A recent survey reveals that more people are becoming pet parents and spending more on their dogs and cats than ever before.
Animal guardianship and spending have been trending steadily upward for years, but they have taken a particularly big jump since the spring of 2020, thanks mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Pet Products Association’s biennial National Pet Owners Survey for 2021-2022 reveals some fascinating highlights indicating that dogs and cats (and other critters) are more popular among Americans than they’ve ever been and the trend is showing no signs of slowing! Here are some key points from the survey:
The number of households with companion animals has increased by a whopping 67% in the US. An estimated 70% of households now have a dog, cat, or other companion animal.
Millennials make up the largest cohort of animal parents at 32%, followed closely by Boomers at 27% and Gen Xers at 24%. 14% of all total respondents obtained a new animal during the pandemic with an estimated 47% of these animals being dogs, and 40% cats.
Companion animal spending also increased over the past year, with 35% of animal parents stating they spent more on their animals — including food, wellnessrelated products, and other pet care items in the last 12 months than in the preceding year.
The percentage of animal parents shopping online increased by almost 20%, from 72% in the prior year to 86% in this year’s study. Before the pandemic, 60% of animal parents usually purchased pet products in person at brick-and-mortar stores. During the pandemic, in-person shopping dropped to 41%, while 46% preferred to buy online with purchases shipped to their home.
51% of animal parents said they are willing to pay more for ethically sourced and eco-friendly pet products.
Pet insurance purchases among both dog and cat parents have also increased, nearly doubling among cat guardians in particular.
Conventional medications for ear infections in dogs can cause side effects and lead to resistant pathogens. These natural remedies offer an effective, non-toxic alternative.
Ear infections are very common in dogs. In fact, your own canine companion has probably had at least one ear infection at some point. Getting a proper diagnosis as to the cause of the problem is important, after which a range of natural remedies can help to effectively get rid of it.
DIAGNOSING EAR INFECTIONS
As with any condition affecting your dog, it is vital to work with your veterinarian to achieve a proper diagnosis. He or she will begin with a thorough history of the condition, along with an ear examination. Diagnostic testing may be required and can include an ear swab to rule out ear mites and provide a basic cytological evaluation of the microbes in the ear. An ear culture may also be needed. These are generally sent to special laboratories that will determine which organisms are causing problems within the ear, and which treatments are most likely to provide the best results.
Tip : Because some ear infections can be caused by allergies, your vet should also ask about your dog’s environment, as well as his diet. Allergy testing or diet changes may be some options for further diagnosis and treatment.
NATURAL REMEDIES ARE BECOMING MORE IMPORTANT
There are many options when it comes to treating ear infections in our dogs. The treatment protocol you are probably most familiar with includes some form of medication applied directly to the ear canal, or given orally in the form of antibiotics, antifungals, or anti-inflammatories. While these medications have been the mainstay of veterinary medicine for quite some time, side effects can occur, and resistance to infection-causing agents is on the rise. This means alternative options are becoming more and more important. These are just a few of the many choices available.
Natural Ear Cleaners
Start by keeping your dog’s ears good and clean. This not only helps remove dirt, but also aids in balancing the ear’s natural environment and maintaining the proper pH. One of the easiest solutions to make is a combination of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water, which can help remove waxy buildup in the ears. Another great natural ear cleaner is apple cider vinegar, which can be used alone or in combination with isopropyl alcohol. See sidebar on page 70 for some recipes.
Probiotics aid in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) environment. In recent years however, the impact of “gut” health on other parts of the body has come to light. For example, proper GI health has been linked to a stronger immune system, better cognitive function, and better skin health.
With improved immunity and skin health, the body has a better chance of maintaining proper pH and skin functions. This in turn aids the ears in maintaining the proper microenvironment, with appropriate levels of normal bacteria and other microorganisms needed for pH balance and function. While it may take a few weeks before results are noticed, beginning a probiotic regimen is extremely important for ear health along with overall wellness.
Probiotics come in many forms with various dosing instructions. Consult with your veterinarian to find the best product for your dog and his specific condition.
The use of therapeutic lasers in veterinary medicine has increased substantially over the last ten to 15 years. Once thought to be out of reach for the average veterinarian, and used primarily by specialty practices, laser therapy is now easily accessible to most vets. In fact, certain laser units have been cleared for use by animal parents in their own homes.
With ever-advancing scientific research, the medical circumstances in which therapeutic lasers are used have grown as well. Once thought of as solely another tool to treat pain, laser therapy now allows for the treatment of a multitude of conditions, including ear inflammation and infections.
Essential oils are very concentrated and can produce powerful effects. So remember that a little goes a long way. It is also vitally important to remember that not all essential oils are created equal. Purity and quality are absolutely paramount for safety and efficacy.
Do not apply undiluted (“neat”) oils directly to the dog, especially to sensitive areas such as the ears. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil. Applying diluted oils around the ears, and to the base of the ears, can be beneficial for treating inflammation and infections — see sidebar at left for a list of essential oils commonly used for ear infections.
Tips : While opinions may vary, some animal aromatherapists do not recommend applying essential oils directly to the ear canal. Consult a veterinarian trained in essential oil use before going this route.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) centers around diagnosing patterns and disorders of the body’s systems while treating the root cause of the ailment, not just the symptoms. In other words, TCVM focuses on the whole patient to maintain health and balance within the body.
Within TCVM, ear infections are often classified as a Gallbladder Damp Heat. The goal is to use specific acupuncture points known to clear the heat, and points along the gallbladder meridian to help move the body’s energy and open up the channel. Local points around the ears are also important and can be used to reduce local pain and inflammation.
Tips : Chinese herbal supplements prescribed by a veterinarian trained in TCVM are also wonderful at helping improve the body’s immune responses, thereby improving the dog’s condition and overall health.
These are just a few of the natural treatment options that can be used for ear infections in dogs. If your own dog is prone to recurring ear problems, rather than trying another round of antibiotics or antifungals, consult a holistic or integrative veterinarian about alternative therapies.
Natural ear cleaners
While these are all natural and have been well-documented in the literature for safe use, I recommend consulting with a veterinarian for guidance on use in individual animals.
- Combine 2/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar.
- Combine 2 tablespoons of water with 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide.
- Pour 4 tablespoons of plain water into a resealable bottle. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and 3 to 4 drops of isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Seal the bottle and shake well.
Essential oils for ear issues*
- Consult a veterinarian trained in the use of essential oils for the safest and best results.
Confident owners create confident dogs, says trainer and behaviorist Jackie Drakeford.
Confident handlers make their dogs feel safe. Dogs live in a human world, which is often difficult for them to understand, so if you make it clear what you want from them, then reward them when they do it, you take a lot of pressure from their everyday lives. You’ll come under less pressure too, which in turn makes you more confident.
Confidence comes easily to some, but the rest of us have to work at it, so here’s some advice on how you can build yours.
KNOW YOUR BREED / TYPE OF DOG
Once upon a time, all dogs were kept for work even lapdogs, who were expected to deal with rats and mice in the home as well as sound the alarm if any strangers approached.
Though for many modern dogs that initial purpose no longer applies, inborn traits and preferences related to their original tasks still exist. You owe it to your dogs to know what these are so you can help them to adapt to a pet lifestyle.
For instance, herding dogs want to work by ranging out to bring creatures back to their handlers, and in the absence of livestock, might try to herd the wrong animals, or even shadows, smoke, or light.
Retrievers like to have something in their mouths to carry about even if it is one of your slippers rather than a pheasant. If you want to avoid a soggy foot, you should put your own possessions away and leave plenty of dog toys about instead.
Terriers and hounds are inclined to hunt on their own initiative, and suppose that you might as well come along if you can keep up, but your input isn’t that important to them. Because you don’t want this to escalate into something illegal or embarrassing, you need to be very aware of those places where you may come across wildlife or terrier-sized holes in the ground.
Some breeds were created to bark at any unusual noise or movement, and still have a lot to say for themselves. Mixed breeds can lean to one ancestor in particular, or display certain characteristics from each of them. Finding your dogs’ bred-in drives gives you confidence because you know what to expect in any given situation, and when to intervene before it all goes wrong.
Probably the most versatile of training aids, the lead can be applied to any dog in any doubtful situation, so always carry a spare. A dog on a lead needs to know how to walk nicely, without pulling forward or dragging back, and to stay on whichever side you want him. Knowing your dog won’t lunge and pull you into a situation you can’t handle is a big part of confident dog walking, so lead manners are very important.
It’s important to keep your final goals in mind, but you shouldn’t expect PhD behaviour from a kindergarten dog. Instead, grade your training by starting in undemanding situations such as in the home and garden, working gradually up the ‘pay scale’ until you know your dog will produce the desired behaviour no matter what the distractions. Be lavish with rewards to begin with, then phase them out gradually, but never completely always reward an exceptional response. We all love rewards, and no matter how proficient you are at your work, a bonus always goes down well!
KNOW BODY LANGUAGE
Dogs ‘talk’ with their bodies, and understand other dogs’ body language, so your own confidence can be boosted by being able to read what your dog and other dogs are communicating, both to you and each other. This is a fascinating study, and it also inclines us to observe human body language, which is often at odds with what people are actually saying (‘Of course he’s never done that before’; ‘I can see how ‘friendly’ she is’; ‘Just wants to play, eh?’).
Dog body language starts off very subtly — an ear may swing back (‘It’s behind us’), both ears forward (‘See that squirrel?’), and there might be a change in gait, so by the time tails are raised or lowered, and posture changes have become significant, dogs have already had a big conversation. Similarly, if you walk tall but relaxed, with your head up and shoulders back, you will instil more confidence in your own dog, and respect in approaching dogs and owners, than if you droop along with your head down.
I always advise clients to go to the park or beach without their dogs and watch interactions between dogs and their walkers, which is a good way of learning body language without the pressure of keeping your dog safe.
THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Your own confidence is increased if you don’t have to worry about your everyday dog-walking equipment: simple things such as comfortable footwear with decent, non-slip treads; zipped jacket pockets so your keys are safe; a collar and lead that isn’t going to break (check the stitching often); and a treat bag that is readily accessible, mean you can concentrate on enjoying your walk rather than finding a hole in your one and only poo bag!
Confidence comes with knowing what is going on around you. Dog walking is not a time for screens and phone calls. Instead, you should take in what is happening in your immediate surroundings before any of it becomes a problem; be proactive not reactive. Being aware of what your dog is seeing and ‘saying’, what is behind, in front, and to either side, means you will be far less likely to have to sort out a scrap, or watch a disappearing set of hindquarters.
KNOWING YOUR LIMITS
All of us have off days, feel under par, or severely stressed at times. On these days, instead of putting more pressure on yourself because you think you ‘should’ or ‘ought’, you’d be better to choose an easy walk that isn’t likely to present major challenges or make you feel worse. Dogs are good at detecting weakness, and know at once if you are not your usual self. This means they can feel unsure about your ability to protect them. Depending on character, they may use this as a gleeful opportunity for mischief, or instead feel insecure and slink along defensively past other dogs, possibly triggering the very situation they — and you — want to avoid. There is also no shame in taking the occasional day off and staying at home, as long as you devote time to making your dog’s day interesting with puzzle games, or by laying scenting trails in the garden to follow together. Similarly, you should never feel you have to walk in any place where you feel unsafe, or where there are other issues such as difficult paths or too many dogs. Going for a walk should be the best ever fun for all of us.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember it takes time and practice to build a confident relationship with your dog based on love and mutual respect
Confident owners will have learned about puppy development stages, and will know that when their erstwhile ‘little angel’ has been kidnapped by the fairies — and a little devil left in his place — this is a temporary situation. It has to be endured, and for the most part, it runs its course. You need to know when to step in and create alternative behaviours, and when to smile with gritted teeth and remember he will grow out of it.
Dogs have no concept of how we like our homes to be, and you need to put precious possessions away, food out of reach, and close doors or use indoor gates to restrict access to anything you don’t want chewed or taken down the garden and buried. Garden fences and gates should be checked frequently for the kind of damage that allows your dog to escape, or others to get into your property, and believe me, if they can, they will. Well-trained older dogs can be surprisingly reliable about house rules, although some will always see an opportunity and go for it. Years ago, I found my leggy Lurcher pup standing in the sink, just finishing the joint that had been defrosting for our dinner!
Advice is something we all get plenty of, sometimes from strangers or people who have never owned dogs, and it can be a struggle to remember that however stupid, outdated, or just plain crazy it sounds, it is usually kindly meant. Confidence in knowing what to take on board and what to ignore is often the child of experience, which is, according to the saying, ‘something you get after you needed it.’ There is a lot of awful advice everywhere, from old-school dog trainers to the internet. There is also some very good advice. I recommend researching work by Kikopup, Lili Chin, and Emma Judson. Confident dog owners understand that setbacks can be overcome, embarrassment is temporary, and no one is perfect. Confident dogs know that their handlers are on their side and will deal with any awkward situations.
Taking your cat on a short trip to the vet or on an extended family vacation? Cats can become stressed when traveling, as the new sights, sounds and smells can be frightening.
An outgoing cat who loves adventures and meeting people is an ideal candidate for extended travel like a vacation. However, if car rides and new environments send your cat under the bed then it’s probably best that you enjoy your long adventure without her.
Whether you are traveling by plane or by car, there are common preparations useful for each mode of travel.
Start by acclimating your cat to two important items: a travel litter box and a Sleepypod carrier. Acclimate your cat to these items at least two weeks before extended travel.
Set out the travel litter box filled with the same brand of litter used in her everyday litter box. Allow her to sniff and use the litter box.
The carrier will be your cat’s sanctuary when traveling. A Sleepypod carrier converts easily from a carrier to a pet bed, and then to a crash-tested car seat. This seamless transition helps to reduce anxiety, as your cat is always traveling in her own familiar space.
Two weeks before travel, place the carrier in a frequent napping spot at home. Throw treats inside the carrier to get your cat comfortable roaming in and out of it. Offer lots of pets and praise. Set a sock or shirt with your scent inside the carrier to encourage your cat to make it a napping spot.
Once your cat has accepted her carrier, buckle the crash-tested carrier into the backseat of the car, going nowhere. Offer lots of praise and treats. Begin with brief car trips to get your kitty used to new sounds and smells before venturing out on longer rides.
Air travel There are greater limitations with air travel, so planning is crucial. Leading up to your f light, play various sounds at home to get her used to the bustling sounds of an airport. Again, start by having your cat well-adjusted to her carrier.
Next, acclimate your cat to wearing a walking harness. At the TSA checkpoint, your cat is required to come out of the carrier to be scanned. Having your cat already in a harness helps to make it easier to clip a leash onto the harness to prevent quick escapes.
Establish an area just for your cat. A blanket from home with familiar scents will help your cat adjust to the new environment.
Set out the travel litter box in a convenient but out-of-the-way spot so that your cat has easy access and privacy.
Don’t forget to hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob.
Bring extra food! Your brand of cat food might not be available at your destination. Travel can be upsetting to your cat’s tummy, so you don’t want the addition of new food thrown into the mix.
Lastly, pack a copy of vaccination records, your veterinarian’s contact information, and make sure your cat’s microchip and tags are up to date, too.
Ways To Help Skittish Kitties
You’ve brought your new cat home, and she promptly hides under the bed or behind the dresser, only venturing out to eat or use the litter box once everyone has gone to bed. The problem is, if you leave that shy cat to her own devices, she’ll probably stay that way and won’t bond with you or feel secure in her new home. So how do you encourage your cautious cat to trust and bond with you? With patience and the right approach. These tips will help:
Create a safe room
When bringing home your skittish kitty, know that she’s feeling overwhelmed by the changes in her life. Start her off in a smaller room, like a bathroom, office or spare bedroom, to give her time to get accustomed to her new surroundings. If you give her the whole house at once, she may panic and hide behind or under furniture or appliances, and it will take much longer for her to trust her new home.
It’s very easy to just let the shy cat do as she pleases. But a shy cat can quickly turn into an aloof feline if left alone all the time. This doesn’t mean crawl under the bed after her, but make time to sit beside her hiding place, talk to her in soothing tones and say her name often. I encourage our sitters at Just For Cats Pet Sitting to sit by the shy cat, talk to her, read their email out loud in a soothing tone and let her get used to them being nearby.
Have a supply of your shy cat’s favorite treats with you as you talk to her. Offer her a piece or two, and eventually she’ll associate your presence with those yummy goodies. She’ll start coming out of her hiding place more and more, establishing a bond with you as you give her what she craves. Eventually, you’ll be able to pet or give her a little scratch behind the ears, and she’ll begin to interact with you more and hide less.