Category Archives: dog care

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

Petco removes shock collars from sale

This week, those of us in the Force Free/Fear Free movement were given cause to celebrate when Petco, a major pet retailer in the USA, announced that it was removing shock collars from its stores and online platform.

Shock collars are aversives – they use pain to suppress an unwanted behavior. These totally unnecessary devices are inhumane when behavioral science has moved along to prove that positive reinforcement training works better and is an ethical approach to dog training.

I’m interested in this subject because, sadly, shock collars are widely available in New Zealand. I see many Facebook groups of dog owners who recommend these devices as soon as there is a barking dog complaint, for example. And the body language of a dog wearing a shock collar tells the story of a dog being punished.

To continue to raise awareness to this subject, I include the statement of the Pet Professional Guild released this week in response to Petco’s announcement.

Official PPG Statement

Official Pet Professional Guild Response to Petco’s Removal of Electric Shock Collars from Stores

The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and The Shock-Free Coalition are greatly encouraged by Petco’s announcement on October 6, 2020 that it will no longer sell electric shock collars “operated by a person with a remote in hand.” PPG has always believed unequivocally that the pet-owning general public needs – and deserves – to have access to better educational tools so they can, 1) make the right decisions regarding their pets’ training, care and welfare, and 2) ensure they live in safe, nurturing and stable environments, free from fear and pain.

Scientific Data
Increasingly, peer reviewed, scientific studies are showing that, whether discussing dogs, humans, dolphins or elephants, shock as a form of training to teach or correct a behavior is ineffective at best and physically and psychologically damaging at worst (Schilder & van der Borg, 2004; Schalke, Stichnoth, Ott, & Jones-Baade, 2007; Polsky, 2000; Cooper, Cracknell, Hardiman, Wright & Mills, 2014). Overall (2013) states that shock collars, aka e-collars, “violate the principles of three of five freedoms that define adequate welfare for animals: Freedom from pain, injury, and disease, freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress.”

The current scientific data, in addition to the moral and ethical concerns about mental and physical damage to animals subjected to methods using force, fear and/or pain, have moved a number of representing professional organizations* to advocate for the use of humane training techniques founded on evidence-based learning theories and avoid training methods or devices which employ coercion and force. PPG is delighted that Petco has now joined their ranks.

Effects of Electric Shock
The use and application of electric shock provides no effective strategy for an animal to learn a new or alternative behavior. Some common problems resulting from the use of electronic stimulation devices include, but are not limited to:

Infliction of Stress and Pain
Generalization
Escalation
Global Suppression or “Shut-Down”
Fear, Anxiety and Aggression
Redirected Aggression
Unintended Consequences

Shock-Free Coalition
In September 2017, the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) rolled out its Shock-Free Coalition, the key purpose of which is to build a strong and broad movement committed to eliminating electric shock devices from the worldwide supply and demand chain. This would be achieved by:

 Engaging and educating pet owners and shelter/rescue workers to help them make informed decisions about the management, care and training of the pets in their charge.

Building a worldwide coalition that provides pet owners access to competent, professional pet industry service providers.

Creating widespread pet industry transparency and compliance regarding how professionals implement their services and communicate their philosophy to pet owners.

Supporters are encouraged to sign the Shock-Free Pledge, much in the same way as Petco has invited supporters to sign its #StoptheShock petition.

Consumer Transparency
One of PPG’s key goals is to shape the pet industry to ensure that dog trainers, behavior consultants and professional pet care providers, 1) pursue an ethical responsibility to do no harm to the animals in their care, and 2) present their qualifications and experience truthfully with full transparency and disclosure – including the training tools and methods they use.

PPG recognizes that industry changes will happen in stages and, just like the progressive behavior change programs we create for the animals in our care, gradual changes must be reinforced. By encouraging “anyone using or looking for shock collars to consider training with treats instead of electricity and partnership instead of pain,” Petco has made an important first step towards improving the lives of pets everywhere, as well as educating dog owners about alternative, kinder training methods and tools. We look forward to seeing electric fence systems, which work in exactly the same way as shock collars, i.e. by causing fear and pain, follow suit.

*Including, but not limited to, the American Animal Hospital Association, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the British Veterinary Association, the New Zealand Veterinary Association, the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology and Pet Dog Trainers of Europe.

Resources
Pet Professional Guild. (2015). Open Letter Regarding Shock Collar Training. Available at: https://petprofessionalguild.com/An-Open-Letter-Regarding-Shock-Collar-Training
Tudge, N.J, Nilson, S.J., Millikan, D.A., & Stapleton-Frappell, L.A. (2019). Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People. (n.p.): DogNostics Career Center Publishing

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

The Dogs of Democracy

“Humans would do well to study the character of dogs” – Diogenes

This quotation is the opening slide of the documentary Dogs of Democracy, by Mary Zournazi, which was released in 2016. I’ve just watched the film on Doc Play, the app where it is available in New Zealand.

The film portrays the many stray dogs who live in Athens and the people who take care of them. It’s set at a time when citizens of Greece had been protesting against years of austerity measures that depressed the economy and its people.

One dog, Loukanikos, participated in many of the anti-austerity marches and his story is told posthumously by the people who knew him best. I particularly liked when Loukanikos is described a symbol of revolt and purity.

If you like dogs, you’ll like this 57-minute film. And if you follow news about economies and world economics as well as being a dog lover, you’ll have an even better appreciation for the timing and subject matter of the film.

For me, well – I’d like to go to Athens when this pandemic is over and give every one of those strays a good massage while visiting the birthplace of democracy.

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

The Dog Doc

I’ve been wanting to watch the documentary The Dog Doc since March 2020 – when New Zealand was heading like so many countries into a Covid-19 lockdown. The film had just been launched and sadly, also due to Covid-19, its many planned showings had been cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions and the temporary closure of movie theaters. The film’s producer had then opted to make the film available on-demand.

Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions for New Zealand, Amazon Prime would not allow me to hire this film. And then other priorities took over for a time….I finally contacted the film’s producer, Cindy Meehl, through the film’s website to ask how I could view the film from New Zealand so I could write about it in my column for NZ Dog World magazine.

I was pleasantly surprised when Ms Meehl responded to me the same day and put me in touch with MadMan Entertainment, whose Communications Director also responded to me the same day (I was on a roll) to say that the film was available on Doc Play. All I had to do was to sign up for my 30-day trial. (Score!)

Dr Marty Goldstein’s story is inspirational to anyone who has had a beloved pet facing a health challenge – terminal or otherwise. Sometimes, traditional veterinary care just isn’t enough to give the dog quality of life while preserving as much time together as possible for the human family.

Because Dr Marty has made it his life’s work to use integrative therapies – traditional veterinary medicine alongside homeopathy, massage, physical therapy, cryotherapy, herbal remedies, and other options. For someone like me working in complementary therapy, he is one of my idols. We need more Dr Martys.

The film follows real clients who presented to Dr Marty’s Smith Ridge Veterinary Clinic in New York State – in real-time. As a Fear-Free certified practitioner, I was dismayed to see two dogs in the film wearing prong collars and also a scene where veterinary technicians are physically restraining a dog with strong force.

Before we cast judgement, though, we must remember that documentary film making is designed to capture the moment without stage management. I was lucky enough to have Madman Entertainment organise an interview with Dr Marty via Zoom, where I asked him about the prong collars. He replied that the owners would have been spoken to during their initial consultations about the use of these aversives, which he doesn’t support:

“When you impart stress on a dog, such as through the pain of a shock or prong collar, you add to their immune system load and add to the disease rather than the ability of the body to fight the disease.  A strong and relaxed mind helps to re-build a strong body.”

There is a wonderful scene in the film where Dr Marty explains the use of titre testing to a client. Dr Marty is not an anti-vaxxer but he is clearly anti-over-vaccination and a titre test can show whether a dog has sufficient immunity without requiring a re-vaccination simply because of a date on the calendar.

Dr Marty explained in his interview with me that there is proven science behind titre testing, but that for a range of reasons – commercial veterinary practice is not following the science but rather the profit motive. (See my 2013 review of the book Pukka’s Promise – a great read for those wanting to understand canine health and longevity).

An added benefit for me was that Dr Marty counts a greyhound as part of his pack (Izzy liked this, too).

I thoroughly recommend a viewing of The Dog Doc. Dr Marty’s wish is that the film is an enduring resource for pet parents to help them ask informed questions about their pet’s care and to seek the support of integrative specialists when there may be no options in their local community.

For my New Zealand clients, stay tuned for my October newsletter which will include a special offer to clients of The Balanced Dog to access Doc Play for an extended free-trial period.

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

Big Dogs Face More Joint Problems if Neutered Early

Heavier mixed-breed dogs have higher health risks if neutered or spayed early, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis. The study found mixed-breed dogs weighing more than 44 pounds as adults are at higher risk for one or more joint disorders if neutered before 1 year of age. Dogs weighing up to 43 pounds had no increased risk for joint problems. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

It’s standard practice in the U.S. and much of Europe to neuter dogs by 6 months of age. This study, which analyzed 15 years of data from thousands of dogs at UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, suggests dog owners should consider their options carefully.

“Most dogs are mixed breeds,” said lead author Benjamin Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “We hope this study will influence the spay or neuter process in order to give people wishing to adopt a puppy the time to make an informed decision on when to spay or neuter.” 

Researchers examined common joint disorders including hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears, a knee injury, in five weight categories. They also looked at risks of mixed-breed dogs developing cancers based on weight but found no increased risk in any weight category compared to intact dogs.

The risk of joint disorders for heavier dogs can be up to a few times higher compared to dogs left intact. This was true for large mixed-breed dogs. For example, for female dogs over 43 pounds, the risk jumped from 4 percent for intact dogs to 10-12 percent if spayed before a year of age.

Neutering policies should be reviewed

“The study raises unique challenges,” noted co-author Lynette Hart, professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “People like to adopt puppies from shelters, but with mixed breeds it may be difficult to determine just how big the dog will become if you don’t know anything about the dog’s parents.”

Neutering prior to adoption is a common requirement or policy of humane societies, animal shelters and breeders. The authors suggested the policy be reviewed and modified appropriately. Shelters, breeders and humane societies should consider adopting a standard of neutering at over a year of age for dogs that will grow into large sizes.

Lynette Hart said the study is especially relevant for people and organizations raising service dogs.

“They need to take a serious look at this,” said Hart. “Joint disorders can shorten a dog’s useful working life and impact its role as a family member.”

A previous study conducted by the UC Davis researchers found health risks based on neuter age varied greatly depending on the breed of the dog.

Source: University of California Davis media statement

Study finds parasites common in dog parks

Dogs that visit dog parks may be more likely to have parasites than dogs in the general pet population, according to survey results.

Through tests on feces, researchers found more than one-fifth of dogs at parks across the country (USA) were shedding parasites.

Dr. Susan E. Little, who is a parasitology professor in the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine, described results of a study by Oklahoma State and Idexx that identified parasites in feces collected from 85% of parks visited across the U.S. She thinks that figure underestimates the prevalence because of limited sampling per park.

“Many of us have already been made aware or probably could have anticipated that parasites are really common at dog parks,” she said.

Dr. Little described the study results Friday in an Elanco-sponsored presentation for the AVMA Virtual Convention 2020.

Dr. Little also noted that one survey conducted in 2017-18 found that 37% of people bring their dogs on road trips, almost double the proportion who did 10 years earlier.

“Dogs are invited, encouraged to go many more places than was the case just a few years ago,” she said. “And most of us see this as a very good thing.”

But parasites travel with dogs, she said.

In the new study, researchers collected fecal samples from 3,000 dogs over six weeks in July and August 2019 at 288 dog parks across the U.S., with owner permission and participation in questionnaires.

Overall, about 21% of dogs had some parasites. Citing a study from 2009, Dr. Little said about 12% of dogs presented for wellness care at that time were positive for parasites.

Hookworms, whipworms, and Giardia species were the most common among the dogs in dog parks in the new study, although some were infected with roundworms, coccidia, or tapeworms. Most dog parks are open to the public without screening for animal health, Dr. Little said.

The researchers found parasites in the feces of visiting dogs at about 90% of dog parks in the Southeastern U.S., 87% in the Midwest, 80% in the Northeast, and 79% in the West, Dr. Little said.

The South also had the highest rates of positive tests for hookworms, affecting 15% of dogs and 72% of parks, versus a low in the West of 1.5% of dogs and 17% of parks. The Miami area had a particularly high prevalence, with hookworms present in more than one-third of dogs sampled, Dr. Little said.

The researchers found about equal Giardia prevalence across the U.S., with positive samples from about 13% of dogs and about three-quarters of parks. Dr. Little noted many dog parks had wading pools, sprinklers, or splash pads during the summer sampling period, and Giardia species do well in water.

The questionnaire results combined with the sampling also found lower hookworm prevalence among dogs on heartworm preventives, at 6% rather than almost 12% of all dogs. When dog owners said their pets were on heartworm preventives, most of the dogs positive for hookworms were antigen positive only and not shedding eggs, and they may have been reinfected between doses.

Source: AVMA Virtual Convention news

Understanding one another

Like us, dogs have their own forms of verbal and non-verbal communication.  Getting to know your dog and being a careful observer of their behavior helps you to develop a deep understanding of your dog.

We know that our dogs are great observers of our behavior, too.  That’s how they learn our cues, moods, and habits.

Having a good understanding of one another pays benefits when you have a dog who is getting older, or has disabilities.

Take Izzy.  She is an ex-racing greyhound and we’ve known for some time that she has arthritis in her carpus (wrist) and toes.  I picked up on the arthritis quite early.  I had noticed that almost every time I looked at her over the course of about a week,  she was licking her left foot.  A visit to the vet for an x-ray confirmed early signs of arthritic changes.  In response, she started getting rub-downs with an anti-inflammatory gel, I started her on additional deer velvet supplements (in addition to her glucosamine and chondroitin supplement) and I also increased the frequency of her visits to a local hydrotherapy pool and her massages.

Over the last year, we’ve also been battling corns  – something that plagues sighthounds in particular but has been aggravating her arthritis and was the main cause of her progressively becoming more lame.  I knew we were having a corn problem because she would limp only when crossing the road over chip-sealed road (intolerance of rough surfaces is typically the first sign).

As she then developed two corns on the same toe, her lameness became constant and our walks shorter, with a pram when she needed it.

Izzy had a flexor tenotomy surgery last month and this has helped greatly in managing the corns but of course the arthritis is still there, she is that much older, and she’s had months of reduced/shortened walks because of her lameness.

Now the bright side.  She is getting fitter and stronger and I’m carefully increasing the amount of activity she has.  Today, she didn’t want to go out initially for an afternoon walk and so I put her in her pram.

We got as far as around the block before she let me know she was ready to get out and walk.  (This is signaled by a high-pitched bark)

I know Izzy is getting tired when her head drops and she starts taking more and more time sniffing bushes, grass and trees.  These are signs that she is tiring and the excess sniffing is both a diversionary behavior and, at times, a sign she is stressed and uncomfortable.

That’s when I put her back in her pram.  She gets plenty of stimulation and enrichment by watching the world go by.  She also loves the attention she gets from passersby – both on foot and in cars.  (Shortly after I stopped this video, the couple who approached on foot spent at least 5 minutes talking to her, giving her treats and chatting about her care).

I am always grateful when people stop to talk to us about ‘what’s wrong with her’ and to ask about greyhounds and their welfare.

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

 

I wish we’d known about you sooner

Earlier this week, two dogs in my practice passed away.  As I was leaving one house for the last time, my human client said,  “I wish we’d known about you sooner.”

I know it was said in context of a thank-you and while I wanted to reply, “so do I”, I opted instead to thank them for allowing me to work with their dog over the last couple of weeks to make him more comfortable.  There was no need to make them feel more vulnerable (or guilty) at such a sad time.

