Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Simple Delight for the Dog in Your Life:

Unfortunately, I am not at work today and instead find myself in bed sick. I have a horrible sinus infection and fever. Milly has been a very sweet and loving nurse to me today, but I can tell she wants a little more pleasure than I am able to give her in my current state (think: no belly rubs or fetch).

The weather today is stunning—the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the sun is shining and it is warm enough for only a long sleeve shirt or light jacket, but cool enough that the heat is not over bearing. On days like today I would love to go for a hike down my favorite trail that leads to the Potomac River with Milly, but instead the box of Kleenex and antibiotics have won this battle, and I find myself feeling pretty miserable watching Animal Planet and sleeping.

I was able to indulge Milly a little though with a doggie ice cream. I like to keep my freezer stocked with home made frosty treats for her, and on days like today when I don’t even have enough energy to make myself a can of soup, being able to simply open the freezer and pull out a doggie ice cream that will keep Milly happily amused for about 30 minutes is great.

Unlike the grocery store varieties such as Frosty Paws the kind of frozen dog treat I make is all natural and low fat. I use Stony Fields non-fat yogurt in Vanilla or Plain as the base. I pour the yogurt into a mixing bowl and add one part water for three parts yogurt and a tiny bit of honey - usually 1 teaspoon for every 4 cups of base I’ve made - and mix. I then add the flavoring: peanut butter, banana or carob chips. Carob is similar to chocolate, but safe for dogs and can be found at health food stores, natural grocery stores such as Whole Foods and sometimes at Trader Joes. If I am using banana I like to let the banana mature until it has lots of black spots on the outside, and I simply mush the banana into the base and stir until I have a fairly smooth consistency (there will usually be some chunks)—for four cups of base I will use 1 to 2 bananas. If I am using peanut butter I usually add 1 to 2 tablespoon of peanut butter per cup of base, and stir until smooth – sometimes with peanut butter you will need to add a dash more water. If I am using carob chips it is 1 cup of carob for four cups of base. You can mix all ingredients into one super ice cream, or pick one or two. Or, simply use the base. I use small plastic containers or small Tupperware containers to freeze and serve the ice cream in. This way I can wash and reuse the containers. All you do is just pour your mixture into containers making sure you use containers that your dog will not a) eat b) get his snout stuck in and freeze over night. The ice creams keep frozen for months. Tip: when serving the ice cream put the ice cream in a ceramic or heavy dog food bowl, this prevents it from moving a lot while your dog licks it.


Fashionable, Fun and Frugal Options for Your Furry Friend:

In a recent post I blogged about Lilly Pulitzer launching a new dog line for those preppy pooches. However, in this turbulent economy many pet owners maybe overwhelmed by the sticker price of Lilly’s new dog collars and leashes.

For those of you who do not feel comfortable spending nearly $100 on a matching collar and leash for the summer season (myself included) you have another option: eBay.
If you simply search “Lilly Pulitzer Dog” in eBay you will find at least one page, if not more, devoted to sellers who have handmade collars and leashes out of authentic Lilly Pulitzer fabrics. These sell for a “Buy it now” price under $20, and both collar and leash are included in that price. While I know nothing about the quality of these leashes and collars, I can say it is not very difficult to make this type of leash or collar, and strength of the collar or leash can be accomplished by sewing a piece of thin canvas between the fabric of the collar or leash. The use of canvas in making these types of collars and leads is almost commonplace, and if these sellers use this technique you don’t have much to worry about as far as strength and durability.

For a price like this, it is hard to pass up the deal, and many consumers would find it worthwhile it even if the collar and lead turn out not to be well made. Judging by the photos, these look like very well made leashes and collars.

In this economy you and your furry friend can still be fashionable, fun and frugal.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

City Support Sought for Animal Shelter Project

There is a wonderful animal shelter located in Camden, South Carolina called Walter Crowe Animal Shelter. The staff and volunteers at this shelter all love the animals and strive to find them their forever homes constantly. However, this small shelter lacks the space to support the large number of dogs and cats it takes in, and therefore is forced to euthanize a very large percentage of their animals. They strive to find rescues to take in animals whenever possible, but this can be difficult – especially when dealing with mixed breed dogs, older dogs, and adult cats. Even puppies run out of time all too often at this shelter. Below is part of an article published in The Chronicle-Independent newspaper.

City support sought for animal shelter project

Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw, who were named the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' 2008 Equine Fund Honorees for their work as Danny and Ron's Rescue, asked Camden City Council to support a new building project at the Walter M. Crowe Animal Shelter.

Robertshaw said he and Danta have raised $150,000 toward constructing two new buildings and renovating the shelter's existing building at the end of Fair Street in Camden.

"This would be done in three phases," said Robertshaw. "First, a medical and cat suite that would be separated from the euthanasia wing. Then an adoption wing and, lastly, renovating the current building."

Robertshaw said the money they have raised has come from all over the country and the world.

Danta said the shelter needs to expand because of the number of euthanasias that need to be done due to a lack of space to house unwanted dogs and cats.

"One unspayed female cat and one unneutered male cat can (lead to) 420,600 cats in seven years," said Danta. "In 1998, 14.1 million cats and dogs were euthanized in America. There were only 3 million people at President Barack Obama's inauguration." [End]

Danny and Ron are known as some of the leading horse trainers in the country, but their passion for saving dogs is absolutely inspiring. They care about Camden and they care about animals… truly an amazing team!

Easter Inspired & Fashionable Storage for Dog Toys

When it comes to toys Milly has way too many. We keep them in a basket, and she takes them out as she pleases, but never puts them away. I feel like a hypocrite whenever I tell human children they have to put their toys back in the toy box when they’re done playing, but allow my Golden Retriever child to leave toys strewn across the house. I am determined to teach my next dog to put away her toys when done playing, but I’ve come to terms with the fact there are just some new tricks my old dog will never learn—putting her toys away is one of them. As an alternative, I’d like to have smaller toy baskets in various rooms of the house with the hope the toys will stay better in each room this way, and it will be easy to scoop them up and put them in the toy basket when Milly and I head to another room. I am a self-proclaimed basket fanatic, and while at Target recently I noticed a great basket (photograph compliments of fellow blogger HFG) in the Easter section. I absolutely adore the striped basket in the middle, but for the number of Milly’s toys I will need to get the larger striped square bucket on the bottom shelf towards the back.

As part of my budget I no longer allow myself to buy anything on a whim, and so I will need to sleep on this purchase, but I have a feeling tomorrow I will return home with a new toy box for Milly.


The past few weeks have been very rainy and over cast (with the exception of two or three sunny days). The dreary weather has Milly a bit unhappy—she really dislike walks in the rain. I too find myself a little less than chipper with this miserable weather.

Recently Lilly Pulitzer launched the start of their dog line with brightly colored collars and leads in two adorable patterns. The bright colors are sure to cheer you up even on days that Mr. Sun refuses to come out and play.

These collars and leads are the product of a partnership between Mascot and Lilly Pulitzer—Mascot is known for their durable and well made collars and leads. These are sure to not only look great on a variety of pooches, but also should prove to be a worthwhile investment. So, if you’re still thinking of ways to spend that stimulus check we got under the Bush administration, and need something bright and fun to get you through the last few days of March then go ahead and stimulate the economy with these adorable products!

An Amazing Explanation of Dog Diets:

I found this to be an extremely useful article for understanding what diets are out there, and how to use them. With permission to cross post, this is written by the wonderful folks over at A Golden Life Ranch. I hope you enjoy it and find it as helpful as I did.

We all have our particular passions as to specific aspects of loving and living and raising dogs. Whether it's conformation, field work, agility, breeding, behavior or just trying to give our dogs the best we can because they give us so much.

My admitted obsession is nutrition. While we all spend a lot of time discussing HD, ED, cardiac, eyes, thyroid and all the genetic issues relating to our babies, I'm not sure we spend enough time on how proper nutrition can improve our dog's longevity and overall health. Just as in humans, there is much credible information out there to suggest that with better nutrition we can help stem the tide in cancer in our dogs to cite just one example. We do discuss here often, how changing food can improve stools, cut down on allergic reactions and eliminate ear problems.

In my view, superior nutrition is key not only to help with the basic issues (stools, ears, itching) but can also work as a preventative to curb the ever rising incidents of cancer and diabetes in our companion animals. Unfortunately, long term studies to prove this point are hard to come by as most studies are currently performed by the "big dogs" in pet foods and they don't have any interest in finding out that their "grocery" brands could be harming our pets with their grain heavy, inferior protein sourced products.

In an effort to be helpful with all the questions we get here regarding foods, I put together this guideline as to what to look for and what to avoid in choosing a food -

Grocery Brands - Are brands like Purina, Pedigree, Alpo, Kibble n Bits, and private labels.

Can include corn, corn glutens, meat by-products, wheat, protein concentrates or spilt proteins, white grains, artificial preservatives and coloring and will tend to be very grain heavy - Here's an example of a grocery brand with an inferior ingredient panel -

Whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), corn gluten meal, meat and bone meal, brewers rice, soybean meal, barley, whole grain wheat, animal digest, calcium carbonate, salt, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, zinc proteinate, ferrous sulfate, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2, Yellow 6), DL-Methionine, manganese sulfate, manganese proteinate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, copper proteinate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

When evaluating dog foods, the first 4-6 ingredients listed before the fat source are the bulk of what's in the food. Food ingredients have to be listed by weight before cooking. In reading the above panel ("inferior" ingredients listed in red) you can clearly see that this formula is nothing but corn and poultry by products. Another sign of inferior ingredients is not naming the animal source but uses generic terms like poultry, animal or meat as a label as opposed to naming the specific protein source like chicken meal or lamb.

Now let's look at a "premium" brand - an example would be a Science Diet, Iams or Eukenuba or some Nutro Labels. Nutro and Eukenuba do make holistic formulas that would put those formulas in the holistic category.

Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Beet Pulp (sugar removed), Natural Chicken Flavor, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of Vitamin B1), Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of Vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Flax Meal, Apple Pomace, Dried Carrots, Dried Peas, Choline Chloride, Dried Spinach, Dried Tomato, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), L-Carnitine, Rosemary Extract

Not much better is it? You'll notice that they add many good things but at the end of the ingredient panel which basically makes it insignificant. The basis of this formula is chicken by products and corn. Note that the first ingredient is chicken but a protein source is weighed before cooking so the chicken if weighed after cooking would be further down the list.

Now we come to the holistic formulas which for the most part do not use any by-products, corn, soy or wheat. They use only whole grains and fresh meat sources combined with a meal.

Here's a holistic formula - Examples of holistic brands are Wellness, Innova, Natural Balance, Nature's Variety, Solid Gold, Merrick

Chicken, Brown Rice, Lamb Meal, Oatmeal, Barley, Duck Meal, Potatoes, Carrots, Chicken Fat (preserved with natural mixed tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Canola Oil, Brewers Yeast, Salmon Meal, Salmon Oil, Whole Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Spinach, Parsley Flakes, Cranberries, L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Folic Acid.

You'll notice here that the only ingredients before the fat source are whole named poultry meats or meals (chicken and lamb), whole grains and carrots. The next round of ingredients are pretty good as well with salmon meal and oil, flaxseed, spinach, cranberries, etc.

There is a wide degree of differences in holistic formulas and this is where we all go crazy in trying to determine which formula will work best for our dog. Trial and error is most likely the best approach and rotating between protein sources and brands has also shown to be helpful as long as there are no known allergies to a specific grain or protein.

The next category up the food chain is grain-free holistics - Brands like Evo, Welllness Core, Nature's Variety Instinct, Taste of the Wild and Merrick's Before Grain.

Controversy abounds as to the proper protein level in grain-free foods. Is 40%-50% to high and can lead to kidney issues? I don't think anybody knows yet but if it's a concern to you, than picking of the one grain frees that have more moderate protein levels in the 30's might make sense.

Here's an example of a grain free ingredient panel - (Note-most grain free formulas use potatoes as a binder- this example uses tapioca)

Duck Meal, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Canola Oil (naturally preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Tapioca, Tomato Pomace, Pumpkinseeds, Herring Meal, Sun-Cured Alfalfa Meal, Montmorillonite Clay, Natural Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Brewers Yeast, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Acetate, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Iodine Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Carotene, Folic Acid), Peas, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite), Sea Salt, Dried Kelp, Cranberries, Blueberries, Inulin, Freeze Dried Turkey, Freeze Dried Turkey Liver, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Freeze Dried Turkey Hearts, Freeze Dried Ground Turkey Bone.
Crude Protein (min): 35.0%
Crude Fat (min): 22.0%
Crude Fiber (max): 3.5%
Moisture (max): 10.0%

Finally, the ever controversial raw feeding and or homemade diets complete the choices for our Goldens.

Here again, the choices can be confusing and overwhelming. Do you follow the BARF philosophy, the prey diet, a holistic homemade diet or a combination of all them and exactly what are the differences?

BARF - A BARF diet consists of RMB'S (Raw Meaty Bones) and vegetables in a 60-40 to 80-20 ratio that includes adding eggs, yogurt and supplements. BARF devotees claim dogs are omnivores not true carnivores which allow for vegetables, eggs and yogurt in their diet.

PREY DIET - Prey diet devotees believe dogs are true carnivores and therefore should only eat raw meaty bones, organ meat and occasionally ground meat with no other supplmentation.

HOMEMADE HOLISTIC DIETS - Holistic diets follow more of the BARF philosophy with meat and vegetables providing the basis with the allowance of eggs, yogurt, antioxident rich berries and occasional whole grains with supplementation with oils and vitamins.

Fears about bacterial contamination have kept many a dog owner away from raw feeding. While there is evidence to suggest that dog's digestive systems work much faster than ours and any bacteria goes thru the dog before any infection can take hold....it's still a concern for some. When you think about it, dogs get into things all the time outside that are filled with bacteria that don't hurt them so the argument does have some weight. For those who want to feed a healthy homemade diet but can't get past the bacteria issue, cooking ground meat and tempering eggs in a homemade formula might be an option.

At the end of the day, we all want the best for our dog babies. I, for one, am a firm believer that the better we feed our dogs, the less trips to the vet we'll make and the longer our dogs will live.

I hope this post continues the healthy discussion and debate on dog nutrition.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Analyzing Pet Websites

Have you ever watched an advertisement on TV and pulled out your computer to visit the advertised company’s website? Or, decided with the bad weather you’d rather do some online shopping from the comfort of your home? Or, visited websites to compare prices, products, return policies, etc?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you may be interested in knowing more about web traffic. I find it fascinating to chart web traffic, and attempt to figure out what is drawing people to these sites.

This graph details unique visitors for Petsmart, Petco and Pet Food Direct.

As you can see, Petco has the most traffic to their site, followed by Petsmart and then PetFoodDirect.

Date: 02-2009
















* Month-to-Month Change: This value represents growth in the most recent month relative to the previous month.

** Year-to-Year Change: This value represents growth in the most recent month relative to the same month last year.

As the recession grows deeper visits to all of these pet supply companies have diminished greatly since the previous month. Petsmart appears to be struggling this month compared to the same month last year. This data proves Petco truly is “Where the pets go” and perhaps we can credit this catchy jingle and an aggressive advertising campaign for their increase in web traffic. Despite massive pet food recalls, including their recalls having to do with their own storage facilities, Petco has seen quite a bit of growth in web traffic this month relative to the same month last year.

Petfooddirect, a relatively new website with significantly fewer customers and smaller advertising budget than the Big Guys, is proving to stand out significantly. Growth since last year in site traffic is 87% higher, and these loyal web traffickers are likely to spread the word about this site.

A quick look at site analytics will show us what top key words are driving traffic to these sites:




1. Petsmart

1. Petco

1. Pet food direct

2. Pet smart

2. Petco.com

2. Dog food

The Big Guys: A look at big box stores in the pet industry

When it comes to purchasing pet products it’s easy to step into a big box store like Petsmart or Petco, because, like it or not, they are convenient. Big stores are able to carry a variety of products and provide these products at a reasonably low cost. It is easy to find coupons for these stores, and both Petsmart and Petco offer their version of a rewards card—a free card where you essentially sell the company your personal information and allow them to track your spending habits in exchange you receive discounts on items that may otherwise not be on sale. The draw back to these big box stores is not a lack of variety, but instead a lack of personalized attention and the inability to carry products from companies that pride themselves on an intimate relationship with clients. Many of the natural foods and treats I have blogged about in the past such as, Dr. Wysong, California Naturals, Dr. Harvey, Fromm, Nature’s Variety, etc. are not available at these stores. Some of these companies explain why this is on their websites, usually sighting a desire to have an intimate relationship with their retailers and/or a commitment to supporting small businesses.

Both Petco and Petsmart have websites, here clients can order items for their pets from the convenience of their home, and often will be able to find internet promotions. I usually search for coupon codes before placing any online order, but both of these companies also offer promotions on their website—think free shipping on orders over $75, etc. Personally, I have browsed both companies’ websites on numerous occasions, but never ordered from them. If I need something from either store I usually just hop in the car and drive to the actual store, but this is a luxury those in rural areas may not have. A fairly new source for online pet shopping is Pet Food Direct.com, this company offers almost all of the same foods Petsmart and Petco offer, but also carry the harder to find high quality or holistic foods the big box stores lack. When browsing Pet Food Direct’s website I was pleasantly surprised at the large variety of foods they offer, and the relatively low prices on such foods. In the same way Petsmart and Petco are able to have low prices by selling volume, Pet Food Direct does the same. I personally have never ordered from Pet Food Direct, but I have heard nothing but rave reviews from friends who have. This is a great resource for quality food for those who don’t have time or lack access to a store selling high quality holistic foods. A simple search in Google turned up numerous coupon codes for Pet Food Direct, but the best code I’ve found did not show up with an online search—a radio listener discount, “turtle” applied at checkout in the coupon code or promotion box, takes 20 percent off your order. If you’re anything like me, you probably buy the largest bag of dry food possible, and wet food by the case to save money in the long run… with a large order like this 20 percent off will go a very long way.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Great Dog Bakery

Dog bakeries are popping up all across the nation, and have become quite a trend in large and small cities. Some bakeries bake in house, some are owned by a larger corporation and have treats shipped in, some are organic, some have cookies containing meat products, some are strictly vegetarian, etc. It seems in the dog baking industry you must rely on something to set yourself apart. Personally, I love dog bakeries, particularly the organic ones.

One of my favorite dog bakeries is in Arlington, Virginia in a small strip mall. Located between a Starbucks (typical) and a bagel store Dogma blends right into suburban living. While their website leaves a bit to be desired, this bakery has unique charm. All treats are baked in-house (or at the owner’s house) and come with adorable names like Snickerpoodles, DC Delights, Mailmen, etc.

Their treat selection is vast, with probably 20 varieties of baked goods, and also homemade doggie ice cream. They are always willing to answer questions, even the detailed ones. I tend to ask about every single ingredient in treats, the baking process, how fresh the treats are and so on. At Dogma you will find treats baked within a few days of when you purchase them—absolutely all of their treats are fresh (which I love). Unlike the current fad of dog bakeries making the treats resemble fancy human deserts (think cannolis and extravagantly frosted martini glass cookies), Dogma sells treats that resemble grandma’s cookies, their muffins look like they were baked at home, and their pretzels are clearly twisted by hand. One advantage to avoiding the trend of heavily frosted cookies is not baking with gobs of butter. I’ve been to other dog bakeries that after much probing will admit a batch of their cookies contains four or more sticks of butter… this would never happen at Dogma. The treats are relatively healthy as far as treats go—think no white flour and lots of oatmeal based treats. The store is small for the amount of merchandise they have, a large gift section when you enter with everything from picture frames to water dishes, an entire wall of dog leashes and collars (they sell matching ribbon flip-flops), a small but quality selection of natural dog shampoos and conditioners, various supplements, dog beds, adorable toys (think plush blue box with white ribbon reading “Sniffany & Co.”) and a large freezer filled with all the raw diets your pet could need and of course the doggie ice cream.

