Aug 212012

When I first adopted Miss M, I was always so afraid that I was going to do something to accidentally ‘break her’. Sure she was a solid, 70 lb pooch who survived the ‘mean streets of Chicago’,  but any slight scratch, over-sneezing, or scraped paw pads had me scurrying her over to the vet. And shuffling out with a huge vet bill. Which in the city will be at least $150+ after the exam fee plus any testing and/or medication.

Since then, I’ve realized our pooches aren’t that fragile. They won’t shatter. Most of our little scrapes can be healed with simple Neosporin. Miss M has sneezed for the past six years I’ve owned her…and she’s still ok. And we’ve just gone to being preventative and using Musher’s Paw on her feet when she’ll be running on asphalt.

While we have reduced our vet visits to a degree, I still do find myself heading back to the vet for symptoms that may just be in my head. The time Miss M kept pawing at her face and I thought she might have glaucoma just because she’s so bug-eyed. Taking our pooches in for bi-annual elderbull bloodwork. And checking out a lump we just discovered on Miss M”s tush (totally fine!).

Maybe it is just piece-of-mind. But it has become a very expensive piece-of-mind. 

How do you determine when it is necessary to visit the vet?

Also: The healthy diet we discovered that reduced even more vet visits.
Our take on pet health insurance.

Jul 312012

 As conscious dog owners, we feel like we’ve heard all the dog safety tips a million times. Then there were some things we hadn’t heard about, that actually happened to our real-life dog friends. Here are some things they shared with us that go beyond the Urban Myth:

The Importance of Dog Seatbelts

One of our SociaBulls friends just told us this scary story about how they were out for a drive and they had to stop the car suddenly. Their 70 pound pooch who loves sticking his head out of the car suddenly flew out the window. The car who was following behind them had to suddenly swerve and barely missed hitting their pooch. Besides a slightly scraped chin, he made it away safely, but it is frightening to think of how narrowly he escaped injury. Now he only rides in the car with his doggy seatbelt. Here is our original post detailing what we learned about dog seatbelts.

Monitoring your Pooch’s Water Source

Another SociaBulls friend was recently very, very ill and diagnosed with lepto. It is something that is passed through animal urine; it is usually wildlife or rats. It can be picked up by drinking from a puddle or even licking the grass where an infected animal urinated. Apparently there can be several strands of the disease that are not always covered by the typical vaccination. Our friend is doing well now, but she doesn’t have the stamina she once had. She wanted us to spread the word to always watch the water your pooch is drinking and never allow them to drink from standing water.

Watching for Sunburn and Skin Disease

So many of our pitbull type dogs have only one layer of fur which can make them prone to sun damage, especially the white dogs. Dogs skin can burn just like humans, and sometimes it only takes one single sunburn to cause severe damage. Pooches should stay out of the sun or wear sunscreen. Read more about it from Daisy the Pink Pitbull who recently had some of her sun-damaged spots removed.

What are some other below-the-radar safety tips we should all know?

Also, The Unknown Dangers of Human Food and When Dog Equipment Fails.

Jul 262012

When Miss M and I first moved into E’s place, I was very impressed with the fancy jacuzzi bath tub. Little did I realize, it would only be Miss M and Mr B who would use it.

After a series of roadrunner and coyote-like hijinks, I had decided to outsource all of our bathing. And it was only recently, after hearing many of your tips, that we decided to try again at home.

We’ve learned a couple of things that make it easier for us, though judging from their faces, I’m not sure what the pooches think.

We started using a hair-catcher over the drain to make it easier to clean:

We use a hand-held shower hose to make cleaning easier. Doesn’t Miss M look like she approves?

A vet-tech also taught us to put cotton in the pooches ears to prevent water getting in and causing ear infections. Especially important for foster dog Boris’s homemade cropped ears.

Though we are always interested in making things easier. What other bath tips do you have?

PS. More funny dog bath photos (where Mr B looks like a seal!).

Mar 132012

We know how tempting all the other dogs, people, squirrels and rats(!) we encounter on our daily walks can be to our city dogs in training, and we’ve always worked to use a variety of training tools to keep our dogs focused and safe-should temptation strike.

In the past few weeks, we’ve actually been hearing from a couple of people who have had their equipment fail. A dog that slipped out of his collar and got away. A prong that broke mid-walk. A pooch that wrangled out of his easy-walk harness. And our own hard-to-believe situation where the latch on our leash came unclipped allowing Mr. B to run down the street to meet a Giant Poodle (I guess a dog that looked like a big stuffy was too tempting for Mr. B).

Not to mention a recent scary incident where off-leash dogs severely attacked a dog in a neighborhood where many of us live and walk.

Here are some things we’ve heard, and learned, that are good reminders to keep all of us safe.

Double Collars and Leash Latch Security:

When I was adopting Miss M, her rescue group had a policy that the dogs had to be double-collared. If we were using a prong we would double-clip it with a martingale, and harnesses would also be double-clipped..The martingales are designed to be anti-slip, and these are what our dogs wear (they also come in thinner sizes and with the chain closure) and can be coupled with most any training device as a double measure.

E also designed a system using a key chain coupler (coupling key fob) to make sure our leash latches are extra secure, and Mr. B will no longer be chasing big poodles down the street. He created a diagram and wrote about it here. 

Hold your Leash Securely:

We’ve had too many incidents where people unintentionally dropped their leashes, and we’ve had their dogs come running up to us (even across busy streets!). I always walk with the round loop around the crook of my elbow, and holding the leash with my other hand, just to make sure a quick lunge from the pooches won’t cause me to drop the leash.

Top-Secret Safety Recall Word (Getting your Dog to Come Back):

Just in case your equipment does fail, it’s always good to have a good recall to get your dog back. In one of our training classes we learned how to condition our dogs where they hear a top-secret recall word, used only in dire circumstances, which would have your pooch turning back–robot-like–and returning to you. We wrote more about it here. (Our word is Yikes!)

When an Off-Leash Dog Approaches You Unexpectedly:

My biggest fear each time I step out for a walk is that another dog will have his equipment fail, a gate will be left open, or an irresponsible dog owner will have an off-leash dog. We’d heard about an incident recently in Logan Square, an area where many of us live and walk, where two off-leash dogs viciously attacked another large dog, on a daily walk, leaving her in critical condition and nearly $10,000 in medical costs.

I’ve been carrying a can of Direct Stop citronella spray,which is a deterrent which is harmless to dogs, but they really don’t like it. It’s enough to deter a dog that is coming at you, but I’ve also heard it might not be enough for an aggressive dog that intends to attack. We also have a horn deterrent and  mace/ bear spray that we bring on our SociaBulls walks in case aggressive off-leash dogs approach our group. We’ve never had to use them, and we probably won’t have to use them, but we like to have them in the small chance we do encounter an aggressive dog.

We know the likelihood of many of these things is small, but we just wanted to share so everyone is aware. Anyone else have any tips to share?

Mar 052012

With all the ways we work to prepare our dogs to be successful city dogs, make sure they’re good ambassadors and well-cared for, one of the little known things is that several types of human food can be fatal for dogs. Sure our families like to slip the dogs a treat under the table at Thanksgiving or we might let our dogs pick up the scraps from the floor when we’re cooking, but it was only recently that I learned things like grapes, raisins, and onions can be dangerous and deadly, even for large dogs. Over winter break we learned one of our SociaBulls members, Jax suffered acute renal failure and his vets expected him to die after eating some raisins he found outside. Here is his story and a reminder to watch for food our dogs might find during walks:

There are so many things you worry about with a rescue, especially with an extremely fearful dog. I knew chocolate, macadamia nuts, cooked bones, caffeine and onions were toxic. But raisins? Raisins almost took my best friend away. It can be one, two or ten. Red or green grapes. A box of raisins or five.
Jax is a fearful dog who is most comfortable with his family–the people he knows the best–and his greatest joy is running loose on the golf course we live on with some furry friends. Jax gets his regular walks in the morning and afternoon, plus at least 2 trips to the golf course: no scary people, noises or things and just free to run and roam. The minute we hit the course, off leash he goes and zoomies galore!
The problem is that golfers and others throw food and scraps on the course, and Jax will find it each and every time. If I see him snatch something I go to him and open his mouth and take it out, but there are times I’m too late or I don’t see him doing it….and it was almost deadly this time.

On December 26th after being out for an hour on the golf course  we came home and Jax, within 10 minutes of walking in the door, threw up. Jax has never thrown up since I’ve had him. I was on the phone with a friend and went into the bedroom upon hearing him vomit. I was saying to her dumbfounded, he ate raisins, the pile of vomit was fresh with raisins. She screamed into the phone “take him to the ER Now!” and right as she said it he vomited again.
Jax was not expected to make it. He was in acute renal failure. Pumping fluids, charcoal and he wasn’t responding. He was barely producing urine for how much fluid was being pumped into and his BUN and Creatnine were at alarming levels and continuing to steadily rise. Day 2 in the afternoon they told me there was nothing more they could do, and he wasn’t responding to treatment. I told them I wouldn’t let my boy die in the hospital and asked to take him home. They didn’t expect Jax would make it until the evening and when it happened it would happen quickly; he would within minutes drop into a coma.

But my boy is a fighter and Jax made it! We will go for dialysis twice a month for the next 6 months due to the severity of the poisoning, but it’s just to give a boost to the kidney; he shouldn’t have any long-lasting effects after this.
The terror and fear I felt cannot be adequately expressed; Jax is my family, he is my best friend, and I can’t imagine ever being without him. I’ve written this to let people know how fatal this can be. There are a number of sites listing what not to feed your dog, the one I will share is from WebMD and found here. 

 We’re glad Jax is doing well now, and we want to thank his Mom for sharing their story so we can all be aware of things our dogs shouldn’t eat, remind our friends and family not to feed our dogs human food, keep all these items out of the trash and areas where our dogs might find them, and watch for things they may pick up on walks.

Jan 312012

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the pooches’ perfect diet and my new meal plan. Since then, we have had numerous questions asking for specifics of the pooches’ actual diet. At first we were hesitant to detail our specific diet as these are the things we have found to work for our dogs, but we do know all dogs are different and we want people to understand the mix that works for our dogs may not be perfect for all dogs.

We only feed the pooches twice a day: once in the morning (around 6:30 am during the week and 8:30 am on the weekends) and once in the evening (around 4:30).During the summer we realized Miss M was a bit rotund and their kidney levels were dangerously high.
We wanted to add whole fruits and vegetables, but honestly, we didn’t think we had the time or patience to actually “cook” for our dogs. And by ‘cook’ I mean cut up stuff.
We were lucky to discover Sojos Grain-Free Dog Food Mix which is largely a blend of dried veggies and fruits. We had tried some other dehydrated veggie mixes, but we really liked how Sojos had the larger chunks. It almost looks like a type of casserole we would eat ourselves. Since Sojos should be rehydrated overnight in the refrigerator, we have set off a whole shelf in the fridge just for our pooches’ food, but you  can also just rehydrate Sojos in water for at least 1 hour.
We also started using a high-quality meat. We rotate between  Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet canned formula and raw food nuggets or patties; we vary this up based on the price and availability, brands include Northwest NaturalsNature’s Variety, and Stella & Chewy’s.  For each pooch in their morning meal, we use a half cup of Sojos Grain-Free Dog Food Mix, a half can (6.5 oz or 185 g) of the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet (we vary the formula every meal), a cup of the raw food nuggets or a half patty of raw food, a splash of goat’s milk, a tablespoon of probiotics and a can of water. We prepare this each night and store it overnight in the refrigerator.
Though we would like to use the raw food for both their meals, but due to the cost of raw food, we just add another half can (6.5 oz or 185 g) of their canned diet in lieu of the raw food for their afternoon meal. Since we were so excited about Miss M’s healthy weight loss, which we largely attribute to Sojos, we decided to use add Sojos to Miss Bessie Belle’s diet.
For each meal, Miss Bessie Belle has a whole cup of Sojos Complete Food Mix with Raw Turkey with a cup of her kibble (and splash of goat’s milk and a tablespoon of probiotics). With this healthy diet and long walks, in the short time she’s been with us Miss Bessie Belle has lost over 8 lb. and now has a renewed pep in her step and is very lively!
Recently, A had a discussion with a representative from Sojos and raved about the great success we have had with their products and they have offered to “sponsor” both the bigger gal-pooches of New Leash on Life, Miss Bessie Belle and Miss Claudia to regain a healthy weight as they search for their forever homes.
Miss Claudia, who would not eat a bite of her kibble in boarding, now thoroughly enjoys her kibble with Sojos Grain-Free Dog Food Mix and a splash of goat’s milk in her foster home.

