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 recommends 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 per 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 hitting to 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

Phytosphingosine Vital Component In Management Of Skin Disease In Dogs And Cats

Phytosphingosine is naturally occurring lipid compound on the outer layer of the skin of dogs and cats.  It is produced by the break down of wax-like compounds secreted by glands within the deep layers of skin.  This break down occurs via the skin’s natural flora, a population of good bacteria and yeast that are a normal component to normally functioning, healthy skin.  Phytosphingosine subsequently forms a transparent layer that protects the skin against drying, ultraviolet damage, harmful bacteria and yeast, and antigens that may trigger allergy.

Following a major inflammatory episode of the skin that may involve infection, allergic skin disease, parasitic infestation, autoimmune disease, or other diseases of the skin, despite resolution of disease, to varying degrees the skin’s ability to maintain the protective phytosphingosine layer becomes compromised for some time (as long as 3-6 months).   Subsequently,  although treatment for the resolution of skin disease may have proven successful, the canine or feline patient is often prone to relapses of disease for prolonged periods of time.

Thus, the inclusion of phytosphingosine as a natural prevalent ingredient to our canine and feline therapeutic shampoos has proved to be an invaluable, side effect free tool in the treatment of any number of skin diseases.

With few exceptions, phytosphingosine based shampoos are excellent adjunctive topical skin diseases, including (but not limited to):

  • Skin infections that do not involve puncture or deep ulceration of the skin
  • Allergic skin disease
    • Hair loss
    • Itching
    • Redness/irritation
  • Mange
  • Autoimmune disease

Even in the absence of disease of the skin, a phytosphingosine based maintenance, conditioning shampoo helps to maintain a full, shiny, healthy hair coat.

As the largest organ of the body, maintaining healthy skin is essential to maintaining optimal health and quality of life.  Phytosphingosine is a proven natural compound that aids in the maintenance of a healthy skin and hair coat.

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.

Nature’s Anti-Inflammatory – Omega-3 Fatty Acids For Dogs And Cats

My expertise of course is veterinary medicine, but since we share much of the same mammalian physiology as dogs and cats, as a biochemist and veterinarian I have long ago jumped on the omega-3-fatty bandwagon for my whole family, human and furry alike.  Omega-3-fatty acids are found in high concentration in non-oxidized (more on this below) fish oils.  They can be found in some vegetables but they are known to be only 10% as bioavailable as that found in fish.  Bioavailability  refers to the body’s ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients.  In both human and veterinary medicine, the discovery of the health benefits of dietary omega-3-fatty acids has been hailed as a major advancement in nutritional science for preventative health care and management of disease.

Omega-3-fatty acids are an integral component to the cellular membrane which essentially is the protective barrier between the base unit of biological tissues that comprise the body’s organ systems and the outside environment.  That barriers allows for selective transport of molecules in and out of the cell, while protecting the interior of the cell from free radical injury and invasion of viruses and bacteria.  Thus, omega-3-fatty acids are invaluable in protecting and repairing cells.

Omega-3-fatty acids also block inflammatory biochemical processes that lead to inflammation.  This occurs by diverting inflammatory reactions from resulting in harmful inflammatory compounds and instead producing inert, non-harmful substrates.  The net effect is to reduce inflammation throughout the entire body.  As a result, I commonly say to my clients that omega-3-fatty acids are a good natural adjunctive treatment for any “itis.”

This combination of beneficial aspects for omega-3-fatty acids makes them invaluable treating for:

  • General wellness, tissue repair at the cellular level, and protection from oxidative injury and microorganism invasion
  • Brain health
  • Lower urinary tract disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Allergies
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Cardiovascular disease

As I stated, any “itis!”

It is important to note that nutritional supplements are not FDA regulated and omega-3-fatty acids are no exception, which is I why earlier in this post I alluded to non-oxidized omega-3-fatty acids.   This means that there is no regulatory agency that is assuring product quality, bioavailability, or and label integrity.

In my next post via the link below, I will discuss the differences in beneficial and bogus omega-3-fatty acids supplements and how choosing bogus product may not only be ineffective, but even harmful to your pet.

