6 Awesome Products for Senior Dogs

You may or may not know this, but I am obsessed with my dogs. Every day I do my best to make sure they’re getting everything they need and are enjoying their quality of life. They turn 15 years old this fall, and we’ve finally started noticing the effects of aging.

5 Awesome Senior Dog products via MelodramaPandie, my girl, started having problems walking. She was wobbly, her back legs were dragging, and eventually she couldn’t walk or go to the bathroom on her own. Our vet diagnosed her with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), which is a problem with the discs in the spine and somewhat common in older dogs. Since Pandie is 14, surgery was not an option at her age, so we opted for rest and medication.

At the same time as dealing with the IVDD diagnosis, we were also making frequent trips to the vet with our other 14 year old dog, Mango (Pandie’s twin brother). He was experiencing some out of character symptoms, like anxiety, insomnia, and and joint pain. After several blood tests and examinations, he was put on supplements and medication to help his symptoms and arthritis/hip/knee problems.

Luckily, both dogs are now doing great and enjoying life again. Pandie has regained most of the mobility in her legs and Mango is responding well to his new treatment plan, but this all lead me to discover a few great products that I have been using and feel would benefit any dogs dealing with the effects of age or mobility issues.


GingerLead Rear Harness
This was one of the first things I searched for after Pandie’s IVDD diagnosis. Because her rear legs were so weak, she couldn’t properly hold herself up long enough to go out for potty breaks. Gingerlead’s rear harness is the perfect solution, especially if you have a larger or heavier dog who can’t be easily carried around. Walking is very important for older dogs. Walks around the block can reduce the pain caused by arthritis and keep their muscles in shape to prevent atrophy. GingerLead harnesses provide support and balance so your dog can still enjoy walks, even with weak back legs. They’re also great for rehabilitation after hip and knee surgeries. The design is durable and comfortable and easy to use. Whenever Pandie is feeling a little back pain and getting weak in the legs, we pull out the GingerLead to give her a break.

WiggleLess back brace helps with dog spinal problemsWiggleLess Back Brace
One of the most important things about IVDD and other back injury recovery is to keep the dog from moving around too much so the spine can heal. Most vets will prescribe complete bed or cage rest, but with a dog who isn’t crate trained and generally wants to be active, this wasn’t as simple of a task as it sounds. That’s when I found WiggleLess back braces and decided to give it a try. I could definitely see the benefits during Pandie’s recovery period. She immediately walked a little stronger and straighter. Most importantly, it kept her from doing any unwanted twisting or movements, and kept her from trying to jump on and off furniture. She also seemed generally more comfortable with it on, and she rested better. That last one could be from the “hugging” effect it gives, much like a compression shirt, but I’ll take that added bonus. Just like with the rear harness, if I notice any back pain or weakness in her legs flaring up, I put on the back brace to avoid exacerbating the injury, and it helps.

Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips
These are life changing! Keeping both of my dogs from slipping and sliding around my hardwood floors was a challenge. This is a problem a lot of older dogs face, and it’s very important to keep dogs with any mobility issues as stable as possible. It’s not always feasible to put down anti-slip rugs or to put traction booties on their paws. That’s why Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips are genius. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical at first, and I thought they would be hard to put on, but these are AMAZING. They’re nonslip grips that fit onto your dog’s toenails, so they can stay on all the time. This provides traction to keep them from slipping and sliding on hard surfaces, which can potentially cause or exacerbate injuries, and cause anxiety about walking in certain areas.

Thundershirt helps dog insomniaThunderShirt
The ThunderShirt is probably something you’ve heard of before. When my dogs experience any sort of anxiety they always respond well to being held tight or swaddled in a blanket. ThunderShirt gives the same effect. It’s a specially designed compression vest that applies gentle, constant pressure which helps alleviate stress and anxiety. We use it for vet visits, traveling, and for any other anxiety triggering issues, even pain. It has helped Mango a ton with his insomnia (just look at him), allowing him to feel less anxious at night. Its design is light weight and comfortable enough to wear for hours. Now that we have it, we can’t live without it.

VARIO Leash System by flexi
This is a leash system that has greatly improved our walks. Walking with regular leashes can be annoying when a dog wants to go at their own pace. I was always either dragging a dog while being dragged by another dog. These retractible leashes have solved this problem. No more dragging or pulling of anyone. But that’s not the best part! The VARIO system has accessories. My favorite is the LED lighting system. It can get a little hard for some senior dogs to see as well as they used to at night. This can cause some confusion and anxiety during walks. The LED light attachment acts as a flash light and helps guide the way for both you and your dog. There are other accessories worth checking out too, and everything is attached right onto the leash for ease and comfort.

Dasuquin Chews

Dasuquin is a joint supplement recommended to me by my vet. I noticed a difference in my dogs within a week. Joint problems and arthritis are very common ailments as dogs age, so supplements are important. These chews are perfect because they taste good and can be used as treats! Ive also noticed they’re more gentle on my dogs’ tummies than other joint health products.

I hope you might find these products as helpful as I have. As always, I have tried and tested everything that I mention here and only my honest opinions are given. If you have any questions about my experiences with what you see here, feel free to ask in the comments.

Pet Lover’s Gift Guide 2013

During gift giving season you can’t forget the fur babies! I love giving my dogs gifts. They get really excited…probably because I’m so excited but whatever, we enjoy it. I’ve picked out some nifty things to get for that special furry member of your family. I’m talking about your pet of course…

Let’s start with the dogs:

Every dog owner I know has toys laying all over their house or shoved into dog bed in the corner of the room. This includes myself. I’m always like ahhh we need a toy box! Well check out these hemp toy storage baskets from Harry Barker. They’re totally perfect for holding all of the toys and they’re not cheesy or tacky. They’re also coated on the inside for easy cleaning. Find them at Harry Barker for $38

My dogs love bath time! I’ve tried my fair share of shampoos on them. This shampoo is my favorite. It’s made with essential oils so it soothes their itchy skin and makes them smell amazing. After the first use my pups felt great and didn’t scratch at all throughout the entire night or following days. It’s made in the USA, is eco-friendly, and is not tested on animals. Also worth mentioning – the customer service is superb. This gift set comes with a 16oz bottle of shampoo, a microfiber towel, and an adorable tote. Find it at Dogtails for $32. Use the promo code MELODRAMA to receive 20% off your order until 12/31/13!

This book by holistic pet chef Christine M. Filardi is a great gift for anyone that needs a little help understanding how to spoil their dog but keep them healthy. It’s full of yummy recipes for home cooked meals and treats. I’ve had a lot of fun reading this book and looking at the adorable pictures. This new year we’re going to start incorporating and transitioning our 13 year old dogs over to Christine’s menu to alleviate allergies and tummy issues we’ve struggled with in the past, so you’ll see me mentioning and sharing her recipes from time to time. If you or someone you know is interested in doing the same, definitely pick this book up. You can find it at Abrams Books or Anthropologie for $19.95.

This year I’ve been fortunate enough to see a couple of new rescues join the families of those I care about. Help your favorite rescue celebrate with a handcrafted, USA made accessory from Found My Animal. Found My Animal’s mission is simple and they donate to many rescues around the country. This dog bed is handcrafted in Brooklyn and made from canvas and marine grade rope. The insert is made from 100% USA recycled foam rubber. Pick this girl scout green one up on FoundMyAnimal.com for $170

Custom Dog Plush

Last on the list of perfect dog gifts are these custom stuffed dog toys. They take a photo of your dog and turn them into the most perfect little replica. They also have toys based on actual shelter pups that need to ‘adopted’. These are made in the USA from pure merino wool and proceeds go to support shelters and rescues. Pick up a gift certificate for your favorite dog lover or create your own order at The Shelter Pups.

Now for the cats! I don’t know much about cats but I have my fair share of cat ladies in my life so I have an idea of what’s hip in cat land.

Like this DJ Cat Scratch Turntable. Your cat will be spinnin’ dope beats in no time. Made from 100%  carboard so no records are harmed. Find it at PerpetualKid for $37.00.

Looking for kitty stocking stuffers? From the Field’s Purrrfect Deluxe Gift Set comes with 2 hemp cat toys, organic cat nip spray, and a cork ball. Cat lovers love this brand! Find this set at OnlyNaturalPet for $16.99.

Do your cats chew on your plants? Are you looking for an indoor kitty garden? SmartCat’s Edible Garden is the way to go. The box is totally cute, too. This looks great in any kitchen and refills are easy to pop in and out when needed. Find it on Amazon for $13.95

Check out hear cool things! They’re called CattyStacks. They’re stackable cardboard boxes that create the ultimate cat house. You can change them up so your cat never gets bored of exploring. Pick up some of their tunnels too! They’re made from industrial strength corrugated, recycled cardboard and built to last. Find them at CattyStacks for $14.99.

Thanksgiving Foods That Can Harm Your Pets

Very important, guys! We all know how tempting it can be to give our pets human food on Thanksgiving, especially when they’re pitifully watching us eat the best meal of the year, but be careful! Human foods can make your pets very sick. Some pets are more sensitive than others, but why risk it? Here are some Thanksgiving foods you should avoid giving to your pets.

Thanksgiving Foods that are harmful to pets
My friend pointed out that I forgot the ‘s’ in Thanksgiving. Oops. Too late.

 

1. Turkey Skin and Dark Meat- Fatty foods like turkey skin and dark meat can cause your dog to get indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea. In extreme cases even pancreatitis!

2. Turkey Bones – Don’t hand your bones over to the dog. Small bones are a dangerous choking hazard. Poultry bones can break and splinter causing damage to the throat, stomach, and intestinal tract.

3. Nuts –  Nuts are potentially hazardous to dogs because they cause stomach upset and neurological problems. You’re probably thinking “But they love peanut butter!”. Peanuts aren’t nuts, silly, they’re legumes! Avoid black walnuts and macadamia nuts, they are toxic to dogs!

4. Onions – These are not only dangerous, but deadly. All close members of the onion family (shallots, onions, garlic, scallions, etc.) are toxic to dogs and cats. The ingestion of onions causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. Even small quantities can make your pets ill.

5. Grapes and Raisins – Both of these can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and acute renal failure in dogs.

6. Sage – Along with other herbs, Sage contains essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to dogs and especially cats.

7. Chocolate – Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are riskiest, but all chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats and can cause theobromine poisoning. 

8. Nutmeg – In certain quanities, nutmeg can potentially cause tremors, seizures and nervous system abnormalities in both cats and dogs.

9. Mushrooms – Wild mushrooms contain toxins that can cause damage to organ systems, including the kidneys, liver and brain. Nervous system abnormalities, seizures, coma, vomiting, and death can all result when a dog consumes wild mushrooms.

10. Beer and Alcohol – Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into dogs’ bloodstreams causing intoxication and a slew of health problems including drops in blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate. Dogs can even experience seizures and respiratory failure. Besides, it’s just mean. Don’t try to get your pets drunk.

It never fails for me, I spend Thanksgiving running around telling people not to feed the pets. Every year I end up cleaning up vomit and diarrhea because no one listens to me. The worst was when we were visiting family in Florida and I had to cure my very ill dog’s diarrhea before getting on a plane. Luckily I’ve learned to travel with the necessary medications.

If you find yourself caring for a pet with an upset tummy, some over the counter medications like Pepto and Immodium can help. Always consult with your vet about proper dosage and symptoms please!

Chicken Jerky Dog Treats | Healthy Pet Recipes

We are proud parents of two 11 year old Shih Tzu fur-babies that are like our children. Obsessed. Fully.

We take great care in watching what goes into their bellies. Our boy, Mango, has tummy issues and a list of foods he’s sensitive to. Our girl, Pandie, has a stomach of steel…usually. When they started showing strange signs of illness last year, we took a step back and reevaluated their diet. That’s when we heard about the FDA cautioning pet owners about chicken jerky dog treats. Complaints and concerns from consumers are still popping up on the regular, along with petitions to ban foreign made treats from shelves. Very scary stuff! Even though we thought we were buying a good product, we realized the treats are made in China and quite possibly making our dogs sick. We started purchasing only American made products for our dogs at our local specialty pet food stores. Since the switch we have not had any more severe bouts with vomiting or diarrhea.

While making room in the freezer we came across some left-over chicken breasts. That’s when Jvee decided to make homemade chicken jerky. I don’t eat chicken but Jvee does. So, whenever there is any left over, it goes straight to the dogs.

Chicken Jerky Dog Treats

We use good quality chicken breasts. Remove any extra fat. Cut VERY thinly with a sharp knife.

Grease a baking sheet with a small amount of olive oil to prevent sticking. Line the sheet with the raw chicken pieces. Don’t worry, small amounts of olive oil is safe for dogs.

Set your oven to 170 degrees fahrenheit and bake the chicken for about 8 hours until all the moisture is removed and it is dry. Be patient. Just let it hang out in there. Let the jerkey pieces cool completely. You can store these in airtight containers.

Mango and Pan are so obsessed. They wait by the oven every time we make them. Not only are they feeling better, but we can bribe them to do just about anything now. Worth it.

If your pups prefer biscuits, check out our Cheddar Peanut Butter Biscuit recipe.

Dog Treats | Cheddar Peanut Butter | Pets

The combination of cheddar and peanut butter is a must have for puppy palates. I recently made these for our furry neighbors and, like always, they were a BIG hit.

cheddarpeanutbuttertreats

Look at that cheesy goodness! They’re like those delicious cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster! God, I love those things…

Anyway! Back to the dogs. Here’s how you make these fresh and natural dog treats.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for topping

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Sift or whisk together the whole wheat, oat flour, and baking powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl whisk together peanut butter and milk. Warm a bit in the microwave if you need to. Add the peanut butter mixture to the flour mixture and blend well. Add in cheese. Dough will be stiff. Knead dough into a ball and roll out onto a very lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter or use a knife to cut out shapes. Knead and roll out scraps until all the dough is gone. Put cut outs onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top treats with more cheddar cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes. Treats should be crispy and tops should be browned. Let cool completely. Store these in an airtight container lined with parchment paper for up to 1 week or freeze.

cheddarpeanutbuttertreats-2

As always, please check with your vet before introducing new foods to your pet’s diet.

Pet Portraits | DIY Wall Decor | Family Photos | Framing

My husband and I are proud parents to two gorgeous fur babies. These dogs are my life. They are about to turn 11 years old and I can’t imagine how all of these years would have been without them. I got them when I was 16  and they have been with me through every major event in my adult life.

Even though I take pictures for other people for a living, I don’t always feel like I take enough of my own family. When we moved into this apartment and started our plan for decorating I knew I wanted portraits of the pups. I started photographing them and loved the way these turned out – especially when framed. What I love is when you look closely you can see my reflection in their eyes. In a way it’s a picture of us together.

I picked up some Ikea frames for $30/each and prints from adoramapix.com

Framing family photos is always a great way to personalize a space. But,  if you want to give it a unique twist, try using photo editing software to crop digital pictures. You can crop to focus on different areas of the photos to create an abstract effect or even crop snapshots to give more of a portrait type feel. For these puppy portraits I used half of their faces on opposite sides to accomplish a cohesive and unique set.



I’m not sure where I want to put these yet. I’m thinking of making a grouping of frames above the sofa with our family photos and incorporating these. Or maybe above the fireplace. But for now they’re sitting on the mantle in a very unfinished living room.