8 things to keep your pet healthy and happy in the New Year

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. Starting the year off doomed to fail doesn’t seem productive to me.

I do, however, like to set goals at the start of the New Year. I never make them too lofty, because once again, failing to achieve them will only make me feel bad, and that is not useful.

At least one of my goals is usually health related. After all the holiday celebrating, it’s a necessity.

So if you’re planning on setting some goals for yourself in 2016, how about including some goals for your pets’ good health too?

Since our pets can’t vow to be healthier in the New Year, it’s up to us to be sure they’re living the healthiest life possible.

Here are 8 things you can do in 2016 to be sure your pet is healthy, happy and living the best quality of life they can.


  • Take them to the vet at least once a year.

It’s the only way you can be certain to catch a serious problem early.

Your vet will check your pet from nose to tail for any abnormalities. They’ll listen to their heart and their breathing, and will check their skin, ears, eyes and mouth.

They’ll also be sure they’re up to date on all their vaccines. Don’t neglect those. Prevention is essential to a long healthy life.

At your annual visit, your vet may recommend a blood panel, especially if your pet is over the age of 7 or if you’ve noticed a problem that makes your vet suspicious.

They may also do a fecal test to check for parasites, particularly in puppies.

Depending on your pet’s overall health and any problems you may be noticing, the vet may recommend other tests like X-rays or EKGs. But your vet will know what’s necessary based on their evaluation of your pet’s health.


  • Take care of your pet’s teeth.

Your pet’s dental health is as important to their overall health as your dental health is to your well-being.

But truth be told, most pet owners overlook their pet’s teeth. I have to admit, I have been guilty of this myself…until I owned a sighthound.

Sighthounds have notoriously bad teeth. And because my greyhound had a $2,500 dental surgery bill a few weeks after we rescued him, I quickly learned how to brush those fangs of his.

And even though I had never brushed the teeth of any of the dogs I had before Chaser, my lab Honey now gets her teeth brushed too.

We take care of our own teeth, but somehow we’re reluctant to do the same for our pets. I think the biggest obstacle to brushing our pet’s teeth is our assumption that it’s going to be hard to do, and that our pet won’t tolerate it.

Here’s some good news…you can easily train your pet to not only tolerate teeth brushing but to actually enjoy it.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to do that. And it will be fun for you and your pet!


  • Feed your pet a healthy diet.

There is so much misinformation floating around about what your pets should and shouldn’t eat. If you’re confused, talk to your vet about what your pet needs.

But here’s what’s important to know about your pet’s food.

You should always feed your pet the highest quality food you can afford. Remember that super premium foods are more nutritious so you don’t need to feed your pet as much. The higher cost is offset because you’ll buy less.

A dog’s diet should contain:

High quality animal based protein for muscle maintenance

Fiber for a healthy digestive system

Healthy grains for energy

Essential vitamins and minerals for a properly functioning immune system

Fish oils for overall health


A cat’s diet should contain:

High levels of easily digestible protein

Taurine for a healthy heart and eyes

Vitamin A and niacin for healthy growth, skin and coat

Essential fatty acids for healthy skin and fur

A nutritious diet is critical to your pet’s longevity, just as it is to yours. And be sure to feed your pet the right amount of food for their optimal weight, because an overweight pet is more likely to have health problems that will shorten their lives.

Husse is a premium pet food that contains all the ingredients needed to keep your pet healthy.

If you’re not already feeding it to your pet, talk to a Husse pet consultant to learn more about why it’s the right food for the longevity of your pet. To speak with a knowledgeable pet food consultant in Arizona, call 480-498-8754. In California, call 949-344-0656.


  • Give your pet the daily exercise they need.

 Your pet will derive the same benefits from exercise that we humans do. It’ll help them maintain a healthy weight, and keep their muscles and bones strong. But it’s also good for their mental health.

They need fresh air. They love getting out and seeing the sights. And it’s a chance to bond with you.

If you have a dog, try getting outside with them at least twice a day for 20 minutes at a time. You can play a game of fetch in your yard or take them on a nice walk around the neighborhood.

If you are someone who really likes to be active, you might consider getting your dog involved in agility training, flyball, tracking or hiking.

