health

HYPOALLERGENIC HYPE?

DOG FOOD – HYPOALLERGENIC HYPE?

There has never been more choice in diets for dogs. There are complete raw diets, lightly cooked diets, grain free pouches and kibbles, gently cooked nuggets, freeze dried raw food…not to mention any number of books and websites teaching you how to make your own home cooked or raw diets. Many of these diets claim to be hypoallergenic, but what does that mean, and does your dog really need a hypoallergenic diet?

HYPOALLERGENIC?

Hypoallergenic means ‘low in allergens’ or ‘unlikely to cause an allergic reaction’, but in dog food terms it is fairly meaningless. It is usually used to describe food which don’t contain the most common ingredients which cause allergy or intolerance symptoms in dogs. These food usually have a fixed formula (meaning the same ingredients are used in every batch), and restrict the sources of protein. However, they can still cause illness in food allergic or intolerant dogs. If a dog is sensitive to turkey, then a ‘hypoallergenic’ food based on turkey won’t actually be hypoallergenic for that dog! The most common causes of food allergies in dogs are chicken, beef, dairy, and egg but rather than there being something special about these ingredients, it is simply that they are the most common ingredients in pet foods (because pet food use the leftovers of the most common human foods). Feeding a diet based on ‘exotic’ meats like kangaroo, wild boar, or goat doesn’t mean they will be less likely to develop a food allergy, but they would develop it to the exotic meat instead of chicken.

DOES MY DOG HAVE A FOOD ALLERGY?

Food allergies happen when  the immune system misidentifies a protein from food as a threat and launches an immune response. Food allergies in dogs can cause gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhoea) or skin problems (itching, ear infections, skin infections). Food allergies are actually not that common in dogs; vomiting and diarrhoea are far more likely to be caused by a dog eating something it shouldn’t (high fat foods, rubbish, spoiled food etc.) or by a bacterial or viral infection. Dogs can have an intolerance to certain ingredients or diets which physically irritate the gut (the diet might be too high in fibre or fat for instance), but in these cases there is no immune response. Allergies to fleas, house dust mites, food storage mites, and pollens are the most common causes of allergic itching.

GLUTEN FREE? GRAIN FREE?

Grains are a less common cause of food allergies than animal proteins, despite the trend to feed grain free diets. Gluten intolerance is also very rare in dogs, though there is a gluten sensitive enteropathy reported in Irish Setters, and paroxysmal gluten-sensitive dyskinesia (canine epileptoid cramping syndrome/ Spike’s disease) in Border Terriers. Recently grain free diets have been linked to cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers. The diets involved have been high in legumes (peas and beans) and it is theorised that this may be reducing the uptake of taurine in affected dogs.

DIAGNOSING AND TREATING ADVERSE FOOD REACTIONS IN DOGS

Blood, saliva, and even hair sample testing are offered to identify the foods which your dog reacts to, but research in both humans and dogs now suggests that these tests are not particularly accurate or useful. If tests aren’t the answer, what will your vet do to diagnose a food allergy?

In the past vets used to recommend home-made elimination diets based on a single novel protein and carbohydrate source. Unfortunately it is getting more difficult to find truly novel ingredients as ‘exotic’ meats such as wild boar and kangaroo, and even alternative carbohydrates such as quinoa or tapioca can be found in mainstream pet foods and treats! Dogs might have to be on elimination diets for up to 3 months and vets did see poor compliance by owners who got bored of cooking, and dogs who got bored of eating the same thing every day. Such a restricted diet also risks nutritional deficiencies if continued long term, however this option can be followed if owners do not want to use processed foods. Care must be taken to avoid contamination of the diet with other ingredients.

We now have access to diets where the proteins (and sometimes carbohydrates) are hydrolysed. The hydrolysis process breaks the protein into pieces which the body can no longer recognise as being a potential threat. Imagine someone builds a Lego chicken, then smashes it up…if you hadn’t seen the completed chicken you wouldn’t guess what the bricks had been; that’s how hydrolysis works. For gastrointestinal symptoms feeding a hydrolysed diet for 2 weeks should improve symptoms. For skin reactions improvements may not be seen for up to 12 weeks. To make a definitive diagnosis you should then feed the original diet to see symptoms return, but understandably owners often skip this step.

It is vital that when using an elimination or hydrolysed diet that your dog eats absolutely nothing else! This might even mean avoiding palatable medicines and worming tablets as these might have meat based flavourings.

If a food allergy is diagnosed and controlled using an elimination diet or hydrolysed diet, a less restricted diet can be introduced slowly – perhaps one of the ‘hypoallergenic’ diets so you aren’t introducing too many potential allergens all at once.

COULD FOOD REACTIONS CAUSE BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS IN DOGS?

This question is what prompted this month’s blog. 

We know that diets with insufficient animal protein can result in a dog lacking essential amino acids which are precursors of neurotransmitters and that this can lead to problem behaviour and difficulty in learning new tasks. Dietary manipulation can be used to make the essential amino acid tryptophan more available for uptake into the brain, this in turn raises the levels of serotonin.  But there may be even more exciting links between diet and behaviour on the horizon. There is currently a lot of research being done into the gut microbiome and the gut-brain axis. A diverse gut microbe population may be important in maintaining normal tryptophan metabolism and healthy functioning of the behavioural, central nervous, and gut processes which serotonin controls. Inflammation in the gut cause by a food intolerance, as well as antibiotic use, and even a failure for the gut to get a healthy bacterial population in the first days of life could all cause a poor gut microbiome and predispose to a range of health and behavioural problems. At the moment we don’t know exactly how to manipulate the microbiome to improve physical and mental health, but finding a diet which does not cause inflammation and which supports healthy gut flora seems a sensible start.

For more information on the serotonin raising diet please look here: http://www.breakthroughdog.co.uk/

A good diet is the foundation of health and diet should always be considered when looking for ways to treat chronic physical or behavioural problems. Sadly the answer may not be as simple as grabbing a bag of the latest trendy dog food, or switching to a raw diet.

If you would like to discuss the potential impact of diet on your dog’s physical or behavioural health please book an appointment!

COCONUT OIL, HEMP OIL, SNAKE OIL?

COCONUT OIL, HEMP OIL…MEDICAL MIRACLES OR SNAKE OIL?

The internet is awash with stories about how coconut oil and hemp oil can cure cancer, replace pain meds, and stop epilepsy. But the Doctors and Vets won’t let you use it because of a conspiracy by Big Pharma. But what’s the real story about these miracle oils?

COCONUT OIL FOR DOGS (and CATS)

Coconut oil is a rich source of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). These are triglycerides whose fatty acids have an aliphatic tail of 6–12 carbon atoms. There has been a lot of interest in the health benefits to humans and pets of MCTs.

Epilepsy in Dogs

As a ketogenic diet has been useful in some childhood epilepsy cases vets have investigated similar diets in dogs. Unfortunately high fat, low protein, low carbohydrate diets carry a high risk of causing pancreatitis in dogs, so other ways of increasing ketones in the brain have been investigated. In a 2015 study Tsz Hong Law and colleagues found that a diet with MCTs caused a significant reduction in seizure frequency than a diet without C8, 10, or 12 MCTs, however some dogs showed no response to MCTs. Research into MCTs in canine epilepsy is ongoing at the Royal Veterinary College.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Studies have found that 28% of dogs ages 11-12-years-old and 68% of dogs ages 15-16-years-old have one or more signs of age-related cognitive decline. Symptoms include nocturnal restlessness and barking, loss of house training, and appearing ‘depressed’. These symptoms negatively affect the quality of life of both dogs and their owners. It has been found that older brains use ketones more efficiently than glucose as fuel, so again diets which increase brain ketones have been investigated. A diet supplemented with MCTs was shown to improve attention span, trainability, decision making and overall cognitive function in as little as 30days.

Dental Pathogens

In 2015 lab tests Law et al showed that  an emulsion of MCTs showed similar efficacy on killing common dental pathogens in dogs and cats to a chlorhexidine foam.

Cancer

Cures for cancers are the Holy Grail of Veterinary and Human medicine. Research has supported the use of a high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet to support dogs undergoing chemotherapy, but more specific trials on ketogenic diets and MCTs acorss a range of cancers are needed.

Skin problems

Is coconut oil the way to go for skin problems? Whilst there is some evidence that topically applied coconut oil is better than mineral oil for atopic dermatitis, there is far more evidence for using Omega 3 oils in the diet for atopy. Coconut oil has been shown to speed up wound healing compared to nothing being applied.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Coconut oil has shown moderate anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects in lab animal studies, but again, there has so far been little research in chronic pain in dogs or cats.

IS COCONUT OIL A USEFUL SUPPLEMENT FOR DOGS AND CATS?

Maybe. There is good evidence for MCTs in improving quality of life in canine epilepsy and cognitive dysfunction. Other uses of MCTs are less well supported. But coconut oils is only 60% MCTs and the other fats in it can increase the risk of dogs developing pancreatitis. When researching coconut oil/MCT for a given health condition check what was actually used as virgin coconut oil will contain compound which refined MCT oils do not. 

Whether you choose coconut oil or MCT oil consult your vet first to agree on a safe dose to aim for, and introduce the oil over a week or so to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects. You might also consider a diet specifically designed to support normal neurological function in dogs: https://www.proplanveterinarydiets.com/products/nc-neurocare-dog/

HEMP OIL

Our bodies, and those of our pets, contain endocannabinoid receptors which are involved in many physiological pathways including mood, appetite stimulation, pain sensation, memory, and response to stress. Hemp oils contain phytocannabinoids which can interact with these receptors (particularly CB1 and CB2). Hemp oils may also contain a range of other components including fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, flavanoids, terpenes, ketones, and chlorophyll. Commercially sold hemp oils contain only trace amounts of the psychotropic chemical THC and will not get you or your pet ‘high’. Interestingly, CB2 receptors have not yet been found in cats.

Hemp oils can only be sold in the UK as food supplements and can not make any medical claims. Doses of 20-200mg of CBD per day for an adult human are considered a wellness supplement. This should be borne in mind when looking at research on Cannabis sativa extracts, as well as whether whole plant oils or refined constituents have been used. There is a lot of research on Cannabis sativa derived compounds, and new medicines based on them are very likely to be developed.

At medicinal doses CBD has been shown to have anti-epileptic, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety effects and appears to be relatively safe; however at high (medicinal) doses it may interact with other drugs which are metabolised by the same enzyme pathway leading to faster or slower clearance of CBD. CBD may not be as well absorbed orally by dogs as it is by people which must be considered when choosing a dose to use. The terpene content of hemp oil products should be considered when using them in cats as they are less well tolerated in this species.

Many companies are jumping on the CBD oil trend and producing oils, capsules, treats, and more for pets and people. Some offer a range of different strength products, products blended with other herbs, and oils made by different extraction techniques to give varying levels of active compounds. So far very few suppliers are ensuring consistency of active compounds through testing and blending of each batch of oils.

ARE HEMP OILS USEFUL SUPPLEMENTS FOR DOGS AND CATS?

Help oils and CBD oils may be useful in maintaining wellness in dogs and cats, in much the same way as we might give a fish body oil supplement. Research into medicinal uses of extracts from Cannabis sativa will continue, and new drugs for epilepsy, anxiety, and pain are likely to result. Although no medical claims can be made for commercially available hemp/CBD oils some owners find they help to improve their pet’s quality of life. Care must be taken to avoid considering testimonials or single case studies as evidence that the supplement helped; even in conventional drug research a proportion of test subjects show an improvement on the placebo! This is especially true in epilepsy trials where even untreated animals or people can show great variability in seizure frequency.

Consultation with a vet with an understanding of herbal medicine, and of hemp extracts in particular, is likely to give the best results and ensure there are no adverse drug interactions. Consulting a vet is essential if you wish to try higher doses for medicinal effect.

For more information on MCT/coconut oil or hemp oil supplements, or a holistic assessment and treatment plan for your pet’s health, please contact us on health@holisticvetsussex for a referral form.

 

UNDERSTANDING DOG FOOD

UNDERSTANDING DOG FOOD!

What’s for tea?

DRY, WET, RAW, HOME COOKED…WHAT’S BEST FOR YOUR DOG?

There isn’t an easy answer to this question! Just as people can be happy and healthy on a variety of diets, so can dogs. And a food that suits one dog down to the ground could cause skin or digestive upsets in another. Our Vet Vicky visited Crufts last month and was bewildered by the huge number of dog foods out there, all claiming to be the very best thing for your dog to eat! So where to start?

Complete vs Complemetary

A complete food contains all the nutrients a dog requires to support daily life when fed as directed.

A complementary food needs other things added to balance the diet; meat and mixer diets, many raw foods, and treats fall into this category.

There are guidelines for nutrient levels in complete pets food, but in the UK only PFMA members formally promise to meet these levels. Small food producers balance their diets using computer programmes, larger food companies may do laboratory testing, or feeding trials.

Raw, home cooked, dry, wet, home-made, commercial….?

Buying a pre-prepared diet made by a PFMA member is the only guarantee of a nutritionally balanced diet. There are PFMA members who supply raw and lightly cooked diets as well as baked dry foods, extruded kibbles, and canned wet foods. 

Although many people feel that natural raw meat diets are the healthiest for dogs, there is sadly little well researched evidence for this. There is evidence that processing can alter the digestibility of some ingredients, and that cooking or processing may make foods more likely to cause digestive or skin problems in some pets (and make others safer to eat!). There is also little evidence that dry or canned diets are particularly bad for dogs. And with a large choice of gently cooked, high meat products on the market it is possible to feed a great (or really bad!) diet from any category!

Home-cooked and raw diets have been analysed and found to be deficient in key nutrients, so take advice on what foods to include, and whether supplements are recommended for your dog.

Raw fed pets have also been found to shed more bacteria (including e.coli, salmonella, and campylobacter) in their faeces. All dogs can pick up these bacteria from the environment (and eating nasty things on walks) so although we would not recommend raw feeding where there are ‘high risk’ people (babies, the elderly, or otherwise immunocompromised) good hygiene should be practised however your dog is fed.

Other things to consider when choosing a diet include cost (but work out the price per day as an expensive bag of food might go further) and convenience. Dry diets are easy to store, but can get infested with house dust mites or go stale if you buy bags your dog can’t eat in a reasonable time. Wet diets are more expensive and go off if your dog doesn’t eat them up quickly, but are often more appetising than dry diets. Pre-prepared raw diets remove some of the concerns over unbalanced diets and should carry a lower risk of bacterial contamination than home made raw diets, but are expensive to feed larger dogs. raw feeding can be very economical, and certainly suits many owners, but requires freezer space for ingredients, ideally a separate preparation area, takes time to do properly, and needs thorough research to ensure your dog gets a balanced diet.

Finally, food is not just fuel. Your dog should enjoy eating his food! Raw bones certainly fulfil a dog’s need to chew, but if you aren’t comfortable feeding raw bones (which can break teeth and cause digestive distress in some dogs) consider stuffing rubber toys with wet food, or using dry foods with snuffle mats or puzzle toys.

THE ‘DRY MATTER’ THING

If you really want to compare different pet foods you need to understand ‘dry matter’.

If a tin of dog food says it contains 5% fat and a dry food label says the food contains 15% fat, which has more fat?

If the wet food contains 80% moisture, the dry matter fat content is 25%

If the dry food contains 10% moisture the dry matter fat content is 17%….so the wet food is much higher in fat!

THE STUFF ON THE LABELS

Pet food labels have to list the percentages of protein, crude fibre, fat, and ash. They also have to list the ingredients, but these can be somewhat vague!

It is often stated that foods which list the ingredients individually are higher quality, and that the food is good if meat is the top ingredient. But again, things might not be so simple! Terms like ‘meat and animal derivatives’ can look off putting, but all dog food in the UK is made from animals suitable for human consumption. Dog food just uses the parts we don’t like to eat! A premium food might list ‘beef’ rather than ‘meat and animal derivatives’, but both could include beef tongue, heart, lung, and tripe. Although ingredients are listed by weight if beef is the top ingredient don’t assume the diet is mostly beef; if the next three ingredients are rice, oats, carrots these could add up to more than the beef. To confuse matters further some products use dehydrated meat, which weighs less but obviously makes up a larger proportion of the finished product than fresh meat would gram for gram.

Protein

Adult dogs need 20-40% dry matter protein. Protein can come from both animal and vegetable sources, but animal sources are easier for dogs to digest and provide essential amino acids (EAAs) which high vegetable protein diets may lack. Lack of EAAs can lead to poor behaviour, poor coat, or even to heart problems.

Fat

Adult dogs need 10-65% dry matter fat. Very high fat diets are required by dogs doing extended hard exercise such as sled dogs, and may cause digestive upsets or even pancreatitis in normally active dogs. There are essential fatty acids which must be taken in from the diet, and many foods have added omega 3 fatty acids which can have anti-inflammatory properties.

Carbohydrates

Adult dogs don’t need to eat carbohydrates as they are able to make glucose from fat and protein. However, carbohydrates are digestible by dogs and offer a cheaper source of calories than animal protein and fat. Even some dogs on raw diets benefit from some carbohydrates in the diet to maintain weight or improve behaviour. Our Vet Vicky is Veterinary Adviser for Breakthrough, which uses carbohydrates to raise serotonin levels and improve behaviour.

Fibre

Fibre is not just a ‘filler’ as some websites suggest. Soluble and insoluble fibres help with a feeling of fullness (important for dogs on a restricted diet to prevent weight gain), control gut transit time, and can act as pre-biotics improving the gut microbiome.

