We've had some REALLY hot days this month. I thought for sure Gracie wouldn't be up to playing outside, but she wanted to go out every day --- even when the outside temperature was at least 90 degrees F and the sun was blazing. She looked so glum when I told her we couldn't play outside, I HAD to give her five minutes of "Tennis Ball Fetch." Then she'd take a rest in the shade under the trees, take a drink of water and come back for more. I refused to keep her outside playing in that heat for longer than 10 minutes.
During past summers, Gracie would take playtime a lot easier on hot days. Since she's 12 this year I thought she'd noticeably slow down. I believe a homemade diet can improve and maintain a dog's health. Yet at some point in life, old age will inevitably get the upper hand. Apparently, that's not happening to Gracie yet.
Why, though, does she seem to have more stamina this summer than she did last summer and in year's past? It's really puzzled me. Then I realized this is the first summer, in all the years I've had Gracie, that I've not given her Heartgard preventive. It's also probably the first summer I've never given her any topical flea and tick treatment (I can't remember, 100 percent, about the flea and trick treatment but I'm pretty sure she's had at least one treatment every summer).
I know Heartgard preventive and topical flea and tick control are very helpful under many circumstances. Yet I suspect withholding these preventive meds from my dog this year is the reason she seems to have so much more stamina this summer, even though she's now 12.
Yet even a very energetic dog will seek shade during a game of fetch on a hot summer day. Below is a short video clip of Gracie doing just that when we played outside recently.
It was VERY hot and humid this past weekend. I didn't want to let Gracie outside but she insisted on having her regular playtime. I made sure to bring out a big bowl of fresh, cool water for her. I thought she'd be ready to come in after 10 minutes but she played fetch for about 35 minutes, taking periodic breaks to lay on the grass in the shade when she needed a rest. She was not interested in coming inside right away! Not bad for a 12-year-old doggiel!
Gracie loves seafood. Usually her seafood meals are limited to canned sardines or salmon, but when we enjoy special seafood meals we gladly share with her. I recently made broiled scallops with butter and Parmesan cheese. I gave Gracie two with her Doggie Chef Meatloaf and she was very happy!
2 jumbo scallops cooked with butter and Parmesan cheese
After years of going along with "the program" and feeding my dog a monthly dose of insecticide each summer, I've decided to take what I believe is a small risk with her health for what I believe is a larger benefit to her health.
I AM NOT GIVING GRACIE HEARTWORM PREVENTIVE THIS YEAR. The decision was not made easily. For years I've given Gracie three or four doses of chewable Heartgard during mosquito season. Last year I gave her three doses of Heartgard Plus. She just tested negative for heartworm so three doses were apparently enough to protect her last year. Maybe none would have been fine too.
I suspect the heartworm preventive manufacturers push a little too hard in selling their product to veterinarians, and in encouraging veterinarians to sell it to pet owners. I also suspect some veterinarians blindly go along with the program, while others exaggerate the necessity of heartworm preventive in many parts of the country in order to sell heartworm blood tests and preventive.
The active ingredient in Heartgard is ivermectin, which is an anti-parasitic insecticide; used primarily against worms. Ivermectin is used around the world, by humans, to combat river blindness and other conditions caused by worm infestations. Ivermectin does not kill adult worms in humans or dogs. It works by killing the microfilariae --- the tiny larval form of the worm. Ivermectin has helped a lot of people. It's also helped a lot of dogs in areas where heartworm is a big problem. Yet I don't think it's a big problem in my area or in many areas of the United States where it's pushed on easily-panicked pet owners.
Researching the subject online led to conflicting data. According to Wikipedia.com, heartworms can only go through their development stage in a mosquito if outdoor temperatures remain at or above 80 degrees F (20 degrees C) for approximately two weeks. Wikipedia says if temperatures drop below 57 degrees F (14 degrees C), development will not occur. Yet DogAware.com claims outdoor temperatures have to only be over 57 degrees F (14 degrees C), day and night, for one to two weeks for heartworms to go through their development stage in a mosquito!
It supposedly takes about six months after a dog is infected with heartworms by a mosquito for the infection to show up in a blood test.
After doing some Internet research and re-reading chapters about heartworms in Dr. Richard Pitcairn's "Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats (2005)," and in Dr. Martin Goldstein's "The Nature of Animal Healing," I decided against Heartworm preventive for Gracie this year. She is 12 years old and at this stage in her life I think it's more likely her good health will be harmed by several doses of heartworm preventive than by a heartworm infection.
Both Pitcairn and Goldstein believe a heartworm infection is a serious matter and will not outright advise against administering heart worm preventive, especially in areas whee heartworm is prevalent. Yet both veterinarians seem to think a heartworm infection is not a guarantee in an unprotected dog, and not necessarily a death sentence for a healthy dog with a strong immune system. Especially if only a few heartworms are present, or if the disease is detected early.
Goldstein suggests all dogs not on heartworm preventive be tested twice a year for the disease and that's what I intend to do for Gracie. Early detection could make treatment easier on the dog. I just had Gracie's blood tested this past week and the results were negative for heartworm. Still, mosquito activity in our area probably starts around May and ends around October. So I probably should be testing Gracie for heartworm around November and April, to properly monitor against heartworm infection in our area. Eventually I will adjust her blood testing schedule accordingly.
Blood tests are no fun for Gracie, of course. Yet I think two blood tests a year will be easier on her health than three or four yearly doses of even a "beneficial" pesticide.
Of course I have doubts about deciding against heartworm preventive for Gracie this year. For the most part, I believe this decision is best at this point in her life. I realize this decision could turn out very badly for Gracie and for me. If it does, I might never forgive myself but I I know Gracie would forgive me. She knows I only have her best interests at heart.
We had a birthday celebration at our house recently. Of course Gracie was included in the fun. She did NOT like wearing the birthday hat. Yet being the wonderfully patient pooch she is, she let me snap a few photos of her wearing the hat.
What a dog!
Here she is looking very serious and thinking, "Let's hurry up and get this over with.":
Now she's thinking, "If you're going to make me pose in this ridiculous hat, could you please not shake the camera!":
And finally: "Okay, I can't take this anymore. The hat's coming off!":
I'd like to introduce everyone to Doggie Chef Deb Steckly and her beautiful, home-fed dog Kane. I "met" Deb and Kane on my blog two weeks ago. I was so happy to see another healthy, happy home-fed dog! Kane is a rescued Shetland Sheep Dog. He weighs around 45 pounds. Deb says she's been cooking for Kane for 10 years. He eats two meals a day. Deb says Kane loves, "so many vegetables, all meats, fish, potatoes and rice and cheese." Deb and Kane are from Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada.
Deb owns Just Cats, a professional in-home cat sitting service. Just Cats specializes in caregiving for cats in the comfort and security of their own home environment. What a GREAT idea! Find out more about Deb and Just Cats on her blog at:
CALLING ALL DOGGIE CHEFS: Are you a Doggie Chef? Do you cook homemade meals for your dog? I'd love to feature you and your dog (or just your dog, if you're camera-shy) on this blog! If you'd like to show others how happy and healthy a home-fed dog can be, please email me a photo (jpg format) of you and your dog. If you prefer, you can send a photo of your dog only.
Tell me your dog's name, your name (a first name only is fine), how long you've been making homemade meals for your dog, your dog's age, and the city/region and country you're from. I hope to hear from you!
How many almost-12-year-old dogs want to frolic outside in freezing temperatures, during a snowstorm? My home-fed dog does! I'm convinced Gracie's years of eating homemade dog food have kept her exceptionally hale and hardy.
We had a nasty snowstorm last week. Gracie was in seventh heaven! Sometimes I wonder if she isn't part husky, or some other snow-loving dog breed.
When I let her out after breakfast the wind was blowing and the snow was coming down hard. Gracie quickly took her "bathroom break" but instead of hurrying back inside she started pushing and pulling her new basketball around the yard. When I said, "No Gracie, the weather is too bad. You have to come in," she looked up at at me so hopefully. I couldn't let her down. I quickly bundled up and got my camera. I figured if I was going to stand outside and play in freezing weather, I might as well get some good photos.
Here's Gracie waiting for me to kick the basketball she just pushed toward me with her nose.
I kicked the ball to her a few times but I started getting really cold. Gracie didn't seem to mind the cold one bit. She looked so disappointed when I suggested going inside, I just had to stay outside with her a little longer.
She ran and played and was so happy.
At one point she practically disappeared into all the snow kicked up by our game.
After about 15 minutes I'd had enough. The weather was too rough for me and my camera, but not for my dog!
I resorted to bribery and told Gracie to come on in for a treat. That got her attention. After she followed me inside I gave her a piece of crusty French bread --- one of her favorite snacks.
As mentioned in previous posts, I often include whole wheat bread in Gracie's meals. Either homemade (click here for a recipe for homemade Doggie Chef Bread) or store bought. Click here to see my post about the store bought bread (Brownberry Natural Wheat) I've fed Gracie most often in recent years.
Cooked grains, like oatmeal and brown rice, are a lot cheaper (and probably a lot healthier) than store bought bread. Yet sometimes the convenience of store bought bread can't be beat.
I recently learned about sprouted grain bread made by Food For Life and decided to give it a try. I bought two different loaves: Seven Sprouted Grains bread and Ezeikiel 4:9 Sesame bread. They're both in the freezer section at my grocery store. I suppose they're frozen to maintain freshness, as they contain no preservatives. I prefer the Ezeikiel 4:9 Sesame bread because the Sprouted Grain bread contains corn. I'd rather not feed Gracie corn. I don't think she digests it well or that it offers her much nutritional value.
Brownberry Natural Wheat bread contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. That's why I've used it for so long. However, I always thought it contained too much sodium and sugar.
Here's a comparison of Brownberry Natural Wheat bread and Food for Life Ezeikiel 4:9 Sesame bread:
Brownberry Natural Wheat Bread, 1 36-gram slice:
Sodium: 240 milligrams Sugars: 2 grams
Dietary Fiber: 2 grams Protein: 3 grams
Plus added vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin A, the B vitamins, Vitamin E and Iron.
The Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sesame bread contains less sodium, less sugar, more fiber and more protein. Any nutrients the Ezekiel 4:9 Sesame bread contains comes directly from the ingredients. To me that's a big plus even though, overall, the bread contains less Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin E, Iron, etc... than Brownberry Natural Wheat Bread. I think nutrients naturally occurring in foods are better for the body (canine or human) than nutrient supplements added to foods.
The Ezekiel Sesame bread is made from: organic sprouted 100% whole wheat, filtered water, organic sprouted barley, organic sprouted millet, organic malted barley, organic sprouted lentils, organic sprouted soybeans, organic sprouted spelt, fresh yeast, organic wheat gluten, sea salt and organic sesame seeds.
It's always a bit scary to change my dog's diet. She's been doing so well for so long. Yet I believe every good Doggie Chef should strive to constantly improve their pet's diet. I was never comfortable with the amounts of sodium and sugar in the Brownberry Natural Wheat bread. I'll still use the Brownberry bread sometimes, but I feel better about feeding Gracie the Food For Life bread when I don't have time to make homemade bread.
I finally worked out the problems I was having with Windows Movie Maker!
You can expect to see ever-improving videos of Gracie on this blog in the future.
Below is a video I made using footage I shot two weeks ago. Most of the footage is new to this blog. A little bit was shown shown in the video I posted February 9 ("Gracie Playing in Icy Snow 2-7-11"). I couldn't use all the footage I wanted to then, as Windows Movie Maker kept crashing every time I made an edit. Now that it's working for me, I can appreciate what a great program it is. The audio makes this video of Gracie really fun. Turn up your volume!
I'm sharing this video to show others how healthy and active an almost 12-year-old, home-fed dog can be. Gracie THRIVES on homemade dog food --- and lots of love too, of course.
I started feeding Gracie blueberries as an occassional snack. When I was eating some blueberries recently, one fell off my plate and rolled across the floor. Gracie gobbled it up and made it clear she wanted more.
I never felt inclined to include fruits in Gracie's Doggie Chef meals. I think they contain too much sugar for regular consumption. Yet I know Gracie thinks some fruits taste really good (she loves dates). And many fruits, like blueberries, are considered health-enhancing superfoods. So blueberries are now on Gracie's occassional snack food list (click here to see a post about other snacks Gracie enjoys).
I did some Internet research and didn't find any reputable sources claiming blueberries are bad for dogs. In "Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats (see my review of that book here)," blueberries are recommended for occassional snacking. Any produce I give Gracie (or eat myself) is thoroughly washed first. When I share bluberries with Gracie I give her no more than three or four.
We have so much ice-covered snow on the ground! As you can see in the video below, it hasn't stopped Gracie from wanting to play outside.
When I took this video clip, both of us slipped and skidded on the ice numerous times. Even though dogs are close to the ground, they can stumble and fall too. At one point Gracie scraped and cut her leg (a tiny cut) on the sharp ice, but she didn't want to stop playing. I had to promise her a treat to get her to come inside.
This week I received a letter from Gracie's veterinary office. Apparently the staff reviewed patient records and noticed Gracie's age (12 this year), and the fact that she hasn't been in since early last year. The letter stated how important proper and regular veterinary care is for elderly dogs, as they can develop the same types of problems as elderly humans.
When I watch my lively, rambunctious, almost-12-year-old dog playing hard in cold, snowy weather the term "elderly dog" doesn't seem to fit. I know Gracie is "old" in years. I respect that fact by monitoring her hard play carefully and keeping a close eye on her health and well-being. Yet I'm so thankful that she still seems to be young at heart, and young in body. I'm sure Gracie's homemade dog food is helping her live so well, for so long.
It takes some extra time and effort to be a Doggie Chef but the results are definitely worth it!
Gracie looked so cute this past week; pulling her semi-deflated basketball through the freshly fallen snow. She was happily intent on her task, making a trail across the yard. I repeatedly called out to her, begging her to look at the camera. Finally she humored me by pausing a second to look up.
Then she quickly got back to business!
After a bit more shouting, and begging, I got her to pause and look up again.
The last few times I made Gracie homemade dog biscuits, I modified the Homemade Doggie Chef Biscuits recipe I normally use (click here for the old recipe).
I decided to add in a little bone meal powder and some old fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cook).
These homemade dog biscuits may not look pretty, but I didn't have time to roll out the dough and use my dog-biscuit cookie cutter. Instead I used the "icebox cookie" technique and rolled the dough into logs, which I then sliced and flattened with my hands. It saved A LOT of work!
Gracie LOVES these crunchy biscuits and starts jumping all over the place when I take the lid off her biscuit jar.
Next time I'll run the oats through a blender, to turn them into oat flour, before mixing them in.
Homemade Dog Biscuits
(makes about 35 biscuits)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup water (approximate; add more, in small amounts, if needed)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon bone meal powder
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a large spoon or fork and then thoroughly mix with your hands. Dough will be stiff and dry. Add more water, if needed, one tablespoon at a time.
Form dough into a large round. Cut into three equal parts. Form one of the three parts into a thick, cylindrical roll, about two inches in diameter. Slice the roll, making the slices about 1/2 inch thick. Flatten each in the palms of your hand. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining two parts of dough. The unbaked biscuits can be placed close together, but not touching, on the cookie sheets.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Turn each biscuit over and bake for another 20 minutes. For crunchy biscuits, shut off oven and leave biscuits in oven to cool. Store in an airtight container.
"The Healthy Dog Cookbook --- 50 Nutritious & Delicious Recipes Your Dog Will Love"
by Jonna Anne with Mary Straus, Canine Nutritionist, Shawn Messonnier, DVM, Veterinary Consultant
Doggie Chef Rating: 2 out of 5 bones
Are canned peaches a healthy ingredient for homemade dog meals? I don't think so. Yet they appear in several of the recipes contained in this book. So do instant potato flakes. Have you ever read the ingredient list on a box of instant potato flakes? Every one I've read contains a combination of chemical preservatives and other items I refuse to eat myself, let alone feed to my dog.
The recipes in this book aren't all bad. Most contain wholesome ingredients that any Doggie Chef could feel comfortable feeding their pet. Yet the canned peaches, potato flakes, and the book's lack of reputable references prevents me from trusting the recipes enough to use them.
The introductory chapters emphasize the importance of calcium in a homemade dog diet. Yet this, and every other nutritional claim made throughout the book, lacks support from a reputable reference. For instance, for the "Turkey Dinner" recipe the recipe's subtitle states, "Adding apple cider vinegar to a great turkey dinner may help with reducing fleas." The recipe that follows calls for 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in a recipe that yields 9, 1-cup servings. The authors provide no information explaining or proving their claim that apple cider vinegar may help with reducing fleas. The only reference made in relation to this is in a text box that says, "Vet's View: Unpasteurized organic apple cider vinegar provides more nutritional benefits." That's pretty lame evidence and an unsatisfying explanation.
While the name Shawn Messonnier, DVM, Veterinary Consultant, appears in the author list (the book is "by" Joanne Anne, "with" the other two authors mentioned), The Healthy Dog Cookbook contains no narrative by him and no commentary on the book's content.
The other author is Mary Straus, Canine Nutritionist. After doing a little research I realized that Straus holds no degree or license that makes her a "Canine Nutritionist." That's okay with me. It seems I'm about as qualified to call myself a "Canine Nutritionist" as Straus, or any Doggie Chef, is. Straus has been a Doggie Chef for a long time. She's been researching canine nutrition and health and feeding her dogs homemade meals since 1998. Unfortunately, the The Healthy Dog Cookbook contains no direct quotes or commentary from Straus, or any references from her to support any of the book's nutritional claims.
I suspect this book may be a project funded, or at least assisted, by some of the entities listed in the Resources section. For instance, three websites are included as resources and described as, "Companies who make vitamin-mineral mixes designed to balance out homemade diets, including calcium."
Better books for Doggie Chefs are available. I don't recommend this one.
In an effort to further customize Gracie's homemade diet as she grows older, I'm reading more books about homemade dog food and canine nutrition.
A dangerous error appears, several times, in "Home Prepared Dog & Cat Diets (Second Edition)." The error is alarming enough to cast doubt on the book's entire contents and credibility.
Chapter One provides information and advice about homemade diets. Under the subtitle, "Assessing a Homemade Diet Recipe," author Patricia Schenck discusses what a homemade diet recipe should include. After mentioning carbohydrates, proteins, fat, calcium and calcium/phosphorus supplements; Schenck claims, "Calcium carbonate (baking soda) or bone meal (source of calcium and phosphorus) should also be present."
Calcium carbonate IS NOT baking soda. Yet Schenck claims it is, throughout the book.
Baking soda should NOT be present in a homemade diet recipe for healthy dogs. According the the Merck Veterinary Manual online, feeding animals baking soda is recommended when animals have acute kidney disease and high levels of blood acidity. The baking soda affects the pH level of their blood. Maybe that's why Schenck includes it in recipes for dogs and cats with renal failure. Yet it doesn't explain why, in Chapter One, she mistakenly suggests baking soda should be included in all homemade diet recipes.
Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is often used as a dietary calcium supplement. Baking soda IS NOT.
Baking soda (NaHCO3) is sodium bicarbonate. It's often used as a leavening agent in baking.
Calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate are chemically different and will affect a dog's body differently when ingested.
As mentioned above, "Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets (Second Edition)" contains many recipes for dogs and cats with renal failure. These recipes use baking soda as an ingredient. This is acceptable, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual online. Yet each time baking soda appears in a recipe ingredient list, it's defined in parentheses as "calcium carbonate." Schenck did not just make a one-time flub in Chapter One. The author mistakenly defines baking soda as calcium carbonate throughout the book. And baking soda is also used in at least one recipe for pets with cancer.
Such a dangerous error leads me to question all the information contained in "Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets (Second Edition)." It seems that a doctor of veterinary medicine should know better.
I do not recommend this book.