Summer Vacations–Why You Should Think About Taking Your Pet Along

A summer holiday can be just what the doctor ordered– for both of you!

Think about it.  Domesticated animals suffer from the same stresses as you and me. They’re usually home alone while we go to the office, and often put in long hours, and when you’re tired, stressed and worried that’ll also be mirrored by your pet.

Now add all of that up to the unhappiness and anxiety a pet will feel when being left at a kennel–and you have one very unhappy, nervous and anxious pet.


The most important thing is that you and your pets have the time of your lives. Medical research shows vacations are the ultimate in relieving stress for you and your loved ones. Summer holidays should be filled with all the old clichés; sun, sea, sand–and. oh and your pet too!

Why Vacation With Your Pet?


Taking a pet on vacation can seem like a lot of extra work when planning, booking and preparing for the trip. But leaving him in boarding kennels or with friends can mean even more logistical planning and this decision hardly has your animal’s best interests at heart. Not only is he affected but research states that over 10.5 million people feel their vacation enjoyment was damaged by continually worrying about a pet at home. Obtaining health certificates and vaccinations is not as difficult as you might think, most of the jabs and procedures required are the same that any responsible pet owner will be up to date with anyway. If you’ve made the decision to take your (probably now ecstatic) pet on vacation then you can start the fun part and consider where to go!

Exotic Vacations

If you’re stressed out from work you’ll be dying to take a long exotic summer holiday. Beaches and palm trees mean days spent relaxing in the sun. While you enjoy sunbathing at the beach or sipping cocktails by the pool your dog could be playing ball along the golden sand, splashing in refreshing sea water. Destinations that are both appealing to you and offer something for your pet are many!

  • Why not consider crossing the border for a couple of weeks and experience Mexican beaches Cancun or Acapulco.
  • The Caribbean is just a plane ride away and islands like Puerto Rico or Barbados offer the height of luxury for you and your pet.
  • If hiking and mountain trails appeal to you then Yellowstone National Park offers so much in terms of outdoor activities and wildlife spotting.
  • A perfect vacation spot inside of USA territory Hawaii is not only packed full of beaches but culture and wildlife too!
  • Something that combines all of the above and takes you to several destinations is a cruise. You may not have thought it possible to bring your most beloved along but pet cruises are growing in popularity as they offer so much more than a one-trip summer vacation.


Bringing your pet on vacation will be one of the best holidays you’ve ever experienced but you must take into account that some forms of travel for pets are less than comfortable. Long car trips for animals often equal anxiety and travel sickness. Ensuring your pet is properly trained and comfortable in the car before setting out on a road trip will make everyone’s journey more agreeable. Making sure your dog, cat or other furry pet has enough food (some recommend no food for twelve hours before a car ride if your dog or cat gets car sick), water, adequate bathroom stops and fresh air will aid a cheerful trip. Planes and boats have advantages and disadvantages for pets; they are often a smoother ride than a car but pets normally have to travel in crates in cargo areas away from their owner. Normally on ships pets must stay below deck either in an assigned area or inside your car but on luxury pet cruises pets are allowed on deck, in cabins and even have allotted play areas for meeting other pets or playing with their owner!


What to Pack

Your pet’s luggage should be packed with as much care as your own. There might be a little more to take than you had first considered!

  • Initially your pet may need to travel in a crate so extra room should be left for this sometimes large commodity.
  • Packing your pet’s bed and blankets will make his stay more comfortable and homely. Water and food bowls along with toys and treats should go in the bag.
  • Look into what pet foods if any your vacation location is offering as you may need to take enough of your pets favourite for the duration of the trip. Changes in diet can mean an upset stomach and an ill pet is enough to ruin any holiday.
  • If you’re going to be in high temperatures and out in the sun a lot, your pet will need sunscreen too!
  • Any medicines especially those which are routinely taken need to be remembered as do spare collars leashes and identification tags.
  • You’ll need to look into veterinarians at your destination or with your travel provider. Make sure you have emergency numbers you can call in the event of an accident.

This guest post was written for Furry Friends Have Fun by Julie Winton.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is an integrative nutrition and holistic wellness coach who works with both humans and non-humans.  She believes that everyone has the spark, but it just needs to be ignited–so she helps people alter unhealthy habits and balance their lives with her easy 7-step system.  She also has a program for both people AND pets–called, appropriately enough, “Transforming People and Pets.”

Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story and 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:



Spring cleaning can be a perfect time to do things like change lights and smoke alarms. At that time, I was living in a building with very high ceilings–and I’m terrified of heights– so I had someone change the light for me, but he didn’t screw it on tightly enough. So eventually the light came crashing down, causing glass to shatter all over the floor.  Luckily, my dog was in another room, but if he had been there he would have been very seriously hurt–or worse.


Here’s the point:  We can just never be too careful.  Even something as innocuous as a rake can fall down and injure a five-pound cat.

Raking is a big part of garden clean-up, but it can fall and injure a small cat.

Raking is a big part of garden clean-up, but it can fall and injure a small cat.

Even the prettiest shrubs and flowers can be toxic to animals; in fact, all versions of the lily can cause kidney failure in cats, the Seattle Post was told in 2011.  For more information, please visit:

As for our canine friends, well, just a few poisonous plants are hyacinths, hydrangea, oleander and lily of the valley.

.Here are some other toxic items:

  • Anti-freeze:  Dogs love the sweet taste so they can be naturally drawn to it.  Put that, and any automotive products out of reach
  •  Pesticides, extermination fluid, some types of glue
  •  Fertilizers, weed and snail killers, herbicides and chemicals

You can get a complete list of toxic items from your local ASPCA–and, of course, discuss all concerns and questions with your veterinarian.

About Irene:

Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a certified integrative nutrition and holistic wellness coach.  Also a writer, she has written numerous articles on pet nutrition and wellness and has now developed a program called, “The Wellness-Centered Family” that focuses on health for all children, whether they have two or four legs.

Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story, and 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:

Pet Obesity is a Huge (Pun Intended!) Problem


You often hear me speak of the pet obesity problem and how serious it is; pet waistlines are expanding as quickly as humans.

This leads to chronic problems, such as diabetes and pre-diabetes; heart problems; arthritis and more. In general, a possible shortening of the lifespan of 2.5 years.

Take a look at this video from “Good Morning America.” It’s only three years old, but the pet obesity rate in this country was 40 percent; now it’s estimated to be over 50 percent, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. That’s how fast it’s increasing.

How to keep your pet healthy and happy during the short, dark days of the season

It’s Thanksgiving, a time to give special thanks to our wonderful furry friends.  What better way than to think of ways to keep them healthy and happy during the season?

Tip #1: Keep pets safe and secure during  those shorter autumn and winter days

Many of us will have to walk our dogs in the darkness for the next few months, and reduced light makes it more challenging for drivers to see animals (and people) in driveways, sidewalks, and roads.

If you walk your dog or if you have an outdoor cat:

  • Supervise as much as possible and exercise control by using a leash and collar or chest harness; those long, retractable leashes can make it pretty tough to stay in command, so you might want to avoid them.
  • Keep pets confined to a closed space so they can’t sneak out through opened doors if you are cleaning up after a storm. Outdoors pets love to roam and they just won’t understand how unsafe it is after a major storm.
  • Wear bright, easy-to-see clothing when walking your dog.
  • Use tags and microchips–everything possible to ensure their safe return if they do get lost.
  • This might also be a good time to teach your dog and cat the “come” obedience command if you haven’t already.  Yes, cats are trainable, too!  An added benefit is that even the shortest training session requires a lot of focus from your pet–so it will really exercise his or her brain and tire him or her out.

If you have any questions, talk to a professional dog trainer; your vet can make a recommendation.

Tip #2: Keep pets confined indoors while you are doing your yard work. 

One of my happiest memories was jumping into a pile of raked leaves (which, needless to say, vexed my father no end). It’s not all good, though, because piles of moist leaves can harbor bacteria and fungus–and that can be toxic to animals if they swallow/eat any of those substances from licking the ground or their paws.

You might burn leaves as part of your fall clean-up, but smoke and plant oils can irritate your pet’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin.

All animals can be started by noises, but cats get especially spooked, so be mindful if you’re using leaf blowers or mowers and other yard gadgets.

Tip#3:  The days are shorter, but don’t skimp on exercise.

  • True, they won’t be able to go out as much, so compensate with some extra play to keep both their minds and body fit.  If you have a dog, you may want to invest in a dogwalker or have a trusted friend or family member take them out every day. If you have a cat, make sure they can access a sunny (but closed!) window.  Remember, animals need sunshine, too!


About Irene:

Irene Ross is a certified nutrition and health coach, a wellness pro for both the 2-legged and 4-legged.

For the 4-legged, she writes frequently on the topics of pet wellness.

For the 2-legged, she helps people get off the diet roller coaster–to lose the weight, keep it off and love their healthy and happy bodies so their “fabulousness” shine.

“Healthy weight is a lot more about simply walking away with a list of so-called good foods and bad foods. It’s about a lot of things. Like learning how to balance blood sugar and knowing about the connection between hormones and processed foods and the adrenals and thyroid–among other things. And they need to know that everything feeds us; for instance, career, relationships, self-care, because if just one thing is out of balance they’ll always be, well, hungry.”

