Physical and Emotional Wellness in Pets
I was very lucky to receive an invitation to join experts and influencers at the third Purina Better With Pets Summit on Tuesday.
The day-long Summit examined physical and emotional wellness and the evolution of the bond between pets and the people who love them.
It was hosted by Emmy-nominated comedian, writer and pug parent, Josh Gondelman, and took place at the Brooklyn Expo Center in New York City on Nov. 3rd.
Keynote speeches were presented by Purina senior research nutritionist Arleigh Reynolds, who has researched the dog and human bond for many years in Alaska and supports The Frank Attla Youth Program ; and author and reality television personality Carole Radziwill, who shared how pet ownership has shaped her life experiences.
Arleigh’s sled dogs are very, very fit. He has a circuit his dogs run on every day for several hours- they love to work. I’ll be doing a separate post on Arleigh and the exciting Frank Attla Youth (and Dogs) program. It is amazing the difference dogs can make in our lives.
“The Purina Better With Pets Summit has become a platform where the best and the brightest in the industry meet and discuss how pets and people are better together,” said Nina Leigh Krueger, Chief Marketing Officer for Nestlé Purina PetCare.
“This year, we not only explored emotional wellness across three expert panels, but attendees had access to one-of-a-kind interactive exhibits where they experienced first-hand ways to improve pet wellness.”
There were five educational zones which featured interactive exhibits, and opportunities to connect with Purina experts. The exhibits featured educational touchscreen displays, a dedicated room showcasing healthy environments for cats, a play lab for agility dogs with wearable technology that monitored their activity as they played, and an area where attendees could see how nutrition impacts cognition and emotional wellness in pets.
My rescue Pug Kilo would have loved the gorgeous agility play area. There were 2 of the cutest, extremely fit Pugs having so much fun there. Kilo is loving the low-calorie SPORT Training Treats we received in the nutrition area and I look forward to receiving more information on the benefits of Probiotics from the Purina experts.
Stress in Pets
I was particularly interested in the discussions and exhibits around anxiety as Kilo still suffers in so many situations.
Dr. Marty Becker moderated the panel on stress and emotional wellness. It was interesting to hear that not all “stress” is bad. A little “stress” to find a treat, complete a behavior, achieve a goal, or win a race can be OK. Dogs definitely need mental and physical stimulation.
However, he and other panelists and experts did outline some strategies to reduce stress in anxious dogs like Kilo which included
- Desensitization over time (distance can be your friend)
- Positive associations versus negative (eg rewards when they see a trigger – treats when they meet a stranger or when you leave the house)
- Trigger avoidance
- Pheromone sprays
- Massage , especially of head
- Relaxing music or speaking in a certain higher voice (baby talk and lots of good boys in Kilo’s case)
- Calm physical environment (pastel colours like pale blue and green)
- Drugs and natural remedies
I already use some but will be trying several new ones. One lady mentioned she has her pet do a behaviour or trick when out and stressed and it allows the Pet to redirect and focus. I do the same with Kilo and can often distract him from the source of his stress.
It was also very interesting to see the advances in research on reading the body language, mood and mental state of dogs. It’s easy to interpret a dog’s behavior the same way you might interpret a friend’s, but dogs and humans are quite different. Signs can be confusing.
Learn to Detect Signs of Stress
“We’re naturally attuned to stress in other people. We know what a happy dog looks like, but what does a stressed pet look like? Stress increases cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, which over time can lead to long-term metabolic conditions.” said Dr Becker. Major indicators of stress to watch out for include:
- Excessive yawning (although Kilo yawns when he is very happy to see me)
- Excessively licking lips (Kilo also gets a little twitch around his lips if he is really uncomfortable and about to react)
- Shaking dry when not wet
- Avoiding or hiding
- Hardening of the eyes
The interactive display pictured above monitored various signals and levels including heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweat I believe, in both the dog and the human pictured and showed differences and interpretations- very interesting.
Physical and Mental Wellness
Dogs are one of the most athletic mammals. “Energy varies between breeds and dogs”, says Dr. Becker.
“Each dog group has a unique set of instincts and skills that affect how much exercise they need, what activities they enjoy and what stresses them out. Knowing your dog’s purpose is one of the best ways to ensure they remain active, engaged, and fulfilled… Providing outlets for play at home is crucial”.
For both cats and dogs, he recommends food-dispensing that “recreates the hunt,” and puzzle feeders that engage your pet’s “body and mind.” Games and activities that use scent or other skills your dog can develop can be really beneficial. I have been making Kilo work for a big portion of his food every day, chasing kibble, finding hidden pieces, doing behaviors. It slows him down and he loves the challenges, plus he gets to run around the house.
The Summit was also a great opportunity to catch up with friends including our Fit Dog Friday co-host Diane from To Dog With Love. Thanks to other hosts Slim Doggy and Emma.
Have a great weekend and be pro-active. Share your tips and insights and check out the blogs below for inspiration.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Summit and received some food and treat samples, but I did not receive any payment for posts or participating.