How to Make Walks More Fun!

Obviously the first way to make walks more fun is training your dog to respect the ‘heel’ command.  But lets assume you’ve mastered that and are ready to make walking more interesting for you and your dog.

Think about it for a minute; dogs can’t read, watch TV or surf the internet, they are intelligent creatures who can easily get bored, and who depend on you for their entertainment! Walks are a perfect opportunity to give your dog the mental stimulation they need.

That’s where urban agility comes in.  Urban agility is simple really, you use obstacles you naturally encounter walking around your neighbor and cityscape as an opportunity to challenge your dog’s motor skills and mind.

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Wide, low ledges work like balance beams. Start at one end and get your dog to jump up and walk along the length of it with you, then jump down at the end. Repeat as many times as you like!

Start with easy things like picnic tables, benches and flower bed boarders.  These are usually fairly big targets and easy to coax your dog up onto and back down. It’s not necessary to give a command, I usually just say something like “Get up on this” or “Can you get up on this?” to let Pinto know what I’m wanting her to do.

Many dogs who have never done this kind of exercise will be unsure, maybe even a little scared at first, so reward them even if they only get one or two paws up until they get the idea. If your dog is unsure feel free to use treats in the beginning to show them the exercise is fun and that they do have the ability to do it.  Lots of encouragement is key.

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Sculptures are often large enough for dogs to climb all over. See if you can get your dog on top of one and hold his position.

Often we tell our dogs to get down or off of things so much that it becomes ingrained in them to not jump at all.  You may have to overcome this confusion in the beginning.  Let your dog know it’s ok, that you’re asking them to jump up.  Starting with big or low targets will help with this.

Urban agility should always be fun for your dog.  Don’t scold or correct if they can’t or won’t get up on something, praise them for trying and move on to something else, you can always try the obstacle again later.  Keep it fun!

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Anything is fair game and I like to challenge Pinto with new and different objects to get on.

Urban agility is also good for dogs who have a hard time coordinating their backside to the rest of their body, it teaches motor control over all those many legs! I often find over time that Pinto is more confident balancing on more and more uneven surfaces.  This in itself is a mental exercise, it takes focus and a certain fearlessness for a dog to try new physical feats just like it does for us humans.

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Parks and greenbelts in your area also afford great opportunities to climb and balance on logs.

Over time you want to increase the difficulty of obstacles, try smaller ledges, lumpier rocks, and odd shaped stumps.  Don’t be afraid to have your dog go under sandwich boards, through tires, jump over rocks, stand on thrown out chairs or desks.  Use your imagination when walking around your neighborhood. I often find myself thinking “Could I get Pinto, up on/under/through that? Let’s try it!”

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We have many large landscaped rocks in our area and they are our favorite obstacle to utilize.

Another way to increase the difficult is to have your dog hold a balancing position.  Again I don’t like to use commands with Urban Agility so I have little phrases like “hold it” that I use to let Pinto know what I’m wanting.  If Pinto comes down before I’m ready (before I’ve taken the picture!) I don’t scold, I just get her back up and repeat the process, making sure I let her know she’s doing a good job and that I know she can do it even though it’s a hard obstacle!

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I’ll admit I had to help her get into this holding position, but she got a big treat when she came down!

Another option to increase the difficultly is to have your dog wear a backpack.  Even without weight this can be a challenge.  It forces the dog the reevaluate their weight distribution, so start slowly when you begin as they have to learn how to balance all over again.  It also makes ledges more difficult because of the increased girth!

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Big rocks are an easy way to start when doing urban agility with a backpack.

Things to watch out for:

1) Unless your dog is under strict voice control I don’t recommend dropping the leash to take pictures! It’s easy enough to saunter down the street with leash in hand and encourage your dog up on obstacles.

2) Watch out for wire/grated benches or wide gaps between bench slats.  Dogs toes can easily slip into these and get wrenched.  It’s happened to me several times and they are best avoided.

3) Watch out for things like pipes and sticks poking out around an obstacle, often an excited dog won’t notice and run right into them causing bruises or worse. If you’re unsure whether an obstacle is sturdy enough test it out with your hand first to ensure its safe or just avoid it altogether.

4) Watch out for other people.  Obviously you don’t want to disturb others with your agility, so if you use window ledges choose windows with closed blinds or a day the store is empty (although often employees find it a welcome reprieve to see a dog jogging along their ledge).  Choose empty benches and picnic tables and watch out for car owners if you’re bold enough to use car bumpers.

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We play at the pharmacy on Sundays when it’s closed.

The most important thing is to have fun!  Soon you’ll be walking around thinking about what in your neighborhood you could use for urban agility too!

