Being home alone could be harder for pets

Image by Moshe Harosh from Pixabay 

Going from summer break to “back to school” can be rough for pets in any year. It’s likely to be a more difficult adjustment this year. Due to COVID-19, both big and little humans have been home more and longer, with new anxieties and frustrations. Our animal friends have been working to support and comfort us through all of this. 

So when they find themselves alone for hours at a time, might some cats and dogs be glad of a break? Certainly.

Others, especially if they don’t understand what is happening, may be sad, anxious, or bored. You could be looking at a furniture-scratching, pillow-chewing, garbage-raiding, howling back-to-whatever-passes-as-normal.

What can you do to ease back-to-school, back-to-the-commute transitions for both of you? Here are some suggestions from the ASPCA and my own experience:

  • Give the animals a treat every time you leave the house so they associate your departure with something pleasant.
  • Stuff treats in a rubber toy such as a Kong to give them something to work on.
  • Leave a radio on low volume. I like NPR for its calm voices and classical music, but if there is a particular kind of music your animal companion is used to or seems to like, go with that. 
  • Tell them where you’re going and when you expect someone will be home.  They understand more than you think.
  • Touch base during the day. You don’t need a phone or WiFi. Calmly bring your animal to mind, silently tell him you love him, and remind him of when you (or someone else in the household) will be home. Again — they get it.
  • When you’re at home, remind the animal that even though things are changing and perhaps stressful, you are doing your best. Thank her for all she does to help you. 
  • Keep school backpacks and lunchboxes not just closed, but out of pets’ reach. Many animals are poisoned when they get into things like raisins, sugar-free gum, and inhalers. (For an accessible, authoritative guide to what is and is not poisonous to dogs and cats, I recommend the Vet Protect app developed by an experienced veterinarian. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play.)
  • If your dog or cat’s separation anxiety persists, consult your veterinarian for help and to rule out any physical causes. 
  • Provided your animal has a clean bill of health: As an animal communicator, I can also work with you to prepare pets for change, resolve behavior problems, and gain other important insights. All sessions are done remotely. Visit me at www.njcrowe.com to learn more.

Here’s to a season of learning, however it may evolve, with the animals in our lives.

Need a name? Ask the animal

Photo by DomnoDominik from Pixabay

Need a name for a new animal companion? Ask the animal.

Grab pen and paper, take a few minutes and sit with the animal as she rests or plays. When you are both relaxed, ask her what she wants to be called. You can ask out loud or silently.

Then write down everything that comes into your mind, however silly or random it seems. It may be one name or a number of possibilities.

Repeat the name(s) back to him and watch for ear twitches, eye blinks, head tilts, or other signs of recognition. Pay attention to any “yes” or “no” feelings that come up.

Chances are, you’ll have a clear winner. If not, try again later.

Letting your new friend tell you what she wants, in her own time, will get your life together off to a great start!

For more information, or to schedule an animal communication or animal Reiki session, visit me at www.njcrowe.com.

Finding reliable pet health information

Image by Martine Auvray from Pixabay 

When we’re worried about our animal friend’s health, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole in search of answers. It doesn’t matter if the search term is a symptom, diagnosis, or treatment. Most of us have done it and wound up even more confused or misinformed, which helps no one.

Knowing where to look and where to be wary can yield better outcomes and fewer headaches. Based on many years as a journalist, animal wellness practitioner, and pet mom, here are my suggestions for accurate, credible animal health information sources:

Your veterinarian

Your veterinarian and vet clinic should be your primary source for your pet’s health. They know you and your animals. If you don’t have a vet you trust, find one by asking fellow pet parents you trust. Online testimonials and reviews are helpful, but nothing beats a personal referral.

If you’re afraid of asking a stupid question or bothering the vet clinic staff, consider that some of the most pertinent questions are the seemingly stupid ones (i.e., “Where are my pants?”). Your vet and staff are your chief allies in your pet’s well-being. It’s OK to ask them, “Where can I learn more about this?” They’d rather steer you toward a trusted source than have you paralyzed with fear or try an unproven “miracle cure” that may do more harm than good.

Veterinary schools

Places like the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine (our Indiana example) educate and train tomorrow’s veterinary professionals. Vet school faculty and staff members are trained scientists whose job it is to figure stuff out — accurately and without bias. (More on bias in a moment.)

University-conducted studies can be wonderful sources of information and insight. Keep in mind that a single study is seldom, if ever, the final answer. What we know about our animals, our world, and ourselves is constantly evolving.

Also, these studies are generally written with a style and terminology that leave you wondering what on earth is wrong with plain English. They’re intended for a professional or academic audience. That’s cool, but you may want something more accessible.

Fortunately, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine website’s Health Topics section is geared toward both veterinarians and pet owners. I especially like the information I’ve found on the Cornell Feline Health Center page.

Now to the question of bias. When you are reading a media report on a study that links X to Y, or which indicates A is beneficial in the treatment of B, click the link to the actual study. It may be a university study in a professional journal, or it could be a press release.

Either way, look at who paid for and conducted the study. Would they have a vested interest in the outcome? For example, if a study about the benefits of CBD oil was paid for or conducted by a company that makes CBD supplements, I wouldn’t give that study much weight. Its conclusions may prove correct in time, but show me some independent research. Also look at any conflicts of interest disclosed by the authors themselves.

Again, resist the impulse to draw conclusions from research that may not be conclusive.

Professional associations

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s website includes resources for pet owners — including, of course, how best to partner with your veterinarian for your animal friend’s best life. (There’s also a great article on getting pet health information online, which hits some points I do not here.)

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s Holistic Veterinary Therapies page is where I would start for information on complementary and alternative therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and more.

Don’t overlook the library

I’ve been talking about online information here, but I’m old enough that, once upon a time, the stacks were my first stop. But my advice is similar. Look at the credentials of the author(s) and don’t get swept up in “breakthrough,” “miracle,” “revolutionary,” or similar claims.

Those are the sources to seek. Briefly, here are the sources to evaluate more carefully:

• Sites owned by businesses selling a product or service. This goes for mine, too. Do they link to reliable sources of health information? Do the claims seem too good to be true?

• Blogs (again, including mine), message boards, social media and anyplace else where people can post anything. What sources, if any, does the person reference? Is he or she angry? Grieving?

• Wikipedia. Being a free-for-all may be part of its charm. Fine. Just look in the text and footnotes for links to reliable sources.

Bottom line: When you’re evaluating a source of information on animal health, always consider the who and the why. Then — again — work with a veterinarian you trust.