8 Practical Tips to Help Your Dog’s Joints Naturally

Walking our family dogs with my Dad is one of the things I look forward to the most when I go home.

But as our family dogs are getting older their joints are becoming stiffer and their mobility isn’t as good as it used to be. It is so hard to watch our pets go from bouncy puppies to older dogs in such a short space of time.

So, when my Dad asked for my advice on natural ways he could help our dogs I was happy to pass on what I knew from my years in veterinary practice. So, from my family to yours I hope the following information may help you and your pets

Keep ‘em moving!

It seems instinctive when we see our dogs limping that they should rest. And indeed if it is a sudden onset of limping this may be exactly what is needed.

Perhaps you have a younger dog that has overdone it at the park or on an energetic run; in that case rest for 3-4 days may be key. It may be enough to allow their bodies to recover from a minor injury. In all cases of sudden limping, it is always recommended to have your dog checked by a veterinarian.

In older dogs showing signs of stiffness and reduced mobility though, it is good to keep them active. The reason for this is that as dogs become stiff, they avoid using those joints and the muscle in those areas can weaken. Dogs that don’t move can become stiffer as time goes on and so the cycle begins.

The type of activity is super important though, so here are a few tips:

  • Exercise should be gentle and regular. You know your dog best so you are the best judge of the amount of exercise he can handle. Two 20 minutes walks around the block is likely to be better than one 40 minute walk.
  • Walks should be on the lead in order to avoid sudden, jerky movements.
  • Avoid throwing balls and frisbees as this will result in jumping which may aggravate stiff joints.
  • Swimming, or hydrotherapy is a great exercise for all dogs but especially those with reduced mobility.
  • Speak to your vet about what exercise they think your older dog can handle.

Hydrotherapy – lets go swimming!

Hydrotherapy can work wonders for all dogs but especially those with mobility challenges. It is also a fantastic way to help an overweight dog to lose weight.

So, what is hydrotherapy? Can I just swim my dog in a lake?

Hydrotherapy is more involved than just swimming; dedicated hydrotherapy facilities tailor exercise sessions specifically for your dog’s needs and abilities.

In many cases your dog may only be in the water for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing exercise intervals over time. Some pools work with treadmills under the water and others may involve jets, which create resistance for your dog to work against.

Benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Increases general exercise
  • Can help older dogs with stiff joints
  • May help dogs who are limping
  • Can improve stamina in show and agility dogs
  • Assist weight loss
  • And not to mention that most dogs love hydrotherapy so it’s another fun thing to do with your pet!

Read more about Hydrotherapy for Dogs.

Shed the pounds

It is so common for dogs to be overweight these days. Sometimes we don’t even notice that a dog is overweight as we become used to looking at certain breeds as looking a bit rounded; Labradors are a classic example. Dogs who have reduced mobility will find it even more difficult if they are carrying extra weight. Having your dog at an ideal weight will not only benefit his joints but also his heart and other body systems.

It is recommended to speak with your veterinarian who will not only weigh your dog but will also be assess your dog’s body score. Your vet will then be able to advise you on the best diet and exercise routine in order to shed the excessive pounds.

An overweight dog that has mobility issues can find exercise difficult so hydrotherapy becomes even more useful as it will not put any pressure on the joints. Learn more about the Alarming Consequences of Pet Obesity.

Making life a little easier

Image courtesy PuppyStairs.com

Take a walk in your dog’s paws and take a look around your house and see if there are small adjustments you can make to make your pet’s life a little easier. A few examples are:

  • Soft bedding – a soft bed can make all the difference to a dog with stiff joints. There are even memory foam dog beds, which are a real treat!
  • Slip-free flooring – hardwood floors and tiles can be slippery and difficult for dogs with mobility issues. Consider putting down area rugs to help your dog move a little easier.
  • Steps or ramps – if your dog gets in and out of the car frequently a ramp may help to make it a lot easier for your dog. If you have stairs in your house there are also ramps and cubes specifically designed to make this task easier for your dog. For more information on soft cubes for stairs, ramps and more check out Puppy Stairs.

Treat him to a massage

Just like for people there are professional massage therapists who can massage your dog and help to ease stiff joints. You can also learn how to massage your dog yourself on a more regular basis to provide additional relief. Massage may help to increase flexibility, circulation and overall wellbeing.

Give him a brush

Older dogs may find it more difficult to groom themselves than they once did. Grooming on a regular basis can help to remove mats and dead hair especially from more difficult to reach places. And why not give him a massage at the same time!

Ancient wisdom

Traditional Chinese medicine is thousands of years old and one of the main treatment methods used is acupuncture. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very small needles into specific acupuncture points. These points contain nerve bundles and blood vessels and are said to course over the body’s surface creating energy channels. One of the aims of acupuncture is to correct any energy imbalances with the aim of allowing the body to heal itself.

Acupuncture can enhance blood circulation, nervous system stimulation, and the release of pain-relieving hormones. In regards to stiff joints and reduced mobility, acupuncture can stimulate the release of the pet’s own pain relieving substances and relax muscles which may result in a local and generalized pain relieving effect.

So, will it hurt? Will my pet sit there quietly for the acupuncture session?

This is a common question and more often than not pets accept acupuncture readily and actually seem quite relaxed during the sessions. The needles are very small so most pets don’t even notice them going in.

I took my cat Oliver to a traditional Chinese medicine veterinarian for acupuncture on many occasions as he was having trouble getting up the stairs. He loved the sessions. The needles were in for about 15 minutes in total and he purred the whole time; in fact I had to stop him rolling over for tummy rubs so as not to knock out the needles!

Most importantly acupuncture doesn’t have any side effects and will not interfere with any prescription medications or supplements. If you are interested in acupuncture for your pet it would be best to speak to your veterinarian for a referral to a qualified veterinary acupuncturist.

Go to the Vet

In all cases if you feel that your once-energetic friend is slowing down or having trouble with the stairs it is best to get him checked by your vet to ensure that there is nothing more serious going on. Your vet will be able to examine your dog and offer the best advice for your individual dog.

Hydrotherapy For Dogs

Our pets are living longer lives, which is fantastic news. But, with this gift of time comes age-related issues that slow them down in their senior years, especially dogs.

Joint-related problems are one of the most common issues owners face. When a dog has mobility challenges it can set in motion a cycle of reluctance to exercise, which may lead to weight gain, putting more pressure on the joints and exacerbating the issue further.

Thankfully there are a number of steps we can take to help our four-legged best friends. Aside from supplements and medications that focus primarily on the joints, hydrotherapy is one of the lesser-known options for helping joint issues by building and maintaining muscle mass and function. Hydrotherapy also aids with recovery following surgery or as a means to lose excess weight.

What is hydrotherapy for dogs?

In the simplest terms, hydrotherapy is swimming for dogs. It takes place in a temperature-controlled pool for the purpose of building muscle and improving flexibility.

The warm water of the pool naturally dilates blood vessels and allows for increased flow of oxygen, blood and nutrients to the muscles and joints. The underwater environment insures that there is zero impact or weight on joints; perfect for pets recovering from injuries or coping with joint problems. Water is naturally calming and most dogs take to the pool environment enthusiastically.

Canine hydrotherapy is perfect for pets with disabilities that limit their mobility or range of motion. The underwater treadmill or resistance provides the perfect environment to increase muscle strength without the worry of straining or stressing the joints or heart.

What makes canine hydrotherapy so special?

Joint problems can lead to a loss of muscle which can be especially noticeable around the hip joints. What makes hydrotherapy so amazing for dogs with joint issues is the weightless environment water creates that allows the muscles to work and move without putting any stress on the associated joints.

Water provides buoyancy that means dogs can use all their muscles without putting any stress on injured, damaged or weak muscles.

The Benefits of Resistance

Do you remember the last time you went swimming? Gliding under the water is freeing, as your muscles work hard to propel you forward. Pushing against the water creates a natural resistance and it has been estimated that a five-minute swim is equivalent to running file miles.
This means that just a short canine hydrotherapy session offers a plethora of health benefits in a quick burst of time. The resistance of the water also means breathing requires more effort, making hydrotherapy a great cardiovascular workout for your dog’s heart and lungs.

Hydrotherapy isn’t just for senior dogs

A major benefit of canine hydrotherapy is the fact that it is great for dogs of all ages and physical abilities.

  • Is your young pup over-exuberant and in need of burning off some extra energy?
  • Does your senior pet have mobility issues, making you look for a way to keep him active without stressing his joints?
  • Does your healthy adult dog need some extra TLC and physical therapy after a joint injury?
  • Are you struggling to get out for a daily walk over the winter?

If so. . . hydrotherapy may be answer you’ve been looking for. It has been shown to be so effective, that some veterinary hospitals are making it a mandatory part of their protocol for joint and ligament injuries.

How do you find a canine hydrotherapy center?

The International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork (IAAMB) and the Association of Canine Water Therapy (ACWT) website offers a comprehensive list of facilities across North America and should be your first stop on your dog’s hydrotherapy journey.

The next step is to call and book an orientation session so you can get to know the facilities and the people who will be working closely with your pet. Ask to meet the individual therapists who will be working with your pet and ensure that they are licensed and trained.

You’ll also want to ask general questions such as whether vaccinations required to use the facilities, how often the pool is cleaned, what types of chemicals are used in the process and are you able to be present or observe your dog’s sessions.

Why not just take your dog down to the lake or beach for a good swim?

A controlled environment offers your dog a much better chance of success; think of hydrotherapy as controlled exercise rather than playing. When done properly, hydrotherapy can be incredibly healing. The temperature of the water is also one of the key elements of effective hydrotherapy.

Whether you’re looking to support joint health or build your pet’s strength after surgery, canine hydrotherapy for joint issues is a great choice.

Fourteen Fun Facts About Pugs You Need to Know

Pugs are arguably the cutest and most lovable breed. Here are fourteen fun facts about pugs sure to tug at your heart strings.

1. Pugs originated in China.

Pugs originated in China
 
 

2. They are oh-so-cute!

A pug is cute
 
 

3. Their coats are typically fawn or black, but they can also be apricot or silver tinted.

Their coats are typically fawn or black, but they can also be apricot or silver tinted
 
 

4. A group of pugs is called a “grumble”.

A group of pugs is called a grumble
 
 

5. They are brachycephalic which gives them their famous “smushed face” appearance but can also cause breathing difficulties.

pugs often have breathing difficulty
 
 

6. Due to their large, protruding eyes, pugs are prone to eye injuries.

Pug eyes are prone to injury
 
 

7. Pug’s tails generally have some sort of curl or twist to them, but the “double curl” is most desirable.

Pug with double curl tail
 
 

8. They LOVE eating and can end up being overweight if food intake is not monitored.

Watch your pug's weight
 
 

9. They really are incredibly cute!

Pugs are Cute!
 
 

10. Pugs are NOT known for their swimming abilities.

Pugs can't swim
 
 

11. But have pretty much made sleeping an Olympic sport.

Pugs are great at sleeping
 
 

12. Actually, pugs are well known for their laziness . . .

Pugs are lazy
 
 

13. . . . but this also makes them great companions and master cuddlers.

Pugs are great cuddlers
 
 

14. Did I mention how cute they are?

Pugs are really, really cute
 
 

Pugs are one of the cutest breeds to be sure! They’re also one with the weakest immune system, causing issues from mange to joint problems and of course breathing problems. Do your best to keep your pug’s weight in check, and take action to help build a healthy immune system for your pup, and they’ll stay as cute as ever. Read some of our tips for managing joint issues in this article.

Help keep their coat in good condition by brushing daily to remove dead hair.

The characteristic folds in their face may contribute to their adorable looks, but they can also contribute to health issues. Be sure to wash their faces every night. A gentle wipe is all it takes to keep your pup free from bacteria that can contribute to illness.

And their flat faces can often contribute to dental trouble – it’s hard to get all 42 teeth in that small space! Brush their teeth on a regular basis to help keep their gums healthy.

Can’t get enough pics of pugs? Check out Pugspot’s adorable user-submitted pictures. Are you a pug parent? Tell us about your pug baby below!

