August 6, 2007
Move over, Heloise. Here are some hard-earned tips that animal lovers can try out using simple household items.
Carrots. If you live with a career chewer, you know how expensive it can be to dole out rawhides or other chew treats, day in and day out. One cheap option is carrots: They satisfy most dogs' yearning for a chewie with a little give, and they won't stain your carpet.
Don't feel too virtuous, though: Since dogs lack the digestive enzymes to break down cellulose, vegetables must be pulverized in order to provide nutritional value. You'd be better off asking your local health-food store for their leftover veggie pulp.
Also, carrots tend to give a dog's coat an orangey tint. This is great for red-coated dogs like Vizslas or Irish setters, but not so attractive in dogs with black in the coat - German shepherds come to mind.
Listerine. If your animals relieve themselves in your backyard, no amount of scooping or hosing can get rid of that lingering smell, which hits new heights during the heat and humidity of August. That's when you need to mix up a batch of this nontoxic spray, which includes more or less equal parts of Listerine (buy the original, battery-acid-yellow formula), dish-washing liquid (some people swear by Dawn, but any brand will do) and water. Pour it into a spray bottle or hose-powered feeder, and go to town.
The Listerine kills the naughty bacteria responsible for the odor; and the dish-washing liquid helps it cling to surfaces. You can use this on plants without fear of damaging them; repeat as many times as necessary.
Zippered bags full of water. I picked this tip up at a seminar by former professional handler and American Kennel Club judge Pat Hastings, who swears by it: If you have a problem with flies congregating around your home or kennel, fill a gallon-size zippered plastic bag with water, seal and hang on the fence or over the doorway. The theory has something to do with light refraction, or the flies seeing horror-flick-sized reflections of themselves.
Sorry, this doesn't work for mosquitoes or wasps or any other annoying airborne intruders. Just houseflies. Honest.
Vinegar. You can invest big bucks in those brand-name carpet cleaners that promise to remove urine stains from your rug. Or you can just go to your favorite big box store and buy an industrial vat of white vinegar. Cut the vinegar with water, and bingo - a simple concoction that will neutralize urine smells.
Don't make the mistake many people do and use ammonia to clean up "whoopses." Animals are actually attracted to the smell - ammonia is a component of urine, silly - so you might as well hang out a big "Call again" sign over the spot.
Canned pumpkin. When your animal has an upset stomach, white rice and boiled chicken is what most people recommend to get the tummy back on track. Instead, consider canned pumpkin. (Don't confuse this with pumpkin pie mix, which has added sugar and spices. What you want is plain pumpkin.)
With its high fiber content, pumpkin speedily resolves bouts of diarrhea, and, conversely, relieves constipation, too. I add a couple of tablespoons whenever I transition one of my dogs to a new type of food.
As with any change in your dog's health, consult your veterinarian if the diarrhea is serious or persists, or involves a very young or elderly dog.
Green beans. Even though vets warn about the dire consequences of obesity, most dog owners wimp out because they can't stand the pleading eyes or the incessant whines.
Try substituting canned green beans, which are low in calories but high in bulk, to the newly reduced portions. Chunky monkeys will still feel full and sated.
Parmesan cheese. Fussy eaters can be infuriating. This simple trick is a favorite of stud-dog owners. When the dogs go on a hunger strike to protest lack of access to the object of their affections, sprinkle the potent grated cheese atop the regular food, and cross your fingers.
Wood stove pellets. Shredded newspaper is the usual choice for teaching puppies in the whelping box. For the last several years, I have been using wood-burning stove pellets. Preservative free, these capsule-sized pellets disintegrate into sawdust when wet, and can be easily scooped and replaced.
If your dog needs to eliminate inside for whatever reason - you live in a high-rise, or he's a toy dog with bad bladder control - consider using a litter box full of these pellets instead of housebreaking pads. At $8 for a 40-pound bag (most Agways carry them), they're far more economical.