Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

North American Veterinary Conference

Here are some 2014 North American Veterinary Conference highlights from Orlando

NAVC Decoding-Your-Dog, Steve-Dale

Steve Dale of Pet World

The poster for the book, Decoding Your Dog….The book was the talk of the conference!

Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones (Kindle)

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Pet Events, Pet Health, Pets | 1 Comment

If You MUST Vaccinate, Aim for This Body Part

Story at-a-glance

  • Thousands of cats – from 1 to 10 out of every 10,000 vaccinated – develop vaccine-associated sarcomas each year. This malignant form of cancer is linked primarily to rabies and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccines.
  • Because of the risk of sarcomas at injection sites, it is customary for veterinarians to give feline rabies vaccines in the right rear leg and FeLV vaccines in the left rear leg. The injection sites are below the knee joint so that amputation of the lower part of the leg can provide a treatment option in the event a tumor develops. The majority of cat owners, however, when faced with a VAS on their pet’s lower leg, refuse to amputate to avoid pain, disfigurement, and the costs associated with the procedure.
  • A recent pilot study at the University of Florida suggests that tail vaccinations are a good alternative to rear leg vaccinations in cats. Study results indicate there are no significant differences in the behavior of the cats that receive vaccinations below the knee and in the tail. All but one cat that received the tail vaccines developed protective antibody titers. The researchers concluded that tail vaccination was well tolerated by the cats in the study and was as effective as vaccines injected in the lower rear legs.
  • The researchers believe tail vaccinations could make surgical treatment of vaccine-associated sarcomas easier and less disfiguring, which could in turn encourage more owners to have their cats treated for cancer.
  • Rather than evaluating which body part is best for feline vaccinations, Dr. Becker recommends first focusing on the necessity for the vaccine at all. She offers guidelines to help you make sound vaccination decisions for your cat.

Cat Vaccination

By Dr. Becker

It is estimated that from one to 10 cats out of every 10,000 vaccinated will develop cancer at the vaccine injection site, also known as vaccine-associated sarcoma (VAS). A sarcoma is a type of cancer resulting from changes in connective tissue cells. Feline vaccine-associated sarcoma is a malignant tumor that is primarily associated with two vaccines: the rabies vaccine, and the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine.

For several years, it has been customary for feline rabies vaccines to be given in the right rear leg and FeLV vaccines in the left rear leg. The injections are made below the knee joint so that amputation of the lower portion of the leg can be offered to cat owners as a cancer treatment option. However, many owners of cats with VAS refuse amputation of their kitty’s leg because it’s painful, disfiguring and costly.

Pilot Study Suggests Tail Vaccinations Are Effective and Well-Tolerated

A research team from the University of Florida, Operation Catnip in Florida, Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Kansas State University’s Rabies Laboratory set out to evaluate alternatives to customary vaccine injection sites in the lower legs of cats. The results of their pilot study were published recently in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.1

The researchers surveyed oncology practitioners to learn their preference for vaccination sites based on ease of tumor removal. The preferred sites by 94 oncology practitioners were below the knee (41 percent), and the tip of the tail (30 percent).

Study results also indicated there were no significant differences in the behavior of the cats that received vaccinations below the knee and in the tail. All but one cat that received the tail vaccines developed protective antibody titers. The researchers concluded that tail vaccination was well tolerated by the cats in the study and was as effective as vaccines injected in the lower rear legs.

The researchers believe tail vaccinations could make surgical treatment of vaccine-associated sarcomas easier and less disfiguring, which could in turn encourage more owners to have their cats treated for cancer.

My Guidelines for Vaccinating Cats

As a holistic veterinarian, I’m much less interested in which body parts are best for vaccine injections than I am in determining which vaccines an animal truly needs based on established immunity, age, lifestyle, and other factors. This is especially true of cats, in light of the potential for vaccine-associated sarcomas.

If possible, I recommend you find a holistic or integrative vet to care for your cat. Non-traditional veterinarians are generally very cautious vaccinators. If your cat is strictly an indoor housecat with no exposure to other cats or the outdoors, the risks of annual vaccines far outweigh the benefits, in my opinion.

Ask for a vaccine titer test, which will measure your cat’s immunological protection against diseases for which he has already been vaccinated via his kitten shots. You can’t add protection to an already immunized pet, so don’t keep vaccinating.

If your pet truly needs a booster of a certain vaccine or a vaccine she’s never received, make sure that 1) the vaccine is for a serious disease (this eliminates many on the list immediately), 2) your cat may be in a position to be exposed to the disease (indoor cats have little to no exposure to most diseases), and 3) the vaccine is considered both safe and effective.

If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat (in a high risk category for disease exposure) and must receive a booster vaccine, ask your vet to provide a homeopathic detox remedy called Thuja, which will help neutralize the effects of any vaccine other than the rabies vaccine. Rabies vaccines are required by law. There are two varieties of the same vaccine – the one-year type and the three-year type. Insist on the thimerosal-free, three-year rabies vaccine, and ask your vet about the homeopathic rabies vaccine detoxifier called Lyssin. If your pet is a kitten, ask to have the rabies vaccine given after four months of age, preferably closer to six months, to reduce the potential for a reaction.

If your cat lives entirely indoors, I recommend she not be vaccinated again after a full set of kitten shots in her first year of life. Her indoor-only lifestyle eliminates her risk of exposure to infectious diseases. Keep your unvaccinated indoor cat away from all other cats and your pet’s risk is virtually nonexistent.

Do not vaccinate your cat if he has had a serious vaccine reaction in the past.

Avoid veterinary practices that promote annual or more frequent re-vaccinations. Try not to patronize any boarding facility, groomer, or other animal care service that requires you to vaccinate your cat more than necessary.  

Dog and Cat Vaccines are Not Harmless Preventive Medicine  

The Pets Most Likely to Suffer from Vaccine Adverse Reactions 

Don’t Be Duped By the True Intent of This Media Blitz

January 13, 2014 Posted by | Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | 2 Comments

Could an E-collar Help Settle Your Pet’s Stomach on Car Rides?

Story at-a-glance

  • Just about every cat we know hates car trips, and many show their displeasure by throwing up as soon as the key is turned in the ignition.

  • A veterinarian in Avon, Connecticut made a fascinating discovery when one of his senior feline patients was fitted with an E-collar after a minor surgical procedure. For the first time in his life, the kitty didn’t throw up on the car ride home. Since then, the vet has recommended the E-collar for several more cats and a few dogs, and it has worked to relieve their motion sickness as well.

  • If your pet is prone to motion sickness and you’d like to give the E-collar a try, you can buy one online or at PetSmart or Petco.

E-CollarBy Dr. Becker

I just came across some interesting and potentially very useful information having to do with preventing cats from getting sick during car rides.

As anyone owned by a cat can tell you, very few of our feline friends enjoy a ride in the car. Veterinarians hear complaints all day long from cat-owning clients who dread the drive to and from their appointments.

Not only do kitties despise car rides, many also suffer from motion sickness. You’d be amazed at the number of cats who manage to throw up virtually every time they ride in their owner’s car – even if it’s just a trip around the block.

E-Collars Relieve Motion Sickness in Some Cats and Dogs

Dr. Tom Morganti, a veterinarian with a practice in Avon, Connecticut, had a cat patient who vomited every time he rode in a vehicle. The cat’s owners had long ago resigned themselves to the need to hose out the family car after taking their pet for a ride.

One day, the cat, by this time a senior citizen, underwent minor surgery that necessitated the placement of an Elizabethan collar (E-collar) around his neck so that he couldn’t access the surgical site. For the first time in his life, the cat made the car trip home without throwing up. When his owners brought him back to Dr. Morganti for suture removal, the kitty was still wearing the collar, and he made the return trip without vomiting as well.

Morganti has since suggested E-collars as a treatment for car sickness for more than a dozen cats as well as a couple of dogs, and in each case so far, it has worked.

If you have a pet with motion sickness during car rides and want to try the E-collar trick, you can buy a collar online or at your local PetSmart or Petco. Make sure it’s the lampshade type that reduces peripheral vision (there are many types of E-collars out there, the one that’s effective for motion sickness is the old fashioned type).

Kitty De-Stressors

A few natural products that can be beneficial in helping to calm a frightened and stressed-out cat include OptiBalance’s Stress and Trauma Relief Formula for cats, and Bach flower essences, including Rescue Remedy.

Also, Feliway spray is a calming pheromone product that you can spray in the cat carrier 15 minutes before you put your kitty in it.

Car Sickness & Fear of Riding in Cars 

Natural Pet Remedies For Everyday Problems   

Take the Stress Out of Car Trips with Your Dog

Stress in Dogs (Pets)

January 11, 2014 Posted by | Animal Related Education, Chiweenie, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, pet products, Pets | 2 Comments

Can’t Find a Holistic Vet? Here’s Why That’s About to Change

Story at-a-glance

  • Today, Dr. Becker kicks off a new series of interviews called Highlighting the Healer, in which she will interview holistic veterinarians and practitioners from around the globe. In this first group of interviews, Dr. Becker talks with three veterinary students and two new DVMs about incorporating alternative therapies into an integrative veterinary practice.
  • Dr. Becker first interviews Alli Troutman, a fourth-year student at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Alli’s grandfather was the only veterinarian in a small town in Iowa and he was her inspiration for becoming a vet. Alli will graduate from UW not only with traditional veterinary training, but also with certificates in animal acupuncture and chiropractic. And she already has a job waiting for her!
  • Next, Dr. Becker talks with Danielle Conway, also a UW student, who shares an interesting technique she developed to overcome her squeamishness about surgery. When she graduates from UW this year, Danielle will also hold certificates in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, acupuncture, and veterinary spinal manipulation therapy. The next stop for Danielle will be an internship at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh.
  • The third student Dr. Becker interviews is Joanne Lin of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Joanne shares her fascinating background and the interesting route she traveled that led her to UC Davis and the study of veterinary medicine. After graduation and some time practicing small animal medicine, Joanne’s long-term goal is to open a hospice/rescue sanctuary for animals.
  • Dr. Becker’s fourth interview is with Dr. Rhiannon Fenton, a recent graduate of Western University who has already built a wonderful holistic equine practice that includes training problem horses. And finally, Dr. Becker interviews Dr. Carrie Donahue, who has been practicing integrative veterinary medicine for about three years now. Carrie demonstrates an actual acupuncture session on one of her elderly canine patients.

Video:  Dr. Becker: Highlighting the Healer Series

By Dr. Becker

Today, I’m beginning a new interview series called "Highlighting the Healer," in which I plan to interview holistic veterinary practitioners around the globe. In this first segment, I’ll be talking with three veterinary students – Alli Troutman and Danielle Conway from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, and Joanne Lin from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine — who have elected to incorporate integrative medicine modalities into their repertoire while they are still in vet school. In addition, I’ll also be chatting with two new recently graduated Doctors of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Rhiannon Fenton and Dr. Carrie Donahue.

Interview #1: Veterinary Student Alli Troutman

My first guest is Alli Troutman, who is a senior at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

I asked Alli to explain when and why she decided to become a veterinarian. Alli replied that her grandfather was a vet; actually the only veterinarian for a small town in Iowa. She grew up visiting him at his office and going on occasional calls with him. At just five years of age, she was telling people, “I want to be a vet when I grow up.”

As she reached middle school, Alli was still interested in becoming a vet. She started shadowing veterinarians at clinics in her area. Her interest remained as she entered high school, and during that time she completed a year-long mentorship where she spent an hour a day, every day at a veterinary clinic.

While in college, Alli did more shadowing and worked in the large animal surgery department at UW’s veterinary school. After three years as an undergraduate, Alli applied to the vet school and was accepted.

I asked Alli if she plans to pursue her desire to join a mixed animal practice (one that serves both large and small animals) when she graduates. She replied that she’s definitely open to it. Her acupuncture and chiropractic training involved both large and small animals. Alli says she certainly doesn’t want to rule out a mixed animal practice, but when she graduates, she’ll be living in Milwaukee, and there aren’t a lot of cows in Milwaukee!

Alli Decides to Pursue Training in Alternative Therapies in Addition to Her Regular Vet School Coursework

Next, I asked Alli how she decided while still in vet school that she was interested in incorporating modalities like acupuncture and chiropractic into her career. She answered that although she didn’t know much about integrative medicine before vet school, she was lucky to have an excellent integrative veterinary medicine club at the school. She also had classmates who were very interested in integrative medicine. She decided to attend a few luncheons and lectures, and it was acupuncture that really caught her interest.

Alli and five of her classmates took the Chi Institute course online, which meant they didn’t have to miss much school to complete the course. She says the UW vet school was supportive, even though she and her classmates were viewed as sort of the “odd ducks” of the group.

I’m really glad to hear that Alli’s school was supportive. Twenty years ago when I was in my senior year of vet school, I went to the dean and asked permission to take some non-traditional courses, and it was a really difficult thing to get done, for a number of reasons. Schools offering courses in acupuncture and other alternative therapies typically didn’t accept anyone still in vet school. I also had to fly to attend classes, so it was a big, complicated deal.

Now, 20 years later, there are actually integrative programs in vet schools, which is wonderful. Alternative therapy certifications are easier to attain, and access to non-traditional courses is easier to achieve.

Allie was able to earn her animal acupuncture certification in her third year of vet school. During her fourth year, she attended animal chiropractic courses in Kansas. To get that done, she took what is called an “Other Option Track,” which is a program designed for students whose educational needs cannot be entirely met within the vet school. Alli explained that pursuing her chiropractic certification was definitely far outside the norm for vet school students. She felt acupuncture was much more accepted than chiropractic, probably because the UW School of Veterinary Medicine opened their own acupuncture service a few years ago.

Alli Already Has a Job Waiting for Her With an Integrative Practice After She Graduates

I asked Alli what types of veterinary practices she’ll be looking at after she graduates. Will she want to work for a practice that already practices integrative medicine? Or is she thinking about joining a traditional practice and starting an integrative department?

Alli responded that she definitely wants to work where she can use her acupuncture and chiropractic training. She doesn’t feel it’s even an option to join a practice where she wouldn’t be allowed to use those therapies in her treatment of patients. She says she’s willing to be the first vet in an existing practice to do acupuncture and chiropractic, as long as everyone else in the practice is open to the idea.

I asked Alli if she’s found some practices yet that are open to alternative/integrative modalities and she replied that she has. And in fact, she has been offered – and has accepted – a job upon graduation!

She’s joining a practice that currently offers laser therapy, and they are very excited about adding acupuncture and chiropractic to their list of services. So they are welcoming Alli with open arms!

I think it’s absolutely wonderful that Alli was able to get complimentary therapy certifications under her belt while still in vet school, so she can graduate prepared to hit the ground running at a veterinary practice that wants to take advantage of her integrative approach to medicine.

Alli feels she’s only scratched the surface of the modalities available in integrative medicine. She’s a member of the national board of the student chapter of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) and was able to attend their conference a couple of years ago. She was overwhelmed at the amount of information provided at the conference and it made her want to learn more.

I asked Alli what type of course she’s thinking of taking next, or if she plans to master her acupuncture and chiropractic skills first before picking up a new skill. She replied that what she wants to do and what she probably should do are two different things. She wants to learn more about alternative therapies, but she knows she needs to spend time perfecting her traditional medicine, acupuncture and chiropractic skills first.

With that said, Alli thinks she’d like to study herbals next, followed by a rehabilitation course. I shared that next on my list is to become a certified aromatherapist. For some of us, the learning never stops. We’re driven to learn more so that we can offer more to our patients.

I’m confident Alli will be a true blessing to any community in which she practices veterinary medicine, and I want to thank her for talking with me today and helping me kick off my new series, Highlighting the Healer.

Interview #2: Veterinary Student Danielle Conway

My next guest today is Danielle Conway. At the time I interviewed her, Danielle was just about to graduate from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

I asked Danielle to explain a little about why she decided to become a veterinarian. She responded that she believes she was born with the “vet gene!” She believes every young female feels the need to rescue random critters from around the neighborhood and bring them home. But, Danielle was the squeamish type. Once, while watching a surgery being performed in a barn, she passed out, tumbled into a fire extinguisher and came to surrounded by a green fog! At that point she decided maybe being a veterinarian wasn’t for her.

So Danielle worked in the biotech industry for a while. She got a degree in microbiology and then sort of backpedaled her way into veterinary medicine. She worked for a veterinarian and he said, “You should be a vet.” And so today, she is becoming one!

I asked if working for the vet helped her get over her squeamishness. Danielle said that it did, but she also devised a plan of her own to overcome the problem. She started by watching videos. She made herself focus on the anatomy of the animals in the videos and tried to avoid identifying with the animals themselves and the pain they were feeling.

I think that was an excellent strategy – viewing videos. It’s a way to gradually desensitize yourself to all the sights, sounds and smells of surgery, as well as the emotions it can invoke. Danielle says she’s proof you can get over a problem with squeamishness!

How Danielle Knew Integrative Veterinary Medicine Was In Her Future

Next, I asked Danielle if she was raised in an environment where integrative treatments were the norm. She replied that indeed she was, and went on to explain that she was very ill as a child. There was talk of radical surgery. She was constantly in the hospital with pneumonia that would linger for long periods. Finally, her parents decided, “There’s got to a better option than this. There’s got to be something else out there.” So they took Danielle to a naturopath.

After a few rounds of herbs, homeopathy and acupuncture, she was able to be a normal kid again – play in the mud, have pets, and enjoy a fun quality of life.

I asked Danielle if she went to vet school knowing she wanted to be part of an integrative practice. She replied that she absolutely did, and in fact, that was her goal – to become an integrative veterinarian.

I asked Danielle how she was able to blend integrative training – alternative therapies –with her traditional coursework. She answered that she jumped in right away. Like Alli Troutman, Danielle got involved with the school’s strong integrative medicine club and participated in seeking outside speakers and hosting nutrition conferences. She said it was a good way to reinvigorate herself when she grew tired of memorizing lists of body parts or pathophysiologic processes. She would recharge her batteries by going out and finding the next exciting speaker to come talk to the club at a luncheon or conference.

Danielle found many of the speakers inspirational. There were homeopaths, acupuncturists, rehab specialists, chiropractors, and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. She found herself wanting to do it all, and all at the same time, which wasn’t a realistic goal. So she decided to start with traditional Chinese medicine at the Chi Institute. She began attending in her third year of vet school, and upon receiving her diploma, Danielle will be certified in both traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and acupuncture. She is also a certified veterinary spinal manipulation therapist.

What’s Next for Danielle

I asked Danielle whether she’ll practice with large or small animals, or both, and she answered it will be both. And she’s had opportunity to practice a little bit during her schooling. She did several externships (experiential learning opportunities) during her fourth year, and is grateful to the open-minded professors who allowed her to do some of them in the areas of chiropractic and acupuncture.

I asked Danielle if she has run into professors who were apprehensive or concerned about her interest in alternative therapies. She replied that she’s had some skeptics along the way, but as soon as she’s able to explain what she wants to do and why, they become open-minded enough to let her try.

After Danielle graduates she’ll do an internship at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh. Half the internship will be a small animal rotation and half will be nutrition. After that, Danielle plans to do a residency in nutrition and receive further training in integrative medicine. Which means she has about four more years of school ahead of her!

I want to thank Danielle for talking with us today. I know she has a bright and really wonderful future ahead of her in veterinary medicine. Hopefully we can stay in touch and perhaps do an update interview to see where her advanced training takes her.

Interview #3: Veterinary Student Joanne Lin

My third guest today is veterinary student Joanne Lin, who is in her third year at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Joanne was born and raised in San Francisco. Her parents emigrated from Taiwan.

Interestingly, Joanne says she didn’t grow up with pets. Her mom had a Cocker Spaniel as a child and when the dog died, she was so devastated that she wanted to protect her own children from that kind of sadness. Joanne appreciated her mother’s protective instinct, but on the other hand, she feels she missed out on some great childhood memories and experiences.

Joanne and her sister played with stuffed animals as children. They came up with an imaginary “Animal Land” and made up characters that have stayed with them to this day. She feels Animal Land was probably her inspiration for wanting to care for animals in real life.

Joanne’s Incredibly Diverse Background and Circuitous Route to Veterinary School

I asked Joanne at what point in her schooling she became interested in helping animals. She answered that it was actually a social justice course that got her thinking about medicine and the disparity between people who have access and people who don’t. She wondered how she could help her fellow human beings and fellow living beings live healthily.

Joanne’s major as an undergrad was environmental systems modeling. “I have to say I took a very circuitous route to veterinary medicine,” she says. As an undergrad, she explored a lot of options for her future. She was a cellist growing up, and after undergrad, she stepped away from the sciences and went to The Juilliard School, where she earned a masters degree as a performing cellist. She spent the next 10 years in New York working as a freelance musician.

And it was in New York that she had her first pet. She was walking through a park, and a cat came up to her and wanted to go home, so she took him home with her. He’s been with her five years now.

While in New York working as a musician, Joanne realized that even though she loved what she was doing, there was more she wanted to do. She yearned for something “hands-on” that connected her directly with people. A wonderful friend of hers, Carol, was her inspiration. Unfortunately, Carol is very ill and stays home a lot, but what makes her come alive are her animals. Through her illness and the illnesses of her cats and her bunny, Joanne has had the opportunity not only to help Carol, but also to learn about the power of love.

Carol was also instrumental in showing Joanne, through the care of her animals, about things like homeopathy, essential oils, and Chinese herbal medicines. Through her friendship with Carol, Joanne came to appreciate the more holistic approach that integrative medicine allows.

Joanne’s Vet School Experience and Her Plans for the Future

Unfortunately, once Joanne was in vet school, alternative therapies like those she’d been exposed to through Carol weren’t a part of the curriculum. Vet schools are adamant about teaching “evidence-based medicine,” which is fine because vet students need to learn to practice good medicine. But the only alternative modality even discussed at UC Davis is acupuncture, and Joanne believes even it is somewhat marginalized. And there aren’t actually classes in acupuncture or any of the alternative healing modalities. It’s up to the students to seek out the information for themselves.

Fortunately, there are other resources in the Davis area, like an excellent equine surgeon who attended the Chi Institute, and another veterinarian who treats small animals and exotics.

I asked Joanne if she has any classmates who are also interested in learning skills outside the traditional curriculum. She said most definitely there are. The school has a student-run club, the Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club, whose mission is simply to expose the student body and faculty to different alternative modalities. They try to pick their speakers carefully for maximum impact – without scaring anyone off!

Two years ago, the club was small – maybe three officers and a handful of students. Last year Joanne joined the group, became an officer, and was able to increase membership to around 80. They held a one-day symposium and had over a hundred people in attendance, which was really exciting!

I asked Joanne what her plans are after graduation. She answered that first she wants to solidify her training and become comfortable with Western medicine. She also hopes to attend the Chi Institute. She wants to add acupuncture and herbal medicines to her arsenal of therapies she can offer her patients, and she hopes to intern with various practices in the area.

Joanne says she feels lucky to be in California where many practitioners have started to embrace the integrative medicine approach. She plans to seek out those people and hopefully build relationships that will allow her to learn from their experience.

Joanne plans to work in small animal private practice after she graduates. Her long-term goal, however, is actually to have a hospice – sort of a rescue sanctuary for animals. She envisions having people come into the hospice to help with the animals, especially children and older folks. She believes hands-on experience in nurturing animals is very helpful in teaching responsibility and respect for life, especially for kids. Joanne also feels older people in our society are marginalized, and inviting them to work at the hospice would be her way of recognizing their contributions and giving them an opportunity to help animals, children, and each other.

I think that’s a wonderful idea, and I’m very excited for Joanne’s future. I want to thank her for sharing her story with us and I look forward to watching her evolve in her veterinary career.

Interview #4: New Vet Dr. Rhiannon Fenton

My fourth guest is Dr. Rhiannon Fenton, a recent graduate of Western University who has decided to pursue a career that includes integrative medicine. Rhiannon is an equine veterinarian.

First, I asked Rhiannon to talk a little about her background and why she decided to become a vet. She replied that she was born and raised an only child in Southern California. Her family had a German Shepherd named Magnum, who Rhiannon considered sort of a brother. Whenever Magnum was feeling under the weather, Rhiannon “doctored” him. She says it was very natural for her to want to heal her pet, and when she couldn’t make him better, she felt helpless. Realizing her innate desire to heal animals came easily and early to Rhiannon. She knew as a child she wanted to become a veterinarian one day.

Rhiannon began riding horses at about four or five years of age. She felt an immediate connection with them. She began exercising her neighbors’ horses for free when she was in the eighth grade. She also practiced Tellington TTouch on them. So at just 12 or 13 years old, she was gravitating toward natural healing therapies. And when she witnessed the animals respond to it, it reinforced for her that, “Okay, this is the path I want to go on with.” She knew she had a special connection with horses, and that she could heal them using natural methods. She didn’t have to pump antibiotics, steroids or other drugs into them to help them feel well. Rhiannon also felt a psychic connection with horses. She was able to communicate with them.

Rhiannon Began Building Her Practice and Client List Before Graduation

Rhiannon attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo for her undergraduate studies, and then went to Western University for veterinary studies. She picked Western because the school is non-traditional. It focuses on problem-based learning and lots of hands-on training. Rhiannon wanted to acquire real-life experience during vet school rather than pursuing the usual curriculum and not really getting her feet wet until after graduation.

Western was also close to her home and family. She had two horses with her during both her undergrad studies and vet school. She was able to collaborate with people in the area, find stable arrangements for her horses, and have a great local support system while enduring the rigors of vet school.

Rhiannon is the first Western University graduate I’ve talked to, so I asked her if her school was more receptive to alternative methods of healing than more traditional vet schools. She answered that while in school, she chose not to discuss her ability to intuitively communicate with horses. “You can’t tell everybody you can hear the animals, because they’ll think you’re crazy,” she said. She remembers that there were professors at Western who were open to at least talking about acupuncture, chiropractic, herbs and so forth, but it was never the primary focus. The primary focus was traditional veterinary medicine.

While still at Western, Rhiannon enrolled in a five-month program for animal chiropractic. She also began building her business and website based on what she knew she wanted to do after graduating. She also trained horses and worked with horses that a lot of people wouldn’t touch because they were too dangerous. Rhiannon has the ability to connect with them using natural horsemanship concepts. So toward the end of her vet school education, she was already building a client list and implementing alternative training methods. It all came together for her.

Rhiannon Graduated Vet School Already in Charge of a Growing Holistic Equine Veterinary Practice

Rhiannon has also received certification in spinal manipulation as well as chiropractic. At the time of our interview she was taking acupuncture training for both large and small animals.

She also trained in Reiki during her first year of vet school. Her aunt is a certified aromatherapist, and she helps Rhiannon apply aromatherapy in her practice as well. She even creates special blends for Rhiannon to use with her equine patients.

Rhiannon also does bodywork based on her knowledge of where horses get sore. She did a lot of research – watched videos, and read books from leading experts in the field who have set a precedent for how to heal animals using bodywork.

Rhiannon’s practice is called Vital Equine Holistic Veterinary Medicine and Professional Horse Training. Her services include all those we’ve discussed – chiropractic, bodywork (which includes massage therapy, and stretch and release exercises), Reiki, and aromatherapy. The first thing she does when she arrives to examine a horse is provide the animal with a peace and calming essential oil to get things off to a good start with each patient. She also offers homeopathy, herbal remedies, and intuitive healings.

Rhiannon’s patients are primarily problem horses, though she does do chiropractic and bodywork on some performance horses. But her training is usually with horses that everyone else has given up on.

I asked Rhiannon if she feels incredibly fulfilled in her career so far, and she says she absolutely does. She’s certainly off to a great start and is at a really exciting point in her career. Rhiannon is a great example of someone who entered vet school knowing she wanted to be an open-minded healer. She received her foundational training at Western University, and then began adding alternative healing tools to her patient toolkit.

I want to thank Rhiannon for chatting with us today. I can’t wait to see how her practice unfolds in the coming years!

Interview #5: Dr. Carrie Donahue

My fifth and final interview today is with Dr. Carrie Donahue, who has an integrative veterinary practice in Madison, Wisconsin, which is where we’re chatting today. And this is a really neat place! It’s beautiful, but very quaint. It’s energetically warm and balanced. I asked Carrie how it came to be.

She said it has always been her dream to have her own veterinary practice – to set it up the way she wanted to, and to practice veterinary medicine the way she wants to and the way that best serves her patients.

Carrie has been a DVM for three years, so I asked her if practicing integrative medicine was on her mind when she first graduated from vet school. She answered, “Yes, definitely.” And in fact, even before she went to vet school her dream was to be a holistic veterinarian. Once she was in vet school, she became immersed in her conventional medicine coursework for four years, and it wasn’t until she graduated that she began to seek out alternative therapies and programs. She received her certification in acupuncture after graduation.

Carrie’s Very Special Acupuncture Niche

Carrie has actually developed a kind of specialty acupuncture niche for older animals and those at the end of their lives. I asked her to talk a little about that.

She said that as soon as she began practicing acupuncture, most of the patients she saw were geriatric animals nearing the end of their lives. Her treatment of these patients just naturally evolved into using acupuncture as part of a hospice program. Eventually, Carrie began performing at-home euthanasia as a way to continue that level of care for her patients.

I think it’s a wonderful gift Carrie is offering her patients and their families. Euthanasia is both the hardest and one of the most important jobs veterinarians do, because it relieves suffering. It’s the final gift we can offer a patient – to help the body to return to a state of pure positive energy.

Carrie transitioned from doing house calls to having her own space about six months prior to our interview. She’s a solo practitioner, so I asked her to describe a typical day. Carrie explained that she also still does house calls, so a typical day usually involves several in-clinic appointments and at least one house call. Every day is different, and she never really knows when she gets up in the morning how the day might go.

Many days she’ll get calls for at-home euthanasia in the middle of the day and she adds that into her schedule. She also typically has at-home acupuncture house calls planned. And then she sees patients at her clinic for wellness checkups, bloodwork and that sort of thing. So every day tends to be different, and Carrie really enjoys the variety.

In addition to acupuncture, Carrie is also working with essential oils and herbs, which she researched on her own and learned about from other integrative vets. She’s also thinking about adding chiropractic and perhaps homeopathy to her toolkit.

Carrie’s practice has grown almost entirely through referrals. She does very little advertising, especially recently.

Carrie’s Acupuncture Demonstration

I’d like to thank Carrie for welcoming me into her practice today and spending time talking with us.

The rest of this segment features Carrie performing acupuncture on Loki, one of her senior canine patients.

Loki has some anxiety issues that Carrie feels she can help relieve, as well as do some overall calming with the acupuncture needles. Loki’s mom, Heather, also explained that he’s having some arthritis symptoms, including stiffness, in his hips.

The first acupuncture needle Carrie inserts is right on the top of Loki’s head. In Chinese medicine this is called the permission point, and it always comes first. It’s like an opening to the entire process, and is sort of asking the animal for permission to do the procedure. It’s also a very calming point that triggers a release of endorphins.

The next needle goes into the center midline between Loki’s hips. This is another permission point, and it gets the energy flowing between the two points.

Next, Carrie feels down Loki’s back looking for any spots that are generating heat and she locates additional acupuncture points. The needles are placed along energy pathways called meridians that travel around the body. Placing needles along the meridians removes blockages to the flow of energy and promotes healing.

One of the main meridians is called the bladder meridian, which runs all the way from the back foot, up the leg, up the back, all the way to the eyes. The bladder meridian has association points for all the organ systems in the body.

Next, Carrie will place needles around the hip joints on both sides of Loki’s body. These needles will promote blood flow to the area and relieve inflammation. Another acupuncture point that’s excellent for the hind legs is located right behind the knee.

As Carrie places the needles, she can see that Loki is calming down. One of the most frequent questions she gets is, “Do the animals feel the needles going in,” or “What do they feel when they’re getting the acupuncture?” There may be a mild reaction to the placement of a needle into a very sensitive spot. Sometimes the skin will twitch a bit. But often there’s no reaction at all and patients don’t seem to feel the needles.

Once all the needles are placed, often patients will become more relaxed from the improved energy flow in the body. They may yawn, or their nose will start to drip, or their eyes will grow heavy and they’ll get very sleepy. Those are all signs that the needles are doing their work.

Carrie normally starts with a series of three to four acupuncture treatments, spaced about one to two weeks apart. Typically, there is improvement right away following an acupuncture treatment. Sometimes, however, especially with chronic issues like arthritis that have been developing for awhile, it can take a few treatments before results are seen. That’s why Carrie likes to space them out to start with and see how things go from treatment to treatment. Eventually she can do treatments less frequently, like once every two or three weeks. Many animals get to a point where they only need a treatment once every six months just to keep things balanced and healthy.

Carrie wants to do one more acupuncture point to treat Loki’s anxiety. There’s a point right behind the ears called An Shen, which translates to “calming the shen.” In Chinese medicine, the Shen is the mind. This is one of the best points on the body to address anxiety issues.

As Carrie explains, you can even do acupressure at home on this spot. She also uses it for animals who are coming out of anesthesia after surgery, as it can assist the recovery process.

Loki will sit with his needles in and relax with his mom for about 20 minutes. And that’s an acupuncture treatment!

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Holistic Pet Health, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets | 1 Comment

Don’t Let This Organ Ruin Your Pet’s Life

Video: How to Avoid Pet Pancreatitis

Would you recognize the signs and symptoms of pancreatitis in your cat or dog? Dr. Karen Becker explains why this serious health problem is on the rise, and how to address it using natural methods.

Dr. Becker’s Comments:

Pancreatitis is inflammation of your pet’s pancreas that can disrupt its normal functions. This is often a serious issue, as the pancreas has two vital functions: it secretes insulin, which balances blood sugar, and it secretes digestive enzymes — amylase, lipase and proteases.

Fever, lethargy, dehydration, abdominal pain, anorexia, vomiting and diarrhea in both dogs and cats can all have roots in pancreatitis.

What’s even more interesting about pancreatitis is that inflammation of the pancreas can be very, very mild or it can be extremely life-threatening and even fatal in some cases.

Inflammation of the pancreas is becoming more recognized as a problem in veterinary medicine and in fact brand new research states that up to 40 percent of cats that were autopsied had lesions of pancreatitis. Those cats didn’t die of a pancreatic problem, so we’re recognizing that the pancreas is not only a vital organ but one that may be increasingly prone to injury and damage secondary to other disease processes.

I think the increase in diagnosed cases is partly because vets are beginning to check for it more often, but there seem to be other factors contributing as well.

Why Pancreatitis Occurs

As a holistic veterinarian, I don’t think it’s a fluke or happenstance that the pancreas has become more and more attacked as an organ. We know that the high carbohydrate-based diets that most dogs and cats eat are extremely taxing to pets’ insulin levels, which are, in turn, taxing to the pancreas.

In addition, the foods that we feed our dogs and cats are entirely processed and devoid of natural enzymes, which help supplement your pet’s diet and reduce pancreatic stress. So, the pancreas really may live in a state of chronic inflammation and stress because the average American pet diet is dead (processed at high temperatures to create an extensive shelf life) and is therefore devoid of any naturally occurring amylase, lipase and protease enzymes that would naturally be found in raw foods. The canned or kibble (dry food) diet that you feed your pet causes the pancreas to have to secrete an abundance of digestive enzymes. If the pancreas fails to perform adequately, pancreatitis results.

There are also some drugs that are well known to incite episodes of pancreatitis. For instance, anti-seizure drugs such as Potassium Bromide or Phenobarbital are well known to predispose pets to pancreatitis.

Prednisone and other catabolic steroids are also well known to cause pancreatitis. Even the diuretic Lasix (Furosemide®), has been implicated in pancreatitis attacks in dogs and cats.

However, diet also plays into recurrent pancreatitis episodes. Many cats and dogs eat a diet that is much too high in fat and we know that fat is also an inciting cause of low-grade, recurrent pancreatitis.

Certain breeds, such as Miniature Schnauzers may also have a genetic predisposition to having recurrent pancreatitis, and German Shepherds can be born with pancreatic insufficiency causing enzyme deficiency symptoms from birth.

Pancreatitis Often Recurs

If you’ve been through the nightmare of pancreatitis, you know all too well that number one, it is very scary, and number two, many animals require hospitalization and very intense medical therapy to pull them through the crisis.

What you may not know is that pancreatitis often recurs. You can easily spend thousands of dollars getting your pet stabilized with each occurrence of pancreatitis, and I wish I could tell you that just putting your pet on a low-residue, low-fat diet will eliminate their future risk. Unfortunately, the fact is that many pets end up with recurrent pancreatitis.

Diagnosis of Pancreatitis

Veterinarians diagnose pancreatitis through a blood test called the PLI (Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity) Test. Your veterinarian may suggest that you run a PLI test if he or she suspects your pet may be dealing with pancreatitis.

There are also two pancreatic enzymes, lipase and amylase, that can be elevated on traditional blood work when animals have pancreatitis, but most veterinarians rely on the PLI test for an accurate and quick diagnostic test to determine if your pet has pancreatic inflammation.

What to do if Your Pet Has Pancreatitis

If your pet has failed the PLI, which means the PLI levels are elevated beyond what they should be for your dog or cat, you should seek medical attention — especially if your pet is vomiting, lethargic, dealing with anorexia or has a fever.

After the crisis has passed, the very best “insurance” that you can buy to lower your pet’s chances of having a repeat episode is to supply them with a rich source of digestive enzymes.

We know that dogs’ and cats’ pancreases cannot secrete enough digestive enzymes to adequately process their foods. Dogs and cats were meant to acquire supplemental enzymes from the foods they consumed: living foods that contained abundant enzymes.

Historically dogs and cats consumed parts of their preys’ GI tracts which provided adequate enzymes for them to process their food. Carnivores also consumed their preys’ glands, including pancreatic tissue, which was a rich source of naturally occurring enzymes.

Although we advocate feeding a balanced, raw food diet, we don’t recommend feeding stomach contents of prey species, as this is how parasites can be transmitted to your pets. This means even pets consuming a species appropriate, raw food diet can be enzyme deficient.

By you supplying a source of digestive enzymes in their diet, either by feeding pancreatic tissue (which is unappealing to most pet owners) or a supplement, , you can help reduce the stress and strain the pancreas is under to continually come up with enough enzymes to process t food.

Mercola Healthy Pets is coming out with an excellent pet enzyme that I highly recommend. If you have pets that are dealing with pancreatitis, have dealt with pancreatitis, or if you want to reduce the likelihood of your pet exhibiting symptoms of pancreatitis, adding digestive enzymes to their food at mealtime is a perfect way to help avoid future complications and reduce pancreatic stress.


Pancreatitis in Dogs

Good Diet and Advice for Dogs with Pancreatitis

Can Dogs Eat Nuts?

No-No Foods for Pets

Common Foods That Are Harmful Or Even Fatal to Dogs

Pets and Toxic Plants

More Dogs (and Cats) Getting High, Sick and Fat In States Where Marijuana Is Legal

“Holidays Are Great and Fun To Share With Our Pets, As Long As We Avoid the No-No Foods”

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why I’ve Had a Change of Heart About Neutering Pets

Story at-a-glance
  • Once a huge advocate of spaying or neutering every dog early in life, after being in private practice for a few years, Dr. Becker noticed many of her canine patients were developing endocrine-related disorders. After a conversation with an expert in the field of veterinary endocrinology, Dr. Becker realized her practice of insisting on early spays or neuters for every dog patient had left many of them with serious health problems.
  • Dr. Becker quickly changed her recommendation for her patients from automatic spays or neuters, and the younger the better, to a more holistic approach in which surgeries, including sterilization and de-sexing, should only be performed when there’s a medical necessity. She also believes shelter pets should be sterilized rather than de-sexed (spayed or neutered) in order to preserve their sex hormones.
  • Scientific evidence is mounting that gonad removal can deliver serious consequences to a dog’s future health. Among those consequences: shortened lifespan, atypical Cushing’s disease, cardiac tumors, bone cancer, abnormal bone growth and development, CCL ruptures, and hip dysplasia.
  • Options to traditional full spays and neuters are hard to come by both in the U.S. and Canada, because veterinary schools don’t teach alternative sterilization procedures. Fortunately, we’re slowly waking up to the fact that spaying and neutering – especially in very young animals — are creating health problems that are non-existent or significantly less prevalent in intact pets.
  • Ownership of an intact dog, male or female, is not for everyone. It takes time, effort, vigilance, and often, a thick skin. Dr. Becker discusses the ins and outs of owning an intact male or female dog and the steps necessary to prevent pregnancy.
  • For those who are up for the ownership of an intact dog, or even a pair, it can be an amazing experience! (JOMP)

Video: Dr. Becker on the Truth About Spaying and Neutering

By Dr. Becker

Whenever I discuss scientific evidence related to the health risks of spaying and neutering here at Mercola Healthy Pets or on my Facebook page, I receive a lot of negative feedback from people who are absolutely certain I’m encouraging pet overpopulation and irresponsible pet ownership. So, I decided to make a video to explain to those who are standing in judgment why nothing could be further from the truth.

I Was Once a Huge Advocate of Spaying or Neutering Every Dog at an Early Age

I started volunteering at an animal shelter when I was 13 years old. I started working there when I was 14. I cleaned cages. By the time I was 17, I had become certified as a euthanasia technician by the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. The ten years I spent working at a kill shelter and the exposure to certain clients and cases in my veterinary practice over the years have taught me more than I ever wanted to know or could share in this video about abused, neglected, and unwanted pets.

When I first opened my animal hospital, I was so adamant about my clients spaying their female pets before the first heat cycle, that if they didn’t follow my advice, I really became upset. I tried not to show it outwardly, but I suggested that those clients might be more ethically aligned with another veterinarian who didn’t feel as strongly about the subject as I did.

That was my politically correct way of saying, “Maybe you should go to another vet,” because I would literally lose sleep over having intact patients in my practice. I spayed and neutered thousands of my patients when they were very, very young, assuming I was completing my moral task as an ethical veterinarian.

Five Years into Private Practice, Many of My Canine Patients Began to Develop Endocrine Imbalances and Related Diseases

About five years after my practice opened, many of my patients started to develop endocrine issues. This was obviously very concerning to me, as these animals were not over-vaccinated. They were all eating biologically appropriate, fresh food diets.

The first light bulb went off in my head when I started researching why up to 90 percent of ferrets die of endocrine imbalance, specifically adrenal disease or Cushing’s disease. Mass-bred ferrets that enter the pet trade are desexed at about three weeks of age. The theory behind why most ferrets develop endocrine imbalance is that juvenile desexing creates a sex hormone deficiency, which ultimately taxes the last remaining tissues of the body capable of producing a small amount of sex hormone – the adrenal glands. So I began to wonder… could the same phenomenon be happening with my dog patients?

By 2006, the number of dogs I was diagnosing with hypothyroidism was at an all-time high. Diagnosing low thyroid levels is very easy compared to the complex adrenal testing required to show that a dog has adrenal disease. I started to wonder if hypothyroidism was just a symptom of a deeper hormonal imbalance in many of my patients. Because even after we got those thyroid levels balanced, the dogs still didn’t appear to be vibrantly healthy or entirely well.

I contacted Dr. Jack Oliver, who ran the University of Tennessee’s adrenal lab, and posed my theory to him. I was stunned when he told me that indeed adrenal disease was occurring at epidemic proportions in dogs in the U.S. and was certainly tied to sex hormone imbalance. Now, whether veterinarians were testing and identifying the epidemic was a whole different story.

In a Flash of Recognition, I Knew My Insistence on Desexing All My Patients at a Young Age Had Created Serious Health Problems for Many of Them

At this point, I became overwhelmed with guilt. For many years, I insisted my clients follow my advice to spay or neuter their pets at or before six months of age. It hit me like a lightning bolt that I was making this suggestion not based on what was physiologically best for my patients, but rather what I felt was morally best for their owners.

As all of the patients that I desexed at a young age cycled through, many of them with irreversible metabolic diseases, I started apologizing to my clients. I apologized to my patients as well. Through my blanket recommendation that all pets be desexed because humans may be irresponsible with an intact animal, I had inadvertently made many of my patients very ill. As a doctor, this revelation was devastating.

I began changing my recommendations on spaying and neutering. I advised my clients to leave their pets intact. Now, you must realize my veterinary practice is filled with wildly committed owners. I am not dealing with uneducated, uncaring, or unreliable clients.

Of course, there were and are exceptions to my advice against desexing. But in general, my recommendation as a holistic vet is to perform any surgery – including spaying and neutering – only when it’s a medical necessity and not an elective procedure.

I recently adopted a stray Dachshund who is intact, and I plan to leave him intact. I am an intact female myself. I am proud to say that I have not experienced a single unplanned pregnancy in my personal life or in my career at my practice as a holistic vet catering to thousands of intact animals.

If you are an irresponsible pet owner who allows your intact pet outside without a leash and direct supervision, this video is not for you. Please sterilize your pet before allowing him or her outside again, as you are contributing to the overpopulation problem. Please rethink how you care for your pet, or consider not having pets.

My Views on Sterilization of Shelter Pets

The subject of spay/neuter is a huge one, and if I were to attempt to cover every aspect of it, this video would be three hours long. Suffice it to say that until we get our nation’s shelter systems revamped, animals will continue to be spayed as juveniles. For now, that’s that. We won’t change anything with this video. Are we pushing for shelter vets to learn ovary-sparing techniques that allow for sterilization without sex hormone obliteration? Yes. But for now, that isn’t happening.

I could have made a dozen different choices in my professional career that would have been satisfying, including being a shelter vet. If I were a shelter vet right now, I would be pushing for sterilization techniques that preserve normal endocrine function. I chose the path of a wellness veterinarian because that resonated the most with my personal goals in life. As I’ve explained, I’ve made many mistakes. I’ve apologized directly to the owners and the dogs that I desexed as puppies before I knew any better.

I am as committed as ever to preventing and treating illness in individual family pets. I’m not, however, advocating the adoption of intact animals to people who may or may not be responsible pet owners. Shelter vets don’t have the luxury of building relationships with their adoptive families, so all the animals in their care must be sterilized prior to adoption. I totally agree with this. I don’t necessarily agree with the method of sterilization being used.

Why I Believe Sterilization, Not Desexing, Is the Better Option

As a proactive veterinarian, I have dedicated my life to keeping animals well. I have learned and continue to learn the best ways to help pets stay healthy and the reasons disease occurs. I am also a holistically oriented vet, which means I view animals as a whole – not just a collection of body parts or symptoms.

I believe there is a purpose for each organ we are born with, and that organ systems are interdependent. I believe removing any organ – certainly including all the organs of reproduction – will have health consequences. It’s inevitable. It’s simply common sense.

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that desexing dogs, especially at an early age, can create health and behavior problems. When I use the term “desexing,” I’m referring to the traditional spay and neuter surgery where all the sex hormone-secreting tissues are removed. When I use the term “sterilization,” I’m referring to animals that can no longer reproduce, but maintain their sex hormone-secreting tissues.

In my view, I would not be fulfilling my obligation as an animal healthcare professional if I chose to ignore the scientific evidence and not pass it on to Healthy Pets readers and the clients at my practice who entrust me with the well being of their animals.

Health Issues Linked to Spaying and Neutering Dogs

Before I discuss some of the health issues now associated with desexing dogs, first let me point out that there are two medical conditions that actually can be totally eliminated by desexing: benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH (enlarged prostate), and pyometra (a disease of the uterus). However, a wealth of information is mounting that preserving innate sex hormones, especially in the first years of life, may be beneficial to pets, whereas the risk of pyometra or BPH in an animal’s first year of life is incredibly low.

Recent research has also discredited a couple of myths about the supposed benefits of early spays and neuters, including:

  • A study from the U.K. suggests there isn’t much scientific evidence at all to support the idea that early spaying of female dogs decreases or eliminates future risk of mammary tumors or breast cancer. This has been a much promoted supposed benefit of early spays for decades. But as it turns out, it’s based on theory rather than scientific evidence.
  • Similar to the situation with early spaying and mammary tumors, there’s a common belief that neutering a male dog prevents prostate cancer. However, a small study conducted at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine suggests that neutering – no matter the age – has no effect on the development of prostate cancer.

And now for some of the disorders and diseases linked to spaying/neutering:

Shortened lifespan. A study conducted and published in 2009 by the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation established a link between the age at which female Rottweilers are spayed and how long they live. Researchers compared long-lived Rotties that lived for 13 years or more with those who lived a normal lifespan of about 9 years. They discovered that while females live longer than males, removing the ovaries of female Rottweilers before five years of age evened the score. Females who kept their ovaries until at least 6 years of age were four times more likely to reach an exceptional age compared to Rotties who were spayed at a younger age.

I spayed my rescued Rottie, Isabelle, when I adopted her at seven years of age. She lived to be 17, and she was still unbelievably vibrant at 17. She slipped on the floor in a freak accident and became paralyzed, which ultimately led to her euthanasia. But she was the oldest and healthiest Rottweiler I have ever met.

With Isabelle, I provided literally no medical care because she didn’t need it. Her body naturally thrived throughout her life. I fed her a balanced raw diet. I checked her bloodwork every six months, which was perfect until the day she died. Isabelle was a great example of a thriving pet that lived above the level of disease. I believe her sex hormones greatly contributed to her longevity and her abundantly healthy life.

Atypical Cushing’s disease. It’s my professional opinion that early spaying and neutering plays a role in the development of atypical Cushing’s disease as well. Typical Cushing’s means the middle layer of the adrenal gland is over-secreting cortisol. Atypical Cushing’s involves the outer and innermost layers of the adrenal glands and occurs when other types of hormones are over-produced, usually estrogen and progesterone.

When a dog is spayed or neutered before puberty, the endocrine, glandular and hormonal systems have not yet fully developed. A complete removal of the gonads, resulting in stopping production of all the body’s sex hormones (which is what happens during castration or the traditional spay), can force the adrenal glands to produce sex hormones because they’re the only remaining tissue in the body that can secrete them.

Over time, the adrenal glands become taxed from doing their own work plus the work of the missing gonads. It’s very difficult for these tiny little glands to keep up with the body’s demand for sex hormones. This is the condition of atypical Cushing’s. Hormone disruption is a central feature in Cushing’s disease. Any substance or procedure that affects the body’s hormonal balance should be absolutely evaluated as a potential root cause.

Cardiac tumors. A Veterinary Medical Database search of the years 1982 to 1985 revealed that in dogs with tumors of the heart, the relative risk for spayed females was over four times that of intact females. For the most common type of cardiac tumor, hemangiosarcoma, spayed females had a greater than five times risk vs. their intact counterparts. Neutered males had a slightly higher risk than intact males as well.

Bone cancer. In another Rottweiler study published 10 years ago for both males and females spayed or neutered before one year of age, there was a one in four lifetime risk of developing bone cancer. Desexed Rotties were significantly more likely to acquire the disease than intact dogs. In another study using the Veterinary Medical Database for 1980 to 1984, the risk of bone cancer in large-breed, purebred dogs increased two-fold for those dogs that were also desexed.

Abnormal bone growth and development. Studies done in the 1990s concluded dogs spayed or neutered under one year of age grew significantly taller than non-sterilized dogs or those dogs spayed or neutered after puberty. The earlier the spay or neuter procedure, the taller the dog. Research published in 2000 may explain why: it appears that the removal of estrogen-producing organs in immature dogs – both females and males – can cause growth plates to remain open. These animals continue to grow and wind up with abnormal growth patterns and bone structure. This results in irregular body proportions, possible cartilage issues, and joint conformation issues.

Higher rate of CCL ruptures. A study conducted at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center on cranial cruciate ligament injuries concluded that spayed and neutered dogs had a significantly higher incidence of rupture than their intact counterparts. While large-breed dogs had more CCL injuries, sterilized or desexed dogs of all breeds and sizes had an increased rupture rate.

Hip dysplasia. In a retrospective cohort study conducted at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, results showed that both male and female dogs sterilized at an early age were more prone to hip dysplasia.

Breed-specific effects of spay/neuter. A recent study conducted at the University of California Davis involving several hundred Golden Retrievers revealed that for the incidence of hip dysplasia, CCL tears, lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors, the rates were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered or spayed compared with intact dogs.

Other health concerns. Early spaying or neutering is commonly associated with urinary incontinence in female dogs and has been linked to increased incidence of urethral sphincter incontinence in males.

Spayed or neutered Golden Retrievers are much more likely to develop hypothyroidism.

A cohort study of shelter dogs conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University concluded that infectious diseases were more common in dogs that were spayed and neutered at under 24 weeks of age.

The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation issued a report pointing to higher incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in spayed and neutered dogs as well.

Among the reports and studies pointing to health concerns associated with early spaying and neutering, we also find mention of increased incidence of behavior problems, including noise phobias, fear behavior, aggression, and undesirable sexual behaviors.

Options to Traditional Spaying and Neutering

Veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada are trained only to spay and neuter, which is unfortunate since there are less invasive alternatives, such as tubal ligation, hysterectomy, and vasectomy. These techniques are quick and easy and certainly effective. In fact, commonly, once the technique is mastered, they’re faster, less risky and potentially less costly than a full spay or neuter.

But unfortunately, nobody knows how to do them in this country. The reason they’re hard to come by is because U.S. veterinary schools simply don’t teach these alternative procedures. They’ve never had a reason to. And until pet owners start demanding sterilization options beyond spaying and neutering, the status quo will remain.

As author Ted Kerasote and I have discussed on numerous occasions, in many European countries, there are intact free-roaming dogs running about under voice control of their owners. When female dogs go into heat, owners simply manage the situation by removing them from group social events until their heat cycle is complete. They’re kept at home, sequestered away from males. They’re walked on a leash.

Ted tells the story of a British veterinarian he interviewed who said most of the requests he gets to neuter dogs come from U.S. and Canadian citizens who are living in London. Rather than immediately complying with the request, the veterinarian talks with the pet owner about the actual necessity to desex the dog. For example, if the dog is always on a leash and always under the owner’s control, then how exactly would the dog become pregnant (or mate with a female) if it’s constantly with the owner and never off leash? The veterinarian says that he rarely has a British pet owner request a spay or neuter procedure.

Most Americans can’t even comprehend that it’s possible to keep intact pet dogs and not have millions of litters of unwanted puppies. That’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe that a responsible pet owner means spaying and neutering your dog. I was taught to believe the same thing — that keeping an intact pet was considered irresponsible even if the owner is meticulously careful about not allowing the pet to breed.

Of course, our dependence on spaying and neutering as the only form of birth control is the result of generations of irresponsible pet owners and millions of unwanted dogs and cats that are killed annually in our animal shelters.

It is a vicious cycle, and it’s a very frustrating cycle to witness. Irresponsible people need to have sterilized pets. No one’s going to argue that point. Unfortunately, spaying and neutering responsible people’s pets doesn’t make irresponsible people any more responsible. They remain the root cause of the overpopulation crisis in this country.

My problem with the spaying and neutering issue is it’s the only current solution to the overpopulation problem. We’re not just halting the animal’s ability to reproduce, we are also removing incredibly valuable sex hormone-secreting tissues like the ovaries and the testes. These organs serve a purpose.

We’re slowly waking up to the fact that in our rush to spay or neuter every possible animal we can get our hands on – the younger, the better – we are creating health problems, sometimes life-threatening health problems, that are non-existent or significantly less prevalent in intact pets.

Responsible Ownership of an Intact Female Dog

First of all, you should know that not everyone is cut out to be the owner of an intact male or female dog. Part of the popularity of full spays and neuters vs. other means of sterilization is that it’s just plain convenient for pet owners. Not only do spays and neuters render the animal unable to reproduce, but they also remove all of the messiness of female heat cycles and most of the pet’s key mating behaviors for both sexes.

Female dogs don’t have monthly periods like humans do. They have one, or usually two heats a year. You can typically tell a female heat cycle is on its way when your intact female’s vulva begins to enlarge. Just like humans there’s bleeding involved, but unlike human females who are not fertile during menstruation, dogs are just the opposite. Female dogs can get pregnant only during heats for about three to four days as unfertilized eggs ripen in their bodies.

Some dogs will signal during this time by flagging, which means lifting the tail base up and to the side. Some females will stand and can be mounted at any time during their heat cycle, including before and after they’re pregnant or fertile. Others show no behavior signs whatsoever. Owners of intact female dogs must be certain of the signs of heat in their pets, so that they can separate them from male dogs during this important time.

Never underestimate the determination of an intact male dog that wants to mate with a female dog in heat. I’m telling you, if you have a female dog, male dogs will come visit her from across a tri-state area because she’s putting out some very attractive pheromones.

With proper training, reinforcement, and constant supervision, however, male dogs can learn to be in the presence of a female while supervised, even when she’s in heat, without mating. Some people with both an intact male and female don’t want to put the effort into managing male dogs around cycling females and simply ship them off to a friend or relative’s house until the heat cycle is over.

If you have a female dog in heat, you should never leave her outside alone even for a second. It doesn’t matter if you have a fenced-in yard. If there’s an unsupervised male around, there’s absolutely a risk of impregnation through the fence (or over the fence, or under the fence).

The heat cycle of a female dog lasts about three weeks, but the menstrual bleeding can be unpredictable during that time. It’s neither consistently heavy nor is it every day, all day. Many owners of intact female dogs invest in special diapers or panties that can hold a sanitary napkin to contain the discharge.

At my house we just get a baby gate, and we gate our special lady of the month in the kitchen area. We put a dog bed in there, and then we just mop a couple of times a day. Typically, female dogs are incredibly good at keeping themselves very clean. Most of the time, there’s very little mess.

Responsible Ownership of an Intact Male Dog

Intact males should receive positive reinforcement behavior training to stop urine marking in the house as well as any humping behavior that may occur.

The intact, male, adult Dachsie we just rescued – his name is Lenny – became Lenny Loincloth after a few days in our house for obvious reasons. He acquired his last name because he marked absolutely every corner of every piece of furniture we own. To reduce this totally undesirable behavior and reinforce healthy housebreaking, we put a belly band on him. We call it his loincloth. It’s a little diaper that holds his penis to his abdomen. Dogs innately do not want to urinate on themselves; they want to pee and mark on objects. By belly banding him, we reinforce good behavior like going potty outside and not marking in the house. I’m proud to say that in one month’s time, we’ve really helped him kick his marking habit for the most part.

Constant positive reinforcement was really necessary with Lenny, as it is with all dogs. We also discovered the first day Lenny was in our house that he liked to hump everything in sight. He preferred humping pillows and dog beds. We simply picked those pillows and dog beds up. We didn’t give him access to objects that tempted his undesirable behavior. He hasn’t humped anything in three weeks. So there are ways to positively reinforce good behavior and extinguish negative intact male dog behaviors if you put in the effort.

Your unneutered male should never be off-leash unless you are absolutely sure you won’t run into an intact female dog or he’s under constant voice control around all dogs. You also need to be in control of your dog while he’s leashed. If your intact male or female dog is able to jerk away from you when he or she gets excited, then your dog is not under your control despite the leash.

I recommend positive reinforcement behavior training for all dogs, especially intact dogs. And it’s an absolute necessity for powerfully built, intact male dogs. Remaining in obedience class for a dog’s first 16 months of life is an excellent foundation for good manners for the rest of his life.

If your dog becomes assertive, desexing (a full neuter) can be an important part of managing long-term behavior issues. Again, in this instance, if you have an aggressive dog, we must evaluate the risks vs. benefits. The health benefits of leaving a temperamental dog intact do not outweigh the greater risk of this aggressive animal being re-homed, dumped, or abused – or hurting another animal or human. With behavior issues, spaying or neutering can be a logical choice. It’s better to have endocrine disease but be in a loving home, than be disease-free but dumped at a kill shelter for a behavior problem.

Keep in mind that out in the world, at least in North America, you and your intact dog will not have a whole lot of company in this day and age. You won’t be able to take your dog everywhere a spayed or neutered dog is allowed to go. If your dog is a male, prepare to deal with plenty of prying questions and even anger from people who will pre-judge you as totally irresponsible.

When Lenny sees people, he flops on his back and says, “Hello, hello, hello!” Everyone’s comment is, “What are those?” And then “When are those coming off,” pointing to his testicles.

What About My Cat?

Luckily, thus far, research has shown that our feline companions don’t have the same negative long-term physiologic consequences associated with desexing that plague our canine population. We may identify potential links in the future, but thus far, it appears our canine companions are more negatively affected by spaying or neutering.

I made this video so you could understand why I no longer take a cookie-cutter approach to desexing all juvenile pets. The decision to sterilize, spay, or neuter your pet, at what age, and with what technique is a very personal decision that is based on your dog’s breed, temperament, personality, and your commitment to training, lifestyle management, and responsible pet ownership.


Life in a Dog Pack: Old Age

‘Until One Has Loved an Animal, Part of Their Sour Remains Unawakened’

‘Zeutering’ offers dog sterilization in a ‘shot’

Urinary and Fecal Incontinence in Pets

An Alternative to Surgery to Sterilize Male Dogs

Early Neutering: We’ll Call This Myth Busted…

Pet Sterilization Laws Raise Health Concerns

Caring for Pets Before, During and After Anesthesia

Illegal in Scandinavia, Surgical Sterilization Is Still Routine in America

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pet Alzheimer’s Disease – Is Your Dog or Cat Showing Signs?

Story at-a-glance
  • As your pet ages, he can develop canine or feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is a degenerative brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. Studies show 40 percent of dogs at 15 have at least one symptom, as do 68 percent of geriatric dogs. About half of all cats 15 or older also show signs of cognitive decline.
  • Veterinary behaviorists are speaking out about the need for vets to monitor behavior in older pets just as they do other body systems. The earlier a cognitive problem is recognized, the earlier intervention can begin, giving pets more quality time with their families.
  • Cognitive dysfunction is not “normal aging.” Diagnosis of the disease is a diagnosis of exclusion, since many health conditions in older pets have symptoms that mimic those of cognitive decline.
  • A balanced, species-appropriate diet, exercise, mental stimulation and environmental enrichment are basic tools for pet owners who want to help their dog or cat stay mentally sharp.
  • There are also several supplements that can be beneficial for older pets, including SAMe, coconut oil, resveratrol, ginkgo biloba, and phosphatidylserine.

Aging Pet

By Dr. Becker

Unfortunately, just like people, dogs and cats also develop degenerative brain diseases known as canine or feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome. But unlike humans, often the signs a pet is in mental decline go unnoticed until the condition is so advanced there’s little that can be done to turn things around or at least slow the progression of the disease.

Often, even an animal’s veterinarian is unaware there’s a problem because he or she doesn’t see the pet that often and always in a clinical setting vs. at home. In addition, according to Dr. Jeff Nichol, a veterinary behavior specialist in Albuquerque, NM, many DVMs aren’t aware of just how common cognitive dysfunction syndrome is. Vets assume pet parents will tell them when an older dog or cat is experiencing behavior changes, while owners assume the changes are just a natural part of aging.

In a large Australian study published in 2011 on canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD),1 scientists at the University of Sydney reported that about 14 percent of dogs develop CCD, but less than 2 percent are diagnosed. In addition, the risk of CCD increases with age — over 40 percent of dogs at 15 will have at least one symptom. Researchers also estimate the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction in geriatric dogs at 68 percent.

In a study also published in 2011 on cognitive decline in cats,2 a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Hospital for Small Animals estimated that a third of all cats between 11 and 14 years of age have age-related cognitive decline. That number increases to 50 percent for cats 15 years and older.

Are You Discussing Your Pet’s Behavior Changes with Your Vet?

Veterinary behaviorists are beginning to speak out about the need for vets to monitor behavior in older pets just as they do other body systems. According to Dr. Marsha Reich, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior:

“Just because he’s getting old doesn’t mean that we just stand on the sidelines and let him get old. There are things we can do to intervene and improve the dog’s ability to function and improve its quality of life.”

Dr. Gary Landsberg, a veterinary behaviorist in Ontario, Canada, agrees. "This is critical. Early recognition allows for early intervention,” he says.

One of the challenges for vets is that older pets often have multiple health conditions that must be managed, and behavior issues – when addressed at all — often take a back seat. This is especially true for DVMs who expect pet parents to make a separate appointment to discuss behavior changes they’ve noticed in their dog or cat. Typically by the time that happens, if it happens at all, it’s too late.

Animal behavior experts would like to see vet clinic staff give owners a behavioral questionnaire to complete before the dog or cat is taken to the examination room. (Questionnaires could even be emailed to pet owners a day or two before a scheduled appointment.) The vet can then quickly scan the questionnaire to see if there’s a need to discuss changes in an animal’s behavior with the owner.

The questionnaires, if done routinely, also provide a history both the vet and pet owner can refer to as the dog or cat ages.

At my practice, we have clients complete a “Catching Up” form every 6 months at their wellness exam, which covers any new behaviors that may have developed over the past months since their pet’s last exam.

Your Pet’s Mental Decline Has a Physical Cause

Cognitive dysfunction presents as a psychological problem, but the root cause is actually physical and is the result of age-related changes within the brain.

Dogs’ and cats’ brains age in a similar fashion and undergo oxidative damage, neuronal loss, atrophy and the development of beta-amyloid plaques. These ß-amyloid plaques are also seen in human Alzheimer’s sufferers.

According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, professor and program director of animal behavior at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, “normal aging” does exist. Some features of cognitive function do decrease with age, but cognitive dysfunction of the type seen in Alzheimer’s disease is not normal.

While canine dementia isn’t exactly the same disease as Alzheimer’s in people, the development of ß-amyloid plaques in pets results in confusion, memory loss, and other symptoms related to mental function. And the condition can come on and progress very rapidly.

Diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction in a pet is a diagnosis of exclusion. There are many conditions older animals acquire that mimic the signs of cognitive decline, so it’s important to rule out all other physical reasons for a change in behavior. For example, a small seizure can cause a pet to stand still and stare. If your pet seems detached, he could be in pain. Inappropriate elimination can be due to kidney disease. These disorders and many others can result in a change in behavior unrelated to cognitive decline. That’s why it’s so important to rule out all possible alternative reasons, especially in aging pets.

It’s also important for your vet to review any medications your dog or cat is taking. Older animals metabolize drugs differently than younger pets, and if a dog or cat has been on a certain medication for years, it’s possible it is having a different effect as he gets older.

And keep in mind your aging kitty may need a more accessible litter box, and an older dog may need more trips outside to relieve herself.

How to Help Your Aging Pet Stay Mentally Sharp

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your aging pet maintain good mental function for as long as possible, and delay the onset and progression of cognitive decline.

  • The foundation for good health and vitality for pets of any age is a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. Your pet’s diet should include omega-3 essential fats, such as krill oil, which are critical for cognitive health. Your pet’s body needs an ideal energy source to promote the processes of metabolism, growth and healing. That perfect fuel — especially for aging pets — is a healthy variety of fresh, living food suitable for your carnivorous cat or dog.
  • Keep your pet’s body and mind active with regular exercise appropriate for your pet’s age and physical condition, and mental stimulation (puzzles and treat-release toys can be beneficial). Make sure your dog has opportunities to socialize with other pets and people. Think of creative ways to enrich your cat’s indoor environment.
  • Provide your pet with a SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplement as a safe and effective way to stall or improve mental decline. Consult your pet’s veterinarian for the right dose size for your dog or cat. There are also commercial cognitive support products available.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older pets. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support.
  • Other supplements to consider are resveratrol (Japanese knotweed), which protects against free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits, ginkgo biloba, gotu kola and phosphatidylserine – a nutritional supplement that can inhibit age-related cognitive deficits. Consult a holistic veterinarian for dosing guidance.
  • Cats are often nocturnal throughout their lives, but older dogs can develop problems sleeping at night. They tend to sleep all day and stay awake all night, pacing, making noise, and feeling anxious and uncomfortable. Behaviorists recommend melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect, but also an antioxidant. I also use Rhodiola, chamomile and l-theanine in both cats and dogs with excellent results.
  • Keep your pet at a healthy size – overweight dogs and cats are at significant increased risk for disease as they age.
  • Maintain your pet’s dental health.
  • I recommend twice-yearly vet visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for animals getting up in years. Keeping abreast of your dog’s or cat’s physical and mental changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early. Ask your vet to perform a blood test to check your dog’s internal organ health to make sure you are identifying possible issues early on.

When your pet begins to respond to therapy designed to improve cognitive function, in the case of a dog, you can begin re-training him using the same techniques you used when he was a puppy – positive reinforcement behavior training involving lots of treats and praise.

Of course, none of these recommendations will be terribly helpful for a pet in the advanced stages of cognitive decline, which is why it’s so important to diagnose and begin treating the problem as early as possible.

Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive disease that can’t be cured, but early diagnosis and intervention can slow mental decline and offer your aging pet good quality of life.

September 23, 2013 Posted by | animal behavior, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Getting To The "Root" of Bad Breath In Dogs And Cats

Dog Smiles 2

Dog SmilesBy Donna Spector  -  HaloPets: Periodontal disease is one of the most common and serious pet health problems, affecting approximately 80% of dogs and 70% of cats by age 3. At-home prevention is as important as regular teeth cleaning by veterinarians. In fact, unless pet owners provide teeth cleaning for dogs and cats at home, periodontal disease will progress regardless of the care provided by veterinarians. Periodontal disease often results in tooth and gum infections, pain, loss of teeth and even organ damage in pets. Studies have shown that dogs with severe periodontal disease have more damage in their kidneys, heart muscle and liver than dogs without periodontal disease. This organ damage occurs when bacteria from the infected tooth roots and gums gain access to the blood stream (a condition called bacteremia). The key to management of gum disease (for humans or pets!) is prevention. As long as the surfaces of the teeth are cleaned frequently, the gums will stay healthy

Some dogs are more susceptible than others to build up of plaque. Factors that affect the risk of a dog getting periodontal disease include

  • Breed and genetics
  • Dog size
  • Flattened face (brachycephalic)
  • Age
  • Frequent mouth breathing

Vet inspecting a dogs teeth

Breed, genetic and tooth alignment can all affect how easily a dog gets plaque.

Small breeds tend to have crowded teeth and are at a higher risk of building up plaque and having dental problems.

Dogs with flattened faces having compressed upper jaws (such as pugs, boxers, etc.) also tend to have crowded teeth.

Older dogs are more likely to have dental problems.

When a dog breathes frequently through its mouth the drying of the teeth tends to harden plaque.

Smiling Chihuahua*Example: Chihuahuas are very lucky in that the fact that this breed has few health problems overall… but teeth issues is periodontal disease is one!  There is an old joke…”What do you call a room full of Chihuahuas?”…  “One full set of teeth.” Winking smile

Brushing your pets’ teeth at home

Cat SmilesThe gold standard for keeping gums healthy and plaque controlled in pets is twice daily tooth brushing. Each pet should have their own toothbrush and proper pet toothbrushes should have bristles to reach under the gum line. There are numerous cat and dog toothbrush sizes available to best fit your pets’ mouth. Human toothpaste contains detergents and should not be used in pets as they will swallow the paste. There are many cat and dog toothpaste flavors available and most pets seem to prefer the poultry-flavored types.

Proper brushing technique involves placing the toothbrush bristles at a 45 degree angle where the gum and teeth meet. Using a gentle oval pattern and covering three to four teeth at a time, the bristles should be moved around the teeth. Ten short oval motions should be completed before moving the toothbrush to a new location in the mouth. The outside upper teeth do the most chewing and should get more attention.

For best results, tooth-brushing should start when pets are young and will easily adjust to teeth cleaning at home. As pets age and develop tooth and gum disease, there may be pain associated with brushing and pets may be less willing to allow brushing. If your pet is completely unwilling to allow brushing, there are dental wipes that can help control plaque when rubbed twice daily against the teeth and gums.

Veterinary teeth cleaning

Cat Smiles 2In addition to daily tooth brushing, pets will intermittently require dental cleanings by their veterinarian to prevent periodontal disease from occurring. Veterinarians often perform fluoride treatments or apply plaque prevention gels that have a long-lasting plaque-fighting advantage. The frequency of these cleanings will depend on the success of the at-home dental care. They may be as frequent as every four to six months in a pet with severe periodontal disease or only every two to three years if a pet owner has been dedicated to maintaining their pets’ dental health at home.

Frequently asked questions:

  • Is anesthesia always required for teeth cleaning?

    Yes, anesthesia is required for a thorough teeth cleaning that will help prevent periodontal disease. As pet owners are often reluctant about procedures requiring anesthesia for their pet, some groomers and veterinarians are offering "anesthesia-free" dental cleanings. Anesthesia-free cleanings are not recommended by the American Veterinary Dental College, as these procedures always result in suboptimal examination and cleaning and also increase the risk of injury to the pet’s mouth.

  • Is dry food better for pets’ teeth?

    No. It is a myth that dry kibble helps remove plaque and that canned foods cause more plaque. Most dry food crumbles without much resistance, offering little to no abrasive action from chewing. Pets eating dry foods can (and do) develop heavy plaque buildup.

  • Does my pet need a special dental diet?

    Probably not. If your pet has particularly bad plaque problems, despite proper at-home teeth brushing and veterinary dental care, you should talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate dental diet. Approved dental diets contain chemicals that bind and facilitate breakdown of plaque. There is a list of approved foods and dental treats published by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).

    Digestive problems can also contribute to bad breath in dogs and cats. If you haven’t already, consider switching to a natural pet food which promotes excellent gastrointestinal health.

  • Are there treats that can help reduce plaque buildup?

    Yes. There are many treat products on the market that claim efficacy against plaque and tartar. The VOHC Seal of Acceptance can help pet owners distinguish which products are actually scientifically proven to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.

    Bad breath is just a minor symptom of the more severe periodontal disease occurring in your pet’s mouth. Work with your veterinarian to create a cat or dog dental care plan that will keep the bad breath away and maintain your pets’ health for years to come.

Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM ,is a renowned, board-certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist who has practiced at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and other leading institutions. She is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Donna has written and lectured extensively on topics including nutrition, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, kidney failure and respiratory disease. She is widely recognized for her role as consulting veterinarian to HALO, Purely for Pets, her TV appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and her widely-quoted pet health advice in print and on radio. Dr. Donna performs medical, nutrition and weight loss consultations for dogs and cats through her web-based veterinary consulting service, www.SpectorDVM.com.

Here we have two laughing Chiweenie Sisters, Angelina and Princess, laughing as they wait for their Halloween Photos (2008)

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, Chihuahua, Chiweenie, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Don’t Be Duped By the True Intent of This Media Blitz

Story at-a-glance
  • A group called “Partners for Healthy Pets” is kicking off a campaign this month to promote more frequent vet visits by pet owners. The group is affiliated with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and boasts a long list of members/sponsors from the veterinary drug and pet healthcare industries.
  • The campaign hopes to convince pet owners that regular vet visits are as important to their dog or cat as food and love. The target audience is women in their 30s and 40s with above average household incomes and above average spending on pet necessities and luxuries.
  • The traditional veterinary community’s characterization of “preventive healthcare” is focused primarily on re-vaccinations, pest preventives, and other veterinary drugs and products. Holistic vets like Dr. Becker, on the other hand, view those things as potentially devastating to an animal’s health. Needless to say, the holistic veterinary community has a very different approach to preventing illness in pets.
  • Dr. Becker and other proactive, holistically oriented vets focus on issues of nutrition, maintenance of the frame, immune system balance, and routine monitoring of organ function to manage the health of their patients.
  • Truly effective preventive healthcare involves regular monitoring of a pet’s health status, and taking proactive steps as necessary to prevent the development of disease.

vet-visit[1] By Dr. Becker

According to dvm360, “It’s no secret that veterinary clients don’t understand the value of preventive healthcare.”

This may be the case for clients of conventional vet practices, but the majority of pet owners in my proactive, integrative practice certainly understand the importance of regular wellness visits. In fact, my preference is to see younger, healthy animals twice a year, and older pets and those with chronic health conditions even more often.

‘Partners for Healthy Pets’ Campaigns to Promote More Frequent Vet Visits

To encourage more vet visits, a group called Partners for Healthy Pets (PHP) is waging a $5.5 million campaign to convince pet owners that visiting the vet regularly “is essential to responsible pet ownership” – and is “as important as food and love.”

If you’re wondering who is behind the campaign, this is from the PHP website:

"Partners for Healthy Pets is the face of the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare™, a committee of the non-profit American Veterinary Medical Foundation that was created to ensure that pets receive the preventive healthcare they deserve through regular visits to a veterinarian. This alliance of more than 20 leading veterinary associations and animal health companies is committed to a vision of improved overall health for pets."

The list of members/sponsors reads like a who’s who of the veterinary drug industry and assorted pet healthcare companies.

The campaign was rolled out to veterinarians at the AVMA annual meeting in July. According to dvm360, the pet owners being targeted are “urban and suburban women ages 32 to 49 who already have a relationship with a veterinarian but who are not regularly seeking preventive care.” This demographic is being solicited for their $75,000+ household income and a willingness to spend 20 to 25 percent more than average on their pets.

The campaign kicks off this month and will run through 2014, so I imagine many of you will begin to see PHP advertisements encouraging preventive vet visits. You might also hear directly from your DVM, since veterinary practices can enroll in the program and receive information from PHP on how to promote the campaign at their clinics and on websites.

According to Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO of the AVMA and chairman of PHP…

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for the veterinary care community. It’s a platform for all of us to communicate the importance of preventive care to pet owners, to enhance the relationships we share with them, and ultimately to deliver even higher quality preventive care.”

As a proactive, holistically oriented veterinarian, I’m certainly a huge advocate of preventive care for animals. However, preventive care in a holistic context is very different from what the vast majority of traditional vets consider it to be.

It’s clear from the Partners for Healthy Pets members/sponsors list where the conventional vet community focuses when it comes to preventive care for pets. It’s primarily about vaccines and chemical pest preventives, in a one-size-fits-all approach.

Why Yearly Vaccinations Should Never Be a Reason for Regular Vet Visits

Yearly re-vaccinations are unnecessary and dangerous and should never be used to promote annual veterinary visits. Even the latest canine vaccination guidelines, now two years old, no longer call for annual re-vaccinations. Unfortunately, veterinary compliance with the guidelines is not what it should be. It seems the majority of vets are still promoting annual re-vaccinations.

It saddens me that so many pet owners have been led to believe their dog’s or cat’s health revolves around yearly re-vaccinations.

In my practice, I tailor vaccine protocols to minimize risk and maximize protection, taking into account the breed, background, nutritional status and overall vitality of the pet. With healthy puppies, for example, I generally follow the protocol set by Dr. Ron Schultz. I give a single parvo and distemper vaccine at or before 12 weeks of age, and a second set after 14 weeks. I run a titer test two weeks after the last set and if the dog has been successfully immunized, she’s protected for life.

If titer tests on any pet no matter the age indicate vaccine levels are low, I recommend a booster for only the specific virus or viruses that titered low, and only for those to which the animal has a real risk of exposure.

I do not use or recommend combination vaccines (six to eight viruses in one shot), which is the traditional yearly booster.

Veterinary Wellness Exams Should Be a Review of the Status of Your Pet’s Health

In my opinion, more veterinarians could help pet owners understand the value of regular vet visits by rejecting the traditional notion of preventive healthcare (vaccines and other drugs) in favor of adopting a proactive approach to keeping their pet patients healthy. Being proactive means being focused on initiating change rather than simply reacting to events as they occur.

In my practice I use what I call the Three Pillars of Health as a proactive approach to wellness. These pillars form the foundation for your pet’s health, quality of life, and longevity. Pillar #1 is species-appropriate nutrition. The diet you feed your cat or dog should be balanced and biologically appropriate for a carnivore.

Pillar #2 is a sound, resilient frame. This aspect of your pet’s health involves maintenance of the musculoskeletal system and organs.

Pillar #3 is a balanced, functional immune system. The goal here is to keep your pet’s immune system in balance. It should protect against pathogens, but not be over-reactive to the point of creating allergies and other autoimmune conditions.

What Effective Preventive Healthcare Looks Like

One of the primary ways proactive vets like me keep on top of a patient’s health is by tracking blood work changes over time. Let’s say your cat’s kidney enzymes (BUN and creatinine) are climbing, but are still within normal reference ranges. A reactive vet will wait to see those enzyme levels climb above what’s considered normal before taking action. My approach is to pay attention to any change in those enzyme levels, and long before your kitty is diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, I will suggest lifestyle changes that can prevent the disease from developing.

Another way proactive vets manage their patients’ health is by regularly reviewing diet, supplement protocol, and exercise habits with pet parents. A dog’s or cat’s wellness and nutritional goals change yearly, and over the age of eight can require fine-tuning every four to six months. Cats, in particular, are very good at hiding illness and pain, so it’s not a good idea to wait until there seems to be a problem.

Your vet’s preventive healthcare goal should be to help your pet avoid preventable disease. Unnecessary vaccinations and other traditional chemical “preventions” will not ultimately achieve that goal, and can actually help create disease where none existed.

In addition, your vet shouldn’t wait around until your pet is sick or debilitated and then attempt to fix the problem. He or she should use your regularly scheduled wellness visits as an opportunity to check the status of your pet’s health and take proactive steps to prevent serious disease from taking hold.

This is the true essence of preventive healthcare, and I hope you’ll advocate for it with your own veterinarian.

September 15, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Holistic Pet Health, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , | 2 Comments

Help Your Dying Pet End Life in a Kind and Gentle Way

Story at-a-glance
  • Dr. Becker interviews Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinary oncologist and leader in the field of end-of-life care and pawspice (pet hospice).
  • Dr. Alice, as she is known, realized as a vet student that veterinary oncology was the field she wanted to practice in. She also saw a tremendous need for end-of-life care services for companion animals. When she went into private practice, Dr. Villalobos made the decision to care for each of her patients all the way through their illness to the end of their lives.
  • Dr. Alice created the term “pawspice” to distinguish the goals of hospice care for pets from what happens in human hospice. She also developed the HHHHHMM quality of life scale for pets with cancer that has gone viral.
  • Since the publishing of Dr. Villalobos’s textbook in 2007, the subject of pet hospice and end-of-life care is being covered in an increasing number of veterinary schools. In fact, it is currently the fastest-growing specialty service in veterinary medicine.
  • One of the ways pawspice differs from hospice is the incorporation of palliative medicine, which is geared toward alleviating symptoms that cause anxiety, distress and pain. It involves using standard medicines in different ways to help trigger temporary remission without adverse events in the patient, thereby improving quality of life and happiness for pets at the end of their lives.

Video: Dr. Karen Becker Interviews Dr. Alice Villalobos

Dr. Karen Becker, a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian, interviews Dr. Alice Villalobos regarding veterinary hospice.

    By Dr. Becker

    Today I have a very special guest chatting with me via Skype — Dr. Alice Villalobos. “Dr. Alice,” as she is known, is a University of California-Davis graduate, the director of Pawspice in Hermosa Beach, and she also runs the Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Woodland Hills.

    Dr. Villalobos is a founding member of the Veterinary Cancer Society, the Association for Veterinary Family Practice, and the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. She’s also the past president of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics and founder of the Peter Zippi Memorial Fund for Animals, which has found homes for 14,000 pets since 1977, primarily cats.

    Dr. Villalobos is editor-in-chief for several veterinary-related journals, and she has authored textbooks including Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond (Kindle). She also writes a column titled The Bond and Beyond for Veterinary Practice News.

    Dr. Villalobos has received the Leo Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year award, the UC Davis Alumni Achievement award for her pioneering role in bringing oncology services to companion animals, and a Distinguished Practitioner of the National Academies of Practice award. She lectures worldwide on veterinary oncology, companion animal quality of life issues, and “pawspice,” or veterinary hospice, which is the topic of our discussion today.

    Dr. Villalobos made the decision when she entered private practice to see her cancer patients through to the end of their lives.

    I asked Dr. Alice, since she has been a veterinarian for many years, how soon into her career she realized there was a huge gap in end-of-life care services for pets.

    She explained that she was still in veterinary school when she decided to practice oncology, and her animal patients had their end-of-life experiences right there at UC Davis. So Dr. Villalobos was able to see the gap in services first-hand while still a vet student.

    When she went into private practice, she made the decision to see her patients all the way through to the end of their lives, unlike what happened back in those days (1970s) in human medicine, when no one wanted to discuss death. This predated the human hospice movement and the concept of helping people die peacefully, without pain.