Dog Health – The Dangers of Asphalt

Now that the summer heat is here in full force it’s good to remember that the sidewalks and streets can be dangerous for dogs.

Hot Asphalt Awareness

To avoid hot asphalt try walking your dog in shady spots, on dirt, or grass, or even gravel.  Don’t be afraid of getting in landscaped areas if you need to, little paws are more important!

What can you do if you just can’t avoid hot asphalt?  If you know you’re going to be in an area with hot asphalt prepare beforehand.  You can have your dog wear booties, you can also bring water and a towel to wet for your dog to lay on, especially when your loading and unloading from the car.  Musher’s Secret is another option, it’s a protecting waxy salve that can be applied to paws for not only hot asphalt but also for snow, ice, and abrasive surfaces as well.

Keep those paws safe!

It can be found on Amazon.com!

It can be found on Amazon.com!

Holistic Vet Care – Dog Acupuncture

I don’t like using allopathic medicine (western medicine) as primary care for myself or for my dog.  Don’t get me wrong it has it’s place, if she had some major physical trauma or serious acute condition I’d be rushing her there.   But like most people, the majority of reasons for taking dogs to the vet are for ongoing chronic issues or minute injuries and normal illnesses.

Pinto turned 6 this year and I thought it was finally time to get a regular vet again.  She hasn’t had one since she was a puppy because I find I can take care of most of her ailments at home.  But she is gathering years and I wanted to lay a groundwork with a holistic vet in the area and start some preventative care now while she’s still fairly young.

A quick google search pulled up a holistic vet near me, Ancient Arts Holistic Vet.  Dr Rewers was trained as an animal acupuncturist at the American Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and also graduated as a doctor of traditional veterinary medicine from Florida among many other certifications and schooling. Her Yelp reviews were stellar, no one had a bad thing to say about her.  So I set up an appointment.

New clients were required to have an initial visit of an hour and half which I love.  I wanted our first visit to not be rushed and I wanted to be able to give the doctor a lot of Pinto’s background so she could get a complete picture of my dog’s health and help me make any lifestyle changes for Pinto if need be.

The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived but the ‘waiting area’ if it could be called that was beautiful and very large.  There were colorful paintings everywhere, merchandise, a wall of jarred herbs, and comfy benches with pillows.  But I didn’t even have to wait, I was cheerfully greeted by name and taken back to the exam room.  This looked like a mini living room anyone would have in their home.  Everything was floor oriented with big pillows and mats so the dogs could be comfortable, and there was a little bookshelf with treats.  It was decorated with colorful art too and not all like the typical frighteningly sterile white rooms with metal tables at most vets.

Pinto seemed a little antsy but after sniffing around, she settled down by the door.

The doctor came in slowly, obviously used to dogs being by the door.  She immediately got down on the floor and let Pinto get used to her.  As we talked she gave a gentle physical exam checking Pinto’s mobility, coat, skin, heart beat, teeth, and everything else.  She genuinely was interested in Pinto and her personality and we chatted about diet, supplements, and my apparently unfounded fears about Pinto’s joints.  She showed me points I could massage on Pinto’s body that would help with mobility as Pinto gets older and even drew them out on a piece of paper for me to take home.  I felt a real empowerment and control in Pinto’s future health and well-being which is exactly what I wanted.

After chatting for close to an hour she asked me if I thought we should try some acupuncture.  I like that she differed to me as to whether Pinto’s was comfortable enough to allow it.  Pinto was pretty comfortable by now with the doctor and having been a long time patient of acupuncture for my own ailments I was really interested to see what benefits Pinto could gain from it.

The first point

The first point

All of us were still sprawled out on the floor and the doctor just brought a package of special veterinary acupuncture needles over to use so Pinto didn’t have to move from her comfortable position.  The first point went right into Pinto’s forehead.  She didn’t squeal or flinch or anything, she sat quietly kind of staring off into space as if she felt something inside her happening she’d never felt before and a relaxation swept over her.  The doctor always paused between inserting needles to make sure Pinto was comfortable before continuing.  After about 12 needles were in the doctor said she was going to step out for awhile and let Pinto rest with the needles for a bit.  Again having had acupuncture sessions many times myself, I’m used to the doctor stepping out, it’s usually when I fall asleep.  Likewise Pinto fell asleep on a big mattress pad on the floor with me right beside her.

Back leg and hip point for sore joints

Back leg and hip point for sore joints

The removal of the needles went just as smoothly.  The doctor said Pinto was in great shape and very healthy and there was really no reason to come back until I felt like she needed another treatment. I knew follow up visits were half an hour and about a third of the price and filed the info away in my head for future reference.

Only a month later while playing fetch Pinto landed funny and hurt something in her left front leg.  I couldn’t pinpoint where the injury was myself, no skin was broken and pressing all along the leg she tolerated without any compliant.  She could walk just fine but when she started running she would start limping, and this went on for a week with no improvement, no matter how much enforced rest I gave her.  Knowing the holistic vet would be able to tell what was wrong without an x-ray, or MRI, and without pushing drugs at me I opted to go see her again, besides the acupuncture would probably help what I suspected to be a sprain.

Relaxed Pinto!

Relaxed Pinto!

Again the lovely calm atmosphere of the holistic vet office amazed me and Pinto and I plopped down on another floor mat and waited for the doctor to come in.  When she did enter Pinto was a bit shy at first but as soon as the doctor sat down on the floor and invited Pinto to come play she loosened up and flipped onto her back for the doctor.  So the doctor just scooped Pinto closer and started examining.  She couldn’t feel any inflammation in the shoulder or leg but as she started flexing Pinto’s toes she felt one slip back into place.  It seemed Pinto had jammed a toe when she landed funny the week before.  I was convinced that was the problem as nothing else seemed to be the issue after testing Pinto’s neck mobility too.  So we ended the session with another acupuncture treatment which again Pinto didn’t fight or seem scared of.  She just relaxed and went to sleep and acted like a little marshmallow after the needles came out.

Another pleasant experience without paying an arm and a leg for a bunch of tests and drugs Pinto didn’t need, plus she got a great acupuncture treatment to help with the healing process and dispel any pain or inflammation in that toe.

I actually don’t think of acupuncture as an alternative medicine.  I tend to think of it as Pinto’s, and for that matter, my primary medicine.  It’s gentle and relaxing, healing, and self empowering in a way that I personally appreciate.  I’m also an advocate for preventative care, treating myself well before I get sick or need to have drastic things done to my body or Pinto’s body is just something that makes sense to me.

I’m sure you can find an equally wonderful holistic vet in your area!

Check out this short video about Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.

Dog Etiquette 101

There are some basic rules of etiquette that we recommend following when introducing dogs to help everyone involved have a smoother interaction.

-When walking your dog whether he’s well trained or not be sure to give yourself plenty of space to pass other dogs.  Other dogs may not be as well trained! Don’t be afraid to cross the street or stand off to the side and put your dog in a sit stay until the other dog passes, it can be a great training opportunity.  Also, don’t be afraid to tell the other owner that you need space if you have a reactive dog, most people are very helpful once you tell them what you need for the interaction to go smoothly.

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-When you come across off leash dogs be sure to ask other owners if it’s ok to greet before approaching, never assume an off leash dog is approachable. Even if the other owner says the dog is friendly, observe the dogs’  body language and use your own best judgement  Do not be afraid to ask other owners to control their off leash dogs when you are out for a walk. Let others know that you need space and they’re usually willing to help. Carrying a cane or walking stick can also help to fend off uninvited off leash dogs that are not under good control by their owners.

-Always ask to pet an unfamiliar dog AND wait for an answer.  I often encounter people who assume the answer will be yes and start moving in before I reply.  Don’t be afraid to tell people ‘no’ or ask them to give you space until you can explain how they need to approach your dog.  Just remember that your dog is YOUR dog. You are his protector.  Your dog is not common property so don’t feel rude telling someone they can’t touch your dog or even telling someone you have given permission to touch your dog to stop if you don’t like how the interaction is going.

I often find myself watching people approach Pinto without ever acknowledging my presence. It took me a few tries to get over the social pressure but now I just say politely “Please don’t pet her”, as I see them approach. I often get bewildered looks at this because Pinto ‘looks friendly’.  It’s true she wags her tail as people come up but I know that when someone starts to frantically pet her with a high energetic voice she will try to calm them down by muzzle punching them in the face. She doesn’t even really like to be petted by strangers, mostly she just likes to sniff people and back off.   If I have the time I will explain that they can pet her if they are calm and do not encourage jumping.

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-Children should always ask to pet dogs AND wait for an answer.  Children can be very scary for some dogs, they move a lot differently from adults, can be loud and energetic, with unpredictable movements.  If you see a small child making a bee line for your dog or someone else’s dog, don’t be afraid to put yourself in between to block the child from the dog. Make sure children get permission  from their parents before petting. The rule of thumb for knowing if a child can be trusted to pet your dog is if they can hold a conversation with you.  If they can respond to your questions and show comprehension of the things you’re asking them to do then cautiously introduce them to your dog.

Another great way to let others know visually about your dog’s need is Friendly Dog Collars.  They make color coded dog collars and leashes with large stitched lettering that reads a variety of things like CAUTION, NERVOUS, FRIENDLY, or TRAINING.  These can make a big difference in helping you approach other people and dogs by giving others a heads up.

Most importantly, try and think of all of these situations as opportunities to educate others on proper dog etiquette.  It makes for a safer environment for everyone involved.

Lost Dog Resources

In my opinion the best way to prevent a lost dog situation is training, training, training!

Some people often wonder why we’re such sticklers for beginning training on leash and once the commands have been mastered there moving into an off leash environment.  I think of it like swimming, you don’t learn to swim in the deep end of the pool, you get comfortable with the swimming techniques in the shallow end first until you know your body can handle treading water for 5 minutes or do several laps without sinking.

Dogs have to learn what is expected of them on the leash before you transfer that knowledge and expectation to an off leash environment.  The leash is a great tool for following through on your commands so your dog understands that the command carries weight to it and if it doesn’t comply there is a consequence. This is how you build a strong respect for commands.

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I’ve had several friends tell me horror stories about their dogs getting loose and running down busy streets or getting away from the walker and going into the woods (coyotes, bears, and cougars oh my!).  This is why dog training to me is just as important as learning how to swim in the deep end.  The come command is the most important command I think a dog should learn and respect because it can save their life.

So ok training is important and can avert having a lost dog in the first place but what if it still happens?

There are some excellent resources out there now that can help you.

Karin TarQwyn is the world’s premier missing pet private investigator.  She has developed specific searching techniques called K9 Profiling over her many years in the business and is literally a phone call away.  Her staff will walk you through a step by step process of what you should do according to the circumstances of your lost dog for a reasonable fee.  As her website states “Karin prides herself on her ability to design a strategy for every budget.”

She also provides aerial location and for severe cases her team of professional tracking dogs will come!

Her website is: www.k9pi.com

She dispels certain myths  right up front about what works and what doesn’t.

-Posters and fliers with handwriting or when done in marking pen deliver less results than professional looking computer generated graphics. Handmade posters can actually cause the city to tear down announcements they feel look offensive and trashy.

-The least likely dog to be rescued by a citizen is a medium size or large black dog.

-Newspaper ads in the classifieds work in a very limited number of scenarios. Look at the nine missing scenarios here.

-A large reward can be helpful in some situations but can be very dangerous to a dog’s life if used in certain missing situations. Large rewards should not be employed if the dog is a STARS dog.

For more quick tips check out her facts page here

FindFido.com is also a great website that lists lost and found dogs by area.  You can even register your dog before hand just in case.  There is a neighborhood watch notification tool, as well as local shelter alerts.

Losing a pet is a horrible ordeal and hopefully you never have to experience it.  I know training a dog is not an easy process, it takes time and consistency but it is very rewarding in the end when you realize you can trust your dog off leash.

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Dogs and Fireworks Anxiety

With the end of the year fast approaching we humans love to celebrate with beautiful displays of fireworks.  However fireworks can be a great source of anxiety for our furry buddies.

Pinto's ready to party.

Pinto’s ready to party.

Holiday fireworks are often frightful experiences for dogs, these loud low-frequency noises can trigger fear and anxiety.

Here are some precautions you can take to help your dog cope:

-Do not leave your dog outside, even in a fenced yard.

-Don’t take your dog to events with fireworks.  The close proximity of the fireworks is terrifying and can damage sensitive ears.

-Always make sure your dog’s collar is well fitted and has ID tags, or that your dog is micro-chipped in case he does run away.

-If fireworks are being set off nearby, or if you’re having guests over for a holiday celebration, find a quiet, secure place to keep your dog. Darkening the room can help. Crating is also a good idea — place the crate in the quietest part of the home and make sure you put safe chew toys in the crate to occupy your dog.

-Don’t cuddle a frightened dog,this serves to reinforce fearful behavior, try to distract your pup with physical activity such as playing ball or tug or even scent games with treats.

-Don’t scold your dog either this will scare and confuse him. Instead, assume your pack leader role and act confident and unbothered by the noise and activity outside. You can give a gentle massage, or even just place your hand calmly on your dog’s head.

-Anxiety Wraps are another technique you can use to calm a frightened dog, wrapping fabric around dogs can give them a feeling of greater security, much like swaddling does for babies.  Many people have reported calmer behavior in their animals using this technique.  You can buy a Thunder Wrap which is a soft durable coat that fits snugly around a dog creating a nice comforting pressure.

Lots of Velcro for a snug fit.

Tank sporting the Thunder Wrap. It has lots of Velcro for a snug fit.

Teri says Tank's separation anxiety is less when he wears his Thunder Wrap

Tank’s separation anxiety is less when he wears his Thunder Wrap.

You can also make a less chic thunder wrap with a small t-shirt.  You simply put the dog’s front legs through the arm holes and head through the neck hole and tie the excess fabric up on their back for a snug fit.

How a t-shirt wrap looks (Pinto doesn't like this wrapping method, so be sure to test it out before hand and make sure it's something that works for your dog)

How a t-shirt wrap looks (If you can’t tell Pinto doesn’t like this wrapping method, so be sure to test it out before hand and make sure it’s something that works for your dog)

-Non-prescription remedies such as Rescue Remedy can also be used to help relieve anxiety.  When using flower essences it’s best to start dosing your dog several hours before the fireworks begin.

This method works well for Pinto.

This method works well for Pinto.

I typically use rescue remedy or the single flower essences Star of Bethlehem (softens the impact of shock or fright) and Mimulus (courage to overcome fears) A drop on the nose every 15-30min always helps Pinto relax on the couch.

Be prepared and have a happy New Year!

Green Treats for the Holidays!

These easy to make green treats are a great gift idea to hand out to friends’ with dogs or to just keep for you and your furry friend.

Green Treats!

I feed Pinto a raw diet of food from the grocery store and she isn’t always too keen on eating her greens no matter how much I try and hide them in the raw beef and bananas.  Unfortunately, greens aren’t often added into pet foods or used in store bought treats either and I’m a big believer in their health benefits.

So here is my recipe for a tasty green treat!

The ingredients:

Kale, Flax Seeds, Kelp Powder, Nettle Leaf, and Blackstrap Molasses

3 – 4 leaves of Kale – (or chard, or collards)

Kale is a proven cancer-risk cutter, abundant source of fiber, calcium, Vitamin A, E and C, helps prevent heart disease and contains numerous antioxidants. Avoid in pets with certain types of bladder stones or kidney disease.

2 – 3 Tablespoons of Seaweed Powder – (Kelp is what I used and I found it in the bulk section of the grocery store)

The rich iodine content and high levels of other nutrient minerals and vitamins in kelp make it an herb of choice for regulating and balancing glandular systems. In particular, dogs suffering from hypothyroidism and weight problems can benefit from the iodine in kelp.

Dogs with skin irritation problems as a result of allergies, dogs with dry skin, or dogs who are suffering from hair loss can benefit from kelp. In a study, dogs who had been fed kelp daily for a period of six months had darker, thicker, and shinier coats. They also scratched less and their skin was not as dry. The protein in kelp is highly bio-available, which allows dogs to efficiently assimilate its amino acids so they can speedily and effectively assist in tissue repair.  In the same study, dogs were found to be less attractive to fleas and flies after three weeks of supplementation.

4 – 5 Tablespoons of Ground Flax Seed – (also found in the bulk section of the grocery store)

Flax provides Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.  These nutrients are essential for skin and coat health. In addition, alpha-linoleic acid-a component of flax seed-offers immune system benefits and anti-inflammatory properties. Flax is also high in soluble and insoluble fiber which gently moves waste and toxins out of the body while preventing constipation and providing constipation relief.
Make sure you get ground flax, or can grind it yourself.  None of these wonderful benefits can be obtained without breaking the outer hull of the seed.

We have a coffee grinder that we use exclusively for grinding herbs and spices.

About 1/2 cup of Dried Stinging Nettle Leaves- (found at my local bulk herb store, but easily purchased online.  Make sure it’s organic!) Nettles have a mild diuretic effect and can increase the output of urine through the kidneys. This action has a cleansing effect helping to remove toxins, unwanted chemicals and poisons. Flushing out waste products can also help where there is kidney disease or impairment.  Due to their cleansing nature and high vitamin and mineral content, nettles are considered a good general tonic to help strengthen the body. Used over a period of time, nettles can improve the quality and appearance of both the skin and coat.  Also, Nettles have anti-histamine like action and can help reduce itching and scratching, as well as other minor skin irritations.

4 -5 Tablespoons of Blackstrap Molasses – (found at the grocery store, get organic!)
When the sugar cane plant is processed, two products are produced. Refined sugar and a black goo called blackstrap molasses. Though most of the sweetness is removed with the sugar, the precious nutrients from the sugar cane are concentrated in the blackstrap. A single tablespoon of the blackstrap molasses contains up to 20% of the recommended daily amounts of:  iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.  It is also an excellent source of manganese, chromium, copper, selenium, and B vitamins.
There are many people who swear molasses has helped ease their dog’s arthritis.  Just make sure to purchase un-sulfured blackstrap molasses, since molasses treated with sulfites does not retain its nutritional value.

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Once you have all your ingredients together the process is pretty simple.  Obviously, I’m not very scientific with the proportions here, so feel free to experiment a bit.

Take the kale leaves and break them in half with your hands, then stuff them in the blender with a small amount of water.  You want just enough water to get them blended up.  Once you have a nice bright green juice pour it into a mixing bowl (if there is some pulp don’t worry about it just plop it in the bowl too).  Add the seaweed and nettles.  Next I add the molasses, it’s important because it adds the sweet savory flavor which counteracts all the bitter greens.

The Mixing Bowl

Lastly, add in the ground flax seed and stir it all up, the flax will help keep everything together because as it becomes wet it forms a sticky mucilage.  You should now have some nice goop!

Now, you have a choice.  If you have a dehydrator spread the goop out on a close-bottom tray and let it dry for a day or so.  If you are not fortunate enough to have a dehydrator (like me) turn your oven on the lowest setting between 150 F and 170 F.  Line a glass casserole dish or pie pan (I prefer the pie pan) with aluminum foil and spread the goop out to your desired thickness.  I typically like thin treats that I can break into small pieces for training but I’m sure you could easily make different shapes.

The Green Goop

I’m sure you’re asking “Why not just bake those suckers in a few minutes?” Well because I want to keep as much nutrients in the treats as possible which means not cooking them but drying them.

So just stick the pie pan in the oven and let it dry for 6 – 8 hours.  Every now and then just stick your hand in to touch the treats.   If they are moist they’re aren’t ready.  Once they are nice and dry to the touch then they are ready to come out.

Now you can easily peel the treats off the aluminum foil and bag them up or start handing them out to hungry dogs!

“Stop taking pictures and let me eat!”

Enjoy!

Dog Health – Common Poisons

Unfortunately there are quite a few toxic substances floating around our homes that can cause serious illness or even death in dogs (and cats!)  It’s good to be informed about what these are and steps to take if they are ingested.

Symptoms of Poisoning

  • Sudden salivation, foaming of the mouth, gagging, and vomiting
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Sudden diarrhea
  • Sudden bloody vomit or sudden bloody diarrhea
  • Staggering, confusion, and circling behavior
  • Seizures
  • Sudden lack of appetite
  • Muscle rigidity, tremors, or twitches
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing

What You Should Do

If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, or you witnessed the event, it is important to quickly collect as much information as you known about the poison. Place any vomit or diarrhea in a plastic bag, and if possible gather up the label of the toxic material the dog was exposed to and try to determine how much of the substance your dog ingested.

Many people think they are helping their pet by giving home remedies they may have heard of before, such as milk, salt, aspirin, etc. Adverse reactions to these home remedies can sometimes be more significant than the toxicity itself. Stay calm and do not give anything to your pet unless instructed to by a veterinarian.

If your dog is having life threatening symptoms such as seizures, loss of consciousness, or difficulty breathing, gather up the items mentioned as quickly as possible and rush your pet to the nearest veterinarian. Have someone call the veterinarian’s clinic or hospital to tell them a poison case will be arriving soon.

If your dog is showing mild symptoms, or you suspect your dog has been exposed to a toxic substance but is not yet showing symptoms, call the Animal Poison Control Center (currently their number is 1-888-426-4435). The APCC charges a $60.00 consultation fee for the call, and they will advise you on any immediate treatment that your dog may need such as inducing vomiting, transporting the dog to a veterinarian clinic, or how to quickly remove a toxic substance from the dog’s skin and coat, etc.

List of Common Poisons

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) - Dogs are less sensitive to acetaminophen than cats. For example, a 50 pound dog would need to ingest over seven 500 mg tablets in order to suffer toxic effects. In the cat, one 250 mg acetaminophen tablet could be fatal.  It’s never a good idea to give pets people medicine unless directed by a vet.     

Do not feed your dog any human medicine without consulting a vet

Do not feed your dog any human medicine without consulting a vet

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Acorns - Acorns, oak buds, leaves, and drinking water that acorns and oak leaves have soaked in, have all caused symptoms of oak poisoning.

Don't let dogs eat these.

Don’t let dogs eat these.

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AlcoholAlcoholic drinks contain a lot of ethanol (ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol). Typical percentages for alcoholic beverages are: beer 3% to 5% ethanol, wine 9% to 12%, and whiskey 40% to 90%. Ethanol even in small amounts can cause severe liver damage in dogs. 

Dogs suffer the effects of alcohol much faster and to a greater degree than humans.  It can easily cause liver failure.

Dogs suffer the effects of alcohol much faster and to a greater degree than humans. It can easily cause liver failure.

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Aloe Vera – If you break an aloe leaf open you notice two things: the center clear/greenish goo (this is what the gel is made from) and around the very edge a white sap (this is the latex the plant produces). The gel is not toxic, but the latex can cause problems.

Aloe Vera latex is toxic to dogs

Aloe Vera latex is toxic to dogs

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Antifreeze - Be sure to keep it behind locking cabinets or high off the ground because it has a sweet flavor.  The minimum lethal dose for dogs is .2 ounces per 2 pounds of body weight. Thus, a little more than three tablespoons could be lethal for a 22 pound dog. Treatment should be started as soon as possible after consumption (within a few hours).

Keep this out of reach of dogs

Keep this out of reach of dogs

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Bread Dough (with yeast and un-baked) – When ingested, the warm, moist environment of your dog’s stomach acts as an artificial oven, making the uncooked bread dough rise due to the fermentation process; this results in the production of carbon dioxide (hence, why the bread rises) and alcohol. Not only does it cause bloat due to the bread expanding (and potentially gastric dilatation volvulus, which is a life-threatening surgical emergency), but it also simultaneously causes alcohol poisoning.

Be careful when making bread dough that your dog doesn't have access

Be careful when making bread dough that your dog doesn’t have access to it.

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Chocolate
White chocolate has the least toxic effect on dogs.  A 20-pound dog would need to ingest at least 55 pounds of white chocolate to cause nervous system signs.
Milk chocolate however will start to create problems, little less than one pound of it can be toxic to the nervous system of a 20-pound dog.
Semi sweet chocolate in as little as 6 ounces can be toxic to the nervous system of a 20-pound dog.
Pure cacao or Baking chocolate is really what you need to worry about as two small one-ounce squares of baking chocolate can be toxic to a 20-pound dog.

Different kinds of chocolate have different toxic levels for dogs.

Different kinds of chocolate have different toxic levels for dogs.

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Coffee and Tea groundsIn dogs the toxic dose (of caffeine) is approximately 200 mg/2 pounds of body weight.  By means of comparison, a 7 oz cup of coffee has the following caffeine amounts:
Drip 115-175mg
Espresso 100mg of caffeine – 1 serving (1.5-2oz)
Brewed 80-135mg
Instant 65-100mg
Decaf, brewed 3-4mg
Decaf, instant 2-3mg

Make sure coffee beans and grounds are disposed of properly.

Make sure coffee beans and grounds are disposed of properly.

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Grapes & Raisins – Dogs can suffer acute renal failure from ingesting grapes and raisins. The estimated toxic dose of grapes is 1 ounce per 2 pounds of body weight, and for raisins it is 1 ounce per 2 pounds of body weight

These are very toxic for dogs.

Dogs and grapes don’t mix

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Marijuana - THC is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and signs of intoxication can be seen from within minutes up to 3 hours after exposure.  The drug is eliminated quite quickly, but can be absorbed into fat making symptoms last for up to 3-4 days.  It would take 1.5 gram of Marijuana per pound of body weight to be fatal so most animals will make a full recovery with supportive care from your veterinarian.

Make sure to keep marijuana out of reach of dogs.

Make sure to keep marijuana out of reach of dogs.

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Mushroomsmany many different kinds are poisonous, avoid them all.  But no mushroom is worthier of fear than the terribly poisonous Death Cap (Amanita phalloides). This single, widespread species of mushroom is solely responsible for the majority of fatal and otherwise serious mushroom poisoning cases, worldwide as well as in North America. This mushroom is rare in most parts of North America but locally common in such areas as the San Francisco Bay area, where it is typically found from mid-autumn through late winter. In California, it occurs under live oak and cork trees.

Deathcap mushrooms can grow overnight and be a curiosity to puppies.  They are extremely deadly so watch your dogs carefully.

Deathcap mushrooms can grow overnight and be a curiosity to puppies. They are extremely deadly so watch your dogs carefully.

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NicotineThe toxic level of nicotine in dogs is 5 milligrams of nicotine per pound of body weight. For example, one cigarette contains 15 to 25 milligrams of nicotine, and nicotine patches contain between 8 to 114 milligrams of nicotine. A 10-pound dog would only need to eat 2 to 4 cigarettes in order to show toxic signs.

The nicotine  in cigarettes, patches and e-cigarettes can be toxic to dogs.

The nicotine in cigarettes, patches and e-cigarettes can be toxic to dogs.

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Nuts – This one is a difficult one.  Some sources say stay away from all nuts because of the high fat content, and some sources say that macadamia nuts and almonds can be fatal in dogs (although the poison in them is unknown).  Some sources also say that pecans and walnuts can be fatal because of myco-poisons or molds found in them (other sources say this only applies to those nuts found out on the ground not store bought).  If you do decide to feed your dog nuts make it an occasional treat and make sure they are unsalted.  Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and sesame are a much better option.

Keep your dog away from almonds and macadamia nuts.

Keep your dog away from almonds and macadamia nuts.

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Potaoto (raw) Raw GREEN parts of Potatoes and other Solanum species, including the tomato, are members of the nightshade family of plants. These plants contain solanine and other toxic alkaloids which, if eaten in large enough amounts, can produce drooling, severe gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite, drowsiness, central nervous system depression, confusion, behavioral changes, weakness, dilated pupils and slowed heart rate.           

Green potatoes are poisonous to humans and dogs!

Green potatoes are poisonous to humans and dogs!

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Xylitol -The most common xylitol item is sugar-free gum. Gum can be found everywhere, and is often tempting to dogs. Keep gum out of reach – watch out for open pockets, purses, counter tops, and in the car. Xylitol can also be found in sugar-free (low carb and diabetic) candies, baked goods, some pharmaceuticals and many dental products, including mouthwashes, mints and toothpastes. The toxic dose for dogs is considered to be approximately 0.1 grams per 2 pounds of body weight. A typical stick of gum contains 0.3 to 0.4 grams of xylitol, which means that a 10 lb dog could be poisoned by as little as a stick and a half of gum.

Sugar free gums and candies can cause toxic effects in dogs.

Sugar free gums and candies can cause toxic effects in dogs.

Be sure to talk to a vet if you suspect that any type of poising as occurred. It can take hours, days, weeks, and even months for poison symptoms to develop for example, some rat poisons can silently harm a dog’s organs without causing symptoms for weeks.

 

Cold and Flu Season for Dogs

It’s that time of year for the sniffles and not just in we humans but in our canines too.  Especially as the holiday season draws near and we send them to kennels or pet sitters to care for while we’re away.

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection that can affect dogs. A number of pathogens can cause kennel cough, including viruses and bacteria such as Bordetella bronchiseptica. Kennel cough is so named because the infection can spread quickly among dogs in the close quarters of a kennel.  Viral and bacterial causes of canine cough are spread through airborne droplets produced by sneezing and coughing.  If you notice any coughing, your dog(s) probably have the little bug too.  Don’t worry too much though it poses little threat to healthy dogs in their prime and is very similar to the common cold or flu in humans. However, young dogs and older dogs can easily catch it and have a harder time getting well.  If you do notice your dog coughing, think about taking them to the vet for a check up.

Otherwise some good precautions to take with healthy dogs (and even sick dogs too) is to strengthen their immune system.

You can do this several ways:

-Dogs make their own Vitamin C but adding a vitamin C powder supplement to their food will help bolster their reserves.  This can usually be found in most pet stores or vet offices.

-Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Astragaus is called an adaptogen, meaning it is thought to help protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress.  It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is sometimes used on the skin for wounds. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent colds.(1) A tincture of it can be found at any supplement store.  It can be added to food or placed on the nose and the dog will lick it off.  I like to use the nose method so I can dose my dog throughout the day. (the rule of thumb here is 1 drop of tincture per 10 pounds of body weight, and 2 weeks on the herb to 1 week off).  If you’re worried about the alcohol in the tincture don’t be! A full dropper of tincture has the same amount of alcohol as a banana.

A must have for cold and flu season

-Molasses is full of calcium, trace minerals and iron and a tasty treat to add on top of food (I usually do about 2 teaspoons per meal for my 35 pound dog)

-Seaweed, Nettle, and Dandelion leaf are all high in vitamins and minerals and can all be added in dried form to your dog’s food bowl.  They can be found in most supplement stores and some awesome grocery stores will carry them in bulk sections ( a couple teaspoons per meal is what I used for my 35 pound dog and be sure to mix with fish oil if you have a picky eater).  Also, a word of advice here.  Don’t get tinctured forms of these as the plants properties are soluble in water not alcohol so the tinctures will be much less effective than the dried herb.

Nettle leaves makes a tasty tea too!

-Probiotics can also help boost your dog’s immune system and help fight off invading bugs.  These can be found at the pet store or vet in powder form and easily added to food bowls as well.  Also If you’re seeing a lot of messy bowel movements try adding in some probiotics, they help fix dogs’ gut ecology when their stomachs are out of sorts.

- Collidial Silver is easily found at any supplement store and safe for dogs to take again on the nose or in their water in small doses.  Silver and most silver compounds have an oligodynamic effect and are toxic for bacteria, algae, and fungi. (Collidial Silver should only be used for a short while, 2- 3 weeks, when needed. It can become toxic when used for long periods of time)

I tend to focus on using herbs with my dog, because I already have a lot of them around the house.  She easily woofs down her food with dried nettle leafs sprinkled on top and 3 drops of Astragulus mixed in and I like giving her a treat of molasses now and then.  This in conjunction with a healthy diet and daily exercise and nary a cough has been heard in this house!

Just three drops on the nose!