obsessed with dogs

Tips for Managing Pet Expenses (a look at our Feb spending)

A handful of pet bloggers I admire have started posting a breakdown of their monthly pet care expenses. I’m fascinated by those posts, and I find it interesting to see how pet care costs are allocated in different families, like single-dog versus multi-dog.

I kept thinking it might be useful to break down our expenses, but I hesitated. Our situation is extreme, I thought. Except, judging from comments and social media conversations, I’ve come to realize that it’s not! Many of you come here because you’re trying to manage health conditions like allergies or cancer, in addition to regular day-to-day stuff.

So, I thought I’d break down our February expenditures, along with tips for how we plan for these expenses, in case it would help anyone else who’s trying to manage exorbitant pet care expenses. Missing is a breakdown of Cooper’s home-cooked food because we purchase his groceries with our own and Newt’s canned cat food, which we also get at the grocery store. Next month I’ll strive to break that out. One note: We do not have pet insurance. I can’t speak to the benefits/costs of pet insurance.

Tips for Managing Pet Expenses

Here goes…

  • Newt’s nail trim: $16.50
  • Doggy daycare: $150
  • Monthly preventatives: $134
  • Emmett’s chemo, liver, and thyroid meds: $292.50
  • Emmett’s allocation: $270
  • Dog food and supplements: $213

Total: $1,076

**shudder**

Dearest friends and family, this is why we decline dinner/cocktails/movies out.

Anyway, that’s a lot. That’s without Coop’s or Newt’s food. That’s a lot. It makes my hands shake just looking at it. That’s why John and I both have part-time work – he edits scientific studies, I teach writing at community college – on top of our day jobs. But it’s what we want to do. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

But, we’ve also had to make a lot of adjustments and cut-backs to make this work. Here are a few tips for how we’ve made it work…

1. Decide on your priorities. We could eliminate doggy daycare for Lucas and Cooper, but we prioritize that in our budget because of all those extra hours we work. It’s great for both of them to get the extra socialization, especially with their reactivity issues, and gives us a full long day each week to put in extra hours. We could trim Newt’s nails ourselves. We have in the past. It’s traumatic and injurious for everyone.

2. Set up a fee-free checking account for vet bills even if you don’t have big recurring expenses. (See #3.) Put a few bucks here and there in the account, and when you need it, it’s there. Here’s a good time to point out: These tips are designed to avoid credit card debt!

3. Plan ahead. What the “allocation” in the list means is we’ve estimated Emmett’s quarterly expenses. He goes to Purdue every three months for his scans (going this Wednesday… wish us luck…) and gets blood tests every two months at our local vet. We know approximately how much that costs, give or take an extra blood panel or whatever here and there, and we divided that by three (one for each month of the quarter). So, on the last day of every month, we transfer that allocated amount to a checking account that is only for vet bills. It’s linked to a debit card, so we use that card when we go to Purdue. If it ends up being a bit less than we allocated, we leave the extra in there untouched because sometimes – like last quarter when they ran an additional x-ray – it ends up being more, so that gives us a buffer. It’s way easier to budget $270 per month than it is to come up with approximately $800 at the end of the quarter!

4. Make cutbacks. There’s so much stuff we don’t need, like a huge cable package. (We also login to my mom’s Netflix account instead of purchasing our own… shh…) Plus, we’ve arranged our grocery budget to be WAY cheaper than their food budget. Think Sam’s Club and lots of rice and bean dishes. And eggs. Use coupons, too. We’ve also shifted to lots of free social activities (craft night and book club with friends, having people over for movies or games, etc.) and only eat out once or twice per month. We don’t belong to a gym, and our library cards get the biggest workout each month!

There you have it! Knowing that we spend, on average, around $1,000 per month on pet care expenses has caused us to change so many aspects of our lives. Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way. They’re worth it. What sparked this post is that I’ve received so many comments and messages about just how expensive things like cancer are. It’s true. It all costs a fortune. But a little planning makes it work.

Planning and a sense of humor. I think that should be tip 5, actually:

5. Have a sense of humor about it all! :)

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How do you choose a dog food recipe?

Last month I mentioned that Lucas is going to be taste-testing Petcurean dog food. They’re generously providing us with coupons to trade in for some bags to try, and when I started looking at all the different options, I kept hitting on the same question: How do you choose a dog food recipe?
Petcurean Blogger Advocate

My opinion is that you don’t have to!

I know that there’s some controversy surrounding that particular opinion, and I’d like to emphasize that I’m not a vet or nutritionist. I am, however, someone who’s extremely cautious about my dogs’ well-being. I also research food and healthy eating for us and them regularly. Here’s what I think:

If you ate the same meal, even if it was super healthy, for every single meal for your entire life, would you be meeting all your nutritional requirements? Personally, I don’t think so, and that’s why we crave variety. Some days are full of activity, and you need extra protein. Or you’re under the weather, so you want tons of extra nutrients. Or you’re starting a new workout routine, or a new job, or recovering from an injury, or absolutely anything that might affect your metabolism and overall health. We, as humans, adjust our diets practically daily.

And that makes perfect sense to me, and it makes perfect sense to me to feed my dogs like that, too.

How to choose the right dog food recipe

So, Petcurean has four new recipes (check out the full details here):

First up is the NOW FRESH small breed line. Obviously, for 80-pound Lucas, that’s not a good option, but for those of you with little dogs, this also comes in three grain-free lifestages: puppy, adult, and senior.

So, the three new recipes we are going to try:

Petcurean Recipes Lucas is Trying

NOW FRESH Fish Recipe: This one’s made with trout, salmon, and herring. Lucas LOVES fish recipes, and I think the extra oils are good for his double coat. At least I hope they are. I’d love a little less shedding… Anyway! It has zero grains, gluten, wheat, beef (SO great for allergy-prone dogs!!), corn or soy, and no rendered meats, by-products, or artificial preservatives.

NOW FRESH Red Meat Recipe: This one has lamb, venison, pork, and none of the grains, gluten, wheat, beef (seriously, no beef in a red meat recipe!!), corn or soy, and no rendered meats, by-products, or artificial preservatives. I’m already predicting that this one will be Lukey’s favorite, mostly because he rarely gets venison or pork – I think it’ll be an exciting novelty for him.

GO! SENSITIVITY + SHINE Venison Recipe: So, I’m about to say something absolutely crazy. You ready? Here goes: I’m thinking about letting Cooper taste tiny bites of this food. Like, one kibble at a time over a few days. Just to see what happens. Why? Check out the description! I’m not going to get carried away – Lucas is still the official tester on this – but that sounds like the most allergy-friendly recipe I’ve seen yet. Will keep you posted…

Anyway, we’re going to try all three in rotation. Now, these guys are very used to rotating their pet food – we never buy the same bag twice in a row – so their stomachs are fully accustomed to that. If you’re interested in rotating, go slowly, introducing a new food a little at a time. For instance, if you’re switching from the NOW FRESH Red Meat Recipe to the Fish, start out by filling the bowl with 90% red meat and 10% fish, then slowly shift the percentages over at least a week to ensure your dog doesn’t have any GI distress.

Do you rotate your dog’s food? Have you ever tried alternating proteins? Any experience with Petcurean? We’re so excited to get him chowing down. I’m sure he is, too! ;) 

Disclaimer: Petcurean is providing us with dog food for the boys. Plus, they generously donated $500 worth of the same food to Friends of Homeless Animals, the shelter where we found Emmett! However, as y’all know, we would never share anything we didn’t believe in simply for the sake of compensation, nor would we write a positive review that wasn’t the truth. If something doesn’t work, we’ll be totally honest!

Our favorite oral health products for brush-free cleaning (plus a giveaway)

We’re squeaking in on the last few days of National Pet Dental Health Month!

When I took Newt in for her annual exam a few months ago, our vet mentioned a tartar buildup on one side of her mouth. She said that some owners do, in fact, brush their cat’s teeth. Hmm…

Truthfully, oral care is much easier with the boys. They’re all okay(ish) with having their teeth brushed, though I’m terrible about remembering to do it. I know brushing is the very best option, but there are some great oral health products for brush-free cleaning that are worth rotating in. They’re great chewers and routinely pick up different substrates – elk antlers, Busy Buddies, ropes – that we have floating around the house and give their teeth a workout. For the big dogs, who aren’t allergic to everything like Cooper is, we also have an arsenal of daily care products to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

My absolute favorite is the indigo fresh Dental Sauce from PetSafe. It’s so simple. You just squirt a tablespoon of the sauce onto their dinner, and since these guys eat kibble, I think they get a scraping action along with the sauce.

indigo-sauce-sweet-potato_b_2_1

 

The sauce also has antioxidants for immune support, which I love. The only thing with this sauce is that my guys really dislike the mint flavor. They love the sweet potato, though, and get super excited to have their dinner topped with it, so that’s the only flavor we buy.

There are two other dental products that are in heavy rotation here for the big dogs: Dental Sticks and Triple Chews. (Unfortunately, both have chicken… sigh… so poor Coop is left out.)

indigo dental health

They’re both substantial chews that work to clean teeth and gums. I love these for two reasons: First, they’re actually big enough for big dogs! Many other brands of similar chews are just too small, and I get anxious about one of them choking on pieces that aren’t sized correctly.

Emmett wants his dental chew

Second, they are digestible. We had some trouble with Emmett with another brand of dental chew. He didn’t digest it well and seemed to get an upset stomach every time he had one. That’s never happened with these. And, since the sticks are low-calorie, I’m not worried about excess weight coming from these treats.

We do not intend to get Emmett a full dental procedure, so keeping his mouth as healthy as possible now is super important to me. The other two will probably get dentals in the fall (Cooper’s first ever!), but I want to make it a quick and easy procedure by employing as many preventative methods as possible.

So, those are my three picks for dental health! And, thanks to PetSafe, one of you has the chance to win all three of these oral health products – just in time to close out Pet Dental Health Month!

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway. The widget should load below in a few seconds, but if not – or if you’re reading this in a feed or via email – you can simply click the link below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, PetSafe, for so generously offering this giveaway!

Disclaimer: PetSafe very kindly sent along each of these products, though we were already using them in our day-to-day! I’d never recommend something we didn’t truly use and love. All opinions are my own.  

Snow day play!

This past weekend brought the first *real* snow of the winter. Sure, it’s been painfully cold on and off for weeks, but we really haven’t had much snow at all. I’m certainly not complaining! Some Indiana winters stretch from October to March, so I’m pretty happy that we’ve only  had the one big weekend of snow.

Of course, Cooper and Emmett aren’t fans. Even in his coats, Cooper doesn’t want to stay out for longer than it takes to do his business.

Lucas, though, loves snow. Loves, loves, LOVES snow. He could stay out and play all day, but when he doesn’t have anyone to play with, he sort of pouts. Luckily, his best friend in the whole world, Cady, loves snow just as much as he does! And, thankfully, she had some free time in her schedule to come over for a play date.

It is VERY difficult to capture the fun on my phone when they’re running and pummeling, but here are a few snaps plus a short video of their joy!

It’s nice to capture these shots before the snow gets… used…

I tried for a video, too. Here’s a 20-second glimpse of what they did for a about an hour!

Snow day play! from Maggie Marton on Vimeo.

They sure had a blast!!

How was your weekend? Did you and your pup get outside for some winter fun? Did your area get hit with “Winter Storm Pandora”? (When did they start naming winter storms??)

Winter wear (or, spring can’t get here soon enough)

I briefly mentioned on Monday that we’re trying to put weight on Cooper. He is really under-weight. He’s all points and knobs.

One of the big problems making this even worse for him is the weather. Today’s high? 15. The low? -6. Without a single drop of fat on him, Cooper is fr-fr-freezing. His fur fuzzes out, he tucks his tail, he shivers like crazy… just to run out and pee.

So, we’ve been keeping him in sweatshirts and coats for the better part of a month now. I really think he realizes that they’re keeping him warmer because as soon as one gets dirty (read: peed on), we take it off, and he stands there and waits while we get another out of the closet. Then he diligently lifts one paw at a time while we put on the clean garment. Thankfully, we had a few on hand that have made it into rotation.

He has a green jacket that attaches with Velcro. It’s easy-on-and-off but not as warm as his others. (Though it’s super cute!)

Green jacket

 

He has the red fleece hoodie that I made as part of his Thing 2 costume.

This is a two-layer fleece that my mom made for Emmett several years ago. We couldn’t find a warm coat to fit his big barrel chest, so she made this to fit him perfectly. He… ahem… outgrew it, so now it’s Cooper’s.

Paw print coat

Finally, my very favorite… his cable-knit sweater. It’s ridiculously cute. Maybe not the warmest in the bunch, though it can layer underneath the green jacket for some extra coziness.

Cooper in his cable-knit sweater

Honestly, with the snow on the ground and how crazy he gets with Lucas and playing at doggy daycare, these things get filthy daily! Right now he’s wearing the green… the paw print is in the wash… the sweater is hanging to dry… and the red is queued up for when he or one of his brothers pees on the green!

How does your dog do with apparel? Do you need winter wear to keep your pup warm? Or perhaps more for the cute factor? 

Home cooking for your dog: FAQs

Since I wrote the very first post about cooking for Cooper, I’ve gotten a ton of brilliant questions. I spent some time combing through the comments of the first, second, and third posts, and I decided to tackle the top 5 FAQs about home cooking for your dog. If you have more, please ask away in the comments, and I will happily answer them!

Homecooking for your dog FAQs

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I have two disclaimers: First, I am not a vet. I am not a nutritionist or a chef or anything that certifies me to give advice on this topic. All I’m sharing is what we did and what our experience has been. Yours may be completely different (and, if so, share yours in the comments, pretty please, so we can all learn even more). Second, this site is an Amazon Affiliate, so if I link to a product and the link is followed by an asterisk (*), you won’t pay a penny more for any products you buy, but this site will earn a teeny, tiny commission.

That said, let’s dive in, shall we!

Question 1: Where do you find your recipes?

We started with a ton of research online about what ingredients in what proportions made up an “ideal” diet. All that initial research is in the second post in the series (linked above). We also had a few books on hand, and I ordered one additional one off of Amazon. They were useful and had a ton of fabulous information, recipes, quantities, etc. IF you have a “normal” dog. Even one of the allergy-friendly diets in one of the most popular books gave him an extremely upset stomach. In fact, that was our first major setback in this journey. I’ve linked to my favorite books in the resources question (#5). I know this doesn’t really answer the question, but what I mean to say is: Experiment. Figure out what works for your dog. Then craft your own recipe. Here’s ours (this is per meal): either lamb or salmon, boiled potato, steamed apples, quinoa, steamed green beans, a scoop of pumpkin puree, and supplements. Which leads me to the next most frequently asked Q…

Question 2: What supplements do you use?

This was setback two: We purchased two different supplements after extensive research. Neither worked for Cooper. Both made him VERY sick. Of course, both had small amounts of flavoring (liver in one, turkey in the other), which I hoped would be trace enough not to affect him. Nope. The big boys are getting them, though, so it wasn’t a total waste. Anyway, I found two vegetarian supplements. They are NOT as complete as the others. He’s been 100% fine on this one for a month now, so we’re going to rotate in the other. They’re slightly different from each other, so I’m hoping what one’s missing, the other can make up. In addition to the multi-vitamin/multi-mineral, the one thing that came up in every resource was that calcium deficiency is a real risk with a home cooked diet. The number one recommendation (after raw bones, which we clearly can’t do) is a bone meal supplement. I worried that it would be too much for him since it’s an animal source, but the one we picked (from the Pitcairn book below) KAL Bone Meal Powder* is fabulous. It contains nothing but bone meal, and he’s done perfectly on it! We’re considering adding coconut oil back in but want to wait until he’s put on at least a couple more pounds, just in case. Next in the queue:

The next ingredients to try

Question 3: How much do you feed your dog?

I wish I had an easy answer for this. So much depends on which ingredients you’re using, how active your dog is, how old your dog is, etc. Also, for Cooper, we’re desperately trying to put weight on him – after several intense GI problems in a row, he’s significantly underweight. Here’s the best suggestion I have: Before you start a new diet, weigh your dog. Feed your dog the new diet for a week, then weigh him again. Repeat weekly until you know if he’s gaining/losing/holding steady. Adjust up or down as needed. We may actually be adding lunch back in for Coop because the amount he needs to get enough calories for his high-energy level AND to gain weight exceeds what is reasonable for one single meal!

