A healthier way to vaccinate

Are vaccines really the best way to keep your pet protected from disease?  Rather than just relying on vaccines, it is important to look at what causes disease in the first place, and the natural healing response of the body.

A healthy immune system is key to optimal health.   The majority of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract, so keeping the gut lining healthy and maintaining a balanced microbiome is essential to preventing disease.  Proper nutrition is the most important element here, so feeding fresh, whole food ingredients is a must.  Additional support in the form of herbs and supplements may also provide value here, but this will vary from pet to pet.

Puppies and kittens get their initial disease protection from their mother’s milk in the form of antibodies she has generated.  The standard of care in veterinary medicine has been to start vaccinating at 6-8 weeks of age to build longer-term 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, and often excessively,  causing inflammatory disease such as itching and diarrhea.  When given repeatedly, vaccines can lead to more serious autoimmune diseases, seizures and cancer. Over vaccinating at a young age can actually weaken the immune system, making it less effective at fighting disease in general.  This is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

The best way to grow a strong immune system is through natural exposure to disease.  Since we do not want our pets to get sick, what is the best alternative? Here is an outline of the protocol that I follow.  Of course, there may be modifications based on individual circumstances:

  1. Determine your pet’s vaccination history
  2. Determine the current level of immunity by doing a titer test.
  3. Consider your pet’s risk of exposure to the diseases that vaccines potentially protect against.
  4. Evaluate the overall health of your pet.  Only completely healthy pets should receive vaccinations.  In Colorado, a Rabies exemption is an option for pets with any form of disease.
  5. Check for upcoming or past medical treatments or procedures. Pets should never receive vaccines within 14 days of any anesthetic procedure.
  6. We consider legal requirements from your county and state, plus requirements from facilities such as daycare, grooming, and boarding

Based on the above, we will determine if vaccines are indicated.  If so, we implement the following safeguards:

  1. Only use single component (monovalent) vaccines
  2. Only give one vaccine at a time
  3. Do not vaccinate prior to 10 weeks of age
  4. Use titers to determine if your pet has responded to the vaccine and to monitor lasting immunity.
  5. Use Rabies exemptions for sick pets
  6. Understand the rules and regulations in your area regarding Rabies.
  7. Use supportive measures such as homeopathics to minimize vaccine side effects
  8. Assure that your pet is on an appropriate diet and life style to establish an appropriate immune response.

I have seen puppies, vaccinated at 10-12 weeks of age using this protocol, and followed with titer testing maintain a healthy immunity into their adult years.  This is with only one set of vaccines.  In my opinion, this is a HUGE advance in disease prevention – we are benefiting from the immunity provided by the vaccine without causing additional side effects.

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.  Remember that a strong immune system will be able to fight disease on its own, without the help of vaccines.

Eliminating toxins

We live in a toxic world, and it is becoming more so all the time, and at an alarming rate. No matter how hard we try to avoid exposure to toxins, it is impossible to avoid certain chemicals and carcinogens completely. In this two-part post, we will first address avoiding identifying and avoiding toxins, and in the second part, some specific steps to take after exposure.

Let’s start with diet.  Herbicides and pesticides are used extensively in our food supply; even foods that are grown organically can be cross-contaminated from crops that are sprayed with chemicals such as glyphosate.  In fact, the use has become so rampant that it has even been tested in the rainwater of certain areas. Constant vigilance is necessary to ensure the purity of your pet’s food supply, and yours as well.  Because dogs and cats are carnivores, they eat foods sourced from other animals.  It is therefore very important to investigate the sourcing of the foods you feed.  What the animals eat and how they are raised has a dramatic affect on the nutritional quality of the end product. If the feed is sprayed with chemicals that becomes part of the food product that you feed your pet.  Many food animals are fed diets that are solely designed to cause weight gain, but this can actually make them sick, causing the food produced to be nutritionally imbalanced.  For example, cattle raised on grass, which is their natural food, have a healthy balance of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.  In contrast, cattle raised or finished on grain have a much higher omega 6 fraction which leads to inflammation when eaten.  This is the reason for much of the bad press that red meat has gotten over the years.  It is not the case that red meat is unhealthy; rather meat from cattle raised inappropriately is unhealthy.

In pet foods, even those that start with healthy ingredients can become toxic due to over processing.  Processing at high temperatures or pressures not only destroys vital nutrients, but can denature some proteins and fats causing them to become toxic.  Regulation in the pet food industry is lax at best, and nutritional standards are so weak that a fully inadequate and toxic diet will meet current standards.  The best recourse is to vote with your dollar and favor companies that produce well-sourced, minimally processed products and the stores that sell them.  The inquiry must be ongoing as companies frequently change their standards due to industry pressure.

Now let’s talk water.  Many toxins and pharmaceutical drugs have been tested in municipal water supplies.  The water is also treated with chlorine and fluoride, both of which are toxic.  Water alone could be toxic enough to cause cancer in pets.  The ideal water source is a natural spring, which also contains important minerals from the earth.  This is not a readily available in many areas, so a home filtration system is the next best option.  Reverse osmosis is the most complete type of filtration, but it will also remove minerals so these need to be added back in.  Toxins can also be absorbed through the skin, so also consider the water you use to bathe your pet.  Water from an outside spicket is just as toxic unless you have a private well.

Ok, we have covered what your pet eats and drinks; what about the dishes and utensils you are using?  Plastics contain many toxic chemicals, many of which are hormone disruptors that affect the function of the endocrine system.  Hormonal regulation is very important to the health of the body, and requires a delicate balance.  Once disrupted, the system can cause havoc with the entire body.  There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ plastic either.  BPA has been incriminated as toxic and many plastics are now labelled ‘BPA-free’ but this is only one chemical and most plastics contain others that are just as toxic.  To prevent exposure, use stainless steel, or ceramic that has been stained or glazed with non-toxic products.

Does your pet have toys?  The plastics used to make toys are also toxic, so favor natural materials.  Chew treats that are animal products must follow the same standards mentioned above for choosing food products.  How about bedding?  Many fabrics and stuffings are sprayed with chemicals such as flame retardants and anti-bacterial.  Your pet comes in direct contact with bedding, not to mention breathing in the fumes.  You will pay more for natural fabrics, but the cost is nothing compared to the financial and emotional cost of treating a disease such as cancer.

Inside your home, carpeting and other flooring, furniture, draperies, certain paints and drywall contain toxic chemicals.  Now, granted, you may not be able to change all of these things, but at least consider changing to less toxic options over time.

So far, we have been talking about the toxins present in physical materials.  What about some toxins that you can’t see?  Our culture has become addicted to electronic devices, all of which emit EMF’s, or electromagnetic frequencies that disrupt the health of cells in many parts of the body.  Under the microscope, very dramatic and rapid changes can be seen in red blood cells exposed to EMF.  Constant exposure from cell phones and towers; wifi; florescent lighting; smart meters can be devastating to your pet’s health and the risk continues to grow as we become more dependent on our electronic devices.  There will be an entire section on how to reduce the EMF exposure in your home, but a few things for starters are:

  1. Distance matters. Keep your cell phone and computer away from you and your pet’s body.
  2. Power down. Your modem power can be adjusted down to emit less EMF. Better yet, turn it off completely when not in use, especially at night when you are sleeping.  This is a valuable time for your body to regenerate and repair and it is imperative that EMF does not interfere with this process.
  3. If possible, put your cellphone in airplane mode while driving in your car. The phone emits more EMF as it searches for signal.
  4. Spend time outside contacting the earth directly or consider an earthing sheet or mat.

 

We have been talking about some changes that you can make to avoid toxins in your pet’s environment, and these are very important steps.  The reality is, however, that we cannot completely eliminate toxic exposure.  This is why an ongoing detox program is so important.  Once again, proper nutrition is key here as it gives the body the tools it needs to use its own detoxification system.  The liver and kidneys are the primary organs of detoxification and must be supported.  There are herbs that can help with this process, along with drinking plenty of filtered  or spring water.  We will address this further in part two of this post.

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.

Feeding your cat

There are 2 main ingredients that are essential in your cat’s diet:  1. Meat    2. Water

1.Cats are obligate carnivores.  This means that cats must eat a diet that is about 85% meat or they will not get the nutrients that they need.  Certain nutrients that are found in meat  meat can be synthesized internally by other species such as humans and even dogs, but not by cats.  For example, taurine is an essential amino acid that cats must have or can develop heart disease along with vision problems, poor coats, and low energy.

Nutrients such as taurine can be chemically synthesized and added into commercial diets, but there are many benefits to feed it from a natural source.  Every nutrient found in nature comes with ‘hidden’ benefits that aid its digestion, absolution, and utilization.  Chemical reproductions of nutrients may not be as compatible with your cat’s physiology and some of the benefits may be lost in the processing of the diet.

2. Cats should eat a diet that is 70% water and will likely be healthiest when they get moisture from their food rather than drinking it from a bowl.  Why?  Cats were originally desert animals, and there was not a lot of water around to drink.  Many cats, therefore, do not have a big enough thirst drive to drink what their body needs, especially if they are eating a kibble-type diet, which are typically about 10% moisture.  When eating a kibble diet, a cat must drink enough to make up for the moisture lacking in the food, along with some extra to meet their metabolic demands.  Many cats end up with kidney and bladder disease because they live their lives in a state of chronic dehydration.

Cats are also picky water drinkers.  Have you ever know a cat that will only drink out of a running faucet or a glass of water?  These cats are often the ones that do not take in enough water to stay healthy.

So now, what do you feed your cat?

Learn to read pet food labels so you are familiar with what you are feeding your cat.  A fresh(ideally raw), balanced commercial diet is the simplest way to feed your cat. See my post on reading ingredients.

You will likely need to experiment and find the texture and type of meat that your cat likes best, and it is a good idea to change the food around a bit.  Many cats will stop eating a certain food if it is fed for long enough.  Remember also that there is no guarantee that the pet food will remain the same – ingredients and processing methods typically change over time, and this may be the reason that your cat loses interest in a certain diet.

 

 

Which bones are safe to give dogs?

Bones can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet,  providing entertainment, teeth cleaning, and a valuable source of calcium and phosphorus.  But which ones are safe? 

Here are a few simple tips:

1.  Never feed ANY cooked bone.  Cooked bones can splinter and fragment causing damage to the digestive tract.

2.  Long bones such as marrow bones and some knuckle bones are hard enough to crack some dog’s teeth. These are ok, but only allow your dog to chew on them for a few minutes at a time in order to minimize tooth damage.

3.  Soft bones such as chicken or turkey necks, chicken backs, legs, breasts, and wings, patellas (knee caps) and others that are cartilage are the best to feed, but must be fed RAW.  Raw chicken bones??  Yes!   My only caution is to introduce these raw treats gradually to allow your dog’s digestive tract to adapt.  The benefits of this type of bone are many:

     The raw meat that is attached to the bones provides a healthy source of protein.

     The bones are an excellent source of calcium and phosphorous 

     The cartilage provides the building blocks for sturdy joints

     There is no better toothbrush in the world – I have even seen this type of treat remove tartar from teeth – amazing!

Real bones can be a real treat for your dog.  Don’t let your pet miss out on this valuable addition to its diet!

What are the best treats for your pet?

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Pet treats are available in many sizes, shapes and flavors.  How do you decide which are healthy and which are junk food?

First of all, read the ingredients – treats that are full of grains and by-products will likely be the equivalent of feeding your pet a candy bar.

The healthiest treats will contain natural ingredients and be made from mostly meat – I recommend avoiding biscuit-type treats as they will contain grains and filler. Meat – based treats are the healthiest for dogs because meat is their natural diet.  Commercial treats are available, but be careful to read the label to find out where the treats are from and if chemicals are used in the processing.    You can also feed scraps of pasture-raised meat – just cut cooked or dried meat into small pieces and your dog will love you for it !  Limit cheese and other dairy products.

There is a large variety of treats made from left-overs of the meat processing plants.  These are in the form of body parts that are not typically consumed.  These are products such as tracheas, ears, snouts, hooves, and bones.  While this may be a bit disconcerting at first, using all parts of the animal is actually a more sustainable approach.

These treats have the benefit of providing entertainment in the form of chewing as well as a good teeth-cleaning in some cases.  See my post on bones for more information on bone safety.  These products are available in most natural pet stores and from most raw pet food distributors.  It is also important to be sure that these products are well-sourced, and not factory-farmed. We want to be both feeding treats that are more nutritious and not supporting the cruelty of confinement farming.

Treat your dog well!!

Nosodes – fact or fiction?

Nosodes are a type of homeopathic vaccination that will not cause the potential side-effects of traditional vaccines – see vaccine reactions .  Nosodes are made from exudates or discharges from an infected animal.  These substances are diluted to a degree such that there is no real biological substance remaining.  The reasons that nosodes cause fewer side-effects include:

1. There are no toxic preservatives or carriers that can cause the reactions seen when traditional vaccines are given. 

2. Nosodes are given on the mucous membranes of the mouth which is a more natural route of exposure than traditional vaccines, which are injected. 

When an unknown substance is injected into the body, there is often no established way for the body to deal with it at that level.  This causes unusual inflammatory reactions that can result in disease elsewhere in the body.  These reactions are not necessarily immediate, but can occur up to several months later, and recur on the anniversary date of the vaccine.

Nosodes do not generate a measurable antibody level in the blood, and can thus be a hard sell in traditional medicine.   There is, however, a great deal of clinical evidence from veterinarians that have used nosodes in clinical practice that they are equally as effective as vaccines, and most importantly, NO side effects.  I believe that a great deal of disease is caused by the overuse of vaccines in veterinary medicine.  If there is an alternative that is equally as effective, with no side effects, then it should be the treatment of choice.

Nosodes can also be used in the face of exposure, unlike traditional vaccines that are only effective if given in advance.  This is a huge advantage, especially in very contagious diseases such as kennel cough.

There are legal issues when it comes to vaccines, and Rabies is required by law in most places.  There is a homeopathic remedy called lyssin that can be given after the Rabies vaccine to help prevent adverse effects of the vaccine.

Nosodes can be a very effective alternative to traditional vaccinations.  A variety of different protocol have been used effectively, so it is best to treat your pet under the guidance of a holistic veterinarian.

Helping your dog through thunderstorm and firework season

It is that time of year that the skies begin to boom, much to the terror of many of our canine friends.  Many dogs have fears of loud noises , and thunderstorms and fireworks seem to top the list for most.  The good news is that there are some very effective natural ways to help calm your pet this time of year.

1. Flower essences – the best known essences are the Bach flower essences, of which there are 38. Every flower actually has its own energetic essence that can have therapeutic benefit.  The most effective remedy will vary with the individual constitution of your pet, so you may need to try a few to see which is most effective.  These essences can be given full strength in the mouth or put in the water dish for ongoing benefit.  Two of my favorites for fear and anxiety are Rock rose and Mimulus, or you can try the old standby Rescue remedy which is a combination of five of the essences.

2. Essential oils – these are also plant products, but are processed differently than the flower essences and use a variety of  parts from the plants.  Some suggestions on specific oils include lavender, valerian, and vetiver.  These oils can be applied topically, ingested in a capsule or used as aroma therapy.  It is very important to check for the purity of oils before used for ingestion, as some are diluted with potentially toxic substances.  Caution must be used when administering essential oils to cats as there is some evidence that they may not be able to process them properly which can lead to toxicity.  I do not recommend oral administration to cats.  Topical administration should be done intermittently and aromatherapy should be used in an area that the cat can leave if it has had enough of the therapy.

3. Body wraps – many of you have heard of Thunder shirts.  I have seen better success with a product called the Anxiety wrap, see more at anxiety wrap.  This product actually targets specific acupressure points that help with anxiety.

All of the above can be used alone or in combination.  Often times, the effect is enhanced when more than one modality is used.  In some cases, we still need to go the route of traditional sedatives such as Valium or Acepromazine, but I still recommend the use of the natural therapies as they will often decrease the amount of sedative that is needed.

Remember also to keep your pet confined in a place it cannot escape from or become injured while trying to escape.  A panicky pet will often exhibit unusual behavior such as jumping fences or chewing through enclosures.

If you are with your pet when it becomes frightened, try a distraction such as a toy or treat and reward any signs of calm behavior.  We sometimes re-enforce the fear by providing attention for the behavior in the form of comfort.

All pets are different and will respond differently to different therapies.  I recommend trying a variety of combinations until you find the best one for your friend.

Heartworm prevention, traditional and holistic alternatives

Heartworm disease is a very real risk for dogs.  For more information, see my post at Heartworm disease .  There are a number of effective ways to prevent heartworm disease, both holistic and traditional.

The most important preventative measure is to keep your dog’s immune system strong with an appropriate diet and decreasing the exposure to toxins.  Vaccinations and all traditional medications, including antibiotics and pain medications can cause toxic reactions in the body that will decrease the efficacy of the immune system.  See my post on minimizing vaccines in your pet.   There are many reports of this approach alone proving effective in preventing heartworm disease in dogs.

The traditional method of prevention consists of a medication given in a chewable treat once a month during the mosquito season.  These are effective, but come with a higher risk of side effects and adverse reaction.  There is also no guarantee that a dog on a traditional preventative will be protected from heartworms.

There is also a natural alternative called nosodes.  Nosodes are a homeopathic preventative made from the diseased tissue of an infected animal.    Get more info in my post on Nosodes.  Nosodes, in combination with the immune-building steps listed above can be very effective at preventing heartworm disease in your dog.

Heartworm testing should be performed yearly to be sure that your dog has not contracted the disease, regardless of the preventative option you are using.