Category Archives: dog ownership

Dogs are individuals!

All dogs are different

Earlier this week, I attended a seminar in human digestive issues at the local natural health practice, The Herbal Dispensary.  The naturopath made the point to say that everyone has a unique digestive system and so what works for one person, may not work for another.

Bingo!

I’m tired of seeing posts from dog owners on Facebook asking what they should feed their dog.  And then dozens of answers, few which agree, and typically from no one who is a professional in the field.

There are many considerations when choosing a dog’s diet.  It is why I use a TCM food therapy approach, augmented by tests like Nutriscan.  These tools help to determine food ingredients that match the dog.  Considerations into format, such as commercial dry kibble or raw, come later.  And then the new diet needs to be trialed to ensure it is a good match.

Dogs are individuals in all aspects of their life, not just diets.

This week alone I’ve dealt with a paraplegic dog who needs help and a new wheelchair, an older dog with intermittent lameness, a year-old puppy who just needs to slow down and relax, a dog with irritable bowel disease, and a dog who is anxious and reactive.

My approach is different with each of these dogs because the dogs are different.

Celebrate your dog’s uniqueness and address their health as a special journey!

Being unique is better

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

Advertisements

Dog park designs

If I ever win Lotto, I’d like to sponsor a major dog park development.

Dog park designs are an interesting line of work for landscape architects.  James Harrison Melnick of the University of Arizona did a review of A Successful Southwest Dog Park in 2013.

His report is still a useful document with various designs, their pros and cons, reviewed and discussed.

Chaparral Dog Park Scottsdale AZ

The Chaparral Dog Park in Scottsdale, Arizona

His report is downloadable through this link.

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

Owners of seriously ill pets at risk of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms

Owners of seriously or terminally ill pets are more likely to suffer with stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as poorer quality of life, compared with owners of healthy animals, finds a study published by Veterinary Record.

old dog

Caring for a sick or dying pet can be a serious emotional burden. Credit: © tuaindeed / Fotolia

This ‘caregiver burden’ may also lead to increased veterinarian stress, say the authors.

Research on human caregiving describes ‘caregiver burden’ as a response to problems and challenges encountered while providing informal care for a sick family member. But little is known about the impact of caregiver burden on owners of animals with chronic or terminal diseases – and the veterinarians who care for them.

So a team of researchers, led by Mary Beth Spitznagel at Kent State University in Ohio, set out to assess caregiver burden and psychosocial function in 238 owners of a dog or cat.

They compared 119 owners of an animal diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease with 119 healthy controls blindly matched for owner age and sex and animal species.

Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression were measured using recognised scales, and quality of life was assessed by questionnaire. Owners’ demographic information was also recorded.

Results showed greater burden, stress and clinically meaningful symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as poorer quality of life, in owners of animals with chronic or terminal disease. Higher burden was also related to poorer psychosocial functioning.

The authors outline some study limitations which could have introduced bias, but they say their findings “may help veterinarians understand and more effectively handle client distress in the context of managing the challenges of sick companion animal caregiving.”

And they suggest that future research is needed to better understand risks for caregiver burden in the client, how this might be reduced, and how it impacts veterinarian wellbeing.

In a linked commentary, Katherine Goldberg calls for improved training for veterinarians around provision of long term care for serious illness. This includes tailoring treatment plans to client preferences, recognising when clients are distressed, and partnering with mental health professionals to provide support.

“This inaugural exploration of caregiver burden within a veterinary setting is the first step in assessing the impact of veterinary caregiving on clients, as well as the impact of client emotional distress on veterinarian wellbeing,” writes Goldberg. “It is my hope that with continued dialogue, we will continue to build the literature in these essential areas.”

Source:  BMJ press release

The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment

Let sleeping dogs lie … in the bedroom. That’s according to a new Mayo Clinic study that’s sure to set many tails wagging.

Sleeping with dog

It’s no secret that Americans love their dogs. According to the American Veterinary Association, more than 40 million American households have dogs. Of these households, 63 percent consider their canine companions to be family. Still, many draw the line at having their furry family members sleep with them for fear of sacrificing sleep quality.

“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” says Lois Krahn, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus and an author of the study. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”

The study, “The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment,” evaluated the sleep of 40 healthy adults without sleep disorders and their dogs over five months. Participant and their dogs wore activity trackers to track their sleeping habits for seven nights.

According to the study, sleeping with dogs helps some people sleep better ─ no matter if they’re snoozing with a small schnauzer or dozing with a Great Dane. There is one caveat, however. Don’t let your canines crawl under the covers with you. The sleep benefit extends only to having dogs in your bedroom ─ not in your bed. According to the study, adults who snuggled up to their pups in bed sacrificed quality sleep.

“The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom,” says Dr. Krahn. “Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”

So, go ahead. Turn your sheepdog into a sleep dog. Just make sure they are relegated to their own bark-o-lounger, rather than your bed.

Source:  Mayo Clinic news release

My Dog is My Home

One of the best parts of the day is when I return to my home after a long day’s work and Izzy is there to greet me.  I think most dog owners/parents feel that way.

Now imagine that you are homeless and you have a dog (or two).  Access to a homeless shelter and other social services is out of reach because you refuse to give up your dogs.

That’s the plight of many homeless Americans and the charity My Dog is My Home is working to help them by facilitating co-sheltering projects that allow both humans and pets to be supported.

The project did a series of YouTube videos to highlight the experience of human-animal homelessness.  Here’s one of the videos:  Spirit’s story alongside his dogs, Kyya and Miniaga, in Los Angeles.

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

Health benefits of owning a dog (video version)

Throughout this blog, you’ll find articles about research involving dogs.  Some of these articles can be quite lengthy, so I was pleased when Time published this short video – all of the key points about the health benefits of owning a dog in one place.

If you’re really busy, or simply not interested in reading the full research, this video is for you!

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

Housing affordability is a dog issue

I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time.  There’s been trouble brewing for a while now when it comes to housing availability and affordability in New Zealand.  But if you’re a dog owner, the problem is usually magnified.

Take this case from the Waikato; a gainfully employed immigrant to New Zealand struggles to find a rental home that will allow both his children and his beloved dog, Blue, to live there.

Welcome dog

In the months and years following the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, the rate of surrenders of dogs increased as people were displaced from their damaged homes.  Most rentals prohibited dogs. (Only now – in 2017 – is the housing market adjusting again with something of a rental surplus.  Creative rental owners are starting to open their minds about dogs.)

Last week, I shared this article on my Facebook page about Millennials, a generation of men and women who are buying homes to secure their futures as dog owners.  It created the highest readership of the page in almost two years, with many of my clients and other readers agreeing that they bought a home because they wanted a secure place to live with their dog(s).

I moved from Auckland to Christchurch in large part because of better housing affordability and the goal of having my own dog.  (In Auckland, the best I could achieve was a regular dose of ‘dog therapy’ by volunteering at the SPCA as part of a regular roster.)

But housing affordability is a barrier to many owning their first home.  Loan-to-value ratios require a minimum of 20% deposit.  If you are already paying a high rent, savings to reach that 20% can be very difficult.  In the Auckland region, I’ve read that many employed people are paying up to one-half of their income in rent.  So much for saving a 20% deposit!

If people can’t find homes that allow pets, what happens to all the dogs needing loving homes?  They face a bleak future.

So in this – an election year in New Zealand – think about housing affordability as a key issue particularly if you are a dog lover or prospective dog owner. If you’ve made it into your own home with a dog, think of those who are still trying.

And if you are an owner of one or more rental properties, you can be part of the solution.  Do you allow your tenants to have dogs?

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