Jan 192012

We always thought that it was funny that some people had pets that ate better than they did and we believed our pooches were perfectly happy and healthy eating high quality kibble. When we received some bad news about our pooches health, we were forced to change their diet to high quality protein in lean meats, vegetables, fruits, fish oil and probiotics, and even then, I still thought we ate better than our pooches.
I was perfectly happy thinking that our dogs were so simple enjoying their hodgepodge dinner, while I got to eat an Italian beef with hot peppers, a Maxwell Street polish, a Chicago hot dog, large fries, a strawberry shortcake and a large vanilla malt and this was all for one dinner.
Then came the fateful day when A had that conversation with Katherine from Two Kitties One Pittie and the SociaBulls new member coordinator, about her vegetarian lifestyle and how much healthier her husband, K, felt while testing out her lifestyle for a year, in addition, I happened upon a TED talk by Dr. Terry Wahls, and I realized that our pooches ate better than us.

This was further validated when I thought back to Miss M and Mr. B’s blood test results demonstrating that their kidney levels, previously at alarming values, have all decreased to normal, which the veterinarian attributed to their change in diet. And finally, Miss Sweet Bessie-Belle, who was only with us a short two and a half weeks, lost 6 lbs and now has a renewed jump in her steps, which is probably due to A replacing half of her high-quality kibble with Sojos Turkey complete diet. Now, I realize that the pooches eat better than we do and that has nothing to do with the cost of our food but with our quality of life due to our food. Though A eats largely fruits, vegetables and beans, she will indulge in crispy fried and super sugary foods just because of me. So I have decided to do an experiment on myself and try a whole-foods (mostly plants-based) diet for at least two months.

Jan 112012
As our dogs have been aging, we’ve been researching ways to keep them healthier, happier and at a good weight. We know how important diet is, though we’ve realized what worked for our pups a few years ago doesn’t always work as they age. When we learned late this past summer that Mr. B was in early stages of kidney disease, we panicked and started him on a prescription diet, but after a couple months, his weight ballooned and he became really sluggish.
We reexamined his food and we modified his diet to one that consists of a limited ingredient canned diet dog food supplemented with fruits and vegetables, lean meats, goat’s milk and probiotics
We went in to our veterinarian this past weekend for their 6 month blood and urine test and amazingly, Mr. B’s levels went down from early stages of kidney disease to normal (high end) and Miss M’s level went down to ideal levels.  

In addition, since we’ve been adding a dehydrated vegetable mix to their meals, Miss M is no longer ‘rubenesque’ and vet was so proud to see she is at the ideal weight.
Before Photo:

We are really lucky in Chicago to live near several local pet stores, where we do have options, especially one in general, Liz’s Pet Shop. Liz’s Pet Shop is a no-frills pet store, packed to the brim with all high quality pet food. Liz is very knowledgeable about the products she carries and she was instrumental in modifying our pooches diet. The pooches used to eat high quality kibble, but now they have a quality canned diet. The extra moisture in the food is also important for their kidneys and keeping them hydrated.

Though we choose to always shop local, one main issue that we have faced is traveling to the store to pick up food for our pooches.
We love being a single car household, especially since I enjoy commuting by bike all year round. However, we can never find time to go to the dog store now that A goes directly to her graduate classes right after school and she gets home well after 10 pm. After one serious scramble when we realized we were out of food and I didn’t have a car to carry anything home, we were introduced to Mr. Chewy. 

Mr. Chewy is a newish online store with high quality food that ships free for orders over $50. They offered us a gift certificate to try their service and review it, and we were happy to try it since they carried our hard-to-find canned food, and it would be one time we didn’t have to worry about the car schedule. Just like an online grocery store, our order arrived via FedEx to our door and it was nice that I didn’t have to bike with several pounds of dog food through major Chicago streets. We are lucky that we do have options, but we think this is a great way to get some hard to find food that we’ve found is often out of stock in our local stores. Plus A remembers when she didn’t have a car and it was so hard to carry Miss M’s food, even though the pet store was relatively close. Even Miss M had a hard time carrying her own food in her backpack.

Oct 192011

Within a week, a neighbor and a co-worker both had to let their dogs go due to old age, coincidentally both at the age of 15. Now that Mr. B has early-stage kidney disease, we are trying everything to ensure that not only him, but also Ms. M have long and healthy lives. Mr. B has been on a special canned kidney diet, but in a short month, he gained considerable amount of weight. To give him a better diet and minimize his weight gain, we decided to switch him to a limited ingredient diet, lean meats, fruits and vegetables. Sometimes we wonder if all of this is too much, because we have had family dogs that just ate table scraps and they lived a long and healthy life. However, Ms. M and Mr. B are truly our pooches and our best friends and we could not even imagine how empty our house would feel without one or the other.

In addition, my co-worker believes the key to her pooch’s healthy, long life was largely dependent on exercise, especially low impact, long walks. Though we take the pooches on long walks during the summer, these become harder to come by when the weather gets colder. Our friend had both his pitbulls live past 16 and we would always see him walking the pooches everywhere. We recognize that we should appreciate every moment we have with the pooches, but every other aspect of our lives take up so much time, that sometimes we feel like we are not taking them out enough to exercise.

We always wondered if there was a key to helping your pooches live a long and happy life?

Sep 282011
Since Miss M and I were bachelorettes together, I have always dreaded dog baths. Back then it was just me and her. Me trying to wrestle her 75 pound body into a tub. Her heaving her 75 pound body back out of the tub. And it went on like this just like a terrible episode of the roadrunner and coyote. Finally, with all the heavy lifting, costume changes (I had to don a bathing suit), and soaked apartment afterwards, I just realized it would be much easier to take her to PetSmart.
And with all these terrible memories, we have been taking the pooches off-location for their baths for the past several years. That is, until we realized he had a nicely manageable apartment-sized pooch:
It was when I saw our Super-Levi staring into the bathroom, and trying to think when we could schedule a time to take the 3 pooches in for baths, I realized the obvious. I could actually pick him up and bathe him myself. And amazingly enough, when I lifted him in: he stayed. Maybe it’s part of his Superhero genetics allowing him to repel water. He stayed in place quite nicely, except for the occasional tongue-lick.
Through all this, we noticed someone else peeking into the bathroom:
And I had my second realization: now that I have a husband to help me out, bathing a 75 pound pooch is quite possible, and enjoyable. But maybe not for Miss M. She came out smelling like mangoes.
So then we had to get Mr. B in on the deal. I definitely could have never lifted him in by myself, but with one swoop from strong husband, he was in the tub and looking like a fat little seal–according to the hilarious comment on our facebook page. Now his fur gleams like the inside of a seashell.
We were kind of disgusted by how dirty the bath water was, especially since we were using some dry wipe cloths, and always make sure to wipe their feet.
Now we’ve realized how baths don’t have to be like bad Warner Brothers cartoons, we’re going back to dog-bathing basics. We’re curious: how often do you wash your pooches? And how do you keep the hair from clogging the drain? And any dog shampoo tips? Does the shampoo matter? Or does anyone still think it’s easier to go off-location?
P.S. SociaBulls members, check our website for details on an upcoming Happy Hour!