Multidoc Management

•February 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

From Making Do to Having the Health Team You Want


If you have a passion for knowledge about holistic living for your animals and yourself, you’re always on the lookout for new information about health, food, medicine, exercise – and all the components that comprise a healthy life, and all the interesting and effective modalities that make up integrative medicine.


We’re not doctors, and we know we need doctors. We learn new things and share them with our tried-and-true veterinarian, who has seen us through many animal’s lives and deaths. Often, we dearly love these vets. They love us and our animal families. Sometimes the information we bring them is gladly accepted and considered, and occasionally it might send a mainstream vet in a whole new direction. That’s fantastic, and if you have that experience you have probably improved or saved a lot of animal lives, and influenced many people indirectly. 

Mainstream veterinarians are trained to treat illness. Though “wellness” has become a buzzword, most practitioners are flooded with information from drug companies and the animals they see are not well. They’re trying to slow what they view as inevitable degeneration into unhealthy old age. The once a year checkup is an excellent idea – but the majority of the vets we see are trained to see a problem only when it’s really become a PROBLEM, and they’re not well trained in preventive nutrition or lifestyle, or in seeing the very early patterns that indicate trouble down the road. They might be receptive to your input, and if so, congratulations – but they still might not know what you need to know.

We stick with these situations for quite a while. We like the docs, we don’t want them to be mad at us, we are happy if they tolerate our feeding programs without giving us a hard time. We don’t think ahead and make sure that the rabies vaccine is a 3-year vaccine until after it’s given, and discover that the one year vaccine is what was used. We have to argue about vaccines and sometimes sign releases holding a veterinarian harmless since we did not follow their advice about yearly vaccines, in spite of the current 3-year recommendation. If we go in to get an opinion about that odd spot on Frango’s shoulder, we might get three kinds of drugs when all we wanted was “spot identification”. Our waffling might go on for quite some time, but eventually, it is time to part ways with your “old” practice.


We look for doctors that have advanced knowledge in the areas where we need help. We want to pick the brains of all the practitioners around, looking for someone who is a good fit and who knows more than we do about whatever the topic might be. The internet has changed life radically, and access to unlimited resources can be overwhelming. Many people work by phone. Holistic veterinary sites are abundant. There’s a lot of repetition in what they promote: but there is considerable difference in approach, skill, and knowledge. As in many fields, you can call yourself a holistic veterinarian if you’re a vet and you have want to be “holistic”, but this does not indicate any level of skill. 

Before we know it we might have 5 vets and several non-veterinary practitioners helping us with our animals. There’s no problem these days finding acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, and a lengthy list of integrative modalities. This is a very good thing. But it might also be a mess. We might find ourselves in the same boat with our holistic practitioners as we did before, juggling the conservative guy we’ve always known with the new knowledge we’ve acquired. They might disagree with each other. They might not have the time and inclination to consult with each other.  Lots of doctors like to do their own thing and have their own favorite products

There are very real pitfalls when you start doctor shopping and using many different doctors, and practitioners cannot save us from them. We need to formulate what our ideas are and find a way to orchestrate the coordination of our practitioners as best we can. It is tempting to use them all.  It’s likely that with a few years of trial and error you will be able to think through what’s needed, what’s fluff, or perhaps downright silliness. Hopefully you will become educated enough to avoid actual malpractice, stupidity, and bad medicine, which exists in integrative medicine just as in mainstream medicine. Starting with an idea of what you are looking for in general is very helpful.

Our doctors need to be able to educate us, they need to know more than we do about our concerns. They need to be able to see that though they might not have the tools to help us, tools may exist, and they need to have the motivation to seek information and send us in directions that might help. It would be great if they could oversee our health programs, help to troubleshoot and point out holes in our thinking – unfortunately, it’s a rare doctor who is equipped to do that. Those of us who have them are torn: tell your friends and make access to your great vet even harder, or don’t tell them and know you might have helped their animals


Say you have been visiting one vet with your dog and you’ve made a lot of progress with his “allergy” symptoms, and with a previously undiagnosed thyroid problem. You decide to add acupuncture and chiropractic to the mix. Those two additional doctors have their own way of treating some of the issues you are already working with. They are not necessarily going to consult with each other. Or, one doctor may not understand the treatment plan of another – assuming they even have the information, which is not often the case. Clients are notorious for not knowing what information is important: a good doctor is also a good interviewer, who can pull the needed info out of the client, but this is not a common skill. With more experience most of us go into hyper-information mode, which can be irritating to the most recently acquired practitioner (excel spreadsheets detailing daily urination and defecation could be a bit much), but it’s better than too little information! In the beginning we may fail to tell them the whole treatment plan for each practitioner — thus hindering them all.

At best this is a messy situation, and it’s dangerous to the health of your animals. Even herbs can interact negatively. A chiropractic treatment on top of an acupressure treatment followed by a therapeutic swim might be great for one dog – but it could be the last day of an old, frail dog’s life.


For example: you’ve been working with Arlo on thyroid issues and he’s doing well on natural thyroid hormone with some glandular support. The practitioner to whom you go for acupuncture for Arlo’s achy knee is of the opinion that Chinese herbs with acupuncture are the only way to balance all systems. And, he thinks that you should do the Traditional Chinese Medicine protocol with herbs and acupuncture for all his health issues and leave your glandular supplements and medication on the shelf. He disagrees with the fresh food diet you’ve been using (successfully, you thought) and wants to switch to one using TCM principles. He is not interested in what you did already, just what he thinks is appropriate. Your new chiropractor (same bum knee) thinks that though your diet, supplements, and medications are ok (you did remember to tell her most of what you do), there are five additional products you should add. She’s a good chiropractor, but seems to be adding supplements to a program that’s already quite full. Now what?

All of this is costing you a lot of bucks and you have been given some opinions that conflict mightily. Since this progression doesn’t happen in one week, often we just add whatever we’re told to add and the result is an extensive and expensive lineup of bottles on the counter, which we add to Arlo’s food (usually without considering the consequences to the flavor of the food or possible interactions, or the possibility of ….just too much) This leads to digestive upset and yet another vet because “it didn’t work”. We’re embarrassed to go back to the first vet and admit that we talked to someone else.


The ideal plan might be for you to collect opinions, do some research, and make up your own mind. We all need to do a lot more thinking for ourselves and learn to ask good questions. The person who must decide what to do is – you. It’s hard to shake the training we all have — the adults are always right, and professionals are “super-adults” – don’t you be talking back! You have asked the doctor for an opinion based on their knowledge. You, too, are a thinking being: use your brain to ask questions so that you really understand. Treat yourself like competent being – you are.


The goal of holistic health care is this: remove roadblocks to health, in order that the body may get on with the spectacularly effective tools available to it for maintaining, healing, and growing. Let the brilliant system take care of itself. Supply what support is needed without trying to outsmart: we will never be smarter than any living organism, we will never know it all. After removing roadblocks, let the body heal. Good food, exercise, plenty of stimulation and love, and you are usually much of the way toward health. Whatever is left after this, use minimal intervention always with the goal of supporting, not forcing and assuming that you know better than your dog’s body knows.


How can we accomplish this when we’re in the grip of a situation we want to fix right now? To start, take some deep breaths and know that unless it’s an emergency (for which we have emergency rooms) you have time to gather information, subject it to some thinking, evaluate, and choose a path.

When you ask for an opinion about what path to take, subject all ideas to this question:

                                                Why is that?”

Do you understand how the plan works, what the goal is, how the system will be influenced or changed? Do you know what the possible outcomes are? Do you understand what the problem really is and how it affects everything else? Do you know if this will help or if possibly the treatment suggested is more likely to be very hard on your already droopy pet?  Do you know how the practitioner views these situations in general?

