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The Bea List (And Mitch Too!): My Dog Product Picks

Posted Apr 21 2014 12:00pm

IMG_6466 One of my passions outside of work is dog rescue and dog training.  I live for adoption happy endings.  As a dog owner, I want to make sure my dogs have the best nutrition and other products that I can afford to ensure they are happy, healthy, and live as long as possible.  I am not a vet, not a pet nutritionist, and not a dog expert, just a dog loving and dog savvy consumer that has done her homework and made informed decisions based on the information at hand and limits of her budget.  Here are the natural(ish) products I use for my dogs to keep them as healthy and happy as I can!

For Nourishment
If I could, I would cook fresh food for my dogs everyday or consider a raw diet.  Unfortunately that gets quite expensive (and Bea has a very sensitive stomach and any variance in her diet means an upset stomach and general grossness when picking up after my pet).  Bea & Mitch eat dry kibble because they digest it well, and it’s the most economical option (and not to mention convenient for travel).  But not all kibble is created equal.  Back in the day, most dogs ate table scraps until the 1950s, when commercial kibble was born out of an excess supply of corn – which means that most dog food is made from corn, grain, and some not so fun byproducts that dog tummies aren’t meant to digest.  Grain-free dog food more closely mimics a dog’s ancestral diet;  which makes for a shiny coat, healthy skin, increased energy, fewer stools, and better behavior.

Orijen is one the best brands of (grain-free) kibble on the market place.  It’s made in small batches with whole, fresh, and local ingredients in Canada – the food is so good it almost makes up for Justin Bieber.

orijen 6 fish The ingredients on any bag of dog food are listed by volume – and usually big brand kibble starts their list with various corn byproducts.  Comparatively, here are the ingredients in Orijen 6 fish dog food formula:

Whole salmon*, whole herring*, salmon meal, herring meal, Pollock meal, whole flounder*, boneless walleye*, boneless northern pike*, boneless lake whitefish*, salmon oil, herring oil, chickpeas, red lentils, green lentils, green peas, pea fiber, canola oil, sun-cured alfalfa, yams*, pumpkin*, butternut squash*, spinach greens*, carrots*, Red Delicious apples*, Bartlett pears*, cranberries*, blueberries*, kelp*, licorice root, angelica root, fenugreek, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, chamomile, dandelion, summer savory, rosemary, Enterococcus faecium.

* fresh and preservative-free

I know what each of those things are – and all of those things sound delicious to me! Check out  the ingredients in Pedigree  for comparison.  Orijen is pricey for sure, but it’s also very calorically dense, and generally you need less Orijen as compared with other brands.  I also believe that in the long run, I will save on vet bills. Corn based dog foods are linked with behavioral issues, allergies, and other not so fun canine issues.

I originally was giving Bea & Mitch the Orijen adult chicken based formula with a squirt of fish oil (see the soft coat section below).  Then I wised up, saved a few bucks, and started giving them the fish formula.  Their coats are super soft and and shiny, they love the flavor, and it’s easy to travel with the pups.  We’ve been feeding Bea Orijen for nearly 3 years now and we’ve never had any issues with it.  Pet owners are now demanding it, so there are a lot of quality grain-free kibble options out there (some of which are more budget friendly).  Each dog is different and it’s important to find food that your dog likes and is good for them!

For Treats & Training
In terms of treats, I actually found some great treats by accident.   A great little pet food store in LA was giving away samples of this air-dried dog food called “ Real Meat .”  My dogs LOVED the little dried pieces of beef.  Although Real Meat also makes treats, the dog food is a little cheaper and my pups don’t know the difference.  They are already in bite sized pieces so they are great for training, and because they are dried the smell isn’t very strong (which is great for me and my purses).

real meat dog food

I also make my own dog treats  (a great way to use some sweet potatoes that are just about to go – but this method can be used with apples, carrots, pumpkin, really any dog friendly fruit or veggie).  My dogs LOVE sweet potatoes, baby carrots, and I’ll occasionally throw some dog friendly leftovers their way.  A side note about chicken based dog products:  Nearly every time I hear about a recall of dog treats or food, chicken is involved. I tend to stay away from chicken based dog food and treats – something that my friends in rescue do as well.

For Chewing It’s natural for dogs to chew.  It releases stress.  It gives them something constructive to do.  It’s good for dogs to chew.  And I luckily have found that if I give my dogs yummy things to chew on, they tend to stay away from chewing on things of the shoe variety.  Bully sticks are my favorite things to give my dogs to chew (just don’t ask how they’re made).  It takes them a while to get through one – especially the braided bully sticks.(though my dogs are small, I bet larger dogs would annihialate a bully stick in a matter of minutes).

bully sticks They aren’t cheap, but they make my pups (and therefore me), so happy.  They are natural, easy to digest, and allegedly keep my dogs teeth cleaner (though having small dogs, gross teeth come as part of the package).  The best pricing I have found (especially if you buy in bulk) has been on the web – and I really like the sticks from Best Bully Sticks .  There are no byproducts or added chemicals in their bully sticks and they always are having sales.  I can usually get it down to around $2 for a 6 inch braided bully stick.  I don’t give my dogs bully sticks all the time because I like being able to pay my bills, but once or twice per week they really enjoy it as a treat.   A great option for larger breeds is elk antlers – they are super expensive but they last forever.  Though my dogs weren’t so into them so I ended up donating them to a bully breed rescue.

For a Shiny & Soft Coat
When we first adopted Bea, I couldn’t deal with her shedding.  I did everything possible to try and eliminate the excess hair: vacuum, lint brush, brushing her, giving her frequent baths, but nothing seemed to help. I ran to the internet and read that among other benefits, giving dogs fish oil supplements could reduce shedding.

fish oil for dogs

So I started giving it to Bea.  Did it reduce her shedding?  I have no idea. Frankly some days I’m surprised she has any fur left.  I did notice that her coat got super soft so I made it a part of her diet.  Now that she and Mitch are on a fish based food, I have stopped using it, but it’s great for dogs who may be on a meat based diet.

For Solid News:
Miss Bea Arthur has a sensitive tummy and a sensitive nose which makes for a ruthless combination of Bea finding things she shouldn’t eat, eating them, and then having grossness for several days which I have to deal with.  Steve and I came up with the code phrase “solid news” to communicate when Bea has her first solid poop after days of basically peeing out her butt.  Oh Bea.  Even when we keep her diet super consistent, Bea’s poops are, shall we say, not super easy to pick up.

I started giving her doggie probiotic about a year ago and the difference is like night and day.  Just a small pinch in my dogs meals makes for solid news all around.  And solid news is good news.


For The Joints
Bea has a luxating patella – which means her kneecap pops in and out-of-place causing her to limp every so often.  It took two vets and way too much money to diagnose her (mostly because the first vet was sort of an idiot).  Luxating patellas are not uncommon in smaller dogs and are usually congenital.  The condition is graded on a scale of 1-4:  1 being hardly noticeable, and 4 being the dog not putting any weight on that leg and corrective surgery is often recommended (though not a guaranteed cure).  Bea’s knees (hah!) are around a 2.5.  She walks fine, but when she runs she hops noticeably.  The consensus with our vet is to just wait and see and keep her comfortable.  Surgery is expensive and painful, rehabilitation is long, and the surgery may not even correct the problem.  Bea has probably lived with this her whole life, we’ve been assured she’s not in pain, and she gets around just fine.

One thing we have added to her daily routine is a glucosamine supplement.  Glucosamine helps lubricate dog joints and reduce inflammation and any pain , and can be a great idea for more senior dogs.  9-year-old Bea can’t tell us whether she feels better, but she sure enjoys eating the supplement.  Dasuquin has a great product in the form of a treat.


For Grooming
When I first got a dog, I thought “there is NO WAY I’m washing that animal in the same bathtub that I wash myself.  NO WAY.”  After a few $50 grooming appointments, I changed my tune.  It takes roughly 20 minutes to bathe both my little guys, and washing them every week reminds me to clean my tub – and now my tub gets scrubbed once per week, and my dogs smell amazing: everyone wins (especially Steve who is conspicuously never to be found during bath/tub scrubbing time).  I don’t think fancy dog shampoo is at all necessary.  I wash my dogs with baby shampoo .


It’s gentle.  It smells yummy.  It’s way cheaper than “organic” pet shampoos.  A great, though not so natural secret:  an LA groomer told me his secret for bathing dogs:  Head & Shoulders.  “Dogs smell amazing for at least a week” he said.

Having floppy ears, Bea get’s all sorts of gunk built up in her ear canals.  A few times per month I use natural ear wipes  to clean it out. Other natural and more economical options are cotton pads dipped in a little apple cider vinegar.


In between baths, I use unscented baby wipes to clean any potential mud or mess off their paws, and I use deodorant powder (with eucalyptus essential oil – a natural flea deterrent) if they need to be bathed but I don’t have the time, or they just aren’t smelling all that great in between their weekly baths.

The one thing I wont do for my dogs is clip their nails.  I am bad at it and once clipped too much on Bea and she started bleeding (the only time she’s ever bared her teeth at me).  I have a local guy that clips both Bea & Mitch’s nails for $10.  Totally worth it.

For Shivers
Never in my life did I think I would buy clothing for my dogs.  As hilarious as it is to see a dog dressed up like a hot dog for halloween, it’s never really been my thing.  What I didn’t know is how COLD short-haired dogs get during the winter.  While this is less true in Southern California, there are some evenings during the winter if it gets down below 40 my dogs start shaking and shivering.  It pains me to see my dogs remotely uncomfortable and so I’ve invested in a few cheapish clothing items for my pups.

Dog Clothes Drs Foster And Smith is a pet supplies website whose logo looks like the cover of a Judy Blume novel, but they have great dog clothing at really great prices.  Both Bea & Mitch have the turtle neck (4) and the rain coat (3) I think I paid like $30 for all 4 items .  Though a bit more expensive, another great option is the Lands End dog shop .  Both my dogs have the squall jacket  (2) and the squall fleece (1).  You can order multiple sizes and give back the ones that don’t fit in person to any Sears location so you don’t have to pay return shipping.

On a side note, if the jingle of your dog’s ID tag bothers you, I can’t recommend the brass nameplate from Drs Foster & Smith enough .  Both our dogs have them on nylon collars (total cost including nameplate, collar, and engraving: about $6 each).  If you call in your order, they will attach the nameplate to the collar for you!

Of course there’s other stuff, Bea and Mitch are on both a heart worm preventative as well as routine  flea and tick prevention .  They get their shots.  They are micro-chipped.  There really is a lot of effort, money, and time that goes into dog ownership – but the rewards, the lovely wonderous rewards, though intangible, are priceless. IMG_7159

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