For many people, dealing with life is difficult. Just like a batter in a baseball game, curve balls come our way – we may take a swing and miss. Or, we may stand there, not sure whether we should move the bat at all.
In the United States alone, anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) affect millions of people. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are one of the most common illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. More than 17 million people in the America are affected by depression, and depression is most prevalent in young people and women. Depression and anxiety can go hand-in-hand.
In addition to counseling and medication, there is another help for people affected by anxiety and/or depression. Many studies have shown animals, like dogs and cats, help people dealing with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Pets encourage exercise, like walking and playing with toys. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can reduce stress and lift someone’s mood.
Mental health providers see a positive result when patients obtain emotional support animals. These animals help alleviate symptoms of an emotional or mental disability through their companionship and affection. Although not service animals, like guide dogs, ESAs do receive some protections under federal law. Learn more here: https://www.certapet.com/emotional-support-animal/.
Therapy animals visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, libraries, schools, and other places, bringing comfort to people during times of crisis or loneliness. For example, the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs visit places where natural or human-caused tragedies occur and Read-to-the-Dog programs at libraries bring comfort and confidence to children who struggle with reading and socialization. The elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may feel lonely or rejected; therapy animals (which can be cats, rabbits, dogs, even guinea pigs) ease those feelings. People in hospitals may feel anxious or fearful as well as physically ill; a therapy animal can uplift their spirits and put their minds upon something else. Many school districts embrace the use of therapy and/or comfort dogs in public schools as a way to inspire and assist students. The studies which support pets as healers and comforters have impacted the way medical, mental health, and educational professionals view animals, especially dogs and cats.
Lowering stress and blood pressure are some of the benefits of dogs and cats, whether they’re our pets or they are trained as therapy and/or emotional support animals. Animals provide affection and companionship, and they help soothe the soul. They are helpful in human’s healing processes, whether in their own people or within a stranger.
Consumer Advocate offers a wonderful resource and blog post about pets and their ability to help people with mental or physical ailments. You’ll find that here:
If you experience depression or anxiety, or if you are feeling lonely or fearful, consider adding a pet to your home. If you already have one, take more time with your furry friend – you both will enjoy the extra attention and companionship.
How does your pet help you? Leave a comment below.
Do dogs and other animals feel pain and grief?
For decades, researchers have noted the mourning various animal species seem to experience when a family member dies. Elephants, for example, have been documented appearing to mourn the loss of a family member, whether an elderly matriarch or a stillborn calf. Chimpanzees and orcas have also been observed in mourning-like behavior.
What about pets?
As I write this, my husband and I are grieving the death of our beloved springer/cocker mix, Mary. We adopted her in 2013 when she was nearly seven years old. Although we didn’t spend her entire lifetime as her guardians and caregivers, Mary touched our hearts and lives in special ways. Sensitive, friendly, and kind, Mary was trained as a therapy dog, and her sweet disposition generated friends, both human and animal, during the years she lived with us. I wrote two children’s books about her, including A Kind Dog Named Mary, by which Mary reminds children that kindness is a great virtue. She exuded kindness and made impacts wherever she went.
That positive impact included the other pets in our house. From the aging Cody, who lived three extra years after Mary came to live with us, to puppy mill survivor Jeremiah, Mary was a true friend.
Now that Mary is gone, Jeremiah, especially, notices her absence. One day he didn’t eat at all. He is somewhat more lethargic, and he doesn’t play with his toys quite as much. He cuddles with my husband and I more. All of these are indicators, according to pet experts, that Jeremiah is mourning Mary’s death.
Well-known veterinarian Dr. Karen Shaw Becker states that dogs and cats “can experience sadness and grief at the loss of a beloved human or animal companion.” She cites the example of a military dog lying near the casket of its beloved human comrade (the television show, NCIS created an episode “Seek” which showcased a similar experience). Dr. Becker also states that behavior changes are common when pets grieve, so Jeremiah’s lack of appetite and desire for closer human companionship are not rare when a pet is mourning the loss of a beloved friend.
Before Mary, my husband and I had a blind springer spaniel named Sage. Like Mary, Sage developed cancer, and on the last night at home, as her breathing labored and her death drew closer, so, too, did the animals in our household. Cody, the cocker spaniel we’d adopted four years earlier, laid beside Sage in the living room. Our two cats also came into the room and stayed close by. They seemed to sense Sage’s near-demise and seemed to come to say goodbye to her. For several days thereafter, Cody seemed depressed. My husband and I took him on short drives and engaged in several walks a day. Keeping the surviving pets engaged and keeping a steady routine are highly recommended by pet experts after the passing of a beloved animal companion.
Perhaps you, too, have experienced the death of an animal companion – did you notice changes in the behavior of your surviving pets? Did they appear to mourn the loss? I’d be interested in hearing of your own experiences – feel free to leave a comment.
Getting another dog buddy is likely on the horizon, as Jeremiah probably needs another companion (as my husband and I). But, as many animal experts agree, doing so right away is not recommended. We will know when the time is right.
Meantime, we will share our grief as a family, and my husband and I will dote on the pets Mary left behind. Afterall, that’s what families do – help each other during difficult times.
Here are links to some articles on animal grief should you be interested:
“No one can truly understand why dogs are called “man’s best friend” until they have experienced the loss of one.”
“When the cat you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.”
(quotes from https://www.loveliveson.com/loss-of-pet-quotes/)
Every journey with a pet is unique. Each death of a pet is unique. As I research write these words, my husband and I are dealing with the final days of our beloved Mary. A springer/cocker mix, Mary has been our special companion for more than six years. We adopted her when she was almost seven, nearly a year after the loss of another much-loved dog. Mary’s former owner had passed away suddenly, and Mary went into rescue; we learned about her and drove 300 miles one way to meet and adopt her. She has brought much joy and comfort to us during the time we’ve been blessed to call her “ours.”
Trained as a therapy dog by her previous owner, Mary has positively impacted many lives. I’ve written two children’s books about her (and am in the final stages of completing a third), and together, we’ve visited libraries and schools. Mary’s kind, sweet nature won over children and adults alike. She provided comfort for elderly folks, and to my husband and me. Her intuition for people who were down physically and emotionally has been incredible to observe, and her patience and affection for other animals allowed us to bring in another dog 18 months ago who needed her guidance and friendship. My husband and I worry how Jeremiah, our rescued Shih Tzu, will handle Mary’s passing.
This is not the first time we’ve faced the death of a beloved pet. In our 20 years together, my husband and I have experienced the passing of two dogs and one cat, and before we met, we grieved the loss of animals as children and younger adults. However, the experience never gets easier. Each pet has brought love, fun, joy, and devotion to our lives, touching our hearts in their own special way. And, their passing leaves a void. Yet, their lives leave memories galore!
Each pet parent’s experience with the loss of a beloved animal is a personal journey. Some people grieve for months, even years. Just as the loss of a human friend or loved one pierces the heart, so does the loss of a beloved animal companion. And just as the journey of grief for another person is personal and unique, so is the journey of pet loss.
Experts note the stages of grief after losing a pet are similar to those experienced at the loss of a human loved one: denial, anger, guilt and acceptance. They also agree a person needs to grieve the death of a pet. Some adults may try to keep their sadness, guilt, and other emotions in-check, being embarrassed to acknowledge how their animal’s death affects them; however, bottling up those emotions isn’t healthy. A person needs to accept and acknowledge the depth of grief they feel in order to start the path of healing. Also, don’t let other people tell you how you “should” feel – as noted earlier, this journey is a personal one and other people are NOT you and you are NOT them. Talk with friends and family who are understanding and empathetic, those you believe will be of help to you and with whom you feel comfortable sharing. Some communities, either through veterinarian’s offices or other organizations, offer pet bereavement support groups; consider going to one. There are also online sites where you can share your thoughts about the loss of your companion, take part in a memorial service, and connect with others who are going through their own pet loss journey.
Whatever your pet loss story, whatever your journey, know that over time your broken heart will heal. And, perhaps one day, another sweet dog, cat, horse, hamster, or other animal will share your love and your life.
Here are a few websites that help pet parents deal with the loss of a beloved animal:
A POEM FOR THE GRIEVING
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die...
-Mary Frye (1932)
Winter is passing and a new season is teasing. Warmer temperatures and bright sunshine can, and does, give way to rain, and even a few snow showers here and there. But, with the calendar page turned to April now, we know the new season of spring is fast approaching. And most of us rejoice.
Our pets, too, usually look forward to the change. Dogs spend more time outdoors in the yard, on walks, or at the dog park. Cats bask in sunshine and watch birds and insects through the window. But, with the onset of spring can come hazards. Below are six of which to be aware:
There are many other spring hazards that can harm our beloved furry friends. For more information and additional safety tips, visit these websites:
Certain dog breeds, like terriers and dachshunds, were originally bred to dig in order to go after vermin in farmer’s fields. Therefore, these types of dogs are born diggers. Other types of dogs may dig due to boredom, in order to keep cool in summer, or they are seeking prey, such as mice or insects.