Could Your Dog Be Anxious? Here are Five Ways to Recognize and Help Your Dog Naturally

When I was in veterinary school I was lucky enough to spend a week with a veterinarian who specialized in behavioural issues in pets. Psychology has always fascinated me; I crave understanding why we do the things we do, what drives a behaviour, so naturally I couldn’t wait to see how we could help the animals we were due to see that week.

It was almost twenty years ago but I still remember it as if it were yesterday. The common thread that seemed to link them all was anxiety. A Staffordshire Bull Terrier that spent his entire day running in circles around a tree. A Labrador who licked and licked his front leg until he gave himself an infection.  And a Jack Russell Terrier who destroyed the house every time his parents went to work.

When we think about anxiety, it can be easy to think, “how could pets possibly be anxious?”. Their lives are easy, right?

They’re fed. Cared for. They don’t have to go to work. We take them for walks. We love them.

But, we need to recognise that having a pet is, in essence, an artificial construct of our society. Dogs are used to living in packs. They look to the leader of the pack for direction, security and routine. Puppies expect to stay with their mothers, yet we separate them at eight weeks, sometimes as early as six weeks. Evolution has hard-wired them to expect life to unfold in a certain way, but our modern world is very different.

In most cases, anxiety tends to rear its head at around 12-36 months. So, how can you recognise if your dog is trying to tell you that they’re anxious? That they need some extra support from you or that something in their environment isn’t working for them?

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Anxious

Sometimes, dogs becomes anxious because they’re uncomfortable with their current situation. Anxiety is a response or a coping mechanism to a perceived or real threat to their environment. It could be in response to a one-time event, or it could be something that happens frequently, such as separation anxiety. Here are some cues to help your recognise if your dog may be anxious.

Body Language of an Anxious Dog

Here are some common signs that a dog shows when anxious:

  • Your dog goes into another room away from you and defecates or urinates.
  • Your dog suddenly starts rapid panting and his ears are back. (For erect-eared dog, ears are sideways.)
  • His tail changes – for curly or straight-tailed dogs, their tail is down, or tail is between his legs and wagging, or his tail low and only the end is wagging.

Avoidance Behaviours

Under normal circumstances, when a dog feels anxious in a situation, he usually just gets and leaves. However, if the dog is not able to do that for whatever reason, he might:

  • Roll over his back in a submissive way.
  • Retreat and start barking.
  • Hide behind an object or a person.
  • Turn his head away.

Displacement Behaviours

Sometimes, an anxious dog reacts to a situation in a completely unexpected way, that is out of context with what has just happened.  Anxiety causes dogs to do this in order to suppress another urge.  For example, imagine that your whole family is busy preparing to go out and your dog is unsure whether he is coming with you.  Normally, a dog might react by running around the house and jumping up at you.  An example of displacement behaviour would be if he yawns instead.

Another example?  Your child takes the dog’s bone.  Even though your dog wanted to bite the child, he instead bites his own foot hard. It’s an unexpected reaction but it is an indication of an underlying issue.

Other examples of displacement behaviors are:

  • Your dog giving the “wet dog shake” even if he isn’t dirty or wet
  • Your dog suddenly sniffing an object or the ground
  • Your dog suddenly biting one of his body parts or paws
  • Your dog suddenly scratching even though he’s not itchy
  • Your dog licking even though there is no food
  • Your dog yawning, even though he’s not tired.

Another Sign: Half-Moon Eye

Dog lovers young and old love to wrap their arms around dogs – especially impulsive children.  If your dog makes a half-moon eye, it means that he wants to be left alone.  It could be a sign that he’s feeling anxious and if he doesn’t have an opportunity to escape he may bite instead.

One Paw Raised

An often-missed sign is standing with one paw raised.  When a dog does this, it means he’s worried and does not want to be bothered or petted. Some people may think it’s cute, but it may actually be a cue that the dog feels anxious and threatened.

Treating Your Pet’s Anxiety Issues

Many dog lovers, dog trainers, and even vets encourage us to avoid medications for treating pet anxiety issues. It is instead recommended to identify the underlying issue and modify our own behaviour to help our dogs or that our pets undergo behavior modification before turning to drugs to treat anxiety.

So what can you try to reduce your dog’s anxiety?

There are a number of natural solutions that may help.

Calming equipment, a calm environment, and desensitization activities. Examples of calming equipment are the use of something like a Thundershirt for dogs that are anxious when they hear thunder or fireworks; dog calming music; and also dog-appeasing pheromones (DAP) which are based on the hormones produced by mother dogs to calm their pups.

Dog-appeasing pheromones are available in sprays, collars and even electric diffusers.  A study1 performed in 54 dogs in an animal shelter showed that after 7 days, rescue dogs who were exposed to these pheromones barked a lot less, and less loudly.  Other fear and stress-related behaviours were also reduced.

Another natural solution is Valerian, a flower whose roots have been used for centuries to treat dog anxiety, insomnia and stress. I found it especially helpful for both dogs and cats when they needed to visit the clinic.

Finally, don’t forget about essential oils.  Shelter dogs2 who were exposed to chamomile and lavender barked less and moved less anxiously than dogs who were not (similar to how these two scents create calming effects in humans.)

Have you had any success with non-pharmaceutical treatments for dog anxiety?  Let us know in the comments below!

Resources

1) http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.236.12.1308

2) http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(04)00197-2/abstract

Protect Your Dog’s Joints All Winter Long

Winter is coming! Start now to protect your dog’s joints all season long

That’s right. We used the “W” word!

Whether you like it or not, winter is on its way. And for seniors and pets with joint issues the cold weather can be challenging. Just like us, our pet’s can experience increased stiffness and difficulty getting around when the temperatures drop.

The good news is that there are steps you can take now to prepare for the chilly season ahead.

W – Watch their weight

We are not the only ones who are prone to weight gain over the holidays. A lack of activity and increased table scraps can cause some pets to pack on the pounds during the winter months.

And while many people think this is just a part of their dog’s natural cycle, the more likely case is that we just don’t move as much when it’s cold outside.

The problem is that every extra pound your pet puts on is added pressure on his joints and can increase the likelihood of stiffness and mobility problems. Even a short walk around the block is better than nothing and will give you both the opportunity to keep the winter weight at bay.

Not a fan of the ice and snow? Check out our final tip below for information on choosing an indoor doggy daycare facility!

I – Ice is not nice!

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but where I am winter can be fierce. While snow is a nuisance, ice can be dangerous – both for you and your pet!

When you’re out for your daily walk, be mindful of your surroundings and notice if there are any icy patches up ahead. Take your time and ensure you have boots with a good amount of traction to keep you from skidding and taking your pup down with you.

The ice and snow also pose problems for your pet’s tender toes. Some breeds (my sheltie included!) are prone to little ice balls that form between their toes and can cause frostbite and sores. Your best bet is to pop a pair of booties onto your pet’s paws to keep his feet warm and protected. The added bonus? Boots will protect your dog’s feet from the burning effects of salt, which can be found on many roadways and sidewalks around most neighborhoods.

N – Nature may hold the answer

Natural supplements including glucosamine, green lipped muscle and oxidized beta-carotene are a great way to keep your dog’s joints healthy all winter long. Since most supplements require some time to build up in the system, it is best to think about your dog’s supplement needs now.

Plan ahead and get your pet on a joint supplement as early as October to help keep him feeling great when the weather gets colder.

You can also consider learning more about the different healing therapies available near you. Many pets can get immense relief from natural healing modalities such as acupuncture, laser therapy, hydrotherapy and massage.

T – Thermal beds

When you’re stiff and sore the last thing you want to do is lie down on a cold, hard floor, right?

Older dogs are especially prone to feeling the creaks and strains of age and can really benefit from some added cushioning.

If your pet is really showing signs of discomfort, you may want to consider a special mattress designed specifically to cushion the joints and relieve pressure (like these super-deluxe beds from Tempur-pedic, which are amazing for stiff seniors!)

Heated beds can also feel really wonderful on stiff joints and are super cozy for pets of all ages. Pamper your pet with a deluxe bed and show them why they are your very best friend. CozyWinters is a great place to start your search and offers both electric and self-warmed beds for both dogs and cats.

E – Eek that’s c-c-cold!!

Some large breeds are lucky enough to have a built-in fur coat to protect them from the elements.

But many small and medium sized breeds can need some extra insulation to project them against the ice and cold.

Visit your local pet store and you’re apt to find a variety of winter wear to keep your dog warm and toasty.

Be sure to look for a coat that covers your pet well without impeding mobility. If it’s less icy and more slushy where you live you’ll want to consider a coat that also covers under your pet’s belly.

Not finding what you’re looking for locally? The Dog Outdoors has a large selection of styles and colours to suit even the most particular of pooches.

R – Remain indoors

When the ice and snow prevent you from your daily walks, a visit to a doggy daycare is a great way to burn off some energy and keep your dog active during the longer winter months.

We have taken our dogs to indoor pet centers and they have a blast! Plus, it’s a great chance to socialize your dog with others and acclimatize him to a variety of noises and stimulation.

Be sure to ask for a tour of the facilities and ask whether or not proof of vaccination is required. You’ll also want to meet the staff who will be supervising your pet and ensure they have the proper qualifications.

Other questions I like to ask are:

Are staff trained in emergency first aid for pets?

We don’t like to think about it but accidents happen and you’ll want to make sure there is at least one person on site who is trained in pet first aid.

Are pets required to be on flea medication to participate?

Nothing can ruin a fun afternoon with friends like a ferocious case of fleas. And the last think you want is a tiny hitchhiker finding it’s way into your home. Regardless of a facilities policy, you’ll want to make sure your dog is current on his flea medication and is well protected.

Will an actual person be watching my pet?

Some places rely more heavily on video monitoring than others be sure ask whether or not someone is actually supervising the pet’s play at all times.

Are more rambunctious pets allowed to play in a separate area from the quieter more timid pets?

If you have a shy toy poodle, chances are she will feel more comfortable playing with dogs of a similar energy level instead of the hyper-lab that just wants to wrestle and run. Similarly, an excitable and bouncy lab will likely have more fun chasing other high energy dogs who don’t run away frightened.

What is their protocol in case of an accident or emergency and they can’t reach me?

If something were to happen and you couldn’t be reached, do you want your pet taken to the nearest vet clinic or would you prefer the facility take no action until they speak with you? Many facilities will ask you what you prefer in terms of medical intervention and will have you sign a waiver indicating that you are responsible for any vet charges incurred in case of an emergency.

Winter is a wonderful time of year, and with proper planning you can keep your dog’s joints healthy all winter long!

Are Homeopathic Remedies For Dogs Worth It?

You’ve seen them before.  The small amber vials of liquids and pellets lining the walls of many health food stores are enticing and mysterious, aren’t they?

When you first begin to explore homeopathy for your dog’s joint health, all the choices can seem overwhelming. Which is why we are going to break it down for you and help you choose which remedies can help your dog’s joints.

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is defined as a system of medicine that utilizes micro-doses of natural substances, including herbs, bark, seeds, flowers and minerals (just to name a few). It is based on the Principle of Similars (i.e., “Like cures like”) and has been used for thousands of years.

While the modern practice of homeopathy was founded in 1810 by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, the principles of homeopathy can actually be traced back to the ancient Greeks.

What makes homeopathy so interesting is that it seems to defy our usual “more is better” mentality. Instead, treating your pet’s joints with homeopathy requires giving remedies that contain only minute amounts of the medicinal substance with the goal of stimulating the body’s own defenses.

Each homeopathic remedy contains extremely teeny, tiny dilutions of substances and the more dilute a remedy, the more powerful its healing ability.

Wait a minute… So if the remedy barely contains any medicine, how on earth can it possibly work?

Homeopathic remedies work because they don’t act in the same way as traditional drugs and instead act on an energetic level. More specifically, they harness or stimulate the body’s innate healing abilities.

While traditional treatments can rely on techniques that counter the healing process and suppress symptoms, homeopathic remedies help enhance a natural process that your body is already designed to do: heal itself.

