Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

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

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

vet-visit[1] By Dr. Becker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Effective Preventive Healthcare Looks Like

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megacolon: A Terrible Outcome for Constipated Pets

Video:  Dr. Karen Becker Discusses Megacolon

By Dr. Becker

Literally speaking, “megacolon” means large colon. It’s a condition in which too much waste accumulates and causes the bowel to enlarge well beyond its normal diameter.

Megacolon is much more common in cats than dogs. It can occur in any age, breed, or sex of cat, however, most cases are seen in middle-aged male kitties – the average age is about 5.8 years.

The colon is a part of the digestive tract that starts at the cecum and ends at the rectum. The cecum is the point where the small and large intestines meet. The main job of the colon is to temporarily store waste while extracting water and salt from it, and to move feces down to the rectum in preparation for elimination.

In megacolon, the waste doesn’t pass through to the large intestine normally. For whatever reason, the colon doesn’t release its contents.

Recent studies show that cats with megacolon seem to have a defect in the ability of the muscles of the colon to contract. This causes chronic constipation and also obstipation, which is severe, unrelenting constipation that blocks the passage of both gas and waste through the colon.

So, megacolon is a terrible condition in which the large intestine is extremely dilated, has very poor motility, and there is an accumulation of fecal material that the animal can’t eliminate from his body.

Megacolon Can Be Congenital or Acquired

Megacolon can be present at birth, or it can be an acquired condition, which is more common. Animals with congenital megacolon have a lack of normal smooth muscle function through the large intestine from birth.

Acquired megacolon results when the large intestine chronically retains feces, the water has been completely resorbed out of the colon, and the feces become really hard and solid. If these masses of waste material remain for a prolonged amount of time, the colon distends and enlarges. This can result in irreversible colon inertia, which means the colon’s smooth muscle gets so stretched out and fatigued that it no longer effectively contracts to move waste down to the rectum.

Acquired megacolon can also be the result of certain dietary factors, a foreign body in the colon, lack of exercise, and, for kitties, there can be litter box and/or behavior issues that cause them to hold in feces.

Another cause can be painful defecation due to an anal gland abscess or a stricture of the anus. There can also be a narrowed pelvic canal resulting from a fracture or tumor that can cause pain on defecation.

There can be a neurologic or neuromuscular disease that prevents the animal from getting into the posture necessary for elimination, or a neurologic condition that affects the nerves that control defecation.

Metabolic disorders resulting in low potassium levels or severe dehydration can also be a factor, as can certain types of drugs. There’s also idiopathic megacolon, which means we have no idea why it occurs. It just starts happening.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of megacolon include constipation, obstipation, infrequent elimination, straining to defecate followed by small amounts of loose stool, vomiting, loss of appetite and dehydration.

Megacolon is diagnosed based on the animal’s history and a physical exam. The vet will find a very hard colon upon palpation of the rectum and will find fecal impacts during a rectal exam.

In order to determine how severe the condition is and possible underlying causes, other tests are needed. These can include blood work, urinalysis, an ultrasound, X-rays with barium contrast studies, and also neurologic testing.

Treating Megacolon

The treatment goal for megacolon is to clean out the large intestine and identify any underlying issues that have created or contributed to the condition. The type of treatment used will depend on the severity of the problem, how long it has existed, and the underlying cause.

Many animals need to be hospitalized for IV fluid therapy and to have the colon evacuated. This can involve anesthesia so that enemas and manual extraction of feces can be accomplished. Most kitties are in too much pain to undergo these procedures without sedation, and it’s also extremely stressful for them.

Treatment of less severe cases often involves the use of laxatives to attempt to evacuate the colon. In severe recurrent cases of megacolon that can’t be managed medically, surgery may be required, but it’s only recommended if all other attempts to manage the condition have failed.

In my practice, I use a combination of chiropractic care, acupuncture, dietary change, and bowel supplements to try to manage these conditions in a non-surgical fashion.

