Category Archives: Uncategorized

Homeopathics, in pack order

The Telegraph has reported this week that Queen Elizabeth II feeds her dogs in ‘order of seniority’  and that the dogs consume a range of herbal and homeopathic remedies.

Queen with Corgi

The Queen of England couldn’t be more Establishment and yet – there she is – open-minded enough to recognise that herbals and homeopathics may help keep her Corgis in good health, for longer.

I respect her for that.

It’s long been reported and known that the Queen is an animal-lover.  Dr Mugford, an animal psychologist who has worked with the Queen’s dogs says “The Queen has definite views about how dogs should be cared for: she doesn’t tolerate unkindness, and I remember she took a very dim view of President Lyndon B Johnson picking his dogs up by their ears.”

Queen Elizabeth has made the decision fairly recently not to replace her Corgis when they pass away, which has been a long-standing tradition in her household.  This is surely a sign that the Queen is feeling the pressures of time and old age.  She doesn’t want to bring dogs into the household when it’s highly likely they will out-live her.

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

 

 

Patience

Patience

Some people find it hard to believe that a dog professional like myself has never raised a dog from a puppy.  That’s because my family raised me with the idea that you adopt, rather than buy, a dog.  And by default that has steered me into a life with re-homed dogs – both mixed breeds and purebreds – who have entered my life at different ages.

My first dog came from a shelter; my second came from a supermarket ‘free to a good home’ ad; my third was a private adoption facilitated by a local rescue group (but she had never lived in their shelter); my fourth was a word-of-mouth adoption of Daisy, a purebred Pointer, who had bounced back to her breeder through no fault of her own.  And now, I have Izzy who is a retired racing greyhound.

It’s a myth that ‘rescue’ dogs are all mixed breeds; many pure bred dogs also find themselves in need of re-homing.  Responsible breeders will take back a dog for any reason during the lifetime of the dog.  So, for example, in cases of divorce or an owner’s death, these dogs come up for adoption – and that’s only a couple of examples.  There are also breed specific rescue groups who are passionate supporters of a breed and work to re-home dogs who have fallen on bad times.

What my life of adopting dogs has taught me is patience.  It’s great to go out and buy the dog a bed, food and toys and envisage a perfect life together.  And it will be good- but there are usually teething problems.

For example, when I adopted Izzy , she was suffering from re-homing stress.  She was overwhelmed by her surroundings in my home – it was totally foreign territory.  She was off her food and made herself a bed on a blanket by the front door.  She remained there for almost 2 weeks (only moving to eat or drink or go out for walks) until she got her confidence to explore more of the house.

It took her 2 months to venture confidently into my bedroom (where large windows looking out onto the garden seemed to overwhelm her).  She did not get on my bed for almost 4 months.

We had a few toileting incidents but that was also because she was getting used to new food and was already stressed from her change of circumstances.  Whose tummy wouldn’t cause them problems?

But we got there and that takes patience.  When I do home-checking for Greyhounds as Pets, I get an idea about how well the family is prepared to be patient with their new dog.

A prospective owner with a very strict timeline for getting their dog settled is unlikely to be successful – the dog doesn’t know about the timeline.

The best advice I can give is – be patient.  If anything, give your new dog some space.  Let them decide when they are comfortable in trying new things and don’t overwhelm them with affection too soon.

It’s worth the wait.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs – part of the coping for kids of military families

Janelle Casson says it never gets any easier when her husband deploys as a U.S. Army combat engineer. But after four tours of duty in the last 12 years—assignments ranging from a year to 15 months each in Iraq—she and her four children eventually fall into a well-learned routine. “You have a muscle memory of how it feels to be without him and what we all need to do to keep moving forward,” she says.

Even Ebony, the family’s 9-year-old Scottish terrier-schnauzer mix, takes the deployments hard, moping about the house and keeping to herself. “It takes a couple of weeks for her to come to terms with the fact that dad is not here,” says Casson, of Killeen, Texas. Ebony inevitably forgoes her normal bed in the master bedroom to seek comfort sleeping alongside one of the children.

Terrier Schnauzer mix

This article didn’t come with a photograph of Ebony, but I imagine she looks something like this.

Fourteen-year-old Elijah, the oldest, is the main support for the dog, which joined the family when the boy was 5. “He’s been Ebony’s primary caretaker” whenever his father is away, says Casson. “He feeds her and takes her on walks. He just fell into the role of taking care of her, much the way [many military] kids fall into other typically dad roles when they’re gone.”

Ebony is probably helping Elijah, too. Recent Tufts University research finds that a strong relationship with a pet is associated with better coping skills in children who are managing the stress of having a parent deployed. The study came out of the new Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction (TIHAI), which seeks to discover exactly how animals help us better handle physical and emotional stress, commit to fitness and educational goals, overcome physical disabilities and recover from psychological trauma.

Animals have been a part of our lives for thousands of years. We started keeping company with them as soon as we realized that dogs could help us hunt, cats would exterminate the rodents pilfering our grain stores and horses offered transportation.

But that’s not the whole story. Why do we continue to embrace these domesticated animals like members of our family, even though they no longer fulfill our pragmatic needs? The new Tufts institute, launched in 2015, is examining the importance of our relationships with other species. But instead of working in the traditional silos of fields such as veterinary medicine, human medicine and psychology, TIHAI draws on faculty, staff and students from myriad areas of expertise.

“We bring together all these different disciplines to put some sound evidence behind what we intuitively know is true: animals can enhance our lives in so many ways,” says Lisa Freeman, J86, V91, N96, a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who directs the Institute.

Source:  TuftsNow

Emotions matter: a dog’s view of facial expressions

A recent study from the University of Helsinki shows that the social gazing behavior of domestic dogs resembles that of humans: dogs view facial expressions systematically, preferring eyes. In addition, the facial expression alters their viewing behavior, especially in the face of threat. The study was published in the science journal PLOS ONE.

The study uused eye gaze tracking to demonstrate how dogs view the emotional expressions of dog and human faces. Dogs looked first at the eye region and generally examined eyes longer than nose or mouth areas. Species-specific characteristics of certain expressions attracted their attention, for example the mouths of threatening dogs. However, dogs appeared to base their perception of facial expressions on the whole face.

Threatening faces evoked attentional bias, which may be based on an evolutionary adaptive mechanism: the sensitivity to detect and avoid threats represents a survival advantage.

“The tolerant behavior strategy of dogs toward humans may partially explain the results. Domestication may have equipped dogs with a sensitivity to detect the threat signals of humans and respond them with pronounced appeasement signals”, says researcher Sanni Somppi from the University of Helsinki.

This is the first evidence of emotion-related gaze patterns in non-primates. Already 150 years ago Charles Darwin proposed that the analogies in the form and function of human and non-human animal emotional expressions suggest shared evolutionary roots.  Recent findings provide modern scientific support for Darwin’s old argument.

Facial expressions research

Dogs view facial expressions on a monitor

A total of 31 dogs of 13 different breeds attended the study. Prior to the experiment the dogs were clicker-trained to stay still in front of a monitor without being cued or restrained.

Source:  AlphaGalileo media release

I have previously blogged about other University of Helsinki research.  These posts include:

 

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A dog’s prayer

A dog's prayer

Dogs in history

As man’s best friend, dogs have been at our side through important moments in history.  Today, I came across this photo in a collection of photos from scrap metal drives held during World War II.

America needed raw materials for the war; a single tank weighed 18 tons.

Scrap metal drives were a way for the community to get behind the war effort, often competing with one another to see who could collect the most metals.

And of course dogs helped…

Dog in World War II scrap metal drive

Image: Leslie Jones/Boston Public Library

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

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Doggy quote of the month for February

Martin Luther King

Treating heart disorders in dogs

A novel therapy tested by University of Guelph scientists for treating a fatal heart disorder in dogs might ultimately help in diagnosing and treating heart disease in humans.

Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) professors Glen Pyle and Lynne O’Sullivan have also identified potential causes of inherited dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) or “weak heart.”

The groundbreaking study was published this month in the American Journal of Physiology.

Cardiology exam

“The cardiovascular systems of dogs and people are very similar,” said Pyle, a professor in OVC’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and a member of U of G’s Centre for Cardiovascular Investigations.

“It allows us to do comparative investigations that can advance understanding of this fatal condition.”

In both dogs and people with DCM, the weakened heart muscle becomes unable to pump blood around the body. The cause of the problem is often unknown, although it’s common to involve genetics.

Researchers suspect malfunctioning muscle proteins cause the heart to weaken, allowing it to dilate like an overfilled balloon.

DCM is the second leading cause of heart failure in dogs, and it’s especially common in large breeds. Dogs typically show no symptoms until the disease is well-advanced.

The condition is often inherited; up to 60 per cent of Doberman Pinschers are affected during their lifetime.  Other breeds such as Irish wolfhounds and Great Danes also have high rates.

In people, 30 to 50 per cent of DCM cases are hereditary.

The end result of DCM is congestive heart failure. While medical advances have reduced deaths from congestive heart failure by 40 per cent in the past decade, the condition still afflicts hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and the five-year mortality rate remains high.

Aging populations worldwide are likely to cause dramatic increases in the rate of heart failure in the upcoming decades, Pyle said.

“The cause of a substantial percentage of DCM cases remains unknown,” he said.  “This is why it’s urgent to develop novel agents that can improve heart function.”

For the study, Pyle and O’Sullivan, a clinical cardiologist in OVC’s Health Sciences Centre, worked with researchers at the University of Washington to test a novel therapy in diseased heart cells.

 The therapy involves introducing a molecule involved in muscle contraction. In heart cells from dogs with DCM, it restored normal function. The next step is developing a gene therapy that would allow the molecule to be produced in heart muscle cells in patients with DCM.

“This suggests it’s a promising therapeutic approach worth further investigating for the treatment of DCM,” said O’Sullivan. One of 10 board-certified veterinary cardiologists in Canada, she runs OVC’s Doberman DCM screening program.

The researchers also discovered some problems in the heart muscle that likely contribute to DCM.  “This may shed light on the mechanical impairment in failing hearts,” Pyle said.

The Guelph scientists are also working with researchers in Finland on DCM genetics and proteins. That work might lead to development of therapies for targeting specific proteins, said Pyle.

Both researchers belong to U of G’s Centre for Cardiovascular Investigations, one of a few centres worldwide studying heart disease from single molecules to clinical applications.

Source:  University of Guelph media release

Izzy’s cabin fever

For the last few days it has been raining when we normally go out for morning walks.  And Izzy doesn’t like walking when it is really raining.  She prefers to do her business and head for home.

But those shorter walks (thankfully, the afternoon walks haven’t been affected by rain) have meant that she has excess energy.  This energy burst forth this afternoon when she had to play with a range of toys before she settled for dinner and a rest. This went on for over 30 minutes – most unusual for my sedate greyhound.

Here she is, in all her glory, playing with her basketball:

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

Re-branding and going viral

It’s been particularly busy the last few days.  I had expected it to be busy – just not this busy.

The planned part of the weekend was my company re-branding.  At long last, my business is now The Balanced Dog Ltd – a practice focused on professional dog massage and natural care.

When I started in business in 2007, it was as a maker of preservative-free dog treats and cakes and so the company name of Canine Catering suited…but by 2010, my dog massage practice was growing and it is this aspect of natural dog care that has become my passion.

The new name also reflects my interests in Traditional Chinese Medicine and nutrition.  It’s all about balance and health.

But what I didn’t expect this weekend was my first truly viral post on Facebook.  A client of mine shared this cartoon with me and it all took off from there:

This is Jill

You see, last month my column about this subject was published in NZ Dog World magazine.  I’m increasingly concerned about how people are taking to Facebook for medical diagnosis (instead of seeking professional veterinary care).

It’s okay to seek advice from peers when your dog has a known condition.  Support groups for all types of disorders exist on social media; I’ve used them myself.

And I guess a lot of people agree with me – I’ve tripled the number of Facebook likes on my page and have had over 1.5 million views.  Not bad for an independent canine massage practitioner from little old New Zealand…

Thanks for reading my blog; I’ve been writing it for five years now and I still enjoy it and the connections I have made with some dedicated dog parents.

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

Oh…and here’s my column about “Dr Facebook” if you’re interested:

December 2015