Does your dog know he has a back end? Or more accurately, does your pooch know that he controls those back feet and they don't just follow the front like a caboose on a train? All too often, I find that the dogs that come to my office have overall poor awareness of their back ends. Some know they have a back end but seem surprised when the back feet do something independently of the front. Others can't seem to get their back feet to move independently at all. And still others, are like the proverbial bull in a china shop, with little awareness of their entire body, front, back and everything in between! Admittedly, any dog in my rehab program that is being treated for a hip, stifle, or hock joint issue IS going to have altered body awareness in that leg(s) because of the joint issue. We know that an injury to the knee, for example a cruciate ligament tear, disrupts the normal function of the mechanoreceptors and joint receptors that are involved in telling the brain where that leg is in relation to the rest of the dog's body and the environment. But that's not to say that these guys get a free pass because they have an injury. Just the opposite! These dogs need proprioceptively enriched exercises to encourage proper functioning of these receptors again. Okay, big fancy words, for these guys better have some balance, coordination, and body awareness exercises in their rehab program! What about those dogs that don't have an injury? All the canine athletes, amateur and professional, weekend warriors included, need to have great control over their bodies and feet to prevent injuries, injury that can occur in daily life as well as canine sports. Injury prevention not sexy enough for you? How about the concept of recovery. Ever slip or stumble on something and be able to pull yourself out of it without falling? That's what I'm talking about. I want your dog to be able to recover from a potential disaster and walk away with you saying "Nice save." instead of "That's going to hurt later."
I want to take this opportunity, with Thanksgiving fast approaching, to reflect upon the many blessings I have. I encourage you to reflect upon what you have in your life to be thankful for as well.
First of all, I am grateful for the many dogs (and occasionally a cat or two) that I have crossed paths with mine over the year. I have a large extended canine family, with dogs of all shapes and sizes. Each pet is like my favorite niece or nephew coming to visit Auntie Sonnet. I thoroughly enjoy each and every one's personality, their likes and dislikes, and the talents each one possesses. What an amazing opportunity for me to get to know so many canine souls on a more personal level.
I am extremely grateful for all the people that come attached to these pets as well. Since I have yet to have a dog drive himself here, I have had an amazing opportunity to meet many wonderful dog lovers, and even a few cat lovers too! The level of commitment, the strength of the human-animal bond, and the depths of true love continue to astound me. It attests to the fact that there is still benevolence in the human soul and reconfirms my belief in mankind. I am proud to call myself a member, then, of the human race because of the likes of you, my clients.
When I review my day, my week, and my month, I want to express how truly blessed I feel to be where I am. Five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, I could not have ever pictured myself spending my days helping others improve the quality of life of their furry family through proper diet, exercise, rehabilitation, and more. I did not envision myself as a Canine Fitness Coach, or attending business meetings to discuss teaching fitness seminars, or training others in the field of rehabilitation and canine fitness. And yet, here I am. What can I say? I am living my dream!
So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I give thanks for all the blessings I have. And I wish you many blessings and the chance to live your dream too!
Wheelchairs, or carts, are becoming more and more common for dogs. Many dogs are living happy, active lives with the aid of these wheelchairs. The internet is full of pictures and videos of dogs playing, going for walks, and frolicking at the beach in their wheelchairs. I receive frequent phone calls and emails about wheelchairs for dogs. While I'm glad that society now accepts and understands that many dogs can be very happy and enjoy a good quality of life with a wheelchair, I want to remind people that these dogs need to be in a physical rehabilitation program too. The reasons are numerous as to why, but here are the top 5 reasons your dog in a wheelchair needs physical therapy.
1. Your dog might walk again. If there is any chance your dog could regain use of his legs and become mobile without a wheelchair, you owe it to your dog to try. A solid rehab program will provide the kind of therapy that just might get your dog out of that chair!
2. Your dog has other orthopedic or neurologic problems . If your dog is paralyzed in the back end and has bad joints or weakness in the front end or some such other issue, you are in for some trouble ahead. Rehab can help manage the other problems so your dog can stay mobile, with what he has, for as long as possible.
3. Your dog is overweight. An overweight dog in a cart is like a time bomb waiting to go off. It's not a matter of if there is going to be a problem, but when there is a problem. A rehab vet will help your dog lose the body fat without sacrificing much needed muscle.
4. Your dog doesn't have a "back-up". A dog with four legs can handle having an issue with one leg and still be mobile. A dog in a cart doesn't have as many options. If your dog in a cart experiences a problem with one of its "good" legs it can completely immobilize your dog. Prevention and early detection are crucial in these dogs.
5. Your dog is compensating. This is the biggest and best reason of all. All dogs in carts are using their bodies in ways other than what they are designed for. For instance, the front legs, neck, and shoulders are all compensating in a dog that is in a rear wheel cart. The upper back is under strain. There is less flexibility. Different muscles are activated during movement and while standing. Rehab will address these compensations and help prevent them from becoming disabling problems.
Previously we discussed how excess body fat shortens lives. We also talked about risk factors for your dog becoming overweight and why your vet may not discuss this issue with you. Today we talk about one part of the solution to this deadly disease: exercise.
The study I am referring to was presented recently at the Rehabilitation Medicine conference that I attended a few weeks ago. There are several important points to consider with this study. Two groups of dogs were placed on diets using the same food. Each dog had a body fat analysis done using a DEXA scan which details the exact amount of fat versus lean body mass in the body. One group of dogs were additionally started on an exercise regime. This was a prescribed amount of exercise, not just playing ball or walking around the block. Think hitting the gym with a specific workout including the treadmill. Here's what the study showed.
1. Both groups of dogs lost weight according to the scale. Both groups dropped pounds. Success! But wait, there's more to the story. Reducing calories alone did lead to successful weight loss, but about 10% of the weight lost came from muscle in the group that didn't exercise. They lost both fat and lean body mass. Hmmm. That wasn't the goal. We want your dog to lose fat and retain muscle and strength. Ten percent muscle mass lost may not seem like much to you but that can mean the difference in your dog being able to get up on his own. Ten percent matters. So success, sorta.
2. The dogs that exercised lost more body fat. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight overall. The dogs that exercised lost more body fat according to the DEX scan though. Increasing the need to burn those calories as fuel for exercise helps the body utilize fat, which is stored calories. Burn more, lose more. Brilliant!
3. The dogs that exercised gained muscle. This is my favorite part of the study. These dogs actually gained muscle! Functional, wonderfully helpful, stabilizing, working muscle! Wow! How great is it that these guys lost unhealthy fat and acquired muscle?This is the goal of every diet on the planet! Gain muscle, lose fat!
The take home point here should be this: cutting calories alone will lower the number on the scales, but reducing calories and exercising is a smarter, better, more efficient way to achieve fat loss.
Will your dog get fat? Is your dog at risk? In my last few blogs, I discussed this deadly disease that could be affecting your dog or your neighbor's dog. We talked about how your dog may be fat but that your vet may not tell you. Knowing that more than 50% of dogs are overweight, Let's look at 7 risk factors that increase the chances that your dog might get fat and not your neighbor's dog.
1. Your dog is spayed or neutered. Your dog's risk doubles with the removal of the sex hormones.
2. Your dog is getting older. Yes, you read that right. As your dog gets older, the risk goes up. But you don't have a lot of options here.
3. Your dog was a chubby puppy. Although pudgy pups are cute, they become overweight adults. Not so cute.
4. Your dog has access to food 24/7. Most dogs don't stop eating when they are full. They stop when the food is gone.
5. Your dog eats lots of processed treats. Just as in people, its easy to take in lots of empty calories quickly when eating tasty processed snacks like dog biscuits, imitation pepperoni or bacon treats, or worse yet, chips and crackers! Okay, I don't know many people who eat dog biscuits, but you get what I'm trying to say here.
6. Your dog is a couch potato. Lack of exercise means the metabolism is going to be slow and not many calories will be burned. Its easy to eat more than you burn if you don't move much. Plus lots of other good stuff that promotes fat loss happens when your dog exercises.
7. Your dog eats a diet high in carbohydrates. Excess carbohydrates gets stored as fat. Combine a diet high in carbohydrates with little to no exercise and you've got a recipe for obesity.
If you want to keep your dog from getting fat, then lower your dog's risk factors. You have control over several of them. Do right by your dog. As they say, be the person your dog thinks you are.
"Your dog is fat." are words you may never hear from your veterinarian. This would be great if it was because dog is indeed not fat. If only that were truly the case. Unfortunately we know that there is greater than a 50% chance that your dog IS fat, but your vet may not tell you anyway.
Although over-nutrition is the number one nutritional disease in America now for dogs and cats, and although dogs that are overweight by even a small amount have a documented shortened life span of nearly 2 years, your vet may not want to tell you. Despite the increased risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more, you may be hard pressed to find a veterinarian who will diagnose this deadly disease in your pooch.
Why? you ask. Why wouldn't your family vet tell you if your furbaby is at risk? Why wouldn't she alert you to this deadly but preventable, even treatable condition?
Having spent many years in family practice, I see several reasons why your vet doesn't want to tell you.
