Vegetarian diets, are they safe for dogs and cats?

Dogs and cats are carnivores and are meant to eat a meat-based diet.  I understand that many humans choose to be vegetarians for a variety of reasons, but our bodies are much more suited to this type of diets than our canine or feline companions.  Dogs and cats thrive on the nutritional balance that would be obtained from a prey meal – muscle, bone, fat, organ meat, and intestines.   Recreating this type of nutrition in a vegetarian or vegan diet is very difficult to do, and I would challenge those that say that they are able to accomplish this feat. 

There is a huge difference between surviving and thriving.  I would be interested to check blood levels for adequate protein, minerals, amino acids, calcium and phosphorus as well as checking for anemia in natural carnivores that are fed a vegetarian diet.  I have seen dogs on vegetarian diets and have yet to see one that looks healthy.  I have seen dull hair coats, hair loss, flaky skin, along with a general ‘dull’ look in the eyes.  The dog may be surviving, but is deprived of optimal health and energy through nutritional deprivation.

In cats, feeding a vegetarian diet is not only unhealthy, but could become life-threatening.  Cats are obligate carnivores, there are certain nutrients that they MUST get from meat.  Dogs have a greater ability to  survive on an omnivorous diet than cats do, but their teeth and digestive system are best equipped to eat meat.  The healthiest patients I have seen are those fed a balanced, raw, meat-based diet, with at least 70% of the diet consisting of fresh meat.

Heartworm disease – what is your dog’s risk?

Heartworm disease can undoubtedly be devastating for dogs that contract it.  There are preventatives available, and the best program for your dog should be based on individual risk.   Your dog’s risk will be based on two key factors:

1. Exposure to mosquitoes

2. The environmental temperature where you live.

Mosquitoes thrive and breed in standing water.  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.

In Colorado, I recommend 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.

Keep your dog heartworm free by assessing risk based on the factors above.  Next:  see my post on heartworm preventatives, both traditional and holistic.

Is feeding raw food safe for your pets?

Yes, raw food can be fed safely to your pets. When handled properly, there is no danger whatsoever in feeding your pet raw food.  Raw meat that is fresh or has been frozen fresh will not contain harmful bacteria.  There are also commercial raw products that provide guaranteed freshness along with a balanced diet.

Raw is the most natural diet for dogs and cats. As carnivores, dogs and cats are designed to eat a diet that is about 75% meat with a high moisture content – as if they were killing prey in the wild.  Their entire digestive tract, including teeth, saliva, enzymes and intestines are better equipped to digest meat rather than vegetables and grains.

The biggest benefit in feeding raw food is that it is nutritionally superior to feeding any form of processed food. Commercial foods are processed at high temperatures that can destroy important nutrients. There are also inherent benefits in feeding whole, unaltered foods.   Certain nutritional components are only beneficial in the whole food form, not when broken down into their chemical counterparts.  Many pet foods start with good ingredients and then process them into a dry kibble form that requires the vitamins and minerals to be added back in.


Vaccine alternatives

A great deal of veterinary care for pets has been based on the use of vaccinations to prevent disease.  Traditional vaccines, however, can cause a wide range of side effects, some of them life-threatening.  I believe very strongly that vaccines should be given on a case-by-case basis, and their use based on an animal’s risk of exposure to a certain disease.  Pumping pets full of vaccines each year is not only unnecessary, but can cause debilitating disease in some individuals.

There are alternatives to vaccines called nosodes.  Nosodes are homeopathic dilutions of discharge or bodily fluids from a diseased animal.  They are so dilute that there is not any actual biological substance remaining, only the energy of the substance.  This energy is so potent that it will help stimulate the animal’s own energy to help fight disease. Nosodes have been shown to be very effective in preventing disease, or treating a pet after an exposure to disease in order to prevent the development of symptoms.

Nosodes may not be accepted by kennels, day care facilities, or groomers and are not recognized as a substitute for the Rabies vaccination as dictated by state law.  Although they have limitations, nosodes are a viable alternative to traditional vaccines in many cases.  For more information about nosodes and your pet, visit .

Dental care for pets

All dogs and cats need routine dental care including: exams, professional cleaning, polishing and x-rays.  There are no exceptions to this, though the level of care needed will vary between individuals.  Size, species, breed, age and diet will all play a role in the type of dental care that will be best for your pet.  The cost of dental care will vary with the extent of dental care necessary and will be dramatically reduced by regular dental maintenance.

Dental disease can be very painful for your pet, and proper dental care can add precious years to your pet’s life.

Signs of dental disease in your pet may include:

1. Pawing or rubbing at the mouth

2. Drooling excessively or bleeding from the mouth

3. Reluctance to eat hard foods or treats

4. Facial swellings

5. Mouth odor

Dental care is approached differently by different practitioners.  As the field of veterinary dentistry progresses, the level of diagnostics and treatments will vary greatly from clinic to clinic.  Shopping only for the lowest price may be preventing your pet from receiving the quality dental care that it deserves.  You will get what you pay for in the form of expertise, monitoring, technical ability, pain management and safety.

For more information, please visit 

Antibiotics – good and bad

When are antibiotics really necessary in your pet?  Antibiotics are chemicals that kill bacteria.  They are not effective in fighting viruses or other infectious organisms.  I do not believe that antibiotics should be used just because an animal is sick and the cause is unknown, ‘just to see if they help’.  Antibiotics are not benign.  If you need evidence of this, read the package insert of any antibiotic and you will likely be shocked by the number of potential side-effects, some of which can be quite serious and debilitating.  Antibiotics are killing agents, meant to target bacteria.  Whenever you use a killing agent, you also run the risk of adversely affecting the organism you are treating.

Bacterial infections usually appear as something with a drainage, such as an abscess or nasal infection.  It is also important to determine which antibiotic will be the most effective.  Different antibiotics treat different types of bacteria, and some are more effective in certain body systems than others. A culture is the most effective way to determine if there is a bacterial infection, which bacteria is causing it, and which would be the most effective antibiotic.

Are antibiotics are not the only way to fight bacterial infections?  No, absolutely not!  Antibiotics are killing agents, meant to target bacteria.  Whenever you use a killing agent, you also run the risk of adversely affecting the organism you are treating.  Another approach would be to build the natural immunity of the organism and support the healing process.  All animals have an amazing ability to heal, as long as we are not doing anything to break down that process.  Good nutrition, probiotics for immune and intestinal support and minimizing vaccinations are the most important tools for keeping the immune system strong.  Natural antibiotic alternatives such as honey, propolis, garlic, herbs and homeopathic remedies can also aid in fighting infections.

There is a very important and potentially devastating effect of over-using antibiotics. There are some very scary bacteria that are growing in our world today, and they are getting harder and harder to treat.  Why?  They are becoming resistant to the drugs that should be treating them.  Over time, bacteria will mutate to withstand the effects of antibiotics, requiring the use of stronger and stronger antibiotics to treat them.  Eventually, we run out of antibiotic options and these infections can become life-threatening in some individuals.  Bacteria do not become resistant to an effective immune system.

My approach is to try natural support first for simple infections.  For more serious or extensive infections, I may use antibiotics, but will start with a more basic antibiotic that has been around for a while, or use a culture so that I know exactly what I am treating.

A healthy foundation is the best way to treat infections of any kind.  Allowing the body to heal itself will only make it stronger and better able to fight future infections.  Traditional medications such as antibiotics should be used with caution and on a case by case basis.

Here’s to good health!


Litterbox training your dog

Anyone else get frustrated when the weather gets cold and your dog looks at you like you’ve lost your mind when asked to go outside to potty?  Then, your dog will decide which inside place is most appropriate as an alternative.  I have 2 chihuahuas that do not like to get their feet wet or cold, but I have discovered the joy of litter box-trained little dogs.

Dogs can be litter box trained just as they can be trained to go outside to potty.  I use the bottom of a large dog plastic crate as a container and am currently using clumping cat litter.  It is SO easy to clean and it helps eliminate accidents in the house. There is some required diligence in the training, however.  Your pet will need to be confined to a small area with the litter box and its bed, so the box is the only alternative to potty.  Lots of positive reinforcement will be necessary to reassure your pet that the box is the right thing to use.  Eventually, you can increase the space that your pet is allowed, but be sure to keep checking to see that the litter box is still being used.

We are currently using a system built in the garage to house both the dog litter-box and cat litter-box.  The dogs and cat use a pet door to exit the house, and are confined in the garage by a wire enclosure so they cannot get out or under the cars.