This means that homeopathic treatments are able to work on the root of the problem versus simply masking the symptoms for temporary relief. The result is a deeper form of treatment that can have a powerful and lasting impact on your pet’s health.

Best of all, homeopathic remedies are usually very safe and have no side effects. The one caveat is that you must take care to choose the correct remedy otherwise you can risk making the original problem worse. This means that it is important to work with a trained veterinarian to ensure your pet gets the best remedy for his or her problem.

How to choose a remedy

Unlike traditional medications, which are more of a “one size fits all” approach, homeopathic remedies are highly specific and are selected based on how the individual patient experiences his or her illness.

For example, if your dog has stiff joints, your choice of remedy might depend on whether or not your dog is worse or better when he first gets up after resting. Or whether or not the stiffness is affected by the temperature or dampness in the air.

Choosing the right remedy requires specific knowledge about the patient, the problem and the possible remedies which means it’s always best to consult with a professional if you’re unsure.

Not sure where to start? Begin by building a homeopathy first aid kit!

Joint issues are not the only thing that homeopathy can help manage and may pet owners are introduced to homeopathic remedies for their day-to-day pet care needs. Dogs Naturally Magazine recommends these 12 Handy Remedies to keep on hand as part of your homeopathic first aid kit:

Apis mellifica – great for bee and other insect bites. Give every 20 minutes for a few doses after a bee sting.

Arnica – good for general pain, stiffness due to overexertion, soreness and musculoskeletal injuries.

Arsenicum album – great for GI upsets from eating spoiled food where there is both vomiting and diarrhea. Give twice an hour for a few hours.

Borax (the remedy, not the powder) – excellent for fear of thunderstorms and fireworks. Give this at the 6c potency twice a day for a month during the season.

Calendula (can be used both as an oral remedy and as an external ointment) – use for skin infections or any kind of external infection. It’s a remarkable healing agent and a tube of the ointment should always be on hand to apply topically to scrapes, infections and wounds. You can also buy a tincture and dilute it 1/10 and flush any cuts or wounds with it.

Hepar sulphur – is wonderful to treat painful abscesses anywhere on the body and painful infected anal glands.

Hypericum – is an excellent remedy to give for any pain due to nerve damage or injuries to nerve-rich areas. I once closed my finger in a window and learned firsthand the wonders of Hypericum. Great for when you cut your dog’s toenails too short.

Myristica – phenomenal remedy for anal sac infections and chronic anal sac problems.

Rhus tox – for arthritis that’s better after moving around, general musculoskeletal injuries, red swollen eyes, skin infections and skin itching.

Ruta – fantastic for any injury to tendons or ligaments and this remedy has a real affinity for the knee so you would use it immediately after any knee or cruciate injury.

Silicea – pushes foreign bodies like splinters or foxtails out of the skin.

Ledum – the first choice for any type of puncture wound, including those from insect bites. Insect bites that require

Apis will be hot and red whereas bites that require Ledum will be cool and appears bruised.

How do I give my pet homeopathic remedies?

When you first start working with homeopathy, there are a few rules to follow to ensure your pet gets the most out of their chosen remedy:

  • Homeopathic remedies need to melt on the gums so they should not be hidden in a treat or put in food. Instead, drop the pellets directly into your dog’s mouth or dissolve them in a small amount of water. Dogs have a built in pouch in their cheek that you can pop the pellets into and allow them to slowly dissolve.
  • Homeopathic remedies should be handled as minimally as possible and it is best to drop them straight from the bottle into your dog’s cheek
  • Timing is everything! It is best to give homeopathic remedies at least 45 minutes to one hour BEFORE feeding your dog
  • Because homeopathy is an energy medicine, the remedies should not be stored next to heavy electromagnetic appliances such as televisions and computers or left in the bright hot sun for a long time.

Where can I find a Homeopathic veterinarian near me?

This is the easy part! You can find a list of certified homeopathic veterinarians in the United States by visiting The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy website.

If you’ve been thinking about homeopathy for your pet’s joint issues be sure to consult with your veterinarian and go slow.

References:

  1. http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/12-homeopathic-remedies/
  2. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2014/05/26/veterinary-homeopathy.aspx
  3. http://theavh.org/referrals/
  4. http://www.natural-dog-health-remedies.com/homeopathy-for-dogs.html
  5. http://www.canismajor.com/dog/altern2.html
  6. http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/121-homeopathy

Surprising Uses For Oils You’ll Want to Start Using Today – Part II

In our last post we talked about the science of Essential Oils and why you may want to add them to your pet’s holistic health routine. Today we’re going a little deeper to explore the Do’s and Don’ts of essential oils for pets. I’ll also break down my Top Nine Favourite oils to add to your pet first aid kit.

The Do’s and Don’t of safely using essential oils for pets

 

While oils can be very useful for healing, they’re powerful and may cause a variety of adverse effects if not used properly. It’s crucial to respect the oils and only use them safely and as recommended.

According to Dogs Naturally magazine, there are three things you must consider when using essential oils for your pet:

1. Start by buying high quality oils

The biggest problem is essential oils may contain contaminants or adulterants that can cause unwanted effects. This means you should only use therapeutic grade oils from reputable companies.

2. Respect the nose

Animals have a sensitive sense of smell, which means you should always dilute your oils and ALWAYS provide your pet with an escape route. If your pet does not like oil, stop using it.

3. Use caution with cats

Cats are particularly at risk for oil reactions so USE SPARINGLY ON CATS. One drop diluted in 50 drops of pure dilutional oil such as grape seed oil is usually sufficient.

The Nine Do’s and Don’t of Using Essential Oils Safely

 

  • DO remember your pet’s body metabolizes and reacts differently than our bodies. What we may find soothing or pleasant may cause distress in your dog or cats.
  • DO keep in mind some oils can cause liver and kidney toxicity in sensitive species. Cats are particularly sensitive because they use a unique system in their liver to detoxify. Cats are particularly sensitive to “hot” oils.
  • DON’T ever use these oils on cats: cinnamon, oregano, clove, wintergreen, thyme, birch, melalueca oil.
  • DO always dilute.
  • DON’T use on pets younger than 10 weeks of age.
  • DON’T put essential oils into the ear canal as they can damage a pet’s delicate ear drums and nerves
  • DO use care around the eyes and always wash your hands after handling oils to prevent accidentally getting them into your eyes.
  • DO limit their use. According to Richard Palmquist, it is important to use oil for no more than two weeks and then provide a rest period.
  • DO watch your pet’s behaviour. Your dog can’t tell you what is or isn’t working so watch for reactions which can include excessive scratching, sniffing, nervousness or whining.

