Does your dog bounce off the walls when visitors arrive? Or pull your arm out of its socket on walks? Does your cat or dog have dry skin, itching, allergies and a lot of shedding? How about excessive energy, lethargy, panting, digging, chewing, biting, anxiety, hiding, throwing up, upset stomach or housebreaking issues?

I used to think that pet health only had something to do with how they fared at their once-a-year vet checkups. As a local animal trainer, I’ve learned that it’s much more than checking out their body once a year – that their mind and spirit need to have frequent tune ups as well.

Stress can come in many forms, and often we wait until there’s a medical emergency before we take action. There’s a lot you can do from home to make sure that you and your pet are living a healthy life – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

How can you detect stress?

Most animals show us pretty clearly when they begin to get concerned about something, but we often miss these simple little clues. Licking their lips, yawning, blinking and looking away, panting, excessive energy, shutting down – all of these signals are ways that an animal might show that they’re having a bit of a concern over something. Those are the subtle clues. Then, there’s the tension in the body, the quality of the hair and skin (oily, dry, flaky skin), their gait (how they move their body), breathing, facial expression and of course, behavior.

What can you do about it?

The first thing I did with my dog, Java, was to educate myself. Learn as much as you can, and make the health of your pet (and yourself) a priority. You wouldn’t drive your car with one flat tire, three bald tires and no oil, would you? Here are some quick and easy tips to help keep your pet living a long, healthy, happy life.

DIET: Quality food = Quality of life. I recommend organic kibble without corn, soy or wheat, or a well-balanced raw diet. I also recommend reading Jane Goodall’s newest book, Harvest for Hope. You’ll think twice about what you eat and drink and how diet affects the well-being of all creatures! Having a consistent feeding schedule along with quality food can make a big difference.

EXERCISE: Physical, mental and emotional exercise are all equally important. If your dog is carrying too much (or too little) weight around, it affects the rest of their body, mind and spirit. Play games with them, teach them new things, and stimulate their mind. Java loves to learn new things and snuggle more than about anything. Talk to them and engage them in your activities. And, last but not least, love them unconditionally as they do you.

DISCIPLINE: A well-balanced pet has clear boundaries and is treated with understanding and respect. I recommend gentle methods of working with animals (and humans)! When pets know what is expected of them, and there is clear follow through, the whole house lives in better harmony. People who train their pets, talk with them, spend quality time with them and respect their pets as part of the family end up with well-behaved, happy, healthy pets.

HEALTH CARE: Regular vet visits are vital to a healthy pet, as is regular grooming (bathing, cleaning ears, teeth brushing/cleaning and nail trimming). There are also a number of complementary methods that help keep an animal in balance in addition to veterinary care (but not as a replacement for). Some of these methods include: Reiki, massage, Tellington TTouch®, Healing Touch, shamanic healing, animal communication, acupuncture, acupressure, and Chinese medicine.

Reducing stress not only increases your pet’s overall health, it will also improve your own level of serenity.

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Sage Lewis is the Creature Teacher with Dancing Porcupine and is a Certified Life Coach, Shamanic Practitioner, Animal Communicator, Intuitive/Medium, Wedding and Funeral Officiant, Animal Hospice Consultant and Level 3 Certified Tellington TTouch® Practitioner. Sage’s passion is guiding all creatures to find and embrace their true essence, to live a fulfilling life of love, joy and passion, and to move through all of life’s transitions with peace and grace.

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