May 18, 2020
According to a recent survey by Novartis Animal, more than half of pet owners aren't aware that their four legged family members can suffer from seasonal allergies. While typically thought of as only suffering from food allergies, dogs like humans, are susceptible to environmental allergens. These symptoms usually occur when the seasons change. However, unlike humans who experience allergies typically as respiratory conditions, in pets allergies usually reveal themselves as skin, coat, or even ear issues. Some pets, however, will exhibit runny nose and discharge from the eyes.
Seasonal Allergies predominantly affect dogs. Many cats are indoor pets and thus don't get dangerous exposure levels to a lot of environmental allergens.
There are a few things you can do to alleviate your pets symptoms.
-Daily baths offer complete, instant relief to an itchy pet, washing away the allergens on the skin.
-Foot soaks are a great way to reduce the allergens your pet tracks into the house from outside.
-Keep areas in your home where pets spend most of their time as clean as possible. Clean floors and pet bedding often.
-Limiting carbohydrates in the pets diet often reduces inflammation due to allergens.
-Seek out the advice of a holistic vet who can offer many natural remedies and/or help to your pet.
May 11, 2020
Is your pet stressed?
Our last post took a look at how pets can help their humans to deal with mental health issues, or simply provide comfort through stressful periods. In light of May being Mental Health Awareness month, I thought I'd shift gears and look at how we can identify stress in pets and in our next post, ways to alleviate our four legged companions worries! After all, pets are also experiencing these unusual times, and like us, stress can be the result.
Identifying Stress in Pets
Although I'm pretty sure my dog Clooney speaks to me in his own language, for us animal companions it's not always easy to tell if our pets are experiencing stress. However, a few symptoms can be indicative that your pet is experiencing anxiety or stress.
A sign of possible stress in pets is a Gastrointestinal Issue. While generally presenting as diarrhea, a pet experiencing constipation could also be having emotional struggles.
Change in Appetite
Just as the GI Issues that point to stress in your pet, the change in appetite can vary. Typically the change will present as a loss of or reduction in appetite. However, like humans and the phenomenon known as stress eating, an increased appetite can be a sign of underlying discomfort.
While cats are generally thought of as fiercely independent while dogs, traditional pack animals, in need of constant companionship, pet parents will certainly observe patterns of behavior. Any noticeable change in the norm, but particularly more time spent alone is often a sign of psychological distress.
Like humans, changes in sleep usually point to anxiousness in pets. It's not that seeing pets sleeping is unusual: After all, on average dogs log 12-14 hours of ZZZZ's a day while felines get anywhere from 12-16! What can be an indicator of a stressed pet is to see your four legged family sleeping at unusual times. For instance; if a pet typically is full of excitement upon your returns home, but seems lethargic, their deep restorative sleep may be interrupted. Often the cause of interrupted sleep or pets not reaching deep sleep is stress.
Having a dog or cat show aggression is not in itself a sign of stress. However, having a pet that's normally mellow and calm around people or other pets show aggression in such circumstances be the release of nervous energy. While this can be an instance of a pet getting spooked, it's important to take note of a new behavior pattern.
While this is in no way a complete list of how stress can present itself in pets, these are many of its' most common manifestations. Thank you for loving your pet and your interest in RAWZ!
May 4, 2020
Pets and Mental Health
I can't believe the calendar reads May! It's a beautiful day outside, hopefully a precursor to more great weather ahead. Despite the unusual times we still find ourselves living in, I can't help but feel joyous and hopeful for the future on beautiful days such as this one. Besides good weather for outdoor activities, May is also Mental Health Awareness month. I can certainly share that from my own experience of living through good times and bad, the relationship with our dog has provided invaluable support. I couldn't help but imagine that many people experience the power of pets in their lives so I wanted to take a look at the impact(s) of pets on the mental health of their humans. 30 years ago, in one of the first research studies on pets and mental health, a Psychologist from Purdue University and a Psychiatrist from UPenn found the following resulted after a test subject patted a friendly dog.
- Reduced blood pressure
- Heart rate slowed
- Breathing became more regular
- Decrease in muscle tension
While these phenomena may not surprise anyone having a pet in their family, at the time of its' publication the report provided scientific confirmation for what people experienced bonding with an animal. Let me share with you some commonly cited mental health benefits from countless research articles on the mental health benefits that have since come out.
Engaging with pets lowers stress
Whether it's simply reaching down to greet a pet or a long cuddle session, on the couch, interacting with a pet raises both serotonin and dopamine. Both these neurotransmitters calm and relax the nervous system lowering stress.
The act of stroking a pet is shown to lower cortisol levels, even showing the ability to reduce the aggression of a stressed individual. Support animals have proven great additions to school settings or family therapy to help calm hyperactive or aggressive children.
