Category Archives: dog care

Muscle loss and wasting

I encounter dogs in my practice who are experiencing muscle loss and wasting fairly often.

Since owners must submit veterinary records to me for review as part of my intake process as well as update me on any subsequent vet visits, if there’s a diagnosis of chronic illness – such as kidney disease or cancer – then this muscle loss  is understandable and classified as cachexia.

In the absence of a diagnosis of disease, and working with an aging dog, then the muscle loss is classified as sarcopenia.

Muscle loss results in a change of appearance, which owners often notice first around the shoulder blades, top of the head, and around the pelvis.  Muscle wastage can be graded as noted below:

Muscle condition score

Exercise and good nutrition can be interventions with muscle loss.  Chronically ill dogs need a high quality diet that is appropriate for their disease, for example.  And aging dogs do need exercise that is targeted to their needs and abilities.

Owners should always be on the watch for signs of muscle loss – so early interventions that are medical and non-medical can be considered.

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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You get out what you put in

In 2007, I was unlucky enough to rupture an Achilles tendon; the rupture also took the rather unusual form of detaching from the bone in the heel of my foot.  In most cases, these ruptures occur higher up the leg, with the tendon snapping in half.  I clearly remember my surgeon at the time warning me of the risk of re-rupture, which was entirely linked to the quality and commitment to rehabilitation.  Many people don’t commit to the time and consistency that rehab actually takes and they pay the price of exercising too strenuously too early, or not following the instructions for self-care.

Every rehab program can have setbacks and mine was no different.  It took a year but I fully recovered.  I went to physio for all the obligatory ultrasounds, etc.  But more importantly, I did my exercises at home.  All the toe raises, stretches, massaging and walking.   I kept a journal of everything.

This personal experience has helped me greatly in my dog massage and rehab practice; it’s given me great insight into the frustrations and joys of rehab.  And the main lesson I learned was that the substantive part of my rehab program was my responsibility.

The same is true of a dog’s rehab program – well, sort of.  The dog doesn’t know what it has to do, it’s the owner’s responsibility.

And that’s one reason why I practice on an in-home basis.  I see many dogs in need of strengthening, stretching and/or toning exercises.  I always aim to make these exercises simple, and using items that are easily found around the home or sourced for a reasonable price.  (I also have a hire pool of equipment, to also ease the burden of rehab care.)

Adjustments are often needed to match the dog’s abilities.  And that comes with practice and feedback from the owner.  And we work together through any setbacks.

I tell my clients:  “To a large extent, you get out what you put in.”

Rail walking at CBBR

Cavaletti rail practice at Christchurch Bull Breed Rescue (Charlene with Caesar)

Many clients have goals – it could be that the family is going on vacation and wants the dog in better shape (or fully recovered) when the dog goes to kennel or to another family member.  It could be that the dog is in the care of a re-homing agency and the dog needs to be better before adoption.  Or, the goal may simply to have the dog better before summer so that the family can enjoy the beach or the park again, together.

Like personal training, goals are great.

To achieve them, we get out what we put in.  I enjoy being part of the owner’s team to achieve those goals.

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

Moving day(s)

One of the reasons that things have been quieter on the blog over the last few weeks has been because we have needed to relocate.  Our home is undergoing repairs from damage received in Christchurch’s 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and so everything (including us) had to go.

As most of you know, moving house is rarely fun and often stressful and our animals have to be managed carefully during these events.  As I’ve said many times, having a solid routine is extremely important for dogs – they get comfort and a sense of security from routine.

So in our case, Izzy was catered for as the #1 priority.  All of her beds, her caterpillar and her crate were packed and driven to our temporary house.  Meanwhile, she went to a friend’s house for a play date with his greyhound.  I picked her up in the evening and brought her to the new place, where she was fed dinner and was put to bed.

Although unsettled for the first few days, I kept her to her routine which included morning walks, feedings, and sleep time followed by afternoon walks and evening meals.  Temporary House

I’m proud to say that Izzy has settled in well; me – well I’m making due with the typical soft mattress and cheap furniture that is found in most holiday rental homes.    After all, I wasn’t able to travel with my bed!

 

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

Marketing Fear Free

Fear Free certification is something that is still new to the veterinary and complementary professions.  I saw an ad recently on Facebook for a Fear Free certified veterinary practice looking to hire and I’ve amended it to explain a bit more about what I stand for.

Where do you want to take your dog?

If you want your dog treated where…

  • dogs are allowed to rest on a comfortable, padded massage table – or the floor if they are more comfortable
  • appointments are booked hourly so there is no need to rush
  • you see me – a  fully qualified therapist with a commitment to ongoing professional development
  • I adjust my pace for each dog, so anxious dogs may take longer (but it is worth it)
  • and yummy dog treats and food diversions are used on a liberal basis

…then please book your dog into The Balanced Dog.  I look forward to working with you in the Fear Free way.

Bailey and Neisha May 2018

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

FF Certified Professional Logo jpg

The differences between flower essences and essential oils

I have found that there is often confusion between essential oils and flower essences.  This isn’t surprising – both evoke connotations of fresh smells and flowers.  However, it’s important to understand the difference and the use of these products when caring for your dog.

Essential oils are a fundamental part of aromatherapy.  They are often diffused in a burner of some sort, such as the traditional one with a tea candle below the area where the oil is placed, or in the newer modern version – ultrasonic diffusers.

When used for massages, the essential oils (which are very strong) are diluted in carrier oil such as sweet almond oil or in a waxier, balm-like base.  Most of my human massage therapist colleagues use essential oils in their practices in this way – lavender is very common, for example, for relaxing human clients!

Essential oils are very much for use outside the body (not to be ingested).

Now here’s the thing:  I am generally not a fan of using essential oils in dog care. 

These oils are quite powerful.  And for the same reason that I don’t like chemical sprays for air fresheners and fly control (See:  Before you install these devices, consider your dog), I don’t think they are useful with dogs.  If dogs have a sense of smell that is 100,000 times more powerful than ours, how can we be sure that we aren’t driving them crazy with the odour of these oils?  I don’t believe we can.

Flower essences are a whole other ball game.  The most famous of the flower essences is Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which is a blend of flower essences designed to help with stress and anxiety.   Dogs can be given Rescue Remedy in times of need  – such as fireworks season.

Because of the popularity of Rescue Remedy, many dog owners don’t realise that there are a wide range of flower essences (some of which technically come from trees) which can be used for emotional and other imbalances.  Dr Edward Bach, an English doctor and homeopath, originally studied and documented flower essences in the 1930s.  For this reason, they are often referred to as Bach Flower Remedies.  However, there are other essences such as those that come from Australian wild flowers which cannot be attributed to Dr Bach.

Flower essences are made by infusing the plant material using a heat source (often sunshine) and air into water.  The infusion is then preserved with something like brandy and stored – ready for use.  Flower essences contain the natural energy of the plant material (not the plant material itself) and we can use these, internally – unlike essential oils –  to help with imbalances.

The principle behind flower essences is that they are based on energy and so if your dog doesn’t need that particular energy, nothing will happen.  But by matching the right essence to their condition, flower essences can help.

The only thing that ‘smells’ about a flower essence is the alcohol preservative in the mixture.  This is a major difference between the essences and essential oils and is key to why I am happy to use them in my practice.

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

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

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