The Importance Of Selecting A High Quality Omega-3-Fatty Supplement For Dogs & 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.

The Importance Of Selecting A High Quality Omega-3-Fatty Supplement For Dogs & Cats

Nutritional supplements do not fall under the scrutiny of the FDA and the USDA, leaving them with no regulatory agency assuring product quality or even if product ingredient label claims are even true.  Omega-3-fatty acids are no exception.  Thus, when choosing omega-3-fatty acids for your dogs and cats for general wellness, it is important to understand the difference between a good supplement and a bad supplement.

Nature’s Anti-Inflammatory – Omega-3 Fatty Acids For Dogs And Cats

Many people who engage in dietary nutritional supplementation have experienced the unpleasant “fish burp” some time after swallowing an omega-3-fish oil supplement.  The fish burp results from a product that oxidized to the extent that it has gone rancid and getting burped up after the capsule has dissolved in the stomach.

Oxidation of fish oil is far more than unpleasant.  Oxidation converts omega-3-fatty acids into omega-6 and omega-9 forms.  These forms go beyond being ineffective for the invaluable anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3, but are actually PRO-inflammatory.  Amazingly, companies that produce oxidized supplements such as these even count on a customer base that does not know that difference and go so far as to even admitting on their labels that their product is a “rich source of omega 3, 6, and 9.”

Since I do not write to be a cheerleader for any brands, I advise in order to protect your families and pets from useless – or worse, even harmful – health supplements, ask your veterinarian for brand recommendations.  Since supplement labels are not held to any semblance of substantiation, unfortunately, label and ingredient criteria are not reliable, so it is pointless for me to list them.

Brands that have a big stake in product integrity because of historical quality control, reputation, and having many other product lines in the veterinary health market that do fall under the scrutiny of the FDA and USDA, are usually the best sources of high integrity supplements.  Your veterinarian is the best source for recommendation of these products having extensive experience in the industry and intimate knowledge of quality (or poor quality) products.

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.

Clarification Of What “Holistic Veterinary Medicine” Really Means

I recently posted on the Dr. Roger Holistic Vet Facebook page about the Canine Influenza H2N2 outbreak in my home state of Florida.  The article I posted came from my general veterinary blog at Web-DVM.net, since I do not like posting duplicate content on my respective blogs.  Nonetheless, I felt that this information was as important for my holistic veterinary blog as it was for my general veterinary blog.

The article presents the facts about the Canine Influenza virus’s high morbidity and educated owners about the risks of the disease and criteria for immunization, highlighting my own veterinary clinic’s immediate implementation of a Canine Influenza immunization program.  While publicly I did not get much backlash about the article, privately I have received disappointment that I would have a holistic veterinary website, call myself a holistic veterinarian, and yet promote a vaccination protocol for dog flu.  I would actually like to thank those readers for raising this issue, as it inspired this post to clarify what holistic veterinary medicine really means.

I consider the terms “integrative medicine” and “holistic medicine” to be synonymous and interchangeable.  Both terms suggest a combination of proven traditional western and alternative treatment to treat the “whole” patient; hence the term “hol-istic.”  Unfortunately, the term has morphed into the notion that holistic medicine rejects western medicine, immunization, and anything outside of herbal or otherwise natural treatment.  I want to be clear that if that is how someone interprets holistic veterinary medicine, that is one’s prerogative, but I will state right now that is clearly not my view nor is it my intent to suggest with this blog.

Holistic medicine seeks to refrain from drawing lines of strictly traditional or strictly alternative treatment in the care of the patient, to use the best available traditional western and alternative veterinary medical techniques that will advocate for the best outcomes for the patient.  Here is a typical example of how integrative veterinary medicine works and I put into practice:

I diagnose a cranial cruciate ligament tear in the knee of a dog.  I recommend surgery, because without surgically stabilizing the injured knee, it will always be painful and cause lameness.   The ligament will not heal on its own because ligaments have poor blood supply, the lack of which prevents healing cells to be delivered to effectively heal the tissue.  Following surgery, I will treat the dog with antibiotics to prevent infection, anti-inflammatories and opioids to reduce swelling and control pain.  This is the western aspect of the case management.

