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August 20, 2014
An inevitable part of being a pet parent is having questions. Since our pets can’t talk, there are lots of things we have to figure out on our own. Thankfully, for the stuff we can’t figure out on our own, Google is there to help us with our most pressing inquiries.
Using Google’s auto-complete feature, in which you type in the first few words of a question and then allow Google to suggest the most common next few words, we found the five most commonly Googled questions about dogs. Here they are, with our best attempts to provide answers.
Why does my dog…
… Eat poop?
Yes, it sounds nasty, but it is actually a very common behavior among dogs. Poop-eating – or, technically, coprophagia – is sometimes thought to be a result of poor nutrition or a lack of certain nutrients, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Many well-fed dogs with good diets will eat poop. Additionally, many female dogs with new litters will adopt the practice to keep the “nest” clean.
If your dog is of a good weight, has normal stools, and is overall healthy, there is no need to worry about eating stool – though you may want to try to stop it for the sake of exposure to parasites. However, if your dog is underweight, it could be a sign that they have a medical problem, such as malabsorption of nutrients, and they are trying to supplement their diet in the only way they know how.
Some dogs can be deterred from stool-eating by adding pineapple, Brussels sprouts or cabbage to their diet, because these foods make the poop taste bad (as if poop didn’t taste bad enough to begin with – but that’s beside the point). There are also commercially-available deterrents like For-Bid and Deter. Overall, however, one of the best ways to keep your dog from eating poop is to keep it on a leash when outside, so you can easily monitor what your dog is doing at all times. If your dog wanders in your yard, keep an eye on it and clean up feces immediately, and keep an eye out for other animals’ poop (whether other dogs or deer, rabbit or coyote) and clean that up as well. The best way to keep your dog out of trouble is to never give it the chance to get in trouble in the first place.
Some dogs eat feces so much that it’s practically compulsive. In these cases, as with any compulsive behavior, it’s important to provide your dog with enrichment like games, toys, walks, exercise and training to occupy their minds with something other than eating poop.
… Eat grass?
The common belief on this one is that dogs eat grass when they have an upset stomach, and they are trying to make themselves vomit to relieve the pain. It’s considered a normal behavior in dogs and shouldn’t be a cause for concern, if your dog is otherwise healthy and only does it on occasion.
The nausea idea is debated, however. Some people suggest that dogs that eat grass are actually looking to fulfill an unmet need for fiber in their diet. If your dog is a frequent grass-eater, try adding a fiber supplement to your dog’s food and see if the behavior stops.
Some dogs, however, seem to just really like the taste of grass, and practically graze like cattle when given the opportunity. Other dogs eat grass because they’re bored. In these cases, if their body weight and stools are normal, and if nothing else seems amiss, grass-eating shouldn’t harm your pup.
If you want to try to stop the behavior, enrichment like games, toys, walks, exercise and training to occupy their minds can help distract them from grass. Keep your dog on a leash and monitor their behavior when you’re around grass, and, if it really seems to be a problem, don’t even let your dog into the yard alone.
… Stare at me?
This one is a little more philosophical than the other common questions. Sometimes, a dog’s stare is a sign of their loving adoration of you, their wonderful owner. Other times, it’s just because they want a treat. Most of the time, it’s a little bit of both.
You are the provider of all good things for your dog, so it’s fitting that when they are in the mood for a treat, they would look to you for that treat. When they sit politely and stare at you, it’s as if they’re saying, “Look at me! Look how good I’m being! Can I have something for it?”
This is a perfect opportunity to practice “Catch Your Dog Doing Something Good.” We are always on top of telling our dogs to stop something bad, but how often do we praise them for doing something good – even if it’s something as simple as sitting quietly for a treat? Teaching our dogs when they have done something right is an important part of having a happy companion.
It’s important to remember, however, that staring right back at a dog can be perceived as a threat, and – especially with a dog you don’t know well – you should divert eye contact if the dog is showing aggressive behaviors (hackles raised, baring its teeth, growling menacingly, and the like).
So, if your dog is sitting politely and staring at you adoringly as you read this, throw him or her a treat. Besides, if you wait too long to notice their happy gaze, they may start whining or barking – which is something worthy of saying “no” about – so catch your dog doing something good instead.
Could it be that your dog just needs a bath? Depending on the breed and your activities (mud running, anyone?), your dog could need a bath as often as every few weeks. Other dogs can go a few months without a scrub-down. But if your dog has just been bathed and still smells funky, there could be a few things to consider.
First off, dog breath could contribute to the olfactory nature of your beast. Some vets recommend an oral exam and teeth cleaning once a year, and weekly brushings with a canine-friendly toothpaste in between. If a horrible smell is emanating from your dog’s mouth, it could be something as simple as teeth in need of brushing, or it could be something more serious – like rotten teeth that need to be pulled. Especially in small dogs, dental extractions get more and more necessary as dogs get older.
More serious issues that can affect your dog’s breath are liver, kidney and lung issues, so if the bad breath is accompanied by lethargy, a lack of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, or other worrisome symptoms, you may have to visit an internist to rule out organ issues.
A change of food could also freshen up your dog’s breath. Sometimes, however, dogs just have smelly breath, and that’s just the way it is. If a veterinary exam comes back clean and brushings do nothing to alleviate the issue, you could just have a bad-breathed dog.
If the smell seems to be coming from the “other end” of your dog, however, you have a whole different problem on your hands. Bad gas in dogs seems inherent in some breeds (“bully breeds” like pit bulls, bulldogs and mastiff breeds are known for their uncanny ability to clear a room), but it can certainly be reduced by feeding a higher-quality diet and cutting down on human food and rich treats. If your dog seems to have a bad gas issue, try switching foods until you find something that “burns clean.”
Another rear-end issue could be full anal glands. Many dogs never need their anal glands expressed, because their own bowel movements do it for them. Others dogs, however, need them emptied regularly (sometimes as often as once a month). Vets can do this for you, and many groomers also include it as part of their bathing process. Anal glands can smell like anything from feces to smelly fish – however, if the smell really bothers you, if they express at inopportune times, or if it smells like metal (aka, like blood), it’s best to get to the vet and have them checked out, as they may be impacted or infected.
… Lick so much?
Depending on what your dog is licking, there are many reasons why it could be happening.
If your dog won’t stop licking you, it’s probably either a sign of affection or entreaty for some goodies. In the wild, dogs that are fond of each other lick one another, and when puppies or lower-ranking dogs want food from their parents or other pack members, they will often lick them in order to be invited to the feast. Other times, a dog realizes that you pet it when it licks you – so why not lick again? As an attention-seeking behavior, there are few things more effective than a sloppy dog tongue.
Some dogs seem to obsessively lick other dogs when in social situations. This is a submissive gesture. Sometimes the licking dog will actually lick another dog so much that the other dog gets irritated and snaps at the licker, which then makes the licker lick even more in apology. This socially awkward behavior can take up all your dog’s social time, so if it seems to be a problem, it’s important to intervene and try to distract the licker. Call the licker to you, throw a ball, encourage a game of tug – and, in your spare time, work on obedience training and fun games to build the licker’s confidence.
Some dogs tend to lick fabric, whether it’s couch cushions, carpet or bedsheets. This is not only kind of strange, but it also leaves massive wet spots on your furniture and floor, which are never fun to find with bare feet. This is believed to be either an obsessive-compulsive behavior, or a behavior born out of boredom. Either way, it’s best to entertain your dog and distract him when he starts his fabric-licking. Play with a toy, pet your dog, go for a walk – anything that can distract him from licking.
If your dog won’t stop licking itself, this could be a sign of anxiety or pain. If a dog’s joint hurts, it will often lick the joint area to try and relieve the pain – and since this obviously won’t work, the dog will keep licking, perhaps until the area is red and raw. If your dog concentrates on one particular area, it’s best to visit your vet for a check-up to look for arthritis or other inflammatory issues.
Another thing that can cause any type of licking is if a dog is weaned from its mother too early. It’s recommended that dogs spend at least 8 weeks with their mother, but sometimes a hard puppyhood or an irresponsible breeder can cut that time short. These dogs sometimes develop attachment issues, and can lick things obsessively for comfort that they were denied as babies. This is another situation in which building your dog’s confidence can greatly help, so obedience classes, games, sports, and walks can be a big help in reducing comfort-licking.
August 15, 2014
Stefanie Scheff, DVM, CVA, CCRT
Member, Royal College Veterinary Surgeons
Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist
Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist
Dr. Stefanie Scheff earned her Veterinary Medicine and Surgery degree from the University of Sydney in 2006. After graduating, she returned to California to practice veterinary medicine as a small animal practitioner. She became interested in furthering her knowledge in medicine and was soon certified in veterinary acupuncture from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in 2011; she later became a certified in rehabilitation therapy from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CRI) in 2013.
Dr. Scheff is a consulting veterinarian with California Animal Rehabilitation in Southern California. She also founded a mobile veterinary practice called Five Paws Veterinary Acupuncture and Wellness.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Tell us how you heard about the Assisi Loop?
Dr. Laurie McCauley, owner of Tops Veterinary Rehabilitation in Illinois. When I was doing my CRI [Canine Rehabilitation Institute] internship with her a year ago, she was raving about them. When I returned home after the internship, I adopted a rescue puppy. About two weeks afterwards, I left her with my parents for one day and my dad stepped on her foot and my mom slammed her foot in the door, breaking her toe. I had a 14-week-old lame dog that totally broke the 5th digit on her front right paw. So, I put a splint on her leg and after a week or so she was getting tired of it. I was getting tired of it too. She was still limping, so I got the Assisi Loop and in one day she started putting her paw down and in three days, she was totally running on it. I thought, “Wow, this stuff is really good,” so I got some more and started selling them.
It sounds like you were pretty immediately converted once you used it the first time.
Yes. Very much so.
What types of cases did you initially start working with the Loop on?
One of the best cases I had was when I was treating a small poodle and she had a horribly kyphotic back and she could barely walk. She looked like a camel. Her owner had surgery on her right thumb 10 years before. She had all this scar tissue and couldn’t move her thumb very much. She happened to use the Assisi Loop and kept it on her dog while her dog was doing the treatment with the same hand and within a month the scar tissue and the pain was gone and the dog’s back was straight.
Since then, have you expanded the types of cases that you’re working with, the conditions that you’re treating?
I have treated quite a few cranial cruciate injury cases with the help of the Assisi loop. It seems to work very well for the acute or acute-on-chronic cruciate injury with effusion present as I have typically seen the dogs go from three-legged lame to putting their affected leg down in a much shorter time period. I’ve tried it for an ear infection which helped to bring down the inflammation. It worked well with a spider bite that was inflamed and infected. I had a Labrador that had a CT scan for an undiagnosed shoulder injury. The referring and specialist vets still couldn’t figure out what was going on. The owner used the Assisi Loop and the dog was walking about 50% better after a week. That’s really good since we didn’t even know what was going on, even with a CT scan. It also seems to work well for skin inflammation. What I like about it is that it seems to be safe around cancer.
Do you also use laser in your practice?
Are you able to tell us when you use Assisi and when you use Laser in your practice?
I use them both because I’m only at CARE (California Animal Rehab) one day a week and the rest of the time I’m doing my home visits. Since I can only get to each home visit once a week, the owners can still treat with the Loop during the time that I’m not there. That’s what I use it for the most. It’s a good adjunct to all the other therapies as an at-home therapy that can be used every day.
When you talk to clients about using the Loop, how do you describe it to them?
It decreases inflammation and takes away pain. If they don’t want to give NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory medications) and Steroids and other things like that, they should try the Loop. There are no side effects. And, it seems to last forever. I’m still on the first one that I got for my pup last year. And it’s very reasonably price at less than $2.00 a treatment.
How are your clients responding to product?
It’s a bit of an up-front cost so I tell them that I think they will be very happy in the long run. They go home and think about it and ask me if I really think it’s going to stop the pain and reduce the inflammation and I tell them that I know it will. Once they see that the dog is putting his leg down and hasn’t had any other NSAIDS or pain meds then they really start to love the product.
When we talk to frequent users, we find that most people are using the Loop with dogs and fewer are using it with cats.
It does work really well for cats. Cats are more sensitive to electromagnetic fields than dogs are. They feel it more. My own cat wants to get up before the 15 minutes are up. He has kidney failure. He seems to do a lot better when he sits on my lap with the Loop on him. His back doesn’t hurt as much if I put it where his kidney belt is. The Assisi Loop takes away his lower back pain more than anything else. His backline becomes straighter and his hind legs become noticeably stronger after using the Loop.
Some pet owners get creative with treating cats. Some people are able to treat the cat while they’re sitting on their lap at night. Other people may place the Loop under the cat’s bed on a favorite perch and when the cat lays down, they’ll turn on the Loop.
They can even put the cat in a carrier and put the Loop under a little blanket if they’re treating an area that is in reach of the conical pattern. That can also work.
Anything else you want us to know?
I’ve just been really happy that it’s such an easy tool to use and I can leave it with the owners. I’m sure the animals are getting benefit when I’m not there. Thank you so much for having such a great product.
Update from Dr. Scheff since she did the interview: I have given a Loop to a client with a geriatric, cognitive dysfunction German Shorthair Pointer. The dog had been becoming increasingly ataxic, acute vision loss, and increase of aggression toward the other dogs as well as his owners over a 1-2 month period. The owners did not have money for an MRI to look for possible brain tumors or other neoplasms. I suggested the Assisi Loop since the only other option was humane euthanasia, which the owner definitely was not ready for. They purchased one and started using it for 15 minutes, once daily, around the dog’s head. I saw the dog about 3 weeks after they purchased the device. To my amazement, the dog was calm, walking much better with coordinated movements, and did not show any signs of aggression as he did previously!
Thank you to Dr. Scheff for taking the time to chat with us. We are always interested in learning more from Veterinarians who work with the Assisi Loop. If you’re interested in being in our Expert Interview series, please let us know!
August 13, 2014
For a dog to shake his head on occasion is quite normal – maybe he gets a tickle in his ear, a drop of water on his head, or he is playing with another dog and they both shake off to “re-set” their game. However, if you believe your dog is shaking his head more than normal, it could be a sign of a health issue you want to get checked out by your vet.
A common reason for head-shaking is an ear infection. Floppy-eared dogs in particular are susceptible to ear infections, and they can be easy to spot. Usually the infected ear is particularly dirty with brown or tan goop, and sometimes the ear can even smell like yeast, if it is a yeast-based infection. Sometimes, dogs also try to scratch the ear to relieve the pain, and the skin around and behind the ear can become scraped and may even bleed. Ear mites can cause many of the same symptoms, so visit your vet to get a proper diagnosis and antibiotics, if necessary.
Assisi spokesdog Blake recovers from surgery for an aural hematoma, using his Loop for extra healing help.
Another cause of head-shaking could also be a result of head-shaking, so it’s kind of a catch-22. Aural hematomas are pockets of blood that build up between the cartilage of the ear and the skin around it, and can cause a painful, pressurized pillow of liquid on the dog’s ear. These can be caused by trauma to the ear or stress, or they could just pop up randomly. Unfortunately, while a hematoma can cause a dog to shake its head, it is also exacerbated by the head-shaking, so your dog’s attempt to make it feel better will actually make it worse. Hematomas sometimes go away on their own, or can be drained by your vet, but it is best to surgically remove them and for the vet to suture your dog’s skin back to the cartilage where it belongs so the hematoma is less likely to reoccur.
Beyond ears, if a dog has an injury on either side of its head or neck, it can shake its head to try and alleviate the pain or swelling. Check your dog’s jowls, cheeks and neck for signs of swelling or cuts.
On the more serious end, neurological issues such as concussion, vestibular disease, degenerative myelopathy (aka Wobbler’s Disease), White Shaker Dog Syndrome, or brain lesions can cause strange neck and head movement. If your dog has trouble with balance, is running into door jambs, has trouble when trying to stand, or exhibits some other balance-centered issue, get to the vet. This may require a neurological exam or an MRI, but it’s worth investigating for the potential seriousness of the condition. The Assisi Loop has been used to treat some of these conditions – most notably, Wobbler’s Disease in a Great Dane.
Finally, sometimes – like humans – dogs just have little personality tics that cause repetitive physical behaviors. Sometimes when dogs get excited or see someone they really like, they may shake their head or whole body to express that excitement. This generally isn’t a problem, unless the dog has particularly floppy ears – the ends of the ears can sometimes smack into the head too hard and cause splits and cuts! But this is rare, and easy to notice if it happens, so don’t worry too much unless your dog is a serious head-shaker.
As always, if you are concerned about your dog, always talk to your vet.
August 7, 2014
In Part 2 of our 3-part series on Pain Management, Assisi Animal Health spoke with Dr. Troy about the case studies she submitted to gain her certification with the IVAPM (International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management). Part 1 focused on her IVAPM certification, and in Part 3, Dr. Troy will discuss her use of the Assisi Loop in her practice.
Assisi: To become a Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner, you had to submit two peer reviewed case studies. Would you talk a little bit about what you submitted?
Dr. Troy: One was a dog with chronic osteoarthritis. He is a Labrador Retriever named Max. He had arthritis in every leg, and he also had problems in his back. He was a tough case because his mom, while a very helpful woman, was resistant to medication. As it turned out, she would give half the prescribed medication, and then when he didn’t respond, we didn’t always know the whole story.
I finally had to have a sit-down, face-to-face with her and say, “Let’s talk about what you’re giving him,” and she finally told us. She was just cautious, like a lot of people are, about drugs. So, we had to have a nice long talk about the pros and cons of drugs, and what we can do to help, and what our additional options are. I don’t like people to think, in an otherwise healthy dog, it’s an either/or situation – either drugs, or physical rehab. Because we don’t see it as alternatives, we see it as integrative.
How best have you found to explain the integrative approach to pet owners?
I designed this arthritis management program. It’s a picture, a diagram, to make it easy for clients to read, and instead of being linear, it’s a circle. You can cheat across the circle anywhere you want. For instance, drugs in one category, and hydrotherapy in another category, and electromagnetic therapy in another category. I designed it in a circle so that nothing really leads to anything else, so we don’t have a start and we don’t have an end. We can go through this circle any way we want, in any order we want, to try and be effective for the patient.
In Max’s case, we were working on his mom with the meds, and we decided we needed to do some additional therapies with him. He’d gotten to a point where his anxiety was high, along with his pain. So he came to us every day for a week and we treated him with therapeutic laser, we also did cryotherapy – we have a unit that does ice and pressure because his knees were so sore – hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and then he went home with a Loop, and she Looped him twice every night.
By the end of that week, he was like a different dog. He was mobile, he was not whining, he was not anxious. Then, of course, he’d have these little dips and times where he stumbled down the stairs and things like that.
So he was a perfect example of good integrative pain management because we weren’t just using one solitary way of managing him. He’s now 14. He had an operation on one knee. He had back surgery done two months ago because he was almost not walking at all from the disc disease, and he did remarkably well with the back surgery. He’s back to walking pretty well again – for a 14-year-old Labrador with arthritis in all four legs.
The challenge with cases like him is to decide on a daily basis, “What bothers him the most today?” Is it his bad elbows, is it his bad neck, is it his bad hips, his bad knees, or his bad lower back? That’s where educating the client becomes important, and determining what extent they’re willing and able to participate in assessing their pets at home. Does he feel hot here, does he feel room temperature here? Does he pull away when you touch him here? When he stands, does he lean more on this leg and off that leg? We have to look for very subtle clues because you can’t ask him, “Does your left leg hurt, or does your right leg hurt?”
So you’re educating them in how to assess that in their own pet.
Yes, to the best of everyone’s ability. I have some clients that say, “Oh yeah, I’ll palpate my dog,” and others that are like, “Nope, I’m just going to tell you if he can get up and down. That’s all I’m going to tell you.” And then a lot of clients in between.
I use the Cincinnati Orthopedic Disability Index [CODI]. It’s a standardized scoring method for movement, and it’s really basic, but I have clients fill it out. It’s a scoring sheet that they take home, and it has a list of six activities, like standing, sitting, going to the bathroom, getting on the bed, walking indoors, those kinds of things. Really basic things. It has a score of one to five – he has no trouble doing it, he has a little trouble doing it, he has a lot of trouble doing it, he can barely do it, or he can’t do it at all. And they just put a check in the box. And then maybe there’s something specific for that dog, like going in and out of the doggie door, or getting out to the potty area, or getting in the back of my pickup – depending on the individual dog, there’s a space to fill out specifics for that dog.
I like to have my clients with pets who come in with multiple limb dysfunction fill that out – and then I hide it. Then, eight weeks to 10 weeks later, I have them fill out another one, and then I compare. Because some clients will come in and say, “You know doc, I’m really not seeing any difference,” and so I’ll say, “Well, fill this out for me,” and then we compare them. What happens with a lot of them is, they say, “Yeah, actually, he can get back on the bed, I don’t have to lift him up any more” or “Yeah, he’s standing to eat, when before he was lying to eat.” So sometimes, because the results are not dramatic, sometimes they’re more subtle, you have to walk families through.
Some families want dramatic improvement, and some families are just willing to accept what they get. And those families, of course, are the easiest ones to deal with. But, I think, of the two priorities I have, after first educating my staff, the second is educating the client so that they can recognize pain. And I have clients whose pets have since passed on, after we’ve done a lot of pain management with that particular pet, and now, when they get another one, they’re so proactive, it’s just wonderful. They’re like, “See, he’s shifting weight off a little bit, he’s groaning a little bit to get up, yep, can we get some x-rays and find out? Because the sooner we find it, the sooner we treat it.” And so, even if a dog isn’t showing a lot of dysfunction, a lot of pain or limping, if I find an orthopedic problem on x-ray, I start treating them. Because I don’t want to wait until they’re painful. I want to prevent them from getting painful. It just takes educating the client.
And what about the other case that you worked on?
The other case I wrote up was a hemilaminectomy Basset Hound that belonged to a multi-generational family – parents were senior citizens, and the son was a middle-aged adult, probably in his 40s. She’s a big 60-pound dog. I wrote her up because she was a frustrating case, because she would have good days and bad days. She was neurologically progressing, but every time she’d come in, her pain was worse.
She was a frustrating case because the truth came out that the senior member of the family not only was not giving her her medication, but he was exercising her and not telling anyone. So we would just get her to the point where she was comfortable and we could take the next step forward, and she’d come in the following week and she would be in horrible pain. And we’d keep saying, “Are you guys doing anything different?” And the wife and the son would say no.
Well, apparently the family schedule was such that the wife would be out of the house for a few hours twice a week, and the adult son was out every day because he worked. So the senior father would take her on what he called a “drag,” because she didn’t walk. He would let her drag her legs to go to the park and see her friends.
And so I wrote that case up not because she was a medical miracle, because she wasn’t, but to emphasize that you cannot help these dogs without first helping these clients. This one was frustrating because three of us doctors were involved with it, and six staff members were involved, and we all kept asking, “What are we missing? Does she need to be cut again?” We kept thinking, maybe she’s blown another disc! And finally there was this come-to-Jesus meeting where the truth finally came out in front of his wife and his son and all of us.
It was taxing on my self-control because this had been going on for about five weeks. I stepped out of the room to let the family discuss it, because I said, “This is a family situation that you guys need to talk about, because we’re clearly not all on the same page here.” And then when I came back in and calmed myself down a little bit, I said, “Now we’re going to start from the beginning. Now that we have a clean slate, we’re going to start over in a non-judgmental way,” because I’m pretty sure the son had taken care of Dad really, really well at that point.
No dragging allowed!
No dragging allowed. So that’s why I wrote that case up, because we cannot help these dogs if we don’t help these people. I did get a little criticism from it from the review panel, because they thought it was a pretty straightforward case, until they kept reading – and at my discussion point, when we discuss “How could this case have been handled differently,” I told them the reason I had chosen this was because I felt it was really important to illustrate that the best-laid plans can go awry with poor communication, and we cannot be successful with our patients if we are not successful with our clients.
It expands the integrative medical model to include the social system that the animal is living with.
Absolutely! My mother had a stroke just recently, so I’ve been exposed to it all on the human side, and you’re exactly right. There’s a social worker that wants to know – “What’s her house like? Who’s there with her? Does she have any pets? Is she safe?” All these things that I don’t think about for my patients, but I start to think about them now.
Who’s going to be home to let her out when you’re at work for 14 hours a day? She’s a 13-year-old dog. Those kinds of things, it’s so routine and expected in the human field, but not so much in the veterinary field. So we’ve come now to telling people that we treat you and your pet – if you can’t lift your dog, we’ll find you a device that will help you lift your dog. Or if your dog is slipping on the floor, we’ll find a device – whether it’s booties or nail covers or yoga mats or a harness – that will help you get your dog out of your home and out where it can potty, if that’s all we can do. So we try and do everything we can to counsel the families on how to make their dog’s recovery successful, along with providing therapy for the patient.
It’s like you’re part of the family.
Very much so. Our rehab patients especially, because we see them so often. I also find it in my general practice. I’ve been practicing long enough that I’m now on my second generation of puppies to adults to seniors, and families say, “Gosh, we’re going through this again, aren’t we,” and I say, “Yes, we are – and we’ve got the tools to do it gracefully.” And to me, that’s what it’s all about – to age with grace and no pain. Because pain is bad.
Thanks to Dr. Troy for taking the time to talk to us about a few of her more challenging case studies. Watch for Part 3 of this series, in which she’ll tell us how she uses the Assisi Loop in her practice and how it has helped individual patients.
Dr. Erin Troy is the owner of Muller Veterinary Hospital and The Canine Rehabilitation Center in Walnut Creek, California.
August 6, 2014
It’s hard not to smile when you see a short dog walking down the street. The jaunty gait of a Corgi or the silly lumber of a Basset Hound are qualities that have made those breeds popular for generations, and historically, the dogs’ short height helped them perform their jobs better (ankle-biting herding for the Corgi, and low-down tracking for the Basset).
Something that is easily overlooked, however, is that this short-legged stance is – believe it or not – a bone disorder that has been selectively bred into dogs like Corgis and Bassets, not to mention Dachshunds, Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Skye terriers, Pekingese dogs, and other “low-riders” of the dog world. Furthermore, this mutation can occur in dog breeds that usually sport normal-length front legs.
Chondrodysplasia or osteochondrodysplasia literally means abnormal growth of the bone or cartilage. There are a few different versions of the disorder, and it can present differently in different breeds, so if you have specific questions about your dog’s health, you should talk to your vet. However, here are a few of the more common troubles drawf dogs encounter.
Arthritis in the front legs: One of the most noticeable features of a dwarf dog is the pronounced curvature of the front legs at the elbows and possibly the wrists. Dwarf dogs often have front legs that are shorter than their back legs, so the dog’s weight is pushed forward on these deformed, S-shaped legs. This can cause severe arthritis.
Disc disease: While a dwarf dog’s back is not necessarily long for its head size, it is the shortness of the legs that throw off the body’s proportion and make the back longer in ratio to the dog’s height. This lack of support from the legs can cause disc problems, which are inherent in Dachsunds, Basset Hounds, Corgis, and other dwarfed dogs.
Dental problems: Some dwarf dogs display an underbite and a crowded jaw, which can cause teeth to crowd into each other. This could necessitate dental surgery down the road to pull teeth that just don’t fit.
Cataracts: Both in dogs and humans, chondrodystrophy has been linked to cataracts. Rhosyn German Shepherd Dogs in Australia has a very informative website on the subject of chondrodystrophy, discussing how Havanese with crooked legs often have cataracts while those with straight legs do not; and furthermore, if a dog has one crooked leg and one straight leg, the eye on the same side as the crooked leg will develop a cataract, while the other eye does not.
How to help your dwarf dog
One of the most important things you can do for your dog is to take care of its legs and spine. While dental issues and cataracts may or may not appear, you are virtually guaranteed to have a sore dog once the animal gets older.
When your dog is young, it will seem unflappable. However, you should still consider dog steps or ramps up to high furniture (if your dog, like ours, is allowed on the furniture). Jumping up may be easy, but when it comes time to get off, the THUMP when your dog hits the ground can be jarring to his front legs and spine. Once your dog gets older, it will appreciate that you facilitated him taking it easy on his joints!
Start feeding a joint supplement like Glucosamine – even better, get a supplement that contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM together. These can build a shield against soreness in a younger dog and keep arthritis at bay in an older dog.
Skinny is where it’s at! Keep your dog as fit and trim as possible. The less weight it has to lug around, the better its joints will feel.
And, above all else, know your dog. If your dog is moving slowly, limping, seems stiff or tense, or doesn’t do the active things she used to do, it may be time to visit your vet – and to consider pain management like the Assisi Loop. Scores of veterinarians and pet owners have reported vast improvement in their dog’s pain levels thanks to the Assisi Loop, and it can be used anywhere on the body – so, if your dog’s spine is sore and her curved front legs are also causing a limp, both areas can be effectively treated by the Loop, as it did for Blake, one of our patient spotlights. Contact us or your veterinarian for more information.
If, at any age, your dog starts acting lethargic or cries out in pain, and you suspect it could be related to its back, it’s vital that you contact your vet for guidance. Especially if your dog starts dragging the knuckles on its back feet or seems to have lost control of its urination and defecation, you could have a serious disc problem on your hands. Get your dog immobilized as quickly as possible (crate rest and total stillness, if possible), and call your vet or an emergency facility to get a neurological exam.
(And yes, all this can get expensive… But remember, many teaching vet hospitals perform top-notch services for a fraction of the cost of regular veterinarians, so consider a local teaching hospital if you have one nearby.)
Short dogs are lots of fun, and they are popular for a reason – it’s wonderful to watch their little legs as they prance around, and their personalities match their “different” appearance. But remember that any unique-looking dog will probably come with unique medical issues, so be prepared – and consider the Assisi Loop as part of your treatment protocol.
July 30, 2014
Using the litterbox for a nap doesn’t count as using the litterbox.
One of the easiest things about owning a cat is that you don’t have to take it outside every time it has to use the bathroom – but one of the hardest things about owning a cat is figuring out why it suddenly doesn’t want to use its super-convenient litterbox any more.
One of the most common reasons a cat will stop using the litterbox is a urinary health issue. Either a urinary tract infection or urine crystals can cause your cat to associate the litterbox with pain, so he/she may try urinating outside the box to see if they get any relief. Of course, they’ll still be in pain, so it’s important to visit your vet if you suspect a urinary health problem.
Male cats are especially susceptible to urinary issues, because they have a more narrow urethra that is extra-sensitive to even the tiniest of crystals. To avoid urine crystals altogether, or to avoid a flare-up, feed your cat a high-quality and grain-free kibble or wet food. Wet food is always best, because some vets believe that increasing water intake can help dissolve minerals that can irritate the urinary tract – but since wet food can be more expensive, you can get the same effect by soaking dry kibble in warm water. Some vets recommend sticking to foods that are based in anything but fish, since fish contains a lot of minerals. Lastly, try a supplement like Cosequin – it is typically used as a joint supplement, but studies found that it also forms a protective mucous lining on the urethra of cats, which can help protect against irritation.
If you suspect a urinary issue in your cat, don’t hesitate to take it to the vet. Crystals can become blockages, which are very dangerous and can lead to serious illness or even death.
Another reason your cat may not want to use the litterbox could be because they can’t climb in and out of it easily. While litter boxes with high sides are convenient for people because they stop litter from getting tossed all over the room, in older cats, they can be hard to climb into and out of. Cats are very slow to show pain, so even a cat with severe arthritis in its spine or hips may not indicate to its owner that it has issues. Visit your vet if you see other changes in your cat’s behavior, like a hesitance to jump up or a change in attitude or sleeping habits. And remember that the Assisi Loop can help with arthritis – check out Autumn’s story for more information.
Cats can also get stressed out easily, and this could be caused by things that seem innocuous to humans. A change in the daily routine (maybe the kids are home from college, or a house guest stayed for a few days), a move, a new pet, a new baby, or any other life change that humans take in stride can be very distressing to a cat. If you suspect stress is a factor in your cat’s litterbox habits, make sure the litterbox is in a quiet, out-of-the-way location, and keep your cat’s routine as calm and unchanging as possible. Feliway diffusers emit a calming hormone that can help settle a cat’s nerves, and, in severe cases, vets can prescribe medication for mood stabilization.
Lastly, one of the easiest fixes in litterbox issues is the litterbox itself! Did you change the brand of litter that you use recently? Or, more importantly, did you clean the litterbox in the last 24 hours?
It isn’t hard to understand that cats prefer a clean litterbox, and if it gets too full of – well, you know – it isn’t a very desirable place to be any more. Clean it every day, and replace all the litter inside about once a week. If you change the brand of litter and your cat suddenly starts going outside the box, it could be because it doesn’t recognize or like the new litter. If you can go back to the old kind, do so – or, if you must change, make a slow switch, mixing the old brand of litter in with the new until you slowly switch to the new kind.
If you have multiple cats, the general rule of thumb is that you should have one litterbox per cat, plus one extra. So, if you have two cats, have three litterboxes. Giving them an option of where to go makes the choice stress-free, and helps keep each individual box cleaner, longer.
A rewarding relationship with your cat includes lots of purring, plenty of head-butts, and a clean house! So if your cat has litterbox issues, consider environmental causes, and visit your vet if you’re concerned it’s something more serious.
July 24, 2014
Hot, humid weather is upon us in most parts of the country, and while it often means outdoor summer fun and vacations, it can wreak havoc on your animals’ skin. Two common side-effects of muggy weather are “rain rot” (aka dermatophilosis) in horses and “hot spots” (aka acute moist dermatitis) in dogs. Both conditions are common and treatable, but can cause frustration in animals and owners alike until they’re cleared up.
Let’s start with the less sinister of the two. Rain rot, also called rain scald, is a persistent and irritating issue for horse owners in more humid climates. It’s actually a bacterial infection (caused by Dermatophilus congolensis) – and, as it were, many horses carry the bacteria, but don’t necessarily show symptoms of rain rot. When the skin is compromised in some way (usually by biting insects), the bacteria causes an infection that causes raised mats of hair. Underneath that hair there are scabs, and when those scabs are removed, there is either a small oozing wound, or bare, gray skin.
Depending on the location of the infection, your horse may not be bothered by rain rot at all. If it’s on the horse’s back or withers – aka, underneath where a saddle would go – it could itch and hurt when the horse is being ridden, but other than that, the animal may not even know anything is awry. In many cases, the most irritating part of rain rot is curing it! Cure requires removal of the scabs, which can tickle or sting.
Most cases of rain rot can be cured just by removing the scabs and opening up the affected skin to the fresh air. Bathing the horse and softening up the skin and scabs is generally the best way to go, and softly curry-comb the area and watch the painbrush-like tufts fall off. Allow the horse to dry completely and brush again. Mild shampoo works, but an anti-microbial shampoo is best; according to Merck, the best weapon against the bacteria is Chlorhexidine. (Fun fact: antimicrobials are the active ingredient in many human mouthwash products. For more mild cases, there are reports that a spray bottle with 1 part Listerine and 1 part water can help clear up rain rot!)
It may take a few weeks for rain rot to clear up, especially if your horse doesn’t like the feeling of you working with the scabs. Keep repeating the bathing-and-brushing routine until the horse’s coat is back to looking the way it should be.
Rain rot is one of those rare conditions that can spread from species to species, so be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after dealing directly with the affected area on your horse.
It is often said that rain rot will clear up on its own, but since it has the potential to cover large parts of the body and could spread from horse to horse, it’s always best to clear it up as soon as possible. For more severe cases of rain rot, in which multiple layers of the skin have been compromised, a vet’s attention may be required for antibiotic injections.
Rain rot, since it is a bacterial infection, is spreadable from horse to horse (either by direct contact or via biting insects), so be sure to use different tack and grooming tools as you work with other horses. Also bear in mind that things like fenceposts, which horses may use to scratch, can become infected with bacteria as well and may transmit rain rot to another horse.
A dog that is perfectly fine one day suddenly develops a massive, raw, red, bleeding, oozing sore on its side, or behind its ear, or by its tail! What in the world happened? Chances are it’s a hot spot, and yes, we won’t mince words – it’s awful. But thankfully they are easily treated, and can be prevented.
Even the tiniest bit of moisture on a dog’s skin can create the perfect environment for a hot spot to form. The skin doesn’t always need to be scratched or broken for bacteria to take hold. A small red spot can turn into a palm-sized sore literally overnight. Long-haired dogs are particularly susceptible to hot spots, because their hair can trap moisture more easily, so vigilant grooming is an absolute must.
The most important thing to do for a hot spot is to get it to dry out. This can require clipping or shaving the affected area, and if the spot is sore enough, your dog could put up a serious fight if you try to do this yourself. If you have never dealt with a hot spot before, it’s generally a good idea to call your vet anyway to make sure it’s not a more serious problem – but if your dog is acting difficult when you try to touch or examine the sore, you will definitely need a veterinarian’s help in treating it.
At least once a day – and maybe three or four times a day in the beginning – clean the hot spot with an antibacterial soap, perhaps something prescribed by a vet, and dry it extremely well. If it has started to scab over, once you have moistened it with soap and water, rub it gently with a wash cloth to remove the scabs to allow fresh, dry air to get to the area.
Unless otherwise advised by a veterinarian, don’t dress it or bandage it up! It’s important that fresh air flows to the area and that moisture doesn’t get trapped by the skin; this could cause the hot spot to grow even larger, or for new ones to form.
If it is an area that your dog could reach to lick, it’s best to employ some Bitter Apple spray to make the area taste terrible so your dog won’t bother it again. Bitter sprays are made precisely for reasons like this, and won’t irritate the sore area, and are a great tool to get your dog to leave its wound alone.
If the hot spot has penetrated multiple layers of skin – or even if it hasn’t, and is just seriously infected – your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics to speed up the healing. It’s always a good idea to talk to your vet if you have any questions about whether your dog’s hot spot is healing properly.
Even the most well-taken-care-of dog can develop hot spots, so, while neglect can lead to sores, a hot spot doesn’t necessarily mean the dog has a bad owner. As far as prevention of hot spots goes, especially with dogs with longer hair, it is very important that you examine your dog daily (especially in humid summer months) to see if there is any spot that seems red or sore. Pay special attention behind the ears, because this is a prime spot for warmth and moisture. Always dry your dog well after baths and swims, and keep an eye on its skin for a few days after each water-related activity.
Brush your dog often, and, in longer-haired dogs, avoid mats – mats are a perfect vehicle for holding moisture near the skin. Besides, mats can irritate the skin even without added water. One very important time to keep an eye on your dog is if they are wearing an e-collar (aka the Cone of Shame). A cone, while a vital medical tool, can trap moisture around the neck and ears, causing a prime hot spot-forming environment.
Sometimes, hot spots can be indicators of another problem. A dog may have been scratching at its ear because of an infection, and that self-trauma may cause a hot spot. A dog licking at the base of its tail may be trying to reach an irritated anal gland, but causes a hot spot instead. A dog trying to lick to relieve arthritic pain in its paw may cause a hot spot there instead. If you have any indication that your dog may have some issue other than just the hot spot, certainly talk to your vet.
All in all, summertime is a wonderful time of the year for fun with your animal, but remember that each season comes with its own health challenges! Just know your animal and pay close attention to your pets’ health and everyone should enjoy this fantastic season together.
July 16, 2014
Cats are notorious for jumping onto just about any surface that will hold them – and often knocking down anything they encounter. But what if your cat suddenly stops jumping to the heights she used to?
As cats get older, many develop joint pain that they are hesitant to show. Cats are very different from dogs in that they rarely show pain, and are experts at hiding it. Therefore, signs of pain must be picked out from your cat’s daily life – and one of these signs is a hesitance or refusal to jump up.
Especially if your cat used to jump all the time, but is getting older and now must be lifted to its food bowl on the counter, your cat probably has some arthritic pain. It could also be experiencing some other type of pain; many cats are prone to urinary tract issues, and any other abdominal pain may prevent your cat from jumping up. If you suspect something may be wrong (and remember – it can be really hard to tell!), contact your veterinarian, as it may be time for a check-up.
The blogger’s cat Cedric has pretty eyes, but they don’t see much.
Another more rare possibility is that your cat is going blind. I bring up this possibility mostly because my cat, Cedric, went blind around 3-4 years old, and he stopped jumping higher than the couch. He was never much of a jumper, but he noticeably became a ground-dweller when he started to lose his sight. I don’t blame him; I wouldn’t want to be teetering on some high surface if I couldn’t see where I was, either.
Also, keep this in mind: There is a belief among many Persian owners that “Persians don’t jump.” Every cat is different, but it seems to be a trait of this regal and dignified breed that too much jumping or roughhousing is not to be tolerated! So, if your cat is a Persian, its sheer lineage may be the reason it doesn’t jump.
Of course, remember that the Assisi Loop can help with your cat’s pain, whether it’s caused by arthritis, an internal issue, or a urinary tract issue. If you think the Loop could be effective, feel free to contact Assisi Animal Health or talk to your vet.
July 10, 2014
The Assisi Loop is an effective treatment for arthritis in dogs, cats, and horses. We have published several blog posts about this. We also have an excellent overview of tPEMF and arthritis on our website here. Animals are living longer, which means more of our pets are suffering from the debilitating pain that can come with arthritis. Our new Manager of Client Relations and Sales has a dog with chronic arthritis. Before she even started working with Assisi, she began working with the Loop. Here’s her story of using the Loop for the first time to treat her beloved Blake.
Blake is a 10-year-old rescued Pit Bull Terrier who was adopted from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter (New Mexico) in 2005, when he was about a year old. He sat in the shelter for 3 months before he found his forever home – and perhaps that long wait can be attributed to his slightly strange looks.
Blake has chondrodysplasia – a developmental abnormality that is essentially doggie dwarfism. While some breeds, like Basset hounds and Dachshunds, are selectively bred to have chondrodysplasia, it sometimes occurs in other breeds by genetic accident.
As a result, Blake has very short and bowed front legs and an elongated back, earning him the nickname “Low Rider.” He often gets stopped on the street by tourists in Santa Fe (where he lives with his momma, Assisi’s Manager of Client Relations and Sales) asking to take a picture of such a cool-looking dog. Unfortunately, though, Blake’s bone condition also causes many medical issues.
He first started limping and developing arthritis in his front shoulders, elbows and wrists when he was just a year and a half old. Many years of glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM supplements kept him moving fairly well, but cold weather and age have slowing effects on Blake. What his momma didn’t realize, however, was that he was also developing severe arthritis in his entire spine.
Everything came to a head in 2011, when Blake and his momma were living in Knoxville, Tennessee. One day Blake could barely walk, and trembled uncontrollably. His momma took him to a number of different vets before, finally, the neurology team at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine isolated a slipped disc in his back. After a week, despite medication and acupuncture, Blake was immobile in his back legs and in constant pain.
Momma scheduled an MRI for him at the University of Tennessee, but was afraid that the disc problem would require costly surgery. The MRI was scheduled for a Tuesday at 7:30 am. Suddenly, at 3:30 am that same day, Blake stood up, walked casually to his water bowl, and took a drink. The disc must have popped back into place – and not a moment too soon!
While he was able to avoid the MRI, Blake’s back issues persisted – though thankfully not with the severity of his incident in Knoxville. After moves to New Jersey and then back to Santa Fe, Blake usually acted normal, though occasionally – often after a day of exertion, like a long walk – he would get “pain attacks,” where he’d sit and tremble until his momma gave him some Previcox (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). After taking the pill, he’d lay down and sleep the rest of the day.
After years of spot-treating Blake’s spinal arthritis, Momma (also known as Charlotte Jusinski) found out about the Assisi Loop. She received her first two Loops during a cool, rainy spell in the weather, when Blake was especially “creaky.” She Looped Blake’s back for 30 minutes (one 15-minute treatment with each Loop) three times a day for a week, then backed it off to about twice a day, and once a day after that. Blake’s “creaks” slowly disappeared.
Now, Blake only uses the Loop as necessary. He hardly gets his “pain attacks” at all any more – and, once in a blue moon when he does, his momma Loops his back for 30 minutes and he is ready to face the rest of the day (instead of sleeping off medication, like before!). He once again enjoys his walks and doesn’t creak around the house when it rains or when it’s chilly. When he presents with a little limp in his right front leg (which he first started limping on at 18 months old), his momma Loops his leg once, and he is good to go for days or even weeks.
Blake is a great ambassador for pit bulls, with a smiling face and a sweet disposition – and, while we all agree that dwarf dogs are adorable with their silly little legs, remember that any bone disorder (no matter how cute) comes with its own set of challenges. Blake is ready to face all those challenges now that his momma has the Loop in her arsenal!
July 2, 2014
When you suspect your dog is in pain, it makes sense to look for the usual suspects – a limp, a cut, a spot that makes your pet yelp when you touch it. However, dogs instinctually tend to hide pain as long as possible, so oftentimes symptoms go unnoticed.
To stay as in-tune with your pet’s well-being as possible, always watch for changes in behavior – almost any change could signal an injury or illness. Here are a few often-overlooked signs that your pet may be in pain.
Grouchiness or Moodiness – We always want our pets to be happy and carefree, and when they’re in good health, it’s usually easy to tell they’re content. However, if your dog starts getting “testy” with things he didn’t mind before – maybe he growls at his canine friend when the other tries to play, or even snaps at a human when they reach down to pet him – it could be a sign that something is wrong. Arthritis could make usual games painful on his joints, or maybe an inflamed organ makes the usual cuddle session uncomfortable.
Having “accidents” indoors – While it’s normal for puppies and newly-adopted dogs to take a little time to get used to the concept of going outside to use the bathroom, sometimes pets that have been successfully housetrained for years can start having accidents indoors. This could be an indicator of any variety of issues, including obvious ones like a urinary tract infection to Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It could also be a sign of other issues, however – perhaps your pet doesn’t want to climb down the stairs to the yard because his legs hurt, or straining puts stress on an aching back so your dog puts off “going” as long as possible until he just can’t hold it.
Panting – even in the dead of winter, sometimes dogs will pant. If they just went on a long walk or are sitting next to a roaring fire, this makes sense – but panting can also be a sign of pain and stress.
Different sleeping habits – If your dog usually jumps onto the bed to sleep with you, but suddenly stops doing so and seems to prefer the floor, this could actually be a sign that jumping up is painful for her. Also, sometimes pain can cause a dog great anxiety, since they can’t understand where it’s coming from or how to make it stop. This anxiety can lead them to try to “hide,” perhaps under a desk, the bed, or in a corner of the yard. If your dog suddenly seeks a hiding place, it could be a sign that they aren’t feeling well.
Drooling – Dogs often hypersalivate when they are in pain or are anxious. Some dogs (we’re looking at all you Newfies and St. Bernards) are naturally drooly, but keep an eye on those jowls. If they get extra-slobbery, it may be time for a trip to the vet.
Lethargy – It’s common to see an older dog moving slowly down the street. Usually, we just assume it’s because the dog is older… But let’s look closer at the cause. When an older human moves slowly, why is that? Usually because they have arthritis, their muscles are sore, or they are feeling weak. It’s the same in dogs! When a dog starts to move more slowly than they used to, there is a reason, and sometimes that reason is joint pain and stiffness. Even if a dog is older, it doesn’t have to mean it has to move slowly and be in pain.
Yawning – When a dog yawns, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s bored or tired. Yawning is a calming mechanism in dogs, used in stressful situations to calm anxiety – and we all know that pain can certainly cause stress and anxiety.
Stiffened body posture – when a dog has pain on one side of its body or the other, it’s easy to tell. Limping is usually a pet owner’s first indication that something is wrong. But what if the pain is central or bilateral, and doesn’t cause the dog to favor one side in particular? This is when it’s important to watch for a stiffened body, ginger walking, ears pulled back, “whale eye” (where the whites of the dog’s eyes show), hesitation to turn its head or bend its spine, and laying or sitting tensely.
Change in Appetite – Pain can cause many changes in dog behavior, and a common one is that your dog won’t want to eat any more. It could be painful to get to the dog dish, or the pain could be making your dog nauseous, or the anxiety and stress caused by the pain just causes your dog to lose his or her appetite. If your dog has just had surgery, especially, it may not want to eat – check out our post about dogs that won’t eat after surgery.
In the end, you are your dog’s best friend, #1 advocate, and closest ally. You know your dog’s behavior best, so if anything seems out of place, visit your vet (don’t necessarily try to treat your dog with human painkillers – definitely talk to your vet first), and remember that the Assisi Loop can help with inflammatory issues and can help bring your pet back to optimal health.
For a more detailed investigation into veterinary pain management, check out Assisi’s interview series with Dr. Erin Troy – part one explores Dr. Troy’s pain management certifications and how it can be difficult talking to pet owners about pain.
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