New – but is it safe and effective?

Look what I found when cleaning out yesterday – in a file of old vet records for Daisy (who passed away in July 2014) – a brochure for Periovac.  With February being Pet Dental Health Month – I thought this blog post was entirely appropriate.

Periovac brochure

Perio-what?

Periovac, marketed by Pfizer with some fanfare in 2006, the vaccine was touted as the latest and greatest thing that dog owners could do to support dental health in their dogs.  On a routine visit to a vet for a lump on Daisy’s side, he handed me this brochure when he noted that she had some tartar buildup recommending both a dental cleaning and vaccination with this product.

“It’s quite new,” he said.

I remember that this statement raised some alarm bells for me because animal medications have a much lower threshold for testing and approvals before they hit the market.  In fact, most pet owners are unaware that the newest medications on the market are often being sold with fairly limited research behind them, often under limited or conditional licenses.

At that time, I was also of the view that dental health in people is managed through dental care such as regular brushing of the teeth and professional cleanings.  I thought that the same would apply to dogs (and still do!).  I couldn’t imagine a vaccine for my dental health – so why one for my dog?

I remember emailing Angell Memorial Animal Hospital’s advice line about use of the product.  The response is one I vividly remember, “Has she tried everything else?”

That answer spoke volumes for me.  I didn’t vaccinate Daisy.

Pfizer withdrew the product from the market in 2011.  They said after a 4-year study, use of the vaccine could not be linked to a long-term reduction in periodontal disease.  The company stood by the product’s safety, however.  I wonder how many dog owners had paid to use the vaccine in good faith – possibly stopping other care methods like brushing of the teeth – I bet they weren’t told that the vaccine turned out to be ineffective!

So my advice for Pet Dental Health Month remains – brush your dog’s teeth.  Everyday.

And my other advice – for dog health in its entirety – is be careful about being an early adopter of new medications.  Make sure you understand how the medication works and what research has been done into both its efficacy and its safety.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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The Driving Lesson

Subaru has done it again with their latest dog-themed commercial.  Who doesn’t remember the challenges of learning to parallel park?

Subaru vehicles continue to rate highly among dog owners who are looking for space and amenity for the family dog; Subaru has done well to acknowledge and market to this powerful consumer group.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

2018 American Rescue Dog Show

Move over Westminster because rescue dogs have just been put into the spotlight with their very own show.

Premiering on the Hallmark Channel on Monday, 19th February 2018 – the American Rescue Dog Show!

I’m not sure we will ever get this in New Zealand (possibly through Netflix but it isn’t there yet)…but it is great to see Rescue Dogs being promoted to the public.

***For the record, rescue dogs may be mixed or pure breeds – a dog finds itself in need of rescue mostly because of human actions or inaction and not breeding***

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Scotland set to move on the use of shock and bark collars

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on the wording of guidance about the use of electronic shock and bark collars; and the move is being applauded by animal welfare advocates including members of The Pet Professional Guild.

I’m horrified that these devices are so readily available in New Zealand; the use of aversives in dog training is a dangerous practice because not only do these devices cause pain, but they suppress behaviours instead of dealing with the underlying causes of them.  This is a recipe for disaster and totally unnecessary if you use positive training techniques on a consistent basis.

 


The guidance is motivated by concerns of the misuse of electronic training collars (e-collars) and will be issued in accordance with Section 38 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

The Government page on the consultation states, “We will issue guidance, under that Act, to make it clear that training which includes unpleasant stimuli or physical punishment can cause pain, suffering and distress and that any such pain, suffering and distress caused by an inappropriate training method, including electronic collars, may constitute the offence of causing unnecessary suffering under that Act.

This guidance, once finalised, may be considered relevant in a future prosecution. Although the guidance is advisory, a court may take into account compliance or non-compliance with the guidance in establishing liability in a prosecution.

In due course this guidance may be incorporated into a revised Code of Practice or wider Guidance for the welfare of dogs, along with additional guidance on other topics of dog welfare not currently covered in detail in the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs.”

The proposed draft wording is:

“Training which includes unpleasant stimuli or physical punishment can cause pain, suffering and distress.

These techniques can compromise dog welfare, lead to aggressive responses and worsen the problems that they aim to address. Particular methods to avoid include: physical punishment, including the use of electronic collars to administer an electric shock; anti-bark collars, which may mask or aggravate underlying behavioural or health issues; and any device that squirts noxious oils or other chemicals that interfere with your dog’s acute sense of smell.

Causing unnecessary suffering is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. This includes suffering caused by inappropriate training methods.”

We would welcome comments on this proposed guidance, particularly from those responsible for enforcing the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 who may be asked to consider whether or not such methods have been used in a manner that contravenes the Act and compromises animal welfare.

