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Acupuncture for Pets

Getting to the Point with Needles and Other Veterinary Acupuncture Treatments

By Patrick Mahaney, VMD

Should you pursue acupuncture for your pet? This is a prickly question that should be answered by a veterinarian having been trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM).

The appropriate application of TCVM treatments, including acupressure, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and food energy therapy can be integrated into western (conventional) treatments as there are aspects of both perspectives that can work synergistically. Additionally, by integrating western and TCVM approaches, a veterinarian can achieve a thorough evaluation of a pet’s entire body to appropriately suggestion a combination of prevention and treatment.

Acupuncture and TCVM can benefit all life stages (juvenile, adult, and senior) and a variety of conditions. Determining and resolving the underlying reasons illness are occurring is one of the aspects of TCVM’s approach that can reduce the cumulative effect of chronic illness. Since most pets’ health problems are diagnosed once illness has become very advanced, it’s vital to strive to prevent disease from occurring.

What Can Veterinary Acupuncture Do for My Dog or Cat?

  1. Veterinary acupuncture stimulates the release of the body’s own pain relieving and anti-inflammatory substances. 
  2. Relaxation of muscles at the site of needle insertion and more distant locations body is achieved with veterinary acupuncture treatment, creating both a local and generalized pain relieving effect.
  3. Veterinary acupuncture improves tissue blood flow, oxygenation, and removal of metabolic wastes and toxins.
  4. Unlike prescription and over the counter pain medications, veterinary acupuncture lacks potential adverse side effects for your pet’s internal organs.
  5. Your pet’s medications or supplements will not adversely interact with veterinary acupuncture treatment; therefore it can safely be used to treat a variety of illnesses.

How Does Veterinary Acupuncture Work?

The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to heal itself. From a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) perspective, veterinary acupuncture encourages healing by correcting energy imbalances in the body. Acupuncture enhances blood circulation, nervous system stimulation, and the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into body tissue where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together. These collections of nervous and vascular tissue are termed acupuncture points, which course over all aspects of the body’s surface on meridians (energy channels). The meridians permit a cycle of energy to occur throughout the entire body over the course of the day’s 24 hours.

Besides needle insertion, other acupuncture treatments include:

Acupressure

Administration of pressure to acupuncture points to elect an effect comparable to needle insertion. This is great for hard to reach locations, behaviorally challenging pets, and for circumstances needle treatment may not be available.

Aquapuncture

Injection of liquids (homeopathics, diluted vitamin B12, chondroprotectant medications [Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycans= PSGAG], etc). The liquid exerts an energetic change by pushing tissue out of the way.

Moxibustion

Application of a heated Chinese herbal compound to needles. Heat is very beneficial to pets that are older or suffering from conditions involving joint stiffness and/or muscular soreness.

Electrostimulation (Estim)

Coursing electric current into the body between needles inserted into acupuncture points. Estim relaxes spasming muscles and can aid the body in reestablishing nervous impulses when nerve damage has occurred (nerve root or spinal cord damage from a ruptured intervertebral disc, etc).

Laser

Using laser energy to stimulate acupuncture points. This “hot” topic in veterinary physical rehabilitation is actually very “cool,” as most lasers don’t generate significant heat that burns hair or skin. Lasers are great for providing “needle-less” acupuncture treatments especially on patients that don’t readily tolerate needle insertion.

nerve

A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body

pancreatitis

A medical condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed

lethargy

The condition of being drowsy, listless, or weak

laser

A type of light device that transfers a bright beam; this is used for many medical purposes

intervertebral disc

The padding found between the vertebrae that keeps them from rubbing together

arthritis

A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed and causes a great deal of pain.

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A Pet Guide to Going ‘Green’

Maybe you’re driving a Toyota Prius that gets 40 MPG. Or maybe you’ve got solar panels on your roof, compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home, and an organic garden in your backyard. But that doesn’t mean you should stop exploring more ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And for the rest of us, it isn’t too late to start either. There are plenty of things you can do as a pet owner to show your furry “little ones” that you care about the environment. After all, it’s their planet, too.

Reduce. It might seem obvious, but buying pet food and other pet products in bulk saves you extra trips to the store and avoids needless plastic packaging or cardboard boxes that end up in the local landfill anyway. Reducing shouldn’t end there, though. As Bob Barker always said, “Help control the pet population, have your pets spayed or neutered.” Every year millions of cats and dogs are euthanized around the world. This is the devastating reality, but it’s also avoidable. Having your pet spayed or neutered not only curbs its aggressiveness once it reaches maturity, it is the best way to avoid sending an unwanted puppy or kitten to the local shelter, many of which are never adopted.

Reuse. Why buy plastic toys (many of which are laden with chemicals) when you can find common household items for your pets to play with? If you’ve ever seen a cat with a ball of yarn, or a dog chase a stick, you know that it doesn’t take something with a $10 price tag to entertain an animal for hours.

Recycle. When shopping for your pet, look for items that use the most recycled materials. Many companies now offer products made from natural fibers, such as hemp or organic cotton, and some are even packaged in Earth-friendly materials like biodegradable cardboard or recycled paper (the higher the percentage of “post-consumer” materials, the better). Buying these products supports environmentally aware manufacturers, encouraging more companies to move towards sustainable packaging and natural pet products.

Get a “green” lawn. Most of us know that plants and trees are great for absorbing the nasty (and destructive) carbon dioxide churned out into the atmosphere every day by our cars and power plants. What you may not know is that there are plants and herbs that you can use for landscaping, many of which are pet-friendly and healthy for them to eat. Check out our Herb N’ Living article for more information.

Donate print newspapers. For sanitary reasons, animal rescues and wildlife rehabilitation centers use discarded newspapers to line their cages. This is both cheap and efficient. Contact the Humane Society, ASPCA, or SPCA International to see if there are any shelters of rehabilitation centers in your area in need of old newspapers. If nothing else, the puppies at the shelter get a chance to catch up on their Marmaduke.

Visit a dog park. As the population of dog owners has boomed, so have the number of dog parks in the United States (use the PetMD Finder to find dog parks in your area). Grab a Frisbee, a ball, a stick, and take your furry, four-legged friend for a nice afternoon in the park. It’s like a playground for them, except they can’t go on the swings.

Adopt a pet. This may be a strange way of looking at it, but adopting a dog or cat is the ultimate way to recycle. Not only will you get a loveable best friend that cares for you, but you save at least one animal from being euthanized. Find a reputable animal shelter in your area and save a life.

Image: TigerLily / via Flickr

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A Cleaner, Greener Home for You and Your Pet

Breathe Easier Knowing Your Home is Toxin Free

Out of all the toxic environments that your pet will be exposed to in its lifetime, it is the place where we feel safest that may be the most dangerous to your pet’s health — your home.

The typical modern home has more chemicals, gases, and natural toxins than anything your pet is likely to come across while roaming the neighborhood, yet most pet owners are blithely unaware of the dangers being posed by such seemingly innocuous products like air fresheners and furniture polishes.

Just as humans can fall ill as the result of sensitivity to chemicals, animals suffer from physical reactions to chemicals that are used to manufacture furniture and textiles in the home, and cleaning products that leave residual films. Air fresheners, meanwhile, may give the appearance of leaving a clean, fresh scent, but are actually irritating to the breathing passages and mucus membranes – especielly for brachycephalic breeds. Even damp carpeting can pose a health risk to pets, especially since they are so close to the source.

To make matters worse, plants, which are often used to keep indoor air clean, can be toxic for your pet as well, should Kitty or Fido decide to take a bite out of one of them.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect your pet from “chemical overload.”

Keeping Tabs on the Chemicals

Some of the biggest offenders of indoor pollution come from a class of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These carbon-based chemicals evaporate at room temperature, but can remain in the air for long periods, depending on the ventilation and temperature of the indoor air. Often found in disinfecting solutions (e.g., pine-, lemon-, or citrus-scented cleaners, bleach, etc.) or furniture made of composite wood products, prolonged and chronic to VOCs can lead to cancer, liver and/or kidney damage, and damage to the central nervous system. Short term exposure, meanwhile, can bring on bouts of dizziness, vomiting, breathing problems, and irritation of mucus membranes in the eyes, mouth, and nose.

Because of their proximity to these products (e.g., laying under furniture or on freshly cleaned surfaces), house pets are at a heightened risk for having a toxic reaction.

New carpeting also has a host of chemicals that go into the process of making and installing them. Along with formaldehyde, benzene, and acetone, carpets are treated with stain protectors, moth proofing, and fire retardant. They are then attached to the floor with volatile adhesives.

So when buying new carpeting, be sure to talk to the salesperson about allowing the carpet to “gas off” before installation. When possible, have the carpet installed with staples rather than adhesives, and air those newly-carpeted rooms with open windows and fans. Similarly, with new furniture, a lot of chemicals go into the protection of the wood, fabric, and components of the pieces. Allowing the new pieces to air out before you pet is allowed to stretch out on or under them will dramatically lower the risk of a chemical reaction.

mucus

A type of slime that is made up of certain salts, cells, or leukocytes

brachycephalic

An animal with a wide head, short in stature.

acetone

Chemically described as CH3COCH3, created from the fermentation of sugar and starch. Acetone can be found in the urine of a diabetic animal, the breath of certain lactating animals, and in blood. When found in lactating animals, acetone indicates a deficiency, usually of carbohydrates resulting from an inability to properly oxidize fat in feed.

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9 Natural Home Remedies for Your Dog

 

By Paula Fitzsimmons

When your dog is feeling under the weather, your vet should be the first person you call. Seemingly minor symptoms may be indicative of a serious underlying medical condition, in which case do-it-yourself remedies could be ineffective or cause more harm than good.

But if your dog has a minor ailment, such as dry skin or a mild upset stomach, some home remedies can be quite beneficial. Here are nine simple, vet-approved home remedies that can provide relief for your canine companion.

1. Vitamin E Oil for Healthy Skin

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight aging, says Dr. Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian based in New Jersey. (Antioxidants prevent free radical damage, which scientists believe contributes to aging.) While your dog couldn’t care less about maintaining her youthful glow, she can still benefit from Vitamin E oil. Morgan says it adds protection against UV radiation, which is especially beneficial if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors.

It can also be used to moisturize your companion’s dry skin. Morgan recommends massaging Vitamin E oil on your dog’s coat. “Vitamin E capsules can also be broken open and used on warts, calluses, or dry spots,” she says, adding that there is no cause for concern if your pet licks off the small amount of the oil.

2. Electrolyte-Replacing Liquids for Diarrhea

Flavorless electrolyte-replacing liquids (such as sports waters or pediatric drinks) not only help athletes to rehydrate and babies to recover from illness, but also can supply your sick pooch’s body with much-needed fluid and electrolytes if he’s suffering through a bout of diarrhea

“Dogs lose fluids and electrolytes when they have diarrhea, so offering them a drink that contains both can be appropriate, particularly if their appetite hasn’t fully returned to normal,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, veterinary advisor with petMD.

Consult your veterinarian as to the appropriate dosage before giving these types of liquids to your dog and to determine whether additional treatment is necessary. 

3. Yogurt for Dogs

Delicious, plain yogurt can be a healthy treat for your dog. The live probiotic organisms in the yogurt may also help keep the bacteria in your dog’s intestines in balance, but “the canine digestive tract is not the same as ours,” Coates cautions. “There are better options out there that are made specifically for dogs.”

Probiotic supplements for dogs are widely available through veterinarians and over-the-counter. Coates recommends ones that are made by reputable companies and that have the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal on the label to ensure that you are purchasing a safe and effective product.

4. Chamomile Tea for Upset Stomach and Minor Irritation

Chamomile soothes the stomach by decreasing muscle spasms and cramps, Morgan says. “It also decreases inflammation of mucous membranes, so it decreases inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining.” Chamomile tea can be added to your dog’s food or water bowl, or given by mouth with a syringe, she says.

Getting your dog to drink something new is not always easy, however, admits Dr. Patty Khuly, owner of Miami, Florida-based Sunset Animal Clinic. She primarily uses chamomile on dogs with minor rashes and irritations.

Khuly recommends brewing a strong chamomile tea, pouring it into a clean spray bottle, and letting it cool in the refrigerator. “Then, spray liberally onto red or raw skin for an immediate soothing effect—with no sting.”

5. Oatmeal for Itchy Skin

If you’ve had the chicken pox, you may have taken an oatmeal bath to soothe your itchy skin. “Oatmeal contains chemicals called avenanthramides and phenols, which have anti-inflammatory properties,” Morgan explains.

Pets with skin allergies and superficial infections get immediate relief from oatmeal, says Khuly, who is a general veterinary practitioner. “It’s especially helpful for dogs with really itchy feet. Plus, it’s 100 percent non-toxic and delicious, too.”

To create your own remedy, Morgan suggests grinding the oatmeal to a fine powder and mixing it with water to apply as a poultice (drying agent) on hot spots or inflamed areas. If your dog tolerates baths, you can add the oatmeal formula to warm water, and let your dog soak for five to 10 minutes.
 

poultice

A wet dressing that is applied to an injury or swollen area

steroid

The term for a type of medication that impacts immunity, metabolism, sexual characteristics, and other such elements of a living thing

inferior

Less important, below, toward the bottom or back

digestive tract

The whole system involved in digestion from mouth to anus

antioxidant

Term used to describe certain feeds; refers to c or anything else that contains compounds that prevent the process of oxidization.

anal glands

Tissue located inside the anal sac that aids in the marking of territory in animals, for defense, or for sexual behavior.

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6 Pet Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing

by Diana Bocco

Warm noses, eating grass, and dangerous foods—none of them mean exactly what you think they mean. Misconceptions about your pet’s health abound and some of them can actually harm your furry one if you aren’t able to differentiate truth from myth.

Here are six common myths about dog health that you may have fallen for in the past.

Myth 1: A Warm Nose Means Your Dog is Sick

Warm nose equals a fever, right? Sorry, but no. In fact, it is absolutely a myth that a warm nose means your dog is sick, according to Dr. Shelby Neely, DVM, a Philadelphia-based veterinarian and the director of operations for the online vet service whiskerDocs

While it’s difficult to pinpoint how this myth got started, Neely suspects it might have become a prevalent belief when canine distemper, a contagious viral infection, was more common. “Dogs that are sick with distemper may have a thickening of the nose, which may alter its temperature and moisture,” Neely explains. 

So why is your dog’s nose warm sometimes and not others? It could be for many reasons—“from being overheated to genetics to normal fluctuations throughout the day,” Neely says. 

If your suspect your dog might be sick, Neely says a much better diagnostic measure is to observe the way your dog is behaving, eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating. “In addition,” Neely adds, “nothing replaces an actual thermometer for assessing a dog’s temperature.”

Myth 2: A Few Table Scraps Will Not Hurt Your Dog’s Health

This is also a myth. In fact, human food can be quite dangerous for dogs. “Dogs are not humans and they have very specific diet requirements to keep them healthy, which are different from ours,” Neely explains.

Take, for example, things like garlic, onions, grapes, potato leaves, walnuts, and anything containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol—all seemingly innocent foods that could cause serious harm to your dog, according to Neely.

Other foods to worry about include cooked bones, as they can splinter and pierce the bowel, explains Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM. Dr. Morgan is certified in acupuncture and food therapy and is a member of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association.

In addition, many table foods are too high in salt, sugar, preservatives, and carbohydrates, according to Morgan. “So if you want to share some broccoli, feel free,” says Morgan. “But foods high in salt, sugar, and fat can be problematic for our pets.”

Why is that? Simply put, sugars cause the pancreas to release insulin, which is then used to convert the excess sugars into fat. The result: pet obesity.

“High fat diets and snacks cause the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes and can lead to pancreatitis, which can be life threatening,” Morgan adds.

Myth 3: Dogs Must Be Vaccinated Every Year

dog vaccine

While rabies vaccines are mandatory in most states, the rest of the vaccines are discretionary and should be given only to dogs that really need them.

To be clear, all puppies should receive a full core vaccination protocol to build immunity against a multitude of highly fatal diseases, says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, owner of Animal Acupuncture and a licensed veterinarian certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology.  “These [core vaccinations] include canine adenovirus, canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and rabies,” Barrack explains.  

Non-core vaccinations, on the other hand, may not be necessary for all dogs, depending on their lifestyle. “This also is true for older dogs, whose vaccination frequency recommendations depend on the individual lifestyle in question,” Barrack says. “It is important to take into account geographic location, exposure to other dogs, and underlying disease.”

A clear example: If dogs do not have contact with other dogs in day care or boarding, it makes no sense to vaccinate them for influenza and bordetella, explains Morgan. And the leptospirosis vaccination should only be given to dogs that have exposure to the disease, said Morgan. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of wildlife and rats.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that some vaccines likely create immunity for longer than one year, so they do not need to be administered annually. “Distemper and parvovirus vaccinations may give immunity to pets for 5 to 7 or more years,” Morgan says.

If you are unsure whether your pet needs to be revaccinated or not, Barrack recommends asking your veterinarian for a blood test run called a titer. “Titers can be taken from a blood sample to determine if the dog has enough antibodies to maintain immunity status or if booster vaccines are needed,” Barrack explains.

Depending on your pet’s titer, revaccination might not be immediately neccessary.

Titers measure the quantity of antibodies present in the bloodstream of a previously vaccinated dog, but the results do not necessarily parallel with immunity status. And antibodies are only one portion of a healthy immune response to a particular bacterial or viral disease. Titers are useful for identifying animals who are potentially at risk—that is, those with negative titers—but a positive titer doesn’t mean a pet is 100% protected.

“Titers are most commonly performed for distemper and parvovirus,” Morgan explains. “We recommend titers for all our patients and we recommend never giving vaccines if a dog is sick, has cancer or other chronic disease, or is being treated for an illness.” 

If you would like to explore your options in titer testing for your pet in place of an annual vaccination, discuss your pet’s individual heath risks with your veterinarian.

Myth 4: It’s OK For Dog to Lick Their Wounds

Many pet owners actually believe that they should let their dogs lick their wounds to speed up healing. While there is evidence that some of the enzymes in saliva can aid in the healing process, there are other things lurking in the mouth that can do just the opposite.

According to Neely, while licking the wound can help remove dirt, there’s more harm than good that can come from allowing your dog to lick his wound. 

“Dogs’ mouths, just like every living being, can have some nasty bacteria that could cause a wound to become infected,” says Neely.

In addition, while licking can keep an incision moist—therefore delaying healing, which can be good for a wound that needs to be allowed to continue to drain for a bit—Neely points out that it can also irritate the wound, making it worse. “[Licking] can even remove stitches that have been placed there by your veterinarian,” Neely says.

The best move? Prevent your pet from licking its wounds at all costs, even if it means making your dog wear the dreaded E-collar for a while.

Myth 5: Dogs Eat Grass to Make Themselves Vomit

sick dog, dog eating grass, why do dogs eat grass

The truth is that not all dogs eat grass, and those that do may do it for different reasons, according to Morgan. In fact, Morgan points out that a lot of dogs simply seem to enjoy eating grass, either because of the taste or because they’re attracted to some of the nutrients it contains. “Grass is high in potassium, chlorophyll, and digestive enzymes,” Morgan explains.

That said, some dogs will instinctively eat grass when they have an upset stomach, and while a sick dog does not know to eat grass with the intenion of vomiting, doing so often does result in vomiting. “Coarse, tough grasses are particularly effective at inducing vomiting,” Morgan says.

If your dog enjoys eating grass, Morgan recommends making sure there are no chemicals or pesticides sprayed where the dog has access.

“Unlike cats, dogs aren’t exclusively carnivores, so they like some roughage or plants in their diets,” Barrack says. “So if you notice your dog eating a lot of grass, you may want to include more vegetables as a source of roughage in their diet, or get a small tray of grass for your home.”

Myth 6: Only Old Dogs Get Kidney Disease

Although kidney disease is often seen in older pets, it can occur at any age. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Bull terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and others, are more likely to develop some type of kidney disease, but all dogs and cats are at risk.

If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from kidney disease—excessive drinking and urination are early signs—get your dog to your veterinarian right away.  

A urinalysis should be performed to assess the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine, says Neely. This is done by measuring the urine specific gravity, which will be lower than normal in pets with kidney disease. “In addition, blood tests can be performed to assess kidney function, with the two most common being creatinine and BUN, or blood urea nitrogen.”

While kidney disease can be fatal if left untreated, early detection can easily change the outcome. “With early detection, treatment can be started, which can lead to pets living many years—even normal lifespans,” Neely says.  

This article was verified and edited for accuracy by Dr. Joanne Intile, DVM, DACVIM.

See Also:

Do you know which foods and leftovers are safe for your dog to eat? 5 Holiday Table Scraps that Could Kill Your Dog

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5 Stretches for Senior Dogs

By Monica Weymouth

If you’ve ever gone to a yoga class, you know how good a proper stretching session can be for your body. The stiffness melts away, the aches mysteriously dissolve and, over time, your joints become stronger and healthier.

While your pup might not be up for a vinyassa flow, he could benefit from a stretching routine—especially if he’s approaching his golden years.

