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April 2011

What Is Stress & How Do You Overcome Feeling Stressed?

Are you stressed out? If you’re like most Americans, chances are the answer is, “Heck, yeah!” Unfortunately, stress is now just a way of life for too many of us. Whether it’s concerns over the uncertain economy, struggling to meet deadlines at work, handling family emergencies, dealing with relationship woes, or even tolerating daily traffic jams, there seems to be an unending parade of stressors in modern life.

Since this is National Stress Awareness Month, now’s a good time to discuss the different aspects of stress, how it can help or hurt you, and the coping mechanisms that can diminish it. If you’re already feeling too stressed to read the rest of this article, you really need to … so take a deep breath and read on.

What is stress?

The term “stress” is used as an umbrella term that covers the range of physiological responses to certain life events, such as an imminent threat, a heated argument, and real or imagined danger. When you react to stress, your body is trying to protect itself in the face of certain challenges. By releasing adrenaline and cortisol hormones, your body readies you for action. Consequently, your blood pressure rises, breathing becomes more rapid and your heart pounds. These physiological changes help to boost your strength, bolster your stamina and hone your focus.

If you’re stressed, you’re not alone

According to a March survey, 77% of Americans suffer from job-related stress. Topping the list of workplace stressors was low pay; however, commuting, unreasonable workloads and layoff fears were not too far behind.

Common negative stressors include the death of a loved one, divorce, injury or illness. Even though most people associate stress with negative situations, stress can also arise in positive scenarios, too. Any highly charged situation, especially one which forces you to quickly react, can cause stress. Positive stressors include marriage, buying a house, having a child and getting a promotion. And, depending on your personality, you may suffer from self-imposed stress, from mental states like pessimism, perfectionism or the inability to accept uncertainty.

Are you a serial stressor?

Although stress helps you meet short-term challenges, chronic stress can leave your body both over stimulated and depleted, risking damage to your health. Long-term stress can suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, and can even lead to premature aging, leaving you more vulnerable to emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.

These are serious health concerns so we encourage you to take time to consider how you’ll react in various situations. Often, those who suffer from chronic stress don’t actually recognize when they are stressed. The warning signs include constantly worrying, feeling overwhelmed, sleeping too little and frequent colds. If you believe you might be suffering from chronic stress, the first step is to talk with your doctor. Beyond that, here are some specific ideas about how to reduce the impacts of stress in your life.

Tips for managing stress

To start, coping mechanisms such as smoking, overeating, avoiding social interactions, lashing out at others and abusing drugs are known to be harmful to your health. Fortunately, there are healthier ways to manage stress, including …

Guided Imagery … Think of a peaceful setting. Imagine all the details, including visuals, smells and sounds. Think about how calm you feel. Use this process whenever you are faced with stressful situations.

Talk to a Friend … Expressing your feelings to a trusted friend can lighten your load. Remember, the more you isolate yourself, the more susceptible you will be to stress.

Aromatherapy … Thanks to the nose’s strong ties to the brain, aromatherapy offers a quick and easy way to foster a relaxed state of mind. Lavender, citrus and vanilla are effective scents that can be purchased at health food stores.

Exercise … Walk, swim or take a bike ride. When you exercise at a certain level over a period of time, the body produces chemicals that can make you feel good. And, you’ll probably drop some weight, too.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids … Serotonin, a hormone found naturally in the brain, is responsible for controlling emotional responses and creating a sense of well-being. The EPA and DHA present in Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain healthy levels of serotonin.

Eat a Healthy Diet … Try to avoid fast foods loaded with fat and preservatives, overly salted foods, caffeine and sugar. Make sure your diet includes proteins, whole grains, fresh veggies and plenty of water.

Laugh … Laughing actually induces physical changes in your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.”

Meditate … It’s not necessary to take a class or even buy a book. Find a comfortable and quiet spot and think about all of the positive things in your life. Make an effort to feel truly thankful for each of them.