Ash

“They put ash in pet food!”. No, ‘they’ don’t! ‘Ash’ is just a legal term for the residue left after a pet food is incinerated as reflects the mineral content. The correct balance of calcium and phosphorus, as well as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and trace minerals including copper are important for health.

Vitamins

Added vitamins will be declared on the pet food label, but vitamins will come from food ingredients too. It is important not to over supplement with vitamins or minerals, especially fat soluble ones, as excess can cause illnesses. Unbalanced home prepared diets can also cause vitamin and mineral excesses or deficiencies, as can giving more than 10% of a dog’s daily food ration in treats, or cutting food back below the lowest guidelines to try and get a dog to lose weight.

DO I NEED TO CHANGE MY DOG’S DIET?

If your dog is fit and well, with good teeth, a shiny coat, and a good quality stool….probably not!

If your dog has skin, behaviour, or digestive problems then a change of diet could help improve things, but always take the advice of a vet or nutritionist rather than chopping and changing foods.

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we take feeding and nutrition very seriously and think that a healthy gut is the foundation of a healthy dog. But we don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ policy and will help owners choose the vest diet for their pet and lifestyle from raw, wet, or dry diets.

RAW DEAL?

RAW FEEDING RAW DEAL?

RAW FEEDING RISKS

Recent news headlines have suggested that raw feeding dogs and cats could be bad for their health, and yours.

The concerns surround contamination of raw meat pet food with bacteria which can cause gastroenteritis in humans, and in animals.

Any raw meat can be contaminated with bacteria including salmonella and e.coli. Every year people become ill from eating undercooked meat, especially during barbecue season, and we are constantly reminded to ensure high risk meats such as chicken and mince are thoroughly cooked, that separate utensils are used for raw and cooked meats, and that we wash our hands well after handling raw meat.

So, what’s different about raw dog and cat foods?

Not much really…except that we feed the meat raw! Major raw food suppliers claim that they tolerate a lower bacterial count in their foods than would be tolerated in meat for human consumption as their food is not going to be cooked. Bacterial contamination levels may be unknown in meat direct from slaughterhouses, butchers, or game dealers.

Dogs fed salmonella contaminated food don’t necessarily become ill. That fast gastric transit time in dogs may account for their ability to eat meat that would make humans ill. However, dogs fed raw meat contaminated with salmonella will shed higher numbers of the organism into the environment. This has implications for human health as salmonella can cause very serious symptoms, even death in those with compromised immune systems.

Other risks associated with raw feeding include obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract by chunks of bone, and fractured teeth from chewing on bones.

Does this mean you shouldn’t raw feed?

RAW FEEDING SAFETY

Despite numerous studies showing that raw fed dogs shed higher levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria than kibble fed dogs, cases of gastrointestinal disease in raw fed dogs and their owners does not appear higher than those in kibble fed dogs in my practice. In fact most of the GE cases I treat are fed dry or canned dog food ( I always ask!)…but their owners do often admit that their pets will scavenge dead creatures, and discarded food on walks. Added to this, there have been several cases of dry dog food recalls due to salmonella contamination, and dried treats such as pig’s ear may also be contaminated.

Raw bones are softer than the cooked bones and antlers which are sold as dog chews. Dental fractures and gastrointestinal obstructions are a genuine risk when feeding raw bones to dogs. However, cooked bones, antler chews, and hard nylon chews can also fracture teeth; I have yet to remove a raw bone intestinal foreign body, but have removed numerous chewed and swallowed dog toys and stones. I have treated a raw fed dog who needed surgery to remove bone from his oesophagus, but colleagues have treated more dogs which have swallowed large chunks of rawhide or pig’s ear. The risks of tooth fracture and obstructions can be minimised by feeding appropriate size and type bones, or by feeding only ground bone.

Vets who support raw feeding have always advised that certain dogs in certain families may not be suitable for raw feeding, and that excellent hygiene is required in any family with a pet dog.

Families with members who are immunocompromised should avoid raw feeding due to the increased handling of raw meat, and potential higher contamination of the home with potentially pathogenic bacteria. If raw feeding in a home with young children care should be taken to protect children through good hygiene, for example; handwashing, separate food preparation utensils for pets, and avoiding licking by pets.

Immunocompromised pets may not be suitable candidates for a raw diet. This would include dogs receiving high dose steroids, chemotherapy, or recovering from certain illnesses.

ALTERNATIVES TO RAW

Where a raw fed pet’s circumstances change, but owners want to continue feeding a high meat ‘natural’ diet, what are the options?

Firstly, consider switching from home-made raw to a commercial complete raw food. These are tested to ensure low bacterial contamination, as well as being nutritionally balanced, and requiring less handling.

If that is considered too high risk, look for lightly cooked high meat foods, often sold in tray or pouches.

Finally, there are increasing dry food options, both extruded kibble, and baked which are made with over 60% meat.

VETERINARY ADVICE ON RAW

If you are concerned about your dog or cat’s raw diet, and want advice on how to feed raw safely, consult a vet who understands and supports raw feeding.

 

 

GOODBYE GOUDHURST

GOODBYE GOUDHURST VETS

Many happy years offering clinics at Goudhurst Vets and Equine Clinic in Goudhurst are coming to an end. 

Vicky will be concentrating on home visits for Acupuncture and Behaviour problems, and will continue to offer Holistic and Herbal medicine consultations at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne (01323 649315).

Existing acupuncture clients at Goudhurst will be transferred to vet Caroline Borer, who has recently undertaken acupuncture training. Repeat prescriptions of herbs can be delivered to Goudhurst by arrangement.

Vicky’s final clinic at Goudhurst will be on Thursday 4th January.

VETERINARY HERBAL MEDICINE UNDER THREAT?

RCVS THREATENS ‘ALTERNATIVE’ VETERINARY MEDICINE!

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has released a statement in which it appears to threaten Vets who use ‘alternative’ therapies. It focuses on Homeopathy, but could lead to problems for Vets who prescribe herbs or use acupuncture too. https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/news/college-publishes-complementary-medicines-statement/

WE DON’T DO ‘ALTERNATIVE’ VETERINARY MEDICINE

At the moment we are not concerned that the RCVS statement will affect our work at Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care because we use herbal medicine, diet, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, and physical therapies to complement conventional diagnosis and treatment, or where no conventional medication is available or suitable. We only work on referral from your First Opinion practice and choose therapies which are supported by laboratory studies and clinical trials as well as case studies. 

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we don’t call our therapies ‘alternative’ because Vicky is first and foremost a qualified, experienced Vet. If she feels a pet needs conventional diagnostic tests such as a blood test or radiographs your pet will be referred back to your First Opinion practice, or these may be performed at Companion Care Vets Eastbourne if you are visiting the clinic there. Some cases may need conventional pain relief before starting acupuncture or physical therapy at home. The welfare of your pet is our primary concern at all times.

COMPLEMENTARY VETERINARY MEDICINE BACKED BY SCIENCE

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we choose to use treatments which are backed by laboratory research, clinical trials, and case studies.

Herbal medicines contain complex combinations of active ingredients, many of which have been extensively studied. We often use herbs with active ingredients which act on the same receptors as conventional drugs. Valerian, for example, contains valerenic acid which modulates GABA receptor function and reduces the breakdown of GABA, leading to sedation.

Sometimes we have data from clinical trials in animals, other studies may only have been done on cell cultures, so we interpret the results with great care. We don’t promise miracle cures, but we try to choose therapies which will improve your pet’s quality of life.

NEEM

NEEM FOR PARASITE CONTROL

When our Holistic Vet Vicky goes on holiday she can’t help but look around for medicinal plants and she found lots of Neem trees in Kenya. The latin name for Neem is Azadirachta Indica.

WHAT IS NEEM USED FOR IN ANIMALS?

Neem is a popular remedy with indigenous peoples for a large range of parasitic problems on both animals and plants. Published research shows that extracts from neem seeds and leaves can be effective on animals against mites, ticks, fleas, and fungal infections. Neem can have various effects on parasites including repelling them, reducing their feeding on an animal, disturbing the growth of larval stages, and reducing the parasite’s ability to breed or lay viable eggs.

GREAT! WHY AREN’T WE ALL USING NEEM?

The main downside to neem is that it has a smell most people find unpleasant. Commercial neem based products will attempt to disguise this, or will use extracts with less smell. Neem extracts degrade fairly quickly after application so need to be applied every 4-8days. 

IS NEEM SAFE?

Aqeuous preparations of neem are reported to be well tolerated, neem oils may be less well tolerated. Short term overdose, or long term use, may be associated with reduced fertility. Fertility returns once treatment is stopped. Ingestion of pure neem seed oil is dangerous and can cause vomiting, metabolic acidosis, drowsiness, a rapid rate of breathing, and even seizures. The best advice would be to use commercially available products which have been tested as safe for use on animals, and to use and store neem products in a way which minimises the risk of your pet ingesting them. Be sure to choose cat safe products for cats, who are especially at risk from ingesting essential oils.

Neem also appears to be relatively safe to non-target insects and spiders, but may be toxic to fish so take care around your fish tanks and ponds.

TURMERIC; SUPERFOOD OR SUPERFAD?

TURMERIC; A WONDERHERB FOR PETS! Or is it?

USES FOR TURMERIC IN PETS

The main reasons pet owners use turmeric are for arthritis and for cancer prevention.

Although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that turmeric helps pets with arthritis, there have been relatively few clinical studies. In Vitro (lab studies in isolated tissues) studies have shown that turmeric extracts can reduce inflammatory cytokines, and reduce cartilage degradation. Turmeric appears to work like some of the more modern anti-inflammatory drugs by inhibiting COX2 enzymes which cause inflammation in preference to COX 1 enzymes which are needed for many normal processes in the body. Studies in live animals have in some cases shown little effect from giving turmeric, but in others have shown improvement in arthritis symptoms. Larger scale studies are needed to draw more accurate conclusions.

The role of turmeric in cancer cases is more complex. In lab tests turmeric extracts can actually cause DNA damage, which could increase the risk of cancer. However, the low risk of stomach cancer in people in India has been attributed to turmeric in the diet. Several studies have shown that turmeric extracts can inhibit cancer cell growth in the lab, but again, studies in live animals are lacking.

PROBLEMS WITH TURMERIC FOR PETS

Turmeric is a relatively safe herb to use, but one reason for this is that the active compounds aren’t very well absorbed. Dissolving turmeric in oil may increase its bioavailabity, as may adding in black pepper, however studies have focuses on rats and result may not be the same for dogs and cats.

Turmeric should be used with caution in pets who are receiving medications. Turmeric can inhibit an enzyme pathway which is important in breaking down some commonly used drugs including digoxin, anticoagulants, cyclosporin, and some anti-inflammatories. This could lead to toxicity over time. Turmeric has also been shown to reduce the absorption of iron from the diet.

In some animals turmeric is associated  with irritation of the gut. If this cause vomiting or diarrhoea be aware that turmeric really stains! It should also not be used in animals with gallstones, or those with a tendency to produce oxalate crystals or stones.

Turmeric powder sold for cooking can have variable amounts of active compounds, and the volatile oils will be lost during drying and processing. Fresh roots contain more oils, but the growing conditions can still affect the levels of active compounds. Over the counter supplements don’t always contain sufficient quantity or quality of active compounds.

IS TURMERIC RIGHT FOR MY PET?

We like turmeric, and recommend it to many of our clients. But it won’t be suitable for all pets. We strongly recommend contacting a vet trained in herbal medicine to suggest if turmeric will be useful and safe.

 

 

 

 

Brain Food

bones

CHANGE THE DIET, CHANGE THE BEHAVIOUR?

If you spend any time on the internet, reading dog magazines, or in pet shops, you will be aware of the huge range of foods out there promising your dog a longer, happier life. But could a change of diet really help change your dog’s behaviour?

CAN DIET FIX BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS?

Some behaviour problems may actually be related to a dog’s diet. Take the case of a collie who was attacking his owners when they tried to sit on the sofa. Initially it was thought that the dog was guarding the sofa, but when the behaviourist visited in the daytime there was no attack… careful questioning revealed that his behaviour was more related to the time of day, than the sofa. His owners were very active people and only tried to sit on the sofa in the evening. They were only feeding their dog in the mornings and then he was having long, exciting walks. By the evening the collie was tired and had low blood sugar which made him extremely grumpy. He would curl up to sleep on the sofa and when woken by his owners he was so confused he would snap at them. This dog didn’t need retraining….just food at tea time as well as at breakfast!

Another case involved a rescue springer spaniel who suffered badly with shadow chasing which meant he could only be exercised at certain times of day. Being a springer this meant he had lots of pent up energy and could be destructive in the house. To help, a trainer recommended a very low protein diet…which made the poor dog worse. Reducing the protein in his diet meant that he wasn’t getting the raw materials to make the brain chemicals that make dogs (and people!) happy. Against his owners expectation switching him onto a diet of raw meat, vegetables, and bones didn’t send him crazy, it improved his behaviour a lot. And chewing on large, meaty bones not only provided essential amino acids, it gave him a very satisfying activity to do when it was too sunny to take him out for walks.

One of the advantages of a behaviour consultation with our holistic vet is that she will consider your dog’s diet, health, and exercise when assessing problem behaviours. Key areas she will consider are the quality and quantity or protein, and how often the dogs is fed. Not all protein sources are the same; muscle meat is important in a dog’s diet to supply essential amino acids. These can’t be manufactured in the body and are vital building blocks for proteins, hormones, and messenger chemicals in the body and brain. Some diets seem to have sufficient protein, but it comes from vegetable sources, or from feet and feathers which don’t have the right levels of essential amino acids. Some dogs cope well when fed once a day, but the very active dog, young dogs, and toy breeds can suffer from low blood sugar on once a day feeding. Low blood sugar can cause confusion, grumpiness, and in severe cases collapse or fits.

A DIET TO RAISE SEROTONIN

For some dogs low serotonin is the cause of their problem behaviours, or makes it difficult for them to learn new behaviours. Serotonin levels in the brain can be raised through the use of drugs usually used for depression in people. Unfortunately these drugs can have side effects and getting the right drug for the dog (or human!) can be a case of trial and error. In many dogs, switching from a diet with low protein quantity or quality (like the springer we discussed above) to a diet with higher muscle meat levels, or a raw meat based diet can lead to improved behaviour. In others behaviour does not improve enough. Various supplements are sold containing tryptophan, the essential amino acid which is needed to produce serotonin. These have a limited effect on brain serotonin levels however, as tryptophan is often broken down before enough of it can enter the brain as it competes with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier.

The good news is that our clever colleagues have designed a diet that allows plenty of tryptophan to enter the brain, which in turn means higher serotonin levels, and a happier dog!

We have been recommending this serotonin raising diet to our clients for several years and we have used it with owners who are raw feeding, as well as those who prefer prepared wet or dry foods, Sadly the DIY version we recommend has proved difficult for some owners as it involves feeding four times a day. For owners who raw feed, or who have very fussy dogs we will still recommend the DIY serotonin raising diet (please book as consultation for details!). However, for those owners who would prefer to feed a kibble food twice a day we will recommend Breakthrough ™.

If you think your dog might benefit from either the DIY serotonin boosting diet, or from Breakthrough™, we would strongly advise you to book a behavioural assessment. If you decide to try Breakthrough™ before a consultation, please thank us for making you aware of it by choosing 02301 Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care as your referring behaviour practice.

KIBBLE? BUT AREN’T YOU PRO RAW FEEDING!!!!?

We don’t judge our clients. We aim to help as many pet owners as possible improve the physical and mental health of their pets through a truly holistic combination of conventional diagnostics, conventional medicines, acupuncture, physical therapy, behavioural assessment and treatment, herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, and dietary changes, as appropriate for each client and pet.

We do love raw feeding as it allows owners to feed high quality protein, and to know exactly what their pet is eating. Some dogs don’t do well on grain based diets, and others become intolerant of processed meat proteins so raw feeding can be ideal for these pets. It can be a cost effective way to feed, and when whole meaty bones are fed there is ample opportunity for chewing and food play. However, raw feeding isn’t for everyone! It may not be safe for those who are immunocompromised, and may not be practical for those without room to store meat and bones. It is also unsuitable for dogs with food guarding issues until these have been addressed. If our clients want to feed raw we will help them every step of the way, even adapting the serotonin raising diet to suit raw feeding. However, for those who can’t or won’t raw feed, we will work with our client to find the best alternative.

 

ST JOHN’S WORT WORRIES

ST JOHN’S WORT RECALL

sjw

This week six batches of St John’s Wort products have been recalled because they have been found to contain  high levels of a toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA). As PAs are not found in St John’s Wort it is thought that the products have been contaminated with weeds collected during harvest. Certain PAs can lead to liver damage if taken over a period of time and anyone using the affected products should stop using them for themselves or their pets straight away.

Whilst it is good news that these products have been tested, and a problem detected, it is concerning that the manufacturers do not appear to be taking the quality of their raw ingredients seriously enough. We have previously discussed herbal remedies which don’t contain any of the active chemicals, but accidental contamination and deliberate substitution of herbs are also risks.

The herbs that we supply come from companies which only supply trained herbal practitioners. They produce herbs to the same standard as pharmaceutical drugs, and check the chemical profiles of their products to ensure quality and safety.

For safe, effective herbal medicines for your pet always consult a trained Veterinary Herbalist!

For information on the recalled products:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/precautionary-recall-six-batches-of-st-johns-wort-tablets

To find a Veterinary herbalist near you:

http://www.herbalvets.org.uk/