Let Them Eat Dirt-NOT!

March 30, 2010 on 6:41 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

Recently, Dr. Marc Siegel from the Fox News Medical A Team shared with viewers new recommendations that children should be allowed to eat dirt rather than refrain from doing so. The reason for the recommendation is that we are becoming too sterile and germaphobic. By doing so, young children are not being exposed to microorganisms that are necessary to help them develop healthy immune systems. Our recent aversion to any and all germs predisposes us to future problems as we get older, including diseases of the immune system, more severe infections, as well as allergies.

Unfortunately, Dr. Marc’s recommendations are at best incorrect and at worst potentially deadly for our children.

Here’s why.

Where do our pets eliminate? The answer is in our yards, in the dirt at the local park, and in the community sandbox.

Where do wildlife, particularly possums, coyotes, and raccoons, eliminate? The answer is also in our yards, in the dirt at the local park, and in the community sandbox.

Unfortunately wildlife as well as our pets carries a whole host of parasites in their droppings. Of particular concern are ascarids, also known as the common roundworm.

Roundworms are ubiquitous, likely infecting every puppy and kitten in the world, which is why current recommendations are to deworm all puppies and kittens beginning at 2 weeks of age up until approximately 8 to 10 weeks of age, regardless of microscopic examination of their feces during their veterinary visits.

However, animal roundworms also can infect people, especially children, as they are zoonotic (meaning they can be transmitted from animals to people.)

By encouraging children to eat dirt, Fox News is unknowingly exposing millions of children to potentially deadly roundworms that can cause 2 devastating conditions in children: visceral larval migrans and ocular larval migrans.

Visceral larval migrans is a condition where animal roundworms infect a child’s internal organs, especially the liver or the brain. In ocular larval migrans, the roundworm accidentally ends up inside one or both of the eyes of the victim, often resulting in blindness and the need for removal of the affected eye.

While it is true that we have become way too paranoid about germs, and actually need exposure to germs on a regular basis in order to have healthy immune systems, simply encouraging parents to allow or encourage their children to eat dirt which is likely infected with roundworm a is dangerous medical advice. The recommendation is not surprising however, as medical doctors have little or no understanding about zoonotic diseases, something veterinarians deal with on a daily basis in their practices. Fox News should have checked with a veterinarian prior to encouraging this potentially dangerous habit.

Acupuncture and Proof

March 29, 2010 on 1:47 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

Acupuncture has been used successfully for thousands of years to heal both people and pets. Despite its impressive track record, there are many skeptics who still refuse to believe it can offer any help or have any place in modern medicine. This is because, in the mind of a skeptic, the benefits of acupuncture can’t be explained in a way that makes sense to the modern, “Western” mind.
Now there are some interesting new studies that help further shed light on how acupuncture works on the human brain. The studies involved people with carpal tunnel syndrome. A specialized MRI was used to show which areas of the brain “lit up” due to pain experienced by the sufferer of carpal tunnel syndrome. When acupuncture was used to relieve carpal tunnel pain, areas of the brain involved in pain relief and calming were highlighted on the MRI, and the MRI scans resembled those of “normal” healthy patients without pain.
Neuroimaging studies have shown that acupuncture affects a network of various systems in the brain including decreasing activity in the limbic system, a part of the brain involved with the emotions.
It should be pointed at that some patients treated with sham acupuncture (“fake” acupuncture where needles are inserted into parts of the body not typically associated with traditional acupuncture points) also showed similar positive improvement on their MRI scans. Skeptics are quick to note that this suggests that all acupuncture must be the result of a placebo effect, although that is quite a leap to make.
Even if there is some placebo effect in people receiving acupuncture therapy, there is no way the same placebo effect can occur in animals who cannot “will” themselves to feel better. And even if a placebo effect occurs in some people undergoing acupuncture, the same potential placebo effect also occurs frequently in people receiving conventional medications who also “will” themselves to feel better regardless of the therapy received.
So for now, thanks to the advent of advanced neuroimaging technology, we can actually see what’s happening in the brains of people treated with acupuncture, dispelling the notion that “acupuncture doesn’t work because nothing happens.” We now know that a lot happens when acupuncture points are stimulated.

Toyotas and Sudden Acceleration

March 29, 2010 on 1:01 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

Since the problem of sudden acceleration in certain Toyotas has been in the news for quite some time, it’s become apparent that not all claims are legitimate. In some instances, there have been true instances of unexplained sudden acceleration. Neither the government, nor Toyota, nor independent engineers have been able to determine the cause of this potentially serious issue. In other instances, human error (accidentally stepping on the accelerator) is the likely cause as it is in most cases of sudden acceleration. In a few instances, the possibility of fraudulent claims must be considered.

I’ll weigh in on this matter by simply stating the following three points that are important to keep in mind.

First, unless there is a major glitch in the design of a car, all cars are designed so that the brakes have priority over the accelerator. In other words, if you were to intentionally press the accelerator to the floor while the car is braked, the brakes should hold, preventing forward movement of the car.

Second, all manufacturers have reported claims of sudden acceleration in their cars. The problem is not unique to Toyota.

Finally, I’m reminded of a test I saw performed on Boeing’s 777 airliner several years ago prior to the plane being put into production. After the plane had returned to the airfield following a successful flight, the pilot set the brakes on the plane. He then applied acceleration (thrust) to the engines, and the plane never moved despite maximum thrust. The 777 passed this important test. Seeing this test convinced me that it was a design flaw was present, cars and planes are designed with safety in mind so that the braking system always wins.

My Trip to Washington DC Opens Eyes

March 19, 2010 on 12:54 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

I just recently got back from an enjoyable vacation to our nation’s capital with my family. It’s always good taking time off to visit other parts of the country.

I got to see many interesting sites and enjoyed lots of good food (I LOVE seafood, and the seafood, especially the crabs, in DC are great,) there were two attractions that really made me stop to think.

During our tour of the nation’s capital (thanks to one of my senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison,) I picked up on something profound that was stated in the introductory movie which opened our tour.

In the movie, the narrator stated that our congressional leaders are sent to Washington to do the will of the people.

This is an idea that sadly many of our congress men and women seem to have forgotten, as evidenced by the attempt to force a health care bill on the country that most citizens do not want or need. Maybe our congressional representatives would do well to watch that movie regularly and refresh themselves on just why they are elected to represent us.

I also saw a wonderful exhibit on Nazi propaganda at the National Holocaust Museum. At that exhibit, there were stories of how the Nazis used propaganda to take over Germany at the end of World War I leading up to World War II.

For example, Hitler and the Nazi party promised everyone jobs (to bring down unemployment,) healthcare, and promised to control the media by taking it over so that only opinions favorable to the movement would be allowed in print or on the radio, effectively silencing the opposition.

Kinda sounds similar to what’s going on today in our country doesn’t it?

EPA Warns of Danger with Dog/Cat Flea Products

March 19, 2010 on 12:42 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

As a result of an increased number of reports of side effects from using topical flea products, the EPA is taking steps to attempt to increase the safety of chemical flea and tick control products for cats and dogs. The EPA will review labels to determine which ones need stronger and clearer labeling statements and will also develop more testing and evaluation requirements for existing as well as new products.

Minor problems that are being reported with increased frequency in dogs and cats treated with topical flea and tick products include skin itching, hair loss, and redness, gastrointestinal problems including vomiting and diarrhea. More serious side effects such as trembling or seizures and even death may also occur.

While pet owners should always carefully read and follow label instructions before using these products, it’s obvious that many owners use these products despite a lack of need to do so.
Most dogs and cats will never suffer from flea or tick infestations due to minimal exposure to the pests, making the use of chemical insecticides totally unnecessary for most pets.

Owners who are concerned about flea and tick problems can use chemical pesticides on a limited, as needed basis to reduce side effects in their pets and human family members, which can also experience toxicity from these products.

Additionally, using a more natural integrated approach to pest control can provide many of the same benefits as a chemical approach without the potential for side effects.

Proper flea and tick control must be directed at three places: the pet, the inside environment, and the outside environment.
For the pet, regular bathing with organic shampoos (such as Dr. Shawn’s Flea & Tick shampoo) and applying herbal sprays and powders work very well.

To treat the inside environment, regular vacuuming, steam cleaning, and the use of citrus oil sprays as well as borate-containing products for the carpet, also are effective against fleas and ticks.

Finally, the outside environment is best treated with beneficial nematodes, microscopic worms which kill the cocoon stage of the flea life cycle, which is resistant to all known chemical insecticides.

Simply by minimizing the use of potentially toxic topical chemical flea and tick insecticides can improve the health of pets and greatly reduce serious side effects that are becoming increasingly associated with these products.

The Placebo Effect and Alternative Medicine

March 10, 2010 on 7:55 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

I recently came across a post on another blog purporting to show that there is no proof that natural/alternative therapies work. This particular blog is devoted to debunking any therapy that falls outside the mainstream. The writer of this blog constantly seeks to show that there is no proof that any natural therapy ever works or helps anyone or any pet.

The post I read was submitted by a reader of this particular blog. Briefly, she shared the following information in her post.
An “alternative therapist” told the owner of a horse that she would “work on” the horse for free if the owner would give her feedback on how the horse performed following the “free therapy session.” Unknown to the owner, the “therapist” never worked on the horse but led the owner to believe she had done so.

The day following the supposed “therapy,” the owner was happy to report that the horse actually “rode better than normal.” The writer of the blog used this one example to prove that natural therapies don’t work and that the reason the owner thought the horse rode better was simply due to the power of suggestion, or the placebo effect.

While this was an interesting post to read, and it can easily deceive people into thinking that this one simple experiment proved that all natural therapies only work by the placebo effect, a more careful examination of the post leaves a lot to be desired.

First, I don’t know what an “alternative therapist” is or what one does. I assume the writer of this blog is referring to some sort of physical therapy such as massage therapy, but that is never explained.

Second, there’s a big difference between someone who claims to be an “alternative therapist” and a licensed doctor trained in integrative medicine.

Third, this particular website on which the blog appears always chastises alternative medicine for the lack of proof for alternative therapies since there are so few well controlled, double-blind placebo-controlled studies. It’s interesting that this website now uses an example of a poorly designed “study” (if an observation of one patient even constitutes a study) to prove that no natural therapies ever work!

Fourth, the observation in this case was entirely subjective rather than objective. Rather than using an owner’s observation that the horse “rode better” after a particular therapy, why not use a more objective measurement such as gait analysis or forced plate analysis? In my practice, I can objectively measure things such as a pet’s blood pressure or blood count and easily determine if my therapy (conventional or natural) is working. This can totally eliminate the subjective assessment an owner may make in determining if a pet simply “feels better.”

Fifth and finally, the same “conclusion” could easily be reached in this case if a conventional drug had been used rather than an alternative therapy. For example, suppose a doctor told the same horse owner that he was going to give the horse a pill which would improve its performance. But suppose the doctor secretly did not give the horse the medication but the owner still reported that the horse “rode better” the next day. If we follow the blogger’s (lack of) logic, we have to draw the same conclusion-namely that this one example proves that conventional drug therapy doesn’t work!

It’s interesting how much hatred and negativity one encounters among people who don’t like natural/alternative medicine. To use one example as this blogger has done as universal proof that integrative medicine doesn’t achieve successful results is ludicrous and deceiving. Fortunately, it’s easy to see through all the hypocrisy in this blog and understand the real goal of people who write this rubbish-destroy your choice in determining what kind of therapy you would like for you, your family members, and your pets.

Fighting Finches

March 10, 2010 on 7:36 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

Unfortunately there is another new cruel sport popping up in back alleys. In addition to dogfights and cockfights, now we have finch fights.

Finches, very small cute birds, can become aggressive during the mating season, especially males. Unscrupulous folks have discovered that these males will attack each other if confined in an enclosed space. As a result, another cruel sport has arisen in which criminal elements profit from animal abuse, injury, and death.

When I hear of things like this, I am saddened at how low humanity will sink in the name of entertainment and profit. As I have suggested for other crimes involving animal abuse, penalties should be harsh (large fines and lengthy jail terms.) If not, there is no reason these types of cruel activities won’t continue as the profit motive is too great and the penalties too minimal and meaningless to worry about. Only by severely punishing those who engage in animal or people abuse can we hope to make a dent in these horrible crimes.

Microchipping Dangerous Dogs-a Good Idea?

March 10, 2010 on 7:30 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

A proposal in the UK calls for microchipping all dogs so that dangerous dogs will be more easily identified. A separate proposal calls for requiring pet insurance that would cover bodily damage to an innocent third party. The proposals are designed to make it easy to identify dangerous dogs and hold their owners responsible for their actions.

While I tend to be against numerous government regulations, I do believe that pet ownership is a privilege rather than a right, and sensible legislation (that affects all dogs rather than singling out certain breeds that are deemed “dangerous” by the government) is important.

Microchipping involves inserting a glass chip approximately the size of a grain of rice under the pet’s skin. In my practice, we offer this as an option to owners in an effort to make it easy to recover their pets if the pet should become lost or stolen. It is most easily and painlessly done while the pet is under anesthesia for another procedure such as spaying, neutering, or cleaning the pet’s teeth.

The concern I have about requiring micro-chipping is similar to gun control laws. Law abiding citizens will have the procedure done while the criminals who own dangerous dogs for the purpose of dog fighting or other criminal activity will not have the procedure done. Therefore, I’m not sure if mandatory microchipping will achieve the desired goal set forth by its proponents.

I do however, like the idea of requiring pet insurance for all owners, similar to requiring automobile insurance for those who drive cars. Once again though, how will this be enforced? Will criminals or those of low income ignore the law, not purchase insurance, and still not be able to provide financial assistance to cover the cost of medical care for a third party that might become injured during a dog attack?

I look at dog attacks similar to injuries received by a weapon such as a gun. If I’m attacked and injured by your dog, you should be forced to pay for my care. Jail time may also be imposed depending upon the circumstances of the attack. If you cannot pay for my medical care, mandatory jail time must be imposed as you knowingly kept a dog likely to cause harm to someone.

At this point, I’d like to see more debate on these issues and try to figure out if these proposals would achieve their desired results. As is so often the case with good ideas, once they become laws there are unintended consequences and often the good ideas do not achieve their desired results. If that in fact is the case, innocent law abiding pet owners would be punished or as criminals would once again continue to not be held accountable for their actions.

Fatal Attractions-New TV Show Discourages Ownership of Exotic Pets A

March 7, 2010 on 7:40 pm | In General Posts | Comments Off

A new TV show on Animal Planet called Fatal Attractions will air next weekend. While I have not had the opportunity to screen an advanced copy, from what I’ve been able to gather it looks like a pretty interesting show. As an expert on exotic animal care, I agree with the premise that wild animals should never be owned as pets.

It is true that some exotic pets, such as smaller reptiles, non-poisonous snakes, birds, and small mammals can make acceptable pets IF the owner is willing to take the time to learn about a particular animal’s behavior and husbandry needs.

However, wild animals such as monkeys, bears, and exotic felines should NEVER be owned as pets. Having worked with some of these animals, I can honestly tell you that they all retain their wild nature. While they can be trained and even habituated to allow human contact, they can never be trusted and any of them can at any moment seriously injure or even kill the people who work with them.

It’s unfortunate that it is very easy and inexpensive to purchase a wild animal. The black market wild animal trade is alive and well, and sadly penalties for people involved in illegally acquiring and shipping wild animals are minimal to nonexistent.

My hope is that viewers of Fatal Attractions will see the seriousness and danger of owning wild animals and will refuse to do so.

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs and CRP-I’m Right Again

March 6, 2010 on 9:42 am | In General Posts | Comments Off

Two years ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who’s a big wig drug salesman for the giant pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck. He makes a lot of money selling their drugs, including their blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor, to large hospitals and doctor groups.

I mentioned to him that elevated blood cholesterol levels were not a major cause for coronary artery disease. Instead, other factors including elevated levels of fibrinogen, homocysteine, and CRP produced inflammation which then caused coronary artery disease. He disagreed with me (no surprise.) My friend told me that Merck recently had their cardiologist talk to their sales force, teaching them that elevated blood cholesterol levels were the only factor responsible for heart disease and that elevated CRP was totally meaningless.

I knew I could not convince him otherwise. He bought the company line, and since he made a large amount of money selling a cholesterol-lowering drug (that most people do not need,) I knew he would not be open to hearing the truth about coronary artery disease. Since he was also a good friend and I did want to get into an argument with him, I let the matter drop. I did however ask him why, if elevated blood cholesterol levels were so important in the genesis of coronary artery disease, there were many people dying of coronary artery disease who had normal blood cholesterol levels. He was unable to answer the question, but reiterated that people with elevated blood cholesterol levels must be placed on cholesterol-lowering drugs or they would die of coronary artery disease.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I noticed that Merck and other manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering drugs are now advertising that these drugs, in addition to lowering cholesterol levels, also lower…….CRP levels!

Wow. I guess I was correct several years ago when I tried convincing my friend of the importance of elevated CRP levels.
It’s nice that drug companies are now admitting something we’ve known for over 10 years.

However, since the drug companies have refused to acknowledge, until recently, the importance of elevated CRP levels, there are only two possible conclusions to this “recent” discovery by the drug companies.

1.CRP levels really are important as a factor in coronary artery disease.
2.CRP levels are not important, which has been the drug company mantra until recently. If this is the case, who cares if their cholesterol-lowering drugs now also lower CRP levels, since CRP levels are meaningless.

Now that the drug companies have discovered that their cholesterol-lowering drugs also lower CRP, it’s interesting to see that they have made an about-face on their insistence for many years that cholesterol levels were the only important factor in causing coronary artery disease.

Of course there are many natural therapies that can also lower CRP and cholesterol levels, without the expense or danger of serious side effects (muscle damage, kidney failure, dementia, etc.) posed by cholesterol-lowering drugs.

I guess this just shows that I was right all along, and the skeptics who kept denying the importance of other risk factors for coronary artery disease have proven to be wrong yet again.

“Keep an open mind, and you’ll be amazed at the level of healing you can attain.”

Once again those who favor natural therapies are years ahead of the close minded conventional mainstream.

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