Giving the discerning dog owner the "upper paw" on the best products, nutrition and training tips.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Puppy Power: Health Benefits of Viewing Animal Pictures and Videos

Today's world is 24/7, with a constant expectation for us to be accessible and responsive.  This is true in both our personal and professional lives.  It does not matter if you are answering work emails or watching TV while simultaneously texting your friends; our minds crave and have adapted to constant stimulation.  With all of the craziness that goes on in our daily lives; many of us eventually experience "burn out".  This mental exhaustion results in many of us striving to find balance and to maintain a sense of calm throughout the day-to-day 'storm'.  Queue the health and wellness gurus!  Common relaxation strategies may be yoga, meditation, spending time with family and friends, and of course, your dog!

In our last post, we featured Bristol and the amazing health and healing benefits that come from spending time with a canine pal.  Today, we are going to introduce exciting evidence that demonstrates how looking at pictures of baby animals and watching those adorable puppy videos reduces stress and promotes mental concentration.  Who knew?!

Naturally, viewing pictures and watching videos of cute and cuddly animals makes us smile and gives us happy feelings.  According to a group of scientists at Hiroshima University, they can also improve our levels of concentration.  In a series of experiments, researchers showed that people who viewed pictures of puppies and kittens had higher performance scores and were quicker in completing a series of tasks, conducted for purposes of the experiment, than those that had not viewed the baby animals.  This is affectionately called the "Power of Kawaii", which means "cute" in Japanese.

So, to help you smile, relax, and become more productive, we have put together a video compilation of some adorable videos!

In honor of my brother's love for cats and the end of Discovery Channel's SharkWeek...enjoy this video!

So remember, it can't hurt to take a few moments out of your day for some puppy love....afterall, it's good for you!


A & A

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Therapy Dogs: How Dogs Help Us Heal

Bristol looking sharp in his official vest

It has been quite some time since our last post.  We hope you are enjoying your summer as much as us!

Before we retire our Pup-of-the-Month, Bristol, we wanted to honor him with a post about therapy dogs and their miraculous ability to provide love and healing.  The bond between humans and dogs is truly amazing and that is what we wish to celebrate in this post.

Photo Credit:  Jax Custom Photography
Bristol on the job AND having fun!

Bristol began his journey as a puppy.  At just 9 months of age, he completed the 10-step test to become certified as a Canine Good Citizen.  This certification focuses on training and developing positive behaviors such as, successfully responding to commands from his handler, demonstrating polite and calm behavior with strangers and in crowds, and interacting positively with other dogs.  After completing his certification, Bristol began visiting an assisted living facility in his community.  His sweet nature and loving demeanor was bringing so much joy to others, that his owners, Susan and Jack, decided to expand his experience and their visits to local hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other organizations throughout their community.  Bristol has since completed his "Canine Masters Degree" by also achieving certification with Therapy Dogs, Inc. and Bright and Beautiful.

Photo Credit: Jax Custom Photograpy
Bristol giving kisses

What is pet therapy?

Pet therapy is the incorporation of animals into various settings and activities to help people heal and better manage difficult situations and health issues.  Pets will often visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and community organizations to interact directly with people.  They bring hope and comfort to the people they visit and take their minds off of life's challenges, even if only for a short period of time.  Studies have shown tremendous benefits in patients with cancer, heart disease, and mental health conditions.  For example, UCLA Medical Center published a study showing that a 12-minute visit with an assisted-therapy dog, "improved cardiopulmonary pressures, neurohormone levels, and anxiety in patients hospitalized with heart failure.American Journal of Critical Care, 2007 (

Common Benefits of Pet Therapy:

  • Reduces depression and anxiety
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases a sense of calm while releasing endorphins
  • Creates and increases motivation for faster recovery
  • Increases socialization
  • Provides comfort
We hope you found this post inspiring and will consider volunteering your dog or yourself to help provide healing and hope to others.


A & A

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Revisiting DIY: Make this ear solution YOURSELF!!

With Memorial Day weekend behind us and the temps heating up, we thought this was a perfect time to revisit this post!!

Cleaning your pup's ears is most likely NOT one of your favorite tasks, however, it is important and essential to good health.  With Spring upon us, those hot sweaty days will turn into prime ear infection season for your dog and you need to be prepared.

So, how do you go about this aspect of grooming and maintenance?  Do you use a cotton ear swab with soap and water...eeek we hope not!  Do you use pre-medicated pads?  A solution purchased from your veterinarian?  The possibilities are endless and there are thousands of products on the market, but in our opinion....NOTHING beats this homemade solution.

This is a powerful, yet safe solution, that will last you for months and ensure your pooch never gets another ear infection.

