Author Archives: Kristi Eaton

A Walk is Healthy at Both Ends of the Leash

posted March 7th, 2011 by
animal health - cute pug dog laying on weigh scales

Story by Kristi Eaton

As spring approaches and the weather slowly improves each day, Petplan, a pet insurance provider, is reminding pet owners that their beloved four-legged friends may have added a few extra pounds during the harsh winter as well.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates 35 million dogs, or 45 percent of all dogs in the United States, and 54 million, or 58 percent of all cats in the country, are now classified as overweight or obese.

Petplan is reminding owners to make sure Fido and Tigger get their required daily exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

“In recent years, obesity in pets has significantly increased to the point that five of our top insurance claims are closely linked to this health issue,” says Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of Veterinary Services for Petplan in a press release.  “Exercise, even if just a daily walk or chasing a toy, can help keep pets at a healthy weight.

When pets become overweight, serious health issues, such as diabetes, orthopedic disease and heart problems can arise.  Pet parents rarely realize the major financial effect a few extra pounds can have on veterinary care.”

Petplan says that if your pet has gained weight over the winter months, exercise should be restarted in moderation in the spring, so as to not cause injury. The pet insurance company also recommends taking a break from the exercise if your pet begins panting, and to bring along water for both you and your four-legged friend.

The Choice of Older Dogs

posted February 28th, 2011 by

Story by Kristi Eaton

Often called the “me generation,” Millennials between the ages of 21 and

30 are more likely to adopt an older dog over a puppy, a new survey


Flexcin International, which operates the FlexPet Shelter Program to

assist the adoption of older dogs, said about 61 percent of the 1,250

pet owners age 21 to 30 they surveyed reported that they would rather

adopt a dog instead of a brand new puppy. Most of the respondents — 89

percent — said time was the main issue; they felt like they didn’t

have the time or patience to house-train a new puppy because of

working several jobs or other obligations.

And for many of the Millennials, dogs are better than kids. More than

half — 54 percent — said they prefer a dog to having a child because

they don’t know if they can meet the needs of a child.

“While we’re not saying their decisions are right or wrong, it’s clear

that the stresses of working multiple jobs and a more ‘me-first’

society are impacting how people view puppies and children,” said

Tamer Elsafy, CEO and founder of Flexcin International, in a release.

“Ten years ago the opposite trend was taking place where people always

opted for the puppies instead of more senior dogs with less energy

serving a companion role.”

– Kristi Eaton

Just So You Know the Risks

posted February 9th, 2011 by
Waking up from a profound sleep

As much as you and Fido may enjoy sharing a bed together, new research says

he could make you very sick.

In an article in this month’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, author

Bruno B. Chomel said although stories of pets making their humans sick are

rare, it does happen.

In the United States, more than 60 percent of households have a pet.

And people are increasingly turning to a pet instead of having children.

Pets can bring positive health benefits in the way of psychological support,

friendship, and good health practices like exercising or reducing stress,

but he cautions against the harmful effects as well.

“Sharing our resting hours with our pets may be a source of psychological

comfort, but because pets can bring a wide range of zoonotic pathogens into

our environment, sharing is also associated with risks,” he wrote in the


The zooneses include the spreading of the plague, rabies and parasitic


He said kissing or licking a pet could cause even more zoonotic infections,

especially for children who are more vulnerable to infection.

He discouraged people, especially young children or those with compromised

immune systems to share a bed or kiss or lick a pet.

“Any area licked by a pet, especially for children or immunocompromised

persons or an open wound, should be immediately washed with soap and water,”

he said.

– Kristi Eaton

Your Pills & Your Pets: A Deadly Mix

posted January 31st, 2011 by

Story by Kristi Eaton

The most toxic substance for a pet is the same thing that humans use every day to feel better.

For the third straight year, medications for humans have topped the list of pet toxins, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 2010, ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center received more than 167,000 phone calls about pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances. Of those calls, the ASPCA helped diagnose and treat about 25 percent of the cases where the pet accidentally ingested the human medications. Over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, along with antidepressants and medications for attention deficit disorder are the most commonly ingested medications. Pets often ingest pills that fall on the floor, as well.

Behind medications for humans, insecticides are the next most toxic substance for pets, according to the ASPCA.

“About 20 percent of the calls are about insecticides, which are commonly used on pets for flea control or around the house to control crawling and flying bugs,” the organization wrote in a press release. “The most serious poisonings occurred when products not labeled for use in cats were applied to them, so the ASPCA recommends pet owners always follow label directions.”

Rodenticides, baits used to kill mice and rats, were found to be the third most harmful substance for pets during the past year, followed by people food like grapes and raisins — which can cause kidney failure in pets — and onion and garlic — which can cause anemia — and veterinarian medications consumed in large amounts.

Rounding out the top 10 harmful toxics to pets are chocolate, household toxins like cleaning supplies, plants, herbicides and outdoors toxins such as antifreeze and fertilizer.

– Kristi Eaton

Choose the Right Foods

posted January 20th, 2011 by
Cibo secco  per Cani 1 11 09

Story by Kristi Eaton

Most American pet owners do not consider the age of their dog or cat when buying pet food, a new survey reveals.

The survey, released Tuesday by pet food manufacturer Iams, says only

11 percent of dog and cat owners in the U.S. say their pet’s age is the most important factor when buying food.

Oftentimes pet owners do not know what stage of life their pet is in, which means their beloved four-legged friend may not get the necessary nutrients for proper health and growth.

“When choosing a food for your cat or dog it is important to select a diet that has the right ingredients for that stage of your pet’s life,” said Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM, emergency veterinarian, in Alexandria, Va., and a member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council. “Diet requirements – including protein levels, calories and vitamins and minerals – vary over the life of a pet and, in turn, an animal’s needs change as he grows from a puppy or kitten, to an adult into a senior.”

The survey also showed that only one out of three respondents say the food’s ingredients is the most important criteria they look at when deciding what food to buy and feed their animal.  Instead, some pet owners buy food based on recommendations. Nearly four out of ten people who took the survey (about 36 percent) say recommendations from a trusted source like a veterinarian is the primary reason why they buy a certain food, while almost 25 percent say price is the main reason they will feed Fido or Tigger one brand of food over another.

– Kristi Eaton

Winter Blues

posted January 15th, 2011 by

By Kristi Eaton

Has Fido seemed a little lethargic and down lately? Is Spot’s tail wagging less? Experts know that pets can help people with depression, but your pet can get the blues, too. Veterinarians and research studies note that, as with humans, there are many reasons for pets to feel blue.

“They can be depressed from the loss of a pet friend or owner, change in routine – their humans going back to work or back to school, or inattention from their owners,” says Suzanne Hurst, veterinarian at Kindness Animal Hospital in Tulsa.

She also believes some pets suffer from chemical imbalance, leading to depression, although that linkage in pets lacks research, she adds.
In humans, depression can be caused by imbalances in levels of certain neurotransmitters.

Most anti-depressants increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the body. Humans may suffer from seasonal affective disorder when melatonin, a compound found in animals, plants and microbes and produced by serotonin, is increased and serotonin is decreased.

“In wintertime in northern parts of our country, people may feel down because everything is bleak and it is cold,” says Hurst. “We can’t go outside as much because of the weather. The trees are bare. The grass is brown. It gets dark before we get home from work.” But what does this have to do with pets? A lot, says the veterinarian, because pets have the same neurotransmitters that humans do, so it’s logical to assume pets have similar imbalances in brain chemicals and can therefore suffer from depression.

Additionally, it’s logical to assume pets react to shorter daylight hours. “If it is cold and they cannot get the usual amount of exercise and romping outdoors, I can see how that may cause a depression for them,” she says. “Further, if their owners are glum then they may pick up on those vibes and mirror our emotions.”

Science Takes a Look
An Ohio State University study found that hamsters can suffer from anxiety and depression in the heart of winter. The study compared about 100 Siberian hamsters, which were offspring of breeding pairs housed in 16 daylight hour days or eight hours of daylight. The newborns remained in the same light levels until weaning, then were moved to the opposite light period. At about two months of age, the animals were measured for anxiety and depression.

Many of the tests, according to Randy Nelson, co-author of the study and a professor at Ohio State, are the same ones used by pharmaceutical companies to test anti-depressive and anti-anxiety drugs in animals. “We found that the amount of light exposure to hamsters to pre-natally and through weaning did have enduring effects on behavior in adulthood,” says Leah Pyter, a doctoral student involved with the study. “But these effects were tempered quite a bit by whether they spent their time as adults in long days or short days.” What pets have going for them, according to veterinarian Hurst, is that, unlike many humans, our four-legged friends live in the moment. They don’t dwell on things, as do humans.

“We may sit around and look at the calendar and watch the weather forecast and get bummed out because we know it will be a while before it is warm again. For humans there can be more of an emotional or cognitive component to the winter blues,” she says. But while humans can do other activities indoors to combat boredom and depression, pets are not so lucky. The highlight of their day might be their walk, and if they can’t go out due to ice or snow, they may get anxious or bored. “So in that respect it may be harder on them. They can’t get enmeshed in a book, game, or television show to pass the time,” Hurst says.

Helping Fido Feel Better
Hurst recommends maintaining a normal walking and exercise routine “Not only is it fun, but exercise stimulates the body to release other neurotransmitters that elevate mood and feelings of well-being,” she says. “If it is too cold or icy to go for a walk, a vigorous play session daily indoors can be substituted.” Also, make sure your pet has plenty of sunlight. Keep blinds and curtains open, especially those in south-facing windows for maximum sunlight exposure. Give Fido toys that are challenging to offset boredom. “There are many great new interactive toys for both dogs and cats available,” Hurst says.

However, before assuming that a lethargic Fido is depressed, Hurst recommends a vet check to rule out physical disorders. “Lethargy can also be a symptom of many illnesses and conditions, including cancer, hypothyroidism, arthritis, kidney disease and more,” she says. “If your pet is acting lethargic, schedule a thorough check-up with your veterinarian.”

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