Monthly Archives: July 2015

You Dirty Rat?

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I have long thought that there is a natural, in-borne compulsion for compassion in both people and animals. I talked about this in my second book, The Holistic Health Guide. It has always seemed to me that we tend to want to help when we see someone in need.

Think of the news stories about people who have done courageous acts to save a stranger. When interviewed afterward they invariably say that they didn’t think, they just did what came natural. Compare these actions to those of pets who have risked their own lives to rescue people. Remember that cat that saved the toddler from the dog attack? I’m telling you, we all have an instinct for compassion.

I know what you’re thinking. “There goes Dr. Doug off in La La Land again.” Well, I finally have some research to back me up! Researchers from Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya, Japan put, of all creatures, rats to the test. They set up 3 experiments.

In the first experiment they placed 2 rats in a Plexiglas cage. One rat was in a dry compartment and the other in a compartment filled with water. (As it turns out rats don’t like to get wet). Between the 2 rats was a clear wall with a door that only the dry rat could open. In the study, most of the dry rats opened the door very quickly to save their buddy. Rats that had previously been put in the “pool” opened the door faster than those that had not. (Watch the rats in action here).

In the second experiment both rats were put in dry compartments with a door that only one could open. Rats did not open the door when their cage mate was not distraught. So opening the door was about easing suffering and not just curiosity.

The third experiment was the clincher. This time the dry rat was put into a compartment with 2 clear walls, each with doors he could open into other chambers. In one of the other chambers was a rat swimming in water as before. In the second compartment was a food reward, just sitting right there for the taking. In this situation most rats opened the door to save their friend before going for the food.

Who would have thought that the lowly rat would show such compassion? This study certainly seems to point to the validity of my assertion that both people and animals feel compassion instinctively. But I don’t think we’ll ever find a love gene. There is a non-physical force for good within all living beings. It is all part of the holistic concept of body, mind, and SPIRIT!

Have you experienced an animal’s compulsion for compassion?

What’s so Alternative about Alternative Medicine?

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There are many names that have been given to holistic medicine. These therapies are often known as Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine or CAVM. “Complementary” sounds nice. It’s nice to think we can all get along and work together. But, what about alternative? What’s that about?

Well, for some people alternative medicine means that they employ holistic therapies as a replacement of, or alternative to, conventional medicine. These folks simply reject all conventional medicine treatments and go natural.

The more common use of the term “alternative medicine” refers to modalities and practices that have are not accepted by the conventional veterinarian community. If holistic medicine is so great, why aren’t the majority of vets on board with it?

If you ask the skeptics they will respond, “Where’s the research showing these treatments are helpful?” I freely admit that there is not enough research into holistic modalities. I can give 2 reasons for this problem.

  1. Money! The studies required to “prove” the validity of alternative medicine cost $300-500 thousand dollars each. The majority of biomedical research is paid for by the pharmaceutical industry. That’s because they can patent the result and make lots of money. Since you can’t patent a natural substance, there’s no money to be made and nobody to pay for the research.
  2. Editorial Bias – One study found that medical journal reviewers (research gatekeepers) were 3 times more likely to favor a study if it showed the success of a drug than if it showed the success of a homeopathic remedy. So, the studies of alternative medicine never see the light of day.

And then there is confirmation bias. That’s a condition we all suffer from. People tend to stick to their current beliefs and look with suspicion on new ideas. Confirmation bias means that we judge information that we agree with as being more valid than information that we disagree with. Skeptics of alternative medicine will never be convinced that it works even when they see valid research.

So, there you have it. Alternative medicine will most likely remain alternative for years to come, or until conventional companies figure out how to make money off of it. That’s why probiotics are now acceptable in veterinary medicine. Purina discovered a good bug and patented their product made with it. The good news is that now conventional vets no longer look at me as if I have 2 heads when I talk about the benefits of probiotics.

Do you believe in alternative medicine?

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?