Chiropractic care for Pets?

You must be joking!

Actually it’s no joke.

By Dr. Elizabeth Easterling

Dr E-07989

Animal chiropractic is becoming a very popular modality to improve mobility, performance and help with the overall health of your pet.

So first of all what is chiropractic?  It is the science and art that deals with the structures and function of the spine and most importantly its relationship to the nervous system.

The nervous system controls all functions of the body and if interference occurs our ( or our pets ) bodies cannot function or heal appropriately.

The goal of chiropractic is about detecting and correcting these spine-nerve-muscle ( neuro-muscular-skeletal) problems to restore health and performance.

For those who have little or no faith in chiropractic, you might change your mind when you see a dog with its head held low, tail down and yelping only to leave with its head held high, tail wagging and easily jumping into the car after spending 15 minutes with the chiropractor.  One such dog actually let out a loud yelp when the exact point in his neck that was causing all the pain was adjusted followed by an amazing turnaround in his discomfort.  Placebo effect?? I don’t think so!!

Well, let’s look at the nervous system.

It’s divided into the Central Nervous System, which is the Brain and  Spinal Cord ,and the Peripheral nervous system which control all the other nerves supplying muscles , organs, and carries information from the body to the brain.

So if a nerve supplying a muscle is affected by vertebrae jammed up or out of alignment, this can cause weakness, spasm, or in coordination.

If a nerve to an organ is affected, say bowel or bladder…well use your imagination.

If a sensory nerve is affected it may cause numbness, pins and needles, loss of sensation or reflexes and of course PAIN.

So if these problems can be caused by vertebral bones or joints having lost their normal movement or alignment; what causes this?

Well in short STRESS!!Dr E-08017

But there are actually three types of stress that affect our bodies.

The most common one is physical stress, examples are trauma, overuse, injuries, lack of exercise, confinement, and degeneration or arthritis.

However, there are also mental/emotional/stressors that can cause spinal/nervous system disorders such as fear, abuse, neglect etc.   These can cause tension and immune suppressors in the body that can lead to disease or postural strains.

Then there is also chemical stressors such as poor diet, environmental factors and medications that can cause changes in the nervous system and spinal function.

So what are some other the things to look for when it comes to spinal problems in dogs?

Pain may be manifested by:




Unwillingness to jump or do stairs

Arched or rotated back

Sensitivity to touch

Changes in behaviour such as biting

Other signs to look out for include:


Loss of bladder/bowel control

In coordination

Dragging feet or scraping toes

Abnormal posture when standing or sitting

Partial paralysis or weakness ( usually hind end)


Muscle atrophy ( loss of muscle mass )

Some simple tricks  to tell if your dog may be having spinal problems are these:

1) See if you can lift your dogs chin to meet the ceiling 180 degrees

2) Turn his/her head all the way to each side, if not there may be a neck problem going on

3) See if you can bring the hind legs straight out behind your dog.  They should easily be able to stretch straight back.

4) See if you can bring your dogs front legs straight in front, again they should be able to do this with ease.

5) Press on their spines and see if you can create a “spring feeling through each vertebrae.  Pain, yelping, muscle twitching or biting may all be a sign of spinal problems.

As Chiropractors, we use “adjustments” to the spine to correct/restore normal joint functions and alignments and reduce stress on nerves.

How do dogs react to Chiropractic treatments?Dr E-07987

Most dogs seem to like being adjusted.  Many times the animal will adjust their position to “help: the chiropractor “find” the problem.  One of the most exciting and satisfying things we see happens in almost all animals we treat is their improvement in behaviour.   Owners often tell us their pet looks and appears “younger” and have resumed their previous zest for life!

For me as a veterinary chiropractor the most satisfying moments in my practice have been witnessing the many animals ( and people of course ) going from not being able to run, play and being in pain to becoming their old selves again, and especially seeing the dogs with paralysed hind legs run again.

One of the highlights of my practice was seeing a dachshund with a paralyzed hind end given a death sentence from his vet and his owner in tears watching him fall about in pain, after a few treatments I saw this dog running around  and getting his life back.  The smile on the owners face reminds me what this is really about.

If we forget what joy is , all we have to do is look at our pets!


Pet Life Balance

4 Simple Changes to Help You and Your Pet Live Longer and Healthier Lifes!

By Inna Shekhtman 


“Every day is another chance to get stronger, to eat better, to live healthier, and to be the best version of you” – Unknown

For many pet guardians, our pets are a valued part of the family! The human-animal bond we share is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship that positively influences the health and well-being of us both. So, if you made a new-years resolution this year to improve your health, why not enlist your most faithful furry companion to be your partner in this health-seeking journey. After all, pets and people suffer from many of the same diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer.  Perhaps the biggest lesson we can learn from each other is how to overcome and even prevent these health challenges together!

The specific lifestyle choices that I will focus on today are:

  1. Social Connectivity
  2. Exercise 
  3. Eating a Healthy Diet 
  4. Stress Management 

How many of these healthy lifestyle choices are part of your life? 

The good news is it is never too late to change your lifestyle or habits and each incremental change, no matter how small, can have a significant impact on your health! This also holds true for our pets! Implementing one or two healthy lifestyle strategies for your pet, even one that’s senior, can make a huge difference in their quality of life.  These changes can mean less pain, improved mobility, improved digestion, and increased happiness and enjoyment of daily activities.  You are in charge of your pet’s health! The silver lining is that when you make decisions that improves your pets’ health, it will likely improve your health too! 

Social ConnectivityRDBK-TitlePage

We all love cuddling, playing and relaxing with our furry companions! Not only do these activities feel great, but they impact our health! Studies show that a simple act of petting our dog or cat activates our oxytocin system. Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a key role in childbirth and infant development, but recent research found that it can also impact heart health, digestive health, improves mental health, and reduce certain inflammatory factors that can slow healing. So, the next time your dog brings you a toy to play with or your cat demands a belly rub, put down your phone, turn off the TV and just take a moment to be fully present and engaged with your pet – its one of the best things you can do for you own health, and the best part is its free!


Our pets love to move – its in their DNA!  They are designed to run, jump, hunt and do countless other physical feats that their wild counterparts relied on for survival.  While our domesticated dogs and cats are pretty laid back compared to their wild counterparts, they need exercise to maintain their physical and mental health! While at times, this may seem like a chore, why not come up with a fun way you can exercise with your pet!  Your pet can be a great workout buddy, and you can both get the physical activity you need daily! 

Here are some fun exercises you can do with your dog:

  • Jogging, hiking or walking
  • Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing
  • Swimming, kayaking or stand-up paddleboard
  • Dog yoga
  • Tracking or agility classes

Cats might require a bit more imagination, compared to dogs. You can take your cat along in a backpack for an outdoor activity or try yoga or weight training with your cat! And don’t forget to have fun! RDBK-Exercise

Eating a Healthy Diet

Food is a powerful and acknowledged means of preventing disease and illness. When it comes to our pets’ food, there are four key areas where many commercial foods leave room for improvement:

