Thursday, December 31, 2015

Paw Spa: Zymox Enzymatic Rinse

Zymox, owned by Pet King Brands, markets enzyme-based health products for veterinarians to sell to their clients. Their offerings include ear cleaners, oral care products, and various skin treatments. Our vet recommends Zymox Enzymatic Rinse when Brisbane has major skin issues. The rinse can be used along with a number of different shampoos, and can be rinsed or left on.
bathtub dog with medicated conditioner

How Does It Work?

The whole point of the Zymox products is that they use a proprietary LP3 enzyme system against microbial organisms. The company's FAQ page cites several peer-reviewed articles published in the International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine

I was extremely impressed with this until I read the entire citation and realized that every single paper was about an in vitro study. This *basically means they proved that their enzymes kill bacteria and other nasties in a petrie dish. Since these are topical products, in vitro studies are very promising. However, I would like to see some controlled double-blind studies demonstrating actual clinical efficacy because I am a science geek.

It Totally Smells Like Coconuts

We've been through several bottles of this stuff, and I love the way it smells. I hate the way coconut tastes, but the scent is lovely when I'm smearing it on my dog.  Zymox Enzymatic Rinse can be used diluted or full-strength, and can be rinsed off or left on without causing problems. When Brisbane is just a bit itchy, I dilute it and rinse it off a bit but not very thoroughly. After the dramatic shavedown, I slathered on the full-strength product, put on his bathrobe, and sent him off to spread the coconut-scented love. It left him feeling slightly dirty for a bit, but once dry his coat felt normal.

Zymox stuff is apparently effective against fungus as well as bacteria, and along with a medicated shampoo helped Brisbane beat his massive bacterial and fungal infection. My vet is a skeptic and sticks to science-based medicine, so I trust her recommendation as more than an attempt to sell a product. It seems to have worked for us, though I'm not sure how much of that to attribute to the Zymox Conditioning Rinse and how much to the medicated shampoo we used.

Happy New Year!

Tonight I'll be snuggling with Brisbane, Sisci, Ru, and also Ranger and Annie who have come to escape their neighbor's scary fireworks. In 2016 I'm hoping for fewer skin issue for Brisbane now that we've begun allergy shots and identified more food sensitivities. I'm not sure what else the year will bring, as we had a followup on Brisbane's face bump today. Two weeks of abscess-targeting antibiotics did nothing at all, so today our vet took three different needle biopsies and sent them to the cytology lab. I'm hoping to get results on Monday, and we'll decide what to do from there.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sniffing: More Important Than You Think

Sniffing is just how dogs check out smells, right? Well that's part of it, but there's actually quite a lot more going on when your dog has their nose to the ground. They may be collecting information, but they could also be trying to calm themselves, reassure someone, or diffuse an escalating social situation. There's a time and a place for getting our noses up off the ground, but I think it's worthwhile to ponder what's really going on for a moment.
Queensland heeler at the pier
Photo by Erin Koski

The Zen of Sniffing

I like to think of sniffing as a dog's personal "me time", their chance to withdraw into their own head for a little while. As a major introvert, I definitely understand needing that chance to pull back and recharge. When I need to take a break from the world, I like to read a book. When Brisbane needs to take a break from the world, he sniffs the ground.

This took me a lot of years to learn, and for a long time I thought Briz was just getting distracted. Obviously he thought the smells on the ground were just more interesting than me, and I needed to work harder at being the most exciting thing in the world to my dog. This was endlessly frustrating while we were doing UKC obedience trials because mine seemed to be the only dog who couldn't keep his nose off the ground. 

At practice I would ask for attention and feed him treats constantly, but the instant he had the treat in his mouth his nose would drop to the ground again. All the other dogs could calmly sit or lay down in between exercises, mine was constantly, endlessly searching the grass. It wasn't until I had quit formal obedience that I read Control Unleashed and realized Brisbane found the whole sport to be incredibly stressful. 

Sniff Away the Stress

Brisbane the mixed breed dog checks out the smells
Photo by Erin Koski
Dogs use sniffing as a calming signal, a way to help themselves relax or tell another dog that they are not a threat. However, some dogs don't know how to use sniffing to help them unwind. 

I've been working with a young poodle mix who is generally anxious about the world around her. She responds to alarming sights and sounds by freezing in place. She's not particularly motivated by food, but absolutely loves praise.

At our last training session, her handler and I just stood with her for a while in the middle of a grassy park. We all watched some children playing at a playground at the far end, and waited for the pup to do something other than freeze and stare in horror. After almost ten minutes she dropped her nose to the ground and we told her what a magnificent dog she was for having a sniff. This immediately led to more sniffing. After another amble around the park, we walked toward the playground again. This time we got much closer to the kids before she froze. A moment later she began sniffing the grass, and we speedwalked away from the playground and declared it a victory for the day.

Sometimes a Sniff is Just a Sniff

Of course, not every sniff is an attempt to relieve stress, especially if you have a beagle or other scenthound. The world is a big, exciting place full of amazing scents that we humans will never truly understand. Some dogs do indeed need to learn to get their noses off the ground and focus on their handlers, but I think intense sniffing should be a part of most adventures. As a devout bookworm, I like to think of sniffing as reading with their noses. If my happily engaged dog suddenly abandons me to delve into a book, it's either a really good novel or there's something he needs to escape from.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Puzzle Toy Review: Cycle Dog 3 Play Hippo

The 3 Play Hippo toy by Cycle Dog is a remarkably appealing toy that can be used in several different ways. It doesn't just float, it floats high in the water so it's easier to spot from dog-paddling height. The head squeaks. and the belly has a slit for hiding treats. This toy is made from post-consumer recycled material. It comes in two colors and two sizes, the one pictured is the mini hippo.
hippopotamus squeaky pink food toy
Photo by Erin Koski

I don't know what it is about this pink hippo, but everybody loves it. Whether they are squeaking it, nose-punching it, or lovingly carrying it around the house, all three dogs thoroughly enjoy the happy hippo. Even after the nose cracked and the squeak diminished, they still love it.

