Fall Allergies for Pets

By Margaret Meier Jones, Buffalo Valley Veterinary Clinic

Have you checked out this latest “hot spot”?

What do you think of when you here the term “hot spot”? Most likely something fun like the latest new cafe or bistro to meet your friends for a bite to eat or coffee? The newest app from the app store, like the new Pokemon adventure? When I hear this term from my nurses, it means an entirely different thing; and it certainly isn’t any “fun” for my furry patients who suffer from it.  Instead, it means we are entering another fall allergy season.

An allergy is a state of over-reactivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an “allergen.” Most allergens develop from exposure to a particular component (usually protein) from an insect, plant, animal, or man-made materials. When our immune system is over-reacting, the response to these allergens can range from a mild local reaction, commonly referred to as a “hot-spot” to more severe, life-threatening emergencies. In all cases, our beloved companions are miserable, and we just want to help them get comfortable… QUICKLY!

At this time of year, the phone is ringing off the hook with people calling with questions on how to manage these allergies at home. Unfortunately, the clinical symptoms of allergies can often be confused with other disorders, or occur at the same time as other problems. Owners’ frustration with apparent “failure” of OTC medications, such as antihistamines, is usually a direct result of these underlying disorders. Having a whole-istic approach to the situation is crucial with you and your veterinarian working together as a team to provide relief from this dis-ease.

Your veterinarian will likely begin this approach with a laundry list of questions trying to narrow down the source of the allergen. Allergens can come into your pet’s body through contact with the skin, through the respiratory system, by way of the digestive tract, or “injected” into the pet by those pesky insects. Ironically, the route of exposure to the allergen often does NOT correlate to the clinical symptoms. For example, we often see dogs with food allergies having normal stool and no history of vomiting.  Instead, they present to us with dry hair, oily skin with pustules, and dandruff. These conundrums are also why trying to just manage your pet’s allergies with OTC products leads to further discomfort for both you AND your pet.

The anti-body known as Ig-E, produced by your pet’s immune system in response to the allergen, is the culprit that starts the allergy cascade and leads to these confusing and miserable symptoms. A simple blood test can be performed on your dog or horse to help determine what your pet is actually allergic to. Clients are often visibly surprised to learn that something as simple as a change of bedding material can greatly reduce or even eliminate the problem! These test results can also help develop a customized “allergy-shot” regimen to de-sensitize your pet from its most severe allergies as well! Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and Traditional Chinese Medicine can also help to augment the treatment regimen your veterinarian has prescribed. So don’t despair! Saying good-bye to your pet’s allergies will free you up to enjoy your new favorite local hot spot!

Dr. Meier Jones obtained her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy at the Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, WI.  In 2007 she was certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in animal chiropractic, and in 2012, Dr. Meier was also certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.

Is It Lyme Disease or So Much More?

By Dr. Margaret Meier, DVM, CVSMT

If this is your first experience with A Second Opinion, welcome to the best regional source for wellness and alternative health for both you and your pet! And, if you are a seasoned regular who doesn’t miss an issue, I’m sure you enjoyed the article on “Chronic Lyme Disease” by Sue Peck and Gail Corse in the March-April 2016 issue.  In their article they discussed the organism, the epidemiology, and the symptoms of Lyme disease commonly observed in humans.

Pet parents often ask me: “Are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease the same in our pets as they are in us?” “How do I know if my pet’s symptoms warrant a visit to my veterinarian?”  “What are these ‘vector-born’ diseases that you are recommending my pet be tested for, and exactly how are you going to test for them?”

The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in your pet can vary from intermittent and shifting leg lameness to vomiting, lethargy, high fever, in acceptance, and the inability/refusal to move. The severity of these symptoms can depend on your pet’s vaccination status as well.  With the very high incidence of Lyme disease in our area, we strongly recommend dog owners consider helping protect their canine companions with RecombiTEK® lyme vaccine.  This vaccine is the only non-adjuvanted Lyme vaccine available that has shown to “block transmission of B. burgdorferi from the tick to the dog.”1 There are many different Lyme vaccines on the market, so verifying which vaccine your veterinarian uses is important.  In my experience, patients that have been properly vaccinated with this vaccine have substantially less severe symptoms than non-vaccinated patients. Especially if co-infections exist; for example Lyme and Anaplasma. If you have any questions or concerns regarding these symptoms, it’s important to consult your veterinarian when you first see them, as Lyme disease, if left untreated, may lead to fatal kidney disease.

