Category Archives: dog care

Breed-specific dog foods

Back in January, I posted a blog about Prescription diets – what’s the truth?

In this post, I’m again going into the controversial world of commercial dog food and sharing some information on breed-specific dog foods.

The two labels most associated with breed-specific foods are Eukanuba and Royal Canin, although there are others.

 

In the November 2016 issue of Your Dog (published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University), veterinary nutritionist Cailin Heinze provided opinion about such foods.

Dr Heinze re-iterated the common theme about the lack of rules for marketing.  “It’s a free for all.”

Although these pet foods must meet the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standard, ‘tweaking’ recipes to make them slightly more suitable for a particular breed isn’t a big change to make.

The article points out that there are no feeding trials to support the claims made for breed-specific dog foods and that the breed-specific formulations are not therapeutic diets.

You will need to buy access to read the article in its entirety (follow the link above), and I won’t break copyright by printing too much of the article in this blog.

It is heartening to see a veterinary nutritionist making these comments.  Too often, criticism of commercial dog foods is discounted because the writers are not veterinarians.

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

My diary

I still use a paper diary despite having access to online calendars and tools. There’s a reason for that.

Diary photo

I successfully managed my time through the Auckland Power Crisis of 1998 without a hitch, thanks to my paper diary. My colleagues, who were already relying on electronic schedules, didn’t know where they were supposed to be for weeks.  Meetings had to be rescheduled; service delivery slowed.

My diary also helped me through the days and weeks following the Canterbury Earthquake of February 2011. During these trying times, I could still make and keep appointments, keep notes as reminders, and generally have something to hold onto that was part of ‘normal’ life.

Most pages include reminders of what I need to finish that day.

And reflecting on my diary over the weekend, I see that it includes Izzy’s social calendar.

Going forward over the next couple of months, Izzy has engagements for play dates, appearances at the Riccarton Market for Greyhounds as Pets, and dates for sleepovers when I have to travel for business.  She also has a birthday party date with her best mate (and boyfriend) Bergie.

I often say that the best thing we can give our dogs is quality time.  One way of ensuring you make time for your dog is to commit to them in writing.  I’m pretty confident that I’ve got the right priorities and tools to do just that.

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

 

Tax implications for fostering

Americans resident in the United States have to file their taxes by 15th April each year – it’s a busy time for accountants and bookkeepers.

Second Hand Dogs

But I came across a tax decision,  VanDusen vs IRS Commissioner, which is very promising for volunteers who foster dogs for designated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit animal rescue organizations.  If the foster carer incurs unreimbursed expenses directly related to fostering, they can claim these on their tax returns as charitable deductions.  Things like food, veterinary care, and mileage are included; so too are utility costs for the portion of the home’s space that is used for care of the foster animal.

Careful record-keeping is important to ensure against audit troubles later on, of course.

Wish we had something like that in the tax code in New Zealand!

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

Vaccination management

I meet owners who express concern about over-vaccination; more often than not, this has led them to the decision on not to vaccinate their dog. If they don’t send their dog to a boarding kennel or day care, there is little motivation for them to do so – other than any regular visits to their vet.

I can understand the concerns, but I also get concerned that these owners are relying on herd immunity – the odds that the majority of the herd (in this case, the dog population) are immunised and so their dog isn’t at risk because most animals are protected.

But then we have communities, like last year on the West Coast, who experience parvovirus infections across a range of puppies and dogs…

This blog is a re-print of an article I wrote for NZ Dog World magazine in 2014.  There is the option to titre test our dogs to test their levels of immunity and to give us more information on whether to vaccinate or not.


Titre testing is available in New Zealand but few dog owners appear to know about it, says Karen Cooper, Laboratory Manager with Gribbles Veterinary in Auckland.  “This testing option was not previously available here, but despite its recent introduction the uptake of the testing has not been huge.”

calming a cute puppy patient at the vet's

Vaccination time… or is it? (photo courtesy of Gribbles Veterinary)

A titre test measures the levels of antibodies in the blood.  Testing can be done for immunity to canine parvovirus and canine distemper virus.

Dr Jean Dodds, who is a leading holistic veterinarian and founder of Hemopet, a non-profit blood bank for dogs in the USA, says that research has found that an animal’s titre level remains constant for years.  Therefore, there is little risk that an animal will be misdiagnosed as having sufficient immunity.

A negative titre test would mean that the dog requires a booster vaccination, whereas a positive test would mean it does not.

Dr Dodd’s vaccination protocol calls for vaccine antibody titres to be undertaken every three years.  For most veterinary practices in New Zealand, three-yearly booster vaccination is routine.  Titre testing could be done in lieu of an automatic vaccination but in most cases the dog owner needs to ask for it.

The NZVA’s policy on vaccine use states:

Veterinarians should maintain a professional approach to all aspects of the use of vaccines. This includes encouraging widespread vaccination as an important means of preventing and controlling infectious diseases while ensuring that vaccines are not used unnecessarily.  Veterinarians should aim to maintain the profession as the source of informed knowledge on the use of vaccines and be responsible for the correct use of these agents.

Veterinarians should adhere to their ethical and legal obligations by informing their clients of the risks and benefits of vaccination of companion animals, keeping comprehensive patient records and vaccination certificates.

Why titre?

The most popular application is in puppies to check for an effective immune response; a titre test can be performed approximately two weeks following the final vaccination.

In older dogs, the main concern is avoiding the risks that are associated with vaccination.  These risks may involve localised swelling, lethargy, fever and allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe.   There may be no need to expose their bodies to the pressures associated with vaccination if they have sufficient immunity.  With rescue dogs, titre testing can provide insight into their immune status.

One issue for some owners is whether their boarding kennel will accept the tests.  The kennels I spoke to for this article varied in their position from “We require dogs to have a current vaccination certificate to “We would like to think of ourselves as educated and discerning and therefore we are happy to accept results of a titre test.” 

When boarding your dog, it is important to understand that there is no titre for kennel cough and so vaccination is likely to be needed.

Titre testing may not be suitable for every dog; re-vaccination may not be suitable for every dog.  It’s up to the owner to make an informed choice.

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

Is dental care cultural?

Earlier this week, I went to the dentist.  There was nothing wrong – I just booked in for an annual check-up and a cleaning.  The lovely young dentist I saw said, “Oh, you’re an American.  Americans understand dental care.”

And, while I was flattered, it also got me thinking.

Here in New Zealand there are public service announcements on television with tooth fairies reminding parents they need to brush their kid’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste.  We never had anything like that when I was growing up and I don’t think it was needed because I remember that we even had health classes in school when we’d receive little complementary packs of a toothbrush and toothpaste to take home.

But if dental care varies across cultures, it would explain why I still meet many dog owners here in New Zealand who don’t brush their dog’s teeth.

teeth-brushing

A client demonstrates teeth brushing

Most veterinarians will say that teeth brushing for our dogs is the best thing you can do – before dental diets, drinking water additives and chews – for your dog’s dental health.

Dental care, including teeth brushing, is a good habit for everyone in the family.  After I brush my teeth at night, Izzy gets her teeth brushed.

Greyhounds are known for their bad teeth – and yet more than 2 years after I adopted her, I am proud to say that Izzy has yet to need a dental cleaning at the vet.  And the vet comments that her teeth are in good condition.

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

A balanced approach to fitness in dogs

The name of my canine massage practice is The Balanced Dog.  Balance is important to many aspects of our lives as well as the lives of our dogs.

When I interview owners who come into my practice for the first time, we discuss all aspects of their dog’s history and health before I massage their dog.  That’s because I want to see how the dog feels, but in context of what I know about their history.

For example, for an owner with a dog that competes in agility, they will think their dog is fit because it ‘runs around like a maniac’ with a ‘desire to win.’  But they aren’t winning and that is why they end up at my door.

This is when I explain that for dogs of any age, there are different components to fitness – described in the chart below.

The individual components of dog fitness

Their agility dog may be strong, but perhaps they are lacking in body awareness or balance – and so that’s where we will concentrate on exercises to improve these aspects of fitness.

For an elderly dog, we will want to ensure good flexibility (where massage and stretching come in) and exercise that is within the bounds of what the dog can tolerate.  ‘Stamina’ is age and breed dependent, for example.

By the way, these aspects are also useful when considering your own fitness.

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

The 14th of February isn’t just Valentine’s Day

February 14 is also Pet Theft Awareness Day.

If you are like me, you find it pretty heart-wrenching to see posts on Facebook and to walk by posters hanging from telephone poles pleading for information about a missing dog.

Pet theft is a reality.  And there are things you can do to prevent it.

pet-theft-awareness-day-2

  • Keep your dog inside, this is particularly important for the long hours when you are at work and away from home
  • Padlock gates to your section
  • Never leave your dog tied outside of a shop such as a supermarket; thieves are opportunists and they can snatch a dog that is unattended very quickly
  • Do not let your dog roam in the neighbourhood
  • Spaying or neutering your dog will discourage them from the urge to roam
  • Make sure your dog has its licence tag and identification tag on its collar; in New Zealand micro-chipping of dogs is now mandatory
  • When returning a stray animal to an owner, request proof of ownership, including photos of the animal, vet records, etc (in practice, I have not always needed to be so vigilant of this step because the dog has been SOOO excited to see its family)
  • Be aware of strangers in the neighborhood and join your local neighbourhood watch group.  It pays to keep a close eye on what is happening in your community. If you see something suspicious, snap photos with your phone, report it to the police ASAP, and let your neighbours know, too.

pet-theft-awareness-day

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