Our pets make us feel needed
This is a statement that I definitely concur with. Times that people have emotional struggles typically occur after a loss or unexpected transition. One thing I know helps me and many people I've spoken with is being of service to others, no matter how many legs they have. Not only does the care of a pet provide invaluable routine, but the knowledge of improving the life of another living thing is priceless!
As counterintuitive as it seems in the world with numerous forms of communication in which we live, disconnection and isolation affects many among us today. Although not english speaking and able to converse, although Clooney's diction is clearer than mine at times, simply having a living being with you can reduce isolation. And puppies, all pets for that matter aren't just good for meeting future romantic partners. It's unusual with the mention of a pet or seeing a cute animal in public that at least a short conversation doesn't ensue.
Living in the moment
Whether it is a weaker short term memory or just less sensitivity to time, one thing that's for certain, pets have being present down pat! A hot topic of self-improvement and new age literature seems to be mindfulness, a topic and way of living in the present moment that we can learn a lot about from pets. Whether as a model for staying focused on the moment, or that interacting with a pet can ground their humans in the moment, pets can help to bring us all to the here and now.
This is nowhere near an all inclusive list of how pets can be beneficial to mental health, just a few of the more prominent points I found and have experienced firsthand. All of us here at RAWZ hope that you're doing well during these unusual times and wish you and your pet(s) well!
April 27, 2020
Helping your dog adjust to a changing daily routine
Helping your dog adjust to a changing daily routine
While the recent lockdown or stay at home order has not been easy for many people, if they had to find a silver lining, many pet owners would point to spending more time with their pet(s)! For workers who've either been furloughed or have worked from home, with dogs, the situation has certainly meant more time at home. Although the transition back to life as it used to look will certainly not be easy, one thing to be aware of is the effect a return to busier lives will have on our pets . Obviously, both dogs and cats will experience this change in routine, but due to different levels of independence inherent to each animal, dogs will most likely have more difficulty with the change.
Whether it is the simple fact that cats can autonomously go to the bathroom or that a large number of felines free feed, their independence is widely recognized. It probably could have been written, without any research, by many cat roommates out there, but an extensive study of pet psychology in 2015 by the University of Lincoln (UK) reported that; "Research shows that adult cats appear to be more autonomous (than dogs)– even in their social relationships – and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of protection. "I can almost see cat parents nodding in agreement at the screen as I type!
This fact about the nature of pet psychology and attachment raises a concern, just as puppies often experience separation anxiety adjusting to an owners absence, so too might adult dogs. With this in mind, this blog will focus on calming the separation anxiety that may occur in dogs as their humans return to a life requiring more time away from home. The following suggestions will probably remind pet parent's of suggestions for comforting the anxiety of puppies when adjusting to being left alone...
Set Up a Safe Space
A place of familiarity brings comfort; this can be as simple as a dog pillow/bed, blanket, or the crate which the dog was trained in. Although it may seem counterintuitive that being confined would be a good thing, dogs suddenly finding themselves alone in a large space can be unnerved. A sense of familiarity/safety can be brought by a physical space, physical object like a toy or blanket, or even something with the owner’s scent on it. Often dogs will be drawn to such a space on their own, but placing familiar objects in a smaller area in which the dog spends time home alone is often effective at easing the transition.
Like many of us two-legged folk can probably identify with, sudden changes in routine can be disturbing. Although we may not view the status-quo as joyful or optimal, anything new can be challenging. Although, the amount of time you spend at home with your dog will undoubtedly change, by keeping the other variables close to the same can ease that transition. In practicality, this looks like maintaining the feeding and bathroom schedule over the unusual period to one resembling a typical day even while spending more time at home.
It's often said that dog's don't have a sense of time or a very limited one, this is not necessarily true. Although dogs have very poor short term recall, often thought to be under 30 seconds, the circadian rhythm created by the sun's cycle is strong in them. Thus dogs have awareness of days passing, but not clock time. The main source of distress or anxiety for dogs when transitioning to a new routine is the disruption in routine and the resultant separation anxiety. As pack animals prior to domestication, dogs generally obtain security through their primary relationship(s) creating a "pack" like security. A way you can capitalize on the weak short term memory/low sense of time passing to reduce the onset of separation anxiety is through a little practice exercise that I used with Clooney as a pup.
If I had time home on a given day, I would leave out the door and stand in the hall for a few minutes, at first Clooney would immediately begin barking. After the short time period I would re-enter my apartment. It seems silly, and I may have looked odd to the neighbors, but this was a great way to reinforce to Clooney that after leaving, I'd be back! Another key, although it can be tough, is to make leaving as inconspicuous as possible. As tempting as it can be to say a heartfelt goodbye, you don't want to add drama to a departure, making it seem like a big deal.
Thank you for loving pets and your interest in RAWZ!