February is National Pet Health and Dental Month

Has it been a while since you’ve taken your 4-legged furry friend for a health or dental checkup?  If so, this is a good way to celebrate; remember, February is also the MONTH OF LOVE–what better way to show that than giving the gift of health?

That said, this is a post that was written last year–and certainly just as relevant today!


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 who helps people alter unhealthy habits so that they can balance their lives.  Irene focuses on “The Wellness-Centered Family,” which includes both the 2-legged human and 4-legged furry children. “Our pets are prone to many of the same things we are, from the obesity epidemic to lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

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:  http://www.irenefross.com.


Valentines for Animals

I received the ASPCA newsletter today, and they featured a really sweet Valentine’s Day gift that would also help animals.  You make a gift in the name of your favorite animal lover and they send out a card to that person.

The gift can be things like donating supplies to keep shelter animals and resuced horses comfortable or perhaps therapy-cat training kits.



Isn’t this a wonderful idea?

To learn more, call your local ASPCA look online at http://www.aspca.org.


Bravo and well said!! I remember when I was a kid, my parents NEVER washed the dog’s bowl (yuk) because they just didn’t think it was necessary. But, more and more, people need to realize that pets–all cats and dogs–are prone to many, many of the same things we are–and that includes bacteria piling up on a dirty bowl. (I even tell people to be sure the dishwasher door is closed tightly, since pets will try to reach and rummage for food–on an unwashed plate!

All Pets Allowed

Imagine eating off of the same plate day after day without washing it.  Is that what you’re asking your pet to do?  I know I don’t wash my cats’ bowls as much as I should but I do try to wash them.

It’s good to wash your pet’s food bowls for their health and your health.  Harmfull bacteria could multiply on food left in the bowls and the bacteria can be bad for your pet.  You could potentially swallow this bacteria if you touch the bowls and then eat without washing your hands.

Part of the reason they recall pet foods is because Salmonella poses a risk to the humans feeding the food.  And the couple pet food recall notices that I looked at did mention that people handling the food should be sure to wash their hands after feeding their animals.  It’s probably a good idea in general…

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Wouldn’t you be grouchy if you had a toothache that wasn’t treated?

February is both National Pet Health Month and National Pet Dental Month.  What better way to celebrate than to take your furry little child to the vet for a check-up?canstockphoto5976994dogcat

A lot of people tend to ignore pet dental disease;  in fact, I remember the time when a former co-worker overheard me booking a dental cleaning for my cairn terrier, Dudley.  “Oh, come on,” he said, “That really isn’t necesssary.”

Oh, but it is! The fact is, pets suffer from the same things we do–cavities, gingivitis and the like.  And, just like us, an untreated tooth infection can lead to other problems–like the heart.

So get your pet used to brushing at a very early age; the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) recommends once daily–but if that isn’t possible, at least do it several times a week.  There are special toothpastes and mouthwashes made just for pets (NEVER use human toothpaste as it contains substances that can be toxic. And don’t use a toothpaste formulated for cats on your dog and vice versa, because one species might have a stronger reaction to something that another).  There are also dental foods and treats that are formulated to help reduce tartar.

And don’t forget about professional cleaning and X-rays!  Discuss a schedule with your vet.


Irene Ross is a certified nutrition and wellness coach.  Her core program is called “The canstockphoto8139755petscookiesWellness-Centered Family”–and that includes everyone, even the 4-legged furry children. “Everyone in the family absorbs the energy of each other, and pets are just as prone to things, such as obesity, stress, flu, arthritis and more.”

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:  http://www.irenefross.com




We’ve all heard the stories about the flu epidemic among people and, even though it’s not all that common, pets can also get the flu.  Know also that it can be highly contagious among animals, so shelters, boarding kennels, daycare facilities, etc.can be hotbeds.

Remember 2009?  People got the H1N1 virus from pigs–and then gave that virus to cats and dogs who often fell ill or died.canstockphoto7741255pethealthsign

Bacteria and viruses have zoonotic properties.  Zoonotic means simply that it can be passed back and forth between people and pets.

So here’s what to look out for in your dog or cat: Labored breathing and cough, whether wet or dry, are common symptoms.  So is lethargy or discharge from the nose or eyes. Gastrointestinal tract problems can also occur, so if you see them, check for any additional symptoms, above.

A healthy lifestyle–plenty of sleep, high-quality food and plenty of fresh, clean water, is critical always, but especially now.  Also check that your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date.  If you board, groom, or send your pet to day-care, ask them about their health policies, particularly regarding the flu.  Since it is so contagious among animals, keep yours away from any cat or dog who looks sick.

You should also discuss any other preventative measures with your vet.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a certified health and nutrition coach who specializes in wellness for the entire family, including the 4-legged furry children.  “Everyone absorbs the energy of each other, so it’s best to coach as a family–and animals are just as vulnerable to the same things as people, including obesity (which is now up to 54 percent in this country), arthritis, stress and lifestyle-based diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

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:  www.irenefross.com


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:  http://www.irenefross.com.

The Holidays: Remember That Pets and Fire Don’t Mix

Costumes can be cute on animals, but they’re also fire hazards, especially if they get too near lit candles.

Any pet, whether wild or domesticated, can start a house fire.  (Even mice have been known to chew electrical wiring). According to the National Fire Protection Association, pets are responsible for at least house fires per year–and the American Red Cross says over 500,000 pets are affected by fires per year.

It’s especially appropriate to talk about this during the holiday season, because there is probably a lot of cooking and baking going on–and dogs accidentally and frequently turn on stoves. The dog looks for food, jumps on the counter, sees an appealing item on or near the stove, the paw slips and the knobs turn. Yes, it really happens! According to the National Fire Protection Association, a stove or cook top is the number one piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire.

Dogs and cats can chew through Christmas tree lights, or knock over lit candles and space heaters with their tails.

And those dancing flames and crackling embers in fireplaces are fascinating!

Play it safe:  Remove stove knobs–and even better, train your dog not to counter surf; keep lit candles out of reach or, better yet, use the flameless ones; and supervise and secure your animals when you’re not home.


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: http://www.irenefross.com/as-the-wellness-pro-also-for-our-4-legged-furry-friends

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.