Managing pain and separation anxiety in dogs

At the Modern Pet Dog seminar held on Sydney’s Northern Beaches last week, two topics that dog owners had asked for were covered: pain management and separation anxiety.

Dr. Jennifer Stewart, a vet at Pittwater Animal Hospital, spoke about that dogs have a lot of the conditions that the humans have, including arthritis. She explained the process of either a degeneration over time or a traumatic trigger such as an injury causing the breakdown in the cartilage in joints, leading to inflammation and micro tears over time.

Dogs typically present as limping or stiff, showing that they are hurting and that managing pain will be necessary. Jennifer went through a wide range of treatment options available covering the pharmacological, nutraceutical, diet additives (such as omega 3 and 6 oils, or green lip mussel extract), specifically formulated therapeutic diets and physical treatments such as massage to improve circulation (something everyone can do for their dog at home), physiotherapy and acupuncture.

There’s also increasing evidence for old food having new impacts around managing pain, such as turmeric – a spice that can reduce inflammatory signals. Best to speak to your vet about what could work best for your dog’s situation.

Can’t take my eyes off of you…

Dogs that have panic attacks because they’re scared of being left alone, was covered by Maxine Fernandez of Canine Kindergarten. Signs range from:

  • Mild – pacing, whining, mild excessive greeting, some shadowing owner, to
  • Moderate – elimination (urinary or bowel), sweating paws, panting, moderate excessive grooming, constant barking or howling, to
  • Severe – self mutilation, escapism, excessive water consumption, shedding, severe destruction, diarrhea or vomiting.

Maxine said that when a dog experiences anxiety, the body products a huge surge of cortisol and other stress chemicals. If absences happen regularly, then that anxiety is almost constant. Chemicals remain in their body, preventing the dog from ever really relaxing. Therefore we need to teach dogs to relax when they can’t see us.

Treatment options include:

  • Management. Avoid absences that put them over threshold. Use a friend, pet-sitter, day care or dog walker. Put a video camera up to see when they start getting really distressed then build up departures over time so that they can eventually have longer periods of calm.
  • Medication is available for severe cases. Can help reduce anxiety before they respond to training. There’s also options such as the Adaptil collar or spray that can help calm dogs. Best to seek advice from veterinary behaviourist.
  • Training and behaviour modification desensitises the dog to absences, but takes time and patience. Teach gradual departures (starting with just a few seconds at a time) while a dog is placed in a confined area such as a pen or behind a baby gate while being given something else to do such as eating a chew or playing with a toy. Teaching dogs to relax on their mats and ‘stay’ behaviours is also useful here. Slowly build up to longer absences. Also implement a no-follow routine where you go to the bathroom, walk around the hosue etc. alone without the dog following you by teaching them to relax when not in the same room as you. Build duration in small increments.
  • Toys / games are also an option such as a remote control feeder. Setting it on delivery every few seconds can keep the treats coming for up to 4 hours.
  • Other supplementation options include anxiety wraps, massage to promote physical and mental calmness and ‘Through a dogs ear music CD’ which is rhythmically arranged to have calming results.

If you want to find out about future events email or follow the Modern Pet Dog on Facebook.

The information contained on this web site is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation or that of your pet dog. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a veterinarian.

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Let your dog choose their chews

Giving dogs the right to make choices is some of the latest thinking in dog training that owners are encouraged to practice.

Speaking at the Modern Pet Dog free community event held on Sydney’s Northern Beaches last night, Barbara Hodel from Goodog Positive Dog Training believes that choice is a fundamental condition for wellbeing.

“As humans we have the ability to control the outcomes of our actions,” she said. “Choice is empowering for humans and for our dogs too.”

But why does choice matter? Dogs are increasingly presenting with behavioural problems. This includes anxiety, depression and high levels of stress. As their human owners we get to choose where they sleep, who they play with, what they eat and when and what their daily routines are. They are limited in where they can go with us and when they do go out they have to constantly be on lead. Imagine how this lack of ability to control outcomes in our lives would affect our own mental health!

When we train them we reward them for compliance but even then it’s a construct that is devoid of choice – i.e. if they sit they get a treat, if they don’t want to sit then they get nothing. But what would happen if we give them a great range of choices?

Science is showing that dogs have a far greater range of cognitive abilities than we originally thought and new research is constantly changing this. As a dog trainer, Barbara is curious about what this means for the wellbeing of our dogs.

Barbara has taught her dog Shellbe to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked a question. She first taught Shellbe that a nose touch on her right hand means ‘yes’ and one on her left hand means ‘no’. She will say ‘yes’ when asked if she wants a treat and says ‘no’ when she doesn’t want her harness put on, when Barbara presents both her hands for an answer.

This technique takes time and patience to teach so here are some easy ideas that dog owners to use to give their dogs simple choices:

  • Provide them more mats or beds around the house so they can choose where they rest.
  • Let them choose the route when out for a walk.
  • Let them choose their dinner – the chicken or the lamb?
  • Let them stand at the coffee shop, as long as they are relaxed they don’t need to be forced to sit or lie down.
  • Provide two toys and ask the dog which one it wants to play with.
  • Learn to read their body language rather than just expect them to learn ours. A lip lick, yawn or looking away signals discomfort. They communicate to use all the time, we need to make note of what they are saying and allow them to make more decisions.

If you want to find out about future events email or follow the Modern Pet Dog on Facebook.

Check our Barbara and Shellbe’s story in the Manly Daily on 24 March 2017 (pictures and story below belong to the Manly Daily).

Barbara Hodel and Shellbe on cover of the Manly Daily 24 March 2017

Manly Daily story with Barbara Hodel and Shellbe showing ‘yes’ and ‘no’ (24 March 2017)

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