Whenever I take on a new client, I use a health questionnaire that covers current conditions as well as the dog’s health history. One of the issues I address is any recent changes to the dog’s behaviour or living conditions.
What I am trying to ascertain is if a dog is in pain or having adjustment difficulties. There is a clear link between pain and aggression and this has been supported in a recent study by researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.
In the Spanish study, which has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 12 dogs that were brought in by their owners for ‘aggression problems’ were studied. All were found to have pain-induced aggression with eight diagnosed as having hip dysplasia.
The breeds in the study were: a Giant Schnauzer, Irish Setter, Pit Bull, Dalmatian, two German shepherds, Neapolitan Mastiff, Shih-tzu, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow Chow and Doberman.
The researchers concluded “if the pet is handled when in pain, it will quickly act aggressively to avoid more discomfort without the owner being able to prevent it.”
So, when a dog is behaving differently or is “out-of-sorts”, a visit to the vet is recommended. Behaviour changes can be the first indicator that something is wrong and your vet can help to run appropriate tests to see if there is an underlying health problem.
Dogs have a way of not telling us they are in pain until a problem is more pronounced because their natural instinct is to protect themselves by not exhibiting any noticeable vulnerabilities. Therapies such as massage and low level laser (which I employ in my canine rehabilitation practice) are useful in helping to manage pain through appropriate stimulation of acupressure points and managing muscle, tendon and ligament condition. I’m also a strong supporter of acupuncture and refer clients to a local vet who is trained in veterinary acupuncture.
These complementary therapies can be employed alongside traditional pain medications such as NSAIDs to support your dog’s quality of life. When pain is managed, quality of life improves for everyone in the household.
Source: Plataforma SINC. “If your dog is aggressive, maybe it is in pain.” ScienceDaily, 13 Jun. 2012. Web. 15 Jun. 2012.
Posted in dog care, research
Tagged acupressure, aggression, Autonomous University of Spain, behavior, behaviour, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman, dog massage, dogs, german shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, health history, hip dyplasia, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, ligament, low level laser, massage, mastiff, muscle, NSAIDs, pain, Pit Bull, research, tendon, therapies, veterinary acupuncture
The notion of canine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is still somewhat new, although those of us living in the Christchurch region of Canterbury (New Zealand) have witnessed first-hand how dogs cope with extraordinary stress caused by our ongoing earthquakes.
I have one dog in my massage therapy practice who is undergoing treatment for post-earthquake stress. She shows signs of self-mutilation (excessive licking) and her owner reports that she is a happy dog when taken on trips away from home but she shows worry and anxiety when she returns. She’s getting better, though, through love, attention, and massage therapy to work on acupressure points that help with the stress response. It’s all about desensitization and it takes time.
Earlier this month, the New York Times published this article: After Duty, Dogs Suffer Like Soldiers. In this article, you’ll read that there is a specialist military veterinary hospital called the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. There’s even a chart being used to show the acupressure points of the dog! The hospital was named after Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Holland, who died in 2006 when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq.
Some military dogs are being retired from service and re-homed: For War Dogs, Life with PTSD Requires Patient Owners talks about one adoptive family’s approach to caring for their dog, Buck.
Earlier this week, I took a call from a dog owner interested in what dog massage could do to assist her dog in managing its anxiety. As we talked, I could see that the dog was manifesting some of the typical signs of anxiety. These include:
- excessive panting
- a change to elimination habits
- self-mutilation, often leading to problems such as lick granuloma
- change in personality, sometimes leading to aggression when the dog is highly stressed
- reduction in coat condition, and general signs of being unwell
Our dogs often show similar symptoms to us when major stress is an issue; however they can’t talk about it like we can. It is up to us as dog owners to pick up on the changes in our dogs and be open minded to figure out the causes.
Luckily, this owner knows what started the problem and so we are already halfway there to designing a treatment regime for her dog.
Massage therapy is useful for dogs suffering from anxiety because I can help calm the nervous system, giving the dog a ‘time out.’ I will also show dog owners useful acupressure points to assist with calming and we will work together on a regime that helps the dog to overcome its fears. Anxiety problems rarely develop overnight, and so it takes a bit of time to help the dog recover.
For acute conditions of stress and anxiety, I’ve previously reviewed D.A.P. Read that item here.
On Friday evening, Prime showed a BBC documentary on owners of special needs pets. It was great to see this issue being covered on New Zealand television because there are owners here who need support as they care for special needs pets. I love working with special needs dogs in my massage practice and the owners of these animals are special people, too.
This is Ollie, a Dalmatian who is unable to walk on his own. However, he is not in pain and is very alert and happy. His therapy regime includes massage and acupressure, laser therapy, and regular acupuncture treatments. His strength in his front legs is improving and he has a mobility cart to help him with rehab.
Ollie in his mobility cart.
Ollie’s mobility cart was purchased from Doggon’ Wheels and imported into New Zealand because his owner could not find a supplier locally. We measured Ollie for his cart and the cart was made especially for these measurements.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand