Quit Horsing Around

Growing up, I spent quite a few of my summers at a horse ranch down the street from my home. I didn’t care if I was riding the horses, cleaning up after them, feeding or washing them, I was happy to just be around the beautiful and wise creatures. I will always remember this one particular horse, Billings. He was the oldest horse there, and in some ways he was also the most playful. He was retired from riding, and given full range of the entire facility. Billings would roam around, watching young children and horses alike, working together as a team to take on trails or obstacles put in front of them by our instructors. His favorite game to play with us was a bit risky. We had to tickle Billing’s chin until he stuck his tongue out; that’s when you knew it was on! Our goal was to grab his tongue before he slurped it back up his big old mouth; however, his goal was to squish our little hands between his big block teeth. A cruel fishing game, but we loved it! I still have all of my fingers, in case you were concerned for my phalangeal health.

My path in life has brought me to working with animals. I often have friends and family contacting me for advice about their pets; mostly dogs, cats, sometimes lizards and the occasional birds or rodents. As much as I love horses, my knowledge about their health is not as strong as it is for smaller animals. There is so much buzz in the pet industry about nutrition, diets, and what feels like quite a big influx of pets developing allergies and intolerances to food in the last ten years or so. For this reason, I’ve decided to do some research about common food sensitivities and intolerances that horses experience.

First off, it is worth noting that I am specifically talking about intolerances, and not full blown allergies. What’s the difference? An allergy occurs when the immune system is triggered, resulting in a rapid onset, and life threatening reaction. An example of this would be anaphylactic shock. To test for true allergies, a blood sample would be taken to test Immunoglobin-E (IgE) antibodies. On the other hand, an intolerance is not life threatening, but does cause an unpleasant reaction or varying degrees. If I eat wheat or gluten, I risk causing a migraine to hit me hard a few days later. My life is not in danger, but I will be bed ridden until the symptoms subside. The testing process that we do at 5 Strands Affordable Testing, uses only a hair sample. The DNA in hair, is exposed to possible triggers to determine what food and environmental factors could be causing sensitivities and intolerances in the body.

Symptoms that horses may experience if they have an intolerance could include hives, hair loss, fizzy and excitable behavior, swelling on the body, digestive upsets, and a decrease in energy. These all make sense, because many overlap with gluten sensitivities in humans. In my research, I’ve found that many believe the common culprits of food intolerances in horses to be barley, molasses, and alfalfa. Barley is a member of the gluten family, eh? I avoid it at all costs, so I can see why horses are having reactions to it. It seems like every other day I get a news article pop up on my phone about how bad sugar is for us. In humans, sugar has been linked to acne, depression, and low energy levels, so it’s not so outlandish to say that molasses would be responsible for reactions in horses too. I was under the impression that alfalfa was a grass or grain, but it’s not! It’s actually in the legume family. In humans, legumes and beans are known to cause bloating and other unpleasant symptoms. All of the pieces of this little puzzle are making perfect sense to me. I did not find any reports about these ingredients causing life threatening reactions, so I would confidently say we’re still in the realm of intolerances.

As far as environmental factors for horses, I could not find any specific items that I could talk about in this post. However, I will say that anyone (horses included) can develop a reaction to outside irritants. If your horse is experiencing symptoms and you’ve exhausted all diet-related possibilities, then it could absolutely be an environmental issue. My cat’s environmental test revealed his top problem-causing factors were wool, leather, and ragweed. He’s a (primarily) indoor cat and I don’t own anything with wool or leather, so luckily he is safe! But, those are very common materials for many people. If you are someone who travels with your horses, you may notice they develop some of the symptoms listed above in certain regions, or that their symptoms subside in other areas, then you may want to consider our test to help you narrow down what could be causing such reactions.

Before writing this article, I reached out to fellow animal acupressure practitioners who work on horses, to get an idea of common issues they see with their clients. The lovely Sam MacLean at Red Dog Ranch in Hartford, Wisconsin responded. She practices equine massage therapy and equine acupressure, and has a great background in bodywork with horses. She recently started her own blog, so for those interested in the topic I highly suggest reading her first entry. She tells a beautiful story. Click here to read it! Sam informed me that she witnesses a lot of horses with vitamin E deficiency. Because I love researching, I dug deeper.

I learned that horses cannot produce vitamin E naturally themselves. As horses age, their requirements for vitamin E increases as well, and it is essential that it’s provided to them through their diet (I’m seeing parallels with taurine deficiencies in cats and dogs, but I digress). Vitamin E benefits nerve and muscle functions. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent muscular diseases. When is the last time you stood next to or put hands on a horse? All you feel is muscle! They absolutely need vitamin E to keep those robust figures. If a horse experiences a vitamin E deficiency, their muscles will be poorly oxygenated and lead to muscular dystrophy and poor immune system. This in turn, could lead to chronic and recurring health issues.

If horses are receiving the proper amount of vitamin E in their diet, adults are only able to store about four months supply in their bodies. This means they need a consistent and continuous source of vitamin E to maintain their health. They can acquire vitamin E through fresh green foliage. I can’t speak for you, but I automatically think of hay. When hay is harvested, there is a wide range of 30-75% loss of vitamin E, so it is actually better for horses to forage and graze naturally. To help battle this, there are high fat feeds on the market that have vitamin E added to in order to prevent oxidation of the fats in the food. Creating a balanced diet of natural foraging, harvested hay, and high fat feeds may be a solution to keep horses healthy and happy. Keeping variety in diets also helps prevent overexposure to any one ingredient, which could lead to an intolerance developing in the body.

To inspire myself to write this, I spent a day at Noah’s Ark Animal Habitat in Locust Grove, GA (a short drive south from Atlanta). They have a wonderful sanctuary for animals who have been rescued, retired, or surrendered from less than ideal conditions, many with physical or mentally challenges. There are horses, goats, pigs, monkeys, peacocks, and more! There’s even a habitat with a lion, tiger, and bear that are all best friends. My heart just turned to mush. Going down there for a visit a really great experience and way to support what the facility does!

I talk a lot about our human, cat, and dog tests at 5 Strands Affordable Testing, so I’m grateful to give all the equine folks out there a shout out, because we also have a food and environmental test for horses! If you think your horse suffers from the symptoms I spoke of in this article, have a look at our tests and let us help you narrow things down.



Boob Jobs and Heavy Metals

Women come in all shapes and sizes, and we are all beautiful in our own individual ways. Some of us prefer to work with what we were born with and some of us work to enhance our beauty whether that be with makeup, buying new clothes, getting our hair done or even undergoing plastic surgery. Even though getting plastic surgery may enhance your looks, it may not necessarily be the best thing for you to do because it could have some adverse effect on your body.

Let’s take breast implants for example. Many women have this procedure done in order to look better and get the attention they may desire, but what they may not know is that breast implants contain several heavy metals that can be harmful to their body. An article entitled Breast Implant Illness (2017) listed a number of heavy metals that are inside breast implants. Some heavy metals in silicone implants are arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc. Some heavy metals in saline implants include arsenic, lead, manganese, platinum, tin and zinc. A few of these metals are fine to have in the body but many of them can cause damage to the body. 

Here are some of the negative effects of harmful heavy metals in the body: 

–acts as a neurotoxic to the brain and central nervous system

–displaces minerals and upsets digestion

–damages organs like the liver and kidneys

–contributes to fungal, viral and bacterial infections

–disturbs metabolic functions

–creates imbalances in healthy metals (low calcium, low iodine, high copper), and

–blocks, replaces, depletes, and poisons the body and its functions

If you are contemplating on getting breast implants, please talk to your doctor and be sure to ask them about all of the possible harmful effects that getting the procedure done will have on your body. There are also great push-up bras that will allow your breast to appear one or two cup sizes bigger, so getting a major surgical procedure may not need to be the route you choose. If you already have implants then it is best that you get a Metals/Minerals test done with 5 Strands Affordable Testing https://www.affordableallergytest.com/product/metal-test/ in order to see what heavy metals are prevalent in your body. Once you know, you can then talk to your doctor about alternative implants because your health is important to your overall well-being. When you put you health first, it will help you feel even more beautiful than you already are because you know that you are doing what is best for your body!


Heavy Metals. (2017). Retrieved April 1, 2019, from https://www.breastimplantillness.com/heavy-metals/

Cause Fur Baby You’re A Firework

Are you ready for the 4th of July holiday coming up this week? Chances are that no matter where you live you will be able to experience fireworks. Even if there aren’t firework displays planned in your town or neighborhood, I’m sure all of your neighbors will be setting off some sort of loud pyrotechnic devices. To us, they are beautiful and eye catching. I think our pets would whole-heartedly disagree, however. Fireworks are man-made and when we ignite them, the animals in our homes are under the impression that the world is ending. How could we expect them to know that it isn’t? Instead of trying to convince them by simply telling them, I’ve come up with five pro-tips to help our furry loved ones adapt to our explosive ways to celebrate. 

Physical Stimulation

When it comes to tiring out your dog or cat, this is probably the most obvious way. It’s hard to be terrified when you’re exhausted, right? There are many ways to go about incorporating more exercise into your dog’s routine leading up to big holiday celebrations. This is a good thing because you know your dog better than anyone else, and you can find options that are aligned with your lifestyle as well. For instance, if you and your dog are active and take regular walks or runs, then you could extend your walks by 15-30 minutes or go on additional walks, or add a run into your routine if you don’t typically do so. Think of the added benefit for yourself too, especially before indulging in holiday cheat meals this week. 

Other outdoor exercise ideas include fetch in the backyard or park, extra time at the dog park, and including your dog in everyday activities in which you partake. If possible, try going to dog-friendly restaurants or bars if you have plans. Depending where you live, there may even be dog park and bar hybrid establishments. Here in Atlanta we have a facility called Fetch Park & Ice House, which is a full service dog park with a bar so you can hang out with your friends while your dog hangs out with theirs! I know what some of you are thinking; where do I find the time? If you don’t have the ability to work out with your dog, other great options are dog daycares, dog walkers, and if you’re fortunate enough to find a company that does so, you can hire someone to take your dog for a run! 

If you have a dog that is less active, older, or has health issues, then I would skip the run. However, extra walking time would help if your pup can handle it. Dogs who have difficulty getting out of the house for whatever reason can still be active inside your home. Find a space to play fetch, or tug-of-war. You could also hide their favorite toys and treats around the house and have a scavenger hunt. However your dog enjoys to play, take it and run with it (pun intended). Indoor play also applies to cats. There are certain toys that my cat goes nuts for, and he has so many that when I want to tire him out I get his bag of toys out and go through each one until he is ready for a nap. I have even tied a string to my belt loop or ankle while I’m doing chores around the apartment. Simon goes crazy for a string, so it’s a productive way to entertain him! Whatever the case, physical activity is just as beneficial for our pets as it is for us. If you’ve ever worked out, you know how well you sleep at night after a gym session. 

Spending the day giving your pet the spa treatment can also be tiring! Brushing and bathing your pet is a really good way to bond with them and tire them out a bit. Creating that social bond with your pet causes feel good chemicals in the body to activate. As an acupressure massage practitioner, I will also add in that brushing our pets helps stimulate energy that runs through the body, and encouraging balance. A balanced body can lead to a balanced mind. I recommend brushing or combing them out really well before the bath, and then again once they are dry. We’ve all seen our fur babies strut around after a bath, so why not boost their confidence to prepare for a possibly stressful time. You know how your dog or cat prefers to play and spend their time, so take the time the days and even hours leading up to Independence Day celebrations to provide that additional activity time.

Mental Stimulation

One of the few occupations in the pet field that I have not worked in directly is training, but I always recommend incorporating mental stimulation and challenges into your pet’s routine. If you’ve ever sat in on a long seminar or lecture, you know how tiring mental stimulation can be. Who else tries to read before bedtime, but gets 5 pages in and their eyelids feel like they will never open again? Hopefully not just me. The same concept applies to our pets! Try interrupting their physical activity with mental activity. A real double whammy for you. Engage with your dogs during walks. Randomly have them sit, lie down, or any other trick they know or you want them to know. You can carry treats on you to reinforce the behavior, or simply reward with praise. Make sure they are giving you eye contact and really paying attention to what you’re asking of them.

This can absolutely extend into your routine at home as well. I’m going to repeat myself a little here, because hiding treats and toys around the house can get them thinking as well. The more you plan and engage with your pet during physical activities, the more mental stimulation is going to occur. The age old trick of freezing toys stuffed with canned food or peanut butter is another fun option for your pet. There are slow feeders and puzzle toys that you can hide food or treats in (and then some you can freeze), so the dog or cat is motivated to think about how to get the delicious treat out of it. I have a treat puzzle for Simon, so when I leave the house I drop a few treats in it so he is distracted while I leave. Which leads me into my next statement; cats can be mentally stimulated too! Simon is food motivated, so I’ve worked on a few training commands with him, including ‘sit,’ ‘up” (to jump onto my lap), and I have also gotten him to jump on my back and through a hoop in the past – not in the same motion, but that would be pretty cool. My point is that cats benefit from, and enjoy, mental stimulation as much as dogs.

Supplements and Herbal Remedies

If you’ve done any travelling with your pet, you probably know about (or have heard of) the various supplements and herbal remedies for them to help take the edge off. I am not particularly fond of prescription drugs that would make our fur-babies drowsy, for two reasons. The first being that long term use could put a strain on the organs that filter toxins in the body, putting added stress on the body in addition to emotional stress. The second reason is that if your pet is still awake, but drowsy, they may remember that moment to be very confusing and possibly cause more stress during future holidays or thunderstorms. Each pet differ so we all have to find what works best for us and our furbabies, but prescription drugs are generally my last option once all others have been exhausted. I have tried quite a few different natural remedies with Simon, so I can speak on my own experiences with them, but I will repeat that it may take a few tries to find what works best for our own circumstance. 

The most talked about supplement these days is Cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil. CBD is the non-psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant family. It is most commonly derived from hemp plants and it seems like the list of benefits from CBD is never ending. Many claim that CBD can help with inflammation, anxiety, pain, depression, skin issues, and even cancer-related symptoms. Those are just a few examples that CBD may help with; I could spend all day talking about CBD for pet care, but let’s not get distracted from the upcoming fireworks! CBD comes in liquid and treats, so you have options in which to administer it to your dog or cat. CBD has helped take the edge off for Simon during travel, thunderstorms, and fireworks. A few CBD companies I’ve tried and have had positive results include Petals and Tails, Pet Relief, and Holistic Hound.

Another natural option for anxious pets during the 4th of July week is Bach Flower Rescue Remedy. Bach flower is a homeopathic remedy that uses flower essence that claim to have healing properties. The flower essence has been shown to help soothe and   balance out any emotional. They make products for humans and animals. This is definitely a product that I would recommend trying out a few times before you know you’re going to need it (and the results may even be with each use). Some pets are more affected by it than others, so by testing it out beforehand, you know how well your dog or cat does with it. 

Similarly, there are products made with valerian root, melatonin, and tryptophan, which can help your pet get some rest. Tryptophan is naturally occurring in Turkey, putting everyone to sleep at Thanksgiving, so it can be very effective for calming your pet. Valerian root is an herb that is shown to have a calming effect and help with sleep. Likewise, melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep. Speaking of hormones, there are also pheromone sprays and diffusers that are on the market for calming pets as well. A popular option is a plug-in product that diffuses pheromones into a room throughout the day, so your dog or cat can maintain a constant, balanced peaceful state of mind. A few products I recommend that contain the herbal ingredients are NaturVet Quiet Time, Pet Naturals Calming treats, VetriScience Composure, Ark Naturals Happy Traveler, and Rx Vitamins. These are the ones I’ve used the most, but depending where you are located, you may have access to different companies with similar products. Ask your local pet health supply store or veterinarian for advice.

Calm Environment

I think it’s safe to say that we all know how much our environment can impact our mood. If I am feeling overwhelmed or scatterbrained, I know that if I clean and tidy up my home I will feel better, especially if I have to get work done from home (like writing these blogs for ya’ll!). I think the same applies for our pets. They feel better when they have a safe and comfortable place in your home to escape to, especially during stressful times. If your dog or cat prefers to hide, create a place for them to do so. In addition to a location, you may want to use a pheromone spray on their bed and blanket, to help them find comfort. I always include a shirt I’ve worn to bed recently, so my own pheromones and natural smells are there to provide comfort for Simon.

You can also play mellow music (or music you know he or she prefers), or have the television on loud. If you’re hosting 4th of July this year, plan to designate a certain room or area in your home to set up for your pet. Being in a party setting can be too much for them to handle, on top of fireworks and other celebrations going on. This is also a great place to give frozen Kong toys or other chew toys that will occupy them. Again, you know your pet better than I do, so think about their favorite toys and treats to bring into their safe space.


Some pets will do well with one of the above suggestions, while others will need a combination of them. When I provided pet-sitting in my own home in the past, I would usually do a combination of multiple things I’ve listed above; and I also stayed home on holidays so the dogs and Simon did not feel alone, which could cause more stress. Just knowing that I was there provided them comfort. Our fur babies often look to us to understand how to respond to most situations. If we remain calm, it allows them space to find peace as well. However, when we see our babies upset we can sometimes become stressed for them, and when we make a big deal about how upset they are it can actually add fuel to the fire on the whole scenario. If you’ll be with your pets during the Independence Day excitement, try to remember to encourage a relaxed mindset for both you and your pets. If you believe you won’t be able to provide that companionship for your pets this week, try calling your pet sitter or boarding facilities you know and trust to find out if they have availability and would be staying with them the whole time.

When holidays come along, it’s very easy to get caught up in the preparations for observance, whether it be hosting or attending a party, or travel plans. Try not to forget about plans for your fur babies. They deserve to have an opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves as well. With appropriate preparations, you will provide the environment and tools for your dogs and cats to have a pleasant holiday.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day everyone!