Tag Archives: anxiety

Ebony’s story

Ebony's photo

This is Ebony; she was a Chocolate Labrador cross – a deep dark chocolate in colour (not milk chocolate like many Labs).  She was my best friend from 1998, when I adopted her via Dogwatch which facilitated a private adoption, to October 2003, when she suddenly succumbed to cancer of the liver and pancreas.

Ebony was highly reactive to sounds and, particularly, fireworks.  So I think of her a lot around Guy Fawkes celebrations each year.

Each year, I’d go to the vet for a prescription for sedatives and then for many nights around the official celebration, I would have to try to dose her before any fireworks started.  This was easier said than done.  As many of us know, people sometimes set off fireworks even before darkness has fallen.  The label recommended intake within 1 hour before any stimulus…

Most of the time, sedatives weren’t enough.  Copious amounts of Rescue Remedy in her water bowl and sprayed around the house didn’t seem to help much, either.  Ebony would run and pace the house, hyperventilating and salivating.  It was heartbreaking to watch.  Sometimes, I would turn the radio on in the car, which was parked in the garage, and I’d put her in the back seat (as usual) with me in the front pretending that any minute we would be going out for a ride.  But in reality, I was just trying to get as many layers of sound-proofing between us and the fireworks that I could.

Ebony wasn’t fooled, although sometimes our car trips to nowhere did help alleviate some of the sounds.

The bottom line was that when Ebony was over-threshold with fear, there wasn’t much that could be done until the fireworks stopped.

One year, we were woken from a sound sleep when someone decided to light off fireworks.  It was late by our standards, past 10 pm when most families and working people would not be up lighting fireworks on a work night.

Ebony was immediately over-threshold, barking and pacing.  And then she lost control of her bowels in our bed.  She was doubly stressed by this, and I had to strip the bed and put everything in the washing machine and re-make the bed with fresh linens.

Another year, Ebony barked so badly that she suffered a rectal prolapse.  She had literally barked herself inside/out; part of her rectum had come out of the anus.   It was incredibly upsetting for the both of us and I knew she was in pain and discomfort, too.  The vet was able to lubricate the tissue and help replace it back inside and I had to feed a low-irritant food to her for a week to ensure that we gave the area a chance to rest.

I clearly remember after this incident how much noise her digestive system made – gurgling – for days.  Looking back, I’m sure that the stress and digestive upsets she endured because of fireworks had something to do with her succumbing to liver and pancreatic cancer – before she even reached aged 10.

So you might wonder why I’m so passionate about the banning of the private sale of fireworks and now you know.  They hurt my dog many times over and when you hurt my dog, I’m unlikely to forget.

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

Advertisements

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

Kids with dogs have less anxiety

A research team at Bassett Medical Center in New York has found that kids with a dog at home experience far less clinical anxiety than do children who are dog-less.

This small study adds to the growing body of knowledge about the human-animal bond and the positive health impacts of dog ownership.

Child and dog

Read more about this study on NBC News.


Other blog posts about kids, dogs and health:

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

The companionship of dogs helps kids undergoing cancer treatment

Although survival rates for children diagnosed with cancer have increased dramatically over the past 40 years, hard evidence of proven psychosocial benefits to improve quality of life among patients and families during treatment has remained elusive.

Many hospitals have therapy dogs who visit with patients, and anecdotal evidence underscores the positive impact these programs have on children with cancer and their families.

Preliminary findings from a new, multi-center trial provides some of the first quantitative data to validate these claims.  The study, to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, DC, collected data on blood pressure, pulse rates and anxiety levels of children before and after a weekly visit from a therapy dog. During the visits, children pet or talk to the dog, brush its fur, view the dog’s photos, watch the dog practicing tricks or commands, and learn about dog breeds.

Photo courtesy of University of Texas Health Science Center

Photo courtesy of University of Texas Health Science Center

Preliminary findings show that blood pressure readings in the group receiving animal-assisted interventions remains more stable across all sessions than in the control group, said lead researcher Amy McCullough, Ph.D., National Director of Humane Research and Therapy for the American Humane Association. Similarly, there was a higher degree of variability in heart rate within the control group patients than with the treatment group patients.

“These findings suggest that the dog may have a calming effect on the patient,” Dr. McCullough said.

In addition to the effects on pulse and heart rate to date, preliminary results indicate the canine encounters appear to improve anxiety levels among parents. Parents in the control group report fluctuating anxiety levels with peaks and valleys; parents in the treatment group show more consistency in anxiety levels, and even a small decline in anxiety levels by the end of their participating in the study. Overall, children in both groups saw a decrease in anxiety over the course of their study enrollment. Researchers are also gauging the therapy dogs’ temperament and behavior during the visits.

“This study will be a milestone in understanding of the benefits of the vital bond shared between people and animals,” Dr. McCullough said.

Source:  American Academy of Pediatrics media release

A dog’s perspective of your trip to the vet

This is a great video made for veterinary practices – reminding them about the layout and setting they should provide for their dog clients.

I particularly like the reference to stress and the effect it has on recovery time.  That is one reason why I recommend massage, done by a professional, when a dog is recovering.

Massage will help to reduce the anxiety and aid blood flow and recovery.  I also use acupressure to help clear the anesthetic medications from the dog’s body.

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

Animal therapy’s positive effects on college students

Animal-assisted therapy can reduce symptoms of anxiety and loneliness among college students, according to researchers at Georgia State University, Idaho State University and Savannah College of Art and Design. Their findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health.

German Shepherd Sophie is a trained assistance dog.  Photo courtesy of Georgia State University

German Shepherd Sophie is a trained assistance dog. Photo courtesy of Georgia State University

The researchers provided animal-assisted therapy to 55 students in a group setting at a small arts college in the southeastern United States.  They found a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms following animal-assisted therapy, in which a registered therapy dog was under the supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner.

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported their interaction with the therapy dog, Sophie, was the most significant part of the program.

The group sessions were held twice monthly during an academic quarter. Students were invited to stop by and interact with the therapy dog as long as they wished, up to two hours. They were allowed to pet, hug, feed, brush, draw, photograph, sit near and play fetch with the therapy dog.

Dr. Leslie Stewart of Idaho State, who led the study, began the research as a Ph.D. student at Georgia State. She collaborated with Drs. Franco Dispenza, Lindy Parker and Catherine Chang of Georgia State and Ms. Taffey Cunnien of Savannah College of Art and Design.

The prevalence of anxiety and loneliness on college campuses has increased, placing extra demands on college counseling centers. Budget strains have made it necessary for these centers to find creative ways to meet the needs of their students.

This study suggests animal-assisted therapy could be an effective way for college counseling centers to meet the growing demands of their students. It is one of the first to apply animal-assisted therapy in a group, college setting and use a systematic form of measurement.

“College counseling centers are also becoming more and more reflective of community mental health agencies,” Dispenza said. “That’s something that’s been noted in the field in probably the last 10 to 15 years. College counseling centers aren’t seeing students struggling with academics, which major to pick or how to study. They’re coming in with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, pervasive mood disorders and considerable contextual strains that are happening out in the world, such as poverty and experiences of homelessness, as well as a history of medical issues and family health issues.”

To become a registered therapy dog, the animal and handler must complete a series of evaluations and courses, which involve their grooming, temperament, previous training and relationship with their handler. Dogs can be ideal therapy animals because they have become so domesticated and the seeming ability to read cues between dogs and humans is probably the most pronounced. For instance, a dog can tell when a human is sad, Dispenza said.

“The presence of a therapy dog facilitates a therapeutic connection between the client and the mental health professional,” Parker said. “When you’re trying to do mental health work with someone, establishing that therapeutic relationship and rapport is so important. Any way to do it faster or more effectively only helps facilitate the therapeutic process.”

Source:  Georgia State University media release

Teddy’s journey: pain and anxiety come to the fore

The past week has been a tough one for Teddy and for Jill.

When Teddy first came home from the hospital, he seemed to be adjusting quickly.  He’s always been an independent boy and so he has rejected any support such as a strap or harness when taken out for toileting.

However, this week, Teddy became noticeably withdrawn.  For much of the time, he was restless and would whimper frequently.  We were sure he was in pain.  Because he was so out of sorts, we also felt that he was suffering from anxiety.

When I saw Teddy on Monday, Jill was stressed and Teddy was clearly not himself.  We introduced a hot water bottle (or ‘hottie’ as they are known here) on his back which seemed to provide relief and comfort.  I also gave Jill a CD from the Through a Dog’s Ear range.  This music is designed specifically for dogs to help calm and treat anxiety.  These seemed to assist Teddy in the short term to relax and rest.

But Teddy needed better pain management…

Teddy and his 'hottie'

Teddy and his ‘hottie’

Jill took Teddy back to his vet several times this week to discuss pain relief.  She freely admits, “I didn’t feel that I was being listened to as the owner.  I knew Teddy better than anyone.  Persistence, in my case, finally paid off.”

We seemed to agree on Monday that he was taken off his pain medication too quickly – he was taking only Previcox at the time –  and his body had been left vulnerable.  A Fentanyl patch was re-introduced on Monday and replaced again on Thursday.  Jill also started Teddy on Tramadol on Thursday and Teddy received a ketamine injection, too.

Meanwhile, I could tell that Teddy’s back muscles were stiff; his top line did not seem normal, and he was clearly distressed at being handled along the withers and the back.  Thankfully, since Teddy was too uncomfortable for deep massage, I was able to use the low level laser along his spine and muscles to help with blood flow and pain relief.  I know I want to passively stretch Teddy’s spine but we agreed to wait until Teddy was more comfortable before attempting this.  I was able to do passive range of motion stretching on Teddy’s legs.

Armed with this information Jill took Teddy for acupuncture on Tuesday and an osteopathic adjustment on Friday.  Both his acupuncture vet and his osteopath agreed that Teddy was in pain and that support with traditional veterinary medicines were needed.  The osteopath used gentle traction on Teddy’s back since she found his spine has become compressed.

With his pain properly managed, we can do more to help Teddy’s muscles, tendons and ligaments to adjust to his new gait.  And then true rehabilitation and exercise can begin including a greater focus on core muscle strength.

During this stressful week, Jill took to the Internet for help with Teddy’s condition.  She found a wonderful site – Tripawds Blogs – for owners of amputee dogs.  Owners soon responded with news that helped to assure Jill she had made the right decision for Teddy and gave her information to help her discuss pain management with her vet.

Owners who have been through similar adjustments with their dogs said:

  • Amputees go through an initial ‘good’ period after coming home, only to suffer because they do too much, too soon
  • The muscles of the body are under incredible strain because the body’s mechanics have changed rapidly
  • In Teddy’s case, his amputation was not preceded by a period of pain or dysfunction in the front leg – so his body had no time to adjust (such as would be the case for an osteosarcoma patient, for example)
  • Pain management medication is critical; the switch from Fentanyl to Tramadol was recommended
  • Teddy’s size is a big advantage – he’s a lot smaller than, say, a Labrador with the same conditions
  • Every dog is different and it takes a little time to find the right balance of therapies

Jill says, “In hindsight, we really took things too quickly and allowed Teddy to move around the garden area with enthusiasm.  I wish I had thought of this sooner and we may have avoided him seizing up so badly.  The Tripawds site has been a fabulous resource for me  knowing that there are others who have been through this before us.

I do feel that vets should listen to owners when it comes to understanding their animal.  And if you are not happy with your vet, you need to find someone who you are more comfortable with.  The vet can’t have all the answers when they are not with the dog as often as the owner is.  This proves that vets are not the final word in recovery – and I’m grateful that complementary practitioners are part of Teddy’s healthcare team”

It’s a new week – and we are all hopeful that Teddy is back on track to recovery.  He’s booked for massage and acupuncture this week.

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