Category Archives: dogs and holidays

We wish you a Fear Free Christmas

Earlier this year, I gained my Fear Free certification.  For those of you who haven’t yet heard of this, Fear Free is a comprehensive program with certifications for veterinary professionals, trainers, groomers and practices that teaches these carers about the emotional well-being of pets.  Enrichment and the reduction of fear, anxiety and stress are all aspects of Fear Free.

So instead of posting the ‘traditional’ pre-Christmas warnings about tinsel, pancreatitis risks, chocolate etc. that go along with the season – I’d like you to consider making your dog’s Christmas Fear Free.

Let’s consider the Christmas holidays from your dog’s point of view:

Izzy the Greyhound at Christmas

  • “My family are always out shopping and going to parties – I have no routine – and I’m worried.”
  • “These people who I hardly know have come to stay in my house – AND they are sitting on my chair.”
  • “They’ve also brought a dog with them, who wants to drink from my bowl, play with my toys and lay in my bed.  I don’t want to share everything.”
  • “Those little people – they follow me even when I try to hide.  I have nowhere safe to go.”
  • “My family says that this road trip will be fun.  I’m stuffed in the back of the car with bags and gifts.  I think I’m going to be sick.”
  • “I’ve been playing all day with the new dogs I’ve met.  I’m super-tired but I can’t settle.”
  • “Why can’t I play with the shiny balls on that tree?”
  • “Trees are for marking but they are usually outside.  I marked the inside tree and now my Mum is mad.”
  • “We drove for a long time and now there is nothing here that smells normal”
  • “I’m not in my home, and that Man who is in charge says I have to stay outside.  I’m an inside dog…”
  • “They call them Christmas crackers; but they don’t crack – they pop really loudly like a gun and I’m scared but they are laughing.”
  • “No one seems to care about me anymore; it’s like I’m invisible.”

If you think your dog will be feeling anything like these examples this Christmas, now is the time to make adjustments and plans to help them through the fear and stress of the holiday season.  Because the holidays should be Fear Free for everyone.

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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I’m thankful

On Thursday, Americans will celebrate another Thanksgiving Day.  There will be lots of food, family gatherings, parties and – hopefully – if you take the time to observe the true reason for the holiday – you will pause and give thanks for what you have been able to achieve and have been given over the last year.

I’m in New Zealand.  We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (although I wish we did, because I think New Zealand is a great place to live and we are endowed with so much in terms of quality of life.  It wouldn’t hurt us to stop and take a moment to give thanks.)

I am thankful and here’s why:

  • I work in a field that I am passionate about.  Yes, I have worked hard to establish my practice, but I am grateful that the effort has paid off.
  • My customers trust me to work in their homes with their dogs.  I am always aware that, as an in-home specialist, I am entrusted not only with the dog’s care but also access to homes.  You can’t get more personal than that.  I am grateful for the opportunity that these dog owners have given me.
  • My work enables me to travel and meet other people who work with dogs, too many of these dogs are homeless and in need of care.
  • My work also allows me time to visit with my family overseas and we are able to spend quality time together.
  • I have friends, most of whom are also dog people, and they give me support when I need it.  Like recently, when Izzy was hurt and she needed looking after during the work day.  My friend Marie stepped up to do this for me.  (My friends, Izzy and I also do fun dog things together – like beach walks and visits to dog-friendly cafes.)
  • Izzy, my greyhound, is healthy.  Although she is aging, she is aging gracefully and still loves to be my demo dog at workshops and public events.  When the weather is cooler, she also travels with me and visits with the customers.  She’s a true ambassador for canine massage and natural care.
  • People engage with me on Facebook, through this blog, and through the columns I write for NZ Dog World.  I love to write and it is satisfying knowing that people like you are reading what I have to say and to share and take the time to get in touch.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day please take the time to give thanks – even if you are not in a country that officially celebrates the day.

Remember to hug your dog, too!

Izzy resting

Obligatory photo of Izzy, The Balanced Dog’s demo dog and mascot.

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

Happy Dog Mom’s Day

National Dog Mom's Day

It’s official.  There’s a national Dog Mom’s Day in the National Calendar (USA).  To be celebrated on the second Saturday of May, this national day was created to celebrate the role of the dog mom – those of us who have children with four legs.

This year (2018) is the first year since the day was officially recognised after a campaign by Dig (the Dog Person’s Dating App) and there are events planned in New York City and New Orleans.  I predict there will be more in the years to come as the day takes hold.

So let’s use this date as a day to celebrate the special role of the Dog Mom.

We don’t get paid parental leave, we don’t get adoption leave, and we don’t generally qualify for mother’s hours when part-time jobs are offered.  But we offer love, care and raise well-adjusted dogs who are contributing members of our communities.

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

Source:  NationalDayCalendar.com

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

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