Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heartwarming before and after videos

Not long ago a childhood friend who lives on the other side of the country sent me a message about his sweet 3 legged dog Hank.

Hank had significant arthritis and was showing signs of severe pain that medication alone was not able to handle. I suggested that in addition to the western medications; Hank see a veterinary acupuncturist asap. The following 2 videos are of Hank before acupuncture and after his first couple treatments. I think they are quite heartwarming and show the power of integrative medicine.

Hank before acupuncture (heartbreaking - but I promise it gets better!):


Hank after acupuncture (yay!):


Monday, April 22, 2013

Alternative inflammatory bowl disease treatments

I recently received this question on "IBD"; which unfortunately is a very common disease in dogs and cats. Please see the question and my answer below.
Q. "Do you have any advice about how to cope with a cat who has inflammatory bowel disorder and how to eventually get him off of steroids?  My cat was diagnosed with IBD about a year ago.  During this time, he's been on steroid doses ranging from 2 pills a day to half a pill every third day (and I always transition gradually between dose sizes).  I'd recently gotten him to half a pill every 3 days.  Then he had a backslide, and how he's back to 1 pill a day.  He's living fine with the disease, but he's had several instances of dropping weight and losing appetite -  he swings between 7 pounds and 8 pounds.  Even at his ""healthy"" weight of 8 pounds, he's a skinny cat.  He doesn't have extra weight to lose!
I've researched so many unique protein foods.  He's currently on Hills z/d for dry food and two types of wet food - Ziwi Peak venison and Addiction brushtail and venison. 
I also give him probiotics and shots of B12.
Any suggestions of other ways to manage this disease so that he doesn't back-slide and so I can get him off the steroids?
Thank you!!!!
Thanks for this important question. IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) is a very common disease in dogs and cats.  IBD is characterized by inflammatory cells accumulating in the intestine; leading to signs that include vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.  The cause of the disorder is usually hard to identify; but common causes include food "allergy" (to things like meat proteins, artificial colorings and preservatives in food) and microbial infection (such as giardia and salmonella). IBD is suspected to have a genetic component, as certain breeds have a higher incidence of certain presentations.

In western medicine the most common medical treatments include the use of anti-inflammatory medications (such as steroids); often combined with antibiotics, antidiarrheal drugs and ideally a hypoallergenic diet.

This treatment can be effective at keeping the signs under control; but clinical signs often flare up; and western medications alone rarely lead to a cure.

In my Chinese medical practice I have had great success with treating IBD. I have found TCVM (traditional Chinese veterinary medicine) to be able to nurture a patient's body, to restore health and prevent recurrence of disease in a way that western medicine is often not able to do. You will notice the western medical treatments include many medications that are "anti" something. Western medicine is wonderful at killing invaders of the body and treating "excess"; but it often overlooks the support of the body and the underlying cause of the "excess". Western medicine lacks where Chinese medicine excels; in allowing the body to heal itself and prevent recurrence of problems.

Patients with IBD in my practice usually receive a series of acupuncture and massage treatments, and often take customized herbal formulas to normalize their stools, prevent nausea, and promote weight gain if needed.  Since your cat is receiving vitamin B injections; I would likely use "aquapuncture", and inject the vitamin at acupuncture points for a synergistic effect.

I also almost always adjust the diet of a patient with IBD. In western medicine we recognize that IBD patient's guts often react to certain ingredients, and we therefore put these animals on special diets that exclude these ingredients. In TCVM we take it a step further and customize the choice of ingredients to the patient's particular imbalances. In Chinese medicine every food is considered to have a unique effect on the body, and we use this knowledge to use food as medicine.  I have had great success with simply modifying a patient's diet according to Chinese medical principles with no other treatments to help patients with IBD.

When I see patients that are on western medications I usually leave them on the meds until they have been stable and showing no clinical signs for weeks. I then gradually taper them off the medications; while working closely with the veterinarian that prescribed them.  Remember, western medications are very powerful and effective at getting rid of problems. I strongly believe in using the best of everything available to us - western medicine to quickly damper an out of control inflammatory reaction, and Chinese medicine to balance the body to prevent it from coming back.

As far as "western" supplements go, a good place to start is with digestive enzymes and a high quality probiotic (with multiple species and billions of colonies of "good" bacteria and yeast) to help your pet digest and assimilate his food. I especially like probiotic products that contain "soil organisms”. Occasionally I see animals who do not respond well to probitics. In Chinese medicine probiotics are considered "dampening"; and often I find these animals have an excess "dampness" that must be addressed before probiotics will be helpful. You also must take care to be sure the probiotic does not contain dairy, wheat, corn, etc if your pet is on an elimination diet. For sympotm relief, enteric coated peppermint is a very safe and often effective herb. N-Acetylglucosamine (dose 50mg/pound body weight) is showing promise as  a supplement which helps to preserve the intestinal mucosa and regulate inflammation.

Unfortunately, Chinese medicine is very patient - specific. There is not one acupuncture plan or herbal prescription I can recommend to treat all animals with IBD - the treatments are customized to each animal's unique imbalances.  I would highly recommend making an appointment with a local veterinary acupuncturist to get your kitty started on an integrative medicine plan.

 With all this being said IBD is a disease that veterinary acupuncturists commonly treat with great success. I hope this helps; and please follow up with additional questions if you need.

Please check with your veterinarian before changing anything in your pet’s health care regime.
No information in this blog is meant to replace the advice of your veterinarian

Friday, April 12, 2013

Could your pet's digestive tract be the source of her behavior problems?

  I just read a fascinating article about a recent study linking compulsive disorders (such as excessive licking, "fly biting" and tail chasing) to an underlying digestive problem.
  Holistic health care professionals have known for decades that diet can have a profound effect on a person's (or animal's) psychology and therefore behavior. I have seen many dogs and cats with anxiety, phobias, and aggression problems improve dramatically on a more appropriate diet. In my holistic practice, I tailor a patient's diet according to her particular needs and imbalances. A good place to start is with a minimally processed, high quality balanced diet; supplemented with probiotics, digestive enzymes, and fish oils.
Please check with your veterinarian before changing anything in your pet’s health care regime.
No information in this blog is meant to replace the advice of your veterinarian.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Inspiring dog

I dont have time for a long post today; but I love this story.  The joyful spirits of our dog friends never fail to warm my heart. Reminds me of my Gator dog. :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hyper kitty

I recently received a question about kitty behavior that I will summarize below. While I am not a vet behaviorist; I am presented with behavior problems frequently in my holistic practice, and find them rewarding to treat.

Q.  I adopted an adult cat. He is waking up around 5 AM, and is quite restless. Is there a way to change his sleep patterns?

AFirst off, cats are nocturnal creatures. This means they have evolved to sleep during the day and hunt and play at night. Many domesticated cats retain these sleep patterns, which can be disruptive to their human family member’s desires to sleep at nite.
See your vet:
My first inclination would be to rule out a potential disease process that may be underlying your cat's restlessness. Your vet may want to make sure his vision and hearing are normal and that he doesnt have a problem such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or even cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). In some cases when a cat's environment changes significantly; they react with behaviors such as night vocalization. In my TCVM practice, I would look to rule out an "imbalance" that could be treated with herbal medicine, a dietary adjustment, or acupuncture.
If your cat is healthy; this is likely normal behavior for him.

Ignore him: :(
To try to adjust his behavior; dont encourage him during his 5 AM antics. Do not respond to his meowing by feeding him, petting him, or playing with him at this hour. If you do, it will teach him that if he meows at 5 AM he will get rewarded by you.
If his nightime antics are exhausting you, I recommend you try to exhaust him first - so that he will be too tired come nite time to be "restless".
To keep him active during the day, and encourage him to use his instincts to hunt for food; I like to use "interactive" toys.  These are contraptions in which you hide food or a beloved toy. He has to work throughout the day to get it out. Do an internet search for "interactive cat toys" and you will find plenty!  If your kitty eats kibble; try splitting up his kibble in a few of these toys hidden around your house. This stimulates his brain as well as keeps his body active.

Luckily, many cats prefer the simplest toys; such as foil balls and empty boxes. I like to leave a suprise out every few days for Sam so he doesnt get bored with his toy selection. :) For inspiration; watch this video of a cat named Maru who LOVES boxes. I cant stop watching him - so cute!!
If you are home during the day; I love for cats and cat parents to bond with toys such as "wands". Many cats love stalking and chasing these; and you will surely end up laughing, and praising your cat friend as he shows off his moves to pounce on the prey.

A kitty going crazy for a feather wand toy:
My cat Sam loves to go outside on a leash (with a harness). Most cats tolerate a harness fairly well after getting used to it - Sam knows when the harness comes out he gets to play outside! These outdoor sessions can be wonderful for their (and your!) spirits. Just please be sure your cat is vaccinated, as some diseases are transmitted thru the air.
                                                      Sam enjoying some fresh air and sunshine: 
If you are not able to play with your cat during the day, consider hiring a petsitter to play with your kitty for an hour or so while you are at work. The added expense might do wonders for your mental health if it gives you a few extra hours of sleep each night! :)
You may also try leaving a radio on or an animal related video or tv channel.  Make sure there is furniture or a perch available that allows your cat to climb, explore, and look out of a window. You may even want to place a bird-feeder on the other side of the window - this can provide hours of entertainment!
This lucky kitty has a lovely window view. I bet he'd love to get outside and play a little (on a leash!) :)
He is a cat...
Having said all of this; we must recognize that nocturnal behavior is normal for cats. If your kitty is still waking you up at nite despite stimulating him throughout the day and ensuring he does not have a medical issue; you two may just need to separate at night. Perhaps he can have a nite-time "playroom"; that is separate from your bedroom. Simple lifestyle adjustments such as this can often do wonders.
 Please check with your veterinarian before changing anything in your pet’s health care regime.
No information in this blog is meant to replace the advice of your veterinarian.