3 ways to save money on pet care

If you were awake at 7:50 this morning and happen to have been watching San Diego 6, you’d have seen me trying with varied success to get a very sweet and nervous Saint Bernard to eat some treats. You know what they say about pets and kids. But that’s OK, because Gabana was still a precious prop to our perhaps less entertaining but still very important topic, saving money on pet care. Here’s the tips I shared:

1. Don’t skimp on preventive care.

Pop quiz: what is more expensive-

  • Regular dental cleanings on healthy teeth once a year
  • One set of extractions on a majorly diseased mouth, complete with antibiotics and an echo to check out that heart murmur the bacteremia ended up causing over time.

I brought in some Minties as an example of a home care item you can use in between cleanings. Love them within caloric reason, but again- cleanings at the vet are just an important as cleanings at your dentist.


Early detection of problems like diabetes, kidney failure, and cancer results in lower vet bills, and more importantly, a healthier pet.

2. Ask for a written prescription

Yes, veterinarians often charge more for some meds than what you can get it for at Target or Wal-Mart. They pay more for them in the first place than the big pharmacies. The tradeoff is convenience, which is fine when you are getting one prescription but can add up if your pet needs regular medication. We all get that.

Ask for a written prescription. The veterinarian should provide one on request. Sometimes they will price match, too. The primary concern of our office is to make sure your pet gets the care they need, and the price of meds is often the difference between getting treated and going without.

3. Make your own treats

I’ve covered this extensively, from cupcakes to  donuts and jerky, but making your own treats can save money and be a ton of fun as well as give you lots of control over ingredients. Making dog treats is how I got my kids interested in cooking.


Words cannot express my deep love for Fido’s Frosting from K9 Cakery, which is how I made the donuts above. If you recall, Kekoa like to eat this straight from the bag.

There’s only so much you can fit in a quick segment so I didn’t get to cover other topics like pet insurance, but we just spoke about that here a couple of weeks ago anyway. If you have any other tips that’s helped you save without losing out on quality care for your pet, I’m always up for ideas!

Filed: Blog, Cooking, Daily Life, Lifestyle Tagged: ,

Three things to know about the jerky illnesses

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that there is a serial killer loose in your town. One by one, he picks little kids off from the local playground, and it’s horrible and awful. The police are working around the clock, but the killer remains elusive.

But he only ever chooses his victims from that one playground.

You wouldn’t take your kids there, right? Even if *most* of the kids who play there end up ok, even if the police chief says, well, it might be OK now? Why take that chance, when there are plenty of safe alternatives?

That’s kind of how I feel about this jerky thing. From the latest FDA update:

The agency has repeatedly issued alerts to consumers about reports it has received concerning jerky pet treat-related illnesses involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. since 2007. Approximately 580 of those pets have died.

Since 2007, guys. Keep in mind that the FDA is usually all over dog foods when there is potential human illness involved as well, but the wheels turn a little more slowly when there is no indication people are also getting sick. Regardless, I’m glad they are becoming involved- and the level in which they are asking for veterinarians and consumers to participate is much higher than I’ve seen before- but there’s no indication when we might have some answers.


There’s really only three things I’m reminding people of here:

1. It’s not just chicken

Everyone keeps focusing on chicken jerky as the culprit, but some sickened dogs have eaten duck, fruit, or sweet potato jerkies as well. Most of the treats have come from China (they aren’t saying it outright in the fact sheet, but we can read between the lines here.)

2. The symptoms are diffuse

Not every dog has the same symptoms. Some have GI signs, some have liver issues, others have renal disease. There may be one cause but it is possible we are dealing with multiple contaminants, drugs, or toxins. Which is really frightening.

3. This is 100% entirely preventable

Now that we know it’s a problem, there’s an easy solution. Don’t feed jerky treats from China. They are not a necessary part of anyone’s daily nutrition. It won’t find the culprit, but it will keep your pet safe until they do. Here are some alternatives:

  • Make your own. No special equipment required.
  • Use fresh alternatives like baby carrots or apples
  • Become obsessive about label-reading. Even some products that appear to be from the US or distributed from the US have ingredients made in China. If you’re not sure, don’t buy it.

I made this video almost two years ago, and we STILL don’t know what is going on with those jerky treats.

YouTube Preview Image


Do you know anyone whose pet was sickened from jerky?

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Puppy Cupcakes- now with video!

Shortly before we moved, I got to shoot a cooking series with the incomparable Robert Semrow of Pet World Insider. He was an awfully good sport since I made him bake for this one:

For the original post, see here:



Which reminds me I am over due for a new cooking piece, aren’t I? Now that I have a kitchen unpacked and all. Hmmm….Easter….

Filed: Baking, Blog, Cooking Tagged: , , ,

Buckets of food: GATOR!

I haven’t been posting about Kekoa’s culinary adventures every day, but trust me, she has turned into a regular Anthony Bourdain. When I first said I was doing this Foodie Bucket List for her, my good friend Annette at Biscuits by Lambchop decided to do something very special for us, and I wanted to share it with you all:

It really meant a lot to both of us that you did that. Thank you Annette. :D And they smelled really good, too.

Filed: Blog, Cooking Tagged: , , , ,

5 Ways to Celebrate National Dog Week

Well what do you know, it’s National Dog Week. I know August 26th is National Dog Day, that little factoid is emblazoned in my memory, but I didn’t realize that the fourth week of September is Dog Week and has been for 84 years. In a funny little coincidence, the mother is born on Dog Day and the daughter is born during Dog Week. Clearly this is in our blood. :)

I am so pleased that I will be spending the next two days in the company of animal lovers from around the world at the ACES International Conference in San Diego. I hope I bring back some fantastic stories. And in honor of the occasion, here’s 5 awesome ways you can celebrate this most auspicious of weeks.

1. Teach Your Dog a New Trick

No, it doesn’t have to be THIS fancy. Brody still doesn’t know ‘shake’.

2. Take some toys/blankets/food to your local shelter

They always need them! Happy pups are more adoptable, and giving them appropriate stimulation is a big part of that.

3. Foster a pup in need

This is a great way to help a pet without making the lifelong commitment to taking them into the fold (although many people do!) Many dogs that do poorly in a shelter environment blossom under the one on one advantages of living in a home, and foster parents can proudly know they have helped make a special pet that much more adoptable. Petfinder has a great article about fostering pets.

4. Make your dog a special treat

I made EIGHT special treats yesterday, not because I suddenly felt the need to spend seven hours in the kitchen but because I was filming a series of Pawcurious favorites for Pet World Insider. Brody and Koa reaped the benefits and will for the rest of the week. Bronuts and cupcakes and jerky and turbacons and oh, how they were happy.

Dr. V and Robert Semrow from Pet World Insider whip up a Dog Week Celebration Buffet.

5. Take your dog for a walk.

Isn’t it great that this one simple act is enough for your dog to be happy? But if you want to go extra fancy, you can celebrate National Dog Week and National Rollerskating Week (it’s that too!) at the same time and go rollerjoring. Oh, yeah. Seriously, you need to watch this person fly:

On second thought, helmetless = closed head injury waiting to happen. Maybe canicross would be a better choice.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate canines?

Filed: Blog, Cooking Tagged: ,

Baking With Brody: Power Bars for Pups

Have you ever tried Gu when you’re out exercising? It’s like trying to swallow phlegm: pasty, sticky stuff that seals your esophagus shut with something that is supposed to be good for you. I don’t care for it (obviously.)

I think Brody feels the same way about biscuits. They’re fine for home, but if you’re out working up a sweat/pant/whatever, a dried out dessicated crunchy thing may not be the most appetizing choice. He doesn’t care for them. So I decided it was my goal for Be Kind to Animals Week to find a power bar or trail mix recipe that we could share. Pre made mixes won’t work: they’re either too salty, too sugary, or too packed with raisins and chocolate chips. Then, I found this recipe, and voila! a new treat was born.

Brody Bars

Adapted from Dog Treat

The ingredients: It looks like a lot, but you don’t use much of any one thing.

