Category Archives: Dogs

Sniffing out UTIs

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are a real problem in people with mobility and neurological disorders. Often, a bacterial infection is well-advanced before the person shows symptoms.  And the consequences for a vulnerable patient like someone who is elderly can be dire.

Knowing that dogs have been trained to sniff out cancers, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii thought they could be put to use in detecting UTIs at an early stage.


They were right.

All dogs in a controlled study detected samples with between 90 and 94% accuracy, even in very diluted samples.

Read the full journal article here.

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

Eggshells – a natural source of calcium

I like using wholefoods and avoiding waste – reasons why I make my own dog treats and why I feed my dog a hybrid diet (incorporating raw, homemade and commercial foods).

In the case of egg shells, I used to put them in my compost pile.  But, they always seemed to the source of attraction for rats (yuck!). I could throw them in my  green organics bin that is collected each week; this is taken away to a commercial composting operation – but of course from a sustainability point of view, we’re using trucks and diesel to cart waste away.

There’s another option – making some natural calcium supplement for my dog.

And it’s very easy to do!

First, after I use eggs for baking or cooking, I gather the shells and leave them out on my kitchen bench to to dry for 24 hours.  After that, I store them in refrigerator to keep them from growing bacteria.

Then I arrange them on a baking tray and bake them for 5 minutes at 180 degrees C (roughly 350 degrees F).  Then I turn the oven off and let the shells cool in the oven.

This is what the look like when they are finished:


Final step:  into the coffee grinder.  After just a few pulses, I have a fine calcium powder.


I keep the calcium powder in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; using 1/2 teaspoon mixed into raw food per meal.

Dogs need calcium in their diet and I am confident in feeding this to Izzy, who is a large-breed dog with no health problems.  For all dogs, we need to be confident in their health status before deciding to feed certain foods and supplements.

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

Team develops treatment for canine megaesophagus

The Veterinary Health Center (VHC) at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine is pioneering a new approach to treat one type of canine megaesophagus, a devastating disease of dogs.


This image shows a canine patient during a video fluoroscopic swallow study. These studies, performed by members of a collaborative research project at the University of Missouri, were a major component of revolutionary techniques developed for the diagnosis and treatment of megaesophagus, a devastating disease of dogs. Credit: MU College of Veterinary Medicine

A partnership between the VHC’s Small Animal Internal Medicine, Radiology, Surgery, and Nutrition services and an investigator in the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery department at the university’s School of Medicine has resulted in the discovery of a breakthrough treatment for a subpopulation of dogs with megaesophagus. The Mizzou team has identified a defect of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) as a potential treatable cause of megaesophagus.

Megaesophagus (ME) refers to a large, dilated esophagus with poor or no motility preventing normal passage of food and liquid into the stomach. With ingesta not reaching the stomach to produce the sensation of being full, the dog will continue to eat. As a result, the esophagus enlarges greatly. Dogs end up not getting enough calories so they waste away. Dogs with ME also regurgitate large amounts of undigested food and some of that material can be inhaled into the lungs. This inhalation can result in aspiration pneumonia, a dangerous additional symptom that kills many affected animals.

“In general, dogs with megaesophagus typically die of malnutrition, aspiration pneumonia, or are euthanized because the owners are told they have a terrible prognosis,” according to Associate Professor Carol Reinero, DVM, PhD, an internal medicine specialist helping coordinate the efforts of the multidisciplinary team. “We’re taking a closer look at a subpopulation of dogs with idiopathic megaesophagus, which means we don’t know what causes it. We run all of our traditional tests, but we’ve never been able to find an underlying cause. Now with our video fluoroscopic swallow studies, we have identified an abnormality that we believe is driving the problem: an LES-achalasia-like syndrome.”

The LES acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach, opening when food and water are swallowed, then clamping tight so food doesn’t come back from the stomach into the esophagus. In dogs afflicted with megaesophagus caused by an achalasia-like syndrome, the LES remains closed.

 “Video fluoroscopic swallow studies have been around a long time,” Reinero said. “The problem with prior protocols is they did not represent normal eating and drinking behaviors. Those tests had very little to do with reality. A dog had to be restrained, lying on its side, and syringe-fed barium, which was not palatable even when mixed with food. If dogs don’t eat during the swallow study you’re not going to get a diagnostic study.”

In order to receive a better diagnostic result, the Mizzou collaborative research team blended innovation with adaptation, developing new techniques and tools while borrowing procedures from human medical practices to diagnose and treat this type of canine ME.

Assistant Professor Teresa Lever, MS, PhD, from the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery department, spearheaded the development of trapezoidal holding chambers or kennels—which are now patented—where dogs walk in and are funneled to the narrow end of the enclosure. The animals are more naturally restrained and are given food that they consume while standing upright. Lever’s lab, in cooperation with an independent company that conducts feeding trials in dogs, also developed a number of different recipes and consistencies of food and liquid to optimize how well the dogs could take it down and discover which contrast agent was more palatable and effective.

“So, now we have these chambers, we have optimized palatable recipes, and we have experience in normal, healthy dogs without swallowing disorders, as well as lots and lots of patients coming in with other swallowing disorders,” Reinero said. “It was in the process of developing this protocol and having clinical patients come in when we recognized that LES-achalasia-like syndrome was the underlying cause of megaesophagus in some dogs. That’s when we began to adapt what they do with humans, a therapy where we’re opening or dilating the LES with Botox and/or balloon dilation.

“We perform an endoscopy to first dilate the LES and then administer Botox, which paralyzes the sphincter muscles that formerly wanted to remain closed. While we are still evaluating this procedure, we’ve had dogs with remarkable clinical improvement. Additionally, when we repeat the fluoroscopic studies, we can document an open LES. The patients that show improvement can be candidates for surgery, and that surgery is potentially curative,” Reinero said.

During a patient’s recovery, residents in the Nutrition Service monitor the dog’s weight and food intake. The amount of food an owner may give a pet might need to be altered every couple of days.

James Schachtel, Bvet Med, MRCVS, is a Radiology resident and key collaborator in the study.

“This approach gives these dogs a chance, whereas a lot of them didn’t have much of one,” Schachtel said. “At this time, it is early in the evaluation process, but it’s a novel approach that shows promise.

“This subpopulation can receive a really significant benefit from our direct ability to detect their malady. It can give them a really good quality of life. This is a revolutionary diagnostic technique for a disorder identified with a pathological outcome. It offers us the opportunity to use therapies that have been successful in people, so we’re optimistic we can experience similar success with canines,” Schachtel said.

Source:  University of Missouri-Columbia

See also my 2014 post about megaesophagus

Time to budget

It’s a holiday weekend in New Zealand  – for Labour Day.  And every year this holiday also marks the start of the pre-Christmas season.  christmas_dog_highdefinition_picture_168935

As many of you understand, Christmas falls in the summer school holiday period in New Zealand. Many companies shut down during this time and require their workers to take some of their annual leave, since trading can be minimal or non-existent.    If workers don’t have enough paid days, then it can mean time off without pay.

And every year, for a range of reasons including more money being spent on holidays, entertaining and gifts, I see owners who can’t fund the full costs of their dog’s care.

This blog post is a reminder about the items you need to set money aside for in your end of year budget. And the time to budget is NOW.


  • Food
  • Treats
  • Medications
  • Supplements
  • Costs for vet care, such as visits for required vaccinations if you are boarding your dog
  • Boarding and care costs, if you are heading away

Just as in people, medications and supplements are only effective if their dosage is kept up.  And dogs on things like pain medication will suffer with break-through pain as medications wear off.  In other cases – let’s say heart medication – stopping this medication could be life-threatening.

Because of their stoic nature, dogs often hide their pain and/or owners miss the signals – such as withdrawing from activity – which are indicators of a dog in pain.  For this reason, some owners think they can get away with a ‘short break’ from medication.

With supplements, once the loading doses are given and the effective dose is reached, there is a level of stability with the coverage given by the supplement.  Stop giving it and you are faced with starting a loading dose all over again.  Many owners miss this step and go back to regular dosages, further compromising the value to the dog of giving the supplement in the first place!

When we take on a dog into our family, we’re responsible for lifetime care as with any other family member.  When there is only so much money to go around, sometimes the silent member of the family – the dog – is the one to miss out.

Please remember health care is a basic right for all animals and plan your holiday budget accordingly.  If that means less money for Christmas festivities – so be it.

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

Controlling the spread of dog diseases

My comments:

In my experience, the boarding operations and day cares that I and my clients have used have all been diligent about infection control. This isn’t surprising.  Provision of care to multiple dogs in the same environment is their core business and they would be risking their livelihoods and reputation by having an outbreak of disease.

The use, however, of dog parks – at least in Christchurch – seems to be on the rise and this is not always a good thing.  Many of us have experienced dogs that are out of control and owners that don’t seem particularly interested in their responsibilities for picking up poo or training/socialising their dogs.  For this reason, I also question whether or not these owners understand the importance of the core vaccinations along the lines of accepted protocols, or if they recognise when their dog is under the weather.  As the guidelines note, not all diseases are fully preventable with vaccines.

There are only a handful of dogs I have met through my massage courses where the vet has agreed the dog shouldn’t be vaccinated – based on reactions in the past – and have documented this on the dog’s health record.

So, for anyone who organises events with dogs – these guidelines should be useful.  They are geared to North American conditions, but still useful elsewhere.  They are also useful for owners to understand infection control. If you choose to go to events with other animals, reviewing the guidelines and the risk calculator will help you be prepared.

Prevention is better than cure!

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

Dogs aren’t exactly famous for their personal hygiene or for maintaining a respectful distance from their canine pals. With a nuzzle, a shared ball or a bark, a dog battling a bug can easily pass it to others and, in some cases, people.


Photo by Ohio State University

This becomes especially worrisome in group settings, such as dog parks, dog shows and doggie daycare, where animals can spread illness rapidly and then carry it back into their homes and neighborhoods. Protocol for keeping disease transmission at bay has, until now, lagged decades behind efforts to contain human infectious disease.

New guidance for halting the spread of a multitude of dog diseases is now available, thanks to an effort led by veterinary experts at The Ohio State University.

The advice, which appears in a user-friendly guide and in a scientific paper in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is intended to be a tool for those in charge of canine group settings and for dog owners, said Jason Stull, a veterinarian and assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State.

“When you have many dogs in a fairly confined space, the opportunities for disease transmission are everywhere,” Stull said.

Stull and his co-authors want their work to lead to written infection prevention and control plans for settings where dogs congregate.

“In veterinary medicine we’re probably 30 years behind in our infection control efforts compared to human medicine,” he said. “But a lot of the risks really can be managed with some simple steps.”

Stull and his collaborators embarked on the effort at the urging of the American Kennel Club. The researchers reviewed more than 400 academic papers related to the topic and examined published reports of outbreaks of disease in dogs before developing their advice.

The guidance they provide is intended to be an outline of the best possible approach to infection control, Stull said.

But what works in one setting won’t necessarily be practical or possible in another and those who make use of it are expected to tailor the guidelines to their needs, he said.

Among the recommendations:

• Dogs with signs of infection should be kept out of group settings.
• People who touch dogs in group settings, such as handlers, staff and judges, should frequently wash their hands or use sanitizer.
• Community surfaces and items should be regularly disinfected and sharing of items such as leashes, toys and bowls should be avoided.
• Dogs should have up-to-date vaccinations, including against distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza, Bordetella and rabies – all highly contagious diseases that can lead to severe disease and death.
• Efforts should be made to keep rodents and wildlife out of areas where dogs will be, and to keep dogs out of areas most likely to include ticks, fleas and other disease-carrying pests.
• Those in charge of group settings and those who participate should avail themselves of a new online risk calculator to help them determine the potential for disease spread.
• Dogs should be kept clean – and cleaned up after.
• Organizers of group events should avoid overcrowding of dogs.
• Care should be taken with puppies and other dogs with weaker immune systems. The benefits of socialization should be weighed against the risk of illness.
• Every group setting should have on-site or off-site access to a veterinarian who can help with disease-prevention guidelines.

In practice, following this advice could mean a judge uses hand sanitizer between groups of dogs when pulling up their jowls to look at their teeth.

It could mean a parks and recreation department works to eliminate standing water in a dog park, and to stay on top of keeping the grass mowed short.

It could mean a doggie daycare operator assigns dogs to smaller play groups so that if disease spreads it will be limited.

Stull said vaccines are an excellent guard against disease spread, but many of the threats to dog health aren’t vaccine-preventable and require additional thoughtful prevention.

“It’s going to be a bit of a culture change and we need everyone involved – from the dog owners to group organizers to large organizations such as the AKC,” he said.

“People who care about dogs are really invested and want to do what they can to protect their loved ones and that’s what we’re trying to do. On top of that, a lot of these diseases can be transmitted to people.”

Patricia Haines, past president of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association and a consultant to Stull and his collaborators, said the information they’ve provided is invaluable and science-based.

“This project will be informative to the experts, those planning competitive events and for people who manage private facilities and public situations, such as dog parks,” said Haines, who raises and shows pointers.

“Many of the dog-loving public have never thought of the risks at dog parks and other group settings,” she said.

The new infectious disease guidelines do not focus on animal shelters and rescues, which have other factors to consider and for which there are some existing established recommendations, but rather on settings in which the dogs have owners.

About 35 percent of households in the U.S. and Canada have at least one dog – totaling about 75 million canine companions in North America.

The full report, including the risk calculator and fact sheets addressing particular infectious diseases, are available through the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine:

Source:  Ohio State University media release

Treatment room

I’ve officially taken up residence at a local boarding kennels and day care facility – Parkavon Boarding Kennels.

Whilst I still maintain my mobile practice, this location gives me a wider client reach and is good for clients who are not in a position to pay travel surcharges, or who have multi-dog households (or just busy households with humans), when mobile massage doesn’t get the best results.

My friend, Marie, helped me with this brief introductory video.

I hope you like it!

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

Intestinal health can impact dog behavior


Photo credit: University of Helsinki

General fearfulness, sensitivity to noise as well as hyperactivity and impulsiveness are the most common behavioural problems in dogs. At their worst, they can have a very negative impact on the wellbeing of the dog and owner alike.

“Behaviour and behavioural disorders often develop as a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, which makes studying them challenging. Metabolomics, or the study of the metabolism, provides us with new clues on the biological issues underpinning behavioural disorders while promoting genetic research. At the moment, metabolomics research in dogs is rare, and the purpose of this pilot study was to examine new approaches and attain information on any metabolic abnormalities associated with hyperactivity in dogs,” explains Professor Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki  and the  Folkhälsan Research Centre.

Ab­nor­mal meta­bolic blood test res­ults in hy­per­act­ive dogs

Determining the blood metabolites in hyperactive and normally behaved German Shepherds revealed a significant link between hyperactivity and lower blood phospholipid levels.

“We knew to expect this discovery from research on the human side, as several studies have recorded lower blood lipid and fatty acid levels in ADHD patients than in control groups. However, the causal relationship is not clear and requires further studies, particularly ones with more extensive research data. Our discovery supports the existing belief that human and canine diseases are similar, which suggests dogs can serve as excellent models for human illnesses,” states doctoral student Jenni Puurunen.

“It is significant that the dog’s age, sex or fasting had little impact on the link between behaviour and metabolites. We also controlled for dietary changes by feeding all dogs the same food for two weeks before testing,” explains Puurunen.

In­test­inal health can im­pact can­ine be­ha­viour

One of the most interesting discoveries in the study was the negative correlation between hyperactive behaviour and the levels of the metabolites of tryptophan, a vital amino acid. This metabolite is only produced when intestinal bacteria process the tryptophan received in food. The discovery suggests differences in the gut bacteria of hyperactive and normally behaved dogs, which is very significant in light of the discovery made a few years ago about the connection between the brain and the intestines.

“We know that the composition of the gut microbiota significantly influences the creation of neurotransmitters, for example, those which regulate mood and behaviour. The effect also works vice-versa, so that a stress reaction in the brain can have an adverse effect on the gut microbiota. Consequently, we cannot tell whether our discovery is the cause of canine hyperactivity or its consequence,” Puurunen says.

A glob­ally unique meta­bolo­m­ics pro­ject is un­der­way

Earlier this year, Lohi’s research group released an article on a study of the metabolomics of fearful dogs, which revealed differences between the blood counts of fearful and fearless dogs. However, more extensive research is required to confirm these pilot-stage findings. The research group has launched an extensive collection of samples to test new metabolomics technology together with the company Genoscoper. If successful, the new system could become a significant tool to speed up genetic research, particularly as it relates to behavioural studies.

The study is part of a more extensive canine behaviour project underway at the research group. The project seeks to determine the environmental and hereditary factors as well as metabolic changes relating to behaviour and behavioural disorders, and map their similarities with corresponding illnesses in humans.

Source:  University of Helsinki media release