The Happy Beast - Blog - Dog Health

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.

 

Digestive Enzymes for Pets

What are digestive enzymes? Enzymes are responsible for making the chemical reactions in our body faster and more efficient. Digestive enzymes aid the body by breaking down proteins from food into amino acids which can be absorbed and utilized. Enzymes facilitate proper absorption of foods.

Digestive enzymes are found in raw foods. They are what cause foods to break down and decay. For example, bananas contain the enzyme, amylase. Amylase breaks down raw starch into sugar, which is why green bananas become softer and sweeter as they sit on the counter. All raw foods contain the right amount of the specific enzyme required to break the proteins they are made of.

Why is this important? Cooking destroys the enzymes that are required to break food down, so when we eat cooked food our bodies have to source enzymes from an internal supply. If the body is focused on producing enzymes for digestion, less energy is allotted to the metabolic enzymes used in organ, muscle and cell function.

Efficient and complete digestion is essential to good health. When the digestive system is functioning well, the rest of the body is prepared to maintain good health and fight disease. Digestive enzymes can take the body from merely surviving to truly thriving. This is especially important in animals with allergies, compromised immune systems, IBD, IBS, and pancreatitis. Symptoms of an enzyme deficiency can include bloating, gas, irritability and fatigue.

How should this affect your choices for pet food?

  1. Feed raw. Any food that hasn’t been cooked over 118 degrees will retain its required enzymes. Choose a frozen, dehydrated and freeze-dried raw food that is complete and balanced. See some of the foods we recommend here.
  2. Supplement with a digestive enzyme. Choose a plant-sourced enzyme as they survive under more diverse conditions. Avoid enzymes called “animal pancreas extracts” which may not survive the acidic environment on the digestive tract. We like InClover’s Optagest.
  3. Choose raw treats like frozen marrow bones and raw goat milk. These treats contain live enzymes to support the digestive tract and overall good health and your animals will love them!
  4. Read our blog post on “Helping Pets with Digestive Problems for more info and recommendations.

Helping Pets with Digestive Problems

Many pets will likely suffer from one type of digestive problem or another in their lifetimes. The symptoms may be mild, including bad breath, excessive gas, a rumbling tummy; or more severe, including chronic diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, or mucus or blood in the stool.

The causes of digestive problems include food sensitivities and allergies, low-quality or species-inappropriate diets, overeating, stress, and ingestion of contaminated water or “found” foods (i.e. from the trash or picked up from the ground.) They can also be a side effect of another health condition, medication, or a result of parasites or bad bacteria in the digestive tract.

If your animal is suffering from chronic or acute digestive problems, including colitis, parasitic infection, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD), or bacterial infection, be sure to consult with your vet. Often treating pets with digestive problems can be done through diet and inexpensive supplements.

Other things you can do to help pets with digestive problems:

  • Feed more fresh, less processed, species-appropriate foods.
    Highly-processed foods like conventional kibble (i.e. “dry food”) are harder for the body to digest. Replace some or all of your animal’s food with dehydrated, freeze-dried, or raw food. (We like Grandma Lucy’s, Sojo’s, Primal, Steve’s Real Food and SmallBatch.) Less-processed foods are more digestible and easier on the digestive tract.
  • Eliminate foods commonly associated with food allergies or food sensitivities.
    Choose foods that do not include “filler” ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, and animal by-products. Moving to higher-quality foods that don’t contain those ingredients often relieve many digestive issues. Some animals have reactions to other ingredients and will benefit from a limited-ingredient diet. Complete and balanced raw foods with simple ingredient profiles are ideal for experimenting with and eliminating potential food-allergens.
  • Add prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.
    Digestion requires a lot of the body’s energy. (Think of how tired you feel after a big meal!) Adding enzymes found in fresh foods, raw goat’s milk, raw bones, and supplements (like InClover’s Optagest) can support the digestive system by helping to break down foods. Prebiotics and probiotics work in the intestine and improve efficient digestion. Read our blog post about “Digestive Enzymes for Pets” for more info.
  • Control portions and meal times.
    Many animals can also have upset stomachs from from overeating. (Again, think of how you feel when you eat too much!) Measure out how much food your animal gets at each meal and decrease those portions on days when your dog gets a bone or a lot of treats. Be cautious about feeding your animal too close to playtime/exercise, especially if you have a large-breed dog, in order to avoid bloat.
  • Make a meat stock.
    Adding a meat stock to your animal’s diet can help “seal” the gut. NOTE: Meat stock is different from a bone broth. Bone broth is cooked longer, resulting in high levels of glutamates. Bone broth has numerous health benefits for animals and people who have healthy intestines, but can worsen symptoms in a compromised digestive system.

    • Meat Stock
      • Ingredients:
        • 1 whole chicken or 2-3 lbs. chicken quarters or bone-in cuts, or
        • 2-3 lbs. beef or lamb knuckles, marrow bones or ribs
        • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
        • Water
      • Instructions:
        • Place meats (still with the bone in) into a crockpot/slow-cooker with apple cider vinegar. Add enough water to cover meat.
        • Cook on high for 1 hour, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 3 hours.
        • Remove meat and strain broth through a colander or cheesecloth.
        • Add ¼- 1 cup of broth to your animal’s meal or serve separately.
        • The meat can also be deboned and consumed and the bones can be used to make a bone broth.
    • Bone Broth
      • Ingredients:
        • The bones you just cooked!
        • Water
      • Instructions:
        • Place bones back into a crockpot/slow-cooker. Add new/fresh water; enough to cover the bones.
        • Cook on low temperature for 12-24 hours.
        • NOTE: Bone broth should be reserved for animal and human members of the family not suffering from colitis, IBS or IBD.

Kick Ash: Is a Low-Ash Diet Right for Your Pet?

If you have a cat or dog with kidney or urinary tract issues or a large breed puppy, it may have been recommended that your animal be fed a low-ash diet or foods that are low in ash content. But what exactly is ash?

Ash refers to the inorganic matter or mineral content left over after the organic matter of a food is burned off. We often think of ash as a “bad” component of food, however it is just a general term referring to the collection of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, etc. that are in some pet foods.

Excess ash content can be the result of using meat meals, especially “meat-by-product” meals, which contain higher amounts of tendons and bones. These foods have higher levels of calcium and phosphorous. A note of caution with large breed puppies is that excess calcium and phosphorous can contribute to irregular or rapid growth that may negatively affect their bones and joints.

In the past, it was also theorized that feeding a low-ash diet reduced the risk of the creation of bladder stones. However, recent studies have shown that the most effective way to reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) is to feed a high-moisture diet. Additionally, reducing stress is an important factor when treating UTIs; especially for cats.

In animals showing signs of compromised kidney function, it is important to pay attention to the ash content, and more specifically the phosphorous levels. It is important to prevent excess phosphorous intake because it may lead to an imbalance of calcium/phosphorous. Calcium is then drawn from the bones and deposited into other tissues and organs, which can cause damage over the long term. The best way to avoid excess phosphorus is to avoid foods that contain “meat meals” because these products contain higher amounts of connective tissue and bone, and thus higher values of calcium and phosphorus.

In summary, ash in itself isn’t bad, but for certain pets, you may want to pay closer attention to those values and consider a low-ash diet. However, the best way to ensure that your animal’s intake of ash is well balanced is simply to include high-quality meat sources and moisture in her diet. The best way to do this is by including raw, canned, dehydrated, freeze-dried, and air-dried foods, which are free of “meat-meals” and “meat by-products.”

Ideal Products

Tiki and Weruva are great about listing their mineral content for each food. Tiki even has a chart of the Veterinary recommendations for animals with renal disease and urinary stones: http://www.petropics.com/petropics-nutrition-facts/