Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service

Growing up where I did, we never cared about having a perfect lawn. In fact, most of our property was heavily wooded and forest-like, which was the whole reason my parents purchased it in the first place. Once a week Dad would mow while I used the hand trimmers around the rock gardens, and that was about it for lawn care.

In fact, my first experience with lawn obsessed home owners was when I moved in with my husband into our subdivision eleven years ago and a woman from our HOA had the nerve to come into our yard and measure our grass with a ruler and then report us for it being too long.

Over a decade later, I now know that suburbanites take their green grass seriously. In past years we have had the streets crawling with lawn care service salesmen, going door to door to try to shame us into hiring them because our neighbors did.

Personally, I don’t care if we have dandelions or clover in the grass or if the yard is one giant weed. As they say on the television show, Once Upon a Time, “Magic always comes with a price, dearie,” and I am not willing to gamble on what that price might be later on. I am not willing to gamble with my dogs’ lives on which studies are correct, those done by the lawn care chemical companies or those done by comparative oncology programs at respected universities.

dogs and lawn careSo how can we all live happily together in suburbia? How can lawn aficionados and dog lovers be at peace with each other instead of glaring at each other from across their 4 foot fences, without the grass being noticeably greener on the chemically treated side?

Fortunately there is an abundance of organic lawn care advice on the internet, and some lawn care companies are stepping up to offer organic lawn care services to people who have a passion for a green lawn and a healthy environment for their children and dogs.

DIY Organic Lawn Care

Organic lawn care focuses on the overall condition of your soil and your grass instead of applying a magical chemical formula (2,4-D or glyphosate) that somehow knows to kill the weeds and leave the grass. According to the various blogs and articles that I have found on this topic, organic lawn care requires more attention, planning and work,  but I personally think it is a fair trade-off when you can watch your dogs rolling around on the grass or having a green leafy snack without worrying about what they are ingesting.

Essentially the way it works is that by promoting healthy soil, watering appropriately, cutting the grass higher than most homeowners do, and letting the trimmings act as mulch, you create a lawn that is so healthy and robust that it naturally chokes out the weeds instead of perpetuating an unhealthy environment in which weeds flourish. It sounds very logical when you think about it, kind of like figuring out why a certain part of your body hurts and fixing it instead of popping Advil every four hours!

Here are some great links I found that are a good starting point if you are going to pursue your own organic lawn care regimen:

6 Steps To Create A Vibrant And Lush Organic Lawn

The Organic Way to Mow Your Lawn

Tips for a Lush Organic Lawn

Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy 

Hiring a Service

Good old Google is a great way to find organic lawn care providers in your area. In researching this topic for blogs over the years, I have learned that in addition to companies who offer only organic solutions, some of the more “traditional” big name companies are now offering organic services, too. This makes me very happy because I am not anti-lawn care company, I just want them to offer services with products that are guaranteed to be safe for everyone.

It is important to ask a lot of questions before choosing a service and make sure you know exactly what is being applied to your grass. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing lawn care companies:

  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate in your fertilizers?
  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate or any other type of broadleaf herbicides for weeds?
  • What do you use as fertilizer? Is it 100% natural?
  • Can you guarantee that your technician will not apply a broadleaf herbicide or fertilizer that contains 2,4-D or glyphosate to my yard without my approval or upon my request?
  • How do you treat insects and other pests?

Personally, I would go with a company who specializes in treating my soil and grass as a whole living ecosystem and who has a passion specifically for organic practices. If nobody like that is in your area, some of the bigger names in the industry are starting to offer more dog and child friendly options, just make sure that you are an educated consumer and know what products to avoid and questions to ask.

 

 

 

 

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7 shareable links about lawn care herbicides
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

7 Sharable Links About Lawn Care Herbicides and Dogs

In my most recent post, The White Flags of Springtime, I wrote about lawn care chemicals, dogs,  the studies that several universities have done linking lawn care chemicals like 2,4-D to dogs, and some measures that I take on a daily basis to try to minimize Jackson and Tinkerbell’s exposure to these chemicals. I also promised a blog with links that you could share via social media or to start conversations with neighbors who you know use these chemicals.

Let’s face it, we all want to yell, “Stop, are you crazy, don’t you know what you are doing!?!?” when you see the lawn care companies out en masse, or stop and glare angrily every time you see someone outside spraying grass that is far too close to home for you.  However, it is not going to go over well with your neighbors to boldly accuse them of poisoning the earth and its creatures, even if those creatures are us, our kids, and our animals. So what can we do instead?

Social media is a powerful tool, and Facebook is a perfect platform for you to share articles on things about which you are passionate. You can help raise awareness by sharing posts like this:

  1. There are more and more studies pointing to the dangers of lawn care chemicals. I say why chance it when we don’t need to use this stuff! https://www.nrdc.org/stories/24-d-most-dangerous-pesticide-youve-never-heard 
  2. I just read an interesting article on lawn care products. You might find it really interesting, too. https://www.rd.com/home/gardening/lawn-fertilizer-dangers/
  3. Check this out, there is some concerning information about lawn care products and kids at this link: https://www.ewg.org/research/24D/risks-to-children-from-24D#.WtjNIdPwZsM.
  4. Hey animal lover friends, this might interest you. There is some alarming information on how lawn care products may be harming animals, from pets to butterflies and bees! https://www.ewg.org/research/24D/pets-wildlife-24D#.WtjjzdPwZsM
  5. So basically this says that lawn care chemicals might not cause cancer in dogs, but do we really want to use something that was tested by being fed to beagles for a year???? https://www.24d.org/PDF/Scientific_Backgrounders/The%20Myth%20of%20Cancer%20in%20Dogs.pdf
  6. Honestly, if there’s even a chance that this stuff causes cancer in dogs or in anyone, I don’t want it on my grass! https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/15_4/features/Canine-Malignant-Lymphoma-and-Lawn-Pesticides_20494-1.html
  7. I just read a concerning post from a professional beekeeper whose bee colonies were sprayed with 2,4-D, one of the chemicals in lawn care products. Check it out! http://saulcreekapiary.com/honeybees-2-4-d/

Is this a little passive aggressive? Maybe, but it’s a good start to increasing the level of awareness that these products may not be as safe as the people who make them want us to believe. Just because it has been used for over six decades does not mean that it is safe for our day-to-day lives or that we need it right in our actual back yards. We have banned other substances created after WWII because they were unsafe, like DDT and aldicarb. If you change just one homeowners lawn care practices, it is definitely worth learning about this topic and sharing your knowledge on the topic.

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Little White Flags of Springtime (1)
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

The White Flags of Springtime: Being a Dog Owner in a World of Chemically Treated Lawns

The white flags are back, a sign of spring here in suburbia. I saw them yesterday as I walked with Jackson and Tinkerbell through our neighborhood, and I felt the annual flood of stress, frustration and disappointment that I feel every spring when so many homeowners in our neighborhood hire traditional lawn care companies to spray their yards with chemicals in pursuit of the perfect expanse of green grass. You know the chemicals that I mean, the ones that the industry says are so safe that they fed it to beagles as part of their testing and did not see any negative results, but that still require little white warning flags to let the world know that the products have been applied so that we do not walk or frolic in that grass for 48 hours.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic, and it won’t be the last. In the past I have written several blogs on the topic of dogs, lawn care products, and studies that link increased rates of cancer in dogs on chemically treated grass. You can read more about this topic at: Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs and No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products. 

I have to admit, I dream of a world in which all homeowners realize the benefits of using an organic lawn care company that relies on all natural lawn care techniques instead of broadleaf weedkillers. A world in which we can watch our kids and dogs rolling around on the grass and not have to worry about whether or not the study done by veterinary team at Purdue University or the task force created to promote the use of 2,4-D had the accurate study. A world in which we can reduce the amount of plant waste that we send to landfills because we are using compost and grass clippings to achieve the American dream of a lush, green lawn.

I will also admit that after losing two dogs in row to cancer, the fear of any unseen toxins that my dogs are walking through sometimes makes me want to avoid walks in our neighborhood entirely. Just the other day I did not see the white flags in a neighbor’s yard until long after Jackson and Tinkerbell had thoroughly sniffed a large portion of his treated grass. But I cannot keep them in a protective bubble, simply because it is not fair to them to deny them the simple canine joy of going out and exploring the world with me.

Until we live in a world that embraces natural lawn care, here are the things that I do for my own dogs in an effort to minimize the effects of these chemicals in our lives.

Avoid Treated Lawns

Depending where you live, this can be extremely hard. Like I mentioned above, just the other day we the dogs and I walked through a yard in which some of the flags were missing at one end of the property, so I did not see them until we had walked the full length of the yard.

Try to avoid treated lawns and know that Purdue University determined in 2013 that lawn care products drift substantially from the area in which they are actually applied. As you see lawn care flags, make notes so that you can adjust your walking route and avoid those lawns on your daily walks. Shorten your dog’s leash when walking through affected yards and stick to the sidewalk or cross the street if possible.

You can also contact your local park department to inquire about what products are used in your municipal parks and if they have a routine schedule for when they apply pesticides. Look for natural areas that are not treated for weeds and take your dog on fun adventures to those locations, using an all natural tick preventative since the more natural the terrain, the more likely you are to encounter pests like ticks.

Post Walk Paw Wash & Wipe

1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet.

2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes.

3. Wash my own feet (if wearing sandals or flip flops), ankles and calves to keep from spreading toxins on the floor, furniture and bedding that the dogs lay upon. This is also a good idea for owners whose dogs like to lick human toes or feet.

Dietary Supplements

Note: this is not intended as veterinary advice. Always consult with your veterinarian before adding any food or supplement to your dog’s diet. 

MicroFlora Plus or other probiotic for dogs: many experts believe that digestive health has a positive impact on an animal’s immune system. Although the food that I feed has a prebiotic and probiotic in it, I also add MicroFlora Plus to my dog’s bowls.

Wholistic Pet Organics diatomaceous earth: Scientific research has indicated that diatomaceous earth has a detoxifying property to it, so I add food grade diatomaceous earth from Wholistic Pet. Just make sure you purchase food grade diatomaceous earth, not the variety that is sold for outdoor use. You can read about more uses for diatomaceous earth for humans and dogs here: https://www.tipsbulletin.com/diatomaceous-earth/

Watch for our next blog in which we talk about positive links to share with friends and family to encourage all natural lawn care practices. 

This blog contains affiliate links for products that I use or recommend. I will receive a small commission for any sales resulting from clicks on my affiliate links. I do not receive customer information and the retail price of your item is not affected. Affiliate links help bloggers earn revenue from their posts in exchange for product recommendations. I only refer products that I truly love and use or strongly recommend after research and careful consideration.

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

Losing a dog is one of the most heart wrenching parts of being a dog lover. Watching them slowly succumb to cancer before their time makes it even worse. Experiencing it twice with two separate dogs within a few years will forever change your approach to how you care for your dogs.

Dutch’s body was still working great at age thirteen. He showed no signs of arthritis and ran and played like a puppy most days. At an age when some dogs were plagued by arthritis and other medical problems, Dutch still jumped in circles like a typical crazy and lovable German Shorthaired Pointer whenever we asked the magical words, “Do you wanna go outside?” He showed not a bit of pain when he jumped onto the bed or raced around the yard chasing rabbits and birds. We thought we might have several more years with our big goofball by our sides.

Within months after being diagnosed with a mass on his spleen that we found by accident while making sure his stomach was not twisting from bloat, Dutch lost his voracious appetite, so we hand fed him hamburger and chicken breasts cooked just for him. He would lay on his bed shaking and we covered him with a blanket and comforted him until he fell asleep. It was the vivid red splashes of blood from his urine on some freshly fallen white snow that told us that it was time to let him go to the Rainbow Bridge. The cancer had spread throughout his entire body and was wreaking havoc through all of his organs.

Dutch enjoying an adventure prior to cancer

Maggie, our rescued Basset Hound, had survived major surgery to her spine, had learned to walk all over again through physical therapy when she was six years old, and we were thrilled that she had a love of life and the energy of a young dog at her advanced age of thirteen. We had read that the average lifespan of a Basset Hound was eight to twelve years, so for her to be thirteen and to have hours of fun playing with her one year old Labrador brother was an incredible gift.

One day we found a lump on her neck and two months after her diagnosis with Lymphoma she also lost her appetite. One night her throat swelled up so much from the cancer ravaging her body and her lymph nodes that we were afraid she would suffocate before we could get her to the vet the next morning. My husband and I stayed up with her all night to monitor her, each of us taking turns laying on the floor next to her. In the morning we lay with her on the floor of the vet’s office while they gave her the two injections that took our Maggie May from our lives.

Maggie going for a car ride

When Jackson was a young puppy, he and I were out on a walk when we came across a lawn care company spraying chemicals on a neighboring yard. Once again, as a result of growing up in the woods in a rural area I didn’t understand the suburban desire to have a perfect expanse of green grass, and so we did not use a service like this. It seemed unnecessary when our grass was just fine in its imperfect natural state. Jax and I made a wide arc around that property and as soon as we got home I started to Google the side effects of those chemicals.

This is an extraordinarily small sampling of the information I found: 

September 4, 1991: Lawn Herbicide Called Cancer Risk for Dogs, NY Times In this article the New York Times shares the results of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in which researchers found that dogs were two times as likely to develop lymphoma when their owners “sprayed or sprinkled the 2,4-D herbicide on the lawn four or more times a year.” 

