Cat Health FAQs
Q: My vet recommended a "senior" diet for my pet. Can I use Halo?
A: All of Halo’s Spot’s Stew adult formulas are formulated to meet the AAFCO nutritional requirements for all life stages. While Halo doesn’t specifically make a senior diet, it can successfully be fed to aging pets. Many times vets recommend senior foods because they are lower in calories and higher in fiber. This makes them appropriate for older pets who have a slower metabolism and are more likely to gain weight and struggle with obesity and constipation. Halo has a lower calorie dry formulation—called Healthy Weight—and most of Halo’s canned formulations are quite low in calories. By adding some canned food to your aging pets feeding plan you can help decrease the overall calories while providing additional water to help your older pet combat dehydration. Halo formulas also contain fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains which are beneficial for an aging pets gastrointestinal health to avoid constipation. Dr. Donna Spector
Q: I heard that many essential oils aren’t good for cats. Is that true?
Undiluted tea tree oil or other undiluted essential oils, when used inappropriately, may be toxic to some pets -- but we make sure your cat is safe with Halo Herbal Healing Salve and Herbal Shampoo. The tea tree oil we use is a very small fraction of the salve and shampoo; with the Herbal Dip, it is diluted and you may dilute further if you prefer. People across the country have been using these products for twenty years and we truly believe each ingredient to be an integral part of its success. Many natural practitioners, holistic and traditional veterinarians recommend these products without hesitation. Thank you for your concern.
Q: My cat has dry itchy skin. She occasionally gets rashes or bumps. What can I do?
A: This is the single most common question we get! We recommend you try Spot's Stew Natural Food for Cats and add VitaGlo Dream Coat to her food every day!
We believe many skin problems can be controlled or avoided with a natural diet. Some cats develop skin problems or react negatively to ingredients commonly found in commercial pet foods—things like artificial preservatives, colorings or other additives. Halo has created a natural diet; by definition it cannot contain any artificial ingredients or be highly processed. Halo does not use meat meals; a protein source which can be of questionable quality and digestibility. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) have a proven anti-inflammatory affect within the skin and as such play a vital role in skin health. The Dream Coat is an excellent source of EFAs and our cat owners love the results they get. –Dr. Donna Spector
If the skin condition does not improve within several weeks on the new food and Dream Coat supplement, contact your veterinarian to determine if your cat has an underlying medical condition.
Q: I have an older cat that doesn't have a lot of energy anymore. Is there anything to perk her up?
A: Many older pets do not drink enough water every day; as a result they suffer from mild dehydration which can cause very low energy levels. I recommend including canned food in each meal and encouraging water intake (ice cubes, new bowls/fountains, broths, etc) to help improve hydration and get that energy back. I also recommend a vitamin-mineral supplement to help supply antioxidants and B vitamins that can help support the immune system and energy levels. For best results I like to alternate the Daily Greens with the Vitamin-Mineral Mix every day. –Dr. Donna Spector
Sometimes poor energy is a sign of a medical condition and we advise a health check-up with your veterinarian.
Q: I am searching for a food that will be okay for my cat that has a history of urinary stones.
A: It has been proven that the most important part of stone prevention is to increase the amount of water that your cat drinks every day*. When cats drink more they make more urine. This urine is less concentrated (more dilute or watery) so the crystals are less likely to form into stones. Because they make more urine they urinate more frequently which also helps get rid of the stone-making substances. I recommend Halo's canned formulas because they have a higher water content (82%) when compared to many other canned foods (75-78%). This additional water is excellent for urinary health in all pets. Halo cat foods also achieve a urine pH of 6.4 which is normal for cats. –Dr. Donna Spector
*There are many different types of urinary stones and some types will require very specific medication or dietary recommendations; ask your veterinarian what type of stone your cat has.
Q: My cat has had some recent bouts with urinary problems. My vet says I should look for a low ash diet. Do you have anything for him?
A: A fairly recent research study of cats with lower urinary tract problems (FUS, FLUTD, FIC, idiopathic cystitis, etc) revealed that the only treatment of benefit was increased water intake. The easiest way to increase water intake in cats is to feed them a strictly canned food diet. Cats eating all canned food had only 11% recurrence versus almost 40% in the cats eating dry food1. Halo canned cat formulas perform exceptionally well for urinary problems because of their higher moisture content (average 82%) compared to most other commercial brands (75-78%). This study proved no change in signs based on varying the ash or magnesium levels of the food. Experts in this field now agree that foods intended to minimize ash or crystal production have no scientific rationale in the management of this condition. –Dr. Donna Spector
1 Markwell PJ, Buffington CA, Chew DJ, et al. Clinical evaluation of commercially available urinary acidification diets in the management of idiopathic cystitis in cats. JAVMA 1999; 214: 361-365.
Q: My vet told me my cat needs a high fiber food? Can I use Halo?
A: While the vegetables that Halo uses provide an excellent source of fiber for digestive health, Halo should not be considered a high fiber food. For cats that require extra fiber in their diet I often use Halo as the primary food and then mix in additional fiber—psyllium, canned pumpkin, carrots, potato skins—a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber for maximal digestive benefit. Ask your vet if this would be appropriate for your cat. –Dr. Donna Spector
Q: Is it okay for cats to eat the dog food?
A: Although your cat getting a nibble of Halo dog food from time to time isn't bad (our dog foods are supplemented with proper amounts of taurine for cats), I definitely don't recommend routinely feeding them food formulated for dogs. Cats (as strict carnivores) require higher levels of protein and fat than dogs and Halo foods are designed accordingly. Halo dog food just doesn't have the right balance for cats to reach their optimal health level. ~Dr. Donna Spector
Q: Why does my cat eat my houseplants? Does he have a deficiency?
A: Plant eating is not unusual in cats. It is not usually associated with gastrointestinal illness or a deficiency. It is most likely a trait inherited from their wild ancestors in which big cats would consume prey that would have eaten plant material. Eating grass is not bad—just stay away from chemically-treated or toxic plant varieties. Give our Daily Greens a try for the added phytonutrients! --Dr. Donna Spector
Q: Does Halo have too much protein for my 14-year-old cat? My veterinarian said that high protein diets can cause kidney problems.
A: Cats are carnivores and have a high protein requirement throughout life. While too much protein will not cause kidney damage, too much protein could be detrimental if your cat already has kidney problems. From kittens to seniors, any age cat can eat Spot's Stew. –Dr. Donna Spector
Q: I have heard that Taurine is critical to my cat's health. How do I know that she's getting enough?
A: Taurine is critical to your cat's health! Without proper amounts, cats can develop blindness, heart problems and other serious medical issues. Taurine is abundant in muscle meat and our cat foods contain excellent levels of whole meat. Halo analyzes our cat foods routinely to insure a proper amount of taurine is present in every bite! Even though dogs don't have the same taurine requirements, Halo supplements their dog foods with taurine as well—we know that cats love to steal the dog's food! --Dr. Donna Spector
Q: My vet said my cat is allergic to chicken. Is Halo okay for pets with food allergies?
A: True food allergies are actually very uncommon—they account for only 10% of all pet allergies. Pets are often misdiagnosed with food allergy when what they really have is an adverse food reaction or food intolerance. Pets may react to artificial dyes, preservatives and additives in food or they may react to the quality of a protein source. For example, "chicken meal" is a rendered product that can have a variable composition and can vary greatly in its digestibility compared to real whole chicken. Adverse reactions may be more common with diets of lower digestibility. By choosing a natural diet like Halo, artificial ingredients and rendered meat meals will be avoided and thus lessen the potential for any adverse food reactions. The only way to definitely diagnose a food allergy in a pet is to perform an elimination diet trial—blood tests and skin tests are not reliable for this. Read my article about food allergies to learn more. –Dr. Donna Spector
Some pets do have true food allergies and even high quality natural foods like Halo could cause a reaction because of the type of protein included. Read our labels fully to check all ingredients to be sure to avoid those your pet is allergic to.
Q: My cat is overweight. My vet has recommended a prescription weight loss diet but I don't like the list of ingredients. Can I use Halo?
A: Halo foods can be used successfully in a weight loss program. Halo donated food for a weight loss challenge to a New York City shelter (Bideawee) and I monitored the progress of 7 obese cats over 4 weeks—all successfully lost the desired amount of weight. For more information on this study see Dr. Spector's article. Two of our formulas fall within the "lite" category as defined by AAFCO (canned cat food <950 kcal/kg): the Canned Cat Chicken and Lamb formulas. Dr. Spector recommends reaching for these formulas first when starting a weight loss plan. Click here for more information on Weight Loss Tips. –Dr. Donna Spector
Q: Cats are carnivores and don't need carbohydrates. Why does Halo include carbs in their cat foods?
A: You are right…low carbohydrate foods are best suited to the natural biology of cats as carnivores. Cats reach optimal health levels and may avoid many food-related problems (such as obesity, diabetes, some intestinal diseases) by eating high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods. Protein (not carbs) should make up the majority of every cat's diet, however, many cats appear to benefit from a small to moderate amount of complex carbohydrates (fibers) in their diet. Remember long ago cats hunted for their food (and some still do!) and were exposed to carbohydrates within the digestive system of their prey. The domesticated indoor cat appears to benefit from the digestive health that COMPLEX carbs (in the form of fiber-rich vegetables, oats and barley) provide. Halo includes only this type of carbohydrate in our cat formulations. All canned cat formulas are grain-free and Halo now offers a Grain-Free Chicken Formula dry food for cats.
Q: Is canned food bad for my cat's teeth?
A: No. While many vets recommend dry food to "keep teeth clean and healthy" it is a fact that many cats do not chew their food well enough to get any abrasive cleaning action from dry food. Whether you feed dry or canned food…the single most important thing for dental health is tooth brushing. It is a fact that by age three more than 70 percent of cats show signs of gum (periodontal) disease and this is because most owners do not give their cats proper dental care (DAILY tooth brushing and annual dental cleanings). Keep the canned food and start brushing! See my article "Getting to the Root of Bad Breath" for more info on dental health. –Dr. Donna Spector
Q: My cat has a problem with hairballs and vomiting. Will Halo help?
A: There are many things that can cause vomiting or other signs of digestive upset in cats—excessive carb levels, low-quality poorly-digestible proteins, artificial preservatives or other food additives. A natural diet like Halo provides only high-quality digestible proteins and no artificial ingredients—so may help your cat. Halo also makes a Sensitive Cat formula which has smaller protein sizes and increased levels of egg which help to make the diet even more highly digestible than our Indoor Cat formula. –Dr. Donna Spector
Vomiting may be a sign of a medical problem, especially if present with a decreased appetite or weight loss. If the vomiting persists you should see your veterinarian for a complete examination.