In order to answer these questions, you can just jump in and see what happens. For the sake of your animal and your budget, I suggest that you find out ahead of time. Interview the doctor, or the practice manager if you can’t get to the doctor, about how they approach the healing process. Find out what you can from the office staff, but be aware that they might not really have a grasp on the practice ethics and approaches. I strongly advocate making and paying for an appointment with the doctor to discuss possibilities. They should be able to answer you, with the disclaimer that every animal is different. Very true, but still there is a general approach. While on the road talking to vet clinics about fresh food diets, I asked these questions a lot, so that I would know where to send people for help. Often, I started by asking about the general plan and treatment for “allergies”. Amazingly, the answer was often “Steroids and antibiotics and hypoallergenic prescription food”. Don’t waste your time where there’s no chance you will be helped.


Most practitioners fall into a few categories, though the words they use may differ.


Blazing Hot Docs. Everyone in the world recommends them and their clients have them on very tall pedestals. They know everything and are always learning. They share their ever changing knowledge with their clients and a major goal is the empowerment of the individual human to be able to manage their own health and that of their family, be it animal or human. They have great skills, sometimes in only a few areas but are knowledgeable enough about others and who the experts might be that they can send you along with confidence.

Let us hope that this group grows big enough to help all the animals who need them. Some doctors blast out of med school with this attitude, and add skill upon skill, while maintaining the view that “do no harm” and “remove obstacles to health” are prime directives. Others earnestly and steadfastly stumble through lengthy soul-searching and learning and graduate from one of the groups below with great relief. It can be quite a journey from what they learned in veterinary or human medical school to an approach that really integrates holistic thinking.

It’s a war, and I’m going to win it! These doctors approach treatment with a combat sort of view. Since we see a lot of this view on TV, sports, and news, it’s very familiar. In this practice, it’s common to blast whatever the problem is with every tool in the arsenal. Vitamins, herbs, homeopathy, diet, drugs, chemo, immune supports of every kind and lots of them – along with acupuncture using a whole lot of needles and some machines. But there is not much consideration of the strength, character, and personality of the individual. Treatment is done TO them, not with them. This view approaches symptoms, not systems. Though the tools used may be “alternative”, the approach is not holistic. It can also be pretty expensive, but it’s easy to be swept along with “more is better”, a classic American point of view. Many of us appreciate being taken off the hook of deciding what’s best – but really, you’re not off the hook. It’s still your decision.

“We do acupuncture” This person has learned a specialty and added it to her mainstream practice. She heard that these modalities are good money makers, people are asking, and she wants to have more tools. The Acupuncture/TCM courses are not a light undertaking, but it seems that it takes more than a commitment to getting through the course for the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine to take root. I’ve met many brilliant TCM veterinarians, and also a lot who took the course, forgot most of it, and use some cookbook recipes for treatment. Sometimes that’s all you need. But be aware that there is a lot more to TCM than a bunch of needles in your dog, even if they have added some western spins like electro-acupuncture.

Chiropractic is the same. Just because someone has done the course does not make them a good chiropractor, nor does it make them a holistic practitioner. You can sort through these people and find those who are really great by asking them to tell you about their specialty. Your “Why is that?” questions should be answered with enthusiasm. Ask around and see who is recommended by everyone. This isn’t foolproof, because people often accept quite modest results as adequate, not knowing the difference. But the person recommended when everyone else has failed – that’s a person to check out. And you’ll probably find that they belong in the first category, Blazing Hot Docs.


            How in the world do you choose? You just wanted to get that throwing up problem solved. You didn’t want to learn anything about how the digestive system works! Welcome to a whole new existence. You have been lured into the fascinating pastime of finding out the weird and amazing answers to “Why is that?” questions. In order to choose a good chiropractor, you need to know something about chiropractic, and like any other topic, there’s the real story, and then there’s the sorta-kinda story. Chinese medicine? The same. Fresh food diets? Yes, the same answer – You have to learn about these things.

Keep the treatment plans and suggestions of all your doctors and practitioners together and evaluate to see of they are congruent, if they make sense together. It’s very easy to do too much when you have an ill dog. It’s great if one of your doctors can serve as your advisor in coordinating recommendations and plans. Always ask yourself how this fits into your ideas about health care, including those emotional areas that have to do with quality of life. If your animal is hysterical when receiving acupuncture, perhaps it’s not the best thing for him. Perhaps the newest round of 12 supplements per meal for your dog with cancer is only making him feel bad. Principles I try to apply are:

Less is more: provide support and let the body heal

Give it some time: healing can take a long time, everything is related.

Understand what you’re told:  if you don’t, ask again and learn on your own

              (if you don’t get answers, find another doctor)

Be respectful of all of those you encounter along the way: a demanding client is one who does not elicit the best from any doctor.


Becoming an effective advocate for yourself and your animals can be frustrating sometimes, but the process stretches your brain and challenges your thinking.  You meet all sorts of new people, and your life is changed and enriched. Having a group of health professionals who cooperate and help you to orchestrate great care for your animals is rewarding and fulfilling. Great practitioners are looking for clients like you! Post this pledge somewhere you will see it often, to help you remember:


  I am responsible for my health and wellbeing, and for that of the animals in my care.

  I will become a knowledgeable advocate for myself and my animals in all realms of life.

 I understand that life, healing, and health are always changing, requiring me to learn

 and evolve in order to be an effective advocate. I will not abdicate this responsibility to

 any person or doctor.


 The health of my animals rests in my hands



How You Store Dry Dog Food Will Affect Your Dog’s Health.

•November 19, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Keeping an open bag of dry dog food for weeks in your kitchen or garage will cause changes in the food that may lead to serious health problems. Learn how to properly store dry dog foods to help your dogs and cats live longer. 


Would you keep a loaf of bread open in your kitchen for 39 days?


We hope not. That’s how long the typical opened bag of dog food lasts.  Lengthy storage time and poor storage conditions lead to nutrient degradation, oxidation of fats, and infestation by molds, mites and other food spoilers. One in three dogs dies of cancer. We think improper storage at home is a major contributing factor.


Dry dog foods usually have a one-year “shelf life.” That means the food is “good” for up to one year after the manufacturing date. Many dry foods stamp a “best if used by” date on the package. This applies only to unopened bags.


High-quality dog food companies use bags that provide protection from oxygen and moisture. If the bag is intact, not enough oxygen and moisture can migrate into the food in one year to cause significant oxidation or microbial growth problems. Though problems can occur between the manufacture of food and the customer opening the bag, it’s what happens after the bag is opened that we are most concerned with in this article.


What happens after you open the bag of dog food?

As soon as you open a bag of food, oxygen, moisture, light, mold spores, storage mites, and other potential spoilers enter the bag.


Oxidation of fats

Oxidized fats may cause cancer and contribute to many chronic health problems in humans. The same is true for dogs.


Dog food companies use antioxidants (sometimes vitamin E and other natural sources) to forestall oxidation. Every time the bag is opened, oxygen enters. Eventually the antioxidants are all oxidized (used up) and some of the fats are damaged, starting with the more fragile omega –3 fatty acids.


Degradation of all micronutrients

Vitamins particularly susceptible to oxidation and damage due to long term room temperature storage include vitamin A, thiamin, most forms of folate, some forms of vitamin B6 (pyridoxal),vitamin C, and pantothenic acid. The nutrition in the food at the bottom of a bag left open 39 days will be considerably less than the nutrition in the top of the bag. Fresh is best. 

Molds and mycotoxins

Storing open bags of dry dog food for 39 days in warm, humid areas (most kitchens) promotes the growth of molds. Some of the waste products of these molds (mycotoxins) are increasingly being implicated as long-term causes of cancer and other health problems in humans, poultry, pigs and other animals. Dogs are particularly susceptible to these toxins[i].


When dry dog foods absorb moisture from the surrounding air, the antimicrobials used by most manufacturers to delay mold growth can be overwhelmed[ii], and mold can grow. The molds that consume dry pet foods include the Aspergillus flavus mold, which produces Aflatoxin B1, the most potent naturally occurring carcinogenic substance known[iii].


You can’t see low levels of mold, and most dogs can’t taste it.[iv] While many dogs have died shortly after eating mycotoxin-contaminated foods[v], mycotoxins kill most dogs slowly by suppressing the immune system and creating long-term health problems in all organs of the body[vi].



Bugs, storage mites, mice, and other unpleasant invaders thrive on dry dog food.  Recent research has shown that allergic dogs are frequently allergic to the carcasses of storage mites, which may infest grains, especially those grains used in low cost dry dog foods. So, daily, allergic dogs ingest a substance to which their immune system reacts negatively.


Keep food fresh!


1. Keep food in its original bag, even if you use a container. Plastics can leach vitamin C out of the food. The components of the plastics themselves may leach into the food. Rancid fat, which lodges in the pores of plastics that are not food-grade, will contaminate new batches of food. 

2. Buy small, fresh bags of food; only enough to last 7 days. Look for manufacturing or “best if used by” dates on the bag. If you don’t see one, or can’t understand the code, write the manufacturer and ask where it is or how to interpret their codes.

3. Keep food dry. If the food looks moist, throw it away.

4. Keep larger bags in the freezer. This is the only way we think large quantities of food may be kept safely.

5. If the food has off color, throw it away.

6. If the food smells rancid or like paint, throw the food away.

7. If your dog says no, do not force her to eat.

8. Don’t buy bags that are torn.


Follow these simple recommendations to radically reduce the deadly toxins your dog or cat encounters. 


[i] Bingham, Phillips, and Bauer.  “Potential for dietary protection against the effects of aflatoxins in animals” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 222, No. 5.  March 1, 2003.  593.

[ii]The data we’ve seen from manufacturers of antimicrobials shows that after four days at above 12% moisture mold growth starts.

[iii] From Science News, Vol 155, No 4, January 23, 1999 p 63. 

[iv] Hughes, Graham & Grieb “Overt Signs of Toxicity to Dogs and Cats of Dietary Deoxynivalenol”, Journal of Animal Sciences, 1999. 77: 699-700.


[v] Chafee and Himes, “Aflatoxicosis in Dogs,” American Journal of Veterinary Research, Vol 30, No 10, October 1969, p 1748.

[vi] Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa, USA Mycotoxins: Risks in Plant, Animal, and Human Systems January 2003 32. 

copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor
See Spot Live Longer

Do dogs and cats need grains?

•November 19, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The natural, ancestral diet of dogs and cats included minimal amounts of grain, yet even the “healthiest” dry foods are half grain. Help your animals live longer- feed them diets more appropriate for their bodies! Learn about the differences between the natural diet of dogs and cats and the modern diet of dry foods.

Dogs and cats are designed by nature to be primarily meat eaters

Dogs are scavengers. Their diet included almost any food that provided calories – but rarely grain. A major factor in the domestication of dogs was the food available at the human garbage dump: The “tamer” wolves, those least afraid of humans, became our close companions over a period of tens of thousands of years. According to a recent study by biologists Ray and Lorna Coppinger, the natural diet of dogs included

”Bones, pieces of carcass, rotten greens and fruit, fish guts, discarded seeds and grains, animal guts and heads, some discarded human food and wastes” (i)

Cats are more selective about food by nature and anatomy: Their ancestral diet consisted of small rodents. Their usefulness to humans had much to do with their eagerness to dispatch the rodents so plentiful around human habitats.

There is almost no grain in the natural diet of dogs and cats


The natural diet of both cats and dogs includes high levels of protein, fat, and water, and very little carbohydrate. The “recommended” diet of dry foods, which is the diet of most cats and dogs, is the complete opposite of this natural diet: High in carbohydrate, low in protein, fat, and with almost no water.

Dogs and cats do not need carbohydrates, and most veterinary textbooks agree:

Canine and Feline Nutrition (co-authored by two scientists from Iams®): “The fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrate is immaterial because the nutrient content of most commercial foods include (carbohydrates).(i) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition III, written by the founder of Science Diet® (Mark Morris Sr.) and his son (Mark Morris Jr.): “Some question exists regarding the need of dogs and cats for dietary carbohydrate. From a practical sense, the answer to this question is of little importance because there are carbohydrates in most food ingredients used in commercially prepared dog foods.”(i) The Waltham Book of Companion Animal Nutrition: “There is no known minimum dietary requirement for carbohydrate….”(iii)

More Grain, More Insulin, More Inflammation

A highly processed, grain-based diet fed to an animal designed to thrive on a meat based, fresh food diet is very likely to produce symptoms of ill health over time. Diets to address disease most frequently address the symptoms that are the result of a lifetime of inappropriate food, not the cause of the symptoms. The optimum diet for a dog or a cat should closely resemble their natural diet.


A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory chemicals. Over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain the correct weight, and can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more aches and pains.


Improve the balance of your dog’s diet by reducing grain, and you may not need the dangerous Non-Steroidal and Steroid drugs so commonly prescribed for achy animals. Less grain means less inflammation! Toxic drugs make animals more comfortable, but are likely to shorten their lives.


What if eating the right food took care of the problem?


Diabetic animals (and those with other medical conditions) making a switch to a more protein-based diet should be under the close supervision of a veterinarian.


It is our opinion that the best diet for a dog or cat is a fresh meat, bone and vegetable diet. We can’t always follow that advice due to financial constraints; the following suggestions will help you to move toward that goal. Every step helps.


Add Meat To Promote Health


Reduce the grain content of your animal’s diet by adding meat. The following steps can have a profound effect on your animal’s well-being! Remember – reduce the total amount of dry food your pet eats.


Add up to 15% fresh meat, raw or cooked.


Increase protein and reduce the carbohydrate content of the pet’s food. This simple step will not unbalance the levels of any essential nutrient in your animal’s diet. Be sure that the meat scraps you’re adding are mostly meat! Your doggie bag is likely to have much more fat in it than meat. Fat is a very important nutrient, but it’s one that needs to be kept in balance.


Every fat gram has double the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrate.


Don’t use “senior”, “lite” and “diet” foods.


These varieties usually have fewer calories per cup because the manufacturer increased the fiber and carbohydrates, and reduced protein and fat, compared to adult maintenance diets. This is the opposite of what is needed. Dog and cat foods follow the trends in human nutrition, but they’re usually quite a bit behind human products. New science has disproved the ideas of high fiber and high carbohydrate diets for overweight and senior dogs and cats.


Older and overweight animals need meat, not grain.


Add canned food.


Good canned food has no grain, and has more protein and fat than dry pet foods. Some good choices are Nature’s Variety, Wellness, Merrick, and Spot’s Stew. “Complete and balanced” canned diets may be fed as an animal’s sole diet.


For cats, we highly recommend switching all the way. Cats should not eat dry foods. Urinary tract problems and kidney failure in cats have been closely related to dietary water, which has a different effect on the body than water an animal drinks. It’s much better for the cat to eat her food with the water in it!


Add a commercially prepared frozen raw diet.


As with canned foods, if these are “complete” they can replace all other food fed to your animals.


Research proper homemade meat, bone and vegetable diets and supplement with good dry food to cut cost.


Homemade foods can be nutritious and affordable, but must be made correctly. We will write more about this in a future article. This option provides the protein and fat our pets need, reduces the amount of grain they eat, and is affordable by most people.

Feed your animal a meat and vegetable based diet, the best choice for almost every animal.

[i] Coppinger, Ray and Lorna, Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution, Scribner, 2001. 59 – 78.

[ii] Case: Cary, and Hirakawa, Canine and Feline Nutrition, Mosby, 1995. 93.

[iii]Morris, Mark, Lewis, Lone and Hand, Michael, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition III, Mark Morris Associates, 1990. 1-11.

[iv] Burger, I., Ed. The Waltham Book of Companion Animal Nutrition, Pergamon 1995. 26-27: 10

Heartworm Season & Treatment

•November 19, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Heartworm season – minimize the toxins you use to prevent heartworm! 

