Tuesday, April 12, 2016

We've Moved! New Blog location at www.drjudymorgan.com

I want to thank everyone who has followed my blogs on this site. You may or may not be aware that we have been undergoing some changes to make our brand even better. Our website, while still at http://drjudymorgan.com, has been completely made over in an attempt to give you more information all in one location.

New blogs will be visible at http://drjudymorgan.com/category/blog 

We have also added a section called the Forum, where you can get all your pet health questions answered and discuss pet health with other pet owners. The Forum is accessible at

Please come on over and check out all the latest information!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


We all want our pets to live forever, but many times they leave us far too early. Here are some tips you can use to keep your pets healthy longer.

1. Feed them a species-appropriate, meat-based diet made by a reputable company. Avoid the highly processed foods made with poor ingredients made from rendered animals and low quality fillers.

2. Maintain a proper weight. Obesity studies have shown 52.7% of dogs and 57.9% of cats in America are overweight or obese. Obesity leads to arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac, respiratory, and kidney disease, cancer, orthopedic diseases, and decreases life expectancy up to 2.5 years.

3. Maintain good dental health. Most dogs and cats have periodontal disease by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. Complications from periodontal disease can include heart, liver, and kidney disease. Tooth loss, fractured jaws, and painful infections are the result of poor dental care. Daily brushing is the best defense against periodontal disease, but raw meaty bones are also great for maintaining good dental health.

4. Provide your pets with daily exercise. Indoor cats can be taught to fetch or play with laser lights. Dogs can be walked outside or given a yard to run. Many dog owners have taught their dogs to walk on treadmills in inclement weather and there are many indoor pools, gyms, and physical therapy facilities that offer exercise space.

5. Don't forget preventive wellness care. A thorough physical examination by your veterinarian twice a year can help detect problems before they become advanced. I recommend running a routine blood panel to check liver and kidney function, as well as a urinalysis, fecal exam, and heartworm test. Do NOT allow your pet to be vaccinated every year. Vaccine titers should be run, instead, to determine whether vaccination is actually needed. Most vaccines last 5 to 7 years and may last a lifetime. Rabies vaccines usually need to be given as required by law, unless your pet qualifies for an exemption. Ask your veterinarian about this.

6. Avoid chemicals. Do not use pesticides on your animals. Do not feed pesticides to your animals. Do not spray your yard with pesticides and herbicides. Use natural alternatives for flea and tick control. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Inflammatory bowel disease is extremely common in pets and people. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, constipation, bloating, weight loss, and abdominal pain. What pet food ingredients might contribute to these problems? There are two ingredients that are common culprits and should be avoided.

The first ingredient I recommend avoiding is wheat gluten. Wheat gluten is the rubbery protein residue left after all the starchy carbohydrate has been removed from the grain. This is a  cheap source of protein when pet food companies don't want the expense of using real meat proteins. Some pets will have an autoimmune response to the gluten, which causes inflammation in the bowel and the symptoms listed above.

The second ingredient is carrageenan. Food grade carrageenan has been studied for years and has been shown to be cause an immune reaction that triggers inflammation. Chronic ingestion of carrageenan is associated with inflammatory diseases, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance - precursors of diabetes.

Carrageenan is used in many canned pet foods, particularly cat foods, as a gelling or thickening agent. I have discussed the many reasons cats should not be fed dry kibble (too high in carbohydrates, too low in moisture, among other things). This leads people to feed canned foods. But canned foods loaded with gluten and carrageenan can cause severe problems as well.

Be a label reader. If you see gluten or carrageenan in the pet food, put it back on the shelf. Do not feed these ingredients to your pets. Feed them a species-appropriate, meat based diet like fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried raw food or a home prepared diet. Don't subject your pets to the poor ingredients found in low quality processed pet foods.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Having pets in your home is like having toddlers. They seem to find things that aren't good for them, even when we are careful. But here is a list of items that can be particularly toxic to your pets.

1. Some human foods: grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate, macadamia nuts, bread dough, and caffeine can all be toxic to pets. Grapes and raisins are common snacks for children, so be sure the kids are instructed not to share. Onions can cause hemolytic anemia and pose a greater risk to cats than dogs, but should be avoided for either species. Chocolate toxicity is particularly problematic around certain holidays - Halloween, Valentines' Day, Easter, and during holiday baking. Dark chocolate contains more of the toxic ingredient theobromine and smaller amounts cause greater toxicity than mild chocolate. Bread dough containing yeast will expand in the stomach and produce alcohol, which leads to alcohol toxicity, seizures, and bloating. Dogs getting into the trash may eat coffee grounds, so hide the trashcans.

2. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can be found in sugar free candy and gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, baked goods, and more recently, is being added to common food products like peanut butter. Xylitol causes low blood sugar and liver failure. Most cases I have seen involve children sharing with pets or pets getting into a purse containing gum or breath mints.

3. Cooked bones. Many pet owners bring home their steak bones from dining out to give to their dogs. Not only can they get diarrhea and pancreatitis from the high fat content of the prime rib, they also risk ingesting splintered bones that can pierce the bowel. Chicken and turkey bones stolen from the trash are another prime culprit. Take all bones to the outside trash cans and make sure the lids are secured.

4. Prescription Drugs. Animal poison control help lines list prescription drugs near the top of the list for reported exposures. Particularly, antidepressants and medications for ADD and ADHD. Do not leave these medications on bedside tables, even if they are in containers. Put them in a drawer or cabinet out of reach. Prescription pet medications can be just as toxic if eaten accidentally in excess, particularly flavored, chewable medications that taste like treats.

5. Nonprescription Drugs. Over the counter medications like acetaminophin (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Alleve) can cause liver failure, kidney failure, and gastrointestinal ulceration. In cats, one tablet of acetaminophen can be a deadly dose. Never give an over the counter medication to your pet without asking your veterinarian first.

6. Mouse and rat poison. These baits usually contain grains so the rodents will eat them. Dogs and cats may also be drawn to them. For cats, eating a rodent that has ingested the poison will have the same effect as eating the bait directly. The poisons can cause internal bleeding, bruising, liver and kidney failure, and brain swelling. The poisons can affect the pet for weeks, resulting in prolonged treatment if ingested.

7. Cleaning chemicals. This includes a very long list of household products including bathroom and kitchen cleansers, bleach, laundry detergent, and even "natural" household cleaners. Scented products like potpourri and plug ins can also be deadly.

8. Insecticides. Not only does this include household sprays, baits, and liquids, it also includes many of the chemicals sold by veterinarians or over the counter that are meant to be applied on or fed to our pets. Many chemicals are safe for dogs, but not cats, and misapplication results in serious consequences for the kitties. Even though the prescribed chemicals are touted as safe, many pets have succumbed to these products. (Please check out the Facebook pages "Does Bravecto Kill Dogs?" and "Does Nexgard Kill Dogs?") Cats may be sensitive to "natural" essential oils and chrysanthemum based products (pyrethroids).

9. Ethylene glycol. Found in antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, and motor oil. Commonly found where cars have been parked, leaving a puddle of antifreeze behind. This product tastes slightly sweet and animals like the taste. Even a small amount can cause kidney failure. Check for and clean up any spills you find.

10. Small toys, stuffed toys, rawhides, bones. Dogs like to chew. They don't do a good job differentiating their toys from children's toys, so make sure everything gets picked up and put away. Always supervise your pet when giving them a toy to play with or a raw bone to chew. Foreign objects may require surgical removal. For cats, watch particularly when playing with any toys with string, as cats seem to love to eat string.

11. Plants. Some household and ornamental plants can be extremely toxic. Easter lilies are near the top of the list, but sago palm, tulips, hyacinths, azaleas, rhododendron, amaryllis, and poinsettia are also problems.

12. Heavy metals. These may be found in fertilizers, vitamins, lead-based paint, and pennies.

13. Gasoline, kerosene, and tiki torch oil. Spills are common, but need to be cleaned immediately.

14. Tobacco. Tobacco products will cause vomiting and diarrhea and may cause tremors, seizures, and death.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Crated to enjoy his bone in peace
When I posted a video showing the feeding process for our 9 dogs, with 5 of them eating in crates, it sparked a debate about the use of crates. Some people think they are cruel, while others think they are a great invention. When I posted on my personal Facebook page regarding the use of crates, I had 92 responses in favor of the judicious use of crates. Here are some of the pros:
1. Dogs are den animals and see the crate as their den. Wild dogs spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping in their dens.
2. Dogs are like toddlers (particularly puppies) and should not be allowed free range in the house with no supervision when owners are away. Electric cords are not chew toys.
3. Crates can be used to separate dogs at feeding times so medications in food go to the correct dogs, there is no food guarding, and dogs can eat at their own speed.
4. Dogs that are crate trained will be less stressed when crated at the groomer or veterinary office.
5. Crates are great during transportation, improving pet and driver safety.
6. Crates are great to assist with house training. Dogs will not soil their dens (unless left in the crate too long and they just can't hold it or they have not been properly crate trained and they are anxious).
7. Crates provide a safe haven when workmen or guests go in and out of homes, preventing possible escape through an open door.
8. Crates protect visitors, like small children, if a pet may get overwhelmed or be prone to nip or jump up and scratch.
9. Dogs that are used to crates won't complain if they have an injury and need to be confined for recovery.
10. Puppy mill survivors sometimes view the crate as a safe haven (my Lora Lu loved the crate) because that is all they know.
Making her own den under a chair
11. Crates provide a safe haven for sleeping and alone time.

Reasons why people dislike crates:
1. Crates have been used by some as a form of punishment.
This is not the purpose of a crate. It should be a safe haven.
2. Confinement is cruel. I agree, if you leave your pet in
there 6 to 12 hours a day with no relief. Puppies should be in there no more than 3 to 4 hours at a time.
3. Some dogs go crazy in a crate and hurt themselves trying
to get out. This is true - for dogs that have not been
properly trained to use a crate.
4. Dogs can hurt themselves by getting paws or toes stuck in wires or holes in the crate. This is true, but they could also get hurt many other ways while living outside a crate. We had 3 torn ACL's in 4 months, which all occurred while playing outside in freedom. I have never had a dog get hurt in a crate.

For tips on proper crate training, check out this advice by Dr. Karen Becker.

We do not crate our dogs, other than at feeding time, to make sure everyone gets the right food, the right medications, and they do not feel threatened so they can eat at their own pace. We do have open crates around the house, which some dogs choose to go in on their own when they want a little privacy. Others choose the sofa or the bed :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


For years, people have been reporting finding foreign objects in their pets' kibble. We've almost come to expect it (and we should expect it). Most people don't examine the kibble that closely, but if they did, we would undoubtedly see even more photos like these. Kibble with pieces of plastic, wire, feathers, and hair protruding are commonplace. Why do all these things end up in pet food? It's easy to understand if you know how kibble is made.

Chicken meal and poultry meal ingredients are commonly made by vacuuming WHOLE chickens into a grinder. Obviously, this would include the feathers (not to mention intestines and their contents). Feathers don't disintegrate completely during grinding and cooking, which means you can find pieces of feathers sticking out of the food.

When animals are rendered to make meat and bone meal, animal fat, animal digest, or meat by-product meal, the entire animal carcass is melted down. This includes the hide and hair. Once the grease or fat is removed from the cooking process, the remaining cooked meat is run over shaker screens that remove the largest chunks of bone and hair. However, the hair may not be completely removed, leaving pieces of hair large enough to be found in the final product. The hair from pigs is particularly coarse, which leads some pet food companies to claim that small metal filaments found                                                       in the food are actually swine hair.

One of the most important pieces of equipment used in the production of meat meal for kibble in large factories is a magnet. Why are magnets needed in the production of pet food? The reason is simple - barn yard animals are full of metal. Cows are fed magnets to prevent "hardware disease". When cows are fed, they commonly pick up pieces of wire, screws, and nails around the feeding area. The pieces of metal settle in the reticulum (one of the four stomachs of cows) and can perforate the stomach. The magnets collect all the metal and hold it in one place so it won't kill the cow. When the cow is slaughtered, the pieces of metal and the magnets get ground in the process. It is estimated 75% of cows going to slaughter contain metal fragments. So the magnets used to process meat to make dog food are supposed to remove any metal pieces after the cow is slaughtered. Chickens may have metal bands on their legs, cows may have metal identification tags on their ears. All these pieces of metal are included when the animals are slaughtered.

The barnyard can also have pieces and bits of plastic that animals can ingest. Hay bales are bound with plastic or wire and trash from fields gets incorporated into the hay when it is baled. This all gets ground into animal feed, which then ends up in pet food when all is said and done.

So don't be surprised next time you find foreign material in the kibble. It's there.

Friday, March 11, 2016


In a recent post by Susan Thixton at truthaboutpetfood, she stated: "I directly asked the FDA – “Is FDA going to continue to allow non-slaughtered, dead livestock – that are a direct violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act – into pet food?” The FDA told us ‘Yes – they will continue to allow animals that have died otherwise than by slaughter into pet food as long as the material has been treated to kill living dangerous bacteria’.The FDA openly admitted they will continue to allow pet food to violate federal law.
The simple truth of this situation: with the aid of FDA, the pet food industry is allowed to make billions of dollars each year selling adulterated pet foods to unknowing consumers, and pets are dying because of it. Some would call that aiding and abetting a criminal."

For those not familiar with this debate, the legal definition of pet food ingredients set by AAFCO, states that slaughtered animals can be used to make pet feed. State and federal laws state that pet feed is considered adulterated if it contains parts from animals that did not die at slaughter - as in: road kill, diseased and cancer filled carcasses,euthanized dogs, cats, and zoo animals, and animals that have died in the field and then transported un-refrigerated to rendering plants. At the rendering plant the carcasses are subjected to high heat to basically melt them. Included in the "melting" are I.D. tags, pesticide tags, drug residues, maggots, and all manner of toxins. Endotoxins are released from bacteria when they are killed and the endotoxins remain, even after heating. Bacteria commonly found in the bowel are some of the biggest producers of endotoxins. When the entire carcass, including the intestines and rotting putrid meat, is rendered, endotoxins are released. The endotoxins can lead to liver disease, reduced platelet counts, leaky gut, allergic reactions, inflammation, and in some cases, death for our pets. 
How do you know if the pet food you use contains these ingredients? Some common ingredients to avoid include Animal Digest, Animal Fat, Meat and Bone Meal, Animal By-Product Meal, Meat Meal, and Meat By-Product Meal. However, any kind of Poultry Meal or Poultry By-Product Meal will most likely contain the entire bird, including feathers and intestines and fecal matter, as poultry slaughter for pet food usually means grinding of the entire bird. 

How do you know how the different meat and poultry meals in your pet food are produced? You don't. Because nothing has to be revealed on the label. And many pet food companies buy meal that is produced elsewhere to mix into their pet food product. When people ask me why I won't feed kibble, I think this pretty much sums it up. For my pets, home cooked and high quality raw food are the only meals they eat. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Bring up the topic of vaccinations for pets and you're sure to set off a war between those "for" and those "against". Both sides can defend their arguments eloquently, but we need to look at some basic facts when deciding the best course of action. Based on the facts, you can see the vaccine debate has been raging for over a century.

- In 1855 the first legislation was passed mandating vaccination of school age children.
- Vaccinations have saved the lives of millions of pets and humans by preventing illness.
- Vaccinations have helped eradicate or minimize outbreaks of serious diseases, like distemper and smallpox, that have killed thousands of pets and humans in the past.
- Vaccinations protect people from deadly diseases like Rabies, which are spread through infected animals.
- According to manufacturers, vaccines are safe, with very low incidence of adverse event reactions reported.
- Many veterinarians and pediatricians will not treat patients that are not vaccinated.
- Many boarding, grooming, day care, and hospital facilities will not admit unvaccinated animals.

- In 1879 the Anti-Vaccination Society of America was formed
- In 1986 the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed in response to the large number of lawsuits filed claiming brain damage, illness, and death in children. The Act was intended to protect doctors, nurses, and vaccine manufacturers from liability.
- Vaccines are not safe; it is estimated only 1% of adverse event reactions are actually reported. Therefore, the volume of adverse events is actually quite high, and may be as high as 10%.
- Vaccine reactions occur ten times more often in small breed dogs than in larger breeds.
- Risk of an adverse reaction increases when more than one vaccine is given at one time.
- Vaccines provide immunity for many years and do not need to be given annually. Some may provide protection for life.
- Vaccines should only be given to healthy individuals. All vaccine labels and package inserts state that vaccines are for use in healthy pets only. Unfortunately, no one defines "healthy". Doctors and veterinarians do not consider allergies, poor condition, past illness, tumors, or cancer to be considered "poor health", opting to vaccinate in the face of disease.

No matter which side of the fence you are on, you will be able to find supporters. As an integrated veterinarian, I fall somewhere in the middle, but definitely more toward the "against". In my opinion, vaccinations are given too often, too many at one time, to animals with minimal exposure to the disease being "prevented", and to sick animals. In future blogs I will discuss my recommendations, but remember, each pet is an INDIVIDUAL, meaning vaccine recommendations must be INDIVIDUALIZED. There is no "one sizes fits all" prescription.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Now that we've decided our world is polluted from all the chemicals we are using, we need to come up with some more natural alternatives to keep our pets free from fleas, ticks, and other pests. I will put my thoughts on heartworm prevention in a different blog, but today I will offer some alternatives for external parasites. I rarely need to use anything on my dogs and cats. Even though we live in a humid environment in the summer and fall, my animals remain pest-free. I think they have healthy immune systems thanks to feeding a species-appropriate diet, using probiotics, and minimizing vaccinations and drugs. I have to believe that helps keep parasites away, but that's my personal opinion.

Essential oils have worked well in my hands in the past. Be careful when applying essential oils and don't overdo them. Remember that your pet's sense of smell is much stronger than yours. Apply oils in a well ventilated area and never spray around the pet's face. Cedar oil has worked well for many of my clients. It is available for use on pets or in the environment. Not everyone likes the smell of cedar and there are many other essential oil products available. Personally, I use Vetrirepel because I like the smell. Hue and I recently took the Vetrirepel with us on our trip to the islands to repel mosquitoes. It worked great! Lavender oil has been shown to repel ticks, while lemongrass oil seems to work particularly well against fleas. Peppermint oil will affect the nervous system of fleas and ticks without harming your pet. Many people use rose geranium oil and find it works well. Neem oil has been around forever and is another favorite. The spray I use for my horses (Ricochet) contains neem and I love the smell. Rose geranium oil is safe to use full strength directly on the pet, but you will only need to apply one drop behind each shoulder blade and one drop near the base of the tail. Other oils should be diluted before applying to pets. Oils can be diluted in EVOO or water and rubbed throughout the coat. They can also be diluted by putting a few drops in your favorite pet shampoo or conditioner. A bandanna with a few drops of diluted essential oil can also be used as a natural flea collar. Make sure the smell is not overwhelming, as this will be close to your dog's nose.

Coconut oil kills and repels fleas due to the ingredient lauric acid. Coconut oil can be rubbed through the coat and can be fed to the pets. I use 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight twice daily in the food. Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees, so rubbing it between your hands will make it into a liquid that you can rub through your pet's coat. It moisturizes skin and helps kill yeast too.

Another great product is Bug Off Garlic for dogs (not cats). I have used this in the past in my barn for the horses. We still had flies, but the horses eating the product were bothered a lot less than the horses that weren't. A lot of people claim dogs will die when fed garlic, but that simply isn't true and this is a great product. Fresh crushed garlic can also be added to your dog's diet for flea protection. Anywhere from 1/2 clove to 2 cloves daily would be considered safe, depending on size of the dog. A good rule of thumb would be no more than 1/2 clove per 20 pounds of body weight daily, with a maximum of 2 cloves for any size dog. However, if you have a pet that has a history of hemolytic anemia, it would be safer to avoid use of garlic in any form.

I do not recommend using Brewer's Yeast tablets for flea prevention. Brewer's yeast basically contains B vitamins, but they are processed and degraded. B vitamins supplied naturally through a healthy diet will be more effective.

Beneficial nematodes can be used to kill flea larvae in your yard. Remember, the squirrels, rabbits, mice, and other small critters outside can be harbingers of fleas. Nematodes will not survive in hot, sunny areas of the lawn, but the fleas and ticks do not like those areas either. So spread these little guys in the shady, moist areas where the fleas and ticks are most likely to be found.

Ticks like cool, shady places, so a short-cut lawn with lots of sun will deter tick infestation. Plant deer resistant plants in your yard so deer will not be as tempted to enter (I found out the hard way they LOVE tulips!). Plant lavender, sage, mint, wormwood, rosemary, and marigolds, which the fleas and ticks do not like.

If you are in a suitable area, a few chickens (you can collect your own organic eggs!) or guinea hens will go a long way toward keeping tick populations down to a minimum.

Food grade Diatomaceous Earth can be sprinkled in the environment or on the pet. Be careful when using topically, as you don't want your pet to inhale the dust. DE will be drying to the coat, which is why it works to kill fleas and ticks - it dries them out.

Many people claim vinegar works well. It can be added to the drinking water at the rate of 1 teaspoon per quart of water. We used to make a mixture of white vinegar and Skin So Soft to use on our horses. They had shiny coats and smelled great! Vinegar can also be diluted in water in a 1:1 mixture and sprayed on the coat.

Don't forget the old fashioned flea comb. The teeth are very close together and will comb out fleas and flea eggs. Put the fleas in a bowl of dish soap as you remove them, as this will kill them. These are particularly good for cats because it's a lot harder to bathe a cat. Comb your pets daily if you have any evidence of flea activity.

Vacuum. A lot. Vacuuming will help remove the fleas, eggs, and larvae in the environment. Be sure to get in the corners, under the furniture, and in the crevices under the sofa cushions if your pet sleeps on the furniture. Wash pet bedding often in hot water.

No matter which prevention method you choose, remember that pets can still succumb to diseases spread by these parasites, even with the use of chemical preventatives. I have had many patients become ill, even though they had monthly chemicals applied, either topically or orally. There are NO guarantees your pet will remain free of pest-born diseases, no matter what you use. Keeping your pet free from Lyme disease, Anaplamosis, Ehrlichiosis, tapeworms, or other diseases does not mean you need to resort to chemical prevention. Vigilance and common sense, along with the use of natural preventatives, will keep your pets healthier in the long run. By avoiding the use of chemicals, our environment and the health of the planet for future generations will be greatly improved.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Let's face it, the human race is afraid of bugs. My son and half my staff run screaming from the room when they see a spider. Stink bugs are everywhere in New Jersey in the spring, dive bombing us when we least expect it. For whatever reason, things that fly, hop, and bite give us the creepy crawlies. We don't want to be assaulted by fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, wasps, and gnats and we don't want our pets to be subjected to these pests either. In our planned assault against these creatures, we have resorted to living in a chemical world, constantly bombarding ourselves and our pets with toxins that could just as easily kill us, instead of the bugs we are trying to eliminate.

Not only do we risk toxicity by direct application of the chemicals; we are also exposed through the environment. All drugs that enter the body, whether through oral ingestion or topical application, enter the bloodstream, filter through the body, and are excreted through the stool or urine. These waste products then enter the soil and waterways. Crops take up the chemicals from the soil and water through their root system and we end up ingesting the chemicals and their potentially harmful metabolites through the foods we eat. Animals grazing on the tainted plants are also exposed. Many of these pesticide chemicals are neurotoxins for the insects and arachnids (fleas and ticks) they are meant to kill, but that means they will have the same effect on beneficial insects in our world. If we kill the bees we don't have pollination. Not a pretty picture. Earthworms are also extremely sensitive to these pesticide chemicals. Not only are we killing many beneficial life species, but we are also creating super-species of drug resistant bacteria and pests.

Little work has been done to determine the uptake of these chemicals into organisms and through the food chain. No long term studies have been performed. New drugs like alfoxalaner and fluralaner (Nexgard and Bravecto) had no long term environmental studies performed, yet their toxic potential is monumental. Drug companies keep making bigger, better, stronger chemicals to keep the bugs at bay, but at what cost to the health of our bodies and our world?

I know I promised to give you more natural alternatives and that is coming. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


No doubt about it, fleas drive us and our pets crazy. While considered a nuisance for some, they are capable of spreading serious diseases like Typhus, Bubonic Plague, and tapeworms. They thrive in warm, humid environments that provide the ideal scenario for reproduction. Female fleas have a lifespan of 30-90 days and are capable of discharging 40 to 50 eggs per day, potentially resulting in hatching of thousands of eggs. The adult fleas we see are only the tip of the iceberg, as 95% of the flea population is present as eggs, larvae, and pupae. So if you are seeing a lot of adult fleas on your pet, you have a serious infestation. Larval and pupal stages can survive cold temperatures, waiting until spring to hatch.

Ticks have been present on earth for millions of years. They are harder to kill and survive temperature extremes, with a lifespan of months to years. One female can lay thousands of eggs, which hatch when temperatures and humidity rise. Ticks can transfer viruses, bacteria, and protozoa to their hosts, resulting in serious illness. These include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, tularemia, and tick paralysis. Once attached, ticks are harder to remove from the host. Ticks have been responsible for economic losses from infestation of cattle herds, but interestingly, not all animals in the herd will be affected equally. Usually the weaker animals will have high infestation while the stronger animals will be minimally infested.

Over the years, strong chemicals have been developed to deal with these parasites. Development of new chemical products has been driven by fear and greed. Drug companies feed on our fear of disease and their need for higher profits. Unfortunately, our pets often pay the price with their lives when new chemicals are developed that cause seizures, liver and kidney failure, and skin reactions. Problems with chemical treatment of livestock include toxicity to handlers and animals, environmental contamination of land and water supplies, residues contaminating meat and milk, and development of resistance to the chemicals by the fleas and ticks.

Vaccinations have been developed to protect pets and livestock against the diseases spread by these vectors, most notably Lyme Disease for pets and multiple vaccines for livestock. Unfortunately, many pets with minimal exposure to ticks are vaccinated every year for Lyme disease. Again, fear and greed drive the push for vaccination when it is not warranted.

If you want to avoid the use of chemicals in your pets, how do you deal with these potentially disease-causing pests? Stay tuned for part two.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Not everyone despises GMO foods, but I certainly am not of fan. From the two articles re-posted below, you can see that the big food companies and big pet food representatives want to keep us in the dark. They feel that GMO foods are "perfectly safe" and we should not be able to make our own decisions about what we are eating or feeding to our pets. Just awful.

From www.justlabelit.org :

The DARK Act

In 2014, Vermont became the first state to require mandatory GMO labeling.  Connecticut and Maine have also passed GMO labeling laws that will go into effect once neighboring states pass similar laws and other states are currently looking to pass GMO labeling legislation.
In response to these state efforts, Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) introduced federal legislation developed by food companies that we in the consumer rights community have dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” Act (DARK Act). This anti-GMO labeling bill passed the House of Representatives in 2015 and similar legislation has just been introduced by Senator Roberts and could pass the Senate any day.
The Senate version of the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” (DARK) Act would:
  • Preempt states from requiring labeling of GMO foods.
  • Strip the Food and Drug Administration of its jurisdiction over GMO food disclosures.
  • Make it harder for companies like Campbell’s Soup to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs.
  • Make it the responsibility of USDA to promote biotechnology to consumers.
  • Continue the current, broken voluntary labeling system.
Americans want the Right to Know:
Dispelling GMO Labeling Myths:
  • GMO labeling will not increase food prices. Companies frequently change labels to highlight new innovations or to make new claims.
  • Voluntary labeling will not work. Companies have been allowed to make voluntary non-GMO disclosures since 2001, but consumers are more confused than ever.
  • There is no “patchwork quilt.” Current state GMO labeling laws are virtually identical, so there will be no “patchwork quilt” of different state laws. The responsible solution to concerns over a possible future patchwork would be the establishment of a uniform, national mandatory labeling standard.
  • GMO crops do not feed the world. Conventional and GMO corn and soybean yields have increased at the same rate. What’s more, S. farmersproduce only 4 percent of rice, wheat, fruits, and vegetables, and most U.S. corn and soybeans are used for animal feed and ethanol, not food.
  • GMO crops have increased herbicide applications. Widespread adoption of GMO crops has increased annual applications of glyphosate – a probable human carcinogen – from 16 million pounds to more than 280 million pounds.
  • GMO crops have led to more toxic herbicides. As weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, farmers have turned to more toxic weed killers linked to cancerParkinson’s disease, and reproductive problems.
Take action now! Americans need to tell their members of Congress to stop the DARK Act from becoming law and demand support for mandatory GMO labeling.

ON FEBRUARY 22, 2016

AFIA urges Senate action on food labeling bill

Proposal would recognize the safety of ingredients produced by modern agriculture biotechnology

 My interpretation: Basically, they are saying they recognize "the safety of GMO ingredients" and feel we should just accept them in our diets and the diets of our pets. I saw the AFIA reps in action at the AAFCO meeting. Not good.
The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) thanks Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) after the introduction of a proposal supporting a federal food labeling solution that recognizes the safety of ingredients produced by modern agriculture biotechnology. AFIA now urges action from the Senate, requesting the bill be taken up and passed in an expedited manner.
“The Vermont law requiring foods containing genetically modified ingredients to display on-package labels goes into effect on July 1. Although animal food is exempt from Vermont’s law, our industry supports a uniform, national labeling standard for products containing genetically modified ingredients,” said Leah Wilkinson, AFIA vice president of legislative, regulatory and state affairs. “If Congress implements a national law requiring a uniformed standard like what is contained in this bill, the food industry, animal food industry, farmers and consumers will share equal protection from unnecessary costs and different state mandated labeling requirements.”
Studies show the labeling of GM products will cost American families up to $500 more in groceries annually, with low-income families bearing the brunt of the changes.
“AFIA and the animal food industry welcome this bill with open arms as we seek a solution to this ongoing dilemma. We believe this is a fair resolution for both agriculture and consumers, as it provides consistency in the marketplace. We thank Chairman Roberts for his leadership to find a well-rounded and uniformed approach to national food labeling. Congress, we urge you to act on this opportunity quickly,” Wilkinson stated.

Monday, February 22, 2016


As many of you are aware, I have spent the last three weeks touring the Caribbean, with stays on Bequia, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts, as well as passing through Barbados, Antiqua, Nevis, and St. Vincent. My original purpose was to spend three weeks working on my next book about caring for your pets using natural therapies. However, once my feet hit the sandy beaches and my body started to detox from living life in hyper-speed, I realized how important it is to take time for myself. Anyone who knows me, knows that I work 7 days a week, 18 or more hours per day, and suffer from insomnia. My brain never stops. I worry, I ponder, I plan. It took five days before I could actually just SIT and watch the ocean.

One thing I have discovered on this trip is how important it is to do NOTHING once in a while. Chinese Medicine teaches the importance of BALANCE in our lives and I realize my life has been very out of balance. I've had to eat an incredibly restricted diet at home to counteract the emotional stress I deal with by working so much. Here in the islands, I have been able to eat and drink anything I want, with no side effects. That, alone, is enough proof that I need to find balance.

I am not ready to retire, but I do think I need to slow down...A LOT. Figuring out how to do that will be difficult, as I have so many irons in the fire and so many that depend on me (including my family, 9 spaniels, 4 cats, 6 horses, and a bunch of employees and patients). I love all the people that depend on me and I love serving them. But, I now realize that sometimes I need to be just a little bit selfish.

We used to own a home at the shore and once we hit the bridge to the island on Friday afternoon, I was able to sit on the beach and read trashy novels for 2 days without thinking so much about work. I don't want to own another home at the beach (kind of a nightmare really), but our little slice of heaven with spaniels in New Jersey can be that oasis. As long as I can remember the importance of nothing. And that sometimes, nothing is everything.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


As if we don't shower our pets with love every day, apparently we have been given a day to celebrate them. So, on this national day of loving, I have provided -

Ten Ways to Love Your Pet:
1. Spend a little extra time just sitting, petting, and talking to your pet today.
2. Get the leash and go for a walk with no agenda. Let them sniff everything they want.
3. Play with them with their favorite toy (we have one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that loves to play with her floppy frisbee and begs EVERY day for this).
4. Give them a special meal - we make a lot of home cooked stews for our dogs (my specialty is food therapy - using food for healing instead of using medicine).
5. Make some home made treats - there are a lot of online recipes for healthy treats.
6. Take them for a ride in the car, even if you don't go anywhere other than around the block.
7. Schedule a play date with other dogs if they are sociable.
8. Schedule a massage for your pet (or give your pet a massage).
9. Help your dog create his "bucket list" and do something on the list.
10. Actually listen to your dog. Learn to understand what he or she wants.

Healthy home made treat:
Grated coconut (I like the Cocotherapy coconut chips)
Add hot water to rehydrate; can simmer on stove for a few minutes to thicken.
Add two egg yolks and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Stir.
Beat the whites of two eggs until fluffy.
Fold into mixture of coconut and egg yolks and cinnamon.
Bake in mini muffin pan at 325 until firm.
Cool and eat. Feel free to share with your pets!

Friday, February 19, 2016


Lance and his "mom"
George relaxing with "mom"

A recent study done in Britain tested hormonal responses to dogs and cats after spending time with their owners. They tested the hormone, oxytocin, which is known to stimulate pleasure in our brain and helps mothers to bond with their offspring. They used swabs to collect saliva from each animal before and after spending ten minutes playing with the pet owner. While dogs showed an increase in hormone levels of 57.2%, cats only showed a 12% increase. One dog showed a 500% increase in oxytocin levels. (Do you think George has a high level in this photo? Talk about relaxing with mom!

Similar studies in humans show elevations of oxytocin levels when interacting with animals. Proof that we enjoy time spent with our "furkids". I certainly feel happier and more calm when I am around my pets (both cats and dogs). Perhaps my cats aren't quite as happy to interact with me, but I'd have a hard time believing that at night when they are lined up sleeping on top of me.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Every day in practice we see pets with horrible dental disease. A report titled "Pet Oral Care Products and Services in the U.S." analyzes the market for dental hygiene and oral health products and services for dogs and cats. "The report covers products specifically marketed along oral care lines, with a focus on both edible oral care products, such as dental treats and chews, and inedible products, such as toothbrushes, teeth-cleaning sprays and dental gels. Pet oral care products are not a new development, but the continuing humanization and premiumization of the pet market, in addition to the growing focus on ingredients and safety, have greatly increased the appeal of products designed to address issues of pet dental hygiene and oral health. There's clearly a market for such products, with companion animals living longer than ever and 70%-80% of dogs and cats showing signs of oral disease by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society." 

Clearly, the pet food and treat industry is looking to produce products pet owners will buy to promote good dental hygiene. But many products on the market are harmful to our pets and actually contribute to dental disease, as they are made from wheat, poor quality fillers, sugar, corn syrup, Animal Digest, and carcinogenic chemicals like BHA, BHT, and colorful dyes. For instance: 


Rice, Powdered Cellulose, Chicken By-Product Meal, Propylene Glycol, Dried Skim Milk, Modified Food Starch, Dextrin, Water, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Bone Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Gelatin, Animal Digest, Potassium Sorbate (Used As A Preservative), Phosphoric Acid, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Natural Smoke Flavor, Sodium Copper Chlorophyllin, BHA (Used As A Preservative), Spearmint.

Rice, glycerin, water, wheat flour, rice flour, chicken by-product meal, corn germ meal, wheat gluten, brewer’s dried yeast, tricalcium phosphate, sugar, added color, gelatin, parsley flakes, pork, hydrogenated corn syrup, sodium caseinate, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, sorbic acid (a preservative), salt, phosphoric acid, rice starch, natural and artificial flavors, calcium propionate (a preservative), maltodextrins, Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, BHA (a preservative), BHT (a preservative), Blue 1, calcium carbonate, citric acid.

Unfortunately, the poor quality diets fed to most pets lead to more dental disease. My patients that eat raw diets and are fed raw meaty bones rarely show signs of dental disease, whereas those that eat kibble diets often have severe periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has been linked to kidney, liver, and heart disease due to circulating bacteria in the blood stream. Kibble contains carbohydrates which break down to sugars that feed the oral bacteria. Kibble sticks to the teeth and causes decay. Raw meat diets do not stick to the teeth and contain natural enzymes that help prevent tartar build up. Of course, some breeds are more prone to dental disease, including toy breeds and brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds.

Allprovide bones
If your pet has never been fed raw meaty bones, introduce them carefully. Make sure they are RAW and appropriately sized for your pet. Do not feed raw bones if your dog has a history of pancreatitis (unless you can remove most of the marrow) or if your dog has broken, fractured, or painful teeth. Always supervise your pet when feeding bones. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


The Hegg turtle sanctuary was started in 1995 by Bequian Orton King, a retired fisherman who realized that one of nature's wonders was endangered. The Hawksbill turtles were once hunted for their meat, eggs, and shells, but are now protected. Orton King raised his first few hatchlings in a small plastic tub. From his desire to protect these beautiful creatures, the Hegg turtle sanctuary came to life. Since 1995, over 2,000 turtles have been returned to the sea.

The hatchlings are raised at the sanctuary until they are three years old before they are released. (The hatchlings in the photo above are about a year old.) They are carnivores; they are fed sardines, canned tuna, and small fish. They have powerful jaws and in the wild they eat conch, oysters, clams, including the shells. (What a great source of calcium!) Left to their own devices, only one in one thousand eggs will hatch and produce a turtle that makes its way back to the sea. At the sanctuary fifty out of every 100 turtles will survive.

There are a few turtles that will never leave the sanctuary, including one with a deformed, domed shell. The shell shape slows him down, leaving him as easy prey for predators. These turtles can live over 250 years! The nice young man that answered our questions was so helpful - I hope he spends his life watching over these wonderful creatures. The sanctuary must continue for a long time, as the residents will be there for at least three human generations!

More information is available here: www.turtles.bequia.net
Donations are greatly appreciated.

For anyone traveling and swimming in the Caribbean, if you see a Hawsbill turtle with a "hole punch" on the shell by the tail, that turtle started its life at the Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.


While traveling in Bequia we took a tour of a plantation. This little dog lived at the plantation and followed us on the tour. We walked around a two acre plot of land and saw how easy it is to grow plants and trees to supply food for the restaurant. We sampled bananas, figs, coconut, papaya, sugar cane, guava, orange, grapefruit, mango, lime, lemon, papaya, dozens of herbs, and almonds. They also had chickens and goats to supply eggs, milk, and cheese. It's amazing how easily a family could have a healthy supply of great food. The fruit tastes so different than it does when it is shipped to the United States and chemically ripened.

The dog was happy to follow us and sample all the foods. Here, he is drinking the coconut milk from the fresh coconut. He had a beautiful, shiny coat, was perfect weight, and seemed very happy with his island life. 

Monday, February 15, 2016


For years, my mother faithfully applied the monthly topical flea and tick prevention and gave the monthly heartworm preventative we carry in our office. Every month, all year round. As I became more and more holistically focused in my practice, I became more unhappy with my mother's desire to use these products. Of course, when I was fresh out of veterinary school, I had also been fed the big-pharma scare tactics that our pets needed to be given these monthly chemicals or they would surely die from parasite-borne diseases. I had done such a great job of convincing my mother of that reality, that now I had trouble convincing her otherwise.

After years of having my own pets remain chemical-free, I finally confronted my mother. I had subtly suggested this in the past, but I was always met with resistance. I was so frustrated, I loudly stated "Have you EVER seen a flea or tick on your dog?" Her answer: "No. And I don't want to. The chemicals work great because she's never had a single flea or tick." And there was my answer.

You see, the products my mother was using had NO repellent properties. They worked by killing the parasites AFTER they got onto the pet. As you can see in the photo, this dog is groomed regularly, with a short coat. Fleas and ticks would be easy to find. This dog simply had no exposure to parasites where she lived. Yet she was being poisoned every month with neurotoxic chemicals. I finally convinced my mother she no longer needed to use the drugs. And, here's the best news...two years later, the dog STILL doesn't have any fleas or ticks! She also remains heartworm free, using the monthly preventative only a few months per year (we live in New Jersey).

Most "preventative" chemicals work by killing fleas and ticks after they are exposed to the chemicals given to the pet. If you live in a neighborhood with manicured lawns and a few trees, your pet may have minimal exposure to fleas and ticks. You have no need to use these toxins. Personally, even if my pets were in wooded areas (which they are) and were exposed to other dogs and cats that are flea infested (which they are), I still would not use these chemicals. The potential for dangerous side effects is too high. I wouldn't swallow or apply a can of insecticide to myself and I won't subject my pets to them either.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


While traveling through the Caribbean this month, I can't help checking out the local veterinary clinics, rescue organizations, pet stores, and pet food. It would seem that care of island dogs and cats is not a priority, as most female dogs are un-spayed, thin, and have huge mammary glands. The males are thin and not neutered. Most dogs have pretty severe flea infestations and I'm pretty sure heartworms are rampant. Most islanders do not seem to understand the need for any sort of veterinary care and the dogs seem pretty content to lie in any shade that can be found, while scratching and chewing at their eternal parasite visitors. Of course, as an outsider, I want to see the animals treated differently, but my American values are not necessarily the right values in this part of the world.

It would seem that Nestle Purina has a huge hold on the economy in third world countries, as Purina pet foods are the only processed American foods we have seen. We did find one brand made in Barbados, but the ingredients are so awful, even Beneful seems to be an improvement (did I actually say that???).

So, as I gaze at the incredibly awful choices available here on St. Lucia, I wonder, what would I feed my dogs if I lived here? Luckily, this island is big and they actually have grocery stores. I gazed in the frozen meat section, and what to my wondering eyes should appear...organ meats and chicken backs and all kinds of great ingredients for dog food! Add some fresh vegetables and maybe even some grains (because protein is pretty expensive here), and I think I could manage to keep my dogs healthy without resorting to the horrible processed foods. The only good thing about these foods for island dogs is the fact that they do have added vitamins and minerals (but they are synthetic and of the lowest possible quality). However, I would bet that the island dogs that survive on scraps from the human tables still fare the best.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Rendering plant meat awaiting processing

The FDA considers meats to be safe, functional, and handled appropriately when they include 4D animals (not slaughtered, but those that were dead, dying, disabled, or diseased - animal parts including cancers, tumors, and infected wounds).This is a photo of a rendering plant. Notice the meat is lying out in the sun, no refrigeration. These meats undergo chemical, enzyme, and heat treatment to destroy bacteria. YUCK! This is a typical low quality pet food ingredient. It may appear on the label as Animal Digest, Meat and Bone Meal, Meat By-Product Meal, Animal By-Product Meal, or Animal Fat. Notice the "animal" is not named, like beef or chicken. That's because this pile can contain ANY animal, including dead zoo and farm animals, as well as road kill. Commonly, the entire animal goes into the pit, including hide, hair, hooves, and intestines. That means I.D. tags made of plastic and metal also go into the melting process. When the meal is further processed, magnets are used to remove the majority of the metal, but some gets by, which is why people post photos of kibble containing metal pieces on social media. Animal Digest can also be found in probiotics and supplements sold to you through your veterinarian. Read labels carefully and say NO to any products that contain these ingredients. 
Remember that 96% of the pet food sold in the world is low quality, made by big international companies. Yes, there are some smaller, good companies. Let's support them in their quest to help our pets live longer, healthier lives.