What to do with Fluffy & Fido?
For me the downside of any trip I plan is the worry of who is going to pamper my precious furry children while I'm gone. Of course there are several options and much depends on the pets you have as well as the life they consider to be normal. Some pets do well with change, most do not. Some pets are social, some are not. So first you need to understand your pet(s). We have two indoor only house cats and one large breed dog. We eat together, sleep together and have movie night together so we're a pack.
House Sitters with Benefits
What's a house sitter with benefits? It's a Pet Sitter that will stay at your home, living with your pets so their routine is completely unchanged during your absence. This is our preference and the absolute best choice you can make for your pets whenever possible. They sleep in their own beds, eat and potty where they do every day and the pack stays together except for the temporary change in leadership. Your pets will barely miss you. Choosing a House Sitter can be difficult, but here are some ideas.
Pet Sitters International
Finding a pet sitter to provide the right pet-care services requires an investment of time—time to do phone interviews, time to conduct in-your-home meetings and time to thoroughly check references on those you’re considering hiring.
Visit Pet Sitters International Website for Info and to Locate Pet Sitters in your area.
Give Your Dogs a Vacation Too!
Well, kenneling your dog has come a long way since I was a kid! If you spend the time to really check into the options you have available locally, you will undoubtedly find a place where your dog will be laying by the pool and meeting new friends during the day, then tucked away in a luxury doggie suite with a temperature controlled environment, TV and cushy bed at night! For the social and non-aggressive dog, this is a wonderful solution if you can afford it.
Be very aware of the more old-fashioned 'standard' kenneling services of the past. These still exist and unless your dog is used to being in a small kennel with continuously barking neighbors and little to no positive contact with other dogs or humans, this is a very unhealthy environment for your dog. They are pack animals and if they live in the house with you and participate in your normal family life, this type of kenneling will cause tremendous stress and anxiety. We kenneled our dog many, many years ago for a week while on vacation. When we picked her up she had lost 10-pounds and was so crazed that when she saw us she broke her leash to get to us.
So put some serious thought into taking care of your pet when you leave them. Remember, they don't understand why they are being left or if you are EVER coming back. That's the beauty of home care, the stress and anxiety is down to only one simple thing, they miss you personally. But when you leave your dog at a kennel, they are in a strange environment and they not only miss you, but they miss all their favorite things including other pets. Leaving them in one of these great new Camp/Daycare environments is a bit different. They are kept so entertained and they are having so much fun playing with new people and dogs that they alleviate any stress or anxiety they may have had when they arrived, leaving them exhausted and hungry enough to eat.
Have You Done Your Research?
I've shared my life with thirteen cats and six dogs so far and each precious friend comes with their own set of health issues; sometimes as early onset and sometimes just as part of the aging process. Years ago, we had no choice but to accept the diagnosis, endure the side-effects often accompanying the drugs our pets were prescribed and too often, watch them wither away before our eyes. But, today we live in a world where holistic replacements and supplements are now readily available for our pets; and they can even save their life.
Consider Alternative Treatments
In the early 90’s my two-year-old German Shepherd/Australian Shepherd dog began to show signs of arthritis. Sadly this was only the beginning of her health issues, but for me it was my first step into the world of holistic alternatives for my pets. Though there were drugs at the time that did a wonderful job of making an arthritic pet feel better, those drugs had long-term damaging effects to the animal’s organs. For a dog of ten or twelve, most likely the long-term effects would not catch up to the age of the pet; however for my girl she had her whole life ahead of her.
So my journey began with natural alternatives to alleviate the pain and increase her mobility, however back in 1992, there were no holistic choices for pets with arthritis. That didn’t stop me. I found a company that was putting two ingredients in one tablet, Glucosamine and Chondroitin. My local health-food stores still sold these two supplements individually, I could not find them anywhere as one pill except this tiny little heath food store in Florida. They had on their website many testimonials from people of all ages and sizes, praising how well this product worked. So I contacted them, spoke with the owner and after a long and enjoyable conversation, she sent a sample bottle.
Ginger responded within a week. The limping was gone; she ran and played with no favoring of the right hip which is where the arthritis began. I reported back to Sunshine Health Foods and they were so excited that their new product had improved the life of a canine, that for the rest of Ginger’s life (another 13-years) they gave us the price of $8.30 for a monthly supply. If anyone reading this has ever priced Glucosamine/Chondroitin in the store you know this is more than ½ the going rate. Ginger lived a long and happy life with many other developing health issues which were all kept under control through working with a veterinarian that trusted my research and worked on his end to try less intrusive methods.
Sometimes Holistic Treatment is the Only Hope
Several years later I got to put my holistic hat on once again after receiving a cancer diagnosis in one of our eight-year-old cats. We took him in to have a tiny external growth checked and were stunned when the results came back that he had 3-months to live. His form of cancer was extremely aggressive. Once the shock and tears subsided, I began my search for something that would save his precious and young life. I found something at the time called E-Tea (Essiac Tea). This tea was originally from a medicine man who passed the recipe on in 1922 to a nurse and was consumed to help support the immune system, detoxify the body and purify the blood. At the time, the site I found this product on had many testimonials of people whose softball-size tumors had been significantly shrunk or disappeared all together. Those same testimonials also mentioned amazing results on canine cancer patients. My vet and I discussed it came to the agreement that it certainly couldn’t hurt Bud to put him on the tea.
We made our own guess at what a thirteen-pound cat dosage might be and I would syringe feed 2-ounces of tea twice a day. Budd was always rewarded with a little treat after sitting still long enough to drink the tea, so he quickly began responding to the ‘tea time’ call and came running for his dosage. Bud was checked with x-rays and blood work after three months of being on the tea and we were all amazed that not only was there no indication that the cancer (which should have killed him already) had spread, but the existing tumor was shrinking. We bought 2-1/2 years of happy quality of life for Bud and for us to spend with him. During that time his appetite and weight was good, he was loving and playful. He suddenly went downhill very quickly one day…but oh how grateful I am to have had that time with him.
Essiac Tea (E-Tea)
Here is a link to the E-Tea should you wish to investigate this alternative further. It's important to note that Budd's cancer was caught very early and this may be why the Essiac Tea worked so well on him. There is never a guarantee, but for me trying is always better than giving in.
Don't Give Up!
Today, many years later, I sit here with another of my sweet boys; Oli whose been diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. In most cats this is a fairly easy fix, the medications usually do wonders and the cat lives a fairly normal life on medication. However, one out of every 600 cats don’t respond to the medication, or in our case have a horrible reaction to it making them worse and even sicker than before the medication started. After nearly a month of trying to reduce the dosage to something his body could handle, it was once again time for me to find out what else I could do for him.
Though we are still in the early stages of treating his Hyperthyroidism with an all natural holistic replacement to the medication, so far his body is responding a tiny bit more each day. At some point I will be able to report back whether this method not only makes him feel normal again, but whether the test results on this thyroid come back with better levels. But I am so grateful for having this knowledge base to draw from. There are few options left for Oli aside from holistic, all are not only intrusive but possibly deadly.
In the meantime…
Be aware that there are alternatives the next time your pet needs medical help. After visiting your vet and having the recommended tests done, do your part and research holistic remedies. See what supplements might be available to support the treatment your veterinarian suggests; many can be used in addition to prescribed meds. And the next time you find yourself in a situation as we are with Oliver, with a dog or cat that is not responding or rejecting treatment, find a holistic replacement. You’d be surprised how much information is available out there to help you and your pet.
Feline Thyroid Supplement
This supplement can be used along with prescribed thyroid medication or with the Holistic Thyroid Replacement below. BE SURE to WORK with YOUR VET to ensure that you are getting the hormone levels in the thyroid checked periodically no matter what route you choose for your cat.
