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.

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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?

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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.

Transportation

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!

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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.

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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: http://www.irenefross.com.

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Pets, our health and happiness: 3 things animals teach people

I first wrote about this subject last March.  I’ve been doing an enormous amount of thinking about it lately, especially since I’m constantly drawing correlations between the health needs of humans and non-humans alike. Health experts are constantly telling us about the health benefits of pet ownership and there have been numerous studies and scientific evidence.  They can teach us at least 3 things–but maybe more.

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I read a thought-provoking article recently on the Purely Puppy blog from PetMD. A client brought her new puppy in to the vet for a first visit. The vet kept trying to conduct a health history, but the conversation just kept circling back to the owner’s past pet who, apparently, was perfect. This isn’t unusual, the vet says, because when pet owners suffer a devastating loss of a past pet, they often try to project those memories on the new animal, often leading to disappointment, unfairness and discomfort.

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This article really made me think hard. My dog, Baxter, a Westie, was the perfect dog; he was healthy, happy, smart, funny and loving. He was also ultra calm; even the vet commented that nothing ever seemed to upset him.

When Baxter passed away, it was a long time before I could ever think of getting another pet. I finally began to look at other Westies, but this article made me wonder if I was just trying to reproduce another Baxter. Would be a better idea for me to go with a completely different canine breed–or maybe even a different species, like a cat?

It also made me remember how I once tried to project those “perfect-pet” memories on Baxter. It was grossly unfair to Baxter, overwhelmingly sad for me and, I’m sure, very uncomfortable for those around us.

You see, Baxter’s predecessor, Dudley, a Cairn Terrier, was another “perfect pet.”  I was devastated when he died. Dudley and I had many wonderful, sweet memories, but the most poignant one was this: Every Saturday morning, Dudley and I went to puppy kindergarten class and later, weather permitting, we’d go into a nearby park for a walk, play and fun.

I brought Baxter home only two weeks after Dudley’s passing. Westies and Cairns are very similar in breed; in fact, the American Kennel Club once considered them the same breed. I immediately enrolled Baxter in the very same puppy kindergarten class, and planned to play with him in that same park afterward. I mistakenly thought I could produce those same exact memories, but all it did was flood me with crushing sadness. I was unfocused, distracted, and even burst into tears during the class. It was at that moment that I learned that Baxter and I needed to create our own memories, not just ride on already-existing ones.

There are many ways to honor a memory.  Actually, this blog is one of them, because it’s dedicated to both Baxter and Dudley.  Other ways to honor might be to volunteer at, or donate to, a shelter. You can even volunteer at a rescue; maybe a local veterinarian needs some volunteer help.  You can also be an “aunt” or “uncle” to a canine or feline neighbor. I used to take care of a neighbor’s dog; Kris worked long hours outside of the home. I have a home office so I’m often around.  Kris’ dog had his own toys, bowls and treats at my house, so he probably just thought of it as his second home.

Meanwhile, the veterinarian and author of the article, urges us to think of all our animals and what they contributed to our lives; my cairn, Dudley, taught me patience, because he would constantly test me and try to outsmart me.  Baxter taught me about happiness, because he had one mood only: sheer joy–and that tells me you really can find something positive in almost any situation. Duchess, my childhood dog, was always my “protector.’  A cousin’s cat, Meow-Meow, started life in the most horrifying way, but is now healthy, happy and very well-adjusted; that makes me think we should always be hopeful, even in the most dire situation. Another cousin’s dog, Logan, taught me about courage and loyalty–especially when he protected his family be chasing a bear away from the house and into the woods (He’s totally okay–came back completely unscathed.)

This is Logan, who put himself in grave danger last summer when he chased a black bear off property to protect his little (human) brothers.

This is Logan, who put himself in grave danger last summer when he chased a black bear off property to protect his little (human) brothers.

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About Irene: Irene Ross is an integrated nutrition and wellness coach.  She works with both humans and non-humans to help them alter unhealthy habits so they look and feel great and finally get off that diet roller coaster!

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

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.

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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

 

 

THE WELLNESS CENTERED FAMILY INCLUDES EVERYONE–INCLUDING THE 4-LEGGED FURRY CHILDREN!

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.

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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!

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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.

Pets May Help Autistic Children With Socialization Skills, Study Shows

Just more proof of the way pets can help humans: French researchers studied 260 autistic children and found that giving them a cuddly pet after age five could actually aid socialization, suggesting that introducing companion animals to the autistic child might also help with human bonding.

The key seems to be the arrival of the animal; those children who grew up with pets were not affected.

Bringing a pet into the home not only calmed, but increased, the child’s ability to share and to comfort; those are two skills that autistic children often lack, because they depend on the ability to understand people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions–and then be able to empathize with them. While the pet doesn’t necessarily need any extra training, some do use therapy dogs..

While no one really knows why timing is so important,  one thought is that the autistic child may just see pre-existing pets as part of the background, or that the pets may already be more strongly bonded with other family members by the time the child enters the household.

Some also suspect that the arrival of a pet might strengthen the family bond and increases interaction, giving the child the opportunity to see petting, cuddling and other responses.

“In individuals with autism, pet arrival in the family setting may bring about changes in specific aspects of their socio-emotional development,” the researchers wrote in their study, according to Web MD.

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Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a certified nutrition and health coach who refers to herself as the wellness expert for both the 2-legged and 4-legged.  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.

Her twice-monthly, free newsletter, “Power Wellness” is full of tips, recipes and other information for healthy nutrition and living.  Subscribe here.

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.

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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:  http://www.irenefross.com.

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.

Five Ways Cats Provide Health Benefits

As a nutrition and health coach who also loves animals, I like to say that I specialize in wellness–for BOTH the 4-legged as well as the 2-legged, especially since they experience many of the same illnesses and challenges we humans do, including colds, allergies and even stress.  (Did you know German Shepherds are one of the most stress-prone canine breeds around?)

Most of all, it’s no secret that pets keep us youthful and can even boost our immunity; in fact, there was a recent study in Finland that showed that kids who were around animals at an early age were less likely to develop ear infections than those who weren’t. (Read the full post, as well as the CNN story where this appeared, here.)

While kids did experience benefits from either cats or dogs, the ones with dogs fared slightly better.  So in the interest of fairness–and not wanting to give our feline friends short-shrift–here are five ways cats provide health benefits to humans:

1. Reduced stress levels

“I could be having the worse day ever,” said Karen O., “but I’ll instantly feel calmer when I walk in the door.”

2. Reduced blood pressure

At least one study suggests that, especially since cats help to lower stress and  blood pressure, they could actually lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

3. Lower cholesterol levels

4. Reduced risk of depression

5. Companionship

“They have such special little personalities,” said Nancy, who used to be the human parent of two cats.  “Just watching them play and interact gave me hours of fun.”

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Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a certified health and nutrition coach as well as a professional copywriter and public relations consultant.

Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, you can learn more about her either as a health coach or communications specialist by clicking either link and they will take you to her websites.