Month: March 2020

How to reduce the risk of your dog developing an aggression problem

jack russell dog barking aggression

If a dog has bitten someone, euthanasia ensures s/he is no longer a risk. However, it is often an untimely death and a heartbreaking situation.

Some aggressive dogs may never adapt happily to life, and euthanasia may be a kindness for them and a sadly necessary safety precaution. However, aggression can have different causes, and euthanasia is not necessarily the best or only solution for all aggressive dogs.

An expert assessment will help you decide what’s best for your dog

Each case of aggression is different and, like with any decision about what’s best for your dog and for you, you need full information first. woman trains retriever dog That means getting an assessment by a qualified and accredited expert right away. This page from the RSPCA gives details and links for finding accredited behaviourists.

3 tips for reducing the risk of your dog developing an aggression problem

#1: Know the Ladder of Aggression and teach it to your children.

The Ladder is a simple guide that shows if your dog may be getting worked up, and how s/he shows it. Snapping and biting are typically a last resort for dogs; but they may reach that point in seconds. If you’ve ignored or misread earlier signs, the bite may seem out of the blue. For simple illustrations and more information:

#2: Notice your dog’s behaviours around people or other dogs.

If s/he seems to be showing similar behaviours to the Ladder of Aggression, video them if you can do that safely. And make an appointment with your vet to get your dog checked over. The vet can rule out physical causes of aggression, and advise you. If your dog has bitten, use Dr Yin’s poster to help you gauge the level.

vet examines white dog

#3: Ask your vet for a referral, if necessary

Some vets have greater knowledge and interest in canine aggression than others.Otherwise, they should be able to refer you to a qualified and accredited behaviourist. The two accrediting bodies are: The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, and The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Details on this page from the RSPCA.

dog chasing ballWhen our dogs threaten or bite us, it is a form of communication. Typically, many will have given us other warnings, but we can easily overlook or misinterpret those. Let’s learn their lingo better and get qualified help sooner than later. But always stay safe.

To borrow from the poet Mary Oliver, we need to be kind yet resolute, not foolish. More on her next time.

Over to you. We can’t advise on individual cases, but we’d like to hear from you on our Facebook page.
What is your experience of aggressive dogs?
What do you make of the graphics and websites we’ve listed here?

Caroline Hewson

 

Author: Caroline Hewson MRCVS
Caroline Hewson is a vet and has a PhD in animal behaviour. She writes and gives talks that translate research relevant to pets’ end of life into points to keep in mind. 

 

Read more posts from The Pet Loss Blog

Storm Dennis can’t dampen spirits at Hope Rescue

pontypridd hope rescue flooded

Hope Rescue, an independent dog welfare charity in South Wales, is busy with clean up operations following Storm Dennis.

“Sadly our charity shop and dog friendly cafe in Pontypridd was flooded,” says Amy Greenfield of Hope Rescue.

“We have had to move everything out so that the builders can strip the floor and walls to dry out and then replaster and redecorate etc.”

As with many small charities, it’s the volunteers that really make the difference. All are working tirelessly to get things ready as soon as possible.

Established in 2005, Hope Rescue steps in to offer a lifeline to stray dogs from Local Authority pounds who would otherwise be destroyed.  Their ethos is that “no-one gets left behind irrespective of age, breed or medical condition”. The chariy also takes in dogs from owners who can no longer care for them.

The charity shop is a major income stream for the charity and the longer it’s closed, the more money they lose.

“We’re not anticipating that we will be reopen again until June and for every month we are closed we lose an income stream worth around £9000,” continues Amy. “That’s a lot of money to us and a lot of dogs that can’t be helped. We’re working hard to fundraise in other areas to cover the loss of income.”

The additional worry of coronavirus has added further uncertainty to charity shops across the UK.

Read more news, here

A farewell poem to ‘Major’ by his homeless owner

major the akita streetvet

StreetVet is a charity that brings veterinary support to dogs owned by the homeless. The Trust has been a long-term supporter of their vital work.

portrait of akita dog majorRecently, StreetVet was there for a homeless man, Alex, when his beloved akita, Major, came to the end of his life.

‘Whenever one of our patients passes away, we offer to have their ashes returned to their owner in a scatter tube,’ explains Gabriel from StreetVet. ‘We also have a pet portrait drawn, which we can laminate if the owner cannot hang it in a frame.’

Below is a special poem that Alex rote for his akita, Major. We are extremely grateful to him for sharing it with us.

 

A few words for “Major” in his Loving Memory, 1-8-2007 – 6-17-2019.

‘Loving you always Little Bear’

 

Major

Only the “Good” Die Young
You were so special
My majestic friend
Your eyes so special
Many characters they had
It was a privilege and
Honour to know you!

You were the candy
Of my eyes
Your heart so pure
My “Gentle Giant”
It filled me with
Sweetness and Love.

Missing your snuggles and kisses
Miss everything about you,
Our walks and even your pisses 🙂
You meant the world to me,
Your spirit is in my soul.

Those big brown eyes that
Sparkled like the stars above
I shall see again, when
We meet on the other side,
When forever, together,
We will finally be.

 

Are you struggling to cope with the loss of an animal companion? Our Pet Bereavement page aims to help you through this difficult time by providing useful resources including helplines and website links.

For an expert view on pet ownership, pet loss, euthanasia decision-making and much more, take a look at The Pet Loss Blog by Caroline Hewson MRCVS

Read more personal pet loss stories, here

An aggressive dog is an unhappy dog

aggressive dog snarling

From growling thru’ snapping to a single bite or an all-out attack, aggression is a serious matter.

frightened aggressive dog snarling

An aggressive dog poses a danger to us and other humans. It tells us the dog is unhappy. Even in a mild form or in a small dog, aggression typically signals the dog is tense and not enjoying his life at that moment – or, sometimes, not at all.

Get expert assessment about a dog’s aggression early on

Having `a life worth living’ and a good life are important for all of us animals. It not just about externals like square meals and exercise. It’s also to do with things like feeling secure and having opportunities to be freely yourself. So, getting expert assessment about a dog’s aggression early on makes kind and practical sense all round. This blog offers no specific advice but just some general thoughts.

Advertising rarely shows the challenging aspects of pet ownership

It’s not clear how many dogs are generally aggressive. We do know that some of them are euthanased or handed over to shelters, especially larger breeds.

spaniel running with toy in mouth

Understandably, advertising never shows these challenging aspects of pet ownership. Instead, there are harmonious, happy scenes. So it’s not surprising if non-owners or new owners think an  aggressive dog is abnormal or their owners are failures. I’d say, in general: Not so. It’s the images in ads that are unrealistic.

Bossing dogs about will make them more afraid

There used to be a lot of talk about dominance aggression and “showing dogs who is Boss”. We now know that is incorrect. Regardless of size, many dogs are stressed when they cannot predict and cannot control what will happen next. Their stress can show as aggression.

woman kissing king charles spaniel`Bossing’ them about and overwhelming them physically will make them more afraid. They will either be more likely to bite or they will become completely inhibited due to extreme fear. Either way, they will not be “sorted”.

Small dogs can find our attentions unpredictable

We may also make things worse for small dogs if we suddenly snatch them up to give them cuddles etc. They don’t understand we do it to express our love. For them, it probably feels like another thing they can’t predict and can’t control.

Some dogs may show predatory aggression, if the situation triggers them. Then, they are probably back in touch with the ancient and natural instinct to chase down a potential meal.

Rough play and inhibited bites—which is how playful young wild animals learn about who not to hurt, and how to catch prey—may also tip over into potentially serious attacks. This brief news clip seems to show some of that. It also shows how cats can save the day!

Aggressive behaviours like that are dangerous to us and we rightly cannot allow them. Yet the behaviours are entirely natural for the dogs.

An aggressive dog may actually be unwell

sad dog lies on sofaAnother cause of aggression can be underlying disease, especially painful conditions. Diagnose and manage the medical condition, and the aggression goes.

The list goes on. But, so much for theory. When a dog is aggressive, it can be a very difficult situation.

We’ll come back to this in the next post.

Over to you. We can’t advise on individual cases, but we’d like to hear from you on Facebook.
Has your cat ever seen off a threatening dog, like the cat in the video?
What do you think of marketing images about pet ownership?

Caroline Hewson

 

Author: Caroline Hewson MRCVS
Caroline Hewson is a vet and has a PhD in animal behaviour. She writes and gives talks that translate research relevant to pets’ end of life into points to keep in mind. 

 

Read more posts from The Pet Loss Blog

Do you have a sick pet and are facing difficult decisions? Our Pet Bereavement page has  a list of helpline numbers and links to useful websites. You can also read pet owners’ personal bereavement stories.

Announcing new Pet Loss Blog by Caroline Hewson MRCVS

older terrier and older tabby cat pet loss blog

Petplan Charitable Trust is delighted to announce the brand new Pet Loss Blog by Caroline Hewson MRCVS.

caroline hewsonThe vet and bereavement expert will be sharing her wisdom and experience in her regular posts on our website.

Caroline Hewson has a PhD in animal behaviour. From 2000 to 2006 she was Research Chair at the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre, Atlantic Veterinary College, Canada. Returning to the UK, she resumed regular practice. Her chief work now is writing and giving talks that translate research relevant to pets’ end of life into points to keep in mind.

At the Edinburgh Fringe 2018, Caroline co-presented “Never Say Die?” with palliative care doctor Scott Murray. She is currently writing a book for people facing the death of their animal companions.

Euthanasia decision-making, memorialisation and more

The Pet Loss blog will tackle topics such as euthanasia decision-making; factors affecting grief; memorialisation; dealing with prognostic uncertainty and more. Although Caroline cannot comment on individual cases, she would welcome comments about the topics covered in her blog via our facebook and instagram pages.

If you are currently facing – or in the midst of grieving for – the loss of a much-loved animal companion, you may find our Pet Bereavement page helpful. We have gathered together among the best resources on the internet to help support you during this difficult time. These include helpline numbers and useful websites.

We have also started featuring pet owners’ personal bereavement stories on our new Pet Loss Stories page.

Pets aren’t people and we need to care for them appropriately

girl hugs beagle pets

News and views about pets are mainstream. The BBC website has lots of thought-provoking bits and pieces.

Recently, I’ve come across these joyful video clips of animal friendships:

A magpie and whippet in Yorkshire
A lop-eared rabbit and some lambs in Wales
A very shy little boy and a ram
Dogs, people and chimpanzees

We are certainly not the only social species of animal. (If a rabbit can get along with us, why not with some fellow grass-eaters?) And, although we tend to forget it, we too are animals. We just have a more complex forebrain than the nonhuman animals we share our homes with.

‘Every animal is perfect in its kind’

Our good ol’ brains are, in many ways, our privilege and our burden. William Youatt, a co-founder of the UK veterinary profession, put it well in 1839:

monkey inspects dogs ear“Every animal—the horse, the dog, the ox, the sheep, the wasp and the bee– is perfect in its kind; and there are certain faculties belonging to each of them which would laugh our boasted intellect to scorn.”

Fortunately, our typical nonhuman friends lack the brain circuitry needed to think or speak scornfully. Otherwise, their List Of Scorn could be long – and accurate. For example, our pets might laugh about how we don’t hear or smell when there’s a mouse in the house, and we can be so horrified when—finally…!—we see the evidence.

But, hey… no species can do all possible things. And, every species is different in some way. Otherwise, it wouldn’t survive. The same is true of the many basic similarities between species. So, no surprise that we are quite like the other animals we live with.

Like them, we get many of the same diseases and we can suffer hugely from things like breathlessness, pain, anxiety, fear and loneliness. Also like our pets, we can enjoy life intensely—if our circumstances line up with our individual pleasures and preferences. We can all remember useful stuff too—the memories give us some idea of what to do or to expect in the future.

japanese girl solving jigsaw puzzleDogs are not the same as little children

And yet…despite all these similarities, we are undeniably different from our pets. We are each our own unique selves, as are each of our animal companions. And, although some dogs can solve some of the same simple puzzles that young children can, we adults can solve those puzzles, too. Clearly, it does not make adults little kids or little kids, non-furry dogs. It is not correct that dogs are the same as little children.

In our human society, we are still learning to respect our immense diversity. Instead of imposing our preferences, we are starting to tailor our healthcare and social care to each user’s needs and values. Because everyone deserves respect, and when we are sick or in need, we are vulnerable.

That may not be a bad way to approach our pets’ treatment and care, too. These valued friends – family members  – also depend on us for everything. And, they cannot speak. So, they are always vulnerable. Sure they are adaptable. But they need us to respect them and care for them as they are—and not as our brains may sometimes pretend they are.

William Youatt sums it up:

“Each [animal] is perfect in the station in which he is placed […] he has a claim on our kindness and deserves not ill-usage.”

Over to you. We can’t offer personal guidance or support, but we’d like to hear from you on facebook and instagram.
• What’s the most unusual animal friendship you’ve come across? Do share a photo or a video clip.
• Since pets are family members, maybe we should treat them like children. What do you think?

Caroline Hewson

 

Author: Caroline Hewson MRCVS
Caroline is a vet and has a PhD in animal behaviour. She writes and gives talks that translate research relevant to pets’ end of life into points to keep in mind. 

 

Read more posts from The Pet Loss Blog

Do you have a sick pet and are facing difficult decisions? Our Pet Bereavement page has a list of helpline numbers and links to useful websites. You can also read pet owners’ personal bereavement stories.

My Harry: remembering a much-loved Cocker Spaniel

harry cocker spaniel

On 14th November 2003, a beautiful orange and white Cocker Spaniel came into this world.

By Miranda Green

I first held my boy, my first ever dog, in my arms at 10 days old. He had not even opened his little eyes and sat in my hand. I cuddled him for an hour that first time and he fell asleep in my arms. The Cocker Spaniel breeder said to me, are you sure you want this little one; he is the dominant one of the puppy pack and is very ‘vocal.’ I said, “I am sure! He is ‘The One for me!!’.

miranda green with her dog harryAt 9 weeks old, I took my boy home. His Kennel Club name was Bartonian Dyramid Boy and apparently his Grandad and Great Grandad had been show champions at Crufts. I called my boy ‘Harry.’ He just looked like a Harry.

I did not get much sleep for 2 weeks as he howled all night long. I gave him a hot water bottle for comfort in his crate and a ticking clock like his Mummy’s heartbeat and played a relaxing CD to calm him, but, he really was not happy.

A few months later, he slept with me in my room. He was happy then. Over the years, of course, he slept on my bed! I couldn’t help it, I adored him and he adored me! It was only me and him and Bertie the budgie, Bobby the bunny and two goldfish, Jilly and Derek. So, he really did get quite spoilt!

His favourite toy was a latex chicken

I took him to puppy classes and he was such a clever boy and picked all the commands up really quickly and he adored agility and ‘going through the big hoop’ game.

harry the spaniel with his stickHe even had some rosettes for being a good boy, although he was a stubborn and feisty fella and would not have his teeth cleaned or coat brushed and sometimes he only came back to me when we were out walkies if I had a treat for him!

We spent 5-6 years happily together and had such an amazing and strong bond. We were unbreakable! Team Green!! Then Rob came along, my partner. Harry was unsure for a while, but, soon learnt to love him. He now had a Daddy as well as a Mummy! Happy Harry!!!

We moved to a new home and Harry seemed unsettled for a while and became aloof with other doggies on walks. He was a funny fella though, as he loved playing with other Cocker Spaniels but not other breeds.

His favourite toy was a latex chicken (he destroyed everything else!) plus, he loved a game of ‘throw the stick’ on walks. He also loved food and would wait for things to drop from the kitchen work top. He would love sleeping between us, snoring loudly, and in the morning we would both be hanging off the sides of the bed with no duvet!

A typical Cocker Spaniel, Harry even smelt water he’s soon be in it

A typical cocker spaniel, Harry adored water; if he even smelt water he would find it and be in it. He also resembled a hippo at times as he loved playing in the wet mud, too. Lots of grumpy bath times, as a result! He wasn’t keen on the sea though, as once, a big wave smacked him in the head! He also loved his countryside walks.

dog running on the beachHe really enjoyed cuddles but only when he wanted them and at night he would be like a sleepy raggy doll and would lie in your lap. He enjoyed hiding under a cuddly blanket, too. He went everywhere with us. We were an inseparable family unit. He was our baby.

When he was 8 years old he developed a prolapsed disc. He lost the feeling in both back legs and literally dragged them, and, unfortunately, steroids were ineffective. He had an operation at the Animal Health Trust. He had the most amazing Neurology Surgeon, Fabio. This man was just amazing in so many ways and I cannot thank him enough for the care and love he gave Harry and us during this difficult time.

After the operation we had to teach Harry to walk again

Fabio, would sit on the floor with him and kiss him all over and talk so kindly to him. After the operation, we had to help teach him how to walk again and needed a back halter to help him to go to the toilet and to walk. We had to hold his back end up as he walked. He walked with a hunched back for some time after. But, eventually his gait and mobility improved and he just had a little wobble.

He also had hydrotherapy for 2 years afterwards. He was a determined little fella and you could see that he would never give up! It brought such a glow to my heart, watching him enjoy life once more.

When he was 13, he went deaf and also was rather arthritic in his joints. He developed a cough which made him hoarse and it became quite frequent. The vet gave him antibiotics which did not clear it. But, he was a stubborn, strong-willed chap and ploughed on and carried on enjoying his walks. His cough continued so the Vet performed a chest X-ray. It was not good news.

cocker spaniel close upHarry looked deeply into my eyes – I knew he was ready to go

He had a shadow on his lung and because of his age, the vet feared the worst. We were offered other exploratory options, but, we did not want to put our old boy through that. We filled our weekends with days to the beach and trips around the park and his favourite ponds and rivers, too. We enjoyed every day with him. He became breathless, so the Vet put him on steroids and pain-killers. He reached his 14th birthday and I bought him his favourite Tripe sticks and took him on his favourite walks. Then, he was on the strongest dose of steroids but these were proving ineffective as he was panting at rest.

I remember vividly, he was panting in his bed and looked up to the ceiling and followed something around the room. He then looked at me deeply into my eyes. I knew it was a sign that he was ready to go and that the Angels were waiting to take him to be at peace.

cocker spaniel and rabbit lying

I have never felt such a feeling of loss in all my life

I feel very sad as I write this; we did the bravest, most selfless and kindest thing I think we have ever done. We held his paw and cuddled him and talked to him and kissed him as he went to sleep. Rob and I hugged each other so tight for the next few days. We did not sleep at all and I just felt so lost, like I had lost my child. I have never felt such a feeling of loss in all my life. I felt like I had been punched in the chest with something really hard. My heart was shattered into tiny pieces. I just did not know how I would go on living.

I spoke with my GP and she suggested I contact The Samaritans, which was helpful. I also saw a counsellor who was actually experiencing the same grief as me at losing her beloved whippet. We shared our grief which was comforting.

My partner and I were grieving differently and it tore us apart

man cuddles harry on sofaWe had our Haz cremated. When I got his ashes back, I emailed the crematorium for advice on where I could find further support as my partner and I were not sharing our grief together. We were grieving differently and this tore us apart. The dynamics in our relationship seemed to have changed somehow, too. The Pet Crematorium put me in touch with a charity called Our Special Friends who help folk by providing emotional support when they lose a special friend. I spoke with a beautiful lady called, Belinda ‘Bin’ Johnston. She was amazing and I have kept in touch with her ever since Harry died, just over 2 years ago.

I learnt to reach out to others instead of keeping my feelings to myself and got support from so many lovely people. The house was so lonely without him, though. He would greet me at the door when I came home, he would sit on my lap, he would sit with me when I was in the bath, he would follow me everywhere and, yes; he was very vocal! He was a cheeky, strong-willed, feisty, stubborn and very determined boy with a beautiful heart. We even received a ‘With Sympathy’ card from our beautiful Vet Helen at Swayne and Partners in Bury St Edmunds, and her words encapsulated his personality perfectly. She just ‘got’ him!

We scattered his ashes in his favourite woodland

cross stich picture of cocker spanielI enjoy cross-stitch and decided to create a cross-stitch of my boy. It took me a while to finish it. It now sits proudly in my bedroom and I blow him a kiss at night and smile at him in the morning when I wake up.

On 23rd November 2019, I was ready to scatter some of his ashes. Rob was respectful in waiting until I was ready. He wanted to scatter them a long time ago. I guess we all grieve differently? I have kept some in an urn and have scattered some in the garden which is a place that he loved. Harry had a favourite spot over the heath in the back of the woodland. He would just ‘come alive’ through those woods and would have a big, vibrant grin on his face as he ran through there. So, it was respectful for us to scatter his ashes and set him free in his favourite place.

Rob and I created a video on my phone in remembrance of our beautiful boy and each, in turn, scattered his ashes. We secured a photo of him on a tree, too. It was a sad, but, also joyous experience. I felt liberated. He can fly now, and in his favourite spot, too!

I missed him ‘clip-clopping’ along behind me

Our home was so quiet without The Pops. We have wooden flooring and I missed him ‘clip-clopping’ along, behind me. So, 18 months ago, we re-homed a beautiful chocolate-sable Cocker Spaniel Bitch called Maddie. She is 3 years old. She has a genetic condition called PRA, which means that she will lose her sight at some point. She is the most beautiful, kind and loving soul. I think Harry would be pleased that we have given another Cocker Spaniel a good, loving home.

Harry the cocker spaniel pet bereavement

Harry the Cocker Spaniel

Thank you for sharing 14 wonderful years with me, Haz. Gone to Spirit, but, NEVER forgotten. Until me meet again one day, Your Mummy, Miranda (and Daddy, Rob) XXXXXX

Read more personal bereavement stories

Are you struggling to cope with the loss of a beloved companion? You can find helpline number and links to useful websites on our bereavement page.

Making decisions when our older pets become ill or infirm

sad labrador pet loss

The Royal Veterinary College in London has a massive and growing database. It’s part of the VetCompass project, which looks at the lifespans and illnesses of pets.

Sure enough, our pets typically live long but tend to get chronic illnesses. That’s true of us, too. And, rather like some families, some breeds of pet tend to have longer lifespans than others.

Resources like VetCompass supply many interesting facts. However, they make no guarantees for individuals. The weather forecast is the same.

As I write this, the BBC Weather app shows the probability of sleet right now is 99%. Rereading this post 45 minutes later, the probability is 97%. But so far the day has been dry and mild, and the sky looks as if it could stay that way.woman with umbrella

Uncertainty about a sick pet can be very worrying

The unavoidable uncertainty with the weather doesn’t normally matter too much or bother us. But, when a pet is very sick or is ageing, uncertainty about what to expect when, or what to do for the best, can be very difficult and worrying. It is a burden according to most dictionary definitions.

With everyday physical burdens—like buckets of stones and earth from the garden, or boxes of jumbled “stuff” up in the attic—we manage best if we can balance them.

To do that, we have to find our centre of gravity. Sometimes, we have to stop and rearrange the contents of our load. We may need to accept some guidance—and ignore other suggestions. Otherwise, we might trip up and that could be disastrous.

Perhaps, facing major decisions for a very frail or injured or sick pet can be a bit like that. Each relationship is unique and the decisions involve more than cool facts and logic, or a rush of emotion. Decision-making touches on our values and on the many responsibilities that may also be burdening us.

A sick pet can make us confront our own fears about death

older catAlso, our pet’s situation may put us in touch with our fears about our own death and dying, or that of loved ones. Add in uncertainty and it’s no surprise if we dread these times of necessary decisions for our pets. Heroic treatment or animal hospice? Euthanasia now? Soon? Or, see how we go? What to do?

Other people want to help and support us, but they may not always `get’ it.

‘It’s only a dog’, one may say. Another may be reassured if we tell them ‘it is what it is’. The person may say to us ‘be strong’—as if it is weak to admit that What Is is sad, or unnatural to weep for it…

Facing what we can in advance can make a big difference

Facing what we can in advance can make a big difference when times for decisions arrive. For example, we might gradually ponder and review our ideas, nourish our inner strength, and talk to our vets and wise others. Most of us would probably consult the internet, too.

That’s where this blog may come in. It isn’t about answers. But, I will try to provide a varied mixture of musings and nuggets.

Over to you! 
Do you prefer not to think about serious things—death, life, dying?
Are they a normal topic of conversation when you get together with friends?
What is your favourite quote or your favourite source of wisdom?

Caroline Hewson

 

Author: Caroline Hewson MRCVS
Caroline is a vet and has a PhD in animal behaviour. She writes and gives talks that translate research relevant to pets’ end of life into points to keep in mind. 

 

Read more posts from The Pet Loss Blog

We can’t offer personal guidance or support, but we’d like to hear from you. Look out for our pet loss posts on facebook and instagram please do add your comments.

Are you struggling to cope with the loss of your pet? Visit our bereavement page for some helpful links.