For weepy eyes or pink eye, my favorite treatment is eyebright. It’s not for eating; it’s applied to the eye as eye drops. So it’s not food, but it’s natural. And anything that goes in the eyes or on the skin gets absorbed into the body. (Something to think about when we’re putting stuff in our eyes or on our skin too.)

I used to get herb packets from Our Earth Cures, but sadly, the wonderful herbalist who made them, isn’t presently able to do that. So…you can get capsules of eyebright or the dried herb at natural foods stores. If you use capsules, break open two or three in a cup. Add a cup of boiling distilled water and let steep for about five minutes.

Strain the solution through an unbleached coffee filter or unbleached muslin (no synthetic fabrics) to remove granules or particles and let cool to room temperature. Use an eye dropper to apply the solution. Refrigerate and make a fresh batch every three or four days. Other herbs can be added (goldenseal, bayberry, and red raspberry) or purchased in combination as EW.

Cinnamon Smile

As I continue to eliminate products that include ingredients with names I can’t pronounce, I started thinking about the toothpaste I use to brush my dogs teeth.  I looked at the ingredients, most of which are in all toothpastes regardless of brand or price. As a side note, quite a few of these ingredients are in popular brands of toothpaste sold for humans, but there seem to be more ingredients in dog toothpaste. In summary, the ingredients include rocks, salt, sugar, extracts made from black mold, and—if the doggie toothpaste is “poultry flavored,”—that flavoring is made from the most disgusting leftover parts of all kinds of birds. It could be intestines and poo from chickens, turkeys, or buzzards. I didn’t know that buzzards were poultry, and I’m a little grossed out by this knowledge.

Many of the ingredients don’t do anything to help teeth, and some actively harm the teeth by preventing remineralization and damaging the enamel. One ingredient, determined safe by the EPA, has been linked in new studies to harm the brain. There is a lot of controversy on this topic, but it’s in a lot of products—from foods, to cosmetics to toothpaste.  All in all, what I read makes me rethink what I’m using to brush my own teeth, as well as my dog’s teeth.

The first thing I changed for my pups was to start adding 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon to their food, morning and evening. Cinnamon has natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and might help reduce tooth and gum decay.[1] It might also help with bad breath. My dogs haven’t had a lot of problem with doggie breath, but it’s still a bonus. I started this just after their last visit to the anesthesia-free doggie dentist, so it will be interesting to see what report they get next visit. One caution—I did read that rubbing cinnamon on the gums isn’t a good idea because it can harm the gums. I’m going to start brushing their teeth with baking soda (just a little is needed) mixed with food-grade coconut oil. If you use a brush to apply the baking soda, don’t apply pressure because the baking soda is abrasive. I read the paste can also be flavored with a little chicken, beef, or other flavor bouillon cube. I know my boyos will like that. Baking soda is an age-old ingredient in toothpaste so it looks like we’ll all be going from rocks, sand, and sugar to something a little healthier.

One-week update…We’ve been brushing with coconut oil and baking soda with a few drops of alcohol-free vanilla mixed in, and so far so good. I used to have to call them over for their turns, but now the boyos line up to get their teeth brushed. While I brushing the teeth of one, the other is trying to figure out how to get the lid off the container. They love it!

Anesthesia-free cleaning update…We had our first check-up and cleaning since starting on using the baking soda and coconut oil as toothpaste, along with the ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon added to food each meal. We’ve been working this plan for about six months. Was it a success?

I was hoping for stellar results, but we didn’t get that. Partly because they already get great reports every time we visit the vet or pup dentist. So I have to say that any kind of brushing helps. We brush almost daily. They don’t miss much more than I do so that means I brush their teeth about 340 days a year. There are days when I want to skip but, especially with the baking soda and coconut oil, it’s hard to say “no” when the boyos are lining up in the bathroom for their turn. Even if they are outside playing, they know the sound of my electric toothbrush and come running. If they don’t come running, I call out, “Sammie, Tino, we’re brushing teeth.” Pretty soon I have a line. They love the baking soda and coconut oil. Why? I don’t know. I brush my teeth with the same concoction, and the taste is only tolerable. But the boyos  love it! So brush, brush, brush! With something.

In terms of the checkup, at five years of age, I still hear, “How old are these guys?…Wow!” (They’re five. Most dogs have gingivitis by age three.) Sammie has “stage one” gingivitis. But that has been stable and the same eval since he was two years old. On this evaluation the level of tartar went down one degree. That was good! Tino received the same rating on gingivitis and tartar build up, which has always been the same or lower than Sammie. But they are both well below average for their age.

Final determination—we’re staying with baking soda and coconut oil. It’s cheaper and more natural than the commercial products available. I’m also continuing with the ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon sprinkled on their food because my subjective opinion is that they both accumulated less tartar between visits than in the past.

I’ll continue to post updates, and at some point I’m going to create a chart that shows what the technicians evaluations show. Please post any results you’ve seen with similar efforts!

[1] “10 Amazing Health Benefits of Cinnamon,” Readynutrition.com, accessed February 2017. http://readynutrition.com/resources/10-amazing-health-benefits-of-cinnamon_22072014/

Treat Tips

In addition to cooking main meals for my dogs, I like to bake treats too. Because I cook for my dogs, their food is soft so I like to give them crunchy treats. I finally found a great way to crisp up the treats without blackening the edges, and so simple! After you turn off the oven, let the treats cool in the oven. I bake my treats for 2 to 2 ½ hours (sometimes more if the batter is very moist) at 250o. If you bake at a higher temperature, when you turn off the oven leave the treats inside and crack the oven door slightly while they cool.

Tasty Treats

What I like best about baking my own treats is knowing what’s really in them. My dogs don’t have gluten sensitivities so I use wheat flour sometimes, rice flour, or teff. Here’s a favorite recipe.

Crunchy Peanut Butter and Banana Bites

1 cup peanut butter 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 or 2 very ripe bananas 1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, whipped 1 to 1 ½ cups flour

Mash the bananas and mix with peanut butter. Mix in the whipped eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon. Fold in the flour. Grease the bottom of a baking sheet with butter and press the batter flat on the pan. I don’t worry about making it look pretty. I go for about ¼-inch thickness, but press to your preferred thickness. Score the dough by running the blunt edge of the knife across the dough to create square shapes.

Bake at 250o for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Longer baking = crispier treats. When the dough is hardened (but not burned on the edges) turn off the oven and let the treats cool in the oven. When the treats are cooled, break them into pieces along the scored edges. Enjoy!

Sheltie Scents

I’ve read that Shelties are one of the breeds that don’t get a strong “doggie” smell, and I’ll have to say that’s been true of my boyos. I also read that feeding a high quality dog food can help reduce doggie smell in any breed. Of course baths and brushing don’t hurt either. Most days when I cuddle with my boyos, I breathe in a surprising and pleasing variety of scents…

 Grass Rain Wind
Bronner’s citrus soap Oranges Downy
 Cilantro Mint Pine
Lavender Sage Cinnamon


Doggie Breath

Bad breath! Bah humbug! While my boyos don’t usually have nasty doggie breath, when I was treating them for tummy troubles, I found a side benefit to parsley water—fresh breath. Now I know why restaurants put that sprig of parsley on the plate.

Cooking up a batch of breath-freshening parsley water couldn’t be easier.

Recipe for parsley water

Boil a quart of water. When the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Drop a bunch of parsley (amount the amount you get at the store) into the water and let it soak for 3 minutes.

Pour a teaspoon of the parsley water on your dog’s food to help with upset tummies and to freshen breath.

A quart of water makes a lot of parsley water so you can freeze ½ cup or 1 cup portions for later use. Or make less and boil it up as needed.

There are lots of causes of bad breath in dogs, so—just as with humans—good dental practices like regular checkups and regular brushing are important. Parsley water won’t clean teeth or substitute for professional care.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar may be one of the best things you can put in your dog’s mouth. I give my dogs ½ teaspoon with their meals to support overall digestive health. They don’t mind the addition to the food, and I like it better than putting it in their water. They’re picky about the taste of their water.

Vinegar –it’s good inside and out. Some great things vinegar may do for your dog (and you too!):

  • Support overall digestion
  • Help with the assimilation of vital nutrients, including calcium
  • Provide a great source of potassium (11 mg/tablespoon)
  • Prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive track (and vinegar doesn’t interfere with the good bacteria)
  • Reduce blood sugar levels
  • Relieve or prevent arthritis
  • Protect the urinary tract from infection and can help relieve infections
  • Repel insects

Vinegar works wonders outside the body as well. One of my boyos gets itchy feet in the late spring/early summer. He has literally licked the fur off his paws. But daily foot baths with about a cup of vinegar to a quart of water relieves the itching. When pollen is literally coating everything in sight, I add about a half cup of baking soda to the foot bath. Tino has actually learned what I mean when I say, “Tino! Don’t lick your paws?” If the itching is so bad, he can’t resist, I threaten… “Do you want me to get the socks???” Usually I only have to put the socks on for a day or two when the allergens are at the worst, along with the foot baths.

Vinegar is also great for repelling insects, so dab it on sensitive areas during mosquito and flea season.  A vinegar rinse at bath time also helps keep those gorgeous fur coats soft and shiny.

As with any food, not all pets react well. So watch your pet for adverse reactions like queasiness, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, or lethargy. Test on skin too before adding it to baths or other topical applications to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation.

Tummy upset

Maybe I should have saved this entry for a holiday because that’s when my puppy medical emergencies always seem to happen—when the cost of care doubles. Well, it’s almost the weekend, and that’s the boyos other favorite time to develop lumps, bumps, or tummy grumps and grumbles.

While I prefer natural and homeopathic remedies whenever possible, I’m not against vaccines or pharmaceuticals. And while antibiotics have their place and do clear up a plethora of tummy ills, I feel that antibiotics are like taking one step forward and two steps back. The offending bacteria, germ, or parasite gets killed but so do all the good guys. The immediate problem is solved, and that’s good. But the boyos’ ability to naturally fight off those microscopic intruders is compromised. In the end, I can’t help feeling we’re solving one problem but creating a bigger one.

Each of my boys have different susceptibilities, and Sammie suffers more often from tummy upset. We go to the vet, we get XXX, we pay a few hundred dollars, we go home and follow the regimen, and the vomiting and bloody diarrhea go away. Sounds like the perfect solution. Until the symptoms come back.

The last time Sammie suffered from this recurring illness, one which has attacked him once or twice a year since he was almost a year old, I decided to try a different protocol.  I did my research, and some of the options sounded scarier than the vet’s go to pharmaceuticals. In the end I landed on some that were natural, food-based, and sounded safe. And they worked!

I’m not a vet, but I did share what I tried with my new homeopathic (but traditionally trained) vet, and she explained to me why they helped. I can’t—and wouldn’t want to—say this will work for every situation, but I do think these natural remedies are worth considering. Here’s what I added to Sammie’s food at each meal.

  • Parsley water, 1 tsp.
  • Ground pumpkin seed, ½ tsp.
  • Cooked canned pumpkin, 1 heaping tablespoon

My boys weigh between 25 and 30 pounds, so the amounts should probably be adjusted based on size and weight. And I always watch them closely when I introduce any new food. It’s only been about six months, so I can’t say anything about long-term effects. But I am happy that Sammie’s tummy troubles cleared up without antibiotics. And I feel like I’m helping his system get stronger and fight those bugs better without drugs. Two steps forward, right?

Natural Sources of Calcium

Here’s a list of calcium rich foods. Some dogs (like people) don’t tolerate dairy well. But if they can handle dairy, it’s packed with calcium. Two of my favorites are plain yogurt and cottage cheese. With any new food, introduce a small amount, one new food at a time, and watch for reactions. Also, canned foods may have ingredients added (like onions) that are not good for dogs, so read the label.

Personally, I don’t give my dogs ¼ cup of any of the foods below in a single meal, except sardines, salmon, and sometimes yogurt or cottage cheese. Try low-fat yogurt if calories or weight are a concern.

  Quantity Calcium
Eggshells, finely ground ¼ t. 200 mg
Sardines, with bones, canned 1.75 oz. 200 mg
Yogurt ¼ cup 112 mg
Salmon, with bones, canned 1.75 oz. 90 mg
Collard greens ¼ cup 72 mg
Dried figs* ¼ cup 60 mg
Cottage cheese ¼ cup 47 mg
White beans** ¼ cup 31 mg
Kale ¼ cup 25 mg
Edamame ¼ cup 25 mg
Parsley ¼ cup 20 mg
Okra ¼ cup 20 mg
Bok choy ¼ cup 18 mg
Quinoa ¼ cup 15 – 25 mg
Spinach ¼ cup 14 mg
Celery ¼ cup 12 mg
Carrots ¼ cup 9 mg

*Figs may cause stomach discomfort

** Beans may cause gas and should only be feed in small amounts