Pet Expenses November 2013

For some time now, I’ve wondered how much Chris and I spend on the dogs. Then, after all the expenses this past Summer, I really wondered how much we were spending and so finally I sat down and did something about that curiosity. I pulled up my statements beginning in January 2013 up to November 2013. Folks, no more wondering. So far, it’s about $2,000 and December is not included, as we are currently in December!

I’ve decided to back-post each month individually and reminiscence over those purchases. We didn’t adopt Ellie until June 2013 so the first half of the year is just the costs involved with Argos. The total sum of pet expenses will include Ellie’s adoption process, which although it was a one time thing, it is still money out of my bank account. In January 2014 I will write about 2013 as a whole and think of ways to save money where I can and I will continue monthly expense reports for the 2014 year.

Let me just lay on it a little longer.

Let me just lay on it a little longer.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve made some very foolish expenses and it was all because I didn’t care enough to do some research and prepare. For example, in September I bought a 27 oz. Canister of Greenies (96 count) for $29.93 on Amazon.com. I use the Greenie treats to get my dogs to let me brush their teeth and groom their coats before bedtime. I keep the Greenies in a glass storage jar with airtight bail and seal closures to keep air and moisture out. It’s come to the point where if Argos and Ellie see a toothbrush in my hand, they know what time it is and wait patiently through brushing, combing and plucking just to have a Greenie. Then, while shopping for other supplies, this past month I decided to look up the price of the Greenies and it had significantly fallen. It had been about 2 months since my last Greenie box purchase so there was no purchase adjustment to be made by Amazon. I decided to buy another 27 oz. 96 count Greenies for $19 to stock up. That was a $10.93 difference and a mistake I won’t make again.

November 2013 Pet Expense Report

November 2013 Vendor Cost Individual Items
PetSmart 31.59
PetSmart 13.63
Amazon.com 26.58 Greenies 27 oz canister 96 count & Zukes Roasted Chicken Treats 16 oz
Amazon.com 32.67 Wahl Pet Pro Kit Grooming Kit
Amazon.com 28.33 Earthborn Puppy Vantage 14 lb

Like I mentioned in Grooming Hairy Dogs I decided to groom Argos and Ellie on my own and save some serious money. So as you can see I put that plan into effect and purchased a grooming kit. I also restocked Ellie’s kibble and bought some more Greenies for $10 dollars less. I am trying to remember very hard what I purchased at PetSmart last month. I don’t go to PetSmart very often so it’s bothering me that I can’t clearly recall what I got. I know for sure there were the Top Paw Thining Shears (PetSmart) $14.99 and the Top Paw Ball Tipped Scissors (PetSmart) $13.99 that I mentioned in Grooming Hairy Dogs.

Wahl Pet Pro Grooming Kit

Wahl Pet Pro Grooming Kit

As much as I would like to have the ‘whole’ picture in regards to pet expenses for two dogs, that really won’t be possible to know for 2013 because, like I mentioned earlier, Ellie came to us mid-year and even that had great one-time costs. There is also the fact that although I try to put all dog related expenses in my joint account with Chris, sometime he pays things with his own credit card and then there are those random purchases that were grouped with personal or home purchases from Target or Ross, for example. I also noticed that I did not include what I have spent on toys this year and that is because all the toys that Ellie and Argos have used this year were toys that Argos had collected from a 3-month Barkbox subscription when they ran their Groupon offer sometime in 2012. Those toys have since been destroyed by Ellie’s ferocious teeth.

The BarkBox is a really cute and fun dog subscription box. The toys they sent were the things I enjoyed the most and the treats were a hit or miss with Argos. Their 12 month subscription is their more affordable option which would bring the down the monthly box price from $29 to $17~. I still think of the boxes as a little frivolous specially since I’ve made up my mind about saving as much as I can in 2014 on pet expenses. It goes without saying the I’ll never compromise the quality of their dog food & treats, Vet care, flea medication to save a few bucks. So I will definitely have to get creative to see where I can save.

So my New Year’s resolution for 2014 is as follows:

  • Save 50% of what I spent in 2013
  • Log every Ellie and Argos related purchase (food, toys, grooming supplies, pet supplies, treats, etc.)
  • Dog Insurance (I’ve been researching this matter and my findings will be published in a post to come)
  • More Dog exercise and socializing

How much did you spend on your pets this year?

 

Dog Health Issues & What I Learned

When I decided to take in Argos, all anyone could tell me was that owning a dog was no big deal. They eat, they poop and you take them to the Vet once a year. But alas, it was not so. That or I just make a big deal about everything.

Luckily, Argos was  a healthy pup and his only problem was his constant defecating inside the house and his refusal to eat dog food. No biggie. Took me two months to housebreak him and eight months to figure out which dog foods he actually wanted to eat. I hadn’t the slightest clue and it was a costly learning curve.

On the other hand, Ellie will eat anything, so no problem there but we have dealt with some health and behavioral issues that have taught me quite a bit about how unprepared I was to care for her. My Summer went something like this:

  • Trip 1: vaccines + checkup
  • Trip 2: ear infection, spay + recovery
  • Trip 3: vaccines
  • Trip 4: ear infection
  • Trip 5: rabies vaccine
  • Trip 6: skin problems

She is on her third harness, has destroyed countless undergarments and because of her ferocious teeth, the toy box is pretty much empty except for a single rope toy and a Kong. Oh and I almost forgot, she pulled up and frayed the corner of the carpet in the bedroom and she has chewed the wooden legs of my desk and my nightstand.

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Ellie snacks on toilet paper, used toilet paper.

It’s been an expensive experience to say the least and not because of the  very necessary core vaccines and general checkups but some of those trips didn’t have to happen if I had been paying more attention to her little body. As for her chewing, I’ve curbed significantly through exercise, if I had understood that whatever I was doing for exercise was not enough, I would have better looking furniture.

Ear Infections

It began with an ear infection. I had never seen an ear infection in a dog. Argos has never had one and I love kissing their ears and that’s when I noticed something was off with Ellie’s ears, they smelled really bad. I noticed this the night before her spaying surgery and when I got to the clinic, I asked about the ears. The vet tech informed me immediately that Ellie had a bad ear infection and scoffed at me for not knowing this. So Ellie had surgery, got her ears cleaned and medicated and I was sent home with a coned dog and a bag full of painkillers and antibiotics.

Two weeks later Ellie was pretty much healed, off painkillers and antibiotics and her ears smelled wonderful!

Two weeks after that…another ear infection. I smelled the signs and I rushed her to the Vet. The first time around I had not asked about ear cleaning and infection prevention and was not given any helpful information from the Vet on the subject. This time I made sure the Vet told me as much as he could, I was leaving behind $60 dollars of my money and I was gonna get some good information out of them. Veterinarian cleaned her ears in front of me, showed me how to do it and then told me to alternate cleaning her ears and medicating them with antibiotic every other day for two weeks. After she was done with her medication I was to continue cleaning her ears with ear cleaning solution 2-3 times a week to prevent any more infections.

Skin Irritation

I had been using Frontline Plus on Argos since I adopted him to prevent and kill fleas and ticks. This summer though, somehow they were both scratching like crazy. Sure enough, they had flees on their coats. Because paranoia is a word that describes me fully, I washed everything I could throw in the washer with scolding hot water, scrubbed the floors, and vacuumed the room carpet five times a day. As this was happening Ellie was scratching the heck out of her belly, the area between her hind legs, and it was red, bumpy and scaly.

Went to the Vet because the scaly, red bumpiness started spreading to her genital area. The Vet determined it was fleas and that she might be exacerbating the flea bites with her sharp teeth.  He told me to switch to Revolution instead because, in his opinion, Frontline Plus didn’t work anymore.

Revolution is expensive, much more expensive than Frontline Plus. The dogs don’t scratch anymore, while I do pluck out a couple of fleas every time we come back from the dog park, its nothing terribly concerning. However, Ellie’s bumps continued the same. I did a general search of her symptoms and a lot of people with dogs having these problems attributed them to dog allergies.  I try no to self diagnose my dogs, its just not a good practice. So I kept that in the back of my mind. Then one day I noticed Ellie’s skin was significantly clearer and the only thing I had done differently was that  I had stopped feeding them some chicken stick treats I would buy for them from Trader Joe’s. I will definitely continue to observe her and see if this correlation turns into anything else.

The Smelly Butt Incident

One evening Ellie sat on my lap and took a nap. Later that night I smelled a fishy, outright nasty smell coming off my pants. I ran to the shower and scrutinized, to say the least, my own personal hygiene routine. Then, while playing with Ellie, I noticed the awful smell coming off her rear end. I took to the Internet for information and everything I read seemed to point to full stinky anal glands.

I called my Vet’s office, and I asked before making an appointment what could possibly cause a dog’s butt to smell like that and they said, if it’s her anal glands, they are probably full. They told me they could express her glands for a nominal fee or I could do it myself. They assured me it was no big deal and because they knew Ellie quite well by now, they told me I could try expressing her glands gently and see if that alleviated the smell.

"Yeah, just as I suspected. Clean as whistle"

“Yeah, just as I suspected. Clean as whistle”

I watched a couple of YouTube videos on gland expression, because I lacked confidence, put on a glove and went to work. I put my right thumb and forefinger at 8 and 4 (pretending her anus is a clock) respectively and pushed inward and upwards. What came out made me want to vomit. I quickly took some baby wipes I had laid out, cleaned her up, took my disposable gloves off and tossed everything in the trash. I bathed her to make sure none of the nasty stuff stayed on her fur.  This was end of the smelly booty. Every time I catch a whiff, I pull out my gloves, pull up her tail and I get to work. I try not to breathe through the process.

While these issues, trips and phone calls were exhausting, it’s all for the love of a dog.

Lessons Learned

The lessons I learned this Summer:

  • When the dog acts differently, smell differently, pukes, slobbers excessively out of the ordinary, and scratches; pay attention! Look up the symptoms on the internet, not to self medicate your poor pooch but to inform yourself. When you make that Vet visit, now that you are equipped with basic knowledge and understanding, ask away! Make your money count.
    • Ellie’s second ear infection and ensuing Vet checkup fee + medication, not to mention whatever discomfort she was feeling, would have never happened if I had stayed longer and asked how to make sure I properly cared for her ears.
  • Dog’s are not cheap. They are also not for everyone and they do come with chores all their own. Think: feeding, walking, playing, grooming, cleaning and washing after them. They are children who never grow up and move out of the house.
  •   When you suspect something is going on, call your Vet’s office. If they are worth having your business, they’ll try to give you as much information as they can over the phone. Most of the time, you just have to take the dog in, but as the smelly butt incident proved, sometimes they can give you advice if something is not serious health-wise.
  •  Core vaccines, Bordatella, Parainfluenza and Rabies vaccines are an absolute must. Petfinder.com published a vaccine schedule that can be helpful if you don’t really know what is due. If money is an issue find low cost clinics in your area. For my region of Los Angeles County, I go to Los Angeles Animal Services website for important information on licensing, low cost clinics, low cost vaccinations, pet adoptions and other very useful information.
    • All of Ellie’s & Argo’s vaccinations have been done at one of these low cost clinics. The clinic I go to have low cost vaccinations every Sunday morning. This same clinic also has low cost spaying and neutering every second Monday of the month. When I say low, I mean low cost neutering and spaying compared to boutique Veterinarian offices.

Vaccines-2

  •  Feel free to shop around when it comes to expensive procedures such as spaying, neutering, teeth cleaning etc. When Chris and I decided to adopt Ellie, we never imagined that neutering was a very expensive procedure.
    • I wanted to make sure she was neutered for her safety (don’t want her knocked up by some random dog at the park). Some Veterinarians in my area charge upwards of $400 dollars for the procedure and I thought…how can this be so expensive?! No wonder we have a canine over population problem. I called Lange Foundation where I had adopted Ellie and they gave me a list of low cost clinics I could call. I paid $150 dollars for her procedure and medications that eventful second Monday in July (I got into a minor car accident that morning after I had dropped off Ellie for surgery).
  • When looking to adopt a furry family member, make sure you understand exactly what you are getting into.If it’s a female dog, understand what special needs she’ll have such as spaying or if you decide not to spay, understand you’ll have to manage her birth control and estrus cycles.
    • Ellie is a cocker spaniel and poodle mix and I think she inherited the ear problems from cocker spaniel lineage. She also has an excited urination problem generally recognized a cocker spaniel attribute. Or so I read.
  • If you already have a type of dog in mind, understand what grooming and caring needs he or she will have. If it has a long coat, frequent grooming is an absolute must to prevent knots and clumping of hair. If the dog you have in mind is a short coated dog, inform yourself as to how to groom their coats. Some dogs shed, some don’t.
  • Some dogs eat to live and others live to eat. Understand dietary needs. Learn what food is ideal and how to curb their appetite if you get a kibble enthusiast.
  • Exercise both body and mind, it is essential to dog owner sanity, dog’s health and a peaceful home. Have a breed in mind? Research the types of activity levels they require and if you can provide that for them.
  •  Flea prevention is not an option either. Fleas bite both humans and dogs alike and they can transmit the same diseases to each. Invest in good flea medication, even if it costs way more than the stuff you buy off amazon prime. I’ll miss the convenience but my dogs and I deserve the good stuff.

 

 

Grooming Hairy Dogs

After picture. As you can see I haven't learn how to work with lighting when it comes to pictures

After picture.

It’s expensive to own dogs. It’s true you can make it less costly and that’s exactly what I am trying to do.

Both Argos and Ellie have long coats and so far I’ve had to send Argos out to the groomers about every other month. With one dog, I suppose it didn’t matter as much. For two dogs, the cost built up quickly and it occurred to me that I could groom them myself and save some money. I can afford the time and I figured why waste the money.

I was debating between different brands of dog hair clippers but I think I’m just gonna go, as usual, with the amazon bestseller; The Wahl Pet Pro 9281-210 $29.97. My neighbor who clips his dog’s hair himself also highly recommended it because of the price and because it works well.

I think I have the basic equipment for grooming. These are the things I’ve gathered over the years for one reason or another:

  • Pet Nail Clippers (Amazon) $8.49
  • Dremmel (Amazon) -a motorized emory board, sometimes its not enough to clip, the harsh clipped nail edges need to be rounded. $24.97
  • Top Paw Ball Tipped Scissors (PetSmart) $13.99
  • Top Paw Thining Shears (PetSmart) $14.99
  • Grreat Choice Pin Brush (PetSmart) $4.99
  • Grreat Choice Slicker Brush (PetSmart) $4.99
  • FURminator (Amazon) For Small Dogs, Long Hair $19.70
  • Gloves – to express the anal glands

I set up my grooming station in the balcony. I gave Ellie a bath, expressed her glands, brushed her teeth and cleaned her ears (she’s prone to ear infections and water in the ears make those happen). I dried her up, put her out in the balcony and went to work with the rounded scissors on the paw pads. Hair grows between them and according to the countless youtube videos by experts and non experts, the hair there should be removed.

Then I turned on the my brand new shiny clippers and went to work. Holy guacamole, the hair! It was everywhere.

Let me tell you something. I have a new found respect for dog groomers. Ellie wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to do long, even strokes. I used the smallest clip guard I could use because I didn’t want her hair to be too short and because I was still secretly scared that I would somehow hurt her with the clippers.

Three hours later, most of her hair look pretty decent. You remember those magic eye posters where you had to either focus or unfocus your sight so you could see what the posters were really about? Well, if you ever see Ellie in person, if you just slightly unfocus your eyes, she doesn’t look so bad. In reality, hair is longer in her face and feet because I was afraid to her hurt her and she was super fidgety when I went there.

I’ll get faster and better I’m sure. I would like mostly to get faster if this is gonna be worth saving $540 a year. I get charged $45 for each dog, each visit and I find they need a haircut every other month (6 times a year), so that’s how I came to $540.

Overall, I think I’ve spent $122 on the supplies mentioned above and a lot of those same items are on sale on PetSmart.com

Do any of you groom your own dog? I would appreciate tips or advice for fidgety dogs.

Running Buddy in Training

Action photo to come. Apartment is undergoing renovations so there are holes in the wall I didn't want reflected in the photo.

Action photo to come. Apartment is undergoing renovations so there are holes in the walls behind me I didn’t want reflected in the photo.

So in the last couple of years I’ve gained some weight. I think it’s normal, I’m getting older, metabolism is slowing down but certainly not my appetite and I don’t make the best of choices when it comes to food…most of the time.

So I figured small changes, little by little should make a difference. I bought myself a FitBit One, stopped drinking soda (on a daily basis at least) and I’ve lost 6 pounds. It’s time to kick it up a notch, so I decided I’m gonna start running. I came across the Pooch to 5K guide and I got to thinkin’…

Ellie, my 7 month old Cockapoo is getting a little round in the middle. She’s got a lot of energy although we go for long walks. I decided I’m going to train her to run with me as I train myself to follow this new routine. She is still working on walking on a leash without pulling, its difficult for her, anything distracts her and she wants to go after it.

I bought the The Buddy System but I don’t think I’m gonna start using it just yet. The Buddy System is a hands free leash intended for running with your dog. A lot of people also recommend it to teach dogs to walk on the leash without pulling. Ellie has not learned to stay on my side and my side only when we run. I’m pretty sure I could have fashioned a device like The Buddy System myself but, for those who know me well, it takes me a while to finish DIY projects. A long while.

Along with The Buddy System I had to purchase Ellie’s third harness. She has managed to chew through two of them. I learned my lesson, I take the harness off as soon as we are back in the apartment and I only leave her collar on for quick leashing at potty breaks. As for training treats I bought a treat tote that I clip to my pants. I used to put treats in my pant pockets and Ellie would scratch and sniff at me all day even after I had removed the treats.

So let’s see how this goes, I’m hoping that by putting my goals out there, it might make me a little more accountable and help me stay on track.

Crating Ellie

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And now, the crate is too small.

I’m a pack rat and sometimes it pays off. Take for instance the fact that I kept my dog Argos’s crate almost 3 years longer than I needed it. I say ‘I needed it’ because Argos would never say he needs a crate, of all things.

I put the old crate in my bathtub and scrubbed it down with hot water and Dawn. Dried it and lined it with pee pads and covered those with a small soft blanket I had slept in. Ellie would have a nice, clean crate to sleep in at night. However, it didn’t quite happen that way at the beginning. I know puppies cry at night in a new home and I can understand why; no litter mates, no familiar smells and everything so foreign and different, but Argos never cried. Ellie did. Ellie howled.

I tried putting a warm bottle of water under her blanket so she would feel warmth, I tried toys and treats and nothing worked. I gave up the crate for a week and instead set up a sleeping area right next to my side of the bed and close it off with a gate. For some reason this worked wonders, no more crying and no more howling. Then she chewed up my night stand and that was the end of that. Back to the crate for Ellie! To my surprise, this time around, she was fine in the crate and it was happily ever after…

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Chewed up dresser.

Until a few days ago when I realized she no longer fits in the crate. The reason for the crating at night had been because she wasn’t potty trained and I didn’t want her to roam free at night knowing all the trouble she would make for me. She’s potty trained now but she manages to chew up things she is not supposed to, mainly forgotten pieces of undergarments. The point is, after 3 months of being potty trained, I still don’t trust her to set her free at night when I’m sleeping. Argos was the king of the castle when we slept, but now he shares bunkers with Ellie because he has been demoted to her current sleeping arrangement, in the kitchen.

There was a bit of complaining from Argos the first couple of nights and now he has pretty much come to accept it. Ellie on the other is quite happy to have company when everything goes dark. I think I’ll re-evaluate this arrangement after Christmas and see if Ellie is ready for a little more freedom.

 

Ellie on Wellness CORE Puppy Grain Free Formula

Argos's food on the left, Ellie on the right. Primitive set up, definitely not user friendly but it works and these plastic organizers were on hand. I use the plastic cups that cup with the jugs of detergent because they measure out exactly a 1/2 cup of kibble.

Argos’s food on the left, Ellie’s on the right. Primitive set up, definitely not user friendly but it works and these plastic organizers were on hand. I use the plastic cups (unused) that come with the bottles of detergent because they measure out exactly a 1/2 cup of kibble.

Ellie is on  her last of Wellness  CORE Puppy Formula and I don’t think I’ll be re-ordering this one again. She would only consume her kibble if it was heavily covered in Evanger’s ground chicken or duck. This Summer, when she first came home, I fed her Earthborn Puppy Vantage because I had a positive experience with this brand and she certainly liked it very much with or without Evanger’s.

Her adoption was a bit sudden. During the Summer on a Friday morning, I had only one dog and by Sunday I had two.  Although Chris and I had been searching for the second dog, we weren’t really prepared with puppy food, an extra bed or a collar and leash. I quickly had to make a choice because the new dog had to eat and I didn’t have any puppy food to feed her. I figured if Earthborn was good enough for Argos it must be good enough for Ellie.

Then I discovered Dog Food Advisor and I loved the way they broke down the ingredients for what must be all the brands of dog food in the market. As I learned quite a great deal about controversial ingredients such as tomato pomace, canola oil and garlic, I found out that Puppy Vantage was only rated 4 stars out of 5 based on its ingredients, their percentages of each and meat content. I was very happy to find out that Earthborn Primitive Natural, what Argos eats, was rated 5 stars and was “Enthusiastically Recommended”. I understand Dog Food Advisor is simply a guide to dog food out there but I didn’t like the 4 star rating, knowing that there are a lot more brands/recipes out there that might be better options.

So many options! I am trying to decided between trying Merrick’s Classic Puppy or something else from their grain free line. Merrick has always been a brand I liked but when Argos was a puppy he refused to eat it and back then, they didn’t have the grain free recipes they have now. The last time Ellie visited the vet, he just asked that I slowly introduce whatever new kibble I decide to try so as not to upset her stomach. We’ll see what she thinks of my next choice. I plan on contacting Merrick first to see if they have samples.

Carsickness in Dogs

On Ellie’s first car ride home after adoption day at Lange she rode on my lap and we rolled the windows down because she stunk to high heaven. It was bad, like urine, feces and spoiled food. I guess regular bathing is not a priority of a rescue foundation and I can understand that. I also noticed while we made a pit stop at Starbucks and waited for Chris in the car, that Ellie was drooling excessively. I thought, great I broke the new dog. I know very well what excessive drooling means. Argos, a few months back, had been drooling and vomiting excessively one day and the vet told us at the time he most likely had gotten into something he shouldn’t have. He put him on a low residue diet, injected him with fluids because he was dehydrated and a couple days later, Argos was just fine.

So I called the rescue and I asked if they knew if Ellie had been sick, if they had seen any vomiting or other signs of illness. They had not and they didn’t know why she would be drooling so much. They said, its probably nothing.

So I left it at probably nothing. Got home, bathed her, fed her and she was acting like her very happy and healthy self. I began making trips to Vet for physical exams and various vaccinations and I noticed every time I drove Ellie anywhere, she would get drooley. One final day, it got so bad for her that she puked in the car from the nausea she felt. I looked up carsickness in dogs and bingo! All the symptoms fit perfectly. She would feel so sick in the car that she would refuse to jump in. She still does.

On one of those visits to the vet, I spoke to him about it and he recommended I give her time to adjust and grow out of it. He said this happened to puppies sometimes. Ellie, though, wasn’t growing out of it and the puking and the crying got worse. So I went back to the vet and I asked him for an alternative. He recommended I give her half a tablet of Benadryl 30 minutes before a trip and this has worked out great!! She’s snoozes through the trip and the drooling is minimal and their is no upchuck. When drive to the park I don’t give it to her. Its a short drive and I just clean up her drool from her fur before I let her in the park. On the way back, she is so tired from playing that she sleeps on the way home and there is no drooling!!