The Happy Beast - Blog - Dog Health

Taking Care of Senior Dogs

Claire Martin, CCMT (that’s Certified Canine Massage Therapist), CVT, shares advice on taking care of senior dogs and how massage can improve their physical and mental state of health. Check out our event calendar for Claire’s massage days at The Happy Beast and read more about her services at Peak Animal Wellness and Massage.

AGE IS NOT A DISEASE.

“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.” – Sydney Jeanne Seward

As my practice continues to grow, over 50% of my patients are animals in their golden years.  It is with deep gratitude and honor that I work on these animals, and with some amazing results.  While almost any dog can benefit from massage therapy, it’s especially true for senior dogs.

Our dogs grow and age similarly to us.  The once overly rambunctious and naughty puppy will eventually begin to slow down.  Age is not a disease, and it’s really important to remember to embrace this process with an open mind and an open heart.  It can be scary when you suddenly realize you are caring for a senior animal, but use this time to empower yourself with the knowledge and understanding of how to prepare for this inevitable,  AND wonderful, experience.

boxerCommon Conditions in Older Dogs:

Arthritis – Almost every old dog will experience this, no matter what.  It’s just a part of the romping and galavanting that goes on in the puppy years.  Would we have it any other way!?  My arthritic and senior patients who receive regular massage see MAJOR benefits.  The list of massage benefits goes on and on, and soon I’ll have a blog on just that!  Adding in Omega fatty acids can be incredibly helpful too!

Dental disease – Dental disease can depend greatly on the breed and size of your pup, but no matter what, it’s really important to address.  Dogs are absolutely incredible at hiding pain, and so you may never know this is going on without a thorough oral exam by a veterinarian.  Once this is taken care of, your senior dog can munch down — and pain free!

Kidney disease – Pay attention to water intake, change in eating, or bowel habits.

Cancer – Sadly, many of our older dogs suffer from cancer.  My best advice, if available, is to create a team for your animal.  If there’s an integrative veterinarian near you, this is optimal.  Continue feeding your senior pup a high quality diet, and continue letting them do the activities that they love!

Depression – This is a really important piece that I don’t want to skip.  Older dogs really can feel a sense of sadness, as they are not physically and mentally able to what they did when they were younger.  Massage therapy is a blood-pumping activity that can feel similar to exercise, and can act as a tremendous emotional support as well.

cute goldenHow Can You Help?

Movement – Sometimes we want to protect our senior dogs so much, that we forget that they still need to be dogs!  Controlled exercise (multiple, short, leash walks) can be emotionally supportive and also good on overall joint health and flexibility.

Fish Oils – Fish Oils act as a natural anti-inflammatory and help lubricate the joints.  If your senior dog (or any dog!) isn’t on these yet, it’s definitely something to consider.

Body Work – Consider massage therapy, for all of the benefits – the physical and emotional benefits, and the detoxifying qualities as well.

Emotional Support – Remember your old pup is still a dog!  This is really important for BOTH of you.  Be there during the process . . . I know it can be hard.


SO CUTEHere’s the truth:

If you’re really super lucky, your dog will grow old.  Every dog and person’s experience will be unique, and it is never easy to lose a best friend.  My goal is to keep you feeling prepared and empowered.  Let me know what questions you have, or how you are helping your best friend during their golden years.

 

 

 

 

Love & Light,

Claire

Fresh Food: The Cost to Feed and Why It’s Worth It

This is why I feed my dog fresh food (and exactly how much I spent on dog food last month.)

At The Happy Beast, we believe in feeding minimally processed, whole foods and species-appropriate diets for our dogs and cats. We promote nutrition plans that benefit healthy animals and ones that compliment veterinary care in animals with health complications.

The role of diet and nutrition is powerful. We believe that what we feed our animals greatly affects their ability to maintain health, fight off disease, recover from illness and can influence the development of certain conditions, such as diabetes and obesity.

Many pet food companies use inexpensive ingredients like corn, wheat and animal by-products and flavor enhancers like artificial flavorings and sugar. Kibble (dry dog food) is processed with pressure and extreme heat (a process called extrusion). Sure, dogs have been surviving on these diets for years, but they certainly aren’t thriving. At The Happy Beast, we routinely see dogs suffering from food allergies, obesity and cancer.

