Category Archives: dog care

Dogs are individuals!

All dogs are different

Earlier this week, I attended a seminar in human digestive issues at the local natural health practice, The Herbal Dispensary.  The naturopath made the point to say that everyone has a unique digestive system and so what works for one person, may not work for another.

Bingo!

I’m tired of seeing posts from dog owners on Facebook asking what they should feed their dog.  And then dozens of answers, few which agree, and typically from no one who is a professional in the field.

There are many considerations when choosing a dog’s diet.  It is why I use a TCM food therapy approach, augmented by tests like Nutriscan.  These tools help to determine food ingredients that match the dog.  Considerations into format, such as commercial dry kibble or raw, come later.  And then the new diet needs to be trialed to ensure it is a good match.

Dogs are individuals in all aspects of their life, not just diets.

This week alone I’ve dealt with a paraplegic dog who needs help and a new wheelchair, an older dog with intermittent lameness, a year-old puppy who just needs to slow down and relax, a dog with irritable bowel disease, and a dog who is anxious and reactive.

My approach is different with each of these dogs because the dogs are different.

Celebrate your dog’s uniqueness and address their health as a special journey!

Being unique is better

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

Advertisements

Massage for dogs with neurological conditions

I love working with special needs dogs of all kinds.  Last month, I had the privilege of working with two very special puppies at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary – Kit and Caboodle.

These puppies, Siberian Husky crosses, are brother and sister and were abandoned at the age of 8 weeks in Missouri.  They found their way to Utah to be cared for and rehabilitated.  Their kennel is lined with layers of pillows and blankets because both dogs struggle to stand up, although they are getting stronger every day thanks to caregivers and volunteers who work with them on a regular basis.  They even have purpose-built mobility carts to help them!

These kids are approaching their first birthday and have puppy levels of energy and are interested in all that is going on around them; the veterinary team has managed their conditions through medications for nausea and nerve pain….

During my session, we filmed a number of videos with two of the volunteers observing what I was doing with the dogs – so they could replicate some of my actions.

With both dogs, I was interested in calming their central nervous system, relaxation, and lots and lots of stretching since their limbs are working very hard.  Despite their neurological status, both dogs had trigger points just like ‘normal’ dogs do.

I am very grateful for the staff who organized my work schedule so I could offer my skills to 10 dogs at the sanctuary.

And I watch with interest on the progress reports about my neurological babies.

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

Pet obesity

October 12th is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day in the USA.  Pet obesity is a ‘first world’ problem; I often see dogs in my practice that are overweight or obese.

This handy obesity chart gives you an idea of how to score your dog’s (and cat’s) body condition:

Layout 1

A vet check is always advisable before starting your dog on a weight loss programme.  In my experience, weight loss isn’t just about dietary changes.  Massage and stretching combined with exercise can help your dog feel  better and move more freely – meaning more calories are burned to assist with any reduction in food intake.

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

Common signs of pain in dogs

How do I know my dog is in pain?

(It’s a question I get fairly frequently)….

Here’s a list of things to look out for:

  • Decreased social interaction
  • Anxious expression
  • Submissive behavior
  • Refusal to move
  • Whimpering
  • Howling
  • Growling
  • Guarding behavior
  • Aggression, biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Self-mutilation
  • Changes in posture

If you think your dog is in pain, then a visit to your vet is the first priority.  Once we have a working diagnosis, then consider what complementary therapies can do to manage your dog’s quality of life – often with reduced or no drugs.

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

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

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.

IMG_1818[1]

Willa loves rides in the car

IMG_1810[1]

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

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