Special beds can foster healing and alleviate pain in many pets.
By Eve Adamson
Dogs who can benefit from magnetized mats are drawn to them. (Courtesy of Magna-Mat)
Before she died at age 16, Penne came to work every day with Terri Grow, owner of PetSage, a retail pet store and catalog business in Alexandria, Va. As the friendly chocolate Labrador retriever grew older and developed arthritis and repetitive stress injuries in her shoulders and hips, she would shuffle around the store, greeting customers and resting often on several strategically placed pet beds.
But Penne had a difficult time getting out of big, cushioned dog beds with high sides. Instead, Grow provided her aging friend with orthopedic pet beds made from recycled soda bottles.
“The orthopedic beds contain a dense filling that holds its shape,” Grow says. “It has more support so it is much easier for an older dog to get out of.”
Both Healing and Green
An increasing number of pet beds are not only orthopedic, heated or magnetized, but also eco-friendly.
Green pet beds may be more durable, with washable covers and filling so they last longer. Some contain recycled filling (from plastic soda bottles, fabric scraps or natural products like kapok or millet hulls), and some are covered with organic cotton or eco-friendly hemp.
“A lot of people want environmentally friendly pet products now,” says Terri Grow, owner of PetSage, a retail pet store and catalogue business in Alexandria, Va.
“So a lot of the beds we carry reflect that philosophy.”
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Many retailers report an increased number of customers seeking products for senior pets. Between 2004 and 2006, the percentage of pet owners purchasing dog beds increased from 18 percent to 26 percent; cat bed purchases increased from 7 percent to 10 percent of pet owners surveyed, according to the 2007-2008 American Pet Products Manufacturers Assn.’s National Pet Owners Survey.
Orthopedic beds have become more in demand.
“I sell a lot of orthopedic beds to people with senior dogs who need a little help getting up,” Grow says.
But orthopedic beds aren’t the only beds that make life easier and less painful for older or injured pets. Other beds employ magnetic therapy or heat therapy, with or without orthopedic material, not just to feel good but to promote healing, too.
Hamilton and Harley make formidable agility and Frisbee competitors, but when they get home at the end of the day after a rigorous competition, the two Australian shepherds head to their beds as if drawn by magnets.
Actually, they are drawn by magnets.
“I first tried magnetic beds for the dogs last year when they were taking some time off for physical therapy and rehab, and they are just drawn to those beds,” says Julie Soucy, an assistant to holistic veterinarian Allan Schoen in Sherman, Conn. Harley has always loved her bed, but Hamilton was initially confused.
“He could definitely feel something from the bed,” Soucy says. “He wasn’t sure about it, but then he got used to it. Now he goes in there every chance he gets.”
Magnetic beds aren’t for every pet, and some pets avoid them. Grow believes the pets know best.
“Magnetic beds and magnetic inserts for beds have a very obvious beneficial effect for some pets,” Grow says. “Others don’t like the magnets at all. To me, that says that you shouldn’t force an animal to use a magnetic bed. If an animal doesn’t like it, the animal probably doesn’t need it, but if they are attracted to it, it may be beneficial to them.”
Paul Schmitz, president and co-owner of Magna-Mat, a division of Feel-Rite Magnetic Pet Products in Akron, Ohio, gets a lot of client feedback about dogs that gravitate to magnetic beds, including the greyhounds at Royal Racing Team in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“They tell me the greyhounds go straight for the magnetic beds after a race,” Schmitz says. “I think that’s pretty telling that the beds have a therapeutic effect.”
According to Schmitz, magnetic therapy has been around for centuries, and as holistic approaches to health grow in popularity, so does the use of magnets for both humans and pets.
“Many of our clients call because their veterinarians referred them,” Schmitz says. “Magnets improve blood flow to parts of the body with inflammation. It increases oxygenation, reduces swelling of joints and helps rebuild damaged bone tissue, whether a dog is injured or suffering from arthritis.”
Many pets gravitate toward warmth, and older pets in particular seem to derive a therapeutic benefit from heat, especially during the winter.
“Stiffness, limping and limited mobility in aging pets typically worsens during cold, damp weather,” says Brad Kane, director of pet bedding for Petmate in Arlington, Texas. “It all comes down to the way heat improves blood flow circulation. Heat therapy is a big part of post-surgical recuperation, and heated beds or pads can also help decrease the progression of joint disease, hip dysplasia and painful arthritis.”
PetSage sells a lot of private-labeled heated beds, Grow says.
“The heat element is about the thickness of a credit card and fits in a sleeve of fleece,” she says. “When you touch it, it feels lukewarm, but when the animal lies on top, it traps the heat so it soothes but doesn’t overheat and has a transformer to prevent accidents.”
The three cats that live in Grow’s store love the heated beds, especially 13-year-old Ripken.
“He gets the coldest and seeks out the heated beds,” Grow says. “He has a little arthritis in his hips. But all three cats like to pile into the heated bed and sleep together.”
Another way to reap the benefits of heat is to employ radiant heat above the bed, says Tim Jahnigan, co-owner of Wavemaker and inventor of the Fauna Sauna, a radiant heat device for pets.
“Animals gravitate toward the sunniest spot on the floor because the sun’s radiant heat not only feels good but has healing properties,” he says.
Jahnigen explains that there are three kinds of heat: convection, like hot air coming out of an oven; conduction, direct contact with a heat source like a frying pan or heated bed; and conversion, which is infrared or radiant heat.
“Your own body heat is infrared,” he says. “Infrared is the heat from the sun. On a cold day, you feel the warmth of the sun because it heats you but not the air. Infrared heats objects, not space, and is a critical part of our overall health.”
Jahnigan says animals respond instinctively to radiant heat.
“Radiant heat is a natural anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, antiseptic, muscle relaxant, antispasmodic and alkalizer,” he says. “This is why animals lie in the sun.”
In the wild, Jahnigan says, dogs bask in the sun 8 to 12 hours a day, stimulating metabolic activity on a cellular level.
“Radiant heat is the heat of life,” he says. <HOME>
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