canstockphoto5976994dogcatFor years we’ve been hearing that pets are good for our health and, today, 62 percent of all households in the United States own a dog or a cat. That compares to 56 percent in 1988. In 2011, pet owners spent a total of $51 billion–and that number is expected to increase in 2012. Of course, a big reason is there are just more pets–but, overall, they’re now, more than ever, seen as part of the family.

Everyone in the family absorbs the energy from each other so, in effect, their problems become ours, whether it’s a spouse, 2-legged child or 4-legged one. As one vet recently said, “If someone comes in with an overweight pet, 9 times out of 10, the owner will be overweight as well.”

So why have pets become such a big part of the family?

  • Americans have about a third fewer close friends today than they did 20 years ago — averaging two rather than the three they had, on average, in 1985—and pets fill those vacuums. Other interesting stats include:
  • Nearly a third of all pet owners say they’d rather rather chat with their cat after a long day than anyone else, and 39% say their cat is more likely than a romantic partner to pick up on their current mood.
  • Almost 95% of pet owners say their pet makes them smile at least once at least once a day and there have been multiple studies showing that pets lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, and boost mental and physical resiliency.
  • In 1994, roughly 15% of Americans reported increased anxiety in their lives. By 2009 that number had risen 49%, and it’s predicted to be even higher now. Want the SCIENTIFIC reason why pets help us reduce stress? It’s simple, really. When we cuddle, play with, and even just look at our pets we get a hefty boost of oxytocin, our body’s naturally occurring feel-good, stress-relieving, emotional-bonding hormone. So do our pets, by the way. Which makes all parties more relaxed and happy, and more deeply bonded.


When it comes to wellness, humans and non-humans aren’t really that different. Our pets get many of the same illnesses we do, from the simple common cold to the very common arthritis–and the even more serious illnesses like cancer. They also get stressed-out; many don’t think that can happen but, truthfully it does–did you know the German Shepherd is one of the most stress-prone animals around? Animal waistlines are expanding as rapidly as pet ones; in fact, according to the AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR PET OBESITY PREVENTION, 54 percent–that’s 88.4 million cats and dogs– of all pets in the United States are classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians. Simply, that means pet waistlines are expanding as rapidly as human ones.

So let’s think of everyone, pets included, when considering family wellness and nutrition!


About Irene:

Irene Ross is a certified nutrition and health coach who helps people alter unhealthy habits so they can balance their lives.  A wellness educator, for both the 2-legged and 4-legged, she conducts speeches, lunch ‘n learns, workshops, groups and individual classes.

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:


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.

Hypoglycemia in Pets

I have a really strong memory from childhood: My diabetic father always carried hard candy or little sugar packets in case he’d experience a sugar drop. Once, when walking through a business district, he witnessed someone seizing and shaking, immediately recognized it as a hypoglycemic attack and gave that person a hard candy.The symptoms immediately stopped and the person was taken to the hospital. EMTs told him he had saved a life.

Yes, hypoglycemia is a serious medical emergency that can lead to death–for the 4-legged as well as the 2-legged. Recognize the symptoms in both dogs and cats; the cause of hypoglycemia can range from something as simple as not eating enough during the day to a side effect of medication to a serious underlying condition–but a visit to the vet is always warranted.

“Any adult dog that is having hypoglycemic episodes should be checked thoroughly by a vet including blood work and abdominal ultrasounds to rule out pancreatic cancer, insulin producing tumors or other conditions that could result in abnormal blood sugar regulation,” said Dr. Catherine Reid, D.V.M.

The severity of symptoms depends upon the amount of the glucose drop.

In dogs: lethargy, weakness, disorientation, stupor, wobbling when walking, unbalance, excessive hunger,restlessness, shivering/shaking, convulsions or seizures and coma.

In cats: sleepiness and inability to wake, glassy eyes, drooling, coughing, excessive meowing or crying.  Sometimes they’ll even get aggressive.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a certified health and nutrition coach and she is a wellness expert for both the 4-legged and the 2-legged.  For more information, please visit her website:  She also writes a free, twice-monthly newsletter, “Power Wellness,” with information, suggestions and recipes for healthy nutrition and lifestyle.  To subscribe, click here.

Spring Cleaning: For Your Home, Garage, Yard–and PET

Keep your pet healthy and happy all year round. Put all toxic substances, like anti-freeze and garden chemicals, fully out of reach.

Happy Springtime!  This is when we clean out our homes, garages and yards–but let’s not forget our furry friends.  Many items are toxic and should be placed out of reach.

If you’re really not certain if an item is poisonous or not, err on the side of caution–and put it out of reach anyway.  As always, discuss any questions or concerns with a veterinarian.

Here are some places you’ll want to check, to be sure items are out of the reach of your pet:

  • Garage:  Dogs love the sweet taste of anti-freeze, but it’s extremely toxic.  Put that, and any automotive products out of reach
  • Laundry, utility room, pantry:  Pesticides, extermination fluid, some types of glue
  • Garden: Fertilizers, weed and snail killers, herbicides and chemicals

Cute Cat Photo

How’s this for a cute cat photo???  Laura is a cat-lover and devoted “cat mommy”–and even though these aren’t hers, she wanted to share this adorable photo with everyone!



Cat-mommy Laura also sent me a photo of her baby, Shayna. A 15-year-old Himalayan Seal Point, Shayna always comes when called, says Laura–and Shayna has to be wherever Laura is.  Shayna knows the words, “milk, cheese and tuna” and loves to play in boxes–she’s particularly fond of Amazon ones.  When it’s cold, Shayna meows in the morning until the heater is put on, so she can sit in front of it and get all warm.

Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a nutrition and wellness coach for the 2-legged.  Irene helps people instantly double their energy so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their lives.  Her website is:

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