DEAR DR. FOX: I am a licensed massage therapist who has been doing massage therapy on humans for over 25 years. I am semi-retired now, but would love to use my massage skills on animals on a volunteer basis. I am not sure where and how to begin! I would be willing to study on my own so I can be prepared. -- M.S., Jupiter, Florida
DEAR M.S.: I think it would be wonderful for you to offer your skills to cats and dogs in animal shelters in particular, as well as in boarding facilities and for those living with elderly owners confined indoors. You might also take the dogs for a good walk!
You can adapt your skills to give beneficial massage therapy to cats and dogs following the instructions in my two books, "The Healing Touch for Cats" and "The Healing Touch for Dogs." Also, check out the two DVDs on my website (drfoxonehealth.com) that give a brief introduction to massage therapy for dogs and cats. I received training and certification in human massage therapy before I developed and applied veterinary massage therapy for companion animals.
DEAR DR. FOX: What are your thoughts on end-of-life decisions for dogs with advanced dementia? Our 16-year-old Shih Tzu is either sleepwalking or wandering with confusion through the house. She doesn't seem to be in any pain, but is taking Lasix for an enlarged heart. -- M.L., Bartlesville, Oklahoma
DEAR M.L.: Quality of life assessments can best be determined by those who live with the animal in concert with a caring veterinary consultant. But beware of the few who may seek to extend an animal's life just for the money. If in doubt, seek a second opinion.
Dementia in humans and other animals is a progressive, degenerative disease which cannot yet be reversed. But it may be prevented, and mental deterioration slowed to some degree, by regular exercise, games, exploring outdoors and good nutrition. Food should be high in free-radical-scavenging antioxidants. Melatonin is one excellent antioxidant, and I would give your dog 3 mg at bedtime and 1.5 mg around noon. Couple this with a twice-daily full body massage, as per my book "The Healing Touch for Dogs." Massage therapy has been shown to help prevent hospitalized patients from developing hospital psychosis/dementia, a dissociative and disoriented mental state.
If you see no signs of improvement within five to seven days, I would say it is time to say goodbye to this dear little soul.
DEAR DR. FOX: I want to thank you for an earlier column where you advised retired seniors to consider adopting an older dog. I did just that, taking in 8-year-old Max, an Australian heeler mix whose owner could not take him into assisted living.
Max rescued me from depression and thoughts of suicide since my wife had died, and we never had any children. Max is my devoted savior. I have someone to get up for every morning to care for -- and he cares for me, too, starting my days with a wild wagging tail and a happy face! He gives me a sense of purpose in living. -- G.L., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR G.L.: Thank you for sharing your story. Max gives you a reason to get up in the morning, and no doubt gets you outdoors for walks in addition to keeping you company in-home! For a fine collection of stories about how rescued animals have helped people, see Richard D. Rowland's book "A Glimpse Behind the Veil: Stories About the Human-Animal Connection" and the touching book "Mutual Rescue: How Adopting a Homeless Animal Can Save You, Too" by Carol Novello and Ginny Graves.
SMALL DOG BREEDS PRONE TO DENTAL PROBLEMS
Extra-small dog breeds -- those less than 14 pounds -- are up to five times more likely to develop periodontal disease than giant breeds weighing more than 55 pounds. Age, weight and history of preventive care are also risk factors, according to a study in The Veterinary Journal. The researchers say smaller dogs' proportionally larger teeth cause overcrowding, which allows more plaque and tartar to accumulate. And little dogs' alveolar bones are small in proportion to their teeth. (Full story: VetSurgeon, Oct. 6)
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)