Tag Archives: Christmas

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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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.”

Puppies are not presents

The RSPCA has issued a new advert for 2017 to illustrate the message that puppies are not Christmas presents – they are a lifetime commitment that a family should knowingly make.

Follow the story of Woody, the pup given as a Christmas gift who ends up neglected, abandoned and in the care of the RSPCA.

Kindness goes a long way and animal welfare agencies work 24/7 – throughout the holiday season – taking care of unwanted animals.

If you are considering adding a pet to your home, do your homework and be prepared for the unconditional love that an animal brings to your home – but with responsibilities.

Adopt, don’t shop.

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

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

Time to budget

It’s a holiday weekend in New Zealand  – for Labour Day.  And every year this holiday also marks the start of the pre-Christmas season.  christmas_dog_highdefinition_picture_168935

As many of you understand, Christmas falls in the summer school holiday period in New Zealand. Many companies shut down during this time and require their workers to take some of their annual leave, since trading can be minimal or non-existent.    If workers don’t have enough paid days, then it can mean time off without pay.

And every year, for a range of reasons including more money being spent on holidays, entertaining and gifts, I see owners who can’t fund the full costs of their dog’s care.

This blog post is a reminder about the items you need to set money aside for in your end of year budget. And the time to budget is NOW.

dog-budgeting

  • Food
  • Treats
  • Medications
  • Supplements
  • Costs for vet care, such as visits for required vaccinations if you are boarding your dog
  • Boarding and care costs, if you are heading away

Just as in people, medications and supplements are only effective if their dosage is kept up.  And dogs on things like pain medication will suffer with break-through pain as medications wear off.  In other cases – let’s say heart medication – stopping this medication could be life-threatening.

Because of their stoic nature, dogs often hide their pain and/or owners miss the signals – such as withdrawing from activity – which are indicators of a dog in pain.  For this reason, some owners think they can get away with a ‘short break’ from medication.

With supplements, once the loading doses are given and the effective dose is reached, there is a level of stability with the coverage given by the supplement.  Stop giving it and you are faced with starting a loading dose all over again.  Many owners miss this step and go back to regular dosages, further compromising the value to the dog of giving the supplement in the first place!

When we take on a dog into our family, we’re responsible for lifetime care as with any other family member.  When there is only so much money to go around, sometimes the silent member of the family – the dog – is the one to miss out.

Please remember health care is a basic right for all animals and plan your holiday budget accordingly.  If that means less money for Christmas festivities – so be it.

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

Doggy quote of the month for December

My own dog gone commercial

“My own dog…gone commercial. I can’t stand it!”

–  Charlie Brown, owner/guardian of Snoopy