Keeping Your Pet Safe and Happy in Summer

One of the things I’ve found over the past couple of years is that pet wellness and human wellness isn’t really all that different.  Pets now suffer from many of the same lifestyle-based diseases as us, including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and more.


That also goes for summer-time dangers. Many of the things from which we need to protect our children–heat stroke, allergies, water dangers, insects–are the very things we should protect our pets from.

Julie Winton, a writer and mother-of-two, wrote this guest post.  By the way, she wants everyone to know what, when not busy raising her kids, she’s badgering her husband for a dog.

Here are some guidelines for helping your pet through summer:

  • Talking about Temperature

Heat stroke is one of the leading causes of canine death in the USA during summer months, and the temperature in your car can rocket very quickly even when parked up in a shaded area. Dogs cannot sweat from anywhere but the pads of their feet, so overheating can become a problem from which your pet may never recover.

Walk your dog first thing in the morning or in the evening–and never leave it–even for a few minutes. . Heat stroke isn’t entirely preventable, but by watching for symptoms and reacting quickly you could prevent a disaster during the hottest months of the year.

  • All about Allergies

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from hay fever. In early summer, pollen and spores can cause dogs to suffer discomfort although this tends to take the form of itching rather than watery eyes and sneezing. Regular grooming, oatmeal shampoo in cool water and avoiding heavily wooded areas should alleviate the majority of the symptoms but, in some cases, your vet may choose to prescribe antihistamines or steroid-based medication to further aid the healing process.

  • Vacation Precautions


A lot of families will choose to vacation in a place which will benefit the whole family, including members with four legs! This is great for socializing a young dog so long as you remember you are not in your home environment, and as such need to put paperwork in order before leaving.

One of the major factors in vacationing with your dog is remembering that your local vet is unlikely to be reachable in the event of an emergency – as such, researching local practices and noting the number and address of a few is advisable. Ensuring that your pet insurance will cover you away from home is also essential, especially if your pet has a pre-existing condition which could require urgent attention during your vacation. Should your trip consist of any strenuous activity, keeping in mind the above tips about temperature awareness is the first step, while owners of brachycephalic – or short faced – dogs should keep an eye out for signs of over-exertion. A new environment is exciting and can cause your dog to run around for much longer than they would in a familiar setting.

  • Water Safetycanstockphoto14353911dogswimming

If you have an exuberant breed like a Labrador or Dalmatian, chances are they leap into lakes and rivers before you can blink! While this is an excellent form of exercise and can help keep them cool on hot days, caution should always be exercised around deep water. If possible, you should teach your dog to swim in a body of water you know well, and encourage them to join you by playing with a tennis ball – this is best in a backyard pool or using a child’s pool for smaller breeds. Never throw a dog into the water, as this could scare them off the idea for life!

After your swim, carefully rinse your dog off using fresh, clean water. This is because pool water contains chlorine, which can dry out sensitive skin and cause a stomach upset if ingested during routine cleaning.

As President of the California Veterinary Medical Association, Dr Dean Henricks, points out that, “We find more injuries with dogs during the summer months as more dogs are in the back of pickup trucks and fall out, and in the wild they get bitten by rattlesnakes.”

By remaining vigilant and preparing for all situations, whether this is a walk or a vacation, you can keep your dog safe this summer.



Irene Ross also works with humans–as an integrative nutrition and holistic wellness coach. She helps people alter unhealthy habits with her easy, 7-step system–so they can balance their lives and ignite that spark that everyone has.

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:


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.


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:

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.

Six Ways to Keep Your Pet Healthy and Happy in the New Year

I heard some great advice today and it went like this:  “What you would do for yourself or your child is what I’d recommend you do for your dog or cat.”

Those words came from Phil Klein, vice president and primary consultant at Whiskers Holistic Pet Products in New York City.  He was responding to my question about maintaining your pet’s health in the New Year.

1.  Food.  Make sure you read labels on pet food, says Klein–and he reminds us that the primary protein source, whether it’s chicken or beef, should be listed as the first or second ingredient.  It also needs to be specific, not read as something vague like “meat meal.”

Be mindful that many nutrients and food items can appear under different names (sugar has at least 10 names) and could, therefore, actually be included in the ingredients many times over. So, for example, if your pet needs to be on a low carbohydrate diet, be sure you know which food items are classified as carbohydrates.  And so on.

Never leave food out all day for ‘self-feeding’ purposes, says Barbara Eisner, DVM, CVA, and one of the owners of Northside Veterinary Clinic in Brooklyn, NY. “It seems to be more of a practice with cat owners–but cats are not grazers so they’ll just eat and eat.  It would be like us snacking all day on cookies or some other treats.”

You may also want to cook for your pet, added Dr. Eisner. There’s nothing wrong with human food, she says, but you must follow a recipe and it must have a good ratio of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and other nutrients, such as fish oils.  (When my Westie became ill, I was advised to take him off dry food.  Every day he got freshly cooked chicken with sweet potatoes, parsley, probiotics and immunity boosters. It was minimal time for me, but maximum benefit for him–even at the height of his illness, he’d try to play with his toys.)

2.  Exercise:  It does depend upon the animal’s breed, personality and health, but as a general rule, cats need indoor play (there are a lot of climbing posts on the market today) and dogs need to go out for real walks–not just stops to relieve themselves.

3.  Dentistry:  “I can’t emphasize enough how important this is,” said Dr. Eisner.  “First, like humans, tooth and gum disease could possibly lead to other illnesses.  Second, they can’t tell us when they have a toothache, so if they’re snapping and growling, they could be in some kind of pain.  Of course they’d be grouchy!”

4.  Protection from elements.  In winter, protect paws with booties.  If the animal won’t let you put on boots (as my Westie wouldn’t!), thoroughly wipe (remember, salt gets between the toes) the feet when you come in.  If your dog has short hair, you might want to use a coat.  Anti-freeze has a sweet taste, so dogs can be drawn to it, but it’s poisonous so keep it out of their reach. Never leave an animal in a parked car in the summer.

5.  Adequate water.  Make sure the water dish is always full.  Cats don’t drink as often as dogs, so Dr. Eisner suggests putting a tiny, tiny bit of water in your cat’s food, whether it’s dry or canned.

6.  Be mindful of pet poisons.  Some foods, like chocolate, grapes, raisins and onions, can be highly toxic to a pet.  Many plants can cause digestive upset but some, such as some cactus varieties, can be downright poisonous if chewed. Tinsel is another culprit.  Always err on the side of caution and talk to your vet, if necessary.

And, remember, when holiday time rolls around again, pets can overindulge just as humans can.  Liz Luboja, practice manager at West Chelsea Veterinary in Manhattan told me recently that they see an increase of things like pancreatitis on the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas.

‘Tis The Season–To Adopt An Animal

During the holiday season we see many articles suggesting best gifts for the dog or cat.  The pet stores are stocked full of cute, safe, and practical toys, play and exercise systems, beds, garments or dishes.  Gourmet and organic treats make great stocking stuffers.

The very best gift, though, is to adopt a dog or cat, most of whom are just waiting to become part of a warm, loving family.  Visit your local shelter or ASPCA.

Some cities even have special events, such as New York’s Whiskers in Wonderland holiday pet adoption event. Hosted at the Metropolitan Pavilion by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the event–known as the largest of the season–features hundreds of cats, kittens, and rabbits.

Here are the details for the Whiskers in Wonderland 2011 event:

December 17 &18, 2011

Noon–6:00 p.m

Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, Manhattan


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP  ( also works with humans as a board certified wellness and nutrition coach.  She helps people alter unhealthy habits so they can bring their lives into balance.  The author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, is also an Ezine Expert Author.

Pet Obesity: Keeping Your Pet Lean and Healthy

Pet obesity can really sneak up on you. Many times, what we think is too skinny, is actually healthy, says Dr. Catherine Reid, DVM.

Dr. Reid is acting director of the Vet Tech Program at New York’s LaGuardia Community College.  She works weekends at New York’s East Side Animal Hospital.

Obesity and overweight have increased dramatically over the past two decades for humans, as well as our four-legged furry friends. In fact, says the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over half of U.S. dogs and cats are now considered to be overweight or obese, contributing to a wide range of health problems, including diabetes, joint problems, heart concerns and, in general, a shortening of your pet’s life.

Education is key.  Know what a healthy pet looks like, says Dr. Reid.  “A good standard is the Body Condition System by Purina.  In fact, it’s what most vets use,” she says.

Look at your pet from all angles, side and top.  The pet should have a “waistline” and you should be able to feel the ribs. Run your hand over the animal’s back and you should feel the spine.

If you still aren’t sure, though, it’s always wise to consult with your vet.

“As a beautician for the four-legged, I always recommend that people consult first with their vet if I suspect a problem,” said Katina Alton, proprietor of the Hell’s Kitchen Groom Room in New York City. “It’s important to have your vet examine the animal to be sure there are no health problems caused—or causing—the overweight problem.”

Remember that animals only eat for survival, added Dr. Reid.  “They only care about being rewarded–and you can do that without treats or table scraps.”

As for exercise, the amount always depends upon the animal’s breed, health and personality.  Just as people should check with their doctors before embarking on an exercise program, so, too, should you with your dog’s vet.

When Lauren Moore of Canine Styles needed to help her dog lose five pounds they walked and walked—“usually about two miles every other day.”  Moore also fed her dog only organic and every treat was high-grain,low fiber.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a board certified wellness and nutrition coach for humans.  She is author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time and Balance Your Life.  Her website is:

An Ezine Expert Author:, she also writes “Power Wellness,” a twice-monthly newsletter that can be subscribed to from her website.

Five tips to keep your furry friends fit during the holidays

Parties, long days, late nights, house guests, travel, separation from owners, and more can wreak havoc on the well-being of our pets during the holidays.  Signs of stress might include stomach upset, scratching, shedding, growling, restlessness, avoiding eye contact and more.

Here are five tips to help you get your pets through the Thanksgiving to New Year’s period happily and healthfully.

1.  Keep their routine as close to normal as possible.  Make sure they get plenty of sunlight and stimulation.  If you know you’re going to have a long day, ask a trusted friend– someone your pet knows and likes–to walk him or her, or even use your lunchtime to go home to spend a little time with them.  You can also employ a pet sitter, but just be sure the animal knows him or her beforehand.

2. Plan Ahead. “This isn’t the time to introduce someone new to your pet,” said Jillian Pagano, DVM, West Chelsea Veterinary in New York City.  Be sure to plan ahead.  If you think you might need some help during the holidays, be sure your pet is familiar with any pet sitters, groomers, dog walkers, or day care.  Ask a lot of questions and leave instructions and phone numbers.  Don’t be embarrassed about asking questions–pet sitters expect it– but if anyone seems annoyed by them…well….you have your answer to not use them!

3.  Make sure there’s a special room, or area, where your pet can go to get away from it all if you have house guests or if you’re having a party.  Include any special items, such as blankets, toys, water, a few grains of dried kibble, maybe an article of your clothing.

My Westie, Baxter, loved his crate so much I always kept it with the door ajar so he could go in and out as he pleased. Baxter saw the crate as his  room, a place of his own where he could get away from it all.  Once I had a house full of guests so he just let himself into the crate—and shut the door with his nose.  “Did he just do what I think he did?” asked one of my guests.

4.  Monitor diet.  Avoid table food, and a good alternative is to put a handful of dried kibble in your pocket so you can give a grain as a “treat.” “They really only care about being rewarded” said Dr. Pagano, “They don’t care about the types of food or the amount—the reaction will always be the same.”

When you buy pet biscuits or treats, read the labels as you would for your human family.  You want to be sure the crude fat content is very low, or non-existent.

It’s not just weight gain we need to think about.   Added Liz Luboja, the practice manager at West Chelsea:  “Overeating can also lead to things like pancreatitis—and we often see an upsurge of this on the days after Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

Whatever you do, don’t forget also that some food items can be toxic to an animal, namely chocolate, onions, raisins, grapes and macadamia nuts.  Chocolate-covered nuts are often in those boxes of holiday candies so be sure your pet can’t get into it. Ask your veterinarian or local ASPCA for a complete list of harmful items.

5.  Exercise.  This is a must, both physically and mentally, as it will help stimulate them and get them through any stress.  How much should your pet exercise?  “It really depends on the breed and the health of the animal,” said Dr. Pagano.  Generally, you may want to walk your dog ½ hour or a full hour a day. If it’s a cat, try to aim for five to 15 minutes of play.