Archive for News from Dr. Jean

Preventing Cancer in Pets: A Holistic Perspective by Dr. Jean Hofve

This year, cancer will kill half of dogs over 10 years old. This devastating disease is increasingly seen in cats, and in younger pets as well. 

Because cancer is so mysterious and seemingly powerful in its ability to destroy health and deplete us emotionally (and financially), it is easy to become overwhelmed, and to take a fatalistic attitude. We know so little, and cancer seems to strike our pets and us almost randomly; we may think, “What’s the point of trying to do anything about it?” However, there are simple, practical steps you can take that will greatly reduce your pet’s risk of cancer.

What causes cancer?

In most cases, cancer is not caused by any single factor (the exceptions are cancers directly caused by vaccination, such as vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats and, to a lesser extent, dogs and ferrets). Factors such as age, genetics, exposure to toxic carcinogens, lifestyle, infections, and stress may all play a role in the development of cancer in pets. Cancer develops when abnormal (mutated) cells begin to reproduce in the body at alarming rates, and begin to interfere with the normal functioning of healthy cells, organs, or body tissues. Our pets’ bodies produce so many cells every day that large numbers of abnormal cells are created all the time. In a healthy body, the immune system scavenges and destroys these abnormal cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, tumors develop when this immune surveillance breaks down or is overwhelmed. It is overly simplistic to state that cancer is always and only due to immune system failure, but the immune system is certainly always involved.

The immune system plays many roles in both cancer prevention and cancer development. Surveillance for and destruction of abnormal and damaged cells is one such role. Another—and perhaps the most important—is inflammation. While acute inflammation is one of the body’s major defense mechanisms, chronic inflammation is now thought to be at the root of many diseases of aging, and other conditions that are associated with cancer.

The bottom line is this: the best defense against cancer is a balanced, healthy immune system—one that responds appropriately (not too little, not too much) and cleans up after itself (once the problem/inflammation is resolved). Therefore, supporting a properly functioning immune is the single most important thing you can do to minimize your pet’s cancer risk.

How the immune system becomes unbalanced:

The immune system is negatively affected by many factors:

  • Genetics: The genetic make-up of the animal greatly influences the stability and power of the immune system. Purebred pets from sources where the bloodlines are not well controlled (such as puppy mills, backyard breeders, pet stores, and auctions), are typically more susceptible to disease and immune dysfunction,
  • Age: immune function naturally declines as our animals get older
  • Poor nutrition: most commercial pet foods contain many additives and preservatives
  • Toxic exposure: our pets are constantly exposed to multiple toxins in food, air, and water
  • Infection: some bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases directly impact how the immune system functions
  • Medications: many drugs, such as steroids and certain antibiotics, suppress the immune system
  • Vaccination (for more information, see our article on vaccination)
  • Extreme weather: expect this to worsen from both natural and man-made factors
  • Electromagnetic fields: these emanate from the sun as well as man-made sources (cell phone towers, power lines, electric lights, microwaves, and even the wiring in our homes
  • Sedentary lifestyle: exercise is a natural stress reducer and immune booster
  • Inadequate rest: 24/7 exposure to light and noise can disrupt sleep patterns
  • Stress of all kinds: including emotional, social, mental, and territorial stress. Pets can not only be subject to their own stress, but they readily absorb stress from human family members.

Some of these factors are within our control; but many are not. We can’t slow down the passage of time, alter the weather, or escape from solar and man-made radiation, but we can make many important changes to improve our pets’ (and our own) immune systems and reduce cancer risk.

Supporting the immune system:

Here are some positive, proactive steps you can take to support your pet’s immune system, decrease stress, and reduce chronic inflammation:

  • Provide a natural diet with as many fresh, raw, whole foods as possible.
  • Give your pet antioxidants, Omega-3 (EPA an DHA), and other supplements to support immune function, decrease inflammation, and promote cellular health.
  • Offer only purified, filtered water – tap water always contains chemicals, and bottled water commonly contains leached toxic plastic compounds.
  • Eliminate chemical toxins used in and around your home; choose non-toxic, green cleaning products, and avoid artificial scents such as candles, carpet powders, and air fresheners.
  • Do not smoke – especially around pets (and children!). If you must smoke, go outside!
  • Don’t over-vaccinate, and never vaccinate a sick animal.
  • Keep pets off and away from televisions and computers.
  • Reduce your pet’s exposure to toxins like fertilizers & pesticides
  • Avoid chemical flea & tick products and use natural insect control products instead.
  • Reduce emotional stress for your pet and yourself with flower essences, massage, homeopathy, and other energy therapies.
  • Exercise and play with your cat or dog every day.

If you already know a little bit about holistic pet care, these steps will be familiar to you, but really understanding that they can help reduce the risk of cancer will help reinforce their benefits in your mind and—we hope—motivate and encourage you to implement them for your pet’s health.

If you are interested in more information on cancer and immune support, click here for related articles in our Holistic Healthcare Library.




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The Natural Approach to Flea Control [full article]

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

Fleas! Everyone hates these blood-sucking parasites. Our war against fleas is epic and ongoing, but each of us must fight our own individual battles. At Only Natural Pet Store, we want to give you the best weapons: only what works, and only what is safe for you, your pets, and the environment.

There are three fronts in every battle against fleas: the pet(s), the home, and the outdoor environment. But before we sound the battle cry, we need to know our enemy.

Why the Flea is Such a Fierce Enemy

Fleas have a number of strategic advantages in this war:

1. Masters of Maneuvers – Fleas are tiny, hard-shelled insects with incredible muscle power in their hind legs; they can jump 4-5 feet horizontally (or nearly a foot straight up). They’re fast. They’re adaptable. And they’re hard to kill.

2. Stormtrooper Mentality – Fleas come with three basic marching orders, or biological imperatives: to survive, to eat, and to reproduce. They are entirely devoted to these orders. And they are very, very good at all of them. They are especially good at reproducing; an adult female lays about 20 eggs at a time. In her lifetime (depending on conditions, up to 1-1/2 years), she may produce hundreds, even thousands of eggs.

3. Effective Recruitment – The female flea typically lays her tiny white eggs in dark, damp places. If she lays any eggs on your pet, they will fall off…but they could travel all around the house or yard first. Within their hiding places, the eggs will hatch in about a week (although they can delay hatching until conditions are ideal) into larvae. The larvae then pupate by spinning cocoons, in which they can finish their development in a week, but they can survive in their cocoons for up to 6 months.

4. Subterfuge Specialists – For every single adult flea you see, there are about 10 cocoons, 35 larvae and 50 eggs hiding in carpets, pet beds, cracks, corners, and furniture.

5. Weapons of Mass Annoyance – Flea bites are itchy because, when fleas bite to feed, they inject blood thinning compounds to prevent clotting during dinner. Not only do these anti-clotting proteins cause itching, but they can also cause the immune system to mount an allergic reaction. Flea-allergic dermatitis is one of the most common skin complaints in pets. For an allergic animal, just one flea bite can cause a massive and prolonged reaction. Fleas can also transmit diseases such as bubonic plague, typhus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, as well as tapeworms.

6. Efficient Defenses – Most chemicals, including bombs and sprays, kill only adult fleas or adults and larvae. That leaves thousands of tough little eggs and cocoons just waiting for the proper conditions, when they’ll renew their assault once more. Fleas are also well defended against famine conditions—one blood meal can keep an adult flea alive up to two months.

Natural Defensive Strategies for Pets

Inner Defenses

Like other parasites, fleas target less healthy hosts, as well as puppies and kittens with undeveloped immune systems. Therefore, the first defense for our pets is to optimize their health and immunity.

If you’ve read any of the other articles on our site, you’ve heard this before: Diet is the foundation of health. After years of experience and research, we have come to believe that the best diet for most dogs and cats is a biologically appropriate raw food (“BARF”) diet. However, not everyone is comfortable with or can manage to feed a raw diet; but it is important to feed the very best diet you can. This means top quality commercial pet foods that contain NO by-products, meat and bone meal, chemical preservatives, or other artificial additives. Meat should be the primary protein. Dogs can be fed a mix of canned and dry foods, but cats need moisture in their diets, and should be fed mostly or only canned foods, or reconstituted dehydrated or freeze-dried foods. Avoid carbohydrates, especially corn and wheat, as much as possible for cats. For more information, see our article, “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food.”

Garlic and B-vitamins seem to make blood less attractive to fleas, so many guardians supplement with garlic & brewers yeast during flea season. Sensitive animals can develop an allergy to brewer’s yeast, so monitor your pet to guard against worsening itchiness (pruritis).

Outer Defenses

The ultimate weapon in the battle with fleas is the Flea Comb. It is the best method to discover whether fleas are present. Comb through your pet’s fur and gather a bit of hair and dirt. Then put this between two damp white paper towels and press them together – if the “dirt” creates rusty reddish spots on the paper towel, then a flea has been there (the dirt is actually flea feces). If you keep combing (especially around the tummy and tail), you will likely trap some of them in the comb. Drown them in SOAPY water – fleas have been known to jump out of plain water. Daily flea combing may sound tedious, but it is very helpful while you are working on your companion’s health and taking environmental action.

Many topical sprays and shampoos claim to repel or kill fleas. However, many of them contain chemicals and pesticides with serious toxic potential. Cats are particularly susceptible to such products, because they are constantly grooming themselves and ingesting whatever is on their fur. Even sprays or chemicals from the dog can transfer to furniture or rugs, and from there to the cat. So, be extremely cautious with chemicals.

Safe flea-repellents for dogs – We recommend essential oil-based, non-chemical products to help keep fleas away from your dog. Spray and shampoo which contain essential oils not only help repel fleas, they can also help soothe and heal irritated skin. Herbal Defense Oil Blend is another good repellent for use on dogs. You can put a drop on the collar, and dilute it into a spray to mist your dog. Combining a little essential oil repellent spray with your flea combing is a great way to both spread the essential oils throughout the coat and give you extra help with catching the fleas. Pay particular attention to the base of the tail, and under the legs and belly on dogs. When using any strong-smelling product, keep in mind that your dog or cat has a much stronger sense of smell than you do, so don’t overdo it.

Safe flea repellent for cats - Neem products are also good for cats; comb in especially around the neck, chest, and belly. Or, spray a small amount of Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Spray onto a cloth and wipe it on lightly. Follow all directions carefully for best results. Never use full-strength essential oils directly on cats (spray products are already diluted to safe levels).

For killing fleas once they are on your pet, we recommend natural flea powders. Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy is a powder made from diatomaceous earth that is safe for use on dogs and cats as well as around the home. It kills fleas in all life stages by dehydrating them, a method that is not only non-toxic to pets, humans and the environment, also a method that fleas cannot develop an immunity to, as they do with all other pesticides over time. There are many varieties of diatomaceous earth available. Some have impurities or contaminants that make them less safe than the type in the All-in-One Flea Remedy. The All-in-One Flea Remedy is safe if ingested, so your cat can groom herself all she wants and it will not hurt her. It is a very fine powder and a little goes a long way. Suggested use is approximately 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs. of body weight. Work it in well with your fingers, or use a flea comb to distribute it. It needs to be on the skin for it to affect the fleas.

Bathing your companion is an excellent way to kill fleas. Use an essential-oil based repellent shampoo like Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Shampoo or a soothing shampoo such as oatmeal-based varieties. You can add a drop or two of flea repelling essential oils to oatmeal shampoo to make it more “flea unfriendly.” Lather the neck first, so fleas can’t run up onto the head. Leave the lather on your pet for a few minutes to help smother any persistent fleas, and then RINSE WELL. Soap residue can dry the skin and make the itchiness worse. You can follow with Only Natural Herbal Defense Conditioner or Grooming Conditioner to help prevent dry skin.

Why not use flea collars?

Most flea collars are treated with chemical pesticides that you do NOT want your pet wearing around their neck all the time! There are some natural flea collars available that will help in environments where fleas are not severe, or perhaps on an indoor cat, but you generally don’t want to rely on them as your sole line of defense if you live an area with a large flea population.

Flea Tags – Definitely worth a try!

There are some amazing new products that use tags that hang from your pet’s collar and that repel fleas based on energy fields. It sounds very “out there”, but they work really well for many animals and are far and away the easiest way to keep fleas off your pet. It is definitely worth trying a flea tag, because they work for most pets, and some for as long as two years!

What about “spot-on” flea products?

Chemical spot-on flea products contain powerful and potentially dangerous pesticides, and should be considered a last resort for animals with severe flea allergies. An excellent review of these products was featured in the Whole Dog Journal, “Are ‘Spot-On’ Flea Killers Safe?” in the February 2002 issue (click here to read the article); despite its age, the article remains relevant. “All pesticides pose some degree of health risk to humans and animals. Despite advertising claims to the contrary, both over-the-counter and veterinarian-prescribed flea-killing topical treatments are pesticides that enter our companions’ internal organs (livers, kidneys), move into their intestinal tracts, and are eventually eliminated in their feces and urine.”

Even worse, these chemicals will readily transfer to human skin when the animal is handled. This can be particularly dangerous to children.

Chemical spot-ons can induce severe adverse reactions, including excessive salivation, skin rashes, tremors, hyperactivity, stiffened limbs, seizures, and death. Consider that to be deemed safe for use on our companions, these products only need be tested for 3-, 13- or 52-week intervals. Higher doses are used to compensate for the shorter testing periods. NO STUDIES have been done on the LONG TERM effects of applying these pesticides to animals repeatedly over long periods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received so many adverse event reports (more than 44,000 in 2008 alone) that they have opened an investigation into the safety of all registered spot-on products. Illness and death in dogs and cats were reported for every one of them. The EPA is currently reviewing labels and other data and will be issuing restrictions and requirements shortly.

Defending the Home Environment

Remember that most of the flea 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. However, flea “bombs” and other products do not kill all life stages of the flea, and are generally made with chemical pesticides, which are NOT something you want to spread over every nook and cranny of your house.

Carpets, Flooring, Bedding, and Furniture

Vacuuming and washing hard-surfaced 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 immediately remove the bag and discard it in a sealed plastic bag after use. Otherwise, they will just jump out of the bag and back into your home.

Vacuuming alone can’t control severe infestations, 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 products are diatomaceous earth and boric acid products, which both work by dessicating (drying out) the fleas, larvae, pupae, and eggs, which kills them.

Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy can be used on carpeting, on pet bedding, on furniture and on hard floors (and on your pets – see above). It is a very fine powder, so it gets into cracks and crevices on hardwood, tile, and linoleum floors easily. You can work it in with a broom or carpet rake so it creates less dust when walked on. It acts more quickly than boric acid products, and a difference in the flea population can be noticeable in 24–48 hours. Diatomaceous earth, however, does not last as long as the boric acid products, and is ineffective when wet. Monthly applications are recommended in areas with heavy flea populations, especially during the height of flea season.

Boric acid products, such as Fleabusters and Fleago, work in a similar fashion. When applied correctly, they offer protection for up to a year or more, as they remain deep in the carpet and furniture fibers. Fleabusters may also be used on hard floors, as the powder is fine enough to reach into cracks and crevices well. All visible powder must be worked into the carpet, floor or furniture well with a broom or carpet rake, and any remaining visible powder should be vacuumed up. Boric acid kills flea larvae, but is not as effective at killing the adults, so visible results may take 2-6 weeks, as the adult population dies off. During the initial weeks after application, it is helpful to vacuum frequently to remove adult fleas. Boric acid products are more toxic than diatomaceous earth products as well, so you should not use them directly on dogs or cats, or in areas where small children play.

With all flea powder products, follow package directions carefully. Natural flea control powders are drying agents, and their dust can irritate nasal passages and lungs if inhaled directly. Avoid overzealous shaking of the container while spreading the powder onto the floor so you don’t create clouds of dust. If you have any questions about the application process with any of our products, please call or email and we will be happy to help.

Bedding

Pet beds are a favorite flea hang-out. Wash your pet’s bedding in hot, soapy water at least weekly. You can even add some flea repellent essential oils 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.

Securing the Perimeter (Your Yard)

Last, but certainly not least, treat the yard, the major source of fleas. Larvae avoid light – so rake up leaves and thatch, and keep the grass cut. A majority of fleas and larvae will be within 50 feet of your companion’s favorite resting spots, so focus on those areas, especially shady areas under trees, bushes, and decks. Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or diatomaceous earth can safely be applied to grass.

Beneficial nematodes (worms) are another way to control fleas in the yard, especially during wet weather. Beneficial nematodes are a flea parasite. They are tiny little critters that prey on both adult fleas and larvae. They can be applied with a hose sprayer or, on a smaller yard, with a watering can. Some garden centers and nurseries carry them (or can order them for you), as well as some of the “natural” pet stores. An Internet search will provide many sources as well.

The Pre-emptive Strike

If you live in a high-flea area, 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 they appear. If you live where flea season is every season, start now and treat your home regularly. Using natural methods takes more effort than dropping a blob of pesticide on your cat’s or dog’s back, but in the long run your pets, your family, and your environment will be healthier!

For convenient starter kits for natural flea control, view our Flea Care Kits for dogs and cats.

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Raw Meat Pet Diet Risks and Benefits by Dr. Jean Hofve

by Jean Hofve, DVM, Veterinary Adviser to Only Natural Pet

One of the leading vendors of raw food recently recalled a number of its frozen raw chicken products because they may have been contaminated with Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness.

When considering the risks and benefits of raw diets, we should remember that the recalled brand’s raw foods are vastly outnumbered by the hundreds of canned and dry foods that sickened or killed tens of thousands of dogs and cats in the 2007 recall fiasco and others since then. How many animals got sick from the raw foods? Zero. On the other hand, the benefits of a raw meat diet are many. Skin, ear, digestive, weight, allergic, and immune-related diseases usually improve on a good quality, balanced raw diet.

However, raw food has potential drawbacks as well as benefits. The bacteria Salmonella is the most commonly cited danger from feeding raw meat. However, even though this bacterium is a common contaminant of meat, eggs, and soil, it is not a significant threat to dogs and cats, due to the carnivore’s shorter gastrointestinal tract and faster transit time (compared to humans). Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings typically emphasize the risks to frail people like young infants, the elderly, and immune-compromised people (e.g., those with immune system diseases such as Lupus or AIDS, or those on immune-suppressing drugs like steroids or chemotherapy).

According to experts—including the FDA—Salmonella does not pose any real threat to healthy animals. In fact, it’s estimated that 30% of normal healthy dogs and 18% of healthy cats (nearly all of whom eat processed commercial pet food) are already carriers, simply from environmental exposure. One study on raw diets showed that, even when 80% of meat samples were positive for Salmonella, 70% of dogs eating that meat tested negative, and none got sick. The vast majority of human cases are completely unrelated to dogs and cats. It is prudent, however, to avoid feeding pets non-organic raw ground beef, due to severe contamination problems in the meat packing industry.

Listeria is another common environmental bacteria. The vast majority of Listeria cases in people come from processed foods, like hot dogs, cold cuts, cheese, and raw vegetables. Healthy people (and pets) are resistant and don’t usually become ill from this bug.

Common sense says that handling raw meat diets for pets is no different from buying raw meat at the grocery store to make hamburgers for your family. By always following normal safe meat-handling procedures with all raw animal products, you’ll virtually eliminate the risk of illness for your pet and your family.

So why feed raw? Raw meat diets are credited with restoring the health of thousands of dogs and cats. Guardians universally report big improvements in skin, coat, energy, and overall well-being. Raw diets have helped innumerable pets heal from a wide variety of health problems, including allergies, asthma, urinary tract problems, digestive issues, dental disease, immune disorders, degenerative diseases, and epilepsy.

However, raw diets aren’t for every pet. Animals with inflammatory conditions of the gut, and those taking immune-suppressing drugs, should not be fed raw meat until their systems have time to heal. You can lightly cook raw meat or even raw complete diets without losing essential nutrients. As your pet’s health improves, cook the meat less and less until your pet is ready to transition to raw. It’s usually best to make any diet changes gradually.

If you haven’t fed your pet raw meat or “people” food before (or it’s been a long time since you did), be sure to make all dietary changes slowly and cautiously. The whole digestive system has to restructure itself to digest the new food properly.

To ease the transition, extra digestive enzymes and probiotics are helpful. Omega 3 fatty acids are deficient in all commercial pet diets, and even in homemade raw diets, so it’s a good idea to add a good quality Omega 3 oil to your pet’s diet. Of course, these supplements are beneficial for all pets, no matter what they eat!

Only Natural Pet Store carries a wide variety of probiotics, enzymes, and combination products for you to choose from. To name just a few:

Only Natural Pet Vital Digest, Prozyme, and Biozyme provide important enzymes to help your pet’s digestive system break down the food properly.

Ark Naturals Gentle Digest, NF Spectra Probiotic, and Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend supply friendly bacteria and nutrients to support proper absorption and elimination of toxins and bad bacteria.

Pet Naturals Digestive Support for Cats and Dogs and Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics contain both enzymes and friendly bacteria.

Only Natural Pet Sockeye Salmon Oil and Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Even if you don’t want to feed a raw diet full-time, adding a little fresh meat to your pet’s regular diet a few times a week, or feeding part raw and part regular commercial food, will go a long way toward better health for your pet.

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Special Needs of Senior Cats

By Dr. Jean Hofve

Since November is Senior Pet Month, it’s appropriate to talk about the special needs of senior cats.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are lots of senior diets available, but most of them rely on lower fat and protein, and higher carbohydrates. It’s really important to know that dietary protein really has nothing whatsoever to do with the development of kidney disease (in dogs or cats).

It turns out that, while most middle-aged cats are overweight, starting around age 10-12 they typically start to lose weight. This is due to a decreased ability to digest and metabolize protein and fat that occurs with age. So most senior diets are exactly the opposite of what older cats need—more and better protein and fat.

Wet foods are ideal for older kitties—this includes food in cans or pouches, as well as frozen raw diets. They’re easier to digest, and more palatable. (If your cat is a dry food addict, check out my previous blog post on Switching Foods.) Wet foods tend to contain higher levels of protein and fat, and because of the way they’re handled and/or processed, the ingredients are generally better quality than dry food.

Other Age-Related Changes

Just like humans, 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 cat a good quality of life in her older years.

Arthritis

Ninety percent of cats over 12 years of age have arthritis. What is usually considered “slowing down” or “a little stiff” may be a sign of significant joint disease, and is probably quite uncomfortable for most older cats. Treating arthritis holistically is simple and inexpensive. The basic mix is glucosamine sulfate (250 mg per day) and MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane, 200 mg per day), which can be added to the cat’s wet food. Other herbs and minerals may also be helpful. These provides good anti-inflammatory action and pain relief. It may take 3-5 weeks for improvement to be noticeable. Here are my favorite joint supplements for cats:


Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)

Many older cats experience some degree of kidney (renal) disease as they age. The first symptom is usually an increase in both drinking and urination. This reflects the kidneys’ inability to reabsorb water and concentrate the urine. As time goes on, most cats lose weight, sometimes dramatically.

It is vital that CRF cats get plenty of fluids, either through consumption, or by administration (intravenous or subcutaneous), to stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major problem in these cats, as it compounds the problems of poor appetite and weight loss. Wet food, such as canned or raw, is an essential part of the diet.

The conventional treatment for CRF is a low protein, low phosphorus diet, and potassium supplementation. However, low-protein renal diets are not indicated until the disease is relatively advanced, because these diets are so restricted in protein that they don’t provide enough for normal body repair. The cat’s body will break down its own muscles to obtain enough protein, causing further weight loss and muscle wasting.

Many cats won’t eat a renal diet, and will do much better on a regular canned food. Experts agree that it is far more important that the cat eats and maintains her weight, than to worry too much about what she is eating. Hydration is also critical; many guardians learn how to give fluids at home to save the cat from the stress of frequent trips to the vet. Here are our best supplements for CRF in cats:

Hyperthyroidism

This problem is typically due to a benign thyroid tumor. The thyroid regulates the body’s metabolic rate, so the increase in hormone from the tumor is sort of like drinking espresso around the clock. Symptoms include increased appetite, weight loss despite eating more, increased heart rate, anxiety or “hyper” behavior, howling at night, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. Not all cats will have all symptoms, and about 20% of hyperthyroid cats will be sluggish and depressed instead of hyperactive. Untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause a serious heart problem called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that will ultimately be fatal.

The cause of hyperthyroidism is unknown, but research suggests a link between hyperthyroidism and feeding canned food, particularly fish and giblet flavors. Environmental contamination with fire-retardant chemicals may be part of the problem; fish are commonly loaded with them. Easy-open “pop top” cans also appear to be a contributor, possibly due to chemicals in the can lining. Feeding canned food is very important to an older cat’s overall health, but it may be wise to stick to poultry, beef and lamb flavors that don’t contain fish, liver, or giblets; or go with a homemade or raw diet so you have better control over the ingredients. Other remedies that might help include:

Constipation

A small percentage of older cats develop constipation as they age. Many times this is related to feeding dry food, especially high-fiber (hairball or weight control) diets. There is so much fiber and so little moisture in the diet that the colon can’t keep things moving along properly. Other causes include breed (Manx cats are susceptible), trauma, and litterbox avoidance behavior.

If constipation persists and is not treated, there can be serious complications, including irreversible damage to the muscles of the colon. So clearly, it is best to deal with constipation early before it becomes unmanageable. Watching the quality and quantity of your cat’s stool in the box is vital to keeping your older cat healthy. A healthy stool looks like a tootsie roll; if it’s small, hard and dry, or if the cat spends a lot of time in the box, strains excessively, or cries as he’s defecating, it’s time to act. Any change in an older cat’s litter box habits should be discussed with your veterinarian promptly.

As actress Bette Davis once said, “Age is no place for sissies.” Getting old can be stressful. Essences may also be helpful to keep your cat’s mental and emotional balance. “Graceful Aging” by SpiritEssence is designed to support and balance the body’s cells and organs, and to help deal with the changes that naturally happen with age.

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Top 10 Summer Safety Tips for Pets

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

Most of us are out and about much more in the summer, including many of our pets! But summer comes with its own set of potential problems. Common sense and preventive measures can prevent illness and injuries for our pets. Here are our Top 10 tips for a safe and happy summer:

1. Prevent Parasites. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites are a year-round problem where warm weather is the norm, but in summer they’re practically everywhere. Not only are these pests a nuisance to your dog or cat, but they can carry tapeworms, heartworms, and diseases such as Lyme, Bartonella (often called cat-scratch disease, although dogs actually carry more species of this nasty bacteria than cats), West Nile Virus, leptospirosis, and even bubonic plague. Keeping your pet parasite-free requires a broad approach and vigilance on your part, with a little help from effective preventives. (See our comprehensive article on fleas here. Many natural products are available; talk to your vet about what’s needed for your area.

2. Stay Cool! Pets can succumb to heatstroke, so be sure that whenever your pet is outdoors, he always has a shelter from the sun, and plenty of fresh water. Add ice cubes or blocks to the water to keep it cool longer. If it’s extremely hot and humid in your area, consider a cooling vest for your dog. Don’t jog or bike with your dog in hot mid-day temperatures; stick to morning and evening. This is especially important for short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs (Pekes, Pugs, Bulldogs, etc.) or those with double-thick coats or long hair (huskies, shepherds, collies, some terriers and retrievers).

3. Leave Rover at Home. You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: never leave your dog in a car if the weather is warm, and certainly not if it’s hot! Cracking the windows makes no difference in the temperature gain. It doesn’t take high temperatures for it to be dangerous. A car parked in the shade can reach dangerous temperatures on a hot day; and if it’s in the sun, the temperature can rapidly rise up to 160°F. Experiments showed that even at a mild 72°F, the inside of a car reached 116°F in an hour, plenty hot to kill a dog. One dog died after being locked in a parked car on a sunny, 67°F day, even though the car windows were cracked. If you’re out running errands, the safest place for your dog is at home.

Dogs can’t sweat—they control their body temperature by panting. If the air in the car is near or above the dog’s body temperature (about 100°F), the dog will be unable to cool itself, and its body temperature can quickly rise to fatal levels (over 107°F). Heatstroke symptoms in dogs include: heavy panting, salivation, disorientation, agitation, rapid heart beat, lethargy, vomiting, seizures, coma and death.

If you see a dog left alone in a car under dangerous conditions, note the car’s location, color, model, make, and license plate number, and contact local humane authorities or police, who usually have authority to break in to save the animal. If you can make a good guess as to which store the driver might be in, ask the store manager to page them. If the animal shows symptoms of heatstroke, immediately take these steps to lower its body temperature in a controlled manner:

* Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area. * Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest; or immerse her in cool (but not cold) water. * Allow small amounts of cool water or let the dog lick some ice cubes. * Get to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

4. Avoid Sunburn. Sunscreen may be needed for pets with white fur around their face and ears—even indoors, if they’re sunbathing through windows. Susceptible areas are where the fur is thin and the skin is white or pink. You can use a human sunscreen or sunblock product (but be sure to clean it off when you get home), or get one especially made for pets, such as Solar Rx, which is green, vegan and chemical free.

5. Protect Against Poisons. Toxic mushrooms grow in many areas of the country, so be vigilant about removing them from your yard. Many plants (and all bulbs) are also toxic. Bulbs look a lot like dog toys, so keep them out of reach!

Summer also brings chemical hazards. Antifreeze is particularly deadly, so leaky cars are a hazard; clean up any spills immediately. This is the also the time of year when people are using fertilizers, mulches, and pesticides in yards and on lawns. While professionals will usually put flags up, do-it-yourselfers might not. Don’t let your dog wander in other yards where chemicals or cocoa mulch (toxic if ingested) might be used.

If you suspect that your pet has gotten into something, poison-control hotlines (there may be a charge) include:
• Kansas State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital 785-532-5679
• ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435
• The National Animal Poison Control Center 1-900-680-0000 or 1- 800-548-2423
• Angell Animal Poison Control Hotline at 1-877-2ANGEL

6. Watch Out for Critters. Walking and hiking with your dog summer increases the chances of encountering unpleasant or even dangerous wildlife, such as skunks, porcupines, scorpions, or rattlesnakes. Some toads have poisons on their skin that can be deadly even if your pet merely licks at the toad. Toads come out in wet weather and when it’s dark, so be especially careful when letting your dog out at these times.

7. Don’t Let Burrs Get Buried. Summer grasses often produce sticky or spiky seed cases. Foxtails and burrs can get caught in the paws or fur and work their way into—or even through—the skin. Foxtails have been known to work their way inside the chest or abdomen, where infection can be life-threatening. Check your pet after every outing to ensure its fur isn’t harboring any of these nasty items. Other sharp items also multiply in warm weather…if you live near water or take your dog on fishing trips, be careful with your fishing hooks and lines, and watch out for those that may have been left behind by others.

8. Drive Safely. As much as your dog may love to ride in the bed of a pickup, or hang his head out the window, either can cause your dog a world of hurt. Dust and gravel in the eyes are just the beginning; every year thousands of dogs are injured or killed when they jump or fall from vehicles. Even in an enclosed car, pets can be thrown and injured if you have to brake suddenly.

For car rides of any length, the very safest place for pets is in the back seat, either wearing a safety harness, or in a carrier or confined area. Pets loose in the car can distract and interfere with the driver, which could result in an accident. Harnesses designed as “doggie seat belts” provide safety during the trip, and prevent your dog from getting loose if someone unexpectedly opens the door. If your dog must ride in a truck bed, use a carrier or cross-ties to prevent injuries.

Cats should always be kept in a carrier while the car is in motion; many cats actually prefer it, because the smaller space makes them feel safer. Always make sure the cat is well secured before opening the car door. Some cats can be trained to walk with a harness and leash, but this is not something to try for the first time the day of the trip!

9. Always Carry Identification. Pets should always wear a collar or harness and ID tag, no matter where they are or where they’re going. Cats should be fitted with a breakaway collar for maximum safety. Please consider having your pet microchipped as added “insurance.” Rumors of cancer from microchips are greatly exaggerated, while the sad truth is that lost pets are often gone forever. Thousands of lost pets have been returned home thanks to microchips!

10. Be Prepared. Whether at home or away, keep a first aid kit ready in case of emergencies. There are special kits for both dogs and cats, so you never have to panic! You might also want to keep flower essences on hand, to keep your pet calm while you give first aid or head for the vet. Several products are available:

Bach Rescue Remedy

SpiritEssence Stress Stopper

Pet Essences Emergency Rescue

And there you have it! Once you’re prepared for summer hazards, you’ll be able to relax, have fun, and enjoy the summer season with your pet!

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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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Top 10 Flea Myths

Myths about FleasCommon Flea Myths Busted

by our myth-buster Jean Hofve, DVM, Veterinary Advisor to Only Natural Pet.

  1. Myth# 1: A healthy pet won’t get fleas – While not a guarantee, it is true that a healthy animal is a much less attractive host for fleas. That’s one of many good reasons to feed a high quality diet of natural food. However, even a healthy pet can get fleas in heavily infested regions, so keep a watchful eye out and use a natural flea repellent on all at-risk pets.
  2. Myth #2: Fleas live on pets, not in the houses – Fleas usually enter the house on pets, as stated above, but they can quickly find refuge in the house. Carpets, bedding, pet beds, and upholstered furniture make cozy homes for fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae. If you find fleas in the house, you must take quick action to eliminate them there (as well as on your pet, and even in your yard).
  3. Myth #3: Keeping the house clean will prevent fleas – Unfortunately, fleas can infest even the most spotless home. Fleas usually enter the house on your pets, but they can also hitch a ride on clothing, and have even been seen to jump right into the house on their own. Hard-surfaced floors are no protection, either; fleas can live in the cracks and around the edges of wood, laminate, or tile floors. They can also take refuge in furniture, bedding, and area rugs. If you live in an area with fleas, it is important to protect your pets at all times. It’s also important to get rid of fleas in your yard. Creating a flea-free buffer all around the house a great way to prevent infestation.
  4. Myth #4: If I only see a couple of fleas on my pet, then it’s not a big problem – More than 90% of a flea population is in the egg, larval, or pupal (cocoon) stage, all of which take place off the pet, usually in carpet, bedding, or furniture, or shady areas in the yard where your pet (or other critters) hang out. If you see a few fleas, it’s certain that there are hundreds of eggs and immature stages in the environment. The process of producing an adult flea can take weeks or even months. There’s no quick fix, but vigilance and persistence can get rid of even stubborn infestations.
  5. Myth #5: Once the fleas are gone from my pet, the problem is solved – Fleas do not surrender easily. If you have seen fleas on your pet or in house, you need to treat the house with a safe product, and stay vigilant for months. Fully solving the flea problem requires a 3-pronged approach of treating the pet, the house, and the yard. Use an outdoor treatment in shady areas under decks, bushes and trees, where fleas like to hang out. The best approach is prevention, so always protect your pets with a natural flea repellent, especially if they spend time outdoors, or at a dog park or doggie day care.
  6. Myth #6: I don’t have to worry about fleas during winter – Although you may not see them in the winter in cold climates, fleas can live quite comfortably in your house, as well as on wildlife. If your pet or your house had fleas during the warm months, you’re likely to have fleas during the winter months as well. If your pet goes outdoors and may have contact with squirrels, birds, or other wildlife, they can still get fleas. And, of course, fleas live happily in warm climates all year long, so flea control is a year-round battle.
  7. Myth #7: My veterinarian can most effectively treat fleas – It is fine to consult your veterinarian about flea control, but be wary of the chemical flea control products she may recommend (see Myth #8). In addition, veterinarians may not know the best ways to get rid of fleas in the environment. We recommend trying to find a holistic veterinarian who can guide you on natural flea control products. One resource for finding a holistic veterinarian is the directory of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
  8. Myth #8: Chemical spot-on flea products are an easy and safe way to prevent fleas – They are easy, yes, but they are not necessarily safe. The US Environmental Protection Agency recently (2010) completed an in-depth investigation due to the hundreds of reports of illness and death in pets. Serious adverse effects were reported for every product EPA assessed. EPA is in the process of increasing restrictions on their use. You can read more on the EPA website here.
  9. Myth #9: Chemical flea collars are an easy and safe way to prevent fleas – Flea collars are the least effective control method. Fleas spend most of their time off the animal. Their effects tend not to last very long. Conventional flea collars which use chemicals may contain potentially harmful residues that are transferred to pets’ fur and can be transferred to humans who handle them. The Natural Resource Defense Council is involved in a lawsuit in California to block the sale of these products, some of which contain cancer-causing agents and poisons that linger on fur for weeks. Children are most at risk for neurological damage. A great alternative is natural flea tags, which are effective for most pets and can work for up to two years.
  10. Myth #10: Natural flea control products don’t work – Although many natural flea control products don’t have to go through EPA-mandated tests because they aren’t classified as pesticides, this doesn’t mean that they don’t work. People all over the country use the natural approach to flea control effectively, and although it is not always as easy as using chemicals, you can rest assured that the products are safe for your pet and your family.

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