Toothpaste for your Furbaby

Office Gren 2

We do our best to brush Gren’s teeth almost every day.  Granted, it’s a two-person operation: one person has to put the dog in a headlock and the other risks getting covered in paste and dog saliva on “scrubby duty,” but we do it because we love our little fiend.

I finally came to the end of the supply of dog toothpaste (vanilla flavoured, if you must know) that came with the latest doggy toothbrush (which I have since abandoned for a soft people toothbrush).  As I was about to go out and get some more, I chanced to look at the “all-natural” ingredients list.   Sorbitol?  I don’t even know what that is, but it’s the second ingredient.  And why does it need to be sweetened with stevia?  Since when do dogs need sugar?

Dog Toothpaste 1
I’ve since learned that tea tree oil should not be ingested. And after several reminders from you dear readers I edited the post, so although you see it in this picture I no longer use it in my recipe.

So I’m going to make my own.  And there’s a ton of recipes on the internet.  Many of them require you to use glycerin, which I guess is the sticky-togethery ingredient that actually makes the paste into a pasty substance.  But that sounds like a pain in the ass, so I’m going to go with a version that uses coconut oil instead (used in small quantities coconut oil is beneficial to your pet’s health), and modify it a wee bit.

Dog Toothpaste 2

Start with a bouillon cube, and dissolve that in 1 tablespoon water.  Or, in my case, use this gel-like one instead.  This is mostly for flavour, so use something your dog will like.  Gren has issues with chicken and beef so I would use pork or vegetable.

Dog Toothpaste 3

Add in 2 tablespoons baking soda (a deodorizing abrasive), and 1 teaspoon cinnamon (a fragrant abrasive).

Dog Toothpaste 4

I also ground up about 1 teaspoon dried parsley (for fresh breath) and added a pinch of ground cloves (an anti-parasitic).

Dog Toothpaste 5

Looks tasty!  Actually it didn’t smell as awful as I thought it might: just like vegetable soup with too much cinnamon added.  Not bad in the end.

Dog Toothpaste 7

Then you need to work in about 1/2 cup coconut oil.  If you have trouble mixing everything up you can soften the oil or melt it, but you want it to be solid in the end.

Dog Toothpaste 8

You can store this mixture at room temperature in a sealed container for several weeks.  Brush often!

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Many sites actually recommend using your finger and a clean washcloth instead of a toothbrush for maximum efficacy, so we might try that at some point.  Fortunately, Gren seems to like the taste of this stuff better than what we were using before, so he struggles a lot less.

Dog Toothpaste 10

Immediately after we brush his teeth Grenadier goes and gets his Tricky Treat Ball, which we fill with the other half of his dinner.  Trundling around with the ball, he will snarf up the kibble that falls out of the hole, and in gulping it down he will produce more saliva to further aid in cleaning his teeth.  When he’s done he usually drinks a whole whack of water too, to wash everything down. And then he goes to sleep.

Lazy

The Wee Flea Problem

One of my friends from work asked me if I knew how to get rid of fleas.  I didn’t, but I said I could find out (because that’s how I roll).  So after exhaustive research of the internets (seriously, I read like TWENTY different sites), I came up with what seemed like a sensible solution, and I put so much work into it that I thought I would share it with you.

First, a little note on having fleas: they tend to like damp, dark places, so if you live in, oh, say, Newfoundland, chances are you’re going to encounter them at some point.  You don’t even have to have a pet to get fleas in your house — they can come in on your legs, your clothing, even stuff you bring in from the garage or whatever.  It doesn’t mean that you’re a dirty person.  Fleas just sometimes happen.  Living in crowded or damp spaces will do it.  Getting rid of them takes a bit of work, but it’s a relatively simple process.  So here we go.

Step one:

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Take everything your pet lies on and wash it in hot, very soapy water.  Dry it in the dryer or hang it out in the sun.  Fleas apparently don’t like the light.  Or soap.  Wash your bed linens, pillows, cushions, dish towels … anything a flea can hide in and that fits in your washing machine, you should chuck that in.  Anything else, you can scrub it with soapy water and hope for the best.

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Step two:

Wee Flea Problem

Wash your pet in flea-killing shampoo.  Either that or use a flea comb to brush him or her and have a bowl of hot soapy water nearby so that when you comb out a flea you can douse it in the water to kill it.  Either way you will need to use a flea comb to get eggs and the like out of your pet.  Always, when brushing or washing, wash/comb the neck first so the fleas can’t jump onto the head while you’re washing the rest.  Don’t let your pet near any other animal that could be carrying fleas.  Use a flea preventative specifically designed for your pet (we use Advantage on Gren, it’s not too expensive).  We use a flea comb on Gren just for the brushing of him, so he’s used to the pull of the fine teeth and his hair is very straight.  If you have a curly or wire-haired dog, this is going to be a little bit more difficult.  You might want to book a special appointment with a groomer for this step if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

Wee Flea Problem

Step three:

Vacuum the crap out of your place.  Go over your carpet with some heavy brush attachment to loosen clinging larvae.  Get into all nooks and crannies, carpets, furniture, and any spots that are dark and/or damp.  Cracks in the floors, behind doors, in grates – anywhere dust collects could be a storage spot for flea eggs.  Immediately throw out your vacuum bag to avoid escaping fleas (my mother-in-law, Mrs. Nice, tells me that if you put moth balls in your vacuum bag it will kill any bug you suck down, though it smells a bit weird when you first turn on the machine).  If you have a canister vacuum like we do, empty the thing into a bag outside and then hose ‘er down.

Wee Flea Problem

Step four:

Use some form of insecticide (most of the internet says you have to go the chemical route, sorry).  Get one with a compound in it known as IGR (insect growth inhibitor) and follow the instructions.  Don’t let children or pets near it.  You could also scrub every surface of your house with soap (rugs included), but you have to be thorough.  The insecticide treatment, while gross and chemical-y, probably will work better than any vinegar-soap-lemon juice thing you can come up with, so it’s something to think about, even if, like me, you’re not into using those kinds of things.

Step five:

Hose down your garden with soapy water (or a chemical insecticide) and trim back all the foliage to expose all the damp dark places to sunlight.  Mow the lawn often.  Keep dark and damp spots to a minimum.

Greenthumbing Update

Step six:

In two weeks, repeat steps one through five, vacuuming every other day.  Fleas have a two-week life cycle and fleas in egg form will not be affected by any form of insecticide, so you gotta do it twice.  If you don’t do it twice then it’s not going to work.

Prevention, the natural way (after you’ve taken the previous steps):

Sprinkle nutritional or brewer’s yeast on your pet’s food or rub it into his or her fur. Our first dog, many decades ago, got fleas one summer and we fed her the yeast.  It seems the fleas don’t like the taste of the dog’s skin once the yeast has gotten into it and they take off.

Herbal flea dip: boil 2 cups fresh rosemary leaves in 2 pints (~1L) of water for 30 minutes.  Strain the leaves out and add the mixture to a gallon (~4L) of warm water.  Saturate your pet and do not rinse – allow to air dry.  This is a nice refreshing thing to do on a hot day.

Cottage Pie

Citrus spray: thinly slice a lemon and chuck it in a pint (~1/2L) of water.  Bring that to a boil and then let it sit overnight.  Alternately, use a few drops of lemon oil in an appropriate amount of water.  Spray in areas where you think fleas might be hanging out (remember that lemon juice also acts as a bleach so watch out for fabric).  Spray it onto your pet as well, and put a few drops under his or her collar to keep fleas at bay.

Diatomaceous earth is something you can sprinkle into your carpets and in your yard.  It has no effect on humans or pets (it’s just dirt) but the granules are sharp and will puncture the exoskeleton of insects, causing them to dry out.  Also a very good humidity and odor buster.

Does your dog eat too fast?

Dog Eat Too Fast?

Gren, being a typical corgi, is a total food hound.  He’s obsessed with those two most important times in the day: breakfast and dinner.  Everything else is small potatoes in his little world.

Chicken and Poutine

When he was very small, before I taught him how to wait, I used to have to physically hold him back until I  had put his food on the floor.  Exhausted with his struggles, he would then eat sitting down.  Lazy bum.

Standing while eating is too hard.

Nowadays, he knows to lie down and wait until we give him the okay to start eating.  But when we do so, he leaps forward and swallows his food in less than thirty seconds.  I’m not sure if you can swallow 3/4 cup of kibble in thirty seconds, but he can.  And we really don’t think it’s very good for him.  I’m afraid he might get indigestion.

Luckily, he’s a pretty small dog, so we don’t need to worry too much about bloat or any of the other more serious medical conditions that can arise from eating too fast; nonetheless, the food we buy him is pretty expensive, so it would be nice if he savoured it a little before shoving it down his gullet.

Gluten-Free Dog Treats

There are solutions you can purchase for this problem.  There are food bowls with built-in obstacles that the dog has to work around to get to his food.  And you can also buy large stainless-steel balls that you can just plop on the food, which the dog then has to negotiate to get to his food.  Both of these options are fine, and they are proven to work.  But why spend the money when you might have the solution lying around your own house?

The Pie is huge into baseball, and has played both hardball and softball over the years, so we have a lot of spare balls lying around.  This softball is synthetic, so won’t degrade through exposure to doggy saliva.  It’s also too large for Gren to pick up in his mouth and remove from his bowl.  So he has to work around it, bringing his eating time up from 30 seconds to around 2-3 minutes, a marked improvement.  We just plop it on top of the kibble after we’ve measured it into the bowl.  It works great and it was free, whereas that stainless steel ball was $18 at PetSmart.

Dog Eat Too Fast?

Don’t have a ball?  Maybe try a can of corn or beans, or, in larger food bowls, several smaller cans, say, for tomato paste, all stuck in together.  Whatever works for you.

Dog Eat Too Fast?

Gren Learns to Swim

Gren Learns to Swim

We didn’t have much of a summer in Newfoundland, so when the Pie and I were visiting family in Ottawa we took advantage of the proximity to our cousin’s cottage and decided to teach Grenadier how to swim.

Gren Learns to Swim

Now, some dogs, like labs, goldens, duck tollers, and PWDs, are born swimmers.  Other dogs, especially those whose front ends are significantly heavier than their back ends, like pugs, bulldogs, daschunds, and yes, corgis, are not.

Gren Learns to Swim

Even so, it was something we wanted to get Gren used to doing, just so he would have some options on a hot summer day.  Aside from some wading about and a briefly traumatic fall into a turtle pond, Gren was a land-lubber.

Gren Learns to Swim

For safety’s sake, and because corgis are not natural swimmers, we got Gren a dog’s life jacket.  Make sure when you are looking for a life jacket that the seams are tightly sewn and the workmanship looks good.  Ensure that the fit is correct for your dog’s weight, as well as his length.

Gren Learns to Swim

You should be able to comfortably lift the dog up by the handle of the jacket when the jacket is properly secured. This handle is especially useful when your dog falls off your boat and you can just haul him back on.

Gren Learns to Swim

This Outward Hound version is widely available and nicely affordable at around thirty bucks retail.  I like the additional flotation under the chin, which helps keep the dog’s head above the water — this is a plus (and a must) with brachiocephalic dogs like pugs and bulldogs, who don’t have the long snouts of other dogs.  And remember that even with a life jacket, you should never leave your dogs unsupervised in the water!

Gren Learns to Swim

Gren likes to paddle in the water, but he’ll never be a big swimmer.  Whenever we had him out over his head his first move was to head for shore.

Gren Learns to Swim

He did swim out to “rescue” the Pie at one point, because he was too far away, but that was the only time he left the shore of his own will.

Gren Learns to Swim

He was really not a big fan.

Gren Learns to Swim

Dog Digestion and Pumpkin

Gren has been living a chaotic life these past few weeks, adjusting to new people, new places, and new food.  He’s also been eating a lot of random objects on the side of the road, and that can wreak havoc with a puppy’s digestive system.

If your dog has a bit of a traveler’s gut, diarrhea, or is constipated, there is a quick and easy solution, and I will let you in on the secret.

Ready?

It’s pumpkin.

I’m serious.  It has all this lovely fibre in it to help ease a dog’s digestion, without the sugar of your regular fruits.  I’m sure it works on people as well.

You can give your dog up to a tablespoon of pumpkin purée a day.  Just plop it in the dog’s food and all will be well.  I give Gren a teaspoon in the morning and one at night and he’s good to go.

I also add a teaspoon each time of plain yogurt, to make sure his little tummy has all the good bacteria in it that it needs.

Make sure when you’re buying pumpkin in a can that you get the plain stuff, not the pumpkin pie filling.  Your dog doesn’t need the spices and the sugar.

And because you probably won’t need to go through a whole can before your dog’s gut is back to normal, you can freeze the pumpkin in individual serving sizes (like I did here in ice-cube trays) for the next time you need them.

Gluten-Free Dog Treats

In honour of Ruby’s first birthday, Cait and I got together and concocted some fabulous dog biscuits for her and Gren.  Being a corgi and therefore very food-obsessed and prone to obesity, Gren only took home a few to try, but they were still enjoyed by all.  I even had one, as I won’t feed my dog anything I wouldn’t eat myself.

Ruby murders Gren

Fortunately, we were able to easily find a dog treat recipe online that conformed to our philosophy of feeding our dogs biologically appropriate food.  That means most definitely no corn, no wheat, and no soy, and none of those other things that people seem to think dogs need, like salt, sugar, and artificial flavours or colours.  This recipe from Sandra over at dog-nutrition-naturally.com totally fit the bill and was easy to do.  We tripled the recipe so that there would be plenty of birthday treats for everyone.

First, peel yourself a large sweet potato.  And I mean LARGE.  Cut that sucker up.

Plop the potato pieces in a pot and boil them silly until they’re mashable.  Then of course mash them.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.

In a large bowl, plop in 1lb ground meat.  We used extra lean ground beef, but you can use turkey, chicken, pork, or lamb — or really, whatever you want.

Add to that 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt) and a large egg.  Drop in 5 tablespoons large flake rolled oats as well, just for cohesion purposes.

Chuck in the mashed sweet potato and mix it well.

Spread it flat on the prepared cookie sheet and smooth the top.

Bake for about an hour.  The cookie will shrink and pull away from the sides.  Now you can score the cookie into smaller pieces, or use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes.  A pizza cutter is handy about now too.

Reduce the oven heat to 250°F and pop the cookies back into the oven for another hour or so to dry out.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Tada!  That’s it.  Now SIT.

Good dog.Make sure to store your treats in an airtight container, and of course remember that treats should never be used as a substitute for your dog’s regular diet.  Yum yum!

Newest Member

My Valentine to you is puppy love ♥.

I’d like to introduce you to someone.  The chick with the Justin Beiber haircut?  No, no, that’s just me.  You know me.  I want to introduce you to the little guy on the right.  That’s our future puppy, Grenadier St. James.

At the time of this post little Gren is only 6 weeks old and not quite ready to leave his mum, but he’s already cemented himself into our hearts.  Cait’s heart too.  The Pie is jealous that he doesn’t get to meet him until April, but what can you do …So anyway, in about two weeks a small furry sausage of a corgi will be running around wreaking havoc in our household and I’m sure will be the inspiration for many a blog post to come.Stay tuned.  Chaos will reign.

Riboflavin Raven: Everybody’s Favourite Multivitamin

This isn’t really a project post.  One of my parents’ dogs crossed the rainbow bridge yesterday.  Raven was 12, and she didn’t suffer, just had some respiratory distress in the early morning and passed away while Kristopf scratched her ears. 

I’m not sure how Raven’s sister, Lacey, is going to handle this, but the rest of the family is still trying to process what happened because it was so sudden.

I just thought I would share with you some of the photos I’ve taken of my fat lovely stupid-yet-devious dog over the years (some have been scanned in from film copies so the quality isn’t great).

Despite the fact that Lacey and Raven are litter mates, we didn’t get Raven until about a month after we got Lacey and so we missed her ultra tiny phase.  It’s hard to believe that the Biggie in this Biggie Smalls pair used to be this skinny.

Passing out cold after a long day of frisbee chasing.

Passing out cold was one of Raven’s strong suits. 

She snored.

So does my brother.  He’s also good at passing out cold.

But she could sing very well, and this is her with Doodle, her favourite singing companion.

Very good with small children, though small babies totally freaked her out.

When I started working at Bark & Fitz, she hastened to take advantage of the free eats at the store.

And at social meetings.  From strangers.  This photo was taken by Liz Bradley over at OttawaDogBlog.ca, back before OttawaDogBlog was a thing.

And birthday parties.

And while wearing a sailor suit.

If it involved food she was there.  If it MIGHT have involved food she was also there.

If treats were not forthcoming she was quick to reproach.Or to fall asleep again.

She and Lacey came as an ever so slightly mismatched pair.

Of scruffy ruffians.  Rejects from the breeder.

But a pretty ruffian.

I miss my fat dog.