Reward furry family members with healthy snacks and relieve holiday anxiety

by: VERN UYETAKE - Some of the treats at Nature's Pet in West Linn Central Village have calming effects, such as Dale Edgar Brands nutri-wafers, center. The shop carries natural calming aids for cats too.Come Halloween, pet owners typically hear the same cautionary advice: Keep candy away from dogs and cats. Chocolate and sugary snacks can be toxic for animals.

But pets don’t have to miss out on all of the fun. Stores like Nature’s Pet in West Linn Central Village offer plenty of healthy treats for furry family members.

The family-owned operation focuses on dog and cat nutrition, said owner Mason Hartman. The father of two children as well as a dog and two cats, Hartman said he and his wife, Kristen, opened the store in hopes of “giving people access to a healthy lifestyle for their pets.”

“A lot of people are focused on eating well themselves and realize that, for years, their dogs haven’t been getting good ingredients. … Within the last decade there has been a huge industry change in offering dogs and cats a healthy diet that is more geared toward an ancestral diet.”

After all, dogs are only a half percent removed from a wolf DNA-wise, he said. It’s similar for cats. And an ancestral diet doesn’t include fillers that commercial brands do — because a cat, for instance, wouldn’t go foraging for corn in the wild. Like dogs, felines need meat in their diets, Hartman said.

As a result, Nature's Pet has two freezers full of raw food options in addition to kibble, high-quality canned food and, of course, treats. Hartman takes great care in selecting these special snacks.

“When I select a treat or a food for the store, I’m looking at the ingredients list and making sure every single ingredient has a purpose,” he said.

Hartman focuses on locally made products, such as Snooks Sweet Potato treats from Estacada, Green Pawz Organics from Banks and Uncle Larry’s all-natural snacks, which are made in Lake Oswego. Sometimes it’s “Uncle Larry” himself who delivers orders to Nature’s VERN UYETAKE - Nature's Pet in West Linn Central Village has plenty of healthy, natural treat options, including special chews, which can help keep dogs occupied during holidays such as Halloween.

Hartman offered some tips to ensure pets remain safe and healthy this Halloween and during the upcoming holiday season.

• “The easiest thing is don’t feed them candy,” he said. “If there is a lot of candy around, if kids are checking out their stash at the end of the night, make sure they’re doing it in a safe place where pets can’t get to it. My beagle, for instance, will definitely gravitate toward the activity. If you’re not careful enough, she can snag a piece. There are a lot of dogs out there that will do that.”

• Because doors may be opening frequently for trick-or-treaters or holiday guests, make sure pets are microchipped and wearing collars.

“If they do escape or run out quickly and they don’t have a collar, there’s no way to identify them," Hartman said.

• Keep dogs occupied with a toy or special chew. Nature’s Pet offers Antler Chewz, which are made from deer antlers shed in the wild. The shop also carries chews made of trachea and lamb lung, hooves, real bones and various types of tendons and dried meat.

They're from "different parts of the animal that are actually digestable, that they'd actually eat in the wild," said Hartman. While some pet owners might automatically turn to rawhide, Hartman prefers these other products because they're more natural.

"In most cases rawhide is very tough and dogs can't digest it very well," he explained.

• Make sure cats have access to their preferred "safety" or hiding spots. “The best thing to do is make sure they have a safe place to go," Hartman said.

• For pets simply unable to cope with holiday activities, he recommends natural calming aids.

“A lot of traditional vets will prescribe a sedative that will knock the dog or cat out for awhile, but I’m not about giving dogs or cats drugs,” he said. “There are a lot of great products out there, and a lot are very well known, too.”

For dogs, he suggests a Dale Edgar Brand product. In addition to specialty treats for hip and joint or skin and coat care, the Portland company makes a wafer designed to help dogs relax. Looking a bit like a Nutri-Grain bar, Hartman said, these treats are made with chamomile extract, ginger and Omega 3. Yet they’re “highly palatable” thanks to ingredients such as chia seeds and chia butter, rolled oats and banana puree.

“It’s a small list of ingredients but it’s completely healthy and, in this case, keeps the dog calm,” Hartman said.

Comfort Zone is a product for either dogs or cats that delivers pheromones in a spray or plug-in diffuser. Rescue Remedy, another option, is simply "a blend of flower extracts that calm," he said.

For dogs and cats that don’t do well with pheromone products or other calming aids, Thundershirts might offer a solution.

“It wraps tightly around their body,” Hartman said. “It keeps them feeling secure."

The shirts are essentially swaddling vests for animals prone to anxiety, hyperactivity or stress.

“Different animals react differently to different products," he said. "That’s why we carry a wide range.”

For more information about Nature's Pet, call 503-305-8628 or visit

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