We Know Pets Can Help Keep Us Youthful, But Do They Also Keep Us Healthier?

There has been a lot of research as to how animals can help keep us youthful, but a study from Finland recently found that children who are around pets the first years of their lives are less prone to illnesses, especially ones like the ear infections for which kids are so known.

Although those around cats were still protected, they were a little less so than infants who were around dogs.

No one really knows for sure why and, although officials readily acknowledge that more research is needed, one thought is perhaps that the more time a dog spends outside, the more dirt he or she drags in–and that somehow stimulates the child’s immune response.

This story was reported on CNN; to read the entire story, click here.

What do you think about this?


Caring for your pet

Dudley, a cairn terrier, was my first dog as a grown-up.  A few days before his arrival, there was a flurry of activity—interviewing vets, pet-sitters, dog-trainers, creating his own spot, buying food, toys and leashes, etc.  At that time, I had a job that required a lot of travel–and I wanted to keep his routine as uninterrupted as possible– so I also interviewed house-sitters.

When I mentioned that to someone, she just scoffed and said, “You don’t have to do anything special.  Dogs just require affection, nothing more.”

A few years later, someone overheard me making an appointment for Dudley’s dental cleaning.  Once again, I heard the scoff–only this person actually tried to ridicule me by not only laughing and telling ME it was a waste of money but also laughing and telling anyone in the office who would listen…my reply to him was, well, I can’t repeat it here.

Bringing a pet (dog or cat) into your environment is just like bringing a baby home–only the pet permanently stays in that toddler phase.  (I used to compare my dog, Dudley, to a two-year old). There’s grooming, training, vet visits, medications, good quality food, toys–and that responsibility needs to be taken seriously. And circling back to dental care, that’s not an unnecessary expense; as with humans, the result of neglect can have serious consequences, from tooth decay,cavities and broken teeth to the millions of bacteria invading their hearts.

Many years later another dog, my Westie Baxter, develop a fast-growing cancer at the age of 16. His prognosis was terrible; he had eight weeks at most to live.My single-pointed focus was only to make his last days as comfortable as possible.  I constantly bought him acupuncture treatments so his pain could be diminished naturally.  Every Saturday he got either a reiki treatment (which he loved) or a massage.

By the last week of his life, even though he couldn’t play, he DID try to pick up his toys.

So here’s the point:  Pets aren’t just playthings, they require care.  Please think long and hard about if you’re willing or able to take on that responsibility before bringing one home.

How To Recognize Heat Stroke in a Dog



Summer can be the most dangerous season for your pet. While cats are affected by the heat, they mostly stay inside; dogs, on the other hand, love to romp outside. They don’t sweat the way humans do, so their body temperature is regulated mostly through respiration–panting. If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot remove heat quickly enough, heat stroke can occur.

Heatstroke is an emergency and should be treated immediately.

Following are some situations that can cause heat stroke and dehydration in your pet:
■ Being left in a car in hot weather
■  Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
■  Being a flat, short headed breed, such as Bulldog, Pug, or Pekingese
■  Suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing
■  Being muzzled while put under a hair dryer
■  Suffering from a high fever
■  Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
■  Being confined without shade and fresh water in hot weather
■  Having a history of heat stroke

Symptoms include:
■  Excessive panting
■  Hyperventilation
■  Increased salivation
■  Dry gums that become pale, grayish and tacky
■  Rapid or erratic pulse
■  Weakness
■  Confusion
■  Inattention
■  Vomiting; diarrhea; and possible rectal bleeding

If you think your dog has heatstroke, get him into the shade immediately. Take the dog’s temperature; a normal, resting temperature for a dog is between 100-102 degrees. Cool off his body with cool, not cold water; use running water, such as a hose. Don’t submerge the dog in a pool or tub–it can cause shock, cardiac arrest and bloating. Whatever you do, don’t try to give him any of those human, electrolyte drinks but, rather, stick with plain, fresh water.

Once his temperature starts to drop, take him to the veterinarian immediately.


A Little Research and Advance Planning Make Pet Adoption Easier

A couple of years ago, a dog who frequently stayed with me when his “parents” traveled–and who loved my home–accidentally saw his parent’s suitcases.  Excited at the thought that he was going with them, he became agitated and upset once he saw them get in the car and drive away and, for several hours, he made it clear that he wasn’t at all interested in staying with me, despite toys, play, tummy rubs and treats.

The point is this:  He was probably even that much more reactive since he was once adopted–and then abandoned–by an elderly person who just couldn’t handle this dog’s (good-natured) mischief and high energy. Although it had been a few years since that abandonment–and although, for the most part, he adjusted to his new home, they just never forget.

So it’s important to remember that, when adopting, you’re quite sure the breed suits you and your family–and that you really want it and are committed to a 10+ year commitment.

It’s also never really a good idea to give someone a pet as a gift, unless you know for sure that they want one.  This may sound a little contradictory, since the holiday season is fraught with pleas to adopt animals.  But here’s the problem: A lot of times, well-intentioned people will give a dog or a cat to someone who doesn’t really want it at all, is allergic, or who wants one, but not that breed.  (I once knew someone who wanted to give my mother–who is severely allergic–a cat.  Luckily, I was able to stop it before it got too far.) When that happens, unfortunately, the animal often ends up back at the shelter.

A little research and some advance planning will ensure that you and your future pet have the best living situation possible.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a nutrition and wellness coach–for the two-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 (for humans) is:  www.eating4achieving.com.