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Feral Cat Awareness Week in Toronto

It’s Toronto's first annual Feral Cat Awareness Week. And here at OMD, we’re not just all about dogs. The fact is, feral cats are a manmade problem, so it’s up to us to fix it. One cat at a time. Yes, it's a daunting task, but if everyone does their part, we can make a huge impact. In the alley behind my house there was once a large colony of cats. With the help of Project Pet Rescue, Queen West Animal Hospital, Dundas West Animal Hospital, Annex Cat Rescue, Urban Cat Relief and The Toronto Humane Society, we’ve been able to get the population under control. All of the kittens have entered adoption programs. The adult cats were trapped with live traps and drop traps, spayed/neutered and either put back or adopted if they were actually friendly. We only have one more adult and two kittens to go.

No, it’s not easy. There’s a lot of work involved, but there are resources. It’s important that once you release the cats, you continue to feed them. Ideally you should have the colony registered with a rescue so that volunteers will add “your” cats to the daily feeding rounds.

Yep, that’s a real thing. Volunteers with designated feeding days, selflessly take time out of their own busy lives to ride around on their bikes and feed feral cats. Imagine that you're a mental health nurse, working 10-hour shifts. After which you need to feed your own cats, spend quality time with them, then walk your dogs, prepare dinner, clean the house and catch up with your spouse. THEN go feed a bunch of feral cats. If that’s not selfless, I don’t know what is. That is a real person I’m describing.

How can you help?  You can learn everything there is to know by taking a workshop with the Toronto Feral Cat Project or Toronto Feral Cat Coalition. These organizations and other rescues are desperate for foster homes and places to recover feral cats while they heal from surgery, before being put back outside. During this 7-10 day period, the cat stays inside of a large crate with food, water and litter. When his/her wound is healed, they go back “home” to where they were living. Every little bit helps, so please do whatever you can. Even if you can’t get involved, there are other ways to help.  Maybe you can build a winter shelter, or donate money, or adopt a cat/kitten.

Here are Pearl, Ryerson and Logan. All rescued from the Queen and Bathurst area, and all waiting for a home. You can apply to adopt them here.3

 

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A Difficult Lesson for Pet Sitters and Owners

twomI’ve been a professional pet sitter for ten years. I take my job very seriously, put safety first and always err on the side of caution. The story I’m about to tell is not only seemingly unreal, it’s pretty surprising that it happened to someone so diligent. A few weeks ago, one of my original clients from 2003, dropped his dog off to stay for a week, just as he had done many times before. We sat and talked for about 20 minutes, catching up and discussing their US/Canada road trip upon which they were about to embark. We also talked about Ginger’s decrease in appetite over the previous weeks, and I promised I would get her to eat. She loved eating at my house because I always made a special pot of stew (organic beef, sweet potato and carrots) just for her and served it atop her kibble. That evening, I sent them a photo of her devouring it. The next morning she did the same thing.

Two hours later, however, she threw it up and went back to her bed. That would be the last time Ginger ever stood up on her own. It wasn’t unusual for her to remain lying down for long periods of time because of her arthritis – especially if she could see you without having to change rooms. But a couple of hours later when I returned from walking dogs, I found it a little strange that she didn’t get up to greet me. An hour after that, Ginger wasn’t wagging her tail very much when we said her name. This was particularly unusual for this gleeful, bouncy lab. Once her breathing changed a little, I was concerned and wanted to bring her to the vet, or speak with her owners. Several text messages went unanswered and so off to the vet we went.

She was assessed by one of her own doctors and we were told to take her to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic and advised that we “must reach her owners.” Several more phones calls went straight to voicemail.

At the VEC we were told that Ginger had internal bleeding, likely caused by a type of tumour called Hemangiosarcoma. Four hours later and we still had not been able to reach her people. The vet was not optimistic but since she wasn’t my dog, we agreed that she should receive a blood transfusion in an attempt to keep her stable until we got word from the owners. On our way out of the clinic, I told the vet that if her condition got any worse, he must call me so that I would come and be with her.

That call came at 3 AM. Ginger was crashing and the decision was now out of our hands. We raced back to the clinic, where I signed a “permission to euthanize” agreement for a dog that wasn’t even mine. We sat with her, petted her, and kissed her face as he slipped away.

We continued to sit with her for a while longer. Before we left, I took her collar off. It was the same, and only collar she’d had for at least a decade. I held it in my lap on the way home – thoughts bouncing between grief and disbelief and wondering how I would find the words to tell her owners.

Hours turned into days, and still no phone call came from them. For five days I didn’t go anywhere without my phone, and didn’t really go anywhere at all. I even slept with it turned on. I was worried they would hear all the urgent messages we’d left, and call me back only to reach voicemail. They were scheduled to arrive home Saturday evening, so that morning, I knew that would be the day.

Those five days, and in particular, that Saturday, were gut-wrenching. The waiting was pretty unbearable; I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I just did pretty much nothing. Just sat and waited with a pit in my stomach that could stop a train.

It was not an easy conversation; no one wants to deliver this type of news. But even more difficult, was the uncertainly for Ginger and not being able to reach her owners when the problem began. I kicked myself. I always ask clients if they will be reachable, but in this case, I made assumptions. Ginger’s owners were long-time clients and things had become very casual between us.

The difficult lesson? Always have a plan and a back up plan. Clients and pet sitters should always be able to reach one another, and in the event that isn’t possible, there needs to be an emergency contact. Someone who can make a decision on behalf of the dog and feel 100% confident that it’s the right one. Fellow pet sitters, it's difficult to ask the questions, but find out what your clients wishes are. The lesson to owners is obvious; although she was with her second favourite family, her own family would have like to be with her in the end.

Ginger was like family and we miss her so much.

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Prevent Door Darting

One of the questions on my new-client questionnaire is "Does your dog attempt to dart though an open door?" I’m always careful when entering a client's home, but if the answer to that question is "yes," then careful doesn't cut it. I need to be vigilant. It’s stressful; especially since the same dogs usually try to do the same thing when the door to the Element opens. This is the first thing I teach every single new dog - they must wait until I tell them it's ok to jump out. Otherwise they would be jumping out at every new pick up and drop off spot. But what happens when it's not me or the client coming through the front door, but rather a cleaning service or a contractor? Their job isn't to mind the dog. I arrived at client's home one day, a couple of years ago and the contractor told me the dog ran out as soon as he arrived, and that he had to chase him 3 blocks to the park. This story ended "well," but they don't all, sadly.

So, read this article by Pat Miller in the Whole Dog Journal, follow the protocol and keep your dog safe.

 

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Nicole Wilde Seminar: Separation Anxiety

As previously mentioned, continuing to learn about dogs (health and behaviour) is really important to us. Both Katie and I are indeed dog nerds, but the information we accumulate is valuable, and we love to share it with you. Here's part one of Katie's entry regarding the recent Nicole Wilde seminar on separation anxiety hosted by Speaking of Dogs Rescue. Nicole Wilde was recently in Toronto for a two day seminar and I 
attended Day 2 with two topics: Separation Anxiety and Dog-Dog Play.
 Having had multiple dogs with separation anxiety myself, I was 
interested to hear if there were any new items to walk away with from a personal standpoint, as well as a professional one.

First off, it was a reminder of how isolating and difficult life with 
an SA dog can be. Standard protocol for working through SA is that the 
dog is never left alone longer than it can handle. That can mean a 
minimum of a month of arranging daycares, doggie babysitters, no 
nights out, etc... while working through a dog's state of stress/panic
 that they experience every time they are alone or leading up to the event 
of being left, and the destruction that can be an expression of those 
emotions. It's no wonder, when asked by Nicole, a majority of the 
trainers present agreed they'd prefer working with an aggressive dog 
over a separation anxiety dog; it's an emotionally charged situation 
with slow progress and some owners may not have the tools at their 
disposal to accomplish each step.

That said it is imperative to work with a professional in these 
situations and you must have a proper diagnosis – is your dog stressed
 whenever it's the only one in the house or when it's away from a 
certain person? Will your dog settle with other family members or 
friends?

The best way to get these answers is to know exactly what your dog is 
doing when left alone by recording them with a webcam or digital 
camera. Nicole busted some long held myths such as “true separation 
anxiety dogs don't eat when left alone” by showing video of a client's 
dog bouncing between a food toy and howling at the door.

Nicole's favourite tool for ongoing monitoring is Skype: set up a 
dummy account that you connect to your smart phone and using that fake
 account to call in to your computer at home and watch your dog. (You can
set your skype to auto-accept calls, or, if you're popular on Skype,
make another account that's just for this purpose).

The most common separation anxiety symptoms are destruction (there
 were many photos of shredded doors), vocalization, and house soiling. 
Nicole really drove home the importance of nutrition alongside
 management, confidence building, and calm/mentally stimulating 
exercise (ie: a hike with lots of sniffing, not a 10k run).

If you're an owner working through this, remember to make a list of 
your resources – people you can leave your dog with, places you can 
take your dog along with you, friends with dogs that you can have over 
for play dates, etc.

There was more information than I can sum up in a short blog post, but 
the last point I want to mention was the question of when a dog should
be medicated. If the dog is in danger of harming itself, is 
experiencing severe emotional distress or is in danger of losing its
 home over the issue, it may be time to discuss medication with an
experienced trainer and Veterinarian working together.

For your own metal well being, it may help to join an online discussion forum dedicated to SA. Sometimes it helps to have a support network of people who know exactly what you're going though.

In part two Katie will discuss Dog-Dog Play. 

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The Liver Cleansing Diet

Receiving abnormal blood test results can be very unsettling for dog owners. Be thorough in your research and seek out experts, and remember: the internet can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Gather as much information as you can and discuss with reliable sources. Dr. Jean Dodds, an expert in thyroid disease, immunology and nutrition, formulated a liver cleansing diet for dogs that has helped save and prolong many dogs’ lives. If your vet has handed you a diagnosis of liver disease, try this diet before you panic. Dogs with numbers though the roof and on the brink of complete liver failure, have bounced back from switching to this diet alone.

You can feed this home made formulation for for up to three months before you have to worry about balancing it out with out with additional ingredients and supplements. Before rebalancing, have your dog’s blood rechecked.

Ingredients: 

1.5 cups white potatoes 1.5 cups sweet potatoes 1.5 cups of zucchini 1.5 cups string beans or celery *2 cups cod fillet (or pollock)

*Cod is ideal but some dogs will not eat it. In this case, you can use chicken breast (skinless)

Preparation: 

Peel the potatoes, chop and simmer until thoroughly cooked. Drain and mash. While the potatoes are cooking, wash and chop the zucchini and string beans or celery and cook until very tender. Poach the cod in a pan with some water. Mix all ingredients together until it is well blended.

If your dog is a picky eater it might help to cook the fish first, then use the water to steam veggies or cook potatoes.

Feed three (or four) equal meals per day; breakfast, dinner and before bed. It is especially important for dogs with impaired liver function to eat before bed.

I recommend preparing the recipe in double sized batches, and freezing what you won’t use within a couple of days.

How much to feed depends on the dog, but this a low fat diet and you will need to use considerably more of this food than you would kibble. The measurements above will feed a 10-pound dog for 2 – 3 days. If your dog is bigger, then double or triple this recipe. Once cooked, it will keep for 3 days in the fridge so freeze any excess.

The only downside to feeding this diet is the smell. If you don’t cook fish often, it may bother you. But it’s only temporary, and your dog’s health is more important, right?

Please keep in mind that artificial air fresheners and fabric sprays are toxic, so please don’t try to cover up cooking odors with them. Here are some safe alternatives.

It is worth noting that beneficial supplements for the liver include Milk Thistle Powder and SamE (see dosages below). You may include them with this diet, but I recommend first letting your dog get used to the food, and then adding supplements later. Continue them long term even after your dog’s numbers improve.

Milk Thistle (powder or capsules) dosage: 70 – 200 mg per 5 kg of body weight SAMe  Dosage: 100 mg per 5 kg of body weight – empty stomach

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Emergency!? What Emergency!?

As pet care professionals, our clients often ask us for advice as to whether or not they should take their dog to the vet or try the “wait and see” approach when something isn’t quite right. Sure, we’ve seen a lot over the years, but we’re not vets and sometimes we feel uncomfortable offering this advice, weighing what we would do if it were our own pet against how badly we would feel if we gave the wrong advice. When we heard that Dr. Scott Bainbridge was hosting a talk at Dundas West Animal Hospital on the subject of ‘recognizing pet emergencies’ a few of us pet sitters jumped at the chance to attend.

Not surprisingly, the first thing Dr. B discussed was poop. Yes! Every dog walker’s favourite topic! Many dog owners, especially newbies with puppies, book vet appointments for diarrhea, but Scott says you don’t always need to do that. Many owners panic when they see blood in their dog’s stool. Believe me, I get it! But it’s important to know that drops of red blood after a bout of diarrhea are completely normal: it’s usually the result of repeated straining. If your dog’s stool is dark and tar-like in colour, that’s a different type of blood and you should see a vet as son as you can.

