An holistic approach to health and welfare of dogs
Well-balanced diet: a must
The canine therapist should have a recognised qualification in canine or animal nutrition when looking at a holistic approach to treating dogs. A good, healthy, well-balanced diet is part of the holistic approach to effectively treating dogs or any animals. In many cases, changing a poor diet to the correct diet for a particular dog’s needs makes a significant improvement to the dog’s behaviour.
It may be necessary to have a hair mineral or blood analysis done to determine the state of health and whether there are any mineral excesses or deficiencies. Finding the correct diet for a particular dog can only be achieved with the guidance and help of a veterinarian or animal nutritionist.
Determine his health condition
The health state of your dog should be checked yearly by a veterinarian. Many health conditions are not easily observed outwardly and dogs are excellent at hiding pain. If at all possible, take a urine sample to your veterinarian. A urine sample can give the veterinarian a lot of information.
Your veterinarian will most likely check the dog’s whole body, feeling for any underlying or potential problems, such as lumps or bumps, hot or cold spots, condition of nails, eyes, ears and anal glands. The vet will observe how the dog moves, muscle condition, bones and if you have fasted your dog this day, may take a blood sample to check the internal state of health and stress levels.
The dog’s state of health is extremely important and affects how a dog behaves. This health check should be done before getting a veterinary referral to see a canine therapist or behaviourist.
Bodywork to heal
Another important part of the holistic approach to the dog is bodywork. Bodywork can make a significant difference to the dog’s health and welfare in restoring balance to the body and aiding healing.
There are many types of bodywork that can help your dog such as the Bowen technique, T-touch, acupressure, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and many other therapies all helping to restore the dog’s balance. Personally I have found the Bowen technique to be the most effective treatment on my own dogs and myself. We should always have a treatment ourselves first, before having any treatment done on our dogs.
If the treatment is uncomfortable for us, then perhaps it is not the right treatment for your dog either. Care is required in choosing the right bodywork for your dog. Many body therapies need a veterinary referral, so check this before having any treatment done. The therapist should have an understanding of dog body language in order to help your dog feel more comfortable and to know when the dog has had enough treatment.
Relationships mean the world to them
Dogs have the same need for love, touch, understanding, time and communication as we do. If these basic needs are not met, then our relationship with others suffers and we feel empty, lonely and needy. Studies have shown that children lacking these basic needs in life do not live long and are susceptible to diseases. Why should we think our dog’s needs are any less than our own?
When we are meeting our dogs’ needs on a holistic level, that is providing all basic needs, emotionally and physically, our dogs can develop a good trusting relationship with us and vice versa.
Being left alone all day is difficult for dogs as they are pack animals and very gregarious. They need company, they need relationships and they need to be with us. Too many dogs are left alone all day while owners go out to work for long hours. This can create many behaviour problems. Would we leave a small child alone at home with no caretaker? I don’t think so. Why should we think we can do this to a dog? In the wild, dogs are not alone, they are always near the pack – the pack works as a team created with a well-developed communication system. They do not separate for eight hours of the day and return in the evening.
Unfortunately when living with humans, dogs have had to adjust to our way of life with little adjustment from the human side to meet our dog’s needs. If we do need to work and leave a dog alone, it may be worth considering a dog sitter for at least a few hours a day. Someone who has enough dog knowledge to care for the dog’s needs and who knows how to keep the dog calm and relaxed, who can sit with the dog while reading a book, give the dog a short walk, and generally be a friend to the dog for a few hours.
Communication – understand their body language
Dogs have been created by God with an amazing communication system. They communicate with their whole body, also known as calming signals. When dogs are unhappy, worried about something or afraid, they will tray to communicate this with us or other animals by using this communication system of body language we call calming signals. Just to list a few of these calming signals:
- lip licking
- head turning
- turning body round
- lying down
- blinking eyes
- paw lifting
- tail wagging
- tail held high
- hackles up
- ears back
- panting slowly
- fast panting (when the dog is not particularly hot)
- going between people or other animals
- stiff body
- quick short stepping
There are many more signals known and possibly many yet to be discovered but these are a few to watch for and if you see your dog doing any of these calming signals, it may be best to help him/her out by taking him/her out of the situation or doing whatever you can to make the dog more comfortable.
(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifications, such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience veterinary nursing. She is a radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socialising groups for dogs with social problems).