Tag Archives: Greyhound

Bergie’s blog

One week ago today, our special friend Bergie passed away. I say ‘our’ because Bergie was special to Izzy and any dog that captured her heart would have always been special.

Bergie and Izzy were adopted from Greyhounds as Pets around the same time and we often met at greyhound walks.

Izzy loved the water at the beach; Bergie didn’t at first. He would bark at her whenever she played in the waves. Eventually, though, Bergie came to enjoy his beach walks and didn’t mind getting wet. I’d like to think that Izzy taught him the joy of the beach, since the beach was her happy place.

Bergie was a regular at Izzy’s birthday party each year, including the year that we hired the Dog Swim Spa and invited her friends to come for a swim. He enjoyed the car ride out of town for that one, too.

On the way to Izzy’s party, February 2019

Bergie even came along and had a swim session with Izzy once, where they rugged up afterwards and enjoyed the ride home together.

In the car, after swimming, 2017

Bergie lived on the east side of town, within walking distance of some of the ‘red zone’ which is land that was cleared after the earthquakes and no one is allowed to re-build there. It’s a great place for dogs, though. Bergie would meet Izzy at his special park for off-lead exercise. On one day in particular, he showed off for her by digging her a hole.

In 2018, Bergie strutted the catwalk at our Greyt Fashions fundraiser, looking handsome in his Dr Seuss collar and other outfits, too.

Bergie was also a regular customer for birthday cakes over the years

As with Izzy, age and arthritis started to catch up with him. Unlike a lot of his black greyhound friends, though, Bergie hardly had any grey hairs right up to the time that he passed. He was a very handsome boy, as seen in this photo in February of this year, relaxing after his massage (this photo is my favourite):

Bergie, February 2022, relaxing after his massage

What is it about the turning 12 and hoping your dog will make 13? Bergie was a year younger than Izzy and we celebrated his 12th birthday in early May. Looking back on it, though, he was withdrawn and didn’t engage much. By early June, he was in a lot of pain which the vet initially diagnosed as severe arthritic pain; a week later and with an x-ray, we had the news that it was the dreaded osteosarcoma and that his shoulder had been broken.

I gave Bergie his last massage on Saturday, 11th June. He was waiting for his Mum to arrive back from overseas that night so she could be there when it was his time to fly. It was a privilege to be able to make him more comfortable and, as I kissed him on his cheek, I told him to say hello to Izzy for me.

Rest in peace, Bergie. Another special dog that will not be forgotten.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Conversation

“Hey, Sox. We need to talk.”

‘bout what?

“About where this relationship is heading”

Whaddya mean?

“Well, you came here to stay as a foster dog last month.”

What’s foster?

“Foster means that I take care of you and teach you about being a pet, but you’re not mine.”

I’m not yours?

“No, but you did come to stay with me on a foster-to-adopt agreement.”

What’s adopt?

“Adopt is when I say that you should stay forever and become part of the family.”

I likes adopt

“Now, just checking. You want to be part of the family even though there are house rules?

Whaddya mean?

“So when I told you that you were naughty last night.  Do you know why?”

Why?

“Because you were hiking your leg and peeing in the hallway”

Oh

“And peeing inside is not acceptable.”

Oh

“Unless you are sick.  Are you sick?”

No, I’s not sick

“Then you have to agree to try harder about not peeing in the house.”

Okay.   But you pee in the house.

“What?  No I don’t.”

Yes you do.  On the shiny white chair.

“Sox, that’s a toilet.  I’m supposed to pee in it.  That’s where people pee.”

I think the shiny white chair is scary.

“Scary?  Is that why you come in every time I go to the toilet?”

Yes.  I worries about you there and think you need cuddles.

“No need to worry, Sox.  I can handle going to the toilet by myself.  But I think we are getting off track with this conversation…Do you like it here?”

Yes, but I no likes when you call me naughty.

“I only call you naughty when you are doing something that is not allowed.”

So if I no do things that are not allowed then you no call me naughty?

“That’s right.  I will call you A Good Boy.”

I is a Good Boy.

“Yes, Sox, I think you are a Good Boy.    I think you should stay and be my Little Boy.”

I’s not little.

“That’s true. You’re a big Greyhound. But if I adopt you, you’ll become My Little Boy.  Do you like the sound of that?”

Yup.  I be your Good Little Boy.

“Okay. Then I’ll sign the adoption papers and we can begin our life together.”  


I now make the official announcement that Sox has joined The Balanced Dog as my Little Boy and companion.  He is in training to be a massage demo dog, a café dog, and to like the water and waves at the beach. 

I look forward to sharing our adventures together.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Let me tell you about Rosie

Rosie is my foster dog; she arrived one month ago exactly, on 17 December 2021.

Rosie is an affectionate black greyhound who has had three unsuccessful adoption placements. You see, Rosie is profoundly deaf.

She was not born deaf, but she became deaf through ear infections – and what appears to be lots of them, or at least ones that had unsuccessful or no treatment. Her ear canals are so severely scarred that about the only sound she has reacted to was the high-pitched loud squeal of my burglar alarm which I set off accidentally last month.

But there is a lot more you need to know about Rosie to understand her

Rosie doesn’t know she is special needs. She simply lives in a world where she sees people’s lips move but no sound comes out. She is reluctant to make eye contact with new people and so can easily misread their intentions. She responds to emotional energy very well; she seems to know when someone is smiling and wants to give her a pat; I always ask them to allow her to come to them which works well.

When Izzy died, she certainly knew I was upset and came in for lots of cuddles and reassurance.

She isn’t so sure of people wearing masks because masks cover faces and Rosie needs faces to read the situation. I have been deliberately taking her places where she meets people in masks and where I am wearing mine. She even came with me to the drive-thru vaccination clinic when it was time for me to have my Covid-19 booster shot; she barked anxiously at the face outside the window.

Mask-wearing will be part of our lives for a while and Rosie needs to live successfully in a masked up world so I will continue exposing her in a controlled manner to mask-wearing people so she can become more confident. Today, for example, we went to the local SPCA op shop which welcomes pets. The shop attendants and the customers were all wearing masks. We didn’t have any issues.

Rosie has lots of energy. When the sun is up, so is she. Forget the advice that a greyhound is so placid that two, 20-minute walks per day are sufficient exercise. Rosie has been having two walks of at least 30-40 minutes each and cracks a good pace for the entire time. An hour’s long walk on the beach with greyhound Misty was not problem for her, either.

I gave Rosie a massage over the weekend (her first) and I can assure you that she has great muscle tone. For a girl who is now 6 years, 9 months old, she is in great shape!

Rosie would benefit from being adopted by a household with another dog who is well-settled and playful. Rosie likes to play (she has had several play dates and is enthusiastic about engaging with other dogs who are both off-lead and on-lead). A dog that could be Rosie’s mentor will give her someone to follow around and mimic. In my opinion, a chilled out dog who can teach Rosie the house rules will see her settle into a new adoptive home pretty quickly.

Meeting other dogs at the beach

Remember, though, that Rosie is deaf. She will always be deaf no matter how much training she receives. Rosie misses out on the low growls of dogs who are giving her a warning signal.

She doesn’t hear the children on the footpath who are coming from behind on scooters (startling her in the process). Whomever adopts Rosie needs to understand that they need to be her ears when they are out of the house – at all times. And when integrating into her new home, the dog:dog interactions will need to be supervised initially. Rosie doesn’t mean to be annoying, but she could be, in her enthusiasm to play.

Every greyhound needs a securely fenced section.

Rosie definitely needs one and always will. Off-lead exercise can only happen in securely fenced areas.

Rosie explores the section regularly throughout the day; the gate is always padlocked for added security

You may have heard that people who lose the their hearing seem to develop enhanced senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight. This is definitely the case with Rosie.

She is a sighthound. I can attest to the fact that Rosie triggers on all movement. So that is definitely cats, ducks, chickens, other birds, and rabbits. She also reacts to leaves, branches, pieces of rubbish and even my neighbour’s clothes on the line when they move in the breeze. Last week we were taking an afternoon walk along Papanui Road and the sunlight was reflecting off cars onto the ceiling of the shop walkway. Rosie startled at the reflections because it looked like something overhead was coming our way.

Consequently, it’s essential that anyone who walks Rosie does so with a firm grip of the leash and with it wrapped around their wrist. Always. And so that means that Rosie cannot be taken on walks by young members of an adoptive family. Adults only. Able-bodied ones, too. And please – a normal leash and not those horrible extension leads…

At my request, Rosie came with a lead that helps people know that she is a deaf dog. Her walking skills have improved considerably over the last month. She walks more calmly, mostly at my left side, although she will cross over the footpath when there is something interesting to investigate. Rosie is supposed to be a pet, not a competitive obedience dog and so I am happy to have her wander a bit. The important thing is that she has stopped tripping me up on walks with frantic zig-zagging in front of me.

If Rosie sees something of interest – like a neighbourhood cat – she will pull and rear up on her hind legs. Hold your ground and hold on tight. Rosie should always be walked in a harness for greater control and to avoid damage to her neck.

Rosie is a deep sleeper. All greyhounds sleep. Rosie sleeps more deeply than most. We know that dogs have a different sleep pattern than we do, but since Rosie cannot hear, it seems that she goes into a deep REM-like sleep more often. (This explains her energy levels when she’s awake – refreshed and ready to go!)

Greyhounds are known for their sleep startle – that sweet little greyhound can become a raving Cujo when wakened suddenly. In Rosie’s case, her risk of sleep startle is much greater. Therefore, I have developed a new habit of walking into a room with a good solid stomp of my foot. The vibrations will stir Rosie from her slumber.

The risk of sleep startle is another reason why Rosie cannot go to a home with small children, who are unlikely to remember the rules about engaging with a sleeping Rosie. Mature households only are needed as Rosie’s eventual adoptive family to keep everyone safe.

I mentioned earlier that Rosie is cuddly and affectionate. I have allowed her to sleep on my bed, particularly because she really wanted to snuggle and because she came one night to my bedroom at about 3 am when I was simply too tired to keep pushing her off the bed. Besides, I feel that since she has shown no interest in the sofa, she rightly deserves a chance to be a real pet greyhound and sleep on the bed.

Rosie is completely house-trained and she only barks when she is excited (such as when I am taking too much time to get dressed in the morning for our walk). I have had a pet cam running constantly for the last three weeks – she only whimpers a bit when I leave the house and then eventually settles on her bed for a deep sleep. She will sometimes go into the crate for a rest, but the crate is also strategically positioned so she can watch me in the kitchen from a safe distance.

In the interest of finding Rosie her forever home, I have begun working with Rosie on an essential cue – Look At Me. The Look At Me is the foundation for interacting with her handler so that she can then react to other visual cues which will be trained over time. I have already instituted her Come command, which is a vigourous tapping of my thigh.

We are perfecting her Look At Me and Come. Good things take time and I keep her training sessions short – only about 5-10 minutes each maximum. This ensures Rosie is set up for success. I am thoroughly happy to keep Rosie for as long as it takes until we find her the perfect match for her adoptive home and, in the meantime, we can continue our training and enjoy each other’s company.

Enquiries about adopting Rosie should be directed to Greyhounds as Pets.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The hardest goodbye

Over the last few days I have thought a lot about what to write about Izzy, my best friend who joined my life in October 2014 and sadly had to leave it on 27 December 2021.

When I first met Izzy, she didn’t pay me much attention. She was staying at the kennel base of Greyhounds as Pets and, because she was in season, she was unable to come home with me straight away on a foster-to-adopt arrangement. I would drive out to the kennels every couple of days to walk with her and she plodded along by my side with a confident indifference.

I would soon realise that her seeming aloofness was from her independent nature – which was an asset in a dog that would need to spend periods of time alone while I was out working and to be confident at public and social events.

(She would also assert her independence at inopportune moments such as when I needed us to take a shorter walk and she wanted to go the long way. I would remind myself that she was matched with me because of that independence; it was unfair for me to be upset with her simply because she was being herself.)

Izzy was by my side as I expanded my dog massage and rehab practice, leaving full-time employment to pursue my passion to help other dogs and their families with an exclusively in-home practice. A constant presence, she was happy to settle for the day after her walk and breakfast – with an activity toy of some sort to reward her.

She benefited from a number of modalities to treat her corns and developing arthritis over the years, including massage, laser, PEMF, swimming, water treadmill and the use of a pram. This made her a great advertisement for multi-modal health care.

One of my best investments was her pram, which I purchased in 2019 when Izzy started to be troubled by painful corns – that pram would see her achieve mobility and support engagement through to her last days, including one last greyhound Christmas walk just 8 days before her passing.

Izzy was also an ambassador for her breed – meeting the public at numerous events such as the Riccarton Sunday Market, organised greyhound walks, our charity garage sale for Greyhounds as Pets in 2017 and our Greyt Fashions fundraiser in 2018, where she strutted down the runway with her friends in numerous greyhound outfits (raising almost $5,000 in the process).

On the runway, in her favourite colour – purple

In early 2020, before the pandemic took hold, Izzy also led a doga class with some of her fellow greyhounds and this featured on Newshub. It was a shame we couldn’t continue these classes after lockdown, but business priorities had changed.

Doga class was hard work

During our lengthy lockdown in March and April 2020, Izzy hosted Word of the Day on our Facebook page to keep our clients and followers entertained.

Word of the Day

In 2021, since I sponsor the 4 Paws Marathon, her photo was featured on the 5 km finishers medal and we were also filmed by accounting software company Xero in a customer story about the business.

I will forever be grateful for the professional photos and video that resulted from the Xero campaign because they show Izzy at her finest – at home, in her pram and at her beloved beach.

Izzy was the demo-dog at my Learn to Massage Your Dog and Greyhound Massage and Stretching classes; she taught countless dogs and their owners the benefits of regular massage including in the online version of Greyhound Massage and Stretching, which we filmed just prior to the 2020 lockdown.

Her friend Spot will now teach class with me starting later this month – plans we put in place in earnest when her health started to decline.

Her last contribution to her kind was to welcome deaf foster greyhound, Rosie, into our home – something that was planned from early November. We decided to proceed with fostering in the hope that another dog in the house would provide a diversion and, possibly, some competition for food to encourage her to eat. Izzy was a capable mentor to Rosie for only 10 days before she passed – but I would often find Rosie laying next to Izzy and in the same body position.

Izzy (left) and Rosie (right)

As a dog parent, you are never ready for your life’s journey to end. Yet, when we sign onto the lifetime commitment to a dog, we are in the privileged position of being able to end suffering (something that in most places around the world we are unable to do easily or legally for our human loved-ones).

Izzy was diagnosed in August with chronic kidney disease as part of an annual check-up. She was not showing any outward signs of disease at the time and, through diet changes, medication and herbal supplements, we did our best to preserve the kidney function that she had remaining. In November, she suffered an attack of canine vestibular disease and had two more of these in the weeks that followed. Looking back on the last five weeks of her life, I would have to say that her health was in a steady decline starting with that first episode of vestibular.

Ironically, the vestibular disease presented on the evening following a beach walk and birthday party for two of her greyhound friends, Spot and Luke. Izzy’s happy place was at the beach and we were able to get in a few more beach walks, including on Christmas morning and again on Boxing Day (her last walk). I had hoped we would have one final summer together this year and celebrate her 13th birthday with a princess-themed cake.

As they say, man plans and God laughs.

With Mr Caterpillar, in happier times

Izzy left in me in no doubt that she was ready to go – refusing to eat and drink with a stubborn turn of her head. As the day went on, it was clear she was in end-stage kidney failure and in pain. Thanks to in-home euthanasia service Our Pet’s Goodbye, we were able to be together to the final second in the comfort of our home where she was surrounded by her loved ones – me and her beloved Mr Caterpillar.

She is now over the Rainbow Bridge, at the beach, where it will always be a breezy and warm summer day so she can splash in the waves to her heart’s content.

I will join her there someday.

“You were my favourite hello and my hardest goodbye”

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Day off

Things have been so busy this year that I have had to start scheduling time off so I can attend to my own business and have special time with Izzy.

Today, we started the day at the vet for a full health check. We are awaiting some urinalysis to double-check on Izzy’s kidney function but her vet notes tell me that she’s in good shape for a 12 1/2 year old greyhound:

  • Her musculature is ‘reasonable’ despite her arthritic wrists (carpi).
  • She has mild dental wear ‘but otherwise great oral health for age.’
Izzy was ready to go at the vet’s while I paid the bill

Then, we met our friends Marie and Ben for a late breakfast.

Izzy was more interested in watching the wild winter weather out of the window in the cafe than she was in paying any attention to her friend, Ben.

And then, it was time for me to drop Izzy home for a rest. I always leave Izzy with an activity of some type; today was a food toy:

Izzy is a priority for me and it’s very important that we have quality time together; you make time for the ones that you love.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Dog Doc

I’ve been wanting to watch the documentary The Dog Doc since March 2020 – when New Zealand was heading like so many countries into a Covid-19 lockdown. The film had just been launched and sadly, also due to Covid-19, its many planned showings had been cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions and the temporary closure of movie theaters. The film’s producer had then opted to make the film available on-demand.

Unfortunately, due to licensing restrictions for New Zealand, Amazon Prime would not allow me to hire this film. And then other priorities took over for a time….I finally contacted the film’s producer, Cindy Meehl, through the film’s website to ask how I could view the film from New Zealand so I could write about it in my column for NZ Dog World magazine.

I was pleasantly surprised when Ms Meehl responded to me the same day and put me in touch with MadMan Entertainment, whose Communications Director also responded to me the same day (I was on a roll) to say that the film was available on Doc Play. All I had to do was to sign up for my 30-day trial. (Score!)

Dr Marty Goldstein’s story is inspirational to anyone who has had a beloved pet facing a health challenge – terminal or otherwise. Sometimes, traditional veterinary care just isn’t enough to give the dog quality of life while preserving as much time together as possible for the human family.

Because Dr Marty has made it his life’s work to use integrative therapies – traditional veterinary medicine alongside homeopathy, massage, physical therapy, cryotherapy, herbal remedies, and other options. For someone like me working in complementary therapy, he is one of my idols. We need more Dr Martys.

The film follows real clients who presented to Dr Marty’s Smith Ridge Veterinary Clinic in New York State – in real-time. As a Fear-Free certified practitioner, I was dismayed to see two dogs in the film wearing prong collars and also a scene where veterinary technicians are physically restraining a dog with strong force.

Before we cast judgement, though, we must remember that documentary film making is designed to capture the moment without stage management. I was lucky enough to have Madman Entertainment organise an interview with Dr Marty via Zoom, where I asked him about the prong collars. He replied that the owners would have been spoken to during their initial consultations about the use of these aversives, which he doesn’t support:

“When you impart stress on a dog, such as through the pain of a shock or prong collar, you add to their immune system load and add to the disease rather than the ability of the body to fight the disease.  A strong and relaxed mind helps to re-build a strong body.”

There is a wonderful scene in the film where Dr Marty explains the use of titre testing to a client. Dr Marty is not an anti-vaxxer but he is clearly anti-over-vaccination and a titre test can show whether a dog has sufficient immunity without requiring a re-vaccination simply because of a date on the calendar.

Dr Marty explained in his interview with me that there is proven science behind titre testing, but that for a range of reasons – commercial veterinary practice is not following the science but rather the profit motive. (See my 2013 review of the book Pukka’s Promise – a great read for those wanting to understand canine health and longevity).

An added benefit for me was that Dr Marty counts a greyhound as part of his pack (Izzy liked this, too).

I thoroughly recommend a viewing of The Dog Doc. Dr Marty’s wish is that the film is an enduring resource for pet parents to help them ask informed questions about their pet’s care and to seek the support of integrative specialists when there may be no options in their local community.

For my New Zealand clients, stay tuned for my October newsletter which will include a special offer to clients of The Balanced Dog to access Doc Play for an extended free-trial period.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Understanding one another

Like us, dogs have their own forms of verbal and non-verbal communication.  Getting to know your dog and being a careful observer of their behavior helps you to develop a deep understanding of your dog.

We know that our dogs are great observers of our behavior, too.  That’s how they learn our cues, moods, and habits.

Having a good understanding of one another pays benefits when you have a dog who is getting older, or has disabilities.

Take Izzy.  She is an ex-racing greyhound and we’ve known for some time that she has arthritis in her carpus (wrist) and toes.  I picked up on the arthritis quite early.  I had noticed that almost every time I looked at her over the course of about a week,  she was licking her left foot.  A visit to the vet for an x-ray confirmed early signs of arthritic changes.  In response, she started getting rub-downs with an anti-inflammatory gel, I started her on additional deer velvet supplements (in addition to her glucosamine and chondroitin supplement) and I also increased the frequency of her visits to a local hydrotherapy pool and her massages.

Over the last year, we’ve also been battling corns  – something that plagues sighthounds in particular but has been aggravating her arthritis and was the main cause of her progressively becoming more lame.  I knew we were having a corn problem because she would limp only when crossing the road over chip-sealed road (intolerance of rough surfaces is typically the first sign).

As she then developed two corns on the same toe, her lameness became constant and our walks shorter, with a pram when she needed it.

Izzy had a flexor tenotomy surgery last month and this has helped greatly in managing the corns but of course the arthritis is still there, she is that much older, and she’s had months of reduced/shortened walks because of her lameness.

Now the bright side.  She is getting fitter and stronger and I’m carefully increasing the amount of activity she has.  Today, she didn’t want to go out initially for an afternoon walk and so I put her in her pram.

We got as far as around the block before she let me know she was ready to get out and walk.  (This is signaled by a high-pitched bark)

I know Izzy is getting tired when her head drops and she starts taking more and more time sniffing bushes, grass and trees.  These are signs that she is tiring and the excess sniffing is both a diversionary behavior and, at times, a sign she is stressed and uncomfortable.

That’s when I put her back in her pram.  She gets plenty of stimulation and enrichment by watching the world go by.  She also loves the attention she gets from passersby – both on foot and in cars.  (Shortly after I stopped this video, the couple who approached on foot spent at least 5 minutes talking to her, giving her treats and chatting about her care).

I am always grateful when people stop to talk to us about ‘what’s wrong with her’ and to ask about greyhounds and their welfare.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Izzy’s Words of the Day

Izzy is my greyhound and Poster Dog for The Balanced Dog, my practice in Christchurch, NZ.

During our lockdown (quarantine) for Covid-19, Izzy hosted Word of the Day on my Facebook page. Each word was selected for their relevance to canine health, fitness and welfare. I hope you enjoy this compilation.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 2

According to statistics, one in every five dogs is affected by arthritis, or more specifically osteoarthritis.  It’s a disease that is progressive and is associated with a number of factors which result in degeneration of the joints.

In my opinion, the stats are probably a lot higher.  More than one in five.  And that’s because too many dog parents see the symptoms of arthritis but classify it as ‘normal slowing down with age’ and they don’t seek professional help until much later – if at all.   Arthritis can develop in young dogs – I’ve seen it in dogs between the ages of 1 and 2 –  but the odds certainly increase with age.  If a dog reaches the age of 7, then they have a 65% chance of developing arthritis.

So in this post, I want to introduce you to the ladder concept for managing dogs with arthritis.  There are various rungs to the ladder and we’re going to cover each one.  Each rung is a step up in terms of effort (and potentially cost) and, just like in real life, you can go up and down the ladder based on circumstances which can include progression of the disease.

Ladder diagram

The first rung is about identifying pain and discomfort in your dog.   Many owners expect their dog to whimper or cry out as the primary indicator that they are uncomfortable.  But that just isn’t true.  By the time a dog vocalises, chances are they have been experiencing discomfort for some time and have become very painful.

There are degrees of difference between discomfort and pain

Discomfort is tolerable.  People describing discomfort use words like lingering, annoying, or aching.

Pain is much more than discomfort.  Pain is intense.  It changes the way you do things or enjoy your day.  When people describe pain they choose words like burning, sharp, or shooting.

Discomfort tells us something is wrong and often helps us manage before the situation becomes painful.

Our dogs are non-verbal communicators.  We have to become experts at their non-verbal communication by being keen observers.

In late 2017, for example, I noticed a behavioural change in Izzy.  Over the course of about 10 days, it seemed that almost every time I looked over at her, she was licking her left carpus (wrist).  And so I took her to the vet and asked for x-rays.  These confirmed ”very minor arthritic changes” – so minor that we agreed a regular rubdown with an animal liniment would likely be sufficient rather than requiring pain medication.  Izzy was experiencing discomfort and not pain.

Changes can be subtle.  My intake questionnaire for new clients is many pages long and I ask questions about mobility and behaviour as well as personally observing the dog’s gait.  A reluctance to get out of bed in the morning may not be a sign of laziness, for example.  It could be that the dog is stiff after resting all night.

Other signs can include:

  • difficulty getting comfortable in bed
  • withdrawal from normal activities
  • snapping when touched
  • pressure sores on the elbows or other joints
  • lameness or changes in gait
  • scuffing of toe nails
  • pacing

The list goes on…

When we see someone every day (and this includes our pets), we often don’t pick up on small changes.  This is a main reason why asking for a professional’s assessment is a good thing to do.  They come into your situation with a fresh set of eyes.

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 1

I promised a series on dog aging and care to explain that Izzy’s care started long before we introduced her pram (stroller).   Welcome to Part 1

For this series, I’ll be drawing on my experience as a dog parent with an aging dog as well as my 10+ years of professional experience in canine massage and rehabilitation.

Whenever I am asked about how I chose my profession, I explain that I had a muse.  Her name was Daisy.  An English Pointer who was neglected by her first family, Daisy entered my life at the age of 4 and left it at the age of 14 years and 3 weeks.

Daisy the English Pointer

Daisy, a sweet-natured and intelligent English Pointer, had many health problems over the course of her life. But we managed to get her to the age of 14+ which for a large-breed dog is a good life.

 

Izzy the greyhound

Izzy is my current canine companion. As I write this column in January 2020, she will be turning 11 in a few weeks. As an ex-racing greyhound, you can expect that Izzy’s body has seen some wear and tear and I will cover that in future posts.


For this introduction, let’s talk about time and age.  My mother, who passed away last year, used to say that, “no one I know is getting any  younger.”  The same is true of our dogs.  Aging is a fact of life.  It’s not a disease, it’s a life condition.

Most dog parents understand that their dogs don’t live as long as we do.  And you’ve probably seen charts like these before – but let’s review how a dog ages.  Smaller dogs tend to live longer, giant breed dogs have the shortest life expectancy.

I’ve included two charts because some of my readers go by weight in pounds, and others like my local clientele in New Zealand use kilograms.  Both charts have been derived by the work of Dr. Fred L. Metzger of Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, PA.

How old is your dog in poundsHow old is your dog in kgsSo I expect most of you have gone to find your dog’s human age on the chart.  That’s good; it’s how I start a conversation with one of my clients about their dog’s life status.

A more powerful use of these charts, however, is to consider time.  Because we age in our time, we tend to lose track of time in terms of our dog’s health.

Let’s say that we have a large breed dog who is 11 years old and he’s recently been to the vet for medication for the first time and the family has asked me to work with him because he’s reluctant to walk and doesn’t want to get into the car.

When we chat, the family tells me he has  probably been slowing down for ‘about a year.’  Today he is the equivalent of a 72 year-old man.  But his symptoms started when he was 10 and the human age of approximately 66.  So his family, although they clearly love him, waited 6 years to get professional help.

If your child was limping, would you wait 6 years to take them to the doctor? (I hope most of you say no.)

What I’d like each of you to do now is record your dog’s birthday and human year equivalent on your phone, wall calendar or diary – whatever you use.  If your dog was adopted and you don’t know their exact birth date, you can use their Gotcha Day instead.  Now, check out the chart and see how many human years will go by before their next birthday.

In the example above, it’s 6 years.

12 months/6  = 2 months

So if you were my client, I may ask you to enter a reminder message every two months in your diary and I’d give you a simple checklist of questions to review.  Just one tool that I use with some clients to help them understand their dog’s aging process and need to remain vigilant for signs of change.

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand