Glucosamine can help cats with cystitis

One of the most well-known pet and human supplements is Glucosamine. It has been proven and tested for arthritis and joint inflammation in dogs and cats. In cats, it has been a life saver since there are few safe alternatives and pharmaceuticals that work on painful kitties. Did you know that your senior cat might benefit from glucosamine supplements to aid in preventing feline lower urinary tract disease? In fact, glucosamine helps protect the lining of the bladder as observed in clinical practice.
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a group of conditions that cause difficulty urinating and could result in a complete blockage of the urethra. Among these conditions are infections, cystitis, urinary stones, and cancer.
Regardless of the cause of FLUTD, the symptoms are similar. The affected cat will continuously visit the litter box, trying to relieve his/her bladder. Sometimes the cats find a way to ask for help by urinating in abnormal places, there may be blood clots or red-tinged urine. Most cats with FLUTD overgroom and pull their fur or lick their urethras frequently. They might also become loud and vocalize in pain while attempting to urinate. A cat exhibiting these symptoms constitutes an emergency and needs to seek veterinary care immediately for diagnosis and treatment. The most serious type of FLUTD is a complete urinary blockage because it could be fatal!. Your veterinarian will diagnose the actual cause of your cat’s problem by performing a urinalysis and a physical examination. Bloodwork will reveal if the kidneys are also involved.

How can glucosamine help? It is naturally in the body and is found in healthy cartilage. As cats age, less glucosamine is produced, and supplementation aids to preserve the surface from wear and tear. Glucosamine supplements are produced either from shellfish or in a laboratory from fermented corn. Most nutraceuticals combine glucosamine with chondroitin because in some human studies they have improved the mucopolysaccharides lining integrity (glucosamine sulfate, sodium hyaluronate, and chondroitin sulfate) and reduced bladder wall inflammation. Other feline-friendly joint formulas add MSM which is a powerful antioxidant that relieves pain, swelling, and inflammation. Another usual complementary natural substance is Hyaluronic Acid which can be found in animal cartilage and synovial fluid. Because glucosamine is safe, it is often prescribed for off-label use for cats that suffer from FLUTD. The only cats that should not use glucosamine are the ones suffering from Diabetes. It might take 4-6 weeks for the full benefits of supplementation to be obvious so this is a preventative measure, not a treatment for an acute issue.

Nutramax Laboratories, manufacturer of Cosequin for Cats, states its product “is the only joint health supplement brand shown effective, safe, and bioavailable in published, controlled U.S. studies.” However, there are multiple products including treats, pills, and powders that include glucosamine. Most can be hidden in some canned food. If your cat has had an episode of FLUTD, consider asking your veterinarian if supplementing with a glucosamine nutraceutical is indicated for the prevention of a recurrence.

Canine Lymphomas



A large number of patients I treat are actually hospice care due to terminal cancer.  These are very emotional cases and end up being some of my dearest patients.  As a matter of fact, it seems that when you get a cancer diagnosis on your pet something amazing happens: people that would never consider acupuncture will open their minds enough to accept it.  Maybe it is because they are desperately trying to save their pets or at least have more time with them. Sometimes the cure is not what alternative medicine will give you, it’s all about the quality of life and pain control. I always tell my clients that what is important is not the number of days that you live on this earth, but the quality of such days.  
Some owners of pets that suffer from cancers like lymphoma choose to try chemotherapy with a veterinary oncologist because the standard protocols seem to increase survival time for that type of cancer. In general, 70-90% of dogs with multicentric lymphoma treated with the standard UW-25 or Chop protocol experience complete or partial remission of their lymphoma, and this is why we recommend trying it. However, there is still a chance that the pet’s bone marrow can get depleted by all the chemicals and the chemotherapy will fail. Other cancers like certain Mast cell tumors do better with surgery and radiation but still might experience side effects similar to the chemotherapy; inappetence, lethargy, and severe diarrhea.
Most cancers have a common core of energy or Qi deficiency, therefore the approach to “heal” is to replenish the Qi, especially the Wei Qi which is the Defensive or Immune system Qi. Integrative medicine practitioners usually recommend feeding a high-quality protein and low carbohydrate whole food diet along with supplements using mushrooms and other anticancer herbs. Even though some oncologists are against doing acupuncture in conjunction with chemotherapy, in our experience acupuncture can definitively help make the chemotherapy more efficient by preserving the appetite, and energy and controlling diarrhea. I am still grieving the loss of our patient Mr. Bradley, a sweet Yorkie that sadly developed multicentric Lymphoma despite being one of the most spoiled and well cared for dogs I know. He underwent several rounds of chemotherapy but his bone marrow could not handle the chemicals and he lost his fight. We need to understand that Canine lymphomas are a diverse group of cancers, and vary tremendously in their prognosis. Some Lymphomas progress as rapidly as Bradley’s while others progress very slowly and respond better to chemotherapy. Even though we are seeing a large increase in lymphoma diagnoses the cause of lymphoma in dogs is still not known. Although several possibilities such as viruses, bacteria, chemical exposure (roundup), and over-vaccination have been studied and discussed, there hasn’t been a direct link to this awful cancer. The main goal of acupuncture is to stimulate the appetite points, stimulate influential points for the immune system, and control diarrhea. I firmly believe that the integrative approach could work along with western medicine to achieve even longer remission times.

March is Pet poison control awareness month!

March is pet poison prevention month and I wanted to remind all the pet lovers out there to be aware of the household poisons that could affect your pets. The majority of the calls to the poison control lines are related to over-the-counter medications mostly accidentally ingested by pets. Most of them are common medications like Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and other pain control medications that the pet owners are using but were left unattended at the reach of those pets. The situation with those non-steroidal anti-inflammatories is that they can cause severe liver and kidney damage because the human dosages are so high and the pets might not have the same enzymes available to break them down safely. Just one Tylenol capsule could kill a cat!! It is super important to keep your medications securely stored away from curious dogs and cats. Other commonly ingested medications like ADHD pills or Blood pressure medications can cause severe cardiac symptoms and need to be neutralized either by inducing vomiting or by administering medications to counter those effects. Last year there were close to 25,000 cases involving pets eating toxic foods including the sweetener Xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic. Xylitol is in most sugar-free candy and bubble gum and it will kill pets with acute liver failure. Grapes and raisins are especially toxic to the kidneys and will cause kidney failure depending on the amount ingested. The popularity of chocolate gifts for occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter also result in accidental chocolate poisoning. The darker the chocolate the deadlier it is. Corn cobs are another food danger because they do not digest or break down in the gut so the dogs that bit big chunks of corn cobs end up having emergency surgery to remove them from the intestines. Something most pet owners do not realize is that dogs and cats are lactose intolerant. Although cow’s milk itself is not really toxic, it is not in the best interest to give it to them. In addition, most dairy products like ice cream and yogurt are full of unhealthy sugars and fat and those could cause your pets to get pancreatitis. Ethanol can cause signs of intoxication including incoordination and collapse therefore, be careful leaving your wine glass or beers unattended!. The severity of the symptoms corresponds to the amount ingested. Another food culprit is Macadamian nuts. The symptoms of macadamia nut poisoning are similar to any pancreatitis case; vomiting, anorexia, and weakness. However, we see tremors and Central Nervous System signs as well. The toxin is not well known but keep your pups away from these nuts.
There are many ways to secure your foodstuffs and medications but if your pet is naughty and ingests some of those then call your nearest veterinarian immediately. In most cases inducing vomiting is all it takes but in others, activated charcoal, intravenous fluids, and other medications might be necessary. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.

Holiday & Pets thoughts…

The Christmas holiday is not the greatest time to give pets or to incorporate new pets into the family unit yet millions of puppies will be acquired as gifts. What many fail to realize is that these are not temporary gifts, they are long-term responsibilities and as such, they require that the recipient is committed to providing all that is needed for these beings’ happiness and wellbeing. If you are planning to still get a puppy or kitten this Christmas, then you need to read the following safety advice to make sure you will avoid a costly emergency visit;

• Use pet-proof decorations

Buy shatter-proof tree decorations that are safe for toddlers and pets alike. Although tinsel is still a popular choice, it has no place in a pet owner’s home. The reason is that cats (and some dogs) are magnetically attracted to tinsel, they love to eat it and it causes life-threatening blockages in the GI tract. This issue is resolved only by a surgical intervention that can cost thousands of dollars, especially if it’s in an after-hours emergency situation. Beware of holiday plant arrangements. Lilies and poinsettias can be very toxic or fatal if chewed on or ingested. The electric lights can pose a danger if chewed so use cable coverings or good old duct tape to secure them and protect them from pets.

• Keep the pets away from the Christmas tree

The tree is another trouble magnet when you have pets. Cats can climb the tree and get tangled up and injured. They could topple the tree also. I recommend a wall anchoring system that secures the tree to avoid toppling. Alternatively, place furniture around it so that if toppled, it would only lean into it rather than squash your pets. The tree water is another danger, it can cause GI upset and diarrhea if ingested.

• Do a winter vet check-up

Cold weather is a stressor on our pets. Many underlying conditions may be exacerbated and you need to pay attention to the signs. If your pet is stiff or panting more (arthritic pain), shedding excessively (low thyroid), drinking more (kidney disease or diabetes), it might be time to do a winter blood work check-up.

• Prepare your pooch for the fireworks, noisy reunions, and visitors

Load up on over-the-counter calming products. There are so many options like Zylkene, Composure treats, and DAP pheromones. There are also storm capes that help with noise phobias from fireworks so buy ahead. Keep your pets indoors and play some soothing background music to defuse the loud sounds.

• Beware of holiday feast table scraps

I’ve said it a thousand times: fatty and spicy table scraps can really hurt your pet regardless of the amount given. If your pet develops pancreatitis, it is a life-threatening condition and very expensive to treat. Play it safe by telling all your guests to refrain from feeding your pets any table foods. Secure your trash, all those smells will be very tempting to your dogs.

Does your pet need Vitamin C?

The pandemic has shed some light on the importance of certain vitamins for the wellbeing of our immune systems and now pet owners are interested in the benefits of vitamin supplementation for their pets. The most talked-about vitamin tends to be Vit C which is a water-soluble potent antioxidant found in food. Do dogs really need supplementation? It depends! Most commercial foods meet the minimum requirement of Vitamin C but if you are to use it as a tool for healing, then higher dosages will be needed.

Vitamin C benefits include helping to shorten the flu and cold duration by its antioxidant effects in the blood. In many studies it also helped relax the blood vessels, causing lower blood pressure readings in both humans and animals. Vitamin C plays a role in collagen synthesis thus helping with wound healing and at the same time, it has antihistamine properties that could help alleviate allergies. In addition, Vitamin C has been found to raise the level of certain neurotransmitters implying that it could help battle depression and low energy levels, and fatigue. As if those weren’t enough properties; Vitamin C could help kill cancer cells! There is a lot of studies of Vitamin C’s therapy role in cancer in humans, and many veterinary integrative practitioners are trying to use those scientific findings to treat our pets.
The key for the cancer treatment is to administer an intravenous high dose of vitamin C as a slow infusion. This usually implicates that the pet has an IV catheter and is being hospitalized at least for the day. It could be used as an adjuvant to western oncology by helping minimize the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. It could also be the primary treatment in cases where the pets are too weak to have chemicals in their bodies. The dosage and frequency of treatment will change according to the severity of the illness as this is a customized treatment. In our practice, we have used it to treat severe cases of pancreatitis and parvovirus because those are inflammatory conditions that cause a lot of oxidative stress. We also use it in Guinea Pigs because it is an essential nutrient and they require daily supplementation or their immune system will not function properly.
Is oral supplementation beneficial for our dogs and cats? In sick pets, supplementing their diets with Vitamin C might be helpful. Is too much C a problem? Usually, it is not a problem because this is a water-soluble vitamin that would be excreted in the urine. However, in some pets prone to having Calcium oxalate bladder stones or crystals, the extra Vitamin C is harmful because the byproduct of Vitamin C is oxalate. The usual dosages for dogs are 125 mg/day for pets under 20lbs, 250mg/day for pets 20-50lbs and 500mg to 1 gram/day for pets over 50lbs.
If your pet is suffering from chronic illness, allergies, or cancer, supplementation with vitamin C might be beneficial. Make sure to ask your veterinarian.

New Screening test for cancer in pets!

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in pets here in the USA. The main problem with this disease is that it stays hidden and it is often difficult to get an early diagnosis. Did you know that there is preventative wellness bloodwork that could pick up some markers in the blood that could give us clues that there is a cancerous process going on? When we see the clinical signs like poor appetite, weight loss, lethargy, or changes in routine, it might be far into the development of cancer.
Cancer is an inflammatory condition, it is an exaggerated and chaotic response to chronic tissue damage. Chronic stress and inflammation will create the conditions needed for tumor growths to be stimulated. The pathogens or entities that cause chronic inflammation can include a poor diet, toxins in the environment, bacteria/viruses, and stress. First, they cause damage to the cells and cause transformation at that level, then those cells undergo uncontrolled proliferation and multiply causing the tumors, and lastly, the tumors metastasize to another location. How can we detect the cancer cells at that first stage? In dogs(like in humans), the liver tries to fight the acute inflammation by creating the C-reactive protein. This is a very important early marker (first phase) of inflammation in your pet’s body. In the second phase of proliferation, there is another marker called Thymidine kinase Type 1 or TK1.In a study at the University of Missouri, they concluded that 82% of all cancers were detected 6 months prior to clinical signs and 100% of cancers were detected 4 months prior to clinical signs. Another important finding was that inflammation correlated with a 20% risk of death. They developed a screening test called the Cancer Risk assessment or CRA and recommended to do every 6 months in dogs with familial history of cancer or breeds that are at high risk to get cancer like Golden retrievers and Boxers. I believe this test is also a good screening for cancer relapses in survivors. We are utilizing a canine cancer screening test that adds the Vitamin D and B12 levels in addition to the C-reactive protein and the TK1 levels. Vitamin D has been widely discussed lately as a good way to prevent infection with Covid because the D levels indicate the strength of your immune response. According to a 2015 study by Tufts University, 75% of dogs are Vit D deficient! The signs of deficiency vary but most dogs develop heart or kidney disease and bone issues if deficient. Cobalamin or Vitamin B12 is essential for our pet’s health. It is a needed cofactor in multiple enzyme systems, in blood creation, and in keeping the gut biome healthy. Although we assume all dog foods meet minimum criteria to add these vitamins, most are lost in the food processing and storage. Also, each dog is a unique individual with their needs, and absorption of these will vary. If your pet is a cancer survivor or if you suspect your dog might be at risk of having cancer, ask your veterinarian to run a CRA test today!

The Pet healer Podcast ready to launch!

I have great news! My podcast The pet healer is launching on Anchor and multiple platforms this Wednesday Sep 2nd! I am discussing topics of my book Alt-Vet and hope to add your questions as topics in a future episode. I am also recording the book and will launch it soon. Thanks for helping me spread awareness about alternative medicine!

Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome

One of the most common causes of acute loss of coordination and head tilt in dogs is called the canine idiopathic vestibular syndrome. This is a pretty scary situation for pet owners because their dogs were fine one moment and in the next, they can barely walk!
What causes this vestibular syndrome? Nobody knows but the silver lining is that the patients can respond within 2 weeks and most recover with just a residual gait disturbance or a small lifelong head tilt. The condition is similar to Vertigo in people. My vestibular patients receive acupuncture and usually recover or have dramatically diminished symptoms within 48 hours.
The concerning part of the Vestibular syndrome is that at first glance it is often indistinguishable from other serious conditions like brain tumors, inner ear deep-seated infections, toxicity in the ear membrane, or Brain stroke. Seeking veterinary care immediately is a must, the veterinarian will test your pet’s nerve system and rule out most of these. There is danger in jumping to conclusions and euthanizing a pet that looks like it is in a lot of distress but in my opinion, it is important to wait at least 48 hours to see if the condition is an underlying progressive issue or just vestibular syndrome. The prognosis is definitively worse for those pets suffering from brain tumors since there is not much that medicine can offer to cure them, just to do palliative “hospice” care and maintain quality of life. Ear medications can cause ototoxicity meaning the ear membrane swells in reaction to the drug and causes pain, loss of hearing ( might be reversed), and the loss of balance and head tilt that characterizes vestibular syndrome.Inner Ear infections or polyps can cause the same symptoms.
Treatment of vestibular syndrome often includes supportive therapy such as intravenous fluids and nourishment. It might also require hospitalization until the pet can eat and walk on its own. If your dog is seriously disoriented or stumbles, it may be given a sedative to help it calm down. Cerenia or other nausea medication can help settle the tummy. Dramamine may be beneficial since it is a or motion sickness drug. Antibiotics may be used in cases suspected of having middle or inner ear infections. A short course of steroids might also be beneficial. The Chinese herbal formula Bu Yang Huan Wu is excellent for the treatment of strokes in humans and I have successfully used it for over a decade in the treatment of vestibular disease in dogs and strokes. Aquapuncture using vitamin B12 in the Acupuncture points TH17 and GB20 are local points to the head and they help to quickly move the Qi or energy.
We have seen several cases of older dogs suffering from this vestibular syndrome and the main thing they had in com We are happy to report all made a 100% recovery!mon was bein geriatric pets and having extremely loving and caring pet parents that quickly intervened once they saw them in distress.

Wagging tails

In canines, the ability to express joy and other emotions like fear and alertness rely in part on the movement of the tail. In order to read a dog we must also take into consideration observing the facial muscles for tension, the hair coat up vs down, and the ear position.
We all love to see a dog wagging his/her tail because we assume the dog is happy. In reality, the position of a dog’s tail can communicate alertness and dominance if it is held high and still whereas if it’s high and wagging is happiness and alertness. The faster the wagging is, the more excitement the pooch is feeling. A tail held straight is signaling that the dog is inquisitive and taking the new information in. Most animal lovers correctly interpret a tail held down and between the legs as a sign of fear or submission.

In my practice, I have often discovered that there are physical issues that alter the carriage of the tails. The most common issue is to see a dog that stops wagging and is carrying the tail low when they have anal sacs that are extremely full or infected. This is a very painful issue for the dogs. The anal sacs are at each side of the anus and every time the dogs have a bowel movement it is supposed to scent it with the unique smelly chemical scent and lubricate the passage of feces. If those glands are full they block the passage of stool and they are akin to hemorrhoid pain. The solution to this issue requires firm expression of the sacs and emptying them. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories might be needed.
Another tail ailment is commonly known as limp tail, Limber tail, or swimmer’s tail. The typical breeds affected are hunting or working breeds like Labradors and Beagles. The medical condition is caudal myopathy and it is often a sequel to prolonged crating or excessive swimming. The tail muscles affected are the Intertransversarius, Ventralis Caudalis, and Coccygeal muscles. The chemistry blood results will show an increase in the muscle enzyme called Creatine Kinase. Oftentimes the radiographs are normal and are used to rule out fractures or disk issues at the Lumbosacral space. I treat with a session or two of acupuncture and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Most recover fully.
The least common tail problems include fractures that happen when doors are closed on tails or stepped on tails. The trauma can result in losing part of all the tail if the circulation is compromised. Also, intervertebral disk disease at the level of sacral and coccygeal vertebrae could result in the inability to move or lift the tail. In a recent case, I discover that morbidly obese dogs could accumulate a fat pad dorsal to the base of the tail that will impede the upward movement and cause the appearance of a limp tail.
Regardless of the cause, a sad tail that isn’t wagging is a sign that your pet is not feeling his/her best. Your veterinarian can really get that tail moving again!

Corona Virus Pandemic and our Pets

The new COVID-19 pandemic has big implications for pet health care. In most states, veterinary clinics are considered essential businesses and therefore most will continue to provide healthcare. However, in the pandemic, we must do our part to flatten the curve and stop any transmission of the Coronavirus.
The Florida Veterinary Medical Association defends the position that veterinarians as essential in part due to the following:
1-” Front-line veterinary practitioners and staff are among the healthcare professionals who provide surveillance for diseases deemed reportable by state and federal governments, including zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, influenza and Lyme disease. They are also responsible for issuing certificates of veterinary inspection that are required for the movement of animals between states and countries, including those entering the food supply.
2-Veterinarians are an integral part of our nation’s food and fiber industries. Veterinary care is critical to ensure that only healthy animals enter the food supply. While primarily housed on farms, food animals are also present in urban areas.
3-Veterinary practices provide medical and surgical care daily for critically ill and injured animals”.

In our county, most animal hospitals have curbside options in which pet owners picking medications, food or dropping off their pets for care can do so from the safety of their car. A team member wearing protective gear will take the pet and information or drop off supplies and the owner can call and pay by phone. There are other measures that clinics like mine have undertaken: splitting their team members into 2 or more groups. The benefit is that if someone on team 1 gets sick, we can easily quarantine that team for a couple of days while we generally disinfect and then get running again with the other teams. Then if we find out it is a positive COVID-19, we can mass quarantine if required or we think it is wise or if we are ordered to close by a public health department. In addition, the appointment schedules are going to be longer, that way the pet owners are put immediately in the examination room while their pet is taken care of. There are going to be drop off appointments available, and the owners can either wait in their cars or go home and communicate by phone with the veterinarian while their pet is treated or examined.
All animal hospitals in Florida are upping up their cleaning and sanitizing protocols making sure each room is thoroughly disinfected in between appointments as well as periodically washing up hands with soap and water. Our teams that come in contact with owners are wearing gloves and masks to be protected. This is uncertain times and we know having your pet healthy, with enough medications and supplies is a concern for caring pet owners. We as veterinarians made an oath to alleviate the suffering of animals, to heal and to preserve the human-animal bond and rest assured we will stand by our promise to be there in this time of need.