Category Archives: Medicine

The Problem With Prescription Veterinary Diets

The topic of prescription vet diets may seem to have little to do with raw feeding or natural health, but I think it’s actually important to consider even for the most established and comfortable raw feeder. The subject came up in one of the online communities I participate in  where someone posed the question, “If prescription diets are said to be so bad, why do veterinarians have success with them and continue to promote them?” Following is the response that I wrote, which I thought I’d share here.


Prescription diets definitely “work”. When people question prescription diets (well, thinking people who aren’t just being argumentative), it’s not so much questioning whether the food does what it’s designed for, but if that purpose is what you want to achieve. Prescription foods on the whole are designed to deliver a particular result — usually a general picture of health and diminishment of symptoms. They often do deliver that result (couldn’t sell the stuff if it didn’t work), but there is a cost to consider, and it’s not the (high) price of the bag.

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Let’s take the example of hydrolyzed proteins. (Certain lines of prescription foods use this technology.) Hydrolyzing breaks proteins down into their constituent parts, so in essence part or most of the “digesting” is already done. A dog with digestive issues will, therefore, be able to assimilate and use a food like this better than whole foods, because there is a serious problem in the body. The body will be provided with what it needs to perform basic functions and give you a good poop and a shiny coat, which we see as a sign of good health.

The problem comes in the fact that the food isn’t helping to actually *fix* the root cause of the problem — it’s just something that creates the illusion of normal functions. The root cause of the complaint or illness oftentimes will actually become worse because the food is like a band-aid over a wound. In some cases the band-aid offers protection while the body heals and you can take it off and go back to normal a few days later. In other cases, though, it’s like putting a band-aid on an infected wound which just traps the infection and causes it grow worse. Since it’s covered up it’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind. You can go on thinking it’s all OK, but that band-aid isn’t going to be able to keep covering the wound as it festers and grows, and you’ll have to address a more serious problem down the road. Using our band-aid analogy, you have to consider what putting a band-aid on when you don’t even have a cut does, too. It’s probably going to trap moisture and bacteria, and the skin under the patch is going to at least get wrinkly and gross if not infected from the band-aid!!! Some people try to use prescription foods as preventatives, which due to poor quality ingredients actually damage health making the prescription food an actual necessity. Prescription foods do not foster good health in the long-term.

Medical conditions tend to snow-ball when you are only suppressing symptoms, and prescription foods are designed to suppress symptoms. Prescription foods may offer temporary relief as a medication of sorts — which can be life-saving — but if true health is the goal it’s best to work on identifying and fixing the problem so that the dog is able to eat a really truly healthy diet that will provide life-long bodily support thru sustenance — like raw — not just function on the crutch of prescription diets as long as they work.


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Monthly pesticide medications

Though I do not agree with the safety or effectiveness of chemical pesticide use, it is a common practice among pet owners encouraged by many veterinarians, and the topic comes up in discussion often. In 2005 when I wrote this out originally I did it out of having noticed on my online communities that people were using products without knowing the mode of action, or even what “pests” were targeted by available products. Here is some info I gathered on all of the monthly preventatives I am aware of, updated the last time in 2008. If you see something you know to be erroneous, outdated, or see a med I missed, please contact me. All the information following comes from manufacturer websites. 

Topicals

K9 Advantix
A topical medication made by Bayer. Effective against fleas, ticks, mosquitos. Active ingredients are imidacloprid and permethrin. According to Bayer, “K9 Advantix repels and kills mosquitoes before they can bite”, “it repels and kills [different varieties of] ticks before they can attach”, and “stops fleas from biting in less than 5 minutes and kills them before they lay eggs”, and “kills flea larvae before they develop into adult fleas”.

Frontline
A topical medication made by Merial. Effective against fleas and ticks. Active ingredient is fipronil. According to Merial, “Frontline starts killing fleas and ticks as soon as they come into contact with your dog”.

Frontline Plus
A topical medication made by Merial. Effective against fleas and ticks. Active ingredients are fipronil and (S)-methoprene. According to Merial, “Frontline Plus kill[s] up to 100% of adult fleas on your pet within 24 hours. It also contains a special ingredient that kills flea eggs and larvae to keep ALL stages of fleas from developing.”

Advantage
A topical medication made by Bayer. Effective against fleas, ticks, mosquitos. Active ingredient is imidacloprid (9.1%). According to Bayer, Advantage stops fleas from biting in three to five minutes, and starts killing fleas within an hour. Within 12 hours of initial application, 98-100 percent of all existing fleas on pets are dead and it kills fleas before they lay eggs, so their life cycle is broken. And because it kills flea larvae within 20 minutes of contact, you don’t need to use an insect growth regulator.

