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 www.beyondpesticides.org.

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 

Playing it Safe

Spring and Summer is such a great time to have a dog! Who doesn’t love running around outside with your best friend, throwing the ball or a Frisbee; fishing with a wonderful companion; or enjoying a hike through the woods, as your dog explores the underbrush around you?  Just remember, that as great as summer is, there can be hidden dangers to your pet, as well. Dogs have a harder time dealing with heat than we humans.

Remember, they wear fur coats 24/7! And dogs can only cool themselves off by panting and some sweating of the pads.  The best time to exercise with your dog is early morning, or in the evening, when the heat and humidity are lowest. This is especially important for the brachycephalic (smushy-faced) breeds like pugs or bulldogs, because their short noses can sometimes mean it is harder to pant. If you do need to be out in the hottest part of the day, make sure your pet has plenty of water and access to shade. We need to also remember that pavement can get extremely hot, and dogs don’t wear shoes. The pavement that is “hot enough to fry an egg” can burn the pads of your dog’s foot quickly. And, as always, do not leave your dog in the car during the summer. In fact, on a sunny 70 degree day, your car can heat up to over 100 degrees within minutes!

While swimming or boating with your pet, make sure they can swim or are wearing a life jacket.  Most dogs love the water and are natural swimmers but not all of them! Clean your dog’s ears regularly after swimming, to avoid infections.  Even our backyards can be dangerous at times. Many lawns are treated with fertilizers and pesticides during the summer, and dogs will walk on there and then lick their feet, ingesting these possibly toxic chemicals. Pool-owners, keep pool covers firmly in place,and make sure your dog knows where the stairs or ladders are located. Our grills can also be a source of concern. Does your dog long to lick the drip pan? Barbecue scraps and fatty leftovers can give your pup pancreatitis, causing severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Corn cobs and peach pits are also a huge no-no because they can lodge in a dog’s intestines.  Lastly, every night after spending all these wonderful days together, be sure to inspect your pet for ticks. The deer tick can be very small—so look closely! Talk to your veterinarian to decide what the best tick-prevention product is for you, and for your best friend!

Dr. Erin Weiss is a mobile small animal veterinarian, who owns and operates Voyaging Vet and Tech Services with her partner, Patrice Anderson, CVT.  Voyaging Vet & Tech Services is a housecall only veterinary practice, specializing in wellness exams, vaccines, medical services, hospice care and home euthanasia. Dr. Erin lives on a hobby farm in Plum City, with her husband, 2 sons, her dog, and chickens.

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 tick-borne 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 ideal 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)