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Friday, August 29, 2014

National Holistic Pet Day!

Holistic.  That's a term that we hear a lot these days.  It's a term used to help us remember to look at a being as a whole, and not as its separate individual parts.  We all have separate parts of our lives, but in order to be truly healthy and vibrant, we need to consider all of those parts together and how they affect each other. It is no different with our animal friends.
It's important to think of everything that affects our dogs when we approach their wellness.  It's obvious when we think about health and wellness to consider our dog's physical well-being.  Feeding the best choices in food and water, avoiding over-vaccination and exposure to unnecessary chemicals, making sure she gets enough exercise and regular veterinary care, helping her maintain a proper weight, getting her regular dental care, etc.  Keeping our dog's body healthy will help her to live longer and more comfortably.  Taking care of her body will also have an effect on her behavior and her ability to handle stress.  None of us are at our best when we don't feel good physically.  A physically healthy animal is better able to handle day to day stressors and is in a better mood than one that is not feeling up to par.
Did you know that your dog also needs to have wellness in other areas of her life?  She needs to have mental stimulation as well as physical exercise daily.  Mental stimulation will help to prevent boredom and the behavioral issues that develop because of it.  Giving your dog new experiences and puzzles to solve daily will help her to be more content.  Sometimes giving your dog mental stimulation can be just as tiring (or maybe even more tiring) than physical exercise!  Read some of my previous posts for ideas about how to give your dog mental stimulation.

Learning how to reduce stress in your dog's life will go a long way toward helping her maintain emotional  and physical wellness.  Stress can cause us all to be cranky.  When we are stressed, we have a shorter fuse and things tend to bother us more than if we aren't stressed.  The same is true for our dogs.  Stressed dogs are much less tolerant.  Many dogs act out their stress in ways that we don't appreciate - chewing, barking, tearing things up, pacing, jumping, pulling, etc.  Long term stress has been shown to have poor effects on physical, mental and emotional health.  And, remember that your stress levels and emotional state can have an effect on your dog and her behavior as well!
This is what holistic means - that every part needs to be considered because every part has an effect on all the other parts.  The ideal goal is to find balance in all areas of your dog's lifestyle and wellness.  I want my dogs to experience balance and wellness in their physical bodies, mental abilities, behavior and emotions.  When they are balanced in all areas, they can be at their best and in optimum health.
When you notice your dog having any type of issue - a behavioral change, a physical change, anything that you are concerned about - the first thing to do is to check with her veterinarian to make sure it is not stemming from a physical issue that is causing discomfort.  Our dogs can't speak up and tell us exactly what is not feeling good or how.  Many behavioral issues can be caused from a physical discomfort.  It is important to rule out any issues that may be causing your dog discomfort first.  I find that often once the physical issue is being treated, that the behavioral or other issues will remedy themselves. 
Check your dog all over for anything out of the ordinary. You should check your dog all over frequently so that you know what is normal for your dog.  Keeping your dog well-groomed is also important.  For example, a dog with long nails may begin to move or hold herself differently and this can cause pain and structural changes.  You may notice that your dog's behavior is changing and perhaps she is not wanting to do things that she used to do.  Is this because her nails are getting too long?  If you have a dog with long hair, you need to keep it well groomed and tangle free. If you have long hair and you have ever felt your hair pulled as a tangle catches on something, you will realize how much this hurts!  Ears that are infected hurt a lot and can cause dogs to snap or act in other ways that they normally would not. 
The effects of stress on our dogs can have enormous impact on their behavior, their emotions and their physical health.  If you follow this blog, you know I write often about stress and how it effects our dogs, as well as ways to help reduce stress for our dogs.  Dogs don't know that there is this thing called stress or how to make it go away.  They only know that they don't feel comfortable.  It is our responsibility to help them with reducing stress and its effects on them.  After you have ruled out a physical issue, look at ways you can reduce stress in your dog's life.

The next step is to look at all areas of your dog's life and see where things may be out of balance.  Is she getting the right nutrition, exercise, sleep, mental stimulation, attention, grooming, etc.  Try as much as you can to help your dog have a balanced and well-rounded lifestyle and you may be surprised at  how her  mood, health and behavior begin to change toward being more balanced!   

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