Keep your pets safe at Easter

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Keep your pets safe and happy during the Easter holiday celebrations.

1.  Pass on poisonous plants. Some popular plants-including Easter lilies-are highly toxic to pets and can easily prove fatal if ingested.

2.  Resist giving animals as Easter presents.  Bunnies, chicks, ducks and other animals are adorable, but people often forget that these cute little animals grow up into adult animals who require a commitment to provide daily care for the rest of their lives.

3.  Get rid of dangerous decorations.  Easter basket decorations-including plastic grass-are dangerous to animals if ingested. The grass can become twisted within a pet’s intestines and can be fatal if not caught quickly enough. Candy wrappers, plastic eggs and small toy parts can also pose a danger to pets.  Use tissue paper instead of plastic grass and do a thorough clean-up after Easter celebrations.

4.  Give your pet some peace.  Loud noises, erratic movements from children and crowds of people can be very stressful for animals. If your pet isn’t up for the chaos of an Easter egg hunt or family dinner, put her in a quiet area of the house when guests are visiting.

5.  Keep your pet out of the Easter baskets and away from candy, including chocolate. Candy can be harmful to pets, and chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

Amber and I would like to wish you and your furry family members a very Happy Easter filled with joy, happiness and treats!

 

Where to find reliable pet health information on the internet

The Internet has opened up a world of cheap, fast, and easily accessible data.  With little more than a point and click, pet parents can access vast amounts of information about anything and everything related to pet health.  The sheer amount of information can be overwhelming, and it’s often hard to separate the hype from the truth.  For every site that touts a new cure, there’s a site that talks about the dangers of said cure. 

I’ve found the following sites provide reliable and well-researched information about pet health topics:

VeterinaryPartner.com  VeterinaryPartner.com provides up-to-date animal health information from the veterinarians and experts of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), the world’s first and largest online veterinary database and community.

HealthyPet.com  The American Animal Hospital Association, an organization of more than 29,000 veterinary care providers committed to giving you excellence in small animal care, has created this site for pet owners.  AAHA knows that your pet is an important member of your family and is dedicated to help you make the most of the relationship between you and your pet.  Among other items, the site contains an extensive pet care library, including articles on behavior issues.

The Cornell Feline Health Center  of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine is a specialty center devoted to improving the health and well-being of cats.  The site has a wealth of information on feline health topics, including a series of educational videos.

While the above sites provide reliable and accurate information, your veterinarian is always your best source of information regarding your pet’s health and should be your first contact whenever you have any questions about your pet’s health.

Lessons from Party Cat – courtesy of Abraham

Abraham is a collective consciousness speaking through Esther Hicks.  To Wayne Dyer, they are “the great Masters of the Universe”, Louise Hay has called them “some of the best teachers on the planet today”.  A veritable who’s who of speakers, teachers and authors continue to publicly acknowledge and praise the immense value of the wisdom that is pouring forth through Esther.  They’ve been a major influence in my life over the past two or three years.

One of my favorite pieces is this video on the lessons the animals (or “beasts”, as Abraham lovingly calls them) teach us, as demonstrated by “Party Cat”:

The power of laughter, and kitty mayhem

Yesterday I talked about how smiling can shift your vibration.   Today, I thought I’d talk about laughter.  Statistics show that the average kindergarten student laughs 300 times a day, yet the average adult only laughs 17 times a day.   The benefits of laughter have been proven in multiple research studies conducted at major universities.  Laughter reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, provides pain relief (the endorphins released while laughing are more potent than equivalent amounts of morphine!), and helps integrate both hemispheres of the brain.  It’s even equivalent to a small amount of exercise as laughing massages all the organs of the body.

A sense of humor provides the balance we all need to navigate the inevitable turbulence of life.  Everyone loves a person who can make them laugh.  Why not try a dose of laugh therapy today?  Exchange jokes with friends or co-workers, watch a funny movie, send someone a funny greeting card. 

To get you started, I’ll share this recent entry from a friend’s blog with you.  She lives with seven cats, and Morning Mayhem describes a recent morning when all the kitties went a little nuts.  It’s one of the funniest pieces of cat writing I’ve seen in a while.  I’m sure parents of multiple cats can relate!

Shift your vibration – smile!

We are not just physical beings in a physical universe, we are vibrational beings in a universe made up of energy. We naturally attract what is in harmony with our state of being. Vibrations are the signal that we send out to the universe, and the universe responds with manifestations that match that signal. So it makes sense that we want to try and maintain our vibration at a level that allows us to receive the joy, abundance and happiness we want to attract into our lives.

However, we all have those days when joy seems like it’s not even in the same solar system as we are. When we feel frustrated, angry or depressed, changing our vibration can seem like an impossible task. When we’re in that kind of a vibrational state, even a minor shift in vibration can make a difference.  One way to do that is with a smile.  Even if you really don’t feel like smiling, the mere physical act of smiling will shift your vibration gently into a better feeling direction.

