Sunday, February 17, 2008

Heat Therapy Helps Latch-Key and Senior Dogs

(ARA) - Six-year-old Charlie got the Christmas present of his dreams -- a Cocker Spaniel puppy. His mom loved to watch the joy in his face when they played together during winter break. But, when Charlie went back to school and his mom went back to work, their puppy joined the legions of latch-key dogs in our country.

They returned home one day to find accidents throughout the house because the puppy didn’t use the doggie door when left alone. The next day, they found a closet full of chewed shoes. The final straw was a new couch, which Charlie’s single working mom struggled to buy on her modest salary, which was rendered unrecognizable when the dog chewed the cushions to bits. Many areas have a number of programs with affordable after-school activities for kids who would otherwise go home to empty houses. But, there are no such programs for our pets who spend their days alone.

Grier McCurdy loved to go trail running with Stella, her yellow Labrador retriever. Early each morning, Stella waited excitedly by the front door, waiting for her to lace up her running shoes. As she got older, Stella slowed down, but was still a willing companion. But one morning, when Stella was only seven years old, she couldn’t walk. The vet diagnosed her with arthritis in both knees and mild dysplasia in one hip. He told her that Stella’s running days were over, and that she shouldn’t even chase a tennis ball anymore. “Me and Stella were heartbroken,” says McCurdy. “I’d get up in the morning to go running, and she’d be waiting there for me. Then she’d start crying when I left without her.”

These stories demonstrate two very different needs for our pets -- but with a common solution -- heat therapy. Many vets are recognizing the benefits of low-level therapeutic heat to treat everything from separation anxiety and stress for the latch-key dog to a variety of bone and joint problems like arthritis. But how can we provide heat therapy for our pets when, for many dogs, a hot tub or Velcro heating pad just won’t work? More and more vets are recommending the use of heated orthopedic pet beds.

“Our dogs face many of the same challenges of urban life we humans do,” says Dr. Karen Halligan, author of “What Every Pet Owner Should Know” and director of veterinary medicine, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Los Angeles (spcaLA). “With more and more of today’s working families busy until late afternoon, we’re faced with a nation of latch-key dogs, often left alone in empty houses for 10 to 12 hours. Also, thanks to the many advances in medical technology over the years, we’re also seeing an increasingly older dog population which presents its own set of challenges for senior pet care. Across the board, I’ve found simple heat therapy to be very effective.”

We can all relate to how good it feels to take a long soak in a warm tub. Our muscles relax and we feel calmer. The same thing is true for our pets. Heat therapy is an extremely effective tool for relieving both arthritis and separation anxiety. According to some estimates, more than 10 million dogs -- young and old alike -- are affected by arthritis. And winter’s cold, damp weather can exacerbate painful symptoms that make it harder to walk, run or climb stairs. Pets in pain can also experience a loss of appetite or demonstrate aggressive behavior -- like chewing on furniture and shoes.

Until recently, pet owners didn’t have a way to provide heat therapy to their pets since traditional heating pads are unsafe for use on dogs or cats. But a new line-up of high-tech orthopedic pet beds by Dolce Vita Pets features a special flat screen heater within an orthopedic foam bed that provides safe, heated comfort to soothe anxious and aching pets.

“When animals get stressed out -- like when their owners leave the house for an extended period of time -- their body temperature drops and their muscles can tighten up,” adds Dr. Halligan. “Resting in a heated pet bed increases blood flow and allows muscles to relax -- the soothing comfort helps to ease stiffness and anxiety.”

The heat therapy combined with an orthopedic bed helps to evenly distribute body weight and eliminate pressure points while relaxing muscles and promoting increased mobility and activity. Heated beds, like the Dolce Vita Therabed (www.dolcevitapets.com), provide safe and uniform heat at vet-recommended temperatures within a supportive cushion that helps your pet (and you!) get a good night’s sleep.

Our pets are part of our family. We do so much to ensure their comfort and well-being -- and they give us so much in return. But sometimes, they need a little extra love and care to help them overcome physical and emotional obstacles. A comfortable and warm place to rest can do wonders to help their overall health and well-being.

Courtesy of ARAcontent
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