9 Surprising Uses For Oils You’ll Want to Start Using Today

    • 1. Thieves oil for cleaning and disinfecting pet areasYoung Living’s Thieves Oil is a powerful combination of Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), lemon (Citrus limon), cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), Eucalyptus radiata, and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). It has been shown to interrupt the life cycle of bacteria and interfere with the ability of viruses to replicate. This makes it the perfect way to deodorize and sanitize your pet’s living space naturally.
    • 2. Lavender for itchy skinLavender is known to be soothing. It also acts as a natural remedy for many skin ailments. Famous for it’s analgesic and anti-fungal properties, lavender oil is also an effective antiseptic and can be used pure or diluted.

      How to use Lavender for your dog?

      • Rub a few drops of oil into your dog’s collar to calm nerves during car trips or thunderstorms
      • Add a few drops to your pet’s shampoo for a skin soothing experience
      • Apply to skin irritations to help healing
    • 3. Cedarwood and Citronella for fleasFleas can be a nuisance year round thanks to better housing insulation and centralized heating. It’s important to treat your pet regularly to prevent an infestation.

      One quick and simple solution is a homemade flea collar:

      • Pour 2-3 drops of Cedarwood essential oil and Citronella essential oil on your dogs collar (always take the collar off to do this!). If your dog is new to oils, consider diluting the oils with a few tablespoons of water first
      • Reapply once a week
    • 4. Rosemary for coat deodorizingRosemary has slight antiseptic property making it a gentle way to deodorize your pet’s coat. If your dog is starting to get a little bit sticky, mix 8-10 drops of Rosemary essential oil in a spray bottle and spray onto your dogs fur until slightly damp. Give your dog a quick brush and you’re done!
    • 5. German Chamomile for allergic reactionsOriginally from Germany, this flower is known for its use in tea across the globe. In addition to making a delightful drink for humans, Chamomile is also a great addition to your pet first aid kit. It can be used safely in dogs for skin irritations, allergic reactions and burns.
    • 6. Valerian for anxietyValerian root is known for it’s calming properties and has long been used as an effective treatment for anxiety in pets and people alike. In addition to the herbal supplement, you can also find Valerian Root essential oil which, when used in a vaporizer, can help provide additional support for your anxious pet.
    • 7. Bergamot for ear issuesThe oil known for giving Earl Grey Tea its enticing flavour and aroma is also a great addition to your pet’s essential oil toolkit. If your pet is prone to ear issues Bergamot is your new favourite oil.

      To use, dilute with pure grade vegetable oil for an all natural ear cleanser.

      Bonus: Bergamot is also mentally relaxing making ear care time more pleasant for both of you.

    • 8. Cedarwood for coat conditioning
      This super oil is effective against a multitude of skin and coat issues due to its antiseborrhoeic, antiseptic, astringent, antifungal and insecticidal properties. Use diluted Cederwood to soothe and heal skin conditions caused by excessive oil and seasonal allergies. You can also add it to a spray bottle with water and use as an effective insect repellant.
    • 9. Peppermint for joint stiffnessWhen diluted and mixed with coconut oil, peppermint essential oil can make a wonderfully cooling muscle rub that can soothe your pet’s stiff joints. Note: Always wash hands after use!

The bottom line?
Start slowly! Once you discover the amazing health benefits of essential oils it’s easy to get carried away and inadvertently overdose your pet. Take it slow and contact your veterinarian if you’re unsure.

When used correctly, essential oils can be such a wonderful addition to your pet care routine. You’re going to love them! I have slowly replaced all my cleaning supplies and health care products in favour of natural alternatives that I make at home using essential oils. The cats all love when I diffuse lavender in the bedroom and Stewie’s coat always smells lovely after his rosemary conditioning spray!

 

How are you using essential oils in your life and which recipes are your favourite go-to’s?

 

Resources:

Surprising Uses For Essential Oils You’ll Want to Start Using Today – Part I

Do you need an extra tool to help with a frustrating health concern for your pet? Essential oils may just be what you’re looking for!

Essential oils can be a valuable addition to your natural pet care routine and can help with a number of common health problems.

It’s amazing to think they also contain powerful compounds which, when used incorrectly, can cause more harm than good. Which is why it’s crucial to do your research when beginning to use oils for your pet.  When in doubt – ask your veterinarian and remember: less is more.

So if you have been curious about essential oils and haven’t known where to start, consider this your Beginner’s Guide to getting started!

Where to start

If you visit the essential oil section of your natural food store, you’ll find an overwhelming number of brands to choose from. And the prices can vary wildly making it difficult to know which one to choose.

How do you know which essential oils are good and which aren’t?

Is it worth the money to buy more expensive oils?

And what information should you look for on the label?

Start with the label!

When it comes to essential oils, you get what you pay for. Committing to paying a little extra generally buys you a higher quality oil.

Cheaper versions may be adulterated or contain synthetic elements. These may render their medicinal benefits useless.

Marketing hype and advertising can make it tricky to know what information is useful and what information is pure marketing spin.

Reading the label is a great place to start!

All essential oils used in aromatherapy should be extracted from a specified plant species, e.g. Lanandula angustifolia versus Lavandula x intermedia. This is one way to guarantee that the oils you purchase are unadulterated and pure. Each plant has different healing properties and you want to make sure you are getting the most effective oils possible. While both of the named species of lavender above can have therapeutic benefits, they may differ slightly in efficacy depending on the condition being treated. This is why you should always look for the species name on the bottle so you know exactly what species you are getting.

Look for a supplier who is dedicated to supplying essential oils to aromatherapy practitioners and who support public education. The more information you can find on the label to vouch for this reputation, the better chance of it being a higher quality product.

Ensure the essential oils you purchase are grown and cultivated in a way that is sustainable, ecological and takes advantage of the natural resources of a given area (versus growing plants unnaturally in greenhouses away from their native environment). Where a plant is grown and how it is processed is critical to the quality of the final product. The use of pesticides, soil conditions, rainfall amounts and variability in altitude are all things that can impact the efficacy of a given essential oil

Natural Dog Health Remedies offers the following guidelines to help you select high-quality essential oils for your dog:

  1. Look for essential oils that are bottled in amber, cobalt or violet glass bottles
  2. Look for important information on the label (or on the store’s website, brochure, etc.):
    • Scientific name of the oil (e.g. Lavandula angustifolia) – So you know you are getting the right essential oil
    • Common name of the oil (e.g. Lavender) – This is the name you will recognize
    • Country of origin – A consumer would not be expected to know the difference between using oils from plants in one area of the world versus another; however, this is important information for an Aromatherapist. Having this information on the bottle indicates that the company is marketing to knowledgeable parties and professionals as well as general consumers.
    • Method of cultivation (e.g. organic, cultivated, wild harvested, etc.) – Most essential oils sold in the USA are not certified as organic but some European brands are
    • The words “100% pure essential oil” – A statement of purity is crucial! You should be informed if it is not 100% pure oil (i.e., is mixed with another type of oil)

The science of essential oils

Essential oils can be used for everything from anxiety to skin conditions. They’ve even proven effective for skin issues resistant to more traditional treatments.

Dr. Melissa Shelton explains how this works:

“The beauty of essential oils is plants change, and so every single distillation of essential oils is slightly different from its predecessor. This is a benefit we don’t receive from pharmaceutical drugs. Every batch of a medical drug must by law be identical to the batch that preceded it.

Plants, on the other hand, adapt and change with the tiniest variable in their environment, for example, a change in the water supply. So essential oils, created from ever-adapting plants, never reach a point where pathogens become resistant to them. They stay at least one step ahead – which makes them much smarter than anything we can create in a laboratory.”

Going deeper – it’s time to get Quantum

Are you ready to get your geek on? This part is going to get a little trippy but I promise it’s worth it.

The more we learn about the world of Quantum physics, the more we understand that energetically, everything is connected.

Different wavelengths of light produce a range of colours. Different wavelengths of sound produce different pitches. And the interaction of these energetic signatures can change and enhance each other. Physicists have known for decades.

If you think of your emotions as another type of wavelength it’s easy to see how joy and happiness can be considered higher energy states than sadness and shame.

Are you following so far? I warned you we were going to get a little geeky!
So, everything is energy. You’re energy. I’m energy. The building you’re reading this in is made up of compact parcels of energy known as matter. And all this energy is connected.

Which brings us back to the science of essential oils:

You see, when specific frequencies of plant matter, e.g. essential oils, interact with the biochemisty of our bodies, it can produce healing effects.

Essential oils have the ability to affect animals at the cellular level, deep in the matrix of the body’s energy. So they can have a positive impact on the deep tissue of the brain and immune system.

Essential oils are powerful because they work on the cognitive and emotional levels in addition to the physiological level. This means they have far reaching benefits that directly affects the way the body processes thoughts and feelings.

Waste of Money or Worth it? The Perils of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance.  Should you or shouldn’t you?

You’ve been thinking about it for a while, but just haven’t felt confident enough to take the plunge.

On the one hand, it provides a financial safety net should you ever be faced with a life or death decision for your beloved pet.  In cases like that, having pet insurance can make all the difference.

On the other hand, maybe it’s a waste of money. You wonder if it’s necessary at all.  Would you be better to put the money in a Rainy Day account and use it when you need it?

When it comes to deciding on pet insurance there are a lot of factors to consider. But ultimately it all comes down to these three things:

1.  If you’re lucky, it will be a waste of money

You pay for fire insurance hoping you will never have a fire.  You pay for disability insurance hoping you’ll never become disabled.

And like all other insurance plans, when you decide to purchase pet insurance you do so hoping it will turn out to be a complete waste of money.  Because that would mean your pet stays healthy and safe.

And that’s a good thing, right?

It would be wonderful to be able to predict the future, wouldn’t it?

If you knew your dog was going to gobble up your favourite pair of socks and need surgery. Or that your cat would sneak an entire piece of Thanksgiving turkey and need hospitalization. In that case the issue of whether or not to get pet insurance would be a no brainer.

But the fact is you can’t predict the future and there is always a chance you will (hopefully!) pay into an insurance plan you never end up needing.

I, personally, have had pet insurance for years and still complain about the cost of premiums each month when I get my bill.  So far I have been fortunate enough to have only submitted a few claims in Stewie’s lifetime. Having said that I feel better knowing a backup plan exists should I need it.

If you decide to get insurance you want to make sure you go with a company you can trust and will have your back should the unexpected happen.

Which brings us to Number 2…

2. Shop around

When it comes to selecting a pet health insurance company, each one offers slightly different options that may or may not fit your particular needs.

Each plan will have pros and cons and you need to choose the one that makes the most sense to you.

I have insurance for Stewie and after much shopping around we chose Trupanion.  They offered us the perfect blend of a comprehensive plan at a cost I can afford.  I like the option of choosing my own deductible and the fact that there is no upper limit on coverage is important to me.  Plus, having worked in veterinary hospitals, I knew dealing with Trupanion would always be pleasant and any issues would be resolved quickly.

Each of the best pet insurance companies list below get high ratings for customer service and coverage, so it really comes down to what you need most and how much you are willing to spend to get it.

Questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Does the company offer coverage over or under a specific age?  If your pet is too young or too old some companies will not cover them.
  • Does the dog insurance plan you are considering cover joint and hip conditions? This may be especially important if you have a Labrador, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or other large breed dogs.
  • Are pre-existing conditions covered?
  • How long do you need to wait until coverage begins after you enroll?

Pet Insurance Review offers a great breakdown of the Top 5 Best Pet Insurance companies according to user ratings.

healthy paws insurance logo embrace insurance logo trupanion-logo PetsBestLogo
Monthly Cost $15 – $90 $8 – $60 $13 – $100 $12 – $90 $5 – $90
Coverage There is a co-pay of 10%-30% after your deductible, depending on the plan. The payout is based on the actual vet bill. There is a co-pay of 0%-20% after your deductible. The payout is based on the actual vet bill There is a co-pay of 10%-35% after the deductible. The payout amount is based on the actual vet bill. There is a co-pay of 10% after the deductible. Examination fees are not covered. The payout amount is based on your actual vet bill. You choose a reimbursement level of 70%-100% after your deductible. The payout amount is based on your actual vet bill.
Deductible $50 – $500 annually, depending on the plan $50 – $200 per incident, per year $100 – $1000 per year You select the deductible amount during enrollment. Range: $0 – $1000 per incident. $0 – $1,000 per year
Payout Limits No per incident, annual of lifetime limits. Annual limit of $8,000 – $20,000 depending on plan. Annual limit of $2,000 – $15,000. No Lifetime limit. No per incident limit. No annual limit. No lifetime limit. Annual limit of $1,000 – $20,000 depending on plan. Lifetime limit of $100,000 – $200,000.
Limits
  • Pet must be at least 8 weeks old and under 14 years to enroll.
  • Coverage begins 15 days after policy begins.
  • There is a 12 month waiting period for hip dysplasia.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Pet must be at least 6 weeks old to enroll.
  • No upper age limit.
  • Coverage begins 24 hours after date listed on policy for accidents, 14 days after date listed for illness.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Pet must be at least 8 weeks old to enrol.
  • Pets must be under 14 years old to enrol.
  • Coverage begins 14 days after date listed on policy.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Hereditary and congenital conditions are covered if they have not been diagnosed or suspected before policy becomes active.
  • Pet must be at least 8 weeks old to enroll
  • Pets must be under 14 years old to enroll
  • Once enrolled, pets can stay insured regardless of age.
  • Coverage begins 30 days after date listed on policy
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered
  • Hip dysplasia is not part of the core coverage
  • Alternative therapies are available for an additional rider known as the “Additional Care Package”
  • Pet must be at least 7 weeks old to enroll
  • No upper age limit
  • Coverage begins 3 days after policy for accidents, 14 days after for illness
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Hereditary conditions and alternative treatments have limited coverage.
  • Wellness coverage available for extra fee.

 

Which plan is right for you?

Only you can decide which plan is right for you and your pet.

If you do decide to go ahead and buy pet health insurance make sure you do your research.

Each company offers a multitude of options that can be tailored to your specific needs and budget.  When in doubt, call the company and speak with a representative to address any questions or concerns you may have.

And if you prefer to Let It Ride, so to speak, be sure to set up a Rainy Day fund that you contribute to regularly for your pet’s health care needs.  If years later it turns out your pet lived a healthy and accident free life you will have a lovely little nest egg set aside!

3.  Talk to friends and family

Pet health insurance companies don’t exactly have the best reputation, do they?

Google “dog insurance company reviews” and you’re bound to discover a plethora of stories eschewing the evils of insurance companies.  And just like the eternal Coke/Pepsi debate, when it comes to which company to choose, everyone it seems has an opinion.

So, when it’s time to decide on a company, the best people to ask are — other pet owners, of course!

Strike up a conversation at the dog park. Or while waiting at the vet’s office.

Ask your friends and family – and even Facebook friends! –  if they have dog insurance? And which company are they with? And most importantly are they happy?

A company can have the best and more affordable packages but if they are horrible to deal with, you want to steer clear.

Wrapping it up. . .

Choosing to get pet health insurance is a very personal decision. It depends on a number of complex factors including cost, lifestyle, needs, benefits and pet age.

For some, pet health insurance could be a lifesaver.

If, after researching all the companies and talking to all your friends you are still unsure, speak with your veterinarian.  They know your pet’s personal health history and can make a recommendation based on your pet’s specific health needs.

So the burning question is: are you a Pet Insurance Believer or Avoider?

Do you have insurance? Have you ever had insurance and are you thinking about getting pet health insurance?
 
Resources:

  1. Pet Insurance Review http://www.petinsurancereview.com/dog.asp
  2. Healthy Paws http://www.healthypawspetinsurance.com
  3. Pet Plan http://www.petinsurancereview.com/
  4. Embrace http://www.embracepetinsurance.com
  5. Trupanion http://trupanion.com/
  6. Pets Best https://www.petsbest.com
  7. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/copay.asp

How to Clean Doggy Drool and Nose Art Off Your Windows

Ah, nose art. Or as we call them in our family: Snot Dots

If you have pets then you are most definitely familiar with the streaks and smears of slobber your pet’s noses can leave behind on your windows and glass doors.

Unlike regular grease and grime, the icky residue your pet’s leave behind is really just a mixture of saliva and mucous (aka – snot). It is sticky, slimy and just plain hard to get rid of. Gross, right?

Luckily, getting your windows and glass back to a sparkly shine is not as hard as you think. Here are a few helpful suggestions to get your windows slobber free!

Tip #1:

Clean your windows as soon as possible. Not always the most practical advice since chances are the moment you put the rag away your pet will be back at the glass. But the longer you leave the saliva and slobber on the window, the hard it will be to remove.

Tip #2:

Use a solution of equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. The vinegar helps cut through the snot and will remove any stains left behind

Tip #3:

Dip a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser into hot water. Wring out the excess and scrub your pet’s nose art off the window. Then use the vinegar/water mixture to polish your windows back to a brilliant shine

Tip #4:

Try Goo-Gone! This handy cleaner is designed to eliminate sticky messes and can help remove the thick, stubborn slobber your dog leaves behind. Be sure to rinse the window with warm water. Then finish up with the vinegar and water mixture.

Tip #5:

Using a rag, wipe your window with Pine Sol. Allow the cleaner to sit for a few minutes to help penetrate the gunky goo. Rinse off with warm water and finish up with the vinegar and water mixture for a streak free shine.

Does your dog decorate your windows with “Nose Art” or “Snot Dots”?