Category Archives: Dogs

Continuing education in pain management

In some professions (like mine) unless you choose to belong to a professional association that requires it, there is no requirement for continuing education (“CE”) or lifelong learning.

Long before I became Fear Free certified, I pledged that I would invest time and resources each year to additional study and I list everything I’ve done on my website to give my clients transparency and assurance.

This weekend has been a study weekend for me.  I’ve just finished a course in the Effects and Management of Chronic Pain in dogs and cats.  Chronic pain presents challenges for a number of reasons including:

  • recognition by the owner that their animal may be in pain
  • scoring of pain and tracking of improvements – a communication challenge across practitioners (owner, vet, massage/rehab therapist)
  • trigger points, myofascial pain syndrome, and compensation in movement which must be resolved to manage the pain (this is where my skills, in particular, are important)
  • setting realistic goals for the dog’s future activity

I was pleased to see the course endorse things I already do in my practice, such as having owners keep a journal of their dog’s movement and pain.

What I particularly liked is the description that arthritis is not an old dog’s disease – it’s a young dog’s disease because development of osteoarthritis is typically secondary to a conformational issue.   For those of you who wonder why I insist on gait analysis, this is why!

I cannot emphasise enough that we need to use our observational skills with our dogs because they are non-verbal communicators.  This video from Canine Arthritis Management ‘In Silence’ puts this important issue into perspective.

So in signing off, I use the words of basketball coach John Wooden, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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It will soon be a crime in Alabama to misrepresent a pet as a service animal

Note from DoggyMom:

It’s been fairly easy to buy fake service dog gear online and too many people think that that’s okay – to get their pet dog into a restaurant or onto a plane.   I love dogs; I particularly love well-mannered and trained dogs (which are a reflection of their owners).  Whenever a fake service dog causes a problem, it undermines those of us who want a more open and dog-friendly community which promotes and supports responsible dog ownership.

Most importantly, the people who rely on service dogs have come under suspicion and have been denied access to the places that they lawfully have a right to go. Given the investment and support needed to train a legitimate service dog, and the proven benefits to their human recipient, these incidents are tragedies for all involved.

It’s good to see penalties for those who misrepresent their dog as a service dog.


People who falsely claim their pet is a service animal could soon face criminal charges in Alabama.

Alabama comfort dog

Fido may provide comfort but Alabama is cracking down on people who misrepresent pets as service animals.

Starting Sept. 1, there will be a criminal penalty for those who misrepresent a pet as a service animal or animal-in-training in public spaces or when seeking housing accommodations in Alabama. Making false claims will be a Class C misdemeanor resulting in a $100 fine and 100 hours of community service to be performed with an organization that serves people with disabilities or one approved by the court.

The Alabama act stipulates that a service animals are limited to two types: a dog or a miniature horse. The animal must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks that benefit a person with a disability, such as a guide dog for someone with visual impairments or an animal trained to provide help to someone with post traumatic stress disorder. The ADA does not restrict service animals to a particular dog breed and service animals are generally allowed in all public areas and private businesses.

Animals that provide comfort or emotional support just by being with someone are not classified as service animals under the ADA.

“A service animal may not be a pet,” the Alabama law states. “The crime-deterrent effect of the presence of an animal and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship may not constitute work or tasks…”

The law also allows for signs to be posted in public places with the message: “Service animals are welcome. It is illegal for a person to misrepresent an animal in that person’s possession as a service animal.”

The bill makes Alabama one of 25 states that have laws related to fraudulent representation of service animals. Penalties range from up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000 in California to fines of $100 in New Jersey.

Source: AL.com

The growing trend of emotional support animals

A dog in the grocery store; a cat in the cabin of an airplane; a bird in a coffee shop – companion creatures labelled as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are showing up more and more in places previously understood to be animal-free. It’s part of a growing trend which includes “certifying” animals to provide emotional assistance to a person with a diagnosable mental condition or emotional disorder.

emotional support dog

Jeffrey Younggren, a forensic psychologist and clinical professor at The University of New Mexico’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, recognized the growing trend presents an ethical challenge for therapists asked to certify emotional support animals for their patients. “Emotional Support Animal Assessments: Toward a Standard and Comprehensive Model for Mental Health Professionals” outlines the ethical challenge and offers possible solutions to better serve both people who feel they need ESAs and those who must comply with the animals such as landlords and airlines.

In their third paper on this topic, published by the American Psychological Association, Younggren and his coauthors propose a four-prong standard assessment model for practitioners to follow when asked to provide a patient with an ESA certificate. These guidelines include:

  1. Understanding, recognizing and applying the laws regulating ESAs.
  2. A thorough valid assessment of the individual requesting an ESA certification.
  3. An assessment of the animal in question to ensure it actually performs the valid functions of an ESA.
  4. An assessment of the interaction between the animal and the individual to determine whether the animal’s presence has a demonstrably beneficial effect on that individual.

“In this model, you have to take the animal into consideration. Somebody has to certify that the animal is able to do what you’re asking it to do. And there are avenues by which animals can be evaluated regarding their capacity for these kinds of experiences,” Younggren adds.

For example, a patient with an anxiety problem can takes a pill to calm down, and the effects of the drug are measurable and backed by scientific testing and research. But Younggren says there is very little evidence to scientifically support that animals ameliorate a patient’s symptoms.

By making such guidelines and practices standard, the hope is that there will be fewer instances like the one recently, which resulted in a flight attendant needing stitches after being bitten by an emotional support animal.

According to Younggren, service animals must be trained to provide a function otherwise inaccessible to their owner. But ESAs are not held to that standard, which is partially what his new research aims to correct.

“Our research has nothing to do with service animals. Seeing eye dogs and therapy dogs are animals that help individuals manage their disabilities in certain situations – but that’s not what an ESA is. An ESA is an example of a well-intended idea that has metastasized and developed into a world of nonsense,” Younggren said.

“One of our biggest goals is to disseminate this information in order to better educate mental health providers, as well as policy writers, about the need for ethical guidelines around ESAs,” Boness said.

In addition, Boness said her hope is that this paper will encourage others to pursue research on the impacts of ESAs on patients, so that there is a more scientific pool of data to cite.

“Mental health professionals who lack full awareness of the law will likely fail to recognize that writing such letters constitutes a disability determination that becomes a part of the individual’s clinical records,” the paper states.

Currently, in order to receive waivers for housing or travel purposes where animals are banned, the law requires patients must have a mental or emotional condition diagnosable by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). If patients are given certifications for an ESA, it means they, and the therapist signing the certification, are declaring the patient to be psychologically disabled with significant impairment in functioning.

“[The guidelines] will require that those individuals who certify these animals must conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the individual to determine that they have a disability under the DSM-5,” Younggren concluded. “That disability has to substantially interfere with the patient’s ability to function, which is what the ADA requires. And the presence of the animal has to ameliorate the condition, which means you have to see the person with the animal.”

Should this proposal influence an industry standard, Younggren says it will become more difficult for people to receive certification, but on the whole safer for society.

Source:  University of New Mexico media release

Dog show terms

I’ve been writing for NZ Dog World magazine since 2010; this is the magazine of Dogs New Zealand (formerly known as the NZ Kennel Club).

For those of you who have heard of shows like the Westminster Dog Show, but have never been to a dog show, here are some basic terms:

national-dog-show-2015

Handler, agent, or exhibitor (depending on what country you’re in)

This is the person who shows the dog in the ring.  The handler isn’t necessarily the dog’s owner and in high-stakes shows like Westminster, the handler may be paid to show the dog.

Bait

Usually treats or a toy that the handler uses to get a dog’s attention or to have the dog look alert in the ring

Best in Show

The final award which is presented to the dog that is judged to be the best of all dogs shown

Conformation show

A dog show which judges the dogs against a breed standard

Group show

A type of conformation show that is limited to a single group of dog such as Hunting Dogs or Sporting Dogs

Specialty show

A type of conformation show that is limited to either a single breed or a group of breeds, such as terriers

Stacking

The posing of the dog in a natural standing position for evaluation by the show’s judge

Dogs New Zealand

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Demonstrating dog massage

I’ve been practising as a professional canine massage and rehab therapist for 10 years.

Because there are still dog parents out there that are unfamiliar with complementary care options for their dog, especially low impact ones that can be achieved in the home environment, I always look for ways to provide demonstrations – in person –  of what I do.

Last week, I was invited to participate in a pet night at our local PetStock branch.  Izzy, my greyhound, is very experienced at being a demo-dog.  In fact, I think she’s a very successful marketer!

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for August

“The choice to adopt a pet is a big decision that comes with much responsibility but infinite return on the investment. It will undoubtedly change your life.”

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Patron of Mayhew animal welfare charity

Duchess Meghan with dog

Photo courtesy of the Royal Family Facebook page

At the vets

Today, Izzy was at the vets for her fourth Synovan injection for arthritis.

Izzy isn’t afraid of the vet, but she isn’t comfortable on the hard floor, either.   She’s used to carpet, a nice cushioning dog bed, or my bed – and because it’s winter, the hard floor can also be cold.   Physical discomfort is a form of stress.

My Fear Free solution has been to bring a cushioned mat with us to the vet for each visit and the mat has the added benefit of providing a surface that isn’t as slippery – also useful for a dog with arthritis.

Izzy can wait in comfort in the waiting room and the mat makes the exam room less stressful, too.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand