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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Just because it's fall doesn't mean ticks aren't a danger to your dog!

It was nearly one year ago that our Gracie woke up one morning went out to do her business and collapsed in the yard.

I picked her up and discovered that she was very, very warm. Immediately I took her temperature and found she had a dangerous fever of 106 degrees.

Quickly we jumped in the car and rushed her to the vet. Mum instantly knew that it was a very good possibility that this was a dangerous tick disease, as we have American Dog Ticks here on our mountain that transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Gracie was immediately treated and her fever started to subside, but the neurological symptoms persisted for a few days. After about a week, she was back to her normal, wonderful, goofy Gracie self, but Mum was glad she didn't know at the time just how close Gracie was to death.

Ticks can be very, very dangerous for dogs. If infected, they can transmit Lyme, Tick Paralysis, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis and more.

Raise A Green Dog Partner, Earth Heart Inc., has put together a wonderful article on their blog outlining facts about ticks that are little known to most dog lovers. For example: before Gracie got sick, we had no idea that ticks infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can transmit the disease to your dog within 2-5 hours after a bite.

During that time frame we never saw a tick on Gracie; and assumed that it bit her and fell off very soon after. Over the counter tick preventatives including spot ons, collars and sprays not only contain dangerous chemicals that can be harmful to your dog, but they state they may take up to 24-48 hours to kill ticks; concluding that none of these would have helped prevent Gracie from contracting RMSF.

So what do we do now? We utilize products including essential oil sprays containing Neem sprayed on Mum's hands and rubbed into Gracie's (and YoYo's and Rach's) fur; we spread Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth to kill ticks in our yard and rub a little in our dog's fur, and occasionally we'll spray a garlic or cedar based spray just outside the fence area of our yard to further repel ticks from entering our yard.

Why do we use these items? Because the only way to keep ticks from infecting Gracie, YoYo and Rach are to repel them and keep them away. And by using these products we are keeping our dogs healthier by not exposing them to dangerous chemicals that could affect their health, well being and immune system.

Remember, fall is one of the best times to get out and enjoy nature with your dog! But also remember that ticks are prevalent and prolific this time of year, and well into winter in the southern states. So we encourage you to read more about ticks and learn how you can repel them from your dog!

And if you'd like to try Earth Heart's Buzz Guard that contains Neem to help repel the ticks on your dog, enter our giveaway below (available to US and CAN dog lovers only, please). We are giving away one bottle to three winners on October 10th, so you have until midnight on that day to enter! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our tips on finding safer and healthier products for your dog.

Last week we outlined information about the safety of a wide variety of dog products from bowls, to beds, to toys and more.

Before proceeding, we encourage you to learn more about the potential of dangerous chemicals contained in many dog products on the market by reading our post.

Now for our tips to help you find healthier dog products, dog toys, beds, bowls and more for a healthier, happier dog:

1. Whenever possible purchase toys and other dog products made in the USA. It's not to say that all toys in the US are made without dangerous chemicals as there are no regulations, but US made toys are more likely to have less chemicals than the mass produced and imported dog products from other countries, particularly China, where safety standards are less strict.

2. Read the labels of your dog products, and check the manufacturer's website to determine if the product has been tested for toxic chemicals. If not, call them to ask for their product toxicity report. If they don't produce these reports then move to another manufacturer.

3. Be sure and inspect all your newly purchased dog products for loose pieces and parts that may come off easily and become a chocking hazard.

4. Please, please remember that no dog toy is indestructible. Heavy, strong chewers need stronger types of tough dog toys perhaps made of natural rubber. In addition, be sure that the size of toy is right for the size of your dog. Many good manufacturers have recommendations for the size of dog for which their particular toy is made.

5. Supervise your dog at all times when playing with toys.

6. Avoid toys with scrapeable surface coatings and printing, as these are more likely to contain heavy metals within the printing process. In addition, any dog product that has a strong chemical odor, probably contains chemicals. Avoid these products and move to another choice.

7. Avoid toys with foam fillings as they may be more apt to contain flame retardant treated foam. To be sure check with the manufacturer.

8. Steer clear of dog toys with air release holes as they can become a suction trap for tongues.

9. Seek out toys that are made with natural rubber, hemp, and are organic in nature if you can. If you are worried about the stuffing there are a lot of wonderful USA made stuffing free toys on the market now which our dogs love!

10. Check with the manufacturer's website that produces the dog bed your are looking to purchase. Many dog beds are filled with flame retardant materials that can have  health repercussions for your dog. Look for more natural materials like organic cotton and beds that are stuffed with safer materials.

11. The same for collars....look for a manufacturer in the US. You can find manufacturers that produce wonderful strong and long lasting collars and harnesses of hemp and other non-toxic materials.

12. When selecting a dog bowl for food or water, look to stainless steel (made in the US and radioactive free) made of the heaviest gauge stainless steel you can find. The heavier the stainless steel the less likely it is to be radioactive. In addition, some ceramic or pottery type bowls may contain lead that can leach into your dog's water or food. Unless they have been tested, it's best to avoid these types of bowls.

Don't forget, all the products, including beds, bowls, collars, toys and more, listed on our website - Raise A Green Dog - have been pre-approved to not contain any toxins and are perfectly safe for your dog. Be sure and visit all of the RAGD partners on our site for more information.

And if you'd like, you can made a wonderful array of dog toys and other products, from beds, to coats and more from natural materials around your home, just do a search for 'DIY' on our blog for great ideas!

Photos courtesy of Kyle May, H. Michael Karshis,and Nate Steiner

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sweet potato chews; a healthy, chewy treat for your dog!

I love this time of year, the cooler air, the leaves, the hikes and agility!

Another thing I really love are the sweet potato chews that Mum likes to make for us since sweet potatoes are a staple in our fall shopping bag.

Today we sharing are favorite recipe that you can share with all your dog loving friends and family:

  • Wash a sweet potato (organic is best and we peel them).
  • Cut down the middle lengthwise.
  • Then cut long lengthwise slices about 1/4 of an inch wide (thick).
  • Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet (use a stainless steel cookie sheet for healthier cooking).
  • Put in the oven at 250 degrees for about 3 hours. This leaves them kind of chewy, but you could also bake them a little longer to get them crunchy.
Here are variations that we've enjoyed:

Waffle cut them for more fun with a mandolin.
Cut them in slices and they will cook more quickly.

We like to keep them out in an opened bag and let the moisture dissipate a little, then we will store them in the fridge...we keep them for about 4-5 days or so, since we like to eat them up pretty quickly :)


Photos courtesy of Steve Johnson and Leslie May.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bowls, beds, toys and more....are your dog's products safe and free from dangerous chemicals?

Dogs love toys! They love their beds, enjoy a good walk with their collar and harness. They wear coats, boots, drink and eat out of bowls; they are in contact with a wide variety of dog products throughout their daily life.

But are these products safe?

Let's explore...

Over the years a few wonderful organizations including Consumer Affairs, The Environmental Working Group,, and several well respected universities have tested a variety of pet products on the market and have found some astounding and valuable information of which every dog lover needs to be aware.

Some products on the market that are being sold for dogs may be contaminated with everything from lead to cadmium to chromium, and bisphenol A , phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs, also known as flame retardants, arsenic and more.

These dangerous chemicals can lead to a host of health problems for our dogs including allergies, asthma; bladder and lung cancer, gastrointestinal issues, blindness, renal dysfunction, reproductive issues, and a whole host of other health issues.

According to the EWG, 'under current federal law, chemical companies do not have to prove chemicals are safe before they are used in products, including pet toys and other products for our companion animals. For pets as for people, the result is a body burden of complex mixtures of industrial chemicals never tested for safety. Health problems in pets span high rates of cancer in dogs and skyrocketing incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats. Genetic changes can't explain the increases in certain health problems among pets, leaving scientists to believe that chemical exposures play a significant role.'

In addition, there are no regulations over the safety of dog products including, toys, bedding, collars, coats and more.

In 2009, released results of the testing of 1000's of products including over 400 pet products. Their dbase can provide you with ratings information of contamination for a wide variety of pet products. During that year when testing these pet products, they found it wasn't surprising that toxic chemicals were found. 45% of the pet products they tested had detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemicals. And 7% of all the pet products they tested had lead levels greater than 300 ppm -- the current CPSC lead standard for lead in children's products.

In addition they found nearly half of the pet collars they tested had detectable levels of lead; with 27% exceeding 300 ppm -- the CPSC limit for lead in children's products; and one half (48%) of tennis balls tested had detectable levels of lead, sharing that tennis balls intended for pets were much more likely to contain lead, whereas sports tennis balls contained no lead.

Then in 2014, set out to discover more evidence as they tested a variety of products in Walgreens. One product, a package of pet tennis balls, contained lead above 100 ppm, exceeding the CPSC limit set on children’s products.

In 2012, Kimberly Wooten, a master’s student using the project as her thesis, and Phil Smith, an associate professor of terrestrial ecotoxicology at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech tested for chemicals by simulating dog saliva, then simulating chewing by squeezing the dog toy bumpers they were testing and with stainless steel salad tongs. They found the toys leached phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which are used to give elasticity to plastic and vinyl, and are known endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen or act as anti-androgens and could lead to negative health effects.

And that's not all...

In 2007, two Chinese-made toys for pets sold at Wal-Mart stores were found to contain elevated levels of lead, chromium, and cadmium, according to a forensic toxicologist whose lab tested the products for

So what is a dog loving parent to do? Check back later this week for our steps to find healthier dog products, dog toys, beds, bowls and more for a healthier, happier dog.

Consumer Affairs
Texas Tech

Friday, September 12, 2014

Want to know how our country's food makes it's way to our dog's dish?

If you've ever wondered how our food makes it to our table and into our dog's dish, you won't want to miss this Sunday's airing of Food Inc., on Pivot TV.

Listed as one of the 10 most important documentaries that may affect your dog's life (by Raise A Green Dog), Food Inc., is a educational look at our nation's food.

From information hidden from consumers about how our country's meat is raised, slaughtered and processed, to a better understanding of the handful of corporations that put profit ahead of consumer health when it comes to our food, to the impact of corporate farming practices on the American farmer, to the prolific use of dangerous chemicals including herbicides, pesticides, and insecticide, to the overuse of hormones and antibiotics, and the reasons for more recent toxins and bacteria found in foods; we know you will come away with a better understanding of the importance of good, healthy food for your, and your dog's future health.

Please watch, this coming Sunday (September 14) at 12PM ET. Check your local listings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Make your own wool dryer balls and ditch the chemicals for the health of your dog!

Not too long ago, we wrote a series about safer and healthier laundry practices for the health of your dog.

You can see the first in the series here, and scroll down the post to see links to the other posts in the series.

One of the tips we mentioned in the series is how to reduce static cling so you can ditch those nasty chemicals in fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

Why? Because you may or may not know, those commercial dryer sheets with heavy duty fragrances, as well as those liquid fabric softeners are some of the most dangerous and toxic parts of your cleaning and laundry regimen!

Thanks to Mother Earth Living, here is a great video to help you learn how you can easily and quickly make your own wool dryer balls from wool yarn.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Raise A Green Dog book is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

We are very excited to announce that you can now get the newly published Raise A Green Dog book from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

Not to be missed, this comprehensive book includes over 80 articles to help you learn how your dog can be more green and healthy. It covers a wealth of information including:

- Organic lawn care.
- Cleaning your home the healthy way.
- Great DIY homemade treat recipes.
- Exploring healthier food options.
- How you can combat ticks and fleas naturally.
- Instructions on building your own doggie doo composting system
- Wonderful DIY projects for your dog, including games and gear.
- And lots, lots more.

The best part is you can keep it handy and use as a reference at home and on the go, with our completely searchable function including in the book,

Want to know the healthiest dog shampoo to purchase? Do a search for shampoo.
Want to know what safer and healthier dog toys to buy? Do a quick search for toys.
Want to know the safest products to purchase to combat fleas and ticks? Search for fleas/ticks!

Well you get the idea....

When visiting Amazon and Barnes & Noble you can also view sample chapters to help you decide if our book is right for you. And you can see the full table of contents here.

We hope our book becomes a staple in your dog healthcare library! Just click on the logos below to see and purchase our book on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.


Friday, September 5, 2014

The shelf of life of foods for you and your dog!

Apples, bananas, carrots, green beans, chicken and more. I love giving some of these wonderful, healthy fruits, vegetables and meats to YoYo, Gracie and Rach.

But how do you know how long these foods will fair on the counter, in the refrigerator and in the freezer? Here's a handy chart to help you along.

And remember, some of these foods are not safe for dogs! It's always a good idea to review the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals list of 'People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet.'

Enjoy! And let us know what you think!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vaccines | There is so much to know and learn to keep your dog the healthiest they can be.

Ten years ago, when I adopted YoYo (my first dog ever), I admit that I wasn't as well-read and educated about vaccines as I am now.

Like all of us, we learn as we go.

I've been lucky with YoYo, but I admit my biggest mistake was taking the word of my first veterinarian and not educating myself about vaccines before walking into the vets office.

Not taking the word of my veterinarian, you ask? Yes, that's right. Because not all veterinarians are created equal, not all follow the same vaccination schedules, not all recommend feeding the best food, not all are right for your dog; and not all veterinarians carry the same philosophy of the kind of life you want your dog to live.

Over the few first years of having YoYo, I learned more and more; and one of the big ah-ha moments was when I learned about the practice of over vaccinating pets. As I was able to learn quickly, I was able to apply a healthier vaccination program for YoYo fairly early in his life.

Years ago, the Internet didn't have a lot of information about the potential for over-vaccination. Now if you search for vaccinations for dogs you'll find lots of information on the Internet. Some good, and some not so good.

There's the rub. Who do you trust, who's advice do you follow?

We're here to help, and to share what we've learned over the years. We've faced making important decisions about vaccinations with our new puppy, Rach, just in the last month.

With the information we are sharing here, we hope that you will also become more informed to help you make healthier decisions for your dog.


Firstly, let's talk about what the law says and what governing organizations recommend for vaccines for dogs...

Over the years the Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has revised their vaccination guidelines for core (Rabies (may vary for adult dogs according to state law), Distemper, Parvovius, Adenovirus) and non-core (Bordetella, Parainfluenza, Lyme, Measles, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus) vaccines for dogs as more and more information has become available. The best part is that as they have revised their vaccination guidelines, they have actually revised them to include less vaccines for dogs, as well as, vaccines less often, in some cases.

Current AAHA recommendations include:

Canine Distemper, Canine Parvo & Canine Adenovirus:

Initial vaccination
  • In puppies < 16 weeks of age. Starting at 6 weeks, vaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks (6, 10, 14 or 8, 12, 16 weeks) up to 14 or 16 weeks; final shot should be given between 14 and 16 weeks to minimize risk of maternal antibody interference. Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age. One dose.
  • For puppies who received initial vaccination series by 16 weeks, a booster no later than 1 year after completion of initial series, then ≥ 3 years thereafter. 
  • For dogs who received initial vaccination after 16 weeks of age, every ≥ 3 years thereafter
  • Notes: Among healthy dogs, distemper vaccines are expected to induce immunity for at least 5 years.

Rabies 1-year
  • Initial vaccination in puppies < 16 weeks of age.  One dose not earlier than 12 weeks or as required by law.  Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age. One dose. 
  • Revaccination - For all dogs: annually as required by law
Rabies 3-year
  • Initial vaccination in puppies < 16 weeks of age.  One dose not earlier than 12 weeks or as required by law Initial vaccination in dogs > 16 weeks of age. One dose.
  • Revaccination - For all dogs: within 1 year of initial dose regardless of age at time of initial dose, then every 3 years thereafter as required by law
Most notably, in recent years the AAHA has moved from recommending one year annual vaccinations to three year recommendations for core.


You can ask 15 different veterinarians and you may get 15 different recommendations for what vaccines to give to your dog. The AAHA recommendations are just that, recommendations and guidelines. Non-core vaccines are recommended at the discretion of the individual veterinarian.

Notable researchers and advocates believe, as we do, that over-vaccination for dogs in this country is a problem.

For example, the AAHA has recognized (see sources) that immunity lasts at least 5 years for distemper and parvo, and at least 7 years for adenovirus.

So why provide these vaccines every three years or even annually?

Dr. Richard Ford, a DVM who is on both the AAHA canine vaccination task force and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) feline vaccination advisory panel believes, based on feedback from vaccine manufacturer sales reps, that 60 percent of veterinary practices are still re-vaccinating on an annual rather than every 3-year basis. "Some acknowledged the reality and changed their protocols, while others, fearing loss of a major source of revenue, argued against anything other than the time-honored paradigm: annual boosters," said Ford.

In addition, many laws in this country (depending upon your state) require rabies either annually or every three years. However Dr. Ron Schultz and Dr. Jean Dodds, who lead the Rabies Challenge Fund believe that rabies vaccines hold immunity in dogs for 5-7 years (or even longer) and they are working to prove this fact in the hopes that their study data will concretely determine the duration of immunity and allow laws to be changed for the health of our dogs.

Not until the mid-2000's was there a way for individual dog lovers to report problems their dogs encountered with vaccines. When reporting became more organized it allowed for more information to be available to both veterinarians, organizations and individuals in the dangers of over vaccination.

Over the years many vets and dog lovers  have seen acute, often immediate adverse reactions to vaccinations, but have also seen long term health consequences for dogs from over vaccinating including experiencing symptoms from fever and hair loss, to lameness, hives, allergies, respiratory illness, to more severe symptoms of vaccine injection site sarcoma, thyroiditis, seizures and more.

Vaccines are a necessary and important part of our lives and our pets lives, but over vaccinating can be harmful.

So what do you do?

Now that we have new puppy, Rach, we've created a plan for his vaccines that we are sharing here:
  • Rach is a rescue, adopted at 12 weeks. So all the medical care that he experienced before 12 weeks was beyond our control.
  • At 6 weeks (under the care of the rescue) he received: Distemper, Parvo, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza (combined) vaccine.
  • At 9 weeks (under the care of the rescue) he received: Distemper + Parvo (combo) and Bordetella vaccines and Virbantel for worms.
So what do we do going forward?

Many of the more holistic veterinarians we follow (including those at the University of Tennessee and those here in the Atlanta area, Dr. Jean Dodds and Dr. Ronald Schultz) believe that the mothers immunity overrides pretty much any vaccine you provide to your puppy before the age of 12 weeks. Our vets at UT know that a dog's mothers immunity they receive from mothers milk is gone by the age of 16 weeks.

So those DAP shots that he received before 12 weeks may not be effective. So Rach received another round of Distemper and Parvo vaccines at 16 weeks. If we would have had control of Rach's vaccinations from the very beginning we would have only given him two rounds at 9-12 weeks and again at 16 weeks. As that would have been all for him to be protected for DAP.

After one year, we will begin doing titers for DAP, at one year and then every 3-5 years after that to make sure he has the antibodies within his body to fight any exposure.

What is a titer?

Antibody titer is a laboratory test that measures the level of antibodies in a blood sample induced by previous vaccinations. If the levels are satisfactory, the patient (in this case your dog) is considered to have “protective antibody” and is considered to be “sufficiently immune” to the disease, and doesn't need another vaccine.

While titers are much more expensive than vaccinations, (example: our recent rabies titer test was $170 per test, and our distemper+parvo titer test was $130 per test for YoYo and Gracie) utilizing titers instead of vaccinations is much healthier for your dog, now and long term. And with this, can save you a lot of money in vet bills over the life of your dog.

More about rabies vaccines.

When it comes to rabies vaccines, Dr. Ron Schultz gives the first vaccine after 4 months of age, re-vaccinates in a year, and then again in 3 years and every 3 years thereafter. In other words, he follows the law for 3-year rabies vaccines, even though he doesn't believe a vaccination every 3 years is necessary for immunization.

When it comes to rabies we will be following the law. In our state of Georgia, rabies is required at 12 weeks, then a one year rabies vaccine at one year, then the following year we will begin a three year rabies vaccine every three years. It is our hope that in Rach's lifetime that the work of Dr. Schultz and Dr. Dodds will showcase that rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats is not necessary as often as three years and the laws will be changed accordingly.

Here's a little information as an example of a rabies law in one of the states in the US, our state Georgia (to find your rabies law information for your state, simply perform a Google search):
  • Unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the animal should be placed in strict isolation for 6 months. Isolation in this context refers to confinement in an enclosure that precludes direct contact with people and other animals
  • A healthy dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person should be confined and observed daily for 10 days (26); administration of rabies vaccine to the animal is not recommended during the observation period to avoid confusing signs of rabies with possible side effects of vaccine administration. Such animals should be evaluated by a veterinarian at the first sign of illness during confinement. Any illness in the animal should be reported immediately to the local health department. If signs suggestive of rabies develop, the animal should be euthanized and the head shipped for testing as described in Part I.A.8. Any stray or unwanted dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person may be euthanized immediately and the head submitted for rabies examination.
  • Vaccines used in state and local rabies control programs should have at least a 3-year duration of immunity.
You can see if the law is not followed that there are potentially dire consequences for dogs that are not vaccinated for rabies. There are states that allow medical waivers for rabies vaccines for dogs that have current medical problems.

As a matter of fact even states that don't allow medical wavers, will consider recommendations from vets if they believe a dogs health will be compromised by giving them a rabies shot. In these cases, vets can take a titer and apply to the state for a medical waiver. That's what we are doing for our Gracie, who is currently battling a fungal infection from all the rain we've received here in the mountains.

We hope this information is helpful to you in making more informed decisions regarding vaccinations for your dog!


If you'd like to read more about the history of vaccinations for pets you can visit these pages: 200020032011

Additional good sources of information include:
Dr. Karen Becker 
Dr. Jean Dodds
Dr. Ron Schultz

Photos courtesy of: PatchAttackM@CK and Joe Futrelle 
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