I love this toy too. It's adorable! It also comes in blue, and there is a larger size that we probably need to acquire.
Cycle Dog 3 Play Hippo toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 3/5
I can fit Brisbane's entire meal of 1/4-cup kibble in here, the bigger one probably fits closer to a cup. The slit is also big enough to jam a larger biscuit or two inside.

Loading Speed: 2/5
I can cram a small handful of kibble in here at a time.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
It usually still has a kibble or two in it when I find it around the house.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 4/5
Brisbane isn't a huge fan of flexible rubber flap puzzles, but this one is just the right size to be challenging without him finding it unpleasant for whatever reason.

Size: 5/5
The small one is small enough for Ru to play with, the bigger one is big enough for a giant dog.

Durability: 3/5
Most of our flexible rubber puzzles have held up very well, but the nose of our hippo split open pretty quickly and now it doesn't squeak like it used to.

Noise: 5/5
It's soft and it doesn't roll, so it's dead quiet on my hardwood floors.

Locatability: 3/5
Our mini hippo is a prized possession and is almost always being hoarded in a crate or bed somewhere, but at least it doesn't roll under the couch.

Washability: 3/5
I should be able to jam a bottle brush into the belly slit if it needs a good scrub. I subtracted a star though because our cracked toy tend to take on water and there's no cleaning the inside of the head.

Cycle Dog pink hippo floating food toy
Photo by Erin Koski
Versatility: 4/5
Our happy hippo was borrowed from Xhuuya the raven, who enjoys prying nuts out of the belly and pretending she's disemboweling the riverbeast. The size and type of puzzle makes it usable by a variety of critters.

Total: 37/50

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Product Review: BarkMade Shooting Star

This BarkMade Shooting Star stuffy arrived in our September allergy-friendly BarkBox. It's a fairly large toy, with a smiling star and a long tail. The construction seems very solid, the fabric is thick and tough and the seams are clearly reinforced. There is a squeaker in the star itself, and another in the tail.
dog shaking space-themed star toy
Photo by Erin Koski
This toy is actually made by Swag Company, exclusively for BarkBox. It's the second star stuffy we've gotten this year in our BarkBox. I liked the look of the P.L.A.Y. star stuffy that arrived in our June BarkBox, but I think Sisci might like this one better. I appreciate that this one is unambiguously a celestial object.

Obviously this star is a big hit, with it's long flappy tail. The edge seams are all reinforced, but the connecting seam between the body and tail seems like a weak point. I'm not overly fond of the light color, this toy has already been through the wash a number of times because it looks dirty the moment the dogs touch it.
Australian stumpy tail cattle dog chewing stuffy
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Heavy-duty toy capable to standing up to lots of flinging and shaking and maybe a little bit of tugging. Machine washable. Super cute.

Cons: The squeaker in the star body stopped squeaking pretty quickly.

Bottom Line: Definitely tougher than your average cheap stuffed toy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Taking Treats Gently

Ranger and Annie are our part-time dogs. They come to visit and herd sheep and hike and join us on our adventures periodically. Ranger was my first foster dog nine years ago, and Annie is his little sister that their family adopted a year later. I'm pretty sure Ranger is actually an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog based on the shape of his head and his coloring.
Queenland heelers paws up
Paws up!

As adult rescue dogs, Ranger and Annie both tend to take treats roughly. Taking treats gently can be a difficult skill to learn as an adult, and is something that needs to be reinforced perpetually. Ranger is eleven years old, and Annie is nine, so I'm not expecting to undo a lifetime of finger-chomping.

There are a number of ways to give treats to a dog that doesn't mind grabbing a finger or two. One way is to use soft, lickable treats like peanut butter, spray cheese, or LeanLix.

Another way to save your fingers is to toss treats instead of handing them. I do this with Ranger and Annie when I want to reward them very quickly, but it has the side effect of reinforcing treat chomping. Tossing treats also doesn't work very well when attempting to teach a new trick using a food lure. Essentially, I need a way to hold food while my hand is in range of their jaws.

I took classes at a teaching zoo years ago, and one of the things I learned was to give food rewards by shoving my entire hand in the animal's mouth. This works surprisingly well, much better than timidly offering a treat that they could just as easily knock out of my hand as they reach for it. With time and repetition, the animal learns to wait for the food to come to them, rather than rushing toward me to get it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Dogswell Boundless Chews

These Boundless Long-Lasting Chews by Dogswell are shaped like infinity symbols. That's why I couldn't resist giving them a try. In case anyone was wondering, they don't last an infinitely long time. I found them at my local Petco, and the Dogswell website oddly does not mention them at all. In fact, there's almost no mention of them whatsoever on the internet as of December 2015. Why is that?

Dogswell Boundless edible long-lasting chew
According to the Dogswell Facebook, "Boundless Long Lasting Chews are actually a new product and as of now are only being sold in Petco stores." Apparently they aren't particularly being advertised or promoted, either. Maybe they're only available in certain test markets?

At my local Petco, Dogswell Boundless chews come in two sizes, for medium and large dogs. They are made in the USA, but some of the ingredients may be imported. The ones I bought were medium, for 21-50 lb dogs, and they were $5.99 each. They were available in two flavors, chicken and bacon. Shockingly, the bacon flavor is safe for Brisbane's many food allergies. It contains no poultry products, no egg products, no corn, no barley, and no sweet potato. Amazing! Boundless chews are made out of potato, tapioca, glycerin, peas, milk, bacon fat, sunflower oil, and some vitamins.
edible Dogswell Boundless chew
Sometimes 5 minutes feels like infinity...

The fine print on the packaging says this chew is not suitable for dogs under 10 lbs. I noticed this after the fact, but Ru ate a 2" piece of Sisci's infinity chew and lived to tell the tale.

Good For: Lasting about as long as a bully stick of similar size while being totally non-stinky. Dogs with beef, poultry, egg, grain, or sweet potato allergies.

Not Good For: Lasting longer than a bully stick of similar size. dogs with potato, tapioca, pea, or bacon allergies.

