Wednesday, March 10, 2021

What's in Owen's Travel Bag (and how we travel)?

As some of you may know, when I travel, I take Owen along most of the time. He is a good traveler and enjoys seeing new places and doing new things. So, given that, what do I have in Owen’s travel bag?

The Bag: Owen’s travel bag has been a messenger-style bag, but I am upgrading it very soon to a hiking day pack. The reason for the upgrade is that Owen’s travel bag doubles as his “trail bag”, which is what I take when I go on hikes with him and need supplies such as water, emergency medications, and treats. The messenger bag works well if you don’t plan to use it as a hiking bag but if you do plan to use it for that, a hiking day pack works better because the messenger bag can make your back and shoulders sore on longer hikes since it is a side-slung bag. I am upgrading to an Osprey Daylite bag.

The Stuff: I keep a variety of things in Owen’s bag. Some things stay in it all the time, some things only go along for longer trips and come out when I am hiking.

Here’s what stays in the bag all the time:

1. Water bowl and water bottle. I use a Klean Kanteen bottle and a plastic water bowl. This is just what works for me and there are many options in this category.

2. Collapsible food bowl. I have a collapsible food bowl in here. It doesn’t get used often but I have it if I need it.

3. Treats. I always keep a variety of treats in the bag, including soft treats, crunchy treats, and freeze-dried treats.

4. Emergency medications/supplies. Owen has allergies so I keep a couple doses of allergy meds in his bag in case I need them for him. Additionally, I was advised by Owen’s vet years ago to carry diphenhydramine (Benadryl) just in case he was bitten by a venomous snake again (see here for more about that). I also carry things like cotton balls, gauze, etc. for minor injuries.

5. Extra poop bags. Nothing else to say about that.

6. Cooling neck wrap. This is made for humans but can work for dogs too. It’s great to have in an emergency where your dog (or you) overheats.

The things that are in his bag when I go on a longer trip are as follows:

1. Pouches of tuna, salmon, chicken, or dog food toppers such as Blue Wilderness Trail Toppers or The Honest Kitchen powdered bone broths. These are great for hydration and getting a picky dog to eat. I know many dogs are pickier when away from home and these can be just the thing to entice them to eat. The pouches are convenient and don’t require can-openers.

2. Food and regular food bowl. This one is obvious. Whether it actually goes in the bag or not is dependent on how long I will be traveling and how much food I need.

3. Brush/comb/nail-clippers. I keep a brush, comb, and nail-clippers in the bag to help remove any material caught in his fur and to trim a nail if needed.

4. Toys. I usually bring along a soft stuffed toy (whichever one he is currently liking most), a treat toy (such as a Kong), and a rope toy, but you can bring whatever toys your dog is most excited about.

5. Towel. This is a must if you are going somewhere your dog may get dirty or wet.

6. Baby wipes. I use these to spot-clean and to help with smell.

7. Extra leash. This is useful in case your normal leash breaks or if you just need an extra. I usually bring a super long “training leash”, which can be used to give your dog more room to run while still being safe.

8. Shampoo. This comes along as you never know when your dog may need to be bathed. You can put it in a travel bottle if you need to save space.

How We Travel:

Owen wears a car safety harness when we travel in the car. This has become a routine whether we are just going for a 10-15 minute trip into town or a longer ride somewhere. For more information about car harnesses, click here. 

How do you travel with your dog(s)? I think traveling with a dog is great and, for many dogs, is preferable to boarding them in a kennel.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Wisdom Panel Essential Review

Disclaimer: Wisdom Panel provided a kit for this review. Wisdom Panel did not pay me to write this review. My opinions are my own.

Have you ever wondered what breeds your mixed-breed or rescue dog is? Wouldn’t it be great if they could tell us? Well, Wisdom Panel has a way for you to find out! There are two options for tests from Wisdom Panel. The Essential kit tests for breed (350+ breeds are in the database), body traits (eye color, coat color, tail length, etc.), and medical complications such as medication sensitivity, immune deficiency, and bleeding disorders. The Premium kit tests for all of the above plus tests for 180+ genetic predispositions to disease, and tests carrier status for genetic diseases.

Both kits can be ordered directly from Wisdom Panel’s website ( The kits are shipped in a small box that you use to send the sample back for testing (this is great since it means you don’t waste packaging!). The return label is included in the box.

I was provided the Wisdom Panel Essential kit for this review.

Getting the sample is easy. After making sure that your dog does not eat or drink anything for at least 2 hours, you do the following: simply rub the two swabs inside your dog’s mouth in the cheek area for about 15 seconds. The swabs are similar to mascara wands.

Once you collect the sample, you then let those swabs dry for 5 minutes by inserting them into the holes in the box. Activate your kit online at and use the code on the end of the box. You’ll also be asked for the name, age, sex, and altered (spayed/neutered) status of your dog. Next, take those swabs and slide them back into the little sleeve provided and pack that sleeve back into the box, seal the box up, and drop it into the mail. It’s that easy! You’ll get results typically within 2-3 weeks.

The results are available on the Wisdom Panel website and can be printed off as well. They are easy to read and understand. I got Owen’s results back in 13 days!

Before you read the results, consider guessing what you think they’re going to be, as it is fun to see if you were right or wrong, and if you were wrong, how different the results were. My guess was that Owen was either a schnauzer-hound mix or a wire-haired terrier-hound mix.

