June 2017

Five Ways to Make the Fourth Less Frightening

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In 2012, my husband and I took the kids down to the San Diego waterfront for the annual “Big Bay Boom” Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza. As we staked a spot on the grass, I was surprised to see a couple with an Australian Shepherd puppy. Surely they’re planning on leaving before the fireworks began, I thought to myself. But as the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed, it became clear the dog was staying for the show.

Unfortunately for all of us, someone had made a grave mistake. The entire stockpile went off simultaneously. Eighteen minutes worth of explosives detonated in 15 seconds. Even for those of us expecting a fireworks show, it was terrifying. With the blinding lights, resounding booms and the ground shaking, there was mass confusion. As the smoke cleared, I turned around and saw that poor little pup cowering as his shell-shocked owners packed up their belongings. Now, this was an extreme case, but I tell this story to make crystal clear, dogs do not belong at fireworks celebrations.

July 5th is one of the busiest days in both veterinary hospitals and shelters, for many reasons: panicked pups bolt over fences, leading some to become lost and others injured; unattended food gets scarfed down, causing gastric problems; overheated canines experience heat exhaustion; and the list goes on. The good news is we know what to anticipate, which means we have the opportunity now to plan ahead to help keep the Fourth fun and safe for everyone. Here are my top five tips for a great Independence Day.

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1. Watch out for “counter surfers”! Summer barbecues are delicious for us but full of hazards for pets. High-fat foods like burgers and hot dogs can cause pancreatitis, kebab skewers can wreak havoc in the stomach, corn cobs are a leading cause of GI surgery and ribs have bones that can splinter and pierce the intestines. Make sure all your people goodies are securely out of the way of nosy pets, and keep an eye out for party guests (especially kids) who accidentally leave plates in precarious locations.

2. Avoid glow-stick accessorizing. Resist the urge to put a glow stick around your pet’s neck. They really aren’t designed for pet use, chiefly because the liquid they contain can be quite irritating if ingested. Fortunately, there is another option! If you want your pup to look bright and patriotic, LED-lighted collars are designed to be both adorable and perfectly pet-safe.

3. Confirm your pet’s ID info. Is your pup’s tag and microchip up-to-date? If you’ve recently moved or your phone number has changed, getting a new dog tag and calling your vet to update a microchip are inexpensive forms of insurance for potentially scary problem. When fireworks go off, even well-behaved, mild-mannered pets can panic and bolt. One of the main reasons pets languish in shelters after the 4th is due to incorrect or missing identification.

4. Provide a happy distraction. If you must leave your companion animal home alone when fireworks are likely, take some precautions to help minimize anxiety. Some may even surprise you! For example, some dogs find classical music soothing (check out ‘Through a Dog’s Ear’ online), while others enjoy TV. There are non-drug calming options such as the Thundershirt or a pheromone collar. And, last but not least, try the tasty distraction offered by a treat-dispensing toy filled with Life’s Abundance kibble or treats!

5. Consult your vet before the 4th. If your doggo is prone to levels of anxiety that over-the-counter remedies can’t address, your veterinarian might prescribe medications to help him or her through the night. Here again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan ahead for this holiday! Vet’s offices are often slammed on July 3rd with pet parents in a panic asking for a new prescription, and it may not be available on short notice.

While the Fourth of July can be a source of stress for many canines, it doesn’t have to be! As you can see, just a little bit of planning can make a world of difference.

Be sure to check out the handy companion guide in our infographic post Fourth of July Safety Prep.

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Infographic: Fourth of July Safety Prep

We’re only one week away from the Fourth of July! And while we may be ready to celebrate our nation’s independence, it’s one of the hardest times of the year for our companion animals.

Every year, pet parents all across America deal with the emotional toll from fireworks. They’re loud, scary and unpredictable. Even dogs who typically have totally chill personalities can go a bit bonkers at the “bombs bursting in air.” The extreme fear felt by canines can be both traumatic and shocking.

And the patriotic displays aren’t just limited to a single evening. In the days running up to Independence Day, fuses will be lit everywhere from stadiums to cul-de-sacs. So, what can we do to protect our furry friends from explosions of anxiety?

Here’s a handy infographic to help you begin making preparations now to help make this year’s festivities safer, and thus much more pleasant, for everyone! To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below.

PDF Document

Womansplaining Men’s Health

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File this post under ‘Tough Love’. Even though it’s technically addressed to women, it really is about helping men to improve their health. If you’re a guy reading this and you really do some soul-searching, you may end up not only being healthier in the long-term, but also impressing the women in your life for being totally on the ball.

Ask any woman, men are quick to offer to fix things. Guys uniformly seem willing to tackle just about any sort of problem, whether it’s plumbing, electrical or automotive. Unfortunately, this can-do spirit doesn’t always extend to emotional or health-related concerns. Because healthcare often has an emotional aspect to it, it presents a double-whammy for guys who’d prefer to ignore both. And that ends up being a big problem for men.

The problem isn't restricted to certain kinds of health issues. It’s common in the event of preventable sickness and even risk-related diseases. From incidences of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer, men have significantly higher mortality rates. In terms of life expectancy, men also get the short end of the stick, with women living on average several years longer.

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s a lesson some men still have yet to take to heart. So, ladies, we’re depending on you to give some urgency to what turns out to be a global problem. But don’t worry, we’re here to help talk to that important guy in your life. So put on your flak jackets, because it’s time to drop some truth bombs.

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What’s the number one reason why people don’t like going to the doctor? Getting bad news. Here’s the shocker … when your doctor tells you that there’s a problem, it doesn’t begin in that moment. You had that problem already! 

Is your significant other afraid of or angry at the scale because it revealed a specific number? Stepping on the scale does not cause weight gain! Powering through a bag of candy or a six-pack every few days is a much more likely culprit. Similarly, postponing a medical checkup to avoid getting bad news just doesn't make sense.

And yet, this widespread belief ends up creating the very problem people are trying to avoid! In that respect, it reinforces unhealthy behavior. "No bad news" does not translate as "I get to keep doing exactly what I'm doing." This unspoken notice can lead to other negative beliefs.

In hopes that we can change some of these unhelpful perspectives, we're offering up some simple strategies to help that special guy in your life, even if he’s incredibly resistant to change. We’ve tried to frame these positions in ways to minimize anxiety and keep the conversation moving in the right direction.

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1. HAVE “THE TALK”. It starts with a simple and direct question. “Do you want to be around for your child’s high school graduation or for your grandchild’s college graduation?” If the fellow in question doesn’t have kids, then put it in terms he’ll understand. For the most part, everyone wants to live a long life, and even those who don’t think about it expect most of their future years will be healthy ones. 

2. THE ATTITUDE. According to a comprehensive, global study by the World Health Organization, masculinity stereotypes play a critical role in the disparities of wellness between genders. Too often, men behave like their favorite fictional character, emulating risky behaviors that are perpetuated in film and television. As much as it might be enjoyable to watch heroic antics where nothing can stop the good guy from his noble task, the truth is that this ‘walk it off’ mentality is having a horribly negative effect on actual good guys.

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3. THE HOMEWORK. In order to take preventative measures, you have to first know what might be wrong! Given the incredible advances in genetics and medicine over the last 50 years, it’s easy to make the case that by knowing something about your genetic background will go a long way to understanding yourself. Ask him to compile a comprehensive family medical history that includes parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents. This is something doctors routinely ask for and most people provide a halfhearted summary. Some even just leave that section blank!

Such a review will prove immensely helpful for doctors. And doesn't your fellow deserve the best possible healthcare? And remember to preserve this homework, because someday it could play a vital role in the healthcare of future generations.

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4. BE GOOD TO YOURSELF. The bottom line is this … a huge amount of suffering can be prevented, alleviated or cured by doing things we all know we should be doing. Here are four simple steps to help jumpstart healthier living for men.

Regular Check-Ups

Commitment to annual wellness exams is a great way to establish a baseline and troubleshoot any developing problems. But to get the most out of these visits, he'll need to be forthright with his doctor. We say that because men are actually less likely to be honest with their physicians regarding the extent and severity of symptoms than women!

Eat Right

If he always says “no way, Jose” to fresh fruits and vegetables but “yeppers” to beef, butter, beer and Ben & Jerry’s, then he's asking for trouble. So much has been written on the topic, there’s hardly a reason to cover good dietary choices here other than to say, eat more fruits and veggies, and avoid fatty and processed foods.

Take a Pill, Dude

The issue for men here seems to hearken back to the ‘walk it off’ philosophy. If it hurts badly or just feels wrong, see a doctor and follow directions. And, yes, that means being open to prescriptions. But it’s not enough to obtain a prescription if it’s medically necessary … it needs to be taken following the directions. Men are much more likely to deviate from prescribed dosages of medication, whether it’s skipping a dose or doubling up. Both can be much more problematic than people generally think, and can result in severe consequences.

