what (or whom) is driving the government’s decision-making-process. Is it the economic influence from the large multinational corporations like Nestle, Mars, Smuckers, and Proctor & Gamble (who own most of the largest pet food manufacturers)? Is their influence on the self-policing AAFCO part of the problem? We recently wrote about the problems we see with how these companies make pet food. 

Follow sites like Truth About Pet Food and Whole Dog Journal for well documented information about all of these issues, and ask us any time you’re in the store if you have concerns about your pet’s food.