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Pampering Your Pets

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The long-awaited warmth of summer beckons us to go on leisurely walks with our beloved pets through parks and wilderness trails

The long-awaited warmth of summer beckons us to go on leisurely walks with our beloved pets through parks and wilderness trails. Our furry darlings relish every chance to dive into bushes, ponds and virtually anything else that will thrill their blessed little hearts. With this in mind, here is some useful information to help you keep your pets clean, healthy and happy.

Fleas, Ticks and Parasites

"Parasite prevention should be considered only if your animal is at risk," says animal health technician and biologist Chantale Robinson. If you have a Chihuahua that spends most of its day on the couch and has an occasional pounce outside, it is at a lower risk of coming in contact with parasites than a hunting dog that spends most of its days outdoors.
Low-risk animals should not receive preventive parasite control.

Pharmaceutical companies are now marketing potent medication for flea control that anyone can order without veterinary prescription. Pet shops also sell strong chemical agents that permit the average person to medicate their pet. Although laboratory tests have been done to prove these drugs "safe" for animals, remember that reactions will always vary for each cat or dog.

Even if chemicals are considered safe, you can still be wise and selective about those that you choose. Very young, old and sick animals are at higher risk of toxicity to such drugs.

Read labels and avoid buying over-the-counter products; often these products don't list their chemical ingredients, nor do they provide instructions for first aid should a reaction occur. If used needlessly, toxicity can occur by accumulative effect, and may surface as liver, kidney and skin disease. There is even speculation that overuse of these drugs is contributing to the rise of incidents in epilepsy. Consult your holistic veterinarian to decide which product is safe and necessary for your pet.

Topical

Prevention through natural approach will help to chase external parasites away. Put two drops of geranium and lemon essential oils on the palms of your hands, rub them together and lightly apply on top of your dog's coat in an area where he can't lick it off before your stroll in the woods. (Don't use this technique on cats.) Garlic and brewer's yeast given in your pet's food within 24 hours of the outing will leave the insects with an unappealing blood meal, and spur them to find another host.

Reading Ingredients

I made a dire attempt to uncover the ingredients in the most common brands of pet hygiene products found in pet shops and large-chain retail stores. To my amazement, these products do not list most of their ingredients if any but tend to market the few natural ingredients that they may contain.

One leading national brand claims that it is "mild with an organic formulation." I decided to investigate a little further. I logged onto the manufacturer's Web site and found these shampoos listed in a section for product safety information with warnings about hazardous ingredients. Three of the substances that appear on the list are formaldehyde, methyl paraben and sodium laurel ether sulphate.

Most people are aware that formaldehyde is a severely toxic, cancer-causing agent that is used as a preservative for embalming corpses.

Methyl paraben, well known for its high toxicity causing severe allergic reactions, is used as a microbial inhibitor to prolong shelf life.

Sodium laurel ether sulphate is a foaming agent used in shampoos and detergents and is known to cause eye irritation, hair loss, rashes, dandruff and other allergic reactions.
An average shopper would be easily mislead by the fancy label claiming "organic formulation, a luxurious sheen and prevention of damage to your pet's skin and hair" along with the sales person's declaration that "this is the safest product equivalent to a baby's shampoo."

Shop at a health food store. Ask questions. Read labels. Look for natural, complete ingredient lists that include terms such as aloe, oatmeal, lavender and tea tree. When diluted and formulated properly, essential oils are a wonderful, natural way to deodorize and condition your dog's skin and coat. Even greater precautions must be applied when dealing with cats, as they are extremely sensitive. Only natural products specially formulated for cats should be used.

Good Grooming

Your groomer is your pet's second best friend, according to Kimberly Howie, a certified groomer. Your groomer sees your pet more often than your veterinarian. Because of the close contact that is involved in the grooming process, any abnormalities such as lumps, hot spots, rashes, parasites, ear infections and weight fluctuations are often detected.

Longer-haired breeds need their coats regularly combed out, otherwise mats will develop. If left unattended, mats will retain moisture, cut off airflow to the skin and cause numerous skin conditions and dandruff. Mats will also prevent you from effectively checking for fleas and ticks. Regular grooming makes your pet look and feel better.

Your furry prot?'s personal hygiene is imperative to its overall good health. An ounce of prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure!

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