Category Archives: dog care

Quiet, please, I’m Fear Free!

Last weekend, my business took a stall at the Dogs Day Out – a dog-friendly event at a local heritage park which included an organised walk.  I love supporting dog-friendly events because we have so few of them (something, over time, I hope to change).

These events become a good way for local dog-related businesses to showcase their products and services in a way that is focused on the community and not profit-making (unlike some of the commercial pet expos).  These events are also a way for me to highlight my Fear Free certificaton as well as my approach to natural dog care.

Fear Free certified canine massage therapist

The Balanced Dog’s stall complete with Fear Free certified signage and helper, Leonie

At these events, exhibitors often have time to chat once we are all set up and before the public arrives in droves.  I enjoy seeing the range of products and services that are on show.

Unfortunately, this event also taught me how far we have to go in terms of veterinary professionals understanding fear free handling and interaction.  Fear Free is about managing fear, anxiety and stress in our animals by focusing entirely on their needs and responses.  You need to understand emotional health as well as physical health.

So imagine that the stall next to us was a veterinary practice which opted to use balloons as part of its decorations.  Towards the end of the event, as I was still massaging dogs and talking with members of the public – the stall next door was dismantling itself in preparations to leave.  Someone decided the best way to discard their balloons was to pop them one after the other in rapid succession – like a car backfiring.

Can you guess how many dogs responded negatively to these noises (including the one on my massage table)?

Fear Free is so much more than spraying Adaptil in your clinic and playing soft music.  It’s about being prepared to take it slow and work with the dogs at their pace.  So many dogs are stressed by loud noises like fireworks, it should be common sense that popping balloons is not acceptable.

As my mother has said many times, common sense isn’t common.

Ask me about Fear Free handling! I’d love to tell you more.

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

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Food tales

Yesterday, I led another Cooking for Dogs workshop which is a workshop I designed about four years ago to encourage owners to add fresh ingredients into their dog’s diet.  We also discuss the latest research into dog diets (such as the July 2018 announcement by the US FDA about a possible link between grain-free foods and heart disease) and what makes a ‘good’ ingredient for a recipe – things like choosing meat ingredients and the use of spices such as ginger and turmeric.

Cooking for Dogs - happy dog owners make recipes like doggy meatloaf and chewy chicken strips

Cooking for Dogs – happy dog owners make recipes like doggy meatloaf and chewy chicken strips

I’m a supporter of the hybrid diet – where dogs are fed commercial food, raw food and also homemade food for variety and nutritional support and to mitigate the risks of long-term nutritional deficits.

It’s been a month or so now of food-themed interactions with clients and colleagues.  For example, during my visit to Kindness Ranch, I was given a tour.  They make their own ‘sow chow’ of fresh ingredients for their pigs because they found that commercial pig food is designed to fatten up the pigs for slaughter.  (Whereas the pigs at the Ranch have been rescued and will live out their lives naturally.)

Look at the colors in the bowl – fresh foods like watermelon!  What pig wouldn’t want to chow down on food that that was this fresh?

And I’ve had a few interactions with clients this week which were also food related.  For example, the well-meaning owner of a Labrador puppy.  I had to tell her that I felt her dog was overweight and that she needed to reduce the amount of food being fed daily (adjusted also for treats used in training).

She was worried because the bag of her commercial puppy food recommended that she feed even more.  I explained that we should feed our dogs according to body condition and that many commercial foods often overstate the feeding rates for their foods.  After all, if owners feed more food, then they have to buy more food.  (I’m sure there are some dogs that may need the recommended feeding volumes – but these would be the exception and not the rule from my experience.)

And then there was the dog that had been losing weight and urinating in the house.  I strongly advised that the dog be taken to the vet for a health check and the results were in – a pancreatic problem brought on by feeding raw.  In this case, I suspect that the raw food mix being fed to this dog was way too high in fat and also contained consistently too much liver instead of a mixture of other organ meats such as heart and kidney.  Regardless, the dog was not thriving on its diet and, worse, was being hurt by it.  A change in diet to a commercial kibble has seen a return to health and no more urinating in the house which is a positive for both dog and owner.

Every dog is different when it comes to diet.  There is no one right or wrong answer, but there are tools and techniques we can use to match them to a diet that works.

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

Love me, massage me

I have started a new campaign that will run through to the end of the year to help me promote the benefits of canine massage.  The Love Me, Massage Me campaign is fairly straightforward:  each of my customers will receive a  printed bandana like this one:

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Tamzin the Pug models her Love Me Massage Me bandana

And then they can post photos of their dogs onto my Facebook page and their own with the hashtag #lovememassageme.  There are no limits to the number of entries per dog.

The winner will receive a massage every 3 months during 2019; there’s also a second and third prize.

Since I teach owners to massage their dogs using a relaxation massage sequence incorporating acupressure points, I’m happy if the dogs are being massaged by their owners and not just me.

I think every dog should be massaged regularly to support health and wellness.

Wish me luck!  #lovememassageme

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

 

Before and after

Our friend Ben, a greyhound, had an accident on Saturday, 15th September 2018.

From what we can tell, he was chasing a cat who must have taken a hard right turn.  When Ben tried to follow (he was under cover of a line of bushes and trees at the time of the incident), his momentum carried him sideways into a tree.  He emitted a huge cry of pain but was luckily able to walk home slowly before being taken to the vet within 15 minutes of the crash.

His bruising wasn’t immediately apparent because bruising takes time to come up; the vet suggested that he might also have cracked a rib during the impact.

Ben's bruising after photo

Ben the greyhound shortly after the incident

But within a few hours, here’s what he looked like:

Ben's bruising before photo

Ben the greyhound on 15 September 2018

I visited with him on Saturday afternoon and again on Monday (17th September) to laser him thoroughly with specific acupressure and trigger points addressed.  To some extent, the laser helped to bring out the bruising and speed healing.  His mum was also giving him regular rubdowns with Sore No More lotion (which I use and sell in my practice) and also dosing him Traumeel drops which I also recommend to my clients as a ‘must have’ for their First Aid kits.

And today (Wednesday, 19th September 2018), I got these lovely photos of Ben who is happily out running again in the sunshine:

 

It is very rewarding to be able to help dogs using my scope of practice of massage, acupressure, and laser therapies.  It’s even more rewarding when the dog is also a close friend.

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

At Kindness Ranch

Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary is a unique place, the only sanctuary in the United States that cares for animals used in research and laboratory facilities.  At this property, you’ll find horses, cows, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs.

The small team at Kindness, which is a fairly new sanctuary at only 12 years old (founded in 2006), work hard to care for the animals and maintain their large Wyoming property to the highest of standards.  Animals that can be rehabilitated are put up for adoption; the others will simply remain at the property with a secure and safe home for life.

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I have just finished a week of work with the dog care team at Kindness, discussing things like behavioral adjustment programs, enrichment, gait analysis, physical rehabilitation and senior dog care.    I also introduced them to the range of flower essences I use to support emotional health whilst working on training and rehab.

I chose to travel to Kindness Ranch because, for anyone who follows my blog, I often include items about research.  I’m a self-confessed science geek.  But I am not naive.  I know that much of the research which is published involves dogs as study subjects.  The life of a lab animal, in most cases, isn’t pretty.

The ranch is in remote Wyoming – Hartville to be exact with a permanent population of 69 people.  For this reason, if you’d like to visit Kindness (there are 4 guest yurts on the property which can be hired for your stay – and these are well-appointed and very comfortable), you need to book ahead.  The ranch is also a good place for a digital detox, too,  because the guest yurts do not have television and cell phone reception is patchy at best.  WiFi is available but is slower than most are used to and not suitable for streaming.

Dogs coming from a laboratory situation often have unique needs.  Most have never experienced grass under the feet, the sights and sounds of the home environment, and some will have healthcare issues that require attention before adoption is possible.  Many have never been house trained.  Their ages vary depending on how long they were used for study.

And while Beagles are the dogs most often associated with laboratory research, expect to see other breeds of dogs, too.  Larger breed dogs are often used by veterinary schools, for example, so students can learn blood draws, how to vaccinate, etc.  These dogs become living pin cushions and are not surprisingly fearful whenever a needle is presented.

I deliberately chose Kindness as a destination because of the special niche it holds in the animal rescue world.  It takes special people to liaise with laboratories and encourage them to release their animals rather than choosing to simply euthanize them (described as the ‘cost effective’ option).  Kindness walks a tightrope of sorts to ensure that the animals are given safe passage out of the lab and onto the sanctuary whilst maintaining the confidentiality of the labs.

And it also takes special people to live remotely and care for these  animals.

I hope you enjoy these photos of my time at Kindness and, if you believe in their mission, please consider making a donation.  Every bit helps.

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

 

Hank

Hank was the first dog to stay with me overnight in my yurt. Hank is an older boy who spent the first 7 or 8 years of his life in a laboratory. He’s a bit stiff, and has trouble with stairs (as many of the Beagles do).

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Hank in for a cuddle

One of Hank’s favourite pastimes is being held like a baby on your lap. He makes himself totally relaxed and floppy and will stay for as long as you like. It’s amazing how trusting these dogs can be given their treatment at the hands of others.

 

Rocky

Rocky is a big boy who doesn’t know his own strength (he needs more training about walking nicely on leash) and he’s afraid of men.  We suspect his life as a veterinary school practice animal meant that he didn’t have a positive relationship with a male lab assistant and/or vet students.  So we worked on setting up a system where the men on the ranch will visit and quietly enter and feed him high value treats. Handlers will praise Rocky when he is quiet and doesn’t bark and will start using a ‘click for quiet’ approach to clicker training.

Frieda

Frieda is a pit bull who loves to go to the dog park on the ranch, appropriately called the K9 Corral. She has good recall and knows most of her basic cues including sit and down. She’s very intelligent!

Gus

Gus is another senior Beagle used in pharmacokinetic studies for at least 7 years. (These studies introduce drugs and watch their effects on other organs in the body.) He’s a bit achy in the joints, too. Gabapentin and muscle relaxants prescribed by the vet have helped him a lot and his caregiver says that he is a different dog with the support of his meds.

 

Dogs to benefit from test to spot liver disease

Vets have developed a blood test that quickly spots early signs of liver disease in dogs, a study suggests.

Experts say that the test – based on insights gained from human patients – could help vets identify damage and start treatment early, saving the lives of many dogs.

The test – which is to be launched worldwide – means that fewer dogs will have to undergo invasive liver biopsies, findings by the University of Edinburgh suggest.

Diagnosis challenge

Diagnosing canine liver disease is challenging and catching early signs of damage is key to its treatment, vets say.

Current diagnosis is based on biopsies, which are expensive and can lead to complications.

Joining forces

Vets based at the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies teamed up with medical doctors to look at blood levels of a molecule known as miR-122 in dogs. This molecule is found in high levels in people living with liver disease.

They worked with pets and their owners to test miR-122 levels in 250 dogs, including cocker-spaniels, labradoodles and Old English sheepdogs.

Testing kits

Dogs with liver disease were found to have significantly higher levels of a miR-122 compared with healthy dogs and dogs who had a different disease that did not affect the liver.

The team now plan to launch a testing kit to help vets worldwide quickly assess if their patient pooches have liver damage.

The study is published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Lead vet researcher, Professor Richard Mellanby, Head of Companion Animal Sciences at The Hospital for Small Animals at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We have found a specific, sensitive and non-invasive way to detect liver damage in dogs. We hope that our test will greatly improve outcomes by allowing vets to make rapid and accurate diagnosis.”

Dr James Dear, Reader at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science and NHS doctor, who co-led the study, said: “‘I am delighted that the blood test we developed to improve the diagnosis of liver disease in humans can be used to help dogs too.”

Source:  University of Edinburgh

Flower essences – are they the same as Bach flowers?

Because I’m using an emotional nutrition range in my practice, which are mixtures of flower essences and homeopathics, I have been getting asked questions about them – which is great!

People refer to them as Bach flowers, and this isn’t entirely correct.

Dr Edward Bach worked in England in the years 1930 to 1935 on his flower remedies and when he died in 1936, his system of 38 remedies in total were fully documented.  These are the true Bach flower remedies.  The most notable combination is Rescue Remedy which is widely used today in both humans and animals.

He began collecting plants and flowers – the most highly-developed part of a plant – in the hope of replacing nosodes with a series of gentler remedies.  In his research, he matched a flower essence to a particular emotional state.  Here are a few examples:

  • Gentian – for discouragement after a setback
  • Mimulus – fear of known things
  • Vine – dominance and inflexibility

The Bach flower remedies should feature the Bach signature label  (made in England) which looks like this:

Bach flower logo

The remedies are made by infusing the flowers in spring water, either by the sun-steeped method or by boiling. The remedies contain a grape-based brandy as a preservative and there are alcohol free versions which are preserved in glycerin made from sunflowers

Following on from Dr Bach’s work on flower essences, there are other flower essences that have been developed from flowers growing in other parts of the world.  For example, there’s a whole range of essences extracted from Australian bush flowers.

So when people ask me about using flower essences, I remind them that there’s a difference between essential oils and flower essences and I also explain that not all flower essences are Bach flowers.

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