Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dog Food Allergies

This is Marley. Marley was my first dog (American bulldog/mastiff mix). We adopted him from the Humane Society. He was 2-yrs-old and had never been outside. He wasn't house trained and had food anxiety (he would get nervous and start shaking if a human was in the same room when he was eating... tells you something, right?) We had A LOT of work to do with Marley, but eventually he became a somewhat normal dog (like eating 2 lbs of burger right out of the pan which is on the stove or leaping over the back of the couch to be the first one to greet whomever was at the door). BUT, Marley always had food anxiety on the back burner of his mind. It just sometimes lurked around the corner as a subtlety that we forgot about...Until we put him on a diet.

Looking back on the infamous diet, I probably should of done a lot of things differently. I should have added fillers (like pumpkin!) to his food instead of giving him smaller portions. That would have been the more intelligent option since I was dealing with a dog that had a complex relationship with food. Regardless of the past choices I could have made, the stress of the diet triggered Marley's food allergies to surface. Suddenly, I had a dog that was frantically and ALWAYS getting into the garbage! It became an extremely stressful situation because he was ALWAYS sick (think getting up at 3am every night to wash out his kennel.) At first, I thought he was always sick because he was always getting into the garbage. But it was vice versa. He was getting into the garbage because he was sick. His body was rejecting the food I had been giving him for THREE YEARS.

Before "the diet", Marley had been slightly obese at 90lbs. He went down to a 65 lb skeleton in a very short time. During that time, I did everything I had learned I was supposed to do with chronic gastritis. I fed him a simple diet of rice and chicken and tried almost every exotic pet food on the market. Nothing worked and he just kept getting worse. Finally I had his blood tested, and when the results came back I found out he was allergic to almost everything... Including RICE. The acute gastritis diet was making him worse. We ended up putting him on a special prescription diet.

Marley is an extreme case of food allergy. But, I wanted to share my story to help dog owners spot allergies before it gets as extreme as Marley. Here are the top symptoms:
  • Chronic ear inflammation (Marley always had ear infections (usually yeast) and patches of fur missing around the edges of his ears.)
  • gastrointestinal issues.
  • chronic diahrrea
  • chronic gas
  • obsessively licking the feet (I would wake up at night from Marley licking his feet in his kennel)
  • itchy rear end
Why does this happen? Food allergies don't necessarily surface during puppyhood. They can suddenly show up later in life. According to WebMD it is a multi-factorial issue. Scientists think it is hereditary and animals become more predispositioned to allergies during puppyhood. Sometimes, it can be something like an antibiotic altering the environment in your dogs stomach that triggers the allergy to surface.

What can you do? If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, the first thing I would do is TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE VET. If you cannot afford to go to the vet, check to see if there is an agency in your area that will help you with your veterinary costs. This link is a great resource for finding such agencies. Preventative measures that you can discuss with your vet are things like a rotation diet or giving your puppy probiotics. If your dog does indeed have food allergies, you will need to find a food that is right for your dog. Some people opt for a raw diet. If you choose to make your own dog food, I would suggest you work with a dog nutritionist or your vet to make sure your pet is getting the nutrients it needs.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pumpkin Roasting

Fall is quickly coming. Soon it will be time for pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread... pretty much pumpkin anything and everything. Did you know that pumpkin is an amazing food for your dog (or cat)? Pumpkin helps with digestion, urinary health and weight loss (Google it!). BUT, you do not want to give your dog canned pumpkin PIE filling. It has sugar and spices that are not so good for them. Instead, opt for the plain canned stuff or you can easily roast your own pumpkins!

This summer, I grew sugar pumpkins for the first time and just found out TODAY that I can roast them in the oven whole! This makes the infamous "cutting and gutting" a lot less time consuming. In fact, I roasted seven little pumpkins, cut them and froze them today.... all on a whim! Here is the process:

Beautiful pumpkins. Note how I placed them next to various other fruits in an attempt to show you the approximate size of a sugar pumpkin? Yes, that is a green tomato in the background... It was a casualty of my garden hose and now must be fried.

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut slits around your pumpkin and break off the stems.

Place the pumpkin(s) on a baking sheet and slide into the oven! Bake for approximately 30-minutes or until a knife can be inserted easily.  Once done, take the pumpkin(s) out of the oven and allow them to cool. This part takes a while, so you may want to do some housework, run some errands or take a nap.

Once cool, you start the cutting up part. First, slice off the ends and stand it upright. Next, slice the skin off.

Slice the pumpkin in half and scrape the guts out with a spoon. 

It should look like this when you are done...

Now Dice....

...and store...

Put it all into the freezer!! Now you can use as much or little as you want with out it going to waste. Give your little puppy a frozen pumpkin cube, bake it, cook it or puree it.... endless opportunities for pumpkin recipes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pretzel shaped dog treats

 I found this recipe on Babble and decided to give it a try. I did one alteration: I substituted water for the chicken stock. I make my own chicken stock and was wary of giving it to a dog, because I put quite a bit of onion and garlic in it....and a lot of salt. The substitute did not seem to affect the results.

The Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. skim milk powder
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. water
2 tbsp. olive oil
sesame seeds for sprinkles

 Next, I gathered my helpers......

 .... and we mixed everything together. I like to mix all the dry ingredients before I add the wet ingredients. Once, the mixture starts to stick together and becomes hard to stir, I use my hands to form it into a ball (think play-doh). We let our dough ball sit for ten minutes....

Then, we rolled out long logs and shaped them into pretzels!!! It took a little practice to figure out how thick and long the log should be in order to get the right sized pretzel and shape. Once shaped and on the pan, they got sprinkled with the sesame seeds.
 Bake at 350-degrees F. for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, leaving the pretzels inside as it cools. This will help them harden.

Try them on an unsuspecting dog that performs tricks for food (she LOVED them!).....

The End!!