Category Archives: Dogs

Raised dog beds

This photo popped up in my Facebook news feed today with the dog bed listed as ‘free to a good home.’

I’m not a fan of these beds. The heavy metal frame is an accident waiting to happen, particularly for older dogs who are slow to rise, often needing a stretch before they start moving after a good sleep. A number of years ago, I worked on a young dog who tripped getting out of a bed like this and broke his leg on the metal frame!

The theory behind these beds is that they keep your dog off of cold floors and out of drafts (draughts) and it may be easier to clean underneath with the vacuum or a mop.

In my opinion, a soft sided bed with lots of padding underneath is a better and safer option. I know many dogs who end up sleeping on double mattresses, too.

This free to a good home dog bed should be sent to the nearest scrap metal yard so that no dog is put in danger.

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

New research reveals widespread contamination of English rivers with pesticides commonly used as flea treatments

Researchers at the University of Sussex have found widespread contamination of English rivers with two neurotoxic pesticides commonly used in veterinary flea products: fipronil and the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. The concentrations found often far exceeded accepted safe limits.  

These chemicals are banned for agricultural use due to the adverse environmental effects, but there is minimal environmental risk assessment for pesticides used on domestic cats and dogs. This is due to the assumption that there are likely to be fewer environmental impacts due to the amount of product used.  

River Nene, near Nassington taken by Iain Simpson – Wiki Commons (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

But there is growing concern that this assumption may be incorrect. To investigate this, Professor Dave Goulson and Rosemary Perkins from the University of Sussex analysed data gathered by the Environment Agency in English waterways between 2016-18. They found that fipronil was detected in 98% of freshwater samples, and imidacloprid in 66%.  

Rosemary Perkins, a PhD student at Sussex and a qualified vet, said: “The use of pet parasite products has increased over the years, with millions of dogs and cats now being routinely treated multiple times per year. 

“Fipronil is one of the most commonly used flea products, and recent studies have shown that it degrades to compounds that are more persistent in the environment, and more toxic to most insects, than fipronil itself. Our results, showing that fipronil and its toxic breakdown products are present in nearly all of the freshwater samples tested, are extremely concerning.”   

According to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), who funded the research, there are 66 licensed veterinary products containing fipronil in the UK, and 21 containing imidacloprid, either alone or in combination with other parasiticides. These include spot-on solutions, topical sprays and collars impregnated with the active ingredient. 

While some of these products can be purchased only with a veterinary prescription, others can be bought without a prescription from pet shops, supermarkets, pharmacies and online. Many pet owners receive year-round preventative flea and/or tick treatment from their vet practice via healthcare plans. 

Fipronil has a history of very limited agricultural use prior to its ban in 2017. It is also licensed for use in ant and cockroach baits, however only one product is licensed for use by non pest-control professionals. Use on pets seems to be the most plausible source of the widespread contamination of rivers.

The paper, co-authored with Martin Whitehead from the Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital and Wayne Civil at the Environment Agency, examines the occurrence of fipronil and imidacloprid in English rivers as indicators of the potential contamination of waterways from the use of pet flea treatments. 

They found that the average fipronil concentration across the rivers sampled by the Environment Agency exceeded chronic safety thresholds five-fold. The overall pollution levels in English rivers indicate that fipronil and its toxic breakdown products pose a high risk to aquatic ecosystems.

While, in most rivers, imidacloprid was found to pose a moderate risk, in seven out of the 20 rivers sampled there was a high environmental risk. 

Co-author Professor Dave Goulson said: “Fipronil and imidacloprid are both highly toxic to all insects and other aquatic invertebrates. Studies have shown both pesticides to be associated with declines in the abundance of aquatic invertebrate communities. The finding that our rivers are routinely and chronically contaminated with both of these chemicals and mixtures of their toxic breakdown products is deeply troubling.”

The paper, published in Science of the Total Environment, notes that the highest levels of pollution were found immediately downstream of wastewater treatment works, supporting the hypothesis that significant quantities of pesticide may be passing from treated pets to the environment via household drains. 

Bathing of pets treated with spot-on fipronil flea products has been confirmed as a potentially important route to waterways for fipronil via sewers, and the washing of hands, pet bedding or other surfaces that have come into contact with treated pets are potential additional pathways for entry to sewers. Other pathways for contamination of waterways includes swimming and rainfall wash-off from treated pets. The strong correlation between fipronil and imidacloprid levels across the river sites tested suggest that they may be coming from a common source. 

Rosemary Perkins added: “We’ve identified a number of steps that can be taken to minimise or avoid environmental harm from pet flea and/or tick treatments. These range from introducing stricter prescription-only regulations, to considering a more judicious and risk-based approach to the control of parasites in pets, for example by moving away from blanket year-round prophylactic use.  

“We’d recommend a re-evaluation of the environmental risks posed by pet parasite products, and a reappraisal of the risk assessments that these products undergo prior to regulatory approval.” 

Source: University of Sussex

Early-life diet and can­ine atopy can have a con­nec­tion

Meat-based maternal diet during pregnancy and as the puppies’ first solid diet during the early postnatal period (at 1–2 months of age), both showed a significant “protective” effect from atopy in adult age.

Researchers from the international multidisciplinary research group “DogRisk” at the University of Helsinki have found novel early-life risk factors that impact the prevalence of atopic dermatitis in adult dogs. The results are also interesting for human medicine as the disease, atopy, is very similar in young dogs and in children.

The identified risk factors include non-modifiable and modifiable variables in the pre- and postnatal age, being just before or after birth. This new knowledge empowers dog owners, opens up research on processed foods, and advances primary atopy preventive strategies. 

So far over 12,000 dog owners have answered the Finnish internet-based DogRisk food frequency questionnaire. The data allows for associating many non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors with owner-reported canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) prevalence.

As partly reported previously, an increased prevalence of atopy in adult age significantly associated with the dog being from an allergy prone breed, its mother having a history of atopy, and more than 50 % of the dog’s hair coat being white. But the most interesting for the owners are the things that they can have an impact on: early life diet had the strongest association with the disease.

Novel diet-re­lated risk factors for atopy in dogs

A non-heat-processed, meat-based maternal diet during pregnancy and as the puppies’ first solid diet during the early postnatal period (at 1–2 months of age), both showed a significant “protective” effect from atopy in adult age. The same diet also indicated protection at a later puppy stage (at 2–6 months of age), but this finding did not reach significance.

On the contrary, an ultra-processed carbohydrate based maternal diet (commercial dry kibble) during pregnancy and as the puppies’ first solid diet during the early postnatal period, increased atopy incidence in adult age.

“As the differently processed diets also have a very different macro-nutrient profile it is, at this stage, impossible to say whether it is the lack of “cooking”, the minimal amount of carbohydrates, preservatives and coloring agents, the different quality and quantity of animal proteins and fats, the non-sterility of the food, or something else, that made raw foods come out as superior for atopy health in our data”, says the study’s main researcher Dr. Manal Hemida from the Helsinki One Health network.

Additionally, de-worming the dam during pregnancy, exposing the young puppies to sun light for at least one hour per day, spending time on a dirt floor or lawn before six months of age, keeping the young puppies at normal body weight, and continuing to live in the same family where they were born, were all associated with a significant decrease of CAD risk at adult age.

“These results, however, only suggest causality, but do not prove it. A prospective diet intervention during pregnancy and at young age is needed to confirm our findings”, says Adjunct Professor Anna Hielm-Björkman, leader of the DogRisk research group.

Original article in PLOS ONE: Identification of modifiable pre- and postnatal dietary and environmental exposures associated with owner-reported canine atopic dermatitis in Finland using a web-based questionnaire. Manal Hemida, Kristiina A. Vuori, Siru Salin, Robin Moore, Johanna Anturaniemi, Anna Hielm-Björkman. Published: May 29, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0225675

Source: University of Helsinki

Eddie

I said goodbye to Eddie on Saturday. With his Mum’s permission, I am writing this post.

Eddie and I first met in June 2016 when he was the tender age of 11 weeks. He was the newest addition to a family that already included his French Bulldog sister, Jorgie – also a regular massage customer.

As he rapidly grew, he developed his rugby player neck which earned him my nickname “My Little Boofhead.” It didn’t take him long to understand that the table meant massage – leaping up to get started:

I would set up for massage downstairs and then brace myself for Eddie and Jorgie to arrive

In the intervening 4+ years, Eddie proved to be an enthusiastic Lover and not a Fighter (contrary to what so many people believe about Bull Breed dogs). Always eager to please, he learned strengthening and rehab exercises quickly.

He was also an Over-Sharer – I lovingly called him this because he would often howl in my ear for part of his massage session. I am convinced he wanted me to know everything he had been doing since I last saw him. (I just wish he had come with subtitles and a volume control).

Eddie was one of those dogs that seemed to go from crisis to crisis. He needed soft palate surgery after suffering from enlarged tonsils, he developed digestive problems that did not respond to various therapies and, after biopsy, was diagnosed with IBD. He then ingested rat poison when visiting a neighbour and had to go to the emergency vet for what was – thankfully – a quick intervention. He then ruptured one cruciate and had surgery followed by 12 weeks of rehab- only to become a statistic and rupturing the other in good measure.

And then in September, just as it looked like we had fully rehabbed him from his second cruciate surgery and he was ready to strengthen and return to normal activity, out of the blue he developed pancreatitis that wasn’t linked to a food indiscretion.

As it turned out, his ultrasound revealed that Eddie was likely suffering from stomach cancer and our focus turned to his quality of life. Eddie’s mum asked that we continue laser therapy for pain relief, knowing that laser therapy is contraindicated in cases of cancer – this was about keeping him happy and comfortable as a cure was not possible.

Eddie’s time has come. A follow-up scan has shown that his tumour has grown significantly and, tomorrow morning, he will be helped across the Rainbow Bridge.

In Eddie’s case, I see him mounting the Bridge in his custom-built stairlift (this video made him something of a Facebook star with some loyal followers on my page).

Eddie has taught me a lot about living in the moment; no matter what the health challenge of the time, he seemed to roll with it. But cancer is a wasting disease and only in the last few weeks did we notice how flat he had become – definitely not his normal self.

Goodbye, My Little Boofhead. It’s been quite a ride – one that I wish would have lasted for much longer.

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

Study of ancient dog DNA traces canine diversity to the Ice Age

A global study of ancient dog DNA, led by scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, University of Oxford, University of Vienna and archaeologists from more than 10 countries, presents evidence that there were different types of dogs more than 11,000 years ago in the period immediately following the Ice Age.

In their study, published in Science, the research team sequenced ancient DNA from 27 dogs, some of which lived up to nearly 11,000 years ago, across Europe, the Near East and Siberia.* They found that by this point in history, just after the Ice Age and before any other animal had been domesticated, there were already at least five different types of dog with distinct genetic ancestries. 

This finding reveals that the diversity observed between dogs in different parts of the world today originated when all humans were still hunters and gatherers.

Photo by E.E. Antipina

Pontus Skoglund, author and group leader of the Crick’s Ancient Genomics laboratory, says: “Some of the variation you see between dogs walking down the street today originated in the Ice Age. By the end of this period, dogs were already widespread across the northern hemisphere.”

This study of ancient genomics involves extracting and analysing DNA from skeletal material. It provides a window into the past, allowing researchers to uncover evolutionary changes that occurred many thousands of years ago.

The team showed that over the last 10,000 years, these early dog lineages mixed and moved to give rise to the dogs we know today. For example, early European dogs were initially diverse, appearing to originate from two highly distinct populations, one related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs. However, at some point this diversity was lost, as it is not present in European dogs today.

Anders Bergström, lead author and post-doctoral researcher in the Ancient Genomics laboratory at the Crick, says: “If we look back more than four or five thousand years ago, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary array of shapes and forms, genetically they derive from only a very narrow subset of the diversity that used to exist.” 

The researchers also compared the evolution in dog history to changes in human evolution, lifestyles and migrations. In many cases comparable changes took place, likely reflecting how humans would bring their dogs with them as they migrated across the world.

But there are also cases when human and dog histories do not mirror each other. For example, the loss of diversity that existed in dogs in early Europe was caused by the spread of a single dog ancestry that replaced other populations. This dramatic event is not mirrored in human populations, and it remains to be determined what caused this turnover in European dog ancestry. 

Greger Larson, author and Director of the Palaeogenomics and Bio-Archaeology Research Network at the University of Oxford, says: “Dogs are our oldest and closest animal partner. Using DNA from ancient dogs is showing us just how far back our shared history goes and will ultimately help us understand when and where this deep relationship began.”

Ron Pinhasi, author and group leader at the University of Vienna, says: “Just as ancient DNA has revolutionised the study of our own ancestors, it’s now starting to do the same for dogs and other domesticated animals. Studying our animal companions adds another layer to our understanding of human history.”  

While this study provides major new insights into the early history of dog populations and their relationships with humans and each other, many questions still remain. In particular, research teams are still trying to uncover where and in which human cultural context, dogs were first domesticated. 

*The researchers sequenced ancient DNA from 27 dogs. Their analysis also included previously sequenced genomic data from a further 5 dogs.

Source: The Francis Crick Institute

Doggy quote of the month for November

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.”

– Franklin P Jones, journalist

Old Dog

I first saw Old Dog at last year’s Top Dog Film Festival, but I re-acquainted myself with this 2018 documentary on the Doc Play platform.

Old Dog tells the story of retired sheep farmer Paul Sorenson, something of a legend in New Zealand because of the number of sheep dog trials he has won and for his kinder, gentler handling techniques. In the film, he admits that he prefers dogs to people and that he was mostly an absentee father to his children, a fault that makes him seem more human than the ‘hero’ movies we see on the big screen.

Filmmaker Sally Rowe wanted to make a film about rural New Zealand and, in the process, the film depicts some of our wonderful New Zealand landscape. If you’re locked down due to Covid-19 restrictions in your country, then I think you’ll enjoy the scenery.

This film is well worth the watch of just over one hour and, as Paul says, “If you’ve got a problem dog, nine times out of 10 either you’ve created it or someone else has.”

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

Well Groomed

I watched this 2019 documentary about the world of competitive, creative dog grooming on the Doc Play platform.

I’ve always owned dogs that I could groom myself without too much trouble. (Izzy, for example, has the short coat of a greyhound and only needs brushed and regular nail trims and possibly a bath once a year). But I have clients whose dogs need professional grooming and, hey, this was a movie involving dogs so I had to watch.

The documentary follows the stories of several women who use poodles as their creative canvas in grooming competitions across America.

It’s a different world, to say the least.

Ethically, I’m against the use of brightly coloured dyes being used on dogs. They may be marketed as harmless, but if a dog was meant to have a coat in the colours of the rainbow, genetics would have sorted that out by now. I also can’t endorse the use of nail polish on dogs, either. Both product ranges must have a chemical base and exposing dogs knowingly to these types of chemicals just seems wrong.

The poodles, I have to say, are very well behaved on the grooming table. I suppose they’ve become accustomed to the hours they spend standing on the grooming table for these competitions. To me, though, that seems sad when they could be out playing or just enjoying life as a pet.

Professional dog grooming is just that – a profession. And I am in awe of the great work done for my client’s dogs who are – well – real, loved family members – in need of a solid groom.

I simply can’t get my head around this art form because the dogs don’t really have a choice to opt out.

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

The first re-homing of laboratory beagles in Finland

The paper’s abstract begins “The fate of experimental animals represents an ethical dilemma and a public concern.” I would say that this is an understatement. But, researchers in Finland decided to re-home their laboratory Beagles once their work was completed and documented the process of helping the dogs to adjust to pet life.


The re-homing of laboratory dogs was the first of its kind in Finland. The re-homing process was started with months of practising basic pet dog skills with the dogs and by familiarising them with the world outside the laboratory.  

The practice period lasted from four to six months, depending on the dog.

“However, we found out that the socialisation time was not quite sufficient for all dogs; owners reported that some dogs continued to be timid and suffer from separation anxiety. The laboratory dog re-homing process would be smoother if in the future laboratory dog facilities separated out the defecation and rest areas, gave dogs access to an outside area and walked them outside on a leash,” says Docent Marianna Norring from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki.

The dogs had been living in packs of eight dogs for two to eight years in the University’s laboratory animal facilities, from where they had daily access to an enclosed outside space. They spent the nights in smaller groups of dogs.

At the University, the dogs had participated in both animal cognition and veterinary medical studies. The cognition research provided basic information on canine minds, and a new tranquilising agent suitable for dogs was developed in the veterinary medical study. The University of Helsinki does not currently have laboratory dogs.

The re-homing of laboratory dogs was implemented as a collaboration between SEY Animal Welfare Finland and the University of Helsinki. A large group of individuals participated in socialising the dogs and acquainting them with life outside the facility: animal caretakers, researchers, animal-rights campaigners and dog trainers. The aim was to take into account the individual characteristics of each dog when searching for a new home for them. Whenever possible, dogs were re-homed in pairs. Generally speaking, the new owners have been extremely happy about their new pets.

For the study, the dog re-homing process was monitored at the University for four years by interviewing the participants and collecting information from the new owners.  

Article:

Laura Hänninen and Marianna Norring, 2020, The First Rehoming of Laboratory Beagles in Finland: The Complete Process from Socialisation Training to Follow-up, Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (ATLA), Vol 48, Issue 3, 2020.

Source: University of Helsinki

I took my dog to the vet…

Izzy went to the vet this week. It’s funny because some people I meet think that I should be anti-vet because I work in the field of complementary therapies for dogs.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Traditional veterinary care is essential – it’s like going to the family doctor – or GP as they are called here in New Zealand. Your dog will need things like check-ups and vaccinations during the course of its life; many dogs end up with injuries that require surgery of some sort and your vet does these, too. The work I do with dogs integrates well with traditional veterinary care.

(I’m not anti-vet – but I do meet vets that are anti-complementary therapies. That’s a whole other subject for another day and not the purpose of this post.)

In Izzy’s case, this week we were visiting so she could have another injection of SYNOVAN™ and to get a repeat of her gabapentin, which we use for pain relief for her arthritis.

I always bring a mat for her because the floor is slippery and not nice to lay down on when you are an arthritic senior dog. Her mat is also useful because it is her safe place – a Fear Free technique – because often vets do things that are ouchy and frightening. We bring the mat with us to the exam room, too, so she has a surface that is comforting and familiar.

What do you do when your take your dog to the vet?

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