“Stretching can be a great tool to help pets maintain mobility and comfort as they age,” says veterinarian Christina Fuoco, medical director at Philadelphia’s Whole Animal Gym. “An arthritic joint can stiffen up and some range of motion exercises can help preserve function, as well as decrease pain.”

As always, if you suspect your dog has arthritis or is experiencing any discomfort, a visit to your veterinarian is in order. Once you understand your senior dog’s needs and limitations and have discussed a stretching regimen with your veterinarian, try these therapeutic stretches with your canine companion.

The Bicycle

Don’t tell the Instagram yogis, but a stretch doesn’t have to be elaborate to be beneficial—in fact, it barely has to stretch. “One of the best ‘stretches’ is actually just moving the joint through range of motion and not putting significant tension on the muscles,” Fuoco says. For aging dogs, she recommends gently “bicycling” the hind legs, a motion that warms the joint fluid and improves blood flow to help joints and muscles feel more comfortable. This passive stretch also helps improve the gait of senior pets, allowing them to stay active.

Shoulder Extension

As a certified canine rehabilitation therapist, Sasha Foster is a stretching evangelist. “The importance of stretching your older dog cannot be overstated,” she says. Her e-book, “Old Dog! Exercises and Stretches to Feel Good,” details a variety of stretches, including the shoulder extension. To perform it, have your dog lie on his side and stabilize the shoulder joint by placing one hand over the point of the shoulder and applying gentle pressure. Place your other hand under his leg and gently lift it parallel to the floor. With the elbow straight, gently move the leg toward the head until you feel resistance, then hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Sit and Stand

As our pups age, many of us will stop giving them “sit” cues if the motion appears to be challenging. This could be a mistake—and, in fact, could actually contribute to future discomfort. “Sitting and rising to a stand is a wonderful active exercise to help improve range of motion in the hips and knees,” Fuoco says. It’s important to determine if your dog is, indeed, comfortable enough to do the familiar motion—if he resists or shows aggression, these are clear signs it’s too intense. To determine your senior pet’s limits and the appropriate amount of activity, Fuoco recommends consulting with a rehab specialist.

Hip Flexion

If hips are a problem area, consider this gentle stretch, a favorite of Foster’s for senior dogs. As your dog lies on his side, place the palm of one hand over his upper back leg bone to support the joint. Place your other hand under the leg, lifting it parallel to the floor. Allow the knee to bend, then slowly guide the leg along the side of the body until you feel resistance; then, hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

The Play Bow

The “play bow” is aptly named—it’s the motion a dog does when he’s preparing to play, whether with another animal or with his human. When in the position, a dog brings his chest low to the ground and his front legs stretch out in front of him. Fuoco recommends the stretch for after walks or vigorous activity. “A play bow is a nice stretch to the groin muscles, an area that many dogs will over-work if they have any subtle knee injuries,” she says. To encourage your dog to bow, do the position yourself—he’ll likely reciprocate, and everyone will enjoy a nice stretch.

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4 Herbs for Joint Pain and Inflammation in Pets

By Diana Bocco

While there’s a lot of talk about glucosamine, fish oil, and other supplements to treat joint pain in pets, not many pet owners are aware that they can supplement treatment with certain herbs. The truth, however, is that the use of botanicals alongside pharmaceuticals can be highly beneficial for some animals with osteoarthritis, according to Mike Petty, DVM, a certified veterinary pain practitioner and the past-president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management. “Pain is caused through many different biological pathways and at many different physical sites,” Petty says. “Using multimodal therapy increases the chance of treating pain at many different levels.”

It’s always wise, of course, to check with your veterinarian prior to starting botanical therapy or combining it with pharmaceuticals. “Botanicals are really drugs waiting to be refined into pharmaceuticals,” says Petty. “In other words, they can have side effects and adverse events just like anything you purchase from the pharmacy.”  

Turmeric

Perhaps the best-known and most widely used medicinal herb to treat joint pain and inflammation is turmeric. Studies in both humans and animals seem to confirm the many benefits of curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric. Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, and author of “From Needles to Natural: Learning Holistic Pet Healing,” says that curcumin is a powerful antioxidant. “Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which cause the painful inflammation and damage to joints affected by arthritis,” she says.

High doses of turmeric can act as a blood thinner and cause stomach upset, says Morgan, so it’s important to work with a veterinarian before administering turmeric to your dog. “The suggested dosage is approximately 15 to 20 mg per pound of body weight in dogs,” Morgan explains. “This is approximately 1/8 to a 1/4 teaspoon per day, for every 10lbs of body weight.” Curcumin supplements (e.g., Theracumin) are also available that provide a more consistent dose than does grocery store turmeric.

Boswellia serrata

The resin of the Boswellia serrata tree has long been used in traditional medicines. Recent laboratory research has shown that Boswellia serrata has beneficial effects in pain conditions by inhibiting the production of a specific type of leukotriene, which modulates the immune response to inflammation, explains Dr. Jeremy Frederick, DVM, DACVIM, and CVA, of Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley. “Although limited clinical research exists in people and animals, the in vitro studies show promising results and suggest a possible positive effect may exist on the body as a whole,” says Frederick. 

The good news: There are no known side effects from this compound, and dogs can be treated with human formulations, as long as they do not contain other compounds, according to Petty.

“Dosing is variable and depends on the size and age of the patient,” Frederick says.  “Typically, treatment for a 50-pound dog should start at 300 mg. of Boswellia given by mouth twice daily for two weeks after which the dose is halved for ongoing maintenance. “

Cinnamon

Although there isn’t enough peer reviewed clinical research to prove it, anecdotally cinnamon is reported to help conditions such as irritable bowel disease, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and yes, pain and inflammation related to joints, according to Frederick. That said, small human studies have shown that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties that might prevent or at least slow down the wear and tear of joint tissue. 

As for how much cinnamon to give your dog, Frederick says that dosing is variable as it is dependent on the size and age of the patient and what condition is being treated. “For a 50-pound dog, a 1/4 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon added to the food twice daily for two weeks is safe and should show beneficial results in relieving arthritis pain,” he explains.

One thing to keep in mind: While consuming cinnamon bark or powder is likely safe for most patients, Frederick warns that it should be discontinued two weeks before any surgical procedure because it thins the blood and could increase the risk of bleeding. 

Hawthorn

Hawthorn can also be a good choice for dogs suffering from arthritis. “Joint pain caused by arthritis may be alleviated by use of hawthorn because the herb helps the body stabilize collagen, the protein found in joints that is destroyed by inflammatory diseases,” explains Morgan. “Hawthorn also increases circulation, which helps rid the body of toxins which can build up in the joints.”

Hawthorn is a well-loved choice among herbalists because of its cleansing properties. According to Morgan, who studies how Chinese Medicine methods can help animals, pain arises when blood stagnates in the body. “Hawthorn helps decrease pain by moving the blood, which decreases pain,” she says.

One word of caution: Hawthorn can interact with many prescription drugs used to treat heart disease in pets, according to Morgan. “Giving hawthorn along with medication for high blood pressure might cause blood pressure to drop,” Morgan explains. “And safety has not been established in those with severe liver, heart or kidney disease.” If you’re considering hawthorn for your dog, speak to your veterinarian first. 

Is your pet suddenly showing uncharacteristic aggression? It could be a sign of arthritis. Find out more signs and symptoms of arthritis in pets.

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6 Ways to Go Natural With Your Pet

Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats

By Cheryl Lock

If you’re interested in helping your pet lead a healthier life, going the natural route is a big step in the right direction. We spoke with Jean Hofve, DVM, staff veterinarian for Only Natural Pet, for some expert tips on how to get started down the all natural path.

1. Natural Pet Food

Food is the biggest investment you make in your pet’s health – so make it count! Unfortunately, some pet food companies have caught on to consumers’ desires for wholesome, natural food for their pets, so they have created friendly-looking packaging, brand advertising, and new claims on their products—but in some cases, without improving the ingredients inside, says Dr. Hofve.

Here are a few of the vet’s general guidelines to help you choose the best natural pet food:

  • Unless a corn ingredient is labeled organic, it’s going to be genetically modified. 
  • At least two named meats or meat meals should be among the top ingredients in a dry food, and a named meat should be the first ingredient in any other form (canned, raw, dehydrated, frozen).
  • Avoid synthetic chemical preservatives like ethyoxyquin, BHT, BHA, propyl gallate and propylene glycol.
  • Choose a food that is complete and balanced for all life stages rather than tweaked for a certain lifestage. Foods with more of an emphasis on natural, are ususally all life stage. 
  • For cats in particular, a high-protein, high-moisture diet is crucial to maintain a lifetime of optimal kidney and bladder health, as well as to prevent obesity and the diseases that go with it, like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Try canned, homemade or raw for cats. (But always make a slow and gradual transition to minimize tummy problems.)
  • Often, it’s the specialty manufacturers who are doing the best job of finding good quality ingredients and making a healthy natural food for a reasonable price. Choose brands that have put their efforts into making the best food possible.
  • Dry and canned pet food are heavily processed. Consider raw, frozen or dehydrated diets to get the most natural nutrition.

2. Pet Grooming

There is little or no regulation of pet grooming products, says Dr. Hofve, so companies can use perfumes, detergents and other potentially harmful chemicals. This is especially true of shampoos intended to kill fleas or solve skin problems like flaking or itching. The skin can absorb many of these chemicals, so they get into the blood and put a strain on the liver, which has to break them down, store them or eliminate them. Natural pet grooming products that use mild ingredients — including safe herbs — are gentler on the skin and less likely to be absorbed and accumulated in the body.

3. Supplements and Vitamins

Dr. Hofve warns that there is a big difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. Natural vitamins derived from whole foods are much better absorbed and utilized by the body. Vitamins made in a laboratory are less efficient and may even be harmful. Many human studies have found unexpected adverse effects from large doses of synthetic vitamins.

yeast

A type of fungus that produces buds

synthetic

Something that is artificially created

asthma

An allergic disorder that results in difficulty breathing.

arthritis

A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed and causes a great deal of pain.

digestive tract

The whole system involved in digestion from mouth to anus

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6 Ways to Go Natural With Your Pet

Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats

By Cheryl Lock

If you’re interested in helping your pet lead a healthier life, going the natural route is a big step in the right direction. We spoke with Jean Hofve, DVM, staff veterinarian for Only Natural Pet, for some expert tips on how to get started down the all natural path.

1. Natural Pet Food

Food is the biggest investment you make in your pet’s health – so make it count! Unfortunately, some pet food companies have caught on to consumers’ desires for wholesome, natural food for their pets, so they have created friendly-looking packaging, brand advertising, and new claims on their products—but in some cases, without improving the ingredients inside, says Dr. Hofve.

Here are a few of the vet’s general guidelines to help you choose the best natural pet food:

  • Unless a corn ingredient is labeled organic, it’s going to be genetically modified. 
  • At least two named meats or meat meals should be among the top ingredients in a dry food, and a named meat should be the first ingredient in any other form (canned, raw, dehydrated, frozen).
  • Avoid synthetic chemical preservatives like ethyoxyquin, BHT, BHA, propyl gallate and propylene glycol.
  • Choose a food that is complete and balanced for all life stages rather than tweaked for a certain lifestage. Foods with more of an emphasis on natural, are ususally all life stage. 
  • For cats in particular, a high-protein, high-moisture diet is crucial to maintain a lifetime of optimal kidney and bladder health, as well as to prevent obesity and the diseases that go with it, like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Try canned, homemade or raw for cats. (But always make a slow and gradual transition to minimize tummy problems.)
  • Often, it’s the specialty manufacturers who are doing the best job of finding good quality ingredients and making a healthy natural food for a reasonable price. Choose brands that have put their efforts into making the best food possible.
  • Dry and canned pet food are heavily processed. Consider raw, frozen or dehydrated diets to get the most natural nutrition.

2. Pet Grooming

There is little or no regulation of pet grooming products, says Dr. Hofve, so companies can use perfumes, detergents and other potentially harmful chemicals. This is especially true of shampoos intended to kill fleas or solve skin problems like flaking or itching. The skin can absorb many of these chemicals, so they get into the blood and put a strain on the liver, which has to break them down, store them or eliminate them. Natural pet grooming products that use mild ingredients — including safe herbs — are gentler on the skin and less likely to be absorbed and accumulated in the body.

3. Supplements and Vitamins

Dr. Hofve warns that there is a big difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. Natural vitamins derived from whole foods are much better absorbed and utilized by the body. Vitamins made in a laboratory are less efficient and may even be harmful. Many human studies have found unexpected adverse effects from large doses of synthetic vitamins.

yeast

A type of fungus that produces buds

synthetic

Something that is artificially created

asthma

An allergic disorder that results in difficulty breathing.

arthritis

A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed and causes a great deal of pain.

digestive tract

The whole system involved in digestion from mouth to anus