Bella's Tails

What to Know About Pet Joint Health

    Bella never lets us forget her Agility Vitamin after she eats her dinner. Not only is it a special treat in her eyes but it has so many added benefits for her joints as she gets older.
    Dr. Vogelsang does a great job outlining the importance of maintaining your pets joints and their joint health as they age in the following article.

What to Know About Pet Joint Health

cat playing on couch

Age is not a disease

We say that all the time in medicine, because it’s true. “He’s slowing down” is an observation, but it’s not a diagnosis. All too many times, when I’m asking someone how their pet is doing they will say, “Well, he’s slowing down, but he’s old. What are you going to do?”

Lots! We have lots of things we can do, especially for one of the most common diseases of aging dogs and cats: degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis (OA). In fact, one out of five pets are experiencing this right now. And many of them could be feeling a lot better.

DJD is more complicated than it might appear at first blush, but it’s also one of the most gratifying to treat when you’re able to improve a pet’s quality of life so significantly. Whether you have a senior pet with diagnosed or suspected DJD, or a younger pet you want to keep in good health for a good long time, there are things you can be doing right now to maintain their joint health.

Anatomy of a Joint

Unlike a heart or a kidney, a joint is not a discrete organ but a term used to describe the connection between bones. Joints vary in terms of structure, function, and components. Your knee joint, for instance, is a back-and-forth hinge joint, while the joints that connect the bones in your skull move very little. In both cases, this is a good thing.

Joints have multiple components such as cartilage, connective tissue like ligaments and tendons, and capsules that enclose the joint and keep everything contained. Depending on where the joint is located, its purpose is to protect the bones, allow free movement by reducing friction, and act as a cushion.

Cartilage is a critical tissue in the joint. It is comprised of cells called chondrocytes suspended in a matrix of collagen and proteoglycans, which trap water and keep the cartilage nice and plump. Healthy chondrocytes keep that matrix fully hydrated, which is essential for the joint’s ability to absorb forces without damage. Cartilage creates the joint cushion.

The synovial membrane is the tissue that surrounds the joint and keeps it sealed. The membrane secretes synovial fluid into the joint, which is critical for lubrication.

If there is any disruption to the cartilage, the synovial membrane, or the bone underneath the cartilage, your dog or cat can begin to develop a joint disease.

Causes of DJD

While DJD can result from the normal aging process, it is often accelerated in pets by an injury or other underlying health condition that causes stress or inflammation. Inflammatory compounds in the joint space disrupt the cartilage matrix, reducing its ability to retain water. As the cartilage dehydrates, it starts to become more brittle and rubbery, like a piece of cheese you left out overnight. It also becomes more likely to splinter. If it gets bad enough, the underlying bone can also be affected.

dog playing with ball

Treatment and Prevention

Unfortunately, DJD in dogs and cats is an irreversible process. Treatment is aimed at slowing down the progression of the disease, reducing pain, and maintaining movement in the joint. It is a complex process with a lot of different elements, which means one thing: the best treatment hits the disease process on multiple fronts. We call this ‘multimodal disease management,’ and it’s the gold standard in DJD therapy. Here are the different fronts from which we attack DJD:

    1. Anti-inflammatories. Remember when I mentioned those inflammatory compounds? There are a lot of them. No one medication or supplement gets them all, which is why we tend to combine them for better results.
      1. NSAIDS- These are the most recognizable of the bunch for most of us, and are nice because they reduce both inflammation and pain. In pets, these are prescription meds such as Rimadyl, Metacam, or Deramaxx. Please don’t use over the counter people medications like Advil or Aleve- they simply aren’t as effective and can be dangerous to your pets.
      2. Nutraceuticals and supplements- This is an ever-expanding group of treatments that gets lots of attention for being effective across many species, with a low incidence of side effects. The most recognizable names here are glucosamine/ chondroitin sulfate, but newer players on the market such as green lipped mussels are also giving great results.
      3. Adequan injections- This is an injection available through veterinarians that stimulates the cartilage to improve the matrix.

    2. Weight loss. If your pet is overweight- which describes about half the pets in the US! -this can accelerate the stress that causes cartilage to degenerate. If your pet is overweight, talk to your vet about what their ideal body weight should be. If they are the correct weight, well done! Keep it up.

    3. Alternative treatment modalities. I trained and became certified in veterinary acupuncture specifically to treat arthritic pets, with good results. I’ve also used lasers, a product that uses pulsed electromagnetic fields, and physical therapy. The more layers you add onto your treatment, the better the results.

    4. Prevention. Unfortunately, by the time a pet starts to limp or shows signs of pain, they have usually had DJD for some time and it is fairly advanced. That’s why preventive measures are so important. Here’s what pet owners should do from the get-go:
      1. Maintain a healthy weight for your pet.
      2. Maintain a regular exercise program to keep joints mobile and healthy.
      3. Keep your pet on a healthy diet and add omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
      4. If your pet is highly active or in a higher-risk category for DJD, consider adding nutraceuticals and supplements to their diet sooner rather than later.


Age isn’t a disease, but DJD is. It’s not often I say, “the more the merrier!” when it comes to treatments, but in this case you really can’t begin joint healthcare early enough. From diet to exercise to supplements, put your plan in place now to keep your pet in good health long into their senior years!


Holiday Gift Basket

Looking for the perfect gift idea for your favorite four legged companion?

Click here to choose from two different gift baskets that will keep those tails wagging all the way into the new year!

New customer? Email me at HealthForYouAndPets@gmail.com to receive a $5.00 gift certificate toward your purchase. Existing customer? Refer a friend and receive a $5.00 gift certificate toward a future purchase.

Lifes Abundance Holiday-Dog-Basket www.HealthForYouAndPets.com


Freeze-Dried Turkey Heart Treats

Bella was not amused with our photo shoot but she was willing to appease me because she knew the reward of her Freeze Dried Turkey Hearts would be worth it!

Bella Turkey Treats www.HealthForYouAndPets.com

Fans of primitive diets will love this single-ingredient, grain-free treat. And the flavor will make your doggo howl with delight!

The freeze-drying process preserves the robust, wholesome flavors that dogs crave, sealing in all the vitamins and minerals found naturally in our pasture-raised turkeys. With zero carbs, fillers or artificial anything, Turkey Hearts tempt the taste buds of even the fussiest eaters. Ideally sized, their meaty sumptuousness is a powerful motivator for good behavior!

If your dog has been hankering for something fundamentally nourishing, wish fulfilled!

A perfect alternative for pups who’ve developed allergies to chicken-based products.

You can’t beat a treat that’s all heart!

Dog Turkey Treats www.HealthForYouAndPets.com

GUARANTEED ANALYSIS:
Crude Protein (min) 72%
Crude Fat (min) 8%
Crude Fiber (max) 1%
Moisture (max) 6.5%

Ingredients
Turkey hearts.

Calorie Content (calculated):
Metabolizable Energy (ME) = 3736 kcal/kg, 5.6 Calories (kcals) per 1.5 g treat.

 

LA Banner


New Year's Goals For Pet Kids

Bella has always been on the slim side, that was until Carter started "sharing" his food with her. We were always very conscientious about not giving Bella table food and limiting her treats. This became very difficult with Carter who shows us he is finished eating by clearing off his tray of food onto the floor. Although Bella isn't allowed in the kitchen and by the table when we are eating she is a sneaky little lady and finds the perfect opportunity to get by his chair and help by cleaning up the floor.

