Category Archives: Dogs

Owners of seriously ill pets at risk of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms

Owners of seriously or terminally ill pets are more likely to suffer with stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as poorer quality of life, compared with owners of healthy animals, finds a study published by Veterinary Record.

old dog

Caring for a sick or dying pet can be a serious emotional burden. Credit: © tuaindeed / Fotolia

This ‘caregiver burden’ may also lead to increased veterinarian stress, say the authors.

Research on human caregiving describes ‘caregiver burden’ as a response to problems and challenges encountered while providing informal care for a sick family member. But little is known about the impact of caregiver burden on owners of animals with chronic or terminal diseases – and the veterinarians who care for them.

So a team of researchers, led by Mary Beth Spitznagel at Kent State University in Ohio, set out to assess caregiver burden and psychosocial function in 238 owners of a dog or cat.

They compared 119 owners of an animal diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease with 119 healthy controls blindly matched for owner age and sex and animal species.

Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression were measured using recognised scales, and quality of life was assessed by questionnaire. Owners’ demographic information was also recorded.

Results showed greater burden, stress and clinically meaningful symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as poorer quality of life, in owners of animals with chronic or terminal disease. Higher burden was also related to poorer psychosocial functioning.

The authors outline some study limitations which could have introduced bias, but they say their findings “may help veterinarians understand and more effectively handle client distress in the context of managing the challenges of sick companion animal caregiving.”

And they suggest that future research is needed to better understand risks for caregiver burden in the client, how this might be reduced, and how it impacts veterinarian wellbeing.

In a linked commentary, Katherine Goldberg calls for improved training for veterinarians around provision of long term care for serious illness. This includes tailoring treatment plans to client preferences, recognising when clients are distressed, and partnering with mental health professionals to provide support.

“This inaugural exploration of caregiver burden within a veterinary setting is the first step in assessing the impact of veterinary caregiving on clients, as well as the impact of client emotional distress on veterinarian wellbeing,” writes Goldberg. “It is my hope that with continued dialogue, we will continue to build the literature in these essential areas.”

Source:  BMJ press release

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Willa – Our Sweet Girl

Willa is a special dog.

An American Pit Bull x Boxer, Willa has breast cancer which has likely spread. She’s on medication, but with time being precious, it’s important to focus on quality of life.   Willa is a popular sleepover dog at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary – every precious sleepover adds to Willa’s quality of life and enrichment.  She really enjoys getting out of kennels, getting cuddles and having a good, deep sleep.

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Willa loves rides in the car

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A special tag for a special girl

I really enjoyed staying with Willa and seeing her sweet nature in person.  Let’s hope she gets a home soon.

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

Hank’s in-room massage

I love having sleepover dogs from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.  When Hank (a Mastiff cross) stayed with me, I gave him an in-room relaxation massage.

At first he wasn’t sure what to expect, but he soon got into it.

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

Dog Bites: A Multidisciplinary Perspective

There’s a new book out about the subject of dog bites, taking a multidisciplinary perspective.  I haven’t read it yet – but is positive to see a publication incorporating different views on the issue – all in one place.

Dog Bites is organized into nine sections titled Fundamental Principles, Perceptions of Dogs that Bite, Dog Bites and Risk, Investigative and Legal Issues, Health Issues, Handling the Aggressive Dog, Managing Future Risk, Prevention, and Concluding Comments.

Dog Bites A Multidisciplinary Perspective

The book’s description says:

The issue of dog bites and dog aggression directed at humans is frequently in the media. However, scientific research and evidence on the subject is scattered and sparse. Public and political opinions are often misinformed and out of proportion to the extent of the problem. Dog Bites brings together expert knowledge of the current situation, from a wide variety of disciplines, to provide information to the many people and professions affected by this issue. Subjects range from the practical, medical, behavioural, sociological, and theoretical, but the overall approach of the book is objective and integrative. Topics addressed include: the genetic basis of aggression; the public image of aggressive dogs; bite statistics; risk factors; the forensics and surgical aspects of dog bites; international legal perspectives; court evidence; first aid treatment; zoonotic disease potential; behavioural rehabilitation options; the risk to children; and a consideration of why some dogs kill. All contributors are academic or long-standing professional experts in their field, and they represent a wide spread of international expertise. This issue is an important one for pet owners, vets, animal shelters, and anyone who works with dogs, such as the police. This book will be a valuable resource for them, as well as for animal behaviourists, academic researchers, health professionals, dog breeders, and handlers.

I’m adding this one to my reading list!

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

The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment

Let sleeping dogs lie … in the bedroom. That’s according to a new Mayo Clinic study that’s sure to set many tails wagging.

Sleeping with dog

It’s no secret that Americans love their dogs. According to the American Veterinary Association, more than 40 million American households have dogs. Of these households, 63 percent consider their canine companions to be family. Still, many draw the line at having their furry family members sleep with them for fear of sacrificing sleep quality.

“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” says Lois Krahn, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus and an author of the study. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”

The study, “The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment,” evaluated the sleep of 40 healthy adults without sleep disorders and their dogs over five months. Participant and their dogs wore activity trackers to track their sleeping habits for seven nights.

According to the study, sleeping with dogs helps some people sleep better ─ no matter if they’re snoozing with a small schnauzer or dozing with a Great Dane. There is one caveat, however. Don’t let your canines crawl under the covers with you. The sleep benefit extends only to having dogs in your bedroom ─ not in your bed. According to the study, adults who snuggled up to their pups in bed sacrificed quality sleep.

“The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom,” says Dr. Krahn. “Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”

So, go ahead. Turn your sheepdog into a sleep dog. Just make sure they are relegated to their own bark-o-lounger, rather than your bed.

Source:  Mayo Clinic news release

Massage in the sanctuary environment

I have taken myself on study leave to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah and today, they lined up 10 dogs for me to work with.  It was a jam-packed day.

First on the list was return customer, Google.  A Blue Heeler x Australian Cattle dog cross, I massaged Google two years ago during my last visit (see Re-visiting Old Friends).  Google has long-standing neck issues thanks to being kept on a chain early in his life.  He receives chiropractic adjustments every two months.  Google has been at Dogtown for 7 years; he’s now 10.  Google prefers to be adopted into a home where he will be the only-dog (and possibly the reason why it is taking him so long to find a home).

Massage definitely has a role to play in animal sheltering.  Keeping a dog comfortable in the kennel environment, particularly when they have physical challenges, is essential so the dog puts his/her best paw forward when prospective adopters come visiting.

Massage therapists look for the ‘soft eyes’ of a relaxed client.  Here’s a selfie to show you what I mean.

Good boy, Google!

Google at Dogtown

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

Bernese Mountain Dog is a golf ball retriever

Davos is a Bernese Mountain Dog who lives in Minnesota.  He helps his owner, Al Cooper, retrieve his wayward golf balls and in the process, finds lots of others.

The pair re-sells the balls for 25 cents each at their local golf course and recently made a donation to the Humane Society in Golden Valley.

Golf Ball Retriever – a whole new job description for an assistance dog?

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