Category Archives: dog care

Luke’s home adjustments

This is Luke, he’s an ex-racing greyhound who is both a regular client for massage and also one of Izzy’s friends.

Luke
The steps before alterations…

During one of my massage sessions with Luke, his Mum and I talked about how he was jumping on and off the deck at the back of the house. Upon inspection, I could see that the steps were narrow and steep and this was causing Luke to jump to avoid them.

My first rule is to prevent injuries before they happen and I was worried that as Luke gets older, he could severely injure himself by missing the jump, misjudging the jump, or sliding awkwardly when the surface was wet and slippery. We discussed replacing the narrow steps with a much wider landing surface that would be safer.

I also recommend home adjustments for dogs to ensure that they are not putting unnecessary strain on their joints and soft tissues. Over time, these stresses and strains cause wear and tear and, ultimately, arthritis.

Luke’s Mum and Dad have been working on the alterations over summer and they are now complete. Luke has a wide surface to turn upon with non-slip carpet tiles. The hand rail will keep him from jumping off the side and the humans in the house can hold onto it for their safety, too.

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

Teaching the basics of massage

Last weekend, my greyhound Izzy and I taught another Learn to Massage Your Dog workshop. I have lost count as to how many dog parents we have taught together, but there are always more who should sign up. In fact, I’d like every dog owner to be able to massage their dog with the basic knowledge of where to massage, why, how and also when not to massage.

Massage is a skill that should be learned hands-on and live. What better way than to attend a class with your own dog and learn together?

Massage is one of the oldest healing skills. It dates back to 3,000 BCE (Before the Common Era) in India and long before pharmaceutical and surgical choices were considered (by many) to be the only options for health care.

Koda was re-homed by Carey and attended Learn to Massage Your Dog; Koda is also a regular customer for professional massage because she has a repaired hind leg injury which she compensates for

Massage by an owner has many benefits. If done regularly, the owner is the best position to pick up on changes that may require professional attention. Lumps and bumps, for example, should always be investigated. When a dog has been injured in some way, even a minor injury, the owner is a great position to help relieve the initial stress through their massage without waiting to see a professional.

Massage is also a great way to spend quality time with your dog – enhancing your love and bond.

For clients of my professional practice, I feel much more confident in giving them a home care program when they have been to a massage class. It’s also very satisfying when an owner gets in touch to say that their dog has had a minor injury, such as a back strain, and I’m able to advise them which strokes of their massage sequence to use for home care.

The winner is, of course, the dog.

My love of dogs and the passion to see them cared for using traditional, natural options alongside veterinary care is the reason I chose this line of work. Teaching and sharing skills is an honor that I hope to share with more dogs and their families in the years to come.

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

Izzy is a seasoned professional demo-dog who is happy to spend most of the class on my massage table

Labeling of raw ingredients

I use a fair amount of lambs fry (liver) since I make my own dog treats and cakes. A friend recently bought some liver at the supermarket and was feeding it to her dog (raw) as a treat. I asked her if she had frozen the lamb first, and she hadn’t.

I explained that the liver I buy from the supermarket, which is human grade, comes with this warning:

She had purchased her human-grade liver from her local supermarket but it wasn’t marked. So I asked a few questions about labeling and, apparently, a warning about freezing or cooking is only required if the liver is sold for pets; if selling for humans, this type of labeling isn’t required because it is assumed that humans will be cooking the liver. My supermarket opts to label the lambs fry even though it is sold in the human-grade butchery area.

Eating of raw liver (if not frozen beforehand) increases the risk of hydatids. Since many pet owners opt to buy human-quality food, I wonder if we are missing a vital step in educating people about the risks? Raw pet food retailers in our area all supply their products to consumers in a frozen state.

Anyway, my friend promised to go home and freeze the remaining liver first before feeding it to her dog…

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

Liv­ing en­vir­on­ment af­fects the mi­cro­bi­ota and health of both dogs and their own­ers

For both dogs and humans, the risk of developing allergic diseases was at its lowest when the skin microbiota was shaped by a rural environment and a lifestyle that promotes microbial abundance. Photo: Emma Hakanen

In urban environments, allergic diseases are more common among dogs and their owners compared to those living in rural areas. Simultaneous allergic traits appear to be associated with the microbes found in the environment, but microbes relevant to health differ between dogs and humans.

In a joint research project known as DogEnvi, researchers from the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Environment Institute and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare have previously observed that dogs are more likely to have allergies when their owners suffer from allergic symptoms. In a new study, the researchers investigated whether such simultaneous presence of allergic traits is associated with gut or skin microbes shared by dogs and their owners. A total of 168 dog–owner pairs living in rural and urban environments participated in the study.

“Research shows that dogs and owners living in rural areas have a lower risk of developing an allergic disease compared to urban areas. We assumed that in rural areas both dogs and owners are exposed to health-promoting microbes. We found that the microbial exposure of both was different in rural and urban environments. For instance, the skin microbiota varied more between individuals in rural areas compared to their urban counterparts. A diverse and varying microbial exposure may be precisely what provides the associated health benefit,” says Senior Researcher Jenni Lehtimäki, PhD, from the Finnish Environment Institute.

Dogs and their own­ers seemed to share mi­crobes on their skin, but not in their gut

The study demonstrated that the living environment had a markedly more significant effect on the skin microbiota than on that of the gut in dogs and humans. Dogs living in urban areas had on their skin more microbes typically found on human skin, which may be caused by the accumulation of microbes typical to humans indoors and in urban areas, a phenomenon that has been previously observed.

In a study conducted earlier, the researchers noticed that both the living environment and living habits affected the canine skin microbiota.

“The same was now observed in humans. For both dogs and humans, the risk of developing allergic diseases was at its lowest when the skin microbiota was shaped by a rural environment and a lifestyle that promotes microbial abundance. Such a lifestyle was associated with a number of different animals in the family, as well as larger family size,” says Professor Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki.

While the living environment appeared to alter the species of the skin microbiota as well as the risk of allergic diseases in both dogs and their owners, no single shared microbe in the environment had a link to allergies in both dogs and humans.

“We detected microbes associated with allergies in urban dogs, as well as microbes connected to health in rural dogs and humans, but these microbes were different in dogs and humans. It appears that the microbes in the living environment are important for the health of both dogs and humans, but due to the physiological differences of the species, the microbes that are relevant can vary,” Lehtimäki sums up.

DogEnvi, a multidisciplinary research project launched in 2014, is aimed at investigating the significance of the living environment to canine health. Under the project, a study on the link between canine gut microbiota, nutrition and allergies is being prepared. The project has received funding from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, among others.

Source: University of Helsinki

Ori­ginal art­icle:  

Jenni Lehtimäki, Hanna Sinkko, Anna Hielm-Björkman, Tiina Laatikainen, Lasse Ruokolainen, Hannes Lohi. Simultaneous allergic traits in dogs and their owners are associated with living environment, lifestyle and microbial exposures. Scientific Reports 2020. DOI:10.1038/s41598-020-79055-x  

Stolen

Last week, a 14-year old boy took his 14-week old Staffordshire bull terrier puppy, Billy, to the local dairy and tied him up outside because the dog was not allowed inside. (Dairies are ‘convenience stores’, for those of you located overseas). While the boy was inside, a man and his accomplice stole Billy.

I can only imagine the panic and heartbreak of the boy. It would be hard enough as an adult to discover your dog has been stolen.

Thankfully, the security camera at the dairy captured the theft and, probably because of the age of the boy and Billy, there was widespread public outcry, particularly on social media, to bring Billy home with the public encouraged to identify the offenders and to report sightings of Billy.

The photo of Billy was circulated widely over social media

I am pleased to report a happy ending. The NZ Police, acting on information from the public, saved Billy and we are waiting to hear if charges will be laid. Police officers also visited the boy and Billy, who received a soft toy NZ Police dog to help him recover from the ordeal (this photo was also widely circulated on social media).

This incident serves as a wake-up call to all dog parents and caregivers. It is so tempting to want to include our dogs in everyday activities and, since most of us are time poor, being able to run an errand while walking the dog seems a perfect solution.

Sadly, it isn’t. There are unscrupulous people who think it’s okay to steal dogs and many of them get away with it. They don’t necessarily treat the dogs as pets, either. Some could be abused or used as bait dogs – a totally frightening scenario for anyone who loves their dog.

I recently had someone tell me that it’s okay to tie their dog at the local supermarket because the security guard is watching. But what happens if the security guard gets called away or takes his break? How do you know that the dogs are safe outside?

I admit that over the years I have caught myself thinking I could possibly pick up takeaways and bring the dog for a walk, too. I have always stopped myself because of the risk.

Remember, it’s our job to keep our dogs safe and secure at all times. I certainly do not blame the boy – he made a mistake and he’s learnt such a hard lesson. We can all learn from Billy’s story – leave your dog at home unless you have a companion who can wait outside to supervise.

One solution, of course, would be to have more dog-friendly shops…

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

The pledge

With every New Year, I read about how people make resolutions – many of which despite the good intentions don’t last much longer than February. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the lifelong commitment we make to a dog, and of course the number of cases we see each year when people don’t fulfill that commitment.

If we could change the rules of pet ownership, I’d definitely support the case for licensing owners rather than the dogs.

If I could change one thing about my practice, it would be that I would see more dogs for canine fitness and well-being and less for rehabilitation. Rehab means that the dog has been injured in some way, and often when I do the health history as part of my intake process, I can see where the dog was probably going to have a problem and that the early warning signs were missed or ignored.

So here’s my best effort for the Dog Parent’s Pledge for 2021.

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

Perspectives on budgeting

In the 11+ years I have been in professional practice, I’ve met a lot of great dogs with equally loving families. Yet, when it comes down to discussions with their veterinarian, often the only ‘budget’ that is mentioned is that of the financial budget.

In this post, I’d like to discuss budgeting because I think there are a total of four (4) budgets. These are the financial budget, the time budget, the physical budget and the emotional budget. Dog owners may, at any time, face a crisis in one or more of these budgets.

The Financial Budget – how much money can you spend to keep your dog healthy and happy? This typically becomes the budget of concern when a major procedure like surgery is required and that’s why veterinarians discuss it the most. Whether by an accident or illness, some owners are caught without enough money in the bank or pet insurance to cover the necessary treatment.

In other cases, a dog may be diagnosed with a medical condition which requires regular medication. Since medications for dogs are not subsidised by the Government (as they are in human health in New Zealand), some medications can be quite expensive. As our dogs age, it’s very common to develop mobility problems associated with arthritis, for example. Not only does this condition require medication, but also changes to the home environment, equipment ranging from harnesses to ramps to mobility carts, and professional help with canine fitness and physical therapy.

Veterinarians are often asked to euthanise a pet when the family cannot afford the cost of their dog’s care. This is referred to in the profession as ‘economic euthanasia.’

The Time Budget usually becomes an issue when a dog requires care at home. Dogs that require crating post-surgery have to be taken out to the toilet on lead on a regular basis, for example. Many pet parents can’t work from home because of the nature of their jobs; some employers may not be supportive of the need for regular breaks to return home to care for a dog or to allow the dog in the office…

I see the time budget become an issue in my practice because of the exercises needed to improve a dog’s strength, balance and flexibility. I specialise in in-home care and, while I always aim to make these exercises easy to do with items in the home, some owners struggle to have the time to undertake them on a consistent basis. Just this week I had a regular client ask, “do I have to do these every day, because they take another half-hour on top of our walk…?”

An owner’s physical abilities is also a budget of sorts. Let’s call this the Physical Budget. A large-sized dog that needs lifting because of an injury or longer-term mobility problem is going to be a challenge to an older owner or one who is slight of frame themselves.

Finally, there’s the Emotional Budget. The bond with our pets is quite strong and caring for a dog with major mobility or other health issues results in caregiver stress, just as it does with human caregivers. Unfortunately, without extended family or close friends who can provide some relief, I’ve seen owners who are totally depleted in energy and enthusiasm for life because of the toll of taking care of a geriatric or unwell pet.

Owners of dogs with severe behavioural problems often find that caring for them takes an emotional toll, as well.

Let’s remember that a pet owner in crisis may not have finances at the top of their list – and so a deeper conversation about pressures of care is required. I find that my in-home service, with clients in their own home and more relaxed and willing to talk, is of huge benefit to getting the best results for their dog, working as a team.

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

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

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