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Dog Food: Going Beyond the Kibble (Part 2)

Last week, I talked about some great ways to switch your dog to a whole foods diet while highlighting a handful of tasty and nutritious treats usually reserved for humans.

Unfortunately, not all human food is dog friendly. And though switching to a whole foods diet is great for your dog and your wallet, there are a handful of foods you should avoid. Here are a few of the most common foods to avoid:

Avocado:

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The leaves, bark, and seeds of an avocado contain a chemical called persin. Dogs (and birds, rabbits, and horses) are especially sensitive to avocado as they can have respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death from consuming avocado. Though toxic to some animals, avocado does not pose a serious threat to dogs or cats. Usually a mild stomach ache can occur from eating too much avocado flesh or peel. Swallowing the pit can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a serious situation and you should get your pet to the vet immediately.

Alcohol:

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Dogs are extremely sensitive to the effects of alcohol (also refered to as ethanol or ethyl alcohol). Even a small amount of alcohol can leave your pooch severely intoxicated. Keep a close eye on your holiday champaign or wine, and don’t give your dog some of that beer your sipping! Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor (I’m sure many of you can relate). In severe cases, coma, seizures and death may occur. Keep a close eye on your pup if they are showing signs of mild intoxication, but if your dog cannot get up they should be monitored by a vet until they recover.

Onion and Garlic:

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Ingestion of onions and garlic may pose a threat to dogs’ red blood cells. The odds of a dog eating enough raw garlic or onion to cause any serious damage is unlikely, but concentrated forms (dried onions, garlic powder) can pose a much greater risk. Damage caused by eating too much garlic or onion may not show up for a few days, when dogs become easily tired or reluctant to move. Take your dog to the vet immediately if they seem to be having trouble. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Grapes and Raisins:

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Consuming grapes and raisins has been associated with the development of kidney failure in some dogs, though the cause is unclear.Also confusing is why some dogs can eat these fruits without harm, while others develop life-threatening problems after eating even a few grapes or raisins. Of course it’s better to be safe then sorry and just not let your pup eat any grapes or raisins. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion. As symptoms progress, dogs become increasingly lethargic and dehydrated, refuse to eat and may have a period of frequent urination, followed by little to zero urination. Death due to kidney failure may occur within three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may persist in dogs who survive the acute intoxication.

In case you missed it, don’t let your dogs eat grapes or raisins. In case it happens, successful treatment requires prompt veterinary treatment to maintain good urine flow.

Chocolate:

Here’s the big one! Unless you’re planning for a New Year’s resolution and ridding yourself of chocolate for the year, chocolate is probably in your home and could be a serious problem to your dog. Foods like chocolate candy, cookies, brownies, chocolate baking goods, cocoa powder and cocoa shell-based mulches all pose a risk to your pup. Caffeine and theobromine, which belong to a group of chemicals called methylxanthines, are what cause the issues. The rule of thumb with chocolate is “the darker it is, the more dangerous it is.” White chocolate has very few methylxanthines and is of low toxicity. Dark baker’s chocolate has very high levels of methylxanthines, and plain, dry unsweetened cocoa powder contains the most concentrated levels of methylxanthines. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, the signs seen can range from vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort and restlessness to severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures and death. Dogs showing more than mild restlessness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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Now you have the tools to switch your pup off the kibble. So have at it, get your pup on that whole food diet! Get them off the kibble and mystery meat canned food and help them get to a healthier, happier life!

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Dog Food: Going beyond the Kibble (Part 1)

I live in Seattle, so the idea of a healthy, whole foods lifestyle isn’t reserved for just us humans. Articles galore online describe how easy it is to switch your dog from byproduct riddled kibble and mystery meat canned food to a real, you can actually see the ingredient whole foods diet.

Why would you bother? First, it’s healthier, especially knowing that your pup is getting real meats and vegetables, and you get to pick what goes inside. Second, in most cases it’s cheaper. A local pet shop owner tipped me off to a brilliant idea (and talked me out of buying some canned food). Throw some chicken in the slow cooker on a Monday morning, and you’ll have fresh chicken all the way till Sunday! Lean, healthy protein source for about 36 cents a serving, compared to about $1/serving for the wet food we feed Pickle. That’s a 65% savings!

Okay, now you’re intrigued, right? The issue now is what can we and what can’t we feed our dogs. Here’s a list of some great, tasty options to feed your pup that are safe for your pup to eat:

Fresh, cooked meat.

Fresh meat can be a great stand in for the mystery meat canned food you may be serving up now, and works great in a pinch if you accidentally run out of food. Chicken, turkey, lean ground beef, and chuck steak or roast are animal-based proteins, which help dogs grow up strong. Make sure to cook the meat well as raw or undercooked meat could transmit food born illnesses to your pup. Many pet health sites will advise against fatty cuts, including bacon, but I encourage moderation. A piece of bacon will make your dog happy, a whole pound may leave him with a belly ache. Lastly, cut meat into easy-to-chew chunks to avoid choking.

Sweet potatoes.

Pickle loves her some sweet potato! Mixed up in her food or as a stand alone treat, sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fibre and contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, beta carotene, and manganese. Sweet potatoes are great sliced and dehydrated as a chewy treat for your dog.

Apples.

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A wonderful, crunchy, sweet and/or tangy treat for your dog. Apples with the skin on are full of plant chemicals (phytonutrients) and are a source of vitamins A and C and fibre. Be weary of the seeds, however, as they contain cyanide. Don’t let your dog eat the core, but don’t be too worried if they get a seed or two. Issues occur when they regularly eat seeds, but a couple shouldn’t cause an issue.

Carrots.

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Another cool, crunchy, see treat. Carrots are good for a dog’s teeth, low calorie, high in fiber and beta carotene/vitamin A.

Pumpkin.

Fiber is a huge theme here, and pumpkin is no exception. Also a good source of beta carotene (a source of vitamin A), we use pumpkin as a way to regulate Pickle’s bowel movements. It’s a tasty treat that certainly keeps her regular (and her belly happy).

Nut Butters.

Move beyond the peanut butter when you are giving your pup a midday treat. We have used everything from almond butter to sunflower seed butter to help spice up Pickle’s meals and treats (especially spreading it on her antler chew, she digs it!) A great source of protein and nutrients. Try to stick with raw, unsalted butters.

Cranberries and Blueberries.

Cranberries and blueberries good sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Both are high in antioxidant content, which can help protect against free radicals that damage normal cells and tissues, are good for cardiovascular system and immune system. Cranberries have been used to help relieve to effects of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in dogs (still go to your vet if your dog is showing signs of painful urination). At the same time the effect of antioxidants can protect the structure and tissues from the radical damage and delay aging. So blueberries provide special benefits for older dogs.

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Blueberries and cranberries should be fed in moderation so as not to upset the digestive system of your dog. Over feeding of berries could lead to upset bellies and diarrhea.

Yogurt.

Yogurt is awesome for dogs! Not only is yogurt a great source of calcium and protein, but it is also a great source of stomach friendly probiotics for your dog! When Pickle was on antibiotics for her kennel cough, we gave her a small amount of yogurt everyday to keep her regulated, and she loved it. Choose low fat yogurts with no added sugar or sweeteners. On a warm day, frozen yogurt (with berries!?) can make a great treat for your pup!

Make sure to check back later in the week when we look at the foods that are dangerous for your pup and need to be avoided.

What are your favorite ways to spice up your dog’s meals? Leave a comment on our Facebook page or on Twitter!

Socialization for a Happy Life

Socialization is hugely important to a puppy. It is their way of learning how to deal with living in a human world, filled with all sorts of curious noises, sights and smells. Socialization helps your puppy be comfortable in all kinds of otherwise stressful situations. But there are lots of caveats when it comes to socialization: when should I start, how should I go about it, where should I take my puppy? Hopefully I can point you in the right direction, and help you to give your puppy a good start to their new life!

WHAT:

Socializing is teaching your puppy about new sights, sounds and smells that overwhelm them in their early days. A passing bus or a strange man on the sidewalk can be frightening to a dog if they have never seen or heard them before. Socialization is a process that teaches a puppy that these things are okay and will not hurt them, and help them to become comfortable with the world around them as they grow into adulthood.

Dogs naturally go through a period when they are young where they are open and curious about the world. This is a great time to expose them to new things. When they are slightly older, however, dogs become instinctively cautious, approaching new experiences with hesitation and more thought. Naturally, this helps them to avoid potentially dangerous situations that they would have faced outside of their life with you.

Socializing helps to harness your pup’s curiosity when young, and help them be safe and happy when things get a little rougher.

WHY:

Well socialized dogs prove to be happier and more relaxed as pets. This is because they are able to adapt to a wider range of environments and situations. Poorly socialized dogs have a tendency to react to new experiences with either fear or aggression. Trust me when I say that a fearful dog is not always a peach to own, especially when it comes to meeting other dogs and people.

Though the amount of socialization is up to the owner, the more you socialize your pup, the better their odds of being relaxed and happy with new exposures. More safe exposures add up to a much happier relationship between you and your dog!

WHO:

You and your pup. And the mailman, sidewalk strangers, the old woman at the bus stop, 15 of your closest friends and all their kids, your neighbor Jim, even the bus driver or the lady handing you food at the drive thru. When it comes to people, you want to get your puppy exposed to as many types of looks, personalities, ethnicities and ages of people as possible. Especially people with hats, scarves, hoodies, any kind of unique style that may throw your puppy off later.

When it comes to dogs, a little discretion is important. Puppies are very susceptible to disease and illness, and their little immune systems cannot cope with a lot of the sicknesses that older dogs may carry. Make sure if you bring your new puppy around dogs they are dogs that are fully vaccinated and healthy, and of course make sure they are okay with puppies. Remember, puppies are super rude, and not all older dogs will be okay with that.

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(Author’s note: Dog parks do not constitute good socialization. For one, if your puppy isn’t FULLY vaccinated, DO NOT TAKE THEM TO THE DOG PARK! Your pup could contract Parvo, kennel cough, or any of the other dozens of illnesses that dogs carry. Second, puppies are rude and don’t have very many boundaries. Don’t put them in a situation to piss off a mature dog and get bit. Just don’t do it.)

Our trainers used to say “a puppy should have 100 new exposures per day”, and even if that sounds a bit overwhelming, every new moment to a puppy is a new exposure.

WHERE:

Everywhere. Seriously. When we got Pickle, I took her everywhere. I took her on car rides, carried her around the neighborhood (read below to see how), brought her to friend’s houses, took her on trips to Grandma’s, to the hardware store, EVERYWHERE!

Our best strategy (and the one we owe Pickle’s sweet demeanor) was taking her to Chuck’s Hop Shop, a dog friendly bar in our neighborhood. When she was young we would hold her in our laps and limit her interactions with dogs, but we encouraged everyone to hold her, even the bartenders. Pickle adapted to all the sounds and smells, and became very comfortable with being handled by dozens of people and a short time period. This did wonders for her socialization!

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WHEN:

Puppies handle new exposures best between 8 weeks and 12 weeks. They are really curious and their senses have come alive! Of course they may be young for random dog interactions, but there are ways around that (keep reading).

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The trouble happens around 16-20 weeks. Puppies enter a phase called their “fear stage”. They become more cautious of new things and it becomes harder to introduce them to new exposures. The more work you do when they are young the easier your life will be during this time.

HOW:

Here’s the big one. How is it possible to safely get your puppy 100 new exposures everyday, and fit them into a small window where they will appropriately help the pup?

First, throw a puppy party. Have your friends and family come over to your house with the sole purpose of showering your puppy with love, attention, treats and love. Encourage soft wrestling and face playing, grabbing at paws and ears, and making sure the puppy is comfortably okay with these things. When Pickle first came home we invited people over for a Seahawk game, and our little puppy got more face time than ever before. Right off the bat she was becoming comfortable with loud noises and sudden movements, and with the quirkiness of humans.

Being outside is a little tougher. Before Pickle was fully vaccinated, I did a lot of carrying (did wonders for my biceps). The ground has a bunch of bad bacteria that puppies could become sick if they sniff or ingest. Pickle spent a lot of time in my arms as we walked, or in my lap if we visited a dog friendly bar. Luckily, she was so little and cute that she spent a lot of time in other people’s arms as well, so the human side of her socialization happened really young.

For doggie interaction, we signed her up for a puppy play class, where she could run around and romp with dogs her own age. Even 30 minutes a day was enough to wipe her out and teach her better habits when playing with other puppies.

IMG_20140926_105647 When she got a little heavier, Kira bought her a little duffel bag type carrier that I could put her in when we went on walks. Pickle could lay down and soak in the sounds and smells from the city, or she could poke her head out of a hole in the top that allowed her to meet people on the sidewalk. I highly recommend any one with a small enough dog get one. Funny how many places I could take her when people thought I was just carrying a gym bag!

After Pickle was fully vaccinated, we started going on longer walks and having more exposures. She could meet strange dogs, teaching good introduction methods (we’re working on it) and having her on the street, closer to the smells and sounds of traffic and strangers. She also became more visible, so there were many more pets and hand outs from people passing by, which made Pickle happy. It helps that I am a dog walker, which puts her around dogs for at least 2 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Lastly, remember not to push your little one to hard. If your pup expresses a lot of stress during a new experience, either tone down the amount of exposure (turn down noise, remove a stimulant) and/or praise the crap out of them. For example, if you are at the park around lots of screaming kids, monitor how your pup is handling it. If they seem stressed, flood them with treats and comfort, and if that doesn’t work, sit further away from the commotion. The goal is to develop comfort, note generate fear.

Socializing your puppy will help them to adapt to new places and sounds. They will approach new experiences with confidence, not hesitation. It will also teach them to handle places like the dog park in a safe and appropriate manner. Owners will experience a better relationship with their dog and will be able to approach more situations with safe and happy expectations. So get out and get friendly!

Entertaining your Puppy on the Cheap

Puppies are expensive. Often times there are adoption fees, vaccinations, vet bills, food, snacks, bedding, training, and so much more, and those are just the essentials! It’s easy to suffer from a little sticker shock when you start adding up the dollars necessary for raising a puppy (but they are so worth it!).

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When it comes to entertaining your dog with toys and games, it’s easy for that dollar amount to skyrocket. A quick search on PetCO.com revealed toys as expensive as $41.24 (that’s after a 25% discount!), and toys on average sit between $10-15. So stockpiling your dogs toy bin can be quite difficult.

Luckily, there are alternatives! With Pickle, we’ve made some great discoveries about ways to keep her entertained and ways to stimulate her body and her mind. Here are a couple tips and hints about entertaining your puppy on the cheap:

Where to Shop:

Skip the big name stores and go to second-hand stores. Store’s like Marshal’s and Ross are great places to pick up the same puppy toys as Pet Co, but at half the cost (not to mention dishes, leashes, etc)! The fun part is a store like Ross does not track their inventory from store to store, so shopping in their stores is like a scavenger hunt for new goods! Fun for your inner shopper, and a huge payoff to your pup (and your wallet!).

For a little more adventure, we’ve gone toy shopping in Goodwill and thrift stores all across Seattle. Goodwill has a great pet section, sure, but the pay off is finding a fun stuffed animal from the kid’s toy aisle. Kira came back with a stuffed horse and a mopey Eeyore that drove Pickle nuts! I think the smells from these toys cannot be replicated, so it puts her on sensory overload when we play with them. For an added bit of fun, we bought a giant stuffed bear (for $6) that Pickle wrestles with and uses as a dog bed. We ran it through the dryer on high to kill any possible bugs, just in case.

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Make sure if you are purchasing none dog approved toys from thrift stores that you remove any hard plastic eyes or attachments so your pup doesn’t choke. Also make sure they don’t eat any of the stuffing from inside as it could cause blockage issues. There’s a little extra work needed, but worth it!

In your Home:

Believe it or not, your home is already a great resource for dog toys (if your pup chews on everything, maybe it’s not a surprise). The crunching and texture of a plastic soda bottle mimics the same crunchy texture inside loads of existing dog toys. Before Pickle’s jaws were strong enough to cause problems, we would give her glass bottles that she could nose around the floor (she tried and tried to get the sugary drink from inside the bottle). Any old or torn shirts can be balled and knotted up to create toy ropes. It’s recycling for your dog!

Pro tip: At the bottom of any treat bag is a pile of crumbs. Don’t through them away! I mixed mine with some water and pumpkin puree, and then froze it in an ice-cube tray. Now, whenever Pickle is bothering me in the kitchen, I can toss her a cube and it’ll keep her busy for a couple minutes. Long enough for me to finish cooking dinner.

Mind Games:

We’ve covered toys, what about games? A dogs easily exhausted if they are mentally stimulated, and simple scavenging games can exhaust your pup while buying you a couple minutes to breathe. Our game is quite simple, and quite effective. The set up is simple. Lay some of your pups favorite treats on the ground, then cover it with a blanket. Lay some more treats, add some toys, fold over the blanket, and repeat (as many times as you can). Your dog will have to dig through all the blankets and queue into their scavenging instincts, exerting both physical and mental energy.

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Your dogs are precious members of the family, and as owners we want to give them everything to ensure they have a happy life. Unfortunately the bill can get out of control before we have time to realize. Luckily, there are simple ways to give your dog lots of joy and entertainment, all it takes is a little creativity in your day. So get out there and spoil your pups!

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