UNSPOKEN COMMUNICATION: DOG LANGUAGE

Do you speak “dog”?

Imagine that you decided to adopt a deaf dog. Or maybe you have a deaf friend or family member, who you have learned to communicate with in other ways. How would you go about communicating with your dog if you or the dog were deaf? Dogs can’t do sign language, of course. Having no spoken communication can seem like a daunting idea. How would you train your dog? How would it know what you wanted from it?

Dogs have different forms of communicating, as you may have learned fairly quickly when you became a dog owner. They don’t have the ability to speak, although barking can sometimes feel like a way that your dog is trying to communicate with you. But in actuality, barking is a fairly small part of dog communication.

Dogs use body language as the majority of their communication. They try to gauge our moods by our demeanor, voice level and pitch, and even our smell. Some of the signals dogs put out are simple to read…snarling and showing teeth is a sure sign of aggression, for instance! Still, some may be new to you. We will talk about some of the more common signals to help you understand some of your dog’s behavior.

If you watch your dog in different situations, you may catch a glimpse of body language communications that you never realized were even there before. Dogs use many of these in times of stress, nervousness, and when getting together with dog friends, whether new or old. If your dog is meeting a new dog and feels threatened or nervous, you may see him sniffing the ground with extreme interest, making a large arc away from the new dog, freezing in place, and even averting his gaze. These are several things that dogs do to make other dogs feel more comfortable in meeting them, as well as to make themselves feel more comfortable.

When your dog is stressed out from excitement, you may see an excess of yawning or a timid licking of the lips. These are both things that a dog does to calm himself when he is overly excited. Sometimes this will help your dog to wait without jumping or running off.

If your dog feels that you are angry about something because you have yelled or raised your voice, you will likely see things like your dog freezing in place, averting his eyes (which often makes owners perceive that the dog feels guilty), lying flat on his belly or pawing the ground. These are meant to calm the anger that you are feeling and put you in a better mood towards the dog!

When an owner is rushing a dog or pulling on the leash, you may see the dog move extremely slowly, or drop to the ground and freeze. These again are ways to calm down the person, or a dog that is acting threatening. In some cases, a dog will also get in between two other dogs or people that they feel are ready to fight. This is their way of diffusing the bad feelings, and averting the fight.

If a dog is being introduced to a new pet or person, like a dog playmate, he may feel excited, but realize that the other dog isn’t ready to meet. In these cases, you may see a dog that does the play bow, but stands very still until the other dog reacts, crawling on the ground with a very fast wagging tail, or laying on the ground with his back or side to the other dog. These are forms of dog politeness, giving each other time to get to know each other from afar, before barreling up and possibly starting a fight.

These are the majority of the body language communication stances, so what do they mean to the dog owner? If you try to recognize these signs in your dog, you may be able to help calm him by mirroring some of these. It can work with new dogs as well as your own. Have you ever met a dog that seems nervous of you, and just sat with your back to them or averted your eyes? In most cases, when this is done, a dog that seems like it’s ready to jump at you will calm down and sometimes even come up to you and sniff. The more time you spend trying to master these techniques, the more comfortable you’ll feel using them.

Dogs are happy when they understand that their human companion has a way to communicate with them. You can use techniques like yawning to help your dog reduce stress if he becomes scared. And if you realize that your dog is upset it will help you to understand him better and make you even better at being his pet parent.

However you take this information, it is a way to better understand your pooch in his communication style. You may not feel the need to use them, but maybe you will recognize them easier now and it will help you talk to your dog in a different way. We hope you enjoyed these tidbits of info.

Immune Mediated Thrombocytapenia (IMT)

The sun has risen and the morning coffee poured and now I do my daily check on Honey Bun’s belly to check for bruising. I give her tummy a pet and see the ever so familiar purplish bruising marks on her belly. I think to myself, “I must be seeing things” as I place my glasses on. Sure enough I see bruising on her lower belly. Has her IMT (Immune Mediated Thrombocytapenia) returned? I immediately called her vet and transported her to the animal hospital on an emergency basis. Honey was very scared and shaking. She was examined and blood work was done and if her blood platelet count was low, my suspicion would be correct. Immune Mediated Thrombocytapenia has returned.

IMT is a blood platelet autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system is attacking and destroying blood platelets. Blood platelets are needed to form blood clots and to prevent bleeding in the body. The normal blood platelet count for a dog is (150,000 – 500,000). Honey’s platelet count was 17,000 and anything less than 30,000 is considered a severe case of IMT. Five and a half years prior Honey had her first bout with IMT and her platelet count was 11,000. Honey had a bad reaction to an antibiotic she had taken weeks prior which may have triggered the IMT. For the remainder of her life she would no longer receive vaccinations including rabies vaccinations, no antibiotics, no grooming at salons, no dog parks, no kennels and no socialization with other dogs. Her immune system was compromised and she was susceptible to future episodes of IMT.

During the second bout the emergency room vet felt a hard mass on her anal gland and it was highly suspicious of being a malignant tumor. This could have triggered the IMT the second time. A biopsy of the tumor would not take place because it may cause bleeding. Honey was placed into intensive care immediately.  IMT is treatable but also life threatening. The symptoms of IMT are:  purpura (red or purple spots on skin that resemble bruising), petechiae (pinpoint red spots on skin), pale gums, dark tarry stool indicative of blood in stool, blood in urine, nose bleed, gum bleed, vomiting blood, lethargy and weakness. IMT can be primary which is from genetics (cocker spaniels and poodles are susceptible) or secondary which can be from anything that triggers the immune system such as drug therapy including antibiotics, vaccinations including rabies vaccinations, infections, tick borne infections, heart worm infections and cancer. The exact cause is not known.

Honey was in critical condition and began receiving IV fluids and steroids. Vincristine (used to release platelets from cell into circulation – it is chemotherapy) was administered and blood transfusions to treat the anemia. IMT often results in anemia. Anemia is low red blood cell count while IMT is low platelet count and Evan’s Syndrome is a combination of low red blood cell and platelet counts.

On the third day of Honey being at the animal hospital, my phone rang after working a 14 hour overnight shift. The vet informed me that Honey began vomiting blood on an hourly basis and her sodium levels became elevated and she was concerned that Honey may cardiac arrest at any time.

On my way to the animal hospital I knew that I could not put this pup through any further suffering  Honey was brought to me all wrapped up in a Dallas Cowboys blanket and greeted me with her final little wiggle.  As she lay across my chest she snuggled her head into my neck and gently sighed. She was right where she should be as she would leave this lifetime and cross the Rainbow Bridge. I felt her heart beat so fast as she lay over my heart.  Our 2 hearts became one as the vet performed euthanasia. I felt her last heart beat and told her how much I loved her.

Editor’s Note: This article is dedicated to Honey Bun and all the other pups who have lost their battle with IMT. Share and raise awareness, please.