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:


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:

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.