10 Amazing Benefits of Massage for Dogs

By Gene Rukavina, RVT, CCMT

The number one misconception I come across is the notion that only elderly dogs need massage therapy. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is certainly the case that massage is excellent for elderly dogs, since one important benefit is the reduction of discomfort from arthritis (painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints).

However, canine massage therapy has so many other benefits, with improved blood circulation being the most important. As with humans, a dog’s muscles and fascia undergo microscopic damage on a daily basis that needs to be repaired through increased blood flow (blood delivers oxygen and important nutrients throughout the body). Here are 10 other key benefits:

  1. Reduces stress and relaxes the body. Think about it, the typical city dwelling dog must deal with all types of external stressors in their environment. Stress is bad for your dog’s health just like it is for us.
  2. Increases the flexibility of soft tissue. Your dog’s ability to move its joints depends on the soft tissue that surrounds each joint. When this soft tissue becomes tight and loses flexibility, it can cause pain and injury.
  3. Aids in the elimination of bodily waste products and toxins. Through improved circulation, chemicals are released that help eliminate toxins from your dog’s muscles and other tissues throughout its body. Dogs must be encouraged to drink water after their massage, and they will most likely have to go to the bathroom sooner than expected.
  4. Helps to maintain good posture and body balance. Poor posture and body imbalance can have a domino effect on your dog’s body. I can always tell when a dog I am massaging is walked with a leash attached to their collar. One side of their body inevitably has more stress than the other. Dogs instinctively compensate for pain or injury by bearing less weight on the injured or painful area, while bearing additional weight on the opposite side. Proper posture and body balance can help avoid further injury to your dog, while also helping to reduce injuries in the future.
  5. Helps injured muscle heal faster. Dogs can’t tell you when or where their muscles hurt. Massage brings relief to injured muscles, and it’s very rewarding when a dog lets me know with a look or deliberate change in body position that I have hit the right spot!
  6. Improves athletic performance. This is particularly important for working dogs, show dogs, or dogs that compete on agility courses.
  7. Loosens and softens scar tissue. Scar tissue is a normal reaction to injury. Even simple everyday actions can lead to a buildup of scare tissue. Adhesions are small bits of scar tissue that bind the tissues around them, leading to stiffness and a reduction in strength and range of motion. It is important to remove these scar tissue adhesions on your dog in order to reduce pain and restore strength and good range of motion.
  8. Prevents atrophy in inactive muscles. Let’s face it, many city dogs spend much more time on soft cushions and pillows than they do walking and exercising. Increased blood flow delivers much needed oxygen and nutrients to these underused muscles.
  9. Releases endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers, sometimes called “nature’s Novocain”, that provide relief from chronic pain or discomfort (e.g., arthritis, hip dysplasia) your dog may be experiencing.
  10. Improves muscle tone and range of motion. I always marvel at how my own dogs instinctively stretch when they know they are about to go on a walk. They remind me of athletes stretching before their competition begins. Massage can help facilitate the return of full movement potential to a dog’s joints. Massage can also help prevent loss of tone (flaccidity) or exaggerated tone (spasticity) in a dog’s muscles. I often encounter muscle spasms during a canine massage therapy session that slowly dissipate as the massage therapy takes effect.

The bottom line is that ALL dogs certainly benefit from improved blood circulation, along with many of the other benefits mentioned in this article. It doesn’t matter if it’s a growing puppy or a pampered pooch. Whether it’s a Chihuahua or a Great Dane, their musculature is the same. Whether a dog is active or inactive, the benefits still apply.

Canine massage therapy also helps to socialize a dog (especially puppies and rescues) to the positive aspects of human touch. Canine massage isn’t just for the old dog with stiffness and arthritis– it can be an important prophylactic therapy that promotes health and wellness while extending a dog’s quality of life. If you’ve ever had a massage, then you know firsthand how good you feel afterwards. Your dog deserves to feel the same way!

We already know that one year for our dog equals seven years for us. But, there is more to it than that. A small dog with an average life expectancy of 14 years will reach middle age at seven, while a very large dog may only have an average life expectancy of 10 years with middle age coming at five. Should we, as humans, wait to receive the benefits of massage (which are the same for dogs) until we reach the age of 70? That’s the equivalent of a 10-year old dog! When I put it this way, most skeptical dog owners that have been experiencing the benefits of massage for themselves finally have that light bulb moment. They realize, in that moment, that they have been depriving their own dog of the many benefits that massage therapy provides. Give your dog the ultimate gift and seek out a certified canine massage therapist. Seeing the look on your dog’s face when that knot they couldn’t tell you about is massaged away, the signs of relief from their arthritis or stiffness, or that big doggie smile as their stress slowly melts away are well worth the cost of the massage session! 

