Pet Owners Should Not Take “Natural” To The Point Of Absurd

I can appreciate pet owners who wish to feed their pets organic and natural food, pursue natural, side effect free alternative treatment options, and avoid chemicals, preservatives, and pesticides.  I try to do that for myself and my human and furry family as much as it is feasible.  As an integrative practitioner of veterinary medicine, I often attract these kinds of pet owners and enjoy a great working relationship with them most of the time.  There are occasions, however, when I deal with such naturally minded pet owners that draw a lines in the sand that defy common sense and venture into the realm of the absurd.

In a recent case of an 8 year old female boxer, I determined on a routine yearly visit had stage 3 out of 4 periodontal disease.  The owners were aware of the periodontal disease with their previous veterinarian having made dental recommendations as well, but until seeing me (they had just moved here from another state), the previous veterinarian had told them of the condition of the teeth but did not actually show them (so they told me, anyway).

She was a very good patient, so I was easily able to lift the lips and show the owners how decayed her teeth were with severe gum recession in many spots, tooth root exposure, and even pus along some of the gum margins.  I strongly recommended a professional dental cleaning and what would likely amount to several extractions for teeth beyond repair.

The owners were up front about their preference for natural treatment but to their credit, understood that no amount of enzyme/grapefruit seed extract dental sprays would fix these teeth.  We rran pre-anesthetic blood work which revealed that at an unusually young age, the boxer has significant kidney elevations that indicated chronic degenerative kidney disease.  I still recommend the dental because there is a direct correlation between chronic periodontal disease and acceleration of kidney failure in dogs and cats.  I would take the necessary precautions with my anesthesia protocol to maximize the patient’s safety.

The patient ultimately came through nicely through anesthesia, dental cleaning and oral surgery to removed several teeth.  At discharge, I discussed with the owners that I will circle back with them at the 2 week post-operative re-check to discuss dietary management as the primary means to manage chronic kidney failure in dogs.  The owner said that she would be back for the re-check, but the dietary discussion would not be necessary.  I was not quite sure at the time what the owner meant, but she quickly left and I got distracted with more discharges and forgot about her statement.

At re-check, I confirmed to the owner that all of the surgical sites had healed well and the gum infection had completely cleared.  I then turned the discussion to my recommendation of a prescription renal diet, as these diets are comprised of highly bioavailable protein sources (that are in turnassociated with minimal protein metabolic waste), restricted in sodium and phosphorus, and are fortified with antioxidants to combat toxins that accumulate in the body as a consequence of kidney failure.  All of these aspects of prescription diets for patients in kidney failure combat high blood pressure, reduce the work-load of the kidneys, and produce minimal toxins as metabolic waste that help to maintain quality of life and body condition.

The owner’s demeanor suddenly changed and she became defensive and reminded me that she had already told me that a discussion about diet was not necessary.  She went on to tell me that she and her husband are passionate about feeding raw meat and vegetables to their dogs and that they did not intend to vary from that.  She said that she could not justify intoxicating her dog with processed food and preservatives no matter the claims of the diet.

During circumstances like these, I generally have to take a moment to swallow, take a deep breath, allow my blood pressure to stabilize and collect myself; which I did.  I then patiently explained to her that I respect her passion for all things natural, but in this case, a prescription diet does have preservatives and is processed (since it is engineered to have exactly what a kidney failure dog needs to maintain quality of life and facilitate longevity), but the proteinaceous waste, sodium, and phosphorous levels her raw diet provided the dog would be far more harmful in disease progression than any preservatives or processing.  I offered this owner statistical data that clearly proved the benefit of prescription kidney sparing diets in dogs.

Alas, it was all to no avail.  While she seemed to listen and I thought I may have made a dent, she simply told me no thank you, she and her husband  did not believe in feeding processed food and preservatives to their dogs and that they are fully prepared to take their chances.

This is when I had to resist the temptation to bang my head against the wall as a wonderful boxer that could have had many months, even years, added to her life by simply being fed a special diet, walked out the door to have her life shortened and her quality lessened over her owner’s sheer narrow mindedness and stubbornness.

Natural and alternative medicine minded pet owners frequently complain – often rightfully so – that many veterinarians are dismissive of discussing or looking into natural alternatives to feeding and therapy, and are close minded and  focused on only traditional western veterinary medicine.  Unfortunately, integrative veterinarians that are not close minded, sometimes encounter the flip side to that coin with occasional owners such as the subject of this post, that are to too entrenched in their natural dogma to be reasonable…and the pet at no fault of her own is the one who suffers needlessly.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

 

California Becomes First State To Ban Puppy Mill Sales!

In state measure AB485, signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown, retail pet stores are now banned from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits that do not come from shelters and rescue organizations.  Thirty six cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco already had similar bans in place, but this will extend the ban to be state wide.  Direct sales by private breeders will still be allowed.

Retail animal sales will only be relegated to animals that have come from animal shelters and rescue organizations.  Animal welfare activists applaud the law as it is aimed to stop the flow of animals from cruel puppy mill and cattery mass breeding operations where animals are bred in often appalling and abusive conditions.  By offering only rescue animals for sale, the law is designed to also alleviate overcrowded shelters and overtaxed not for profit animal rescue organizations.

The puppy mill ban legislation was celebrated by the Social Compassion In Legislation animal welfare group and co-sponsor of the legislation in the following public statement from the groups founder and CEO, Judie Mancuso:

“We are overjoyed with the Governor’s signature and broad support from the entire animal-loving community for this groundbreaking legislation.  In banning the sale of mill-bred animals, California took a bold step forward. The deplorable conditions that animals suffer in these high-volume breeding facilities are not a secret and now they have a champion in California.”

Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, praised the law for breaking “the puppy mill supply chain that pushes puppies into California pet stores and has allowed unscrupulous breeders to profit from abusive practices.”

True to form, the American Kennel Club criticized the legislation publicly opining that it will strip pet owners of pet store protections, will risk the loss of hundreds of jobs, and will reduce pet choice.  Translation: the AKC will get less checks for bogus “papers” that they provide for puppy mill peddlers to give a false air of credibility to traffickers in animal cruelty and unethical breeding.  From my perspective in my knowledge of the AKC and what a money grubbing, useless and soulless organization that it has become, their opposition to the law says more about its merit than its flaws.

I am not so naive to think that this law is perfect and there will not be loopholes or room for unscrupulous people to find a way to use it to their advantage and not within the spirit of its intent.  However, it is a very big step in the right direction where our nation’s most populous state made a bold statement against the cruel puppy mill and cattery industry.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Cannabis Medical Marijuana Uses For Dogs & Cats

Medical marijuana was just passed in Florida by referendum in the 2016 election.  Despite the voter referendum, conservative counties backed by our republican controlled executive and legislative state government are running interference across the state to disrupt the implementation of medical marijuana leaving it still largely unavailable.

The reality of medical marijuana is that it has a number of legitimate uses for disease management that are virtually side effect free when dosed properly.   The marijuana flower has glandular structures known as trichomes that contain essential oils.  When these glands are separated from the plant, “cannanioids” may be separated out and formulated into the proper ratios that facilitate medical uses with little to no side effects.

Cannabinoids fall into 2 categories.  Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is responsible for the psychotropic effect; while cannabidiol, or CBD, provides the main medicinal component.  However, CBD alone is not clinically as effective as combining it in proper ratios with THC, and the right combination provides enhanced medicinal efficacy via what researchers term the “entourage effect.”

One very common use of medical marijuana in people is treatment of seizure disorders, of which we see a great deal in veterinary medicine, particularly in dogs.  Life threatening complications or organ damage are highly unlikely with properly dosed medical marijuana in comparison to traditional anti-convulsant medications which are know to tax the liver.  Other applications for medical marijuana include management of GI disease, nausea, spinal pain, arthritis pain, anxiety, and cancer management (stimulation of appetite and control of pain).

Are there any risks to treatment with medical marijuana in veterinary medicine?  The biggest risk medical marijuana carries is accidental overdose.  Even then, life threatening reactions to medical marijuana are exceedingly rare.  Also, we must recognized that accidental overdose potential exists with traditional medications as well, often with far more devastating consequences.

Will we be prescribing medical marijuana in veterinary medicine any time soon?  The answer to this is: not likely.  The first barrier is that standardized dosing research in dogs and cats is still very much in progress with little clear consensus.  The second barrier is that the purchase of medical marijuana in states like California (and likely Florida once it is available) require a medical marijuana card.  In California where medical marijuana has been legal for years, there is no legal mechanism by which a dog or cat can be issued a medical marijuana card.  I assume the same will be the case here in Florida where I practice once medical marijuana is available.

The best option available to pet owners at this time is to talk to a veterinarian who has experience with pets being treated with cannabis oil about proper dosage and reputable manufacturers.  How these veterinary practitioners navigate the legal side of prescribing medical marijuana is not clear to me, however.

In summary, practical applications of medical marijuana are well established in people and early research and anecdotal reports indicate that the same is true for dogs and cats.  While it will likely be some time before this alternative treatment approach will available to dogs and cats, as research evolves and doses are standardized, there will likely be more pressure for a legal avenue to make it available to dogs and cats.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Does A Natural Heartworm Prevention Option Exist For Dogs?

Heartworm disease is a parasite that colonizes and gradually destroys the heart, pulmonary artery, and lungs.  It is transmitted via the bite of a mosquito infected with microfilaria (a microscopic baby heartworm) as it injects the larvae into the dog’s blood stream when feeding on a dog.  Heartworm can also infect wild species of canids, such as foxes, coyotes, and wolves.  Less commonly, heartworm can infect cats, ferrets, and raccoons

Related: Heartworm Disease In Dogs and Cats

As an integrative veterinary practitioner, a branch of medicine that combines traditional western veterinary medicine with proven, natural, side effect free veterinary medicine alternatives, I frequently get asked if there are any natural options for preventing heartworm disease in dogs.  My answer is yes, but it is not likely the answer that a natural medicine or holistically minded person may expect.

The three most active ingredients in commercial monthly heartworm preventive medications – ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, and selamectin – are all derived from a compound within the naturally occurring soil bacteria Streptomyces avermitilis.  It was observed by the Kitasato Institute that certain soils were toxic to several species of invertebrate animals, an animal classification that includes many species of worms.  In 1979, a unique bacteria was isolated by the Kitasato Institute that they believed was responsible for the inability of certain worms to survive in the soil.

The Institute sent the bacterial isolate to Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories in Rahway, NJ, where it was discovered that it was a particular class of compound called avermectin secreted by the bacteria that was responsible for its ability to kill worms.  It was theorized that the secretion of this compound evolved as either a mechanism to kill soil worms to be used by the bacteria as a food resource or to eliminate the worms which are competition for soil nutrients.

Whatever the case may be, this discovery would soon take human and veterinary parasite medicine by storm.  It began with the recognition that one of the avermectin derivative compounds, ivermectin, was effective in treating Onchocerca volvulus, the worm parasite responsible for causing River Blindess, a disease that is spread by the bite of the black fly and infects 16 million people a year world wide.  The disease is seen most commonly in sub-Saharan Africa and isolated areas of Central and South America.

As the worm larvae develop, they migrate to the skin cause a severe itch, with some cases tormenting infected victims to the extent that there have been many reports of people resorting to burning affected area of the skin with hot coals or hot irons as desperate attempts to relieve the itch.  The can larvae travel to the eyes and also cause blindness, hence the name of the disease (the “River” part come from the fact that black flies live near river banks).  Significant to complete blindness from Onchocerca volvulus is reported in approximately 800,000 people world wide each year.  With the advent of ivermectin and its commercial production by Merck, millions of people each year are spared the tormenting and potentially tragic consequences of infection with Onchocerca volvulus.

Ivermectin and other derivatives of avermectin have proven to treat countless worm and other parasites in both human and veterinary medicine.  Perhaps the biggest contribution of the discovery of avermectins in veterinary medicine is the prevention of heartworm disease, which is nearly 100% preventable with monthly micro-doses of these compounds available in any number of commercial products.   Not only are these products naturally derived, while they may be quite toxic to immature worms, they are virtually harmless to mammalian vertebrates, the class of animals that includes dogs and people.

So there you have it, safe and natural heartworm prevention has existed for decades and is available at just about every veterinary clinic in the United States.  This is probably not what a holistically or naturally minded pet owner expected to or even wanted to read, but it is the truth.  Instead, it is more likely that a reader that was excited to finally have a veterinarian show concrete evidence of one of the common natural heartworm preventive herbal and other concoctions touted or sold online, actually works.  I am sorry to disappoint, but these alternative treatments are at best doubtful, at worst toxic.  Lets review some of the more common ones.

Garlic: Believed by some to stop the maturation of heartworms – Ineffective and toxic to dogs.

Sorrel: Claimed to clear the blood stream of worms, serving as cardiovascular detox – complete and utter rubbish and toxic toxic to dogs.

Guinness Beer: No comment, I will just leave this one for you to contemplate!

Black Walnut Hull: Claimed to kill the microfilaria (infective heartworm larvae injected by the infected feeding mosquito) before it can mature to juvenile and adult stages – Anecdotal reports of efficacy only, luckily not likely to be toxic.

Essential Oils: Claim to prevent heartworm by repelling the pests from feeding on the pet in the first place – Ineffective and possibly tormenting for the pet (essential oils tend to have a very strong scent to us, imagine how they would smell to a dog that can smell 200,000-300,000 more acutely than we can?).

In a heartworm prone area (anywhere mosquitoes exist and the temperature can remain above 57 degree F for two weeks or longer at any given time) I would not recommend risking heartworm infection or possibly intoxicating your dog with any of these and other supposed natural heartworm preventives, especially when proven, naturally derived heartworm prevention already exists; albeit, not necessarily fitting within certain holistic pet owners’ narrative.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Promising Natural Treatment For Dogs With Cancer – Apocaps

Before discussing Apocaps, I must first be clear that as an integrative veterinarian, in cases of treatable cancer, I always advocatefor proven western techniques (surgical resection of tumors when possible, safe and proven chemotherapy, etc.) in combination with supplemental and natural immune boosting/anti-cancer therapy.  I utilize products like Apocaps as ancillary management of these cases, or a primary cancer therapy in cases where more aggressive western treatments/resolutions for cancer in dogs are either not possible due to systemic concerns, individual owner ethical boundaries, economic prohibition, and/or when tumors are not surgically resectable.

With that statement out of the way, I am very excited to introduce this very promising natural treatment for management of cancer.  Before discussing how Apocaps works, it is first necessary to explain what apoptosis is.  Apoptosis is a mechanism of normal cells in the body, a programmed cell death so that aged cells in need of replenishment can clear out and make way for fresh, new cells to support a healthy body.

Unhealthy or mutated cells in the body sometimes lose the ability to undergo apoptosis and instead continue to divide unchecked.  As these abnormal cells divide, they pass along their abnormal characteristics, grow into abnormal tissues call tumors, and cause disease in the body.  This is the underlying mechamism of cancer.

The Apocaps Dog Cancer Treatment is made of plants that have naturally occurring molecules that support normal cellular apoptosis when introduced into the living body. The apoptogens in the forumla are luteolin, apigenin, curcumin, silymarin, beta-glucans, and gingerols.

Other active ingredients used in the production of the Apocaps Dog Cancer Treatment that provide anti-inflammatory activity and immue support are: Vitamin C, Lecithin Powder, Rutin, Peanut Hull, L-Glutamine, Apigenin, Taurine, Zinc Oxide, Ginger Root Extract, Milk Thistle Seed Extract, Turmeric Root Extract, and Magnesium Oxide.

This is not a cure for cancer, but as previously stated, Apocaps are helpful as ancillary therapy for traditional cancer treatment, and palliative therapy for cancer that is not treatable by conventional means.  For the latter, quality of life can be significantly increased as the product reduces oxidative stress on the body that results from cancer.  There are common anecdotal reports that Apocaps can lead to significant reductions in tumor sizes.  Beyond restoration of quality of life, this combination may also lead to increased life expectancy.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

 

Should A Dog’s Diet Be Supplemented With Vitamin C?

Most of us are familiar with vitamin C and its health benefits for people.  Vitamin C has been proven to have powerful immune system boosting properties to help to prevent infectious disease and cancer.  Vitamin C is also a biological sponge, that is, it has molecular properties capable of binding to free radicals that form in the body every moment of our existence and eliminating them from the body.

Free radicals are charged ions and compounds that damage tissues and organs via a chemical process called oxidation.  They form as the result of physical stress on the body, mental stress, and as the result of age.  When we take vitamin C and other vitamins known to be “antioxidants,” these compounds effectively bind, neutralize, and facilitate the removal of free radicals, thereby protecting the body from disease and slowing the aging process.

It should necessarily follow that we should administer vitamin C to dogs as well, right?  They are after all, physiologically built very similarly to us and suffer many of the same disease processes, as well as experience the gradual break down of their bodies from father time.  However, when it comes to vitamin C, they are quite different.

The major difference between people and dogs when it comes to vitamin C is that people necessarily depend on outside supplementation of vitamin C either through dietary sources (such as oranges and other fruits) or supplements.  This is because we possess a very poor ability to synthesize our own vitamin C.

Dogs, on the other hand, are physiologically quite capable of synthesizing their own endogenous vitamin C.  Having this ability, under normal circumstances, as long as they are fed as nutritionally well balanced diet, they do not require outside supplementation with vitamin C.

For some of you that are particularly well informed, you may know that vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and, as such, it has little potential to cause toxicity (excesses in water soluble vitamins are easily eliminated by both dogs and people).  If this is what you are thinking, you are correct.  You may also be thinking that if this is the case, what harm would there be to offer your dog a little extra vitamin C?  The answer is that that for an adult dog, other than a mild, self limiting case of loose stools, there really is no harm.

For growing puppies, on the other hand, there is great potential for harm.  Vitamin C has the potential to cause spikes in serum calcium.  In response to this, the body activates a hormone called calcitonin that interferes with the proper development of bone density and proper remodeling of a puppy’s skeletal system as they grow.  This is especially true in large breed puppies.  As such, I generally advise against supplementing a puppy’s diet with vitamin C.

Still, although dogs do effectively synthesize their own vitamin C, there are certain conditions where it is beneficial to prescribe additional supplementation with vitamin C.  Female dogs that suffer from chronic recurring urinary tract infections is one case example that I would  recommend supplementation with vitamin C.  In this case, vitamin C not only directly boosts the immune system both locally and systemically to fight infection, as a water soluble vitamin eliminated primarily via the kidneys, vitamin C also acidifies the urine directly to create a less hospitable environment for bacteria to proliferate.

In the case of any pet under treatment for cancer, I also recommend supplementation with vitamin C.  Cancer in the body creates systemic free radicals that vitamin C helps to eliminate.  Boosting the immune system with vitamin C helps to prevent secondary infection dogs are predisposed to when under treatment with chemotherapy.  Boosting the immune system also aids the dog’s immune system to fight the cancer itself.

As a general rule, vitamin C is not necessary for healthy dogs fed a nutritionally balanced diet.  It is potentially harmful to supplement puppies with vitamin C.  However, there are specific health circumstances where supplementation with vitamin C is beneficial to dogs.  Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian before considering any nutrient supplementation regimen for your dog.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

What Is It About Thunderstorms That Causes So Much Fear And Anxiety In Some Dogs?

Countless dog owners deal with the often heartbreaking circumstance of their beloved dog experiencing sheer panic during thunderstorms that tend to occur in late summer.  Here in my home state of Florida, dogs prone to thunderstorm anxiety suffer on a near daily basis from July through October.  I have an 11 year old yellow Labrador who began experiencing thunderstorm anxiety as he neared 2 years of age so I deal with this issue not just as a veterinarian but also as a dog parent who loves his dog dearly.

So why do some dogs react so fearfully to thunderstorms?  The noise of the thunder probably plays a significant role, but some dogs like mine, may suffer thunderstorm anxiety, but may be okay with other loud noises like fireworks. My late Border Collie mix Lulu was the complete opposite, as she had zero fear of thunderstorms while fireworks set off panic.

Like my Lab, some dogs are akin to being a living barometer where he may be pacing and anxious while it is sunny, quiet, with calm winds, and clear skies outside, but there is a storm on its way still 45 minute out.  Thus, the effects of the thunderstorm on dogs prone to thunderstorm anxiety are clearly multi-factorial and include:

  • Noise
  • Static electricity
  • Barometric pressure drop

Thunderstorm anxiety often worsens with time, especially if measures are not taken to reduce its severity.  From experience, there is rarely one single remedy an effective approach is typically multimodal.  Below are some common remedies, some natural, some not, listed with pros and cons:

  • Apply a snug garment – this is when a snug fitting shirt like the Thundershirt is placed on the dog that has an effect like swaddling a new born baby.  The shirt Storm Defender takes this concept a step further by integrating a metallic lining to the shirt that the product claims disperses static electricity.  Most of the benefits of these products are anecdotal by I see them work often enough to recommend giving them a shot.
    • Pros – Drug free approach that legitimately provides anxiety relief to some dogs.
    • Cons – They often do not work.
  • Pheromone therapy – A veterinary pharmaceutical was able to synthesize and bottle a calming pheromone that the lactating female dog emits to calm her puppies and encourage them to nurse.  The product, Adaptil, comes in plug in diffusers and sprays.  The diffusers provide 24/7 therapy in a 700 square foot space, while the sprays last for 6-8 hours.  Some dog owners spray down snug garments with Adaptil prior to fitting the dog in the shirt.
    • Pros – Drug free approach that legitimately provides anxiety relief to some dogs.
    • Cons – Costly for some dog owners, sometimes does not work.
  • Sedatives like Valium and Xanax
    • Pros – Often work well to relieve anxiety, not very costly.
    • Cons – Effectiveness usually lessens over time and doses need to be increased or drug changed frequently, if storms blow in quickly there is not adequate time to absorb the drug in the GI to provide relief, the drug often lingers longer than desired period, and they are drugs that need to be eliminated metabolically in most cases by the liver.  There is a relatively new product called Sileo that is a micro-dose of a commonly used veterinary tranquilizer that is very effective, quick acting (it absorbs by transmucosally after application on the gums), and relieves anxiety without obvious sedation or lingering side effects.  Its main con at this point is cost.

I have found herbal calming remedies so largely ineffective that they do not make my list as a legitimate strategy to manage thunderstorm anxiety in dogs.  I usually tell owners that they may be worth a try because they are generally safe and they have nothing to lose other than a few bucks in trying them.

Realistically, most people never find a cure, but the right mix of some or all of the above.  If it is affordable, Sileo has been the most effective treatment that I have used for my own dog, but even at wholesale pricing, I find it cost prohibitive with a daily thunderstorm occurring every day in Florida from early July through late October.  I also do not like the notion of drugging (albeit a micro-dose) my dog for 3 months out of the year.  Thus, I generally reserve Sileo for major tropical storms and hurricanes, rely on Thundershirt with occasional Valium and scratching Bernie’s head.  My presence per my wife’s observance, makes a huge difference in how Bernie responds to management strategies, which is why I often take him to work with me during the summer months.

My advice to you is to work with your vet to find the right approach for your dog and go with the right mix of approaches may require both natural and pharmaceutical management.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Do Full Moons Cause More Seizures In Epileptic Dogs And Cats?

Most of us have been told tales of lunar lunacy where bad or crazy things tend to happen in great frequency when the moon is in its full moon part of its cycle and animals and people tend to act weird.  This belief has some parents taking care to tell their kids to exercise extra caution because of a full moon and spawned the birth of legends like the werewolf.  The question is, however, is there some truth to the full moon exerting some kind of physical or psychological influence on animals?

As a past emergency and critical care veterinarianin New York, I saw wild and crazy things just about every night regardless of the lunar cycle.  Although I did not take the time study or even casually pay attention whether there was an increase in accidents or epileptic seizures during the full moon phase, I cannot say that I ever observed a disproportionate incidence of emergencies during the full moon phase.

That stated, the conversation about an increase in seizures specifically in dogs and cats that lived with conditions like epilepsy that predisposed them to seizures was taken seriously enough that veterinary neurologists decided to study the possibility of this potential phenomenon.  Veterinary neurologists Laura Stainbach and Leveque subsequently conducted a retroactive study of 211 epileptic dogs and cats from 2000-2008.

The results of their study proved conclusively that there is no correlation between the full moon phase of the lunar cycle and increased seizure activity in these dogs and cats.  As much as many believe that the full moon produces physiological and psychological changes that trigger illness and odd behavior, at least in the case of seizures, any link to an increase in seizure activity during a full moon is little more than medical urban legend.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

The Grain Free Pet Food Fallacy

The grain free pet food craze has stuck in my craw as an integrative veterinary medical practitioner for years, but the final straw for me to post this article was a 5 year old female Labrador Retriever that presented for her well visit a few days ago.  The previous year at 72 pounds, I had listed her as overweight and recommended “portion control, and/or weight loss diet, increased exercise to facilitate weight loss.”  The owner had asked me for dietary recommendations at the time and I gave her a few options.

This year, my Lab patient not only failed to lose weight, but presented at a whopping 84 pounds, progressing her body condition from overweight to “morbidly obese.”  The owner was noticeably frustrated, so I asked her which diet she had chosen.  As it turns out, some time after last year’s visit, a friend of her’s convinced her that grains were the root of obesity and most other diseases that occur in dogs, and that her best way to get weight off her dog would be to put her on a grain free dog food.  When the owner saw the pretty wolf on the bag and its fantastic label claims, then even saw that the diet had its own TV commercial airing during prime time, she was sold…and succeeded only in transitioning her dog from a fat dog to an obese dog.

This grain free pet food craze that is pulling pet owners in hook, line and sinker, reminds me of the fat free craze in the early to mid 90’s.  The thought process was that if fat is eliminated from food items, we could eat the things we wanted and stay lean.  Like the grain free pet foods, the opposite actually occurred and people eating fat free foods only found themselves getting fatter and less healthy.

The problem was that in order to take the fat out of cookies, muffins, etc., sugar was added in its place to maintain its taste appeal and consistency.  Sugar, or glucose, is absorbed and utilized much more readily as an energy source than fat, resulting in the intake of a food additive that resulted in a great deal more calories per unit volume than fat.

Like the fat free human foods of the 90’s, grain free pet foods are also commonly loaded up with glucose to make up for the lack of grains.  But the grain free pet foods are even worse, because without the grains, the foods lack adequate amounts of soluble fiber.  Why is dietary soluble fiber important?  There are several reasons!

Soluble fiber unlike simple carbohydrate is not itself absorbed by the gut, but attracts water as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract.  This helps to control hunger by filling the bowel and contributes to regularity by bulking the stool, thereby facilitating bowel health and increasing the basal metabolic rate.  Soluble fiber also reduces the reliance on simple sugars in the diet, offering the pet more stable blood glucose metabolism, reducing obesity, and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, pancreatic disease, and other diseases.

Truly, the only thing that is impressive about grain free pet food companies is their marketing departments.  With images of wolves and wildcats and proclaiming that your domestic pet should be fed more like its wild ancestors, the message is resonating with millions of pet owners.  Let us set aside from for one moment that our domestic dogs and cats are different from their wild ancestors physiologically and metabolically (that is a whole other topic for another day), I am quite certain that after killing their prey, a pack of wolves did not add a pound of sugar to their fresh kill.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Pheromone Treatment For Dogs And Cats? Really?

There’s always something new coming out that is the next great thing to make your pet’s life better. Myths get perpetuated on social media like gospel truth. What’s real and what’s just hype?

Pheromones sure sound sketchy. What are they? A pheromone is a chemical secreted by the body that is emitted and detected by other individuals of the same species. Pheromones are a means of “silent communication” so to speak. They can be used to communicate such messages as danger, food, territory, desire to breed, or calming. They do not have a smell that we can detect, but are detected through nasal passages or organs in the mouth.

Scientists have figured out which chemicals communicate what message in a variety of species. They also created synthetic versions of these chemicals for production. For instance, cats will often rub their face and cheeks against an object (or person!). Why are they doing this? They are applying a pheromone to that surface that “marks” that object or pant leg as “theirs.” Once many objects in a house are claimed, they can relax, knowing they are in their own domain. With dogs, a pheromone has been discovered that nursing mother dogs emit. It has a calming effect on the puppies. Puppies that know mom is there will eat better, sleep better, and eliminate better.

Companies have created these two pheromones (one for cats, one for dogs) for people to use at home to help reduce stress in their pets. So this is all well and good, but…really? I know, it sounds bogus. I was a huge skeptic when I first heard about them. It all sounds so abstract, and as a scientist, I need proof.

Well, there is proof! And it’s not the “my friend’s mom’s friend’s cousin says it works” kind of proof. Well designed, controlled, double blinded clinical studies have demonstrated an efficacy of >80% in 30 minutes for both the dog and cat versions. The original product was Feliway (for cats) and DAP, now called Adaptil, for dogs. They are still considered the “gold standard” by many veterinary behaviorists. Now other companies are coming out with their own versions.

These products come in a plug-in diffuser (think room air freshener) that you can use in your house. Large houses take a few diffusers to cover the space, as one diffuser covers 600-800 square feet. They also come in spray, which you can apply to a bed, carrier, or, for dogs, a bandana you can spray and the dog wears. The spray lasts 24 hours or less, so it’s not an easy long term solution, more for situational needs. They also come in collars the pets wears, and are replaced monthly (as are the diffusers).

I recommend pheromones often. They have no side effects, no odor, and can only help. If it doesn’t help, worst thing that happens is you’re out about $40 depending on the product. Some of my cat owners swear by them for helping inter-cat aggression, or most commonly, urinating outside of the litter box. My dog owners have been pleased when using it for dogs with generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, or situations like thunderstorms and fireworks. These are just a few examples of potential applications.

So while it sounds mystical, the science behind pheromones is sound, and many veterinary behaviorists have been recommending them for years! If you have a cat urinating outside the litterbox, or a dog that can’t cope with you leaving, these alone will not fix the problem. However, when coupled with a positively based approach, can help speed along improvement.

Here’s my article on other effective OTC anxiety treatments for dogs and cats.

Dr. Roger Holistic Vet guest blogger Dr. Karen Louis is a practicing small animal veterinarian.  See more of her articles at her blog at VetChick.com