How Much We Like Them: Brisbane finished his in about 15 minutes flat. Sisci took almost an hour on the project and Ru managed to steal the last bit when she was momentarily distracted. I will probably buy these again as an occasional treat, mostly because I like the shape. If they were a couple of dollars cheaper I'd totally stock up.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Product Review: ZenPet Procollar

The ZenPet ProCollar is an inflatable alternative to the traditional big plastic lampshade collar for dogs that have just had surgery or otherwise need to be prevented from chewing or scratching themselves. The inflatable core is surrounded by a washable cover that attaches to a regular quick-release buckle collar. Replacement for the inflatable part are available from ZenPet. The ProCollar is available in size sizes to fit pets with necks smaller than 6" and up to 22" around.
ZenPet ProCollar recovery collar surgery cone
Photo by Erin Koski

Our Procollar is a size large, for 13-18" necks. Brisbane has about a 16" neck and the collar looks and feels a bit big on him. I bought it when we did the dramatic shavedown and I was worried about Briz chewing up his delicate naked skin.

We didn't end up needing the inflatable donut collar, but I did lend it to a friend for her dog. Penny is just about the same size and Brisbane, and she had to have a back toe amputated. Unfortunately, Penny had no trouble at all chewing her bandages off while Wearing the ProCollar.

I've had dogs come into daycare wearing ProCollars and have had similar experiences. For some dogs it's a big enough deterrent to keep them from chewing their bodies or scratching their faces, but most figure out how to work around it before long. ZenPet says to try the next size up for the dogs that work around it, but I'm sure there's a limit to how much bigger a collar you can use before you can't make it work right.
Air collar recovery surgical allergy cone alternative
Photo by Erin Koski

The ProCollar is a C-shape that opens up, and closes with a long strip of velcro. On the inner edge there are loops through which the dog's regular buckle collar is passed. The regular collar is then buckled around the dog's neck and the velcro fastened to keep the ProCollar shut. On a donut several sizes larger than the recommended size, the regular collar will not be able to pass through all the loops to keep it on securely.

Pros: Comfortable for extended wear. Does not trap moisture against a drooly dog's chin and neck. Does not obstruct vision. Does not alter hearing or make everything sound weird. Does not make you curse wildly when an over-exuberant dog smashes it into your knees. Washable.

Cons: Is not as effective as a giant plastic Elizabethan collar. Unlike the Cone of Shame, many dogs can bend around it, making chewing their feet or tails pretty easy still. It's inflatable so it can pop.

Bottom Line: Part Cone of Shame, part air mattress for your dog's neck. This will probably work on Brisbane because he is easily deterred from hurting himself. So far all the determined dogs I've used them on have just gotten more flexible and/or creative.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

LootPets: We Got a New Subscription Box

I had decided we were done with subscription boxes for a while, but then I heard about the Loot Pets box by Loot Crate and lost my mind. I mean look how cool this is! Loot Crate does subscription boxes for geeks and gamers, with fandom-related goodies. For those unaware, I am so geeky that I've read the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft, seen every episode of every iteration of Star Trek, and own the original three Star Wars films on laserdisc. That's right, laserdisc. Clearly the Loot Pets box was made just for us.
Firefly Alien fandom nerd geek dog stuff

The theme this month is Galaxy! We got:

A Hypergalactic T-shirt by Loot Crate Labs, with planets and satellites and snowflakes and a lovely blending of space and winter. I had some trouble picking out the shirt size because Ru is so long and slinky. I love the length of this shirt on him, but it is very wide. I may dust off my sewing machine and sew a dart down the belly to improve the fit.

We also got a Founding Member Collar Charm, for subscribing to the first-ever Loot Crate for pets. It's a gold rocket ship, so much more awesome than the usual bones and hearts.

There's a collar branded Weyland-Yutani, the scary corporation from the Alien films. Instead of the company logo, "Building Better Worlds", the collar says "Building Better Dogs". It's by Quantum Mechanix. This collar will fit both Sisci and Brisbane. This is definitely one of the coolest things in this box, it's so awesome I can't even stand it. I adore subtle fandom fun, this is why I have a Miskatonic University parking pass sticker on my car.

The Firefly Troublemaker Dog Dish is the other super awesome item in our box. It has a non-skid ring on the bottom and is dishwasher, microwave, and oven-safe. It's a nice size, small enough for a big Ru bowl but big enough for Brisbane's dinner most nights. This one's also by Quantum Mechanix, makers of accurate, awesome, and sometimes delightfully subtle film and tv series goodies.

The last thing in here is a bag of Galactic Snaps Dog Treats by Loot Crate Labs. They are made from freeze-dried beef liver and nothing else, so Brisbane gets to have some!

Overall this is basically the best subscription box ever. I guess it's more for me than for them this time, given that there was only one bag of treats and no toys in there, but I'm sure they'll be something squeakable or throwable or chewable in there next month.

What's your favorite geek fandom?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Briz-Face Update

We went to see our favorite vet today, and she poked around at Brisbane's face and said the bump was very likely a tooth abscess. However, she couldn't rule out cancer without tests. She decided that the most cost-effective test would be a two-week course of a type of antibiotics that target abscesses well. From there, one of three things will happen.
Queensland heelers and gophers
Brisbane and Sisci hunting gophers, just because.

1. The bump will go away for good.

If this happens we will know it was an abscess that resolved with conservative treatment.

2. The bump will go away temporarily, and then come back.

If this happens, we will know it is a dental abscess that did not resolve with conservative treatment, and Brisbane will need a full round of x-rays and a tooth extraction.

3. The bump will stay the same.

If this happens, we will know that the bump is not an abscess and can begin doing biopsies to figure out what exactly it is and how to treat it, without having spent a ton of money on unnecessary dental care.

So now we wait and see what happens. Ideally the bump will go away forever, but I think we can handle a dental extraction if necessary. Brisbane has lovely clean teeth, but I guess sometimes the roots of a tooth can just go bad.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Food Friday: Zignature Kangaroo Formula

I picked up this bag of Zignature Kangaroo Formula dog food while visiting relatives in Boise. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to visit grocery stores and pet stores to see what kind of products I can find that aren't available back home. I've been looking for this particular Zignature food for a while and was quite pleased to finally find it.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Company

Following the trail from Zignature to the parent company is interesting. I believe Zignature foods are co packed by Tuffy's Pet Foods, a packer I respect a lot for their commitment to food safety. Who actually owns Zignature the pet food marketing company? It's Pets Global, maker of Fussie Cat foods. They are based in Santa Clarita, California, which means they are pretty local to me.

I found this interview with the founder of Zignature from last year, which includes a link to PetsGlobal.com, a e-commerce trade platform for manufacturers and purveyors of pet supplies. Zignature's Pets Global does not appear to have any relation to this company based in China. I'm not sure if Zignature's Pets Global owned the domain name previously, or if the Pet Age website just made a mistake when they linked it.

The Food

Zignature's big selling point is that they avoid using the most common food allergens in their products. Like most top-quality foods, they leave out corn, soy, wheat, and any other grains. However, they go a step further and also exclude chicken, eggs, potatoes, and dairy products. They don't include any sneaky chicken either, no chicken fat, cartilage, or flavorings way down the ingredients list. Most of their foods also use a single source of protein, which makes them a great option for dogs with allergies. This makes me feel like they had dogs like Brisbane in mind when developing their formulas, he can eat four out of their seven kibbles. 

I appreciate the focus Zignature puts on low-glycemic foods, diabetic dogs in particular really benefit from these. No potatoes means no sweet potatoes too, which is great for Brisbane. He is allergic or sensitive to chicken, turkey, duck, eggs, corn, barley, and sweet potatoes. We only found out about the sweet potato, corn, and barley allergies recently. Finding Briz-safe food is the entire reason I put together DogFoodWizard.com
dog food and dinosaurs

The Verdict

Brisbane loved the Zignature Kangaroo Formula kibble, as Brisbane loves anything edible. Sisci can be slightly more selective about food and treats, but she chowed down immediately and loved this food. Ru is super picky but also ate it right away, so it must be good!

Zignature kibbles are collectively rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Dog Food Advisor site, but the individual formulas range from 4-5 stars. The kangaroo formula must be a recent addition, as it is not represented on the site. This is a food I would be comfortable feeding my dogs for an extended period of time, particularly if I rotated between the four Briz-safe formulas.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

We Went to Idaho

Last month the dogs and I took a road trip up to Boise, Idaho to visit my favorite cousins and my aunt. They moved up there from Los Angeles ten years ago and have been raving about how nice it is ever since. Over the summer they took a trip to Disneyland and joined them for a day, and they invited me and the dogs to come stay with them.
Cattledogs on a road trip
Brisbane and Sisci in their SleepyPod Clickit Harnesses

It took us two days to drive up there, with many stops along the way. California is very densely populated, and it was a bit weird to find places just off the highway that were empty enough for the dogs to run and play. We stayed in motels on the way there and back, I highly recommend Comfort Inn and La Quinta Inn for affordable pet-friendly accommodations.

Boise itself was lovely and wonderful! We've been in serious drought conditions for years down here, so it was refreshing to see so much green. I love cold weather and really enjoyed the sub-freezing temperatures. Brisbane and Sisci had a ton of fun hiking, playing ball, chasing squirrels, and digging for gophers. Their Hurtta and Ruffwear coats were very useful.

Ru...is a tropical dog. I tried putting his Hurtta snowsuit on him, but he mostly refused to walk. He ended up riding around in his Pet Flys Snugglebug or inside someone's coat anytime I made him leave the house. The nice part about staying with family is that there is usually a warm lap available for a tiny dog. Of course, when we got back to California it was 80+ degrees and sunny. I didn't miss the weather here at all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Vet Time: My Dog Has a Bump On His Cheek

Brisbane has a big bump on his cheek, and it's probably an abscessed tooth. Poor Briz! At first I was worried it could be cancer, but several of my internet friends have suggested that it looks like an abscessed carnassial tooth. Those are the biggest back teeth in the upper jaw. Of course we're going to the vet later today. I noticed the bump on Friday night, when all veterinary issues arise around here, but Brisbane's doctor doesn't think this is an emergency situation so we're waiting for an available appointment.
probable abscessed carnassial tooth

What are the Symptoms?

The bump on Brisbane's face is very hard, it feels just like the other side of his face except for the shape. It doesn't feel warm to the touch, and he doesn't mind me poking at it so it doesn't seem to be causing him pain. He is still gnawing bully sticks happily on both sides of his mouth and basically acts like he is fine.

The bump has actually been there for about two weeks, but it has been slowly growing and wasn't big enough for me to really identify it as a problem until Friday. I didn't think it was an abscess at first because it isn't hot or painful. Brisbane actually has beautiful clean teeth, another reason I didn't suspect an abscess.

Is this an Emergency?

According to my vet, the probable-abscess is an urgent problem, but not an actual emergency. As long as Brisbane is eating normally, drinking normally, and breathing normally, he can wait a few days for an appointment with his regular vet. Given his various health issues, I'm comfortable waiting to see the doctor who knows him best. I did call the clinic that did Ru's dental a few months ago, but they were unable to see Briz before today either.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Red Barn Bully Sticks

Red Barn bully sticks are the best bully sticks available in my area. Having seen them in person, I am confident buying them online. These are big fat bullies that take a long time for the dogs to demolish. Sisci can't even finish a 12" Red Barn bully stick in a single chewing session. As these are basically the only kind I've seen or purchased in a physical store, I thought these were normal bully sticks. This explains my disappointment when Chewy.com sent us a shipment of American Journey Bully Sticks.
bully sticks dog chews
I like bully sticks because they are made of nothing but meat and are therefore fully digestible. Sisci tends to consume about half of one of these, and then she's ready to carry the rest around like a trophy. Brisbane makes it a project to devour his bully sticks, and the only one he had to give up on was a 3-foot-long giant stick. Ru will occasionally gnaw a bully stick, but he doesn't really eat them so they last forever (or until a real dog finds them).

Good For: Occupying a dog that needs a chewing project. Safe chewing for dogs that like to swallow things whole. Dogs that don't tend to like to chew things. Puppies. Dogs allergic to things other than beef.

Not Good For: Long and leisurely power-chewing sessions. Dogs with beef allergies. Not being incredibly stinky and gross. People who don't like the idea of their dog gnawing on a dried bovine penis.

How Much We Like Them: I won't buy any other brand of bully stick online. These are actually made in Paraguay, but Red Barn owns the manufacturing facility there and I'm comfortable with their quality standards. I'd be less comfortable with them using USA beef and shipping it out of the country for processing.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Is that an eye-catching title or what? It's true though, and worth catching eyes for. Last spring I posted a picture of Brisbane with his head in an empty SunChips bag. For most people, it's just a cute picture. For some, it is downright horrific.
dog suffocating dying chip bag hazard

You see, a dog can suffocate in a chip bag. I had actually heard of this happening before, in a news article some years before I got Brisbane. For this reason I've always kept an eye on him when he has something he could suffocate in. The reason I was able to take this picture was because I was monitoring his chip bag enjoyment.

My dogs go for shredding stuff rather than burrowing their noses into bags normally, so I hope that reduces their risk of undignified death somewhat. Still, I will be reconsidering what I give them to shred after visiting the Prevent Pet Suffocation Facebook page.

Aside from keeping the garbage locked up tight and assuming your pets will happily suffocate themselves in anything that once contained food, there's a simple thing you can do to help prevent this kind of tragedy. All you have to do is cut or rip the sides of your food bags open before you toss them. A chip bag with the sides open is just a strip of plastic or foil. Not nearly as dangerous.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Paw Spa: PetzLife Oral Care Gel

PetzLife Oral Care Gel is a product designed to break down tartar without the need for brushing. It is made from grapefruit seed extract, grape seed extract, peppermint oil, neem oil, and thyme oil. The product is peppermint-flavored and intended to be applied twice a day to break down nasty tooth crud.
no-brush dog dental care

Doggy Dental Care

My dogs have pretty clean teeth, mostly thanks to raw bones. Ru did need a veterinary dental earlier this year because of his super-crooked tiny incisors, but despite being rotten the teeth were still quite clean. Brisbane's look amazing for a ten year old dog, and Sisci's haven't had the chance to develop any tartar yet.

I brush Ru's teeth every night with a Sonicare electric toothbrush because chihuahuas have notoriously bad teeth. Also because he is tiny and easy to hold down. The cattledogs are pretty leery of the noisy toothbrush, but I still rub some enzymatic toothpaste on their teeth every day or so. They also happily chew raw bones of all sorts, which does wonders for their teeth.

So Why PetzLife? 

I bought this bottle of PetzLife ORal Care Gel on the recommendation of several of my internet friends. Several of them had tried it and reported that they could brush or scrape the discoloration off their dogs' teeth with their fingernails within a few weeks of using PetzLife. The product website has lots of before and after pictures of fairly yucky-looking dog mouths that do look improved, sometimes after only two weeks.

My thought is that I don't really have anything to lose here. If the product doesn't work at all, nothing will happen. It says it can be used by humans and I haven't found any online reviews about sick pets. If it does work, my dogs will have yet another thing to help keep their mouths healthy.

Does It Work?

Though I've had the bottle for a few months now, I haven't used it consistently because my dogs hate it. I think it's the taste, the stuff is super minty and has a bit of alcohol in the base so I'm sure it tastes vile. If the cattledogs see me pick up the bottle they hide, so I have to sneak up on them. I keep it by the door so I can use it on them right before when leave the house, after I've put on their leashes so they can no longer escape.

My dogs all have pretty darned clean teeth, but the cats are another story. James and Solstice, my seven-year-old littermate cats, have lovely white fangs. I thought this meant they had clean teeth until this evening when it occurred to me to pry their whiskery faces open and look at their molars. They both have pretty big hunks of tartar on their back teeth, and their gums are a bit red. I smeared some PetzLife gel on their teeth, which they both hated. 

Fortunately my cats are unbelievably stupid, so they are unlikely to catch on and should be easy to test the PetzLife gel on. I just started this evening, and I will report back if and when I notice any changes. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Halloween CAT

At the end of October, Brisbane and Sisci and I went to a two-day AKC lure coursing event. Brisbane did a total of four runs, two per day, and each was a qualifying run. This brought him up to ten AKC Coursing Ability Test runs, earning his Coursing Ability Advanced title. Go Brisbane!

A friend recorded one of his runs for me. Coursing Ability Tests are usually set up with two different courses, a longer one that most of the dogs run, and a shorter one for tiny, smush-faced, and older dogs. At ten years old, Brisbane is allowed to run the short course. He is willing and able to run the longer one, but keeping him in shape is difficult and he's not as fit as I'd like him to be. 

Usually I ask the judge which they'd like him to do, and so his first run was on the longer track. They both start out in the same place going the same direction, but the longer one turns to the right and the shorter one to the left. Brisbane likes to anticipate where the lure will go so he can get ahead of it. On this run, he expected it to turn right, so he runs the wrong direction briefly.

Sisci was three weeks short of her first birthday for this event, so she was not eligible to enter. However, they did do fun runs. These are not counted or recorded, and are a nice way to let puppies and unregistered dogs participate. Fun runs are also an inexpensive way to try out lure coursing if the dog has never done it before, and the handler isn't sure if they want to play. Sisci definitely wants to play.

