Posted in Doggy Reviews, From Kibble to Raw, Uncategorized

Goat’s Milk and Why I Love It

I love pro- and prebiotics. I eat Greek yogurt religiously and take supplements for myself, and I force feed my boyfriend his own as well. So naturally, I’m going to be feeding my animals pro- and prebiotics as well. The easiest way for me to administer The Biotics for me is through goat’s milk.

LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!

I am extremely fortunate that my animals enjoy eating things that are good for them (also not good for them like cheetos [Willow] and pretzels [Maui]). I don’t have to struggle to hide pills in various types of wizardry to get Willow to take her meds, and I don’t have to force feed either of them their supplements. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to make them more palatable. Willow’s pills are always wrapped up in some Greenie’s Pill Pockets and Maui has special treats for when I do something particularly unpleasant like nail trimming or looking at his teeth. I have recently started giving the kids a digestive supplement by The Honest Kitchen called Perfect Form that they aren’t super crazy for the taste of. Maui picks at his food if it’s just sprinkled on top of it and Willow just kind of halfheartedly laps at it.

Goat’s milk is my FAVORITE way to hide them in it. Its got a decent fat content, which hides any flavors they may not like and also helps keep their joints healthy. It’s chock full of probiotics and prebiotics that help balance out their guts. I’ve noticed a difference in their poops color and consistency (namely smaller, darker and a bit dryer) but the best of all is that I’ve noticed a HUGE decrease in the amount of gas they have, both burps and farts.

I’ve used a couple of different types of goat’s milk: 1. Answer’s Raw Goat’s Milk 2. Primal Raw Goat’s Milk 3. The Honest Kitchen Pro Bloom Instant Goat’s Milk .They each have their own pros and cons, and hopefully I can outline them a little bit here.

I didn’t notice a huge difference between the Answer’s and the Primal. They are both sold frozen due to their short shelf life and have to be defrosted before serving. I usually put it in my refrigerator either a full day or two days before I wind up needing it. If I need a shorter defrost period, I’ll leave it on my counter for an hour or so and use whatever defrosts in that time. They both usually have a little bit of sediment in them (which is totally fine! It just separates during the freezing process) so they have to be shaken up a bit. The downside to them is that the smallest size they come in is a pint and I just don’t go through it fast enough. I usually wind up having to throw a bunch of it away before ever getting close to the bottom.

My favorite is the Pro Bloom. I make it as I need it, it’s shelf stable, and it’s VERY inexpensive for the amount that it makes. I give Maui about an ounce a day (he’s a 4 month old, 3ish pound kitten) and I give Willow about 4 ounces a day (5 year old, 45ish pound doggo). I find that too much more than that gives them soft poos. Naturally though, this is going to vary based on your own particular animal. It took me quite a while to figure out exactly how much Willow could take each day and I’m still working on adjusting Maui’s levels to be perfect for him too.

So what do you think about goat’s milk? Something you may want to include in your pet’s diet? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Merrick Wet Foods

Happy Wednesday! This week I’m going to be chatting about the nightmare that was my experience with Merrick food. We tried out a couple of different flavors, and each one was worse than the last. It’s gotten to the point where Willow won’t even touch a can of Merrick if it’s put out in front of her and she eats everything. Except lettuce, but what dog ever eats lettuce? I’m writing and posting this long after the Merrick Mayhem of 2017, so I don’t have any pictures or anything like that. I do, however, have a vivid memory and a whole lot of adjectives.

We tried three flavors, Turducken, Thanksgiving Day, and Grammy’s Pot Pie, all in their grain free line. All three were an odd blend between a pate and a stew with very few definitive chunks in it. There were specks of carrot bits, but most of it was a blob.

Seeing as how this was my first experience with canned dog food, I didn’t really know what to look for. I remember it having a tinny smell to it, but assumed that it was just part of the fact that it came out of, y’know, metal can. The thing that really turned me off it was Willow’s reaction to it.

[WARNING: DISCUSSION OF BODILY FLUIDS. THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE SENSITIVE, SKIP TO THE NEXT BOLD BRACKET]

She was just coming off a tooth extraction procedure, so she needed to eat soft foods. Her normal kibble is not that (obviously). I’d heard good things about Merrick and thought I’d give them a try. This was before they went and changed their formulas for everything. Whatever conglomeration of ingredients they use now is terrible. It gave Willow such bad stomach cramps that she will no longer touch it. She had severe diarrhea, to the point where she would just explosively poo the moment she got outside. It was barely solid, almost all liquid. She would throw up 2-3 times each time she ate it. I felt so horrible for her, she was so miserable and she wasn’t eating anything.

[OKAY THE GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF BODILY FLUIDS IS OVER NOW, YOU CAN COME BACK.]

So, due to it making her so sick, and the fact that she won’t even touch it if I put it in front of her anymore, Merrick is long off the list of foods I will give to any dog. Not just mine. My sister has three little dogs, also very food driven, who won’t touch Merrick either.

Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Koha Super Premium Dog Food

Happy Willow Wednesday!! Today I’m going to be reviewing Koha’s brand new canned dog food flavors! They came out recently (I don’t have an exact date) and my pet store just put them out on the floor.

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First on the docket is the Lone Star Brisket flavor. This has a lot more gravy in it than I was expecting, putting it safely into the “soupy” category instead of a “stew” or “pate.” There were a fantastic amount of meat chunks in it and it smelled surprisingly good. Not gonna lie, I was tempted to eat it. However, with Willow drooling on my foot while I took all these glamour shots, I refrained.

 

There were a couple of reasons I picked this up. The first was that really nice white, bold headline on the bottom of the label. Grain and potato free. Fortunately, my girl doesn’t have any problems with eating grains or potatoes. I just don’t like to give them to her. With her behavior issues and skin issues early on, I try to minimize things in her diet that could cause inflammation or make her uncomfortable.

Second, these cans are single protein. With a fish allergy in the family, I have to be pretty careful with what I give her. A lot of foods mix proteins, which normally is a good thing. Mixed protein is actually healthier for dogs to incorporate several protein sources into their daily intake. In my case, Willow can only eat single-source proteins. With Koha, what you see on the front label is what you see in the ingredients list. There are no hidden fish meals or fish oils.

Third, isn’t the packaging so cute?! And it’s super colorful! Look!

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And these are just the fish-free ones! There is one more with fish in it that I obviously didn’t buy. It’s got a green label and is called Pike Place Platter. I thought there were more, but the website only shows the one additional flavor.

Now on to business! The eating!

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She sucked up the gravy real quick, so I’d say that’s a positive vote for the flavor and palate-ability. The chunks did slide around quite a lot, so I’d recommend a not-so-shallow bowl or somewhere that’s easy to clean up…

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As illustrated by the towel covered in meat bits that slid off the plate.

Overall, I’m very excited to experiment with the other Koha flavors. Willow’s last experience with Merrick wet foods was not great, so it’ll be nice to have a solid wet food in my back pocket should the need ever arise.

Posted in Doggy Reviews

What Is a Reactive Dog?

I mentioned in another post that my pupper, Willow, is a reactive dog. This post is going to explain exactly what something like that looks like.

Willow is a 5 year old rescue pit bull mix. She’s small for a pit at 45 pounds, but she is a strong and athletic girl. I adopted her just before her third birthday and I am her third, and final, family. I don’t know anything about her history before I met her, other than the clinical things listed in her veterinary papers that were given to me with her. I don’t know who the people were that owned her before me, and I don’t know what sorts of things she experienced. I do know that whatever those experiences were, they affected how she interacts with and perceives the world.

Willow falls under the category of “reactive” because most things that we consider normal stimuli elicits a negative, or fearful, reaction from her. Things like seeing another dog, people walking into a room that she’s in, strangers talking loudly, delivery people driving trucks past the windows, sometimes even the sounds of babies crying or children laughing on the tv. There was one time where a flag flapping in the wind on a flagpole scared her on a walk, and we had to make a point to positively reinforce seeing and hearing the flag so that she didn’t develop a full blown fear of it.

I can already hear people asking “but aren’t all dogs okay with everything?” Let me put this in another perspective for you:

Humans all respond to things differently too. Some people are afraid of heights, or spiders, or water. Some get emotionally worn out being around other people for long periods of time, while others thrive on human interaction and socialization. Some people have had experiences in their lives which causes them to react in a certain way to that certain stimulus, always (Hello, ice cream truck song). People who were victims of abuse or assault tend to be more wary in unfamiliar settings, uncomfortable around strangers, or unsure how to navigate socially when it was, at one point, effortless. And others still are just born this way, with anxiety or higher levels of sensitivity that make normal things harder to deal with.

It is the same for my dog, and for many other dogs out there too.

I don’t know exactly which of these scenarios are her truth. I don’t know exactly what happened to her to make her so uncomfortable around men and so terrified of other dogs. I don’t know if she’s ever suffered from physical abuse of some kind, or if she was ever attacked by another dog. The only things I know for sure are the things she’s shown me.

I know seeing other dogs scares her. I know that strangers and people she’s unfamiliar with scare her. I know that sometimes she gets overwhelmed and socially exhausted, and she needs time to relax and decompress alone. I know that when she’s scared, she looks like she’s aggressive because she is externally reactive. Her goal is to make the scary thing go away, and in order to do that, she barks and growls.

It breaks my heart to see her like this, and it’s frustrating to have a dog that I can’t introduce to people, take on puppy play dates, or just go on walks in the park on nice days. There is a lot of work that goes into managing her environment correctly so that she’s not unnecessarily stressed out, and so that everyone around her is kept safe and comfortable. Going into all the small things that I do every day would take a thousand years and become unbearably boring, so let’s just say that it’s a lot. Constant. All the time.

And as much work as having her is, I wouldn’t change it for the world. She teaches me new things every day. She’s helped me grow up and face adult responsibility. She’s taught me how to parent, and how to handle situations that may seem like the end of the world. She’s also taught me what true, and unconditional love feels like. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Stuffed Soccer Ball Review

Like I mentioned in last month’s post about Willow’s enrichment toys, she uses a wide variety of them. This is another one that I’ve recently been trying out that she seems to like, featuring a whole bunch of photobombs of the little lady herself.

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This is her stuffed soccer ball (for lack of a better/more creative name). It helps simulate a stuffed animal in the sense that she gets to rip it apart every time I give it to her.

This one took her a little bit longer to figure out, because it took a little bit longer for the strips of felt (yes, more felt. I’m sorry) to smell like her food and not the craft store. The first time I gave it to her, the rubber ball smelled funny, and the fabric strips smelled funny, and she looked at me like I’d just handed her the most useless thing in the world. Now, as illustrated by the pictures, she has gotten over that and quite likes it.

Here are some pros and cons for this ball:

Pros:

1. It saves lots of money. If you have a dog who likes to disembowel its toys (see: throw stuffing everywhere 30 seconds after giving it to them) you will understand my struggle with spending LOTS of money on stuffed toys that rarely make it past an hour. This toy is nice because she can rip it apart, leave the strips of fabric everywhere, get some treats or food out of it, and I can remake it and use it again.

2. It really gives her a brain workout. I can make this more or less difficult for her by either packing the strips in tighter or not. When I first gave it to her, she basically had to just roll it around to get the treats out. Now, she has to actually pull strips out. Once that starts being too easy for her, I’m going to pack them in a little bit tighter, and maybe leave the ends tucked in too.

3. It can be frozen! It’s summertime here in New York which means that it’s hot-ish, and as unbearable the heat and humidity can be for me, I don’t have a permanent fur jacket on all the time. This, because the ball is made of pretty sturdy plastic (think Kong material) can be frozen in either water or broth. I love it because it helps her get some liquids in her system, and she loves it because it’s a doggy popsicle.

Cons:

  1. I have to actually make it up. It doesn’t take a ton of time to do this, but it takes more time than just loading up a wobble ball or her mushroom feeder. This makes it an inconvenient choice in the mornings when I’m rushing off to work. I would probably use it a lot more often if I had a couple that I could set up at the beginning of the week.
  2. I would NOT use this if your dog has a history of eating parts of their stuffed toys. Willow has never shown any interest in eating fabric at all, ever. But when I worked as a doggy daycare attendant and a dog trainer, I knew several dogs who would eat socks or parts of towels they ripped up, therefore needing obstruction surgery. So if your dog has ever eaten part or all of their toys, I would not leave this with them unsupervised.

Overall, I’d give this toy a 7 out of 10. It’s a challenge, and it’s reusable, but it’s a little bit of a pain to make up every day. Have you tried this toy out for your furbabes? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought!

Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Snuffle Mat Review

So, I mentioned in my last post that I had a lil noodle pup. Her name is Willow, and she’s a reactive pitbull mix. (Don’t know what “reactive” means? Check out this post to learn more.) We live in an apartment home complex and that basically means that we are unable to go out for walks at normal times, and we aren’t able to spend a lot of time outside playing or just hanging out. However, that doesn’t stop her from needing the proper amounts of stimulation and exercise. So in lieu of being able to run her around for an hour at midnight every night, her trainer recommended that I create a snuffle mat for her.

Yeah, I didn’t know what the heck a snuffle mat was either.

Turns out, it’s a rubber (or whatever material you can find) mat that has strips of felt tied through it. It’s meant to mimic a grassy patch that she literally has to snuffle through to find treats or food instead of eating out of a bowl. Because eating out of a bowl is literally the least stimulating thing she could possibly do, she has never received any of her meals out of one. Girl’s gotta work for her food!

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The things I love about this mat are as follows:

  1. Willow super loves it. Even when there isn’t any food on it, she likes to lay on it, roll on it, rub herself on it… you get the idea. It wasn’t hard to get her interested in it, which made the transition from her old toys to this mat really seamless and easy.
  2. It multitasks! It’s a great place to use for training and it’s a fantastic marker to use if I want her to go settle. She likes it to the point where it can be difficult for me to put her food into it because she’s already laying on top of it. Which brings me to point number 3…
  3. It gives her a good chunk of work trying to find all the pieces of kibble in it. When I first introduced it to her, I just sprinkled them on top so that she could figure out what I wanted her to do a little bit easier. After a couple of uses, I started running my fingers through the felt to “bury” her food a little bit so she’d have to dig a little bit more to find it. The average amount of time it takes her to find all her food is 10 minutes, which is pretty good.
  4. It was relatively inexpensive to make. The mat itself was on sale for $12 when I bought it, but here is the link for it anyway. I didn’t really care about the color or consistency of the mat, so I just bought felt remnants at JoAnn’s and spent roughly $20 on a little more than 6 yards of fabric (which is a lot, and a really good price).

And here are some of the things I don’t like about it:

  1. It is super time consuming. I spent several hours cutting the felt into 2″X 6-9″ strips, another few hours threading the strips through the holes, and yet a few more hours tying them into knots. I could have bought a smaller mat, but Willow is 45lbs and I didn’t want all of her kibble practically on top of each other, so I opted for a larger mat. At least I got to catch up on Netflix.
  2. It’s a pain in the BUM NUGGET to clean. The base mat that I have is made out of kitchen grade, heavy duty rubber so I can’t toss it in the washing machine. If it ever were to get dirty, I would probably have to take it out and hose it down. Which is a giant pain in the bum. The plus side is that I could probably vacuum it or take it outside and shake it before resorting to hosing it down because kibble and small, dry treats are the only thing I use on it.
  3. It takes up quite a bit of space. My mat is probably 3′ X 4′ (ish) and is pretty heavy to move around for what it is. I can’t put it somewhere and leave it there forever, mostly because I like to change the environment that Willow eats in regularly too (it’s part of the reactivity work that we do with her). It’s not really conveniently transportable, especially if I were to have multiple dogs with multiple mats. If you have an apartment with very limited space, I would recommend starting with a mat with a smaller footprint.

All in all, I love this. It keeps Willow busy, gives her somewhere comfy to lay down and nap/chew on dried pig ears, and it was really inexpensive to make. It’s durable and it’s unlikely to get terribly dirty. Adding this to her rotating cycle of enrichment toys has definitely been a good thing for her. I would rank this 8.5/10. Those of you who have tried making snuffle mats, what was your experience with them? Are there other enrichment toys you would recommend? Leave a comment and let me know!

Update 6/12/17: I’m attaching pictures of the mat in the process of being made. The picture of the finished mat isn’t actually mine (because I still haven’t finished it yet) but here’s what it looked like while I was doing it. The first one is my mat and my first set of strips. The second one is what the underside looks like once I wove the strips through. The third is the top of the mat, showing that they’re secured with pretty little square knots.