Furry Prescription: Health Benefits of Pets

health benefits of pets

Pets help children learn empathy and serve as a social bridge between peers.

Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or dog knows they increase our happiness quotient. But did you know that they actually improve our health? Multiple studies have proven what pet lovers intuitively have known forever. Pets are good for what ails you! The health benefits of pets keep us active, engaged, and happy, stress-free, and so much more.

So do you know all the benefits of pets for human health? Read on!

There are Multiple Health Benefits of Pets: Stress Busters & Heart Attack Recovery

The health benefits of owning pets, especially the ability to calm us down, help enormously during these stressful times. We’re obsessing over the economy, cost of gas, health care, natural disasters, the pandemic, missing family and friends, and so much more. We need all the stress-busting help we can find.

In fact, health insurance companies should give pet owners a cost break on premiums. Studies show that people with pets get sick less often, and recover more quickly than those without animal friends. Infants and children who grow up with furry companions are less likely to develop allergies as they mature.

And those unfortunate individuals who have suffered a heart attack—and own pets—will recover more quickly and survive longer than heart attack survivors without pets. There actually are a few enlightened physicians who prescribe a pet for their heart attack patients.

the benefits of pets for human health

Karma reduces my stress simply by being near me.

Pets Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

People with a dog or cat experience only half as much blood pressure increase when stressed, as those without a pet. Half! Could you benefit from that kind of stress relief? The research shows that your pet doesn’t even have to be present for this “pet effect” to work. It’s simply enough to know he’s waiting at home.

Petting and stroking any friendly dog or cat also lowers blood pressure, so if you’re pet-less, you could volunteer at the shelter or get your fur-fix at a neighbor’s home. Petting is especially effective, though, when it’s your own animals.

Sometimes pets even lower blood presser more effectively than medication. That’s because the act of speaking dramatically increases blood pressure, and drugs don’t block this effect. The only thing that counters elevated blood pressure that results from talking is focusing on something outside yourself–like a pet. Simply sitting quietly with your dog or cat each day can soothe your soul.

the benefits of pets for human health

Dogs love us back–and the benefits work both ways!

Pets Increase Our Exercise

Part of the pet effect has to do with increased exercise. I know that my exercise increased when I have a dog to walk. Magical-Dawg demanded a game of fetch outside several times each day, and that got me up and moving. After he died, my outside activity decreased and weight went up. But even a kitty can get us exercising more–after all, trips to the store to tote cat litter and food home requires me to leave the house.

Our best intentions to sign up for a class at the gym may come to naught. But dogs like Shadow-Pup won’t take “no” for an answer. And cats like Karma-Kittywon’t let me sleep late, if the food bowl is empty.

Exercise relieves anxiety, boredom, and depression. While others may look askance at goofy-acting humans, it’s “legal” to play and have fun with your pets–which is as good for our own mental health as it is for the cats and dogs. Set aside time every day to play like a cat or dog–and you’ll feel better for it. That’s probably why, when the pandemic kept us apart, many folks adopted pets to snuggle and interact with.

health benefits of pets

A cat’s purring presence lowers blood pressure.

Pets Are A Social Lubricant

Pets keep us connected socially, too. Walking the dog or talking “cats” at the pet food aisle at the grocery encourages contact that keeps us interested in life and other people. That’s great for people of any age, but especially helpful for seniors who might otherwise become reclusive. They have to get out to care for the dog or cat (or bird or hamster) even if they might neglect their own needs. And if worried about outliving a pet, seniors can adopt senior pets to mutual benefit.

Just to show that I’m not making this stuff up, here’s a “hard science” example. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) is an imaging test that helps physicians to detect biochemical changes used to diagnose and monitor various health conditions. These tests show that touching a pet shuts down the pain-processing centers of the brain. Petting your dog or cat relieves your own pain and also buffers anxiety, all without the side effects of Valium. A cat or dog on your lap can ease the pain in your ass-ets.

The Bond of Love Makes A Positive Furry Difference

People talk about “the bond” all the time when referring to the pets we love. It’s nothing magical, although it may seem so. But science can actually measure this pet effect as well. There are many health and psychological benefits of bonding with a pet dog or cat.

In fact, changes in brain chemicals influence our thought and attitudes. These chemicals prompt feelings of elation, safety, tranquility, happiness, satisfaction, even love. Blood tests that measure these chemicals reveal the levels increase for people–AND for the pets!–when bonding takes place. There’s a reciprocal benefit to bonding with your fur-kid.

Don’t discount the pet effect in your life. I’ve lost weight since the Shadow-Pup arrived, chasing after him and walking the 13+ acres of our place. (Karma cat has also lost weight since playing with the pup. Learn more about fighting obesity in pets here.)

The Karma-Kat always seems to know when I have a headache and helps purr it away. A furry prescription costs only a handful of kibbles. There’s no insurance premium to pay, and everyone qualifies for the benefits. And that’s a wagging, purring blessing for everyone.

How do YOUR pets help you? Does the dog get you up-and-at-’em in the morning? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Spring is the SNEEZE season for humans, complete with runny eyes and sinus issues.(Learn about dealing with pet allergies here).  For dog allergies, itchy skin is the more common sign of discomfort. And it can hit in the fall, too. Just ask my Bravo-Dawg, now trying to balance with only three legs to scratch his itchies.

Bravo (and the other furries) get monthly parasite preventive meds, so it surprised us when he began incessantly scratching and chewing last week. We live on 13 acres, and we speculated the long grass in the field led to irritations and bug bites. But even after mowing, his itchiness continued with head and back scabs, and foot licking. Benadryl helped, but after Bravo’s cancer journey and chemo treatments, we wanted to be careful with giving him anything.

Yesterday, the vet diagnosed allergies–as if Bravo didn’t have enough challenges! Dr. Clay noted he’s at the age when allergies can develop (about 1 in 3 dogs suffer). He also noted that Benadryl is one of the safest and effective meds, and recommended we up the dose (dogs get a much higher dose than people). He weighs 101 lbs, so Bravo gets up to 100 mgs three times a day–and the itch has abated. But what about other kinds of allergies?

dog allergies

dog allergies

I’ve been told by some veterinarians that West Highland White Terriers “put their kids through college…” because of the allergy issues the breed is prone to. Image Copr. Amy Shojai

It’s less common, but runny eyes also may develop–and of course, my Magical-Dawg has to be one of these unusual cases. His eyes began watering back in January, and combined with his acral lick foot itchies, he was miserable. Thankfully, he doesn’t suffer from the all-over itchy skin, hair loss, and worse that our first shepherd suffered. But here in North Texas (and other parts of the country), it’s helpful to understand dog allergies and how to soothe our itchy dogs.

This is simply an overview of the kinds of allergies. For more details, you’ll want your veterinarian to diagnose your dog, and explain what’s needed to help your pet. You can also find more details about pet allergies in my DOG FACTS book.

DOG ALLERGIES CAUSES & CURES

Pets suffer from the same kinds of allergies that people do. Food allergies (probably the least common in dogs) happen when dogs react to certain proteins in the food. Major culprits are meats like beef or chicken–and even lamb, if the dog has eaten it before and become “sensitized.” It can be complicated.

Food Allergies

How do you cure dog food allergies? Well, you don’t…but you can manage them. The first step is diagnosing exactly WHAT causes the reaction and only a veterinarian can do that. See, commercial foods contain a smorgasbord of ingredients, some in tiny amounts, and while you MAY find one your dog tolerates more than others, switching around can be hit-or-miss. It also may confuse things when you’ve then exposed the dog to bunches more potential culprits and reduced the “safe” alternatives that he’s never before tasted.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergy is the most common of all. Dogs (and cats) sensitive to the flea saliva can itch all over after a single bite from one of these tiny vampires. Flea allergy also is one of the most easily managed, usually through one of the modern safe flea prevention products. I use Revolution (from the vet) on Magical-Dawg because it takes care of heartworms, fleas and a number of internal parasites, too.

dog allergies

Fleas are more than itchy aggravations and spread tapeworms as well as cause skin disease.

Inhaled Allergies

Atopy–or inhaled allergies–can be due to pollens, molds, and even dander. Hay fever in people that makes us sneeze instead causes itching in pets. That’s what our first shepherd developed. After we moved from the Ohio Valley region (and its airborne fungus and other “schtuff”) and were in Texas, his health drastically improved.

Could a dog be allergic to himself, or to the cat? Theoretically, that’s possible! But more typically it’s the springtime/summer allergens that drive pets nuts. Wintertime when the furnace comes on for the first time can stir up household dust and set them off again.

Atopy can be the toughest control. It’s seasonal so the signs can lessen during the winter. Dogs absorb grass and dust allergens through the toe webbing in their foot pads, so simply rinsing off poochie feet after the dog’s been outside can help enormously. Also, dogs (and cats) are furry dust mops that collect and carry allergens in their coat–so rinsing ’em off weekly also helps.

Get all the dog allergy facts!

Natural Cures for Dog Allergies

There’s a difference between HOLISTIC veterinary medicine and HOMEOPATHY (click this link for some details). For example, omega-3 fatty acids are a holistic/natural treatment that aid skin health and also have some anti-itch properties–so does bathing the pet in an oatmeal-based anti-itch shampoo. A flea comb to get rid of fleas is about as natural as you can get! Homeopathic medications attempt to “wake up” the pet’s own body to deal with and manage the health challenge.

Some dogs benefit from allergy medications like antihistamines. Magic’s runny eyes resolved once we began giving him Benadryl, recommended by our veterinarian. Please check with your pet’s practitioner for proper dosage and what’s safe for your fur kids. And for atopic dogs, simply rinsing them off with water (even just their paws) can help.

Here are some videos that offer some more comments and discussion (yes, they’re a couple year’s old!). There’s also info on OTC treatments for pets. For folks reading the blog, what has worked for your itchy dog? Any further tips you can share? Do tell!

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Easter Candy Caution for Pets

Easter candy fills the aisles at grocery stores these days. There are plenty of toys, too, including stuffed bunnies–a far better gift than real live rabbits that need special care. Here’s my yearly caution about Easter candy and other goodies around pets.

easter candy chocolateI’m a sucker for Easter candy, especially those chocolate bunnies. Many folks love to fill the kid’s Easter baskets with sweets. But chocolate indulgence can turn your Easter candy celebration into a pet-astic calamity. It happens with Halloween chocolate, and chocolate on Valentine’s day, too.

Cats aren’t poisoned as often with Easter candy because they are a bit more discriminating about what they munch. But dogs often smell the candy right through the packaging, and eat it wrapper and all. Swallowed objects like foil or paper wrappers or the sticks off of suckers can cause intestinal blockage or damage, too.

easter candyEASTER CANDY CHOCOLATE TOXICITY

Any Easter candy indulgence can pose digestive upset with messy diarrhea results and a need for you to invest in a carpet cleaning service for the stains. But chocolate toxicity can actually kill your pet. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant related to caffeine. Eating too much chocolate shifts your pet’s heart into overdrive.

Milk chocolate usually doesn’t cause life-threatening problems because it takes nearly two pounds of milk chocolate to poison a seven-pound pet. Baker’s chocolate can be deadly, though. It contains ten times as much theobromine as milk chocolate, which means a seven-pound pet only needs to eat two ounces to be poisoned. Licking chocolate frosting, lapping up cocoa mix, or gulping truffles—a very rich dark chocolate treat—causes vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, coma, and even death.

Puppy Pen

Puppy pens keep baby out of trouble! Image Copr. D.Garding/Flicker

MAKE HIM VOMIT!

If you catch your pet snacking on such things, induce vomiting as soon as you can to get rid of the poison. You can make her vomit up to an hour after she’s eaten the chocolate, but sooner is better. After an hour, the toxin has probably moved out of her stomach into the intestines, and vomiting won’t get rid of it.

It can be dangerous to induce vomiting if the dog or cat acts woozy. They can inhale the material on its way up and suffocate. As long as she’s alert, there are several methods you can use to get rid of the chocolate. Call the veterinarian for further instructions after the pet has emptied her stomach. If you can’t induce vomiting after a couple of tries, prompt veterinary care is even more important.

Better yet, don’t bring dangerous treats into your house. Here’s a thought—you could give the extra chocolate to me. I’m willing to make the sacrifice and dispose of the deadly sweet treats to protect your pets.


 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe to the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pets Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give-aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Pet Poison Alert! 199 Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

Here in Texas, many folks spend this time of year preparing for spring gardens. The past few weeks, we’ve dug out old roses (many infected with rose rosetta disease, arg!), and planted new ones, along with other perennials. My tulips, jonquils, and other bulb plants now poke shy heads above the mulch, ready for a burst of color.

Bravo-Dawg helped! And Karma-Kat will enjoy any cut flowers I bring in later. That’s why I’m so careful about exactly what we plant, and the kinds brought inside for our own and pet enjoyment.

Flowers are gorgeous, and dogs may enjoy them, too–as long as they’re non-toxic!

Poison pet plants can kill cats and dogs any time of year, but spring can be particularly dangerous when new plants pose dangers. While dogs tend to munch, cats more often play and claw plants, and ingest poison when they clean themselves. Check out this post for more about top pet toxins.

That’s why at my house, we love roses, which are edible. Of course, the thorns can be a hazard. 🙂  And if you have neighborhood cats, use these tips to shoo cats away from gardens.

This is a great idea for all public gardens, and perhaps your own. Dogs often enjoy digging in gardens, a problem even if plants are safe. 

Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

I received an email from ProFlowers.com a couple of years ago with this great infographic to share. Refer to this helpful poison chart (below) to avoid toxic plants all year long.

Of course, my advice is to keep toxic plants out of the house entirely when you have pets (or toddlers!) eager to taste-test everything. Accidents do happen, though, so this is a handy guide to bookmark (and share!) with other pet parents.

Meanwhile, why not keep an emergency kit on hand? My go-to is the First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats not only for poisons but for everything from torn nails to (gasp!) gunshots or snakebite. It’s a good time to “gift” the pet people in your life, too…although my wish for you and your pets is that you’ll NEVER need the emergency advice!

Have your pets ever “snacked” on something toxic? Do tell! What happened? what did you do…and what would you advise others based on your experience?

Poison Pet Plants

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Puppy Diarrhea, Home Remedies & When to Call The Vet

We love snuggling baby dogs with sweet puppy breath, Frito-smelling toes, lap snuggles, and then–OH NO, puppy diarrhea! What’s a pet parent to do about dog loose motion? We’ve already had this issue with our new pup, Shadow, and had to deal with it.

Of course, adult dogs also suffer from the occasional loose stool as well. At any age, dog diarrhea can be a sign of something serious that needs immediate attention. This is not about puppy accidents during house training, but an illness your dog can’t control. Knowing home remedies, dog first aid, and when to call the vet about puppy diarrhea could save your pet’s life.

If your dog is also VOMITING, click here to get the free tips sheets.
puppy diarrhea

Puppy diarrhea ranks near the top as a common puppy problem, and being familiar with dog diarrhea treatment is important. Mild cases may be treated at home and get better but diarrhea can be deadly especially for puppies.

When you have a dog, poop happens. Knowing what to do is key, and it’s vital to recognize the difference between an aggravation and an emergency, and what to do with both.

Diarrhea isn’t a disease. It’s a sign of illness and may be caused by many different conditions.

Shih Tzu puppy, 3 months old, sitting in front of white background

Causes Of Puppy Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be associated with viruses such as parvovirus and distemper. It also can be caused by intestinal parasites like whipworms, hookworms; protozoan such as giardia, bacterium like salmonella and E. coli. Some types of intestinal parasites can be very difficult for veterinary tests to detect and it can take many tests over weeks to obtain a diagnosis.

Puppies also may develop diarrhea from a sudden change of diet, or even swallowed foreign objects. The stress of coming to a new home could prompt loose stools or vomiting. Overfeeding or eating out of the garbage also causes tummy upsets. Without knowing the cause, the right treatment can’t be suggested.

sick dogKinds of Puppy Diarrhea to See The Vet Immediately!

Diarrhea can point to conditions that could kill your puppy. Don’t wait—the resulting dehydration can make puppies even sicker.

A couple of years ago, Magic suffered from a bout of explosive diarrhea. I’d been called for jury duty, so I was gone–and discovered his illness when I returned home after the first day of service. Yikes! Magic had been drinking from the water-filled tank (aka man-made pond) on our property, and we suspected the run-off infected him with some type of parasite. It required a couple of weeks of medication for him to feel better. Had he been a baby, the situation could have been life-threatening. See the veterinarian immediately if your puppy’s diarrhea:

  • Looks black with a tar-like consistency
  • Smells extremely foul
  • Contains large amounts of red blood
  • Diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting, severe pain, fever, appetite loss or lethargy.

Depositphotos_18034765_originalHow to Treat Dog & Puppy Diarrhea At Home

It’s always best to get a vet check first. But your vet may recommend milder forms of diarrhea be treated at home. For instance, if it’s been less than three days, the dog or puppy still feels and acts well, and the diarrhea has a pudding-like appearance, home care may help.

Make sure that water remains always available. It’s very easy for puppies to quickly become dehydrated. A sudden watery diarrhea can spill large amounts of fluid and important minerals out of the body.

  • Withhold food for 24 hours to let his tummy rest
  • Then offer bland meals (one-part boiled egg with two parts rice or cooked macaroni) in four to six servings for several days
  • Gradually transition the meals to regular food. Mix half/half, gradually increasing to regular food by end of the week.

It often takes a couple of days for your puppy’s tummy to calm down, and a bland diet can help. You’ll find all the must-know puppy-licious info in the book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE (much of it applies to adult dogs, too!).

Are you also dealing with vomiting? Learn more about dog vomiting and what you can do in this post about puppy and doggy vomiting. Or click below to get the quick tips list for treating vomiting at home (or making your dog vomit, in case of poisoning!).

CLICK to get TIPS: TREAT VOMITING AT HOME!

Has your dog ever suffered from diarrhea? Seems like it always happens on a holiday or weekend, too! What did you do? Although dealing with diarrhea stinks, knowing what to do can ensure that everything comes out all right. Literally.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!