Part of the holiday festivities often includes purchasing seasonal plants including holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias. I’m often asked if it’s safe to include these in a house shared with 4 legged family members.
Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) plants are only mildly toxic to cats and dogs. According to the Pet Poison Hotline, the milky white sap found in poinsettias contains chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents.
Mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea may be seen if the plants are chewed. If the milky sap is exposed to skin, irritation (including redness, swelling, and itchiness) may develop. Rarely, eye exposure can result in a mild conjunctivitis. Signs are easily treated by your veterinarian and rarely require intensive care.
While poinsettias are commonly “hyped” as poisonous plants, they rarely are, but more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly or mistletoe. Lilies can result in severe acute kidney failure in cats. Holly berries and mistletoe ( American mistletoe is less toxic than the European varieties.)
Use common sense and minimize the chance of your pet contacting one of these popular Christmas plants so all can have a safe and happy holiday!
Recently there was discussion about how we should handle dogs living with a person who tested positive and received treatment for Ebola infection. Some have suggested these pets be euthanized, but I disagree with this.
According to the CDC….
“At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or other animals. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola. There is limited evidence that dogs become infected with Ebola virus, but there is no evidence that they develop disease.”
A study in 2005 (Emerging Infectious Diseases • www.cdc.gov/eid • Vol. 11, No. 3, March 2005) tells us the following….
“40 of 159 dogs living in the 2001–2002Ebola virus–epidemic area had detectable Ebola virus–specific IgG, indicating either true infection or simple antigenic stimulation.
Some dogs were infected by eating fresh remains of Ebola virus–infected dead animals brought back to the villages, and that others licked vomit from Ebola virus–infected patients. Together, these findings strongly suggest that dogs can be infected by Ebola virus,
and that some pet dogs living in affected villages were infected during the 2001–2002 human Ebola virus outbreak. No circulating Ebola antigens or viral DNA sequences (tested by PCR) were detected in either positive or negative serum specimens, and attempts to isolate virus
from these samples failed. These findings indicate either old, transient Ebola infection of the tested dogs, or antigenic stimulation.”
This means that while dogs can be infected, to date they have not gotten ill or transmitted Ebola to people. The wisest course of action is to quarantine, observe, and test exposed pets to see if they become ill or infectious to humans and to learn more about how they seem to be naturally resistant to the disease. Euthanizing pets exposed to Ebola patients is short-sighted and unnecessary.
Allergies are common in many pets in the fall and spring. Certain breeds such as terriers and retrievers are especially affected. Allergic pets tend to be very itchy, and many have secondary chronic ear and skin infections (the allergies must be treated or these infections will never go away.)
Traditional doctors treat allergies with steroids and antihistamines. Antihistamines rarely work, and steroids can have bad side effects (although tiny amounts used short term WITH natural medicines are safe.)
In my practice we use a combination of herbs, supplements, and homeopathics for my patients. Liver support and immune support using probiotics is also helpful. Frequent bathing with Dr. Shawn’s Itch Relief Shampoo removes allergens and bacteria and yeast that cause the itching.
You can order natural allergy products and my Itch Relief shampoo at www.drshawnsnaturals.com.
In most cases a natural approach works best and medications are rarely needed. Because our goal is true healing and cure when possible (something drugs can’t do,) each patient is evaluated and the treatment is individualized to that patient.
Feeding a natural diet and avoiding toxins such as vaccines and flea and tick chemicals is also critical!
Finally, avoidance of really strong medications like Atopic and Apoquel restores health and reduces side effects to the patient.
With proper evaluation and a focus on natural healing these strong medications should not be necessary.
Here are some Halloween tips to keep your pets safe and happy this Oct. 31…
1.Keep Halloween treats out of reach—candy, especially chocolate, can make your pet sick and can even be fatal in severe cases. Some treats contain xylitol which can also make the pet sick or be fatal.
2.To prevent escapes when answering the door, and reduce stress for anxious pets, keep the pets in a separate room during peak trick-or-treating times.
3.Keep your pets indoors. Pets that are out at night with trick-or-treaters might get spooked, causing anxiety and the possibility of escaping from the yard.
4.Make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If, for any reason, your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar, ID tag and microchip (a must) can be lifesavers and, increase the chance that your pet will be returned to you.
5.If you want to dress up your pet, first make sure he doesn’t object. Some pets like costumes, whereas others don’t (my own dog Rita was not a fan of dress-up.) If your pet doesn’t mind a costume, make sure it doesn’t restrict your pet’s ability to walk and sit down comfortably, and avoid masks that covers his eyes, ears or nose or use a costume that makes it difficult to breathe.
Occasionally I’ll aspirate a tumor that does not produce any identifiable tumor cells, or that only produces blood cells. What is the next step? I remove ALL of these tumors. Why? Because invariably most come back as a connective tissue tumor, with about 50% malignant and requiring further treatment. Connective tissue tumors are tumors of the muscle, nerve, bone, or fascia. They rarely produce enough cells during aspiration but usually produce blood. Therefore anytime I can’t identify a tumor on aspiration it is surgically removed and biopsied.
With spring here, problems like allergies, skin infections, hot spots, and ear infections will be affecting pets soon. Unfortunately, most pets with these problems will continue to be treated with numerous doses of steroids and antibiotics, even though most pets can heal without these medications. While traditional medications have their place in helping pets with these problems I’ve found the natural approach works so much better for most of my patients.
There are 2 important points I want you to get out of this article. The first is that medications are not needed for many pets with skin problems, and when they are needed low infrequent doses are usually all that is required. Second, it’s imperative to get the correct diagnosis. I see many pets misdiagnosed as “allergic” that really have more serious problems. Treating these pets with medications will NEVER result in a cure unless the correct diagnosis is obtained.
The main skin problems include infections with yeasts and bacteria, usually as a result of allergies or thyroid and adrenal disease.
To help with allergies, herbal remedies such as Xiao (an herbal blend of gypsum, anemarrhena, burdock, rehmannia, and dong quai) relieve itching, redness and inflammation. A few drops of this herbal mixture on food each day often gives my patients the same relief they would get from corticosteroids (I actually tell my clients to think of this herbal blend as a natural alternative to steroids-all of the positive effects from steroids with none of the negative side effects!)
Skin infections, both yeasts and bacterial, are usually treated by conventional doctors with strong medications (antibiotics and azoles) for several weeks up to several months. While occasionally necessary, indiscriminate use of antibiotics and antifungals increases costs of care, can predispose pets to numerous side effects (GI disease, liver disease,) and have increased the number of microorganisms now resistant to these drugs (not a good thing if the medications are needed to save a pet or person from a life-threatening infection.)
I have found several natural approaches that work equally well in most cases. Oleuropein, the active ingredient in olive leaf extract, is my go-to natural remedy for infections of the skin and ears, and really anywhere in or on the body. This is combined with some type of immune supporting herbal blend, such as Healthy Qi, which contains astragalus, green tea, gotu kola, and ginseng to help the immune system fight the infection. When dosed properly, this combination replaces anti-infective medications in most of my pets that have bacterial or yeast infections.
The MOST important part of treating skin disease is frequent, even daily if needed, bathing with an organic shampoo specifically formulated to not dry out the pet’s skin. Organic oils such as coconut, lemongrass, citrus, and lavender help heal damaged skin and remove allergens and bacteria and yeasts to accelerate healing. I’ll give myself an endorsement here-I’ve specifically formulated my All-in-One and Itch Relief shampoos for frequent, even daily use without harming the pet’s skin. These shampoos are gentle, environmental friendly, contain no additives or chemicals, and help heal the skin while leaving a fresh fragrance.
High doses of EPA and DHA, the active omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil, also help by changing cellular physiology to normalize inflammation for the life of the pet. The most important point is to dose based upon EPA and DHA content rather than fish oil content, and to give doses typically higher than those on the label.
As with skin problems, ear problems, especially infections, increase in the spring, likely due to undiagnosed and untreated allergic disease. While conventional doctors rely upon steroids, antibiotics, and antifungal medications, holistic doctors prefer natural oil combinations instead (many of these products also serve as great ear cleaners to be used after bathing and 1-3 times weekly to decrease future infections.) In my practice I have found fantastic success with an herbal oil combination I developed that contains both peppermint and spearmint, plus tea tree oil and lemon eucalyptus. One of my cases of persistent ear mite infections was cured after only 3 treatments (although most infections with mites, yeasts, and bacteria typically take 2 weeks of therapy with the herbal ear treatment.)
Finally, because herbal oils can be very toxic and even fatal if not used properly, I recommend purchasing products with a proven track record rather than trying to make products yourself by mixing oils. In my experience, unless the person formulating the product has knowledge of herbology and toxicology, too many problems can arise if the oils are not blended properly: either they are not effective or they are toxic.
While conventional medications are needed for difficult cases, in most instances using natural therapies for common spring problems is much safer and often more effective. My patients will be healing this spring with little or no use of potent medications. Those with allergies who take my recommended supplements year-round typically have milder problems when allergy season flares up.
Recently I posted about a new profile we are doing in our office for pets, mainly dogs, as a screening tool for cancer and other inflammatory conditions.
To date, about 96% of dogs are low in blood vitamin D levels, 48% are high in their CRP levels, and 12% are high in their TK levels.
This profile is also quite helpful for pets with cancer to monitor their remissions and alter their treatment regimen based upon changes in the test.
For this discussion, I want to focus on vitamin D levels. The next 2 discussions will focus on the other aspects of testing, the TK and CRP levels.
Vitamin D3 is not simply thought of as a vitamin to protect bones anymore. Instead it has far reaching effects on every cell in the body, regulating metabolism and gene expression. As such, proper levels of Vitamin D 3 can have cancer-protective (and cancer-killing) effects, reduce the chance of infectious diseases such as the flu, and promote good health and proper regulation of other body systems.
Unlike people, pets do not typically make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight and therefore require it in their diets or via supplementation.
While pet food is formulated to have enough vitamin D 3 to prevent vitamin D 3 deficiency disease (rickets,) levels are too low for most pets to maximize health (a goal of holistic doctors.) Testing shows most dogs have blood levels considered insufficient to maximize health and would benefit from supplementation. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to inflammation, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and various infectious diseases.
Exactly how much vitamin D 3 an individual patient requires depends upon the size of the pet, the health of the pet, the presence/absence of disease, and most importantly the pet’s blood level of vitamin D 3. Once vitamin D 3 test results are available, supplementation is given with the goal being to shoot for a blood level of 100 mg/ml (in studies pets with cancers tended to have vitamin D 3 blood levels lower than 100.) Additional testing is done to confirm if the prescribed amount of vitamin D 3, typically given once daily with food, is enough to reach the recommended blood level.
I’m often asked if pets with cancer should continue taking their heartworm and flea medicines. Here’s how I address that situation in my practice, Paws & Claws Animal Hospital.
Unlike conventional doctors who focus on the cancer, holistic doctors focus on the PET…therefore we want to keep the pet healthy while we are also fighting the cancer. I would hate for one of my cancer patients to be cured of cancer only to die of heartworms because we stopped the monthly preventive during cancer treatment…so I always recommend continuing the preventive during the cancer treatment.
However, I rarely prescribe chemical flea medicines for any of my patients. First, these products do not prevent fleas but rather kill them once the flea gets on the pet. At least in my practice fleas are not a big problem so there is no need for regular use of these products. Second, these products, while safe for most pets, are still strong chemicals that last in the pet’s body for a long time. An important part of cancer treatment is detoxification (with herbs, homeopathics, and autosanguis therapy.) I want to avoid unnecessary toxins since cancer itself (and cancer chemo/radiation) are all toxic. There is no need to add extra toxins to my cancer patients unless absolutely necessary (the pet is covered with fleas and ticks.) Since natural flea control, esp in the environment, is safe and non-toxic, I rarely see the need for topical chemicals (my all-in-one and itch relief shampoos plus the natural flea spray are all I typically prescribe for most pets.)