July 2020

Common Houseplants That Are Safe For Pets

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Having plants in your home is a great way to add beauty, keep your air clean and boost your overall mood. However, you have to be careful when choosing houseplants when you have pets — some are toxic and can even cause life-threatening health problems. 

No need to worry — we’ve compiled a list of pet-friendly plants that are safe if you have dogs, cats, or both. 

Pet-Friendly Houseplants

African Violets

African violets can add touches of vivid color to any part of your home. These flowering plants can thrive in low light and don’t require a lot of care in order to grow, so they’re a great option if you’re not used to having plants around. Since they’re non-toxic, you also don’t have to worry about curious dogs or cats chewing on them. However, it doesn’t hurt to distract playful pets with healthier items to chew, such as our nutritious dog treats or cat treats.

Boston Ferns

Boston ferns can add some bright greenery to your home with their long, shaggy leaves. They do like humidity and some light, but they don’t need direct sunlight. Since their long fronds might become chew toys for dogs or cats, you might want to consider keeping these ferns in an out of the way spot that your pets don’t frequent, such as bathrooms or a guest bedroom.

Bromeliads

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Bromeliads are beautiful plants with hardy leaves. These flowering plants can make any room more inviting.You will want to keep them in an area that gets bright light and some humidity. In addition to being safe for dogs and cats, one of the other perks of bromeliads is that you can grow them on logs rather than in soil, making them a good option if you have cats that might dig in potted soil.

Friendship Plant

If you’re looking for a small plant that’s easy to care for, consider friendship plants. These plants have fuzzy leaves and normally won’t grow taller than a foot high. You can keep these plants on counters, shelves, or other surfaces in more humid areas of your home, but make sure they have low or medium light. You can also set up a terrarium to keep friendship plants out of reach of pet claws and teeth.

Maidenhair Ferns

Maidenhair ferns are a bit more challenging to care for than Boston ferns. If you decide to get these non-toxic, pet friendly plants, just make sure to give them plenty of water and some bright light. These ferns have long, delicate leaves with a feathery shape, so they might catch the eye of your cats. Having healthy cat treats around might lower the risk of having your cats paw at or chew on maidenhair fern fronds.

Polka Dot Plants

Polka dot plants are another colorful houseplant you can enjoy without fearing for your pet’s safety. These plants have wide leaves with a spotted or speckled appearance, giving them a visually interesting look. Keep these plants in bright light rather than low light to deepen their coloring, or they’ll end up with a more muted look. If you’re going to get polka dot plants, plan on replacing them from time to time. While your pets might leave them alone, these houseplants usually don’t have a long lifespan.

 Spider Plants

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Spider plants (or chlorophytum) are among the most common plants that are safe for both dogs and cats. You can decorate shelves or window sills with potted spider plants or place a few hanging ones near windows. These plants are easy to grow if you don’t have a green thumb. They just need a bit of water every so often, indirect light, and some pruning so their leaves don’t get too long. In fact, cutting back the leaves regularly might help prevent pets from playing with them or chewing on them.

 Succulents

Succulent plants are ideal houseplants if you usually forget to water plants. However, some succulents, such as jade and aloe, are toxic to pets when ingested. Safe succulents that won’t hurt dogs or cats include echeveria and haworthia. These plants just need to be kept in areas with bright light and watered about once a week in order to thrive.

Houseplants That Are Toxic To Pets:

Now that you know several plants that are safe for pets, there are some you should immediately remove from your home if you have them. Ingesting any of these plants can lead to serious health problems for your pets and require a visit to the nearest animal hospital. The following are common houseplants known for being toxic to pets:

  • Asparagus fern
  • Caladium (elephant’s ear)
  • Jade
  • Lilies
  • Pothos
  • Sago palms

When you're a pet parent, it's important to be thorough and protect your furry friend in every way that you can when they're at home. Double-checking your houseplants is just one more way you can ensure your pet's safety!

Why Magnesium Is Important To Your Health

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Magnesium is instrumental to many body functions and necessary for every biological organism, not just humans. Technically, it is an essential mineral nutrient, meaning it’s something the body needs, but it cannot make itself. That means it has to come from a dietary source like food or a supplement. 

This mineral plays a critical role in the brain, heart, and muscle health for humans. Here’s everything you need to know to make sure you can avoid magnesium deficiency: 

What Is Magnesium? 

Magnesium is one of several minerals in the body and the fourth most abundant (the first is calcium.) It’s a functional part of muscle movement, heart rhythm, blood sugar levels, protein synthesis, bone formation, and DNA building. 

Having low levels of this essential mineral can lead to weak muscles, high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease. An estimated 68% of the U.S. population fails to meet the daily requirement, possibly leading to magnesium deficiency. 

Magnesium and Brain Health

Magnesium is a key player in translating messages between the brain and body. Nerves generate electrical impulses to send these messages. If the impulse is strong enough, it activates a receptor that allows it to continue to the next axon, a thin cable that carries the electrical impulses in nerve cells. 