In the cold Wisconsin weather we aren't great about getting out for our walks and playing outside like we do when the weather is a little more tolerable so over the last couple of months I have noticed Bella is getting a little chubby! I call it her winter pudge:)

Like Dr. V talks about in the article, I know the importance of managing Bella's weight and being proactive about leading a healthy active lifestyle for not only Bella but for the entire family. Luckily this past weekend we were able to get out and take Bella for some walks and run around outside with her. I will admit on the second day of getting back into walks we got right past the driveway and she needed a lot of encouragement to continue on. It was like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum, she was refusing so move. Once she got moving again we both did fine and made it home in one piece.

New Year's Goals for Pet Kids

Frenchie

Ah, January. A season for new beginnings, new resolutions, and some measure of regret for all the indulgences of the holiday season. If my gym is any indication, “get more exercise” is still on the top of most people’s list of New Year’s resolutions.

Fur kids don’t make resolutions, but if they did, half of them would be joining us in our pursuit of a healthier weight. Here’s a few facts about canine and feline weight you might not know:

1. More than half of dogs and cats in the US are considered overweight. It’s right up there with dental disease in terms of how frequently it is diagnosed. Because it creeps up slowly over time, many pet parents don’t even realize it’s happening until an annual vet check. Suddenly, your 12-pound cat is now 15 pounds. Yikes!

Tabby

2. Being overweight increases other health risks. Diabetes, joint disease, heart and lung disease, some forms of cancer and high blood pressure are all linked to excessive weight in dogs and cats. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same list we see in people. We all need to make an effort to go out and play, walk or run as a team!

3. Weight loss is a process. Some companion animals lose weight more easily than others, so it may take some experimentation to figure out the best course of action for your own dog or cat. One of the most common pitfalls is neglecting to measure food portions. When my dog Brody put weight on after my son took over feeding duties, I was shocked to realize that he was dumping food in the bowl without measuring. Brody was being overfed by almost 30%!

Whippet

4. Helping your fur kid be healthier can make you healthier, too! The Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that people who live with dogs are 34% more likely to walk at least 150 minutes a week. And if your fur kid is a puppy, guess what? You walk faster than people walking without a dog. Sometimes not in a straight line, am I right?

5. Pet kids at a healthy weight live longer. Dogs and cats at a normal weight have an average life expectancy up to 2.5 years longer than those who are overweight. So commit today and add more and better years to not just your own life, but your companion animal’s as well!

The great thing about weight, compared to other medical conditions, is that it is reversible. Talk to your veterinarian about the course of action that’s right for you. They can help you figure out your companion animal’s caloric requirements and ensure weight loss is done gradually and safely.

  Health For You And Pets www.HealthForYouAndPets.com


Four Common Skin Problems In Dogs

 

scritches

Skin problems are some of the most common complaints in veterinary medicine, right up there in the top three. Surprised? It shouldn’t be too shocking when you consider that the skin is the body’s largest organ, one subjected daily to the elements. And for dogs, skin is one of the organs most frequently affected by allergies. With well over 100 different causes of canine skin problems, it can be hard to sort out why your dog is red or itchy. So, how do you even begin to understand why your pup is scratching? Easy … you start with the basics. Today, we’ll take a look at the most common skin problems veterinarians see at the clinic.

In order to understand skin disease in dogs, we need to know the difference between symptoms and causes. The cause of skin disease is the underlying condition that predisposes a canine to the problem, such as a surface infection or something more serious, like endocrine disease. The symptoms are the outward physical manifestation of those causes. Common symptoms include itchiness (pruritus), hot spots, hair loss (alopecia) and scaly skin. Pet parents often feel frustrated when they very carefully and completely describe a set of symptoms but their vet can’t definitively determine the source of the problem. That’s because for every itchy dog, there are many experiencing multiple causes! Getting to the root cause of a symptom is the only way we can provide complete diagnosis, and hopefully provide your doggo with some relief.

Happy-Shiba-Inu

The most common causes of skin disease fall into four distinct categories: infection, parasites, endocrine and allergic disease. While this is not an exhaustive list, these categories account for the vast majority of problems.

1. Infections: Multiple organisms can take root and cause disease in the skin. We see bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus, yeast such as Malassezia, and fungus such as Dermatophytosis (which causes ringworm). These infections can cause a variety of symptoms such as hair loss, itchiness or redness. In order to determine the cause, the veterinarian often needs to look at a sample of skin cells under the microscope or send hair to culture. It is very important to know which organism is causing the infection to minimize time to resolution and make the patient comfortable as quickly as possible. Guesswork just doesn’t cut it very well! The right treatment makes all the difference.

2. Parasites: You only signed up for one dog, not the hundreds of bonus fleas or mites they can sometimes bring in. In addition to being gross, parasites can transmit infection to our companion animals (and sometimes to us), possibly leading to irritation and secondary infections when the itchiness becomes unbearable and dogs start chewing away at their skin. Some of the most common skin parasites are mange mites (Sarcoptes), fleas and ticks. The good news is, once we identify the parasite, treatment options are pretty straightforward and will eliminate the problem.

3. Allergies: Lick, lick, lick, chew, chew, chew. If you’ve ever been woken up at 2 am by the incessant sounds of a dog attacking his own skin, you know just how affected pets can be by the intense itching of allergies. In dogs, allergies fall into three major categories: flea, food and atopy (environmental allergies). Those three distinct causes all look very similar from the outside, so it can take some solid detective work and diagnostics to definitively name the culprit. While time-consuming, it’s obviously well worth it! Because allergic disease is a chronic condition, it’s one that we manage rather than cure. The more specific we are in our knowledge of the cause, the better we can manage the problem over the long term.

4. Endocrine: Disorders of the endocrine system can manifest in the skin in a variety of ways. Hypothyroid dogs may have thickened, greasy skin, while canines suffering from Cushings may have a distinctive pattern of hair loss on the trunk. While these skin symptoms are secondary to the main disease process, they offer important clues as to what’s really going on.

So, what can we as pet parents do to avoid doggie skin problems? Causes such as parasites are fully preventable with the right medicines, but allergies can be very difficult to prevent. You can, however, work on maintaining the health of the skin by giving your pet proper nutrition, adding essential fatty acids through skin-and-coat supplements. Perhaps the best first line of defense is by using dog-appropriate shampoos and conditioners that don’t strip the oils from the skin with harsh chemicals.

little-squirt

Life’s Abundance takes canine skin and coat health seriously. The first time you use Revitalizing Shampoo, you may already notice a change in your dog’s appearance after the first bath. Thanks to its unique formula, coats will be shinier and fuller, with less dander and no more “doggie smell”. With moisture-activated odor neutralizers, our shampoo features antioxidants and organic herbal extracts that penetrate into the hair shaft and promote coat health. Also included are kiwi and mango essences, selected because they too enhance the health of the skin, as well as leaving your dog’s coat smelling clean and fresh. 

Unless otherwise instructed by your veterinarian, you should not bathe your dog more than once every 2-3 weeks. If your dog’s coat could do with some freshening in between baths, use Bath Fresh Mist to neutralize odors and condition the skin and coat. And it’s so easy to use … simply spray and brush into in the coat. You will love the aroma and your dog will enjoy being pampered!

Golden-sheen

Nothing is lovelier than petting a dog with a beautiful, soft coat and healthy skin. With vigilance, premium nutrition and regular veterinary care, your dog can have the skin of a movie star! And, perhaps best of all, your pupper will enjoy the sweet, sweet relief of life free from itching.

 

Health For You And Pets www.HealthForYouAndPets.com


Concerned About Your Pets Joint Health?

Are you concerned about your fur baby's joint health? When Bella is in the mood to play she puts everything she has in it and sometimes I worry that she's overdoing it, that was until she started on Agility. Agility is holistically formulated and a tasty treat that Bella waits for every night before our walk.

 

Agility www.HealthForYouAndPets.com

Good joint health is crucial to your companion animal’s wellbeing. The ability to walk, run and jump represents a large part of your pet kids unique ability to express emotion. Unfortunately, aching and stiff joints are just as much a part of aging for dogs and cats as it is for humans. In fact, tens of millions of dogs and cats experience some form of joint challenges.

At present, several hip-and-joint formulas are marketed for companion animals. Unfortunately, most of these products treat the joint as an isolated goal; it is for this reason that they do not work as well as they could. 

Agility supplement
is a holistic formula, which means that it takes into account the needs of the whole body, including all the parts that work with the joints.

This formula helps maintain healthy joint cartilage and connective tissue, and to aid in the production of healthy synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints. This supplement features Glucosamine, MSM, sea mussels and hyaluronic acid. Agility Formula is a holistic, multi-action joint support formula containing scientifically-tested ingredients.

Glucosamine helps maintain and promote joint and connective tissue health. It has been shown to be essential in the healthy development and ongoing maintenance of connective tissue and synovial fluid. Research studies indicate that Glucosamine supports healthy joint flexibility, mobility and lubrication. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a natural source of organic sulfur, an element vital to the maintenance of healthy joints, bones, ligaments and tendons.

Sea mussels also contain Chondroitin Sulfate, which works in tandem with Glucosamine. And hyaluronic acid helps to keep cartilage strong and flexible to better cushion joints. These nutrients work synergistically with the other ingredients in Agility (vitamins E and C, boswellia serrata, alfalfa leaf extract, chondroitin sulfate, manganese and boron) to supply your companion animal with a comprehensive formula to help maintain the health of the entire musculoskeletal system.

And last but not least, this holistic formula has a delicious flavor that your furry friends will love! Join thousands of satisfied customers, and help your pet kids lead a healthier and happier life with Agility Formula.


Lyme Disease - An Emerging Problem

This article by Dr. Jane couldn't have popped up at a better time. A few weeks ago sitting at the dinner table I felt a little pinch on the back of my neck. I reached my hand back to feel something hard on the back of my neck. I tried to pull it and it took two attempts before I got it off, saw it was a tick threw it down and jumped out of my chair. I instantly felt as though I had bugs crawling all over me.

My husbands aunt is suffering from Lyme disease and her entire life has been turned upside down. It is a terrible disease and seems to be more of a problem with the number of ticks increasing.

Luckily for us Bella has short hair so it is easy to give her a thorough check her whenever she comes in from outside to make sure that a tick isn't hitching a ride in the house.

Lyme Disease - An Emerging Problem

Trail

It’s the height of summer, which means that mountain trails, bucolic meadows and forested thickets are beckoning your dog to romp and explore. This impulse may be at odds with concerns about new research on Lyme disease, which may have you more inclined to restrict your canine companion’s activities to the Great Indoors. Before you put the kibosh on outdoor fun, make sure you know all the facts about canine Lyme disease.

According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2014 State of Pet Health Report, based on the medical data from over 2.3 million dogs, incidence of canine Lyme disease has increased 21% since 2009. As of last year, one in every 130 dogs carries the disease-causing bacteria.

The risk of Lyme disease depends on where you live. In New England, Lyme disease rates are much higher than the rest of the country. New Hampshire has the highest rate of Lyme disease cases, with one in every 15 dogs affected! Compare this with Washington and Oregon, where only 1 in 1,000 dogs carried the bacteria.

In the last five years, populations of the two species of ticks that carry Lyme disease have skyrocketed. As white tailed deer populations have escalated (chiefly due to declines of predator species), so too have the tick species that feast upon them. This is especially true in states east of the Rocky Mountains. While much smaller in stature, but just as problematic in the Northeast, the white footed mouse is another carrier of the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. Greater numbers of animals that attract ticks translates to an increased likelihood that pet kids will be bitten.

Lyme disease is caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are carried by ticks which transmit the infection when they feed on animals and humans. The disease can cause generalized illness in animals and humans. Even though about 75% of dogs living in endemic regions are exposed to infected ticks, only a small percentage develop symptoms.

Lyme disease was first discovered in 1975, when an unusual outbreak of rheumatoid arthritis occurred in the children of Lyme, Connecticut. In the U.S. today, it’s the most common disease transmitted to humans by insects, and perhaps dogs as well. Infections can also occur in horses and cattle … even cats.

The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is arthritis, which causes sudden lameness, pain and sometimes swelling in one or more joints. Other symptoms include fever, lack of appetite, apathy and swollen lymph nodes. In severe cases, the infection can lead to kidney failure, which can prove fatal, although this outcome isn’t common (thank goodness).

If your pet kid is diagnosed with Lyme disease, don’t assume that you too are contaminated. Transmission of the illness from companion animals to humans, or vice versa, is highly unlikely.

You wear sunblock to prevent sunburns, so why not take preventative measures to deter ticks? There are many highly effective veterinary products that will kill ticks before they can transmit the bacteria. Just keep in mind that the best way to avoid the problem is to steer clear of tick-infested areas, especially in the spring when young ticks are most active.

After spending time outdoors, do a thorough search for ticks, on both yourself and your companion animals. If you locate any, they should be removed carefully with tweezers, pinching the tick near the head, where they enter the skin. Researchers have learned that infected ticks must feed for about 24 hours to transmit the bacteria to a susceptible animal. That means quick removal greatly reduces the chance of contracting the illness. Fortunately, Lyme disease is easily treated in dogs with antibiotics.

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 Health For You And Pets www.HealthForYouAndPets.com

 


Revitalizing Shampoo from Life's Abundance

Pamper your precious pet with a revitalizing botanical infusion of organic rosemary and sage. Enhanced with the nourishing essences of coconut and palm kernel oil, Revitalizing Shampoo naturally cleanses and beautifies coats. Even a small dollop of this conditioning formula works into a luxurious, foamy lather, to deeply cleanse and leave coats silky, fragrant and tangle-free. The luscious scents of mango and kiwi mingle with energizing citrus notes to bring out natural shine. Natural antioxidants from organic rosemary and sage help prevent damage from weathering and environmental factors. Natural emollients help soften hair and give the coat more body. 

Revitalizing Shampoo doesn’t just mask odors … moisture activated odor-fighters react immediately to absorb and neutralize tough pet odors. All that’s left after a bath is a beautiful coat, fragrant with a delicate citrus aroma. Gentle enough for puppies and kittens over 12 weeks of age. Item Size: 12 fl. oz.

Revitalizing Shampoo - www.HealthForYouAndPets

 

There is no better time to snuggle my Bella than after a bath with the Revitalizing Shampoo from Life's Abundance. She is so soft and smells amazing! In the past with other shampoos she would smell good, but nothing in comparison to how she feels and looks after using the Revitalizing Shampoo. Even after a day of play at daycare she still smells and looks great! A little bit goes a long way with this shampoo.

 

  Bella Revitalizing Shampoo www.HealthForYouAndPets.com

Want the best pricing on this shampoo? Click here to order or send me an email at HealthForYouAndPets@gmail.com and I can set you up as a wholesale member so you will get the best autoship pricing without being on autoship.


Not All Dog Treats Are Created Equal

For years, holistic practitioners have worked to educate consumers about how even the slightest changes in environment, stress and diet can cause significant changes in health. Dr. Jane Bicks is a holistic vet and believes that nothing should be overlooked when it comes to ensuring the wellness of our beloved buddies.

Since we know that food is the foundation for a healthy life, most people select the best food to provide the many essential nutritional components our dogs can’t do without. But to make sure they receive the nutrition required to help boost healthy functioning, additional nourishment from health treats can be just what the doctor ordered.

To that end, treats should be selected based upon their nutritional merits rather than on cost, flavor or glitzy packaging.

Your pet’s treats should add the healthy components that are known to support hardy immune systems, strong muscles and optimal health. The nutrients required for superior support of these systems can be found in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as in foods like cranberries, apples, tomatoes, rice bran, whole grains and many others. Unsurprisingly, these wholesome foods appear in the ingredient panels of some of the premium treats I’ve been fortunate enough to formulate for Life's Abundance.

If your dog could decide which treats they’d want, I feel confident that they would choose all of those offered by Life's Abundance, including Antioxidant Health Bars (Oatmeal & Apple Recipe), Gourmet Dental Treats (Honey Peanut Butter Recipe), Wholesome Hearts Low-Fat Treats and Tasty Rewards Nutritional Training Treats.

I feel very strongly that every treat you give your pet should have a health benefit so that at the end of the day, your pet truly is a reflection of his or her food, treats and love.

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Bella is a big fan of the Gourmet Dental Treats and I am happy knowing that I am providing her with a treat that she not only loves, but that is good for her too! For more information on Life's Abundance Gourmet Dental Treats or to order click here.

Gourmet Dental Treats www.HealthForYouAndPets.com

 

Are a Pet Lover or Pet Professional and seeking an additional ongoing income? Click Here for more information on becoming a representative for a company that offers only the best products for you and your pets.

 


A Closer Look At Pet Anxiety

Very interesting read. Our Bella is a very anxious girl and we always make a conscious effort to make her feel safe, comfortable, and most of all loved!

Jack Russell

As pet parents, we’re all vaguely aware that we should minimize the stress our pet kids experience. As a veterinarian, I think it’s important that we also comprehend the health risks of prolonged anxiety, too. The fact is, living in a fearful or anxious state for long periods of time can take a dramatic toll on the health of a companion animal.

Any time your pet feels endangered, whether the threat is real or imagined, the body prepares to defend itself by unleashing a torrent of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, that have far-reaching effects on the whole body. These hormones release energy, increasing respiration while inhibiting digestion, the immune system, growth, reproduction and even pain perception. These hormones also decrease blood flow to areas of the body that are necessary for movement. This is appropriate for survival in a real crisis, but when fear, anxiety or stress continues chronically, negative health effects are a real possibility. These effects could include fatigue, hypertension, gastrointestinal problems, skin disease, as well as metabolic and immune problems. You might be surprised to know that pets can manifest many of the same conditions that we do!

Chronic anxiety and stress can even cause permanent damage to the brain. We know that animals staying in shelter facilities are at increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, including upper respiratory tract infections, litterbox problems, hair loss and bladder inflammation. And that’s nothing compared to the extreme duress of prolonged fear experienced by dogs in puppy mills! We can see the affects of stress on dogs when they exhibit signs of stress colitis, an inflammatory GI condition that causes diarrhea - often seen after boarding, veterinary visits, or grooming. Stressed dogs suffering from separation anxiety can also be destructive, chewing carpet, baseboards, or scratching up doors. Dogs that are chronically stressed can lick themselves raw, creating skin conditions like lick granulomas.

Apart from the mental and physical distress, stress hormones also imprint any fearful situation firmly in your pet’s memory as something that was scary and life-threatening. These feelings can be recalled from something as seemingly innocuous as pinpricks from a vaccine needle, a person wearing a lab coat or the sight of nail clippers. Any memory of frightening situations can prove to be a powerful fear stimulus. When your companion animal encounters a similar sort of situation, the stress hormones are released and the fear cycle resumes all over again.

The effects of fear and anxiety can be profound and highly distressing. We need to recognize fear in our pets, do more to decrease their fear when possible, and prevent fear by associating potentially fearful situations with positive stimuli. As you can see, dogs and cats who demonstrate pathologic levels of fear or anxiety need our help, not only for their emotional well being, but their physical well being, too!