Even if you have a cat, you can give them indoor exercise with a jungle gym or an indoor climbing tree.

Although cats naturally have a high metabolism, they still need exercise to maintain muscle and keep their minds active.

Exercising with your pet is the fun part of owning one. You get to spend time with someone you love, doing something you both enjoy.


  • Provide your pet with some mental stimulation.

 In addition to exercising your pet’s body, you need to exercise their minds. If you don’t give your pet mental stimulation, they’ll find their own mental stimulation…like chewing your dining room chair or pulling the threads out of your carpet.

Does it sound like I’m speaking from experience?

They make great pet puzzles and games for dogs and cats. They usually involve finding a hidden treat.

Dogs also love trying to get some delicious wet food out of a stuffed Kong toy.   It will keep them busy for some time and it’s great exercise for their brains.

I’ve also used this activity to minimize separation anxiety.


  • Stay on top of parasite prevention and management.

Fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal parasites can be anything from a nuisance to deadly.

Intestinal parasites are easily detected with a fecal sample and cured with a deworming treatment.

Fleas can cause skin irritations if your pet has an allergic reaction to them. Ticks can carry dangerous diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  And heartworm, which is passed by a mosquito bite, is fatal if not treated.

But all of these parasites can be prevented with monthly treatments. You should talk to your vet about the best options for your pet.


  • Spare yourself the heartache of losing your pet by microchipping them.

 I have nightmares about somebody leaving the front door open and my dog getting out. But at least she is microchipped.

If a responsible person finds her, they can bring her to any animal hospital or rescue organization to have the chip read.   She also wears a collar with the microchip information and our contact info on it.

Of course, collars can come off and I have to confess we don’t leave a collar on her when she’s in the house because her skin around her neck is very sensitive. But the chip is permanently embedded in her skin.

Remember, when you microchip your dog you must keep your contact info up to date with the chip company or it’s useless to microchip them at all.


  • Most importantly for you and your pet, love and nurture them.

 The best preventive medicine for you and your pet is to love them unconditionally. When you nurture your pet, they feel loved. And there’s nothing better than that to keep your pet happy and healthy.

Although we don’t know how our pets understand love, we know they do and they reciprocate it every day. So we owe it to them to be the best pet parents we can be.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016 to you and your furry family members!

We’d love to hear what fun activities you do with your pets to keep them active and healthy. Share in the comment section above.

Music to de-stress our pets

The most wonderful time of the year” is more often than not the most stressful time of the year…for us and for our pets.

Whether it’s new people coming and going, changes in routine, fewer walks and less exercise, our pets can be very stressed around the holidays. For the same reasons, we usually are too.

We love our pets. So we want to be sure we’re not overlooking their needs during this hectic time.

If your pet is anxious to begin with, the holidays will really throw them into a tailspin. So what can you do to help your furry family enjoy the holidays as much as you do?

Well, do you find that listening to holiday music is soothing to your frazzled nerves? It can be for your pets too.

It’s been known for years that music therapy is very beneficial to humans. Two significant studies have shown the calming effects of music on our pets too; one in 2002 by animal behaviorist Dr. Deborah Wells, and one in 2004 by Dr. Susan Wagner, veterinary neurologist.

Dr. Wells’ study showed that classical music had a beneficial effect on dogs in animal shelters. The music reduced barking and allowed the dogs to relax enough to fall asleep.

In 2004, Dr. Wagner joined forces with Joshua Leeds, a sound researcher with 20 years experience in psychoacoustics–the study of the effect of music and sound on the human nervous system.

Their research took Dr. Wells’ research a step further. Dr. Wells determined that classical music had a calming effect. Wagner and Leeds looked at different types of classical music to see if beats per minute and harmonic complexity made a difference to the dogs.

They discovered that not all classical music is created equal in our dogs’ minds. Their research on dogs in a kennel environment resulted in 70% of the dogs becoming calmer when the music was simple; solo instruments, slower tempos and less complex arrangements had a greater calming effect than faster more complex compositions.

In the home environment, 85% of dogs were calmer and more than half the dogs went to sleep when listening to these simple classical compositions.

