Category Archives: Pet Health & Wellness

Positive Health Wellness has a wonderful article titled, All You Need to Know About Pets Improving Your Health, written by Karen Reed. For more information directly visit their website.

Having a pet is more than just having someone to come home to. This is another member of your family, who will love you unconditionally. It doesn’t really matter what type of animal you keep as a pet, you have someone who relies on you and just wants the best bond with you.

In fact, having pets has proven to improve the health of humans considerably. This is especially the case when it comes to pets that need walking or are overly affectionate. They can help improve your mental and physical health within months.

This could be the perfect time to get a new family member in your home. That is if you have the time and ability to look after a furry friend. Here are all the ways that you can improve your health through pets.

It’s All About Spending Quality Time

Just having a pet in your house isn’t going to improve your health instantly. This is all about spending quality time with your pet. The health benefits mostly come from the connection that you and your pet will have. Many pet owners express how their pets are family members, and in some cases like their children. Social and relationship connections are essential for human beings. We feel appreciated, loved, and valuable.

One of the benefits of pets is that they love unconditionally. They are always there for you, waiting for you to come home. There is no hatred in their bones and no reason for them to fight against you. They know that you care for them, so they are going to be there whenever you need them. They will listen to you when you’ve had a bad day and celebrate your achievements with you.

But how does this connection to your pets help your health? Just which ways do you benefit? Doesn’t having friends do the same thing?

Here’s all you need to know about how pets improve your health.

Petting Your Pet Helps Release Happy Hormones and Reduce Stress

One of the biggest benefits is the reduction in stress. When you don’t have a pet, you need to find a way to reduce the stress hormones being released. This isn’t easy for everyone. Stress can lead to being cooped up in the house and struggling to sleep, as you don’t have an outlet in your home.

Your pet will give you some type of outlet. No, not something to shout at or release your stress at but to help you calm down and release the happy hormones. Simply just stroking or petting your animal is the best way to reduce your stress levels. The process of stroking helps you focus on something and someone else, while you build your relationship with your pet.

Cats and dogs tend to be the best, especially dogs since they love this sort of connection with you. But any animal can give you this type of benefits. Rabbits and pet rats tend to sit on your hands and let you stroke them gently. Gerbils and hamsters will enjoy the feeling, and you get the constant movement and soothing touch.

Just petting your animal helps to release the relaxation hormones. Your blood pressure will drop, and you are at a much lower risk of various side effects of too much stress.

There are still other ways to reduce your stress and deal with how stress affects you, but having an animal in your house will improve your health much sooner. The next time you come home from work, sit down with your pet for 10 minutes and stroke them lovingly. You’ll instantly notice the difference.

Of course, getting out of the house with your pet will also help to improve your mindset and reduce stress. When you get more exercise, you will release more happy hormones. These hormones help to reduce a number ofstress hormones released into your body. You start to feel better and happier within yourself.

Someone to Talk to When It All Goes Wrong

You may feel like you are talking to yourself, but your pet does listen to you. This is especially the case with dogs. Your pet will recognize your voice and be interested in the things that you must say. They want to know how your day went and will be there to comfort you when you need it.

When you just need to rant or share something sad that has happened, your pet will sit and intently listen to you. There is no judgment and nobody to answer you back. You just get to release the frustration and rant to someone in your home.

While you need to watch out for taking out the stress of your pet, this is a great way to deal with situations that have just gone wrong. You get to vent without issue, and your pet will be there to cuddle you when you’ve finished.

The same applies when you’re sad. If you just want to cry, your pet will be there to come to you and give you a shoulder to cry on. Your loving furry friend won’t leave until they are certain that you’re ready for them to go somewhere—unless they need to get outside for their business, of course! You get the soothing that you need without having to explain yourself.

If you don’t believe, you just have to take a look at Marley and Me. When Jennifer Aniston’s character suffers a miscarriage, Marley is right there to hug her and help her get through the devastation and heartbreak.

Help to Improve Your Physical Health

When you have a pet, especially a dog, there’s no denying that you have to get out more. Dogs require regular walks, which means that you get out of the house to do that. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing, or dry, your dog will need to get outside for their business and to get their own exercise.

People with pets, particularly dogs, tend to be fitter and healthier. They find weight loss easier because they get the daily exercise that they need. It’s possible to get an hour or two of exercise through walking and playing with your pet outside.

You’ll soon find that an hour or two of exercise is nothing. You’ll find it easier to walk up and down stairs, and other elements of your physical fitness will improve.

Getting out more and improving your physical fitness will also help other elements of your physical health.  As you exercise more, your blood pressure and cholesterol levels drop. You are at a lower risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke, as your arteries remain clear and your whole cardiovascular system is supported.

You have stronger muscles, which help to support your bones. At the same time, you keep your metabolism supported, avoiding weight gain, which leads to other health problems. Your whole body will thank you for getting out more and doing more exercise. It doesn’t even have to be a lot or high intensity.

But don’t people without dogs get out and exercise? Yes and no. Some people will, and there are fitness fanatics who will get out and exercisedaily. Some people train for marathons and triathlons. However, mostpeople are sedentary. They avoid the gym and even going for walks.

Studies have shown that those without dogs will do 168 hours a week of exercise on average. Those who have dogs will do 300 hours a week. That is double the recommended amount to support your health and is the exact amount recommended to boost weight loss efforts. There are high chances that you don’t even realize that you are doing this amount of exercise, as you just do it because your pet needs you.

Feels Like You Have More Meaning in Life for a Better Quality of Life

The quality of life isn’t just about the amount that you can do in a day. There is an element of feeling like you are worth more and that you play a valuable role in those around you. This can be difficult if you don’t have someone or something relying on.

Parents tend to find this meaning in life through their children. They have their childrenconstantly needing their support and advice. It’s only up to them to help create the best possible future for their children.

However, parents don’t get the full benefits that pet owners get. Those with pets tend to be far more trusting. It doesn’t take as long for pets to understand boundaries and build instincts around the people and other animals they meet. The pet owners get a good idea of who to trust and when to build networks based on their pets’ instincts.

Those with pets tend to feel like they have more control. There is someone who is only reliant on them. Children grow up and leave the house. The animal is always there until the end of its life. This really doesn’t matter what type of animal you have.

This better meaning of life helps to boost quality. It boosts your mood and helps you feel like there is a place for you. This leads us to the next point.

Pets Support the Mental Health to Decrease Risks of Depression

When you have a pet, you tend to have a better support system. We just must look at the above benefits of having someone there to listen to your vents and cuddle you when you are sad. Those with pets are far less likely to suffer from mental health issues like depression and anxiety. There is always someone there ready to boost your mood and put a smile back on your face.

Remember that this is someone who loves you unconditionally. When you’re having a bad day, they are there to give you a cuddle and let you stroke them. You’ll release the relaxation and happy hormones in your body to better support your mood.

This is also someone in your life who passes no judgment. You don’t have to feel self-conscious when you want to talk to someone and tell them about your day. There’s no need to feel worried that your secrets and feelings will be shared with anyone else. Even if the person can’t talk, you’re more likely to open up. Just getting the words and feelings out can help to boost your feelings. It’s almost like having a diary to share your feelings with someone you deeply trust.

At the same time, you build the confidence to share your thoughts with others. You’re more likely to find someone to confide in who can physically help you; someone who will be able to support you in ways that pets just are unable to.

Your pets are also there to rid you of the negative feelings. You have something in your life to take your mind off the current situation. While you have to take care of someone else, you don’t have the time to sit and wallow in your self-pity or your depressive state.

This is also someone who will get you out of the house. We’ve already discussed that the fitness will help to boost your mental health. When you get out of the house and exercise, your brain starts to release happy hormones. They will support your mental health and make you feel better within yourself. You gain more confidence and feel like you can accomplish far more.

If you’re not too sure about this, it’s worth looking at study results. Studies have shown that those with pets have fewer depressed thoughts. They are also less likely to consider suicide. You know that there is someone else who is totally reliant on you and someone who gives you that urge to keep on living.

Pets will also keep your anxiety levels to a minimum. When you have your pet, you stay now. You focus just on your animal and what you can do right now to help them. You need to focus on the feelings and needs of your pet. This means you don’t think about the past or the future.

You’re not as likely to worry about events that could happen. You can keep your mind off the things that have happened in the past. Some of these events will be irrelevant to your life now or your life in the future but still cause anxiety right now. Your pet keeps your mind off all this.

This is also a benefit if you suffer from PTSD. Your pet helps to keep your memories at bay. You focus just on the moment and your time with your animal. If there is a trigger, you have your pet there to pull you back and remind yourself where you are. Those flashes are kept to a minimum, and you’re more likely to be able to move forward, rather than remain focused on the event and let it take control of your life.

Some pets will get to know your routine or figure out what you need in times of need. If they notice that you are having a flashback, they will work out the best ways to pull you out of those flashbacks. They’ll find ways to help you take your mind off the past or the future and draw you back to the present. This can often help to stop your mental health deteriorating in the moment.

As they learn what you need, they will keep doing that. They become that source of comfort when you need to weather the storm; someone that you know, you can always rely on.

Pets, like children, have their own personalities. They find things that they love and learn tricks that they enjoy doing. They will become instant sources of entertainment.

Dogs like to roll over and play fetch, while cats tend to jump and do their own rolls. They will chase objects or moving shafts of light, not realizing that they aren’t a form of entertainment. There is a care-free attitude that adults wish that they could have.

The benefit is that their care-free attitude and personality give you a source of entertainment. They will put a smile on your face, even when you thought it would be impossible to laugh. In some cases, they do something that they know you find hilarious because they get the sense that you feel like you need cheering up.

Helps Eliminate the Feeling of Being Lonely

How often have you felt completely alone in the world? You can be surrounded by family and friends, but you still feel like you’re on an island and nobody is there to help you. There are times that you can feel like you’re drowning, and nobody is coming with a life vest to keep you afloat.

This can lead to various mental health problems. It is also one of the main reasons for suicide. Even if you know there are people there for you, you don’t feel like you can talk to them.

