Dog of the Month: Big Charlie

December’s dog of the month is “Big Charlie”. Charlie is walking buddies with last month’s dog of the month Max Weinberg. For more than 3 years they have made a great pair, so it just made sense that they would go back to back.

Charlie’s parents were working with Dawn, the trainer David used to work with who connected us. We have to take a moment to say that if we ever add a “parent of the month” feature Charlie’s parents would be one of the first recipients. They have worked so hard with him and he has really come a long way. Charlie can be a bit nervous, which is why Max has been such a good friend for him. Max’s exuberance and desire to rush head on into every new situation helps to reassure Charlie that everything is ok. IMG_2371

Charlie’s parents have been rewarded for their hard work and patience with one of the quirkiest, funniest, most expressive dogs you will ever meet. He is truly one of a kind and we are so grateful to spend our afternoons with him.

Dog of the Month: Max Weinberg

Max Weinberg is the only dog that we refer to by his full name. Neither of us know why, but it just seems fitting for him. My theory is that it’s because he’s such a goofball and always getting into trouble. Max wakes up everyday thinking this is the best day ever. Which makes it hard to be mad at him when he dive bombs for bread or suddenly flops down to wiggle around on the sidewalk. Even if you could be mad at him, he would be oblivious, so you might as well laugh it off. photo (2)

On Max’s intake form it mentioned that he sometimes had trouble with long walks especially in the heat. Now it’s hard to imagine, but he was carrying some extra weight which was taking a toll. After talking with his parents it seemed like his Manhattan walker had been hanging out with him more than walking. We decided to cut his food back and we gradually ramped up the intensity of our 1 hour walks. In the end Max lost nearly 20 lbs and now 4 years later he is more exuberant than his 1.5 year old self. 

A Modified Heartworm Preventative Approach

Cooler weather is starting to set in which has me thinking about heartworm. Heartworm is a disease spread through mosquitoes, making transmission impossible during the winter months. We generally like to limit our dog’s exposure to chemicals and medication, so this topic has been on my mind for a while. I will admit that even I had tried to research what would be the best practice for our region/lifestyle and quickly found myself in over my head. Dejected, we decided to stop administering heartworm medication around November and start up again when the weather warmed. I knew however that there had to be a better, more scientific solution. 

I finally found that solution in an amazing handout, written by Smith Ridge Veterinary Center. We decided to use what is referred to as “Approach Two” below. For us, the level of chemical exposure was acceptable considering the amount of protection and convenience. Below is an excerpt that includes the two approaches that Smith Ridge recommends.

“Heartworm disease is a serious parasitic disease that can cause damage to your pet’s heart, as well as other organs. It is even potentially fatal. It is also a disease with very complex transmission and life cycle requirements. Because of that, there are options in how to approach the prevention and transmission of this disease. As you will often hear at Smith Ridge, there is no “one size fits all” method for health. 

Our basic recommendations are listed here in Part 1, along with some answers to the most frequently asked questions. Then, for those who are interested, there is a Part 2 with an in-depth, comprehensive explanation of every phase of heartworm disease, prevention and treatment. 

Smith Ridge currently recommends one of the following two methods of monitoring and/or preventing heartworm disease in dogs who live in our geographic area, or in similar northern climates. Dogs who live in, or who visit (for even a day), areas where there are higher temperatures than those in the northern half of the U.S. must follow a different protocol than the ones discussed here.

APPROACH ONE – Monitoring only

In late April or May of each year: run TWO heartworm screening tests at the same time 

Test 1: a SNAP test – this is an in-office blood test that can detect the presence of adult, female worms 

Test 2: a microfilaria test – this is a laboratory blood test that detects the presence of “baby” heartworms 

With this monitoring-only approach, you will not be administering preventative medication. Because of that, you MUST run both of the tests mentioned above AGAIN in November or December. 

Running both of these tests, *twice* a year, will ensure that any possible heartworm infection will be detected early so that the more mild, “slow kill” method of treatment can be used. 

Note: there is a chance that any dog could have a male-only infection which would not show on either of the 2 noted tests. This would be a fairly rare occurrence. There are no inexpensive or truly accurate screening tests for male-only heartworm infections. But single sex infections, whether all male or all female, are self-limiting as no reproduction can take place. Infection would end when the worm(s) died. 

Since you aren’t using preventatives with this monitoring-only approach, you may want to administer homeopathic or herbal preparations that are believed to prevent/treat heartworm. Discuss this with your veterinarian.

APPROACH TWO –  Conventional screening and modified preventative program

In May of each year: run a SNAP test 

If the test is clear, begin administering a heartworm preventative such as Heartgard or Interceptor. 

Despite the label instructions for administration every 30 days, these preventatives are proven by research to be 100% effective when given every 45 days. So, you can minimize the amount of chemicals being administered by using a 45 day schedule. The schedule we recommend in this area is: 

June 1 – dose 1 

July 15 – dose 2 

August 31 – dose 3 

October 15 – dose 4 2

You do not need to run another SNAP test in the fall for heartworm if you’ve been using the preventatives as scheduled above. However, remember that the SNAP panel tests for 3 tick-borne diseases (Lyme, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis) in addition to heartworm. Due to the very high incidence of tick-borne diseases in our area, we do recommend two screenings per year.”

If you want a more detailed explanation, the full version of the handout will be available in my Google drive folder.

Dog of the Month: Little Charlie

We started with Charlie almost 3 years ago when he was only 4 months old. Due to  Dave and Jocelyn’s unique work schedules the relationship that we have forged over the years is exactly what we sought to achieve when we started out as a dog walkers. Charlie’s parents are often working from home in the afternoon or recovering from a late night of delivering babies, which has given us an opportunity to get to know one another really well.park charlie

Charlie was a pretty amazing pup. As a 4 month old Cockapoo an hour long walk was a little to taxing for the little guy. We spent the first half of our walks outside, and after he went potty we would come back in for some training and play. Charlie proved to be a quick study and loved learning new tricks. After mastering the basics like sit and down we moved on to rollover, shake, high five, bow, speak, and spin. I have never met a puppy who loved learning more than Char and it was so much fun to surprise his parents with all the new things he was learning. I would text them the commands and hand motions that we were working on and eagerly wait to find out if he had executed them correctly with them.

Charlie grew and it came time for him to go on big boy walks with other dogs though. I think he still wishes that we could go back to the good old days when he got all that individual attention. As a very sensitive dog we often joke about setting a timer to remind us to pet him every 10 minutes just to keep his spirits up. 

How to feed your dog a raw homemade diet in a Brooklyn Apartment

I think we can all agree that a diet consisting entirely of Chef Boyardee or Cheerios is not optimal for health. Although they take drastically different approaches, Vegans and Paleo eaters will also agree that it’s best to stick to fresh, minimally processed foods. Common sense tells us that the same should apply to our pets. Except there is no debate about dogs and especially cats being carnivores.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 10.38.53 PMSince our dog was 6 months old, Nahla has been fed raw homemade meals. Puppies younger than that certainly can be fed this way, we just had some hurdles that we needed to overcome first. Convenience, freezer space, cost, and cleanliness are all valid concerns, especially for Brooklyn dog owners. Through trial and error we have devised an optimal diet that works for our dog with very little hassle for us.

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First lets talk about meat. Finding Armelino’s K9 in Huntington Station, NY has been a life saver. A former local butcher shop, they now exclusively sell human grade dog food. With four different protein options (beef, chicken, duck, and turkey), it’s all ground up with the meat and bone in either a 5 or 2 pound log. Bones are an important source of calcium and trace minerals for your pet. A diet consisting of ground beef for instance would be lacking these keyphoto (1) nutrients. While I do believe that raw meaty bones would be best (because of the teeth cleaning and recreational benefits) without any outdoor space this would be a messy option. The ground meat and bone is a great compromise for apartment dwellers. It’s also more space efficient for the small freezers many Brooklynites have. We are able to fit 50 lbs on the top shelf of our freezer measuring 20”x7”.

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The second key piece for us is Honest Kitchen’s “Preference” formula. The Honest Kitchen is a phenomenal company that makes human grade freeze dried dog food. When we travel and don’t have access to coolers or refrigerators, Nahla eats their complete meals. For anyone who can’t make the commitment to raw feeding, this is the next best thing. “Preference” is Honest Kitchen’s base mix intended to have meat added to it. Preference ensures that she receives all the vitamins and minerals she needs. The Fiber content of Preference’s vegetables is just as important, considering city dog owners have an intimate relationship with their pet’s bowel movements. Over the past 4 years Nahla hasn’t had a single bout of diarrhea, and with all the poop we pick up, we feel confident declaring her the most regular dog in Brooklyn.

There are a few supplements that round out her meals. Animal Essential’s Plant Enzymes and suplementsProbiotics helps support that world class digestion we just mentioned. The benefits of salmon oil are almost never ending. Supporting the joints, heart, coat, eyes, and brain it’s an easy decision. If your salmon oil doesn’t include vitamin E you should add that in as well. Finally, on top of living a long life, we hope that she is mobile and pain free for all the years she’s with us. We use Glycoflex which is a joint supplement consisting of glucosamine and chondroitin which helps build and repair cartilage.

All of this surprisingly costs less than feeding premium kibble. A 50 lbs case of food from Armelinos lasts for a month and a half, and fits easily into our small freezer. We cut the 5 lbs logs into halves which fit perfectly into the 8 cup Glad containers. At meal times the Honest Kitchen food gets rehydrated with hot tap water, we add the meat and supplements. Prep time takes 2 minutes max and when she is done we wash her bowl, and washing the bowl after each meal should be done even if you’re feeding kibble.

Fortunately Nahla was a relatively healthy puppy when we made the switch. Even so we have seen some major improvements. We love to go hiking and ticks are an inevitability in the North East. She had already tested positive for Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis, two tick borne diseases that although manageable are normally carried for life. Since switching, her immune system has strengthened to the point that both the Lyme and Anaplasmosis are undetectable, even with laboratory blood tests. She can now also go crashing through the most tick infested woods and never pick any up without the use of chemical products such as frontline. Also; her ears no longer need to be cleaned and she has had none of the skin issues that seem to plague many dogs today.

If you have a dog who is constantly dealing with ear infections, itchy skin, or gunky eyes give raw feeding a try. If you don’t, it’s still worth it and you will soon take pride in making your dog’s food with love. 

If you are interested we deliver Armelino’s food to Brooklyn for a nominal fee, and are willing to help anyone with additional questions.

Dog of the Month: Mattie & Bo

As a way to highlight some of the amazing dogs and families we get to work with we are starting a dog of the month feature. This should be a great way for you to get to know your dog’s friends and playmates. This month’s dog of the month will be a double feature. Mattie and Bo Varnish.

We started with Mattie four years ago when she was already 12 years old. We wish that weScreen Shot 2014-09-08 at 7.23.50 PM could have known the young Mattie. We know that she used to love chasing all the wildlife at their house in the country. We spent our afternoons meandering very slowly up 3rd street. As dog walkers you often think of the young dogs, who need to get as much exercise as possible in your allotted time with them. Older dogs need just as much attention, just in a different way. She was a tough girl who was lucky to find a family that loved her as much as they did.

photo (1)A few months after Mattie’s passing we got a message from her family that they adopted a new dog named Bo. Bo might be the polar opposite of Mattie. We often joke that he may be having the longest puppyhood in the history of dogs, and it isn’t looking like it’s going to end anytime soon. Everything about him is goofy, from the smile that is a permanent fixture on his face, to the sway in his walk that carries over to that giant swishing tail. He is one of the nicest dogs in Prospect Park and capable of becoming instant besties with anyone.