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Keep Pets Safe All Summer Long

Keep Pets Safe All Summer Long

4 tips to overcome warm weather hazards

4 tips to overcome warm weather hazards

(Family Features) Summer means extra time outdoors. Sunny months provide a perfect opportunity for bonding with pets, but higher temperatures, seasonal plants and pests and additional travel can pose higher risks for complications.

To help keep dogs, cats and other pets safe during summer adventures, consider these tips from the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals, which has more than 1,000 locations across North America that cared for more than 4.5 million pets last year. 

Beat the Heat
Dogs and cats cannot control their body temperature by sweating as humans do. They have a small number of sweat glands located in their footpads and primarily regulate their temperature by panting. Vigorous exercise, leaving a pet in a vehicle with poor ventilation – even if the windows are down – or being left outside without shade and water on hot days can lead to heatstroke, or hyperthermia.

Increased humidity combined with warmer temperatures intensifies the risk of heat stroke, especially during the first few warm days as pets transition to outdoor activity. If your pet exhibits any symptoms of heatstroke – elevated breathing rates, dry or sticky gums, lethargy, disorientation, abnormal gum color, bruised gums or seizures – pour cool water over your pet’s head, stomach and feet or apply cool, wet cloths, ensure continuous airflow and see a veterinarian immediately.

Keep Ticks at Bay
As pets spend more time outdoors in the summer, they’re often exposed to pests like ticks. Ticks can transmit serious diseases to both dogs and cats. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, as many as 1 in 20 dogs tested positive for tick-borne diseases in 2021. Ticks climb onto pets from blades of grass or fall from overhanging trees and foliage. If a tick finds its way onto your pet, use tweezers or disposable gloves to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible then pull straight out with steady, even pressure until the tick releases.

If you find a tick, carefully inspect all areas of skin, including behind the ears and between the toes, for additional ticks. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with soap and water and wash your hands. Save the tick in a resealable plastic bag to show your veterinarian and take note of the time and place the bite occurred and any other details that may aid your veterinarian should an illness occur. Follow your veterinarian’s advice about tick preventative measures, and make sure the product is safe to be used for your pet’s size. Never use dog flea and tick products on cats.

Travel Safely
If you plan to travel with your pet, pack the necessities for your animal. Your pet’s luggage should include food, water bowls, treats, a leash and collar, toys, medications and printed copies of medical records, including vaccination history. Check with your veterinarian to determine if a health certificate is needed for travel. Also ensure your pet is comfortable with his or her crate or carrier before flying or embarking on a long road trip.

Knowing where to take your pet in case of an emergency while away from home is also essential. Look up emergency veterinary clinics near your destination before departing or ask if your vet offers virtual care options. For example, through the myVCA app, you can access 24/7 live chat with licensed veterinary professionals.

Manage Allergies
Many of the same allergens that affect humans impact pets. Atopy, also known as inhalant allergy, is a common cause of skin problems in dogs and cats. Affected animals often have a history of chronic or recurrent itching and tend to have a history of repeated skin or ear infections. Itchy pets tend to scratch themselves, lick their feet and rub on furniture or carpet. Atopy can also cause cats to groom excessively and develop bald or crusty spots on their skin.

Some allergies may also affect the respiratory or digestive systems or the eyes. If your pet is displaying signs of allergies, your veterinarian can recommend appropriate testing and treatment to reduce symptoms.

Visit vcahospitals.com to find more ways to keep pets safe throughout the summer and book an appointment.


Photos courtesy of Getty Images


VCA Animal Hospitals

Support for Caregivers Means Better Care for Loved Ones with COPD

Support for Caregivers Means Better Care for Loved Ones with COPD

(Family Features) Chances are you know someone who takes care of a sick parent or spouse. You may even know someone who cares for a person with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and gets worse over time. Like other diseases, it often affects more than the person living with it. COPD can affect the whole family.

Joel Africk found this out firsthand.

“I watched my mother serve as the main caregiver for my father with COPD,” said Africk, president of Respiratory Health Association (RHA). “The follow-up appointments, the coordination of his care with his care team, the supervised exercise – my mother juggled it all. She was the driving force in my dad’s care.”

Luckily, because of the work he does, Africk said, “I was able to put our kitchen table conversations in front of a dedicated team of patients, caregivers and providers, and ‘The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit’ was created. We worked to simplify some of the most complicated parts of being a COPD caregiver and provide resources to help.”

Caregivers who feel confident about what to do often provide better care for their loved ones. “The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit” offers advice on a variety of topics for patients and caregivers, including how to prepare for doctors’ appointments, navigate changes in home life, provide help after a COPD flare-up or hospital stay and stay mentally and physically healthy through it all.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Learn More Breathe Better®program recently partnered with RHA to update and make the toolkit more broadly available online. Learn More Breathe Better works to improve the lives of the millions of people living with COPD and other lung conditions. Through its educational efforts, NHLBI reaches patients, providers, researchers and now, caregivers.

According to Jim Kiley, M.D., director of NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases, “COPD is a complex disease that over time can become debilitating. That’s why early diagnosis, treatment and disease management are so important. It can be overwhelming for many patients and their families.”

To help with disease management challenges, “The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit” comes with medication and vaccination tracking sheets and a list of questions to ask doctors. It also features information caregivers can use to support their own health and well-being, such as how to find support groups and backup care.

The right tools can make all the difference.

“‘The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit’ is a valuable resource that will help clarify what caregivers need to know to help themselves and their loved ones,” Kiley said.

Find and share this free resource at nhlbi.nih.gov/COPD-caregivers.


Photo courtesy of Getty Images


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Support Mental Health in Rural America

Support Mental Health in Rural America

The value of sharing lived experiences

(Family Features) Throughout many parts of the country, an increased understanding of mental health has led to enhanced awareness of its importance. A catch-all description of emotional, psychological and social well-being, mental health affects how people think, feel and act, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In fact, mental health is an important component of overall health. However, in some instances, there remains a gap between understanding mental health and embracing solutions, particularly in rural areas.

“When my 28-year-old nephew died by suicide in a farming community where mental illness was a subject never discussed, my mother courageously announced ‘Enough is enough. We are going to talk about this, and we are going to talk about this in detail,’” said Jeff Winton, founder and chairman of the board of nonprofit Rural Minds.

His commitment to confronting suicide and mental illness in rural areas supports the goal of the organization, which is to serve as an informed voice for mental health in rural America and provide mental health information and resources. A major barrier to individuals seeking help in rural communities is the stigma often associated with mental health challenges. The organization is working to confront the stigma through people talking about their personal, lived experiences with mental illness.

Recognizing the value of sharing deeply personal accounts of mental illness is also the message of Jeff Ditzenberger, a farmer who attempted suicide. His own challenges confronting and managing his bipolar II disorder while returning to farming motivated Ditzenberger to found TUGS, a mental health nonprofit with the mission to address the stigma surrounding mental health challenges and suicide.

Passionate about normalizing discussions about mental illness, Ditzenberger is working with Rural Minds to encourage others in rural areas to talk about their challenges with PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia or other mental issues. The goal is for people to become as comfortable with the discussion of mental health as they are talking about COVID-19, the common cold or the flu.

Mental health professionals agree that opening up about mental health challenges can be the first step to finding a path forward.

“Sharing the burden of mental illness and life experiences can be really, really powerful,” said Dr. Mark A. Fry, consultant in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Mayo Clinic. “As a psychiatrist, I would tell you it’s a critically important part of the overall treatment plan. In my opinion, the concept of providing peer support – sharing lived experiences with mental illness and supporting each other – really is invaluable.”

Barriers to Seeking Metal Health Support in Rural Areas
While mental health is imperative for overall health, some people do not recognize mental illness as a disease; rather, it is sometimes perceived as a character flaw or personal weakness.

“Mental illness is an illness – just like cancer or diabetes,” Winton said. “Just as it is with many other diseases, the person who is ill is not responsible for getting the illness. Much of the stigma around mental illness may be rooted in the misdirected and unfair shame that can be an added burden for someone who is already suffering with a mental illness.

“Similar to many people in rural America, I grew up on a farm and was taught to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get over it, to just move on and to not think about it. Well, that is not an acceptable response to a mental illness. You don’t do that with other illnesses. You can’t do that with mental illness.”

Collaboration is Key
In the spirit of collaborating to better serve the mental health needs of rural America, Rural Minds is partnering with The National Grange, a family, community organization with roots in agriculture that was founded in 1867.

“Our aim in collaborating is to develop a grassroots, person-to-person approach to provide people who live in rural communities with mental health and suicide prevention information by working with local Granges, civic groups and community leaders across the country,” Winton said.

Help is Available
There are several established organizations that provide mental health information and services across the country, but Rural Minds focuses entirely on confronting the mental health challenges in rural communities.

Find a compilation of free mental health crisis resources and support and overall mental health resources and support at RuralMinds.org, which also offers access to recordings of educational webinars presented by the organization.


Photos courtesy of Getty Images


Rural Minds



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