Home
healthy living
News: Guest Posts
Pet Therapy of a Different Sort
Stuffed dogs and cats provide comfort and raise funds for Alzheimer’s patients

My name is Michela and I am senior in high school. For my senior project, I’ve joined forces with Memorable Pets, a new company that sells specially made stuffed animals to educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, while raising money to fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Memorable Pets sells adorable stuffed-animal dogs and cats, carefully selected for people with mid-late stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The stuffed animals may resemble patients’ old pets or simply be a new friend to nurture. They allow patients to express love and care and also give them something constant to rely on. [Read more.]

Memorable Pets gives $2 per pet sold to support Alzheimer’s care and research through the Alzheimer’s Association. I am hoping that you will help me support the cause by either spreading the word about Memorable Pets or purchasing a pet to donate or for someone you know. Pets can be purchased online at memorablepets.com.

While a Memorable Pet is a small gift, it can have a huge impact on someone’s quality of life by providing a constant source of comfort. These animals make great gifts! Thank you so much for contributing to my project.

Remember for those who cannot.

News: Karen B. London
Grieving a Dog’s Death
Easing the sadness isn’t easy

My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and two nieces said good-bye to their dog today. Lizzie was almost 14 years old and in heart failure. They thought that they would lose her last October, but she survived for months more than they expected. That doesn’t make her death any less sad. Though it’s great when a dog reaches old age, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the lives of dogs are far too short relative to ours.

There are many ways to prepare for and handle the pain of losing a dog, all of which honor the dog’s life and the relationship that you shared.

If you know that the end is near for your dog, and she is able, take her to her favorite place, whether it’s the park or a place where she can swim. Treat her to her favorite foods and give her special items to chew on, so you can make her happy and provide yourself with fond memories of those last days. Take photos of these moments so that you can look back and know that the end of your dog’s life was filled with kindness.

Tangible reminders of your dog can be wonderfully therapeutic after your dog has passed away. Photos are helpful for many people, especially if you have some good shots of your dog over the years doing the things you’d most like to remember—running through the woods, looking through the window as you come home, playing with a favorite toy. Even one of the many times she got into the trash can be a treasured memory after she is gone. A photo of your dog misbehaving in this way can be fun to look at, even if it was never fun cleaning up the mess. Many people like to make collages or memory books of their dogs with photos from all stages of life.

Other ways to create memories of your dog include putting together a record of your favorite stories about her. Write down what your dog most loved to do, how she changed over the years, the biggest trouble that she ever got into, and some of the happiest times you shared. Some people like to save a little lock of fur.

It can be healing to make a donation in memory of your dog to a shelter, rescue group, or any other organization that works on behalf of pets, as a way to pass on the joy that your dog gave to you.

Though it’s challenging, refuse to allow anyone to give you the “it was just a dog” treatment or try to trivialize the pain you are feeling. It hurts to lose a family member no matter what the species, and you need time to grieve, even if not everyone understands what a big loss you have suffered.

There’s no way out of the pain when a dog dies but to move forward through it. My hope for anyone who loses a dog is that over time, the sadness fades and the happy memories linger.

News: Karen B. London
Walking Dogs for Friends in Need
This small act can be a big help

Normally, they take their dog out for long walks and runs daily, so she’s used to hours of vigorous exercise. Today, that wasn’t going to happen. The husband was in great pain recovering from surgery following an accident. The wife had been up all night attending to him and had worked all day at a stressful job trying to catch up after taking two days off following the accident.

They are very together people and capable of handling life’s speed bumps. Yet when I offered to swing by later that day and take their dog for a walk, they were most appreciative.

In tough times, something has to give, and it’s common for the dog to suffer a bit in the short term. That’s not a criticism—it’s just how it is. No matter how much we love our dogs and how responsibly we care for them, sometimes life sneaks up on us. Whenever anyone has a disruption in life, attention paid to the dog can decline. It happens when people move, when they are ill or have any serious medical complication, or even when they start a new job. It certainly isn’t the best week ever for most dogs when a new baby joins the household.

Offering to walk a dog can often relieve people’s guilt that they can’t do it. It may also prevent the dog from acting crazy, barking, chewing or performing any other behavior that is no help to a household that is already under stress.

It’s hard to know how to make life easier for people who are going through a rough time. My first thought is that perhaps I can assist with some dog care because I know how to do that. I also remember how grateful I was when a neighbor walked our dog and spent some time being with him when I went to the hospital to give birth to my son and our official dog sitter couldn’t make it until much later that day.

Many people have a hard time accepting help for themselves but will accept it on behalf of their dog. That means it can be more helpful to offer dog walking services than to bring food over, to help with the house work or to run errands.

Has anyone every helped you out by caring for your dog when you were struggling?

Wellness: Healthy Living
Communicating with your vet
Email etiquette

The internet, which has become a remarkable healthcare tool, is also changing the way veterinarians and their clients communicate with one another. These days, many folks want email access to their vets, and why shouldn’t they? Email communication between patients and their physicians is increasingly the norm, and many human health-care operations are fishing for new customers by marketing “email my doctor” programs. Kaiser Permanente leads the charge in this regard, and a recent study of thousands of their patients documented that those who communicated via email with their physicians enjoyed better health outcomes.

Do I think being able to email your vet is a reasonable expectation? You betcha! People who are comfortable communicating with their veterinarians become better medical advocates for their pets.

However, while the expectation of electronic interaction with your vet is reasonable, not all vets are on board quite yet. A recent unpublished survey of 120 northern California veterinarians revealed the following:
• 58% communicate with their clients via email.
• 62% of those using email are selective about which clients are given access.
• 26% of those using email set ground rules that describe when and how email is to be used. (Interestingly, of the remaining 74%, many indicated a desire to set email ground rules, but have not yet done so.)
• 95% of those using email reported it to be a mostly positive experience.

Vets responding to the survey commented on the convenience of email communication. Not only can it be less time-consuming than telephone tag, they like having the option of responding to email at any time of the night or day. I can certainly relate to this. I sometimes don’t finish up with my patients until well into the evening, at which point I’m concerned that it may be too late to return client phone calls.

Vets unanimously reported that email is great for simple, non-urgent communications, emphasis on nonurgent. Just imagine every vet’s worst nightmare: an email sent by a client early in the day — but not read until evening — describing a dog who is struggling to breathe. Oh, and by the way, the dog’s gums are blue. Here are some of the ground rules vets using email want their clients to abide by:
• Email is not to be used like instant messaging.
• There’s a one- to -two-day turnaround time for responses.
• No urgent matters.
• No “What’s your diagnosis?” questions.
• No “cutesy” emails (photos or stories that the sender deems to be funny or adorable).

Survey responders who aren’t using email reported a variety of reasons for not doing so, including poor word-processing skills, too much time needed to carefully edit their “written words,” inconvenience of transcribing the email communication into the medical record and a concern about clients abusing the system.

I happen to be a speed demon when it comes to word-processing, and I would love the flexibility of communicating with my clients at any time. That being said, why haven’t I fully jumped on the email bandwagon? So much of what is perceived during communication has to do with body language and voice inflection, neither of which can be transmitted in an email (though, God forbid, I suppose I could begin Skyping with my clients!). Using email, I worry that I will miss out on what’s going on with them emotionally. When I invite clients to email me, I’m clear that the questions should be really simple, such as: “When am I supposed to bring Lizzie back in to see you?” or “Is it okay to give Radar his heartworm preventive along with the other medications you prescribed?” Anything more complex and I’ll be on the phone in the blink of an eye.

If emailing your dog’s doctor appeals to you, I encourage you to ask about it the next time you visit your vet clinic. Anything that enhances communication between you and your vet is bound to be a good thing for your dog, and nothing’s more important than that!

News: Guest Posts
Is There a Dog Who Needs You to Grab her Leash?
Try something new for National Walk Your Dog Week

Really? This is National Walk Your Dog Week? Will we never stop setting aside days or weeks or even months for the obvious? Isn’t walking your dog near the top of the dog-care list after feeding them and keeping them safe?

Of course, there are dogs out there who don’t get walked much or at all—and no lazy pet parent is to blame. Some shelters don’t have the resources to make sure every dog gets a daily constitutional. Breeding dogs in puppy mills or dogs used in experiments might never feel lawn or pavement under their feet. Even well-cared-for-pets can hit a patch of inactivity when their people are busy or, worse, sick.

So this week, why not take a look around and see if there’s a dog you can help to some fresh air and exercise.

  • Do you have time to volunteer at a shelter to walk dogs on a regular basis? Check with local animal control and nonprofit organizations or find a fit through Volunteermatch.org.
  • Do you have a neighbor, relative or a friend who could use some backup on patrol?
  • Can you get involved in the effort to stop the use of dogs in scientific experimentation? PETA has long protested animal testing.
  • Join ASPCA's fight against puppy mills?

Walking a dog is a privilege and a joy—so let’s spread it around.

Wellness: Healthy Living
Cooking for My Dog!
[VIDEO]

Looking for a fun project that will have your dog howling with delight? Put on your chef’s hat and try making a delectable treat for you canine pals. Is there a special occasion coming up … maybe a doggie birthday celebration? Join My Dog author Michael J. Rosen as he guides you step- by-step through this kid-friendly and dog-delicious recipe. For other youth-oriented activities, check out more videos from My Dog.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kids & Dogs

Welcome to Bark’s Kids & Dogs resource page—here you’ll find a host of valuable tools, tips and links to enable kids and dogs make the most of life together. Keeping a dog is a great responsibility and opportunity, a way for children to explore the world, stay fit and active, learn teaching skills and share the fun and excitement of best friends. First off, we want to get to know you and your dog, so we are inviting all of our young friends to take a photo of their pet pooch and send it to us. There’s some tricks to taking a good photo, and we have a primer for good picture-taking to get your started. Our good friend, Michael J. Rosen, author of the new book My Dog, has produced a handy video that guides you through taking a great photo of your dog. He’s also shared his favorite photo- taking tips in this list. Thanks Michael!

When you are done photographing your dog, pick your favorite picture and enter it in our “My Dog” contest here. You will be eligible to win some cool prizes including your very own copy of My Dog, fun canine toys and games, plus assorted treats. We’ll start an album of our favorite photos and post it online to share with all of Bark’s readers!

Once you have some photos of your dog, you can craft some fun projects—from a doggie placemat featuring your pal’s picture to a wall calendar showcasing your best friend through the 12 months of the year. Or make a handmade window book—all you need are some printouts of your dog’s photos, some scissors and a printer to print out a handy pattern that you’ll find here. It’s simple and easy, and makes a great gift! Check out the other great DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects on our website, we provide instructions on making a cool collarette for your pup that recycles an old shirt collar, a handy tugger toy made with gloves, and for advanced crafters—a crocheted dog bed.

Any of you like to cook? Check out Michael’s video “Cooking for My Dog!” Learn how to make a yummy peanut butter carrot cake from scratch—a healthy and delicious treat that your dog will love. It’s perfect for your dog’s birthday surprise party! Do we have any future veterinarians in the crowd? You’ll enjoy the “60-Second Pup Check-Up”— a simple tutorial on monitoring your dog’s basic health. See how to examine your dog’s coat for hot spots, ears for redness and paws for burrs. Keeping your dog healthy and content is something you can share with your dog’s vet by doing these basic check-upsregularly.

Next time you’re in a bookstore, look up Michael’s book My Dog—you’ll find it chock full of helpful tips and facts—a kid’s guide to keeping a happy and healthy dog. Part primer, part owner’s manual, part field guide … it’s essential reading for every child who lives with a dog or has a canine best friend. Learn more about it here.

News: JoAnna Lou
Should Vets Promote ID Tags?
Vets and shelters have a positive influence on tag usage

My dogs have microchips and identification tags, but I often take their collars off when they're in the house. I had one of my dogs' collars get caught on a piece of furniture, so I do it as a safety precaution. However, this could be a problem if one of my dogs escaped from my house.

The Journal of the American Veterinary Association reports that fewer than half of lost dogs were wearing tags at the time they went missing. Microchips are great because they're permanent, but an identification tag lets people know instantly how to get your dog back home.

Eighty percent of pet lovers believe it's important that dogs and cats wear identification, but only 33 percent put tags on their pets all the time. Many of those pets don't wear ID tags at all. A study published this month found that veterinarians and animal shelters can have a positive influence on this number.

Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA, and her team tracked 109 people and their pets who had been fitted with collars and tags during a vet visit or at the animal shelter. Before the study, only 14 percent of the animals studied had been wearing an ID tag, but two months later, 84 percent were still wearing the tags.

Given the success of Dr. Weiss's study, do you think that veterinarians should be responsible for making sure pets have identification? My dogs have microchips and identification tags, but they also have a rabies tag from the veterinarian that lists when they got their vaccine and the veterinarian’s contact information.

News: Shea Cox
Weight Management Made Simple
Advice for counting calories and dealing with “the look”

Like so many pet owners, I am in the constant back-and-forth battle with “dimple butt” in my dogs, and there are many things that make a weight loss (or weight maintenance) program difficult. For me, it’s “thaaaat looook.” Yes, you know which one I’m talking about, and I just can’t seem to say no to those big, pleading (and I’m sure starving) eyes. As a guilt-stricken result, I end up sharing a portion of whatever it is I’m enjoying, contributing to that Dobie derriere.

There are countless recommendations, formulations and opinions with regards to which approach works best for weight loss. With all the options out there, I have found this “rough-edged” approach to work for our dogs and for our lifestyle. It is straightforward, it does not require a change in their normal food and allows for tasty “treats” to reduce their feelings of hunger. It may be a slightly less scientific approach, but it is one I have found to actually work each time I have recommended it.

Let’s break it down. I’ll start by teaching you how to determine your pets’ daily caloric needs and how to adjust their nutrition to meet weight-loss goals. Finally, I’ll offer some tips on how to make them feel less miserable in the process (after all, who doesn’t hate dieting?).

How many calories should my pet have each day?

Knowing how many calories your pet needs each day is the first thing you need to determine when approaching a weight-loss program. Food “guess-timations” are frequently incorrect because we often judge how much to feed based on how hungry our dogs appear to us. This is not the best indicator of caloric needs because many of our pets will eat whatever is placed in front of them. Animals also have a basic instinctual drive to look at us whenever we are eating, which we often interpret as hunger, leading to overfeeding.

There are many formulas for determining your pets’ daily caloric needs, which are known as Resting Energy Requirements (RER), but I find this one to be the easiest to “plug and chug”:

Daily calorie needs = 30 x (your pet’s weight in kilograms) + 70

For example, if your pet weighs 15 kg: (30 x 15) + 70 = 520 calories per day

To get your pet’s weight in kilograms, divide the number in pounds by 2.2

For example, a 33-pound dog weighs 15 kg. Here’s the math: 33 divided by 2.2 = 15

Next, look at your pet food bag to find how many calories are present. If you are having difficulty finding the calories per serving of your pet food, let me know the brand and I’ll see what I can do to find out for you.

If you home-cook for your pet, determining calories can be a little more complicated as you need to consider the individual elements that make up their diet. However, the concept remains the same, and an excellent resource for the caloric content of individual foods used in home-cooked diets can be found at Stombeck's Home-Prepared Diets for Dogs and Cats.

How to start a weight loss diet

I prefer the “low and slow” approach to weight loss (after all, it is unlikely that our pets are wanting to get into that little black dress by next month). For weight loss, simply feeding the calculated RER calories alone should be adequate for reducing weight over time with no further “diet modifications” needed. With this approach, most pets will typically loose 1 to 2 pounds per month, achieving their ideal weight in 6 to 8 months. The best thing about this approach is that you don’t have to change the diet or buy an expensive prescription weight loss formula.

Continue to weigh your pet every month until an ideal body weight is achieved. If there is no significant weight loss after 1 to 2 months on their calculated RER, then I recommend cutting back their total calories by 10 percent (most veterinary nutritionists recommend a 10–20 percent calorie cutback).

Continue to reweigh your pet every four weeks and continue to decrease the total calorie intake by an additional 10 percent until your pet’s ideal body weight is reached.

When they have finally reached their ideal body weight, simply continue to feed that amount of dog food daily, as long as they continue to maintain this ideal weight (meaning, no further weight loss or gain).

Two tips to ease the pain

  • If it is possible with your schedule, divide the total daily calories into three feedings instead of two. You will basically be introducing a lunch into their breakfast and dinner schedule, helping to reduce feelings of hunger between feedings.
  • What I have personally found to work best in our household was offering “psychological treats.” These are low-calorie treats that you can offer every time they try “that look” on you. For us, we purchase restaurant-sized cans of green beans from Costco (it is always fun to watch the check out person look at you when you roll up with a cart containing 40 cans of green beans and nothing else). 
  • When our babies are acting extra hungry, we give them a cupful of green beans, giving them a feeling of fullness and the joy of having been offered a treat, without adding many calories. This trick also works great if or when you need to decrease the food amount by 10 percent—just add in a big scoop of the green beans as “filler” each time you cut back the food. And because the calories are so minimal, you can get away with not having to calculate them into the daily caloric needs, which makes life easy. It’s kind of like Weight Watchers where you can eat all the salad you want for no points.

    Here is a working example:

    Month 1:

    • I have a 33-pound dog, which equates to 520 calories per day. I will continue to feed this amount for one month and reweigh at that time.
    • I offer as many low-calorie treats as needed (a scoop of green beans in the food, a carrot treat, etc.)
    • If I wanted to be “technical,” I could subtract the low-calorie treat amount from the total daily calories, adjusting how much dog food you are feeding; for me, this is such a negligible amount in my dogs that I don’t bother.

    Month 2:

    • My pet has lost 1.5 pounds!
    • Next step: Do nothing more, I’m on the right track. Continue with 520 calories per day.

    Month 3:

    • No further weight loss is noted, and I have not yet reached my pet’s ideal weight.
    • Next step: Reduce the calories by 10 percent, feeding 52 calories less per day for a total of 468 calories. Continue this for a month.

    Month 4:

    • My pet lost 2 pounds!
    • Next step: Continue at 486 calories and reweigh in one month.

    One final note: These recommendations assume that you have a healthy dog. If you have an older dog, I recommend you have a physical exam performed by your veterinarian as well as blood work to ensure that there are no underlying metabolic problems such as hypothyroid disease or Cushing’s disease, which can be the source of weight gain or an inability to lose weight. 

    I hope this approach to weight loss and management offers easy guidelines to help your pet reach its ideal, healthy body weight. Please feel free to ask questions if I can help in any way.

    Wellness: Healthy Living
    Toxic Chemical Found in Dog Beds and Toys
    Triclosan Alert

    What do your toothpaste, your athletic socks and your dog’s bed have in common? They most likely contain triclosan, a powerful anti-microbial chemical incorporated into a broad array of consumer products. Triclosan is also turning up as a contaminant in rivers across North America, and in the bodies of more than three-quarters of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    Should we care? The FDA evidently thinks so. On April 8, the agency launched a safety review of this now ubiquitous chemical. “Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation,” the FDA press release states. “Other studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.”

    Triclosan belongs to a class of synthetic chemicals that scientists term endocrine disruptors, for their ability to interact with organisms’ hormone systems. A 2006 study found that even in extremely low doses, triclosan interferes with thyroid function in frogs and leads to premature leg growth in tadpoles. Evidence now strongly suggests that hormone-mimicking chemicals like triclosan effect similar outcomes in all animals with backbones — frogs, dogs and humans alike. They can interfere with everything from insulin regulation to brain function.

    Since its first use as a medical scrub in 1972, triclosan has infiltrated all aspects of our everyday lives. It’s the germ-killing chemical of choice in soaps, cosmetics, clothing, kitchenware, toys and, not least, dog beds. If you own anything that advertises itself as antimicrobial, antifungal or antibacterial, there’s a good chance that triclosan is the magic ingredient.

    It’s magic we can do without. Although “antimicrobial” sounds like a useful property in trash bags and cutting boards, there’s no evidence that household use of triclosan keeps us any healthier (with the possible exception of toothpaste, where it can help prevent gingivitis).

    The soap industry has already begun to mobilize against any hypothetical regulation of triclosan, and the famously slow-moving FDA may take years to act. Still, this latest announcement gives us cause to think twice before stocking up on antibacterial chew toys.

    Pages