Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Working with rescue has provided a wonderful outlet for my desire to give back to the world. By helping animals, I am helping people. Families who can no longer care for senior pets and people who work in shelters, seeing so much death, are ecstatic when these old, sick animals find a permanent place to call home. By providing medical care for these special pets, I am rewarded by being able to decrease their pain and suffering.
At Monkey's House hospice and senior sanctuary, Michele and Jeff Allen care for fifteen to twenty dogs on a daily basis. It takes a lot of work, money, and food to care for that many dogs. Recently, Monkey's House was extremely fortunate to have this wonderful freezer donated. It's huge and holds enough food to feed the gang for a few weeks. But someone has to fill the freezer. We are extremely grateful to the folks at Allprovide raw pet food for filling the freezer. Shipments arrive like clockwork and the dogs at Monkey's House are being fed food that is better than any shelter or rescue dog could ever beg for! Thanks to the high quality of the food in their dishes, these dogs are blooming with renewed energy and good health. Skin and ear infections clear up without the use of antibiotics. Arthritic joints are much less painful, and the dogs are able to run through the fields at Monkey's House.
It takes a village to care for this many rescue dogs. But with the help of many volunteer hours, monetary and supply donations, these dogs are thriving. Thank you to everyone for all your help!

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Date night with dogs with Jeff and Michele Allen

Every pet rescue group needs donations and volunteers to help with the work involved in caring for animals. I work closely with a senior dog sanctuary for homeless shelter dogs, called Monkey's House. Michele and Jeff Allen work tirelessly to care for close to twenty dogs on a daily basis. They have recently started accepting donations of time, money, and supplies from volunteers. There is still a lot of work to be done to get the new accomodations ready for dogs. They want all the dogs to feel they are in a home environment, so individual rooms are being prepared for groups of dogs. Michele has been known to pick up furnishings along the side of the road if something appears useful and in decent condition. She has an eye for supplies she needs and has put out a call for things like used cribs, crib mattresses, cabinets, and even had an electric heating fireplace donated.

With twenty dogs currently in their care, it can be difficult to make sure every dog has its own "personal time" with human attention. To that end, Michele and Jeff came up with the idea of "Date night with dogs". The next time you want some snuggle time with your partner, why not head on over to Monkey's House with your favorite bottle of wine and some popcorn. Grab a few dogs, turn on the fireplace, and pop in a movie. You'll have quality time with your significant other and the dogs will have quality snuggle time. And you don't have to tell if you slip them a piece of popcorn or two...

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Does your cat suffer from litter box aversion? We see clients daily who have complaints about cats urinating or defecating in unacceptable places in the house. Cats are commonly dumped at shelters or forced to live outside due to house soiling issues. Unfortunately, many of these cats could be cured of their box aversion if the root of the problem was discovered.

Here are a few simple rules if you are having a problem with your cat:

1. Take your cat in for a complete physical exam, including lab work that tests for diabetes, hyperthyroidism, urinary tract infection, and bladder stones. Many cats will avoid the box if there is pain on urinating. If they are suffering from diabetes or hyperthyroidism they may have to urinate so frequently they just can't make it to the box. Once disease is treated, most cats will return to using their boxes with no problem.

2. Have one more box than the number of cats in the household. Many cats do not like to share their box.

3. Have multiple types of litter available. Some cats prefer clay, but others may prefer plastic beads, compressed newspaper, or soil-type litters.

4. Have a litter box on every level of the house. This may not be possible, but particularly for older cats, climbing multiple levels of stairs to get to the litter box may be problematic.

5. Make sure the cat can get to the litter box easily, without being chased by dogs, bully cats, or small children. Don't put the box near noisy equipment like the furnace or dehumdifier, both of which can scare the cat.

6. Place litter boxes far away from feeding stations. No one likes to eat in the bathroom.

7. Clean the litter boxes by scooping feces and urine clumps twice daily. After all, who wants to use the un-flushed toilet?

Friday, December 18, 2015


Our adopted 14 year old Cocker Spaniel, Scout, was featured in a blog a couple weeks ago when he kept licking his foot to tell me he had a serious problem. I amputated the fifth digit on his right front foot because I knew there was most likely a cancer present. The results are in: squamous cell carcinoma in the nail bed. Luckily, there were clean margins, because I amputated at the third joint instead of just taking the claw and bone. Chances of spread to other areas are only 10 - 29%. Dogs with clear margins have an average of 309 days until signs of spread. Those are pretty good odds for a guy who is already 14. He's back to trotting around with just a little limp and is his happy goofy self again, now that the E-collar is off (boy, did he hate that thing!).
But we want Scout to have the absolute best chance of staying cancer-free, so his diet is going to be changed up a bit. He already eats a raw diet and takes a few supplements that will help. The raw diet is great because he is strong and basically healthy. If he was very weak, I would use a gently cooked diet instead, so that his body wouldn't have to work hard to digest the food. Cancer cells grow best on carbohydrate or fat sources, depending on the type of cancer. So I will make sure his raw meals are fairly low fat, as they are already low carbohydrate. Eggs and ground walnuts or almonds will also find their way into his meals. Along with his 300 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids and 200 mg of CoQ10, I'll be adding 300 mg Shiitake mushrooms or mushroom extract, 1/4 teaspoon Golden Paste (a combination of turmeric, fresh black pepper, and coconut oil), 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground ginger root, 800 mg IP-6 twice daily, and a few extra helpings of love. Luckily, he loves to eat and we can throw anything in his bowl, so he won't even notice a few extra capsules in there. Hopefully, I'll still be showing videos of a happy old man years from now!

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Anyone who knows me, knows I hate winter and cold weather. This year, our "winter" has consisted of 60-degree days, as it has been unseasonably warm. So why have I been wrapped in blankets and winter coats for the past three weeks? I've been experiencing fever, chills, lethargy, muscle aches...just not right. Last week I succumbed to the dreaded intestinal flu, which made for a fun couple of days (congee to the rescue). This week, my symptoms drove me back to my bed, even forcing me to cancel appointments half way through the day, which is unheard of. After 36 hours in bed, I realized I was suffering from a sinus infection (because my sinuses starting draining). Sigh...

So, now the choice: tough it out with herbs, tea, and rest to get through the ordeal naturally OR take antibiotics. The natural route is definitely my preferred choice, but that would leave me stuck in bed for a few more days, which absolutely does not jive with my 10-hour work days at the office. To top it off, Hue was nice enough to give me the gift of a weekend in New York City, seeing the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show, and going to the Today Show live...THIS weekend.

Unfortunately, the antibiotic choice won. I needed to get back on my feet quickly and I knew the antibiotics would make that happen. Within 24 hours, I am almost human (at least able to stay upright for more than a few minutes and I am almost making coherent sentences). I am continuing to eat really healthy - no sugars, no starches, no alcohol; basically leafy greens, brightly colored veggies, and protein. I am continuing with all my prescribed homeopathic drops, vitamin D, probiotics, omega 3's, and iodine supplements. Because I normally suffer from yeast overgrowth, this course of antibiotics will require about 6 months of very strict diet to get me back on the right course. But I made a choice because I saw it as the best short term solution for now.

The same problems happen every time our pets are given antibiotics. It upsets the bowel flora (the good bacteria that live there), causes overgrowth of the bad bacteria, overgrowth of yeast, and leaky gut syndrome. For me, that all causes a fuzzy mind, swelling of my joints, and generalized fatigue. I can only imagine our animals suffer the same effects, but how would we know?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Monkey's House Dogs get to visit Santa
Getting involved in pet rescue has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Earlier in 2015 I joined the board of Monkey's House sanctuary and hospice for senior dogs with no home. I've cried sad tears over neglect cases and happy tears when a broken, battered dog is returned to good health and happiness. My heart has expanded with the joy we've been able to bring to these dogs.
Would you also like to experience the thrill of having your heart grow three sizes today? There are many ways to give back during the holidays, and all year long, without spending money. Many rescue groups and shelters run on very small budgets and are thrilled to have help. Consider some of these ways you might be able to lend a hand:
1. Donate food, towels, blankets, crates, leashes, collars, paper towels, cleaning supplies, printer paper, or postage stamps to a rescue group. Clean out your closets and find some old towels or blankets you don't use any more. It's okay if they are a bit tattered; the pets will love them!
2. Lend a hand at the shelter for a few hours. You may be able to walk dogs, spend some time brushing or grooming, or help out with feeding. But cleaning, painting, fence repairs, lawn trimming, landscaping, and washing laundry can also help!
3. Offer to transport pets that need a ride to a new home or a into a shelter or rescue.
4. Offer to foster animals that need a place to stay overnight or for an extended period of time.
5. Donate cash and get a tax write off.
6. Promote the shelter or rescue group on your social media pages. Get your friends involved.
7. Collect donations through your service clubs or school groups. It's great to get kids involved! For service groups that need to log hours of community service, pet rescue is a great mission.
Every little bit helps and by working together, we can make a huge difference in the lives of these pets!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


The holidays can bring special dangers to many pets. Enjoy the holidays by celebrating responsibly!
1. Decorations - tinsel is a choking hazard and can cause bowel obstruction and perforation. It can also get wrapped around body parts, cutting off circulation. Glass ornaments can break, which can lacerate feet or cause intestinal bleeding if eaten. Electric cords can be chewed, leading to shock or electrocution. Put a fence around the Christmas tree so pets cannot reach the tree or put the tree in a room that is not accessible to pets. Don't use tinsel; use plastic ornaments. Make sure all cords are secured. Apply bitter tasting sprays to cords.
2. Candles - Burning hazard for pets and possibility of a house fire if knocked over by a pet.  Keep all candles in areas where they are not accessible to pets.
3.  Baking - chocolate, particularly dark chocolate used for baking, contains theobromine. Theobromine causes vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, and seizures. Toxic to dogs, cats, and birds.  Bread dough with yeast can result in bloating and alcohol toxicity due to fermentation in the stomach. Low blood sugar, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, coma, and death may result. Put away all baking products where pets cannot reach them. Never leave rising dough in an area accessible to pets. Macadamia nuts are toxic and can cause vomiting, lethargy, and hyperthermia. Raisins can cause kidney failure. 
4. Package wrappings - Cats, in particular, are attracted to ribbons and strings. Some dogs will also find these to be great items for chewing. Be careful when wrapping packages if you have pets that find these irresistible. I put ribbons on packages right before I walk out of the house to deliver them to someone else. No ribbons in my home because they can cause bowel obstruction and perforation.
5. Parties and crowds - Many pets are nervous or anxious when guests arrive. They may be prone to snapping or acting out when too many strangers are in their environment. If you are having a large gathering and your pet may find this stressful, consider allowing your pet to stay with a friend or possibly boarding your pet for the day or night. A scared pet may bolt out a door that opens and closes as guests arrive and depart. Be sure your pets are microchipped and tagged with identification.
6. Holiday feasts - Sharing table food with your pets isn't always bad, but overindulgence can be disastrous. Trimmings and gravies that are high in fat can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis, which can be fatal. 
7. Decorative plants - Poinsettia, holly, mistletoe, and pine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal irritation. Use artificial plants or place them out of reach.
8. Traveling with pets – Make sure pets are secured in the car in crates, seatbelts, or other pet restraints. Pets can become a projectile in an accident, injuring themselves and others in the vehicle. Also, make sure pets have ID tags and/or a microchip. In case of accidental escape (at rest stops, in an accident, etc) the ID will be the only chance of recovering the lost pet.
Follow these helpful tips to have the happiest holidays ever with your pets!

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Degenerative myelopathy is a disease of the nervous system of dogs, which affects nerves at the level of the spinal cord. It is found most commonly in German Shepherds, but has been diagnosed in over 100 breeds, including Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Rhodesion Ridgebacks, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Boxers. The disease is seen in dogs that carry mutations in the SOD1 gene. SOD1 is superoxide dismutase, which is a gene responsible for repairing oxidative damage to cells. Cells containing high amounts of lipid (fats) are the most susceptible to oxidative damage. Nerve cells are coated with myelin, which is a form of lipid, so damage to nerve cells will occur if SOD1 is not working. This is one of the reasons the disease does not show up until later in life - it takes many years of oxidative damage to become symptomatic. Dogs that do not carry the SOD1 mutation are never afflicted with the disease. This same gene mutation is found in people suffering with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Symptoms of DM include hind end weakness which progresses to hind end paralysis, and eventually to paralysis of all muscles throughout the body. Dogs that lose hind end function will often do well with a hind end cart until the front limb muscles also become paralyzed. Slings and booties can also help. Eventually, all muscles in the body will become paralyzed and the animal will succumb to respiratory failure. Most pet owners elect euthanasia six to twelve months after diagnosis.

At this time there is no effective treatment for DM. Medications like low dose Naltrexone (Skip's Pharmacy), aminocaproic acid, N-acetylcysteine, and supplements like ubiquinol, selenium, Vitamins B, C, and E, bromelain,omega 3 fatty acids, gingko, and ginseng have all been recommended. Treatments like chiropractic adjustments and electroacupuncture may stimulate better nerve function. Keeping the muscles as strong as possible with exercise and physical therapy is an important component to maintaining mobility for as long as possible.These dogs should be kept free of stress, as this disease seems to have some long term,stress-related component.

Recommended doses for some antioxidant supplements include Vitamin E 1,000-2,000 IU per day, Vitamin C 1000-2000 mg per day, B-complex - 2 high potency capsules per day or stress formulation 1 capsule per day, Selenium 100 (small dog) to 200 (large dog) ug/day, and Aminocaproic Acid 250 mg/ml suspension, mix 2 ml with 1 ml chicken broth and give every 8 hours.

Genetic testing for DM is available through the University of Missouri with samples of saliva from a cheek swab or through blood DNA testing. This has made diagnosis easier, as a dog must have two bad copies of the SOD1 gene in order to be symptomatic. DM is not diagnosed with MRI, CT scan, or other testing, but these may be used to rule out other diseases.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Unfortunately, many well-meaning pet owners confuse feeding a balanced, species-appropriate diet with feeding pieces of raw grocery store meat to their dog or cat. Although this is a good source of protein and some minerals, it doesn't represent a balanced diet. A diet of muscle meat doesn't contain many of the vital nutrients our pets need, including vitamins A, D, E, and the B vitamins. It also lacks minerals like potassium, copper, zinc, iron, iodine, and choline. The diet will be deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids, enzymes, and antioxidants.

Over time, these deficiencies will wreak havoc on the pet's health. This is one of the reasons traditional veterinarians are against "raw feeding" - it needs to be done right. Not only do you need to feed muscle meat, but 10 to 15% of the diet should also be made of organs - not just one type of organ. Vegetables and fruits can add some really important nutrients, but many prey-model folks are against feeding any vegetable or fruit matter. A diet of 10% organs, 55-60% muscle meat, and 25% vegetable and fruit ingredients would be close to ideal (for cats, the mix should be closer to 90% meat and organs and 10% vegetable matter).

A vitamin and mineral mix (home made or store bought) should be added to balance the diet if you are not willing to balance the diet completely using food sources. The mix needs to contain sources of vitamin D, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, iodine, and folic acid (taurine for cats). 

Some people try to do a better job at raw feeding by buying a special "butcher's dog food blend" containing ground meat, bone, and organs. In my opinion, this is also dangerous. There are a lot of missing vitamins and minerals here. And unless the butcher can provide an analysis of the food, how do you have any idea how much fat, protein, and moisture are present? Because you are probably getting the waste pieces that are not fit for human consumption, there is a good chance you are feeding a very high fat product. For dogs prone to pancreatitis, this could be a nightmare. I checked many "butcher's" dog food sites and few of them provided a nutritional analysis on their products. Most products were incomplete diets.

For people that are old hands and well educated in raw feeding dogs, there's a good chance they are getting the diet more closely balanced. If they weren't, their dogs would show signs of trouble. For the new folks to raw feeding, don't just "wing it". Get good advice from people who have the knowledge to teach you how to balance the diet. Buy a good book on raw feeding, like Dr. Karen Becker's Real Food For Healthy Dogs and Cats. 

If you are just starting out with raw feeding, stick with a pre-made raw food with a guaranteed analysis so that you know you are feeding a balanced diet. That way, if you have a pet with special needs, you will know exactly how much fat and protein are in the diet. It won't be a guessing game. Most of my dogs currently eat Allprovide raw food because there is a guaranteed analysis on every batch and the ingredients are all human grade. Two dogs eat Stella N Chewy's frozen raw rabbit because they have protein allergies. Raw feeding is probably the healthiest way to feed our pets, but make sure you are feeding a balanced, high quality diet.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Mars Petcare announced October 9th it will acquire Blue Pearl, the nation's biggest chain of companion animal specialty and emergency care clinics. They already own more than 900 Banfield pet hospitals, Royal Canin, Pedigree, Iams, Eukanuba, and Natura pet foods, with a total of 38 brands in their portfolio. (I'm guessing we won't be seeing Hill's prescription diets offered at Banfield.)

VCA (WOOF on NASDAQ) is a leading provider of pet health care services, owning over 600 small animal veterinary hospitals (VCA Animal Hospitals) in the US and Canada. They also own one of the largest veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the US and Canada (Antech Diagnostics), the leading animal diagnostic imaging company in the market (Sound), and VetSTREET, a leading provider of veterinary practice marketing solutions. Word is they have also bought a PR firm to handle their advertising and marketing.

Smaller corporate ventures like Vetcor, Brightheart, National Veterinary Associates, Petpartners, Vetpartners, and others are also buying up privately owned veterinary practices. Most veterinary corporations are not owned by veterinarians. They are owned by investors and business folks. Do they have the best interest of our pets or their bank accounts as their main concern? They certainly have greater buying power by purchasing items in huge quantities, getting discounts the independent practices will never see. To be efficient, large corporations often set up standards of what the doctors can and can't do, how they can and can't do it, and what they can and can't buy. They standardize everything. Does that jeopardize the healthcare of the patients? Can doctors and pet owners make their own choices?

The days of the independent veterinary practice may be numbered, like the mom and pop drugstores of my youth. Does this really matter to the pet owner? Statistics show that most clients choose their veterinarian based on location and the doctor. If they like the doctor, they stick with the practice. Most people don't really seem to care whether the practice is corporate-owned or independently owned.

I think there are pros and cons to every situation. My best advice is to find a practice you like, whether it is close to home or far away. Find a doctor that communicates with you and loves your pets. After all, the pets are what really matter.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Two weeks ago one of our 14-year-old Cocker Spaniels that we adopted 6 months ago started licking his right front foot. He has some breathing problems, so he made VERY loud, annoying slurping noises. It was so annoying I checked to see what he was doing. There was an ulcerated mass on the top of his last toe. I figured it was a typical Cocker wart, so I took him to the office and removed it using a local anesthetic. I threw the mass away with no further thought. That night, Scout continued licking the foot. I figured that now he was licking because of the tiny sutures in his foot. I applied LickGuard ointment, which he hated. Three or four times every day for a week, we coated the foot in LickGuard. Scout would run around the house like we had just really made him mad.

Fast forward ten days. The licking is constant. By now the sutures have healed. So I took an x-ray of his foot. Just what I feared: there was a problem with the toe itself. The bone within the nail was disintegrating. Most likely we were dealing with a nail bed tumor and those are rarely anything good. Surgery is risky with Scout due to his breathing issues and the fact that he can only open his mouth about an inch, due to scarring from infections earlier in his life. Intubation of his airway is difficult. But I was left with no choice.

I am happy to say that Scout was a champ through surgery. I amputated the toe at the level of the metacarpal/phalangeal joint, working really hard to focus on the surgery and not on the fact that I own this guy. It's hard to remain calm when it's my own pet on the table.

This is a photo during recovery. He is wearing a bandage and a boot. Now that he is home, he is trying to figure out how to hop on three legs when all legs are arthritic. I had to giggle when he tried to lift his hind leg on the same side to urinate the first time after surgery. Obviously, standing on two legs on the same side did not work out so well. He's still working on figuring that out, but for now, I help hold up the back end.

Biopsy results won't be back for a week, but I expect it won't be good news. We'll figure out what to do when we get them. I tell clients all the time not to ignore what their pets are trying to tell them. Scout was diligently telling me there was a problem. I kept trying to tell him to leave it alone. Sometimes we just need to listen better.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


  1. Bring your dog on a leash or your cat in a sturdy carrier. Keep the dog on a short leash in the clinic. Accustom your pet to its carrier and to traveling in the car ahead of time. If your pet is aggressive toward other animals, let the staff know that in advance. They may be able to take your pet in through a private entrance.
  2. If your veterinarian doesn't already have your pet's medical record on file, bring it with you or have your previous veterinary team send or fax the records. At a minimum, bring your own notes on your pet's health and medical history. Have a list of medications with strength, dosing schedule, and length of time your pet has been receiving medication.
  3. Arrive on time or a few minutes early for your appointment. Call ahead if you are running behind. (You can also request your veterinary office to call you if they are running behind.) Turn off your cell phone.
  4. If you have financial concerns, be upfront about that. Knowing this in advance can help your veterinarian make recommendations that will provide the most efficient use of your financial resources.
  5. Have a list of questions ready so you will be sure to cover any concerns you may have. If your pet has been ill, bring a list of symptoms, length of time they have been present, and whether the pet has had similar symptoms in the past or has been treated for similar problems. If you do not vaccinate your pet or use limited vaccinations, make sure the veterinarian understands your point of view.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I really should stay out of pet stores. I see products that make me want to slit my wrists because I know they are popular, but they are so misleading to the pet owner! Dribble some shizzle on that kibble? I'm not sure of the definition of shizzle, but I don't think it's a good thing. This product is touted as a cute way to add vitamins and minerals to the diet. Two problems: if you are feeding a complete and balanced diet, you shouldn't need to add more vitamins and minerals. And if your ARE going to add supplemental vitamins and minerals, please add high quality ingredients. I would consider the chemical soup in this product to be of low quality, including ingredients whose safety have been questioned for years, like sodium selenite, potassium sorbate, tricalcium phosphate, and maltodextrin - yup, that's sugar. The amounts of omega 3 fatty acid and glucosamine are negligible, so you are not providing a useful joint or coat supplement. If you are using this to balance a home cooked diet, the calcium levels are far too low. If you have a dog with allergies, I would definitely steer clear. Please don't be fooled by cute advertising gimmicks. My rating on this product - 1 star (most websites don't allow you to use zero stars).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


These lovely jarred stews for dogs caught my attention while I was in a pet store today. I thought they looked appetizing and I'm sure many people would think the same thing. My big question: how many pet owners believe this is a complete and balanced meal for their pets? How many people are making the mistake of feeding this food by itself? There are so many nutritional deficiencies I can't begin to list them all. (One jar contains venison and yams. Nothing else.) The label is not complete and does not come close to AAFCO and FDA standards (not that I'm a big fan of those guys, but the standards are there for a reason). Amount to feed is left up to the pet owner. Calories are listed per 100 grams, but the food is 32 ounces. Who is going to do the math?
The directions state "feed alone OR WITH your favorite kibble for a COMPLETE MEAL. This is so ambiguous I wonder how many pet owners will not realize that this needs to be fed with a complete diet to supply the necessary nutrients. No mention of calcium and phosphorous content. Do I need to add a mineral supplement? (The answer is yes, but that's only because I know this diet is way off in calcium/phosphorous balance based on ingredients.)
Website for this company? Useless. They also sell dog coats. There is more information on the coats than there is on the food. Yet this product is available nationwide. While they may be using good ingredients, there is a lot of confusion for how much to feed and the fact that this is not meant to be fed as a complete diet.
If the commercial diet you are feeding does not say "complete and balanced" and name the life stage it is meant for (all life stages, growth, mature, senior, puppy, etc), it is meant to be used as a supplement, not as a complete diet. Don't be fooled into feeding your pet an incomplete diet.