1. 1 bottle of rubbing alcohol 16 oz.
2. Boric Acid Powder
3. Gentian Violet
4. Plastic bottle with applicator 4 oz. - 8 oz.

Step 1:

Pour the bottle of rubbing alcohol into your plastic bottle.

You can find these for $2 - $3 at any beauty supply store

Step 2:

Measure 2 oz. of Boric Acid Powder, approximately 2 tablespoons, and add to your alcohol.  

You can purchase at your local drugstore or online.  A 6 oz. bottle should be around $5

Step 3:

Add 8-10 drops of Gentian Violet to your solution and shake well.

Like the other ingredients, you can order from a drugstore pharmacy or reputable online source.  The price should be around $6 for 1-2 oz. bottle.

Did you know?  Both Boric Acid Powder and Gentian Violet are powerful antiseptic and anti-fungal agents used in many of our everyday products.

Step 4:

You final solution should have a lovely dark lavender hue and look something like this...

Add a small squirt of the solution into your pup's ear, massage and allow to sit for a few minutes.  Then take a gauze pad to clean out the gunk.

This is the only ear solution I use to clean my dogs' ears and I have never had another ear infection since we incorporated this into our routine.  The ingredients are easy to find and the solution is so simple.

We hope you give this DIY remedy a try!


A & A

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Caring for Canines as a Community

Anatolian Shepherd mix in Alacati, Turkey

It's been awhile since our last post.  We have been out of the country on vacation for the past several weeks traveling throughout Turkey and Greece.  During our travels, I was surprised to see how many dogs were roaming the cities and villages, especially in the bustling metropolis of Istanbul.  Everywhere we went there were dogs lounging in cafes, peacefully meandering about the streets, and being fawned over by tourists and locals alike.  Most, if not all, seemed to be remarkably healthy, groomed, and socially well-adjusted.  This is in stark contrast to what we see here in the United States, so I decided to learn more about the dogs of Turkey and how they differ from the dogs living in the U.S.

Neighborhood dog in Alacati, Turkey
He joined us in the cafe to hang out

Here in the United States, we have around 13,600 animal shelters.  Of which, about 7.9 million animals enter each year and approximately 2.7 million are euthanized (  These numbers are staggering and create a polarizing issue here at home.

In Turkey, there are very few animal shelters due to infrastructure and economic challenges.  This results in a high number of free-roaming dogs; which could cause major health and safety concerns…or at least one would think.  In Istanbul, it is estimated that there are approximately 150,000 stray dogs roaming the streets and living peacefully among their human counterparts (

So, what is different about these Turkish dogs?

A few years ago, rabies was a big problem among free-roaming dogs and the government instituted regulations requiring cities and villages to address the issue.  As a result, there has been a major effort to spay, neuter and vaccinate all stray dogs.  This is evidenced by ear tags and collars on nearly every dog you see.  This initiative has drastically reduced the number of reported rabies infections and allowed dogs to live a healthier life.

Cesme Peninsula, Turkey

In addition to the spay/neuter/vaccinate initiative, culture plays a large role in how dogs exist in the community.  Many Turkish citizens enjoy having the free-roaming dogs and care for them as a neighborhood.  We saw several dogs that seemed to have multiple "owners" as we would see shop keepers brushing, feeding, and caring for their canine friends.  Turkish society is also against euthanasia as a method of "population control" for otherwise, healthy animals.

Sunbathing in front of the Blue Mosque

Receiving some love from a tourist

Back to lounging
It is hard to say what the best resolution is for caring for all of the animals in our world.  I am inspired and warmed to see the relationship between man and dog in Turkey and perhaps we could learn a little from their approach.


A & A

Monday, April 7, 2014

Health 101: Veterinarians - Holistic vs. Traditional?

Photo courtesy:
In thinking about how we approach living a healthier lifestyle, there are so many different opinions and suggestions on how best to achieve optimal health.  Some believe a holistic or integrative approach is best and other look for a more traditional western medicine approach.  Both of us work in the healthcare industry and are intimately involved with how a healthy lifestyle impacts us.  We also both have dogs at different life stages.  The health needs of a senior dog are very different from that of a 2-yr old pup.

With that in mind, this past year we have had more trips to the veterinarian for our 10-yr old Japanese Chin, Joey, than in any other year prior.  Although, we are fortunate he has been very healthy his entire life, he has experienced some significant health issues this year...many due to him aging.  So, as a way to ensure we are providing Joey the best care; it is essential for us to be informed about our options and treatment plans.  As part of this information gathering, we find ourselves we take a holistic approach, traditional medicine approach, or a combination?

It may be easier for us to clarify the difference between holistic veterinary medicine and the traditional veterinarian.

Holistic veterinary medicine, also known as integrative or alternative veterinary medicine.  It focuses on utilizing natural and homeopathic treatments in lieu of pharmaceutical and diagnostic therapies used in traditional western veterinary medicine.  Holistic veterinary medicine has a goal of looking at the animal as a whole and using minimally-invasive techniques to enhance the animals well-being.  Common integrative medicine treatments are acupuncture, herbal remedies, organic diets, massage therapy, and nutraceutical incorporation.

Photo courtesy:
Acupuncture can also be helpful for your pooch!

Traditional veterinary medicine focuses on incorporating common and conventional medical practices that have stemmed from academic,evidence-based institutions.  Traditional veterinary medicine incorporates pharmaceutical therapies, diagnostic testing (x-rays, EKG's, and MRI's), surgical intervention, and focuses on a specific diagnosis.

Photo courtesy:
Recently, our dog, Jack, had to receive an MRI so we could probably diagnose his invertebral disc disease

In summary, both of these approaches to healing have the same goal of treating, curing, and promoting optimal health for our pets.  Advice from many veterinary experts supports a combination of both schools of thought.  If your dog is suffering from a non-life threatening ailment, then a less invasive, holistic solution would be best to try first.  If the health issue is more severe and has a potential life-threatening risk, a more invasive approach would be the best.

Happy Healing!


A & A

Friday, March 14, 2014

Puppy Zen: The Benefits of Chammomile

So as part of our wellness routine, we are working to improve not only our bodies, but our mind as well.  To achieve this goal, we have incorporated meditation and herbal teas into our regimen.  While we haven't figured out how to teach our dogs to meditate, we can incorporate the benefits of chamomile to infuse more calm into their life.

The chamomile flower is a member of the daisy family and has been used in medicinal remedies for centuries.  Due to its safe and versatile properties, it is no wonder this is a highly popular herbal ingredient.

Photo Credit:

So, how can chamomile benefit your pup?

Chamomile is highly beneficial in creating a "calming effect" on dogs (and humans).  The herb has antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe upset stomachs.  So, if your pup has a sensitive tummy or is not feeling well, this is a great way to help relieve this discomfort.  In addition, chamomile can also act as a mild sedative helping nervous pups to relax and remain in a state of zen.  We have a friend who always packs chamomile tea packets with her to use when she is travelling with her pup.  This way she can easily brew a little bit of tea to help calm his nerves when he is hopping around from airport to airport.

Ways to incorporate chamomile into your dog's diet...

Brew a pot of chamomile tea and add enough tea to make the solution a bit stronger than you would normally brew.  This would be approximately 3-4 bags of chamomile tea.  Don't worry too much about the strength of the solution as chamomile is mild and quite safe.  Then allow the tea to chill in the refrigerator until cool.  Once appropriately cooled, you can add the tea one tablespoon at a time into a water dish, pour over food, or simply give on its own.

Photo Credit:


A & A

Monday, February 24, 2014

Juicing for Your Pup!

Prep of fruits & veggies before we make our Mean Green Juice!

To continue with our series on health and wellness at The Upper Paw; we wanted to share a creative and resourceful way for using ALL of your ingredients when juicing.  Just like many of you out there, we are increasingly more concerned about living a healthy life and one major way we have changed our diet for the better is by incorporating juicing into our daily routine.  One downfall of juicing is all of the leftover pulp in your juicer.  Some of us may be extremely resourceful and use these leftovers in some creative way like composting, but I'm guessing the vast majority chuck the excess in the garbage…much like us…until now!

Check out this creative way to allow both you and your pup to enjoy the benefits of juicing!  This recipe is adapted from one of our favorites!  Life and Dog Magazine!

Juice-Pulp Treat Recipe:

2 cups of leftover juicing pulp
1/4 cup of chia seeds
1 egg

Combine all 3 ingredients into a bowl and mix together with your hands.  

Spread the mixture out as flat as possible on a baking sheet.  Then place in the oven at 200 degrees for 2 hours.

Enjoy the final product!

Happy Juicing!!


A & A

Friday, February 7, 2014

Health 101: Can your Dog Benefit from a Cleanse?

Photo Credit:
Hopefully, you are doing your best to survive the frigid temperatures and snow drifts still plaguing the nation.  I certainly know we are doing our best!

With that said, we are also trying to keep our New Year's resolution of a happier, healthier, new and improved self.  Not only should we be trying to live happier and healthier lives for ourselves, but we should be helping our dogs to accomplish the same goal.  This post kicks off our "Happier, Healthier Pup" series on The Upper Paw.  Over the next several posts, we will aim to bring you tips, products, services, and recipes to help your dog in both body and mind.

So, with our first post we wanted to explore the question of, "Can your dog benefit from a cleanse?"  or, even experience a cleanse?

Check out this "human" recipe from Kat Pummill's FitGirlsKichen!

Cleanses are extremely popular right now and you would have to be living under a rock to not be hearing about the latest and greatest way to "cleanse" your internal system and reboot your body for greatness.  Even my husband and I, along with several of our friends and co-workers, are just finishing up a cleanse of our own.

So, can the same benefits be achieved for your dog?

Just like humans need to lose additional pounds and "clean out the bad stuff"...some veterinarians feel your dog can benefit from the same.

Chances are your dog is not eating a home-prepared diet for every meal...and chances are you also have your dog on the basic preventative meds (i.e. heartworm and flea/tick preventives).  These factors, coupled with exposure to chemicals in the environment lead to the accumulation of toxins in the body.  To combat this, your dog's liver and kidneys are tasked with clearing out the toxins.  If these organs aren't working, this can lead to "toxin overload" resulting in chronic health issues ranging from itchy, flaky skin to organ failure.  It's in this case, where a cleanse can be the answer.

Who can benefit?

According to holistic veterinarians, Dr. Basko and Dr. Becker, your dog can benefit from a cleanse if they exhibit one or more of the below symptoms:
  • Smelly, even after a bath
  • Chronic liver or kidney disease
  • Overweight
  • Lipomas or fatty lumps
  • Excessive discharge from eyes, nose, ears
  • Receives regular doses of medication, such as flea/tick or heartworm preventives

How often?  

Dr. Basko recommends trying one day a week for six weeks.

Check out Dr. Basko's Holistic Recipe for a Cleanse:


  • Soup bone (beef or pork)
  • 1/2 cup of dried shiitake mushrooms (soak overnight in 1 cup of water)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped beet greens
  • 1/2 cup of chopped kale
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 3 cups of purified or filtered water
Bring the pot of water to a boil with the bone and sea salt.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes covered.  Add the mushrooms, beet greens, and kale to the water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Let the broth sit until it is room temperature.  Then separate the solids from the liquid and save the liquid in a glass jar that can be tightly sealed and keep refrigerated.

Give your pet 5cc (1 teaspoon) per 5 lbs of body weight 6 times a day for one day each week.  
Example:  A 50 lb dog would take 10 x 5 = 50 cc = 10 teaspoons 6 times a day.

As with any change to your dog's health regimen, consult with your veterinarian beforehand.

For more healthy tips and advice, be sure to also check out Dr. Basko blog and Dr. Becker's articles on HealthyPets!


A & A

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Protecting Your Dog From Extreme Cold Temperatures

While we were anticipating starting this new year off with posts dedicated to a happier, healthier new year for your pup; we have decided to address the sub-zero temperatures gripping the nation this past week.

Unless you live in Hawaii, chances are you have also been experiencing extremely cold temperatures.  Just like extreme heat, it is important to protect your pup from the dangers of cold environments.

Keep Your Dog Warm Indoors - If you think it's too cold outside for you, so does your pup.  It is important to keep your dog indoors with you, especially when temperatures drop to single digits and below.  In addition to extremely low temperatures, it is important to also be mindful of the wind chill.  Low temperatures coupled with dangerous wind chills enhance the effect on the body and can put your pup at further risk of frostbite, hypothermia or even death.

When taking your dog outside to relieve himself or to get some exercise; be sure to make it quick and as brief as possible.  Every moment that your dog's ears, nose, and paw pads are exposed is potentially harmful.

Photo Credit:

Provide Plenty of Food and Water - Your dog uses more energy and burns more calories during the colder winter months.  Therefore, it is important to make sure you have plenty of water and additional food available.

Photo Credit:

Use Proper Outerwear Protection - It is important for ALL dogs to have proper outwear, even those bred for colder climates.  If you have a short-haired breed, puppy, or older dog a winter coat is a must!

Photo Credit:
Check out Hugh Jackman's adorable Frenchie in his coat!

Protect Paw Pads From Salt - This time of year, our sidewalks and streets are full of artificial salt helping to melt the snow and prevent us from slipping and falling on the ice.  This artificial salt...while helpful to not good for our canine friends.  The salt can irritate and cut your dog's paw pads, which can be painful and cause infection.  Be sure to outfit your dog with appropriate boots or some type of protective footwear.

Photo Credit:

Keep Antifreeze Away - Antifreeze is a common household agent intended to lower the freezing point of water-based liquids.  The most common use of antifreeze during this time of year is in our cars to prevent the coolant in your car from freezing.  No matter what your use, it is important to keep this chemical out of your pet's reach.  Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which many dogs find tasty.  Antifreeze can poison and even kill your pet, so it's important to keep away!

We hope you found some helpful tips in this post!  STAY WARM!!


A & A