Friday, September 29, 2017

Perfect Form for Perfect Dogs

I've been a fan of The Honest Kitchen products for years. Barley loves their catfish skin Beams and Foster Pup Sal had meals supplemented with Honest Kitchen food that was gentle on his bad teeth. We've also used the Goat's Milk Probiotics for years. 

Chewy.com gave us the opportunity to try out the Honest Kitchen Perfect Form herbal gastrointestinal supplement.  Since we already love the company, we were excited to have a chance to try out another one of their products. 



According to the label, Perfect Form is good for "reducing occasional loose stools due to environmental stress, dietary indiscression [sic], or the transition to a new diet." Aside from the typo, this sounded like something that could be good for us--long time readers know that Barley is an expert at having dietary indiscretions. We occasionally have loose stools after too many treats in agility class, too, so having another option for firming things up makes walking much more pleasant.

The directions were easy to follow: you read the weight guidelines and mix equal parts Perfect Form and water and give to your pets twice a day. The directions say to mix until you've created a gel or paste, but it seemed more like mud than a gel when it was all mixed up. 



Despite my reservations about the looks, the girls were eager to dig into the mixture. The packaging suggested adding the supplement directly to the pet's food, but during the week, I never have time to do anything extra then and I often forget to add things like that to dinner. We decided to put a little of the mixture into the girls' Kongs instead. 

The Kong is the first toy Barley learned to identify by name and when I asked her to go get her Kong, she was thrilled. Barley's excitement is contagious, so Rye was bubbling with excitement, too. 


The girls had trouble waiting to take pictures of their new snack, which is a sign that it must be appealing.



Perfect Form was a big hit with the girls. I don't know that I've seen any real difference in them since we've been using it, but that could just be because the girls tend to be pretty healthy anyway and Barley hasn't had any of her adventures in eating things she shouldn't lately. I also haven't given this to the girls consistently because life has been a little hectic and the process of measuring and mixing and administering has just not been something I've felt up to doing regularly, though. We've had great results with Honest Kitchen products in the past, so I don't have any reason to doubt this one.

While this isn't a product that we'll use all the time, it's definitely one we'll give a try if either of the girls are having digestive issues--and it also works for cats, so if Soth's current regimen stops working for him, I might see if he'll be willing to dig into this, too.

Disclaimer: We were given a container of The Honest Kitchen Perfect Form in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Satisfying Hunger with Crave Cat Food

When we got to choose our Chewy.com Influencer products for September, Soth still wasn't eating regularly, so I jumped at the chance to try a new type of pate cat food. We'd seen Crave foods in the store before and Chewy has even more flavors available. We chose the turkey and duck pate because turkey is one flavor of food that Soth is most likely to eat. 


Crave comes in split containers with 1.32 oz. of food on each side. You can break the container in half so you have two small containers. 


Soth was definitely interested in the turkey and duck pate. As soon as I pulled out one of the meals, he hopped up by his food dish. 


Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for our review, by the time our Crave sample had arrived, Soth's health had stabilized a bit. Since he was eating regularly again and he was finally keeping food down, I didn't want to change his diet by introducing Crave.

Crave is a food I would definitely be comfortable feeding Soth, though. The first ingredient is turkey and the other ingredients at the top of the list include chicken liver, chicken heart, duck, and various broths. 


I have a few minor issues with Crave, but nothing that would keep me from feeding it to Soth if he decided to boycott his current food. First, the meals are slightly smaller than all of the other small cans of food we've tried, which are all 3-oz.; at a total of 2.6-oz., we'd need more cans than usual to get his normal amount of food. My other issue is the container design. Soth only eats little bits of wet food at a time, so we'll split a 3-oz. can into 5 or 6 little meals throughout the day, which means we'd split up half of a Crave container into 3 little meals. Unfortunately, since the container isn't a normally shaped can, we can't use our regular lids to keep it fresh when it's in the fridge waiting for the next meal. 


We're going to hold onto a few of the containers in case Soth decides he's not interested in his current food, but we'll be donating most of them to the shelter since they have a lot of cats that are in need of a good meal. 

Disclaimer: We were given one case of Crave Turkey and Duck Pate in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

It's been almost a month since my last Soth update and I'm happy to report that things are looking up for him. Over the last month, we've had some ups and we've had some more downs, but things seem to have leveled off to a new normal and we're trying to embrace that.


When I wrote the last update, I'd finally found some foods that he would eat since he'd started boycotting the prescription food all together. Then he started vomiting again. Every day. He'd gobble up the food and then very soon after it would be all over my carpet--and let me tell you, when a cat is eating almost exclusively wet food, that is not easy to get out of the carpet. I was using the spotbot daily and the puddles would be so big that I'd have to refill the spotbot twice just to get the whole thing. While I was spotbotting the vomit, he'd go pee out the carpet in three more places, so I was spending more time spotbotting than I was spending at my actual job! 

I thought back to the last time he'd been eating consistently and keeping it down and it was back in April before his yearly check up. In April, we switched his food from one prescription food that he'd been on since 2011 to a new formula that also addresses stress, a common cause of FLUTD. We slowly transitioned to the new food and he really enjoyed it and we did see some positive changes. By August, though, he'd quit eating that food altogether.


We tried some non-prescription food that I picked up at the grocery store and he started eating that and after almost a month of not eating at all, I was thrilled he was eating again. Then he started vomiting after that, too. (Of course, it was after I'd ordered two cases of different flavors on Chewy--thankfully, Chewy is the best and they refunded me for the food and told me to donate it!). 

I made the decision to go back to his old diet. I ordered his old prescription dry food (he never did like the wet food) and we went back to the Purina Pro Plan pate foods he'd been eating for years with that prescription food. I also bought some Purina FortiFlora, which my sister gives her older dog when he has tummy troubles. Soth's been getting a package of that sprinkled on his food every day. I am happy to report that we have gone 12 days without vomit! 

Soth's still peeing outside of his box, but he's also going inside his box and producing much larger amounts of urine at once. Before, I could hardly scoop the litter box because the clumps were so small that they'd just slip through the scoop, but that's not the case now. There's also still blood in his urine, but it's not the bright red that it had been, so there's less blood every day.


After my last update, he started hiding more and while he wouldn't get up and leave if I sat down and pet him, he was not spending any time out with the rest of us. He also wasn't grooming himself and I kept finding crunchy clumps of hair by his tail--which grossed me out and broke my heart at the same time.

I spent one weekend thinking and was going to call the vet to see if we could schedule the bladder flushing surgery, but by Monday, he'd had so much improvement that I didn't make the call. 


Soth has resumed grooming himself and no longer has weird crunchy spots. He's eating a scoop of dry food and two cans of food a day (plus his FortiFlora probiotic). 


He's spending time snuggled up in the bed with me when I'm reading. He's started sleeping in the bed again at night (and of course, snuggling with sweet potato Rye). He's even napping in sun puddles again.

Waking up and seeing this on either side of my feet warmed my heart.

Soth's face doesn't convey how good this book is. Go pick up a copy.

He'd lost about a pound since his early-August appointment, but for the last couple weeks, he's been maintaining his weight.

I still panicked when I saw how skinny he looked in this picture!

I'm still adding litter boxes in various places around the house to encourage him not use my carpets, but that's still a struggle every day. Other than that, I'm so happy with where we're at right now. We'd gotten to the point where I was afraid I was going to lose him or have to make a decision that I'm not ready to make. Those aren't thoughts that are on my mind anymore.

I don't regret changing Soth's diet in April. He had been having longer episodes than usual and we had already struck out with using other anti-stress remedies, so I was open to trying another one and for a little while, it did work for him. But I'd gotten my hopes up so much after reading reviews on Chewy and hearing our vet tech rave about the difference this food made. So, I had almost convinced myself that we'd switch to this food and one day we'd wake up and he'd be a totally normal cat with no urinary issues. This was a good reminder for me that sometimes we should just stick with what's working, though.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Recipe for Mischief from Pet Treater

This month, I decided to switch things up a bit for the girls' Pet Treater box. Usually, we practice self-control and I open the box while the girls sit and stay. Then I arrange the items around the girls to try to get all of them in one picture. Eventually, the girls get to try the snacks and play with the toys and I take some more candid shots.

I've gotten my first sets of essays to grade, though, so the girls have been practicing lots of relaxation and self-control and I just thought they deserved a little more freedom. So I set the box down and let them have at it.



My little chow hound Barley went straight for the snacks. First, she dove into the Healthy Dogma Ranch Bacon Barkers treats. Then she went back for two different packages of the Emmy's treats we always look forward to getting each month--one was even shaped like a pint glass with icing as the foam!


Rye was a good little sister and let Barley explore the box before she decided to claim any of the items (but I did make Barley share one of the cute heart-shaped ranch bacon treats with Rye.


The girls did not want to cooperate for pictures with our other goodies--two Animal Planet toys: a duck and a chicken, a package of smokehouse chicken treats, a silicon treat mold from Paula Deen with a recipe for dog treats (which makes this girl's southern heart happy), and a small under bed storage container


The girls found one final treat hiding in the box--a package of Brew Buddies malted barley treats. We've had some of these before in a different flavor, so the girls were happy to see them again. Rye was so happy to see them again that she stole the package and grabbed a big mouthful while I was putting the other items away.

Barley: "Malted barley treats? Is that cannibalism?"
Rye: "Where's the rye?!?"

Barley also took advantage of an opportunity to steal treats. While Rye and I were in the kitchen making dinner, Barley snuck upstairs and knocked the ranch bacon treats and the two packages of Emmy's treats (along with several books) off the top of the shelf I'd stashed them on--and ate them all. She'll be taking an extra long walk tomorrow!

Rye has spent the rest of the evening playing with the two toys. The duck's entire body is a huge disc squeaker and the chicken has a crinkly body, so they are both extra fun toys in Rye's opinion. She hasn't even torn off any of their limbs yet. 



I think next month, we'll be going back to our usual controlled unboxing, but the girls enjoyed their moments of mischief during this month's review. As always, Pet Treater gave us a variety of different types of items so that there was something for both girls to enjoy! You can get 20% off your first month of Pet Treater using the code PT-20 at checkout, so that your pups can have as much fun as Barley and Rye had this month.

Disclaimer: We were given a Pet Treater box in exchange for our honest review.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Training Your Pets for Natural Disasters

As many of our friends are hunkered down in Florida and Georgia riding out Hurricane Irma and others are cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey, we've been spending a lot of time thinking about how to prepare for a natural disaster. While we don't live in a place where hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes are likely, we do face risks like blizzards and may one day live in a place with other dangers. Since September is National Preparedness Month, it's the perfect time to focus on positive training to help your pets get through a national disaster for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop.

Crate Training
We've written before on how much we love our crate and on the types of mischief that can be prevented by a crate. In my opinion, this is probably the most important training if you have to leave your house suddenly with your pet. Many training articles mention how dogs are not great at generalization and with crate training, I can say we've definitely seen the truth in that. Barley has stayed in a crate when I've left the house since Day 1. Rye has, too. Barley has never put up a fuss in her crate at home. Rye whimpered a little on the first few days, but quickly adjusted to being crated.


Outside of the house, though, crates are a different story. Every place we've ever rented in our travels to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Vermont have required that pets be crated when left unattended in the rental property. While the girls willingly go into their crates, they usually bark as soon as the door shuts and it takes them longer to settle down. Since we've been in detached cottages for the most part, a little barking hasn't been a problem, but if walls are being shared, it can create problems. When we first started agility, other dogs would stay crated between their turns, but Barley would bark, snarl, and slam against the crate. For years, she has just stayed at my side at a safe distance from her classmates. The first time I tried to put Rye in a crate at our training center, she bolted out of the crate before I could get the door shut and refused to even walk by the crate room for weeks.

At that point, if we'd had to evacuate, we would have had a lot of difficulties. Even if we were staying in a hotel and not an evacuation shelter, you can't have a dog barking uncontrollably in a crate every time you have to leave the room. We've been working on crate training in new locations so that I can take the girls to agility class on the same night without them disturbing the rest of our class, so I feel more confident that the girls would handle that situation much better now.



Brain Games
Our most likely natural disaster situation would be a blizzard and we've had plenty of practice on staying inside for days on end during extreme cold, and that could be taken to the extreme with any natural disaster. Having an arsenal of brain games can make lengthy indoor stays easier on everyone.


The best part about brain games is that you don't need a lot of room to play them. We play so many different variations of the "It's Your Choice" game: sit at the door without being told and not getting up until you're released even if the door's wide open, treats in the hand that you only get if you don't nudge my hand and you make eye contact, treats on the floor or on the paws that you get when you hold eye contact, the options are unlimited. We can do a lot of our brain games right in the crate if I sit on the floor in front of it to block their escape, so they're easy to do if you're trapped in a hotel room or another type of shelter. Even if you don't evacuate, you can play games like this when you're trapped in your own house due to bad weather to keep everyone from getting cabin fever.

Mat Work
I've waxed poetic about our mat on more than one occasion (like here and here), so I'll refrain from doing that again today--but mat work is also something that only requires enough space for your mat--and can be done on a towel, a blanket, even a sweatshirt that you toss on the floor, so it's easy to adapt for any location you find yourself in. It's also a good way to get your dog to relax in an unfamiliar environment.

Training dogs to wear a harness never hurts, either.

For me, the most important thing (besides safety, of course) is making sure that my pets don't infringe on other people's comfort in a stressful situation like a natural disaster. A crate, brain games, and mat work are the best tools I have for keeping my dogs calm, quiet, and connected to me if we ever find ourselves away from home in any situation.

To our friends in Texas and Florida, we hope you're safe and that the clean up process goes smoothly, quickly, and safely. To our friends in the Pacific Northwest, we're so sorry about the fires consuming your beloved forests and we're thinking of you, too.

Be sure to visit our co-hosts, Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier as well as the other great blogs linking up with us for this month's Positive Pet Training Blog hop where we welcome any positive training posts!


Friday, September 1, 2017

Apples Aren't Just for Teachers with Blue Buffalo Apple Orchard Clusters

In the 9 years I've been teaching, I've never been given an apple by a student, yet I still think of apples as a back-to-school symbol. Chewy.com sent us a package of Blue Buffalo Earth's Essentials Apple Orchard Clusters in Cranberry Crunch flavor just in time for my first week back to school.


These treats seem like perfect fall snacks for pups. They look like granola clusters and only have five ingredients: apples, cranberries, yogurt, flaxseed, and apple pulp. With a list like that, I have no worries about what I'm giving the girls! There are other flavors--blueberry and pomegranate--as well, but Soth's urinary issues have given me a complex and I'm always drawn to cranberry flavored treats to give the pets a little extra urinary health boost. 


The girls only get crunchy treats when they go into their crates when I leave the house. These treats definitely have a good crunch to them! Even though they're on the smaller, when the girls started chewing them, it sounded just like someone was biting into a good, crunchy apple.


Rye was so excited about the treats that she couldn't wait long enough for me to take a picture before she dug in.


Our only problem with these treats is that the bags are small, so when I have to use two of them every day, the bag will be gone in no time. With a short ingredient list and the enthusiasm the girls had for these, I think that's a problem we can live with. These were a hit and we'll definitely add them to our list of "crate treats." 

Disclaimer: We were provided one bag of Blue Buffalo Earth Essentials Apple Orchard Clusters from Chewy.com as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review.