Your pet helps to eliminate this feeling of loneliness. You know that there is somebody right there to support you and help you. While they may not be able to do anything physical to help you, just the fact that they are there will help.

This all links into the fact that your pet is there to list. It all links to this unconditional love that pets offer. They are there just to lend a non-judgemental shoulder to lean on. They cuddle into you and let you stroke them to know that they want you to feel loved and admired. They don’t care if you’ve forgotten to put the bins out, if you aren’t dressed, or if you’ve messed up badly in another relationship. They don’t care what is going on in the world around you. Your pet will always love you.

Of course, this does mean there is a requirement from you. They rely on you for absolutely everything, and they want to be loved by you. When they’re naughty, they’re not doing it out of spite. They often do it for attention or because they think it is all game.They’re like toddlers who just want to be loved unconditionally they way that they love you.

You need to be up for that challenge of always being there for them.

At the same time as offering someone to lean on, your pet will help you become more sociable. You have far more confidence in yourself because you feel like you have the support. You’re more likely to talk to others because you don’t feel like you need to hide behind anything.

Pet owners tend to talk to each other, even if they don’t knoweach other’s names. It’s like moms in a school playground. They know each other as child’s mom rather than by their actual name, while dog owners are known as the dog’s mom/dad/carer instead of by their real name.

Getting to know someone who has a pet helps you create a conversation. You already know that you have something in common. There are instant opening lines, including asking for advice on how to tackle certain behavior or where to find anitem for your pet. As you learn more about each others’ pets, you will find more confidence to find out about each other.

As you socialize more, there isn’t this feeling of isolation. You’re not longer on this desolate island with nobody around you. There’s also the ability to get an adult conversation with people who will talk back! Pets are great, but they can only do so much, right?

They Take You Out of the Daily Grind, Even for a Moment

The daily grind can wear you down. If you come home to an empty house, you’re more likely to feel it. However, with other adults or even children, you can feel this daily grind take its toll on you. There’s this feeling of all work and no play, and you really do become dull and bored.

While there is a routine, you forget what it was like to have fun. This is especially the case as children grow up or as you get swamped under more projects at work. You struggle to find the enjoyment in life.

Pets won’t let that happen. They want attention, and they need fun. They want you to play with them and will pester you until you do it.

Okay, so at times this can be annoying. If you’re trying to get through a big project and need to concentrate, their need to play can get in your way. But your pets are also good at reading your body language. If you need to work, they are more likely to let you. They’ll wait until you’ve finished grabbing your attention.

When pets want to play, they really want to play. They add some fun back into your life, whether you have children or not. If you do have children, the two of them together can be endless sources of entertainment, and there is always something fun to do. You just need to watch out for how children and dogs get along to make sure everyone remains safe!

By taking you out of the daily grind, even for a moment, you get that quality of life again. You feel like you have a purpose and that purpose isn’t just to slave away for someone else.

Reduce the Risk of Allergies, Not Create Them!

There are a lot of people who say that pets have caused allergic reactions. Sure enough, there are some people who are allergic to some animals. However, this is usually to the pet dander or the bacteria that can build in the fur if it is not cleaned regularly. Some people will only be allergic to certain types of animals, meaning having a pet is not completely out of the question: you just need to find the right pet.

Yet, there are studies that show having a pet can help to reduce allergic reactions, and not just to other animals! Studies have shown that children are less likely to develop the likes of hay fever, eczema, and other common ailments. This is when children are exposed to pets within the first six months of their lives.

Asthma symptoms are also less likely in children with pets. While there are still studies to understand the full reason why scientists believe that this is due to the body being exposed to the allergens at an age when the immune system is still developing. The immune system views the allergens as normal, so doesn’t create the antibodies to fight against them. There isn’t the view that the allergens are causing a problem to your health.

The studies have shown that people who grow up around dogs, cats, or farm animals have the best benefits. They gained stronger immune systems in the future, which means they are also more likely to fight off some of the most common infections and will have a lower risk of developing respiratory infections.

Babies in their first year will benefit considerably from pets being in the home. Their immune system is supported in a way to lower the risk of colds and ear infections. This has been compared to babies in their first year without pets in the house.

The downside is that you want to start the exposure to the animals as soon as possible. The immune system still develops in the first year of life. After this, the antibodies it creates tend to stick rather than adapt, so antibodies to allergens are more likely to form later.

Improve Your Chances of Weight Loss

We’ve briefly covered this when talking about fitness and exercise, but there are far more benefits to your weight loss efforts by having a pet. Let’s continue the discussion about fitness first, though.

When you have a dog especially, you need to walk them. With other pets, you need to play games and will get other forms of exercise. This helps you burn more calories throughout the day. With dog walking, you can boost your muscles strength and tone, which also helps to kick up your metabolic rate a notch. You’ll find it easier to burn more calories throughout the day without having to do more exercise.

You get the recommended levels of fitness. Of course, this makes you feel good, and you want to do more fitness. You’re also less likely to sneak in the bad food, which is often high in calories and offers no nutritional benefits. After all, the last thing you want is to damage all the good work you’re doing, right?

Creating a calorie deficit will be far easier. That instantly means you burn the extra calories you’re carrying, so you lose weight.

And the more weight you lose, the more exercise you do. You’ll constantly be on the go and find it easier to create a calorie deficit constantly. You’re less likely to plateau in your diet along with the way.

But there is another benefit for your weight loss: you will find that you have less need to snack. Most of us snack on food because of our emotions. We feel bored, tired, or sad. We use food as a way to boost our mental health, but it really does the opposite.

When you have a pet, you have someone to distract you. There is an animal in your life to keep your mind off the negatives. You’re kept occupied, whether it’s through playing or just stroking. The cookie jar is less appealing, as you don’t feel the need to boost your mood in any way.

Plus, you have the added bonus of your hands being idle. When you’re watching TV, stroking your bet keeps your hands busy. This is one of the reasons we snack while watching a movie or a TV show. We feel unproductive and think our hands should be doing something, and that usually leads to grabbing snacks to keep them moving up and down. When you have a pet, the stroking will make you feel like you’re doing something productive.

Improve Child Socialisation and Care

Pets won’t just help to reduce the risk of allergies and infection. Your child’s whole being will benefit with an animal in the house. Your pet is reliant on all of you. Your child quickly learns how to care for others.

The lessons will start off small. It could be encouraging the dog to do tricks for treats or putting the water into the rabbit cage. You may encourage your child to help pick up the pet’s toys or clean out cages and tanks, depending on the pet that you have.

All of these lessons will teach responsibility from a young age. As your child gets older, they can do more for the pet. They learn just how much the animal needs and how important it is to care for them. You can let them help with grooming your animal and administer medication when they do get hold enough to handle it.

At the same time, your child learns more about socialization. Children can be shy, but a pet helps to open them up to other people. They instantly have something to talk about, even to people who don’t have pets. They can share the tasks that they do on a daily basis and how they help out around the house. They get to show off the tricks that their pet has learned.

Then when they get older, they develop the same social skills that you will develop with your pet. There are others in the dog park to talk to with similar interests

Their pets also help them gain confidence. They have someone to talk to and discuss things with. There’s no judgment, which helps them develop their communication skills without feeling like they will be laughed at. Some children develop debating and presentation skills, as their pet starts to feel like their audience.

Someone to Help those on the Autism Spectrum

People with autism have been known to seek help through having pets. This is for multiple reasons, but many of them connect to the benefits that we’ve already looked at.

The stroking of the pet is relaxing. When someone with autism becomes stressed, they can suffer meltdowns. They don’t always have the ability to reassess the situation and calm themselves down. There needs to be a crutch to help them do that. Pets, especially dogs, are that crutch.

Animals understand far more than we tend to give them credit for. They have the ability to step in and pull the person having the meltdown back into the present. They encourage the petting process to help release the relaxation hormones and reduce the stress hormones. A behavioral pattern develops, and the dog is always there to give that unconditional support when necessary.

Pets can also help to improve socializing skills, especially in the classroom. A study with dogs showed that when dogs are in a classroom, other children can relate to those with autism. They find common ground and a way that they open to each other. A lot of the time they don’t really need to talk, but they gain a new understanding for each other.

People with autism find it difficult to bond with a human. There may be a fear of judgment, or they just don’t know how to communicate. Dogs help to improve a bond. They love their owner or their carer unconditionally. Someone with autism doesn’t feel like they are being picked on or made fun off. They don’t feel like they are completely alien to someone else.

Dogs also tend to work through behavior patterns. Patterns and routines are things that people with autism tend to need. There is a clearer understanding what the dog wants because the person with autism understands that need for the routine.

If you have a child, who tends to bolt at the first chance, having a dog can help to reduce this happening. You can tether your child to the dog’s harness to improve safety. Your child won’t feel like they’re restricted and may actually develop a sense of awareness for the animal instead of giving into the need to run.

There are now service dogs available for those with autism. This is because studies have shown how having this type of pet can be so beneficial. There are also various videos that show how dogs can help people with autism, especially when they are suffering meltdowns due to stressful situations.

Is It Time to Add a Pet to Your Life?

If you don’t already have a pet, you may want to consider getting one in your life. There are just so many ways that you can benefit from one.

This isn’t just about having a dog, although they do tend to offer the most benefits. All types of pets can offer various benefits, whether they help to eliminate stress, depression, or even anxiety and PTSD. They offer a way to improve socialization and reduce that feeling of being isolated.

Pets love unconditionally, and that is the main thing to take away from all this. They don’t care whether you smell or if you have bad teeth. They won’t laugh when you don’t have makeup on or if you are having a fat day. All they care about is how you treat them and that you know they are there to support you when you most need it.

If you have the ability to look after a pet—only do this if you can genuinely care for one—then consider buying one to help support your health. Look for pets that work within your schedule. For example, fish or reptiles can need a little less looking after and attention than dogs, cats, and rabbits. You may find that they are easier to fit into your life.

You won’t regret the health benefits you gain when you add a pet to your life.

Five Halloween Pet Dangers

Dr. Justine Lee discusses Halloween pet dangers. She has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team. She advises, “as Halloween night approaches, keep in mind that some human treats can be potentially deadly for your dog or cat. Help keep your dog and cat safe by being aware of some of the common poisons found in your child’s trick-or-treat bag this year.”