1. You take it personally. Let's face it, if you are overweight, your dog tends to be overweight.We veterinarians are typically quite sensitive to how others feel. We don't want you to feel bad about your heavy pup or yourself. Besides, any vet who speaks up about overweight dogs has probably irritated some pet parents along the way. We don't want you to stop coming to see us. So, we quietly sit by and let you slowly kill your dog. We may make little comments about how Fido seems fluffy, or well-fed, but we don't dare use the other "F" word (fat.)
2. You don't care. This is likely the most frustrating reason for us veterinarians. Your dog has a completely preventable and treatable condition that doesn't require expensive testing or medication and you refuse to believe its a problem. It's the "He's fat and happy, doc." explanation. Really? I will agree with the "He's fat" part but happy? He may happily devour his food but will he enjoy having daily insulin injections for diabetes? Will he be happy living nearly two years less? Is he happy being too heavy to run and play? Is eating the only activity he has the ability to enjoy?
3. Size matters to you. This is more for those owners of large and giant breeds. I find that those who own Mastiffs, St. Bernards, etc like the shock value in telling people how much their dog weighs. Disregard the fact that 30 of those 180 pounds are sheer fat! It's the number that matters to these dog owners. They may say things like "His dad weighed 200, as an explanation of why their fully grown dog gained 25 pounds (of fat) last year. Was Dad fat too, I have to wonder? If your goal in life is to seek attention through your dog, then try getting you dog in physically fantastic shape Imagine the gasps of wonder when you have a 150 pound beast with rippling muscles!
4. Your vet doesn't recognize it. This one is becoming less and less common, but it still exists. Some vets just don't notice a mildly overweight pup. Its hard to miss the morbidly obese ones, but research proves that even a little extra body fat can have detrimental effects on your dog's health. Its that slow weight gain that sneaks up on you and many vets may miss this at your dog's exam if they are looking for it closely.
5. Your vet doesn't know what to do about it (or have the time to teach you.) We all know to lose weight you must cut calories and increase exercise. But how many calories should your dog eat? How much exercise? Is walking enough? (For the record, no.) Which food is best to help your dog lose weight? Do you have to worry about depriving him of nutrients? Won't he lose muscle too? Even if your vet knows the answers to these questions, your vet may not have the time to go over every detail of your pet's nutrition with you. Your vet is busy and so you are given the standard "cut calories, and walk him more" advise.
6. Your vet has given up on you. Your vet has told you every year that your dog is overweight and steadily gaining. She has warned you on the dangers. She has recommended foods and diets, and exercise plans. She has listened to your excuses and listened to you argue with your family members as to whose fault it is. What she has not heard is a commitment to change. And so she gave up on you. You may care about your dog, but not enough to do what matters. Your vet has decided that she has done everything she can. At some point in time, you as the pet parent must decide to do something that will help your dog live longer, better, and healthier. We can't do it for you.
The good news is that with expert guidance and a custom fitness plan, a healthy weight is a realistic goal for EVERY dog. And it can be done without depriving your dog of displays of your love! The fitness plan itself becomes a manifestation of your love for your best canine buddy! Call today to start showing the love!
Your dog might be suffering from a chronic disease. A deadly, painful, expensive to care for disease. This disease will cost you. Big time. It will cost you in many ways, and it will cost your dog too. Your dog may already have it. Your friend's dog may have it. It's all around us and most people don't realize it.
This deadly disease will rob you of 2 years of friendship with your dog. That's 2 birthdays, more than 20 major holidays, and 104 weekends spent alone, without your best friend. That's 730 days, and 730 nights, those lonely nights, with nothing but your memories. And some of those memories will be tainted. They will be tainted with the pain of knowing you could have done something to help prevent this from happening. And the guilt of knowing your fur baby was in pain and you could have helped stop it from happening in the first place. If only you had known. If only.
This disease will cost you before that too. It will cost you in the last weeks, months, or even years of your dog's life that will be filled with medical tests, being poked with needles, countless medications, and time spent with the vet instead of with you. There will be pain and suffering. Your dog will experience it physically. You will experience it emotionally, and financially. Oh yes, this disease will cost you. Multiple studies have confirmed this.
Would you like to know what disease I am talking about? Obesity.
The number one nutritional disease seen in the U.S. is now overnutrition.
Now that I've got your attention, stay tuned for more information in the coming blogs. We will discuss what causes this disease, who gets it, how to identify it in the early stages, what we can do to prevent it , how to treat it, why its happening, and more.
Balance is one of my favorite things to train, in my patients, my kids, and even myself. It's so rewarding to see progress in this area and its typically fun to train. So, 7 sevens reasons why better balance benefits both you and your dog!
1. Keeps your dog young. Balance is foundational to fitness and good health, which delays the onset of signs of aging.
2. Strengthen your dog's core. A strong core leads to better quality of life.
3. Improves performance in sports, and life in general. Whether its chasing birds in the yard or chasing the lure, better balance allows your dog to do better.
4.Protects against injury. This is a big one. This is one of the best reasons why every dog, including yours, would benefit from balance training. This not only includes major injuries and falls but those tweaks and strains of daily life too. Better balance, less likely to get hurt. Period.
5. Reduces Anxiety. Balance training requires concentration and focus. Achieving and maintaining balance becomes the focus instead of whatever is making your dog feel ill at ease. And exercise in general produces an overall sense of well-being.
6. Boosts the Brain. Studies indicate that exercise wards off the effects of dementia in both people and their canine pals. Complex movements force the mind to work harder and balance training is a great way to stimulate this.
7. Gives Fast Results. Balance training is quite rewarding in that improvement can be seen quickly. Balance is a learned activity so improvement can be seen in as little as 2 weeks of consistent training 3-4 x week. There's no reason to delay starting your dog's balance training!
I have spent the last month diligently working to get a therapeutic whirlpool in place here in my clinic. Well, I am pleased to report that its grand opening is coming soon! In a very short period of time, I will be able to provide another means to help injured, older, or arthritic dogs. I have been seeking ways in which to help those dogs that are not capable of using my dog gym and I have found the perfect solution.What a great present to all those dogs in need just in time for the holidays!
How does a therapeutic whirlpool or hot tub help your dog, you ask? I shall tell you. The water in the hot tub provides buoyancy to assist your dog if she is unable to support herself. Is she too weak, too frail, too painful, too arthritic to stand on her own? Is she recovering from surgery and unable to tolerate full weight bearing? Let the water assist. Let me and my doggie life vest assist as well. When the water is elbow to shoulder height, it reduces the need for weight bearing. Does your dog have sore achey joints? Does your dog's pain get worse in the colder weather? Don't you wish you had access to a heated pool or spa so your dog could get some pain relief? My therapeutic hot tub can do that too. Even just standing or sitting in the heated water can increase circulation, reduce pain and make your dog feel better. Let's talk about hydrostatic pressure. That's the pressure of the water on your dog's muscles and joints. Its like a massage and a warm compress all rolled into one, while also supporting your dog's weight. And there's resistance jets. My therapeutic whirlpool has 5 resistance jets. Need to stimulate blood flow more? Need to strengthen? Take a few steps in my whirlpool while the jets are on. If your dog is small enough, she can go for a swim even! What if your dog is paralyzed? Studies show that paralyzed dogs are more likely to begin walking in water rather than on land first. Your dog can relearn to walk using my therapeutic whirlpool. Its large enough for most dogs, including golden retreivers and other large dogs, to be able to walk a few laps.
The best Christmas present I can give to any dog is the gift of pain relief. It warms my heart that I can offer this to your dog now. Come check out my therapeutic whirlpool soon!!!
Hello, all!! So today, let's talk about the benefits of fresh foods in fighting and preventing cancer. Many dogs eats dry commercial food which is highly processed and intensely cooked. In fact its cooked so much that vitamins and minerals are added back in after the cooking process to make it "complete and balanced." But nothing beats good ol' Mother Nature when it comes to providing nutrients!
Nature provides us with an array of fruits and vegetables that are rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants, enzymes and very likely still unidentified nutrients. We all know that eating our vegetables is good for us, but what about our dogs? Should they eat them too? Or should they be eating mostly meat?
The short answer is yes, your dog should be eating fresh fruits and vegetables. There's a catch though. If you haven't noticed, dogs are by nature, gulpers when it comes to their food. They tend not to chew much, and even if they did their saliva doesn't contain the enzyme that ours does that helps to break down the food and the cell walls in plants. Your dog's stomach cannot break down the cell walls in food from plants, including fruits and vegetables. Chewing our food aids in digestion for us because of that important enzyme in our saliva. Chewing won't help your dog access the wonderful nutrients that are in those fresh fruits and vegetables though. If they can't get to the nutrients they certainly can't utilize them to help prevent cancer.
If they can't access the nutrients, then how, Dr. Sonnet, you ask, do they get the health benefits? You must help them. Cook the vegetables as you would cook them for yourself (steam them, microwave them, etc.) Then put them in a food processor and puree them. Strain out any big chunks until it's the consistency of baby food. What you have left is pureed fresh vegetables. Puree the fruits as well (no seeds please.) Now, you are ready to feed your dog a delicious healthy treat so that your dog can get all those wonderful anti-cancer fighting nutrients! Remember to feed a variety using all the colors of the rainbow to maximize it!
Dr. Sonnet Jarvis