Saturday, January 30, 2016

Product Review: Boomerang CollarTags

Boomerang CollarTags are probably the most durable identification tags out there, and they're not just for dog collars, either. These non-dangling bits of ID are available both for traditional buckle-collars and for any type of strap that doesn't have a nice end to slip through the slots. The standard CollarTags fit single-ply nylon straps, there is also one with extra wide slots for double-ply nylon and heavy leather collars. CollarTags are made from heavy stainless steel with deep engraving. They are available in five sizes to fit straps 3/8-1" wide.
slider flat CollarTag dog ID tag
Photo by Erin Koski

Boomerang makes some fabulously high-quality dog tags that are surprisingly inexpensive given that they last forever. Seriously, this tag has a longer projected lifespan than your dog. Boomerang tags are also super easy to read, which is impressive. At work I see tons of scratched up, worn out aluminum vending machine tags that are completely failing to serve their purpose.

CollarTags are not your average dog tags. These things slide onto the collar and lay flat without dangling or making noise. They are ridiculously secure and can be attached to basically anything with 1" or thinner straps. Harnesses, leashes, halters, backpacks, luggage, climbing equipment, you name it. The slots in the tag are open in the middle, so there doesn't need to be a free end to thread through the tag. They're a huge pain to put on, but Boomerang guarantees they won't fall off so it's worth it.

Pros: Solid, heavy, durable. Easy to read even after years of use. No hardware to rust or break, unlike riveted plate tags. Guaranteed against loss, damage, wear, and anything else that would make it non-functional. Less likely to get caught on things than dangling tags. Totally silent, the quietest dog tag.

Cons: Not as pretty as my Dog Tag Art tags, so we have both. The adjustable collar tags don't work on my nice leather collars, need to get different tags for that. Not as obvious as a dangling tag, someone who finds my dog may not spot the CollarTag and may assume my dog is not wearing identification.

Bottom Line: Forget dog tag silencers, this is where it's at.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Food Friday: Alternative Protein Roundup, Venison Edition

Brisbane's Bark Blog is approaching its second birthday, and we're taking a look back at some of the unique and interesting goodies we've found for dogs with food allergies. Brisbane himself is allergic to poultry and eggs, and was recently diagnosed with corn, barley, and sweet potato allergies as well. Finding foods, treats, and chews for him is an ongoing project, and I'm always looking for new things to try.

Venison is a popular protein found in quite a few limited ingredient diets intended for dogs with food allergies. I assume it's also somewhat easy to get in places where people hunt. Here on the coast of southern California, nobody hunts. Well maybe a few people do, but nobody talks about it. Saying you go out and kill animals for sport sort of feels antisocial, unless those animals are fish. Guns aren't common either, and the people who do have them tend to keep them in lockers at shooting ranges. I have seen a number of raw feeders recommend asking friends that hunt for their freezerburned deer meat, which seems downright foreign when I know so many people that have never even tasted venison.
Hear Doggy Flats deer dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Anyway, venison is a nice flavorful game meat that my dogs absolutely love. Like rabbit, it is a common alternative protein that does not seem to be a common allergen yet.

Venison Food

Stella & Chewy's makes both freeze-dried and frozen Simply Venison raw dog food. Primal also offer a frozen raw singe-protein venison food in their Primal Nuggets product line.  

In the non-raw food department, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Sweet Potato and Venison food was a common sight around my house until I figured out that Brisbane was allergic to sweet potatoes. We also tried the canned version back when the place I worked still carried it. Wysong gave me a coupon for free shipping, so I bought a bag of Epigen Venison, but Ru didn't like it. I'm not sure I would buy it again because it contained powdered barley grass and Briz has a barley allergy. Likewise, we'll be skipping the Party Animal Heavenly Venison canned food from now on because it contains sweet potatoes. 

So far, I think our favorite venison-based single-protein dog food has been the Canine Caviar Wilderness dog food. The canned version also went over well here. It's awfully high in calories for Brisbane, though. At the moment, we're working our way through the big bag of Pure Vita Venison and Red Lentils that the company handed out when my employers started carrying their products. Free dog food is my favorite kind of dog food. Ziwi Peak makes an air-dried venison, but it costs way more than their beef dog food so I've not been able to bring myself to buy it yet. I bet it smells horrible yet wonderful.

Venison Treats

So far I think our absolute favorite treat has been the Superior Farms Venison Crepe. It was basically a soft, delicious rawhide chew, but made out of a deer instead. We've had numerous Etta Says Deer Chews show up in our monthly subscription boxes, and they never last long. Less exciting are Natural Balance's LID Sweet Potato and Venison cookies. One of our favorite training treats so far has been the Merrick Venison Holiday Stew sausages.

What other deer-based, elk-based, or moose-based products are out there that we haven't tried yet?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Product Review: Simple Solution Washable Male Wrap

Simple Solution's Washable Male Wraps are basically cloth doggy diapers for boys that just can't keep their pee to themselves. The wrap goes around the waist and over the penis to prevent urinary marking, excitement peeing, and housetraining accidents. The wraps are available in three sizes to fit dogs up to 90 lbs.
Photo by Erin Koski

 I'm told it's possible to fully and reliably housetrain a chihuahua, but I'm not sure I believe it. Part of the problem is that tiny dogs produce really tiny amounts of pee, so it's tough to find accidents in a timely fashion. Normally finding a puddle means someone needs to do remedial 
Housebreaking 101 for the next month, with constant supervision, leash tethering, and crating when unattended. However, a chihuahua pee spot can go unnoticed for weeks until I realize that something stinks. When did this happen? Did he pee on anything else? We can do remedial house training again, but how do I know when he's actually reliably waiting to go outside?

My vet and I have had lengthy and animated discussions about Ru and his peeing in the house. She says it doesn't really fit any of the typical housebreaking issues, and seems to be entirely unique. It's not incontinence, it's not excitement peeing, and it's not marking behavior. He seems to just be willing to pee wherever's convenient sometimes. Most dogs won't potty in their favorite sleeping spot, some have Dirty Puppy Syndrome and don't care a bit if they're sleeping in pee. Ru will pee in his own bed and then cry because he can't sleep there because it has pee on it. We tested and treated him for a bladder infection, but it did not entirely resolve his tendency to occasionally pee on nice comfy beds where he himself likes to rest, or on his favorite toys which then become a source of distress because they now have pee on them. Personally, I think he's just really dumb.

At any rate, a belly band is a nice way to make sure that Ru only pees on himself. I've used some that were just plain rectangles with velcro, but these seem to work a lot better. They close with a big velcro strip that runs the full width of the band. There is elastic around the rest of it to help keep it snug. The small size is supposed to fit dogs up to 15 lbs, Ru is 6.5 lbs with a Barbie waist and it stays on him very well. He seems to be totally comfortable wearing it, and so far has not even attempted peeing in it. Unlike wraps made to hold a disposable pad, these are themselves absorbent. The extra layers give the fabric more rigidity and keep it from bunching.

Pros: Washable and lasts through a lot of washings. Resists bunching and really stays in place.

Cons: With only three sizes available, I'm sure at least some people have fitting issues. A really determined dog will figure out how to slither out of this.

Bottom Line: Better than the homemade and rectangular ones I've used in the past. A lot of boys only want to pee on things, and won't even bother when they realize they're only peeing on themselves.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

DIY Dog Crate Bumpers

Know what fits really well in 36" dog crates? Crib bedding. I have a variety of baby and toddler quilts that make fantastic crate bedding, they are very easy to wash and dry, and and can be layered for plenty of padding. Baby bedding is super easy to find at thrift shops and garage sales, and I don't think I've paid more than $3 for any of mine.

Pottery Barn dinosaur toddler quilt bumper
So cozy!
I recently found a totally adorable Pottery Barn dinosaur quilt that came with a matching crib
bumper. I had thought I would have to modify it a bit to use in a dog crate, but it had enough ties to secure it nicely in Brisbane's lair. I tied it in place all around the sides and just used scissors to chop off the excess and now Briz has the most adorable dinosaur-themed crate ever. I could probably finish the raw edge on my sewing machine, but for now it looks fine.

Crib bumpers are super easy to find used, most thrift stores seem to have at least three or four for sale. Though they are included with many crib bedding sets, a lot of parents dump them immediately. The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically states that bumper pads should not be used due to the risks of strangulation, entrapment, and suffocation they pose to human infants. Fortunately, dogs are a lot more capable of human infants.

I would not use a bumper pad in a crate for a dog that has separation anxiety or a tendency to eat non-food items. In general, I would rather be safe than sorry, so I would not use a bumper with a new dog, recent rescue, or puppy. However, for an adult dog that enjoys their crate, crib pads can be a nice cozy addition. We just moved last weekend, and Brisbane had been very unsettled. Even though he had the same crate with the same bed and the same blanket, it didn't feel like home. After I added the dinosaur bumper pad, he went right in and fell asleep immediately. I'm not sure what it is about the pad that makes him feel secure, but he definitely loves it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Treat Tuesday: LootPets Invasion of the Sweet Potato Crisps

These definitely-not-Briz-safe Sweet Potato Crisps arrived in our Loot Pets Invasion Crate this month. They are made by LovinForg Pets, and look suspiciously like their Puffsters line of treats. Normally I feel pretty grumpy about treats that Brisbane can't have (he's allergic to poultry, eggs, corn, barley, and sweet potatoes) but the art on the front of this package made my day. Look how the actual treats look just like the ones shooting death rays in the picture!
Loot Crate dog treats

Good For: A crunchy low-calorie snack. Scattering around the house for the dogs to find.

Not Good For: Dogs with allergies to sweet potatoes or rice. (Ingredients: sweet potato, rice flour.) High-value training treats.

How Much We Like Them: Just look at that bag!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Product Review: Ruffwear K-9 Overcoat

Ruffwear's K-9 Overcoat is a waterproof, fleece-lined winter coat. It features a large belly panel and incredibly durable construction. The outer fabric is smooth outdoor polyester that doesn't pick up burrs and stickers. This coat comes in three colors and six sizes to fit dogs with chests 13-42" around.
waterproof lined insulated durable dog coat
Photo by Erin Koski

I got a 40%-off Ruffwear coupon, and this is what I did with it. Sisci measures 22" around her chest, putting her right at the top of the size range for XS and the bottom for S. Ruffwear helpfully provides the back length and neck circumference measurements for their products, and the size small measured just right for the length of Sisci's back. I like my dogs' coats to be long enough to reach the bases of their tails and the small fits perfectly. 

This is a very easy coat to put on, and does not require any flexibility on the part of the dog. The neck is a fixed size, and the belly part attaches to the top part via plastic quick-release buckles. It is very easy to adjust, put on, and take off. Like the Sunshower jacket, the buckles are hidden in little pockets to protect them and keep them from irritating the dog.
Purple Ruffwear jacket
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Super durable! These coats last forever, according to their many stellar reviews across the internet. Excellent for running through the woods or wearing to daycare. Nice and long for excellent coverage and warmth, these are definitely sized for long-backed dogs. Waterproof! Sisci and I went for a walk in a rare California rain shower and the K-9 Overcoat kept her nice and dry. Allows total freedom of movement while still protecting the chest and belly. Stays in place no matter what.

Cons: Can be a bit long on short-backed dogs. Non-adjustable neck can also make it difficult to get a good fit on some body shapes. Belly panel seems to be made to fit dogs with deep chests like pointers, may hang a bit loose on short-backed or fat dogs. Really the only bad I can find about this coat has to do with the fit on weird-shaped dogs.

Bottom Line: If you never want to buy a dog coat again, and want something that will last your dog's entire life, the K-9 Overcoat is for you.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

LootPets January: Invasion!

We got our second Loot Pets box by Loot Crate, and the theme this month is Invasion! There is so much awesome packed into these subscription boxes, it's difficult to convey. It's clear how much thought has gone into each and every item in the box, and there's something to love about everything. Even stuff Brisbane can't have is wonderful in one way or another.
LootPets Invasion Loot Crate

There is an exclusive X-Files t-shirt designed for Threadless. Yes, those are UFOs abducting people. Ru is going to look smashing in this shirt as soon as it gets warm enough for him to stop wearing sweaters and enormously fluffy coats.

That 6' Space Invaders leash is by A Crowded Coop, a company I was previously unaware of. It turns out they make practically all of the cool geek and pop culture stuff out there, like Ru's Star Trek Collar, the Original Series communicator poo bag dispenser that lives on my purse, and a ton of the awesome stuff found at ThinkGeek.com.

Our last box had some awesome stuff by Quantum Mechanix, and this month we got a Battlestar Galactica disc that's just the right size for Sisci. We've been working on our disc skills, and this is a nice one to toss without worrying about it bonking into something.

The Invasion of the Sweet Potato Crisps are by Loving Pets, they're definitely more like puffed chips and less like dried root vegetables. Normally I would be grumbling about getting sweet potato treats now that I know Brisbane is also allergic to sweet potatoes, but Loot Crate is forgiven because of the illustration on the bag. It features flying alien sweet potato crisps frying people with their laser eyestalks. The crisps themselves are wavy and unlike anything I've seen before. Sisci is willing to eat them, so hopefully they won't go to waste.

The last thing in the box is a silver flying saucer Loot Pets collar charm. These things are wonderfully collectible. Actually the boxes themselves are pretty darned collectible, too. The inside is printed in a matching theme, it's almost like finding a handwritten note from my mom in my lunchbox (Note: My mother never actually wrote me lunchbox notes, and I packed all my own lunches anyway, so this is pure speculation). The boxes are just the right size for storing various odds and ends. Thank you, all you passionate geeks who invented the Loot Crate concept, for these small but significant details that make your subscription boxes extra-special.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Product Review: Original Sporn Halter

The Original Sporn Halter is a no-pull harness that has been around since 1992. It consists of a collar with an unusual number of D-rings, and a cord with clips on either end and a ring and spring toggle in the middle. The cord is run through a pair of fleecy sleeves to prevent it from rubbing on the dog. The Original Sporn Halter is currently available in three different colors and four sizes to fit dogs with necks 9-33"around.
Original Sporn Halter on escape artist dog
Photo by Erin Koski

Before there was the Simple Control Harness, before there was the Non-Pull Mesh Harness, there was the Original Sporn Halter. It was invented in 1992 and I'm sure I was using one shortly after the product was released. I used to walk Sid the Weimeraner from down the street on a Sporn Halter, I guess my neighbors were early adopters.

Like every piece of dog gear, there's some good things and some bad things about this one. For some users, it is nothing short of a miracle. Back in 1992, it allowed my tiny prepubescent self to walk an enormous dog with ease. Sid the Weimeraner had major skin issues, but the harness never rubbed him raw, and back then the cords didn't even have those sherpa sleeves on them.

On the flip side, this is a somewhat complicated piece of gear to put on, more so because it can come apart unlike similar products by the same company. The collar has two metal D-rings on the front and two on the back. Each side of the forked cord piece is run through a back ring, under the dog's front leg, and attached to the front ring on the same side. The plastic toggle at the center of the cord is then used to pull both sides snug. The leash is attached to the center ring above the toggle, so that the restraint cords are pulled tight when the dog pulls.
Annie pulling in Sporn Halter
Apparently not.
Photo by Erin Koski

Doesn't That Hurt?

I have for many years considered the Sporn Halter to be an aversive tool. Clearly pulling a thin cord into a dog's armpit must be painful, right? The primary reason I keep these in my toolbox is because they just don't seem to bother the dogs much.

In my review of the Yuppy Puppy (now YUP!) Anti-Pull Harness, I said I was sure a dog charging to the end of their leash with a full head of steam would feel actual pain when they hit this harness. During our photo shoot, I actually got to see this happen. Annie the Escapologist saw another dog across the park and went flying to the end of a 6' leash in an Original Sporn Halter...and didn't even notice. The harness made her front legs sort of spread out to either side, airplane style, but she quickly figured out how to engage her back end and keep pulling with her front completely off the ground. 

I have now revised my opinion of string harnesses as aversive tools. Clearly they don't cause nearly the amount of discomfort imagined, given how well they work. It seems they make the action of pulling on the leash inconvenient or awkward, rather than outright painful. 

Pros: Light for dogs that abhor heavy harnesses. Instantly effective on many dogs. Does not require the dog's feet to be lifted, or anything to be pulled over their head. 

Cons: Some dogs just don't find it that annoying. The cords on this design can rub the dog's armpits raw, the Sporn Non-Pull Mesh Harness places them a bit further back. Can be a bit complicated to put on for the spatially-challenged  (or maybe looking at a mass of straps and cords and being able to immediately identify what it is and how it goes on is my superpower...). Is definitely not escape-proof, short-legged dogs and those that can back out of their collars may have an extra edge when it comes to popping out of it.

Bottom Line: Annie the Escape Artist is a fantastic product tester for no-pull products as well as supposedly escape-proof gear. I had regarded this harness as difficult to escape until she tried to back out of it. Apparently, for some dogs, it's as easy to pop out of as a flat collar. Annie is a great example of how we learn more from difficult dogs than we do from the easy, well-behaved ones.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Food Friday: Alternative Protein Roundup, Rabbit Edition

Brisbane's Bark Blog has been around for close to two years now, and in that time we've reviewed a lot of food and treats that use allergy-friendly alternative proteins like rabbit. Since Brisbane is allergic to poultry, I don't normally consider turkey and duck to be alternative proteins. I also know that beef is a common allergen, and that buffalo and bison may not be different enough for dogs with beef allergies. Lamb was considered alternative a couple of decades ago but has become increasingly more common since then. For the purpose of this blog post, I'm going to stick with the more exotic choices.

Rabbit is a high-protein, lean meat that, frankly, should be cheaper and easier to find in the grocery store. Those little buggers are everywhere, on the trail one even leaped into Brisbane's mouth. I bet giant bunny feedlots in the middle of California would smell way better than the legions of cows currently occupying that space.

This picture has nothing to do with this post.
Photo by Erin Koski

Rabbit Food

I think our favorite rabbit-based food is Stella & Chewy's Absolutely Rabbit, freeze-dried is always a winner around here. Wysong Archetype was also a winner until Brisbane's allergy test revealed his barley allergy. Raw is also quite popular, and Brisbane and Sisci both loved the Primal Nuggets we tried. The place where I work used to carry Wild Calling Hoppy's canned dog food, and that was what we tempted picky dogs with until our vendor stopped offering it. Instinct also offers a rabbit-based canned food. Our least favorite was Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Potato and Rabbit, which is high in carbs while being low in protein and fat. Mostly it's just widely available and worth trying if you're not sure what your dog is allergic to and can't get something like Wysong Anergen 2 instead.

Rabbit Treats

In addition to rabbit-based diets, we've found a bunch of bunnymeat treats. Some are made almost entirely from rabbit meat, like Wysong's Dream Treats and Barkworthy's Rabbit BonBons. Others have some additional ingredients, like the Etta Says Crunchy Rabbit Chews that also contain rawhide. Zukes offers a couple of different rabbit-based versions of their semi-moist treats. Their Lil' Links Rabbit and Apple Recipe are still safe for Brisbane's ever-growing list of allergies, but their Mini Naturals are full of barley so those are now off the menu for us.

Have you found a rabbit-based product we haven't tried yet? Please share in the comments!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Product Review: EzyDog Chestplate Harness

The EzyDog Chestplate Harness has an usual design that either works for your dog, or doesn't. This is a two-buckle harness that requires the dog to step over a strap to get it on, but it does not need to be pulled over the head. The Chestplate Harness features reflective stitching and comes with a seatbelt attachment intended to prevent driver distraction (but does not provide crash protection). It is available in nine different colors and seven sizes to fit dogs with chests 10-53" around.
Ranger the Australian Cattle Dog
Photo by Erin Koski

Years ago I bought one of these for Brisbane. It was a blue size large Chestplate Harness and it was terrible. The top of the stiff chestplate stabbed him in the throat and gagged him when he tried to put his head down to sniff. The plate also sagged away from his chest no matter how tight I made the straps. The next size down was too small. I eventually passed the harness along to a friend with a larger dog. Then I started a dog blog and realized this was the perfect venue to gripe about this thing.

The EzyDog Chestplate Harness modeled by Ranger in the pictures came from the 50-cent bin at the Humane Society. It's well-worn so obviously somebody had better luck with it than I did. Ranger has a longer neck than Brisbane, and the chestplate on this harness didn't stab him in the throat when he put his head down.

However, it does slide to the side a lot. The heavy buckles and leash attachment weigh it down and make the whole thing rotate. This pushes the plate into Ranger's inner leg. I've read a number of reviews with complaints of chaffing and scabs as a result of this issue. The company has replied to several Amazon reviews with claims that this is a fitting issue, but I can't get the harness to stop rotating no matter how tight it's adjusted, and this is the only size that fits.

EzyDog Chestplate Harness on heeler
Photo by Erin Koski
I really don't like the way EzyDog markets the Chestplate Harness. In addition to claims that the plate with mold to the chest for a custom fit, they claim that this harness helps control pulling. This is not a no-pull harness, in fact it makes pulling easier and more comfortable. It can help change the picture for a dog accustomed to pulling on a collar, but the novelty will wear off and the dog will be able to pull even harder once they get used to the feeling. This is the same for any harness though, there's absolutely nothing about the Chestplate Harness that discourages pulling.

Pros: Weird shape may fit some hard-to-fit dogs. Foam chestplate distributes pressure. Does not need to be pulled over the dog's head.

Cons: Stiff chestplate can stab dog in the throat if they are a certain shape or near the bottom of the size range. If the plate is low enough not to jab into the neck, the neck strap lays across the shoulders and may inhibit movement. May chafe insides of front legs. Several reviewers have reported their smaller-sized Chestplate Harnesses snapping shortly after purchase. Difficult to get a good fit, harness rotates and adjustment slides catch on chestplate, making it non-trivial to right.

Bottom Line: Like EzyDog's QuickFit Harness, this one has some major and common issues that the company likes to sweep under the rug by claiming nobody else is having this problem. The Chestplate Harness might be worse though, despite it being readily available at one of my local shops, I have never seen one on a dog in my area.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yup, It's Cancer.

Well, Brisbane's suspected carnassial tooth abscess did not respond to antibiotics at all. In fact, it may have gotten bigger. The vet numbed his face down and stuck the bump with needles and sent whatever she got out to the cytology lab.  We were expecting results back within a few days, but I was told that the initial report was not particularly detailed or helpful. Our wonderful vet spent the next two weeks chasing down the pathologist who did the report and shaking them down for answers. Here's what we learned:

It's Definitely a Mesenchymal Cell Tumor.

Mesenchymal cells are undifferentiated stem cells that can turn into all sorts of things. Sometimes they get a bit messed up and start turning into the wrong things. This is a very big category of tumors though, and encompasses the entire group of soft tissue sarcomas. I believe this was all that came back on the original cytology report

It's a Soft Tissue Sarcoma.

Again, this is a great big group that encompasses things as benign as those fatty lipoma lumps old Labradors tend to grow, and as horrific as the deadly and aggressive hemangiosarcoma. That's basically the entire range of severity when it comes to bumps on dogs. Could be something completely harmless and painless, could be acutely fatal cancer-of-the-everything that's undetectable until it's in the late stages. Again, not that helpful an answer.

It's Likely a Hemangiopericytoma.

This is a type of peripheral nerve sheath tumor. Without doing a major surgical biopsy we can't be sure, but the pathologist said there is a very good chance that's what we're dealing with. These tumors are usually localized, but also aggressive. They don't spread to other parts of the body or hostilely take over the lungs most of the time, but they do tend to grow and bother the structures around them. Typically these are treated by removing them surgically and then using radiation to make sure they're really gone. If not completely obliterated, they tend to grow back even more aggressively.

The Good News.

Brisbane has a low-grade tumor, the type that is least likely to metastasize to other parts of the body. He doesn't appear to be in any pain from the tumor, he is still behaving normally and gnawing bones and bully sticks with that side of his mouth.
sleeping dog on India elephant bedspread
Not exactly devastating, but not great either.

The Bad News.

The location means it is unlikely the tumor could be removed completely enough to prevent regrowth. Surgery and radiation treatment would be a long, painful process that would ultimately do very little for Briz besides make him miserable. 

Where We Go From Here.

So, at the recommendation of my vet, I am doing nothing about Brisbane's tumor. Well, actually I'm monitoring and measuring it and researching stuff and my vet is also casting far and wide for other treatment options. Mostly I'm just not going to put him through surgery. There is the possibility that the vet can inject the tumor with something to help shrink it whenever it finally starts to bug him. I first noticed the tumor a little over a month ago and in that time it has grown to 4x3.5 cm as of Saturday. It might keep growing steadily until it impacts his quality of life, or it might not even shorten his lifespan. For now he is a happy dog with a full and joyful life, and I'm going to enjoy him for as long as I have him. We have a sheep herding trial coming up in a couple of weeks, and we're ready to get his next Trick Dog Title and start looking into Dog Parkour and Cyber Rally. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Beef Tendons

Yet another of the fun goodies we brought back from Idaho, these Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Beef Tendons were not long for this world. I've given Brisbane dried beef tendons before, but this was the first time I had seen freeze-dried tendons.
beef tendon dog chew treats
Good For: Taking a good ten minutes to devour. Not being stinky. Dogs with non-beef allergies. Being cheaper than a bully stick, I paid less than $10 for a three-pack.

Not Good For: Lasting more than one chewing session. Lasting as long as a bully stick.

How Much We Liked Them: There were three in the package and it took enormous effort to save the smallest one for this picture.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Product Review: Thongs for Dogs

Pants for Dogs makes dog thongs, and they are amazing. I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. It looks pretty ridiculous too, but these are easily the best dog pants on the market. They're Just. So. Awesome. They come in two styles, thong for most dogs and bikini for those with shorter croups (the bit of rump between tail and waist). Thongs for Dogs are available in seven sparkly spandex colors, and six sizes for dogs with waists 12.5-25+" around.
thong dog underwear diaper heat
Photo by Erin Koski

So what's so spectacular about thongs for dogs? It's all about the cut. As I've mentioned previously, Sisci Godzilla has the beefiest thighs. This went entirely unnoticed until she went into heat and I bought her a couple of sets of hotpants. Without fail, the ones we've tried have been tight around her thighs while just barely fitting small enough around her waist.

Pants for Dogs specifically mentions wide-thighed athletic dogs in the product description for their thongs. Clearly, they were made just for Sisci. The leg holes are enormous, and the cut is nice and high to give her total freedom of motion.

Actually though, my favorite thing about these bitch pants is the fact that they velcro on without her having to step through the leg holes. There's a velcro closure on either side and they go on just like a diaper. I'm sure there's other dog pants with closures like this, but these also have those fabulous high-cut thighs. It's like wearing nothing at all.

Pros: Works as intended, keeps my sofa and rugs clean and stays on and in place extremely well. Very easy to put on. Thong style allows for full range of motion and accommodates super chunky thighs with minimal material. Sparkly spandex is just awesome.

Cons: Natural bobtails aren't very good at staying in tail holes. Pants for Dogs also offers a specific style for dogs with no tail at all, but alas Sis is in that twilight area between tailed and tail-less.

Bottom Line: I feel like putting these on Sisci even when she's not in heat so that when we go out and people ask about them, I can proselytize about thongs for dogs.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Puzzle Toy Review: Kensington Kennel Club Cones Dog Intelligence Toy

The box repeatedly refers to the pieces of this Kensington Kennel Club Dog Intelligence Toy as cones, but they are clearly pegs. There was a chihuahua on the product box, and the puzzle is quite nicely sized for little Ru. It's an easy puzzle, lifting the pegs out of the base is the only skill required. However, Ru has a tiny brain. This puzzle provided him with tons of mental stimulation.
Small dog wood puzzle
Photo by Erin Koski

Kensington Kennel Club is a trademark of Ross stores, which is where I found both this puzzle and our first Dog Intelligence Toy. I have since spotted a couple of other wood puzzles, all bearing the same name. This is the only tiny one.

There just aren't that many puzzles sized for toy breeds. Most of the time the pegs are to big for them to pick up with their mouths, so all a tiny dog can do is dig furiously and hope to dislodge one. Each peg has a hole in the top too, so the dog can tell what sort of tasty goodness is hiding under there.

Puzzle Toy Review

Capacity: 1/5
The six treat nooks hold...six treats. That's ok though, this isn't a meal-feeding toy.

Loading Speed: 5/5
I mean, how long does it take to stick six little pegs in the base?

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
Ru spent close to ten minutes getting two treats out of this thing, and he was so close to getting them that he stayed interested the entire time.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 2/5
I think after one round of emptying this thing out, Brisbane has already figured out how to pick up two pegs at a time with his teeth.

Size: 1/5
This is a small toy for small dogs. My 30-45 lb dogs have some difficulty using it correctly.

Durability: 3/5
Tiny dogs aren't really known for destroying things, but this is a supervision-only toy and not made to hold up to chewing. It will, however, stand up to an infinite amount of frantic but ineffective digging and pathetic whining.

Noise: 5/5
Stick it on a towel or bit or carpet and it's dead quiet. I can't imagine an itty bitty dog launching this thing into a wall or anything.

Locatability: 4/5
Supervision-only means I only have to go looking for the pegs when they roll away. The puzzle even came with a little drawstring bag to keep the pieces together.

Washability: 2/5
There aren't inaccessible nooks, but it's made of wood and not terribly well-sealed wood. Definitely a dry-treat-only puzzle.

Versatility: 2/5
The lack of easy sterilization limits who I can use this with. However, I think it would be fun to try with small animals of all sorts. Bunnies, rats, maybe a bearded dragon...

Total: 30/50

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Product Review: BarkMade Circus Elephant

This BarkMade Circus Elephant stuffy is tougher than it looks! It is available exclusively from BarkShop, and arrived in our July Allergy-Friendly BarkBox. The circus elephant comes in two sizes, ours is the smaller 6" version and the larger is 7.5".
dog and stuffed elephant in park
Photo by Erin Koski

I know that BarkShop's exclusive toys are made by various other companies, like our BarkMade Shooting Star made by Swag Company for BarkBox. The company didn't announce who made this one though, and somebody ate the tag on ours so I guess we'll never know unless I get the urge to email the company.

For a toy that has gotten so much love, this one has held up remarkably well. Brisbane loved it immediately, and Sisci arrived a month later and was also immediately drawn to it. The website says this toy is good for smaller pups, but Ru mostly only likes gigantic stuffies and has ignored it entirely.

So far the stuffy has been shaken, tossed, gnawed, endlessly squeaked, and left out in the rare California rain. After a trip through the wash, it was as good as new.
Queensland heeler with toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Sturdy enough to not split at the seams from normal dog play. Excessively cute. Seriously. Just look at it. I think it's the little circus hat.

Cons: Probably not sturdy enough to handle intentional destruction.

Bottom Line: Even if my dogs ignored it, the Circus Elephant would look adorable laying on the floor or in the toy pile.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Food Friday: FirstMate Limited Ingredient Canned Wild Salmon Dog Food

FirstMate is not a brand I see around here often, but I found their canned food in the same shop as I found Canine Caviar. They were not really on my radar until I went to check out their website for this blog post. It turns out they're based in British Columbia, so they're a west coast company that just isn't that common down here in southern California. It turns out they're one of the great pet food companies, privately owned with their own production facility and no recalls ever.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Company

FirstMate was founded by an experienced fisherman concerned with dwindling fish stocks in the oceans of the world. This is a cause near and dear to my own heart, so I already like this company. The founder turned his efforts to the farmed salmon industry, and started up a fish food company named after his fishing boat, the Taplow. 

Here's where the story gets interesting! The fish farms had guard dogs that periodically helped themselves to the fish food. That stuff is apparently expensive, and Taplow feeds was asked to develop a food specifically for the guard dogs. The story given on the FirstMate website is that the fish farmers asked Taplow to make a dog food so good, the dogs would stay out of the fish food. I suspect it was something a little bit more cost-and-convenience based, along the lines of "Hey, since we're already paying you a gazillion dollars for fish chow, could you throw in a little something cheap for the dogs and save us an extra order/trip?"

At any rate, Taplow Feeds owns their own production facility, and has never had a recall. That's a pretty impressive. This is a privately-owned company, and the fisherman founder planned from the beginning to be a dog food manufacturer and not just a marketing company like those that use a co packer. They source their lamb from Australia, and everything else from Canada and the USA.
FirstMate Limited Ingredient Salmon Dog Food
I'm not sure if this means the food is tasty, or that my cat is a bit of a weirdo.

The Food

FirstMate dog food was launched in 1989 if I'm reading things right. In 1995 they already had a grain-free food made from fish and potato. Color me impressed. Their grain-inclusive foods are based on barley, rice, and oatmeal. The grain-free dry foods are all potato-based and use chicken fat. They have a disclaimer on every ingredients list that says they use treated chicken fat that contains no protein and therefore cannot cause an allergic reaction, but I honestly just don't trust any of those. Maybe if my dog had fewer allergies. 

Their Limited Ingredient canned foods are awesome, though. This one just has salmon, potato, and vitamins and minerals. That's it. The dogs all loved it, as did one of my cats. James crashed my photo shoot and ate most of the bowl, and I let him because my cats are kind of spoiled. 

The Dog Food Advisor website does not have a rating for FirstMate's canned foods, but their grain-free and grain-inclusive foods both have an average rating of four out of five stars. The ingredients in the dry foods all look good to me, but they lost a star due to below-average fat content and above-average carbohydrates in most of their recipes. This would make me hesitate to use this food long-term for a dog with weight issues, like Brisbane. I would love to see the site analyze the FirstMate wet foods though, as these seem quite nice and are definitely something to add to the rotation when I get the chance.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Puzzle Toy Review: Mod Dog Puzzle

I found this board-game style wood dog puzzle by Mod at my local Ross. This seems to be a discount store brand, and is owned by the same company as Doghaus, another brand I often see there. 'Mod' stands for Modern Objects for Dogs, and car seat covers are the only other product I routinely see from this brand. So it's not a high-tech, well-researched product from an awesome company, but it is a different puzzle than most of ours and it was $5 so worth trying out.
stumpy heeler solving dog puzzle
Photo by Erin Koski

The puzzle consists of a bone-shaped base with a colored peg occupying a hole in each corner. At the center there are three hollows and two colored sliders, the third hole is covered by a natural-colored wood peg that is slightly larger than the other four. In order to move the sliders, the big peg must be removed from the puzzle.

I like the pegs on this puzzle because they are shaped nicely for dogs to pick up with their mouths. So far Brisbane is the only one who has mastered this skill though, everybody else just paws wildly until the pegs come out.

Puzzle Toy Rating
Capacity: 1/5
This is a one-treat-per-cavity puzzle, intended for supervised, interactive play rather than turning dinner into a project.

Loading Speed: 5/5
Lightning fast since I'm basically loading it up with seven kibbles.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
Pegs are pretty tough for dogs to figure out, and take a lot of effort to remove via pawing. This was a real stumper for Ranger and Annie, and Sisci took a long time to finally empty it.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 2/5
Brisbane already knows exactly how pegs work and is pretty efficient at working sliders too. He emptied the puzzle efficiently and methodically in less than a minute.

Size: 3/5
The pegs on this one are a bit big for Ru to move with his mouth, and would be a bit tiny for a large breed dog to pick up.

Durability: 5/5
This is a solid wood puzzle intended for supervised play, and should stand up to anything short of intentional gnawing. It has so far weathered a near-infinite amount of pawing with no damage.

Noise: 4/5
It doesn't roll or clatter, though it does occasionally get launched across the floor and can make some interesting noises on the hardwood when I decide to give a dog some space to work things out.

Locatability: 4/5
Supervision means never losing the puzzle, though the pegs do like to roll away sometimes.

Washability: 4/5
Most of the wood is pretty well-sealed, but I wouldn't be putting raw meat in it or anything.

Versatility: 2/5
This puzzle requires some fine motor skills to complete, and the small parts and material limits the range of critters that can solve it without destroying it.

Total: 35/50

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Product Review: Hurtta Breezy Pants

Hurtta's Breezy Pants are basically hotpants for dogs. They're specifically intended for females in season, but can also be used for incontinence. They are made from stretchy synthetic material designed to move with the dog. The pants feature a waistband that adjusts with a plastic clip, and a generous gap for the tail. They are intended to be used with a disposable panty liner. They come in seven sizes to fit dogs with waists 11-32" around.
bitch in heat hotpants
Photo by Erin Koski

Sisci Godzilla is in heat again, and it's about as awesome as living in a mental ward. Ru is absolutely beside himself with desire to make cattlehuahuas, despite being neutered at six months of age and also being about a foot too short to actually accomplish anything. She's currently in the "standing heat" phase where she's happily propositioning anything that moves. Ranger and Annie were here for the weekend, and Sisci spent the entire time mooning over poor uninterested Ranger while he tried unsuccessfully to nap.

In addition to being super-flirty, Sisci was also super drippy. We got away with no pants for her first heat, but this time around we definitely needed something to protect the couch, dog beds, people bed, and other upholstered surfaces. I was prepared though, I ordered her a set of Hurtta Breezy Pants during her last heat.

These seemed like a good idea at the time. They are sized by waist and Sisci's measurements fell into the overlap between the small and medium sizes. She seems really petite to me, so I ordered a small. I know that Brisbane and Ru have very long backs relative to their chest measurements, but I don't normally go around putting pants on dogs so I didn't realize that Sisci has enormous, beefy thighs. The small Breezy pants wouldn't even fit all the way up her legs. Meanwhile, the medium just barely gets small enough for her waist but is still tight around her thighs.

This brings me to another issue: these are step-in pants. I firmly believe that whoever invented step-in products never tried to get a dog or a toddler to step into something on purpose. Between Sisci's beefy thighs and tendency to splay out flat on her back whenever she saw them, the Breezy pants were pretty difficult to get on and off.

Pros: Machine washable. Come in lots of sizes. Form-fitting and comfortable. Unobtrusive, doesn't scream "DIAPER!!!" Black doesn't show...anything.

Cons: Leg openings are not adjustable. Step-in design is difficult to put on a dog that does anything but stand placidly, dogs don't understand the concept of pants.

Bottom Line: I was going to complain about the fitting issue, but after trying a couple more pairs of hotpants I'm pretty sure Sisci just has a super tiny waist and massive dog thighs. Seriously, they are So Big.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Exer-Hides USA Rawhide Curls

I found a package of  Exer-Hides Rawhide Rolls at Walmart that lived up to my incredibly high standards, and now I have to question everything I ever thought I knew. Well not exactly, but I was definitely surprised. Normally I only give my dogs Wholesome Hides because these are made in the USA from domestically-sourced hides, and constructed in a way that makes them very difficult to chew in an unsafe manner.
Walmart USA safer rawhide

While visiting my cousins in Idaho, we made a trip to Walmart. The subject of rawhide came up while we were browsing the pet aisle, and my cousin if I ever gave my dogs rawhide. I explained that I only give them Wholesome Hides because they are made out of one big thick sheet of rawhide, while the vast majority of rawhide rolls are made from one small, thin sheet wrapped around a bunch of smaller chunks and scraps. Chewing that one sheet takes a lot more time and effort, while it's much easier to bite off and swallow large chunks of the cheap ones.

I also mentioned my annoyance at the "USA Rawhide" I see at Petco all the time with the small print revealing that the actual product is manufactured in Mexico from USA-sourced hides. Almost all rawhide is made from USA-sourced hides, it's the process of shipping it to Mexico or China or elsewhere that tends to cause problems. A lot of consumers are aware of this, and specifically look for American rawhide, so I believe that packaging to be deliberately deceptive.

At any rate, back to Walmart. Seeking visual aids for my explanation, I grabbed the nearest package of rawhide retriever rolls. "See? It says USA really big on the front but it's probably not...no, actually it's made in the USA from US-only beef hides, wow. And the rolls are made from one thick sheet and not a bunch of little pieces. I guess I need to buy these." I did find a good example of low-quality unsafe rawhides rolls on the shelf right next to these, also under the name Exer-Hides but made in China.

As expected, these things took absolutely forever for the dogs to demolish. We had Brisbane, Sisci, Molly the Power Chewer, the Barbosa the pit bull puppy gnawing on them for a week and still brought home all four rolls with very little hide missing. Brisbane and Sisci took another couple of weeks to finish them off, and basically had to gnaw enough to unroll the hide and nibble off the edge of the sheet. So many hours of chewing! These are smaller rolls than our gigantic Wholesome Hides retriever rolls, but the USA Exer-Hides were fantastically long-lasting rawhides designed for safer chewing with minimal swallowing of hide. At $10 for four rolls, they were also a great value. I'm not sure if my local Walmart here in California carries them, I'll have to check next time I'm feeling brave enough to venture inside it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

We Killed a Rubit

Rubits were my favorite quick-changing tag clips for a long time. I love the design, and for a while I was pretty sure they were indestructible. I did begin to worry about Brisbane's original Rubit Curve because it had thinned over a span of six years, but it's currently holding Sisci's tags and has been used on my various foster dogs almost continuously.
damaged Rubit Curve dog identification license tag holder

The one we killed had only been in service for two years. It was a large purple heart Rubit. Although it was holding Brisbane's tags, Ranger was wearing it when it failed because I usually put my dogs' tags on visiting dogs.

I don't actually know what happened to this thing. It's bent open so that the wire gate can't reach the other side, and the split ring is also pretty bent. This was on the floor with the tags still on the ring when I got home from work a couple of weeks ago.

The most likely answer is that the tags or the Rubit itself got caught on something and Ranger struggled until the clip bent far enough for him to get free. It apparently wasn't too traumatic an experience for him because he acted fine that evening and didn't seem injured or out of sorts. Once I found the tags I checked him over to see if he had a sore toe or dewclaw that might have gotten hung up, but I didn't find anything. I don't know what else he could have gotten caught on since the tags were just laying in the open and not stuck anywhere obvious.

Whatever happened, I'm taking it as a reason to try a different type of tag holder for Brisbane. I've been using a plastic Links-It to hold Ru's tags for a while now, so I went ahead and ordered one for Brisbane. I'll let you know how it works for us. Have you tried any quick-change tag-holders?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

DIY Dog: Homemade Bone Broth for Picky Dogs

Homemade bone broth is incredibly easy to make, and one of the few things my picky chihuahua will reliably drink. Ru is super, super picky. In an attempt to get more liquid into him, I have tried moistening his food with a variety of different things. He normally doesn't like anything at all touching his kibble, and won't eat it if there's water, baby food, applesauce, or store-bought broth or stock on it.
homemade bone broth supplies

I started making my own broth while reading Dinner Pawsible. While I didn't stick with the recipe book, I did continue making bone broth for my dogs. It's a really cheap, really easy, and really healthy way to keep them hydrated. This is good for their bladders and kidneys, and also makes me feel like a fabulous dog owner. Or a basket case. Maybe both.

Anyway, here's my basic recipe for bone broth:

  • Take some bones (any type, cooked or raw, meat on them or not, leftover steak bones from your dinner, they don't all have to be the same type of bones, whatever, it doesn't really matter).
  • Put them in a crockpot. Fill the crockpot with water.
  • Set the crockpot on low heat for like a day or two. Add more water if it gets low.
  • Throw away the bones. Strain the broth, or not. Feel free to feed any boneless meat sludge to your dog.
Ta-da! You can throw your leftover roast chicken carcass, or Thanksgiving turkey bones, or whatever in. Maybe save them in the freezer till you have enough to fill the pot. Since Brisbane is allergic to poultry, I usually make beef or pork broth. Beef and pork feet are my favorite thing to use for broth because it ends up all gelatinous when it cools down. I usually add a tiny bit of salt, garlic powder, and occasionally herbs, but this is largely for my own aesthetic and doesn't really serve a purpose.

After a day or two, I shut off the crockpot and let the broth cool for a bit. I used to strain it through cheesecloth, but then I realized the dogs probably enjoy all the little meat bits and stuff in there so now I just scoop stuff out with a slotted spoon. I toss the bones and add the boiled meat to their dinners for the next couple of days. 

Homemade broth doesn't have much of a shelf life, so I freeze it in sandwich bags and microwave it as needed. The dogs appreciate a warm dinner, and Ru will actually drink an entire bowl of liquid with his dinner. Truly amazing. There's really not anything bad about it either, it's low in fat, high in vitamins, and doesn't have any salt unless you put some in there. It's just plain tasty goodness, and even super picky anorexic dogs seem to love it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Product Review: Chuckit! Indoor Ball and Launcher

The Chuckit! Indoor Ball and Launcher is a low-impact, super exciting way to play fetch without breaking quite as much stuff in your house. The launcher can pick the ball up off the floor without getting your hands slobbery, and incites the same feverish delight as the outdoor Chuckit! The indoor ball is made from soft chenille fabric and is light enough to bounce harmlessly off of walls, pictures hanging on the walls, pendulum clocks, televisions, glass cabinet doors, beer carboys, and lava lamps. Why yes, yes that is a very specific list. The Indoor Chuckit! collection comes in one size that is big enough for an enormous dog but so fluffy even a tiny dog can get a grip on it.
picking up the indoor chuckit ball
Photo by Erin Koski

The Chuckit! Indoor Launcher normally comes with a donut-shaped Indoor Roller toy, but I found mine toyless at a thrift shop so I had to get the ball separately.

I have to admit, when I first saw this toy concept I though it was kind of pointless. I mean, what's wrong with just hucking regular dog toys around the house, right? That sort of attitude is precisely why my parents' walls were covered with tennis ball marks for many years. Also, I'm sorry about that teacup, Mom. As an adult I'm still prone to lobbing various balls and stuffies around my own house, but I still cringe every time a throw goes a bit wild.
Chuckit indoor ball
Photo by Erin Koski

With the Chuckit! Inddor Ball, every throw can be a wild throw. This thing has no mass and doesn't seem to be capable of flying with enough force to damage anything (except that teacup probably still could have been demolished). This gives me the confidence to lob it around my house with wild abandon.

So far I've managed to bounce it off the above-mentioned list of objects in my home without damaging anything, to my great surprise. Brisbane is not impressed, but Sisci thinks the short little Indoor Launcher is super fun and amazing. She also loves to carry around the indoor ball around when we're not playing. Overall it has been a much more fun and useful product than I expected.

It's worth mentioning that the original Chuckit! company, Canine Hardware, was purchased by PetMate sometime in the last two years. This is the same company that owns JW Pet and Dogzilla. I haven't yet noticed any decline in quality or toy construction, but it can be tough to tell. My original Chuckit! launcher is still going strong after 16 years so I haven't tried out the more recent ones.

Pros: Fun for dogs of all sizes. Mostly harmless ball flies with minimal force. Launcher is low-powered. Can pick up ball without touching the nasty thing.

Cons: Pastel colored ball looks dirty right away. Ball-launching capability may lead to lack of caution in users.

Bottom Line: As some point I should actually grow up enough to not play ball in the house, but that point has not yet arrived. Long live the indoor ball!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Food Friday: Artemis Pro A.L.S.

I got this sample of Artemis Pro A.L.S. at the seed and feed around the corner from my house. This is a value brand, a lot like Fromm Classic and at a similar price point. It only comes in one formula, chicken and brown rice.
dog food and dinosaurs
I was surprised to see that Artemis's bottom-of-the-line food here received the same 3.5 star rating on Dog Food Advisor as their their top-of-the-line OsoPure food. This is probably because all of their foods are primarily plant-based with only a moderate amount of meat in them.

As I've mentioned before, Artemis is basically a dog food marketing company, and their actual products are produced by Diamond Pet Foods. There have been some major recalls due to issues at this facility, so this would not be my first choice for a daily diet.
dog food and dinosaurs

That said, this is a fantastic value brand made from quality ingredients. It contains no by-products or scary stuff, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for something better than Pedigree, Beneful, Ol' Roy, Kibbles 'n' Bits, etc. Like Fromm Classic, it's definitely a very high-quality value food. It's not the best of the best, but it's worlds better than the foods you find at the grocery store.

Brisbane, who is allergic to everything (poultry, eggs, corn, barley, sweet potatoes, wtf?!) couldn't taste test this food for me, but Sisci was happy to try it. She's a little more discerning in her tastes but thought the Artemis Pro A.L.S. made for a pretty good dinner. This is an All Life Stages food (that's what the ALS stands for), meaning it is basically puppy food and can be fed to any dog of any age. It's about $0.15 more per pound than Fromm Classic, but Fromm's value line is limited to adult food. Right now, Artemis Pro ALS is my pick for quality puppy food on a budget.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fish Oil Capsules or Liquid: Which is Cheaper?

Fish oil comes in capsules and bottled, marketed for humans and just for dogs, but what gives you the most bang for your buck? There's some compelling evidence for fish oil being actually useful for dogs, but not all dietary supplements are created equal. Two years ago this New York Times article, about supplements not containing what's on the label, made me reconsider the few dietary supplements I do use. Happily, someone has actually gone to the trouble of analyzing various fish oil products, at least for humans.

So What's the Cheapest Source of Fish Oil?
wet dog in sea cave
Briz likes fish. And food. Any food, really.

Ask a group of dog people what is the most economical fish oil for their dogs, and you will get a difference answer from every person. 

"Liquid products are more expensive."

"Capsules are way more expensive."

 "Some more costly products are more economical because they are more potent and therefore can be given in much smaller doses."

Which of these is actually true? Are capsules or liquid cheaper? Is fish oil marketed for dogs more expensive than fish oil marketed for people? Are tested products more expensive than untested ones?

Let's Do Some Math

I quickly learned that nobody had a satisfactory answer to my question, and I really love concrete answers. As the cost of fish oil is measurable, all that was required was some figuring...and maybe a spreadsheet. For comparison purposes, I picked two dog products that were recommended to me, and two human products that rated well on the list of tested fish oils. 
  • Grizzly Pollock Oil by Grizzly Pet Products seems to be one of the most economical products available at www.Chewy.com, at $23 for a 32-oz bottle. That's about $0.71 per fluid ounce.
  • Vetoquinol AllerG-3 seems more expensive, at $15 for an 8-oz bottle. That's about $1.90 per fluid ounce.
  • The Vitamin Shoppe's house brand Omega-3 1100mg Fish Oil was the second-highest rated human product, containing slightly more of the active ingredients than was listed on the label. LabDoor rated it the best value for human products, at $35 for 180 capsules. That's $0.19 per pill.
  • Controlled Labs OxiMega Fish Oil was another readily-available product with active ingredient levels that exceeded those listed on the label. At $22 for 120 capsules, it also seems to be a good value. That's $0.18 per pill.
So at 18-cents per pill, the Controlled Labs capsules initially seemed like the best value, and capsules in general appeared to be the most economical form in which to buy fish oil. Next, I checked the manufacturer's recommended dosage for each product, and calculated how much it would cost to feed to 45-lb Brisbane. Here's what I learned:
  • At $0.08 per 3.5ml pump, it would cost $0.16 per day to feed Brisbane the recommended dose of 2 pumps per day of Grizzly Pollack Oil. That's $4.80 a month.
  • At $0.06 per 1-ml pump, it would cost $0.12 per day to feed Brisbane the recommended dose of 2 pumps per day of Vetoquinol AllerGo3 liquid. That's $3.60 a month. 
  • At $0.19 per 1200mg capsule, it would cost $0.19 per day to feed Brisbane the recommended (for humans) dose of 1 capsule per day of of Vitamin Shoppe Omega-3 fish oil. That's $5.70 a month.
  • At $0.18 per capsule, it would cost $0.36 per day to feed Brisbane the recommended (for humans) dose of 2 capsules per day of Controlled Labs OxiMega fish oil. That's $10.80 a month.
Wow, so the OxiMega fish oil is actually the most expensive when given at the manufacturer's recommended dose! The Vetoquinol was the most expensive per ounce, but the least per recommended dose. Both of the liquid products turned out to be a better value than the capsules...right? Not exactly.

It's All About the Active Ingredients

As it turns out, aside from the omega-3 fatty acids, the active ingredients in fish oil are really Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). According to the University of Colorado Veterinary Hospital, the maximum recommended dose of EPA+DHA for osteoarthritis is 310mg per kg of body weight per day. At 45-lbs or 20.5kg, Brisbane would get about 3000mg per day. That's a lot, and the amount of EPA and DHA varies immensely between products. Here's how it changes the value:
  • 1 3.5-ml pump of Grizzly Pollack Oil contains 195mg of DHA and 385mg of EPA for a total of 580mg per pump. The maximum dose of 3000mg for Brisbane would be 5 pumps at a cost of $0.40 per day, and $12 per month.
  • 1 1-ml pump of Vetoquinol AllerG-3 contains 120mg of DHA and 180mg of EPA for a total of 300mg. The maximum dose of 3000mg for Brisbane would be 10 pumps at a a cost of $0.60 per day, and $18 per month.
  • 1 1200mg capsule of Vitamin Shoppe Omega-3 fish oil contains 240mg DHA and 600mg of EPA for a total of 840mg per pill. The maximum dose of 3000mg for Brisbane would be 4 pills a a cost of $0.76 per day, and $22.80 per month.
  • 1 capsule of Controlled Labs OxiMega fish oil contains 200mg DHA and 400mg of EPA, for a total of 600mg. The maximum dose of 3000mg for Brisbane would be 5 pills at a cost of $0.90 per day, and $27 per month.

So What's the Best Source of Fish Oil?

Of the four products I examined here, the Grizzly Pollack Oil is the most economical. Chewy.com also has it available in a 64-oz bottle that would drop the price per month for Brisbane to $10.50, which means I should probably order that right now and not have to worry about it for a few months. I could also rotate that with Grizzly Salmon Oil, which would cost $10.80 per month to feed if I bought the giant bottle. The salmon oil is slightly more expensive than the pollock oil, but also contains slightly more EPA and DHA so it evens out. Liquid products do indeed seem to be less expensive than capsules, but I don't think any have been tested by a third party so I have to take the manufacturer's word that they contain the levels of active ingredients claimed. It's a trade-off. 

This was fun! I learned a lot, and the results weren't quite what I expected. Please feel free to check my math, question my motives, or request the same breakdown for another product!