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PRE-Biotics and PRO-Biotics are not the same thing – by Rebecca Rose of In Clover

You have no doubt heard the Activa® commercials talking about the PRO-Biotics in their yogurt product.  But what are PRO-Biotics anyway?  PRO-Biotics are living microorganisms that you can not see unless you have a microscope that, when given in adequate amounts, result in a health benefit.  You will usually find products with PRO-Biotics in the refrigerated section because they are delicate, living microbes that die when exposed to heat.  Manufactured products cannot guarantee viability at the store shelf or in your home since PRO-Biotics are not temperature stable.  They are also sensitive to the harsh acidic conditions in a dog or cat’s stomach.

What I believe is a more elegant solution to getting quick digestive and immune support benefits are PRE-Biotics.  Simply put, PRE-Biotics are the fast food for the native good bacteria.  That is, the beneficial PRO-Biotics that are already in your pet’s gut.  No refrigeration is necessary for PRE-Biotics and they have a 3-year shelf life.

There are many things that decrease the number of friendly bacteria in the gut including; stress, antibiotics, travel or separation, normal aging and food change.  Using a digestive supplement with the clinically tested amounts of the PRE-Biotic will help to restore the friendly bacteria and put back balance in your pet’s system.

Click here to see an assortment of Only Natural Pet PRE-Biotic Products
Click here to see an assortment of Only Natural Pet PRO-Biotic Products

Author: Rebecca Rose, president of In Clover, Inc. Ms. Rose is a biochemist and the developer of animal health products.  She is the author of three patents on the composition and method for treating joint disorder in vertebrates. In Clover is the maker of OptaGest®, a complete digestive aid of clinically-tested levels of prebiotic and four plant enzymes.

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Joint Health in Dogs and Cats

by Rebecca Rose, President of In Clover

Have you noticed that your dog is not able to jump into the car or onto the couch? Does he have difficulty with stairs or does not want to finish a walk? Has your cat stopped grooming, especially her back end? Are her nails long and overgrown? All of these symptoms could mean that your pet is experiencing the discomfort of joint disorder.

Joint disorder is the #1 chronic condition affecting up to 25% of dogs and 20% of cats. Yet research shows that less than 1 in 7 dogs with joint disease actually receive care. The good news is that there are easy and effective treatment options available, if you do your homework.

When the Healthy Joint Becomes Unhealthy

In healthy conditions, the natural joint building blocks, cartilage and synovial fluid, reduce friction and act as a shock absorber. The body makes these joint building blocks normally by producing glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs. These GAGs consist of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. Injury, repeated stress, excess weight, poor diet, and genetic predisposition can contribute to unhealthy joints. In the unhealthy joint, production of these joint building blocks is impaired. The animal’s body is unable to keep up with demand for building blocks, resulting in irritation, inflammation, pain, and decreased mobility.

In Clover Joint Support Option at Only Natural Pet Store

Treatment Options

Pet guardians have many options to treat unhealthy joints in their dogs and cats, but they fall primarily into two different categories. There are pharmaceutical or drug options and there are natural alternatives. Drug options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which block the production of prostaglandins associated with pain and inflammation; COX-2 inhibitors, which target specific prostaglandins, and Aspirin/Ascriptin®, which reduces pain. These drugs are very good at blocking pain and decreasing inflammation. They do not, however, add to the body’s joint lubricants or biochemical process. Work closely with your veterinarian when considering NSAIDs, cats do not metabolize aspirin like dogs and can be toxic, over the counter human products, such as Tylenol® cause destruction of red blood cells and should never be given to cats or dogs. Because of the often unacceptable side effects of NSAIDs, there has been a market shift toward natural alternatives.

Natural treatments, used alone or with a drug option, has benefits your pet will feel and you will see. The natural process supplies the body with the joint building blocks- glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. This is what the pet’s body would provide in a healthy situation. Complete natural alternatives also provide select ingredients such as herbs to increase circulation, decrease inflammation and slow oxidative damage allowing the body to repair and rebuild the affected joint. You should notice your pet moving more easily, completing walks, jumping up on the bed or into the car and being more vibrant and happy overall.

Key Active Ingredients in Natural Treatment Alternatives

* Joint Building Blocks: Glucosamine and Mucopolysaccharides (Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, Hyaluronic Acid)
* Anti-inflammatory: Yucca, Devil’s Claw, Black Cohosh, Cayenne, MSM
* Anti-oxidant: Turmeric, Ginger, Alfalfa, Vitamin C
* Circulatory stimulant: Nettle, Celery Seed, Ginger

Find Joint Building Supplements from In Clover at Only Natural Pet

Non-complete vs. Complete Formulas

If a dog or cat with unhealthy joints receives no treatment, recovery is not likely due to continuing pain, swelling and the body’s inability to produce enough of the joint building blocks. This will lead to a less comfortable and less active life for the pet.

If a dog or cat with unhealthy joints receives an incomplete formula, containing only glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate or less than effective amounts of ingredients, repair of the joint may be enabled but many pets will see slow and only partial recovery .

If a dog or cat with unhealthy joints receives a complete formula that combines the joint building blocks with ingredients to decrease inflammation, increase circulation, remove free radicals and enhance absorption, optimal and accelerated recovery will result.

Author: Rebecca Rose, President of In Clover, Inc. Ms. Rose is a biochemist and the developer of animal health products. She is the author of three patents on the composition and method for treating joint disorder in vertebrates. In Clover is the maker of Connectin®, a clinically-tested joint supplement for dog and cats.

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Obvious but Overlooked – Why Grooming Matters

by Jean Hofve, DVM

You know how good it feels when you get home from a camping trip or other grubby occupation, and how much you savor getting all clean again? Well, pets also appreciate being well-groomed.

And just like any parent, you want your “fur-kids” to look and feel their best. Since there are some grooming chores that–like any kid–your pet can’t take care of by himself, so of course you want to lend a hand.

While grooming “how-to” information is widely available, what seems to be missing is the “why-to.” Shifting the focus from simple grooming techniques to the real value of grooming your pet can help you get and stay motivated to give your pet’s grooming and hygiene needs the attention they deserve. Staying on top of those needs will help pets live happier, longer, healthier lives.

Dental Care

Dental disease is the most common problem seen by veterinarians; about 80% of dogs and cats have some degree of dental problems by the age of three. The infections that bacteria can cause in pets’ (and humans’) mouths are known to cause heart disease, kidney damage, and liver problems, and they can even make inflammatory problems like arthritis worse.

Many myths abound about cats’ and dogs’ need for dental care, and one of the most common is the idea that dry food keeps pets’ teeth clean. This isn’t true, and never was. Many pets, especially cats, swallow dry food whole. Even when they do chew it, the kibbles shatter, so contact between the kibble and the teeth occurs only at the tips of the teeth. This is certainly not enough to make a difference in the formation of tartar and plaque, which most commonly builds up along (and underneath) the gum line at the base of the teeth. This causes the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis). Left untreated, bacteria can erode the connection between bone and teeth, and cause serious decay.

Keeping your cat’s (or dog’s) teeth and gums healthy requires a commitment on your part. Special “tartar control” diets and treats are not enough. Bacteria are always present in the mouth, and within hours of a professional cleaning, they are already hard at work creating plaque, a sticky deposit on the teeth. In 24 hours, the plaque starts to harden into tartar (or more accurately, calculus). Daily tooth brushing and regular veterinary checkups are essential. But don’t use human toothpaste; get a toothbrush and paste designed for pets. Your vet can give you instructions on how to brush, along with tips for getting pets to accept the treatment.

There are also dental products have been developed to help combat plaque build-up in pets’ mouths. However, without daily brushing, your pet will probably need more dental care from your vet. To learn more about Dental health care, please click here.

Coat Care

Regular combing and brushing is a must for many breeds of dogs and cats. Brushing is fine for short-coated animals, but for the overly-furred, only a comb or sturdy metal-toothed slicker brush will get down to the skin and pull out the dead hair. It is especially important to be vigilant about grooming during the spring and fall shedding seasons.

Longhaired cats are more prone to hairballs, and often become matted, especially behind the ears and around the tummy and hind end. Longhaired dogs are also victims of matting. Mats start out as small tangles but can rapidly grow to monumental proportions; and as they do, they tighten up and pull on the skin. This is uncomfortable because it pulls when the animal moves, and can’t feel too good when they lay down. Even worse, mats can eventually tear the skin, causing an open wound that may become infected. In extreme cases, the wound will attract flies, which lay their eggs there, which hatch into maggots.

It’s not a good idea to try removing mats with scissors–it’s very easy to accidentally cut the skin. Serious mats should be removed with grooming clippers, a task best left to professionals like groomers or vet assistants. But preventing mats by regular inspection and combing is really the best way to go!

Shorter haired breeds also benefit from regular brushing (as does our furniture!), and it gives each pet parent the opportunity to keep a good eye on their cat’s or dog’s state of overall health. Many subtle health issues can be caught early by vigilant guardians who groom their pets regularly; such as fleas, ticks, and abnormal lumps or bumps on or under the skin. Good grooming tools will make the job easier!

Pads, Paws, and Claws

Dogs and cats need regular manicures–but don’t worry, it’s a much easier process than it is for us humans! You just have to take a look every week or so, and trim where needed.

Cats scratch objects to pull off the claws’ dead outer layers and keep the tips sharp. Regular nail-trimming will dull the claws and minimize potential damage to people and furniture. The easiest tools to use are human nail clippers or scissors-type pet trimmers. Cats’ claws are curved, and can actually grow in a circle and back into the paw pad, causing a painful abscess. So check your cats’ paws regularly.

It’s important to provide a suitable scratching surface, such as a horizontal cardboard scratcher or sturdy vertical scratching post. If you don’t, your cat will pick a surface for itself…such as an expensive rug or your favorite chair. Nearly all cats can easily be trained to use the object of your choice. For those who are more persistent in their unwanted behavior, one of the other many alternatives, such as Soft Claws Nail Caps, furniture protection like Sticky Paws, or pet repellent spray will do the trick.

Unfortunately, some people still take the lazy way out by declawing their cats. They don’t understand that “declawing” is actually amputation of 1/3 of the cats’ paws. To prevent nail regrowth, it is necessary to amputate each toe at the last joint because (unlike humans) the claw grows directly from the bone. Declawing is extremely painful, and is considered cruel in most civilized nations. Medical complications are common, and long-term chronic pain affects many cats. In addition, one in three guardians will discover too late that declawing causes even more serious behavior problems, such as aggression and biting, or failing to use the litter box. Common sense, and a little time and effort, will resolve scratching problems and avoid a needless and inhumane surgery.

For dogs, nail trimming is equally important. There’s a common myth that says that dogs naturally wear their claws down, so there’s nothing to worry about. This isn’t true. Even dogs that walk or hike regularly still need to have their toes attended to, because: • Keeping toenails trimmed can protect skin and furniture as it does for cats. • Long nails are apt to split or break, which can lead to infection. • There are many joints in the paws, and long nails puts stress on them, which can cause arthritis. • Long nails may cause the dog’s toes to splay, creating an abnormal and uncomfortable gait.

If you are willing to do the nail clipping yourself, you’ll need a toenail clipper and good instructions on how to clip without hurting your pet. Your vet’s staff should be able to show you how to do this. If you’re not comfortable with the procedure, let a professional take care of this important grooming need at least every 4 weeks.

Removing Potential Toxins

If your cat gets into something yucky, like oil, antifreeze, trash, tree sap, or paint, don’t let her groom it off herself; use a non-toxic pet wipe to prevent her from ingesting potentially dangerous chemicals.

Dogs, of course, can get into similar problems, and are also frequent victims of skunks and porcupines. If you’re in an area known for skunks, you might want to keep a special cleaner on hand, such as SeaYu De-Skunk Coat Cleaner & Odor Eliminator for Dogs.

Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid walking your dog on dirty wet streets or through road salt or other chemical de-icing products on sidewalks and other paved areas. In addition to using grooming wipes for dogs’ paws, using a good paw balm can protect them from ice and help reduce absorption of toxic residue when used before outdoor outings.

Ear Care

Dogs, and in particular the floppy eared breeds, need regular attention. Our pets’ ears provide a natural sanctuary for bacteria and yeast, which thrive in the warm, moist environment of our pets’ ear canals. Dogs that swim or are bathed regularly need a gentle antimicrobial ear wash used after the swim or bath. Regular ear cleaning with this type of product for dogs and cats can help reduce the buildup of wax, which when it accumulates, further enhances the likelihood that a yeast infection may develop.
Cats don’t typically have many ear problems, so always take red or itchy ears seriously. Ear mites are microscopic, but the debris they leave behind can often be seen; it looks something like coffee grounds. Ear mites are common in kittens, strays, and feral cats, so if you adopt or foster, keep resident felines separated until the newbie gets a clean bill of health. We have articles on ear and eye care on our website, so be sure to check out our links below and visit our Holistic Healthcare Library for more details.

One thing to remember: be careful when swabbing the ears. You can go too deep and rupture the ear drum. Have your vet or tech show you how to clean the ears safely and effectively.

Bath Time

Cats rarely need baths, but dogs more often do. If a bath is needed, never use human products on pets. There are important differences between our skin and that of our pets (different glands, to name just one) Many products that are safe for human skin can be quite irritating to our pets. Many quality natural bath products for pets like shampoos, conditioners, grooming sprays and wipes are available, so be sure you get one that’s just made for pets if you bathe or use clean-up products on your pet at home. Be sure to rinse thoroughly; any residue can be irritating. As well, chlorine and other processing chemicals in tap water may be drying, especially when pets are exposed more often than necessary. In general, cats don’t need bathing, and dogs don’t need it more than every 1-2 months. However, they may be bathed more frequently if fleas, certain skin conditions, or allergies are a problem. Your vet can advise you on products and timing.

Think About Using a Pro

Don’t overlook the benefits of a professional groomer. Some breeds have skin and coat requirements that are better handled by a qualified groomer. A groomer who sees your pet regularly may be the first to notice a cyst, lump, or other potential problem. Even though a groomer’s services cost more, the savings in time and stress may be well worth it!

If you’re looking for more great information on pet health care topics touched upon in this article, please use the links below to explore these topics in more detail through these articles from our Holistic Healthcare Library.
If you’re looking for more great information on pet health care topics touched upon in this article, please use the links below to explore these topics in more detail through these articles from our Holistic Healthcare Library.

See all Dental Care Articles like “Dental Care for Pets
See all Allergy Articles like “Alleviating Your Pet’s Itchy Skin
See all Urinary Issues Articles

Click links below to check out other articles that may be of interest:

Chronic Ear Infections
Ask the Vet: Fungal Infection on Paws
Treating Eye & Ear Disorders Holistically
Ask the Vet: Chronic Anal Gland Problems
When Is It Time to See the Vet?
Ask the Vet: Food Allergies & Diarrhea
Bath Anxiety in Dogs

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Article Highlight : “The Natural Approach to Flea Control” [continued : Killing Fleas in the Home]

This week we have highlighted some of the great flea information from our Holistic Health Care Library, today we’ll share highlights from the article on how to protect your home and environment.

“The Natural Approach to Flea Control” [continued : Killing Fleas in the Home]

Stage 2 – The Household Environment

You cannot rid your companion of fleas by treating him or her alone, unless you are willing to resort to toxic pesticides. Most of the population lives and develops in your house and yard, not on your pet. Treating the environment is essential if you want to win this war.

Carpets, Flooring & Furniture
Vacuuming and washing the hard floors often – daily during the height of flea season – is the least toxic way to control fleas. This will remove most of the adults, and some eggs and larvae. Keep in mind the larvae don’t like light, so vacuum under furniture and around baseboards anywhere near your pet’s favorite places to hang out. Remember to either vacuum some Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or an herbal flea powder into the vacuum bag to kill any fleas in the bag, or remove the bag and discard it in a sealed plastic bag after use.

Some infestations, however, are just too much to be controlled by vacuuming alone, and not everyone has the time to clean all the floors daily. That’s when we recommend using one or more of the natural “powders” available for ridding your home of fleas. The least toxic substances available for this are diatomaceous earth and boric acid products. [Read more about treating your home for fleas]

Bedding

Don’t forget the sleeping quarters! Wash your pet’s bedding in hot, soapy water at least weekly. You can even add some essential oils or Bite This! To the water for extra flea-zapping power. Sprinkle a little Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy onto DRY bedding and work it in to help kill the little pests while your companion sleeps.

Stage 3 – Securing the Perimeter (Your Yard)
Last, but certainly not least, treat the yard. This can include simple strategies like raking, using Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or the more interesting possibility of using Beneficial Nematodes. [Read More about protecting your yard from fleas]

The Pre-emptive Strike
One last point to make: don’t wait until you see fleas on your companion to treat your environment! If you live in an area with a predictable flea season, begin the treatment a month before it starts. If you live in the Southern US where flea season is every season, start now and plan to treat your home regularly. Using natural methods takes a bit more work than dropping a spot of pesticides on your cat’s or dog’s back, but in the long run your companion and your environment will be healthier for your efforts.

[Read the whole article]

Also, remember that all of our flea products are on sale through April 30th, 2010!

Day 1 – About Fleas
Day 2 – Killing Fleas on your pets
Day 3 – Controlling Fleas in your environment
Coming up later this month! – Top 10 Common Myths about Fleas

View our Flea Care Kits for dogs and cats.

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Article Highlight : “The Natural Approach to Flea Control” [continued : killing fleas!]

Yesterday we highlighted some of the great flea information from our Holistic Health Care Library, today we’ll share highlights from the article on how to protect your dog and cat companions.

“The Natural Approach to Flea Control” [continued : killing fleas!]

Stage 1 – Armoring Your Companions

Protection from the Inside Out

Another important fact about fleas is that they prefer weaker, less healthy hosts and very young puppies and kittens with undeveloped immune systems. Knowing this, we can arm our pets for flea resistance by boosting their health and immunity. If you have a flea problem, this is the first place to start.

If you’ve read any of the other articles on our site, you’ve heard this before:  Diet is the foundation of health.  [Read more about flea control]

External Protection

Learn how to use a Flea Comb effectively and repel fleas using neem oil products and shampoo. [Read more about flea control]

Then Move on to killing fleas once they are on your pet!  [Read more about flea control]

Worried about using Spot-On treatments?  You should be!

A pesticide is a pesticide no matter what you call it. We only recommend spot-on flea products as a last resort for animals with severe flea allergies. [Read more about flea control]

Also, remember that all of our flea products are on sale through April 30th, 2010!

Day 1 – About Fleas
Day 2 – Killing Fleas on your pets
Day 3 – Controlling Fleas in your environment
Coming up later this month! – Top 10 Common Myths about Fleas

View our Flea Care Kits for dogs and cats.

Comments (4) »

Article Highlight : “The Natural Approach to Flea Control”

Every once in a while we like to highlight some of the great information in our Holistic Healthcare Library and this is the perfect time to talk about one of our most popular articles.

“The Natural Approach to Flea Control”

As flea season is in full swing in many areas around the country, we are realizing that some of you may need a bit of guidance with the war you are waging in your households. There are so many products available for fighting the battle against fleas that a trip to the pet store or a little research online can leave you a bit overwhelmed and bewildered. At Only Natural Pet Store we carry only what works and only what is safe for your companions and everyone else in your household. We also do not carry anything damaging to the environment. [Read more about flea control]

The (Almost) Invincible Flea

First let’s talk about the population statistics of our foe.  In this section you will learn about the life cycle, habits and issues with fleas, as well as the diseases and parasites they can spread, like tapeworms!  [Read more about flea control]

Also, remember that all of our flea products are on sale through April 30th, 2010!

Day 1 – About Fleas
Day 2 – Killing Fleas on your pets
Day 3 – Controlling Fleas in your environment
Coming up later this month! – Top 10 Common Myths about Fleas

View our Flea Care Kits for dogs and cats.

Comments (3) »

Canine Influenza

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

Yes, dogs can get the flu, but fortunately not the H1N1 virus that’s been getting so much attention lately. Similar to the human form, canine flu is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs which is thought to be a mainly airborne virus, most likely transmitted by an infected dog coughing or sneezing on another. In otherwise healthy dogs, statistics show that the canine flu is a fairly mild disease with most dogs recovering completely in two to three weeks.

The canine influenza virus (CIV) was first noted in greyhounds about 5 years ago. CIV appeared quite dangerous at the time, with many deaths (now known to be due to secondary pneumonia arising from the conditions in which the greyhounds lived and worked). In the vast majority of dogs CIV produces only mild, self-limiting respiratory signs: coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever, for up to 3 weeks. It is similar to kennel cough in that antibiotics do not affect the course of the disease.

The canine flu is very contagious; and like human flu, it is most contagious during the 2-4 day incubation period before signs of illness appear, making prevention difficult. It is typically found in shelters, kennels, and other facilities where many dogs (especially puppies) are housed together.

A vaccine against CIV recently received conditional approval. However, again like human flu vaccines, it does neither prevents infection nor prevents symptoms. At best, it may reduce the severity and duration of illness, and it may reduce viral shedding by an infected dog. Because it is a killed vaccine, a 2-shot series is required, with 2-4 weeks between inoculations. Immunity develops slowly; so the vaccine doesn’t really take effect until 3-4 weeks after the first shot. Giving the vaccine after a dog has been exposed to the virus is therefore useless.

The CIV vaccine is considered non-core, and vaccination is not recommended for most dogs. Some boarding kennels are requiring vaccination for CIV; such requirements are not based on science, but on fear. CIV spreads through respiratory secretions and contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes), and by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs without using proper precautions. The virus remains alive and infectious on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. Good hygiene and isolation of infected dogs will limit, if not eliminate, transmission.

CIV, like many other viruses, is most likely to infect young puppies, and older dogs who already have other health problems. The best defense is a healthy immune system—that is, one that is well supported with great nutrition, appropriate exercise, and good stress management.

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Feline Influenza

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

Yes, cats can get the flu. In the last couple of years, a hyper-virulent virus has been hitting shelters and other high-density housing of cats [catteries, rescues, veterinary clinics, pet stores]. And while nicknamed “cat flu”, it is most commonly caused by Feline Herpes Virus-1 [also known as Feline Virus Rhinotracheitis], or Feline Calicivirus. And then, there was also the startling news recently of a documented case of the H1N1 virus in a cat.

How is cat flu spread? Much the same way a cold is spread in humans – from cat to cat contact, and from contact with the nasal and eye discharge from an infected cat.

Most kitten vaccines for feline distemper (panleukopenia) also include rhinotracheitis and calicivirus. There is also a vaccine for virulent calicivirus, but it is unlikely to protect against different strains. Like human flu viruses, feline calicivirus often mutates, making older vaccines ineffective. Vaccination does not prevent illness, and infected cats can still shed these highly contagious viruses; but vaccines are thought to minimize symptoms and reduce viral shedding. Fully vaccinated adult cats are still susceptible; in the case of virulent systemic calicivirus, adults actually fare worse than kittens.

Signs of cat flu (calicivirus, herpesvirus)
• Conjunctivitis with red, puffy eyes
• Corneal ulcers
• Sneezing
• Nasal discharge
• Poor appetite

Virulent, systemic strains of calicivirus cause more severe problems:
• Gingivitis
• Painful ulcers in the mouth and sometimes on the paws
• Lethargy/depression
• Unwillingness to eat
• Joint pain and swelling
• Skin lesions
• Systemic vasculitis

Cats have been known to contract non-feline influenza viruses, including avian flu (H5N1), and earlier this month a case of “swine flu” (H1N1) was diagnosed in a cat. Cross-species viral infections are rare, but can occur. There is no evidence that cats can infect humans with either influenza virus.

Treatment
Supportive care is all that’s needed for most cases of cat flu. In severely affected cats, IV fluids or even a feeding tube may be necessary. If there is evidence of a secondary bacterial infection, such as pneumonia, antibiotics should be given.

Prevention

In cases where one or more cats is already sick, taking precautions against disease spread (strict isolation of infected cats, meticulous cleanliness) is vital. Bleach is one of the few reliable disinfectants that can kill calicivirus; mix 1 ounce of bleach in a gallon of water.

The best defense against any contagious disease is a healthy immune system. Good nutrition (with an emphasis on low-carb, high moisture foods), maintaining optimal weight, regular exercise (with interactive cat toys such as Da Bird), and immune-boosting supplements will help keep viruses and other invaders at bay.

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The Truth About Heartworms

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

For the past two years, veterinarians and pharmaceutical companies have teamed up in a marketing campaign to frighten pet
guardians into giving year-round heartworm preventatives to both dogs and cats. The campaign has really ramped up this year. They say they’re doing this to improve protection for individual pets, but we need to take a closer look to discover the truth.

How do pets get heartworms?
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Tiny hearworm larvae, called microfilaria, circulate in the blood, and are sucked up by the bug when it feeds on an infected host animal; for heartworms, their natural host is the dog. Once inside the mosquito, the larvae must develop through more stages before they can infect another dog. For that to occur, outside temperatures must remain above 57
degrees F, day and night, for a minimum of 8 days. The warmer the temperature, the faster the larvae will mature. If the temperature drops below that critical level, larval development will stop; but the larvae don’t die—development will re-start at the same point when the weather warms back up. Larvae reach their infective stage in 8 to 30 days (the latter being the entire lifespan of the average mosquito).

When an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat, the heartworm microfilaria are deposited on the skin, where they crawl into the bite wound and enter the bloodstream. Inside the body, they get ready to “settle down and raise a family.” In dogs, the heartworm’s natural host, the larvae migrate to the heart and eventually develop into adult worms, reproduce, fill the blood with microfilaria, and pass it on to the next mosquito. The maturation process takes 6-7 months.

What do heartworms do?

Once in the bloodstream, the microfilaria migrate to the right side of the heart nd attach there, where they can grow into adulthood. According to the American Heartworm Society, “Clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages, as the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes years and after repeated
mosquito bites. Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.” It takes microfilaria about 6-7 months to mature into adults and start reproducing. Clinical signs are not typically seen before that. Adult worms can live up to 7 years in the dog.

In cats, adult worms can develop, but they cannot reproduce; they take about 9 months to mature, and they tend to live only a year or two. However, adult heartworms are about a foot long, so it only takes 1 or 2 to fill up a cat’s tiny heart and cause serious problems.

As it turns out, cats have pretty good defenses of their own. In 80% of cases, the cat’s own immune system kills the larvae and clears the infection. Nevertheless, microfilaria can still cause significant inflammation in the lungs, even in cats who never show any signs of infection. Feline heartworms may be commonly misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis, when it is actually Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD). Also, for the 20% of cats who do become persistently infected, severe respiratory and/or cardiac disease can occur. 

Heartworms have been diagnosed even in cats who spend 100% of their time indoors.

Treatment
Treatment of a mature heartworm infection can be very dangerous. When the arsenic-based drug is given to an infected dog, the massive die-off of the worms can cause severe inflammation and even respiratory failure. Not all dogs survive treatment. Clearly, prevention is the best option!

Alternatively, many veterinarians advocate simply giving the regular heartworm preventative to kill off any microfilaria already present and keep newly deposited larvae from developing, while waiting for the adult worms to die. This may be a more practical alternative for cats, or for dogs that do not have a severe infestation.

Seasonal vs. year-round protection
Except for a the warmest parts of the U.S. (mainly in the southeast), heartworms are a completely seasonal problem. There is no reason to give heartworm medicine to most pets year-round (except to make money for those who make and sell it!).

In many areas of the country (northern and mountain states, for instance), such warm temperatures simply don’t exist for most of the year, and sustained warm temperatures don’t occur until at least June. In fact, only in Florida and south Texas is year-round heartworm transmission possible. Within 150 miles of the Gulf Coast, heartworm risk exists 9 months out of the year. In the rest of the country, heartworm transmission is possible between 3 and 7 months out of the year. Hawaii and Alaska have each had a few cases of canine heartworm, but the incidence in those states is very low.

It should be obvious that during seasons where there are no mosquitoes, there is no risk of heartworm. Evidently that little fact escaped the attention of the veterinarian who prescribed heartworm protection—in December–for a puppy living high in the Colorado mountains. At that altitude, temperatures are never warm enough for heartworms!

A debate about when to give heartworm preventatives was published in an April 2009 journal article (“Ask the Expert: Year-Round Heartworm Prevention: Two Viewpoints,” by By Dwight Bowman and James Lok, published in NAVC Clinician’s Brief, the official publication of the North American Veterinary Conference, 2009/04/01). Both authors are university professors in parasitology.

The argument presented by Dr. Bowman in favor of year-round heartworm medication focused on just two points: (1) the speculation that “scenarios can arise where transmission may occur in cooler climates in the ‘off season;’ and (2) the completely unrelated issue of prevention of internal parasites by additional drugs added to the heartworm preventative.

Arguing on the other side, Dr. Lok lays out the case for appropriate seasonal control, and concludes, “Besides incurring unnecessary costs for the client, indiscriminate application of broad-spectrum medications can engender further confusion about the primary imperative for these medications—heartworm prevention—and when they are most crucial—during the season of heartworm transmission.”

Of course, if in any given year the weather is unseasonably warm for long enough, exceptions to those recommendations should be made.

Having looked at both sides of the issue, I have to agree with those who suggest that giving year-round treatment to animals in states where year-round transmission does not occur is doing an injustice to both the animals being given drugs they don’t need, as well as the pocketbooks of their guardians. This argument is rarely presented since the drug companies have the resources to widely promote their views (and products) to consumers as well as veterinarians.

Heartworm prevention
The most common preventative drugs for heartworm are ivermectin (Heargard®), milbemycin (Interceptor®) and selamectin (Revolution®). While these drugs are generally safe and effective, there are always exceptions. Toxicity associated with ivermectin include depression, ataxia (balance problems or unsteady walk), and blindness, but these are uncommon at the low doses used in heartworm preventatives. Ivermectin should be used with caution in collies and related breeds such as Old English Sheepdodgs and Australian Shephers, who are more sensitive to the drug’s neurological effects. Milbemycin, the most common alternative drug for collie breeds, can cause depression/lethargy, vomiting, ataxia, anorexia, diarrhea, convulsions, weakness and hypersalivation. Selamectin is also used to treat ear mites and some worms; adverse reactions include hair loss at the site of application, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle
tremors, anorexia, lethargy, salivation, rapid breathing, and contact allergy.

Only Natural Pet HW Protect Herbal Formula
is a natural product intended for use as a preventative to be used during mosquito season as part of a comprehensive heartworm control program. The formula was designed with two objectives, using herbs that work together to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites to lower your pet’s risk of becoming infected, and to help eliminate existing larvae-stage parasites in the bloodstream. This tincture was developed to help prevent heartworm infestation using extracts of herbs well known for
their mosquito repelling properties, and others well known for their anti-parasitic properties. Using an insect repellent like

Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Spray
may also help prevent heartworms by keeping mosquitoes away from pets when they are outside.
An herbal approach to heartworm prevention is not like a traditional heartworm pharmaceutical preventative, which chemically kills all heartworm larvae, but it may be an effective and more natural method to prevent heartworm infection. Consistent dosing is essential for proper protection, along with heartworm testing at least every 6 months.

Summary
1) The temperature needs to stay above 57 degrees for 8 to 30 days.
2) A mosquito has to bite a dog that already has microfilaria in its bloodstream.
3) That mosquito has to then bite your dog or cat 8-30 days later.
4) You must give the heartworm preventative medication within 6 weeks of mosquito bite to kill microfilaria in the blood and prevent the larvae from growing to adulthood.

References:
Knight DH, Lok JB. Seasonality of heartworm infections and implications for chemoprophylaxis. Clin Tech Sm An Pract. 1998 May;13(2):77-82.

Atkins C. Feline heartworm disease. NAVC Clinician’s Brief. http://www.cliniciansbrief.com/webrief/25.php. Accessed 5/20/2009.

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Caring for Your Senior Pet

By Dr. Jean Hofve

Getting older…it’s happening to all of us every day, including our pets. And just like humans, dogs and cats are prone to a number of medical problems as they get older. With diet, supplements, and extra care, many of these conditions can be prevented, delayed, or managed, to give your pet the best possible quality of life throughout the senior years. Here are a few of the health issues you may run into as your pet ages, and some things you can do treat them naturally:

Arthritis

Most older pets eventually develop arthritis. What is usually considered “slowing down,” or “a little stiff,” or even sleep disturbances (because they just can’t get comfortable) may be a sign of significant joint disease. Extra weight makes arthritis that much worse, so an older dog may need a good weight loss program (older cats tend to lose weight by themselves). A high protein diet helps protect lean muscle mass while shedding fat. Proper weight and moderate
exercise are the keys to comfort.

Joint protectors and anti-inflammatories can help, and they include glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, and MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane); all of which can be added to wet food. Other herbs and minerals may also be helpful. Antioxidants provide good anti-inflammatory action and pain relief. It may take 3-5 weeks for improvement to be noticeable. View joint support supplements and  antioxidants.

Digestive Slowdown

As they age, pets experience a decreased ability to digest and metabolize protein and fat that occurs with age. Older pets need more and better quality protein. Wet foods are ideal for older cats and dogs—this includes food in cans or pouches, as well as frozen raw diets. They’re easier to digest, and much more palatable. Adding  digestive enzymes and probiotics will help your pet get the most nutrition from food, and there are specific digestive support remedies available for more severe issues. 

Kidney Disease (Chronic Renal Failure, CRF, or Chronic Kidney Disease, CKD)

The kidneys have a lot of responsibility, and they work hard 24/7. Over time, cells die and are replaced by scar tissue. Only when 75% of kidney function is irreversibly lost will signs of kidney disease occur. CRF is very common in older cats, but dogs can also develop the disease.

One thing you’ll hear from friends and even from vets is that protein is bad for the kidneys. But dietary protein has nothing whatsoever to do with the development of kidney disease (in dogs or cats). In fact, in older pets without pre-existing kidney disease, canned food or other high protein, high moisture diets are recommended. Antioxidants and  Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil or cod liver oil) are proven to be highly beneficial for pets with kidney disease. There is new evidence that probiotics can also be helpful. There are also specific kidney support products available.

 Dental Disease

This is the most common problems that vets see in dogs and cats. It often begins by the tender age of 3 – and gets worse from there! Many dogs and most cats are relatively stoic about pain, and problems such as abscessed teeth and oral tumors can easily be missed. One solution is to take your older pet in for a thorough checkup twice a year instead of just once. (But don’t let the vet vaccinate your older pet, unless the rabies vaccine is required by law. (See our article about vaccinations for more information.) Try to brush your pet’s teeth at home, or use one of the products that help minimize plaque.

Cognitive Dysfunction (Senility)

Both dogs and cats can develop cognitive (learning and memory) problems as they get older, which are increasingly recognized as a form of dementia or even Alzheimer’s.  Antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids (cod liver oil is best for this condition) are valuable in keeping your dog’s brain functioning at its best.

Cancer

Half of dogs over age 10 will develop cancer, the most frightening diagnosis of all. At its most basic, cancer is the result of immune system failure – itself the result of poor diet, over-vaccination, genetics, and environmental factors.
Keeping the immune system in peak condition is, of course, fundamental to good health overall, but given the role it may play in so many degenerative diseases, including cancer, is just good sense. Besides exercise, fresh air, and great
nutrition, there are  supplements especially designed for immune supportAntioxidants and Omega-3s are vital to the immune system. There are also ancient healing remedies such as herbs and medicinal mushrooms that have been used for generations or even centuries to deal with serious health issues.

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