  1. Moisture:  Our pets need moisture for digestion, and in an ideal world that moisture would come directly from their food. This is especially critical for cats, who are not capable of drinking large volumes of water. Cats on dry food don’t get enough moisture (even if they drink water) to support all their bodily functions and essentially live in a constant state of low level dehydration, which can lead to bladder and kidney disease and urinary tracts crystals. Kidney disease is one of the major reasons for premature aging and death in cats today and most instances are completely preventable. Unlike kibble diets, fresh food like meats and vegetables contain an abundance of moisture.
  2. Protein: Our pets, like their wild counterparts, are designed to get most of their nutrients from animal protein and fat.  Unlike plant proteins, protein and organs from animals contain balanced amino acids, vitamins and minerals for dogs and cats.  Most commercial dry foods, even grain-free ones, do not contain the amount and quality of protein that they would get from unprocessed animal protein. Instead, our pets are getting most of their calories and nutrients from carbohydrates and fats – a significant deviation from their natural diet.   We know from studies of their gut microbiome that this impacts their overall health. 
  3. Fat: A proper amount of balanced fats is critical for the health of our pets.  Fat impacts our pets’ cognitive function, eye-sight, hearing, skin, coat and much more.  In fact, a recent study suggests that feeding your pet Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplements in early life can prevent obesity in our pets.  Most dogs eating a commercial diet do not get balanced fat in their diet, especially some fats like DHA which are very unstable. This results in an epidemic number of dogs and cats presenting with skin and coat issues, immune issues, and many other health issues that could be prevented.  The good news is that if you can’t get these fats in the diet, you can add them to your pets bowl as a supplement. In fact because these fats are so fragile, the best way to get them to your pet is fresh in their bowl, right before serving.
  4. Fresh Food:  We intuitively know that eating a variety fresh, minimally processed food is healthier for us.  The same principal applies to our pets. In fact studies have shown that feeding your pet even a few tablespoons of fresh greens a day can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. 
  5. Beneficial Gut Bacteria: When I was growing up, bacteria were considered the enemy – we were taught from the early age to destroy it with hand sanitizers, household cleaners, and every other means possible.  We now know that some bacteria are beneficial for us – they are often referred to as probiotics.  Due to recent studies into the microflora (our gut bacteria), that bacteria is actually the missing ingredient in food today! The intestine of all animals (dogs, cats, humans) is populated with a variety of bacteria – good and bad.  These bacteria are critical to our health: they are involved in digestion, immune system and many other functions in the body. These bacteria need to be in balance to perform these vital health functions and the primary to maintain that balance is by eating foods rich in probiotics such as fermented vegetables and kefir.canstockphoto24420961_altered

Unless you are already feeding a diverse and balanced biologically appropriate (raw) diet, there are several simple things you can do that will likely make their current diet better. 

  1. Add some broth to your kibble! Bone broth is rich in minerals that support the immune system and contain healing compounds like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. Whether your pet is eating kibble or raw, bone stocks provide minerals and essential amino acids while hydrating and alkalizing the body. And making your own broth at home is easy and a small daily dose is enough to do wonders for your pet!
  2. Add Omega-3 essential fatty acids to your pet’s diet.  These fats are very unstable and go rancid very quickly, so it is best to add them on top of the food right before consumption. I suggest adding one or more of the following to your pets’ food:  Flaxseed or hempseed, canned salmon or sardines.   Coconut oil is another great addition to periodically add to your pets’ meals.
  3. Give your dog some probiotics. Some ideas for how to help your pup improve their microbiome:  Kefir (coconut or dairy), fermented vegetables, raw milk, high quality probiotic supplement.  It is best if you rotate between these, to provide your pet with as much diversity of bacteria as possible. 
  4. Give your dog a bone to chew on. Bones are nature’s toothbrush as well as a great source of minerals such as calcium. In addition, it provides great mental and physical stimulation for your dog. 
  5. Add fresh veggies to your pet’s dish. Some ideas for veggies: blended spinach or lettuce, broccoli – steamed or raw, butternut squash and yams – cooked or blended, blueberries.
  6. Add some meat to your pet’s diet (cooked or raw).
  7. Feed your pet a raw diet with a variety of meats and vegetables – if you can’t do it every meal, then do as many meals as you can.

Eating better does not have to be all-or-nothing. Each change will have a measurable impact on health for both you and your pet. You can make as few or as many suggested changes as you feel comfortable with.  You can also rotate between a few different options to provide your pet with diversity and variety.

Benefit to you: Your pet will feel better and have more energy, which you can spend together on some fun activities, including exercise! After all, the better your pet feels the more they can help you feel better!

Stress ManagementCat meditating - for REd Dog

Relax! I really mean that. We live in a high paced world and are often exposed to stress in both our work and home lives.  We even stress out about getting healthy and getting our pets healthy.  Stress produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol have a huge impact on our health, including increasing weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of heart disease, lowering immune function and much more.  Often our pets will feel our stress and anxiety, with the same health consequences.  So not only does stress not help the outcome of whatever you are stressing about, it can have serious health consequences for you and your pets. Practice mindfulness and mediation. There is no “right thing to do” – you cannot control the outcomes or what happens tomorrow, so just enjoy the present with you pet!  Love, laugh, cuddle and relax! 

Contrary to the proverb “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and it’s never too late! Making lifestyle changes is possible at any stage in your life and making these healthy habits part of you and your pet’s daily routine will help you both live longer and feel better. Start today!


Ways to Include your Dog in Your Spiritual Journey

By Amanda Ree of Sama Dog

Amanda Ree and Rene family_Sama Dog by Jamie Fields

Our spiritual life is deeply personal and constantly evolving.  The path twists and turns as we determine the best practices for our own growth.  There are times when the road looks as if it were meant to be walked alone.  After all, the world’s historical spiritual people are known to have lived in monasteries and on top of mountains. Current masters live in today’s world though, with the same modern distractions and frustrations that we all have.  Proving that while the path may still be personal, it is large enough for company.  Maybe even the perfect size for a canine companion to walk along your side.

Your furry friend is already enjoying a rich spiritual life.  They show off his yoga skills daily with downward dog, are the best examples of how to practice present-moment awareness and demonstrate their joy for mindful walking. They are natural companions on your spiritual journey.  Here are a few ways to expand your practices to include them, and everyone will be better for it. 

Non-verbal Communication SkillsAmanda Ree_Sama Dog by Jamie Fields_3

Most of our dogs know several human words.  They are intelligent for sure, but even smarter when allowed to communicate in ways that are more natural to them.  They listen to tone, pick up on facial cues and simply feel your energy to obtain information.  Ever wonder how your trusty companion knows when you will be home?  They’re listening to their intuition.

Non-verbal communication is very intuitive and more refined than language – we would be wise to gain more practice here.  Learn to connect with your dog in their own language and expand their connection.  It grants you better perception of your pup’s mind-body needs.  Think beyond food, water, walk… and aspire to care for them on a deeper level.  Work on developing this skill with your friend and you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the non-physical world.

Exercise Buddies

Anyone with a canine family member can tell you that a dog’s walk is more of a moving meditation.  They instinctually enjoys every second in nature.  Their walks become our daily reminders to live more consciously.  If your sidewalk doesn’t feel spiritual enough, try moving closer to nature.  Walk around a lake, by the ocean or take a good hike.  No music, cell phone or other distractions.  Just you and your dog, bonding, appreciating and being present.

Don’t forget your four-legged yogi the next time you pull out the mat either.  They are naturals who could probably teach you a pose or two.  Remember that we’re all energy bodies.  Your energy has no boundaries and will envelop your dog.  Invite them to your yoga practice and share a calm, centering experience for you both.

Meditation for TwoJamie Fields_2

Group meditation has benefits.  Shared energy, remember?  Form your own meditation group of two with your furry friend.  Simply find a quiet, comfortable place, and allow your canine to attend.  They will instinctively be drawn to you and quite easily find their own Zen.  If they are close, rest your hand on them while you breathe deeply.  They are sharing energy with you too and it might be exactly what you need for a more grounded discipline.

A daily practice with your dog will keep the two of you in sync and ready for anything that comes your way.  Even if you aren’t on a spiritual journey, meditation has been proven to increase health and well-being: lowered blood pressure, increased immunity and better sleep to name a few.  It’s a must for you both.

Soulful Vacation

Canines can use a vacation now and then too!  Anything to break away from the usual routine is good for the soul.  Think of them when you plan your next getaway.  Time away becomes an instant spiritual retreat when they are by your side. Your buddy’s presence forces you to go out, explore and meet new people.  On break you’ll have the time to really enjoy these explorations together.  Delight in all the newness, follow your dog’s lead and experience everything… twice.

It’s getting easier to include our pups in our lives.  More hotels and restaurants are becoming pet friendly.  It’s common to see water bowls outside (sometimes inside) of retail establishments too.  All signs that dogs are being appreciated for the valuable beings they are.  Consider bringing yours along during your daily routines.  The stimulation will do them good and having them close is a constant reminder to live in the moment and revel in the mundane.

Improving your spiritual life doesn’t have to be a solo project.  Who better to invite than one of the most spiritual beings you know?  Your dog is a living example of unconditional love, non-judgment, forgiveness, present-moment awareness and more.  They demonstrate how to “be” simply by being themselves.  Welcome them to join you on the path and let their innate wisdom be another guide to a more spiritual life.

Visit us at and arrange a complimentary consultation to help deepen your relationship and understanding of your dog. 

Photos courtesy of Jamie Fields of Shutter Pup Photography

Search and Rescue!

Training to be an Avalanche Dog Team

By Jay Pugh

Avalanche Dog

For the past twenty years I have been a search and rescue dog Instructor starting with CARDA (Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association) a position that has been both a privilege and a lot of hard work.

Often I am asked “What does it take to be an avalanche dog handler?”

The answer is not a short one.

An avalanche dog team consist of two parts—the human handler and the dog. To be a successful and viable team both parts need to be evaluated. The process should really start with the interested party contacting CARDA, or for that matter any group in the desired profile and talking to an experienced handler. As an example CARDA is looking for people in the avalanche field who are strong skiers and willing to take the time and commitment to train a dog. The candidate should ask themselves two questions: “What am I going to be doing for the next five to ten years?” and, “Why do I want to do this?”

The process of training and then handling an avalanche dog is a long one. Most dogs start training at six months to one-year old and are retired somewhere around eight to ten years old. Training is an ongoing process that never ends throughout the career. A potential handler has to understand the level of the commitment. 

Spending the time and effort to train a dog is one thing. Being in a position to actually perform a search is another. There simply is no point to all the work put into training when the finished team is not in a position to respond. The wrong answer to the second question is, “Because my dog likes it.” We do not put ourselves in positions where our dog is the difference between life and death because we needed something for our pet to do.

Aspiring avalanche rescue dogs should be between six months to two years old. Any younger and the dog hasn’t matured enough; any older and there is too little working life left after the two full years of training.

Generally CARDA as well as many organizations in the States and elsewhere prefer that the potential handlers are somehow connected to the ski/avalanche industry, because the handler has to be in a good position to respond in a timely manner to an avalanche. Ski patrollers are common, as are those in forecasting positions with other institutions. It needs to be said that the potential handler must at least have the skill to ski down any slope in any snow condition. Fitness and backcountry mileage are essential. CARDA requires that all candidates possess a Canadian Avalanche Level 1 Certificate. This is an extensive (and expensive) week long course. 

If the potential candidate meets the entry requirements then the next step is the CARDA Spring Course held every May in Penticton, BC.

The CARDA Spring Course is a three-day, five-step process that tests the dog’s suitability for avalanche rescue work. This test was adopted from the RCMP when it became apparent that too many inappropriate dogs were coming in the program. It is a waste of time and effort for both the handlers and the organization to attempt to train dogs that are unsuitable. For this reason, the Spring Course has been successful. Fewer of the candidates who pass the evaluation prove unfit later on in the process.Page-42_graphic

Basically the tests are designed to measure the amount of hunting and prey drive in the dogs. Searching, to the wolf part of a dog’s mind, is hunting. Pinpointing the victim is the prey drive. All dogs have some level of these drives. These evaluation tests determine how much.

Over the centuries, dogs have been bred for many things besides hunting. There are breeds for everything from protection to lapdogs. The ones that tend to do the best in the search and rescue game are the hunting breeds. Labradors and golden retrievers are common in CARDA as is the excellent general-purpose German shepherd. There are also the herders (herding is a form of hunting) and a mix of cross breeds. The crosses usually have a hunting breed somewhere in the background.

It surprises many that there are two distinct breeds missing—the St. Bernard and the Husky. The St. Bernards have the distinction of being the first avalanche dogs in the 1700s (Barry did exist) but were actually bred to protect herds of sheep and cattle in the Alps. Furthermore, anyone who has ever tried to stuff a dog in a helicopter can tell you a Bernard would present logistical difficulties. The Husky is bred to pull sleds. They are notorious for being disinterested in searches.

The evaluation also determines if a dog is aggressive to other dogs or humans. These dogs are deemed dangerous and are not acceptable, regardless of how well they search. They must also be of appropriate size and able to handle cold conditions. Obedience is one of the training goals as high-drive dogs tend to be difficult house pets. While the drive should not be overridden by training, the dogs must have the temperament to be controllable in high stress situations.

The testing format is relatively simple. The dog is restrained by the evaluator and the handler/owner runs off waving the dog’s favorite rag toy over their head and acting as animated as possible. As soon as the handler drops out of sight the dog is released. The evaluator appraises how excited the dog is while the runaway is in process, how hard the dog looks for the handler and finally, how the dog responds when finding the handler.

Ironically, we use the dog’s instinct to grab a piece of the prey and tear it off as a reward for finding a person. Simply put, we are looking for a wild game of tug-of-war. Long rag toys are used instead of clothing or arms. As the evaluation process continues, a different person is introduced to do the runaway. The time between the runaway and releasing the dog is increased, as is the difficulty of the search.

The other thing the handlers are judged on is their ability to give the dogs what is needed to reward them. When it comes to rewarding the dog that has just found a simulated victim (quarry) we have a saying, “If you’re not acting like an idiot you’re doing it wrong.” The handler needs to put as much excitement into the dogs as possible. Both their own and, as we quarry for each other, any dog they hide for.

In the end, it all comes down to a pretty simple question. The evaluators ask themselves, “Do I want this dog searching for me?” 

It remains to be seen how many of the successful candidates will continue. There are life changes, health issues, and sometimes the candidate finds the commitment simply too much.

For the successful candidates who choose to carry on, the next step is to enroll in the CARDA Winter Course as a “Team In Training.”

When it comes

to rewarding the

dog…if you’re

not acting like

an idiot you’re

doing it wrong.

Terms used by CARDA to describe a dog’s performance:

Husky Search • This is a phrase meaning that the dog has

no interest in searching.

Seventy-five Percenter • This is a dog that is on the

border line. Three-quarters of the time it will do the job

but the other quarter it will lose focus. The evaluator must determine if the last quarter is something the dog will mature into or, in rare cases, can be trained into the dog.

Solid • A solid dog is one that performs all the tests well and with enthusiasm. They are fast and workmanlike in their approach.

Barn Burner • The most desirable dog. Extremely fast and

focused, they also tend to be difficult to hold back during

the runaways and are awesome at the tug-of-war.


Causes of Joint Pain in Pets

And Nutrients That Can Help!Dog with workout ball


By Lindsay Eadie, CNP

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a common term that refers to pain or stiffness of the joints. There are a variety of types and causes of arthritis; the main types are degenerative arthritis, of which the most common is osteoarthritis, and inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. Common symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness, and a decreased range of motion in the joint. These symptoms may come and go, and are often worse when the weather changes. It is often diagnosed through x-rays showing the narrowing of the area between the bones taken up by cartilage. 

The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is also known as “wear-and-tear arthritis” because it is characterized by the long-term degeneration of cartilage due to years of repeated stress on joints. Cartilage is the gel-like tissue that protects the ends of bones by acting as a shock absorber and facilitates smooth, pain-free movement of joints and the spine. Without this protective layer in the joint, bone literally rubs against bone, causing pain, inflammation, limiting movement, and deforming the bone ends. Weight-bearing joints, such as the joints of the knees, hips, and spine as well as the wrists are most often affected by osteoarthritis because of the stress caused by weight and use.Dog walking up ramp

Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease, is one that affects the entire body but especially the joints. This form of arthritis more commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, and knees. There is plenty of evidence showing that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune reaction, meaning that antibodies produced from the immune system target and attack components of joint tissues. Little is known about the cause of autoimmune reactions as so many of the body’s systems are involved, but there is much speculation linking it to genetics, leaky-gut syndrome, food allergies, lifestyle, and nutritional factors. 

Dysplasia, or the malformation of joints, is a developmental disease resulting from the deformation of the joint as it grows. This leads to degeneration of cartilage, causing inflammation and pain. Without the cushioning effect of cartilage, the joint becomes stiff, swollen, and very sensitive. Motion is limited, and discomfort and pain force the pet to favour the affected limb. Ligaments and surrounding joint tissues aren’t strong enough to stabilize the joint properly, leading to irritation, scarring, and the further degeneration of the joint. Dysplasia can affect the knees, elbows (more common in toy breeds), and hips, the most common form of dysplasia found in dogs. It is often corrected with surgery but there are natural options for dealing with the degeneration of the joint and helping to manage pain.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are both substances classified as “glycosaminoglycans” and are essential components of cartilage. Glucosamine provides proteins for the growth, repair, and maintenance of cartilage. It helps cartilage retain water and prevent its breakdown. In addition, glucosamine is essential to the production of synovial fluid, the fluid that surrounds joints and provides lubrication. It has been shown to have similar effects as NSAIDs for easing osteoarthritis symptoms, though does take more time to work. Studies using glucosamine to treat osteoarthritis have found an improvement in stiffness and joint pain, and that it might slow the deterioration of cartilage. Chondroitin is a component of cartilage giving it a spongy texture and helping to protect cartilage against compression. Studies have found that it can help prevent cartilage breakdown by reducing the activity of enzymes that break down collagen in joints and can stimulate cartilage repair. It is widely used for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce pain and the use of painkillers.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

MSM is an organic sulfur-containing compound which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on joints through its ability to detoxify cellular waste and lactic acids. This biologically active sulfur is used by the body to improve immune function, lessen allergic reaction, lower systemic inflammation, and repair damaged tissues. Due to its ability to repair tissues, it is often recommended for arthritis and joint repair. Sulfur is essential for the maintenance and repair of strong and flexible connective tissue. Collagen is also important in the repair of joint cartilage, which can sustain serious damage in conditions like arthritis and other degenerative joint conditions. Sulfur’s ability to repair cartilage and boost collagen production makes it a great supplement for halting damage done by arthritic conditions and for strengthening, lubricating, and repair of damaged joints.  MSM is an analgesic, meaning that it helps block the transfer of pain signals. It has also been shown to have the ability to reduce or eliminate soreness, stiffness, and muscle cramps.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid is required for the synthesis and maintenance of the protein collagen, the basis of connective tissues found in skin, ligaments, cartilage, vertebral discs, and joint linings to name a few; therefore, it is often included in joint formulas. Ascorbic acid has also been helpful for relieving pain due to inflammation, and is regularly recommended for osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis. There is evidence that vitamin C can also be useful in preventing hip dysplasia as it has been implicated that hip dysplasia is in part caused by a chronic subclinical scurvy. Chronic vitamin C deficiency weakens ligaments and muscles around the joints resulting in the hip joints forming incorrectly. In a study by Wendell Belfield, DVM reported in Veterinary Medicine/ Small Animal Clinician Journal high amounts of vitamin C provided 100% prevention of hip dysplasia in 8 litters of German Shepherd pups with parents that either had hip dysplasia or had who had previously produce puppies with dysplasia. 

Though there are many different and distinct causes of arthritis in pets, nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and vitamin C can be used both preventatively to protect joints and surrounding tissues as well as to treat symptoms of arthritis like stiffness, pain, and reduced range of motion. Lowering inflammation, decreasing pain, and supporting cartilage repair can go a long way towards improving the lives of pets who suffer from arthritis and can even help to extend their life. 


Raw Science

Real food, Real benefits

By Inna Shekhtman



I love Science! It is powerful and has given us amazing knowledge that allows us to call friends halfway around the world, cure illness, and travel into space!  The goal of science is to explain the awesome world around us!  I have committed a significant portion my life to the scientific study of nutrition and health.  So, when the name of science gets used to manipulate and even criticize nature, I take it personally!

One of the arguments that I frequently hear to discourage pet guardians from feeding a raw food diet is that there is a lack of scientific research to validate its benefits.   It is important to remember that just because something has not been proven with a scientific study, does not make it false or inaccurate in any way.  Science by its definition is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”  So the premise that we need to “prove” that the natural foods and how mammals eat in nature is more beneficial than processed food is completely backwards. Its like saying that breathing through a ventilator or oxygen tank is better than breathing naturally, and then demanding scientific proof of the benefits of natural breathing.   

Furthermore, just because a product is “scientifically formulated” does not mean that it is better – in fact often the opposite is true! It simply means that is was created using scientific method or with information that has been derived from scientific studies. For example, pharmacy and natural health stores are filled with vitamin and mineral supplements that have been scientifically formulated. However, recent research concluded that the nutritional value delivered by these supplements is less effective than the whole foods they were derived from. Basically, when it comes to food, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and while nature has known this all along, science is just starting to catch up. 

Food and the nature of nutrition is a complex phenomena and we are just skimming the surface in our understanding of this system.  If we start with this premise, then science becomes a tool for us to better understand how we apply this natural system to create health and thriving.  This article will aim to outline some of the current science-based evidence that can be used to better understand the intricacies and merits of real food for pets. canstockphoto24420961_altered

Disease Prevention

We know intuitively that a healthy diet for us include a variety of fresh, whole, minimally processed ingredients.  Recent research has also identified processed foods as a major contributor to many illnesses including obesity, diabetes, digestion disorders and even cancer.  It seems common sense that the same principal would apply to the dogs and cats we share our lives with.  So let’s start by looking at the studies that examine the causality of these health issues and how it compares to real natural food pathways.  

Dietary moisture is very important for digestive and excretory health in dogs and cats and is abundant in fresh foods. Most meats, whole vegetables and fruits are naturally composed of over 50% moisture.  In contrast, dry processed food is very low in dietary moisture (usually under 10%).  Urinary crystal, idiopathic lower urinary tract disease and other urinary tract issues are increasing prevalent in cats and a number of scientific studies have concluded that the lack of moisture is a significant factor in this increase . In addition to urinary tract complications, because cats are not getting enough moisture in their food (even if I they drink water separately), many cats live in a state of constant low-level dehydration, which places strain on the kidneys and can lead to renal problems further down the road. 

Check this article by Dr. Karen Becker for a more in-depth discussion:

Obesity is a growing global epidemic among people and pets – the main causes are all too familiar: an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and perhaps some unlucky genes! In recent years, research has pointed to another important variable: probiotics – the bacteria in the digestive system.  These microbes serve a critical function in our pets’ digestion and many other systems that maintain health. Recent search indicates that an excess of carbohydrates in the diet can destroy the balance of this gut flora, and is a significant contributing factor to obesity and other metabolic disorders. 

Raw Liver Photo...

A common claim among raw supporters is that feeding a raw diet to your dog or cat improves their energy and vitality and can often reduce the risk of diseases. So in 1999, Thomas Sandberg started a 30-year field study (this is a valid scientific method of conducting an experiment outside a laboratory) on the benefits of feeding species appropriate raw food to dogs. Giant breed, like Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, and Mastiffs often die earlier than most other breeds – with an average lifespan of 6-8 years. Dr. Sandberg hypothesized that feeding a fresh raw food diet could significantly impact and extend the lifespan and quality of life for these breeds.  Fifteen (15) years later, he confirmed his hypothesis: all 80 dogs in his study lived 30-100% longer than average for those breeds! An even more astounding outcome from his study was that of the 80 canine participants, only one got cancer – a remarkable statistic, given that the American Cancer Society estimates that an average of 50% of dogs and cats get cancer in their lifetime! Encouraged by these findings, Dr. Sandberg is now embarking on the next phase of his study that will involve over 10,000 dogs and cats!  You can find more information about this ongoing project at his website Long Living Pets Project ( 


The sad truth is that the rate of cancer in pets is exploding to epidemic proportions. According to the American Cancer Association, dogs and cats currently have the highest occurrence of cancer of any living creature. For years, this diagnosis hung over pet owners like a big white elephant in the room, with no real risk management options and limited treatment solutions such as chemotherapy, which carried their own health challenges. Historically, the scientific community considered cancer to be a genetic disease. Today, that thinking is being challenged and the emerging viewpoint  is that cancer is actually a metabolic disease and nutrition plays a huge role in cancer prevention and management.   

One study conducted at the Purdue University on a group of Scottish Terriers found that feeding fresh leafy greens and yellow-orange vegetables at least 3 times per week can prevent or slow down cancer by approximately 50%. An even more profound discovery came out of the work done by Ketopets Sanctuary ( In 2014, they developed a nutritional protocol for using fresh food species appropriate diet to help dogs with cancer. Their goal was to provide cancer therapy based upon a ketogenic diet protocol and the results were amazing – their approach was able to slow down or even halt the progression of cancer. There is also a compelling body of case studies showing that this approach can significantly slow down and manage the progression of cancer in people.

cute cat

cute cat


Nutritional science is still in very early stages of development.  The world of food and nutrition is vast and we have barely touched the surface. It is exciting and promising, and each day we gain slightly more understanding of what food is about and how we can correct our course to get back on the road to health.  While the veterinary community is still divided on the subject, more veterinarians are actively embracing real food or at least knowing the need for further education and understanding on the subject. 

As pet lovers and guardians, I encourage you to embrace science and common sense, listen to your instincts, and continue to advocate and push all pet care professionals for more research and exploration into natural nutrition. Your pets are counting on you to be their voice!

 “Cheap food is an illusion. There is no such thing as cheap food. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere. And if it isn’t paid at the cash register, it’s charged to the environment or to the public purse in the form of subsidies. And it’s charged to your health.” – Michael Pollancat-and-dog-eating-from-bowl





1. Hunter P. Nutrition: more than the sum of its parts: The modern craze for dietary supplements is under increasing scrutiny, while biofortified crops look promising in the quest to deliver nutrition in developing countries. EMBO Reports. 2011;12(4):307-310. doi:10.1038/embor.2011.42

2. “Nine ways that processed foods are harming people.”  Gunnars, Kris. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 1 Aug. 2017. Web.16 Sep. 2017.

3. Lekcharoensuk C1, Osborne CA, Lulich JPPusoonthornthum RKirk CAUlrich LKKoehler LACarpenter KASwanson LL. Association between dietary factors and calcium oxalate and magnesium ammonium phosphate urolithiasis in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Nov 1;219(9):1228-37.

 4. Peter J. Markwell2, C. Tony Buffington*, and Brigitte H. E. Smith. The Effect of Diet on Lower Urinary Tract Diseases in Cats. J. Nutr. December 1, 1998 vol. 128 no. 12 2753S-2757S

 5. Qinghong Li, Christian L. Lauber, Gail Czarnecki-Maulden, Yuanlong Pan, Steven S. Hannah. Effects of the Dietary Protein and Carbohydrate .  on Gut Microbiomes in Dogs of Different Body Conditions. mBio. 2017 Jan-Feb; 8(1): e01703-16. Published online 2017 Jan 24. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01703-16

 6. Emma N. Bermingham, Paul Maclean, David G. Thomas, Nickolas J. Cave, Wayne Young. Key bacterial families (Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae, and Bacteroidaceae) are related to digestion of protein and energy in dogs.2017, PeerJ 5:e3019 

 7. Sandberg, Thomas. A STUDY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

 8. Raghavan M, Knapp DW, Bonney PL, Dawson MH, Glickman LT. Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 July 1; 227(1); 94-100.

 9. Ke970togenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism. Bryan G.Allen1Sudershan K.Bhatia1Carryn M.AndersonJulie M.Eichenberger-GilmoreZita A.SibenallerKranti A.MapuskarJoshua D.SchoenfeldJohn M.BuattiDouglas R.SpitzMelissa A.Fath. Redox Biology, Volume 2, 2014, Pages 963-


Inequality and the Canine Cultural Divide

Food for Thought

By Carly Piatocha


There are some key debates that regular readers of a pet magazine are familiar with: Raw food or kibble? Prong collars or harnesses? To vaccinate or not? Breeders or shelters? The differing answers to these questions – waged passionately on both sides – are unimportant. Stating that is akin to blasphemy to some people, so before we go any further, please know that I am not stating that animal welfare is unimportant. In this article, instead of vilifying one side or the other, I would like to suggest some food for thought; it is pertinent to consider our luxury to be able to even ask these questions and consider their answers in the first place. Your opinion on the questions above does not really matter. What matters is that the luxury to take the time to ponder these questions (and form an opinion either way) already demonstrates how much societal privilege you have. In Canada, as well as in most of the developed Western world, we pat ourselves on the back for having highly developed animal welfare standards. Yet, despite these standards, we seem to continually face overflowing shelters, animal abuse and animals that fall through the cracks in the system. This issue is complex and cannot be fully understood or solved by tightening animal cruelty laws and sentencing on one hand, while zealously promoting holistic pet ownership trends on the other. The answer lies somewhere between expressing less judgment (and providing more assistance) and improving the welfare of those who are struggling, human and animal alike. 

To gain a better understanding of how people and pets are entwined, it is helpful to understand how pets are not just family members but often status symbols as well. In fact, one could argue that, in many ways, dogs have become a barometer of a person’s success. Where we once tried to “keep up with the Joneses” through the overt purchasing of extravagant new appliances, new cars and more, it seems that the culture of the rich and influential is shifting – and dogs are a part of that shift in priorities. Society has begun a slow and subtle mental movement to a place where what you know – and how you display your knowledge to others – demonstrates your social status much more than by what you own. Nowadays, the upper classes are placing much more emphasis on buying experiences instead of possessions with their extra cash. When they purchase those experiences – such as vacations abroad, or dinners at unique locals – they have a chance to display their values. These values are derived partly from family influences and partly from (in many cases) the chance to access a post secondary education. People demonstrate their values in many ways via disposable income, but it is currently a high priority in many upper-class homes to value environmental protection and animal welfare, from farm animals to pets. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and some upper-class families simply do not value their pet’s well-being very highly. However, for the most part owners love their pets: on average 87.5% consider their pet to be a member of the family. How are the demands of the knowledge economy shaping the lives of pet owners? Before delving into how a person’s social status is connected to their pets, it will be helpful to investigate how we came to value the things we do.canstockphoto2809794

Canada’s economy has shifted – starting in approximately the 1980s – from being based in manufacturing to being based in services. This change has been driven mainly by the ever-increasing importance of technology and the pervasive influence of globalization. Canadians have adapted to these changes by investing more heavily in education as the “good jobs”, as these jobs now require more education. In the last thirty years, there has been a significant amount of growth in Canada regarding the number of post-secondary students enrolled in university. In 1980, there were 550,000 undergraduate students enrolled nationally – a number that jumped to 994,000 in 2010. During those thirty years the number of people getting Masters degrees has doubled, and the number of people enrolling in PhD programs has tripled, compared to the rates of people in these programs in 1980. More importantly, Canadian census data demonstrates that this investment generally tends to pay off. From analyzing this data, we observe that university graduates generally see their income rise more rapidly and consistently throughout their careers than non-graduates do. We also observe that graduates experience fewer and shorter periods of unemployment. We are accustomed to seeing these statistics painted as a ubiquitously positive thing for human society, generating increased interest in making animal welfare a priority. However, what we tend to not acknowledge is that this knowledge is also a form of societal power: cultural capital. 

Cultural capital, a term coined by the famous French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, is a form of invisible currency in society which includes your social network. This is all the knowledge you have regarding what conversation topics and subjects, body language, spoken language and behaviour are both acceptable and desirable in your own personal social circle as well as your own social class and overall society. This system helps societies maintain class distinction between members, by rejecting those that do not know or follow the “unwritten rules” of what it takes to maintain or improve your social status in your particular class. In the case of pets, the “unwritten” expectations of the most privileged classes tend to be to feed your pet raw (or at least grain free) food, to use force-free training, to use doggy daycare while you are at work, and to be cautious about over-vaccination and indiscriminate sterilization. When we see or speak to a pet owner that does not practice all (or at least most) of these behaviours, we often unconsciously assess them as “less”: less educated, less wealthy, less caring of their pet’s well-being. Cultural capital is extremely powerful in both predicting and dictating your success in life, by either increasing or decreasing your access to resources, opportunities and beneficial social networks.

Although societal trends are slow, over the last thirty years there has been a distinct shift: cultural capital used to be mostly dependant on how much money you made and what you owned; now there is more dependence on how much education you have and how many interesting experiences you have had. Education is the new measuring stick of success and high social status, partly because a lot of the “good” jobs – those that bring money and prestige – are now only accessible to the highly educated. The knowledge economy elite unintentionally demonstrate their high status through things like purchasing organic food, driving a fuel-efficient new car, going to CrossFit classes, traveling abroad to broaden their horizons, going to museums and art galleries, and watching documentaries (bonus points if they are in another language!) Children that grow up with parents who have a lot of education learn to value these same things, and this is reinforced when they get into the school system. Since educated people are running the school system, children who have learned to value activities like these thrive in this environment, and this creates an upward spiral of achievement. Children who are born to parents that did not have access to educational opportunities themselves now have – through no fault of their own – put their children at a disadvantage in a society that is rigged to benefit the educated. There are obviously exceptions to every rule, and we all know people that don’t fit these definitions. Individual exceptions aside, it is important to recognize that different classes exist in society because some people have more cultural capital – and thus privilege – than others. Whether or not you feel this is just and fair, the point is that this cultural shift is relevant to pet owners, because it is only relatively recently that pets have been added to the realm of cultural capital.   

With the aforementioned rise in the desire (and need, to a certain extent) to obtain advanced education comes specific ripple effects in society, which include the delay of marriage and children for many people. In 1980, the average age for the birth of a woman’s first child was barely twenty-five, whereas in 2011 Statistics Canada rated it as almost twenty-nine . Pets, with their child-like status (in the West) and their irresistible unconditional love, make excellent companions for a society that has delayed having children due to the current economic realities. Since pets are, on average, looked at as members of the family – rather than merely pets – it naturally follows that we want to give them the best possible care that we can. The trouble is that we often forget that it costs a lot more money than some pet owners have to be able to afford to feed fido raw food instead of kibble, to give him organic grain free treats, and to take him to good quality dog training classes regularly. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, it is more important than ever to suspend judgment towards other pet parents that do things differently than we do. Let’s take force-free training as a case study of potential judgment. cat eating with eyes closed

Many would argue that positive-only dog training is the best method of training a dog, as it is backed by scientific research and is very humane. The problem is that by promoting this training method as the only one that is acceptable for all dog owners also unintentionally and uncomfortably puts forth a message that says something else entirely: if you are not at least middle-income and have a fair bit of free time off work to dedicate to training, than you cannot own a dog – at least not humanely. Before you get angry at that statement, let’s explore how it’s true. Again, this argument is not regarding which training is the best for the dog, nor is it a statement that force-free is bad; it is simply that what is accessible to the upper-classes is not always possible for everyone. In this case, positive-only dog training requires a lot of commitment and a learning curve to truly understand how it works, and why. Although you could learn to train your dog from a book, taking classes from a certified trainer yields a much higher likelihood of success. In addition, this method requires many treats be given for correct responses (although toys can also be used for toy-driven dogs), which must be purchased. Even if you make the treats (or toys) yourself, you must have the money for the ingredients, as well as the time to make the them. Finally, it requires that the owner devote a lot of time and energy to training the dog for a substantial period of time with markers – or in paying someone else to devote that time. Skills like walking on a loose leash can take a very long time to perfect for some dogs, if trained in a purely positive manner. This type of training might simply not be possible if someone is low-income and works two jobs to make ends meet, a senior on a fixed income, someone in pain and on disability, a student, a single mother on welfare, a person facing homelessness or someone who is the head of a working class family with children to support. 

We face a very slippery ethical slope if we claim that those that cannot afford to feed their dogs premium price healthy food and/or train them in the “best” (and most time-consuming) manner do not deserve to own a pet. Essentially, no matter which way you look at it, by saying this we are really saying that you can only access the unconditional love a pet provides if you can afford it. All people and all situations are different, but one thing that is always true is that everyone needs and deserves companionship, and that no amount of money can buy love. Since most Canadian pet owners (87.5%) feel that pets are members of the family, it is both unfair and inaccurate to paint people as unfit to have a pet at all should they not live up to our lofty standards. As has been stated in a previous article of mine (ref. to ‘Pets and Personalities’) as well as in many other places,  having a pet staves off loneliness and depression, increases social interaction and improves physical and mental health in a slew of ways. It is crucial to note that these benefits are certainly not limited to therapy and service dog companionship. If pet ownership is only socially sanctioned for the affluent, then those that are already suffering in other domains of life are to be dealt another devastating blow. These people must cope with the daily critical judgments of others as they walk their dog on a choke or prong collar, due to a lack of knowledge and access to knowledge, or more often a lack of time or money for training. They are judged when they feed their dog or cat kibble from the grocery store out of lack of money for anything else. One thing the owners of these animals are usually not short on is love and the desire to care for their friend in the best way that they possibly can. They put that collar on their dog because it is a one-time purchase that doesn’t involve as much time invested in training, so that they can take her for a walk without being unsafely pulled down the street – thus they avoid letting her languish in the backyard or the balcony, barking and alone. They stretch their last dollars to buy that supermarket kibble, or anything they can afford, so that their dog or cat will not go hungry – while they often do. Women that are victims of horrific domestic abuse often stay with their abusers for years despite wanting to leave, because most women’s shelters do not accept dogs or cats. They work those two or three minimum wage jobs because they are trying to provide for their families, which include pets. Sometimes they work those multiple low-wage jobs with the additional burden of being a person of colour who faces overt and covert racism daily, and maybe sexism as well. 

These facts are sobering and important. Instead of judging those that don’t practice positive-only training, feed holistic or raw diets, or those who are not the perfect pet owner, we should be trying to fix the underlying societal issues that force people into these situations in the first place. With shelters in Canada (and abroad) already overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats, is it really fair to argue that a dog would be better off in a shelter – or dead – than eating subpar food and receiving questionable training?

 If it bothers you to see people in these situations, what can you do? Instead of judgment, we can offer a place to stay that is affordable and actually allows pets. Offer cheap or free better-quality food, information on pet food banks or suggest where to go for free training classes and equipment that work around someone’s long work hours. Offer free walks, kitty-litter cleaning or trips to the vet or groomer if you know the owner is sick, disabled, elderly, is often alone with small children, or has to work all the time. All of these would be much more uplifting than condoning the person with the spoken or unspoken feeling that they “shouldn’t have a pet”. By going beyond the same tired debates that have ignited division in the pet industry for years, we are able to see the root of the problem. When someone has privilege, the option to learn about force-free training, the dangers of overvaccination and the benefits of a raw food diet are possible – because everyday life is not consumed with the daily struggle to stay alive and get by. 

  3., pg. 6
  4. pg.10
  5. pg. 5




Tripe – a stinky wonderfood

By Jeff Mcfarlane

Aardvark Pets, Winnipeg Manitoba

canstockphoto2474051 (1)

Probably the stinkiest thing you will ever dream of feeding a pet, it can be one of the best as well.

Tripe.  Not the white honeycomb tripe you find at the Asian Market, or the steamed, spiced and sauced delicacy you get at Dim Sum, but Green Tripe, fresh from the animal.  Tripe that has been processed for human consumption has had all the good stuff boiled/bleached out of it.  Which is why it is white. 

Green tripe is cow stomach, cold washed to remove most of the digestive juices/food, and then frozen whole or ground and then frozen.  In this state, it retains all of its goodness (unfortunately the “Oh my goodness” aroma as well).  Things like probiotics, green tripe is loaded with Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which is great for keeping the dog’s gut populated with the good bacteria, which helps prevent the bad bacteria from growing.  There are canned versions available, but the cooking/canning process kills most of the best part of the tripe, these lovely bacteria and enzymes.

Digestive enzymes also survive the freezing process, but not the cooking/canning process.  Many dogs on processed diets are lacking in these enzymes, which occur naturally in this wonderfood.  These enzymes also do more than just aid in digestion, they can help purify and cleanse the blood.  They can help remove toxins, parasites and fungus.  Improved metabolism, hormonal function and boost the immune system are also things that are linked directly to these enzymes.  So, while cooked/canned tripe can be just as tasty/stinky, it is missing some of the best health benefits green tripe can offer.

Green tripe can usually be purchased ground or chunked from a pet store, or if you are lucky enough to have connection to a farm that processes their own meats or a small abattoir, you can get fresh tripe (they are Big and tough to cut).  The ground is easy to add into regular meals, it is considered a meat, not an organ, when portion a prey model diet.  The chunk or whole tripe can have the added benefit of being a great dental chew.  When breaking down a whole piece of fresh green tripe, a hazmat suit is usually needed, or at least clothes you don’t like, rubber gloves and a long shower after.  It is very much worth it though, taking something that would normally be thrown away and turning it into something wonderful for your pet.

Being a fresh, raw product, it can harbour bad bacteria if it isn’t handled or stored properly.  Not a problem for most healthy dogs, but it can be for us.  Like any raw meat product, standard sanitation protocols apply.  It does require some attention to ensure safety, but it isn’t the “dangerous as nuclear waste” product that some people would have you believe.  Except maybe the stink, but we all know how much our four legged pals love stink.

Can You Handle It?

By Valerie Barry, KPA-CTP

In Partnership With Dogs


As a dog trainer, one of my top priorities is to convey to clients just how important it is that their dogs be able to tolerate handling.  Handling can be defined as a dog’s ability to tolerate being touched all over in many different contexts.  I’m also going to include restraint in our discussion as a lot of handling can also involve restraint.

Obvious examples might be dogs being bathed, brushed or clipped; nails being clipped; ears being cleaned; or feet being dried off with a towel.  

Less obvious examples of handling/restraint might include:

  • Dogs being disturbed (touched/grabbed) when they’re sleeping; 
  • Dogs being touched/restrained in any way when they’re scared, anxious or stressed; 
  • Dogs being touched by strangers with or without their owners present like being tied outside a store; 
  • Dogs being restrained for a medical procedure; 
  • Dogs being handled quite roughly and suddenly like being grabbed by the collar as they are about to bolt out the door;
  • Dogs being “pet” by young children – tails and ears pulled, fingers in eyes and noses or being “ridden”; 
  • Dogs being grabbed or moved around by their collars or harnesses.

Why is Tolerance for Handling Important?FullSizeRender-1

Obviously it’s easier to work with a dog who doesn’t care much about what you need to do to their bodies – bath, dry feet, clean ears, clip claws, shave/clip them, etc.  

However, the reason it’s a priority to me is because dogs who object to being handled can very easily evolve into dogs who bite when you try to touch them. Because lack of handling tolerance is fear-based and because fear generalizes very quickly, dogs who mildly object to some touching can very quickly become dogs who strongly object to all handling.  

Additionally, every dog I’ve every worked with who has behavioural issues is also 99% (if not 100%) likely to have some intolerance for handling – the 2 are definitely linked. I’m firmly convinced that if more puppies and young dogs had the right training early on, many dogs with behavioural issues simply wouldn’t have them or they may at least be milder issues.

What Happens if Dogs Can’t Tolerate Touch?
Sooner or later, if things are left unaddressed, mild objections to handling often become stronger objections as your dog matures.  Mild objections will very often turn into a nip and then maybe into a more serious bite. 

There are lots of things that can cause a dog to feel the need to bite, but a lack of tolerance for handling is certainly on the top of that list.  When touch sensitivity or intolerance comes into play, humans are in very close proximity and usually touching the dog so biting would be a natural first choice for them.  This is especially true if the dog in question is being restrained or cornered in some way (on their bed, in a crate, tied outside a store or leashed in a crowded location).  In this situation, most dogs feel they can’t escape, so they move to Plan B(ite).

What Can We Do?IMG_5500

Your goal should be:  “My dog should be as well socialized as possible so that he does not ever feel the need to bite.”   Additionally, much care should be taken to never place any dog in a situation where he might feel he has no choice but to bite.

Dogs need to be taught that touch is something humans do and it’s ok for them to do it.  If possible, dogs can learn that touch is actually desirable. Basic husbandry skills should be positively taught so that dogs are happily able to tolerate them being done even by relative strangers like groomers, vet techs, pet sitters, dog walkers, etc.  

We need to advocate for our dogs so that they aren’t subject to invasive handling by strangers including children but we also need to prepare them for that eventuality.  We need to prepare them for the rudeness and ignorance of strangers we meet.  It never ceases to amaze me what people think is okay to do to dogs they encounter – known or unknown.  We simply cannot control every situation as much as we might like to think we can.  

You Need To Do Some Training.

It’s not enough to simply touch and cuddle your dog a lot.  I’ve met a lot of dogs who can’t tolerate having their nails trimmed and yet can still easily tolerate having their feet touched and dried off.  Nail trimming and handling a dog’s feet are simply not the same thing.

Dogs are not naturally “touchy feely” individuals.  There are certain breeds of dogs who have a tendency to love being cuddled and pet and certainly there are individual dogs who really enjoy their cuddle and lap time.  Generally, though, all dogs need to be taught that touching them is just what humans are going to do.  Also, there are some necessary procedures we need to do that include touch, sometimes quite firm handling, and that restraint may be combined with handling.

How do we teach this?  You need to systematically desensitize and counter-condition your dog to handle and eventually happily tolerate touch and restraint.  It’s not complicated training.  What’s not easy for us impatient humans though is that the training can take a long time and involve a lot of daily practice.  

The younger your dog is when you start, the easier it can be and the faster it’s likely to go.  You can, however, start at any age and still make very significant changes in your dog’s behaviour. 

The Training.DSC_1027

Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning involves setting up a training plan with a series of gradually progressing exercises focused on each individual body part.  You need to progress in carefully planned increments based on your individual dog’s reaction to the training.  It can be very helpful to do this under the guidance of a professional dog trainer who uses positive methods who has successful experience in this area.  

Strange as it may seem, it can be really difficult for the average dog owner to interpret his or her own dog’s behaviour. I’ve met many people who think their dog’s behaviour came up quite suddenly and without warning when it’s clear to me that their dog had been displaying subtle signs for a long time.  When I point out the signs, most people are surprised that they either haven’t noticed them or that they have completely misinterpreted them.  

Even though you live with your dog and see him every day, it really does help to at least start with some experienced, professional assistance.  Seeing something and observing (or noticing) something are two very different things.

You may already be aware of things that your dog objects to, like having his nails trimmed or having his collar or harness put on, or having his ears cleaned.  This gives you a place to start. 

What Does Objection Look Like?

Strong objection is usually obvious to most of us especially if it’s become nipping or biting. Running away at the sight of the nail clippers or harness, that’s a pretty obvious objection.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “my dog hates putting his harness on” when I’m about to head out for a walk with a client.  Pulling paws away, backing away or ducking their head is also pretty clear feedback.  

In my mind, this is all strong objection and it should be addressed right away because it can get worse.  Surprisingly few people feel the need to step in and make things better for their dog at this point even though they are clearly aware of the discomfort their dog has.

Less subtle objection is harder for the average person to spot.  This could include:

  • your dog glancing directly at your hand as you touch his paw or move your hand toward a sensitive spot; 
  • your dog leaning ever so slightly away; 
  • your dog becoming momentarily very still;
  • your dog gently nudging your hand or his harness with his nose;
  • ears pinned back, big eyes, lots of frantic tail wagging and seemingly “happy to see you” type of behaviour but out of context to what’s going on;
  • your dog suddenly acting silly, maybe running and grabbing a toy, jumping up on you, or getting the zoomies around the room – behaviours that are perhaps intended to distract you from your original intent; and
  • your puppy licking your hand as you pick up his paw.

Dogs are masters of body language and they try and tell us lots of things in subtle, non-confrontational ways but unfortunately many of us miss these early signs.FullSizeRender

It can be really helpful to spend time watching dogs who are interacting with each other and really take the time to observe how they talk to each other with their body language.  See if you can pick out the subtle signs of “Is it ok if…?”, “No, it’s not” or “Sure, no problem”, “Yes, but not like that”, etc.  It can be really fascinating!  It’s easier though if your own dog isn’t involved and you can just relax and watch it all unfold.

The Training.

It’s important to note that in any training, our dog should be an equal participant.  This means that we need to observe and use the information they give us as feedback in order to be not only instructive but also supportive. It’s not about just getting the job done, it’s very much about how our dogs feel about it and “getting the job done” in the easiest possible way for them.  Any training, regardless of the reason for it, should be enjoyable for everybody involved. 

Being supportive is particularly important.  For example, if I’m working on a handling exercise and my dog is looking happy, eating his treats and showing no obvious signs of wanting to avoid my touch, then I’ll consider it a green light to proceed.  However, if my dog begins to actively avoid my touch or stops eating the treats, it’s time to give him a break and think about a way to make the activity easier for him – progressing in even smaller increments.

It’s not about forcing your dog to accept touch, it’s about helping him learn to safely and happily tolerate it – even look forward to it if we’re really lucky or really skilled.  If your dog understands that not only are you trying to solve this problem for him but also learns that you are listening to his feedback and helping him through it, the process will go much faster.  

What a fantastic bond you can build with your dog if he is able to communicate to you and have you act on his feedback in a way that is best for him not just for you!  “Ok buddy, you look like you need a break.” vs. “Look, we have to get this done, just sit still!”

A Simple Exercise – The Collar Grab.

A lot of dogs aren’t happy about you reaching for and grabbing their collar – it can sometimes lead to a game of “catch me if you can”.  The follow exercise is a beginning step to making that situation better.  Note that this exercise can be modified for any body part or equipment.

The Set Up:

1. Have your dog in front of you and a container of very tasty treats close by.  Don’t have your dog leashed or restrained in any way – we need to know if he feels the need to leave or if he’s comfortable enough to remain with us.

2. Consider sitting on a comfortable chair in front of your dog vs. standing – usually a more neutral posture for most dogs.  If you have quite a small dog, consider sitting on the ground instead of on a chair.  Note that us being on the ground can be very exciting for some dogs, so just wait for them to get over the excitement and calm down before getting started – just keep a pleasant expression and tone while you wait.

3. The end result of our training may be an actual “Collar Grab” but we need to start at a far easier spot for our dogs. We need to begin our exercise at a point that is at or under our dog’s comfort level.  This means that we need to keep our hand at some distance from the collar initially, then gradually progress to touching and eventually holding onto the collar.  

If at any point you reach toward your dog’s collar and he backs away, then the distance you reached is over his threshold – don’t reach quite as far the next time and see what he thinks.  Initially, keep your collar “grabs” to one side of his neck or the other – not over the top of his head at this point.  Over his head collar grabs are a much harder exercise and something to progress to at some future point.

Let’s get started:

  1. Make sure you have your dog’s attention and cue your dog that you are going to start the exercise – “Ready?”
  1. Reach toward your dog’s collar, stopping at a good distance away, and hold your hand there.
  1. With your other hand, offer your dog a treat and then remove both hands while your dog eats his treat.
  1. Analyze your dog’s response – does he seem comfortable with that distance of reach or did he back away from your hand and/or not want the treat?  
  1. Based on his response either back off the distance you reached or keep the same distance and do some more repetitions.  Do 10-15 repetitions in total and then cue “All Done!” and take a break.

You can do this exercise several times a day but don’t do more than 10-15 repetitions before taking a break.

What you should start to see is your dog beginning to move toward your hand as you reach for his collar – happily anticipating his tasty treat.  Only when your dog is clearly and obviously comfortable with the level you are at, should you move on to the next step.

Gradually begin to progress with subsequent sessions:

  • make your reaches gradually closer to the collar
  • touch the collar
  • grasp the collar gently and let go quickly
  • grasp the collar gently and hold until our dog finishes his treat
  • grasp the collar less gently
  • grasp and add slight pressure to the collar
  • remember that your dog has 2 sides to his body so you will need to do all of this on the other side of his neck/collar too.

This type of exercise can be used to work on any part of your dog’s body.  As you move through different body parts and your dog gets used to what you are doing, progress should take place more quickly each time.  If at any point your dog leaves, back away or seems uncomfortable – take a long break and see how you can change what you are doing to make it easier for your dog.

Remember – the process is as important as the result.  The goal is for your dog to be comfortable with being touched and handled in a variety of different ways and different contexts.  However, it’s equally important that the process is done in a thoughtful and supportive way.  Ready to get started? Keep it positive, practice regularly and you will have success!

Laryngeal Paralysis

Occurring in Pets

Dr. Charoul Lekx, DVM


Laryngeal Paralysis is a condition in which the nerves and muscles that control the arytenoid cartilages (and so ultimately the vocal folds) become impaired in their function. During inspiration they open and during swallowing they close so impaired function leads to an increased risk of aspiration of food when eating and an inability to fully oxygenate when exercising.

It is usually an acquired disease but can be congenital, and is usually seen in large breed dogs such as Labs, Golden Retrievers, Newfies, and St Bernards. The cause is often unknown and more recently it is being associated with a more generalized degenerative neuromuscular disorder meaning that more than just the patient’s breathing is affected. Patients with Laryngeal Paralysis are often older, have voice changes (hoarse bark), decreased exercise tolerance, noisy breathing, particularly on inspiration, and a cough or gag after swallowing or drinking water. A definitive diagnosis requires direct visualization of the larynx under a light anaesthesia and although surgical correction can sometimes be achieved it is often unrewarding. 

Assistive Devices

If your pet is experiencing hind end weakness one of the first things you can do is look at purchasing a “Help em up Harness”. They can be ordered online and may be invaluable as your pet ages.

Passive Range of Motion (PROM) and Massage

This is something you can do for your pet when you are having some quiet time together or after the more challenging exercises. Move all joints/limbs through a normal range of motion while your pet is lying down on his/her side, and gently massage the muscles. If you are unsure as to how to accomplish this I am happy to demonstrate.

dog walking on the shore


Laryngeal Paralysis is a degenerative disease and the most helpful thing you can do is to try and keep your pets muscles as strong as possible. Exercises can be done at home. The exercises I would encourage you to try are:

  • Cookies to the Head and Hip, these help with flexibility.
  • Side-stepping, try the modified sideways walking i.e. don’t try lifting any limbs just gently encourage a sideways walk, this helps to strengthen the muscles in the hind end.
  • Partial Sit-Stand, these are fun and help to strengthen the gluteal muscles which are so important for the hind end.
  • Cavaletti’s, great for proprioception.
  • Weight Shifting, great for balance and helping maintain muscle mass. Don’t try the advanced exercise but you can do Single Leg Lifts.

Omega 3 fish oil

Some of the suggestions you may already using but if not then try:

  1. Omega-3’s (Fish or Coconut oil)
  2. Cartrophen injections (Polyglycosaminoglycans….good for pain and joint health)
  3. Glucosamine and MSM
  4. Coenzyme Q10
  5. Vitamin B Complex +/- Vitamin B12 injections

Gentle controlled work in the water can be very helpful but remember these pets can tire easily so don’t allow them to go far or go without supervision. The underwater treadmill is a great tool.


This is very individual to each pet but regular acupuncture may be helpful with mobility and breathing so it is always a valid option.