Tag Archives: dog care

Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016

The 2011 study into companion animals in this country has been updated and the 2016 report is now available from the NZ Companion Animal Council.  Download it here.

 

Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016

There are lots of facts, figures and data quoted in the report.

Things I noticed in my first reading include:

  • 13% of dog owners prepare homemade food specifically for their animals (yes!)
  • The vast majority of people who have companion animals view them as members of the family.  As such, many trends seen in human wellness and wellbeing are mirrored in pet care.
  • The gender and age profiles of the veterinary profession are changing.  Younger veterinarians are more likely to be female than male.
  • Visits to the vet represent one of the most significant areas of expenditure for households with companion animals (that’s probably not a surprise to most of you).
  • Expenditure on pet insurance has increased by 133% from 2011.

If you are interested in the care of your animals, then this report is well worth downloading.  See how you stack up in terms of the statistics and trends.

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

I don’t understand…

I often chat with my human clients (the ones who pay the bills) when working on their dog. This week, one my clients and I were chatting about her dog’s nutrition plan.  She mentioned that her neighbor was feeding a cheap food that wasn’t balanced.  And more importantly, he didn’t seem to care.

She said “I don’t understand why people get dogs, say they love them, and then don’t bother to feed a quality food.”

I, of course, agreed.

And then I got to thinking about the other things I don’t understand:

  • I don’t understand why some people get a dog and then never let it live inside the house with them and their family.
  • I don’t understand why dog owners think ‘cheap’ anything is appropriate for their dog’s health and well-being.
  • I don’t understand why people adopt puppies and then don’t take them to puppy training classes.
  • I don’t understand why people adopt older dogs and don’t invest the time to train them.
  • I don’t understand why anyone things it’s okay to hit a dog, or neglect it.
  • I don’t understand why some dog owners don’t take their dog out for daily exercise and enrichment.
  • I don’t understand why some people don’t accept their lifetime responsibility to their animal.
  • I don’t understand why people don’t spay or neuter their dog (and then some put it up for adoption and expect the new owner to do it).
  • I don’t understand why some people have children and then say they have to re-home their dog because they are too busy – the dog was there first.
  • I don’t understand why, when their dog is in pain or injured, the owner goes onto Facebook for advice rather than taking their dog to the vet (with urgency).

Daisy in sunshine 2014IMG_0577

I have been lucky enough to have some incredible dogs in my life (above are Daisy (now deceased) and Izzy (my retired racing greyhound).  I proudly say that they have always come first.

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

Brushing your dog’s teeth

I see a lot of dogs in my massage practice who have bad breath and/or other noticeable signs of dental disease.  Ask most veterinarians and they’ll tell you that they do a lot of ‘dentals’ during the course of any given week.  If your dog requires teeth to be extracted because of infection, cracking, or gum disease, your healthcare bill will quickly increase.

The first line of defense in keeping your dog’s teeth healthy is a good diet of wholesome ingredients.  That includes chews and bones.  Raw diets excel in this because they use bones as a staple part of the diet but I have also seen dogs with excellent teeth who are fed commercial dog foods – typically supplemented with fresh ingredients – and with bones and chews a regular part of the regime.

Some owners feed a combination of raw and commercial diets; I personally like this balanced approach and it is what I feed my own dog.

But, and here’s the but…bones and chews don’t solve the dental disease problem for a good number of dogs.   Why?

  • Some dogs just aren’t naturally strong chewers; they aren’t motivated by chewing for very long – even on a fresh and meaty bone
  • Dogs who have been rescued or adopted may already have already experienced damage to their teeth or suffered early in life because of a poor diet or starvation
  • I believe that some dogs, like people, have a mouth chemistry that pre-disposes them to tartar build-up.  Dogs are individuals and we simply can’t rule out that nature deals the bad-teeth card to some dogs
  • Dogs who have been born with defects such as cleft palates usually have something wrong with their teeth from the outset; bones and chews may be difficult for these dogs

So what’s the next step?

My view is definitely teeth-brushing.  We train our children to do this daily.  Why would it be any different for a domesticated dog?

[And, with hand on heart, most vets will choose teeth brushing over a special ‘dental diet’ any day.]  The issue here is having the patience and persistence to brush teeth effectively.  Unfortunately, a lot of owners simply give up because of their dog’s protests and vets then become conditioned to ‘water down’ the advice by saying ‘try it a couple of days per week..’ and ‘feed a dental diet.’

I brush my dog’s teeth daily.  Izzy is a retired racing greyhound, a breed known for their bad teeth.  By the time Izzy was adopted at age 5 1/2, her teeth were noticeably unstable and worn down from what must have been chewing on the bars of a kennel or some other surface equally as unforgiving.  She had teeth extracted as part of her adoption medical visit.

I like this very straightforward video from The Whole Dog Journal on the subject of teeth brushing.  The only oversight is that the video doesn’t cover the triple-headed toothbrush design which I prefer.  My concern with the long-handled toothbrushes is that it is easy to poke a dog in the mouth with them, particularly if they are fussing with you over getting their teeth brushed in the first place…

Triple headed dog toothbrush

A triple-headed dog toothbrush – my choice!

There are other natural solutions to dental care which include the use of homeopathics and herbs.  All of these are my choice before a dental diet.  Why?

Well here’s the ingredient list off the label of a well-known prescription diet product.  Does it sound healthy/wholesome to you?

Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Pork Fat, Soybean Mill Run, Lactic Acid, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, L-Lysine, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene

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

Get Healthy, Get a Dog

The Harvard Medical School has published a special health report entitled Get Healthy, Get a Dog:  The health benefits of canine companionship. 

The report details the many ways that dogs can improve the lives of humans.

Get Healthy, Get a DogIn promoting the report, the School says:

There are many reason why dogs are called humans’ best friends: not only do they offer unparalleled companionship, but a growing body of research shows they also boost human health. Owning a dog can prompt you to be more physically active — have leash, will walk. It can also:

  • help you be calmer, more mindful, and more present in your life
  • make kids more active, secure, and responsible
  • improve the lives of older individuals
  • make you more social and less isolated

Just petting a dog can reduce the petter’s blood pressure and heart rate (while having a positive effect on the dog as well).

The report can be purchased in print (US$20), in .pdf electronic version (US$18) or both (US$29) from this webpage.

I’m pleased to see this type of publication coming from such a reputable institution.  Dogs and humans both benefit when  humans take responsibility for a committed and healthy relationship.  I particularly like that the report also covers grief, since we all will face grieving the loss of beloved pet (given the odds – since we live a lot longer than our dogs do).

The chapters in the report include:

  • Our dogs, ourselves
    • Benefits of dog ownership
    • Service dogs
  • How dogs make us healthier
    • Physical activity
    • Cardiovascular benefits
    • Reduced asthma and allergies in kids
    • Psychological benefits
    • How human contact benefits dogs
  • SPECIAL SECTION
    • Nutrition guidelines for dogs
  • Exercise for you and your dog
    • Exercise whys and wherefores
    • The exercise prescription for people
    • Exercise guidelines for dogs
    • Help your dog avoid injuries
    • Walking with your dog
    • Hiking
    • Running
    • Biking
    • Swimming
    • Playing fetch, Frisbee, or flying disc
    • Agility training
    • Skijoring
    • Playing inside the house
  • Adopting a dog
    • Deciding on the qualities you want
    • Breed considerations
    • Finding your dog
  • How to be a responsible dog owner
    • Basic equipment
    • Veterinary care
    • Dogs in cars
    • Providing for your dog while you’re at work
  • Raising a well-behaved dog
    • Obedience training
    • Housetraining
    • Keeping dogs off furniture … or not
    • Soothing the anxious hound
  • Grieving a loss
  • Resources
  • Glossary

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

Watching your dog’s waistline

Body condition score

Take a look at the chart above.  It shows you how to spot ideal body condition on a dog.  Earlier this week, I was speaking with someone and she commented that she felt Daisy was too thin.  In fact, Daisy had just been to the veterinarian for her health check and was declared to be in ideal condition with an excellent body score.

The problem is that the person speaking with me owns several obese and overweight dogs.  She knows her dogs must lose weight, but she has become so accustomed to seeing an overweight dog that a dog in good condition looks too thin to her.

I work with dogs who need to lose weight by recommending exercise programmes combined with making the dog comfortable through massage, acupressure and laser therapies.  Dogs don’t get fat overnight; their weight loss programmes take a bit of time too.

Over these holidays, please don’t overfeed your dog.  And take the time to review the body conditions listed above.  If your dog isn’t in ideal condition, what do you need to do to get them there?

When your dog has the runs…

A client rang me this week to say that her dog had a major case of runny poos – the runs – or diarrhea to be exact.  She said her dog was her normal happy self but was going to the toilet regularly with fairly dramatic consequences – would I keep our massage appointment?

My answer was ‘no’ – not advisable – not because I was concerned that I’d have poo all over my massage table but because this dog’s body was telling us something.  Diarrhea is a symptom and not a disorder in itself and the dog’s body was working double-time to rid itself of an irritant.  Her system had enough to handle and a massage would only add to her metabolic load as lactic acid was released by the massage.  She didn’t need that.

My advice was to withhold food for 12 to 24 hours and to keep up the fluids.  Some people add low salt chicken or vegetable stock to the dog’s water bowl to encourage them to drink and keep hydrated, for example.  When food was again on the menu, I suggested replacing half the normal volume of food with cooked pumpkin to add fibre to the diet that the dog could easily tolerate and to keep this up for a few days until the stools returned to a normal consistency.

Other home remedies include a diet of boiled chicken with white rice, for example.

Typically, diarrhea is the result of a digestive indiscretion but it can be the result of poisoning from household or garden chemicals, a symptom of parasites such as hookworm, or a food allergy.  Some worming treatments can also stimulate a bought of diarrhea.

If a dog has additional symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, abdominal pain, blood in the diarrhea, vomiting and fever  then you need to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.   In this case, the dog seemed happy in herself and so that was a sign that she was probably not in danger.

A trip to the vet is a good idea if the diarrhea lasts for more than five days or so.

Diarrhea isn’t any fun for the dog owner or the dog.  Keeping an eye on symptoms is critically important to ensure you do the right thing when your dog has the runs…

Your dog is not a garbage can

This is a garbage can...

This is a garbage can…

...and this is a dog.

…and this is a dog

Please understand the difference this Christmas!

Veterinarians around the world see a surge in cases of pancreatitis each year during the Christmas holiday season.  That’s because our homes are filled with rich, fatty foods that are as tempting to dogs as they are to us.  A single high-fat meal is enough to trigger the problem – and so the well-meaning family members who empty their plate in your dog’s bowl rather than the garbage are often at fault.

Low protein, high fat diets have been known to cause pancreatitis and it is a life-treatening condition. Symptoms of pancreatitis are acute vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, and in some cases, fever. The dog may have a tucked-up belly and assume a prayer position. The abdominal pain is caused by the release of digestive enzymes into the pancreas and surrounding tissue.

More severe cases of pancreatitis can develop rapidly and a dog can go into shock – a trip to the emergency veterinary center is essential.

Vets will treat your dog with fluids, antibiotics and pain relief and will withdraw all foods for a number of days to rest the pancreas.   Assuming your dog survives,  its pancreas may be permanently damaged.  In these cases, your dog may develop diabetes mellitus if the islet cells have been destroyed or may develop exocrine pancreatic insufficiency if the acinar cells have been destroyed.

Dogs who have experienced one pancreatitis episode are susceptible to having future attacks that can be anywhere from mild to severe.

The lesson?  Your dog is not a garbage can.  Treats should be served in moderation and carefully monitored by one member of the family to ensure the dog isn’t over-fed.  Avoiding table scraps is always a good idea.