Pets Are Good “Medicine” for Seniors

Did you know that, come this March 2013, anyone age sixty and over can adopt a dog or cat FREE from the Eau Claire County Humane Association (ECCHA)? If you are in that age bracket, here are ten reasons why adopting a pet might be a good idea.

Senior pet owners have better physical health. This includes:

• Lower blood pressure
• Lower resting heart rate
• Lower cholesterol
• Increased activity/improved strength and mobility (walking the dog, playing with the cat)
• More limber arthritic hands from brushing and petting

Some cats or dogs have been known to notice and alert others when their owner is having a seizure or when the owner’s blood glucose drops dangerously low.

Senior pet owners have better mental health. This includes:

• Less loneliness and depression, keeps one’s mind off problems
• An increased interest in life
• Higher level of self-sufficiency
• A constant, non-judgmental, affectionate companionship
• Opportunities and ways to connect with others socially centered around your pet

Pets can contribute to a person’s emotional stability in times of crisis—from personal health problems to the death of a loved one.

If you’d like to bring home a new and healthy-to-you pet, visit the ECCHA today.

Adopters age sixty and over receive free adoption from Eau Claire County Humane Association thanks to Nestle Purina’s Pets for People TM fund. Nestle Purina currently works with more than 160 humane societies across the United States to provide senior citizens free pet adoption. ECCHA provides a temporary home to over 2,200 animals each year. With such a variety, there is sure to be an age, breed, color, size, or species (even rabbits and guinea pigs are available!) that is just right for you.

Green Living for Dogs and Cats

by Melissa Kullman, Master Groomer, Puckabee’s Eco-Friendly Grooming

Many of us have started thinking of ways to make our lives greener and healthier. We cut down on the processed foods that we eat, use products that are chemical free, refuse those products that are tested on animals, and recycle every chance we get. Many of us forget that we need to make healthier, greener choices for our pets too. Our dogs and cats are subjected to many more toxins in their everyday life than you may think.

One of the most important changes you can make for your dog or cat is to remove all chemicals you may use in and around your home. Our pets are exposed to more household chemicals simply because they’re lower to the ground and they’re licking everything. In our homes, they’re breathing in higher doses of toxic floor cleaners, fabric freshening sprays, and carpet cleaners. They’re sleeping on the floors, sniffing everything, eating off of our floors, and nosing through our garbage cans. Not only are they breathing in and rolling around in chemicals, but their feet are in constant contact with them too. Think of how much time your pet spends licking his/her feet and coat, and you’ll understand how important is to remove those toxins that they ingest daily. We also need to eliminate the chemicals that we’re using on the outside of our homes.  In our backyards and gardens our dogs (especially) are rolling through lawn fertilizers, licking up pesticides and sniffing herbicides. This spring and summer, look for organic and chemical-free substitutes to keep your lawn lush and garden growing.

We can also eliminate unhealthy additives and chemicals in our pets’ food! We need to keep a close eye on what’s in our pets’ food just as we do our own. Many dog and cat food companies add fillers like corn and wheat, synthetic preservatives (BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, Propylene glycol), artificial colors and flavors, animal byproducts, and sugars. All of these artificial ingredients lead to so many health problems, including development of allergies, poor digestion, dry skin and coat, hot spots, and increased ear infections, to name a few. Before choosing a food for your pet, read the entire ingredients list and do your research.

Let’s not forget about your dog’s treats! There are as many additives in your dog’s treats as in their foods. Try giving your dog vegetables as a treat. You may be surprised what they actually like. Carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, peas, and bananas are a good place to start (no grapes or raisins). Not only will you be giving your pet a treat filled with vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, but you’ll be giving them a snack low in fat. Try making your own dog treats. Check out “this” recipe for Sweet Potato Chips (you may find that you love them too).

If your schedule does not allow DIY dog treats, check out local dog bakery Woof Naturals (available at Puckabee’s and Just Local Food Cooperative). Woof Natural dog treats are available in a variety of flavors and are free of corn and wheat, and they contain organic ingredients.

Shampoos and perfumed sprays can also be harmful. Some shampoos contain sulfates, parabens, and artificial perfumes that can cause skin irritations and make pre-existing skin problems worse. If you’re bathing your pet at home make sure you purchase a high quality eco-friendly shampoo. Also, talk to your groomer about the products they’re using. Make sure they’re using products that are plant based, cruelty free, biodegradable and chemical free.

We should also be wary of flea and tick spot on treatments. These chemical based treatments are applied to and absorbed into the skin and contain chemicals such as pyrethroids, tetrachlorvinphos, and permethrin. According to the EPA these chemicals are classified as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans”.* Try an herbal spray (dogs only) like Simply Herbs  Flea and Tick spray available at Puckabee’s Eco-Friendly Grooming. Consider planting herbs and plants that naturally repel fleas and ticks in your yard.