On the alternative side, I am going to recommend rehabilitation with class IV low level therapy laser, and polyglycated glycosaminoglycan (Adequan) injections.  The laser reduces pain by triggering the release of intrinsic endorphins locally, increases healing rates by dilating arterial blood vessels to bring in healing cells, reduces inflammation by dilating venous and lymphatic blood vessels to drain away inflammatory products and fluid.  The Adequan provides potent base molecular building blocks for the repair of connective tissues in the body, while increasing joint fluid production within joints.  This combination significantly reduces post-operative pain and increases post-operative healing rates by 40%.  For the long term, I recommend the post-operative CCL patent be maintained on pharmaceutical grade joints chews and omage-3-fatty acids for long term minimization of inflammation, and maintenance of musculoskeletal structures.

In a similar manner, whether it is an orthopedic case such as this or an internal medicine case, this is always my approach.  From the western traditional approach, I treat the disease directly.  As western techniques, whether surgical or medical, stabilize and reduce clinical signs of disease, I concurrently integrate alternative techniques that aid the body to ultimately do what it does best and heal itself.  The ultimate goal is to minimize the dependence on western surgery and medicine that sometimes comes with unwanted side effects and rely more on alternative techniques that by in large do not.

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.

A Wonderful Cause For Animals And People – Heifer International

Heifer International embraces the “teach a man to fish” philosophy in empowering people to raise themselves and their communities out of poverty through farm animal donations and education.  The donations are paired with love, humanity, and appreciation for the animals, while providing best practices and sustainable agricultural prosperity to areas of the world stricken with poverty, famine, and disease.

Heifer International empowers families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but their approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Their animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey that can be traded or sold at market.  When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses.

Giving an animal is no ordinary gift.  Giving an animal in an impoverished area is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood; while promoting the human-animal bond.

Women empowerment is a huge aspect of the Heifer cause.  If women farmers had access to the same resources as men, more than 150 million additional people would have enough food to eat. Heifer provides support for women’s groups, training in gender equality and the means to send girls to school to help empower women around the world to reach their full potential.

Heifer International Empowers WomenSustainable farming encourages restering the Earth, as caring for the Earth is vital to ending hunger and poverty, whether it’s through reforestation, organic gardening or adoption of fuels that reduce the ill effects to the environment.

The veterinary community has begun to put the full force of their influence behind this project.  Veterinary pharmaceutical companies are getting in on the cause through generous matching of veterinary hospital and veterinary purchasing group donations.  Elanco, for example, has recently pledged a $100,000 match of a donation from the animal hospitals of Veterinary Study Groups.

Individuals looking to help not only other individuals but whole families and communities may get in on the action through a donation of your own.  I encourage my readers to make your own pledge of support that fits your budget; no matter how modest every little bit of help counts.  You may learn more details of the program and donate at the link below:

https://www.heifer.org/

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.

Cats Meow Only At People, Not To Each Other

Cats are such an extraordinary and unique species.  They are by their nature they are fight or flight based animals that consequently can survive on their own (albeit not ideally) in the wild.  In their wild state, they most commonly choose a solitary and territorial existence.

Yet despite their fight or slight and solitary nature, they so often give and accept abundant affection and thrive in human families, even among other cats and dogs within a household.  While some cats are more talkative than others, many will communicate with their humans by meowing.  Cats will meow for some or all of the following reasons:

To greet people.

To solicit attention.

To ask for food.

To ask to be let in or out.

From mental confusion or cognitive dysfunction brought on by age.

Interestingly, while kittens will meow for Mom’s attention and vice versa, adult cats do not meow at one another.  During times of combativeness toward one another, cats they may hiss or growl and females in heat seeking to attract a mate sometimes make a characteristic yowling sound; but they do not meow at one another.  That particular form of communication seems to be reserved almost exclusively for people.

I am amazed that I just recently learned of this feline phenomenon 15 years into practicing veterinary medicine!  Once I read about it, however, I have repeatedly tested the general observation with my own cats and with cats who board at my practice.  I will often sneak in and observe from around a corner to watch them play and interact with one another and time and again with not a sound heard from them.  Once I walk in and they see me, however, I am greeted by a chorus of meows.

It seems that as cats have evolved across literally thousands of years living among and in close proximity with humans, they’ve gained an instinctual understanding that meowing at humans is an effective way to get our attention and express their wants, needs, and affections.

There are some people who do not particularly care for cats because unlike dogs they may not come when they are called, may be aloof, and as a result leave some with the impression that they do not truly love the pet owner as sincerely and completely as a dog would.  For the people that feel this way, I would point out that while cats may express themselves differently than dogs, they express themselves nonetheless with a language that they reserve almost exclusively just for us.

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.

 

An Easy, Cost Free, Effective, and Enjoyable Treatment For Dogs With Dementia

Dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, is a common a far more common disease in dogs than most dog owners are aware of.  Since “senior moments” in dogs cannot be articulated as they are in people, signs of dementia tend to be more subtle at first.

We commonly hear owners describe their senior dog exhibiting “selective hearing.”  This more often than not is a subtle but clear sign of early cognitive dysfunction.  While they may not connect their name when being called with an owner intention to summons them, they may still have no difficulty in responding to more recognizable (because they are the most enjoyable events of their day) sounds like the sound of kibble hitting the bowl at feeding time.

Statistically, 30% of dogs over the age of 11 and 100% of dogs over the age of 15 are showing significant signs of cognitive dysfunction.  There are recommended holistic supplements known to be helpful in managing these cases such as omega-3-fatty acids, and SAM-E.  There is a very effective medication called selegiline that often successfully manages cognitive dysfunction by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Perhaps the most effective treatment for dog dementia is something that is also physically good for the dog, physically good for the owner, and mentally good for both: a nice neighborhood walk.  Walking provides the dog with mental stimulus that increases sensory input in the brain, increases blood flow to the brain, increases serotonin production in the brain (which reduces anxiety that commonly accompanies cognitive dysfunction).

When walking with your senior dog, be patient. Let him sniff a lot.  Sniffing is the primary method of sensory input for dogs, far more valuable to them than even  their eyes.  Sniffing other dogs, wildlife, and all of the myriad scents of nature are not only enjoyable to your dog, but provide a wealth of sensory input that exercises his brain.  The physical benefits of keeping arthritic joints moving and keeping up muscle tone to help combat arthritis are an added bonus.

So…if you think your dog may be experiencing dementia or cognitive dysfunction, a daily walk is just what the doctor ordered.

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 Love And Beauty Of A Senior Pet

As a society, we tend to be enamored with puppies and kittens.  To be sure, they are adorable, playful, and fun and bring with them the promise of many years of companionship.  On the other hand, they are often undeniable knuckleheads that can be destructive and a serious danger to themselves, prone to eating things that get stuck in their gut or make them sick, chewing electrical cords, and are for all intents and purposes, clueless.

On the contrary,  senior dogs and cats have a dignity and wisdom about them that is etched in their gray hairs and meaningful and deep expressions.  If we are fortunate to have the privilege to have healthy pets well into their senior years, there is a bond so deep with their humans that expectations are a given and words are often not even necessary to communicate.

While the love of a puppy or kitten is in your face, up close and center, the love of senior dogs and cats is no less unconditional and vibrant, but comes with a confidence that does not require demand nor statement.  Merely being in the same room, exchanging glances, and enjoying one another’s routines set by years of co-existence suffices.

While the senior dog may not be able to swim, catch the Frisbee, or run like he used to, nor the senior cat climb, jump, or chase the laser pointer like he used to; they snuggle more patiently and willingly than they ever have and know you more deep and profound way than they ever have.

Senior pets require more care and special needs with regard to their health, but that is what we signed up for when we made the commitment to taking on a precious life to spend part of our life’s journey with us.  For them, there is no question that they will stick with us whether we are physically able, disabled, rich, poor, or homeless; we owe them no less.

So while puppies and kittens are cute and fun, today, my tribute is to the wonderful senior pets of the world.  May we all be so lucky to keep our pets well into their senior years to enjoy the privilege of the inner beauty of the senior pet.

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.