Everybody’s Gone Surfin’ (Part One)

computer cat

Finding Reliable Pet Health Information Online

Guest Post by Nancy Kay, DVM

When you or a loved one develops a medical issue, chances are you’ll be inclined to do some Internet research.  While I say, “More power to you!” other medical professionals might roll their eyes at the thought of “wasting” valuable time discussing potentially “whackadoodle” notions gleaned from cyberspace. 

Part one of “Everybody’s Gone Surfin” will teach you how to find instructive, accurate, worthwhile Internet information while avoiding “online junk food.”  Part two (coming soon to your home computer) will provide tools to assist you in comfortably discussing what you’ve learned online with your veterinarian, in a way that promotes collaborative discussion. By the way, although I’m a veterinarian teaching people how to better care for their furry and feathered family members, please know that this information also applies to your own health care. 

So, let’s begin.  How can you determine whether or not a Web site is dishing out information that is worthy of your time? Here are some general guidelines: 

  1. Ask your veterinarian for her Web site recommendations.  She might wish to refer you to a specific site that will supplement or reinforce the information she has provided.
  2. Veterinary college web sites invariably provide reliable information.  Search for them by entering “veterinary college” or “veterinary school” after the name of the disease or symptom you are researching.
  3. Web addresses ending in “.org,” “.edu,” and “.gov,” represent nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and governmental agencies, respectively.  They will likely be sources of objective and accurate information.
  4. If your dog has a breed-specific disease, pay a visit to the site hosted by that specific breed’s national organization.
  5. Avoid business-sponsored Web sites that stand to make money when you believe and act on what they profess (especially if it involves purchasing something).
  6. Be ever so wary of anecdotal information.  It’s perfectly okay to indulge yourself with remarkable tales (how Max’s skin disease was miraculously cured by a single session of aromatherapy; how global warming is the cause of hip dysplasia), but view what you are reading as fiction rather than fact.  As fascinating as these National Enquirer type stories may seem, please don’t let them significantly influence the choices you make for your dog.
  7. I really love disease-specific online forums.  Check out those sponsored by Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/).  Not only do they provide a wealth of educational information, members can be a wonderful source of emotional support- always a good thing for those of us who share our homes and hearts with an animal.  If you are considering joining an online forum, I encourage you to look for a group that focuses on a specific disease (kidney failure, diabetes, etc), has lots of members, and has been around for several years.  For example, an excellent Yahoo group K9KidneyDiet (addresses issues pertaining to dogs with kidney failure) has 3,391 members and has been up and running for eight years.  A large group such as this typically has multiple moderators who provide more than one point of view (always a good thing) and greater round-the-clock availability for advice and support.  Look for presentation of cited references (clinical research that supports what is being recommended). Such groups should have a homepage that explains the focus of the group and provides the number of members and posts per month (the more the better).  They may have public archives of previous posts that can provide a wealth of information.

Listed below are three Web sites that discuss Addison’s disease (an illness that can affect dogs and people- John F. Kennedy was diagnosed with Addison’s disease).  Now that you are an expert on evaluating Web sites, here is a little test of your skills.  Which one of these three sites is worthy of your time and attention? Have a look and let me know what you think! 

  1. http://addisonsdiseasebreakthroughs.com/
  2. http://www.addisondogs.com/
  3. http://www.natural-dog-health-remedies.com/addisons-disease-in-dogs.html 

Keep an eye out for Part Two of Everybody’s Gone Surfin’ in which I will give you some tools for comfortably and effectively broaching the subject of your Internet research with your veterinarian! 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

speaking for spot coverPlease visit http://www.speakingforspot.com/ to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join Dr. Kay’s email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for Dr. Kay on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Giveaway: The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care

Holistic Cat Care

The Conscious Cat is starting 2010 with a giveaway!  And to start the new year off on a healthy note for your cat, I’m giving away one copy of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care by Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D. and Jean Hofve, D.V.M.  This comprehensive guide to holistic cat care covers topics such as natural nutrition, preventive medicine, natural remedies, hands on healing, and more.  The book is beautifully illustrated.  Click here to read my review of this book

To enter, please leave a comment letting me know why you’d like to win this book.  One comment per person, please.  For an additional chance to win,  you can blog, tweet or share on Facebook about this giveaway and leave the link in a comment.  The deadline for entering the giveaway is Sunday, January 10.  Good luck!

Honest Scrap Award

Honest_Scrap

I’m delighted and honored that The Conscious Cat received the Honest Scrap Award from Mason Canyon, the author of the wonderful blog Thoughts in Progress.  The award is given to “bloggers who put their heart on display as they write from the depths of their soul.”   For more about the award, and the amazing company I’m in, please visit today’s post on Mason’s blog.

The award came with two “conditions: ” that the recipient post 10 interesting things about themselves, and that the the award can be passed on to other blogs.

So, here are 10 things about myself – you be the judge of whether they’re interesting or not:

1.   I can’t imagine a world without cats.
2.   I was born in Germany.
3.   Walking is my favorite exercise.
4.   I like hard rock and heavy metal.
5.   I’m an introvert.
6.   I don’t like negative people.
7.   I love to eat out.
8.   I’m very intuitive.
9.   I love New York City.
10. I love being a published author.

Now to pass this award on – I’m passing it on to the following blogs who never fail to delight and inspire me:

The Boomer Muse
Conversations with Eva
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Dawn Kairns and Maggie the Dog

The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood
The Daily Tail
Catnip Connection

The Creative Cat
Veterinary Wisdom Cafe
Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

I’m not attaching any conditions to the award – enjoy, and feel free to pass it on if you wish!

 

New Year’s Intentions

 New Year's Resolutions

 
Another New Year, another round of New Year’s resolutions.  Lose weight, eat healthier, begin a fitness program, spend more time with family and friends, enjoy life more — these are probably some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions on most peoples’ lists.  They’re also the resolutions most likely to be broken by the end of January.  Maybe it’s time for a shift in consciousness when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.  Instead of making resolutions this year, why not set New Year’s Intentions?
 
The definition of intention, according to Merriam Webster, is “a determination to act in a certain way”, whereas the definition of resolution is “the act of determining.”  There’s a subtle difference, but one (intention) implies that we are actually determined to do something differently, whereas the other (resolution) simply states that we’ve decided to change something.   The difference from a vibrational perspective is far greater than these definitions suggest.  Our thoughts create our reality.  Law of Attraction teaches us that like attracts like, so when we focus our thoughts on what we would like to create in our lives, we attract it to us.  Setting an intention is nothing more than focusing our thoughts on a desired outcome.
 
Using the example of wanting to lose weight, rather than making a resolution to loose weight, which focuses on the extra weight we’re trying to get rid of, it makes more sense from a vibrational perspective to set the intention that we’re going to have a healthy, slender body that feels good.  The universe doesn’t distinguish between thoughts about what we want or don’t want, it will attract what we think about.  So if we continue to think about how we don’t want to be overweight or how we need to drop those extra pounds, we’re only going to attract more of what we don’t want into our lives — which, in this case, is extra weight!  If, however, we think about how great it will feel to have a healthy, slender body that feels good and moves well, we’re well on our way to achieving our goal.
 
Now that’s not to say we don’t still have to exercise more and eat right, but by setting the intention and focusing our thoughts on the desired outcome, we will naturally want to make the choices that are in alignment with our desire.  Our choices become “inspired action” — the action of eating better and exercising more will feel like the next logical step rather than a battle or a chore.
 
We all have the power to choose our thoughts.  This New Year’s, why not choose to set intentions that will put you on the road to success, rather than making resolutions that are doomed to fail?

Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy

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Guest post by Daniela Caride

Cats should live inside and not be allowed outdoors at any time. No pet should go outside unattended. Cats may be exposed to a variety of risks that may harm them, and even you.

That’s why indoor cats live far longer than cats who go outdoors. The average life expectancy for an indoor cat is 12 to 15 years vs. 4 to 5 years for an outdoor cat, according to PetPlace.

If you are still not convinced, here are six reasons why you should keep your cats indoors:

1. Accidents – Your cat may be struck by a vehicle or get caught sleeping under a car hood when the engine gets turned on, killing or harming him seriously.

2. Life-threatening situations – Your cat is a potential target for dogs, wild animals and even animal abusers.

3. Disease – Your cat may catch serious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) if involved in a cat fight. He can also bring home parasites, such as fleas and ticks, and even become infected with ringworm, a fungus also transmissible to humans.

4. Poisoning – Your cat may be exposed to potential hazards from poisons, such as antifreeze, lawn fertilizers, weed killers and poisonous toxic plants. Cocoa mulch, widely used in gardens, for instance, can be fatal to cats.

5. Stealing and animal control – Your cat can be stolen or picked up by animal control authorities. He might end up in a shelter, where he may be adopted out to another family or euthanized.

