Blog Archives

FAQ Friday #5: Why does my small animal need something to chew on?

Bunny chews come in many sizes and varieties.

I guess even fish are never too old to learn something new. Today I learned that many small animals have special teeth (called open-rooted teeth) that grow continuously. Some pets with teeth that never stop growing include:

  • all rodents (degus, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, jirds, mice, and rats)
  • rabbits
  • chinchillas

The teeth of these animals have evolved over time to help the break down the tough, fibrous foods they eat. All that chewing also promotes good digestion. If their teeth stopped growing, they would soon be worn to nubs, so the open-rooted system works for them.

But, this means these pets also need hard items to chew on to grind and shape their teeth. If they don’t have proper chews, their teeth can grow misshapen or get sharp edges that can cause small cuts and mouth infections (ouch!).

The Animal Store carries a wide selection of chews that will help keep your pet’s teeth healthy. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Keeping a variety of chews on hand and switching them out occasionally will keep your pet interested in chewing on the right things. This is important, especially for larger animals, like rabbits, which may decide to chew on your furniture or toys instead of an appropriate chew toy or treat.

As Kenn says: “Give them something you want them to chew on, or they’ll find things you don’t want them to chew on.”

Chews come in many different material, shapes, and flavors. Ask us which ones are best for your pet. Hope you learned something new today, too. School’s out.


Chews and Hides can Keep Your Pet Healthier

Lumber-Jacks New Trainer Maze

One of the biggest trends we’ve seen is an increased interest in the health and well-being of our pets. It’s no wonder, since our furry, feathered and fishy friends capture our hearts and quickly become members of the family.

Lumber-Jacks Workout Play Set

In the world of animal husbandry, enhancing your pet’s environment with appropriate toys, hides, chews and exercise equipment is called enrichment. We call it common sense. The good news is, several new products on the market can serve double duty for your small mammals.

The brand new Lumber-Jacks line includes hideaways and climbers made of wood, so they also serve as safe chews for gnawing animals. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit your cage or pet’s personality.

One of many shapes and sizes of the new Lumber-Jacks Lodge

This weekend only, we are offering 25% off* on any small animal wood chew, hide or toy in the store for our social media friends. All you have to do is mention that you so us on the blog, Facebook or Twitter. No coupon required.

*Offer expires at closing (5:00 p.m.) Sunday, March 20. Good on white tag prices only.

Warning: Fireflies Toxic to Some Animals

Hope you all had a great 4th of July filled with lots of fireworks.

Summer night skies in our neck of the woods often glitter with another kind of light show — the dance of the fireflies (often called lightning bugs). Today we received some sad news that one of our customers lost his bearded dragon after it ate a lightning bug. This is the second such incidence we have heard of in the 18 years we’ve owned The Animal Store, so we did a little research.

It turns out that these beautiful members of the insect world belong to the genus Photinus, which contain chemicals called lucibufagins that are deadly to bearded dragons. There is also evidence that these chemicals can harm or kills other lizards, such as African chameleons. When a lizard eats a firefly, symptoms occur very quickly and death can occur within an hour.

Though we have not heard of any other pets dying because they have eaten fireflies, pet owners are warned to keep them away from all lizards, birds and amphibians — even dogs.

What can you do to keep your animal safe? Never feed a firefly to your pet. We all know what lightning bugs look like in the dark, but learn to recognize them when the aren’t flashing (see the photo above). Keep an insect-proof cover and screens on your pet’s cage — especially important if you take your lizard out in the summer. Be vigilant. Just one firefly can be deadly. If you see your pet eat a firefly, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Here are a few other reminders to help keep your pets safe during the summer months. Be sure they have plenty of fresh water, have shade available if you take them outside, and try to walk them in the cooler hours of the morning or evening. Perhaps most important, never leave an animal unattended in a car during the summer, where temperatures can reach deadly levels in just a few minutes. Be safe and have a great summer.

Photo credit: firefly 0877 by art farmer via a Creative Commons license.

Shape Up

Obesity in America is a significant problem, and not just for American people. Our pets are also getting fat. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 45% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight, and obesity is now the leading health threat for pets.

The risks associated with obesity in pets are identical to those faced by overweight people:

  • osteoarthritis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • insulin resistance
  • respiratory disorders
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • cancer

But the good news is that if you have a pet, you have a built-in fitness buddy. Playing and exercising with your pets will lead to health benefits for both of you. Exercising with your pet on a regular basis can help you both lose weight, build tone, reduce stress, and strengthen your heart and bones.

All that healthy stuff is fine, of course, but the real benefit is: FUN. Now that the weather is finally getting better, you are officially out of excuses. So get out there with your pet and walk, job, run, swim, play catch or fetch or ball … but get moving. It will do you both good.

You can play and exercise with almost any kind of pet. Here are some excellent ideas for all kinds of animals, from dogs to birds to cats to exotics. You might want to keep a fitness journal for you and your pet so you can track your progress.

Dr. Jim Humphries of the Veterinary News Network reminds us that you should start slowly, be consistent and get a check up (for both you and your pet) before you begin a new exercise routine. He also advises that different pets benefit from different kinds of exercise.

We have a wide variety of toys and equipment to get you and your pet moving, like the Air Kong Fetch Stick. Mention the Shape Up blog post and get 25% off* any dog or cat toy, or pet leash. Good luck, and be sure to share your own tips and ideas on how you and your pet help each other stay fit.

*Offer good on white tags only and valid through June 15, 2010.

Happy May

After a long hiatus, The Animal Store Blog is back. It’s May, it’s spring, the weather is getting better (even in Chicago) and we’re all heading outside, right? Well, maybe not. There is new concern that our children may be suffering from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

In his book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv argues that in one generation, we have moved from long, lazy summers of hiking, swimming and camping, to summer months overbooked with structured indoor activities and marred by electronic addictions that are divorcing our children from the natural world around them. Louv believes that increased awareness of nature can have far-reaching benefits, including improved fitness levels, increased creativity and imagination stimulated by exploration, and a deeper understand of our place in nature’s hierarchy.

Our pets have had a long winter stuck indoors, too. Help your whole family reconnect with nature by making a commitment to taking regular walks. Pay attention to the nature around you; you’ll be amazed at what you might discover right in your own neighborhood.

To get you started, just mention this post for a 20% discount on the purchase of a new leash, harness or collar*. And before you start your regular outdoor activities, check your pet’s tags to make sure they are secured to the collar and have up-to-date information.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @Theanimalstore.

*Offer good on white tags only and valid through May 15, 2010.

Now Serving Royal Canin

The Animal Store now exclusively offers Royal Canin dog and cat food. Why Royal Canin? Though still emerging in the American pet market, Royal Canin has been known worldwide for more than 40 years. Their formulations are based on the latest, most in-depth scientific research on pet nutrition and how animals eat. Other pet foods that advertise research-based formulas are, in fact, often using the research conducted at Royal Canin’s labs.

Royal Canin offers breed-specific formulas for both cats and dogs. For dogs, Royal Canin also offers general size-based formulas for mini toy (up to 6 lbs.), mini (7-20 lbs.), medium (21-55 lbs.), maxi (56-100 lbs.) and giant (100+ lbs) breeds. Cat foods are divided between indoor and outdoor formulas. Royal Canin does ongoing, in-depth, animal-safe scientific research on each breeds nutritional requirements, as well as how each breed eats. This has resulted in what they call “Kibble Technology”. They have found that developing uniquely-shaped kibbles for each breed can prevent gulping, minimize gas and stool output, and prevent obesity by encouraging the animal to eat more slowly. Here’s just one example:

English Bulldogs are notoriously gassy animals. Royal Canin Bulldog 24 has “S” shaped kibbles that accommodate the Bulldog’s unusual square jaw. They are easier for the dog to grasp and chew, limiting excess air intake and minimizing flatulence (gas). The specific formulation of highly digestible proteins, starches and balanced fibers also promotes proper digestion in the breed and helps get rid of that annoying gas.

As a little personal testimonial, we recently switched our very picky Soft-coated Wheaton, Hazel, to Royal Canin. She used to turn up her nose at her food, often skipping a day. Now she eats her dinner when we feed her, helping us regulate and monitor her intake, and virtually eliminating the number of “accidents” she has in the house. We know she is getting the nutrition she needs and it makes our life easier, as well.

Royal Canin also offers specific foods for each stage of life for both cats and dogs, from very early kitten- or puppyhood, through healthy adult life and into maturity. There are even speciality formulas for obesity and other health issues, show animals, and very young or very active pets.

Our tiny kitten, Pirate, also benefitted from a switch to Royal Canin’s Baby Cat formula. Weaned too early, Pirate was small and not growing well. Now he’s healthy and has graduated to Kitten 36, the right food for his muscle and bone development until he reaches his first birthday.

We have chosen Royal Canin because we are committed to helping you keep your pets as healthy and happy members of your family for many years. We have learned a lot about dog and cat nutrition and would be happy to answer any questions you have about which formula is best for your pet. Please email us or leave a comment. And stop by today for a free sample.

Just for fun, you may want to visit the Royal Canin Website, where you can find a wealth of information about specific breeds of dogs and cats.

International Pooper-Scooper Week

I’m sure you are as excited as we are here at The Animal Store to learn that tomorrow is the first day of International Pooper-Scooper Week (April 1-7). No, this is not an April fool’s joke. According to The American Pet Association, Americans own more than 71 million dogs as pets and those animals produce more than 4.4 billion (that’s “billion” with a “B”) pounds of waste per year.

More than just a messy nuisance, uncollected pet waste can lead to public health issues, primarily through parasites and pathogens found in the dogs’ stools (including roundworms, tapeworms, Salmonella, and Giardia, among others).

The Animal Store wants to help you be a responsible pet owner and good citizen. In honor of International Pooper-Scooper Week, we are offering a 15% discount on all products related to pet waste. No coupon necessary — just mention this blog post. If you have questions or comments, email us or leave a comment.

*Offer good on white tags only and valid through April 14, 2009.
Photo credit: poop and scoop sign by Jeremy Burgin via

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! We at The Animal Store Hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season and we look forward to seeing you soon.

According to the Centers for Disease control, owning a pet can help you keep some of those New Year’s resolutions, especially the ones about exercise. For example, taking your dog for a 30-minute walk every day will provide health benefits for both of you. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 30-minute walk every day will help you:

  • Reduce health risks such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain cancers and osteoporosis.
  • Manage chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and chronic muscle pain.
  • Keep off excess weight.
  • Ward off viral illnesses by boosting your immune system.
  • Keep your arteries clear, helping to increase “good” cholesterol and decrease “bad” cholesterol.
  • Strengthen your heart.
  • Improve your mood by reducing tension and promoting relaxation.
  • Increase your stamina.

Your dog will benefit from daily walks as well, getting:

  • positive attention from you.
  • mental stimulation by experiencing new sights and smells along the way.
  • the opportunity to develop bathroom habits.
  • an outlet for excess energy that can improve bad behavior resulting from boredom.
  • the exercise necessary to lead a long, healthy life — just like humans.
  • opportunities for socialization by meeting up with other humans and animals.

Regular walks with your dog will also give you both ample opportunities for bonding and practicing your training regime.

This year, we resolve to do everything we can to help you and your pets lead happy, healthy lives. Just mention this New Year’s blog post the next time you come into The Animal Store and get 15% off a new leash or harness* for your pet.

We hope you will resolve to visit us often. Leave a comment and let us know about your other resolutions.

*Offer good on white tags only and valid through January 31, 2009.
Photo credit: New Year by Billy Alexander.