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  • Periodontal disease is the most common infectious (caused by bacteria) disease in dogs and cats. It is estimated that 80 percent or more of dogs and cats between the ages of one and three years have some evidence of periodontal disease that requires treatment.

    Normal teeth should be white. Gums should be light pink, except in those breeds with pigmented gums (such as Chows). While all pets have some amount of noticeable breath odor, pets with periodontal disease have noticeably disagreeable odors, from months to years of decay. While bad breath per se is no big deal, what causes bad breath is a big deal?—?and a very serious problem that ultimately will shorten a pet’s life.

    The bad breath is just on sign of periodontal disease and is caused by bacteria and their toxins destroying the teeth and gums. Left untreated, the bacteria and their toxins can cause serious health problems for a pet.

    Periodontal disease in pets, as in people, is caused by bacteria and plaque. With time, plaque hardens and becomes the yellow-brown tartar commonly seen on the teeth. As bacteria and plaque accumulate, toxins are produced. Over time, these toxins destroy the teeth and gums. Excess tartar, foul breath, loose teeth, bleeding teeth and gums, inflamed and reddened gums, and actual pus coming from the tooth sockets are seen as a result of severe destruction of the oral tissues of the jaw. Gingivitis-stomatitis is a painful inflammatory condition of the gums and other tissues of the mouth.

    Periodontal disease is not just confined to the mouth. Its effects are felt throughout the body, and the disease is the main source of the infection and inflammation elsewhere in the body. The foundation of any holistic health-care program involves treating disease?—?and pets with dirty, infected teeth must be treated to eliminate chronic sources of infection and inflammation that can cause harm within the body. May older dogs and cats that act “old” in fact have suffered for years from periodontal disease. Upon a proper dental scaling under anesthesia, most of these pets will act “young” again as a result of decreased pain and infection.

    The term “dental disease” can refer to any problem with a pet’s teeth and gums, such as a tumor, a broken tooth, improper dentition that might require orthodontics, or more commonly an infection of the teeth and gums.

    As mentioned, periodontal disease, caused by bacteria and their toxins destroying the teeth and gums, can cause other health problems for pets. Every time the dog or cat inhales, it is inhaling bacteria and toxins into its lungs. Whenever the pet swallows, it is swallowing bacteria and bacterial toxins into its stomach and intestines. Whenever it eats, bacteria and their toxins enter the bloodstream. Over several months or years, these bacteria and toxins can cause heart , liver, kidney, lung and gastrointestinal disease or organ failure. These problems become more severe as the pet ages due to chronic systems, and chronic wear and tear on aging organs that may not be able to handle this constant load of bacteria and bacterial toxins. To help prevent early death from these devastating diseases, and to relieve the pain associated with dental infections, early treatment of oral infections (periodontal disease) is essential.

    The treatment depends upon the severity of the disease. Most pets who have early periodontal disease can be treated by their veterinarians with an ultrasonic scaling and antibiotics if needed. More severe disease often requires advanced dental procedures such as root canals, extractions, and gum surgery, best performed by referral to a specialist. Often oral radiographs (x-rays) will detect disease under the gums that would normally go undetected in the more severe cases. For most pets, an annual dental cleaning will suffice. Some pets may need treatment more frequently. Smaller breeds of dogs often require a cleaning twice each year. Pets with diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, or any problems with their immune systems should have their periodontal infections treated as often as needed to prevent serious complications. For example, recent studies showed that bacteria were often found on abnormal heart valves in pets with heart disease. These bacteria were identical to the ones cultured from the infected teeth and gums. It is no coincidence that many pets with heart disease also have periodontal disease, which can cause a heart infection called bacterial endocarditis.

    This condition is life-threatening and very difficult and expensive to treat. One of the most important things to do with pets with heart disease (as well as any chronic disease) is to make sure they have their teeth cleaned at least annually if not more often. Any pet with heart disease needs to have any type of infection prevented at all costs.

    While many pet owners (especially those with older pets) worry about anesthesia, modern anesthesia is very safe in our older pets. Every pet should have a through examination and some sort of laboratory testing, usually blood or urine testing, prior to the anesthetic procedure. There is no reason to deprive an older pet of a necessary procedure just because anesthesia might be needed. As long as the pet is treated holistically and the anesthesia is safely administered, older pets can have dental cleanings done safely as needed.

    Anything the owner can do to decrease infection, such as regular brushing using a product prescribed by the veterinarian, can decrease the number of treatments needed each year. At-home care by owners can go a long way in controlling periodonta infections. Regular brushing with a veterinary dental product, such as a chlorhexidine solution, will significantly slow down the return of periodontal disease. Most pets can easily be trained to accept daily brushing.


    Coenzyme Q10
    Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) is a powerful fat soluble antioxidant that is found in every cell in the body. It plays a fundamental role in the mitochondria, the parts of the cell that produce energy from food. Coenzyme Q10 appears to control the flow of oxygen within the cells as well as functioning as an antioxidant to reduce damage to cells by harmful free radicals. Every cell in the body needs CoQ10, but there is no U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance since the body can manufacture CoQ10 from scratch.

    Because CoQ10 is found in all animal and plant cells, we obtain small amounts of this nutrient for our diet. However, it would be hard to get a therapeutic dosage from food. While CoQ10 is most commonly recommended for pets with heart disease, anecdotal studies suggest that by acting as an antioxidant it may also help pets with gingivitis.

    CoQ10 may also help periodontal (gum) disease (by reducing the size and improving the health of periodontal pockets, as well as decreasing inflammation, redness, bleeding and pain) and diabetes in people and pets.

    In people, the typical recommended dosage of CoQ10 is 30 to 300 mg daily, often divided into two or three doses. CoQ10 is fat-soluble and is better absorbed when taken in an oil-based soft gel form rather than in a dry form such as tablets and capsules. In pets, the typical dosage is 30 mg every 24 to 48 hours, although your veterinarian may alter this dosage depending upon your pet’s size and individual needs. (Some doctors feel that increasing the dosage is necessary for larger pets; for example, 80 mg every 24 to 48 hours might be recommended daily for a 100-pound dog.)

    CoQ10 appears to be extremely safe. No significant side effects have been found; however, pets with severe heart disease should not take CoQ10 (or any other supplement) except under a veterinarian’s supervision.

    The maximum safe dosage of CoQ10 for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been determined; the same is true for pets of similar circumstances.

    Certain vitamins and minerals function in the body to reduce oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical process that occurs within the body’s cells. After oxidation occurs, certain by-products such as peroxides and “free radicals” accumulate. These cellular by-products are toxic to the cells and surrounding tissues. The body removes these by-products by producing additional chemicals called antioxidants that combat these oxidizing chemicals.

    In disease, excess oxidation can occur and the body’s normal antioxidant abilities are overwhelmed. This is where supplying antioxidants can help. By giving your pet’s body extra antioxidants, it may be possible to neutralize the harmful by-products of cellular oxidation. SInce oxidative damage may contribute to periodontal disease and severe gingivitis, many holistic veterinarians recommend antioxidants to decrease inflammation in the mouth (although clinical studies are lacking at this time).

    Several antioxidants can be use to supplement pets. Most commonly, the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E and the minerals selenium, manganese, and zinc are prescribed. Other antioxidants, including N-acetylcystenine, Coenzyme Q10, Ginkgo Biloba, bilberry, grape seed extract, and pycnogenol may also be helpful for a number of disorders. There in no “correct” antioxidant to use. Dosage varies with the specific antioxidant chosen.

    Orthomolecular medicine (often called “megavitamin therapy”) seeks to use increased levels of vitamins and minerals (mainly antioxidants) to help treat a variety of medical disorders. While daily amounts of vitamins and minerals have been recommended as an attempt to prevent nutritional deficiencies, orthomolecular medicine uses higher doses as part of the therapy for disease.

    The pet food industry relies on recommendations by the National Research Council (NRC) to prevent diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies in the average pet; yet, the NRC has not attempted to determine the optimum amount of nutrients or their effects in treating medical disorders. While a minimum amount of nutrients may be satisfactory in preventing diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies, it is important to realize there is no average pet and every pet has unique nutritional needs.

    It is unlikely our current recommendations are adequate to maintain health in every pet. Each pet has unique requirements for nutrients. Additionally, these needs will vary depending upon the pet’s health. For example, in times of stress or disease additional nutrients above and beyond those needed for health will be required. Orthomolecular medicine evaluated the needs of pets and uses increased nutrients to fight disease.

  • DMG stands for dimethylglycine, also called vitamin B15. It is found in low levels in foods, including meats, seeds, and grains. Both the human and animal body makes DMG from choline and betaine. It is suggested that increased dietary intake of DMG is to provide carbon to cells. It is also a precursor of SAMe. DMG appears to enhance oxygen usage, prevent the accumulation of lactic acid, improve muscle metabolism, function as an anti-stress nutrient to improve the cardiovascular system, and reduce recovery time after vigorous physical activity.

    Therapeutic Uses of DMG
    It has been recommended for use in pets with a variety of conditions including osteoarthritis at a dose of 50 to 500 mg per day. Its mechanism in the treatment of osteoarthritis is via an anti-inflammatory effect. Many doctors prescribe it for horses, dogs, and cats to improve performance and enhance recovery from various health problems. DMG is considered an anti-stress nutrient.

    Holistic veterinarians have also recommended DMG as a supplement for pets with seizures and allergies. Research suggests that DMG may in fact be beneficial for these conditions, although the actual benefit for these conditions is unproven through controlled studies.

    Studies have shown DMG can improve the immune response by potentiating both cell-mediated and humoral (antibody) immunity. Some holistic doctors also recommend DMG for pets with immune disorders such as cancer, feline leukemia virus infection, feline immunodeficiency virus infection and diabetes (at a dosage of 0.5 to 1.0 mg per pound daily). DMG is included in formulas for pets with heart disease. It is proposed to work by improving oxygen uptake and utilization.

    DMG is also recommended as a natural therapy for pets with epilepsy at a dosage of 50 –500 mg per pet per day.

    Safety Issues
    DMG is extremely safe. The body converts it into its metabolites that are either used or excreted from the body.

  • Garlic contains a number of nutrients, and a number of sulfur compounds that have been shown to have medical qualities, especially allicin and alliin.

    The sulfur compounds present in garlic may increase phase II detoxification enzymes. By increasing phase II enzymes, the risk of many degenerative conditions may be reduced significantly.

    Allicin, one of the active ingredients in garlic, has been shown to have antimicrobial qualities that may be more effective than tetracycline. While garlic is an effective antibiotic when it contacts the tissue directly, there is no reason to believe it will work to fight infections systemically if you take it orally. There is no question raw garlic can kill a wide variety of microorganisms by direct contact, including fungi, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. This may explain why applying garlic directly to a wound was traditionally done to prevent infection. However, garlic can cause burns when it is applied to the skin.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Garlic has also been proposed as a treatment for asthma and diabetes. Eating garlic is commonly claimed to raise immunity. In people, several large studies strongly suggest a diet high in garlic can prevent cancer. In one study, women whose diets included significant quantities of garlic were approximately 30 percent less likely to develop colon cancer. The interpretations of studies like this one are always a bit controversial; as it’s possible the women ate a lot of garlic but also made other healthful lifestyle choices.

    Moderately good studies have found garlic (including garlic powder) also appears to slightly improve hypertension in people and pets, protect against free radicals, and slow blood coagulation. Putting all these benefits together, garlic may be a broad-spectrum treatment for arterial disease. Garlic can be used for allergic dermatitis as it contains chemicals that can reduce the production of inflammatory prostaglandins.

    It is also a cardiovascular tonic and can help prevent blood clots. The cholesterol-reducing effects of garlic may also be helpful for pets with heart disease or high blood cholesterol.

    Garlic has been used to control fleas and some owners report positive results.

    It is recommended for pets with tapeworms and has shown effects against roundworms and hookworms in people.

    Scientific Evidence
    Garlic has been shown to stimulate white blood cells (killer cells) in human AIDS patients. And also shown to prevent tumor formation in rats (due to its diallyl sulfide component and due to its liver-strengthening chemicals).

    Garlic can decrease blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels; certain forms of garlic have been shown to lower total cholesterol levels by nine to twelve percent, as well as possibly improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol. Virtually all studies in people used garlic standardized to alliin content, whereas garlic oil did not seem to be effective; conflicting results have been shown for garlic powder, although some results are encouraging.

    Allicin is not necessary for all of garlic’s purported benefits but is needed to confer the antibiotic properties of garlic. When used for infections, the allicin potential of the garlic compound used is important. Since allicin is an unstable compound that is easily destroyed, fresh garlic or products with an identified allicin potential should be used. Because it is hard to know if a prepared formula has the guaranteed amount of allicin listed on the label unless the product comes from a reputable manufacturer, many herbalists recommend using fresh garlic cloves when the content is important. For prepared products, the product should provide a daily dose of at least 10 mg alliin or a total allicin potential of 4000 micrograms (4–5 mg), which approximates one clove of garlic. In people a typical dosage of garlic is 900 mg daily of a garlic powder extract standardized to contain 1.3 percent alliin, providing about 12,000 mcg daily. This recommendation needs to be extrapolated for use in pets. Many manufacturers claim an allicin potential at the time of manufacture. This is not helpful, as it does not reveal the allicin potential of the finished product and whether or not the product is stable. Read labels carefully.

    However, a great deal of controversy exists over the proper dosage and form of garlic. In people, most everyone agrees one or two raw garlic cloves a day are adequate for most purposes. Virtual trade wars have taken place over the potency and effectiveness of various dried, aged, or deodorized garlic preparations. The problem has to do with the way garlic is naturally constructed.

    A relatively odorless substance, alliin is one of the most important compounds in garlic. When garlic is crushed or cut, an enzyme called allinase is brought in contact with alliin, turning it into allicin. The allicin itself then rapidly breaks down into entirely different compounds. Allicin is most responsible for the strong odor. It can also blister the skin and kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Presumably, the garlic plant uses allicin as a form of protection from pests and parasites. It also may provide much of the medicinal benefits of garlic.

    Some garlic producers declare alliin and allicin have nothing to do with garlic’s effectiveness and simply sell products without it. This is particularly true of aged powdered garlic and garlic oil. But others feel certain allicin is absolutely essential. However, to make it relatively odorless, they must prevent the alliin from turning into allicin until the product is consumed. To accomplish this feat, they engage in marvelously complex manufacturing processes, each unique and proprietary. How well this works is a point of controversy.

    The best that can be said is that in most studies that found cholesterol-lowering powers in garlic, the daily dosage supplied at least 10 mg of alliin. This is sometimes stated in terms of how much allicin will be created from that alliin. The number you should look for is 4 to 5 mg of allicin potential. Alliin-free aged garlic also appears to be effective when taken at a dose of 1 to 7.2 g daily.

    To use garlic for other uses such as cancer, antioxidants, nutritional supplement, or immune booster, any form will probably work if the garlic has not been subjected to extreme heat (such as roasting). Raw garlic cloves are probably preferred.

    Safety Issues
    Too much garlic can be toxic to pets, causing Heinz body anemia. As a rule, I recommend following label directions for commercially prepared products. For feeding fresh garlic, I use one clove per 10 to 30 pounds of body weight per day. There do not appear to be any animal toxicity studies on the most commonly used form of powdered garlic standardized to alliin content.

    Do not use in pets with anemia. Do not use in pets scheduled for surgery due to increased bleeding times. Refrain from use at least one week before and one week after surgery. Topical garlic can cause skin irritation, blistering and even third-degree burns, so be very careful about applying garlic to the skin.

    Garlic may cause intestinal gas. Reduce dosage if this occurs.

    Taking garlic at the same time as taking ginkgo or high-dose vitamin E might conceivably cause a risk of bleeding problems.

  • As dogs age, they eventually start to slow down and are happy sitting under the big oak tree watching life go by. All dogs will age, and they will all age at a different rate, depending on their size, breed, and how they are cared for throughout life. A dog that is in optimal health throughout her life will age more slowly than a dog plagued by chronic illnesses. If you have an elderly dog in poor health, it is not too late to bring her back to health. Many of the symptoms attributed to old age in dogs are merely a lack of good nutrition.

    As your dog’s activity level slows down, her metabolism will decrease and she will not burn as many calories, resulting in weight gain—one of the biggest problems among older dogs. As your dog ages and slows down, her whole body is aging and slowing down, and her digestive tract, heart, kidney, liver, and brain can’t work as efficiently as they used to. Some small adjustments to your dog’s diet and exercise program will give her a better chance for a healthy, pain-free old age.

    As your dog’s body ages and functions less efficiently, she will not be able to digest food as easily or absorb as many of the nutrients from her food. The lack of nutrients may cause an elderly dog to become lethargic, and can lead to many of the chronic illnesses that so many people, including veterinarians, shrug their shoulders over and attribute to old age. But aging is not an illness; it is a stage of life. To adjust for these changes, your dog needs highly digestible, low-calorie foods, and a multivitamin-mineral supplement that is easily absorbed. A powered multivitamin-mineral supplement will be more easily absorbed than a pill. If the multivitamin-mineral supplement is not specifically made for the older dog, give her one-third more than what is recommended for an adult dog.

    Use powered vitamin C, and once a year up the dose a little to bowel tolerance (gas or diarrhea means your dog is getting too much vitamin C), to see if your dog could use some additional vitamin C. Double the vitamin E to daily doses of: 200 IU for small dogs, 400 IU for medium dogs, and 800 IU for giant dogs.

    To compensate for the less efficient digestive tract, well-cooked carbohydrates will be easier for your dog to digest than meat, so cut back a little on her meat and add more carbohydrates. A heaping spoonful of plain yogurt with active cultures at each meal will also aid in digestion by keeping her intestines rich with much-needed bacteria. Digestive enzyme supplements are also available for dogs. Follow the directions on the label for appropriate dosages. Some elderly dogs lose their sense of thirst, so add extra water to her meals and when you cook the grains.

    To avoid weight gain, in addition to cutting back a little on her meat, buy the leaner cuts of meat and add more vegetables if she starts licking the bowl clean or seems to be hungrier than usual. If you are feeding her a commercial dog food, cut back on the food a little and add vegetables if she seems hungry. To avoid dental problems that can lead to eating problems, give your dog a marrow bone once or twice a week. They are much less expensive than having your dog’s teeth cleaned, and chewing a bone is much more fun for your dog than going to the dentist.

    Feeding all the rights foods is only half the key to keeping your dog healthy in her older years. Exercise will help keep the joints agile and the organs strong and functioning, maintain muscle strength, and prevent arthritis and weight gain. An exercise program for elderly dogs needs to be fun and of shorter duration. Rather than one long walk, take her for two walks a day. The expression “use it or lose it” goes for your dog too, and just as with people, dogs need some encouragement to exercise as they grow older.

    As your dog ages, you may also notice some behavioral changes, including aggression, barking, confusion, shyness, trouble sleeping, and the desire to be in the background observing rather than the center of attention.

    Older dogs who suddenly start snapping when bothered by other dogs or people, or who seek solitude, may be in pain. Growling is their only defense if, for example, they can’t run because of the pain of arthritis. If you observe your dog being uncharacteristically snappy or grouchy, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam.

    Barking, confusion, and shyness are very often signs that some of your dog’s senses aren’t as sharp as they were. Your dog depends heavily on her smelling and hearing to identify people, places, and animals. If the hearing is impaired or there is an ear infection, familiar sounds may now be perceived as a new sound, which can cause barking and confusion. Dogs also use their sense of smell to identify animals, people, and their surroundings. If the sense of smell is diminished, your dog will have trouble identifying friend from foe, which can cause shyness, or aggression toward people, animals, or places she has known all her life.

    Starting at age seven for large and giant dogs, and age ten for small and medium dogs, I also recommend a visit to the veterinarian every six months rather than yearly.

  • There are three different herbs commonly called Ginseng: Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). The latter herb is actually not ginseng at all, but the Russian scientists responsible for promoting it believe it functions identically.

    Common uses for ginseng are for cognitive disorder (antiaging effect), diabetes and cancer.

    Asian ginseng is a perennial herb with a taproot resembling the human body. It grows in northern China, Korea, and Russia; its close relative, Panax quinquefolius, is cultivated in the United States. Because ginseng must be grown for five years before it is harvested, it commands a high price, with top-quality roots easily selling for more than $10,000.

    Dried, unprocessed ginseng root is called "white ginseng," and steamed, heat-dried root is called "red ginseng." Chinese herbalists believe each form has its own particular benefits.

    Ginseng contains many chemicals, the most important of which are triterpenoids called ginsenosides. Different species of ginseng contain different concentrations of the various classes of ginsenosides.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Ginseng can elevate blood pressure. It has also been shown to decrease exhaustion (fatigue) by stimulating the central nervous system and by sparing glycogen use in exercising muscles. Ginseng is also well known for its use in the treatment of diabetes. It will decrease blood sugar in diabetic (but not normoglycemic) mice. In non-diabetics, ginseng increases blood cortisol, but it reduces serum cortisol levels in diabetics. In vitro, ginseng has been shown to increase the lifespan of cells (anti-aging effect).

    Ginseng can reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Regular intake of ginseng may protect against cancer formation; the extract and powder in people was shown more effective than the tea, juice, or fresh sliced ginseng. Ginseng also stimulates the immune system by enhancing white blood cell and antibody functions. It should not be used in high doses during acute infections as it may inhibit some immune functions.

    Dosage in people varies based upon ginsenoside content. In general, tonic effects are seen when the product contains at least 10 mg of ginsenoside Rg1 to Rb1 of 1:2.

    For people, the typical recommended daily dosage of Panax ginseng is 1 to 2 g of raw herb, or 200mg daily of an extract standardized to contain 4–7 percent ginsenosides. Eleutherococcus senticosus is taken at a dosage of 2 to 3 g whole herb or 300 to 400 mg of extract daily. Ordinarily, a two to three week period of using ginseng is recommended, followed by a one to two week 'rest' period. Russian tradition suggests those under 40 should not use ginseng. Finally, because Panax ginseng is so expensive, some products actually contain very little. Adulteration with other herbs and even caffeine is not unusual.

    Scientific Evidence
    Taken together, the scientific record on ginseng is intriguing but not conclusive. Most studies used injectable ginseng in animals and non-double-blind studies in people. If some of the money spent on animal and non-double-blind studies had been used to fund more double-blind studies in humans, we might know more. At the present it is hard to know whether ginseng is as effective as its mystique would make it seem.

    Safety Issues
    Ginseng should not be used in pets with hypertension (hyperthyroidism in cats, kidney disease in dogs and cats, cardiomyopathy). Do not use in pets with bleeding or pets with anxiety, hyperactivity or nervousness. Do not use in pets taking hypoglycemic medications without veterinary supervision. Because patients vary in their response to ginseng, because various species of plants exist with various quantities of ginsenosides, and because of variation in quality control among supplements, long-term ingestion should be avoided and veterinary advice sought when using ginseng.

    Ginseng may increase levels of digitalis drugs. Siberian ginseng appears to have greater safety due to standardized extracts (typically a 33 percent ethanol extract, standardized to five percent ginsenosides). It is reported to have antioxidant activity, lowers high blood pressure but raises low blood pressure (an adaptogen effect), dilates coronary arteries, and exhibits a mild diuretic effect. Side effects are rare unless high does are used. Follow the guidelines for Panax ginseng.

    In people, unconfirmed reports suggest highly excessive doses of ginseng can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and possibly cause other significant effects. Whether some of these cases were actually caused by caffeine mixed in with ginseng remains unclear. Ginseng allergy can also occur, as can allergy to any other substance. There is some evidence ginseng can interfere with drug metabolism, specifically drugs processed by an enzyme called "CYP 3A4." There have also been specific reports of ginseng interacting with MAO inhibitor drugs and also digitalis, although again it is not clear whether it was the ginseng or a contaminant that caused the problem. There has also been one report of ginseng reducing the anticoagulant effects of Coumadin.

    Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. Similar precautions are probably warranted in pets.

  • In cats, hyperthyroidism results from functional thyroid adenomatous hyperplasia (growth of the glandular cells) or adenoma (a benign tumor). Rarely, a cancerous tumor (adenocarcinoma) causes feline hyperthyroidism. One or both lobes of the thyroid gland are involved (70 percent of cases involve both thyroid glands). Most cats with hyperthyroidism are ten years of age or older.

    The most common clinical signs include hyperactivity, weight loss, increased appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea. In some cases (apathetic hyperthyroidism, which occurs in approximately five percent of cases), the cat does not experience these classic signs. Instead, the cat may act more lethargic, eat less, and generally act depressed or weak.

    Diagnosis is made by finding elevated thyroid hormone levels on a blood profile. Other common geriatric diseases whose clinical signs mimic hyperthyroidism, such as kidney disease and diabetes, should be screened for as well. Secondary problems such as mild liver or heart disease usually resolve when the underlying hyperthyroidism is treated. Because older cats can also have kidney disease that may worsen if the hyperthyroidism is treated, cats with hyperthyroidism must be carefully screened for kidney disease prior to treatment of hyperthyroidism.

    Principal Natural Treatments
    Glandular Therapy—is recommended for cats. It uses whole animal tissues or extracts of the thyroid gland. Current research supports this concept that the glandular supplements have specific activity and contain active substances that can exert physiologic effects.

    While skeptics question the ability of the digestive tract to absorb the large protein macromolecules found in glandular extracts, evidence exists this is possible. Therefore, these glandular macromolecules can be absorbed from the digestive tract into the circulatory system and may exert their biologic effects on their target tissues.

    Several studies show radiolabeled cells, when injected into the body, accumulate in their target tissues. The accumulation is more rapid by traumatized body organs or glands than healthy tissues, which may indicate an increased requirement for those ingredients contained in the glandular supplements.

    In addition to targeting specific damaged organs and glands, supplementation with glandular supplements may also provide specific nutrients to the pet. For example, glands contain hormones in addition to a number of other chemical constituents. These low doses of crude hormones are suitable for any pet needing hormone replacement, but especially for those pets with mild disease or those whom simply need gentle organ support.

    Glandular supplements also function as a source of enzymes that may encourage the pet to produce hormones or help the pet maintain health or fight disease. Finally, glandular supplements are sources of active lipids and steroids that may be of benefit to pets. The dosage of glandular supplement varies with the product used.

    Astragalus—is used to strengthen the immune system and acts as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory herb. As a result, many doctors prescribe this herb for pets with various infections and for those with chronic illnesses, including cancer.

    In cats, astragalus is often recommended for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. It can also be used to help the body recover from long-term steroid therapy and for pets with kidney disease, as this herb improves kidney circulation.

    Astragalus membranaceous is safe, but other species of astragalus can be toxic. Do not use in pets with diseases resulting from an overactive immune system (autoimmune diseases).

    Bugleweed—may be useful for cats with mild hyperthyroidism. Frequent doses of the herbal extracts must be given for several days before any result may be detected. Like digitalis, bugleweed can be helpful in heart conditions in which the heart's contractions should be strengthened and the rate (pulse) decreased.

    Bugleweed can also act as a diuretic and remove excess fluid from the lungs, as might occur in congestive heart failure. It can be useful for pain relief and does not contain salicylic acid so it can be used safely in cats. Do not use in pregnant animals.

    Lemon Balm—may be useful in cats to decrease thyroid output and possibly decrease blood pressure. As with the other herbs mentioned, controlled studies are hard to find, and herbs may not be helpful in cats with severe disease. The dosage of herbs varies with the product used.

    Other Natural Treatments
    Other therapies include homeopathies (homeopathic tyhyroidium), and whole food supplements. Use raw broccoli mixed in a homemade diet, as much as possible; or if the cat does not eat raw broccoli, use a whole food broccoli supplement such as Phytolin from Standard Process.

    These can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies, as they are unlikely to be effective by themselves in most patients. The natural treatments are widely used with variable success but have not all been thoroughly investigated and proven at this time. As with any condition, the most healthful natural diet will improve the pet's overall health.

    Safety Issues
    Because vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage can depress thyroid hormone if eaten in large amounts, they should not be fed (or fed in only in small amounts) to dogs with hypothyroidism. The herbs mentioned above, while useful in treating cats with hyperthyroidism, should be avoided in dogs to prevent a worsening of clinical signs. Treatments to avoid in dogs include astragalus, bugleweed, and lemon balm.

    Conventional Therapy
    Three conventional therapies are recommended for cats with hyperthyroidism. Surgical removal of the thyroid gland can be performed. However, anesthesia is needed for this procedure; and while geriatric cats can be safely anesthetized, the other options for treatment usually do not require anesthesia and are usually preferred. Second, surgery, especially in severely hyperthyroid cats, is associated with significant morbidity (illness and trauma) and mortality, as well as the chance for postoperative calcium imbalances due to damage or inadvertent removal of the associated parathyroid glands.

    Medical therapy, most commonly with methimazole (Tapazole), is another conventional option. The medicine is given for the life of the cat and is very successful in lowering levels of thyroid hormones. Rare side effects include lack of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, facial dermatitis, and low red cell, platelet, and white blood cell counts. Liver disease is also a possible side effect. Cats experiencing abnormal blood or liver profiles or facial dermatitis are at risk of future serious side effects and must have their medication stopped and another form of treatment instituted.

    The third and most commonly used treatment for cats is radioactive iodine. While this sounds quite drastic, it may be the safest conventional treatment for hyperthyroid cats. Side effects are extremely rare, and most cats are completely cured after one treatment. Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid output, is a rare side effect of treatment that can easily be treated with thyroid replacement hormone if needed. Because radioactive iodine cures the hyperthyroid conditions, and because cats with underlying kidney disease could develop kidney failure when cured of their hyperthyroid conditions, it is essential that cats be screened for kidney disease prior to radioactive iodine treatment. The major concern among owners is that cats treated with radioactive iodine must be hospitalized for one week or more until they are no longer excreting radioactive iodine in their urine or feces.

    A fourth, newer proposed treatment is injection of ethanol directly into the affected thyroid gland using ultrasound to guide the procedure (percutaneous ethanol ablation). Early studies appear positive, although some cases involved laryngeal paralysis secondary to leakage of ethanol from the thyroid gland and inflammation of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. More research is needed to determine whether percutaneous ethanol ablation will become a safe and effective therapy for treating feline hyperthyroidism.

  • Intestinal parasites are commonly seen in puppies and kittens, and less commonly in adult dogs and cats. The most common parasites are: roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidian, and a protozoal organism called Giardia. In the majority of the cases, puppies and kittens contract roundworms and tapeworms from their mother around the time of birth. With the exception of tapeworms and coccidian, the other parasites have zoonotic potential, meaning they are transmissible to people through fecal ingestion. These parasites are easily transmitted between pets via infected feces, with the exception of tapeworms, which are spread by the ingestion of infected fleas.

    The most common clinical signs of intestinal parasites include diarrhea, weight loss, general loss of thriftiness, and occasionally vomiting. Puppies and kittens with roundworms may have a "potbellied" appearance. Signs are more common in puppies and kittens and those pets that are generally "unhealthy." Hookworms can cause anemia, which can be fatal in puppies and kittens and "unhealthy" pets. Whipworms and Giardia, which are very difficult to detect on routine fecal examinations, unlike other parasites, can be the cause of unexplained chronic weight loss and diarrhea.

    Because the parasites can be present without clinical signs, and because the parasites can be transmitted to other pets and people, regular fecal examinations (at least twice yearly) are recommended by most veterinarians and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Additionally, most veterinarians and the CDC recommend regular deworming of puppies and kittens up to approximately three to four months of age, as most, if not all, have been exposed to roundworms and hookworms.

    Principal Natural Treatments For Intestinal Parasites

    Garlic contains a number of nutrients and a number of sulfur compounds that have been shown to have medicinal qualities, especially allicin and alliin. Raw garlic can kill a wide variety of microorganisms by direct contact, including fungi, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.

    Garlic is recommended for pets with tapeworms; it has shown effectiveness in treating people with roundworms and hookworms and is often recommended for dogs and cats with these or other parasites.

    When used for infections and possibly parasite control, the "allicin potential" of the garlic compound used is important. Since allicin is an unstable compound that is easily destroyed, fresh garlic or products with an identified allicin potential should be used when garlic is chosen for treating infections. Because it is hard to know if a prepared formula has the guaranteed amount of allicin listed on the label unless the product comes from a reputable manufacturer, many herbalists recommend using fresh garlic cloves when the allicin content is important.

    Safety Issues
    Too much garlic can be toxic to pets, causing Heinz body anemia. As a rule, follow label directions for commercially prepared products such as those recommended for flea control, and for feeding fresh garlic: one clove per 10 to 30 pounds of body weight per day. There does not appear to be any animal toxicity studies on the most commonly used form of garlic: powdered garlic standardized to alliin content.

    Garlic should not be used in pets with anemia. Do not use in pets scheduled for surgery due to the possibility of increased bleeding times, (refrain from use at least one week before and one week after surgery).

    Garlic may cause excessive intestinal gas; reduce the dosage if this occurs.

    Taking garlic at the same time as taking ginkgo or high-dose vitamin E might conceivably cause a risk of bleeding problems.

    Other Natural Treatments
    Treatments for deworming pets include the herbs black walnut, German chamomile, garlic, goldenseal, licorice, Oregon grape, wormwood, yarrow, yucca, pumpkin seeds (a 50 percent kill rate of tapeworms), digestive enzymes, reishi mushrooms, and homeopathics filix mas, nat phos, and chenopodium.

    These can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies as needed. The natural treatments are widely used with variable success but have not been thoroughly investigated and proven at this time. As with any condition, the most healthful natural diet will improve the pet's overall health.

    Conventional Therapy
    Conventional therapies for intestinal parasites involve the use of any of several medications, including pyrantel pamoate, febendazole, metronidazole, and praziquantel.

    In the past, deworming medications were quite toxic and often caused severe clinical signs such as vomiting and diarrhea in pets treated with these medications. The currently used deworming medications are quite safe and usually 100 percent effective when used correctly, by following the correct deworming protocol. As a result, many holistic doctors use them for treating pets with intestinal parasites, as they are effective and often safer than other deworming options, such as some of the commonly recommended herbal deworming products wormwood and black walnut.

  • In recent years, therapy using magnets has gained a following among pet owners. It is seen as a safe and simple method of treating various disorders, often producing positive results without side effects or much expense. While magnets are advertised to offer a number of benefits, many owners wonder whether they really work. And if they do, can your dog or cat benefit from magnetic field therapy?

    Magnetic therapy is by no means “quackish.” The earth has a normal magnetic field. The cells of our bodies and our pets’ bodies also have a normal magnetic field that allow for proper functioning. NASA determined that rats in space that are not provided with a suitable magnetic field perished due to disrupted energy flow (altered calcium metabolism). While direct proof is hard to find, some holistic doctors attribute many of the illnesses we see in pets to the decline over the centuries in the earth’s normal magnetic field.

    How Does It Work?
    Magnets are believed to work by means of magnetic lines of force; units called gauss, measure the strength of the magnetic field. The higher the gauss number, the stronger the magnet. Magnets are used either as permanent magnets, also called static magnets, or as pulsed electromagnetic field magnets (PEMF). Static magnets come in bars, beads, or strips. Therapeutic permanent magnets usually range from 200 to 3000 gauss. PEMF uses a low frequency (at or below five kHz) pulsing current flow through a wire coil to create a magnetic field around the wire. The greater the amount of current flow, and the greater the number of turns of the wire, the greater the magnetic field that forms.

    In people, PEMF is approved by the FDA for treating fractures that have failed to heal. Non- or low thermal pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) signals may also be used, and were originally used for the treatment of infections in people prior to the advent of antibiotics. Since the signals from PRF (13–40 MHz) have frequency components with sufficient amplitude to elicit a possible bioeffect over a broader band than PEMF signals, they may be preferred. This difference also allows PRF to be used for shorter periods of treatment time (30 minutes) than PEMF (one to four hours). Other uses include treatment of, avascular necrosis of the hip, osteoarthritis, and rotator cuff injuries. While there have been conflicting findings in studies examining chronic exposure to the magnetic frequencies of people exposed to power lines (50 to 60 Hertz), no toxic effects have been reported using magnetic therapy.

    Magnets appear to heal the body by removing inflammation and restoring circulation. By increasing blood flow to a diseased site, increased nutrients are available for healing. In fracture healing, for example, the uses of magnetic fields increase the adherence of calcium ions to the blood clot formed at the site of the break. This allows proper formation of the callus that is necessary for fractures to heal properly.

    In the Eastern view of healing, magnets help restore the energy flow of the body to allow healing and proper metabolism. This is similar to one of the theories used to explain the positive effects of acupuncture as well.

    While magnets can be used in both dog and cat therapies, most commonly, dogs are treated with magnets due to their greater incidence of musculoskeletal injuries. In canine medicine, magnets are often used to aid in fracture healing and in the treatment of arthritis, hip dysplasia, osteochondritis, epilepsy, pain relief, chronic organ disorders, and vertebral disorders. Sprains and strains and other traumatic disorders may also benefit. They should not be used in acute infectious conditions, in acute injuries, pregnant animals or in dogs with cardiac pacemakers.

    The use of magnets in animals with cancer is controversial. Due to the increased blood flow in areas treated with magnets, the use of magnets in areas with cancerous tumors is problematic as increased blood flow is needed for tumor growth and spread. Alternatively, increased blood flow to the tumor results in increased oxygen delivery to the cancerous cells, which could result in increased hydrogen peroxide levels and cell death within the tumors. Also, this increased blood flow may be used to the benefit of the patients when magnetic therapy is combined with cancer chemotherapy. Be sure to consult with your vet before choosing magnetic therapy for cancer treatment.

    What Is The Evidence For Magnetic Therapy?
    In both people and canine medicine, a number of studies show the beneficial use of magnets for treatment of a variety of disorders.

    In people, a number of double-blind clinical studies have shown positive results for patients with a number of injuries, including chronic wound repair, delayed or non-healing fractures, rotator cuff tendinitis, spinal fusions, avascular necrosis, acute ankle sprains, acute whiplash injuries, sleep disorders, fibromyalgia pain, and edema. Also, for pain in the feet of patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, treated with static magnets, pulsed electromagnetic fields, or non-thermal pulsed frequencies. Additionally, benefit has been seen in patients with depression, and alleviation of some symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

    In one study; 18 dogs with osteoarthritis, treated for 12 weeks with magnetic beds showed an overall improvement in the appearance of cartilage when compared with dogs in the control group. In this study, the magnetic beds had dominosized ceramic magnets with 1100 G surface field strength positioned between two layers of foam, with a magnetic field on the mattress surface of 400 to 500 G. This decreased synovial inflammation, decreased cartilage damage, and decreased levels of destructive enzymes in the joint fluid. The proposed mechanism of healing involves increased triated thymidine and sulphate incorporation and calcium influx into the cartilage cells.

    Another study in dogs showed with regard to fracture healing, there was a reduction of 40 to 50 percent in the healing time of simple fractures by incorporating magnets into the bandage. This meant that dogs would resume weight-bearing activities sooner than with conventional repair.

    In one study, 50 cases showed when magnet therapy was used there were no cases of non-union...failure to heal... fractures. The same clinical report also showed good success in treating various types of arthritis with magnets. By using a combination of a magnetic mat for sleeping, and also with a spinning magnetic field, the report showed a positive response in 60 to 70 percent of cases.

    A double-blind pilot study of people with post-polio syndrome and muscular or arthritic pain showed that the application of a static magnet (300 to 500 G) resulted in significant and prompt relief of pain.

    Magnets are certainly not a cure-all. Still, they are a safe and relatively inexpensive alternative for pets with chronic problems, and with fractures. Magnetic therapy helps the body to heal by creating a favorable environment for repair. They increase blood flow and bring in essential nutrients, and help relieve pain and inflammation.

    Always consult with your veterinarian before beginning any therapy. They will know which magnets are preferable and which have shown the true results advertised by the maker.

  • Just what constitutes the best or most appropriate diet for a pet is quite a controversial topic and there are as many opinions as there are doctors. Often the opinions are based more on emotion than on objective medical facts. When it comes to having facts to back one view or the other, sometimes they are hard to find.

    No matter which type of diet—homemade or processed—is chosen, it must meet at least five requirements:

    1. The diet must contain the proper amount and balance of essential nutrients required by the pet.
    2. The ingredients must be of high nutritional quality so that the animal can effectively digest, absorb and utilize the dietary nutrients.
    3. The diet should be palatable so that the pet will eat it.
    4. The diet should contain minimal to no fillers such as animal or plant by-products (or if by-products are present, as in the case of some prescription-type diets for sick pets, the diet should contain the least amount of by-products).
    5. The diet should contain no artificial colors, flavors, chemical preservatives or additives, when possible.

    No matter which type of diet you choose to feed your pet, it should meet the above requirements.

    While many holistic pet owners prefer to cook for their pets, many others must choose a processed diet for a variety of reasons. If you are one of those who must feed processed food, it is important to learn as much as possible about processed pet foods so you can make the most intelligent choice. The following information will be helpful when you make your choice. Processed foods have been around for about 40 to 50 years. Prior to the introduction of processed foods, our pets ate what people ate (or leftovers of what people ate). Many holistic pet owners feel that pets fared much better as a result of these fresher homemade diets and that many diseases (such as immune disorders and arthritis) are diseases of processed food.

    Processed foods were introduced (like vitamin-mineral supplements) for two main reasons:

    • Convenience
    • Prevention/treatment of nutritional diseases.

    There is no question that it takes time to prepare properly homemade pet diets and that using processed foods saves pet owners a large amount of time. It is convenient to simply open a can or scoop a cup of food from a bag and feed the pet. Processed foods not only save people time when it comes to food preparation but they make feeding the pet quick and easy.

    Processed foods were also introduced to prevent (and treat) nutritional diseases. It takes a lot more than simply tossing him some scraps to give your pet a complete, balanced and nutritional diet. Prior to our understanding of nutrition, people and pets alike suffered from diseases resulting from dietary imbalances.

    For example, people who didn't receive citrus fruits were diagnosed with scurvy as a result of vitamin C deficiency. Pets fed mainly meat developed nutritional osteodystrophy (nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism) as a result of calcium deficiency. Cats fed only fish developed thiamin deficiency and steatitis. By learning about the nutritional needs of pets and formulating balanced diets, you can avoid these nutritional problems. While many of the nutritional diseases seen prior to the introduction of processed diets have been all but eliminated, many holistic veterinarians believe without question that processed foods, specifically those of little nutritional quality and loaded with by-products and chemicals, may actually contribute to a whole new set of problems such as immune diseases, cancers, allergies and arthritis.

    Many years ago we had but few choices of processed pet foods. As manufacturers have seen the profit in the pet food industry, we now see more players and many more choices. As well-known manufacturers of pet foods have reaped huge profits, large corporations have purchased the ownership of the foods. As a result, even many conventional veterinarians who promoted certain brands of food in the past have seen a decline in food quality and pet health as the dietary formulations have changed.

    For example, let's take a look at Hill's Science Diet, formally manufactured by the Morris Company. Science Diets were originally designed as a line of medical, therapeutic diets for pets with medical conditions (the first diets for pets with kidney failure). The company, under the leadership of Dr. Mark Morris, was the first pet food company to look at the potential beneficial role of diet in helping pets with medical disorders—many of which can be managed only by dietary therapy as no drug therapy is available to correct the problem.

    Science Diet is now owned by Colgate-Palmolive. In 1986 Hill's prescription diet formulation and production was still under the direct supervision of Mark Morris Associates. Since that time there have been some major changes. Mark Morris Associates was reformed as an independent group and Colgate-Palmolive made some major marketing changes. About this time, meals started showing up on the ingredient list. Formulations underwent major changes, supposedly for "nutritional" reasons, though most changes seemed to use cheaper ingredients. They violated the basic principle that premium diets are more expensive because they adhere to consistent formulation, regardless of commodity cost. Thus they were "better" than popular diets because the animal wouldn't be subjected to unexpected variations in the diet, reducing the risk of diarrhea in sensitive animals. Formulations were changed significantly without warning. Many doctors who still promote the Science Diet line believe that current formulations are not of the higher quality they were 15 years ago.

    Note: This discussion is not meant to pick on Science Diet, as many of the better—known processed foods are also questioned as to their use for long-term feeding by many holistic veterinarians. These include: Proctor & Gamble (Iams), Colgate-Palmolive (Hills), Nestle (Friskies, Alpo) and Heinz (9 Lives, Nature's Recipe, Kibbles n Bits). However, since Science Diet is among the better-known foods, it is used here as our example.

    While Hill's (and Iams and a few other well-known brands) used to be the "gold standard" in commercial pet foods, most holistic veterinarians do not recommend their long-term use for most pets.

    These companies, as a rule, maintain beautiful, spotless, accredited production facilities. Those facilities aren't where the problem lies; instead, the raw materials coming in the back door are suspect (not to mention the facilities from whence these raw materials come: slaughterhouses and rendering plants).

    Individual pets have specific needs and some do better on one diet than on another. For example, Science Diet is a line of a number of scientifically formulated diets tested on several breeds of dogs during formulation. Some pets can handle their diets, whereas others develop diarrhea, vomiting or itching.

    However, the man-made diets are made with human-grade fresh ingredients without the addition of chemical additives, whereas many commercial foods are not made using the best ingredients and have hormones, pesticides and a number of additives. Ultimately, since your pet is an individual, you will need to work with your veterinarian to see just which diet is best for your pet.

    Processed foods purport to be complete and balanced. Consumers feed them because they are convenient. Yet processing removes many nutrients (such as enzymes and probiotic bacteria, as well as many of the yet undiscovered phytonutrients) that are not added back to the diet after processing. While most pets can live seemingly normal lives on many processed foods, we have to admit that we really don't know every nutrient (and every level of nutrient) that every dog or cat needs. Many foods contain ingredients dogs and cats were not designed to eat—for example cereals such as wheat, barley and oatmeal; meat and bone meal; soybean meal; ground corn; soy flour and soy grits. Additionally, many processed foods designed for feeding cats contain large amounts of grain, especially corn. This occurs since grains are less expensive sources of protein than meat. However, cats are true carnivores, not omnivores; even dogs, being more omnivorous than cats, benefit from diets composed of meat. A strict dietary carbohydrate requirement for cats has not even been identified. Many holistic diets point to processed, high-grain cat foods as a cause of diseases such as diabetes, which are much less common in cats that are fed meat-based (true carnivore) diets.

    Feeding the better wholesome processed foods (or better yet, homemade diets) supplemented with natural vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, enzymes, probiotics, green foods and health blend formulas allow us to match as closely as possible diets consumed by wild relatives of our domestic pets.

    There are at least three classifications of processed diets: the least expensive generic diets, the more expensive premium diets and the most expensive natural diets.

    Generic diets are the least expensive but also the least healthful for your pet. Manufacturers use the cheapest ingredients possible. These are the foods that contain ingredients such as animal and plant by-products. Generic diets also are more likely to contain numerous preservatives and additives. Once again, read the label. Most generic foods are not fed to pets in feeding trials but rather meet arbitrary nutritional standards. Owners should not consider this type of food because health problems, due to nutritional deficiencies, may result.

    Premium foods are available at many pet stores and veterinary hospitals. They usually have higher quality ingredients than do generic diets. However, you must read the label on these foods. While these diets are far better than generic diets, many contain animal and plant products raised with chemicals and hormones. While some of these premium foods can be acceptable choices when properly augmented with natural supplements, they are not usually the first choice of holistic veterinarians and pet owners if the more natural diets are available. For many of these diets, however, the only thing premium about them is the price. Reading the label will help give you some guidelines about which foods to avoid and which ones are appropriate to feed your pet.

    The natural diets are the most premium of foods. These diets usually contain nothing artificial—no artificial colors or flavors. They use more expensive ingredients; depending upon the brand, these ingredients are raised organically without chemicals or hormones. However, some of these diets may also rely too much on grains, especially in their diets for cats, making homemade diets the best choice when this option is possible. Because of this insistence on quality and health, natural diets are the best processed foods (and many would argue the only prepared foods) you should feed your pet if you choose not to prepare a homemade diet. (Once again, read the label. Many new companies see the potential profit in making "natural diets," often leaving it up to the owner or doctor to read the label and pick which foods are truly better for the pets.) Since these natural diets are the most popular with owners seeking a holistic approach to raising pets and the most healthful for the pets, let's take a closer look at what makes these diets so good for your pet.

    The natural diets differ from most other prepared diets in four ways:

    • They use only human grade, high-quality ingredients. (Other prepared diets may use by-products of foods processed for but declared "unfit" for use by humans.)
    • They use foods, especially grains, in their whole state rather than parts of the foods.
    • They use no artificial colors, additives, chemicals or preservatives.
    • They formulate diets for optimum nutrition.

    In order to appreciate the difference between these three classes of prepared diets, it's important to learn to read the label and understand the differences behind the ingredients listed in the diets.

  • The volatile oils and curcumin are the active ingredients of this herb, which is well known as a spice in curry powder and as an herb in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Whole turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Much of this observed activity seems to be due to the presence of curcumin, which also acts as a powerful antioxidant. Turmeric has shown anticancer effects by its antioxidant, free radical scavenging effects, inhibition of nitrosamine formation, and by its ability to increase glutathione levels.

    The anti-inflammatory effects, due to lipoxygenase inhibition, have been shown to be comparable to cortisone and phenylbutazone. Topically, it acts similarly to capsaicin by inhibiting substance P to relieve pain and inflammation. Turmeric lowers blood cholesterol levels and prevents platelet clumping. Similar to glycyrrhizin and silymarin, curcumin shows protective effects on the liver. Turmeric has beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal tract including decreased gas formation and spasm. And the herb shows antimicrobial effects. The antioxidant effects are comparable to BHA, BHT, and vitamins C and E.

    Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs, curcumin does not appear to cause stomach ulcers and might even help prevent them. While curcumin has been recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, more evidence will be necessary before curcumin can be described as an effective treatment for arthritis.

    In animal models, the curcumin was found to have anti-inflammatory effects in arthritic pets comparable to the nonsteroidal medication phenylbutazone.

    Turmeric is often used for pets with a number of conditions, including arthritis, asthma, cancer inflammatory diseases, infections and can be used as a liver tonic. In people, the absorption of curcumin is reportedly increased when compounded with bromelain, although there is no evidence to support this. However, since bromelain possesses some anti-inflammatory powers of its own, the combination may be synergistic.

    Safety Issues
    Do not use in pets with bile duct obstruction, gallbladder stones, or gastrointestinal upset. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established; similar precautions are probably warranted in pets.

  • Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, is needed for the proper clotting of blood (it plays a major role in the carboxylation of clotting proteins II, VI, IX, and X and proteins C and S). It may also help prevent osteoporosis, as it is needed for the synthesis of the bone protein (osteocalcin) involved in calcium crystallization (via the incorporation of calcium phosphates in growing bone). Vitamin K exists as vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone), the natural forms found in food, and as vitamin K3, the synthetic form called menadione. Both vitamins K1 and K2 are converted to dihydrovitamin K upon digestion.

    Intestinal (colonic) bacteria manufacture a large amount of the vitamin K (K2) present in tissues throughout the body; therefore, supplementation with dietary vitamin K is usually not necessary in people and pets.

    Deficiency of vitamin K causes excess internal or external bleeding due to a failure of the body to properly clot blood. In dogs and cats, this most commonly occurs as a result of rodent poisons containing warfarin or warfarin-type chemicals. Diseases causing maldigestion and malabsorption as well as destruction of bacteria in the colon by antibiotic therapy can also cause vitamin K deficiency. Supplementation with probiotic bacteria can help restore vitamin K production.

    Severe liver deficiency may decrease the activation of vitamin K in the liver, resulting in defective carboxylation of vitamin- K dependent coagulation cofactors, resulting in bleeding disorders due to faulty blood clotting.

    Vitamin K also aids in converting glucose into glycogen for energy storage in the liver. Healthy liver function is also promoted by vitamin K.

    Therapeutic Uses For Vitamin K
    Protection against cancers that involve the inner lining of body organs is attributed to vitamin K; vitamin K may also promote longevity.

    While vitamin K has been recommended for use in people with osteoporosis, so far the evidence that it actually works is somewhat slim. There are no well-established therapeutic uses of vitamin K, other than its conventional use as an antidote for blood-thinning medications.

    Scientific Evidence
    A study of people suggests that an intake of vitamin K higher than the RDA, in the range of 110 mcg daily, might be helpful for preventing osteoporosis. Research has found that people with osteoporosis have much lower blood levels of vitamin K than other people. For example, in a study of 71 postmenopausal women, participants with reduced bone mineral density showed lower serum vitamin K1 levels than those with normal bone density. Similar results have been seen in other studies. A recent report from 12,700 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study found higher dietary intake of vitamin K is associated with a significantly reduced risk of hip fracture. Interestingly, the most common source of vitamin K used by individuals in the study was iceberg lettuce, followed by broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and dark greens. Women who ate lettuce each day had only 55 percent the risk of hip fracture of those who ate it only weekly. However, among women taking estrogen, no benefit was seen, probably because estrogen is so much more powerful. Research also suggests supplemental vitamin K can reduce the amount of calcium lost in the urine. This is indirect evidence of a beneficial effect on bone. Taken together, these findings suggest vitamin K supplements might help prevent osteoporosis.

    Vitamin K Sources
    Vitamin K (in the form of K1) is found in dark green leafy vegetables. Kale, green tea, and turnip greens are the best food sources, providing about ten times the daily human adult requirement in a single serving. Spinach, broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage are very rich sources as well. Vitamin K is also found in such common foods as oats, green peas, whole wheat, green beans, Brussels sprouts, egg yolks, liver, oatmeal, safflower oil, soybeans, wheat, watercress, and asparagus. Green foods, alfalfa, and the herbs green tea, nettle and shepherd’s purse are also sources.

    Vitamin K Dosages
    There is no AAFCO recommended level of vitamin K in dog foods. However, there have been reports of vitamin K deficiency in cats fed several commercial foods containing high levels of salmon or tuna. The AAFCO recommends supplementation for any cat eating a diet containing greater than 25 percent fish (0.1 ppm vitamin K recommended and is usually included in the processed diets).

    Vitamin K Safety Issues
    Vitamin K is probably quite safe at the recommended therapeutic dosages, since those quantities are easily obtained from food.

    Certain drugs can interfere with the action or absorption of vitamin K, including the antituberculosis drug isoniazid (INH), phenytoin (for seizures), cholestyramine (for high cholesterol), and even high doses of vitamin E. Additional vitamin K may be needed in these situations.

    The blood-thinning drugs Coumadin (warfarin) and dicumarol work by antagonizing the effects of vitamin K. Conversely, vitamin K supplements, or intake of foods containing high levels of vitamin K, blocks the action of these medications, and is used as an antidote.

    Excess vitamin K (vitamin K toxicity) is unlikely to be a problem in pets. However, menadione (synthetic vitamin K3) toxicity can occur and cause fatal anemia and jaundice.