Category Archives: Herbal Medicine

All about how to treat pets with herbs.

5 Steps to a Healthy Pet

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I would like to start 2016 by keeping it simple. Over the years I’ve written about research and my own experience that informs my views on pet health care. I’ve been working in the veterinary field for over 30 years with more than 20 years of holistic/integrative practice. I would like to sum it up with 4 simple ideas that I think will give every pet the best chance for a long, healthy life.

  1. DIET – Nutrition is the basis for health. We simply cannot expect any animal to be healthy if they are not provided the raw materials needed to build a healthy body. Our pets evolved eating raw food. They retain the genetic programming for diets that are high in protein and low in carbs (the opposite profile of conventional diets). The high-heat processing of commercial pet foods destroys micronutrients and creates carcinogens. Pets benefit from a species-appropriate, balanced, raw diet.
  2. Healthy Weight – Speaking of diet, keeping your pet at a healthy weight will help him live a longer life with fewer chronic disease issues like arthritis. You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs along the side of the body and there should be a narrowing at the waist.
  3. VACCINES – Wile I am not against all vaccines I have found that the mainstream veterinary community tends to over-do it. Every pet does not need every vaccine every year. It is important to be sure your pet has immunity to distemper and parvo. Blood titers can be done to see if a pet needs the vaccine. Giving more vaccines than are needed does not increase immunity; it just screws up the immune system. The rabies vaccine is mandated by law and in my experience a healthy animal can handle a vaccine every 3 years. Other vaccines such as leptospirosis, lyme, and bordetella should be given on an as needed basis. DO NOT give more than one vaccine at a time.
  4. MEDICAL INTERVENTIONSWhenever possible, natural/holistic therapies such as herbs, supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy should be used over conventional medications. My main concern with Western medicine is that there are often side effects from such medicines that can be avoided by using more natural treatments.
  5. SPAY/NEUTER – Recent research shows that sterilizing a pet before it is fully mature causes changes in bone growth. These alterations throw off the biomechanics of the joints and predispose the pet to hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture. Spaying and neutering at any age appears to promote cancer. (Find research on this here) Depending on a pet caregiver’s lifestyle and tolerances and the pet’s behavior, it appears that it is best to hold off on spaying and neutering any pet until it is 2-3 years old. Consider Zeutering male dogs.

There you have it, pet health in a nutshell: feed raw, limit vaccines, go holistic, delay spay/neuter.

What have you found the most helpful for your pets?

Holistic Tips for Kidney Disease

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If your pet has been diagnosed with kidney failure, there are natural treatments that can help. The first thing to be aware of is that monitoring will help you know what is needed. Many veterinarians will do blood work periodically to see how things are progressing. The BUN and Creatinine are the most commonly monitored tests. However, it is important to also keep an eye on the phosphorus, the hematocrit (red blood cell count), and the potassium.

The BUN and Creatinine monitor the progression of the disease. The phosphorus often elevates as the kidneys fail and can cause lack of appetite and vomiting. The hematocrit helps us keep an eye out for anemia. Finally, some cats with kidney disease will develop low potassium which complicates the condition. Be sure your vet is monitoring everything and is not struck with tunnel vision.

The first thing for any pet with renal disease is to feed the kidneys by providing the nutrients they need to function as well as possible. One great supplement for this is the Fermented Fish Stock made by Answers Raw Pet Foods. They also make an excellent probiotics delivery system in their Fermented Raw Goat’s milk. Most pets find this very yummy and it often gets a finicky pet eating again. A final supplement to feed the kidneys is Canine or Feline Renal Support from Standard Process.  The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and preserves kidney function.  If your pet develops a low potassium level, there are supplements that can be added to the mix.

A supplement that can help the body rid itself of waste that the kidneys are not handling well is called Azodyl. It provides special probiotic bacteria that basically suck the nitrogenous waste in the body out through the colon. This is a good place to start for pets with high BUN/Creatinine.

If your pet’s phosphorus is starting to go above normal, a phosphorus binder can be used. Aluminum Hydroxide is the most common one. It binds to phosphorus in the gut and keeps it from getting absorbed. I like Phos-bind by Rx Vitamins.

Milk thistle is well known for its positive effects on the liver but it can help the kidneys too. My favorite herb for the kidneys is Rehmannia. It is part of Chinese herbal formulas for kidney failure and helps improve the blood circulation to the kidneys. It is best to have your pet seen by a TCM practitioner to find the right Rehmannia formula for your pet.

When you look at all the supplements that can help with renal failure, it is easy to see that you can’t get everything into most pets. There just wouldn’t be room for food if you gave them all. I suggest you try the different ones and see what works for you and your pet. I have found acupuncture to help with pets’ appetites and renal function. And it is one less thing you need to get down the pet’s throat.

Have you had success with any treatments for kidney disease?

Avoid These Dangerous “Natural” Supplements

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On a daily basis, clients come to me with bottles of supplements (sometimes bags full of them), and ask me if I think they are any good. In almost every case my answer is, “I don’t know.” Sure, I can look at the label and see what it says is in there. But there is absolutely no way for any of us to know if what is listed on the label is what is actually in the capsules. News last week proves my point.

On Monday, Feb 2, 2015 the New York State Attorney General’s office announced the results of their investigation into popular supplements. They tested top-selling store brand herbal supplements from GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart. Four out of five of the products tested did not contain any of the herbs listed on their labels!

Not only that, many of the supplements contained contaminants or fillers that were not listed on the label. For example, Walmart’s ginkgo biloba contained powdered radish, houseplants, and wheat. Mind you, the label specifically claimed the product was wheat- and gluten-free. Can you imagine the problems this could cause a person or animals with a wheat or gluten allergy? Who would suspect the supplement?

The New York State Attorney General’s investigation was inspired by a previous study by researcher from the University of Guelph. In October of 2013, they published the results of their analysis of 44 herbal products sold by 12 companies. Only two of the companies provided authentic products without substitutions, contaminants, or fillers.

Almost 60% of the herbal products contained plant species not listed on the label. They discovered product substitution in 32% of the samples. More than 20% of the products included fillers such as rice, soybeans, and wheat not listed on the label. The researchers stated, “We found contamination in several products with plants that have known toxicity, side effects, and/or negatively interact with other herbs, supplements, and medications.”

When it comes to supplements, I have no way of knowing/recommending supplements that have been obtained from outside sources. On the other hand, I do fully trust the supplements that I carry.

  1. I have meticulously researched all of the companies.
  2. I have visited the manufacturing facilities of some of them.
  3. I have been using most of them for over 20 years on my patients.
  4. I have been using most of them for over 20 years on myself and my pets.
  5. I have seen and personally experienced their effectiveness.

Ultimately, choosing a supplement comes down to trust. None of us can oversee the harvesting of the herbs, their processing, or their packaging. But, how do you know which company to trust? For me it all comes down to my experience with the company and their products.

Do you trust the supplements you give your pets? Why?