Source:  Scottish Government Policy on Electronic Training Collars

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Izzy’s 9th birthday

We celebrated Izzy’s 9th birthday today with friends and their greyhounds (other breeds invited, but couldn’t make it).  Unfortunately, unlike last year, the weather didn’t cooperate.  The local cafe manager was able to accommodate us at the back of the cafe in a tented temporary area, rather than outside on the deck since it was raining steadily.

This year, I opted for cupcakes (liver) and with special greyhound decorations that looked like Izzy – purchased from Amazon.com.

A good time was had by all, including the few diehards which went on a beach walk despite the bad weather.  It is summer here and the temps were fairly warm – but it was wet!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Brain training for old dogs (touchscreens for dogs!)

Spoiling old dogs in their twilight years by retiring them to the sofa and forgiving them their stubbornness or disobedience, doesn’t do our four-legged friends any good. Regular brain training and lifelong learning create positive emotions and can slow down mental deterioration in old age. Physical limitations, however, often do not allow the same sort of training as used in young dogs.

In a new study, a team of researchers led by cognitive biologists from Vetmeduni Vienna propose computer interaction as a practical alternative. In the training lab, old dogs responded positively to cognitive training using educational touchscreen games. The aim now is to get the interactive “dog sudoku” ready for home use.

Touchscreen for dogs

Playing computer games might be the perfect “brain Training” for old dogs Credit: Messerli Research Institute/Vetmeduni Vienna

Lifelong learning is not just good for people, it is also good for dogs. Dogs are capable of learning even in old age, and constant brain training and mental problem-solving create positive emotions and slow the natural pace of mental deterioration. Unlike puppies or young dogs, however, old dogs are almost never trained or challenged mentally. Senior dogs are usually perfectly integrated into our lives and we often forgive them any disobedience or stubbornness. In addition, due to their increasing physical limitations, we usually spare old dogs the sort of training we might expect from young animals.

Cognitive biologists from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni Vienna propose computer games as an efficient alternative. Simple mental tasks on the computer, combined with a reward system, can replace physically demanding training and still keep the animals mentally fit even in old age. First, however, the method must be taken out of the laboratory and transferred to the living room.

Tablet games like “sudoku” for old dogs

At obedience school or in private, puppies and young dogs are socialised and challenged using a variety of training methods to help them integrate smoothly into our daily lives. As the dogs get older, however, we increasingly – and unconsciously – reduce the level of regular training and challenges. “Yet this restricts the opportunities to create positive mental experiences for the animals, which remain capable of learning even in old age,” explains first author Lisa Wallis. “As is the case with people, dopamine production in dogs also falls in old age, leading to a decline in memory and motivational drive. But this natural mental deterioration can be countered with the specific training of cognitive skills.”

Under laboratory conditions, the training works using computer-based brain-teasers. It does take some preparation to get the dogs used to the touchscreen, but once the animals have got the trick they turn into avid computer gamers. “Touchscreen interaction is usually analysed in young dogs. But we could show that old dogs also respond positively to this cognitive training method,” says senior author Ludwig Huber. “Above all, the prospect of a reward is an important factor to motivate the animals to do something new or challenging.”

Mentally fit four-legged “gamers” – laboratory solution to be made available to the general public

Using simple tasks that can be solved through touchscreen interaction, followed by a reward, even old dogs remain willing to learn. “The positive feeling created by solving a mental challenge is comparable to the feeling that older people have when they learn something new, doing something they enjoy. Regular brain training shakes not only us, but also dogs out of their apathy in old age, increasing motivation and engagement and thus maximising learning opportunities”, says Huber.

It is still not clear whether dogs slowly forget the things they once learned because of reduced powers of recollection or due to a lack of training in old age. The fact is, however, that lifelong learning with the touchscreen can help counteract this development. The research team hopes that this study will not only motivate technicians and software developers, but also interested dog owners, to consider future cooperation. “Our scientific approach could result in an exciting citizen science project to increase the understanding of the importance of lifelong learning in animals,” says Wallis.

Source:  University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

Barbra’s tribute to her dog

Barbra_The_Music,_The_Mem'ries,_The_Magic_poster

I have just finished watching Barbra – The Music..The Mem’ries…The Magic on Netflix.  It’s a wonderful review of a long and successful musical and acting career filmed during a concert in Miami in 2016.

What I was not expecting, however, was the last few minutes of the film which are a musical tribute to Barbra’s dog, Samantha (Sammie), who passed away in 2017.

For any of us who have lost a loved dog, you know the feeling when you sort through all your photos and videos and re-live the happy times of a life together.  Well, Streisand has put hers to music.  “Samantha Streisand-Brolin 2003-2017    In our hearts forever…”

Even if you don’t like Streisand’s music, you should fast forward to the end and see it for yourself – a fitting tribute to a much loved pooch.

Barbra Streisand and Sammie from Instagram

Barbra Streisand and Sammie from Instagram

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand