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Dollar Store Dog Buys

It was a long weekend here in Canada (don’t ask me why – this one doesn’t celebrate anything more special than “Hey, doesn’t everybody agree we all need an extra long weekend during the summer?”). Like all good Canadians, I kicked off my weekend with a trip to our local dollar store, but I wasn’t there to stock up on flip flops and plastic pool toys – I was there to shop for the dogs. Dollar stores can be a surprisingly well stocked source of pet supplies, at stupidly cheap prices – it’s all about knowing what to look for.

Here’s my top ten list of Dollar Store Dog Buys, all of which should be available at any well stocked Dollar or Discount store.

Epsom Salts

As Patty Khuly recently wrote on Fully Vetted, Epsom Salts are something of a wonder substance.

They take down swelling from bruised or injured tissue, with no drugs. If the injury is on the legs or lower body, stand the dog in a chest high bath of epsom salt infused water. If it’s not possible to reach the injured area in this way, soak a towel or absorbent pad in epsom salts and water, and apply to skin.

Epsom Salts actually pull water into the body, which means soaking an overheated dog in a chest deep bath of lukewarm epsom salt infused water can actually help to both cool and to slightly rehydrate them.

We soak interdigital cysts in epsom salts, to take down swelling and redness. Stand your dog with all four feet in a shallow pan of epsom salt infused water for ten minutes, and repeat two to three times per day until cyst is healed.


Sardines are one of nature’s super foods. A single sardine is loaded with Omega 3s, protein and more calcium than a six ounce glass of milk. Because sardines have such a short life span, they’re free of some of the heavy metals which can be found in other ocean fish, and they’re also one of our oceans most renewable food sources.

A single can, packed in water or oil, usually holds five or six whole sardines.Water packed is better than oil, if you’re watching calories, but oil packed can be a great calorie boost for dogs who need it.

Feed sparingly – they’re so rich they can cause loose stools if fed too generously. I add a single sardine as a topper for the dogs’ food, once or twice per week.

Cheap emergency collars and leads

In the back of each of my cars I keep a ‘K9 Ready Box’ – poop bags, water dishes, bottled water, snacks, collars and leads. I’ve also started keeping a few extra, cheap dollar store leads on hand, along with collars in a few sizes.

I don’t see a lot of stray dogs in my area, but when I do, it tends to be close to major roads or highways. Nothing is worse than trying to grab a panicked dog without having a collar to slip over their head and a leash to attach them to. I don’t mind using my good collars and leads, but they’re expensive, and while the shelters will sometimes return them, they don’t always, so having cheap ones on hand makes it less painful when I forget to get my good ones returned.

Stainless steel dog dishes

No matter what type of food you feed your dog, you really should be feeding them out of a stainless steel dish. Easy to clean, easy to sterilize and non porous, steel bowls are also inexpensive, unless you really *must* have the ones with the fancy raised pattern around the edges.

I keep extras in my car, for water dishes and emergencies. They also make a great donation to your local shelter, along with some of the collars and leads I mention above.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a miracle worker. Dilute twenty to one, and use as a rinse for stinky dogs after you bathe them. It leaves them smelling fresh and clean, and unlike heavy conditioners and cream rinses, it doesn’t attract more dirt.

When washing dog beds and blankets, add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle, for a great deodorant and disinfectant. As an added bonus, it will help to get rid of hard water build up from your machine.

Speaking of hard water, soak water bowls in white vinegar to descale them. You can also run a cup through your coffee maker, to accomplish the same thing, and vinegar and water in a spray bottle cleans counter tops and leaves them shiny.

Joy Lemon Dish Soap

Does your dog come home from the groomer’s smelling fresher and looking cleaner than you can ever seem to get them at home? You probably think it’s the ‘special’ groomer’s formula shampoo they use at the salon – which makes it even more surprising to learn that the ‘shampoo’ most old school groomers swear by is Joy Lemon dish soap.

Diluted with water twenty to one, Joy makes a great degreasing soap, gives dogs a fresh, clean smell and rinses out with no residue that attracts more dirt. Best of all, it’s $1 per small bottle, instead of $10 per bottle like most fancy grooming shampoos.

Soft White Bar Soap

What you’re looking for here is a bar of basic, cheap white soap. What you’re going to use it for the times when you accidentally ‘quick’ your dog’s nails while you’re trimming them.

Blot the bleeding nail, then press firmly into a slightly dampened bar of soft white soap. Hold in place for a few seconds, repeat if needed. The soap forms a clot over the cut area, stings less than styptic powder and also acts as a mild disinfectant.

Zinc Baby Cream

No one who owns flat, wrinkly faced dogs should be without this wonder substance. In Canada, the trade name I look for is Penaten, which comes in a flat tin. What you need, no matter the trade name, is the heavy, thick, sticky paste-like zinc cream, not the light lotion types.

To prevent tear stains, lightly coat the area under the eyes and along the wrinkle with zinc paste – it coats the hair and prevents it from being stained, it coats the skin and makes it waterproof and stain resistant, and it’s soothing.

In other skin folds and wrinkles, apply zinc to keep the skin dry and prevent irritation. It’s also gentle enough to use on skin that’s already irritated, although you shouldn’t use it if the skin is broken.

If your puppies have been suffering from diarrhea, the area just under their tail and around their bottom can get red and sore. Apply zinc cream to this area to soothe sore skin, to prevent further irritation and to stop ‘crusty’ poo from adhering to skin or hair.

Corn Starch

Brush corn starch into the coat of your white dog, and you’ll get a thicker, lusher, whiter looking coat.

For wrinkling that doesn’t need the full on assault of zinc cream, corn starch will keep wrinkles dry and odorless. Corn starch is more absorbent than baby powder, and with less irritants. Plus, you really don’t need your dog’s face to smell like baby butt.

If your dog was skunked weeks ago, but the smell lingers on, liberally apply corn starch through the coat, leave to sit and absorb odors, brush out well, and then re wash dog (using a white vinegar rinse).


Like garlic, cinnamon is reputed to be surefire flea repellent. Like sardines, it’s also reputed to be a super food (or “super spice”, in this case). Some of cinnamon’s reputed health benefits:

Studies have shown that just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.

Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.

In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.

In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.

It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.

In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month.

When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.

One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.

Researchers at Kansas State University found that cinnamon fights the E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized juices.

Here’s a Dog Cookie recipe with all the health benefits of honey and cinnamon. Whip up a batch of these cinnamon infused dog treats, using ingredients found at any dollar store (other than the liver). I can’t promise they’ll keep fleas away, but your dog will love them, and you’ll love getting cinnamon scented kisses of thanks.

Cinnamon Liver Bits

This works well if you want a dry treat that won’t leave any residue. After it’s cooked in the microwave and cut up into bite-size bits, the trick to drying it out is the last step.

· 1 lb. chicken liver
· 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
· 3 tablespoons honey
· ¼ cup dried parsley
· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in the bowl of food processor. Process until smooth. Pour into a microwaveable container, approximately 8″ square or round. Microwave on high until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This takes 7 minutes in my microwave, but your mileage may vary. When cooked, turn out of pan immediately, allow the bottom to dry since it will be damp from condensation, and cut into squares while still warm.

Spread bits on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 200° for 1.5 hours.

Freeze or refrigerate.

What about you? Do you have a cheap dollar store style dog staple you can’t live without, or a home remedy you swear by? Share it with us!

11 replies
  1. YesBiscuit!
    YesBiscuit! says:

    Good finds! I’m thankful for the epsom salts explanation. Coincidentally, i was just asking Billy the other day what exactly they were for. He said he wanted to find out too. Now I know!

    I hadn’t actually heard of using Joy for dog washing before. I’ve used Dawn for years though – works perfect. If I see Joy on special, maybe I’ll give it a try.

  2. Susan
    Susan says:

    Don’t let Rover drink the epsom salts or you’ll need rug cleaner!

    Carol, are sardines better than Mackerel?

    The Dog Wash we go to takes the expensive shampoos and dilutes them, and shampoo is included in the bath. The dogs get just as clean. I’m thinking seriously of doing this with my own dog shampoos (though perhaps a bit less dilute). You know they use Dawn dish soap to clean the oily birds and wildlife? Dawn is also supposed to remove grease stains from clothes, but I haven’t found it that effective. I’m the Wear Your Food Poster Child, so I’m always looking for stain removal tips.

    My old vet suggested corn starch or flour for staunching bleeding on a quicked nail, but I think soap would be more effective. If it comes up again, I will remember it.

    It may not be a dollar store, but I always check for leash and food bowl sales when I am making a pet store purchase, especially online. There are often really good sales on first-quality items.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      Sardines are actually just young herrings – and it’s their youth that makes them less prone to heavy metal contamination, and more renewable. Mackerel are larger (up to two pounds) and harvested older. I think that in terms of nutritional analysis, they’re about the same. I can get canned “Jack” (or small) Mackerel in the specialty grocery stores locally, in the Caribbean foods section. A large can is about $1.25, so a pretty good deal.

      A purist would probably go for the sardines, but that would be personal preference…

    • Cindy
      Cindy says:

      Be careful about using undiluted Dawn, or probably other degreasing dish detergents on young puppies – I have a vet friend who told a horrible story about someone bathing their pup (I think it was in the 4-6 week old range) in undiluted Dawn, and the puppy died. My vague recollection is that the young puppy skin is more permeable, and the degreasing agents got through it to the puppy’s fat. Very sad.

  3. Aline Nolasco
    Aline Nolasco says:

    Hi Carol!

    I’ve always thought cinnamon was toxic for dogs.. Can’t remember where I read it. Live and learn!! Thanks for the lesson.. 🙂

    By the way, how do you get your dogs dry, after the bath? I’ve always been afraid of bathing my two frenchies at home because I don’t have a blower. Loved the Zinc Baby Cream tip, though!

    Great tips… It’s so great when you can exchange all those chemicals for more natural substances… Thanks!

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      No, dried cinnamon spice is fine for dogs – but there is a plant known as “cinnamon vine” or ‘air potato’ that is apparently toxic to pets.


      Cinnamon spice comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree.

      Cinnamon apparently also works to repel ants and other pests – it has a high sulphur content, and can be used as a barrier application to keep pests out of the house. I’ve been using fresh lemon juice to keep ants out of our house, but I might try cinnamon, too. At the least, it will surely smell nicer than chemical pest repellents!

    • Susan
      Susan says:

      I’ve never used a blower on my dogs. I’ve tried but it scares the blazes out of them. I rub them with those super absorbent towels and then a regular towel, and then if it is chilly, I give them a blanket to snuggle in.

  4. alice in LALA land
    alice in LALA land says:

    I call the “50 dollar store or more” I never leave without spending that much…I buy the “byrlcream” of shine up the dogs coat before going in the ring.. a little dab will do ya.. rub between your hands and shiny dog emerges.
    Good place for any shampoo.. I dilute all dog shampooo 15 to one..cream rinse too..
    I also found some ‘super blue’ the blue stuff for waterless cleaning that they sell at shows.. this was waterless bath stuff for bed ridden patients.. one buck of 16 OZ..
    dry your dogs with a thick towel.. or.. try one of the fake chamois sold at auto stores.( and sometimes found at the dollar store..). these also make great “cool coats” at shows.. much cheaper than the ones they sell.. just dunk it in ice water.. squeeze and viola!
    I also buy car “fresheners” at the dollar store. By the boxful!!! LOL.. last time I found dog treats for a buck.. made in the USA.. no extra junk.. they don;t always have those.. but I did buy a box of treats for the homeless guys dog in the parking lot.. he was thrilled ( both dog and man)
    cheap shower curtains.. to put under crates in hotel rooms.. plastic containers for food and water when traveling.. the dollar store is a gold mine for doggie treasures.. as I cruise the aisles I “think dog”.. thanks for the tips..
    I grind my coffee every AM.. then out a sprinkle of dollar store cinnamon on top before brewing.. yummy!

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