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.
Our planet is saturated with pesticides: They’re in our water, our food, our backyards our homes, even inside our bodies. Because of this, our pets are constantly exposed to these harmful chemicals, and therefore always at risk of pesticide poisoning. Whether ingested, inhaled, or simply absorbed from the environment, your pets are exposed to toxic pesticides every day—regardless if you personally use pesticides or not.
Because protecting pets from pesticides is a big part of what we do here at Cedarcide, we wanted to help you identify the signs & symptoms of pesticide poisoning in your pet. However, If you’re reading this right now and suspect your pet may be suffering from pesticide poisoning, shut off the computer and head to your nearest veterinarian immediately. Even low dose pesticide poisoning can be life threatening to your pet, and time is crucial to their survival.
Below are the most common signs & symptoms associated with pesticide poisoning in both cats and dogs. Note: Symptoms will vary depending on the severity of exposure; also, most animals will exhibit only a few of the symptoms, not all of them—and in rare cases, they won’t show any specific symptoms at all, just a general lethargy or lack of energy.
Here’s what you need to look for in your pets when it comes to pesticide poisoning:
If you’re anything like us, leaving your dog at home when traveling is hard. The thought of being away from your best animal friend for a week or longer is enough to give any serious pet-owner separation anxiety. Luckily, there’s an easy solution: bring your dog along for the ride, or flight. Vacationing with pets is the absolute best, but without adequate preparation and careful planning, it can be the absolute worst. Follow the tips below to make sure you and your pup share a safe and memorable traveling experience.
Pack the Necessary Gear
Traveling with your dog, while rewarding, can be quite a handful. Remembering to bring all the necessary gear will make the experience much simpler, and ultimately much more fun. At the minimum, do not forget the following items:
- Food & treats, enough for the entire trip
- Filtered or bottled water (For the sake of our planet, try to avoid plastic bottles)
- Food & water bowls
- A dog-specific first aid kit
- A Carrier crate
- Leash or harness
- Health certificate from your vet, and other necessary medical records.
- Poop bags
- Naturally sourced flea & tick spray (apply daily, and before walks or hikes)
- Your dog’s favorite toys and blankets.
- Necessary medications
- Spare set of current ID tags.
- Cleaning materials in case of of accidents (wet wipes, paper towels, natural pet stain remover, etc)
Prep Your Pet For Travel
The quality of your dog’s travel experience will depend largely on how well you prepare them for the trip. Since they’ll be spending lots of time in their crate over the coming days, it’s vital that you acclimate your pet to their travel crate. In the weeks leading up to your trip, get your pup used to their carrier by serving them meals inside of it, and encouraging them to nap or spend the night inside at least once, too. Do not force the carrier on your dog if they’re not crate-trained; doing so might make them afraid of it. Instead, allow them to explore the crate for themselves, encouraging them with treats and positive reinforcement when necessary.
If you’re driving instead of flying, take a few test drives with your dog secured inside their travel crate. This will accomplish two things: First, you’ll help them get used to riding inside a car while in their crate, and second, you’ll learn how well your dog handles car travel—in terms of motion sickness, accidents, general behavior, etc.
Before Traveling, Visit Your Veterinarian
Because not all dogs are good candidates for air or road travel or both, it’s important to schedule a checkup with your vet beforehand. Most airlines require a health certificate from your vet dated within 10 days of your scheduled departure, so be sure to acquire the proper paperwork during your visit, too. Pet health requirements vary based on airline and location, so contact your chosen airline and the foreign office of your destination country before your vet visit.
Choose Pet-Friendly Lodging
Some hotels only allow certain sizes and breeds of dog, while many do not allow any pets at all. Doing some preliminary research on pet-friendly lodging will save you a lot of headache in the long run (tip: Go Pet Friendly is a good resource for planning pet-friendly vacations). Even within pet-friendly environments, remember to respect fellow guests by keeping your pup as quiet and calm as possible. Also, never leave your dog unattended in a hotel or motel room—dogs in unfamiliar locations often become anxious, and will bark loudly or possibly even damage their surroundings.
Choose the Right Crate
While the size and shape will depend upon breed and age, there are in general two types of carrier crates: soft-sided and hard-sided. In terms of flying, soft crates are better for carry-on, and hard-sided are better for cargo travel. Regardless, use a USDA-approved shipping crate with plenty of ventilation that’s large enough for your dog to stand up, move around, and lie down in. It’s extremely important to tag your crate with your dog’s name, the words “live animal,” and your final destination, personal phone number and address. To make your pet more comfortable, we recommend lining the crate with bedding and including some of your dog’s favorite toys and blankets in the crate, too. If you’re driving instead of flying, always keep your dog inside a secured carrier when on the road.
Protect Your Dog From Biting Insects & Other Pests
Even though your dog is always at risk of contracting illnesses or bites from bugs like mosquitoes and ticks, he or she is especially vulnerable when traveling. For your dog’s safety, apply a naturally sourced, pet-safe repellent to your pet daily and before outdoor activities such as hiking or visiting dog parks.
Prepare For Your Flight
First, always contact your chosen airline before flying, as each one has their own rules and stipulations regarding pets and how they should travel. Next, book you and your dog’s flight at the same time and as early as possible—most airlines have limited space for pets, so early booking is essential. For the safety of your pet, make sure to fly a direct, non-stop flight, and try to aim for a weekday departure. Airports are typically less busy on these days, which should help limit potential complications and travel stress. To prevent accidents, do not feed your dog for 4-6 hours before flying, and make sure to take them for a walk as close to departure time as possible. Lastly, make sure your pup has access to water during travel—risking an accident is better than risking dehydration!
When Driving, Adhere To the Following Guidelines
- Never leave your pet unattended—not for a moment! Even with cracked windows, in temperatures of only 85 degrees, the inside of your car can reach 110 degrees in just 10 minutes.
- Never allow your dog to hang their head out of the window. This might look like fun, but the ASPCA warns this can lead to inner ear damage and even lung infections.
- The AAA estimates that over 30,000 auto accidents are caused by unrestrained dogs each year. Always have your pet in their crate and secured when road-tripping.
- Plan out your trip in advance, making sure that all scheduled destinations are pet-friendly and can sufficiently accommodate your pup.
- The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends pet owners stop every 2-3 hours to allow their dogs to walk around, grab a drink, and go to the bathroom.
- Keep cool, filtered water close at hand to ensure your pup stays hydrated between pit stops.
- Keep your pet’s medical records handy, as you might need to show them to authorities when crossing state lines.
- Keep your car well ventilated during road trips—this will guarantee your pup’s carrier receives plenty of fresh air.
Go for a Long Walk Once You Arrive
Once you reach your final destination, but before checking into your hotel, take your dog for a long, exploratory walk. This will give your dog the opportunity to become more familiar with their surroundings, while stretching their legs and going to the restroom. A nice long walk will also exercise your dog and relax them a bit, making them more receptive to the unfamiliar experiences they’ll encounter over the next several days.
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Fourth of July is just around the corner—Happy Independence Day! In addition to yard work, bug-proofing your lawn, and collecting party supplies, you need to consider your pet’s safety. Humans might enjoy the thunder and brilliant display of fireworks, but it can be a terrifying experience for our furry friends. Did you know July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters? An influx of lost pets fleeing firecracker noises flood local shelters. Sadly, some of these pets never find their way back home. Follow these 10 simple guidelines to keep your pets safe this Fourth of July.
Keep Your Pets Inside
On July 4th—and the days just before and after the holiday—keep your pets inside. Even outside dogs and cats should be kept safely indoors. The loud noises of fireworks can cause your pet to break their restraint or attempt to escape your backyard, accidentally harming themselves or others in the process. And obviously please never use fireworks around your pets. Ever.
Create a Safe Space for Your Pet
In addition to keeping them inside, we recommend creating a calming environment for your pet during Fourth of July celebrations. Placing your pet in a quiet room with soothing music or television sounds will help distract them from the loud crashes going on outside. If your pet is crate-trained, placing them inside their crate in a quiet location and covering it with a blanket can help make your pet feel much safer.
Close All Doors, Windows, Curtains and Blinds
When frightened by the alarming sights and sounds of fireworks, pets often panic, attempting to flee the perceived danger at all costs. Pets have been known to break glass and even jump out of second story windows to find safety. To avoid such dangers, firmly shut all windows and doors, and pull closed curtains and blinds. Keeping your pet secured in a windowless room during July 4th is even better.
Double Check Collars and I.D. Tags
Even full-time indoor pets should never be without a collar and up-to-date tags. Before July 4th, verify that your pet’s tags are current (including microchip info), and that both tags and collar are securely fastened. If your pet has yet to be microchipped, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian about having it done as soon as possible. Lost pets reach an all time high during July 4th, and microchips statistically improve the chances of recovering your pet if they escape.
Prep for Potential Escape
Even after taking all the proper precautions, your pet might still escape. To prepare for this situation, take current photos of your pets to ensure you can help shelters quickly identify them in the event they become lost. The ASPCA Mobile App can be very useful, too, providing pet owners with a step-by-step guide on how to search and recover lost pets as soon as possible.
Keep Your Pets Away from Alcohol
Summer holidays are a fun time to grab drinks and make memories with family and friends. Because alcohol is more abundant during Fourth of July weekend, it’s important to be cautious about leaving beers and cocktails unattended and within reach of pets. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is toxic for pets, and can even be fatal if large quantities are ingested. Tell your holiday guests about these risks, and help keep a close watch on their drinks at all times.
Don’t Feed Pets From the Table
Onions, chocolate, avocado, coffee, salt, raisins, grapes, dough—all are toxic and potentially fatal for your pet. However tempting, you should never feed your pet from the table. Making sure that holiday guests understand this, too, is important. For more info on which human foods are toxic for pets, click here.
Use Pet-Safe Insect Repellent
Many pet owners use bug repellents and sunblock on their pets during the summer months. However, most bug sprays and sunscreens are not formulated for animals, and can cause serious harm to your pets. Make sure that any and all topical products used on your animal are pet-specific or pet-safe. (Tip: It’s recommended that you use an a naturally sourced, pet-safe insect repellent on your pet anytime they’re exposed to biting insects like fleas, ticks and heartworm-carrying mosquitoes. July 4th is no different!).
Guard Against Heatstroke and Dehydration
While your pets should remain inside during fireworks and other loud July 4th celebrations, they’ll likely be outside at some point during the holiday weekend—whether for a walk, hike, or just playtime in the backyard. It’s going to be a hot weekend, and because nothing ruins a holiday like a panicked trip to the vet, you should monitor your pet for dehydration and heatstroke. Make sure to take regular breaks in the shade when playing outdoors with your pet, and ensure they also drink plenty of water. For more hot weather safety tips for pets, click here.
Do a Post-Holiday Safety Check
Beer bottles, firecracker debris, BBQ skewers, lighters, matches, and discarded food can all seriously harm your pet. After the holiday festivities have concluded, do a thorough sweep of your home and yard to remove all potentially dangerous items that guests may have left behind.