Canine Equivalent of Alzheimer’s – Can You Spot the Signs

Canine Equivalent of Alzheimer’s – Can You Spot the Signs

By Dr. Karen Becker

Just like you, your canine BFF is getting older, and unfortunately, it’s happening at a greatly accelerated rate compared to your own aging process. The good news is that the care you’ve lovingly provided your dog up to this point will go a long way toward ensuring she continues to thrive during her golden years.

Once your pet begins to show signs of aging, it’s important to focus on making her senior and geriatric life stages as happy, healthy, and comfortable as possible. One age-related condition that many older dogs develop is canine cognitive dysfunc­tion (CCD), which is similar to Alzheimer’s diseases in people and is the result of an aging brain.

Clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction are found in 50% of dogs over the age of 11, and by the age of 15, 68% display at least one sign.1 And because large and giant breed dogs age more quickly than smaller breeds, dogs as young as 6 can begin to experience mental decline.

Signs of Cognitive Decline in Older Dogs

There are five classic signs of cognitive decline in dogs:

·         Decreased attention to surroundings, disinterest, apathy

·         Decreased purposeful activity

·         Increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period·         Intermittent anxiety expressed through apprehension, panting, moaning or shivering

·         Loss of formerly acquired knowledge, which includes housetraining

Other symptoms include failure to respond to commands and/or difficulty hearing, inability to recognize familiar people and difficulty navigating the environment. Additional physical manifestations of CCD can include excessive licking, lack of grooming, fecal and urinary incontinence, and loss of appetite.

5 Ways to Help Your Aging Pet Stay Mentally Sharp

1. Offer your dog lots of opportunities for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation — Senior and even geriatric dogs still need daily exercise to maintain good health and physical conditioning.

While older dogs can’t exercise or compete with the same intensity as their younger counterparts, they still derive tremendous benefit from regular walks and other age-appropriate physical activity on a daily basis, or even better, twice daily. There are three types of strengthening exercises that can also be of tremendous help to aging canine bodies:

· Passive range-of-motion (PROM) exercises can benefit both incapacitated and physically healthy pets

· Balance and proprioception (spatial orientation and movement) exercises help older pets remain flexible while also encouraging improved balance and physical stability

· Targeted strengthening exercises are designed to work the big muscle groups that help with standing, walking and running

No matter how old your dog is he still needs regular social interaction with other pets and/or people. As is the case with humans as we age, if dogs don’t stay active and involved in life, their world can become a confusing, intimidating place. Your pet needs regular exposure to other pets and people, but never to the point of overstimulation. Short periods of socialization and playtime in controlled situations are ideal.

Food puzzle and treat release toys provide fun and a good mental workout, as does nose work and brief training sessions to refresh his memory or teach him a new skill.

2. Schedule regular senior wellness check-ups — I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for dogs getting up in years. Keeping abreast of your animal companion’s physical and mental changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early.

Ask your functional medicine veterinarian to perform a blood test, including an A1c test to check your pet’s internal organ and metabolic health to make sure you’re identifying possible issues early on. Keeping abreast of her physical and mental changes as she ages is the very best way to catch any disease process early.

Over-vaccinating is something older animals do not need, so advocate for your older dog by refusing additional vaccines and insisting on titer tests instead. A titer is a blood test that measures protective immunity. Chances are your dog is very well-protected. Switch to titering to help reduce her toxic load.

3. Minimize stress in all aspects of your dog’s life — Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize anxiety and stress in your older dog. Senior and geriatric dogs, especially those with CCD, are often disoriented, so sticking to a consistent daily routine your pet can count on can help him stay oriented, which will in turn reduce his anxiety. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, feed him at the same times, and go for walks on a set schedule.

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight and physically active will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease as he ages, insuring he remains comfortable and mobile. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, stretching, and hydrotherapy (exercising in water) can also provide enormous benefits in keeping dogs mobile in their later years.

Regular massage can help keep your senior dog’s muscles toned and reduce the slackening that comes with aging. Massaged muscles are looser, which makes it easier for your pet to move around comfortably. Massage also improves circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage. It can ease the stiffness of arthritis, which helps him maintain his normal gait and active lifestyle. Massage also loosens the muscles around joints, which helps promote ease of movement.

If your dog is having some urine dribbling or incontinence as a result of his age (and not caused by an underlying condition that should be addressed), provide him with more frequent potty trips outside. You can also reintroduce him to a crate if he was crate trained initially. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for age-related incontinence.

If your dog has problems hearing or seeing, use odor cues like essential oils or pheromone products to help him find his way around. Also consider purchasing or building ramps if he’s having trouble getting into the car or up on the bed or a favorite chair, and if he’s slipping or unsure on bare floors, add some runners, yoga mats or area rugs.

For sleep problems, try increasing his daytime activity level. Let him sleep in your bedroom. Sleeping near you should help ease any anxiety that may be contributing to his nighttime restlessness. Guide him with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions, and when you talk to him, keep your voice quiet, calm and loving.

4. Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate fresh food diet — A species-appropriate, nutritionally balanced diet rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids such as krill oil and others such as MCT oil, is very important for cognitive health.

The best fuel for an aging dog is a variety of living, whole foods suitable for a carnivore. Eliminate all refined carbohydrates (which are just unnecessary sugar), as well as grains, potatoes and legumes. Replace those unnecessary carbs with extra high-quality protein. Eliminate extruded diets (kibble) to avoid the toxic byproducts of the manufacturing process.

Processed dog foods are manufactured in a way that creates byproducts that can affect cognitive health, including heterocyclic amines, acrylamides and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Fresh, biologically appropriate foods provide the whole food nutrients your pet’s aging brain requires. The right diet will also support the microbiome, which has been linked to improved cognitive health in humans, and I’ve seen an improvement in dogs as well.

5. Provide beneficial supplements — When it comes to supplements, I typically recommend digestive enzymes and probiotics for all older pets. If your dog needs additional fiber in the diet, choose natural sources such as psyllium husk powder, ground dark green leafy veggies, coconut fiber, or canned 100 percent pumpkin.

I also almost always recommend an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as krill oil (my favorite), another fish body oil (but not cod liver oil), or algal DHA for pets who can’t tolerate seafood.

Most aging dogs can benefit from joint and antioxidant supplements such as glucosamine sulfate with MSM, cetyl myristoleate, egg­shell membrane, perna mussel (green-lipped clam), several homeopathic remedies, ubiquinol, supergreen foods, and natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs such as turmeric and yucca, proteolytic enzymes, SOD and nutraceuticals).

Is your Dog Depressed?

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Dogs may or may not suffer from depression in the same way humans do, but they definitely experience mood and behavior changes that are typically short-lived and the result of a recent event in a dog’s life.

Some dogs feel let down at the start of the school year when their playmates are no longer around. Often, an existing dog shows signs of sadness when a second dog is added to the family. Dogs who suffer the loss of a family member (human or pet) often go through a grieving period. And of course, many new canine residents at animal shelters suffer a period of sorrow and uncertainty.

The problem with diagnosing clinical depression (which is different from transient episodes of depressed behavior) is that even in humans, there’s no biological test to identify the condition. A physician makes note of symptoms and what the patient tells them about their feelings and arrives at an “educated guess” diagnosis.

Using our powers of observation you can determine if your animal companion is feeling blue. Generally speaking, when a vet or veterinary behaviorist describes a patient as depressed, the dog is displaying a change in normal behavior.  Dogs can talk with an animal communicator so please contact Diane at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com if you believe your dog is suffering from depression.

Possible Causes of Depression in Dogs

Lack of exercise — Some dogs actually become socially inhibited when they aren’t getting enough exercise and playtime. This can take the form of a decrease in interaction with other family members or choosing to isolate themselves in their crate or another room. If your normally happy dog suddenly isn’t, consider the possibility that she needs more exercise. A lot more daily exercise.

Most dogs need much more physical activity than their owners realize. Your dog should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.

Minimum exercise requirements prevent muscle atrophy, but don’t necessarily build muscle mass, strengthen tendons and ligaments, hone balance and proprioception, or enhance cardiovascular fitness, which is why more is always better. If you can provide your dog daily walks as well as additional daily training sessions to meet your other exercise goals, even better!

Lots of long smell sessions, as a part of your dog’s “cool down” period after exercise, is a fantastic way to let your dog meet her daily outdoor sniffing requirements, another important behavior that can provide tremendous mental enrichment. I believe sniffing isn’t just enjoyable for dogs, it’s a requirement for healthy cognitive stimulation.

Lack of human interaction — A healthy dog who is feeling depressed may lose interest in eating or playing, become destructive, have accidents in the house, or stop running to greet you when you come through the door. Like a sleepy, sluggish dog, a depressed pooch often just needs more quality time with his human.

Get into the habit of spending an uninterrupted hour with your dog each day engaging in physical pursuits, grooming rituals, training exercises, and good old belly rubs. It will lighten both your moods!

Punishment — Dogs who are punished for undesirable behavior instead of being rewarded for positive behavior may stop interacting with their owners in an attempt to avoid mistreatment. They adopt a depressive state of mind called “learned helplessness” because they feel powerless to avoid negative situations.

I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of positive reinforcement behavior training, not only to help your dog become a good canine citizen, but also to preserve and protect the all-important bond you share with him.

Undiagnosed medical problem — If your dog’s behavior changes, even if you suspect you know why, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Many changes in behavior symptomatic of depression, including lack of appetite, potty accidents in the house, sleeping more than usual, reluctance to exercise and sudden aggressive behavior in a dog who has never shown aggression, can also be signs of any number of underlying medical conditions.

You’re depressed — Your dog is very sensitive to your emotional state, which she can detect by observing the tone of your voice, your body language and other subtle clues, including your pheromones (how you smell). The way you move, speak and behave all send subtle signals to your dog that indicate your mood.

For example, when you’re in a situation that’s stressful to your dog, such as at your veterinarian’s office, she’ll look to you to help her calm down. If she senses tension in you, she’ll likely become even more anxious. Your dog is extremely intuitive; so, if you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised if she seems depressed as well.

Loss of a human family member or pet — It’s not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person or animal friend they’re bonded with. Experts in animal behavior believe dogs feel the same basic emotions humans do, including grief, fear, anger, happiness, sadness, and even possessiveness.

When a dog is mourning a loss, depression is common. Signs of depression in dogs mimic those in people, and include sleeping more than normal, moving more slowly, eating less, and showing a limited interest in playing.

If your dog seems depressed at the loss of a person or animal he was close to, engage him in daily activities he enjoys, such as a walk, a game of fetch, or a trip to the dog park. It’s really a matter of distracting him with things he enjoys until sufficient time has passed and he’s no longer looking around every corner for the one who is now absent from his life.

And it’s best not to expect a quick fix. It can take from a few weeks to a few months before your dog’s depressed mood begins to lift. Planning several engaging activities each day during this time is the best way to help him out of his funk.

5 Tips for Helping a Depressed Dog

  1. Keep daily routines as consistent as possible — Pets do best when they know what to expect from one day to the next. Try to keep mealtimes, exercise, walks, playtime, grooming, bedtime and other daily activities on a consistent schedule. Exercise is a powerful tool to help increase your pooch’s endorphins, or “feel good” hormones. Lots of walks (with plenty of opportunities to sniff) can be a powerful mood enhancer.
  2. Keep your dog’s diet and mealtimes the same and spice up the menu — It’s important to continue to offer him the same food he’s used to, at the same time each day, but if you find your dog isn’t interested in eating much, consider offering a yummy knucklebone for dessert, or make a tasty treat for training time that he hasn’t had before.

Store what he doesn’t eat in the fridge and offer it to him again at his next regularly scheduled mealtime. Use his hunger to help him get his appetite back by resisting the urge to entice him with unhealthy food toppers.

  1. Use natural remedies, if needed — There are some excellent homeopathic and Bach flower remedies that can be easily administered to your depressed dog until you see an emotional shift for the better. Some of my favorites include homeopathic Ignatia, several Bach flower remedies including Mustard and Honeysuckle, and Green Hope Farm Grief and Loss. Diane can make a special blend of Bach Flower essences for grief and loss if your pet has experienced these issues.
  2. Be careful not to inadvertently reward your dog’s depression — It’s only natural to want to comfort your sad pet, but unfortunately, giving attention to a dog who is displaying an undesirable behavior can reinforce the behavior. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is reward a lack of appetite, inactivity or other types of depressed behavior in your dog. Instead, you want to help her over the hump.

A better idea is to try to distract her with healthy, fun activities that provide opportunities for positive behavior reinforcement. This can be a walk, short training sessions, a game of fetch, nose work or offering her a food puzzle toy or recreational bone.

  1. Give it time — Your dog’s depression may take a few days or even weeks to blow over, but eventually most pets return to their normal lively selves. If at any point you feel your pet is suffering unnecessarily or there is something more going on than a case of the blues, I recommend discussing the situation with your animal communicator, vet or a veterinary behaviorist.

 

Additionally there are essential oils that can lift the spirits of both humans and pets that can be used daily.  Contact Diane for recommendations and links to purchase these oils. Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com

Cushing disease in Dogs

Cushing disease in Dogs

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Cushing’s disease is most often seen in dogs — especially Terriers, Poodles, Dachshunds and the American Eskimo/Spitz. It rarely occurs in cats.

The medical term for this condition is hyperadrenocorticism. Hyper means too much, adreno refers to the adrenal glands, and corticism refers to a syndrome involving the hormone cortisol. Simply put, hyperadrenocorticism describes a condition in which too much cortisol is released by the adrenal glands.

Overproduction of This Powerful Hormone Can Trigger a Cascade of Health Problems

In a healthy dog’s body, cortisol, known as the fight-or-flight hormone, is released in small amounts by the adrenal glands in response to perceived stress, so the dog can prepare to battle or run for his life. A release of cortisol also triggers a release of glucose from the liver. Glucose provides energy to the cells of the muscles used to fight or take flight.

Cortisol also impacts a number of other important functions in your dog’s body, including blood pressure, electrolyte balance, bone and fat metabolism, and immune function. Cortisol is secreted in response to any type of stress in your pet’s body; physical or emotional, short-term or long-term.

If for some reason your dog’s body up-regulates its demand for cortisol, the adrenal glands begin overproducing the hormone, which can lead to a state of toxicity. In dogs who experience chronic stress in any form, the adrenals release more cortisol than their bodies need.

This situation can result in a number of serious disorders, including elevated blood sugar that can lead to diabetes, elevated blood pressure that can result in heart and kidney disease, extreme hunger in response to lots of excess glucose being burned, thinning of the skin and coat, decreased muscle and bone mass, and increased risk of infection.

If your dog’s body is continuously overproducing cortisol, his immune function is compromised, which opens the door for infections anywhere in the body — especially the gums, eyes, ears, skin and urinary tract. If your dog has recurrent infections or a persistent infection, it’s possible too much cortisol is the cause.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease

Most dogs have a few, but not all of the symptoms of the disorder unless diagnosis comes very late in the disease. Symptoms most commonly seen in dogs with early Cushing’s include:

Increased thirst and urination, which can lead to incontinence Bruising
Increased panting Hair loss
Abdominal weight gain (pot belly appearance), despite a reduction in calorie intake Irritability or restlessness
Thinning skin and change of skin color from pink to grey or black, symmetrical flank hair loss Much less commonly, rear limb weakness and blood clots

These symptoms are so diverse and can affect so many organs because every inch of a dog’s body contains cortisol receptors.

Typical or Atypical Cushing’s?

If your dog is diagnosed with hyperadrenocorticism, it’s important to know which type of Cushing’s she has. Typical Cushing’s is either adrenal dependent or, much more commonly, pituitary dependent. About 85% of affected dogs develop the latter form, in which the pituitary gland sends too much stimulating hormone to the adrenals. The adrenal glands respond by over-secreting cortisol.

The remaining 15% of cases are adrenal dependent, in which a tumor develops in an adrenal gland and triggers an up regulation of cortisol production. It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to unintentionally trigger typical Cushing’s by prescribing a too-high dose of oral prednisone (synthetic cortisone), or a course of prednisone therapy that is too long in duration. If your dog has taken prednisone for any length of time, she’s predisposed to Cushing’s disease.

The atypical form of hyperadrenocorticism occurs when the adrenals overproduce aldosterone, a hormone that balances electrolytes in the body. Atypical Cushing’s can also result from an overproduction of sex hormone (estrogen, progesterone, and rarely, testosterone) precursors.

Diagnosing Hyperadrenocorticism Can Be Challenging

The actual diagnosis of Cushing’s is often complicated. It’s typically done with blood tests like the ACTH stimulation (stim) test and the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test. Both these tests require at least two blood draws to compare cortisol levels for a definitive diagnosis of Cushing’s.

When Cushing’s is confirmed, your veterinarian will want to determine if it’s pituitary or adrenal dependent. In my opinion, the best way to rule out an adrenal gland tumor is with a non-invasive ultrasound test. However, some vets prefer to do a third blood test called a high-dose dexamethasone suppression test.

Whichever method is used, it’s important not only to establish a definitive diagnosis for Cushing’s, but also to determine whether the form of the disease is adrenal or pituitary dependent.

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the disease is diagnosed only after it is full-blown and there’s no holding it back. Once a dog has full-blown Cushing’s, she will live with the disease for the rest of her life. It’s a horrible illness that can be managed in many cases, but never cured.

Many veterinarians tend to ignore repeated and progressive elevations in serum Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), one of the commonly elevated enzymes found on routine bloodwork, until several Cushing’s symptoms are present, or a pet parent becomes concerned that their dog is suddenly urinating in the house or losing her hair.

The better, proactive approach is to try to prevent the disease from taking hold. That’s why I recommend getting a copy of your pet’s yearly bloodwork results. Your pet should age with picture-perfect bloodwork, or there’s work to be done.

Never let a veterinarian tell you your pet’s abnormal bloodwork is “normal for their age,” as this means disease is taking place without anyone addressing it. If your dog’s ALP is two to three times higher than normal, ask your vet if your dog could be in the early stages hyperadrenocorticism.

The Importance of Catching This Disease Early

Most of the drugs currently available to treat Cushing’s disease have many undesirable side effects. It’s extremely important to discuss your concerns about possible side effects with your veterinarian. I recommend you do your own research as well.

I try to avoid using Lysodren and other potent Cushing’s drugs because in my opinion, the side effects are often worse than the symptoms the animal is dealing with. If Cushing’s drugs must be used, I prefer to use Trilostane, which has fewer side effects. Obviously, the goal is to catch the disease before high drug doses are required.

If, however, your dog requires drugs to manage full-blown Cushing’s, I recommend starting with the lowest possible effective dose, and using it in conjunction with a natural protocol to reduce potential side effects. Identifying pre-Cushing’s syndrome as early as possible and reducing your pet’s risk for full-blown disease is the approach I always recommend. Dogs don’t suddenly wake up with this disease — it happens over time.

Unfortunately, many conventional veterinarians ignore the early signs of adrenal dysfunction because they don’t know what to do about it until a dog fails the ACTH stim test. The problem with this approach is it takes months and sometimes years for an animal to be officially diagnosed with Cushing’s.

Waiting this long to take action often means waiting too long. I consider a dog to have pre-Cushing’s syndrome when he exhibits classic symptoms but is still able to pass the stim test. Often there are minor changes in bloodwork, for example, the UCC (urine cortisol:creatinine ratio) is slightly elevated, there are elevated cholesterol levels, and/or the elevation in ALP has been proven to be cortisol induced (your vet can check what fraction of ALP is coming from cortisol vs. other sources).

I’m able to reverse many pre-Cushing’s patients with nutraceuticals, Chinese herbs, homeopathics, nutritional therapy, and lifestyle management (reducing biologic and metabolic stress).

My advice is to be proactive by having your pet’s ALP level checked annually, which should be a part of a basic “wellness blood test,” along with a physical exam that evaluates muscle mass, coat condition, and an environmental stress assessment. Ask your veterinarian to establish baseline blood levels and address any elevation from the baseline through a screening test like the UCC or CiALP to determine if your dog’s body is over-secreting cortisol.

Never accept steroids prescribed for your pet unless they’re required to dramatically (and temporarily) improve quality of life (e.g., if your pet has acute head trauma and steroids are needed to control brain inflammation, etc.).

Having this information will help you better manage a pre-Cushing’s situation before it develops to full-blown disease. And don’t ignore symptoms. If your pet has consistent Cushing’s-type symptoms, no matter how minor, they are absolutely worth investigating for a possible endocrine or adrenal disorder.

It’s during the development of Cushing’s disease that many dogs are also over-prescribed aggressive traditional drug protocols for full-blown Cushing’s disease, often with disastrous results.

When these potent drugs are prescribed for mild adrenal dysfunction, the result is often an acute Addisonian crisis in which there are insufficient adrenal hormones necessary for normal physiologic function. A natural protocol to manage pre-Cushing’s is essential to avoid drug-induced hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s).

Prevention Tips

There are some common-sense steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of developing hyperadrenocorticism, including:

Feed a moisture rich, nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate anti-inflammatory diet to reduce biologic stress; this means eliminating all grains and carbohydrates from the diet, since carbs trigger insulin release and insulin triggers cortisol release
Exercise your dog daily to help combat stress and promote the release of endorphins
Instead of spaying or neutering, consider a sterilization procedure that leaves your dog’s testicles or ovaries in place; if that’s not possible, wait until your pet has reached his or her full adult size, and in the case of females, after the first and preferably two estrus cycles
Minimize your pet’s exposure to xenoestrogens
Investigate adaptogenic herbs and adrenal-supportive natural substances like magnolia (rhodiola), ashwagandha, and phosphatidylserine
Address abnormal hormone levels early on with natural support, such as melatonin, DIM, glandular therapies and high lignan flax hulls

 

 

 

How your dog’s size and shape influences her behavior

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

A study published in 2013 by researchers at the University of Sydney suggests that a dog’s size and the shape of his skull play a significant role in his behavior.1 Using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) as a data-gathering tool, the research team analyzed information on over 8,300 dogs of 80 different breeds and compared them to the shape of 960 dogs of those breeds.

Their results revealed a strong association between height, bodyweight, skull proportions (width and length), and behavior and concluded that smaller dogs show more aggression than their larger counterparts.

“[In] the most comprehensive study undertaken to date, our research shows that certain physical characteristics in dogs are consistently associated with certain types of behavior,” lead study author Paul McGreevy, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science told Phys.org. “Essentially, the shorter the dogs the less controllable their behavior is for their owners.”2

33 of 36 unwanted behaviors were size-related

The researchers found that as the height of the dogs decreased, there was an increase in the incidence of mounting behavior, owner-directed aggression, begging for food and attention-seeking. In contrast, increasing height was associated with trainability. Another finding: When average body weight decreased, excitability and hyperactivity increased. The study revealed that 33 out of 36 undesirable behaviors were associated with a dog’s height, body weight and the shape of her skull. Some of these included:

Begging for food Urine marking
Fear of other dogs Peeing or pooping when left alone
Non-social fear Separation anxiety
Attention-seeking Sensitivity to being touched
Mounting people or objects Aggression toward owner

Additional revelations about dog size and behavioral tendencies

Another interesting insight from the study was that while long-skulled dogs (e.g., Afghans, Salukis and Whippets), excel at hunting and chasing behaviors, they also tend to display certain negative behaviors, including fear of strangers, persistent barking and stealing food.

“Given hunting dogs have not traditionally been companion animals sharing close quarters,” said McGreevy, “this may not be surprising.”

Short-skulled dogs like the Pug and Boxer — breeds that have undergone, and in many cases suffered generations of selective breeding to further “enhance” their pushed-in faces — tend to display more puppy-like behaviors as adults. They also seem to have completely abandoned many of their hunting instincts. Some additional observations from the study:

Unwanted behaviors increase as the size and height of a dog decrease.
Dogs with short muzzles engage in more grooming and compulsive staring.
Smaller breeds, especially terriers, showed more stranger-directed aggression. The researchers wonder if terriers were selected for aggressiveness because their job at one time was to chase and hunt underground prey. It could be that smaller breeds with short legs have inherited aggression.
Smaller dogs engage in more attention-seeking behaviors — which are linked to jealousy and territorialism — during times when their owner is paying attention to someone else.
Larger breeds descended from smaller breeds that were meant as companion dogs may have behaviors that are at odds with their body size.
Lightweight breeds are more apt to be excitable, hyperactive and energetic compared to breeds with heavy bodies.
Coping behaviors in response to stress, such as fly-snapping, are related more to a dog’s weight than height. The shorter and stockier the dog, the greater the tendency to display coping behaviors.
Obsessive tail-chasing isn’t linked to size or breed, nor is coprophagia (poop eating), chewing or pulling on leash.

Owners tend to tolerate and even encourage bad behavior in small dogs

In drawing conclusions from their research, the University of Sydney team considered the fact that dog owners may be more tolerant of undesirable behavior in smaller dogs, which may in turn result in increased behaviors such as excessive barking, nipping, eliminating indoors, begging, separation anxiety and attention-seeking.

The researchers speculate that owners of small dogs may encourage undesirable behaviors and predispose their pets to separation anxiety, puppy-like behaviors, mounting and begging. The tendency to keep small dogs indoors and under-exercised may also be contributing factors.

“Undesirable behaviors such as owner aggression, or mounting, occur more often among small dogs. This suggests that, in small dogs, these behaviors are tolerated more than they would be in larger dogs where such behaviors are more unwelcome and even dangerous. Equally, such behaviors in small dogs may be a result of their being overindulged and over-protected,” McGreevy explained.

Another consideration is that smaller breeds are known to be more reactive, neurologically, to stimuli in their environment than larger dogs, who tend to be more laid back.

“These findings … remind us that domestic dogs are an extremely useful model for exploring the biological forces that produce diverse animal structures and their related behaviors,” says McGreevy. “The interaction of nature and nurture in producing the relationships we have described in this study creates a raft of fascinating questions that further studies will address.”

Tiny terror training tips

If you’re a small dog parent and the above study findings resonate with you, there’s no time like the present to help your little one become a better canine citizen. Training a small dog is really no more difficult than training a large one — you just need to make a few accommodations for size.

  1. Stand small — Towering over a dog is intimidating when the animal hasn’t yet learned human body language and vocal tones. And the smaller the dog, the more overwhelmed she can feel in the presence of a big hulking human.

So, when training your little one, until she’s had some experience reading your signals, be sure to show her welcoming eyes, small movements and a soft voice. Don’t deal with her “head on” immediately. Turn slightly to the side and get down close to her level instead of looming over her.

  1. Use small training treats — Tiny dogs need only tiny training treats. Otherwise, you’ll own a not-so-tiny dog in no time. Anything more than, say, a treat the size of a housefly, is too big. You can buy or make treats to break into very small pieces; you can also use some of his regular food, subtracted from his meals, as treats.
  2. Train on her level — Training a small dog from a standing position can be merciless on your back, and the last thing you want is to be in pain when you’re trying to focus on molding your pet’s behavior. Initially you should sit on the floor not only to save your back, but also to appear less intimidating.

Other ways to do training exercises include sitting on a low stool or chair or moving your dog to a comfortable raised surface such as a table or bed.

  1. Use tiny toys and training tools — Your small dog needs a lightweight collar, harness and leash. Generally speaking, leather and chain collars and leashes aren’t a good idea for little guys. I always recommend harnesses for small dogs to avoid neck injuries. Some very small dogs have incredibly fragile necks. And just as his treats should be an appropriate size, so should your small dog’s toys and other supplies like food and water bowls, crate, etc.
  2. Teach your dog a verbal “lift-off” cue — Small dogs are often startled to be suddenly lifted off the ground by a human. If you put yourself in her place, imagining at any moment you will lose the ground beneath your feet, you can see why this is a stressful event. That’s why it’s good to train your dog with a verbal cue that signals you’re about to pick her up. Just make it a simple one-word signal.

To train her to the cue, put your hands on her, say the word and apply just a bit of pressure without actually lifting her. This gives her time to understand she’s about to be lifted. When you know she’s aware you’re about to pick her up, go ahead and do so. Consistent use of the cue will help her learn to prepare for “lift off.”

  1. Respect his smallness — Little dogs can be difficult to train to lie down – and there’s a good reason for it. Your pet is already small and vulnerable, and he knows it. When he’s lying on the floor, he’s even smaller and more vulnerable. He’s also likely to be more sensitivethan a bigger dog to cold, hard or rough surfaces. So, train your little guy to lie down using a soft, raised surface. He’ll feel less threatened and comfier.
  2. Give your little dog some space — As much as possible, your dog should be allowed to meet new people and dogs on her own terms. Picking up a shy or frightened small dog to force an introduction removes her ability to keep her distance if she needs to. So, leave her on the ground, and respect her wishes. If she seems skittish or unfriendly, don’t force the issue. This may be an area where extra work is needed to properly socialize your pet.
  3. Set big dog standards for your small dog’s behavior — If you wouldn’t allow a 70-pound dog to jump up on you, don’t accept the behavior from your little one. Reward only desirable behavior and ignore behavior you want to extinguish. Little dogs can learn to sit and stay just like the big guys do. The same goes for jumping up into your lap, charging out the door ahead of you or ripping treats from your fingers. Don’t accept rude behavior just because your pet is small.

Lastly, treat your little dog like a dog! He’s not a baby or a dress-up doll. He needs to be socialized, which means having lots of positive experiences with other dogs and people. He needs to be on the ground much of the time so he can learn how to climb stairs, get into and out of your vehicle, and move confidently on all kinds of terrain.

 

 

Can Dogs Empathize With Other Dogs’ Emotions?

Reviewed for accuracy on May 7, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

If you have a dog, you’ve probably had an emotional connection with them. Most dog owners claim that their pups are incredible at empathizing—picking up on their emotional cues and taking action to make them feel better when they’re sad or distressed.

 

And the evidence isn’t just anecdotal; a 2018 study on dog empathy found that when their owners made distressing sounds—like saying “help” or crying—dogs would try to reach them much faster than if they made neutral sounds.

 

It was also discovered that the higher the dog scored on a “bond test” (which measured the level of attachment a dog felt to their owner), the faster they’d try to reach them when they were in distress.

 

Dogs oftentimes mirror our emotions, says Russell Hartstein, certified dog behaviorist, dog trainer and founder of Fun Paw Care.

 

So clearly, dogs can empathize with humans. But can dogs feel sympathy for other dogs?

 

Can Dogs Read Other Dogs’ Emotions?

 

“I would argue that yes, dogs may have empathy for other [dogs],” says Hartstein. And while there isn’t a large amount of research on dog empathy, there is one promising study that explores how dogs react to other dogs’ emotions.

 

In a 2017 study, researchers from the University of Vienna sought to test how dogs would react to human and dog emotions. The researchers had pet owners bring their dogs into a laboratory that was equipped with speakers at different points in the room.

 

The researchers then played a series of human and dog sounds. For human emotions, they used laughing (positive) or crying (negative). For dog emotions, they used lighthearted and playful barking (positive) and dog whining (negative). They also played neutral sounds, like nature sounds or a person speaking in a neutral voice.

 

The researchers then observed whether the dogs paid greater attention to the positive, negative or neutral audio. They also looked to see whether the dogs showed signs of distress, like paw licking, whining or barking. The researchers tallied the behaviors and assigned a “score” to each auditory cue.

 

The study found that dogs paid more attention to emotional auditory cues than neutral ones. Even more tellingly, they found that dogs scored significantly higher when exposed to negative auditory cues, which implies that dogs can differentiate between positive and negative emotions in both humans and other dogs. They also found that dogs show higher levels of distress when exposed to negative emotions.

 

According to the study, there was no difference in emotional reactions when dogs heard human sounds compared to when they heard dog sounds.

 

While this study isn’t irrefutable proof that dogs experience empathy for other dogs, it certainly makes a strong argument that dogs have the ability to empathize with other canines.

 

But Hartstein cautions, “[A dog’s] ability—or any animal’s ability—to put themselves in another’s shoes to experience what [another dog] is feeling or experiencing is not possible to measure.”

 

Do Dogs Have More Sympathy for Dogs They Know?

 

So, the study shows that dogs have strong reactions to hearing other dogs in distress. But what about their dog friends? If they share a home with another dog, will they have more empathy for them versus a dog they do not know?

 

The same study suggests that dogs do empathize even more with their canine housemates.

 

Researchers from the study explored whether dogs would behave any differently when played emotional auditory cues of unfamiliar dogs versus dogs they shared a home with.

 

They found that the dogs showed much higher levels of stress (and scored higher overall) when played negative auditory cues from their dog friends.

 

How to Encourage Empathy Within Your Dog

 

If you want to encourage your dog to be more empathetic—to you, your family and to your other dogs—it starts with you.

 

“My suggestion for creating more empathy in your pet is working on a respectful, kind relationship. This can mean simply hanging out, spending time together, and enjoying walks and playtime that is nurturing and kind,” says Dr. Jim D Carlson, DVM CVA CVTP, owner of Riverside Animal Clinic McHenry and Grove Animal Hospital & Holistic Center in Chicago. “Truly connecting with the human-animal bond will help you start to spot some humanlike emotions in your pet.”

 

If you want to encourage more empathy between your dogs, foster your relationship with each dog and encourage their relationship and interactions with each other.

 

“Dogs develop their own relationships within their pack. Encouraging positive behavior, comfort and fun will help dogs bond over time,” says Dr. Carlson.

 

And don’t be surprised or discouraged if your dog’s way of showing empathy is different than yours. “Dogs have their own cues for reading emotions in each other. Many of them are physical. But they will also seek each other out during times of stress or emotion.”

 

So, if you notice one dog licking the other’s face after a trip to the vet or rubbing his body against the other during a thunderstorm, recognize it as their way of showing empathy. If you want that empathy to continue, reward the behaviors with plenty of praise.

 

 

By: Deanna deBara

 

 

Trail Etiquette and Safety Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

Reviewed for accuracy on May 13, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

Nothing beats hiking with a dog. A brisk walk or even a stroll through natural surroundings can be great exercise for two-legged and four-legged family members.

 

And, because hiking exposes your canine companion to new and interesting things, it’s mentally stimulating for your pup too, says Katherine Aromaa, avid hiker and owner of Cooper’s Dog Training and Behavior Modification in Portland, Oregon.

 

Before you hit the trails, you want to make sure that you and your dog enjoy the park responsibly by following both safety and hiking etiquette rules. That way, everyone else can enjoy the park, too.

 

Keep Your Dog’s Safety In Mind

 

During hot or humid summer days, take your dog hiking in the early morning or late evening when the weather is cooler. This is especially important if your dog has a short snout (like French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers).

 

In colder months, hit the trails midmorning, recommends Katy Chadwick, owner of Brightside Dog Training and Boarding in Dacula, Georgia. Always remember to take water or food breaks.

 

Also watch out for unfamiliar terrain if you’ve got a newbie hiking dog—cliffs and drop-offs to fast streams or icy ponds. “Lots of young and inexperienced dogs can get perilously close to the edge or think that they can go down just fine. Sometimes that is true, but then they can’t get back up! Keep your inexperienced dog on a leash in these situations,” says Aromaa.

 

Practice Trail Etiquette When Hiking With Dogs

 

With these tips, you’ll be prepared with the right knowledge, training and dog supplies so you can enjoy hiking the trails with your pup.

 

Follow Dog Leash Rules

 

Make sure you always adhere to the rules for each hiking trail. Many state parks and nature preserves allow hiking with dogs, but only if they’re leashed. Do not ignore this guideline.

 

The leash rule is there for a reason. It makes it safer for other hikers that are there with or without pets, says Aromaa. Having all dogs on leashes eliminates the potential for negative interactions between dogs or between your dog and other people.  

 

The leash rule is also in place to protect the environment. Many parks are preserving habitats and animal species, so a loose dog could end up disrupting nesting sites, trampling natural flora or getting injured themselves.

 

There are many off-leash hiking trails available to dogs, but that still doesn’t mean you should just let your dog run free, especially if your dog is reactive to strangers or other dogs. You need to make sure that your dog is properly trained to be loose in a public space.

 

Let Other Hikers Pass

 

It is also important to remember that you are not the only ones enjoying public hiking trails.

 

If you pass other pups or people, step to the side and let them go by. “It avoids so many problems, especially on single-track trails,” says Aromaa.

 

To help other hikers or dogs pass, Aromaa has her dog come to her and sit. Chadwick likes to keep her dog’s attention by offering dog treats. 

 

“A dog with basic training and manners will greatly improve your experience,” says Chadwick. Your pooch must be able to obey the commands “sit,” “come,” “stop” and “leave it,” even with distractions.

 

Help Prevent the Spread of Disease

 

It also important to make sure your dog is all up-to-date on their vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention. The National Park Service says that by keeping your dog up-to-date on these, you can prevent the spread of disease to and from wildlife. Tick-borne diseases are especially concerning in certain regions.

 

Make Sure to Bring These Hiking Dog Supplies

 

Having the right hiking supplies with you can ensure that both you and your pup have a safe and fun hike. Here are a few of must-have hiking supplies when out with your dog:

 

Dog Leash

 

Chadwick recommends a durable 6- to 9-foot dog leash that easily lets your hiking dog explore but keeps him close by so that you still have control.

 

You will want to steer clear of retractable leashes because they can break or tangle if your pup takes off after something.

 

A dog leash like the Hertzko hands-free running dog leash is a great option because it allows you to have free hands but also keeps your pup close and under control.

 

Fresh Water

 

Always make sure to bring enough water for you and your dog. (along with portable water bowls to drink from) so she can stay hydrated.

 

“I try to avoid letting my dogs drink from unknown water sources as it can cause an upset stomach, diarrhea or diseases like giardia,” says Chadwick. 

 

Dog Treats

 

It is always smart to have dog treats with you—they can help to get your dog’s attention. Treats are great for rewarding your pup when she comes back to you or sits quietly by your side as other dogs walk by.

 

Dog Poop Bags

 

Yes, your dog’s poop is biodegradable, but dog poop can also transmit diseases that can affect local wildlife and ecosystems.

 

The National Park Service suggests you use the “Leave No Trace” principles when hiking with dogs, so it is super important that you always remember to bring dog poop bags, and pick up after your dog while hiking.

 

It’s the polite thing to do, and it will help to ensure that you keep the local wildlife safe and healthy.

 

Dog First Aid Kit

 

Finally, you will always want to make sure you have a dog first aid kit on hand. This will help to make sure you are prepared for any unplanned circumstances while out hiking with your dog.

 

Your dog first aid kit should include:

 

·         An emergency contact card

·         Blunt-tipped scissors

·         Bandages

·         Sterile eye solution

·         Latex or rubber gloves,

·         A plastic syringe

·         Tweezers

·         Antiseptic wipes

·         A thermometer

 

You should also have a stash of your dog’s medications just to be safe and prepared.

 

By: Linda Rodgers

 

Does Saying Goodbye Help Prevent Dog Separation Anxiety?

By: Dr. Wailani Sung and comments by Diane Weinmann

Are you one of those dog owners who says goodbye to your pets as you walk out the door? Don’t be embarrassed—you are not alone.

 

Why do many dog owners feel the need to say goodbye or tell their dogs that they will be back?

 

Pet parents will say goodbye to their pets mostly because it is part of our human culture to notify our family of our imminent departure or to let them know when to expect us back.

 

But the question is, does your dog care if you do or don’t? Find out if it means anything to your dog, whether it actually makes things worse, and what you can do about dog separation anxiety.

 

Does Your Dog Need You to Say Goodbye to Him?

 

Research on dogs suffering from separation anxiety has indicated that dogs know well in advance when their owners are going to leave.

 

You may not realize that you are projecting your pending departure as you prepare to leave—well before you say “goodbye.” Most people will put their shoes on, grab their jackets, pick up a bag or purse and keys, and head towards the front door.

 

Some owners may put out special dog toys or treats for their dog right before they leave. These are all signals that tell your dog that you are going to leave.

 

Other pet parents will go through elaborate displays of affection such as hugging their dogs and/or kissing them and telling them they love them and will be back.

Animal communicators can tell you that your dog can read what’s in your head and that’s how they know you are going on vacation or to the grocery store.  Granted, picking up coats, keys and locking doors are outward indicators that you are leaving but for the most part, your dog can be sleeping in a bedroom on the bed completely away from visually seeing you perform these tasks and they will still know you are leaving—that’s how they miraculously show up as you are leaving the house!

 

Every dog’s reaction to their owner’s departure will vary according to their personality. It is not unusual to hear dogs vocalize after their owners leave. Some may whine, bark or howl briefly as the owners leave and, within a few minutes, settle down.

 

These dogs are exhibiting contact-calling behavior, which is a series of vocalizations some social species will use to try to contact other members of the group that may have wandered off beyond the immediate area. Dogs will typically demonstrate this behavior with barking or howling; it’s like they are saying, “Hello, are you there?”

 

Some dogs may even scratch at the door or run to the window to watch their owners leave.

 

The majority of dogs appear to tolerate their owners’ absence with minimal drama. However, 14-29 percent of the dog population may suffer from owner-separation-related distress.

 

For a dog with separation anxiety, making the departure and return greeting routine very exciting and dramatic may enhance the dog’s anxiety when they are all alone.

 

How to Know If Your Dog Suffers From Separation Anxiety

 

Most pet parents rely on signs that something’s amiss in their home—such as scratches on the door, items that are chewed up, or evidence of house soiling—to detect separation anxiety. If they do not see anything amiss, they usually think that their dogs were fine.

 

Some people may not find the house torn apart but may later hear from their neighbors or landlord that their dogs were vocalizing intensely when they first left or throughout the entire length of their absence.

 

If you are unsure whether your dog suffers from separation anxiety, record his behavior for 15-20 minutes after your departure using a device such as the Petcube Bites Wi-Fi pet camera or Pawbo+ Wi-Fi interactive pet camera. You can also use the camera on your computer or leave your phone behind to record their activity.

 

It is really important that you actually walk out the door, lock it, and walk or drive away. The dogs will know if you are just pretending to leave because they won’t hear the familiar indicators, such as your footsteps fading away or the start of the car engine.

 

Then you can review your dog’s behavior and show the recording to your veterinarian or a trainer or behaviorist. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety will exhibit the most intense anxiety and distress during the first moments the owners are absent.

 

Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs

 

If your dog does not appear to get upset after you have left, then you can continue to say goodbye to them when you leave.

 

If you have determined that your dog does get upset in your absence, it is best to seek professional help right away. They can help determine whether your dog is suffering from mild, moderate or severe separation anxiety.

 

Mild Separation Anxiety

 

Dogs that show some mild anxiety may be less upset if they receive long-lasting dog treats, like WHIMZEES Stix dental dog treats, or if they have to work for their favorite treats in a dog puzzle toy, like the Milk-Bone Active biscuit-dispensing ball.

 

Moderate to Severe Separation Anxiety

 

For dogs that exhibit a moderate to severe level of anxiety, it is best to downplay your departures by not saying effusive goodbyes or greeting them excitedly when you return home.

 

A board-certified veterinary behaviorist can provide a diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan that includes immediate management options, behavior modification exercises and the potential use of anti-anxiety medication, if warranted.

 

Other educated dog professionals, such as Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) can also help but will not be able to make any recommendations regarding pet behavior meds.

 

Dogs that become so upset that they exhibit panicked behavior that may cause injury to themselves or damage the house might need prescription pet medication. In some cases of severe separation anxiety, injuries have included dogs breaking their teeth, pulling out toenails, jumping out of windows, or chewing holes through the walls.

 

When the owners do not have other options, such as the use of daycare or a pet sitter, medication can sometimes help to decrease the dog’s anxiety so that they can tolerate being left home alone.   Also, holistic avenues should be explored such as Bach Flower Essence Rescue Remedy and essential oils such as Calm-A-Mile by Dr. Melissa Shelton DVM to bring relief to your pet!

 

The distress these dogs experience is a mental health crisis. The quicker the problem is addressed, the better the prognosis.