Posted in From Kibble to Raw, Maui's Caturday, Willow Wednesday

Kibble To Raw: The Honest Kitchen

I mentioned The Honest Kitchen in another post a couple weeks ago, when I was talking about goat’s milk. I have now been feeding Willow THK exclusively for a month, and Maui has been eating half THK and half canned food. They have also been getting a digestive supplement called Perfect Form, also by THK, mixed in with their foods every day.

WARNING: THERE WILL BE TALK OF BODILY FUNCTIONS IN THIS POST. IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO DISCUSSING OR READING ABOUT THINGS COMING OUT OF A HEALTHY BODY, PLEASE CONTINUE READING WITH CAUTION.

THK Backstory

THK is a product line that we sell at my job that, I will openly admit, I overlooked for several months. Then we had a training session with some company representatives, and I learned all about it. They provided us with extra training links, which I blew through within 24 hours. I’m not going to lie, I was hooked.

The owner, Lucy Postins, started her company with the intention of giving her pets food that would not make them sick, have any allergic reactions, and would give them all the nutritional benefits of raw food. She wanted something that could be used for all stages of life, from the toothless puppy phase to the seniors with low tolerances phase. Since then, she has gotten special permission from the FDA to place the words “human grade” on her packaging (because it’s manufactured and processed in a place that also manufactures and processes baking mixes and cereals) and has changed the lives of many allergy riddled pets.

I could waffle on for days about this company (and I often do while I’m at work), so if you have any other questions about what specifically about this company I really like, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me a PM.

Willow:

My lil pupper took to THK very quickly. The palatability was right up her alley, the warm water I used to mix released the super yummy smells really well, and she straight up licks her entire bowl sparklingly clean every time I put it down in front of her. I have had no adverse reactions regarding her fish allergy, which means to me that what they put on the label is ONLY what’s in the products. (Pet food manufacturers don’t have the same standards as human food manufacturers, so they can get away with a little bit more).

I’ve also noticed significant changes in her, physically. Her fur is a lot softer, and she’s shedding quite a bit less than she used to. (Could partially be winter, but in previous years, she would shed quite a lot in the wintertime too.) Her eyes are running a lot less and the stains by her tear ducts are smaller too. Her intestinal gas has decreased a huge amount and they’re not nearly as pungent as they were before, and she seems less stiff when the weather changes.

But the most noticeable thing for me was in her poops. She used to drop healthy sized poos, stinky and colored depending on what she ate that day. They had the consistency of soft, healthy poop that easily squished into the grass whenever I tried to pick it up, and one poo would damn near fill up my poop bags. Now, her poops are much darker brown, not colored by very much, and very easy to pick up. They are much more condensed now, which makes them SO much easier to get out of the grass, and they’re a lot less stinky. I can also now fit at least 4 separate deuces in one bag and still have enough room to tie it off.

All in all, Willow is responding beautifully to THK, and I’m very excited to see what her responses will be to the next steps on our Journey to Raw.

Maui:

Maui took a little more time to adjust to the new food. The texture was different than anything he’d ever eaten before, so that was a bit of an adjustment for him. Being a wee little baby, he adjusted within the week and is now looking forward to his daily dose of THK.

For the first little while, he did have some soft poos that I was keeping an eye on. His energy levels didn’t change at all, he didn’t seem like he was uncomfortable in any way, so I just rode it out. Now, he’s well balanced and his GI has settled into his new diet.

Similarly to his sister, I have noticed improvements with his coat. He’s now cloud kitten soft, with clear eyes and no more gunk in his ears. If anything, his energy levels have increased and he’s experimenting with his athleticism pretty extensively. His reaction time when playing is faster too, we have to work harder to get him to miss the toys he pounces on and he’s having a lot of fun destroying boxes.

I have been keeping him on half canned food for two reasons: 1) he really enjoys the texture of it and 2) it’s easier for Vinh to do the pm feeding when he doesn’t have to use a measuring cup and mix it up. I will eventually get him onto THK completely before switching him over to raw, but this is a good system for what we need it for right now.

Overall, I love the way THK is responding with my animals. They’re both doing healthier, enjoying their foods, and are doing much better with the higher digestibility. I highly recommend this food for anyone who just wants to try something a bit healthier than kibble, or someone who may have a pet with allergies or geriatric sensitivity. If any of you are interested in trying it out, I have a link for 50% off of a 2 pound box for you to try out here. 

Posted in Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Aging

Willow has been a member of my family for 3 years this month. When I adopted her, she was a month away from her third birthday and she had already spent a year in a shelter and lived with 3 families. She was very nervous, stressed out, and scared. Over the years, I’ve seen her settle down a little bit and become a bit more confident in certain scenarios. But now, with her sixth birthday looming over us, I’m noticing some other changes in her that are frankly breaking my heart.

Now I realize that Willow is not an old dog. 6 is middle aged at best for most dogs and they have the potential to live for 10 more years. I also realize what stress and anxiety does to a person’s life expectancy and overall health. One of her kidneys is already being a little wonky and I’ve been told by several different people that most dogs who live such a high stress life don’t usually live past 8-10 years old.

I’ve been noticing differences in her, physically, too. Where she was once pristinely white with black spots under her fur, now she has gained lots of tan doe spots. Her ears, which used to be the faintest tan, are slowly deepening to a definitive brown. The skin under her chin is a little more wrinkly than it once was, and she’s a little bit slower to get up and move around in the cooler weather. She takes more naps and is quicker to cuddle than she used to be.

It’s hard to watch someone you love so much change. It’s a reminder to me that every day that I get to spend with her is another day that I love her more than I’ve ever loved anyone. The only thing I can do is give to her everything that she has given to me.

Posted in Maui's Caturday, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: What Did You Bring Into My House?!

As I briefly mentioned in my Mental Health Monday post, we got a new kitten! We have adopted a two-month-old orange shorthair named Maui. IMG_0490

He’s very sweet, very playful, and very curious. He likes to cuddle, attack my legs only, and wears a bell around his neck so we can find him. He likes to chase fingers, feet under blankets, feather balls, and pipe cleaners. He shows more interest in the boxes and strings we have lying around than the actual toys we have purchased for him. He has already learned how to turn the computer on and off and thinks the window sill is the absolute best place to hang out with a possible exception being underneath the dressers so he can grab us as we walk past.

Willow hates him. These are some of her thoughts.

“He’s got weird smells, he’s got weird sounds, he jingles when he walks past because Mom and Dad put a crazy weird bell on him. There’s all this random new stuff around the house that I don’t understand. Why would you ruin a perfectly good ball with feathers?! He drinks my water, he goes into my crate when I’m not there, and is just a menace! Mom should return him straight away!”

We are going on day 4 post adoption, and he’s settling in very well. He’s getting used to the crate and rotate situation that we are living in quickly (I think due to his time spent in the shelter on his own). He’s generally unbothered by Willow’s barking, and he’s enjoying his new food. He is learning his name and that the carrier is not the worst place to be, though the car noises sometimes startle him.

We are very excited about our new fur baby, and are still getting used to how things are going to be now, and as always I will continue to update you all here too!

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, 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.