    Dr. Alice decided to work with her animal patients and their families right through to the very end of the journey. Fortunately, we are able to help pets have a very peaceful passing because society condones euthanasia for animals. Dr. Villalobos made it a point to talk about the subject with each family from the first day she felt euthanasia was inevitable for their pet.

    Next I asked Dr. Villalobos who she sought counsel from originally, since back in the 1970s there weren’t any mentors or role models for treating pets at the end of life. She answered that in the late 1960s and early 1970s at UC Davis, there was a very special pioneer in the field of animal oncology, Dr. Gordon Theilen.

    Dr. Theilen wrote the first two textbooks on veterinary cancer medicine. Dr. Alice considers him a great role model who is filled with compassion. She mentions Leo Bustad as a role model as well. He was also a part of the UC Davis team and was responsible for the term “human-animal bond.”

    Dr. Villalobos noticed that pet owners would come into her practice wanting to keep their dog or cat with them for as long as possible. They didn’t want a replacement. They wanted to get treatments for their pets and when the time came, they wanted to insure their animals were able to pass on in the right way – at home, with the best of care, surrounded by their human family.

    Dr. Alice looked into what was being done with pediatric oncology. She interviewed human patients and asked questions like, “You have this cancer. How does it feel?” Part of the reason for her research was because at vet school, she was taught animals don’t experience pain on the level they actually, in fact, do. Back in those days, rather than being given pain medications, animals were restrained for procedures and prevented from moving after surgery. Fortunately, all that has changed.

    As a member of the International Veterinary Association of Pain Management, Dr. Alice knows that veterinary hospice practitioners must have extensive knowledge and expertise in pain management, because it is one of the biggest problems for cancer patients (both human and animal) at the end of their lives.

    Taking treatment of terminally ill pets and end-of-life care to the next level.

    I asked Dr. Villalobos if, when she first got started, she was met with conflict. Were her colleagues confused? Did they question her? She replied, “Dr. Becker, I’m still pulling the arrows out of my back.” I asked her to expand on the conflicts and confrontations she has encountered.

    Dr. Alice explained that back in the early 1970s, treating a cat with both leukemia and FIP was “almost blasphemy.” People thought, “What is she doing?” But at UC Davis, they treated cats with lymphoma, and the most likely cat to have lymphoma was also positive for the leukemia virus.

    Dr. Theilen was the doctor who isolated the three subtypes of the leukemia virus that ultimately resulted in a vaccine. UC Davis was working extensively with leukemias and lymphomas in felines. In fact, Dr. Niels Pedersen of UC Davis is the person who characterized the FIP virus and discovered the feline immunodeficiency virus.

    Dr. Alice explains she was surrounded by fantastic researchers and a wonderful atmosphere. When she finished vet school, she was actually in the midst of a “mock” residency with Dr. Theilen who wanted to put a veterinary student through a clinical oncology program. So Dr. Villalobos actually began her residency while still a sophomore in vet school, and she continued that work for Dr. Theilen through her next three years of school.

    So in addition to the stigma attached to treating viropositive animals, Dr. Villalobos also had a passion for helping them die well. I asked her what kind of response she received. She answered that most of her colleagues felt they were already doing that – providing animals with a good end of life experience. But as she further explains, it requires a certain expertise. Palliative medicine is a specialty. She expects at some point it will become a specialty in veterinary medicine just as it is in human medicine.

    Dr. Alice goes on to explain that hospice is another area of expertise. She views it as, “The types of psychology that we need to know to help comfort the bewildered, bereft, grieving, and the anticipatory grief that comes through, even suicide. People feel that they can’t go on another day.”

    When a pet dies, veterinary professionals need to be well versed in all these forms of psychotherapy, comfort care and grief counseling. It’s a necessary service, but in a busy practice, when a DVM isn’t accustomed to working with end-of-life care patients and clients, it just doesn’t happen.

    Dr. Alice’s “pawspice” concept and the HHHHHMM quality of life scale.

    End-of-life care hasn’t been taught in vet schools. Students are taught how to euthanize animals, but that’s about it. I do think palliative medicine is coming, though, and certainly pain management is even farther along, thankfully. But putting all those pieces together to offer truly thoughtful, heartfelt support isn’t there yet.

    I asked Dr. Villalobos if she thinks vet school courses are addressing some of these skills today. She replied she believes they are coming along. She says that after her textbook arrived in 2007, vet schools quickly took the book into their libraries, and some of the programs that were developed even taught pawspice.

    Dr. Alice explains she wanted to call pet hospice “pawspice” because the word hospice is actually very confusing for those who want to adapt the concept for veterinary medicine. She says that in human hospice, the arrival of death isn’t slowed down. Patients receive pain management, but what everyone is doing is simply waiting for the patient to die.

    In veterinary medicine, we can apply a quality of life scale to each patient. In fact, a scale that Dr. Villalobos proposed in 2004 went viral. It went everywhere. It’s the HHHHHMM scale. It’s designed to be easy to remember. The five H’s are for:

    … no Hurt
    … good Hydration
    … no Hunger
    … good Hygiene

    Hurt, Hydration, Hunger, Hygiene, and Happiness. These are the five basic areas that pawspice professionals must be able to talk to their clients about.

    The first M is for Mobility. This is extremely important for large pets, for example, Great Danes. If a Great Dane can’t move around on his own, it’s over unless there are some very strong family members who can physically move the dog as often as necessary. In smaller animals, mobility isn’t such a huge factor. On the quality of life scale, they can have a score of 0 all the way up to 10 and still be okay. It’s similar to people in wheelchairs – they can have great quality of life even though they don’t have full mobility.

    The second M is for More good days than bad days. This is something the pet’s family has to focus on. Is this a good day for Buddy? Or is this a bad day? If there are more bad days, say two or three or four in a row and no really good days, it’s time for the family to consider the gift of euthanasia.

    Our pets only think in present time. They exist in the now. Even if you’re five hours late coming home, they are still full of joy and not mad at you. They’re just happy to see you now, because they exist in the now. If they’re suffering now, that’s all they know, and if there are too many times of suffering, frustration builds up.

    Sometimes people don’t understand this. It can be difficult to understand things from a pet’s viewpoint. When there are more bad days than good days, our pets welcome the gift of euthanasia. They don’t need to live for the graduation of a niece or nephew. They’re not looking back with regret and hoping to reconcile with someone before they die. The human hospice philosophy simply doesn’t apply at the end of an animal’s life. They’re here to enjoy the moment. It their quality of life is poor, it’s up to us as their protectors not to make them endure further suffering.

    This is the way Dr. Alice talks to her clients, “You are his protector. Buddy needs you to make the decision to help him, you know, change worlds.” She says Barbara Myers, a pet loss consultant, uses that beautiful phrase, “Let’s help them change worlds.” It’s often comforting to families to use euphemisms like “transitioning,” or “crossing the Rainbow Bridge.” It’s not necessary to use tough words when talking about the death of a beloved companion animal. Families, and especially children, welcome thoughtful, loving words to describe what will be happening to their pet.

    End-of-life care/pet hospice is the fastest-growing specialty in veterinary medicine today.

    Next I asked Dr. Alice about her passion for teaching and consulting other professionals and vet schools about end-of-life care for pets. She explained that she has taught all over the world, and her textbook is translated into Spanish and Portuguese. When she goes to Portugal, Spain, or South America, she’s treated like a celebrity!

    Dr. Villalobos is also well known in the U.S. for being one of the leaders of the pet hospice movement. She says her decision to treat pets with cancer in vet school was pivotal in creating a specialty service for animals in the final stages of life. She says it’s the fastest-growing specialty service in all of veterinary medicine. New veterinarians in particular are really embracing pet hospice.

    Dr. Villalobos says one of the reasons for its popularity is that DVMs can set up an independent practice. They can do house calls. This is especially attractive to young DVMs who may not be able to find a practice they really like, or who work at a practice in which the owners want them to work more hours than they can handle while raising a family. Going the house call route has worked out very nicely for many of these young vets.

    Dr. Stephen Withrow of Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center has incorporated hospice and end-of-life care chapters written by Dr. Villalobos in his textbook, and she says his students call her all the time for help. She says CSU has set up a wonderful hospice service, as have a number of other veterinary colleges in the U.S. It’s also a growing movement in Canada, South America and France.

    Helping pet owners give their animals a good quality death.

    Dr. Villalobos is also passionate about using the term “pawspice” for pets to alleviate the confusion and negative impression many people have of hospice services for humans.

    As she explains it, when a pet owner has arrived at those final moments, she or he is often paralyzed with doubt or fear about causing the pet’s passing by making that final decision to euthanize. Dr. Alice sees her job, and the job of all professionals in the specialty, to help comfort those pet owners by letting them know it’s actually a vet’s duty by the oath he or she takes to prevent suffering.

    In my practice, I tell clients that the decision to help their pet transition is, of course, the most difficult decision they may ever make. But I also explain that as their veterinarian, the most important thing I can do is to help their pet die well rather than poorly. I ask them, “Do you want to rip the Band-Aid off really fast, or really slow?” I explain that they will be heartbroken either way, but for their pet’s sake, we can help by offering a good and peaceful transition. A good quality of death.

    Dr. Villalobos believes quality of life/quality of death questions should also apply to humans. She says that if any of you listening or reading here today have a family member or a child with a terminal disease, you should advocate for a quality passing for that person.

    In human medicine, it’s all about what can be done – we can do this, and we can do that, and we can do something else. Even at the end of the road with, say, a cancer that has been resistant to all forms of treatment, someone will come up with yet another treatment that is usually more risky. The patient has an adverse reaction, winds up in the ICU, and has a bad death.

    One of the things I’m so grateful to Dr. Alice for is helping veterinarians understand it’s okay to tell a pet owner, “We’ve pushed this animal far enough.” It’s human nature, especially for optimists like me, to say, “We can try this and this and this” when our patients no longer want to keep going and their bodies are tired. I tell my clients that sometimes the body becomes a cage for the soul, and the body doesn’t work, so they need to think seriously about setting the soul free. Animals can become frustrated or depressed, and there comes a point where we should stop pushing, which actually takes all the pressure off the pet.

    Sometimes we need to give clients permission to say, “You know what? We’re going to stop and we’re going to voluntarily withdraw all treatment.” Instead of trying to cure or change the disease situation, we’re going to switch our focus to helping the animal have a peaceful, good quality death.

    The role of palliative medicine in end-of-life care.

    Dr. Alice has really helped veterinarians understand and be able to talk about dying well versus just euthanasia. There’s a gap between the two. When we have a terminal patient and we know euthanasia is coming, there are things we can do to prepare the family, the pet, and our hearts. Dr. Villalobos has paved the way for veterinarians in this regard and I’m really thankful to her for that.

    She explains that one of the reasons pawspice is different from hospice is that it incorporates palliative medicine, which is a very misunderstood area in human medicine, especially in the U.S. There’s this idea that palliative medicine is “giving up,” but it is not. It is simply taking care of symptoms that cause anxiety, distress and pain. Dr. Villalobos stresses that we use standard medicine inside palliative medicine.

    She says that when a pet patient is diagnosed with a life-limiting cancer, with pawspice what she does is select standard therapy for that patient that will hopefully bring a period of welcome remission. But the therapy isn’t one that will be hard on the animal. It will be something that brings only good days – and few if any bad days. Dr. Alice avoids medications, therapies, treatments and regimens that will result in adverse events for the patient.

    For example, she may use a strong drug, but split it to give in two doses instead of one. The techniques she uses are in her textbook, and many DVMs are adopting them. Dr. Villalobos says it has evolved into something called metronomic therapy, which is a continuous low-dose treatment that reduces the formation of new blood vessels, which all tumors need in order to grow. Sometimes she just tries to control the tumor, maybe slow down the growth a little, while preserving the patient’s level of happiness and quality of life.

    Thank you, Dr. Alice!

    Since not all veterinarians are providing hospice care, I asked Dr. Alice where my Healthy Pets listeners and readers can go to learn more about end-of-life care. She invites everyone to visit her Pawspice website, where you can find lots of information and links to other resources.

    I so appreciate Dr. Villalobos taking the time to speak with me today. I’m grateful for all the work she has done and continues to do for sick and terminally ill animals.


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    August 30, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, Holistic Pet Health, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Stop Euthenization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments