Friday, February 25, 2011

What dogs SHOULDN'T eat.

The subject of What To Feed A Dog is a lot like religion.

There's more than 1 point of view. A few believe they're absolutely right. Everyone else hopes they're right. There are fanatics, and there are sheep. It can be very divisive.

How many people blogged about food this week? So far, from my short reading list -

HERE at Rescued Insanity.

HERE at Daley's Dog Years.

More specific to arthritis, HERE at Dawg Business.

More specific to skin issues, the comments section HERE at No Dog About It. [Which by the way, is a very interesting post for anyone who has a dog with skin problems.]

A review of a nutritional supplement, HERE at Trixie, Lily and Sammy-Joe.

And let's not forget our very own liver treat recipes, HERE!

There's a lot of interesting information in those links for anyone who's keen. Be prepared for a lively discussion and many points of view, both in the posts, the links in those posts, and in the comments.

I'm still learning what to feed Rufus and Georgia. Their menu is an evolving one. It often changes to suit their health scare of the moment. I have absolutely no idea what they might be eating 6 months from now. As happy as I am with their current diet, Rufus is already showing signs of boredom. He's a picky eater.

Georgia, however, will eat anything and everything, which leads me to the most important part of this post for me - what dogs SHOULDN'T be eating.

Would anyone out there have any idea what this is, and if it's toxic to dogs?
Georgia's been eating a lot of them every morning. She often runs off in the park to do her own thing and to scrounge for food. We only found out what she was eating because she brought one back to The Other Half and dropped it at his feet.

We think [but we're not sure] that it comes from these palm trees.
If we had a name, I could google for more information.

The seeds come out whole in her stools. This morning, she also vomited this fine number.
I was horrified to see how many there were and can't imagine what her gut looks like. I'm waiting for a call back from the vet as I type this.

Georgia isn't the only dog who enjoys them. See those blurry waggy tails?
I would be grateful for any information! Thank you :)

Update 5pm  I'm sorry the pictures weren't very clear. I've been asked for more information via email.

*The skin is smooth, shiny, thin and somewhat leathery.
*The orange "flesh" part is fibrous but not dry.
*It's about the colour of a kumquat, and the size of a large grape - maybe about 1 inch long.
*It has no smell that I can remember. I didn't taste it [but I will the next time I get one].
*It has one large seed that is more oval/egg-shaped than round.

Update Saturday, 10.45 am, 26th February  I spent quite a while googling for answers yesterday, and found many dogowners out there asking the very same question I did. It appears dogs everywhere love this fruit, and will rush over for a feed whenever they see them, much to the concern of the people who have this plant in their garden!

I've decided to update this post with the information I've gathered, in case someone else needs it one day.

Based on your comments and emails [thank you!], a chat with the vet yesterday evening, a chat with a Callan Park gardener and another dogowner with a similar experience this morning, and of course, googling! we've come to this conclusion:

The fruit is indeed from a palm tree - the Cocos or Queen Palm.

I found this interesting comment on some forum, that was a reply to another worried dogowner.  He seems to know what he's talking about, so I've copied and pasted it here -

RE: Cocos Palm information needed
Posted by CoralCoast_Tropicals z11 Qld, Aust (My Page) on Sun, Feb 13, 05 at 19:55

Actually the name has changed a few times, it was once known as Cocos plumosa and as such was placed in the same genus as the true 'Cocos', Cocos nucifera, the Coconut Palm which is completely different.

It was then given the name Arecastrum romanzoffianum for a number of years before finally being placed with the Syagrus genus and given the name Syagrus romanzoffianum.

As Len stated the correct common name is 'Queen Palm' and here in Queensland it was known as that until the likes of Don Burke and others came on the scene and started calling it 'Cocos'. This causes a fair bit of confusion here in Queensland with the Coconut palm which unlike the Queen Palm is not an environmental weed that pops up everywhere.

As for the toxicity of the flesh or seeds, I remember as a child eating them and am now still here! My neighbour has 2 German Shepherds and a number of Queen Palms in her yard. I see the dogs chewing on them all the time and they are still alive as well. They only seem to be chewing the ripe fruit as the green fruit is still on the tree.


Thanks for that, Andrew, whoever you are :)

Here are some pictures of the tree and fruit that were taken this morning at Callan Park, under a slightly brighter sky.
 Back home, I scraped open the fruit and this is what it looks like.
The pulp is very slimy. It didn't taste particularly good to me [being slimy] but it is sweetish. Maybe that's why so many dogs like eating them. The seed, as you can see, is black [I was asked this question yesterday, via email, and didn't have an answer then]. It's also smooth, without any scoring.

The picture wasn't posed. Georgia tried to grab the fruit out of my hand as it was being taken. Having tasted the fruit for myself, I really do wonder what dogs see in it.

I'll have to continue with my findings later. Off for some exercise now and it looks like I'm already late for my bus!

Update Saturday, 5.10pm, 26th February  It's quite certain now that this palm fruit is not toxic to dogs. The seeds pass out of the system.

In Georgia's case, there was both diarrhea and vomiting. So it's possible that the fruit did irritate her digestive system. It could also be because she didn't just have 1 or 2. No, Ms Pea had at least 15. That was the number that passed out of her system yesterday. That we were able to count.

I was worried about blockage. The vet said it would probably not be a problem because of Georgia's size. I'm not sure how that would work with littledogs.

Under vet's orders, it's back to small meals of easily digestible pap until her system clears. And, lucky girl, she gets to walk on the leash for the whole of next week just to be sure she doesn't pick up any more rubbish to eat. She's not going to be happy.

An important note - not all palm fruit is benign.

In my googling, I came across some palm trees that are listed as being toxic to animals. These include the Australian Cardboard Palm, Coontie Palm, Fern Palm, Foxtail Palm, Grass Palm, Ivy Palm, and the Sago Palm. I'm not familiar with most of them, but list them here in case you should be interested in finding out more.

Like Alice falling into the rabbit-hole, my search led eventually to this - a [long, yet not definitive] list of plants that are poisonous to dogs, cats and horses. You'll be amazed at some of the plants listed. You might have them in your garden. I know there are some in mine.

or here

An excerpt from the 2nd link -

"Sago Palm - While the seeds and nuts of this plant are most poisonous, the entire plant is toxic. Animals ingesting parts of this plant may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, depression, seizures and liver failure."

I'm pretty glad Georgia didn't have any sago palm fuit.

ThaNks again! to everyone who commented and wrote in to share information and their experiences. I hope this post will one day be as helpful to someone else in the same situation :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shark sightings.

"Did you hear? There're sharks around!"
"Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn't be in here right now, just in case."
"I don't see anything."
"Excuse me. What's a shark? Is it something that'll eat Georgia? Is it?"

To read the report:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hey old fella! YOUR turn.

Dinner's ready.
Don't be late.

The cook, her helper, the critic and the old fella.

You know how, sometimes, things conspire to make you feel like a lazy, bad, good-for-nothing person?

On Tuesday, I met a lovely lady who politely refused to let me give her dog a tiny piece of schmackos because she considered them no better than plastic and poison.

On Wednesday night, I found a note on my facebook wall from a friend, Ms Amy, who told me she'd baked her dog, Millie, a birthday cupcake.
In fact, 2. One with icing, and one without.
HaPpy * BiRthday, Millie!
Millie looked very happy that someone loved her enough to bake her a birthday cupcake.

On Thursday night, I found 2 simple recipes for liver treats on My Little Dog, a blog that had just become Fwiend #28 the day before. How's that for timing? Ms Didi had posted a liver cake recipe. Ms Pamela had shared another way to do liver in the comments section.

More coincidence. I had a bag of liver in the freezer. It'd been there for a couple of months because The Person Who'd Bought The Stuff didn't want to cook it for himself. 

It was obvious what the cosmos was trying to tell me. Who was I to argue?

On Friday, I dutifully spent the morning making liver treats for my doggies.

This 1st recipe was from the comment that Ms Pamela from Something Wagging made on My Little Dog. It took her 2 lines to share the recipe.I'm going to try to do it in under 300 words and with a lot of pictures.

Slow-Baked Liver Treats For Dummies.
The bag in the freezer had a mix of chicken and pig liver, plus 2 chicken hearts [in right hand bottom corner]. I trimmed off the fat and sliced them into pieces of more or less the same thickness.
"I think you may have thrown some bits away by mistake."
 "THERE! See?"
"Let me get it for you."

Start time.
Temperature in Centigrade.
"Hmmm. Are you sure the oven's hot enough? It seems to be taking a long time."
30 minutes into baking, things got a bit pungent and I found myself taking quick shallow breaths. Unless you're a fan of foods like fermented tofu, dried reindeer and haggis, you might too. 

1st Memo to Self: Open all windows and doors before cooking liver.

As the liver slowly cooked, I hung out the laundry, swept the yard, pruned a few bushes and did some ironing.

2 hours later, it looked like this. 
I flipped the pieces over. The undersides looked as pale as a Brit backpacker on Bondi beach.
Flies started to swarm into the kitchen. I wanted to take a picture of them but only 1 obliged by staying still.
2nd Memo to Self: Liver treats are best made on cool or rainy days when there are less flies around.

I decided to put the liver back into the oven so the undersides could brown up too.

After a while, it hit me that they didn't smell bad anymore. In fact, if you didn't know better, you'd think I was grilling ribs.
After 3 hours, I started to wish I was smart enough to calculate if it was actually worth 3 hours of electricity to make a little container of liver treats.

3rd Memo to Self: Make a bigger quantity next time. Maybe a kilo.
After 3 and 1/2 hours...
Of course it was worth it! Look at them! Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside! Pure liver! Still warm from the oven!

The slow-baked liver treats were a success! Not only with Georgia and Rufus, but also with The Other Half [who came close to eating a piece himself].

Duly inspired, I set out yesterday morning to try Ms Didi's exciting liver cake recipe. Never one to take the easy way out, I'd also googled more liver recipes over the weekend. I found a site called dogtreatkitchen [which now sits on my sidebar].

Rufus has pancreatitis. And both dogs have had woffly tummies lately, so I decided to compare all the different liver-based recipes on offer and come up with my own "safe" concoction. Being a hopeful rather than accomplished cook, I had no clue if the combination of ingredients would work.

My This, That & The Other Offal Cake Biscuit Brownie
250 g chicken liver
125g chicken hearts
2 eggs
1/4 cup sliced carrots
1 and 1/4 cups oat flour
1/4 cup unprocessed bran
1/2 cup homemade chicken stock
I didn't have any oat flour so the 1st thing I did was to grind up some oatmeal [mixed with bran].
After that, I started working on the offal and carrot. This was my 1st ever attempt at pureeing offal. I won't lie to you. It was pretty awful.
Rufus isn't allowed egg yolks anymore. So I used 1 full egg, and 1 egg white. I think 1 yolk, spread over a whole batch of cake that he'll only get, a bit a day, should be fine. I discovered, by accident, a neat way of separating the egg white from the yolk - make a hole in the shell rather than crack it open, and drain the white out.
I added the oat flour and bran to the pureed liver, hearts and carrot. I tried my best not to look at it too much because it wasn't pretty.
It didn't look much better after blending in the eggs and chicken stock. It was also ridiculously sloppy.
Interestingly enough, there was no smell. I'm wildly guessing here, that the oat and bran flour absorbed the smell. Go on. Laugh! if you're the clever scientist type.

Thanks to the chicken stock, the final mixture was quite runny. This was completely intentional. I figured the oat flour would need to absorb quite a bit of moisture while it was cooking.
 I set the temperature at 180degreesC, fanforced, and the timer for 30 minutes.
5 minutes later, I had a hairy moment when the mixture started bubbling up. I thought it might pop, overflow and splatter all over the oven. That would have made me quite cross. But it didn't happen. Maybe I'd chalked up enough brownie points with the cosmos by then.

4th Memo to Self: Use a deeper pan.
Meanwhile, the customers were getting angsty.
"This place has very slow service."
 "Very slow indeed."
After about 20 minutes, the top was a nice brown and the cake had shrunk from the sides of the pan so I took it out.

It was the flattest cake I'd ever seen in my life. At this point, I decided to rename it a "biscuit".

It was cooked but still soft at the bottom. I wanted it more crisp, so I cut it into pieces...
...flipped them over...
and put them back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
Everyone's a critic.
But not every critic is harsh.
A few pieces later...

 "Okay, that wasn't too bad."
So now, we have 2 little containers of homemade liver treats sitting in the fridge. They must be consumed within the next 7 or so days because they have no preservatives. I'm guessing Rufus and Georgia won't have a problem with that. I'm a bit perturbed at the farting that went on last night and hope it didn't have anything to do with the treats.

All in all, I'm quite chuffed with myself for being a good dogmom and hope the cosmos leaves me alone for a bit.

Pity I didn't have time to cook dinner for us humans too.


Here's some interesting reading I discovered while googling liver recipes.

1. It's best to use organic, hormone-, steroid- and antibiotic-free liver. I didn't this time, but I will from now on.

This is what The Old Fella had to say, "Rubbish! Why?"

Here's why:

2. There are lots of common foods that are NOT okay with dogs, or okay ONLY in small doses.

This is what The Old Fella had to say, "Rubbish! What do you mean no macadamia and beer?"

Here's the list from 2 different sources:

Update Thursday 24th February  Ms Karen kindly shared these  recipes on her Doggie Stylish blog :) 

If you're completely new at making liver treats [like I am], you'll find a few more good suggestions in the comments section below, by people who have more experience, thank goodness! Based on one of those comments, I've also changed the "biscuit" to "brownie". I think this more accurately describes the texture of the treat as they are now [the few that are left!].

If you do try these recipes, I'd love to hear how they turned out.

Good luck, and as always, xox