To learn more about Irene:

She is author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life.

Her twice-monthly, free newsletter, “Power Wellness,” is full of tips, recipes and information for healthy nutrition and lifestyle.  To subscribe, click here.

Tracheal Collapse in Dogs is More Common than You Might Think


One day I came home from work to find my cairn terrier, Dudley, coughing and gagging. Everytime he’d open his mouth to bark, a cough came out. When I rushed him to the vet, I was told that, although the trachea had not yet collapsed, it was very bruised. I was asked if Dudley was a leash-puller. Yes! I was advised to immediately remove his collar and use a harness.

Fast forward to several years later. I had just gotten my Westie, Baxter, and went to the breeder to pick him up. I brought a harness with me. When I put it on him, the breeder (who was very involved in the show-dog world) said (no exaggeration), “I want you to know I don’t approve of that because of what it does to the fur.”

Since my single-pointed focus was to attend to Baxter’s health and wellbeing–I couldn’t have cared less about him being a show dog–I said, “And I want YOU to know that I don’t care what you think–this is no longer your dog.”

I relayed the conversation to Baxter’s doctor the next day who told me I was absolutely right in insisting on the use of a harness rather than a collar. I was also told by two friends that very same week that they had experienced collapsed tracheas in their dogs (one was also a cairn.)

Please be sure to either listen to this video or read the transcript from Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, a veterinary expert.

Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

Transcript follows:

By Dr. Becker

Tracheal collapse is a chronic, progressive disease involving the windpipe, or trachea.

The trachea is somewhat like a vacuum cleaner hose that contains small rings, in this case cartilage that keeps the airways open.

The rings are C-shaped, with the open part of the “C” facing upward.

Running along the top opening of the C-rings is a band of tissue called the dorsal membrane.

How the Trachea Collapses

In certain dogs, the rings of cartilage are either not formed correctly at birth, or they weaken and begin to change from a C-shape to more of a U-shape.

As the dorsal membrane stretches, the cartilage rings get progressively flatter until eventually the trachea just collapses, leaving the dog trying to pull air through what is essentially a closed straw.

Tracheal collapse can be congenital, which means it’s present from birth, or it can be acquired. When the condition is congenital, it appears to be a result of a deficiency in certain components of the cartilage rings, like calcium, chondroitin, glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans.

Acquired tracheal collapse is often caused by chronic respiratory disease, Cushing’s disease and heart disease. Collapse of the trachea in the neck occurs when the dog breathes in. Collapse of the trachea in the chest occurs when the dog breathes out. The collapse can involve the bronchi that feed air to the lungs, which results in serious airway obstruction in the dog.


Tracheal collapse is most common in small breed dogs like the Chihuahua, Lhasa apso, Maltese, Pomeranian, pug, Shih Tzu, toy poodle and the Yorkie.

One of the first signs of tracheal collapse can be a sudden attack of dry coughing that sounds a little bit like a goose honk. It progresses from the goose honk sound to a more consistent cough and often occurs when there’s pressure placed on the dog’s trachea. This can happen when the dog is picked up or if the collar is pulled.

As the disease progresses, the dog can develop exercise intolerance, obvious respiratory distress, and gagging while eating or drinking.

Some dogs with tracheal collapse can turn blue when they are excited or stressed. Certainly, secondary heart disease can result from the consistent straining to breathe.

Some dogs have both laryngeal paralysis and tracheal collapse. These dogs usually make a wheezing sound when they breathe in.

Diagnosis of Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse can sometimes be seen on a regular X-ray as a narrowing of the tracheal lumen, or opening.

Fluoroscopy, which is a moving X-ray, allows the vet to visualize the dog’s trachea as he breathes in and out.

An endoscopy allows a view of the inside of trachea with a tiny camera. It really provides the best way of viewing the inside of the airway. During this time, the veterinarian can also take samples of the trachea for culture and sensitivity tests or additional analysis.

Sometimes an echocardiogram is recommended to evaluate heart function.

Any disease of the upper or lower airway can be mistaken for tracheal collapse, including a foreign object in the airway, laryngeal paralysis, an elongated soft palate, infection of the trachea, lungs, or heart failure, as well as tumors or polyps. So it’s pretty important that you get a definitive diagnosis and not just a guess.

Treatment Options

Conventional medical management of mild to moderate cases of tracheal collapse involve the use of cough suppressants, antispasmodics, bronchodilators, and sedatives to help reduce coughing spasms and the associated anxiety.

It’s important to break the coughing cycle, because coughing irritates the airway and leads to more coughing.

If infection is present, of course, that has to be addressed as well. And certainly if the dog is overweight, it’s really important that he lose weight.

I also recommend you evaluate your dog’s environment. It should be smoke-free and free of other environmental pollutants.

Any dog with a collapsing trachea should be walked using a harness only. I absolutely do not recommend anything around the neck, as reducing all pressure at the throat is really important for these dogs.

Medical management works for about 70 percent of dogs with the mild form of this condition. Holistic veterinarians usually recommend cartilage builders to help maintain the integrity of the tracheal cartilage.

These supplements can include glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, eggshell membrane, and CMO, which is also called cetyl myristoleate. Sometimes, chiropractic and acupuncture have also been demonstrated to reduce the intensity of the duration of coughing episodes.

In more severe cases or for dogs who don’t respond to medical management, sometimes surgery is recommended. If the collapse is happening in the neck or the thoracic inlet, plastic rings are placed surgically around the inside of the trachea.

If the collapse is deeper in the chest, often a stent is placed in the trachea. A stent is basically like a tiny spring that holds the trachea open.

Repair of a tracheal collapse is a very specialized surgical procedure. Don’t let your veterinarian tell you that it’s no big thing. These particular procedures have significant potential for complications. They should only be performed by a veterinary surgeon that has really extensive knowledge and a well-equipped hospital with a staff able to help your dog recover from this significant procedure in an appropriate manner.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a certified nutrition and wellness coach for the two-legged. She works with people to help them instantly double their energy so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their lives.

Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, she writes a free, twice-monthly newsletter called “Power Wellness.”  You may subscribe by entering your e-mail address in the “join my mailing list” box on the home page of her website: and you’ll automatically receive a copy of her e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story.

How To Travel Stresslessly With Your Pet


Traveling with my pet always caused a lot of stress and worry–for me, but probably also for my dog.  I’d always worry about air travel, asking myself things like “Can he be in the cabin with me?” “If he has to go into cargo, will he get out, like we hear on so many of those awful news stories?”  or even “Will he be traumatized in a new, different atmosphere without me?”

I’d worry about the car–“but he has no seat belts!”

Even a trip across town was an exercise in frustration because, even though I have  good arm strength, those carriers can be pretty bulky and heavy–and my muscles would inevitably start shaking with fatigue.

So after a particularly grueling experience, I was discussing this problem with a friend, another pet lover.  She told me about this great carrier.  It’s really changed my life (well, that part of it anyway.) I want to be sure that I want to share with all of you.  It’s called SturdiBag and it’s ultra light (but durable) and is the preferred carrier by a lot of airlines (both domestic and international). It’s also kind of soft and cozy inside, so if he has to go into cargo, I know he’s feeling as comfortable and secure as he could in that situation.

Most important, it has those all-important safety straps for car travel. So check it out, I paid about $90 for mine and was able to find it in one of the local pet stores.



Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a NYC-based, certified nutrition and wellness coach for the 2-legged. She works with people to help them alter their unhealthy habits, so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their lives.

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:

She also writes a twice-monthly free newsletter called “Power Wellness.”  To subscribe, either click here or visit her website to sign up.


Three Reasons Not To Cut Costs On Your Pet’s Health

In a down economy everyone tries to make cuts–but your pet’s health shouldn’t be one of them.

Just as with humans, early detection is best.  Regular pet checkups will monitor your animal’s overall health, focus on prevention and education—and, quite possibly, save you money in the long-term. Please remember also that your pet can’t tell you when it’s in pain; what you might think is just routine bad behavior can actually be an acting out for a tooth-ache, stomach-ache, or something else. Ever hear the story of the cat that urinated in the bathtub?  Turns out the cat only wanted to bring her urinary tract infection to the attention of the owner.

Here are three good reasons not to skip your pet’s checkup:

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.

Here’s the problem, though. Many people just don’t know how a fit pet should look, but a veterinarian will teach you how to monitor your pet.   You’ll also most likely get advice and suggestions to help your pet lead the healthiest lifestyle possible.

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.”


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a certified nutrition and wellness coach—for the two-legged–who helps people alter unhealthy habits so they can bring their lives into balance. She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she studied over 100 dietary theories, lifestyle management techniques and cutting-edge coaching methods with instructors such as Deepak Chopra, MD; Dr. David Katz: Dr. Mark Hyman; Geneen Roth; Dr. Andrew Weil and many others. She received her board certification from the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways To Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, she is an Ezine Expert Author: and an Examiner.Com Manhattan Life Coach Examiner:

Her website is: