by: Sharon Kopinak, DVM
Sharon Kopinak is a holistic veterinarian who treats animals with herbs, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine and magnets. She graduated in l966 from the Ontario Veterinary College and has practiced alternative veterinary medicine for the last 22 years. Sharon is widely regarded in the animal community as the best vet around. She has a practice in Rockwood, Ontario where people from all over the province come to have their dogs, cats, horses, birds and goats cared for naturally.
DIET AND PET FOOD There are many books on how to cook for your dog and lots of information on the internet. Breed clubs have various diets according to the breed because different breeds have different nutrient requirements.
RAW DIET Raw is always better. Raw food is beneficial because it has all the enzymes. However, some dogs don't like raw and sometimes when you're going from commercial to a raw or home-made diet, you're best to cook it first and then go to raw. The BARF diet works very well on many breeds, but it doesn't always work for all breeds. There is a booming cottage industry in Ontario where people make homemade food, usually in a frozen form, which is available at some pet stores, some health food stores or just locally, and people buy it when they don't have time to make the food themselves. You can find the food at Global and most small pet stores. There are many different companies now making raw food alternatives.
BONES Bones have the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio for dogs and cats because it's their natural source of calcium. If your dog hasn't had bones to chew on and been on a natural diet since puppy-hood, then the teeth aren't very strong. If you give bones to a five-year-old dog who's been on a commercial food, you'll be seeing the doggie dentist because they tend to crack their teeth. Dogs who have had bones since puppyhood will have stronger teeth. Wild animals are brought up to eat bones and they know how to handle them, but if your dog has never had chicken bones he's liable to choke. I don't give bones which can be chewed up because sooner or later you will have GI tract problems. There are natural pet food companies that simply grind the whole carcass finely and that tends to be pretty safe for dogs. Chicken necks tend to be crunchy and just disintegrate and the wing tips do too, but the other chicken bones are unsafe for dogs. I prefer bones they can chew on like hard soup bones which have marrow. They are quite thick and they have fun eating the marrow and chewing on whatever is left on the bones. When you cook bones, or boil them, cooking leaches a lot of the calcium and that makes the bone brittle and a big dog could break a cooked soup bone. When I left this morning, my four dogs all had bones to keep them happy while I'm gone. They say, "Just give us a bone and get out of here".
BONEMEAL: Swiss Herbal puts out a good one. We had it independently analyzed for heavy metal contamination and it came back clean.
DIAHRREA: Diahrrea is often related to diet. A home-cooked diet is No. 1. Try and cut the cereal grains out. Many cats do not tolerate cooked cereal grains like rice and oatmeal. You should have an entire virus profile done and hopefully it will be negative. If your pet eats well and has a good appetite but has a lot of loose stools he may need some digestive aids like pancreatic enzymes, which are the digestive enzymes for proteins, fats and carbohydrates. He may need some colloidal silver, which is very useful for destroying pathogens in the intestinal tract. If you have your own silver-making machines - 14, 15, 16 parts per million is ideal. Because the product is fairly pricey, we tend not to use so much, but if you make your own, use it generously and it's safe at that low concentration. Sometimes the animal needs a bowel protectant if he's had an irritated bowel for a long time. Slippery elm bark is good. Some cats will benefit from acidophilus, but others won't so you have to be careful. Most dogs will benefit from acidophilus. Your animal may not tolerate any kind of dairy product. So you're better off just to give him chicken and vegetables -- about 60/40 or 70/30% - that's meat and vegetables. Cats are obligatory carnivores so they require a lot more animal protein in their diet than dogs do.
WORMS For tape worms in cats, use ground pumpkin seeds. Put a teaspoon of ground pumpkin seeds in his food every day. Actually cats like pumpkin seeds. If he's got a real pot belly, he may be full of round worms or he may have been eating garbage. If you're perfectly sure of the kind of worm, you can use the natural de-wormers like the wormwood and black walnut combinations. You just use a pinch of wormwood for a cat. It's such a small amount and it's very convenient. You would have to give it for about a month - it's going to take time. You can also use the chemical pyrantel, which is very safe. By the way, the natural de-worming combination is deadly for horses.
AUTOIMMUNE: There are two beneficial products for autoimmune problems: (i) plant sterols (the better known trade name is Moducare) and (ii) homeopathic copper, gold and silver (by two companies -Dolisos and Heel). You may find that plant sterols will help to replace or decrease prednisone to a very, very small dose.
RESPIRATORY: Difficulty breathing out is usually asthma. Difficulty breathing in is usually related to sinuses or something in the upper part of the respiratory tract. If your animal has runny eyes along with a sinus problem, it could be allergies. Kidneys and sinus are on the same meridian, the kidney meridian, and you may need to strengthen or clean out the kidneys. Spring and fall are kidney/liver times of year. When the dandelion blooms and the goldenrod blooms, that's the peak time for kidney and liver problems and those are the herbs you use as a remedy. Dandelion in the spring and goldenrod flower in the fall. For liver, you use burdock in the spring and milk thistle, which is our scotch thistle, in the fall.
ARTHRITIS: For arthritis, I like standard white willow bark, yucca, and Devil's Claw, provided the animal is not allergic to any of those. For bad days I will add a homeopathic remedy like Heals, Traumad or Zeal put out by Heel, or even straight Arnica D30. For cold damp days when fluid starts to accumulate in the joint, and causes pain and pressure, a mild diuretic such as a dandelion/juniper mixture is good. I have seen some success with glucosamine-chondroitin and a good diet because if your dog gets low in calcium, the arthritis will flare up. Remember that calcium and magnesium are brothers, and large breeds can easily get too low in magnesium and then don't absorb and process calcium properly. So, add a little bonemeal or even add magnesium. Magnesium citrate is best because it's fully absorbed. Many commercial pet foods are, in my opinion, a little low in magnesium and so you end up with a chronically lame dog because the calcium is too low. Some people are trying the elk velvet antler for dogs who have chronic arthritis associated with hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia with good results. You can buy the capsules in a health food store. A 30-pound animal will take half a human dose of Devil's Claw. A ten-pound animal would take a quarter to an eighth of the human dose on the package. You scrape a little bit of the tablet or capsule and mix it with something like a little bit of butter or cheese and make it into a paste and give it to them on your finger. Devil's claw and yucca seem to be pretty safe for cats.
CATS & ASPIRIN: Cats in general cannot tolerate salicylic acid products and that includes white willow bark and wintergreen, which probably has some white willow bark in it. However, cats do tolerate yucca and Devil's Claw very well.
TORN LIGAMENTS Surgery is often the lesser of two evils because those ligaments hold the bones together. You can have a partial tear, a complete tear, or a stretching. The problem is that when the ligaments are stretched or partially torn, if the dog takes off after a squirrel and forgets that he's got a sore leg, he'll tear them completely and then you will have massive joint instability which causes a lot of arthritis later on in life. Doing the surgery puts the stability back into the joint. There is a new technique that has been out for about a year - its called a tibial osteotomy and this particular technique works very well on dogs who have had complete tears of those ligaments. You have to see an orthopedic surgeon for that. In fact, I always recommend an orthopedic surgeon for orthopedic surgery. That's what they do every day. Again, nutritional status is very important so that your dog heals well.
SHEDDING What is the best way to control shedding problems? Some dogs shed a lot depending on the breed. Many dogs who are bred for the outdoors will shed all year round because living inside is abnormal for them. This breed grows a winter coat, gets rid of it in the summer and then grows another one, so when they are in the house where the temperature is 70 degrees all the time, they don't do that, they just keep growing and shedding, growing and shedding. You can keep the temperature of your house down to 50 degrees. That would help (laughter). He's got that furry coat that you have to brush every day.
FEAR: Some dogs fear loud noises -and that's belladonna D30. Gelsemium D30 (low potency) is your classic thunderstorm remedy and you can combine them with Rescue. Some dogs do well on the herbal combinations, like valerian-skullcap combinations, it just gives them enough of a sedative. And Highlands puts out a calm forte product and that sometimes works on dogs too.
EAR INFECTION If the right ear is often infected , the right ear signifies the immune system. The left ear signifies the liver. The left ear is often periodic, spring and fall. The right ear will often flare up during the change of seasons, especially from winter to early summer when the temperature suddenly goes from -25 degrees to 40 degrees above F. That's very hard on the immune system. The Chinese herb for that is astragalus, which is a pretty safe herb. I quite often use bee propolis or goldenseal to kill bugs in the ear. If it's only one ear, it's an organ system that's involved.
TEETH: Commercial food is detrimental to the teeth of cats and dogs. That's just my opinion. When I graduated in the sixties, they didn't do dentistry on pets. Every once in a while some dog might break his tooth on somebody's leg and so you had to sort of remove the tooth, but routine dentistry wasn't needed. Too many years of unsuitable food has caused a lot of teeth problems. Some breeds have worse teeth than others, so an improper diet augments the problem. In cats quite often teeth and kidney disease go hand in hand. The bacteria from the teeth land in the kidneys or the kidney function has allowed weak gums. If your pet already has teeth problems, go ahead and brush his teeth. You can even use the commercial paste or you can use a dilute solution like colloidal silver, dilute sea salt or dilute hydrogen peroxide, which help to keep the bacteria down in the mouth. But if your cat or dog has infected teeth, you really have to see a veterinary dentist because he is absorbing all those bacteria. The dentist is equipped with proper radiographic equipment to take proper dental x-rays to determine if in fact your pet does have roots that are infected that you just can't see from the outside. Prevention is best for teeth, 100% best. Some people feel that CoQ10 added to the dog or cat's diet helps to strengthen the gums. Certainly it is harmless and helps. And the Oxyfresh products are good too.
VACCINES: Look up Dr. Jean Dodds on the internet - there are lots of references. Dr. Jean Dodds is a well known veterinary pathologist from California, and she states unequivocally that one shot of the canine distemper vaccine at five months of age lasts a lifetime for a dog. It's extremely antigenic. The rabies vaccine should probably be given at five or six months of age, but NOT at a younger age. When dogs are vaccinated for rabies at 12 to 14 weeks of age, a titer taken at a later date will show the antibody level in the blood to be zero (titer means antibody levels). The vaccine quite often doesn't work. When the animal is three years old you can give another shot if he is exposed to wild animals. We prefer to do the titer rather than give a rabies shot to an animal in an apartment building who probably will never be exposed to a wild animal that's rabid. I try and use killed vaccines whenever possible. I only use feline killed distemper. I never use modified live. I use killed parvo which I have to bring it in from the States because it's no longer available in Canada. Never ever combine rabies vaccine with another vaccine. It must be given by itself.
SKIN: Hot spots are toxins blasting out of the system exactly dead on a meridian. The kidney/liver meridian is most common and when that happens you have to detoxify the system. The body doesn't know how to get rid of the overload so it tries to eliminate it through the skin.
LUMPS: A lump can be anything. It can be an injury, a benign tumour or a malignant tumour. It helps to make a diagnosis if you know how long the tumour took to appear, if it is painful, the colour, the consistency, whether its in the skin, under the skin or attached to underlying structures. There are a lot of diagnostic criteria that go into a lump.
LESION: If you have a lesion it may have been caused by a bite. To determine whether it's cancer, you need to have a diagnosis, which would require a biopsy. The treatment depends on the kind of cancer. Cancer falls into certain groups: the lymphoma groups, the carcinoma groups, the sarcoma groups, and they all have different causes and different treatments.