Dogs and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the days grow darker and shorter, and the thermometer plummets, so does the mood of millions of people living in the Northern Hemisphere. But humans are not the only ones affected by what scientists refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Our dogs – even the happiest, most active and energetic ones — can suffer the same dramatic downturn in mood.

 In some veterinary studies, one third of the dog owners surveyed reported a steep plunge in their dogs’ otherwise happy and balanced personalities during the winter. According to them, nearly half of their dogs were less active, while half of them slept longer and were more difficult to rouse in the morning.

 The British veterinary organization PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) recently listed some of the symptoms displayed by dogs suffering from SAD. They include aggressive behavior or soiling inappropriately, clawing at the furniture, either demanding more attention or appearing withdrawn, frequent barking, lethargy, less interest in going for walks or playing either with people, other dogs or toys, and reduced appetite accompanied by weight loss.

According to scientists, the reason for these behavioral changes in both humans and dogs appears to stem from the effect that light has on two significant hormones. The first is melatonin, produced in the pineal gland. The second is serotonin, produced in the brain.

Melatonin, often referred to as the “hormone of darkness”, plays a vital role in regulating the sleep cycle. The pineal gland is light sensitive, and because melatonin is usually secreted at night, the less light there is – as in the shorter, darker days of winter — the greater the production of melatonin. Key among its many, negative effects: lethargy, loss of appetite and sleepiness.

Serotonin, often referred to as the “feel good” substance in the brain also affects mood, appetite and sleep – but in an entirely different way. In this case, it’s sunlight that’s needed for the production of serotonin.

There are ways, however, to combat the effects of daylight’s diminishing hours on your dog’s mood before the full onset of winter. Start by ensuring that his regular exercise regime is maintained, and that his diet is well balanced. If your dog is already showing signs of lethargy or withdrawal, talk constantly and comfortingly to him and play games — such as hiding his favorite toys or tug-o-war — to keep him active and engaged. Studies show that dogs left alone most of the day are those who suffer the most. To rectify this, spend more time with your dog, hire a dog walker, or place him in doggy daycare.

Since the absence of bright light seems to be the major cause of SAD, the other solutions involve raising your dog’s direct exposure to as much light as possible. Place his bed close to a window or glass door. Change the schedule of his walks so that he is outside during the brightest portion of the day, and keep the lights on inside, particularly on the dullest days.

Ultimately, though, it’s the composition of the light that matters most. The more closely it resembles natural daylight, the more therapeutic it is. Just as there are specially designed “light boxes” for people with SAD, there are now similar light boxes for dogs. Owners opting for less expensive solutions need simply replace old, tungsten light bulbs with new, compact white fluorescent ones, labeled either “full spectrum” or “daylight.” Turn these lights on for at least an hour each day, then play with your dog to ensure his eyes are fully open and both retinas clearly exposed to the incoming light.

Hopefully, following all or some of these suggestions will spare both you and your cherished doggy companion an unnecessary case of the winter blues.

 

A Carefree Canine Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a festive time, filled with feasting, family, and friends. But it’s also a time of potential distress for our canine companions. Any sudden change in a dog’s comfortable surroundings – a calm home now filled with new scents, sounds and strangers — can send even the most balanced dog barking for cover.

 To reduce your furry friend’s stress level (and YOURS), maintain his regular feeding, playing, and walking schedule. Ensure that his familiar “go to” place remains the same and keep all but the most social dogs in a separate room. If, by chance, your dog darts out the door when your guests arrive, make certain that he has either been micro-chipped or is wearing a collar with up-to-date tags for proper identification and a swift return to your waiting arms.

 As tantalizing as Thanksgiving food is for people, some can prove painful, even fatal for dogs. The most notorious offenders are:

 Chocolate: All chocolate, especially semi-sweet, dark and baking chocolate contain the toxic, caffeine-like ingredient theobromine. Candy containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, is also dangerous. If you suspect that your dog has eaten something toxic, promptly call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

 Turkey stuffing: It often contains onions and garlic, raisins and spices – all of them toxic to dogs. The sulfoxides and disulfides in onions and garlic destroy the red blood cells and can cause serious blood problems, including anemia. The effects of ingesting raisins and/or spices usually occur within 24 hours and include lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased urination.

 Cooked turkey bones and gristle: Turkey bones splinter easily and can get caught in your dog’s throat or esophagus. They can also cause intestinal blockages or perforations leading to infection, while turkey gristle presents a clear and present choking hazard. To safeguard against these painful possibilities, all leftovers should be carefully wrapped and promptly disposed of.

 Alcohol: To avoid intoxication and alcohol poisoning, keep all full glasses and half-filled glasses of wine or spirits out of reach of your dog’s curious nose and playful paws.

And yet, there’s no harm in providing your doggy with his own Thanksgiving feast, one that includes a few small, boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOG BITING: FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED

Dogs may nip or bite for a variety of reasons. The following are the most common:

DOMINANCE AGGRESSION
When these dogs bite, their likeliest targets are the ones nearest to them: members of their own human families. The expression “Let sleeping dogs lie” is never more true than in the case of an owner stepping over a dog napping in an inconvenient place or brushing one off a chair, couch or bed. Push down too strongly on a dog’s rump to reinforce the “sit” command or attempt to stare down a dog who seems oddly unsettled, and a warning bark may all too quickly be followed by a bite.

FEAR AGGRESSION
This response is usually directed toward strangers. Much like people, dogs are, by nature, fearful of unfamiliar and potentially threatening situations. In old cartoons and movies, it was always the postman who was at the receiving end of a bite. But, in reality, it can be anyone. Anyone the dog doesn’t know, anyone innocently “invading” a dog’s space, or anyone who seems particularly menacing. If a series of cautionary barks doesn’t fend off this perceived danger, a lunge and a bite may result.

