Wednesday, July 25, 2018

When Your Dog is Blue

We just got back from vacation on Sunday and Ozzie was depressed.  He's usually a pretty easy-going dog who enjoys just hanging out in his yard or my office. Since we've been back, however, he's been listless, not really wanting to do anything, not interested in his snacks or his meals.  I know he isn't ill in the traditional sense of the word; what he is is depressed.  He is sad about being home. Ozzie really enjoyed our vacation on the Oregon coast.  It was so much cooler there and everything we did revolved around the dogs.  They went everywhere with us for a whole week, so lots of new smells, new adventures, and our undivided attention.  Now that we are home, we are back to work and the usual routine.  We are having triple digit heat, so dogs need to be indoors with fans and the A/C running. No adventures in the car for sure as it's way too hot.  No wonder Ozzie is depressed!  Hey...I'm a little sad too!

Depression is a very real thing for our pets.  There are documented cases of depression across all animal species.  Some animals experience depression with changes in their living situation such as following moves, end of summer/return of the kids to school, vacation, etc. Many animals experience depression with the loss of family members, whether those family members are human, canine, or feline. Some animals can move through their depression on their own, while others really do need our help.  The signs of depression in animals are lethargy, increased sleeping, lack of desire to pursue things they would normally enjoy, loss of appetite, and change in mood. Sound familiar? The symptoms are very much like those you might see in a person experiencing depression. The big difference, however, is that animals cannot verbalize their feelings and thus must rely on their humans to help them overcome their depression. Treating depression in animals involves environmental enrichment with new interactive toys and games, increased exercise, and an enforced change of scenery.  For many animals, these steps are enough to overcome their depression, while for others a trip to see their veterinarian is also necessary as a short course of Elavil (Amitriptyline) is needed to get them back on their feet and enjoying life again.  If the cause of the depression is the loss of an animal companion, exploring the addition of a new animal companion may even be in order.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that depression is a very real experience for our pets. Psychological issues can most definitely affect physical health and well-being and as such must be taken seriously.  Just telling your pet to "snap out of it" or ignoring the symptoms and expecting them to just "cowboy up" won't work and may even result in profound repercussions.  Thus, while mourning periods can be observed by both humans and animals after the loss of a loved one, for certain individuals more must be done to be able to successfully move forward with a quality of life.

For Ozzie, after a couple of days of being cajoled into walks and enticed with tiny bits of human food, he is back on track.  He still isn't happy about the heat, but he is back to his usual goofy self,  hanging out with us and is eating his meals again.  He is so different from Desi who I think really is happy to be home and back to the usual routine.  Dogs, like people, approach life differently.  We know that there are certain personality types in humans that are more prone to depression.  That may be true in animals as well, though it is a bit more difficult to explore with them and more research is needed.

Have any of your pets ever experienced depression?  What did you do to help them overcome it? Let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Water-Loving Dogs: A Cautionary Tale

I received a message from one of my favorite clients.  A neighbor's dog had died from acute water intoxication.  Neither she nor the neighbor had ever heard of such a thing!  Heartbreaking to lose a dog, but to lose an otherwise healthy, active dog from something that is preventable is even more upsetting.  I feel fortunate that none of my dogs has ever really been a water-lover.  My Collies prefer dry land and even my Labrador was not a fan of water. Go figure.  That being said, I think we should all be aware of this condition, the symptoms, how to treat it, etc.

Acute water intoxication is somewhat rare but most commonly seen in dogs that love to play in water. It can actually occur anytime an animal ingests a large quantity of water quickly. High risk dogs are those that engage in water play, including those who like to bite at sprinklers or play with the garden hose. Dogs who love to retrieve round toys in water, or compete with other dogs to get those water toys are also at risk of ingesting large quantities of water as their mouths are open when retrieving.

So, what are the symptoms of water intoxication?  They are: loss of coordination, lethargy, bloating, vomiting, glazed eyes, excessive salivation, difficulty breathing, seizures, and coma.

Once a dog begins showing symptoms of water intoxication, it is critical to get them veterinary care immediately if they are to recover. When a dog ingests too much water, this results in a condition called "hyponatremia," which is excessively low sodium levels in the blood. Too much water causes unbalanced electrolytes and dilutes the sodium storage in the fluid around the cells. Cells fill with water which causes swelling that affects the nervous system since sodium helps maintain blood pressure and is important to nerve and muscle function. It is also the case that dogs who play in salt water for extended periods of time may ingest too much salt water leading to hypernatremia.

If you have a water-loving dog, or one who will retrieve a toy tossed in the water over and over, you need to monitor their water activity and insist on breaks.  Even if they just love playing in the sprinklers or biting a garden hose, watch them for taking on too much water. Even a dog who quickly empties a water bowl following brisk play or exercise is a risk for water intoxication.  Wait to refill that bowl until the dog has cooled down and the water they drank has been properly absorbed.

Prevention is obviously the best course of action with this issue. If your water loving dog does however, show any of the above symptoms, get them to the vet quickly. And spread the word about this condition so that no other dog owner has to go through the pain of losing their beloved canine family member.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mommy Loves Her Pookie Puppies

Dave was watching a hilarious video about two dog owners and their Corgi. I'm sure you've seen the video; it went viral on social media. Basically, the two owners talked to their dog in baby talk, referred to themselves as the dog's parents, and scheduled their lives around the dog's well-being.  Dave turned to me and said, "That's you!"  No kidding. Sound familiar to you too?

I'm actually not embarrassed by this at all.  Researchers found that dogs were more responsive to and favored speakers that spoke to them in a high-pitched/baby-talk style voices as compared to a normal adult's voice. In the study, this kind of interaction was referred to as "dog-directed speech," basically high-pitched voices and exaggerated emotions, like those used with babies and small children. The researchers also found that the dogs in the study preferred speech with dog-related content.  Well, no kidding.  When I talk to my dogs about my day, they are less interested in the price of gas and more interested in the snacks I picked up for them and when we will be going for our walkies.

If you'd like to see a summary of this study's results which were originally published in the scientific journal "Animal Cognition," here's a link:

So, don't feel bad if you, too, speak to your pets like they are babies.  They actually enjoy it.

Gotta run. It's time for mommy to feed her collie boys their snickety-snacks!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

K9Freud Is In!

Wow....this is the fifth time this week (and it's only Wednesday!), that I've had a prospective client thank me profusely for taking their call/answering their email/responding so quickly. Makes me wonder what the heck other practitioners are doing!?   I know how much I dislike when my own requests for help are ignored or I have to wait months to get an appointment.  I just feel like it really shouldn't be that way. Even if someone is booked way out for an appointment, just calling a client back or responding to their email and letting them know, isn't too much to ask. I get it.  And that's why I respond as quickly as possible. I don't want anyone to ever say that I wasn't responsive or that they never heard back from me. Helping you solve your pet's behavior problems are a priority for me.  I know that it took a lot for you to reach out to me in the first place, likely because your veterinarian or a friend told you that you really needed my help.  Now that you've reached out, it's my job to follow through.  Having said that, keep in mind that I work all by myself.  When you schedule an appointment with me, it's really me that shows up.  This might mean that you have to switch your schedule around to meet with me at a time that isn't most optimal for you, but that's when I can get to you from where my office is located.  And if you'd really rather come to me, you can do that too. We can meet at a lovely park in my area and talk about the problems your pet is having. If you think a phone consultation is needed right away, I can certainly make that happen. I almost always have at least one phone appointment left open every day, just in case.

Why am I telling you all of this? Just because I want you to know that I am here to help.  And that I will respond in a timely fashion.  I won't leave you waiting days for an answer because I just don't think that's fair to you or to your pet.  I've been called a work-a-holic more than once given that I still answer emails and phone messages even when I am on vacation.  That may be true, but I think it is important that my clients and prospective clients know I care.  And being courteous was something I learned from my mom.  I like to honor that lesson and pay it forward every day. Now, it's time to go charge my phone!

Have a happy and safe 4th of July everyone!