Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Featured Pet for Winter

Meet Kitza! Kitza is a dignified lady at 20 years old. We have worked with her dedicated “parents” to develop a monthly health check and treatment plan to ensure optimal care for Kitza in her old age. We see her weekly to give subcutaneous fluids due to old age kidney disease. Her owners say that although she cannot jump directly to her favorite window sill anymore that has not stopped her from finding another, more gradual, pathway to her favorite spot. Kitza is a beautiful feline with a sweet personality who has aged quite gracefully!

Care for senior pets

Part of the joy of owning a pet is growing and maturing together. As our pets become senescent it is important to understand that they will require an increased level of care, both medically and at home. Cats and dogs age at different rates and have different geriatric needs. Additionally, most large breed dogs age faster than small breed dogs.

Since cats think they are superior to dogs we will start with them. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), “seniors” range from 11 to 14 years old and your cat is considered “geriatric” after 15. Potential health concerns in an aging cat include: arthritis, cancer, cognitive (brain) disorders, constipation, deafness, dental disease, diabetes, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease, and/or vision problems. (Phew!)

The challenge lies in identifying signs of these diseases:
Did you know that an inability of your cat to jump may indicate diabetes? Most cats are very stoic and tend to hide pain or discomfort from even the most observant owners, so please share even small changes in your older cat with your Whole Pet vet. Signs of illness may include: increase or change in vocalization; inability to jump, run or play; decreased or increased appetite; weight gain or loss; changes in temperature preference (eg. 'My cat used to like sitting near the heater but now chooses to sit in the cool window sill or tiled bathroom floor'); changes in litter box habits; odor from mouth; or excessive licking over one body part.

For each calendar year, your cat ages about 6-7 years worth! For this reason, a physical exam by a veterinarian every 6 months for cats over 10 years old along with annual blood test screening contributes to early detection of illness and early treatment. Just think, that is an exam for your cat only every 3.5 years when compared to humans. Blood tests should be done on your young healthy cat annually after 3 years old to establish “normals” which allows the veterinarian to identify trends. In between exams use your observation skills to monitor for changes in weight, behavior, activity, or personality.

You can help your aging cat by making some changes at home. For pets with arthritis put food and water bowls in easy to access places or build a ramp or steps to the bowl. Add an extra water bowl or fountain because most aging pets, and people, need plenty of water. Add a component of moist food to your cat's diet at an early age to fend off dehydration and kidney disease. Supplements like glucosamine and fish oil should be started early to minimize arthritis pain and enhance organ health. Incorporating another litter box in a convenient area may be necessary. Since older cats are not as active as when young you may need to trim their nails more often to prevent overgrowth that can get caught in carpets and tear. Check them monthly. Cats may need help grooming when they are very aged so gently brush if they will allow. Be mindful: a 12 year old cat that is not grooming may be a sign of pain.


In general, a dog is considered senior between 7-10 years of age, although this varies between size dogs. Small breed dogs (become senior later) tend to live longer than the giant-breed dogs(senior earlier). The list of potential health problems for a dog is similar to that of a cat but with some variations. Arthritis, cancer, prostate disease, cognitive disorders, intestinal problems, deafness, dental disease, diabetes, heart disease, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, urinary incontinence, liver disease, and/or vision problems.

Many people believe falsely that a limping dog is NOT in pain. However, if you see your dog limping, it is most likely because the leg with the limp hurts. Sometimes limps are subtle and need a veterinarian to identify. Additional signs of illness may include: urine accidents; skin lumps; constipation or diarrhea; shortness of breath, coughing, or other difficulty breathing; weakness; changes in weight, appetite or water intake; increased vocalization; or uncharacteristic aggression.

Did you know that a 7 year old labrador is 50 in “dog years” and at age 13 they are 82! For this reason, a physical exam by a veterinarian every 6 months for dogs over 7 years old along with annual blood test screening contributes to early detection of illness and early treatment. Compared to human years that is really only a good check up about every 3 years. Blood tests should be done on younger dogs to establish “normals” which allows the veterinarian to identify trends. In between veterinary visits your dog relies on you to read subtle cues of illness.

You can help your senior canine continue to live a happy and healthy life. It may require putting rugs on hardwood floors to provide traction for arthritic dogs. Use orthopedic beds, or additional blankets or padding for their bed. Provide ramps or stairs to get to frequently used locations, in and out of house and car. Senior dogs may need to be let out more frequently to go to eliminate.
Addressing your older pet's diet is one way that you can keep your senior canine healthy. Diets for senior pets should be lower in fat but not lower in protein. A good quality diet should contain a high quality protein as one of the first listed ingredients. Some high-end senior diets will be rich in antioxidants which will slow brain aging (Hills B/D).

Supplements are usually beneficial and should include fish oil for arthritis and organ health. A good quality glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplement reduces arthritis pain in most dogs. Finally if your pet is showing signs of brain aging there are several supplements available that have great promise. Recent research has also shown that behavioral enrichment and continued physical exercise in older dogs helps to slow dementia.

If your pet is losing their vision, remove obstacles and clutter and cover any sharp edges. Also, keep the layout of your house the same so your pet can navigate with confidence. Older animals may not maintain their body temperature as efficiently, so they will rely partially on you to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

So a little extra care and vigilance will make your pets' retirement years more comfortable: a gift back to them for a lifetime of their unconditional love!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Whole Pet Veterinary Care - Featured Pet Dylan

Meet Dylan, a happy golden retriever. He may be 16 years old, about 87 in human years, but he is young at heart! Every time we see Dylan he is wagging his tail and has a spring in his step. As with any aging human, dogs need an increased level of care and sometimes an increased medicine cabinet. Through careful use of medications and supplements his caretakers have eased Dylan's cognitive dysfunction and arthritis pain. They have always considered Dylan's comfort and desire to enjoy life in important decisions like surgery to repair a broken leg when he was 14 and to remove a large skin tumor when he was 15! Due to their compassionate and thoughtful care, Dylan continues to enjoy life and bring joy to us at Whole Pet each time we see him.

Parasites and Your Pet

If there was ever an example of "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" it applies to this little guy and some of his friends.


Parasites like worms that can be contracted from fleas, mosquitos, or even soil can wreak havoc on our pets' health and potentially lead to death, but can be prevented by simple procedures like feeding monthly chewable, tasty meds; even less than an ounce worth!

Fleas, heartworms, intestinal parasites. What are they and why do we need to prevent our pets from contracting them?

Peak flea season in Oregon starts in spring and lasts through the summer into early fall, but fleas can survive year-round in western Oregon's moderate climate and our heated homes. Since fleas carry tapeworms, year-round prevention of fleas prevents tapeworm infection as well. It is also important to prevent flea accumulation on your pet because the bite of a flea can cause a skin allergic reaction and secondary infection. While infections can be severe and cause hairloss, even a mild flea reaction causes the cat or dog discomfort. If you are not taking measures to prevent fleas, over time a flea infestation (=lots of fleas, larvae, AND eggs) can develop even in a tidy home and infestations are harder to treat. The graph below shows the flea activity for Salem, Oregon by month.  Monthly, year-round preventative for all pets in the home eliminates flea problems.  


Intestinal Parasites we may diagnose in a dog or cat include: roundworms (common in puppies, kittens and pregnant or nursing dogs), hookworms, whipworms (harder to diagnose, lower incidence in Oregon), and tapeworms (from fleas). These worms are commonly diagnosed by microscopic examination of the feces. Roundworms are named for their shape. Hookworms are named because they hook onto the wall of the intestines and feed off of the blood of their host. Tapeworms come from fleas, and whipworms are found in soil but are uncommon in cats. See the prevalence of roundworms, hookworms and whipworms; Simply follow this link, and click on "Intestinal Parasites".

Annual examination of stool sample for parasites is recommended to make sure your pet is free of them. This is especially important for families with young children, as roundworms and hookworms can be contracted by humans, more commonly young children.

Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are roundworms that require a mosquito to mature and spread from animal to animal. While the dog is the preferred host, cats may become infected as well. This video provided by the American Heartworm Society explains the heartworm's life cycle,

While the incidence of heartworm is more prevalent in California, the south, and southeastern, prevention is still recommended for several reasons: 1)Consequences from heartworms are dire, once contracted, are very difficult to treat and may cause death; 2)It is hard to predict the ability of the heartworm parasite's or the mosquito vector's ability to adapt and more easily spread the infection outside of the higher prevalence areas; 3)You may unexpectedly travel to an area of increased heartworm infection risk; and 4)Presence of a heartworm positive dog from the southeastern US may go undetected and be a source of heartworm infection in Oregon in the warm months.

Testing your dog before beginning heartworm prevention is recommended and then once a year to ensure that the product is effective. Most heartworm preventions also prevent intestinal parasites as well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The full article: Anxiety in Pets

In order to understand anxiety we first have to understand what fear is and the role it may play in anxiety. Fear is an instinctual feeling of apprehension resulting from a situation, person, or object that appears to present an external threat, whether real or perceived. The result is an autonomic nervous system response. This is your pet's normal “fight or flight” response.

Whereas, Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers that result in body reactions (also known as physiologic reactions) associated with fear. You can see these reactions in a frightened or anxious animal, they include: elimination (urination and/or passage of bowel movements), destruction (eating your shoes for instance), over-grooming in cats, and excessive barking or crying. These are only the visible signs, many of our pets, especially cats will hide their anxiety from us.

The most common form of anxiety in our pets is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can result in any of the physiological reactions listed above. Also, if your pet has separation anxiety they are more likely to have noise phobias, such as a fear of thunderstorm or the dreaded vacuum cleaner. Separation anxiety can be treated with acupuncture, herbs, medications and/or calming pheromones. In addition adjusting their environment and behavioral modification are useful.

In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), anxiety and phobias are considered disturbances of the Shen or emotions. The intellect is housed in the brain, but the emotions (the Shen) are controlled by the Heart. Thus the heart is not just the organ that pumps blood throughout the body, but the whole Chinese Heart System, which incorporates the heart, blood vessels and the entire nutritive system for maintaining the health of the body and is also responsible for helping to maintain a healthy emotional balance. If the Heart System is deficient, or if problems with other bodily systems negatively affect the Heart, then a Shen disturbance can result. The most common Shen disturbances we face in veterinary medicine in dogs are separation anxiety, noise phobias and aggression. In cats, we most commonly see litterbox issues.

Because the Shen is housed in the Heart, we can treat acupuncture points along the Heart meridian to directly influence the functioning of the Heart System to improve Shen disturbances. When the Shen disturbance is due to Heart deficiency, we can treat points to nourish and strengthen the Heart, which bolsters the Shen. In addition to acupuncture, we also use TCVM herbal preparations for long-term Heart and Shen support. These herbs can be used in conjunction with conventional Western drugs if needed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Whole Pet Technician Tips for helping dogs through Fireworks!

  1. As the owner it is best if you do not get excessively emotional or coddling to a pet that is anxious, it may make them feel insecure with you as their protector. Instead act calm and confident as though nothing at all is awry.
  2. Keep your pet in a dark room that is furthest away and most protected from firework noise. Or, allow them to go into a closet or under a table where they feel safe.
  3. Play music moderately loud. Play something that the pet has heard played in the house before, a favorite CD.
  4. Apply a pheremone collar (Adaptil) or install room pheremone diffusers several days before and after July 4th.
  5. Place a “ThunderShirt” to help calm your pet (available for both cats and dogs). A snug piece of clothing may have the same effect.
  6. Put Bach flower essence “Rescue Remedy” for pets in their water and around the house.Or try "Harmonese" herbal supplement beginning one week before fireworks.

Case study on Anxiety Disorders in Dogs

Hello all. Anxiety disorders in dogs are the source of discomfort and stress for the dog and for us as pet owners. There is no "cure all" for behavior problems, but at Whole Pet I see a good amount of success combining medication with alternative therapy or with just alternative therapies. Here is a case I would like to share with you about one of my patients.

This is "Wally" He is 11 1/2 years old. He was treated at Whole Pet for anxiety and is doing GREAT.
Wally is loved by a family that has been burdened with some stress and illness. So, naturally he is feeling some of the family's stress. As a result, Wally started to present with abnormal behavior. He would have vacant staring around the house, get lost and run into things. He also became very lethargic. He had some energy in the morning but then would crash and sleep after noon. He would get very nervous if owner was away from him. Regularly he suffered from constipation, even though he drank excessively.

At presentation, treatment included Clomipramine medication for anxiety and Lactulose medication for constipation. The goal of the owner was to wean him off the Clomipramine drug, and the Lactulose for constipation. In addition she wanted him to have energy and be happy again.

A Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) approach was desired for Wally since the medications did not work that well..and they wanted him to have his life back. Based on TCVM Wally was diagnosed with Liver Qi Stagnation (this develops from emotional or physical stress) + Qi deficiency (represented by lack of energy) + yin deficiency (stress leads to heat and the yin is all used up cooling the heat).

I prescribed acupuncture every 2-3 weeks for 4-6 treatments as well as Chinese herbs. After one acupuncture treatment Wally had more energy and was playing with the other dog in the house. After 2 treatments he was less anxious and not staring into space. Wally received 6 acupuncture treatments from early February to early May, at which time the owner was completely satisfied that Wally had more energy and was so much happier.

Two Chinese herbal formulas were used. First, Wei Qi Booster to help booster Qi or energy. This formula is great for older dogs as it boosts the immune system also and helps fight diseases like cancer and dementia. A second formula called Er Yin Jian was added to nourish the “yin” or cooling and grounding aspect of the body. This formula is good for behavior disorders caused by yin deficiency. I also believed this formula would help resolve his constipation. After we had Wally on the formulas several weeks we began to wean him off the Clomipramine and then off the Lactulose. He is now off both, with no constipation and he is very happy. Herbals may be continued for 3-6 months depending on how Wally feels.

Wally illustrates how TCVM can be used for anxiety disorders. TCVM may be used as a first line treatment or if medication does not work as expected, or side effects of medication prevent using them.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tech Tips - Reducing allergens in your home and on your pet!

5 tips for reducing the allergen content in your home and on your pet
  1. Wipe your dog or cat down with a clean damp towel when they return from outside. Focus on the face, nose and ears, all 4 legs and paws and the underbelly.
  2. Wash their bedding once a week. Wash in water at least 140°F with one rinse.
  3. Dust house to remove pollen, then vacuum regularly to keep dust mite and pollen levels down  Keep your pet out of the vacuumed room for 15 minutes while the dust settles.
  4. Give a fish source of omega-3-fatty acid daily.
  5. Use AAAAI to monitor pollen counts in Oregon and prepare in advance:

"Cinder" - Why a “multi-pronged” treatment approach to allergies is needed

Cinder, a female flat-coated retriever, became a patient at our clinic in January 2011 after she was adopted from the humane society. She was about 8 ½ years old and had been with 2 previous owners before now. Needless to say there was some change and resulting stress in her life. She had some itchy skin and watery eyes that winter.

As we moved into late spring 2011 Cinder's itchiness continued and she was treated with oral antihistamines and acupuncture. Acupuncture would give her immediate relief but that would wane after about 5 days. She was on regular flea preventative and had no sign of fleas.  At this time Cinder was diagnosed as likely allergy to pollens or “atopy”. The pollens may be from trees, grasses or shrubs. They gain entry into the body through inhalation, but also if the pet licks the pollen from the feet. Some plants can cause skin inflammation from direct contact; this is often seen on the underbelly.

As the weather got warmer her itching intensified and she was treated with oral steroids, which were only moderately helpful.  Because steroid use can be associated with side effects, we switched to Chinese herbal formulas for allergies and used them along with antihistamines and added a fish oil source of omega-3-fatty acids. Fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation from skin allergies as well as benefit overall health in both humans and animals. Cinder also continued to respond to acupuncture treatments with several days of immediate itchiness relief.

In addition, topical medications that contain steroids were used intermittently; these are not absorbed into the blood stream to any significant degree and can give some extra help controlling itchiness.

Treatment for mild itching continued on into the fall and through the spring. At this point food allergy had to be considered as pollen allergies are normally seasonal. A specially formulated hypoallergenic diet was begun in November 2011.

After she had been on the special diet for about 4 month Cinder's need for additional medication was greatly reduced. We have been able to manage the itchy skin with herbals, antihistamines, topical medicated spray, bathing, and fish oil.

Cinder's case illustrates beautifully the need to “slay the dragon with a thousand tiny cuts”. The fish oil and the medications work together, called synergistic, to provide an enhanced effect against allergies. This combined with acupuncture and herbs allowed the most comfort for Cinder.  Cinder is like many dogs in that often a pet has more than one type of allergy. In her case she is probably allergic to everything (fleas, pollen and food) but we are able to easily eliminate fleas with modern preventatives and lessen the effect food may have with the special diet. Cinder's owner is also instructed to mechanically remove pollens with wipe downs once she has been outside.

As of this writing Cinder's allergies are almost completely under control, or resolved.

Here are the thousand tiny cuts, many only used as needed.
-Fish oil
-Antihistamine, we tried 3 different types to find the best one.
-Chinese herbs, 2 different formulas used
-Medicated topical spray
-Hypoallergenic diet
-Monthly, year round flea control
-Medicated baths when needed
-Mechanical removal of allergens (pollen) from the fur.
-Avoidance of allergens

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Allergy season begins in Willamette Valley Oregon

Yes, allergy season is upon us, and it doesn't just affect us but our four legged friends as well. There are three main categories of allergies in pets, flea allergies,  pollen allergies and food allergies.

A flea allergy is the most common allergy amongst cats and dogs. It is actually the flea's saliva that a flea allergic dog or cat is allergic to. As a result, in sensitive dogs a single flea bite can cause an allergic reaction.  Symptoms of a flea allergy include hairloss on the backs of thighs, tailbase and rump; chewing or scratching on the back half of body; and flea dirt (the flea's waste product). The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is monthly, year round flea prevention.

Pollen allergies are called Atopic allergies, or atopy for short, and describes an allergic reaction caused by inhaled allergens such as dust, mold, pollen, or even dust mites. This is the second most common allergy in pets and can be seasonal or non-seasonal.  Atopy can present in many different ways, the most common are: itching, licking paws, skin irritation or redness, recurrent ear infections that are difficult to cure and skin chewing.  Although you cannot cure allergies, there are many treatments available such as: antihistamines; fish oil supplementation; topical shampoos, oils and cream rinses; topical antihistamines and anti-inflammatories; acupuncture; oral herbal therapy and diet therapy. In addition allergy testing and immuno-therapy can be helpful. In severe cases immune suppressing drugs must be used.

Food allergies are not as common, but do occur. Food allergies are caused by an allergic reaction to a protein and or carbohydrate in the food your animal eats. The most common food allergens (the particle that cause the reaction is called an “allergen”) in dogs are beef, dairy and wheat. Whereas the most common food allergies in cats are beef, dairy and fish. Only a food trial with a single protein and carbohydrate source lasting 6-8 weeks can rule out a food allergy. Keep in mind,  food allergies are not seasonal.

So, what is the take home message? There are three main types of allergies: flea allergies, atopy and food allergies. Flea allergies and atopy are the most common with food allergies being the least common.  Animals can have more than one or even all three types of allergies.  If you suspect that your pet has allergies you can bring them in for a consultation.

Laser and local honey save Max's foot!

Max is Whole Pet Veterinary Care's "Featured Pet" for May and June. Just a few months ago Max had a severe reaction and abscess on his front foot. It became necrotic and he was unable to walk. After surgical debriding of wound,
Top of paw after surgical debridement
Bottom of paw after debriding

Bottom of paw 8 days later
we applied low level laser to the wound bed.The laser dramatically shortened healing time, is anti-bacterial and relieves pain.  In addition the wound was bandaged with a dressing of local honey. Honey is antibacterial and nourishes the healing tissue. All of us at Whole Pet were in awe of how quickly the foot healed.
Top of paw 8 days later

During the whole process Max patiently and bravely let us perform all treatments. He was sad and painful for a while but now he is back to his happy, cuddly self. We love him so much. He is a pleasure to have at our clinic.