I have an almost unhealthy relationship with my dogs. Brutus and Zissou are like my children—I say “when they were ‘babies'” instead of “puppies”—and I cater to their every want and need. Brutus can’t sleep at night unless I pull a blanket up for him to get under the covers with me. Zissou gets his preferred spot on the sofa (complete with pillow for his head) even if that means my husband and I are squished together on one part of the couch. So, yes, I may not be the best at setting boundaries, but I absolutely shine at staying on top of their health and wellness.
This month is Responsible Pet Owners Month. What better time to share some tips for making sure your pups are happy and healthy?
Don’t let your dogs go to the dogs. Great products to improve your pet’s health are easy to find!
When my husband and I adopted Zissou, our veterinarian gave us a “puppy kit,” which included this C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Kit ($8.79 at 1-800-PetMeds). Admittedly, we’re not the best about brushing, so we also supplement our dogs’ dental care with these C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews ($10.99–$13.59 at 1-800-PetMeds). Both pups totally dig ’em.
C.E.T. oral hygiene products for dogs
Zissou is a gorgeous pit bull mix—with the worst skin allergies, characteristic of his breed. Though he loves to bask in the sun, his poor body turns bright red from lying in the grass all day. Per doctor’s orders, we bathe him with oatmeal shampoo (weekly in the summer). These are our tried-and-true favorites: Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Shampoo ($10.02 at Petco) and Burt’s Bees Oatmeal Shampoo ($8.44–$13.71 at Petco). We also love these Earthbath All Natural Grooming Wipes (12.29 at Amazon) for rainy days when we need to keep paws clean.
Gentle shampoos and wipes for dogs with sensitive skin
If your pup has allergies too, you could also try Dinovite ($24.99–$199.99 at Dinovite). My editor swears by it for her (formerly itchy) Labrador, Sweet Pa’chene. As a puppy, her allergies would turn into staph infections that needed antibiotics—month after month—but after supplementing her food with Dinovite, the itching stopped and her hair grew back shiny and full.
Dinovite Nutritional Supplement for Dogs
Zissou is our happy-go-lucky pup. He couldn’t care less when it comes to having his nails clipped. But poor Brutus has always hated it. It’s a painful chore for me thanks to his anxiety. He cries and tries to nibble on my knuckles, but that doesn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you. Despite the headache, I must convey the importance of trimming your dog’s nails.
We once made the mistake of letting Brutus’ nails get too long—until the day when our neighbor’s puppy came over for a playdate and Brutus’ dewclaw split in two. It was terrifying. Luckily, he came out of it okay and without infection.
I recently found the Safari Professional Nail Trimmer ($8.61 at Amazon), a good and affordable trimmer that Brutus will tolerate for, like, one nail, one day at a time. (I can also bribe him with peanut butter or Easy Cheese ($3.88 at Walmart), a trick our vet uses!) In my book, trimming one day at a time is way better than not doing it at all.
Safari Professional Nail Trimmer
EXERCISING BODY AND MIND
I can tell when our boys need extra exercise because the stuffing in their beds mysteriously starts to come out. Of course, making sure they get plenty of walks is key, but when the weather is really bad out, we’ve learned to improvise.
Sometimes we play fetch in the house: Racquetballs (three for $2.89 at Academy) tend to work best because they double as chew toys.
Penn Ultra-Blue Racquetballs are great for playing fetch indoors.
In addition to our daily outdoor walks, I put my Fitbit ($54.99 at Target) to work and manage to get in a few extra steps with something I’ve dubbed “the dog parade.” Basically, I walk around the house with treats in hand, and the boys follow. Once, I was able to rack up over 1,600 extra steps!
We also use treat toys to keep them engaged. This Kong Wobbler ($13.49–$17.99 at Amazon) is their absolute favorite and gets them moving for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Brutus is especially good at rolling his around. Plus, it’s really entertaining, and I may or may not have tons of video footage of them in action. I’ve also been interested in trying one of these Toys R Us puzzles ($14.99 at PetSmart). They look a tad trickier, so I think it’d be cool to put my geniuses to the test.
Kong Wobbler (left) and Toys R Us Pets Dog Puzzle
When it comes to food, we don’t skimp. We absolutely love Blue Buffalo ($21.99–$58.99 at PetSmart). This brand is highly rated on Dog Food Advisor and its customer service is superb. Zissou even won a Twitter photo contest last Valentine’s Day, so they hold a soft spot in my heart. Additionally, Z used to be a pretty picky eater but happens to love all the “Wilderness” varieties we’ve tried so far—it’s also a great option for dogs with grain or wheat allergies as it’s free of both.
BLUE Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe
When it comes to eating, Brutus scarfs down his food, and Zissou doesn’t always finish, so making food a game benefits both dogs in different ways. We bought these bowls for Christmas, and they love them so far. Brutus uses the Slo-Bowl Slow Feeder in Caribbean Blue ($11.62–$12.18 at Amazon) and Zissou has the Slo-Bowl Slow Feeder in Coral ($11.50–$12.98 at Amazon).
Slo-Bowl Slow Feeder makes mealtime into a game.
As for treats, we love to try new things, especially since we have a BarkBox subscription (see below). The boys are currently super into these stinky Salmon Jerky sticks ($4.99 at PetSmart). We try to buy products that are made in the USA, because a lot of recalls seem to be on products that are produced overseas. Just do your due diligence. Sometimes, it truly is a matter of life and death.
Brutus (left) and Zissou love their BarkBox!
COLLARS AND CLOTHES
We were lucky enough to get obedience lessons for free through Love-A-Bull, the organization where we adopted Zissou. One prerequisite included the use of a chain-free martingale collar, which is excellent for training. I believe almost all are made from fabric, which is great because leather irritates Zissou’s sensitive skin. Check out Etsy for plenty of creative options: Collar Town, Huggable Hound and MoBi Handcrafts. The latter also happens to sell something I’ve been wanting to get for the boys for years: bow tie collars!
Cool dog collar from Huggable Hound (left) and doggie bow tie from MoBi Handcrafts
As if we needed a special occasion to shower them with affection, Love Your Pet Day is February 20. We’ll celebrate with some treats from our local dog bakery, and I might even dress the boys up. Thankfully, they don’t seem to mind wearing the outfits I buy for them; in fact, I think they actually like feeling “hugged.” Even though they are big dogs, I’ve managed to find Hawaiian shirts from Amazon, and Christmas sweaters and Halloween costumes from PetSmart, which now has a sweet collection of clothes for large dogs.
The boys wearing Hawaiian shirts (left) and dressed up for Halloween
SUBSCRIPTIONS, EXTRA SAVINGS AND IN-STORE STEALS
BarkBox: This monthly subscription service allows you to try new treats and toys. It’s how we found Brutus’ favorite toy (the Bionic Urban Stick), and I’ve already bought two replacements for it. Before bedtime, he loves to sit on the couch and chew away.
Bionic Urban Stick chew toy for dogs
Doggyloot: You’ll discover great discounts and deals on lots of fun stuff for your pups. Even better, everything ships for free. Be warned, Doggyloot sends out tons of emails, but it’s a small price to pay for great dog items on the cheap. The site also recently launched its own subscription service (starting at $8.99/month).
Amazon: I buy most of our pets’ products via Amazon because I have a Prime membership ($99 a year). And I’m not gonna lie, I don’t always have the patience to shop at the pet store. Furthermore, I can buy something online and get it within two days. Prime is a lifesaver for pet owners!
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Make sure your dog’s vaccinations and tests are up to date. I use a wall calendar for this, but if that’s too old school for you, set up reminders on your phone or try the Pet Partner app.
Pet Partner app for Android and iPhone
While at the vet getting a checkup, ask about microchipping, which can help reunite you with your pet should he or she ever get lost. Both of our dogs have them. Our vet recommended it with Brutus and when we adopted Zissou, the organization had already microchipped him. Just be sure to register your contact information afterward with a national pet recovery database such as HomeAgain or PETtrac. It’s particularly important to transfer information with your rescues—as we had to do with Zissou. This will ensure your beloved pet returns to you.
Petco: Through February 28, save $7 off $70 or more.
PetSmart: Take $5 off $25 or more.
1800PetMeds: Knock $8 off your total, plus get free shipping on orders over $49.
Target: Get free shipping on $50 or more.
BarkBox: Score a free box with a subscription.
Doggyloot: Enjoy free shipping sitewide.