2004,Purdue University: CANINE BLADDER CANCER by Deborah W. Knapp, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM Purdue University found an association between herbicide treated lawns and bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers. The risk of transitional cell carcinoma  was four to seven times higher in dogs who were exposed to 2,4-D.

2011,Environmental Research journal: Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma The Journal of Environmental Research printed a study that showed that exposure to professionally applied lawn care pesticides resulted in a 70% higher risk of malignant lymphoma in dogs. According to page 176 of the study, “Dose of exposure to environmental chemicals such as lawn care products used at home may be substantial, especially for dogs spending a considerable amount of time outdoors on lawns.”

2013, Purdue University: Detection of Herbicides in the Urine of Pet Dogs Following Home Lawn Chemical Application Purdue University studied dogs from treated and untreated yards and found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine.

This study is perhaps the most troubling to me because it demonstrated that even if owners use precautions and do not treat their own yards that their dogs are still at risk from other homeowners’ toxic pesticides and herbicides drifting onto their grass. It also showed that the 48 hour waiting period in which residents are instructed to keep children and pets off of the grass is insufficient to keep them safe. Once homeowners remove the signs from their yard, assuming that the lawn care company provides signs, there is no way of discerning which lawns have been treated, although because of the drift of the toxins into neighboring yards it may not matter which are treated and which are not.

According to the PuppyUP Foundation, “it is estimated between 4 and 6 million dogs die from cancer each year and recently it was announced that 36 children a day are diagnosed with cancer.” These studies are not new, you just have to Google “lawn care chemicals dogs” and you will find page after page of scientific research and articles linking lawn care treatments to cancer in dogs. Change “dogs” to “children” and the results are similar.

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsI have neighbors all around me as well as a very large local park who treat their lawns and I live in constant fear of what my dogs are absorbing through their noses and paws, what they are ingesting when they nibble on the grass in our yard or clean themselves after spending time outdoors.

I go through daily routines to wash their paws and wipe down their faces and bodies and I make sure I provide a healthy holistic life to try to keep their immune systems strong and able to fight the carcinogens that so easily drift onto our own grass, onto our own property against our will. There is no way for us to stop this toxic drift other than putting our house in a giant bubble, and so education and awareness is our biggest ally in this battle.

As we head quickly toward warm weather, please reconsider how much that perfect green lawn means in the grand scheme of life.  I implore you to help educate your own friends and neighbors on the benefits of organic lawn care and organic gardening. Push back on your HOA and local park departments that also often use these toxins to ensure that the grass looks healthy.

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsIf not for the dogs themselves, do it for the humans in the house who are walking on the same floors as the dogs, sitting on the same furniture, and petting the fur of the dogs who are out in the world just trying to be dogs but falling victim to the misguided dream of a perfect expanse of green grass. Do it for the children who are playing in the grass, running barefoot and innocently rolling around on a beautiful day. Do it for the bees who need the dandelions that grow when lawns are not treated. What is the point of buying organic at the grocery store, of eating healthy foods and trying to take care of our bodies if we poison our animals, our children and ourselves right in our own back yards?

Here are previous posts that I have written on this topic

No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products

No Dogs on the Grass Part 2: Post-Walk Paw Wash: I encourage ALL dog owners to perform this after each walk or adventure and once a day during months when lawn care products are likely to be applied.

No Dogs on the Grass Part 3: Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog

 

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden HazardsThe first day of spring is such a happy day, full of the promise of better weather, green leaves and grass, and flowers. As the temperatures rise, our neighbors start to come out of hibernation and the snow shovels and containers of ice melting salt at the garden store are replaced by seeds, plants and mulch and people start to pay attention to their neglected gardens and lawns.

Yesterday I shared an older post from when Jackson was a puppy that I like to call The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree in a play on words on the KT Tunstall song. The story of The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree is a cautionary tale about the importance of researching the trees and plants that you plant in an area that your dog can access. Jax was fine after eating the cherry tree leaves, and we learned that our particular tree was not poisonous, but it was definitely a wake up call.

I grew up in the woods. Not a wooded lot, but the woods in the mountains. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that my parents never purchased a tree for that house or had to plant additional trees. In fact we also never had to purchase firewood, another suburban thing that mystified me after moving to this area. And so as an adult it never occurred to me that I could end up purchasing a tree for our suburban yard that could hurt or kill my dogs.

Fortunately the ASPCA has an extensive list of poisonous plants and trees on their website. Anytime you plant a tree, flower, shrub, herb, fruit, vegetable or any sort of vegetation in an area that your dog can access, consult this listhttp://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants. There is also a printable version that you can print and take to the garden store with you: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list if for some reason you cannot pull up the list on your mobile phone. There are also Pet Poison apps that you can and should add to your phone that can be helpful when at the garden center as well as if your dog eats something questionable.

Puppies explore the world with their mouth and no fear or knowledge of what can hurt them!

Mulch is another area to use caution and do your research. A fairly new and eco-friendly option is the Cocoa hull or cocoa shell mulch. However, it is far from dog friendly; in fact cocoa mulch is quite toxic to dogs if they eat it. I suggest watching your dog around any type of mulch, wood or rubber, because consuming any of these items is not going to be great for your dog. Here is a link with some suggestions on the best mulch options to use in your fenced areas if you use any at all: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/mulch-use-around-animals-36077.htm. We use stones in our garden areas in our back yard; although the dogs tried to chew on the rocks as little puppies, they leave them alone as adult dogs, unlike wood mulch which they still try to eat if given a chance.

Fertilizers and pesticides are also harmful to dogs, so going organic in your own yard or garden is much safer for pets as well as the humans who live in your home. There are some great ideas for organic gardening at this link: http://www.birdsandblooms.com/gardening/grow-chemical-free-garden/.  Use caution if you follow their advice to use coffee grounds in your garden; you don’t want your pets eating the coffee grounds as those can make them quite ill.

As a general rule, I always recommend supervising your dogs anytime you are outside in addition to dog proofing your yard. A persistent dog can still get into something with you there, like Jackson proved with the cherry tree. A fast and determined puppy can still snatch up and eat something they shouldn’t like Tinkerbell proved when she managed to get a rotten cantaloupe that we had not noticed rolled away from our garden and up against our fence a few years ago. No matter how much we train them, sometimes a dog on a mission is just going to ignore your stern commands to “drop it” or “leave it” and they are going to wolf down a contraband item with the speed and determination of someone competing in the Coney Island hot dog eating contest.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogs, Dogs & Lawn Care

No Dogs on the Grass Part 3: Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog

Tinkerbell is all about fun and joy!
Tinkerbell is all about fun and joy!

Just like in humans, there is not a magic recipe for preventing cancer in dogs. There is no secret food or magical herb or pill that will prevent the cancer cells from invading their bodies.  With that understood, the smartest thing to do for your dog is to give him or her a lifestyle that promotes a healthy immune system. While the immune system does not always prevent cancerous cells from growing, a healthy dog will do better than a dog in poor condition during cancer treatment, whether chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
In order to help you adopt habits that promote a strong immune system for your dog I created the following infographic: Promoting a Healthy Immune System. Please note that I am not a veterinarian, so always check with your veterinarian before starting your dog on an exercise program or a new supplement to ensure that it is safe for your pet and does not conflict with other health issues or medicines that your dog currently takes.Promoting a Healthy Immune System for your Pet V2

Let’s take a look at what I have implemented in my own dogs’ lives:

Feed a High Quality Food

All dog foods are not created equal. As recently as 2010 I was feeding what I would later find out was an extremely low quality food from a big name brand with a reputation for being a healthy “high end” option for dogs. My education began when I innocently answered the question, “What do you feed your dog?” in a Facebook dog group. After being slammed by several other dog owners I began to research and question what was in the food I was feeding. I was stunned and horrified.

When Jackson was born in 2011 our friend/breeder told me about Canine Caviar. She has known the founder of the company for a long time and swears by the food for her own dogs. Jackson’s mother is on Canine Caviar and it was the first mushy food the puppies ate in their bowl once they were old enough. I researched the food online and from that research and the recommendation of my trusted friend/breeder, I became an instant fan of Canine Caviar. Jackson and Tinkerbell still eat it and I have no plans on changing any time soon.

The best resource for anyone getting started researching their pet food is Dog Food Advisor. You may not find the exact formula of the brand that you serve but you can usually find something very close to it. I also love this Dog Food Grading form available at the Elk County Animal Shelter page. You’ll need your bag of dog food or the list of ingredients from your food company’s website. Both of these are eye opening. I prefer to feed all organic ingredients because to me it seems logical that the fewer pesticides used to grow a food means that there are fewer toxins going into my dogs’ bodies.

2015-06-02_13-21-47Remember that a high price tag does not guarantee a healthy dog food, but overall the foods with the better quality ingredients will likely have a higher price tag. Most of the higher quality foods use organic ingredients but simply being an organic food does not necessarily guarantee that the food is the best one for your pet. Make sure you look at the ingredients, where they come from, what they are, and what they do in your dog’s body. I prefer to send friends and fellow dog owners to smaller privately owned health conscious pet stores instead of the big box retailers for a food.

When calculating the price of the bag it is important to find out the number of Kcals per cup to really determine the total cost of feeding the food. For example, the formula of Canine Caviar that I feed is 599 Kcals per cup. A popular and controversial brand that I looked up has 333 Kcals per cup. This means that to feed the 1350 Kcals a day that Jackson and Tinkerbell consume that I would need to use almost twice as much of the cheaper food, going through the bag twice as fast as the “more expensive” Canine Caviar. When you think of the cost in terms of how far it will stretch and the benefit to your dog’s body they are not as far apart as the initial sticker shock may have seemed.

Feed An Alkaline Diet

Canine Caviar’s claim to fame is that it is the only alkaline diet for dogs in the United States. According to the Canine Caviar website, “An alkaline based diet puts more oxygen in your pet’s blood, making his/her immune system stronger. With more oxygen in the blood the internal organs also work more efficiently and your dog ages at a slower rate.”  In addition to feeding an alkaline food, I also like to offer treats like baby carrots and other vegetables that are safe for dogs. When I make my own salad we have a ritual where both dogs come and wait for their own pieces of kale, lettuce, and cucumbers as I’m building my own lunch. Just make sure you talk to your vet about whether your own dog can tolerate a more alkaline diet. Here is additional information on this link: http://www.vetinfo.com/alkaline-diet-for-dogs.html#b and Canine Caviar Infographic: Alkaline Diet for Dogs .

Protein Rotation 

The importance of rotating proteins is something else that I learned about while writing for Canine Caviar. When you switch proteins with each bag you are giving your dog a different protein, which means that they are getting a different amino acid, which in turn boosts your dog’s immune system. Here’s an infographic from the Canine Caviar website that explains more: http://social.caninecaviar.com/blog/2014/06/protein-rotation-pet-health/. I rotate between Canine Caviar Wild Ocean (herring) and Canine Caviar Wilderness. My backup brand if I cannot get one of those formulas is Zignature Trout & Salmon, although I prefer to stay with one brand of food.

IMG_7381Fun, Exercise, Love & Joy

According to VetInfo, “Insufficient exercise can also lead to decreased immunity, as exercise stimulates your dog’s lymph glands, which are vital to immunity.”  For dogs, being happy and getting exercise typically go together. Stress takes a terrible toll on the body and dogs can live in stressful states just like humans can. By making sure your dog’s world is fun, full of enjoyable exercise as well as relaxation and love, your dog will benefit physically as well as mentally.

Filtered Water

This is a recent change that we just made. Earlier this year we purchased a simple Brita pitcher for our human and canine family members. We are looking now at something more efficient for the faucet itself or the whole house, but for now we fill our Brita pitcher many, many times a day for our own glasses as well as Jackson and Tinkerbell’s bowl to keep contaminants from tap water out of our bodies.

Probiotics

We hear a lot about the connection between intestinal health and the immune system in humans and the same thing applies to dogs. Probiotics add friendly bacteria to your dog’s digestive system to help him/her break down food and absorb nutrients better. Some dog foods have probiotics added to them. Because my dogs’ food has a probiotic in it, I keep Herbsmith Microflora on-hand for upset stomachs, but as the canine flu was spreading through the Chicagoland area I added it to their diet for an extra boost to their immune system. I also add it to their diet during the warmer months when lawn care pesticide usage is at its highest.

Essential Oils

Recently I started to explore essential oils for the humans and dogs in our family. I have always loved holistic remedies for many things, particularly preventative/maintenance uses and non-life threatening medical issues. and this is the same approach I use for my dogs. As with any of the things that I am doing to benefit my own dogs, please make sure you ask your own vet before starting something new with your own dog and make sure you use high quality pure essential oils.

Frankincense oil is sometimes referred to as the “king of the essential oils” for its array of benefits. One of the benefits is believed to be a positive impact on the immune system. This is one of the oils that is safe for use with dogs, although it is extremely important to remember that a dog’s sense of smell is substantially stronger than ours so you can dilute the oil if applying topically. I like to mix about a tablespoon of Fractionated Coconut Oil and around 6 drops of Frankincense oil and place a few drops of that mixture on Jackson and Tinkerbell’s back in the same method that you would use if you were applying a topical flea or tick preventative, on their shoulder blades directly to their skin. You can also add in a few drops of Lavender oil for the soothing and calming benefits.

Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

No Dogs on the Grass Part 2: Post-Walk Paw Wash

For the last two years, ever since I learned about the connection between lawn care pesticides and herbicides and canine cancer I have been extremely reluctant to take my dogs for walks off of our property. Actually reluctant is a mild term for it. Downright terrified is quite frankly the most appropriate way to express how I feel about walking my dogs on any piece of grass.

