A Man And His Dog – A Symbiotic Relationship

A Man And His DogBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Want to de-stress?  Get a dog!  In addition to the emotional benefits of dog ownership, there are many ways that dogs can improve your health.  Their companionship not only makes you feel good, it can help you stay well.  Just a few minutes spent with your dog can reduce your stress and anxiety levels.  Your body actually goes through physical changes that affect your mood by increasing the production of serotonin, a feel good chemical, and decreasing the production of cortisol, a stress hormone.  Some of the ways that having a dog can benefit your health are:

  • Studies show that dog owners have lower blood pressure and lower heart rates than people who don’t have dogs.  Another study showed that children with hypertension had lower blood pressure rates while petting their dog. 
  • Largely attributed to lifestyle factors, researchers have found that people who own dogs have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and have a lower risk of dying from cardiac disease and heart failure.  Dog owners tend to be more physically active and less obese.
  • Regular walks with your dog can increase bone and muscle strength.  Walks provide exercise, fun and enjoyment, and are healthy for both humans and pets.
  • The unconditional love that a dog provides can help people deal with and recover from depression.  Caring for and engaging with your pet can give you a positive focus. 
  • Dog owners tend to be more social.  Engaging with other pet owners helps to keep the mind active. 
  • One in three dogs living with diabetics can detect a sudden drop in glucose levels and can alert their owners to the danger. 
  • Children with ADHD can benefit from caring for a dog as they learn to plan and be responsible, burn excess energy playing with their pet and get a boost in self esteem by bonding with their pet. 
  • Dogs just seem to know when you don’t feel well and their comforting presence can help you feel better. 
  • There are many types of trained therapy dogs that aid and assist their owners who have special needs or medical issues. 

Bringing a dog into your life involves commitment to their health, happiness and well being.  Establishing a relationship with a vet is the first step toward maintaining the health of your dog.  Animals need vaccinations to protect them from distemper, viruses, parasites and rabies.  Flea and heartworm protection is essential for your pets health and comfort.  Just like humans, animals can develop health problems and diseases.  And like their owners, pets require regular checkups, exercise, good nutrition, supplements and preventative measures to stay healthy and happy.  Fortunately, many serious illnesses can be prevented or treated. 

Chronic pet diseases are on the rise.  Prevention and early detection are key to pet health.  Being aware of changes in your pet’s behaviors can alert you to potential problems.  Responsible dog ownership requires familiarity with the most common dog illness symptoms including:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Limping
  • Severe itching

Here are  some of the top health conditions and illnesses in dogs:

  1. Heartworms:  Heartworms are serious and potentially deadly parasites that infect a dog’s heart and arteries.  Caused by larvae from a mosquito bite, a heartworm infestation can be avoided with regular use of preventative medication. 
  2. Obesity:  Just as obesity is a human epidemic, we have misconceptions of our pets obesity as well.  Overweight dogs have a higher risk of diabetes, joint pain and liver disease.  Dogs need a healthy diet and exercise plan to stay in good shape and keep their health optimum.  If your dog is overweight, reduce the calorie intake and increase the amount of exercise. 
  3. Infectious diseases:  Canine parvovirus and distemper are extremely contagious and potentially deadly.  Early prevention with proper vaccines is vital to protect your pet as there are currently no medications that can destroy either virus. 
  4. Kennel cough:  This highly contagious form of bronchial inflammation is caused by exposure to other infected dogs.  Kennel cough can be treated with antibiotics. However, a preventative vaccine is advised, especially if your dog is frequently exposed to other dogs at a kennel, groomer or doggie day care. 
  5. Lower urinary tract problems:  Common problems include incontinence, bacterial infections and kidney or bladder stones.  Treatment options include antibiotics, dietary changes or possible surgery to remove stones. 
  6. Dental disease:  Like humans, tartar buildup is an issue.  Periodontal disease is common in dogs and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and other serious health problems.  Dental cleanings may be necessary to remove the tartar.  Brushing your dog’s teeth with dog toothpaste is advised if your dog will tolerate it. 
  7. Skin problems:  Skin problems can be caused by allergies, parasites and infections.  Fleas, ticks, ear mites and mange mites can result in itching, scratching and general misery.  Dogs can develop allergies to common dog food ingredients which in turn trigger skin problems.  Some dogs irritate their skin through excessive licking that may be caused by boredom or stress.  Dietary changes can be implemented to help control food allergies and medicated shampoos to rid parasites may be indicated.
  8. Ear infections:  Dog’s ear canals are longer than humans and may require cleaning and monitoring.  Waxy buildup, bacteria and parasites all contribute to ear problems. 
  9. Arthritis:  Arthritis prevalence has increased 38% in the last five years.  Glucosamine chondroitin is recommended to protect joints and anti-inflammatories to manage pain. 
  10. Vomiting and diarrhea:  An isolated bout is not generally a cause for concern.  If your dog vomits repeatedly for more than a day, have a veterinary examination as it may be a sign of a serious illness. 

Our dogs are family members that share our homes.  Providing a clean, safe and relaxing environment helps your dog to thrive.  Provide proper nutrition, plenty of water, exercise, a place to play devoid of hazards, health maintenance, love and attention and your dog will reward you with years of unconditional love, loyalty and faithful companionship.

Supplements for pet health and maintenance:

Omega-3 Pet Soft Gels by Nordic Naturals contain an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA to maintain optimum pet health.   Derived exclusively from wild anchovies and sardines from the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru, these important nutrients help support healthy skin and coat, joints, heart, and brain and eye development and maintenance. 

Derma Strength For Dogs and Cats by Vetri-Scienceis an advanced formula for skin health and allergy support.  This effective formula supports the skin and coat for dogs and cats with food or environmental sensitivities or seasonal allergies. 

Canine Sports Basics by Thorne Vetprovides training, performance and endurance support for active dogs.  This product supports healthy joints, muscles and stamina for dogs prone to sports injuries, and helps with normal recovery time after strenuous activity. 

UT Strength Smoke Flavor by Vetri-Scienceis recommended to maintain proper urinary tract  and immune response function.

Gastriplex by Thorne Vetprovides innovative, comprehensive intestinal support that combines amino acids and botanicals for mucosal support, probiotics for gut integrity, and ingredients that support the animal’s normal inflammatory response.

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