Caring For Man's Best Friend: Natural Ways for Lyla

Who says healers only come with two legs? Not in our world. Our Giant Schnauzer, Lyla, is the light of our household, our best companion.  It is true. I refer to her as our family healer, our therapist and even our very own shaman all rolled into one.  She is an instant de-stresser and instinctively knows just when we need some extra TLC.  She is a total crack-up and my daughters request daily pics of her to be texted to them when they are away to get their fix! Yes, Lyla has a permanent place in our hearts and all of those that get to know her.

It makes no sense to make the effort to take care of our own health so carefully in ways that I write about in this blog and not include extending that care to a most vital family member: our pets. They deserve good health and we can help provide it.

Natural Ways to Care For Your Dog

Besides regular exercise, lots of affection (no problem there!), check-ups and good quality dog food, here are some other practices that we incorporate into our care for our precious Lyla to keep her feeling her best. But, always check with your vet before trying something new for your canine pal.

Be a Player.  Our Lyla is sharp.  She is a fast learner and loves to play games.  Stimulation is so important for all of us including our four legged friends. Hide and seek, retrieving, obstacle courses, chase -- Lyla loves all if it.  And. wrestling? She could do that all day!  All these are great ways we keep her (and our ourselves) from not taking life too seriously and creating some free fun in our day.

Mist away ticks and fleas.  Lyme disease is no joke, but those pesticides we reach for to spread on our dogs' skin aren't either. They carry a lot of toxicity for your dog and you (as you get exposed as well when you pet her). In fact, years ago, Lyla was throwing up on a monthly basis. After we ruled out other possibilities, we suspected it was the monthly tick repellent we were administering to her.  Sure enough, when I stopped giving her that, the vomiting stopped as well.

There are many natural tick repellents on the market now that you could try or you could make your own.  Fleas are repelled by the essential oils contained in these mixtures and they smell pretty nice too. For example, the essential oil rose geranium has been shown to be successful for repelling ticks from dogs. Here is some other information on essential oils that could help.

Keep a spray bottle by your door so that you can mist your pooch upon going outdoors.  I keep it in my car as well for those impromptu hikes or other times I throw my favorite travel companion in the car for an outing. To make your own repellent spray, check out this post.

In addition, conduct thorough tick exams on your dogs during the high season.  Go here to find out more about what to look for and the best way to remove ticks.

Keep 'em cool.  The heat of summer is just around the corner.  Keep fresh water always available and include a portable bowl and water bottle in your car.  Watch those darker coated pets (like mine!) as they absorb more heat than lighter coated canines.  Kiddie pools, ice in the water bowl, water spritzers and sprinklers are all good ways to cool off your favorite playmate.

Top it off with some yogurt.  Plain yogurt is a healthy treat for your dog and the live acidophilus in the yogurt keeps the good bacteria in your dog's intestines in balance, especially if your dog is on antibiotics.  Puppies can be prone to yeast infections as well so a little plain yogurt on top of their meals can help while the intestinal system is building immunities. There is also a powder form you can sprinkle on your dog's food as well that I obtained from my vet when Lyla was having tummy problems.

Tea time for all.  Chamomile tea is great for alleviating skin irritations for pets. Go ahead and make a cup for yourself before bed (as it has great calming effects) but make a little extra.  Let it cool overnight and pour it into a spray bottle. Mist over aggravated skin areas for some relief.

Polish those incisors.   Those teeth offer serious protection, but not if they fall out or get a painful infection.  Brush your dog's teeth often (daily is best) or even as my vet suggested, take a bit of gauze to cover your finger and brush the teeth with your finger. The gauze provides friction to brush away tartar buildup.

Toss the plastic.
  Use stainless steel bowls to feed your dog as plastic can get nicks and scrapes that will trap bacteria that your pooch may ingest.  Stainless will not do this.  Remember to wash the food and water bowls regularly with very hot, soapy water to keep bacteria away as well.

Keep the diet whole.  Uh . . . have your read up on what is in some of the commercial dog foods?  It is a crime, really. We try to focus on a whole foods diet at our house and that goes for Lyla too. She gets good quality dog food each morning, but when I am preparing dinner, Lyla comes running once she hears that knife hit the cutting board.  Why?  She knows she is getting her evening snack of fruits and veg!  No picky eater here.  She loves it all!  Here are some raw vegetables/fruits I include regularly depending on what I am making for the family that evening:
  • zucchini
  • green beans (I always save the tips for her!)
  • cucumber
  • romaine lettuce ribs 
  • carrots
  • banana
  • apples (no seeds!)
  • pears (no seeds!)
  • peas
  • berries
  • red bell peppers (not the hot ones!)
  • sweet potatoes (These are cooked.  Before seasoning them for the family, I take out a big scoop and let cool for her.)
  • white potatoes (cooked) 
I also give her canned pumpkin often and coconut oil daily (great for her skin and a parasite preventive). And I have yet to see her pass up a spoonful of peanut butter or some leftover plain roasted salmon or chicken!

Remember:  Not all vegetables are safe to be eaten by your dog. In fact, they can harm.  Always confirm with your vet before introducing a new food and check out this list of harmful foods for dogs.

So what about you and your four legged pal?  What special measures do you take or home remedies you could share?  Lyla and I would love to know!

sprinkler: photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ablight/4650280927/">A. Blight</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommo


Sweet Tooth Remedy: Healthy Chocolate Orange Mousse

Got that hankering for a bit of sweet to finish off a special meal or dare I say maybe even on its very own? Yes, me too, sometimes. You are careful with what you eat, stay away from the bad stuff and eat a lot of the good. I get the picture. You exercise regularly and don't want to blow it with one bowl of decadence.  I hear ya.  But, I think I may be able to help.  Check this out!

Here is a delightful little sweet you can treat yourself or your sweet ones to with no guilt.  Yes, indeed!  It is actually full of antioxidants, has lots of fiber, tastes great, comes together in minutes, and makes you smile. Not bad for a brief whirl in your blender.


Health Clicks: Recipe Round-Up - Springtime Brunch

Easter, graduations, baby showers, wedding showers - all great reasons to host a springtime brunch. But, you don't need any of those special occasions to do it either.  Go ahead, open the doors and let that spring air in, plug in your iPod, and create a beautiful brunch for yourself, your special ones or even a crowd.

Healthy Brunch Dishes

Keep it as simple or as elaborate as you want it.  But, keep it healthy and yummy at the same time with some of these recipe links to inspire you to do just that:

1.  Get a bit festive and start things off with a refreshing cocktail, of course.  Here is a virgin one that could not be simpler and it is pretty, too!


Seasonal Allergies and How To Cope

Spring is in the air!  But, um . . . so is the pollen.  I am not a big sufferer of spring or fall allergies but I live with those who are.  I feel your pain,  This one is for you.

You can reach for the pill bottles and for some, their allergies are so severe, it is the only remedy that helps.  Those pills can dry you out though or make you unbearably sleepy and may not even work completely.

Drug-Free Solutions to Seasonal Allergies

For those who suffer more of the mild reactions to seasonal allergies and who do not want the pills as well as for severe sufferers who have to take the pills and need even more help, here are some habits to create that may help lessen the pollen impact and help put back your pep in your step:


Transitioning to Organic Bedding

It all started with the pillowcases.  I reached in the linen closet to begin making up the bed for overnight guests and there were no pillowcases.  Well . . . decent pillowcases. Ones that could actually encapsulate a pillow without threads coming out everywhere. With kids' summer camps and beach trips, camping trips, family summer rentals, sleepovers,  . . .  the few remaining extra ones we had that were not left on all those adventures were either fraying at the seams, had some weird iron on decals that my daughter created at camp, or were otherwise in bad shape.  So, yes, "the transition" to organic bedding all started with replacing those pillow cases.

When I did replace those pillow cases, (and I bought several sets with the dire state of our linen closet), I chose organic ones that were one sale.  I had just read and was shocked to learn that cotton is heavily sprayed with pesticides - more than any other crop - so thought it would be a good idea to begin with that. This, of course, led to more research on the topic and here is what I found out:

Chemicals in Your Bed

There are a lot of various chemicals used to make cotton and other fabrics. Formaldehyde, in some fabrics, has been declared a carcinogen by the United States Government at certain levels  Here is a list of other chemicals that could be lingering in your non-organic sheets and linens as well:


Back Pain: How To End It

Chances are you or someone you know suffers from back pain.  Many studies show most have suffered from it at some point.  Other studies out recently even show that low back pain is a major cause of disability. That leads to a host of other problems or missed opportunities. We can't have that.

Sometimes, back pain with symptoms like these indicate you need to see your doctor.  Provided you have determined with your doctor nothing serious is causing the pain, caring for your back can really boil down to a lot of daily things you do and don't do to keep it strong and flexible.

Pills Mask the Problem

You can take over the counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or others to mask the discomfort, but over time that choice can cause a lot of other serious issues like these:
  • liver damage 
  • kidney damage
  • stomach bleeding 
If you just keep reaching for the pills as a solution, you will never get to the root of the problem and may even cause bigger problems.


Date Syrup: A New Sweetener On My Shelf

With my goal to greatly decrease the amount of sugar I consume, I am always experimenting with alternative ways to get that hint of sweet.  (And, I am not talking anything artificial.  Chemicals like aspartame and Splenda do not belong anywhere near your lips or anyone else's lips you care about.)  I am referring to unprocessed forms of sweet.

This alternative sugar topic is a tad complicated as many experts disagree on which is best. But the way I look at it is if I am going to add "sweet" to whatever I am making (and I do not add a lot) it should at least have some nutritional benefit.  And, as it turns out, some do!

I shared my use of maple syrup here and why and the delights of raw honey here.  They are both good ones to reach for - in moderation - but I couldn't resist trying a new one I spied at the market recently: date syrup.  Maybe you will want to make a space for it on your shelves as well.


One Healthy Sauce: Five, 20 Minute Dinners

Who doesn't like quick solutions?  Quick, effective solutions I should add.   And, I think I have one for you here with a quick healthy sauce that will make five, 20-minute dinners that are tasty and full of goodness.  You have a busy week coming up but still have mouths to feed, including your own, and don't want to succumb to take-out? I think I can help.

It starts with a roasted red pepper sauce that you can pull together in no time that is used to create several fast, healthy, delicious dinners.  But first, why this sauce?

Health Benefits to the Red Pepper

Here are some facts on the glossy, glorious red pepper and why you may want to make this sauce and include it in your diet:


Health Clicks: Getting Ahead

Health Clicks this go around is all about the noggin.  After all, we can't function much without it.

Going Headfirst

Click on the green links to expand your mind and learn more about how to take care of it:

1.  Maybe those big headed individuals really do have reason to brag.  Or do they?  Does head size have anything to do with brain size?

2.  Don't just consider your waistline when choosing foods.  How about eating well for your brain as well?  Improve your concentration, memory and mood with the right food choices.