Category Archives: Dogs

The behavior connection – some lessons

Just a few thoughts in this post about the need to investigate behavior changes in our dogs.

Since our dogs can’t communicate with us in our language, behavior changes can be an indicator of an underlying physical condition.

A few instances from my practice just within the last couple of weeks…

a)  I have been working with a client in my nutrition practice to isolate the food ingredients that her dog will tolerate.  He’s been a very itchy boy.  Working in combination with a vet, we’ve isolated both the foods he can’t tolerate and also environmental factors that need to be managed.  He was still gnawing at his feet, however.  So this very good owner called in a dog trainer who pointed out that her dog was anxious – needing more boundaries at home.  His condition continues to improve as his owner implements a training program and I am now working on recipes for the homemade portion of his diet.

Lessons:  A good owner keeps observing and bringing the right skills and people into their dog’s care team.  Problems are often multi-layered and they need different skill sets.  Rarely does one professional tick all the boxes.

b)  I was contacted by a dog owner who has had their dog on pain medication for a while and wanted to know what I could do for him since he didn’t respond to acupuncture.  They returned from an overseas vacation and were told that there dog was happy and playful at the boarding kennels.  But, to them he was withdrawn and unhappy.  My recommendation was to get back to the vet for x-rays to help with a diagnosis before taking a ‘shot in the dark’ about what to try.  The x-rays have proven a number of structural conditions with his spine and tail.  We now have a better chance of getting together a management plan that will work.

Lessons:  It’s understandable that owners are reluctant to put their dog under anesthesia in order to have tests done.  But if a condition isn’t improving, pain medication alone isn’t the answer without knowing the rest of the story.  Your dog deserves a solid diagnosis and you need it to have the best chance of success in managing their health.

c)  Another itchy dog.  This time, much more than usual.  He’s had a history of food reaction.  The owners introduced a new treat that marketed itself as having high levels of antioxidants as a way of augmenting his homemade diet.  Who wouldn’t give this a try?  But the change in behavior – itching not only his ears and feet but also constantly licking at his private parts – was marked.

I read the label on these new treats, which use wheat.  I am 99% sure that his previous intolerance to commercial foods was caused by the grain content.  My recommendation – ditch the new treats and move onto other solutions.  We’re doing this now.

Lessons:  Just because the label says the product benefits health doesn’t mean it will for every dog.  Be willing to withdraw products in favor of new ones.

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

Fundraising

I haven’t been posting as frequently as I would like.  Forgive me.

Over the last two months, I have been pulling together the prizes and other arrangements for my third annual fundraising event.  While I always walk away feeling good that I’ve invested my time in giving back to the community, these events take time and effort.

I haven’t had much time to do my usual research and writing – but we are in countdown mode with less than 2 days to go.  And then it will be over for another year.

Tonight, I am wrapping prizes.  This photo shows my progress – but thankfully there is still a long way to go thanks to many generous donors/sponsors.

Prizes

Back soon with doggy news.

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

Pet dogs help kids feel less stressed

Pet dogs provide valuable social support for kids when they’re stressed, according to a study by researchers from the University of Florida, who were among the first to document stress-buffering effects of pets for children.

boy-and-dog

Darlene Kertes and colleagues tested the commonly held belief that pet dogs provide social support for kids using a randomized controlled study – the gold standard in research.

“Many people think pet dogs are great for kids but scientists aren’t sure if that’s true or how it happens,” Kertes said. Kertes reasoned that one way this might occur is by helping children cope with stress. “How we learn to deal with stress as children has lifelong consequences for how we cope with stress as adults.” 

For their study, recently published in the journal Social Development, the researchers recruited approximately 100 pet-owning families, who came to their university laboratory with their dogs. To tap children’s stress, the children completed a public speaking task and mental arithmetic task, which are known to evoke feelings of stress and raise the stress hormone cortisol, and simulates real-life stress in children’s lives. The children were randomly assigned to experience the stressor with their dog present for social support, with their parent present, or with no social support.

“Our research shows that having a pet dog present when a child is undergoing a stressful experience lowers how much children feel stressed out,” Kertes said . “Children who had their pet dog with them reported feeling less stressed compared to having a parent for social support or having no social support.”

Samples of saliva was also collected before and after the stressor to check children’s cortisol levels, a biological marker of the body’s stress response. Results showed that for kids who underwent the stressful experience with their pet dogs, children’s cortisol level varied depending on the nature of the interaction of children and their pets.

“Children who actively solicited their dogs to come and be pet or stroked had lower cortisol levels compared to children who engaged their dogs less,” said Kertes, an assistant professor in the psychology department of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “When dogs hovered around or approached children on their own, however, children’s cortisol tended to be higher.”

The children in the study were between 7 to 12 years old.

“Middle childhood is a time when children’s social support figures are expanding beyond their parents, but their emotional and biological capacities to deal with stress are still maturing,” Kertes explained. “Because we know that learning to deal with stress in childhood has lifelong consequences for emotional health and well-being, we need to better understand what works to buffer those stress responses early in life.”

Source:  University of Florida News

Downward Dog

A new tv series is coming this week (in the USA).  I just saw the trailer.  It sounds really good – life told from the perspective of Martin the dog!

If you live in the USA and watch it, let me know what you think.

And maybe this will come to New Zealand’s screens later in the year?

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

A death at doggy day care

News broke this week about a dog being mauled to death at a doggy day care operation, Valley Dog Daycare, in West Auckland.

Winston,  a Huntaway/Doberman cross, was found dead by his owner, lying in a pond at the day care’s property.

Winston

A photo of Winston, supplied by his owners to the media

Auckland Council’s animal management team is investigating and this is a good thing  because such a vicious death – apparently Winston was mauled and suffered many wounds – means something went majorly wrong at this property.

It has also been reported that the day care operator didn’t notice Winston’s absence, and that’s why his owner ended up searching for him on the rural property, a shock that most of us can only imagine.

It’s important that we look carefully at the investigation’s findings.  There are already calls for the doggy day care industry to be regulated and it’s hard to argue against that in these circumstances.

I’ve said it many times when it comes to hiring anyone who is going to work with your dog in any capacity –  find out their qualifications and experience and commitment to ongoing developments in their industry.

In larger operations, it’s possible that the ‘lead’ employee or proprietor has qualifications but the staff have only had in-house training (at best).   Find out if the dogs on the property are ever left alone or unsupervised.  Be sure that there are staff to supervise dog-to-dog interactions at all times.

Sadly, accidents do happen because animals can be unpredictable.  Every facility should have a standard operating procedure to investigate and de-brief on findings of any near-miss or accident.  This is what is expected under the workplace health and safety regulations when humans are involved and in my opinion it would be a practice easily adapted for facilities working and caring for animals.

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

Walking the talk

For some of my clients, I recommend that they take their dogs to hydrotherapy.  Sometimes I recommend a water treadmill and, other times, a swimming pool is better.

And with some owners, it seems they are reluctant to give it a try.  I think it is because they question whether hydrotherapy for dogs is a ‘real’ thing or they just can’t imagine their dog doing it.

Today, I took Izzy swimming for the first time.  (My previous dog, Daisy, who passed away in 2014, was a regular at the pool for almost the last two years of her life).

Here is Izzy at the Dog Swim Spa.  The lifejacket gave her support and confidence and she did very well.

We are going to make it to the pool at least 3-4 times per year and will increase the frequency of visits as she ages and depending on her physical condition.  It is good variety for her fitness regime at the moment plus these visits will serve as added enrichment.

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

Is love enough? Some thoughts on the five freedoms

It’s been a while since I blogged about the Five Freedoms.

For a number of reasons over the last week, I have been reflecting again on these basic rights of animals in context of whether an owner’s love blinds them to their dog’s actual quality of life.

A good example will be an obese dog.  Yes, the owner is feeding it (more likely over-feeding it or perhaps not feeding the right diet), but the dog’s body condition means that the animal is not healthy.

For example, the Chihuahua I wrote about that had heart problems.  It was then revealed upon discussion that the dog was grossly overweight.  Thankfully, in that case, the owner accepted advice that their dog needed to go on a weight loss program and they stuck to it so the dog dropped the weight and the heart problems disappeared.

fat-chihuahua

What an obese Chihuahua looks like

A dog with a diagnosed orthopedic problem like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, or arthritis (as examples) needs to be kept trim, with a fitness regime that is appropriate to their condition.  It’s rather disheartening to see a dog yo-yo with its weight.  They are going good and then drop off my calendar only to be booked in weeks and months later because they are limping.  More often than not, the dog has re-gained all of its weight (if not more) due to improper diet and exercise.

Another circumstance is when an owner has a very elderly dog who is showing signs of pain and discomfort – even with medication.   This situation is one reason why I developed my Quality of Life checklist to help clients understand what their dog is telling them.  We have to look at behavior and health and ask ourselves if the dog has quality of life and make changes wherever we can.

Is love enough?  It’s a big part of caring for our dogs.  But, it isn’t everything.  And it can be an excuse – consciously or subconsciously – for neglect.

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