They also showed that specific anxiety behaviors (fear of fireworks, separation anxiety, etc.) can be reduced with the right music.

As a result of their research, Leeds worked with a musician to create Through A Dogs Ear/Through A Cats Ear—Music and Sound Therapies for Canine and Feline Anxiety. Their recordings are psychoacoustically designed to benefit your pet’s nervous system and immune function.

Although the Wells and Wagner studies were done specifically on dogs, music works for cats too. But cats seem to have a preference for the harp.

Harpist Susan Raimond established a harp enrichment program that’s been used by the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the San Diego Zoo, and she’s spoken on the subject at several veterinary schools.

Harp music produces certain tones that humans can’t hear but cats can. These sounds have an anxiety reducing effect on cats, slowing their heart rate and their breathing pattern.

Freeborn County Humane Society in Minnesota uses a harpist to calm cats surrounded by barking dogs until they can build a separate cat building.

Diane Schneider is a harpist that created Harp of Hope, a collection of songs originally recorded for people. After a number of people told her the music calmed their anxious cats, she released an animal version.

Veterinary hospitals have even used her music to calm their anxious patients. Diane Schneider’s compositions are also specially arranged to promote relaxation.

So, although you could try just leaving the radio on, it seems that there’s a real benefit to playing music specifically designed to reduce anxiety in pets.

Not all pets will benefit from music therapy, but for some pets it really works wonders. And for those pets, it seems to work quickly.

If you’d like to give it a try, click on the links to Through a Dogs Ear/Through a Cats Ear, Susan Raimond or Diane Schneider where you’ll find CDs available for sale on their websites.

You’ll want to start playing the music for your pet when things are calm in your home to get them used to feeling calm when they’re listening to it. And then introduce the music at stressful times.

Remember, a quality diet is important to managing stress too. In fact, some nutrients can actually reduce stress. If your pet is particularly anxious, talk to your vet about their diet.

Maybe music will be the key to a stress-free holiday for you and your pet.

Has music therapy worked for your anxious pet?  Share your experience in the comment section above.  We’d love to hear about it.



Hyperthyroidism in cats

Last week I wrote about hypothyroidism, which is a common condition in dogs. This week, let’s talk about hyperthyroidism–an overactive thyroid. This is a condition very common in cats but pretty uncommon in dogs.

Interestingly, hyperthyroidism is a condition I am intimately familiar with because my dog did have it. When my greyhound started getting very thin and was hungry all the time, we suspected something was wrong.

It was thyroid cancer that caused his hyperthyroidism. Typically, if a dog suffers from hyperthyroidism, it’s usually due to a cancerous tumor on the thyroid.

But for today let’s talk about how hyperthyroidism affects cats because it is the most common endocrine (glandular) disorder that they suffer from.

What is hyperthyroidism?

You may remember from last week’s post that the thyroid is a small 2-lobe gland near the windpipe in your cat’s neck. It regulates the body’s metabolism by producing thyroid hormones.

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is an excessive production and release of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones into the bloodstream.

What causes hyperthyroidism?

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is the formation of small benign nodules (tumors) that are created by an abnormal production of cells in the thyroid. These nodules on the thyroid are called adenomas. They cause the thyroid to be enlarged.

In cats with hyperthyroidism, both lobes will be enlarged 70% of the time. In only 1 to 2% of hyperthyroid cases in cats will these nodules be a malignancy (cancer).

Hyperthyroidism is not specific to a breed of cat, and it’s not more prevalent in one sex or the other. It generally occurs in older cats with the average age of onset between 12 and 13.

It’s not clear what actually causes the adenomas that ultimately lead to hyperthyroidism, but there is some speculation that it has to do with diet and the environment.

Interestingly, hyperthyroidism in cats has increased dramatically in the last 30 years.

What’s caused the incidence of hyperthyroidism to increase?

Prior to the 1970s, hyperthyroidism in cats was very rare.

According to Dr. Mark Peterson, who wrote an article on the topic in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, there is no one definitive factor in the increase of thyroid tumors but there does seem to be two likely culprits—nutritional excesses or deficiencies, and thyroid disrupting compounds present in the environment.

The nutritional excesses and deficiencies he’s talking about are soy isoflavones and iodine.

Soy isoflavones can be found in many commercial cat foods. They’re used as a cheap source of protein and are linked to thyroid tumor growth in humans and animals.

The other factor is the iodine content in cat food. The recommended guidelines for iodine in cat food have been lowered in the last 30 years. There seems to be a link between a low iodine diet and thyroid tumor growth in cats.

Not only is less iodine a factor, but also from one commercial cat food to the next the amount of iodine varies dramatically. And it’s the wide variations in your cat’s iodine intake that’s caused by changing their food that seems to be a factor in thyroid tumor growth over time.

It’s probably no coincidence that hyperthyroidism has been on the rise since iodine guidelines have changed.

The major environmental factors that Dr. Peterson speaks of in his article are bisphenol A (BPA) in the lining of cat food cans, certain chemical flame-retardants found in places like furniture and carpet, and environmental pesticides and herbicides.

These are all endocrine disrupters and exposure to them is believed to contribute to thyroid tumor growth.

What are the signs of hyperthyroidism?

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be subtle at first but a problem will become obvious to you over time.

Here are some of the most common symptoms to watch out for:

Weight loss

Increased food consumption


Increased water consumption/urination


Increased activity/behavior changes

Unkempt hair coat/hair loss




Panting or labored breathing

Your cat may take on a somewhat disheveled appearance because their coat may become matted or greasy, and they’ll seem thin.

Hyperthyroidism can result in serious health problems if it goes untreated for too long. It’s important to get your cat to the vet as soon as you suspect a problem, or your cat could develop a serious heart condition that can lead to heart failure and ultimately death.

Your vet will be able to feel if there is a thyroid tumor by palpating the area. And as with hypothyroidism, your vet will run blood work. They may run additional tests because some times thyroid hormone levels will show in the normal range on a blood test.

Since some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are the same symptoms of other diseases, your vet will want to rule out things like diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease or liver disease. This means more tests. But better to be safe than sorry.

Can hyperthyroidism be treated?

Fortunately hyperthyroidism is treatable.

There are three treatment options; medication, surgery or radioactive iodine therapy. Each of these treatments has plusses and minuses. Some are curative. Others minimize symptoms. A conversation with your vet will give you the information you need to decide on the best treatment plan for your kitty.

Initially, your vet may also suggest a high protein, highly digestible diet to counteract the poor absorption of nutrients and high metabolism brought on by hyperthyroidism.

Your cat will likely be able to return to their normal diet, unless they have complications that require something special, once symptoms are controlled by treatment.

The good news is that with treatment, your cat can live a normal healthy life even with hyperthyroidism.

Have you had a cat that suffered from hyperthyroidism? How did you know there was something wrong? Share your experience in the comment section above.

Hypothyroidism in dogs

My son who is an avid watcher of Pitbulls and Parolees got me thinking this week. He was telling me about a dog on the show that they thought was fat but really had hypothyroidism.

I started thinking about how common it is in people and pets to have a symptom of a problem only to find out the problem is something entirely different.

Our greyhound that passed in September was getting very thin in the months leading up to his diagnosis. And he was ravenous. We thought we weren’t feeding him enough. Or maybe we needed to change his food. Then we found out that he had a tumor on his thyroid that was causing hyperthyroidism.

The signs of a thyroid problem can seem pretty harmless at first. Then, before you know it, your dog’s quality of life is seriously diminished.

What is hypothyroidism?

The thyroid gland is a small 2-lobe gland near the windpipe in the dog’s throat area. It regulates the body’s metabolism by producing thyroid hormones.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a lowered production and release of T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine), two of the hormones produced by the thyroid your dog needs for their metabolism to function normally.

Hypothyroidism is quite common in dogs but very rare in cats. In cats, it’s not uncommon to see hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). We’ll talk about that next week.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Most cases are caused by something destroying the gland.   That could be a problem with the immune system, or the destruction could be caused by atrophy of the thyroid tissue. When this happens, fat is able to infiltrate the tissue. It could also be caused by cancer that destroys the gland.

Hypothyroidism usually occurs in middle-aged dogs, between 4 and 10 years old. It’s not specific to one sex, but spayed females and neutered males seem to be more at risk than intact dogs. And although any dog can suffer from hypothyroidism, mid to large size breeds tend to be most at risk.

Here are the 10 breeds most susceptible:

Golden Retriever

Labrador Retriever



Cocker Spaniel


English Bulldogs

Great Danes

Doberman Pinscher

Mixed breed dogs tend to be less prone to this condition.

What are the signs of hypothyroidism?

Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism seem very benign, taken on their own. But combine a few of them together, and your vet will be suspicious.

Here are the most common symptoms to watch out for:

Dark skin patches

Dry skin

Lethargy/mental dullness

Hair loss

Dull coat

Weight gain/obesity

Dry hair coat/excessive shedding

Cold intolerance

Slow heart rate

High blood cholesterol


Dogs can go on for years with undetected hypothyroidism, but at some point it will start to affect their quality of life. And that’s probably when you’ll start to take notice.

If your dog has unexplained weight gain, along with some of the other symptoms on the list like chronic skin problems, they may be suffering from hypothyroidism. Talk to your vet about it.

Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with blood work. Your vet may suggest additional tests if your dog has more serious but less common symptoms, like seizures or heart problems.

Can hypothyroidism be treated?

Fortunately, hypothyroidism is treatable.

If your dog is diagnosed with it the treatment is a synthetic thyroid hormone called thyroxine taken twice a day. Your dog will have to be on the medication for the rest of their life, and your vet will have to monitor the dose with regular blood tests.

The good news is that once treatment begins, most of the symptoms will start to subside in a few months.

Your vet may also suggest a reduced fat diet initially. But be sure you get the go ahead from your vet before changing your dog’s diet. You don’t want to inadvertently impact the effectiveness of the treatment.

Have you had a dog that suffered from hypothyroidism? What were the symptoms that made you suspicious that something was going on? Share your experience in the comment section above.






Beware these 17 holiday pet dangers

It’s a festive time of year, no doubt. But the hubbub of the season might leave you so frazzled that you forget to think about the potential dangers your pet faces this time of year.

Here are 17 of the most potentially harmful holiday traditions to protect your pet from:

  • Tinsel

It’s so attractive to your pets, especially cats that think it’s a shiny new toy. But tinsel can be very dangerous if your pet swallows it because it can get bunched up and twisted in your pet’s intestines. This could result in emergency surgery.

  • Christmas Trees and Ornaments

Glass Christmas tree ornaments don’t seem like a chew toy to you and me, but your dog may think otherwise. And your cat may want to bat one around. Broken glass in your pet’s mouth, stomach or paws is definitely an emergency.

Your tree itself can be a danger to your pet if it isn’t secured properly. And if you have a live tree, don’t put fertilizer in the water in case your pet drinks it. It isn’t a good idea to let your pet drink the stagnant tree water. There’s lots of bacteria floating around in it.

  • Snow globes

You’ll be surprised to hear that some snow globes, particularly imported ones, contain antifreeze. Antifreeze is deadly to your pet if they swallow it. So keep those in a safe place where they can’t be knocked over and broken.

  • Lights

A new puppy or kitten, or even an older pet that likes to chew, will be attracted to the electrical chords lying on the ground. Chewing one can lead to electric shock, burns in the mouth, tongue lacerations and even death. Be sure to regularly check holiday lights for chewing, and unplug them when you’re not home.

  • Candles

Be sure to place them out of the way of a climbing cat or a jumping dog. Not only can your pet get burned, an overturned candle can burn your house down. And a trail of hot wax can burn the pads on paws.

  • Ribbon

There isn’t a cuter holiday photo than your dog or cat with a big bow tied around its neck…but this is a bad idea. Ribbons and bows are choking hazards and can cause the same problems as tinsel. If your pet decides to chew on one, it can twist and bunch up in the intestines.

After opening your gifts, get rid of the ribbon. In fact, have a garbage bag nearby during the gift opening frenzy so that you can throw away all the choking hazards that are so appealing to your pet.

  • Chocolate

Most people are aware of the dangers of a dog eating chocolate. A small amount may only result in some vomiting and diarrhea. But a lot of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can kill your dog. This is a bigger problem for dogs than cats. Because cats aren’t attracted to sweets, they aren’t likely to consume enough to kill them.

So keep that Hanukah gelt out of reach!  And don’t forget the cookies and cakes that have chocolate in them.

  • Fat trimmings

If you have relatives like mine, they may think they’re being nice by feeding your pet the turkey skin they left on their plate. Uh-uh! Fat can cause pancreatitis in your pet, a painful and debilitating condition. Tell your guests you appreciate the love they want to show your pet, but table food is a no-no in your house. Keep your pet on their regular diet and maintain their regular routine as much as possible during this hectic time of year.

  • Bones

It seems natural to give your dog a nice juicy bone to chew on but this is a dangerous treat. Bones can splinter and cause perforations and obstructions of the digestive system, as well as choking.

  • Some nuts (other than your crazy relatives)

Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are not necessarily deadly but they can cause stomach upset. They can also cause an obstruction of the throat or intestinal tract. Macadamia nuts, however, are toxic and can cause seizures and death. Don’t forget plenty of holiday cookies are chock full of nuts. So it’s not just the little dish on your coffee table you need to worry about.

  • Grapes, raisins and currants

You may not think of these fruits as a big part of your holiday menu but everyone gets a fruitcake, don’t they? Grapes, raisins and currants can result in kidney failure in your pet. So if that fruitcake is consumed by your pet, it can be very dangerous. Just one more reason to re-gift it.

  • Xylitol

This is an artificial sweetener found in sugar free cookies, cakes, candy and chewing gum. It’s toxic to dogs, and can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.

  • Holly, mistletoe and lilies

Although poinsettias get a bad rap, it’s really holly, mistletoe and lilies you need to keep away from you pets. Lilies are particularly deadly to cats. Even one leaf or flower petal can result in sudden kidney failure.

Holly and mistletoe are very toxic to both dogs and cats. Eating these holiday plants can result in severe vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, heart arrhythmia and death.

  • Alcohol

I’d like to think that none of your guests would be foolish enough to give your pet a sip of their cocktail. But sometimes pets get into things without you knowing it, like the punch bowl or someone’s cup of egg nog. And how about that rum cake? Alcohol causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. An intoxicated pet can die.

Here’s something you probably aren’t aware of…uncooked bread dough containing yeast can cause alcohol toxicity in your pet. If your pet swallows the raw dough their stomach will act like an oven, which causes the yeast to metabolize and turn into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Ethanol is alcohol and will poison your pet. And the carbon dioxide can cause stomach bloat.

  • Your house guest’s meds

You’ve probably never given thought to where your guests store their medications when they’re staying with you. But you should. If your cat or dog gets into their open suitcase or carryon bag and finds their medications, there could be deadly consequences.

  • Liquid potpourri

There’s nothing like the smell of the holidays! Understandably, people like to create that holiday atmosphere in their homes with liquid potpourri. These scented oils that are heated in a special bowl could cause burns in your pet’s mouth if they eat it. The chemicals in them can cause difficulty breathing and tremors. There is a flame involved too, so keep the liquid potpourri out of reach.

  • Batteries

Almost every toy or electronic device requires some type of battery these days. On Christmas morning, when the wrapping papers flying and the batteries are rolling, be sure your pets don’t get a hold of them. If they chew on one, the battery acid can cause burns to their mouth and esophagus. If they swallow the battery, it can be a choking hazard and can wreak havoc on their digestive system. This is a medical emergency.

If your pet gets in trouble this holiday season and swallows a potentially dangerous substance, get them to the vet immediately. If it’s Christmas day or after hours, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. These services aren’t free but they could save your pet’s life.

With some caution and common sense, your beloved pet will get through the holiday season healthy and happy. Just be sure to keep anything potentially dangerous out of their reach…and the lid tightly secured on the garbage pail.

Have you ever experienced a holiday pet emergency? Share your experience in the comment section above and help someone prevent an unfortunate occurrence in their home.