Category Archives: dog care

Increased protections for animals

Earlier this month, I reviewed Run, Spot, Run by Jessica Pierce.  In that book, Pierce provides a list of incremental changes each of which would offer increased protections to animals.

I quote them here for sharing purposes because they are the most comprehensive list I have found thus far in terms of explaining the shortcomings we still have in animal care,  welfare, and protection.

Chester looking out window

  • licensing requirements for all pet owners
  • laws limiting or prohibiting the sale of live animals
  • laws regulating international and interstate shipping of live animals
  • a federal prohibition on the sale of crush films, in particular, and animal pornography in general
  • state laws making sexual assault of an animal punishable (not limited to sexual assaults that are fatal or cause severe injury)
  • better and more frequent inspections of breeding facilities
  • better and more frequent inspections of animal wholesale facilities
  • greater transparency in the pet industry, such as, perhaps, in identifying the sourcing of animals for sale
  • greater transparency in the shelter industry
  • state laws requiring at least eight hours of training for anyone performing euthanasia
  • free speech protections for those who expose corporate animal abuses
  • reporting requirements for veterinarians (e.g. abuse, sexual assault)
  • combined/coordinated reporting of animal abuse and domestic partner, child or elder abuse
  • a publicly accessible national registry of those convicted of animal cruelty or sexual assault
  • increased (and responsible) media reporting of crimes against animals
  • more community resources (e.g. tax money) dedicated to shelters, animal control facilities, and cruelty investigators
  • state-appointed lawyers to represent animals in court
  • required humane education in schools
  • laws making failure to provide timely veterinary care a legally enforceable welfare violation
  • laws allowing pet owners to collect damages for emotional pain and suffering resulting from the loss of a pet at the hands of another human
  • laws making “convenience euthanasia”an animal cruelty violation
  • greater regulation of the pet food industry, including more rigorous inspection of ingredients, greater transparency about sourcing and ingredients, and a well-coordinated method of alerting customers about recalls

Source:  Run, Spot, Run by Jessica Pierce, pages 211-212

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

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More communication needed about disposal of pet pharmaceuticals

If no one told you the proper way to get rid of those leftover heartworm pills, bottles of flea shampoo and other pet care products your household no longer needs, you’re not alone.

New research from Oregon State University found that more than 60 percent of veterinary care professionals do not counsel their clients when it comes to the environmental stewardship aspect of medicine disposal – findings that are troublesome but also represent an opportunity to dramatically reduce watershed contaminants.

OSU dog

“People are just starting to understand the impact that discarded pharmaceuticals and personal care products have on the environment,” said the study’s corresponding author, Jennifer Lam, who worked on the research while a graduate student in marine resource management at Oregon State University.

“This study opens the door and shows a communication gap, shows where there’s an opportunity to help educate people. There’s not much communication going on between veterinary care professionals and their clients on how to dispose of expired pet medicines, meaning there’s a lot of potential for those professionals to help their clients learn what to do.”

Lam, now a senior analyst for Blue Earth Consultants, and other researchers at OSU surveyed 191 pet owners and found nearly half of them got rid of unneeded care products and medicine via the garbage; Blue Earth, based in Oakland, California, is an environmental management consulting division of ERG.

Researchers surveyed 88 environmental educators and 103 veterinary care professionals. The survey revealed 61 percent of the veterinary professionals did not share information about proper disposal with their clients. And the 39 percent who reported sharing that information did so 19 percent of the time – roughly one appointment in five.

“It’s not a popular topic to bring up,” said Lam, who noted the professionals listed a number of barriers to communication, including lack of knowledge about proper disposal, time, cost and lack of concern on the part of both client and care provider.

“Survey respondents said their professional organizations, such as their veterinary associations, are their top source for disposal information,” Lam said. “This shows that veterinary-care professionals can serve as role models for other pet owners on environmental stewardship practices.”

Scientists have long known about the potential environmental effects stemming from the use and disposal of products aimed at keeping people healthy and clean, but with roughly seven in 10 Americans owning at least one pet, animal medications and other care products are slowly beginning to move into the spotlight too.

Pet supplies and over-the-counter pet medications are a nearly $15 billion industry in the U.S. Veterinary care including prescription medicine is close to a $16 billion chunk of the economy. Both figures are on the rise.

“But you can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of PPCPs – pharmaceutical and personal care products – for both themselves and their pets,” said Sam Chan, a watershed health expert with the Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.”

Increasingly, Chan said, chemicals from PPCPs for people and pets are being found at low levels in groundwater and surface water; anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, antibiotics, estrogens, insect repellant, antimicrobials and sunscreen compounds are among what’s being detected.

Some impacts are already appearing, he said. For example, fish exposed to antidepressants become more active and bold and thus more susceptible to predation.

