Vaccine labeling – do you know what your pet is getting?

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Do you know what is really in the vaccines that are given to your pet?  Vaccines are used to build immunity against certain diseases and will contain a modified or killed form of the organism.  Vaccines also contain other ingredients that may cause adverse reactions in your pet.  All vaccines will have preservatives of some sort.  These are typically either antibiotics and/or thimerosal, which is a mercury based preservative.  Vaccine companies and the FDA will consider these substances safe if present in certain low percentages.  The problem is that you never know how a certain individual is going to react to even a small amount of a chemical or antibiotic.

I recommend that you ask what is in the vaccine that is being given your pet.  I have also found that package inserts are not complete.  In an effort to investigate the ingredients in a certain rabies vaccine that we have in our clinic, I found that the package insert only listed gentamycin as a preservative.  When I contacted the company asking about any other ingredients, I was sent the MSDS (material safety and data sheet ) that report the presence of neomycin(another antibiotic) and thimerosal.  You can ask to see the MSDS sheets or find them your self online if you know the brand of vaccine that is to be used on your pet.

Remember – vaccines are not benign and may contain other substances with the potential to cause reactions in your pet.  You have the right to be informed and deserve full disclosure of what your pet is receiving.

GMO in Pet food

Here is more reason to carefully check the ingredients on the food you are feeding your pets:  GMO.  What is GMO?  GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, and they are becoming more and more prevalent in our food supply every day.  Crops are modified to increase profit by increasing resistance to disease, or increasing production.  What is the problem with GMO?  Genetic engineering is done in such a way that the DNA of the plant is permanently altered.  The scary part is that very little testing is done to determine what effects the altered genetics will have on the person or animal ingesting the food.  The modified genes can be unstable and even incorporate into intestinal cells, modifying their DNA!

This can explain increases in diseases such as allergies, food sensitivities, autoimmune syndromes and cancer, even when supposedly ‘healthy’ foods are being consumed.   You can learn more details about the genetic modification of our food supply at:  http://responsibletechnology.org/

What does this mean for your pet and how can you feed foods that are GMO free?  The answer is to read labels and ask questions of food producers.  Anything labelled organic will be GMO free by definition.  Avoid soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn, and sugar from sugar beets.  These are the crops with the highest prevalence of GMO.  Remember too that there are many byproducts of these crops, especially corn, such as syrup, starch additives.  Many companies are now labeling their products that are GMO free.  You can find a more comprehensive shopping guide at http://nongmoshoppingguide.com/.

In general, fresh organic ingredients will provide the best chance of avoiding genetically engineered foods.  Companies that do not use genetically modified ingredients will typically make that obvious on their packaging.  Remember – pay attention, read labels and ask questions if labels are unclear.  The time you spend will be worth the health benefits to you and your pets.

When it is time to say good-bye

Our pets bring so much to our lives – love, companionship, joy, playfulness.  It is devastating to face the moment of truth when a beloved pet may be leaving our lives.  There are difficult decisions to make, finances to consider, and most importantly, we do not want our pet to suffer needlessly.  These decisions can be heart-wrenching, to say the least.

How do you decide how long to treat your pet, and with what?  Do you feel selfish by keeping your pet alive in order to avoid the loss?  There is often a dead end reached in allopathic medicine where ‘no more’ can be done.  In alternative medicine, however, there are many options to choose from regardless of your pet stage of life.

This is not to say that we can stop your pet from aging or stop the progression of disease, but there are definitely options that can improve your pet’s quality of life both mentally and physically.  These options include energy work, essential oils, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, homeopathy and animal communication.  Within each of these modalities, there are many options available to help your pet.

As you pet reached its ‘golden years’  seek out alternative therapies that you are comfortable and you will find great comfort for both you and your pet.

Healthy people food for your pet

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People food can be a very healthy addition to your pet’s diet.  Current recommendations often state that a commercial diet should be fed in order to create optimal health for your dog or cat.  There are undoubtedly some advantages to feeding a commercial diet, but there are also some profound limitations that often go unrecognized.

The best diet for dogs and cats is a meat-based diet with a 70% moisture content.  This must also include a  proper balancing of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

Here are some basic pros and cons of different types of dietary ingredients:

Commercial dry diet

Pro:  Contains basic vitamins, minerals and amino acids required for proper nutrition

Meets basic nutritional standards set forth by AAFCO (American association of feed control officers)

Convenient – no preparation or refrigeration needed

Con:  Processed at high temperatures which can destroy important enzymes and other nutrients that are important for ideal health.

Lack of moisture can be detrimental to the kidneys if there is not enough water consumed

Dry food can be irritating to the stomach lining causing vomiting after eating

Nutritional content is measured before processing, so nutrients lost during the processing procedure will not be reported.

Fresh food ingredients

Pro:  Fresh ingredients offer enzymes and other nutrients that cannot be added into commercial food

Moisture content helps maintain a healthy urinary tract

Easy to digest

Con:  Diet must be balanced by feeding either the correct combination of foods or adding in supplements.

More time required in preparation of the diet

The healthiest diet for your pet is a balanced fresh food diet.  There are, however, intermediate options that can offer the benefits of fresh feeding with consideration for your schedule, lifestyle and budget:

For example:

Add fresh meat and vegetables in with your dog’s dry food.  These can be your leftovers or meat that you cook separately to avoid strong seasonings.

Fill your crockpot with any combination of fresh vegetables and add 1lb hamburger, chicken, or turkey and use to top your pet’s dry food

Remember that dogs and cats are carnivores and should eat a diet that is at least 70% meat

Things NOT to feed your pet:

Onions, garlic, grapes, raisins

Large amounts of macadamia nuts or avocados

Chocolate

Wheat or corn.  These can lead to inflammatory disease such as itching and intestinal upsets.

Limit all grain intake to 10 % or less.  Dogs and cats do NOT need to eat grain to have a nutritionally complete diet.

If you are feeding more than 50% fresh food, it will be important to completely balance the diet or add in supplementation

Fresh food can be especially important if you pet is sick – there are nutrients there that it will not get anywhere else.   Any health condition can benefit from feeding fresh food in the diet, thought it is still best to seek veterinary supervision.

 

 

Fewer vaccines for pets

What is the best way to keep your new pet protected from disease?

The most important element is a healthy immune system.   The majority of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract, so a healthy gut is essential in preventing disease.  Proper nutrition is the most important element here, see my post on reading pet food labels for more details on picking an appropriate diet.  Other elements such as probiotics and other supplemental support may also be beneficial.

Puppies and kittens get their initial protection from their mother’s milk by benefiting from the antibodies she has generated.  The standard of care from that point has been to start vaccinating to build protection against disease.  The problem with vaccines, however, is that they are not given through a natural route of exposure.  This causes the immune system to sometimes react inappropriately causing inflammatory disease such as itching and diarrhea.  Furthermore, over vaccinating at a young age can actually weaken the immune system, making it less effective at fighting disease in general.

The best way to grow a strong immune system is through natural exposure to disease.  Now I am not saying that you should let your pet just go out and get sick, but there are alternatives to traditional vaccines.  One option is nosodes, find more details in this post .  Nosodes essentially create a natural exposure without allowing your pet to get the disease we are trying to protect it from.   Nosodes can also be given after exposure to disease to improve recovery and reduce symptoms.

Another consideration is what is your pet’s actual risk of exposure?  House pets, for example, are not likely to be exposed to many diseases if their activities are limited to an area around the home.

If traditional vaccines are given, I recommend a reduced protocol starting at 8-10 weeks of age, and giving 1 booster 4 weeks later.  I would then recommend titers at 1 year and every 3 years after to see if the antibodies remain.  I also recommend only vaccinating for those disease that your pet is likely to be exposed to, such as parvo and distemper in puppies and distemper and the respiratory viruses in cats.  Rabies is still required by law and can be given any time after 4 months of age.

Vaccines are not benign medicine, and over vaccinating can, indeed cause harm to your pet.  Consider your pet’s risk and use only those vaccines that are indicated, or consider alternatives such as nosodes.  Remember too that a pet with a strong immune system will be able to fight disease on its own, without the help of vaccines.

Summer bugs

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Summer Bugs

We are well into our summer weather and the question often arises – what do we need to do to protect our pets against bugs such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes (the carrier of heartworm disease)

The need to protect your pet is based on the risk of exposure to the bugs:

Fleas are often brought to your pet from other animals, including wildlife.  They will make your pet itch, and are visible, brown bugs that hop on and off your pet.  Fleas can live in your house and yard, making them difficult to get rid of.  There are several spot-on type flea preventatives that are applied once monthly – these are effective, but are also toxic as the insecticide is absorbed into your pet’s body.  There are natural sprays that can repel fleas but do not kill them.  I do not recommend using a flea preventative unless you have actually seen them on your pets.

Ticks typically live on the vegetation and drop on your pet as it walks by.  Ticks can spread diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichia, and anaplasmosis.  These diseases are potentially serious and it is definitely worth checking your pets for ticks after it has been outside.  Many of the same insecticides that are used for fleas can also be used to kill ticks.  I recommend checking your pet for ticks and removing them as soon as you see them.  A simple tweezer attached to the tick just above the skin should remove it uneventfully.

Mosquitoes are the insect that spreads heartworm disease If your dog is exposed to lakes, ponds, or other pools of water, there will likely be some mosquito exposure during the summer months.  The heartworm larvae must go through a life-stage cycle in the mosquito in order to be able to infect your dog, and this transition requires a temperature of 57 degrees or higher for 30 consecutive days. Here in Colorado, we have cool nights, so the risk of heartworm disease is much lower.   In warmer climates, the risk is much higher.   There are natural repellents to keep mosquitos away from your dog, and regular heartworm testing is also a good idea to be sure that there has not been any exposure.

In Colorado, I recommend heartworm prevention only during the warm summer months of June, July, and August.  In my experience, finding a heartworm positive dog that lives in Colorado is extremely rare.  In other parts of the country, where mosquitoes are more prevalent and the temperatures are warmer, the risk will be much greater.  If you live in, or travel to other areas of the country, your dog should be on prevention for more of the year.

I recommend choosing your pet’s prevention based on its risk of exposure.  If you do not see the bugs, then there is no need to use potentially harmful pesticides.  If the problem is mild, you can try one of the natural repellent sprays.

Have a happy and hopefully bug-free summer!

Summer travel with pets

Summer is just about here, and many of us are planning our adventures for the season.  But what about the pets?  As an alternative to boarding or using a pet sitter, many pet parents choose to travel with their pets.  This can be a feasible option, but you will want to take some time to prepare first.  Here are some things to consider:

1. Before you decide to take your pet along on a trip – consider how you think it will handle the traveling.  Many pets get stressed when they are away from home and dealing with a constantly changing routine.  You may enjoy the peace of mind in having your pet accompany you on vacation, but does your pet feel the same?

2. Consider where you are going and what activities you will be doing – are they pet-friendly?  City trips will require your pet to be left alone in a strange place for hours at a time.  Your pet must be well house-broken and not prone to excessive barking.  Many National Parks do not allow pets in certain areas, and only a few have kennels in which to leave your pet as you enjoy exploring the park.

3. Remember the heat.  Even a 70 degree day can create excessive heat inside a vehicle and leaving your pet inside on a 90 degree day can be lethal.  Even with the windows cracked, most summer days will be too warm to leave your pet in the car. 

4. Things to take with you:

Water and food dishes

Food – or research stores along the way that sell the food your pet is used to.  A sudden diet change may bring on unwanted diarrhea or vomiting.

Water – keep a supply in the car so your pet can have a drink at any time

Extra leash in case you misplace one

5. Remember to stop every few hours to allow your pet to eliminate and stretch its legs.  Pets get stiff in the car just like we do.

6. If you are interested in having your pet transported for you, here is a link that may help:

http://www.petrelocation.com/frontpage/

7. This site will help you find pet-friendly lodging:

http://www.petswelcome.com/

Traveling with pets can be fun, just remember to be prepared so that you pet receives proper care during your journey.

Have a wonderful and safe summer!

Have a wonderful and safe summer with your pets.

Beyond canned food – feeding your cat fresh and raw food

In my recent pet on feeding your cat I talked about the important essentials of feeding a diet that is 85% meat and 70% moisture.  You can provide added benefit to your cat by adding in fresh food, either lightly cooked or raw.

Fresh food comes with enzymes, co factors and digestive aids that are often destroyed during the processing of commercial foods.  Eating food in its natural state also provides natural protective and healing mechanisms found in nature.  Vitamins and minerals ingested in their natural state can provide more benefits than those in the chemical form.

You can start by finding out which fresh foods your cat will actually eat.  Cats are carnivores and it is rare that they will relish dining on fresh fruits and vegetables, but you can offer them and see how your cat responds.  Try different types of meat proteins to see which you cat favors.  Animals often know what is best for their constitution, so don’t worry about forcing any particular ingredient – feed your cat what it likes!

Always make diet changes slowly, so start by adding in about 10% fresh meat, either raw or lightly cooked to be sure there is no digestive upset.  If all is good after a few days, increase to 25%, then 50%, up to what ever proportion you will be feeding on a regular basis.  If you go beyond 50% fresh food in the diet, some supplementation will be needed to be sure the diet is not missing any nutrients.

It is not necessary to feed the same thing every day – you can vary the ingredients, the amount, and the number of days per week that you feed fresh food to your cat.  Good nutrition is a balance over time, and any amount of fresh food in the diet will help your cat.  Even a small amount of fresh meat 2-3 times per week will offer tremendous benefits to your cat.

Will a bit of experimenting with this, your cat will soon be enjoying the benefits of a healthy diet.