Safety

Here's why you need to wash your dog's food and water bowls

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I know it's easy to think dogs don't need to have their food bowls cleaned when they do gross things like drink from the toilet, or eat dead animals without hesitation. I was guilty of cleaning my boys' bowls maybe once every couple weeks. I never considered doing it more often since the bowls never *technically* looked dirty, so I thought what was the harm? Until one day, I happened to touch the bottom of a water bowl that was empty and found that it was covered in a slick, clear film. I genuinely thought it looked clean! Yuck! So, here's why you need to wash those bowls.

 

The film at the bottom of the bowl

That film is actually a layer of bacteria that comes from many different things; like your dog's saliva, whatever particles are floating around in your home, or whatever is in your dog's mouth at the time they take a drink or eat from the bowl. Your dog's bowl is almost like a petri dish (gross), and sometimes what grows inside can be harmful and cause health problems, like digestive issues. It's been studied that even bacteria like, Staph and Salmonella, can be found in your pet's bowls! If you have children in your home, that can be very harmful if they love to get into the dog's things. 

 

What to do

It's very easy to avoid dirty bowls, just be mindful and wash your dog's bowls at least twice per week with hot water and regular dish soap. Easy as that!

You can also put them into the dishwasher if that makes your life even easier, but I would scrub them down first to get that film removed. I've also heard you should use stainless steel or glass bowls only. Plastic is porous on a microscopic level and that bacteria can sit there even after being thoroughly washed. If bowls are worn down, peeling, or chipped, make sure you replace them so chemicals don't leak out of the materials into your dog's food or water.

What is xylitol? And why you must keep it away from your dog

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Most foods or ingredients that are toxic to dogs have to be eaten in a certain amount relative to the dog's weight to be seriously harmful or deadly. Unfortunately, even a small amount of an ingredient called xylitol can do serious damage to a dog of any size. 

WHat it is

Xylitol (pronouced zye-leh-tall) is an artificial sweetener that works as a substitute for sugar, its use in everyday products is increasing quickly. It's most commonly used as an ingredient in foods that are labeled "sugar-free" or oral care products, such as toothpaste. Xylitol causes no harm to humans, but can be detrimental to dogs. As a pet owner, pay attention to all of the human food products you give to your pups. A big one to keep in mind is peanut butter - sometimes they contain artificial sweeteners and it would be fatal if, for example, you gave your dog a couple spoonfuls in their Kong toy.

 

What it does

When dogs eat xylitol, it causes a rapid decrease of their blood glucose levels. This causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can lead to liver toxicity and damage. 

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of xylitol ingestion with levels as low as 0.1g xylitol/kg body weight. - Dr. Dana Brooks

That is scary to think about because that is a fairly small amount... and if a dog is getting into something they're not supposed to, they're obviously not going to limit themselves... Most dogs will probably eat as much as possible before they get caught, and that can get them into some serious trouble. 

 

What to do

Obviously, keep these products out of reach from your pets. After you read this article, do me a huge favor and proof your home of anything with xylitol in it!

If your dog does ingest some they will become lethargic and seem very weak, they may even collapse and have trouble walking. As soon as you see any of these signs, take them to the vet immediately. Don't waste time trying to google info about how much they have to eat or what symptoms to look for, etc. I'm telling you now - just put them in the car and start driving. The longer they have it in their system the more fatal and irreversible the damage is! If you're able to, bring the packaging of whatever your dog ate to the veterinarian so that they are able to see a complete list of the ingredients. The sooner you take your dog to the vet, the better their chances are after ingesting xylitol! 

 

These foods must be kept away from your dog

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It's always scary when your dog eats something they aren't supposed to, but the good new is most toxic foods have to be ingested relative to the dog's weight to be deadly. A handful of Hershey Kisses might not be as big of a concern to a giant Great Dane than to a little Pug. However, there are some foods where even the smallest amount can really harm or kill a dog so it's important to know these as an owner.

 

Xylitol 

This is the artificial sweetener found in products like gum, toothpaste, and soda. An amount as small as .1 grams can cause serious issues in a large dog. If you haven't already, quickly check that your dog does not have easy access to anything with xylitol in it, or any sugar alcohols for that matter.

 

Bones

Never, ever, ever, give your dog your leftover steak bone! Choking is always a concern with this. Cooked bones break and splinter differently than raw bones. They can internally scratch or pierce the digestive system as they make their way through the body. Some raw bones are okay, but they shouldn't be machine cut (since they can be sharp), or weight-bearing bones (since these are too hard and can break teeth).

 

Grapes and raisins

The general rule is that dogs usually have to eat a specific ratio relative to their weight when it comes to grapes and raisins. But, the toxic components in grapes is still somewhat unknown, so there have been reported cases of dogs dying from eating even a small handful of raisins. For this reason, grapes and raisins should be completely avoided since we don't know what triggers death in some dogs. 

 

Chocolate

The exact ingredient that causes toxicity to dogs in chocolate is theobromine. Baking and dark chocolate have the most concentrated amounts of theobromine so do not let your dog near these. Milk chocolate has less levels of the toxic ingredient so it's not as big of a concern as dark or baking chocolate. White chocolate has almost none, so it is somewhat safe for dogs to eat.

 

CaffeinE and Alcohol

I put these two in the same category because it's (hopefully) common sense not to let dogs ingest either of these substances. These are not even that great for humans, so they are definitely not good for dogs (again, common sense). Caffeine is bad for the central nervous system, and alcohol causes breathing and the heart rate to slow down. 

 

Onions and garlic

Always check foods like chicken broth since these are usually prescribed for ill or picky dogs. Many broths contain onion or garlic ingredients in some form. These are both toxic raw or cooked, so make sure you don't give any human food leftovers that contain onions or garlic.

 

If your dogs eats any of these foods, it's always a safe bet to call your veterinarian. Watch your dog very closely, if they have any changes in behavior or start to vomit or have diarrhea, take them in to a vet ASAP! 

Tips for cleaning in a home with dogs, what cleaners to use and where

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Cleaning your home exposes pets to many types of chemicals that can be harmful to them. I have some tips to help keep them safe while keeping your home clean!

 

how to use 

I suggest using cleaners with harsh or toxic chemicals like bleach on countertops, bathtubs and other surfaces your pets do not directly touch. The reason I do this is because I do believe food surfaces need to be properly sanitized and since dogs don't (usually) have access to surfaces like countertops, sinks, or bathtubs, they are mostly fine to clean with stronger cleaning products.

For places dogs do have access to, such as toilets and floors, use natural cleaners that are fine if ingested. This way, if they lick something off the tile or take a drink from your toilet they don't accidentally ingest something toxic that can harm them. 

*Toilet bowl cleaners must be nontoxic, too many dogs die from drinking out of toilet bowls that use cleaners with ingredients like bleach.

 

Best Nontoxic Products to use

Here are some of the biggest brands that are pet-friendly. Many you can find in large box stores like Target or Walmart. And always remember to store cleaners where they can't be reached by curious noses!

*These are not affiliate advertisements, click the link to go directly to their website*

  1. Method Products - what I use!
  2. The Honest Company
  3. Seventh Generation
  4. Nature's Miracle
  5. Greenworks
  6. Simple Green

What is dog bloat, and how to prevent it from happening

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Let me just tell you that bloat is my biggest fear as a dog owner.

Bloat might not seem like a big deal to humans, but it can be deadly to large or deep-chested dogs. An emergency vet explained me that a dog's stomach hangs like a hammock, and when a large amount of gas is sitting in the abdomen it can cause the entire stomach to twist. When this happens, the blood and oxygen supply is cut off and dogs can die within minutes. Unfortunately, many people don't take their dogs to the vet until the stomach has already flipped and it's too late. I wrote about some tips and signs to look for since I went through this scare with Boomer a few months ago.

 

Causes

No one really knows the exact causes, but we have somewhat of an idea on what triggers it. We know it mainly happens in large dogs, especially those with deep chests like Great Danes. We also know it can happen if your dog drinks too much water too quickly. It can also happen if you feed your dog foods with ingredients like citric acid and add water. Intense exercise too soon before or after a meal may also cause it. I avoid all of these scenarios to prevent it, just in case. 

 

How to prevent it

Sadly, you can never truly prevent bloat, I learned that from my experience with Boomer. But, you should monitor your dog's water intake as much as possible. Read your dog food ingredient list and make sure there are no citric acids if you normally like to add water to the food. This causes strong acids in the stomach that create gas. Most importantly, never feed your dog 1 or 2 hours before or after exercising them. 

 

Signs

In the very beginning stages, your dog's stomach may make loud gurgling noises, like a human's stomach when you're hungry. I could hear Boomer's stomach from across the room. At this point, give your pup some Gas X pills (3 - 4 pills should work, they can't overdose on these), and take them on a long, but slow, walk to encourage the gas to travel out of the stomach. Do this about every half hour for several hours. We had to do this once for Boomer after he got x-rays and his stomach (luckily) did not flip, every time he burped or farted I was so relieved lol!

*If your dog starts retching, or looking like he's trying to vomit but nothing comes out, IMMEDIATELY take him to the vet - preferably a hospital so they can do surgery, if necessary. Also take them if they look uncomfortable or are pacing. At this point the vet will want to take x-rays to see if the stomach has flipped and if surgery is needed. 

Once the stomach flips, it swells like a balloon because of the trapped gasses. These photos aren't pretty, but I want to make sure you have a visual of what the symptoms look like. I kept thinking Boomer's stomach look bloated, but the vet said it did not and that it would look like he swallowed a watermelon if it was. If you haven't taken your dog to the vet by this point, you must go when their stomach is visibly enlarged like this! 

Bloated belly:

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How to make long car rides more comfortable for your dog

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Did you know dogs can get car sick? And they can also feel an incredible amount of stress from being in a car for several hours?

Personally, my dogs don't enjoy being in the car, their behaviors immediately changes. Boomer gets very stressed; he drools excessively and his lower eyelids begin to droop from anxiety. Ruger paces around the back seat and can't sit still. I always feel bad for them since they seem so miserable, but I've learned some simple things to help make the car ride more comfortable.

 

1. Try over the counter medications

Give your pet regular Benadryl for car sickness. Your dog will excessively drool, whine, pant, or yawn if they are feeling motion sickness. If they show any of these signs, you can give them 1 mg/lb. at least 30 minutes before the car ride starts.

 

2. Use a natural method

Use CBD oil to help keep your dog relaxed and to alleviate nausea. I give 2 drops/lb. for each dog about an hour before they get in the car. I use the Bluebird Botanicals Classic formula that is for humans. Make sure the CBD oil you use only contains one "binder", such as hemp oil, and does not have unnecessary fillers that may be toxic to animals. You can also use a pet formula, if you prefer.

 

3. Keep them distracted

Try to give your dog a yummy bone to kill time and create a positive association with being in the car. Give them something they don't get often to make it even more special and enticing. Bully sticks or Himalayan salt chews are a great option that won't make a mess in the car. 

 

4. Don't take them if they don't need to go

Your pets don't necessarily need to ride with you everywhere you go. Unless it's a trip to the vet or a pet-friendly vacation, don't bring them on unnecessary car rides. You might think it's fun for them to always tag along, but if it causes them more harm than good they'll probably be happier at home!

How to dog-proof your home before your new bff comes

And by BFF I mean your new dog, obviously.

You want to make sure you bring them home to a safe environment where they won't get into trouble and create bad habits. Dog-proofing will help set your pet up for success and allow them to safely explore and settle into their new home.

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1. Put any breakables above head level

Move any breakables, such as glass pieces, above your dogs' head level when they are sitting. Anything made of fabric or a soft material they might be tempted to chew should be above head level when they are standing so they can't take from places like countertops.

 

2. Keep all food locked away

Put all human and animal food in locked containers or in closets/cabinets they can't easily get into. If you have medium/large dogs, don't leave anything on the counters either. You can buy all sorts of great containers for dog food that not only keep your pet out, but also keep the food fresh.

Here are a couple options from Amazon (these are not ads!): 

3. Put away prescription and Over The Counter medications

Even if they are meds meant for dogs! Put these not only above head level but also in something that properly closes or locks. We keep all medications in a small plastic drawer on a top shelf inside of a closet, the dogs couldn't reach it even if they tried!

 

4. cleaners should also be kept behind closed doors

Most household cleaning products are toxic and can easily kill a dog within a couple hours of enough consumption. Dogs don't know any better, so keep them safe by not leaving products open or left out for them to get into. For example, all of our cleaning products at home hang from a shoe holder on the door of our laundry room. 

 

5. Keep spaces open

Don't put furniture pieces in tight or narrow areas where a playful or excited dog could accidentally knock it over or get hurt. In general, try to keep your home free of clutter so your dog is less tempted to chew whatever they find on the floor. 

 

6. Check your plants

Whether you have an indoor or outdoor garden, keep everything out of reach! Keep indoor plants above head level and build a barrier or fence for your outdoor garden. Research if you have any toxic species that your pet might eat. Some common plants that are toxic to dogs include; several species of Peonies, Daisies, Aloe, and Palm Trees. Here is a complete list of toxic and nontoxic plants - click here.