The garage has enough climate control to keep them happy and the mess and smell are not in the house.


Do dogs get the flu?

Yes, dogs can get the flu, just as humans can.  There is a Canine influenza virus that was recognized in 2004.  The flu virus is very contagious and about 80% of dogs will get symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, sneeze, lethargy and fever.  20% of exposed dogs may not have any symptoms.  The fatality rate is very low in otherwise healthy individuals.  Most of the outbreaks are in shelters and kennels where dogs are confined under stressful conditions and exposed to many other dogs. The average house dog is at very low risk of even contracting the virus.

Should you vaccinate your dog against the flu?  The majority of flu cases in dogs will heal uneventfully, just as you and I do, in about 2 weeks.  There will be a few that progress to a more serious pneumonia that can become life-threatening.  The thing about vaccines is that they are not benign.  Vaccines can cause a number of side-effects and weaken the immune system rendering it ineffective to manage future disease exposures.  A healthy dog that goes through a disease exposure and recovery will build strength in its immune system and be better able to fight disease in the future.

It really is ok for your pet to get sick.  It is a part of life and will help your pet gain strength.

Reading pet food labels, Part 1 – The Ingredient List

Do you know what your pet is really eating?  Pet food labeling is often a combination of deceptive marketing and misleading ingredient information.  This is the first part of a series of posts to provide some important tips on choosing the right food for your pet.

Part one, the ingredient list:

1. Read the ingredients every time you buy food, even if it is the same food each time. Why?  Ingredients change.  Pet food companies will often change ingredients in order to control costs, which may mean a decrease in quality or an addition of an ingredient that may not benefit your pet. Look for changes in ingredients, or ingredients that you do not understand – this is a way to add in fillers and ‘miscellaneous’ body parts.

2. Know what the ingredients mean.  True meat will be listed as such – chicken, beef, lamb, etc… and will consist of muscle and associated tissues ( this is the ‘meat’ that we buy and eat at the grocery store).  Meat-based meals and by-products will contain a variety of other body parts, which although not harmful, may not have significant nutritional benefit for your pet.

3. The order of ingredients.  Ingredients are listed in order of descending weight before processing.  High moisture ingredients such as meat may be listed first, but after processing are not actually the predominant ingredient in the food.

3. Which ingredients are best?  The fresher the better.  Pet food that use fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits are going to be the healthiest.  Grains, though not necessarily harmful in small amounts, should not be a primary ingredient in any food for a dog or a cat.

Bottom line – feed pet foods with ingredients that sound like real food – things you recognize and would eat yourself or feed your family.  Would you order ‘chicken by-product meal’ at a restaurant, or prepare it for dinner at home?  Probably not….then don’t feed it to your pets either.

Part 2 – Sifting through the marketing hype – what can you really believe?

Vaccine reactions or coincidence

Has your pet every gotten sick after a vaccination?  I see pets on a regular basis with conditions such as skin disease, diarrhea, behavioral issues and neurological disease such as seizures or vestibular disease that begin shortly after a vaccination is given.   These are often referred to as ‘idiopathic’ in nature,  which simply means that no direct cause has been identified.  I have seen enough of these cases that I believe firmly that there is a connection between some of the chronic and unexplained diseases that we see in animals and the vaccinations they receive.

Vaccinations are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies.  Unfortunately, this response can be misdirected towards certain issues of the body causing inflammatory disease that may present as itching, diarrhea or vomiting, changes in behavior and seizures among other symptoms.  This is often compounded in puppies who are given too many vaccines at a very young age, which can overwhelm an immature immune system.

For example, I recently saw a 12 week old puppy that had been itching badly for 1 month after receiving vaccinations at 6 and 8 weeks of age.  This pup had otherwise healthy skin with no signs of mites or other external causes of itching.  His itch was an internal reaction – just a coincidence that it started after the second puppy booster?  I think not!

In order to help your pet when symptoms are due to vaccine-related illness, it is important to support and heal the immune system and help the body to detoxify.  Conventional medicine that only treats symptoms will not eliminate the underlying cause and your pet will need to stay on these medications forever in order to keep the symptoms under control.

Holistic treatment alternatives can help clear the effects of the vaccination and aid in resolution of the symptoms.  Not only will your pet be more comfortable with resolution of its symptoms, but will go forward in a state of better health.