Question 3: Should I rotate proteins?

I think so, which is why we alternate between salmon and lamb. We do for the big dogs with their kibble, too. I think it helps cover some bases for fat/protein. If we could get a third protein in his rotation, I’d be thrilled, but I’m starting to realize that may never happen. And that’s okay. Two is good.

Question 4: How much time does it take?

If you have a dog with a strong stomach and no health problems, it’ll take you no time at all! You can whip up a month’s worth of food for the freezer on a Saturday afternoon! If you have a dog like Cooper, though, be prepared for a huge time commitment for the first few months. Every new ingredient required a trial period, so we couldn’t shop or cook in bulk. We were cooking for him nearly every day for the last three-ish months. Now that we have a solid recipe that works, we make a week’s worth on Saturday – the quinoa, potatoes, apples, and green beans go into one big jar, the meat is separate (this week is salmon) so we can monitor it more exactly, and the pumpkin is in a glass storage container. So, we scoop from the three containers and two supplements:

Cooper's meals

Yeah, it takes up a whole shelf in the fridge, but once a week has been a lifesaver! Also, we’ve been shopping for his ingredients about every other week at Sam’s Club and freezing them (uncooked) in batches.

Question 5: What resources are you using?

Truthfully, at this point we’re just sticking with what I outlined above because we can’t risk another bout of GI distress. However, the three books I used for the foundation and research are:

  • Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats*: I’ve had this book for years and reference it all the time. Unfortunately, the allergy recipe in this made Cooper super sick. However, it’s full of useful advice for all life stages, conditions, etc. so I highly recommend it, even if you aren’t cooking for your dog!
  • Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Dogs*: I ordered this one after the allergy fail from the first book because it has a section on allergy-friendly meals. We haven’t been able to try many recipes yet, but all the “info” sections, like nutrients and conversions and quantities, have been incredibly useful. My copy has a million sticky notes popping out of every chapter!
  • The Healthy Hound Cookbook*: We got this book for review last year, and I really enjoyed it. The recipes are super simple to follow and use easy-to-acquire ingredients. I’ve dog-eared all the salmon and lamb recipes to start trying on Coop once we’ve put a few pounds back on him. 

Also, early on we met with our vet, which I strongly recommend for anyone considering this. Beyond that, I started a Pinterest board to gather online research, especially for treats, but that’s about it!

There ya have it! I really hope I addressed your questions, but please don’t hesitate to ask anything else that comes up in the comments below! And those of you who are home cooking, please share your insights, too!!

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Happy Valentine’s Day! (plus a photo contest)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!! This is one of my favorite holidays. My family always celebrated the day as a day of love, rather than a day for finding dates or giving chocolates. My parents always got my siblings cute little cards, just to say, “I love you.” So sweet!

For this Valentine’s Day, in an effort to spread some of that love, I thought we should have a Facebook photo contest. The theme? LOVE, of course! You can interpret it any way you’d like. I can’t wait to see all the super cute pictures! The thread to enter can be found HERE with some additional details.

Oh! And there is a perfect prize!! I have a copy of the re-released 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition to giveaway to the picture that receives the most likes!

101 Dalmatians

How cute! It was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up and a sweet story about love and what you’ll do for family! The perfect Valentine’s Day prize, I think!

My friend Kerry sent a picture already of her love, her sweet dog Scout with her cute bear, which is the perfect inspiration to kick this off!

Scout and her bear

So, head on over to Facebook, and share your LOVE!

What’s for dinner?

We have this joke. Yes, it’s a smidge dark, but it works.

Any time we’re late getting home – past their normal dinnertime – we joke that Emmett’s probably buttering up Newt, throwing on a dash of salt and pepper, and chowing down.

Today, we spent hours stuck at the license branch (why this post is so late… and so short) and got home just after 3 – well before their dinnertime.

But.

We came home to this:

Newt getting cooked

Apparently Emmett skipped the seasonings and stuck her right in the pot!

Happy Friday! :D

Also! Quick reminder: Tomorrow is the Valentine’s Day photo contest on Facebook. I’ll post the prompt AND unveil the prize here tomorrow with a link to the spot to enter. I can’t wait to see all the lovey photos!

 

Ommm: Coop centers himself with doga

Sideways Dog.

Sideways Dog

 

Worrier 1.

Worrier 1

 

Pup’s Pose.

Pup's Pose

 

Worrier 2.

Worrier 2

 

Savasana.

Savasana

 

Pawmaste.

We ARE the majority! #TheMajorityProject

This post is sponsored by The Animal Farm Foundation and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the The Majority Project, but OMD! only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Animal Farm Foundation is not responsible for the content of this article.

AFFLogowhite3

I love my three dogs to the ends of the earth. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them, and it’s my job to take care of them, keep the safe, fed, trained, and loved.

Two of those three dogs happen to be pit-bull-type dogs, and I discovered very early on that it’s also my job to defend and advocate on their behalf. There are just so many myths about “pit bull” dogs, and many people don’t take the time to learn the truth. We were having dinner with a colleague and his wife, and he said, “Oh, we’re both terrified of pit bulls.” But he wasn’t sure why. He just knew what he heard about them on the evening news.

In an effort to challenge the negative stereotypes about “pit bull” dog owners, Animal Farm Foundation created The Majority Project, a photo collection illustrating how countless “pit bull” dog owners make valuable contributions to their communities and families every day. Animal Farm Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation, which has been rescuing and re-homing animals, as well as making grants to other humane organizations, since the mid-1980s. It is Animal Farm Foundation’s mission to secure equal treatment and opportunity for “pit bull” dogs.

Plus, Animal Farm Foundation partnered with actor and “pit bull” dog owner, Jon Bernthal to create a video about the project, which you can check out below!

The Majority Project with Jon Bernthal from Animal Farm Foundation on Vimeo.

We jumped on the chance to participate because those of us who love and care for these dogs need to stand up and give our dogs a voice. Emmett was the first pit-bull-type dog we welcomed into our lives, and he’s been challenging stereotypes since day one. In one of the very first training classes we took with him, a woman asked us if we’d put him down if we had kids. Since then, Emmett has trained and worked as a therapy dog – around kids of all ages, sizes, and ability. He’s traveled around the country, stayed in hotels, been on photoshoots, napped a whole lot, met people and dogs and even a couple more cats. It’s important to me to take him with me whenever it’s somewhere he’ll have fun and be safe because, well, I like having him with me, of course. But, more importantly, he spreads joy and love, and he changes hearts and minds.

We were thrilled to take part in this campaign, although I probably should’ve planned better! We didn’t snap this pic until after Cooper had spent the day running, jumping, and playing at doggy daycare. As you can see, he can hardly hold his head up, the little dear! (Yep, another myth busted: “pit bull” dogs can and do thrive in group play sessions like doggy daycare!) Emmett, on the other hand, pretty much always looks relaxed.

We ARE the majority!

But, then Newt corrected me. She reminded me that SHE is the “pit bull” dog owner around here. So, we let her be a part of the campaign, too. (Another myth busted: “Pit bull” dogs can be in families with cats and other tiny animals! Newt and Cooper are best buds and spend a good chunk of their afternoon wrestling with each other.)

Newt is the majority

As dog owners – no matter what kind of dog you love – we need to treat them all as individuals and empower pet owners to be responsible. That is the only way to create safe communities – NOT by targeting a specific dog breed. Creating and enforcing non-discriminatory Responsible Pet Ownership laws is the most effective path to building safe, humane communities. Reckless dog owners cannot be correlated with any particular breed or type of dog; the only factor reckless dog owners have in common is their problematic behavior resulting from a disregard of public safety and animal welfare.

“Pit bull” dog owners: Help change public perception of the average “pit bull” dog owner by disproving existing stereotypes! Join The Majority Project by visiting themajorityproject.com, printing and personalizing an “I am the MAJORITY” sign and submitting a photo with YOUR dog! And join them on Facebook or Twitter!

We ARE the majority!