Ask Dr Jane

Why Do Dogs Need Antioxidants?

Many of us are familiar with the idea of antioxidants, and we know they are a good thing for both dogs and humans, but do you know why? There’s a reason we put so much thought and effort into our formulations at Life’s Abundance, and antioxidants are some of our favorite ingredients!

To understand why antioxidants are vital to health, you need to know about free radicals, a by-product of normal metabolism. When oxygen molecules are split into two oxygen atoms, they are missing one electron ... thus a free radical is born. These little guys are highly reactive, so they steal electrons from other molecules, which also become free radicals. Cellular components such as proteins, DNA and cell membranes can be negatively affected, further creating more free radicals. Why is this problematic for health? Well, the DNA damage causes cells to reproduce incorrectly, which can lead to abnormalities.

How do antioxidants work? They can donate an electron to a free radical without becoming unstable themselves. In fact, many scientists now refer to antioxidants as ROS, or Reactive Oxygen Species. In essence, they neutralize damaging free radicals and break the replicating cycle.

Why do dogs need antioxidants? As pets age, the free radical damage accumulates and accelerates. It contributes to the natural declines due to aging, and can trigger some illnesses due to damaged cellular DNA. So, how are free radicals counteracted? Perhaps the best, most natural way is through antioxidants!

Why are antioxidants so often linked with brain health? With aging, many canines experience some degree of cognitive decline. This can manifest as changes in behaviors, lapses in house training, altered sleep cycles, disorientation and repetitive behaviors such as pacing or licking. Learning and memory deficits may begin in pets as young as six years of age, though many pet parents don’t notice until pets are quite a bit older. There’s good news, however. Senior dogs fed a diet high in antioxidants actually perform better on tests that assess their ability to problem solve!

Who should be taking antioxidants? Everyone, including your dogs! While the benefits are most obvious for seniors, all of us are exposed to free radicals on a regular basis. Early nutritional support with antioxidants is a great way to maintain vibrant health. Even though the body produces some antioxidants on its own, the most significant way to get antioxidants into the body is through nutrition. Fruits, vegetables and even some herbs are high in antioxidants such as lycopene, carotenoids, lutein, and vitamins E and C.

Antiox-bars-2016

Antioxidant Health Bars help maintain a healthy immune system

What’s an easy way to make sure my dog is getting guaranteed amounts of antioxidants? This month, I encourage you to try one of our premium baked treats, Antioxidant Health Bars. Featuring the great taste of apples, peanut butter and honey, dogs just can’t resist these delicious bars, which also include oatmeal, brown rice, ground flaxseed, dates, rolled oats, flaxseed oil, eggs, cranberries and carrots. Since antioxidants are so important to maintaining a healthy immune system, we’ve added a hefty helping of vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene. And the amounts of these important nutrients are guaranteed, so you know exactly how much nutrition your dog is receiving on a daily basis.

Thank you for everything you do to make the world a better place for companion animals!

Drjaneandus

written by Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM (here we are with Dr Jane)


Does Your Cat Suffer With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Girl With Cat

Second only to upper-respiratory illness, digestive disorders are the chief reason for feline veterinary visits. Cats with digestive problems exhibit symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea, to weight loss, constipation and excessive gas. While the causes are many, feline IBS and IBD are two common digestive disorders. On many occasions, they are mistaken for one another, which is unfortunate because they call for very different treatments. In this post, we’ll cover the basics and try to clear up the confusion surrounding these disorders.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, also affects humans. For us, symptoms of this disorder include lower abdominal pain, excessive gas and a marked change in stools, among others. All of these need not occur simultaneously, although they sometimes do. Causes range from suffering from excessive stress, taking a newly prescribed medication and the development of dietary sensitivities. In response, the intestinal tract repeatedly and painfully contracts, like a spasming muscle, leading to stool changes. If you or anyone you know has endured these symptoms, you’ll know that IBS is no walk in the park.

It may surprise you to learn that the gut has the largest concentration of nerves outside of the brain. In fact, both the gut and the brain originate from the same clump of cells that divide to form a fetus in utero. Further, the brain and gut are directly connected via the Vagus nerve. When the condition of one is upset, the other follows suit. It’s no wonder people say that they trust or think with their gut … half of your nerve cells are located there! Presumably, this is the reason you feel “butterflies in your stomach” before a public performance or any other event perceived as threatening or frightening.

It’s not too much of a leap to see that the same feelings and experiences apply to your cat’s system. Think about it … has your cat ever defecated in the carrier on the way to the vet, or other times when stressed or frightened? Has your cat inappropriately eliminated (i.e., outside the litterbox) or vomited when there were changes in your household, but most of the time behaves normally? If so, rest assured that this isn’t unusual. In fact, it happens fairly frequently and is referred to as feline IBS. The best way to deal with feline IBS is to effectively manage stress. For tips on moderating stressors in your cat’s life, we offer an article and a video previously posted on our blog.

Cat Sleeping

Conversely, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, is characterized by chronic diarrhea and/or vomiting, accompanied by gradual weight loss. In IBD, long-term intestinal inflammation leads to thickening of the gut’s lining. As the disease progresses, the thickening inhibits the body’s absorption of vital nutrients. As a consequence, cats lose weight in spite of having a normal - or even an increased - appetite. If left untreated, IBD can be debilitating and potentially fatal.

IBD is usually diagnosed by exclusion; that is, in most cases, bloodwork, fecal and urine tests all come back with normal results. When we see a cat who is experiencing chronic vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss, and all of these tests come back normal, IBD moves to the top of the diagnostic list.

A definitive diagnosis requires an intestinal biopsy done by endoscopy, so most pet parents elect to wait and see if medication and a diet change improve symptoms. The only real drawback to postponing the endoscopic procedure is that the symptoms for IBD are the same as those for intestinal lymphoma, a common cancer in cats, in which case catching it earlier is better. To make matters more complicated, cats with intestinal lymphoma can improve on the same medications used for IBD, albeit temporarily. If your cat is suffering from chronic digestive issues, I strongly advise you to make an appointment with your veterinarian sooner rather than later since delaying a diagnosis of cancer is never a good idea.

As mentioned above, treatment of IBD generally requires medication and a diet change. Prognosis depends on the severity of the disease and any concurrent factors, such as hyperthyroidism or kidney disease. Medications usually include an immune suppressant, like prednisolone or budesonide, and possibly an antibiotic. Dietary changes typically include adding soluble fiber and feeding smaller and more frequent meals, as well as feeding a food that features prebiotics and probiotics. Take the time to meet with your vet to determine a treatment suited just for your cat. The good news is that cats with IBD can enjoy a good quality of life and live for a long time with proper care.

As we’ve seen, IBS and IBD are two similar disorders but with very real differences. If your cat has occasional digestive problems during stressful events, but is not losing weight and appears otherwise normal, it’s probably IBS. It may be helpful to utilize the stress management tips linked above and talk with your vet about an appropriate treatment for anxiety and the occasional use of anti-diarrheal medication if your kitty has a flare-up. On the other hand, if your cat appears to have a more chronic problem marked by vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss, then you might be dealing with IBD. If this is the case, please have your sweet kitty checked by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, holistic pet product formulator


Understanding And Dealing With A Dog Or Cat Who Is Stressed

Depressed Dog

Over the course of the last decade, there’s been ample evidence to support the idea that chronic stress plays a contributing role in a variety of medical conditions in humans. It may come as no surprise that researchers have similarly determined that long-term stress can be a factor in the medical and compulsive disorders of companion animals. Conditions such as feline lower urinary tract disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, obesity, gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat), noise phobias and separation anxiety have all been found to have a chronic stress component in both dogs and cats (Luescher, 2003). Even so, compared to humans, relatively little research has been published regarding stress and its effects on companion animals.

Some presume that the effects of stress on dogs and cats are not much different than those on other non-human animals. But, it appears that they’d be wrong.

In the mammalian world, dogs and cats are unique due to the bonds they share with humans, marked by their social interactions and the human homes in which they commonly reside.

As dogs and cats have gradually changed from living in natural settings to co-habitating with humans, one might expect that they would have fewer stressors than their outdoor ancestors. However, the evidence seems to contradict this assumption. Some veterinarians argue that, even though environmental stress is lower for today’s companion animals (i.e., less risk of predation, starvation, etc.), overall stress levels are actually higher. Furthermore, current sources of stress - such as boarding, veterinarian examinations, long-term confinement in a crate, boredom, habitual inactivity and even the sounds of modern life - are ones against which dogs and cats may not have well-developed defenses and are often unavoidable.

Stress has been eloquently described as “the sum of all nonspecific biological phenomena caused by adverse conditions or influences ... include[ing] physical, chemical, and/or emotional factors to which an individual fails to make satisfactory adaption and that cause physiological tensions that may contribute to disease” (Campbell et al, 2004). Bodies manage stress through the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system (referred to as the “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis”). In general, the response of the autonomic nervous system is very rapid and specific, whereas the endocrine system adjusts more gradually and is broader in its effect.

In order to mount an adequate stress response, both the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system require nutrients that can only be obtained through dietary intake. For example, the endocrine messengers (norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and cortisol) are synthesized by the body. However, in order for the body to create these messengers, it needs to obtain tyrosine, choline and acetate, as well as cholesterol and acetate … all from dietary sources. Synthesis of these endocrine messengers is also dependent upon ingesting nutrients such as zinc, copper and manganese, as well as significant amounts of vitamin C. In the autonomic nervous system, signal transmission is made possible by electrical activity in the nerve cells. Fueling this activity requires dietary intake of sodium, calcium and potassium. All of these elements are vital for normal nervous and endocrine system responses to stress.

As a holistic pet food formulator, I know that the way the body responds to stress and chronic disease might have predisposing nutritional factors, such as a nutrient deficiency, imbalance, or toxicity. A good formulator must know whether or not supplementation of a given nutrient can help a companion animal manage stress effectively.

In spite of how well you care for your dog or cat, it is still likely that they will encounter daily stressors. While unavoidable, it is possible to minimize the effects through a combination of exercise, nutrition and holistic treatments.

Substances like valerian, chamomile and inositol can help to soothe the jangled nerves of dogs. Pheromone diffusers and sprays are effective stress reducers for both dogs (D.A.P) and cats (Feliway). If your budget is tight, you can do pet massage at home to help relieve tension. To develop a program of stress reduction that’s uniquely suited to your companion animal’s needs, consider enlisting the help of an alternative-medicine or holistic veterinarian.

Perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that providing proper nutrition is vital for helping companion animals deal with stress and lead long, healthy and happy lives. In addition to feeding a high quality diet, feeding them a daily supplement is a simple way to ensure sufficient nutrients to maintain a healthy endocrine and nervous system, in turn helping to cope with any stress your pet encounters.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals. Each and every one of you has my sincerest wishes for holiday full of joy, and a wonderful new year of health!

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance pet product formulator


Pet Food Super Powers

Super girl and dog

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until nearly the 20th Century that pet food was something distinct from scraps derived from human diets. However, only in the past four decades has the emphasis on health-promotion entered the mix. Some of our readers will no doubt recall the “Gravy Train” commercials of the 70’s. Pet food certainly has changed dramatically since those days!

Back in 1999, our company was born of the true revolution in health-promoting diets for companion animals. As a holistic veterinarian formulator, I’m proud to say our nourishing formulas have made a real difference for the dogs and cats who enjoy our products every day.

As many Life’s Abundance customers have witnessed firsthand, simply feeding a dog or cat appropriate nutrition can go a long ways to promoting health. But how exactly does food alone help to protect wellness? In the following, we’ll explore four ways that nutrition packs a powerful punch!

Edible Immune Protection

One of the best ways you can protect your pet kid is by building up his or her immune system. The scientific evidence is clear … a stressed body has a lower immunity compared to a non-stressed individual. Veterinary behaviorists are just discovering sources of stress in companion animals. Many focus on domesticated cats, who have on the evolutionary scale only just recently made the switch to indoor living. Even though we don’t know all the things that cause stress, or even recognize all the symptoms of stress in pet kids, we do know that actively trying to improve their immunity with proper nutrition is worthwhile.

At Life’s Abundance, we were one of the first to add fruits and vegetables to our formulas. They naturally offer huge amounts of flavanoids, vitamin E, C and so much more. Antioxidants are just one of the many reasons doctors and dieticians say, “eat your fruits and veggies!” A 2002 study suggests that antioxidant supplementation can achieve sustained increases in circulating levels of antioxidants that exert a protective effect by a decrease in DNA damage, leading to improved immunological performance.

Our formulas feature guaranteed levels of Vitamin E and C, as well as guaranteed amounts of probiotics, important to gut health and immunity.

