Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

My furry, healthy friends

By: Carolin Shannon-Karasik’s


I’m not going to lie: I talk to my cats … like, full conversations where the only response I get is a nuzzle or a look like, “You talkin’ to me, lady?”

But I have no shame. In fact, I am the first person to admit that there are some days where my furry friends are the only “people” I want to talk to. Call me crazy, but there is a simple perfection in knowing there are a minimal amount of things this tiny sounding board requires – food, shelter, water, a place to do his or her business and (best of all) love.

The good news is, research shows that my solid relationships with my cats are a step in the right direction toward keeping my health in good shape. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and American Veterinary Medical Association all say pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness. They can also increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, as well as opportunities for socialization.

Message to all of the “crazy cat lady” haters – who’s looking kind of nuts, now?

Now that we’ve established the important things, I have a question for all of the pet lovers out there: Did you know your healthy – or unhealthy – habits might also be affecting Fluffy and Fido?

“I’m certain that there’s a positive correlation between the health of pets and that of their owners,” said Heidi Junger, Ph.D. zoologist and owner of San Diego-based Onesta Organics ( “I’ve seen firsthand that knowledge about, and practice of, better nutrition can improve the health of the guardian and her or his pet in relatively short order.”

Want to help your four-legged friend stay healthy while also keeping yourself in shape? Check out these tips to learn how to include your furry pal in your goals to get fit and healthy.

Get in a good sweat session

Obviously, this one is a no-brainer when it comes to getting your pooch outdoors for a walk or game of fetch. Not only will you reap the fitness benefits of getting him moving, but exercise will also improve his heart health and joint mobility.

Now, when it comes to felines the task is different, albeit not impossible. Next time you head out for a walk, get your cat up and moving upon returning home. Bust out her favorite ball and toss it around while you cool down, or try these exercises from Dr. Ernie Ward (, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and author of “Chow Hounds”:

High and low – This game is like squats for your cat. Place his food on a counter or table – add a pinch of tuna or salmon for extra incentive – and have the cat jump up to get it. Return the bowl to the floor and repeat several times.

Remote-controlled toys – Technology has provided cat owners an almost endless supply of remote-controlled toys. Many felines will chase a remote-controlled car or interactive talking toy. Look for a cat-friendly toy or car that has few small parts and is durable enough to withstand a paw strike or bite. Don’t scold your cat if it destroys the toy – fun happens.

Consider a vitamin

A well-rounded, healthy diet is the chief way to receive vital nutrients, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. When that happens, it’s good to have supplements on hand to make up for vitamins that are otherwise obtained from food. Considering popping one a day? Your cat or dog may benefit from one, too, but not just any ol’ vitamin:

“Owners should also be aware of that the quality of supplements on the market today varies greatly,” Junger said. “Some supplements may contain very unhealthy impurities or may not provide the active ingredient in the promised dose. Other supplements aren’t very stable and can lose their potency faster … In general, I think whole food-based supplements are more beneficial than synthetic ones.”

Say cheese!

Best case scenario – for all of us – is that you are brushing your choppers two to three times a day. Guess what? Your pet needs some teeth TLC, too.

A soft finger toothbrush – all you do is slip it on your finger and brush his teeth – works wonders for doggy breath. A similar tool is available for cats, but because felines can be a little picky you may want to enlist the help of a professional.

“Poor oral health contributes to a large number of feline fatalities each year,” Ward said. “Even if you can’t – or won’t – brush your cat’s teeth, you owe it to them to have them routinely cleaned. The damage caused by gum infections extends well below what you can see.”

The sneaky culprit lurking behind bad breath, in fact, is often damaging bacteria that can harm a cat’s immune system, leading to “infections in the mouth and heart and, ultimately, cause pain severe enough to prevent eating,” Ward said.

The point is whether your pet is a traditional cat or dog, or a bit more exotic, such as a bird or rabbit, the two of you can stay in good health together.

As far as the talking to him? Well, you’re just being healthy, right?


Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at

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