But the results showed that Owen is a true mixed breed. He has 17 different breeds in him! The percentages are as follows: 32% Shih Tzu, 13% McNab, 8% American Foxhound, 8% Argentine Dogo, and 7% Dalmatian. I didn’t expect him to be a Shih Tzu mix, but it does make sense based on how he looks. I have been told by multiple people that he also looks somewhat like a herding dog (Border Collie, for example), which is what the McNab is. The full results are as follows:

The health results test for Owen showed that he’s clear of all the 29 conditions tested for with the Wisdom Panel Essential test. They showcase a few that, based on the breeds he has in him, were important to test for. He is clear of the MDR-1/ABCB-1 mutation (found in the McNab and Border Collie), the Factor VII Deficiency (found in the beagle), and the Prekallikrein Deficiency (found in the Shih Tzu).

The breed results were not what I was expecting, but I believe them and here’s why: Wisdom Panel tests for “traits” as well as giving you the breeds themselves. Here are what Owen’s traits were—ALL were correct, by the way: Based on his DNA, he should be black or brindle because he has the dominant black gene found on the CBD103 gene or K locus, and he should have white markings/Piebald variant (found on the MITF gene or S locus). He should have “furnishings” or fuzzy beard/moustache/eyebrows found on the RSPO2 gene. He should have an average or long snout. He carries the gene for hind dewclaws (found on the LMBR1 gene). His ears should not stand up. His legs should be slightly short. He should have dark eyes and a full-length tail.

What do YOU think?

Overall, I’d say that Wisdom Panel is a fun and informative way to find out more about your mixed-breed dog. It is easy to use and the results are easy to understand. The usual price is $99.99 for the Essential test and the Premium is usually $159.99, but Wisdom Panel often has promotions as well. I recommend Wisdom Panel to anyone looking to find out more about their dog!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

How Quality of Food Can Make a World of Difference

As many of you may know, I keep both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
A few months ago, I was offered a royal gramma for my saltwater aquarium. The owner was moving and did not want to take the fish with him when he did (it was the only creature in the tank). Since this saltwater fish is one of my absolute favorites, I agreed to take it.
Pale/faded Royal Gramma
The fish was quite pale/faded when I got it, as shown here. These pictures actually make the purple look better than it did in person. The purple was very grayed-out in person. The yellow was paler than normal as well but the purple was the most dramatic.

After doing some research on why that might be, I narrowed the possibilities down to two:
1. Lighting in previous tank was too bright. These fish are from relatively deep water so they're not used to extremely bright lights.
2. Food that the fish had been getting was not great quality. This matters for all fish but is especially important for saltwater fish, which normally eat foods that are rich in nutrients.

Pale/faded Royal Gramma
The lighting was a possibility but since the previous owner had used the same lights that I use (and I've never had a royal gramma become pale under mine), I thought it was less likely to be lighting. But again, lights were not ruled out since individual fish can react differently.

The food that the previous owner had been feeding TetraMin Tropical flakes, a common brand found in many stores, but a variety of that brand that is meant for freshwater fish, not saltwater. I don't use that brand for my saltwater fish. The food I feed most often is OmegaOne (I often use the SuperColor varieties, but I use others as well). I focused on nutrition as the most likely cause of the royal gramma being pale/faded and within just a few months, it has gained its color back and looks amazing! This just goes to show how important nutrition is for all creatures, even fish!
Royal Gramma after getting color back!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Allergies in Dogs (Atopic Dermatitis)

My dog, Owen, gets itchy around this time every year. It began to occur when he was about 2 years old and has gotten to be more severe each year. This year it has been severe enough to need to be medicated. Dogs with atopic dermatitis will, in addition to the itching, often have fur that is tinged brown from licking themselves. They also will sometimes develop discolored areas of skin in areas that are most affected. You can see the brownish fur in some areas on Owen's paws in the picture below, because he has been licking them a lot.
Aside from the necessary trip to the veterinarian (which you should do!) to diagnose and begin treatment, here are five things you can potentially do at home to help with allergies in your dog (with your veterinarians consent).
1. Bathe your dog.
Bathing your dog will help to remove pollen and other allergens from their skin and therefore help to reduce the reaction. This can be done at varying intervals depending on your individual dog and what your vet recommends. I bathe Owen every week. I use a shampoo that has natural ingredients and that has a conditioner built in. This helps to condition his skin to make a better barrier. Bathing will also help prevent infections from dirty skin. There are many good brands so find one that you like and that works for your dog!
2. Apply topical sprays/creams to help relieve the itch.
This one, especially, needs to be done on the advice of your veterinarian. I use a spray that contains both hydrocortisone and lidocaine. It will help with particularly itchy areas and help prevent sores from developing due to scratching.
3. Administer antihistamines (ONLY IF YOUR VETERINARIAN SAYS THIS IS OK).
My veterinarian recommended that I start administering an antihistamine to Owen. I am not going to mention which one here or a dose because that varies from dog to dog. Some dogs will not be helped by this treatment so working with your vet is crucial here.
4. Wipe your dog off with pet wipes or other wipes every time they go out and come back inside.
This is the same idea as the bathing, only is done more frequently.
5. Consider adding an omega-3 supplement to the food or feed a food that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids (a food designed for dermatological conditions, for example).

I hope that these tips help your itchy dog to recover faster! As always, contact your veterinarian with any concerns you have about your pup and stay happy and not itchy!