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1) Are Pets Important
2) Do I Really Need Pet Insurance
3) Keeping Your Pet Safe While Youíre on Vacation
4) PTSD Therapy Dogs
5) How to Be a Better First-Time Cat Parent

6) Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Pets



Are Pets Important
By: Melissa Golbrook

Pets - More Important Than We Realize

A lot of people simply don't understand what the big deal is when we lose a pet. "It's just a dog" or they say "it's only a cat"! Get another one if it means that much to you!Ě These people are apparently incapable of comprehending the place occupied by our pets in our families and our hearts. Many of us love our pets deeply, and naturally feel the loss intensely when our beloved animal companion goes missing. It's hard to explain the depth of the feelings we can experience for animals to someone who simply can't comprehend such emotion - and it's probably not worth trying. However, if people can't understand our love for our pets, perhaps they can be made to understand the hugely beneficial effects our pets have upon us. Quite simply, owning an animal is good for you. Here's how:

Pets Improve Your Mental Health

It's been proven time and time again that pet ownership is good for your mental health. While it may not work for everyone (if you're scared of dogs, the stress of dog ownership is probably going to outweigh any benefits you may gain!), those who are prepared to accept an animal into their home and to love them will almost certainly be rewarded with an uptick in their mental health. Why? Well, if you're a dog owner, it's partly because dog-ownership causes a general improvement in heart health (more on that later), and what's good for your heart is good for your brain. However, there's more to it than this. On a chemical level, interacting with a pet we love increases oxytocin (the 'love hormone') levels in our brains, which in turn pushes down levels of cortisol (the 'stress hormone'). So our pets make us happier, and less stressed - which is hugely beneficial for anyone trying to work on a variety of mental health problems. Simultaneously, our pets imbue us with self-confidence, bestow love upon us, give us a valuable grounding routine, and enable us to take responsibility for something. All of this is hugely beneficial for our mental wellbeing. Little wonder that we're stressed and anxious when we lose our pets!

Pets (Especially Dogs!) Are Good For Your Heart

It probably won't come as a surprise to many readers that owning a dog is good for your heart health. Dogs need walking, walking is exercise, and exercise is good for your cardiovascular system. So far, so simple. And it's certainly true that even the daily trot around the block you do with your dachsund adds up into a reasonable amount of heart-healthy exercise over time! Studies have shown that even those dog owners who do have heart attacks are more likely to survive them than non pet owners. However, cat and sedentary dog owners need not despair. Even those who don't exercise with their pets can get a reasonable amount of heart-healthy benefits from their animal companion. Perhaps due to the aforementioned stressbusting effect, it's been proven that stroking a beloved pet can lower your blood pressure. Lower blood pressure puts a lot less strain on your heart, and significantly lowers your risk of developing heart disease while raising your life expectancy. All in all, if you want to protect your heart, cherish your pet!

Pets Boost Immunity

One of the chief arguments put forward by animal haters is that they're 'diseased'. The theory runs that bringing any furred, feathered, or scaled creature into your home will instantly expose you to all manner of pathogens which will render you perpetually sickly. In fact, it seems that the opposite is true. So long as you do your best to keep your pet in a reasonable state of health, they will reward you by improving your immune system no end. Studies show that children brought up in pet-owning households are not only more resistant to common viruses than other children, they're also less likely to suffer from allergies. It's thought that pets give the immune system valuable 'training'. By picking up absolutely minute particles of environmental detritus on their coats, our bodies are exposed to and able to learn about the environment in which we live. This makes our immune systems far more prepared to deal with common pathogens and allergens within that environment than we would otherwise have been. Hooray for our pets!


Do I Really Need Pet Insurance
By: Melissa Golbrook
Who needs pet insurance?

Itís often costly, and the chance of your pet becoming ill is slim, right? Of course it is. If you look after your pets and take them for regular check ups and vaccinations at the vets, your pets will likely live a long, happy, and healthy life. However, what many pet owners donít realize is that pet insurance isnít there just to help out with the costs associated with treatments. Some policies can actually assist you in finding your pet should they become lost or stolen. Sightings of lost animals are reported every single day, and combining the services of pet insurance companies and Lost Pets of Western NC is one of the best ways to ensure you and your pet are reunited.