How to Prevent Megacolon in Your Cat

As a proactive vet, I encourage my clients to try to prevent megacolon through healthy lifestyle management. A moisture-rich, species-appropriate diet and a constant supply of fresh drinking water are very important in helping to prevent dehydration. I also recommend a good-quality pet probiotic and digestive enzymes with each meal.

In order to keep your kitty well hydrated, you can try adding a little bit of water to her food. You can also consider buying a drinking fountain designed for pets. Some cats who avoid drinking still water will happily drink moving water from a fountain.

Regular exercise is very important, as is helping your pet maintain her ideal body weight.

In multi-cat households, kitties should be provided with enough litter boxes of the right size in low traffic areas with the cat’s preferred litter to encourage normal and healthy defecation. If your cat is eliminating outside the box, it’s important to not only have him checked by your veterinarian, but also to experiment with different types of litter and litter boxes. Monitor your pet’s daily “output” by regularly scooping the boxes.

Regular brushing or combing of your cat to remove loose fur and debris can help keep things moving well through the GI tract and also prevent hairballs. There are a number of natural remedies for constipation that I always recommend trying before resorting to harsher laxatives. These include psyllium husk powder or coconut fiber added to each meal, or the addition of dark green leafy veggies or cat grass (if your cat will eat them).

Remember, never use a human laxative product on kitties, and if you are using a daily hairball remedy to keep things moving along in your kitty’s GI tract, I recommend you pick a petroleum-free product to avoid adding unnecessary toxins to your pet’s body.

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December 10, 2012 Posted by | Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Pets | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Video:  Carnivores and Protein

Download Video Transcript

In this video Dr. Karen Becker talks about your carnivorous pet’s lifelong requirement for a diet rich in high quality, natural protein.


Dr. Becker’s Comments:

Dogs and cats need 22 amino acids to be healthy.

Dogs can synthesize (make) 12 of those 22; cats can synthesize 11 of them. The remaining amino acids must come from the food they eat, which is why they’re called ‘essential’ amino acids.

Pets get amino acids from the protein they eat. And the quality and quantity of protein is extremely important for carnivores – it’s the very foundation of their health.

Not All Protein is Created Equal

Protein quality is extremely variable. There are highly assimilable and digestible proteins (proteins your pet’s body can easily absorb and make use of), and there are proteins that are wholly indigestible. For example beaks, feet, hides, tails and snouts are 100 percent protein, but all 100 percent is indigestible.

All protein has a biologic value, which is its usable amino acid content. Eggs have the highest biologic value at 100 percent. Fish is a close second at 92 percent. Feathers, as you might guess, have zero biologic value. They are all protein, but they are neither digestible nor assimilable.

Now there are some foods high in protein that are not species-appropriate for dogs and cats. Soy is a good example, with a biologic value of 67 percent. Many popular pet foods contain soy as a protein source, as well as corn. This is an inexpensive way for pet food manufacturers to increase protein content on the guaranteed analysis printed on the label.

But because soy and corn are not species-appropriate, I don’t recommend you feed pet foods that contain it.

Unfortunately, digestion and assimilation are not measured for dog and cat foods, so manufacturers can include other types of protein that have no biologic value for the species of animal eating it (this is also why melamine was added to pet foods that killed thousands of animals). You can be fooled into thinking you’re feeding a higher-protein food, when the reality is the protein isn’t biologically appropriate for your pet.

Rendered Pet Food – The Worst of the Worst

Asking a dog’s or cat’s liver and kidneys to process low-quality, indigestible protein over a long period of time is exactly how protein in pet food got a bad rap.

In the 1940s and 1950s, there were really no high quality commercial pet foods on the market. Formulas at that time contained 100 percent run-off or rendered byproducts from the human food industry.

Pet food companies took all the pieces and parts left over at slaughterhouses, mixed them with discarded vegetables and grains not fit for human consumption, added a synthetic vitamin-mineral supplement, and called it pet food.

While there was a fair amount of protein in pet food back then, the quality was just terrible. Because the protein was so difficult for dogs and cats to digest, kidney and liver function suffered.

That’s why veterinarians around the mid-century mark started recommending lower protein senior pet foods. Senior formulas came into being because of the terrible quality of dog and cat foods on the market.

That’s why I strongly recommend if you’re feeding a rendered pet food formula – food that contains protein that is not digestible or assimilable – that you reduce the amount of protein you’re feeding. Your pet’s organs can’t process a steady diet of terrible quality protein.

Your Pet’s Protein Requirement Increases with Age

The good news is the quality of pet food has increased dramatically in the last 30 to 40 years.

And in 1992 Dr. Delmar Finco, a veterinary nutritionist, discovered protein requirements actually increase as pets age. Even in animals with kidney failure, restricting protein didn’t improve their health or longevity.

In fact, Dr. Finco’s research proved cats on low protein diets developed hypoproteinemia. They had muscle wasting, became catabolic, and lost weight. The more protein was restricted, the more ill these kitties became. Fortunately, Dr. Finco discovered it was the level of phosphorus in foods, not necessarily the amount of protein that exacerbated kidney disease.

Since that research was published, veterinary recommendations have changed. What we’re recommending for animals struggling with under-functioning kidneys and livers is that you feed really good quality protein that is highly digestible and assimilable.

We also recommend you restrict phosphorus in the diet, but not necessarily protein.

We know that cats and dogs, as carnivores, require lots of high quality protein not only to maintain good organ and immune function, but also to maintain healthy muscle mass as they go through life and the aging process.

Whole, Raw, Natural Foods Are Best

Some foods are metabolically stressful and some create low metabolic stress on your dog or cat.

Foods that generate the least amount of metabolic stress are whole, raw, unprocessed, and in their natural form. Foods that have not been dehydrated or processed are the most assimilable for your pet’s body.

These foods are biologically appropriate. All the moisture in the food remains in the food.

Foods that have been dehydrated, extruded or processed can have drastically depleted moisture content. It can drop from 70 percent down to as low as 12 percent, in fact. Your pet’s kidneys and liver become stressed due to chronic low-grade dehydration.

Dogs and especially kitties must drink lots of water to rehydrate their bodies after eating dehydrated food. This situation can stress organs that are congenitally defective or are experiencing age-related changes.

I recommend serving your pet food in its natural state to provide needed moisture, and to insure the highest level of biologic assimilation and digestion.

Appropriate Food for the Species

‘Species-appropriate’ for your dog or cat means a food that is high in protein in its natural form, and low in grain content. Your pet is a carnivore – dogs are scavenging carnivores and cats are obligate carnivores. Carnivores need to eat animal protein and fat in order to be healthy.

Foods that cause metabolic stress – those that are highly processed and/or dehydrated – are not species-appropriate. Take high-protein kibble, for example.

In recognition that dogs and cats do better on higher protein, low-grain diets, over the last 15 years there’s been movement by veterinarians and pet food companies toward formulas containing more protein and fewer carbohydrates.

I can certainly agree with that, except in situations where the food is not biologically, species-appropriate.

Pets eating a protein-based diet do just fine as long as it contains 70 to 80 percent moisture. But when you take moisture out of high protein foods, they become difficult for your pet’s body to process because of the dehydration factor. That’s why I prefer foods that are unprocessed and therefore not dehydrated.

Feed Your Pet Exactly What His Body Needs

When you’re contemplating the issue of protein for your dog or cat, it’s important to recognize you can’t save kidney function with a low protein diet.

Your carnivorous companion needs protein to be healthy throughout life, and especially as she deals with the muscle wasting that comes with the aging process.

I recommend you feed your pet food in its natural form, full of moisture and unprocessed. This will provide the best species-appropriate nourishment for your dog or cat, with an optimum level of digestion and assimilation.

Related Links:


Dr. Becker
Dr. Becker  -  Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of HealthyPets.Mercola.com. You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to MercolaHealthyPets.com, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

*Many people now cook for their pets because they don’t want to feed raw, plus there are great recipes out there that you can actually feed your pets and eat yourself, if you are time taped, on a budge or it is just you and them..  But make sure they get what they need. Adding probiotics and vitamins to their diets, plus exercise, also does wonders!

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Quickie Homemade Dog Treats









January 16, 2009 Posted by | Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment