Category Archives: dog care

Take Your Dog to Work Day

Take Your Dog to Work Day is coming up on Friday.  I hope many of you are able to take your dog with you for the dayand maybe even convince your manager that a pet-friendly workplace has ongoing benefits.

Here’s my column on Office Dogs…profiling two Christchurch businesses that allow dogs to come to work!

September 2016-page-001

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

Play date

A change of scene, play, and social time with other dogs are all important to the emotional health of our dogs.

Izzy, for example, has a boyfriend who lives on the other side of the city.  His name is Bergie and they have a special relationship.  I can’t even remember when it started; they just met at greyhound walks and bonded to each other.

So, it’s important to his owners and to me that we make the time for them to see each other.  This week, they finally managed to have a play date after being severely rained out of one date and then missing another chance to see each other when, again, the rain and cold interfered with the monthly farmers market display for Greyhounds as Pets.

On this date, Bergie decided to impress Izzy with his hole digging skills…she took a front row seat!

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

Reflections on palliative care

My latest palliative care dog passed away about 2 weeks ago.  While it has been a busy couple of weeks for me, I do think about her.  I sometimes wonder if owners really believe me when I say that I think about their dogs not only when they are active clients but also after they have passed.

This old girl was 17 years old and came with a long file of veterinary records for me to review.   From the outset, I knew I wouldn’t be working with her for very long.   Her owner was very open when booking an appointment with me, “I’m just not ready to say goodbye.”

At the first consult, we talked about expectations, her vet’s advice, and quality of life.  I provided the owner with a quality of life checklist that I’ve developed specifically for older and palliative care dogs.

This old girl had fighting spirit, but she was also frail.  So the focus was on acupoints for immune system strengthening and endorphin release.  The first session went well and the feedback was great – “she’s been her old self….”

Having personal experience with this, I know that sometimes these dogs at the end of life have a final burst of life energy.  It rarely lasts.

We ended up having only one additional session.  Although we re-booked for a third session, it wasn’t to be.

I am grateful to all the people who entrust their dog to me, but especially honored by those who are facing critical and emotional decisions and are not afraid to share their distress.

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

The behavior connection – some lessons

Just a few thoughts in this post about the need to investigate behavior changes in our dogs.

Since our dogs can’t communicate with us in our language, behavior changes can be an indicator of an underlying physical condition.

A few instances from my practice just within the last couple of weeks…

a)  I have been working with a client in my nutrition practice to isolate the food ingredients that her dog will tolerate.  He’s been a very itchy boy.  Working in combination with a vet, we’ve isolated both the foods he can’t tolerate and also environmental factors that need to be managed.  He was still gnawing at his feet, however.  So this very good owner called in a dog trainer who pointed out that her dog was anxious – needing more boundaries at home.  His condition continues to improve as his owner implements a training program and I am now working on recipes for the homemade portion of his diet.

Lessons:  A good owner keeps observing and bringing the right skills and people into their dog’s care team.  Problems are often multi-layered and they need different skill sets.  Rarely does one professional tick all the boxes.

b)  I was contacted by a dog owner who has had their dog on pain medication for a while and wanted to know what I could do for him since he didn’t respond to acupuncture.  They returned from an overseas vacation and were told that there dog was happy and playful at the boarding kennels.  But, to them he was withdrawn and unhappy.  My recommendation was to get back to the vet for x-rays to help with a diagnosis before taking a ‘shot in the dark’ about what to try.  The x-rays have proven a number of structural conditions with his spine and tail.  We now have a better chance of getting together a management plan that will work.

Lessons:  It’s understandable that owners are reluctant to put their dog under anesthesia in order to have tests done.  But if a condition isn’t improving, pain medication alone isn’t the answer without knowing the rest of the story.  Your dog deserves a solid diagnosis and you need it to have the best chance of success in managing their health.

c)  Another itchy dog.  This time, much more than usual.  He’s had a history of food reaction.  The owners introduced a new treat that marketed itself as having high levels of antioxidants as a way of augmenting his homemade diet.  Who wouldn’t give this a try?  But the change in behavior – itching not only his ears and feet but also constantly licking at his private parts – was marked.

I read the label on these new treats, which use wheat.  I am 99% sure that his previous intolerance to commercial foods was caused by the grain content.  My recommendation – ditch the new treats and move onto other solutions.  We’re doing this now.

Lessons:  Just because the label says the product benefits health doesn’t mean it will for every dog.  Be willing to withdraw products in favor of new ones.

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

A death at doggy day care

News broke this week about a dog being mauled to death at a doggy day care operation, Valley Dog Daycare, in West Auckland.

Winston,  a Huntaway/Doberman cross, was found dead by his owner, lying in a pond at the day care’s property.

Winston

A photo of Winston, supplied by his owners to the media

Auckland Council’s animal management team is investigating and this is a good thing  because such a vicious death – apparently Winston was mauled and suffered many wounds – means something went majorly wrong at this property.

It has also been reported that the day care operator didn’t notice Winston’s absence, and that’s why his owner ended up searching for him on the rural property, a shock that most of us can only imagine.

It’s important that we look carefully at the investigation’s findings.  There are already calls for the doggy day care industry to be regulated and it’s hard to argue against that in these circumstances.

I’ve said it many times when it comes to hiring anyone who is going to work with your dog in any capacity –  find out their qualifications and experience and commitment to ongoing developments in their industry.

In larger operations, it’s possible that the ‘lead’ employee or proprietor has qualifications but the staff have only had in-house training (at best).   Find out if the dogs on the property are ever left alone or unsupervised.  Be sure that there are staff to supervise dog-to-dog interactions at all times.

Sadly, accidents do happen because animals can be unpredictable.  Every facility should have a standard operating procedure to investigate and de-brief on findings of any near-miss or accident.  This is what is expected under the workplace health and safety regulations when humans are involved and in my opinion it would be a practice easily adapted for facilities working and caring for animals.

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

Is love enough? Some thoughts on the five freedoms

It’s been a while since I blogged about the Five Freedoms.

For a number of reasons over the last week, I have been reflecting again on these basic rights of animals in context of whether an owner’s love blinds them to their dog’s actual quality of life.

A good example will be an obese dog.  Yes, the owner is feeding it (more likely over-feeding it or perhaps not feeding the right diet), but the dog’s body condition means that the animal is not healthy.

For example, the Chihuahua I wrote about that had heart problems.  It was then revealed upon discussion that the dog was grossly overweight.  Thankfully, in that case, the owner accepted advice that their dog needed to go on a weight loss program and they stuck to it so the dog dropped the weight and the heart problems disappeared.

fat-chihuahua

What an obese Chihuahua looks like

A dog with a diagnosed orthopedic problem like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, or arthritis (as examples) needs to be kept trim, with a fitness regime that is appropriate to their condition.  It’s rather disheartening to see a dog yo-yo with its weight.  They are going good and then drop off my calendar only to be booked in weeks and months later because they are limping.  More often than not, the dog has re-gained all of its weight (if not more) due to improper diet and exercise.

Another circumstance is when an owner has a very elderly dog who is showing signs of pain and discomfort – even with medication.   This situation is one reason why I developed my Quality of Life checklist to help clients understand what their dog is telling them.  We have to look at behavior and health and ask ourselves if the dog has quality of life and make changes wherever we can.

Is love enough?  It’s a big part of caring for our dogs.  But, it isn’t everything.  And it can be an excuse – consciously or subconsciously – for neglect.

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

A tale of 2 dog foods

Clients of my practice know that I feed a hybrid diet, that is a diet that is part commercial dog food (dry food – ‘kibble’ as well as dehydrated raw food), raw (real meat) and homemade food using both real meat, vegetables, eggs and fruit.

We are preparing for our third annual fundraiser and I received a small bag of a dry food – readily available in supermarkets – as a donation for the rescue.  I set it aside in my office and, one evening, I heard the rustling of paper…

Izzy had helped herself to the donated food.  It seemed she found it quite tasty.

So, I decided the donated food could be hers and I would replace the bag with another one.  In the meantime, I let her have one small handful with one of her meals over the next few days.

And she did something she had never done before… during the night she was chewing on her feet.  Really chewing.  For the first night, I dismissed it as a one-off irritation.  By the fourth night, I knew something was up.

It was the dog food, of course!

The supermarket dog food has gone into the organics bin to be recycled.  I’ll make a donation to the fundraiser in lieu of another bag of that food!

Thought you might like to compare labels…

This is Izzy’s current ‘normal’ food:

Salmon Meal, Potatoes, Tapioca, Fish Meal, Chicken Fat, Peas, Blueberries, Cranberries, Papayas, Mangos, Apples, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Sunflower Seeds, Chamomile, Peppermint, Camelia, Natural Flavor, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Chloride, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Green Tea Extract, Rosemary Extract and Spearmint Extract

and this was the supermarket food:

Lamb (source of glucosamine), brewers rice, whole grain corn, whole grain wheat, poultry by-product meal (source of glucosamine), corn gluten meal, soybean meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, calcium phosphate, glycerine, animal digest, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, salt, caramel color, Vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, ferrous sulfate, sulfur, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity, sodium selenite.

Notice the differences?

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