Eden: Health update

Snow dog

It’s not much of an update, but sadly, the week-long dose of Flagyl (along with FortiFlora) did not seem to help Eden’s GI issues. The vet has recommended that we do the test for EPI, so I’ll be scheduling that for next week. Obviously, I really, really hope she doesn’t have EPI. The odds, however, do not seem to be in her favor.

In the meantime, I’ve been keeping a detailed log (along with poo pics!) of her feeding, behavior, and bowel movements. I’m hoping that this will be helpful to us as we continue to determine what is plaguing her system.

The bright side is that Eden’s spirits are still high (VERY high). She is just as energetic and cheerful as she’s always been. I just want my little girl to be better!

Feet with feet

Reflecting on Westminster

Westminster winner, Banana Joe the affenpinscher.

Banana Joe the affenpinscher took the Westminster cup last night, and I’ve been thinking about dog shows again.

As a child, I always loved watching Westminster on TV, mainly to parade my knowledge of all the obscure dog breeds (I was a pretentious little kid, primarily about dogs). My goal was to name the breed before the announcer did. But, in truth, I found dog shows pretty boring. Because, let’s face it: They are. Watching well-coiffed dogs trot in a circle for a few hours? Not exactly my idea of a good time.

But I remain peripherally interested in dog shows, if only because they tend to be a good indicator of how dog breeding practices are trending right now. (And because it is still at least fun to look at all the pretty dogs.)

In general, the trends disappoint me.

The United States has so far to go still in terms of prioritizing health over looks—but then again, health has never been the point of dog shows. Look at the X-ray of a winning Pekingese. That is not a healthy animal. Look at the back legs of this year’s German shepherd who took best of breed; they touch the ground, warping the spine and hips, and for no other reason than “that’s how they’re supposed to look.” It breaks my heart. The winning bulldog and winning pug have such an extremely squashed faces; they both look like they’re laboring to breathe just for the photo shoot. Don’t even get me started on the Neapolitan mastiff.

I like to dream of a world in which competing dogs have to pass a health and fitness test before they can be allowed to show for confirmation. Can the bulldog run the length of the ring without collapsing? Can the German shepherd pass a hip exam? The United Kingdom is moving toward such protocols, with great controversy, and the UKC is contemplating such tests itself. There’s a reason why the breeds that still have a working function—many of the scent hounds, for example—are healthy and look like they did in the 1800s. Accordingly, it makes sense that dogs that do not “need” to be healthy—toy breeds, brachycephalic breeds—have seen their breed standards fall to extremes to support the whims of human vanity.

My complaining about this, obviously, isn’t going to change anything. But I still like to dream of a better world for purebred dogs. Breeding animals like this, purely to suit our tastes, is nothing short of animal cruelty.

Pup links!

Fashionable miniature poodle. Photo by Nick Schutzer.

Just a few dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

Dog Breed Health. This is a comprehensive site with health profiles for almost every imaginable dog breed. What do you think about it? Do you think your favorite breed’s health profile sounds accurate?

Baby Ball. Lacey is obsessed with her little ball; so very cute. (Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey)

Golden Gift Cards by Brown Paper Designs. I love these simple, classy notecards! Would totally snatch some up in a GSD silhouette… (Pretty Fluffy)

Happy 4th of July! A few days late, but I like this variation on the red, white, and blue scheme. (Of Pit Bulls and Patience)

Pup links!

A lady and her English cocker spaniel. Source: LIFE magazine archives.

Dog-related links from around the Web:

If the Characters in Downton Abbey Were Portrayed by Canine Actors… A friend shared this on my Facebook wall, and I just had to share it here, too. If you watch the period soap opera Downton Abbey, you will appreciate these comparisons. I think they’re pretty spot-on. Matthew is totally a golden retriever and Mary makes a lot of sense as a poodle. And, poor Edith! The Bedlington terrier! (Dogster)

How to Properly Care for Your Dog’s Teeth. Canine dental hygiene is usually pretty terrible, and, from my experience, it’s an easy thing to forget to take care of–and not exactly fun when you do. This is a thorough article, however, that reminds us all of why it’s very important to care for our dog’s pearly whites. (The Whole Dog Journal)

Investigating Halitosis. Related to doggy dental care, here’s a veterinarian’s list of possible causes of your dog’s terrible breath. (The Bark blog)

Where’s the Beef? Subtitle: “Why your dog should never eat another Milk Bone or Beggin Strip, and you should avoid the Slim Jims.” You won’t ever want to buy those products again after you read this article by Amy Renz. (Goodness Gracious Treats)

Identifying Merle. I grew up with a beautiful tricolor merle Australian shepherd and I’ve always had a fondness for merle coats, especially when they come from conscientious breeders. But I learned a ton from this post and learned that I’ve been incorrectly identifying some dogs as “merle” that really aren’t. Fascinating stuff. (Musings of a Biologist and a Dog Lover)

House Rules and Time-Outs. Aleksandra shares her wisdom about how they use “time-outs” to teach their newly adopted pitt, The Dude, some house manners. Great, gentle, and effective advice. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)

Binq Design. If I was in the market for a tiny dog, and had a lot of cash to spare, I think I’d definitely consider these functional and attractive side tables + dog beds. They look like they’d be a nice place for a toy breed to hide out during family commotion. (Dog Milk)

Bambino vs. Fido: On Loving Dogs Less. Shauna, a pregnant blogger, reflects on how her relationship with her dogs will change–and stay the same–when she welcomes her baby into the world. I found this post very reassuring. As someone who hasn’t had kids yet but plans to one day, I confess I’m frankly terrified of the idea of emotionally displacing my future dogs. But, as she points out in this post, you don’t displace your dogs in your heart; you just make room. (Fido & Wino)

BFFs. Greyhounds snuggling on the couch. So cute. (Hiking Hounds)

Religious Dog Bumper Stickers. OK, pretend bumper stickers, but these still made me giggle. My favorite: “I’m Catholic but my corgi is affiliated with the Church of England.” (Dogs of the Interwebs)

Dog Refuses to Go Into Pool to Get Tennis Ball He Desperately Needs. In need of a laugh on this fine Tuesday? Look no further than this very, very determined golden retriever and his quest for one slightly out-of-reach tennis ball. (Best Week Ever)

Pup links!

Floppy, cuddly German shepherd puppies. Click for source.

In rescue news, the anticipation is killing me. I applied too early, I think, because the groups have been super-responsive and they’ve all told me that nothing can really happen until our home visit. Even still, I obsessively check the postings of dogs up for adoption (like, several times a day), which is really just making me more anxious. I need to stop. I need someone to block these rescue groups’ websites and Petfinder and the SPCA… for my own sanity!

Anyway. Here are some happy and interesting dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

Crufts Show Dogs Disqualified. This has been the big news in the dog world this week. While I don’t want to open a can of worms, I’m curious what you think: Are independent vet checks a good idea at dog shows? I don’t know anything about the show world, but I am all for improving the breed standards of many purebreds raised only for their looks. I hope that that will eventually be the outcome of this controversial decision. (The Bark blog)

Dog-Friendly Yard Work. Advice from Maureen Gilmer, horticulturalist and dog lover, about dog-friendly plants and other projects for your garden this spring. I’m happy to know that dried rosemary can act as a flea repellent; we will be inheriting a huge rosemary bush with our new house. (The Bark)

Mudley. Part of me has always wanted a big, slobbery Newfoundland… (Shirley Bittner Photography)

Ollydog Mt. Tm Running Belt and Leash. This looks like pretty serious gear, but I can imagine that it would be really great to have while hiking or running. (Dog Milk)

Cheap and Easy Training Treats. Kristine shares some of her ideas for inexpensive, make-at-home treats. I will definitely be trying some of these in the months to come! (Rescued Insanity)

Impeccable Style. I actually really like this line of preppy/nautical-looking dog products, from the company Milk and Pepper. (Under the Blanket)

Canine Comforts. A beautiful suite of dog beds and bags from Cloud 7. The photography for their ad campaign is also beautiful–so natural-looking. (Design Hunter)

Guess the Genotype #56. I was going to guess that the breed was a mini-borzoi, but that’s kind of what it is: Has anyone heard of the silken windhound before? Despite the goofy name, I’m intrigued… (Musings of a Biologist and a Dog Lover)

Why Calling Her a Pit Bull Matters. A thoughtful and well-expressed post about why a pit bull mama calls her girl a pit bull, and not an AmStaff or other breed euphemism. (Save the Pit Bull, Save the World)

My Other Best Friend. One blogger’s reflections on her relationship with her dog, Bodhi. (Elephantine)

Charlie at Home. Our wonderful wedding photographer shares some photos of her sister’s sweet dog, Charlie. (Meredith Perdue Photography)

Pup links!

An epic greyhound. What a beautiful shot! Click for source.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

Why We Must Drop Our Obsession with Coat and Color in AKC Dogs. Insightful comments about how truly silly it is that we breed dogs (and subsequently reject others) based merely on their coat color and/or markings. (Ruffly Speaking)

Size Matters. Patricia McConnell reflects on a study about the way people treat and perceive big and small dogs. She also considers why small dogs are usually less well-behaved or, really, just less well-trained, than bigger ones. Interesting stuff. (The Other End of the Leash)

Live Like Royalty: The Many Health Benefits of Dogs, Man’s Best Friend. The Atlantic ran a short piece online this week about something we now all well know: Dogs are actually good for you! Dog people have longer lifespans, lower blood pressure, and less stress than dog-less ones. (The Atlantic Monthly)

Drafting Dog. A German shepherd attends a drafting event near our current town. Looks like a great event for a strong dog! Has anyone ever participated in a drafting before? (German Shepherd Mom)

Dog Vaccinations: What Not to Do. Jana Rade’s opinions on vaccinating your dog. What do you think? I know it’s a touchy issue and it seems that it’s often a divided war between veterinarians and dog owners. I confess that I’m not really sure about many of these issues; I feel like I have a lot of research to do. (That Mutt)

First Diabetic Alert Dog in Scotland. Meet this sweet-faced spaniel who can accurately predict this Scottish woman’s diabetic comas. Pretty amazing. I imagine diabetic service dogs will become increasingly interesting to Americans, where diabetes is something of a national epidemic. (Dog Days)

Lupine Tail Feathers Collars and Leads. Pretty peacock design on this collar and leash set. Zoe has a Lupine leash and it is quite comfortable in one’s hand. (Dog Milk)

Robin + Fiona. OK, here’s a game: Guess the puppy breed! These are such sweet photos of a litter of white puppies… Any guesses as to what breed they are? I confess I feel stumped myself. Some kind of terrier? Or am I totally off-base and it’s just a scruffy-looking litter of white golden retrievers? I bet one of you can help me out here. Trickier, since the photos are all in black-and-white. (Cramer Photo)

A Big Batch of Bean and Friends. This, clearly, is not a pup link, but I don’t have anywhere else to share this, and I’m just enamored with these photos of a beautiful mama cat and her precious kittens playing together. Yes, they are cats, but they are really warming my heart this morning. (The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee)

The Comment Section for Every Article Written about PETA. Also not really dog-related, but animal-related: This made me LOL. It is so true. (The Hairpin)

Choosing a vet

Boy in Veterinarian's Office

Boy in Veterinarian's Office, Norman Rockwell.

Next on my list of things to do before bringing a dog home: Finding a local veterinarian. This one is also somewhat intimidating to me. I’m planning on asking friends with dogs who they’d recommend in the area, but beyond that, I’m curious what you think about how to go about this process.

What kinds of questions should I ask a prospective vet? What are some things to watch out for? How will I know to evaluate them if I don’t have a dog yet? Does anyone go to a vet who practices holistic or homeopathic medicine?

Still so many questions! And I’m, as always, grateful for your advice!

Review: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs

Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs.

I bought Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs with some Christmas money and really enjoyed reading it. I found it to be a helpful and non-scary introduction to a raw and natural canine diet, which is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Dr. Lew Olson is a rottweiler breeder with a Ph.D. in natural nutrition. She writes that she’s experienced firsthand the immense benefits of a raw and natural diet with her own dogs, and the book is sprinkled with testimonies from her clients and other people who have seen their dog’s health and energy drastically improve.

Her initial overview of canine nutritional needs and the American pet food industry was incredibly interesting and insightful. While I have read a bit about the horrors of your average kibble, I had no idea how vast and political the pet food industry’s influence is. Unlike Celeste Yarnall, Olson supports her arguments with cited evidence and research and doesn’t come across sounding like a conspiracy theorist: Instead, she’s just a woman who wants her dogs to be healthy. And your average kibble is decidedly not healthy.

The following chapters provide step-by-step advice on how to switch from kibble to a raw or natural diet. The later chapters also provide specific recipes for dogs with various health issues, including cancer, joint trouble, bladder problems, and skin allergies, just to name a few.

My only critique of the book is that it can occasionally read like a sales pitch for Berte’s products, which she includes in every recipe. A little research reveals that Olson is a part of B Naturals, the company that sells these products. I would have had more respect and trust in Olson if she had disclosed this connection forthright.

That to say, however, this is an excellent introduction to raw and natural diets. Olson makes you believe that it is indeed possible to feasibly and economically feed your dogs well.

Review: Natural Dog Care

Natural Dog Care.

I found this book in mint condition at a used book sale for $1. The books I’m prone to buy are ones that I think I may later use as a resource, and this one looked like it might possibly fit that bill. Natural Dog Care is written by Celeste Yarnall and was published in 1998. The book aims to provide a comprehensive guide to holistic and homeopathic care for your dog, including an extensive chapter on nutrition and even a chapter on using zodiac signs to heal your pet. OK. As I started to read about Yarnall, however, I began to think that I may have wasted a dollar.

Celeste Yarnall’s qualifications? She’s a champion cat breeder. That’s it. She’s not a veterinarian. She’s never actually studied animal medicine at a university. The dust jacket says she’s researched a lot on nutrition. Well, that’s nice, but I don’t know if that exactly qualifies you to give medical advice to dog owners. Throughout the book, she uses cat examples to prove that her methods work. It’s great that it works for your champion Tonkinese, but cats are quite different from dogs.

Yarnall spends an entire chapter telling you not to vaccinate your dogs, ever. I have heard varying opinions on this and some of what she says is intriguing, but I find it very hard to believe her when she uses shoddy and poorly cited research to back up her arguments. She also universally applies research from different disciplines to make her point.

The long chapter on “astromedicine” is really what pushed me over the edge. I know some people believe this, and if you do, that’s fine, but I think it’s especially silly in a book on canine health care. The fact that my dog is a pisces shouldn’t dictate what crushed herbs and crystals I slip into his food–if I’m going to use crushed herbs and crystals in the first place. (Also, what if I adopt a dog and don’t know his or her exact birth date? No astromedicine for you, pup. And it’s probably just as well.)

So, save your time on this one. I’m sure there are far better and more credible sources of information for those interested in holistic and homeopathic medicine for dogs.

What should I feed my future dog?

Dog food canisters from Etsy.

Lately, my dog reading focus has been pretty heavy on the health and nutrition side of things. I’ve been scouring Dog Food Advisor constantly and I’ve been writing down all sorts of advice and ratings. I read the (pretty terrible) Natural Dog Care and the (really great) Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. The latter book especially convinced me of the truth that dogs should not be exclusively eating low-grade, high-carb, and high-grain kibble.

So, this means I want to make food for my dog or supplement his or her kibble with fresh meat and natural food. Therein lies the rub. My husband and I are de facto vegetarians. I say “de facto” because we tend to eat vegetarian six nights a week; I don’t eat any meat myself for the rest of the week. This means we’re not really in the habit of buying a lot of meat. We’ll eat it occasionally and if we go to friends’ homes for dinner, but it’s not a regular part of our menu. We can buy meat, however, and we are blessed to be surrounded by plenty of local farms and butchers who raise and sell organic, free range beef and poultry.

These are my options, as I see them:

  1. Kibble diet: Buy a high-quality, grain-free kibble and feed exclusively.
  2. Half kibble/half homemade diet: Supplement homemade meals with high-quality, grain-free kibble.
  3. Raw diet: All raw meat and fresh foods, all homemade and self-prepared.

Everyone I know who has a dog has them on an all-kibble diet. Most dog owners I know also stick to the adage that “people food” is bad for dogs (a myth quite successfully perpetuated by the pet food industry). These dogs eat the exact same thing, day in and day out, and don’t complain. They get fat, though, and often smell bad and shed terribly. After having read these excellent books, I don’t think I could feed my dog an all-kibble diet and feel good about it. Unless it was a really, really high-quality kibble. I might be eating my words on this in a few months, but from today’s vantage point, I don’t think my conscience would rest comfortably if I gave my dog only kibble.

I’m leaning most toward the half kibble/half homemade diet at this point, at least in the beginning.  If I find out that all homemade/raw is easy and affordable, we might just go for that. The plan would be to mix kibble with homemade recipes, including some raw meats, fruits and vegetables, and recommended dairy products. I think this plan could also help us cut down on the food that we throw away: Dog as (carefully moderated!) trash reducer. I plan on arming myself with books like Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs and other canine cookbooks to make sure that our future dog is getting all of the nutrients that he or she needs.

I’ve read some about raw diets for dogs. They make me a little nervous, for a few reasons: 1) I don’t cook all that well for myself; I’m not sure how reliable I would be at cooking every day for my dog; 2) It sounds really expensive; 3) It also sounds very time-consuming; and 4) It would take some effort to find reliable places to get such raw meats. Maybe I will work up to it. For right now, though, I’m not sure if I have the guts (or capital) to jump into a raw diet.

Either way, it’s a lot to think about, and I’m sure I may think differently about some of these things when I’m actually in the day in/day out grind of having a dog.

What kind of diet is your dog on? What do you recommend? If you feed kibble, do you have a particular brand you like? I’m all ears!