Not all the electrical impulses that travel down an axon are strong enough to move forward, though, which is a good thing. If they were, your brain would be continuously flooded with messages that it doesn’t need. 

Magnesium acts as a gatekeeper for some of these receptors, so impulses that are not strong enough stop before they hit the brain. This way, it prevents nerves from overstimulation that might cause damage. 

Magnesium and Heart Health

Magnesium is critical for maintaining a stable heartbeat. When your heart beats, calcium floods the cells of the heart muscle to cause a contraction. It relaxes when magnesium enters to block the calcium. Calcium and magnesium are natural competitors — when magnesium is present, it blocks calcium. These actions are essential to keep the heart beating. 

Magnesium and Muscle Health

Magnesium plays the role of calcium blocker in all muscle tissue, not just the heart. When calcium enters the muscle cells, it contracts. When magnesium comes in to counteract the calcium, the muscle relaxes. Now, think about how many times your muscles contract and relax every day, and you get an idea of how vital magnesium is to health. 

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How To Tell If You Have Magnesium Deficiency 

Some symptoms of low magnesium levels include:

  • Muscle twitches and cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Personality changes

There are also medical conditions sometimes associated with magnesium deficiency, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Asthma
  • Mental health disorders

The recommended daily allowance for magnesium varies by age and gender. On average, adults need between 400 to 420 mg. The older you get, the more you will need.

How to Get Magnesium? 

One of the easiest ways to make sure your body is getting enough magnesium is through diet. Some foods that contain high levels of this important mineral include:

  • Nuts
  • Black beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Avocados
  • Rice
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Chicken breast
  • Broccoli

Even if you eat right, you might still find that you struggle to get the proper amounts of daily magnesium. For you, the answer might be a supplement like a Multivitamin

Some people prefer to rely only on food for their nutrients. With that in mind, you can add minerals to your water using a drink mix and get the same benefits. Dietary supplementation will help you sustain energy throughout the day and the right formula can add delicious flavor to your drink! When choosing a supplement, look for something with all-natural flavors and no added sugar or colors.

Magnesium is a critical part of hundreds of cellular processes in the human body, and many people don’t get enough of it. But don’t worry, it’s easy enough to increase your intake. Simply add some mineral-rich foods to your diet, add a supplement, or both!

3 Ways To Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer

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My heart always skips a beat when I see a “Lost Pet” flyer in the neighborhood. That sinking feeling when you look around the house and your pet is nowhere to be found is the absolute worst. You call their name, look under beds, stand in the front yard calling their name, roam the neighborhood…nothing.

And then you wait.

According to the National Humane Society, 1 out of every 3 pets will be lost at some point in their lifetime. Every year, 10 million pets go missing. It can happen even to the most cautious of pet owners- doors accidentally left ajar, a gate that doesn’t latch all the way, or a panicked pet reacting to fireworks. 

Accidents happen to everyone, so it’s best to prepare in advance and do everything you can to prevent a permanent loss. As July is Lost Pet Prevention Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to remind pet lovers how to keep their pets safe and sound.

  • Buy new ID tags and update microchips

The best way to have your pet reunited with you quickly is the good old ID tag. Make sure it’s up to date if you move or change phone numbers, and check yearly to make sure it’s still legible.

Your pet’s name and your phone number are the minimum, but tags can get elaborate. Some manufacturers even embed QR codes on the tag so if someone finds your lost pet they will have access to your information, the vet, and the pet’s medical conditions!

Microchips are, of course, a wonderful tool to help pets when a collar is lost or missing. It does require the pet be somewhere with a reader, like the vet or the shelter, so it’s really a backup if the ID tag isn’t present. Like the ID tag, make sure your information remains up to date in the database.

  • Leash Them Up Right

This summer, families are staying together and if they travel at all, it’s usually on road trips. These are great ways to stay connected, but also provide an opportunity for a spooked pet to be lost in a strange environment.

Make it a habit that no door gets opened without the pet on a leash. That can mean car doors, hotel room doors, anything when there is a chance a pet might dart. If your pet is not in a carrier, they are likely secured in a harness to begin with, so that makes the switchover easier. Don’t ever secure a pet to a seatbelt or the car with anything attached to their neck.

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  • Watch For Anxiety Triggers

If you live in an area where people shoot off fireworks all summer, you know how terrifying this can be for a pet. It’s hard to overstate what panic can do to a pet. We’re talking doors chewed through, six foot fences scaled, even teeth broken. If your pet experiences this level of anxiety, you would do well to consult with your veterinarian about prescription meds that can help, which work well in combination with training and soothing items like Thundershirts. Sometimes simply comforting your pet while feeding healthy dog treats or cat treats can help calm them.

Note: If you’ve used acepromazine in the past, veterinarians are no longer recommending this for anxiety. Why? Because we’ve discovered that it sedates the pet but doesn’t make the anxiety go away. Imagine being terrified AND unable to move or do anything about it. The good news is, we now have lots of better alternatives. 

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If your pet is lost, take a deep breath. Most pets are reunited with their owners. The knowledge that your pet has an ID tag on can make a huge difference! In the meantime:

  • Call local shelters and veterinarians to let them know your pet is lost
  • Have a current photo attached to the email, if you go that route
  • If you have security, like a Ring doorbell, see if you can tell which way your pet ran
  • Ask your neighbors to keep a look out.
  • Get on Nextdoor! If you’re not using this local community page, it is one of the easiest ways to quickly reach your neighbors.

And most importantly, don’t give up! I once had a client whose Boxer roamed the hills for two months, evading attempts to catch him, before they were finally reunited. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Carole King, who quit her job in Washington to look for her dog who was lost on vacation in Montana. After 57 days, she found him!

If your pet is a Houdini, don’t beat yourself up. Just do all you can to stay one step ahead. I found out the hard way that our side gate had an issue when my neighbor showed up to let me know Dakota was hanging out in his courtyard. It happens! And now we have a backup bungee cord on the gate.

Have a safe and healthy summer!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

4 Great Protein Substitutes For Meat

Woman Enjoys Protein Substitute Chocolate Shake

Everybody needs protein, but not everyone enjoys eating meat. Fare including the usual suspects like beef, chicken, and fish, is among the best sources of protein available.

Just check out the amount of protein in a single serving of the following cooked meats and fish:

  • 3 oz of chicken breast: 13 grams 

  • 3 oz of steak: 23 grams

  • 3 oz of salmon: 21 grams 

All that protein is made up of varying combinations of molecules called amino acids, dubbed the "building blocks of life." Your body really can't function without them and relies on amino acids for everything from repairing tissue to digesting food.

So, does this mean you have to be a meat-eater if you want your body to get all the nutrients it needs to thrive? The answer is ‘No!’ In fact, whatever your reason for exploring non-meat protein substitutes, you'll be pleased to know you have plenty of alternative options. Here are a few simple ones you can start with:

  • Eggs

Like chicken, beef, and fish, eggs are considered a complete protein source. Crack just one open and you'll find six grams of protein inside. If you skip the yolk, you'll still get about 4 grams of protein from just the egg whites. 

Eggs may be a good choice for people who follow a vegetarian lifestyle or simply want to cut back on their meat consumption. Not so good of an option for people with egg allergy, however. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 2 percent of kids are allergic to eggs, although most (70 percent) will outgrow the allergy by age 16. There are vegan and plant-based egg alternatives that have similar amounts of protein as well.

  • Plant Protein

Plant-based diets are an integral part of human history, but for several reasons (e.g., ethical, environmental, taste, health) they've become even more popular lately. A 2018 study found that 14 percent of Americans regularly consume plant protein sources, even though the majority of them (86 percent) do NOT consider themselves vegan or vegetarian. 

Replacing some of your calories from meat protein with plant protein can even lower your risk of heart disease and early death, according to a study from Harvard Medical School. In other words, the animal vs. plant debate isn't necessarily an all-or-none choice, and you don't have to swear off meat completely in order to enjoy the health benefits of plant protein. 

One of the most delicious ways to get your plant protein is in a convenient powder that you can mix into water, smoothies, pancakes, baked goods, oatmeal and more. Our delicious plant protein mixes have 13-14 grams of protein and 100-120 calories in every serving — that’s more protein and less calories than half of a chicken breast! 

Other top plant protein options include pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, hemp, spirulina, and quinoa. Like meat, these plants are considered complete protein sources. Additional options include rice, legumes (lentils, peas, peanuts, and beans), and other nuts and seeds including almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. 

Bowl of Healthy Plant Protein Options

  • Dairy 

Dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk also earn a spot on the "complete protein" list. A 16 oz glass of skim milk has a little over 16 grams of protein, while 8 oz of cottage cheese has a whopping 25 grams. 

About 65 percent of people are unable to properly digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy. This explains why so many of us experience uncomfortable symptoms (like diarrhea, gas, and bloating) when we eat dairy products. If dairy intolerance symptoms sound familiar to you, you may consider avoiding this protein substitute. 

  • Soy, Tempeh, and Tofu

Soy and soy-based products like tofu and tempeh are also good sources of plant-based protein. We're mentioning them separately from other non-meat protein substitutes because many people avoid soy due to allergies or other health reasons. (Keep in mind a lot of plant-based protein supplements are made with soy, so if you're trying to avoid this ingredient be sure to look at the label carefully.)

For reference, just one ounce of dried soybeans contains 12 grams of protein. One cup of tempeh (fermented soybeans) contains over 30 grams, and one cup of tofu (soybean curd) has about 20 grams.

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When meat's not on the menu, you'll need to be sure you fill your plate (or shaker bottle) with other good protein sources. Why? Because protein is made up of amino acids, which our bodies must get in order to grow, repair, and stay healthy.

Remember, even if you do eat meat and other animal products, consuming plant-based protein offers additional health benefits and may even reduce your risk of certain diseases. So, in addition to non-meat protein substitutes like dairy and eggs, be sure to get more plant protein in your life.