Create emotional health for pets – Lifestyle – The Times – The Times

Animals, like people, need love, security, consistency and fulfillment in living a purpose. Without those needs being met, all of us will experience sadness, disconnect and depression — emotionally and physically.

Several years ago, a man visited my office with a large, 4-year-old, male Doberman. Magnum appeared healthy, but suffered from a skin condition that caused hair loss and itching.

He had previously been diagnosed with allergies and was put on prednisone, but when he didn’t improve, the veterinarian advised stopping the steroids and referred his owner to my office.

At his first visit, all of Magnum’s blood tests, urinalysis and heart function tests were perfect. We checked his heart, because young male Doberman’s are prone to a condition called cardiomyopathy, which can decrease blood flow to other organs.

Magnum was diagnosed with demodectic mites or mange. This condition is not contagious to people or other dogs. All dogs have a limited number of mites around the eye, but when the immune system is suppressed, microscopic mites can spread to other areas and become a chronic problem, causing hair loss, inflamed skin and itching, even after they’ve moved to a new area of skin.

Most dogs that have the problem are affected as puppies, and then, when they are through rapid growth, eating a good diet and in a stable home situation, they typically stop having mite spread.

Many veterinarians manage mites with drug therapy, but often, changing the diet, avoiding allergens and excessive vaccines (vaccinations are meant for the healthy body, so they should be given after the dog is back to normal skin/immune function), and supplementing with immune health herbs, will bring about skin healing without limited drug usage.

My staff and I treated Magnum’s immune and nutritional health, and when he showed only mild improvement over three weeks, we added traditional Western drug therapy.

Unfortunately, after four months of treatment, Magnum had only improved about 50 percent. I could not find a medical reason for his lack of return to complete health.

I started to consider other reasons for poor response to treatment: an autoimmune or immune dysfunction, either acquired or genetic; environmental toxins; or chronic emotional distress/abuse.

On the fourth visit, I gained insight into the home dynamics. I happened to be outside when the owner parked his car and witnessed his verbal and emotional harshness toward both the dog and his wife. It went beyond being short tempered and having a bad day, and I suspected, but didn’t witness, actual physical abuse.

The wife’s and the dog’s reaction to the owner were very typical of those who are in unpredictable and abusive situations.

The owner did not know that I witnessed his actions, but when he asked me why the dog wasn’t improving, I suggested that among other reasons, stress at home can be reason for family members and pets to have weakened immune function.

Magnum’s owner thought my idea was ridiculous. He felt that Magnum could not possibly be stressed, because he got food, water, walks and grooming. What else could he need, besides medicine to treat his problem?

Magnum, like each person and animal on this planet, needed love, security, consistency and fulfillment in living his purpose. Without those needs being met, all of us will experience sadness, disconnect and depression — emotionally and physically.

If you are looking for ways to maintain your pet’s health, prevent cancer, allergies and other chronic immune disorders, creating a loving and consistent home life is the best foundation.

Try these tips for creating emotional wellness:

1. Create independence early in life by giving your pet a home within your home (crate), and instead of carrying new pets constantly, give them independent times in their enclosure.

2. Avoid separating puppies from the litter and their mothers too early. How early is too early? It varies with each pet, but by eight weeks most pets can adjust to their new home.

3. For pets who suffer from separation anxiety, work with a veterinarian to establish a good diet and either supplements or medications to keep the condition from escalating. At the same time, consult with a behaviorist to recondition your pet’s anxiety.

4. Create a harmonious home with soothing music and limited stress. If you or other family members suffer from high anxiety, exercise, do yoga or meditation to bring your stress down a level.

5. Like children, pets need physical play time daily to keep them from getting into trouble.

6. Create exercise and stimulation for pets surrounding feeding times. Rather than putting food in a single bowl, use multiples and allow pets to sniff out their food throughout the home and yard.

In addition to creating a harmonious home, pets need to fulfill their purpose. For cats that may be hunting. For a herding dog, the purpose is to round up or herd animals or kids.

Owners should observe the natural drive an animal has and either create a job or playtime activities that allow fulfillment of that desire.

Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like addressed, please email [email protected]

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