REDIRECTED AGGRESSION
Well-intentioned, but ill-advised attempts to break up a dogfight often cause the referee in question to be bitten. When two angry dogs are squaring off against each other, baiting, barking and air snapping, and a hand reaches in to seize a collar or a coat, either dog may suddenly whip round and lash out with his mouth at the “intruder.”

PAIN-INDUCED AGGRESSION
Even the sweetest and gentlest dog can — if the pain is severe enough — bite the hand that’s trying to help. Whether a novice owner, an experienced trainer, or a seasoned vet. Every dog has his own particular threshold and tolerance for pain. Cross it with a normally soothing touch or a tender pat of reassurance, and that nursing hand will need a doctor.

PERSISTENT HARASSMENT
This category is reserved for people who either don’t respect a dog’s boundaries or don’t understand that every dog has his limits. Thoughtless behaviors, inconsiderate overtures, constant pestering, poking or prodding – and the perpetrator will be punished with a bite.

PROTECTION OF “PROPERTY”
Dogs chosen by families either for personal protection or for the protection of their property may find themselves the unwitting target of their dogs’ over-zealous guarding. Trained to defend everything of value – from the family house and car to the family itself – from outside threats, some dogs will even “protect” one family member from another by biting the one they considers a threat.

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are at greatest risk for dog bites. To minimize these  risks, they should be taught to:

Report a strange dog wandering through their yard or neighborhood to an adult.

Never approach a strange dog.

Never approach an eating or sleeping dog, or a mother caring for her pups.

Never look directly into a dog’s eyes.

Stand as still as a statue if approached by a strange dog.

Never scream at or run from a strange dog.

Roll into a ball and not move if knocked down by a strange dog.

Never play with a dog unless in the company of an adult.

To help reduce the incidences of dog biting:

All responsible dog owners must learn about and understand fully the complexities of canine behavior.

All responsible dog owners must obedience train and socialize their dogs – the sooner, the younger, the better.

All responsible dog owners must teach their children to respect ALL dogs, starting with the ones in their own homes.

It’s said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In the case of dog biting, however, a little knowledge is less dangerous than no knowledge at all.

A Dog Safe Halloween is a Happy Halloween

It’s that time again. For goblins and ghosts, pumpkins and pranks, and things that go bump in the night. But as responsible dog owners, please ensure that your cherished companions aren’t innocent victims of Halloween’s fun and frolics.

Consider the following suggestions to keep your canines safe not sorry.

1. Keep candy out of reach of your dogs. Chocolate, especially dark or baking chocolate, can prove toxic for them. Candy containing the artificial sweetener, xylitol, can also cause dire problems. If you suspect that your dogs may have ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

2. Although pumpkins’ outer shells and decorative corn are considered relatively non-toxic, they can still produce an upset stomach if copiously consumed rather than simply sampled.

3. Keep wires and cords from lights and other decorations safely out of reach. If chewed, your dogs might be cut or burned or receive a potentially life-threatening electric shock.

4. Festive, carved pumpkins with candles inside can be easily knocked over by playful paws and a fire started. Curious puppies in particular run the risk of being singed or burned by a candle flame. Either keep them unlit, out of reach, or keep an eagle eye on your dogs’ wandering whereabouts at all times.

5. Don’t dress your dogs up in costumes unless you know that they’re comfortable being decked out — not stressed out — by putting on the “glitz”. The safest, albeit less sassy alternative is to opt instead for a Halloween theme bandana dramatically draped round their necks.

6. Keep all but the most social dogs in a separate room when “trick or treating” children come to call. Even then, take care that they don’t daringly dart outside when the door first opens.

7. Should they still manage to “pull a Houdini” and dash off into the night, ensure that they have either been micro-chipped or are wearing a collar and tags for proper identification and a swift return to your anxious arms.

With some strategic planning beforehand, you and your best furry, four-legged friends can be assured of spending the safest and happiest of Halloweens — together.

October is “Adopt-A-Dog” Month

For decades now, designated months have been devoted to an increasing number of awareness-raising issues. And for more than a decade, raising awareness about the crucial issue of animal adoption has been no different. Their designated month is October.

With that in mind, we wanted to remind our supporters of the life-affirming roles dogs play in our lives, and of our responsibility to pay it forward by saving the lives of those less fortunate. Millions of healthy, adoptable dogs across North America are being euthanized annually because there aren’t enough homes for them. It’s vital to remember that every animal adopted opens a space for another animal in need. By choosing adoption, you’re helping decrease the number of dogs left homeless each year.

The simple three-word message “DON’T SHOP, ADOPT!” has captured the hearts of potential dog adopters and fired the imaginations of caring and conscientious communities everywhere. It has also attracted a growing number of civic-minded and social conscious individuals, organizations and corporations to the cause.

Are you thinking of adding a dog to your household? If so, we encourage you to click on http://chihuahua-smalldogrescue.org/available-furry-friends on our home page and view all of our available and appealing doggies.

Not looking for one right now, but know someone who is? Encourage them to do the same.

And for those of you unable to adopt, but who want to get involved and make a difference, consider the following, please click on http://chihuahua-smalldogrescue.org/ways-to-help on our home page and make a donation to us in honor of “Adopt-A-Dog” Month. Apply to volunteer and/or foster for us. Volunteers and fosters are the backbone of every rescue group, and we couldn’t function without them.

Spread the “adoption” message to your followers on your personal Face Book page.

Sign online petitions to shut down puppy mills across the country.

But remember, although “Adopt-A-Dog” Month may end with October, the need to adopt a dog will continue — month after month after month.