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Food Mistakes You Make with Your Dog
Much to my delight, I recently ran across a really great article on raw pet diets at a mainstream pet health site. The point of the article is that while switching to raw food has tremendous benefits for most dogs, it’s not always easy to do, and it’s relatively easy to make mistakes. I couldn’t agree more. The article, written by Diana Bocco for PetMD, discusses five mistakes dog parents often make when switching their pets to a raw diet.
Mistake No. 1: Not Understanding the Basics of Canine Nutrition
Many (and I would say most) homemade and prey-model diets and even some commercially available raw diets are nutritionally unbalanced. This can cause dogs to become deficient in antioxidants, or the correct amounts of trace minerals and vitamins, or the right fatty acid balance for appropriate and balanced skeletal growth, and organ and immune health.
Just because nutritional deficiencies aren’t obvious in your dog doesn’t mean they don’t exist. A considerable amount of research has gone into determining what nutrients dogs need to survive. At a minimum, we do a disservice to dogs by taking a casual approach to ensuring they receive all the nutrients they require for good health.
What’s sad and somewhat interesting to me is the number of lay people arguing about basic nutrient requirements to just sustain a dog’s existence. We have proven (through experiments I hope are never repeated) the bare bone nutrients needed to sustain life in a puppy and kitten. Nutritionists did this decades ago, which is how we came up with “minimum nutrient requirements,” which means we’ve proven the minimums necessary to sustain life.
Research is clear on what happens when you deprive dogs of calcium, iodine, selenium, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, vitamins D and E, potassium and a whole range of critical nutrients necessary for cell growth, repair and maintenance. There’s no reason to run these experiments again from your own kitchen; it will cost you your dog’s health.
There should be four primary components in a raw diet for dogs: meat, including organs; pureed vegetables and fruit; a homemade vitamin and mineral mix (in most cases); and beneficial additions like probiotics, digestive enzymes and super green foods (these aren’t required to balance the diet, but can be beneficial for vitality).
A healthy dog’s diet should contain about 75 to 85 percent meat/organs/bones and 15 to 25 percent veggies/fruits (this mimics the GI contents of prey, providing fiber and antioxidants as well). This “80/10/10” base is an excellent starting point for recipes, but is far from being balanced and is not appropriate to feed long term without addressing the significant micronutrient deficiencies present.
Fresh, whole food provides the majority of nutrients dogs need, and a micronutrient vitamin/mineral mix takes care of deficiencies that may exist, namely iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, vitamins D and E, folic acid and taurine. If you opt not to use supplements, you must add in whole food sources of these nutrients, which requires additional money and creativity.
If you’re preparing a homemade diet for your pet, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of ensuring it’s nutritionally balanced. Making your dog’s food from scratch requires you to make sure you’re meeting macro and micronutrient requirements. Do not guess. Follow nutritionally balanced recipes.
Mistake No. 2: Feeding Only Raw Meat
Many well-meaning pet guardians are confusing balanced, species-appropriate nutrition with feeding hunks of raw muscle meat to their dog. Although fresh meat is a good source of protein and some minerals, it doesn’t represent a balanced diet. Feeding a basic “80/10/10” diet is also nutritionally unbalanced and will cause significant issues over time.
Wild canines eat nearly all the parts of their prey, including small bones, internal organs, blood, brain, glands, hair, skin, teeth, eyes, tongue and other tasty treats. Many of these parts of prey animals provide important nutrients, and in fact, this is how carnivores in the wild nutritionally balance their diets.
An exclusive diet of ground up chicken carcasses, for example, is lacking the minimum requirements for a number of vital nutrients in comparison to a nutritionally complete whole prey item, and falls grossly short of almost all nutrients to meet even AAFCO’s minimum nutrient requirements (which isn’t saying much).
These include potassium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, selenium and vitamins A, D, E, B12 and choline. The vast majority of prey model diets fall into this category, which is why so many vets are opposed to them; they grossly undernourish animals, despite delivering sufficient calories, which is a recipe for disaster over time.
Some people are shocked to discover higher fat meats (such as ground beef at over 20 percent fat) will fail to meet a dog’s basic amino acid requirements. You may also hear some people say that feeding a meat-based diet can make your dog mean. Research demonstrates that indeed, feeding a tryptophan (amino acid)-deficient diet (which is what happens when fatty, less expensive meats and carcasses are used as the mainstays in homemade diets) can result in behavior changes.