When mud season arrives, mosquitoes are not far behind. We’ll soon be seeing a postcard in the mail from our local vets, reminding us to get our dogs tested for heartworm. In many cases we are also reminded update our dog’s “yearly” vaccinations. If you see a mosquito, is it time to use preventive medication?  

Minimize toxins to help your dog live longer! 

Minimizing toxins is one of the foundations of our “Live Longer” program. Use only those medications, preventatives, and treatments that are useful and necessary. With careful evaluation, some “approved toxins” may be avoided. Medications are by their nature toxic to certain organisms, and often have serious short or long-term side effects for the animal. 

Sometimes chemicals are necessary to save lives. The chemicals used to prevent heartworm are extremely effective and can save dogs from difficult, unpleasant, and potentially dangerous treatment. However, many veterinarians recommend treatment schedules which result in far greater quantities of toxic chemicals being ingested by dogs (and cats) than are necessary or even advised by the American Heartworm Society. 

Heartworm Facts 

The transmissibility season for heartworm varies by climate, and is determined by temperature. In order for the larvae of the heartworm, carried by mosquitoes, to be transmitted to a dog, the temperature must be at least 60 degrees for a month. 

This means, for example, that in Florida, the heartworm season will be quite long. In Florida, it might make sense to give preventative year round. 

In Chicago, the temperature necessary for transmission is not usually reached at night until June. The beginning of the season is not likely to be earlier than June 1 most years, and perhaps later, even through mosquitoes may be present. Temperatures begin to drop at night by September. By October, the season will certainly be over, though we may still see mosquitoes. 

Preventatives kill heartworm larvae. The chemicals used to control heartworm are called preventatives, but when we use them we are actually treating larvae: the chemicals kill the larvae your dog may have picked up in the period since the last dose.  

Prevention Options: Drugs used are “daily” (Diethylcarbamazine Citrate, DEC) to “monthly” (Ivermectin: “Heartgard”, “Iverheart”; and Milbemycin, or “Interceptor”, and Selamectin, “Revolution”). A 6-month treatment (Proheart) was pulled from the market after numerous adverse effect incidents, including deaths.  

The daily preventative (DEC) was once the only choice.

It is not easy to find since the introduction of Ivermectin and other “monthly” treatments. It’s quite effective, and many feel that it is easier on the body. However, if DEC is given to a dog that is already heartworm positive, anaphylactic shock may result, and death. Completing a heartworm test prior to giving any heartworm medication is imperative. Two other issues keep us using the “monthly” preventatives vs. the daily medication. 

Some dogs stash pills away in their mouths and dispose of them where you can’t see them. You must be sure that the dog is swallowing them. Heartworm medication must be swallowed to be effective! 

Also, humans must remember to give daily preventatives. Missed doses may result in infection. This is how two of our dogs contracted heartworm. While May survived the arduous treatment, her brother was blinded. Too bewildered to make the adjustment, he was euthanized. That was long ago and treatment protocols have improved vastly, but treatment is still very toxic to your animals. We prefer providing regular oral preventative medication to the harsh reality of treating a heartworm positive dog.  

“Monthly” treatments are best kept as simple as possible.

There are a number of options based on several chemicals. You have a choice of a pill (flavored or unflavored) or a topical treatment. Some formulations are “multipurpose”. 

We prefer that dogs only receive medication that specifically prevents heartworm, rather than a combination that treats for multiple problems (which your animal may not have). Some manufacturers formulate products that combine heartworm prevention with worming medication, flea, tick and mange medication, just in case your dog may encounter these parasites.

“Just in case” is not a good enough reason to put a multitude of toxic chemicals into your dog’s body. Chemicals are hard on the body, and they interfere with good gut ecology. Plain Ivermectin (Heartguard) is the simplest choice, and the safest for most dogs. Some breeds have shown sensitivity to Ivermectin. We recommend you discuss the least toxic options for your animal with your holistic veterinarian.  

Make sure your dog swallows the pill! Keep an eye on her for a while afterward. While it doesn’t happen often, dogs occasionally vomit pills.  

When to start and end medication? 

To determine the best time to test your animal, see the guidelines at Each geographic area is different. You’ve had your dog tested this spring, and she’s clear of heartworms. How do you know when to start the preventative? 

Heartworm is not transmissible from mosquitoes to dogs until the weather is quite settled and warm, and the medications work on larvae acquired after the season starts. The time to start recommended by the American Heartworm Society is a month after the transmissibility season begins. 

The chemicals used for “monthly” prophylaxis are effective for at least 6 weeks. Many treatment protocols recommend one-month intervals year round, to account for missed doses and client (that’s us) unreliability. The concern of veterinarians that administration will be incomplete is valid. It’s true that humans may fail to give sufficient attention to the date. However, it’s easy enough to write on your calendar the dates that medication is due, to save your dogs unnecessary chemical exposure. 

Holistic veterinarians often recommend that the first dose be given a month after the season begins (dealing with any larva which may have been acquired and allowing for a little overlap) and every six weeks after that, until the end of the season. The Heartworm Society recommends that the last dose be given within a month after the season ends.  

How many doses are you likely to need? In a normal Chicago spring, four: July 1, August 15, October1, and Nov 15. Even if you are extra conservative, no more than one more dose will be needed. If you start May 15, you’ll end October 1. Few Octobers in Chicago have nights above 64 degrees, but if this occurs, one more dose would be needed before the end of the season. Close attention to the weather, particularly night temperatures, will give you excellent information about when to start. 

Are there other options to keep your dog heartworm free? 

Some concerned dog caretakers have sought out more “holistic” and “natural” options such as herbal or homeopathic remedies. If you desire to not use traditional heartworm medication it’s imperative that your animals be under the care and supervision of a veterinarian with expertise in this area. If you use these options and your animal does not contract heartworm, that doesn’t prove that “it works”. It just proves that your dog didn’t get heartworm.  

Holistic veterinarians suggest supporting the liver after treatment. 

Chicago area holistic veterinarian Karen Shaw Becker suggests a daily dose of milk thistle for the week following each treatment. Milk thistle supports the liver as it metabolizes the medication and aids in the body’s detoxification processes.  

Our goal is to minimize our animal’s exposure to chemicals. 

We recommend supplying the smallest amount of a chemical treatment that will do the job, for the shortest time period possible. This balance provides the best solution to a major health threat, with the minimum amount of medication, followed by appropriate detoxification.  

Of course, the support of a whole food diet and an active and stimulating life will also help your dogs live long healthy lives!  

What about cats? 

In the past few years, veterinarians have begun to recommend that cats receive chemical preventatives for heartworm. This article is addresses heartworm prevention for dogs only. Cats are not the natural hosts of heartworm. The incidence of feline heartworm causing clinical disease is very low compared to dogs. Bear in mind the actual risk that your cat will encounter mosquitoes when making a decision about medication: for most cats this risk is extremely low.

For more detailed information on all aspects of Heartworm, go to         

copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer 

this article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included 

Help your “old” dog live better!

•November 19, 2007 • Leave a Comment

We’d all like to keep our animal buddies around forever. A good diet and appropriate mental and physical exercise can help your dog elders live better and longer!


Our dogs have many of the same needs we do.


To be at their best, dogs need real, fresh food, in the balance that’s best for their individual needs, just like we do. For dogs, real food in its natural balance means meat and vegetables.


Do dogs need “senior” food?


All too frequently, we are advised to feed our dogs “Senior” food, often for dogs starting as young as 6 years old. There is no “life stage” formula food for humans: why would it be good for dogs? It’s not. It’s the result of some old “science” that’s still hanging around.


Veterinarians started recommending senior food years ago, when research seemed to show that dogs (and humans) with kidney problems would do better on a reduced protein diet. So, the reasoning went, we could avoid kidney failure by feeding a reduced protein diet as dogs aged.


This has not proved to be true for dogs or humans, and research done by big pet food companies agrees.(1-4) “Senior” foods are higher in grain than “adult” foods, which will cause increased insulin and inflammatory chemicals to be made. They are designed to be lower in fat and protein, with increased fiber. Older dogs need better protein and more protein. (5) In our opinion, “senior” and “light” diets are detrimental to the health of older dogs.


If Sparky could talk, he’d tell you it’s true. When we met Sparky, he was nine, a stout Brittany Spaniel who was not feeling very well. His family switched from “senior” dry food to a fresh frozen diet as an experiment, to see if a lower carbohydrate diet would help him lose weight. In four months, he lost about 10 pounds—as well as losing these health issues: flaky coat, itchy skin, frequent bladder infections, multiple aches and pains, and most of the tartar on his teeth. He has plenty of energy these days, and no longer qualifies as an old dog.


A species appropriate diet, based on meat and vegetables, provides the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to keep the immune system and the brain working well. Good fats keep inflammation in check and hormone systems functioning properly.


In a 14-year study that compared two groups of Labradors (one group free-fed and the other kept lean), lean dogs lived two years longer. The muscle wasting associated with old age was delayed by two years compared to the group allowed to become overweight. In addition, the lean dogs did not develop arthritis until many years after the overweight dogs, who began to show arthritic changes at 2 years of age. (6) Even if your dog has not been kept lean, you may see most of these benefits when you help your dog shed those extra pounds with a meat and vegetable-based diet.  It’s never too late!


Those with achy and overweight dogs will be amazed to see the difference in how their dogs feel and act when they are fed meat and vegetable based diets. Often dogs who are quite tottery are transformed by a change of diet. Dogs with common chronic medical conditions need the supervision of a veterinarian who is skilled with fresh food diets to supervise and fine-tune a fresh food diet.  Almost all chronic conditions (diabetes, arthritis, Irritable Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, liver and kidney problems, dental disease) will improve on a home-prepared diet designed to support the specific issue.


Good food helps to keep dogs lean, but dogs also need exercise.


If our older animals are not fit, the best diet in the world won’t keep them with us. At your veterinary wellness check, find out what level of activity your veterinarian thinks is suitable for your animals to start with, and work up from there. Many conditions we have discounted as “just old age” diminish or disappear with good exercise. Digestion improves, elimination becomes more regular, animals are less achy and their brains work better. Getting more oxygen circulating builds lungs and heart, improves overall muscle tone and general health immensely. Brisk walking is a great start, but dogs need to get moving enough to get out of breath as well. For smaller dogs, this is easy to accomplish. Very out of shape dogs get winded pretty quickly, but as their fitness increases those with big dogs need to find ways to get them really moving (which will require increased fitness for the human).


Dogs often fade away from simple boredom. 


With an improved diet, dogs are likely to feel more like being active, but they need mental stimulation as well.


Include your dog in family activities, and play with him.

Small games like “catch the popcorn” and “find the treat” take very little human effort, and provide fun and mental stimulation.

Modify activities your old guy is no longer able to do so he can do them. For example, throw the ball so it lands closer to you and make sure he sees it before letting him go for it. Help him in and out of the car.

Many dogs have self-appointed tasks: encourage them to keep at their jobs! Being needed keeps a dog happy.

Learning something new keeps dogs happy, too. It’s a mutually beneficial activity—both human and animal brains get a workout, and your connection to your dog gets even better.


Supplements or food?


Supplements abound for older dogs and cats. They may prove to be of great benefit, but more to the point is good food and good exercise. Studies have shown supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to be of use in joint issues – but the need for these supplements is minimized when an animal eats real food and gets enough exercise to make use of the food.


If you do use supplements, look for those made with whole foods. We consider a wide range of oils (fish oil, cod liver oil, salmon oil, krill oil, sardines) to be necessary in a good diet: and we consider them food, part of the diet, not an isolated ingredient.


Read See Spot Live Longer for more information on commercial diets and adding real food to your dog’s diet.  If your dog has a specific condition, we suggest that you consult with a veterinarian who is experienced with fresh food diets to fine-tune the diet to your dog’s needs.


Let’s keep them as long as we can!


Get them moving, feed them well, engage their brains: you’ll see a dog who is more interested in life, a dog who feels much better. We’ve spent a long time perfecting our relationships with our old dogs, we want them around for as long as they can stay.


1  Newburg LH, Curtis AC. Production of renal injury in the white rat by the protein of the diet. Arch Int Med. 1928; 42:801-21.

2  Brenner BM, Meyer TW, Hostetter TH. New England J. of Medicine. 1982; 307:652.

3  Finco DR. Proc the Waltham/OSU Symposium on Nephrology and Urology, Columbus, OH. Oct. 1992, p. 39.

4  Kronfeld DS. Aust. Vet. J. 1994; 71:328.

5 Churchill J, Polzin D, Osborne C, Tet. al. Proceedings ACVM. 1997:675.

6 Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., et al. 2002. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220(May 1):1315-1320.


copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

this article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included

Fresh Food Diets

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Fresh Food Diets — The Best Choice for Optimum Health for Dogs and Cats!


All of our animal companions — reptile, avian, rodent, equine, canine, or feline — benefit from eating diets natural to their species, whether raw or home cooked.


Dogs and Cats Thrive On Meat Based Diets

It’s simple! Balanced fresh food (meat, bone, and vegetables) diets are more nutritious than the modern (dry food) diet, because raw, fresh foods provide much more complete and balanced nutrition than that found in highly processed foods. 

The natural diet of dogs and cats contains a variety of raw, real foods teeming with bacteria. These foods are high in protein and low in carbohydrate. Below are approximate levels for dogs; natural cat diets are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate. (1)


Natural Diet of Dogs           55%  Protein (Dry Matter),         14%  Carbohydrate (DM))

Dry Dog Food:                    25% +/- Protein (DM),                40 – 70% carbohydrate (DM)


That’s a radical change!


In the natural diet, micronutrients include the natural, organic forms of vitamins and minerals, and thousands of different antioxidants. In dry food diets, many of the micronutrients are human-synthesized vitamins and minerals. Formulas contain only the 23 components deemed “essential.”


This is far fewer than are considered essential in human foods.


There is a world of difference between synthesized vitamins and minerals and those found in highly processed, cooked commercial foods. Hundreds of studies show that people and laboratory animals that eat fresh vegetables and fruits are healthier and have a lower incidence of cancer, stroke and heart disease than those whose intake of micronutrients is primarily from human-made forms. There is no reason to think that our animals are different, yet most of them get almost all their vitamins and minerals in synthetic, human-made, forms.


Dogs and cats diagnosed with “unsolvable” problems (arthritis, diabetes, a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, allergies) often recover completely when eating a properly prepared fresh food diet. There are conditions for which a cooked diet might be better, and animals with health problems should be closely supervised by a veterinarian with extensive fresh food experience.

Whether we can totally solve health problems or not, by providing stressed bodies with the tools for healing, we can optimize the outcome.


Dogs and cats are designed to eat food in its natural state


Canine and feline digestive systems have not changed from the time when they were feral carnivores. There is little debate about this. Dr. Buddington of Mississippi State University, a noted expert on the physiology of mammals, summarizes: “Comparative studies have revealed a close relationship between intestinal characteristics, the evolutionary diet, and requirements of energy and nutrients”. (2)


Dogs and cats live in a bacterial world. Your dog goes out for a short walk in your garden. She absorbs just a few grams of soil, and then comes in and licks her pads. In those two grams of soil, there were probably billions of bacteria of hundreds of different species, some friendly and some not. Consumption of bacteria is natural for dogs and cats. 


Safety of Commercial Raw Diets


Commercial raw diets have been on the market for more than 20 years. Combined, the raw diet manufacturers have fed more than 100,000 dogs without a single documented death due to bacterial problems.


Some people worry about bacteria, and a small percentage of animals have trouble with some foods. Raw meat based pet food companies and veterinarians who use fresh food diets in their practices investigate reports they hear of problems with food. They are often able to sort out what the difficulty was, and food has rarely been the problem.


Safety of Commercial Dry Food Diets


The safety record of the dry pet food industry is not as good as that of the raw diet industry. We can all recall episodes of dozens of dogs dying from eating bad or moldy dry dog foods. In 2003, for example, 48 dogs were reported to have died soon after consuming a so-called “natural” dry dog food. These deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. Read See Spot Live Longer to learn about mycotoxins, toxic waste products from molds which are unavoidable in dry dog foods that use low-cost grains. Poor home storage contributes to these problems.

Only a few of the animals that consume mycotoxin-contaminated foods will die quickly. Chronic, low level ingestion of these toxins causes cancer 3 to 5 years later. Consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated dry pet foods may be a major contributing factor to the cancer epidemic in pets. 

Choosing Commercial Fresh Food Diets


To feed your animals the absolute best diet, grow your own livestock and produce on your organic family farm. If you can do this, or patronize a family farm coop, you’ll be doing the best you possibly can.


Commercial products make it easy to feed a fresh food diet. Dozens of raw food brands are now available at many pet food and natural food stores. Some are available by mail. If you do some research, it is easy to tell the difference between excellent commercial raw diets and poor ones. Use products with all human-edible ingredients toxins in low quality ingredients. The F.D.A. Center for Veterinary Medicine issued model guidelines for raw pet diet manufacturers in 2002. The guidelines recommended the use of human-edible ingredients. However, manufacturers are not yet required to follow this recommendation.


The best manufacturers combine knowledge of modern canine nutritional science with an understanding of the ancestral diet of dogs and cats to produce a “complete and balanced” raw diet. The labels on these packages have a statement that the food meets the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials, the people who regulate pet foods) nutrient profiles.

“Component” raw products supply “meat and bone” or “meat, bone and vegetable” mixes, with instructions to buyers to add the missing ingredients. These products can be excellent, as long as you follow their supplementation recommendations.


Conscientious manufacturers test their foods periodically. They provide complete nutrient profiles and technical support to you and your veterinarian.


Making Your Own


If you want to make a fresh food diet for your animals, go slowly, do it right, and learn first. Improperly prepared diets can be a health hazard. There are many books about raw and fresh diets.You’ll learn that there is no one definitive “right” answer. Some books are rather casual about nutrition, some are difficult to understand. We urge you to read several books before deciding what the best choice is for your animals, always comparing recommendations to the natural diet of the species. The support of a veterinarian skilled in fresh food diets can be of great assistance.


Is Fresh Food Best? We Think So!


The health benefits of a fresh food diet for your four legged friends are similar to those for humans, and just as important. Even a small amount of fresh food can have a big impact. In almost all animals the switch to a fresh diet, in the balance natural to the species, improves health, and can prolong life and vitality.


There’s no substitute for fresh food! You animals will thank you.


P.S. Cat People: Your cats might not thank you immediately!


(1) Calculated using data from Landry and Van Kruiningen, “Food Habits of Feral Carnivores: A Review of Stomach Content Analysis” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, Nov 1979.

(2) Buddington, Randal.  “Structure and Functions of the Dog and Cat Intestine,” Proceedings of the 1996 Iams International Nutrition Symposium. 61- 71.


ã Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

this article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included

Cats: Tips for switching to a fresh food diet

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Cats who have eaten nothing but dry food or even canned food are often a challenge to switch to fresh food. They are very opinionated and imprint on food at an early age. Cats who eat other foods (real meat, fruits, vegetables, cheese) will be much less of a project. It might take days, or it might take months. It’s worth the effort! Cats will starve themselves, and they are not good candidates for the tough love approach. Some very serious conditions can occur if cats do not eat for an extended period of time. Veterinarians who focus on food in their practices find that cats on fresh food diets do not have crystal and other pH problems: their urine is naturally, correctly balanced.

Slow and successful method:


Move away from a dry food diet and toward more canned food. Consider dry food to be a snack only, not left out all the time. Mix a very small (1/4 teaspoon or less) amount of food into an entire can of canned food. Work your way up slowly. Offer bits of other kinds of fresh food that you are eating. They may be refused, but one day….they won’t.  Cats of our acquaintance have taken from 6 months to a year to totally switch, but many are much faster. This method may be used with dry food too: in that case use an even smaller amount of new food in a small amount of dry food.  Some people have success putting that tiny bit of food under one corner of a small serving of dry food. The canned approach works better, but if your cat absolutely refuses canned food it will be the way you start.


If you can skip the transition from dry to canned to fresh, that’s great, but if you can’t, then if you can at least get to mostly canned, with just a couple of tiny snacks of kibble, things will be much improved.


Some things to consider:


*Cat whiskers are very sensitive. If food is served in a bowl that interferes with whiskers it could be enough to keep the cat from considering the food. A flat dish works well.


*Cats generally prefer their food between room temperature and body temperature. You can add warm water, or warm the food in a baggie submerged in warm water. At the beginning, that small amount of new food will not greatly affect the temperature of the whole dish of canned food. One of the factors involved is smell: the food cats are used to eating is designed to be very smelly. They choose food by smell, and fresh food is a lot less fragrant than a commercial food they have been eating. Warming the food releases the flavors and fragrances. This is often the reason that the second half of the can of food is refused — the first time it was not cold!


*Leave the food out for no more than an hour after serving.  If you have dogs, you know what to do with leftovers!. 

Trickery has been known to work with cats: put the food on YOUR plate, or hide it in a location cats know to be forbidden…creativity helps!


Even if you never get all the way to raw food, if you get stuck at canned, (could happen)  your cat will be eating a better balance of fat/protein/carbohydrate, and their diet will be fully hydrated, which is very important. In that case you will need to find a way to simulate the live nutrients that are missing: green stuff (cat grass is popular, kits are available or it’s often available in the produce section) and digestive enzymes, and possibly a variety of raw oils of animal origin. The best canned foods have no grain—Wellness and Nature’s Variety are two. It takes a very small quantity of dry green stuff to do the job, and it’s easy to over do, which can cause urine pH to get too high, and cause some of the problems you’re trying to get away from! Tiny pinches of dry green stuff go a long way.


Cats need wet food

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The natural diet of cats is meat

Cats are meat eaters, designed to thrive on a wide variety of small prey animals, eaten fresh and whole. Their natural diet is high in water and protein, with a moderate amount of fat, and a very low percentage of carbohydrate.


Dry cat food is high in grain

A diet of dry food is high in carbohydrate, between 35 and 50%. “Diet” and “Lite” foods have even more. Dry food contains almost no water.


Dry cat food is convenient to feed, and it’s relatively inexpensive, but it’s the opposite of the natural diet of cats. Cats have no dietary need for any carbohydrate.


Cats need to get water from their food

Cats are descended from feline desert dwellers.  These cats did not have the option to stroll over to the water hole for a drink, and cat tongues are not even very well designed for drinking water. Cats are adapted to obtain most of their water from their prey, which contain over 75% water. Cats who eat dry food consume only half the water of those who eat wet food, and live in a state of chronic dehydration.


Common health problems of cats are related to diet

There is increasing evidence, published in peer-reviewed veterinary journals, that many of the health problems seen in cats are the result of diets inappropriate for a feline. Dry, grain-based foods fed to a meat eater, over time, result in both chronic and life threatening diseases.



Since cats are designed for a high-protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate diet, it is not surprising that obesity is often seen in cats. Diet cat foods have even more carbohydrate than regular ones, and less fat, so they depart even further from the natural diet of cats, making it harder for them to lose weight.



The high level of carbohydrate in dry cat food contributes directly to the development of diabetes in cats. Blood sugar levels rise when cats eat dry food. When this is an ongoing event, insulin producing cells downregulate, which leads to diabetes.


Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is the most common cause of death for cats. The kidneys require an abundant supply of water to do their job. Without water to process the byproducts of the digestion process, the kidneys are overloaded, become unable to do their job, and are damaged over time.


Bladder Problems

Cystitis, bladder irritation, and Bladder/Kidney stone formation are also strongly connected to dehydration. If the body is well hydrated, these problems are minimized.


Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome and Disease

These problems are often characterized by vomiting and diarrhea and are very common in cats. Cats who eat a species- appropriate diet rarely suffer from these issues.


Dental Disease

Dry food has a high sugar (carbohydrate) content, which has been shown to cause dental decay.


In order for any supposed abrasive benefit from dry foods to be seen, cats would have to actually chew their dry food. Since dry food shatters and they then swallow the pieces, there’s no abrasive action from chewing something hard.


Cats who eat dry food often have very severe dental problems. Many factors contribute to dental health, but it is clear that a high carbohydrate diet is not beneficial!


The solution — a diet appropriate for the species

It’s simple: cats need to eat a diet that is high in protein and water, with a moderate amount of fat, and almost no carbohydrate.


Most of the health problems we discussed above are either radically improved or eliminated by eating a diet that meets the needs of a carnivore – one which closely resembles the nutritional balance provided by a mouse.


For example, many veterinarians now treat diabetes with a meat-based canned diet. We’d like to go a step further, and prevent these diseases.


Feed your cat a meat based diet!

We suggest that you buy canned food that is designed to be complete, or complete frozen diets that have very little vegetable content. No grain sources should be listed in the ingredient panel. There are grain free canned cat foods that have some vegetables in them, but the vegetables should  not be a major component of the food (see our article about how to compute) “All meat” diets are just that, all meat, and they will not meet your cat’s nutritional needs alone.


Make the switch successful!

It sounds simple to just switch your cat’s food—after all, meat tastes better than dry food! Your cat may disagree. Dry foods are designed to be tasty, and many cats are addicted to them. Often, cats are not open to the idea of variety, especially if they have only been fed one food (as we have been advised by pet food companies for decades). Creativity and patience may be needed to switch your cat.


Cats will starve themselves, and they are not good candidates for the tough love approach. Some very serious conditions can occur if cats do not eat for an extended period, especially if cats are overweight. A slow switch will prevent problems.


Here are some ideas to help you along –


Establish regular feeding times and put food away in between meals. For many reasons, it’s best for the body not to have food available all the time. If you have dogs, you know what to do with leftovers!


Feed multiple cats separately.


Consider dry food to be a snack only, not left out all the time – a few pieces as a treat. This is the equivalent of “kitty junk food”.


Offer bits of other kinds of fresh food that you are eating. They may be refused, but one day….they won’t. Your goal is to get your cat to consider things as food other than dry, crunchy items.


Cat whiskers are very sensitive. If food is served in a bowl that interferes with whiskers, it could be enough to keep the cat from considering the food. A flat dish works well.


Cats generally prefer their food between room temperature and body temperature. The dry food cats are used to eating is designed to be very smelly. Warming the food releases the flavors and fragrances. Cats choose food by smell, and wet food is a lot less fragrant than a commercial food they have been eating. This is often the reason that the second half of a can of food is refused — the first time it was room temperature!


Trickery has been known to work with cats; put the food on YOUR plate, or hide it in a location cats know to be forbidden…creativity helps!


Additions and considerations


Add sardines for good fats, or use fish oil. A meal of sardines once a week or one small sardine a day adds omega-3 fatty acids in their best form – whole food. Cats can’t use plant sources of omega-3s at all – animal sources are necessary. If sardines don’t appeal to you, you can use a– fresh, well-preserved, omega-3 fish oil supplement with vitamin E.


Digestive enzymes and a glandular supplement are good additions to replace the parts of prey animals we normally don’t feed: the stomach contents and smaller glands.


We think that the optimum diet for cats is a raw meat based diet.


However, if you feed a canned diet that approximates the balance of the natural diet of cats, their diet will be fully hydrated, and you will be much closer to providing your cat with optimum nutrition.


If you choose to feed meat based canned diet, find a way to simulate components lost in cooking or processing.


One way to add live food is with “Cat grass”, very popular with cats.  It’s often available in the produce section at the grocery store, or you can grow your own from a kit. This addition often takes the burden off the house plants! Dry “green stuff” is another choice (“Barley Cat” is one product). It takes a very small quantity of a dry product to do the job. Too much can make urine pH too alkaline, and cause some of the problems you’re trying to get away from! Tiny pinches of dry green stuff go a long way.


For cats, good diet can make the difference between “”Old Age” at 12, and “Old Age” at 23. Cats who eat dry food are often old and ill at 9 or 10 – healthy cats can live a very long time, and that’s what we hope for your feline carnivore!

Brazil nuts can help your dog live longer!

•November 18, 2007 • 1 Comment

Add a Brazil nut to your dog’s diet to help prevent cancer, the leading disease killer of dogs. Read about the critical cancer-fighting difference between the sodium selenite used in most dry dog foods and the selenomethionine found in Brazil nuts and other foods


A variety of fresh food is best for animals and humans

Human nutrition and lifestyle studies prove that we can improve the odds that we will live long, healthy lives.  It’s simple: Eat a variety of fresh, minimally-processed foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Stay lean, exercise often, and avoid toxins.  Good nutrition is critical.  Dietary habits may be instrumental in about 60% of cancers in women and about 40% in men. (1)


Good diets are just as important for dogs. Unfortunately, many of our dogs are eating diets composed exclusively of highly processed, grain-based foods with synthetic vitamins and minerals.  Even the best of the “healthy” dry foods are grain-based. No wonder one in three dogs will die of cancer!  One easy step you can take to help your dog live longer is to add crushed Brazil nuts, a source of natural forms of selenium, to his food. 


Selenium is essential to health, and hard to find

Selenium is an essential trace mineral of fundamental importance to human and canine health.  Adequate selenium is necessary for the normal functioning of the immune system and thyroid gland.   Selenium is receiving considerable attention for its possible role as an effective naturally occurring anti-carcinogenic agent.  Recently, the American Association for Cancer Research reported than high selenium consumption may protect humans from bladder cancer. (2)  Animal studies have shown a beneficial effect of high selenium levels in the prevention of cancer. (3)


The form of the selenium is important: Natural, food-derived forms of selenium may have beneficial effects not shared by human-synthesized selenium compounds. (4)


Dogs evolved consuming two organic forms of selenium: selenomethionine (an essential amino acid found primarily in plants) and selenocysteine (an amino acid found mostly in organ meats).  Most dry and canned dog foods today use an inorganic type of selenium, sodium selenite or sodium selenate. These forms of selenium are considered toxic by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services. (5)


The body uses the selenium in food differently than food supplemented with sodium selenite.  A 2003 study in The Journal of Nutrition stated that “the absorption, distribution, and excretion of selenium in food were …distinctly different from sodium selenite.” (6)  Natural forms of selenium are superior to human synthesized forms.   Dr. John W Finley, supervisor of the Trace Element Absorption and Bioavailability Laboratory and the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, and one of the leading researchers on selenium stated:


 “Something in the whole foods must boost selenium’s anticancer property,” and  “These results are further evidence that broccoli may be an especially good source of selenium, and nutrition professionals may be wise to take this info into account when giving nutritional advice.” (7) 


Is selenium deficiency a contributing factor to canine hip dysplasia?

Insufficient selenium intake can cause serious health problems, including Kashin-Beck disease which is characterized by the degeneration of the articular cartilage between joints (8), thyroid disease and a variety of cancers.  We’ve read unpublished, yet well researched, reports linking selenium deficiency with hip dysplasia. (9)


There is a wealth of data about farm animals which shows organic forms of selenium (selenomethionine) outperform sodium selenite.  One of the reasons for this is that natural forms of selenium can be stored in the body for later use, while selenite cannot be stored. (10)


Perhaps some dogs are not able to sufficiently use the inorganic forms of selenium found in most dry dog foods.  Therefore, if a bitch were unable to fully utilize sodium selenite, her puppies would be more likely to have joint problems.  Pottenger’s classic study with cats shows that problems due to nutrient deficiency get worse with each generation. (11)   Is the source of the selenium used in most dry dog foods one of the reasons many dogs, purebred and mixed-breed, have hip problems?  It may be one of the nutritional causes.


It’s easy to correct this situation

Whether you’re feeding dry, canned, or the best frozen raw diets, you can easily ensure that your dog is getting enough selenium by adding Brazil nuts.  The selenium in broccoli and other vegetables will vary according to the amount of selenium in the soils.  Brazil nuts, on the other hand, are a reliable source of selenium.   Of course, the fresher the nut, the better.  In our home tests with our dogs, freshly shelled Brazil nuts won over shelled nuts bought at natural food markets, in both flavor and fragrance.  We recommend that people add one-half of a crushed Brazil nut per day for every 50 pounds your dog weighs. Since natural forms of selenium are stored in the body, you can easily add one crushed nut every other day, or, for toy dogs, ten pounds or less, one crushed nut per week is great! 

And eat two yourself!  

1 Milner, John A.  “Nonnutritive Components in Foods as Modifiers on of the Cancer Process” Preventive Nutrition: The Comprehensive Guide for Health Professionals, 2nd edition, p 131. 2001.

2 Mary E. Reid, Anna J. Duffield-Lillico, Linda Garland, Bruce W. Turnbull, Larry C. Clark, and James R. Marshall, “Selenium Supplementation and Lung Cancer Incidence: An Update of the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial,” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.  November 2002; 11.

3 Patrick, Lyn, Selenium Biochemistry and Cancer; A Review of the Literature,” Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 9, Number 3, 2004.  239 – 258.

Schrauzer, G.N. “Selenomethionine: A Review of its Nutritional Significance, Metabolism and Toxicity,” Journal of Nutrition, 130, 2000. 1653-1656 

5 National Toxicology Program,

6 Hawkes, Alkan, and Oehler “Absorption, Distribution and Excretion of Selenium from Beef and Rice in Healthy North American Men,” Jounral of Nutrition, November 2003.  3434.

7 Finley, J.W., Ip, C., Lisk, D.J., Davis, C.D., Hintze, K.J. and Whanger, “Cancer-protective properties of high-selenium broccoli” J Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 49, #5, 2679-2683, 2001.

8 Burk, R.F. & Levander, O.A. “Selenium,” in Shils, M. et al. Eds. Nutrition in Health and Disease, 9th Edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999.  265-276.

9 Parker, Jay, “Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Why Seleniuim Deficiency Will Cause It.” Unpublished manuscript.

10 Schrauzer, G.N. “Selenomethionine: A Review of its Nutritional Significance, Metabolism and Toxicity,” Journal of Nutrition, 130, 2000. 1653-1656.

11 Pottenger, Francis. Pottenger’s Cats A Study in Nutrition 1983.  Dr. Pottenger compared four generations of cats fed cooked and four generations of cats fed the same diet, except raw.  With the cooked diet, Dr. Pottenger found that each generation developed health problems at earlier ages than the preceding generation.  The raw fed cats remained healthy.  We now know that the cooked diets were deficient in taurine and thiamin.


copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

Are your dogs and cats getting enough vitamin E?

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

One of three dogs will die of cancer.  Perhaps one of the contributing factors to the cancer epidemic in dogs and cats is that our pets are not consuming enough vitamin E, and that the vitamin E they do consume is not the complete form of vitamin E.  This is an easy situation to correct; giving our dogs and cats real foods high in all forms of vitamin E may help reduce the incidence of cancer, and debilitating conditions like allergies and arthritis. 


Components of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is comprised of two groups of molecules, tocopherols and tocotrienols, each with four forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol, and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienol). Each form has its own potency and functional use in the body.


Research is beginning to focus on specific tocopherols and tocotrienols, rather than on just “vitamin E.” New studies suggest that vitamin E should be consumed in the broader family of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. However, the vitamin E most often used in pet foods is the alpha-tocopherol form. This specific tocopherol has incredible antioxidant benefits, but gamma-tocopherol seems to be the only form of vitamin E that actually inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells.


A few years ago, the USDA nutrient database listed just the amount of alpha tocopherol or alpha tocopherol equivalents in food.  Now, this database lists the four different tocopherols for many foods, but does not yet list the tocotrienols. (1)


Vitamin E in Pet Foods

Unlike people, who get most of their vitamin E from food, most dogs and cats get almost all their vitamin E from the vitamin E added to pet foods.  Pet food regulators consider only alpha tocopherol as a form of vitamin E – you can be sure that with most petfoods, the “vitamin E supplement” is only alpha (although many companies may use mixed tocopherols to preserve the fat in the food.)


Pet food regulators recommend a minimum of 14 IUs of alpha tocopherol for every 1,000 kcals (Calories) of food. (2) — a typical 50 dog requires about 1,000 Calories per day.  The vitamin E is there when the manufacturer produces the dry or frozen foods.


That does not mean that 14 IUS of vitamin E will be in the food when you feed it to your dog or cat.


Vitamin E degrades quickly once you open a bag of dry pet food; the vitamin E in frozen foods also degrades significantly. Studies we’ve seen show that processing and storage of foods can result in substantial tocopherol losses, with 70% of the tocopherols lost after one month storage at room temperature, and 60% after one month storage in the freezer.(3) (See our article about storing pet food for more information)


Add vitamin E in its whole form to your animal’s food.

Add a variety of nuts and seeds, finely chopped vegetables, or raw or lightly cooked eggs to your animal’s diet. 


The requirement of vitamin E is related to the selenium content of the diet. The more selenium in the diet, the less one needs to add vitamin E.  Adding a Brazil nut provides both a good source of vitamin E and selenium.


For gamma tocopherols, add crushed walnuts and pecans, and for the tocotrienols, crushed sunflower seeds. 

One nut or a few seeds per day for a 50 pound dog is sufficient. Buy a small quantity of mixed raw nuts, preferably organic, and crush one per day. 

Rotate the nuts: one day a Brazil, the next day a pecan, then a walnut, then a few sunflower seeds. For smaller dogs, give a nut or a few seeds every other or every third day.


Spinach has one of the highest vitamin E to Calorie ratios, so it is a good source of vitamin E and selenium for overweight dogs and cats. Juice or finely chop a small amount of spinach once per week. Spinach is high in oxalates, so dogs and cats with oxalate crystals should not eat spinach.  You can also add juiced broccoli, romaine lettuce (high in gamma tocopherols) and other vegetables up to 1 cup per day for a 50 pound dog.  A crushed broccoli stalk is ideal.  For 32 Calories you add 3.3 micrograms of selenium, 0.78 mg of alpha tocopherol and .17 mg of gamma tocopherol.


Raw eggs or lightly cooked eggs provide a full range of vitamin E and selenium.  Use feed high omega-3 content eggs. For a 50 pound dog, an egg every three days is ideal. A typical egg provides 1 mg of alpha tocopherol and .5 mg of gamma tocopherol – a great addition to your pet’s diet!


Many people add fish oil to their diets; and many may add fish or fish oil to their dog’s or cat’s food.  We recommend this – but only if the proper fish oil is added (fish oil with vitamin E like Carlson Fish Oil) or if you add other vitamin E sources to your pet’s diet.  The more polyunsaturated fats you feed your dog, the more vitamin E she will need.


If you’re adding vitamin E from a full spectrum supplement, we recommend adding 1-2 mg for every ten pounds the dog weighs (1-2 mg per day for cats). If your dog consumes a lot of polyunsaturated fats (flax or fish oil), 2 mg for every 10 pounds may be best. 



(2) Official Publication, Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

(3) de Man, John, “Principles of Food Chemistry, 3rd Edition, 365-368.


copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

this article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included