Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Get A Vegetable-Loving Dog

Here at Casa de Married with Dawgs, our crew loves their vegetables.  I often enjoy telling folks about Hurley's first encounter with kale or how I make "salads" for the dawgs when I make my lunch.

Most times I get the same response: "my dog would never eat vegetables" or something along those lines.

Our dawgs too have not always been the veggie lovers they are today.  If I had attempted to give cabbage to Sadie & Maggie years ago, I'm pretty sure they would have looked at me like I had two heads.  Going from eating only kibble & loving it to having the diverse diet they have today was a process, veggies included.

There are many reasons why having veggie lovin' dogs is a good thing:

1.  Fresh raw nutrition is best.*  However, many of us have to juggle the restrictions of our wallets and the other demands on our time.  Going raw or home-cooked for our dogs is not in the cards for many pet owners.  That's A-OK but for those folks, I recommend adding anything fresh to their dog's diet.  Veggies can be a great way of adding vitamins & minerals made by Mother Nature as opposed to factories in China (virtually all synthetic vitamins in commercial pet foods are produced in China).

2.  Veggies as treats are a heck of a lot cheaper than just about any high quality store-bought treat.

3.  Veggies are low in calories and when given as snacks, you don't have to worry about the extra calories.  This is important when doing tons of training with frequent reinforcement.  Those treats add up quickly and dogs often receive more than a meal's worth in one training session.  Going the veggie route when low value treats can be used is a great way to offset the calorie bomb that can be a standard training session. 

4.  A veggie-chowin' dog is always good for a laugh.  I love having folks over for BBQ.  I give the dawgs their carrot treat, which they race out to the backyard to find a place to enjoy it in peace.  The looks on people's faces when they realize the dawgs are going coo coo for plain ol' veggies is priceless. So is the astonishment I receive when guests witness our dawgs being all nonchalant when I'm prepping meat for the BBQ and then going all beggar-dawgs on us when the veggies get chopped.

Sure, that's all well & nice, Sarah, you say.  But do you seriously think my dog will eat veggies?

I'm not foolish.  I didn't get to kale-lovin' dogs instantly either.  Looking back at how I've been slowly incorporating vegetables over the past several years, I definitely took it slow, tried lots of different things and ultimately didn't give up.  Here are some tips to get your carnivore pooch to omnivore status:

1.  Start crunchy.  For our dawgs, we started with carrots.  I soon realized that Sadie will chomp on anything crunchy regardless of flavor.  But in the beginning, none of them would give green leafy vegetables a single lick.  So I went with it and crunchy we stayed for a while.

2.  Experiment.  Most of our veggie advances have happened on a lark.  As in, wouldn't it be hilarious to see the dawgs' faces when they taste asparagus?  celery?  kale?  I can't claim that the dawgs have liked every veggie they've tried but they do keep surprising me, especially when I'm utterly certain they will hate whatever it is that I just gave them.

3.  Use Peer Pressure.  It's amazing what a dog will eat when they see their sibling devouring it.  It's why Hurley eats poop and why Maggie has eaten any veggie I've ever given her.  I constantly use this to my advantage and I'm very lucky to have Sadie, who will eat anything Mom gives her because Mom gave it to her.  If you don't have multiple dogs, be creative.  Eat a carrot and then give them some.  If they see you eating it, it instantly becomes more valuable.

4.  Stick to Basics.  Did your kale experiment with your dog go horribly wrong?  If you are introducing your dog to fresh veggies, stick with the ones that most dogs enjoy in the beginning.  Carrots, sweet potatoes, & green beans are usually popular.

5.  Cheat.  I once "marinated" carrots in bacon to make them a higher value training treat.  My dawgs were already eating & loving carrots but I needed to make them higher value for a training class.  You can use the same idea for simply getting your dog to try a new veggie.

6.  Try Veggies BFF Fruit:  Fruit really is the gateway drug into dogs eating their veggies.  If the basic veggies are a no go, try starting with berries & apples.

7.  Trick 'em.  Boil veggies in broth.  Puree and mix in with kibble.  Scatter throughout a filled Kong.  Basically trick your dog into eating their veggies by finding creative ways to hide them in the things you already know your dog will eat.

8.  Break rules for veggies.  Do you have a no-feeding dogs from your plate or counter rule like we do in our house?  By breaking the normal food rules you may have in place to discourage begging, you may find that your dog will beg for veggies like ours do.

9.  Cook it.  Some veggies might be more appealing to dogs cooked rather than raw.  For instance, all of our dawgs love cooked asparagus but Sadie's the only one who will eat the raw woody end of an asparagus. 

Dogs eating vegetables is really not that foreign of an idea.  Look at the ingredient panel of your current pet food and you will find none other than vegetables.  Low quality foods may be full of corn and tomato or beet pomace while higher quality foods may contain peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, etc.  While dogs do need the majority of their diet to be meat-based, veggies are very appropriate for them to eat and can be nutritious and delicious to boot.

*In order for your dog to receive the maximum nutritional value of vegetables, they need to be pureed or lightly steamed.  Dogs do not chew food like we do and they are lacking in a particular amino acid that helps to break down the cellulose in vegetable cell walls.  Pureeing or steaming does that work for your dog so they can receive the most nutritional benefit from their veggies.  If giving veggies for a snack or amusement and not for nutritional value, veggies do not need to be steamed or pureed.  We do both here at Casa de NoPo Paws.  The dawgs will receive a dinner of steamed cabbage, mashed peas & chickpeas and beef tonight.  They will also probably get a whole carrot to chew on while I'm making everyone's dinner.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Badger Kit: How an Overzealous Dog Mom Creates Her Own Pet First Aid Kit

I have a confession to make.  Until this week, I did not have a proper first aid kit on hand for the dawgs.  I mean, we had most of the supplies that we needed in various spots throughout the house.  Until we used them up and didn't have what we needed for Hurley's recent injury.  It only took a single frantic midnight first aid shopping trip to make me realize how woefully unprepared I have been for Badger emergencies.

One of the first things I did after last weekend's mishap was to go out and put together a proper first aid kit, which I have affectionately dubbed "The Badger Kit". 

You can purchase first aid kits for pets and for most households, these are sufficient.  I, however, have a home with 3 big dawgs, one of which is the Badger.  I knew that our gauze & bandaging needs would far exceed the normal amounts provided in a decent first aid kit so I decided to put together our very own.

While most of the supplies that you need are pretty basic, when you put together your very own Badger kit, it's helpful to ask yourself the following:

Do I have supplies to clean, treat & wrap the most common injuries?  For our dogs, tail & paw injuries are the most likely, followed by bug bites, scrapes & abrasions and foreign object ingestion. 

Are there any other injuries/first aid needs that reflect the activities my family partakes in?  For instance, I will be adding aloe gel to our first aid kit as camping with the dawgs is something we often do, which means our crew is at a higher risk for campfire burn injuries. 

Do I have enough of the consumable first aid supplies for all of my pets?  This question was why I decided to create our own first aid kit instead of purchasing a pre-made one.  What if a bear attacks us on one of our camping trips and more than one dog is injured?  (Yes, these are the crazy scenarios I play out in my head when planning the requirements of a proper Badger kit).  For our family, having a large supply of gauze & bandage wrap was the most important part of our first aid kit.

Because I intend to bring our fancy new Badger Kit with us on all trips & outings with the dawgs, I also included items like bug spray & natural flea repellants that would be useful on those trips and where it would also make logical sense to include them with first aid supplies. 

Here are the contents of our Badger First Aid Kit:

Hand Sanitizer & Alcohol Wipes (for sanitizing our hands prior to treating any injury)
Latex Gloves
6 Rolls of 3" Gauze
2 Rolls of 2" Gauze
3X3 Gauze Pads
3 Rolls of Adhesive Tape
6 Rolls of non-adhesive bandage wrap
Rubber Syringe
Ear Cleanser
Hydrogen Peroxide
Wound Wash (I have a saline spray and will be getting Vetericyn as well, which is made specifically for pets and functions as an anti-septic spray)
Bag Balm (for treating cracked paws or scraped noses)
Nail Clippers
Styptic Powder
Dog Booties (we were given IV bags for this purpose from our vet plus we purchased some general purpose dog booties - they are extra large but will work nicely for an additional layer of protection over a bandaged paw on any of our 3 dawgs)
Natural Bug Spray
Natural Flea & Tick Spray
Aloe Gel
Calming Treats/Tinctures (it can be a challenge to keep your pet calm during an injury so including calming treats, sprays or tinctures is an essential part of a pet first aid kit, in my opinion)
Low Dose Aspirin
Herbal Healing Cream/Gel (or for you non-hippies out there, Neosporin will work just fine)
Cotton Balls & Q Tips
Pet First Aid Book

Do you have a first aid kit for your pet?  If so, is there anything you include in your kit that has not found a home in the Badger Kit?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hurley, Model Patient?

Hurley has proven himself to be the model patient following last weekend's toe injury.  I was pretty concerned about all the pill-taking, bootie-wearing, cone shaming & bandage wrapping that would have to occur during his healing process but I shouldn't have been worried.  Hurley Badger Don't Care 'bout nothing but his mama taking care of him and patiently allows all of the above to happen without a protest.  I think he's just a giant baby who loves being babied by his mama.

This is Hurley on drugs.  He just sits and stares at nothing.  For hours.
We have had a few hiccups in his recovery.  First, the saddest event in the history of the Badger:  Hurley has taken to not finishing his meals!  Clarification:  he won't finish his meals if they contain any kibble. If it's 100% raw or home-cooked, then the Badger has no objections to the taste of the antibiotics & pain pills in his dinner.  I almost cried the first time he walked away from a half-full bowl.  Hurley not being crazy about food?  He must not be feeling well!  So I spoon fed him and wrapped the remaining pills in raw meat.  He was ecstatic about finishing dinner like this and now has taken to licking pills clean and waiting for his raw meat.  Spoiled, maybe?  Little does he know that the last of the pills were today and he'll be back to normal half-kibble, half-raw/home-cooked meals. And that Miss Sadie will be allowed to finish his dinner from here on out should he choose to be picky. 

Is that Hurley's dinner I smell? 

The other hiccup to his recovery happened on Wednesday.  Twas the first morning that I let Hurley out in the backyard to do his business and didn't actively watch him.  Of course, this would be the one morning where he kicked the bootie off and proceeded to somehow re-injure his toe.  Said injury produced 100 times the amount of blood as his initial injury. I could not get the bleeding to stop, freaked out about the puddles of blood all over my house and rushed him to the vet.  It's a good thing because as the vet said in reference to the pool of blood filling his bootie "Oh wow.  Just wow.  That is not a normal amount of blood."  When the Badger hurts himself, he certainly doesn't do it half-ass.

More Stoned Sedated Hurley.  He might be contemplating chewing on his antler.   Or he could just be sitting there, contemplating nothing.  We don't really know what goes on in the head of stoned Hurley.
So he's got to wear a bandage a little bit longer and this Mama will not be laxing in his supervision again.  We're hoping for an uneventful remainder of his recovery.  We've got to get through the weekend with a bandaged foot and then the next 2 weeks without him bumping it into anything.  Wish us luck!