Move More

If it’s been years since he's gone for a run or rode a bike, stamina should gradually be built up. As we age, exercise has more and better benefits when it’s done carefully and appropriately to actual ability (not based on "what I used to do"). Bottom line, don’t go overboard! Walk if you don’t have too far to go. Or, if it’s too far to walk, ride a bike instead of driving. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise daily can make a tremendous difference not only in his health, but also in how good he feels!

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If at any point the conversation starts veering off-topic, be patient but firm. If you get an outsized negative reaction as a result of sharing these strategies, try and steer the conversation away from feelings and back to fact. Finally, if they’re just too overwhelmed by the topic at-hand, leave them a copy of this post to read and reflect on.

If you’re having trouble getting through, use an analogy. For instance, remind them that just like cars and trucks require routine maintenance to perform at peak efficiency, so too does the human body. Whatever tack you choose to try and reach him, come back to the same point as many times as you need, until you get the sense that they’re on the same page about why this conversation is necessary … because they’re loved. And that you would like to have them around for a long time!

This is a problem that affects men of all ages, races, demographics, financial standings, etc. It’s not your guy in particular, and it’s not all guys, but it’s so widespread that the benefits of cultivating a proactive mindset will be better for everyone ... each individual, each family, each community, and maybe even for the world as a whole.

“The men’s health gap: men must be included in the global health equity agenda.” Peter Baker, Shari L Dworkin, Sengfah Tong, Ian Banks, Tim Shand & Gavin Yamey. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2014;92:618-620. www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/92/8/13-132795/en/

Antioxidants and Canine Wellness

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Many of us are familiar with the idea of antioxidants, and we know they are a good thing for both dogs and humans, but do you know why? There’s a reason we put so much thought and effort into our formulations at Life’s Abundance, and antioxidants are some of our favorite ingredients!

To understand why antioxidants are vital to health, you need to know about free radicals, a by-product of normal metabolism. When oxygen molecules are split into two oxygen atoms, they are missing one electron ... thus a free radical is born. These little guys are highly reactive, so they steal electrons from other molecules, which also become free radicals. Cellular components such as proteins, DNA and cell membranes can be negatively affected, further creating more free radicals. Why is this problematic for health? Well, the DNA damage causes cells to reproduce incorrectly, which can lead to abnormalities.

How do antioxidants work? They can donate an electron to a free radical without becoming unstable themselves. In fact, many scientists now refer to antioxidants as ROS, or Reactive Oxygen Species. In essence, they neutralize damaging free radicals and break the replicating cycle.

Why do dogs need antioxidants? As pets age, the free radical damage accumulates and accelerates. It contributes to the natural declines due to aging, and can trigger some illnesses due to damaged cellular DNA. So, how are free radicals counteracted? Perhaps the best, most natural way is through antioxidants!

Why are antioxidants so often linked with brain health? With aging, many canines experience some degree of cognitive decline. This can manifest as changes in behaviors, lapses in house training, altered sleep cycles, disorientation and repetitive behaviors such as pacing or licking. Learning and memory deficits may begin in pets as young as six years of age, though many pet parents don’t notice until pets are quite a bit older. There’s good news, however. Senior dogs fed a diet high in antioxidants actually perform better on tests that assess their ability to problem solve!

Who should be taking antioxidants? Everyone, including your dogs! While the benefits are most obvious for seniors, all of us are exposed to free radicals on a regular basis. Early nutritional support with antioxidants is a great way to maintain vibrant health. Even though the body produces some antioxidants on its own, the most significant way to get antioxidants into the body is through nutrition. Fruits, vegetables and even some herbs are high in antioxidants such as lycopene, carotenoids, lutein, and vitamins E and C.

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Antioxidant Health Bars help maintain a healthy immune system

What’s an easy way to make sure my dog is getting guaranteed amounts of antioxidants? This month, I encourage you to try one of our premium baked treats, Antioxidant Health Bars. Featuring the great taste of apples, peanut butter and honey, dogs just can’t resist these delicious bars, which also include oatmeal, brown rice, ground flaxseed, dates, rolled oats, flaxseed oil, eggs, cranberries and carrots. Since antioxidants are so important to maintaining a healthy immune system, we’ve added a hefty helping of vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene. And the amounts of these important nutrients are guaranteed, so you know exactly how much nutrition your dog is receiving on a daily basis.

Thank you for everything you do to make the world a better place for companion animals!

Dr Jane Bicks  

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM