Sunday, October 23, 2011

Worried K9 Family Member

When a human family member has a health crisis and goes into a hospital, don't forget the family dog. They experience stress too, magnified by their limited ability to understand all the nuances of the care that's being given. All they know is that the person is being kept in a stressful place, perhaps in pain, and when you come home from a visit they smell it all.



Dogs may display stress in a wide variety of ways, not all of them obvious: more self-grooming than usual, guarding and/or barking more than usual, digestive upset, shedding, unusual high or low activity level, eliminating in the house, getting on the furniture, destructiveness, taking treats from your hand with more force, and others.


Vida's most common stress signals are increased self-grooming and barking.


You have to get those Disney-esque fantasies out of your head and really see your own dog. They don't all mope, looking up sadly from the rug, or carry around a slipper of the missing person. Some may chew up the slipper!


Flower essences are very helpful for everyone in the family, including the dog. Five Flower Formula/Rescue Remedy/Stress Stopper - a formula for stressful situations, is the go-to formula for everyone (the patient too).


Lavender is very calming. You can use sprigs of the plant, or use a spray with the essential oil or hydrosol in it and mist the home (not the dog). Remember their sensitive noses and never use products with perfumes (scented candles or "air fresheners").


Be sure the dog is being taken out for stress-relieving activities. This will vary from dog to dog but shorter, more frequent activities are better than putting it off - spending time with in the backyard or on a sniffing walk around the block helps. Some dogs appreciate extra chewing opportunities too.


Talk to them about what's happening. They may not understand the words, but the feelings behind them will be clear. Acknowledge their concern.  


Let them sniff you after a hospital visit so they can reassure themselves by scenting the patient's odor on you.


Try  not to rely on the dog for comfort. We love petting our dogs when we're down or worried because they seem so sympathetic, but sometimes they need your support to.


[don't worry, Vida was only under the sign for the photo, never left out there on her own]

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