World Dog Day: Keep your dog healthy in mind and body

archive photo © IFAW
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Yarmouth Port, MA

August 26th is World Dog Day, a chance to celebrate the bond between humans and dogs. Dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years as our companions, guardians of our homes, and assistants in our work and daily lives. Science is increasingly delivering evidence for what is already accepted by many people: the health and happiness of humans is intrinsically linked to the health and happiness of dogs. All the more reason to have a good look at why our faithful companions sometimes exhibit unhappy behavior that can be a nuisance at best, and dangerous at worst.

“Many behavioral issues and some illnesses are the result of dogs’ suffering because their ability to express their natural behaviors is constrained by over-confinement or restraint,” says Dr. Kati Loeffler, IFAW’s Veterinary Advisor. “We see this all over the world, from the Americas to Asia, from Africa to Europe.”

Dogs need to explore, play, socialize, and interact with other animals and people as they choose. Daily exercise through play and running is essential for a dog to be able to think, relax, and maintain normal behaviors. “If these needs for exercise, cognitive and social activity aren’t met, dogs become frustrated,” Dr. Loeffler explains.

Frustrated dogs develop behavioral problems. They aren’t able to learn well or to follow rules and commands; they begin to bite, bark and develop other destructive behaviors. These problems will develop whether the dog lives chained to a stake, locked in a cage, or confined to a lonely apartment on a soft couch in a dog-loving home.

“Psychological frustrations also result in physiological and medical problems, particularly common stress-related issues such as anorexia (not eating) and skin disease.” continues Dr. Loeffler. “Working recently in South Africa, I met a patient who represented this issue classically. The dog had a horrible skin condition and looked in bad shape. He strained at his chain, twisted and barked at everyone and everything, and had begun to bite. It turned out the man had recently adopted the frantic dog, who had been chained by his previous owner.

“By helping the new owner secure his yard so that the dog could be released from the chain, and ensuring that he was taken to play and run with other dogs in an empty lot every day, the frantic dog soon became healthy and happy. His skin condition resolved. He stopped biting, and started behaving like a normal, energetic young dog. His owner is very proud of him, and happy to see the amazing transformation his dog has made.”

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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