Enjoy Nature … Taking a walk outdoors can do you a world of good. Basking in sunshine not only feels good, it is good for your health, when taken in moderation. Sunshine helps stimulate serotonin, which can promote a good mental outlook.

Help Someone Else … Research reveals that people who engage in altruistic behavior are inclined to enjoy better mental health.

Learn to Say No … You may be surprised to learn that many people find it difficult to say “no”. Reserving this right every once in a while can keep you from filling up every minute of every day.

Indulge in Your Hobbies … When you do something you love to do, you go to a more positive emotional level.

Learn from Others … Do you admire how a friend or co-worker handles stressful situations? If so, observe (or simply ask them) how they do it. You may learn a helpful trick or two.

Do Nothing … Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it’s okay to just do nothing at all for a while. Stop whatever activity is at-hand and savor the moment.

Ask for Help … If you start to feel overwhelmed by chores or tasks, ask for help. It’s as simple as that!

Smile … Try it right now. You may find this minimal act an instant stress reducer.

Groove More … Treat yourself to some excellent tunes, preferably up-tempo.

Do One Thing at a Time … Smart phones and computers are great, but sometimes they can boggle the senses, increasing stress.

Hydrotherapy … Soaking in a hot bath sprinkled with epsom salts can help release muscle tension and get you ready for a good night’s sleep.

Curl up with a Friend … Spending quality time with your companion animal can lower blood pressure and stress levels.

No matter which techniques you choose to incorporate in your routine, we truly hope they’ll help you to live a more abundant life, with less abundant stress!


What Does The Term "Holistic" Really Mean?

The holistic approach to veterinary care has different meanings for different people. Essentially it means just what the name indicates - looking at “the whole” and not the individual parts. Holistic practitioners consider the whole of a companion animal’s being and how every discrete part works in relation to every other part. Fundamental to this mindset is that everything is interrelated and nothing occurs in isolation.

Furthermore, holistic veterinarians don’t only focus on physical aspects, they also consider the emotional, mental and spiritual elements. Holistic health boils down to balance; imbalance leads to disease. It’s important to remember that physical signs of illness may often be the last to appear, and that mental and emotional imbalance can lead to disease, too.

In the United States, veterinary medicine is usually divided into conventional and holistic medicine. In the conventional tradition, veterinarians focus almost solely on the physical evidence. Holistic medicine, which originated from ancient cultures (such as, Asian, Indian, African and Native American Indians) takes into consideration the mental and spiritual aspects, as well. In the treatment of their patients, holistic practitioners often use herbs, vitamins, minerals, homeopathy, energy medicine and other alternative methods. I believe in an integrative approach, taking the best of all forms of medicine and combining them to produce a modern holistic approach.

In addition to the internal workings of a companion animal’s body, holistic health explores the influence of external factors for their direct or indirect impacts on the body. In the case of companion animals, this includes their shelter, social interactions, levels of exercise and mental stimulation, diet, vaccination history, and any potential exposures to toxins.

A cornerstone of the holistic approach is nutrition, because the quality and type of foods consumed will play a significant role in overall health, on all levels. For example, studies show that an adequate intake of B complex vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids (like those found in fish oil) can help to promote emotional and mental health, for companion animals and humans.

A vital component of holistic care is taking a preventive stance - promoting wellness and balance to prevent illness in all its forms. Maintaining an excellent diet, stimulating the mind for emotional and mental well-being, and exercising appropriately for your pet’s age and body type are all critical to the holistic approach to leading a balanced life. I advocate these practices beginning as early as possible, so you won’t have to come see a veterinarian for imbalance and illness later in life. If their furry little bodies are in balance, and thus in good health, then the risk of disease is reduced, as is the need for pharmaceuticals.

While conventional medicine is highly valuable, sometimes it doesn’t tell the whole story. Fortunately, increasing numbers of conventional veterinarians are adopting a more integrative approach. Wellness programs and educational outlets (like this blog) are empowering pet parents to make informed decisions about their health and the health of their beloved companion animals.

The bottom line is that it is possible for you to develop and adopt a preventive care plan for your furry family members. In most cases, I recommend that pet parents work with both a conventional and a holistic veterinarian to foster a balanced life for their companion animals.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite holistic tips for companion animal care. Look for future posts on this blog to help your whole family achieve a new level of balance, and wellness.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals,

Article by Dr. Jane, product formulator for Life's Abundance


Canine Hypothyroidism - Find Out What It Means & What You Can Do To Help Your Dog

The sad truth is that incidences of canine hypothyroidism are on the rise. That’s why Dr. Sarah has dedicated this episode of Pet Talk to all the pups and pet parents who are dealing with this health challenge. Find out what a diagnosis means and what can be done to help a hypothyroidic dog live the best life possible. Watch now!


Pfizer Stopping Its Production Of ProMeris Flea & Tick Prevention Due To Study Linking It To Pemphigus Foliaceus

This article comes from Veterinary Practice News....

Study Links ProMeris to Pemphigus Foliaceus; Pfizer Stopping Its Production

Posted: April 18, 2011, 5:20 p.m., EDT
By Jessica Tremayne
Contributing Editor

A recent groundbreaking study of clinical, histological and immunological data of 22 cases of  Pemphigus foliaceus, or PF, shows evidence that it can occur as an adverse drug reaction to the canine flea and tick preventive ProMeris.

PF is the most common spontaneously occurring autoimmune skin disease of dogs and typically displays as lesions on the face, nasal planum and ears. The reaction is rare but serious, says the study’s lead author, Thierry Olivry, DrVet, PhD, Dipl. ACVD, of North Carolina State University.

Ultimately, ProMeris Duo (Metaflumizone–amitraz ), which is also used for treating demodicosis, will be discontinued. The product, marketed by Pfizer Animal Health, will be available while supplies last or until mid-September. ProMeris Duo is called ProMeris for Dogs in the US. It is a novel topical ectoparasiticide.

“ProMeris was one of the many products that Pfizer brought into its portfolio when we acquired Wyeth/Fort Dodge Animal Health,” says Jim Brick, director and team leader of U.S. marketing for Pfizer Inc.

“We have completed a thorough review and evaluation of the strategic fit into the Pfizer Animal Health portfolio, and have made the decision to discontinue the manufacture and sale of Promeris flea and tick control for dogs and cats.

“We notified our current customers of this decision in early April and will continue to fill their orders until Sept. 20, 2011, or while supplies last. We look forward to continuing to meet the needs of our customers with our evolving parasiticide portfolio.”

The study that gathered and presented the ProMeris findings was conducted by Dr. Olivry;  Ursula Oberkirchner, resident; and pathologist Keith Linder, DVM, PhD, all of North Carolina State University.

Since ProMeris’ introduction to U.S. and European markets in 2007, veterinarians have reported this adverse reaction, but previous case studies failed to use a drug-reaction probability scale and therefore an ADR couldn’t be definitively identified.

Olivry says this examination of all parameters studied suggests that this ADR might represent the first instance of contact drug-triggered PF to be published in Veterinary Dermatology. The article was published in the March issue of the joural.

 

Spontaneously occurring PF, thought to develop through genetic and environmental triggers, has a higher prevalence in chow chows and Akita Inus, whereas ProMeris-triggered PF has a higher occurrence in Labrador retrievers and other large-breed dogs, Olivry says.

The study found that ProMeris Duo-associated PF not only had a reaction to the same drug, but also shared many of the same phenotypes. Lesions in PD-triggered PF were found to be both localized and at distant locations from the point of application.

“We contacted specialists who had diagnosed these cases in the U.S. and Europe,” Olivry says. “Dogs were selected if they had a history of skin lesions that first arose at the PD application site, but dogs with a known history of autoimmune disease were omitted.”

Skin biopsies from said PD-associated lesions had to reveal microscopic characteristics similar to those of PF, which means the presence of superficial keratinocyte acantholysis.

“Referring veterinarians from cases used completed questionnaires providing information on the patient’s lesions and drug application history. Within the 22 dogs included in this study, two groups of affected animals were distinguished: dogs with localized signs or those who also exhibited distant skin lesions.”

Olivry’s goal in revealing his study findings is to provide veterinarians with information on the prognosis and management of this disease. In addition to skin lesions, more severe reactions can occur and can be long-lasting.

“Signs of systemic illness were reported in three dogs in the study, and four required immunosuppressive treatment,” Olivry says. “After ADR PD lesions occur and are then treated, they could recur at a later time without reapplying ProMeris Duo.”

Olivry says the study is referenced in Pubmed as:
Metaflumizone-amitraz (Promeris)-associated pustular acantholytic dermatitis in 22 dogs: evidence suggests contact drug-triggered pemphigus foliaceus.

An NCSU Case study

Olivry recommends that veterinarians use alternatives to ProMeris in animals known to have autoimmune disease, Labradors and other large-breed dogs, as well as in dogs that previously developed lesions.

“Dogs developed lesions in a draping pattern or along the dorsal side after having ProMeris Duo applied,” Olivry says. “Some dogs showed systemic signs that included lethargy, generalized pain and anorexia. In the case of a 7-year-old (spayed) female Labrador, a two-week history of skin lesions and lameness was presented.

“Ten months prior to referral, the dog’s monthly flea and tick prevention was changed from Frontline to PD. The patient received a total of three PD applications, three and five months separating them. One month after the third application of PD, the owner noticed extensive crusting on the application site between the shoulder blades as well as lameness in the left front leg. The dog was examined by the primary care veterinarian, who suspected a tick-borne disease as the cause of this dog’s lameness. Doxycycline was then prescribed.”

One of Olivry’s concerns with lesions occurring after ProMeris application is that primary care practitioners may not be able to identify or connect the product as a cause of the lesions and misdiagnose the patient, as in the case of the 7-year-old female Labrador. 

“Skin biopsies were taken from interscapular crusts and histopathology revealed an acantholytic dermatosis of unknown origin in the female Labrador,” Olivry says.

“The patient’s health worsened dramatically over the following days. The dog appeared in pain, she showed lameness of the left front paw and skin lesions had progressed. The veterinarian prescribed prednisone (1 mg/kg twice daily) and tramadol, while a fentanyl patch was applied and doxycycline was continued.

“Only minimal improvement of the lameness and skin lesions was seen with this regimen, and the patient was referred to North Carolina State University. Skin cytology was performed on pus obtained from a crusted lesion in the shoulder, and microscopic examination revealed neutrophils and acantholytic keratinocytes suggestive of PF. Serum was collected for detection of circulating antikeratinocyte autoantibody by indirect immunofluorescence (IF) in our laboratory.”

Based on the strong suspicion of the diagnosis of ProMeris-triggered pemphigus foliaceus (PTPF), Olivry says the dosage of prednisolone was increased to 1.5 mg/kg twice daily, and tramadol was to be given as needed to relieve pain.

“On histopathology, the presence of a superficial epidermal neutrophilic pustular dermatitis with keratinocyte acantholysis was confirmed, and bacteria or dermatophytes were not seen in the stratum corneum by special stains,” Olivry says.

“Direct IF performed on paraffin-embedded skin sections revealed the intercellular deposition of IgG and IgM in both lesional and perilesional epidermis. Circulating antikeratinocyte autoantibodies were not detected at 1:20 serum dilution.”

Olivry and his team concluded this case with a diagnosis of PTPF.

“The dog returned for a re-evaluation visit the following week,” Olivry says.  “At that time, skin lesions had improved, as there was only minor crusting left in the interscapular region and pinnae. The dog no longer exhibited signs of lameness, and tramadol was discontinued. The dose of prednisolone was tapered progressively over the following 11 days. The disease has remained in remission without any relapse for more than two years.”