They do not have meat products in their baked goods, which I find to be their only drawback. In order for a dog bakery owner to sell treats containing meat they need a separate license in many states, so from a cost standpoint vegetarian treats are a wise way to go. They do however sell dehydrated meat pre-packaged. Milly goes crazy for the dehydrated liver chips. They are made locally and all natural—great for baiting a show dog or using as training treat.

The store has charm and lots of it. Employees are always smiling, and more often than not the shop owner is the one behind the counter. For price conscious shoppers Dogma usually offers slightly over baked treats at very large discounts—trust me, your dog won’t notice the difference if it is a little over cooked, as well as a nice sale section with discontinued gift items, last season items, etc. They have a large bulletin board for pet owners to get info on local animal happenings, rescue groups to post their available pet flyers, dog sitters and artists to post flyers, etc.

If you are ever in Arlington, VA I highly recommend stopping by Dogma.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master." -Ben Hur Lampman

A common aspect of owning a dog—a part many rarely discuss—is the loss of a pet. It is inevitable, and the grief you will face is unavoidable, as you will most likely outlive your dog.

Recently, one of Miss Muddy Paws’ dear friends lost her best friend, a Basset Hound named Guernsey—the friend she could always count on when she was down, the one who warmed her heart, walked beside her, and always was able to make her smile no matter how bad she felt. In this instance, we at The Wet Nose can only express our condolences, and having been through this before, know this can be a devastating experience.

Everyone grieves differently. If you are facing a loss of a pet you might find many of your friends simply cannot grasp how painful it is to lose a pet, but only you can truly know the strength of the bond felt between owner and animal. I remember when I lost my beloved horse, Charlie, I cried almost non-stop for a week. I did not know it was possible to cry so much you ran out of tears and found yourself gasping for air. When my beloved mutt Sweetie went to the Rainbow Bridge my senior year of college I found myself running into a hayfield and crying into Milly’s fur for hours. Each time many people looked at me as though I was crazy, and I wish I had kept in mind then that “no one else has the right to judge your sorrow,” as no one else knows what exactly you are feeling.

“Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” -John Galsworthy

“If there is a heaven, it's certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.” –Pam Brown

This post is dedicated to all the animals that left paw prints on our hearts when they left our lives.

Dog Years

Have you ever heard the old adage “one year of a dog’s life is equal to seven years of a human’s life”? Well, this is no longer considered an accurate calculation. When determining your dog’s age in human years you must take into account all of the contributing factors: size of dog, gender, diet and exercise, weight of dog, breed of dog, and the list goes on.

A dog’s size and breed are two of the stronger contributing factors when it comes to the life expectancy of a dog, and how dog years are converted into people years. A fairly accurate stereotype is that small dogs have much greater life expectancies than large dogs, because of this, in many instances, small dogs mature at a slower rate than large dogs. Therefore, taking this into account, a small dog that has a life expectancy of 15+ years (like many toy breeds) would need a different calculation when determining human age, than a large dog such as the Mastiff with a life expectancy closer to eight years. The breed of a dog is also a strong indicator of the average life span of a dog, and often times will discredit the above rule. For instance, the Doberman Pinscher, a very large dog, regularly averages a life span of 15+ years, an age one would associate with a very small dog. On the flip side, some small dogs have shorter life expectancies, which would also turn the above rule on its head.

The size and breed of a dog are good indicators about age, but there are other things a responsible dog owner can do to help ensure their dog walks with a youthful step, and remains young (in human and dog years). Providing your dog with a healthy, balanced diet, throughout the dog’s life will help extend the life expectancy. I am a strong advocate of holistic pet diets. Another way to extend your dog’s life expectancy, and ensure good quality of those years, is to make sure your dog has the appropriate amount of exercise for his/her breed, age, and health. Keeping a dog fit throughout its life can work wonders in extending life and lessening the effects of joint problems. Finally, what I find to be the easiest and hardest to control is weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for life expectancy. A consistently overweight dog can lose two or more human years from its life expectancy, and hamper your dog’s quality of life, because for each pound that your dog is overweight that equates to three to five added pounds of pressure on their joints. Dog obesity has become a large problem in this country, but it can be easily managed by measuring your dog’s food at each meal, feeding a nutritious diet (particularly one lacking fillers like corn), following an exercise routine and going easy on those treats. To calculate your dog’s age at a fairly basic level use this calculator. To accurately calculate your dog’s age in people years, taking into account many of the contributing factors, use the DogAge Test at www.DogAge.com.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An appalling YouTube sensation...

Recently this YouTube Video has been getting a lot of media attention (over 5 million views). Local news stations are picking up this video, and broadcasting it in hopes of getting a laugh out of viewers. Nationally, Anderson Cooper even discussed this video. To the untrained eye this clip might be humorous, but I find no humor in such a video. This dog is clearly experiencing something that is not normal, and appears to be having a seizure. Yet, whoever owns and/or cares for the dog finds humor in filming the seizure, and posting it to the internet rather than seeking veterinary care for the dog. Many dog owners, including one of my roommates, have dogs that experience seizures. These owners will tell you watching a dog seize while the dog is awake or sleeping are both terrifying experiences.

There are many health risks associated with seizures, and they can be a life threatening disorder. When a dog is having a seizure the owner must do everything possible to protect the dog. Some owners report their dogs will “come out” of the seizure if they repeatedly call the dog’s name loudly, other owners find stroking the dog helps and others rely on various medications prescribed by their DVM can ease the frequency and strength of seizures. Having an owner beside the dog, comforting it, as it comes out of a seizure can ease the disorientation the dog experiences post seizure.

In this video, the owner (or whoever filmed it) does nothing to protect the dog as the dog not only seizes, but also runs head on into a presumably hard wall. The seizure alone can cause trauma to the dog, but blunt force trauma to the animal’s head is an added concern. The person filming the dog is not their to help the dog or support it as it finds itself confused and stressed, but instead stands back with a camera in hand to capture it on film not once, not twice, but three different times. I am strongly opposed to the posting of this video, because it is exploiting an animal that needs medical care. I have posted under this YouTube video, but my comments urging the owner to research seizures in dogs, and take their dog and these videos to their veterinarian for medical help were deleted. Members of the Golden Retriever Forum I belong to have also had their concerned posts deleted—leading me to believe this owner cares more about getting views on their video than they do about treating their dog. I would normally assume the owner was simply uninformed, uneducated, or ignorant to seizure disorders in dogs and truly believed the dog to be “sleep walking,” but because numerous comments urging the owner to seek medical help were deleted I cannot help but reach the conclusion this is not the case. If these videos were filmed by an owner who truly believed there was nothing wrong with the dog, I hope the now deleted comments will encourage this owner to take the dog and the videos to their veterinarian. These videos could prove very useful in diagnosing the dog’s problem.

If you are as appalled by these videos as I am please write to Anderson Cooper and other media outlets and tell them there is nothing funny about a dog having a seizure. Urge them to stop airing these videos of possible animal neglect in such a humorous way. The media and the rich and famous must stop providing the public with incorrect or misleading information and footage of animals, because viewers often take this information as truth, and view these people as roll models.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Refurbishing your toys to save $'s... or make your own!

I like to refurbish my dog toys, and buy out-of-season toys. Who knew dog toys were seasonal. ;) For example, I picked up a lot of Santa’s, Christmas trees and even the Star of David on clearance at the beginning of January—each toy was under $0.25. After the election, I got a few patriotic toys on clearance as well. Milly’s favorite toy is actually a reindeer from the bargain bin—it was $0.23, and she has no idea frolicking with Rudolph in July (or currently, March) is not the norm by Western cultural standards.

I also refurbish Milly’s squeaky toys. Big box store pet stores tend to sell packages of replacement squeakers (about 20 squeakers a package for under $5).

To refurbish a toy: First, throw the toys in the washing machine, and hang dry. I've used the dryer before, but it did melt one eye on a toy--if you want to use the dryer tumble dry on low heat. The washing step is very important, because you will be handling the toys a lot, and dog toys tend to get smelly. Next, open the toy by using a seam ripper on any major seam (if it is an animal shaped toy usually the belly has a seam), remove the dead squeaker and replace with a new squeaker, if the toy needs some fluffing up you can add some more PollyFill. Finally, sew the toy back together. I like to double the thread and use a simple whip stitch. It isn’t pretty, but it is fast and secure. After, pull on the seam a little to make sure your dog’s play style will not rip the toy open. Should your dog rip any toys, immediately take the toy away from your dog. You can then refurbish these in the same way (whip stitch the torn seam prior to washing or you will have PollyFill all over your washing machine). If any ears or other parts of the toy are falling off, either remove that piece all together (and sew the seam closed), or sew it back on.

If refurbishing toys is not for you, you can make your own. If you have an old fleece blanket laying around the house you can cut this into long strips of fleece. Then, braid the fleece strips, and tie with a large knot at each end of the braid. You now have a toy that not only is fun to play with, but also cleans the teeth. To get ideas for fleece toys go to a large pet supply store and take a look at what fleece rope style toys they have.

Don't let this recession force you to part with your pet... here are some cost saving ideas:

As discussed earlier, financial times are tough—the markets are down, inflation is becoming a greater problem, and we are in a full blown recession. There is no concrete end in sight; with so many unknown factors coming into play it is difficult to even speculate what direction our economy is heading.

In tough economic times, people cut costs. The easiest way to tighten your budget is to remove luxury items—you know those things you can really live without. Unfortunately, as people move from more materialistic lifestyles to frugal ones, pets are often the luxury that is cut. I see this everyday in rescue emails, on Craigslist under the pets section, and in overcrowded shelters. Owners are surrendering their pets, because they no longer can afford to care for them. People are posting re-homing threads on Craigslist, because part of saving has been downsizing to a smaller apartment… one that doesn’t accept pets. This absolutely infuriates me, as pet ownership is a lifelong commitment.

If you know you will have to move… take the time to look for apartment complexes, houses, etc. that allow pets. If they allow pets on a case-by-case basis, consider taking the Canine Good Citizen test, and explaining to the landlord or property manager that you have a CGC certified dog. If you look hard enough you will find somewhere your four legged friend is allowed.

I know many readers of this blog would rather go hungry than see their pet have a less than stellar meal, and I applaud you for that. But, if you are faced with needing to cut some expenses with your pet here are some things that while not the absolute best quality, are still better than most to try.

Invest in a dog cookbook (you can even buy them used on Amazon.com)—for the cost of 2 boxes of milk bones you can have enough ingredients on hand to make hundreds of dog treats. Or, better yet, cut the treats from your dogs diet—your pet can live without them, and if it means keeping the pet, paying your mortgage, or being able to pay for your prescriptions… the treats can go.

Switch from your top of the line food to a lower quality cheaper food. If your financial situation looks like it will bounce back relatively quickly—feeding a decent (but not fabulous) food for a short period of time can really help out the budget. Costco’s Kirkland brand, while not on par with foods I have written about in the past, is much better quality than many grocery store brands. A large bag (I believe 50 pound bag) is about $20. You can supplement this food (or any other) by mixing in 100% pumpkin not pumpkin pie mix (both are found in the baking aisle near the pie crusts), cracking a raw egg over the food, adding carrots or green beans (if you go the canned route make sure they are “no salt added”), adding some non-fat plain yogurt, or non-fat cottage cheese. I buy a large tub of yogurt for myself, and give Milly a spoonful of it with her dinner sometimes. A little yogurt is very good for a dog’s digestive track.

I promise to give more cost saving tips in future posts!