Category Archives: dogs and holidays

Presents with a dog theme

Christmas has been and gone and life is getting back to normal again.

Some Christmas presents endure more than others.  If you are like me, your friends, family and customers are keenly aware of the love you have for your dog.  In my case, Izzy is a Greyhound and so Greyhound-themed gifts are always appreciated.

This year, I received a duvet cover with greyhounds.  As you can see, Izzy approves of the new addition to the bedroom.  It’s almost perfect camouflage for her!

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

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Risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs peaks at Christmas, warn experts

Christmas dog

Christmas dog, photo courtesy of the University of Liverpool

Pet owners are being urged to be vigilant this Christmas, as University of Liverpool researchers warn of a “significant peak” in the risk of chocolate poisoning in dogs over the festive period.

Most people know that chocolate can be poisonous to dogs but may not know why. The toxic ingredient is a caffeine-like stimulant called theobromine that can lead to an upset stomach, a racing heartbeat, dehydration, seizures and in the most severe cases death.

In a new study published in the Vet Record, researchers from the University’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) have used electronic health records from UK veterinary practices to analyse cases of chocolate ingestion in dogs.

The findings reveal significant seasonal peaks of chocolate ingestion cases across the year, most notably at Christmas and to a lesser extent at Easter –  as chocolate becomes more accessible within the home.

In most cases the amount of chocolate consumed was quite small, with common festive culprits including selection boxes, chocolate cake, liqueurs, chocolate Santas and advent calendars.

Veterinary researcher Dr P-J Noble who led the study commented: “Dogs love a chocolate treat and at Christmas there are plenty about. Sadly dogs can’t eat chocolate safely so many of them end up making an unplanned visit to the vet, which can disrupt the celebrations.

“People should keep festive chocolates away from pets. If chocolate is consumed, owners should talk to their vet as soon as possible, and ideally be prepared to quantify the amount and type of chocolate consumed. Information on the chocolate packaging may help the vet take the best action. While many cases of chocolate-eating are not at toxic levels, where they are, it is better to see the vet quickly.”

The research, which analysed 386 cases of chocolate ingestion in dogs from 229 UK veterinary practices between 2013 and 2017, also revealed some differences in the seasonal pattern of UK cases compared to other countries. Peaks in similar cases around Valentine’s Day and Halloween that have previously been reported in the USA and Germany were not found in the UK, which the researchers suggest could be due to different festival priorities.

The study also found that chocolate ingestion was significantly less common in older dogs and that no specific breed is more at risk than others.

Dr Noble added: “Big data is allowing us to perform wide scale studies of issues like chocolate exposure. This will help us to understand the influence of age, breed, season and geography on a wide range of different problems.”

Christmas stress and dogs

It’s that time of year again –  Christmas (followed closely by New Year).  And if the traffic is anything to go by (and I am a mobile practitioner, so I’m on the road fairly often), holiday preparations are in full swing.  The schools have let out for summer, and the shopping intensity is increasing.  So, too, are the rates of pre-Christmas stress.

Holiday plans, parties, travel, new guests coming to stay, and presents and food to buy and prepare should be happy things, but a lot of  people get stressed by them, too.

Have you ever thought about the impact of Christmas on your dog?

Feliz Naughty Dog

Our dogs also suffer stress.   With the changes in routine and surroundings that Christmas brings, we shouldn’t be surprised if our dogs get stressed.

Some will become destructive, such as unwrapping presents under the tree or chewing on ornaments/lights.  (These are also a health hazard, of course.)   Others may show their stress through lip-licking and yawning, backing away, going off their food, pacing, tucking their tail under, etc.

It’s important to know the signs of a stressed dog and to do something to lower your dog’s anxiety.

Ensure your dog has a safe space at home – like a crate or a bedroom – where they can retreat when they have had enough.

Play calming music, spray the room with calming mixtures of essential oils, Bach flower remedies, or Adaptil.

And do your very best to keep your dog on a regular routine.  Meal times and walks are things that your dog has come to count on at certain times of the day. Don’t mess about with these ‘certains’ in their life – it helps to keep stress in check.

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

Tips for a successful dog birthday party

On Saturday, we celebrated Izzy’s 8th birthday with a walk at the beach and an afternoon tea at The Beach Cafe on Waimairi Beach.  It was a gathering of our closest friends – all who have dogs in their families.

Here are my tips for holding a successful dog birthday party:

  • Know your guests – if your friends have a dog that is aggressive or anxious, then maybe these dogs are best left at home.
  • Go for a walk first.  Our party started with a group dog walk at the beach; everyone was tired and happy when it came time to sit down for food.
  • Keep the number of guests manageable.  I suggest no more than 15 people and 10 dogs
  • Book the party in advance with the cafe so they can set aside an appropriate table location for you.  In our case, I asked specifically for a table in the corner (away from the main entrance to the cafe) and where we had some shade and would be sheltered from the wind.  Some cafes may want to limit the number of dogs they have on their premises – so they’ll be prepared for the arrival of your party.
  • Serve dog-and human-appropriate fare – and keep them separate.  No one wants to have an upset tummy after a party.  I booked a set menu of sandwiches, savouries and cake for the humans.  The dogs were given party bags of treats and I also baked the dog birthday cake which had layers of liver and salmon.  I brought my own paper plates for the dogs to eat their cake – so there were no risks or concerns about hygiene.
  • Casual dress only – dog parties are no place to become a fashionista.  Tidy and casual dress is recommended.  One of our guests was wearing leggings (a good choice) which came in handy when she was slobbered on by a Bernese Mountain Dog.

    Finally, relax and have fun.  If you are stressed out about arrangements, neither you or your dog will find the event enjoyable.

I’m happy to report a good time was had by all.  Happy birthday, Izzy!

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

Dogs at the wedding

Wedding photo

Penny, front and center, posed with the family following the wedding of Linnea Elizabeth Sanderson and Dr. Robert Collier Davidson, right, in February. Credit Kieran Kesner for The New York Times

Dogs are part of the family and, increasingly, they are being included in their owner’s Big Day.  (I’m invited to a wedding in October that will include the couple’s dogs – Bernese Mountain Dogs –  and look forward to sharing that with my readers).

In this article from the New York Times, a Vermont-based photographer says that half of the weddings on his schedule this season involve a dog. And most of the owners interviewed say that they wouldn’t think of not involving their beloved dog in the ceremony.

Did you include your dog in your wedding?  I’d love to see the photos!

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

Happy Mother’s Day, Izzy

Izzy didn’t choose to be a mother.  It was her final job as a racing greyhound to pass on her genes to another generation of racers.  One of those puppies, Bella, has been re-homed and I can see from the racing register that four other puppies are now racers…I so hope they are safe and healthy.

Izzy deserved to have a Mother’s Day.  She had breakfast in bed with buttermilk pancakes and liver/pumpkin gravy.

Tonight she is playing with her newest toy – a rubber chicken.

Happy Mother’s Day, Izzy!

 

Breakfast in Bed for Mother's DayIzzys Mothers Day Pancakes

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

Halloween and your dog

halloween+dog

Halloween is only a couple of nights away.  Time to start putting your dog inside at dusk (if he/she isn’t already).

Halloween can be a very scary time for dogs.  Lots of people out on the street and ringing the doorbell.  It’s a lot to cope with.

Then there’s the individually wrapped candies that aren’t good for your dog.  Put them out of reach and monitor your dog carefully on the night to ensure he/she doesn’t sneak a bite when you’re not looking…

Decide which area of your house is your dog’s quiet place and make the area comfortable with a bed, toys and suitable dog treats.

Personally speaking, I don’t like costumes for dogs.  Keep your dog happy by not dressing them up and humiliating them.

With a few precautions, you all can make it through Halloween safe and happy.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand