Guest Post: dealing with anxiety and stress in dogs

Dr Riggs discusses something we all face in our lives - stress. As we continue on our discussion of behavioral issues in cats and dogs, Dr Riggs talks about some solutions to the issues you might be facing.


Anxiety is a part of modern life.  We all have stress, or at least perceived stress, in our daily existence.  We work long hours, often not eating right, don’t get enough exercise and sleep poorly.  Many of us ooze stress.  Dogs are very perceptive of our moods.  They are often a mirror of our feelings.  Dogs can feel our moods.  I have worked for years with Canine Companion for Independence service dogs, and I am amazed of how perceptive and intuitive the dogs can be.  They actually anticipate their owner’s needs.  One of these dogs lives in our local hospice, and I can’t tell you the number of times that dog goes to the person and family dealing with the imminent passing.  Dogs feel our pain.  So it is not hard to see why we are seeing more anxiety issues in our pets.

The most common anxiety issues we see are separation anxiety and thunderstorm/noise anxieties.  These can be debilitating to the animals, as well as the owners.  The dogs many times, can be very destructive and often hurt themselves in the process.  I have had client’s dogs that have chewed
through walls, doors, destroyed cages and ripped up carpets.

So what can you do?

I have had good results in about 85% of my cases with Thundershirts and some medications. Thundershirts are light coats that when put on the dog, can dramatically calm the dog.  This concept has been for years used in the care of Autistic children and also the reason the American Indians swaddled their babies. It can be amazing.  The best things is if it does not work for you, it has a 100% money back guarantee.

Many people ask for medication. Just as in humans, medication in rarely the panacea, and behavior counseling often is needed in conjunction with meds.  For years, the number one medication was
acepromazine, a tranquilizer.  The dogs would become sedated and stop whining. The problem is we have found ace does nothing for the anxiety, it just knocks them out, and so they don’t seem to
react outwardly.  A better choice for me has been trazadone, an antidepressant used in people for sleep issues or alprazolam, both of which actually decreases the anxiety.

Some cases can be difficult to manage, and these need a referral to a behaviorist.  A behaviorist is not the same as a trainer.  A behaviorist is a veterinarian who specializes in the biology of behavior problems and is able to dispense medications if needed, but works to find the root cause of the problem.  Trainers are on the other hand, are for teaching your dog to “behave” in situations. 
There are many good trainers out there, but there are also ones that have no formal training.  Electric shock collars should not be used in any training.  They do not train the dogs, they simply break down the dog to obey.  Look at this YouTube video if you think they don’t hurt.

But I digress… we have a great behavior clinic at The OSU Veterinary Medical Center here in Columbus.  They can help you find a behaviorist in your area.

So, don’t work as hard, get some exercise and get to sleep, and do the same for your dog and you just might be surprised on how much happier you both will be.

Related Posts
June is Pet Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: dealing with anxiety and stress in dogs

Other posts by Dr Riggs


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.



June is Pet Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance

OK, confession time.

A few months ago, I found myself pulling my hair out over my nine year old daughter's behavior. What really bothered me was that it was so illogical, starting with crying at the least significant thing, then escalating into full blown door slamming, and drama for the whole family.

While I know she is growing up and this sort of behavior is normal, I realized that it was me that was part of the problem. My behavior and my reaction to the initial trigger were causing the whole thing to escalate. But I couldn't seem to help it! Thank goodness for good parenting books is all I can say.

I only tell that story because I don't have a dog to tell behavior stories about - but I'm sure it would be the same. As owners and pet parents, we are responsible for our charges' behavior and we certainly don't want to accidentally enable the behavior we are trying to stop or at least curtail down to a soft landing.

I was reading some sage advice from Liz Palika, one of the Embrace Pet Community's writers on the topic of dog behavioral issues. She says it’s important to know that dogs repeat actions that are rewarding to them. That is why training techniques that use rewards of praise, petting, food treats, and toys are so effective.

We have a whole section on the Embrace site on Pet Behavior and Training with useful articles that help illustrate how you can change your pet's behavior. I hope you get a chance to check out some of these articles because they are absolutely outstanding. For example, here's one on preventing your dog's door dashing and another on managing destructive chewing. Makes me want a dog to train.

Now if only Embrace had one for us human mothers and fathers...

Related Posts
June is Pet Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: dealing with anxiety and stress in dogs 

 



Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

After this month's edition of Belly Rubs went out, I received this email from one of our Embraced pet parents sharing her story about her differently-abled pets. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share it with you.


Your latest Belly Rubs Newsletter (“Differently-abled Pets are AMAZING”) brought happy tears to my eyes, because you shined a very positive light on an issue that hits very close to home for me.

BenjaminMy sweet special-needs boy was Benjamin. A little schnauzer-beagle mix, he came into my life as the runt of an unwanted, pound-bound litter. When he looked up at me with those soulful brown eyes, I was a goner. He needed me and somehow I knew it. I couldn’t realize at the time just how right I would be...and just how much he would give back to me in return.

Within the first week of rescuing him, kennel cough surfaced. Shortly after, he began experiencing chronic digestive problems no one could seem to fully diagnose. After a couple of rough years full of trial and error, it was discovered he had a combination of food allergies and inflammatory bowel
disease (IBD). The search for a diet that would eliminate his symptoms began. Thankfully, the perfect food eventually came along. Little did I know…this medical struggle would only be the beginning.

Shortly after his fourth birthday, while chasing his favorite ball in the back yard, Ben ruptured a disk in his back. Our local vets didn’t have the facilities to repair the damage, so I transported him to the nearest neurology center...three hours away. It was there I was given the option to authorize the
very costly surgery, or have him put to sleep. He was part of my family. I couldn’t let him go without a fight. And so, I maxed out my credit cards, and the surgery began. Although the procedure prevented him from becoming a quadriplegic, his hind legs were permanently paralyzed. Thankfully, he was in no pain and still had a lot of fight left in him.

Ben (Special Olympics)The months that followed were full of sadness, frustration, and a lot of trial and error, while navigating through this new wilderness in which Ben and I now found ourselves. I held tight to my determination to give this precious little dog the best care possible, and to the faith that God would give me the strength and resources I needed to do so.

I had to do bladder expressions and bowel stimulations for Ben four times a day, but I devised ways of doing both that made the routine much easier and kept him clean and dry. I fitted him for a custom wheel chair, which vastly improved his quality of life.

Benjamin’s incredible spirit and patience with his new life was so moving, and his condition gifted me with the chance to enrich people’s lives in a distinctive way. I began taking him to nursing homes and adult daycare facilities for the developmentally disabled, where the vision of him in his wheelchair fascinated the residents and put them instantly at ease. He also enabled me to educate young children on the importance of accepting and embracing the differences that make us all unique.

As word spread around town (our local newspaper did a story about us), people began to seek me out for my advice and/or assistance in helping them grapple with their own special-needs pet situations. It was yet another positive way this challenge impacted my life. The day a young woman tearfully told me that meeting me and Ben had just helped her make the decision not to euthanize her
recently paralyzed dog will be one I will never forget.   

The road is difficult; however, the journey is worth the sacrifice. Life will be different, yes, but it can also be rich, beautiful, and more rewarding that you could ever imagine. As a special-needs pet parent, I realized I am a much stronger and resourceful person than I ever dreamed and I have to say, that kind of self-awareness is a priceless gift.

Bodhi & Stuffed Dog (low res)Benjamin passed away last April. Although I miss him terribly, I wouldn’t change a moment of our life together. I actually adopted a little carbon copy of him last November. He crossed my path when I least expected it. Another rescue terrier mix, his name is Bodhi, and he is the spitting image of Ben in
looks, temperament, attitude... He’s only lacking the wheels :-)  

My purpose for writing this letter and sharing my story with you is to let you know how much it meant to see a company like Embrace showing the wonderful, uplifting side of adopting special-needs pets. More often than not, people tend to focus on the negative aspects...the hard stuff...the challenges.

I also wanted to thank you for creating Embrace. When I went through everything with Ben, I didn’t have pet insurance to help defray the cost. When I first adopted him, I looked into getting a policy, but there wasn’t what I considered to be solid pet insurance companies out there back then. It was all too subjective and I didn’t feel confident the coverage would be there when I needed it. Consequently, I am still paying off Ben’s massive medical bills.

When I brought Bodhi into my life, I researched pet insurance again. This time, I found your incredible company. Right away, I knew it would be different. Your policies, your coverage, your amazing customer service team, and your general overall approach to the pet/person bond let me know I could be confident in purchasing a policy with you. And that is precisely what I did. In January of
this year, Bodhi’s policy took effect.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Related Posts:
May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets
Life with Differently-Abled Dogs



Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets

As we continue to explore the topic of differently-abled pets this month, Dr Patrick tells us about his experience with differently-abled pets and answers some questions from our Embracers who have
experience or talk with our pet parents who have differently-abled dogs and cats:

  1. Laura: one of the common stages of treatment for bone cancer (osteosarcoma) is to remove a dog or cat’s leg. What are the considerations that go into whether your pet is a good candidate for that treatment and how do these pets get on as “tripods”? 
  2. Sara: What can you do to prepare an aging pet for the possibility of going deaf or blind?
  3. Kate: Is it true that other senses are heightened when one is missing? For example, increased sense of smell or touch when sight is removed.
  4. Darcy: what are the special considerations when caring for an FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) cat?
  5. Laura: if I wanted to make room in my life for a differently-abled pet, how can I go about preparing for that pet and where do I find them?

Click on the link below for the audio podcast with the answer to these questions.

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney Differently Abled Pets

Related Posts:
May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets
Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney


Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) for www.PatrickMahaney.com and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on OutImpactRadio.com, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2013 through Havenhurst Books



Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people

Dr Riggs shows us that dogs help us see beyond the obvious to the human behind the disability.


We live in a world where it seems like we need to put labels on everything and everyone. We need to pigeon-hole people according to race, sex, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, able bodied and disabled. We do the same to animals. Why do we do that? Do we classify animals and people so we can justify our perception of a particular group and expectations of them? I don’t know.  I do know when it comes to “so called” disabled people and pets, many assumptions just are not true.

Canine Companions for Independence girl with new dogI have had the pleasure to have been involved for many years, with a wonderful organization, Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. The assistance dogs are Goldens and Labradors, specifically bred to be service dogs.

The recipients of these special animals, truly have their lives transformed. Most no longer feel disabled. These dogs allow them to do almost anything you can do. One recipient told me that before he had his new companion, people rarely approached him in his wheel chair. Now with his new dog he said people treat him like… a person. Imagine that!

We all have our limitations and challenges in life. Some are more obvious than others. The “disabled” are people too, and many have never seen themselves as disabled. So don’t be afraid. Interact. You too may be as fortunate as I have been, and gain a whole new circle of friends.

For you that have read my previous blogs, you have already been introduced to Pixie Stardust. Pixie was a special little creature that was discarded due to her condition. Due to the incredible love and dedication of a good friend, Carolyn Paxton, she was able to walk and play with other dogs and people.

Pixie Stardust recently passed away, but what a wonderful short life she lived. Here are a couple of new videos that I know will bring a smile and probably a few tears.

 

Related Posts:
May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people
Guest Post: Pixie the Chihuahua Mix - a remarkable story of love and dedication
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets
Life with Differently-Abled Dogs


Other posts by Dr Riggs


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

Call to action: Dr Riggs is participating in Pelotonia, raising money for cancer research. In fact, in its first four rides, Pelotonia has attracted over 11,100 riders and raised over $42 million for cancer research. Check out Dr Riggs' profile page where you can learn about and support his efforts. Thank you!