Service Dogs and PTSD: Dogs Can Help Address Stress

An Interview with Heather Mishefske, emBARK

A Second Opinion: Do you feel having a dog in general (not specifically trained) can be helpful to a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? If so, why? In what ways? Are they especially helpful to veterans?
Heather Mishefske:
Absolutely a dog is helpful to anyone with PTSD. A dog does not need to be specifically trained to provide benefits to people with PTSD. Dogs meet us in the moment, and for people who struggle with traumatic events of the past, this is an amazing trait. Dogs give unconditional love to their people, and support them via multiple senses. While they support our emotional and tactile senses, they are a constant in our life. They do not ask us to explain, they do not ask us to talk, nor do they ask for emotional support back to them. They simply are there. Dogs also are able to create new routines for exercise, provide a first contact in social settings (which may otherwise be avoided), and allow for accountability in keeping the dog’s schedule for eating/letting out/walking.

ASO: In some cases would it be better for a person with PTSD to go through the process of acquiring a trained and certified service dog? Why or why not?
HM: If a person feels they need support while out in public and needs more than just emotional support, it is imperative that a dog be trained to support that person in public settings. Being out in public brings with it extreme distractions, difficult environments, loud sounds, unusual surfaces, and unique settings. A dog needs to have stealth focus to maintain his/her job in supporting its person under all of these circumstances. Some dogs are obtained via service dog organizations, and some are self-trained.  These dogs are trained to be able to provide mobility assistance, physically interrupt and redirect panic attacks, retrieve medications, alert help, provide nighttime support in the event of nightmares, redirect emotional upsets, provide mobility support, and remind the handler of daily tasks. A well-trained dog can work in a public setting around heavy distractions and provide support while ignoring these distractions.

ASO: You have found sometimes people claim their dogs are service dogs, but they really aren’t trained to be. Why do you think people do that? How does that create issues for people whose dogs ARE trained and certified?
HM: There is an alarming amount of dogs out in public who are not truly service dogs but whose owners claim they are. A service dog is defined as a dog who provides a task for the handler that the handler cannot do himself or herself. For many, a service dog is absolutely crucial in allowing these handlers to be able to survive in public. With many claiming that their pet is a service animal, this is hurting legislation allowing real service dogs to come into public settings. There have been examples in the press where seeing-eye dogs have been denied access in public settings due to businesses having had bad previous experiences with “fake” service dogs in that facility.

A service dog in public should be an invisible extension of its handler. They are not there to be petted, to be social, or to interact with anyone other than their person. They should have superb manners, stealth focus, and be completely attentive to their handler. Touting your pet as a service dog under false pretenses is hurting those who really rely on their service dogs, and this is hugely unethical. There is no national certification, no government regulations, or no “vest” requirements for service dogs. Dogs that are trained to perform tasks for disabled people qualify as service animals under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are generally allowed to accompany their owners wherever the public can go. There is also something called an emotional support dog. These dogs support a person emotionally but are not allowed to accompany them in public places under the ADA laws. Emotional support dogs do not need the advanced training that service dogs do, as they do not have public access rights other than travel and housing rights.

ASO: How are dogs beneficial to their humans even if they don’t have PTSD? What are the benefits of having a dog?
There are SO many benefits!  Research has proven that being present around dogs or owning a dog can lower blood pressure, raise levels of feel-good hormones, get people out exercising, create social opportunities, help prevent children from developing allergies later in life, provide companionship, and many other amazing things!

Living with a dog requires you to be accountable. They require to us to be responsible for another life other than our own. In return they provide unwavering loyalty, nonjudgmental relationships, and a constant support. They simply walk side by side with us accompanying us through the web that life throws at us.

Aging Gracefully

By Margaret Meier Jones

Have you begun to notice that your pet is starting to slow down, play less, move cautiously, or be easily irritated? Does it hesitate before jumping onto the bed, couch, or into the car? Have you observed that its legs seem to shake when trying to lie down or after daily walks? Has it become part of your pet’s routine to circle for quite some time before lying down on their bed or having their bowel movements while walking, rather than easily arching their back and squatting? Is your aging cat having difficulty always using their litter box? If you answered yes to ANY of these questions, your pet may be suffering from osteoarthritis (OA) and not just “old age.” Together, with just a few easy changes to our daily routine, we truly can help manage the chronic pain of OA and assist them to age with grace and dignity.

The first, and easiest, thing to do is increase the amount of essential fatty acids in the diet. The most important fatty acid to supplement is Omega 3, which helps the brain, the skin, the heart, and the joints. It is important to realize that the trend of adding coconut oil to the diet does NOT provide our pets with any Omega 3, but rather mid-chain fatty acids. The best source of Omega 3 for our cats and dogs is fish oil. Cats, as carnivores, cannot convert the oils in plants, such as flax or chia seeds into Omega 3; and dogs can only convert a very small portion. As a result, if we use anything but fish oil, we unwittingly increase the inflammatory Omega 6. When comparing fish oil, it is important to look for “nordic,” or cold, processing. This ensures that your pet will not be exposed to the harsh chemicals (i.e., acetone) that are used conventionally. Give us a call if you’re not certain of the fish oil you have, or the amount to administer to your pet, and we can help!

Exercise and weight control are also a key element that can easily be incorporated to help our pets age with grace. “Move it or lose it” applies to all of us but becomes even more important with age. Having three short 10-minute walks can be much easier, and even more effective, than one 30-minute walk. As the pet gets out and moves, endorphins are produced that help eliminate pain; and shorter walks put less strain on muscles and joints. Watching portion sizes of a good quality senior diet and overall caloric intake (including treats) helps to maintain a healthy weight thereby preventing increased stress on joints. Having your pet sit and then stand, for three repetitions, before giving them their meals provides a mini yoga session that helps strengthen their core muscle groups.

Finally, taking a fresh look at your home from the eyes of our aging pet and making a few small changes can make a world of difference to them. Can we eliminate the stairs up and down on the way outside by going out a different door? If not, can we construct a ramp that is wide and has a nonslip surface to eliminate the steps? Is there an “under the bed” storage container with lower sides that we could use as a litter box? Can we help provide all of our pet’s needs on one level of our home? Asking these simple questions, and taking action on their answers, can provide the perspective our aging pets need us to consider for their comfort.

Fall Allergies for Pets

By Margaret Meier Jones, Buffalo Valley Veterinary Clinic

Have you checked out this latest “hot spot”?

What do you think of when you here the term “hot spot”? Most likely something fun like the latest new cafe or bistro to meet your friends for a bite to eat or coffee? The newest app from the app store, like the new Pokemon adventure? When I hear this term from my nurses, it means an entirely different thing; and it certainly isn’t any “fun” for my furry patients who suffer from it.  Instead, it means we are entering another fall allergy season.

An allergy is a state of over-reactivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an “allergen.” Most allergens develop from exposure to a particular component (usually protein) from an insect, plant, animal, or man-made materials. When our immune system is over-reacting, the response to these allergens can range from a mild local reaction, commonly referred to as a “hot-spot” to more severe, life-threatening emergencies. In all cases, our beloved companions are miserable, and we just want to help them get comfortable… QUICKLY!

At this time of year, the phone is ringing off the hook with people calling with questions on how to manage these allergies at home. Unfortunately, the clinical symptoms of allergies can often be confused with other disorders, or occur at the same time as other problems. Owners’ frustration with apparent “failure” of OTC medications, such as antihistamines, is usually a direct result of these underlying disorders. Having a whole-istic approach to the situation is crucial with you and your veterinarian working together as a team to provide relief from this dis-ease.

Your veterinarian will likely begin this approach with a laundry list of questions trying to narrow down the source of the allergen. Allergens can come into your pet’s body through contact with the skin, through the respiratory system, by way of the digestive tract, or “injected” into the pet by those pesky insects. Ironically, the route of exposure to the allergen often does NOT correlate to the clinical symptoms. For example, we often see dogs with food allergies having normal stool and no history of vomiting.  Instead, they present to us with dry hair, oily skin with pustules, and dandruff. These conundrums are also why trying to just manage your pet’s allergies with OTC products leads to further discomfort for both you AND your pet.

The anti-body known as Ig-E, produced by your pet’s immune system in response to the allergen, is the culprit that starts the allergy cascade and leads to these confusing and miserable symptoms. A simple blood test can be performed on your dog or horse to help determine what your pet is actually allergic to. Clients are often visibly surprised to learn that something as simple as a change of bedding material can greatly reduce or even eliminate the problem! These test results can also help develop a customized “allergy-shot” regimen to de-sensitize your pet from its most severe allergies as well! Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and Traditional Chinese Medicine can also help to augment the treatment regimen your veterinarian has prescribed. So don’t despair! Saying good-bye to your pet’s allergies will free you up to enjoy your new favorite local hot spot!

Dr. Meier Jones obtained her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy at the Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, WI.  In 2007 she was certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in animal chiropractic, and in 2012, Dr. Meier was also certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.

Is It Lyme Disease or So Much More?

By Dr. Margaret Meier, DVM, CVSMT

If this is your first experience with A Second Opinion, welcome to the best regional source for wellness and alternative health for both you and your pet! And, if you are a seasoned regular who doesn’t miss an issue, I’m sure you enjoyed the article on “Chronic Lyme Disease” by Sue Peck and Gail Corse in the March-April 2016 issue.  In their article they discussed the organism, the epidemiology, and the symptoms of Lyme disease commonly observed in humans.

Pet parents often ask me: “Are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease the same in our pets as they are in us?” “How do I know if my pet’s symptoms warrant a visit to my veterinarian?”  “What are these ‘vector-born’ diseases that you are recommending my pet be tested for, and exactly how are you going to test for them?”

The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in your pet can vary from intermittent and shifting leg lameness to vomiting, lethargy, high fever, in acceptance, and the inability/refusal to move. The severity of these symptoms can depend on your pet’s vaccination status as well.  With the very high incidence of Lyme disease in our area, we strongly recommend dog owners consider helping protect their canine companions with RecombiTEK® lyme vaccine.  This vaccine is the only non-adjuvanted Lyme vaccine available that has shown to “block transmission of B. burgdorferi from the tick to the dog.”1 There are many different Lyme vaccines on the market, so verifying which vaccine your veterinarian uses is important.  In my experience, patients that have been properly vaccinated with this vaccine have substantially less severe symptoms than non-vaccinated patients. Especially if co-infections exist; for example Lyme and Anaplasma. If you have any questions or concerns regarding these symptoms, it’s important to consult your veterinarian when you first see them, as Lyme disease, if left untreated, may lead to fatal kidney disease.

The most common in-house vector-born diseases tested for in dogs, in addition to Lyme, are heartworm, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia.  This is a blood test commonly referred to as a “4Dx” test.  We recommend your pet have this test performed annually, and spring is a great time to do it!  A vector is defined to be “a carrier, usually an insect or other arthropod, that transmits the causative organisms of disease from infected to non infected individuals, especially one in which the organism goes through one or more stages in its life cycle.”2 Ticks are the most common vector incriminated with these diseases, but other biting, blood-sucking insects, such as mosquitoes may also be the cause.  Discussing how to best protect your pet from these parasites with your veterinarian will not only help your pet, but your budget as well.  An ounce of prevention is truly worth more than a pound of cure when it comes to parasites, and we not only match, but usually beat over-the-counter or Internet prices!  And, did you know that most manufacturers only guarantee products purchased directly from your veterinarian? If your pet’s blood produces a positive test result on the Idexx Laboratories, Inc. SNAP* 4Dx* Plus, or other in-house blood test, what does it mean for you and your pet?  Depending on which organism produces a positive result, follow-up confirmation tests are often recommended to either quantify the antibody response to determine if the infection is active (i.e., Lyme) or confirm the presence of the antigen (i.e., heartworm).  If your pet has a negative result on the test, but your veterinarian is still suspecting a vector-born disease, they will often recommend testing for Bartonella, Babesia, or other special tests for the specific rickettsial diseases they suspect based on their examination.

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, 1 out of every 12 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease in Wisconsin, and 1 out of every 17 dogs tested positive for Anaplasmosis so far in 2016.  To see the prevalence of these diseases in your area visit and highlight your county for real-time numbers.  You will likely be surprised as to how prevalent these diseases really are!  Give me a call at 715-926-3836 to get your pet tested and protected today!

Dr. Meier obtained her certification in veterinary spinalmanipulative therapy at the Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, WI.  In 2007 she was certified by theAmerican Veterinary Chiropractic Association in animal chiropractic, and in 2012, Dr. Meier was also certified by the International Veterinary

Essential Oils for Tick Control

By Meg Wittenmyer, Bifrost Farms Boarding Kennel
You may think it’s too early to be talking about tick prevention, but for Wisconsonites, ticks and tickborne diseases are never far from a dog owner’s mind. It is estimated by the CDC that up to 53 percent of all dogs who live in areas of our state (Northern and Western) where Lyme disease is most prevalent could be infected. Ideally, it is much easier to prevent a tick bite than to have to treat the disease once transmitted. There are a myriad of products sold over the counter to repel ticks and fleas, but those of us who would rather not put a deadly chemical on our beloved pets are always looking for natural alternatives. Essential oils (EO) are an ideal solution.

EO may be applied by spritzing your pet or by directly applying a diluted oil to their fur. First, be sure that you are using therapeutic-grade pure essential oils, and when using on your pet, always dilute at a ratio of 2 to 3 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil (olive, coconut, jojoba, almond).
There are several oils that have been proven to repel ticks (and fleas) and can be used on humans, dogs, and horses. Most, however, cannot be used on cats. These oils are rose or rosewood, geranium, peppermint, grapefruit, myrrh, pennyroyal, and Palo Santo (a Young Living EO blend). Also, peppermint oil (undiluted) can be used to force a tick to release without leaving the head
in your pet.
If your pet is unfortunate enough to contract Lyme disease, your veterinarian will undoubtedly want to oversee the pet’s treatment with antibiotics, which is the only known cure. However, you can facilitate your pet’s recovery with oregano and peppermint oils, both of which contain anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Just place a couple of diluted drops of either or both on your
dog’s ears and inside the pads of their feet.

And remember to learn the symptoms of Lyme disease, so you can notice it early in your pet. These include stiffness, achiness or swelling in one or more joints, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, or a stiff walk with arched back. Consult your veterinarian immediately should you suspect
your dog has been infected.

To Make a Spritzer for Use in a Spray Bottle, Use This Formula:
▪ 1 cup of distilled water
▪ 2 drops geranium EO
▪ 2 drops Palo Santo EO
▪ 2 drops rosewood EO
▪ 1 drop myrrh EO
▪ 4 drops grapefruit EO
▪ 1 drop peppermint EO
▪ 1 drop of Castile soap (emollient)