Treatment For Flaky Skin And/Or Dull Hair Coat In Dogs And Cats

Flaky skin is not representative of healthy skin. Thus, if you are observing flakes on the coat of your dog or cat that means something is inherently amiss with the health of the skin and hair coat. However, there is not one single cause for the presence of flaky canine and feline skin, and determining the cause of flakes is paramount to finding a solution to treat them.

Dry Flakes

When the flakes are observed on the skin and hair coats of dogs and cats are dry to the touch, feeling like the character of fish food flakes, this typically indicates simple dry skin. Flakes of this kind often are not accompanied by significant hair loss, foul odor, and/or redness or irritation. This presentation is fairly easy to treat with a combination of omega-3-fatty acids derived from fish oils taken orally, and weekly to biweekly baths with a moisturizing shampoo fortified with oatmeal and essential fatty acids. This approach comprehensively, directly conditions and nourishes the skin and hair coat.

Oily FlakesWhen the flakes have an oily feel to them, this typically means that a skin disease process is at work that is more complicated than simple dry skin, known as seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis occurs when the rate of skin cell turnover becomes excessive due to inflammation. This is also often accompanied by overactive sebaceous glands (glands that secrete conditioning, water proofing oils for the skin), hence the typical oily texture of flakes, skin and hair coat in patients that suffer from seborrheic dermatitis. In addition to flakes and oiliness, the skin is often itchy, inflamed, and there is often a general foul odor to the pet.

The most common inflammatory influence with regard to seborrheic dermatitis is skin allergy. Thus, in addition to direct anti-seborrheic topical management of the skin and hair coat (more on that below); a comprehensive skin allergy management regimen is also imperative. From a supplemental point of view, omega-3-fatty acids derived from fish oils are still important, but for more reasons than just directly conditioning the skin and hair coat. By their nature, omega-3-fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory, diverting inflammatory biochemical pathways to inert, non-reactive pathways

An allergic pet should also be fed a hypoallergenic diet. Diets should be free of grassy grains (wheat, corn, barley, and oats) and contain a novel protein source, that is, a protein source the dog or cat has never before consumed. This covers the patient for possible food allergy, as food allergy sensitivities build over time from prolonged, repeated consumption of a protein, most commonly, an animal source protein. For most dogs and cats, that rules out chicken and beef, as these are the most common protein sources found in commercial pet food diets. Good novel protein sources include: rabbit, venison, and duck, as well as an array of less common sources.

Hydrolyzed protein diets are also very effective, since they take away the necessity to find novel protein sources. Hydrolyzed diets cut large chain proteins into smaller, maximally absorbable chains that are unlikely to lead to allergic reactions that erupt in the skin.

For a carbohydrate source for patients with seborrheic dermatitis, I like rice, technically a grain, but unlikely to cause adverse reaction in the gut. Potato is also a good carbohydrate source that also contains other important nutrients such as potassium.  

Last but not least, from a topical point of view, a pet that suffers from chronic seborrheic dermatitis, should at least in the short term, be regularly bathed with a veterinary grade, anti-seborrheic shampoo. Such a shampoo should have benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid as its two active medical ingredients, while also having aloe, essential fatty acids, and other naturally conditioning agents in it. Your veterinarian can recommend effective anti-seborrheic shampoo products. I typically advise bathing with such a shampoo three times weekly until the flakes, oiliness, and odor are under control, and then bathe the pet as needed.

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.

Naturally Reducing The Impact Of & Maintaining Cardiac Function In Dogs In Cats With Heart Disease

Natural Treatment For Heart Disease In Dogs And CatsWith few exceptions, regardless of the many different presentations of chronic heart disease in dogs and cats, whether primarily or secondarily, there are metabolic and structural abnormalities at the level of the heart muscle. These abnormalities lead to electrical conduction anomalies, deficiencies in the strength and timeliness of heart contractions, and compromise the ability of the heart chambers to adequately fill with blood. The net result of this is a heart that is grossly inefficient and fails to circulate adequate amounts of blood to oxygenate and nourish the body.

Our medical technology in treatment of heart disease has effectively retained quality of life and significant longevity for canine and feline patients with chronic heart disease. Just in my 12 plus year career alone, the advances in medical management of heart disease has progressed by leaps and bounds. However, the supplemental side of nutrient therapy to aid in the treatment of heart disease has progressed painstakingly slowly. What’s more, heart healthy supplements have for too long been ignored as a means to effectively prevent or stave off heart disease in dogs and cats.

L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is not considered an essential amino acid, as a normal body can produced all it needs by the liver utilizing the amino acids lysine and methionine, in combination with Vitamin C, B1, and B6. Carnitine is required for transporting long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells, tiny cellular structures that are consider the powerhouse of the cell. Once transported into the mitochondria, the fatty acids are converted into the ultimate chemical energy source of the body, known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mitochondria are abundant in the cells of all organs that have a large energy requirement, including the heart.

Although the normal pet is able to manufacture all of the L-Carnitine it needs under normal circumstances, it may not under different circumstances, where there may be an inherited deficiency in manufacturing this amino acid. It has actually been long theorized that this is the mechanism behind a specific kind of heart failure called dilative cardiomyopathy.

There is also credible evidence that even in chronic heart disease patients that manufacture adequate levels of L-Carnitine, that providing additional L-Carnitine has shown considerable benefit in management of progression and severity of disease. Thus, L-Carnitine should be an integral supplement taken by all patients afflicted with any stage of chronic heart disease. What’s more, for all breeds where dilative cardiomyopathy is seen more commonly – Cocker Spaniels, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and all giant breed dogs – these dogs should be started on a regular regimen of L-Carnitine early on.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is also present in the mitochondria of the cells. It is involved in the conversion of oxygen into energy for the cell. It is especially important for the cells of organs that have high oxygen requirements, such as the heart and brain. Given its affinity for oxygen and other oxidizing compounds, Coenzyme Q10 is also a very potent anti-oxidant that protects tissues and organs from oxidizing chemicals and metabolites. All of this considered, it should come as no surprise that research suggests that Coenzyme Q10 is an invaluable supplement for management of heart muscle damage and debilitation.

Taurine

Taurine is an essential amino acid that has particularly high concentrations in the eyes and heart. It is considered essential to heart health, as deficiencies of it are directly linked to a dilative cardiomyopathy in cats and dogs. However, Taurine deficiency is not necessarily a dietary deficiency, but it could be an inherited abnormality in a dog’s or cat’s ability to absorb and assimilate the nutrient from the diet.

In most cases, dogs and cats fed animal meat based diets will satisfy their Taurine needs. With regard to cats, I have not actually seen a case of dilative cardiomyopathy in a cat fed a feline labelled diet, or home prepared diet heavy in meats. I have, however, seen many cases of heart disease in dogs fed canine diets with adequate crude protein requirements, or home prepared diets heavy in meats.

As such, like Coenzyme Q10 and L-Carnitine, Taurine should also be an integral component to management of chronic heart disease in dogs and cats. Also like L-Carnitine and Coenzyme Q10 in dog breeds known to be predisposed to dilative cardiomyopathy, they should be started and maintained on supplementation from a young age.

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.

Dog Or Cat Fart A Lot? Something May Be Wrong.

Even under the best of circumstances, it is unrealistic to think that dogs and catsDog And Cat Farts, Excessive Gas will live free of flatulence. An occasional stinky toot here and there is normal. However, a constant, unrelentingly, gassy pet is not normal, and it usually indicative of an underlying gastrointestinal problem.

Excessive gas most commonly occurs as the result of a food allergy. Food allergy means that there is a dietary sensitivity to one or more ingested proteins in the diet that lead to inflammation of the lining of the gut, subsequent malabsorption, and fermentation of unabsorbed food in the hind gut. Gas is a byproduct of fermentation.

Food allergy is most commonly linked to animal meat protein, the most common of which are beef and chicken. Some pets may also react to large proteins that are present in grass grains, such as wheat, barley, and corn.

Thus, the first step in addressing an excessively gassy pet is to engage in a hypoallergenic food trial. Hypoallergenic diets must have the following qualities.

1.) They must present a novel animal protein source, that is, a protein source that the pet has never been fed before. The body gets sensitized to allergenic proteins over time from repeated ingestion of it, hence the need to present the pet with a completely new protein source. Good choices include venison, rabbit, and duck.

2.) They must be grain and preservative free.

3.) They must be species appropriate nutrient balanced.

The easiest method to accomplish this is to purchase a prescription hypoallergenic diet from your veterinarian that meets these criteria. Another way to accomplish this is home feed with fresh ingredients, if time and schedule permit the commitment. For both species you will want to use fresh meat sources for home prepared diets. Your pet may benefit from raw feeding, but if you go this route, be certain to use companies that specialize in providing raw meat for pets that have good reviews. This will minimize the potential for raw meat bacterial food poisoning. My favorite raw meat sources for pets are those that ship the meat frozen, the customer receives the product still frozen, to then be thawed out and fed on an as needed basis.

You should provide good complex carbohydrate, fiber, and antioxidant sources from fresh vegetables. Green beans, cooked spinach and sliced carrots are good options to feed. If your pet is not crazy about veggies, you can make them more palatable by pureeing them into paste. Under normal circumstances, I am a fan of feeding broccoli, but given its tendency to ferment in the hind gut, it would be best to avoid broccoli for the gassy pet. I advise feeding dogs 50% meat, 50% vegetables, whereas cats should be fed 100% meat, or 80% meat, 20% vegetables (some cats benefit from some fiber in the diet).

Whether you choose to feed prescription veterinary diet or home prepared, you should feed the hypoallergenic diet exclusively for 8 weeks. If the gas problem resolves, then you have your solution: continue to feed it exclusively for life. If the gas continues unabated or is still excessive to some degree, then try adding probiotics and digestive enzymes to the diet. Probiotics provide “good” bacteria essential for normal digestion, whereas digestive enzymes aid in the breaking down of nutrients into optimally absorbable forms to maximize digestive absorption. Both supplement types will help to increase digestion and reduce gas.

If none of the above helps, then the dog or cat may have a condition that is more severe than produced from simple food allergy and malabsorption. These difficult cases should be seen by a veterinarian, as something more serious like inflammatory bowel disease chronic parasites may be present.

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.

Natural Ear Infection Prevention In Dogs And Cats

How To Prevent Ear Infections In Dogs And CatsDogs and cats have anatomical ear considerations that differ significantly from the human ear, that facilitate wax build up and secondary infections with great frequency. This difference includes much wider diameter external ear canals, especially taken in consideration of their proportional diameters in comparison to the much smaller overall body mass of dogs and cats. There is also an acute bend in the ear canal as it courses down from its superficial opening, making an almost right angle turn toward the ear drum. This combination makes it easier for allergens and microbes to enter, but more difficult for the body to get them out. Adding in pendulous ears and prevalent skin allergies that many dog breeds are predisposed to (e.g., cocker spaniels), and you have a recipe for a perfect storm of poor ear health.

In approaching the management of ear disease in dogs and cats, it is important to first understand that in most cases, there is no definitive cure for chronic ear disease. Chronically diseased ears are more often than not, a constant work in progress that mandate ongoing maintenance and attention from the pet owner. With that in mind, below are the most important goals in maintaining health ears and preventing ear infections in dogs and cats.

Keep Ears Clear of Wax

Wax builds up in canine and feline ear canals just as it does in people, only usually more abundantly. Knowing that we regularly need to remove wax from our own ears with cotton tipped swabs; we must understand that the same applies to dogs and cats. However, as previously noted, in the case of dogs and cats, wax production is often far worse, as moisture and environmental allergens that come in contact with those big external ear canals, often leads to over-secretion of wax. An overabundance of wax significantly increases the potential for secondary infection.  Thus, selectiing an ear cleanser that breaks up wax well is pivotal in preventing ear infections.  

Cleansers that have small percentages of acetic acid and alcohol acomplish the breakdown and removal of ear wax well.   

Keep Ears Dry

Moisture left within ear canals enables a watery environment that many species of bacteria and yeast thrive in. This is very important in consideration of dogs and cats that are regularly groomed and bathed, as well as dogs that swim. Drying ears thoroughly after bathing and swimming is therefore very important.  I would also advise a “drying” cleanser to follow up after physically drying the ears canals.    

Keep Ears Acidified

Microbes that commonly over grow in ears and lead to ear infections in dogs and cats, proliferate most effectively in an alkaline environment. Thus, creating an acidic pH – the opposite of alkaline – within the ear canal is an effective strategy for inhibiting microbial growth and limiting the tendency for a pet to develop ear infections.  Cleansers with small eprcentages of acetic acid and salicyclic acid often effectively maintain an acidic environment within the ear canals.   

Manage Skin Allergies

If your pet is developing ear infections because of a confirmed skin allergy, controlling the allergy is paramount. Nutritionally, consider natural anti-inflammatory therapy with mega-3-fatty acid supplementation. For 30 percent of skin allergy patients that have a food allergy component to their sensitivities that manifest in the skin, a prescription, hypoallergenic diet can be key in preventing ear infections.

Home cooked diets are also a good choice, as the pet owner has full control of the ingredients.  Select fresh vegetables and a protein source the pet has never been exposed to (venison, rabbit, duck are good choices) and avoid grassy grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, and corn.  Dogs should be fed 50/50 meat to veggies, whereas cats should be fed 80/20 meat/veggies.  A pet multivitamin that does not have any animal bi-product is generally advised with home prepared diets to optimally round out nutrition needs unique to dogs and cats.   

For pets where natural management may fall short, talk to your veterinarian about maintenance on anti-allergy medication, such as antihistamines or Atopica.

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.

Holistic And Nutritional Management Of Chronic Diarrhea In Dogs And Cats

Natural Treatment For Chronic Diarrhea In Dogs And CatsDiarrhea describes loose or watery stool. All cats and dogs will have bouts of diarrhea in their lifetime, at least a few times per year. The most common causes for these isolated cases of diarrhea are from infection with a virus or bacteria, infestation with a gastrointestinal parasite, or dietary indiscretion. In cases of chronic diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or malabsorption (body cannot properly break down and absorb dietary nutrients). The focus of this article is managing dogs and cats that suffer from chronic or recurring diarrhea.

Diarrhea can be broken down into three different physiological processes.

Osmotic diarrhea means that some substance is drawing water from the body into the bowel, liquefying the stool. Certain medications, food, or poorly absorbed nutrients that have osmotic properties can lead to this type of diarrhea.

Secretory diarrhea occurs when the body is actively releasing water into the bowel. This is the most common type of diarrhea noted with infections or parasites, but can also be seen when a dog or cat is under treatment with certain medications.

Exudative diarrhea refers to the presence of mucus, blood, or even pus in the bowel, and most commonly results from IBS, IBD, and food allergy.

Since malabsorption, IBS, IBD, and food allergy are the most common causes for chronic and recurring diarrhea in dogs and cats, our focus in this article is managing osmotic and exudative diarrhea through diet and supplementation. Success with nutritional and natural supplementation alone varies, depending on the severity of disease and the type of chronic disease that is causing the diarrhea. However, even if prescription medication is necessary to adequately control diarrhea, the nutritional strategies and supplementation outlined in this article, will minimize drug doses and increase the overall safety of the canine or feline patient.

Diet

Diets should be free of grassy grains (wheat, corn, barley, and oats) and contain a novel protein source, that is, a protein source the dog or cat has never before consumed. This covers the patient for possible food allergy, as food allergy sensitivities build over time from prolonged, repeated consumption of a protein, most commonly, and animal source protein. For most dogs and cats, that rules out chicken and beef, as these are the most common protein sources found in commercial pet food diets. Good novel protein sources include: rabbit, venison, and duck, as well as an array of less common sources. Another option is to select a prescription hypoallergenic hydrolyzed diet. Hydrolyzed diets cut large chain proteins into smaller, maximally absorbable chains that are unlikely to react with the gut.

For a carbohydrate source for patients with chronic diarrhea, I advise white rice, technically a grain, but unlikely to cause adverse reaction in the gut. Rice is not only a minimally reactive carbohydrate source, but it is also binding, as it is low residue. White rice is not fibrous, so it will not irritate the gut. While still trying to get the diarrhea under control, it is not advisable to feed dogs and cats fiber, as it can further irritate an already inflamed bowel. Fiber in the form of brown rice can be gradually added once the diarrhea is well regulated.

Ideally, you should select preservative free diets to take as much unwholesome ingredients out of the diet as possible. If you have the time, home cooking for the pet is a very good idea, as that gives you 100% control of what the pet consumes. For dogs, I advise 70% rice and 30% meat protein. For cats, I advise 40% rice, 60% meat protein. For cats, once diarrhea is regulated, I would try to gradually raise the protein percentage to 20% rice, 80% meat protein. For both dogs and cats, after the diarrhea is regulated, try gradually transitioning from white rice to brown rice.

The one concerning limitation of home prepared diets with no vegetables, is that they lack well rounded nutrient requirements, especially for dogs. Thus, if you go this route, I would advise maintenance on a high quality pet multivitamin. Your veterinarian should be able to recommend several options.

In order to maximize absorption, I advise maintenance on digestive enzyme therapy. Digestive enzymes breakdown food nutrients into smaller, more absorbable, less reactive forms. This is helpful for all causes of diarrhea, especially malabsorptive syndromes.

Feeding probiotics is another helpful tool for the canine and feline patient with chronic or recurring diarrhea. Naturally occurring bacteria in the gut are essential for proper digestions. This group of “good” bacteria is known as gastrointestinal flora, and can be supplemented in the form of probiotic. Gastrointestinal flora are often crowded out by bad bacteria in cases of IBS, IBD, and malabsorption. Thus, a regular dose of probiotics can be very beneficial in maximizing digestion by helping to maintain a healthy GI flora.

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.

Natural Management Of Anal Sac/Gland Disease In Dogs And Cats

Dog Scooting Because of Anal Gland or Anal Sac DiseaseDisease of the anal sacs occurs in about one in 5 dogs, and about 1 in 30 cats based on my own clinical experience. Before discussing natural options for dealing with this issue, it is important to first explain why disease occurs in the first place.

 Under normal circumstances, the function of the anal sacs, pouches that exist at approximately 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions in the rectal wall about 1-3 cm proximal to the anal sphincter, is to collect secretions from the anal glands. When a dog or cat defecates, the pressure of the feces passing through expresses the anal sacs and the anal glandular secretion then coats the feces, giving it a scent that is distinct to the animal.

 Anal sacs disease begins with poor anatomical conformation leading to decreased ability to fully empty, and rather than get excreted, the fluid remains in the anal sacs. Over time, as the sacs continue to distend with unexpressed fluid, they begin to cause irritation and the pet will often begin to scoot. If left too long, dogs and cats can develop abscesses from ascending infections the static fluid has predisposed the anal sacs to.

 Management early on is simple, where the veterinarian performs a manual expression of the anal sacs. In the case of infection, sometimes a course of antibiotics needs to be completed, as it is too painful to attempt to empty the contents, plus surrounding tissue may also in infected secondarily. In chronic cases of dogs and cats with anal sacs issues, the development of scar tissue can lead to further inability for the anal sacs to naturally empty, thus exacerbating the problem. This makes manual expression difficult for the veterinarian and the pet, sometimes necessitating surgical removal of the anal sacs.

 When discussing natural management of disease of the anal sacs, it is in most cases unrealistic to assume that we will be able to create circumstances where manual expression will not be necessary. However, in many cases, we can significantly decrease the frequency of anal sacs expression by taking a few simple measures. While there are usually inherited contributing factors that lead to reduced anal sacs emptying, there is one major factor that is human caused: pet obesity. Obesity is known to either contribute to, or even be the primary cause for, reduced anal sacs emptying. Thus, if your pet has anal sacs problems and is overweight, enact a dietary portion and calorie control plan to get weight off as a first step.

 This segues nicely into this next strategy to help with disease of the anal sacs, which is to increase fiber. Fiber bulks up stools, thereby increasing the potential for the anal sacs to get expressed more effectively and empty more efficiently. For overweight pets, you can kill two birds with one stone by feeding a high fiber, prescription weight control diet. Diets such as Hills R/D and Hills W/D will not only get weight off of pets because much of what they are eating in these diets is fiber that fills the tummy but is not absorbed, but all that fiber effectively bulks up the stool.

 If your pet has anal sacs issues and is not obese, or you are a pet owner committed to feeding grain free, another method to increase fiber is by adding canned pumpkin to the diet. The dose is about 1/8 of a teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight added to the food once daily. Another source of fiber one can add to the food is psyillium. Psyllium is a common additive in commercial natural regularity supplements, and a simple Google search for “veterinary psyllium” will lead to several different dog and cat product options. This is a nice option for cats that may not be thrilled about having canned pumpkin in their food, but be certain to purchase a non-scented/non-flavored formula for your cats if you choose this route.

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.