Building better backs- can we prevent spinal injury in our pets?

Long backed dogs are always at increased risk of spinal injury.

ot just breeds like Dachshunds or Basset Hounds, but many dogs with an unusually long back, or spinal malformation, including crossbreed dogs.

iscussions go back and forth about human interference in dog breeding, but what can we do for our pets right now?


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Would you feed your family Weetbix every meal for life?




Apologies to our national breakfast food
 (or so Sanitarium would have us believe).

At Active Pet Rehabilitation we see patients who are fed a variety of foods. Often we see them progress through dietary changes as their owners strive to improve all aspects of their pet's lifestyle so they can have a better recovery from the condition that brought them to us.

Danielle Simpson is an experienced veterinary nurse who is dedicated to improving our pets lives by improving their diet, and she has kindly written a short piece for us below.

Danielle's company SkinnyDog makes healthy organic or pasture fed raw food snacks, along with nutritional supplements to save us having to create them at home.

Benefits of raw feeding

Since the early 1900’s the commercial pet food industry has been on the rise, growing into the multi-
billion dollar industry it is today. The biggest surge in commercial pet food sales was after World War
II. Why is this? Well, during the recession people couldn’t afford to purchase meat for themselves,
let alone the dogs. It was at this point it was discovered that feeding a grain based diet sustained
life, and was also cheap to buy. However, a grain based diet is not species appropriate as dogs are
designed to eat meat. Grains were only fed during this time as that is all they had, but the pet food
manufactures saw what a great market it was.

Raw feeding is about going back to what is a species appropriate diet. This means a diet of meat
products including bone, organ and meat in ratios that replicate the makeup of a small animal (80%
meat, 10% bone, 10% organ).

Feeding this natural diet can help….
 Reduce dental disease and tartar build up
 Increase skin and coat health
 Improve immune systems
 Improve energy levels (decrease hyperactivity, perk up older dogs)
 Provide mental stimulation
 Decrease vet visits

When we as humans want to eat better, we eat clean. We eat more fruits, vegetables and fresh
meats. So why do most people believe feeding an overly processed grain based diet is the best form
of nutrition for their pets?
We should be feeding them
 A variety of fresh proteins from good sources, ideally wild caught or pastured raised
 Some extras like fresh pulped fruit and vegetables,
 Kelp
 Legumes
 Kefir
 Golden paste
 Bone broth

Yes, there are some guidelines to follow when raw feeding, but it really isn’t that hard.
If you would like to find out more please feel free to join SkinnyDog Pet Treats at one of their Raw Feeding 101workshops. To book your tickets visit
seminars/products/raw-feeding- 101-workshop- 26-11- 2017

Danielle Simpson RVN
SkinnyDog Pet Treats





Making it a Merry Christmas and a Super Summer for our Golden Oldies





As Christmas time approaches the bittersweet of being a pet parent increases. We look at our senior pets with concern. Will they survive the family gatherings and critical eye of relatives who have not seen them since last Christmas? Will they be able to make it to the beach again this year? Should we get a puppy to keep them company?
Watching our beloved Super Seniors at Active Pet Rehabilitation, and listening to their parents share experiences, the answer to all these questions is in the detail.

Surviving Summer Parties

Senior pets can be "sad eyes" experts and often score big on the sympathy feeding scale.

Avoid family overfeeding, especially leftovers.  Bones can splinter and cause blockages. Greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause an upset stomach or acute medical emergencies. Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks are all poisonous to dogs and cats. Raisins, grapes, and even currants can also be toxic to dogs. 

Leaving wrapped gifts or plants where noses can be tempted, and boredom can lead to unwanted destruction could end with a trip to the vets to treat a poisoning or intestinal obstruction.

Holiday Hazards to avoid
Here are just a few holiday plants and foods that can be poisonous to pets:


  •                                      Avocado
  •                                      Chocolate
  •                                      Garlic
  •                                      Grapes and raisins
  •                                      Holly
  •                                      Lily
  •                                      Nutmeg
  •                                      Onion
  •                                      Poinsettia
  •                                      Xylitol

With careful management of food intake and safe retreat zones for pets away from noisy, boisterous guests Christmas gatherings can be fun for everyone.

If friends and family are bringing their own pets make sure all fur babies are comfortable in each others company or safely separated.

Avoiding the Beach time Blues

One of the most important considerations for older pets is to keep them moving to prevent them suffering from joint pain . If they have become sedentary over the winter months, they will have lost muscle mass, which they need, to avoid suffering injuries or exhaustion from a trip to the beach.
If  your favorite furry has been walking regularly throughout the year a beach trip should be more fun than fatigue for them.
However, excursions to the beach take a little more planning than a walk around the block or a trip to the local park.
Bear in mind that their tolerance of temperature change is not as good as a younger dog, and so staying in the warm sun or lying in a cool breeze at the beach quickly becomes uncomfortable.

Going early in the morning, taking shade and water, and not staying too long are the keys to a great day at the beach for beloved seniors.


To improve strength heading into summer, you can help your pet with simple exercises such as sit to stand, walking on uneven surfaces, or over low obstacles.
If you are planning a new exercise regime with your favorite senior it is best to start slower and progress more slowly than with a younger healthy dog, as their ability to adapt to new physiological stresses is reduced.   A good rule of thumb is to progress no more than one to two components of daily life at a time. 
If you are looking for ideas on where to start head over to our new tricks for old dogs page.
How much exercise is too much?  My advice is that your pet should not be significantly worse after exercise that night or the next day.  Some muscle soreness or stiffness is okay, as long as they ‘warm out of it’ within a couple of minutes of being up and moving.

Does your Super Senior need a new sidekick?

Another annual problem is the well-meaning, but often misguided, gift of a new pet to a household that is already home to a senior pet. If you are considering another set of furry feet around the house make sure you have answered all these questions first.

  • How do the people you live with feel about having another pet in the house?
  • Is your current residence suited to the type of pet you’re considering?
  • How will your social life or work obligations affect your ability to care for another pet, with at least as many demands as your resident fur baby?
  • Will your current plan for your resident pet during holidays and/or work travel still work with an extra mouth to feed and manage?
  • How many other pets do you have and how will they react to a new pet?
  • Do you or any of your household/family members have health issues that may be affected by another pet of a different species or hair coat. Don't forget, not every designer "non-shedding" pup lives up to that promise.
  • What breed, or species, of animal is the best fit with your current lifestyle? If your beloved Border Collie or lovely Labrador long since retired to the couch they may not appreciate a high energy, easily bored puppy hanging from their ears.
  • Do you want a pet who follows you all around the house or would you prefer a less clingy, more independent character?
  • Do you need a pet who will be reliable with children or one you can take with you when you travel?


I am always cautious recommending a new companion for beloved seniors, however,  the added benefits in environmental enrichment, stimulation to exercise, and company around the house often increase their interest in life and mobility. Although I strongly suggest meeting new prospective furbabies after the festive fun is over.

We would love to hear your thoughts and tips on sharing the Silly Season with your super seniors
in the comments section below, or over on our Facebook page.

And we hope you have a Happy and  Safe  Festive Season with all of your family, furry and otherwise,




Surviving the Pet Festival Season





hether it's a dog's breakfast/day out, bark in the park, totally pawsome, or some other clever combination there is no doubt, in Perth, Spring is pet festival season.
As well as the local council run events there are the regular gatherings of breed fanciers.
To help every pooch and person have fun on these days out we have put together a few tips to keep you smiling on the day.

Before you go
Consider your dog’s age, activity level, and personality. How long is it since you have taken them out in company, and how long do you usually spend walking? If you dog usually only goes out alone with you for a 20-minute walk each day they may not appreciate being out for a couple of hours in a crowd of canines.
Some dogs, often the mature ones, don’t enjoy other dogs wanting to get too friendly.
Learn your dog's personality when it comes to group situations: What is your dog like in social situations? Dogs who are attention-seeking would love these types of outings, as they get attention from both humans and other canines.
Are there personality types your dog clashes with? Do they tend to be an instigator, a moderator or the target? Are they fearful around certain types of dogs or in certain situations? Do they pay attention to social cues from other dogs even when they are excited? Do they tend to panic, or freeze, or lash out when things get tense?

 It may end up that once you take a good look at how your dog is in social situations, you'll decide that the dog day out is not the place for them at all. And that's okay! Your dog is wonderful even if socialising with strangers isn't a good activity for them.

Exercise your dog's brain and body before you get there
this simple step will dramatically reduce the potential for problems. Before you head to a dog event take a walk or run with your dog and get out all that pent-up energy that can be the source of so much doggy drama. Don't take a wired-up dog into a stimulating environment like a dog park. That's the physical exercise part, but you also need to mentally exercise your dog before you arrive. Practice recall, lying down on command, leave it. Ensuring your dog has at least the most basic obedience skills, and a good recall helps you maintain some control even when accidental off-leash moments happen. Your dog should respond to either “Stop” or “No”.




At an Active Pet Rehabilitation stand we have balance challenges for all levels of canine ability, to get the brain working, and a place for a massage or a rest for tired or stressed pets.

Make sure water and shade are readily available where you are going
Or better yet- take some with you.

Be on alert with kids
Children are a mid-level food opportunity, and let's face it, some of the things our children eat or drop are definitely not good for dogs.
Children also love to play with dogs, but may not always know how to play properly. They may tease dogs or play rough with them, which can make dogs snappy or overly-excited. Children can also get knocked over or bitten, in the worst cases. Always keep a close eye on both the child and the dog and remove them from each other should play get too rough or over-stimulated. 

Avoid congregating for too long
Chatting with other humans rather than supervising the dogs, or spending more time looking at a smartphone screen than at the dogs can be a recipe for disaster.If you are waiting to talk to someone at a stand make sure your dog is relaxed and happy while you wait.

Watch out if you are bringing food
If you don't want your lunch stolen by a slobbery thief or the attention of all the dogs at the park please don't bring your favourite take away to eat on your way around the stands. And if you have food you can't finish yourself don't give it to the cutest pair of begging eyes you see, at least not without checking with their pet parent first. 



Dog friendly events can be fun and informative for owners of social fur babies, but remember not to stay too long and keep an eye out for signs of stress in your pet.

We love to hear what you think of the local pet fest scene in Perth.
Leave us a comment in the box below, or get in touch through Facebook




Building better backs- can we prevent spinal injury in our pets?





Long backed dogs are always at increased risk of spinal injury.
Not just breeds like Dachshunds or Basset Hounds, but many dogs with an unusually long back, or spinal malformation, including crossbreed dogs.
Discussions go back and forth about human interference in dog breeding, but what can we do for our pets right now?

Teaching your long backed dog simple exercises from an early age will help keep them strong, whatever lifestyle they enjoy.

1/ Start your best friend young- training to stand still while paws are examined and walking slowly are invaluable balance exercises.
2/ Walking (or even running if they must) up and down a ramp to the sofa reduces repetitive strain and the risk of injury jumping up and down, as well as training in balance control.
3/ Play ground level games. Fetching or retrieving from under low obstacles. But make sure you can reach abandoned toys/treats yourself.
4/ Repeating stretching and balancing exercises daily will maintain core muscle strength to support a healthy spine throughout their lives.
5/ Don't over exercise initially, if you have not done these things with your dog before keep sessions short.

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Co-ordination training may involve static balancing on all four, 3, or 2 limbs, with either voluntary perturbations such as head turning to take treats from either side, or manual disturbances by gently pushing slightly off balance.


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Movement training on different surfaces can also improve strength and mobility.
Controlled walking on foam, over obstacles such as broom handles or hose pipes, through tall grass, in  bush-land areas, or in shallow water all help to improve balance and co-ordination.
Movements that require higher levels of proprioception (body awareness), such asbacking up, walking in circles, stand - sit -down (drop) should be practiced regularly.
Set up a route around the house (with toy or play rewards at each station) so you can have fun doing these exercises with your dog every day.


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If your dog is already suffering back pain or weakness when walking please get them examined by your vet before commencing any active exercise program.

"Controlled exercise has shown to be a clearly effective treatment for chronic low back pain in humans. General exercise as well as stabilising exercises were able to reduce pain in chronic low back conditions."