Dog Tired? The Pet-Human Sleep Pattern Connection

To anyone who’s ever spent the night curled up in a teeny corner of the bed while the pet is comfortably sprawled out, this should come as no surprise:  According to an article in BusinessWeek, The American Pet Products Association (APPMA) reports that over 42 percent of dogs now sleep in the same bed as their owners, up from 34 percent in 1998.

What’s more, in a pet sleep study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, researchers found more than half of the patients seeking consultations at their sleep clinic are pet owners complaining of nightly sleep disturbances by their pets, caused by things like snoring, barking, whining, meowing, cover hogging or paw licking, or other things.

OKAY, SO DOES IT REALLY MATTER THAT WE’RE TIRED AND CRANKY THE NEXT DAY?

The lack of high-quality sleep affects all of one’s systems, including immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular.  In fact, I was recently told about a study done by the Archives of Internal Medicine where over 150 people were given the rhino (common cold) virus; those who got less than 7.0 hours of sleep per night were three times more likely to contract the virus than those who got adequate sleep.

Lack of sleep can also affect your weight by directly affecting three hormones that control appetite and regulate stress and energy balance.

  • Cortisol is one of the stress “fight or flight” hormones.  It’s a good thing in moderation, but too much elevates glucose and appetite, often resulting in those ever-thickening waistlines.
  • Ghrelin, which increases appetite, and becomes elevated when you’re sleep deprived.
  •  Leptin, however, suppresses appetite and moderates energy balance, and you want more of this—but as your sleep amounts are decreased, so is the leptin.

Sleeping with our pets is like sleeping with warm, furry pillows and it can be one of the most pleasurable experiences ever—but you do need to cohabitate peacefully, and your dog can learn this. If you have pet-related sleep problems, it might be a good idea to contact a professional trainer.

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Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a wellness educator for BOTH the 4-legged and 2-legged.\

She is a writer, editor, public relations and social media professional who writes frequently on pet wellness.   Her websites are:  www.ifrmarketingcommunications.com and http://www.irenefross.com.

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Should You Take Your Cat for her Routine Vet Visits?

A recent survey by the American Animal Hospital Association has revealed an alarming trend:  Only 28 percent of cats go to the veterinarian for routine examinations.  Dogs fare only slightly better at 58 percent.

Of course all pets–cats and dogs–need routine vet care.  I’m certainly not dismissing the need for dogs to receive medical examinations, but cats do seem especially neglected in this area; this figure is alarmingly low. Many mistakenly feel that cats don’t need veterinary visits.  Maybe it’s the myth of the self-sufficient cat. Maybe cats just hide their symptoms better.  Maybe some try to avoid stressing their cat out with any kind of travel. Or maybe it’s the result of a bad economy where many have financial concerns.

It’s penny-wise, pound foolish, though, because if you avoid veterinary care, you could possibly end up spending more since a small problem could easily turn into a bigger, more expensive one.

For instance, one of the things the vet will ask is about is your cat’s appetite, an extremely relevant question; if cats suddenly stop eating the body begins to use fat stores as fuel; they’re sent to the liver, to be broken down to supply nutrients. The liver sometimes can’t unable to process this fat as quickly as necessary, so the fat builds up in the liver, which interferes with normal function. The result is an illness called “Hepatic Lipidosis,” which can lead to dehydration and death.

Bottom-line, cats just can’t live for very long without food.

Here are some other reasons to take your pet–cat OR dog–for their checkups (excerpted from one of my January 12, 2012 post):

1. It’s easier to prevent the blaze rather than to extinguish the fire.  When a problem is still small, it can be less complicated and less expensive to manage. “I see this a lot with dental care,” says Michael Farber, DVM, of West Chelsea Veterinary in New York City.  “Sometimes people will wait until the tooth is abscessed before they come in, but if the problem was caught three or six months prior, that tooth probably could have been saved.”

2. You’ll learn how to keep your pet lean and fit:  If you think your pet’s extra pound or two isn’t a big-deal, think again:  A couple of extra pounds on an animal is comparable to 30-50 pounds on a human.

In the U.S., roughly half of dogs and cats are now considered to be overweight or obese, and that costs owners millions, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. When your pet is overweight it puts her at risk for chronic conditions, including diabetes, joint problems, and heart problems and more.. “The veterinary costs for these diseases can be sky-high,” said Farber. In fact, according to Healthy Pets at Mercola.Com, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VIP) said Americans paid $25 million in 2010 in veterinary bills for obesity-related problems, such as asthma, disc disease and ligament ruptures.

3. It will focus on prevention: Routine pet check-ups detect serious underlying problems, such as heart or kidney disease and, as with humans, early detection can help prevent a major, sometimes fatal, problem.

If you have financial concerns, the best thing to do, advises Farber, is not to ignore it, but to have an honest discussion with your pet’s doctor.  “Discuss your financial concerns and see if you can make a plan to prioritize those things that should be done immediately, what can wait—and for how long it can wait.”

National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day was this past August 22.  To commemorate, please take it to the vet if you haven’t already.

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Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a nutrition and wellness expert for both the 4-legged and the 2-legged.  A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she received her board certification from the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

To learn more about her human practice, please visit:  http://www.irenefross.com.

Irene’s free, twice-monthly newsletter “Power Wellness” is full of tips and suggestions for healthy eating and lifestyle (for the 2-legged).  You can subscribe here.

International Homeless Pet Day: Could This Be Your Time to Adopt?

You know that advertisement with the photo of the person standing next to an animal? The caption reads, “people are the best thing to happen to animals.”

True, but I often think it’s the other way around, because a cat or dog offers so many benefits and many of them are health-related.

Many tend to think of animal adoption primarily around the holidays–but the truth is that adopting a dog or cat is a wonderful gift at any time; most of them are just waiting to become part of a warm, loving family.  You can visit your local ASPCA, or animal shelter at any time.

That said, veterinarians, council members and shelter personnel from around the world come together on the third Saturday of August to raise awareness about the pet overpopulation epidemic.

This year, International Homeless Pet Day is Saturday, August 18. To commemorate, here’s an excerpt from one of my earlier posts as to why you should consider a mixed-breed dog:

1.   They often inherit the best traits of their family tree. Some people even insist that mixed-breeds are healthier; it’s never really been proven, but think about it:  If purebreds are prone to certain diseases, and if your dog possesses fewer of that breed’s genes, it does make sense.

2.  They are often already trained.  In many cases, these dogs already had an owner, but they might have been given away for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with the dog. Especially today, with the financial crisis that often leads to high levels of foreclosures, many are forced to move into quarters that do not accept dogs.  My neighbor’s dog came from a shelter; the dog was friendly, well-behaved, trained, socialized. ”Someone clearly look very good care of this dog before you got him,” I said.

3.  They adjust easily to most homes.  Many breeds are known for specific temperments, traits and other issues; for instance, we should think about whether or not they make good pets for households with kids, or if they make good companions for the elderly–or any number of things. Mixed-breed dogs, though, have fewer of their lineage’s genes–and that makes it much easier for them to adjust in most homes.

4. They can still be service dogs.  At one time, we only thought of certain breeds for service, but a mixed-breed is just as effective and appropriate, especially if they have specific genes in them.  For instance, labradors are known for their guiding skills and poodes for their intelligence.

5. You can skip the puppy period.  Raising a puppy is worthwhile, but hard work.  It requires a lot of time, patience and energy–and some just don’t have that, and would rather skip this stage.  With a mixed-breed shelter dog, you can.

6.  Good karma.  You’re saving a life.  Period.

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Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is also a nutrition and health coach for the 2-legged.  Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is:  www.irenefross.com.

Five Ways Cats Provide Health Benefits

As a nutrition and health coach who also loves animals, I like to say that I specialize in wellness–for BOTH the 4-legged as well as the 2-legged, especially since they experience many of the same illnesses and challenges we humans do, including colds, allergies and even stress.  (Did you know German Shepherds are one of the most stress-prone canine breeds around?)

Most of all, it’s no secret that pets keep us youthful and can even boost our immunity; in fact, there was a recent study in Finland that showed that kids who were around animals at an early age were less likely to develop ear infections than those who weren’t. (Read the full post, as well as the CNN story where this appeared, here.)

While kids did experience benefits from either cats or dogs, the ones with dogs fared slightly better.  So in the interest of fairness–and not wanting to give our feline friends short-shrift–here are five ways cats provide health benefits to humans:

1. Reduced stress levels

“I could be having the worse day ever,” said Karen O., “but I’ll instantly feel calmer when I walk in the door.”

2. Reduced blood pressure

At least one study suggests that, especially since cats help to lower stress and  blood pressure, they could actually lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

3. Lower cholesterol levels

4. Reduced risk of depression

5. Companionship

“They have such special little personalities,” said Nancy, who used to be the human parent of two cats.  “Just watching them play and interact gave me hours of fun.”

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Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a certified health and nutrition coach as well as a professional copywriter and public relations consultant.

Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, you can learn more about her either as a health coach or communications specialist by clicking either link and they will take you to her websites.

Are Breed-Specific Laws Effective?

Several years ago I was walking up Third Avenue in New York City to see a young adult beating his puppy with a cleated shoe.  When I stopped to confront this person, he shouted the worst chain of profanity I ever heard–and then continued to beat the puppy.

While animal abuse is reprehensible on all levels and for all breeds, this puppy was one that’s specifically targeted for ban by some states–the pit bull.

Now, my cousin has a pit bull who is one of the friendliest, nicest, most loyal dogs around.  And Logan (the pit bull) seems to have only one mood:Joyful. A few weeks ago, Logan put himself in grave danger to protect his family; they were all out in the yard and this very big, very scary black bear came out of the woods–standing upright on his hind legs.  Logan, who was in the house, spotted the bear, tore out of the house, opened the door (yes, he knows how to do that!) and chased the bear back into the woods.  Moments later, he returned, unscathed.

This is Logan, a pit bull mix (we think he has Black Lab in him, but no one is really sure.)

While dogs who attack people or other animals, are real and often serious problems in communities across the country, how to best address dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs is a complex–and emotional–issue.

Some city/municipal governments have enacted breed-specific laws (BSL), a term for laws that either regulate or ban certain breeds completely in the hopes of reducing dog attacks. Some of the targeted breeds include American Pit bull Terriers; Rottweilers; Doberman Pinchers; German Shepherds; Dalmatians; Chow Chows;  English Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers.

One wonders about the effectiveness of breed-specific legislation—or, as they should truly be called–breed-discriminatory laws; for instance, St. George’s County, MD spends $250,000 annually to enforce their ban on pit bulls; yet, a 2003 survey conducted by the county indicated that the community was no safer, despite the attempt.  Incidentally, New York, Texas and Illinois prohibits breed-specific legislation.

How much should the owner be held responsible? After all, some just let their dogs off the leash to roam unsupervised, even when they know there could be a problem. Sometimes, also, the dog can be just beaten and tortured so much he becomes fearful and aggressive toward any human being–I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that was the case of the animal I saw being beaten on Third Avenue.

And let’s remember that this problem doesn’t pertain only to dogs; a deli on my block had a mouse problem so they harbored a cat. A hungry cat would be a more effective hunter, they thought, so they never fed it.  Needless to say, the cat was out of its mind and once, when I was walking my dog, it shot out of the deli to get my dog.  I lifted my dog over my head to protect it and, as a result, I was severely clawed and bitten; since the cat owner refused to release any information on the cat’s health, the CDC recommended that I start on a series of rabies vaccines. Incidentally, the deli workers just stood and watched, not offering to help, because their boss ” was an a******  and deserved to get in trouble.

What do you think?