Author Archives: Hadley Rush

Help Overcome Depression with a Dog

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Previously I have reported how I have personally witnessed people eliminate antidepressants by the simple act of obtaining a dog, especially a “lap” or household dog or cat. I have also shared how it is being scientifically documented and measured that pets can reduce and even eliminate mild depression.

Now, the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Support Partners has a national education campaign dedicated to people with depression, touting the benefits of a dog in overcoming depression. They suggest that petting your dog will help relieve stress and anxiety, taking your dog for a walk gives you exercise and relieves stress, and teaching your dog a new trick will give you a sense of accomplishment.

More and more social and healthcare professions are seeing the value of pets in helping to keep us healthy and improving our health when we are ill, stressed or depressed. Why is this important? Because the acknowledgment by national organizations and health care professionals will expand the access and awareness of the valuable role that pets play in our health. What more natural way to stay healthy and happy than by having the joy of owning a pet?

If you review some of my previous blogs you will see where I discuss the exact biochemical feedback mechanisms we experience when we are with our pets. How pets improve our health and well being by altering our biochemistry is still under investigation, and I will share the findings as they continue to develop. In summary a few benefits of pets are as follows:

The quiet interaction of petting a pet will lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress hormone and increase the levels of good hormones and neurotransmitters which will all help you feel better.

The simple act of watching fish in a fish tank will lower your blood pressure and decrease feelings of anxiety.

Interacting with your pet will increase your serotonin levels, which are instrumental to decreasing the feelings of depression.

Walking your pet will help you lose weight better than other traditional weight loss methods and improve your sense of well being.

According to a leading clinical psychologist, “While a doctor, family and friends should form the basis of a support network for clinically depressed individuals, dogs can play an important role by being a constant companion. Depression is often associated with strong social stigma, causing people to withdraw from their lives and intensifying the emotional symptoms of the illness.”

You and I know walking your dog will bring on more social contacts, make you feel better and help you lose weight, which are all beneficial to your emotional health and physical well being. Having a constant companion in your home will decrease the feeling of loneliness, provide you with activity that makes you feel needed and improve your biochemistry. So, take care of your buddies, and they will take care of you.

“Prescribe Pets Not Pills”

Pet Sitters: Questions to Ask Before You Go

Posted by Shannon Steffen on 8/9/2007 in Lifestyle

You want to leave on vacation, but what about Duke and Fluffy? For some, boarding kennels are a perfect solution for their pets to receive the care they need, but for others, they want their pet to receive more personalized care during their absence. For them, there is no better option than a pet sitter. Pet sitters come in two forms: the personal pet sitter and the professional pet sitter.

Personal Pet Sitters

Personal pet sitters are family, friends, and neighbors of the pet owner. When the owner goes out of town, these individuals come over to the house and provide the basic necessities for the pets in the household. This may include feedings, walks, play time, or simple clean up.

Some benefits of hiring personal pet sitters:

Pets are already familiar with family, friend, or neighbor.
The pets remain in their safe and secure environment. All sights, smells, and sounds are familiar.
Customary diets are maintained.
Exercise routine is not disrupted.
Medical treatments are easily given as the person is already well known.
The pets are not exposed to illnesses or parasites from other pets in other facilities.
There is no traveling in a car or crate required.
The pets receive personalized love and support while you are away from someone they already trust.
When choosing someone you know to provide personalized care for your pets, you will want to choose someone that is:

Comfortable with your pets
Friendly and familiar to your pets
Available to provide all the care your pets’ need
Prepared for the responsibility of taking care of your pets
Able to drive should emergency veterinary care be needed
Available to spend quality time with your pet
Some friends or family members may be willing to stay in your house while you are away. This provides the pet with a more personalized routine and adds a sense of security. Ask if they are comfortable with an in-house type of arrangement prior to outlining an “as needed” care routine.

When using a personal pet sitter, the owner should provide the following before leaving the pet:

Pet’s history and habits
List of immunizations, vaccines, and any recent medical conditions and medication
Schedule of routine for pet; including eating, sleeping, walks, and playing
Emergency contact information, include veterinarian information and business hours, as well as where you will be staying with phone numbers
Collar with identification tags to be worn by the pet while away
List of any rooms that are off limits to the pet
Money for any emergency care needed
Professional Pet Sitters

There are a number of benefits to hiring a professional pet sitter. When you are away, the pet sitter will visit your home to feed, care for and play with your pet. Since they will have a responsibility for both your home and your pet, you should seriously consider both the pros and cons of having someone in your home.

Before hiring a professional pet sitter, make sure time is allowed for a formal interview. Prepare questions ahead of time for a smooth and thorough. Review the services and fees closely, as each professional pet sitter varies.

A bonded pet sitter will have commercial liability insurance coverage and should be willing to provide both personal and professional references. Check the references and other documents prior to hiring the pet sitter and insist on an introduction time between your pet and the sitter to ensure that the person gets along with your pet.

Some benefits of hiring professional pet sitters:

The pet remains in his or its safe and secure environment. All sights, smells, and sounds are familiar, creating less stress on the pet.
Customary diets are maintained.
Exercise routine is not disrupted.
Medical treatments are easily given.
The pet is not exposed to illnesses or parasites from other pets.
There is no traveling in a car or crate required.
The pet receives personalized love and support while you are away.
Owners do not have to impose on a friend, family member or neighbor.
The home is made more secure by crime deterrent measures provided by most professional pet caregivers.
When using a professional pet sitter, the owner should provide the following before leaving the pet:

Pet’s history and habits
List of immunizations, vaccines, and any recent medical conditions
A schedule of routine for pet that includes eating, sleeping, walks, and playing
Emergency contact information. Include veterinarian information and business hours, as well as where you will be staying with phone numbers
Collar with identification tags to be worn by the pet while away
List of any rooms that are off-limits to the pet
If you have decided that a professional pet sitter is best for your pet, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) can help. NAPPS is a non-profit membership organization originally founded in 1989, to promote excellence among pet sitters and to serve as a voice for the expanding industry.

Professional Pet Sitters are easy to locate by zip code on their website at Additionally, they provide an 800 number on their website for pet owners to contact them with any questions or concerns they may have about pet sitting.

Addressing Cat Bite Abscesses

Posted by Arnold Plotnick, DVM on 9/7/2007 in Scratching Post Articles

Although cats living together indoor occasionally fight over territory or for owner attention, it rarely leads to serious injury. However, when cats encounter other cats outdoors, fights are likely to occur – usually over territory.

A cat’s sharp teeth can produce puncture wounds when they bite. But the full damage goes beyond the wound due to the tremendous amount of bacteria inside a feline mouth.

Let’s run down the dangerous scenario:

The puncture wound seals quickly and bacteria injected into the skin become trapped.
The bone marrow sends out many white blood cells to help fight this infection.
The white blood cells and bacteria accumulate to form a painful pocket of pus just beneath the skin.
This collection of pus is an abscess. Abscesses are common in cats, owing to the tough, elastic nature of feline skin, which readily seals over contaminated puncture wounds, allowing for pus to accumulate beneath the skin.
Trauma and infection are not the only concerns regarding cat bite injuries. Feline feuds can result in the transmission of several life threatening infectious diseases from one cat to the other. Examples include feline leukemia (FeLV) virus, feline immunodeficiency (FIV) virus, Bartonella and rabies. Even worse: some of these infectious diseases, particularly Bartonella and rabies pack zoonotic powers – meaning that these infections can be transmitted to humans.

The diagnosis of an abscess is based on history and physical examination findings by your veterinarian. Top candidates for abscesses are cats who spend time outdoors, especially intact males who are more likely to roam and tussle over turf rights than neutered males or spayed females.

Unfortunately, detecting bites in a cat can be difficult because cats often appear to look fine after an encounter. Over the next two to four days after a fight, bacteria deposited in the wound begin to multiply. The cat develops a fever, becomes lethargic and often stops eating. Many cats are taken to the veterinarian at this stage, where the abscess appears as either a firm or soft painful swelling.

If not discovered in this early stage, the abscess will continue to swell, burrowing through tissues and accumulating more pus. The abscess may then burst through the overlying skin, releasing creamy yellow or brownish, often foul-smelling pus. Overlying hair may become matted with dried discharge.

Common locations for abscesses are the face and neck, tail, back and legs – although any part of the body can be bitten during a fight. If a bite wound occurs in a location that does not have much loose skin, such as a leg, the infection can dissect its way through the tissues, causing diffuse swelling instead of a discrete collection of pus. This diffuse swelling is called cellulitis.

The goal of treatment is to prevent further contamination by cleaning the wound, removing dead tissue and treating for infection. The earlier a cat receives treatment, the better the chance that the wound will heal without complication.

In most cases, a cat is anesthetized so an incision can be made into the abscess. The wound is then flushed with an antibacterial solution to further remove pus and other debris. If detected and addressed at an early stage, lancing and flushing (plus antibiotics) may be all that is required.

If discovered at a later stage, where significant tissue damage has occurred beneath the skin, your veterinarian may need to debride the wound (that is, remove dead or compromised tissue). In some cases, the veterinarian may find it necessary to insert a drain (a piece of soft rubber tubing that exits at the lowest point of the wound) to allow any future accumulation of fluid or pus to escape.

After debriding – if the wound is large – sutures may be required to partially close it, however, most wounds are left open to drain and heal on their own. Very large skin defects may require some type of reconstructive skin surgery after the infection has resolved. Once an abscess is opened up so that pus can drain, most cats immediately begin feeling better.

Antibiotics are vital because oral bacteria are literally injected below the skin during the biting process and nearly all of these wounds are infected. Penicillin derivatives are the antibiotics of choice. Pus that has a particularly putrid smell usually indicates that anaerobic bacteria – bacteria that thrive in environments where oxygen is low or absent – are involved in the infection. In these cases, antibiotics known to be effective against anaerobes should be administered. A short course – perhaps 5 to 10 days – is typically all that is required.

Occasionally, some bite wound infections do not respond to initial antibiotic therapy, and a bacterial culture and sensitivity test may be required to determine which specific bacteria are infecting the wound and which antibiotics are most effective.

The prognosis for a properly treated abscess is excellent. Yet, cats who engage in frequent fights are at high risk for contracting serious illnesses, such as FeLV and FIV. Cats who contract these viruses may then spread them to other cats in future encounters.

Cats with FeLV or FIV also have weakened defenses against infection, and may have difficulty defeating an infection if bitten by other cats. Outdoor cats should be regularly tested for these viruses. Although the majority of cats will test positive within several weeks of being bitten by an infected cat, a cat that tests negative should be retested no sooner than 90 days after exposure, to rule out false negative results obtained during incubation of the virus.

Cats who go outdoors should also be current on their vaccinations, especially rabies and FeLV. A vaccine against FIV was introduced several years ago and is gaining popularity.

The best prevention is to keep your cat indoors – supervising his outdoor access by teaching him tolerate a harness and walk on a leash or provide him with a safe and sturdy outdoor enclosure. Neutering will also reduce a male cat’s desire to roam and get into fights.

Signs of an Abscess

Cats tend to mask pain. Please give your cat a thorough head-to-tail inspection each day and consult your veterinarian if your cat exhibits any of these signs:

Poor or absent appetite
Visible puncture wounds
Swelling or lump on skin
Limping (may indicate a bite on a leg)
Pain or reluctance to be picked up or touched
Fever (a healthy cat’s temperature ranges between 100 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
Swollen lymph nodes

The Benefits of a Barking Dog

By: Arden Moore

Far too often, people equate barking with bad behavior in a dog. Just like people, dogs vocalize in many ways to convey various messages.

In my neighborhood, we all know (and hear) a mini-Schnauzer named Buddy who lives with a fun and feisty senior named Flo. Buddy unleashes a series of high-pitched yap-yap-yaps whenever anyone approaches the front door or whenever he spots trespassing cats in his backyard.

In this case, barking serves a benefit. Flo wears a hearing aid, and her dog seems to tune in when he is needed by running up to her and sounding a noisy alert. Buddy’s breed was born to bark. Schnauzers rank among the chattiest of canine breeds.

