The Plot Thickens: Spay Neuter Effects & the Health of Our Dogs

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Many years ago, in the 1980's, I was in Scotland being introduced to a cocktail party full of veterinarians. Imagine my surprise when one of them cornered me, waving his drink and spluttering his words, and began berating American veterinarians for promoting spay/neuters of pet dogs. Several others joined in, and before I knew it I began waving my own drink and spluttering my own words, in defense of my dog's vet, as well as many colleagues and friends. For all I know I threw apple pie in there somewhere. Their point was that it is not good medicine to remove vital organs, which have many functions beyond reproduction, in order to prevent something that may or may not happen (mammary cancer, pyometra for example). That was my first introduction, a long, long time ago, to the fact that Read More

fMRI on Dogs: Too Wonderful!

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When I was doing my PhD research in the 1980's I wanted to see how a dog's brain responded to different types of sounds before and after training. This was in the 1980's, and the only method available for animals was to do Evoked Potential tests, in which simple, tiny electrical sensors were glued to the scalp. This allowed one to measure activity in the brain in an extremely general way: What kind of brain waves does one see in the Temporal versus the Parietal lobe, for example, after hearing or seeing specific stimuli? Evoked Potential tests are logistically easy to do on adults: You shave tiny areas of the scalp, glue on the sensors, and ask the subject to stay still for a set period of time. The research subject mustn't move, because muscles move through electrical stimulation in Read More

New DVD on Animal Assisted Therapy!

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We just released a DVD of the seminar I did in Naples, Florida on Animal Assisted Therapy and Activities, "Lending a Helping Paw." I'm excited about it, because it gives me the opportunity to help individuals and organizations who want to help others. It is an example of an activity we can do with our dogs that is a triple win (for us, our dogs, and people who need some oxytocin and/or physical therapy). Because of that, old social worker that I am, it's near and dear to my heart. Speaking of hearts, and what fills ours with happiness, the question arises about how effective AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) and AAA (Animal Assisted Activities) really are. I remember a conference put on by the Delta Society many, many years ago that included a controversial study. It showed that, in this Read More

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

Diesel & Myra

So many books, so little time! Here are a few I'm enjoying: Magnificent Mind at Any Age by Daniel Amen. This is a fascinating book by a psychiatrist who began doing SPECT scans of his patients brains and discovered how many psychological/behavioral problems related to brain function. It's an inspiring book for anyone looking to improve their health and behavior, and besides being motivated to exercise more and stop drinking diet soda (I know, I know), I find myself thinking about dog behavior on every page. Daniel relates multiple cases of people with behavioral problems (fear, depression, anger, impulsivity) that are improved through diet, exercise, supplements and medications that specifically work on areas of the brain related to those problems. Anyone out there see any dogs who are Read More

Treatment Plans for Behavioral Regressions

willie in wonderland 2011

Or, alternative title: Adventures in the Willie Wonka Fear Factory. If you're cocking your head in confusion, this is about Willie's recent (and relatively new) fear of men. To review briefly: As a puppy he was pathologically afraid of other dogs, exceptionally sound sensitive and, in some contexts, quick to anger. But he adored people, loved everyone. As an adolescent, like many dogs, he developed new fears, and became cautious around unfamiliar men, but it was easily handled by having guys throw balls for him. I always knew I'd need to manage it and that I could never completely close the book on his fears, but it was easily handled and he usually appeared to be thrilled to meet unfamiliar men after about 4-5 months of counter conditioning. And then, three weeks or so ago, he barked Read More