Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Pet Might Improve Your Health

Getting a dog? A pet might improve your health.

By Christie Aschwanden December 15

With final exams bearing down on them this month, nearly 1,000 students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond turned out for “Paws for Stress” — a chance to pet and play with therapy dogs.

Pets were once considered a leisure interest, one best kept at home. But there’s a growing recognition that in addition to companionship, animals may offer humans a tangible health boost. VCU is just one of many colleges making therapy dogs available to students to help them cope with the stresses of finals, says Sandra Barker, a researcher at the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at VCU’s medical school and an organizer of the event.

Humans have a long history of keeping creature companions, and if you ask most animal lovers if their beloved pet makes their life better, they’ll say yes. But can a pet improve our health? That’s a question that researchers are beginning to investigate. The field is still in its late infancy, says Barker, and the evidence remains mixed. At the moment, some of the best evidence for the benefits of pet interactions comes in the mental health arena, she says.

When fingers meet fur, people tend to relax and feel less stressed, says Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation, a group funded by the pet product industry. One recent review of 69 studies found evidence that human-animal interactions could lift mood and reduce stress and anxiety, perhaps by activating the hormone oxytocin.

Though it’s not clear how strong or long-lasting the effects are, students who attend Paws for Stress events generally report at least a temporary drop in stress levels, Barker says. For instance, upon arriving at this month’s event, one student told Barker that she had a headache from the stress of studying. After five minutes petting and playing with one of the dogs, Barker says, the student looked up and told her, “My headache’s gone.”


Numerous programs use service dogs to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Although having a canine companion around seems to raise a person’s mood, there’s not enough research yet to clarify to what extent such animal interactions might help ease PTSD symptoms, according to the National Center for PTSD, which is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Depression is another common target for animal therapy. A small randomized, controlled trial whose results were published in 2005 found that therapy providing interaction with dolphins reduced symptoms of depression. Similarly, a 2007 meta-analysis published in Britain concluded that therapy animals can help ease depression, but it cautioned that more and better designed studies are needed to clarify the effects. Indeed, not every study has found a benefit. A 2006 study found no significant decrease in depression among residents of another long-term-care facility who had weekly visits with a therapy dog.

The benefits of animal-human interactions may extend to physical health, too. In May of 2013, the American Heart Association released a statement concluding that pet ownership is “probably associated with decreased cardiovascular disease risk.”

“If you look at people with and without pets, those with pets tend to be healthier heart-wise,” says Glenn Levine, a cardiologist at Baylor College of Medicine who was on the committee that wrote the AHA statement. Studies that Levine’s group assessed included ones finding that pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rates and less risk of hypertension than people without pets. What’s not clear, he says, is whether having a pet makes people healthier or if it’s just that healthier people are more likely to own a pet. “The evidence that it’s a causal relationship is not as strong,” Levine says.

Studies show that if you subject people to a stressful situation with a dog in the room, they have smaller increases in heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline and other stress-related factors than if there is no pet present, Levine says, but the mechanisms for most of these associations remain unknown.

The most obvious way that a pet might help you become healthier is if it motivates you to get out and exercise. “The one mechanism that makes the most sense is if people adopt a dog and then walk it regularly and in doing so increase their own daily physical activity,” Levine says.


But not every dog owner becomes a vigilant dog walker, and when Rebecca Utz at the University of Utah examined the links between pet ownership and health measures among about 2,500 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, she found that people who kept cats or even fish as pets actually logged more physical activity than people with dogs. “You can’t explain the effect of pet ownership on dog walking,” she says.

Therapy dogs to the rescue

The Wag Brigade’s certified therapy dogs patrol the city’s airport to calm stressed travelers during the holiday season.

Still, she did find an association between pet ownership and health: Pet owners were less obese, had better self-reported health, less asthma and fewer cardiovascular problems than people without pets. But Utz says that her data also showed that people who had pets tended to be of higher socioeconomic status, which probably explains the association.

“What you shouldn’t do is go out and adopt an animal for the sole reason of wanting health benefits,” Levine says. “The primary reason to rescue an animal should be to give a pet a loving home.” If your new pet gives your lifestyle a healthy boost, consider it a bonus.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Flying with Pets: How to Ensure Safe Passage

Some important considerations when flying with your pets this Holiday season.

Flying with pets: How to ensure safe passage

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With the holiday travel season in full swing, it's a good time to consider expert advice on how best to manage your itinerary. After all, Thanksgiving through New Year's spans some of the busiest days of the year for commercial flying in the United States.
But for those whose family includes furry members, it's also a good time to consider whether four-legged loved ones should fly at all. It's an issue that has been back in the news in recent weeks, after passenger Frank Romano's dog was lost by Delta Air Lines in Los Angeles on Halloween, allegedly after chewing through a plastic kennel.
Can some animals travel safely, either in the cabin or the belly of an aircraft? Yes. But it's a more complex issue than many pet owners realize, so a little research can be critical.
Weighing the risks
Since I last addressed this issue here in 2009 with "What you need to know about flying with pets," there has been an increase in guidance from animal care experts. There also has been additional evidence of the dangers, with more robust government statistics on animals that have been lost, injured or killed while in the care of U.S. airlines.
Some pets should not be flying at all -- ever. The American Humane Association advises: "As a general rule, puppies and kittens, sick animals, animals in heat and frail or pregnant animals should not travel by air." Furthermore, the Humane Society of the United States warns "air travel is particularly dangerous for animals with 'pushed-in' faces," such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats; some airlines will not accept them.
In addition, during this holiday season, some regions of the United States will be too cold for pet travel, while other regions will be too hot, making the booking process quite difficult. Minimum and maximum temperature guidelines apply, and they also apply to connecting cities along the way. Last year I assisted some family members who relocated to Central America by shipping their dog to them; although it was a crisp fall day in Newark and not particularly hot at the destination, the airline refused to board the dog because the temperature was soaring in Miami, the connecting hub.
In fact, there are so many dangers, concerns and nuances involved in flying with pets, three entire columns could be devoted to offering specific advice. So for detailed guidance, consider the experts who created these pages:
• The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Air Travel Tips
• The Humane Society's Travel Safely
• The American Humane Association's Traveling
• The American Veterinary Medical Association's Traveling with Your Pet
All four of these organizations also provide advice for those who travel by alternate modes, such as car, bus, train and ship.
It's important to note pet travel policies usually don't apply to service animals, andexceptions may apply for U.S. military and State Department personnel.
Learning the rules
First things first: Before you query individual airline policies, you need to review governmental restrictions. The U.S. Department of Transportation provides guidelines on Transporting Live Animals for both owners and shippers at its site. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration features a Flying with Pets page; it includes critical information on security screening and rules for pets in the passenger cabin.
For those traveling with pets in foreign countries -- or importing or exporting pets -- there are specific requirements, detailed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For a rundown on foreign rules, country-by-country regulations are provided by the industry's global trade organization, the International Air Transport Association.
Once you've addressed all these issues, you'll need to learn the specific policies of the carrier you'll be booking, since they do vary. (So do the perks, such as frequent-flier mileage for four-legged friends.) Each airline has its own rules on which animals it will and will not carry, specific regulations for cabin and belly travel and policies on containers. Of course, in this golden age of airline "ancillary revenue," fees can vary for such services.
Here are links to more information from the largest domestic carriers:
* In this age of airline consolidation, it's worth noting American specifically states its merger partner US Airways has "different policies on pet travel."
Grading the airlines
So how do these domestic airlines perform when it comes to handling your furry fellow travelers? Thankfully, for nearly ten years now U.S. carriers are required to report all incidents to the DOT, and those reports are viewable to the public, though some animal lovers may find them tough reading.
Although the DOT has been posting such records since May 2005, in the early years it did not summarize the annual findings as it does with all other airline performance categories, such as flight delays and consumer complaints. Currently the annual totals are summarized, and here is how the airlines stacked up in 2013:
AIRLINELOSSESINJURIESDEATHSTOTAL
Alaska011819
American1012
Delta0325
Hawaiian1012
Horizon*0101
United40913
TOTAL6152142
* Operates on behalf of Alaska, American and Delta
U.S. airlines not listed did not report any anomalies last year. However, what remains unclear is the total number of animals carried by each of the airlines, so consumers can't analyze these statistics on a proportional basis. But since the totals for Alaskaand United are so significantly higher than for all other domestic airlines, it can be instructional to view the detailed incident reports linked above.
A few last words ...
The sites listed above can address most of your questions about flying with pets. But consider this:
• The first step always is checking with your veterinarian to see if your pet is healthy enough to fly.
• For those seeking to transport a pet without accompanying it, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association offers pet owners advice on finding pet shippers, as well as warnings about pet scams.
• By the way, some well-meaning sites suggest you book a "direct flight," not realizing that in airline-speak direct flights make stops en route; ideally, you'll want to book a "nonstop flight," though this may not be possible in many cases. It's also important to know if all legs of an itinerary will be operated by the same carrier or a codeshare partner, particularly since so many domestic routes today are serviced by regional partners.
Bill McGee, a contributing editor to Consumer Reports and the former editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, is an FAA-licensed aircraft dispatcher who worked in airline operations and management for several years. Tell him what you think of his latest column by sending him an e-mail at travel@usatoday.com. Include your name, hometown and daytime phone number, and he may use your feedback in a future column.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shop Holiday: A few gifts for your favorite pet

Do not forget your pets during the holiday gift giving! Some ideas for pet gifts.

Shop Holiday: A few gifts for your favorite pet

We’ll spend more than $58 billion this year on our pets, according to the American Pet Products Association. Here are some gifts for them that won’t break your piggy bank:
If cats could talk, they’d tell you that meals taste best straight out of the cat food can. The Luxury Cat Dish from toy and novelty retailer Archie McPhee holds everything from kibble to caviar. This 5-inch ceramic tuna can is pet- and human-safe. $16.95 at mcphee.com
National Geographic and PetSmart have joined forces to market a line of pet toys that entertain and exercise pets and encourage interaction with their humans. Cat toys include a jellyfish, lizard, electronic caterpillar and slithering snake. These colorful toys satisfy a cat’s chase and hunt instincts by simulating the movements of prey in the wild. Proceeds benefit animal conservation and habitat preservation. Jellyfish Teaser — $7.99 at PetSmart.

(Click image for larger version)
Clothing for dogs is big business, and there’s one wardrobe item that’s practical. Dog footwear can help protect paw pads from road salt, rocks and mud. Combine them with one of several pet-safe ice-melting products for sidewalks, like Morton Safe-T-Pet Care Ice Melt or Safe Paw. Shown: Good2Go waterproof socks ­— $19.99 at Petco.
Fish are tough to shop for, but you can give them a more natural habitat with a collection of aquatic plants to perk up their aquarium decor. Petland in East Liberty offers a wide range of plants that will thrive in water, including Jungle Bamboo, Corkscrew Vallisneria, Lemon Bacopa and Amazon Sword. Prices range from $1.99 to $10.99.
A professional pet portrait is a great way to show off four-legged family members as well as two-legged ones. A number of professional photographers specialize in pet portraits. The studios at Premier Imaging in Northway Mall are now pet-friendly and equipped with a variety of imaginative backdrops. Prices range from $19 to $59.
Put your pet under surveillance and catch them when they sneak onto the couch or kitchen counter. The Motorola Scout 500-2 Video Pet Monitor consists of a monitoring unit and two indoor cameras. It has two-way communication so you can talk to your pet from another room. Infrared night vision allows monitoring in low light. $99 at PetSmart.
BarkBox is the gift that keeps on giving all year. This subscription service delivers a box with four or more toys, bones and treats to your pooch every month. BarkBox donates 10 percent of its profits to shelters and other animal-related organizations. Plans start at $18/month.
The American Kennel Club offers Woofipedia boxed collections of toys, treats and personalized items that range in price from $40 to $50. Available at shop.woofipedia.com

