The holidays are in full force and Christmas is just around the corner. if you’re anything like us, there are plenty of errands left to run, family plans to schedule, and gifts to be bought. When it comes to your cat or dog, we can help you with that last one. From stocking stuffers to doggy treats to cat toys, we’ve compiled a guide of 10 holiday gift ideas to simplify your search for the perfect present. In line with our love for animals and the planet, the following items are responsibly made with the environment in mind.
West Paw’s Heyday Dog Bed
Named “One of the Best Small Companies in America” by Forbes Magazine, West Paw makes carefully designed pet products using a sustainable manufacturing approach. Their Heyday Bed is no different, and it’s one of the most durable dog beds on the market. Handmade in the U.S., stain resistant and machine washable, the Heyday Bed is covered with extra soft micro suede fabric and guaranteed free of harmful chemicals. And like all of West Paw’s pet beds, this bed is made from the company’s IntelliLoft eco-fiber, a stuffing that helps reduce waste by repurposing plastic water bottles.
Kids ‘N’ Pets’ Instant All Purpose Stain & Odor Remover
The trick with stain removers is finding one that’s both safe for use around pets (and people) and actually effective. Kids ‘N’ Pets’ Instant All Purpose Stain & Odor Remover checks off all the boxes. From pet stains to spills and everything in between, this all purpose stain remover can be used on carpet, mattresses, bedding and more. Best of all, it’s non-toxic, biodegradable and as the company states “completely safe for people, pets, and plants.”
Only Natural Pet’s Holiday Duck & Cranberry Biscuits
Your dog can eat like a king (or queen!) with Only Natural Pet’s Holiday Duck & Cranberry Biscuits. Made from a high-quality grain-free mixture of duck broth, cranberries and just a hint of mint, these biscuits will have your dog sidestepping the holiday dining table for his very own dog bowl.
Paw Street Barkery’s Winter Wonderland Organic Gift BoxIf you’re hoping to really spoil your pup this holiday season, look no further than the Winter Wonderland Organic Gift Box. Made from all organic ingredients, this gorgeous gift box includes a sampling of gourmet treats courtesy Paw Street Barkery: including dog-friendly Peanut Butter Cups, biscotti-like dog treats and various pup-safe cookies.
Dezi & Roo’s Hide and Sneak Cat Tunnel
Affordable, biodegradable, and handmade in the U.S by a team of veterinary professionals, the Hide and Sneak Cat Tunnel is a perfect gift for any cat or cat owner. Cats love its crinkly sounds and catnip-infused material, you’ll love its eco-friendly design and reasonable pricing.
Amazon Basics Dog Waste Bags with Dispenser
Deemed the best dog poop bags in the world by the New York Times product-vetting resource Wirecutter, Amazon Basics Dog Waste Bags are the ideal option for the majority of dogs and dog owners. Because dog poop bags aren’t really compostible or biodegradable in the traditional sense (dog poop should not be composted, and you don’t want dog poop loose in a landfill due to a biodegraded plastic bag), these bags are among the very best in the market. They’re durable, easy-to-use, include a leash clip, and come in large enough quantities to prevent frequent reordering—which cuts down on the product’s overall eco-footprint. However, if you absolutely must go biodegradable, we recommend Pets N Bags as an alternative.
West Paw’s Hurley Dog Bone
Another West Paw Design, the Hurley Dog Bone is an ultra durable, teeth-safe, dishwasher-safe, non-toxic (BPA-free, phthalate-free) chew toy guaranteed to last—if it doesn’t, they’ll replace it! And because it’s made from West Paw’s patented eco-friendly Zogoflex material, it’s endlessly recycable. Send it back to West Paw, and they’ll even recycle it for you.
Cedarcide Original Pet-Friendly Insect Repellent
Ruffwear’s Summit Trex Dog Boots
Dog boots are essential to protecting your dog’s paws during outdoors activities like hiking, as well in the winter when deicing salts and cold weather threaten their delicate pads. Made by performance dog gear company Ruffwear, the Summit Trex Dog Boots are a sustainably manufactured dog boot engineered for durability and extreme temperatures. These boots are tough enough to withstand the most demanding trail conditions, yet small and flexible enough to fit into your pup’s stocking.
Did you know one of the most popular dog toys in the world is also one of the most dangerous? At supermarkets, in pharmacies, in discount bins at the pet store—rawhide chew toys and bones can be found almost anywhere. From how they’re manufactured to the ingredients inside, these commonly bought treats are far from the natural chew toy they’re marketed to be. In fact, rawhide products can be a dog owners worst nightmare, resulting in vet visits for everything from choking to poisoning to emergency gastrointestinal surgery. Here’s 5 reasons we recommend never giving your dog a rawhide treat again.
They’re Sourced From Foreign, Substandard Factories
From grimy warehouses in China, Thailand and Korea, to sketchy outfits in Central America, rawhide toys come from all corners of the earth. Because rawhide manufacturers are not required by law to list the origin of their ingredients, there’s virtually no way to tell where a rawhide treat or toy came from. Which is alarming, especially given that most U.S. pet owners are now well aware of the risks associated with foreign-made, poorly regulated dog treats.
They’re Littered With Toxins
Turning animal skins into rawhide pet products is a long and winding process, with additional chemicals and toxins introduced at nearly every stage. To remove the hair and fur, for example, a surprisingly poisonous cocktail of sodium sulfide is used in what’s called the liming process. In another stage, the hides are washed and whitened using either bleach or hydrogen peroxide (remember, these are the same hides your dog chews, licks and eventually eats!). Arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, and mercury also commonly show up in tests of rawhide ingredients. And that’s not all—countless artificial preservatives, flavorings, dyes, paints and glues are used by manufacturers to give rawhide bones their trademark shape and look.
Rawhide pet products are typically made from cow or horse hides, but that’s not the whole story. In a shocking revelation, an investigation by Human Society International uncovered that skins from slaughtered dogs were used in certain rawhide products from Thailand (manufacturers informed investigators that these specific chew toys are commonly found for sale in U.S. stores). The thought of feeding a dog another dog’s skin is not only immoral, but just plain gross! If that doesn’t make you second guess rawhide pet products, not much else will.
They’re a Choking Hazard
Perhaps the most common danger associated with rawhide chew toys is choking. Firstly, the knots at the ends of most rawhide toys are notorious for lodging in doggy’s throats. Secondly, as the rawhide softens into that infamous and disgusting goo substance all dog owners are familiar with, that’s when rawhide toys become a serious choking risk for your pup. These slimy, pliable pieces can get stuck everywhere from the roof of your dog’s mouth to deep down in their esophagus. It’s no wonder rawhide toys are among the leading causes of emergency veterinary visits, especially for choking.
If a consumed rawhide treat makes its way safely through the throat to the stomach, even more frightening complications can occur. In short, rawhide products can be difficult for many dogs to properly and entirely digest. Once stuck in the stomach or intestine, rawhide chew toys can swell, requiring immediate medical attention. Even when treated in time, long term damage is not uncommon in these cases. There’s a laundry list of other gastrointestinal symptoms associated with rawhide consumption, too—such as diarrhea, loose stool, stomach pain, loss of appetite, lethargy, and more.
Looking for safe alternatives to rawhide bones and toys? This resource will help!
At Cedarcide, pet photos are our favorite type of holiday photo. Capturing these photos is usually fun and memorable, but it’s not always easy. By considering the following tips, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and sanity, and score some terrific shots, too. And when you’re done, surf on over to our Facebook page and share them with us—we’d love to see your cat or dog!
Familiarize Your Pet with the Camera
Ever met a dog that just doesn’t like cameras—maybe he barks every time it flashes or clicks, maybe he even nips if it gets too close? Chances are the owner never got his pup familiarized with the camera. After all, all those noises and flashes can be scary to unfamiliar pets. Before taking holiday photos—maybe a few days or a week in advance—spend some time getting your cat or dog used to being in front of a camera. Rewarding them with a treat after every practice photo can do wonders—this will help him or her associate the look and sounds of a camera with something positive. Before you know it, they’ll be just as excited for holiday photos as you are.
Turn Off the Flash
Pet photos are often plagued by blurry or glare-filled eyes. The cause? Flash. To achieve the ideal look for holiday pet photos, skip the flash and go with natural lighting instead.
Take Improv and Action Shots, too
Sitting and standing still for long periods of time is difficult for most pets. Capturing them in a more natural setting—playing, sleeping or running, for example—will make things easier and more fun for both you and your pet. You might be surprised: action shots often deliver far better results than traditional holiday-card-style portraits.
Change Your Perspective
Lowering yourself down to your cat or dog’s level can produce some gorgeous holiday pet photos. For whatever reason, photos taken at the same eye-level as your pet just tend to be a little cuter.
Go with a Calm, Familiar Setting
Distractions are the most common reason pet photos go awry. Choosing a calm setting free of unnecessary distractions—like extra people, other pets, and toys—will make things go much smoother. A room in your own home is usually the ideal location, as unfamiliar locations can be the biggest distraction of all. If your pet is not comfortable, you’re far less likely to snap a decent picture. However, if your pet generally does well in public settings, consider taking them to a special holiday location—pet photos with a local Santa Claus can be especially unforgettable.
When there’s holiday decorations to get tangled up in, family running amok, and dozens of errands left to run, staying patient is not the easiest thing in the world. But finding just a little extra patience when tackling pet photos can make your task all the easier. The logic’s simple: the more time you allow for taking photos, the more priceless memories you’ll likely end up with.
Play with the Focus
Toying with your camera’s focus settings can turn a good picture into a great one. Specifically, capturing your pet in sharp focus against a blurry backdrop will create a beautiful, professional-style shot. If you have a newer smartphone, check for a setting called “portrait style.” This essentially does the same thing, rendering closer objects in focus and the backdrop out of focus. The stark contrast will really make your holiday pet photos pop.
Grab Their Attention
From squeaking toys behind the camera to luring their attention with a treat, using something to get your pet to look into the camera will make taking holiday photos a much less stressful activity.
