The Thought behind the Needles, the Herbs, and Alternatives
What does it all mean?
Where does it fit my life and in my pet’s life?
I can’t even read the back of a food label anymore without mispronouncing ingredients!!
This blog was created in order to answer some questions you may have regarding these types of treatment modalities. With all the different strong beliefs out there, confusion with words, and uncertainty, it’s no wonder we can get so easily disoriented.
Let’s start by defining these different phrases for you as best we know how.
According to NIH (the national center for integrative health), the definitions are pretty simple. Complementary medicine is when alternative medicine is used along with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is when non-mainstream practices are used in place of Western or conventional medicine. Integrative medicine is a little bit of a gray zone between these, and mostly means “bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.” Natural medicine or natural healing can be grouped to
gether with alternative therapy using natural and organic home remedies. An example of this would
be my mother, who felt that apple cider vinegar was the cure for everything that ails you!
While some people may already be very interested in complementary and integrative medicine, some may not feel very comfortable with it as a modality. How can some random laser fix a skin issue when I can’t see anything happening? You want to stick needles in my cat and expect it to help back pain? You think these herbs that smell a bit like grass can help my dog’s neck issue? A change in diet really doesn’t make that big of a difference…does it?
No, I get it. I was conventionally trained in veterinary school. While trying to cram all things in regarding the body system of all animals, the disease processes and how they worked, all treatment options, there wasn’t much time to focus on ‘alternative medicine.’ At the time of my schooling, I also didn’t understand how alternative treatments could work. Is there science behind it? People still joke by saying I am practicing ‘voo-doo’ medicine!
After some years out of school, I realized that sometimes we don’t have all the answers or the ability to manage pain even with all our conventional advancements. I started to become frustrated when I couldn’t give other options to alleviate pain, couldn’t always address animals that wouldn’t take pills, and was interested in seeing each patient, each animal, more as a whole being rather than just a presenting problem such as ‘back pain,’ ‘diabetes,’ or ‘lick granuloma.’
The purpose of integrative medicine, for all intents and purposes, is choice and options. We have scientific evidence that these modalities work in certain situations. We have seen the proof with the application in our hospital. The purpose is to help your animal, your pet, your furbaby, any safe way we can to alleviate any pain or discomfort that may be present and to promote overall balance, whether that be a mental or physical condition.
That depends on you and your animal! I can, however, go over some of the types of complementary medicine we are currently offering, and expand on where we want to go as well! Because these can be very detailed for each specific modality, we plan on being more informative in subsequent blog articles! Keep watching to learn more.
What we do now:
- Acupuncture – Dr. Tracy is currently certified in Veterinary Acupuncture from the Chi Institute. This means that she has not only pursued the training, she has also gone through the process to achieve her certification by pursuing multiple case studies and additional training.
- Cold Laser – cold laser therapy utilizes photons of light to bring in healing cells and reduce inflammation. It can be used in a number of acute and chronic conditions such as skin issues, arthritis, chronic ear infections, and joint issues. Once again, we will address some of the myths/truths about this therapy and how it works along with testimonials in a later blog post.
- Herbal Medication – during her acupuncture training, Dr. Tracy studied traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, which also included Herbal Medication. This has been integrated into the therapeutic protocol for many of her patients, and she plans on continuing broaden this offering over the next several months.
- Fear Free Certification/Cat Friendly Practice – this may not seem alternative or that is has anything to do with integrative medicine, but we believe that mental health and wellness play a huge role in how comfortable you and your pet are. By attempting to apply Fear Free protocols to our exams and procedures, we are able to ideally help your pets respond better overall by making wellness and sick visits less stressful.
Where we’d like to go:
- Herbal Medication Certification – while this may take a few years, Dr. Tracy is planning to achieve her CVCH, or Certification of Veterinary Chinese Herbs
- Physical therapy certification – this is also on the horizon to integrate physical therapy into our protocols for overall health of your patient and to aid with pain and inflammation.
We look forward to writing more about this topic, and answering any questions you may have. Please let us know if you have any questions, or anything you are interested in we have yet to address!
Have a great end of your summer!
Dr. Tracy and Blue Ridge Animal Hospital
THUNDER, LIGHTENING, AND FIREWORKS!
Summer is once again upon us!! With warm weather we have all kinds of fun things to do. There are things to do outside, traveling on vacation, holidays to celebrate and unfortunately bad weather in the form of thunderstorms. We all know of or have lived with dogs that become anxious or even terrified during many of these events. Car ride anxieties, firework fears, and thunderstorm phobias. All of these things can cause potentially dangerous responses in our canine family members who simply cannot rationalize that there is nothing to fear from any of this. These responses can range from simple hiding to destruction of property to running away.
WHAT IS NOISE PHOBIA?
We have all been able to recognize fear in ourselves and our pets. Fear is a normal response. It is retained in our ‘reptilian brain.’ It was created in order to help us avoid potentially dangerous situations, keep us out of trouble, and basically, keep us alive (just doesn’t explain the dinosaurs!)
A problem arises when that system is over-active or ‘up-regulated’ to a stimulus, such as a sound, sight, or event. Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, is a clinical instructor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University where she also studies behavior. She states that “Noise phobia is an extreme, persistent fear of auditory stimuli that is out of proportion to the real danger, if any, associated with the noise. There is no survival advantage conferred on an animal that panics in response to things that are not truly threatening or dangerous.”
So basically what this means is that the sound of thunder isn’t just a single ‘boom’ to your noise phobic dog. It’s a boom that signifies the end of the world is coming soon, and there’s no way to convince him or her otherwise until it’s over. That’s a pretty scary thing!!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
First of all, know you’re not alone in this! Concerns from pet parents involving noise anxiety and separation anxiety account for a large percentage of veterinary visits. Even more sobering, it is one of the top reasons animals are surrendered to shelters.
FIRST, KNOW THE SIGNS
Most of us know our pets very well! After we have known our pets long enough, we being to know the signs they exhibit when a thunderstorm is approaching. Starting treatment early and prior to any events can help reduce overall reactions and stress.
REALIZE IT WILL TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF TIME, A LITTLE BIT OF WORK, AND SOME ADJUSTMENTS:
Often, it is not a ‘one-step’ approach to this anxiety. This makes sense because of how deeply rooted the response can be. Here are some simple things you can try prior to or along with medications, depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation.
a.) There are natural anti-anxiety medications that can be used long-term or during the periods that we know there will be more anxiety, such as spring with thunderstorms, 4th of July fireworks, and New Year’s Eve. Solloquin and Composure are both recommended.
b.) ThunderShirt – You may read mixed reviews on this, which is true! The ThunderShirt can be the answer for some pets. However, the ThunderShirt is often an excellent addition to other types of treatment methods. Keep in mind that just because the ThunderShirt or these other medications don’t work like a ‘miracle cure,’ it does not mean that are ineffective. The idea is to reduce the doses of other drugs and medications, as well as reduce overall anxiety.
Acepromazine has previously been the ‘go-to’ medication for these phobias. The problem with this medication is how it works, which is important for us to understand. Ace does NOT dampen down the response center. It does not calm anxiety. Mostly it acts to slow the response system of the animal down. What this means is that your pet is still sitting there, feeling all of his/her anxiety, recognizing it’s there, but not being able to do anything about it. For that reason, some behaviorists are worried it may do more harm with the anxiety than good in the long-term, although it does make a difference in the signs they show.
We are excited to be able to offer a new product specifically formulated for this very problem. It is called Sileo and is the first and only FDA-approved treatment for canine noise aversion. It works by calming the dog, not sedating it, and this then allows your dog to continue to interact with and enjoy your family’s company, despite the triggers that would previously have made the dog miserable. It is very safe and has already proven effective in those we have tried on it. As with all medications, no matter what the species, some individuals won’t respond quite as well as others but with no side effects, it is worth considering. If you are interested in learning more about whether this might work for your canine best friend, please give us a call and we can talk about it. You can also look it up online at sileodogus.com.
As with all things, contact your local veterinarian first. Each patient is different, and all dogs may not respond the same. Realizing that all team members want to work together for the comfort of your baby will help greatly improve, no matter what ‘thunderstorms’ come your way!
Have a fantastic summer and enjoy life with your family, including the four legged members!
(Thank you to June Holden for your writing expertise and great help on this!)
Leptospirosis…sounds like something from a horror movie, doesn’t it?
Well, in a way, it kind of is.
So, what is it?
Leptospirosis is a bacteria, a spirochete to be exact. This is the same ‘type’ of bacteria as lyme disease. Why are these types of diseases and bacteria sometimes more dangerous to our body than the rest of the bacteria we are surrounded by everyday? The answer lies in the body’s response, or lack of response, to the bacteria as a whole.
How Does My Pet Become Infected?
Leptospirosis sneaks into the body through the mucous membranes or the intestinal tract. Because of the special shape and size of the bacteria, the body often cannot ‘clear it’ like it can other types of bacteria with which we come in contact. When an animal becomes infected, this bacteria can nestle in the kidneys, liver, and reproductive tract. Younger or immune compromised animals are at a higher risk for developing complications to this disease.
Exposure risks are increased to animals and people who live in wet and warm environments with high access to wildlife. Does this sound familiar Bedford?! It should! A recent article put Bedford County in the Top 10 Counties that have the highest risk of dogs contracting leptospirosis, which is estimated to be in in every 3.6 dogs!
Another problem with leptospirosis is that the signs can be vague. Unexplained pain throughout the body, increase in urinating, yellow discoloration of the eyes or skin, swelling of the lymph nodes, increased breathing. weakness…sounds like it covers the whole array of possibilities, doesn’t it? A recent study has suggested that the most common sign of an early leptospirosis infection is vomiting and diarrhea.
Liver and kidney failure are some known concerns that cause veterinarians to look and test for this bacteria, but a number of signs may be arise before this. If you are noticing any of these signs in your pet, ensure that you keep a well-documented journal to convey to your veterinary team. This may aid them in the diagnosis, and get your pet the treatment it needs faster!
Why Have I Never Heard of It?
Leptospirosis IS a zoonotic disease. This means that it can be spread from your pet to you and other humans. Leptospirosis is believed to be under-diagnosed. This is because just like the bacteria can hide in the body in the immune system, it can hide from current conventional testing methods. While there is research being done to make this testing easier, it is often not a ‘simple’ diagnosis.
This Sounds Terrible!
Leptospirosis can make your dog and you VERY sick, and can even lead to kidney and liver failure. There is a treatment for leptospirosis the bacteria, and if caught early enough, can prevent major organ failure. A long-term course of this antibiotic can generally address the infection, but you animal may run the risk of re-exposure or his/her infection not being cleared entirely!
So what else can you do about it? There is a vaccine for leptospirosis! Many dogs in highly at-risk areas may already be receiving this without even knowing it. However, talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s risk for exposure, the benefits and concerns for the vaccine, and other questions you might have.
In the mean time, have a wonderful and safe start of Spring!
Matters of the Heart
The heart is an amazing thing. As a metaphor, it represents our feelings, our emotions, our joys, and our struggles. As an organ, it represents the body’s amazing ability to adapt. A little bit of the same thing, right?
Fish have a two chambered heart. Some call this rudimentary as it allows some oxygenated blood to mix with unoxygenated blood, but it works just fine for the fish! Reptiles progressed to a 3 chambered heart, realizing the need for better oxygen exchange on land. Then came the mammals, which most of us know have 4 chambered hearts. Amazing the adaptations our bodies make! Even though the mammalian heart is an incredible and amazing biological entity, it can be faulty at times (especially for some of us with our dating picks in high school!)
Why are we focusing on hearts for this issue? Good question.
One reason is February has just finished up. Who can ignore the pull on the heart strings for Valentine’s Day?! Another reason is a bit more somber. According to the Drake Center for Veterinary Care, 10% of dogs seen in primary care facilities have some form of heart concerns. As our canine companions age, they state that the number of heart related concerns and diagnosis can reach up to 75% in senior pets. That is a scary number. Cats are said to be affected slightly less than their dog partners, although I was unable to find an exact percentage. This may be, like most things in cats, because it is often more difficult to see the signs of heart disease in our feline masters, and is sometimes more difficult to diagnose.
Dogs and Cats are different…
Heart disease is different for the 2 species as well. In dogs, a condition known as mitral valve deficiency is what causes the majority of conversation (Duke says 75% again), while cats most commonly experience hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (85 to 90% of cats, per Mercola). These terms are put here because odds are, us as pet owners will hear them one day even if we don’t understand everything about the disease itself.
What to do with this information…
Yet, take heart. The advancements in veterinary medicine have been astounding when it comes to cardiac care. Yet for all the advancements in the world of medicine, the most important diagnostic tool remains to be…you. Yes, you! The pet owner, mother/father, lover of the pet. How so? That’s why we are blogging, so let’s answer that!
You know your pet.
Have you noticed any signs related to heart disease or other symptoms. These include but aren’t limited to: coughing, shortness of breath, weakness after exercise, collapse, and increased breathing rates.
Has there been other dogs in your pets known family diagnosed with heart issues?
What breed is your dog or cat? Certain breeds may be more predisposed than others.
Do you give monthly heartworm prevention to your dog AND cat? Heartworm disease is a form of heart disease don’t forget!
Wellness care and exams
Even though you’re our best tool at home, veterinarians need to play a major role in evaluating your pets specific risks for heart disease.
As your pet ages, their risks increase just like in humans. Pets over the age of 7 should be seen by their regular vet at least twice a year
Often, a murmur (which is a change in the sound of blood flow in the heart) can be detected long before heart failure ever begins. Also, it is important to note that just because your pet may have been diagnosed with a murmur, does NOT mean he or she had heart failure.
Blood work and x-rays
Yearly or even twice a year exams are essential to evaluate for underlying things that you may not know to look for as your pet ages. This is why allowing a veterinarian to look for these things can be life-saving!
Blood work cannot diagnose heart disease directly, but it can help! For cats,there is a blood test called ProBNP that can help evaluate for heart concerns directly. For dogs, there is a value called CK that can be elevated in heart values. Other diseases such as thyroid disease and high blood pressure can greatly cause the heart to work harder.
X-rays are always a good idea if there is every a murmur noted. Even if the heart looks normal on x-rays, we have a base-line size to look at, are able to look at other things such as the chest/lungs, the intestines, and other organs.
What if my pet has already been diagnosed with a heart murmur or heart disease?
If your pet had been diagnosed with a heart issue, you are still considered the first line of defense for their treatment, care, and potential progression. What can you do at home if your pet has had the diagnosis of a ‘heart murmur,’ ‘cardiac insufficency,’ or ‘heart failure?’
Routine check ups
There are a number of factors and stages to heart disease. Once your pet has been diagnosed with a heart murmur, routine check-ups are essential! In dogs with progressive disease, plan on seeing your veterinarian at least every 3 months.
Veterinarians can discuss changes in medication, evaluating blood pressure, adjusting food, herbal treatments, acupuncture, and other things to keep your pet healthier over time.
Resting respiratory rate
This is the number one indicator of progression of heart disease and is absolutely free! Counting the number of breaths per minute your pet takes while he or she is sleeping is a key diagnostic tool. What we are looking for is increased rate over time.
Monitor for signs
Familiarize yourself with the signs of the progression of heart disease. You know your pet better than anyone else. If you see any signs that are concerning, contact your veterinarian.
Do NOT adjust any medications without discussing with your veterinarian
Even though you will become the expert with your pet and often know how they respond, please contact your veteriarian prior to adjusting any medications.
Discuss openly concerns about costs and treatment if they exist.
Sometimes heart disease isn’t always easy to treat, both for you and for your beloved pet.
Your veterinarian should offer you the best level of care, including an echocardiogram. Do not feel guilty or upset if you cannot do all the testing that is discussed. This is common, but feel comfortable having that conversation with your veterinarian.
All in all, I think that the best part about these matters of the heart is that few of us can argue that our pets have the biggest heart of all. With proper monitoring, we can often prevent problems before they start. With proper care, we can help even the biggest hearts prosper on.
Dr. Jessica Tracy of Blue Ridge Animal Hospital
It’s almost that time again! February is Pet Dental Health Awareness Month!
Many of you may be wondering what all the hype is about Pet Dental Month. Some of you may even be surprised there is a whole month dedicated to the health of our animals’ teeth. Blue Ridge is here to help you understand your pet’s dental health and what you can do to take charge of it.
42. That’s how many teeth are normally found in an adult dog’s mouth. That’s 10 more than the average human! A cat has even less at 30. As you can imagine, each of those little teeth provide their own microenvironment and are a haven for bacteria, plaque, tartar, and even food particles. The size and surface area of the teeth, if taken together, would be about the size of your hand. Take a look at your dog’s or cat’s mouth. How do those teeth look? If you see signs of infection and tartar, it is the same idea as a terrible skin infection or eye infection on the outside of your pet!
WHAT CAN WE DO?
– Preventative measures
a.) Brushing teeth. Yes, we know it’s tedious and often difficult. Many dogs and especially cats are not very willing for us to come at them with a foreign object that is expected to scratch all surface areas of their mouth. The good news? Training can help! The bad news? It may take some time, and brushing is still considered the best way to prevent dental disease long-term. Make sure you use ONLY doggie specific toothpaste. Human toothpaste has too much fluoride in it!
b.) Dental Diet. There are special diets specifically made for healthy teeth and gums.. The most effective diets are ones specifically formulated for this purpose and have research behind them, such as t/d by Hill’s and Royal Canin Dental Diet. My pets all have Royal Canin Dental Diet incorporated into their meals, and they absolutely love it!
c.) Rinses and water additives: Do rinses work? They can help. These rinses and additives can help reduce the number of bugs (bacteria) in the mouth. While this doesn’t address the plaque and tartar that’s already present, it can help cut down on bad breath and further infections. These rinses and additives can greatly benefit pets that have gingivitis with very little tartar present. Watch labels though! Most of these rinses contain fake sugars which certain pets may have more difficulty with than others. [Example of brand(s) you approve of?
d.) OraVet Chews: These chews have a special ingredient that can help reduce tartar from sticking to your pet’s teeth. Even though there are options when it comes to dental health chews these days, this is the only one on the market formulated with this special ingredient. It also makes their breath smell like vanilla cupcakes, so there is that!
– Yearly to biyearly dental cleaning
The hardest part about this for most people is the anesthesia and having to do it so routinely. The good news is that at Blue Ridge, we do anesthesia the same way you would expect at a human hospital. Your pet will receive an anesthetic protocol tailored to their needs. Blood work is done prior to the procedure. An IV catheter is placed, through which they receive IV fluids during the procedure.Their blood pressure, oxygen, EKG, and temperature, are monitored throughout the procedure. Blue Ridge uses a specialized warming blanket to keep them warm during their procedure. A nurse is present at all time monitoring and taking vitals. We even offer dental radiographs! This becomes very important in dogs and cats because the majority of their disease happens UNDER the gumline. Only certified personnel can perform any surgical removals of teeth or specialized cleaning. Keeping your pets’ safe and healthy during any procedure is our number one priority.
Know your pet!
– Most of the time, dogs and cats are great at hiding tooth pain. Watch them closely for any signs of a problem such as bad breath, cocking head to the same side while eating, slowing down when eating, bleeding gums, pawing at the mouth, or excessive drooling. If you’re seeing any of that, we want to know!
– Other Fun Facts
a.) Dental disease has been shown have effects on the heart and kidney. Severe dental disease has been linked to animals being more likely to promote heart issues and kidney failure.
b.) Veterinary Dentists do exist! For more extensive procedures such as root canals, a referral can be made by your regular veterinarian.
c.) Up to 80% of dog have dental disease by the age of 3!
As always, thanks for sinking your teeth into our blog! Look forward to hearing from you with any questions, and seeing your babies for their yearly dental cleanings soon.
As we enjoy the joys of the holiday season, we just wanted to wish everyone and their furry friends a VERY WONDERFUL Holiday Season.
WE NEED OUR LITTLE FUR FRIENDS…
(loosely based on We Need a Little Christmas by Johnny Mathis)
Pour out the kibble
Pick up the poop before we step in it again
Fill up the water bowl
I may be rushing things, but dinner time again now
For we love our little furry friends
Every single minute
Fur on every cushion
Tail wags and a pet
Yes, we need our little fur friends
Every single minute
They love them because they’re furry
And prove to us there is no hurry!
November happens to be pet diabetes awareness month. To some of you, the fact that dogs and cats can suffer from diabetes may come as a surprise. As a matter of fact, we are seeing a drastic rise in diabetes with our domesticated pets. It is estimate that 1 in every 200 cats and 1 in every 400 dogs will get diagnosed with diabetes in their lifetime. If you are one of our owners giving injections twice daily, you are most definitely not alone! There is even evidence that these numbers continue to rise almost at the same rate as the human epidemic. What could be causing these numbers to rise? One of the biggest health concerns facing our furry companions today is obesity and nutrition.
Obesity is known as a silent epidemic that is affecting our pets at an alarming rate. At this time, over 75% of patients that enter veterinary hospitals are considered overweight. This excess weight can lead to diseases and complications such as diabetes, arthritis, heart and vascular issues, and an overall decreased life span.
FAQs about Nutrition:
These are the questions and concerns most often heard from pet owners regarding weight and veterinary nutrition
1.) What about no by-products grain free diet?
By-products are actually the most nutrient-rich portion of the animal. By-products include liver and kidney portions. While we as humans may not like the idea of these products, they actually contain less calories on average, more protein (up to 10x more!), and more vitamins and minerals. When a company uses any material other than the meat, it is listed as ‘by-product.’ Recent marketing might tell us this is a negative concept, but it is actually a very healthy choice.
Grain-free is also a new hot topic in veterinary nutrition for many veterinary owners. Everywhere we go we are seeing signs of gluten free and grain free, so it must be better, right? Not necessarily. Gluten is generally used as a protein source and is not a filler. Grains are not generally the enemy with allergies or even intestinal upset. Few dogs have shown an allergy to wheat, but no evidence has been seen that link it to other grains. Corn has often been touted as having a nutrition deficit, but it is usually the first choice because the kernel of yellow corn contains 36 grams of protein and over 2743 IU of Vitamin A! Also, keep in mind that dogs and wolves are genetically different for their nutritional needs due to domestication. Wolves also ingest fiber sources through the intestines of their meal.
2.) Why would I want to use a veterinary specific diet over a regular over-the-counter diet or even feed less?
Veterinary weight loss diets allow you to feed a larger amount to get better results. This may sound strange, but one of the biggest factors leading to the lack of success in weight loss in pets has to do with their discomfort, vocalization, and requesting food from owners. The majority of these foods are formulated to have higher fiber and higher protein in general. This allows your pet to feel fuller LONGER. While it may seem that the cost could be a deterrent, a recent study in a veterinary journal states that weight loss food is cost neutral. This means the amount of money you spend on the food is the same as what you would spend addressing obesity related events that would occur secondary to carrying excess weight! (German 2015 JSP 56(6):366)
3.)Just a few treats aren’t THAT bad, right?!
The right treats aren’t that bad at all! However, the treats we generally feed are notorious for being the major culprit for leading to obesity. A small milkbone doesn’t look like it can be that suspicious, it can be loaded with calories. The diet plan can also help you save money on treats! Use items such as cauliflower, green beans, zucchini (chopped), and broccoli for treats. Many people would be surprised with how much their pets, even cats, can like these items once you find the right one!
4.) How much weight SHOULD my pet lose?
Each pet is different and an ideal body weight should be calculated by your veterinarian. However, the ideal weight loss in a dog is 1-2% per week in a dog or 0.5 – 1% in a cat.
5.) Any other tricks?
Food toys and food puzzles! These little tools increase exercise, stimulate the mind, increase movement, and lets your pet have fun! There are many types of these out there including KONG Wobbler, Seek A Treat, Buster FoodCube, Twist ‘n treat, Trixie Mad Scientist Cat, and PetSafe SlimCat to name a few!
Is your pet at risk for diabetes?
Welcome to our Blue Ridge Pet Blog!
We are glad to have you here and hope you enjoy the pages to come!
At Blue Ridge, we decided to start blogging in order to address some of the most common concerns, questions, and overall health concerns owners tend to have about their beloved fur children. Over the weeks we will address such pet parent ponderings as pet obesity, dental health, vaccines, behavior, blood testing and what it means, acupuncture and eastern medicine, what AAHA accreditation means to our clinic (and you), tick borne diseases…the possibilities are endless.
Do you have a question or topic you would like addressed in these pages? What have you been wondering about?
Please check back with us weekly for the adventure to begin.