Feline Thyroid Replacement Therapy
This is the replacement therapy we have Oli on now, along with the Supplement above. Only 2-days in to this treatment so its too soon to tell, but I wanted anyone out there having the same struggle we are, there is an alternative solution which may help.
Extend Life Expectancy!
I once heard "If your dog is overweight, chances are so are you"...and I find that to generally be true. Now, no offense people, but let's think this through. The average dog owner treats their pup as a member of the family, so if the family walks, hikes, spends lots of time outside, then chances are they are good shape...and so is their dog. However, for those of us who tend to be more housebound, many of us are carrying more weight than we should and there is a pretty good chance our pup is lugging around a few extra pounds too. So...let's get to work and get that fat off our dogs and off of us while we're at it! Just like people, a pet's life-expectancy and quality of life is greatly reduced, especially after the age of seven when carrying around extra weight. Joint damage, diabetes, heart disease, difficulty breathing and so much more, are all conditions we share with our overweight four-legged family members.
Where to Start
We all have to start somewhere and sometimes, as in my case, we just have to start over! If you are lucky enough to have a dog as your companion, then you have a motivated walking partner! My dog and I used to walk everyday, my life changed drastically over past couple of years and along with it went my routine. So here I sit two years later overweight, and the vet tells me my dog is heavier than she should be...gee what a surprise!
So, though I find it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to start my daily walks again, it's easier when I consider that my dog can't go for a walk by herself...if she could I'm sure she'd be in great shape, she's definitely more motivated than I am! If, like me, you make every excuse in the book to procrastinate your exercise program, then look at your dog and do it for them. Their life span is already too short without us taking years off their life by making them housebound and stuffing them with too many treats.
So EXERCISE your dog...Daily! Whether it's walking, swimming, rollerblading, biking, dog parks, fetch or a treadmill...just get them moving! Of course, pay attention to your pal. Make sure they are hydrated and if your dog is getting old, play close attention to when they slow down or stop while on a walk. This is a clear sign they've had enough. Pushing will only lead to injury or collapse. Start slow and go on short excursions, build up their capacity to venture farther, longer. Don't take a previously overweight, housebound dog and force them to walk for long periods of time without stops to rest and have water. Be a smart walking companion. For the dog with more energy than you, get a doggy backpack and put 1 or 2 bottles of water on each side of the pack (make sure its the same on both sides for balance). This makes the walk more physically challenging for them and drains energy faster than you may be able to do without the pack.
To Treat or Not to Treat
Okay, so in addition to not enough exercise, our dogs get fat because of what we feed them and how much we feed them. Again, just like us, our dogs love junk food and will eat just about anything we give them. My dog, thanks to our vet's recommendation, was raised with fruits and vegetables as treats. She loves fresh snap peas and blueberries more than just about any dog treat. But the key to weight control are Quantity and Quality.
To get your dog to lose a few pounds, work with your vet on the possibilities of slowly switching your pup over to a dinner of fresher food that you cook, rather than only packaged food. In addition to less for dinner and a meal with less fat and empty calories, you must consider the amount of treats they get in a 24-hour period, and do they get table scraps? I know from experience that it's much more difficult to give less treats than it is to choose healthier treats for your dog.
Let's face it, we've gotten them into these routines of expecting a cookie every time they tinkle, so introduce healthier choices such as these:
For treats that are a little more substantial, consider these healthy choices:
I'm no expert, nor do I claim to be. What I am is a Dog Mom who has been cooking for her dog for more than 11-years with my marvelously holistic vet's guidance and approval. The result is a very healthy and happy Ossa. There she is on the left smiling for her fans!
Believe it or not, it really isn't more expensive to cook for your dog than to feed them only packaged dog food ... this does of course suggest you are feeding them a good quality dog food. I will share what I do for Ossa and you can make plans to sit down with your own vet and discus options based on your own dog's health issues.
