The Pet Lover's Guide

From dog yoga to “pet resorts,” local pooches, kittens and other furry friends can have it all.

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It always comes back to those pesky carbs. “I’m not a fan of commercial pet food for a number of reasons,” says holistic animal-care expert Dr. Doug Knueven of Beaver Animal Clinic. “It’s made from ingredients that animals in the wild and the ancestors of our pets are never exposed to — for example, lots of carbohydrates. A lot of the problems cats run into come from [consuming] too many carbs,” and dogs don’t benefit from a carb-heavy diet either.

The ideal choice, Dr. Knueven says, would be “pre-made raw diets” found at specialty pet stores; they have the right balance of nutrients (not just meat, but also veggies and finely ground bones for calcium). Local independent pet shops (such as Animal Nature in Regent Square and Petagogy in Shadyside) stock raw pet food, which is better than the raw food you have at home.

“The meat we buy at the grocery store can be really contaminated with disease-causing bacteria,” Dr. Knueven says, but raw pet-food makers “are very aware of pathogenic bacteria and have ways of mitigating that.”

Prefer to cook for your pet? Offer a fully balanced diet, and skip the fatty or carb-laden table scraps. Pizza crust? Nope. Bits of gristle from that steak you just finished? Don’t do it. Keep it healthy, and change up your pet’s diet periodically.

■ Beaver Animal Clinic: 724/774-8047,
■ Animal Nature: 412/723-2194,

I’ll Have What He’s Having
The top-selling items at Pittsburgh’s pet-centric bakeries could make any human hungry. At Woof Stop Barkery, peanut butter-honey and pumpkin-cinnamon treats (soy-, gluten- and grain-free) have been a hit. And the new Bag O’ Bones (6-inch bone-shaped baked goodies), Bag O’ Bites (3.5-inch) and Bag O’ Minis (2-inch) are also popular.

While Woof Stop doesn’t have a storefront, goods are available at local stores (see the full list at or by mail (free delivery to Cranberry Township, Seven Fields and Mars).

At Bone Appetite Barkery, customers “usually purchase treats that  they would eat,” says owner Julie Smith. Her pumpkin, turkey-sweet potato and cranberry-sweet potato products were a hit for the holidays. For 2013, she introduced freeze-dried treats in convenient snack containers, including “Tail Mix” (with banana, mango, peach, Fiji apple, strawberry, blueberry and other fruits).

And for special occasions, you can’t beat the freshly baked 10-inch pawprint birthday cake, or even the mini “pupcakes,” from Doggie Delights.

Spa treatments, swimming pools, sprawling gardens … Pittsburgh’s pet-boarding businesses aren’t exaggerating when they call themselves “pet resorts.” At Lucky Paws Pet Resort, a day of swimming and romping outdoors can wind down with a blueberry facial and “fur butter deep-hair conditioning.”

Sound appealing? Stop by for a guided tour to see the luxury suites for dogs (complete with heated floors, cable TV, sound system), the multilevel cat condo (there’s even a fish tank in the “living room”!) and sprawling indoor and outdoor dog parks (open to non-boarders, too).

Misty Pines also offers a large outdoor area and a swimming pool, plus doggie yoga classes, spa treatments and obedience training. Specialty sessions include agility class and “dock diving” (advanced swim lessons); overnight guests enjoy elevated beds (though the floors are heated) and 24-hour access to an outdoor dog run.

Over at Camp Bow Wow, dutiful pet owners can keep an eye on their dog in real-time via live streaming webcam. Open for day-care or overnight stays, the camp’s “tasty campfire treats” and “spacious cabins” with comfy cots will ensure that your pet will leave with fond memories.

Paws Here A While is open to all pets who love romping in the sunshine, swimming and making new friends. But staffers keep groups small in order to focus on “special-needs vacationers,” who may need more patience or emotional support.

And the exclusively indoor K9 Kingdom offers a huge play space and lots of socializing, while keeping a close watch on conflict to ensure safety of pets big and small.  After a day of treadmill workouts and loving attention from the staff, overnight guests are treated to a frozen peanut butter KONG at bedtime.

■ Lucky Paws Pet Resort: 724/728-1484,
■ Misty Pines: 412/364-4122,
■ Camp Bow Wow: 412/931-9247,
■ Paws Here A While: 724/573-4665,
■ K9 Kingdom: 724/935-DOGS,

The Lowdown on Chocolate
Chocolate has a chemical in it called theobromine, a central nervous system stimulant that is toxic to dogs. The higher the cacao content, the more theobromine you’ll find, making dark chocolate especially dangerous. Since dark chocolate is becoming increasingly popular, thanks to its health benefits for humans, we need to make sure our chocolate stash is hidden in a dog-proof place.

Dining With Doggie
There you are, enjoying a relaxing lunch or dinner on the patio of a terrific restaurant. But what about your poor pup? Left at home. With a bowl. On the floor. And you call yourself a best friend?! Next time, bring him or her along to one of these spots, all of which welcome furry companions.

Atria’s Restaurant & Tavern
In the shadow of PNC Park, Atria’s offers spacious outdoor dining to people and pets, just steps away from the North Shore Riverfront Park & Trail. Order the pot-roast nachos and something little for your pooch.

Big Dog Café
Big Dog serves outstanding coffee and light food, welcoming pets to its outdoor patio.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream
It's the sweetest stop in town for dogs, offering free “doggie sundaes” topped with crushed dog bones.

Cappy’s Restaurant
If you snag a sidewalk table, you and Fido will be treated to people-watching at its best … and great food, too.

Coca Café
This spot's known for innovative breakfast, lunch and small-plate dinners, but also for giving water bowls to its outdoor doggie guests.

Redfin Blues
From April 1 to Oct. 1, you and your dog can enjoy lunch, dinner, a breeze and the view of downtown by the docks.

Square Café
With sidewalk seating, this is a perfect spot for people-watching — and for some of the best breakfast and lunch in Pittsburgh.

Tazza D’Oro Cafe & Espresso Bar
Stop in for gourmet coffee and espresso with fresh pastries and light fare made with local ingredients. — Jonathan Wander

Is rawhide really so terrible? The once-popular snack for dogs, originally used as both a treat and a chew toy, now gets a bad rap from pet experts. The problem isn’t nutritional — slobbering on and chewing a piece of rawhide won’t make your pet sick. The trouble comes if and when the chunk of rawhide splinters into jagged pieces.

“The concern is that [dogs] could swallow pieces that can get stuck,” in their throat or elsewhere in their digestive system, says Dr. Doug Knueven. Want to get your pooch something similar to rawhide? Consider buying a sturdy rubber KONG toy with a hollow center, where you can stash a healthy treat; your dog can wrestle with and gnaw on the toy (and eventually earn the tasty prize) — all without the risk of being harmed by rawhide shards.

A Pet’s Other Best Friend
Heather Long, co-owner of the local pet-sitting service Au Purr, LLC, is quick to give one essential bit of advice to pet lovers in search of a walker or sitter: “Interviews and meeting with your prospective sitter are imperative! You would never hire a babysitter for your child pointblank, and furry ‘children’ are no different.”

She says it’s vital to hire a licensed, bonded and professional service instead of the neighborhood kid trying to make a few extra bucks. Looking for a reliable sitter near you? Start with Fetch! Pet Care, a nationwide network that hires only the best of the best. — Sean Collier

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