Beware of Cocoa Mulch

Picture 5I covered this a few years back, but it seems lots of people are forwarding us the warnings about cocoa mulch, and I thought it was definitely worthy of a blog post.

There is a mulch sold by garden stores that is made from cocoa bean shells.  It really does look good, has a lovely fine texture and smells fantastic, just like chocolate. The trouble is, just like chocolate, it contains both caffeine and the chemical that is toxic to dogs called theobromine. Though deaths from eating cocoa mulch are not widely reported, there have been a number of cases of dogs becoming ill from ingesting it. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, muscle seizures, and possibly death. The concentration of theobromine in the mulch is actually quite high, making it more dangerous than something like milk chocolate, and since it does smell so delicious, there is a risk that some dogs might eat it.  So, if you have an indiscriminate eater, try to be vigilant on walks if you see your dog really nosing around a mulched area.  If you really want to use cocoa mulch, look for a variety that states that it is theobromine free (though it still might contain caffeine, which could also be harmful to pets), or just consider some of the old favorites like tree bark.

(photo borrowed from the ASPCA website)

Toxic Levels of Vitamin D Found in Nutro Cat Food

Reprinted from
Don Earl of Pet Food Products Safety Alliance notified (truthaboutpetfood) this evening regarding some lab test results his (tremendous) organization received today (May 4, 2010).  The lab results found toxic levels of Vitamin D; over 1,000 times recommended by the National Research Council.

“Test results are back on a sample of what is believed to be Nutro Chicken Meal and Rice cat food Lot # 09 01 10 11:03. This is from the same batch of food we tested below on the March 22, 2010 results. The pet owner’s cat nearly died after eating the food for 5 days and the symptoms appeared to be consistent with toxic levels of Vitamin D.” Click Here to read the lab results.

Don Earl reported this issue to the FDA hours after receiving the test results; no one (as of this writing) from the FDA has returned his call.
Read Pet Food Products Safety Alliance story here: has over 500 consumer complaints in the last two years regarding Nutro Pet Foods.  Journalist Lisa McCormick confirmed with the FDA that Nutro Pet Food was under investigation (by the FDA) yet no recall has been issued.

How many pets have to die?  How many pets have to become ill before the FDA takes action?  The FDA itself has hundreds of reports of sick pets all linked to this pet food company…why has nothing been done to stop the deaths and illnesses?

If you or anyone you know feeds a Nutro Pet Food (dog or cat food) please be very cautious.   Please share this pet food warning with other pet owners.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Truth about Pet Food
Petsumer Report

She’s at it again! 4th nest at Green Dog

There’s a new nest, high up in the planter closest to our door. This one is cute, with 2 branches sewn together in an X. Lots of spider webs on this one – the last one was lots of lichen. Eggs laid Wed and Thurs (April 21 and 22 – Happy Earth Day!!!)april10nest


Some of Our Favorite Nutrition Resources

I wrote this up a while back for a nutrition lecture I was giving, and I thought it might be useful to post it somewhere for more people to use. These are some of our favorite resources for people to use when trying to educate themselves about their pets.
– Christine


Watch the documentary “Pet Fooled” on Netflix! Tremendous opportunity for learning and spreading knowledge to others in your life who might not realize that what they’re feeding can hurt their beloved pets.

Excellent Link for Dog Nutrition (though cat folks can definitely glean some knowledge here too:
The woman who compiles this site has encyclopedic knowledge about diet and nutrition for dogs and writes a lot of the food articles in The Whole Dog Journal.
Key links on her site that might be useful to you:
Lots of links to common health problems in dogs
including a ton of info on kidney disease and diet, specifically a lot about protein and its relationship to kidney disease:

there are a lot of good articles that she wrote for Whole Dog Journal on home cooking:

Sites online specifically for cats: – written by a vet, this is a comprehensive site that covers the basics of feline nutrition, with excellent discussions of common health issues such as diabetes, UTIs, and hyperthyroidism. She also has great info on Making Cat Food with good tips about transitioning a picky cat’s diet
Holisticat (includes an email list) feeding cats for health
How to Prepare Fresh Cat Food (technical but very complete)
The Feline Future Cat Food Company (Instincts TC) – a mix to which you add your own meat. I don’t carry it but it seems great. Good answers to peoples’ questions on this site about raw foods.
Feline Instincts – a mix to which you add your own meat. They also have a kidney diet

Green Dog is Moving!!

The new building is at 4327 NE Fremont St.

The new building is at 4327 NE Fremont St.

Note: This post was created several years ago – we finished our renovation and moved in on July 4th of 2010!

Our last expansion in our current space was opened 2 years ago this May, and already we have outgrown it! Thanks to you, our food business has increased to the point that we’re having trouble keeping enough in stock to make it to the next week’s delivery. Combine this with the challenge we’ve always had with visibility on this street (we get calls from people who are driving back and forth on the street and can’t find us, and people to this day come in and say they live right down the street and never knew we were here). So, we stumbled across a unique opportunity just two blocks down the street, which is lucky, as there really aren’t any spaces larger than what we already have in our neighborhood. I was in Blackbird Wine talking to Andy, and I mentioned that I wished that his old space (his store used to be on the side of the building and he has recently moved up front) was next to the space that’s been vacant in that building for so long, as we’d love to put them together to make one big store. That’s when he said, “I think both of those spaces share a wall”. So, we looked into it, and lo and behold, our bigger store became a possibility. It will be a big L-shaped store, with the main entrance right on Fremont St. The side entrance will become our food delivery bay, where deliveries can be made right into our back room! (that may be more exciting to us and our truck drivers than it is for you, but it will be a big help for us to have it set up that way).  Parking is definitely a lot better down there too.
So now we face another big build-out from scratch, starting in April and hopefully resulting in a move on July 4th weekend. It will come just in time for us to celebrate Green Dog’s 6 year anniversary. We’re going to try and make it look as much like our old space as possible, which means as the time draws nearer, we might be dismantling some of this store to use in the new one. Hopefully we can make a smooth transition without it looking too ransacked in here. The whole thing is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Wish us luck!

The Work Has Begun!!

Before Shot inside the new space

Before Shot inside the new space – that wall in back is coming out soon

Looking out towards the street in the new space

Looking out towards the street in the new space

This is the wall in the back that will have an archway into the other space, where the food room will be

This is the wall in the back that will have an archway into the other space, where the food room will be

Go Alan Go! Our contractor breaks into the wall that will join the main store space with the food room

Go Alan Go! Our contractor breaks into the wall that will join the main store space with the food room

3 New Studies show the Benefits of Fish Oils in Dog Diets

salmonoilThere are a few things that I wish I could convince more customers to try adding to their dog’s diet, and fish oil is certainly one of them. (the other one is digestive enzymes, and I’ll be writing about those soon).  They have many benefits, including reduction of joint pain and help with itchy skin, and now three studies have come out demonstrating this benefit in dogs with arthritis pain.

In humans it is well known that infants need DHA (one of the Omega 3 fatty acids) to aid in proper retinal and brain development, as well as support and maintenance of the central nervous system. In adults one of the best documented effects is the benefit to the heart (lowering of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, etc), but it is also showing good results in reducing inflammation (countless chronic diseases are linked to inflammation in the tissues and organs). It helps to reduce the chance of blood clots, to elevate mood, to slow down degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, as well as having significant effects on kidney function. Deficiencies have been linked to low birth weight and hyperactivity when pregnant mothers don’t get enough Omega 3s. (increasing your intake of low mercury fish oils through supplementation, and switching to grass-fed meats are two ways of getting more Omega 3s in your diet. Cutting down on your Omega 6s (vegetable oils found in processed foods) helps your body a great deal as well to reduce inflammation.

In Dogs and Cats these same benefits of course occur.  One of the effects that is most easy to observe is the almost immediate benefit to the skin and coat. Animals with chronic skin problems should almost always be taking fish oils. (more…)

Hummingbird Hatchlings! (with updates)


The babies hatched March 5th and 6th, respectively, and are about the size of honey bees. The top one is the older one – slightly bigger already and has fuzz, the newer one below is more naked looking. You can see the remnants of eggshells under them (it’s funny – last year she chucked them out of the nest right away – see the photo of the size of the eggshells here).
In this photo you can really see the spider webs she used to strap the nest onto the bamboo.

One other little observation that seems interesting to me, (and maybe not to anyone else, as it’s a certified bird nerd moment here) is how different her posture is in the nest after they hatched. While she was incubating, she was just sitting, presumably just thinking little birdy thoughts, passing time. As soon as one hatched she became so alert, her eyes constantly searching the bamboo for insects. Her bill points up, her neck is all stretched up, her head moving around a lot. It’s a tough job to feed these little guys – they grow so amazingly quickly and eat so often. Best to be on the alert for an easy meal. I just knew from looking at her that the first chick had hatched – she looked so different.

I promise to try and get a better photo of her feeding them – they’re always hard as the light changes so much out there and she’s right over them, but here’s the first try:


March 13th, about 8 days old. Really starting to fill up the nest. The one on the left is head towards us, and the other one, a little obscured by leaves has his head pointed the other way. They’re fluffier now and mom is just about done sitting on them – she just constantly is gathering food and feeding them:

March 19th – 14 days old – hungry babies being fed:

The nest is really getting crowded:


They’re so big that you can see their little bills sticking out over the edge from below:

March 27th: We really don’t fit in this nest anymore:


They’re really ready to go any minute. They’re very restless, squirming and shoving, stretching up, really interested in looking all around, and one of them was doing some wing exercising – standing up on the edge of the nest and flapping (which looks like a blur already). I thought for sure that one would hop out by the end of the day, but at 6 p.m. they were both still in there. Next day for sure for one of them, and probably the day after for the second. They’ll stick around for a week or two in the bamboo getting fed by momma. One frustration – last year I learned that mom builds her next nest during the last few weeks of the babies growing in their nest, and lays her first egg in the new nest the day after they both fledge. However, I can’t seem to find where that next nest is, and I’m worried it’s not in the courtyard at all. I’ll keep looking.

big kids2 timetogosoon

They hopped out of their nest and into the bamboo on the 29th and 30th of March, and she continued to feed them until about the 7th or 8th of April. Still don’t know where her current nest is, but a lucky customer of ours told us there’s a female with eggs right outside their window, in their bamboo! They only live a street or two away, so maybe it’s her. Here’s a photo of one of the babies, a few days after it left the nest.


Advantage Soon to be Sold Over the Counter

This week, Bayer announced that they will be making Advantage and Advantix available to retailers (read article here), meaning you won’t have to visit a vet to obtain them. Though the above news video is discussing the rise in dangerous side effects of other over the counter flea meds and not necessarily Advantage, we will still not be carrying any of these sorts of spot on treatments.  Over and over we hear customers complaining of the same sorts of side effects seen in the above video, even when using products like Advantage and Frontline. They say their animals become lethargic or sick after use, and sometimes come in looking for products to help them with the terrible sores they have developed at the application sites. Invariably, when I ask if they’ve reported these side effects to the company, or even to their vets, they say they have not. (if your pet shows side effects from these treatments, please report them, or the company will never know their products are causing trouble. Bea sure to be ready to answer questions about the formula you used and how you applied it. These companies seem to want to place a lot of blame on the consumer for misapplication, so be ready to describe why you think that the symptoms you’ve observed were as a result of the product you used and not how you used it).

I’ve always maintained that there is a place sometimes for products like Advantage – when an animal has a serious flea allergy for example. Seeing animals in misery suffering from the discomfort of open sores from flea allergies makes me realize the value of the product in these certain situations.

I am glad that Advantage is going OTC, in that I do believe it is a safer alternative to typical grocery store brands like Hartz, and its presence in stores will hopefully edge out these more dangerous treatments.  However, it’s also my opinion that application of any chemicals month after month to a healthy animal when it doesn’t have a flea problem can be excessive and taxing to an animal’s health in the long run. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and they work systemically, and have to be processed by organs like the liver whose job it is to filter chemicals from the body.  Does this tax organs like the liver? I’m not sure – I’m certainly not a vet. But, not all animals show these sorts of dramatic outward signs of distress from the use of these chemicals, but enough do to make me not want to use them if they don’t have an existing flea problem.

For my animals, I would prefer that they not have to deal with the assault of additional chemicals to their bodies on a regular basis. Feeding a quality diet that contains natural whole foods can create such a strong immune system and such healthy skin that the animal is naturally more immune to flea infestation, and the regular use of a good flea comb will alert you to the presence of fleas so you can catch them before they become a problem. Add that to the presence of lots of excellent natural deterrents that are on the market (the consumer should still do some good research, as “natural plant-based” repellents can still be toxic to our pets) I feel like my customers and I can manage and prevent flea infestations without the really regular use of Advantage.

Note: If your animal attracts fleas easily and you’re constantly having to resort to topical flea products, please consult with a naturopathic vet about alternatives. Chances are you can turn your pet’s health around through changes to their diet that can save you from the cost and worry of using topical chemical treatments (as well as extend the life of your pet through better nutrition!)