Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dog Bicycle Trailers

Cross Country Rider (& Dog)Image by TouringCyclist via Flickr
If you have a dog bicycle trailer, you have a safe, earth-friendly way to take your dog from place to place.  Some destinations are just to far to walk, and a dog bicycle trailer will get you both there without forcing you to be dependent on a car.  This is pretty important to those of us who are trying to lessen our petroleum usage and take care of the planet.

There are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for a dog bicycle trailer.  Will your dog tolerate it first of all?  My dog loves riding behind me in her trailer.  She loves the feel of the wind in her hair as much as I do, but I know other dog owners who haven’t had the same experience.  I have one friend who’s dog spends the entire trip trying to dig his way out of the bottom of the trailer.  If your dog doesn’t like the ride you may be able to accustom him to his new transport in time, but it’s still a useful thing to know before you buy.  Consider renting or borrowing a used trailer initially.  You can give your dog a trial run and then you’ll both know what to expect.

Size is another important consideration.  If you think you’ll be using your trailer a lot, choose one that’s extra roomy so your dog will be comfortable.  Not only does this give Fido a little extra leg room, it also gives you some extra space for hauling things if you intend to use you dog bicycle trailer for other errands.  These trailers are versatile.  I use mine to haul groceries and to go to the laundry.  There are plenty of dog bicycle trailers that have an extra cargo rack on top too.  This gives you the option of hauling your dog and picking up carry out at the same time, an indispensable feature for anyone who is car free.

Finally, I would choose a trailer that lets Fido stick his head out the top.  The ride will be more fun for your dog if she can see what’s going on.  If you have some worry that your pup will try to jump out make sure you choose a dog bicycle trailer with a d-ring inside.  Put your dog in a chest harness and attach him to the d-ring.  Now she’s not going anywhere.

These trailers are useful as well as a lot of fun and they’re a big improvement over the bicycle basket or a backpack, wither one of which will throw off your center of gravity and make your ride less pleasant and possibly unsafe.  Besides your dog can’t ride in a backpack now can she?. 

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Best Hemp Dog Collar

BrutusImage by Dog Tag Art via Flickr
We’re all a little more Earth conscious these days.  It feels good to choose products that are sustainable, biodegradable, and best of all healthy and chemical free.  When you’re buying green, don’t forget about Fido.  A hemp dog collar is the must have accessory right now for the stylish dog about town. 

Sadly, hemp gets a bad rap in some circles.  There really is nothing illicit about this fiber.  Think of it as the druggie equivalent of non-alcoholic beer.  You can safely walk your hemp clad dog without attracting the attention of any of your drug crazed, neighborhood teenagers.  This stuff is, however, a major manufacturing miracle.  Hemp makes a strong durable fabric.  It’s  hypoallergenic, sustainable, all-natural, and it’s not going to end up clogging the landfill for several hundred thousand years when it wears out.  If it wears out.  Did I mention that hemp is durable?  Our founding fathers used hemp paper when they printed The Constitution, and The Declaration Of Independence, and those are holding up pretty well.  Just goes to show.

There are three very environmentally responsible manufacturers of pet products out there today.  Somewhere amongst their vast selection of hemp collars and other hemp products you should be able to find the perfect match for your best friend.

The Good Dog Company has been making pet products out of hemp and other natural fibers since 2003.  They have a good selection  of hemp dog collars, all manufactured in America by a local work force.  Their manufacturing process is focused on reduction and recycling. 

Planet Dog has been in the pet product business since 1997.  They pride themselves on values-based design, and a percentage of every purchase is donated to service dog programs.  Of course they sell the coveted hemp dog collar.

Earth Dog is 12 years old and still going strong.  They create eco-conscious products for dogs and the people who love them.  They have not just collars, but an entire line of hemp products.

You can’t go wrong with any one of these three.  All of them proudly manufacture sustainable, Earth friendly products, and that’s important, but what really shines through is dog love.  These people love their dogs, and that makes me feel good about buying their products for mine.   So while you’re shopping for your first hemp dog collar why not take a look at some of the other offerings.  Your best buddy deserves the best stuff right?

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Dog Food Allergies

Small, brindle-marked dog posed on table in studioImage by George Eastman House via Flickr
Dog food allergies are one of the top causes of allergy symptoms in dogs. If your dog is licking and biting and scratching and gnawing on his paws or the base of his tail the culprit could be dog food allergies. This is the third most common reason for allergy symptoms in pets. With flea allergies being first and environmental allergies second. Other symptoms of dog food allergies include gastrointestinal disorders. Does your dog vomit frequently, or is he gassy? Again, a dog food allergy could be the problem. Unbeknownst to many pet owners, chronic ear infections are sometimes caused by this type of allergy too.

Some dog owners will discount the notion that their pet is allergic to his food simply because they've fed the same brand for years, but consistency is no guarantee. It's entirely possible for your dog to develop an allergy to the same food he's eaten all his life. In fact it's common for dog's to develop symptoms seemingly overnight, even if it's his favorite dog food.

Your vet can do skin tests to find out what allergens are causing Fido's problems, but in all likelihood your vet will ask if you've done an elimination diet when you show up for the appointment. An elimination diet is easy to do. You simply change your pet's diet to eliminate the ingredients that he's accustomed to eating. It sounds harder than it is. There are a number of hypoallergenic or organic dog foods that are specifically formulated to include only proteins and starches that are not commonly found in your average off the shelf dog food.

The most common dog food allergens are beef, chicken and dairy or wheat, corn, and soy. Look for hypoallergenic dog foods that don't include those ingredients.

Acana dog food is completely grain free.  Lamb, fish and eggs are the proteins in this product, and instead of corn, wheat or rice Acana uses sweet potato, peas, and other fresh vegetables to give you dog some healthy carbs.

Blue Buffalo also makes a hypoallergenic dog food from fish and sweet potato.  My dog loves this food, it's got no fillers, and Blue Buffalo adds vitimins and omega 3 acids.

Nature's Variety has a dog food formulated with duck, turkey, salmon, and herring. 

  If your dog's allergy symptoms clear up on this diet then you know that his food was indeed the problem.  You can begin to add other ingredients back into the dog's diet.  Add one item at a time, and include that item in your dog's diet for a few weeks before you determine that it's a safe ingredient.  If at any time your dog's allergy symptoms come back you will know which food is the allergen  It requires a little bit of planning and dedication to feed your dog an elimination diet, but a quality hypoallergenic food like one of those listed above makes the task somewhat easier..

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Acupuncture Could Help Your Dog's Arthritis

Study of a small girl with a prize Scottish te...Image by State Library of New South Wales collection via Flickr

Acupuncture is an age old art. It is believed that this form of Chinese medicine may have been practiced as long as 5000 years ago by stone age humans who made needles made from fish bones. Acupuncture is still widely practiced in China, and it’s growing more popular in the US every day for humans anyway, but for animals the practice is much less common.

Acupuncture is a staple in many holistic veterinary practices. Holistic veterinarians recognize the need for conventional treatment. Sometimes emergency care, an antibiotic or surgery are necessary, but a holistic veterinarian integrates these with less traditional methods. A raw diet, homeopathy and acupuncture are some of the complementary treatments a holistic vet might use to improve you dog’s health.

Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate the flow of life energy in your dog’s body. Chinese medicine asserts that our pets body is crossed by meridians or paths along which the life energy travels. Specific points along the meridians are believed to correspond to various organs or illnesses. An acupuncturist will massage your dog’s body to find his meridians, an activity that is usually quite relaxing for your dog. When the acupuncturist finds a weak or tender spot he will insert a fine gauge needle. The treatments can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes and may be accompanied by other forms of stimulation like acupressure or electrical stimulation. The procedures are not painful for the animal. Your vet will dispose of all the needles after treatment so there is no risk of spreading disease or infection.

It is believed that some of the success of acupuncture is a result of improved blood flow to the joints and muscles. The treatment can be used as a preventative measure or as cure for a variety of illnesses including allergies, epilepsy and gastrointestinal disorders, It seems to be of greatest help to dogs who suffer from back and arthritis pain. Relief can be immediate, but more often treatment spans a number of weeks or even months.

If your dog is suffering from the effects of aging or hasn’t responded to conventional medical treatment acupuncture is definitely worth a try. This procedure is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association as a valid treatment. If you think your dog might benefit from this alternative treatment check the internet for a holistic veterinarian in your area. Some animal acupuncturists will make house calls. Your pet doesn’t even have to leave his safety zone.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Decifering Your Pet Food Label

Biggie and EinsteinImage by Dog Tag Art via Flickr
The right diet can make all the difference in the world for your pet, but selecting the right pet food can be difficult.  Advertisers would have us believe that those bags are full of nutritious, vitamin packed ingredients.  A lot of the labeling terms are deceiving.  Sometimes they don't adequately describe the material used.  Other times they're just indecipherable terms.  You might be shocked to know what some of those innocuous sounding terms are hiding.

Following are some interpretations of the ingredient terms you might see on the back of your pet food bag.

Meat by-products  This includes all of the offal determined not fit for human consumption.  In other words organs like the liver, kidneys, spleen, or intestines.  It is permitted to use diseased organs in this category.

Poultry by-products  This is the same thing, feet, heads organs all go into your pet's food.

Poultry by-product
This is the same as above except that it is ground.  Keep in mind that although "clean" meats are supposed to be used for these ingredients.  Some contamination with feathers or fecal matter is considered unavoidable, so small amounts of these are permitted.

Animal Blood  Animal blood is dried and considered an acceptable source of protein

Hydrolized Hair  Really, the hair is cleaned and treated with heat to make it an acceptable ingredient in commercial pet food.

Other sources of protein often used are dehydrated food waste and dehydrated paunch.  This list could go on, but I suspect you get the idea.  Just keep in mind that if you find the term meat by-product on your pet food label your dog is really getting the waste materials collected during the slaughterhouse process.  This stuff is deemed not fit for human consumption, yet the Association For American Feed Control Officials have no problem approving the stuff for Fido's food.  Again this is about profit.  If they can make money from the junk, the refuse then they absolutely will.

These ingredients make up a percentage of the dry weight, but the main ingredient is generally some kind of grain.  Corn is used most of the time.  Corn bran, corn flower, corn gluten:  again these components are often the by-product of some other food industry process.  Usually the milling process.

Wheat comes in a close second place on labels. So really, if your dog is eating a commercial brand pet food he is subsisting on a diet high in grains and low in protein.  A dog's digestive system doesn't adequately utilize grains or carbohydrates in general.  This just is not an ideal diet for an animal who is naturally a carnivore.  It's entirely possible that your dog is malnourished if he has this kind of diet.

You'll be amazed by the improvements you see when your dog's diet is optimized.  Expect a shinier, healthier coat.  If your dog has a strong unpleasant "dog" odor you'll probably see improvement there as well.  Muscle tone can improve, and many allergies and skin irritations are the result of poor nutrition. 

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What Is Your Pet Really Eating?

Dog food at a supermarket in Brooklyn, New York.Image via Wikipedia
When we shop for ourselves we know that organic food  is better than conventional.  Organic foods have more nutrients and less pesticide residues than conventional foods.  Not to mention that the intensive animal farming practices used in agriculture today are responsible for increasing incidences of antibiotic resistance.  So for ourselves we choose top quality organic produce and if we eat meat we choose fresh free range chicken, eggs and beef, but what about our pets?

The United States pet food industry is a 16.1 billion dollar a year business, and advertisers influence us with images of plump chickens, choice cuts of beef and healthy grains, but the reality is a little different.  The fact is that the pet food industry is more or less a giant garbage disposal for the human agricultural business.  All the stuff they figure we wont eat or anything that's not fit for human consumption ends up in that innocuous bag of kibble you bring home for Spot.  It's a business after all.  Why let anything go to waste when it could possibly turn a profit?  Keep in mind that this is most often true for the bags and cans of food that you find in supermarkets, but it is possible to find better products at pet stores, health food stores, and vets offices.

Pet food labeling is subject to a standard outlined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.  Their label requirements are as follows.  If your dog food as touted as 100% anything then in must be in fact 100%.  The product can't contain any other ingredient except water.  If the product is designated as 95% then in must contain chicken, beef, or fish up to 95% of the total weight of the product again excluding water.  There aren't a lot of products like these on the shelves, as an all meat diet is not considered good nutrition these days.  More frequently you will see the "dinner", "formula", or "platter" designations.  In these cases only a small percentage of the food needs to be made from meat.  In the case of the "dinner" foods only 25%, and for the others as little as 10% is considered acceptable.

Finally, the "flavor" designation is permitted when the pet food contains enough of an animal product to give the food the characteristic of that ingredient.  In other words, a small bit of animal tissue is necessart, and in some cases artificial flavors are used instead.  This is also acceptable.  Next your pet's food is gussied up with any number of additives, artificial colors, and flavors.  Not necessarily to make it taste better for the animal, but to make it more attractive to their human owners.

Some pet food companies sell more expensive products in hopes that we will believe their food is superior,  to the cheaper varieties.  The fact is that sometimes these premium brands are actually processed in the same factory, on the same machines, with the same ingredients as other less expensive varieties.  It's a good idea to thoroughly research you pet's food.  In future posts I will discuss better pet food options.  There are plenty of healthy organic varieties to choose from, and if you pet suffers from any particular allergy or ailment it's possible to find a food that will acomodate those special needs.

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