Monthly Archives: February 2014

Learn to PETitate

meditate

Meditation is an integral part of a holistic lifestyle for people. Many scientific studies now show that the regular practice of meditation can improve brain function, benefit the immune system, promote healthy sleep patterns, and even increase cancer survival. If you are interested in learning how to meditate, here is a free online course.

I have heard from some meditation experts that you should remove animals from your room when meditating. I think those who make such recommendations have a more distant relationship with their pets than many of us. As one who meditates and a holistic veterinarian, I’m here to tell you that it is fine to meditate with your pet. In fact, I would say it is better than fine.

For me, the purpose of meditation is to connect with our Creator and all of creation. There are many ways to strive toward this goal. Some people use a mindfulness approach and pay attention to their breath. Others repeat a mantra over and over. Other approaches involve the use of an affirmation. The words of the affirmation are repeated in order to evoke a feeling of peace and oneness.

As they say, “Different strokes for different folks.” Each individual must find her way to quiet the mind and go within. There are those who find their pets to be distractions (and this certainly may depend on the pet’s personality too.) But for those of us who have a deep relationship with our animals, making them part of the meditation practice can be meaningful and even helpful.

Pets Help Connect Us with the Divine

Here’s the way I look at it. Pets fill a hole in the lives of those who love animals. With their instinct to comfort and heal us, they demonstrate qualities that even humans sometimes lack. I believe that pets have such an effect because they help us maintain contact with the natural world; a connection which our modern lifestyles tend to eliminate.

Nature is infused with the divine. It is impossible for most people to study biology without developing a sense of awe for the beauty of the balance that is maintained in intricate, natural systems. Each of the trillions of cells of the body has a life of its own, and yet they all cooperate to function as a whole. Animals, plants, microorganisms, and inert materials have developed amazingly complicated relationships in every ecosystem in the world. Even the celestial bodies have an orderly rhythm that mystifies the human mind. All of creation is alive with a palpable, heavenly heartbeat.

With a purr, a nudge, a lick or a wag, our pets can reunite us with the mysteries of the universe. For me, connecting with a pet on a spiritual level is one way of connecting with the divine.

PETitation Technique

Here’s how it works for me. As my wife and I sit down to meditate in the morning, our pets jump on our laps. As I relax, I become aware of my breath. I imagine that God is breathing the “breath of life” into me. I realize that the same breath of life is flowing within my companion.

I envision the amazing underlying life force, Spirit, which is stirring within both our bodies. As I become more aware of my dog lying in my lap, I feel her warmth and I feel her chest rise and fall. I really connect with her by bringing to mind some special event we have shared. I remember that special feeling of closeness, and feel the compassion in my heart that I have for my pet.

I imagine this warm feeling of love expanding in my chest, and feel it overflow and embrace this special little being. I allow the love to continue to expand and imagine we are both floating in a sea of love. This feeling joins me with all of creation and I melt into the Oneness. I then enter the silence maintaining the feeling of oneness. My dog helps me anchor that feeling.

I would love to report that things happen just this way every day at my house but that would be a bit of a stretch. However, on those mornings when the stars are aligned, it is a beautiful thing.

Do you meditate? Do your pets participate?

The Kiss of Death

Before

If your pet’s breath is enough to knock you over, she probably has dental disease. Dental health is very important for our pets. They say we can add years to our lives by flossing and I believe that keeping our animals’ teeth clean can improve their health and longevity as well.

Many pets have dental problems that their owners are not aware of. In fact, 70% – 80% of adult animals suffer from gum disease. Every pet owner should occasionally lift their animal’s lip and look way in the back. Any yellow or brown material stuck to the teeth is tartar that does not belong there. Furthermore, if the gums are red, it means there is gum disease and bacteria from the tartar are invading the gums and getting into the blood stream. This can lead to systemic problems such as infections in the heart or kidneys.

I would like to dispel the myth that dry food helps keep a pet’s teeth clean. Even if we chew on pretzels all day we will need to brush our teeth. Just like pretzels, dry pet food breaks apart as soon as the tip of the tooth is forced into it, so there is no scraping effect. On the contrary, dry pet food contains excess carbohydrates which break down into sugars that feed oral bacteria and lead to plaque and dental tartar.

Some of my clients feed raw chicken necks and backs to their dogs as part of their meals. The small bones in these pieces hold together and effectively scrape the teeth. I have seen an animal’s teeth go from nasty to nice when the owner has switched to this method of feeding.

Brushing a pet’s teeth is another oral hygiene technique that can help. The mistake that many owners make when brushing their animal’s teeth is that they attempt to pry the mouth open to get in there. A much easier way is to hold the pet’s mouth closed with one hand and brush the outsides of the teeth, under the cheeks, with the other. Most of the tartar forms on the outsides of the teeth anyway and most pets will not object to this method. Using specially made pet toothpaste is best since it has a flavor that animals like and it is free of fluoride.

How often do I recommend a pet’s teeth be professionally cleaned? That depends. The veterinarian cleans a pet’s teeth similarly to the way a dentist cleans ours. The only difference is that we have to put the pet under anesthesia to work in their mouths. For this reason, I do not advocate any particular schedule for all pets. The recommendation to clean a pet’s teeth depends on the amount of tartar and gingivitis present. If there is tartar present, then the teeth should be cleaned.

Any anesthetic procedure carries with it some risk. Although it is rare, there are times when a simple process can go wrong. To minimize the risk, all pets should have a complete physical exam and blood tests done before having anesthesia. As long as everything checks out okay, then get those teeth cleaned.

Although there is risk involved with anesthesia, there is also risk associate with dental disease. Each pet must be evaluated on a case by case basis to see if the benefits outweigh the risks.

No animal is too old to have her teeth cleaned. In fact, age is not a disease. It is true that older animals are more likely to have a health condition that increases the anesthetic risk, but it is the health condition, not the age, that is the issue. I have done dental work on 20 year old cats (my own) so the age of the animal does not deter me from pursuing what needs to be done if the risk assessment fits.

Clean teeth leads to better health and more pleasant pet kisses.

After

Are you afraid to have your pet’s teeth cleaned?

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Veterinary Acupuncture – What’s the Point?

The word acupuncture comes from the Latin “acus” which means needle and “punctura” which means to puncture. So acupuncture involves the use of needles which are inserted into specific points on the body in order to affect a cure.

In order to understand acupuncture it is necessary to recognize that the ancient Chinese had a much different way of looking at the body than we currently do in the West. For the ancient Chinese, health care was a way of life. Diet, exercise, massage, meditation, sleep patterns, work patterns, herbs and acupuncture were all integrated to maintain balance within the body. At the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”).

It’s All About the Energy

Qi is regarded as the life force energy. It is what differentiates the living from the dead and has both structural and functional qualities. Qi is that substance from which all physical form is composed. It is also the energy that flows in a cyclic, orderly course throughout the channels of the body allowing for the normal functioning of organs and tissues.

In TCM, health is the state of harmonious flow of Qi and disease is caused by an interruption in this flow. Any time an organ is not functioning properly – as in kidney failure, or a limb is not moving freely – as with arthritis, we can say there is a disturbance of Qi.

The Channels and Points

There are 14 main acupuncture channels which act as pathways for the flow of Qi along which lie the acupuncture points. I prefer the word “channel” to the more commonly used term “meridian” because a meridian is an imaginary line, and the Chinese in no way considered the channels of energy to be imaginary.

Acupuncture points are discrete areas on the surface of the body that have unique features. Biopsies have shown that these points have higher than normal numbers of nerve endings, blood vessels and inflammatory cells. They are also areas of lower electrical resistance, meaning that electricity flows more readily at these spots. All of these features combine to amplify the effect of any stimulation of these points. The Chinese consider the acupuncture points as inlets to the channels. Through these inlets, the flow of Qi can be manipulated and re-balanced, allowing the body to heal itself.

How Does it Work?

From the Western standpoint, acupuncture stimulates nerves that can block pain perception. Studies have also shown that acupuncture can be used to cause the release of hormones including cortisone as well as endorphins, which are the body’s own morphine compounds. Acupuncture can also reduce muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, improve athletic performance and strengthen the immune system.

What Problems Can it Help With?

Acupuncture can help in the treatment of any medical condition including arthritis, kidney failure, liver failure, thyroid disease, asthma, back and joint injuries, vomiting, diarrhea and reproductive problems. It can be used as an adjunct treatment for seizures and can even improve the quality of life for cancer patients. When applied properly, this holistic approach does not cause side effects as drugs often do. Acupuncture can be used alone or in conjunction with conventional therapies.

Acupuncture Treatments

The biggest apprehension that most people have about acupuncture is that the needles will cause pain. In my experience, the patient rarely objects to the prick of the needles. As a matter of fact, some animals fall asleep during the treatment which may last from five to forty-five minutes depending on the problem being addressed. I’m more concerned about the remote possibility that the pet may decide to remove a needle with his mouth and then swallow it. In reality, the biggest obstacle to an acupuncture treatment is keeping the pet still while the needles work their magic. If the animal fidgets needles may fall out which is not harmful but just not very helpful.

Acupuncture is not a panacea. Even in China it is only part of the medical system.  If after eight to ten weekly treatments there is no improvement in the patient, then acupuncture is probably not going to help. On the other hand, I have many patients who have given it two paws up.

Have you or your pet ever had acupuncture? What did you think?