“Most people tend to throw extra pills or personal care products into the trash and, in fewer instances, flush them down the drain,” Chan said. “It seems like the right thing to do but it’s not the best thing for the environment.”

The national Sea Grant program is partnering with the American Veterinary Medical Association to promote proper PPCP disposal: Dropping them off at a take-back event or bringing them to a depository such as those in place at some police stations and college campuses.

“This study is one of the first to really show a baseline on the environmental stewardship of pet owners regarding their use and disposal of personal and pet medicine and care products,” Lam said. “It also shows the correlation between what pet owners do with their own medicine versus their pets’ – both types of products are being disposed of in similar ways.”

This research was funded in part by Oregon Sea Grant. Findings were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Source:  Oregon State University media release

Why I chose Fear Free

This week, I announced that I attained my Fear Free certification; completing this certification was one of my professional development goals for the year.

(I am currently New Zealand’s first practitioner in the canine massage and rehab field to hold this certification.)

Fear Free certification

I have been in practice in canine massage and rehabilitation since 2009. I see dogs who are injured, are recovering from surgeries and those who have developed age-related conditions like intervertebral disc disease or arthritis.

An ordinarily friendly and happy dog can become fearful when it is in pain – which is totally understandable.  For this reason, I became more interested in dog behavior and how behavior was a reflection of physical status (and often, vice-versa).

So I spent a fair amount of my professional development time between 2013 and 2017 at Best Friends Animal Society learning from their dog trainers and behavior consultants.  Understanding non-verbal communication, and methods for de-sensitization and counter-conditioning are all skills that are very useful when working hands-on with dogs.

Added to this is the fact that in many cases, management of these dogs requires me to develop a long-term relationship with them.  These dogs need to trust me – that I won’t knowingly hurt them and that I respect their boundaries when they tell me that something hurts too much.

They also help me in my job when they let me know that something feels good and is working.

So Fear Free certification was on the To Do list to expand my skills tool box.

Then one day last year, I was asked to see a new client.   Her 12-year old mixed-breed dog was regularly lame; she had stopped seeing a physical therapist about 4 months earlier after 6 months of regular sessions. Her dog needed to be handled on the floor because he would not tolerate being lifted onto a massage table.

During our first session, he progressed with his warnings to me that he wasn’t happy:  first a low growl, then a lip curl, and then baring of teeth.  The entire time, the owner was telling me, ‘he’s just being a guts’ to which I replied, ‘no, he’s telling me he isn’t happy with being touched there.’

This owner was also one of those who was adamant her dog wasn’t in pain, to which I also disagreed, based on his age and regular lameness.  She also didn’t have many positive things to say about her vet, which for me was a signal that perhaps she wasn’t willing to listen to either her vet or me.  She hadn’t supplied copies of her dog’s veterinary records, either, and so I explained that until I saw his vet records, I wouldn’t be able to book him in for subsequent appointments.  (Provision of vet records is part of my standard intake process.)

Then she said, ‘our other physical therapist muzzled him.’

This is when I explained that I didn’t want to do that; that massage and physical therapy were likely to feature in her dog’s long-term management for quality of life.  Dogs don’t ‘opt-in’ the way people can for a massage.  They don’t book me in – their owner does.  And they don’t know what to expect from a massage and so it is all new to them.  Add a level of pain into the equation, and you can understand a dog’s reluctance to be touched.

By muzzling him for hands-on work (without pain management), the previous therapist set this dog up for escalated levels of fear, anxiety and stress.

The relationship with both owner and dog was going to take time.  Sadly, this owner didn’t like my recommendation that her vet should be consulted about trialing a short course of anti-inflammatory drugs to see if this resulted in a happier and less lame dog.  She wanted a quick fix which I was unable to give her- and I also had my personal safety to consider.

It was a light bulb moment.  I had more work to do – and Fear Free was another platform to explain and educate my customers about my approach to working with their dogs.

Fear Free seems like a ‘no brainer,’ but in reality it isn’t for many owners and therapists who don’t understand that there is a better way.  Some procedures are a ‘must have’ (veterinarians will know this!), but others are worth the wait if we can build a better relationship with the dog that doesn’t make them go over threshold into anxiety and fear.

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

How to make a puppy pie

Puppy photo
Take one puppy, roll and play until lightly pampered, then add the following ingredients:
1 cup patience
1 cup understanding
1 pinch correction
1 cup hard work
2 cups praise
1 ½ cups of fun
Heat with the warmth of your heart until raised or until puppy has doubled in size.
Mix with owner until the consistency is such that owner and puppy are one.
                                                                 Author Unknown

In odd circumstances…

Yesterday, I pulled into the service station to fill the tank.  I also asked for help because I was filling a gas canister for the first time and didn’t want the nasty stuff splashing all over me.

I have advertising on my car.  In fact, it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made.  Because of the advertising, I find myself in some odd circumstances explaining what I do.

IMG_0711

The Balanced Dog’s car

This time, it was the station attendant.  “I suppose they do that a lot in America,” he said as an opening statement.

I then replied with something of a stock-standard explanation, “for the same reasons people get massage, dogs benefit, too.  I work on dogs of all ages – those who have arthritis, some are recovering from surgery and injuries and I even help with dogs that are suffering from anxiety and stress.  Some of my clients are only young puppies to help them become calmer and used to handling.”

“Oh, I met a dog at my in-law’s holiday home who is afraid of men.  I only had to say something and the dog ran away.”

Me:  “That’s definitely a stress response.  I use massage combined with behavioral training techniques to work with dogs who have stress problems.  Last week, I started work with a puppy who gets so stressed at the thought of going in the car that she vomits.”

“Wow”

Wow indeed.

I consider every conversation an opportunity to educate people about the wellness impacts and multiple benefits of dog massage.  It isn’t just about ‘rehabbing’ from injuries – it’s a lot more!

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

Pain in dogs with noise sensitivity

Dogs which show fear or anxiety when faced with loud or sudden noises should be routinely assessed for pain by veterinarians, a new study has found.

Animal behavioural scientists from the UK and Brazil examined cases of dogs which had developed a sensitivity to either loudness, different pitches, or sudden noises, and found that those which also had associated musculoskeletal pain formed a greater sensitivity to noise.

The study suggested that that fear or anxiety about noise could be association between a fear of noises and underlying pain.

dogs and noise

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The researchers believe that pain, which could be undiagnosed, could be exacerbated when a noise makes the dogs tense up or ‘start’, putting extra stress on muscles or joints which are already enflamed, causing further pain. That pain is then associated with a loud or startling noise, leading to a sensitivity to noise and avoidance of situations where they had previously had a bad experience—for example a local park, or a louder room in the house.

Researchers say that veterinarians should ensure that all dogs with behaviour problems associated with noise receive a thorough physical examination to see if pain could be a factor in their fear or anxiety, so that undiagnosed pain could be treated, and the behavioural issue tackled. All the dogs that had pain which were treated showed an improvement of their behaviour. This is the first study to explore this phenomenon.

Professor Daniel Mills from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, said: “Although the average ages of the dogs were similar, the average age of onset of the problem was nearly four years later in the ‘clinical cases’. This strong theme of an older age of onset suggests that the pain may develop later in life and that owners seek treatment more readily, perhaps because the appearance of the problem is out of character in the subject.

“These results are consistent with the suggestion that whenever there is a late age onset to a behaviour problem, medical issues including those related to pain, should be carefully evaluated. It is worth owners being aware that once pain is successfully managed, the previously learned associations with noise may persist and require their own targeted behaviour modification programme.”

Researchers assessed two groups of dogs which presented with noise sensitivity: those which had already been diagnosed with underlying musculoskeletal pain and those which hadn’t.

In both cases, the presenting signs of the dogs’ behavioural issue included shaking, trembling and hiding, but those with a diagnosed pain issue also showed a higher level of avoidance when it came to places they had a bad experience with noise – for example attempting to avoid a certain area at a park altogether compared with those without pain.

The dogs with the musculoskeletal pain also started to show signs of fear of noises much later in life than the control cases, and were on average four years older than their pain-free counterparts. Noise triggers ranged from fireworks, thunderstorms and aeroplanes, to gunshots, cars and motorbikes.

Veterinary Medicine student Ana Luisa Lopes Fagundes, from Centro Universitário de Belo Horizonte in Brazil, led the research at Lincoln as part of Brazil’s Science without Borders scheme.

She said: “The aim of the study was to explore the presenting signs of dogs with generalised noise sensitivity with and without pain in their muscles or joints. We think that dogs with this sort of chronic pain may experience the noise quite differently, because if the noise makes them startle it may cause them to tense their muscles and as consequence they feel pain associated with the noise.

“We found that these dogs which had pain do indeed show different signs, in particular they seem to form much wider associations with the noise, for example they would often tend to avoid not just the place where they had the bad experience but much larger areas too. These dogs also tended to avoid other dogs as well. The findings of this study are really important because they contribute to the dog’s welfare and improved behaviour as pain could be identified and subsequently treated.”

The price to pay! (re-blogged)

This is a post without photos but it speaks volumes nonetheless.

Here’s another blogger who feels as I do – you must expect to spend money on your pet just as you would your children.

Budgeting is a basic life skill and it will soon seem clear whether or not you have the funds to make a lifetime commitment to your dog.

Please read: The price to pay!

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