Wednesday, January 17, 2018

8 Ways To Save On Your Vet Bills

 Let's face it: The dreaded vet bill. It brings knots to our stomachs, marital arguments and a general all around uneasiness. But, we love our four-legged family members and when it all comes down to it, they are family. So here are 8 ways you can ease a bit of your anxiety and save on vet bills:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle for your pet. This means that you should exercise your pet, mentally and physically AND keep their weight under control. Over weight dogs can lead to a myriad of health problems such as: diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and various forms of Cancer. Keeping your dog healthy reduces the risk of treatments that add up to A LOT of money. 
  2. Nutritional Supplements  help promote a healthy immune system and are wise to use in moderation to maintain a healthy canine. BUT, you must use common sense. Do your research and find real foods that naturally include the vitamin, mineral, amino acid, fatty acid, ect... you are looking to supplement. If a real food is not found or convenient, look for a bottled supplement that does not have any harmful "inactive ingredients". Here is a helpful link on what to look for and avoid in supplements-->  Talk to your Veterinarian/ Canine Nutritionist about what supplements are right for your dog and skip the rest, because you will be wasting your money on the promises of the fountain of youth.
  3. Keep up with your annual exams. Pets aged 1-6 should have a standard yearly physical exam once a year. Pets 7+ should have their yearly exam plus blood and urine tests. Regular check-ups keep the probability of  "surprise" vet expenses at bay. 
  4. Feed your dog premium food. Giving your dog high-quality food specifically for their breed and size will help eliminate vet visits due to vomiting, diarrhea and all around food allergies. Did you notice that I said "food" and not "pet food"? Ideally, a canine should be fed a real food diet, meaning minimal kibble. But sometimes, that doesn't bode well for the pocket book or convenience. Deciding on what to feed your canine can be complicated and tricky. If choosing a kibble (or canned food), you should look for a dog food that has multiple meats in the top three ingredients. Additionally, there should be less starchy foods and NO CORN OR SOY.  Kibble should also be stored in the freezer in order to avoid the oils in the food from going rancid. We, at Bark City love "Honest Kitchen" (shameless solicitation) and offer it as our house kibble. It's convenient and is made from dehydrated, real, human-grade food and can be used in a multiple of ways. Another good resource when looking for a dog food is to look up brands on the Dog Food Advisor. They have been researching and rating dog foods for years. You can look up a specific brand and it will give you a breakdown of each ingredient. It's amazing and just what is needed to make a conscious consumer choice.
  5.  Be honest with your vet about your finances: I know it's awkward to talk to your veterinarian about how much you can and can't afford. But by doing this, you will open up communication and maybe your vet will be able to find alternative solutions that best fit your financial budget. 
  6. Ask for a written estimate before treatment: When you are at the vet, you should ask for a written estimate before your dog is treated. Once the statement is in front of you, go through it with your vet and have them validate why the treatment is (or isn't) necessary. This will give you more power in deciding what is financially feasible. 
  7. Make sure you give your dog heartworm medication regularly.
  8. Set aside money from your paycheck for an "emergency account" in case something unexpected happens. It may also be wise to invest in a pet health insurance. Price shop for insurance plans that fit your needs as well as prescription medications.
With a little pro-active care and saving for the future, Fido's vet visits can be (almost) stress-free!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

10 DIY Enrichment Games for the Canine Mind

As winter continues on, we all try to ward off the winter blues by taking our handful of vitamin D daily and watching endless hours of Netflix. Sometimes, we take hikes in the winter wonderland...or there is skiing...or ice climbing.  But let's face it, winter is a time of hibernation and cabin fever can take it's toll. A dog's mental health can suffer. While you can go skiing and ice climbing, a dog can't. They get bored when mental and physical exercise is not consistent. And a bored dog equals a mischievous dog. Luckily, humans are also a creative species and below I have found a bunch of DIY enrichment toys for dogs. So start crafting away the winter canine blues!

What you see above is a "snuffle pad". It's fairly easy to make, but can be time consuming. Just gather all your materials and hit "play" on that favorite Netflix movie as you make this. You can find the instructions here at The Wolfdog Blog. Once your snuffle pad is made, you hide little dog treats in the the rug and let your dog sniff them out.

 This one is a feeder tube and can be used on cats as well! The instructions can be found on the blog, The Dogtipper. Basically, you drill holes in a PVC pipe, seal the ends and let your dog try to get the kibble out by rolling it around (or shaking it). This kind of feeder is great for animals that like to "scarf and barf" as well.

 This toy is for blind dogs! The idea comes from Slim Doggy. Just make sure that you monitor your dog's play with this one so they do not swallow the jingle bell.

 This one is called a "Flirt Pole" and the instructions are found on Almost A Real Thing. A flirt pole is an excellent choice for dogs with a lot of pent up energy or a high prey drive. Basically, you swing this baby around and let your dog chase after the toy on the end. You can also run around the house dragging it behind you. Good exercise for you and the dog!

 A good ol' frozen sock for the big time chewers. Plus, you can find a use for all those socks without a pair! I found this idea on Instructables

I have to admit, there is something so satisfying about catapulting stuff. Here is a catapult you can make, again off of Instructables. As an extra challenge for your dog, catapult a ball up some stairs and let Fido get in some stair climbing!

 This one is great for the dog that likes "crinkly" sounds. And, it's simple to make: just wrap a water bottle up in some fabric. You can even get fancy and braid some of the fabric at the bottom to make a rope chew at the end. You can find the instructions at Ammo The Daschund

I think I have blogged about this one before, so it must be one of my favorites. This toy was found on the blog, Leopold's Crate and is great for dogs that like to shred things. You simply stuff a bunch of strips of fabric inside the ball. In the middle of the strips of fabric, a favorite treat is hidden.

My last two images are from a blog that has about a million different ideas! Ok, maybe not a million exactly, but there is a lot! And they are all great! So, I suggest you mosey on over to this link --> and check out all the great ideas. Luckily, all the pictures are pretty self explanatory, because the website is not in English.

Happy crafting everyone and may the force be with you for the remainder of the winter. Be sure to share your Netlix account information with a friend that is suffering the winter blues. 😉

Thursday, January 4, 2018

8 New Year's Resolutions for Dog Owners

*** NOTE: basically, this is the 2017 list I posted last year with some additional updates***

Happy New Year! 2018 is sure to be the year of leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle, so why not start with your dog? The little steps you take starting today, will surely help in giving your dog a happy and healthy life. With all celebration, I have created 8 New Year's Resolutions for you:

  1. Stay consistent on all the medical stuff: This means making sure your dog is taking a monthly heartworm medication, getting a flea/tick preventative, up to date on their vaccinations and yearly veterinarian check ups. It is also a good idea to do an overall body scan of your dog monthly to check for any unusual lumps or bumps. 
  2. Brush those teeth: Like humans, a dog's mouth is the gateway to health. Dental problems can lead to a myriad of life-threatening infections. Online, there are recommendations ranging from brushing your dog's teeth everyday, to three times a week, to once a week. If you don't brush your dog's teeth, I think a good place to start is...well... just starting! You can also invest in dog toys specifically designed for cleaning teeth. But, these should not be a substitution for actual teeth brushing. IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE ON DOGS. A LOT OF HUMAN TOOTHPASTES ARE TOXIC TO DOGS. 
  3. Learn 1st Aid for canines and pack a 1st Aid kit: This is especially important if you travel with your dog. But, let's face it, accidents happen at home as well. For more information, please check out this link. -----> click here
  4. Exercise together...daily: I like to think of daily dog exercise as a daily meditation. Sometimes, it seems like a daunting task. But all in all, it is good for you to take time out from the daily grind and bond with your furry companion. It reduces stress in you and your dog. Which in turn, helps build healthy, sustaining daily behaviors. It's also a good idea to shake it up a bit. Yes, having a daily routine is good. But it can also lead to boredom and mental fatigue. Try going on a hike or a new enrichment game. Use some creativity! Remember, both mental and physical exercise are a must for your furry friend. It helps keep unwanted behaviors like chewing or dumpster diving at bay.
  5.  Measure your dog's food: Obesity can also lead to a myriad of health problems. Investing in a quality dog food, measuring out the right amount and exercise will help give your dog a long, healthy life. At Bark City, we love Honest Kitchen because it's real Human-Grade Food. (Yes, this is a shameless solicitation because we believe in the product!)
  6. Update your info and microchip: If you have changed addresses, remember to update your dog's medical records. It's also a good idea to get your dog microchipped, because.... well.... collars fall off. Keep that microchip information up to date as well. 
  7. Be a good neighbor: Pick up after your dog on those walks, and start working on those bad habits like fence running, leash pulling and excessive barking at everything. Keep in mind that even if your dog is "already trained", you need to consistently practice learned behaviors in order to keep them learned! Otherwise, your dog will slip back into old habits. Additionally, do not over train your dog. Keep the lessons at short 15-minute sessions at most. 
  8. Keep up with your own mental health. You may ask yourself what does my mood have to do with my dog? Often, dogs will pick up on their caretaker's mood. If you are stressed, you dog will become stressed. If you are depressed, it will reflect within your dog. Your dog may not know why you are feeling these emotions, but they will sense them and it will in turn cause them anxiety.
With all that said, remember that change does not happen overnight. And nobody (human or dog) is perfect. Be kind to yourself and make small changes over a long period of time.  For more resolutions, check out the list from 2016!