The most common in-house vector-born diseases tested for in dogs, in addition to Lyme, are heartworm, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia.  This is a blood test commonly referred to as a “4Dx” test.  We recommend your pet have this test performed annually, and spring is a great time to do it!  A vector is defined to be “a carrier, usually an insect or other arthropod, that transmits the causative organisms of disease from infected to non infected individuals, especially one in which the organism goes through one or more stages in its life cycle.”2 Ticks are the most common vector incriminated with these diseases, but other biting, blood-sucking insects, such as mosquitoes may also be the cause.  Discussing how to best protect your pet from these parasites with your veterinarian will not only help your pet, but your budget as well.  An ounce of prevention is truly worth more than a pound of cure when it comes to parasites, and we not only match, but usually beat over-the-counter or Internet prices!  And, did you know that most manufacturers only guarantee products purchased directly from your veterinarian? If your pet’s blood produces a positive test result on the Idexx Laboratories, Inc. SNAP* 4Dx* Plus, or other in-house blood test, what does it mean for you and your pet?  Depending on which organism produces a positive result, follow-up confirmation tests are often recommended to either quantify the antibody response to determine if the infection is active (i.e., Lyme) or confirm the presence of the antigen (i.e., heartworm).  If your pet has a negative result on the test, but your veterinarian is still suspecting a vector-born disease, they will often recommend testing for Bartonella, Babesia, or other special tests for the specific rickettsial diseases they suspect based on their examination.

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, 1 out of every 12 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease in Wisconsin, and 1 out of every 17 dogs tested positive for Anaplasmosis so far in 2016.  To see the prevalence of these diseases in your area visit www.capcvet.org/parasite-prevalence-maps and highlight your county for real-time numbers.  You will likely be surprised as to how prevalent these diseases really are!  Give me a call at 715-926-3836 to get your pet tested and protected today!

Dr. Meier obtained her certification in veterinary spinalmanipulative therapy at the Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, WI.  In 2007 she was certified by theAmerican Veterinary Chiropractic Association in animal chiropractic, and in 2012, Dr. Meier was also certified by the International Veterinary

Essential Oils for Tick Control

By Meg Wittenmyer, Bifrost Farms Boarding Kennel
You may think it’s too early to be talking about tick prevention, but for Wisconsonites, ticks and tickborne diseases are never far from a dog owner’s mind. It is estimated by the CDC that up to 53 percent of all dogs who live in areas of our state (Northern and Western) where Lyme disease is most prevalent could be infected. Ideally, it is much easier to prevent a tick bite than to have to treat the disease once transmitted. There are a myriad of products sold over the counter to repel ticks and fleas, but those of us who would rather not put a deadly chemical on our beloved pets are always looking for natural alternatives. Essential oils (EO) are an ideal solution.

EO may be applied by spritzing your pet or by directly applying a diluted oil to their fur. First, be sure that you are using therapeutic-grade pure essential oils, and when using on your pet, always dilute at a ratio of 2 to 3 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil (olive, coconut, jojoba, almond).
There are several oils that have been proven to repel ticks (and fleas) and can be used on humans, dogs, and horses. Most, however, cannot be used on cats. These oils are rose or rosewood, geranium, peppermint, grapefruit, myrrh, pennyroyal, and Palo Santo (a Young Living EO blend). Also, peppermint oil (undiluted) can be used to force a tick to release without leaving the head
in your pet.
If your pet is unfortunate enough to contract Lyme disease, your veterinarian will undoubtedly want to oversee the pet’s treatment with antibiotics, which is the only known cure. However, you can facilitate your pet’s recovery with oregano and peppermint oils, both of which contain anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Just place a couple of diluted drops of either or both on your
dog’s ears and inside the pads of their feet.

And remember to learn the symptoms of Lyme disease, so you can notice it early in your pet. These include stiffness, achiness or swelling in one or more joints, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, or a stiff walk with arched back. Consult your veterinarian immediately should you suspect
your dog has been infected.

To Make a Spritzer for Use in a Spray Bottle, Use This Formula:
▪ 1 cup of distilled water
▪ 2 drops geranium EO
▪ 2 drops Palo Santo EO
▪ 2 drops rosewood EO
▪ 1 drop myrrh EO
▪ 4 drops grapefruit EO
▪ 1 drop peppermint EO
▪ 1 drop of Castile soap (emollient)

Scratching that Winter Itch

By Dr. Margaret Meier, DVM, CVSMT

During this time of year as we gather together to share the warmth of our homes with family and friends we are grateful for the glow of a warm fire or the forced air heat that keeps us toasty warm. This warmth, however, combined with the frequent trips in and out, leaves our skin dry and us reaching for the moisturizing lotion. Our pets end up with dry itchy skin just like us, but how can we help them? We field this question and others such as: Does our pet have psoriasis or some other serious skin condition? Can it be from fleas with the weather so cold? What shampoo should I have my groomer use? Is there any supplement that can help? What can we do so we can sleep at night…this scratching is driving us crazy!

Parasites, such as fleas and mange,truly can also be the cause of the itch even in the winter months, especially this year with the mild winter we have been experiencing so far. The best place to check your pet for fleas is on the back near the base of the tail. Fleas like to hang out here because it is hard for our pets to reach them there. If you notice what looks to be dirt on the skin, this could be feces from the fleas.Take some of the “dirt” you see and place it on a white paper towel that has been dampened with water. If it is truly dirt, it will just remain as a black dot on the paper towel. If it has been left on your pet by fleas,the black dirt like material will begin to dissolve into a reddish brown color on the towel. I recommend consulting your veterinarian for the best flea and tick product for your individual pet.

There are many things we can do at home as well to help prevent the dry itchy skin of winter in our pets. Supplementing our pets’ diet with essential fatty acids, especially omega 3s, has been proven to help keep the skin healthy, which in turn helps stop the itching. With cats and dogs, the best way to supplement this is with fish oil. It is important to remember, however, that not all fish oil products are created equally, and we recommend those that use Nordic processing to extrude the oil over others that use extraction techniques. With our horses and other herbivore friends such as rabbits, flax seed ground to expose the oil provides these essential fatty acids best in their diets. Many commercial diets available today have added amounts of these as well, but the levels are often not high enough to help this time of year.

Oatmeal shampoo and cream rinses applied directly to the skin can also help with dry itchy skin.  You can even make your own oat-milk spray at home by taking 1 cup of old fashioned oats and soaking them overnight in 4 cups of water at room temperature. In the morning, strain the liquid through cheese cloth and use a mister bottle to spray the dry itchy areas. This can provide some much needed relief.

Until we encounter a problem with our skin, we take for granted that it is the largest surface area organ in the body. Even on a physiological level, the skin is not considered a high priority as it only receives about 7 percent of the volume of blood sent out to the body each time the heart beats. If your pet is experiencing more than just an occasional dry flake when you brush him or he, consulting your veterinarian might be in order. Skin conditions are the number one reason people take their pets to the veterinarian according to VPI Pet Insurance. Pets can experience some of the same serious skin conditions that we do, such as primary seborrhea (dandruff), pyoderma (bacterial and/or fungal skin infection), and even auto-immune diseases (although these are more rare). If your pet is itching at an area that has a color change to the skin, is moist, or has an odor to it, your veterinarian will help you determine the best course of action to remedy the situation.

Dr. Meier obtained her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy at the Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, WI.  In 2007 she was certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in animal chiropractic, and in 2012, Dr. Meier was also certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association. Dr. Meier also uses other non-traditional modalities such as Reiki and other energy work to help her veterinary patients heal; she has begun her acupuncture training through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, and is looking forward to being certified in veterinary acupuncture this fall.


What’s Up Doc?