If they’re not too much of a distraction for your pet, holiday props like sweaters and santa hats can really spice up a holiday photo. Give it a go, you might be surprised by what your cat or dog lets you get away with.
Pick the Right Time of Day
Consider what times of day your pet is most relaxed and docile. For younger dogs this might be towards the end of the day, when they’ve sufficiently tired themselves out. Whatever time you go with, make sure your pet has been well fed, out to the restroom, and exercised before starting a photo session. Doing so will make your life much, much easier. You’re certain to get far better photos, too.
From large family gatherings and comfort food to holiday decorations and crackling fireplaces, winter is an amazing time of year. But amid all the gift buying and meal preparation, don’t forget about your pets. Winter might be a magical time for us, but it presents unique hazards for our cats and dogs. By making yourself aware of these dangers and planning accordingly, you can save your pet a terrifying visit to the vet—and maybe even save their life, too. Here’s 6 winter dangers every per owner should watch our for.
Hypothermia (or extremely low body temperature) is one of the most serious dangers your pet faces during winter. Coma, organ failure, and even death can result if not promptly treated. Sick, underweight and older pets—as well as those with little fur—are especially vulnerable to hypothermia, and should be kept indoors during winter when at all possible. It’s important to monitor your pet during winter, as early detection is crucial to tackling hypothermia. Here’s the common symptoms to look out for:
- Intense shivering
- Difficulty breathing/shallow breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle stiffness
- Weak pulse
If you fear your pet may have hypothermia, contact your vet immediately. To help raise your pet’s body temperature, you can place warm water bottles wrapped in towels under their armpits and chest. Wrapping them in a blanket warmed in the dryer is also effective. (Never use methods such as hair dryers or electric blankets, as these can cause burns to hypothermic animals). To prevent hypothermia, never let your pet endure cold weather for extended periods of time, and consider bundling them up in warm clothing whenever the temperature drops.
Freezing of the skin and tissue, commonly known as frostbite, is one of winter’s scariest threats. Exposed to sub-freezing temperatures and chilling winds, your cat or dog can succumb to frostbite in only a matter of minutes. From permanent tissue damage to loss of limbs to death, frostbite should be at the top of every pet owner’s mind as fall and winter roll around. Frostbite symptoms include:
- Red, gray, blue, white or pale skin
- Shriveled skin
- Pain in the ears, tail, paws or other extremities
- Skin that remains cold to the touch over long periods of time
You can help prevent frostbite by quickly removing ice and snow from your pet’s paws after they’ve been outside (pay special attention to any snow or ice balls that may have formed in between their toes). If you worry your cat or dog may have frostbite, contact your vet right away. Applying warm—but not hot—water to frostbitten extremities can provide relief. Be careful not to rub or massage areas suspected of frostbite, doing so can cause irreversible damage.
From small spills to slow vehicle leaks, antifreeze can kill your cat or dog. And unfortunately, due to its sweet smell and taste, animals often confuse the substance for something edible. If you suspect antifreeze poisoning, and your pet seems disoriented, is excessively drooling, or simply acting abnormal, consult a vet immediately. Remember to always store antifreeze out of reach of your pets, regardless of the season.
In winter, cats and smaller dogs will occasionally seek warmth near running vehicles. While most will curl up next to the exhaust, some kittens have been known to work their way under the hood of a vehicle for added heat and shelter. To guard you and your neighbors’ pets from possible disaster, check your car before taking off each day. You might just save a little life by doing so.
Salts used to melt snow and ice pose several health risks to pets. If ingested, these substances can cause mouth burns, painful gastrointestinal distress, and in rare cases even death. More commonly, these salts will irritate or damage your pet’s paw pads and skin. Thankfully, there are ways you can help protect your pet from such injuries:
- Place waterproof booties on their feet before walks in snowy or icy weather
- Using warm water, wash your pet’s feet, legs and underbelly after winter walks
- When treating your own sidewalks and driveway, choose pet-safe de-icers—like sand, gravel or kitty litter
- On walks, avoid areas that tend to be heavily salted
- Contact your local city officials about switching to pet-friendly de-icing methods
As the cold returns and pests move indoors, homeowners commonly arm their houses with rodenticides, poisons intended to control rats and mice. Sadly, rodenticides represent one of the most common sources of pet poisoning during the fall and winter months. For the sake of your pets (and family), we suggest going natural with your rodent control instead. Regardless of what direction you choose, never place rodenticides in areas accessible to your cat, dog or other pets. (Similarly, we suggest going non-toxic with your insect control, too).
Winter can be tough on our dogs. Being cooped up all day not only robs them of their usual outdoor entertainment, but it makes it difficult for them to get the exercise necessary to maintain their health. Given that 54% of U.S. dog are dangerously overweight, it’s important to seek alternative means of exercise to help your pup stay fit through the winter months. Here’s some quick and and easy ways to give your pup some added physical activity when the weather makes it unpleasant to go outside.