Ossa is a Golden Retriever/Labrador Mix (shelter rescue). She will be 12-years-old this April. She stands about 24-inches tall and is about 36-inches long. She was 73-pounds two years ago, but we've reached our goal weight of 65 to 67-pounds - perfect for her size. So, the first step in adjusting the calorie intake in their diet, is to take into account the calories and nutrition for the ENTIRE DAY, not just what they get for dinner.
Ossa's Dinner - Low Calorie, No Salt, Nutrition Rich
A little note: I do not mix these ingredients together in a pile in her bowl. I serve them like I would on a plate, next to each other. Might seem silly, but it's what Ossa has always preferred.
Love to bake, hate the calories?
Then consider adopting the holiday tradition
I started several years ago ...
Bake cookies for your dog (and doggy friends) instead! I used to fill the kitchen with dozens of batches of holiday cookies, breads and fudge, but anymore I hate to do that because then I simply have to taste everything! So, I started baking cookies for my four-legged companion and not only is she getting very healthy treats which she adores, it’s more cost effective then buying expensive 'designer' boxes of dog cookies and I still get the same enjoyment out of holiday baking! Over the years I've developed a couple of dog cookie recipes that both my dog and all of my friend's dogs simply love...
I thought I'd share one with you ...
Peanut Butter, Pumpkin & Turkey Bacon Dog Cookies
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup natural peanut butter (I buy Organic at Trader Joe's)
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup crumbled, cooked Turkey Bacon
3/4 cup of Pumpkin filling
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
I found it necessary to make the dough then wrap it in saran wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. This makes it easier to roll. If you don't do this, the dough is very sticky and unmanageable. I also use parchment paper on the cookies sheets to make less mess and give stick-free lift off.
I like to make 4 batches of these and 4 batches of another kind at one time. It works well to make all the dough one day and then the next day, roll and bake the cookies. It feels like less work and I get a supply that lasts one dog more than 2-months. After they cool, I package a week’s worth at a time in quart-size freezer bags and store in the freezer. Take a week’s worth out at a time and thaw. My dog loves it and I know she is getting treats that are healthy and made with love.
I also make a Ginger, Molasses Cookie with Blueberries & Nuts that she loves; perhaps I'll share that recipe one day. I bake cookies year around for her and it’s a cost effective way to get wholesome goodies for a four-legged companion you love.
Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Baking!
Keep Your Pets Safe and Happy This Holiday Season ...
Here are some things to keep in mind ...
With door bells and excited screams, the holidays can be a frightening time for many pets. It can also be a time when little ones with good intentions of sharing with their four-legged friend, actually cause them to become seriously ill. Be a good pet owner and have a game plan to keep your pet(s) safe and healthy this Holiday Season.
Holidays can be loud and frightening to some pets, consider them when making plans for entertaining ...
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am somewhat of an advocate for Senior Dogs. Most people do not consider the fact that their 7-year-old medium to large breed dog is entering their Senior Years, and therefore fail to see the warning signs of their pet's age early enough to help extend their life. That is my mission I guess, to inform dog lovers everywhere to simply acknowledge this fact and begin to pay closer attention to their pets needs.
Here are some things to take into consideration this summer...
This time of year, I am reminded at how many adult dogs (and cats) end up in shelters across America each year, because this is the time of year I volunteer my expertise to help our local Humane Society raise money to help these abandoned and often abused pets. Some of these animals were precious puppies who came to live with families as sort of a ‘spontaneous purchase’. What I mean by that is, the decision to get a puppy is only the first step. Preparing your environment, your schedule and your life for the time and energy commitment it takes to get both you and your new puppy off to a good, healthy start should not be taken lightly. So, as someone with a fair amount of experience in raising happy puppies in a healthy home environment, I thought I’d share my thoughts…
• The first thing I’d like to mention, is that when making the decision to bring a dog into the family, PLEASE do some research first to find out what ‘breed qualities’ best fit your lifestyle and the life of the dog you are adopting. I happen to love Dalmatians, however I don't have kids, I lead a quiet lifestyle and do not have a fenced yard. Dalmatians are people-oriented, fun-loving family dogs that are high-energy and need daily exercise and a fenced yard. So, as much as I adore this breed, it would not be a good choice for me. If you are adopting from your local shelter, and I sincerely hope you are, then you will be most likely adopting a mixed breed. These are great choices, because for the most part a mixed breed dog has a nice combination of characteristics that let that dog run and play with high energy when it gets the opportunity, and be just as happy laying on the sofa all day when it’s raining. Mixed breeds are often much more resilient to disease and medical issues that often come with the territory of purebred breeds.
Before puppy comes home, be prepared!
• Dogs are pack animals, they NEED to part of the family, they need to live and eat with the family. If you want a pet that will live in the backyard 20 out of 24 hours a day…please don’t get a dog. Invest in a kennel. Put the kennel in the room you sleep in. This kennel will become the pups den, a safe place for puppy to go when you are away from the house or when the pup needs to rest. A kennel SHOULD NOT be used for punishment! A puppy raised to ‘go to their room’ when you leave the house and go to bed at night, will gladly go to their kennel with wagging tail in anticipation of a little treat. This is a place where puppy is safe from other pets, electrical cords, harmful plants and all the dangers of a home when you can’t supervise them.
• So, how do you punish puppy? Invest in a puppy or child gate. Use this, if at all possible, at the entrance to the kitchen. Give the puppy the kitchen as a place to play, be with the family and eat when not out with the family learning the rules of the house, on walks or outside playing. If puppy does something in the house while getting freedom to explore your home, stop the behavior calmly, put the pup behind the gate and leave the room. Pups, like children, don’t like timeouts and don't like being alone, this works!
• Before puppy comes home, prepare your home almost as you would for a toddler. If you take the advice of the puppy gate, take up rugs and anything from the floor that puppy can chew or knock over and replace with puppy approved items. A bed to rest in, non-tipping water and food bowls and toys for playing and chewing. Don’t get made at a dog for chewing something that isn’t theirs if you don’t bother to teach them what is theirs and what is yours. If a dog has your shoe in their mouth, simply replace it with one of their chew toys and put the shoe away. Dogs are smart, they figure this stuff out quickly when we are calm and consistent with our conditioning. Anything a puppy can put in its mouth and swallow needs to be put away for a while.
• Where will puppy potty? I am very much against using those potty pads in the house. To me, they simply teach the dog where to do their business and you may never get them to stop going there, even when the pads are removed. Dogs go potty outside; they prefer it so teach them young. Have a safe, fenced in place preferably with dirt or grass that you take puppy to for going potty. This is important, so read it twice…Puppies have to go potty 20-minutes after they eat, drink, play or sleep. So, you can house break them very quickly and easily if you pay attention to them and provide the opportunity by taking them outside to their potty spot and waiting for them to do their business. Be observant! Puppy will never learn how to tell you they need to go out if you aren't watching their body language. When they do go potty outside for you, PRAISE them! Good Potty!! Good Girl!! Give them a little treat when you come back in so you continue to reinforce the behavior you want.
• Last, let’s talk raising a healthy pup. Read labels! There are very few treats out there that are recommended for puppies under 6-months. Terrific choices to use for training are raw or home-dehydrated fruits and vegetables. If you raise your pup on fresh apple, carrots, green beans, banana chips and the like…they will consider them the finest treats and do anything for that reward. NO GRAPES, ONION, CHIVES, AVOCADO, RAW POTATO, KIWI, or MUSHROOM (check with your vet for other things to stay away from such as chocolate).
There is much more to offer in my ‘learned lessons bag’, so we'll chat more in the next newsletter. For now, please keep in mind that there are 3 to 4 million pets nationwide euthanized every year. 60% of those are unwanted dogs. Please do your part by being properly prepared when you decide to adopt, and when you do, please choose to save a life from your local animal shelter.
Please have a discussion with your veterinarian about my recommendations and happy puppyhood!
To accompany the book, we now offer Posters, Cards and coming soon Mugs. A portion of all sales are donated to the artist's local Humane Society.
View entire Stray Muses...A Language Unspoken© Collection
So many people don’t think of their dog as a senior until they have trouble getting around or develop other medical issues common with the aging canine. Because our Ginger became a special needs dog early in her years, it became my goal to give her a full lifespan regardless of her medical issues.
A good life span for a large breed dog is twelve-years, some longer; but if you can spend 12-years with your large breed friend, they’ve had a good life and you have been fortunate. Dogs should be considered senior citizens, regardless of their size, when they reach 7-years-old; for cats, assuming they are under 20-lbs, it’s the age of nine that they enter the senior circle. This does not mean that they become crippled, sick or lethargic. What it DOES mean is that you as their caregiver have the responsibility to pay closer attention to their needs, because their needs will change. It is up to you because your dog will collapse before they will let you down by not keeping up with you. Remember you need to learn their language through observation.
• If you hike or run with your dog, when they enter their senior years you need to pay closer attention to whether they tire a little sooner than they used to. Do they limp a little after a hike or run? Do they stop and refuse to go on without a lot of encouragement? Do they collapse when you get them back home? All these are clear signs that your dog cannot keep up the same pace it used to and it’s up to you to find a way that allows your dog to still have the same activities and lifestyles they've always had, but can slow down a bit and rest in between.
• Prevention works the same in your pets as it does with humans. If you currently do not take your pet in for a yearly physical, then the time to start is when they enter their senior years. An annual exam combined with a simple set of blood tests can give you and your vet a baseline to monitor as your pet ages. Doing this allows your vet to catch the early warning signs of something that can be treated early and often holistically, preventing a more serious and often deadly result if you wait until your pet shows signs of illness.
• Know your pet’s personality and routine so well that if your pet doesn’t quite seem themselves by turning down food or a treat they usually love, not wanting to play a game they never turn down, if they seem a bit grumpy or any number of unusual, though minor, changes can all be their way of showing you that they don’t feel well. Get them checked out immediately.
• A dog, like humans, controlling their natural body temperature becomes something their bodies no longer do as well as a young or middle-aged pet. Make sure that your senior cats and dogs are inside when the weather grows cold and don't let them play, run or hike during heat waves. If your pet shows signs of joint soreness, keeping them warm becomes even more critical. Getting your dog a water repellent coat for going out in cold or wet weather, even to go potty is a wonderful gift to them. If you don’t think your dog will wear one, wait to try it out the first time it's pouring down rain outside and your pup has to go tinkle! Believe me when I say, they will come back in and look at you as if you are god!
• Provide a diet that fits the needs of your aging pet. Their dietary needs change as they become senior citizens. Work with your vet to develop dietary changes and supplements that will help your senior family member get the nutrition it needs to support joint degradation, weight control, maintain a strong immune system, and I am a firm believer in a good quality multi-vitamin. Do your research; there is a tremendous amount of good holistic information out there on maintaining the health of your senior pet. After you acquire some knowledge, go to your vet and ask them to work with you to create a diet that fits your pet’s specific needs.
I hope that what I've learned over the years helps you. I am not a doctor or expert, but I have lived with pets in my life for over forty-years and I have been blessed with a veterinarian over past twenty-years that supported my efforts and helped me to learn how to care for the senior pet. Next month I'll touch a bit on the Geriatric pet which will go a little further into preparing yourself and your pet for their Golden Years.
As a pet lover, a pet mother and the owner of PAWSitively PETrageous it seems only logical that I offer a place where we can chat about our furred and feathered kids without being taken away in a white jacket!
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