1. Chocolate
If your dog likes to sneak in one or two chocolate mini-bars, it likely won’t cause a problem (as there’s very little “real” chocolate in candy). However, during this fall holiday, dogs have a tendency to gorge and eat a massive amount of chocolate candy all at once. Keep your candy jar and your kid’s Halloween stash away from food-motivated dogs (e.g.,Labrador retrievers, mixed-breed dogs). When it comes to chocolate, the ingredient methylxanthine (e.g., theobromine, caffeine) can be poisonous to your dog. (Thankfully, cats rarely develop chocolate poisoning, as they rarely gorge on more than 1-2 pieces.) Mild ingestions typically result in agitation, vomiting, diarrhea and excessive panting. Larger amounts can result in heart-toxicity: abnormal heart arrhythmias (abnormal rhythm), an elevated heart rate, and a very high blood pressure. Massive amounts can result in neurologic signs like tremoring, seizuring, or rarely, death. When it comes to chocolate, keep in mind that the darker and more bitter the chocolate (e.g, Baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate), the more poisonous it is to your dog. Click here to learn more about chocolate toxicity.

2. Sugarless Sweets

Another danger in your kid’s Halloween stash is sugar-free candy (Who tortures kids by giving this away, anyway?!). Xylitol, a natural sugar-free sweetener, can result in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and even liver damage (e.g., acute hepatic necrosis) when ingested by dogs. Certain candies, mints, baked goods, and gums can contain large amounts, resulting in xylitol poisoning. Clinical signs of weakness, vomiting, lethargy, collapse, a racing heart rate, and generalized malaise can be seen. When xylitol is ingested in doses > 0.5 g/kg, clinical signs of jaundice (e.g., yellowing of the skin), vomiting, black-tarry stool, anorexia, and liver failure can be seen. Click here to learn more about xylitol poisoning.

3. Raisins

Once in a while, you’ll have a healthy neighbor who gives away small boxes of raisins during Halloween (Boo). Raisins, grapes, and certain currants (anything in the Vitus spp.) can cause acute kidney injury when accidentally ingested by dogs. Clinical signs may not show up for days, after severe damage to the kidneys has already occurred. Signs such asinappetance, vomiting, belly pain, halitosis (bad breath), excessive or decreased thirst or urination, generalized malaise, and increased kidney values (e.g, creatinine, BUN) may be seen. Click here for a video about chocolate, raisin and grape dangers.

4. Liquid Potpourri

This is one big danger to our feline friends! As fall commences, pet owners often may use simmer potpourri pots to instill scents of pumpkin and cinnamon around the house. When the liquid potpourri is ingested by cats (after all, curiosity killed the cat!), the essential oil may cause corrosive burns to the mouth. Clinical signs of drooling, mouth pain, anorexia,pawing at the mouth, difficulty breathing, and malaise may be seen. Rarely, liver failure and lung failure can occur.

5. Glow Sticks/Jewelry

If you use glow sticks to put on your child’s costume during Halloween, heed caution. While this glowing jewelry may add extra light into your child’s life, it’s poisonous to cats. Cats seem to love to chew on these toys, and accidentally ingest the chemical within. While it’s not very poisonous, this chemical has a very bitter taste, resulting in profuse drooling, oral pain, inappetance, and vomiting. If you think your cat chewed into one, turn off the light, look for the presence of the glowing liquid, and then remove the chemical carefully from your cat. This can be done by:

A) Flushing the taste out of the mouth (offering something tasty like chicken broth or milk)

B) Bathing your cat with a liquid dish soap to get the remaining liquid off the fur. As cats are fastidious groomers, they may expose themselves to more of the bitter chemical if it’s still on their fur.

Information Credit – The above information is courtesy of Dr. Lee and Pet Health Network. 

National Pet Fire Safety Day

With July being the heart of the summer, outdoor dry conditions sparking wildfires, and much of the country in the midst of summer heat it is a good time to reflect upon fire safety for our pets as well. July 15th also marked the celebration of National Pet Fire Safety Day and we received a most informative and useful resource from Emma Bailey that she posted on Security Systems Houston’s web site.  As a writer and a pet parent, Emma put together a big list of pet fire safety tips and information that we all can all benefit from. As Emma remarked, “Considering summer’s heightened risk for fire hazards, I thought this resource would be a very helpful addition to your site,” and indeed it is!

An adorable 8 month old baby girl is bundled up in a sweater and wearing a winter earflap hat looking lovinlgy at her pet German Shepherd dog as they sit and laugh ouside on a cold fall day.

For the seventh year running, the United States is set to observe National Pet Fire Safety Day on the 15th of July. This commemorative event was started by the American Kennel Club to help protect beloved furry family members from dangerous fire-related incidences.

Active, curious pets can cause trouble for you and your family (and themselves too) if they aren’t supervised. Just a few smart precautions can make a world of difference in terms of potential safety hazards. This year, we’ve highlighted the most important tips and tricks you can use as a pet owner to make sure your four-legged family members stay far away from smoke and fire.

Check, Check and Double-Check

  • Check up on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year to ensure they are working properly. Place smoke detectors outside every room in the home. Curious pets can accidentally start fires on their own, so consider installing monitored smoke detectors to help firefighters quickly respond to a house fire even if you’re not there.
  • Check around your home for fire hazards like loose wires and stove knobs, discarded paper products, and other flammable junk. Outside, clear dry brush away from the house and keep pet pens away from any dry leaves or vegetation that could easily become fuel in a fire.
  • If your pet can stand up tall enough to reach the counter, place kitchen appliances up high and remove stove knobs whenever you leave home. If your animal can get to cords and electrical wires easily, they may be tempted to give them a good chew – make sure those are out of sight and out of mind too.

When In Doubt, Put It Out!

  • Cats and dogs are attracted to light and motion – including open flames from candles and fireplaces. Make sure to keep an eye out on your pets whenever there is an open flame in the room and extinguish it when you leave. If you must leave the flame on without your supervision, get your pets to a different room and make sure they can’t get to it.
  • Use flameless candles whenever possible. They may be less romantic and aromatic than regular candles, but they are battery-operated and therefore less likely to start a fire if knocked over onto carpet or fabric.

Protect Youngsters and Outdoor Pets

  • Small pets and puppies and kittens can get through very tiny openings, so make sure your pet is in a secure place if you are unable to keep your eye on them at all times. Young pets are notorious troublemakers – keeping them in a crate or pen will reduce the likelihood of their setting the house ablaze while you’re away running errands.
  • Outdoor pets should be given special attention too. If they run away from your yard during a fire, it’s important that they have some form of identification, either in the form of a collar or a microchip.

Shop for Fire-Stoppers

  • Purchase a pet alert window cling from a pet store or get a free one online from the ASPCA. These stickers tell firefighters how many pets are inside the home, and help remind them to make sure everyone has made it out okay.
  • Already popular with some pet lovers, a home security “pet cam” allows you to monitor your animals while you’re gone at work or on a brief vacation. Pet monitoring systems are becoming more and more sophisticated, and can now alert the proper authorities if a fire starts.

Emergency Rescue Plans

  • Your family evacuation plan should include instructions for the animals as well. Decide in advance who will be responsible for each pet if a fire breaks out. One handy tip is to store your pets’ leashes, treats, extra toys and some food inside a washtub near an exit. This keeps it all handy in one place and, if you have to evacuate because of fire, you won’t be caught empty-handed for Fluffy or Fido. Always evacuate your pets on a leash or in a carrier. They will likely panic at the smell of smoke and loud noises, and if they take off without you they may be impossible to find.
  • If your pet is kenneled while you’re away, make sure that the kennel is in an easy to find location in the home. Know your pet’s preferred hiding spots, they may run and hide there if your home has caught fire. Put their cubbyholes on a map of your own escape route.

According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, approximately half a million pets each year are affected by fires in the home. Do your part as a pet parent to protect your beloved animals from the dangers of smoke inhalation and flames!

Celebrate National Pet Fire Safety Day this year on July 15th, and visit the ASPCA websitefor more information about how to keep your pets safe all year round.

Easy, Healthy DIY Dog Food

What’s for dinner tonight? Do you ever wonder if your dog gets bored from eating the same food for every meal, every day, every year? Now, there is a great way to mix up dinner delights for your dog and offer alternative, healthy, and easy meals made in the slow cooker by simply adding leftovers. Breeder Retriever, a resource to research your favorite dog breeds has created an infographic that many pet parents may find interesting. It’s an easy-fun guide to creating dog food in the slow cooker with whatever is leftover in your fridge. By following the proper nutritional guidelines you can turn your fridge into the ultimate doggie bag! This also offers a helpful solution to meal time planning when traveling or overseas. Sometimes your pet’s regular food and brand may not be readily or consistently available. This way you know for certain where your pet’s food is coming from and is of freshest and healthiest ingredients.

Infographic Courtesy of:

Winterize Your Pet

powderhoundJust as humans can get frostbite or hypothermia – so can pets! With the weather so cold it is important to realize how this affects your pets. Here are a few good tips to remember whether your pet is staying home or traveling. It is important to check your dog or cats’ skin and conditioning. In some cases, you may want to supply extra paw protection with booties. Make sure to brush your pet’s coat regularly, inspect pet paws, and nails for breakage or cracks due to snow or ice.

Frostbite is commonly found on toes, tail, ears, and the other areas not covered by fur. Signs of frostbite include very pale or white skin or areas that are swollen or red. If you suspect frostbite it is best to check with your vet immediately. Immerse the area for 15-20 minutes into warm water to help treat the affected area.

Hypothermia occurs after prolonged exposure to harsh elements and temperatures. Symptoms include low body temperature, shivering, balance problems, and fatigue. It is critical to immediately raise the pet’s body temperature with warm blankets and warm liquids. Call your veterinarian.

Overall, it is a good idea to use protective gear for your pet’s when out in the elements, increase caloric intake if pet is active outside, keep nails trimmed, and use heated water bowls for outdoor pets. If a pet is kept outside make sure to monitor the temperatures and bring your pet in when necessary. It is a good idea to provide a warm and insulated bed to protect your pet from the ground.

Is Your Dog Drinking Contaminated Water?

As pet parents, we are well aware that water is an essential part of any dog’s diet. Without the proper amount of water, a dog can become dehydrated and also risk facing irreversible organ damage. Water consumption directly affects a dog’s overall energy, efficiency, and well-being. Approximately one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day is appropriate for your dog. Veterinarians generally recommend that an animal needs one milliliter of water for every food calorie consumed.

Whenever you notice that your dog’s water bowl is empty your first reaction is to quickly refill it with “fresh”, “clean” tap water. After all, how many times do we grab our own refreshing cold glass of water from the tap?  But, in reality how fresh and clean is this water we consume?  What you may not realize is that each time you may be replenishing a supply of toxins straight into your pet’s water bowl.

It is hard to believe that something as clean, seemingly pure, and refreshing as consuming tap water can potentially lead to causing deadly diseases (for man and dog alike). Some experts now point to tap water as a leading contributor to cancer and other serious health issues.

So why is tap water considered so harmful? There are a few potentially dangerous contributing factors. One element found in many water supplies is chlorine. Some research indicates that the incidence of cancer is 44 percent higher among those who drink chlorinated water. Chlorine by-products also known as trihalomethanes are what concern scientists the most. Even though tooth decay has decreased over the decades; the cancer percentages have increased as a direct result from the fluoride added to the water supply. The danger of adding fluoride to water is the fact that many scientists support the conclusion that fluoride is a possible carcinogen.

More than 2,100 toxic chemicals have been detected in the US water supply remarks Dr. Richard Pitcairn in his book, Natural Health for Cats & Dogs. “Some of the most common contaminants are lead, cadmium, arsenic, insecticides, nitrates, fungicides, herbicides, benzene, toluene and dioxin. MTBE is another chemical traced to water supplies. Many of these pollutants are known to cause cancer or damage the kidneys, liver, brain, and cardiovascular system.”

These troubling findings are leading pet parents to now use filtered or distilled water for their pets/themselves and to find the healthiest water alternatives available. Using a good quality water purifier is often more cost effective than buying bottled water and is highly recommended to help remedy the situation.

Equally important is to make sure you keep your dog’s water bowl thoroughly washed and cleaned and easily accessible. It is important to provide fresh water daily. Selecting a bowl with a stainless steel surface is also a great choice for serving your dog’s water.

Green Fleas – Opting for a Natural Pest Repellent

It was recently announced that Advantage and Advantix are now available over the counter. Bayer Animal Health announced last week that its popular flea and tick products, formerly available only through veterinarians, would now be available at pet retail stores and internet outlets.

This is supposedly great news for pet parents. Personally, I  have never been a fan of using chemical based flea treatments. I think it is the connotation of using a “pet insecticide” that has never appealed to me.  I have often wondered how many pet parents would administer these flea treatments directly onto their baby’s skin? Chemical flea and tick products are something I would not use on myself and therefore do not want to put on my animals.

I found it absolutely fascinating in reading that we have created the “super flea”.  I was reading The Goldstein’s Wellness and Longevity Program, written by Robert Goldstein, VMD,  and read that the “heavy use of insecticides and pesticides has been largely responsible for the production of the “super flea”, which has adapted to withstand progressively stronger poisons. As a result, fleas have longer life cycles today than they did 50 years ago.” (

The purpose of this blog is not to advocate the non-use of chemical flea treatments but instead to promote a pet parent’s awareness of alternative measures. Have you ever considered going green for your dog and integrate a healthy and natural approach to warding off fleas? As more pet parents choose nonchemical and nontoxic alternatives, poisonous flea products will have less of an impact on the environment. As a pet parent I find comfort knowing that I am not administering a product that has potential side effects or possible long-term effects on my dog.

So what are your options for flea and tick control if you do not wish to use chemicals? I have listed a few helpful resources that I have come across in my own research.

Some Alternatives to Chemical Tick and Flea Products:

Dr. Martin Goldstein, DVM suggests – Garlic and brewer’s yeast (besides feeding these to your pets, sprinkle on their coats every few days)

Stay vigilant about cleaning and vacuuming up your pet’s surrounding environment. Make sure to wash blankets and bedding in hot water.

Regularly brush your pet with a flea comb with tightly spaced teeth

Dr. Robert Goldstein, VDM offers – Boost your pet’s immunity for a flea free life. Specific foods and supplements can be added to the diet to boost immunity and promote health.

Introduce flea fighting foods into your pet’s diet – as a pet parent you can buy flea-fighting ingredients such as brewer’s yeast (some animals may be allergic to yeast but yeast free alternatives exist), garlic, B vitamins, and minerals.

One of my favorite “green” pet resources is the book, eco dog, written by Corbett Marshall and Jim Deskevich. They offer some wonderful alternatives for flea treatments and include a recipe for lemon flea tonic, herbal flea powder, and flea repellent rosemary tonic in the book.

I made the conscious decision not to expose my pets to any more chemical flea products. Yes, I originally tried the recommended chemical protocol but the more I learned and researched, the more I felt that I was making an informed  health decision for my pets by eliminating that regimen. Since then, I  have never had any flea problems and have lived and traveled with my pets throughout the United States.

Is Your Dog Type A or Type B?

How can you find that perfect companion? It often starts at the basic level of what makes up your dog’s personality. Resulting from negative publicity associated with certain dog breeds and recent breed-specific dog legislation, temperament testing for dogs is gaining in popularity. One such organization, The Temperament Test Society ( provides dog people a means for evaluating temperament and provides insight into their dog’s behavior. How is this insight achieved?  Personality and temperament evaluation is done through administering the ATTS Test on a dog.

According to the society, “testing can have an impact on breeding programs and in educating owners about their dog’s behavioral strengths and weaknesses as well as providing a positive influence on dog legislation.” ATTS states that, “temperament testing evaluates an individual dog’s temperament through a series of tests that measure traits including stability, confidence, shyness, friendliness, aggressiveness, protectiveness, prey instincts, play drive, and self-defense instincts, and ability to distinguish between threatening and non-threatening situations.”

So what exactly comprises a dog’s temperament?  Temperament is defined as the general attitude a dog displays towards other animal and humans; it is the combined inherited and acquired physical and mental traits that influence the dog’s behavior. Much of a pet’s temperament is hereditary. An equally important contributing factor  is the dog’s environment including the actions of the pet parent. Both of these factors can directly impact a dog’s behavior.

In some instances, animal behaviorists, pet parents, breeders, trainers, and animal shelters/rescue organizations  integrate temperament testing as a way to assess the temperament of an individual dog. This type of testing helps to identify each dog as a candidate for adoption, therapy or assistance animal work, search and rescue, or other purposes. Temperament testing helps serve as a predictive tool of how the dog might act and react in various situations and provoked circumstances.

It is also interesting to note that certain countries such as Germany require temperament testing be performed on certain restricted breeds. In the wake of deadly attacks by dogs, German state governments have banned or restricted many dog breeds. Potentially dangerous dogs can be owned, imported, bred, and sold if they pass a temperament test and are free of aggressive actions for three years.

What Does Adult Temperament Testing Involve? Ideally, the tester should be a canine behavior specialist trained in temperament testing. He or she should not be someone familiar to the dog and two people should be present at the test for safety and objective observation. A wide variety of testing exercises are conducted including length of time for responsiveness, reaction to certain stimuli, reaction to eye contact, reaction to sudden movements, reaction to being touched or approached, response to food and toys, and overall reaction to the evaluator.

During the evaluation, personality traits are observed and noted.  Observations are noted on the certain reactions such as whether the dog is timid, confident, active, hyperactive or calm, dependent or independent. The dog’s interest level is also noted in regards to people, moving things, and the overall area.  Many professionals feel that puppy socialization, handling and training of the puppy, and the everyday environment that the pet parent provides is more important than puppy temperament testing.

The $1500.00 Chew Toy

With February regarded as Pet Dental Health Month it seems appropriate to share my tale about the $1500.00 chew toy. What seemingly started out as a great chew bone for my Chihuahua soon turned into a necessary $1500.00 dental extraction. I had based my purchasing decision on the fact that I believed anything deemed “recommended by veterinarians” was safe and harmless for my dog to chew. It turns out that is not always the case! My two year old Chihuahua who loves to chew on bones – completely cracked and broke his top molar on the “recommended” popular plastic chew bone brand that I purchased from a pet store chain. We soon found ourselves off to see a dental specialist who confirmed the diagnosis of a slab fracture. Due to its severity and location a root canal was not an option. Full extraction of his top molar was the preferred course of treatment.

RULE OF PAW: If you can’t flex or dent the item with your thumbnail – it’s too hard! I (along with my Chihuahua) actually learned quite a bit of new dental information from our wonderful dentist, Dr. Robert Boyd, DVM of the Veterinary Dental Services in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Boyd, a graduate of Texas A & M University, is Board Certified in Veterinary Dentistry, and is a Diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College. Dr. Boyd is a past President of the Harris County Veterinary Medical Association and current President of the American Veterinary Dental Society. More information about Dr. Boyd and his pet dental services is on his website

I found Dr. Boyd’s list of Good Chews & Bad Chews for your pet to be extremely helpful and thought I would share it with other pet parents. The lesson learned here is that an inexpensive $5.00 hard plastic chew bone can easily turn into a highly expensive $1500.00 procedure. Had I known about good and bad chew information my dog would still have his molar and we would have avoided this unnecessary surgery. Needless to say, all of my dogs now chew on soft flexible chew toys only!

Chew Toys & Treats Safety Information:

Good Chew Toys

* All Kong toys & products

* Flexible/Flat rawhides

* Edible treats

* Plush toys

* Rope toys

* Zanies

* Soft frisbees

Bad Chew Toys

* Bones

* Pig Ears

* Hooves

* Compressed rawhides

* Twisted rawhide sticks

* Certain Dental Chews – cannot dent or flex

* Hard plastic bones

* Tennis Balls

* Ice Cubes

* Knotted rawhides

* Bully sticks

* Plastic Frisbees