Thursday, May 20, 2010

Three Dog Bakery - All Natural Food and Treats for Dogs

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Okay, I'll admit it....I actually took a bite of one of these treats because it smelled so good. And you know what? It WAS good! No wonder my pups love them!

What the heck am I talking about? I'll explain.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to try several products from the Three Dog Bakery on my guys. I was sent samples of their dry kibble, wet entree meals, and assorted treats. I was familiar with their treats (especially the cookies with carob chips which my pups love) and the entree meals, which I feed my guys for dinner occasionally. I was aware of the company and their philosophy, and liked what I saw. I had never tried the kibble, though, so I was looking forward to letting my 4-legged critics give it a try.

First a little background on the company. Three Dog Bakery was founded in 1989 by Mark Beckloff and Dan Dye....and of course their three dogs, Gracie, Sarah, and Dottie. The company has grown to have stores all over North America, as well as Japan and China, not to mention their online store.

In addition to dog food and treats, they have an assortment of "bakery" items that, quite frankly, I wouldn't mind eating myself. There are "pupcakes", personalized bone shaped or round cakes, sandwich cookies, Beagle Bagels, and many other items. They are basically just like cakes and cookies for people, only with less fat, no refined sugar, and nothing artificial. Their treats come in flavors such as peanut butter, carob chip, vanilla, apple and oatmeal, mint, sweet potato, and molasses.

Three Dog Bakery promotes their products as "all natural food and treats for dogs." They do not use any preservatives or chemicals, artificial colors or flavors, fillers, refined sugars, or salt. Their food and treats are made in the USA. Pet owners are encouraged to bring their dogs to the store with them, where they can try out various free samples...and probably do a lot of drooling!

A look at the ingredients they use and their manufacturing process gave me nothing at all to growl at (sorry, I know that was corny). High quality proteins, grains, vegetables and fruits are listed. They do not use any by-products. Let's look at a couple items individually.

Their Bakery Blend dry kibble is baked rather than extruded. If you have been reading my blog all along, I explained in an earlier entry about those processes. Baking gives a crunchier, more nutrient-dense kibble than food extruded at high heat levels. There are several formulas, but I will look at the wheat-free lamb and rice (the chicken formula does contain wheat). The ingredients listed are: Lamb meal, ground oats, lamb, ground potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with vitamin E), dried eggs, beet pulp, cranberries, blueberries, garlic, sage, ground flax seed, and a long list of vitamins and minerals. I found nothing in the list that would be cause for concern or make me hesitate to use this food. My guys loved it, by the way.

I tried their Entree for Dogs Chicken, Carrots and Green Beans flavor on my dogs. The food is sealed in foil-lined pouches, ready to eat. The stuff smelled good enough that it made me hungry! It looked like a stew I would make for my family. The ingredients are: Chicken, carrots, green beans, cooked rice, flax seed, and a list of vitamins and minerals. There are a couple other flavors as well.

You already know the dog cookies are good...I admitted to trying one!

Three Dog Bakery has a couple of charitable, non-profit organizations they created. The Three Dog Bakery Foundation offers financial assistance in the form of grants to any properly licensed, non-profit dog or cat group with a focus on rescuing dogs and cats. The company donates up to 1% of their profits to help support the Foundation. The Gracie Foundation acts as a "red cross for dogs" in need. It works to provide immediate response and crucial supplies to pets in emergency situations, offering financial assistance to properly licensed, non-profit companion animal groups.

All in all, I am very impressed with the company, its products, and their general philosophy and charitable work. I would not hesitate to recommend any of their food or treats to anyone, and will continue to use some of them myself.

Give them a try. Your dogs will NOT be disappointed!

Oh yeah.....they do make "We Pity the Kitty" all natural cat treats as well.

Their site:

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Natural...and safe....alternatives for flea and tick control

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I've never been a fan of using chemicals of any sort on my dogs, but after researching the spot-on products and reading all the information on side effects and the EPA findings, I would definitely not use them now!

We do need to control fleas and ticks on our pets, yet at the same time we don't want to subject them to possible harm from chemical pesticides. Where does that leave us? Are there natural flea and tick controls that really work?

The answer is a resounding "yes". There are a number of natural options that work quite well in eliminating fleas, ticks, and other insects from pets, homes and yards.

We should consider the life cycle of the flea to get a perspective on controlling them. Most commercial flea and tick control products target the adult fleas that are on the pet. Understand, though, that only about 5% of the flea population consists of adults that are actively on the animal. Nearly 85% of the flea population consists of eggs and larvae. Another 10% consists of pupae, which are in a cocoon that is pretty much impenetrable. Some of the eggs may be laid on the pet, but most eggs and larvae are found on the ground, in the carpet, around baseboards, etc. From this, it would seem that the most effective treatment for fleas would be directed at the eggs and larvae.

You may notice as well that some animals seem to always be plagued with fleas, ticks, worms, etc., while others...even those in the same household...are rarely bothered. Animals with a weakened immune system may develop severe allergy symptoms from just one or two bites. It makes sense, then, that in order to protect our pets from these parasites, we need to start on the inside, building their health and resistance with a healthy diet and appropriate supplements. There are a number of really good supplements on the market (Nupro, Animal Essentials, Missing Link, and others) that provide needed nutrients and probiotics, herbal supplements, and immune boosting ingredients.

There are several inexpensive nutritional supplements commonly found in most cupboards or in your local supermarket that are great for parasite control. Fleas seem to particularly dislike the taste of garlic and yeast (nutritional or brewer's yeast). Mixing these in with your dog's food can make their blood unpalatable to fleas. Garlic cloves can be crushed and added to food with a spoonful of brewer's yeast. An easier, and less smelly, way to add the garlic is to buy odorless garlic tablets and putting them on the food, either crushed or whole. These supplements will take close to a month to build up in the pet's system enough to be effective in flea control, so it is best to start them early in the spring before fleas and ticks become active.

If your dog already has fleas, a flea comb is very effective in trapping fleas and flea eggs and removing them from your pet. Daily grooming is best. Believe it or not, Dawn dish washing liquid works wonders for a flea infested dog. The oils in it will suffocate the fleas, keep the eggs from sticking to the hair follicles, and keep the dog's skin/fur from drying out. There are good natural shampoos available as well that contain various essential oils which kill fleas and ticks. It is important to start by shampooing the neck and working your way down to keep the fleas from swarming up to the dog's face and ears. These work well for getting rid of fleas present on the dog, but do not have any residual effect.

Essential oils are a very effective, traditional way to repel fleas and ticks. The best oils for the job are:

  • Peppermint
  • Cedarwood
  • Lavender
  • Tea Tree
  • Citronella
  • Melaleuca
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
Cedarwood and Peppermint oils block a specific neurotransmitter in insects called "octopamine" which regulates their nervous system. When exposed to these octopamine blockers, insects such as fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, flies, bed bugs, mites and lice lose their ability to function and die quickly. These oils and others can be applied to your pet's collar, mixed in with their regular shampoo, or mixed in a spray bottle with water and misted onto your dog's fur.

I have been using a mix of cedarwood, peppermint, cinnamon and rosemary oils in a shampoo and a spray on my dogs, and I haven't had any problems with fleas or ticks since. The added bonus is that my dogs smell faintly like potpourri!

For every flea you see on your pet, there are 4 or 5 times that many, at least, in your house or yard. Steam cleaning carpets will kill flea eggs. Vacuum and clean floors once or twice weekly to get rid of flea eggs, larvae and pupae. Wash the pet's bedding thoroughly.

Boric acid powder can be sprinkled on the carpet. The powder will remain down in the carpet even after vacuuming because of the fine particle size. It kills flea larvae on contact and is residual.

Another really great flea controller is diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is an all-natural product made from the fossilized skeletal remains of single-celled plants called diatoms. It is a very fine powder to us, but to insects it is a lethal dust with microscopic razor-sharp edges which cut the flea's protective outer covering, leading to dessication and death. It is completely harmless to humans and animals. Apply it to areas where fleas seem most prevalent. A dusting on the pet's bedding and furniture, a light sprinkling on carpets and wood floors, a teaspoon or two beneath appliances or cupboards and along baseboards is all that is needed. The dust will work its way into cracks and crevices where fleas might hide. The effectiveness of the dust does not wear out, but it can be accidentally sucked up when vacuuming so you may need to reapply in certain areas. Be sure to buy the unrefined type of diatomaceous earth, not the type used in swimming pool filters.

For outdoor flea control, there is a great biological control available. Nematodes are microscopic worms that eat flea larvae and naturally control the population. They are applied via a lawn sprayer, and, within 24 hours, brings about a 90% decrease in the number of flea larvae. It is a good idea to reapply them every spring to make sure the population is adequate to keep fleas in check.

If ticks are a major problem, there is a rather unconventional option to control them. If you live in an area where you are able to have them, guinea fowl are about the best tick control available. They love ticks, and a small flock of them will rid your yard of ticks, grasshoppers and other insects in a very short time. They are hardy, healthy birds and can be trained to come when called. The eggs can be eaten, as can the birds themselves. Check out these sites: or

As you can see, there are quite a few options for parasite control that do not involve any toxic chemicals. If used diligently, you can keep your pet happy and pest-free this summer.

A word of caution...cats are very sensitive to most essential oils and many do not recommend using them on cats at all. They are also more sensitive to garlic than dogs. You may want to check with your vet before using any of these methods on cats.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spot On - Part Three

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Okay, so your pet has fleas and/or ticks. You've read all the articles and looked at the EPA's findings on flea and tick control products. Now what? If these spot-on products are safe, what do we as pet owners need to know?

How can I make sure my pet will not be harmed when I use spot-on flea and tick products?

Pets have varying sensitivities to pesticides. You should closely watch your pet during and after treatment and watch for any signs of an adverse reaction, especially when using these products for the first time.

Pet Poison Helpline experts agreed with the EPA's assessment that when used correctly, the incidence of severe or fatal reactions to spot-on products is very low compared to the number of applications applied by pet owners each year. The data indicated that spot-on products are generally safe when used appropriately and according to the directions.

Should you choose to use these products, there are some tips for using topical flea and tick spot-on pesticides. It goes without saying.....always read and follow the directions on the package carefully. "The key to ensuring pet's safety when using flea and tick products is to be vigilant about following the instructions on the package," said Dr. Lynn Hovda, DVM, DACVIM, director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline. "Knowing the exact size and weight of your pet and not assuming a product can be used for all types of animals is essential for using the correct medication and appropriate dose for your pet."

Tips for safe use of spot-on products:

  • Always read the directions on the label.
  • Pay attention to any warnings on the label.
  • Follow the directions exactly as printed. If product is for use on dogs, do not use on cats. If the label says use weekly, do not use more often. If the product is for the house or yard, do not use on your pet.
  • Make sure you are using the correct spot-on product for your specific pet and particular pest problem.
  • Know the exact size and weight of your pet and use the correct dose amount. Do not guess or estimate.
  • Do not use these products on kittens or puppies unless the label specifically allows for such use. For puppies or kittens, use a flea comb or consult your veterinarian .
  • If you have multiple pets, keep them separated after after application until the product is dry to prevent them from licking each other and ingesting some of the pesticide.
  • Consult your veterinarian before using spot-on products on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets, or pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to flea and tick medications.
  • Check the active ingredients. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends pet owners avoid products that contain organophosphates (such as chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon and malathion). They also recommend pet owners avoid products with carbamates (carbaryl or propoxur).
  • The HSUS says pet owners may want to consider using products with insect-growth regulators (IGRs), which are not pesticides. These will prevent the next generation of fleas, but will not kill insects already on the pet. Common IGR products include ingredients such as lufenuron, methoprene, pyriproxyfen, and EcoKyl.
What do I do if my pet has an adverse reaction to a spot-on flea and tick product?

Treatment with a fast-acting topical flea and tick medication can cause itching or brief irritation at the application site as the product does its job and kills pests. This can cause the pet to fidget and scratch. This should be short-lived and leave no redness or irritation on the skin. Carefully monitor your pet for any other reactions.
  • If your pet shows any unusual reaction soon after application, immediately remove any remaining product from the pet by bathing them in mild soap (Dawn dish detergent is great for this) and rinsing with large amounts of water....unless the product specifically states not to do so.
  • Contact your veterinarian if your pet shows symptoms of illness after application. Symptoms of poisoning include poor appetite, depression, trembling, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea or excessive salivation.
  • If your pet needs immediate medical care, call your veterinarian or local animal emergency clinic. Pet owners can also contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
  • The Pet Poison Helpline is available at 1-800-213-6680. They charge a fee of $35 per incident which includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case.
Who should I contact to report a reaction? There are several routes you can take.
  • Contact the registrant (manufacturer). Pesticide manufacturers are required by law to report incident information to the EPA. Contact information can be found on the product label. Clearly identify the name of the product used, the EPA registration number, the type and breed of animal affected, the symptoms observed in the pet, and any other details pertaining to the incident.
  • Contact the EPA directly. Contact information can be found on their website.
  • Contact your veterinarian. Veterinarians have access to a reporting mechanism called the Veterinary Pesticide Adverse Effects Reporting portal to report incidents.
How can I get information regarding a specific pesticide?

The product label contains most of the information you need to know to use the product safely.
To view product labels, see:

The EPA registration number has two parts. Enter the first part in the first block and the second part in the second block. If the number has three parts, ignore the last part.

For information about pesticide toxicity, contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) which provides objective, science-based information about a variety of pesticide related subjects. NPIC also lists state pesticide regulatory agencies, and provides links to their websites. NPIC can be contacted at 1-800-858-7378.

Next time we will look at natural alternatives to chemical pesticides for flea and tick control.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spot On - Part Two

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Previously, we looked at the problems some people are having with spot-on flea and tick products. Now let's take a look at the EPA's findings, their recommendations, and the steps they are taking.

In response to an apparent increase in reports about dangerous side effects of spot-on flea and tick product, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the pesticides used in these medications. The products in question are generally sold in tubes or vials and applied locally to the pet's skin.

While the EPA said these products are useful to protect people and their pets from fleas and ticks, they now recommend precaution. People should watch their pets closely for any adverse reactions.

The EPA is also looking to see if certain chemicals in these products have a higher rate of side effects. Dr. Charles T. Gaskin, a Washington State University professor, studied the complains received by the EPA and stated that the chemical Cyphenothrin accounted for 43% of the reported reactions. Two other chemicals combined - Imidacloprid and Fipronil - accounted for 30% of negative reactions. All active ingredients are being examined, as well as the inert (inactive) ingredients that are not identified on the labels. They are also studying possible misuse of the products by pet owners.

The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center also examined its data from pet owners' calls about these products. They found two key things about the use - or misuse - of topical flea and tick chemicals.

According to their findings, when dogs and cats were treated according to the directions, the likelihood of severe adverse reactions was significantly less: 7% no illness despite call, 69% mild illness, 22% moderate illness, 2% major illness, and .1% death.

They stated that when pet owners did not follow the directions properly, the animals were significantly more likely to have a severe reaction: 18% no illness despite call, 17% mild illness, 45% moderate illness, 2% major illness, and 2% death.

Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA veterinary toxicologist and Senior Vice President Animal Health Services, says "The important take-home message is that although adverse reactions can occur with all flea and tick products, most effects are relatively mild and include skin irritation and stomach upset. Pet parents should not discontinue using products as directed by the product label when faced with a flea infestation."

EPA officials have indicated that misuse of the products - such as treating cats with products made for dogs - was behind many adverse reactions. Pet owners, however, are insisting they used the flea and tick products exactly as instructed, or used less than the recommended dose.

Dale Kemery, a spokesman for the EPA, states that "while we do recommend that pet owners consult their veterinarian if they have questions or concerns about the use of flea and tick products, there is no reason to believe that products purchased from reliable sources are counterfeit or substandard, or that pet owners are not capable of following product label directions." Kemery said consumer error doesn't explain everything. "There are issues that go beyond the misuse of the products. We cannot attribute a particular proportion of incidents to inappropriate use versus other issues. Clarity of label instructions and the weight bands for doses are key issues that need to be addressed."

On March 17, 2010, the EPA met with representatives of the companies that market these products and Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Authority (PMRA) to discuss their analysis of the incident reports, the Agency's conclusions, and an action plan needed to minimize adverse effects to pets. Canada has had similar concerns. They have very similar products registered, and some from the same companies as those sold in the U.S. The USDA is also working with the FDA since they regulate some similar products, and the USDA wanted to learn about their processes and its experience of incidence with animal drugs.

Their findings were that most incidents were minor, but unfortunately there were some severe reactions and some pet deaths. Small breed dogs were affected more than large breeds, and cats were equally affected. The amount of a single dose needed to vary more for small to large dogs to prevent overdosing. Label warnings against the use of dog products on other animals, especially cats, are not working well enough and need to be evaluated. The Agency also found that the data now required to determine the safety of these products for pets does not accurately predict the toxicity seen in the incidents reported. They determined that mitigation is necessary to prevent adverse effects to pets.

Based on the results of their analysis, the EPA presented a regulatory action plan to help prevent future incidents. Some of their recommendations are:

  • Narrowing the weight ranges for some products to reduce the likelihood of overdosing (more catagories for weight ranges).
  • Changing the names on the products so that dog and cat products are more easily distinguished from one another.
  • Make labels more understandable (larger fonts, pictograms).
  • Providing more information on inert (inactive) ingredients and prohibiting alternative formulas.
  • Requiring a standard reporting procedure for adverse reactions.
  • Requiring a range of animal types to be used for safety testing to account for variations in breed sensitivities, ages, and body sizes.
  • Conduct pre-market clinical trials.
  • Conditional registration for new products, meaning that future registrations for topical products will be restricted by appropriate conditions and time limitations to allow the EPA to monitor the safety of these products after they hit the market.
  • Post-market surveillance reporting on incidents.
Most manufacturers would not comment on anything because of several on-going class-action suits. They did, however, express support for changes being proposed by the EPA to address the safety of topical products as a whole.

Dr. Michael Dryden, a professor of veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University, applauded the EPA's proposals. "I would say, it's about time," said Dryden, whose expertise in the field has earned him the nickname Dr. Flea. "Virtually everything they talked about will make things better.'

Dryden added that despite the problems identified by the EPA, modern topical flea and tick products are far safer and more effective than parasite control of 20 years ago. "Animals used to die all the time from insecticide application. We are exposing ourselves, too, to these insecticides and these dips and these foggers. We are so much better off today than we were then."

So, with all this information about the products, their uses, and their possible risks, how can I make sure my pet will not be harmed when I use a spot-on flea and tick products?

I will post another entry shortly to address the correct usage, precautions, and signs of problems. I will also list actions to take and who to contact in the event of an adverse reaction.

For further reading and more in-depth information on the EPA's study, go to their site at:

The EPA's Protecting Pets website:

Enhanced reporting of the investigation, the chemicals used, and the companies and individual products that were analyzed:

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