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National Walk Your Pet Month

If you’re one of the 45% of Americans who make New Year’s Resolutions, chances are that weight loss and/or exercising more often is among them.

You probably already know about the health benefits of losing weight. There’s less stress on your joints, your heart, etc. But did you know that when your pet loses weight, he or she enjoys the same benefits?

According to Pet Obesity Prevention, 57.9% of American pets are overweight or obese. Even an extra two pounds on your cat (or five on dogs) is associated with greater risk for disease.

January is National Walk Your Pet Month which makes is perfect for the dogs in your life. Maybe for your cat too but most aren’t interested in walks.

And if the exercise benefits aren’t enough, dogs also enjoy mental stimulation by getting out in the neighborhood and sniffing the trees, sidewalks, fire hydrants and each other.

Walking Your Dog is Bonding Time

Walking together is a great time to focus on training your dog and strengthening the bond between you.

To get the most out of your time together, don’t walk and talk on the phone. Use this time to focus on your pet. They spend a lot of time alone already and need you. Praise them when they walk well and pay attention to you.

If your pet needs leash training, find a class, hire a dog trainer for a few sessions or watch YouTube videos on how to train your dog to walk on a leash. It’s no fun (and possibly dangerous) if your dog is doing the zoomies down the street at top speed about to pull your arm out of the socket.

If your dog already walks great on a leash, congratulations! Now you can focus on enjoying the walk and maximizing it for calorie burn:

Maximize Your Walk

You already know a slow meander isn’t going to do much for revving up the metabolism. However, if you’ve been more sedentary than active, you’ve got to start somewhere. Even a few minutes at a slow pace have more health benefits that sitting on the couch. As soon as you can though, speed up your walk, even if it’s only for a few seconds at a time.

An average is about one mile in a 20 minute period or 3 miles an hour. Are you walking that fast already?

Sometimes dogs can be tricky. They get caught up in the smells and slow your progress. This is another reason the leash training comes in handy. There’s a time to let them sniff and a time to walk. Maybe you start out slow or slow down when you get to a favorite spot. Over time, they’ll adapt to your rhythm if you train them to trot along beside you.

Of course, if you have a high energy dog, then your pet needs to run—daily—to burn off that excess energy. If you’re not a runner, then take your dog to the dog park or find a pet sitter who’ll run with your dog.

It’s hard to walk calmly on a leash when you’re filled with pent up energy.

Safety after Dark

It is January after all and it gets dark early. If your dog walking activities take place in the predawn or late afternoon/evening hours, you want to make sure you can be seen by motorists, bicyclists and other dog walkers/pedestrians.

A lighted leash and collar combination is good for the Fido in your life. You will do well to wear light colored clothes at least and better yet, a reflective vest or jacket.

What about you? How will you participate in National Dog Walking Month?

How to Keep Pets Safe at the Holidays and During the Cold Months Ahead

Dropping temperatures often means you and your pets may find yourselves indoors more than usual. The month of December can also present unique challenges for young or “new to you” pets in terms of schedule changes and holiday decorations.

With the first day of Winter approaching (Dec. 22) it’s also “Keep Pets Safe in Winter Day.” It’s a reminder to us of the hazards of the season.

You may think of the usual outdoor concerns such as making sure your pets steer clear of antifreeze and chemical de-icers – more on those in a minute – yet the indoor arena presents its own challenges.

Cords, Gift Wrapping and Tinsel – It Must Be the Holidays!

If you have older pets who have been with you through multiple holiday seasons, they may snooze through the gift wrapping and guests with barely a raised eyebrow.

On the other hand, if you have young pets, or even “new to you” pets, you’ll want to take precautions as you see how they behave.

Christmas Trees – Talk about excitement and confusion. You’re bringing a tree inside and hang it with shiny objects that swing about when batted. It smells good, it’s unusual and you’re giving it a lot of attention.

All of that makes it of interest to some pets. That interest may range from kittens batting ornaments off of it to jumping into the tree. Dogs may be delighted that you’ve brought them indoor plumbing.

Only they know what goes on in their minds.

Until you know your pet’s reactions, here are a few precautions.

  • Leave low branches empty — Don’t hang ornaments on low branches where they may tempt your furry friends to chew on them or knock them onto the floor. Delicate ornaments can break and cut your curious pets.
  • Don’t leave them unattended – Make sure your pets can’t access the tree easily when you’re not home. I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one story of a pet knocking over a Christmas tree. Or dogs who’ve chosen to forget their indoor manners – if you know what I mean.
  • Don’t use tinsel in your decorations. Animals who chew on tinsel can end up at the emergency vet. Why? Because the strands can twist around their internal organs and cause major damage. It’s not worth the risk.

Other Potential Indoor Hazards

  • Open flames from candles – keep them out of the way of wagging tails and curious kittens. It only takes a second for a disaster to occur.
  • Extension cords or electric throws/blankets – Chewing electric cords can electrocute your pet. Veterinarians say it’s quite common so please make sure your pet doesn’t have access to these.
  • Space heaters – Pets get too close and get burned. It’s also easy to knock over space heaters which can even start a fire. Use them with caution and only when you’re home.

Brrr…It’s Cold Outside

When the temperatures settle in the low ‘30’s or below, there are dangers of the elements for both humans and pets. Earlier I mentioned the dangers of antifreeze and chemical de-icers.

You may be familiar with these but in case you’re not, it’s important to realize the hazards.

  • Antifreeze is a magnet for pets. They like the taste of it and it’s poisonous. So make sure that the lids are on tight and out of reach of curious pets. It’s also important to clean up any antifreeze that may spill or leak from your car as it doesn’t take much of the stuff to trigger a reaction – especially in small animals.
  • Paw Pads take a beating. They’re exposed to the elements outside which means snow and ice crystals can lodge themselves deep in the nooks and crannies of your pet’s paws. So can chemical de-icers which you or your neighbors may use to keep your steps, driveway and sidewalk clear of ice.

The de-icers themselves are usually made of calcium chloride (a form of salt) which can burn your pet’s paws – and mouth when they lick their paws clean.

Your best protection is to use a combination of dog boots and to rinse off your dog’s legs and underbelly (if your pet has long fur) when you come in from outside. A towel, a brush and a pan of warm water (for legs/paws) will help keep your pet clean and free of harsh chemicals. It won’t, however, prevent your pet‘s paws from dryness.  For combating dry and flaky paw pads, a pet safe moisturizing balm is useful.

  • Dog Coats and sweaters benefit short haired dogs. Short haired dogs don’t have the extra fur of winter breeds to keep themselves warm so they’re at a disadvantage. Sweaters and dog coats come in all sizes. Even your Mastiff can stop shivering and stay warm in the winter with an extra layer.
  • Be Visible – The winter darkness puts you and your dog at risk when you’re walking. Use a reflective leash or winter clothes with reflective stripes to stay visible to cars, bikers and other pedestrians.

In extreme temperatures, frostbite and hypothermia can affect your pets. In such weather, your best bet is to protect paws with dog booties and keep walks short.

How will you protect your pets this winter?

The Benefits of Probiotics for Your Pet

Do you know how important your pet’s digestive health is to their overall well-being? A healthy gut prevents disease, improves digestion, aids in better nutrient absorption and boosts the immune system. So, in other words, digestive health is extremely important and that’s where probiotics come into play. What are probiotics? Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our pets’ intestines and without the right balance of that good bacteria, your pet can experience major health issues. Let’s talk about the benefits of probiotics for your pet and how you can help to maintain that balance.

Benefits of Probiotics
So, what are the actual benefits of giving your pet food with a healthy amount of probiotics, or even adding probiotic supplements to their food?

Promote a Healthy Digestive System
Overall, a diet that is rich in probiotics will help your pet to achieve digestive balance and promote a healthy gut.

Slow and/or Eliminate Diarrhea
If your pet doesn’t already have a diet with added probiotics and they start to suffer from diarrhea, a probiotic supplement can help to treat the diarrhea. Once you start feeding your pet a probiotic-rich diet, such as Wellness TruFood, they will be less likely to suffer from digestive problems such as diarrhea.

Ease Gastrointestinal Ailments
Does your pet suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or any condition similar to it? Probiotics can help to soothe most gastrointestinal ailments that your pet may be suffering from.

Do All Pets Need a Probiotic?
Because the digestive system is so closely connected to a pet’s immune system and overall health, all pets should have some form of a probiotic as part of their diet.

Probiotic Diet vs. Probiotic Supplement
While both forms of probiotics can be beneficial to your pet, feeding your pet a probiotic diet is the most proactive way to improve their health. Generally speaking, most pet foods that include a proper amount of probiotics are also among the healthier choices of pet foods. These foods will generally have more natural ingredients and are overall better choices for your pet.

Are you ready to start feeding your pet a diet that is rich in probiotics? Any chance to improve your pet’s overall health and potentially add years to their life is a chance that’s worth taking.

Wellness TruFood Thanksgiving Twitter Chat Recap

This year, we wanted to make sure that pet parents would be ready to include their furry family members in the Thanksgiving holiday feast. To do this, we recently hosted a Twitter Chat with Wellness veterinarian, Dr. Louise, DVM. During our 1-hour-long chat, we talked about ways to include healthy superfood ingredients in your pets meals with our Wellness TruFood line for dogs and cats. Take a look at how it went!

In preparation for the Thanksgiving season, as well as the Twitter Chat, we worked on a TruFood photoshoot to capture the delicious, nutrient-rich ingredients up close. We were joined by Wellness dog, Dakota, who was not shy with digging into her holiday plate and showing us all how tasty it was. Check out these behind-the-scenes “blooper” shots!

And now, the final product:

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in our Twitter Chat, and we’d like to congratulate winner @rooneyanddesi who won a year’s supply of Wellness TruFood for participating!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Tame Your Cat’s Hairballs

Hairballs aren’t welcome in any home – or in your cat’s stomach. Keep them under control with Wellness’ new Natural Hairball Control dry cat recipe.

Hacku To A Hairball
Wellness Cat presents
A farewell to gross hairballs
Sendoff performance

It’s hard to put any kind of positive spin on hairballs. It can be a common occurrence or a special occasion. But as parents to our beloved kitties, we all freeze in terror when hearing the approach of an impending hairball attack. This unmistakable hack roughly translates in human speak to: “Warning! Be prepared for a wet, hairy mess that will land in your general vicinity or that of a recently cleaned carpet. Evacuate the area in 5 seconds… 4 seconds… 3 seconds… oh, too late.”

Hairballs can be a result of your cat’s regular grooming routine, but they can cause problems with her digestive health (not to mention they go with nothing in your home’s décor!). Typically, the hair your cat swallows forms into what we call a hairball and is eventually vomited up. But, on top of the grossness that hairballs come standard with, she may not be able to get rid of it through the usual methods of expulsion. If it gets too large, it can cause problems within her digestive tract, resulting in bowel obstructions or constipation. In severe cases, she may even need to go into surgery in order to have a hairball obstruction removed.

Read more on PetGuide.com. Click the link here.

National Mutt Day

A hidden gem, a diamond in the rough, the four-legged prince (or princess) among thieves – the mutt has found its place in the dog world. What used to be thought of as a derogatory term, the “mutt” is now something to be celebrated. Shelters around the country harbor many of these gems – sitting undiscovered, waiting to pick their perfect human family.

The Best Kept Secret: Why You Should Rescue a Mutt

The real question to be asked is, “Why would you not rescue a mutt?” Animal shelters are known for harboring the mutts of the dog world, the diamonds in the rough.

  • No one expected that the dog in the third kennel down on the right, that looks to be the perfect mix between a Corgi and a Jack Russell Terrier, would bring life into the home of a husband and wife struggling with conception.
  • Who would have thought that the Golden Retriever and Border Collie mix with bright blue eyes, would be the missing puzzle piece of motivation for his new owner with dreams of running a marathon?
  • The Pit Bull mix that sat quietly in the corner, in the very last kennel on the left: her owners would tell you that she is the most loyal dog to ever enter their home, and that taking a chance on her was one of the greatest decisions they have ever made.

There truly is no greater love and appreciation than that of a dog who has been rescued, but their owners will inevitably begin to ask themselves the question, “Which one of us is really being rescued here?”
Rescue a mutt from your local shelter and you will officially be in on the secret. Here is a not so subtle hint: It’s both of you.

There truly is no greater love and appreciation than that of a dog who has been rescued, but their owners will inevitably begin to ask themselves the question, “Which one of us is really being rescued here?”  Rescue a mutt from your local shelter and you will officially be in on the secret. Here is a not so subtle hint: It’s both of you.

This Mutt’s For You

No matter the breed, making the decision to bring a dog into your life and home is not one to be taken lightly. There is indeed a perfect mutt for your family, but there are things that deserve your careful consideration. Lifestyle, space in your home, and breed characteristics are all things that factor into finding your ideal four-legged companion.

What does your Saturday morning look like?

  • Do you wake up, eat clean and jump on your mountain bike, or maybe pound the pavement in an early morning run? There is a Labrador and Boxer mix somewhere, dreaming of the day he can join you.
  • Do you like to curl up on the couch with your coffee and a good book, or even indulge in one of those guilty pleasure television shows? There is a Shih Tzu and Poodle mix somewhere that would love nothing more than to make a cozy spot right next to you. That’s one of the good things about dogs: they won’t tell anyone how much you love The Real Housewives.

A Happy Home

  • Larger breed dogs with a high energy level are not going to be happiest cooped up in a one bedroom apartment in the city, unless maybe you have them trained to do your Starbucks coffee run each day. . .multiple times a day.
  • On the other hand, a dog with a lower energy level will be happy with a more low-maintenance, leisurely schedule: even if that schedule consists of hours of mindless television in your one bedroom apartment.

The dog that you bring into your home should be a direct reflection of your lifestyle, and your home should appropriately accommodate his or her needs.

Breed Characteristics

Animal shelters are filled with mixed-breeds of many kinds, and the beauty of the mixed-breed dog is even better odds of finding the perfect mutt for you. Mixed-breed equals a broader gene pool, and once you discover what characteristics fit best into your life, the shelter is the right place to begin your search.

  • For example, any breed mixed with a poodle would be a good fit for someone with a mild pet dander allergy, as poodles tend to be hypo-allergenic.
  • Likewise, a dog that appears to be a mix of Labrador and Border Collie, may have the friendly disposition of the first and the whip-smart agility of the second.

No one is trying to take anything away from the purebreds of the world. However, it is time for them to scoot over and make a sunny spot for their equally adorable furry friend, the mutt, because all dogs deserve their day in the sun.

Fireworks Safety: How to Keep Your Dog Safe This Fourth of July

Fourth of July is one of America’s favorite holidays. When you think of 4th of July celebrations, what comes to mind? Celebrating our freedom? Of course. Family cookouts? Pass me a burger. We all may celebrate the 4th of July holiday a little differently, but let’s talk about the grand finale – the fireworks! While most people love a good fireworks show, we can’t say the same for dogs. This time of year can present many dangers to your dog, as fireworks can cause them severe anxiety. Let’s talk about how you can keep your dog safe this 4th of July.

Bring Your Dog Inside
If you know that your dog doesn’t like fireworks, or even if you have a new dog and are unsure, it is always best to bring them inside on the days surrounding the 4th of July holiday. Fireworks can cause your dog extreme anxiety, which can present many dangers if they are left outside alone. Possible dangers can include –

  • Injuries sustained as a result of attempting to jump the fence
  • Getting hit by a car while roaming frantically around the neighborhood
  • Wandering away from home to escape the noise and getting lost
  • Getting picked up by strangers (and not the nice kind) while roaming aimlessly

July 5th is known to be one of the busiest days for local shelters, due to these dangers that fireworks present to your dog. Play it safe, and bring your dog inside – they will be happy to join you.

Talk to Your Veterinarian about Anxiety Medication

This may sound a bit dramatic, but for dogs who experience severe anxiety from fireworks, this can be the best way to keep your pet safe and comfortable. If you using natural methods of medication, talk to your vet about that as well – chances are he can steer you in the right direction. Check out these natural remedies:

  • Chamomile
  • Lemon balm
  • Oat
  • Valerian
  • Skullcap

Always consult your vet before giving your dog any medication, even natural remedies, as doses can differ for different dogs and breeds.

Keep Your Dog Away from Windows

When you bring your dog inside, it is important to find a nice, comfortable spot for them to be while the fireworks are going on. A good tip is to try to find a spot away from any windows, as this can help to relieve their anxiety. Some cozy spots to consider –

  • A spacious laundry room without windows
  • A central room in the house that can be closed off
  • A comfortable room in the basement – “No scary basements, Mom.”

Make Sure Your Dog is Wearing Identification

This is a common rule that applies year round, but at times like these it is especially important to make sure that your dog can be identified in the event of getting lost. Even if you bring your dog inside, 4th of July is a busy time in most households, with people coming and going from the house a lot. If your dog were to slip out, make sure that someone can help him find his way back.

Keep Your Dog in a Kennel/Crate

Another things to consider is keeping your dog in a kennel during firework shows. This can often provide a safe escape for dogs in high-anxiety situations, especially if it is an enclosed kennel versus an open crate. Make sure you have the appropriate size kennel for your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up and turn around completely in their kennel. Keeping a dog in a kennel that is too small can be dangerous to your pet.

Skip the Fireworks and Stay Home

If fireworks cause your dog to experience severe anxiety, another option is to celebrate with your family at home, without fireworks. Sometimes we as pet owners have to make sacrifices for the comfort and safety of our dogs. We may not be able to control our neighbors when it comes to fireworks, but we can do our best to provide a safe environment for dogs in our own home.

However you choose to celebrate your freedom this year, be mindful of your four-legged friends as well as others in your neighborhood. Utilize some of these tips to keep your dog safe from the dangers of fireworks, and keep an eye out for your neighbor’s furry friends as well.

What Every Pet Lover Should Know About National Pet First Aid Month

Do you have a first aid kit in your home? Do you have another one in your car? Do you have pet first aid supplies in it too?

It’s a good to be prepared. Some supplies can be used for both pets and people but not all.

What’s In Your Pet First Aid Kit?

Bandages, phone numbers and your awareness are three important components.

You’ll want the phone numbers of your vet, the nearest emergency vet and the poison control center. A common hazard for pets is poisoning. Pets either get into household products like Clorox or antifreeze or they eat a food that makes them sick.

For example, if you chew sugarless gum or eat sugarless mints, keep them out of reach of your pet. Many years ago, we heard of a woman whose dog went into her purse, found the gum and chewed it up. Her pet started having seizures, vomited multiple times and she rushed him to the vet where he had life-saving surgery. Xylitol is the sweetening agent in many of these sugar free mints and gum and it’s highly toxic to dogs.

Here’s the Animal Poison Control Hotline for emergencies– 888.426.4435.  They do charge a consultation fee to cover their costs.

Your Pet First Aid Checklist

  • Copies of your pet’s vet paperwork. If you have to go to a different vet, they’ll want to make sure your pet is up-to-date on shots and if there are any special conditions to be aware of.
  • Phone numbers of your vet, emergency vet and Poison Control.
  • Muzzle in case your pet is panicking and biting (Don’t use this if your pet is vomiting or choking)
  • Extra leash
  • Self-sticking bandage (Available at some pet stores)
  • Gauze pads in case of bleeding
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Hydrogen peroxide (in case you need to induce vomiting – best to do this under guidance of a veterinarian or other pet medical professional)
  • Sterile saline solution
  • Tweezers
  • Emergency blanket
  • Disposable gloves
  • Pet carrier
  • Thermometer
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Syringe
  • Flashlight
  • Over the counter antibiotic ointment

Of course you should also have any specialty medications or items your vet recommends. Special needs pets may need different items.

Some veterinarians and shelters offer occasional pet first aid classes if you want to know more.

What’s in your pet’s first aid kit?

Make Everyday Earth Day with Your Pets

You don’t have to be a Birkenstock wearing, tree-hugging hippie to appreciate Earth Day. We all enjoy clean water, fresh air and litter free streets, and Earth Day is a chance to show our appreciation.

Here’s how you can minimize your pet’s carbon footprint with “green” toys and accessories.

“Green” Toys and Accessories

Make Your Own – It doesn’t get much greener than that! From cardboard paper towel tubes to single mittens repurposing things around your home is the ultimate in recycling. For tips on “make-it-yourself” pet toys, see this post. (with a link to the recent post.)

Choose Toys Made of Eco-Friendly materials – some companies make pet toys out of recycled plastic bottles and milk jugs which not only help keep thousands of bottles out of the landfill but also make durable toys.

Imagine if your pet’s favorite chew toy was made with enough recycled plastic to also power your laptop for a month! Now that’s streamlining!

No matter what toys your pet likes best—balls, squeaker toys or rope tugs there’s something eco-friendly to chew on for everybody.

Go Organic

Organic cotton collars, leashes and bedding can reduce your pet’s exposure to harsh chemicals. The reason this matters is that traditional cotton may be treated with pesticides. Some pets develop skin irritants like red, itchy spots that you can see. Others aren’t as sensitive, but some scientists think long-term exposure to pesticides like these can raise dogs’ risk of cancer.

Protect your pet with organic cotton in stylish patterns.

Buy Large

Larger bags and cans of food mean less packaging waste and less energy spent producing said packaging. Buy larger containers when you can and recycle the packaging for a lighter footprint. Of course, you want to make sure the food inside is good for your pet too. Choose foods with plenty of vegetables and a named protein source like beef or fish.

How will you be green this Earth Day?

Ask Wellness March 2015

Q. Do you have a special dry food for cats prone to getting UTIs? My cat dislikes the prescription diet.

A. We’re sorry to hear that your cat has been experiencing urinary issues. Please know that we do not offer prescription diets, however, our Complete Health recipes contain a cranberry blend that may promote healthy urine PH. Another way to help cats maintain urinary health is by keeping them well hydrated. If your cat does not drink water regularly, you can help him get more hydration by supplementing his dry food with one of our Complete Health wet foods. We recommend that you discuss your cat’s nutrition options with your vet before making any changes. Best of luck!