6. Environmental impact – Your cat may harm the environment by hunting native birds. In many communities, birds are endangered because of the outdoors feline population.

The pros of keeping your cats indoors far outnumber the cons. But many people still ask if cats can be happy if only living inside. The answer is yes.

You can avoid boredom and discomfort by providing your cat a healthy environment combined with activities that stimulate him physically and mentally.

Here are four tips:

  • Provide a litter box per cat plus one (if you have three cats, have four litter boxes), so your cat has plenty of opportunities to evacuate in the places you want, not in the ones he chooses.

If you provide your cat with the right stimuli, you will make him happy, prolong his life and keep his and your health costs down. Who wouldn’t like to do this for such a great companion?

daniela and crosby-1

Daniela Caride is the publisher of The Daily Tail (http://www.TheDailyTail.com), a participatory blog about pets with stories, tips, and reviews. She lives with three cats, Crosby, Gaijin and Phoenix, three dogs, Frieda, Geppetto and Lola, and her husband, Martin, in Cambridge, MA.

Buckley’s First Christmas

Christmas card large

In memory of Buckley’s first Christmas with Amber and me:
An excerpt from Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher

Soon, it was time to get ready for Buckley’s first holiday season with Amber and me. I traditionally put up my Christmas tree during Thanksgiving weekend. It is a small, four-foot high artificial tree that I have had for close to twenty years. While I like the idea and especially the wonderful pine scent of a real tree, I also find it too much of a hassle to deal with having someone bring the tree into the house for me and then to remove it again at the end of the season, so I have been quite content with my artificial tree over the years. And since having a fake tree has even become the environmentally conscious thing to do in recent years, rather than feeling like I should be making apologies for it, I am now politically correct. The tree sits on a small table next to the dining room cabinet. The table is draped with a red tablecloth that reaches all the way to the floor, creating a perfect little cat tent underneath. Amber always enjoyed hiding underneath the tree during Christmases past, and now Buckley got to share in the fun. It provided endless entertainment for both cats, and it was a new experience for Amber to be stalked by Buckley from underneath the tree.

In addition to playtime, the tree also provided lovely moments of quiet contemplation for all three of us. Most evenings before going to bed, I turned off all the lights in the living room except for those on the tree and put on some soft Christmas music. With both cats curled up on my lap, we simply sat by the tree and enjoyed the lights, ornaments, and the profound sense of peace these moments brought. This experience has always had a meditative quality for me that was greatly enhanced by the shared energy of the two cats.

Amber had never been all that interested in the ornaments on the tree. I decorate the tree with ornaments I have collected over the years, many of them cat-themed, which should come as no surprise. Some of the ornaments have great sentimental value, such as the silver bell that I brought home after cleaning out my father’s condominium after he passed away. As far back as I can remember, that silver bell was on the Christmas trees of my childhood. Other ornaments were gifts from friends or items I had picked up while traveling. I always hung the breakable ornaments on the side of the tree furthest from the dining room table. In the past, Amber had occasionally jumped up on the table and batted at the ornaments she could reach from there. Thankfully, she had never tried to jump up on the table the tree was sitting on. I was not sure what to expect from Buckley, but she turned out to be far more interested in the tent underneath the tree than the actual tree or ornaments. I never once even saw her on the dining room table trying to bat at ornaments she could have reached from there.

Buckley’s first Christmas was a special time for all of us. This little cat had never gotten presents before in her life. Needless to say, I completely overdid it that year, and I was not the only one. Many of my friends also showered Buckley, as well as Amber, with toys and treats that Christmas. Buckley had a difficult time deciding what was more fun—the actual toys and treats or helping me tear them out of their colorful wrappings and ribbons.  She had a wonderful time that first Christmas, playing with abandon and giving herself up to total joy.

Amber’s Mewsings: Amber Gets Her Teeth Cleaned

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You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, I had to undergo the dreaded bi-annual exam (you can read all about that ordeal here), and Fern, my vet, decided that I needed to have my teeth cleaned.  That finally happened last week.  Let me tell you, it was not a fun day.

I politely waited for Mom to get up like I do every other morning, and I led the way to the kitchen.  At first I thought Mom was just really tired that morning, because instead of feeding me, she just gave me fresh water.  Then she made her coffee.  Hello!  My food always comes before her coffee!  She kept saying “I’m sorry, Amber, I can’t feed you this morning.”  Well, sorry didn’t quite cut it, we were talking about breakfast here, and I made my displeasure known in no uncertain terms.  When that didn’t get the desired result, I tried flattery and rubbed against Mom’s legs and purred.  Still no breakfast.  When she took her coffee into her office and started doing her computer stuff, I knew we had a serious problem.  I kept trying to remind her that she was forgetting something, but no breakfast appeared.  After about an hour of this, I gave up and curled up for a nap.  Maybe this was just a bad dream and I’d wake up and breakfast would be served.

Well, things only went downhill from there.  Mom woke me up from my nap – and I immediately knew it wasn’t for breakfast.  She grabbed me off the nice and soft window perch I’d been sleeping on and stuck me into my carrier.  I knew resistance would be futile, but I still complained at the top of my voice.  I know it upsets Mom when I cry, but I was spitting mad!  Before I knew it, I was in the car and we were on the way to what I knew by now would be to the dreaded cat hospital.  I could have cried all the way there, but I decided to go easy on Mom and just grumbled occasionally.

Once we got there, I refused to come out of my carrier, knowing full well that they have ways to get me out, but I wasn’t about to make it easy for them.  Fern was there, and two other women who, okay, I’ll admit it, had good kitty vibes, but I wasn’t feeling too friendly, so I ignored their pathetic attempts to make nice with me.  Mom dragged me out of the carrier while one of the women was holding on to it, and then Mom put me on the scale.  She was happy with what she saw there, so at least that was good.  Apparently, the measly rations that have passed for breakfast and dinner around here are working and I’ve lost a couple of pounds since my last visit to the cat hospital.  After being weighed, Mom put me on a table with a soft towel on top that was really nice and warm.  I have to admit, that felt pretty good, but I also knew it was supposed to give me a false sense of security.  Sure enough, seconds later, I felt a needle being stuck in my hip, and something cold and burning was injected into me.  A few seconds after that, I started feeling really weird – fuzzy and kind of tired.  I don’t remember much after that.

When I woke up, Mom was holding me in her arms.  My mouth felt strange – a little sore, and there was this odd flavor coating all my teeth, nothing a cat should ever have to taste.  It smelled like what Mom’s mouth smells like after she brushes her teeth.  I shudder to think they used that paste stuff I’ve seen her use on me while I was asleep.  Mom says it’s called a fluoride treatment, but I say it tastes and smells nasty.  My throat was sore, like something had been shoved down it and then pulled out again.  Mom told me it was a breathing tube, but I don’t really know what that means, nor do I care to!  I felt really weird – I wanted to wake up but I couldn’t really control how to move my head or the rest of me.  But at least Mom was holding me, and that really helped.  Eventually, I felt a little better. I was able to lift my head and look around a little bit.  I can’t say that I cared much for what I saw.  Fern and the two women who were responsible for everything that was done to me were still there.  They were now torturing another cat on the table I had been on earlier.

After what seemed like forever, Mom put me back in the carrier.  This time, I wasn’t putting up any fuss about going in there – I’ve been through this enough to know it meant we were going home!  Once we got home, I still felt pretty crummy – just out of sorts, restless, tired, but yet not able to relax.  My eyes felt strange, and I couldn’t see all that clearly.  The things I did see don’t normally exist in my house, so I’m not sure what that was all about.   Mom says it’s the drugs they gave me.  Finally, after a few hours of tripping like this, I was able to relax enough to take a nice long nap.

I know how important it is to keep my teeth nice and clean, but I sure am glad that this is over with for hopefully at least another six months.  And in all fairness, I know this is just as stressful for Mom as it is for me –she worries about me, and I love her for that.

Eva’s Journey – Second Chances and Lessons Learned

This is a story of a Christmas miracle.
This is a story of how some encounters are simply meant to be.
This is a story of the perseverance of the feline spirit.

This is Eva’s story.

Eva FB

Guest post by Renee L. Austin

Second chances are hard to come by, especially when the crazy pace of life can cause us to miss the fact that there was an initial opportunity to begin with.  And when there is a chance to change a life, one’s own or someone else’s, a second chance is even more precious – particularly when that life hangs in the balance…

I’d seen her at least a week, maybe two weeks earlier, climbing an embankment on the side of the road.  Even though there were no houses or barns nearby, the collar she was wearing stood out, and with some degree of relief I gave her just a fleeting thought.  I was in a bit of hurry and traveling the back dirt roads. Well, by December they’re usually treacherously slick and muddy narrow lanes flanked by the dull browns and grays of winter.  I have no business using them when they are so bad, but haste often overcomes common sense.

The next time I came upon her was in an even more remote area.  She was wandering ahead of me up the middle of the road through the freezing rain.  She was so un-cat-like; helpless looking and forlorn, head down, shoulders slumped, plodding through mud the consistency of pudding.  She seemed totally unconcerned with my car pulling up behind her and barely glanced over her shoulder before slightly quickening her pace.  Dejection and misery radiated from the little body.

When I stepped out and into the muck to call her, this suddenly animated creature whirled around and half ran to me chattering on and on in short rapid bursts.  She leapt into the car without hesitation and proceeded to hug me; purring loudly and rubbing her face against mine as I settled back behind the wheel.  Before I even got us turned around we were both covered in the mud she’d carried in with her.  The inside of the car was a mess, too.  And there I was, late-late-late, headed back to the house with a stray tortoiseshell cat loose in my car with cautionary thoughts churning of rabies, crazed tortie attacks, and wondering how I was going to explain this one to the folks at the emergency room.  She rode standing in my lap, shivering and smelling of cold, wet earth and winter, front legs wrapped tightly around my neck, face pressed hard against my cheek. It turned out that my biggest concern was being able to keep the car on the road while trying to see around her head.

It was much later that night after I’d returned and had time to really study her, that I understood just how close she must have been to the end – that she already must have decided there would be no more chances.  For however long she’d been on her own, and whatever had sustained her thus far, those resources and energy stores were gone. She was spent.  Clearly there was no longer any expectation of help.  Hope had faded and simply ceased to exist.

I remember looking down at her and thinking ‘no room at the inn’.  We do have a full house, and I’d been waffling back and forth between frustration and acceptance over the rate and circumstances at which the fur-footed population was increasing here.  Not only that, but I’ve been so slow to heal after losing my two special friends, each my heart and my soul.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to find space for others amidst the broken pieces.  In that moment I tried to close myself off even more, and then the little gray cat looked back up at me, stumbling and losing her balance in her weakened state.  The drawn face filled with anxiety, showed all of the uncertainty and desperation she’d been carrying-for who knows how long.

It’s been a year now, and this cat that I was so reluctant to bring into the fold is a constant companion; always on my lap or at my feet, or greeting me at the door – when she’s not off raiding the kitchen.  She could stand to lose a pound, maybe a bit more, but that’s something we’ll deal with much later.  Her enthusiasm for all food is rooted, I’m certain, in her having been so near starvation when I picked her up.

Eva walks with an awkward waddle as she follows me whenever I move throughout the house.  Her back, neck, and hip problems are always apparent-even more so-when she first awakens and tries to work the stiffness from her sore joints and muscles.  The chronic cough from a heartworm infection sometimes wakes us all in the night.  These things don’t seem to prevent her from playing by herself in my office while I work, or from efficiently devouring the contents of my plate if I look away for even a moment, or from applying teeth and nails if I decide too soon that she needs to get down.  She is a happy cat – as long as things go her way.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no shelter, no hope.  Just hunger and cold and loneliness, and a hopeless fading day by day.  And then I marvel at how, with my crazy schedule and ever changing routes, there could have been the teensiest possibility in all of the minutes and hours and days and miles, of coming upon Eva a second time.

A couple weeks ago I was driving the back way through the rain and gloom and saw a gray form moving up an embankment.  I kept going and then stopped, backing carefully until I was even with a little gray tortie cat.  She wanted nothing to do with me, but as I drove away and worried that she might just simply be frightened and still in need, I realized that I had at least stopped for that first opportunity.  I tucked my own concern away, and have not been back through there since.  Some things are meant to be, some things are not. You can’t be sure until it happens, or doesn’t happen.  The latter is the tricky part, isn’t it?

One thing I do know is that we have to be willing to stop and back up for a moment-and keep our hearts open, even if there’s only just a tiny bit of space among the pieces.

Editor’s note: Eva passed away in September 2014. 

Renee Austin is the owner of Whimsy Cats, Northern Virginia’s premiere cat sitting service.  Whimsy Cats specializes in cats who need special care such as administration of medication, fluids or insulin, senior cats, post-surgical care, and more.  For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.

How To Stay Healthy During Flu and Cold Season

sneezing cat

With flu season upon us, we’re all looking for ways to stay healthy.  This year, many of us are particularly worried because of the H1N1 swine flu.  It’s hard to know which information is simply media hype, and which information is based on fact and can be trusted.  I offer the following tips to help you navigate the flu season with your health, and your sanity, intact.

Vaccinate or Not?

First of all, don’t panic, no matter what the media tells you.  Humanity has dealt with the flu for thousands of years.  Flu viruses change from season to season, and while a flu vaccine may be necessary and even effective for some people, keep in mind that this season’s flu vaccine is based on last year’s virus and may not offer complete protection.  Additionally, the new H1N1 vaccine was brought to market much faster than vaccines of the past, and there is, as of yet, no information on potential long term side effects.  The decision on whether to get vaccinated should be an individual decision and take your health history as well as your risk of exposure into consideration.  While your physician should always be your ultimate source for health information, keep in mind that not all physicians take a holistic view when it comes to preventive health care.  Do your homework, and get educated.

Common Sense

Common sense precautions against the flu have not changed over the years. Frequent hand washing is still the best precautionary measure against the flu as well as colds.  But don’t waste your money on antimicrobial and antibacterial soaps – they don’t work against viruses and provide no added value over soap and water.  In fact, they may contribute to the spread of resistant bacteria.  Don’t touch your face unless you’ve just washed your hands – that’s a direct route for viruses to get into your respiratory tract.  So far, the common wisdom is that the H1N1 virus is airborne, so listen to what you mother taught you:  cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and throw the used tissues away – don’t leave them for someone else to deal with.

Boost your Immune System

  • Take a good multi-vitamin.  Do your research and make sure the brand you take has good bio-availability.  Most grocery store brands do not meet this requirement.
  • Take extra vitamin C.  I regularly take 1000mg a day, and I double or triple this when I’ve been exposed to someone who is sick.
  • Sip warm fluids.  Sipping hot tea can make your mouth unfriendly to microbes and reduces your risk of getting sick even after you’ve been exposed.  Gargling with warm salt water can have the same effect.
    Use a Neti Pot (nasal saline rinse) regularly to flush your sinuses before microbes have a chance to get a hold in your system.
  • Avoid inflammation promoters such as sugar, alcohol and tobacco.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels.  Generally, the more optimal your vitamin D levels, the less your chances of getting the flu or a cold.  Ideally, you should have your vitamin D levels tested, but if you live in the Northern hemisphere and don’t want to pursue testing, experts feel that it’s safe to take at least 1000-2000 IU’s of vitamin D during the winter months.
  • Support your intestinal flora with probiotics.  It may seem odd that your intestinal tract’s health has anything to do with flu and cold prevention, but most inflammation begins in the gut, which in turn, affects your immune system.
  • Get enough sleep.  This is one of the best ways to keep your immune system rested and healthy.
  • Exercise regularly.  Better yet, exercise outside.  
  • Listen to your body.  We all get early warning signs when we’re about to catch a cold or come down with the flu.  For some, it may be a tickle in the throat, for others, a mild stomach ache, nausea, or simple that “just ain’t right” feeling.  Gargle with warm salt water, use your Neti pot, increase your vitamin C and D supplementation, and get some rest.  Sometimes something as simple as slowing down can boost our immune system enough to ward off a cold or the flu in the early stages.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.  If you constantly worry about getting sick, chances are, you will get sick.  Picture yourself healthy with a strong immune system, and don’t stay glued to the news reports of flu outbreaks and pandemics.

H1N1 and Your Pets

Most pet owners are worried about whether their pets can contract the H1N1 swine flu.  Since this is an evolving story, it’s not possible at this stage to have a yes or no answer to this question.  So far, there have been reports of ferrets and birds as well as several cats who contracted the virus.  It’s important to know that in all the cases of the cats, the virus was transmitted from humans in the households who were sick with the virus to the cats, and not the other way around.  There has been one report of a dog being infected with H1N1 in China.  It appears as though in this case, too, the virus was passed from human to dog and not the other way around. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) maintains an information page on their website with the most recent information on H1N1 and how it affects pets.

Until we know more about how H1N1 affects pet, take the same common sense precautions you would with a human family member if you do get sick:  follow proper hygiene and sanitation measures to prevent the spread of the disease.  Try to isolate the sick family member from others as much as possible, wash your hands frequently and wipe down common surfaces with a good cleaner or sanitizer.

I hope these common sense precautions put your mind at ease and help protect you and your family members, both human and furry, from flu and cold viruses.

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