Natural Relief For Dogs That Suffer From Thunderstorm & Fireworks Anxiety

Summer is a wonderful time for dogs and humans alike with more hours of daylight, better weather to enjoy walks and time outdoors, and an increase in exercise and quality time.  Summer unfortunately carries with it a dark side that is very frightening and even panic inducing to many dogs: thunderstorms and fireworks.

The barometric pressure drops, static electricity, and of course noise associated with thunderstorms combine to terrify many dogs.  The constant barrage of fireworks blown off in the evening on and around July 4th are also often terrifying.  Here in Florida where I live and practice veterinary medicine, we almost always have a strong thunderstorm every afternoon and fireworks are legal, which makes for a rather prolonged pre and post July 4th nightly fireworks serenade.  Summer here can be especially stressful at times for many of our canine kids.

Thundershirt

When this invention first came out years ago, all I could think of was how silly it was and how consumers can be duped into buying anything.  Over time, however, one credible client after another came in proclaiming that it really helped.

The Thundershirt is a vest that fits snugly with uniform pressure throughout the trunk of a dog.  It thereby creates a swaddling type affect on the dog similar to that which a human infant experiences when placed in a swaddle.

With so many success stories, having a Labrador Retriever that suffers severe thunderstorm and noise anxiety, I decided to give a a try (86 pounds of pure panic is not fun for Bernie or his human family).  On the directions, it states that the shirt may not work until the fourth or fifth use and to make sure you use it at least this many times before judging the product.  For Bernie, I did not see any improvement at first, but clearly saw a marked difference on the fourth use and thereafter.

However, be careful and do not make the mistake of leaving it on all of the time, as it can create a refractory effect where the dog is no longer influenced by the vest.  Use it only in anticipation of times of stress, then remove after the stressful element has passed (storm, vet visit, evening of fireworks, etc.).

I cannot say that my Lab and many other dogs that use thunderstorms are completely without stress after its application, but it most certainly take some edge off, often eliminating the need for pharmaceutical sedation.  Combined with another canine anti-stress innovation below, it can be especially effective.

Pheromone Therapy

One good strategy to maximize the efficacy of the Thundershirt is to spray it down with a soothing pheromone.  A pheromone is a hormone that is secreted by animals that goes airborne and is detected by smell.

Lactating female dogs secrete a pheromone during milk let down to calm and soothe her puppies so that they will relax and nurse effectively.  The scent is imperceptible to humans.  Pharmaceutical company Ceva isolated this pheromone and literally put it in a bottle in a product called Adaptil.  It can be used as a spray that lasts for 6-8 hours or a plug in diffuser that constantly covers a 700 square foot area with the scent.

The diffuser can get a bit pricey so I find the best use of Adaptil is to use the spray to spray down the Thundershirt in anticipation of a thunderstorm or an evening of fireworks.  I have also seen it work quite well for dogs that experience anxiety for vet visits or travel anxiety in a car or airplane.

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.

When It Is Advisable To Supplement Dogs With Vitamin C And When It Is Not

Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, a compound that is found naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables and commonly seen as a dietary supplement.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant compound, meaning that it is in a class of compounds that absorbs and removed free radicals that can do damage to cells and tissues of the body.  For this reason, antioxidants are commonly referred to as biological sponges.

Vitamin C also plays a significant role in boosting the immune system and is clearly proven to help protect mammals from infectious disease and to hasten recovery from infectious disease.  How this occurs in complex, but in short, vitamin C directly influences the release of immune messenger molecules involved in summoning and activating the protective cellular defenses of the immune systen against infectious disease.

Returning to its antioxidant activity, vitamin C also reduces oxidative stress that weakens the body during periods of not only infectious disease, but disease in general, including cancer and autoimmune disease; that also cause oxidative stress on the body.  The reduction of oxidative stress helps to relieve the impact of disease on cells and tissues and strengthen the patient, making vitamin C with few exceptions, a cornerstone supplement of choice for patient that are battling cancer and other chronic diseases.

Where dogs and people differ significantly with regard to vitamin C is that people cannot manufacture vitamin C, whereas dogs do.  People need to receive their vitamin C exogenously via diet and suffer poor health and disease when they do not.

Dogs, on the other hand, do not need to take in dietary vitamin C because they can synthesize their own.  However, not all dogs manufacture vitamin C equally and many even young adult dogs that are subsequently prone to infectious disease benefit from supplementation in the diet.  Many senior dogs lack in their vitamin C production as they age and I generally recommend choosing senior diets that have vitamin C added or directly adding  vitamin C to the diet via nutritional supplements.

Here is where we have to be careful with vitamin C.  It is a crucial nutrient involved in the building of connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, cartilage) and bones.  Thus, with few exceptions, I generally recommend against supplementing puppies with extra vitamin C.

One may wonder why vitamin C is a bad idea to supplement puppy diets since it such an integral component to the building of bone and connective tissue, something it would seem puppies would benefit from.  However, the body often works in what is known as reflex inhibition.  If vitamin C is supplemented in the canine body that is designed to synthesize its own vitamin C, the body will often suppress it own intrinsic vitamin C production in presence of excess exogenously supplemented vitamin C.  By subsequently hindering a puppy’s intrinsic ability to manufacture its own vitamin C, supplementing it could lead to reflex vitamin C deficiency and hinder proper bone and connective tissue development.  We may also potentially hinder its ability to make its own vitamin C permanently.

Thus, we always must be careful to balance the need for vitamin C supplementation in dogs with the patient’s breed, overall health, and age.  I would strongly advise against taking it upon yourself to start vitamin C supplementation for your dog without consulting with a veterinarian.  Vitamin C can be beneficial to a dog’s health but if not taken under the appropriate circumstances, it has the potential to cause harm.

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.

Recognition & Integrative Prevention & Treatment For An Often Overlooked Disease In Senior Aged Dogs

I hear it all the time when I ask how a senior aged canine patient is doing at the beginning of a well visit. The answer often goes something along the lines of  these variations:

“He is good, but doesn’t seem to hear well because he doesn’t come sometimes when I call him.”

“He is good, but doesn’t seem to hear that well because he doesn’t always greet people at the door anymore.”

“He is good but has selective hearing…he doesn’t not always come when called, but for some reason, he always hears his food dish being filled.”

…Etc.

In the majority of cases, simple hearing tests I perform as part of my routine physical examination reveal that the patient can hear just fine. What the owner perceives as lack of hearing or selective hearing is usually the early stages dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. In fact, a Washington State University study determined that by age 11, 30% of dogs are showing early signs of dementia. The percentage of dogs with dementia increases with age until by age 16, 100% of dogs according to the same study have dementia.

Dementia in dogs results from age related changes in the brain that lead to reduced perfusion of the memory centers of the brain. These degenerative changes also lead to personality changes such as heightened anxiety, depression, insomnia, or even aggression. These changes can start as early as 7 years of age.

Clinical signs of dementia in dogs begins with them not always coming when called or not running to the door to greet people. They often seem to have selective hearing because they may still recognize their favorite cues like hearing the food bag open or seeing their owner getting the leash for a walk. As the most exciting things in their lives, feeding and walks stand out most prominently in their minds and those memories are often the last to go.

Eventually, dogs with progressing dementia may fail to recognize food and not eat, experience pacing and vocalize often in the evening hours. They may also go from having been very well house trained all of their lives to eliminating in the home.

If you have a senior aged dog (7 years or older), the following are integrative solutions that serve as proactive prevention and treatment of dementia:

1.) Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 Fatty Acids derived from fish oil have potent anti-inflammatory activity in the body. As a key component to the cell membrane, omega-3 fatty acids also protect and maintain the integrity and health of cells. In the case of the brain, with the body lacking the ability to make new brain cells known as neurons (like people, dogs are born with a finite number of brain cells), this is key. Omega-3 fatty acids also help preserve the health of blood vessels, helping to maintain good blood flow to the brain and other organs.

2.) S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAM-E): SAM-E is a molecule that is formed naturally in the body. It can also be made in the laboratory. SAM-E is involved in the formation, activation, or breakdown of other chemicals in the body, including hormones, proteins, phospholipids; and certain drugs involved in the formation, activation, or breakdown of other chemicals in the body, including hormones, proteins, phospholipids, and certain drugs.

As a supplement, SAM-E is known to help improve mental performance, reduce depression and anxiety, and help in the treatment of many other diseases.

3.) Daily Walk: In addition to the benefits of exercise, taking your dog for a walk is mentally stimulating for them and helps to keep their mind stimulated and alert. Mental stimulation maintains blood circulation in the brain, playing a key role in brain health.

Items 1-3, I would implement for any dog 7 years or older. There is no adverse side effects or negative aspects these strategies. In fact, in addition to brain health, by implementing these simple strategies, you will also promote health in many other areas of the body. If your senior dog is experiencing confusion, selective hearing, and/or night pacing, in addition to 1-3, I would add treatment number 4.

4.) Selegiline: Selegiline is sold under the veterinary brand name Anipryl. Taken once daily, it increases dopamine production in the brain that increases perfusion to the memory centers of the brain. Selegiline also increases serotonin production in the brain, which reduces stress and anxiety associated with dementia.  Selegiline requires a prescription from your veterinarian.

If you have a senior age dog, now that you have read this article, be cognizant of subtle signs of dementia. Whether you see signs or not, take a proactive approach to prevention once your dog enters the realm of the senior years at age 7.

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 Simple Feeding Strategy That May Significantly Reduce Cancer In Dogs

In my last post, I discussed the dramatic rise in cancer in pets in past 10 years, as well as some of the proposed reasons for it.  In this post, I would like to focus on one particular study that provides a potentially profound yet simple way that we may decrease the incidence of cancer in dogs.  If you have not yet read my last post, here it is:

Why Is There So Much Cancer In Pets?

Per my last post, the processing of food and the subsequent creation of glycotoxins in processed diets that have an oxidant effect on the body.  Oxidants create oxidative stress to tissues and serve to some degree to negate dietary antioxidants that are known to boost the immune system and prevent cancer.

However, home prepared diets are not necessarily the solution to this issue, as it can be very challenging to properly nutritionally balance a home prepared diet, leading to nutrient deficiencies that can lead to a host of disease, including cancer.  Dr. Rob Silver, a cutting edge integrative veterinary practitioner and researcher at Colorado State University cited a recent study that may solve this dietary conundrum.

Scottish Terriers as a breed are statistically more prone to urinary bladder cancer (called transitional cell carcinoma – called TCC).  As such, they were chosen for a study that compared three test groups:

1.) Dogs fed only a reputable kibble diet.

2.) Dogs fed a reputable kibble diet with green leafy vegetables added to it.

3.) Home prepared diets with no kibble.

The study was quite revealing.  The Scottish Terriers in the second group that were fed kibble with the addition of green leafy vegetables were 70% – 90% less likely to develop TCC in comparison to groups 1 and 3 that were fed pure kibble and home prepared diets with no kibble, respectively.

The conclusions of this study are very clear from my view:

  • There are additional factors outside of genetic predisposition that determine whether or not a dog will develop cancer, as clearly genetic predilection can be affected one way or another by other factors, in this case nutrition.
  • Home prepared diets, likely due to the challenges of balancing them from a nutrient perspective, are not necessarily the answer to dietary cancer prevention in dogs.
  • Feeding kibble provides nutrient balance, but a neutralizing effect of glycotoxins by the addition of antioxidant rich green leafy vegetables may profoundly prevent cancer, providing us the ability to proverbially have our cake and eat it too.

Regarding green vegetables that are among the highest in antioxidants, two optimal choices for addition to kibble diets are spinach, kale and broccoli.  You would generally want to include as close to 20% of total feeding volume represented as vegetables as the dog will still readily eat.

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 Cautionary Tail Of 3 Dogs

I closed out my last week of 2017 presented with 3 eerily similar canine cases that all presented severely sick.  The breeds may have all been different, but outside of breed, all three dogs had striking similarities in their history, presentation, disease predisposing factors, and diagnosis.

History

Each dog was relatively young, between 7-9 years of age, and all three were males.  The owners of each dog claimed regular wellness veterinary care, but none went beyond a discount vaccine clinic and based on records, none had been actually examined in years (there is an abysmal legal loophole in Florida that allows vaccines to be administered to patients by technicians or assistants without an examination as long as a licensed veterinarian is in the building).

Presentation

All three dogs were depressed, weak, dehydrated, and not eating.  Each dog had severe dental disease, a major predisposing factor for what the ultimate diagnosis would ultimately be for all 3 dogs.

Diagnosis

All three dogs were found to have severely elevated kidney values and phosphorous in their bloodwork, a finding which led to a diagnosis of chronic kidney failure.  Based on their numbers and presentation, all three dogs were given a poor to grave prognosis.

The timing of these diagnoses was very difficult for the owners in the week leading up to Christmas and New Year, with each family desperately wishing to keep their pet with them at least through the holiday season.  Thus, each owner despite the odds elected to attempt treatment.

Luckily, in the case of chronic kidney failure, other than the cost, there is little to lose in attempting treatment.  Consisting primarily of aggressive IV fluids,  GI protectants, anti-nausea medication and antibiotics, it is not an invasive course of treatment and only takes 2-3 days to play out to see if the patient will respond.  Ultimately, only one of the three would recover to the extent that he would make it through the holidays and even still, he carries a poor to grave prognosis.

I did not write about this to depressed pet owners, but instead shared my experience as a cautionary story for pet owners to learn from.  The demise of these dogs was likely very preventable.

Had these dogs received proper veterinary care with actual yearly hands on examination by a veterinarian, the dental disease would have pointed out well before it reached such a severe point.  Had the dental disease subsequently been treated in the early stages, a major predisposing factor for chronic kidney failure would have been eliminated.

Regular yearly wellness bloodwork starting at age 5 would have caught kidney disease in its early stages and proactive measures could have been put in place to maintain the longevity of the kidneys and subsequently the longevity of and quality of life of the patent; rather than tragically lose them well shy of their 10th birthday.

A regimen of kidney protective diet (protein, sodium, and phosphorus restriction), GI protectants, and anti-oxidants often extend the lives of chronic kidney disease patients for years.

Chronic kidney failure is only one of countless life shortening diseases that can be managed or even prevented with proper and timely veterinary wellness care.

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.

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