With all the talk lately about the benefits of meditation and other ancient Ayurvedic practices, have you ever thought about how your dog might benefit from such alternative practices?
I was curious about meditation and decided to visit the Deepak Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California, a few years ago. I thought Dr. Deepak Chopra (author of Perfect Health and other educational books) could help me learn to meditate and introduce me to a more natural approach to health.
Of course, my service dog, Whistle, accompanied me to the Chopra Center. On the first day, Whistle and I were actually meditating with 400+ workshop participants. I was amazed at how he and I sat so quietly as this large group of people meditated together. It was powerful. We both felt it. Whistle didn’t make a sound. He seemed to connect to the meditative practice and enjoy it as much as I did.
Since my first visit to the Chopra Center, I have explored meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, massage, nutrition and other forms of Ayurvedic practices. I, in no way, claim to be an expert. However, it does provide me with additional ways to manage my health and wellness.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Ringnalda on the Working Like Dogs radio show. Amanda is a Master Educator with the Chopra Center and the founder of Soul Play Mates, an organization that focuses on education, dog rescue and advocacy. Amanda has studied Ayurveda closely under Dr. Chopra and Dr. David Simon. After discovering her passion for the practices of Ayurveda, she began exploring ways in which these practices could support vibrant health, balance, and well-being for dogs.
Amanda has developed classes on “Doshas for Dogs”. If you don’t know what a dosha is, tune in to the show to hear Amanda talk about it. She’s even developed a Dog Dosha Quiz through the Chopra Center which you can download as a .pdf file. This free quiz will help you determine your dog’s dosha by completing a short mind-body questionnaire about your dog’s characteristics and basic nature.
Mind-body health is a new concept for me but I am intrigued by the impact some of these practices have made in my life. And, because Whistle does so much to selflessly assist me, why wouldn’t I explore some of these alternative treatments to improve his quality of life and longevity?
I would love to hear about any alternative practices you may be learning about and practicing with your assistance dog!
For more information about Ayurveda for Dogs, you can listen to Amanda Ringnalda’s interview with Marcie and Whistle at www.petliferadio.com/workingdogsep107.html and visit the Chopra Center’s website www.chopra.com. You can also join the SoulPlayMates Facebook community at www.facebook.com/SoulPlayMates. Download the Dog Dosha quiz at www.workinglikedogs.com/wp-content/uploads/Amanda-DoshaQuiz-Dog-FINAL.pdf.
Everyone seems to have a theory about why dogs sometimes eat grass, but nobody really knows for certain. Some people think dogs eat grass to get more fiber in their diet. But since modern commercial diets contain enough fiber, that theory has been dismissed by many.
Another theory is that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting when they’ve eaten something bad. This is because people observe their dogs vomiting after eating grass. However not all dogs vomit after eating grass.
Andrea N. Johnston, DVM, DACVIM, a clinical instructor in internal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says that even specialists like her don’t really know. Maybe dogs just like it.
In general, it’s considered that eating a little grass isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it really doesn’t provide much roughage or nutrients.
One caution on grass consumption: fertilizers and chemicals that may be on the lawn. Another concern is parasites that could be in the dirt and grass.
If you want your dog to have more greens, Dr. Johnston recommends simply feeding them some fresh or cooked vegetables.
Just remember that every dog is different and if your dog is frequently eating grass and vomiting, it wouldn’t hurt to ask your vet about it to make sure he or she doesn’t have some underlying medical condition.Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Sometimes Whistle’s shakes his head and scratches his ears. This makes me wonder if his ears are bothering him.
Cornell University Hospital for Animals sees lots of dogs with serious ear disorders. While most ear infections can be remedied easily, some are only treatable with complex surgeries. In a recent issue of their newsletter “Dog Watch,” they discussed canine ear disease.
One condition treated by an operation when it is in its advanced stages is a chronic infection called otitis externa, a painful condition that can lead to partial deafness if left untreated.
Just like our ears, dogs’ ears are delicate equipment. Deafness can be congenital or acquired. Noise trauma, or certain antibiotics or anesthetics can sometimes cause deafness. Just like us, canines can also gradually have their hearing affected by aging, particularly if they are eight years or older.
How can you recognize the early signs or ear problems?
An affected dog might:
- Shake its head persistently and
- Scratch at one or both ears.
- Fail to react to voice commands
- React as if ears are painful when touched
Upon inspection you might notice:
- Inflamed or swollen skin on the underside of the ears
- Foul-smelling discharge in outer ear canal.
A trip to your veterinarian, where he or she can use an otoscope to look inside the dog’s ears, might be necessary to diagnosis the condition. A microscopic examination of what is in the ear canal might also be needed to pin down the type of infection and medication needed.
I took Whistle to see to his veterinarian for a check-up. Luckily in his case, the ear scratching and head shaking were not indications of anything serious. My vet suggested that I used a mild ear cleanser specifically designed for dogs and a cloth to keep his ears clean.
You may take supplements even though you eat well, so does that mean your dog should take vitamins and minerals also?
Canine nutrition is an evolving field but today’s high-quality dog foods generally make nutritional supplements unnecessary. So says the DogWatch newsletter from Cornell University. They asked Kathryn Michel, DVM, professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania about the topic. Her advice?
Some dogs may require certain nutrients under certain conditions that are not provided in a commercial diet. For example, a dog with joint pain and arthritis might benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin, but this may not help all dogs.
Other supplements can pose a risk. Dr. Michel warns that people should not give their dogs the same supplements they take in the same doses. Fat soluble vitamins in particular, such as A, D, E, and K, are stored in the body and can become excessive. Too much calcium can also be dangerous.
Giving your dog a general vitamin-mineral supplement designed for dogs is not necessarily harmful, but not all the experts are convinced they will necessarily help your dog. Some say more studies are needed and that your dog may not be harmed by them, but you might be spending money unnecessarily.
Vitamin deficiencies are uncommon in the U.S. these days since dog food companies have formulated blends that will take care of “typical” dogs. But if your dog is a working dog, very athletic, or a puppy, they may have special requirements.
Things to look out for in balancing your dog’s diet can include too many treats or a homemade diet which may not be giving your dog the nutrition he or she needs. If your dog is lethargic, weak, or has a coat which isn’t healthy looking, make sure to consult with your veterinarian to rule out nutritional deficiencies.
I give Whistle a vitamin E every day. What do you give your dog?
Vitamin image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I am always interested in new studies that can support my assistance dog’s overall health and well-being. The Morris Animal Foundation has started a huge new project which will study dogs over the course of their lives in an effort to learn how to prevent and treat diseases facing dogs.
Just as the Framingham Heart study observed people through their lives, beginning in 1946, and led to increased knowledge of heart disease, the new Morris project is hoped to improve knowledge about dogs’ health. It is expected to provide information which will lead to new tests, diets and therapies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of health conditions in dogs.
The first study will be for Golden Retrievers. This breed was chosen for study because more than half of them die of cancer. Although the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is restricted to Golden Retrievers, results from this study will benefit all dogs.
To be eligible, dogs should be under 2 years old at time of enrollment and have a three-generation pedigree. The study is expected to run from 10 to 14 years and enroll up to 3,000 dogs.
“This is truly the biggest scientific effort that Morris Animal Foundation has ever undertaken,” says Dr. David Haworth, Foundation president and CEO. “And the benefits for advancing animal health will be huge.”
You can participate with your dog. Just go to www.CanineLifetimeHealth.org to learn more and sign up. You can sign up for the Golden Retriever study or other upcoming studies.