Sign Your Dog Up For a Class
From social skills to increased fitness, canine classes are a quick way for your pup to learn some new skills and get some exercise in the process. Swimming courses, socializing classes, obedience and agility training—there’s tons of options to choose from. It will take a little research to see what’s available in your area and what’s right for your dog, but you’ll both be glad you did it.
Winter is the ideal time to teach your pup some new tricks. Not only can this be done in the comfort of your own home, but it’s a fun way to get your dog some needed exercise in the colder months. Remember to stay upbeat, positive reinforcement is the most effective way to educate your dog.
Bring Fido Along For the Ride
Whether you’re heading to the pet store, visiting friends or just running errands, bringing your dog along for the ride is an easy way to get your pup out and about when it’s cold outside. As long as your pet is well-mannered, consider visiting pet-friendly coffee shops, restaurants and bars, too. Your pup will love the extra attention. (Remember to make sure your dog’s safely secured before taking them anywhere in your vehicle).
Schedule a Playdate
Playdates are one of our favorite ways to exercise our doggies during the cold season. Call up your pup’s favorite pal and see if they’d like to meet up at a local dog park, an indoor space, or even in your own backyard. Just be sure to monitor the weather and dress your puppy friends accordingly (including dog boots if your neighborhood uses salt or other anti-ice chemicals that might irritate their paws).
Turn Mealtime Into Playtime
To add a little fun and exercise to your dog’s daily winter routine, make your pup’s meals (and snacks) into a game. One option is to hide treats throughout your home like a scavenger hunt. Another is to use a food puzzle toy (like a Kong) to feed your pup. The thirty-or-so minutes of extra playtime might not seem like much, but any extra winter exercise is well worth the effort.
Simple indoor games like tug-of-war are an effective way to supplement your dog’s exercise routine when it’s too cold to go outside. Fetch, wrestling, hide-and-seek—the possibilities are endless. As a precaution, make sure the space you’re using is pet-friendly and free of potential safety hazards, such as sharp objects, open flames, and steep inclines like staircases.
Did you know that pets create approximately 64 million tons of greenhouse gases every year—the same amount as over 13 million cars? While their meat-heavy diets are largely to blame (they make up almost 30% of the U.S.’s environmental impact from meat consumption), our pets influence the environment in many other ways, too. From the costly effects of packaging materials for pet accessories to the 5 million tons of poop they produce each year, our cats’ and dogs’ have a heavy impact on the planet.
Since there’s no way we’re getting rid of our cats and dogs (they’re family!), we should all look for ways to decrease their environmental footprint. Making a few simple changes to your pet’s lifestyle can make a big difference. Here’s some of our favorites.
Buy Pet Food in Bulk
Buying your pet’s food in bulk is an easy way to lower both you and your pet’s environmental footprint. Not only do you lower the amount of packaging materials and waste required by additional purchases, you save yourself extra trips to the pet store thereby reducing gas consumption.
Spay or Neuter
On the surface, spaying and neutering might seem a little barbaric. However, that could not be further from the truth. These procedures save literally millions of pets from euthanization each year. Local animal shelters would be considerably less full, much happier places if every pet owner were to spay or neuter their cats and dogs.
Ditch Canned Food
More so than dry food, canned pet food is often contaminated with toxins that could harm your pet. A 2017 study by the Ecology Center found the linings in most pet food cans contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and bisphenol A (BPA), hormone-disruptors which are known to cause considerable health problems in both animals and people.
Buy Organic, Sustainable Pet Food
Another easy—though sometimes costly—way to lower your pet’s environmental footprint is to buy organic, sustainable dog or cat food. Not only is this much healthier for your pet, it reduces waste associated with industrial meat production. Click here for help on choosing an organic pet food option.
Reuse Human Food as Pet Food When Safe
Reusing human food as pet food is another option for reducing waste associated with pet food production and transportation. If you have leftovers or other food that’s soon to be trashed, consider using it to supplement your dog or cat’s diet instead of throwing it out. Just make sure it’s pet-friendly food before handing it off to your animal friend. Here’s a list of human foods that should never be fed to your pet.
Choose DIY and Recyclable Toys and Pet Products
Common plastic-based pet toys are not only a strain on the environment, but they’re often laced with chemicals that can make your pet sick. That’s why going DIY (sticks, socks, yarn, etc) and/or recyclable with pet toys is a no-brainer. It saves money, time, lowers your pet’s environmental impact, and allows you to reuse items you might have otherwise thrown out. In general, look for pet products (like beds, scratching posts, clothing, etc) made from natural-based materials and biodegradable packaging.
Go Green With Your Lawn Care
Replacing chemical-based lawn care products with plant-based alternatives benefits animals, humans and the environment. Another way to make your lawn more pet-friendly is to choose herbs and other plant life that are edible and healthy for your pet. Check out this article for help cultivating a pet-friendly garden.
Adopt Don’t Shop
The benefits of rescuing a pet over purchasing one are well documented. Doing so saves animal lives, saves money, saves resources, has less adverse environmental effects, and discourages the unethical puppy mill industry.
Protect Wildlife from Your Pets
Did you know cats kill over 2 billion birds each year? In addition, they kill upwards of 12 billion other small land animals each year, such as snakes, lizards and rodents. That makes house cats one of the largest human-caused threats to wildlife in North America. There’s several ways cat owners can help better this problem. Firstly, it’s important to keep cats indoors as much as is reasonably possible. Secondly, removing bird-attracting items from your yard—such as bird feeders, baths and food sources—is essential. The same approaches apply for dog owners, too.
From toys, clothing and other accessories, the pet care industry would have you believe there’s innumerable items your dog can’t live without. In reality, apart from the essentials like medical care, food and water, there’s very little your pet needs to live a full and healthy life. In fact, all these additional products only serve to worsen your pet’s impact on the environment. So the next time you’re considering purchasing another toy or cute outfit for your pup or kitty, ask yourself: “Do we really need this item, and is it worth the amount of waste it will create?”
Avoid Toxic Flea and Tick Control Solutions
Toxic, chemical-based pesticides are extremely damaging to the environment, human safety, and our planet’s delicate ecosystem. Just as with your lawn care, going toxin-free with your pet’s pest control needs is one of the smartest moves you can make as a responsible pet owner. Doing so will not only lessen you and your family’s exposure to harmful toxins, but it might just save your pet’s life.
Choose Biodegradable Poop Bags or Another Eco-Friendly Disposal Option
Dog feces poses more dangers than most pet owners think. Which is why it’s so very important to properly dispose of dog poop. Following these simple guidelines will considerably lessen the negative impacts of your pup’s poo:
- Never throw poop bags in the regular trash
- Never put dog feces in your home’s compost—it’s full of dangerous bacteria
- Consider flushing it (but not in a septic system)
- If you live in a rural area, consider burying it (make sure it’s at least 5 inches underground and far removed from your home and garden).
- When it comes to bags, choose an eco-friendly, biodegradable option. But choose carefully, not all are created equal.
- Similarly, cat owners should consider eco-friendly cat litter alternatives.
Donate Pet Products You No Longer Use
Nearly every pet owner has tons of extra, no-longer-used pet items lying around. The next time you do a thorough cleaning of your home, set aside all inessential pet products you find. If they’re in suitable shape, consider donating them to a local animal shelter. If they’re not in good shape, recycle them or try to find a way to reuse or re-purpose them.
As every dog owner can attest, dogs make our lives better. They make us feel better, they love us unconditionally, they protect us, and they’re always there for support when the world gets us down. But it turns out they do more for us than we might even realize. From improved mood and fitness to longer lives, here’s 10 ways dogs make us happier and healthier.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
From stroke to heart attack, high blood pressure can have lethal, life-changing consequences. Did you know owning a dog can help lower your risk of blood pressure and blood-pressure-related health issues? In one study, researchers at the University of South Carolina, Columbia found that simply petting or speaking to an animal was enough to lower one’s blood pressure. When both petting and speaking to an animal, subjects’ blood pressures dropped even lower.
Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease and Improve Your Chances of Surviving a Heart Attack
While scientists are still working out the details of why, studies consistently show pet owners are less likely to suffer from heart disease. In addition to lower cholesterol and healthier hearts, dog owners are also more likely to survive a heart attack should one occur.
Help You De-Stress
Dog owners have long recognized the therapeutic rewards of their pups. After a long, stressful day at the office, those warm puppy greetings and loving smiles are just what the doctor ordered to help you unwind. A study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University has now confirmed this, finding that spending time with dogs can significantly lower your stress levels. Fortunately, our doggies benefit from the interaction, too—research has shown dogs experience less stress after enjoying one-on-one time with humans as well.
Make You Fitter
On average, pet owners live healthier, more active lives. From daily walks and park visits to activities like hiking, having a dog can significantly raise your cardiovascular activity. But by how much? The international Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity reports that dog owners enjoy 50 more minutes of physical activity each week than those without pets.
Strengthen Your Immune System
Do you commonly suffer from colds, infections and other annoying illnesses? Owning a dog might help. Research suggests owning a dog increases one’s secretion of immunoglobulin A, an antibody crucial to immune system health. Furthermore, it was found that children raised in homes with a pet are sick less often than those who weren’t.
As you might have guessed, loneliness and depression can be alleviated by owning a dog. Research shows that when humans interact with dogs, certain hormones are released into the bloodstream, including oxytocin, serotonin and prolactin, all of which are tied to improved mood and decreased depression.
Reduce Chronic Pain
Following surgery or catastrophic accident, patients often require prolonged use of pain medication to treat their symptoms. Sadly, these medications come with serious side effects, not to mention the risk of addiction. Owning a dog, it turns out, can help lessen your dependence on such medication. A study conducted at Loyola University Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing found that joint replacement patients needed less pain medication following surgery when their therapy included animal interaction.
Increase Life Expectancy
Given all the health benefits associated with dog ownership, it should come as no surprise that pups help increase our life expectancy, too. By lowering the risk of depression, stress and heart disease, and by helping increase the frequency of exercise and immune system health, dogs allow us to live longer, healthier lives. It’s not just physical health, either. Owning a dog has also been shown to help prevent cognitive decline, such as dementia.