  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c light brown sugar (I used sucanat)
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 c milled flax seed
  • 1 3/4 c rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c assorted nuts, seeds, and fruits. I used pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, peanuts, coconut, mango, and banana chips. Remember to avoid chocolate, raisins, and macadamia nuts!


1. Combine olive oil and brown sugar until well combined

2. Stir in peanut butter

3. Add in banana and egg white

4. Combine flour, flax, cinnamon, and baking powder. Add to mix.

5. Stir in oats

6. Stir in trail mix, blending well until dough sticks together.

7. Shape with your hands into flat, round 1-2 inch cookies. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven on greased cookie sheet or Silpat for 8 minutes.

Store in refrigerator for 2 weeks or freezer for up to 4 months! Bet they won’t last that long.

 If you want to see the process in action- I filmed at the same time I was photographing it, and boy that gets complex!- here is the video. Added bonus, you get to see whether or not Brody and Koa liked them at the end.

Filed: Baking, Blog, Cooking, Fit Life, Health, Videos Tagged: , , ,

Cooking with Koa: Easter Eggs

Ah, the humble egg. Rarely does it figure so prominently in our culinary lexicon as it does at Eastertime. And as I’m working on a post about ways to fit the pets into your Sunday celebration, I decided it was only fitting that we do a little egg recipe in today’s Cooking with Koa segment.

If you’re going to have a bunch of people around who are going to try to be feeding your dog any one of a number of wildly inappropriate traditional Easter foods, it’s always wise to have a super special dog-only treat on hand to convince those wayward guests that you aren’t neglecting your pets and it really is OK to leave the Vienna sausages on the table. So in that vein, today we’re taking on devilled eggs, Koa style.

First, you need to boil your eggs. There are lots of ways to achieve this, some involving voodoo and pressure cookers and complicated heating algorithms, but I try to keep it simple. I do the ‘cover in cool water, bring to boil, and leave for 10 minutes’ approach.  (more…)

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The Pawcurean Presents Lazy Man’s V-Day Treats

I love making treats for the pets, almost as much as I love things that are easy to make. Sometimes I’m in a complicated mood, and sometimes I’m in a lazy mood. This month, I’m lazy.

As you know, I’ve started a torrid love affair with my dehydrator, using it to suck the water out of everything I can get my hands on in the house like a hydrophilic vampire. The chicken jerky treats went over very well, so I figured, hey, let’s make some Valentine’s Day treats while we’re at it where I don’t have to turn the oven on.

Sweet potatoes cut with a heart shaped cutter are as easy as it gets.


Though no one will blame you if you want to spice things up with a little bit of cinnamon. These are great not only because they’re easy, but in small bits they are relatively low-calorie and a veggie that is rarely allergenic.

Be still, my tangerine heart. One for you, one for me, sweet potatoes are super yummy.

Now, if you want to get fancy, and a little grosser, you can also continue experimenting with meat. I took some thinly sliced beef and cut it into little strips to evaluate its performance in the dehydrator.

But you know, it’s Valentine’s Day, so before you put it in to dry, you should arrange it in festive patterns by poking it into heart shapes.

OK, the resulting jerky hearts are not the most cosmetic of treats, looking more like actual dried out hearts than the adorable meaty love-nibbles I had in mind, but I can tell you of two dogs in the house who didn’t care that it looked like something you might find in a serial killer’s pantry. They loved the effort. And the meat.

Are you doing anything for your pet for Valentine’s Day?

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Game Day! With Pawcurean Dog Nachos

It’s a big weekend for those of us who like to sit by the TV and eat. One, the AKC/Eukanuba show airs on Saturday, so I’ll be glued to the screen jumping up and down every time I spot myself on TV. And of course, the next day is that most festive of sports events, the Super Bowl.

It’s fair to say I am ambivalent at best about football, so the question here is not so much “Team Pats” versus “Team Giants” as it is “Team Game” versus “Team Commercials.” I for one, am of the latter persuasion. After all, there’s no dogs in the game, unless you somehow manage to convince your significant other that the Puppy Bowl is fine to watch at the same time.

But I don’t let that stop me from eating my way through the show. That’s the best part. And because I don’t want the dogs to feel left out of the junk food bacchanalia, and I’m afraid if I don’t have something for them someone will slip them some seven layer dip, I decided to create their very own Dog Nachos to get them through the day.

Nachos are not rocket science. There is no high level of culinary talent or expenditure required to create a plate of nachos. All you need is something crunchy, some sort of gooey meat substance, and a topping. Which works out perfectly, since I happened to have all three on hand:

Step one: Open can of food.

Step two: Arrange artfully. Done. Best served immediately, since they smell exactly like how you would expect them to smell.

And that smell is delicious, at least if you are a dog.

And do dogs like dog nachos?

I think it is safe to say, dogs really like dog nachos.

STEP OFF, CAT! These are DOG nachos!
(pawcurious is not responsible for your dog going all Cartman on the cat when dog nachos are around.)

I mean it, cat. MINE.

Hey, wait a minute…

Of course, the cleverest of dogs do not waste time chasing cats off, but take advantage of the distraction to hone in on the plate and clear it off. Touchdown Team Labrador!

So what team are you? Pats, Giants, or commercials?

Filed: Blog, Cooking, Pawcurean Tagged: , ,

The Pawcurean Presents: Super Simple Chicken Jerky

Chicken jerky is one of those things I had never even thought of trying to make until recently. I know my dogs love it, and until the FDA put out multiple warnings about how imported jerky was making pets ill it was something I included in their treat regimen.

About a year ago I got a dehydrator, in one of my occasional crunchy fits of health (it never lasts.) I used it a handful of times and then let it sit on the counter. A few weeks ago, I thought I would try and figure out how to make my own chicken jerky with some chicken that had been languishing in the freezer, and guess what: it is, like, the easiest thing in the world to do.  (more…)

Filed: Blog, Cooking, Fit Life, Health, Pawcurean, Videos Tagged: , , ,

Thanksgiving Food Dos and Don’ts for your pet

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days in the veterinary ER, which should surprise none of you. The very first Thanksgiving I had Emmett, he dug the turkey carcass out of the trash and settled down for a little leftovers. Luckily he left a disgusting trail of grease from the kitchen, across the living room and up the (carpeted) stairs so I managed to find him before he did too much damage, but Thanksgiving is a time of excess and gluttony for all of us, and for pets unaccustomed to the traditional rich foods of the holiday, it can lead to trouble.

Not to say you can’t give your pet some judiciously chosen Thanksgiving treats, as long as your pet is otherwise in good health. Choose wisely.

Foods to Avoid

1. Bones. Cooked poultry bones are exceptionally brittle and can easily splinter in your pet’s stomach, leading to a painful bellyache, a blockage, or even an emergency surgery.

2. Turkey skin. The fat is the problem here- most pets on commercial diets just aren’t accustomed to sudden high levels of fat in the GI system, which can lead to the pancreas essentially overreacting and the very painful, dangerous condition known as pancreatitis.

3. Cheeses and sausages. The same reasoning as above, with fat being the culprit. Keep that Hickory Farms gift box up high.

4. Alcohol. Not that I think any of you would actually do this, but yes, people try to get their pet drunk on purpose sometimes, and it’s not nice. Have you ever seen a hungover Yorkie? It’s awful. If you see your dopey uncle trying to give some microbrew to the family pet, you have my permission to pour the beer on his head.

5. Toxic foods. The following commonly used food items are specifically toxic to dogs and cats and shouldn’t be used in any food item they might ingest:

Foods that Are Good to Share

There are plenty of things that your pet can enjoy with you on Thanksgiving. The number one key to remember is fat is not your friend. The best way to deal with this is to set aside a small portion for your pet before you toss in the butter, cheese, or whatever Miracle Whip concoction your Great Aunt Edna insists is vital for the perfect mashed potato. So assume all these items are butter and gravy-less.

  • sweet potato
  • turkey meat sans skin
  • mashed potato
  • steamed green beans
  • stuffing (no onions)
  • corn
  • canned pumpkin (before you add in sugar and cream and turn it into a pie)
  • butternut squash
  • low sodium broth, which can be used in place of butter for a bit of flavor

The best thing to do is plan ahead, make sure your pet is full, and, um, in my case, get a covered trashcan. Make some pet-friendly treats ahead of time so that when you see Grandma plucking forkfuls of fat-laden cheeseball out to give to Sparky, you can cut her off and tell her, “Why not give him a nice Brody ball instead?”

Looking for some recipes?

Try the Pawcurean Turbacon.

Or a breakfast treat from Foxy Treats.

Are you planning on sharing Thanksgiving with the pets? Any favorite pet recipes or foods I forgot to mention?

Filed: Blog, Cooking, Fit Life, Health, Pawcurean Tagged: ,

Take a bite: Home Cooking and a BalanceIt Giveaway!

Lots of people like to cook for their pets, but most people don’t do it every single day. Of those who do, most do so because they have to, a pet with kidney disease who also has food allergies and diabetes, that sort of thing. Occasionally there is the person who just likes to do it, like the chef who makes seared sea bass for his two incredibly spoiled schnauzers every day. I admire that dedication, which is significant.

More common are people like me, those who do it every once in a while for giggles at times like Thanksgiving- and yes, I’ll be coming up with something for the dogs because why not, it’s a holiday. And then they will go back to their regular food until Christmas, when I make them gingerbread. Because cooking is a show of love, even if you only do it twice a year.

Gingerbread 2010

(Yes, I made those both last year in a peppermint induced fit of insanity.)

For those sorts of occasional treats, balance isn’t a big deal. But when you are making a maintenance diet, a complete and balanced diet is vital.

I recently wrote an article on the topic of home cooking for Good Dog Magazine, and rather than re-invent the wheel I’ll just give you the link because I worked on it for quite a while, and I’m very proud of it, and it has tons of information about how to go about the process if home cooking is something you’re interested in. I had to interview a bunch of people for it, which as you know is a show of journalistic effort I don’t undertake on a regular basis, so you know it’s something special.

For the article, I interviewed Dr. Sean Delaney of Dr. Delaney is a board certified veterinary nutritionist who just happened to be a resident in training when I was a senior student at Davis, and he remains just as friendly and knowledgable and excited about nutrition as he was that day one hundred million years ago when we were in a cramped room in the hospital annex with some Flintstone-era nutrition software doing nutrition consults.

We talked about food. We talked about online recipe sites and books. We talked about kabocha squash (did you know it caused neurologic signs in a group of labradors? Brand new info here, guys. You heard it here first.) I kept the poor doc on the phone for an hour but it was so interesting, and I love nutrition topics, and I know you do too.

Dr. Delaney has since developed newer web-based versions of nutrition software that creates custom recipes for veterinarians as well as for consumers. BalanceIt has about 500 recipes to choose from, all designed by a board certified veterinary nutritionist and best of all, balanced. When clients tell me they want to cook for their pets, this is where I send them because I know they’re getting information from a trusted source. After the melamine fiasco, I’ve been mentioning this site more times than I can count.

It’s a neat site because, as you can see above, you can really customize your options. You select the protein source and the carbohydrate source, enter your pet’s age and weight, and out comes a list of choices that fit your criteria. If your pet has a medical condition, you can ask your vet to create an appropriate recipe on the section of the site that is just for veterinarians.

So here’s their gift to you all: with the holidays bearing down, perhaps you are looking for a little something special for your dog or cat’s festivus plate. Dr. Delaney is offering all pawcurious readers one free recipe from the Pet Lovers BalanceIt site- a $20 value! The diets can be made using BalanceIt supplements or human supplements- you’ll get options for both.

Just enter the code “pawcurious” at checkout. And don’t forget to give them a like over on Facebook and tell them I said hi!

Will you get the English dinner? The Surf and Turf? Which recipe are you going to try? Have you ever cooked for your pet?

Filed: Blog, Cats, Cooking, Dogs, Fit Life, Giveaways, Health, Lifestyle, Pawcurean Tagged: , ,
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