Efficacy

Before ProMeris became available for veterinary purchase and distribution, studies evaluating its safety and efficacy reported the development of skin lesions at the site of drug application in some treated animals, Olivry says. In one clinical trial enrolling dogs with flea or tick infestation, six of 293 subjects (2 percent) exhibited skin hyperpigmentation, hair matting or scales at application sites.

In another experimental study of dogs infested with either fleas or ticks, one dog treated with ProMeris developed dorsal skin lesions that required treatment with an anti-inflammatory drug for seven days.

“Specific information on the frequency of these severe adverse drug reactions isn’t available, but it is important that veterinarians are aware of the product’s potential to cause the patient harm,” Olivry says. “Caution needs to be exercised if a vet decides to use this drug.”

  Diagnosing and Treating PTPF

(Editor’s note: The information in this story was taken directly from Oberkirchner U, Linder KE, Olivry T. Promeris-triggered pemphigus foliaceus in two dogs: case reports and recommendations for diagnosis and treatment. Veterinary Medicine, submitted March 2011. Not yet published).

How to diagnose generalized PTPF

• History of  ProMeris application. This may have begun months before the onset of clinical signs.
• Development of skin lesions (e.g. crusting, alopecia, erythema) at the site of PD application.
• Later development of skin lesions at sites distant from the PD application area.
• Systemic signs (lethargy, fever, pain, anorexia, lameness) may be present in most dogs.
• Perform cytological examination of visible pus and look for acantholytic epidermal cells typical of pemphigus foliaceus (PF).
• Take several biopsies from recent skin lesions, preferably from intact pustules, and submit them for routine histopathology. Microscopic lesions are identical to those of typical autoimmune PF.
How to treat generalized PTPF
• Do not reapply PD.
• Use a mid-potency topical glucocorticoid at the site of skin lesions if feasible.
• Use oral glucocorticoids at immunosuppressive dosages (e.g. prednisone or similar, 2-4 mg/kg/day)
• If signs do not undergo clinical remission within one month, or if they recur after dose tapering, add another immunosuppressive drug such as azathioprine (2 mg/kg/day) or cyclosporine (7-10 mg/kg/day)
• Treat until clinical remission of lesions and taper drug doses progressively until withdrawal, if at all possible.
• Prognosis is generally good. Most dogs with generalized PTPF are likely to achieve complete disease remission and complete drug withdrawal. Oral immunosuppression may be prolonged in some patients

 


How To Survive Allergy Season Naturally

For many, this is a joyous reprieve from the cold and being stuck indoors – but for others, it means the beginning of allergy and hay fever season. The good news is that there are many things you can do to naturally ease symptoms, such as sneezing and uncomfortable, itchy eyes.

First, identify your triggers. Tree, grass and weed pollens are the most common causes of eye, nose and throat irritation. Along with the daily weather, many sites can also help you keep an eye on allergen levels and pollen reports. While you may not want to postpone all of your outdoor plans, keeping windows closed on high count days and showering after spending time outside can help keep your home an allergy-free zone.

Watch what you eat. Some foods such as dairy can increase histamine levels in the body (and thus worsen allergy symptoms), so be sure to limit intake of these if you feel your allergies beginning to act up. Foods other that are likely to increase mucus and phlegm production include refined sugars, such as those in white flour and bread, soy, chocolate and salty foods.

Do try foods such as:

  • Nuts are a great source of magnesium and vitamin E. Studies have shown that magnesium helps protect against wheezing, thus helping minimize lung inflammation. Vitamin E protects the body from free radicals, which have the potential of causing oxidative tissue damage, triggering inflammation and problems like allergies and asthma.
  • Tomatoes, apples & oranges contain high levels of the antioxidant vitamin C, which is said to provide anti-inflammatory effects and offer protection against nasal allergies and wheezing.
  • Grapes, particularly the skin of red grapes, is filled with antioxidants and resveratrol, which reduces overall inflammation in the body, providing support for allergies and wheezing.

 

Additional Allergy Support

In addition, natural remedies can be used to help manage allergy symptoms and are not only safe, but also gentle on the body. Herbs such as Urtica urens and Plantago lanceolata (also known as plantain) contain effective anti-inflammatory and astringent properties and have a long history of treating inflammation, allergies and respiratory complaints. Homeopathic ingredients such as Allium cepa and Ars. Iod helps to control allergy symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, and eye inflammation.

HayFever Fighter™ is a homeopathic remedy that relieves symptoms of hay fever and other allergies – sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose

AllergiClear™ is an herbal remedy that helps keep histamine levels in the normal range for optimal respiratory health


Is It Safe to Feed My Pet Food From the Table?

How many times have you given into your pet’s longing eyes, drooling mouth, or persistent paw tapping your leg the last time you were enjoying your dinner? While it’s hard to resist a begging pet, you should think twice before giving table scraps to your dog or cat – some foods can lead to digestive upset or even be toxic!

According to the ASPCA, some very common foods can be harmful to your pet:

  • Chocolate—You should never share this treat with your pets, as cocoa beans contain the chemical theobromine, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Grapes—This yummy fruit has been linked to cases of acute kidney failure in pets.
  • Fatty foods—Fats are tough for a dog to digest and can overtax the pancreas, increasing the risk of potentially fatal pancreatitis.
  • Nuts—Nuts contain high levels of phosphorus, which has been linked to the formation of bladder stones. Macadamia nuts are especially harmful.
  • Onions—Studies have shown that onions as well as onion powder can lead to hemolytic anemia in dogs.
  • Artificial sweeteners—Within just 30 minutes of consuming large amounts of these synthetic sugars, signs of toxicity can become apparent and immediate veterinary treatment is necessary.
  • Turkey skin—The consumption of turkey skin has been linked to acute pancreatic.

While not deadly, there are also some foods you should avoid feeding your pet to minimize unpleasant side effects like diarrhea and excess gas.

Avoid feeding your pet cauliflower or eggs, which are both notorious for causing flatulence in pets. Also, avoid giving your kitten or cat milk. While cats can tolerate small quantities of milk, the sugars in it will likely cause stomach troubles such as cramps, gas, and diarrhea, as most adult cats are actually likely to be lactose-intolerant, as production of the enzyme needed to digest milk slows with age.

Digestive Support™ Promotes system detoxification to eliminate harmful wastes and toxins


Fish Oil Part of Regimen to Protect Against Heart Disease

In the first large-scale study of its kind, researchers from the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan investigated the health effects of daily Omega-3 supplements in combination with a drug commonly prescribed for those at-risk for heart attacks, angina and other coronary events.

Patients were all identified as having higher than average levels of cholesterol. They were divided into two groups: a main group that included nearly 15,000 participants with no prior history of coronary artery disease, and a secondary group with over 3,600 subjects with a prior history of coronary artery disease. Some of each group were given highly-purified fish oil supplements in addition to statins (enzyme blockers that lower cholesterol levels in the blood by reducing the production of cholesterol by the liver), while others were given only the prescription drug.

Over the course of the nearly five-year study, there was a significant difference between those receiving the fish oil supplements and those who did not. While both therapies proved effective in reducing levels of cholesterol, participants taking the fish oil supplements and statins had a 19% reduction in risk for heart illness. The research also noted that a similar, preventative benefit from daily fish oil supplementation that may convey to those not currently deemed at-risk for heart problems.

“Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on cardiovascular events in Japanese patients with hypercholesterolemia: rationale, design, and baseline characteristics of the Japan EPA Lipid Intervention Study (JELIS).” American Heart Journal. 2003 Oct;146(4):613-20.

Learn more about the benefits of fish oil and how to rate fish oils