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Lansdale, PA

Pet care in Lansdale, PA. Certified in Pet First Aid and CPR through the American Red Cross. Bonded and insured. Supporter of local pet rescue!


Ecofriendly Little Home & Pets Blog

Eco-friendly and earth-conscious features and reviews, pet care tips, and feeding education. Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free autoimmune diet musings.  Interested in having your product reviewed here?  Please email:

Nutrition with Honesty: New Treats by The Honest Kitchen

Christina Ottaviano

I've talked about diets lower in processed food before.  You've heard about how eating whole foods is better for you, healthier for weight management, and more nutritionally sound.  the same goes for your pets.  They're carnivorous in nature, dogs being descendant from wolves and cats from their obligate carnivore big cat relatives.  While some folks jump right into raw feeding, others take a more step-by-step approach and opt to ease into a less kibble-based diet through the feeding of whole foods treats and toppers.

The Honest Kitchen is a company whose name truly indicates their mission.  They actually even have permission from the FDA to label their foods as human-grade.  If you know anything about the pet food industry and their collective non-apparent transparency over ingredients and sourcing, this is a very big deal.  From cleanliness to production, the manufacturing facility used by The Honest Kitchen is held to the same strict standards as any human food production facility, because that's exactly what it is.

The difference between feed grade and human grade food. Source: The Honest Kitchen

The difference between feed grade and human grade food. Source: The Honest Kitchen

I agree with their feeding philosophy, wholeheartedly.  Every living thing is a machine and real, minimally processed whole food is fuel.  What goes in should optimally provide the most bioavailable nutrition possible per calorie and be diverse as to access as many vitamins and minerals as possible.  The company has recently introduced a new treat to their already stellar line of balanced diets: Nice Mussels.  

New treats by The Honest Kitchen

New treats by The Honest Kitchen

Photo credit: The Honest Kitchen

Photo credit: The Honest Kitchen

They sent a bag for us to try and the results were as expected...four dachshunds and two cats agreed that they were delicious!  They're simply freeze-dried mussels from New Zealand.  You don't get more whole foods than that - with no fillers or other added ingredients they were the perfect treat for everyone in the house, which is tough to do considering that they all have different food allergy issues.  While we have fed fresh mussels in their homemade diets, having a shelf stable version was extremely convenient.

Miss Molly

Miss Molly

I used some of them to pose the dogs for this photo shoot in my handmade collars for our Etsy shop and full credit goes to The Honest Kitchen for the great shots I got bribing the dogs with these delicious treats.  Adding a healthy source of Omega-3's like mussels can give your pet a shiny coat just like sweet Molly's.  We are giving away a bag of these healthy treats to one lucky person on Facebook and Instagram.  Go to either (or both!) to enter and win Nice Mussels, worth $12.99!  Giveaway ends Saturday, 11/5/16 at 11:59pm.

This is a great company who cares about pets, and you can stay in the loop by following their social media: Google+PinterestYouTubeInstagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

All about West Paw Dog toys

Christina Ottaviano

Dog toys are notorious for having unsavory chemical additives and dangerous materials added to them. In recent years, imports from China have unveiled everything from lead to unscrupulous death causing antibiotics and toxins. When a person buys a dog toy, it is because they love their dog, they look forward go interacting and playing together, and there is enjoyment from keeping the human animal bond strong and vibrant.  No one wants to give their pet a toy that might harm them.  Pet toy companies are in business to make money and the reality is that this is often with complete disregard to the health of the pet. Not so, with West Paw Designs. This is a company to support, one that not only cares about the health and well-being of pets, but also runs on an eco-conscious mentality; sourcing materials from recycled plastic bottles, old chew toys, organically grown plants and more. All of their beds and toys are made in the USA, with special attention to durability, strength and resilience.

Honey often falls asleep on her Tux

Honey often falls asleep on her Tux

West Paw sent several of their new floatable Zogoflex Air toys for honest review last year, and since then we have also purchased a few. These toys were originally tested over eight weeks with four playful and exuberant dachshunds; and most of them have held up to the tenacious and rough nature of our little dogs over the rest of the year. In addition to being made in the USA, West Paw’s non-stuffed toys are recyclable, BPA and phthalate-free, non-toxic, guaranteed against dog damage, and dishwasher safe. The first toy we tested was the Dash Dog Frisbee. This organically shaped toy has an open middle and a ridge around the perimeter on both sides, making it easy for a dog to carry in her mouth. Rated for a level 3 out of 5 chewer, this toy has held up extremely well with the exception of the middle, where the material was thinner which Honey chewed completely out on the first day. Even though it’s meant for a bigger dog, this toy has been a favorite among the mini dachshunds and Honey, who weighs about 8 pounds has no trouble carrying it to request a game of fetch at all. She likes to chase it as it rolls and bounces across the floor. It’s also extremely easy to clean with soap and water.  We still have it a year later and she hasn't been able to chew off any more pieces.  Dachshunds are extreme chewers, so the next toy they tested turned out to be much more durable for them.  With a durability rating of 4 out of 5, the new Boz Dog Ball has been the biggest hit with the resident fetch obsessed Honey dog.  Because the exterior texture is lumpy and somewhat spongy, she is easily able to pick up and carry it even though it's larger than what would normally fit in her mouth.  This 2.5” small ball is great because it fits in a standard ball thrower and it works size-wise for an entire range of dogs, and I like it because it's bigger and less of a choke hazard.  About the size of a tennis ball but heavier, this engineered toy gives the dog the satisfaction of the squish, yet it’s durable enough that it still looks brand new.  It bounces and floats, and comes with the same guarantee and reassurances that all of West Paw’s other toys do.  Impressed by the durability of the Toppl Treat Toy, I find it surprising that it only received a 3 out of 5 rating for durability.  This toy, like the ball has been played with quite a lot and still looks brand new.  Honey has quickly decided that it can be used for fetch and often brings half of this toy for a game together.  The way it works is that the owner purchases different pieces of this toy which pop together to create a treat chamber inside, making it a challenging puzzle toy of various skill levels.  A different use for it: put other, smaller toys inside of this one.  Smart dogs love the challenge of removing the toy inside, and the fighting over treats with multiple dogs is avoided.  We really can't do treat dispensing toys - tenacious dogs are not very nice to one another when they are all trying to retrieve treats from the same toy.  It’s easy to clean and dishwasher safe.  Another durable dachshund favorite: the Tux and the Hurley Dog Bone.  Over two years old and played with daily, this toy still looks new, with no dings or missing chunks.  It bounces across the floor when thrown for fetch and is easily washable.  Over the summer, I put the toys in the freezer for a cold, way to play on hot days.

If a dog has a preference for a toy that’s a bit softer, this adorable fuzzy Tango Tug is cute and fun but quickly destroyed.  A little more traditional, Teddy was also quickly gutted but they continue to play with the emptied pelt, and Ricky loved the small size.  The dachshunds completely destroyed them both in less than an hour, but they had fun doing it.  More durable and surprisingly still mostly intact is the Wacky Worm.  It’s made with eco-friendly fabric left over from their Big Sky Blanket manufacturing process, and is a favorite of our Lucy.  This toy was fetched and tugged for several weeks before it finally wore a hole big enough they could remove the recycled stuffing.  The toys are generously filled with material called Intelliloft that is made from recycled plastic bottles. West Paw mentions that “using IntelliLoft recycled material uses up to 8x less energy than it takes to manufacture the same material new and keeps plastic bottles out of landfills.”  This was a nice compromise between a very durable toy and one that was still soft and cuddly.

Learn more about this earth conscious, pet loving company through their social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google + and YouTube.

My Mason Jar Lunchbox + Giveaway

Christina Ottaviano

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

Mason jars are my favorite containers for packing leftovers, brewing tea, cold brewed coffee, and lots more.  They’re easily portable, reusable, non-toxic and come in a variety of sizes to create perfect portions.  Normally, I would pack one full of strawberries, salad or gluten free pretzels or crackers, and then another smaller one for dips, salad dressing or more snacks.  This can become cumbersome, carrying two jars, plus my drink which is almost always in a jar.  As a dog walker, I drive all day, traveling and make constant stops so there are two things I need: A lid for my jar so it doesn’t spill in my car, and healthy snacks that I can easily eat while I am driving.  If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your green-minded friend or family member, read on!

Cuppow has produced a creative solution that is simple and straightforward, allowing the transformation of a mason jar into a lunchbox.  A simple cup, BNTO, that is made to fit into the top of a wide mouth mason jar, it offers the opportunity to combine more than one item in a jar.  I’ve used them with everything from yogurt and granola, to cereal and coconut milk.  I’ve packed strawberries and coconut milk whipped cream, hummus and carrots or pretzels, salad and dressing, soup and gluten free crackers and even cookies and coconut milk.  I love that I can just drop the cup back into the mason jar when I have to pause when I make a stop, and then easily start again when I get back in the car.  The cups are made from recycled plastic and they are BPA free.  The packaging they come in is made of recycled paper and is also recyclable.   They’re made in the USA and definitely something everyone needs.  Check out their gift section for your holiday shopping.

What better compliment is there to a functional condiment cup than a Mason jar lid?  I cannot live without them.  I pack everything from hot liquids such as coffee, tea and hot chocolate to cold iced tea, juice, water, breakfast smoothies and my personal favorite: lemonade.  Drop these cute lids right onto a mason jar and screw the band on, and you’ve transformed your jar into a travel cup.  I love that they have an opening either for sipping or putting a straw through; and my metal reusable straws fit into it perfectly.  They come in a variety of colors and are made with the same standards as the BNTO cups, recycled plastic and packaging and made in the USA.  I’ve run both my lids and cups through the dishwasher many times since I received them, and they always come out looking great.

Cuppow didn’t stop there, though. In their quest to provide products that do not create waste, they’ve produced USA made, reusable coffee filters made with organic cotton for drip machines, pour over devices and cold brewing coffee.  I’ve been using mine for over two years now, and it’s still in perfect condition.  I just rinse it and allow it to air dry after every use.  And, they've created the Mason Tap, a game changer in making my own homemade salad dressings for dipping which I take with raw veg in my BNTO cups quite often.  I've also used it to dispense bone broth when raw feeding my dogs and cats, create infused oils, marinades, and lots more.  Cuppow was generous enough to give me two, one to try and one to give away!  All you need to do is like my Facebook page, Eco-Friendly Pet Product Reviews, like Cuppow on Facebook, and share this post to enter.  A winner will be chosen by 5pm 9/6/16.  Or, order yours on Amazon today!

Here’s something else that makes this company even more special: They donate a portion of their profits to Team Rubicon, a nonprofit which supports our veterans.  This is a company that proudly manufactures their products within our country, gives back to our war heroes, and has phenomenal customer service as well.

Connect with them as well on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest sales, contests, new products and giveaways.

Pet safe cleaning products that work

Christina Ottaviano

I am extremely sensitive to scented items.  Certain perfumes, air fresheners, plug-ins and other deodorizers give me an instant headache, nausea and sometimes migraines.  I don’t have this problem with Method products to the rescue!  Their air freshener is environmentally friendly without propellants that are harmful to your family.  Did you know those petroleum based propellants are mixed with the product to make it spray continuously?  No wonder they make me feel so sick, and I don't want those chemicals around my pets, nor my pregnant self.

Enter to win the Eco-Friendly Pets Facebook giveaway here!

I love all Method products I’ve ever used because they do what they say they will.  I was lucky enough to try (and share!) their air fresheners a couple of years ago and loved them.  On their website, they talk about why these new innovative products are so...refreshing. “Our range of planet-friendly air refreshers is designed with revolutionary pressurized air technology. Unlike many traditional aerosol sprays that are powered by petroleum-based propellant mixed in with the product, method continuous spray air refreshers are packed in an airtight chamber powered by compressed air. So when you spray, you fill your room with one of our nature-inspired scents. There’s nothing dirty about that.”  When I opened the box, and saw that there was a Fresh Clover scent I was ecstatic.  It smells exactly like fresh cut grass and if you know me, you know that this is my favorite scent in the whole world and not many companies have been able to replicate it.  I liked the way the bottle continuously sprayed with no constant squeezing of a trigger even though I didn't need very much at all to freshen the room.  Did I mention it smells just like fresh cut grass (I just can’t get over it)?!  I tried the Sweet Tangerine, and the French Lavender, and loved them too!  But my absolute favorite was the Fresh Clover so I decided to keep one other and donate one to a very good cause. My good friend and fellow animal lover and rescue advocate, Marcy’s Grey Muzzle Manor fundraising event.

They also sent me their limited edition Kelly Moss liquid gel hand soap, which I love.  It smells like a cross between greenery and lavender, and their sweeter scented foaming hand soap in Rice Milk and Mallow, which smells a little bit like marshmallows.  I love all Method products for the way they smell, how they perform and how they rinse clean without leaving my skin feeling itchy, dry and irritated. Method was kind enough to send me additional gel hand soaps for the rescue mission in Rice Milk and Mallow and White Cranberry which I in turn also donated to the above fundraiser.  This season's new scents feature a Rebecca Atwood design and include Pink Persimmon, Pumpkin Clove, Wild Violet and Blue Sage fragrances.

Method also makes body wash and my long-time favorite is Olive Leaf.  Tony and I both like it a lot and as with everything else Method, a tiny little bit goes a very long way.

I get my Method supplies on either Grove Collaborative, or on Amazon for the best selection of products and available fragrances, and usually free shipping.  Sometimes Amazon carries fragrances that were limited edition from seasons before, like the Honeycrisp Apple - which I ended up LOVING and wanting more of last year.  It's actually back, permanently in their hand soap collection...after many requests from adoring groupies like myself.

You can sign up for their newsletter on their website - they give their fans the first peek into all their latest products, updates, exclusive deals and promotions.  Check them out on PinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter as well.

Feeding kibble? Don't assume an expensive brand is healthy for your dog

Christina Ottaviano

It says "dog" on it, so it must be what I need to buy to feed my dog, right?  Not necessarily...

Historically, kibble based diets for dogs developed because pet owners began to regard dogs as luxury items, and less often the working animals they started out as; they believed that dogs needed to be "civilized," and since wild dogs and wolves ate raw meat, domesticated dogs should not be so "untamed".

Biscuits for dogs did not come about as an idea for a healthy treat - they were marketed as inexpensively as possible to sell to pet owners.  The pet food industry was not born of necessity for canine health; but in fact a way for entrepreneurs to cheaply manufacture a product in which there would be and inexpensive way to do do, with a very a long shelf life.   

"In the late 1850s, a young electrician from Cincinnati named James Spratt went to London to sell lightning rods. When his ship arrived, crew members threw the leftover "ship's biscuits" onto the dock, where they were devoured by hordes of waiting dogs. That gave Spratt an idea. "Ship's biscuits," or hard tack, were the standard fare for sailors for centuries. Flour, water, and salt were mixed into a stiff dough, baked, and left to harden and dry. The biscuits were easily stored and had an extremely long shelf life, which was important in the days before refrigeration. And they looked a lot like today's dog biscuits. Spratt had the idea that he could make cheap, easy-to-serve biscuits and then sell them to the growing number of urban dog owners. His recipe: a baked mixture of wheat, beet root, and vegetables bound together with beef blood. When Spratt's Patent Meal Fibrine Dog Cakes came on the market in 1860, the pet food industry was born. Spratt's Dog Cakes were a hit in England, so in 1870 he took the business to New York …and began the American pet food industry."

But...what about "people food"?  This term was coined by advertising in 1964 and has relatively no basis for truth whatsoever.  In fact, the lobbyist division who promoted bagged-only dry food for dogs was also fear mongering table scraps at the time as dangerous.  While some of this may be true (cooked turkey skin, for example in large amounts can cause pancreatitis), it was overwhelmingly blown out of proportion to include any fresh food at all.  Leading pet owners to believe that they were, and still are quite unable to feed their own pets a diet of anything except processed food that is supposedly balanced for their dog.  Even going far enough to specify different foods for different breeds.  In the grand scheme of rationalization, science prevails and numerous studies have proven that dogs not only live longer on a diet made of more fresh food and less processed food - they're healthier for it.  Not just healthier in general - they lacked the cancer rates, skin and ear infection issues, autoimmune diseases, anemia, liver and kidney malfunctions that kibble-fed dogs endured.  Suspected reasoning for this lies in the fact that kibble is often comprised of inferior ingredients, carcinogens and toxins.  Vitamins and minerals must be added in due to high-heat processing which makes the food shelf stable.  It must contain a certain percentage of carbohydrate in order to hold together in kibble form; both difficult for your dog to digest properly (hence, the gigantic poops and gastrointestinal discomfort associated with having no beneficial bacteria and live enzymes running through the tract), and also creating an environment for molds to grow and feed on when stored in an open container, such as the bag or in a moist environment such as a basement or other high humidity zone.  Additionally, heterocyclic amines have been proven to arise in meats subjected to high heat methods of processing due to the reaction between amino acids, sugars, and creatine.  These same substances are also found in car exhaust and cigarette smoke.  In rodent studies, these compounds fed in high amounts led to cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, leukemia and lung cancer.  Other research linked these compounds to different types of cancers in addition to the ones listed above.  How does a 100% kibble based, no "people food" diet sound now?

In addition to commercially purchased treats I also buy dried anchovies at my local Asian market

In addition to commercially purchased treats I also buy dried anchovies at my local Asian market

So, what's the answer?  Well, my degrees are in psychology, not nutrition.  However, I consider myself to be a person who relies on science and has a solid foundation of nutritional science backed by peer reviewed research through reading and understanding physiological processes.  And, I believe strongly that I can feed myself, so feeding my animals by the same less processed, more fresh food principles will lead to healthier lives for us all, less visits to the doctor and vet and less incidence of environmentally and nutritionally caused disease.  Are there some genetic factors that cannot be solved with nutrition?  Sure, my Ricky has IVDD, and there's nothing I can do about it except be sure he doesn't launch off of furniture (we have ramps), keep his nails trimmed to keep his posture healthy (I do nails every 1 to 2 weeks), feed him a diet rich in back-healthy minerals and vitamins and understanding how they work together in synergistic terms (like B vitamins, vitamin E, wild salmon oil, HA and MSM, for example).  Promoting healthy muscle mass in a dog predisposed to disc issues, along with ensuring less inflammation due to lower carbohydrates, omega-3's and antioxidants will not cure him, but it will vastly improve his chances of having another disc-related issue.

Clients, Sophie and Hershey LOVE Vital Essentials dried Minnows

Clients, Sophie and Hershey LOVE Vital Essentials dried Minnows

Let's put it this way: if I ate cereal for my entire life, two times per day and for every meal, I would probably merely survive if I was lucky and had pretty good genetics to back me up, and if I did not develop cancer, I might still have kidney disease, gastrointestinal issues, or liver problems.  But would I thrive?  Probably not...especially not with the higher incidence of disease linked to such a highly processed diet.  Remember, bodies whether human or canine are machines.  Living machines need fuel from food.  Real food!  Not processed garbage...that's technically not food at all - it's marketing.  Is there a place for it here and there?  Sometimes, it's not easily avoidable, especially in today's busy schedules.  But can an effort be made to improve nutrition every single day?  There is realistically no valid reason it cannot.  And this goes for your pets as well.  Even those with time limitations can just as easily feed their pets a healthy, less processed diet now that there are several really great companies who offer healthier options.  A switch to high-quality, grain free canned food exclusively is a step up from a kibble-only diet, however because it is still highly heat processed in order for the meat to be shelf stable in the cans, it is not the best choice.  Better!  But not best.  I make my own raw pet food and treats, but commercial options are also available and when I am busy, I utilize them for convenience and sometimes more concentrated format.  I also keep bags of freeze dried raw dog and cat food on hand, in the event of an emergency where either we need to evacuate, cannot open the freezer, or if something were to happen to me and someone else needs to feed my pets with little to no instruction.

But my dog has a "sensitive stomach" and these foods are too "rich"!  Actually, your dog most likely has a very depleted level of beneficial bacteria in his gut due to having such highly processed kibble and biscuits passing through it for so long and can't easily digest food in general.  Probiotics specifically for dogs (not people - they won't hurt a dog but they won't be nearly as effective due to the differences in bacterial strain requirements), packed with live cultures that dogs need added in while making the switch will help him not only digest the new, enzyme-filled food better but also make him healthier and more resilient in the long run.  Maintenance with tripe, a natural probiotic-rich source will decrease the incidence of gas, bloating, diarrhea and vomiting.

But it costs too much!  Actually, it doesn't - when you factor in the thousands of dollars you'll save in vet bills, and the trade for a pet who has a longer life and is healthier...the cost is negligible.  In reality, with kibble you're paying for fillers that your dog poops out (uncomfortably), anyway.  Why bother feeding him anything that will literally weigh him down?  Buy less Starbucks, take one less trip to the beach, downgrade your cable from the channels you don't even watch (or ditch it completely and get Netflix like we did) and you'll find the money to accommodate this way of feeding.  Remember this: high-quality raw food is fed in much less volume than kibble or canned food due to having no fillers, and pets stay full longer due to higher protein content coming from fresh, raw meat.

My at-home raw food prep

My at-home raw food prep

But it's dangerous! Pathogens and scary bacteria!  Actually, this is not specifically true for dogs.  It's an issue for people.  Without going into a ton of detail, cleaning practices that normally apply to your kitchen still apply no matter who in your home is eating what.  Duh.  I am 6 months pregnant and haven't managed to kill myself, my baby boy, my dogs, cats, husband or anyone else...and the "but it's gross" debate is not arguable either.  Yes, it's kind of gross.  Commercial food is all ground up and doesn't even look like organs and bones.  And by the way - commercially prepared raw food is not only often subjected to high-pressure processing, but also tested before it's sold which eliminates this debate altogether.  One company even has a place on their website where you can see test results published for your batch.  What I prepare myself is pretty gross and I hate liver with a passion that probably most people can identify with.'s not about me and what I like.  I barely eat meat or dairy when I am not pregnant.  I don't care for it, but my animals need it.  Why would I feed them something I am more comfortable with feeding them because of the way it looks?  That's ridiculous and selfish...and archaic.  Tip: freeze dried food is more expensive per pound than frozen.  Freeze drying is an extra step to shelf stability and therefore costs more to produce.  Dehydrated falls somewhere in between.

But...kibble cleans his teeth!  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Wrong!

Commercial brands I love and trust for my guys:

  • Vital Essentials. They offer full, balanced diets for dogs, and the same for cats coming out next year.  Sourcing is transparent and at it's finest - our favorites among the huge selection are wild salmon, beef tripe and turkey.  Their range of treats in freeze dried form is one of the most diverse you'll find - they have  something for any pet, picky or not.  (Tip: picky often is never an issue with raw food. Picky often happens when pets are attempting to tell owners that either their food makes them feel very sick, they're allergic to something in it, which has caused an adverse issue such as vomiting or gastric discomfort in the past, or worse and often in has either grown toxic mold you can't see or smell, or the fat it has been sprayed with to make it palatable has gone rancid.)  They've been in business longer than any other raw company out there, as far as I know.
  • Primal.  When I worked for Pet Valu, I was given the opportunity to take a full day class which was presented by Primal and talked all about raw food, why it's beneficial to pets, and specifically why Primal is a good choice: the company commits to USDA human grade meats which means no steroids, hormones or antibiotics, zero fillers and zero ingredients from China.  The vendors they source for protein also do not import the feed which their animals eat.  Additionally, their produce is all organic.  They offer a full line of food for dogs and cats as well as healthy treats.  Our dogs are infatuated with the turkey liver treats.
  • Stella and Chewy's.  I worked for this company for a few years, demoing their food in pet food supply stores so I have an inside view of their philosophy.  I really loved them both as a company and as a supplier for fresh, raw pet food for their commitment to providing grass fed meat, cage free poultry and wild caught fish.  They sell both freeze dried and frozen forms, in cat and dog food and also mixers treats.
  • K9 Natural.  Makes a nice line of balanced foods for dogs and cats, as well as treats like freeze dried mussels and our favorite lamb tripe.
  • Nature's Variety.  I use this company mostly for treats; however some might find that their pets like the mixers which are available as a way to get some raw food into your dog's diet without making a complete switch to full-time raw food. Also has a line of frozen raw foods in a large variety of proteins.
  • ZiwiPeak.  Offers air-dried raw foods that look a little more like flakes of traditional kibble.  They don't process with heat, so the food is still considered to be raw.  They were a pioneer in a raw-type diet long before other companies began to offer raw foods and still continue to be a trustworthy source for commercial, healthy food now.
  • Grandma Lucy's.  Freeze dried, and in a flake-type form.  100% human-grade.  The company began with freeze-dried meatballs and eventually expanded to include freeze dried complete meals.  This isn't a food I've fed, but having the option as a healthy choice for pets is always nice!
  • Honest Kitchen: Dehydrated, and in a flaky form as well. 100% human-grade, and their facility only makes human-grade food.  No kibble manufacturing goes on there at all.  Because it's a human-food facility, it is inspected as such. (Processing plants are another topic, but are actually a pretty big deal when it comes to where your pet food is made.)  Their quality control is pretty impressive.  This was actually the food I fed over 8 years ago when I made the switch off of kibble and canned foods.  I liked that I could re-hydrate it, and add in my own fresh additions.  At the time, I cooked chicken, beef, turkey and fish to add into their mixes.
  • Darwin's.  I've never used this brand, but they offer some mixers in addition to raw diets, if you're not ready to commit to fully switching over to raw just yet.  Available are both raw dog and cat food: their meals are made of free range, grass fed beef; cage free poultry; and organic produce. All meats are hormone, antibiotic, and steroid free as well - and they ensure that the farms they source from treat their animals humanely, too.
  • Bravo.  Another one I haven't tried, but offers great options as well including frozen meals, freeze dried, treats and chews.
K9 Natural lamb tripe is my favorite way to feed tripe...raw tripe is stinky!

K9 Natural lamb tripe is my favorite way to feed tripe...raw tripe is stinky!

Crucial resources on my list of go-to people in designing a raw diet for my pets:

I store our dried anchovies in mason jars, with a simple hand pump vacuum sealer

I store our dried anchovies in mason jars, with a simple hand pump vacuum sealer

Cats are obligate carnivores

Christina Ottaviano

Our furry little felines, descendant from wild ancestors, are equipped with the necessary teeth and claws to capture small prey.  Why?  Even though they appear to lazily nap away most of the day, they're obligate carnivores - meaning it is an obligation to their health to eat the flesh and organs of other animals.  This diet provides them with specific essential nutrients that they need to survive, which their own bodies do not synthesize themselves and cannot be absorbed in any other way.

Kibble is the single most detrimental way to feed a cat.  As with all living species, a whole foods, fresh diet is best - due to the very minimal processing and the bioavailability of amino acids and vitamins in raw meat.  Has your cat experienced urinary tract issues?  Vomiting?  Gastrointestinal illness?  Cancer?  Kidney disease?  These health problems can be traced back to a severely deficient diet.  Forced digestion for an animal that is meant to process whole meats and organs - not dried, highly heated and processed bits.  I'm not just a crazy, raw-feeding fanatic.  These claims are based in scientific fact, and I firmly believe that nutrition is an important preventative measure to not only see an animal merely survive...that animal should, theoretically thrive.  Dry food needs a carbohydrate base in order to hold together in dry kibble form; cats have no need whatsoever for carbohydrates in their diet and food that dry does not provide the 70% or higher level of moisture that a cat needs in order to retain the appropriate amount of water.  I make my own cat food.  It's not difficult and one of my cats loves it.  The other gets a mixture of grain-free kibble and freeze dried raw commercial cat food.  I have tried over 6 of his 13 years to get him onto a fully raw diet, but he refuses to eat enough of the different meats and organs to provide a balanced nutritional long-term intake.  I supplement as much fresh food as possible, but he just does not tolerate a fully raw diet.  You have to compromise at some point with what your cat can tolerate, and what works for you as well, however I will continue trying to get him to eat fresh foods until he's no longer living on this earthly planet...though it pains me to buy kibble at all, in any form.

Our cat sitting client, Maynard waits for his freeze dried rabbit treat. He LOVES his raw diet!

Our cat sitting client, Maynard waits for his freeze dried rabbit treat. He LOVES his raw diet!

The real solution to the major health issues in cats is raw feeding, and I am thankful our other cat has no issue with it.  He's stunning, handsome and absolutely gorgeous with very soft, blindingly white fur and no real health issues.  Sound gross?  Remember, it's not about you, the owner and what you need.  It's about your pet, the commitment you have taken on by agreeing to care for the animal, and their species specific nutritional needs.  Ready to start a diet to give your cat the energy and vitality he needs, but can't deal with the idea of raw food, either homemade or commercially purchased?  A canned diet with no kibble, grain or carbohydrates is a great place to begin, and many cat owners move on to raw diets after seeing the change in the health of their cats on a canned food only diet.  Canned food with a raw topper is also a great option when transitioning.

Our handsome white devil, Archer loves Wild Alaskan Salmon freeze dried treats.

Our handsome white devil, Archer loves Wild Alaskan Salmon freeze dried treats.

Do you like to give your cat treats?  Who doesn't want to spoil our handsome, furry tigers?  One way you can work fresh foods into a diet is to use them as treats.  In freeze dried or dehydrated form, treats marketed to pet owners can be difficult to navigate.  So, here's a great way to differentiate the bad from the good.  Most commercial raw food companies also sell a line of treats and theirs are the best place to begin.  One of my favorite businesses for a huge variety of treats is Vital Essentials.  From rabbit to whole fish, their selection of fresh-food treats is a great way to add in vital nutrients and give your cat the prey-driven enrichment he needs as well.  What's the difference between 15 different types of treats, all labeled "salmon", for example?  The ingredients list and the country of origin.  For example, compare these two treats, both marketed for cats:

1. "Single source protein, USDA certified facility, gluten and grain free, sourced, made, and packaged in USA. Ingredients: Salmon."

2. "Made with the finest ingredients available, [these treats] do not contain any chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, corn, wheat or soy. Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Maple Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Potatoes, Gelatin, Natural Flavor, Salt, Fish Oil, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Taurine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols,Phosphoric Acid, Sorbic Acid, Ascorbic Acid and Citric Acid, Oil of Rosemary."

...Which one sounds more appropriate for a whole food, healthy diet - now that you know what it means to be an obligate carnivore?  It's not enough to just look at the advertising on the front of the package.  Read the ingredients and you'll know exactly what's in food and treats you're feeding your cat.  Questions?  I can be reached for help with improving pet nutrition at any time via any of my social media or email. The websites linked in this article are extremely valuable and full of important information as well.

More on sourcing treats and food toppers in my next article...raw food for dogs!

Thermacell makes a mosquito barrier that really works

Christina Ottaviano

Six months pregnant, and trying to garden during the height of a Zika virus mosquito infestation has been a fearful challenge.  Now, add in being a dog walker and constantly outside, sweaty in 117F heat indexes with high humidity and bitten all day repeatedly by mosquitoes and I would almost rather stay inside.  Did you know? Just the fact that a person or animal is breathing makes them attractive to mosquitoes.  Warm weather that causes perspiration and elevated body heat in addition to activities that sometimes include drinking alcohol outside create the perfect storm for these flying invaders.  Left with at the very least an itchy red bump; and at worst a blood-borne disease like malaria, or Zika virus which causes birth defects... there is nothing pleasant about this experience.  The fate for your dog is much worse: heart worms are transmitted through mosquito bites.

In the past, there have been solutions that include applications of product to the skin for both people and pets, or burning candles to deter mosquitoes.  Ones that use harsh chemicals are not only unhealthy for humans and pets but also dangerous for our environment.  I personally do not like to apply anything to my skin when I am already sweaty and hot.  And the smell of citronella oil in the air or on my skin makes me nauseous...pregnant or not.

When I found Thermacell, I was excited to try a repellent that did not smell like citronella or other chemicals, didn’t have an open flame which required less attention be paid while trying to do other things, and wasn’t in a form that I had to apply it to my skin.  It's kind of a tall order...I'm picky and even more picky since becoming pregnant.  Citronella makes me even more nauseous than usual now, and has been especially irritating as far as headaches are concerned during pregnancy.  BUT: I am sadly one of the people who are more attractive to mosquitoes due to certain factors.  I typically work in my garden almost every day (though I have been slacking due to tiredness and this horrible heat), and if I do not do some type of parasite damage control I am covered in mosquito bites. Within minutes they are landing on me.  Not with my Thermacell lantern - once it's been on, and given about 10 minutes to create the magical force field of protection I am invisible to these predators.

Like the way this sounds so far?  Thermacell is offering my readers 25% off purchases through their website with the code WoofsandWhiskers, now through 9/30/2016!

At a very reasonable $29.99, the Lantern is my favorite mosquito repellent tool and I picked it up at my local Home Depot mostly because it's portable.  After breaking out the Lantern while watering my garden, weeding, pruning and continuing to do more yard work, I was only bitten once and that was right after I turned it on.  It’s effective in a 15’ x 15’ area so as long as I stay within that zone, I am safe!  Moving around outside of that area definitely proves the effectiveness of the product.  It’s pretty, with settings for a flickering candle or a light bulb look as far as illumination is concerned, and looks cute wherever I set it down in the garden.  It can be used as a lantern without turning on the mosquito repellent as well.  I have two so far, one for my front porch and one for my back yard.  I now also own a Torch, which is even more convenient because it both mounts on a stationary 6-foot pole, or can be removed and used as a tabletop lantern as well. This way my dogs won’t wander out of the covered zone, no matter which version I am using.  Operating on a single butane cartridge and batteries, the lantern warms a little pad which is infused with allethrin.   “Allethrin is a synthetic copy of a natural repellent found in pyrethrum flowers, a member of the chrysanthemum family.”  It barely smells like much of anything and is definitely effective.

Thermacell also sent me their Mosquito Repellent Appliance to try.  It covers the same area as the Lantern but has the capability of being attached to the person using it via a belt clip and costs a few dollars less than the lantern.  This allows for hands-free protection without having to carry the Lantern around as you move.  I found it to be helpful when walking dogs, especially near fields and wet zones, but I really love the look of the Lantern in the yard so I use it much more often.  Because I am often bending and squatting when gardening, the appliance is a bit bulky for me.  It still works the same as the Lantern, with the same amazing effectiveness but is just a little too big for a person who is 6 months pregnant.  I took both to picnics and barbecues and wasn’t bitten by a single mosquito.  My friends were amazed!   They are sold at your local Home Depot, Lowes, sporting goods stores, and Walmart. Refills are available on their website and also on Amazon.  I am so happy with this product, and I know you will be too!  I could see this product as a vital item to pack when camping or fishing as well.  I can say for sure that I will not be gardening or walking dogs without it.  Thermacell is on InstagramFacebook, Twitter, and YouTube – follow and subscribe for coupons and specials.

No more sweaty foot odor with Cedar Soles

Christina Ottaviano

Foot powders, sprays and antibacterial insoles have flooded the market as most people attempt to battle embarrassing foot odor and wetness.  Feet sweat, and those who generate a lot of movement each day; dog walkers, delivery and mail carriers, contractors, exercise instructors, restaurant employees, and those working in the veterinary and medial industries are constantly on the move.  Cotton socks, breathable sneakers and washing feet correctly and daily are all helpful.  But now, there’s another option on the market that really does work.

ZEDERNA Cedar Soles Original are thin, flexible 100% natural cedarwood lined with a very thin layer of cotton.  The natural antibacterial, anti-fungicidal properties of the cedar oil within the wood absorb moisture, keeping feet dry and healthy.  It goes on to prevent athlete’s foot and cure nail fungus as well.  Upon the first wear, the insoles absorb wetness and conform to the foot of the wearer, pretty much disappearing into the shoe as far as the feel is concerned. They can be used with any shoe, any additional prescribed orthotic insole, and in any special, supportive running shoe.  They can be worn with socks or tights, boots, and even those who often have cold feet, as the insole provides an additional insulating layer.  They can be cleaned and reused by washing by hand in warm, soapy water, dried thoroughly before reinserting into shoes.  They last for about 3-6 months and they are incredibly effective!  Tested on some pretty stinky man feet, these insoles not only took away the odor that was already in the shoes, but battled the additional daily odor and wetness with grace and elegance.  The shoes smell like cedar and the wearer is happy.  Overall, the impression is that these insoles are much more effective than grainy powders and chemical-laden sprays, and much more comfortable than drug store odor fighting insoles.  Not only did these insoles battle the stinky shoe of the construction boot wearer, and sneaker wearing dog walker/runner, but also maintain them from creating new odor.  The feet stayed fresh and dry, smelling only slightly and pleasantly of cedar upon removal of the shoe.  With a 110% guarantee, and immediate improvement of foot odor, and rewards for telling friends about your newly lovely scented toes, there’s nothing to lose.

Also recommended: making a little spritz to boost the Cedar Soles when they begin to lose their efficacy with recipes that combine cedar with citruscedar with peppermint, or the ever-soothing cedar and lavender oil.  These mixtures can additionally be used as linen sprays, countertop cleaners (when diluted with distilled water) and floor cleaner (when added to castile soap).  I love multitasking products!  Try this Grove Collaborative beautiful glass spray bottle to house your new deodorizer - it's my favorite.  Cedar Soles is a small family-run business headquartered in Germany, and all of their insoles are handcrafted with only the highest quality materials.  They are on Facebook and Twitter but the best way to get in touch is to send an email.  They’re very friendly and customer service oriented, and they’ll respond very quickly!  This is a product to never go without again; and during checkout you can opt to have them remind you to reorder so you don't forget.  It’s that easy and that eco-friendly to have feet that don’t smell and soles that won’t hurt the environment.  Just compost the old ones and replace with new!  They're also available on, in individual pairs, or packs of 3.

Kitty lounger our cats love

Christina Ottaviano

"Purring would seem to be, in her case, an automatic safety-valve device for dealing with happiness overflow."   -Monica Edwards

Cats like to lounge. Some can sleep for up to 20 hours per day. So why not give them an eco-friendly, comfortable and safe place to recharge?  At 25" long x 21" wide x 12" high, Peach Pet Provisions Kitty Lounger is the perfect size for any nap-loving cat or dog, and any size home. The design has changed slightly in the past few years to become even more attractive and streamlined.

What we love about it: It's 100% made in the USA.  There are no tools needed for assembly.  The attractive wood base is made from VOC-free, sustainable Pure-bond plywood. It’s sturdy and unlikely to tip over (unless there are zoomies going on…see below).  The foam-padded feet do not mark the floor.  We’ve had ours for over 3 years now and it still looks new.  I can see this hammock lasting us a very long time and it is used all day, every day.  But, the company does offer replacement fabric hammocks for the bed, if necessary!  Less than 5 minutes went by after assembly before the cat was in It happily sleeping.  It’s attractive; it looks like a piece of furniture rather than a pet bed.  The available fabric choices are modern and varying to match any décor.

The lounger covers are extremely well made and highly durable. The stitching is very high quality and strong.  They are machine washable and made from 100% USA grown cotton.  The fabric is heavy-weight upholstery quality ; thick, durable and non-fading.  I sew, and I can say that the cover is beautifully well made with confidence! It’s cooler in warm weather to lay on than a traditional stuffed bed due to the increase air flow and elevated height.  Another bonus: due to the fact that this bed has no stuffing in it, Honey was originally unable to destroy it and disinterested in trying.

The hammock is rated for pets under 20 pounds, however we have consistently seen at least two cats, a dachshund and a cat or just one rather large cat successfully use the hammock with no problem.  Our dachshunds have been caught snoozing in the hammock as well.  Looking for something more traditional?  They also sell gorgeous stuffed pillow beds: made & sourced in the USA with removable, machine washable cotton covers and stuffed with eco-friendly fiberfill made from recycled plastic bottles.  They feature channeled inserts keep fill more evenly distributed, 14 stylish colors/prints and they come in four sizes.  The company even sells bandannas to match!

We don’t travel much, but when we do our pets come too.  One of the things I really love about this hammock is that it folds up in minutes to pack away and set up quickly and easily in a new temporary location.  And, because it is so lightweight, it’s easy to move around when vacuuming (I just slide it with my foot).

Bonus: when taking a running start and launching onto the hammock, it can occasionally tip over.  In this position, the cats used it as a spot to hide behind and ambush the dachshunds.  Because it is lightweight, this provided a safe, fun place for the animals to play with little danger of injury.  Even with the launching and the stalking, the hammock has stayed in like-new condition and still continues to be a favorite resting spot for our two cats and our four small dogs.

We tried this Eco-Friendly litterbox, and it was quite convenient

Christina Ottaviano

Cleaning cat litter is a chore that no one wants to do, but every cat owner is responsible for.  Scooping the box every day is not a pleasant task. 

The environmental impact of cat litter on our environment is more than one might expect.  According to Pet Product News, clay litter (while most popular) is not the best choice.  “The environmental impact of clay litter production, in addition to the mining itself, includes the transportation of the clay to the drying facility as well as the use of petroleum products to generate sufficient heat needed to dry the clay…Clay cat litter is sent to landfills where its sits for an eternity. Since one assumes all cat clay litter purchased and used eventually gets thrown out, we are talking about a huge amount of cat litter ending up in landfills every year. The net result is that clay-based cat litter has a sizable environmental impact in both its manufacture and disposal.”

Naturally sourced litter can be an eco-friendly choice for you and your cat.  Litter One offers a complete system that is recyclable and a better choice for the environment.  It comes with 100% post waste pine pellets which are biodegradable and disintegrate into sawdust when they come into contact with cat urine.  Their patented sifting litter box floor allows you to sift that dust into the bottom of the pan while leaving clean pellets behind.  Just scoop the poop into the biodegradable poop bags daily and you have a clean, fresh litter box for 4 to 6 weeks.  It's even available on Amazon which is nice because you can have it delivered to your door, let the cat use it, and then throw it away - having a new one delivered again.  I like the option, though my favorite litter is, and always will be World's Best.

Initially, my cat refused to use this box.  I had it set up for over 5 weeks and he did not step foot in it.  Following the suggestion from the Litter One website, I sprinkled the old litter over the pellets in a thin layer and then he was immediately interested.  The system works nicely for him, as he is a cat that will not use the litter box if there is anything in it and we clean it several times per day.  The pine absorbed the smells fairly well, and urine did not leak through the cardboard bottom.  I like the idea of a new, clean box every month and the constant removal of poop keeps everything very sanitary.  The only downfall was that he was not able to cover his poop effectively with the pellets and this seemed to frustrate him.  I really liked that the pine was very low tracking coming out of the litter box, and that the initial setup was quick and easy.  The cardboard is thick and sturdy, and comes with no extra packaging – the box it arrives in is literally the litter box containing the pine pellets.

Want to learn more about Litter One?  Check them out on Facebook and Twitter.  Rescues and shelters – be sure to check out their partner program!

We use cedar oil as an effective and pleasant flea treatment

Christina Ottaviano

As a person who always strives for a more natural route to daily living, I refrain from using chemicals in my home.  In the past, I have used diatomaceous earth in my home and yard with some success for flea and tick prevention, however it’s dusty and makes a mess, and washes away when it rains.  I'm asked, fairly often what we use.

Upon researching flea and tick prevention options for the 2013 season, cedar oil repeatedly appeared as a viable option.  Further reading indicated that it not only kills the adult insects but their eggs and larvae as well.  Interestingly, it works by assaulting their breathing system (through their bodies); yet it is safe for humans, pets and beneficial insects such as butterflies, bees and ladybugs.  This great video explains how the cedar is effective and why. Research has shown that by using a carrier molecule derived from quartz, the delivery system is greatly improved. “The cedar oil aroma triggers the insect’s danger response that results in the closure of its breathing pores. This in turn drops the insect’s organ temperature and causes instant death to the arthropod. The formula also dissolves the exoskeleton of the eggs and larvae preventing the next cycle of pests”, says Buzz4Bugs.  Cedar oil application stops the life cycle of fleas, ticks and other pests.

I have been purchasing my Organic Cedar Oil products from Dr. Ben’s Cedar Oil Store for the past three years now.  Gary, the owner put together a custom package of cedar oil and granules to accommodate my small home and yard.  This includes: 1/2 Gallon Dr. Ben's Evictor for indoor use, 16oz Paws & Claws Spray For Pets, 32oz Ready to use Lawn & Kennel Spray, and 10lb Cedar Granules for lawn.

I sprinkle the cedar granules over my lawn in May and June, and at the same time spray my lawn and porch with the lawn and kennel spray.  It is easy to apply and smells nice.  It has even rained very heavily a couple of times and is still effective.  I have not even used any of the indoor product supplied to me during my first purchase, as treating the yard has been effective enough, except to occasionally spritz the dog beds in between washing.  I love that it is safe to use around my flower and vegetable gardens, repelling and killing grubs, fleas, ticks, army worms, mole crickets and mosquitoes – and also bacteria and fungus.

Although I haven’t needed it for such issues, the Paws & Claws spray will successfully control fleas, ear mites, mange mites, burrowing mange mites, head and goat lice.  I recommend getting the gallon size, that way you have it for whenever you need it.  As long as it has been stored in a cool, dark place I have been able to use it from season to season.  Amazon sells it for about $100 in the gallon, or about $30 in the 32 ounce.  This is not as pricey as it seems when you have considered the high concentration of cedar oil in these containers, and how little needs to be used when applying.  If you decide to purchase, please consider using my affiliate link.

It also repels rats and mice.  I have noticed a decrease in the amount of mice and moles my cat has been catching since the cedar oil products were applied to my lawn and can tell when it wears off because the moles begin to pile up again...and the mosquitoes return.  Overall, I am very impressed at both the efficacy and safety of these products.  It’s now early August and once again, my home and pets are flea-free and as long as I remember to lightly apply more often, my mosquito issue is diminished.  I would absolutely recommend this option as a natural preventative for fleas and ticks.  I do still have a few mosquitoes in my yard, but there is a definite decrease in the frequency of their appearance as long as I keep up with the cedar application.  Dr. Ben’s is on Facebook, has a newsletter, and a great website where you can read more.

EcoJarz lids have been essential to healthy choices while dog walking

Christina Ottaviano

I love mason jars.  As someone who cans my own homemade jam, soups, salsa, applesauce, relish, pickles and more; mason jars are always a staple in my home.  I love mason jar craft ideas, using mason jars for dry goods storage, organizing odds and ends in mason jars, and using them to store leftovers in the fridge.  So, when I saw EcoJarz lids, which are made to fit on mason jars to turn them into travel mugs, I was very excited!  I don't drink from plastic if I can help it.  So, I try to take with me what I might want to drink while I am out doing my daily dog walking run.  Typically, I take a smoothie or an iced coffee; and I always bring water which we filter at home as well. No waste!!  Kind of funny: I don't travel. I actually hate travelling and don't like vacations.  But I end up using a lot of travel-geared equipment because I am on the road so much.  Go figure.

I've been lucky enough to review both the silicone and stainless steel lids.  They also sent their stainless steel straws and a nifty straw cleaner to wash them as well.  I try not to use plastic straws, either.  They are horribly wasteful!

I have tried everything from filtered water with limes and blueberries added for flavor, to my morning smoothies, to iced coffee, and homemade iced tea using these lids and straws.  I've made milkshakes (hey, I am pregnant and so far horribly clumsy and almost definitely need a lid on my drinks...).  I absolutely love them!  When I drink from plastic cups and use plastic straws, I can taste the plastic in my drinks.  The thought of that makes me nauseous.  Everything tastes better out of glass, and it's healthier.  I liked the silicone lids and the stainless steel lids equally as far as function is concerned; however I think the stainless steel lids are a little bit more attractive.  The pint size widemouth mason jar also fits perfectly in the cup holder in my car.

A few tips I came up with while using my Ecojarz lids: make smoothies and if you have a surplus, put it in a second jar with a regular mason jar lid and store it in the fridge.  When you’re ready, just pop an Ecojarz lid on that jar and you’re all ready to walk out the door with your smoothie.  Similarly, store filtered water with lime, strawberries, blueberries and/or cucumber in mason jars in your fridge.  When you’re ready to enjoy one, just pop on an Ecojarz lid and straw, and you’re ready to go.  Also, if you aren’t a canner – you can often find mason jars at thrift stores, on Craigslist and at estate sales/yard sales.  This is the most green option for buying jars, as you aren’t contributing to the manufacturing process of new jars by buying used ones already in circulation.  If you can’t locate them used, mason jars are generally located in the seasonal section in most grocery stores.  Don’t forget: shop local, supporting local business if possible.  I avoid mass merchandisers for many reasons...

Ecojarz offers a one-stop spot to order all of the things you need to turn your mason jars into portable drink cups.  The stainless lids, silicone lids, and stainless straws are all also available on Amazon.  I highly recommend the stainless steel straws, in addition to the lids as they are a superior option to reduce waste for a cleaner, healthier environment.  These lids make a great gift for your favorite green lifestyler – and at reasonable prices there’s no reason to wait.  Check out Ecojarz on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and share with your friends, today!  Also, follow Ecojarz on Pinterest for great recipe ideas, giveaways and other green living ideas.  I also use, and love their loose tea diffuser.

Homemade pet safe cleaners + my favorite essential oil supplier

Christina Ottaviano

One day a short time ago, an article was posted to NPR’s Facebook page with a caption that stated: “More than 1,000 sick and dying sea lion pups have been found stranded since the beginning of the year, from Santa Barbara to San Diego. As scientists try to figure out why, one animal rescue worker says that in nearly three decades on the job, he's never seen anything like it.”  The question central to the investigation asks why these adorable little sea mammals are seemingly starving.  The answer seems to be that there are not enough fish for them to eat.  But why is the fish population decreasing so alarmingly?

There isn’t just one answer, but a complex web of cause and effect that has rendered our oceans incapable of sustaining life to its fullest capability.  In previous articles, there has been discussion about plastic bags, chemicals in household cleaners (and alternative products to use instead), and recycling of plastics into new items such as colanders, park benches and dog beds.  None of these things will happen though, if the plastics don’t get to the proper venue for recycling or consumers do not use environmentally friendly cleaning products.  All of this leaches back into the water supply and eventually, the ocean.  If everyone does their part by making the effort to be sure the plastic gets to its proper destination for recycling, or uses plastic alternatives, the oceans may suffer less. In the meantime, I am very careful about what cleaning products I use, especially on the floors where my animals lay and walk, and then clean themselves.  Homemade is the best because I get to customize it.

These recipes are borrowed from Mountain Rose Herbs (and you can purchase all of the ingredients needed on their website):

Super Surface Spray

• 16 oz. spray bottle

• 14 oz. – 1:1 solution of distilled white vinegar and water

• 7 drops of tea tree essential oil

• 7 drops of lavender essential oil

• 7 drops of lemon essential oil

Use this aromatic and disinfecting solution for cleaning kitchen counters, cabinets, refrigerator shelves, blinds, painted wood surfaces, painted walls, molding, fan blades, and more.

Herby Soft Scrub

• 12 oz glass jar with lid

• 1/2 cup baking soda

• 1/2 cup castille soap

• 15 drops of antimicrobial essential oils like rosemary and sage

Mix well until you have a nice consistency like cake frosting. If you have leftovers, add 1 tsp vegetable glycerin to keep the blend nice and moist.

Antibacterial Soap Spray

• 16 oz spray bottle

• 14 oz. water or rosemary hydrosol

• 3 tbsp castille soap

• 15 drops of tea tree essential oil

• 15 drops of oregano essential oil

Use this cleaning spray to disinfect your bathroom surfaces. You can use the Super Surface Spray to rinse away any residue left behind by the castille soap.

Refreshing Linen Spray

• 16 oz. spray bottle

• 3 oz. unflavored vodka

• 12 drops lavender, ylang ylang, peppermint, orange or your favorite smelling essential oil

• 12 oz. organic hydrosol of your choice

Spray to refresh your mattress, pillows, bed linens, couches, and fabric covered chairs, or spritz clean winter blankets before storing for the year. Also makes a wonderful ironing spray.  I've also ordered this set from Calily Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils Kit, and have been extremely happy with the quality of the oils.

I highly recommend reading their blog and signing up for their newsletter; it is packed with recipes, tips and tricks as well as sustainable and green news.  They’re also on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Learn Canine and Feline CPR and First Aid Sept. 17th

Christina Ottaviano

Class will require preregistration, and take place at the Pottstown Pet Fair from 10am-1pm.

From Pet Emergency Education:


*Class will certify the participant in Canine and Feline CPR and First Aid*
The skills and topics covered in this class include:

Safety techniques when working with sick and/or injured animals
How to restrain and transport sick and/or injured animals

Taking vital signs (temperature, pulse, respiration, CRT)
Importance of the first aid kit
How to manage common medical emergencies such as severe wounds, poisoning, burns,  choking, etc.
Performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation on dogs and cats (PetCPR+ Certification)

The animal CPR training that we provide is based on the methods developed by emergency veterinarians.  These methods are believed to be the most successful.

Pay with a debit/credit card on our website


Download a mail in registration form if you wish to pay by check

Children 9 years of age and older are welcome to attend any of our classes.  Ask about our child and student discounts

*Ebooks are "Read Only" and can not be printed*
A link to
Download the Ebook can be found in the "order confirmation email".  The order confirmation email will be sent soon after a class registration is purchased.

Printed book, first aid kits, and other retails items purchased with your registration will be distributed at the class when you arrive.

Enter NAME as you want it to appear on your CPR cards and Certificate in the "order notes" box at checkout.  If registering more than one person please make sure to provide the additional names upon checkout

We strongly suggest that participants bring their own stuffed animal to use in the class however it is not required.

Read our policies/terms and conditions page for more information about our registration and refund policy


Our certification is valid for 2 years

To become re-certified a class participant must attend any Pet CPR certification class prior to their certification expiring

We update our programs regularly therefore anyone attending a future class will receive the most updated and current material about animal CPR.  

We DO NOT believe that Pet CPR training is "good for life".  The information about the best methods to use when performing animal CPR is always being studied, researched and improved by veterinary professionals.  For this reason we pledge to deliver the most up to date and current methods to our class participants.

West Paw handcrafts high-quality, extra-durable dog + cat beds

Christina Ottaviano

We have several beds in every room.  When I bake, the dogs lounge in the kitchen.  When I am writing, they nap at my feet.  And when I am relaxing, one of our dogs will even drag a bed up the ramp and onto the couch (because the couch itself is not good enough for the princess Honey dog!).

Our Lucy loves a bed with sides.  She lounges, like the most interesting dog in the world on the bumpers.  I prefer that style for them as well, because they become therapeutic in the event of a neck or back issue.  When shopping for a pet bed there are many factors that are important.  If a person is green-minded, a bed made from recycled materials and manufactured in the USA is important.  Functionality is also a factor.  Can the bed be washed and dried in a washer and dryer?  Does the cover come off?  Is the fabric durable, yet soft and comfortable?

West Paw’s bed, the HeyDay is all of these things.  We own a soft sage version.  The Microsuede® fabric has a comfortable, velvet feel and is easy to clean.  The bed is generously filled and the bumpers around the edge are filled with material called Intelliloft® that is made from recycled plastic bottles. West Paw mentions that “using IntelliLoft® recycled material uses up to 8x less energy than it takes to manufacture the same material new and keeps plastic bottles out of landfills.”  It is very well made, extremely durable and richly attractive.  The zipper is high quality and heavy duty, and the stitching is upholstery quality.  This bed can go through claws, spills, mud and more without permanent damage.  Our testing with 4 dachshunds and 2 cats has concluded that the bed is fairly indestructible and resistant to odors.  It’s pretty much the bed that every dog and cat owner has been looking for.  We absolutely love it!

They're available in all sizes, shapes and colors on as well.

When it's hot outside, string bags are the best for toting essentials

Christina Ottaviano

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to review a great, reusable set of bags from ECOBAGS®.  I used them for a few days to get a feel for how they’d work in practical situations.  I am still using them today!

Day 1: Took my ECOBAGS® 10 inch tote handle String Bag with me to the drug store.  I picked up shampoo, and a few other items.  I used it while shopping, and then returned my items to it after ringing up at the register.  Loved the sturdiness of the handle and the stretch in the netting!  It folded up nicely and fit right in my purse afterward, for the next time I’d need to use it.  I also liked not having to touch the store-supplied shopping basket.

Day 2: I have four dachshunds.  One had back surgery in January 2012.  As a result, he can no longer go up or down stairs.  So, every night I carry him up with me.  Not a big deal, except I can’t carry anything else while carrying him.  ECOBAGS® to the rescue!  I gathered the items I wanted to take with me, and used the 22 inch long handle String Bag.  It fit perfectly over my shoulder, and I was easily able to carry it and my dog up the stairs, eliminating the need for two trips.  Four years later, I am still using the bag for this task.  My dog sees the bag, and knows it's time for bed!  I carry everything from clean laundry to whatever else needs to go up - toilet paper, toiletries, etc.  Also, the string bags are quite convenient while walking dogs outside for a hands-free way to carry the necessities.  The design of the string bags are especially lightweight in the heat, allowing air to pass through and almost feeling like carrying nothing.

Day 3: I took the ECOBAGS® Produce and Bulk Bags to a farm stand with me.  Initially, I noticed that they were very lightweight and had no concerns about them weighing too much for the produce scale to influence my produce weight.  I filled the small bag with berries, the middle bag with peaches and put my eggs in the large bag.  I liked how the drawstrings kept the bags shut, but were still easy to open at the register.  I was absolutely thrilled not to have those plastic produce bags in my groceries when I got home.  I also took the 22 inch long handle String Bag with me and put all of my bagged produce in it to take home.  I put it right over my shoulder and carrying it to my car was effortless and convenient, having both of my hands free to use my keys.  I take them to the farmer's market, and to the farm where I buy eggs as well.  I am often asked where I got mine - they are still in very good shape after 4 years of use.

What did I love most about them?  They’re 100% cotton, with azo-free dyes and machine washable.  They are so lightweight; I almost forgot I was carrying them in my purse.  And, when they wear out, (which seems as though it would take a very long time to happen, as they’re study and very well-made) I can toss them in my composter.  It's been a few years and they're still in perfect working shape...pretty impressive!  The company uses packaging made from recycled material and low impact inks – it’s recyclable.  It doesn’t get any more green than that!

This is a company with a sincere interest in environmental interests and personal investment in the ability of individuals to make a difference.  Their philosophy relates to making as little impact as possible on the world around us.  You can feel good about supporting ECOBAGS® - a great company with a very earth-conscientious point of view.  Grab a set of 5 pastel net bags on Amazon today!

Interested in learning more about ECOBAGS®?  On social media: Visit ECOBAGS® Facebook page & Twitter handle. Also, check out ECOBAGS® blog for interesting and intellectual discussion regarding environmental issues.

Cleaning supplies that rock my pet-safe home

Christina Ottaviano

Leading a greener lifestyle starts with the actions we take daily.  The first step in reducing chemicals in your home is to choose cleaning products that are both safe for your family and the environment.

Mrs. Meyer’s products are not only environmentally friendly and safe for people and pets - they’ll also give you your daily dose of aromatherapy.  The lavender line is soothing, lemon verbena is energizing, basil is uplifting, honeysuckle is calming and geranium is refreshing.  Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products are available in surface scrubs, surface wipes, countertop cleaners, liquid hand and dish soap, automatic dishwasher packs, glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner and all-purpose cleaner.  The liquid products are biodegradable.  Deliciously scented soy-based candles come in reusable glass jelly jars, to help organize your home.  The plastic packaging on their other products is not only recyclable, it is also comprised of 25% post-consumer recycled content.  Mrs. Meyer’s does not include animal ingredients in any product, nor does the company test on animals.  And without ammonia, phosphates or chlorine you can breathe easily during and after cleaning.  The company sources as many ingredients as possible from renewable resources, such as soy, coconut, olive or corn, and the products proudly state “Made in the USA” on their labels.  Learn more about this super company, and meet the very sweet and sensible Mrs. Meyer here!

There are even seasonal additions to the product line.  Orange clove, Iowa pine, gingerbread and cranberry give your cleaning a festive spark.  This year, Apple Cider, and Mum are in the fall scents and I just cannot make up my mind over which one I would like best!  I am leaning toward ordering the Mum fragrance.  Some time ago,  Mrs. Meyer’s sent me one of their holiday soy candles to try, in the Iowa pine scent.  Before it was even lit, I could smell the fresh, clean scent of pine and notes of cedar and clove.  It burned cleanly and evenly, filling the entire first floor of my home with the nostalgic reminder of a freshly cut Christmas tree.  Soy is a renewable resource, naturally grown and non-toxic.   The reusable jelly jar it came in was handy to store odds and ends such as safety pins, nails or screws.  Overall, I loved this candle and I would bet that the fragrance lineup for Christmas 2016 will be just as brilliant.

All hail the metal lunch container!

Christina Ottaviano

Lunch technology has come a long way since the days of plastic lunchboxes stickered with cartoon characters and plastic thermoses containing soup or milk.  If you remember drinking hot liquid from a plastic container, you’ll be reminded of that plasticy-adulterated flavor that leached into the food or drink.  And the flavors of previously enjoyed food and beverages mingling with the plastic flavor are disgusting.  It wasn’t appetizing then.  It isn’t now, either.  Add in the chemicals we now know seep from plastic when heated…and the whole thing becomes a troublesome issue.

In this economy, ordering takeout for lunch is not always an option.  It’s not an earth-friendly option either, with all of the single-use material associated with takeout.  A financially friendly alternative is to pack a lunch and take it.  Those who prefer to create their own healthier lunches desire to pack items from home.  But how can you take it with you, in an environmentally friendly manner?  As a dog walker, I am in the car all day and usually need to pack a variety of snacks and meals.

Enter ECOlunchbox!  No more need for plastic sandwich bags, prepackaged (and generally over processed) snacks and plastic drinking bottles.  They’ve thought of everything, from the stainless steel containers and the cloth napkins to the reusable bamboo spork.  Everything is washable with no waste.  They generously sent me the ECOlunchbox Oval to try and review recently.  It’s perfectly sized for a sandwich, cut in half and stacked and the small container included for a snack.  It’s completely dishwasher safe and tested lead free, and the plastic lid for the little container is also BPA free.  I like that it protects a sandwich from being squished, and that the little container is leak proof.  I thought it was sized perfectly for someone who prefers a small meal. I also liked how my cold pack made the metal container very cold, which kept my sandwich nice and cold in my insulated lunch bag, in the sweltering 100 degree weather.  I packed sliced, fresh peaches in it for breakfast the other day, and was able to quickly open and snack on them without making a mess in my car. Two suggestions: Choose a larger size or pair it with a second one if you want to also enjoy a salad and dressing with your sandwich and snack, and pick up one of their kits.  Also, remove the sticker on the bottom before you put it in the dishwasher the first time.  I was left with a very sticky residue that I scrubbed with salt and vinegar to remove.  It would have been much easier to remove prior to going through the dishwasher first.

Get yours on Amazon, and choose from the oval version that I have, a stackable steel version that holds more lunch than you can probably eat at once, or this cute sectioned box - for those who despise the though of their food touching.

Check out their Facebook page for cute snack ideas, recipes and special offers.  Follow them on Twitter for tips, tricks and giveaways.  Follow them on Pinterest for craft projects, creative lunch ideas and eco friendly photography.