An Alphabet of Ailments
The list of ailments that constitute this chapter is hardly intended to be complete. Books can be written (and have been) on each of the conditions addressed below; a number of other conditions are not included at all. Rather, this chapter represents a synthesis of the problems I see most often in my own practice, and which I have treated, usually successfully, in the ways I describe. My hope is that an owner, having determined the problem his pet has, will be led toward effective treatment. With a relatively mild problem—fleas, for example, he may treat his pet himself. Many of these conditions, however, aren’t mild at all, and initially should not be treated at home. My goal in describing these more serious problems is to make an owner aware of the gravity of them, and so to persuade him to get professional help for his pet sooner rather than later. If in reading these pages he’s persuaded to seek out a holistic veterinarian, all the better. Trained though I am in conventional medicine, I’ve based most of my career on holistic practices; I’ve seen them work every day, and I truly think they work better than conventional medicine in most circumstances. (When conventional means are preferable for a condition described in the pages that follow, they’re gratefully noted; holistic medicine, in my opinion, embraces the whole range of therapies needed for the pet’s well-being—including conventional medicine when necessary.) If an owner finds himself at a traditional veterinary clinic instead, he will have an awareness, at least, of the holistic approach to the problem from this book, and can engage his veterinarian in meaningful dialogue about it. Not enough veterinarians are practicing the approaches outlined below, but a growing number are aware of and intrigued by them, and are often willing, with an owner’s encouragement, to give them a try.
Understand, too, that this is a reference chapter. Don’t feel you have to read it all now! Of course, if you have a deep, abiding fascination with fleas or anal gland problems, be my guest. Otherwise, make a mental note that this guide is here for when you and your pet need it, and skip to Chapter Eight.
In dogs especially, but also in cats, allergies are an all-too-common problem. That doesn’t make them easy to treat. Not only do they appear in a bewildering number of forms, their origins remain obscure. It’s never easy to deal with a condition you can’t define.
The conventional wisdom is that allergies are caused by a strong reaction of the immune system to some foreign protein: pollen, various molds, and grasses, to name a few. Fleas can cause allergic reactions as the immune system reacts to the protein in flea saliva. Bees and mosquitoes can precipitate allergic reactions, too. And the four food allergies most common in people affect pets just as keenly: red meat or meat by-products (in pet food); dairy; wheat (a common ingredient in pet foods); and yeast (often as brewer’s yeast). Why do some people and pets react to these proteins while others do not? The conventional wisdom holds that an unlucky few have a genetic predisposition to react to those proteins. Though this is partly true, why do allergies often appear at one point in our lives and disappear at another?
My own approach to allergies begins with the premise that an allergy isn’t the root cause of the symptoms it manifests. It’s the symptom itself, which flares up when a body’s immune system has become sensitized to an allergen. This is usually secondary to a buildup over time of toxicity that has affected the immune system. Genetics may be involved: a pet with a family history of allergies is definitely likelier to have them. An acquired weakness may also be a factor in allowing any symptom to manifest more easily, especially in a weaker part of the body. But either way, whatever leads to the toxic buildup forms the basis of the allergy complex. So the goal is to get the body detoxified and the immune system healthy again, not just to treat the symptoms.
In all allergic reactions, the common denominator is inflammation, usually external but sometimes internal, as the immune system reacts to the unwanted protein. In a healthy immune system, the inflammation will be brief, with healing through detoxification the happy result. In an unhealthy body, the inflammation just grows into allergic symptoms. Most pets that manifest allergies do so in the skin, exhibiting rashes, hot spots, conditions like miliary dermatitis—little lumps all over the body—and other symptoms too various to list here. In pets as in people, allergies may inflame the ears and eyes, the respiratory and digestive systems. Problems such as asthma, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, and colitis with diarrhea may result.
The conventional treatment of choice for allergic reactions is usually cortisone. I’ve discussed cortisone elsewhere in these pages; in brief, it treats the external and internal symptoms of inflammation without addressing their causes, and so is rarely a cure. In conventional medicine, pets are also subjected to a battery of tests to identify the particular allergen that’s plaguing them. They then receive shots on a regular basis to “desensitize” their immune systems to that allergen. The process involves administering high doses of the allergen to which there’s an allergy in order to exhaust the appropriate antibody’s ability to react to it. My question is: Would you rather have your immune system be sensitive … or desensitive? Golden retrievers, to take just one example, are famously allergic (especially plagued by painfully itchy “hot spots”). I suspect that because they’ve been so “desensitized” for their allergies, they’re more prone as a breed to cancer. I’ve seen other animals with cancer, especially dogs, who have a medical history of “successful desensitization” for allergies. I’m convinced, though I can’t prove it, that this process may be very contributory.
In my own practice, I avoid cortisone whenever possible. If a pet is really suffering, I’ll administer a low dose of it just to rein in the symptoms and get the pet to stop exacerbating them by scratching or licking—but most of this injection will contain natural adrenal cortex. Also to address the symptoms, I’ll inject a dose of Cutis, a homeopathic skin remedy made by the German company Heel (see source guide). Recently, I’ve gotten dramatic results using a new, oral product called natural hydrocortisone, which appears in a product line for animals called Pet Health Pharmacy. Derived from soy, the natural cortisone acts like the synthetic version, but without the side effects, and without leading to elevations in the adrenal and liver blood values. Orally, I also use Betathyme (Doctors Mutual), a supplement that contains a plant-derived form of cortisone, and a Chinese herb called Kai Yeung, both labeled for people and available in tablet form through holistic veterinarians, or perhaps by order from health food stores. (I’ll give a thirty-pound dog one Betathyme twice a day, and two Kai Yeungs once a day; for cats, I’ll halve these doses.) I’ll also give the antioxidant enzymes AOX/PLX by Biovet. (Four tablets of AOX have the same anti-inflammatory effect as 2.5 milligrams of prednisone, currently the most commonly used form of cortisone.) The comparable brand for cats from Biovet is Feline Support. I use several topical solutions as well. Calendula (marigold) is one of homeopathy’s most effect responses to allergy-related skin problems; I use a spray called Eco-VM (made by Imhotep). Traumeel (Heel) is a good ointment for marked red spots, and aloe vera in any form is always helpful.
Depending on a pet’s symptoms, I’ll prescribe an appropriate homeopathic remedy to alleviate the chronic allergic response. For skin-related allergies, I’ll use BHI’s “Allergy” because one of its ingredients is homeopathic histamine. (BHI’s “Skin” and “Hair and Skin” are also useful.) The company Dr. Goodpet has two good products relevant to allergies: Scratch Free, and Flea Relief (when fleas are the allergy instigators). Echinacea in capsule form is worth including. Although we try to use the fewest number of products to achieve the reaction we want, I have no problem putting a pet on several of these preparations, simply because the chances are greater that one of them will work. (Remember: As rational and scientific as Western medicine presumes to be, it can’t tell you exactly what causes or cures allergies any more than I can. Nature does work in mysterious—and unpredictable—ways. Why not hedge your bets?) For a pet who’s suffering, I’ll administer combined homeopathic remedies as often as every fifteen minutes until the cycle of inflammation and scratching is broken. Be sure, too, for all allergic skin problems, especially those that appear to be caused by fleas, to avoid chemical shampoos. So many effective herbal brands are on the market now that owners should just make straight for the nearest health food store and scan the shelves.
You’ll notice that all of the above remedies address allergic problems of the skin. Allergies may provoke all manner of systemic reactions, however. For inflammations of the ear, I give BHI’s “Ear and Inflammation” orally, and Dr. Goodpet’s Ear Relief topically; sometimes I add Seven Forests’ Forsythia herbal tablets. For conjunctivitis or gummy secretions of the eye, I give Similasan “Eye” drops. For coughs, we have remedies from ProV Line and BHI (both called “Cough”), as well as three homeopathic formulas from Similasan. BHI also has an “Asthma” homeopathic remedy, and one for bronchitis. The best way to tell if a food allergy is responsible for a pet’s digestive problems is to put him on an elimination diet. Feed him a strict diet of chicken, rice, carrots, and distilled water. Each week, add one of the foods that might be the problem, and see if a reaction occurs. If it does, just eliminate that food from his diet while you continue to work on getting him allergy-free.
Cats incur allergic conditions of the skin, too, and should be treated the same way dogs are (though typically given smaller doses). If the allergen is a food, the cat should also be put on a homeopathic remedy, as recommended for dogs, and at the same time put on an elimination diet. In cats (and in dogs), if a food allergy causes intestinal inflammation leading to diarrhea or other digestive problems, take the steps outlined below, under “Diarrhea.”
I should mention that many holistic veterinarians have touted bee pollen as working miracles with allergies—especially those apparently provoked by pollen and bee stings. I’m not persuaded. It’s true that bee pollen contains high concentrations of protein and will dramatically affect an allergy’s protein-protein reaction, but the result may be more inflammation, not less. You can try it if you like, but if you do, start with very low doses and build up gradually.
With allergies as with all illness, my goal is to restore the body’s metabolic balance. Because of the inflammatory nature of allergies, the adrenal gland, the producer of natural cortisone, is almost always one that needs support. Adrenal supplements are the answer. Health food stores carry a number of them; one I use frequently is Drenatrophin, from Standard Process Labs; Miladrene, from Miller, is another. But there are so many more.
Anal Gland Problems
A dog has a small, sac-like gland on either side of the anus which secretes a particular scent. The anal glands are probably what dogs are smelling when they sniff one another’s behinds. They are what dogs use, along with urine, to mark territory. Designed to empty naturally during defecation, the anal glands sometimes become impacted or abscessed, painful conditions that lead the dog to drag his behind across the floor, in an attempt to alleviate them. Cats can incur similar anal problems, but do so more rarely.
In most cases, the sacs can be manually squeezed to release the fluid and ease the blockage. Given that this is just about the most foul-smelling liquid in the world, I try to minimize the chances of a recurrence by placing a small amount of Panalog into the anal sac when I empty it. Panalog is actually an allopathic ointment for the ear, but it’s effective with the anal sacs, and a little goes a long way. It does contain an antibiotic and cortisone, but because the body absorbs the medicine minimally if at all, it has no systemic side effects. I also use a homeopathic remedy for hemorrhoids in people, because hemorrhoids are also rectal inflammations, and the remedy seems to address both conditions. It’s produced by BHI and called, poetically enough, “Hemorrhoid.” I mix it with BHI’s “Infection.” To alleviate the problem chronically, I suggest adding more fiber or whole grain to a dog’s diet to bulk up his bowel. A bulkier bowel increases pressure on the sacs to allow them to empty naturally.
A common misperception about the anal sacs is that they should be emptied frequently, so veterinarians squeeze them empty as a routine matter. In my experience, that only increases the prospects of inflammation and impactions. Since these sacs are lined with secretory cells, the natural state of the glands, in fact, is not to be empty.
In pets, as in people, the overriding symptom of anemia is weakness, exacerbated by loss of appetite. Pets tend to have pale gums; the color inside their ears may be pale, too, rather than pink. Because anemia is a generalized condition, it also exaggerates other symptoms: a lame dog, for example, will appear lamer if he becomes anemic.
Anemia occurs, in essence, when the body’s red blood cell count drops. Since iron is needed to produce these cells, an iron-poor diet, especially when accompanied by general malnutrition, can lead to anemia. Another obvious cause is chronic loss of blood; a pet with a serious open wound will almost certainly become anemic if the bleeding is not stanched. Kittens can die of anemia when attacked by enough blood-drawing fleas. Worms, especially hookworms in severe infestations, can also absorb enough blood to cause anemia. And certain blood parasites, such as hemobartonella in cats, destroy red blood cells, leading to anemia. Internal bleeding from ulcers or tumors can cause anemia, which may become life-threatening. The kidney can be involved more subtly. It secretes a hormonal substance called erythropoietin that stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow, so that chronic kidney disease often causes a marked anemia. Cancer involving the bone marrow usually causes anemia. So does leukemia, which, while a cancer of the white blood cells, wreaks havoc on the red blood cells, too. (A commonly seen form in cats is due to FeLV.) Finally, anemia can be an autoimmune disease—autoimmune hemolytic anemia—in which the body attacks its own red blood cells, in my experience a result of vaccination.
Because the causes are so varied, the first step in treating anemia is to determine just what the cause is. Anemia is not a condition to be treated by the layman acting on his own creative initiative. Diagnosis by a veterinarian is critical—especially if, for example, the cause turns out to be autoimmune hemolytic anemia, from which a dog can die within twenty-four hours. Emergency cortisone and a lifesaving transfusion are typically required. If parasites are the cause, they must be handled appropriately (see “Fleas” and “Worms” below). Internal tumors and cancer are, of course, also conditions to be treated professionally.
At times, a severely anemic pet will require a blood transfusion. Pets, like people, have different blood types, but the differences are much more muted than ours are. My experience with hundreds of pets needing blood transfusions is that almost all are universal donors. So grab whatever blood you can get from a donor—using dog blood only for dogs, cat blood only for cats, etc.—and administer it to the recipient. Although rejections have been reported, I haven’t had one yet. (Often, in critical cases you don’t even have time to obtain the blood type results from a laboratory.) A recent godsend is Hemopet, a line of blood components available through Jean Dodds, the veterinarian whose vaccine work is so fascinating and important. Hemopet, located in Irvine, California (see source guide), supplies purified, properly typed red blood cells, plasma, and other components available by Federal Express.
For less severe cases of external or internal bleeding, I use an herbal remedy called Yunnan Paiyao, the very powerful Chinese herb discussed in Chapter Six. It comes as a powder in capsules and can be sprinkled on an open wound, or ingested orally for any kind of bleeding disorder. For anemia secondary to chronic kidney disease, injectable erythropoietin (Epogen) is available through all veterinarians (conventional and holistic). I’ve had a lot of success using it.
Inevitably with anemia, whatever the cause, enriching the diet with iron is important. I recommend eggs, raw beef, or calf’s liver, and green vegetables. Vitamin B12 is also very helpful as a supplement, as is apple cider vinegar, liquid chlorophyll, and kelp—all available at health food stores. I now use a product called Hemaplex (Progressive Labs), which contains red-blood-cell-building components: beets, raw liver, chlorophyll, and iron, among others.
The condition we think of as arthritis in pets actually has several different manifestations: spinal arthritis, hip dysplasia, degenerative joint disease. Some involve a genetic predisposition, especially in large breeds of dogs that experience rapid long-bone growth but also disproportionate weight gain (Great Danes, for example) and those bred to have long spines (dachshunds, for example). At the same time, poor diet is a factor, especially with the pregnant mother, as a fetus’s bones and joints are being formed. I also believe that arthritis is exacerbated, if not sometimes actually caused, by the whole gamut of environmental toxins that afflict people and pets alike, as well as by the autoimmune reactions caused by vaccines. The inflammation that characterizes all kinds of arthritis may occur as the body struggles, unsuccessfully, to remove toxins that have settled in the joints. Inflammation, remember, is simply the body responding to foreign invaders, external or internal, by concentrating blood cells around them in an effort to expel them. Secondary to the inflammation process that occurs in the joints, I often see either a diminishing volume or leakage of the natural joint lubricator called synovial fluid, which in turn causes the joint surfaces to rub against one another and grow further inflamed. In my experience, arthritis is seen more often in dogs than in cats.
The standard medical response is to “drug” the symptoms. Cortisone, aspirin, ibuprofen, and phenylbutazone were, until recently, the drugs of choice. Now a much touted drug called Rimadyl has reached the market. Though classified as one of the NSAIDS—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—that are considered to have milder side effects than steroids, Rimadyl in my experience has produced disturbing side effects, particularly liver anomalies. A recent newsletter from Tufts University’s School of Veterinary Medicine notes as much, with the qualification that these anomalies have only been seen in a “few” dogs. In fact, Rimadyl’s manufacturer, the Pfizer corporation, sent a letter to veterinarians on July 30, 1997, stating the risks in more dramatic terms. “Currently about 150,000 dogs take Rimadyl each day…. We have received approximately 750 reports of side effects of any kind during the first six months of marketing. This represents 14 reports of a side effect of any kind for every 10,000 dogs treated. The most frequently reported effects have been mild gastrointestinal signs, and we have also received reports involving suspected renal, hematologic, neurologic, dermatologic, and hepatic effects. Some of these cases include an acute hepatic syndrome 16 to 21 days after initiation of Rimadyl therapy. The affected dogs [are]all Labrador retrievers.” That was meant as reassurance, though I consider the percentage high. (Also, whenever I see a claim of that sort, I wonder: How many other incidences of side effects weren’t reported?) The reported side effects include severe vomiting, nausea, and liver toxicity—proof to me that dogs on it are trying desperately to rid themselves of its toxicity. In sum: Give Rimadyl a miss.
The first step I take in treating arthritis is to put a pet on the natural diet outlined in Chapter Three. At the least, a good diet may help prevent a worsening of his condition. I’ll also try to wean the pet from whatever arthritis drug he’s been on. As I do so, I’ll dispense a new natural supplement, Cosequin, which contains primarily glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates. There are many products on the market with similar formulations, but I’ve had my best responses using Cosequin. It enhances the production of the lubricating fluid in the joints and therefore appears to actually help the joint repair itself. Now widely sold by veterinarians (and available at health food stores as Cosamin), Cosequin has proved immensely helpful.*1 For a more rapid response in severe cases, I’ll start by using Adequan—injectable glycosaminoglycans—which I give initially twice a week for four weeks. A good second line of defense is the herbal supplement Ar-Ease (Crystal Star), which contains the herbs yucca, alfalfa, and devil’s-claw.
With all arthritics, I use an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase that comes in liquid, tablet, or injectable form. SOD, as it’s called, is produced naturally in the body to help destroy harmful free radicals that contribute to degenerative diseases such as arthritis, but the body’s natural stores become depleted. The supplemental form is available at health food stores (and from many veterinarians) under various brand names. Also available for cases of more serious degeneration is AOX/PLX, which has SOD as its primary ingredient, but that includes three other antioxidant enzymes. Two other antioxidants I use are Pycnogenol and any of the proanthocyanidin complexes (I use Anti-Ox, by Vetri-Science); both are derived from grape seeds.
Another effective treatment for arthritis is, of course, acupuncture. Traditional acupuncture is almost always helpful. Because it’s more effective, I now prefer the procedure called aquapuncture. I inject the Smith Ridge “cocktail” of B12 and adrenal cortex, and also homeopathic Zeel, or Traumeel, at the acupuncture points relevant to the patient’s condition. In minutes, a pet’s pain can ease, and the effects can last several weeks. The effects are also cumulative, so if needed, I’ll do several more treatments weekly or bimonthly. Usually, I’ll send an arthritic pet home from his acupuncture sessions with an oral form of Zeel or BHI’s “Arthritis.”
As soon as I get blood results back from the lab, I’ll act on them, too. An arthritic pet almost inevitably will show a high level of alkaline phosphatase, the telltale sign of an overtaxed adrenal gland. (The adrenal is the gland that controls inflammation in an effort to eliminate damage and toxins, and thus has a close relation with arthritic joints.) A body’s pH factor is its balance of alkalinity and acidity; to reduce a high alkaline count, I’ll give substantial doses of vitamin C in the ascorbic acid form.
Ultimately, the best approach to arthritis is preventative. If a pregnant mother is kept on a good-nutrition diet, her fetus will develop strong bones and joints and not be programmed to get arthritis. If a newborn is put on that same diet, vaccinated minimally, and subjected to few or no medications, including antiflea and antiheartworm drugs, his chances of developing arthritis should be virtually nil.
Cystitis/feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) Because the bladder is merely a container for urine, the problems it develops are usually not its own, but rather the result of toxicity passing into it as part of the urine and inflaming its walls. Hence cystitis: literally, inflammation (itis) of the bladder (cysto). In cats, cystitis is also known as feline lower urinary tract disease, and formerly known as feline urological syndrome (FUS).
As the inflammation spreads from the bladder down the urethra, a cat feels pain and irritation that make him think he has to urinate even after he’s voided. He makes frequent efforts to do so, but only manages a few drops. If the condition worsens, the urethra will swell until the passage is constricted, preventing the animal from urinating completely when he does have to go. For male cats, this is a painful and potentially very serious condition, because their urethras are smaller in circumference than those of females, and the inflammation that forms, along with a mucousy, gritty “plug,” can prevent any urination at all, backing up their systems and causing fatal uremia. A male cat with a blocked urethra is in need of emergency care. If not tended by a veterinarian, he will die in twenty-four hours or less. Of all the conditions listed in these pages, this is among the most dire. Yet it’s relatively easy for a layman to diagnose. A male cat with severe FLUTD will strain noticeably to urinate often and spend a lot of time in and around the litter box, or try to urinate in odd places like a sink or bathtub. His bladder will soon be as swollen and hard as a plum (or larger) and be able to void little, any, or no urine. (If he does pass urine, it will likely be bloody.) He will also appear sensitive to the touch, especially in the abdomen, and may feel cold and clammy. When in doubt, don’t deliberate: bring your cat in immediately for treatment, calling first to warn your veterinarian as to what the problem may be. (After hours, use an emergency facility; don’t wait until your regular veterinarian is open the next morning. You may be too late.) A veterinarian will need to catheterize the cat to alleviate the blockage. If the problem reappears, he may ultimately decide to do a surgical procedure called a urethrostomy, in which the penis of the male cat is removed and the urethra reconstructed so as to be wider and act, in effect, like the urethra of a female. Severe as it sounds, a urethrostomy can be a lifesaver for a cat prone to urinary blockage; when the situation merits it, I strongly recommend it.
This blockage problem also occurs in male dogs, but less frequently, in my experience, than in cats. When it does, it’s almost always due to the formation of bladder stones that slide into the urethra. Blockage is aggravated, however, by a bone that male dogs have in their penis (appropriately called the os penis). Female dogs will incur bladder problems, to be sure, but the width of their urethras, as with female cats, minimizes the chances of an emergency-condition blockage. However, I have seen female urethras blocked by just the right-sized stones.
Since most of the wastes the bladder passes are from food and drink, it’s hardly surprising that cystitis tends to be the result of a poor diet. In pets, a history of low-grade commercial food, especially of the dry kibble variety, often seems to be the cause. Switching the pet to a good natural diet can help clear up many cases over time. The emphasis with cystitis should be on foods that have a high-quality protein, as poorer-quality proteins—found, for example, in meat by-products—tend to be less digestible and pass as waste, exacerbating the inflammation. If you’re choosing among commercial pet foods, especially for cats, look for one that indicates low ash and low magnesium content.
Cystitis many times responds dramatically to vitamin C. The bacteria in the urine that causes inflammation tends to increase the urine’s alkalinity; the acidity in the ascorbic acid form of vitamin C brings the pH factor back into the proper acid range, thus killing the bacteria, and so is indicated for the most common forms of cystitis. (Note that vitamin C in its ascorbate form may raise the urine pH factor, and so is indicated in certain less common urinary problems. Obviously, a veterinarian should be consulted to make an accurate diagnosis.) During an episode, I give a cat 500 milligrams, three times a day, crushing the tablets and mixing them with food. For a dog much heavier than thirty pounds, I double the dosage. I also use a cranberry supplement called Cran Actin, an acidifier especially effective with cystitis. (A layman can determine the amount of acidifier needed by using a “dipstick” for pH factor available at a pharmacy or swimming pool supply store.) At the same time, I put a pet on homeopathic remedies: “Bladder” (BHI), mixed with “Inflammation” (BHI) or “Bladder Irritation” (BioForce or Natra Bio), using one-third to one-half the dosage recommended for people. One other product I’ve had tremendous success with for all forms of urinary problems is the herbal combination called Tinkle Caps (Crystal Star). If I suspect a stubborn infection, I’ll include the bee hive medication called propolis, at half the human dose.
This is how I treat all routine bladder infections, and in 90 percent of the cases, these treatments suffice—without antibiotics. In the other 10 percent, I will use antibiotics, the choice of which will be based on culture and sensitivity testing of the affected urine. But it is better in all cases to insist on vitamin C and homeopathics at least as a first measure, because a pet with a history of cystitis put on chronic antibiotic therapy is, in my experience, likely to have ever-worsening bladder problems, up to and including bladder cancer.
Bladder stones Blood in the urine may indicate the presence of bladder stones (calculi). Stones are an indication of chronic urinary problems and must be taken seriously. Small stones tend to pass from the bladder into the urethra, where they can impede the flow of urine, especially in male dogs. The first measure is to establish a proper diagnosis, then put the pet on a natural diet, which should emphasize high-quality protein sources. This helps restore metabolic function of the liver, which in turn will minimize the production of wastes. For many of the common stones, the diet should be supplemented by 500 milligrams of vitamin C in its ascorbic acid form three times a day for cats, and double that dosage for larger dogs; these measures alone may be enough to dissolve tiny stones. (A pet who’s had bladder stones once should be kept on low levels of vitamin C until a metabolic analysis makes clear that he’s producing enough C to maintain proper acid-base balance.) Larger stones which remain in the bladder irritate the walls and cause bleeding, leading to secondary bacterial infections. Often these stones need to be removed surgically. However, I’ve also seen results from a food called S/D, manufactured by the Hill’s company. I hesitate to recommend it because it’s composed mostly of corn-starch. It’s certainly not for a healthy pet, but the absence of minerals encourages the body to reabsorb the minerals that form certain kinds of stones. I’ve also had success using a Chinese herb called Akebia 14 that’s indicated for stones, or the herbal product Tinkle Caps (Crystal Star).*2
A final note: For all pets suffering with stones, use only steam-distilled water, as it’s devoid of minerals that help form the stones. Ordinary tap water is loaded with such minerals; but so is spring or well water. All should be avoided.
The symptoms of this canine illness are a bloated abdomen, thinning hair coat, and drinking and urinating to excess. If ignored, this condition can ultimately lead to liver, lung, or kidney disease. The symptoms of Cushing’s can be traced to the immediate problem of an overactive adrenal cortex that produces too much natural cortisone, known as cortisol. (Medically speaking, Cushing’s is known as hyperadrenocorticism.) In the majority of Cushing’s cases, the adrenal cortex is overproducing because of another gland: the pituitary, which controls the adrenal from its location at the base of the brain. In these cases, a benign but functioning tumor in the pituitary is the underlying problem. For treatment, conventional medicine focuses on the adrenal gland, and so prescribes a drug called Lysodren, structurally related to DDT (that’s right, DDT) that selectively destroys the cells of the adrenal cortex to curtail its production of cortisol. To me, that’s just another case of killing the messenger who brings the bad news. A relatively new therapeutic drug called Anipryl (or L-deprenyl) is recommended, and is reputed to work indirectly by making the dog feel better—a psychological effect that may produce physical improvement. Anipryl is also supposed to be less toxic than Lysodren. However, the only three cases I treated with Anipryl suffered unfortunate side effects, so I’ve stopped using it.*3
At Smith Ridge, we’ve had considerable success with Cushing’s dogs by focusing instead on metabolic balance. We put patients on homeopathic pituitary and adrenal supplements (“Pituitary” and “Adrenal” drops from Professional Health Products), along with a nutritional supplement called phosphatidyl-serine, the active ingredient in lecithin. In human alternative medicine, this supplement is reported to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis in some cases, and is remarkable in enhancing mental acuity. In dogs, it naturally suppresses cortisol output. I’ve seen it bring about clinical improvement in some Cushing’s patients for whom other supplements were of little help. It also imparts a tremendous luster to their hair.
Animals in the wild usually have pearly white teeth. Why are our pets so often plagued with rotting teeth, abscesses of the mouth, and gum disease? The difference is: us. To begin with, for generations we’ve bred many kinds of dogs to hunt or show better, or merely to look cuter. In so doing, we’ve distorted the natural shape of their jaws. Most toy breeds have jaws too small to accommodate all their teeth. The crowding leads to impactions and misalignment, which fosters gum disease. Many Yorkshire terriers, in my experience, lose half their teeth by the age of two. Cats have also been malformed by breeding. The heads of Siamese cats are getting longer and narrower for aesthetic reasons; as a result, the incidences of chronic gum disease among Siamese and other inbred lines are skyrocketing. Whether the increase is due directly to head shape or genetic immunodeficiency is hard to say, but these factors do appear to be linked.
Man’s other contribution is commercial pet food. Animals are meant to eat food in the raw: chelated, rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, a bounty of nutrition as it’s found in nature. Cooking of any sort breaks down some of those values, rendering the food less vital, and more congestive, to the body. Commercial pet food, as outlined in Chapter Three, takes ingredients that have almost no nutrition to start with and heats that little bit into oblivion. Even the texture detracts. Canine teeth especially are meant to gnaw raw bones and other hard structures; the incisors are actually meant to rip flesh. The process helps keep them healthy, as exercise does for the rest of the body, and helps prevent the buildup of tartar. The soft, almost predigested texture of “wet” commercial foods, and even of dry kibbles (which are really just compressed powders), provides no workout at all for a pet’s teeth. They form a kind of glue that adheres to the teeth, contributing to dental decay. Poor food also leads to foul breath, as it festers in the intestines and the stink of it backs up.
For both dogs and cats, dental problems pose a painful, chronic threat to health. They also tend to suppress the immune system, rendering a pet vulnerable to other degenerative diseases. For dogs with congenital tooth problems, surgery is often the only answer: misaligned or “extra” teeth may just have to be removed. For other pets, prevention, as they say in the Crest commercials, is the best way to fight both tooth and gum disease. People can use toothpaste on a daily basis to address their problems topically; for a pet, the changes must come, for the most part, from within. Fortunately, the healthy diet outlined in Chapter Three will keep most puppies and kittens free of dental problems.
That—and regular maintenance. Pets’ teeth do require professional cleaning, by a veterinarian, as often as needed. (The frequency varies from as much as four times a year to once every four years, depending on the breed and particular pet.) I try to clean the teeth of every pet I treat. I’ll chip off chunks of tartar from even the healthiest patients and flush out deposits of food and bacteria from the gums. In more severe cases, I’ll use ultrasonic scaling, especially under the gum line. Most veterinarians anesthetize pets in order to clean their teeth and gums. I find that by working gently, with a soothing attitude, I can usually clean a pet’s teeth while he’s conscious, and so avoid anesthesia’s assault on the system. At Smith Ridge, ultrasonic scaling may require a mild tranquilizer, but rarely general anesthesia. At the same time, I’m amazed by how often veterinarians fail to clean a pet’s mouth when he’s under anesthesia for removal of a tumor or some other surgery. Some don’t seem to realize how important clean teeth and gums are, especially with pets who have severe degenerative diseases and need all the help they can get in boosting their immune systems. I do—because I’ve seen it make all the difference in a pet’s struggle to regain his health. All too often, unfortunately, pets are brought to me for a second opinion soon after surgery, so I get to see how festering their mouths are, packed with years-old tartar—a revolting sight that could easily have been addressed while they were under anesthesia. Cleaning is the best treatment even when a pet’s dental problems have gone unattended long enough to produce bleeding gums, substantial buildups of tartar, excessive salivation or chewing, and, sometimes, a loss of appetite.
There are many topical products available at health food stores. One I’ve used is Oxyfresh, a gel that contains a peroxide to help oxygenate the teeth and gums. Two products I use to fight dental disease are the homeopathic “Teeth and Gums” (Natra Bio) and Biodent tablets (Standard Process).
Afterward, a change in diet is crucial if the mouth is to heal itself. For dogs, include raw large soup bones from the butcher (ones that are not splinterable), at least one every few days. You may not be able to duplicate the healthful environment his ancestors enjoyed in the wild, but raw bones will make him feel as if he’s a predator again—and strengthen his teeth in the process. Keep in mind, too, that a lot of tartar comes not from food in the mouth but from the backup of a congested digestive system, up through the salivary glands. We brush our teeth before going to sleep, only to wake up in the morning with foul breath and a film on our teeth. We don’t get that way from eating in our sleep! And neither do our pets.
In pets, as in people, diabetes is a deficiency of the pancreatic hormone called insulin. The purpose of insulin is to transport sugar out of the blood into the cells, where it’s used as energy. When the pancreas fails to make enough of it, sugar in the form of glucose accumulates in the blood. When it reaches a certain threshold, it passes into the urine. And since the chemistry of sugar attracts water, a diabetic begins to urinate (and drink) excessively—often a first sign to an owner of what his pet’s condition may be.
Other symptoms include lethargy, weakness (leading to anemia), inordinate appetite yet increasing weight loss (due to the inability to use food energy properly), and vomiting. Frequently, diabetes provokes complications: urinary infections, liver and kidney disease, eye problems (principally cataracts).
Usually in emergencies, when a patient’s blood sugar has risen rapidly, there’s no question of what treatment should be: insulin, administered immediately and at the proper level, under a veterinarian’s care. When the blood sugar level returns to normal and the patient is properly regulated with the correct dose and schedule, conventional medicine prescribes continuing insulin administration on a regular basis, for the rest of a pet’s life.*4 That’s not a cure. It’s a treatment in which external insulin compensates for the deficiency caused by improper pancreas function. I show owners how to administer insulin, and counsel them on how to regulate it. But as a holistic veterinarian, I also try to get the pancreas back in balance with its associated metabolic organs so that it can again make its own insulin. The standard protocol of supplements includes injectable homeopathic pancreas in dilution, pancreatic enzymes (NESS) (see source guide), “Pancreas Drops” (Professional Health Products), raw pancreas glandular (Pancreatrophin from Standard Process Labs), and a Chinese herb called Rehmannia 16 (Seven Forests) known in the Orient to help in diabetes treatment. I also use goldenseal (an herb) and chromium (a mineral known as the glucose tolerance factor), both of which help regulate blood sugar levels. I administer one capsule of goldenseal to a medium-sized dog one or two times a day, and half as much to a cat; with chromium, which is packaged for people, I give 100 micrograms to a medium-sized dog, and 50 micrograms to a cat. Diet, not surprisingly, is an especially important factor with diabetes, too. I put a diabetic pet on 50 percent complex carbohydrates (brown rice, millet, buckwheat, and rye, for example); 25 percent chopped and steamed vegetables; and 25 percent protein, such as egg yolks, organic beef, steamed fish, and organic chicken.
When I send an owner home with this regimen, I also show him how to test his pet’s urine to determine the glucose level on a daily basis, as this is a gauge of his level of blood sugar. A sudden increase in blood sugar demands an increase in the insulin dosage (and a call to the veterinarian). Even if a diabetic pet appears to be doing well on insulin and supplements, frequent monitoring is imperative. Why? Because if a pet’s pancreas suddenly “kicks in” and starts to produce its own insulin as it grows healthier in response to the supplements, giving insulin could dramatically reduce his blood sugar level to a critically low level. (If you give insulin to a healthy pet or person, you can bring on convulsions or even death, which actually made insulin the murderer’s drug of choice until forensic scientists learned to detect an insulin overdose.) For emergencies, always have honey or even Karo syrup on hand. Either should be administered orally as soon as possible if he starts becoming shaky or begins to experience a seizure. Then rush him to an emergency clinic to be evaluated unless you’re confident that he’s stabilized.
Despite these dangers, the blood sugar in many cases will decline to a normal and stable level as the pancreas repairs itself. To a culture taught to view diabetes as a chronic, incurable disease, that may seem little short of miraculous. But given that we have nearly a total turnover of virtually every single cell in our bodies every seven years—and in dogs and cats, probably every three years—why shouldn’t the pancreas heal itself? In fact, we’ve had considerable success with diabetic cats, dramatically lowering the insulin requirement in every two out of four cases and eliminating it in one out of three. Dogs are more of a challenge, but the odds of improving canine diabetes holistically are certainly better than just using conventional medicine, which basically gives them no chance for reversal at all and doesn’t address the original degenerative condition that led to the diabetes in the first place.
The key to understanding and treating diarrhea is to realize that it’s not really an illness. It’s a symptom: the outward sign of any number of problems that interrupt the large intestine’s regular work of resorbing water from the wastes passing through it. Basically, the intestines recognize that some very unwanted toxins are passing through them, and react by hurrying them out as quickly as possible, while the wastes are still soft or liquid. Bad food (or something else eaten by your undiscerning pet) is the most common provocation, but diarrhea may also result from bacteria or parasites absorbed by licking one source or another (including, yes, other dogs’ behinds). Separately, it may be the result of various internal organ malfunctions, especially of the kidney and liver, which can get overwhelmed by toxins they’re supposed to process. These will back up through the liver and then get jettisoned to the intestines. Toxicity, in short, is what leads to diarrhea, though that’s not always a bad thing. With cancer or other degenerative diseases, the purging of toxicity as diarrhea may signal a healing crisis.
The standard approach to diarrhea is to treat the symptom, usually by administering Kaopectate (in liquid or tablet form) or Imodium, along with antibiotics, often in conjunction with good old cortisone. I’ll use Kaopectate when the symptoms are dire enough or chronically nonresponsive, though I’m not nearly as happy with the new kind, which has various chemical flavorings and colorings, as I was with the old, which was composed more purely of kaolin and pectin, ingredients borrowed directly from herbal medicine. But Kaopectate merely addresses the symptoms of diarrhea, not the cause, unless it happens to help bind some of the toxins involved.
Different root causes may require different treatments. Intestinal worms, for example, must be dealt with on their own (see “Worms”). If diarrhea results from a failure of the pancreas to produce enzymes properly, or of the liver to metabolize, those organs must be addressed (for starters, with supplements and homeopathics). The essential step with all diarrhea, however, is to put the pet on a liquid fast. This may seem contraindicated: after all, a diarrhetic pet has been depleted of nutrients, is likely very hungry, and ought, by logic, to be fed so he can rebuild his strength. Not so. The digestive system has what’s called a gastrocolic reflex. Its own logic is to empty the colon as the stomach fills. To stop the colon from emptying and thus to break the diarrhea cycle, there’s a simple strategy: don’t eat! Or at least, eat as little as possible.
I’ve seen great success (with people as well as pets) with an old remedy called the potato diet: 50 percent white potatoes, 50 percent sweet potatoes, a slice of turnip, and a slice of leek, all boiled and then mixed with boiled chicken or lamb for flavor. I’ve seen the potato diet stop chronic diarrhea almost overnight (even in a ferret!). I also put the pet on homeopathic remedies: BHI’s “Diarrhea” and Dr. Goodpet’s “Diar-Relief” are both good. Instead of killing the bacteria, they enhance enzymatic function, which helps end the diarrhea naturally. And for chronic diarrhea, I’m a big advocate of a supplement called Acetylator (Vetri-Science), which contains lactobacillus, enzymes, and glucosamine sulfates, all of which help natural intestinal function. I’ve had pets with severe diarrhea on the potato diet, along with these supplements and homeopathic remedies for months, gradually easing them back onto a regular diet. Chronic diarrhea takes time to treat. Eventually, though, it does succumb to holistic measures—without antibiotics.
One final note on chronic diarrhea. In recent years, I’ve seen an increasing incidence of it, both in cats and dogs, as a symptom of inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Deva Khalsa, one of my holistic colleagues, feels strongly that the condition is caused by vaccines, more specifically by the meat extracts in which certain vaccines are grown. In absorbing these vaccines, puppies and kittens become sensitized to meat protein—which is to say, too sensitive to it. Later on, after ingesting meats with similar proteins, the proteins may trigger an immuno-mediated allergic reaction. When this cause and reaction become chronic, the result is inflammatory bowel disease.
The acute, culminating stage of this disease, which resembles pneumonia and often results in fatal encephalitis with paralysis and seizures, is the one for which dogs are vaccinated repeatedly in their first several months of life and annually thereafter. It’s a viral disease so rare now that I can count on one hand my last several cases of it over the last decade, though I’m including it here because who knows? It might reappear in your part of the country. The rarity of the disease is a situation for which the vaccine may be credited, though also one that has led to overvaccination (see Chapter Four). In its milder, chronic form—itself the result of the distemper vaccine, as Dr. Richard Pitcairn among other holistic veterinarians believes—canine distemper incubates without symptoms, manifests as a fever that quickly recedes, then reappears in more potent disease form, often with loss of appetite, conjunctivitis (with a pus-like discharge from the eyes), diarrhea, and skin eruptions on the stomach or the hind legs.
The best course of action for acute canine distemper is to have a veterinarian administer high levels of intravenous vitamin C, carried into the body by one of the two standard intravenous fluids, sodium chloride or lactated Ringer’s solution. If available, intravenous ozone (which kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses on contact) should also be administered. At the same time, I’ll address the symptoms with specific homeopathic remedies. If the dog is still failing, I’ll use a distemper nosode—a homeopathic preparation, with its minute quantity of distemper virus “succussed” to a high potency. (Though often effective as a preventative, a nosode can also be used for treatment of an existing condition. I’ll start with low potencies; if there’s no response, I’ll work up to higher potencies.) I’ll also put the dog on a liquid fast of vegetable broth. If in its acute phase a dog exhibits seizures—the result of the disease affecting his central nervous system—I’ll use acupuncture, herbs, and specific homeopathics to address them.
The fact is, though, that a dog is far likelier to contract a chronic form of distemper from the distemper vaccine—the condition called vaccinosis—than he is to get the full-blown disease without the vaccine. Just to be safe, I give an eleven-week-old puppy one distemper vaccine, making sure not to overdose a puppy or small dog. If no more distemper vaccines are given and the dog is raised on a healthy diet, in my experience that’s the last time a pet or his owner need worry about distemper ever again.
Its name suggests that this terrible illness is the feline counterpart of canine distemper, with pneumonia-like symptoms. In fact, it’s an intestinal virus, better known by another name: feline infectious enteritis (enter denotes the intestines; itis means inflammation). Often, too, it’s referred to as feline panleukopenia because of the rapid lowering of the white blood cell count, secondary to the virus (pan means all; leuko means white blood cells; and penia means deficiency). Whatever you call it, it’s a swift, usually unstoppable killer that begins with a cat’s shunning of the food bowl, progresses quickly to high fever, vomiting (first a clear fluid, later yellow bile), and severe bloody diarrhea. In kittens especially, it tends to end rapidly in death. The course is for the virus to devastate the white blood cells of the immune system, rendering the body vulnerable to fatal secondary infection. If caught in the early stages, it may be arrested with a liquid diet and high levels of intravenous vitamin C. Administered, that is, at a hospital: this is a medical emergency, not a disease to be treated at home.
Though it can quickly rise to epidemic levels, feline distemper today appears to be almost wiped out. This may be due to the feline distemper vaccine, though at not inconsiderable cost, as described in Chapter Four. The vaccine appears to produce a lowlying, chronic form of the disease, and I have discerned a disturbing correlation, based on experience, between the vaccine and increased incidences of hyperthyroidism in cats. (A similar case could be made with the vaccine for feline leukemia.) The best course is to vaccinate a young cat once for feline distemper when the immune system is mature enough for the vaccine’s effects to be permanent, and not again. Of course, give your cat good nutrition to support his health. His chances of getting the disease later in life will be about as great as yours of winning the lottery.
It’s worth noting, too, that just because a cat is vomiting or experiencing diarrhea doesn’t mean an owner should assume the worst. Most of the time, vomiting and diarrhea denote far more mundane conditions. Though it’s by no means a clear indication itself, one clue that your cat’s condition may be feline distemper is if he hovers over his water bowl without drinking, while appearing gaunt and debilitated. If he does that consistently, call a veterinarian right away.
Both dogs and cats often incur irritating or painful ear problems of a chronic, hard-to-treat nature, from inflammation and infections to buildups of wax. In fact, I have a higher success rate in reversing cancer than chronic ear problems. The likeliest cause is allergies (especially if the symptoms appear during pollen or hay fever season, or in association with a certain kind of food). For many dogs, unfortunately, the problem may be genetic. Spaniels, retrievers, poodles, and pointers, among other breeds, all have floppy ears that inhibit air circulation, trap water when they’re swimming, and generally help foster what I think of as a “swampy” environment that promotes bacterial growth. In unhealthy or metabolically unbalanced pets, the discharge is thickened as their bodies struggle to eliminate toxins via the ears, among other channels, leading to waxy buildups. The wax becomes another medium fostering the growth of bacteria and fungi. (From personal experience, I know that fasting can lead to a marked increase in earwax production as the body eliminates residual toxicity.) In dogs, excess wax exacerbates the already less than ideal design of the ear, with a canal that begins horizontally and then takes a sharp turn upward, creating a bend in which wax and other material are apt to collect even with dogs whose earflaps stick up straight.
Many veterinarians, and especially groomers, conduct routine cleanings of the ear in an effort to keep the “swamp” from forming. It seems logical, but in my experience, such frequent intrusions only provoke the ears to produce more wax in response to the irritation created by the cleaning. Another common practice is to pluck ear hairs in those breeds that tend to have a lot of ear fur, on the assumption that the hairs help trap material. Also wrong, in my opinion; I’ve seen severe inflammations occur as a result. Members of a few breeds of floppy-eared dogs—poodles and bichons, for example—may benefit from an occasional pruning of ear hair. Most don’t, unless the ear is already a mess and the wax and hairs are adding to the problem. Use common sense: if no problem exists, leave well enough alone. Or as the pun has it, play it by ear.
Often a cleansing wash, conducted gently, will help. A classic natural acidifier is apple cider vinegar; apply a dropperful of it in a dilute solution (a teaspoon of vinegar to a half cup of distilled water) to the affected ear, massage gently from outside so that the fluid circulates through the ear canal, then let the pet shake it out. I’m partial to an herbal ear wash called Halo, which contains several soothing oils, including sage and clove, and several herbal extracts, among them chamomile. I’ve also had success with the brand Noah’s Kingdom, which along with the ingredients above contains mullein oil and liquid garlic; the garlic helps kill bacteria. (Kyolic garlic liquid, also diluted fifty-fifty with water, is particularly helpful.) Seven Forests, the line of Chinese herbal remedies (Institute of Traditional Medicine), has Forsythia for chronic ear infections and Picrorrhiza 11 for ear problems caused by yeast infections. (Both remedies are taken orally.)
In severe or nonresponsive cases, I’ll start by taking a culture of the ear, have a lab identify the bacteria in it, and test various antibiotics on the sample. If one works well, I’ll use it topically—not systemically—to get short-term results. Meanwhile, I’ll try to judge from a metabolic analysis which imbalances or allergy may be linked indirectly to the problem and treat them with supplements accordingly. The ear, remember, is also an eliminative channel, providing the body with yet another pathway (two pathways!) through which to jettison toxicity. More often than not, when the metabolic organs are restored to balance and the pet is on a good diet, the chronic ear problems get better or go away. If, as balance is being restored, the “swamp” needs a bit more encouragement to clear up, I’ll sometimes take olive oil and infuse it with ozone to create what’s called medical olive oil. Then I’ll flush the ears with it in the manner described above. The ozone is especially helpful because it kills bacteria and fungus on contact; the only catch is that it soon defuses out of the oil, which must then be rein-fused. Unfortunately, ozone is commercially hard to come by and not even legal in most states for medical purposes. I use it in my own practice, and I know of a few other holistic veterinarians who use it in theirs, but the field remains pretty limited.
Occasionally, I’ll see a pet whose ear problems have become so severe that the entire canal is scarred and shut. In those cases, I’ll recommend opening the canal surgically and removing that part of the exterior wall where the canal bends upward. Obviously, this should be performed by a good surgeon. It’s not an ideal cure, in that it fails to consider what the source of toxicity may be, but the surgery does alleviate the physical condition contributing to the buildup. If a metabolic analysis is then done, and the pet is put on the appropriate supplements, the problem ought not to recur. Such was the case with Dottie, a three-year-old cocker spaniel referred to me by Dr. Martin DeAngelis after he’d opened up both ear canals surgically, which unfortunately did nothing to alleviate the problem. Dr. DeAngelis referred Dottie to Smith Ridge, as a last resort, to have cryosurgery performed for the many benign growths and thickened folds she had in her ears, the canals of which were darkened with waxy buildup. Instead, I started by putting her on supplements as indicated by a BNA, along with a three-day intravenous vitamin C flush. I also gave her ozone intravenously and topically. Rapidly the buildup vanished, the canals turned pink, the folds and growths dissipated. Now, years later, her ears are still fine, subject only to occasional flare-ups that we treat as before, though more mildly. Cryosurgery, as a result, was never performed.
Ear cropping Some breeders and veterinarians still endorse the practice of cropping the ears of certain breeds of dogs for show purposes or just aesthetics. Besides being cruel and painful, this practice ignores a crucial fact: there are eighty-eight acupuncture points in the ear flap which correspond to every major function of the body. Imagine what happens to the balance of the rest of the body when a significant number of these points are suddenly sheared off! It’s an awful, awful practice, completely unjustifiable.
Ear mites Unlike the nuisances described above, ear mites are parasites, invisible to the naked eye but for the brown granules of their discharge. They usually dwell first in cats, though if a dog is in the house, they’ll soon take up residence in his ears, too. In either case, a pet’s misery, in shaking his head and scratching his ears, will be all too apparent. (A foul odor is the other telltale sign.) Use one of the washes described above, and shampoo the head and ears with an herbal formula specifically for killing parasites (any health food store ought to carry one). Recognize, too, that like all parasites, ear mites prey on pets with weak or underdeveloped immune systems. Strengthen the immune system to prevent the mites’ return. If, however, the mites persist despite these measures, I do recommend using a conventional topical preparation just long enough to kill the mites and put an end to your pet’s suffering. As soon as they’re gone, focus on health, starting with a good diet, and they ought not return.
By definition, epilepsy is seizures of unknown origin. A heartbreaking, historically incurable condition among people, it appears in both dogs and cats, though most often in the young dog. Western medicine’s best guess is that epilepsy is caused by a neurological dysfunction in the brain, but after years of research, no one has found anything organically wrong with the brain of an epileptic. I believe, as do a growing number of holistic veterinarians, that the likelier cause is vaccines. As Richard and Susan Pitcairn observe in Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, experiments with laboratory animals have clearly shown that vaccines can cause allergic encephalitis, a low-grade inflammation of the brain that may result in attacks; and the Pitcairns are not alone among holistic veterinarians in having seen dogs exhibit initial epileptic attacks shortly after their annual vaccines.
The conventional approach to epilepsy, both with people and pets, is to use drugs to lessen the likelihood of attacks. Phenobarbital is a standard choice; Dilantin is another; a third, newer option is potassium bromide. These drugs are often used in combination with one another. The problem with them is that they’re toxic, especially to the liver. Also, like most drugs, those for epilepsy become less effective over time, and so must be given in ever greater quantities. This is because they’re actually fostering the condition while suppressing its symptoms—what I call the catch-22 of conventional medicine. Fortunately, there is another way. If I’m treating a dog who’s having multiple severe seizures and not responding to alternatives, I have to use a drug, too: intravenous Valium, the only means powerful enough to break the seizure cycle. And if the dog is in a continuous seizure, a condition called “status epilepticus,” the dog must also be anesthetized to help ease it out of the attack.
Usually, though, I’ll see the animal between seizures. Typically, I’ll hear that when the attacks began, they occurred just once or a few times a year. Now, I’ll hear, they’re becoming more frequent: perhaps every three or four weeks. What I do is take a blood sample, then send the dog home with one or more of these preparations: an herbal compound containing black cohosh, valerian, and skullcap (several brands are available at health food stores; the one I use most is Relax Caps [Crystal Star]); a homeopathic product called “Epilepsy” drops (Professional Health Products, distributed by Nutritional Specialties); Neurotrophin (Standard Process Labs), to support normal brain function; and a supplement, also readily available, called phosphatidyl-serine, which enhances food and oxygen uptake by the brain and nervous system. As I add these, I’ll also wean the pet from the conventional drugs he’s on—slowly enough to be sure the changeover doesn’t bring on an attack.
These supplements alleviate the symptoms and often postpone attacks. But each one also has the potential to reverse the seizure disorders. When the metabolic analysis of the blood sample comes back, I focus on the imbalances. Inevitably, with epilepsy, the liver is implicated. Since the gallbladder is part of the liver complex and stores bile produced by the liver for the initial breakdown of fats, one of the supplements I give is Lipocomplex (Progressive Labs, distributed by Nu Biologics), which helps the gallbladder do its job (it actually contains ox bile). To that end, I also use a magnesium supplement, especially if the analysis reveals a paucity of magnesium in the blood. Both magnesium and vitamin B6 are integral to fat metabolism, and also to the proper functioning of the brain’s pituitary gland.
Acupuncture can be very useful in keeping an epileptic in balance. Along with the association point on a dog’s spine and other indicated points, there’s one on the top of the head (called GV20) that’s the point of general sedation for the body. Typically, if you feel there, you’ll detect a slight depression. I’ve taught owners to find it on their own epileptic dogs, and told them to rub it during a seizure: many times, they’ve reported back to me that the rubbing stops the seizure.
My own theory about epilepsy comes from the acupuncture master with whom I first studied some two decades ago. He reported that he’d never seen an epileptic or any seizure-disorder patient without an imbalance in the gallbladder energy meridian. This meridian courses up the back of the neck and traverses the top of the head and temples, ending at the eyes. Personally, I have never had a dog with epilepsy who didn’t have a gallbladder meridian imbalance, either. Consider, too, that among the acupuncture points on a dog’s spine which correspond to various organs and glands in the body, there’s one for the gallbladder. Invariably, with an epileptic dog, it’s out of alignment. Press it and you’ll provoke an immediate reaction among the nearest muscles.
In the intriguing-if-unproven department, a breeder of corgis told me not long ago that she’d read that epilepsy might be caused by a migration of parasites through the brain. She had a dog named Racer who was severely epileptic; she had tried treatments both conventional and holistic without success, so she decided to try the herb black walnut, which kills parasites. The dog’s seizures were dramatically reduced for years. I should add that I’ve since tried black walnut on dogs and not found it as successful. But who knows? Perhaps corgis are especially affected by it; perhaps another variable was involved, which in time, with more experimentation, will come to light.
When a pet’s eyes grow irritated—reddish or swollen, teary or gummy at the ducts—the most obvious possible cause is a foreign intruder: dust, a bug, perhaps an airborne insecticide. A drop of cod-liver oil applied to the eyes three or four times a day makes a good wash for all irritations. The herb eyebright, so called for its tonic effect on any eye problem, can also be applied directly to the eyes in an infusion (a half dozen drops of the extract, or a capsule of the powdered herb, should be mixed with a cup of distilled water; several drops of the mixture should be applied three or four times daily). Although there is controversy over the use of eyebright, especially topical use, I’ve used it many times with no side effects, and sometimes with remarkable positive results. Probably the best and easiest choice now is an herbal eyewash kit called Anitra’s Herbal Eyewash (Halo), which contains eyebright as its chief, but not only, ingredient. On their own or in conjunction with any of the above, I’ll use Similasan #1 homeopathic eyedrops to alleviate dry, reddened eyes.
When a larger, more abrasive object is the cause—a splinter, for example—a pet’s cornea may be ulcerated, or scratched. (With dogs, a common cause is the swipe of a cat’s claw.) A good clue, of course, is that only one of the eyes is likely to be irritated. If you can see the irritant, make no effort to remove it yourself; bring your pet right into a veterinary clinic. Any sign of blood is also reason to bring the pet in for treatment immediately. Only if the pet appears to have worked the irritant out already through his tears should you try to facilitate the healing process with an eyewash. One preparation I’ve found that’s particularly good for chronic corneal ulcers is Adequan (injectable chondroitin sulfate) diluted with sterile water*5 and used topically as an eyedrop.
A less obvious—but no less common—cause of eye irritations is allergies. Many dogs suffer during pollen or hay fever season just as people do. One course of action, to be sure, is medical suppression of the inflammatory symptoms. I much prefer the holistic route, for reasons discussed above (see “Allergies”). Similasan makes a particularly good homeopathic eyedrop called Similasan #2 for burning and itching brought on by allergies. And eyebright, in any of the mixtures noted above, is helpful for allergic reactions, too. If the reaction is severe enough, emergency medical assistance may be necessary.
In pets, as in people, one of the most common degenerative conditions of the eye is cataracts. Environmental pollutants and ingested toxins are at least partly to blame, for cataracts are nothing more than the accumulation of toxins in the lens of the eyes. But the aging process plays a role, too, as free radicals, in their generalized attack on healthy cells, accelerate degeneration of the eyes. And among diabetics, cataracts are an all-too-frequent side effect, as high blood sugar affects the eyes. Whatever their origin and kind, the toxins crystallize in the lens, clouding vision and occasionally bringing on blindness if unchecked. Surgery is the standard treatment for cataracts, and certainly in people it’s become a highly sophisticated, painless, and effective solution. For pets, it can seem an expensive course of action; in my opinion, it’s often unnecessary.
Diabetic cataracts, it’s true, come on suddenly and are so dense that nothing helps but surgical removal. The more typical cataract progresses slowly enough that a regimen of homeopathic and herbal remedies, along with overall health improvement and metabolic balancing, can usually keep it from getting much worse—thus saving an animal’s vision—or even reverse the disease. Eyebright and bilberry are the two herbs integral to holistic cataract treatment. They’re the primary ingredients in a supplement I use called Visioplex (Progressive Labs), which also contains vitamin A and raw eye concentrate and comes in capsule form, to be given orally as directed. Another useful measure is the herb succus sineraria. It comes as an eye preparation to be applied topically, a drop in each eye once a day. It’s also contained in a homeopathic combination called “Cataract Drops” (Professional Health Products), which is taken orally and has been reported to have positive effects with cataracts. I’ve used two other topical products with some success. One is a homeopathic drop that a dear friend and holistic veterinary associate of mine, Joanne Stefanatos of Las Vegas, Nevada, formulates (see source guide); the other, if you can find them, is vitamin B15 drops. Because cataracts are a degenerative condition, a logical corollary is that they occur in a body that is itself degenerating. The inverse is also true: get a body healthy, and its cataracts will improve. So along with these remedies, I put a pet with cataracts on the diet outlined in Chapter Three, and supplements indicated by the BNA. You’d be surprised at the difference it makes.
Another chronic and disturbing condition of the eyes is progressive retinal atrophy, a shrinking of the main functioning section of the eye—the vision screen, so to speak. It too responds to good diet (and the aforementioned remedies). With cats in particular, the condition is often linked to a lack of taurine, an amino acid that is part of a cat’s natural diet but is often not present in commercial foods. Change the cat’s diet accordingly, and add a capsule of taurine to each meal (500 milligrams per day) as a supplement; it’s available at health food stores. Also, the enzyme supplement VetZimes V2 contains taurine.
Less frequent but of no less concern is a chronic condition called indolent ulcers. The superficial layer of the cornea keeps sloughing off and fails to heal. The conventional treatment is to constantly cauterize the eye, or to undertake a surgical procedure called a keratectomy. I’ve found that the eyebright infusion, applied topically three or four times a day, can heal indolent ulcers completely in less than a week. I believe that Adequan also works on indolent ulcers, but I haven’t yet had the chance to try it on this condition, as this use is relatively new.
A final thought: In Chinese philosophy, the eye and the liver are linked. When I do a metabolic analysis of a pet with chronic eye problems, almost inevitably I find a liver imbalance. Along with putting him on a good diet, I’ll start him on liver supplements. The combination tends to produce strong results. The link also explains why vitamin A and carrots have been so celebrated for aiding vision. Vitamin A supports proper liver function by acting as a “lubricant” for its cells.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
The first thing to be said about so-called feline AIDS is that it’s cat-specific. Which is to say that it doesn’t spread to people, dogs, or any other species. It is, however, a virus in the AIDS family which, like human AIDS (though not as severe), weakens the immune system, leaving the patient open to secondary infections that, while harmless or mild in healthy cats, can further debilitate a cat with FIV. (Like AIDS, FIV is also a new plague; the first case was discovered in 1986 in a California cattery.) The second thing to be said is that in my opinion, FIV and the other feline viral disease described below are spread not so much because of the virus as because of a compromised immune system’s vulnerability to the virus. Wherein lies the clue to treatment.
With FIV, the number one symptom, along with a run-down appearance, is severe gingivitis: gums that are inflamed and painful. A fever and swollen lymph glands may follow. Often the condition subsides for months or even years, then flares up again when the immune system is stressed or deteriorates and is rendered vulnerable to infection.
Although FIV can be spread by contact at birth, the most common route of viral transmission is through bite wounds, so that “outside” cats, especially unneutered males who tend to get into fights, have a disproportionate chance of contracting it. (Unlike AIDS in humans, FIV is not transmitted sexually.) My own feeling is that any kitten put on the diet outlined in Chapter Three and subjected to a minimum of vaccines is unlikely to catch the FIV virus. It goes almost without saying that males should be neutered as a matter of course, not just to curb FIV but to help contain the cat population. If he does get the virus, his immune system is highly unlikely to succumb to the acute stage of the disease, so that he can lead, in effect, a normal life. A surprisingly high percentage of cats do carry the virus, but far fewer get full-blown FIV, an indication that diet—and the broader state of good health—plays a pivotal role. (A cat that does have the low-grade, chronic form of FIV should not be given any vaccines, no matter what your local veterinarian says.) Indeed, FIV offers a perfect illustration of the principle that disease is an excuse to get healthy.
Along with a good diet, I’ll put all FIV cats on supplements initially. Then, when I get back their BNA reports, I’ll add whatever specific supplements are needed to help each individual case. Chances are, they’ll include Feline Support (Biovet), a thymus supplement or a homeopathic like “Thymus Drops” (Professional Health Products); and Co-Enzyme Q10 (Vetri-Science), which supports heart function and also acts as a catalyst for enzymatic action throughout the body. Co-Enzyme Q10 also has reported beneficial effects in pets with gum disease, which makes it even more useful with FIV. If I see an associated suppressed bone marrow, I’ll use Millettia 9 (Seven Forests), which contains astragalus, salvia, and cnidium, and nourishes the blood. Also useful from Seven Forests is Viola 12, generally for immune deficiency. And as a last resort, I’ll use the homeopathic nosode for FIV (one is from Washington Homeopathics; the Hahnemann company also makes one). Most cats do well without it, and occasionally a nosode will produce an exacerbation of symptoms, but for most cats who’ve failed to respond to other treatment, it can sometimes bring impressive results.
I’ve treated a lot of cats successfully for FIV with this support program. Does that mean the cats are cured? No. FIV is a stubborn organism; once in the host, it tends to stay there. But if a cat with FIV can be rendered symptom-free for the duration of a normal life span, the question of whether or not he carries the virus becomes, as far as I can see, academic—especially if you responsibly don’t expose the cat to other felines. I’ve seen multiple-cat households where one cat is positive for FIV and others remain negative for years.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Like FIV, this is a viral disease that compromises the immune system. Like FIV, it cannot be passed to humans. Unlike FIV, unfortunately, FIP is nearly 100 percent fatal.
FIP is one of the coronaviruses, the most insidious of the bunch because in its initial stage, it appears to be a routine cold or mild fever (if it manifests any symptoms at all). Tragically, that is when the virus can be “shed” to other cats; I’ve seen whole catteries wiped out by FIP. The coronavirus vaccine is of limited efficacy because it isn’t designed specifically for FIP. In fact, there’s considerable anecdotal evidence to suggest that one or another of the standard vaccines brings on FIP by compromising the immune system and rendering it vulnerable to the virus. In a cattery or a home containing more than one cat where FIP has appeared, the best preventative measure is to keep cats apart and apply rigorous standards of sanitation. This is because the virus is spread through feces and bodily fluids, including saliva. Cat-to-cat transfer via the licking of the fecal area, or a shared litter box, is the most common route.
By the time more pronounced symptoms start to appear, the cat is no longer “shedding” the virus. Unfortunately, his own prospects of recovery have diminished considerably. Along with a higher fever and loss of appetite, FIP manifests symptoms of two sorts, the “wet” and the “dry.” The abdomens of cats with “wet” FIP swell dramatically with a thick, high-protein fluid. Their fevers respond neither to antibiotics nor to holistic measures. Over the next two to four weeks, they grow progressively debilitated, then die. “Dry” FIP affects the eyes and the nervous system. The eyes acquire a white filminess (which feline leukemia can produce as well), while the neurological effects can vary: pain, paralysis, seizures. The fever is not as pronounced, and the course of the illness is more prolonged—stretching over months, rather than weeks—but the end, in my experience, is likely death.
That said, I have heard encouraging reports from Dr. Deva Khalsa, one of the holistic veterinarians I most admire, whose practice is in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Apparently, she’s been able to arrest, even reverse, cases of FIP, using homeopathic remedies. I’ve also found grounds for optimism in situations where more than one cat is involved. Carlyn Clayton, a dear client and adopter of exotic cats, had a newly introduced kitten die of FIP; by then, the rest of her cats all tested strongly positive for it. “They’re all going to die,” she told me, disconsolate. I urged her to change her perspective. “Think of it as: They were all exposed, and they have high titers [high concentrations of the antibodies to the virus in their bodies], which shows they’re all strong and healthy enough to fight off the full-blown disease.” She did. Not one of the other cats died.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
Of the three main feline viral scourges, leukemia sounds like the worst but actually is much less likely than FIP to result in death. About one in five cats carries the virus, but far fewer will contract the full-blown disease, and fewer still will die of it. Unlike FIP, it’s also a viral disease that with the right diet and remedies can be reversed clinically.
Like FIV (and human AIDS), feline leukemia compromises the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to secondary infection. The telltale symptom is a lack of energy, often coupled with anemia (which, if it becomes severe enough, requires blood transfusions to keep the cat alive). Often the chest and lungs become filled with fluid. The kidneys can also become infiltrated by the disease. From my experience treating an inordinate number of cancer patients, I’ve often seen leukemia as an associated disease. My hunch is that it sometimes appears first, ravaging the immune system and, in so doing, enabling the cancer to form.
FeLV is spread mostly through saliva and blood (and, like FIV, cannot be spread to humans). A common route of infection is mutual grooming; another is blood transfusions.*6 Sadly, a third route for the virus is from a pregnant mother to her litter in utero or, to newborns, via nursing. If the disease progresses, it will usually spread from the mouth to the lymph nodes into the blood and bone marrow. Some cats, however, ward it off before it gets that far, which offers the obvious clue to treatment.
With a logic that seems willfully perverse, conventional medicine has tended to treat feline leukemia by killing the cat. Really! By putting the cat to sleep. It’s true that a dead cat whose leukemia was detected early enough cannot infect other cats. But even if the leukemia progresses, a cat can be treated in such a way that it can lead a largely symptom-free life and, if kept inside, away from other cats, will pose no threat of infection. Remember the household of cats I discussed in Chapter Two: three related cats came down with leukemia; three others, not related but in constant contact with the first three, never did.
If I see a cat that has the virus but not the full-blown disease, I’ll put him on immunosupportive supplements and a healthy diet. If the cat is clinically ill, infusions of vitamin C solution can be extremely helpful. So can a special “leukemia” diet developed by Dr. Ihor Basko (see source guide), who reports having reversed leukemia with it. Along with raw calf’s liver, Basko recommends carrot juice, vitamin E, brewer’s yeast, and aloe vera, among other ingredients. With FeLV, more so even than with most illnesses, the stronger a cat’s immune system is, the likelier he is to keep leukemia at bay.
Conventional medicine does believe leukemia can be prevented—with the feline leukemia vaccine. That may be true, but at what cost? In my experience, cats vaccinated for feline leukemia have a greater chance of becoming immune-suppressed after the vaccine than before, and have a higher death rate from other diseases than nonvaccinated cats. Although they remain FeLV-negative, I’ve seen so many cats ravaged by bizarre immune-suppressed conditions. Almost inevitably, these cats’ records reveal a history of recent leukemia vaccination. As noted in Chapter Four, I’ve also seen a correlation between the increase in hyperthyroidism among cats and the introduction of the feline leukemia vaccine. Does the vaccine work for some cats? Perhaps. But I can’t imagine playing the odds unless a cat were being brought into an area of high leukemia incidence—which in itself would be irresponsible. And even then I’d never advise inoculating the cat on an annual basis, as conventional medicine does. Or vaccinating the cat for half a dozen other diseases at the same time on the assumption that his leukemia might render him that much more vulnerable to them. Enough with the vaccines! Go for health, and let the body do the rest.
For both cats and dogs, fleas are an almost inevitable irritant. Scarcely a pet owner in America hasn’t had to confront the sight of his animal companion miserably scratching at the little pests in summer or fall (or through the winter and spring as well, especially in year-round warm climates). By the time that happens, chances are the house or apartment is infested, too, as innumerable fleas propagate in the carpeting, cushions, bedding, towels, and other inviting fabrics. So maddening is the problem, and so overwhelming, that even an herbal-tea-drinking, yoga-calm vegetarian is tempted to say: No more! Give me the chemicals! Bombs away!
An entire industry is dedicated to easing you into that choice. Racks of chemical flea products at your local pet store and in veterinary waiting rooms are packaged with soothing assurances (if you read only the big type). Pesticide services stand ready to dispatch workers to your home with canisters of odorless spray to bomb it clean. Many of the products appear to work: the fleas do vanish, at least temporarily. So why not use them? Let’s take a closer look—because only when you appreciate what these products contain will you do the harder work of keeping your pet flea-free without them.
Since the 1970s, when attention began to be paid to commercial flea collars, and the phrase “necklaces of poison” came to be used, the pet product industry purports to have made flea products safer. It’s true, for example, that collars no longer contain diclorvos, a chemical used in nerve gas. However, most commercial flea products contain one insecticide or another, ranging in toxicity up to the organophosphates, which act like nerve gas in that they paralyze the nervous systems of fleas—at doses low enough, ostensibly, to do no harm to pets. Members of that family, including fenthion and Vapona, can cause tremors and heart and respiratory complications in pets, and even leukemia and death. Another highly toxic group called the carbamates includes propoxur, the principal ingredient in Vet-Kem, the brand of flea collar most prominently displayed at my local pet store. The “precautionary statement” on the back of Vet-Kem advises the user not to get the dust that coats the collar in his mouth or eyes; if swallowed, he should call a poison control center. Is a poison that might kill you a substance you want around your pet’s neck twenty-four hours a day, month after month?
As a supposed improvement on collars, the industry began to offer new kinds of protection a few yeas ago. With Proban, dogs ingested tablets whose main ingredient was the very toxic chemical cythoate. The idea was that the dogs would exude the chemical through their skin, killing the fleas in the process. “The dog acts as the drug delivery system to the flea,” declared a university report titled “Perspectives on Systemic Flea Control” which provided an overview of the rationale for developing these products. Great! At the same time, Proban’s warning label read: “If swallowed by a human, IMMEDIATELY call a physician, poison control center, or hospital emergency room.” Soon, reports of side effects—vomiting, seizures, and acute liver toxicity—began to accumulate. A professor of mine at Cornell did numerous autopsies on dogs that had died after taking Proban for some time. He found a “jellification of the liver,” meaning that the liver had been virtually destroyed. Proban has been superseded by Program, supposedly a more benign flea fighter. Active ingredient: lufenuron, a chemical that disrupts the flea’s reproductive cycle. I treated a golden retriever who had been put on Program on a Friday and fallen into a coma by Monday. (There was nothing I could do to save him.) Over the next months, there were reports of side effects, brain damage in particular, in both Europe and the U.S., including a special report of its toxic effects by New York’s WABC-TV Eyewitness News in September 1996. Currently on the FDA’s internet chart of adverse drug reactions in animals (www.fda.gov//cvm; click “online library” and then “adverse drug reactions”), lufenuron is listed as causing an alarming incidence of reactions and deaths. Among 256 cats treated, there were 54 cases of vomiting, 39 of depression, and 31 of anorexia; in all, 22 cats died. Among 639 dogs treated, there were 189 cases of vomiting, 96 of depression, 92 of diarrhea, 84 of pruritis (intense itching), and 54 of anorexia; in all, 27 dogs died. Yet Program is still a dominant product in the commercial flea-control market and continues to be promoted as nontoxic.
Along with tablets, there’s the “droplet” approach, in which a small plastic vial containing just a few ounces of highly concentrated chemical flea repellent is squeezed out between the shoulder blades—sort of like applying perfume. A prominent “droplet” product is Defend, whose active ingredient is pyrethrin. It’s less toxic than the chemicals mentioned above, enough so that it’s actually labeled nontoxic. But overuse can still lead to vomiting, headaches, and neurological dysfunctions, among other symptoms. And to other creatures, it can be lethal. I recommended it to a client whose two dogs were suffering intensely. He put a drop between each of their shoulder blades, as directed. That day, the dogs swam in his pond. The next day, numerous fish in the pond lay dead on the surface. How can a few drops of a chemical that kills fish not be harmful to dogs? Yet the trend continues. The latest “droplet” product, Bio Spot, contains a chemical called per-methrin (making up 45 percent of its contents), which is in the same group of insecticides as Defend’s pyrethrin, though more powerful. Along with the standard warnings about how it can poison humans, the label contains the following caution: “This product is extremely toxic to fish. Do not add directly to water.” In fact, Bio Spot, which is made for dogs, is even harmful to cats. “DO NOT USE ON CATS,” says the warning (their capital letters, not mine), “or animals other than dogs. Cats which actively groom or engage in close physical contact with recently treated dogs may be at risk of toxic exposure.”
This is progress?
In one sense, I sympathize with the makers of these concoctions, and with the owners who buy them. For all the advances made in chemical flea treatment, pets in my experience seem plagued more today than they were a decade ago. Partly, that’s the result of the warmer weather in most of the U.S.: fleas have more hatching cycles before the frost, if the frost comes at all. Also, though, it’s a perfect example of how wrongheaded we can be in treating problems with chemicals and drugs. Fleas, like most parasites, seek out weak hosts on which to land, those whose immune systems won’t repel them. They’re like little vultures, circling overhead, eyeing the stragglers in the herd. When we douse our pets with chemicals to repel their fleas, we further weaken their immune systems, rendering them even more vulnerable to next year’s hatch. When, at the same time, we call in the chemical sprayers to deflea our homes, we solve an immediate problem—but at the cost of having our pets, and our families, ingest particles of industry-grade insecticides (surely you don’t believe the claims that a spray capable of killing trillions of fleas in your home vanishes without a trace in two hours?), further degrading their immune defenses. Given how awesomely adaptable fleas are to toxins, we also know that sooner or later they’ll develop a tolerance to—and perhaps even thrive on—whatever chemical we hit them with next.
The first step to dealing with fleas is to recognize that they aren’t leaving. Remember the movie The Hellstrom Chronicles? It started with an aerial view from a helicopter of a nuclear test site. Everything was dead and barren. As the camera moved downward, the ground was seen to be covered with swarming insects. Insects have survived the Ice Age; they’ve survived whatever wiped out the dinosaurs; if there’s an apocalypse, they’ll survive that, too. Fleas are particularly tough, and by God, they’re plentiful. If a male and female flea are placed in a new home and provided with adequate food like a dog or cat, they’ll propagate a flea population of literally millions in less than a month.
The right approach is not to address the symptom but to get to the cause of the allergic reaction that a flea bite stimulates in a vulnerable pet. It means getting your pet healthy enough that fleas will cause no reaction in him—and ultimately the fleas will have no interest in him. Some time ago, I went to Switzerland to research holistic pet remedies. Through my entire stay, I was struck by the radiant physical health of all the people I saw. When I got to Zurich, I learned just how healthy the country’s animals were, too. I stopped in at a veterinary school and asked one of the professors what he used for flea problems. “Flea problem? What’s a flea problem?” He had two golden retrievers who roamed free in woods thick with fleas and ticks. Yet when they came home, the few fleas and ticks they brought back with them just dropped off within minutes. The dogs were healthy enough not to be targets. For your own pet, that suggests the obvious: the good, nutritional diet outlined in Chapter Three, and no flea-fighting chemicals.
Fine, you say, but what about the flea infestation my pet has right now? I’m holistic, but not holier-than-thou: if a pet is really suffering, and one or more of the various available nontoxic products have not worked, I’ll steer an owner to one of the over-the-counter chemical treatments just to break the cycle of more bites and scratching. If so, I’ll recommend that an owner choose a product containing citrus-based d-limonene, the “herbal insecticide.” One spray I keep around my own home is Quantum’s “Flea & Tick” repellant. It contains the herb erigeron (flea bane). “Flea & Tick” also contains rose geranium, which is one of the effective tick repellants. In severe cases, I may recommend Front Line or Advantage, two of the more benign popular brands, though not without trepidation.
In all cases, I recommend two natural substances: garlic and brewer’s yeast. Both exude odors or tastes that discourage fleas. And garlic is as close to a panacea as a natural product can get. Grate or chop a clove or two into each meal, both to combat fleas and for general health and longevity. Add a tablespoon of brewer’s yeast (half a tablespoon for small dogs and for cats). Every day or two, also sprinkle brewer’s yeast on your pet’s coat, working it in with your hands. Be sure to get him out of the house at that point, since the fleas may desert him.
Among the many herbal flea preparations that can be useful, I’m partial to Earth Animal’s Herbal Internal Powder, a powdered mix of natural ingredients which contains garlic as well as alfalfa, wormwood and yellowdock, and pennyroyal. Sprinkle the powder liberally into a pet’s food; it smells so good you may want to sprinkle it into your own! (I do, especially when cooking pasta.) It will repel fleas without hurting your pet. Another product high in garlic and brewer’s yeast is Internal Powder (Earth Animal), which my brother, veterinarian Robert Goldstein, makes another of his own chief recommendations. To round out the nontoxic approach to flea prevention, Earth Animal also offers everything from herbal collars to shampoos and rinses to nontoxic products for in and around the home. The most effective I’ve seen is a borax powder (originally put out by a company called Flea Busters) that helps eradicate fleas from the home nontoxically.
In theory, a pet redolent of garlic and brewer’s yeast ought to repel all fleas and thus not bring any into the house. In fact, a few fleas may get inside anyway—and we know what happens when they do. To keep them from taking up residence, an owner must be absolutely vigilant. Rugs and carpeting should be steam-cleaned at the start of flea season. The home must be thoroughly vacuumed once a week. Also once a week, a pet’s bedding must be put through the washer and dryer at high heat. These measures may seem time-consuming, but when coupled with herbal preparations and a good diet, an amazing thing will happen: trillions of fleas will head off in search of animals less healthy—and less odiferous!—than your own.
Another highly popular approach I endorse is herbal collars. Some come in the form of a standard flea collar—flexible plastic that an owner cuts to size—or as a rope-mesh collar that can be resupplied with the herbal oil it contains. Three common ingredients in these herbal flea oils are pennyroyal, eucalyptus, and citronella, preformulated in the bottle. I actually take this oil, put a few drops in a spray bottle filled with water, and use it to spray both the pets and the house.
As an aside, many owners are tempted to bomb their houses with powerful insecticides during Indian summer, when the flea population enters its final peak. Try to hold out for a couple of weeks. As the days get colder, let the house get colder, too, especially while you’re out. (Make sure the plants are in a room with a heater.) This wipes out the fleas.
Gastric Bloat/Gastric Torsion
Large-breed, deep-chested dogs occasionally suffer a severe bloating of the stomach several hours after a meal. Almost always, the meal turns out to have been a commercial kibble that expanded with water in the stomach. The dog will grow visibly uncomfortable, try in vain to vomit, and often drool. The stomach, inflated and hard to the touch, will put pressure on the abdominal area around it, pushing liquids from the blood into it out, and precipitate dehydration and shock that will most likely result in death in a few hours if not treated as a medical emergency.
A not infrequent complication of bloat is gastric torsion. The stomach, filled with food and water, manages to twist at each axis where the esophagus and the small intestine rise to meet it respectively. The torsion prevents any food from being released into the small intestine, which makes the bloat that much worse. All too often, dogs afflicted with either of these conditions turn out to have been playing or engaging in some form of rigorous activity an hour or two before.
If dry commercial foods are one cause, I suspect that another contributing cause is overvaccination. One theory claims that vaccines appear to damage the nerve bodies in the central nervous system which innervate the stomach. A breeder of standard poodles witnessed such a high incidence of gastric bloat among her dogs that she conducted and published a study, vaccinating one-third of her dogs with the standard regimen of combination vaccines, one-third with vaccines on an individual basis, and one-third with no vaccines. The incidence of gastric bloat correlated exactly as she suspected it would; the combination group suffered the highest incidence of bloat, while the nonvaccinated dogs remained bloat free. (Interestingly, there were also correlations between the vaccine and stained teeth, as well as seizures.) Another contributing factor to gastric torsion may be too many generations of the easy life, with pets eating preprocessed foods that don’t require the stomach to do its own processing, so that the stomach muscles grow slack and more likely to swing and twist.
The best prevention for bloat is a natural diet free of dry kibble, with no more food than necessary at each meal. Withholding water at least half an hour before and one full hour after mealtime can also be very helpful in prevention of this condition and to aid generally in proper digestion. Veterinarian Richard Pitcairn reports that a breeder of Great Danes swears by freshly made raw cabbage juice, given at the onset of bloat, as an effective means of easing the condition. I also recommend the use of a stomach glandular supplement and BHI’s “Nausea” combined with BHI’s “Stomach.” Unfortunately, the situation tends to recur. If a late-night trip to the emergency clinic is repeated, the best course may be a surgical procedure that in effect “tacks” the stomach down internally.
Another, less threatening condition of the stomach that affects both dogs and cats occurs when some agent inflames the stomach walls. Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, and fewer bowel movements. These are symptoms that can suggest a dozen other problems, so a professional diagnosis is needed. I usually treat gastritis by putting the pet on a fast, giving only small amounts of liquid, even just ice cubes to lick, then ease him onto a bland diet of chicken or turkey, white rice, and chicken broth. For good measure, I’ll include the homeopathic remedies ipecac (from the South American plant ipecacuanha) or nux vomica, both of which stop vomiting. Another product I recommend is BHI’s “Nausea,” and in persistent cases, a suppository called “Vomitus Heel” (Heel), which I’ve found to be extremely effective.
Unfortunately, many older pets tend to develop some degree of heart disease. The good news is that if attended to before it becomes severe, heart disease can usually be arrested, if not actually reversed.
Among cats, the most common kind of heart disease is cardiomyopathy, which takes one of two forms. The heart muscles can become weak and dilated, and so unable to maintain proper blood flow. Or they can thicken, constricting blood flow. A specific problem seen commonly in dogs (and people) is a mitral insufficiency. The heart’s mitral valve (located on the left side of the heart, between the receiving and pumping chambers) may fail to shut perfectly, allowing blood to leak through and cause a murmur. Whatever the exact failing, heart disease in pets produces general symptoms: a cough, because blood backs up from the constricted muscles or valves of the heart into the lungs; labored breathing, for the same reason; gums that become cyanotic, or blue, from lack of oxygen; and also a bloated belly if fluid backs up into the abdomen. When a pet begins having trouble going the distance of his usual walk, climbing a flight of stairs, or jumping onto a bed he’s jumped on for years, all in combination with respiratory symptoms, especially a choking cough, the possibility of heart disease is very likely and should be investigated.
I say this to encourage owners to bring their pets in for proper diagnosis, and to refrain from reaching their own conclusions and thinking they can treat heart disease themselves. The conditions of heart disease are various and complex, and so is their treatment. In fact, this is a realm where the most advanced drugs and techniques of conventional medicine are often needed (and much appreciated by holistic veterinarians). Electrocardiograms, echograms, and X rays leading to specific diagnosis and treatment by heart medication all form the likely course for a pet with serious heart disease and can prolong his life. Holistic measures, however, can be a wonderful adjunct even in serious cases and, once the disease symptoms are under control, help a veterinarian to ease the pet completely off conventional drugs and onto alternatives exclusively. I’ve even seen holistic therapies reverse serious heart disease without conventional medicine.
Generally for heart disease, I use a supplement called Heartsease/ Hawthorn Caps (Crystal Star). The herb hawthorn berry is known for its therapeutic effects on the heart, and although not as specific as so many drugs are for diagnosed heart diseases, I’ve seen it be very helpful with a broad range of heart patients. It’s soothing and sedative, so that it also reduces stress, and in so doing eases high blood pressure. At the same time, I’ll use Co-Enzyme Q10 (distributed by many suppliers), because besides helping enzyme functions in the body, its number one indication is to aid with proper heart function and support. Vitamin E is helpful, because it helps strengthen the heart muscles (and the rest of the musculature). Since heart disease leads to an accumulation of fluids in other parts of the body, a diuretic is often prescribed; the most commonly used in medicine is Lasix. I’ll use Lasix, too, though I’ll try to put a pet onto an herbal diuretic instead. If I have to keep using Lasix—which is stronger—it may deplete the body of potassium. In that case I’ll use Vital K, an herbal preparation high in potassium that is available in health food stores. Better, though, just to go with an herbal diuretic if it does the trick.
To judge by your local veterinarian’s stern insistence on regular heartworm pills for your dog, you’d think we’re in the midst of a brutal epidemic, leaving piles of the dead in its wake. I think there’s an epidemic, too, but of a different sort: of disease-causing toxicity instilled in our pets by heartworm preventative pills.
Granted, heartworm is a serious condition. An infected mosquito bites your dog (cats are rarely affected), injecting microscopic worms that first hibernate, then gain access to his bloodstream. The worms find their way to the heart, where they grow to as long as twelve inches, constricting the heart’s passages and causing symptoms that range from coughing to labored breathing to heart failure. If the image of giant worms literally blocking the life blood of your dog isn’t horrifying enough—and it can seem more so when viewing a real heart preserved in a jar of formalin, on display in a veterinarian’s office as a sales tactic for heartworm preventative—the fact that they spawn hundreds of thousands of baby larvae, called “microfilaria,” which circulate through the bloodstream, is nothing short of grotesque.
A few caveats are in order, however. Only a small percentage of dogs who get heartworm die of it, especially if they’re routinely tested twice yearly for early detection. Even in untreated dogs, after a period of uncomfortable symptoms, the adult worms die. The microfilaria do not grow into adult worms on their own. To reach the next stage in their life cycle, they have to be sucked back out of the body by another mosquito, and go through the other stages of their maturation process within the mosquito. Only when that mosquito alights again on a dog and bites it can the microfilaria reenter the bloodstream with the ability to grow into adults. The chances of a microfilaria-infected mosquito biting your dog the first time are slim. Of it happening to the same dog twice? Very slim. And after two decades of pervasive administration of heartworm pills in the U.S., the chances of your dog contracting heartworm in most parts of this country even a first time are slimmer still. Early in my career, I saw and treated hundreds of cases of heartworm disease, most with routine medication, yet witnessed only three deaths (the last was in 1979). By comparison, we’re seeing cancer kill dogs on a daily basis. To my mind, the likelihood that toxicity from heartworm pills is contributing to the tremendous amount of immune suppression now occurring, especially in cases of liver disease and cancer, is far greater and more immediate than the threat of the disease they’re meant to prevent.
The most common form of heartworm prevention is a monthly pill taken just before and during mosquito season. (Many veterinarians recommend giving it year-round, even in areas of the country that experience winter.) Its toxins—ivermectin, for example—sweep through the body, killing any microfilaria that have been introduced by mosquito bites in the previous month, and thus preventing the growth of adult worms. Some brands also contain other toxins to kill intestinal parasites. The other approach to treatment is with a daily dose of the drug diethylcarbamazine, starting several weeks before mosquito season. The drugs called for in either course of treatment are, simply put, poisons. Unfortunately, while they kill off microfilaria, they have the toxic effects of poisons, and can be especially damaging to the liver. I’ve saved a 1987 product evaluation for diethylcarbamazine mixed with oxibendazole, a preventative also used for hookworm. The evaluation, published by the company itself in a medical journal, reported that of 2.5 million dogs given the stuff, the company received only 176 reports of problems, including cases of liver toxicity and fatalities. To me, 176 is too many. But also, how many more went unreported? The evaluation concludes, “Of course, not all incidences are reported to the manufacturer, so the true magnitude of occurrence is really unknown.” The manufacturer would argue, no doubt, that many of the symptoms I’ve seen cannot be linked in any provable way to any of the heartworm preventatives. Perhaps—though the anecdotal evidence has long since persuaded me not to put dogs on the stuff. But I have seen one obvious, immediate effect of these once-a-month preventatives in case after case: when you give a dog that pill, over the next few days, wherever he urinates outside, his urine burns the grass. Permanently! In some cases, you can’t grow grass there until you change the soil. What, I wonder, can it be doing internally to your dog in that time?
When the first daily preventatives came out, my brother and I witnessed evidence of hemorrhaging in the urine of several dogs put on them. We stopped the medication; the bleeding stopped. We started it up again; the bleeding resumed. When we reported this to the manufacturer, we were informed that the company was aware of the problem from other complaints. Aware—but not about to pull its product from the shelves. All we could do was to stop giving the medication ourselves to the dogs we treated. Since then, the company has changed the product, diminishing this side effect and bringing it into the realm of acceptability for use in areas of high heartworm incidence.
The dogs I treat from puppyhood receive no heartworm preventative pills. It may be said, of course, that I practice in an area where cases of heartworm are pretty infrequent. But while my clinic is in Westchester County, just north of New York City, my practice encompasses patients from around the country. In the last decade, 98 percent of my patients, on my recommendation, have not been given heartworm preventative. In that time, I’ve seen less than a handful of clinical cases. Two of them I treated herbally, starting with heart support supplements (a heart glandular, vitamin E, Co-Enzyme Q10) and regular doses of black walnut, an herb known to kill parasites. (It comes in a liquid extract form; I recommend putting a dropperful in the food or mouth at each meal.) The third I treated medically, with a new drug (Immiticide) reported to be a lot less toxic than intravenous arsenic, at a lower-than-recommended dosage. All three are clinically normal—no evidence of heartworm recurrence—years after treatment.
As a precaution, I recommend that all dogs be tested twice a year for heartworm. For clients who insist on a more active form of prevention, I suggest doses of black walnut given two to three times a week, as I’ve actually reversed clinical heartworm with it. (For a thirty-pound dog, one capsule three times weekly during mosquito season in areas that have reported any incidence of heartworm.) We also use a homeopathic nosode. In areas where the chances of heartworm exposure appear greater than those in my own—like southern Florida and the Bahamas, where the chances of contracting it are high—I recommend adding to this regimen the conventional daily heartworm pill, given three times weekly. Veterinarians trained in homeopathy can get your pet on a good nosode program for heartworm prevention.
This is a hereditary joint disease that affects as many as 50 percent of some large and giant breeds of dogs. The bone and socket in the hip grow misaligned with each other, creating an abnormal fit that over time creates a proliferation of excess tissue in and around the joint. Bony spurs, deformation, degeneration, and inflammation result. Sometimes the joints even partially dislocate due to poor integrity. (The word “dysplasia” means “bad development.”) Though usually not present clinically at birth, the propensity may first appear in puppyhood. By the time a dog has reached adulthood, the entire structure of his hip (or hips) may be terribly misshapen, causing pain and lameness. The symptoms seem obvious—a reluctance to walk up stairs; difficulty standing up; apparent discomfort while walking or running; even crying and outright pain—but they can be deceptive, perhaps indicating some other degenerative disease (or even a disease like Lyme). A radiographic diagnosis is therefore crucial. However, an owner who observes his dog limping is certainly doing no harm by administering the supplements detailed below in the meantime.
Conventional medicine generally holds the view that hip dysplasia can’t be prevented, or its degeneration halted, and takes its usual tack of drugs and surgery: the former to treat the symptoms of inflammation and pain, the latter to change the angular dynamics of the joint itself, or to replace the hip or socket altogether with a prosthesis. Though effective, these procedures are extensive and require a very experienced surgeon. Years ago, I had limited success with a surgical procedure to relieve the pressure on the hip by cutting a small muscle bundle inside the thigh called the pectineus. Though not clinically cured, the dog would be more stable and in less pain for a while. But I’ve come to feel that surgery is usually not necessary in order to provide a dog with a good, pain-free quality of life.
First comes the Bio Nutritional Analysis, which allows me to work up a regimen of supplements to redress all of the dog’s imbalances, not just his hip condition. In almost every hip dysplastic dog I see, there’s an imbalance in the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls growth factors in the body. In most, there’s also a need for adrenal support (because the adrenal is being called upon to deal with stress and inflammation). Along with putting the dog on supplements for those two problems, I’ll give him AR-Ease (Crystal Star) for the arthritic symptoms that arise when extra mineralization forms like barnacles around the ball end of the femur bone and socket of the pelvis. The nutritional supplement Cosequin (Nutramax) in capsule form helps rebuild cartilage and promote lubrication lost in the hip joint; it is relatively new, though I’ve been recommending glucosamine sulfate, its main component, for years. First developed to help injured racehorses, Cosequin is now used widely by holistic veterinarians to address not only canine hip dysplasia but other joint disorders that animals incur, such as any type of arthritis. Another supplement to consider in less severe cases is Glycoflex, which contains an extract of green-lipped mussels; some holistic veterinarians use both at the same time. In more severe cases, I’ll start with injectable chondroitin sulfate, called Adequan, which rapidly helps increase joint fluid production and in so doing can lead to dramatically greater mobility and diminished pain. A veterinarian administers it by intramuscular injection, usually in an eight-injection series over the course of four weeks, and follows it up with oral administration of Cosequin. There are many Cosequin-like formulas on the market; I’ve just had such success with Cosequin that it’s the one I prefer to use.
Additionally, when I first see a young dog with hip dysplasia, I’ll put him on high doses of vitamin C. This is because the blood results of these patients typically show an elevated level of the enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. As its name suggests, this enzyme is an indicator of alkalinity in the blood. We therefore use vitamin C in the ascorbic acid form to help counterbalance the alkalinity and restore the body to a more stable acid-base balance. I try to ease off the C eventually, though, so that a dog receiving an external source of C doesn’t lose the capacity to produce his own. Also with young dogs, I’ll include collagen supplements; a brand of choice is Collagen Complex (Professional Health Products). Collagen is a matrix of all the connective tissues in the body, and does wonders, especially in treating these dysplastic dogs that are still developing new tissue.
If a pregnant mother with a genetic history of hip dysplasia is put on a proper nutritional program, usually with vitamin C, the disease can be prevented in her puppies. It’s important not to overfeed the puppies or let them overexert, as both have been shown to contribute to the disease once the propensity to develop it is there.
The thyroid gland, which is located in the throat area and controls the body’s metabolism, often becomes hyperactive in cats. So often, indeed, that hyperthyroidism has come to be considered an epidemic. It’s a serious development, since the hyperthyroid cat has a very fast heartbeat and can be especially susceptible to heart disease. Yet no one knows exactly what causes the condition, or why a condition that’s neither viral nor bacterial should have reached epidemic proportions. Is it, as they say, something in the water? I’m not the only holistic veterinarian who’s intrigued by the correlation between the distribution of the feline leukemia vaccine and the increased incidence of hyperthyroidism. I can’t prove the link, but many times I see a cat with the condition—which happens now at least once a week on average—I find a full battery of vaccines, including one for leukemia, in her recent medical history.
The drug typically used to treat hyperthyroidism is Tapazole, which can produce dramatic results. A hyperthyroid cat will show high levels of the hormone thyroxine (with which it regulates metabolism), sometimes twenty times the amount it should have. After the cat has been on Tapazole for three days, the thyroxine can plummet down to normal or below. Unfortunately, Tapazole is also toxic, especially to the liver and kidneys. Another established and toxic treatment is radioactive iodine. Iodine has an affinity for the thyroid gland; when radioactive iodine is administered to the cat, it acts rather like a heat-seeking missile, making its way toward the overproducing thyroid and destroying it. Though the procedure is said not to be toxic, the cat has to be kept in quarantine (from pets and people both) for a couple of weeks in a lead-lined room!
Alternatively, I’ve had considerable success in treating hyperthyroidism metabolically. Most cats with the condition have elevated levels of liver and adrenal enzymes, so a first step is to redress those imbalances with the standard liver and adrenal supplements. The homeopathic remedy flor-de-piedra at low potencies is also helpful. (Manufactured in France, flor-de-piedra is sometimes hard to find; a more widely available homeopathic substitute is lophophytum leandri.) Sometimes I’ll add Thyrodrops (Professional Health Products), which is homeopathic thyroid. If the condition is persistent, I may add a little Tapazole into the program, but at one-quarter to one-eighth the recommended dose, and monitor well. If the condition remains out of control, chances are the thyroid has developed a tumor on one or the other of its sides. Here’s a situation where conventional surgery can be successful in complementing holistic alternatives. When the tumor is removed, I’ve seen the hyperthyroid cat make a fast and complete recovery.
Though we think of it more as a human condition, with its telltale sign of yellowish skin which is symptomatic of an obstructed liver and the subsequent overabundance of bile in the blood, jaundice appears commonly in both dogs and cats. In fact, it’s becoming more common. In pets as in people, the exposed skin gets visibly yellow (over the eyes, inside the ears, and across the abdomen). But so do the whites of the eyes and the gums, and sometimes even the nails.
The principal—but not the only—cause of jaundice is liver disease, and more specifically liver cancer. Obstructed, the liver releases bile it should be directing into the gallbladder’s system of bile ducts to emulsify fats from food. The bile, actually yellow, produces the characteristic color of jaundice as it gains access to the bloodstream. Another distinct cause is a rapid breakdown of the red blood cells, perhaps from a blood parasite, perhaps from autoimmune hemolytic anemia, perhaps from a poison. Whatever the cause, the breakdown releases bile pigments from the red blood cells which leads to jaundice as well.
As a warning sign of real trouble in the liver or the red blood cells, jaundice constitutes an emergency and should be treated immediately. Bringing those conditions under control is the main priority. With chronic jaundice, this is cause for concern, though not as critical. It causes no pain, and is itself just a condition, not a disease; I’ve seen cats live happily enough for years with it. At the same time, I want to determine the cause and then address it. If the liver is to blame, I’ll keep a pet on liver supplements (see “Liver Problems,” below); the healthier the liver is, the less the degree of the jaundice. Hepatitis very often responds well to intravenous vitamin C, a rapid agent of cellular detoxification, along with intravenous ozone (see Chapter Five). The ozone quickly breaks down into oxygen, which helps promote cell activity, a key indication of an improving liver. If the condition is the result of red blood cell breakdown, I’ll control the crisis medically, if necessary, but also inject adrenal cortex and, if indicated, bone marrow (“Medulla Ossis” from Heel). I’ll also administer natural hydrocortisone orally, and a product called Hemaplex (Progressive Labs), whose ingredients support the production of new red blood cells.
In older dogs and cats, the symptoms of kidney disease can seem hard to distinguish from the general slowing down associated with age, but with diligence they can be spotted early on. They must, for by the time symptoms appear, the kidneys have probably sustained some degree of irreversible damage, and symptoms usually don’t appear until a good percentage of normal kidney function is compromised. Beyond a certain point, if the damage is not contained, no measures will be able to keep your pet from failing rapidly.
In both dogs and cats, increased thirst and urination are the classic symptoms. The kidneys fail to reabsorb water back into the blood as they’re eliminating wastes, so excess water is excreted in urine, and the body grows dehydrated as a result. The increased urination may also lead to incontinence, and so a pet may leak urine in the house. Because the kidneys are working improperly, wastes also back up into the blood. Often I’ve seen this excess toxicity settle in the mouth, which leads to inflamed or ulcerating gums and foul-smelling breath, and also causes frequent vomiting.
If the situation deteriorates, it will lead to the general poisoning of the blood, called uremia. In such cases, intravenous fluids are administered to help flush poisons out of the body and enhance kidney function. In the most extreme circumstances, the only way to keep a patient alive is by dialysis: passing the blood through an outside dialysis unit that does the job of the kidneys. But dialysis is simply not a viable option in general veterinary practice. Kidney transplants are another extreme measure. Although they are being done at a few facilities, they don’t always succeed and are prohibitively expensive, and the drugs needed to prevent tissue rejection, if the operation is successful, take a severe toll on the pet’s overall health and immune system.
In manageable cases, every effort must be made to lighten the kidneys’ load. As few toxins as possible must be ingested, which is to say that no vaccines, and in most cases no drugs, should be administered. Since the kidneys also process out unused phosphorus and proteins from the food your pet eats, a special diet containing high-quality meat in relatively low-quantity servings is recommended. (A few good choices: rice, turkey, chicken, and all the steamed greens you can get your pet to eat.) Vitamins A and C should be part of the diet, since the body’s own stores may have been sluiced out of the kidneys along with everything else. Vitamin A acts as a lubricant for the kidney tissue. C helps because there’s a tendency in kidney disease for the urine to become alkaline, so the C acidifies it, which also helps destroy any bacteria present. Also, C is a natural diuretic, enhancing the flow of liquids through the kidneys, especially of wastes. I’ll also put a pet on supplements to redress any other metabolic imbalances that may have been adding wastes to the kidneys’ load, along with the injectable kidney solution Ren Suis (Heel) and herbal remedies such as Tinkle Caps (Crystal Star) or “Kidney Bladder” (Quantum). The main ingredients in these are parsley, juniper berries, and uva-ursi, all known to have a diuretic effect that enhances proper kidney function. Many times a pet with chronic kidney disease will need the continued support of subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids administered several times a week. This maintenance can be done by you at home, and your pet, as a result, can enjoy an extended, good-quality life.
Common sense might suggest that a condition as severe as kidney failure should be treated with as much medication as possible. However, having treated literally thousands of pets with kidney problems, I know how much better patients do without drugs. The only exception to this is a condition called pyelonephritis, which is a bacterial infection of the innermost region of the kidney. If a diagnosis of pyelonephritis is confirmed, I will use antibiotics chosen specifically from the results of a urine culture—in conjunction with all the alternatives listed above.
What causes kidney disease in the first place? The list of possible contributing factors is long, but in many cases I think a prime suspect is vaccines. Another is synthetic cortisone. Used indiscriminately and routinely for skin problems and arthritis, cortisone is known to stress the liver and kidneys, and over long periods may cause irreversible damage. To a lesser but not insignificant degree, all of the other environmental pollutants and poor diet detailed in Chapter Two contribute to kidney degradation as well. Though the kidneys are resilient enough to grow new tissue and reverse limited damage, they’re also tiny organs not designed to withstand the modern world’s onslaught of toxicity. If your pet is not yet afflicted with this dire condition, take these three simple measures: put him on the diet outlined in Chapter Three; forget annual booster vaccines but do bring him in for regular blood tests to track the three telltale values of the kidney (creatinine, phosphorus, and urea nitrogen); and administer supplements to redress even slight imbalances. By taking those easy steps, you’ll have a far greater chance of saving him from the sad demise that kidney disease brings on in its final stages.
The liver is the body’s largest organ, and probably its most versatile, performing many distinct and crucial tasks. It metabolizes food for use in the body and passes the wastes on for elimination. It’s the body’s main detoxifier. It produces bile for the proper processing of dietary fats. Its reticuloendothelial system is a major component of the body’s overall immune system. It serves as a storage depot for food reserves. And as if all this weren’t enough, it manufactures factors necessary for blood clotting. Unfortunately, in its role as the great detoxifier, the liver bears the accumulated brunt of low-grade food, synthetic drugs, and environmental pollutants, which can leave it diseased.
The usual result is inflammation, which we call hepatitis. But pets, like people, can also incur cirrhosis. In humans it’s associated with alcohol, but the link is not intrinsic. Cirrhosis is simply a fibrosis of the liver due to replacement of normal tissue by scar tissue. In animals, that can be the result of anything that chronically overworks and damages the liver: malnutrition, poisons and toxins, drugs (such as heartworm preventative pills), and more. A classic sign of liver disease is jaundice (see “Jaundice”), which occurs when the malfunctioning liver loses its bile to the bloodstream. Other warnings: loss of appetite and vomiting, an abdomen distended by fluid; and diarrhea or light-colored stools. Unfortunately, symptoms in a pet often don’t appear until the liver has sustained significant damage. Fortunately, the liver has extraordinary recuperative powers.
Conventional medicine usually focuses on treating the symptoms of the disease by prescribing a battery of antibiotics and steroids. My own treatment begins, once again, with nutritional analysis and a program of supplements not just for the liver but for other organs that may be contributing, by their own malfunctions, to the liver’s woes. Initially for the liver, I’ll administer a liver glandular in capsule form, tablet, or liquid. (Doctors Mutual Service is one supplier, and Miller Pharmacal is another. Both are listed in the source guide.) I’ll also use vitamin A in modest doses—for general liver support I recommend 10,000 IU for a fifty-pound dog and 1,500 IU for a cat, once a day. Be careful, as too much vitamin A can actually be harmful to the liver by causing a disease called hypervitaminosis A. The homeopathic combination remedy called Hepaticol (Professional Health Products) has proved helpful. Initially, too, I’ll use the Chinese herb Tang Kuei 18 (Seven Forests), alone or in combination with the herb milk thistle, or silymarin, both powerful promoters of liver health. Tang Kuei 18 comes in tablet form, milk thistle in several different forms; all are available at health food stores. Often I’ll give a dog one Tang Kuei tablet in the morning, and a milk thistle tablet at night (large dogs may be given two tablets for each dose, cats generally one-third to one-half of a tablet). Milk thistle also appears as an ingredient in several products for liver disease. One such is Lipotrope (Progressive Labs), which in addition to milk thistle contains inositol and choline, factors that help support liver function. Lipotrope is available in capsule form at most health food stores. Finally, I always advise owners to get their pets out into the sun on a regular basis: sun-generated vitamin D helps support liver function.
In more severe or nonresponsive cases, I’ll admit a dog into the hospital and use intravenous therapy (vitamin C, ozone, injectable homeopathics). I’ll also inject the Smith Ridge “cocktail” (multi B vitamins, vitamin B12, and injectable adrenal cortex) and injectable homeopathic liver (called Hepar Suis, from Heel) at acupuncture points that are indicated for liver malfunction (see Chapter Five).
Often, by the way, an initial nutritional analysis may indicate other organ imbalances and show normal or even depressed levels of liver enzymes. As supplements begin to bring the other organs back to health, the liver enzymes may rise to levels that seem alarming. In fact, that may indicate an inhibited liver “waking up” to do its work of detoxification. As the liver grows healthier, it replaces the diseased tissue with healthy tissue. That, in turn, enables it to work better, and thus show more enzyme activity. Soon enough, if the liver is healthy, its enzymes will finish their backlog of detoxification, and levels will go down to normal. Cirrhosis may actually produce depressed levels of liver enzymes at first, because the scar tissue no longer produces enzymes.
Since 1975, when the first human case of this tick-borne disease was diagnosed in Old Lyme, Connecticut, its debilitating symptoms have afflicted tens of thousands of Americans. It principally affects residents of eastern suburbs and exurbs, where populations of the white-tailed deer that carries the tick have exploded. Unfortunately, dogs have proved susceptible to Lyme disease, too. (I have seen cats test positive for Lyme, even indoor cats whose owners have probably brought the tick indoors—on themselves or the household dog—but this is less common.) Given how much romping dogs do through tick-infested fields and woods, it is no surprise that many dogs in the eastern U.S. have been exposed to the Lyme disease organism. But not all will develop symptoms of the disease itself.
In humans, the first telltale sign of Lyme is a solid red “bull’s-eye” circle on the skin caused by the bite of the deer tick and the successful transfer of the Lyme disease organism—a “spirochete”—from the tick into the bloodstream. Dogs, in my experience, don’t manifest the red spot, but may get some of the other symptoms humans do (headaches, fevers, chills, and chronic weakness, sometimes leading to dizziness). The most common symptom is a marked lameness, which may shift from one leg to another. Another indication of Lyme in dogs is kidney disease, with all its attendant symptoms (see “Kidney Problems”); for reasons that are unclear, the disease has an affinity for the kidneys. More rarely, Lyme may affect the heart and central nervous system; twice, I have seen it produce seizures that indicate encephalitis surrounding the brain.
At least three vaccines to prevent Lyme disease in dogs are now in wide use. Unfortunately, I’m not impressed by any of them, as all appear to produce side effects and, in some dogs, the symptoms of full-blown Lyme disease.*8 In any case, they seem to impair the immune system unnecessarily, leaving a dog that much more vulnerable to the chronic symptoms of vaccinosis. I’d recommend not using them except in areas where the disease is epidemic. To date, I have not ordered one dose for my clients at Smith Ridge.
So what do I do when pets show symptoms of Lyme disease? First, test for it, though that’s not as useful as it sounds. The test for Lyme disease in dogs is notoriously unreliable. Often the test will come back positive, suggesting that the dog has Lyme disease, when at worst he has a small, inactive number of spirochetes in his system, indicating an old but now controlled exposure.*9 However, if a strongly positive test is accompanied by the usual symptoms of the disease, I’ll assume that the dog does have Lyme. In the deer-tick-infested exurb of Westchester, New York, where I live and practice, that’s a pretty safe bet.
Though I never like to reach for antibiotics, the Lyme disease spirochete is a fiendishly stubborn organism often unresponsive to holistic measures. Besides, I’d rather deal with the aftereffects of antibiotics on the body than those of uncontrolled Lyme disease—especially irreversible kidney failure. My drug of choice these days is doxycycline, which is relatively mild but usually effective. Holistically, I’ll add an impressively potent herbal preparation called Spirokete, put out by the renowned herbalist Hannah Kroeger; her combination of five herbs, including nettles and organic tobacco, will actually kill the organism in most cases. (It did for me—just five days after experiencing the bull’s-eye redness of a severe tick bite I received in Old Lyme, Connecticut!) I’m also partial to a homeopathic remedy called Lym D (Bio-Active Nutritional) that contains the Lyme nosode and several others to help ameliorate the associated symptoms of the disease. In a real-life example of this product’s potential effects, one of my clients used it as a preventative for her two dogs and called me to let me know that within ten minutes of administering it, she saw the ticks on her dogs literally drop off. The homeopathic remedy ledum, which in my experience works well for people, doesn’t work as well with animals, though other holistic veterinarians report more success with it than I’ve had.
A very common mange mite is a tiny, crablike creature that descends on dogs, burrows into their skin, and causes terrible itching. Known medically as sarcoptic mange, the mite is invisible to the naked eye, and so the reaction it causes is often misdiagnosed as a severe allergic skin reaction. Even the recommended “skin scraping” method of diagnosis often fails to reveal this little creature.
Usually, sarcoptic mange begins on the ears and at the elbows, then spreads down the legs. The telltale sign is ferocious scratching at skin that seems to grow more inflamed and itchy with every scratch. As it progresses, it emits a characteristic, pungently foul odor. Another indication that these microscopic mites are at work is that cortisone—usually given to most dogs with symptoms of itching—will provide relief for at best a day (rather than weeks). Usually, an owner will find a scattering of red, itchy dots from the mange mites on his own arms, or in areas where clothing is tight against the body, such as belt lines. With a creature as microscopic as mange, this can be a critical clue. What I’ve found surprisingly helpful is Selsun shampoo—a prescription formula, not the milder, over-the-counter product Selsun Blue, although I’ve used the latter on younger and smaller dogs and cats with mange caused by differently named mites. If Selsun doesn’t work, then I’ll resort to medical treatment; a harsh dip, though toxic, is a onetime immersion that will eliminate the mites. But I will not use injectable ivermectin in treating this condition, as many conventional veterinarians will, because I feel that it is too toxic and immune-suppressive.
Much harder to treat in one of its two forms is demodectic mange. Considered a normal inhabitant of dogs’ skin, the demodectic mite remains benign until an immune deficiency allows it to proliferate. One manifestion is “localized,” involving several small patches of hair loss, usually around the head area of puppies; the patches become a little scaly, though generally not itchy. They tend to heal spontaneously as the animal matures, though treatment can be hastened with tea tree oil (or Melaleuca alternifolia); just apply the oil on the lesions. The other manifestation of demodectic mange, again due to an immune deficiency, is “generalized,” which is to say that it involves any part of the body, and sometimes the whole body. This is one of the most difficult problems to cure in veterinary medicine. The medical treatments are very toxic: with one, the so-called Scotts dip (named after its creator, a former teacher of mine at Cornell), no more than one-third of the dog can be dipped at a time or he’ll possibly die from the toxicity. A dip called Mitaban is also pretty toxic. It kills the mites but fails to address the immune deficiency that allowed the mites to take hold in the first place, and thus may not prevent their speedy return.
I treat demodectic mange by putting the dog on the nutritional diet outlined in Chapter Three, along with two herbal supplements: Viola 12 and Astragalus 10 Plus, both from Seven Forests. I’ve seen tea tree oil ameliorate mange spots. Also, I use supplements containing thymus extract, to add immune support. I’ve had tremendous success in several cases using the IAT program (see Chapter Eight) developed by Dr. Lawrence Burton. (Although he used his therapy almost exclusively for cancer patients, Dr. Burton designed for us a protocol to treat mange from his own personal research on AIDS.) In some cases, after giving a lot of support and still seeing symptoms, I’ll recommend a Mitaban dip as a last resort to help kill those mites that have already proliferated.
Because nutrition is one of our specialties, Smith Ridge very commonly treats overweight pets, either as a primary concern, or as part of their illness. (A dog with chronic arthritis, for example, will often be overweight.) Within this category I also place pets with fatty tumors, or lipomas. Unless your pet is accustomed to eating hot fudge sundaes and banana splits, his excess weight is a matter of metabolic imbalance, so the primary goal is to establish proper metabolic function through specific supplements. The course for each individual pet is set by the BNA results, in combination with good-quality foods (see Chapter Three). Added to nearly all fat metabolism programs is L-Carnitine, found in any health food store (I advise 250 milligrams for a 20–30 pound dog, 125 milligrams for a cat); Chromium Picolinate, also found in health food stores (100 micrograms for a 30-pound dog, 50 micrograms for a cat); and a homeopathic preparation called Weight Off Drops (Professional Health Products). If a pet fails to respond in a few weeks, I’ll add vitamin B6 (50 milligrams for a 30–50 pound dog, 25 milligrams for a cat). Specifically for lipomas, I’ll administer Chih-ko & Curcuma (Seven Forests). Here the recommendation is two tablets daily for a 30-pound dog. Lipomas are so much more common in dogs than in cats that cats hardly ever need to be addressed, though a tablet a day is appropriate if needed.
When the pancreas stops making insulin to convey blood sugar into the cells for energy, the result is diabetes (see “Diabetes”). If the pancreas become very inflamed, the result is pancreatitis, a common condition in dogs, especially overweight dogs. It also occurs in cats.
The trouble likely begins when a pet eats something too rich (like a whole birthday cake) or too foreign (a dead bird) for his digestive system to absorb. The pancreas, overburdened, becomes inflamed. Rather than sending its enzymes to the intestines, it starts to leach them into the abdomen and raises the digestive enzyme levels in the blood. The abdomen becomes distended; the pet also experiences severe nausea, loss of appetite, and pain in the belly. In its acute stage, pancreatitis can be life-threatening and must be treated immediately, likely with intravenous fluids. Serious cases can sometimes be relieved subsequently with surgery. As a lower-grade, chronic condition, it usually responds well to a few simple measures.*10
For most veterinarians, a simple measure of choice is antibiotics. Until recently, they also used atropine. Although it stops the secretions of the pancreas, my problem with it is that it inhibits the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the unconscious nervous system that coordinates internal functions, among them the digestive organs. In so doing, atropine disarms the part of the nervous system which also happens to be the number one facilitator of holistic therapies. Acupuncture especially, but also herbal and homeopathics, all rely on it to help effect the process of healing. So atropine is the very antithesis of holistic medicine—and unnecessary, in my experience, for treating pancreatitis, unless nothing else is working. Now an increasing number of conventional veterinarians are choosing not to use atropine either.
Because it’s a food-provoked condition and feeding stimulates pancreas function, the really simple measure for treating pancreatitis is NPO. That’s medical shorthand for non per os, or “nothing through the mouth,” which is to say: No food! Given time off from its job in digestion, the pancreas usually heals itself. In examining the dog, I’ll administer injectable homeopathic pancreas (“Pankreas,” by Heel) and prescribe a program of homeopathic remedies: “Pancreas” and “Inflammation,” both by BHI, or “Pancreas Drops” (Professional Health Products). Also, I’ll use a pancreas glandular like Pancreatrophin (Standard Process Labs). The dog will then be put on a liquid fast for several days—on chicken or vegetable broth and all the distilled water he can drink, though in small amounts each time. Afterward, I’ll ease him onto the natural diet outlined in Chapter Three, with a special emphasis on foods low in fats and oils: along with chicken and turkey, and grains such as brown rice and millet. So as to burden the pancreas as little as possible, I’ll advise setting the food out in five or six “mini-meals” throughout the day. Vitamin E tends to enhance pancreas stability and will further help the pancreas heal itself.
Viewed holistically, by the way, pancreatitis is less often a distinct condition than it is a part of a larger disease complex. A dog with some systemic illness, especially one that induces chronic vomiting, will usually have elevated pancreatic enzyme values. You can diagnose pancreatitis at that point and start pumping in the drugs—or you can focus on the larger complex. In my experience, as that larger problem eases in response to holistic measures, so, in most cases, will the pancreatitis.
Occasionally, pancreatitis may even be part of a healing crisis. Though it’s unproven as yet, one theory of pancreatic function, according to Dr. Donald Kelly, is that the digestive enzymes have a second job—moonlighting, in a sense, as “janitors” to digest diseased cells, especially cancerous ones. In a healing crisis, when the body is engaged in an all-out effort to repel disease, especially with cancer, the pancreatic enzymes may be called on to work overtime. To be sure, careful diagnosis by a veterinarian familiar with healing crises is crucial in these cases, and if the pancreatitis grows too acute, even a holistic veterinarian may have to administer intravenous fluids, or even antibiotics. But drugs really should be a last resort, not only because they’re usually unneeded, but because in my experience, the freer the use of the drugs, the greater the odds that the condition will become chronic. (I’ve studied the background of my cancer patients and found that a number of them actually did have a history of pancreatitis treated medically.) Have the drugs impaired the immune system in a general way? Or in suppressing the production of pancreatic enzymes, have they thwarted a quite specific means by which the body curbs the proliferation of diseased cells that lead to cancer? I don’t know, but the association is disturbing.
Though largely eradicated over the last two decades, presumably by vaccine, parvovirus still crops up here and there among dogs, and can be devastating when it does. In just a few hours, it can progress from high fever and vomiting to bloody diarrhea to death. Through the epidemic years of the 1970s and early 1980s, since I knew relatively little of holistic measures, I used all of the antibiotics and fluids available—along with prayer—to try to break the fever. Some dogs I saved; all too many, unfortunately, died. By the time I saw the last of my epidemic parvo cases, I’d begun delving into alternative therapies. When I brought them to bear, I found that my success rate shot up to nearly 100 percent. I used homeopathic remedies like “Bleeding” (BHI) to address the bloody diarrhea; its principal ingredient is phosphorus, known in homeopathy to stop hemorrhaging. As before, to maintain hydration, I kept the dogs on intravenous fluids, including high doses of vitamin C—as much as a gram per pound of body weight per day. If needed, I also put them on high doses of Kaopectate to coat the intestinal walls, whose outermost layers had been sloughed off by the extreme diarrhea (exposing the body to rapid toxic uptake, which is how parvo actually kills). Recognizing how effective the Kaopectate was, I went so far as to give them Kaopectate enemas, which further speeded the intestines’ recovery. In about two days, the disease receded and the dogs survived.
I haven’t seen much parvo since then. When I did, I used the same homeopathic remedy for bleeding, probably mixed with “Diarrhea” or “Intestine” and “Inflammation” (all from BHI). I’d also add the herb slippery elm, and to help reestablish healthy intestinal bacteria, I’d add lactobacillus acidophilus (either in fat-free yogurt or as separate supplements). If there was liver involvement, I’d use two herbs I’ve come to rely on: milk thistle and Tang Kuei 18. And to prevent the postviral scarring of heart tissue which parvo can bring on, I’d include vitamin E in the program.
Perhaps thanks to the vaccine, few owners will have to worry about parvovirus. They should, however, worry about the vaccine (see the discussion of it in Chapter Four). One inoculation in a dog’s life is plenty, as far as I’m concerned. The current emphasis on three or four parvo shots in a dog’s first year of life, followed by annual boosters, is excessive by any measure, and renders the dog that much more vulnerable to the chronic symptoms of vaccinosis. When the disease was epidemic, Rottweilers, who were considered extremely susceptible to parvo, were given half a dozen or more vaccines for it by four months of age; they now have a shockingly high incidence of cancer, particularly of bone and lymph cancer, especially among young members of the breed. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
If you’re reading this entry because your dog or cat has rabies, there’s nothing that I or any other veterinarian can do: rabies is a hideous, lethal disease, and because it can be spread to humans by the bite of a rabid animal, either your pet must be put to sleep immediately or he will die shortly.
Now: Does your pet have rabies? I’ll bet you my house and car that he doesn’t. And this is where a sane discussion of this dementia-producing disease really ought to begin.
On the matter of rabies’ horrors, there’s no debate. When the saliva-borne virus infects an animal or person through a bite, it travels inexorably up to the brain—sometimes in a week, sometimes in up to a year—where it produces severe mood shifts, either to violent rage or, as often, to catatonia, followed by dementia and death. This is a matter of grave concern, as is the fact that rabies can be spread from animal to human. Taken together, they’re clear justification for the rabies vaccine’s status as a legal requirement throughout the U.S. How often that vaccine should be given is, however, a very different matter.
Administered annually by law in many states, and by veterinarians’ recommendation in most others, the rabies vaccine bombards a pet’s immune system with alarming amounts of foreign substances. In cats, the vaccine has been linked to fibrosarcomas. In both cats and dogs, it contributes to chronic vaccinosis, as well as the rabies miasm (see Chapter Four). If you live in a state that does require annual rabies vaccination by law, all you can do is protest—or move. If you don’t, let moderation, not the fearful images of rabid dogs from the movies, be your guide.
The fact is that rabies is as rarely reported today as polio. In my twenty-five years of veterinary practice, I haven’t observed or treated a single case of it. Does the vaccine get all the credit? I think not. My own suspicion is that in certain species of wild animals—skunks, for one, raccoons for another—rabies is a latent virus that lives naturally in the population, erupting only rarely as the disease. Indeed, a trigger for it to erupt in those species may be none other than the vaccine itself, administered to these wild animals when the domestication of them as pets became a fad starting in the 1960s. This may have added enough rabies-modified antigens to a skunk’s or raccoon’s system to push the latent virus into activity. (I learned this from an associate who worked in Albany, New York, where the rabies control center is located; he was told this by a veterinarian who worked for New York State.) Then all it takes is finding one of these animals for the rabies scare to be born, and a sudden push to vaccinate all dogs, cats, and wildlife follows—even if they’ve been vaccinated within the last year, as in the case of Maggie, whose startling story appears in Chapter Four. As for the rare case of a rabid bat, say, biting a person and infecting her with rabies, it’s true: those cases occur. Do we all submit to annual rabies vaccines as a result? Of course not! So why should our pets?
There’s an easy way, of course, to prevent reproductive problems in male and female pets alike: neuter the males, spay the females. Though a first-time pet owner may wince, the fact is that these procedures are painlessly performed under anesthesia, with little or no observable lingering discomfort, and in no way prevent a pet from leading a long and happy life. All they do is keep your pet from adding offspring to a world so overpopulated with dogs and cats that as many as 5 million homeless pets must be put to sleep each year in the U.S. alone. Because of those numbers, I always urge a prospective pet owner to adopt from an animal shelter, thus saving a life that very likely would be lost, rather than buying a full-breed puppy or kitten that just as likely will find another home. I recognize, however, that some owners either want show animals, and intend to breed them, or have their hearts set on a particular breed, as at times have I, so that spaying and neutering are not always options. For that matter, some owners of mixed breeds are adamantly opposed to altering; their rationale is that it’s not intended by nature. But then, neither is cancer, and the fact is that altering significantly decreases the incidence of mammary cancer in females, and prostate problems and cancer in males.
Owners who still choose not to alter their pets may have to deal with problems of the reproductive system. One of the most common in female dogs and cats is pyometra, essentially a pus-filled uterus. A pet with pyometra will be visibly ill, with loss of appetite, vomiting, pained whimpering and fever, and excessive urination. Open pyometra is so called because the cervix opens and the pus drains out of the vagina. Closed pyometra is more dangerous because the cervix stays closed and the pus builds up, distending the abdomen and easily becoming a life-threatening situation. The best—and sometimes only—course of action is spaying (removal of both the uterus and the ovaries), though the procedure is more difficult than in a healthy pet.
With mild cases, we can afford to remember that in general, the body discharges vaginally for a purpose: to expel toxicity. And the toxicity initially comes from within. The discharge, in other words, is not provoked by bacteria in the vaginal region; the bacterial growth is secondary to the toxic condition. Once this cause-and-effect process begins, the bacteria themselves produce toxins, making the condition more serious. Whenever I can, I try not to suppress the discharge so much as to help the body complete it and return to health. Both “Menstrual” and “Feminine” are homeopathic remedies from BHI which help balance the female reproductive organs; I usually add “Infection” (BHI) to this mixture. Also, red raspberry leaf tea is very good for supporting the uterus, and the glandular “Uterus” (Allergy Research) is a good supportive measure. These may deter toxins from backing up in deeper internal organs, or even from precipitating cancer. (I’ve noticed that in some of my successful cancer patients, one of the last stages of recovery is a vaginal discharge, even if the patient has already been spayed, as if the toxicity, which has accumulated over the patient’s lifetime, now gets expelled in the healing process. This is another reason not to suppress these discharges earlier in life with antibiotics.) In its mildest form, pyometra is known as endometritis, and treatment would be the same as described above, though I’ll also add propolis, the natural antibiotic, in case any bacteria are festering. And, to be sure, I will use an antibiotic indicated by the results of a culture of the discharge, when accumulation becomes life-threatening, or to save a valuable breeding bitch when spaying is not an option.
Among nursing mothers, a not uncommon condition is agalactia, a lack of milk. I’ve seen mothers’ milk restored literally in minutes after administering the homeopathic combination “Lymph, Inflammation, and Exhaustion” (BHI).
With males, the most common problems of the reproductive system concern the prostate. One condition is a noncancerous growth called hyperplasia. Another is prostatitis, an infection of the prostrate. A third is prostate cancer. The best way to prevent all of these, as implied above, is castration. The owner adamantly opposed to altering will be sorry to learn that the best treatment for these problems is also castration. The condition of hyperplasia almost invariably heals within two weeks of neutering, and is unlikely at best to recur. Castration also diminishes prostate infections, and helps in the battle against prostate cancer.
Besides castration, treatment of these conditions includes “Prostate” (BHI) and “Inflammation” (BHI). I add “Infection” (BHI) where appropriate. There is also a Natra-Bio product called “Prostate-Difficult Urination,” which I’ve used with positive results. A prostate glandular called “Prostaglan” (Progressive Labs) is useful. Generally, the mineral zinc and the herb saw palmetto are well known to aid in prostate problems, and are contained in the above-mentioned products. For difficult or nonresponsive infections, I will resort to antibiotics, the choice of which will be determined by a culture. For prostate cancer, I have had success supplementing these treatments with Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (IAT), as discussed in Chapter Eight.
Pets, like people, get respiratory problems that range from common colds to pneumonia. In all but the most extreme cases, I avoid the use of antibiotics, which can suppress the symptoms but do so by killing the bacteria that are actually helping digest the toxic, mucous buildup in the respiratory system. Holistic treatment starts with the recognition that most respiratory infections are really signs of the body’s healthy effort to expel toxicity, via mucus from the nose, sneezing, puffy red eyes with mucousy secretions, and coughing with phlegm. I put a pet with a cold on vitamin C tablets (for a thirty-pound dog, 500 milligrams three times a day; and half that much for a cat); the homeopathic liquid Grippheel (Heel); or homeopathic Pneumo Drops (Professional Health Products) if there is lung involvement. Garlic, goldenseal, and propolis, all with natural antibiotic properties, are also useful.
Pneumonia is a trickier issue. It doesn’t appear too often in dogs and cats, probably for the simple anatomical reason that both species walk on four legs, with their lungs horizontal to the ground, so that mucus and the toxicity it contains are more likely expelled through the mouth and nose than in human beings, who have gravity working more against them. It’s serious, however, when it does occur. Usually classified as either viral or bacterial, it results in labored breathing, coughing, lethargy, high fever, and, if allowed to progress to advanced stages, especially in older pets, may lead to a fatal congestion in the lungs. I’ll treat life-threatening cases with antibiotics as quickly as any conventional veterinarian, but if I see it at an earlier stage, I’ll first try the program of vitamins and homeopathics I use for colds, along with vitamin A, which acts as a lubricant for the lungs (and kidney and liver); I’ll also use a lung glandular like “Pneumotrate” (Progressive Labs) and an injectable body-part homeopathic like “Pulmo Suis” (Heel). As important, I’ll try to understand the context of the condition: to see it as part of the whole, or holistic, picture. If an X ray reveals congestion in the lungs and the pet has a fever and elevated white blood cell levels, certainly that’s pneumonia. But if I’ve been treating a pet for cancer, say, or some other degenerative disease, and if the pet has been working hard to regain his health, marshaling strength and boosting his immune system, pneumonia-like symptoms may signal the onset of a healing crisis. I treated a boxer named Ginger for leukemia for six months; over a weekend, the dog developed symptoms of pneumonia, with violent nasal discharges and a very high fever. When the fever broke, the leukemia was gone; a healing crisis had occurred (see Chapter Six).
For dogs, the most common respiratory infection—besides colds—is kennel cough; for cats, it’s feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR). Both are irksome but easily treated.
Kennel cough, often called bordetella bronchiseptica, is characterized by a dry, hacking cough with frequent gagging. Though it’s not life-threatening and tends to run its course in a few days to a week, kennel cough is frustrating for pet and owner alike. Because of its high incidence in kennels and animal hospitals, where dogs are kept in close proximity and tend to infect one another once a concentration of the organism has reached unnatural levels in the immediate environment, a bordetella vaccine is commonly given to puppies at as young as six weeks. To my mind, this is unnecessary on three counts. First, the vaccine is probably useless and may even provoke symptoms of kennel cough. Second, it can be immunosuppressive (as in the case of Wilhelm the Great discussed in Chapter Four). Third, kennel cough can easily be treated by isolating the afflicted puppy and putting him on a program of homeopathic remedies like “Cough,” “Bronchitis” (both from BHI), and “Cough” (Professional Health Products). These combination remedies all contain homeopathic ingredients such as bryonia and drosera, both excellent for cough-related conditions. The Swiss company Similasan has three different homeopathic cough preparations (called #1, #2, and #3), each for a slightly different kind of cough, labeled for humans but useful for pets. As a complement to these, herbal cough syrups can help; a brand I use a lot is Olbas, which is available at health food stores.
Coughing also characterizes feline viral rhinotracheitis, though the dominant symptom is sneezing, along with thick nasal discharge and gummy secretions from the eyes, and fever, as in a flu. If the symptoms are making the cat acutely miserable, antibiotics will alleviate them (antibiotics don’t fight viruses but do address the secondary bacterial infections that viruses can provoke in immune-suppressed patients), but the only way to speed the virus on its course is to initiate a liquid fast of chicken or vegetable broth, supplemented by vitamins A (2,500 IU) and C (250 milligrams, three times daily), garlic and goldenseal, and the homeopathic Grippheel (Heel), “Cold and Flu” (BHI), and propolis. As with bordetella, a vaccine is available; its record of efficacy is no more impressive, however, and so best not used.
The worst respiratory problem is, of course, lung cancer. For treatment, I use all the supplements listed above, plus Immuno-Augmentative Therapy (see Chapter Eight).
The three most common problems I see are, without question, cancer, arthritis, and conditions of the skin; and for years, skin problems topped the list. (Cancer, unfortunately, has superseded it.) That the skin should be disrupted so often, and in such various ways, is nothing if not logical. The skin is an eliminative organ as much as the liver, kidneys, and intestines; that’s why it’s sometimes nicknamed “the third kidney.”
The most common skin conditions I see are allergic in nature. As the immune system’s antibodies react to an unwanted allergen in the body, the skin often grows inflamed, red, and itchy, appearing as “hot spots” or rashes. A second kind of skin condition is pustules, usually diagnosed as a chronic staphylococcal infection. A third kind, more often seen in dogs than in cats, is flaky, smelly, or greasy skin, often accompanied by matted, foul-smelling hair or regions of hairlessness; usually this is the result of poor diet, vaccinosis, or both, and appears especially in overweight dogs.
The therapeutic approach I take for these different conditions is consistent, just tailored somewhat to each set of symptoms. With all, I’ll do the Bio Nutritional Analysis to determine the internal cause of the problem, and address those imbalances accordingly. I’ll also take a pet off commercial foods and put him on the natural diet outlined in Chapter Three; many skin problems respond quickly to a change in diet alone. For allergic inflammation, I’ll use the remedies discussed above, under “Allergies.” For pustules, I’ll use BHI’s “Skin” or “Sulfa-heel” (Heel), mixed with BHI’s “Infection.” For smelly, thickened skin and greasy hair, I’ll use BHI’s “Hair and Skin,” or “Psorinoheel” (Heel). Both a change in diet and vaccine schedule are also critical. To the natural diet I’ll add cold-pressed safflower oil, available at health food stores, because the flaky skin is evidence of lost free fatty acids. Flaxseed and sesame oil are good, too, especially if the pet has an immune deficiency; both are immune-enhancing. One product I’ve had impressive success with, and which my pets love, is Animal Essentials (see source guide).
All skin problems benefit from regular use of an herbal shampoo. Oatmeal shampoos are generally soothing. Those that contain calendula, plantain, and aloe are all anti-inflammatory. I also favor the herbal-based shampoos containing tee tree oil, including ProCare (Melaleuca), because they work like medical shampoos without chemical ingredients.
Finally, a three-day liquid fast is wonderfully restorative for skin problems. Since any skin disruption is evidence of the body’s efforts to eliminate toxins, a fast can speed up the process considerably, enhancing the flushing out of foreign bacteria and other unwanted agents. It takes a lot of energy to eat, digest, metabolize, and assimilate food—energy that during a fast can be expended entirely by the body on elimination. I don’t do much fasting in my practice only because so many of the pets I see are in dire straits. At home, however, I put my own dogs and cats on one-day fasts every few weeks. Far from being enervated by the process, they’re galvanized by it, and are jumping around with energy by the time it nears an end. Just be aware that because of the enhancement of the detoxification process as a result of the fast, your pet may experience a temporary worsening of symptoms which should shortly subside, either after more toxins have been expelled or with the resumption of feeding, which slows down the elimination process.
The most common spinal conditions I see are spondylosis and intervertebral disc disease (or slipped discs). Spondylosis is essentially an arthritic condition between two vertebrae, in which a mineral deposit eventually fuses the bones together by forming a bony bridge between them. Rigid when meant to be flexible, the spaces between the vertebrae grow inflamed, causing pain and usually impaired mobility of the legs, especially the hind legs. If severe enough, there can be an inflammatory response from them, leading to neurological deficit symptoms. Though considered a condition of aging dogs, I’ve seen it appear with depressing regularity among young dogs, apparently the result of toxic accumulations in the body, often from a bad diet, probably also from environmental pollutants, genetic predispositions, and vaccinations. The slipped disc syndrome, especially common in the dachshund, involves similar symptoms, but they’re usually more severe.
Acupuncture, not surprisingly, is the treatment of choice to relieve immediate pain and restore some measure of flexibility, and is effective in reversing paralysis in those dogs who have had a severely ruptured disc. “Traumeel” or “Zeel” (Heel), injected at relevant acupuncture points, also helps address this condition. As therapeutic as it is, however, acupuncture may not be curative. I’ve found that these conditions respond better, with less likelihood of recurrence, when the following supplements are added: “Back” (BHI), Liquidamber 15 (Seven Forests), and Vetri-Disc (Vetri-Science Labs). Old male dogs with hind-leg weakness are especially helped by the homeopathic remedy conium maculatum (200 C is the potency I start with). Severe cases may need a three-day series of intravenous fluids, including high doses of vitamin C, to flush intracellular toxicity out of the body. There tends to be an associated elevated level of alkaline phosphatase in these patients, which the vitamin C’s ascorbic acid buffers. At the site of pressure imbalance along the spine, I also inject a “cocktail” of B vitamins and adrenal cortex, along with injectable spinal cord (“Medulla Spinalis” by Heel) or intervertebral disc (“Discus Intervertebralis,” also by Heel), if so indicated.
Spondylosis shows up on an X ray of the spine. A spinal infarction, or blood clot, does not, because it’s within the spinal cord tissue itself. The symptoms, however, like those of a severely ruptured disc, are dramatically sudden paralysis and a rapid loss of deep pain perception. This is a debilitating condition that often ends with permanent paralysis, necessitating a wheelchair-like contraption for the pet, or euthanasia. However, in the one case of this rare condition which I’ve treated—an Old English sheepdog named Chloe—I had encouraging results from using intravenous fluids high in vitamin C, along with intravenous ozone and the injectable “cocktail”—plus phosphatidyl-serine, which appears to enhance the repair of the myelin covering of the nervous system. To supplement these therapies, I conducted sessions of electrical acupuncture: hooking the needles up to a battery generator to send electrical impulses through them to the relevant spinal acupuncture points. In twenty-four hours, the dog’s deep pain perception, seemingly lost, began to return. In two weeks, the dog was actually up and walking. And continues to do so on her program of metabolic supplements and spinal-cord-specific products.
Any injury with potential severity, especially those caused by a motor vehicle, should be seen immediately by a veterinarian. The range of injuries that cause trauma is too broad to be considered here in detail, and the measures needed to address them are not, as a rule, ones that a layman should undertake. (Splinting a broken leg, for example, ought to be left to a veterinarian if at all possible.) The common thread in these conditions, however, is inflammation with associated pain. Almost invariably, once the medical emergency is eased, I use injectable “Traumeel” (Heel), as well as injectable adrenal cortex. Topical “Traumeel” ointment elicits good response. For pain and inflammation control orally, I use a combination of “Traumeel” and “Inflammation” (BHI-Heel). Professional Health Products has a good preparation called “Injury Drops,” as well as one called “Post-Surgical Drops,” when the inflammation is caused by surgery. Herbally, I’ve had success with myrrh tablets (Seven Forests), and “Anti-Flam” (Crystal Star). “Anti-Flam” contains white willow bark, which has an effect similar to aspirin (indeed, aspirin is derived in part from white willow bark). As an old standby, echinacea, available from any health food store or pharmacy, is helpful.
Nearly all puppies and kittens are born with intestinal worms of one sort or another. Apparently the worms become chronic in the mother in an encysted form, like granules within a capsule. During the stress of pregnancy, the cysts break and the worms gain access to the fetus. Among kittens and puppies, the most presenting sign is a potbelly, which develops as the worms consume protein; because protein helps keep fluid in the blood vessels, a protein deficiency caused by worms leads to leakage into the patient’s abdomen. Roundworms are visible as white, squiggly, spaghetti-like strings in the feces or vomit. Whipworms and hookworms, on the other hand, are too small to be seen by the unpracticed eye. A fourth kind, tapeworms, are spread by fleas, though dogs in particular can get the other kinds of worms by licking another animal’s feces, often from their paws. Tapeworms are usually seen as flat, rice-like granules appearing around the anus.
Of the four kinds, whipworms and hookworms are the most serious, the latter especially, as it’s a bloodsucker that can bring on a severe bloody stool and anemia. Both kinds in extreme cases can be lethal. Roundworms, though less serious and rarely lethal, can cause chronic diarrhea and vomiting, and among mature pets lead to weight loss.
Some holistic veterinarians avoid chemical dewormers at all costs. I feel this is one condition that conventional medicine treats effectively, without undue toxicity, and so I’ll use them, especially when alternatives I’ve tried produce little improvement. I don’t use injectable dewormers for reasons that to me seem a matter of common sense: why go through the bloodstream to fight an intestinal worm when an ingested dewormer goes right to the source without using the blood as a delivery vehicle? I do, however, use any number of commercial ingestible dewormers (the brands are too numerous to name; obviously, start with the least toxic products available). For owners averse to inflicting even these modest chemicals on their pets, I recommend an herbal liquid dewormer called Wormafuge (Medicine Wheel). Among other ingredients, it contains black walnut and garlic, both central to any herbal dewormer because they kill parasites. (It also has cascara sagrada, a surefire stimulant of bowel function, to help expel the worms and some of the congestive toxins upon which the worms live that much more quickly.) The only reason I don’t use Wormafuge more often myself is that it has a truly vile taste. Feed it to a pet and you get a reaction of real revulsion.
Whichever dewormer you choose, it becomes the first step in a two-step process. The first step is to kill the worms. The second is to clean out the intestines. A congested intestine is a breeding ground for parasites; a clean one provides protection from them. Other products I use are Homeo Helminth (Dolisos), which actually contains homeopathic onion, and the herbal Worm Parasite formula by an impressive new company called Quantum. Along with black walnut and garlic, the formula contains wormwood (an herb), pumpkin seeds, cloves, and male fern root—all top performers on the herbal deworming list. The herbalist Hannah Kroeger also has two good formulas, Rascal and Wormwood Combination (Kroeger).
If the worms become chronic, I favor using high levels of garlic, both in its liquid Kyolic form and as diced cloves put in a pet’s every meal. A diet—natural, to be sure—ought to include a hefty share of fiber-rich grains, which help clean out the intestines. And if you’ve avoided the commercial dewormers in favor of an herbal approach, consider, in this case, trying the medicine. The fact is, I’ve seen no sign of ill effects from it, and it does get rid of worms. If the worms your pet has are hookworms or whipworms, you may have no choice.