Doggone Orlando

News, views and reviews for Orlando pet parents from the mom of a menagerie of cats, dogs, birds, horses, fish, and guinea pigs who stays just one step ahead of the "Animal Hoarders" TV crew

Up & Under Doggy Steps review: Give your pup a boost

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Bolt is a small dog, but he has amazing jumping power. His terrier blood means that he acts like he had springs in his paws. He’s able to leap onto the bed, couch, and other furniture without a second thought.

Some small dogs aren’t quite that agile, and some dogs have trouble jumping due to medical problems or age. Luckily there’s a solution for those poor pups: Up & Under Doggy Steps, a little set of stairs that you can set up where your dog needs it most.

Up & Under Doggy Steps are an As Seen on TV product made by Telebrands. I know that infomercial claims are sometimes exaggerated, but I’ve had good luck with many As Seen on TV products, and I was hoping that these steps would be no exception. I knew that Bolt wouldn’t need them, but my nieghbor’s Basset, Miranda, can’t jump onto the couch and most definitely can’t make it all the way up to the top of the tall bed. She wants to sleep with her human “pack” at night, which means lots of whimpering until someone hoists her up. Not pleasant to be woken up in the middle of the night, and not too good on the back!

I gave the Up & Under Doggy Steps to my neighbor, and she immediately liked the fact that they’re a self-contained unit, with no assembly required. They’re nice and sturdy, which makes them suitable for larger dogs like Miranda as well as smaller pups. Now the trick was getting the dog to use them!

m1At first, Miranda wanted nothing to do with the steps. We all tried to show her the idea, but she just wasn’t getting it. Thankfully, like most dogs, she’s ruled by her stomach. Treats taught her that the stairs were actually an attractive thing, and with a little practice she was soon able to negotiate them and figured out their purpose. Being like a real-life Slinky Dog, she sometimes needs a little assistance, but the Up & Under Doggy Steps have been a real lifesaver…or should I say back saver…for her humans.

You can order the steps at the official website or find them in certain stores that carry As Seen on TV merchandise. If your dog’s desire to be up on the furniture is impeded by size, health, or another factor, these stairs will open up a whole new world of getting up there at will.

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Brookside chocolate is sinfully delicious

biNormally I review pet products here in Doggone Orlando, but I like to toss in random reviews every now and then. As a member of Crowdtap, I get to try an interesting assortment of samples and share my opinion with my followers. Most are good, but this latest one was pretty much a no-brainer. I mean, come it, it was chocolate. Chocolate! How on earth could it go wrong? I thought I was familiar with most chocolate brands, but this campaign introduced me to a new product that’s already taken up a regular place in the pantry for those sudden chocolate urges: Brookside Chocolate.

Brookside Chocolate comes in three varieties. The one I received to sample was Brookside Dark Chocolate Crunchy Clusters. The crunch comes from multi-grain, and there’s also a nice berry medley to add a hint of additional flavor. I love crunchy stuff in my chocolate, and the berries added just the right bit of sweetness to the dark chocolate. The only downside was that those little suckers are addictive. Once you get started on a bag, it’s hard to put it down. It’s a great evening snack when you’re watching TV, but it’s best to parse out a portion rather than to graze freestyle or it will soon be gone.

I liked my free sample so much that I decided to buy some other flavors to try. Coincidentally, Publix had a BOGO on Brookside Chocolate, so I added Dark Chocolate Pomegranate and Acai/Blueberry to the mix. Both were just as good, although I prefer the Crunchy Clusters because, as I mentioned, I’m a sucker for the crunch. Still, any one of those three flavors makes a worthy way to quench your chocolate cravings.

As you can see in the photo, the chocolates piqued Stitch’s attention. He heard the back and immediately thought that I must be opening cat treats. Sorry, not this time, kitties! But that will happen soon enough; stay tuned for my Temptations cat treat review, which is coming up very soon.

Carefresh small animal bedding review: Makes cleaning a breeze

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I have two guinea pigs, Amy and Quinn; I love them but I don’t love a stinky house. Fortunately, small animals don’t have to be smelly if you take care of them properly. Having a large enough cage for your pets and using the right bedding can make a world of difference.

I discussed four different types of guinea pig bedding in this article, and I mentioned that I’m currently using paper-based bedding. Carefresh is the brand I use the most because I like its consistency and ability to control odors. I started using it when I got my first guinea pig, Mufasa, and it’s still my bedding of choice for my current guinea girls.

Soft and Absorbent

What do I like best about Carefresh? Basically, it’s relatively soft and very absorbent. I line the bottom of the cage with a thick layer of newspaper to keep the urine from leaking through and to make clean-up easier. Then I add a nice layer of Carefresh and top and my girls are good to go.

Carefresh absorbs the urine and lets the poop pellets dry out. I scoop out the soiled areas every day and strip down the whole cage once a week. As long as I’m diligent with the daily attention, I never get any odors. Depending on how much soiled bedding I take out, I might add in a little more Carefresh to make sure the cage bottom stays completely covered. Every one in a while the urine will leak through to the newspaper, but that’s pretty rare.

Easy to Clean

os99When it’s time for the weekly stripping, I just roll the Carefresh into the newspaper and toss the whole mess into the trash. Then I sweep up any remaining bedding from the cage bottom with a whisk broom. If any urine leaked through, I clean it with a piggy-safe cleaner, then reline the bottom with newspaper and bed it thickly with brand-new Carefresh. It makes guinea pig care a breeze.

One thing I recommend watching out for is leaky water bottles. I have yet to find a bottle that doesn’t drip, and that wastes a lot of clean bedding because you have to remove it when it gets soaked. I prevent this by putting a plastic tray in the “kitchen” area of the cage where I feel my girls. I put the tray under the water bottle, with newspaper one top. It also makes a convenient spot to put their daily hay and vegetables. When the newspaper gets soggy, I swap it out once or twice a day.

Cute Colors

I generally use white Carefresh because I like to monitor my guinea pigs’ health, and it lets me quickly notice if there’s a problem like blood in their urine. However, I’ll admit to succumbing to the cute colored Carefresh every now and then. There are pastels, solid colors, and bright holiday hues available at various times. When I buy a color, I’m partial to the pastel shades because they add a dash of color while still letting me monitor the girls’ health.

Carefresh is readily available in major pet stores, and you can also order it online:

I recommend getting the large bags when you use it regularly and have a big cage. The bags are packed tightly, so it spreads out a lot and covers more space than you’d think once you open the bag, pour in the bedding, and fluff it out.

I recommend reading my guinea pig bedding options article to see which choice is right for you. Carefresh is clean and easy, although it does get expensive over time. Still, I’m okay with the expense because it’s well worth the cost to have a fresh-smelling house and a fast and simple clean-up process.

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4 types of guinea pig bedding: What to use and what to avoid

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As a guinea pig owner, I’ve gained an education on how to care for my furry little friends. Too many people think of guinea pigs as starter pets that are easy to take care of and disposable when they get sick. They’re actually fun little critters with individual personalities and a variety of needs, like fresh vegetables every day and a food specifically for guinea pigs to ensure they get their vitamin C (like humans, they can’t produce it on their own). They also need daily hay for roughage and to help wear their teeth down. Last, but still very important, they need a much larger cage than the typical pet store offers.

When you choose a suitable cage, you also need to choose how to bed your guinea pigs. Here are four for of the most common beddings, two of which you should avoid and two of which will help keep your guinea pigs healthy and happy:

1) Newspaper

os100Some people plop their guinea pigs on newspaper because it’s cheap and easy to obtain. Unfortunately, it also gets wet quickly, so unless you change it several times a day, your cage will stink and your guinea pigs can get sick. It’s not good for them to breathe the urine fumes, and they can also get a nasty foot problem known as bumblefoot from standing in the wetness. Newspaper can be a good underlayer for other types of bedding, which I’ll get into later, but not as a guinea pig’s primary bedding material.

Newspaper can be appropriate in certain circumstances. I used to use a kids’ swimming pool as my guinea pigs’ playpen. Piggies need regular exercise time, and I used the pool rather than letting them loose on the floor. I lined it with newspaper because my piggies, Amy and Quinn, were only on it for limited amounts of time, and I swapped it out immediately if it got wet so they never stood on it long enough to develop any health problems.

2) Wood Shavings

This used to be the go-to bedding for guinea pigs, but now it’s falling out of favor as guinea pig owners become more educated. We’ve learned that certain types of wood, like cedar, have oils that can be toxic to guinea pigs and other small animals. I know they have a pleasant smell, but it’s not worth the risk of placing your pet in potential danger. Some types of shavings, like kiln-dried pine, are fine in terms of safety, but they’re dusty and can trigger allergies (I speak from experience). Also, I don’t find that wood shavings help very much with odor control. You can keep the smell at bay if you’re meticulous about cleaning the cage every day, but there’s no room for error. If you opt to use shavings, you can use a layer of newspaper underneath to help keep the cage floor clean.

3) Paper-Based Bedding

Unlike newspaper, commercial paper-based bedding comes in popcorn-like kernels or shreds, depending on the brand you choose. For example, the popular Carefresh brand comes in big kernels, while Kaytee Clean & Cozy comes in light shreds that are softer for your guinea pig but more apt to blow around.

os99Paper bedding comes tightly packed in plastic bags and expands when you put it in your cage and fluff it out. It’s great at odor control, so you can get away with stripping down your cage less frequently, although I recommend picking out the poo pellets and soiled bedding on a daily basis. The only major downfall of paper is its cost, especially if you have a larger cage. I moved my guinea pigs into a permanent swimming pool cage rather than just using a pool as a playpen, and I bed them with Carefresh (see my review here). They love it, and it’s easy to clean, but it’s also pricey. As with shavings, you can use a layer of newspaper under the bedding so the urine doesn’t soak all the way through to the cage floor.

If you like to get fancy with your guinea pig’s home, paper-based bedding comes in a variety of colors, from pastels to bold shades to special holiday mixes. I usually use plain old white so I notice right away if there’s blood in one of my guinea pig’s urine, but every now and then I give in to temptation and bed the girls on a rainbow. The guinea pig in the photo is my first piggy, Mufasa, in a cute pastel Carefresh blend.

You can compare prices on Carefresh online and in person, since it’s sold at all major pet stores:

Or Kaytee Clean & Cozy:

4) Fleece

The best type of guinea pig cage is a custom model made of coroplast and cubes. You can buy the materials and make it yourself or buy it here at the Guinea Pig Cages Store. The most cost effective bedding for this type of cage is fleece…yes, fleece. It’s very absorbent if you prepare it properly, and you just toss it in the washer and reuse it. You can use it for other types of cages, too. I used fabric in my previous “Frankencage,” which was created from two extra-large rabbit cages linked together, before I switched to the swimming pool. This thread explains how to use fleece bedding properly.

If you don’t want to prepare the fleece and find an underlayer yourself, you can buy fleece flippers at the store I linked in the paragraph above. What exactly is a fleece flipper? The video below explains it:

If you have a guinea pig and you’ve never thought beyond shavings or, God forbid, newspaper, I hope this article gives you some food for thought. There are better ways to bed your piggy that pay dividends in terms of cleanliness and also happiness for your little pets.

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GoDog dog toys review: Toughest toys for strong chewers

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My Bolt is a small dog (although he’d be pushing medium if he didn’t have T-Rex legs), but he has the jaws of a pit bull. He’s a terrier mix, so he loves to play and he tends to make short work of toys. If there’s a dangling part, he’ll pull it off, and if there’s a way to make a hole in it, it will soon been bleeding stuffing all over the house.

There’s one particular brand of dog toy with which I’ve had great success: GoDog toys, which have Chew Guard technology. I’m not sure quite how they do it, but they’ve managed to make toys that take Bolt months to dismantle. I previously wrote about Mr. Stenchpuss, his very favorite toy from the time we adopted him. That pink, fuzzy platypus was his favored playmate for months, lasting through many a raucous fetch and tug-of-war session, before finally succumbing to his teeth.

Bolt has a variety of other GoDog toys, and they’ve all held up with equal strength. His current favorites are his Duck Dynasty toys. The show may have fallen by the wayside, but his little bearded duck friends are still serving him well:


He has plenty of other playthings, but he always seems to go back to them. GoDog makes a variety of adorable, colorful friends for pups, like this cute little dragon:

I never thought such a small dog would have such a strong grip or such sharp, destructive teeth, but Bolt taught me that size most definitely doesn’t matter, at least in the canine world. He’s got a big dog attitude, and big dog chew strength to back it up. Luckily, even though he goes through many toys with the strength, vigor, and destructiveness of a deranged toddler, I know that I can depend on the GoDog toys to stick around for a while.

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Pet Head products keep your dog fresh and clean

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Bolt is a Florida dog, and that means he gets to be outside pretty much every day of the year. He’s got a back yard where he can run, play, roll, dig, and generally make a mess. We go for long walks every day (I like to rack up as many steps as possible on my Basis Peak), and that means muddy paths in the woods and those times when Bolt’s nose sniffs out something especially nasty and he drops and rolls in it before I can intervene.

Stop the Stink

How so I keep him clean and smelling fresh? He gets frequent baths, and Pet Head is one of my favorite product lines to make sure he comes out with a clean, shiny coat and a pleasant fragrance. When I discovered Pet Head at the Global Pet Expo last year, I was tantalized by scents like watermelon, blueberry muffin, and strawberry. When I tried out the products, they did indeed deliver, and my stinky little dog smelled downright delicious, if only until he could get out and find stinky spots to roll again.

I always worry that Bolt will get dry, itchy skin if I bathe him too much, but I’ve never had that problem with Pet Head. It lathers up nicely, rinses off well, and leaves his coat shiny without any irritation. Pet Head also makes a dry bath product if you don’t have time for a full-blown bathtub session, and I’m a big fan. I use the blueberry muffin-scented dry bath on my pup when I want to get him fresh in a hurry, and it gets rid of that doggy odor and leaves a yummy blueberry fragrance in its place.

Special Formulas for Special Needs

Bolt is a basic, sturdy short-haired terrier mix without too many special needs in the grooming department. However, if you have a puppy or a long-haired dog that’s prone to tangles, Pet Head makes specialized products for those needs. For example, there’s a tearless formula for puppies with a lovely orange scent, detangling shampoo, and mild varieties with soothing ingredients like aloe and oatmeal. Here’s the puppy shampoo:

And here’s the oatmeal:

You can also get a deshedding shampoo and a variety of other options. They’re available online and in many major stores. Just beware: if you find Pet Head in the store, you’ll spend more time than you planned sniffing all the wonderful scents. You can’t stop that distinctive doggy odor forever, but at least you can use a product like Pet Head to keep it at bay.

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Cat Dancer cat toy review: Simple, but cats love it

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My four cats are a playful bunch, and I’m always trying out new toys on them. I’ve gone through a full gamut of wand toys, catnip mice, balls, and the like. Sometimes they stare at the toy with disdain or ignore it completely. Sometimes they decide to play with it, and every now and then they go absolutely mad for it.

A Big Paws-Up

One of their all-time favorite toys that falls into the “love it” category is the Cat Dancer. It’s a very simple toy that literally consists of a length of semi-rigid wire with a little cardboard lure at the end. To human eyes, it doesn’t look like much, but in a cat’s vision it’s the ultimate prey. I don’t know why the bobbing movement of the wire affects the feline hunting instinct like it does, but every one of my cats reacts to the Cat Dancer as though they’re a lion and it’s a gazelle taunting them in the jungle.

I tried to get a photo of SheiKra playing with the Cat Dancer, but every shot was blurry because he’s constantly in motion when he plays with it. He and his four buddies actually get into squabbles over it because they all want to play at once. It’s a very durable toy because the wire will never wear out. The only part that finally “gives” is the cardboard lure, and it takes a lot of abuse before that happens.

As you can see, the Cat Dancer is very inexpensive, so it’s not a big deal to replace once your cats finally manage to destroy that tantalizing bit of cardboard:

It’s available online and at most pet stores, so I usually pick up a couple and keep a spare on hand.

Cat Dancer also makes a product called the Cat Charmer that I also tried on my brood:

It’s a wand toy with a long, soft, colorful piece of fabric on the end. They enjoyed playing with it, but the original Cat Dancer was their clear favorite. Still, I liked dragging the Cat Charmer down the hall and watching them stalk and pounce on it. Here’s Farquaad with the Cat Charmer snagged on his claw, hogging it while Stitch and SheiKra look on:


Either of these toys is a good option if you want to give your cats some exercise and enjoy some interactive playtime with them. Just about everyone can use some exercise, pets included, and the Cat Dancer and Cat Charmer will entice your furry friends into some intense feline aerobics.

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Sunbeam Sonic Egg review: Controls problem barking

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238My dog, Bolt, is a good little boy, but he suffers from terrible separation anxiety. Now that he’s been with me over a year, he’s allowed full run of the house and sleeps in the family bed. However, when I first got him, I crated him overnight as he needed reinforcement with his potty training and had to get used to living with a feline contingent. Poor Bolt barked and whined all night, but thankfully there was a product that took care of the problem: the Sunbeam Sonic Egg.

If Your Dog Annoys You,

Annoy Him Back

It’s hard to sleep when your dog is kicking up a ruckus all night, but I didn’t want to use a harsh anti-barking measure. The Sunbeam Sonic Egg is an ultrasonic unit that’s effective but very humane. When the dog barks, it emits a sound that humans can’t hear but that’s very unpleasant to canines. It’s sort of a tit for tat: your dog barks and annoys you with the sound, so you simply turn the tables on him and annoy him back. As you can see from the photos, it gets its name from its sleek oval shape,and it’s very simple to use. Insert the battery, turn it on at the desired level (high or low, which increases or decreases its sensitivity) and let it do its job.

I set up the Sonic Egg near Bolt’s crate and turn it on every night just before I went up to bed. He’d trying a couple of barks or whines, but soon he’d quiet down. It’s amazing how quickly he learned to respond to the Sonic Egg, and within a week or two I was able to leave it off. Every one in a while he’d start barking again, but a couple of nights with the Egg on again quickly took care of that.

237Once Bolt had settled in and was reliably house trained, he was allowed to be loose downstairs at night. This started a new round of barking and whining, so I dug out the handy Sonic Egg again and was quickly enjoying quiet nights. These days, he’s fully integrated into my household and he and the cats have come to a mutual frenemy arrangement, so he gets to sleep in bed upstairs. There’s no more need for the Sonic Egg, so at the moment it’s back away on a shelf. The only time he barks is when someone strange is around the house, and I want him to do that, so there’s no need to discourage it.

An Indoor/Outdoor Solution

This device works both indoors and out, so it’s just as useful if you have a dog that barks too much in your yard. It’s got two settings and a pretty long range, so you can even try it if you have neighbors who allow their dogs to annoy the whole block.

Still, if there’s ever a circumstance where he starts up nuisance barking again, I’m glad to know that I have still have a humane but effective option. I know the Sonic Egg might not work with some dogs, but for Bolt it was a Godsend. If your own dog is a problem barker, it’s well worth a try. It’s available exclusively at Petsmart, and you can get more information at the link below or check it out next time you’re at your local Petsmart store:

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Okokat Natural Wood Cat Litter review: Natural odor control

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233I’m a fan of natural cat litters, and World’s Best Cat Litter, which is made from corn, is a staple in my household. Thus I was very excited to have the opportunity to try out Okokat natural litters and see if they could measure up in performance and odor control.

I tried both the wood and paper varieties of Okokat, but I’ve never had good luck with paper-based litters, and Okokat was about the same as others I’ve tried in the past. However, Okokat Natural Wood, which is made from pine, turned in a flawless performance in keeping my litter boxes odor free.

Great Natural Litter Box Option

Okokat Natural Wood cat litter has a nice consistency that shouldn’t be much of a transition for most cats. My four have tried out everything from clay to natural litters to crystals, and they’ve used them all without batting an eye. I think they’d probably use an empty litter box if I didn’t fill it with something quickly enough. Even if your cat is fussier, I don’t think Okokat would be a problem. It has very little dust, which is great if you’ve got allergies or sensitive noses in your household.

The litter is made from pine and is naturally antibacterial. Unlike corn-based World’s Best Cat Litter, I didn’t really notice any scent. If you want to add a fragrance, you can use a product like Alzoo Litter Deodorizer, but it’s not really necessary. It’s not a bad thing to have litter that doesn’t smell at all, as that means you having nothing announcing “Cats live here!” as soon as someone steps into your house.

Does What It’s Supposed to Do

Okokat was great at absorbing liquids and keep all the waste from smelling. Granted, I’m diligent about cleaning my litter boxes and scoop them out at least once a day, but the product works well enough to cover for you if you’re a bit negligent. It’s supposed to fight odors for a full seven days, although with four cats I’d never dare to test it out to its limits.

The litter also clumped solidly, which makes scooping the litter box much easier. I had cat litters that crumble and leave stinky little bits in the box. That means you use more litter in the long run because you have to strip down the whole box more frequently. You won’t have that problem with Okokat.

I could easily see adding this litter to my regular rotation. It works well, keeps odors at bay, and is easy to scoop. Those are the main properties I look for in cat litter, and I was pleased to find a wood-based product that fulfills them. If you’d like to try Okokat for yourself, it’s available at pet stores and via Amazon:

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Alzoo Litter Deodorizer review: Fresh scents for the litter box

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I’m the sort of person who prefers to prevent litter box odors rather than just hiding them. My two go-to cat litters are Tidy Cats and World’s Best, and both of those litters, combined with regular scooping, keep bad smells at bay. I prefer unscented World’s Best, though, and sometimes I like a nice, fresh fragrance from a product that adds to its odor fighting capacity. That’s where Alzoo Litter Deodorizer comes in.

201Alzoo Litter Deodorizer is a simple product. Just choose your favorite scent, shake a little of the powder into your litter box, mix it in a bit with the scoop, and voila! Instead of “nasty cat box,” you now a pleasant fragrance like vanilla, citrus, or honey. You can even go seasonal at the holidays with Christmas Spice or Wintergreen. I happen to be a fan of Island Paradise myself, although Lily of the Valley is nice, too.

I always have a bottle of Alzoo sitting near my downstairs litter box, since it’s in the front room near the front door. I try to be diligent about cleaning the boxes every day, but sometimes time runs out and sometimes, even when you’re up on the cleaning, all four cats decide that they should use the same box…several times…right after you cleaned it. When I’ve mixed in some of the Alzoo powder, it keeps the worst of the odors at bay until I can do another scooping.

If you use Alzoo Litter Deodorizer daily, one bottle should last you for 30 days. I only use it every second or third day, since I use good quality cat litters and have a regular cleaning schedule. However, if you get a little lax, that daily use can be a life saver in keeping your house habitable.

You can find Alzoo Litter Deodorizer on Amazon:

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