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.

Q & A with a Holistic Vet

By: Margaret Meier Jones, DVM, CVSMT

As our pet’s age, there can be changes that we notice in their behavior and personalities.  Often, we dismiss these changes as the result of “old-age”, but that is not always the case.  Here are some very frequent questions we address that actually may indicate that your pet has a medical issue that could be treated with the help of your veterinarian.

Why does my 12 year old cat yowl more?  Especially at night?

Vocalization of the older cat can be an indicator of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or arthritis.  And, of these issues, I would say hyperthyroidism is the most common cause for vocalization, especially at night.  Our thyroid glands help us with our metabolism, very similar to how the thermostat helps the furnace work in your home.  With an over active thyroid gland, your cat can find it difficult to relax; and because cas are nocturnal animals, this can be seen especially at night.  Your veterinarian will perform a blood test to determine if an overactive thyroid gland is to blame and discuss treatment options with you that best suit you and your cat.

My older dog is finding it very difficult to climb uthe stairs, even seeming to need a “running start” when he used to bound up the stairs.  Can you tell me what might be the problem?

Difficulty climbing stairs and jumping can be indicationsof arthritis, especially in the hips and elbows.  Arthritis is something that affects dogs and cats, but you may findit more difficult to see in your cat as both sides are oftenaffected equally in cats.  As your pet ages, you may see a gradual slow down in their activity level and this is very often just attributed to age.  However, there are numerous treatment options available today for arthritis, and many of these are non-invasive and very effective.  If you are noticing your pet is a bit slower in it’s daily routine and having difficulty with stairs, please dont hesitate to contact your veterinarian for the best way to help your pet deal with it’s arthritis.  They will often recommend anti-inflammatories,diets high in essential fatty acids, and supplements to improve cartilage health and increase joint fluid. As well as veterinary spinal manipulative therapy and/or veterinary acupuncture.

Is Acupuncture a good treatment option for arthritis?

Acupuncture may be a very viable treatment option for arthritis or other issues your pet is experiencing that are not responding to traditional veterinary treatment methods.  As with people, acupuncture must be administered to your pet by a certified veterinary acupuncturist. It is always best to give your veterinary team a call if you have any questions or concerns regarding changes in your pets behavior and/or activity.  There are numerous treatment options that are available to you and your pet at very affordable prices.

Dr. Margaret was certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 2007 and the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 2012. 

Lawn Chemicals & Canines

Lawn chemicals. To some, these words conjure up images of lush green lawns to lust over. To many of us those words conjure up images of sick pets and children.

We all know that lawn chemicals can cause more harm than good to both our environment AND our pets. One breed in particular has been studied more than many, looking at the damage that lawn chemicals can have. Scottish terriers are 16 times more likely to develop transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder, and research is suggesting that the exposure to herbicides and insecticides is having a dramatic influence on this increase.1

How and why do these chemical affect our dogs? As we all know, our dogs are all inherent hunters. Some of them hunt ants on the sidewalk, while others track moles under the earth in our yards. The routes in which these chemicals enter a dog’s body are ingestion, inhalation, and transdermal exposures. Our dogs walk through our neighbors’ lawns and come home to sit on the couch and lick their paws. They are intent on smelling where that rabbit hopped off to, and inhale deeply. And, even if you are not using these chemicals, it is well known that they can travel in the wind over 50 feet into your lawn. Wind speed is a warning on the application guidelines for herbicides, but this may be unknown to many who apply them.

Keep you dogs safe this spring/summer by avoiding lawns that have been treated and by being overly cautious about wiping off noses, paws, toes, and tails that have been possibly exposed with a damp towel.

Source: Glickman, L., Raghavan, M., Knapp, D., Bonney, P., and Dawson, M. “Herbicide Exposure and the Risk of Transitional Carcinonoma of the Urinary Bladder in Scottish Terriers.”  In Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association. April 15,2004, pp. 1,290–1,297.

Stats to Know:

  • 90 million pounds are applied on lawns and gardens per year.
  • Studies find that dogs exposed toherbicide-treated lawns and gardens can double their chance of developing canine lymphoma and may increase the risk of bladder cancer in certain breeds by four to seven times.
  • Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides: 16 are toxic to birds, 24 are toxic to fish and aquatic oganisms, and 11 are deadly to bees.
  • Pesticides can be toxic to wildlife and cause food source contamination, behavioral abnormalities that interfere with survival, and death.
  • Lawn and garden pesticides are deadly to non-target species and can harm beneficial insects and soilmicroorganisms essential to a naturally healthy lawn.

See more statistics and references at

The Scoop on Food

If you’re like many pet owners, you go into a pet store and stare at the stacks of pet foods and wonder where to even start. You then take a closer look at the packaging and sift through bags of product that boast “all natural ingredients,” “complete nutrition,” “prime cuts of meat,” and so on. While this all sounds like exactly the thing your dog or cat would love, that cryptic list of ingredients on the back probably leaves you feeling less than confident in the product. Here are some essential pieces of information you’ll need to get you and your best buddy on your way.

The best place to shop is at your locally owned pet supply store. The store owners and their employees tend to have a closer relationship with the supplier/food rep, which means a well-educated staff to offer you the best choices for your pet. Local pet supply stores also have the best selection of the quality foods your pet needs that aren’t even available through pet store chains and grocery stores. The best pet food companies are very particular about who sells their product. They want their product well represented by people that are able to educate the consumer.

Start by looking for companies that use human-grade foods that are sourced in the United States. More often than not, dog/cat foods are made of the “left-overs” or the by-products of the human food industry and labeled as unfit for human consumption. What this means is contamination. Grains are littered with molds, mites, and other insects, while meats or animal by-products carry infection and disease. There are far fewer guidelines and restrictions in the pet food industry than in our own. The AFFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) establishes nutritional standards and leaves it up to the pet food companies to be responsible and formulate products according to these standards. However, the AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve, or certify any of these pet foods in any way.

Next, search for a food that is made of ingredients that are appropriate for your carnivore. Accept nothing less than whole meats and vegetables, without grains like corn and wheat (fillers that have no place in your pets diet). Always be on the lookout for other unacceptable ingredients found in your pet’s foods, including artificial dyes, corn syrups and sugar, preservatives like BHA/BHT and ethoxyquin, and propylene glycol (yes, this is found in anti-freeze AND Purina’s Beneful).

So what happens to dogs and cats that are fed these poor quality “foods”? Because dogs and cats are fed the same food day in and day out, their diet does not vary and they are regularly exposed to high amounts of food contamination on a daily basis, which makes them more likely to suffer life-long ailments and disease. This includes things like food allergies from grain proteins (symptoms include dry itchy skin, excessive scratching and licking, chronic skin and ear infections, diarrhea, and hot spots), liver and kidney disease, as well as a variety of cancers.

Here is a quick list of the repeat dog and cat food offenders: Alpo, Ol’ Roy, Iams, Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, Pedigree, Purina, Science Diet, and Tuffy’s. Choose a company that goes above and beyond, offering quality ingredients, like Eagle Holistic, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Fromm, Solid Gold, Wellness Core, Taste of the Wild, or Orijen.

I know what you’re thinking. “Those higher quality foods probably cost more, right?” While you may pay a bit less for a bag of Purina or Iams, you can be sure that you’ll more than make up for the difference in vet bills, steroid shots, medications, medicated shampoos, and the silent suffering of your beloved pet. Feed your pet a diet of junky grains, additives, and diseased meat by-products, and that’s exactly what your best friend will get…a lot of junk (itchy skin, allergies, skin and ear infections) and disease (cancer, liver disease, tumors). When food is concerned, that old adage rings true: you get what you pay for.

Five Nutritional Supplements  for Your Dog Supplements are beneficial for dogs to live a long and happy life. In today’s world there are numerous varieties of supplements to choose from. So how do you know if you are giving your dog the right supplements? Simplifying the wide array of products, there are five essential categories of supplements that every dg should be taking no matter what their life stage.

► A Multivitamin/Mineral

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that your dog’s body requires to achieve optimal wellness and provide nutritional support. Vitamins and minerals found in supplements cannot be manufactured by the body, giving them crucial role to play in maintaining the health of your dog.

► Fish Oil

Fish oils are in important source of omega 3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA. These “good fats” are beneficial because they not only make your dog’s skin and coat shine but also help to strengthen the immune system, nervous system, and keep blood flowing through the heart. It has also been shown that fish oil can help reduce inflammation in the joints. The most common fish oil comes from salmon but pollack, anchovy, and sardine varieties are available.

► Probiotics

Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines and help to control yeast and harmful bacteria. Even though probiotics can be found in the intestines, it is still a good idea to provide added probiotics. Probiotics help improve your dog’s digestion and intestinal health. Think of dogs taking probiotics for the same reason that humans eat yogurt.

► Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are needed to help further break down your dog’s food and other supplements, such as fish oil. This is necessary so the maximum amount of nutrients can be absorbed and utilized for proper digestion.

► Glucosamine/Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are like lubrication for your dog’s joints. They help the joint cartilage maintain a higher water content, allowing it to have an absorbing quality similar to that of a wet sponge. Joint cartilage lacking in glucosamine and chondroitin tends to become brittle like that of a dry sponge, and the chance of arthritis increases. It’s never too late to provide the best for your dog. Pet Food Plus offers an array of supplements to fit the needs of most dogs. Stop in to the store today to speak with our knowledgeable staff to find THE right supplements to fit your dog.

Dr Friedemann, Pet Foods Plus