By Dr. Margaret Meier, DVM, CVSMT

Now for most of us this phrase brings to mind one of the most famous cartoon characters of all time, Bugs Bunny, right? We can hear the crunching of his carrot and see his pearly white teeth as he chews in the ear of the once-again-duped Elmer P. Fudd or other Looney Tunes characters like Daffy Duck. For me, however, these words come from my clients as they seek to learn why their beloved companion isn’t in tip-top shape today. In their voice I hear the concern and consternation of not knowing how to help their pet feel better, rather than the sassy sarcasm of Bugs Bunny; and they are looking to me to help “catch that rascally rabbit” of disease that ails their companion. This is where I look to you, the client, for some key elements in the puzzle, and we will work together to resolve the disease in your companion. So today I’d like to share with you five key things to help you help me return your four-legged companion back to feeling his or her best.

When making the appointment for the visit, ask if a stool or urine specimen may be required of your animal, or if fasting is necessary for a blood test. Having this knowledge ahead of the visit can help you be more prepared at the time of the visit. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to collect a specimen prior to the visit. If one may be requested, however, be certain to prevent Fido from emptying his bladder on the walk into the clinic. I’m sure we can all think of a time we emptied our bladders before a doctor visit only to learn we now have to fill the cup. If Fido happens to have a bowel movement outside the clinic, be able to direct one of the staff members to its location—they will be glad to retrieve it for you.

Review with all members of the household when they recall the last time they saw your pet eating and acting normally. What is your pet’s regular diet? Did you recently switch foods? Did the manufacturer recently change the formula of the food? Is it “new and improved”? Did you recently come home to mass destruction of the garbage can? Has there been a change in the household membership? Is there perhaps a pattern that seems to be occurring? For example, I recently had a client come in with the concern of intermittent vomiting in their Labrador retriever. Upon review, we discovered that the problem always seemed to occur approximately two hours after eating a particular treat, which helped us develop a course of therapy.

  1. Bring along all supplements and medications your pet is currently taking, including essential oils. You don’t necessarily need to bring the containers the products come in, but a list of these products can help determine if there may be medication interactions or contraindications of a possible prescription your veterinarian may be considering for the problem at hand. Also, if your pet has recently been to visit another provider, such as a massage therapist, a copy of the work they performed can also provide key insights to the problem at hand.
  2. Don’t be afraid to bring your own list of questions and concerns. As the daughter of a teacher, and a teacher myself, I can never emphasize enough that the only “silly” question is the one left unasked. During the appointment there can be many things that cause distractions that prevent you from asking these questions. Having them written down can help us both be certain these questions and concerns are adequately addressed.
  3. Be able to safely restrain your pet in the waiting area with other pets of various reputations.  Cats are best kept in a carrier but, if you’re in a pinch, I’ve seen laundry hampers and cotton pillow cases work as well. With your dog, keep the flexi-lead locked at a short distance suchas four to six feet or use a short, fixed leash. If neither ofthese is an option for your canine companion, consider an old belt, a purse handle, or use this opportunity to be creative. These restraining devices not only help keep you and your pet comfortable while you wait, they also serve to help keep your pet safe during the car ride to and from the clinic.
  4. Providing the best veterinary care to your four-legged companion is definitely a team efort between you and your veterinarian. You know your pet better than anyone else, and your insights and intuitions on their recent behavior can help your veterinarian determine the solution to the problem at hand.  Scheduling regular wellness visits with your veterinarian can also insure that your pet lives a much longer and healthier life. With one generic dog year equal to seven people years, it is recommended that your pet receive a wellness exam every six months to be screened for dental disease, heart disease, and other hidden health problems only your veterinarian may be able to detect. This bi-annual approach has also been demonstrated to save you substantial money on the lifetime cost of care for your companion.

Dr. Margaret is the owner of Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley in Mondovi and an adjunct instructor at Globe University in the Veterinary Technology department. Dr. Margaret is a certified member of both the American and International Veterinary Chiropractic Associations and is Reiki attuned. She lives on her family’s century farm with her daughter, Emilia, and their menagerie of four-legged companions.