So at the first sign of diarrhea, Dr. B recommends a fast. He says 24 hours is an appropriate amount of time to give the bowels a chance to recover. When you reintroduce food, start with a simple homemade concoction of white rice (cooked more than you would for a human), lean ground meat (cooked and fat drained) and low fat cottage cheese. Feed small, frequent meals for two days. When your dog produces a normal stool, start to mix in the “diarrhea diet” with his regular food. The issue should clear up but if it doesn’t your vet will arrange to either have your dog seen or have you drop off a stool sample; sometimes diarrhea can be caused by parasites such as Giardia. Please note that if symptoms like dehydration, vomiting, or lethargy accompany the diarrhea, please call your vet right away.

Sometimes there are underlying diseases IBS/IBD are at play and flare-ups can be caused by dietary indiscretion (new treats, or a found ‘snack’ in the park), or sometimes they occur for no apparent reason. If you have a dog that experiences chronic bouts of diarrhea, mucous coated stools or flatulence, it is wise to look into a home made diet since typically offending ingredients such as gluten can be eliminated. Fresh, cooked food is also much easier to digest. Bowel disease also reduces the absorption of nutrients in the intestine, therefore dogs may experience deficiencies and even malnutrition. Please consult a professional before beginning a home cooking program. I digress.

Like us, dogs often react to bug bites and poison ivy. The inflammation is most obvious in the face/jowl area, you also might see hives, but unless your dog is having trouble breathing, don’t panic. Try administering Benadryl – your vet can advise the dosage.

Owners of deep-chested or barrel-chested dogs should all be warned of the signs and danger of Gastric Torsion AKA Bloat. This is a very serious condition where the stomach actually flips and blood supply is cut off. You have a 2 hour window to save a dog’s life, so rush to the nearest vet. Signs: Gaging and unproductive vomiting, bloated bellies (sometimes), pale gums, often an arched back, circling, looking uncomfortable, and/or not wanting to lay down. You can help prevent this by not allowing your dog to exercise an hour after eating or taking a large drink and by feeding smaller, more frequent meals. Personally speaking, I strongly believe that feeding a fresh food diet also goes a long way since kibble takes longer to digest and expands in the stomach. Kibble also requires a dog to drink more. Find out if you have a susceptible breed and talk to your vet about a surgical fix, which includes tacking the stomach in place. Some vets now do this during spay/neuter surgery.

It’s important for all dog owners and especially dog walkers to understand that dogs are very susceptible to heat stroke. Brachycephalic (squish faced) breeds, even more so. During extreme heat shorten your walks and avoid strenuous activities. Clinical signs of heat stroke include excessive panting and drooling, choking, gasping, blue tinged gums, glassy eyes, coma and seizures. What to do? Cool your dog with lukewarm water (never cold. ever) and transport him to the vet immediately.

Vomiting paired with constipation? It could be a foreign body obstruction, like rope from a toy or pantyhose. Your dog will likely also show symptoms of abdominal pain. This is a definite emergency.

If your dog is in a fight with another dog, check him over thoroughly for puncture wounds. They are not always obvious. Clean wounds with antiseptic soap and visit your vet for further inspection during regular hours. Sometimes an abscess will form and this is something you really want to prevent, as it is painful and dangerous.

Limping is a hot topic for me. Over the years, so many of my clients have chosen not to comply with mine and their vet’s advice to “take it easy” and the result is repeated visits to the clinic, sometimes x-rays, and a delayed healing time. If the lameness is minor, you need to rest your dog for at least seven days. Obviously if your dog is not weight-bearing or vocalizes very loudly at the time of injury, it means a trip to the vet. You can help avoid injuries like these by not playing on ice, avoiding areas with holes in the ground and keeping your dog thin. The latter also helps speed recovery.

Like any gathering of dog people in one room, we drifted off topic numerous times and as a result, Dr. Bainbridge didn’t have a chance to cover all the subjects he had intended. That said, it was fun and very informational. I recommend the talks at DWAH to any pet owner or pet care professional.

Taken from his notes, here’s what we missed:

Treatment of cut pads

  • Apply pressure to the area up to 2 minutes at a time to stop bleeding. If it doesn’t stop, go to the emergency vet.
  • Clean the wound with antiseptic soap.
  • Larger lacerations require stitches, so make an appointment and fast your dog.

Ripped toe nails

  • Soak the foot in antibacterial soap
  • Clip the rest of the toe nail
  • Use a bar of soap for hemostasis. I imagine this means rub a dry bar on the tip of the nail to block the nail from bleeding.

Seizures

  • Generalized seizures involve a dog laying on his side, vocalizing, shaking, paddling, and often they will defecate/urinate.
  • When the seizure is over the dog may have trouble seeing or walking, but this is rarely permanent.
  • Try to keep your dog on a soft surface and talk to him calmly to reassure him.
  • After the seizure, record how long it lasted
  • If he seems fine afterwards, book an appointment with your vet. But any seizure that lasts 5 minutes or more requires immediate medical intervention.

Personal note: There are many cases of “epilepsy” where a switch to a real food diet stopped the seizures. Preservatives in kibble, natural and chemical, seem to have a greater impact on dogs prone to seizures. You have nothing to lose from trying. This website will help guide you through making the food and supplementing the diet of a healthy adult dog with epilepsy.

Choking

  • The signs including pawing at the face, coughing, drooling, gagging, or collapsing.
  • Attempt to open your dog’s jaws (may need two people) and reach back to scoop out the object.
  • Check the roof of the mouth, usually between back teeth where sticks often become wedged. Pull it out.
  • Modified Heimlich: compress the trachea just below the larynx with a few quick squeezes.
  • If your dog is small enough you can try picking them up and shaking them gently.

Eye Injuries

  • For immediate relief you can flush with saline and apply Polysporin Ophthalmic from the pharmacy.
  • Make a vet appointment. Eyes are very sensitive and unforgiving.

Thanks again to Dr. Scott Bainbridge and DWAH for hosting the free talk and helping to educate dog owners and pet care professionals.

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Non Toxic Lifestyle Choices For A Healthier Dog

I can’t stress enough how important it is for dog owners to keep a “healthy home.” Dogs, some much more than others, are very sensitive to surface and airborne chemicals found in many household and pet products. If you wouldn’t expose a small child to something, you probably shouldn’t expose your dog to it. Eliminating harsh chemicals from your home requires only a little bit of research and effort.

The toxic chemicals that float through the air from plug-in air fresheners, actually stick to the surfaces in your home, including your dog's bed, food, water and fur. They may smell something like lavender, but there is nothing natural about them. They also make it more difficult for your dog to communicate with his environment through scent. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a neutral smelling home, but if you still crave scents in the air, try a natural scent ball that uses essential oils.

If you need an alternative to artificial scent laden fabric sprays, make your own:

  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 10-20 drops of your choice essential oil

Wash pet beds in natural, unscented laundry soap such as Bio-Vert or Seventh Generation or the very economical Pink Solution. Do not hang pet beds outside to dry, rather hang them indoors or put them in the dryer. But forgo dryer sheets, as they contain scents and chemicals that can irritate your dog’s skin. If you take the beds out of the dryer just before they are completely dry, they'll be static free. Side Note: Bio-Vert, Seventh Generation & Pink Solution are also make safer surface, glass and bathroom cleansers.

Disinfecting your floor? Why? The residual chemicals left behind from these harsh cleaners don’t disappear when the floor dries. But they do make their way into your dog's system when he eats something off the floor or licks his paws after walking through the house. Instead, wash your floors with water and vinegar (the vinegar odor disappears when it dries). If you like, you can even add a few drops of essential oil, like citronella or grapefruit. But don't over do it.

Ecoholic Home, by author Adria Vasil, offers you all the alternatives to harmful cleaners, soaps and detergents. Everything from safe commercial options, to home made solutions. But when in doubt, avoid any products with these symbols:

Screen shot 2013-01-20 at 12.59.06 PMCanine Nutriton ServiceScreen shot 2013-01-20 at 12.56.05 PMCanine Nutrition Service

Do not smoke in your house. This should be obvious. Your dog’s lungs are a fraction of the size of yours and they’re not immune to the aftermath of second hand smoke inhalation, including cancer.

If you have a lawn, consider how harsh turf builders and fertilizers are. You don’t want your dog inhaling them, walking on them or doing grass angels on them. For natural gardening advice, the CBC’s Ed Lawrence has all the answers.

A lot of pet food companies use chemicals and dyes to colour their kibble so that it looks “cute” to humans and to ensure the same bright oranges and reds from batch to batch. Skip these products – one such offender is Beneful by Nestle Purina, and the result is very sick dogs.

Flea collars are another product to avoid. Imagine wearing a ring of pesticides around your neck 24/7. To avoid fleas naturally, feed a high quality diet, vacuum frequently, bathe your dog regularly and wash pet beds every week or two. There are many other natural ways to prevent fleas. To that end, avoid monthly pesticidal flea/tick treatments. The are not safe, and drastically increase your dogs toxic load.

Speaking of bathing, use unscented, hypoallergenic shampoo (I like Earth Bath Clear Advantage) and take this shampoo with you if you take your dog to a groomer. Instruct them not to use anything else such as finishing sprays on your dog.

If you even suspect mould in your home, call in a professional like I did last year, when I saw a few tiny black spots near the laundry tub in my basement. Sure enough, it was mould. Not enough to send us packing while it was being removed, but enough that it needed to be removed before it could spread any further. Within a week, my beagle's tear stains disappeared. They began four months prior and I assumed it was a food allergy, but an elimination diet offered no evidence of this. The humans in the house did not experience and mould related health problems, but as previously stated, dogs can be much more sensitive.

Your dog will appreciate these changes and you'll both be healthier for them. Happy detox!

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Safe, Canadian-made Treats and Home Made Kong Stuffing Recipe

Many people just toss treats to their dogs and don't really think about why, or the quality of the treats themselves. This passive activity does little to pacify or satisfy your dog, can contribute to weight gain, and in some cases has cost lives. I want to offer you a list of treats that are Canadian-made and safe for your dog. You can use them for training or as snacks. But even safe snacks come with a warning – over feeding can lead to weight gain, and that alone is devastating. So as long as you’re feeding responsibly, I believe you can feel confident in the following products.

Nothing Added. Their tripe strips can be cut into tiny pieces and are perfect for training since they are “high value.” They’re super stinky, so I recommend placing the tiny pieces in your treat pouch with other, less rich treats so they can take on some of the scent. Nothing Added also makes dehydrated chicken, lamb, liver and more.

Northern Biscuit has always been one of my favourite treat brands. They’ve extended their line over the years to include grain and gluten free products.

KaliWags, made in BC are super healthy and extremely crunchy – teeth-cleaningly crunchy! Okay they’re a little more expensive than your average treat, but I look at these more as a snack, given their heartiness and high quality ingredients. On the days my dogs have one, I cut back slightly on their food. You can offer these freely to younger dogs whose weight is not an issue.

The Barkery treats can be difficult to find, but if you see them, grab a bag. This is a small company that not only knows what dogs like, but they have safety and health at they top of their priority list.

I do recognize that the brands listed above cost more than other treats that are mass-produced, or manufactured in China or Thailand, but since you’re feeding treats sparingly, it’s not actually a huge investment. For more information on why “Made in Canada” matters, watch this CBC documentary about the affects of feeding foreign treats.

Please feel free to add comments listing your top picks for Canadian-made, delicious treats.

If you’re not training though, why give treats passively? Stuffed Kongs are a great way to offer healthy treats that last, but only if you make your own stuffing. I’m absolutely not a fan of Kong’s canned, sprayable stuffing. It’s full of ingredients that aren’t good for your dog. That said, I love stuffable Kongs! If your dog enjoys them, buy a few that are size-appropriate, and between each use, wash them thoroughly! I run mine through dishwasher.

Julie Posluns, co-owner of online training school treatpouch.com, provides stuffed Kongs daily, and in fact this is how her dogs receive most of their food. Julie says: “Giving your dog all his food in a bowl is a wasted opportunity to burn energy and provide mental stimulation. Kongs are the perfect medium for presenting healthy food and providing your dog with hours of pleasure. Once you place the food in the Kong be sure to freeze it, then give your dog the frozen 'Kongsicle' and let him work at it. Don't be discouraged if your dog gives up easily in the beginning. If this is the case consider only partially freezing the food, or investigate some of the different types of Kongs (there are some designed for dogs who have softer mouths). Kongs are also affordable and long-lasting, making them an excellent investment compared to most dog toys which are easily destroyed. Each morning I prepare 8 Kongs and freeze them for later. It just takes a few minutes and keeps my dogs occupied for hours. They love it, and so do I.”

So why not make this Kong stuffing recipe? Place the ingredients into your slow cooker, in this order:

  • 500 grams of ground chicken (or venison, extra lean beef or turkey)
  • 250 grams (usually a half bag) of California mixed vegetables
  • 1 washed and roughly chopped sweet potato
  • 1 ¼  cups of water (may need to be adjusted)
  • Set to low heat for 6-8 hours
  • When time is up, add one egg and ½ cup of quick-cooking oats.
  • If you wish, leave out the oats. Reduce water to half.

Stir thoroughly, breaking up the pieces of meat, and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. Then stuff your Kongs and place them in the freezer.

home made stuffed kong recipe

(It is ok to thaw the mixture in your fridge and refreeze inside Kongs.)

This is a safe addition to any diet, but can be very beneficial to a commercial diet since the protein sources in the stuffing are high quality and highly digestible. Just be mindful of the additional calories. I know many people stuff their Kongs with peanut butter because it's so easy and dogs love it. Not only does PB provide excess fat and very little required nutrition, peanuts are known for their susceptibility to aflatoxins, a potent carcinogen in the livers of rats. (Corn is also famous for harbouring aflatoxin-mould, so read your treat and kibble ingredients)

Please email if you have any questions and don’t forget to add your treat picks!

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Canine Obesity Epidemic. How to tell when your dog is overweight, and what to do about it

Today I want to discuss a few things in relation to your dog’s weight. What’s healthy? What causes weight gain? How can you safely shed excess pounds? I’ve come to the conclusion that many people are unclear about what a healthy body weight looks like on a dog. “Dogs who eat raw/home-cooked always look too skinny …” is something I’ve heard three times just in the past week. I've also witnessed people point to a particular dog and say "That dog is too skinny." Only to look over at the dog and see that it's in perfect condition. Here’s what I think: for many people’s pups, a little excess has become the norm. But whether it’s an inch to pinch, or several inches, it’s harming your dog’s health and quality of life.

Below you will find a Body Scoring Chart. Every veterinary office has one - not for their reference, for yours. I asked a former veterinary clinic employee why it is that so many owners have no idea their dog is overweight. Her answer: “Many people take the insinuation that a pet is overweight as a personal accusation. The truth is most owners don't know what an appropriately sized pet looks like, or when their pet's weight gain has gone too far, as they see them every day and may not notice there’s an issue. A vet has to sensitively bring the matter up, and many times clients will become agitated, as they often perceive that they are being blamed for the problem. It's sometimes easier for vets to not bring up the issue at all.” So like many aspects of your pet’s healthcare, you need to take matters into your own hands. Knowledge is power. Take a good look, and be honest with yourself.

Keep in mind that just like humans, each dog is different. Some of us have trouble gaining weight, and some of us have to work to keep it off. Be sure to rule out problems like thyroid disease before putting your dog on a diet. Other contributing factors could include age (older dogs require more protein but fewer calories), being over fed/over weight during puppyhood, poor feeding guidelines on commercial products (there’s is actually no one size fits all measurement), and excess treat consumption - especially things like dental chews, many of which actually contain sugar (really, who comes up with this stuff?). Why is weight so important? If your dog is overweight and remains so, his life span shrinks. Truly it's that simple. Excess weight in dogs increases the likelihood of injuries, it stresses their joints, increases pain associated with arthritis, and increases the likelihood of osteoarthritis (and at an earlier age). It can also lead to cardiovascular, pancreatic and liver disease and diabetes mellitus.

Why are dogs who eat real food generally better proportioned than the ones who eat kibble? Well, I think the answer is obvious, but I’ll explain. Firstly, kibble is extremely calorie-dense. Factor in that processed foods (which kibble is) have an adverse reaction on the body’s natural digestive process, and actually slow down metabolism. Metabolism is the process that creates energy from food, and keeping it stable maintains energy level and body weight. If your dog is overweight and you’re having trouble taking it off, “diet” kibble is not the answer. Essentially you’re trying to fix a problem with kibble that was caused by a different kibble.

In my opinion, weigh loss kibbles are nothing more than starvation diets. I know that might sound extreme. But take Purina OM for example: its primary ingredient is corn in two forms (a common allergen, not easy to digest). Next up, two forms of soy, another common allergen. Fifth ingredient, “beef and bone meal” (only those at Purina know where that bone meal comes from). OM also contains defluorinated phosphate, a commercial feed ingredient also used in agriculture for pigs and chickens.

