Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Food and Dogs and Behaviour (Microbial)


Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
Are you having problems with dog or puppy behaviour? Have you ever stopped to wonder whether their food may be having an impact on their behaviour?

Over two thousand years ago, Hippocrates considered that the things that we put into our bodies could affect our health. Now, at the time even air was considered to be a "food" and medicine was far from what it is today.

Indeed, where would we be (or ... would we be) without Alexander Flemming's discovery of penicillin. Amazingly he made this discovery only in 1928! Not even 100 years ago.

Did anyone ever say, "Discovery is discovery itself". Does that sound strange? When we think about the time line of medicine, it's truly astounding how far we've come in such a short time. But, once a concept is available to us, our little grey cells drive us to new adventures and revelations.

And that's how we encountered the Microbiome (the term used to describe the good and bad bacteria in and on our bodies). So, from 1928, let's get in the tardis and zoom forward to 2003 when the human genome mapping sequence was declared complete. This scientific breakthrough has accelerated our ability to understand what's going on in our bodies. Up until then, yes, we knew that our bodies had good and bad bacteria and in 1930 Yakult became available, proposing to feed our good bacteria.

However up until recently, we actually knew very little about our body bacteria. We needed the human genome mapping to complete and the further advancement of technology to enable scientists to uncover the trillions of bacteria existing in our guts. Up until then, only bacteria that were easily grown in petri dishes were known about. Now, we can relatively easily and cheaply identify many more.

And why is that important?

What we don't know about the microbiomeWell, the writings on body bacteria and how to fix microbial balance are prolific. Unfortunately, much of what is written seems to have rather stretched the truth of the matter. Now, perhaps I am wrong. I'm always the first to question anything I hear or believe (believe me that's a nightmare in itself - but that's another story!). But so far as my investigations can tell, we are only at the beginnings of the revelations that will arise from continued study in this area.

Whilst we are all led down many a path encouraging us to get on some train or other and believe in and buy miracle products, the scientists are beavering away trying to keep us safe. They now know the questions to ask and the new experiments and studies to undertake and have the technology to help. So, whilst we gaily go out and buy our probiotic yoghurts and supplements, scientists are looking into

  • the effectiveness of different methods aiming to change our microbes (many don't survive life on the shelf, nor the acid in our stomachs)
  • the side effects of proactively increasing some microbes (can we overdose?)
  •  the actual benefits and functions of each individual microbe (it's not a one size fits all thing)
Buy hey, why is a dog behaviourist even interested in this topic? Well, it transpires that our microbes don't just affect our health, but they also seemingly affect our emotional wellbeing. 

Our microbial balance is now thought to be related to not only IBD and Colitis but also Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. WOW!! Eat bugs and fix depression!! (No, don't do this please...). But just imagine a future without the need for Flemming's discovery. Instead of treating illness with penicillin we can look forward to a future of various microbial treatments.

But, here's a thought.... Just imagine if the next significant breakthrough was made on the 28th February 2028. That would be 100 years to the day since the discovery of penicillin. The discovery of the bugs to awaken the bugs that the original bug killer killed!! (Antibiotics kill more than bad bugs - that's side effects for you - and why we need to take care.) 100 years to the day - what would my numerology friends have to say about that I wonder?

Anyway, in the mean time, we need to continue with the use of our current medicines and antibiotics - thank goodness that we have these treatments available to us. Absolutely necessary. But we can also endeavour to keep ourselves happy and healthy by eating the right foods.

The brain is indeed a complex organ and as if that wasn't enough, we actually have 2 brains. The gut brain and our head brain. Both need looked after to help with our health and happiness.

The Good Dog Diet

To hear more about the effect of food and behaviour, the gut-brain axis, the epigenome and our dogs, and more on behaviour and nutrition, please sign up to the RSS feed to this blog.

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Author - Anna Patfield www.PawsAbility.co.uk and www.TheGoodDogDiet.com - a book which clearly and simply explains food and behaviour in dogs.


Friday, 29 June 2018

Warning - 7 things not to do to fix your dog's behaviour problems....

It's sad, but one of the most emotional moments when helping people with their dog's behaviour problems is when I say.... but really, it is ok to cuddle your dog and to speak to them when you come home.... Sadly, they've been putting their dog in the 'dog house' and ignoring them, and what's probably worse - emotionally hurting themselves into the bargain because they think they're being cruel to be kind.... Thank you then for picking up the phone and finding a 'new-age behaviourist!!'

Unfortunately, a lot of behaviourists and dog trainers that are out and about in the world are following the concepts of the dark ages. They're using way outdated methods and no scientific knowledge to aim to fix problems. 

I guess it's really not all that surprising. I'm currently reading a book on the history of the study of the brain and how we got to where we are now. Even to this day, there are some brain-ologists who are discounting alot of scientific proof in their rationalisation of how emotion and the brain work.

Anyway, to get on with these 7 top tips on things not to do to fix your dog's behaviour problems.

Remember these are DO-NOT's.... not DO's

1. Do not continue putting your dog into the very situations that cause the bad behaviour. 

2. Do not eat before your dog (well, unless it happens to be handy for you)

3. Do not stop cuddling your dog (well, unless they really don't like to be touched - but we can fix that)

4. Do not yank your dog's lead to stop them pulling

5. Do not use choke chains, check chains, electric dog collars, or even spray collars. These really most often make the problem worse.

But here are the most important points.

6. Do not roll your dog over or pin them to the ground aiming to dominate them (there's more on how to fix your dogs dominance here) 

And 

7. Please do not browse around on forums, read random books, read things on web sites, search on amazon for an anti-bark collar....  and try this and that and the other. I know a lot of the information on the web is great. But you can't believe everything that's on there. (Ha ha - can you believe this either??...). Unfortunately, all the inconsistency thats freely available most often (unless you're lucky) ends  up causing more confusion for your lovely dog or puppy.

So, what to do? 

Please contact a qualified behaviourist. They'll be happy to chat and either set up an appointment to  help you with your dog - to follow a consistent, positive, psychological approach, or if that's not in your  interest at present, at least you'll be pointed towards the right books.




Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Pawsability Book Synopsis: Follow Your Gut – The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes. Rob Knight and Brendan Buhler.

Everyone interested in how food and the environment impacts on our health and emotional wellbeing should read this book. But, I do hope this wee summary helps to provide the basis of where we are now in our understanding of our guts and bugs and brains.

Every day in the news we see some revelation about our health and food. Whether it’s what we should or shouldn’t eat or some new super food or new regulations regarding adverts for “junk” food or new laws to cut sugar levels in drinks. It’s all very confusing and leads us either to ignore it all or blame the government “nanny state” or the scientists for “getting it wrong” all the time. The trouble is, this is simply the perception that we get from the news and social media chat that fly past our eyes.
Is it going to get better? Well, the short answer is yes, but there is still a huge amount of effort required to prove potential new cures for our various ailments. The mapping of the human genome was amazing enough in itself. However, most of us probably don’t actually realise that these technological developments enabled the advancement of significantly improved understanding of our “good” and “bad” bacteria. 
And so, the concept of the microbiome was born.
Follow Your Gut not only give us a true perspective on where scientific knowledge actually is, but it also teaches us about how scientists work to keep us safe.
Now, we probably all know that we have “good” bacteria residing in our guts. In fact, our whole body exists not just as an assortment of organs and blood and skin, but we also host trillions of microbes.
Once again however, we are being foiled and confused by the plethora of books and articles about healthy guts and what foods to eat. And no doubt many of these books do convey some element of the truth. However, many appear to have taken hold of what are simply theories and areas of investigation at this stage and written about the topic without solid evidence.
The fact is that there is more we don’t know about the microbiome than we presently know. In striving for the truth, I came across a little book called Follow Your Gut by Rob Knight and Brendan Buhler. It’s a fabulous lighthearted wee book that concisely and clearly explains what the microbiome is and isn’t and precisely what we know and don’t yet know. 
I hope you find this synopsis useful in itself and I am sure that you’ll enjoy the book too.

Synopsis by chapter.

Introduction

Our bodies co-exist with trillions of microscopic microbes that are essential for our wellbeing. There are in fact, 10 times more microbial cells in us than human cells. Different microbial communities reside in our mouths, skin and gut. Whilst each person’s DNA is very similar, their microbiomes can differ by 90%.
We know that these differences help to explain allergies, why one person gets sick, or another doesn’t cope as well with stress, or why mosquitos bite some and not others. 
It’s a hugely exciting time (really – astounding doesn’t even go half way to conveying the level of excitement!). This has occurred due to advancement of computing power and improvements in DNA reading programs. Up until recently, our body bacteria identification process was slow and costly. It is only with this DNA reading advancement that we now know that there are trillions of different bacteria happily residing within us. Whilst there is a long way to go, microbiome research is uncovering potential treatments for many illnesses including obesity, arthritis, autism and depression.

Chapter 1: The Body Microbial

The book builds in a logical fashion, starting off explain about the types, volumes and locations of our microbes. 
Interesting facts include that our microbes weigh about the same as our brains, that there are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells in our bodies and even our microbial genes out number ours by nearly 100 to 1. We are in fact 99% microbe and 1% human.
Not only does each individual host different collections of microbe, but our mouth, noses, skin, gut and genital areas have completely different populations. Even our right and left hands harbor different microbial communities. What’s perhaps even more astounding is that each of our microbiomes are sufficiently different that each individual could potentially be forensically identified.
Further, we all hear about all the harmful bacteria when food poisoning outbreaks etc. occur. But, it transpires that most of us actually carry E.Coli, Helicobacter Pylori and Streptococcus microbes.
Most of the microbes are in the intestine. Up until recently we only knew of those that proved easy to grow in a laboratory. Now, we know that E.Coli forms only a tiny percentage of the bacteria in our guts. These other microbes are important in food digestion and drug metabolism and have been linked to many issues from obesity to colon cancer and heart disease. We’re only beginning to be able to ask and answer these questions now. 

Chapter 2: How We Get Our Microbiome

It is thought that before birth we may not have any microbes and that when we are born we are coated with vaginal microbes, thus providing us with our very first microbial protection. Babies born by C-section do not benefit from this and do tend to be more likely to suffer from issues such as asthma and possibly food allergies and obesity.
Food and the environment then gradually changes our microbiome into adulthood. Children who’ve been exposed to a more varied microbial community (such as when living on farm) tend to have fewer immune problems such as hay fever. 
Different cultures around the world have different gut microbiomes and there is significant difference in those who eat high meat versus high fibre diet. 
However, we don’t yet know specifically how diet affects the gut microbial population.

Chapter 3: In Sickness and In Health

The possibilities for cures raised by the discovery of the microbiome are nothing less than awesome. And whilst we don’t yet know how to apply microbial treatments for problems like IBD, autism, MS, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and depression, the ongoing studies are uncovering huge potential for new types of cures. 
But whilst we may all like to dive in and follow, as yet unproven, newest fad diet that proclaims to cure all ills, the scientific community continues to work on proving why and how the concepts work or don’t work. It’s complex!
We know for instance that the microbial populations are different in obese and slim people; in people that eat high meat / fat diets (the increase in the microbes associated with heart disease is dramatic); and within people with the above mentioned diseases. We also know that even Kwashiorkor, thought to be caused by protein deficiency is actually related also to microbiome imbalance. However, individual genetics and other factors are also involved. 

Chapter 4: The Gut-Brain Axis: How Microbes Affect Your Mood, Your Mind, and More

The microbiome-gut-brain axis is the term used to describe the interaction between our microbiome and its involvement in the digestion of food, hormone production, drug metabolism and our immune system and how that all affects our brain. Again, the possibilities for new cures for issues such as depression and anxiety are immense. 
However, whilst we do all love to latch on to new, seemingly harmless, cures and new “fads” we just don’t yet know the full story. Unfortunately, the answers and even the questions are truly complex. And whilst some potential microbial cures for anxiety and depression and symptoms associated with autism have been proven in mice, there are a significant number and variety of mechanisms that remain to be studied and understood.
A further interesting contemplation is whether the rise in inflammatory issues such as arthritis, diabetes and depression may relate to our increasing distance from the soil and clean living. (Soil microbes are considered as helpful modulators of the immune system – but don’t all dash out and eat soil!).

Chapter 5: Hacking Your Microbiome

Given that eating a high meat or high fibre diet or drinking alcohol or taking antibiotics change our microbiome, surely we can eat our microbiome back to health? Unfortunately it’s not that easy. 
Prebiotics are, most often, soluble fibres such as galacto-oligosaccharides that are fermented by bacteria in the colon and provide energy to maintain gut health. They aim to mimic the effect of high fibre diets. 
Probiotics may be provided by fermented foods such as yoghurt or as suppositories. Unfortunately, the health claims of pre and probiotics has not yet been proven. Further, there are a plethora of products available to buy that may not actually survive life on the supermarket shelves. Should we wish to treat a condition such as IBD, choosing a rigorously scientifically tested product would be more likely to help.
Faecal transplantation may also be a beneficial treatment. This involves transplanting microbes from a healthy person into the ill person. Again, the medical potential here is very exciting, but there are a number of very complex aspects to figure out.
There may also be new possibilities to vaccinate people against the bacteria that we now know are implicated in some heart issues, colon cancers or even depression. 
The potential for new remedies, as you can see are hugely exciting, but we shall have to remain patient because, as yet, we do not know which and how many interacting microbes relate to specific areas of disease and health.

Chapter 6:Antiobiotics

Everyone knows of antibiotic resistance, but we do still complain when our doctor won’t give us antibiotics when we think we need them. We should be happy for this control. It’s a fact that 70% of bacteria that cause infections in US hospitals are now resistance to antibiotics. There are two problems for our microbiome. First, the antibiotics target both good and bad bacteria. And second, the more our microbes are exposed to antibiotics, the greater opportunity they have to adapt and survive; further reducing the effect of antibiotics.
Studies have also shown that antibiotics may in fact cause obesity, especially for those who receive them early in life. Children treated with antibiotics may also be more likely to develop asthma and allergies as a result of the early disruption of their microbiome. 
The issues with antibiotics are further compounded in situations where broad spectrum pills are used or when we don’t complete the full course. Of course, antibiotics are essential in many situations and there are few other options right now. Fortunately however, technology is advancing our ability to specifically identify microbes by their DNA and thus we have hope that newer, more effective and less damaging cures will be developed.

Chapter 7: The Future

And finally, the little book summarises all of the potential benefits that the understanding of microbes in our environment and bodies will bring. Technology will allow us to know which pain killers will work best, to enable improved ways to treat illnesses related to microbiome imbalance; to potentially vaccinate against obesity and depression and repel mosquitos.
However, we don’t yet comprehend about unintended consequences of messing with our microbiome through these potential treatments.
If you do want to know more about your own microbiome, contact the Human Microbiome Project. 

Thank you Rob Knight and Brendan Buhler and TED for providing this brilliant wee book that clarifies all about what we know and don’t know on the Gut-Brain axis and other aspects of our microbiome.
 Read more of this astounding, groundbreaking science here.



Or watch the TED Take Video by Rob Knight here

If you like, you can link to this blog using this link - Pawsability Synopsis - Follow Your Gut.
If you would like to hear of further book summaries, and news on dogs, behaviour and nutrition, please do sign up for the RSS feed or follow the blog. Thanks.

Synopsis Author - Anna Patfield www.PawsAbility.co.uk

Friday, 1 June 2018

Canine Sound Sensitivities


 Is your dog sensitive to sounds and noises?

Given that there are many medical terms used to label the many types of hearing issue in humans, and given that we consider dogs’ hearing to better than ours, it’s kind of surprising that we frequently overlook hearing sensitivities in dogs. Of course we recognize deafness and fireworks fears, but we frequently don’t consider sound sensitivities relevant to other behavioural issues, such as reactivity or separation issues. 

We could for instance use the term, phonophobia (fear of particular sounds) regarding fireworks fears. Or misophonia (hatred of particular sounds) to explain the situation where dogs attack hoovers. But could dogs suffer from hyperacusis? (An unusually low tolerance to normal environmental sounds.)

(Oh dear, here I am using labels when I’m usually arguing against that! But in this case, perhaps examining the different terms allows us to consider wider possibilities.)

A fundamental aspect to consider, however, is that in humans, all the different types of sound sensitivities frequently increase stress levels. Stress frequently reduces tolerance. Could this therefore be at the root of your dog's problems?

Unfortunately we can’t ask our dogs – all we can do is observe. Fortunately, however, the resolution for noise fear or hatred is actually the same: a carefully applied desensitisation and counter-conditioning programme. Here, we work through a plan that carefully and gradually exposes the dog to quieter then louder sounds whilst keeping them occupied with chewing a tasty chew, for instance. Of course the process doesn’t work for all dogs. Perhaps the reproduced sound isn’t good enough. Perhaps other environmental factors are involved with the emotional behavioural response. Or perhaps other behavioural issues are keeping stress levels too high which impacts on learning ability.

Read more on Helping dogs with fireworks fears here.  (This page is being published in June - the best time to start on a fireworks desensitisation and counter-conditioning programme. Why? Because it helps to break problems down into smaller parts and by doing this in summer we remove the connection with dark nights and stormy weather (well mostly)).

Anyway, given that we're talking about the medical terms for sound sensitivities, you might ask why a behaviourist interested in noise sensitivity? Well, two reasons. First, that behaviour therapy techniques can help and second, that many times noise sensitivities are stress related. It may be that other behavioural issues have exacerbated the noise issues or that the noise issues cause the other behaviour problems to increase. Working on a holistic behaviour therapy programme would help either way. We humans tend to just cope with our dogs barking at various noises. We think that's ok. But, please do just stop for a moment and think about how your dog is feeling when they are barking at noise or indeed hiding away.  These types of issues are so very frequently overlooked when considering aggressive dogs, for instance.

One final point to consider though, is that there are several medical conditions associated with noise sensitivity in humans, including lyme disease. So, if your dog’s sensitivity to noise changed at some point in their lives, then again, please speak with your vet or a behaviourist and ask them about these specific issues.

And a further final consideration: We can help to avoid noise sensitive problems arising in dogs by careful and gentle socialisation when they are puppies, and by including exposure to noises such as fireworks, gun shots, thunder, lorries, tractors etc. There are plenty of CD's available and even free downloads now to help with puppy noise socialisation. Have a look at the Dogs Trust site here for Sounds Scary and Sounds Sociable downloads.

Please note too that myself and some colleagues are working on a wee project looking at noise sensitivities. If you would like to be involved, please do get in touch. We are especially keen to hear from behaviourists working with clients with noise issues. Thank you.



First Published in the Northern Times, June 18

Author - Anna Patfield www.PawsAbility.co.uk

If you like, you can link to this blog using this link - Canine Sound Sensitivities.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Dog Behaviour Ingredients


We’re all so well informed these days about reading food labels? Particularly of course when it comes to food. It strikes me as rather amusing then, that there are 2 conflicting pieces of advice regarding dogs and labels: Read the food label but ditch the "dominance" or "protective" label or whatever....

But here's a thought. Perhaps it would help, if we applied an "ingredients" list approach to labelling our dogs? Labels are good, but only if we know the content. 

After all, long are the days where our manufactured food simply said "bread" - the list of ingredients in bread is breath-taking! And equally, simply labelling a dog as reactive gives us very little information about what's truly going on.



Read The Food Label!

Do you actually know what’s in your dog’s food? Most of us have only just started to read the labels on our own foods and become conscious of the levels of salt and sugar etc. Would we even think about our dogs or pets?

Indeed, when you have a look, it may come as a surprise that you are still none the wiser! There may well be ingredients such as meat and animal derivatives, by-products and certainly a whole pile of “E” numbers. Surprised? Shocked?

Interestingly, it’s not necessarily ALL bad. Manufactured dog food is created to ensure that every mouthful is nutritionally balanced. It’s not like our “ping” food where we only expect that to be one meal, balanced out with our 5 fruit and veg over the rest of the day. But, perhaps a look at the label may stimulate some questions.

Ditch The Behaviour Label!

Labels can compartmentalize our thoughts. Some may label a particular dog “aggressive” or perhaps the softer “reactive” term. Some even say their dog gets “over-excited” or are not “aggressive” – “just afraid”.

If does of course help to “name” things. The trouble is that there can be so many different “ingredients” accumulating to create the reactive or fearful or aggressive behaviour. With that one label, we limit our ability to consider what’s actually going on in the dog’s mind. They may bark aggressively at people. They may strain on the lead and start to become aggressive – simply because they want to run and play (but have become so frustrated that they are truly angry). The root emotion of each of these behaviours is obviously completely different. Further, these dogs may well have other issues in their lives such as fireworks fears or separation issues or indeed boredom.

So, how about a dog behaviour ingredient list?

Reactive Dog: aggressive to people; scared of traffic noise; doesn’t like the lead being put on; barks at the postman; loves food; loves to play with owner.

Isn’t that more helpful?

For more information on dog behaviour and on food, have a look at PawsAbility.co.uk for information on 1-1 help, workshops and talks.

First Published in the Northern Times, March 18



Monday, 5 March 2018

About Dogs and Play



Pure joyful play is so very important for our dogs and puppies. They have a natural inclination to play – just like children. Perhaps as adults we don’t perceive play as important – but how good do you feel after hearty laughter?

During the holistic behaviour process, play is one of the areas that is reviewed when considering the balance of day to day life. Here’s why.



Many (of course not all) dogs and puppies don’t play if:
  • They are anxious, stressed or fearful
  • They’ve been told off for stealing socks
  • Another dog in the house always steals their toys
  • Another dog in the house always wins the fetch game
  • Another dog bullies them
  • They’ve been bullied as a puppy
  • They’ve not had good quality contact with people when young
  • They’ve not had good quality contact with dogs and puppies when young
  • They’ve become depressed from spending time in rescue or perhaps even from having lost a favourite person or dog
  • They’re ill or are in pain
  • They are not allowed toys because they destroy them
  • They simply never had toys as a puppy so don’t know what to do
  • They don’t get the opportunity to play with you (perhaps they’re a bit mouthy…)

Perhaps you are beginning to understand the importance of play? And why analyzing lack of play helps with the diagnostic process. (Ironically, some dogs are too playful – email me if you’d like the blog link for hyper-social dogs).

So does it matter? Well, that depends on how you think your dog or puppy is feeling. Are they happy? Hopefully. Could they be happier? Possibly. Reviewing the quantity and quality and improving their play can do wonders to help with all sorts of behavioural problems – including reactivity. (There will be more on this at the Reactive Workshop on the 31 March).

However, for those who don’t play, we need to take things slowly to help them to understand that play can be enjoyable. If we do too much too soon (just as with any other dog or puppy training or interaction), we can put them off.  They can become confused or frustrated or scared.

So, 8 top play tips
  1. If your furry friend is a little timid, then start off encouraging play just for literally a few seconds. Use a big soft toy or raggy. Be happy and joyous with them  - but be calm. Repeat several times a day.
  2. Don’t ignore your dog or puppy when you come home. It’s natural for them to have a playful greeting. Set things up so that you can have “hello” interaction with them.
  3. If you have more than one dog, make sure that you have some personal time with them, playing with just the one dog / puppy on their own.
  4. Build play into your training sessions. Have a little play, and then a little training.
  5. Destroying toys is fun. Dogs are not deliberately breaking toys – they’re just having some fun. Make sure the destroy toys are safe and get a needle and thread!
  6. Rough and tumble play is great fun for many, but always use a toy and don’t put your hands into your dog’s mouth.
  7. And finally, of course before your start playing with toys, you may need to teach “Give”
  8. And finally, finally, don’t chase your dog – encourage them to chase you.


Of course these are only tips and tips are not always appropriate nor as easily introduced to all dogs and puppies. So, if you’d like to chat about this more, then please get in touch via PawsAbility.co.uk.