Improve Your Relationships
Ever wonder why people with pets tend to be more friendly? Research has found those with strong animal relationships enjoy better social lives and more stable relations with fellow humans. A study conducted by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University concluded that people with close animal bonds are typically more involved with their community and more empathetic toward others.
They Can Help Recovery From Trauma
Several traumas—from assault to warfare—are known to be helped by consistent interaction with animals, dogs in particular. For example, soldiers suffering from PTSD have shown drastic, life-saving improvements on account of animal therapy. Scientists believe the hormone oxytocin—which is released into the bloodstream when humans engage with animals—is likely the cause. Oxytocin is associated with increased trust, social activity and improved mood.
In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month and Pit Bull Awareness Day (Oct 28), we caught up with Aften Bell, Founder of The Love Pit, a non-profit pit bull rescue located in Dallas, Texas. Built upon the mission of “reducing the homeless pit bull population through rescue, rehabilitation, training and advocacy,” the Love Pit is helping raise the bar for rescues the nation over. Covering everything from pit bulls’ unique personalities to the Love Pit’s inspirational beginnings, read our interview with Aften Bell below.
Can you give us a little background on the Love Pit: How long it’s been around, what inspired you to start it, how it all came together?
It really all started in 2015. I was coming home from work and I saw a dog walking into oncoming traffic. I got out and called to her, “Come here Sweet Pea.” For whatever reason, that name just came out. She slowly walked over to me, and as she got closer I saw the damage to her face. Basically, a big part of her face was missing—it had been chewed off by another dog. Seeing something like that can really change your perspective.
Once we got to the vet, I took some photos. I posted a single photo on Instagram, and within 48 hours, we had raised close to $5,000. It really inspired me to take a bigger step, not only to help dogs, but also to work with people who shared my vision. It took $1,500 of surgeries to get her fixed up. Then we took the rest of the money and rescued 13 more dogs from euthanasia in Ft. Worth. I ended up adopting Sweet Pea, and she’s still with us today.
Rescue is obviously a worthy cause, by why pit bulls in particular? Is it because Sweet Pea is a pit bull?
I was actually already fostering 4 pit bulls prior to finding her. Originally, I started with a general breed rescue. But after fostering more pits, I fell in love with their personalities and the breed in general. Also, after getting involved with other pit bull rescues, I got more educated about what was going on with pit bulls at shelters.
“Of the 1.4 million dogs euthanized at shelters every year, 40% are pitbulls. That’s nearly 500,000.”
” What a difference rescue, compassion and love make!” -Photo courtesy of The Love Pit Facebook Page.
What do you think makes the breed so special—What do you love about pit bulls so much?
It’s simple: It’s how much they love. They give so much of themselves to please their human, more than most breeds I’ve worked with. Their loyalty and affection is my #1 favorite thing. They’re also some of the easiest dogs to train. Last but not least, it’s their goofy personalities—those floppy ears and big smiles!
Has running the Love Pit changed your outlook on dogs, on people? If so, how?
As far as changing my perspective on dogs, mostly it’s just made me love and understand them more. As far as people go, I never realized how much rescue can affect people’s lives. I’ve had volunteers who suffer from depression and social anxiety—where they can’t be around crowds—but now, because they have a purpose and moral mission with these dogs, they’re able to go out to adoption events and connect with other volunteers. Rescue opens up this whole new world to people.
What do you say to those still apprehensive about pit bulls? How do you approach the misconceptions surrounding the breed?
I could tell you facts about pit bulls all day, but it’s not going to matter until you have an interaction with a pit bull firsthand. Until someone has that positive experience, it’s hard to change their mind.
I used to be afraid of pit bulls myself in high school. Then I met my first pit bull. He was a friend of mine’s dog, about 100 lbs, very intimidating looking. But he was a complete goofball! There was no aggression in him whatsoever. After that, everything I thought I knew about pit bulls went out the door. I wouldn’t have changed my mind had I not experienced that for myself. I encourage people to come out to our events. You don’t even have to volunteer. Just come out, see what we’re about, visit one our pit bull kissing booths, get a “I kissed a pit and I liked it” sticker, and come pet a dog. And then if you want to volunteer, by all means volunteer.
Rachel, long time TLP volunteer and adopter of #TLPalumni Cleo says her favorite part about the breed is: “They are always there for you and give you tons of hugs!!! And accept your hugs all the time!”
What is the rehabilitation process like for the pits you rescue?
We look at the rescue model differently. We don’t rescue based on how many dogs we can save, it’s more about quality over quantity. We invest 100% in every dog we rescue, from rehabilitation all the way to post-adoption. All of our foster parents are required to come to weekly training classes. Every dog has their own training plan, because every dog is different. Out of the 300 pit bulls we’ve fostered and rescued, we’ve never had to euthanize one for behavioural issues.
Maegan Carlile, fitness coach, volunteer for TLP and long time Pit Bull advocate, is pictured here with one of her recent fosters, Ella.
What are some ways that people can support or otherwise get involved with the Love Pit?
We are a 100% volunteer-based rescue, so donations are big for us. We’re very focused on transparency. We want you to know where your money goes. We also do not use boarding or kennel facilities, which means the number of dogs we can save depends on how many foster homes we have. Foster parents are basically the heartbeat of our rescue. When you foster parent with us, you’re not alone. You have your your own trainer, your own medical coordinator. We cover all bedding costs. We also offer to pay for all dog food.
Is the Love Pit doing anything special for Pit Bull Awareness Month?
Yes we are! We have quite a few things going on this month. We just started a new education program called Keep Calm, Bully On. A big part of our mission is not only rescue, training and rehabilitating, but also advocating and educating. After two years, we’re now finally able to start the educational portion of our mission. We’re launching this for Pit Bull Awareness Month.
We’re going to be down in Houston at Spinal Tap Brewery on Pit Bull Awareness Day as well for a Pit Bull Awareness festival, which we’re hosting in partnership with Brave Bully Rescue and Good Lif3 Bully Rescue.
If an earthquake, tornado or hurricane were to suddenly rip through your neighborhood, would you be ready? You might have a plan to ensure your family’s safety, but what about your pets? What would you do with your dog or cat if you had to evacuate; what supplies would you need to keep them safe during the ordeal? Every pet owner needs the tools and information necessary to prepare for large scale emergencies and natural disasters—because it very well could save your dog or cat’s life. Don’t let a disaster catch you unprepared: here’s how to keep your pet safe during extreme weather and other emergencies.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
First things first, you need to prep an emergency kit of supplies, as you likely won’t have time to assemble one in the event of an actual disaster. Store this kit close to your preferred exit, and make sure everyone in the home knows its location ahead of time. While it’s important to be thorough with your supplies, make sure the kit remains light enough to be easily portable. At the minimum, here’s what your kit should contain:
- Durable leashes/harnesses/carriers/collars for each pet
- Additional tags, with personal and vet contact information
- Pet Blanket
- Food for several days
- Water for several days
- Collapsible food/water bowl
- Necessary medications, medical records, and a waterproof bag to keep them in (most facilities require vaccination documentation before admitting pets)
- Small, pet-specific first aid kit
- A photo of you and your pet to verify ownership
- Thundershirts in the event your pet is easily frightened
- Non-toxic insect repellent
- A short, instructional care sheet: including feeding & medication schedules, behavior issues, and contact info for your vet
Never Stay at Home When an Evacuation Order is Given
If an evacuation order has been given, never stay at home with your pet just because you have no place to take them. This is unsafe and potentially life threatening for both you and your pet. To avoid a situation like this, you need to arrange accommodations for your pet before any such emergency occurs. More on that below.
Make an Evacuation Plan and Practice It
Once disaster strikes, it’s too late to make and execute an evacuation plan efficiently. If you’re a pet owner, you should outline an evacuation plan and route as soon as possible, and begin practicing it soon thereafter. It’s a good idea to include your pet in these practice sessions, so they won’t be startled when it comes time to enact them. At the minimum, your evacuation plans should include:
- A plan to bring your pet inside at the first sign of an emergency or extreme weather. This goes for official weather and emergency broadcast warnings, too
- A clearly chosen route of escape from your area, with one backup route at minimum, including a list of pet-friendly hotels along the way
- Verifying that your pet’s collar and tags remain intact and up to date just before leaving
- Remembering to collect the emergency kit you prepared for your pet in advance
- Calling and reserving, or verifying, any necessary boarding plans with your chosen facility, hotel or loved one
- Letting friends, loved ones and neighbors know that you’ve safely evacuated with your pet
- A plan of escape that allows you, your pet and family to evacuate in under 30 minutes in the event of immediate disaster
Arrange a Safe House For Your Pet
Knowing where to take your pet during a disaster is arguably the most important step in prepping your pet for an emergency. Most public storm shelters do not allow pets, so you’ll need to make other arrangements long in advance. First, contact your vet to inquire about local kennels and shelters that foster pets during emergencies. Second, see if any friends or relatives would be willing to care for your cat or dog in the event of an evacuation. Third, make a list of pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route. At the minimum, have a primary safe house and a backup just in case. Tip: If your safe house options include a friend or relative’s home, take your pet there beforehand so they can familiarize themselves with the environment and their temporary caregivers.
Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
A rescue alert sticker is an easy precaution to take in order to help protect your pet from possible disaster. These simple decals let rescue workers know how many and what types of pets are in your home. Rescue alert stickers should be placed in a highly visible location, such as the front door. While alert stickers can be purchased at most local pet shops, the ASPCA offers them free through their website, which can be found here. Tip: if you and your pets are forced to evacuate in the face of an emergency, write “evacuated” on your alert sticker to let rescuers know you’ve already left.
Closely Monitor Your Pet After the Disaster
For pets, the days following a disaster can be just as stressful and dangerous as the disaster itself. Their normal living environment might suddenly look and smell differently, which can be disorienting. For these reasons, you need to pay special attention to your pet after a disaster. At the minimum, monitor the following:
- Aggressive behavior is not uncommon following a traumatic experience like extreme weather. For both your pet and others’ safety, closely watch your cat or dog when around other animals and people soon after a disaster.
