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!



The Connection Between Diet and Behaviour

By now most of us know that the food we eat directly affects our mind. Studies have proven that kids who consume a lot of “convenience foods” as opposed to fresh, whole foods, have greater difficulty concentrating, learning and managing conflict. It’s down to the second brain - you know, those neurons in the small intestine that send messages to the main brain. This gut-brain is responsible for a large portion of our emotional state. It’s true. Think about how diet affects people with Autism. The first part of treatment is to remove all food colouring, chemicals, preservatives, etc from the diet. In every case the result is a decrease in symptoms. What does this have to do with dogs? Everything. They have the same neurons in their guts, and I’ve personally witnessed positive behaviour changes that have coincided with a change in diet. Possibly, so have you.

I often use Boxers a prime example since so many on them seem to have “sensitive stomachs.” They also happen to be a relatively high-strung breed who often end up on veterinary “prescription” diets to curb diarrhea. The diarrhea might go away, but the anxious state remains. I believe this is down to their body’s need for, and drastic lack of bioavailable nutrients in the kibble (such as B vitamins) which are crucial in times of stress and anxious episodes.

Consider also, the fact that 50 to 90 percent of people with IBS suffer from a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression, even when the disease is not active. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada is funding an investigation to examine the link between depression and changes in the bacterial composition of the gut. This will determine what, if any, are the physiological responses to a person’s emotional state. I’m not betting on the “if any.”

If you have a dog who suffers from anxiety or exhibits behavioral problems that you can’t seem to correct, it might be worth considering that it might be due to digestive issues - chronic loose stool or mucousy stool can be a sign. A diet change might be the answer. After all, if your dog doesn’t maintain a healthy-gut-brain connection, all the training and behaviour modification in the world will be in vain – kind of like teaching a dog with a broken leg how to fetch. If you would like to provide a fresh home-cooked diet for your dog, I would be happy to help. Your holistic veterinarian can also offer guidance on home cooking, raw feeding, and supplementation. If you don’t have holistic vet, here’s how to find one.



"Wholesome and Complete for Canines"

Ten years ago, I got a puppy. I brought him home, and about a week or so later, thought, as I scopped kibble into a bowl, "this can't be right." It made no sense to me that something so "convenient" could be healthy and balanced. Within another week, I was cooking for my dog. I was probably doing it wrong, but I believed then and I still believe that a dog needs fresh food. That was just the start. I began to study and read every good resource on the subject of home-cooking. Believe me, the information (although we don't have nearly enough) is overwhelming, because so much of it is conflicting and based on small studies and anecdotes. For now though, I'm ok with this, because common sense dictates that real food is better than processed. The more I learned on the subject, the more I realized what a huge responsibility it would be (not to mention how difficult) to instruct other dog owners how to home-cook. So naturally, I delved even deeper.

The scientific part of my education came from my studies through CASI, where I've earned a certificate and in both Canine Nutrition and Advanced Canine Nutrition. The holistic component came from reading materials by Dr. Strombeck, Dr. Pitcairn, Dr. Dodds, etc. I also attend seminars on nutrition whenever I can. Seminars are great because I learn the latest, both opinions and facts. I have a working relationship with a highly respected veterinarian who assists on some of my cases. She is at the forefront of nutrition research and it's an honour to have her reviewing and approving many of my diets.

It has taken me years to get here, but I'm finally ready to officially assume that resposiblity. Using the requirements of the National Research Council, I'm now formutlating balanced, home cooked meals for individual dogs. This means your dog's new diet will be tailor made to meet the nutrient requirements for a dog his age and size. But beyond that I'll use ingredients your dog enjoys and is known to tolerate. We'll work together to ensure the plan is working, making necessary adjustments along the way.

Commercial dog food, with a few notable exceptions, is making our pets sick. The number of dogs I meet with skin diseases, supressed immunity, kidney and liver problems, diabetes, heart issues, etc, is staggering. Yes, more dogs, poor breeding practices and over-vaccination all carry some of the blame, but we are what we eat. Like humans, what your dog eats plays an integral role in their health and behaviour. Think of food as the foundation. We need to start there to build healthy canines. I don't believe we can truly achieve the greatest potential for health by feeding kibble. How would that be possible? It's no secret how kibble is made, and that most manufaturers add flavour enhancers and scents to entice your dog. I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about labels and laws and ingredients so that you can make a conscious choice on behalf of your pet. You cannot trust large corporations to do this for you. They've proven that.

Many people wait until their dog is sick to make the transition, which tells me they do believe in the power of food. But it's often marketing and pressure from some vets that won't allow the lightbulb to go off before that. Picture the commercials, or bags of food with images of fresh cuts of meat, whole grains and vegetables. Why not just feed those things to your dog instead of what's left over after processing, extruding and rendering? Ok, I'm over-siplifying a little; of course you do want to ensure balance, but we're lead to believe that's only achievable though processed, commercial products. I promise you, that's not the case.

My goal is to make cooking for your dog fun, easy, economical and fast. I've always said it, and I'll continue to say it, even if you cannot commit completely to feeding fresh food, every bit helps. It may feel overwhelming in the beginning, but once it becomes a part of your life, you won't look back, and the rewards are incredible. Let's Do This!

Click here to read my testimonials so far and follow along on Twitter @wholesomecanine


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oh my dog's! Favourite Dog Beds

If owning ten dog beds makes a person an expert on dog beds, then I'm an expert. At the very least, I can say for certain that I'm obsessed with dog beds. I know what my dogs will like and I know what my regular guests like. Here's my top four: Off the top, I can tell you that if you care about design, Bowsers makes some of the most stylish beds. It gets better though; they're washable, extremely durable and made in Canada. And most dogs find them comfortable. While not the most affordable option, in the long run I think they're the best investment.

Concerned about the environment? West Paw beds are eco friendly; made in the USA from recycled plastic pop bottles. With the exception of the "nap" series, the covers are removable and washable. Over time they do start to look a bit tired, but in general, they're quite durable. What I really love about West Paw, is that once the bed looses it's shape (and some of the comfort), you can order new inserts. It's much more economical and enviro-friendly than buying an entire new bed. My dogs love the "tuckered out" and "eco drop" beds.

I think the most comfortable dog bed I've owned so far is the Ortho Bolster by K&H. It's not pretty but my dogs and our guests love it, and around here, that comes first. It's made with orthopaedic foam, the cover is removable and washable and I just can't get over how durable it is.

Personally I would never spend more than thirty dollars on a cushioned bed that doesn't have a removable cover. Even if the entire bed is washable, it can throw your washing machine off kilter. I also like to protect my inserts against urine, drool and general dog odour. When I get a new bed, I unzip it and sandwich pee pads edge-to-edge between the insert and cover. If you wish, you can use tiny safety pins to keep them in place. Pee pads are highly absorbent and you can get them at all pet stores and most dollar stores. When I wash the covers, I replace the pads. You may not feel the need to do this, but since the dog traffic at my house is relatively high and can include the odd elderly, slightly incontinent pooch, it makes good sense.

Recently I purchased a Cooling Bed because when Joey gets warm, he sprawls out on the hardwood and I worry about his mature joints. This bed is pretty cool (haha), as it works strictly by magic, not electricity. You simply add the recommended amount of water, cap it and lay it on the floor. For days he didn't use it, so I made it more inviting by placing a thin sheet over it. And voila! I would recommend this bed for any dog who runs hot, or lives in a non air conditioned home.

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Over Vaccination and Titer Tests

As an adult, I had a vaccination for Yellow Fever. Hours afterward I began to feel like I had the flu, which is a common side effect. My travel mate felt no side effects to her vaccination. So yes, we're all different. And there is no doubt that certain breeds of dogs are more sensitive to the rabies vaccine. In the past 3 years, just in my own neighbourhood, I've met two Weimaraners who lost their sight shortly after a rabies combination vaccination. It is very important to find out what the recommended protocol is for your specific type of dog, because most veterinarians still work under a one-size-fits-all assumption.  

Thankfully some vets are actually working to educate patients and change the way the rabies vaccine is administered. For example Dr. Jean Dodds has created a study called the Rabies Challenge, to prove that one rabies vaccination can last at least SEVEN years (a far cry from the 1-3 years claimed by vaccine manufacturers). Most observers suspect the vaccine lasts for life. There is a way to find out if your dog is still immune; it's called a titer test (a blood test which measures antibodies). About 2 years ago I titer-tested my own dog who was 6 years "overdue" for Parvo and Distemper and he came well within the protected range.  This week I received the results of his rabies titer. He's 10.5 years old and was vaccinated once at 6 months old. Currently he scores SIX times the required amount for immunity.  Unfortunately, the USDA won't accept titer tests, so at the end of the study all the dogs have to be injected with the actual rabies virus. But everyone at "the challenge" is working towards changing that too.  As per Dr. Dodds' website, documented reactions to the rabies vaccine include:
  • Behaviour changes such as aggression and separation anxiety
  • Obsessive behaviour, self-mutilation, tail chewing
  • Pica - eating wood, stones, earth, stool
  • Destructive behaviour, shredding bedding
  • Seizures, epilepsy
  • Fibrosarcomas at injection site
  • Autoimmune diseases such as those affecting bone marrow and blood cells, joints, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel and the central nervous system
  • Muscular weakness and or atrophy
  • Chronic digestive problems
My wish is that veterinarians would take more time to educate themselves on the risks, updated protocols, and breed-specific studies before insisting upon boosters. As with most of the decisions you make that affect your dog, doing your own research and forming your own opinions will be your best bet for doing right by them. This article will provide you with some good tips for doing just that. 
At the very least, never vaccinate elderly or sick dogs, or dogs who have had a negative vaccine reaction in the past.  It will dramatically increase the risk of serious side effects. 

*small disclaimer: I am in NO away advocating against core vaccines such as Parvo,  given at puppy-hood*



When Not to let your Wiener Dog be a "Dog"

Every dachshund owner knows their dog is prone to spinal problems. We also know that we can help prevent back issues by not allowing them to jump off furniture or engage in heavy play with larger dogs. I don't have a lot to say on this subject other than get pet insurance for your winer dog and please don't let them jump off the furniture. If you must allow furniture access, build or buy doggie steps. Yes, they look awful, but so does this.

Below is my gal, Millie. She likes to sleep to tightly curled up that her tail wraps over her nose and the tip of it touches between her eyes. You can see her back is shaved; this is about 2 weeks post-op and that's as tight as she could curl up. It took her a long long time to regain that flexibility, among other things.