Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Wellness

The company I work for sends out a weekly "Wednesday Wellness" article to all of the employees. Some of the articles have really great advice and this week's particularly struck a chord with me and I thought I'd pass it along. As you probably guessed, it's pet related:

Pets: Good for Your Body, Good for Your Soul

There’s ample evidence pets can positively influence a number of medical conditions. Pet ownership can help to:

•Lower blood pressure 

•Lower cholesterol levels 

•Improve cardiovascular health 

•Relieve the depression associated with serious illnesses like AIDS 

•Improve survival rates after a heart attack 

From a psychological and emotional standpoint, your pet gives you something to live for and focus on other than yourself. Self-absorption is a serious detriment to good health.

It feels good to be needed and your pet depends on you – even if your family does not. Being needed motivates you to stay well.

Studies have shown that interacting with pets is actually more beneficial than interacting with friends when it comes to your blood pressure. Human friends can be judgmental –your four-legged buddy accepts you exactly as you are in every moment of your life together.

Part of the reason we connect so deeply with animals may be their emotional depth. Studies show that many animals mourn, cry, and demonstrate other ranges of emotion. If you share your life with a pet, you know the love it feels for you is intense and enduring.

I will add to this to make sure that you're ready and able to take care of a pet before bringing one into your home. So many people get pets on a whim and shortly find out that they don't have the patience, money or time to take care of them and then they end up in the shelters. For as long as I can remember, there has been an overcrowding problem in shelters. Many of these wonderful pets are put down simply because they couldn't find a new home fast enough, which in some shelters is a matter of a week. 

Before adopting or purchasing a pet, make sure that it's in your monthly budget to buy good-quality food, flea/tick medication and other essentials. Also, make sure you have enough in reserves in case you need to make an emergency vet visit. You may have to make adjustments in your monthly budget to cover these new expenses, but it is worth it in my opinion.

While it's my personal preference to have dogs from reputable breeders, dogs from breed rescue clubs or from the shelter can also make great additions to your family. I can't tell you how many times I hear from one side or the other that you should never buy a dog/cat from a breeder or that you should never buy a dog/cat from a shelter. I think it boils down to personal preference really. Some people have great luck with shelter dogs, some don't and the same goes with dogs from breeders. So long as you take the proper measures and you do your homework, it shouldn't matter. However, if you DO decide to buy from a breeder, make sure they are reputable and NOT a puppy mill. Also, buying dogs/cats from a pet store is a bad idea. A few pet stores will help shelters find homes for their animals (which is a great idea) and if that is the case then that's a different story. 

Let me get on my soap box for a second on pet store puppies/kittens. 

While yes, you are indeed "rescuing" that animal from a not-so-great fate, purchasing pet store puppies and kitties (again, that aren't affiliated with a shelter) is only enabling the pet mills to keep producing animals in conditions that are far worse than what we would ever think is humane. These mills will only stop producing if we stop purchasing them as then it won't be profitable anymore. Some of these animals end up in the shelter and then put to sleep because when you just walk in the store to buy a kitten or puppy from a pet store, all they require is the cash. There is no interview process or background check. All they want is the money and they won't take responsibility for the animal if something were to happen where you couldn't take care of it anymore or if something is seriously wrong with the animal as many mills don't bother to do any health checks on their breeding stock as it cuts into their profits. So please be wary of pet store puppies and kitties, make sure that they are affiliated with a local shelter or rescue before making that decision. 

If you buy a dog/cat from a reputable, responsible breeder, you will never have to worry about your pet ending up in the shelter. If for some reason you cannot take care of your pet anymore, any breeder worth their salt should take them back, no questions asked. Many shelters do this too. To avoid any issues if your pet gets lost, make sure to have them micro-chipped (it's a small, harmless microchip that's embedded just under the skin of your pet - many breeders microchip your pet before you even get them). The microchip has all of your contact information if for some reason you pet is lost and ends up at a shelter or vet's office. All shelters and vet offices have a scanner and they will immediately scan the pet for a microchip to see if that information is available. 

In our house we have two cats that we adopted (Cid was a stray and I "rescued" Cloud during the flood of 06) that are very lovely, well-adjusted kitties. One of the issues you can face when getting a pet from a shelter is that you don't know the animal's history, if the animal was abused or has any congenital diseases (as a lot of shelter dogs are mixed breeds where the actual breed(s) are unknown, so it's hard to determine what kind of issues may possibly come down the line). With a good breeder, they test for any diseases and try to make sure their breeding stock is healthy and have a good temperment.

A shelter dog may be harder to train if it's developed bad habits. It can be done, but teaching an older dog obedience can sometimes be difficult. Enrolling your dog in obedience classes (where you can get help from a professional) really helps out here if you're having difficulty at home. That doesn't mean a dog from a breeder is a breeze to train either. Obedience classes are incredibly helpful and I would recommend them to anyone who has a puppy or young dog. 

Of course, if you buy a dog from a breeder, it doesn't mean that 100% of them will be completely healthy. While good breeders are constantly striving to make sure their breeding stock is healthy and the risk for congenital diseases is much less than a dog or cat where no precautions were made, sometimes dogs or cats get cancer or have certain allergies or other ailments. It happens. Bottom line, if you get a pet, either from a shelter or from a breeder, you need to make sure you have the time, money and patience to deal with whatever may come up. 

The rewards are listed above in the article. The love of your pet is something that is so unique and wonderful.  They will love and cherish you for who you are, from dressed up for a night on the town, to dirty sweatpants and t-shirt. They love you at your best, your worst and no matter what. They know when you're sad and need a good cuddle and when you want to play and have fun. They also know that a good nap on the couch is sometimes the best thing in the world. 

They teach us to stop and smell the flowers; and even Auron will take a few minutes from running around to sit in the middle of our yard and just stare at the hillsides, taking in the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of the chirping birds, and the warmth of the sun on his coat. He's definitely teaching me to take a minute to just appreciate the world as it is and be "in the moment."