In addition, many homemade raw diet feeders create diets that are predominantly chicken-based, because chicken is cheap. Chicken meat must be balanced with omega 3-rich foods to control inflammation. Ground up whole chicken fryers have an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 20:1! That’s a lot of inflammation to feed to your dog! I recommend making sure foods don’t cross the 5:1 ratio, and the goal would be to a 2:1 ratio.
Some conditions brought on by nutritional deficiencies can be corrected through diet, others cannot. And don’t make the mistake of thinking all you need to do is throw a few fresh veggies in the bowl or a little bit of liver to make up the difference. Balancing your pet’s food to provide optimal nutrition is a bit more complex.
Mistake No. 3: Forgetting Roughage
Maned wolves have been reported to consume up to 38 percent plant matter during certain times of the year. We know domesticated dogs voluntarily graze on grasses and plant matter for a variety of reasons, including meeting their body’s requirements for enzymes, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Providing adequate amounts of low-glycemic, fibrous vegetables also provides prebiotic fibers necessary to nourish your dog’s microbiome and contributes to overall gut and colon health.
Some fruits, for example, blueberries, are rich sources of antioxidants, so it’s important not to overlook them when planning your dog’s nutritionally balanced raw diet. You can puree fruits, along with appropriate veggies, and add them into the raw mixture; you can also offer them whole in small pieces as treats or snacks as long as your dog has no problem digesting them. A good rule of thumb is to keep produce content less than 25 percent of the diet.
Mistake No. 4: Ignoring the Potential Need for Supplements
There are only two options for assuring nutritional adequacy in homemade diets: feeding a more expensive, whole food recipe that contains a significant number of diversified ingredients necessary to meet nutrient requirements, or using supplements. I’m not going to list the third and most common choice here (feed an unbalanced diet) because this shouldn’t be an option, in my opinion.
After seeing countless people unintentionally harm their pets by guessing at recipes and telling me, “They look fine to me right now. I wish you’d quit harping about balance,” only to call me three years later to say, “I realize now what you were talking about, and I’m so sad I didn’t believe you.” I cannot ever endorse feeding an unbalanced diet for longer than about three months (for adult animals), because I know the power of nutrition. Our soils are nutritionally depleted, therefore our foods are nutritionally deficient.
I know some people don’t understand or care about supplying the “bare bones” minimum nutrients necessary to sustain life without negative biochemical changes, much less having a burning desire to provide the vast nutritional resources needed to amp up detoxification pathways necessary to upregulate biochemical pathways required to cope with the overwhelming number of chemicals we put into our pet’s bodies (dozens of unnecessary vaccines, topical pesticide applications, toxic cleaning supplies and lawn chemicals, etc.), so they don’t.
And the body becomes nutritionally depleted and can no longer do its job excellently. I believe if we take on the task of preparing homemade meals for our pets we have a responsibility to make sure the food provides the basic nutrients necessary for normal cellular repair and maintenance.
Most homemade diets lack the correct calcium and phosphorus balance as well as essential fatty acid balance. Adequate amounts of whole food sources of zinc, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, vitamin E and D are also hard to come by using whole food sources.
Some “superfood” powders, such as microalgae and spirulina, can provide a very small (inadequate) amount of these critical nutrients to the body, but not enough to call them sufficient “whole food multi-vitamins.” Not even a pound of spirulina added to a pound of fresh meat provides enough trace minerals for dogs.
Likewise, there’s not enough copper in chicken livers to meet a dog’s copper requirements without throwing off the balance of other nutrients. So when I hear someone say, “I’ve added chicken livers to meet trace mineral requirements” I know they haven’t seen the numbers to realize how deficient the diet will be if they do this.
When evaluating a recipe for nutritional adequacy, a good place to start is with these hard-to-come-by nutrients. Are there nuts or seeds added as a whole food source of vitamin E and selenium? Is kelp added as a source of iodine, and if not, is there a supplement added to meet iodine requirements?
Adequate levels of zinc are found in oysters, but not a lot of other foods at the levels required to adequately support a dog’s body, hence the addition of a zinc supplement to healthy recipes. Adequate vitamin D is found in sardines and some pasture-raised livers (but not factory farmed livers).
If the recipe lacks richly colored vegetables, then there should be an alternative source of manganese and potassium included in the recipe as well (unless you want to feed red rodent hair, which is a rich source of manganese in the wild). Here’s an easy recipe I created that shows where the nutrients come from to make the meal nutritionally balanced. And here’s a raw, balanced, chicken recipe. The more variety you feed, the better.
The problem is that most raw feeders get stuck feeding the same blends of meat, bone and organ over and over, which is where the bulk of problems come in and why most vets discourage fresh food in the first place.
If you don’t see ample amounts of a variety of whole foods listed in the recipes (or amounts of these supplements to add) then the diet is probably nutritionally inadequate. Feeding an unbalanced meal now and then is fine. Feeding unbalanced meals day after day is what causes problems over time.
And because “nutrition (deficiency) is never a crisis,” as Dr. Richard Patton says, many well-meaning pet lovers end up unintentionally creating degenerative issues that could be avoided through feeding a balanced diet. Recipes provided by nutritionists or knowledgeable fresh food advocates provide a nutritional breakdown that shows you the amounts of nutrients found in the recipes.
Two months ago, I saw a Wheaton Terrier who had been on an unbalanced raw diet for a year. Six months ago, she visited the dermatologist for a non-healing crack on her footpad that was creating discomfort for her.
After spending hundreds of dollars on biopsies, drugs, creams and bandage changes, the owner visited me for a third opinion. We discussed the micronutrients missing from the dog’s diet needed for normal cell repair and healing and added them in. Two weeks later the dog was able to be liberated from her e-collar for the first time in months because her foot pad was finally healing.
Some dogs benefit from additional supplements to support specific organ systems, such as joint support for seniors. The supplements that may be best for your dog depend on a variety of factors, including breed and disease susceptibility, age, weight, activity level, sterilization status, chronic health conditions and more. It’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine what supplements, in addition to those added to the food to balance the diet, your dog may need, how much to give and how often.
Mistake No. 5: Letting Safety Concerns Scare You
There are a number of organizations, including conventional veterinary groups, government agencies and of course the processed pet food industry, that have taken a public stand against raw pet food diets. Sadly, the fear mongering has had an effect. If you’re worried about raw food pathogens, it’s important to note that there’s a whole class of raw pet foods currently available that are sterile at the time of purchase.
Just as a significant percentage of the human meat supply has been treated with a sterilization technique called high-pressure pasteurization (HPP), many raw commercially available pet foods have also opted for this sterilization technique to reduce potential pathogens.
As for “non-sterile” raQw diets, the meat used in commercially available raw food is USDA-inspected and no different from the steak and chicken purchased for human consumption from a grocery store. It should be handled with the same safety precautions you use when you prepare, say, burgers for your family.
It’s all the same meat. Your counters, bowls, cutting surfaces and utensils should be disinfected whether the raw meat is intended for your pet or human family members. Most adults understand that handling raw meat carries the potential for contact with pathogens, which is why appropriate sanitary measures are important whether you’re handling your pet’s raw food or your own.
Despite the inherent risks associated with handling raw meat, pet parents have been feeding raw diets to their dogs for decades, and to date, to my knowledge not one documented case of raw pet food causing illness in humans has been reported.
If you’re already successfully feeding your pet a balanced raw diet, I hope you’ll disregard misguided warnings and continue to offer your dog or cat real, fresh, living foods. If you’re feeding an unbalanced diet, please take the time to source nutritionally complete recipes and follow them to assure you’re feeding your pet everything they need. Or switch to a commercial raw diet that’s done the balancing for you.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Becker DVM
The Common Symptom of Many Pet Disorders
Dogs and cats (especially cats) are wired to sleep somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 hours a day, and require even more shut-eye as they age. This is why it may seem as though every time you lay eyes on your furry companion, he’s sawing logs.
Given his need for lots of sleep, it can be difficult to tell when your pet is actually lethargic and not just drowsy-as-usual. That’s why it’s so important to have a good understanding of what constitutes “normal” for your pet — normal behavior, normal eating patterns, normal sleeping patterns, normal poop, normal pee and so on.
When you know your dog’s or cat’s “normal” like the back of your hand, you’ll recognize immediately when something is off, such as when he’s more sluggish than usual. Lethargy is a symptom of many disorders that affect pets, including behavioral problems. Some of the most common causes are explained below.
5 Common Reasons for Lethargy in Dogs and Cats
- Your pet has an underlying illness
A decrease in your pet’s activity level can indicate an underlying health problem that needs investigation. This is especially true if there’s also a change in her appetite, elimination habits and/or interaction with family members or other pets in the household. A dog or cat who is sick will often be unusually quiet and sluggish, so if your pet is lethargic for 24 hours or so, it’s time to give your veterinarian’s office a call. Depending on your pet’s symptoms, you may be asked to bring her in right away.
For example, lethargy accompanied by persistent vomiting or bloody vomit, stool or urine is cause for immediate concern. A pet’s refusal to eat is another red flag. The sooner you get your pet diagnosed and begin treatment the better her chances for a full recovery.
- Your pet has ingested a poison
This frightening scenario can occur both outdoors, especially during the warmer months of the year, and indoors if your pet happens to eat the wrong people food (e.g., chocolate or anything sweetened with xylitol), gets into a bottle of NSAIDs or samples a toxic houseplant.
If your dog or cat suddenly grows lethargic or has other symptoms of toxicity (e.g., vomiting) and you know or suspect he’s eaten something potentially poisonous, get him to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital immediately.
- Your pet is on a new medication
If your veterinarian has put your dog or cat on a new or different medication and she suddenly seems lethargic, the drug is probably the cause. All medications have short- and long-term side effects that can range from mild to life-threatening. If you see any change in your pet’s behavior after starting a new medication, report it to your veterinarian immediately.
I also recommend finding a holistic or integrative vet who may be able to suggest safer, less toxic remedies, especially if your dog or cat is taking a particularly toxic drug (e.g., prednisone) or long-term medication for a chronic condition.
- Your pet is newly adopted
Dogs and (especially) cats who are anxious or frightened can appear lethargic, so if you just brought your pet home, he’ll need some time to adjust to his new environment and family. He could be acting sluggish simply because he’s in unfamiliar territory and a bit overwhelmed.
Give your pet lots of positive TLC and avoid overstimulation in his first few weeks with you. If he’s otherwise healthy, his activity level will naturally increase as he learns to trust you and gets comfortable in his new surroundings.
- Your pet has lost a friend
When two pets are closely bonded and one of them dies, the surviving dog or cat may experience what experts refer to as a “distress reaction” that is similar in many ways to human grief.
In addition to lethargy, some of the signs include changes in sleep patterns; changes in eating habits; lack of interest in normal activities; reluctance to be in a room or home alone, or away from human family members; and wandering the house, searching for their lost friend.
If you suspect your animal companion is mourning the death of another pet, I recommend reading “10 Tips for Helping Your Surviving Pet Deal with a Loss.”
Health and Wellness Associates
These Stroke Symptoms Can Come on Like Gangbusters, Even in Pets
It wasn’t until fairly recently that the veterinary community realized that just like humans, dogs and cats also suffer strokes — perhaps more frequently than we thought.
With increased use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans in pets, strokes are being diagnosed more often. Fortunately, they are still a relatively rare occurrence in both dogs and cats.
What Exactly Is a Stroke?
In a nutshell, a stroke is a brain abnormality that occurs as the result of a disruption of the blood supply to the area. Circulating blood feeds oxygen and glucose to the brain. If a blood vessel becomes blocked or ruptures, the brain is deprived of those critical nutrients.
Most strokes are ischemic strokes caused by a blood clot (embolus) that develops in the circulatory system. The clot at some point dislodges and travels to a blood vessel that feeds nutrients to the brain, interrupting blood flow and causing surrounding tissue to die.
Strokes in dogs and cats can also result from bleeding in the brain (called hemorrhagic strokes) caused by the rupture of blood vessels or a clotting disorder. Hemorrhagic strokes are much less common in pets than ischemic strokes, and are usually the result of trauma or disease.
There’s also a non-brain related type of stroke called a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE). An FCE is a blockage in a blood vessel in the spinal cord. It’s often referred to as a spinal cord stroke.
There are several disorders that are associated with strokes in pets, including bleeding disorders, diabetes, hypertension, heart, kidney or thyroid disease, Cushing’s syndrome, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (a tick-borne disease) and cancer.
Internal parasites, tumors, ingestion of toxins, head trauma and high doses of steroids such as prednisone can also be contributing factors.
Symptoms to Watch For
The symptoms of stroke in dogs and cats depend on the location and extent of bleeding from cerebral arteries in the case of hemorrhagic stroke, or much more commonly, blockage of cerebral arteries in the event of an ischemic stroke. Symptoms typically come on suddenly and can include:
Abnormal eye movements (nystagmus) or eye positioning
Difficulty walking or inability to walk
Loss of bowel control
Loss of balance
Loss of coordination
Sudden vision impairment
Other sudden behavioral changes
Pet parents often remark that one minute their dog or cat was fine, and the next minute the animal was down and couldn’t get up. These episodes can last for just a few minutes, or for hours or even days.
When a pet recovers from one or more signs of a stroke in less than 24 hours, it’s usually considered a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Fortunately, TIAs typically don’t result in permanent brain damage.
If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of a stroke, it’s important to get him to your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital right away. Since there are many unrelated disorders with stroke-like symptoms, quick action and a proper diagnosis are critical.
For example, vestibular disease in geriatric dogs is often mistaken for stroke. The vertigo caused by the disease can be particularly intense in older dogs with symptoms of nausea, difficulty or complete inability to stand up, head tilt, nystagmus and circling.
Your veterinarian will need to run a variety of diagnostic tests, including bloodwork and a urinalysis, to rule out other possible causes for your pet’s symptoms.
If the problem isn’t obvious from initial test results, additional diagnostics will be required to look for evidence of a stroke, including an MRI or CT scan of your pet’s brain.
Your pet may be sent to a veterinary specialist (neurologist) for these scans, and may need to be hospitalized for the procedures. CT and MRI scans are the gold standard for diagnosing strokes in pets, including whether the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. Other tests that may be needed include:
Arterial blood gases to assess oxygenation of blood
Coagulation profiles to assess blood clotting
X-rays of the skull to look for evidence of trauma or fractures
Electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate heart rhythm
A spinal tap to evaluate cerebrospinal fluid
Treating a Pet Who Has Had a Stroke
If your pet’s symptoms are severe, she may need to be hospitalized to receive oxygen and fluid therapy and other supportive care.
Treatment of stroke patients is focused on minimizing brain swelling and tissue damage, maximizing oxygen flow to the brain, identifying and treating the underlying cause of the stroke if possible and physical therapy.
Initial treatment typically involves intravenous fluids and IV corticosteroids to control brain swelling and support blood circulation to the brain.
This is a situation in which giving corticosteroids immediately can be life-saving and help prevent permanent damage. Seizures must also be controlled with conventional drugs to prevent further brain damage. Anti-seizure herbs usually do not work quickly enough to help during the initial crisis, and are difficult to administer to a vomiting dog.
The neurologic symptoms of a stroke gradually resolve on their own as the animal’s body re-establishes normal blood flow to the brain and swelling resolves. During this period, acupuncture, antioxidants (SOD and astaxanthin), Chinese herbs and homeopathy can be very beneficial.
The most crucial supplement to add for these patients, in my opinion, is nattokinase, which can also help prevent additional strokes from occurring. The brain has the ability to recover given time. As always, early diagnosis and treatment can dramatically improve your pet’s chances for a full recovery.
Pets who survive the first few days following a stroke have a good chance for a full or nearly full long-term recovery when the underlying cause can be identified and either eliminated, or successfully controlled.
Health and Wellness Associates
A Very Common Canine Ear Problem but It’s Easily Avoidable
Chronic ear infections are a fact of life for many dogs, which is really unfortunate, because it’s pretty easy to prevent them if you know what to do (more about that shortly). I suspect many persistent ear infections in dogs are treated, but never actually resolved.
I also believe there isn’t enough emphasis placed on routine ear maintenance for canine companions.
There are two basic causes of ear problems in dogs: chronic inflammation and infection. Untreated inflammation can lead to infection. If your dog’s ears are warm to the touch, red, swollen or itchy, but there’s little to no discharge, chances are the problem is inflammation.
However, if one or more of those symptoms is present along with obvious discharge, it’s usually a sign of infection.
3 Causes of Ear Inflammation in Dogs
- The most common reason for ear inflammation in dogs is allergies. An allergic response to food or something in the environment can cause inflammation throughout your pet’s body, including the ears.
A dog with allergy-related ear inflammation will sometimes run his head along furniture or the carpet trying to relieve his misery. He may also scratch at his ears incessantly, or shake his head a lot.
If your dog is doing any of these things, be sure to check his ears for telltale signs of redness and swelling.
- Another cause of ear inflammation is moisture, also known as “swimmer’s ear.” We see this primarily during the summer months when dogs are outdoors playing in lakes, ponds and pools.
Wet ear canals coupled with a warm body temperature are the perfect environment for inflammation and/or infection to develop. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly dry your dog’s ears each time he comes out of the water.
Dogs who live in high humidity areas, play in the rain or snow or get water in their ears when they visit the groomer are also at risk.
- The third major reason for ear problems is wax buildup. The presence of earwax is normal, but dogs have varying amounts just as humans do. Some dogs need their ears cleaned of wax daily, while others never have a buildup.
Certain breeds produce more wax than others, such as Labradors and other retrievers who tend to love the water. If you have one of these breeds, you should get your dog accustomed to having her ears cleaned while she’s a puppy.
Other breeds, such as Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels and Poodles, can also produce an abundance of wax that needs regular attention.
Triggers for Ear Infections in Dogs
Ear infections in dogs typically involve the outer canal, which is quite deep. The medical term for these infections is otitis externa. If the infection recurs or never really clears, we call it chronic otitis. There are a number of things that can cause otitis including:
Foreign material in the ear, such as from a plant like a foxtail
Water in the ear that creates a moist, warm environment perfect for brewing an infection
Excess glands in the ears that produce wax and sebum
Narrowing of the ear canal
Heavy, hanging ears (think Basset Hound or Cocker Spaniel)
If your dog has an ear infection, it’s very important to identify whether it’s a bacterial or fungal infection, or both, in order to treat the problem effectively.
Is the Infection Fungal or Bacterial?
The most common cause of fungal ear infections in dogs is yeast. Yeast is always present on the bodies of animals, but when the immune system isn’t in prime condition, the fungus can grow out of control and cause an infection.
Most dogs prone to yeast infections need to have their ears cleaned and dried frequently. If the problem seems chronic or there’s a persistent infection that just won’t resolve, there’s probably an underlying immunological cause that should be investigated.
For more information on the general subject of yeast, including how to deal with yeasty ears, view my video and article on yeast infections in dogs.
Bacterial infections of the ear are actually more common than fungal infections. Bacteria are either pathogenic or non-pathogenic. Pathogenic bacteria are abnormal inhabitants of your pet’s body, picked up from an outside source, for example, contaminated pond water.
Non-pathogenic bacteria are typically staph bacteria that are normal inhabitants of your dog’s body. Occasionally these bacteria can overgrow and overwhelm the ear canal. Any normal, helpful bacteria can grow out of control and cause an infection in a dog with a compromised immune system.
An Accurate Diagnosis and Appropriate Therapy Is Essential
Veterinarians diagnose yeast infections with cytology, which means looking at a smear of the ear debris under a microscope.
An accurate diagnosis of a bacterial ear infection requires an ear culture. Your veterinarian will swab your dog’s ear and send the sample to a lab to determine what type of organism is present, and what medication will most effectively treat it.
Never let your veterinarian simply guess at what bacteria is causing your pet’s ear infection. Instead, ask them to find out.
It’s very important to finish the medication your veterinarian prescribes, even if your dog’s ear infection seems to clear up before the medication is gone. Stopping the medication early can lead to regrowth of resistant organisms.
In addition, while your dog is being treated for an ear infection, be sure to keep his ears clean and clear of gunk so the topical medication you put into the ears can reach the infected tissue. Otherwise, you’re just adding more fluid to warm, sticky ear goo, and the bacteria will continue to thrive.
Unfortunately, an ever-increasing number of ear infection culture results are showing the presence of bacteria that are resistant to many (if not all) conventional medications. These are cases in which holistic therapies are not only a last hope, but can provide highly effective, non-toxic relief.
Manuka Honey and Green Clay: Alternative Treatments for Bacterial Ear Infections
Interestingly, a recent study tested the effectiveness of manuka honey in treating bacterial ear infections in 15 dogs. The dogs were given 1 milliliter (mL) of medical grade honey in the ear daily during the 21-day study. The researchers reported the honey “promoted rapid clinical progress,” with 70 percent of the dogs achieving a “clinical cure” between seven and 14 days, and 90 percent by day 21.1
In addition, the bacteria-killing activity of the honey worked against all bacteria species tested, including multiple strains of drug-resistant bacteria. The study authors concluded, “Medical grade honey was successful in both clinical and laboratory settings, thus demonstrating its potential of becoming an alternative treatment for canine OE [otitis externa].”
It’s important to note that it doesn’t appear the antimicrobial activity of honey is enough on its own to resolve every ear infection. Most of the dogs in the study had complete symptom relief by day 21; however, several still had bacterial infections.
Applied zoopharmacognosy expert Caroline Ingraham suggests using green clay in cases where other natural treatments have failed to completely resolve resistant ear infections.2 Green clay has been documented to effectively treat a variety of bacteria that have been implicated in chronic ear infections, including pseudomonas and MRSA.3
Preventing Ear Infections in Your Own Dog
Some dogs are much more prone to ear infections than others. If your canine companion is one of them, I recommend checking her ears daily or every other day at a minimum. Remember, wax, moisture or other debris left in the ear canal sets the table for an infection. The solution is simple: Clean your pet’s ears when they’re dirty. If there’s lots of wax accumulating every day, they need to be cleaned every day.
If your dog’s ears don’t produce much wax or collect much crud, you can clean them less often, but check them daily and address issues as soon as you see the ear canal isn’t 100 percent clean and dry.
If you think your pet might already have an ear infection, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian before you begin a cleaning regimen. In many cases, an infection leads to rupture of the eardrum, which requires special cleaning solutions and medications. For taking care of healthy canine ears, my favorite cleaning agents include:
Organic apple cider vinegar mixed with an equal amount of purified water
Hydrogen peroxide, a few drops on a cotton round dabbed in coconut oil
Green tea or calendula infusion (using tea that has been cooled)
One drop tea tree oil mixed with 1 tablespoon coconut oil (for dogs only — never cats)
Under no circumstances should you use rubbing alcohol to clean your dog’s ears. It can cause burning and irritation, especially if there’s inflammation.
Use cotton balls or cotton rounds only to clean the inside of the ear canal. You can use cotton swabs to clean the outer area of the ear, but never inside the canal, as they can damage your dog’s eardrums. The best method for cleaning most dogs’ ears is to saturate a cotton ball with cleaning solution and swab out the inside of the ear. Use as many cotton balls as necessary to remove all the dirt and debris.
Another approach is to squirt a small amount of solution directly into the ear, then follow with cotton balls to wipe the ears clean. Be prepared, however, that this method may make your dog shake her head wildly, flinging ear cleaning solution all over you and the surrounding area!
Just a Few Minutes of Cleaning Can Keep Your Dog’s Ears Healthy
Cleaning your dog’s ears really isn’t difficult, but you do have to remember to do it consistently (as often as your individual dog requires it). Just a few minutes spent cleaning and drying your pet’s ears as necessary (this means daily, in many cases) will make a huge difference in the frequency and severity of ear infections — especially in dogs who are prone to them. You can advance the following video to 12:05 to watch me clean my own dog’s ears after a bath.
Can you believe we can help with your dogs allergy problems. Yes, we can!
Health and Wellness Associates
A Serious Life-Threatening Obstruction for Predisposed Male Dogs
Dogs, like cats and humans, can develop a variety of types of stones in their bladder and kidneys. Bladder stones, also called uroliths, are small rock-like structures that form from minerals in urine. They are more common than kidney stones in dogs, and there may be one large stone, or a collection of stones ranging in size from grains of sand to gravel.
One of the most common types of uroliths in dogs is made up of calcium oxalate (CaOx) crystals. Over the past 15 years, the incidence of oxalate stones in dogs has increased significantly, while cases of struvite stones, which are caused by an infection and exacerbated by an alkaline diet, have decreased.
About three-quarters of dogs diagnosed with this type of stone are males between the ages of 5 and 12. Breeds at highest risk include the Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, miniature Poodle, miniature Schnauzer, and Yorkshire Terrier.
How Do Dogs Get Calcium Oxalate Stones?
As with humans, there is a strong genetic component to the formation of oxalate bladder stones in dogs. A substance called nephrocalcin in urine naturally prevents formation of the stones, but in both people and dogs who develop stones, the nephrocalcin is defective. Production of defective nephrocalcin may be inherited.
Metabolic diseases that may predispose a dog to develop stones include Cushing’s disease and hypercalcemia, which is an elevated blood calcium level.
A urine pH below 6 can also promote development of calcium oxalate stones.
CaOx Stones Are Painful and Potentially Dangerous
The danger for a dog, especially a male dog with bladder stones is that they can obstruct the urinary opening, which can cause life-threatening uremic poisoning. If you notice that your dog isn’t passing urine, you should bring him immediately to your veterinarian or the closest emergency animal hospital.
Your veterinarian will try to dislodge the stone by flushing it back into the bladder, which if successful will also clear the urinary opening. If the stone can’t be dislodged, the doctor may need to create a new urinary opening. The urethra, a slender tube that carries urine out of the bladder during urination, is difficult to perform surgery on, so your veterinarian would prefer to flush the stone back into the bladder for removal vs. attempting to remove it from the urethra.
Calcium oxalate stones cause pain because they irritate the tender lining of a dog’s bladder. This usually causes bleeding, and also increases the likelihood of chronic bladder infections.
Calcium oxalate stones can’t be dissolved with a dietary change, so surgical removal is usually necessary. Unfortunately, about half of dogs who undergo surgery develop new calcium oxalate stones within three years.
Differentiating Calcium Oxalate Stones from Other Types of Bladder Stones
The only way to know definitively that a bladder stone is a calcium oxalate stone is to actually retrieve it and send it to a laboratory for analysis. Removing the stone often requires forcefully expressing it or surgically opening the bladder to remove it, neither of which is ideal for purposes of a diagnosis.
Sometimes a veterinarian can actually feel (palpate) a stone if the bladder isn’t too painful and the dog is relatively relaxed. Unfortunately, some stones are too small to be palpated.
Stones are frequently diagnosed through an x-ray or ultrasound of the bladder. However, these tests only identify the presence of a stone, not the composition of it.
Your veterinarian may be able to make an educated guess about the type of stone in your dog’s bladder based on imaging and urinalysis results. For example, if your pet’s x-rays show one or more stones in the bladder, and the urinalysis indicates acidic urine and calcium oxalate crystals, your vet may make a reasonable diagnosis of calcium oxalate bladder stones and proceed accordingly.
CaOx Bladder Stone Prevention Strategies
A crucially important strategy in preventing CaOx stones in predisposed dogs is a diet that promotes less acidic, more dilute urine with a low urine specific gravity (less than 1.020). This means intentionally creating less concentrated urine by adding more moisture to your dog’s diet.
Insuring your dog is drinking plenty of clean, fresh water is a primary prevention strategy. You might want to consider providing a water fountain with continuously filtered, fresh, and running water to encourage your dog to drink, along with placing bowls of fresh water in multiple locations around the house. You can also add meat broths or low-sodium bouillon or stock to the water or food to entice your pet to consume more water. Avoiding kibble (with a low moisture content of 10 to 12 percent) and choosing canned, raw, or fresh food diets with more moisture is also beneficial.
In some cases, medications such as potassium citrate may be needed to increase the urinary pH. Adding alkalizing fruits and veggies to the diet can also keep urine pH in a neutral range (7).
Vitamin B6 increases metabolism of glyoxylate, a precursor of oxalic acid, and may be of benefit. Check with your holistic vet about the right dose of supplemental B6 for your dog.
Dogs prone to calcium oxalate stones should not be given calcium supplements or high oxalate foods such as nuts, rhubarb, beets, green beans, and spinach. More information about the oxalate content of foods can be found here.
Most conventional veterinarians recommend a lifelong commercial therapeutic diet for dogs with CaOx stones. My strong preference is an appropriate home-cooked diet, which you can create with guidance from a veterinary nutritionist at Balance IT or another similar resource.
Herbs that may benefit bladder stones include chanca piedra, alfalfa, dandelion, goldenseal, horsetail, marshmallow, plantain, Oregon grape, uva ursi, yarrow, maitake mushrooms, corn silk powder, and olive leaf.
Regular Monitoring Is Very Important for Stone-Prone Dogs
Your vet should perform routine monitoring of your dog’s urine to look for any signs of bacterial infection. Bladder x-rays and urinalysis should be done one month after treatment and then every three to six months for the rest of your pet’s life.
If your dog shows any urinary-related symptoms such as frequent urination, urinating in unusual locations, pain while urinating, or has blood in the urine, he should be seen by your veterinarian right away. Unfortunately, calcium oxalate stones tend to recur despite the best prevention efforts.
Calcium oxalate bladder stones can be very frustrating to manage. Not only do they often recur, but appropriate monitoring of your dog’s health involves frequent veterinary visits. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the risk and expense of surgery to remove a bladder stone is considerably more than the effort and cost of monitoring the condition closely.
Health and Wellness Associates