We Are What We Eat: Good Food Is the Foundation for Good Health
Dr. Susan Klein, a veterinarian based in Colorado, spent several years in a conventional veterinary practice after graduating from Colorado State University. She now runs Alpine Meadows Animal Clinic, an integrative practice in the Vail Valley.
Dr. Klein’s passion for nutrition started about 15 years ago with a patient who had severe, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Her patient’s condition prompted her to begin investigating commercial pet food, since she had received no useful nutrition training in vet school.
One of Dr. Klein’s first adventures in nutrition was learning just how important a species-appropriate, real food diet is. She quickly learned that this is the foundation of good health.
If You’re Upgrading Your Pet’s Diet, the Change Should Be Gradual
For an animal that is sensitive (GI tracts, skin, or other sensitivities), switching the diet to raw will take some time. Starting with a grain-free and potato-free kibble is the first step before adding in some cooked foods that are easy to digest. Gradually work toward less cooking of the food, understanding that a pet who is in an extreme state of sympathetic nervous system stimulation may have a difficult time with a raw diet.
It’s important to understand that if you or your pet can’t seem to tolerate a diet of fresh, whole foods, there’s a problem in the body. The answers as to “why” can be found in nutrigenomics, but it’s a fairly new concept and interested veterinarians are trying to learn it on the fly.
Most Treatment Protocols Should Start With a Food Change
In her practice, Dr. Klein has to learn which patients need to make dietary changes in baby steps, and which can make faster transitions. She usually begins a patient’s treatment protocol with a food change. Many veterinarians, especially conventional practitioners, never address the diet at all.
No number of supplements or probiotics will be effective if the diet is not also addressed. Supplements are not bad, but should be used for specific reasons. Feeding your furry companion, a diet that creates disease in his body and then trying to fix the problem with supplements is not a good approach.
How Pet Food Creates Disease
Dr. Klein explains to us how commercial pet food can create diseases. From a nutrigenomics perspective, everything in the body runs on a protein-based metabolism. This means it’s very important that the body is taking in proteins it can recognize and use in an efficient manner.
Dr. Klein tells mentions that commercial pet food is sourced from ingredients unfit for human consumption, including remains of dead, dying, diseased, and disabled animals. The process involved in making the average dry pet food involves heating ingredients at high temperatures, which causes the core nutrients to be destroyed. They are then added back in synthetically, and they are foreign to pets’ bodies.
The food is then dried, pressed into cute shapes, and placed in bags with shelf lives up to two years. From a nutritional perspective, there is nothing living in that food anymore, but we’re putting it into living bodies. If we want to transcribe for healthy genes, we have to have healthy, live proteins.
Pet food contains a number of byproducts as a result of the manufacturing process. The most significant is advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Simply put, this means there’s way too much sugar in the food that is coating the proteins in the in the food in such a way that the body doesn’t recognize it as a food source. It also coats the tissues of the body such that the immune system doesn’t recognize them, and we start down the path of autoimmune disease and cancer.
Pet Parents Must Continue to Push for Change
The veterinary profession is the only healthcare profession that advocates feeding entirely processed foods versus fresh foods. Veterinarians are also the only healthcare profession with practitioners that tell clients fresh food could be risky and harmful to animal companions.
Because this information is difficult to replicate in a research setting, it is unlikely it will be taught in vet school, because where would the funding come from? This is why pet parents should be the ones to push for change. If it’s good for human’s, why isn’t it good for pets?
Good Food Is Good Medicine! Pass It On!
The bad news is that most people rely 100 percent on what their veterinarian tells them. When it comes to nutrition, misinformation about processed pet food will be perpetuated. In addition, there’s a lot of money being made by the processed pet food industry.
For the foreseeable future, it looks as though information about the importance of a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet will have to continue to travel by word of mouth from people who have experienced the tremendous healing of fresh, whole food.
Click here to watch Dr. Becker and Dr. Klein’s full discussion on nutrigenomics.
If you frequently shop at the Barkery, you may have asked for advice on “transitioning” your pet to a new diet, or been advised to “rotate” your pet’s diet. Many pet owners plan to transition their pet to a new food, rather than rotating it regularly. Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM, clears up some misconceptions on this subject:
“Like humans, dogs should be eating a variety of nutritious foods, and not living on just one specific formula.”
Single formula diets make for a sub-par digestive system.
Imagine that from the time you were a child, your parents fed you only chicken and rice every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then one day, you grow up and go off to college, and you’re shocked to discover the cafeteria does not offer chicken and rice. Reluctantly, you decide to try something new, discover that you love it, and wonder why you have never been fed other foods before. Until you get back to your room, and you begin experiencing a full-blown digestive emergency.
Was there anything wrong with the meal? Most likely not. The only thing “wrong” was the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract, which are responsible for breaking down food, were not accustomed to the new diet. Had you slowly added the new food to your diet over the course of a week or two, your gut bacteria could have adjusted without becoming overwhelmed.
But now you have created a new problem, because what if you want to try a new food tomorrow? This perfectly illustrates the issue that we create with our animal companions.
“Feeding our pets a restricted diet for months or years creates an environment inside their guts where any new food is considered a foreign invader, and the bacteria don’t know what to do with it. this often results in the gas, bloating, and loose stools that perplex so many well -intentioned pet parents as they seek to ‘transition’ their pets from one food to another.”
Single formula diets promote nutritional inadequacy.
No one dietary formula, no matter how “complete and balanced” it is, can meet all of an animals nutritional needs over an extended period of time.
The nutritional needs of humans and animals alike vary depending upon many factors that are constantly changing. Breaking an animal down by “life stages” oversimplifies their physiological complexity. If you feed the same food, over time your pet can become deficient in nutrients. Varying the diet brings potentially missing nutrients, allowing the body to self-correct.
Single formula diets can increase the likelihood of food intolerance.
Chances are that your pet’s current diet and the diet to which your transitioning to contain one or two protein sources. Excessive exposure to a particular animal protein is a major culprit in creating food sensitivities among companion animals.
The reason so many pets are intolerant of chicken and beef is because these protein sources were the mainstay of the pet food industry for many years. Rotating protein sources not only ensures your pet will benefit from a varied amino acid and nutrient profile, and reduces the risk of forming intolerance to any protein source over time.
Eating one food combination all the time is boring!
This one doesn’t require much explanation. Even if the food seems to be your pet’s favorite in the beginning, after a pretty short time, that will more than likely change. People often fret that their pet has become a “finicky” eater. They are probably on strike, hoping for something new or different to be put into their bowl at feeding time.
Food rotation: the secret to optimum nutrition and gut health.
Hopefully you’re seeing the many problems that can result from feeding one dietary formula for months or even years. We promote dietary rotation rather than transitioning. Rotating provides our pets with all the nutritional benefits described above while also creating a strong intestinal environment.
If you use a commercial food, rotating should involve using different formulas in that line so that your pet benefits from a variety of animal proteins, fruits, and vegetables. You can also rotate among several high-quality brands to ensure additional nutritional variety.
How do I begin?
If your pet has been eating one formula for months or years, you don’t want to suddenly switch his food and bombard his GI system. First and foremost, refer to the new food manufacturer’s dietary recommended amount and feed at the bottom of the scale based on your pet’s weight, then adjust after the transition is complete. We recommend switching to a new food gradually over the course of 7-10 days.
You can use a similar method to start a rotation diet. The only difference is that each month, or every two months, you repeat the process with another new food. We suggest a variety of three or four formulas to include in your rotation cycle. You will only need to go through the one-week transition the first time you feed each food, and then rotate diets every 1-2 months.
We recommend supplementing your pet’s diet with a high-quality, live probiotic to promote overall digestive and immune health. The beneficial bacteria provided in probiotics are especially important when introducing new foods because they provide “reinforcements” to the current gut flora.
You should also make sure that any new foods you introduce promote optimum health for your individual pet. If you’re concerned that your pet may have a food sensitivity, consider testing him first with Glacier Peak’s Wellness Assessment Kit. This saliva-based test is a simple and affordable method to determine if he is intolerant to over 300 food and environmental reactants.
Hopefully by now you’re on board with the idea of rotating nutritious foods into your pet’s diet rather than transitioning from one formula to another. Rotating will promote optimum health for your pet, and a happy four-legged companion!
For more on rotating your pet’s diet from Dr. Jean Dodds, click here.
Taking responsibility for sharing your life with a pet brings about many decisions that must be made. Among these decisions, pet owners must choose what to feed and how much to feed. Kibble or raw, with or without grain, free feed or serve meals only at a certain time? This is a common question that many pet owners have differing opinions on.
Free feeding is the practice of making food available to your pet at all times. Some people who free feed offer the pet’s daily ration at the beginning of the day, while others ensure food is available to their pet at all times, and the dog or cat can eat whenever he/she chooses.
The number one reason pet owners choose to free feed is convenience. Choosing to be a responsible pet owner means doing what’s best for your animal, even if it isn’t the most convenient option. Most pet care professionals agree that meal time is the most beneficial feeding option for your pet. The Whole Dog Journal gives us five reasons not to free feed your pet:
- Meals help teach and maintain clean house habits. The downside to allowing your pet to ingest food at any time is that you never really know when the food will come out! This is especially important when training a puppy or a shelter dog, but should remain consistent throughout the pet’s life.
When dogs are fed on a consistent schedule, it’s easier for you to develop a bathroom routine. Consistent routines will put less stress on your pet, since he or she can expect to be fed and taken out at the same time.
- Appetite is an important indicator of health. Lack of appetite is often the first sign of a pet not feeling well. If your pet has grazed throughout the day, it’s difficult to determine whether your pet is not eating because he is full, or because he isn’t feeling well.
In contrast, if your pet has been conditioned to eating at a certain time, his appetite allows him to readily eat when food is presented. If your pet turns his nose up at dinner-time, you will have a better indication that he is not feeling well. This behavior may also indicate that it is time to switch your pet’s diet if you have been feeding the same food for a long period of time.
- Meal manners for multi-pet households. In homes with multiple dogs, it can make it nearly impossible to monitor each dog’s food intake. It can also create situations where assertive dogs are able to intimidate housemates into surrendering their food portion. If food is continually in the bowl, eating can become a competition between housemates, resulting in an excessive food intake that leads to obesity.
When dogs are fed meals at a particular time of day, it is easier to remind them to mind their business at dinnertime and keep them concerned with their own bowl rather than a housemate’s. This also makes the pet owner’s life easier when feeding different diets to different pets.
- Meals are more hygienic and prevent unwanted pests. If you free feed and have not experienced a pest problem, consider yourself lucky. Leaving food out day to day is an open invitation to ants, mice, and rats. Food should be kept in a sealed container to prevent pest-related issues.
- Meals can be used as valuable opportunities to learn life skills. Feeding rituals do not have to be intense training sessions. Feeding meals at consistent times teaches your dog to come when called, and can also be a good opportunity for you to control your dog’s excited impulses. Delivering the bowl to calm, well-mannered dog rewards his controlled behavior and not over-excited behavior. When a dog is motivated to eat, earning a bowl of food is a powerful reinforcer.
With a little tough love, it is pretty simple to transform your pet’s daily grazing into a pet that eats meals when they are offered. To read more on how to switch your dog from free feeding to meal time, please visit The Whole Dog Journal.
March 23 is National Puppy Day! Puppy love is a wonderful thing, however, as well all know, plenty of stress comes along with the responsibility of a new four-legged friend in the house. Puppies require a lot of attention, training, and socialization to become confident, balanced dogs. Here are some puppy tips to help you navigate the first few months of pet parenthood.
- Bring your puppy to the vet as soon as possible for an exam. Regardless of where you acquired the puppy, you should make immediate arrangements for a vet exam. If you can, bring a stool sample to go ahead and test for internal parasites. It’s important to research the type of veterinary practice you would like your dog to visit. Ideally, your dog will have a lifelong relationship with the vet that you choose, so be sure that your vet’s perspective aligns accordingly. Ask your vet for their protocol on vaccinations, diets, and training. Find a vet that is inviting, friendly, and respects your concerns regarding your dog’s health.
- Crate/kennel train your puppy from the start. To new dog owners, crate training can seem cruel and lonely for your dog. However, when used properly, crates can be seen as a safe haven for dogs, and is a great place to retreat when situations are overwhelming or when your pup needs to relax and reenergize. Prior to bringing your puppy home, set up a size-appropriate crate with a soft pad and a few cozy toys. You and your dog both will be grateful to have this space available.
- Co-sleep with your puppy for the first few nights. Even if you don’t plan on having your dog sleep in your bedroom, consider making the first few nights an exception. The transition to a new home can be stressful, especially if your pup was just separated from his litter mates. Putting the crate next to your bed for the first few nights allows you to comfort him if he’s whimpering and will give a sense of security having you nearby. Once you have established trust, transition your puppy to the new designated space.
- Establish a routine. Just like humans, dogs tend to thrive on a schedule. Dogs build trust and understanding by learning to expect what is happening next. It’s a good idea to establish a little consistency as far as feeding schedules, potty schedules, walks, and bed time. Soon you will notice your puppy develop his own routine and fall into more predictable patterns, which is mutually beneficial.
- Create a puppy perimeter. A new space can be overwhelming for a small puppy. Before bringing him home, decide where you’d like him to spend his time so that he has the freedom to explore without the risk of getting hurt or getting into something he shouldn’t. Set up his kennel (unless you plan on sharing a bedroom with him long term), a soft bed, food and water, and toys in this space. Ensure you block off any potential escape points with baby gates or doors.
- Be a hands-on owner. Getting your puppy used to being handled is one of the best things you can do for him. A puppy that is used to being touched is much more likely to be comfortable being handled by the vet, groomer, children and adults once he grows up. Make it a habit of touching his paws, mouth, and tail gently so that he’s not caught off guard. It is also helpful to touch him while he eats to avoid food aggression.
- Nip bad habits in the butt. It’s undeniably sweet to cuddle on the couch with your 12 pound puppy, but will you feel the same when he’s tipping the scales at 100 pounds? If you don’t anticipate your dog carrying puppy behavior through adulthood, don’t let the behavior become a habit in the first place. Establishing guidelines and being consistent is much more difficult for the pet owner, but it is completely worth it down the road. Decide in the beginning what your plan is concerning dogs on the furniture, where the puppy sits in the car, how food is handled, and which areas are off limits.
- Socialize your puppy. Introduce your puppy to everything. You want your dog to feel comfortable around different looking people, other dogs, other animals, places, and noises. It is best to have yummy treats on hand for rewarding your puppy for remaining calm and comfortable in various situations. If your dog hesitates in a particular situation, let him make a step of sniff forward, and reward that by tossing a treat in front of him. Socialization goes a long way in making your dog fee confident and well balanced all around.
- Most importantly, feed your puppy a healthy diet. Educate yourself on the type of diet you want to feed your puppy before you make the decision to bring him home. Raw diets are undeniably the most natural and biologically appropriate diet for your pup, but may not be the most realistic depending on the dog owner’s lifestyle and income. Feeding a whole, balanced, nutritional diet will save you money and stress down the road. It’s important to remember that your dog’s diet should be rotated consistently to maintain good gut health. Different life stages will also affect the appropriateness of your dog’s diet.
In observation of Poison Prevention Week (3/19-3/25), the Barkery is spreading awareness about common household toxins in your pet’s living space. Many of the products we and our pets come into contact with are subtle, slow poisons. There is no regulation on thousands of chemicals that are used in everyday items such as plastics, electronics, furniture, foams, and fabrics – essentially everything industry makes that isn’t food.
How Pets Absorb Toxins
The skin is a primary route of absorption. Skin is the largest organ of your pet’s body, and it absorbs like a sponge any chemicals in the environment or products that are directly in contact. Pets can also absorb toxins in their food, especially containing carbohydrates sourced from industrial farming.
Toxins can also be absorbed through inhalation. Many plastics and paints outgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are extremely toxic. Non-physical toxic influences can also affect our fur babies, such as electromagnetic radiation from wifi, mobile phones and pet tracking tags.
Light pollution and blue heavy light from TV and other electronics can upset sleep patterns. And finally, the flea and tick control products we give our pets are full of toxic chemicals. All of these cause obvious adverse effects, including death, and subtle toxic harm to others. Whenever possible, we should use natural alternatives to these products.
Common Household Toxins
- In the Kitchen
Avoid giving your dog a taste of the following: chocolate, Xylitol (found in sugar-free gum & some peanut butter), grapes, raisins, alcohol, yeast dough, caffeine, onions, macadamias, and mushrooms.
- In the Garage
Your garage, shed, basement, or cabinets contain a number of substances that your pet may get into. Keep the following out of reach: dishwashing detergent, bleach, household cleaners, rodent poisons or traps, slug bait, fertilizer, lawn/garden chemicals, antifreeze, de-icing salts, and toxic garbage.
- In the Medicine Cabinet
The most common toxins in the medicine cabinet are: hand sanitizer, acetaminophens (Tylenol), Pseudoephedrines (Sudafed), Albuterol found in inhalers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, ibuprofen, Aspirin), and THC in medicinal marijuana.
- In the Yard (or House)
Plants are everywhere, and many are toxic to dogs and cats, including: lily, tulip, azalea, daffodil, foxglove, sago palm, dumbcane, and yew. In addition, cocoa mulch (which has an appealing scent), fertilizers and plant foods should be avoided.
Ways to Minimize Toxins
- Do Away With Plastics.
Get rid of all the plastics your pet comes into contact with, including carpets and furniture, plastic food storage containers, bowls, and toys. Invest in stainless steel bowls, glass storage containers and natural fiber toys.
- Eliminate Artificial Products.
Products in your home with artificial fragrance should be removed. These contain compounds that are very poisonous, and most are made from the same family of chemicals as pesticides. They include, but are not limited to: fragrances in cleaning/personal products such as air fresheners, floor cleaners, cleaning sprays, perfumes, laundry liquids, shampoos, deodorants, soaps, detergents – the list goes on. To deal with this one, you’ll need to be come an avid label reader.
- Don’t Use Pesticides.
Remove all pesticide or insecticide sprays from your home, and stop using them altogether. Fly paper/sticky traps can be used to control insect pests instead. It is also important not to use herbicide or pesticide sprays in your yard, at least not where your dog may roam.
- Don’t Feed Commercial Pet Foods.
The carbohydrates in commercial pet foods are sourced from industrial farms and contain Roundup (aka glyphosate). Roundup attacks the metabolic pathways in plants that are also in your pet’s good get bacteria, and poisons them, which can lead to major gut problems in your dog. Look for certified-organic ingredients in your pet’s food.
- Use Natural Bedding
Artificial fibers in fabrics are toxic too. Using natural fibers in your pet’s bedding, collars, and clothing can minimize exposure to toxins. It’s also important to wash all bedding, collars, and clothing before you put them on your dog, even if they are natural fibers.
Dogs, just like humans, change as they age. They may have less energy, lose hearing or sight, or develop arthritis. It’s our job as responsible pet owners to help them age gracefully into their golden years.
Dogs become senior as early as six years of age (for giant breeds) to thirteen years of age (for small breeds). PetMD offers us 15 ways to help make your senior dog’s life easier.
- Install Stairs and Ramps
For dogs that may have trouble getting on/off furniture or in/out of the car, try ramps or puppy stairs. This can be helpful for dogs with joint issues or that have trouble seeing, and will help prevent injuries.
- Prevent Slips and Falls
Senior dogs lose some traction on their foot pads, and can more easily slip and fall on hardwood floors. Make sure your home’s area rugs are secured with gripper pads so that your dog remains stable when walking. It may also be helpful to trim the hair between the paw pads to prevent slipping.
- Check for Vision and Hearing
Older dogs may have decreased vision and hearing, making it harder for them to navigate. Even if your pet has been trained to stay within the boundaries of the yard, an older dog may wander off and is at higher risk of getting lost or being hit by oncoming cars.
- Buy (or Make) Comfy Beds
Soft bedding or orthopedic beds can help older pets with arthritis and decreased muscle mass by providing extra support and cushioning that the floor doesn’t offer. Making sure your dog has a comfy place to lay down will make his life much easier.
- Maintain Predictable Floor Plans
For dogs with poor vision, rearranging the furniture can cause confusion and stress. Sticking to a predictable floor plan free of clutter will help your dog feel safe and more comfortable getting around.
- Schedule Regular Health Screenings
Seniors should have scheduled wellness exams and lab work every six months. Judy Morgan, DVM, and author of From Needles to Natural: Learning Holistic Pet Healing, recommends a CBC (complete blood count, which checks for anemia, infection, cancer), a Chem Screen (which checks for liver and kidney function, blood sugar, electrolytes, pancreatic function, calcium, phosphorus), a urinalysis (checks for infection, stones, kidney function, diabetes), a thyroid test (checks for over or underactive thyroid), fecal exam (checks for parasites, blood, mucous), and heartworm testing.
- Watch for Signs of Illness
Senior pets are more prone to urinary tract infections, which may be the result of holding urine longer due to limited mobility and less of a desire to go outside. Senior dogs also have a higher risk of developing cancer, so any new or changing lumps should be closely watched.
- Make Time for Daily Activities
Senior pets should remain as active as possible to stay healthy. Strong muscles support the joints that can be weakened by arthritis. Low impact activities such as walking or swimming are best, and physical therapy can also be a great option for pets showing weakness.
- Check for Pain
“Many seniors are very stoic and do not show overt symptoms of pain,” says Morgan. The signs of pain may be more subtle – moaning when getting up, not eating as much, restlessness, or not sleeping. Close observation will help you learn the signs of pain in your pet.
- Keep the Weight Down
Obesity can make mobility issues much worse and put more stress on existing arthritis or joint issues. To help senior dogs with these issues, keep excess weight off with a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is also recommended to add a supplement to help reduce inflammation and protect joint cartilage.
- Learn Doggie Massage
There are many YouTube videos to teach owners how to massage their pups! Massages can help to ease muscle soreness and pain along with providing healthy tissue stimulation and bonding time.
- Practice Good Dental Hygiene
Dental care is just as important for pets as it is for humans, and is commonly overlooked by pet owners. Dental disease is painful for dogs, and may make eating dry food difficult for your senior pet. If your dog is not willing to have his teeth brushed, try dental treats, toys, or food additives to help keep his teeth clean.
- Don’t Skimp the Affection
As your pet ages, physical contact and companionship is more important than ever. Nothing tells your pet that you love them like a good belly rub or cuddle session. Every moment you spend with your senior pet is precious, and increasing the physical connection will strengthen your bond and make your pet more comfortable overall.
- Evaluate Your Dog’s Diet
Talk to your vet and other nutrition experts about what you are feeding your senior dog, and whether or not you should reevaluate their diet. Senior dogs have a higher protein requirement, and may benefit from a specialty senior dog food. Since “senior” dog food labeling is not regulated by any agency, beware of false advertising or marketing to senior pets.
- Talk to Your Vet About Supplements for Maintaining Your Dog’s Brain Health
Talk to your vet about the possibility of your senior dog developing dementia, a.k.a. dog Alzheimer’s. Dogs affected may show confusion and personality changes. Preventative measures can be taken to enhance your dog’s cognitive function. Consider using puzzles, interactive toys, or teaching new tricks on a daily basis.
Age can bring its problems, but maintaining good health starts with responsible pet ownership. Remember to keep your dog as active as possible, feed a nutritional diet, and visit your vet regularly.
Does your dog hate the vet? Here are 5 tips from Whole Dog Journal to help make your dog’s vet visit stress-free.
Vet visits can be stressful for the beings on both ends of the leash! Veterinary care is a necessary part of responsible dog ownership, and, fortunately, a little pro-active planning and training can help reduce vet-related anxiety for both dogs and their owners. The following tips will help prepare you and your dog for your next visit.
- Research your ideal veterinary care for your dog.
Do you have strong opinions about certain facets of animal care, including feeding raw diets, waiting until a certain age to spay/neuter, or using holistic healthcare rather than Western medicine approaches? It’s perfectly fine to have preferences as to how you’d like to address your dog’s healthcare needs. That said, it’s wise to work with a vet who shares, or at least respects your point of view.
- Plan for the cost of your dog’s veterinary care.
Nobody likes to be hit with an unexpected vet bill, but accidents and illnesses happen, so it’s important to be prepared. Pet insurance can be a great way to ease the financial sting of costly vet bills. It is a relatively inexpensive way to secure the peace of mind with knowing you are better prepared to provide for your pets medical needs. If insurance doesn’t feel like the right choice, consider establishing a separate savings account specifically for your pet’s unexpected medical needs.
- Don’t waint until your dog’s minor illness or injury becomes a major one.
To go or not to go to the vet can be a stressful decision. It can be tempting to take a wait-and-see approach to seemingly minor medical issues. While it is one thing to feel confident in your ability to manage minor issues in an effort to avoid higher cost of emergency care, waiting can often make things worse, and therefore you’d be facing a much higher vet bill.
- Familiarize your dog with the veterinarian’s office before your next appointment.
A simple way to help prevent or reduce vet-related anxiety is to visit the office when your dog doesn’t have a medical reason to be there. Pay attention to where the visit first starts to seem scary for your dog and start there. If he’s fine until you reach the doorway, plan your party for the area just outside of the office, being careful to stay out of the way of clients coming in and out. After a short, fun=fest, return to the car, wait a few minutes, and play again or simply drive home. This isn’y always the most convenient training session, but as compassionate dog owners, we owe it to our canine friends to look after their emotional health and well-being as well.
- Teach your dog calm acceptance of being handled and restrained.
So much of what goes into a vet exam can be made easier for your dog when he’s familiar and comfortable being handled in different ways. Make it a habit to touch your dog all over his body as part of your everyday affection routine, including his belly, ears, feet, and face. Teach your dog to be comfortable being restrained by holding him tight to your body, securing his head for a short period of time, and then giving a treat. Think of training time as a way to help inoculate your dog against future stress!
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