With each walk around the block I have pictured my Jackson and Tinkerbell with their noses full of carcinogenic substances, sniffing innocently and so unaware that humans sometimes intentionally cover the ground with toxins to keep weeds from marring their perfect green grass. For a few weeks after my initial Google binge during which I learned about the connection between lawn care pesticides and cancer in dogs, I kept Jackson’s walks limited to the local park, naively thinking that he would be safe there. But one day as I was driving past the park I saw a tractor spraying chemicals onto the grass on the park. An email from the park department revealed that they were spraying a broadleaf herbicide on that grass on which our puppies frolicked and our children ran around barefooted and innocent. So much for the park being safe.

During the winter I have walked them with a bit more mental peace but anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area knows that we go straight from warm weather to winter with ice covered sidewalks and ice melting salt all over and then back to warm weather without much of a fall or spring in between. As a result, most of my dogs’ exercise has been in our fairly large fenced in back yard.

Fortunately our yard is large enough for our dogs to race around as fast as their muscular legs will carry them as they play their games of chase and “bitey face” which is the popular name for the dog game of play-biting and snarling at each other either with or without full contact wrestling. We often joke that any of our neighbors who do not have multiple dogs probably wonder why on earth we let our dogs do this, but it is a standard and time tested type of play among many canine siblings and they rarely actually make contact with their large gleaming teeth. At least as far as our own dogs go, the second that one of them accidentally nips the other they stop the game for a few minutes to calm down. 

I also accompany the dogs outside on each and every outing and so I have ample opportunity to throw their favorite West Paw Zisc to them and do lots and lots of training practice. I play outside with them all winter and their favorite game of all time is to play “snow zoomies” in which they run through the snow chasing each other as fast as they can.They also love to chase snowballs that I make and I am always amazed that they can find the snowball in the rest of the snow from the scent of my hands through my gloves.

With room to run and each other to play with I know that they are getting plenty of physical exercise. However, I have spent as much time feeing guilty over their lack of mental exercise as I have spent obsessing over the lawn carcinogens that they are picking up on walks.

This spring I have thought more and more about what they are missing out on by not going on leash walks. For awhile when the canine flu was new I had an excuse beyond lawn chemicals: they should not go out because of the threat of the dog flu. The panic of the dog flu has somewhat subsided even though the actual flu has not, and I am back to feeling guilty that they are missing out on exploring new places, working their minds, and doing the dog version of reading the trending stories of the day. The smells of the neighborhood sidewalks are the equivalent of our own Facebook and Instagram feeds yet mine have been missing out because of an overprotective dog mom.

When it comes down to it, raising a healthy dog is similar to living a healthy life as a human in the sense that there are hazards all around us but we cannot, or should not, choose to live our lives in fear of leaving our safely maintained homes. We know the sun causes skin cancer but I spend plenty of time outside, about 75% of it with sunblock and the other 25% without. We know that smoking causes lung cancer and a myriad of other issues, yet I smoked until four years ago when puppy Jax was my motivation to quit. Some people joke that everything is bad for us, and sometimes I think it’s not that far from the truth. So this year I have resumed periodic walks into our neighborhood.

Just like I take precautions for myself and my family, though, I am also taking precautions with the dogs, including paw soaks and body wipedowns after each walk or at the end of each day. Although we cannot guarantee that we can prevent cancer, promoting a healthy immune system is one way that we can help our body fight back against antigens. As I have increased Jackson and Tinkerbell’s walks off of our property I have also increased some of the measures that I am taking to boost their immune system to battle the cancer causing lawn chemicals and other harmful substances.

Here are the steps that I take after walks or once a day if the dogs stay on our own property:

1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet.

2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes.

3. Wash feet and lower legs of humans if wearing sandals or flip flops to keep from spreading toxins on the floor, furniture and bedding that the dogs lay upon. This is also a good idea for owners whose dogs lick toes or feet.

Watch for the next blog in this series in which I will elaborate on this infographic titled Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog. 

Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products

It has been about two years since I began obsessing over lawn care pesticides and herbicides and the chemicals that my dogs were being exposed to as a result of the American aversion to anything but beautiful perfect grass. Since that day I have tried to spread the word that the perfect weed free lawn that is part of the American dream is a direct threat to the other part of that dream: the children and pets who play on that grass.

Maggie sniffing the grass before succumbing to Canine Malignant Lymphoma
Maggie sniffing the grass in happier days before succumbing to Canine Malignant Lymphoma

It was a beautiful day in May 2013 and I had just quit my corporate job to become a self-employed writer. Being around our neighborhood in the daytime was still a novelty to me and I loved being able to stop in the middle of whatever I was doing and run to the store or go for a walk with Jackson. Our Basset Hound Maggie had just died from lymphoma a month before and Tinkerbell was just a teeny pup in the whelping pen and far from being able to come home to us. This meant that I spent a lot of one-on-one time with Jackson to keep him from being lonely and to shower him with all of the human attention before his new puppy sister came and changed the dynamic of the house, making the best of the sad situation that had left him an only dog.

Halfway through our walk that day I came across a lawn service truck in a neighbor’s yard and a man spraying the grass with some sort of spray. With canine cancer still weighing heavily on my mind following Maggie’s death, we took a very wide path around the truck and the man spraying chemicals into the yard.

Jax chillin in our yard
Jax chillin in our yard

Later that evening, as I watched Jax performing his normal grooming activities which included a lot of paw licking, I started to obsess over the other yards that we may have walked through with potentially toxic chemicals or contaminants. The more I thought about it, the more uneasy I became.

Some yards were marked with signs, but what about the DIY treatments that can be applied by the homeowner? How many yards had we walked through that had been treated with products available at home improvement stores? I had no way of knowing what Jackson had on his paws as he trotted along happily, innocently smelling the grass and the dog version of the trending stories of the day.

I remember jumping up as I watched him licking himself clean and filling up a large container with warm water and his organic shampoo and another container with clear water. I called him over and washed all of his paws, swishing them through the soapy mixture, rinsing them, and then drying them between his paw pads. I grabbed a wash cloth and wet it with warm water and ran it all over his body, his head, jowls and even his nose. And then I Googled.

It seems I was extremely late to the game associating lawn treatments with the rising number of canine cancer cases. I was astounded that it never clicked in my head before, although this is the first time I have lived in a subdivision, where the lawn is king and people obsess over the state of their grass. Growing up in a rural lake community in northern New Jersey, most of our property was in the woods, with two grassy areas that Dad mowed weekly but did not tend to much more than that. Once I moved out on my own after college I never noticed the companies spraying toxins onto the grass.  I was too oblivious in my 20s and in my 30s because I did not get home from my commute until 6:30.

Here are some of the things that I found.This is an extraordinarily small sampling of the information available online. 

September 4, 1991: Lawn Herbicide Called Cancer Risk for Dogs, NY Times In this article the New York Times shares the results of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in which researchers found that dogs were two times as likely to develop lymphoma when their owners “sprayed or sprinkled the 2,4-D herbicide on the lawn four or more times a year.” 

2004,Purdue University: CANINE BLADDER CANCER by Deborah W. Knapp, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM Purdue University found an association between herbicide treated lawns and bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers. The risk of transitional cell carcinoma  was four to seven times higher in dogs who were exposed to 2,4-D.

2011,Environmental Research journal: Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma The Journal of Environmental Research printed a study that showed that exposure to professionally applied lawn care pesticides resulted in a 70% higher risk of malignant lymphoma in dogs. According to page 176 of the study, “Dose of exposure to environmental chemicals such as lawn care products used at home may be substantial, especially for dogs spending a considerable amount of time outdoors on lawns.”

2013, Purdue University: Detection of Herbicides in the Urine of Pet Dogs Following Home Lawn Chemical Application Purdue University studied dogs from treated and untreated yards and found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine.

This study is perhaps the most troubling to me because it demonstrated that even if owners use precautions and do not treat their own yards that their dogs are still at risk from other homeowners’ toxic pesticides and herbicides drifting onto their grass. It also showed that the 48 hour waiting period in which residents are instructed to keep children and pets off of the grass is insufficient to keep them safe. Once homeowners remove the signs from their yard, assuming that the lawn care company provides signs, there is no way of discerning which lawns have been treated, although because of the drift of the toxins into neighboring yards it may not matter which are treated and which are not.

Watch for my next blog on www.lovelaughwoof.com to read about the measures that we take in our home to protect Jackson and Tinkerbell from the impact of potentially deadly lawn care products from neighboring lawns and parks.

Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care, Uncategorized

Infographic: Dogs and Lawn Care, Protecting Our Best Friends

Click here to access my infogDogs and Lawn Care Productsraphic Dogs and Lawn Care: Protecting Our Best Friends for information on recent studies linking lawn care products and cancer rates in dogs, tips on washing your dog’s paws and body after walks and information and links to maintain an organic lawn that is safe for pets and humans.