Having a noisy dog comes in handy for Flo during those times when solicitors come to her front door uninvited. Buddy barks so loud and so long that Flo can’t hear what the people are trying to pitch. They leave in frustration and Flo rewards Buddy for a bark well timed. Buddy also barks to awaken Flo if he hears a strange sound in the backyard at night. Most dogs seek jobs, and in Buddy’s case, he feels he earns his daily kibble by serving as Flo’s keen sense of ears. He detects everything that goes past Flo’s house.

But Buddy doesn’t bark just to bark. Whenever I bring over my two dogs, Chipper and Cleo, Buddy doesn’t bark – he cries out in pure joy as the sight of seeing his two doggy play pals coming up his walk. He also turns off his barking machine once welcomed guests are inside Flo’s home.

Flo has been a lifelong dog lover and she does her best to keep Buddy at his best. She signed him up for Pets Best insurance when he was a pup, has his coat professionally groomed and feeds him only high-quality food.

In the beginning, Flo would apologize for Buddy’s noise-making ways. Now, she embraces his vocalizations and proudly nicknamed him, Buddy Barky. Between a home alarm system and Buddy, Flo feels justifiably safe and secure.

Arden Moore, author of 17 books on cats and dogs, including her latest, The Dog Behavior Answer Book and The Cat Behavior Answer Book.

Choosing the Right Dog Food: What to Ask

Posted by Shannon Steffen on 9/4/2007 in Nutrition

Dog foods come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Wet dog food is used primarily for those canines with particular taste palettes or as an intermittent treat. For the less discriminating, dog dry food varieties are available. It is not necessarily the delicate palette of a dog that determines what type of food it eats, but rather a combination of its dietary need, availability of the food brand in the area, owner preferences, and financial cost.

Current Foods

It may be simple if there were only wet and dry foods on the market. However, there are numerous varieties of dog foods currently in production, and each one claims to provide different nutrients, minerals, and life-sustaining substances to help dogs live longer and healthier lives. Often new dog owners will become confused by the numerous aisles of dog foods at the local pet store outlets. Some stores stock over 50 types of dog food alone, which would easily raise the question as to which one to choose.

Health Concerns and Dog Foods

So what dog food is the best? First the dog owner needs to know the dog and its particular needs. Some questions to answer include:

Is the dog a puppy, young adult or senior dog?

Is the dog overweight, underweight, or the correct weight for its breed?
Is the dog very active or less active?
Is the dog a toy, small, medium, large, or giant breed?
Does the dog have any allergies to certain ingredients?
Does the dog need any additional supplements in its food to help prevent certain possible health problems in the future such as hip dysplasia, joint problems, or eye problems?
Does the dog currently have any health problems that may make certain ingredients not digest well?
Has the dog’s vet discussed any dietary concerns that may cause problems for the dog such the size of the kibble, the amount of moisture in the food, or anything else that may cause an upset stomach?
These are only some of the questions that must be answered prior to a trip to the local pet store. Of course, no one would not want to feed an 8-week-old puppy a senior formula or dog food that is lacking in those nutrients and minerals needed during a puppy’s major growth phase. If the owners are unsure as to how to answer these questions, they should consult their veterinarian prior to making any changes in dog foods.

Regular, Holistic, and Organic Foods

Once those questions have been answered, the dog owner must decide which type of food is best: regular, holistic, or organic food. Those dog foods that are labeled as the “regular” dog food are those that may be readily found on any supermarket shelf. These products are usually made of a lower quality grade food and have less stringent quality controls. Holistic foods are predominantly labeled as such and have a high quality food grade, strict quality control measures on the production of their food, and are fortified with higher quantities of nutrients and minerals. Organic dog foods are comparable to human organic foods. They do not use preservatives or chemicals in their foods, and all ingredients are made locally within the country and are of an organic quality.

As each food has both positive and negative attributes to it, choosing a food is a very personal choice for each dog owner to make. However, there are some recommendations when deciding between these types of food. Dog owners will want to choose a dog food that:

Is appropriate for the age of the dog.
Has the highest nutrients and minerals needed for the dog.
Contains real meat (duck, fish, chicken, lamb) or “meal” within its first 2 ingredients.
Contains the proper protein and fat percentages for the dog’s breed and age. (Walk with your veterinarian for recommended guidelines.)
Does not have any “by-product” as listed as a main ingredient.
Provides easy-to-read feeding guidelines on the package.
Provides a company contact phone number on the package and is readily available to answer any questions or concerns dog owners may have about the product.
Once these questions are answered, you should have a better understanding of the quality of food that is best for your dog. This will help narrow the list to a few specific brands that can then be checked to make sure they meet any health concerns your dog may have.

Contamination and Food Recalls

With the recent spur of dog and cat food recalls, pet owners have become panicked. Are they feeding the best food or are all foods at risk of possibly being contaminated. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that any food is safe for consumption; this includes both pet and human food alike. Product testing and quality control are crucial to ensure that food is okay for consumption. Human food has a series of checks and balances that it must go through before it can be placed on the grocery store shelves. However, not all pet food and its ingredients go through this same type of rigorous testing, and even some human foods pass inspection and still create series of ailments and death. This is why it is crucial that whatever food chosen to feed to the dog is of the highest quality and that the manufacturer performs their own series of health checks on the food before it is shipped out to the consumers. This includes testing on the ingredients that are mixed with the food during its early stages of production. Such foods are usually more expensive but are well worth the cost when compared with the veterinary bills or losing that long cherished canine.

In light of the recent pet food recalls, please check the following:

All pet foods owned should be compared to the current food recalls on their manufacturers’ websites.
If the pet foods are being recalled due to a specific ingredient that was contaminated, and the product is not currently used, check the current dog food and make sure that it does not contain the ingredients that are listed as being contaminated. Cross contamination is possible.
Confirm that the producer of the dog food has proper testing and quality control.
Ensure that the dog food company’s plant is USDA and APHIS inspected.
All ingredients used by the manufacturer should be EU certified.
All incoming ingredients should be sampled and every batch of food should be lab tested prior to shipping to the market.
Rules to Follow

Feeding the proper dog food alone does not help ensure the long life and best health of your family dog. There are some other simple rules that every dog lover and owner should follow:

Fresh water is a must! Refill the water dish often and at meal times.
Start to reduce frequency of feedings after your puppy has reached three months old. This means the pup will go from three meals a day to two meals a day.
Mature dogs should be fed twice a day. This allows them time to properly digest the food and move it through their system without becoming bloated.
Check with the veterinarian to see which food would supply the most amounts of nutrients and minerals needed for the pup. Most dog owners will recommend staying with a type of food specified for the breed of dog.
Look for foods that contain fish oil or sunflower seed oil. These will help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat.
If a person must feed table scraps, treat the pup to a very small and non-seasoned portion as to not upset the pup’s stomach.
Don’t change the dog’s food rapidly! If you must, change it gradually and infrequently. Unlike humans, a dog’s digestive system does much better when on one food. Changing food frequently or quickly will result in upset stomachs, diarrhea, throwing up, and very bad gas! This includes giving table scraps.
Keep the dog away from any hazardous food such as chocolate, coffee, cocoa, tea, onions, garlic, mushrooms, grapes, raisins, raw salmon, salmonoid fish, macadamia nuts, nutmeg, and alcohol. Very small quantities may not harm your pup. However, the greater the quantity of any of these foods, the greater the risk for health problems such as kidney failure, shock, seizures, or worse, death.
Keep in mind that as the quality of foods increase, the price of the food increases as well. However, it is the reputation of the company, the quality of its goods, and the ability of the food to give the dog the nutrients it needs that should be taken into account when choosing a dog food. Ultimately, one or two dog foods will stand above the rest and the owner will feel confident that they are feeding their dog the best food possible. Remember that the goal of every dog owner is to provide a nutritionally balance diet for their canine family member so that it lives a healthy, happy, and long life.

Shannon Steffen is a freelance writer with and


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Product Testing and Quality Control. (2007). Eagle Pack Pet Foods.

Ruben, D. (2007). Are Grapes and Raisins Really Toxic?

Tobiassen-Crosby, J. (2007). Veterinary Q & A: Chocolate Toxicity.

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