After her run, everyone wanted to know why Sisci wasn't entered. The AKC requires all dogs participating in a Coursing Ability Test to be at least a year old. Sisci is now old enough to officially do AKC CATs, and I'm sure every run she does will be a qualifying run just like Brisbane's.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Food Friday: Hi-Tek Naturals Grain Free Alaskan Fish Formula

Hi-Tek Naturals is a line of dog food by Hi-Tek Rations. There are a couple of grain-free formulas in the product line, but most contain barley or rice. They also contain eggs, which is why I didn't end up feeding this grain-free Alaskan Fish Formula sample to Brisbane. It had been sitting on my counter for quite some time before I finally got around to feeding it to Sisci.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Company

Hi-Tek appears to be a private company with their own manufacturing facility in Dublin, Georgia. I haven't been able to figure out what other brands they manufacture, but it appears they may be a co packer for other food companies. There do not appear to have ever been any recalls by this company, which is quite nice.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Food

The grain-free Hi-Tek Naturals formulas rate five out of five stars on Dog Food Advisor. The first ingredient in the fish formula is salmon meal, followed by sweet potato, herring meal, ocean whitefish meal, and then potato and peas. Eggs are pretty far down the list, after canola oil, ground sage, ground basil, and tapioca. Still, I didn't feel comfortable feeding this to Brisbane due to his egg sensitivity. Then I got back his allergy test results and it turns out he's allergic to sweet potatoes too.

At 373 calories per cup, this food is sort of in the middle of the range of caloric values. It is an adult maintenance diet, not for growing puppies. Dog Food Advisor identifies it as a plant-based dog food, but one containing a below-average amount of carbohydrates and an above-average amount of protein and fat. Interestingly, there is only one Hi-Tek Naturals food suitable for puppies. The rest are all adult maintenance foods, including all three grain-free formulas.

The Dogs

Briz couldn't eat it, but Sisci and Ru both enjoyed this food quite a bit. This is not something I would currently choose to feed Sisci long-term because I'm still feeding her like a growing puppy, or possibly an athlete. Adult maintenance formulas often have less protein and fat, though the levels in this food are well above the minimum standards for both adult and puppy foods. One of my local stores recently began carrying Hi-Tek Naturals, but the company doesn't make a single food suitable for Brisbane's poultry, egg, corn, barley, and sweet potato allergies so we won't be adding this to our rotation.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Puzzle Toy Review: Death Star Treat Ball

This Star Wars puzzle ball is shaped like the Death Star, and it's so awesome I can barely stand it. That's no ball, that's a space station! I find most of Petco's Star Wars merchandise to be sort of pedestrian and blah, but this...this is art. The big hole (where the giant laser of death comes out) has a rim around the inside that makes it easy to pop kibble inside, and difficult for the food to fall out again. Instead, the food has to come out the smaller hole at the bottom.

The top has an even larger holes covered by triangular flaps, through which a chew stick or long biscuit can be partially inerted. So many options!
death star treat ball puzzle
Photo by Erin Koski

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 2/5
I just checked, and I can jam exactly 3/4 a cup of PureVita kibble into this thing. It's enough to feed a small meal.

Loading Speed: 1/5
One kibble at a time, the big hole is too small for a soda bottle funnel.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
It's really tough to get that last kibble out, and most of the time when I find this ball around the house, there's still a piece or two left in there.
Star Wars food toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Unloading Speed (superdog): 4/5
It drops the food at just the right rate to keep Brisbane interested, without dumping the entire load at once.

Size: 4/5
Bigger than a tennis ball, so big enough for a fairly large dog to enjoy, just not a giant breed. Light enough for a tiny dog, too.

Durability: 5/5
It won't stand up to a power chewer on a mission of destruction, but anything less is unlikely to hurt it.

Noise: 5/5
Soft rubber rolls silently across my hard floors.
Death Star treat toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Locatability: 2/5
Fits under the couch and rolls freely, the only reason I can usually find it is because the dogs enjoy carrying it around.

Washability: 2/5
I can shove a bottle brush in there, but it would be tough to scrub most of the inside of this ball.

Versatility: 3/5
The difficulty in cleaning limits what sorts of treats can be put inside, and what animals can use this ball. It's a nice size though, and has a lot of potential.

Total: 33/50

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Product Review: JW Evertuff Squeaky Barbell

The Evertuff Squeaky Barbell by JW Pet is a durable nylon chew toy with a soft squeaky toy inside. It is available in several colors and two sizes, medium and large. I believe ours is a medium.
durable puppy chew toy squeaks
Photo by Erin Koski

This somewhat awkward toy arrived in our September BarkBox. It's a hard nylon toy with one squeaky end, and I thought it was pretty heavy and unappealing.

Sisci's mission is to play with All The Toys, so she immediately ran off with the Squeaky Barbell and started chomping it. The novelty wore off pretty quickly though, and she hasn't touched it since that first week.

It's just...kind of a weird toy. I don't like throwing it because it's so heavy and clunky. Ours is supposed to be a medium size, but overall it seems a bit small even for 28 lb Sisci.

Pros: Durable. Several people have reported that this is the only squeaky thing their dog hasn't demolished in minutes. Affordable, so giving it a try is not a huge investment.

Cons: It's hard plastic and a serious chewer is going to gnaw it into sharp bits eventually. Too heavy for throwing.

Bottom Line: The relatively small price tag makes it worth trying if your power chewer shreds everything else. This might be the one thing that holds up, and either way you're only out ~$10.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Real Meat Jerky Treats and Dog Food

These Real Meat Jerky Treats are the original product made by the folks at the Real Meat Company. These are slightly greasy, fairly stinky treats that are great for training. I do have to break them up into much smaller pieces, but they are wonderful for dogs with allergies and food sensitivities.
lamb jerky dog treats

When I first saw Real Meat Dog Food on the shelf at a local store, my first thought was "So they've put the jerky treats in a bigger bag, then?" The dog food itself seemed a bit drier than I remembered the treats being, but I didn't have the chance to do a side-by-side comparison until now.

While they're both supposed to just be dried meat, the treats and dog food are actually pretty easy to tell apart.
dog jerky air dried dog food
The Real Meat Lamb Jerky Treats are softer and greasier than the Real Meat Lamb Dog Food. The are easy to bend and tear into smaller bits for training treats, and are stinkier than the dog food. Real Meat Air-Dried Dog Food is harder and stiffer, so it's more difficult to break into tiny training treats. It's a more pleasant product to handle because it is less greasy and stinky, but that also makes it a lower value treat.

lamb jerky treat label
The ingredients for the lamb treats are significantly less complex than those for the dog food. Treats don't have to meet nutritional requirements. The five ingredients in Real Meat Lamb Jerky Treats are: lamb, dried chicory root, vegetable glycerin, sea salt, and mixed tocopherols. These make for a shelf-stable product.

By contrast, the dog food includes organ meats, ground bone, pumpkin, parsley, rosemary, and all the vitamins a dog needs. It has both a higher protein content and a higher fat content than the jerky treats.

So is it worth buying the treats when you can buy a whole bag of dog food instead? Probably for some people. My dogs will happily work for the Real Meat Jerky Treats, but are pretty 'meh' about working for the actual food.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What's an Affordable Alternative to Beneful?

What is a cost-effective, affordable alternative to Beneful? I feed my dogs all sorts of amazing top-quality foods, but this isn't feasible for everybody. The fact is, the vast majority of the general public has no idea what makes a good dog food, and there's a whole ton of fear-mongering on every level. It's tough to sort things out. 

Many, many people feed their dogs Purina's Beneful, and the pending class action lawsuit has a lot of those people wondering what is a safer or better alternative. This topic just came up with a Facebook friend recently. In years gone by, I would have extolled the virtues of raw food, or grain-free food, but these days I feel I can do the most good by meeting people where they're at right now. Beneful is cheap and widely available, I'm not going to get very far by suggesting people double their dog food bill and trek to their nearest specialty store. Here's what I told my friends:

Isn't Beneful Healthy?

Purina spends a crazy amount of money on marketing. They produce attention-grabbing commercials and beautiful packaging that very deliberately conveys the message that Beneful is healthy. The products themselves have names like "Healthy Weight" and "Healthy Smile". The constant message of health and wellness sticks with people on a subconscious as well as conscious level, Purina has done an amazing job associating Beneful with "healthy". This is why tons and tons and tons of people truly think that Beneful is a really healthy food for their dog. 

I've come to accept that most people don't live in the dog world the way I do. Most people buy their dog food at the grocery store, and need never set foot in a pet store at all. These people are probably unaware of the vast majority of dog foods on the market. They see the dozen or so brands at the grocery store, and of those Beneful is the one with the best marketing. People don't just think Beneful is great because they are ignorant, and I feel it is very important to acknowledge the role of marketing in this perception. 

So Why is Beneful So Bad?

Class action lawsuit notwithstanding, Beneful isn't particularly worse than most of the other foods at the grocery store. The issue with these foods is that they tend to be made out of by-products from other industries. Most people can imagine what meat by-products consist of without going into disgusting detail, so unless they ask why by-products are so bad I can leave it at that. 

The first two ingredients in Beneful Originals chicken kibble are ground yellow corn and chicken by-product meal. One of the people in our Facebook conversation said they feed their dogs Pedigree as an alternative. The first two ingredients in Pedigree Adult chicken kibble are ground whole grain corn, followed by meat and bone meal. That's actually worse than Beneful, in my lofty opinion. Neither of these foods rate well in the dog world, Dog Food Advisor gives Beneful and Pedigree both its lowest rating of one out of five stars.

What is a Cheap and Good Dog Food?

There are tons of dog foods out there that are way better than Beneful or Pedigree. I feel it's important to recommend foods that are in the same price range if I want people to truly consider alternatives. Walmart sells a 30lb bag of Beneful for about $30, that's about a dollar a pound. The place I work sells a 33lb bag of Fromm Classics Adult dog food for $33, that's a dollar a pound for a 3.5 star dog food with no by-products, made by a very highly-regarded company that has never had a recall. It's the best value I am currently aware of, though one must go to a feed store or other specialty store in order to find it. Fromm Classics also has more calories per cup than Beneful, so less of it can be fed for a better value. Rachael Ray Nutrish is also around $1 per pound, and while it only rates 2.5 stars on Dog Food Advisor, it doesn't contain by-products and is widely available. 

For other options, I generally recommend people start by reading labels. By-products are undesirable because they can contain questionable substances from questionable sources. Named meats and meat meals are important. Chicken meal is better than chicken by-product meal, which is better than meat meal. Unintuitively, chicken meal is better than just plain chicken, since it is a more concentrated form of protein, and more of it makes it into the finished product. If people genuinely want to know more, I like to recommend the book Dog Food Logic, particularly for things like industry definitions of ingredients since these don't always match the layperson definitions.

And that's really it. I want people to know that there is better dog food out there, and affordable alternatives exist. There is no need for fear-mongering, scare tactics, or tales of woe. Gory details and hyperbole are out, well-cited and reliable sources of information are in.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Product Review: Coleman Brontosaurus Stuffy

This Coleman brontosaurus is one of our many dinosaur stuffies. It is a nice dark, slightly mottled color that stays clean-looking. The body is pleasantly floppy, and it crinkles just a little.
apatosaurus brontosaurus brachiosaurus
Photo by Erin Koski

According to Coleman's website, the dog toys under their brand are actually made by Unique Petz. This company has a very flashy animated website with very little actual content. They state that they manufacture products under several brands, but only show the brand logos and no actual products. I'm pretty sure Coleman-brand dog toys are not currently being produced.

I love dinosaurs with the fiery passion of a preschooler, and I was thrilled to find this adorable brontosaurus on Amazon.com. (In case you missed it, we have brontosauruses again as of April 2015.)

Unfortunately, Brisbane and Ru are not crinkle toy fans. I kept the brontosaurus around anyway because I love it, and now Sisci thinks it's pretty awesome.

brontosaurus apatosaurus plush
Photo by Erin Koski
Pros: Lovely dark textured color hides dirt so it always looks clean and pretty. Floppy soft body is a lot of fun to bite.

Cons: The brontosaurus is looking a tiny bit threadbare in places despite it's relatively easy life at the bottom of the toybox. I can't remember if it came like that or if it happened in the wash.

Bottom Line: I think this is our cutest dinosaur stuffy. I am pleased to have it laying around the house.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Chihuahua Herding Sheep

I brought Ru along to our herding lesson this week, and we let him check out the sheep just for fun. This is what happened:

 The video is from Ru's second time working with the sheep that day. The first time around he was a bit cautious until he realized he could make them move. Nothing makes him feel like a big dog like bossing around several creatures much larger than himself. He not only had a blast chasing them around, he also maintained his interest for much longer than I expected. Frankly I was surprised he wanted to play at all, but our instructor says she has yet to see a chihuahua that doesn't want to work sheep. I guess they just don't usually get the chance.

What is the most unlikely breed/task combination you've seen so far?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Food Friday: Artemis OsoPure Salmon and Garbanzo Bean Formula

I picked up this sample of Artemis OsoPure Salmon and Garbanzo Bean Formula kibble at the little feed store around the corner from my house. I had been aware of the Artemis brand of food since around 2010, but at the time the only product line available in my area was their Fresh Mix line. Those are all chicken-based, so I had mentally filed Artemis under "nifty foods my dog can't eat". I was pleased to find that they had extended their product range and that three of the foods in their OsoPure line were egg-free and poultry-free.
dog food and dinosaurs

Sweet Potatoes, Always Sweet Potatoes

After I picked up this sample, but before I used it, I got back the results of Brisbane's major allergy test. He is allergic to sweet potatoes, among other things. The vast majority of grain-free dog food contains sweet potatoes, including all of the Artemis OsoPure kibbles. Oh well. Fortunately I have Sisci to sample the many non-Briz-safe foods we encounter.

The Company
dog food and dinosaurs

The Artemis company was founded in 1998 in Carson, California, so they are at least local to my state. This is basically a marketing company, as their food is actually produced by Diamond Pet Foods. Diamond makes a ton of foods, including Wellness, Solid Gold, Natural Balance, Taste of the Wild, and Canidae. The Diamond pet food plant has been involved in at least one major recall that spanned multiple brands, so these are not my preferred brands of food.

The Food

As grain-free dog foods go, this one is merely ok. It Is made from salmon meal, followed by garbanzo beans, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and peas. That's a lot of carb sources, so many that Dog Food Advisor only rates it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Sisci isn't food-crazy or indestructible like Brisbane, but she ate it willingly and the sample didn't upset her stomach at all. This is not a food I would choose to feed my dogs long-term, and probably not something I would include in their regular rotation because there are a lot of better options available. Still, it's better than pretty much anything I can find at the grocery store and definitely not something I would feel bad about feeding if it was the best option available.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Puzzle Toy Review: Outward Hound Whirli Treat

The Outward Hound Whirli Treat is a poorly designed puzzle toy that consists of a ball with holes in it, and a stand. Theoretically the stand holds the ball so that it can roll in place, making the puzzle slightly more difficult to solve. In reality the ball falls off the stand the moment anyone touches it or breathes near it. It's really quite difficult to get it to spin on the stand without knocking it off, and the dogs don't seem to realize that this is how it's supposed to work. There are two large holes in the ball, and nothing else to keep the food from pouring out immediately. Seriously, I doubt the designers of this toy ever actually tested it with a real live dog. This is supposed to be a level 2 difficulty puzzle, and like the Tic Tac Twirl it is another that ejects all the food immediately when nudged.
Whirli Treat doge toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Puzzle Toy Review

Capacity: 4/5
I can fit at least a cup of food in here, and it will take slightly longer to empty than a bowl.

Loading Speed: 3/5
A soda funnel works pretty well.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 1/5
There is literally nothing stopping the kibble from just pouring out.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 1/5
Mere seconds.

Size: 1/5
Even Ru can't use this thing without knocking it off the stand, so I have no idea what size dog it is supposed to be for.
Whirli Treat useless dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Durability: 1/5
The two parts separate instantly when touched. Maybe the rest will stay together. I have to say that the Kyjen toys we have seem very sturdy while the Outward Hound-branded ones are much more glossy and flimsy. I don't like the new color scheme, either.

Noise: 2/5
It's a hard plastic ball, rolling unfettered across my hardwood floors. The only saving grace is that the dogs empty it instantly and then ignore it.

Locatability: 2/5
It's a hard plastic ball rolling unfettered across...well, you get it.

Washability: 2/5
The ball doesn't open up, but the holes are big enough to stick a bottle brush through.

Versatility: 1/5
Rolling the ball on the stand is difficult, I can't imagine any kind of animal that would attempt to use this toy as intended rather than letting it roll off the stand and dump food everywhere.

Total: 18/50

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Product Review: Kong Tuff N' Lite Pig

This Kong Tuff N' Lite Pig is definitely one of Sisci's new favorite toys. It's durable enough for tons of biting and squeaking fun, but weighs almost nothing. This toy is marketed for power chewers, is light enough to be tosses around indoors, and floats. We have a pink pig, there is also a blue octopus and a green frog available.
Heeler with durable squeaky fetch toy

As advertised, this toy is incredibly lightweight and bounces harmlessly off most indoor surfaces. We don't really have winter here in California, but I'm sure it would be great for indoor playtime when it's seriously cold outside. Ours spends a lot of time laying around the yard.

 We haven't yet tested the seaworthiness of the pink pig, but I would be shocked if something this lightweight could possibly sink. I've heard that they can take on a bit of water, though.

Kong pig indoor toy
Photo by Erin Koski
While this is advertised as being for power chewers, it isn't really a chew toy. The Kong Tuff N' Lite products are definitely for supervised, interactive play. They are, however, more durable than the average "indoor" dog toys. They are also lighter than the usual 2 lb. hunk of rubber toys for serious chewers.

Sisci loves to bite her pink pig. She insists on carrying a toy in her mouth every time she goes outside (but not when she comes back in) and the pig is the first thing she grabs if it isn't already laying out in the yard.

Pros: Really, really lightweight, as advertised. Squeak is not annoyingly loud. More durable than a tennis ball, and bigger than one so it's safer for larger dogs.

Cons: After one day ours was full of punctures. It hasn't taken any further damage, but it's not exactly pretty now.

Bottom Line: I'm kind of disappointed that Sisci hasn't torn it open yet, because I'd really like to see what's inside there. Maybe open-cell low-density foam? It doesn't feel empty.