ProMeris
A topical medication made by Fort Dodge. Effective against fleas, Brown Dog ticks, American Dog ticks, Lone Star ticks, Black-Legged, and Deer ticks. Active ingredients are metaflumizone and Amitraz. According to Fort Dodge, “ProMeris for dogs contains metaflumizone, as well as Amitraz, to provide broad-spectrum control of fleas and ticks.”

Tablets/Chewables

Revolution
A topical medication made by Pfizer. Effective against fleas, heartworms, and other parasites including ear mites, the mites that cause sarcoptic mange, and the American dog tick. Active ingredient is selamectin. According to Pfizer, Revolution Kill[s] adult fleas and prevent[s] flea eggs from hatching for one month, and is used for prevention of heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis, treatment and control of ear mite (Otodectes cynotis) infestations, treatment and control of sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabiei), and control of American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) infestations.

Interceptor
A tablet made by Novartis. Effective against heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. Active ingredient is milbemycin oxime. According to Novartis, Interceptor eliminate[s] the tissue stage of heartworm larvae and the adult stage of hookworm (Ancylostoma caninum), roundworms (Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina) and whipworm (Trichuris vulpis) infestations when administered orally according to the recommended dosage schedule.

Heartgard
A tablet or chewable made by Merial. Effective against heartworms. Active ingredient is ivermectin. According to Merial, Heartgard is highly effective in preventing heartworm disease.

Heartgard Plus
A chewable made by Merial. Effective against heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Active ingredients are ivermectinand pyrantel. According to Merial, Heartgard Plus is is highly effective against heartworms, and treats and controls other dangerous parasites and provides the most control against roundworms and hookworms available in a Real Beef chewable heartworm preventative.

Iverhart Plus
A chewable made by Virbac. Effective against heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Active ingredients are ivermectin and pyrantel. According to Virbac, Iverhart Plus is guaranteed to protect against these dangerous parasites: heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms.

Tri-Heart Plus
A chewable tablet made by Schering-Plough. Effective against heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Active ingredients are ivermectin and pyrantel. According to Schering-Plough, “Tri-Heart Plus flavored chewable tablets contain ivermectin/pyrantel – a proven combination to protect your dog and ensure your complete peace of mind.” .

Sentinel
A tablet made by Novartis. Effective against fleas, heartworms, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Active ingredients are milbemycim oxime and lufenuron. According to Novartis, Sentinal is for the prevention of heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis, for the prevention and control of flea populations, the control of adult Ancylostoma caninum (hookworm), and the removal and control of adult Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina (round-worm) and Trichuris vulpis (whipworm) infections. It controls flea populations by preventing the development of flea eggs and does not kill adult fleas.

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Homeopathy Defined

The subject of homeopathy and homeopathic remedies comes up in online discussions quite frequently, especially those geared towards the “holistic” and “natural”. It is a very mis-understood and mis-represented practice. To make matters worse, more often than not when you see the word “homeopathic” thrown around it is being misused to the point that the product advertised or point being made has nothing to do with homeopathy at all! Especially lately, it seems, homeopathy is being vehemently objected to in the conventional media, on social media sites, and on blogs and websites. I’m not here to make a case necessarily for or against, but I will present a little background so that maybe it can be better understood.

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Understanding homeopathy pretty much requires setting aside everything you know about the allopathic concept of “disease” and how to effect a “cure” with pharmaceuticals and other medicines — “natural” or not. In my experience one of the hardest things when it comes to learning about homeopathy is the initial hump you have to get over to understand the basic theories behind homeopathy. Even the most simple of concepts in homeopathy might be quite a leap, even for the most holistically-thinking, open-minded individual.

Homeopathy is a modality of health and healing based on the discoveries of doctor Samuel Hahnemann in mid-eighteenth-century Germany. Medicine in those days was a very highly experimental field. (One could argue it still is.) Oftentimes remedies did more damage than the disease they were being administered to treat. (Still sounds pretty familiar, huh?) This was not so much due to the lack of sound theory as much as the difficulty in creating regulated dosages and/or controlling purity and contamination of medicinal preparations given the technology at the time. In attempts to try and find a way to lessen the toxic effects of these pharmaceutical treatments Hahnemann more or less stumbled upon the fact that the dilution of ingredients could be effective in the alleviation and/or cure of symptoms. This simple discovery gave rise to modern homeopathy.

homeopathic medicine

Homeopathy is not only a different way of preparing medicines, it involves a different understanding of the very idea of “disease”. The modern western definition of disease is the expression of symptoms. Those symptoms are viewed as the disease, more or less. Quash the symptoms, you’ve cured the disease, right? In homeopathy symptoms are viewed as an expression of disease, not the disease state itself. To really get at the root (and therefore the cure) for a disease, one has to address the body as a whole, not just the sum of it’s parts and the expressions of those parts.

Homeopathic medicines are based on the idea of “like cures like”, in fact that’s what the word “homeopathic” means. (Homeo = similar, pathos = disease.) This is completely outside the realm of current western pharmaceutical philosophy, in which substances are used to contradict symptoms. In homeopathic medicine an element — be that animal, vegetable, mineral, or otherwise — is prepared in a VERY diluted state — one dose may not even contain a whole molecule of the original substance — and when administered in this form it acts within the body on a subatomic level to promote healing via the body’s natural healing mechanisms, which includes reacting to harmful stimuli, then working to maintain or return the body to a state of good health. The extreme dilution — though seemingly contrary — was found by Hahnemann to be not only less toxic, but more effective than using medicines in more conventional strengths, and is the premise on which modern homeopathic remedies are still formulated.

The first time homeopathy was presented to me in a way I could say I finally started to “get it” was in the book, The Nature Of Animal Healing by Dr. Martin Goldstein. Another excellent book which focuses on veterinary homeopathy but is a really fantastic text for anyone looking to understand and use homeopathy is Homeopathic Care For Cats And Dogs: Small Doses For Small Animals by Don Hamilton. Instead of continuing to explain the tenets and practical application of homeopathy I’ll leave it to you, the reader of this article, to pick up one or both of these books and continue your journey towards understanding the history and practice of homeopathy.

That said, there are a few different approaches to homeopathic care and the selection and use of medicines. I wrote out the following in 2007 to try and address the differences in the three prevailing schools of homeopathic treatment:

Homeopathy: Classical, Clinical, and Complex

Classical Homeopathy

Classical Homeopathy is the practice of homeopathy strictly based on founder Samuel Hahnemann’s research and techniques. Attention is paid to finding “constitutional remedies” that address the individual and the manifestation of a disease state, as opposed to finding a remedy based merely on a few main symptoms which define injury or disease in a more allopathic tradition. Remedies are prescribed one-at-a-time.

Clinical Homeopathy

Clinical homeopathy is a practice of homeopathy that has deviated from Classical homeopathy. (Some could argue “progressed”, depending on your school of thought. Classical homeopaths do not accept Clinical homeopathy as a valid practice.) Clinical homeopathy strays from the single “constitutional” remedy which is totally unique to the individual, and starts to target various systems of the body and a wider concept of “symptom”. Symptoms are all-important when it comes to homeopathy. Clinical homeopathy also makes use of really high-potency remedies, which in homeopathy-speak means exceeding dilution/succussion sets of the C potencies. Clinical homeopaths might use M potencies, and high ones at that, whereas Classical homeopaths won’t.

Complex Homeopathy

Complex homeopathy includes the practice of using “combo” preparations that mix several homeopathics and/or potencies together into one remedy that are likely to target a condition. The idea is that the body “chooses” which one is going to be effective. This strays pretty far from the practice of Classical homeopathy and considering the individual, not the concept of “a disease”. Sometimes homeopathics are combined with medicines and techniques from other modalities — for instance using both homeopathics, acupuncture, and a pharmaceutical to, say, effect a solution to a skin problem. Vets that prescribe homeopathics as part of their practice will fall into the category of complex homeopaths. The “combo” homeopathic preparations like Traumeel, or any of the various preparations called “calming” or “allergies” all fit into the “complex homeopathy” category. Surprise, surprise, complex homeopathy isn’t supported or even smiled on by classical homeopaths, nor even a lot of people who embrace clinical homeopathy. The suppression of symptoms is a HUGE “no-no” in homeopathy, and I think one drawback of using homeopathy with other treatments is the potential for one of the other treatments having a suppressive effect on any symptom — even one that seems minor. While homeopathic remedies can aid other modalities in healing, to get the true effect of homeopathy you have to be SO aware of subtleties and NOT suppressing ANY of the body’s attempts to heal that it becomes tricky to use complex homeopathy in a really beneficial way.

I think one thing that distinguishes some homeopathic practitioners from others is their understanding of how to prescribe homeopathics, what they want the homeopathic to do, and the risk involved with what’s called an “aggravation”. An aggravation can happen in several different instances, but VERY generally speaking it’s a negative effect that usually occurs when a homeopathic remedy is administered that was “close but not quite” when it comes to the appropriateness or dosage frequency of the remedy chosen. I personally wonder about this when it comes to Complex Homeopathy. Though some very intellegent and well educated people would argue, just because there is no detectable level of the “active ingredient” does not mean that there isn’t a potential for harm to be done with inappropriate applications of homeopathic medicine. I guess it’s kind of a matter of, “If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right!!!”

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The Original Kitchen Wolves: part II

Part II — before raw

When Meridian came into my life I knew NOTHING about dogs. I was 20 years old and had an interest in a natural approach to eating and healthcare for myself, but was like many people in not really understanding the issues when it comes to pet care. (Looking back I realize how much I really didn’t know about any of it, really!) More or less everything I did for Meridian was based on what friends told me was good or bad, or just plain intuition and paying attention to what Meridian was “telling” me.

For the first several months of her life Meridian ate Pedigree dog food. I know, I know, it’s embarrassing to admit, but it was a seemingly good food, and I will actually maintain that about 15 years ago it was marginally better than it is now. I read the bags of dog food in the grocery store. Pedigree was free from the word “by-product”, which was my biggest criteria for defining ‘good’ at the time.  Pretty quickly I was enlightened to the existence of an independent pet supply store, and Meridian started eating Nutro and other pretty good kibbles. (Again, at the time, Nutro was still to have been bought out by a multinational and was a quality food.) We would continue with those until the switch to raw food, save one foray into home cooking when Meridian was about a year and a half old. Though researched I just didn’t feel what I was providing was right, and it lasted a couple months before I made the decision to go back to commercial food.

The Original Kitchen Wolves: Part II (Image: Meridian)

We lived an active lifestyle and Meridian spent the first 5 or so years of her life living in Philadelphia. She came with me almost everywhere I went except school and work. Our regular turf included Clark Park, an abandoned oil refinery in the southwest of the city, Judy Garland Park and the river between FDR and South Street, the South Street strip, Comet Cafe, friend’s houses, and even punk and metal shows at a variety of venues. She accompanied me on travels outside Philly, which included a trip back to her birthplace of New Orleans at a year old, and other trips to places including  Virginia, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and many trips to New York City.

The Original Kitchen Wolves: Part II (image: Meridian and her backpack)

Meridian was with me when I met my future husband, Mike, in Milwaukee in 2001. He had a dog named Storm, an American Staffordshire Terrier, and we joined forces with them, living in Philly for another year.  (Storm has her own story as one of my original “kitchen wolves”.) In March of 2002 we left Philly for good and the four of us headed out on an adventure which would take us south to Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada before coming up to Mike’s homeland of Canada.  We settled down for a bit in southern Alberta, where we were married in September of 2002.

The Original Kitchen Wolves: Part II (Image: Storm)

We then returned to New Orleans to live.  New Orleans presented some interesting challenges as pet owners. The climate in the Gulf Coast area is hot and humid almost all year ’round. The bugs are insane and we battled fleas. At that time I had yet to learn the truths and alternatives concerning chemical heartworm “preventatives”, and also had yet to discover a reliable way to keep fleas at bay, and they got out of control. It was awful.  It was also an interesting learning experience, and one of the events that really triggered my questioning the mainstream approach to health and well-being.

Despite the application of products like Frontline and Advantage life was unbearable. I had a sort of epiphany one day and said, “Screw this. These products are poison, and can’t be good. Nevermind that, they’re costly. If they’re not doing anything why use them?”. At the time the dogs were on Heartgard, a monovalent drug for heartworm prevention, so we simply stopped doing the Frontline drops and the population of fleas in our house went down noticeably. That was an eye-opener at the very least!

In the spring of 2003 the third original kitchen wolf joined our pack, a 3-month old Chow/Corgi mix who we named Natty Gann. A year after that it was time for yet another major life change when we decided to move to Canada, the native country of my husband. We packed up a U-Haul, loaded into the Jeep Cherokee and drove up to start our new life in southern Alberta.  A year after that, on April 24th, 2005 all three dogs ate their last piece of kibble and we became a raw fed family.  Meridian was 7 years old, Storm about 6, and Natty just a year or so.

The Original Kitchen Wolves: Part II (image: Natty)

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