- During a disaster, things like fencing and gates might have been damaged. To prevent your pet from getting lost, keep them close until you can check that all such structures remain intact or are repaired.
- Following a natural disaster, your home and yard will likely look much different than they did before. From harmful debris to spilled pollutants like pesticides, the area surrounding your home could be littered with potential hazards. Do a sweep—checking for possible dangers—before you let your pet back inside or outside your home after a disaster.
Additional Tips for Weathering a Disaster With Pets
- Stay calm during an emergency situation—pets picks up on our energy and will react based on how you react
- Take your pet to any facilities they might frequent during an emergency, acclimate them to the surroundings and staff if possible
- Double check that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date
- Consider microchipping your pet for additional protection in case they become lost
- Choose an alternative caregiver who can go to your home and collect your pets in case an emergency occurs while you’re not at home.
Cooler evenings, multicolored leaves, amber sunlight—Fall is upon us. Filled with delicious cuisine and plenty of homemade baked goods, fall is the best season for food, bar none. Sadly, nearly all these holiday treats are unhealthy or just plain dangerous for our dogs, who will no doubt be begging for food scraps at nearly every holiday gathering. Thankfully there’s several fall foods we can feed our pups so they can share in the holiday celebrating, too. Here’s 9 things you can feel good about feeding your dog this holiday season.
Remember to thoroughly wash all fruits and veggies before giving them to your dog. Just to be safe, we also recommend consulting a vet before incorporating any new foods into your pet’s diet.
From bobbing for apples and pie, to applesauce and cider, apples are a staple of fall festivities. Luckily, this delicious and healthy treat can be enjoyed by your pup, too (minus sugar, salt and other additives, of course). High in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin A, apples can be given in slices, crushed into a sauce, or chopped and added to your dog’s regular diet (it’s good for their teeth, too). Just be sure to remove the entire apple core and seeds, as these contain arsenic and present a possible choking hazard.
Supermarkets are stocked with green beans during fall—and that’s good news for man’s best friend. Green beans are not only a good source of fiber, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and protein, but they’re especially beneficial for chubbier dogs, as they’re both low in calories and very filling. By adding raw or cooked green beans to your pup’s diet, you’ll not only promote healthy weight control, but you’ll be helping regulate your dog’s blood pressure and immune system, too.
From lattes to pies and everything in between, pumpkin seems to find its way into nearly every food during the autumn months. Good news: your dog can join in on the fun, too! By adding a few teaspoons of fresh or canned pumpkin to your pup’s food bowl, you’ll help promote improved digestive health as well as healthier skin and fur. But pay close attention to the ingredients label, as many types of canned pumpkin contain salt and sugar—additives which should never been given to your dog.
What would Thanksgiving be without sweet potatoes? As long as you hold the sugar, marshmallows, and other sweet and salty fixin’s, your dog can enjoy sweet potatoes this holiday season, too. In addition to helping with both constipation and diarrhea, sweet potatoes are a great source of B6 and vitamin C. Simply add a few teaspoons of cooked sweet potato to your pup’s food bowl, or give it as a reward for good behavior.
Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, beets are yet another good vegetable to add to your dog’s diet in moderation. Dog’s with liver issues can especially benefit from beet consumption, as this root vegetable is renowned for its detoxifying abilities.
Packed with vitamin A, B1, B2 and vitamin C, and beneficial for urinary tract health, cranberries are an awesome way to enrich your dog’s diet. Cranberries are best enjoyed raw and fresh, or in pure juice form. Avoid dry cranberries and juice cocktails, as the added sugars and preservatives can wreak havoc on your pup’s tummy. Because dogs aren’t built for a fruit-heavy diet, only give cranberries in moderation.
If your dog suffers from regular stomach problems, consider adding butternut squash to their bowl. While squash can add much needed fiber and potassium to your pup’s diet, make sure to thoroughly cook it first, as raw squash is difficult for animals to digest.
While not strictly a fall food, there’s just something about the smooth, buttery texture of peanut butter that screams autumn. Of all the human foods healthy for dogs, peanut butter seems to be the one they enjoy the most. Thankfully for pet owners, peanut butter is just as healthy for dogs as it is delicious, providing a solid source of protein, healthy fats, and vitamins B and E. When choosing a peanut butter for your pup, read the label closely and select only a raw, unsalted, no-sugar-added variety. Especially look out for Xylitol, a sweetener added to many low calorie peanut butters, as the ingredient is outright toxic for dogs.
Thanksgiving turkey is almost here, and unlike most holiday foods, turkey is something you can feel good about sharing with your pup. Lean, white meats like chicken and turkey are a fantastic, easily digestible source of protein for dogs. Just be sure to skip on the bones and the skin (which is fatty), and to only feed your pup turkey that was cooked free of spices. In other words, if your turkey’s been prepared with other ingredients like salt, pepper, onion or garlic, do not feed it to your pooch.