by Cyndie Anderson, Owner and Chief Pet Lover at Pooch Pros Pet Care Services LLC
We love our pets! And loving them sometimes means giving in to the look for our human food. You know the look! However, some foods are particularly dangerous for our pets and can cause stomach upset, seizures or even death. Be aware of what is toxic and take action to ensure your pets are not digesting dangerous human delights!
Grapes and Raisins: These can cause kidney damage, kidney failure and even death. While not every pet will react the same way, it is best to avoid them.
Artificial Sweeteners: Xylitol, a popular sweetener found in gum, candy and even some diet versions of peanut butter, is deadly. It can causing insulin spikes and drops in blood sugar resulting in seizures, shock and eventual death. Some low fat peanut butters even contain xylitol so be sure to read labels well. Be extra cautious leaving items that contain it in reach of your pet.
Garlic: While controversial because of the possible health benefits for dogs, Garlic has been known to have severe consequences for pets. It can cause the liver to recognize red blood cells as damaged, resulting in anemia, lethargy, difficulty breathing and even death.
Avocados: Avocados are safe for dogs but toxic to birds, cows, sheep, horses and goats. Birds show signs of difficulty breathing and swelling while cattle, sheep, horses and goats can have digestive problems and breast infections from ingestion.
Chocolate: The chemical theobromine is the culprit in chocolate that causes many problems for pets. The darker and purer the chocolate, like baker’s chocolate for example, the higher the level of theobromine. It causes hyperactivity, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures and sometimes death.
Caffeinated Beverages: Coffee, tea and soda containing caffeine are toxic for your pet. Large doses cause heart arrhythmias, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and even coma.
Bacon and Ham: High in fat, bacon and ham can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be very serious and lead to hospitalization.
Cooked Bones: Surprisingly, cooked bones are NOT good for your pet. They splinter easily and can puncture the gastrointestinal tract causing peritonitis. The only solution is surgery. If you must feed bones to your pet, feed raw bones. They are available at many local grocery stores from the meat department.
Pitted Fruits: The pits in fruits such as peaches, plums and nectarines contain the poison cyanide. They are also the perfect size for getting lodged in the gastro intestinal tract.
Rhubarb: The leaves of the rhubarb plant can cause a drop in blood calcium levels. This results in salivation, tremors, lethargy, loss of appetite and possibly kidney failure.
Macadamia Nuts: An unknown toxin in macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, weakness, tremors, fever and lethargy.
Onions: Onions contain a chemical called thiosulphate. Thiosulphate causes red blood cells to burst, resulting in hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic Anemia shows up after a few days with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, breathlessness, lethargy and sometimes even death.
Sugar: Sugary, high fat sweets are never good for your pet. They can cause pancreatitis and particularly in dogs, lead to diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy and abdominal pain.
Raw Fish: Raw fish has been known to cause a Vitamin B deficiency in pets. This deficiency could result in seizures. Fish that are most toxic include salmon and trout. Some fish, like salmon, can also carry parasites that can be deadly if not treated properly.
Raw Meat: While controversial, raw meat can be dangerous if infected with bacteria such as e. coli, or salmonella. If you feed raw meat to your pets, get the highest quality possible to avoid infection.
Dairy Products: After puppyhood, most dogs can no longer digest dairy, being lactose intolerant. Too much milk can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Cheese has less lactose than milk so small bites are tolerable to most pets.
While it’s tempting to share our treats with our pets, think twice about what you are putting in their mouth. What is delicious to us could be deadly for them.
About the Author:
Originally from the Shenandoah Valley, I have been in Northern Virginia for 21 years. I left the corporate world in 2000 to stay at home with my two stepdaughters. After becoming an empty nester I went back to work in retail part time. Once I had done that for about a year I felt like I wanted to do something different. There are two things I am really passionate about: music and dogs. I decided to take my love for dogs and start Pooch Pros Pet Care Services. Having previously worked for a pet sitting service, I knew this would be a perfect fit for me. I now employ 5 independent contractors and we service 45 customers. I am mama to two fur babies: Target, a 14-year-old mixed breed and Jeeves, a 9-year-old Maltese.
by Dr. Stephen Duren, Ph.D. in Equine Nutrition and Exercise Physiology and owner of Performance Horse Nutrition, LLC
For those people who own horses, properly feeding them is an important responsibility. A nutritionally balanced diet will allow horses to perform, reproduce, grow and maintain their health. However, with the current economy how do horse owners balance their horses’ diets under a barrage of economic pressure? (more…)
1. Horses need to be fed at least twice daily–every day. That doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it also means you’re locked in to a twice-daily routine, which plays havoc with vacation time or weekend visits with friends for family. There are two ways to manage this. First, check out the boarding facilities close to you to see if they can accommodate short term boarding requests. Second, see if you can arrange a reciprocal arrangement with a horse buddy–I’ll feed yours when you’re out of town if you’ll feed mine. It will bring you peace of mind knowing you have options. Otherwise, you can end up resenting your horse because you feel trapped by the demands of basic horse care.
The amount of hay and grain (feed concentrate) a horse needs depends on his age, breed, amount of daily activity, season, and many other factors. Do you know how much your horse needs?
2. What about water? Horses drink gallons of water daily. How are you going to get water to your horse? Horse troughs are easy ways to do that, but they need to be cleaned frequently because algae builds up in them easily. Cleaning a horse trough requires draining the remaining water, and scrubbing with bleach or other cleaning solution to remove the algae. An alternative is an automatic waterer. They must be plumbed in order to supply water when the horse drinks. These, too, must be cleaned frequently to prevent algae build up.
3. Where are you going to buy and store your hay and grain? If you don’t know much about to assess the quality of hay, you will need to buy it at a local feed store or other hay retailer, which can be expensive. If you’re knowledgeable, you may be able to buy directly from a hay farmer. When comparing prices, consider whether they will deliver and stack the hay for you. Do you plan to pick up and stack the hay yourself? If so, you’ll need a pickup truck that will accommodate a week or month’s worth of hay. Also consider that hay bales can weight anywhere from 50 lbs to over 100 lbs depending on the type of hay and how tightly the bales are bound. Do you know how to tell whether hay (or grain) is moldy or “off”? Also keep in mind that grain attracts rodents, so you will need an airtight storage container in which to keep it. If you just toss the 50 lbs bags in a corner of your property, expect to find rats, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds rooting around in the bags.
4. Remember that your horse’s stall or paddock will need to be cleaned DAILY. This is absolutely essential basic horse care. Letting manure pile up is not only a health hazard, it can cause problems with your neighbors. They won’appreciate the sight and smell of manure, or the flies manure attracts. That means you will be out there every day mucking out–rain, snow, or shine. One solution is to divide the mucking out chore between yourself and other people, such as spouse, teenaged children, or horsey friends who will reciprocate the favor. Many high schools have 4-H clubs whose teen members are responsible enough and eager enough to do farm work for reasonable pay or in exchange for the opportunity to ride your horse.
5. What are you going to do with all that manure? So you’ve mucked out your horse’s stall or paddock. Where are you going to put it? Thinking you can just make a manure pile? Re-read #2 above. Some options include taking it to your local county dump (they may charge you for this), have a farmer remove it (hog farmers have good use for manure), or find a tree nursery that would be interested in it. It makes fabulous fertilizer!
6. Do you have enough room for a 1,000-1,500 lb animal to move around in? Horses are grazing animals, and their digestion system works best when they can move about freely. One acre per horse is recommended by most veterinarians and equine professionals. If you keep him in a small paddock or stall except when you’re riding him, this could be a problem. He may have a lot of pent up energy and you might end up having to lunge him before his mind settles down to actually be ridable. And all that idleness can increase his risk of colic. If you think you have enough land to keep him in a pasture, consider this: Horses graze all of the time if they can. So your green pastures will turn into dry lots very quickly unless you can rotate your horse among two or more pastures. That means 2-3 acres that can be divided into separate grazing areas.
7. Horses are social animals, so they need friends. Can your property accommodate more than one horse? If not, one solution is to coordinate and rotate grazing areas with your horse buddies who are also keeping their horses at home. That not only gives pastures some time to recover but it will give your horse a social group to interact with. Horses are naturally social animals, and isolation can be hard on them. Turn out time with other horses is an essential part of basic horse care.
8. Do you have enough insurance? Keep in mind that a horse is often considered an “attractive nuisance” by county laws. If a child decides to jump over your fence to pet your horse and is injured in the process, you will be liable. If you decide to hire someone to muck out your horse’s stall or paddock, and that person is injured, you will be liable. Make sure your home insurance covers this contingency.
9. How much do you know about horse care and handling? Do you know how to take a horse’s vital signs (pulse, temperature, capillary refill rate, and respiration?) Do you know how to tell whether your horse is lame, and if so, which leg is the problem? Would you be able to tell if your horse were colicking, and would you know what to do? Would you know what to do if your horse injured himself? Do you know which vaccinations and dewormers your horse receives, and when he needs to get them? Do you know how frequently your horse’s teeth need to be floated? Do you know what a Coggins test is, and when/whether you need to have one done annually? Do you know how horses’ feeding and care needs change as they age? If your horse got lose in the neighborhood, are you confident you could retrieve him safely on your own? If you have any doubt about these things, take the time to learn about basic horse care and basic horse veterinary care. Keep the phone number of a local vet in your phone contacts or prominently posted where you can find it in an emergency.
10. Will your farrier come to your property? Most farriers prefer to shoe horses at facilities that give them multiple horses to shoe, and have barns large enough so that they can drive their vehicle inside or at least right up to a sizable barn door. Check to make sure your farrier will come to your property. If not, then try to get on his shoeing list at a local hors boarding facility.
11. Do you have a horse trailer or access to a horse trailer? This is absolutely necessary for emergencies, veterinary procedures, or taking your horse to be shod if your farrier will not come to your property.
12. Do you know which plants, weeds, and trees are toxic to horses? Some of the most beautiful trees, shrubs, and plants are toxic to horses, such as black walnut, oleander, and chick weed.
With enough careful planning, you can keep your horse safely at home. You can find useful information about each of these issues here.
The Thinking Equestrian
by Alison Martin, founder of Animal Soul Connection
As an animal communicator, one of the topics I hear from my clients is “What I can do to make my animal companion happy?” What we often learn is our animal friends simply would like to spend time with us – time uninterrupted, without distractions and with us fully present. When you spend time with your animal family, are you watching TV while you pat your dog on her head; texting while you take a walk around the block; brushing your cat but thinking about work? I think you see where I’m going with this. When we’re not fully present with our animal companions, we are missing out and so are they.
The love our animal receives from us when we are fully present with them, heart and soul, delights them.
I encourage you to let go of all distractions, even for a few minutes, and simply enjoy being with your animal friend.
In addition to the practice of connecting with our animals when we’re together, animals are natural meditation teachers. The key to meditation is being totally in the moment, and that is where animals are, all the time. They don’t live in the past or future as we often do. They are easily here, right now, in the present moment. Whether you are a seasoned meditation practitioner or have never tried to meditate before, slowing your mind down in connection with your animal will bring many benefits!
Just a few benefits of meditation:
- It improves concentration.
- It encourages a healthy lifestyle.
- The practice increases self-awareness.
- It increases happiness.
- Meditation increases acceptance.
- It slows aging.
- The practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health.
When we slow our minds and tune into our breathing and relax, our pets are reaping the benefits as well. By finding a quiet time to really connect with your animal friend, you are strengthening and deepening your bond. Animals like routine, so by starting a new habit of daily meditation with them you can increase their feeling of safety and comfort.
No worries, this does not have to be a lengthy process! Even five minutes a day can get you on the road to feeling more peaceful. Once you start, my bet is you’ll want to develop this healthy practice into longer sessions. It’s easy, fun and there are really no rules. You can’t mess this up! Just simply being, not doing anything, with your pet and connecting with them on a soul level helps them thrive.
Let’s get started!
● Sit near your animal, get comfortable with your spine straight, hands open in your lap and close your eyes. You may place a hand on your animal if she is comfortable with you doing so. If she moves away, that’s ok. You can join together without touching.
● Take a deep breath in through your nose. Feel your stomach expand and the cleansing breath go deep into your body. Think of the gratitude you have for your animal on the inhale.
● Exhale through your nose, or mouth, and think of the unconditional love you and your animal share.
● Repeat this deep breathing three more times then resume your normal breathing pattern, staying aware of your breath and how it fills your body.
● Next, picture one of your favorite things about your animal. Focus on that and quiet your mind. It’s ok if your mind races. Simply recognize the thoughts and let them go – returning again to your favorite thought. Try to stay with this for a few minutes, breathing in and out, relaxing and feeling your pet relax with you.
● When you are ready to end your meditation, send deep love and gratitude to your animal. Take three deep breaths in and out – breathing in gratitude, breathing out unconditional love into the world.
● Slowly open your eyes and return to the room. How are you feeling? It may be nice to start a meditation journal to record these beautiful times with your beloved animal companion.
Alison Martin is the Founder of Animal Soul Connection. As an animal communicator, reiki practitioner and pet loss grief counselor she brings her passion to life. For over 20 years, Alison has made a positive impact in the lives of animals and their people through her professional work from contributing to a large humane society and veterinary clinics, to owning her pet sitting business and teaching holistic care classes, she has helped one animal at a time with love and compassion. Volunteering with rescues and shelters since her early teens, Alison knew her life’s purpose was to give her heart to animals. Her animal family of seven dogs, one cat, two horses and two goats teach unconditional love every day. Alison believes our animal friends have an unlimited depth of love and knowledge to share with us and is dedicated to making a true difference in as many lives as possible
by Karen Robinson, Pet Portrait Artist – Devon, UK
There are many reasons why you may decide to commission an artist to paint your pet. After all, the earliest paintings we have any record of were made by our ancestors of animals on the walls of their homes (caves).
Here are a few tips for you if you are considering asking an artist to create a painting or drawing of your own.
The artist’s style
Look at as many examples of artists’ work as you can. When you find some work that clicks with you, ask the artist to send you more images to view if necessary to help you choose. The most important thing is that you like what you see! There are many artists offering to paint your pet all around the world so you, the pet parent, have a huge amount of choice. You do not need to commission the first artist you find.
The art: size and medium
Consider what size you wish to commission. Price is not the only consideration: if an artist, whose work you have decided you like, paints 4 ft x 4ft canvases and you live in a tiny apartment you may wish to reconsider. “Can you do one like this but much smaller?” is not
likely to work well!
The most common mediums for pet portraits are: oils, watercolours, pastel and graphite (pencil). Paintings in oil – the traditional medium – are usually more expensive than other mediums and take longer to create. Beautiful work can be found in watercolor, and pastel
is a medium that allows for highly realistic rendering of fur. Both of these mediums need to be framed behind glass before hanging, whereas oil paintings do not.
Here are 4 examples, from left to right: graphite, pastel, watercolour, oil:
Working with the artist
It is obviously very helpful if you feel comfortable working with the artist and are at ease in your discussions with her about your requirements.
This is what you have a right to expect from the artist:
- A clear, written statement of what your art work will cost you and the terms and conditions surrounding payment, including shipping cost (if applicable).
- Most artists will ask you to pay a deposit of 20-50% of the agreed price up front before they begin work. The balance becomes payable when you approve the completed work.
- Artists working in oils will usually price their work excluding the cost of a frame.
- Artists working in pastel, pencil and watercolour will sometimes price to include the frame, because it is essential that these media are framed to protect them.
- Make sure you are clear what is included in your quote.
- Unless you have specified and agreed with the artist very clearly what you expect the finished painting to look like (eg. “I want one of my dog that looks just like THIS” with an example of what you mean), then you should expect a clear description, or better still a visual (such as a rough working sketch) of what your painting is likely to look like. At the very least, you should know whether the painting will be portrait, (on the left) or landscape (on the right) and what size it will be.
- An indication of how long your painting is likely to take to complete (or to start, if the artist has a waiting list).
This is what the artist is likely to expect from you:
A clear idea of which pet or pets you want the artist to paint: “adding in” an extra one half way through is unlikely to be possible, especially if the pets are very different sizes. Tell the artist all the important points that will ‘make or break’ the painting for you. For example, if you provide the artist with a photograph of your dog wearing a collar but do not want the collar included in the final painting; if you need the background of the painting to “match” your room’s wallpaper or paint color; if you want the painting to be the same size and shape as one you will be hanging it alongside. Good quality reference photographs to work from. It is unlikely the artist will work from life – although sometimes artists will sketch the animal from life if this is practicable. Most of my customers live in a different country to me, usually a different continent – so I always work from photographs. This is so significant to the quality of the finished piece, here are a few tips specifically about photographs.
- Try to familiarize your pet with the camera, especially dogs as some dogs may find the camera confrontational.
- Have an assistant if possible. They can help keep your pet in one place and looking in the right direction, whilst you concentrate on getting the shot. A supply of dog treats and a few favorite toys, such as a ball if you’re after an action shot, or a squeaky toy for grabbing attention, will come in useful.
- You’ll need a background as clutter free as possible so as not to cause a distraction from your pet. A plain sheet simply draped over a chair might do the trick. Think about the main colour of your pet’s fur, especially if it is very dark (black) or very light (white). For example, If you have a white dog, don’t sit him against a white sheet but choose a darker colour/fabric so it is possible for the artist to see where the dog ends and the background begins.
- Try not to photograph your pet looking down from a standing position, try to get down to their eye level for a more engaging image. If the pet is tiny, place him on something higher up so that you can look into his eyes.
- If there is something specific you want in the background of your painting, you can send a separate photograph of that, you do not have to try and get the perfect shot that includes both the dog and the item. Just remember to
photograph whatever the item is from the same level (position) that you photographed the pet.
- Remember that artists paint what they see – when I am painting a pet to commission, I am painting one particular pet – YOUR pet – not just any pet. So I cannot “make things up”. For example, If you want a full body painting I cannot do it if you send me a photograph only of a head. Or, if you would like all four of your dog’s paws in the portrait, please do not “cut them off” on the photo.
A painting of your pet is a very personal and individual piece and cannot simply be bought off the shelf. Be willing to engage with the artist and answer any questions she may have. An artist who specializes in painting animals will want to get to know your pet through your words and your photos and will want to delight you with their work. Have fun with your commission and enjoy the process – the finished painting will be well worth the time!
Karen Robinson paints from her home on the Devon/Cornwall border, looking out over her easel across open fields. Usually there are sheep or other livestock peacefully grazing, sometimes rabbits, often pheasants. In summer there will be ﬂocks of swallows and house martins gathering mud for their nests and, in winter, murmurations of starlings.
Karen came late to painting after many years of raising children and earning a living in other ways. Practising for many years as a textile and ﬁbre artist, the move to traditional art media came about because she could no longer achieve in stitch the degree of realism and expression she sought. She found herself stitching less and painting on to the fabric more.
Inspiration comes from the world around her and the work of many realist painters from Velasquez to John Singer Sargent, but especially master animal artists: Sir Edwin Landseer, John Emms, Rosa Bonheur.
Special mention must be made of her dog, Bilbo Baggins, who was her ﬁrst model and continues to be her Muse. Karen’s paintings hang in homes around the world, including Europe, Scandinavia almost all the States of the USA.