Saturday, June 6, 2009

Allergies in Dogs: Holistic Skin & Coat Care

Pet allergies, and especially dog allergies, are very common. Food, carpeting, blankets, dust mites, mold spores in the air, pollen, plastic food dishes, furniture stuffing and ornamental plants, all have the potential to trigger an allergic reaction in your dog. In some instances, a highly allergic pet may have several allergies at once. The severity of allergies, which can be seasonal or year round, varies greatly. The most common symptom from an allergy is intense itching (known as pruritus), which may be localized at spots or might be systemic, covering the pet's entire body.

Contact Allergies
Fleas are a common source of contact allergies. Other common contact allergens include grasses, hay, plants, and trees. Toxins and chemicals (pesticides, carpet cleaners, etc.) provide additional potential sources for contact allergies for both outdoor and indoor pets.

Let’s take a closer look at flea bite allergies: Flea bite allergy is the most common allergy affecting dogs. In spite of common belief, a normal dog experiences only minor skin irritation in response to flea bites. Even in the presence of dozens of fleas, there will be very little itching. On the other hand, the flea-allergic dog has a severe, itch-producing reaction to flea bites. This occurs because the dog develops an allergic response to flea saliva. When the dog is bitten, flea saliva is deposited in the skin. Just one bite causes intense itching. This type of reaction is not to the flea itself but rather to proteins in its saliva. Dogs most prone to this problem, interestingly enough, are not dogs who are constantly flea ridden, but those who are exposed only occasionally! A single bite can cause a reaction for five to seven days, so you don't need a lot of fleas to have a miserable dog. The dog's response to the intense itching is to chew, lick, or scratch. This causes hair loss and can lead to open sores or scabs on the skin, allowing a secondary bacterial infection to begin. The area most commonly involved is over the rump (just in front of the tail). Many flea allergic dogs also chew or lick the hair off of their legs. In most parts of the country, the problem is seasonal. It is most severe in summer and fall in areas of the country that have cold winters. In warm climates where fleas are active year-round, they are a year-round problem, intensifying during summer. Veterinarians may recommend treatment with small amounts of corticosteroids to give some affected pets relief during the flea season. However, these treatments may be dangerous to your pet if prolonged and only offer relief of symptoms at best. The most important treatment for flea allergy is to get the pet away from all fleas. Therefore, strict flea control is the backbone of successful treatment. Unfortunately, complete flea control is not always possible for pets that live outdoors in warm and humid climates, where a new population of fleas can hatch out every 14 to 21 days.

Food Allergies are generally due to ingredients in your pet's food or treats. Symptoms of food allergies include itching and/or noticeable digestive trouble. A food allergy can be a reaction to almost any ingredient such as soy, wheat, yeast, or beef. Food allergies are so common that pet food manufacturers have invested millions of dollars in research, development and promotion of diets to help dogs with food allergies. I have been and keep addressing food allergies many times within this blog and refrain from more details in today’s comments.Inhalant Allergies
With inhalants, pollen is the most common type of allergen, but cigarette smoke, air fresheners, smog, or other airborne pollutants can also be problematic.

Allergic Dermatitis (Skin problems caused by allergies)Regardless of what causes the problem, this condition is common, it can last a life time, it is a challenge to diagnose and once identified it can be resistant to attempts at treatment. Dogs with inhalant dermatitis will lick and chew at their paws and scratch their face, eyelids and ears. Others may erupt in hot spots or their skin may redden and be intensely itchy all over.

The list of symptoms is endless, but severe itching is the common ailment. Diagnosis of allergies is difficult, time consuming, very costly, and often inconclusive. As a result, allergies are seldom properly diagnosed, and instead, the symptoms are treated in hopes of relieving the pet’s discomfort. These treatments may include topical medications, soothing baths, ointments and sprays, oral antihistamines, or steroids. Caution: If you are sent home with a prescription for cortisone, or your dog has been given “a cortisone shot to stop the itching”, your dog may ultimately be worse off than before if the true diagnosis happens to be an unrecognized case of Sarcoptic mites! A key point to remember is this: There is no cure for allergies! What we can do is avoid the food, material or parasite that is triggering the immune response, and treat both the symptoms and the resulting infections to restore the skin to good health.

We carry at our on-line store a holistic series of products coming from a company called DER Magic. I have tried their products and experienced success with both, our cats as well as our dogs, this stuff really works. You know I don’t like to advertise the products we carry at the on-line store. But sometimes I just can’t help it and feel, if in general it really helps your companions, why not passing on a recommendation. Other stores do it too, even vets make their very specific recommendations when it comes to food, treats and remedies and illness cure. Coming back to DER Magic Skin & Coat Care: This company, as so many within the holistic circle of pet food, treat and supplement suppliers, was started because it’s founder, Dr. Adelie Ritchie, also proud owner of a couple Shih Tzus, tried to figure out how she could help her pups, who often were in need of a quick fix for bug bites, rashes, hot spots or other dermal boo-boos. The doctor’s original prototype product was formulated many years ago, back when Dr. Ritchie was breeding and showing Yorkshire Terriers and teaching organic chemistry at a community college in Florida. At the time, her prize show dog developed a serious skin disease and then progressively got worse under standard veterinary treatments, to the point where her vet suggested euthanasia to put the dog out of her misery. Shenanigan was her name and she had thick black skin by this time, smelled horrible and cried constantly. Back then, as is still the case today, there just weren't any good choices out there for veterinary treatments that weren't loaded with cortisone, steroids, antibiotics or strong chemicals, and even those treatments were not effective enough to save Shenanigan's life. This is when Dr. Ritchie got to work on formulating an effective topical treatment with natural, herbal and organic ingredients. Shenanigan got dunked, slathered, gooped, and drenched in potions, all somewhat effective, but not quite enough. Finally, after a few trials, the prototype DERMagic Hot Spot Lotion was born, and Shenanigan's relief was visible and immediate. She stopped crying and scratching, and her hair was sprouting again within 48 hours of the first treatment. Within six months, she was again in full coat and was parading herself proudly around the show ring. Over the years, Dr. Ritchie used her formulations to treat dogs and cats and horses belonging to family members, friends, and her colleagues in the dog show business, but it was not until much later that a good friend challenged her to make her great products available to every pet owner facing skin problems with their beloved companion animals.
Today, Dr. Ritchie offers a well rounded program of just a few, but extremely effective holistic skin and coat care products. All of them constantly receive very positive recognition in the pet oriented and related media including for example Animal Wellness Magazine to name just one. The line includes a complete 4 step skin care system, a hot spot salve, lotions, soap bars, Dead Sea aromatherapy bath salts and of course shampoos and conditioners.

Besides the very powerful fact that they simply work, what I like the most about Dr. Ritchie’s products is that she enables me to offer yet another effective solution within a well rounded holistic program, from food and treats to supplements and skin & coat care, all together designed to successfully help our customers in their efforts to get rid of their pet’s allergy problems.

To return to today’s topic and in conclusion, always, at the very first sign of itching, look for broken skin, a bite, a sore, or any irritation, and apply
DERMagic Hot Spot Lotion or Hot Spot Salve to kill the infection and prevent the irritation from getting worse. In most cases, this is the only remedy you will need. Both products are safe, free from corticosteroids and also are immediately effective at relieving itch from flea allergies, fighting the associated fungal and bacterial infestations, and promoting healing of affected areas.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Introduction of new novel pet food ingredients like plankton driven by a new motivation: Ingredient scarcity

Pet food manufacturers mostly for marketing driven reasons are constantly on the lookout for new ingredients. In an attempt to attract pet owners’ attention the manufacturer with the most novel and unusual ingredients typical scores more sales. However, copy cats quickly take away from that uniqueness and the search goes on. Additionally, over the last couple years truly novel ingredients have become more important as our pets suffer from food allergies that by now have turned into a major disease of epidemic dimensions. Other reasons for constantly exploring new stuff are the economics involved in pet food manufacturing. Quality plays certainly a role and lately one more reason can be added: Scarcity.

Dr. Greg Aldrich, PhD, President of Pet Food & Ingredient Technology Inc., a company facilitating innovations in foods and ingredients for companion animals recently wrote an
article for the, an on-line information service for pet food professionals. He named as reasons for this scarcity “A number of staple pet food ingredients are becoming more difficult to purchase, in part because of: Competition within the industry fueled by growth; competition with other industries such as aquaculture for similar ingredients; regional droughts and shortages and decreasing waste in human food processing.“

According to Dr. Aldrich, aside from scarcity “there are also growing concerns about pathogenic bacterial contamination, declines in quality with changes in the mix of by-products reaching rendering, an increase in cases of allergy and hypersensitivity to conventional ingredients and growing demand for antioxidant carotenoids and essential fatty acids.”

Coming back to scarcity. apparently at the top of the scarcity list are marine products like proteins and fatty acids. Reasons for that are a growing human populations, increasing knowledge regarding fatty acid requirements and over fishing. All these are expected to put greater pressures on fisheries,. The resulting outcome will be that fish stocks will soon be incapable of supporting demand affecting people and their pets.

Dr. Aldrich asks: “What can we do about it? One emerging option to this dilemma is plankton. It might seem like a real stretch, right? Well, not quite as big a stretch as you might think. A number of plankton or "microalgae" are suitable for industrial exploitation. While still somewhat futuristic, efforts have been under way for more than 50 years to grow, harvest and evaluate scores of organisms for productivity, nutrient composition, safety, agro/aqua cultural sustainability and economics.

These varied species of plankton originate in large bodies of water such as the world's oceans and lakes.
By definition, they are floating or drifting organisms incapable of controlling their own motility or direction and fill an ecological niche rather than a phylogenic or taxonomic family. They are commonly referred to as phytoplankton, zooplankton and bacterioplankton.

These mostly unicellular organisms are at the ground floor of the ocean's food chain, supporting a broad diversity of organisms, and are the primary source of numerous essential nutrients like long chain fatty acids that accumulate with each successive trophic order of marine organisms. In other words, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are derived from their diet, rather than their own synthesis, and these fatty acids are produced by plankton.

The more commercially viable plankton can be found in the families of green algae, cyanobacteria and protists. They have crazy sounding names, including such green algae organisms as Chlorella, Dunaliella and Haematococcus, cyanobacterium such as Arthrospira (Spirulina) and Aphanizomenon, dinoflagellates such as Crypthecodinium and chromista such as Shizochytrium.

Some of these organisms are photosynthetic, thus taking CO2, nitrogen and light and producing valuable carbon compounds such as simple sugars and amino acids. Others are heterotrophic organisms that utilize simple sugars and salts along with heat to produce more complex molecules such as carotenoids and long chain fatty acids.

Plankton are composed of proteins, carbohydrates and fats that rival some terrestrial proteins for example, Spirulina can exceed 60% protein, 13% carbohydrate and 6% fat on a dry matter basis. Plankton proteins are nutritionally available, although somewhat lower in quality than casein or soy. This is most likely due to a slightly lower protein digestibility combined with a lower ratio of essential amino acids such as methionine and histidine.

A viable source for most essential water soluble vitamins, carotenoids and tocopherols (vitamin E), plankton are also reported to be a rich and nutritionally available source of iron, selenium and iodine, among other minerals. Plankton are reputed to possess numerous nutraceutical compounds and anti inflammatory mediators. Generally speaking, plankton are safe for consumption but the amount in the diet may need to be limited. Under certain stressed growing conditions, though, toxic agents can be a concern.

While nutritional utilization of the plankton biomass may have been the original intent, today the principal consideration in the production of plankton is for harvest of specific nutrients. In other words, plankton are being farmed in ponds and grown in fermentation tanks for the production of specific molecules such as long chain fatty acids. This is the application that holds the greatest near term use for human foods and pet foods.”

While it is good to know that pet food manufacturers are alert and innovative enough to make sure there will always be ample supply of pet food, it also appears as if there will always be plenty of reasons to be concerned about what we are feeding our companion animals.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sensitive systems: Hypoallergenic foods and ingredients for pets with allergies

Jessica Taylor of the, a news service for pet food professionals recently wrote about this unfortunately all too common problem with our pets:

“Hypoallergenic diets for dogs and cats are gaining popularity and do offer some health benefits, but some marketing can mislead pet owners because pet food allergies are entirely specific to the individual pet, according to
The Honest Kitchen. There are lots of different theories about how and why pet food allergies occur. Pets don't actually develop allergies as a result of exposure to allergens but because they have suddenly become susceptible or vulnerable in some way.

Bad quality food in itself may deplete the immune system over time because it can be laden with toxins and other substances that place unnecessary burden on the body or because it lacks important nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes.

Pet food allergies are defined as immune system or inflammatory responses triggered by certain foods. Other pets may not have true allergies but are still sensitive to certain ingredients on a less severe level. For many pets, the most common culprits are wheat, corn, soy, rice and sugar beet pulp as well as various preservatives.

Allergen free: The way to be!
A pet's diet has a tremendous impact on its skin, digestion and overall metabolism. Pets with sensitive systems can be highly allergic to less expensive, lower quality pet food ingredients, such as protein fillers, or even premium ingredients. That's for example, why
California Natural dog and cat food's mission is to refuse to use allergens in its production. For the company more important it is what's missing that matters. The company’s literature claims with its lines of natural dog food, cat food, puppy food and dog treats, you'll never find fillers, by-products, wheat, corn, soy or artificial preservatives or flavoring and added coloring, all substances that can cause allergic reactions or stomach issues in pets.

California Natural also says it has the shortest ingredients list of any dry pet food but is still able to offer a variety of flavors in a complete and balanced diet. The list of ingredients used includes:
Essential fatty acids, including omega-6 and omega-3, are provided in optimal proportions to assure healthy and lustrous skin and coat and provide efficient sources of energy to support exercise and endurance and a strong immune system;

Sunflower oil is added as a high quality source of omega-6 fatty acid to help animals that may be prone to itchy skin; and
Single carbohydrate sources come from rice, either whole, ground brown and/or white and whole sweet potatoes.”

Jessica then looks at another interesting option asking “Are pulse fractions the ideal ingredients for dog food?
Imagine a food ingredient that is healthy, gluten free, nutritious and good for the environment. Think pulses. Pulses, beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are "super foods" that, according to some research, prevent diseases and contribute to overall good health. According to the same research, pulses can help manage weight related health problems, such as type II diabetes and heart disease, and have shown great promise in addressing certain cancers.

Peas are the predominant pulse crop and are grown in very large volumes, so supply can readily be established for pet foods and treats.

There are a number of processing plants that separate the components of peas so the pet food manufacturer’s ingredient buyers can get the whole pea or pea fractions. The primary components are the starch, fiber and protein. The protein fraction of peas contains over 50% crude protein, making it comparable to other protein concentrates.
To explore the potential to use pulses in dog food formulations, a two fold research project was recently completed with the cooperation of Petfood Ingredients Inc., Wenger Manufacturing, Forte Consulting and Kennelwood Inc.”

Here is a summary of their findings:
Peas, beans and lentils are known as pulses. They are the seeds of plants belonging to the family Leguminosae, which gets its name from the characteristic pod or legume that protects the seeds while they are forming and ripening. With approximately 13,000 species, the family Leguminosae is the second largest in the plant kingdom and it is very important economically.

Different kinds of legumes provide us with food, medicines, oils, chemicals, timber, dyes and ornamental garden plants. Legume products include carob, senna, gum arabic, balsam, indigo and licorice. Pulses are valuable because they contain a higher percentage of protein than most other plant foods.

Pea fiber lowers cholesterol levels (both total and LDL), assists in the management of type 2 diabetes by leveling out blood glucose curve, and is a source of insoluble dietary fiber for improved intestinal health. It also contains lysine, an essential amino acid required in both, cat and dog nutrient profiles established by AAFCO. Yellow, green and split pea flowers are high in protein.

Pulses have been used as food for thousands of years. The lentil was probably one of the first plants ever to be domesticated by humans. Most pulses prefer warm climates but there are varieties which grow in temperate regions. They can be eaten fresh or dried and come in a great number of varieties with a range of colors, flavors, and textures. In spite of its common name, the peanut or groundnut is also a legume rather than a nut.

All pulses, except for soy beans, are very similar in nutritional content. They are rich in protein, carbohydrate and fiber, and low in fat which is mostly of the unsaturated kind. They are also important sources of some B vitamins. Fresh pulses contain vitamin C, but this declines after harvesting and virtually all is lost from dried pulses. Canned pulses however, retain about half their vitamin C except for canned, processed peas which have been dried before canning. Canning doesn't affect the protein content, eliminates the need for soaking and considerably reduces the cooking time compared with dried pulses. Frozen peas will have also lost about a quarter of their vitamin C content.
Read more on the study online at

Finally, Jessica rounds up her comment by taking a look at what so many pet owners always forget about: Treats. I literally had pet owners coming to me telling me that their dog would be allergic to beef and can’t have any food with beef as a protein source. In addition then they ordered bully sticks by the case. If you want to cure the problem you have to do it all the way. In this example, if the dog is indeed allergic to beef, the best food in the world will not make a difference if it is fed combined with the treats.

Hypoallergenic treats for pets
Several pet food manufacturers are entering the hypoallergenic market with treats for cats and dogs. These treats are designed for pets with allergies and sensitive skin. They are available in canine and feline formulas and supposedly help eliminate the potential for adverse reactions to foods, as some of them contain hydrolyzed proteins. Additionally, some of them according to their manufacturers support skin barrier function and nourish the skin and coat with antioxidants and omega fatty acids. I am kind of skeptical about these as one of their manufacturer, is making these treats available through its veterinarian distribution channel. When looking at prescription food we found more than once that there are better solutions to some of the problems supposedly to be cured by these products. But as we also know, pet owners will buy and use them because their vet tells them so. It is that simple.

I am way more in favor of
Aunt Jeni's Home Made’ approach. This company, known for its high quality raw diets takes a more natural approach and offers dehydrated natural dog treats in a number of protein varieties including goat. The crispy chip alike pieces are hypoallergenic, holistic and organic. They contain no preservatives, yeast, soy, chemicals, salt, sugar or grains. The same company also offers seafood and other protein based holistic cat treats with a crisp texture. The variety contains fish, baby shrimp, clams, beef, lamb and goat lung chips. These feline treats too according to the company are hypoallergenic and all natural.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pet Food Ingredients de-mystified: Garlic, trust history or hysteria?

When it comes to your animal’s health you want to follow facts and not fears. It is easy for rumors and misinformation to arise. On the Internet such rumors can grow and spread fast. One of the topics, which has been under attack more recently is garlic as in feeding to animals. You too have probably heard on the one hand that garlic is safe and a healthy herb for your pets. At the same time you may also got confused when you found out the next day that it may be dangerously toxic and should be avoided. So what are the facts here?

Quite possibly the confusion surrounding garlic may come from its close ties to the onion family. Onions have a high concentration of thiosulfate, a substance that can trigger hemolytic or Heinz body anemia in dogs, a condition where circulating blood cells burst. Just one generous single serving of onions can cause this reaction. By the way, such reactions can also be caused by serving acetaminophen, as it is contained in Tylenol or benzocaine, which is present in many creams recommended for allergy suffering animals. Benzocaine is absorbed through the skin and builds up in the blood stream. In many cases it has been proven to be involved when originally garlic was suspected to cause hemolytic problems.

But garlic itself simply does not contain the same concentration of thiosulfate as onions do. It is barely traceable in garlic and is readily excreted from the body. Despite this fact, garlic still is falling victim to the net’s mass hysteria. Google for “garlic toxicity dogs” and you get a list of 206,000 sites presenting to you warnings. Yet there is little scientific data to back those claims, except those small amounts of thiosulfate. The good thing though is that if you change your Google search from “toxicity” to “benefits” the result of 5.8 Million sites probably outweighs the negatives. Included in that number are those favorable sites by reputable holistic vets having widely used garlic in their practice for many years.

Garlic has been a primary remedy for as longs as humans have been using herbs. And as long as people have been using garlic they also have fed it to their animals. Its healing properties have proven far reaching and safe to use. During the rebirth of holistic medicine in the past fifty years garlic has been on the forefront of remedies. Pretty much every article and comment on herbal health recommends garlic for animals. This is especially true for its incredible anti parasitic and antiseptic properties. Garlic also has benefited animals suffering from cancer, diabetes, liver, heart and kidney disease, uncontrollable staph infections and a wide host of other conditions.

Feeding garlic raw on a daily absis may be hard on the GI tract and cause digestive upset or diarrhea. If that happens, it means your animal cannot really eat enough to get true therapeutic doses. Forget about dehydrated powder or cooked garlic because it has gone through heat processing, which destroys many of its benefits. Therefore the best form to use it is a purified extract, often found in form of gel caps. This way it can get easily into the intestines in concentrated amounts benefiting the animal without causing digestive upset.

Garlic is a staple in recommended preventative protocols and has been used in hundreds of thousands of animals with no reported negative side effects except on breath. I would say it is fine to use garlic in reasonable doses. When giving it to your pet, use common sense and trust history over hysteria.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Puppy Diets: Growth oriented food formulas offering advantages?

It wasn’t too long ago that feeding recommendations for the various life stages of a canine were simple: Feed a puppy more and a senior less. That was all what back then it supposedly took to fill the nutritional needs at various ages. But the world of dog food has changed. Looking at the shelves at the food stores today we are overwhelmed by a sheer endless number of different puppy specific variations of flavors and formulas.

As one owner of a pet food store puts it: “Over the past couple years we have been seeing the use of unique ingredients in more and more products. They include alternative meat protein sources and different sources of nutraceuticals, not just in puppy, but in food for all life stages.”

Whether formulated for small or large breeds, many of these puppy blends contain a rich variety of ingredients mirroring the trends in the adult food market. They contain unconventional protein sources, such as for example fish, rabbit, venison and others. They are grain free or made with low allergenic fibers, such as quinoa, barley or millet.

“There is definitely a movement toward higher quality, natural diets for puppies” reports a co-owner of a pet food manufacturing business. “More food makers are including DHA, prebiotics and probiotics and all puppy formulas now have vitamins and minerals added to make them a complete and balanced diet for puppies.”

A puppy’s growing body requires more and different nutrients than the one of an adult. Manufacturers are catering their formulas to meet those dietary needs. AAFCO requires that manufacturers put a so called nutritional adequacy statement on their labels clearly stating whether the food is for growth and lactation (same requirements)), for adult maintenance or all life stages.

Today’s blends available to puppy owners however go already beyond that. They contain specific ingredients, such as for example fatty acids for proper brain and eye formation and for healthy puppy development. Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition at Cornwell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, NY says: “Omega-3’s and -6’s are considered essential for puppies by the National Research Council. Essential Omega-6’s are linoleic acid and Omega-3’s are eicosapentaeonic acid or EPA and docosahexaeonic acid or DHA.”

Puppy diets also contain optimal balances of calcium and phosphorous for healthy bone development. They both help to build strong bones. They have not only to be in the right amounts, they also need to be at the correct ratio. This is particularly important for large breed puppies as they tend to go through a very fast growth phase and during that growth phase their bones need to be developing correctly.

Puppy formulas also come enriched with nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin. As one vet at a pet food manufacturer says: “We began adding sources of glucosamine and chondroitin to our large breed puppy food. We use it in the senior formula because we know that many seniors have arthritis problems and glucosamine and chondroitin are known to be beneficial to those dogs. We thought it would be beneficial to start the large breed puppies out on them too to prevent some of these skeletal issues.”

The question arises: Do all of these ingredients support puppy health? According to Dr. Richard C.Hill, VetMB, PhD, MRCVS, Waltham Associate Professor of small animal internal medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesvill, FL, “… they do. The most important thing to prolong a puppy’s life span and to reduce the incidence of disease is to restrict access to food so they remain in a lean body condition. Not skinny, but lean.” He refers to a life span study published in the journal Nutrition back in 2003. This study confirmed a link between body fat and the development of chronic health conditions. It also confirmed a link between the length of time a dog was overweight and that dog’s longevity and how early in the life the subject’s health conditions developed.

Each puppy based on activity level, metabolism and environmental factors may need more or less food to maintain the ideal body weight. Dr. Hill explains how to assess a puppy’s body condition: “The puppy should have a waist visible form the sides and above and an owner should be able to feel the ribs without having a layer of fat over them. A good way to describe this is: If you rub your hand over the top of your knuckles, that’s too thin, and then, when you rub your hand over the top of your closed fingers, that’s about what it should be. If you rub your hand over the ball of your hand on the other side, over the meat of your hand, that’s too fat. If your puppy is getting a little pudgy, cut back on the kibble.”

So here you have it in a nutshell. But, you may ask, with so many puppy formulas on the market my seemingly eternal question remains unanswered: Which one is the best for my pup? I agree, at times the sheer number of products can be overwhelming and confusing. As GM of our retail store I am confronted with that problem every day. How many choices do we offer? Wouldn’t we be better off only offering one choice, let’s say the one, which we determine as to be the best choice? That would not be the solution. First, who are we to come up with such a judgment? Second, even if we could make that judgment, who is to say that it would be the best choice for your very individual pup? That is why we offer so many. Sorry, at the end, the choice is yours. Only you can and will have to make that decision. We do however try to support your efforts by educating our customers, by providing as much information as we possibly can find and generate. With that information our customers can become educated consumers having the tools they need to make the right choice. Puppies are full of energy and playful enthusiasm. Let’s make sure they grow up under the right conditions, which include a diet which makes the most sense.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blood in stool: Part 2 Digested Blood: Melena

Bloody stools in pets can be attributable to a variety of underlying causes. While red blood in small quantities, sometimes mixed with mucous, is fairly common, it is always best to consult your veterinarian to pursue a diagnosis.
There are two variations of this problem. hematochezia and melena. Hematochezia is the presence of bright red and fresh blood in the feces, while melena is the passage of dark, tary and black feces. Melena is actually the passage of old, digested blood from bleedings which have occurred higher up in the intestinal tract. The causes, diagnostics and treatments for hematochezia often differ from those for melena. In part 1 of this series we discussed hematochezia, today we will talk about melena.

In medical terms, melena or melaena refers to the black, "tarry" feces that are associated with gastrointestinal hemorrhage. The black color is caused by oxidation of the iron in hemoglobin during its passage through the ileum and colon. Melena is different from fresh blood in the stool (hematochezia). It may represent a severe, life threatening illness, and should not be ignored. It must especially be addressed if it persists or worsens.

Melena develops when bleeding occurs into the stomach or small intestines. The bleeding must be high in the intestinal tract in order for the blood to be digested and become discolored. In contrast, hematochezia or bleeding into the colon or rectum appears as fresh blood in the stool.

Melena usually indicates the presence of significant upper gastrointestinal disease, although occasionally other diseases, such as clotting disorders, ingestion of blood, etc. unrelated to the gastrointestinal tract may present with melena. The classic appearance of melena is black, shiny, sticky, foul smelling feces with a tarry consistency. Melena may be seen as the only clinical sign, although other systemic signs often accompany it. Ingestion of blood must be ruled out, including swallowing blood from the oral cavity or respiratory tract, and licking blood from a wound. A careful history and thorough physical examination of these patients is essential. The presence of melena generally warrants hospitalization, extensive diagnostic testing, and supportive care. It is best to determine the underlying cause and treat the specific problem.There are many potential causes for melena to include infectious agents, certain drugs, cancer, foreign bodies in the stomach or intestines, infiltrative and inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, ingestion of blood, bleeing disorders or coagulopathies, metabolic and other diseases that cause gastrointestinal ulceration, perioperative hemorrhage, which is bleeding associated with surgery on the intestinal tract, gastrointestinal ischemia or lack of blood supply and as an uncommon cause, ingestion of heavy metals.To determine if your pet is suffering the disease, watch out for dark, almost black stools, diarrhea, vomiting, pale gums, other areas of bleeding or bruising on the body, weight loss, poor appetite and excessive drinking or urinating.

To diagnose melena, a thorough history and physical examination are often helpful in determining if melena is present and in suggesting an underlying cause. To determine the exact cause, an extensive battery of tests is often required to identify or isolate the specific cause. Such tests may include:

Complete blood count (CBC) to evaluate for the presence of infection, inflammation and anemia associated with some diseases that cause melena, a biochemical profile to rule out metabolic causes of melena and to evaluate electrolyte and protein levels, urinalysis to evaluate the kidneys, the hydration status of the patient and the presence of blood in the urine, fecal examination for parasites and fecal culture for bacteria, abdominal and chest X-rays to identify foreign objects or tumors and to evaluate for the presence of fluid/blood or metastasis/spread of tumor in the lungs, serology for certain infectious diseases, coagulation profile and platelet count to assess blood clotting, abdominal ultrasonography, upper gastrointestinal barium series, endoscopy, dietary recommendations vary depending on the cause; however, a bland diet that is easy to digest may be recommended.

Avoid all gastrointestinal irritants like corticosteroids and aspirin drugs. Drugs that block the production of stomach acid and coat the stomach may be recommended. In severe cases, hospitalization is warranted for intravenous fluid therapy, blood transfusions, and supportive care.As the above diagnostic tests are underway, your vet may start symptomatic therapy, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific, symptomatic treatments may be applicable to some pets with melena. They may reduce the severity of symptoms and provide some relief to your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definitive treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your pet's condition.

Temporarily discontinue all oral liquids and food, especially if the animal is also vomiting. This allows the GI tract to rest and may facilitate healing of the lining of the GI tract. Gradual reintroduction of small amounts of bland food may then be instituted if the clinical signs have subsided. Subcutaneous or intravenous fluid and electrolyte therapy may be necessary in some patients with melena to correct dehydration, acid base, and electrolyte abnormalities. Blood transfusions may be indicated in the patient that becomes anemic from the melena. Plasma transfusions and vitamin K therapy may be indicated in patients with coagulopathies. Drugs that decrease acid production by the stomach may expedite the resolution of melena, especially if it is secondary to gastrointestinal ulcers. Gastrointestinal protectants and adsorbents or bind harmful substances may be considered. Protectants containing bismuth should be avoided because they often turn the stools black and can make it difficult to determine whether the melena has resolved. In some cases surgical intervention is recommended, especially when a bleeding ulcer, gastrointestinal tumor, foreign body, or malpositioning of the stomach/intestines is diagnosed.

Most of this information I found in an article written by
Dr. Bari Spielman for the
While I am not a vet and you most certainly need to follow your vet’s advice, I personally would prefer an alternative treatment over the conventional “throw some hard core meds at the problem” solution. Natural remedies can be great alternatives. They are very effective and safe to use as well. Look out for homeopathic medications with powerful herbs. Apart from giving the right medications make dietary changes. Highly processed food affects your pet’s health badly. As a first line of defense, you may try giving your pet a bland diet that consists of rice as well as potatoes and substitute these foods for its regular food. The best solution is raw, unprocessed food and plenty of water to drink. And maybe you want o look for a vet fit in holistic animal care.

Note: Blood in stool: Part 1 Fresh Blood: Hematochezia

Blood in stool: Part 1 Fresh Blood: Hematochezia

Bloody stools in pets can be attributable to a variety of underlying causes. While red blood in small quantities, sometimes mixed with mucous, is fairly common, it is always best to consult your veterinarian to pursue a diagnosis.
There are two variations of this problem. hematochezia and melena. Hematochezia is the presence of bright red and fresh blood in the feces, while melena is the passage of dark, tary and black feces. Melena is actually the passage of old, digested blood from bleedings which have occurred higher up in the intestinal tract. The causes, diagnostics and treatments for hematochezia often differ from those for melena. Today we will talk about heatochezia and address the ladder one in part 2 of this series.

To determine if your pet is suffering from hematochezia, here is what you should watch out for: Bright red blood in the feces, straining to defecate, an increased number of bowel movements produced, possibly no other clinical signs, possibly other systemic signs of illness, such as excessive drinking, urinating, vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, poor appetite, weight loss
The presence of hematochezia may be a symptom of either a minor problem or a potentially more serious problem in the animal. If happening at once, hematochezia may be a minor and transient event. Repeated or persistent occurrences of hematochezia obviously are more serious and should not be ignored. There are several possible causes.

Hematochezia is often a sign of lower gastrointestinal disease. In some cases it is an indication of a minor, transient problem. In other cases it is indicative of a serious underlying disease that can become an emergency requiring intensive therapy. Hematochezia may be the only clinical sign seen, or it may be accompanied by other signs, especially straining to defecate. Obtaining a detailed history and through physical examination are essential when evaluating these patients.

The most common potential causes of hematochezia are usually associated with the gastrointestinal tract. Yet in some other cases, the cause is completely unrelated, like for example clotting disorders or coagulopathies. It is important to determine the cause of the disease as different treatments may be required.

A great number of infectious agents may result in hematochezia. They include viral infections such as panleukopenia, also called feline distemper and a contagious viral disease, bacterial infections such as Salmonella, protozoal agents such as coccidiosis (one-cell organisms living in the intestinal tracts), and intestinal parasites such as hookworms and roundworms.

Dietary intolerance and indiscretion from eating spoiled food, overeating, ingesting foreign material, supposedly especially bones, a sudden change in diet, or supposedly eating people food may cause inflammation of the lower bowel and hematochezia.

Dietary allergy to certain food substances, such as to particular proteins, lactose, high fat content, and certain food additives may also cause colon inflammation or colitis with hematochezia. Masses of the colon, rectum or anus may cause bleeding and produce hematochezia. They include benign or polyps and malignant or cancerous tumors.
Persistent hematochezia is a common sign of inflammation of the colon, sometimes also referred to as colitis. Many of the causes of hematochezia listed above also cause colitis. Colitis can also occur for unknown, immune related or poorly defined reasons and may require a colonic biopsy to identify the type of the inflammation present.

Trauma of any sort can cause hematochezia. Examples include bite wounds to the anal area, fractures of the pelvis that disrupt the colon or rectum, the passage of sharp ingested objects like for example bones, needles, tacks, etc. and the insertion of instruments or materials into the rectum like for example examination scopes, enema syringes, etc..

Bleeding disorders or coagulopathies of the body may result in bleeding from the lining of the lower bowel. There are numerous types of bleeding disorders that may occur in animals. Examples include ingestion of rat poison that contains anticoagulants, in rare cases inherited clotting disorders, even less common decreased numbers of platelets, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) from massive infections or organ failure and severe liver disorders.

Intussusception or the telescoping of one part of the bowel into another secondary to foreign bodies, tumors, or parasites can cause hematochezia.

Stricture (narrowing) of the anus or colon, secondary to previous trauma, inflammation, cancer or a foreign body may result in bleeding, especially as stools are passed.

Chronic or intermittent constipation and attempted passages of dry, hard stools may result in hematochezia.

Anal sacculitis (inflammation of the anal sacs) or anal sac abscessation can change the consistency of the fluid in the anal sacs to a bloody liquid. This liquid may coat the stools as they are defecated. Anal sac diseases are uncommon with cats but more often found in dogs.

Proctitis is inflammation of the rectum and is often associated with colitis.


Obtaining a complete medical history and performing a thorough physical examination are necessary in order to create an appropriate diagnostic plan for the patient with hematochezia. The physical examination often includes a digital rectal examination. In addition, the following tests may be recommended: A complete blood count (CBC) to evaluate for the presence of infection, inflammation, anemia, and altered numbers of platelets. A biochemical profile to assess the overall health and function of various abdominal organs, and to help rule out other disorders. A urinalysis to evaluate the kidneys, the hydration status of the patient, and the presence of blood in the urine. Multiple fecal examinations for parasites bacteria, protozoa, and the presence of blood invisible to the bare eye . A coagulation profile to assess the ability of the blood to clot. Abdominal radiographs or x-rays to evaluate the abdominal organs and assess for the presence of a foreign body or tumor. Furthermore, your vet may recommend additional tests, based on results of the above tests and the clinical signs exhibited by the animal. These ancillary tests are selected on a case by case basis and include: An abdominal ultrasound evaluates the size, shape and texture of abdominal organs and helps to determine the presence of tumors. Organs, lymph nodes, and masses can be sampled with a needle or biopsy instrument with the guidance of ultrasound. This test may require referral of your pet to a specialist in veterinary internal medicine or veterinary radiology to perform the procedure. Bacterial fecal cultures may be recommended in those cases where a bacterial cause is suspected. Colonoscopy or a lower GI endoscopy may be of benefit in the patient with hematochezia. Colonoscopy involves the passage of a viewing scope into the lower bowel to visualize the lining of the colon and to allow biopsy of any abnormal tissue. Colonoscopy is performed under general anesthesia and may require referral of your pet to a specialist in veterinary internal medicine to perform the procedure.

As supportive care treatment of the symptoms may be necessary while diagnostic testing is underway, especially if the animal is severely ill or blood loss is dramatic. The following supportive measures may be instituted as needed to reduce the severity of symptoms or stabilize the animal. Intravenous fluid and electrolyte therapy may be indicated in severe cases of hematochezia, especially if there are concurrent systemic signs of illness like vomiting, dehydration or lack of appetite. Treatment for shock may be undertaken in weak or collapsed animals. Food and water may be withheld for 24 hours or more. Antibiotics may be started via injection.

With mild cases or nonspecific cases of hematochezia, symptomatic therapy may be tried. Typically such therapy is aimed at reducing inflammation within the lower bowel and decreasing exposure to materials that are difficult to digest or pass in the stools. Symptomatic treatments are not a replacement for specific therapy. With any serious or persistent hematochezia, it is important to perform diagnostic tests that allow a specific cause to be identified, and then specific therapy is instituted. Examples of symptomatic measures include the following: Changes in diet may be recommended and may include a trial of either a moderate or high fiber, low fat diet or a hypoallergenic diet. Thoroughly de-worming the pet is often recommended, regardless of whether the fecal examination confirms parasitism. In some cases intestinal parasites are present, but they are difficult to detect on routine fecal screenings. A broad spectrum de-wormer may be recommended. Antibiotic therapy may be recommended because these drugs alter the bacterial counts in the lower bowel and may have some mild anti-inflammatory properties. Motility modifying drugs that change the rate of movement of food through the intestines may be helpful in some cases.Once a diagnosis is made, then specific therapy may be instituted. Specific treatments are sometimes combined with supportive and symptomatic treatments to ensure the hematochezia resolves. Depending upon the cause, the following may be considered: Common treatments used for colitis include dietary changes and oral antibiotic or antibacterial like for example sulfadiazine and sulfadimethoxine medications. Corticosteroids may be indicated in some forms of immune related colitis. Treatments for clotting disorders may include Vitamin K therapy, and transfusions of either blood or plasma. Masses of the colon or rectum are surgically removed whenever possible. Intussusceptions often require correction via require abdominal surgery. The presence of colonic foreign bodies, such as bones, metallic materials, etc., may sometimes necessitate cleansing enemas or manual removal with the animal under general anesthesia. A variety of treatments exist for rectal strictures and anal sac disease.

Most of this information I found in an article written by
Dr. Bari Spielman for the What I am personally not happy about is the more in depth treatment by the vet with antibiotics and cortisone shots and similar measurements. While I am not a vet and you most certainly need to follow your vet’s advice, I personally would prefer an alternative treatment over the conventional “throw some hard core meds at the problem” solution. More natural remedies can be a great alternative for antibiotics. They are very effective and safe to use as well. Look out for homeopathic medications with powerful herbs like berberis vulgaris, cantharis, and staphysagris. These medications can treat bacterial infections like no other medication can and prevent recurring infections as well. Apart from giving the right medications make dietary changes. Highly processed food affects your pet’s health badly. The best solution is raw, unprocessed food and plenty of water to drink. And maybe you want o look for a vet fit in holistic animal care.

Note: Blood in stool: Part 2 Digested Blood: Melena