Dedication to Frank and 7 Ways to Have Fun with Your Dog This Fall

FrankThis blog post is dedicated to our recently departed love bug, Frank.  At the ripe old age of 15, Frank slipped his collar and ran free over the Rainbow Bridge on September 15th. Not only was he my beloved grand dog but also one of my working companions, and teachers of canine massage as well as one of our pack. I was so blessed to be with him and his human dad, (my son) and mom (his wife), as his incredible spirit took flight.  All was quiet, gentle and peaceful during this most sacred moment. I was able to sit close and send him Reiki during the entire process as he in turn let us know throughout that it was his time to go.  I know that all souls both human and animal are eternal but my heart still breaks in those moments when I am missing his little fur face with those big brown eyes looking into mine. These beautiful souls are the energy and passion behind the work I do. “Frank, the next massage is for you!”

“He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”
― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

ColoradoFallOn our walk this morning through the open space behind my house, I was aware of the fall changes taking place;  the crispness in the air, the grasses coated with frost and the trees and bushes deepening in shades of coppers, reds and golds.   As we move further toward winter, cold weather and the holidays, you may find yourself spending more time inside. Don’t forget, that just like us, our animals can become bored, restless and more prone to stress with increased inactivity and time spent indoors. The following are 7 activities that you and your canine companion can do together to stay happy and healthy this fall and winter .

Take a class or workshop together – Come join my November Animal Massage Class and learn new skills to  help your animal companion and other animals stay mobile, active and pain free with the powerful use of touch.  We will also be exploring other integrative and alternative health care modalities like aromatherapy, flower essences, and acupressure.  Join other animal lovers for this fun and informative adventure at Happy Dog Ranch, where you will get to not only learn massage on dogs but also on some of the other amazing farm animals who call this magical place home!

Play interactive games that keep your pet’s mind stimulated – Discover pet toys and games that are available to keep your dog’s mind alert and active throughout the day.

Set up play dates for your dog – Buddy up with a buddy to go for a walk or to have an indoor play time.  While you and a friend sip tea your dogs can be enjoying each other’s company “doggie,” style.

Play music throughout the day-  Check out the Icalmdog.  this is a small music player with four hours of looping music from the people at, “Through a Dog’s Ear.”  this music is researched based to bring you and your dog the perfect sounds for lowering stress or for snuggling up together for a nap.

Bundle up and go for shorter more frequent walks throughout the day – Although this may be a good time to spend the day journaling or snuggling on the couch watching movies, it is still important to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and move your body.  Going for short 15 – 20 minute walks, even when the weather is chilly, is an easy way for both you and your dog to keep your body, mind and spirit healthy and happy.

Give your dog a massage – this is a great opportunity to get out the video and practice those massage skills that you learned in my classes.  Just like us, our animals are more prone to stiffness and discomfort  in cold weather. Create a quiet cozy area in your house, turn on your Icalmdog and enjoy the moment as you send love and healing through your hands and fingers to your best friend.

Attend an indoor pet event like the two listed below – You and your dog are invited to come visit me and all of the special animal vendors and speakers to these and other pet events throughout the year.  If you have not been to either of these amazing (pet friendly), garden centers you are in for a treat!

Save The Dates:

Animal Massage and More Class
Happy Dog Ranch – November 15th and 16th from 10:00 – 4:00  – Learn More

Paws 4 Life Pet Fest Fundraiser
Echter’s Garden Center – Saturday, October 25th, 2014 from noon to 4pm

My Furry Valentine Pet Event
Tagawa Gardens – Sunday February 8th

Pictures of Happy Dog Ranch Reiki Class Sept 2014

I always say that in any of my classes the perfect group is called together for exactly what is needed for each individual at the time.  This proved to be true once again in my most recent Reiki Class.  On September 13th and 14th an amazing group of women came together at Happy Dog Ranch in Colorado.  They spent a dynamic weekend learning Reiki and focusing their attention and intentions on what was seeking to express through them with passion and joy.  As the weekend progressed each individual renewed her commitment to healing herself and the animals! As you can see through the sweet moments that are captured in these pictures, there was magic taking place for all.  My next Animal Reiki Class will take place on October 11th and 12th . There is still time to get in on the early bird special discount.  Because of the weather this may be the last one I hold until spring so if you are feeling called to learn energy work with animals this would be a great time to do it.  The animals are waiting!! REGISTER HERE.

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5 Surprising Ways to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing – By Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, and canine music expert. By combining her passion for music with her love of dogs, she co-created Through a Dog’s Ear, the only music clinically demonstrated to relieve anxiety issues in dogs. [ps. You can also buy iCalmDog on my website HERE.]

The following is from her September blog.  I believe it contains information that is important for all of us pet lovers to be aware of.

Enjoy!!

5 Surprising Ways to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing – By  Lisa Spector

It’s extremely common for senior dogs to gradually lose their hearing, often until it’s completely diminished. However, there are many small changes we can make to our sound environment to help protect their hearing.

Sounds are measured in decibels (dB), and each 10 dB increase represents a tenfold increase in sound energy. 90 dB is ten times noisier than 80 dB, 100 dB is ten times noisier than 90, and so on. Sound researcher Joshua Leeds, co-author of Through a Dog’s Ear, the first book to examine the powerful effect of the human soundscape on dogs, states, “Above 85 dB, you start playing with auditory fire. Inside the inner ear, irreparable cilia cell damage worsens with length of exposure and higher decibel levels. Your dog’s inner ear works in exactly the same way yours does and has an even wider range of frequency.”

Decibels of Common Household and Street Sounds

  • Whisper: 30
  • Normal conversation: 40
  • Dishwasher, microwave, furnace: 60
  • Blow dryer: 70
  • City traffic: 70
  • Garbage disposal, vacuum cleaner: 80

Danger Zone

  • Lawn mower: 90
  • Screaming child: 90
  • Power drill: 110
  • Ambulance: 130
  • Gunshot: 130
  • Fire engine siren: 140
  • Boom cars: 145

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing:

1. Take a sonic inventory.

Sound is like air. We rarely notice these two common elements unless the air suddenly becomes polluted or the sound becomes chaotic. The sonic inventory is one way of becoming aware of the noise in your pet’s environment and take measures to improve it.

2. Don’t expose them to loud bands or loud street fairs.

Humans hear sounds between 20-20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 55,000 Hz. While it’s great that more events and public places are dog friendly, so often those environments are created for humans. A fundraising party for dogs and their people that benefits your local shelter doesn’t benefit your dog when a loud band is playing. Please be careful of your dog’s sound environment.

3. Provide simple sounds at home that calm the canine nervous system.

Minimize intricate auditory information found in most music. The clinically tested music of Through a Dog’s Ear is intentionally selected, arranged and recorded to provide easeful auditory assimilation. Three primary processes are used to accomplish this effect:

  • Auditory Pattern Identification
  • Orchestral Density
  • Resonance & Entrainment

Take a listen with your pup and enjoy a soothing sound bath together.

4. Be aware of your dog’s unresolved sensory input.

When it comes to sound, dogs don’t always understand cause and effect. You know when people are in your home yelling at the TV during a sports game that it’s all in good fun. But, it may not be much fun for your dog, who is still trying to orient whether all of those crazy sounds are safe. Put Fido in a back quiet room, listening to music especially designed for dogs. This can not only safeguard his hearing, but also his behavior.

5. Don’t play two sound sources simultaneously.

Remember that your dog’s hearing is much finer than yours. One family member may be in the living room blasting the TV, while another is in the kitchen listening to the radio. Your dog is caught in the middle, absorbing both sounds and getting stressed. Try and only have one sound source at a time, playing at a gentle volume.

 

 

 

Pigs, Puppies & Paradise

 

Adria the pig whisperer, amazing awesome woman who runs the pig area.

Adria the pig whisperer, amazing awesome woman who runs the pig area.

What do all good road trips have in common?  Great scenery, wonderful new adventures, good weather, visiting friends, making new friends and precious time away to just relax and enjoy.  My recent trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah included all of this. It had the added bonus of allowing me to serve a group of awesome pigs and puppies. I left on my sojourn early Sunday morning heading west to my first destination of Grand Junction which is about 4 hours away.  5 hours later after several stops for pictures, a couple of hikes and a few bathroom breaks I arrived at my friends house where I was to spend the night.  We had a wonderful visit while enjoying a great meal in a fun outdoor restaurant. The weather was cool, the company was awesome and the craft beers were excellent. Back on the road the next day I made my way through some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. 

The rock formations, the raging river and the contrast of verdant green next to the red cliffs helped to keep me alert and focused for the final six hours of my drive.

Even though this was my fifth trip to Best Friends I never fail to feel excitement and gratitude as I arrive at the entrance to AngelCanyon. I know I will be with my people who love and respect animals the way I do as well as the incredible group of animals that they serve. The beauty of this canyon surpasses all of the other scenery that I see on the way there.  It is truly a paradise.

The welcome center is truly that.  With it’s beautiful koi filled pond, spacious porch and canine greeter inside the door, weary travelers feel a definite sense of welcome.  I get my key, meet with the volunteer coordinator to get my work assignments, take one quick tour through the gift shop and head to my home sweet home for the next three days.

My cozy digs.

My cozy digs.

Settling into my cozy studio cabin I was tired but looking forward to tomorrow when I would actually begin working with the animals. It’s interesting how I used to think that a vacation meant doing a lot of nothing, but here the vacation begins when I can start the work that I came here to do. The silence began to settle in around me as the workers and day visitors left for the day. I was beginning to experience the peace that I always feel when I stay here; a peace that is not found often in my busy city life. Although there is a TV I choose the sites and sounds of the natural world. There is no internet so I gladly surrendered my e-mails to another time when I’m reconnected and trust and know that they will still be there waiting for me then. It makes me feel as if within these canyon walls time stops for a brief time and I can just breath and enjoy. My phone worked sporadically so other than making a quick call to announce my safe arrival I was able to be truly present in the moment in this most incredible place.  The view off of my small deck is of the white fenced horse pastures.  Each enclosure in the lower sanctuary holds groups of two or three horses which now graze peacefully; stopping occasionally to take a lovely roll in the soft, powdery earth beneath their feet. Occasionally one will nuzzle the other and they will both take a slow stroll around the perimeter of the corral, checking out the area as I have been taking brief strolls to do the same. It’s hard to give up one moment here to sleep but I know I have a busy day of work ahead so I finally drift off around 10:00.

Massaging Panda the pig.

Massaging Panda the pig.

After a great nights sleep, which I almost never get when I’m traveling, I ‘m up and ready to get this day started.  I head to Nathan’s Piggy Paradise which is just a short walk from where I am staying.  I love being able to walk to work.  I greet horses, goats and a few early workers as I arrive at my destination. Adria, the head of the pig area is there to greet me.  We have worked together in the past and it is great to see a familiar face so soon after I arrive.  Adria is an amazing person.  She is a true pig whisperer.  They all know her and love her. Last year, just before losing one of their most beloved pigs, Squeaky, to cancer Adria bought him his own pizza and chocolate cake which they sat and ate together the evening before his euthanasia. She knows each and every pigs wishes, demands and quirks.  The pig area is filled with toys, wading pools, and covered houses.  Everything a homeless pig could ever need or want.

The pigs are let out and we put fresh greens and frozen veggies in a series of troughs  on the hillside.  By splitting up the food the pigs are encouraged to do more walking, something they all need to do to keep their weight down.  Normally after breakfast we would take them all out on walks around the property but today there is a donkey getting a dental out in the common area so we just  hang out together and give lots of belly rubs.

Working with Arby, another one of my friends.

Working with Arby, another one of my friends.

The new pig in the area is Arby. Adria says that he seems depressed and doesn’t want to come out with the others.  She’s worried about him and asks me to give him a massage.  She doesn’t have to ask twice.  Arby’s not thrilled but I am able to get some work done on him.

After a full morning with the pigs I have lunch and head to the dog area.  The building I will be working in this afternoon is call the Club House.  This houses a variety of dogs from some of Michael Vicks dogs that are still left to some of the only small dogs that I have seen on the property.  Each dog run has a shade tree with a swimming pool.  My job this afternoon is to scrub out all of the red sand that has collected in the pools and fill them again with fresh water.  This allows me a chance to visit with many of the dogs as well as having a very physical afternoon of outdoor work.  It feels really good to work hard on my feet after spending two days in the car. Each dog here wears a different colored collar.  The red collars signify that they may have aggression, the purple are for some issue, possibly health related and the green means friendly and safe.  I am not allowed to go into runs with red collar dogs by myself but following my afternoon of hard work I am allowed to do some training with a couple of the red collar dogs.  These dogs are super shy and I am trying to get them to make eye contact. I meet an especially sweet dog named Suzanne and decide that she is the one I will take with me for a sleepover.  They pack her bag and we are off for the evening.

Suzanne and I go for a long hike up into the hills behind the cabin.  She has a great time chasing lizards and I thoroughly enjoy her company.  She is the perfect house guest, very quiet and happy to snuggle up next to me and watch a movie.  In the morning we have breakfast together out on the deck and then I take her back before reporting back in to work in a different dog area.  Today I work at an area called The Fairways.  I think all of these dogs are green collars.  I take many out for walks and then sweep out their kennels.  At lunch I go to AngelVillage at the top of the canyon where they serve an amazing all you can eat, vegetarian lunch for $5.00.  The view alone of EscalanteNational Park  is worth twice that.  Many of the original founders of Best Friends come here each day to have lunch and meet the volunteers.  There are visitors from all over the world along with interns who will be here for an extended period to learn about animal care.

Pearl the wonder dog!

Pearl the wonder dog!

After lunch I return to the Fairways to take pairs of dogs to the dog park.  This is a huge fenced in area a short walk away where the dogs can run, play and chase more lizards.  They all love this area and it’s fun to watch them having such a good time.  Today I chose a white pit bull named Pearl for my overnight guest.  She was rescued from a fighting ring and her face shows the scars of her difficult start in life. She has since somehow put all of that behind her and is one of the most silly, loving dogs that I have ever met.  We again go for a long hike and then have dinner together on the deck of the cabin.  She slept on the foot of the bed and the minute I opened my eyes in the morning I heard her tail thumping.  She crawled up to me to say hello and have her ears scratched.  This one was very difficult to return.  She so deserves a forever home and would make the perfect companion for the right person.

After taking Pearl back to her caregivers I pack up my things and begin the long drive home.  I took a different way than how I came and went through an extraordinary area called Duck Creek. DuckCreekVillage is spectacular. It sits at 8,400 feet just off Utah Scenic Highway 14 on what is commonly known as CedarMountain. This area is also known as the Markagunt Plateau and is part of the DixieNational Forest. As I was driving through this area there were miles of lava fields, something I had never seen in our mountains.  This picture was just one of many scenic areas that I passed through on this Highway.

Although the drive home at times seemed long and tedious, it  gave me a chance to absorb all that had taken place in the last three days.  It also gave me some time to switch gears from so much peace and quiet to my busy life back home.  Each time I go to Best Friends I am changed.  My heart is a little more open and my connection to the animal kingdom is deepened.  The brief time and energy that I gave in service was returned to me many times over and I am so grateful!

Passing In Peace

Passing In Peace – Massage Therapy for Your Hardest Goodbye

Massage, for both humans and animals has established itself in the medical world as a restorative healing modality with many widespread and diverse benefits.  It has been reported, among other things, to reduce pain, increase circulation, relax muscle tension, and increase mobility and range of motion.  But one area that may not be as widely recognized is the benefits it can have for the hospice or end of life patient.

When a beloved canine or feline family member is diagnosed with a life threatening disease, or the animal’s companion is faced with making the decision to euthanize, it is devastating for all involved. It can feel like a time of extreme helplessness and loneliness for the animal’s companion.  We don’t want to see our animals suffer in pain for weeks or months and yet we don’t want to let them go.

As a professional, certified animal massage therapist I have had the honor to be present with many of my client dogs and their companions during their final days or weeks as well as during the euthanasia process. The power of touch is something that has been shown to soothe the mind and body.  By using slow, gentle massage strokes on the shoulders, neck and back I have been able to help an animal relax and rest. By using gentle energy balancing techniques they can settle into a quiet place of stillness and letting go.

In addition to providing loving touch for an animal I can also offer additional advice to help to make the animal more comfortable during the hospice care period. Such advice can help with mobility issues, and unnoticed areas of pain, tenderness and stress.

I have helped animal caregivers create a space for a peaceful passing  using techniques from  either energy work such as Reiki, and/or massage. I have been able to offer support before, during and after the transition from life to death.  Helping your beloved animal die with peace and respect is probably one of the most difficult and painful situations anyone will ever have to face.  Know that you are not alone in this process and that support can be just a simple touch away.

 

When our sweet, beloved German Shepherd Mia was ready to go we first called Shelley and then our vet. Shelley came over and created the most beautiful, sacred space in our house for Mia’s passing.  Both Shelley and our vet worked together to make sure Mia felt safe and supported and that all went smoothly as she made her transition.  A year later we still miss our girl very much but we were able to work through the grief of our loss more easily knowing that her final moments were so honored and peaceful.”

 

 

 

 

Inside or Out?

Inside or Out?

One of the ways that I get to be in service to the four legged community is doing volunteer work for Retriever Rescue of Colorado.  RROC receives lots of applicants who want to leave their dog outside all day while they are at work and/or relegate them to the garage or an outside dog house at night.  There are lots of reasons why this is not a good idea.

Some people believe that dogs need to be outside so they can get plenty of exercise. The truth is that most dogs don’t exercise when they’re in a yard by themselves; they spend most of their time lying by the back door, waiting for “their people” to either let them in or come out and play with them. This is often the case even with multiple dog households.

Dogs left alone in the yard for long periods often get bored, lonely and frustrated. As a result, they may dig, bark excessively or become destructive.

Some yard dogs may become overly territorial and feel the need to protect their territory even from family and friends. If a dog is hardly ever allowed to come indoors, it will be difficult for him to distinguish between family, friends and uninvited guests.

Retrievers and retriever mixes want nothing more than to be with their people and to be in the home with their peoples’ scents.

RROC discourages leaving your dog outside all day unattended. If the above reasons did not persuade you then maybe these will strike home.

1.Colorado has extremely quick changing weather patterns, bringing extreme heat, cold, high winds, and hail

2.Dogs that are frightened or perhaps just chasing a squirrel can easily escape from a yard, become lost and/or get hit by a passing car
3.If a dog does escape from the yard, you, as his owner, are liable for any damage or harm that he might do.

4.Children/teens will often tease and torment a dog through the fence, spray them with mace or pepper spray or throw inappropriate items over the fence

5.Beware of dog thieves – dogs can be used for meat, dog baiting in illegal dog fights, or sold to a research facility

6.There have been many instances of a dog dying because a person threw poisoned meat over the fence

7. A dog who constantly barks becomes a neighborhood nuisance

8. Collars and chokers can get caught on a fence, decking or bushes causing the dog to choke to death

9.A dog can quickly dig under a fence or break through slats to get out when he really wants to

10. Dogs will often chew on sticks, plants or other items in the yard which may cause intestinal problems or choking

11.If you live in rural areas or the mountains your dog has the chance of encountering unwanted wildlife such as mountain lions, bears, raccoons and skunks.  This problem is even becoming a reality in many areas of the city.

Dogs have the mentality of a 2 year old toddler and if you have children or if you have  been around them, you know why you would never leave a 2 year old unattended.  Make your dog a part of the family today.

Winterizing Your Dog

It may not seem like it, but a dog’s paws are quite vulnerable to the harsh effects of Winter. Exposure to ice, snow and salt takes a toll on even the toughest paws.

Salts, chemicals and most de-icers can be toxic to our canine friends. Try to keep your dog away from roads and sidewalks that have been heavily treated with salt and chemical de-icers. Look for  pet friendly products available for use on your own sidewalks and driveway and try to encourage your neighbors to do the same. While outdoors, do not let your dog eat slush or drink from puddles near heavily treated roads and sidewalks.

There are a couple of ways to help protect paws in the winter.  The first is applying  topical protection such as Bag Balm or Mushers Secret.  Bag Balm is a  product that has been used on farms for over 100 years.  It can be purchased online or at drug stores, pet stores, farm stores or feed and tack shops.  Both products are inexpensive and can be an easy way to offer minimal protection to winter elements. Apply a thin even layer of balm just before going out for a walk. After the walk wipe your dog’s paws with a warm washcloth to remove snow, ice and ice melt. Then apply another layer of balm to soothe any irritation and to keep them from drying out.

Another good option to protect your dog’s paws is dog boots. These boots are made by various manufacturers and can be easily found online and in pet stores. They come in many varieties but the ones I prefer consist of a sock like boot with a Velcro strap to help keep them in place. Some have soles which provide the additional benefit of adding traction. These boots protect the paw by helping them stay dry and preventing exposure to salt and de-icers. Be sure to check that the strap is not too tight; the boot should be snug so that it doesn’t slip off but not so tight that it constricts the paw. Dogs tend to not to like wearing the boots at first so acclimate them to wearing them by putting them on your dog for short periods of time in the house. Praise your dog and gradually begin to increase the length of time they are worn until your dog gets used to them. Two weeks tends to be an average, if your consistent and disciplined with your training. You can find a good pair of dog boots with treads ranging from $20-$60 online.

Dog walking with booties takes training, and it is a process canine owners must commit to in order to be successful. Remember, if you’re frustrated while doing it, your dog will sense your energy and become frustrated and anxious too. You need to step away for a second, calm yourself down, and work through the process gradually. A good pair of dog boots is not just for winter weather. They will come in handy with  hot pavement or rocky hikes during summer months too.

 

 

How to Treat an Injured Paw

For scratches and small cuts, it is imperative that you give the proper care to your dog’s paw. Otherwise the dog could continue to re-open the wound. Re-opening the wound will limit him from doing almost anything because dogs rely so heavily on their paws.

The first step to treating a small abrasion is cleaning the wound with anti-bacterial wash. After that is done, you will want to wrap the paw in a light bandage. It is important that your dog does not bite or chew at the bandage. Because moisture slows down the healing process and sweat does come out of your dog’s footpads, it is important that you change the bandage on a daily basis. Changing the bandage will help to speed up the recovery process and will help your dog avoid infections.

Small cuts should heal within a couple of days. If this is not the case or your dog’s wound is a bit deeper, you may want to consider bringing him to the vet. For more serious cuts, veterinarians will stitch the pad and most likely give him a splint.

Winter can be tough on our dog’s feet but good grooming and protecting the paws by using a balm or booties will go a long way to keeping your dog’s feet  happy and healthy.

 

 

 

AAHA Trends Magazine: In My Experience – Helping Hands

This article was featured in the American Animal Hospital Association Trends Magazine, January 2013.

Click here to download the entire article as a PDF.

IME_Jan13imgHelping Hands

In the past few years, I’ve migrated my work from human massage therapy into that of an animal massage therapist.

After receiving my bachelor’s degree in education, I practiced human massage therapy for 20 years. During that time, I also taught massage therapy for the Community College of Denver and wrote a massage therapy program for Arapahoe Community College and Denver Career College.

My massage experience has taken me from working with a spinal cord and traumatic brain injury patients at Craig Hospital in Denver to owning a day spa in Littleton, Colo.

I grew up around horses and dogs, and…

Click here to download the entire article as a PDF.

 

AAHA Trends Magazine: The Shifting Landscape of Veterinary Care

This article was featured in the American Animal Hospital Association Trends Magazine, February 2013.

Click here to download the entire article as a PDF.

CompMed_Feb13ImgThe Shifting Landscape of Veterinary Care

We are living in changing times. As the public interest and demands for he availability of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) increase, veterinarians are beginning to collaborate with a variety of therapists to round out their practice.

As a massage therapist for more than 20 years, I have learned firsthand how there can be a successful union of therapies in any type of medical practice. In this article we will look at some of the key elements necessary to make this happen.

As the trend to coordinate services continues, we may begin to see a shift from…

Click here to download the entire article as a PDF.

Get Fit with Fido for Real this Year

ShellydogerHaving trouble buttoning your favorite pair of jeans after the holiday?   Could you use a little more pep in your step?  According to the Association for the Prevention of Pet Obesity an estimated 54% of Dogs and Cats in the United States are Overweight or Obese, while the Center For Disease Control states that the percent of adults age 20 years and over who are obese is a whopping 35.9, and that’s not just during the holidays. Why not resolve to make 2014 the healthiest year yet for both you and your canine companion?

Here are a few suggestions for making this happen.

Be aware. Is your dog overweight? How can you tell? According to Veterinarian, Janet Tobiassen Crosby,

  1. Stand over your pet viewing the back. Look for a nice curved indentation in the area of the waist (just behind the rib cage). A pet with a “straight line” from head to tail, or even a bowed-out line along the back, could likely mean that your pet is overweight.
  2. View your pet from the side. There should be a nice “tuck up” area behind the rib cage and before the hind legs. A pet with a “straight line” or a saggy area in the belly area could likely mean that your pet is overweight. Cats are especially prone to fat collecting in the belly area; areas that are easily viewable from the side.
  3. Gently run your fingers along your pet’s rib cage. The ribs should be felt easily and the skin should glide over the ribs smoothly, as opposed to large “sheets” of fat moving along the ribs.
  4. View your pet’s face. A rounded face or visible folds of skin around the face and under the chin could likely mean that your pet is overweight — this depends somewhat on breed.
  5. Check the area above the base of the tail; overweight pets have extra padding and folds in this location.

Create a plan. Just like humans, dogs can lose weight in two ways. Either decrease their food intake (amount of calories eaten each day) or increase their activity. So create a plan. If amount is the problem, start decreasing the amount you are feeding at each meal gradually.  If you dog seems obsessed with food supplement some of the amount you are feeding with a few baby carrots or some green beans.  If you also need to get in shape, the same advice is good for you.. Try to choose foods that support good health for both you and your dog, especially when it comes to treats. Supplement high calorie snacks for more nutritious choices like fresh fruits and veges

Move, Play, Walk, Run. Schedule regular playtime with your dog.  Increasing your dog’s activity level will help both of you burn more calories. Play with your dog every day, as well as scheduling regular walks, hikes or runs.  Try a new dog sport like agility or flyball.  Remember if your dog has been a couch potato, start out slowly, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your movement time and don’t forget to include massage as part of your new year, new you program. Attend one of my canine massage classes to find out how you can give your canine workout buddy a great all over massage to prevent any soreness or stiffness after working out.

Take the challenge. Get fit with your dog and consider it a healthy gift for both of you and a great way to start the new year.