And if you need a little bit of help to find that smile, check out the kitten photos on cuteoverload.com – I dare you to look at some of the photos on the site and not at least crack the beginnings of a smile!

How to choose healthy foods for your pet

The overwhelming array of choices when it comes to pet food makes it difficult to determine which foods are best for your pet.  In addition, many pet owners stopped trusting commercial pet foods after the massive pet food recall of 2007.  Pet owners began preparing home-made diets for their pets or jumped on the raw food bandwagon.  How do you know what food is best for your pet?

I am not a proponent of raw food diets.  While I acknowledge that there are numerous benefits to feeding raw, unprocessed foods, I believe that the risks for animals outweigh the benefits.  Unless you can be one hundred percent sure that the meat you’re feeding your pet is pathogen and parasite free, you should not be feeding raw meat.  If you want to feed a homemade diet, feed your pet a cooked diet and make sure it is properly balanced.  Petdiets.com provides recipes created by veterinary nutritionists for healthy pets as well as pets with special medical or dietary needs.

Most pet owners still prefer to feed a commercial diet, but they want to feed something that’s “natural” and free of preservatives.  But how do you know whether the food that’s advertised as “natural” really is?  Often, foods are labeled “natural”, but once you check the label, you find that the food really isn’t so natural after all.  A look at the ingredients might show that the conventional brand’s “natural” food is still of pretty poor quality.  Maybe the primary ingredient was changed from poultry by-products to chicken, but the food still contains corn gluten meal, soy meal, and wheat gluten meal, ingredients that are high on the list of culprits when it comes to allergies or digestive problems.  This is why it’s important to not fall for the marketing hype of a “natural” label but read the ingredients.

Another common misconception is that veterinary diets are high quality, healthy foods because they come from a vet’s office.  Unfortunately, when you look at the ingredient list on the veterinary brands, you often find the same things you find in the cheap grocery store brands. Most veterinarians receive very little training in nutrition.  Veterinary schools typically offer only a few weeks of training in nutrition, and the instruction is often sponsored or provided by the same companies that make these veterinary diets. 

Many pet owners are unsure of what makes a food natural, healthy or holistic.  The best way to determine this is to disregard tags such as “all-natural”, “holistic”, “veterinarian approved”, “chosen by top breeders”.  Ignore the cute photos of happy dogs and cute kittens and wholesome looking ingredients on the labels, and look at the ingredient listing instead.  Manufacturers are required to list ingredients in descending order, i.e., the ingredient with the highest amount is listed first, the one with the smallest amount last.
Quality Ingredients to Look For:

  • Animal proteins – identified by name (e.g., chicken, beef, lamb). 
  • Organic ingredients – meats, vegetables, grains and fruits – these are certified free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Check for the USDA Organic seal on the package.
  • Whole unrefined grains like barley, brown rice, or ground oatmeal for dogs.  For cats, it is best to look for grain-free foods.  Most cats can’t digest grains, and grain-free foods also help alleviate or eliminate hairballs.
  • Human-Grade ingredients – human grade meats tend to be better quality.
  • Whole vegetables and fruits – the less processed the better (for example, whole potatoes are much better than potato starch). These are important sources of natural plant-based nutrients (phyto-nutrients) and antioxidants.

I recommend the following brands:

Wellness, Innova (especially the grain-free EVO line), Merrick, California Natural

These brands and more are available at Only Natural Pet Store and other online retailers.

End of an era – farewell to ER

I don’t usually measure my life by how many years a TV show has been on, but the series finale of ER gave me pause for reflection.  I did not miss a single episode in its 15 year run (thanks to VCR’s, then DVR’s), and last night’s final episode, and especially the hour long recap that ran before it,  made it impossible not to think back over the last 15 years.  While George Clooney, Juliana Margulies, Anthony Edwards, Noah Wylie and company fought their weekly battles in the ER, I got divorced, lost my mother, left my corporate job, ran a veterinary hospital, lost my father, and  started my own business.   These past 15 years were a period of tremendous personal growth for me, leading to this moment in time and a life filled with passion, joy and the promise of more wonderful things to come.

And I also reflected back on the cats that were curled up in my lap watching 15 years of ER episodes with me:  Feebee, my soulmate cat who was responsible for leading me to a career in veterinary medicine, and who passed on in 2000.  And Buckley, who was only with me for three years and who left much too soon this past November.  Her story and the lessons she taught me are the subject of my upcoming book. 

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            Feebee                                                  Buckley

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And of course Amber, who was watching last night’s episode with me.

Two reasons not to use dryer sheets

You make sure you feed your pets a healthy diet, you use pet-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products.  But are you still using dryer sheets? 

The chemicals contained in dryer sheets, fabric softeners and laundry detergents get absorbed by your skin as well as your pets’ skin.  If you wash your pets’ toys, they’ll also ingest these chemicals when they chew on the toys.  Chemicals contained in these products are known carcinogens and neurotoxins.  With the wide variety of natural cleaning products available (I like the Seventh Generation Clean and Clear laundry detergent), there is no reason to continue to use toxic products.

A second reason not to use dryer sheets is that they can present a fire hazard.  Commercial dryer sheets leave a residue on your dryer’s lint filter that is invisible to the naked eye, but can burn out the heating unit and cause the dryer to catch fire.  Try this test:  take the lint filter and run hot water through it.  If the water doesn’t go through, it’s because of the residue from your dryer sheets.  This test was a real eye opener for me.  Wash the filter with hot soapy water and discontinue  using dryer sheets that contain chemicals.

Look for chemical-free dryer sheets, or discontinue the use of dryer sheets altogether.  One of the simplest and least expensive ways to add softness to your clothes without using dryer sheets or fabric softeners is adding a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your wash (not to the dryer, and don’t use together with bleach).

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Amber enjoys sleeping on a blanket washed and dried without chemicals.

Vegan pet food – not a good choice

There’s been a recent media buzz about vegan food for pets.  ABC News reported that it might be a bit easier for dogs than cats to live the vegan lifestyle.  A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times suggested a vegan diet for cats as a viable option to reduce the over-depletion of fish stocks.  This was followed a few days later by an article in The Huffington Post titled “Vegan Pet Food – Is It Okay To Raise a Cat Vegan?”, which generated hundreds of comments.

Dogs are omnivores and are able to suvive on plant materials alone, but keep in mind that they are meat eaters by nature and do best with at least some meat in their diet, so a vegan diet is not in the best interest of your canine companion.

Cats are carnivores, and as such, cannot sustain life unless they consume meat in some form.  They are extremely sensitive to even a single meal deficient in arginine, an amino-acid that is a building block for protein.  A cat’s natural diet in the wild consists of mice and birds, both of which are almost all protein.  This is why diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates are best for cats. 

People adopt the vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, some of them health related, others as a conscious choice to help the planet.  While I applaud people who choose this lifestyle, it’s too restrictive for me.  I’m mostly vegetarian, but I do eat fish and seafood.  I even occasionally allow myself to give in to a craving for some meat or poultry – cravings that probably have very little to do with any physical need and are more emotionally motivated dating back to growing up on the heavily meat-based diet of my native Germany.

However, no matter what your reasons for being vegetarian or vegan, please don’t subject your cat or dog to the same choice.  They’ll be healthier and happier if they’re allowed to be the meat eaters nature designed them to be.  As for cats depleting the planet’s fish stock, I’ll worry about Amber’s carbon footprint when she starts driving an SUV.

Amber’s preferred proteins are turkey and salmon.

Conscious choices about cosmetics

For those of us who embrace conscious living as fundamental to everything we do, making conscious choices about what to put into our bodies is an important part of our lifestyle.  But what about what you put on your body? 

The skin is our largest organ, and it is not a solid barrier.  It’s a penetrable organ that easily absorbs what is put on it – a capacity that is used effectively by delivering many lifesaving medications to the blood stream through the skin.  However, the flip side of this easy absoprtion is that our skin also easily absorbs chemicals, especially with repeat exposure.   One third of the cosmetics products currently on the market contain chemicals that are linked to cancer.  Of the more than 10,000 ingredients used in personal care products, 89% have not undergone any safety testing.  Given those statistics, doesn’t it make sense to be conscious about the products you use on your skin every day?

The European Union Cosmetics Directive, established in 1976 and revised and updated multiple times since, bans the use of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected to cause cancer, mutations and birth defects.  In 2004, the directive was amended to require all companies selling cosmetics in the EU to remove these chemicals from their products.   Many US companies sell their products on the European market and have been required to reformulate their products.  However, just because a company sells its products in Europe does not mean that the same products you purchase here in the US meet EU standards. 

Read your labels before purchasing cosmetics.  Just because something is labeled “natural” and has pretty designs of wholesome ingredients on the label does not necessarily mean that it is chemical-free.  Look for brands that comply with EU regulations.  Some brands I like are Avalon Organics, Shikai, Weleda, and Dr. Hauschka.

Another consideration that is important to me when choosing cosmetics and personal care products is that they are not tested on animals.  Look for the Leaping Bunny logo – it provides the best assurance that the products you use are cruelty-free and have not been tested on animals.

Clearing the clutter

The physical surroundings we live in every day in our homes, offices and cars have a strong impact on us.  When you exist in less than desirable environments, for example a messy car or a desk covered with piles, the space that surrounds you is not an accurate reflection of the Source within you.  Cluttered environments drain your energy.  Just think about the last time you organized a drawer or cleaned your car – do you remember how accomplished you felt, and how you were able to approach the rest of your day from a much lighter perspective?  That’s because you released stagnant, cluttered energy.

You don’t need to take on everything at once.  If you think you need to declutter your entire office , it can feel too overwhelming and you may not even start.  Begin with one small project, a drawer at a time, and watch how your energy changes as you clear out the clutter in your life.

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Amber doesn’t like clutter – she’s getting ready to put all her toys in the basket they belong in.

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