How Insurance Policies can Help Find Your Pet

Around 8 million cats and dogs end up in animal shelters across the United States each year, and sadly only around 30 percent are reunited with their loving owners. The key to finding a lost pet is to act quickly, and to get the word out there, to enlist the help of your neighbors by asking them to be vigilant and share any useful information. Some of the best ways to publicize your situation is to produce flyers and sign up to lost pets services online which use volunteers who scour the local area for animals matching descriptions of missing animals. Unfortunately, producing flyers can be expensive, and while Lost Pets WNC is a free service, others are not, and if you feel your pet has ventured further afield, you may wish to sign up to a nationwide service, which can be costly. This is when itís really important to have good financial cover for your animals, as pet insurance companies can provide funds that allow you to advertise both locally and nationally.

Good policies will pay out a set amount that is to be used towards the cost of advertising, such as producing high quality flyers and signing up for nationwide services, and some even automatically provide membership to paid services to help you find your missing pet. Unfortunately, sometimes people do know where your pet is, but are reluctant to pass along the information, either because they know that the pet has been stolen, or because a family has become attached to the pet and would be sad to return it to its rightful home. Insurance policies often set aside money to offer as a reward, which provides incentive for the public to come forth with any information that may be of use.

If the Worst Should Happen

While Lost Pets of Western NC have an excellent record for reuniting owners with their lost pets, sadly not all stories have a happy ending. If pets are lost, thereís a very good chance theyíll be found hiding in a neighbors garage or being fed by a family two blocks over, but if a pet has been purposefully stolen, itís not always as easy to locate them. Everyone knows that pets are a part of the family, and that nothing could ever replace them, but some insurance policies do pay out if a pet is not found after a specific length of time. While this money is not intended to make up for the loss of a loyal pet, it can help get you back on your feet financially, especially if youíve spent more than the amount allocated for advertising, or your main source of income is breeding pets, for example.

Finding a Good Policy

Itís always best to shop around a little before deciding on a pet insurance plan to ensure you find the right policy for you and your pets. Always take into account the type of pet you have, as you may find some are more suited to cats, and some to dogs. Unfortunately, itís often more difficult to reunite owners with their cats than dogs, so some policies do not allocate as much money for lost cats. Itís unfair, but itís the way these companies work. If you have cats, always choose a policy that doesnít discriminate against cat owners. Look for a policy that includes advertising costs, reward incentive, and financial support in case your pet isnít found. It may also be worth looking for a policy that covers the cost of microchipping which can make locating your lost pet much easier. Donít forget, ensure that adequate cover for treatments is also included, as if your cat or dog has been stuck in a garage, for example, without much food or drink, they may require a trip to the vets before they can settle back into home life.



Keeping Your Pet Safe While Youíre on Vacation

By: Melissa Golbrook

As anyone with pets will understand, those little furry friends really are a part of the family, and it can be heartbreaking to leave them back home while you take a vacation. As well as the worry about whether theyíre feeling lonely or getting sick, thereís also the fear that they could escape and become lost in the local area. Itís a terrifying thought, but it can happen. Even cats and dogs that are accustomed to being outside can become lost as they run or take shelter from things that scare them, such as the loud noise of a truck driving past, or a low-flying airplane, for example. Sadly, many animals, especially cats and dogs, are reported missing in the Western North Carolina area every day, so itís vitally important to take measures to ensure your pets are well cared for when youíre out of town.

Pet-Friendly Holidays

According to reports, more than 10 million pet owners around the world are unable to fully enjoy their vacation because they worry about their pets back home, so the obvious answer is to take your pets away with you! It can be tricky to find a vacation thatís pet-appropriate, but itís certainly not impossible, itís just about thinking outside of the box. For example, rather than opting for a hotel stay, why not consider a vacation rental thatís pet-friendly? Youíll have more space than in a standard hotel room, youíll likely have a fully equipped kitchen, and, most importantly, youíll be able to relax in the evenings with your pet resting on your lap. Itís best to choose somewhere with lots of open land rather than a big city, so thereís space to exercise your pet. If youíre looking for somewhere local, check out areas around Chimney Rock Park. Alternatively, you could also book a vacation on a pet-friendly cruise ship. The Cunard Line offers onboard pet services, and youíll be pleased to hear your pets will arrive home just as relaxed and pampered (and overfed!) as you!

Home Sitting Services

Of course, itís not always possible to take your pets on vacation with you, especially if youíre traveling abroad where your pet would require vaccinations or an elongated stay in quarantine. In these cases, home sitting services are one of your best options. You can ask a neighbor or friend to pop in on a regular basis to check things are OK, or you could opt to use the services of a professional sitting service. Sitters will visit your home at arranged times to feed and water your pets, groom if necessary, exercise them, and generally just spend a little time with them for company. There are two great advantages to using home sitting services. Firstly, your pets will be left in their own, familiar environment, so they wonít become stressed by being moved into an unknown territory. Secondly, there is great peace of mind knowing someone is keeping an eye on your home while youíre not around.

Kennels & Catteries

Another choice to look into before you head off on vacation is registered kennels and catteries. It can be quite costly, and your pets will need to stay in an unfamiliar environment, but some kennels and catteries are actually lovely places, and you can be sure your pet will be well fed and well looked after while youíre away. When looking for a kennel or cattery, take your time, do your research, and find somewhere youíre completely comfortable with so you wonít need to worry. Always ask to see the pet accommodations first hand, and ask around locally for recommendations. Your veterinarian is an invaluable resource when it comes to finding a kennel or cattery as theyíll often know which places are good, and which arenít, via word of mouth. 

Live YOUR Life

Allegedly, one in ten pet owners refuse to take a vacation because they worry too much about how their pets would cope without them, and while itís important to look after your animals, itís also important that you live your life to the fullest, too. Itís about compromise, about finding a happy medium. If you want to take a vacation, to get away from everyday life, then do it, but just be sure to take the appropriate measures to ensure your beloved furry friends stay safe while youíre gone. Weíve got a great record for reuniting lost pets with their worried owners, but of course weíd rather they were never lost in the first place! We donít want you being the next person reporting a missing pet, so take care, but enjoy yourself too.


3 Ways Veterans with PTSD Benefit from PTSD Therapy Dogs
By: Paige Johnson

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur anytime someone experiences a trauma. Military members who experience combat and participated in missions that exposed them to life-threatening experiences are more at risk of developing PTSD than other service members: between 11-20% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD, and about 12% of Gulf War/Desert Storm veterans have PTSD. Similarly, about 15-30% of Vietnam vets suffer from PTSD. Other veterans develop PTSD as a result of military sexual trauma: approximately 23% of female veterans report sexual assault when in the military, and 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual harassment when in the military. One way these veterans cope with PTSD is with the help of a PTSD therapy dog.

1. PTSD Therapy Dogs Benefit Veterans’ Mental Health

PTSD therapy dogs have been shown “to provide life-altering advantages to those who struggle with PTSD symptoms.” Therapy dogs that specialize in assisting veterans with PTSD help them lead happier, more fulfilling lives. For example, the act of caring for a PTSD therapy dog helps veterans to have a purpose in their civilian lives. They know their dogs rely on them for food, water, exercise, love, and attention, so they can focus more on their dogs’ needs and less on their own traumatic experiences. PTSD therapy dogs foster nurturing skills in veterans and make them feel proud of their accomplishments in caring for them.

PTSD therapy dogs also benefit veterans’ mental health by making them feel less isolated. Many vets who suffer from PTSD avoid social interactions and become isolated, which can worsen their depression, anxiety, fears, and PTSD symptoms overall. However, having a therapy dog gives veterans a companion so they don’t feel alone. Vets with PTSD therapy dogs also have the option of connecting with other vets and their therapy dogs, going to a dog park, or walking their dog in public areas. Having a PTSD therapy dog helps these veterans have motivation to be more social and interact more with family and friends as well.

2. PTSD Therapy Dogs Help Veterans with PTSD Heal

PTSD makes it difficult for veterans to return to civilian life because they have suicidal thoughts, recurring memories and nightmares, sleeplessness, a loss of interest in hobbies and loved ones, and higher levels of fear, anger, irritation, and numbness. In many ways, PTSD affects the daily lives of veterans and makes it nearly impossible for them to lead happy lives when they return home.

