The Big Grain Free Pet Food Controversy

There have been nationwide reports of dogs that developed a type of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) caused by a nutritional deficiency. Sadly, most of these were pampered dogs eating a boutique type of expensive grain free foods. Many pet owners are heartbroken to realize that in trying to feed the best food quality for their pet, they might’ve ended up harming them. This is not the first time that Taurine deficiency in pet foods have caused widespread alarm. In the mid-1980s the link between Taurine deficient food and DCM in cats was widely publicized and new food recommendations for manufacturers were implemented. What is the truth about the new grain free diet controversy?
In reality, we are in the early stages of active research trying to find the cause. At first blush, a deficiency of Taurine in the diets was blamed. Although several of the affected dogs had a normal Taurine level, they responded to extra Taurine supplementation. Why is Taurine so important? Taurine is an amino acid that dogs, cats, and us humans need to have a healthy heart muscle function. It’s found in the brain, eyes, heart, and muscle, therefore consuming animal products in the diet should provide enough of it. However, Taurine can also be synthesized from two other amino acids – cysteine and methionine. Foods that supply methionine include meats, soy, nuts, and eggs, whereas cysteine can be acquired by eating meat and plant sources ( red peppers, garlic, broccoli, brussels sprout, oats, wheat germ, lentils). According to research published in the Journal of American Veterinary Association, there are other factors affecting the development of DCM including breed predisposition, genetic constituency, and low metabolic rates. Multiple research studies have identified a strong predisposition for DCM on Golden Retrievers and American Cocker Spaniels breeds but all breeds are at risk. There is also a correlation of foods containing chickpeas, lentils and other legumes implicated in these DCM dogs that have normal taurine level yet respond to taurine supplementation. In several studies, homemade diets, raw diets, and vegan diets were also found to be connected to some DCM cases. There is a blood test available for heart function and also for Taurine levels but ultimately a heart ultrasound is the best way to diagnose DCM.
What is a pet owner to do? If you are feeding a home cooked diet, vegan or vegetarian diet, please make sure that the diet is nutritionally balanced. There are man resources we recommend but an easy one is to check your diet at balanceit.com and supplement to correct any deficiencies. In addition, if your food is grain free and your dog is doing well on it, is ok to add carbohydrates like brown rice and corn to them. Alternatively, try supplementing with Taurine. There are multiple sources for dosages and you should ask your veterinarian for a proper dosage but roughly speaking Small dogs would need close to 250mg, midsize dogs 500mg and large breeds 750mg twice daily. Keep informed of new developments in the research of DCM and have your pet checked for heart murmurs and disease at least twice a year.

Itchy Pets can be helped with TCVM!

Spring is in the air and with it comes tons of pollen too! We have been seeing many dogs and cats coming with severe allergies, redness, and itching. Allergies ( aka Atopy) are the usual culprit but can we cure it? Sadly, allergies cannot be cured but can be managed to the point that your pet is enjoying an itch-free life. The relevance of controlling the itch is huge because the main skin lesions and infections actually arise from the self-mutilation from chewing and the re-infection of your dog and cat licking their skin.

There are many drugs that can aid in allergies without having the severe side effects of the commonly used steroids. Apoquel is an example of an immune modulator drug that helps control the itch associated with atopic dermatitis. I recommend Apoquel for all the seasonal allergies but try not to use it year-round. I also like using the injectable treatment Cytopoint because it offers control of itch for 8 weeks without having to pill and with little effect on the immune system. Occasionally, antibiotics might be needed to control the skin infections secondary to the allergies. In our practice, we try an integrated approach to allergies. We strongly encouraged allergy testing because it helps as a guide for their pet owner to avoid the worst allergens or at least provide immunotherapy. This immunotherapy is like a vaccine made of all that your pet is allergic to in hopes it trains the immune system not to overreact to it.
When it comes to holistic alternatives I start with the food. The Gu Qi or energy from the food can really help these chronic allergic dogs and cats and in some dramatic cases completely resolve the skin issues! For example, a very hot, red and itchy dog eating chicken dry food s a recipe for continuing allergy issues! The red “hot dogs” will benefit from eating food with cooling energies like turkey or fish, having watermelon for treats and eating canned diets instead of dry (add moisture). Adding probiotics and using higher quality diets can really help control Atopy. Redirecting the obsessiveness of an itchy dog using exercise ( at least 1 hour a day walk) will calm their minds and help break the OCD licking cycle. Using acupuncture for stimulation of the immune points and calming points can also help control these itchy dogs. The main help for these patients is really looking at the root of the problem and trying to address it using Chinese herbals rather than masking the symptoms. The most common Chinese Herbals I use are all from Jing Tang herbals in Florida and include External Wind for the uncomplicated itchy dog and Damp heat skin for the chronically infected skin of atopic dogs. Even with the Integrative approach, we still have a few resistant cases but we feel better that we have done all that is there to explore medically before condemning them to a sentence of life long medication. Ask you veterinarian for advice on how to help your itchy pet!

How to know if it’s time to let go…

How can you tell if it is time to let your furry friend go to the Rainbow bridge? This is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions that all pet owners must face. My standard answer is when there is no good quality of life or when the pet is suffering.
The question then morphs into: how can you objectively determine if your pet has enough good life in them?
First, let’s define how a healthy pet should be; alert, moving on its own power, eating and drinking normally, keeping itself groomed, and interacting with others in a normal way. These life activities are given a score of 1-100. Quality of life also takes into account the pain that your furry companion is experiencing so a normal pet should be free of pain. The pain score is then multiplied by 2 because animals hide pain so well that when they actually show it, their quality of life is heavily compromised. Total the numbers for the life activities and subtract the pain totals and you’ll get a quality of life score(QOLS). This QOLS can help your veterinarian to recommend euthanasia or further treatments. It also helps you, the pet owner, to monitor if any lifestyle changes like food changes, supplements or complementary therapies are actually helping your pet feel and act better.
A dog or cat with a QOLS of > 500 is definitively living an excellent life and all efforts should be directed to help overcome the illness they are facing. A QOLS of 400-500 is considered good, 300-400 is moderate and 100-300 is poor. A QOLS of <100 is a sure way to determine euthanasia, which would end their suffering in a humane way.
For very geriatric pets aging can be really difficult to see, there are several ways we can improve the mental acuity and even the activity level of your senior pet. In seniors, the senses are diminishing and although most pets adjust to these changes, some do not. We can help our deaf and poor vision seniors by keeping the furniture and environment constant, avoiding any changes or added stress to their routine. The mental acuity can be improved by adding kelp, vitamin E and omega fatty acids supplements to their diet.
Their activity level is sometimes hindered by their inability to grasp their flooring substrate with their nails. An easy solution is to keep those nails trimmed. If you have tile or wood floors, provide walkways with rugs, so your senior dog can walk confidently. A very easy way to help seniors stand up more smoothly is to put “toe grips” on their nails. These little rubber rings at the base of their nails provide much-needed friction and help them get up and walk straighter. Other medical modalities like acupuncture, massage therapy, food therapy, and laser treatments can change the QOLS for the better. Seek your veterinarian’s advice and use the QOLS to determine what is the best course of action when it comes to your aged or sick companion.

Teaching Journeys Ahead

I am pleased to announce I will be traveling to Costa Rica in February in order to lead the wet lab for the Balance Method Class. This technique differs from standard acupuncture in that it offers treatments with minimal needles ( only 1-3). I have found big success using the technique and collaborated with the Chi Costa Rica by providing 3 hours of clinical cases and point demonstration through their online lectures module.

I also accepted a position as teacher and lab assistant at the newly formed Chi Peru Institute. It is for their basic course in Spanish. I long to see Peru again as it is a wonderful and very spiritual country.

During 2019 I will be teaching both Spring and Fall Basic & Advance Acupuncture.

I am starting pet owner level classes in the popular site skillshare. My first class is on Tui Na massage for pets but I am working on Food therapy, acupressure techniques and more!

I am also ready to start writing my second book, it will be a bit different than my first, it might just be a kindle release but will try to be more about stories of miraculous pet healings using TCVM, so it will be more personal than Alt-Vet.

 

New year resolutions

The Year of The Pig approaches and  it is time for resolutions. 2019 promises to be an awesome year and I am excited about all the speaking opportunities that have been offered to me.

I will be joining the teaching staff of the newly formed Chi Institute Peru, will be also teaching at Chi Institute Costa Rica as well as the Chi Florida.

I will be preparing many lectures on Balance Method Technique an will be exploring doing classes for Skillshare.

I’m brainstorming for my second book, will be stories of dogs healed by TCVM.

I wish peace,health and prosperity for all my friends, patients and students!

Achieved my Masters in TCVM!

Today December 16 2018 I received my Master’s degree in TCVM. This culminated 8 years of studying at Chi Institute and earning certifications on Food therapy, Acupuncture, TuiNa, and Chineses Herbal Medicine!

Completing all theses studies wouldn’t be possible without the support of my husband and my daughters!

I shall endeavor to continue to learn and use all that knowledge to heal my pet patients:)

 

Relief for Itchy Pets

Pet allergies are one of the most common reasons to seek a veterinary care. In dogs, allergies can develop into skin and ear infections that can be hard to treat and extremely uncomfortable for them. Pet owners complain that listening to their pet’s incessant chewing and licking is very upsetting. So, how can you help these itchy, scratchy dogs?
First of all, we must determine if the root of the itch is an allergy or another underlying issue. We do a simple skin scrape and tape test to determine if there are mites, fungus or bacteria in the surface of the skin as well as slightly deeper around the hair follicle. There are many cases of dogs with chronic skin infections that just had Demodectic or Sarcoptic mange! Even fleas can cause dermatitis and allergy symptoms. These are so easy to treat with just certain topical flea products like Bravecto, Nexguard or Advantage Multi, that we insist all patients with “allergies” get treated right away.
Certain cancers can also cause chronic skin ulcers, crusts, and other skin changes. Mast cell tumors could be extremely itchy and could cause a generalized red, itchy skin. I have diagnosed patients with rare nonhealing ulcers as having a paraneoplastic syndrome, in which an internal cancer is manifesting in the skin. Adrenal gland disease could also be a cause for recurrent skin infections and hair loss in both dogs and cats. Deficiency in the production of the Thyroid hormone can also cause hair loss, thickening of the skin and could make the pets more susceptible to getting skin infections.
When it comes to determining if your pet is allergic to something in the environment or something they are eating, a food trial is an inexpensive way to differentiate between those 2 causes. Take into account that for a food trial to be effective, the pet owner must commit to feeding their pet ONLY one kind of diet ( no treats, no table scraps & no cheating) for at least 6-8 weeks. I usually see drastic improvement within 2 weeks of switching the diet to Royal canine hydrolyzed or Wellness Simple Solutions diets. Using food energetics and acupuncture as a way to determine how to treat skin allergies is another option for pet owners interested in the holistic approach. Nutraceuticals that are rich in natural anti-inflammatories and omega fatty acids could be used to improve any skin condition and they could be administered orally or topically (shampoos,leave-on creams, and mousse).
In cases in which the itch-scratch cycle is consuming the pet’s energy and quality of life, there is an injection called Cytopoint that could block those itch receptors and bring much-needed relief that lasts up to 8 weeks. In some cases of deep-seated obsessive compulsive licking behavior, a mild anxiolytic drug could help. In other words, do not despair if your furry companion suffers from allergic skin disease because there are multiple treatment options available. Ask your veterinarian for an in-depth physical examination of your pet’s skin.

Digital Thermal Imaging to visualize Pain

When it comes to figuring out if our dog and cat companions are experiencing pain, we often have to look for cues in behavior and changes in physical activity. Even then, some pets have high thresholds for demonstrating that pain, so, we might be missing the opportunity to help lots of dogs and cats feel their best. Thankfully, technology keeps advancing in veterinary medicine and newer equipment like Digital thermal imaging are becoming a staple in diagnosing inflammation and localizing the source of pains in our furry friends.
What is digital thermal imaging? It is simply a digital camera that detects thermal gradients (body temperatures). This gradients represent a physiological map of your pet and can show you specific areas where there are heat and inflammation. We all know that inflammation generates heat and also pain, so with this equipment, we can narrow it down to the root of the pain which in turn means we can focus all our treatments at that area. For example, in my last column I talked about the benefits of cold laser, well, imagine being able to accurately detect the area that needs the laser instead of guessing? The result will be a targeted treatment that provides pain relief. Not only that, you could then take a picture immediately after the treatment and see how it changes the area, meaning you can determine if that modality was successful right away. I wish that my patients could talk and tell me exactly where it hurts and how good they feel afterward, but of course, they can’t. Therefore, having an objective way to measure pain is very valuable to me not just as a veterinarian but specifically as an acupuncturist, massage therapist and spinal manipulator. Even the most skeptic client can have visual proof of how my treatments worked.
Imagine as well the geriatric dog or cat on chronic pain control meds. What if we could have a way to measure how his/her arthritis is progressing under our treatment? With digital thermal imaging, we can schedule a quick recheck to see how the drugs are controlling the inflammation and pain. If we don’t see measurable changes, we can adjust or change medications and prevent further deterioration of those joints and back.
Another advantage of this technology is that the pet owner who is better at visual learning can understand my diagnosis much better when they actually can see where the problem is. This is crucial in order for them to follow my recommendations of care when I say your pet has a disk issue and needs rest. Scientific based technology is not only important for diagnosis but also for accurate, reliable and measurable treatment results. At our practice, we’ve made a commitment to providing the best integrative veterinary care and as such we have incorporated digital thermal imaging in all our geriatric, lameness and acupuncture consults. The results so far point to a win-win solution: clients love the improved understanding and patients are loving getting rid of the pain at last!