Dog With Apple

Healthy Joints

Joint health, which affects one’s ability to get around, is obviously important to your pet kid’s quality of life. Foods and dietary supplements that contain natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been scientifically shown to promote cartilage, joint and connective tissue health. This is done by decreasing the enzymatic activity that breaks down cartilage in canine joints. These compounds, along with other synergistic ingredients, are found in Life’s Abundance Agility Supplement.

Possibly even more important to your pet kid’s joint health is maintaining a healthy, size and breed-appropriate weight. Your first clue that your dog or cat is too heavy is when you cannot easily distinguish the ribs (and the spaces between them). Measure out proper meal proportions for your companion animal, using the recommended servings as a guideline, to help maintain an ideal weight. If your dog needs to shed excess pounds, I strongly encourage you to cut back on portions and consider switching to our Weight Loss Formula for Adult Dogs. Of course, I can’t stress enough the importance of regular exercise, which also supports joint and bone health.

Sharp Minds & Shiny Coats

For cats and dogs, skin and hair condition reflects overall health and well-being. If your cat has a matted, greasy coat, or your dog’s once shiny coat has grown dull over time, these are examples of the body sending clear messages that something is up and you should schedule an appointment with the veterinarian.

To maintain healthy skin and coat, dogs and cats need to eat the appropriate ratio of fatty acids. Dogs cannot produce omega-6 fatty acids on their own, so it’s vital that they consume sufficient amounts through diet. In fact, new research is highlighting the importance of adding omega-3 fatty acid supplements to daily intake as well, but in proper ratios with other fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for pregnant dogs and for puppies, as they are required for brain and retinal development.

Proper Digestion from Tip to Tail

Many people don’t realize, but your pet’s digestion starts with his or her teeth! Brushing your pet’s teeth at home, coupled with routine oral health check-ups at the vet, can have a phenomenally positive effect on your pet’s health. Giving your dog a daily dental treat and safe items to chew can benefit overall health and digestion.

And that’s just the beginning of a healthy digestive system. To keep things moving along the entire tract, all Life’s Abundance dry foods are formulated with prebiotic fiber, a plant-based carbohydrate that produces fatty acids. These fatty acids provide energy to the large intestine and promote overall health of the entire intestinal system.

We live in a very exciting and fortunate time. With all these advances in nutrition and veterinary medicine, our beloved pets will benefit, living longer and being healthier.

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks

REFERENCES:

Massimino S1, Kearns RJ, Loos KM, Burr J, Park JS, Chew B, Adams S, Hayek MG. Effects of age and dietary beta-carotene on immunological variables in dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2003 Nov-Dec;17(6):835-42.

Heaton PR1, Reed CF, Mann SJ, Ransley R, Stevenson J, Charlton CJ, Smith BH, Harper EJ, Rawlings JM. Role of dietary antioxidants to protect against DNA damage in adult dogs. J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1720S-4S


The Inside Scoop On Homemade Pet Food

 

GirlCooking

If you’re reading this, chances are it’s not the first time you’ve given some degree of thought to the concept of a homemade pet diet. Whether you regard this topic with interest or with repulsion, a series of pet food recalls combined with the ‘foodie’ movement have resulted in growing discussion among pet parents about the costs and benefits of becoming a personal chef for one’s pet kids.

So, what are some of the reasons pet parents turn to making their own pet food? While motivations can be deeply personal, they commonly fall into these categories:

1. Your veterinarian prescribed food that your pet kid won’t eat
2. You have made specific dietary choices and want to extend them to your animal family members
3. You only trust food which comes out of your kitchen
4. You are hoping to alleviate the symptoms or severity of a medical diagnosis
5. You are ambivalent about commercial pet food and curious to see if you could get better results
6. A belief that you could save some money

While these questions provide some food for thought, motivation alone is not an assurance of health and wellbeing for pet kids. When deciding what to feed their companion animals, pet parent’s choices must be backed up by expertise and solid knowledge. So, what actually does go into the decision to take the plunge into homemade pet food?

BloggrainfreedogfoodPet Parent Education: Intensive

In the era of Pinterest, there are loads of DIY pet food recipes and enthusiastic testimonials. Some of these recipes give the appearance of being well-balanced and reasonably easy, and may even have a cute name.

But chances are that the vast majority of these will not provide pets with the nutrition they need. In an independent 2013 study of 200 homemade adult dog food recipes gathered from the internet, cookbooks and veterinarians, only five (2.5%) of them were nutritionally balanced. All five balanced recipes had come from veterinarians with advanced training in nutrition.

The takeaway here is that it is critical to involve a holistic or integrative veterinarian and/or a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the nutritional needs of your furry kid are being met.

Cost Analysis: Moderate - Intensive

If the financial bottom line is a priority, time should be spent doing an analysis of the daily cost to feed pet kids a balanced diet. With a quality recipe in hand, pet parents can take to the internet and local grocery stores to estimate the cost of the homemade meal before ever investing in buying the ingredients. The cost of any special equipment, like a meat grinder or food processor, and food storage containers, should also be factored in.

BloggrainfreecatIngredient Sourcing: Intensive

A balanced recipe from a qualified Veterinary Nutritionist is sure to include proteins, carbohydrates and a list of added vitamins and other nutritional supplements. As with any consumable product, there is great variation in the quality of all of these ingredients as well as variation in what is appropriate for different species. What many fail to realize is that improperly balanced nutrients can actually lead to a host of disease states, essentially creating toxicity within the body. To ensure maximum benefit, be certain that your nutritionist is explicit about cuts of meat and which supplements to purchase, and ensure that all of these questions are addressed:

What form should each supplement be in; liquid or powder? 
What source is okay for each supplement; synthetic, natural, purified, etc.?
Are there certain varieties of supplements that should be avoided; Cod Liver Oil or Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil? 
Are your personal dietary requirements being met; grain free or vegetarian?
Which cuts of meat are optimal, acceptable and should be avoided; white meat, dark meat, lean or fat?

Food Preparation & Storage: Moderate – Intensive

If you’ve ever done batch cooking for your human family, you’ll have an idea what it’s like to make your own pet food. This exercise takes advance planning, time management, practice and possibly endurance depending on how large a batch is being made.

This time commitment will vary by recipe, quality of equipment being used, size of the batch being prepared, and with fine tuning over time.

Food Serving: Minimal

Home prepared foods are refrigerated or frozen and may require warming to room temperature to serve. At issue here is the commitment to the frequency of this task more so than the amount of time required.

Given the level of difficulty in preparing home meals, and the expertise to get the formulas right every time, this probably isn’t a viable option for most pet parents. If you’re seeking holistic nutrition plus convenience and value, I urge you to consider the premium nutrition offered by any of our Life’s Abundance pet foods.

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator


The Special Bond Between Cats And Women

 

Girl playing with cat on rug

Have you ever wondered why women and cats have such strong relationships? Specifically, why some women (a very few, mind you) tend to collect large numbers of cats? While you’ve heard the term “crazy cat lady”, you never hear of “crazy gerbil ladies” or “crazy ferret ladies”!

In fact, some behavioral researchers wondered the same thing. A recently published study in the journal Behavioral Processes indicates the answer lies in a special bond that exists only between cats and women. Scientists from the Konrad Lorenz Research Station and the University of Vienna took a hard look at the behavioral interactions between 41 cats and their human companions, using individual personality assessments of both their human and feline subjects. Their findings might very well cause a paradigm shift in our understanding of these relationships.

Rather than being standoffish and selfish (as cats are often portrayed), the study showed that there was real attachment between cats and their pet parents. Of course, any cat parent will tell you these findings are not surprising in the least. As expected, the cats demonstrated food-seeking behavior, but the researchers also noted that cats and their people signaled each other when they wanted to receive or even give affection. Cats also demonstrated that they were able to keep track of how their physical and emotional needs were being met. Further, felines were more likely to remember kind gestures and respond to their human companion’s emotional needs if the human had previously responded to their own.

While these interactions were noted with both women and men living with cats, cats clearly approached women and initiated contact (i.e. jump in laps) more often than with men. In fact, a cat’s relationship with a woman mirrored that of a human-human bond more than a human-animal bond, in that cats could tell their humans when to feed and interact with them and the humans would do it! Like a human infant, cats were seen to control when they were being fed. It is interesting to note that a cat’s mewl for food sounds eerily like that of a human infant.

The results of the study showed that cats and their pet parents, particularly women, influence each other strongly. In some ways, they can actually control one another’s behaviors. "A relationship between a cat and a human can involve mutual attraction, personality compatibility, ease of interaction, play, affection and social support," said co-author Dorothy Gracey of the University of Vienna. "A human and a cat mutually develop complex ritualized interactions that show substantial mutual understanding of each other's inclinations and preferences." While I wouldn’t go so far as to say cats can manipulate women, the results of this study certainly provide food for thought.

Knowing that cats have a much shorter evolutionary history of living with humans than dogs makes these findings even more astounding! Is it possible that women who provide homes for many cats simply cannot help themselves? There are so many new questions! Obviously, this study only scratches the surface of the complexity found in human-cat relationships. So, the next time you interact with your cat, I challenge you to ask yourself who is really running the show.

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

 

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Does Your Dog Or Cat Suffer From Anxiety?

 

Jack Russell

As pet parents, we’re all vaguely aware that we should minimize the stress our pet kids experience. As a veterinarian, I think it’s important that we also comprehend the health risks of prolonged anxiety, too. The fact is, living in a fearful or anxious state for long periods of time can take a dramatic toll on the health of a companion animal.

DogbulgeyesAny time your pet feels endangered, whether the threat is real or imagined, the body prepares to defend itself by unleashing a torrent of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, that have far-reaching effects on the whole body. These hormones release energy, increasing respiration while inhibiting digestion, the immune system, growth, reproduction and even pain perception. These hormones also decrease blood flow to areas of the body that are necessary for movement. This is appropriate for survival in a real crisis, but when fear, anxiety or stress continues chronically, negative health effects are a real possibility. These effects could include fatigue, hypertension, gastrointestinal problems, skin disease, as well as metabolic and immune problems. You might be surprised to know that pets can manifest many of the same conditions that we do!

Chronic anxiety and stress can even cause permanent damage to the brain. We know that animals staying in shelter facilities are at increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, including upper respiratory tract infections, litterbox problems, hair loss and bladder inflammation. And that’s nothing compared to the extreme duress of prolonged fear experienced by dogs in puppy mills! We can see the affects of stress on dogs when they exhibit signs of stress colitis, an inflammatory GI condition that causes diarrhea - often seen after boarding, veterinary visits, or grooming. Stressed dogs suffering from separation anxiety can also be destructive, chewing carpet, baseboards, or scratching up doors. Dogs that are chronically stressed can lick themselves raw, creating skin conditions like lick granulomas.

Apart from the mental and physical distress, stress hormones also imprint any fearful situation firmly in your pet’s memory as something that was scary and life-threatening. These feelings can be recalled from something as seemingly innocuous as pinpricks from a vaccine needle, a person wearing a lab coat or the sight of nail clippers. Any memory of frightening situations can prove to be a powerful fear stimulus. When your companion animal encounters a similar sort of situation, the stress hormones are released and the fear cycle resumes all over again.

The effects of fear and anxiety can be profound and highly distressing. We need to recognize fear in our pets, do more to decrease their fear when possible, and prevent fear by associating potentially fearful situations with positive stimuli. As you can see, dogs and cats who demonstrate pathologic levels of fear or anxiety need our help, not only for their emotional well being, but their physical well being, too!

Be sure to watch this month’s episode of Pet Talk, where Dr. Sarah explains how you can reduce your pet kid’s stress before and during veterinary visits.

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

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Symptoms Your Dog Or Cat May Have Urinary Tract Illness

Girl hugging dog

Urinary tract infections in people are fairly straight forward. Sufferers  experience pain during urination or a frequent urge to go that is a false alarm.  For us humans, going to the doctor is usually the next step, whereupon a course  of antibiotics is prescribed which usually resolves the problem. Unfortunately, urinary tract infections for dogs and cats aren’t often a simple matter. These  infections oftentimes have underlying causes, such as urinary stones, anatomical  abnormalities, incontinence, hormonal conditions, stress or even cancer, any of  which can contribute to recurrent disease. To ascertain just what’s causing your  pet kid’s urinary tract issues really does require the expertise of your  veterinarian. Urinary tract conditions can be painful and debilitating, and it  is important to detect the signs early for the best chance of solving the  problem.

Traditional veterinarians like to focus on infection as a cause, and treat  with an antibiotic. Antibiotics can cure or eliminate symptoms, whether by  killing the bacteria or acidifying the urine. Sometimes, however, this course of  treatment doesn’t represent a final answer, unless a culture tells otherwise.  For me, as a holistic veterinarian, I look at every aspect of the problem.  Urinary tract syndromes are caused by many things and other parts of the body  need to be supported, too. For example, stress can cause urinary symptoms by its  affect on hormone production.

The good news is that the signs of urinary problems are fairly obvious in  both dogs and cats. Take your pet kid to the veterinarian if you notice any of  the following symptoms …

• Out-of-character elimination in the home that is, failure to maintain expected house or litter-box training

• A dog who asks to go outside more often or a cat making excessive trips the  litter box

• repeatedly assuming the posture to pee but very little is produced

• blood-tinged urine • excessive licking ‘back there’

• excessive drinking, panting and/or obvious discomfort

It is helpful to bring a fresh sample of urine to your vet’s office, which  can be tested for the presence of white blood cells, protein, crystals and  bacteria. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and may recommend additional  testing, such as a urine culture, blood work and x-rays, especially if this is a  recurring problems.

If tests reveal crystals in the urine, then there is a possibility of urinary  stones in the bladder or kidney. Some crystals/stones (struvite) can be  dissolved simply by changing to a prescription diet, while other crystals  (calcium oxalate) are more troublesome. For some cases of urinary stones,  surgery may be the only option.

Cats can develop stress cystitis, similar to a condition in human females. In  felines, the condition is commonly referred to FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract  disease) or FIC (feline interstitial cystitis). FIC appears to be a complex  condition unique to indoor kitties that involves the urinary, adrenal and  neurological systems.

New studies show that environmental enrichment can lower the incidence of feline lower urinary tract disease. If your cat is predisposed to this  condition, consider implementing the following improvements:

• Scoop litter box daily, sanitize weekly and provide one more box than the  number of cats in the household

• keep litter boxes in a quiet area, away from foot traffic

• provide multiple sources of fresh water and consider using a fountain

• feed a high quality diet, usually a combination of canned and dry food

• have multiple cat trees and hiding spots in order to increase the available vertical space for the cats

• increase petting, grooming and play activities that simulate hunting (i.e. toss kibble, feathered fishing pole, laser pointer)

• utilize feline pheromone spray (Feliway)

• consider use of anxitane or zylkene, herbal supplements to reduce stress (your  veterinarian can tell you more about the available options)

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a human, a cat or a dog … urinary tract  problems are no fun. Hopefully, with the information provided above, and with  the valuable consultation of your trusted veterinarian, a quick and effective  solution to your pet kid’s problems is well within reach.

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

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

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Signs Your Pet Kid Has A Hormonal Problem

 

Dog and cat laying on a blus couch

Pet parents postpone vet visits for all manner of reasons. Some fear what the  veterinarian will find during the examination, while others worry about the  costs. Regardless of the reasons for not keeping an appointment, the advantages  of regular check-ups simply cannot be understated … especially if you’ve been  noticing something different about your pet kid.

Has your dog’s weight ballooned over the past year? Or perhaps you’ve noticed  that your cat drinks more water than is typical … not only that, she’s actually  lost weight. Or, there are no kitty symptoms aside from non-stop meowing at  night. What many don’t realize is that unexpected changes in weight and eating  or drinking habits are all signs to keep that appointment with your  veterinarian. These are some of the common signs of feline and canine hormonal  abnormality.

Just like humans, our pets’ health and well-being are governed by their  endocrine system, a complex collection of glands and chemical messengers that  control everything from hair growth to metabolism. Also just like people, pets  can experience hormonal issues that may lead to more significant problems.

So what are the top signs that your pet might be suffering from a hormonal  problem?

1. Hair Loss

Your pet’s lustrous hair is getting thin. For dogs, this is especially true  for the trunk and tail. For cats, you’ll notice it first on the tips of their  ears. Hair loss can be a sign of abnormal thyroid levels, either low or high, or  even an early indicator of Cushing’s Syndrome. We’ll talk more about this  disease in a moment, which results from abnormally high levels of cortisol, a  hormone secreted by the adrenal gland.

2. Weight Gain

Stubborn fat that can’t be shed even with a strict diet. Unfortunately,  this too could be a sign of Cushing’s Syndrome or hypothyroidism. Companion  animals with Cushing’s also can have a pot belly despite being very active,  whereas pet kids with low thyroid function tend to be sluggish and seem  exhausted.

3. Sudden Weight Loss

It’s alarming when your pet kid eats with a voracious appetite, but is still  losing weight. This could be a sign of abnormally high thyroid levels (usually  in cats) or diabetes mellitus in either species.

4. Increased Thirst and Urination

As you might imagine, increased thirst and urination can be a sign of kidney  problems. But it can also be a sign of several hormonal disorders, including  hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s Syndrome and diabetes mellitus.

5. Other Symptoms:

Changes in appetite Increased panting Agitation and nervousness Changes in energy level

All of these are signs that something might be awry, and your dog or cat  needs a full checkup right away. Your veterinarian will ask you some questions,  examine your pet and usually recommend lab work. Most hormonal conditions are  easily diagnosed with blood work or urine analysis, and fortunately, most  conditions can be controlled with supplements or medication. As with most  diseases, early detection is essential to successful treatment or control of the  problem.

Now that we’ve covered what symptoms you need to be aware of, let’s take a  closer look at some of the most common hormonal conditions in dogs and cats.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is much more common in dogs than cats. It is caused by an  underactive thyroid gland, and symptoms include low energy, weight gain, hair  loss, even neurological dysfunction. It is treated with a thyroid supplement and  therapy is a life-long commitment.

Cushing’s Syndrome

Equally common in dogs and cats, Cushing’s Syndrome is due to an overactive  adrenal gland secreting too much cortisol. Common signs include increased  drinking, excess urination, increased appetite, weight gain and hair loss.  Cushing’s is diagnosed with blood work and sometimes abdominal ultrasound.  Treatment is achieved with a medication that is used to decrease cortisol  secretion or surgery to remove a tumor on the adrenal gland.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is seen primarily in cats, and is due to an overactive  thyroid. Signs include increased appetite, weight loss, increased thirst and  urination, hair loss and agitation. The condition can be treated with a  medication to decrease thyroid hormone, surgery to remove a thyroid tumor, or  possibly radioactive iodine.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is caused by decreased insulin or insulin resistance (Type 2,  primarily due to obesity) which leads to increased blood sugar levels. Signs  include weight loss, increased appetite, increased thirst and urination. This is  a serious condition if it remains untreated … severe cases can lead to coma or  even death. Treatment is with insulin injections and supervised weight loss.

Addison’s Syndrome

In many respects, Addison’s is the opposite of Cushing’s. It’s caused by an  underactive adrenal gland. The symptoms are usually severe, include vomiting,  diarrhea, lethargy and possibly even coma. Addison’s is diagnosed with blood  work and urine analysis, and the standard treatment is with hormone replacement  therapy. These patients are often very dehydrated when they are first seen by  veterinarians, which may necessitate hospitalization and intravenous fluids.

How can I prevent hormonal problems in my dog or cat?

New research is actively being done to determine the causes of hormonal  conditions in dogs and cats. One promising area of research is in the effects of  early spay/neuter surgeries. Veterinarians are studying what changes these  alterations have on the endocrine system of our companion animals.

Always feed your dog or cat the robust nutrition offered by premium quality food. Pet parents should consider providing a food supplement to support  health and overall well-being as well.

Make sure your companion animal receives an annual veterinary exam. If your  pet kid has achieved senior status, annual blood work and urine analysis play  key roles in early detection, before medical issues become full-blown problems.

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

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator


How To Reduce Household Stress On Your Dog Or Cat

Effects Of Household Stress On Your Pets

Sleeping Dog

Like children, pet kids are susceptible to changes in family dynamics. Sometimes, stress can cause them to act out in unexpected ways. Changes in the household, such as separation and ‘empty nest syndrome’, can be particularly painful for companion animals. A dog has every reason to believe that their pack (humans and canines alike) will remain intact. When one member essentially ‘disappears’, it can lead to significant pet stress. 

The study of behavior in companion animals, and how they handle stress, is a  rapidly developing field, most extensively in the lives of military dogs. Just  like their human-soldier counterparts, after combat duty, canines have  demonstrated clear symptoms of PTSD. Some estimates indicate that more than 5%  of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces have  been diagnosed with canine PTSD.

Much like human PTSD sufferers, not all dogs exhibit the same degree of  symptoms. Some dogs have drastic changes in temperament, ultimately becoming  aggressive, clingy or timid. Some become hyper-vigilant which can increase  anxiety. Others will actively avoid situations in which they were previously  comfortable … like the tasks they were trained to perform, often resulting in  their retirement from military service.

Companion animals living in households going through separation or the loss  of a family member can be similarly traumatized. They can develop separation  anxiety, personality changes and depression. Consequently, they may manifest  negative behaviors, such as destruction, timidity or aggression. Pet anxiety can  be expressed in a variety of ways, including pacing, panting, whining,  destruction, loss of appetite, digging, chewing and excessive barking. The sad  fact is that pet kids may be more traumatized by the sudden departure of a  family member because they have no way of being prepared for the change.

Another unfortunate outcome of changing human relational dynamics is  relinquishment. I know that many vets have received calls from newly separated  couples who see no other option than to end their relationship with their dog or  cat as well.

If you or someone you know is facing challenging times that could affect a  pet negatively, here are some tips to minimize the impact and thus reduce the  stress on your furry family member.

For Separation

Even though the loss of a pet during separation can be more heart-wrenching  than losing money or material belongings, dogs and cats are still considered  property in the eyes of the law.

If retaining guardianship of your pet kid means the world to you, consider  giving up something valuable, such as a car or cash, to gain full custody. If  both sides refuse to budge on custody, draft a visitation plan you both can live  with. Take into account post-separation schedules and living situations to  determine who is better suited to be the primary caretaker. That individual must  agree to completely care for the pet’s needs and make sure vaccinations are  up-to-date and other medical care is provided.

If you are considering the possibility of relinquishing your dog or cat, try  to remember that things will inevitably get better. Chances are that you will be  happier with your pet in the long run. We all know that they can be reliable  sources of comfort during rough times.

For Empty Nesters

Consider preventive measures before a grown child flies the coop for college. If your pet kids are accustomed to someone always being home, but will soon have to spend periods alone, schedule brief outings for yourself (anywhere from 15-60 minutes). These ritual changes can help ease a pet into the upcoming transition. Wake up a bit earlier to give yourself time to play with your schedule, to see what might fit your new routine best.

Once your child has gone, make time in the morning to either take your dog for a walk or play with your dog. Either activity will mentally stimulate and physically exhaust your dog so that more time will be spent resting when you have to leave the house. Make departures as low-key as possible. When it’s time to go, adopt the attitude that it’s really no big deal, and quietly leave.

Before leaving, stuff a treat-safe toy with food or a tasty snack. For a dog,  try a smart toy that dispenses treats or kibble. For cats, no toy is required,  simply hide treats at various locations throughout the house.

There are several over-the-counter products created to help lower stress in  companion animals. For severe cases, there are a few options available with a  prescription, such as Clomicalm, Reconcile and Xanax. These medications can help  with animals that are suffering from anxieties that can’t be addressed by  behavior therapy alone.

Regardless of the scenario, talk to your veterinarian about what will work  best for your pet kid, given your unique situation.

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

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

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Top 10 Reasons Your Dog Or Cat Should Take Fish Oil

 

Friends

Fish oil supplements are an ideal complement to your pet’s diet because they  supply omega-3 fatty acids, which your dog or cat’s body cannot sufficiently  produce on its own. Still in doubt? Here are the top 10 reasons why it’s  important to supplement your dog or cat’s daily intake with a quality fish oil  supplement.

1. Your Pet Will Burn Fat More Efficiently

The Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements help improve the metabolism  of a dog and cat’s body in a natural way and cause body fat to burn more  quickly. (2,10)

2. Improved Development of Puppies & Kittens During Pregnancy

During a pregnancy, supply your canine or feline mama omega-3 needs with a  pure, safe fish oil supplement. The reason is because the omega-3 fatty acid DHA  helps improve brain development, concentration, immunity and eyesight, among  other things. (1,5)

3. Slow Down Your Pet’s Aging Process

We all want to age more slowly, right? EPA and DHA found in fish oil help  slow down the aging process by reducing inflammation and extending the longevity  of cells. In this way, omega-3s help keep your pet kids feeling younger for  longer. (3)

4. Improved Flexibility

Because of the anti-inflammatory properties of EPA from fish oil supplements,  the discomfort in your pet’s joints and muscles may actually decrease. What you  will notice is that over time, fish oil supplements can help with stiffness to  rise and help your pet be more active and enjoy walks and games with you. (4)

5. Improved Performance in Canine Athletes

Omega-3s in fish oil supplements improve the functioning of the lungs. For  our active agility dogs, runners, Frisbee dogs, swimmers and mountain hiker  companions, fish oil will help your dog keep up with you. (14)

6. Better Concentration & Limiting Brain Cell Deterioration

Thanks to EPA and DHA from fish oil, your pet’s brain may age more slowly and  perform optimally. The essential fatty acids in the omega-3s contribute to  sounder sleep, an essential element in keeping concentration sharp. (6)

7. Optimized Immune System Functioning

A daily supplement of omega-3s from fish oil supplements help the white blood  cells perform their anti-inflammatory function optimally. This helps your pet’s  defense against diseases and other ailments by strengthening the immune system.  (15)

8. Better Heart Health

The omega-3s in fish oil supplements help keep cholesterol levels at a  healthy level and help keep this vital muscle healthy. (8,9)

9. No More Grumpy Cat

Fish oil supplements are proven to improve mood in humans, and studies are  forthcoming about their benefits in pets! (12, 13)

10. Healthy Skin & Shiny Coat

The benefits of omega-3s in fish oil supplements for skin health are well  documented, but did you know that omega-3s also help protect against sunburn?  (6,7)

Adding health-promoting fish oil to your pet’s diet can be one of the best decisions you make for your companion animal. If you want to learn more, visit the website!

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

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

References:

1. Zicker SC1, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, Milgram NW. Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2012 Sep 1;241(5):583-94. doi: 10.2460/javma.241.5.583.

2. Xenoulis PG1, Steiner JM. Lipid metabolism and hyperlipidemia in dogs.Vet J.  2010 Jan;183(1):12-21. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2008.10.011. Epub 2009 Jan 23.

3. Figueras M, Olivan M, Busquets S, López-Soriano FJ, Argilés JM. Effects of  eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) treatment on insulin sensitivity in an animal model  of diabetes: improvement of the inflammatory status. Obesity (Silver Spring).  2011 Feb;19(2):362-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.194. Epub 2010 Sep 30.

4. Moreau M, Troncy E, Del Castillo JR, Bédard C, Gauvin D, Lussier B. Effects  of feeding a high omega-3 fatty acids diet in dogs with naturally occurring  osteoarthritis. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2012 Jul 14. doi:  10.1111/j.1439-0396.2012.01325.x

5. Bauer JE, Heinemann KM, Lees GE, Waldron MK. Retinal functions of young dogs  are improved and maternal plasma phospholipids are altered with diets containing  long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids during gestation, lactation, and  after weaning. J Nutr. 2006 Jul;136(7 Suppl):1991S-1994S.

6. Bauer JE. Therapeutic use of fish oils in companion animals. J Am Vet Med  Assoc. 2011 Dec 1;239(11):1441-51. doi: 10.2460/javma.239.11.1441. Review.

7. Popa I, Pin D, Remoué N, Osta B, Callejon S, Videmont E, Gatto H,  Portoukalian J, Haftek M. Analysis of epidermal lipids in normal and atopic  dogs, before and after administration of an oral omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid feed  supplement. A pilot study. Vet Res Commun. 2011 Dec;35(8):501-9. doi:  10.1007/s11259-011-9493-7. Epub 2011 Jul 23. Erratum in: Vet Res Commun. 2012  Mar;36(1):91

8. Smith CE, Freeman LM, Rush JE, Cunningham SM, Biourge V. Omega-3 fatty acids  in Boxer dogs with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. J Vet Intern  Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;21(2):265-73.

9. Freeman LM, Rush JE, Markwell PJ.Effects of dietary modification in dogs with  early chronic valvular disease. J Vet Intern Med. 2006 Sep-Oct;20(5):1116-26.

10. Laflamme DP. Understanding and managing obesity in dogs and cats. Vet Clin  North Am Small Anim Pract. 2006 Nov;36(6):1283-95, vii. Review.

11. Brown SA, Brown CA, Crowell WA, Barsanti JA, Allen T, Cowell C, Finco DR.  Beneficial effects of chronic administration of dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated  fatty acids in dogs with renal insufficiency. J Lab Clin Med. 1998  May;131(5):447-55.

12. Hegarty B, Parker G. Fish oil as a management component for mood disorders -  an evolving signal. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2013 Jan;26(1):33-40. doi:  10.1097/YCO.0b013e32835ab4a7

13. Hegarty BD, Parker GB. Marine omega-3 fatty acids and mood  disorders--linking the sea and the soul. 'Food for Thought' I. Acta Psychiatr  Scand. 2011 Jul;124(1):42-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01703.x. Epub 2011  Apr 11. Review.

14. Wakshlag J, Shmalberg J. Nutrition for working and service dogs. Vet Clin  North Am Small Anim Pract. 2014 Jul;44(4):719-40, vi. doi:  10.1016/j.cvsm.2014.03.008. Review.

15. Hall JA, Henry LR, Jha S, Skinner MM, Jewell DE, Wander RC. Dietary (n-3)  fatty acids alter plasma fatty acids and leukotriene B synthesis by stimulated  neutrophils from healthy geriatric Beagles. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty  Acids. 2005 Nov;73(5):335-41.

 


How Much Can Your Dog Smell?

Girl holding dog

Dogs are scent-oriented creatures, with some of the most highly developed  noses on the planet. Hide a few treats around the room and see how quickly  they’re ferreted out. But does your dog’s schnoz have more practical  applications than we realize? The answer … well, it couldn’t be plainer than the  nose on your face.

Every year, scientific investigations yield more and more evidence that dogs  are up to some pretty surprising challenges, in ways that are proving quite  beneficial for people. We’ve all seen police dogs skilled in the detection of  bombs and contraband. Now researchers are applying that same olfactory prowess  to snuffling out all manner of scents, from deadly food allergens to costly  insect infestations.

For example, trainers at the Florida Canine Academy provide dogs with  instruction on how to detect the trace presence of peanuts. Just ask anyone with  a severe peanut allergy … just one nut can prove lethal. Alternately,  traditional bedbug detection methods can be very time-consuming and  labor-intensive. A canine trained to sniff out bedbugs can search the average  hotel room in less than two minutes!

Dogs have also been trained to detect seizures. Much like the job of a seeing-eye dog, seizure dogs help their pet parents navigate day-to-day  activities, protecting them from known triggers and potentially harmful  situations. These canines excel at recognizing subtle body changes during these  traumatic neurological events. Some pups are so sensitive, they can predict an  oncoming attack early enough to allow their human to get to a safe place and  take medication to reduce the seizure’s severity.

Researchers have documented numerous instances of dogs with the ability to  detect cancerous tumors. According to an article in The Lancet, a patient  reported that her dog would repeatedly investigate a mole on her leg. At one  point, the pup even attempted to bite off the suspicious beauty mark! A medical  exam proved what the dog already knew … it was a malignant melanoma. Had it not  been for her dog’s nosy behavior, the deadly cancer might have remained  undetected.

In a 2011 study, Japanese researchers reported that an eight-year-old black  Labrador proved exceptionally accurate at nosing out the presence of colon  cancer. When doctors provided the pup with samples collected from 185 patients,  the retriever positively identified those suffering from the disease with a  success rate that was nothing short of astonishing … 97%!

Last but certainly not least, canines are proving adept at detecting  low-blood-sugar levels. In 2000, The British Medical Journal reported that more  than a third of dogs living with a diabetic human exhibited behavioral changes  when their pet parent’s blood sugar dropped. Some reacted before the person was  even aware of any symptoms. The paper also cited two cases where the dogs not  only detected the low blood sugar, but they encouraged their people to eat!  Researchers are hopeful that this natural knack can be taught, which could make  a huge difference in the ongoing care of millions of diabetes sufferers.

In light of all the evidence, there’s no doubt … our beloved best friends  really are leading the pack towards improving our lives!

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

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

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Lyme Disease - An Emerging Problem For Dogs

 

Trail

It’s the height of summer, which means that mountain trails, bucolic meadows  and forested thickets are beckoning your dog to romp and explore. This impulse may be at odds with concerns about new research on Lyme disease, which may have  you more inclined to restrict your canine companion’s activities to the Great Indoors. Before you put the kibosh on outdoor fun, make sure you know all the  facts about canine Lyme disease. 

According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2014 State of Pet Health Report, based  on the medical data from over 2.3 million dogs, incidence of canine Lyme disease  has increased 21% since 2009. As of last year, one in every 130 dogs carries the  disease-causing bacteria.

The risk of Lyme disease depends on where you live. In New England, Lyme disease  rates are much higher than the rest of the country. New Hampshire has the  highest rate of Lyme disease cases, with one in every 15 dogs affected! Compare  this with Washington and Oregon, where only 1 in 1,000 dogs carried the  bacteria.

In the last five years, populations of the two species of ticks that carry  Lyme disease have skyrocketed. As white tailed deer populations have escalated (chiefly due to declines of predator species), so too have the tick species that  feast upon them. This is especially true in states east of the Rocky Mountains.  While much smaller in stature, but just as problematic in the Northeast, the  white footed mouse is another carrier of the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. Greater numbers of animals that attract ticks translates to an  increased likelihood that pet kids will be bitten.

Lyme disease is caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi.  The bacteria are carried by ticks which transmit the infection when they feed on animals and humans. The disease can cause generalized illness in animals and  humans. Even though about 75% of dogs living in endemic regions are exposed to  infected ticks, only a small percentage develop symptoms.

Lyme disease was first discovered in 1975, when an unusual outbreak of  rheumatoid arthritis occurred in the children of Lyme, Connecticut. In the U.S.  today, it’s the most common disease transmitted to humans by insects, and  perhaps dogs as well. Infections can also occur in horses and cattle … even  cats.

The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is arthritis, which causes sudden lameness, pain and sometimes swelling in one or more joints. Other  symptoms include fever, lack of appetite, apathy and swollen lymph nodes. In  severe cases, the infection can lead to kidney failure, which can prove fatal, although this outcome isn’t common (thank goodness).

If your pet kid is diagnosed with Lyme disease, don’t assume that you too are  contaminated. Transmission of the illness from companion animals to humans, or  vice versa, is highly unlikely.

You wear sunblock to prevent sunburns, so why not take preventative measures  to deter ticks? There are many highly effective veterinary products that will  kill ticks before they can transmit the bacteria. Just keep in mind that the  best way to avoid the problem is to steer clear of tick-infested areas,  especially in the spring when young ticks are most active.

After spending time outdoors, do a thorough search for ticks, on both yourself and your companion animals. If you locate any, they should be removed carefully with tweezers, pinching the tick near the head, where they enter the  skin. Researchers have learned that infected ticks must feed for about 24 hours  to transmit the bacteria to a susceptible animal. That means quick removal  greatly reduces the chance of contracting the illness. Fortunately, Lyme disease  is easily treated in dogs with antibiotics.

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

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks

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Do You Have A Fear Of Dogs? It's Called Cynophobia

Dog Barking

Imagine walking down the road. Suddenly, you are confronted by a large, snarling  dog heading directly for you. Try to imagine your level of fear. If you were once  terrorized by a dog earlier in life, multiply that fright by a factor of ten. Your  heart would race, your body would start to shake and your breathing would become  shallow and rapid. These reactions are caused by a surge of hormones, such as adrenaline,  often referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’. It’s how your body reacts to  a perceived threat, and it’s totally normal.

Some people, however, have an abnormal reaction to dogs, even if the dogs in  question aren’t doing anything threatening, much less actively frightening. They  feel frozen in fear and utterly helpless just walking past a well-behaved dog. Some  are panicked only of certain breeds. At the far end of the spectrum are folks who  are so terrified by dogs that they cannot even speak about canines without experiencing sheer terror. This irrational fear of dogs is termed cynophobia. Although  spider and snake phobias are more prevalent, cynophobia is probably more common  than most people think. In fact, this condition affects tens of millions of Americans.

Like many phobias, the fear of dogs is typically triggered by a negative experience,  often during childhood. Some people may even block the precipitating event from  their memory … all that remains is an overwhelming fear of dogs.

Many of us have been jumped on by an exuberant puppy or growled at by a protective  watchdog. When this happens to a child during their formative years, the impacts  can be long-lasting. The relatively large size of dogs compared to children, combined  with an overactive imagination and a general lack of knowledge about canine behavior,  can be fertile breeding ground for a full-blown phobia later in life.

The risk of cynophobia is higher if a relative or friend was attacked by a dog,  or if a parent exhibited an unhealthy fear of canines.

Sufferers of this phobia experience fear that is very much out of their control.  That is because when a person suffering from cynophobia thinks about, much less  sees a dog, the fear system in the sub-brain (the automatic part of your brain that  runs the show) takes over and secretes chemicals that alert the nervous system that  there is DANGER! The threat feels so real that the brain treats the mere presence  of a dog as an imminent peril, even though the perceived threat is not congruent  with reality. People who suffer from cynophobia can live in constant fear, limiting  their lives as a result.

Fortunately, cynophobics generally respond very well to treatment. In fact, some  people actually report just ‘growing out of it’, especially after positive experiences  with dog.

If you suffer from cynophobia, take heart - you are not alone! I recommend working  with a psychological professional with expertise in dealing with phobias to help  remove the fear and encourage helpful coping skills. With a bit of work and the  right assistance, you can overcome this debilitating phobia.

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

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

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Minimize Stress When Moving With Your Pets

 

Couple with cat

Moving to a new residence can be a nerve-wracking event for everyone  involved. With the average American moving 11-14 times, that’s a lot of trips to  ‘Stressville’. Between sorting through your possessions, packing up boxes,  traveling to the new location, switching utilities and all of the other steps  that go into a move, it’s easy to become frazzled at the mere prospect of all  that work. Coordinating all of these elements can prove challenging even for  folks with a knack for organization.

Moving with a companion animal adds an extra layer of complexity. Whatever  stress you experience on moving day goes double for companion animals, who have  no idea what to expect from the commotion of a move. But, with some strategic  planning and a little bit of elbow grease, you can make the transition easier on  yourself and your companion animals.

GENERAL TIPS

Make sure your dog or cat wears ID tags at all times, because the likelihood  of pet kids becoming separated from their people goes up dramatically during a  move. If you maintain registry with a national microchip agency, be sure to  update your contact information. Once you’ve moved, call your veterinary office  to update your address and phone number.

Did you know that a rabies tag includes the contact information for your vet’s office? It’s a built-in safeguard if your pet kid ever becomes lost, so  make certain your veterinarian has your most up-to-date contact information.

Call your local animal regulatory office and/or homeowner’s association to learn  of any rules or legislation regarding companion animals in your new neighborhood.

DOGS ARE FAIRLY EASY

Moving a family dog is pretty simple. Keep your dog on a leash, buckle his  car harness and drive him to his new digs. If your new place features a fenced  yard, show him the locations of his food, water, bedding and kennel [if your dog  spends part of his day outdoors]. The new sights and smells will likely keep them  occupied for hours. If there’s any anxiety, consider using a calming herbal  supplement. Aside from canines with compulsive disorders, most adapt to new  routines relatively quickly.

CATS REQUIRE MORE FORETHOUGHT

Cat

Relocating cats can prove a bit more complicated. Cats not only bond to their  people but they bond to their territory as well. As many outdoor cats are  free-roaming, it can be difficult to get them to stick around long enough to  establish a new territory. There are many stories of cats ending up back at  their old addresses after a short-distance move, and other heartbreaking stories  of cats being lost forever after a long-distance move.

To keep your cat safe before, during and after a move, confinement to a  secure space is required. Before the move, keep your kitty in an empty,  climate-controlled room. The room should include a litterbox, bedding, food,  water, toys and a scratching post (clawing is a fantastic stress reliever). Post  a sign on the door, letting movers know the room has been cleared and that it  should remain closed at all times.

When transporting him to your new home, I strongly  advise using a portable crate. If your cat is apprehensive about car travel,  only going for rides to see the veterinarian, lightly spray the carrier with a  feline-hormone spray that reduces stress. Put something inside the kennel that  reminds them of home, such as a favorite toy or a pillowcase that smells like  you. Even if you are staying at a hotel, you should not let your cat out of the  carrier - even if your kitty complains, it’s necessary to keep your cat safe, as  frightened cats are likely to dart. Keep the carrier partially covered with a  towel or sheet so it feels like a den.

Once you’ve reached your destination, set aside a room (such as a bedroom or  bathroom) to serve as a transition area. This simple step will help your kitty  become acclimated to your new home. In these instances, the best medicine is  time … giving your cat the personal space to settle in. Visit occasionally while  you unpack, providing food, water and treats. If there’s a window, consider  setting up a perch, which will give your kitty a view to his new world. Do not  let your cat out until the movers are gone, the furniture is arranged and you  can keep an eye on your furry friend as he explores the rest of the home.

If you would prefer not to confine your cat to a safe room, consider boarding  your cat during the move. For his protection, staying at an extended-care spa or  a vet’s office offers a comfortable, caring solution (also good for dogs, too).

If you’ve ever considered training an outdoor cat to become an indoor-only cat, moving is a great opportunity to do just that!

Short distance moves within the same neighborhood can actually prove more problematic for cats than moving to a completely new area. If your kitty knows he’s near his marked territory, he might drive you bonkers trying to convince you to let him out.

In a new neighborhood, however, your cat has no established turf, so he should be less likely to prowl-yowl. If you still want to allow your cat outdoors but have concerns for his health and safety, consider investing in a harness and leash.

I hope that you’ll find these tips helpful, and wish you and your pet kids a  safe move and a future of happiness in your new home.

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator

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Great Tips When Using A Pet Sitter

Girl Kissing Mastiff

While boarding facilities are a great option for many people, some pet  parents feel more comfortable hiring a pet sitter to stay home and care for  their pet while they are away. Pet sitters and pet parents can make for a winning combination in companion animal care, but the secrets to this  relationship are preparation and communication. If you are planning on hiring a  pet sitter, here are some tips that help ensure a seamless experience:

1. Make sure that the pet sitter you hire is bonded and insured. Ask if they  have any certifications relevant to sitting. And don’t be afraid to ask for  references. A big plus is if they are current members of a pet-sitting  organization.

2. Try to make reservations as far in advance as possible. Some of the best  sitters book up months in advance, so plan ahead to ensure the best care for  your pet kid.

3. Gather everything needed to care for your pet in one easily accessible  area. Supplies could include food, treats, food and water bowls, medications, a  leash, a can opener, toys, garbage bags, litter and scoop, a dustpan, a broom, a  watering can for plants, etc. Be sure to leave your supply well-stocked on the  off-chance your return is delayed.

4. Clean out the refrigerator and empty the garbage before leaving the house,  to help avoid food spoilage and to remove all temptation from your dog to go  excavating. Pre-program the thermostat before you leave and give specific  instructions for the sitter about an acceptable temperature range. Remember – an  unventilated home can become very hot, very quickly.

5. Notify your veterinarian in writing that a pet sitter will be caring for  your pet. Pre-authorize the sitter to provide emergency medical and/or surgical  care during your absence, should a crisis arise.

6. If you plan to leave a gift for your sitter, i.e. garden produce, candy or  a tip, leave a note of explanation. As a group, pet sitters pride themselves on  honesty - if you don’t make it explicit that the gift is for them, they usually  will not take it.

7. Communication is key to a successful pet-sitting experience. By-and-large,  pet sitters want to learn as much as possible about your pets. They want to know  about their health, habits, routine and how they might react to certain  situations. In addition to exchanging contact information, they also want to  know detailed information, such as if the toilet tends to run, if other people  will be checking on your pet and veterinary contact information. Specific  information helps a sitter to do their job to the best of their abilities. Here  are some examples of unclear and clear communication to help you know what level  of detail you should share with your pet sitter:

Unclear: Feed twice daily, fill the bowl half-way.
Clearer: Feed 1 cup of Life’s Abundance kibble in the morning and 1 cup in the  evening. Food is located in the pantry off the stairs, and the bowl should  remain by the back door.

Unclear: Pills in the morning and evening.
Clearer: Willy gets 1 tablet (0.4 mg) levothyroxine in the morning and in the evening with food. Willy and Starfox each get one tablet of Life’s Abundance Skin & Coat Supplement once daily in the morning. Pills are on the counter next  to the kitchen sink. Willy and Starfox will eat the Skin and Coat supplement,  but you have to hide the levothyroxine for Willy in a piece of cheese. Starfox will eat the medication if Willy drops it, so make sure Starfox is in a different room when you give Willy his medication.

Unclear: Feed dogs separately.
Clearer: Starfox eats his food more quickly than Willy, and then tends to bully Willy away from his food. This has resulted in a couple of aggressive acts, but  that’s rare. Feed Starfox in the living room and Willy in the kitchen. Be sure to keep them separated until they’ve both finished their meals. It generally  takes Willy 20 minutes to finish his food. Each dog may have one dental treat  after they finish their meals. Willy prefers to have his cookies broken in halves.

This information should be kept in the same area as all the supplies. Save  everything in a computer file and you won’t have to duplicate the task every  time you hire a sitter. Providing the right information, with all pertinent  details, not only makes your sitter’s job easier, but keeps your pets happier and safer, which is the common goal we all share! 

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

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Product Formulator

Attention Pet Professionals! Are you recommending dog and cat food, treats, supplements and pet care products to your client? Become a Life's Abundance Rep! Our products have NEVER been recalled and our food is delivered FRESH to your client. Learn more at http://www.PetFoodBusiness.com


Three Toothsome Tips for Canine Dental Health

Everyone knows “doggie breath” can be quite unpleasant. But few realize its presence can indicate an actual disease … sadly, it’s one that affects the vast majority of dogs over the age of three. While it may prove offensive to you, it might actually be painful for your pup, and could lead to other more dangerous health issues, too. Fortunately, there is something you can do to help your furry companion! In her latest veterinary-health post, Dr. Jane provides pet parents a brief, three-point review of doggie dental health.

You may be groaning inwardly at another post on canine periodontal disease, but the doggone truth is, many of us pet parents could stand to freshen up on the topic. That’s not a guess, it’s a fact: 17 out of 20 dogs over the age of three have some level of periodontal disease that needs treatment. One of the most common canine diseases, it’s also one of the most easily prevented. Dental disease not only “stinks” at the source, it’s also known to negatively impact the health of the whole body. It’s not a stretch to say that to have true wellness, your dog’s teeth and gums need to be as healthy as possible. I know all of you are busy, so I’ll briefly cover the three most salient points to remember when it comes to canine dental care. You might want to take notes, or simply print this out for reference, as there will be an oral exam. At least, I certainly hope so!

1. Dental Disease Can Be Painful, Even Deadly
I’m sure all of you know that dental disease causes “doggie breath”, but you may not be aware that chronic inflammation can cause pain, lead to infections, and serves as a precursor to much more serious issues. For instance, severe periodontal disease is significantly correlated with increased risk of heart disease, such as infected heart valves (Glickman et al., 2009). Chronically inflamed and infected gums also increase the risk for kidney disease, limiting the amount of toxins they can purify from the blood (Glickman et al., 2011). I’d ask that you keep in mind that inflamed and infected gums are just as painful for dogs as they are for humans, potentially lowering your companion animal’s quality of life. The bottom line is, a healthier mouth makes for a happier dog!

2. For Dental Disease, There is No Magic Bullet
Even though periodontal disease is all-too-common, many veterinary researchers are still baffled by its causes, and therefore, the best method for prevention. We do know that plaque-forming bacteria play a role. A recent study (Riggio et al., 2011) showed a wide diversity of canine oral flora, both in health and disease states, including previously undiscovered species of bacteria!

Not knowing exactly what’s going on makes it especially difficult to find a cure, but that hasn’t stopped big companies from trying. In 2006, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer introduced a vaccine for periodontal disease, aimed at targeting three specific bacteria associated with periodontitis (including Porphyromonas denticanis, P. gulae, and P. salivosa). Following the release of the vaccine, Pfizer Animal Health conducted a 4-year review to determine the true effectiveness of the vaccine. Not surprising to me, there was no demonstrable reduction in the progression of periodontal disease, and the company discontinued this product in April of 2011. As a holistic veterinarian, I don’t usually put much faith in vaccines, other than core vaccinations.

Simply put, when it comes to periodontal disease, there are no magic bullets.

3. An Ounce of Prevention is Your Best Bet
Recent studies indicate that treatment of canine periodontal disease may not resolve the attendant inflammation, which means negative repercusions may continue for some time (Rawlinson et al., 2011). The only dependable method is to try and prevent onset of the disease in the first place. I can’t stress this enough … for the most part, periodontal disease is preventable! I strongly encourage you to make canine dental care a top priority at an early age. Your efforts will be rewarded, as proper dental can improve your dog’s chances of long-term health.

The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis. Don’t worry if you don’t know how – simply watch this Dr. Sarah video to learn the proper technique. In addition to routine brushing, a sound, wholesome diet provides a great foundation for health, and feeding your dog Life’s Abundance Gourmet Dental Treats will provide additional nutrients to help support healthy teeth and bones. Our Dental Treats also feature a variety of whole grains, added calcium, extra phosphorous and even a dash of parsley to help freshen breath.

If your pup already has tartar build-up and evidence of gum disease, do not despair! Make an appointment today to have her teeth cleaned and any infections treated. Soon, she’ll be back on the road to wellness.

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

Dr Jane Bicks Dr. Jane Bicks

References
Riggio MP, Lennon A, Taylor DJ, Bennett D. Molecular identification of bacteria associated with canine periodontal disease. Vet Microbiol. 2011 Jun 2;150(3-4):394-400. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

Rawlinson JE, Goldstein RE, Reiter AM, Attwater DZ, Harvey CE. Association of periodontal disease with systemic health indices in dogs and the systemic response to treatment of periodontal disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2011 Mar 1;238(5):601-9.

Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Moore GE, Lund EM, Lantz GC, Pressler BM. Association between chronic azotemic kidney disease and the severity of periodontal disease in dogs. Prev Vet Med. 2011 May 1;99(2-4):193-200. Epub 2011 Feb 23.

Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Moore GE, Goldstein GS, Lewis HB. Evaluation of the risk of endocarditis and other cardiovascular events on the basis of the severity of periodontal disease in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2009 Feb 15;234(4):486-94.

Beard G, Emily P, Milligan & Williams C: American Animal Hospital Association, Veterinary Dentistry, Course I, 1989.


Holistic Tips By Dr Jane Bicks - Focus On Fleas

Last month, we launched a new series about ‘holistic’ health care for companion animals. Remember, holistic care entails viewing the body as a whole as well as how every discrete part works in relation to all the other parts. In keeping with a holistic mindset, this month I want to address fleas. Flea season is, or will very soon be, upon us again and the treatment of fleas illustrates how important the holistic approach is.

If you’ve experienced problems with fleas, or if your dog or cat is itchy, ask the following questions …

Do you live in a warm, humid environment? Or, has it been unusually warm for the past three weeks?

Under warm, humid conditions, a flea can complete its life cycle in only three weeks. Fleas have four life stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. Fleas take up residence in carpets and bedding, and when stimulated by vibrations, carbon dioxide or heat, adults hatch and seek out a host in your dog or cat. Upon transferral to your companion animal’s skin and coat, a flea can live for a year or more.

Have you just moved into a new home? Did animals live there before you?

If so, beware! There may be large numbers of flea eggs and larvae lurking in the carpet just waiting to hatch.

Has your companion animal recently started scratching and biting herself, often relentlessly? Does your dog have inflamed sores or evidence of hair loss, usually around the base of tail and lower back? Has your cat recently pulled out small clumps of hair, experienced unexplanable hair loss, or suffer from bumpy scabs, usually in the tummy area?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, your pet is likely suffering from an attack of the fleas. Furthermore, your dear companion may also have a flea allergy, developing hot spots or skin infections as secondary symptoms.

Are there small, black or dark red, dirt-like flecks in the fur, especially along the base of the tail or along the spine?

Commonly called ‘flea dirt’, these specks are tiny clots of digested blood left behind by feeding fleas.

An easy way to find out whether or not your cat has flea dirt is to put him on a light-colored sheet or towel, then rub his fur back-and-forth. If he has fleas, you will see the evidence all around you. Even if you can’t see any fleas (which can be challenging unless the fur is white), the presence of flea dirt tells you without a doubt that you’ve got a flea problem.

There are two golden rules for treating fleas. One is to treat all animals in the household, and the other is treating the environment. Proactive management is vital, and following both options will be far more effective than just following one or the other.

Treating the environment

If you have a heavy infestation, or an animal who is sensitive to flea bites, controlling the flea population in the surrounding environment is crucial. Keep in mind that half of a flea’s life cycle occurs in your carpets, bedding and dust on the floor. An easy way to control fleas is to vacuum at least once a week - you will suck up eggs and immature fleas before they have a chance to hatch into biting adults. You might also consider inserting a flea collar inside your vacuum cleaner, which can be effective at killing fleas post-cleaning. Some pet parents have had good luck using diatomaceous earth (a non-toxic powder composed of ground fossilized organisms), but be sure to read the usage notes carefully as inhalation can prove dangerous. This powder interferes with a flea’s moisture control and causes it to dry out and die. If you like powders, you can also combine powdered eucalyptus, fennel, rosemary, yellow dock, wormwood and rue and apply sparingly to the carpet to repel fleas (for dog-only households, as some herbs can prove quite harmful to cats and other animals).

If you are not a fan of powders and you do not have a cat, try the following essential oil combination: up to 50 drops of lavender and eucalyptus combined with 1 ½ cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake well and mist the carpet just prior to vacuuming. If you have wood floors, try mopping with an emulsion of ½ cup lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil and 30 drops lavender oil (again, for dog-only homes).

There is a “natural” option for flea control outdoors in the form of Nematodes, which are worms that eat only fleas. If none of these steps prove effective, you may require the services of an exterminator. Remember, fleas can carry disease, such as the bubonic plague, so you need to address a serious problem decisively.

Treating the Pet

If the quantity of fleas is limited, you can use a flea comb to remove fleas manually, on a daily basis. Or, one or two drops of essential oil flea repellent massaged into the coat twice a week may be all that is necessary (for dogs, not cats). Try mixing 10 ml grape seed or almond oil with 10 drops lavender and 5 drops cedar wood oils, and use sparingly in your dog’s coat. If your dog has a heavy flea load, you can use the preceding recommendations with the added step of a bath.

Since it is hard to control fleas naturally, especially in cats, I suggest that you consult your veterinarian for product recommendations. Avoid the organophosphate powders and sprays, which are very toxic and not very effective. Some of the OTC commercial insecticide flea powders are potentially very toxic to cats and kittens.

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

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM, product formulator for Life's Abundance products


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


5 Basic Types Of Aggression In Cats

Drjane by Dr Jane Bicks

As a holistic vet, I’m frequently asked, “How can I deal with my cat’s bad attitude?” The problem area dubbed “feline aggression” can be complicated, upsetting and potentially hazardous for pet parents. Not only can cat bites and scratches really hurt, they can transmit diseases, too, such as cat scratch fever (yes, it is real). While most cat moms and dads prefer a purring lap-warmer, especially on cold winter nights, some felines need extra help learning how to sheathe their claws.

Unfortunately, feline aggression is not well understood or handled appropriately. An important first step in dealing with this frustrating issue is to understand the behavior. Learning why a cat lashes out can help pet parents deal with the issue patiently and properly.

In this post I’ll be covering the five basic types of aggression in cats.

Pain- or Health-Related Aggression

A cat who is experiencing pain or ailing may exhibit aggressive behavior, so it’s vital that your first stop be a trip to your vet, especially if what you’re witnessing is a recent change in behavior. Medical conditions that can cause pain and aggression include abscesses, dental disease and arthritis. Additionally, hyperthyroidism is associated with increased aggression in older cats. Alleviation of underlying medical conditions can often resolve the aggressive behavior.

Play Aggression

This form of aggression is typical of young cats and kittens. You can recognize play aggression by the feline’s posture: stalking or crouching like a lion, lashing the tail from side-to-side, especially when their pupils are dilated. As unsuspecting “prey” passes, whether it’s your dog or your spouse ... pounce! The cat who attacks your ankle and then disappears in a flurry of fur isn’t trying to maim you - he’s playing, albeit aggressively.

The best way to address play aggression is integrate a toy, such as a cat fishing pole or a laser pointer, into play sessions. These toys serve a dual purpose - they will hold your cat’s attention while burning off excess energy and keep your hands out of the “strike zone”. A stuffed sock can provide the perfectly-pouncible object. If additional measures are required to curb the behavior, consider blocking access to your cat’s favorite stalking places or use a noise deterrent, such as shaking a can full of coins. Remember that you must use a noise deterrent within the first few seconds of the inappropriate behavior for it to be effective. Never let your cat, even when he is a cute kitty, view you as an acceptable chew-toy. You might also trim her nails to minimize the “ouch factor” (here’s a video that shows you how).

Fear Aggression

When a fearful cat encounters an unpleasant situation, such as the veterinary office, he will likely take steps to protect himself. Fear clues include crouching with tail and legs tucked under, hissing and baring teeth, flattened ears, dilated pupils and fur standing on end. If your cat is fearful, it is important to identify and avoid, if possible, the thing triggering the fear. To overcome fear aggression, you can try to desensitize your cat to the fear-inducing object by keeping it at a distance and rewarding your cat with treats for non-aggressive behavior. Also, try to minimize stress in a fearful feline’s home environment. If your cat is completely out of control, have your veterinarian refer you to a behavioral specialist who can work with you and possibly prescribe medications to get your cat through the rough spots.

Redirected Aggression

I like to refer to this type as “innocent bystander aggression”. Redirected aggression typically occurs when a cat is aroused by one stimulus, such as a bird outside, when another pet or person intervenes. A cat exhibiting redirected aggression can be staring at something while growling and pacing with a lashing tail and dilated eyes. Avoid this cat until he has calmed down because interaction can lead to injury. If you can identify the stimulus that sets off your cat, you may be able to prevent the aggression. If it’s an external stimulus for an indoor cat, try using sticky tape or window blinds to prevent him from perching on windowsills. This, coupled with motion-activated lights (or sprinklers) to discourage outdoor visitors, could end the behavior. If your cat is aroused for an extended period of time, you can herd him with a thick folded blanket to a “time out” room equipped with food, water and litter. After he becomes calm, reward him with loads of attention.

Overstimulation

Similar to redirected aggression, overstimulation usually occurs when you are petting your cat and out of the blue they grab you and sink their teeth or claws into you. For highly reactive and vivacious cats, even a single long stroke down the spine can elicit an aggressive reaction. The key here is to recognize the warning signs: when the tail starts twitching, stop petting. Restrict your affections to areas that your cat enjoys, such as behind the ears or under the chin. If your cat grabs you, try not to overact; in fact, if you can, simply freeze … they will usually calm down quickly and let go.

If you take-away anything from this article, I hope it’s to never, ever hit a biting or scratching cat. Physical punishment, even a light rap on the nose, can increase fear and anxiety, potentially worsening the aggressive behavior. With time and patience, you can turn even the most claw-happy kitty into a loving companion.

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

Dr. Jane

 


Five Essential Nutrients for Dog & Cat Skin and Coat Health

Doc Keeping your companion animal’s skin healthy and coat shiny can prove challenging. Even though you might already feed a quality food, and brush and shampoo regularly, there’s more to this area of pet care than you might think. Veterinarians will tell you that the condition of the skin can be a good indicator of a pet’s overall health and nutrition status. That’s why wise pet parents should monitor their companion animal for any of these tell-tale signs …

• Dry, flaky skin or a dull, brittle coat
• Oily, foul smelling skin or a matted coat
• Thin coat, excessive hair loss or red, blotchy skin
• Excessive scratching (especially, seasonally)

The skin is the largest organ in the body and requires proteins and other nutrients. It’s not surprising that subtle changes in the amount of nutrients supplied to the skin can have a noticeable affect on its overall condition.

Fortunately, many pets eat complete-and-balanced pet foods that meet the nutrient profiles specified by expert panels and regulatory bodies. However, there are other factors that can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Pet foods that are improperly stored in the home, or in warehouses for many months without climate control prior to entering your home, can have reduced nutrient availability. Deficiencies may also arise when an animal is unable to digest, absorb or utilize nutrients as a result of genetic, environmental or stress factors, or some diseases. Even if your companion animal eats a nutritious diet, her skin takes a backseat to the rest of her organs … in essence, only receiving the “leftovers”. Therefore, I believe it’s important to supplement with additional nutrients, to help your furry one achieve skin and coat health.

Here are the top five essential nutrients you should consider for optimal skin and coat health:

1. Omega-3 Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids

The importance of balanced supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids cannot be stressed enough. Omega-3 fatty acids play a structural role in cell membranes, help resolve inflammation and are vital for maintaining normal skin structure and function. Omega-3’s are fragile molecules and prolonged storage or improperly balanced vitamin E can deplete levels of fatty acids in food and supplements. Signs that your pet may be suffering from a deficiency of these nutrients include a dull, dry coat and dander.

2. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant vital to the maintenance of skin cell membrane stability and protection against free-radical damage. Also, vitamin E interacts with many nutrients while in the body, including omega-3 fatty acids, to promote optimal skin health.

3. Zinc

Zinc is critical for regulating different aspects of skin cell metabolism. Its presence is involved in skin cell replication. Zinc is essential to the body’s response to disease and inflammation and is involved in the metabolism of another crucial skin nutrient, vitamin A. Signs of a zinc deficiency include: a dull, dry coat; localized redness; hair loss; and scales that appear on the legs, around the mouth or on the eyelids.

4. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is involved in skin cell growth and repair. It is essential to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier and the proper growth of hair and nails. Vitamin A also supports the production of healthy oils in the skin. Both deficiency and excess vitamin A can lead to skin problems such as hair loss, poor coat quality and increased susceptibility to bacterial infections, which is why the correct balance of vitamin A is so critically important in the diet.

5. Vitamin B

The B-complex vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, d-pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, B12 and biotin) work in concert with the nutrients mentioned above to coordinate energy metabolism and synthetic processes. B vitamins are water-soluble, and therefore can’t be stored in the body. The balanced daily intake of these vitamins is vital to overall health. Dry, flaky dander and hair loss are the signs most consistently associated with B-vitamin deficiencies.

An important take-away from this discussion is that all these nutrients, while each important in their own right, work in concert with one another, and with other nutrients in the body. That’s why it’s incredibly important that these nutrients be provided in a balanced, holistic way. As you can see, some of the deficiency symptoms overlap (e.g., a dull, dry coat and dandruff could signal a deficiency of any or all of these nutrients). I urge you to choose a balanced skin-and-coat supplement, and to work with your veterinarian to ensure that your companion animal is receiving all the nutrients he or she needs to shine.

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

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM

Order Life's Abundance Skin and Coat Supplement


6 Ways To Whittle Your Pets Waistline

Healthypetnet dental dog cat by Dr Jane Bicks, DVM

According to a 2009 study published by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 34 million dogs and 54 million cats are classified as overweight. Sadly, these staggering numbers continue to rise. Just like in humans, obesity is now the biggest health threat to pets in the U.S. Excess weight lowers metabolism, increases appetite and can worsen other medical conditions, such as arthritis and respiratory problems.

If your pet needs surgery, extra fat can make it more difficult for a surgeon to operate and increase the chances of complications with anesthesia. With nearly half the nation’s pet population afflicted with weight issues, chances are you or someone you know has a pet that is affected. Here are six tips to help your pet shed unwanted pounds and keep the weight off for good.

1. Increased Awareness

There are two main causes of obesity in pets: too many calories and too little exercise. Secondary factors can also come into play, such as genetic factors of a given breed or the sex of the animal. A quick online search will reveal whether or not your breed is prone to weight gain. And be aware that neutered, middle-aged and female pets are more likely to have weight issues.

The discouraging fact is that many pet parents accept their overweight pets as ‘normal’, or deny the problem altogether, making the problem less likely to be addressed.

Weight is not always the best indicator due to individual variation. For example, one Doberman may be trim at 70 pounds and another trim at 90. In addition, a drooping stomach does not always mean an animal is fat, especially in cats. The best way to determine whether or not your pet is overweight is to have your veterinarian do an assessment.

2. Change Your Lifestyle

Let’s face it … far too many Americans lead sedentary lifestyles, and their pets are following suit. It is no secret that we like to sit and eat at the same time, so if we are going to help ourselves and our pets avoid becoming the next victims of the obesity epidemic, we need to get everybody moving more and eating less.

Realize that everything your pet eats has calories – yes, including treats – so you can begin to reduce calories right away simply by providing low-calorie treats, such as Life’s Abundance’s Wholesome Hearts.

Increasing exercise is good for everybody. Long walks and playing fetch are good ways to bond with your dog, and you can get your cat moving with a feather wand or a laser pointer. Here’s a fun tip: cats love to chase small balls. Throw five or six little balls around and watch the fun … retrieve all the balls at once if you want to minimize your trips across the room.

3. Feed Frequent Small Meals and Measure Amounts

Did you know that every time you eat, you burn calories? The same is true for our companion animals. So measure the food amount for the whole day and divide it into several smaller meals. You can also feed a low-calorie treat or vegetable in between each small meal. It is vital that you measure the food, even if you free-feed. If your pet needs to lose weight, you can reduce portions by 30% without jeopardizing your pet’s health.

Remember that when pets beg for a treat, often what they really want is attention. Instead of a treat, how about a hug or a nice grooming session?

Consider supplementing a cat or small dog’s diet with canned food. Canned food often has a high moisture content, which helps your companion animal feel full with fewer calories. Remember to keep the overall calorie count consistent, even if you change their diet.

If you begin a weight-loss regimen and don’t see any results within two weeks, be sure to discuss other options with your veterinarian.

4. Keep Records

Food journals are not only very effective weight-management tools for people, they are for pets, too. Start by keeping records for seven days, tracking everything that you feed your companion animals. We often don’t realize how much we are really feeding until we see it mapped out.

5. Weight-Loss Medication

The FDA recently approved Slentrol, a weight-loss medication approved for canine use. The exact mechanism of this drug remains unknown, but researchers believe that it helps suppress the appetite and inhibit the absorption of fat. If you have tried all other options and still aren’t having success, or if your dog’s weight is putting his health in jeopardy, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about this new pharmaceutical offering.

6. Dietary Supplements

Many hormones can be controlled with phytonutrients. Resveratrol, sourced from the skin of grapes, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, increase metabolic rate, boost physical endurance and reduce fat mass. Quercetin, found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains, has been shown to fight inflammation in obese patients. Leptin is a new hormonal supplement that suppresses appetites and is being used to facilitate weight-loss. Researchers have discovered that diabetic dogs have low levels of leptin, which can lead to overeating. Furthermore, researchers found that by adding leptin to the diet, canine appetites are noticeably suppressed. I caution you to only use these supplements under the supervision of your vet, as the proper dosages vary from animal to animal (for example, leptin can at certain dosages have the opposite effect, actually increasing appetites).

With a little bit of effort, a minimal investment in time and big helpings of love and patience, you can help your companion animal lose excess weight and maximize their chances for a longer, healthier and happier lifetime.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for your dear companions.

Learn more about Life's Abundance Weight Loss Food For Dogs


Is Your Canned Dog Or Cat Food In A Non Badge Can and BPA Free?

A lot of pet food cans are lined with material that includes BPA, bisphenol A. This substance is linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Dr Jane Bicks, product formulator for Life's Abundance says this about the cans they use - "Way ahead of you on the cans by about 20 years. I was one of the first investigators with hyperthyroidism in cats. I did a retrospective study to determine the possible causes of it. Canned cat food was one of the possible causes.Thus when I made canned food I selected the company that does not have BADGE lining. Most canned companies have that horrible lining."BADGE, by the way, is another name for BPA.

Here is a direct statement from Life's Abundance:

“We do not use BADGE coatings in any of our canned foods.”  In addition, Life's abundance stated the following in their response…”BADGE (BPA) COATINGS ARE USED IN 90% OF ALL CANS.   This type of lining is considered an epoxy resin which have achieved wide acceptance in protective coatings, including coatings for food and beverage cans, because of their exceptional combination of properties such as toughness, adhesion, and chemical resistance. The most widely used epoxy resins are based on bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE). BADGE is a major component in all bisphenol A / epichlorohydrin based liquid epoxy resins. It’s entire
chemical nomenclature is Bisphenol-A Diglycidyl ether or 2,2-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl) propane bis(2,3-epoxy-propyl) ether.
 
OUR CAN LINING CONTAINS BFDGE. This is used in the aluminum 3oz and 5.5 oz cans. Even though some of the letters seem the same, the compound we use, is an entirely different compound from BADGE. BFDGE stands for Bisphenol-FDiGlycidyl ether or bis(hydroxyphenyl)methane bis(2,3-epoxypropyl)ethers. 

The purpose of lining is exactly the same as why you might coat a surface with lacquer-protection.  The purpose with food contact surfaces is to protect the can from the food (to prevent rust, etc) and the food from the can.  There are many properties such as adhesion to the metal and ability to withstand processing and migration of food chemicals (especially acid) which need to be considered in selection of compounds.  Additionally, properties to prevent sticking of the food to the lacquer on the lid need to be considered. Cans are coated on both sides but the needs are obviously different.”

My note:**Be a safe consumer,if you are feeding a canned food other than Life's Abundance call the company and ask about the can lining. 90% of the canned foods contain badge (BPA) lining.As of right now I don't know any "large" cans that are non-badge...only the small cans.

Learn more about Life's Abundance Canned Dog Food and Life's Abundance Instinctive Choice Canned Cat Food


So You Found a Pregnant Cat…

by Dr Jane Bicks:

Did you know that cats can become mothers in their first year of life? While more and more pet parents spay their cats early in life, many good Samaritans have gotten more than they bargained for, after finding that the stray they adopted is pregnant. As a matter of fact, we here at the Life’s Abundance office found ourselves in a similar situation when a sweet little stray showed up at our door a while back. Of course, food and water were the first order of business. After a few days, she began to trust us enough to pet her. That’s when we discovered that she was pregnant. To make a long story short, we took good care of her and her kittens, and now the whole feline family lives with their new adoptive parents. If you have a pregnant cat, you may be wondering what to expect and how best to care for the expectant mother.

First, take her to your veterinarian for a full checkup. Your veterinarian will be able to determine how far along she is and if there are any health concerns. Second, provide complete and balanced nutrition. More than any other factor, nutrition will influence the health of mother and kittens. Cats are pregnant for approximately 8-9 weeks. Like humans, cats gain weight gradually throughout their pregnancy. By the end of her pregnancy, your cat should be eating 25-50% more than her normal amount. CatKittens

To ensure that she is getting enough food, the free-feed method is advisable, but be sure to measure the amount you feed daily and provide fresh food each day. Feed a diet that is nutrient-dense like Life’s Abundance. Consider also feeding a high-quality canned food, to provide extra protein and water. Additionally, providing fresh, clean water is a must. You should not need to increase the amount you are feeding until the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy, and mother cats should not gain more than 15-25% of their body weight by the end of pregnancy. Remember, overweight cats can have a higher risk of difficulties during labor and delivery.

Pregnant cats lose 40% of their pregnancy weight after giving birth; however, they still require two-to-three times their normal amount of food after giving birth in order to produce enough milk to feed their kittens. The protein and fat concentration of their milk is very high, so good nutrition is critical not only during pregnancy but also until the kittens are weaned. As we mentioned, continual access to fresh, clean water is also very important, as dehydration can affect the milk supply. Change the water out daily or provide a water fountain.

Mother cats should deliver in a quiet, familiar area where they will not be disturbed. Usually, a mother cat will choose her space - all you need to do is provide blankets or towels for her comfort, she will take care of the rest. Unfamiliar surroundings, noise or strangers may cause problems by impeding delivery or milk letdown, or even negatively affect the mother’s instinct to care for her kittens.

A day or two before birth, your cat may stop eating – this is a good sign that delivery is near and she has started stage one of labor. Stage one usually lasts 12-24 hours, and during this time she may become reclusive or restless and nest. If she doesn’t eat for more than a day and shows no signs of delivery, contact your veterinarian, as cats should not go more than a day without a meal. Normal stage two labor is when the kittens are delivered! The entire delivery can take up to a full day, depending on the litter size. There should not be more than one-to-two hours between kittens. If it seems like delivery is taking longer, or if you have any concerns, call your veterinarian immediately for advice.

A single unspayed female cat and her offspring can account for the birth of 420,000 kittens in a seven-year period. There is an estimated 70 million homeless cats in the United States, and four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year. Spaying and neutering your pet is a proven way to reduce the number of homeless pets and ensure every pet has a family to love them.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for your dear companions.

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM


Do You Know What Plants Can Harm Your Dog?

by Dr Jane Bicks

If you’re a dog lover, thoughts of summertime conjure memories of long evening strolls and outdoor recreation with your dog. In fact, you may have already started this summer to create new fond memories. Given that, the last thing you want on one of your nature walks is for your canine companion to be sidelined by an injury. Unfortunately, many pet parents don’t realize until it’s too late that there are menacing toxins lurking in the plants of both cultivated and wild landscapes. Plants that you are used to seeing in public parks, your neighborhood and perhaps even in your own backyard can lead to devastating effects. In what follows, I will review five of these dangerous plants so that you will be able to identify and avoid them when you’re with your dog. First up are four plants commonly used in landscaping that are actually toxic to canines …

Azalea – Rhododendron Species
A typical choice for landscapers due to its hardiness and lovely flowers, these unassuming ornamentals contain a toxin which can be lethal, even in small amounts. Both the plant’s leaves and nectar are known to be harmful if eaten or chewed by your dog, and can cause drooling (often a symptom of nausea), vomiting, weakness and collapse. If greater amounts of its toxins are ingested, it can lead to severe poisoning, possible coma and even death.



Oleander
Widely recognized as one of the most poisonous plants in the world, even minute quantities of Oleander can trigger a fatal response. Unlike the Azalea, every part of the Oleander is toxic, from flowers to roots. If dogs should chew on any part of this plant, they could suffer varying degrees of illness, including upset stomach, abnormal heart functioning and possibly even death. Beware of the sap, which can irritate the skin and eyes, as well as the leaves, which retain their toxicity even when dried out.


Sago Palm
Most commonly used in planned landscapes where climates tend to be hot and dry, Sago Palms are nevertheless popular all over the U.S. While the whole plant contains harmful chemicals, it’s the seeds that contain the highest levels of toxins. Estimates currently put the percentage of animals that die after eating the seeds of the plant as high as three out of four. The incidence of Sago Palm poisoning in dogs and cats has risen 200% in the past few years, although dogs seem to enjoy the flavor of the plant and the seeds more than cats. Ingestion of Sago Palm can cause vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure and seizures.

Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemums are popular ornamentals blooming late in the summer and early in the fall. While beautiful, their flowers contain a natural insecticide. If a canine chews on the Chrysanthemum blooms, the insecticide can cause excessive drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.

If your furry one is exposed to any of these toxic plants, please contact your veterinarian immediately. As is often the case in toxins and poisons, the sooner your pet receives treatment, the less likely they are to experience dramatic, and sometimes fatal, reactions.

And now, I will review a common weed that can cause a great deal of grief for your pet canine …


Foxtails
Weeds that resemble the tail of a fox, Foxtails are considered a widespread nuisance in most states, especially west of the Mississippi. Prevalent from late spring to early fall, they become more dangerous in late summer when their seeds dry. When the seeds are released from their pods, they are covered in barbs like little fish hooks, making them potentially very dangerous to your dog. If she merely brushes up against the Foxtail plant, the seeds can become snagged in her coat. Worse, the seeds can pierce the skin, or even be inhaled!

As a result, Foxtail seeds can become lodged between a dog’s toes, in their ears or armpits; they can be inhaled or swallowed and latch onto the interior walls of the nose or throat; or, they can stick to the eyes. Obviously, all of these circumstances can be very painful. Perhaps most frightening, the seeds are so small that they can be difficult to locate, and, if embedded in the skin, have been known to migrate to other areas of the body, resulting in severe infections.


If the Foxtail seed becomes infected under the skin, it may result in a visible, inflamed and painful lump. Commonly these lumps are between the toes, and are painful enough that your dog will repeatedly lick or chew the raised area. If a seed becomes lodged in your dog’s nose, she will likely sneeze, violently and over-and-over, and may even repeatedly paw at her face. If the seed latches to or in her ear, she will likely shake her head side-to-side and/or scratch incessantly at her ear. In the case where a Foxtail becomes stuck in or near the eye, you’ll likely see lots of repeated squinting, tears and redness; you may even see the foxtail poking out!

If you see any evidence of an encounter with a Foxtail, take your dog to the vet immediately. If you notice a red bump in between the toes, soak the paw in a mixture of lukewarm water and Epsom salts. This will help to ease the swelling until you can be seen by your veterinarian. Keep in mind that the longer you wait for treatment, the more difficult it is to treat an embedded Foxtail seed, so time is of the essence.

The best way to prevent Foxtail incidents is with an ounce of prevention. During hikes, keep your dog away from grassy weeds, and check her paws after walks. In addition, you should consider brushing her coat while using your hand to feel for any raised areas, checking inside the ears, in between toes, under armpits and throughout the belly and groin area. If you find a Foxtail in the coat, carefully pull or brush it out. If your dog has thick or long hair, consider getting a ‘Foxtail Clip’, a term applied to trimming away the hair between your dog’s toes. And, if you live in an area where Foxtails are common, remove them from your yard (be sure to exercise caution and carefully bag the weeds).

By using a little common sense and being aware of your surroundings, summer walks can be fun and free from environmental injuries. Then, you can get back to making some wonderful, new, summer memories together with your dog outdoors.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for your dear companions,

Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM

*****Dr Jane Bicks is the product formulator for Life's Abundance Natural Pet Foods, Treats, Supplements and Pet Care Products.


How Do Probiotics Work And Why Are They So Important To Your Pet's Health

KidsPets Probiotics have received a great deal of attention lately, and this focus is absolutely justified. An increasing number of products, from yogurts to pet foods, contain probiotics. Often referred to as “healthy” and/or “friendly” bacteria (or microorganisms) in the media, their proper notation is “direct fed microbials” when used in pet foods. Basically, probiotics are helpful bacteria that reside in the intestinal tract. In fact, every digestive system contains millions of bacteria, both those with a healthful purpose (like probiotics) and some that are not so beneficial. While some kinds of bacteria can be harmful, many (like direct fed microbials) actually help the immune system adapt to internal changes within the body and thus naturally support good health.

Most people do not realize that located within the digestive system is one a very important group of immune cells called the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT), which communicate with the immune cells located throughout the body. In some respects, the GALT is the first line of defense against unhealthy microorganisms in the body. Whereas most of the cells in our body receive nutrition from the blood, this is not true for the GALT – it receives the majority of its nutrients from these helpful bacteria.

Whenever you or your companion animal takes a round of antibiotics, it indiscriminately kills all of the bacteria, regardless of their ultimate effect on the body (by providing healthy functions versus unhealthy outcomes). That’s why it’s often recommended that you eat yogurt while taking antibiotics – to re-establish the healthy bacteria in the GI tract to avoid intestinal distress – both during the course of treatment and in the days immediately following completion of an antibiotic therapy.

Good bacteria are necessary to maintain the healthy ecology of intestinal microbes known as the “gut flora”. The types of bacteria contained in the gut differ from species to species, and animal to animal, but there are commonalities in dogs and cats. These helpful bacteria can have numerous positive effects on their host’s body, including:

• Causing chemical reactions that convert foods into vitamins and energy
• Competing with unhealthy microorganisms, helping block their grip on the lining of the gut wall
• Increasing the tolerance of bad bacteria by stimulating the immune system
• Protecting the gut mucosal barrier, thereby promoting the health of the gut lining

The community of bacteria in the intestinal system protects its host from invading unhealthy microorganisms in a combined effort called “colonization resistance”. This group resistance has proven effective at supporting intestinal health.

Adding direct fed microbials to pet food can help a dog or cat’s natural digestive system to work at peak efficiency, allowing the pet to get even more nutrition from food because they ensure a healthy intestinal flora, which supports:

• The production of food for healthy enterocytes (specialized cells lining the GI tract)
• Increased nutrient absorption
• GALT, which communicates with systemic immune systems

Whether you refer to these health-promoting bacteria as “probiotics” or “direct fed microbials”, their effect on the digestive system of your companion animal simply can’t be overstated. In fact, after a careful review of all the information, it would appear that direct fed microbials are vital to your pet’s health.

Life's Abundance contains Direct Fed Microbials! Learn more about Life's Abundance Dog and Cat Food


Why Isn't Life's Abundance Dog & Cat Food Organic?

Over the past 6 years this is the most frequently asked question I would say people have. Most people have it in their minds that organic is always best.  We asked Dr Jane Bicks, formulator of HealthyPetNet products this question.  Here is her answer....

I would love to have an all organic food as long as it fit my mission statement. My mission is to formulate and produce food with the best nutrition I can give to a dog and cat.

Unfortunately, organic meats are still hard to come by. Just go to your supermarket and you will see the small section of organic meats. The price is high because there simply are not enough organic meats produced yet.

I can't find enough HIGH QUALITY organic meats for my formula every week. (We sell millions of pounds of food). You see, the best cuts of the organic meats go to the supermarkets and health food stores. The left overs (the trims) can be used for pet food. While the meat would be organic it would be the "throw away" parts such as the tendons, ligaments, and visa versa. Muscle meat and organ meat deliver optimum nutrition, not the later. Using organic meats today would violate my mission statement.

If you look at the label of organic foods you will notice that they contain large amounts of carbohydrates. While I believe that carbohydrates are necessary in a well formulated diet, the organic foods use more than I deem acceptable. They have to use carbohydrates to keep the cost down and to add some protein (carbohydrates have protein) because they can't get enough meat protein. I must have a fixed formula which means that the ingredients (type, amount) will never vary from bag to bag or can to can. Many dogs and cats will get GI upsets if amounts or types of ingredients change. Organic foods have non fixed formulas because they have to take what they can get.

I understand the importance of organic ingredients and embrace it. If you look at my Instinctive Choice you will see that I have a portion of organic chicken. Unfortunately there is not very much CONSISTENT organic chicken to use and unfortunately not enough for my entire formula.

IN SUMMARY: My mission is to give the dog and cat the best nutrition I know how to. Using organic ingredients would be a plus, above and beyond the excellent nutrition. It will take a few more years before organic becomes more available.

Dr. Jane

Click Herer to learn more about Life's Abundance Dog and Cat Food


Make The Holidays Safe For Pets

By following some simple tips, you can ensure a trouble-free holiday season for you and your pets.

There are some things from which you should shield your pets during the festive months.

Some common holiday plants are toxic to cats and dogs.  Don’t keep holly, poinsettias, lilies or mistletoe on or near the floor, where pets have easy access to them.

If you have a live tree in your home, don’t let pine needles accumulate on the floor, as these needles can perforate the intestinal lining of dogs and cats.  Additionally, trees should be tethered to a wall or the ceiling to prevent them from falling on pets.

Don’t leave unfamiliar extension cords fully exposed, as these can resemble chew toys, which could result in serious injury to your dog.  Never leave lights plugged in when you are not at home.

Don’t allow your companion animals to drink holiday tree water, as it quickly becomes stagnant and can contain harmful chemicals or bacteria.  Consider putting up a wire fence to restrict access to tree water, and to gifts (aka, tempting chewing targets).

If you are decorating with tinsel, hang it out of reach of your pets, especially cats, as they are known to eat tinsel, which can result in intestinal distress.

And here are some suggestions for things you should consider doing as the year wraps up.

Do your gift wrapping on an elevated surface, where your pets can’t get into (and consequently eat) string, paper and ribbons that can cause intestinal blockages.

This is a good time of the year to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.  This helps to ensure the safety of the home and also avoids alarming your companion animals, as low batteries will often set off alerts that can scare your pets.

Encourage your holiday guests to refrain from feeding your companion animals human food, as this can result in diarrhea, vomiting and illness.

During the stress of the holidays, companion animals may drink more water, so be extra alert to providing this basic necessity.

Post your vet’s phone number in a prominent location, like your refrigerator.  This provides easy access to necessary information for anyone visiting your home, should a problem arise.

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


Dr. Jane Bicks Tips for Washing Our Pets

Dear Dr. Jane: Can you give me some tips on the best way to bathe my dog please?

Dr. Jane's Answer: Sure! Here are some great tips for washing our pets.

1. Don't wash your pet outside unless you've found a way to get warm water out there. Cold water is not as enjoyable to pets as it is to us.

2. Don't use the bathtub. It can hurt your back and it's hard for your pet to get a grip. Instead, use the shower or the laundry room sink. The bigger the sink, the better.

3. Put towels on the floor before washing, because the floor will get soaked and you may slip.

4. If you're in fact using the sink or shower, put a rubber mat in it.

5. Use treat-giving to teach your dog to stay in the sink and to behave properly. This may not work with a cat

6. Use an eye ointment in your pet's eyes to protect them from the suds. If soap gets in the eyes, you can use a human eye rinse

7. Make sure their coats get really wet, especially water breeds that are meant to repel water and those with thick coats. A nice wet coat also helps the shampoo to lather up more luxuriantly. Use a curry brush in a circular motion to work the shampoo and exfoliate the skin

8. When washing, don't go above the neck to prevent the ear canal from becoming an actual ear canal…. full of water. If you really want to wash the head, use a moist wash cloth only. Remember to wash under the tail, which is a widely forgotten area

9. Avoid using a hair dryer, which can burn or irritate your pet. Use a towel for drying… that is, after your pet does its instinctual, infamous water-shake

10. Remember to take your time. Make sure you carve out meaningful time on a weekend to do this bonding activity with your pet. Have a radio on with some soothing music to calm both of you down, and talk gently. If you are erratic and rushing, your pet will feel it

And One More Important Life's Abundance Tip: When it comes to washing your pet, you shouldn't use baby shampoo or human shampoo. Different types of shampoos are formulated for specific skin types. Instead, you should use a shampoo formulated especially for dogs and cats, like Life's Abundance Revitalizing Shampoo for dogs and cats


What Causes Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) has many causes, few of  them dietary:

1. Cats need to drink more water. Studies have shown that cats simply don't drink enough water. I suggest that you give your cat fresh water in a ceramic dish rather than plastic or stainless steel. Cat fountains generally increase water intake because cats enjoy them. Since canned food provides water and nutrition I recommend feeding your cat canned food at least once daily. Instinctive Choice canned cat food provides excellent concentrated nutrition with a great taste. It includes an herb that holistic veterinarians recommend for a healthy urinary tract.

2. Cat food, dry or canned should produce a urinary pH of 6.6 – 6.8. Life's Abundance Cat Food and Instinctive Choice Canned Cat Food produce the proper urinary pH for a healthy urinary tract.

3. Stress can cause FLUTD. Stressful events include moving, keeping the cat alone for longer times, or adding another pet or person to the family.

4. Allergies can cause FLUTD. Veterinarians find that some cats will have urinary tract issues the same time every year.

5. Ash, and magnesium levels are NO longer thought to be primary causes of FLUTD.