Archive for News from Dr. Jean

5 New Year’s Resolutions Your Pet Wants You To Make

As 2008 wraps up and we’re thinking about our goals for the New Year, our pets have a few reminders for you! Here are the top 5 New Year’s resolutions your pet wants you to make!

1. Spend more quality time with me! As much as your dog or cat loves sitting with you while you work or relax, a 10-minute walk or play session provides many benefits. It’s mentally and physically stimulating, which ultimately means less boredom and frustration—and thus a calmer and healthier pet.

The amount of exercise and stimulation your dog needs depends on age, breed, temperament, weight, and social factors. For example, a young border collie needs a great deal of exercise that engages its mind, such as dog agility training or long-distance fetching games; while a middle-aged pug may be fine with a short daily walk. If you have two dogs who rough-house all day, a leisurely evening walk may be just what they need. Consider the history of your dog’s breed to understand more about its temperament and exercise needs. Your dog’s energy level and weight will give you an overall picture of whether its exercise regimen is adequate.

Even cats need exercise, despite their reputation for sleeping 18 hours a day! Interactive play sessions with fishing-pole type toys like “Da Bird” not only provide exercise, but also deepen your cat’s bond with you—and it’s fun! Perhaps most importantly, play sessions will satisfy those strong hunter instincts to create a more serene, more confident cat. This is especially important in a multi-cat home with an unbalanced hierarchy; the lowest cat on the totem pole will be much more comfortable in “hunting territory” where interactive games take place. If you have a young, energetic cat, consider cat agility training.

2. Feed me right! Good nutrition is the heart of good health and long life. You want your pet to not only survive, but thrive—so consider adding canned, raw, or homemade food. Cats in particular need more high-protein, high-moisture diets for optimal health; but dogs also benefit from less-processed foods.

Appropriate supplements are a part of good nutrition. While pets eating a balanced commercial food don’t need much in the way of added vitamins and minerals, giving extra Omega-3 fatty acids, digestive support (digestive enzymes and probiotics), and immune support (antioxidants) will provide big benefits that will help your pet live a longer, healthier life.

a. Omega-3 fatty acids (healthy anti-inflammatory oils). Omega-3s are precursors to many important hormones and other compounds in the body. In dogs and cats, they’re especially important for skin and coat health. Lack of a healthy balance of essential fatty acids is linked to many serious health conditions, such as allergies, skin diseases, obesity, cancer, insulin resistance, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, behavioral issues, and cognitive dysfunction (senility). These The best forms for pets are fish oil and cod liver oil. If you can only give your pet one supplement, make it Omega 3s.

b. Digestive support (digestive enzymes and probiotics). In nature, our pets’ relatives catch and eat their food raw. We can mimic the benefits of the wild diet by adding digestive enzymes to our pets’ food. Probiotics—friendly bacteria—help the natural bacterial population in the gut stay balanced and healthy, and prevent prevent pathogenic bacteria from making our pets sick.

c. Immune support (antioxidants). The immune system is large and complex, and in our modern world, is constantly under attack from all sides—indoor and outdoor air pollutants, chemicals in fabrics and household products, electromagnetic radiation, and airborne viruses, molds, and toxins. Antioxidants, which help the body detoxify itself and prevent damaging inflammation, are a great way to boost the immune system. A combination of antioxidants is much more effective than any single one.

3. Give me appropriate veterinary care! Dogs and cats need annual veterinary check-ups. Regular care from the veterinarian is important to detect and correct  problems early and to maintain good dental health; but take it easy on the vaccines. Most adult animals do not need any vaccines except rabies as required by law. See our article on Vaccinations for more information.

4. Help me look and feel good! Adequate grooming involves maintaining a clean, healthy coat, claws, ears, eyes, claws, and teeth.

a. Bathing. Cats rarely need a bath, but dogs are attracted to (and like to roll in) things that smell good to them—but not so good to us! Also, that “doggy” odor can become unpleasant without regular shampoos (diet also has a great deal to do with development of this odor).
Pet-Safe Shampoos

b. Brushing/combing. Most pets learn to enjoy grooming if they’re introduced to it slowly and in a pleasurable way. It should never be a battle! Combs dig deeper than brushes, which tend to gloss over the top coat. Another great tool is the FURminator, which pulls out amazing amounts of dead hair; but it needs to be used gently, otherwise the feeling can become unpleasant.
Gripsoft Grooming Tools

c. Nail trimming. Your vet or groomer can do this every few weeks if you have a particularly uncooperative pet, but if you start trimming your puppy or kitten early in life and take care not to hurt them, most pets will accept claw clipping or filing at home. Very active dogs may wear their nails down naturally, but it pays to be vigilant. Over-long claws are uncomfortable to walk on and can actually grow around into the pad, causing horrific wounds.

Gripsoft Grooming Tools

d. Ears, eyes, and teeth. Keeping the ears and eyes clean and healthy is an essential part of good grooming and maintenance. Any cat or dog can develop waxy buildup in the ears, although floppy-eared dogs still take the prize for ear issues. Nearly every pet has some degree of dental disease by the age of 3; and while your veterinarian plays the most important role in assessing and preventing dental disease, there are products that can help keep your pet’s mouth healthy between check-ups. Prevention is key, because these sensitive organs can be easily damaged and expensive to restore to health.

Ear Care Products

Eye Care Products

Dental Care Products

5. Keep the bugs away from me! In many areas of the country, fleas are a year-round problem. Other parasites, including intestinal worms, heartworms, and disease-carrying ticks, are also a threat. A healthy diet and good hygiene are the first-line deterrents, but discuss parasite prevention with your vet so you know what the particular issues are in your area. And don’t forget to do your homework if you’re traveling, since parasite seasons and distributions vary widely in different areas. Anti-parasitic medications can be strong and potentially harmful; discuss alternative treatments with your vet.

For Fleas

For Other Parasites

Here’s hoping that you and your pets have a great holiday season and a wonderful 2009!

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Please Don’t Give Pets as Gifts!

‘Tis the season for giving, and that means shopping for special, unique gifts for our loved ones. Who doesn’t have visions of a spouse, friend, or niece or grandchild opening a beautifully wrapped box with an adorable kitten inside, or of covering their eyes and leading them into a room where a puppy or a cat wearing a big bow is waiting. We aren’t to blame—we have these very images of holiday serenity lingering from our own childhood as well as sentimental TV commercials. In a pet, it seems we can give the gift of unconditional love, especially to a child.

Now, here’s a dose of reality: right now, animal shelters are getting ready for a flood of animal surrenders right after the holiday season. The intended happy surprise turns out to be  just a surprise—and not necessarily a pleasant one. The solution to the problem for many families is to get rid of the unwanted pet. What’s up with that?

•    The holidays are already hectic; it’s not a good time to bring in a new pet that needs to feel safe and secure in its new environment, and more importantly, needs quiet one-on-one time with its new family.

•    The recipient—even though he or she may have said that they’d love to get a pet, doesn’t actually want such a serious commitment in an already-busy life, especially a schedule- and travel-disruptor like a pet that needs to go outside on time.

•    A household member may be or become allergic to the new pet.

•    Some children become frightened of the strange new creature, which in turn spooks the new pet, creating an air of distrust for all involved.

•    Even though children ask for pets, the parents must be involved in the decision; not all kids are ready for the responsibility, and the parents may not want to get stuck with it either. Ultimately, no one takes care of the pet, and it ends up shut in a basement, tied up in the yard, abandoned, or relinquished.

•    Although the previous guardian’s paperwork might say the pet was good with kids, its actual socialization might not have included what the next child wanted from a pet when begging for a live Christmas present (playing dress-up, putting in a stroller, etc.).

•    Resident animals in the home also get the short end of the stick. If any significant holiday activity was going on in the home, i.e., family staying over, holiday parties, etc., resident pets (especially cats) were already having tough time adapting their sense of “stable-sameness” to the unusual activities. Add another animal, especially of the same species, and—more often than not—disaster is imminent.

•    Winter is not puppy or kitten season; the young animals that are available at Christmas time very likely come from puppy or kitten mills—and may continue to surprise the new guardian with serious health and behavior issues. This is virtually guaranteed to be the case if the puppy is a breed that was recently featured in a movie, such as 101 Dalmations, Marley and Me, or Beverly Hills Chihuahua. To avoid pets from mills, never ever buy a dog or cat from a pet store.

Now you know the reasons not to surprise family and other loved ones with animals as gifts, the good news is that there are many ways to bring four-legged love home for the holidays without such risk.

For a creative surprise, give a gift certificate for pet supplies; or present them with a collar and leash or a package of cat toys. When the recipient looks confused, you can reveal that the real present is a trip to the shelter plus the adoption fee, to choose a furry friend.

Many animal shelters have gift certificates you can buy to place in a box instead of an animal. These generally cover the cost of adoption, and may include spay/neuter and initial vaccines (but be sure to read our article on vaccination first!). If your local shelter doesn’t offer gift certificates, make one yourself. That way, the next day or next week—or whenever the time is right—your loved one can look for a new companion.

Nowadays, many shelters have websites with pictures of their adoptable animals, so the whole family can go online and check out the choices. Or browse Petfinders, the original online adoption site. There is also empowerment in a child in going to a shelter and picking out his or her own companion. It’s also a perfect time to let them know that caring for a living being requires responsibility. It’s never too early to instill the concept of stewardship.

It is essential to introduce everyone who lives in the home, from children to housemates to other pets, to the new pet before adoption. In fact, many shelters require this. There’s nothing to lose, but important lessons to gain. For instance, the adoptive family may discover that the resident dog requires a bit of work on the “down-stay” so that it doesn’t relentlessly pursue the new addition. A housemate’s allergy may or may not act up in the presence of specific animals.

This method also allows time to prepare the home itself before bringing a new pet in.

Remember, no surprises are good surprises when it comes to animals this holiday season. Have a great one, and congratulations to all of you who bring a homeless pet into your heart and home this year!

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Keeping the Holidays Safe for Your Pets

The holidays can be a stressful and even dangerous time for our pets. The routines are upset, visitors abound, and tempting smells are coming from the kitchen!

The Christmas tree itself is hazard #1.

  • Many cats find it irresistibly tempting to climb, so make sure your tree is in a sturdy stand.
  • If it’s a live tree, it will have a water container—this is another hazard. Aromatic compounds from the tree itself and the chemicals often added to the water are highly toxic to pets; make sure the container is wrapped and taped or otherwise made inaccessible to your dog or cat, who will often try to drink from this novel water source.
  • Keep glass ornaments to a minimum if you must use them at all, and place them higher on the tree; put unbreakable ornaments lower down. A broken glass ornament is a minefield for tender little paws.
  • If your dog eats all or part of a glass ornament, immediately feed the dog bread soaked in milk or cream (or in a pinch, just soak cotton balls in the milk—they’ll accomplish the same thing); the soft mushy texture will gather up all the sharp pieces and safely expel them.

Christmas lights and wires on the tree and around the home are an invitation to chew for both cats and dogs. For wires that are easily accessible to curious teeth (especially young animals), run them through inexpensive foam pipe insulators that you can find at any home improvement or hardware store. The potential for fire is greatly increased if the wires are damaged!

Metal tinsel is rare these days, but mylar tinsel and garlands can also pose a swallowing hazard. Its sharp edges can cause serious damage to a pet’s intestines. Consider a beaded garland instead.

When unwrapping presents, make sure all ribbon and string is safely discarded. Because of the backward-facing barbs on a cat’s tongue, all sorts of strings, laces, and other long skinny stuff is easily passed into the tummy when chewed, where it becomes a surgical emergency.

Parties and visitors increase the risk of a pet slipping out through an open door; make sure all your pets are microchipped and wearing collars and ID tags. It’s wise to provide a “base camp” for your pet that includes food, water, and familiar pet bed; for cats, add a scratching post, and litterbox, in a room that’s less likely to be disturbed. No decorations in that room, please, especially lit candles! (Of course, unattended burning candles are a serious hazard any time of year!)

Take it easy on the treats. Too many fatty treats like turkey skin or ham can cause serious tummy upset; in dogs, they can even trigger life-threatening pancreatitis. Ask dinner guests to refrain from feeding “under the table”—or even better, keep pets safely confined during the festivities. Chocolate, of course, is toxic to both dogs and cats.

A little extra care and attention will make this holiday season a safe and happy one for the whole family!

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Exercise for Dogs and Cats

Here at Only Natural we tend to emphasize nutrition, and rightly so because it truly is the foundation of good health. However, one of the other great cornerstones of vibrant health and long life is exercise. Moderate, regular exercise will help keep your pet at a healthy weight and keep the joints flexible. It also provides mental stimulation, which is important for all pets, but especially those who spend most of their time indoors.

Big dogs make great hiking companions, especially here in rugged Colorado, where we’ve joked for years about the Labrador Retriever being the “state dog.” Most medium-sized and large dogs seem able to handle all kinds of weather. But it’s easy to let a smaller dog become a couch potato, going out only to answer the call of nature and hurrying right back in. They’re not built for long treks, and they can disappear completely in a foot or two of snow!

The first step with any dog is to make sure you have the right collar or harness. Studies have shown that excessive pressure from a neck collar can damage a dog’s trachea (windpipe), so a head collar or walking harness may be a better choice for dogs that pull. Small dogs do exceptionally well with supportive harnesses such as the 3-in-1 Vest Harness that also doubles as a secure seatbelt for car travels.

Of course, a good leash that’s sturdy and easy to handle is always a good investment! An Earthdog Hemp Leash, Bags On Board Retractable Leash, Planet Dog Zip Lead Retractable Leash, or a Freeleash Hands-Free Dog Leash are all good options to get out and get moving with your dog.

With the short days of winter upon us, don’t forget to prepare for walking in the dark. The Rufflective Safety Vest, Ruff Wear Beacon Safety Light, and the PupLight Dog Collar Safety Light are designed to increase your dog’s visibility to cars to increase the safety of night time walks.

If it’s icy outside, or if your dog has furry paws that snow can pack into, consider canine footwear to protect those tender toes. Pawz Biodegradable Natural Dog Boots are an easy choice for everyday outings and Ruff Wear Bark’n Boots GripTrex are a highly durable long-lasting boot for more rigorous outdoor adventures.

When you can’t get out for a walk, there are many fun, interactive toys that will keep your dog entertained and moving, like the West Paw Design Zogoflex Huck, the Babble Ball Interactive Toy, and IncrediBubbles.

Cats need exercise too, and while it’s possible to train a cat to walk with a cat harness and leash, at-home interactive play is the best way to keep your cat’s mind and body engaged and resilient. A 15-minutes session once or twice a day is ideal.

To help your cat get the most from these interactive toys, the key is to “BE the prey.” Use your imagination, and have fun! If you’re a mouse, run, jump and hide; if you’re a bird, flutter and dive. Always let your cat catch the prey in the end, and follow up with a high-protein treat such as canned food. This not only exercises your cat’s physical side, but also satisfies the mental/emotional “hunter” part—an important consideration in multi-cat homes to prevent aggressive behavior. It’s also a terrific way to help chubby kitties lose weight, as well as to prevent
boredom and the unwanted behaviors that sometimes go with it!

When you start an exercise program for your pet, use the same common-sense precautions you would with any other new activity. Don’t go hog wild all at once; your pet can get sore muscles and even cause damage to joints, because they don’t know when to stop and will usually keep going as long as you can. Build up your pet’s endurance gradually, and watch for signs that he’s had enough – wanting to lie or sit down, or showing any degree of labored breathing.

You’ll notice that all of these suggestions have one thing in common – you! Sure, you can leave toys out for your pets to play with, but their greatest joy is to play with you, so even though the holidays can be hectic, please make room for that quality time with your best buddy.

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Special Advice for Senior Cats

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 litterbox 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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Digestive Enzymes

By Dr. Jean Hofve

Enzymes are proteins in the body that help chemical reactions proceed normally. There are thousands of enzymes in the body, but only two main types: digestive and metabolic. Metabolic enzymes are involved in every process in the body, from energy production to cell repair. Digestive enzymes work exclusively in the gastrointestinal tract to help digest the food animals eat.

In mammals, the salivary glands and pancreas provide digestive enzymes to help break down food. In herbivores and omnivores, saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that breaks starch down into simple sugars. You can test this yourself by chewing a saltine cracker without swallowing; eventually it will taste sweet. (Don’t forget to swallow when you’re done with the experiment!) Carnivores, however, don’t produce salivary amylase; their natural diet contains mostly protein and fat, and very little starch.

The pancreas, a large gland sitting along the small intestine opposite the liver, is the main provider of digestive enzymes. It makes protease, to break down protein; lipase, to digest fat; and amylase, to digest carbohydrates. When food leaves the stomach, the pancreas secretes bicarbonate to neutralize the stomach acid, and digestive enzymes, which get churned into the food and break it down so the intestines can absorb the nutrients.

In addition to pancreatic enzymes, there are other natural helpers for digestion, which makes sense, since it’s such a crucial process. Every living cell contains enzymes, and some of the enzymes within each cell are capable of “self-digestion.” To prevent them from digesting the cell while it’s still alive, they are packaged inside bundles called lysosomes. When the cell dies, these packets rupture and the enzymes inside destroy and digest the cell’s "remains." Some of us have seen this exact process occur in the refrigerator when a bag of lettuce gets forgotten in the bottom drawer. A few weeks later, what you’ll find in that drawer is a bag of brown liquid – the lettuce has completely digested itself into water and a few other elements. Raw foods, like fresh meat, do the same thing; it’s a natural process of decomposition. On the other hand, cooked foods – in which the natural enzymes have been destroyed by heat – tend to get moldy. (Some fresh foods, like fruit, also get moldy just to make life interesting!)

Because heat destroys (“denatures”) the natural shape of enzymes, they become nonfunctional. In dogs and cats that eat processed pet food, the pancreas is left without any help and must provide all the enzymes needed to digest the food. The pancreas is a sensitive little organ, and it doesn’t like being overworked. So it makes good common sense to do all we can to keep the pancreas happy. Adding digestive enzymes to our pets’ food is an easy way to do this.

Digestive enzymes for pets typically come in powdered form, making it easy to sprinkle on or mix with wet food. For most pets, the best enzymes come from plants or fungi (yeast), because they can survive the trip through the stomach’s seriously acidic environment (however, some pets do better on pancreatic extracts). Make sure the enzymes you choose contain at least protease, lipase, and amylase (many also contain cellulase, which is a bonus if the food contains fibrous vegetables or grains).

Here are our best digestive enzyme products:


Only Natural Pet Vital Digest


Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics


Prozyme


Prozyme Plus


In Clover OptaGest Digestive Aid


Similase


Pet Naturals Digestive Support for Cats and Dogs


Bio-Zyme
(pancreatic extract)
 

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FeLV & FIV – Feline Leukemia Virus (AIDS)

Question:
What is Feline Leukemia Virus?

Answer:
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV, also called Feline AIDS), are dangerous, contagious diseases of cats. Both of these viruses are fairly “new” cat diseases; FeLV was first documented in the 1960s, and FIV was discovered in domestic cats around 1975. Since then it has been found that many big cats (a high percentage of African lions, for instance) also harbor the FIV virus. However, in big cats, the disease seems to be benign and rarely causes overt signs.

Contrary to what most people think, neither FeLV nor FIV are easy to transmit.  Your indoor cat will not become infected by a sick cat sneezing through a screen door. For a cat to contract FeLV, it takes prolonged, close contact—the kind of contact you’d get with two cats living together, sharing bowls, and mutual
grooming. FIV is transmitted almost exclusively through bite wounds. Kittens of infected mothers are typically infected through the mother’s blood or milk.

Both FeLV and FIV are retroviruses similar to human AIDS. While an infected cat’s immune system is definitely compromised, making him more susceptible to other infections, there is no reason why the cat can’t live a long and reasonably healthy life with proper nutrition and support.

Prevention

Both FeLV and FIV are found in 1½ to 3% of all cats in the U.S. The incidence of the disease has not changed significantly over the years. The actual rate of transmission between cats is not known. It is likely that many cats who are exposed to the disease never become persistently infected. In some cases the amount of exposure may not be enough to harm the cat, or the cat’s immune system is strong enough to fight it off.

Before bringing a new kitten or cat into your home, it is essential to have it tested for FeLV and FIV, in order to know the level of protection you must provide for your resident cat(s). However, tests in a newly infected animal may be negative. It is recommended to re-test for FeLV at least one month after known or suspected exposure. For FIV, a re-check is recommended at least 60 days after a bite wound or if the cat’s FIV status is unknown.

As many as 30% of positive FeLV and FIV tests are “false positives,” meaning that although the test is positive, the cat does not have the disease. Ideally, all positive results should be confirmed with a more sensitive test. Kittens must be 6-8 months of age before test results can be considered accurate.

FIV is primarily transmitted by bite wounds. It affects mainly outdoor cats, and male cats much more frequently than females. The best prevention for FIV is to keep your cat indoors.

There are vaccines available for both these diseases; however, they are not recommended by most experts. Both vaccines are the “killed” type, which carry the risk of causing cancer at the injection site, as well as other health issues associated with all vaccines. Please see our article, The Truth About Vaccinations,” in our Holistic Healthcare Library.

Diseases like FeLV and FIV depend on a weak immune system to give them entry; a healthy adult cat is relatively resistant to the disease. To keep the immune system functioning optimally, a cat needs proper nutrition and appropriate supplementation.

Living with FeLV and FIV

When FeLV, and later, FIV, were first discovered, veterinarians recommended immediate euthanasia for any cat testing positive. Fortunately, we have learned much more about the disease since then.

Dr. Don Hamilton, veterinarian, homeopath, and author of Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs, says, “Of course, it is critical to remember that these viruses are primarily only a problem in immuno-suppressed cats. Keeping a cat healthy with good food, and avoidance of stressors, like vaccination, is more important
for viruses like FeLV and FIV.” In other words, while these diseases are infectious and present in many environments, most healthy cats who are exposed will not get sick.

Diagnosis of FeLV or FIV is not a death sentence. However, sensible precautions should be taken. Disease-positive cats should be kept strictly indoors to eliminate the risk of transmitting the disease to other cats through fighting, as well as to reduce exposure to secondary infections that could harm the cat.

These viruses primarily affect the immune system, which results in lowered resistance to infections. Like AIDS, there may be a long latent period where the cat is apparently healthy. Because of their weakened immunity, many infected cats ultimately succumb to secondary viral or bacterial infections that would be
relatively harmless in a normal cat.

Because a stressed immune system is more prone to infection, keeping the cat’s stress level to a minimum is essential. Cats are territorial; the more cats in a household, the more stress is placed on each individual cat to maintain its position and boundaries. Proper hygiene is also critical. Extra special care should be taken to keep the environment (water and food bowls, litter boxes, bedding, toys, etc.) clean so that bacteria and other viruses can’t take advantage of the infected cat’s weaker immune system. Diluted household bleach (about 1 oz. of bleach to a gallon of water) is one of the best disinfectants known to man, and will kill virtually all infectious organisms. Retroviruses are not hardy, and do not live more than a few hours if exposed to the environment.

In addition to managing the environment, flower essences can be helpful to the FIV+ cat to enable him to cope with his environment and the disease. We recommend the SpiritEssence remedy, “Healthy Helper.”

It is important to support the immune system with good nutrition, stress management, and immune boosting treatments such as acupuncture and energy work.  However, because the immune defenses of the infected cat may be weak or inadequate, we don’t recommend a raw meat diet as the first step toward
improving nutrition. Homemade is best, but because of contamination problems in the meat-packing industry, it’s best to start out using cooked meat. As the cat becomes healthier, you can gradually transition to a raw diet if desired. If homemade isn’t an option for you, then wholesome, natural canned foods are fine.
Dry food is undesirable because they are dehydrating; also, carbohydrates (including vegetables) are unnatural to the feline diet and put stress on the liver, pancreas, and immune system.

Our most powerful immune system supplements:

Only Natural Pet Immune Strengthener

Health Concerns Power Mushrooms


Genesis Resources Feline Immune Support Formula


Genesis Resources Feline CAS Options


Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet


Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil

Our Best Options for Stress Management

SpiritEssence Stress Stopper

Pet Essences Immune System Booster Flower Essences

Pet Essences Feline Leukemia Flower Essences

Many infected cats live normal lives and never show signs of the disease.  However, once a cat develops symptoms, the odds are that, in spite of our best care, he will ultimately lose the battle against the disease. Love and supportive care are the best weapons in our arsenal, but even these cannot prevent the disease from running its course. Sadly, it is our responsibility as caretakers to consider what the end should be like. In many cases, these cats will suffer terribly before the disease itself ends the fight, and humane euthanasia is often the best option.

It’s important to determine ahead of time what the criteria will be for this decision. These may include: when the cat is not eating or drinking, or is hiding constantly, taking no interest in surroundings, not responding to affection—any signs that feel appropriate to you may be your signal that enough is enough, and it’s time for a peaceful and loving release. It is ultimately the greatest gift of love you can give.

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Questionable Tumors / Lipomas

Question:
My 11 yr old Lab has a “questionable tumor” on his left lung.  This is after he’s been diagnosed with harmless fatty tumors all over his belly etc. for a few years. I am amongst the thought process that I will take the best care of my baby until he is in too much pain to survive. ( I say this after putting his sibling through 2 chemo therapy treatments for lung cancer and ultimately he died shortly after the second treatment).

Answer:
Benign fatty tumors in the skin, called lipomas, are very common in older dogs, particularly retrievers. The skin is the largest organ of the body and a major route of elimination. Accumulated toxins are frequently expressed as skin symptoms, including lipomas.

This is an indication of a need to “clean house,” but the detoxification process is necessary in all cases of chronic disease, especially cancer. Obviously, avoiding household and environmental contaminants, as well as excessive vaccines, is an important part of this process, but the key is nutrition.  A clean, healthy diet helps the body eliminate waste products and other unwanted substances.

Even the best dry foods are highly processed and necessarily contain numerous additives and preservatives, whether natural or synthetic. Additionally, because certain cancers prefer carbohydrates, dry foods are undesirable. Canned foods are better, but conventional brands may still contain coloring and texturizing agents and are heat processed. Best is a balanced, low-carb (grain free) homemade diet made with organic
ingredients, utilizing raw foods, but when this isn’t possible or practical, reasonable alternatives include:

Frozen raw diets

Freeze dried diets

Only Natural Pet Fresh Filets

Only Natural Pet Super Daily Greens

In a dog with a history of lipomas, specific vaccine detoxification Thuja and skin-supporting Omega 3 fatty acids would also be helpful.

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Diabetic Diet

Question:
Can you recommend a diabetic diet for my 9 year old Beagle mix?? I have opted
for a low carb diet……is this good ??

Answer:
The short answer is yes, but perhaps not for the reasons you thought.

Dogs most often get Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes, which is a failure of the pancreas to make enough insulin. These dogs need insulin to manage the disease; and carbohydrates are not as critical.

Cats, on the other hand, most often get Type II diabetes. This type is most commonly the result of too many carbs in the diet. High levels of carbs in food trigger insulin to be released; ultimately the body tissues become overwhelmed and become resistant to insulin. This is the form that is very responsive to a
low-carb diet; and in fact, caught early, a large percentage of diabetic cats will reverse the disease, and will remain normal with dietary management.

While Type I diabetes can’t be reversed or managed with diet alone, food does play a role in regulating blood glucose as well as in overall health. A low-carb diet is more in line with the natural canine diet. Limiting carbs helps dogs lose fat and maintain lean body mass. When choosing foods for your dog, bear in mind that low or no grains in a food does not necessarily mean low carbs. Some foods substitute yams, potatoes, peas or other starchy vegetables for grains. To get a ballpark estimate of carbs, subtract the percentages of all the ingredients listed in the guaranteed analysis from 100. The remainder will tell the approximate carb content; look for 20% or less for dogs, less than 10% for cats. Canned foods are definitely better than dry foods in the low-carb department; but if you must use dry food, be sure to avoid corn as an ingredient
since it causes a dramatic increase in blood sugar.

Only Natural Pet Glucose Wellness

You may also want to consider supplements, particularly antioxidants. Diabetic dogs may especially benefit from alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to be valuable in human Type I diabetics. (Note: cats are extra-sensitive to lipoic acid, and even small amounts can become toxic. Do not supplement cats with
alpha-lipoic acid.)

Antioxidants

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Kidney Disease

Question:
“I have a kitty dealing with renal challenges (Sandy Paws). I have had her successfully on Sub Qs (every 4 days) and a great Omega oil.  Please render any other recommendations you may have…she is 10 or 11 years old, and just holds at about 7.1 pounds.”

Answer:
More than ever, it seems, many pets are suffering from kidney (renal) damage and failure. This is partly due to last year’s pet food recall that harmed so many pets (whose kidneys will never fully recover) but kidney disease was already common, especially in older cats.

In cats, kidney disease develops for two main reasons:

1. Being fed only or mosty dry food, which is extremely dehydrating and puts a great burden on their kidneys. Even though you’ll see these cats drinking water, they make up only half the intake a cat eating a canned, raw or homemade diet would take in.
2. Receiving unnecessary booster vaccines for feline distemper (panleukopenia).  The virus in this vaccine is commonly grown in a culture of feline kidney cells.  When the vaccine is injected, kidney proteins from the culture fluid cause antibodies to form against them; these antibodies cross-react with the cat’s own
kidneys and sets up a low-grade chronic inflammation. Every repeated booster worsens this inflammation, eventually leading to cell destruction, scarring, and ultimately kidney failure.

The same potential problems apply to canine vaccines. All vaccines are grown in some type of cell culture; canine, feline and calf cell cultures are commonly used. One study showed that every vaccinated puppy produced antibodies that cross-reacted with its own tissues, including red blood cells and connective tissue such as collagen.

Low-protein diets are commonly prescribed for kidney failure. The real reason for this is because meat is high in phosphorus, and it is phosphorus that is the problem (it combines with calcium and further damages the kidneys). However the scientific support for this treatment is much stronger for dogs than for cats.
It is also important to remember that high protein diets do not cause kidney disease.

The quality of the food is also extremely important. Most “prescription” and “veterinary” pet foods are made from very poor quality ingredients: by-products, grains, and meat substitutes. Since these animals already have health issues, it makes more sense to feed them the very best natural ingredients. Most high-quality commercial foods have fairly high levels of protein, so a home-made diet may be your best option. Here’s a couple of sample recipes:

For Cats:
1/4 cup chopped or ground chicken breast
1 cup cooked white rice (long-grain or basamati)
1 Tablespoon Omega-3 fish oil
1/8 teaspoon salt substitute (potassium chloride)
500 mg calcium (tablet or capsule without magnesium, vitamin D, or bonemeal)
1/4 human multiple vitamin-mineral tablet
250 mg taurine

For Dogs (per 20 pounds of body weight):
1 large chopped hard-boiled egg
2 cups cooked white rice (long-grain or bassamati)
1 Tablespoon Omega-3 fish oil
500 mg calcium (tablet or capsule)
1/2 human multiple vitamin-mineral tablet or capsule

Certainly, getting these animals off dry food is a crucial component because it’s vital to keep these pets well-hydrated. Giving subcutaneous (“sub-Q”) fluids at home is also a great help with hydration issues, and can offset some of the negative effects of higher protein.

Several supplements are proven to be helpful in renal disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important. It should from wild fish (not farmed salmon) and contain mostly or only Omega-3s. Omega-6s promote inflammation, which is of course not what you want. Antioxidants will also help manage and decrease
inflammation.

Omega-3-Fish-Oil


Antioxidants

Recent research suggests that adding extra probiotics to the diet helps with protein metabolism and minimizes the metabolic by-products of protein digestion (blood urea nitrogen or BUN, and creatinine) that would otherwise enter the blood and cause toxicity. Digestive enzymes are also beneficial because they
break down proteins earlier in the digestive process.

Probiotics


Digestive Enzymes

For more detailed information, see: Kidney disease in cats and dogs 

Preventing kidney failure is a whole lot easier than treating it, so if you have young, healthy pets in your home as well, make sure they are on an excellent natural diet (canned, raw, or homemade); appropriae supplements including probiotics, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, and Omega-3 fatty acids; and minimize vaccines.

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