Category Archives: Cancer

Probiotics Can Help Pets Lose Weight

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A recent study found that children who were given antibiotics were more likely to be overweight. The more antibiotics the kids got, the fatter they got. If this is true for people then it is most likely true for pets as well. But what’s the connection between taking antibiotics and weight gain? I can answer that with one word: probiotics!

I have written here about the many benefits of these friendly bacteria that live in the GI tract. We have 10 times more bacterial cells in our bodies than we have body cells. That means that from a cellular perspective, we are more bacterial than we are human. No doubt pets are similar to us in this respect. One of the many effects of probiotic bacteria is that they seem to regulate the body’s weight.

Antibiotics kill bacteria. In fact, the word “antibiotic” comes from the words “against life.” If a pet is infected with disease-causing bacteria, then antibiotics can help. Unfortunately, while they’re helping, they’re also hurting. Antibiotics kill the good gut bacteria along with the bad bacteria. Antibiotics give with one hand and take away with the other.

I have written here about the health problems linked to being overweight. My biggest concern is that being overweight promotes inflammation and predisposes to cancer. Keeping pets at their ideal weight has been shown to delay the onset of chronic disease and lengthen lifespan.

There are times when antibiotics are needed. When your pet gets a course of antibiotics, be sure to follow that ups with a 2-3 week course of probiotics. I’m not talking about the Purina or Iams probiotics. Those only contain one strain of bacteria. The best probiotics have a full spectrum of bacteria and are from natural sources – like Answers fermented goat’s milk.

Do you give your pet probiotics?

Blueberries Combat Stress/Anxiety Better than Drugs

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A recent study found that blueberries worked better than Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to calm the brains of rats that were put through a process to simulate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This research is important for dog caregivers because SSRIs are sometimes used for separation anxiety, storm phobia and other behavior problems. When you think about it, some of our dogs probably do suffer from PTSD-like mental conditions.

SSRIs include such drugs and Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. They work by slowing the destruction of serotonin by brain neurons. This increases the level of this calming chemical in the brain. Unfortunately, SSRIs also inadvertently increase the level of norepinephrine which is a stress hormone. So, SSRIs cause the increase in calming and stress in the brain at the same time. This contradictory effect may be why studies show that these drugs work no better than placebo.

In the recent study, the control group was fed the normal diet and the experimental group was fed the normal diet plus blueberries. All rats were exposed to a cat for 1 hour on days 1 and 11 of the 31-day trial. In the end, the blueberry-eating rats had higher levels of serotonin in their brains. Incredibly, these rats did not have an increase in norepineprine as is seen with taking SSRIs. Food wins over drugs!

Blueberries have many health benefits for people. They provide potent antioxidants, help maintain brain health and function, and have even been shown to fight prostate cancer. No doubt these health benefits apply to dogs as well.

The kicker of the rat study is that the neurotransmitter balancing benefits were seen when blueberries made up just 2% of the diet. That’s just 1/10 of a cup (< 1 oz.) of berries for every 5 cups of food your dog eats. However, one key is that the rats were fed the blueberries consistently for 31 days.

Blueberries will not work like a pill that you give and expect to see improvement within hours. It will most likely take a month to start to see improvement. Natural methods often take time. Of course, you will also not see the side effects that medications can cause. If your pet is suffering from anxiety, why not give some blueberries and see if it helps?

Have you found any dietary changes that have helped your pet?

My Spay/Neuter Recommendations

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As a veterinarian, the recommendation to spay/neuter pets has always been very simple – do it and the sooner the better. Spaying and neutering involves the surgical removal of a pet’s ovaries and uterus (spay) or testicles (neuter). We have all been taught that this procedure helps thwart many health, behavioral, and population problems. However, recent research is refuting the health benefits of spaying and neutering. Now, making the decision whether or not and when to spay/neuter is much more difficult. (See the research in a recent post)

There are flaws in every one of these studies and no single piece of research should ever be looked at as conclusively proving anything. On the other hand, the weight of research now indicates that sterilizing pets is not as innocuous as most people (and vets) think. It turns out that when you upset the intricate balance of the endocrine system, by removing the source of sex hormones, bad things can happen.

We have known for decades that sterilizing immature pets delays the closure of their bones’ growth plates, causing the bones of the legs to grow abnormally long. The thing we’re just now realizing is that extra-long bones can throw off the biomechanics of the legs, apparently leading to an increased risk of ACL ruptures and hip dysplasia. It is also becoming apparent that the upsurge in cancer we have been seeing in pets may, in part, be due to us inadvertently screwing up their hormonal balance.

So what’s the answer? One size does not fit all. In general I recommend delaying spaying and neutering until the pet is 1 – 2 years old, if and only if you can handle the responsibility of keeping your pet from reproducing. This will give the body the benefit of fully maturing before the hormones are removed. Of course if the mess of a female in heat or the annoyance of unwanted male behavior is too much to handle, then by all means, spay/neuter your pet earlier.