Why do these kibbles contain so much corn? Because it’s a cheap source of protein. Not a nutritious, bioavailable source of protein, but a cheap one. And in all likelihood it’s the same GMO corn that’s widely used in many processed foods - a product that causes a host of health problems. The ingredients list goes on to mention animal by-products, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, all of which, after heating and extrusion, your dog’s body would struggle to utilize. In fact, “processing exposes more antigenic sites on the foods’ molecules, which alter the body’s immune surveillance and recognition responses. In other words, our pets’ bodies view much of the “wholesome nutrition” we are feeding them like foreign invaders.” –Jean Dodds, DVM

How does this cheap, processed food create a feeling of fullness when it’s lacking in quality nutrients and protein? I soaked a piece in water and watched it grow. All kibble expands when moistened, but this one grew the most of all the products I tested.

This kibble may help your dog lose weight, but I promise you his body doesn’t recognize it as food. And in the long run, it might be doing just as much damage to his organs and lifespan that being overweight does.

So how can you safely help your dog lose weight? Easy: feed real food. For starters, you control the ingredients in the diet. The best part of a customized, home made diet is that all the nutrients your dog needs are present, but you can easily avoid excess calories and fat. Feeding three smaller meals throughout the day and providing mental stimulation and regular exercise (as long as the dog is otherwise healthy) will complete the protocol. All the while your dog will feel satisfied because he’s consuming high quality, digestible nutrient sources. In cases of obesity, we taper the calories down slowly by calculating the ideal/healthy amount of weight to be lost each week. Also note that high-quality, bioavailable protein promotes muscle development; muscles help burn fat.

If your dog is underweight, it works the same way. You can control every aspect of his diet and increase the caloric content without feeding dangerous amounts of fat or excess minerals. On the other hand, if you were to simply feed more kibble to put weight on your dog, he’d just be consuming more processed food. Also, too much kibble can create a feeling of discomfort once it starts mixing with gastric juices and expands. Real food, prepared and portion controlled by you is the better way to a healthier, happier dog.

My story? It creeps up every fall, and somehow I still let it happen. My own gal, Millie, is fat. Most dogs eat less in the summer, my other dog certainly does. Millie, not so much. She finishes every meal, plus she munches on the pears that fall from the tree in our back yard. Oh, and sometimes we let her finish what Joey leaves behind, justifying it with “it’s just a teaspoon of food.” Couple the extra snacking with a slower pace due to the heat, and there you have it - an extra kilo. My beagleXdachshund, who had spinal surgery at the age of 2 (before she was my dog), is overweight.

So what to do? Millie’s ideal weight is 7.5 kg but currently she’s currently weighing in at a hefty 8.6 kg. I designed a diet that contains the proper amount of calories and fat for a 7.5 kg dog, and made sure it’s complete and balanced with all the right nutrients. All at once I made enough food for two weeks and weighed the entire batch. To be sure I’m not tempted to give in to that sad little, hungry, beagley face, I gathered 14 containers and put one day’s worth of food in each one. I’ll split it up each day as breakfast, a small snack and dinner. And I’m certain that in about 8 weeks, I’ll have my slim and trim girl back. Updates to come.

If you’re battling canine weight-gain (or loss), there are safe ways to help naturally, though the use of a wholesome, balanced, real food diet, which will also help your dog to feel less hungry. Do it for health and longevity.

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A Squeaky toy that only your dog can hear?! Say it is so! A guest Post by Katie

I remember bringing home a toy for Sandy and after no longer than 10 seconds, immediately taking it away and putting it in a drawer.

It was TOO LOUD.Sandy loves things that squeak. She loves making them squeak. She loves bringing me things to squeak in my face for minute upon agonizing minute. I will admit that I have stabbed a toy here & there to "kill" the squeaker.My mother gave us the gift of a "Hear Doggy" toy this past weekend, it's a toy with a squeaker that only dogs can hear.

According to their website: "Dogs can hear sounds at a higher frequency (0 to 45 KHz) than humans (0 to 20 KHz). Tuned to an ultrasonic range in the 24-28 KHz frequency, each Hear Doggy! squeaker is out of human hearing range, but still fun for your four-legged friend."

And even better they have two styles: toys with stuffing or without, for those that try to de-stuff their toys on a regular basis. We are a ripping kind of family, so we went with the de-stuffed model and both of my dogs adore it. It's the first toy out of their box nowadays.

This is a great toy not only for easily frustrated humans such as myself, but for all kinds of people who can't have the constant squeak that dogs find so much fun: people who are noise sensitive, people who take their dogs to work, people who make work calls from home or have brought home brand new human babies!This is a toy that has gotten a generous rating from us!

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