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Your Dog’s Tongue Is a Major Indicator of Health – What to Look For

Story at-a-glance
  • Your dog’s tongue is actually a very important organ, with functions beyond giving sloppy kisses! The tongue is muscled and versatile, and together with the teeth and mouth, comprises what we call the oral cavity.
  • The main jobs of your dog’s tongue are to bring food and water into the mouth and aid in chewing and swallowing; help to regulate body temperature through panting; clean the body; and lick sore spots and wounds on the skin to hasten healing.
  • There are several canine tongue disorders dog owners should be aware of, including inflammation, ulceration, trauma to the tongue, oral papillomatosis (warts), and tumors.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners use the appearance, color and texture of different areas of the tongue as markers for how well various organ systems within the body are functioning.
  • If you notice that your pet’s tongue is changing shape, color, or texture, or if you notice a new bump or lump, it’s worth discussing your concerns with your veterinarian.

Video: Dr. Becker Talks About Your Dog’s Tongue

By Dr. Becker

Today I’d like to talk about, of all things, your dog’s tongue! It’s a small but very important organ, and since dogs do a lot of panting and licking, it’s also an organ we see a lot of!

Your dog’s tongue is a long, muscled, versatile organ. It’s attached to the back of the mouth by the basihyoid bone.

The top of the tongue is covered with five types of tiny mushroom-shaped papillae and pores that lead to taste buds. The rest of the tongue is made up of small bundles of muscle, connective tissue, and fatty tissue. It also contains lots of blood vessels, which is why it bleeds like crazy when it gets a cut. All around the tongue are openings to the salivary glands. Together, the tongue, teeth, and mouth comprise the oral cavity.

Functions of the Tongue

The canine tongue has many distinct, complex functions it must perform. That’s probably why it’s fed by five separate sets of nerves that come directly from the brain through small openings in the skull. These are cranial nerves, and they originate from the base of the brain rather than from the spinal cord.

The main purpose of the tongue is to bring food and water into the mouth and allow your dog to taste what he’s eating and drinking. A dog’s tongue can detect the sensations of salty, sweet, and sour taste. The tip of the tongue gives him the ability to taste and lap water. The tongue also assists with chewing and swallowing.

Your dog’s tongue helps to regulate body temperature as well. As air passes back and forth over the tongue when a dog pants, it cools down the body. (This is how dogs “sweat.”) The cooling is also enhanced as saliva evaporates from the mouth.

Your dog uses his tongue to clean himself and lick sore spots on his body, as well as to clean up wounds or irritations on his body. Female dogs use their tongue to groom their puppies and also to stimulate urination and defecation by licking the puppy’s urogenital area.

Common Canine Tongue Disorders

A problem with your dog’s tongue can be a primary condition or a condition secondary to another problem in the mouth. Signs of a tongue problem can include a reluctance to eat, abnormal chewing motion, excessive drooling, a bloody discharge or a bad smell coming from the mouth.

Inflammation of the tongue is called glossitis. It can occur alone or in combination with stomatitis (inflammation of the soft tissues of the mouth), gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), or cheilitis (inflammation of the lips). There are a number of possible causes for inflammation of the tongue and mouth, including foreign body ingestion, exposure to toxic chemicals or plants, bacterial or viral infections, immune-mediated disease, metabolic disease, and nutritional disorders.

Another tongue disorder is ulceration that occurs as a result of systemic diseases like kidney failure or cancer. Ulcerations also develop in a strange, mysterious disease called eosinophilic stomatitis.

The tongue is also a potential location for tumor growth. Unfortunately, most tumors of the tongue in dogs are malignant (cancerous). Another type of growth on the tongue of dogs is oral papillomatosis, which is caused by the papilloma virus. These growths are actually teeny tiny warts. They kind of resemble tiny cauliflower heads, and they can appear all over the oral cavity. Fortunately, the condition tends to subside or resolve on its own after several weeks.

Your dog’s tongue can sustain trauma from burns, cuts, punctures, or bites.

There’s also a disorder that can develop in a dog’s mouth that may initially appear to involve the tongue. It’s called a ranula. It’s actually a cyst that grows on the underside of the tongue, where the sublingual salivary glands stem from. The cyst causes swelling to the point where the tongue can actually be pushed up towards the roof of the mouth or off to the side. Dogs with this condition may have trouble eating, they may drool excessively, or show signs of a painful mouth.

Flat, black pigmented areas on your dog’s tongue and gums or inside the lips and mouth are perfectly normal. These dark areas are a result of microscopic melanin granules and are nothing to worry about. Often as a dog ages, these melanin areas tend to grow or change shape.

What isn’t normal is a dark area that’s not flat, but is raised above the surrounding tissues. If you notice any type of dark, pigmented tissue on your dog’s tongue, lips, or anywhere inside the mouth that looks like a bump or is raised instead of flat, it’s important to have your veterinarian look at it right away. It could be a melanoma.

About half of all cancers affecting dogs’ tongues actually end up being a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Other types of tumors that can occur in a dog’s mouth are granular cell tumors and mast cell tumors. The earlier one of these cancers is diagnosed and treated, the better your dog’s chances of recovery. If you notice anything of concern in your dog’s mouth, you should have your vet take a look.

There’s also a condition called cyanosis in which the tongue and gums turn a blue or purplish color as a result of poorly oxygenated blood. Causes for cyanosis are quite serious and include heart and respiratory diseases.

If your dog is not a breed with a naturally dark tongue like a Chow Chow, and if you notice that your dog’s mucus membranes anywhere in the mouth or on the lips are turning blue or purple, it’s very important that you have your pet seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Your Dog’s Tongue as a Measure of Her Health

I recommend, as a part of your at-home wellness exam, that you include your dog’s tongue in your observations. Look for ulcers, bruises, or bleeding from the tongue or elsewhere in your dog’s mouth.

Also check for bumps within the oral cavity. Move your finger under each side of the tongue and push it up a bit, so you can get a good look at the underside of the tongue as well as the roof of the mouth.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners use the tongue as a tool to provide additional information about the body’s well-being in conjunction with a physical exam.

A healthy tongue is normally pink unless, of course, you have a Chow Chow or another black-tongued breed. The tongue should not be coated, and there shouldn’t be any lumps, bumps, growths or raised areas.

Tongue colors of pale or white, deep red, blue or purple, and yellow orange can be assessed according to TCM principles:

  • A pale or white tongue may be a sign of a weakened body condition. This tongue color is seen in animals with anemia, leukemia, blood pressure problems, loss of blood, edema (fluid retention), generalized weakness, gastric system malfunction/GI issues, lung weakness, malnutrition, and lethargy.
  • A deep red tongue may indicate hyperactivity of one of the organ systems of the body and may involve a bacterial or viral infection, fever, gall bladder or kidney stagnation, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, cancer, or an accumulation of toxins somewhere in the body.
  • A bluish or purple-tinged tongue can suggest pain or congestion somewhere in the body and may point to a problem with the vascular system, heart disease, circulatory problems, respiratory problems, liver disease, toxicosis, organ stress, hepatitis, or autoimmune issues.
  • A yellow-orange tongue may indicate gastritis and gall bladder or liver malfunction.

TCM practitioners also evaluate any coating on the tongue. For example, if the coating is thick or pasty, it’s frequently a sign of imbalance in the digestive system, which is the largest immunologic system in your dog’s body. This often occurs when there is a yeast overgrowth in the body, and is commonly seen in pets fed grain-based diets that lack the bioavailable nutrients and enzymes required for healthy GI function.

TCM practitioners also do sort of a “regional analysis” of the tongue. Different areas of the tongue can point to problems with various organ systems within the body.

All that to say, if you notice that your pet’s tongue is changing shape, color, or texture, or if you notice a new bump or lump, it’s worth discussing your concerns with a holistic veterinarian.

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Attacks Your Bird’s Liver Like Alcohol – Is This What’s Making Her Flabby and Sick?

Story at-a-glance
  • Baby is a female blue-fronted Amazon parrot who is 24 years young. When Dr. Becker met Baby, she had dull feathers, signs of over-grooming, large fat deposits on her breastbone, and several fatty masses called lipomas on both legs.
  • Baby was overweight from a combination of a sedentary lifestyle and a diet that consisted almost entirely of high fat seeds – her favorite food. Since obesity in birds often leads to hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), Dr. Becker did some blood tests and determined that indeed, Baby’s liver function was compromised.
  • Baby was transitioned from her all-seed diet to a much more nutritious diet of fresh living foods and organic bird pellets. She also began taking milk thistle to support the detoxification and regeneration of liver cells.
  • Fortunately, Baby took to her new, healthy diet quite well and relatively quickly. Within six months, her liver function had returned to normal.
  • Also in this article, Dr. Becker offers tips for all bird owners on optimizing their pet’s environment and removing environmental stressors.

Baby

By Dr. Becker

I met Baby, a 24 year-old blue-fronted Amazon parrot in September 2012. Her dad brought her to see me because he was concerned about some fatty tumors another avian vet had diagnosed three years earlier.

As I examined Baby for the first time, I noticed her feathers were dull. She was over-grooming her lower abdomen, so the feathers there were unkempt and tattered. But more concerning to me were the large fat deposits that were accumulating over her keel (her breastbone), as well as several lipomas, which are benign fatty masses, that I could feel on both her legs.

Parrots Like Baby Are Prone to Overeating

Many pet parrots develop issues as a result of a sedentary lifestyle. For example, Amazon parrots have a tendency to become obese if their guardians don’t make weight management a priority.

Parrots like Baby who have been bred in captivity as pets are smart, vocal and animated. If you’re owned by one of these delightful birds, you know they are foodies with feathers. In other words, they enjoy eating! Consequently, overeating can become a real problem over a 70+ year lifespan.

In addition, these parrots are very popular as pets because they have more of a type “B” personality – they prefer hanging out to the constant activity seen in type “A” parrot personalities. The combination of a love of food and laidback personality can be a recipe for metabolic problems with these birds.

Evaluation of Baby’s diet revealed that like most pet birds, she wasn’t choosing to eat a balanced diet. Given the option to eat either seeds (preferably sunflower and safflower seeds) or fresh food, she would eat only seeds – a very unhealthy diet. And like many people owned by parrots, Baby’s dad fed his pet what she most enjoyed eating: high fat seeds. Although he did occasionally offer fresh foods, Baby preferred her seeds and didn’t regularly consume fresh foods or pellets.

The Dangers of Obesity in Parrots

Many animals, including parrots, store excess calories as fatty masses called lipomas. In addition to being overweight (over fat), Baby had additional fat accumulations that caused her to be “lumpy” in places. My biggest concern about Baby’s weight was that often when an Amazon’s body grows obese, there is also the presence of a secondary and potentially fatal condition called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease is caused by excessive fat accumulation in the liver. The condition is typically a slowly progressive disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with fat. The many tasks the liver performs are eventually compromised, and when overall liver function is poor, birds begin showing symptoms.

These can vary depending on how much liver function remains and include mild to profound lethargy, weight loss, decreasing appetite leading to anorexia, a fluffed appearance, weakness, sitting in the bottom of the cage, labored breathing (tail bobbing), a change in stool color (usually it becomes much more green), diarrhea and a swollen abdomen.

Birds with chronic, low-grade hepatic lipidosis can also have beaks that grow unusually fast or a change in feather pigmentation. Sadly, if the disease is progressed, a bird can appear suddenly ill or even die before the owners have a chance to seek veterinary care.

I suggested to Baby’s owner that we complete some blood work to check her liver function, and as I suspected, her liver enzyme (AST) was elevated (page 1). Thankfully, Baby’s quality of life was not yet impaired by her liver condition.

Switching Baby to a Healthier Diet

I immediately informed Baby’s dad that he would need to feed his bird differently. Baby needed to be weaned off her favorite seed-based diet and switched to a variety of fresh living foods to supply her body with enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber. For most birds (and their owners), a change in diet like this can be a wildly difficult undertaking.

Many birds are actually addicted to seeds, and like cats, they cannot skip meals without endangering their health. Birds can and will starve themselves to death, so the process of transitioning to healthier foods involves some trickery.

The first step with Baby was to start the transition with fresh foods she liked, which included apples, grapes and corn. We would use these three fresh foods as lures to open her mind and taste buds to other fresh foods with a higher nutrient value.

The next step was to finely chop other fresh foods like broccoli, blueberries, pomegranate, pepper, and dark leafy green veggies, and mix them with the three foods she liked so she could experience a bit of nutritional variety.

Some birds are so finicky about trying new foods that it’s necessary to sprout their unhealthy seeds. Ironically, sprouting turns seeds from unhealthy and high fat, to very healthy and low fat. Mixing sprouted seeds with dry seeds, and then slowly increasing the amount of sprouted seeds while decreasing the dry seeds is another good way to transition a super-finicky bird away from an all-seed diet.

For Baby, I also recommended an organic bird pellet made by Harrison’s Bird Foods. I instructed her owner to grind the pellets into a powder and add 1 tablespoon of powder to 1 tablespoon of seeds so that all the seeds were coated with the powder. Birds hull seeds, so as Baby picked up and shelled her seeds, she would roll the seed around in her mouth and acquire the new taste of a nutritionally balanced pellet. I also instructed her dad to add a tablespoon of whole pellets into this mix, since occasionally birds are inquisitive enough to try new foods without hesitation.

I also prescribed milk thistle, an herb that helps hepatocytes (liver cells) regenerate and detoxify, and asked Baby’s dad to recheck her blood work in three months.

Within Three Months, Baby’s Health Was Much Improved

At Baby’s next appointment in December 2012, her dad reported that the diet change was successful. Fortunately, Baby liked the new organic bird pellets right away and he was able to gradually decrease the high fat seeds and ultimately eliminate them altogether. He was offering Baby a nice variety of fruits and veggies and she was eating well.

Baby’s feathers appeared less dull at this visit, and more importantly, her liver enzyme values had improved, but were still too high (page 2).

I suggested Baby’s dad continue the detox protocol and recheck her blood work in another three months. Thankfully, in March, Baby’s liver function was back to normal (page 3). Her owner was able to discontinue her detox protocol, but of course continued with a diet of healthy fresh foods and organic pellets, as well as Sunshine Factor, a supplement to help improve feather health.
Baby’s lean body mass was improving and her lipomas were not continuing to grow — all good signs.

Optimizing Your Pet Bird’s Environment

There are a number of recommendations I offer to all bird owners interested in optimizing their pet’s environment, including:

  • Ensure birds get 8 to 10 hours of restful sleep at night in a dark, quiet room (a nightlight is ok, but no additional light should be provided).
  • Provide pure water, free from fluoride, chlorine and heavy metals.
  • Provide UV light. Birds must have direct sunlight (not through a window) for optimal health. If you can’t take your bird outside, get a bird light and leave it on 6-10 hours a day.
  • Provide a variety of natural perches of various sizes for optimal foot health.
  • Offer pesticide-free food. Organic fresh fruits and veggies are best. If you can’t buy organic, wash all produce very well before feeding.
  • Ensure adequate exercise. Birds were meant to fly. If you don’t let your bird fly, you’ll have to get creative on how to help him “dance” (flap on your hand or a perch), walk or move to maintain muscle tone and optimal weight.
  • Birds should be weighed weekly to ensure they are maintaining their weight. Before birds become visibly sick they lose weight.
  • Provide coconut oil. Organic, cold pressed, unrefined coconut oil is excellent for all birds. It provides lauric acid that supports a healthy immune system.

Eliminating Environmental Stressors

Part of optimizing a bird’s environment is removing stressors. These include:

  • Dowel perches and perch covers. Sandpaper covers cause bumblefoot, or open foot sores, so please don’t use them. Trim your bird’s nails if they are too long.
  • Grit. Psittacine parrots do not need grit, so please don’t offer it to them.
  • Mite and lice cage fumigators. Because these ectoparasites are rare and the fumigation products designed to eliminate them are ineffective, the majority of birds trapped next to these toxic “accessories” derive no benefit from them, and they can be harmful.
  • Wrapping or covering birdcages at night. This practice was recommended back when most houses were drafty, prior to the introduction of energy efficient homes. If your house was built in the last 50 years you don’t have to protect your bird from drafts. Covering cages has been linked to increased respiratory disease in birds. If you have a drafty home, cover 3 sides of the cage with a light fabric.
  • Cigarette smoke. Birds are tremendously susceptible to the toxins in second hand smoke. They are much more at risk than mammals, because birds have air sacs. There is no question a bird’s health will be compromised if the humans in her home smoke.
  • Pellets and seeds containing additives, preservatives, colors and dyes. Any brightly colored commercial diet you purchase for your bird contains dyes that are unnecessary for avian health. Birds are very susceptible to environmental chemicals, so read all labels carefully.
  • Teflon. Burning food on Teflon pans creates a toxic gas that is fatal to birds.
  • Toys made in China. Birds mouth everything. Make sure your bird’s belongings are toxin free by buying only toys and cage accessories made in the U.S.
  • Paint chipping off cages. Most paints and coatings contain heavy metals that birds can ingest as they use their beaks to climb around the cage. If your bird’s cage paint or powder coating is beginning to flake off, purchase a new cage, preferably stainless steel.

May 19, 2013 Posted by | Animal and Pet Photos, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, responsible pet ownership | , | 2 Comments

Help Your Dog Overcome These 3 Common Allergies…

Story at-a-glance
  • Three very common allergies in dogs include flea allergy dermatitis, food allergies and environmental allergies.
  • Treating your dog’s symptoms is only a temporary fix.
  • It’s extremely important to find the root cause of an allergic reaction.
  • Tips to relieve the suffering of your allergic dog.

By Dr. Becker

If your dog seems to have an allergic condition, it’s important to get an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you can.

Unlike the vast majority of traditional DVMs, I wholeheartedly disagree your pet should be started right away on a regimen of anti-allergy drugs and antibiotics and/or anti-viral medications.

There are safer ways to relieve your dog’s symptoms than pharmaceuticals while you and your vet work to discover the root cause of the allergic reaction.

Relieving symptoms without addressing the source of the problem is a short term fix to what can become a lifelong health problem. And certain drugs used to stop the allergic cycle have significant, potentially very serious side effects.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis, which is actually sensitivity to flea saliva, is a very common condition in dogs. It’s not the bite of the flea that causes most of the itching in dogs with FAD, it’s the saliva.

The saliva causes irritation way out of proportion to the actual number of fleas on the pup.

Lots of dog parents assume if their pet isn’t infested with fleas, the itching can’t be caused by fleas. But if your dog has FAD, the saliva of just one or two fleas can make him miserably itchy and uncomfortable for many weeks (long past the death of those two fleas).

Suggestions for flea control:

  • If you suspect or know fleas are a problem for your dog, I recommend you comb her at least once daily, every day during pest season with a flea comb. Do this on a white towel or other light colored cloth so you can see what’s coming off your dog as you comb. Flea ‘dirt’ (actually flea feces) looks like real dirt, but when suspended in a little rubbing alcohol or water will dissolve and release a red color (blood) allowing you to discern real dirt from flea dirt.
  • Bathe your dog often. A soothing bath will kill any fleas on your dog, help heal skin irritation, and make her feel more comfortable and less itchy. Also, clean animals aren’t as attractive to fleas. Pick a non-grain (no oatmeal) herbal shampoo.
  • Make liberal use of an all-natural pest repellent like Natural Flea and Tick Defense during flea season.

For some dogs with a serious case of flea allergy dermatitis, I prescribe an oral drug called Comfortis. It is a chemical, but it’s considered the least hazardous of all similar drugs. All drugs can have side effects, but Comfortis has reportedly fewer than topical insecticides.

Food Allergies

If your dog has an allergy to something he’s eating, it may show itself not only as digestive upset (gas, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.), but also as one or several of these symptoms:

  • Itchy or oozing skin
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing or sneezing; asthma
  • Inflamed ears
  • Swollen paws

If you suspect your dog is sensitive to something in her diet, there are a number of things you can do to learn the source of the allergy and solve the problem:

  • If your dog is over a year old, consider using Dr. Jean Dodds’ Nutriscan saliva test to determine if your pet is allergic to beef, corn, wheat, soy, eggs and/or milk (the most common antigens for dogs). Dr. Dodds will be adding additional antigens to the test in the near future.
  • If your pet has been eating the same food every day for months or years, there’s a good chance she’s developed an allergy to it. Contrary to what you’ve probably been led to believe, pets need diversity in their diets just like humans do. She might be sensitive to the single source of chemically-laced protein she’s been getting (chances are the meat is loaded with antibiotics and hormones causing immune system over-reaction). She’s also probably grown sensitive to certain allergenic ingredients in the food, typically grains and other carbohydrates.
    Work with your holistic vet to develop an allergy elimination diet to help pinpoint the source of the problem. I recommend a three-month diet, which is longer than what many vets suggest. I like to give adequate time for an animal’s body to clear the allergenic substances, detoxify, and clean out cellular debris.
    At the end of the elimination diet, new foods are added back in slowly, one at a time to gauge your dog’s response. It’s not uncommon for pets to be able to re-incorporate previous problem foods or clean proteins into the diet once the body is detoxified and the GI tract is healthy again.
  • Your holistic vet should also suggest natural supplements to help with detoxification, allergy relief and immune system support during and after the elimination diet.
  • To be optimally healthy — which includes avoiding food sensitivities and building resistance to all types of allergies — your dog should be fed a balanced, species-appropriate diet. The diet I recommend is preferably raw, either homemade (again, as long as it’s balanced) or commercial. Rotating the protein sources your dog eats is extremely important, as is strictly limiting or eliminating grains.

Environmental Allergies

In addition to flea saliva and certain foods/ingredients, your dog can also be allergic to an infinite variety of irritants in the environment. These can be outdoor allergens like ragweed, grasses and pollens, as well as indoor irritants like mold, dust mites, cleaning chemicals and even fabrics like wool or cotton.

As a general rule, if your dog is allergic to something inside your home, he’ll have year-round symptoms. If he’s reacting is to something outdoors, it could very well be a seasonal problem.

Also, your pet’s immune system is partly genetic, so he can actually inherit a tendency toward environmental allergies.

Finding the root cause of this type of allergy is extremely important, because what usually happens is the more your pet is exposed to an irritant, the more his sensitivity and reaction to it grows.

Some suggestions for finding and resolving environmental irritants:

  • Clean up your pet’s indoor air environment. Don’t allow smoking around your pet. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products. Consider investing in an air purifier to control dust mites.
  • Make sure your dog’s drinking water is high quality and doesn’t contain fluoride, heavy metals or other contaminants.
  • Don’t allow your dog to be over-vaccinated or over medicated. Vaccines rev up your pet’s immune system – too many vaccinations can send it into overdrive. An over-reactive immune system sets the stage for allergic conditions.
    Antibiotics wipe out good bacteria right along with the bad guys. Since the majority of your pet’s immune system is in her GI tract, the right balance of gut bacteria is crucial for her health. There’s also the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in pets.
    Steroid therapy (prednisone, for example) is often prescribed for pets with allergies. What these drugs do is turn off the immune system so it stops creating the allergic response. It does work for symptom relief, but unfortunately, the side effects make this a very serious, potentially dangerous drug.
  • Bathe your dog. If your pet has irritated skin, bathing will rinse the allergens away and make her feel better immediately. Don’t be shy about how often you bathe your pet, especially if she suffers from allergies that itch and irritate her skin.
    If you suspect something outdoors is irritating your dog, in between baths, do foot soaks. Chances are the allergen is coming inside on your pet’s feet. She can’t escape it, and she’s spreading it around indoors to every room she visits.

May 17, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, 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 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tomahawk, General and Commander

I’m writing to you today with an urgent plea to help a very special group of wild horses who were victims of the deadliest Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) roundup in recent history.

It was January 2010, when the thundering helicopters descended on the pristine Black Rock Desert in Nevada’s Calico Complex. For the wild horses living there, life would never be the same. The relentless helicopters, chartered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), forced the horses to run for miles. Stallions tried desperately to keep their families together; foals struggled mightily to keep up with their mothers. Finally, they reached the trap. In an instant, their families were shattered; their freedom destroyed.

General and CommanderIn the BLM holding pens, Tomahawk, a stallion captured at Calico, hung his head low. General and Commander, loyal friends, huddled together. The tags hung round their necks made clear that these noble band stallions — once great leaders and protectors of their herds – were now just numbers … casualties in the BLM’s war against America’s wild horses and burros.

In total, 1,922 wild horses lost their freedom in the 2010 Calico roundup. Hundreds of them perished in the years following the roundup in government holding pens. An untold number were sold by the BLM to a kill buyer, and almost certainly met with a horrific fate at slaughterhouses in Mexico.

Thankfully, over 100 survivors of the brutal Calico roundup — including Tomahawk, General and Commander — are safe, because Return to Freedom, the founder and parent organization of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, rescued them. The horses are living peacefully in the sanctity of Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary in the rolling coastal hills of Santa Barbara County, California and at another sanctuary in northern California.

But Return to Freedom needs your help to continue to care for them. Will you join me in remembering the Calico horses by donating to Return to Freedom today?

Since 2010, our attention has turned away from Calico toward other roundups and battles. But Return to Freedom must still care for the Calico horses, as well as 300 additional refugees from other federal roundups. The price of doing so is steep. Hay costs alone are $40,000 per month!

For 15 years, Return to Freedom has been on the cutting edge of the fight to save America’s wild horses and burros through its sanctuary, education and conservation programs. Return to Freedom pioneered a sanctuary model that utilizes birth control in order to allow wild horses to live together with their families, in their natural state. And Return to Freedom founded the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition that is now 50 organizations and tens of thousands of supporters strong.

Please, as we continue this fight, please let’s not forget Tomahawk, General, Commander and all the other beautiful Calico horses. Please help us show Return to Freedom that we stand with them… that we as a community are united our commitment to America’s wild horses both on and off the range.

Whatever amount you can give, no matter how small or large, will make a big difference in the lives of these horses. So please contribute as generously as you can today.

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your compassion, generosity and dedication to saving our beloved wild horses and burros.

Sincerely,
Suzanne Roy

If you can donate, please do and if you know someone who can donate please forward this on!!

Horse lovers, Check out: StemEquine®

American Wild Horse Preservation

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March 27, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rescues, Holistic Pet Health, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Political Change, Wild Animals | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Natural Herb That Fights Cancer, or Chemotherapy for Your Sick Pet… Which Would You Choose?

Story at-a-glance
  • Dr. Nancy Scanlan, Executive Director of both the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVHMF) and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) talks with Dr. Becker about holistic therapies in the treatment of cancer in pets, and the role of the AHVM Foundation.
  • Major drug companies pay for most of the cancer research (human and animal) in the U.S. Unfortunately, these companies are only motivated to fund studies that facilitate the development of new drugs to sell. Natural anti-cancer agents are of little or no interest to them.
  • Raising independent funding for research into holistic and integrative cancer therapies is a very important focus of the AHVM Foundation. The goal is to provide scientific proof to veterinarians and the public of the uses and benefits of alternative therapies to treat animal cancer and its symptoms.
  • Between now and March 17, 2013, every $1 donated to the AHVM Foundation will be automatically tripled. That’s right – Mercola Healthy Pets will contribute $2 for every $1 donation to the foundation from March 11 through March 17, 2013.

Video: Dr. Becker Interviews Dr. Scanlan

By Dr. Becker

In this week’s third and final video, I’m chatting with another very special guest, Dr. Nancy Scanlan. Dr. Scanlan is the Executive Director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVHMF) and also the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA).

Dr. Scanlan has been a small animal practitioner for most of her veterinary career. She also spent 10 years teaching veterinary technicians. Dr. Scanlan is an authority on the use of nutraceuticals in veterinary medicine, and was certified as an acupuncturist in 1988. She gradually increased her use of holistic therapies in her practice and ultimately spent 16 years as the sole holistic veterinarian in a seven-person practice in Southern California. Since then, she’s been very involved in a variety of wonderful endeavors for the AVHMA and the Foundation.

Dr. Scanlan currently lives in the woods of northern California. Her home is off the grid, meaning that among other things, she uses solar panels as her source of electricity. I think that’s very cool!

Studies in holistic veterinary medicine – including the prevention and treatment of pet cancers — get very little funding.

The theme of this year’s AHVM Foundation Be One in a Million fundraising campaign is “Advancing Research and Education in Holistic Veterinary Medicine.” I asked Dr. Scanlan to talk about why cancer research for companion animals is such a vitally important area for the AHVMF to be involved in.

Dr. Scanlan explained that studies in holistic medicine get very little funding. If she has an herb that is beneficial in treating cancer, chances are it will be ignored by the big drug companies, which are the major source of funding for most human and animal cancer research. Drug companies only fund research that results in new drugs they can sell, so natural healing substances like herbs are of no interest to them. And this is truly a shame, because many holistic therapies used for cancer have fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They are less toxic to the patient and the environment, and are generally better for the patient’s overall health.

So raising independent funding for holistic and integrative cancer therapies is a very important focus of the AHVM Foundation. The goal is to provide scientific proof to veterinarians and pet owners of the benefits of alternative therapies. Currently there is no “proof” of the type the medical community relies on. It’s really not enough to say “The Indians used it all the time,” or “In China they’ve used this for thousands of years.” MDs and DVMs want and need this research.

Another reason we need independent studies of holistic remedies is to determine how natural substances can and should be used. For example, what parts of a plant are beneficial to treat different diseases and symptoms … what strengths or dosages are most effective … what type of growth environment is best … should we source only the wild-crafted plants, and so on.

As Dr. Scanlan points out, this type of research would be helpful not just in advancing the field of holistic veterinary medicine, but also for current and future holistic practitioners who want to understand the most effective ways to use natural healing remedies. And in general, good standardized research in holistic treatments is needed.

When it comes to raising funds for research and education in holistic veterinary medicine, there’s only ONE resource in the U.S. – the AHVM Foundation.

Next I asked Dr. Scanlan to give her perspective on why there is a need for a foundation for holistic veterinary medicine. She explained that the AHVM Foundation is the only organization in the U.S. specifically dedicated to research into holistic methods of treating animals. No other group currently in existence raises funds for research into holistic or alternative or integrative veterinary therapies exclusively.

As Dr. Scanlan points out, there are plenty of organizations out there dedicated to raising money for conventional medicine research (human and animal). But if you as a pet owner, pet caretaker, pet guardian or animal lover believe holistic and integrative veterinary medicine has value, then the organization you want to give your hard-earned money to is the AHVM Foundation.

I asked Dr. Scanlan what projects are on the horizon that the AHVMF is involved with. She responded that one of the Foundation’s biggest supporters is Dr. Greg Ogilvie, a DVM in southern California (you might remember his name from my recent interview with author Ted Kerasote).

Dr. Ogilvie developed the foundational research on the anti-cancer effects of omega-3 fatty acids, especially fish oil, on dogs. He has a long list of projects he would love to do if he had the funding.

I’d like to thank Dr. Nancy Scanlan, Executive Director of the AHVM Foundation, for making time in her busy schedule to chat with me today. I look forward to working with Dr. Scanlan and all the members of the Foundation to raise awareness of their Be One in a Million fundraising efforts.

How you can make a difference.

I’m tremendously excited to announce that now through March 17, 2013, all donations will be automatically tripled. That’s right! For every $1 donated, Mercola Healthy Pets will donate an additional $2. So please, take a moment right now to Be One in a Million and make a donation to the AHVM Foundation.

Related:

Using Alternative Therapies to Fight Cancer How to Check Your Pet for Signs of Cancer

Acupuncture for Dogs (Pets)

Part 3 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: Fixing America’s Broken Animal Shelter System

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

Alternative Dog Arthritis Treatment Series Part 1 – An Introduction

Do Vaccinations Affect the Health of our Pets?

Natural Pet Remedies For Everyday Problems

Animal Chiropractic Success Stories

Why is This Dangerous Infection on the Rise in Pets?

8 Out of 10 Pet Owners Didn’t Recognize These Signs of Illness – Will You?

Dog Massage? Isn’t Petting Enough?

Never EVER Punish Your Pet for This ‘Accident’…

Dog Chiropractor Helps Dogs Retain Mobility

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Urinary and Fecal Incontinence in Pets

Megacolon: A Terrible Outcome for Constipated Pets

Stress in Dogs (Pets)

Pets Being Left Behind to Starve by Their Families

Pet Food Stamps

A Patchwork of Food Assistance for Pets

How the Pet Food Industry Has Helped Create "Carnivore Metabolic Syndrome"

Laser Therapy is Good Medicine for Humans and Their Companion Animals… Any Animals

Surprise, Surprise… the Best Food for Dogs Is Homemade Food

Pet Age

The Nutrient Your Pet Needs More of As They Age: Protein

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Dogs, 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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Holistic Medicine Cures Estie of Her Seizures and Allergies

Story at-a-glance
  • Estie, a darling Italian Greyhound, was growing progressively sicker with a seizure disorder and allergies. Fortunately, her smart parents located an integrative veterinarian who successfully treated their pet using homeopathic remedies and natural supplements. Estie was well on the road to a complete recovery in less than a month.
  • Between now and March 17, 2013, $1 donated to the AHVM Foundation will be automatically tripled. That’s right – Mercola Healthy Pets will contribute $2 for every $1 donation to the foundation from March 11 through March 17, 2013.

Dr. Becker:

From the AHVM Foundation

EstieWhen my dog Estie, an Italian Greyhound, was about 2-3 years old, she developed seizures and severe allergies. We visited several veterinary clinics around the South Bay area of southern California to find out the reason for her seizures and to control her allergies.

We received the same advice: once a day medicine for seizures.

We decided not to take that route and tried to control it with diet instead.

Sadly the food changes we tried did not work well and her allergies were getting progressively worse. She would scratch her jaw area all day and night until she bled. Her eyes would have constant discharge. Every time we went to see a vet (at least once a month), we would receive steroids and antibiotics. They would lessen her symptoms, but never cure her completely. Every two weeks following the medicine, her symptoms would start again and become more and more severe.

About a year into her declining health, we heard about integrative medicine for animals. First visit with the integrative veterinarian changed my dog’s existence. It was explained to us that she had a "tired" liver from processing the toxins associated with allergies. With a few homeopathics and natural supplements; i.e. enzymes, natural eye drops, etc., my dog’s allergies began to disappear. She stopped itching in about two weeks. The discharge from her eyes was gone in about two to three weeks. Her hair became shiny. Her seizures became very rare, unless she had fatty food.

Managing her diet was important but she needed more tools and these really helped her.

None of the symptoms ever came back. Estie is 11 years old now and we hope others learn more about integrative medicine. Our family certainly supports such research.

Signed,

Alla K

See Video: How can you make a difference?

I’m tremendously excited to announce that now through March 17, 2013, all donations will be automatically tripled. That’s right! For every $1 donated, Mercola Healthy Pets will donate an additional $2. So please, take a moment right now to Be One in a Million and make a donation to the AHVM Foundation.

March 11, 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, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

8 Out of 10 Pet Owners Didn’t Recognize These Signs of Illness – Will You?

Story at-a-glance
  • In a study of senior dogs and their owners, it was discovered that parents of older dogs often don’t recognize the signs of age-related illness, or don’t consider them to be serious. Eighty percent of owners involved in the study were unaware of at least one significant health concern with their pet. The dogs in the study averaged about eight health issues each.
  • Most traditional veterinarians wait for their patients to become ill before they intervene. This is very likely the reason owners of aging pets fear visiting the vet, and as a result, many older companion animals don’t get regular check-ups.
  • Proactive wellness-oriented veterinarians like Dr. Becker take an entirely different approach. Their goal is to see pets for wellness exams on a regular basis so they can maintain their patients in good health, and catch developing diseases before they become full-blown.
  • Ideally pet owners can team up with a local veterinarian who takes a proactive approach to the health of animals. When your pet’s health is carefully monitored throughout his or her life, it makes vet exams much less daunting as your furry companion gets up in years.
  • There are also many things you can do at home to help your aging pet remain comfortable and in good health.

Aging Pet

By Dr. Becker

Many veterinarians rely entirely on the owners of senior pets to report signs of age-related illness. (I’m not one of them, because my approach is proactive rather than reactive, and my focus is on preventing illness — not waiting until it occurs.) Unfortunately, many pet parents don’t recognize the signs, or consider changes in their dog’s or cat’s health normal if the symptoms seem related to the animal’s advancing age.

In fact, in a study published recently in the Journal of Small Animal Practice1, it was revealed that the vast majority (80 percent) of owners of dogs older than nine years of age were not aware of at least one significant health problem with their pet.

Study Suggests Most Older Dogs Have Unaddressed Health Problems

The study involved veterinary consultations with the owners of 45 senior dogs. The vet sessions consisted of taking a history of the dog’s health and lifestyle, a full physical examination, and urinalysis.

The history taking was standardized so that the owners were asked the same questions about changes they had noticed as their pet aged. A prompted history taking was also completed using open questions, followed by appropriate closed questions. The physical exam evaluated all organ systems, and the urinalysis included a dipstick urine test and specific gravity.

The 45 dogs in the study were discovered to have an average of about eight health issues each, including ear infections, respiratory distress, arthritis, abdominal masses, heart murmurs or arrhythmias, and lung cancer. According to study authors, the dogs’ owners frequently did not recognize or report serious signs of disease, however, they did report symptoms like increased sleeping, hearing or vision loss, stiffness or lameness, “slowing down,” increased cloudiness of the lens of the eye, increased thirst and urination, pain, signs of osteoarthritis, and dental disease.

As a result of the screenings, 29 further diagnostic procedures were ordered including 10 dental procedures, seven medical treatments, two surgeries, and sadly, the euthanasia of two dogs.

How to Conquer Your Fear of Vet Exams for Your Aging Pet

I think it’s normal for owners of beloved older pets to grow more fearful of vet appointments as their dog, cat, or other animal companion ages. The more years on the pet, the more likely a serious health problem will be diagnosed during a veterinary exam. But I think this view is much more prevalent in clients of traditional vet practices, because the conventional veterinary community is trained to wait for full-blown illness before intervening in an animal’s health.

In my proactive wellness-oriented practice and others like it, long-term clients are less fearful when they bring their elderly companions in for checkups because we (the pet parent and I) have worked as a team throughout the animal’s life to address potential health issues as soon as they arise.

My most vibrant, longest-lived patients are those whose owners not only provide a healthy lifestyle for their pets, but also bring them to my clinic for regular wellness exams – especially as they get up in years or if we are managing current medical issues. The frequency and regularity of their visits allows us to get to work on a developing disorder early in its progression, when there is the best chance for an excellent outcome.

We also review the animal’s nutritional, supplement and medication protocols at each visit and make adjustments as necessary. This allows us to, for example, know when the time is right to begin specific supplementation to prevent or slow the progress of age-related changes like loss of vision, osteoarthritis, and mental decline.

No matter your companion animal’s age, I strongly encourage you to find a wellness-oriented holistic or integrative veterinarian in your area (or at least within driving distance) – a DVM who practices a proactive approach to caring for your pet’s health. The two of you, as a team, can then set about taking steps to keep your furry friend healthy, rather than simply waiting in fear for a dreadful diagnosis.

Tips for Helping Your Pet Age Well

No matter your pet’s age, certainly the foundation for good health and vitality is a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. The food your dog eats either builds up or tears down his health. His body needs an ideal energy source to promote the processes of metabolism, growth and healing. That perfect fuel is a healthy variety of fresh, living food suitable for your carnivorous canine. And pets’ nutritional needs change as they age.

To help with failing eyesight:

  • Bilberries are a rich source of flavonoids with antioxidant properties. When taken in capsule form combined with Vitamin E, they protect the eye tissue of humans and halt lens clouding in 97 percent of people with early-stage cataracts. This herb is safe for dogs, so it’s certainly something that might help and won’t harm your pet.
  • Leave a radio, television or other background noise on when your pet will be home alone. This will give her a reference point, and should also help mute noises that may startle her.
  • Avoid moving furniture around, keep household ‘travel lanes’ clear, and minimize clutter. The easier it is for your pet to navigate through the house, the less likely it is she’ll become disoriented or injure herself. Cover up slippery floors so your pet will feel secure walking on them.
  • Use natural scents like aromatherapy products (I use lavender oil) to ‘mark’ special spots in the house, for example your pet’s water dish.
  • Don’t move your pet’s feeding station around, and if your companion is a cat, don’t move the litter box from place to place. A familiar environment and daily routine are especially important to elderly pets with diminished faculties.

For arthritic pets:

  • Maintaining your dog at a healthy weight and insuring he’s physically active throughout his life will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease in his later years.
  • Cover slick floors (most tile, linoleum, hard wood) with non-skid rugs or runners to prevent dogs from slipping.
  • Chiropractic adjustments, massage, stretching, aquatic therapy, laser therapy and acupuncture are therapies that can make a world of difference in the mobility of your pet as he ages. Talk with your holistic/integrative vet about supplements you can add to your dog’s diet to help maintain healthy tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage. Some of these might include:
    • Glucosamine sulfate with MSM and eggshell membrane
    • Omega-3 fats (krill oil)
    • Ubiquinol
    • Supergreen foods like spirulina and astaxanthin
    • Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs, proteolytic enzymes and nutraceuticals)
    • Adequan injections, which can stimulate joint fluid very rapidly in pets with arthritis

To keep your dog mentally sharp:

  • Enrich your dog’s environment with regular exercise, mental stimulation and socialization with other pets and people. In a two-year study of senior beagles, researchers found dogs that engaged in regular physical exercise, playtime with other pups and stimulating toys, did better on cognitive tests and learning new tasks than their less active counterparts.
  • Give your dog a SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplement. SAMe is a safe and very effective way to stall or improve mental decline. In one recent study, dogs with age-related cognitive decline given a SAMe supplement for eight weeks showed a 50 percent reduction in mental impairment. Consult your pet’s veterinarian for the right dose size for your dog.
  • 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 dogs. 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, and phosphatidylserine – a nutritional supplement that can inhibit age-related cognitive deficits. Again, I recommend you consult a holistic veterinarian for dosing guidance.

Give your pets a head start for a healthier, happier and longer life with StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

Book: Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Related:

Acupuncture for Dogs (Pets)

Alternative Dog Arthritis Treatment Series Part 1 – An Introduction

Dog and Cat Vaccines are Not Harmless Preventive Medicine

Laser Therapy is Good Medicine for Humans and Their Companion Animals… Any Animals

Natural Pet Remedies For Everyday Problems

Dog Massage? Isn’t Petting Enough?

Pet owners get the point of acupuncture

Struggling families can now apply for nonprofit’s Pet Food Stamps

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pet Food Red Flags You Want to Avoid

Surprise, Surprise… the Best Food for Dogs Is Homemade Food

Part 3 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: Fixing America’s Broken Animal Shelter System

Pet Age

The Nutrient Your Pet Needs More of As They Age: Protein

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Acupuncture for Dogs (Pets)

Acupuncture (as well as other holistic treatments like acupressure, chiropractic care, Chinese herbs, natural stem cell enhancers, message, Reiki, and ACT allergy treatments) for dogs, cats and other pets are gaining popularity around the world as an alternative or complementary non-medicated treatment.

What is Acupuncture?

Canine Acupuncture
Picture Source: http://www.lhasaoms.com

Acupuncture is a non-drug treatment modality that was developed about 5,000 years ago by the Chinese. By inserting tiny metal needles into specific points (called "acupoints") in the body, these doctors in the early days discovered that they could cause physiological changes, control and suppress pain, and stimulate organs or body parts.

Acupoints are not random but run along "meridians", which connect the entire body and are the pathways through which the "Qi" (pronounced as "chee"), or life force energy, circulates. Although the meridians run deep in the body, they surface at certain points on the skin. These acupoints are where the meridians can be accessed in order to create change in the associated organs or structures. According to Chinese acupuncture literature, there are 12 major meridians and 365 acupoints in the body.

In Eastern medicine, it is theorized that disorders or diseases occur when the "Qi" is out of balance. Acupuncture is one treatment option that can be used to rebalance the body and create harmony of Qi.

Acupuncture forms part of an ancient Chinese method of diagnosis and treatment known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). (Besides acupuncture, TCM includes the use of herbs, medical massage, food therapy, and other therapies to rebalance the "Qi".)

In acupuncture for dogs, the "acupoints" which veterinary acupuncturists use are sometimes called "transpositional points", the locations of which are transposed to canines from the human acupoints.

What Kind of Illnesses Can Be Treated by Acupuncture for Dogs?

Acupuncture is NOT appropriate for major acute diseases or emergencies (e.g. broken bones, overwhelming viral or bacterial infections).

Image Credit: CLINT EGBERT/XPRESS

However, it is a great alternative or complementary treatment for chronic diseases.

Acupuncture for dogs can be used to treat a variety of dog health conditions, mainly for pain relief (e.g. caused by osteoarthritis or injuries, etc.) and for treating dogs with neurological conditions, such as epilepsy. However, there are other dog health issues that can benefit from acupuncture as well.

You may want to consider canine acupuncture if your dog is suffering from any of the following problems:

  • Musculoskeletal Problems: osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, chronic degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, tendonitis, sprains and muscle spasms.
  • Neurological Problems: epilepsy, stroke, deafness, coma, paralysis from disc disease.
  • Urinary Disorders: incontinence, cystitis, urine retention.
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: colitis, chronic idiopathic diarrhea or vomiting, gastroenteritis, rectal prolapse.
  • Respiratory Disorders: sinusitis, rhinitis, asthma, chronic coughing, pneumonia.
  • Systemic Inflammatory Conditions: chronic skin inflammation, allergies,lick granulomas.

In addition to the above, more and more veterinarians are now incorporating acupuncture as a part of canine cancer treatment protocol, either to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy, boost the immune system and improve quality of life, or to actually inhibit the growth of the cancerous tumor itself.

What Does an Acupuncture Treatment Involve?

Dog Having Acupuncture Treatment
Picture Source: http://www.fourpawsacupuncture.com

Each treatment is individualized to each dog patient. The acupoints selected, the number of needles, and the length of treatment all depend on the type and severity of the dog’s condition.

Acupuncture for dogs is usually performed with small, tiny metal needles.

Most dogs do not mind (and do not even feel) the needles being inserted. Most of them seem to feel relaxed and comfortable. Some go right to sleep during treatment!

Generally speaking, one treatment lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. Most cases are seen once or twice a week at first, after which the number of treatments can be reduced depending on progress.

Besides metal needles, there are some variations that are proving quite successful as well, including:

  • Aquapuncture: This involves injecting the acupoints with a solution of vitamin B12 and saline. The solution puts pressure on and thus stimulates the point for a longer period of time and is a good technique to use if the dog does not want to stay still for 20 minutes.
  • Electroacupuncture: This involves connecting electrodes from a small battery-operated unit to the needles in different acupoints. A very gentle current is passed through the points and down the meridians. This type of treatment encourages the flow of energy, blood and lymph along the meridians and speeds up healing.
  • Laser Acupuncture. This involves the use of lasers rather than needles on acupoints and can be beneficial for dogs who absolutely don’t want anything to do with needles.
  • Moxibustion: This is a very old Chinese treatment modality that involves heating the acupuncture needles with a dried herbal incense. It stimulates blood flow and can be an excellent treatment for older arthritic dogs with sore and stiff joints and tight muscles.

Safety and Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Dogs

Acupuncture for dogs is very safe IF the acupuncturist has received formal training, and most importantly, is licensed.

The effectiveness of canine acupuncture depends on a few factors, such as:

  • The acupuncturist’s experience and technique.
  • The condition of the dog, e.g. how long the dog has been sick, and how serious the health problem being treated is.
  • The number, length and consistency of treatments.

Cat Getting Acupuncture – Image Credit: CLINT EGBERT/XPRESS

Occasionally a positive response may be seen after only one treatment, but more often than not, 4 to 6 treatments are needed. Sometimes it can take up to eight treatments before results can be seen.

According to Dr. Karen Becker (a holistic vet who also uses pet acupuncture in her practice), about 25% of patients have a very positive response to acupuncture, showing major improvement to the point of fully recovering from the condition. Another 50% of patients experience dramatic improvement but with some symptoms remaining; while 25% have no response at all.

If you look at these figures, it seems that acupuncture works quite well on a rather high percentage of patients. It is definitely worth giving this treatment modality a try.

(Our dogs have experienced acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic care as well as having taken Chinese herbs and StemPets stem cell enhancers and Goji Juice. I have a cousin whose dog avoided back surgery because of acupuncture and both my husband and daughter have had successful experiences with acupuncture and other natural treatments.)

Where Can I Find Acupuncture Veterinary Professionals?

If you are interested in acupuncture for your dog, ask your holistic vet or access the websites of The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture or International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

Here is an informative video in which Dr. Becker talks about pet acupuncture:

Give your pets a head start for a healthier, happier and longer life with StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

Related:

Alternative Dog Arthritis Treatment Series Part 1 – An Introduction

Dog and Cat Vaccines are Not Harmless Preventive Medicine

Laser Therapy is Good Medicine for Humans and Their Companion Animals… Any Animals

Natural Pet Remedies For Everyday Problems

Dog Massage? Isn’t Petting Enough?

Pet owners get the point of acupuncture

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, 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, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Part 3 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: Fixing America’s Broken Animal Shelter System

Story at-a-glance
  • Today, in the final segment of a three-part interview with best-selling author Ted Kerasote about his latest book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, Dr. Becker and Ted discuss the problem of homeless pets in North America and the need for shelters to transform themselves into no-kill facilities.
  • Ted also discusses three-and-a-half-year-old Pukka’s life as a healthy, athletic, free-roaming dog, and the benefits and risks of the lifestyle Ted has chosen for him.
  • Finally, Ted discusses two fascinating new projects – one he has just put the finishing touches to, and another he’s currently working on.

By Dr. Becker

I’m back with bestselling author Ted Kerasote for the final installment of our three-part interview. You can see part one here and part two here. We’re discussing Ted’s wonderful new book just out in bookstores, called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.

The problem of homeless pets.

One of the huge, complex topics Ted takes on in Pukka’s Promise is the “crisis” situation in North American animal shelters. I worked in a shelter as a teenager, and Ted’s treatment of the subject in his new book has caused me to view the situation in a very different light.

I asked Ted to talk about his research into how unwanted pets are handled in other parts of the world vs. in the U.S.

Ted said he’d first like to address the use of the word “crisis” to describe our homeless pet situation. While it’s true about 1.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year in the U.S., 40 years ago we were killing 20 million per year.

The point is, progress has been made, and Ted believes credit is due the organizations that have worked so hard to bring that number down so dramatically.

How dogs are cared for in Western Europe vs. North America.

As to the question of differences between how North America treats homeless animals vs. other areas of the world, Ted explained that he traveled extensively in Europe to see how the situation was handled over there. He says you don’t see stray dogs roaming all over Western Europe, as happens in some parts of the U.S.

And the assumption is that because Western Europe is so highly urbanized, it can’t have free-roaming dogs. Everyone by necessity must control his or her dog, which is why there’s no so-called pet “overpopulation” problem. But Ted says that actually, there ARE free-roaming dogs … in Hyde Park … at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris … the Villa Borghese in Rome … and the Englischer Garden in Munich. In all these places there are free-roaming, off-leash dogs running about, under the voice-control of their people, and they’re not spayed or neutered, either.

To the casual observer, this seems risky at best. After all, everyone knows how quickly a male dog can mate with a female dog, right? So, why aren’t countless unwanted puppies being killed in shelters? The answer is that in Europe, people sequester their female dogs when they’re in heat. It’s just what they do, because it’s their tradition.

The Europeans carefully manage their female dogs when they’re in season. The dogs stay at home – in the barn or the kennel. They are walked only on a leash. There’s no way you don’t know when your female dog is being mounted by a male dog, if she’s at the end of a four foot leash and you’re holding the other end.

Ted explained that like most Americans, prior to his fact-finding trip to Europe, he didn’t really comprehend that there’s a way to have intact dogs and not have litter after litter of puppies.

Ted further explained that according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. is number 27 out of 31 countries with respect to overall poverty and the amount of social justice its citizens enjoy. In Scandinavia, for example, there are no dogs killed in animal shelters. They have a very secure social services network that takes care of citizens “from cradle to grave.” Of course, taxes are high, but everyone’s taken care of, including pets.

By contrast, in the U.S., most dogs are killed in counties with low median incomes. It’s absolutely true that you can’t determine the number of dogs killed in a shelter by the amount of money per capita that is spent in that shelter. Some shelters spend $6 per capita and kill a lot of dogs. Others spend $1.50 per capita and don’t kill that many dogs. But it’s also true that for the most part, poor communities kill more dogs in their shelters.

No-kill solutions every shelter can (and should) embrace.

So the question becomes, how can we help the shelter system work better? Better social services across the board might help. Eliminating poverty might help. Those are long-term goals. Ted says that in the meantime, there are many people working on helping shelters operate better. There’s the No Kill Advocacy Center, whose solution involves hiring compassionate shelter directors who are committed to implementing ideas that have worked all over the country to reduce the number of shelter deaths.