All these changes make a huge difference in your dogs health. These health benefits include fewer cancers, better digestion, healthier skin and coat, reduced allergies, and most importantly a happy pet.

* For more information about flea and tick spot on treatments, including signs of posioning from these products visit

Herbal Pain Control for Pets

by Linda Vognar

Herbal medicine is an ancient healing practice: Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal formulas were recorded thousands of years ago. Even today 70 percent of the world’s population uses botanical medicine to cure and alleviate disease. So it is not surprising that plant medicines have also been used by animal caregivers for millennium.

If you have a pet with arthritis, hip dysplasia, or one of the many bone or joint problems that cause chronic pain, your animal friend may be faced with limited mobility and poor quality of life. Plant-based medicines, as well as massage therapy, physical therapy, spinal manipulation and acupuncture may be a gentler, more holistic solution than commercial veterinary pharmaceuticals.

The list of plants that can relieve pain is long: most common remedies include devil’s claw, boswellia, ginger, turmeric, corydalis, yucca and meadowsweet. Some of these herbs can probably be found on your spice shelf!

Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a plant used in traditional African medicine to treat arthritis. The tuber of the plant is used in extracts, decoctions and tinctures. Human studies have shown it to be effective for treatment of low-back pain, where it works to suppress the release of inflammatory substances. Devil’s claw is wild-crafted (harvested from the wild) and is a threatened species in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata), or Indian frankincense, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Found in India, Boswellia is gaining popularity among Western herbalists. The active form is often prepared as an extract of resin collected from the sap of the Indian olibanum tree. Studies show boswellic acids reduce inflammatory markers and improve motion in 71 percent of dogs with arthritis. When used with ashwagandha, another Ayurvedic herb, it has been demonstrated to be as effective in pain control as commonly used Western arthritis drugs (NSAIDS).

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and its sister herb turmeric (Curcuma longa) are kitchen herbs that are often found in Ayurvedic and Chinese medical formulas for arthritis and abdominal pain. Their effects are heightened when combined with boswellia. Tumeric alone has also been shown to be comparable to commercially marketed anti-inflammatory drugs and with no known side effects.

In folk medicine, where it is thought to reduce muscle spasm, corydalis (Corydalis ambigua) is often used to treat back pain, menstrual pain, arthritis pain and traumatic pain. Corydalis root grows throughout the world and can be used as a dried herb, ingested as an infusion (tea), or applied as a tincture. Chinese formulas commonly use this herb in powdered form for pain control.

Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) found in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, is a native remedy for pain. Derived from a desert plant, the stalk, leaves, and root are prepared as poultices or baths for external application. Flowers can be used in salads or boiled and eaten as vegetables. Pods can be roasted or ground into flour for bread making. Yucca is also often dried or made into a tincture to mix into drinks. It has also been added to commercial pet food to produce “odorless” feces!

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is the first plant used for commercial production of salicin, precursor to the common and potent anti-inflammatory aspirin. Meadowsweet is found wild in northern and southern Europe, North America and northern Asia. The flowers, flowering tops and roots can be made into an infusion but should not be given to cats due to their sensitivity to aspirin.

Finally, for best results, all herbal remedies for pets should be used in consultation with trained veterinary herbalists. Herbs are potent medicines, and when you and your veterinarian proactively seek options for pain management, you can improve your animal friend’s quality of life and happiness immeasurably while minimizing or eliminating the side effects of commercial pharmaceuticals.

Linda Vognar, a Chippewa Valley resident, is a veterinarian who specializes in small animal intergrative medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine. A graduate of University of California, Davis and Chi Institute of Chinese Veterinary Medicine, Reddick Florida, she currently sees patients at Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital.  Website:

It’s All Connected!

by Dr. Margaret L. Meier (Radle) DVM, CVSMT, CAVCA, CIVCA

“Veterinrary spinal manipulative therapy (VSMT)? Is that like chiropractic for animals? How come I didn’t know this was available?” These are questions I face every day in my veterinary practice. As readers of Second Opinion, we are all familiar with chiropractic care for ourselves and our beloved family members. However, what many of us don’t realize is that this care is also available for our beloved animal companions.

Animal chiropractic traces its history back to Dr. Sharon Willoughby and the late 1980s. Dr. Willoughby held dual degrees as a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) and a doctor of chiropractic (DC). Dr. Willoughby began to teach fellow licensed veterinarians and chiropractors the science and skills necessary to treat animals with veterinary chiropractic. As the popularity of veterinary chiropractic grew, unfortunately so did the number of people who were taking advantage of the unsuspecting public. These individuals claimed to be veterinary “adjustors” who had little, if any, qualified training. As a result, a certification process was developed by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA), focusing in North America, as well as the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA).

The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association was organized by a collaboration of licensed veterinarians and chiropractors “to ensure the public and the animal chiropractic profession that those candidates who pass written comprehensive and clinical examinations are suitable for certification in the field of animal chiropractic.” The AVCA recognizes four post-graduate programs in animal chiropractic, and these schools are listed on their website. The IVCA “endeavors to establish consistently high standards of veterinary chiropractic through approved educational courses, certification examinations, and the membership code of conduct and standard of proficiency.” Having your animal evaluated by one of these certified professionals is the best way to ensure that your beloved companion receives the best animal chiropractic care possible.

During your animal’s chiropractic examination, the doctor will evaluate many things, including the way your pet walks (gait analysis), the overall health of the nervous system, and the motion and static palpation of the joints of the spine and limbs. During this process, areas of reduced mobility in the spinal column will be diagnosed as a vertebral subluxation complex (VSC) and, if deemed appropriate, an adjustment to this area will be performed. Adjustments must be done to individual joints one at a time. According to the AVCA, “a chiropractic adjustment is defined as a short lever, high velocity controlled thrust by hand or instrument that is directed at specific articulations to correct vertebral subluxations.” These subluxation complexes result in secondary neurologic involvement that decreases the body’s ability to function at optimum levels, resulting in dis-ease.

Some indications for animal chiropractic care include lameness; changes in behavior or the moods of your animal; pain in the neck, back, or tail; injuries from slips, falls, and accidents; and chronic health problems that do not resolve as expected. In my experience as a veterinarian certified by the AVCA, I have treated a variety of animals with varying conditions, including dogs, cats, horses, and cows. I have even treated a guinea pig and a racing pigeon. If you are uncertain if your animal will benefit from veterinary spinal manipulative therapy, I would recommend contacting a certified doctor near you. To help you locate these professionals, the AVCA and IVCA websites include a listing of veterinarians and chiropractors that have been awarded certification by their respective programs.

VSMT, or animal chiropractic, is a manual therapy used for a wide variety of health and performance problems. It is important to remember that this treatment modality is not a replacement for traditional veterinary medicine and surgery. Rather, when used in conjunction with traditional diagnostic tests such as the physical exam, radiographs, and blood work, the best treatment options for the patient can be determined. In addition to conventional and animal chiropractic care; other complementary modalities may be considered, including physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

Dr. Margaret L. Meier (Radle) is a 1996 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, School of Veterinary Medicine. In November 2005, she received her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy from Healing Oasis Wellness Center; and in December 2007, she completed the requirements necessary for certification by the AVCA, of which she is currently a member. Dr. Meier (Radle) became a certified member of the IVCA in December 2011. She currently practices at Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley. Visit She can be reached at (715) 926-3836 during regular business hours.


1. “Veterinary Chiropractic,” Michelle J. Rivera and Pedro Luis Rivera, DVM, Veterinary Technician, May 2000, pp. 301–304.
2.  American Veterinary Chiropractic Association website.
3.  International Veterinary Chiropractic Association website.

Pet-Friendly and Earth-Friendly

Your family gets an A+ in being green and using natural products, but does that include Fido and Fluffy? People leave a large carbon footprint, but dogs and cats also leave a carbon footprint—er carbon pawprint. However, even pet products are going greener all the time. A visit to your local pet store will turn up more and more eco-friendly items for your pet, so you can award your cat or dog with an Earth-conscious treat, or bed, or other product. Here are a few great products to look for.

Double D’s B’s Dog Shampoo Bar

A Wisconsin-made product, this doggie shampoo bar is chocked full of such natural ingredients as cotton seed, olive, palm, sunflower, coconut and castor oil; soy; jojoba; shea and beeswax. Other ingredients include lemongrass, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender and pennyroyal essential oils. Find more on Facebook or call (608) 365-1346.

Purr & Simple Biodegradable Cat Litter

Are you looking for Earth-friendly cat litter? This Purr & Simple litter, made from nutshell byproducts, is low dust and silica free. Best of all, it is biodegradable and, after you clean out the doo-doo, you can add it to your compost bin! Purrfectly biodegradable. See

Harry Barker Bamboo Dog Bowl

Your dog can now eat in style with this bamboo dog bowl, made from sustainable resources such as bamboo fiber and rice husks. If that’s not enough, it’s also lead and cadmium free, so no icky stuff will get into your pet’s yummy din-din or water. Check it out at