Holistic versus Traditional Pet Medicine

The Furry GodmotherIn the last article from The Furry Godmother, we examined what holistic pet care is and how to choose a holistic vet. You might still be wondering what the differences are between holistic and traditional care. This week, our pet sitters are diving in and comparing the two approaches so that you can make an informed decision.Traditional veterinary care often does not come into play until there is something wrong with your pet. It is about seeing a symptom, diagnosing a problem and treating it through standard protocols and clinical methods. If the problem goes away, treatment stops, and if it persists, more aggressive options are explored.

Holistic veterinary care is less an approach to treatment and more an approach to your pet’s lifestyle. The goal is to prevent health problems before they start and prioritize natural treatment methods. When faced with a health concern, a holistic vet looks not only at the symptoms but also at your pet’s behavior, diet, history and habits.

While conventional vets rely on medications and surgeries, holistic vets avoid these things whenever possible. They believe the side effects are not always worth the outcome, especially if they can be avoided using different techniques. The idea is that the less synthetic intervention is required, the healthier your pet will be.

This approach extends to vaccinations. A traditional vet follows a vaccination schedule with regular booster shots for ease and cost-effectiveness. Holistic vets use what is called a Titer test, measuring your pet’s antibody levels and determining if further vaccination is necessary. They see the long-term health risks associated with over-vaccination, such as cancer and organ failure, as a major concern.

The costs of the two kinds of care are harder to compare. It is true a trip to a holistic vet is likely to cost more, but the vet will also spend more time with your pet. Preventative care and complementary therapies may also require regular investments, but those investments could cost you less money than aggressive, clinical treatment for problems that arise.

The choice between the two methods boils down to lifestyle. If you would rather treat as you go along, traditional is right for you. If you believe in a balanced mind and body, holistic medicine is a good choice. Either way, when you choose The Furry Godmother for pet sitting, we will carefully tend to your pet’s needs and your requirements for care.

What Is Holistic Pet Care?

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You may have heard of holistic medicine for people, but did you know that you can seek holistic pet care, too? When conventional veterinary care either is not meeting your needs or does not match your lifestyle, holistic care could be the solution. The Furry Godmother is putting holistic pet care under the microscope to give you the scoop on taking care of your four-pawed friends the natural way.

The holistic approach is all about perspective and preventative care. Practitioners seek total wellness for your pet, examining how every facet of your pet’s life impacts his health and seeking balance between mind and body. In addition to diagnosing and treating health concerns, holistic medicine encompasses nutrition, exercise and complementary therapies as well.

Complementary therapies such as herbal supplementation, massage and chiropractic care are utilized more than conventional medicine. For a pet with arthritis, a holistic vet might prescribe an herb with anti-inflammatory properties as well as regular massage therapy. The goal is to be minimally invasive and use as few prescription drugs as possible.

Some holistic vets also take a look at your pet’s habits and routines. Our pet sitters can attest that issues like difficulty housebreaking and other destructive behaviors are more common in anxious pets. By understanding how animals think and interact with their surroundings, a holistic vet can treat issues like anxiety and depression through changes in routine and rehabilitation.

When choosing a holistic vet, look for credentials that go beyond veterinary school. You should see certificates from groups like the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association, the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. A holistic vet should also be a member of at least one group dedicated to holistic care or pet nutrition.

Holistic care advocates recommend starting this approach as early in your pet’s life as possible. When it comes time for pet sitting or boarding, make sure you alert your sitters of any special supplements, nutritional needs or routine requirements your pet has. Consistency is important for your pet’s health.

The way a holistic vet sees it, a pet with a healthy, lively lifestyle is less likely to develop serious illnesses. This integrative approach may be a little different, but it could be a change that benefits both you and your furry best friend.

Teaching Your Pet Tricks (Part 2)

Last post, we discussed some universal rules of trick training, including patience and consistency. This week at The Furry Godmother, we will discuss the methods of making reward-based trick training a success. When done correctly, reward-based training is extremely effective and fulfilling for both you and your pet.

First consider your reward. It should always include affection, but, at least when training, include a treat as well. Pick something small you know your pet loves. If your gerbil loves bananas, use little bits of banana. If your dog is thrilled with regular kibble, use it. Once a trick as been mastered, you can wean off the treats to just an occasional bonus, but always give affection for a job well done.

Only reward your pet after the trick has been successfully executed. Rewarding prematurely or “for a good effort” will confuse your pet. If you are trying to each your cat to “touch” objects on command, do not reward when her paw is in mid-air or if she bats toward the object without touching. Only give her the reward when her paw is in full contact with the object, and do so immediately. You want the reward associated with the exact action that provoked it. Rewarding even a few moments too late or too soon can lead to confusion.

Be sure to pace the tricks. Focus on one trick at a time, and be prepared to teach tricks in steps. If you want to teach your bird to climb a ladder, at first reward him for putting both feet on the bottom rung. Once he has the hang of that one rung, withhold the reward until he climbs two rungs, and then three, and so forth. Take this approach to any multi-step trick.

Give your pet plenty of chances to show off to reinforce not only the tricks themselves, but also the positive experience. At The Furry Godmother, our pet sitters love the energy of a happily trained pet. If your pet knows tricks, tell your pet sitters what commands your pet knows so your sitter can include them in playtime.

Always remember to end each training session on a high note. There should be no such thing as an unsuccessful session. Whether or not clear progress on the trick has been made, you and your pet still spent quality time together.

Teaching Your Pet Tricks (Part 1)

Imagine your cat opening the cupboard for you or your rat playing a plucky bit of piano for your pet sitters. We at The Furry Godmother have seen all sorts of pets learn tricks. Dogs, cats, rats, ferrets, birds, gerbils and even pot-bellied pigs can not only learn but find joy in tricks.

Teaching is a powerful bonding force. Two creatures can share mutual happiness in the challenge of learning and the thrill of accomplishment. Like playing on a sports team, it builds trust and gives deeper meaning to each other’s companionship.

Pets look to please their owners and other humans. The pet sitters at The Furry Godmother experience this first hand when pets have a chance to perform for a new audience. Even cross-species, there is something ineffably rewarding about a well-received performance for both audience and performer.

Above all else, training should be rewarding. The energy should always be positive and the tone cheerful. While the mechanics of every trick is different, some training rules are universal. Keeping them in mind will help your training be more successful.

Before you begin, make sure your expectations are reasonable. Not all parakeets are inclined to speak, and not all cats will want to push toy lawnmowers. Pets are as unique as humans in their recreational tastes. Set small long-term goals and focus short-term on making each training session fun, engaging and meaningful.

A key aspect to teaching any type of pet tricks is patience. Every animal learns at different rates, even trick by trick. Getting angry or frustrated will only make your pet associate training with you becoming upset. If you find yourself getting worked up, end the training session early.

Effective training is well structured. A consistent amount of time at the same time every day should be devoted to teaching tricks. This will help your pet know what to expect when that time comes, and they will be mentally prepared to learn.

Your visual and verbal cues must also be firm, concise and consistent. Make what you expect from these cues crystal clear. “Down” should be either lying down or jumping off furniture, not both. When your pet gets confused, they will become anxious or disinterested, and their inconsistent responses may end up frustrating you. Avoid this by making your commands specific.

Check back soon for Part Two, which will discuss the ins and outs of reward-based training!

Deterring Fleas and Ticks Naturally

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Oh how we would love to have the luxury of a pest-grooming monkey at The Furry Godmother. Fleas and ticks are a disgusting nuisance to contend with, but not everyone wants to spread insecticide onto their pets. Not only can it end up in your pet’s bloodstream, it can get on the furniture and on your hands. Luckily, there are a few natural options for flea and tick control that we can consider.

New natural-based flea and tick products appear on the market every day. Herbal flea powders, essential oil-based repelling treatments and even herbal flea collars are available. However, home-brew solutions are easy to make and cost less. Remember that if any of them seem to negatively affect your pet, stop using them immediately.

One of the most effective natural deterrents is called neem oil. Used in India for centuries, nontoxic neem oil both kills and deters pests. It is also good for your pet’s skin and fur. It has a strong, peanut-like fragrance, but it is so effective that solutions of it are sold at garden centers to destroy pests. Pure neem oil is available online and at some health food stores.

Essential oils such as citronella, cinnamon, lemongrass, wintergreen and tea tree have also shown some promise repelling fleas and ticks. We here at The Furry Godmother would definitely prefer those sweet smells to chemical insecticide. Mix ten drops of at least three of these oils with a teaspoon of sweet almond oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of neem oil and apply the liquid to the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades down the base of the tail.

There are more options than just topical ones, however. Adding brewer’s yeast to your pet’s diet will make your pet’s blood less appealing to biting pests. A teaspoon is sufficient for most cats and small dogs, while a tablespoon is ideal for large dogs. Be sure to ask your pet sitters to add the brewer’s yeast to your pet’s food if you go on vacation. Brewer’s yeast is not gluten-free and should not be given to pets with gluten sensitivity.

Using natural products can give us peace of mind over what we are exposing ourselves and our pets to. Experimenting with different options is fun, and opting for natural flea and tick deterrents is safer for pets, pet parents and pet sitters alike.

Introducing a New Pet to Your Home

The Furry Godmother Pert SittingBringing a new pet home is exciting for both you and your pet. It’s exciting for us here at The Furry Godmother, too, to learn about a new member of the family for us to play with! Bringing your new pet home can be smooth and anxiety-free if you have a plan of action before you even leave for the pet provider.  Please consider adopting a pet from an animal shelter as these animals need loving homes and make loyal companions. You’ll be giving them a chance for a happy life and helping relieve shelter overcrowding.
Always make sure you and your family understand the responsibilities a new pet will bring. Many pets end up in the shelter because their owners were unprepared for their pet’s needs. Never bring a new pet home on a holiday. Outside commitments will keep you away from home, the constant excitement will make your pet anxious, and surprised family members are not prepared for the responsibilities of a new pet.

Instead, announce your intention to bring a new pet home on the holiday, and pick your new pet up a few weeks later. This gives you ample time to explain responsibilities, pick supplies as a family, find pet sitters and a veterinarian, and discuss rules.

When the time comes to bring your pet home, keep excitement to a minimum. The new environment will be stimulating and potentially stressful enough for your pet. Sit with your pet in a quiet room while it settles. With dogs, it is best to put your new dog on a leash and introduce him or her to each room one by one, gently correcting any attempts to mark territory.

Introduce your new pet to your other pets one by one and monitor all their interactions. Try introducing them outside, in your car or in other “neutral” territory so neither pet is inclined to be territorial.

Puppies and kittens should be confined to small areas of the house where they will be safe and easy to supervise. Reserve excitement for play time, and introduce your pet into its new schedules and structure from the beginning.

If you already have pet sitters, be sure to alert them to the newest member of your family. Scheduling lunch visits with pet sitters, like those offered by The Furry Godmother, for when you will be at work will give you peace of mind that your new pet is settling in safe and sound. Stability in their first few weeks at home will help ensure your pet is happy for the rest of his or her life.

Keeping Your Pet Fit and Active

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Everyone loves to pamper their pets as much if not more than they pamper themselves. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that most pets never get enough exercise. As The Furry Godmother knows, exercise is important to your pet’s physical and mental health. When these needs are not met, problems are inevitable.

A couple of pounds make a big difference on our little friends. Imagine each extra pound as four sticks of butter resting on your pet’s back. That adds up quickly to become a major stress on your pet’s joints, especially for older pets with arthritis. For dog breeds such as greyhounds, extra weight can rapidly lead to serious health conditions.

In addition to the physical health concerns, pets that do not get regular exercise have a lot of pent-up energy and can even develop anxiety. This frustration manifests as destructive behavior and bad habits, from barking to separation anxiety to destroying furniture.

Good pet sitters understand that different pets have different exercise needs. Elderly and sick pets will always require special care and consideration. Some birds need to be taken out of their cages to stretch their wings, and rodents enjoy tunnels or toys to get treats out of. Cats need the stimulation of prey-oriented games to satisfy their need to hunt, and for dogs, The Furry Godmother knows the importance of a good walk.

Many people believe having a back yard or another dog to play with is enough exercise for their dog. Unfortunately, back yards are still limiting and playmates do not provide the structure dogs instinctively crave. Adding a regular walk to your dog’s day will improve your dog’s quality of life exponentially.

Walks burn off excess energy, provide mental stimulation, reinforces that your dog is meant to be a follower and soothes your dog’s instinctual need to roam. A walk a few times a week is good, but a daily walk is ideal.

The Furry Godmother offers walks not only as part of pet sitting but also as a stand-alone service. Our pet sitters can see to the exercise needs of any of your pets, be it while you’re at work or while you’re on vacation. From play time to structured walks, keeping your pet fit will keep them healthy and happy for years to come.

Is Your Pet Ready for the Dog Days of Summer?

Pet Sitters - The Furry GodmotherWe’re getting ready for the sunshine and lazy days of summer here at The Furry Godmother. While you’re getting out the shorts and flip flops, make sure your pets are ready to take the heat, too.

It may sound obvious, but always make sure your pets have plenty of water. We can grab a glass any time, but our pets rely on us for fresh water. Cats and dogs should also be up-to-date on their flea, tick and heart worm preventatives. Check up on your pet’s vaccines while you’re at it, especially if you plan on socializing or taking your pets outdoors. Summer is a great time to take your pet to the groomers. Choosing a shorter cut will not only keep your pet cooler but will also help prevent debris from getting caught in his or her coat. Trim up nails to keep snags and scratches to a minimum and comfort to the maximum. Be ready to take a few precautions as well. Never leave your pets alone in a car. Even with the windows open, cars get too hot too fast. If you want to take your dog on romps outdoors, make sure he or she is ready for it. Dogs need to build up endurance as much as people do. Watch your pet for fatigue and signs of heat stroke.When you do take your friend out for a day of fun, bring a collapsible water dish and bottled water with you. Don’t let your dog drink from natural water sources; your companion is used to drinking treated water and all sorts of microorganisms grow in puddles, creeks and oceans. You don’t even have to carry the fresh water yourself if you invest in a dog backpack!

Planning a great vacation? If your pet can’t come, make sure you choose the best pet sitters. We here at the Furry Godmother know all the precautions to take to beat the summer heat and our pet sitters can even make sure it looks like someone is home to deter burglars.

Summer is just around the corner. Make all your preparations now to avoid a hassle later and keep both you and your pets hydrated. The Furry Godmother wishes you fine breezes and a happy summer!

Foods You Should Never Give Your Pet

Pet Sitters - The Furry GodmotherA begging pet can be hard to resist. Whether you get the big, sad eyes or the demanding stare, it’s tempting to hand over your table scraps just to reward your pet for being so cute. That may not be such a good idea. Many foods that are just fine for people are harmful to pets.

If you are going out of town, making sure you have the best pet sitting services available will ensure your pet is safe while you are gone. Experienced pet sitters, like us here at The Furry Godmother, will know which foods to avoid. All of the following foods should be kept out of reach of your pet, whether they need to be fenced off in the garden or moved to out-of-reach shelves in the cupboard.

Chocolate, stone fruit pits, grapes and raisins should be avoided at all costs. Surprisingly, macadamia nuts are also highly toxic to pets. As few as six nuts can cause muscle tremors and paralysis in dog’s hindquarters. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in gum, toothpaste, candy and diet foods, is also extremely toxic.

Less toxic but still potentially harmful are onions, garlic and avocados. Dogs are also lactose intolerant; ingesting dairy can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Bones may seem like a natural thing to give to pets, but cooked bones can splinter. The shards can cut the inside of your pet’s mouth and digestive tract, so leave the T-bone remnants at the restaurant.

Always keep in mind that anything potentially harmful to humans is even more dangerous for your pet. Never give your pet alcohol, caffeine, or medications for humans, and keep cigarette butts far out of your pet’s reach.

Even if you don’t give your pets these things intentionally, you never know when your pet will jump onto the couch and snag what’s on your dinner plate. If you know your pet has eaten something toxic, contact your vet or the closet emergency clinic immediately. The ASPCA has an Animal Poison Control Center, reachable at (888) 426-4435, if you need advice.

Knowing what foods are safe and what to do in an emergency is part of pet sitting. When your pet is under the care of pet sitters from The Furry Godmother, you can trust they are in good hands.

Treating Your Pets

Pet Sitter - The Furry GodmotherPet owners and pet sitters understand that people love to pamper and treat their pets. Lavishing your pet with treats can be seen as a sign of affection and care from pet sitters because all pets can enjoy a treat every now and then. Even though you can never give a pet too much attention, you can definitely overfeed your pet their favorite treat. Just like their pet owners, pets can also become overweight by eating treats. This can become the number one cause for obesity in animals which is created out of love that comes from a pet owner.

Not all pet treats are created equal. As with all treats, everything in moderation is best for your pet. Experts in the pet sitting industry agree that a treat can be great every now and then, but they are usually full of empty calories that will not be of any nutritional benefit to your pet. The treats need to be only a small part of the animal’s diet, and not the main course. Pet sitting professionals advise that treats should not be more than 10% of the total calories that an animal intakes per day. The remainder of the diet should include high-quality ingredients.

Just like people, animals can develop a taste for their favorite treat and can grow to prefer the treats over their staple food. This is why a treat should be offered no more than 2 or 3 times week, without breaking the pattern of a solid diet. In addition, pets should not be constantly fed people food. A pet’s food is specially formulated for their consumption as well as their needs. They are created based on the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that your pet needs most on a daily basis.

It can be ok to feed your pet a small morsel of your food such as cooked tuna, small bits of cheese, chicken, liver, or fish, but these types of foods should not be their source of nutrition. There are some animals that are lactose intolerant and human food can have negative effects on their health. Pet sitting professionals, such as The Furry Godmother, are aware of the dangers of feeding pets food such as grapes or raisins which can cause kidney failure.

The best pet treats are those that are given as a reward for tricks and physical activities. These treats can be given in order to help your pet exercise his or her brain as well as their body. Most pets enjoy the opportunity to please and impress their owners and look forward to play time. Performing tricks can be beneficial in helping maintain agility and your pets certainly anticipate the treat rewards. We at “The Furry Godmother,” strive to encourage physical activity with treats.

Going green is a global concept which can and be beneficial to pet owners. Treats can be grown or created at home in order to maintain the most natural form of treats for your pet. For example, catnip is easily grown on a windowsill inside a home, and is an excellent source pleasure for cats and it may keep your cat out of your favorite plants. By creating your own treats, you can be completely sure of the ingredients used in a treat and its source. Most of all you can rest assured that it is created from all natural ingredients.

So have fun with your pet, but don’t let playtime become snack time!