Animal Planet’s Sherpa Blanket for dogs is an ultra-soft 40-by-50-inch blanket that also works as a car seat/couch cover. Proceeds benefit Animal Planet’s Reach Out. Act. Respond animal advocacy initiative. $9.99 at Tuesday Morning.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Acupuncture Services at Niles Animal Hospital and Some FAQs

Acupuncture Services at Niles Animal Hospital and Some FAQs


We are now pleased to offer acupuncture services for our patients at Niles Animal Hospital. Dr. Kalivoda has gone through an extensive and detailed training program in order to perform scientifically based acupuncture procedures, earning certification as an accredited veterinary acupuncturist. She is now up and running with the acupuncture services. We are proud of what she has accomplished and excited to be able to provide another means of treatment for our patients. Call the hospital if you are interested or have any questions. We would be glad to set up an appointment with Dr. Kalivoda for an initial evaluation to determine if acupuncture would be helpful for your pet. (847-647-9325)

Here is some additional information about our acupuncture services, frequently asked questions or FAQs.

Medical Acupuncture FAQs

What is medical acupuncture?

Medical acupuncture is not scary or mystical. It’s a physical medicine that involves the application of very thin, sterile needles to specific points in order to stimulate nerves or relieve muscle tension. It’s very useful for relieving pain, but also can be effective in improving organ function and enhancing immune function.

What conditions can it be used for?

Muscle pain/spasms, back pain, neck pain, soft tissue injury, arthritis, weakness, incontinence, orthopedic injuries (cruciate rupture and others), kidney disease, nausea or decreased appetite, diarrhea, constipation, cancer, dry eye, autoimmune disease, neurological disorders (seizures, wobbler’s disease) and many others!

Is acupuncture safe?

There are usually minimal to no side effects. There may be a small amount of bleeding from needle sites or mild bruising. Sometimes the problem will get worse before it gets better, though there should be no persistent worsening after treatment.

Does it hurt?

The needles used are incredibly sharp and thin (about 10 times smaller than vaccine needles). Most animals do not even notice the insertion. Some points are more sensitive than others and may elicit a transient reaction to needling. The use of needles actually stimulates release of pain-relieving substances in the body.

Does my pet need to be sedated?

Acupuncture is generally very well tolerated, even by exotics such as rabbits and birds. Each patient is evaluated for tolerance during their initial appointment, and some aggressive or very painful animals may need sedation. This does not affect the effectiveness of treatment.

What should I expect after a session?

Your pet may be tired after a session. Some will just go lie in their bed and even not get up for dinner, because they are so relaxed. They will usually eat if the food is put in front of them.

The problem may get WORSE before it gets better. Some pets will have a transient worsening after acupuncture, though are expected to improve after 48-72 hours. If you feel it’s a significant worsening, you should call to discuss so we can adjust therapy.

How long do sessions last and how often are they booked?

Initial assessment and treatment generally will last about an hour as we work through all the problems and determine a course of action for the current issues. Depending on the reason for acupuncture, needles may be left in for up to 15-20 minutes, or removed quickly. Laser therapy or electroacupuncture may be used based on the problem being treated. Follow-up appointment may be shorter or longer, based on response. Sessions may be needed as often as twice a week or as infrequent as once every 46 weeks, depending on the problem.

What should I bring to an appointment?

If your pet has any food allergies and has special treats, bring them with for rewards during sessions. If your pet is on any over-the-counter supplements, please bring them with for label assessment.

Please call to schedule your initial assessment and treatment! (847-647-9325)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Do You Need Pet Insurance

We are seeing more and more pets with insurance......is it the right choice for your pets? Some information from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

 Do you need pet insurance?

As veterinary medicine becomes more technologically advanced, the cost of care increases because of the higher costs associated with the equipment, facilities and training required to provide these higher-quality services. For some, the cost of care can cause some anxiety. Pet insurance can help by offsetting some or most of the costs of diagnosing, treating and managing your pet's illness or injury.
But pet insurance isn't for everyone, and there's no magic formula that will tell you if it's right for you and your pet. If you're considering pet insurance, talk to your veterinarian and do some research on your options. Here are some basic considerations:
  • Regardless of the insurance provider, your veterinarian should be monitoring the health of your pet as part of a valid Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR; for more information, check out our VCPR FAQs).
  • The insurance provider should clearly spell out to you the details, including the limitations and exclusions, of coverage for routine and/or wellness care as well as emergency treatments and conditions that require extensive care. Find out how your premiums will be increased as your pet ages or if you make any claims.
  • See if they have add-on options to provide any specific coverage (e.g., dental care, travel insurance, etc.) you may want.
  • Find out how they define and handle pre-existing conditions (diseases or conditions your pet already has – or has had – prior to purchasing the insurance plan).
  • In some cases, insurance providers will not insure a specific pet or breed of pet, or may limit the number of pets you can insure, if they consider them "high risk."
  • Some providers will give multiple pet discounts.
  • All of the charges, including co-pays, deductibles, add-on charges and other fees, should be clearly explained to you so you fully understand the policy and its limitations.
  • You should be allowed to choose the veterinarian who will provide veterinary care for your pet.
  • Pet insurance plans are generally reimbursement plans – you pay the bills up front and are reimbursed by the insurance provider. Ask the insurance provider how claims are processed as well as the timeframe for reimbursement of your expenses so you know what to expect. If you're concerned about covering the expenses up front, ask your veterinarian about payment options that will work for you in case you need to make arrangements. (It's best to find out your options ahead of time so you don't have the added stress of trying to make payment arrangements on an emergency basis.)
For more information, see the AVMA's Guidelines on Pet Health Insurance and Other Third Party Health Plans.
Your veterinarian may be able to provide you with a recommended pet insurance company based on their experience, but it's ultimately your decision whether or not to purchase pet insurance (and what coverage and from what company you purchase). Below is an alphabetical list of companies that provide pet insurance. The list may not be complete and is intended to provide information and links to help you investigate and decide if pet insurance is right for your pet. The AVMA does not endorse or recommend any one provider over others.
24PetWatch

AKC Pet Healthcare Plan

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance

Best Friends Pet Insurance

Embrace Pet Insurance

Healthy Paws

PetFirst Healthcare

Pets Best

Petplan

PurinaCare

Trupanion

VPI

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Is It An Emergency For Your Pet?

From the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) web site.

When is it an emergency?

Most pet owners have been in a situation like this: Buster slipped on the way down the stairs and now he’s walking with a limp. It’s 11:00 at night - should you call your veterinarian, or are you just being a worrywart?
You’re never wrong to call
If you’re concerned about your pet, you should never feel embarrassed about calling a veterinarian. Veterinarians are used to emergencies and they prepare for them. Most veterinary hospitals have doctors on-call or provide referrals to emergency pet hospitals, so don’t worry about waking your veterinarian out of a sound sleep. In fact, all AAHA-accredited hospitals are required to provide 24-hour access to emergency care, either in their own facility or through referral to another hospital. (To find an AAHA-accredited animal hospital near you, visit the Hospital Locator)

Remember, you know your pet better than anyone else. If you notice your pet behaving in a way that’s unusual for her, or if something just doesn’t seem right, you may have picked up on a subtle sign of a real problem. To find out, you can call your veterinary hospital, or an emergency animal hospital near you. By asking a few questions over the phone, an emergency veterinarian should be able to tell you whether you should bring your pet in right away, or whether she can wait for an examination during your hospital’s normal office hours. Even if you find out nothing’s wrong, you’ll be glad to have your mind at ease.
Definite emergencies
There are some times, however, when you won’t need to call first. If you notice any of the following problems, bring your pet in immediately for emergency care. 

Your pet has been experienced some kind of trauma, such as being hit by a car or a blunt object or falling more than a few feet.
  • Your pet isn’t breathing or you can’t feel a heartbeat.
  • Your pet is unconscious and won’t wake up.
  • Your pet has been vomiting or has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours, or she is vomiting blood.
  • You suspect any broken bones.
  • Your pet is having trouble breathing or has something stuck in her throat.
  • Your pet has had or is having a seizure.
  • Your pet is bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth, or there is blood in her urine or feces.
  • You think your pet might have ingested something toxic, such as antifreeze, rat poison, any kind of medication that wasn’t prescribed to her, or household cleansers.
  • Your pet, particularly your male cat, is straining to urinate, or is unable to.
  • Your pet shows signs of extreme pain, such as whining, shaking, and refusing to socialize.
  • Your pet collapses or suddenly can’t stand up.
  • Your pet begins bumping into things or suddenly becomes disoriented.
  • You can see irritation or injury to your pet’s eyes, or she suddenly seems to become blind.
  • Your pet’s abdomen is swollen and hard to the touch, and/or she’s gagging and trying to vomit.
  • You see symptoms of heatstroke.
  • Your pregnant dog or cat has gone more than three to four hours between delivering puppies or kittens.
What to do if it’s an emergency
If you notice any of the symptoms above or you suspect a serious problem, try to get directly in touch with a veterinary professional. Don’t leave a voicemail or use the Internet or email.
Your first step is to call your veterinarian. AAHA-accredited hospitals will either have someone answering the phone 24-hours a day or will have a recorded message referring you to another hospital in case of an emergency. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, use the AAHA hospital locator tool to locate an accredited hospital near you. The American Red Cross also has a pet first aid app available to help you locate a veterinarian in case of emergencies.
Once you decide to bring your pet in for emergency treatment, make sure you know where you’re going and how to get your pet there safely. If you have any questions about directions or how to move your ill or injured pet, call the hospital and ask
Be prepared
The best way to deal with pet emergencies is to prepare for them, just in case. The next time you bring your pet in for a checkup, ask your veterinarian what you should do in case of emergency. Find out whether your animal hospital is open 24 hours, or whether they refer emergency cases on evenings and weekends. If they refer, get the name, address, and phone number of the emergency facility they refer to.

Keep your veterinarian’s name and number on an emergency sheet near the phone, right next to the numbers for your doctor, fire department, and poison-control hotline. If your veterinarian refers evening and weekend emergencies to another hospital, write down that hospital’s name and number too, as well as what hours your doctor refers cases there. This way, if an emergency catches you off guard, you won’t have to file through drawers or folders looking for business cards. You may also want to have a list of pet first aid tips easily accessible, along with guidelines for human first aid.

If you’re taking your pet along on a trip, you can find AAHA-accredited hospitals in the area you’ll be visiting by using the hospital locator.

Most important, remember to trust your instincts. You know and love your pet, and you have the right to be worried if something seems wrong. Emergency veterinary professionals are there for you, never hesitate to call.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to Prevent Leptospirosis

From the web site lepto info.

Vaccination

Annual vaccination for leptospirosis is an affordable means to help protect your dog from a disease than can be very costly to treat. Ask your veterinarian if they use a vaccine that protects against 4 serovars.
Your veterinarian will determine an appropriate vaccination series, depending on your dog's vaccination history and risk factors. Your dog may require an initial vaccination and a booster a few weeks later. Annual vaccination is needed for continued protection.

Environmental precautions

Vaccination is extremely important, but in addition, you may want to consider the following steps you can take to prevent leptospirosis:
  • Have your dog vaccinated against the 4 serovars of Leptospira
  • Wash your hands after direct contact with your pet or its urine.
  • Where possible, avoid exercising your dog in wildlife habitat areas.
  • Prevent your children from playing in areas used for exercising dogs.
  • If you have been around a dog diagnosed with lepto, seek medical information from your veterinarian or  medical provider.