The time for end-of-life and palliative care comes all to soon with our dogs – because they don’t live as long as we do.  My real passion is health & wellness care, helping dog parents play ‘the long game’ through preventative health care and, if necessary, rehabilitation.

So I’ll finish this post on a high note.  I also saw Blue this week.  He’s been a regular since October 2017 when his Dad picked up a brochure for my practice at one of my partner clinics.  He figured that since he used massage therapy for his health, Blue would benefit from it, too.

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In the years I have been working with Blue, he’s developed arthritis and had one severe episode of breakthrough pain which saw him at the vets and prescribed NSAIDs.  But since then, he continues to be a bright and happy boy.  Ever so playful, usually meeting me at my car with one of his soft toys in his mouth.  He is well looked after and taken for enriching activities including fishing trips to the Mackenzie Country and walks through the Heathcote Valley.

To me, Blue is a great example of health care – not sick care.

We’ve talked about when his time comes and what his Dad will do without his stellar presence in his life.  But that day wasn’t today; I hope it won’t be for a while yet.  And I hope I’ll be there to help him if his care becomes necessarily palliative.

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

When Should You Neuter Your Dog to Avoid Health Risks?

10 year study on neuteringSome dog breeds have higher risk of developing certain cancers and joint disorders if neutered or spayed within their first year of life. Until now, studies had only assessed that risk in a few breeds. A new, 10-year study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, examined 35 dog breeds and found vulnerability from neutering varies greatly depending on the breed. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

“There is a huge disparity among different breeds,” said lead author Benjamin Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Hart said there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to health risks and the age at which a dog is neutered. “Some breeds developed problems, others didn’t. Some may have developed joint disorders but not cancer or the other way around.”

Researchers analyzed 15 years of data from thousands of dogs examined each year at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital to try to understand whether neutering, the age of neutering, or differences in sex when neutered affect certain cancers and joint disorders across breeds. The joint disorders examined include hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears and elbow dysplasia. Cancers examined include lymphoma; hemangiosarcoma, or cancer of the blood vessel walls; mast cell tumors; and osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.

In most breeds examined, the risk of developing problems was not affected by age of neutering.

Breed differences by size and sex

Researchers found that vulnerability to joint disorders was related to body size.

“The smaller breeds don’t have these problems, while a majority of the larger breeds tend to have joint disorders,” said co-author Lynette Hart, professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

One of the surprising exceptions to this was among the two giant breeds — great Danes and Irish wolfhounds — which showed no increased risk to joint disorders when neutered at any age.

Researchers also found the occurrence of cancers in smaller dogs was low, whether neutered or kept intact. In two breeds of smaller dogs, the Boston terrier and the shih tzu, there was a significant increase in cancers with neutering.

Another important finding was that the sex of the dog sometimes made a difference in health risks when neutered. Female Boston terriers neutered at the standard six months of age, for example, had no increased risk of joint disorders or cancers compared with intact dogs, but male Boston terriers neutered before a year of age had significantly increased risks.

Previous studies have found that neutering or spaying female golden retrievers at any age increases the risk of one or more of the cancers from 5 percent to up to 15 percent.

Discuss choices with veterinarians

Dog owners in the United States are overwhelmingly choosing to neuter their dogs, in large part to prevent pet overpopulation, euthanasia or reduce shelter intake. In the U.S., surgical neutering is usually carried out by six months of age.

This study suggests that dog owners should carefully consider when and if they should have their dog neutered.

“We think it’s the decision of the pet owner, in consultation with their veterinarian, not society’s expectations that should dictate when to neuter,” said Benjamin Hart. “This is a paradigm shift for the most commonly performed operation in veterinary practice.”

The study lays out guidelines for pet owners and veterinarians for each of 35 breeds to assist in making a neutering decision. Read the full list here.

Source:  UC Davis

Izzy’s Words of the Day

Izzy is my greyhound and Poster Dog for The Balanced Dog, my practice in Christchurch, NZ.

During our lockdown (quarantine) for Covid-19, Izzy hosted Word of the Day on my Facebook page. Each word was selected for their relevance to canine health, fitness and welfare. I hope you enjoy this compilation.

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