Lawn burn and your dog – there are no guarantees

There are a lot of myths and home ‘cures’ for avoiding lawn burn when you have a dog in your life.  One of the more recent myths shared with me was ‘I was told that once I switched him to raw food, that he wouldn’t burn the lawn.’

Burnt grass

Hmmmm…

There’s something at work here called basic chemistry.  When a dog digests protein, a by-product is nitrogen that is excreted in the urine.  Because the nitrogen content is so high, it’s like putting too much nitrogen fertilizer on the lawn.  It burns.  Plain and simple.

Some owners report that by ensuring digestible proteins (hence, I believe the link here to a recommendation for a raw diet), the degree and frequency of lawn burn is diminished.  However, I’ve never met a dog parent yet who has successfully managed a balance between a nutritious diet and lawn burn simply by balancing protein content.

It’s more likely that owners are encouraging their dog to drink more through adding fluids to their food, effectively diluting the concentration of urine.  Others add dilute broths to the drinking water to encourage the dog to drink more. Here again, the result is diluted urine.

It’s fact that female dogs tend to empty their bladder more fully with each urination whereas male dogs tend to mark and spread their urine more.  So owners of female dogs can anticipate lawn burn as a fact of life.

And of course, the larger the dog – the more urine.  No brainer there, either.

If you are really stressed about having burnt out lawn patches, here are some practical management techniques that have nothing to do with your dog’s diet:

  • teach your dog to urinate in designated parts of your yard
  • make sure you don’t over-fertilize your lawn – if your starting point is already lots of nitrogen, then your dog’s urine just tips the balance
  • ask at your local garden centre about types of grass that are more nitrogen tolerant; re-seed with these varieties

Since my practice is all about balance, it does concern me that owners are prepared to dose their dog with substances reporting to help with lawn burn.  Your dog eats protein.  Nitrogen excretion in the urine is natural.  Why upset that balance?

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

A Fistful of Collars – book review

Thanks to being under the weather with more time in bed, I’ve just finished another book.  The fifth book in the Chet and Bernie series, A Fistful of Collars, sees Bernie and Chet on the site of a film with famous star, Thad Perry, whom they have been hired to protect.

A-Fistful-of-Collars-cover

The big question:  is Thad a murderer both past and present?  There are actually several murders during the course of this story and it’s the second one that I wasn’t expecting.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Chet and Bernie series, the books are narrated from Chet the Dog’s point of view.  Here’s a few things you should know about Chet:

  • He failed out of K-9 School on the last day
  • He’s a member of The Nation (his term for dogs)
  • His favorite treats are by Rover and Company, although he likes Slim Jims and basically anything else he can find
  • His best pal is Iggy who lives next door. Unfortunately, Iggy doesn’t get out much.
  • He rides shotgun (front seat) with Bernie in their Porsche (he gets in the back for special people like Bernie’s girlfriend, Suzie)

I’ve ordered books 6, 7, and 8 in the series and so there will be more reviews to come – although probably not quite so quickly as these last two since I am on the mend.

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

The seagull dog at the Australian National Maritime Museum

A former working dog left in foster care secured a job at the Australian National Maritime Museum three months ago.  Dog and employer are very happy with the results.

Meet Bailey, a Border Collie.

Bailey the seagull dog

Photo credit: 702 ABC Sydney, Robbie Buck

Bailey’s job is to scare away the seagulls that soil the Pyrmont Wharf and the vessels that are docked at the museum.  He’s very enthusiastic about his work and, since he’s officially an employee, he’s wears a flotation jacket for safety.

When Bailey isn’t on duty, he sleeps in the Museum’s security control room.

Another dog with a job!

Source:  ABC News

Canine hereditary diseases more common than previously indicated

Comment from me (DoggyMom):  I am particularly pleased to read in this media release that the researchers are recommending cooperation between industry, science and laypersons.  As a canine massage therapist, I have found the traditional ‘evidence-based medicine’ fraternity reluctant to involve specialists in other fields and particularly those that are not research scientists or veterinarians.
It is my hope that we can cooperate more in the future as we undertake research into dog health and behavior because by sharing different points of view and expertise, we develop a richer range of options in problem-solving.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Genoscoper Ltd. has published in cooperation with the researchers of University of Helsinki and Pennsylvania (USA) the most comprehensive study on canine hereditary disorders so far. The research brings new information about genetic disorders causing diseases in different dog breeds. The results can be utilized both in dog breeding and veterinary diagnostics. The study was published on PLOS ONE on 15 August 2016.
Dogs have more hereditary diseases than previously thought

Dogs have more hereditary diseases than previously thought. Photo: Eeva Karmitsa

– We noted that surprisingly many canine inherited disorders are actually more widespread than indicated by their original discovery studies, which opens up the door for several future scientific investigations, explains senior author Dr. Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki canine genetics research group.

– The technological potential to test a dog for multiple inherited disorders at once has existed for several years. The challenge is to harness that potential for practical use in improved veterinary disease diagnostics, sustainable breeding selections, personalized pet care, and canine genetics research, says lead author Dr. Jonas Donner of Genoscoper Laboratories. Genoscoper Ltd. is a Finnish company specialized in animal genetics and gene testing.

By testing nearly 7000 dogs representing around 230 different breeds for predisposition to almost 100 genetic disorders, the research team observed that 1 in 6 dogs carried at least one of the tested disease predisposing genetic variants in their genome. Moreover, 1 in 6 of the tested genetic variants was also discovered in a dog breed in which it had not previously been reported in the scientific literature. Through clinical follow up of dogs genetically at risk, the research team was able to confirm that several disorders cause the same disease signs also in other than previously described breeds.

– Precisely as we humans, every dog is likely to carry genetic predisposition for some inherited disorder, so we expect these numbers to grow as the numbers of tested disease variants, breeds, and dogs further increase, confirms Dr. Donner.

Co­oper­a­tion is key to health­ier dogs

– Our study demonstrates the importance of collaboration between different contributors – academics, industry and dog fanciers – to reach novel resources that not only enable better understanding of canine genetic health across breeds but also provides viable solutions to improve the health.  The published study provides also an excellent example of the added value of research collaborations between academia and industry in a form that leads to a powerful innovation that start changing the everyday practice in veterinary medicine and improves the welfare of our dogs, says Lohi.

Ge­netic panel screen­ing de­liv­ers res­ults

The study concludes that comprehensive screening for canine inherited disorders represents an efficient and powerful diagnostic and research discovery tool that has a range of applications in veterinary care, disease research, and dog breeding. The authors emphasize that availability of complex DNA-based information is important progress for improvement of the health of purebred dogs, but it should be utilized in combination with other established approaches that promote sustainable breeding and benefit breed health.

The full scientific publication can be accessed here.

Reference:
Donner J, Kaukonen M, Anderson H, Möller F, Kyöstilä K, Sankari S, Hytönen MK, Giger U and Lohi H. Genetic panel screening of nearly 100 mutations reveals new insights into the breed distribution of risk variants for canine hereditary disorders. PlosONE, 1(8): e0161005. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161005, 2016.

Source:  University of Helsinki media release

‘No-kill’ what’s in a name?

I personally have no issues with the term ‘no-kill’ as in ‘no-kill animal shelter’.   Traditionally, this term has been used to mean an animal shelter that does not kill healthy or treatable animals even when the shelter is full.

No kill image

Euthanasia would only be an option for terminally ill animals or those that were considered too dangerous for public safety ever to be re-homed. 

In the case of the latter circumstance, it probably was easy for some shelters to bend the rules and still claim no-kill status.  If you believe that all pit bulls, for example, are inherently dangerous – or your local laws deem them to be and you are running a municipal shelter – then yes – you could claim no-kill status under the definition while killing those breeds of dog as a matter of course.

Others would claim that shelters would shift adoptable animals into their shelter and ship out animals that were less adoptable to achieve their no-kill status.

Ideologically, some people state that they would rather be ‘for’ something than against it.  So names are popping up such as “Humane City” or “Humane Rescue.” Some quote Mother Theresa who said “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”.

In other words, promote what you want and not what you don’t want.

Approximately two years ago, for example, Best Friends Animal Society changed its mission statement from “No More Homeless Pets” to “Save Them All.”

Do these changes make a difference?  I don’t know; I don’t have the data on this.  Presumably marketers and public relations experts have data to show increasing levels of support.

All I know is that New Zealand is definitely NOT a no-kill nation or a save-them-all nation.  We have a way to go to require responsible husbandry, pet ownership and the acceptability of adopting animals of all ages who end up homeless.

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

The Dog Who Knew Too Much – book review

The dog who knew too much

I’ve just finished the fourth book in the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn.  Like the previous three books, this one didn’t disappoint.

Bernie and Chet are hired to help when a young boy goes missing from a wilderness camp.  But a missing child is the least of Bernie’s worries as murder and mayhem enfold in a small and corrupt town.

As with the other Chet and Bernie books, Chet (Bernie’s dog) narrates this story.  Chet likes to ride shotgun in Bernie’s old Porsche and accompanies him to the camp with the camp leader, who turns up dead in an abandoned mine the following morning.

Meanwhile, Bernie’s girlfriend Susie gets the wrong impression about the Bernie’s relationship with his new client…

It’s a great story, with insightful commentary from Chet.  Well worth the read!

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

Tummy rubs

On the side of my company car, it says “…because love and a tummy rub aren’t enough”

I believe this – since I work every day with dogs and their owners to help manage pain, mobility, skin problems, weight control, and the impacts of aging.  It takes ore than a tummy rub and affection to manage these issues.

When a dog invites me in for a tummy rub, however,  I consider it a compliment.  And you should, too.

Tummy rub photo

Norman, photo courtesy of iHeartDogs

Dogs will often expose their bellies to us in a sign of trust and this is particularly the case with our own dogs.   Most dogs enjoy a tummy rub because it’s an area of their bodies that they can’t reach to the same extent as we can.

Of course, dogs can expose their belly in a sign of submissiveness as well.  This is usually accompanied with other signs of stress such as lip-licking, a tucked tail, and general tension throughout the body.  It’s pretty easy to see the difference – although some people do get it wrong (usually those who don’t have a lot of experience with dogs).

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