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Dr. Doug in the Raw

Dr Doug Raw

Yes, I’m going to bare it all for you right now. I am one of a rare breed of veterinarian who actually recommends raw pet food. This is in spite of my veterinary educational indoctrination that processed pet food is scientifically validated. Initially I bought the propaganda – hook, line and sinker. The reason I changed my mind is that:

  1. I was open-minded enough to try raw food on a pet and saw positive results
  2. My experience with raw food led me to do my own research into why it worked

Here is some of what I learned.

Evolution

Although dogs and cats have been domesticated for thousands of years they have been fed processed kibble for less than 100 years. It takes millions of years for significant evolutionary changes to happen. Although pets often do not closely resemble their wild counterparts, their digestive systems do.

Lift the lip of your dog or cat and take a close look at their teeth. Notice the long fangs for ripping flesh off a carcass. See all those sharp premolars and molars behind the fangs. Those teeth are made to cut meat. They are not the flat teeth of an omnivore (like us) that are meant to crunch vegetation.

The mouth is the most visible part of the digestive tract. If dogs and cats had evolved away from their carnivorous ancestors enough to benefit from currently popular pet foods then their teeth would have changed in the process. Dogs and cats are carnivores.

Processed Convenience Foods

The processing of pet foods helps to extend their shelf-life and make feeding easy. This fits with our modern, active lifestyles. Unfortunately, processed foods are not healthy for our pets.

High-heat processing of food destroys vital nutrients (you’ve never seen a wolf cook its food). Pet food manufacturers understand that and add back in synthetic vitamins and other nutrients. The problem with that is twofold:

  1. Synthetic vitamins are not identical to the nutrients in whole foods and the body does not recognize them as food
  2. Companies can only balance diets based on our current understanding of nutrition – which is incomplete

Also, high-heat processing of meat and carbohydrates creates carcinogens. Since currently half of all adult animals die of cancer, the link between what we feed and cancer in pets needs to be addressed.

Carbs

Research shows that dogs and cats do not require dietary carbohydrates. Also, excessive consumption of starch is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation, and cancer. There are only two reasons pet foods contain carbs:

  1. Cost (They are a cheap source of calories)
  2. Convenience (Convenient, dry pet food requires starch to hold the kibble together)

No matter what you hear from the pet food industry about the benefits of corn or other sources of carbs, nutrition has nothing to do with their inclusion in the diet.

Yes, I have shed my vet school training and gone raw. I hope you will join me.

Sometimes the Tail Wags the Dogma

dna

The word “dogma” has been defined as “a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.” This word is usually reserved for religious doctrine but is also used in the area of biology.

The so called “central dogma” refers to the idea that the DNA of an organism carries information that is responsible for the traits of that individual. Furthermore, that information flows only in one direction – from the DNA to the body and not from the body to the DNA.

The significance of the central dogma is that the experience an animal has does not change the DNA that he will pass on to his offspring. The only significant changes to DNA occur when periodic accidents happen as the DNA is copied which causes a mutated gene. This abnormal gene may end up helping the mutant offspring survive better than the “normal” members of the population and the new trait is passed on (a process called natural selection).

For example, giraffes did not end up with long necks because as their ancestors stretched up to eat leaves, their necks lengthened. Rather genetic mutations accidentally caused some animals to have longer necks than others and these longer-necked individuals survived better and passed on their long-neck genes. After millions of years of accumulating changes, viola, we have the giraffe!

A study published in the January issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience seems to poke a hole in this central dogma. (Here is a discussion of the study) The researchers exposed a group of male mice to a distinct odor while simultaneously delivering an electrical shock to them. Very soon, the rodents displayed a stress response to just the smell.

These mice were then bred. Amazingly, this odor-related stress reaction was passed on to their pups, despite the fact that they had never smelled the odor before. In fact, the “grandchildren” of the original mice also inherited the reaction. The central dogma of biology does not seem to allow for this outcome.

This study reminds me of my own experience. As a veterinary student, one of my odd jobs was dog sitting for a dog family that included a couple of interesting breeds; Komondors and Pulis. The Komondor is a large sheep herding breed with a white corded coat. They resemble sheep.

The Puli is a medium sized, sheep herding dog with a black, corded coat. Pulis have a very unique way of herding sheep. If a sheep wonders off from the herd, the Puli jumps on its back and rides it around until the sheep gets tired. Then the dog drives it back to the herd.

The thing that intrigued me was that commonly the Pulis I cared for would jump on the backs of the Komondors and ride them around the yard. These Pulis had not been trained to herd and had never even seen another Puli exhibit this behavior. They were apparently born with this strange behavior programmed into their DNA.

Given the central dogma, how could the trained behavior of an animal (mouse or dog) get passed down to future generations? Perhaps there is more to life than DNA and the proteins it codes for. Maybe the word and concept of “dogma” has no place in any science, especially biology – the study of life. Possibly there is more to learn if we loosen our rigid beliefs and open our minds to all the possibilities.

Have you experienced inexplicable animal behavior?

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What is Holistic-Integrative Medicine?

So, what is holistic medicine?

An alternative approach to health care and prevention of disease which integrates the body as a whole, including mind and spirit, rather than separate systems.                                                Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary

Holistic Health – Holistic Health is actually an approach to life. Rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, this ancient approach to health considers the whole person and how he or she interacts with his or her environment. It emphasizes the connection of mind, body, and spirit.
AHHA President, Suzan Walte

Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine – A heterogeneous group of preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic philosophies and practices. The theoretical bases and techniques of CAVM may diverge from veterinary medicine routinely taught in North American veterinary medical schools or may differ from current scientific knowledge, or both.
AVMA Guidelines 2001

Understanding the Terms

The above definitions demonstrate the varied ideas the word “holistic” invokes. The terms can be confusing. Holistic medicine is a philosophy of how to maintain or regain health. The main idea is that the entire individual (body, mind, and spirit) must be taken into consideration and the underlying imbalance is treated rather than just treating symptoms.

Many people think that homeopathic and holistic are equivalent. If fact, “homeopathic” refers to a specific modality that uses the treatment principle “like cures like.” While homeopathy is holistic, not all holistic modalities are homeopathic.

The word “allopathic” has come to mean conventional medicine while that word was coined by the homeopaths to refer to any intervention that does not use the homeopathic treatment principle. So, since Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses things like cooling herbs for “heat” conditions, it is holistic but technically is also allopathic.

The term “complementary medicine” highlights the idea that many holistic treatments can work hand in hand with conventional medicine, but it gives the connotation that Western medicine is primary. “Alternative medicine” conveys the idea that many of these treatments are not accepted by mainstream medicine.

Integrative is the word that best describes how I practice holistic medicine. In this paradigm, both Western and alternative treatments are applied as the individual case indicates. Holistic-Integrative veterinary medicine indicates that the underlying philosophy of practice takes into consideration the body, mind, and spirit of the patient.

Holistic Philosophy

The foundational concept for holistic medicine is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Any illness is a dysfunction of the whole patient, not an isolated event. We concentrate on strengthening the body vs. fighting disease. In this way we treat the individual patient, not the disease. Therefore, we are often more concerned about what kind of patient has a disease vs. what kind of disease a patient has. We treat the underlying causes of disease vs. treating symptoms alone.

Holistic medicine takes into account that the body is equipped with its own pharmacy. Evidence of this is seen in the placebo effect. According to the mechanisms of the placebo effect, 30% of patients will get better if they take a sugar pill… no matter what their problem is. We consider it to be a case of “mind over matter” but what does that really mean? To me it means that the body can heal itself if the right conditions are created. As a holistic vet, I try to create the right conditions for the body to heal itself.

The Body Can Heal Itself

The placebo effect can be quite strong as seen in the case of Mr. Wright. He had been diagnosed with advanced Lymphoma and given a new drug called krebiozen. Immediately he gained weight and his tumors shrank. He later read a newspaper report that said krebiozen was not as good as first though and he started to lose weight and the tumors began to grow. His doctors decided to use give him glorified placebo injections calling them a “new improved batch of krebiozen.” Mr. Wright once again gained weight and his tumors shrank. Unfortunately, he didn’t learn his lesson the first time and he read a new report that said the AMA declares that krebiozen is worthless against cancer. On cue, Mr. Wright’s tumors grew and he died shortly thereafter.

A Dr. Wolf studied the placebo effect in the 1940’s while measuring stomach muscle contractions. He found that if he gave placebo ipecac, he could get a disturbed wave pattern. If he gave placebo atropine, he could get a calmed wave pattern. One particularly good responder, Tom, would actually get nauseated from atropine if told it was ipecac and his stomach was soothed by ipecac if told it was atropine. The placebo effect can overpower the biochemical effects of drugs.

Holistic Health

Holistic medicine sees wellness as a dynamic balance. It honors homeostasis and simply nudges the body back to normal. With holistic medicine we see optimal health as something more than simply the absence of sickness. It is a vitality that resists sickness.

Most holistic modalities believe in some kind of energy system. In Japan it is called “Ki.” In China it is known as “Qi.” In India it goes by “Prana.”  The homeopaths call it the “Vital Force” and the chiropractors call it the “Innate Intelligence.” Holistic medicine is guided by the belief that there is a difference between animate and inanimate objects, that there is a vital energy that is responsible for life and well-being.

Have you experienced healing that could not be explained from a conventional point of view?