If you don’t want your dog digging up every square inch of your back yard, there are several things you can do to alleviate the situation.
If you’re dog is seeking comfort from the heat, bring it inside more often; make sure the outdoor shelter is comfortable, and that your pup has plenty of access water. If your dog is still digging, try setting aside a special area where such behavior is okay.
If you believe your dog is bored, spend more time with your furry friend. Play fetch in the yard; go for an extra walk; have more cuddle-time on the couch (dogs, TVs, and couches go well together!); provide interactive toys inside and outside the house; teach your dog new commands or tricks and spend about 10 minutes each day in training; set up an agility course in the yard or join an agility club – any of these or a combination of such activities are great ways to provide extra entertainment for your pet as well as added time with you.
If you think your dog is digging to go after “prey,” the Humane Society of the United States suggests: “Search for signs of burrowing animals, then use safe, humane methods to fence them out, exclude them or make your, yard or garden unattractive to them.” However, “Don't use any product or method that could be toxic or dangerous to your pets or other animals. Anything that poisons wildlife can poison your dog, too.”
Dogs also dig for other reasons, such as trying to escape the yard (perhaps your dog is afraid of something, like as a neighbor dog that barks and growls from across the fence, or someone has been teasing and harassing your dog from the alley), or your intact dog is trying to get out of the yard to search for a mate, or your dog may be burying treats and food Trying to understand the “why” of digging can help you address the behavior and work on changing it as needed.
Also keep in mind, many cats also enjoy digging in dirt.
For more information on why dogs dig and how to take charge of the issue, visit these websites:
Spring officially arrives on Wednesday, March 20, and I am sure almost everyone is ready for warmer temperatures, sunshine, and bountiful color!
This is the time of year when many of us dream of vibrant flowers in shades of red, yellow, purple, and blue, livening up the lawns that have been white or brown for so long. We envision working in our yards and gardens, preparing the soil (if it’s not still frozen), and we muse over seed catalogs and/or visit home and garden centers pondering ideas for making our residences sparkle with rainbow colors. We may even visit Home and Garden Shows, like the one coming to my town this weekend, seeing the outdoor trends and thinking how we might implement those plants, ornaments, and water features into our outdoor spaces.
In addition to spring’s arrival, the month of March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. Did you know many types of plants and flowers are poisonous to pets and that some garden products and insecticides are toxic to our furry friends as well? As you think about spring preparation and planting, and if you have pets, keep in mind some plants and preparation products are hazardous to animals.
For example, tulips, azaleas, and lilies are toxic to dogs and cats. If you plant these flowers, you may need to erect a decorative fence around them – and keep your dog on a leash when in the area of planting and keep your cat indoors.
Many yard and lawn products are also toxic to our pets, including Roundup, which is highly used on lawns, gardens, and fields. In fact, lawn and garden products, such herbicide and fertilizer, insecticides, rodenticides, and plants are among the top 10 pet poison calls received by the (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 2017.
Don’t let your beloved furry friend become one of those statistics; plan well with safety in mind for your spring and summer planting!
If you believe your pet has ingested a potential poison, contact your vet immediately as well as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline; the number is (888) 426-4435
Three great references you should view and read as you plan your spring planting include:
ASPCA.com – Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List:
YourDogAdvisor.com – Garden Safety: Toxic Plants and Other Hazards in Your Own Backyard:
PetPoisonHelpline.com – Things in Your Yard That Are Poisonous to Pets:
Today, March 13, is America’s National K9 Veterans Day. Military working dogs are vital to America’s military. Sentry duty, explosive detection, and casualty location are just a few of the jobs these special animals are trained to do.
The different branches of the military use dogs as does the Coast Guard, which is under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. Many of these animals go on patrol with their handlers, a great number are used to sniff out bombs and drugs, and some even learn to leap from helicopters for search and rescue and other missions.
Whether conducting searches, sniffing for explosives or drugs, or going on patrol, the military’s faithful canines serve their handlers, their units, and our country.
Dogs and other animals have served in war for centuries. Whereas they may have been “disposable” before, today’s military K9s are important members of their service’s units. A memorial for war dogs was dedicated in 2006.
There is also a strong movement in our nation that, upon retirement, a military working dog goes to live with its handler or its handler’s family. For decades, these brave canines were classified as “equipment” and often left overseas. The American Humane Association has worked with Congress to change this and to reunite retired military working dogs with their handlers as well as provide service and therapy dogs for human veterans in need.
Military heroes are both two-legged and four-legged, and oftentimes, they work together to serve our country. Let’s remember and honor those who keep us safe!
Learn more about K9s in the military and this special day to honor them here: https://www.military.com/veterans-day/k9-veterans-day.html
When feeding time comes around, does what your pet ingests really matter? The answer is a resounding YES!
Pet food recalls happen frequently. Salmonella, Listeria, Vitamin D, even poisons and meds like phenobarbital have made it into commercial dog and cat food. Whether the pet food is dry, canned, or raw, recalls take place frequently, and it seems to not matter if the brand is considered quality, recommended by veterinarians (ie, Hill’s Science Diet), or poorly manufactured – pet foods are susceptible to manufacturing problems and recalls.
Since my springer mix, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, I’ve been more conscious about what food I feed her. I alternate between giving her “people food,” such as chicken, turkey, and lean burger, a quality grain-free kibble (grains contain starches, and carbohydrates, such as potatoes and rice can cause cancer cells to grow), and grain-free FreshPet, a semi-cooked pet food that is refrigerated. FreshPet has never experienced a recall, and upon reading the ingredients found in the grain-free turkey roll, I discovered many of those ingredients (such as blueberries and spinach) are recommended in a cancer diet for pets. I’m fortunate that a pet supply store in my community carries this brand and this type of food in particular (FreshPet is found in many stores, but not necessarily the grain-free turkey food). If you look online, some people believe the product contributed to their pet’s death while others highly praise the product. Mary has been eating it off and on for the past few months, and she is doing fine.
Like any pet food product, one can find positive reviews and negative ones. Choosing a pet food is not necessarily easy.
Therefore, I highly encourage pet owners to conduct research; don’t just buy a food product because “that’s what we’ve always fed our animals.” Talk with other pet owners. Talk with your veterinarian. Do online research. Sites such as DogFoodAdvisor.com, Petful.com, and ConsumerSearch.com can help you find good food for your pets. Many sites also list pet food recalls, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Even if you feed your pet “human food,” such as chicken, beef, and turkey, spinach, blueberries, and kale, you should keep an eye open and an ear to the ground regarding recalls and alerts (remember the recent Romaine Lettuce problem?) These foods can also become contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella, and other bad things. I thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits and cook meats before feeding such things to my dog just as I do before eating these products myself.
Whether you feed your pet kibble, canned pet food, raw, or partially cooked human food, do your homework – research, investigate, discuss, and then choose what you think is best for your furry friend. Even if you pay more to feed your pet, a trip to the veterinarian and the potential (or actual) loss of your companion are much higher costs than providing the best healthy diet possible.
For more information as well as guides on buying pet food and discovering which foods have recalls, visit the following sites:
For many pet parents who hear these words from their veterinarian, “I’m sorry – your dog/cat has cancer,” turning to CBD products (those made from Cannabidiol, a naturally-occurring compound found in cannabis) has become the “in-thing.” Many articles have been written about the effectiveness of CBD products (especially oil) in the treatment of cancer.
This week, I welcome a guest blogger who provides information on CBD oil, including a guide available for download, and I thank Keliah Kaiser for providing this important information for my blog. Do keep in mind CBD oil and other products may not be available legally where you live. Check your local and state laws before purchasing such items.
Guest Post by Keliah Kaiser – Content Marketing Specialist, Seige Media
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding CBD Oil and how it can keep your dog happy, healthy and even treat existing ailments. You might’ve already heard about the benefits CBD products give to humans, and there’s no doubt the same can be said for dogs.
For those new to CBD Oil, it’s an all natural and legal way to help relieve ailments or behavioral issues for your dog. As a natural treatment method, it has the ability to improves their quality of life, without the side effects of traditional medicine. Despite years of common misconception, CBD oil is vastly different from medicinal marijuana because it contains less than 0.03 percent of THC. This amount isn’t enough to produce psychoactive effects in even the smallest animal.
Yet, you must consider the variety of factors when choosing the right CBD product for your dog. Aside from oil, you also have the option to give your dog CBD treats, capsules and topical ointments. You’ll also want to consider the reason you’re interested in CBD for Fido in the first place. Are you looking to manage medical or therapeutic issues with your dog? Depending on your goal, can determine how you figure out the appropriate dosage.
These are a few of the guidelines to keep track of when you want to keep your dog happy and healthy using CBD Oil. There’s a lot more to learn. Including, how to choose a quality product, dosage guidelines and key questions to ask your veterinarian.
You can find the full details and tips about this in this comprehensive guide to CBD Oil for Dogs.
My husband and I heard those words last month from our veterinarian regarding our springer spaniel mix Mary. What started as a skin growth that mushroomed last December also created a tumor on her lung. Speculation is it’s a slow-growing tumor and we should have about a year with her yet. We are to be mindful of her developing shortness of breath and wheezing. Mary is now 13 years old, and she has enjoyed a good life, despite losing her first family prior to us adopting her. We adopted her seven years from English Springer Spaniel Rescue of the Rockies. Although we are thankful the cancer that’s developed is not aggressive nor at an advanced stage, we are saddened to know we’ll once again likely lose a dog to cancer. Mary will be #3.
According to the website Cancer Active, nearly 50% of dogs 10 and older and more than 30% of cats develop cancer. The Truth About Pet Cancer is a documentary-style video series released a few years ago. Some rebuff what’s discussed and asserted in the series, including some of the believed causes attributed to pet cancer. However, learning more about thoughts on environmental factors, pharmaceuticals, and nutrition helps us as pet parents consider what could be impacting our beloved furry friends’ health. A free e-book on pet health is available from the site; if you’re interested, click this link for the download: https://thetruthaboutpetcancer.com/ebook/?a_aid=55b1c500a3d65&a_bid=3a9363c1
The American Animal Hospital Association finds the six most common types of cancer found in dogs are Lymphoma,, which occurs in cells in the lymph nodes or bone marrow; Hemangiosarcoma, a malignant cancer of the blood vessels; Mast cell tumors, often first seen on the skin and go inward to tissue and organs, as in Mary’s case; Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, which often starts in the mouth of a dog; Osteosarcoma, cancer of the bone; and Mammary, which is often malignant, and usually found in unspayed female dogs or those spayed after two years of age.
Cancer Veterinary Centers in Florida says the primary types of cancers that cats develop are Lymphoma, Feline Leukemia Virus, Mammary Cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma (Skin Cancer), and Fibrosarcoma, which develops from fibrous connective tissue.
There are several treatment options for animals with a cancer diagnosis, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Like people, animals undergoing this treatment often have side effects, from hair loss to immunity suppression. Chemotherapy is most often used when cancer has metastasized or is an aggressive type that can easily metastasize. The cost for such therapy varies, but often runs into thousands of dollars, and though there is no guarantee for a cure, many times there is hope for a longer life, depending on the type of cancer.
There are holistic alternatives. Retired veterinarian Dr. Allen Schoen, one of the vets featured in The Truth About Pet Cancer series, says, “Nutritional supplements can help in reversing or preventing the cachexia, or muscle wasting associated with cancer … They may enhance the immune system and decrease the incidence of metastases.” Diet can also help. Dr. Greg Ogilvie, formerly of Colorado State University who now practices in California, helped develop a nutritional plan that “should be comprised of a relatively low amount of simple carbohydrates, modest amounts of fats (especially omega-3 fatty acids), and adequate amounts of highly bioavailable proteins,” reports a story in Whole Dog Journal.
Some even tout ditching the kibble, especially those with grains, and providing people food, such as organic chicken, kale, spinach, apples, and cottage cheese. There is a strong movement for feeding a raw diet; I prefer to cook my pet’s food, at least somewhat, due to potential bacteria in raw meat.
Here is what we are doing with Mary: Alternating between “people food,” as noted above and giving her FreshPet and occasionally no-grain kibble (and I pay close attention to pet food recalls and brands that have been recalled in the past – I don’t feed those to her; that’s one reason I chose FreshPet). I also provide her with Bixby Immunity Booster and fish oil supplements, which I often blend into a smoothie mixture of kale, spinach, carrots, blueberries, and chicken broth. I sprinkle this especially on dry dog food and chicken, turkey, or turkey burger that I cook for her. FreshPet already has those ingredients so I don’t need the veggie/fruit smoothie with it.
If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, I suggest conducting a lot of research, talking to others who have been where you are (or are going through like you). I also suggest not only talking with your usual vet, but also consulting with a holistic vet. Choose the route you think is best for you and your pet.
Find more information on pet cancer and potential helps here:
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.