Category Archives: Health

Toothbrushing Isn’t So Bad

Getting my teeth brushed was fine once I got used to it, but that took some doing.  Ted started brushing my teeth while I was still a puppy.  The vet told him that it was either that or someday I would have to be put under anesthesia to have my teeth cleaned and have bad ones extracted.  Well, that was enough motive for Ted.  He likes to keep my health and grooming as perfect as possible. The first times I had no way of knowing what was happening.  So Ted held the toothbrush close to my mouth and let me smell the toothpaste.  I licked it right off the brush.  Ted added a little more, held me tight without squeezing me too much, and pried my mouth open.  I  trusted him, so I didn't resist too much at first, not until he inserted the brush and began to saw away upon my teeth.  It was very confusing.  I struggled to pull my head away to free myself of the brush, while at the same time trying to lick it as Ted held me firm, so my tongue kept getting in his way.  Being constrained like that made me panic, and I got a little crazy.  When that happened, Ted released me and comforted me.  He did no more the first time.  However, he repeated the procedure after dinner in the evening, and then again after breakfast in the morning, and continued every morning and evening afterwards.  He never pushed me too far.  He always gave up easily so as not to panic me.  He persisted, however, and slowly but surely it became part of our routine, and there was no more struggling at all on my part.  I focused on how good the toothpaste tasted.   It is now rather like having dessert after dinner. For some years Ted bought dog toothpaste from my veterinarian; he felt reassured of the product's quality getting it that way.  He also purchased cat toothbrushes from the vet, because as a Chihuahua I have a small mouth. One day when Ted went to the vet replenish our supply of toothpaste and brushes, he unhappily learned that the vet's supplier was out of the accustomed product.  So temporarily at least, Ted would have to obtain a substitute elsewhere.  He turned to the Internet, and in the process began reading articles about the contents of the various dog toothpastes.  He became very concerned that almost all of them contained questionable chemicals.  Humans spit out their toothpaste and rinse, so they can use otherwise noxious chemicals like fluoride that cleans teeth well and fortifies against decay.  Not so for dogs.  Whatever we brush with, we swallow.  Ted studied the ingredients of many brands, and he finally decided to try a toothpaste  recommended often by people with the same concern, Sentry Petrodex Natural Toothpaste for dogs.  He researched each ingredient and decided that all seem safe to ingest. Ted puts a little toothpaste on the brush and starts with my uppers, first the exterior and then the interior.  He rinses the toothbrush, adds a little toothpaste and wets the brush again, then does my lower teeth, first exterior, then interior.  If he started the uppers on the left side of my mouth, he starts the lower teeth on the right side, to make sure the toothpaste has been distributed evenly.  Then he rinses again, adds toothpaste, and wet the brush again to begin my front teeth.  I don't like having the exteriors of my front teeth brushed, so I tend to struggle just a bit, wagging my head back and forth; so Ted holds the brush stationary, and my head-wagging does the brushing.  Then Ted easily brushes the interiors of my upper teeth, and then a few strokes on the lowers.  That it.  All that's left to do is to allow me to lick the brush a few times for any remaining taste of the toothpaste. Dog toothbrushing is very important and not at all hard to do once everyone is used to it. ©  Copyright 2016 Woodwrit, Inc.

The Tobi Little Deer Diet

Enjoying dinner
Enjoying dinner
When Ted sees a commercial touting how much beef or chicken this or that dog food contains, he says, “I don’t buy dog food and hope for chicken.  If I want my dog to eat chicken, I feed him chicken.”  Ted knows every ingredient I am eating because he’s the one who prepares my food for me. The basis of my morning breakfast and evening dinner is chicken.  Ted buys it in cans, already cooked, at Costco.  He opens a can, pours the contents into a colander (that’s a bowl with holes), and runs cold water over it to rinse it well.  Then, putting my dish onto a kitchen scale, he weighs an ounce of the chicken into it.  The balance is stored in a glass container in the refrigerator.  Each time Ted takes an ounce from it for me, he weighs the amount into my ceramic food dish, then warms it in the microwave for eight seconds.  Afterwards he touches his finger to whatever he warms for me to make sure it is the right temperature. When Ted is asked, “You cook for your dog?” he answers, “Well, not exactly; I microwave.” The amount of food Ted gives me each day is based on my body weight of nine pounds, and the fact I get a lot of exercise.  Ted says to me, “You like to eat, you’ve got to run.”  We jog before breakfast for forty-five minutes every morning.  So I’m muscular, but I don’t get fat. My breakfast comes in two courses.  The first is the ounce of chicken, with my dog-multi-vitamin sprinkled onto it.  Meanwhile Ted is cooking a mixture of oat meal/oat bran (50% of each) for both of us, and my second course is an ounce of that mixed into two ounces of warm milk.  (The hot oatmeal usually warms the milk sufficiently.  However, if needed, Ted puts the oatmeal and milk into the microwave for five seconds.  Before giving it to me, he always tests the temperature with his finger-tip.) At lunch-time Ted puts a small dab (a flat teaspoon) of plain non-fat yogurt into my dish—I prefer Greek yogurt—along with a tablespoon of whatever no-added-salt soup he is having.  It’s not a meal, but just a tide-me-over.
IMG_3723 Evening dinner s-e-br
Chicken, salmon, 3 vegetables, a bit of olive oil
In the evening we have dinner.  I get another ounce of chicken, with a half-ounce of cooked pink wild-Alaska salmon added to it.  Ted buys the salmon already cooked in cans, and cleans it well, removing the skin and larger bones.  (Note: Dogs should never be given raw salmon because of a bacterium in it harmful to them, but cooked salmon is fine.)  Then Ted adds to the chicken and salmon three-quarters ounce combined of three vegetables he is having.  Typical ones are sweet potato, carrots, and broccoli, cut up into chunks and microwaved in a bit of water that is poured off afterwards.  No spices or sauces, just the unadulterated tastes of the vegetables themselves.  I get a chunk of each, and I particularly like the broccoli.  If Ted is having corn on the cob, he cuts off a few kernels for me.  Ted breaks up with a spoon this mixture of chicken, salmon and vegetables.  Usually the heat of the vegetables warms the whole mix, but after the finger-tip test, if Ted feels it is not warm enough, he puts my ceramic dish with its contents into the microwave for five seconds. After he warms it, he mixes into it a teaspoon of virgin olive oil (which makes my fur lustrous).  That’s my dinner.  I “wolf it down” and lick my dish clean. Then I wait for Ted to finish his own dinner, because that’s when he takes out the vanilla ice cream.  He says he buys it for me, but he always enjoys some, too.  When I see him open the freezer I whine in anticipation and spin in circles I’m so happy.  He gives me a level teaspoon of vanilla ice cream each evening into my dish for dessert.  It’s cold, but I “wolf” it, too. That’s the Tobi Little Deer diet.  No ingredients regulated unfit for human consumption; no fads.  Just chicken for chicken, salmon for salmon, whole grains and fresh vegetables—followed by a dab of vanilla ice cream.  With that nutrition, combined with lots of exercise, particularly our morning jog, I am a very healthy dog with lots of stamina. © 2014 Woodwrit, Inc.  

Dog food: no, thank you

7-months old, when disaster struck
7-months old, when disaster struck

It’s not unusual when I accompany Ted into the bank or into a neighborhood store that the bank greeter or store owner looks at Ted and politely asks, “Do you mind if I give your dog a treat?”

Ted likes the attention I get, and, smiling, answers just as politely, “I don’t mind,”  forewarning the person, “I doubt he’ll eat it, though.  He’s not used to dog food.” So I’m offered the treat—by hand first.  I sniff it, and of course don’t take it.  So the person sets it on the floor for me, and steps back.  I sniff it again; I’ll give him that much before I turn away.  Ted explains, “He’s not familiar with dog food.  When he was a puppy he was poisoned by dog food and almost died.   Ever since then, I’ve fed him only human food.”  That’s the quick story.  Here’s the longer one: When Ted first brought me home as a puppy, he found me to be a very finicky eater.  He tried every type of dog food, and grew quite concerned.  I’d approach my dish, smell it, maybe eat a bite or two, and then ignore it.  I simply didn’t care for most of it.  Sometimes the food was just boring; sometimes there were traces of bad smells hidden under the surface smell.  Finally, Ted found one thing I liked, chunks of “meat” in “gravy,” available under various brand names; and he bought me the best.  It turned out that virtually all the brands were getting their “meat and gravy” from the same manufacturer, a company named Menu Foods. Menu Foods happened to buy one of its ingredients, wheat gluten, from a foreign company that, to fool testing equipment, was grinding up a very hard plastic named melamine (used to make dinnerware) and lacing the wheat gluten with it.  Over ninety-five pet food brands, expensive ones and inexpensive ones alike across the United States and Canada, were all buying this “meat and gravy” from Menu Foods.  And everywhere, dogs and cats began to get sick with kidney failure; and many, many died.  When I was barely seven months old, only half-grown, I was one of those who almost died from “meat and gravy.” It took many months of medical treatment to save my life, beginning with IV’s into my jugular vein, which required me to remain hooked up in a cage in the hospital day and night.  I’d cry and hardly would eat at all. Ted visited me every day.  He’d reach into my cage with a little food on the tip of his finger to try to coax me to eat.  I’d just look at him with the IV sticking out of my neck and cry and cry.  I didn’t understand.  I wanted him to take me home. The IV’s had to be repeated because soon after treatment my kidney-failure symptoms returned.  I got a little better, but not enough.  Eventually the doctor told Ted that the only thing that would keep me alive was routine subcutaneous hydration several times a week.  That involved injecting a whole cup of fluid under the loose skin at the top of my shoulders.  I was a young dog; the prospect of doing that for the rest of my life was daunting to Ted.  A veterinary assistant tried to show him how, but I screamed and jumped out of her hands, with the liquid splashing all over her and Ted and none into me.  Ted told the doctor that if there was no hope for cure, it would be better to just let me live comfortably whatever time remained and not put me through that.
7-months old, resting
7-months old, resting
To better judge my prospects the doctor suggested an ultrasound exam to ascertain how badly my kidneys were damaged, and afterwards he carefully explained to Ted we could be “cautiously optimistic.”  He clarified that Ted could expect success or failure in a matter of months.  When Ted objected he couldn’t do the procedure, the doctor told him to bring me to the hospital three times a week, “and we’ll do it for you here,” he said.  We did, three days a week, week after week, and I slowly got better.  Then the hydrations were reduced to twice a week, and later to once a week, and finally to none at all.  The veterinary assistants knew how to handle me.  When I panicked and snapped at them, one held me fast and calmed me while the other got the job done without hurting me much.  Ted stayed in the waiting room where he didn’t have to watch.  When I came out I’d jump into his arms, and he’d try to get my harness over the huge lump of fluid above my shoulder. The doctor says that I made it because I was such a young dog, that kidney tissue normally doesn’t regenerate, but that I was still growing so mine did.  Ted felt very, very bad through it all until I started to get better. While I was sick Ted went to the Internet to learn everything he could about the poisoning, about kidney failure, and about dog food.  He found out that basically all the dog foods he researched contained byproducts that aren’t approved for human food, especially where the word “rendered” was listed in the ingredients.  He was surprised how often historically one or another brand had had to be recalled.  Even one recommended by veterinarians for special dietary needs had been in trouble only a year before. Ted told the doctor that he wasn’t going to feed me anymore dog food.  “But Tobi needs a balanced diet,” the doctor objected. “He’ll get one.  I eat a balanced diet,” Ted replied, “vegetables, and fish and whole grains, no processed food.  That’s what I’ll feed him.”  He added, “When I was a boy on the farm, we always had a dog.  And nobody back then knew anything about dog food.  Dogs ate what we ate, the leftovers from our table, and they were healthy.” The doctor insisted, “You should add a vitamin supplement, then,” so Ted sprinkles a multi-vitamin for dogs into my breakfast each morning. Items may vary in my daily meals, but my diet remains structurally the same each day.  It mirrors what Ted prepares for himself—plus chicken.  I guess you could call it “The Tobi Little Deer Diet.”  With it I grew strong and I stay healthy. © 2014 Woodwrit, Inc.    

Dog boots: cute, troublesome, a necessity.

IMG_3114 Tobi in red boots s-br
My red boots from Petco.
IMG_3115 Tobi in red boots kick s-br
Oops! The camera caught my kick.
Boots are something to which I’ve grown accustomed, so I don’t make a fuss anymore.  New York City has had a rough winter, very cold with frequent snow, which means lots of salt, so I’ve gotten plenty of practice with boots. Salt hurts a dog’s feet, one way or another.  Bootless dogs do the dance; they stop, lift a foot out of the slush, put that one down and lift another.  It burns.  If it isn’t washed off afterwards, it dries out their paws and can make them crack.  They ingest it when they try to lick it off, and that’s bad, too.  Nevertheless, you see lots of dogs walking in the salt without boots.  That’s because boots can be hard to get on, and too easy to kick off.  What to do? When they get back into the house, dogs who’ve walked in salt without boots need to stand in a few inches of water in a pan or bathtub to wash it off.  It requires soaping and then a good rinse.  That’s why boots may seem troublesome at first, but they save a lot of trouble.  I got used to them.  Your dog will, too, with time and patience. Persevere.  If you’re afraid your dog will bite you when you’re putting them on, then you need to work on your relationship with him.  It’s all about trust.  We dogs react when we don’t know what’s happening; we’re alarmed by new situations.  However, we’re ok once we get used to something—we’re “creatures of habit.”  So the solution to boots, or tooth-brushing or nail-clipping, all the things we resist, is to gently persevere until we grow accustomed to them.  Don’t scold or get angry; don’t hurt your dog with either the procedure or a punishment.  Stay calm and your dog will grow calm, too.  Our person has to have patience, during every repetition, until we are comfortable.  I’ll tell you more about tooth-brushing and nail-clipping another time.  Right now, it’s all about boots. I have two types of boots.  The ones I use most often look like little balloons, and can be purchased in most pet stores.  They are a common sight on dogs everywhere now.  The brand name is Pawz, and they are color-coded by size.  I wear yellow.  They are “disposable”—what isn’t?—and three sets come in a package—that’s twelve boots.  If they’re the right size, Pawz boots are pretty impossible to kick off.  They’re weightless, so they’re easy to get used  to.  The problem is that they’re difficult  to get on.  Ted says, “You need two hands to stretch the neck of the boot open, and a third hand to put the dog’s paw through it.”  Some people buy a size up to make putting them on easier.  It  helps, but then they’re bulkier to walk in and could more easily slip off.  Ted’s solution was to buy a key ring large enough to fit over my paw.  He stretches the neck of the boot around the key ring.  Then with one hand he holds the boot, its neck held open by the key ring, and with the other hand he inserts my paw through the key ring into the boot, gently pressing my claws together to narrow my paw through the opening.  Once the boot is on, he slips the key ring out of the neck of the boot and off my paw.  It works pretty well.
IMG_3582 Pawz boot and keyring s-br
Pawz boot and key ring
IMG_3581 Pawz boot with keyring in neck s-br
Pawz boot with key ring holding neck open
Casual sweater look, with Pawz boots for salt residue
Here I am in my Pawz boots

One of the side-effects of Pawz boots being light-weight is that they pierce easily.  The grit on the street soon makes little holes, even microscopic ones, that render them useless in the salty water and slush.  So Ted has to switch me to new boots pretty frequently, but he saves the old ones for when the sidewalks are dry.

The sidewalks don’t get cleaned much in New York City in the winter, except if it rains upon them.  So most of the time between snowstorms and between melting, when the sidewalks are dry, they are still covered with dirty-brown dried salt dust.  It doesn’t hurt to walk on it bootless, but it makes a mess of a dog’s feet, and if it’s not bathed off, gets licked off, which is all bad.  So I wear Pawz boots even when the sidewalks are dry in the winter.  However, that’s when we can use the older ones that have acquired microscopic holes.  Liquid could penetrate them, but dry dust doesn’t; so they keep my feet clean.  Recycling the old boots that way saves a little money. Right after a snowstorm, when there soon can be an inch or more of salty slush on the sidewalk (before the supers get their shoveling done), Ted finds that heavier boots are more effective for me.   My red ones are real boots, from Petco, Pup Crew Fall 12 X-Small Shoes ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­.  They look like miniatures of what people wear, and passers-by think they are very cute (or amusing) when they see four little boots clicking in sync down the street.  They are made of faux red chamois with a white fluffy trim  and have hard, contoured black soles, as if they belong with a Santa outfit.  A white zipper up the front secures an interior elastic around my ankles, so they don’t kick off so easily.   I know, because at first I tried (pictured above). When I wear my red boots, Ted walks behind me so he can make sure I don’t lose one along the way.  When we encounter another dog, he picks me up to prevent my jump and growl which would send one or more boots flying.  We never take long walks in them.  In front of our building, so I won’t lose a boot running up the front steps, Ted picks me up again and carries me inside. On the weather mat inside our apartment front door, Ted removes the boots, the balloon-type Pawz boots by rolling them off my foot down from the top, or the red boots by simply unzipping them, and my feet are dry.  That’s the best part. © 2014 Woodwrit, Inc.