We all know how dealing with strange stares and bitter comments on a daily basis requires some coping mechanism at some point. Very much to your surprise, dogs can be of great help here, especially if you live alone.
The biggest concern of managing vitiligo or slowing down its progression in early days is stress management. And, therapy dogs can help you do that. They don’t discriminate you for the way you look and give you that very much needed ‘hug’ at the end of a tiring day. Despite not being vocal, they understand what are you going through and are with you on your journey to self-acceptance and self-love.
Dog Therapy for stress management in vitiligo
You might not be aware that Therapy Dogs are trained to provide affection, comfort, and love to the owner. Therapy dogs are subjected to several tests to stand fit for the job. These tests assess their ability to block out distractions, their ability to be comfortable around a variety of people, including vitiligo fighters. Golden Retrievers are often used as therapy dogs for their calming demeanor, gentle disposition, and friendliness to strangers.
Since therapy dogs are trained beforehand, pooping on command, picking things up and handing them over to you, opening a door, and operating light switches make your life easier. Besides, running around with a dog qualifies as an exercise that can help reduce social anxiety, depression, and stress instilled by vitiligo.
That being said, having a pet is a great responsibility yet great engagement activity during your early vitiligo days. Even though the therapy dog is a trained companion, he would still need your attention and care. Worry not! This next section of the blog can help you be a good ‘dog pawrent’ and fight vitiligo-imposed stress together with your furry friend. Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Keep his plates full (of nutrition)
Different dogs have different nutritional needs. For this, have regular sessions with the vet to understand his dietary needs. Keeping a good mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian, dry and wet food in his diet has its own benefits. Take help of vet to know what exactly is considered excess.
2. Give him a comfortable bed
Just like you, your furry friend would love to relax in a comfortable bed at the end of a tiring day. For that, the dog bed needs to be soft and cozy. As a thumb rule, always buy a bed keeping the size of your dog in mind. We need not tell you that smaller beds tend to annoy dogs. Result? They often bite them off or climb onto your bed.
3. Get useful toys
Dogs can get stressed too. Toys can help them de-stress and create a fun environment. They are great tools to distract the pet and help him focus on something positive. So, what are you waiting for? Get him loads of calcium bones and other chew toys. You may not know this, but toys that can be chewed help reduce biting in young dogs. They clean up their teeth and are also a good source of calcium too.
4. Keep a check on allergies
If your dog is licking his foot too much or whining too much out of the blue, an allergy could be a possible reason. Certain symptoms like chewing feet, hair loss, swollen paws, sneezing, and running nose are signs of allergies that cannot be overlooked. Here, special chew toys can help prevent tartar buildup and eliminate bad breath.
5. Manage anxiety efficiently
As a pet owner and vitiligo fighter, you should be able to notice any changes in the mood and behavior of pets more quickly than others.
Do not react impulsively if your dog has chewed or broken something out of his anxiety. Hold on to aggression and punishment. Scolding may intensify his anxiety. Give him pet treats. This particular action can help you connect the stimulus with reward rather than anxiety. Next day, visit a vet to know the reason behind sudden mood swings.
6. Plan an outing
One of the best ways to pamper your pet and a great exercise to beat social anxiety in vitiligo, is to take your therapy dog out once in a while. Take him for a bath, nails’ clean-up and body massages. Heading to a dog spa is clearly the best way to give your pooch the much-needed relaxation. After all, helping you manage vitiligo-led stress can be tiring for him too.
7. Regular check-ups
As a pet parent, you just need to be mindful of proper vaccination (and anti-tick treatment) followed up with boosters every year to make sure that he is protected from Rabies, Distemper and other canine and feline infections.