Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Video showing the dangerous conditions your pet experiences in a parked car

This vet went to extreme measures to demonstrate the devastating effects of leaving your pet in a car in the summer - even with the windows down. Here's his video. Please be safe in the heat this summer and never leave your pets in the car!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heartworm disease

I recently received a great question about heartworm disease:

Q. I'm relocating from the West coast and have never given my healthy (very!) 6 1/2 y o labradoodle heart worm medicine - is it necessary and if so, what's the least toxic, I hate for a preventitive treatment to harm him in other ways

A. This is an important topic, and is especially relevant in these warm months; when mosquitos are prevalent in many areas.

Heartworm disease is a very real disease in dogs and cats; and can lead to potentially life threatening complications. It is true that this disease is more common in certain parts of the country; as it is transmitted by mosquitos. In Tucson we very rarely see heartworm disease; and cases are usually attributed to the animal having travelled to another location where mosquitos are more common. Unfortunately in my practice in DC and during my time in Georgia and Florida, I diagnosed a few heartworm positive dogs; and the available western treatments were harsh.

In general in my practice I tend to favor a more "natural" approach over western medicine if I have a choice. Unfortunately, with heartworm disease, there is not much research regarding the prevention and treatment of this scary disease with herbal, homeopathic or dietary appraches; and there is a large amount of research supporting the efficacy and relative safety of western medications. That being said; I can tell you a bit about holistic approaches to this disease; and what I do with my own pets; and let you make the best decision for your family.

It is interesting to me that many non- domesticated animals (such as coyotes) seem resistant to heartworm disease (as in this study). While we could argue there are many differences between a coyote and a dog; one of the main ones is lifestyle: a "whole foods" diet and exercise.

To mimic the diet of a dog in it's natural habitat; and to help your pet build a strong immune system I would suggest a minimally processed, balanced diet. There are a few books with recipes for balanced "homemade diets"; or you can look at products such as The Honest Kitchen and Natures Variety Instinct raw.  In my practice I evaluate a pets' overall health and particular imbalances as well as the medicinal properties of various foods when choosing the best diet for them. I also like to add probiotics and digestive enzymes (especially if your dog is on a raw food) to their food.

There are a few western herbs that are commonly used in the treatment and prevention of heartworm disease; however safety and efficacy studies have not been done. Please consult with your pet's veterinarian before trying these (for example, some herbs such as garlic and ginger can interfere with medications); and note that they should be discontinued with any adverse reactions such as diarrhea.
  • Black Walnut: 1 capsule of ground herb/ day. This is often used to treat gastro intestinal parasites as well.
  • Tincture formula: 14 ml Ginger, 9ml Wormwood, 4 ml Garlic, 14 ml Thyme, 9 ml Cinnamon. Give 0.1 ml ml of tincture per 5 lb of body weight; divide this into twice daily doses.
  • Bromelein: to be given with above tincture formula to prevent potential complications from sudden worm "die-offs."  Starting dose is 30 mg/ pound body weight devided into twice daily doses.
I will tell you that I put my own pets on prescription heartworm preventative when we travel from Arizona to states with a higher risk of mosquitos (such as DC in the summer). In the winter months on the east coast; when there is little chance of mosquitos, I take them off of prescription heartworm preventative.  In Tucson I do not have my pets on heartworm preventative; but I do test them for the disease annually.

It is hard to say what the "safest" prescription product would be for your particular pet. In my practice I tend to favor the Ivermectin formulas (which have been around longer) over some of the newer formulas that aim to prevent many types of parasites at once. It should be noted that Ivermectin should never be used in certain breeds such as herding dogs; so check with your vet about your particular pet, though a labradoodle should be fine. For families with children; I would err on the side of caution and use a product (such as Ivermectin with Pyrantel) that also addresses gastro-intestinal worms; which can migrate into various parts of the human body and cause damage.

I hope this gives you some information and resources to help your decision making process for your pet. This is an important topic that all pet owners in areas with a humid, warm climate need to take seriously.

Gator enjoying the great outdoors :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Staying safe and cool in the summer

In these hot temperatures please remember to keep your pets safe. Just the other day in Arizona, a pet bird named Rusty was left in a truck for too long and was unresponisve by the time firefighters were able to intervene. Fortunately Rusty survived with medical intervention; but many pets are not so lucky. Never leave your pet in the car - even if you are leaving them for just a few moments.

When you walk your dog in the summer; be sure you have plenty of fresh water available for her.  Even if you dont feel thirsty, your furry friend might need a cool break. Especially in Arizona, make sure the surface you are walking on isnt hot enough to burn her paws! You may want to invest in dog booties.

  Gator was really ready for a water break here!
Cooling off by a fountain in DC:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ticks as a cause of beef allergy

A recent discovery in human medicine has linked a bite from a particular tick to beef allergy in humans.  While this link has not been established in veterinary medicine; I do see food allergies (and ticks!) quite often in my veterinary practice... Please be sure to check your pets for ticks daily!

link to wsj article

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

OCD in dogs

Recent research indicates that our dog friends can suffer from the same sort of imbalances and changes in their brains (seen on an MRI) as a person with OCD. In dogs, the condition often "manifests in tail and shadow chasing, spinning, excessive drinking and licking, fly snapping, persistent barking, and pica - a compulsive eating habit where they devour non-nutritive substances."  
In my TCVM pracitce; I have treated patients with compulsive disorders succesfully with a combination of herbs, acupuncture, diet change and massage therapy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Preventing ear infections in dogs

It is the time of year (especially in DC where the humidity is creeping up); when I start seeing a rise in the number of dogs with ear infections.

In Chinese medicine we describe ear infections as "damp heat" in the ears. In addition to keeping ears clean to prevent infection, in my practice I talk with clients about dietary options to help drain damp and clear heat, as well herbal formulas and acupuncture treatments.

Gator loves to cool off in the pool; but I make sure to clean out his ears afterward

It is important to keep your dog's ears clean and dry (especially after swimming or bathing) to prevent ear infections. One of my favorite "at home" remedies to keep ears clean (after checking with your vet to make sure your dog doesnt have an active infection that needs to be treated) is to clean the ears every few days with pure aloe vera juice. Aloe is a "cooling" plant in Chinese medicine; and it has antimicrobial properties.

I have clients use "George's Aloe Vera Juice". Pour a cup of the juice over a few cotton balls. You can add 1-2 drops of tee tree oil (a potent anti-microbial essential oil) if your dog is prone to yeast or bacterial infections. Be careful to not use more tea tree oil than this (and never use it in cats); as this medicinal oil can be toxic at high doses.

Use the cotton balls to clean the ears. Never use Q-tips to clean your dogs ears at home; as it can be easy to go a little too far and severely damage your dog's ear drum

Here's Gator getting ready for an ear cleaning. It helps to have some treats handy as a reward :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lifesaving dogs

Sometimes the simplest answers are the most brilliant. I love this approach to detecting ovarian cancer in women; utilizing dogs' incredible sense of smell. Check out this article on dogs who are saving lives :)

Puppies at Penn to battle ovarian cancer. Ohlin (top left), McBain (top right), Thunder (bottom right), Working Dogs Center Director Cindy Otto (lower left) with puppy Sirius (not in the cancer study).