Gene Rukavina is a Registered Veterinary Technician, Certified Canine Massage Therapist, and owner of Dancing Dog Massage. For details visit: https://www.dancingdogmassage.com/ or follow Gene on Facebook @dancingdogmassage, Instagram @dancingdoggene, or Twitter @DancingDogGene.

Bone Appetit for Older Dogs

By Rick and Paula Gardner

The pup days of endlessly chasing balls and squirrels are long past. These days, when you move toward the kitchen, your graying canine companion looks to you expectantly between the little siestas on the couch as if to say, “So, what’s for dinner?”

If he could talk, he might say, “I’ll have what you’re having!” or “I’ll have the usual (same stuff I’ve been eating for seven years).”

But is this what you should be feeding your older dog?

“Every geriatric pet is different and unique,” says Dr. Stefanie Batts, DVM and Medical Director of VCA Apex in Apex, North Carolina. “The best food for your older dog is a recommendation based on a regular physical exam, blood work, and the pet and owner’s needs.” In general, a highly-digestible, high protein, nutrient-rich kibble made especially for older dogs is in order.

Dr. Korinn Saker, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Director of the Clinical Nutrition program at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine asserts it all has to do with what the dog is telling us. Changes are not usually dramatic, so careful observation is in order. “Older dogs need a nutritionally balanced and complete diet. Owners must take into consideration the physiological aspects such as a decline renal, liver, dental, joint and/or heart function; digestive enzymes not being as robust; and a slowing of metabolism.”

A regular veterinary checkup can assess any needed interventions. Some dogs age in a healthy manner while others develop cancer, disease or other debilitating problems. Many age-related problems, if identified early, can be mitigated by simple changes to diet and exercise.

Batts and Saker offer the following considerations for the owners of older dogs:

  • Use a measuring cup to control how much your dog is eating. If your dog is overweight, decrease the amount you are feeding. An overweight dog surely will have joint issues.

  • Portion control of treats and the type of treat need to be adjusted for size and weight. Consider splitting or quartering the treat/bone. Snacks and treats should not exceed more than 10% of the dog’s daily diet.
  • Pieces of plain, cooked chicken with no bones, cheese, and peanut butter are OK in moderation for administering medication.
  • Diets high in fish help decrease inflammation and mobility as well as provide a better quality of life. Ask your vet if omega-3 and/or glucosamine supplements can help as well.
  • Try fresh produce safe for dogs– carrots, green beans, broccoli– or ice cubes as healthy snack alternatives.
  • The problem with making your own food versus buying commercially prepared food is that there may be too much calcium or phosphorus in home cooking. This can be just as bad for a dog as fast food which is loaded with sodium. An older dog’s diet needs to be balanced. Vegetables and vital minor nutrients are essential. Talk to your vet if home cooking is important to you so that you can supplement appropriately.
  • Avoid chocolate, grapes, garlic, bacon, and chicken skin as well as anything fatty, greasy or spicy. All of these are unhealthy or dangerous for all canines.
  • Encourage exercise as this helps your dog maintain weight and overall muscle tone. Allow the older dog to walk on grass instead of pavement.
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of water as it prevents constipation triggered by a slowing metabolism.
  • Older dogs sometime have bad dentition (teeth). They may have hard time chewing and need soft food. One sign may be food falling out the side of their mouth while eating. Consider moistening dry food with water or no-salt broth.
  • If your dog likes to graze on grass, do not be concerned that she has stomach problems– some dogs just like grass. Be careful to avoid any grass that has just been treated with fertilizers or weed control. Consider using pet-safe products on your lawn, or only treat half of the pet’s play area at a time so there is always “safe grass” to play and graze on.

A final consideration is to make any dietary changes slowly. Just as in humans, dogs can develop gas and other intestinal side effects from a sudden diet change. Batts tells the story of one of her clients who feeds her dog broccoli as a regular snack. The client said, “Oh my gosh! My dog will let one go and it will run me out of the room!” So remember to take things gradually, regardless of the dog’s enthusiasm for new diet or snack options.

With your help and attention to changing nutritional needs over his lifetime, your beloved dog can have many happy older dog days. Carrot or green bean, anyone?

Rick and Paula Gardner support great dog-friendly causes at https://www.facebook.com/BinkyandBell, check them out!

10 Tips for A Dog-Friendly Vacation

By Jayne Martin

For many dog owners their pet is a much-loved member of the family, so when it comes to going on holiday, leaving them behind is not an option. Thankfully holiday home owners are wising up to this and you can now find fantastic dog-friendly properties in stunning locations so your four-legged friends don’t have to miss out.

dogs-on-sand

1) There’s a big difference between “we accept dogs” and “dog-friendly” so it is wise to do your research. Call up the booking agent or owner and find out exactly what the dog policy is. How many dogs are allowed? Which rooms are out of bounds? And remember, if you allow your pet on the sofa at home they’re not going to stop when they’re on holiday, so check what the rules are with regards to furniture.

2) Check what dog essentials are provided in your holiday home. Some well-equipped homes will provide everything from dog bowls, beds, old towels to help rub down muddy and sandy paws, food serving forks, poop bags as well as treats and/or balls. You may also like to check if there are blankets or throws to help cover and protect furniture if needed.

3) It may be seen as a bit of a luxury but does your holiday home have under-floor heating? Dogs love to curl up on a warm floor and it’s an effortless way of helping to dry off damp paws quicker.

4) Consider your dog’s safety. Does the property you’re considering have an enclosed garden or gates that can be closed to prevent our four-legged friends going AWOL? Also while out and about exploring, be vigilant for potential hazards such as cliff edges, farm animals and busy roads. If in doubt, keep them on a lead.

dogs-on-water

5) Most properties will allow dogs on the ground floor but not upstairs. If the property is more than one floor, ask if a stair gate is provided to help prevent our pups sneaking off upstairs to find a comfy duvet for a snooze.

6) If you’re heading to the coast, make sure you clue up on which beaches allow dogs before setting off. Many dog-friendly beaches do have restrictions that change depending on the time of year. Tourist information offices are great places for finding maps of dog-friendly beaches, but if you’re lucky, there may be a map available in your holiday home.

7) Before you go, it is worth doing some research into which nearby restaurants and cafes allow dogs. You don’t want to spend hours trekking from pub to restaurant to find one that does. Similarly, with tourist attractions, you don’t want to turn up only to find dogs are not allowed. A good dog-friendly holiday home should supply such information and tips within their information pack.

8) While no-one wants to think about things that could go wrong on holiday, sadly accidents do happen. Get to know where the nearest vet is in the vicinity of your holiday home in case of an emergency. Search for it online and print off a map or directions and leave it in your car.

dog-on-rocks

9) When traveling long distances with your pet remember to keep them secure and safe in the vehicle so they don’t distract you while you are driving, or injure themselves if you need to brake sharply. When you arrive at your destination, take your pet out for a long walk so they can become familiar with their new surroundings. And after a long car journey it’ll be good for the whole family to get a breath of fresh air!

10) Possibly the most important message is NEVER leave a dog in a car on a warm day for any amount of time as it can be dangerous and deadly. If you see a dog in distress in a car while on holiday, dial emergency.

Jayne Martin runs Gwelmor, a three-bedroom holiday home in Widemouth Bay, north Cornwall, which accepts up to three dogs. For details visit https://www.holidaycottages.co.uk/cornwall/north-cornwall/gwelmor or follow them on Facebook @GwelmorWidemouthBay, Twitter @gwelmor or Instagram @gwelmor.

Evermore Pet Food – Good Dog! Gold Standard

5/5 Stars – Good Dog! Gold Standard
http://www.evermorepetfood.com/

Neither the writer nor Good Dog! Magazine received compensation for this review.

I’ve always been a lover of animals. When I was a little girl living in Austin, Texas I wanted to become a veterinarian so badly that our family pet doctor would take me on rounds with him whenever we came by with our senior wiener dog, Houdini. He wanted for me to become immersed and familiar with the field. I will be eternally grateful that he took the time to show me what I would be doing if I became a vet. I quickly realized that if I followed that path I would inevitably have to actually cut open animals to make them better, and some would not be saved. I ended up changing my career goals, and, eight years later, got my very first job at Pam’s Pets and Tropical Fish in Abilene, Texas. I was able to take care of the pets, help them find really good furr-ever homes, and helped their pet parents pick the best food for that critter’s individual dietary needs.

Due to recalls and horror stories of kibble killing pets, I am super picky about what mine eat. I have not and do not make recommendations for foods that I have not first vetted researched and tested on my own furr-babies. I always start by looking at the ingredients and quality of the food. Then, I compare price to quality and consider if the reward is worth the cost– which it always is of course. They aren’t just members of my family; they are animals who have entrusted me with their safety and well being, and I am humbled by their love and loyalty.

It really matters to me that my three dogs are taken care of, even though they tear though a 35 lb. bag of expensive dog food weekly. So… even though Stan Lee (175 lbs.), Charlotte (43 lbs.), and Hlin (pronounced Helen, 53 lbs.) eat me out of house and home, I make sure that they eat the same quality that I expect for myself. I also need a food that can be shared across age barriers: Stan Lee and Charlotte are both less than three years old and full of the kind of never ending energy that causes teenagers like ours to eat like they are starving all the time and Hlin is 16ish years old, going blind and deaf, and is much slower than she was when I originally adopted her at the ripe old age of 12ish. As such, I want… nay I NEED food that is healthy, filling, and able to span all age ranges because trying to feed different food to each dog is about as effective as herding cats.

Background Research

When I was asked to review Evermore Pet Food, I started researching the brand. I went to their site and snooped around. I love the fact that the brand knows who they are and where they are going. There are some pet product companies with no idea what they should focus on and you can tell that from their food’s quality. The founders literally ate the food they sell for one month. It is well documented, and you can even check out one of their YouTube clips here:

That takes guts, and while I did not eat it myself (I am allergic to eggs), I did smell it and it was not bad. If the allergy hadn’t been an issue, I feel confident that I could have chosen to snarf down a few bites and not been grossed out by the taste. Also, there is a map that shows you the exact location of each item sourced in the creation of Evermore and they test every batch before it goes out for health and safety items. There are some human food creators who don’t even do that so that attention to detail really made me feel confident that I wouldn’t need to worry about a listeria recall or something.

Doggos Review

We received three flavors to try out. To start our pups were given the chicken. It was mostly selected first because Charlotte wouldn’t leave the box (which is super adorable) alone, but I also chose chicken because it was most likely to not create the kind of explosive kaka that comes from having a giant dog with the tummy of a baby. The packages were well insulated in a cold shipping box so they had not really thawed out at all. They also are vacuum sealed and it was super easy to stack the ones we were not using in the fridge.

So there we were, placing the chicken dog food on leftover (un-used) paper plates from our wedding, when Charlotte started trying to jump on the counter. Now, she isn’t the most perfectly behaved fluffy butt, but she hasn’t ever done that, and so, I decided to take it as a good sign for things to come. Lo and behold… she snarfed her spoils down like a pirate finding priceless gold on a sunken ship. Stan Lee, who is naturally super cautious of new things, took a little convincing that the food was worth trying, but by golly once he actually tried it, he completely zoned into the food and ignored all attempts at communication until the plate was licked clean clear across the dining room floor. Hlin ate like she hadn’t eaten in years, and the cat even got a bite to try out.

Surprisingly, no one got sick. The only tummy that maybe got grumbly was the cat. She didn’t fart rainbows even though she is magical.

Then, we tried the beef and it too was well received. However, their favorite flavor was the lamb which was tested tonight. Stan Lee was literally drooling like Pavlov’s dog and sat so fast that I expected the floor to crack under his bottom. He was given half of the pouch (based on his size, he would need three pouches a day if we completely switched him over) and it was gone in less than two minutes which is amazing because he is the one that typically savors his dinner. I didn’t even get done laughing at his shenanigans when Charlotte’s was gone and the plate was licked bone dry. Hlin tripped over herself trying to get a better angle for food inhalation and ended up with lamb all over her face. She was not appreciative of Charlotte’s not so subtle eating the food off her face disguised as kisses and loves. Charlotte was unrepentant.

The Verdict

All in all, Evermore gets two heavy metal horns up. It’s made in the USA, every batch is tested for quality and safety before leaving the plant, it’s owners are all in and willing to put their food where their mouths are by eating it for a month. Their packaging and shipping is better than some fresh food subscriptions that we humans can subscribe to, and it’s apparently super tasty because as I sit here typing this with one of the empty packages sitting by me, I have three dogs and a cat all up in my face and breathing heavy. Evermore, you won over this picky pet family.

Christine E. Boswell, BBA, MSS
The Steel Camper: Heavy Metal on Wheels

Will My Fluffy Be a Good Therapy Dog?

Almost daily, our office receives calls from people asking about our therapy dog program and telling us that they have a dog who “just loves everyone.” We welcome these calls because asking for more information is the first step to getting your dog officially therapy certified.

therapy dog with elderly

Three Myths About Therapy Dogs

First – let’s dispel 3 common myths:

1)  My dog is a pitbull – he will not qualify to be a therapy dog. False – breed has nothing to do with whether a dog will make a good therapy pet. We have all shapes, sizes and breeds involved with our program from doberman pinzers and pit bulls down to yorkies. If your dog has the right temperament and you are willing to put in the time to train them properly and go through testing, your dog can be a success.

2)  My collie is friendly and seems to love everyone so she will automatically make a good therapy dog. Great start, but not the whole story. A therapy dog undergoes basic obedience training, then is trained and tested on a wide variety of attributes. Can they maintain composure in different environments like noisy hospitals, walking among wheelchairs and walkers, friendly with children and seniors, friendly with other dogs in close quarters, able to walk nicely on a leash and able to follow the command “leave it” when tempted by food on the floor?

3)  I’d like to get my dog certified, but the only places they go are nursing homes or hospitals and I don’t like those places that much. No worries, now that therapy dogs have been proven to reduce stress and provide positive health benefits there are many opportunities and places you can volunteer and find an opportunity that suits you and your dog.

What Makes a Good Therapy Dog?

So – what characteristics do make for a good therapy dog? It’s really a combination of the dogs natural temperament and you, their owner willing to devote time training them and getting them ready to pass the certification test which allows them to make visits.  One without the other will not lead to success. You must think of you and your dog as a true team and the relationship and trust you develop is extremely important. Definitely do not count out your rescue dog who may have came from bad circumstances! With the right training and guidance, they often make the most wonderful, loving therapy dogs.

pitbull service dog

Temperaments of successful therapy dogs include being friendly without a lot of coaxing to a wide variety of people, not being overly protective of his or her owner when a stranger approaches, able to be comfortable in many different situations and in the midst of different stimuli (noisy, crowded, other dogs present, etc.) and able to learn and follow new commands. Your dog must be able to walk by your side on a leash with pulling or straining. One of the most challenging for many dog owners is having your dog walk by a very tempting morsel of food on the ground like a hamburger or piece of pizza and not try to eat it, but respond to the “leave it” command. Don’t worry, this takes a lot of practice but can be done!

If you think your dog is a good candidate, I recommend taking them to basic obedience classes early in life. Many dog training schools offer Puppy Manner classes which will help with the sit, stay, dog socialization skills and the “no jumping” part of training. Therapy dog classes which lead to certification generally begin when your dog is over one year old, but many dogs at this age are just too rambunctious, so wait until your dog is a bit calmer and it won’t be stressful to them.

Malke and Frank

My own dog Malke became certified when I started the nonprofit therapy dog program Caregiver Canines® in 2009. We made weekly home visits to Frank who had dementia and his wife Jean who was his caregiver. Jean told me that Frank loved dogs his whole life, but now she just didn’t have the time or energy to care for one. She also told me Frank was non-verbal now and she couldn’t get him to leave the house without a struggle.

service dog

When Malke and I went to visit the first time, we saw Frank’s face light up. He immediately bent down, began to pet Malke and he whispered “my baby, my baby.”  When I looked up, I saw tears streaming down Jean’s face. She told me it was the first time she heard Franks voice in over a year and she never realized how much she missed it.

During that visit, Frank was also amenable to going for a walk with Malke, so the three of us put on our coats and walked around the block. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more gratified or proud of Malke for making such a wonderful difference in people’s lives.

To anyone interested in getting their dog therapy certified, I whole heartedly encourage it. It is a wonderful way to share your pride and joy with others less fortunate. It does take time and dedication, but it is also an incredibly rewarding volunteer opportunity and will greatly enhance the bond between you.

I wish you the very best of luck on this fun journey and on behalf of everyone you visit, a heartfelt thank you!

-Lynette Whiteman, MS

To learn more about Caregiver Canines®, visit www.caregivercanines.org and follow us on facebook www.facebook.com/caregivercanines.  If you are interested in starting your own chapter, please email [email protected]