PTSD therapy dogs
soothe veterans by providing companionship, standing guard while they rest and sleep, and giving them comfort when they pet them. Having a dog also provides biological benefits by elevating oxytocin levels in the body. This hormone improves trust, helps people interpret facial expressions, aids in overcoming paranoia, and enjoy social interactions. For these reasons, oxytocin counteracts the symptoms of PTSD; owning a PTSD therapy dog has beneficial medical side effects for veterans and helps them cope with PTSD in a healthy manner.

3. PTSD Therapy Dogs Help Physically-Disabled Vets with PTSD

In some cases, veterans return from war with PTSD and physical limitations or disabilities. PTSD therapy dogs
aid these veterans in several life-changing ways. For instance, the dogs take on daily tasks such as opening doors, retrieving things, helping veterans out of their wheelchairs, turning lights on and off, and more.

PTSD therapy dogs also help these veterans stay in the present when they suffer flashbacks, panic attacks, and nightmares. Specifically, the dogs have the training necessary to monitor veterans’ heart rates, nudge them until they return to reality, and provide a calming touch. For veterans with physical disabilities, staying in the present is a matter of safety, and the PTSD therapy dogs ensure that they quickly become calm and do not endanger themselves.

For veterans with PTSD, few resources help them lead happy, fulfilling lives as well as PTSD therapy dogs. These animals have the ability to improve their mental health, their daily lives, and their physical health.


How to Be a Better First-Time Cat Parent
By: Jessica Brody

In many ways, cats can be an easier first-time pet than dogs. Many dogs require more attention, exercise, food, and training. Cats can be a bit more manageable at the outset.

But don’t let this common thought fool you. Cats are not “set it and forget it” pets. There are plenty of ways to be a great cat owner, and conversely plenty of ways to be a bad owner. Yes, your cat will likely be independent and seem self-sufficient - but it needs you to be an involved, caring parent. Here are some tips for the first-timers out there.

Cats aren’t dogs, but they need your time just as much

The worst thing you can do as a cat parent is to ignore them. Yes, cats are oftentimes more independent than dogs and it can seem like they are ok “doing their own thing” most of the time. It’s completely false though, the assumption that cats are independent and don’t really need as much love, affection, and playtime.

“Cats are indeed independent by nature, but they're not quite able to take care of themselves. Before you adopt, make sure that your lifestyle can make room for a feline. How busy you are and the amount of time you spend at home will dictate the kind of cat you should get - very busy people may find it difficult to find the time for a cat that needs a lot of grooming and attention, especially the highly intelligent and active cats. But, there are cats that are ideal for the working lifestyle. Do your research,” says Pet MD.

Be an involved, not an absentee cat parent (just don’t be offended when they do want their alone time!).

Mind the litterbox

Cats want to be clean and they like their privacy. One of the best things you can do as a cat parent is to be mindful of their potty space. Many cat owners neglect the litterbox, and that can lead to an unhappy and stressed out feline.

“The litter box is a personal place for any cat and if you want to keep them happy you’ll be sure to clean it and change the litter regularly. Depending on the size of your new companion, consider a box that will accommodate their size. Ones with lids are nice to allow your cat some privacy when he breaks for the box. The lid also helps to eliminate odors, and there are many deodorizers available that you can purchase to help mask the smell in between cleanings. Remember to keep the litter box in a place where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic so they have privacy – you’d want the same thing,” says the I Heart Cats blog.

Self-raking boxes are nice, but if you don’t want to shell out the extra dough make sure you can commit to scooping it yourself on a regular basis.

Take the time to truly understand your cat’s diet

Your cat shouldn’t be eating all the time and you shouldn’t just feed it anything. One of the best things you can do as a responsible cat parent is to do your research and truly understand how to feed your cat.

Cats can easily become overweight if they are constantly offered food. Instead of leaving a full bowl of food out at all times, try setting up a feeding schedule for your cat - similar to what you’d do for a new dog. Read your labels. Figure out what kind of cat food your cat needs. Age appropriate food is vital to raising a healthy cat. And no - cats can’t just eat anything. Like dogs and chocolate, cats have plenty of things that are either irritating or downright poisonous to them. Check out the ASPCA’s database for poisonous items.

While there may be additional considerations if you’re adopting an elderly cat, taking care of your new furry friend doesn’t have to be overly-complicated. It’s just a good idea to know what to expect, and how to best care for your cat to give it a happy home.