Some of those ideas include keeping shelters open at least one day on the weekend. Keep them open in the evening – employed people aren’t available to come see adoptable animals during the workday. Implement a foster care program to reduce the number of kittens and puppies who are killed. Send the little ones out to foster families so they can grow up to be adoptable pets.

Other ideas include partnering with local pet stores to stop selling purebred dogs from breeders and instead feature shelter pets ready for adoption. The stores make money, a percentage goes to the shelters, and the animals find homes. It’s a win for everyone.

Another idea is to do outreach programs where the shelter takes adoptable pets to places like PetSmart and Petco for adoption events. The shelters that have implemented these techniques have low kill rates. But according to Ted’s research, many, many more shelters need to adopt these ideas.

Ted also mentioned Maddie’s Fund, which helps shelters and animal welfare organizations that are trying to reduce the kill rate. Maddie’s Fund sponsors a massive ad campaign, The Shelter Pet Project, to convince prospective pet owners to adopt a shelter animal. In addition, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, told Ted that ”a no-kill nation must be one of the greatest aspirations of this organization.” But according to Nathan Winograd, the head of the No Kill Advocacy Center, out of 3,500 shelters across the country, only about 200 have become no-kill, meaning 90 percent of the dogs and cats who come into the shelter are adopted, fostered, or find other suitable living arrangements.

Ted believes that ever so slowly, we are working on the problem of homeless pets. In my opinion, it boils down to how committed and passionate each shelter is to becoming a no-kill facility.

Pukka’s life as a young, athletic, free-roaming dog.

Next I wanted Ted to talk about the role of genetics in helping dogs live healthier lives, and specifically, how he has applied the principles of his research to his own dog, Pukka, who is now almost four.

I asked Ted if he has encountered any challenges with Pukka’s health he wasn’t expecting. Ted said that overall, Pukka is a vibrant, thriving dog, who according Ted, just happens to beat himself up a lot – he’s hard on his body. He’ll jump off something, and the next day he won’t be quite as fast when he runs. He’s like many young athletes in that he doesn’t know his own limits.

Ted went on to explain that when Pukka was two, he almost died from a self-inflicted wound. He was running with a stick in his mouth, and he jammed it into the ground going full tilt. The stick broke and its jagged end pierced his tongue, severing his sublingual artery. Pukka came into the house gushing arterial blood.

Ted got the dog in his car and drove about a hundred miles an hour to the animal hospital in Jackson, Wyoming. He had stuffed a dishtowel in Pukka’s mouth, but he was still spraying blood all over the car. At the animal hospital, the vet staff clamped off the artery, but they had some initial difficulty finding the injury because there was just so much blood.

So Pukka is a healthy, athletic youngster who injures himself from time to time. Other than that, what worries Ted most is Pukka’s potential exposure to chemicals in the area where they live. Grand Teton National Park and Teton County are sprayed with chemicals every spring to control spotted knapweed. During those times, Pukka is confined to the house and walked under Ted’s supervision, even though all the literature on those sprays claims they are non-toxic.

Ted believes that Pukka, like most dogs, was exposed to many potentially harmful toxins as a puppy, for example, by chewing on dog toys. And he’s exposed to environmental pollutants just as we all are. Ted explained that he’s tried to create a non-toxic house, but Pukka also roams around the village where they live, so it’s impossible to say what he might be exposed to.

People say to Ted, “You should fence Pukka. You should lock him up.” But for Ted, that’s not an option. He’s willing to assume certain risks so that Pukka can live as a free-roaming dog.

Fortunately, Ted has a very unique situation in that he lives in a small village that provides an almost picture-perfect environment for dogs to live independently and free and to make their own choices. Of course, not all of us are fortunate enough to have such an amazing living arrangement.

Ted explained that there are nonetheless risks associated with living where he does, and they are unusual, for instance, grizzly bears … mountain lions … and wolves, the wolves posing the greatest threat to dogs in northwestern Wyoming since wolves will kill domestic dogs. They consider them interlopers in their territory. When Ted and Pukka are hiking during the summer months, or mountain bike riding, Pukka is often a half-mile ahead, doing his thing. If he runs into a pack of wolves, it could be the end of him. But Ted explained that he’s willing to take those risks so Pukka can have his freedom.

What Ted is doing now.

Ted has put the last five years of his life, heart and soul into researching and writing Pukka’s Promise. Now that it’s out in bookstores, I asked Ted what’s next. He responded that he breathed about a five-minute sigh of relief after he finished the book, and then he went back to one he started years ago, before he met Merle, about a young jaguar named Jorge, who lives in Central America. He’s just putting the finishing touches on it now. The title is The Jaguar Who Ran.

As Ted’s story goes, Jorge the jaguar doesn’t like where he was born, because he can’t run in the jungle. He’s always running into trees and slipping in the mud. His mother tells him, “Listen, jaguars slink and crouch and hide. They don’t run.” Jorge responds, “But dad ran when he went up to the land of the Still Star,” which is what the jaguars call northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Jorge wants to run. So he goes to the land of the Still Star and gets into loads of trouble, but manages to persevere. It’s a story for all of us who dream of living a life different from that of our families and cultures.

Ted said he’s also working on a book about street dog management in developing areas of the world, where extermination has traditionally been used to reduce the incidence of rabies transmitted to people. This has not worked. Nor can adoption work since people in such places don’t have enough money to adopt and care for a dog. Since the 1990s a different approach has been tried. It was pioneered in India. Street dogs are captured, sterilized, vaccinated, and then released in the exact location where they were captured. This strategy has been very successful and has reduced both the number of street dogs without harming them, while also reducing the incidence of rabies transmitted to people.

Ted explained that he has met some very interesting veterinarians doing this kind of work all over the world. He thought their story would make a good book and might be applicable to some extent here in the U.S. because we also have a large stray dog problem in some areas. Depending on whose numbers you believe, there are 5,000 to 50,000 stray dogs in Detroit. There are stray dogs in Watts, in Baltimore, St. Louis, and on Indian reservations. The Navajo reservation is home to a couple hundred thousand stray dogs.

What typically happens is we capture these dogs, put them in shelters, and kill the majority of them. Ted wonders if it might not be a better idea to capture them, sterilize and vaccinate them, and turn them loose again – especially if they’re healthy.

My sincere thanks to Ted!

I want to thank Ted Kerasote for joining me for this three-part interview.

I’m very excited about the release of his new book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, and I’m so thankful I was able to get an advance copy to read. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I know our listeners and readers here today will as well.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry … you’ll be informed and inspired by Pukka’s Promise.

Related:

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

February 18, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Story at-a-glance
  • This is part two of Dr. Becker’s captivating three-part video interview with bestselling author Ted Kerasote, author of a brand new book just released last week called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.
  • Today, Dr. Becker and Ted discuss the seven variables that he and other experts believe most influence a dog’s health and longevity. These factors include breeding, nutrition, vaccinations, environmental pollutants, spaying and neutering, the animal shelter system, and the amount of freedom dogs enjoy.
  • In his discussion with Dr. Becker, Ted also touches on such wide-ranging topics as the importance of exercise for dogs, why veterinary schools seem stuck in a time warp, how he discovered most dog toys contain toxins … and his pet peeve when it comes to the health care of dogs.

By Dr. Becker

I’m back with bestselling author Ted Kerasote for part two of our three-part interview series. You can see part one here. We’re discussing Ted’s latest wonderful book, which hit bookstores last week, called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs..

Many of you will remember Ted’s amazing book, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. The new book is about the dog Ted has now, Pukka. Interestingly, the book didn’t start out titled Pukka’s Promise, so I asked Ted to share with us how and why the name changed.

Ted explained the original title for the book was Why Dogs Die Young, and What We Can Do About It. He came up with the name because, as we discussed last week in part one and in our discussion last year, after Merle’s Door was released, he received many inquiries from readers asking, “Why do our dogs die so young?” So it seemed natural to Ted to title the book in response to those questions, and in fact, Why Dogs Die Young was the working title for four years.

But when Ted’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt held a meeting last year with sales reps for the new book, they all stated that they loved the content, but hated the title. They called the title “a downer and a bummer.” So over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend, Ted came up with the new title, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs..

The #1 contributor to early death in dogs: poor breeding.

In Pukka’s Promise, Ted outlines seven key variables that he and other experts agree contribute to the longevity of pet dogs. These variables include breeding, nutrition, vaccinations, environmental pollutants, spaying/neutering, the animal shelter system in North America, and the amount of freedom dogs enjoy.

Ted feels that breeding is at the top of the list of contributors to how long a dog lives. He gives the example of short-faced dogs (brachycephalic breeds), who typically suffer breathing difficulties. Those dogs may not live as long as dogs with longer muzzles.

Another example are dogs bred with abnormally long spines and therefore, inherent back problems. Those dogs, as well, are probably not going to live as long as dogs whose bodies are in better proportion.

Ted makes the point that dogs who are highly inbred and have just a few common ancestors are also at risk of early death. He cites the example of Golden Retrievers bred in North America, 61 percent of whom die of cancer. Why? One reason is that they have very few common ancestors and consequently lots of recessive genes — the kind that can lead to genetically transmitted diseases. With these genes now spread far and wide throughout the Golden Retriever population, they frequently meet, causing health problems and shortening the lives of these dogs.

Ted says he knows of only one breeder who, over a long career, has selected her breeding stock for longevity as well as for how her dogs look or work. Health is not at the top of the list for most dog breeders.

Next on the list: nutrition, vaccinations, and environmental pollutants.

The next most important variable according to Ted is nutrition, and of course I certainly agree.

As Ted pointed out in part one of our discussion last week, it’s expensive to feed our dogs well. But there are ways to do it, including cooking meals at home – or buying a high quality kibble instead of raw food.

Third on Ted’s list is actually vaccinations AND environmental pollutants, because they are similar in terms of their potential toxic effect on pets. In both cases, we’re exposing our dogs to unnatural substances, and while vaccinations are useful for protecting our own pets and others from parvo, distemper and rabies, dogs certainly don’t need the number of vaccinations currently recommended by many veterinarians.

Dogs, like children, have smaller bodies than adults, so environmental pollutants and substances injected into them have a greater effect. And our dogs are low to the ground — their feet and noses are right down in those chemicals in many cases. As Ted points out, environmental toxins are one of the easier things to help our dogs avoid. We don’t have to use lawn chemicals. We can remove formaldehyde-filled carpets from our homes. It’s not necessary to expose our dogs to some of these very common but dangerous chemicals.

Skiing the mountains of Wisconsin … or, the importance of exercise for dogs.

Ted also puts exercise at the top of the list for its value in giving dogs healthier lives. Most dogs just don’t get enough exercise.

Ted, of course, has a slightly different definition of exercise than most of us do –especially city dwellers. Ted lives in a very small village in Wyoming at the edge of Grand Teton National Park, and a regular workout for him is skiing uphill for an hour or so in an afternoon and much longer workouts on the weekend. Meanwhile, I have to get on a treadmill because I live in the Chicago area!

Ted tells the funny story that when he was driving on Interstate 90 from O’Hare airport for our interview, he saw a billboard that said, “Ski the mountains of Wisconsin,” under a picture of what looked like the Jackson Hole, Wyoming ski area. He says he almost drove off the road thinking, “Mountains of Wisconsin?” (There are hills in Wisconsin – no mountains!)

Ted realizes most people don’t live in the Rockies. But dogs are still dogs, whether they live in the Rockies or in an apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City. They still need exercise, and so do their owners. And a little stroll outside isn’t really sufficient to get a dog’s heart pounding – it’s not aerobic exercise.

Ted thinks off-leash dog parks can be a good substitute. At least the dog, if not the owner, is getting some physical activity. In an off-leash, fenced-in dog park, dogs can really be dogs. They can sniff, smell, and move at “dog speed,” as Ted discusses in Pukka’s Promise.

Of course, there are also plenty of city dwellers that are lean, and so are their dogs, because unlike many suburbanites they don’t drive everywhere they go. They walk to the grocery store. They walk to do errands. And they bring their dogs along.

So the idea is to get creative regardless of your living situation, as Ted discusses in his book.

Why are DVMs in the U.S. and Canada trained ONLY to spay or neuter, when alternative sterilization methods are "Quick, easy, and effective?"

I next asked Ted to talk about his interviews with veterinarians while he was doing research for Pukka’s Promise. Being a veterinarian, I’m certainly aware that the profession has some blind spots.

Ted thinks that this is a result of the way veterinarians are trained. There are about 30 veterinary schools in the U.S. and another four or so in Canada. These are old institutions and, like many institutions, they suffer from inertia. They do things the way they’ve always done them, until something really shakes things up.

Ted says one of the best examples of this concerns spaying and neutering. He and I have discussed the fact that tubal ligations and vasectomies are another means of achieving sterility in dogs. He didn’t entirely believe me at first, so he did his own research and found over a dozen citations, dating back to the mid-1970’s, that describe these less-invasive procedures as “Quick, easy, and effective. Complications, rare.”

So he called every vet school in the U.S. and asked if tubal ligations and vasectomies were taught there. Not one school said they were. So Ted naturally wants to know why there’s such a disconnect between what the veterinary literature says and what is being taught in veterinary schools. He says it’s obvious either they’re not reading their own peer-reviewed literature, or there is a mindset against teaching alternative sterilization procedures.

Ted thinks what has happened is the veterinary profession and the animal shelter community joined forces in the 1970s to try to solve what has been called the “pet overpopulation problem” in the U.S. And, at the time, the quickest, cheapest, most effective means they hit on was spaying and neutering, which have now become a mantra in this country – we need to spay or neuter every dog, even though there are alternative procedures that prevent pregnancy.

I absolutely agree with this, and these alternative methods of sterilization are also actually faster, less risky, and maybe less costly.

But to Ted’s point, they’re not being taught to veterinary students. And when he has asked fourth-year students about it, their response has been, “Oh, we can’t do that. We didn’t learn that.” When he talked with Dr. Robert McCarthy, a veterinary surgeon at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. McCarthy just laughed ruefully and said, “The reason they’re not being taught is habit. Spaying and neutering were taught a hundred years ago, and so we continue to do it that way today.”

Ted poses the question, “What will it take to make the veterinary profession change?” The answer is veterinary clients, and veterinary students. Dog owners need to speak up and say, “Hey, we’d like better dog food,” and “No, we don’t want a vaccination every year. I’ve read on Dr. Karen Becker’s website that we don’t need vaccinations every year. And you know, maybe my dog would be better off with a vasectomy so he can keep his testicles and the hormones they produce.”

Tainted tennis balls and other toxic toys.

According to Ted, another area where public pressure and consumer demand could change things for the better is with dog toys.

Ted includes an interesting little section in Pukka’s Promise about toxic dog toys. I asked him to share how he came to learn about the problem, because I honestly wasn’t expecting to see anything about it in his book.

Ted explained that when he brought Pukka home, everyone he knew sent him gifts. Tons of gifts. They all went in a huge wicker basket, and Ted would look over and see Pukka ripping apart the toys, chewing on the polyester and spitting it out. And he started to wonder, “Hmm … is that good for him to have in his mouth?”

Ted knew children’s toys had been vetted and we now have legislation that stipulates what cannot go into kids’ toys. Since children are about the size of dogs, he wondered if Pukka should be mouthing all that stuff – ripping and tearing at it. And Pukka, like many dogs, destroyed tennis balls. In a matter of minutes he would be gnawing on the guts of the ball. So Ted wondered also about whether tennis balls were safe.

And guess what? He couldn’t find anyone who could tell him about the safety of dog toys. Not a soul. The manufacturers, of course, wouldn’t tell him. They’d respond to Ted’s inquiries with, “Oh, that’s proprietary information. We can’t divulge that.”

So since Ted’s goal was to make his book rigorously researched and thorough, he began sending dog toys to an environmental testing laboratory that tests children’s toys. And he learned that lo and behold, the polyester in one of Pukka’s stuffed toys contained antimony, a suspected carcinogen, and the amount in the toys was 10,000 times the maximum level recommend for drinking water by the World Health Organization.

Pukka’s retriever dummies, as it turns out, contained a phthalate that is prohibited in children’s toys. And tennis balls have an accelerant in the rubber that is poisonous. Whether this toxin is bioavailable from the tennis ball no one could say – not even the best toxicology minds in the country could say.

As tennis ball manufacturers told Ted, “We don’t make tennis balls for dogs, but for people playing the game of tennis.” So for Ted there was an easy solution – no more tennis balls for Pukka. Instead, he got non-toxic balls that are designed for dogs. They’re made by Planet Dog, and Ted knows they’re non-toxic because he had them tested as well!

I’m pretty sure that Ted is one of the very few people who has sent dog toys to a lab for testing, and I love that he included the information in Pukka’s Promise. He was able to find only one other test of dog toys, done in Germany.

Ted’s pet peeve: treating dogs as "just dogs."

Ted explains that one of his pet peeves is how we treat dogs with less respect than they deserve, excusing our behavior by saying that they’re “just dogs.” He says that we’d never take this approach with people, and especially children. We’d never practice human medicine the way we practice veterinary medicine, with such little oversight and allowing M.D’s to dispense drugs (other than samples) out of a cabinet in a back office, as veterinarians do. Human patients have to go to a pharmacy to fill their prescriptions, so the doctor isn’t making money (presumably) off the sale of drugs.

But veterinarians are allowed to sell drugs for their animal patients out of their offices, which perhaps makes it more appealing to write too many prescriptions. Ted’s point is that there is far less rigor when it comes to the health care of our pets than we would tolerate in human health care.

Stay tuned next week for the final installment of my 3-part interview with Ted Kerasote. We’ll talk in-depth about what his research reveals about what has been called the "pet overpopulation problem" and the operation of animal shelters in the U.S. We’ll also talk more about Pukka, and what future surprises Ted has in store for us.

Related:

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

February 14, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , | 16 Comments