Fortunately the fresh food market is rising to meet the need for convenient and affordable foods. These are available in both frozen food or shelf-stable options. Some require more prep- defrosting or rehydrating with water, and others offer the same “scoop and go” convenience of kibble dog food.

Pirate - The Happy Beast

Pi in a furry hat.

My dog, Pi, has been raw-fed since the day I brought her home. In the last five years, I’ve fed her most of the prepared raw foods on the market: every kind of frozen raw, air-dried, freeze-dried and dehydrated. For a six-month stint, I spent every Sunday afternoon preparing a homemade diet by chopping vegetables and weighing chunks of meat. Now we’ve settled in on a combination of prepared frozen raw, some air-dried meat and raw meaty bones.

Feeding Pi fresh food is important to me for two key reasons:

  • Daily Health: Pi has a soft shiny coat, her teeth are clean and white, she stays at a healthy weight, her urine doesn’t kill the grass and her stools are small and don’t stink.
  • Long Term Health: Her diet is her health insurance. She stays healthy, so we don’t go to the vet except for wellness exams and vaccinations.

Pi is a 48lb, fairly active, 5 year old super-mutt.

   Last month she ate:

2 – 6lb Bags SmallBatch Frozen Raw $60

3 – 2lb Chubs SmallBatch Frozen Raw $25

1 – 2lb Bag RealMeat Air-Dried Food $23

1 – 6pack Raw Marrow Bones $16

TOTAL: $124

   Last year, our vet bills total $72.

I attribute my dog’s health and low vet bills partly to genetics (lucky mutt!), partly to ample exercise, but primarily to a healthy diet.

See this chart to get an idea of what it would cost to feed your dog fresh food.

*Remember that every dog has a different metabolism. For example, growing puppies require more calories than an older dog and a super active working breed typically needs more food than a couch dwelling bulldog.

Calories Per Day Frozen Raw 2lb Chubs Frozen Raw

8oz patties

6lb Bag

Air-Dried 10lb Bag Freeze-Dried 8lb Bag
20lb Dog 400 $42 $60 $60 $65
50lb Dog 1000 $110 $150 $150 $162
80lb Dog 1600 $170 $240 $240 $262
100lb Dog 2000 $220 $300 $300 $325

 

Supplements for Every Day Dog Health

You already have your dog on a healthy diet so what else does your she need for optimal health and wellness? The answer might be dietary supplements.

At The Happy Beast, we always address diet first. A species-appropriate diet lays the foundation for proper health by reducing the risk of illness and injury in animals and helping them recover from existing illness and disease. Often times, our animals have a lifestyle need or health condition that can be addressed by adding supplements to the appropriate diet.

For example, my dog, Pi, eats raw foods prepared by Primal and Small Batch and she occasionally gets air-dried food from The Real Meat Co. She’s on an optimal diet, but to meet her specific health needs, I stock my doggie medicine cabinet with Connectin joint support, a fish oil, Pet Natural’s Calming treats and Optagest prebiotics.

Check out these common scenarios we hear in the store every day and how the right supplement can help improve your animal’s health.

My two-year-old border collie mix is my hiking and running companion.

A young, active dog is susceptible to joint inflammation and injury. Omega-3s from fish oil and glucosamine keep joints healthy and moving. Colorado canines will also benefit from a daily prebiotic or probiotic to stave off environmental bacteria like giardia. Try InClover’s Jump or Connectin for joint health and Optagest Prebiotic and Enzyme.

I have a seven-year-old dog with a history of urinary tract infections and struvite crystals.

Powdered cranberry contains tannins that prevent certain pathogenic strains of bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Free-floating bacteria can then pass through the bladder, reducing the risk of infection and growth of struvite crystals. Try Cranimals or Wee Wee Boost.

My lab has itchy dry skin and sheds incessantly.

Omega-3s from fish oil or algae combat inflammation and soothe itchy skin. Anecdotal evidence shows that those same omega-3s reduce shedding, but conclusive research is still ongoing.  Try InClover Glow or Alaska Natural’s Salmon Oil.

My dog’s breath stinks!

Bad breath can come from tartar in the mouth or bacteria in the gut. To combat both, pair a prebiotic with a green detoxing supplement. Try InClover’s Grin or PetKelp’s Wellness Blend.

I have a dog who is a Nervous Nelly at the vet and sometimes vomits on car rides.

There are several supplement approaches to calming an anxious dog and some are more effective than others depending on the dog and the cause of anxiety. Theanine helps dogs who are generally anxious, while flower essences like Rescue Remedy work well for sensitive dogs. A dog who vomits in the car will find relief from an herbal supplement like Ark Natural’s Happy Traveler.

My dog got into the trash and she’s had loose stools for the last few days.

Pumpkin fiber soothes tummies by regulating stool volume and density, meaning it binds loose stools and combats constipation. Firm-Up’s dehydrated pumpkin also boasts soluble apple fiber for an extra stomach-soothing boost.

We hope this blog post provides a good, quick summary of some of our favorite supplements, but stop by the store if you’d like to talk more about your pet’s specific conditions and how we might be able to help.

Species-Appropriate Food for Canine Weight Loss

An estimated 53% of dogs in the U.S. are obese or overweight and we get a lot of inquiries in the store for weight loss diets and treats. We started The Happy Beast Weight Loss Program to help dogs and cats lose weight in a safe and healthy way, using species-appropriate foods.

Most commercial and prescription dog foods aimed at weight loss are low calorie, low fat and high fiber. The dominant ingredients in these foods are carbohydrates. Why? Carbohydrates (e.g. rice, corn, potatoes) are much lower in calories per pound than meat. The idea is to help your dog feel full by allowing him to eat just as much food while consuming fewer calories.

We find a few problems with this approach.

First, higher carb means lower protein. (Remember, protein is required for muscle and organ growth and maintenance.)  Second, dogs are satiated by fat. A low-fat, high-fiber food will not help your dog feel full. And third, the body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates, so most unused carbs are converted to fat stores.

Contrast this to the diets we recommend for weight loss that are high protein, moderate fat, and low carb.

In the most recent publication of Nutrient Requirements for Cats and Dogs, the National Research Council finds that canines have no requirement for carbohydrates. The primary source of energy for canines should be fat and protein. For your dog to lose weight, he needs a species-appropriate protein supply and healthy fat to help him feel satisfied. We reduce carbohydrates so the body is forced to use up fat stores for energy.

HIGH PROTEIN

Regardless of your dog’s need to gain or lose weight, he needs a daily supply of high-quality protein. The digestive tract breaks down protein into amino acids which are used for daily body functions including maintaining and repairing muscles and organs. A diet that is primarily high quality protein will provide your dog all 22 required amino acids. If your dog doesn’t consume enough quality protein in his diet, he will synthesize 12 non-essential of the 22 amino acids by breaking down his own healthy muscle and organ tissues. The other 10 amino acids are called essential, because they cannot be synthesized by the body if they are missing from the diet.

MODERATE FAT

Including a moderate amount of fat in the diet may be contrary to what we’re used to hearing when we talk about weight loss, but healthy fats have an important roles in helping your dog feel full.  Dogs feel satisfied when they’ve consumed enough fat, not when they’ve consumed enough food. Feeding a dog green beans and carrots is not going to make a hungry dog feel full. Once your dog has reached his weight loss goal, fat in the diet will be used as energy.

LOW CARB

Any carbohydrates your dog eats are converted into glucose by the digestive system and used for energy. Any unused glucose is stored as fat. By limiting the amount of carbohydrates in the diet, your dog’s system will resort to using fat as an energy source instead; using up fat reserves in the body. This is how your dog will lose weight!

Using the diet of our dog’s ancestors as a guide, dogs require 14% or less carbohydrates. Most dry food (kibbles) are made up of over 40% carbs. If your dog has a weight loss goal, consider a raw, freeze-dried or air-dried food that contain less than 15% carbohydrates. If you still choose to feed a kibble diet, you can still replace some of his food with canned, raw or cooked meat to increase his protein intake while decreasing carbs.

For more info, read our blog post on calculating carbs or check the Nutrition Plan Worksheet for our Weight Loss Program. You can also check out the websites for some of our favorite brands, including SmallBatch, Primal, K9 Naturals, ZiwiPeak and The Real Meat Co.

Or stop by the store anytime and we’ll be happy to help create a customized Weight Loss Plan for your furry friend.

Separation Anxiety: Behaviorist’s Approach

Separation anxiety is probably the most common behavior concern our customers have with their dogs. It is characterized by dogs who, when left alone, howl, bark, whine, house-soil and/or chew and destroy carpet, doors, blinds, couches, etc. Behaviors range from mild to extreme. Some dog may not eat when left alone, while dogs with more severe anxiety might break out of crates, scratch through doors, or dig under fences.

In January, I met with animal behaviorist, Dr. Juli Potter, DVM of Starwood Veterinary Care in Boulder County, to discuss separation anxiety in canines: what causes it, how to manage it, and when an animal behaviorist can help.

Dr. Potter explains that most dogs suffer from some kind of separation anxiety. We have spent thousands of years domesticating dogs and breeding them to be our constant companions. While dogs are not meant to be alone, we can train even the most anxious dog to be comfortable and confident while we are away.

Rule out or identify any medical problem contributing to your dog’s separation anxiety.

Dr. Potter recommends a full blood panel with urinalysis and a complete physical exam. Left untreated, pain and illness lead to and/or increase anxiety.

Practice empathy.

Coming home to a dog who has destroyed the house or getting complaints from neighbors about your dog barking can be terribly frustrating. Try to understand why your dog behaves this way. He’s not angry or “acting out.” He’s seeking out ways to cope with the stress he’s feeling. Remember, punishing a dog who is fearful or anxious will only increase his fear and anxiety. It may even teach him to avoid you.

Make life predictable.

Create a predictable daily schedule for you and your dog. A consistent routine reduces separation anxiety by teaching your dog what to expect. Feed, walk, and train your dog 2-3 times per day. Training sessions and walks don’t have to be long; 15-30 minutes for each is sufficient. Dr. Potter says the morning walk is the most important one. It allows your dog to burn up energy before spending the day alone. Need help with training? A behaviorist can design a treatment program based on your individual needs. Need help with walking? Stop by The Happy Beast to pick up business cards for local dog walkers and pet sitters in the area.

Teach basic commands.

Basic commands like “sit”, “down”, “stay” and “shake” help teach your dog predictability as well. When practicing, say the command, wait for (or encourage) your dog to perform the behavior, then reward your dog with a treat. Practice these behaviors for 10-­15 minutes 2-­3 times a day. Teaching basic commands and tricks is a predictable way to interact with your dog for it helps your dog learn what is expected of him.

Ignore needy behavior.

Ignore very needy, attention-seeking behavior. Dr. Potter says this is more challenging for the humans than for the dogs. If your dog jumps up on you, shoves his head under your hand to be pet, or begs for attention, you have to walk away and do not look at him. Giving in to these behaviors reinforces your dog’s constant “neediness” for you.

When you have to leave…

Be sure to ignore your dog for at least 20-­30 minutes before you have to leave.. By this time, your dog should have had a walk, a short training session and his breakfast. Don’t make your departure anything special or overly emotional. About 10 minutes before you leave, give your dog a special treat such as a Snoop filled with treats, a bully stick or a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or dog food. (Dr. Potter suggest filling a Kong with canned dog food and freezing it overnight.)

When to seek professional help.

If your dog’s separation anxiety is negatively affecting you or your dog’s quality of life, consulting with a behaviorist can make a remarkable difference. Dr. Potter explains that sometimes the things we think are helping our animals are actually reinforcing their anxious behaviors. A behaviorist can help you identify what is working, what is setting you back and also prescribe a training protocol.

In certain cases, a vet may also prescribe an anti-­anxiety medication. Dr. Potter explains that medications like these are a “band­-aid” and should only be used short term. The medication reduces the dog’s anxiety so that he can begin to learn alternate positive behaviors. As training goes into effect and the dog becomes symptom free,the medication should be tapered off. Anti­-anxiety medications inhibit the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, therefore a rebound effect, or worsening of symptoms, can occur if the medication is stopped suddenly.

Dr. Juli Potter, DVM of Starwood Veterinary Care in Boulder County offers in home wellness visits, behavior consulting and training. Her mission is to enhance the human-animal bond through knowledge, empathy, and compassionate care.