Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU) For Dogs With Arthritis

If your dog is suffering from arthritis, it is important to know that NSAIDs are not the only answer, and there are other treatment options. In fact, there are so many it can make your head spin. I talk about the different options in my Talk to Me About Arthritis article.

Avocado/Soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) came to my attention just recently. Our vet and I are always on the lookout for new, potentially better, arthritis supplements for dogs.

Jasmine was diagnosed with arthritis in her knees, shoulders, neck, and jaws. She was treated with stem cell regenerative therapy with amazing results and she is now pain and drug-free.

Arthritis treatments often work best in combination, and supplements provide nutrients that can help protect and regenerate joint tissues. 

For example, glucosamine and chondroitin are believed to protect cartilage, stimulate cartilage regeneration, and promote the production of viscous joint fluid. Cartilage and joint fluid serve as padding between the bones and reduces the amount of friction in the joint. That is what makes these supplements invaluable when dealing with arthritis.

A supplement that is recently getting attention is avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU). It is not meant to replace, but to compliment glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation.

What are avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU)?

Unsaponifiables are simply fats or oils that can’t be turned into soap when combined with an alkali, like lye.

Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) are certain types of oils that can be extracted from avocados and soybeans. Studies show that ASU have anti-inflammatory properties and help prevent cartilage breakdown. ASU are a supplement of note when dealing with arthritis in your dog.

Note: Veterinary ASU supplements have been shown to be safe for dogs.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Drinking (Polydipsia)

Dogs cannot tell us when something is bothering them, and I doubt that they would even if they could. Dogs are just not the type to go around complaining about things.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Excessive Drinking (Polydipsia)
Photo by ucumari

That's why it's important that we watch for signs and symptoms of a disease. Generally, any change in your dog's body, behavior, actions or routine is telling you something. Some of the signs can be quite subtle and easily overlooked or dismissed. Paying attention to early symptoms can save your dog a lot of suffering and give him the best chance for a successful recovery.

Today we'll take a look at excessive thirst/drinking.


I was talking to a friend about post-op issues her dog was having after an extracapsular repair of her ACL. During our discussion, she mentioned that in the snow they noticed that her dog's urine was clear, with no color to it at all, and she asked whether it was something to worry about.

I asked if her dog was drinking a lot. It turned out that her dog had been unusually thirsty and drinking large amounts of water since her surgery three months ago!

Excessive drinking is a symptom that should be taken seriously.

What constitutes excessive drinking?


Any change in your dog's drinking or eating habits should be noted. Drinking more than usual without an obvious explanation—such as hot weather or exercise—should not be dismissed. Do you have to fill the water bowl more often lately? Does your dog urinate more frequently? Talk to your veterinarian.

Take it seriously. Depending on other symptoms, excessive drinking can be a sign of a number of conditions, including

When in doubt, err on the side of caution. 


Early diagnosis can mean the difference between treatment success or failure.


Further reading:
What's the Differential Diagnosis of Polydipsia and Polyuria in Dogs and Cats?

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

Do You Know What Your Dog Is Telling You About Their Health?

Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog

An award-winning guide to better understanding what your dog is telling you about their health, Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, is available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interview with Dr. Robert J. Harman, D.V.M., M.P.V.M. - CEO and founder of Vet-Stem, Regenerative Veterinary Medicine

DawgBusiness was awarded an interview with Vet-Stem's CEO and founder, Dr. Robert J. Harman, D.V.M., M.P.V.M.! My dogs and I are big advocates of stem cell regenerative therapy, and I am very excited about helping to get the word out there. Stem cell regenerative therapy is already helping dogs and horses with arthritis, tendon and ligament injuries, and we have more exciting things to look forward to.

DawgBusiness: First of all, congratulations on your recent milestone of 5,000 treated pets! I am very excited that our Jasmine is one of them! 

I am dying to find out how Vet-Stem technology was born and who were its parents.
Dr. Harman: I was approached by a company in the human stem cell business, Cytori, and asked to consider licensing into vet medicine.  I was retired at the time and decided to make a comeback and start a new company based on stem cells from fat tissue.  I was totally captivated by the possibilities.  My partner from two prior businesses, Mike Dale, joined me along with a scientist from our prior businesses, Dr. Ted Sand.
DawgBusiness: Did you have to overcome bureaucratic barriers?  
Dr. Harman: Yes.  First we needed to get the proper licenses from the holders of the patents.  That took a year!  The FDA was very helpful and we have been in contact with them nearly every year to discuss our progress.  Since this is a service and not a product, the FDA does not currently regulate this in veterinary medicine.
DawgBusiness: What is the difference between embryonic and adult stem cells?  
Dr. Harman: Embryonic stem cells come from very young embryos (about 7-10 days after egg is fertilized).  These cells are really meant to make a whole animal and not for repair and they are not the animal's own cells and can be rejected.  Adult stem cells are found in almost all tissues of the body and we use fat as the source because it is the most rich and concentrated in the body that provides enough stem cells from a small collection of fat from a dog that you do not need to grow them. Adult stem cells are the cells that the body uses naturally to heal injuries.
DawgBusiness: What do adult stem cells do? 
Dr. Harman: Adult stem cells are the master healing cells of the body.  They manage and contribute to reduction in pain, inflammation and protect against formation of unwanted scar tissue. 
DawgBusiness: How do adult stem cells relieve pain? 
Dr. Harman: They work at the site of injury to reduce the swelling and inflammation and to reduce all the chemicals that are involved in tissue damage and creation of pain.
DawgBusiness: How do adult stem cells work to decrease inflammation?
Dr. Harman: The adult stem cells actually turn off and block the production of the chemicals involved in inflammation.  They “read” the signals at the injury site and regulate the healing process.
DawgBusiness: So the inflammation is really a 'call for help' which is turned off once the help arrives?
Dr. Harman: Yes, in a manner.  The inflammation is truly a signal that attracts the cells.  As the inflammation is handled by the cells, the signal is reduced until, in the end, the healing process is complete and the inflammation is gone.
DawgBusiness: What else is in the syringe?
Dr. Harman: A normal saline solution and the mixture of the animal’s stem and regenerative cells. The cells include: (1) adipose stem cells, (2) endothelial cells, or the cells that line blood vessels – they help to make new blood vessels in injured tissue, (3) vascular smooth muscle cells – make the muscles in arteries and veins, (4) Hematopoeitic stem cells – these are more adept at making the cells in blood like red and white cells (5) Many types of immune cells like B and T cells that are involved in managing the immune system functions.
DawgBusiness: And all these wonderful cells are just laying around in the fat tissue?
Dr. Harman: Yes they are.  They reside there in something like suspended animation or sleeping and when the signals come from a distant injury, they wake up and become active and travel to the site of injury.  Our intent is to “help” the healing process by providing more of the healing cells in a more rapid manner to the injury site.
DawgBusiness: It seems that people reach for the stem cell regenerative therapy only when all else fails. I hope that the day will come that it will be considered first and not last. 

What criteria, other than running out of options makes a dog a good candidate for stem cell regenerative therapy?
Dr. Harman: You are very correct that we need to see stem cell therapy as an early treatment and not just for when other treatments fail.  It is always easier to repair an injury earlier rather than when it becomes chronic.  Young dogs with a long life ahead of them are great candidates because blocking the joint degeneration and doing early repair can help hold off the effects of aging and joint breakdown.
DawgBusiness: Is there such a thing as a bad candidate?
Dr. Harman: A pet with too many other health issues might be a bad candidate for the short surgery used to collect the fat.  Also, the other health issues likely need addressing independent of the arthritis. 
DawgBusiness: Can you compare the safety of stem cell regenerative therapy with the safety of the NSAID or steroidal drugs?
Dr. Harman: I can tell you that with stem cell therapy in dogs and horses we have never seen a systemic (ill animal) effect in over 5,000 treatments.  Less than one percent of the time we see a local irritation at the site of injection that might be due to the injection or cells.  We believe the record is very strong.  Dogs with an active infection or active cancer should be treated for the infection or cancer first and then consider afterwards if stem cells might be of benefit.
DawgBusiness: Have there been any complications reported with the treatment?
Dr. Harman: See the safety comment above.  Also, it is possible to get a serum pocket formation at the site of collection of the fat tissue.  This is not common and does resolve in a short period of time if treated properly.  Some dogs with multiple joints affected and injected may be sore from the manipulation of the arthritic joints.
DawgBusiness: What conditions in dogs are currently treated with stem cell regenerative therapy?
Dr. Harman: Arthritis, tendon injury and ligament injury are the most common.  Some clinics and vets have been authorized for a limited program of treating inflammatory bowel disease in order to collect more information on how this works in dogs.
DawgBusiness: How do the results compare with the results of the traditional approaches to these conditions?
Dr. Harman: Over 80% of owners report an improvement in the quality of life of their pet after Vet-Stem treatment.
DawgBusiness: What can stem cell regenerative therapy do for dogs with hip dysplasia? (early/late stages).
Dr. Harman: Stem cell therapy does not actually treat the dysplasia, which is a problem with the bone confirmation (shape) in the dog.  Stem cells treat the pain, inflammation and clinical effects of having a joint that does not wear normally.  It can provide long term relief in many cases.  With the problem with shape of the joint, the pet may need additional injections in the future, which usually come from the extra cells that are stored frozen for future use.
DawgBusiness: Any reports of successful treatment of ligament injuries?
Dr. Harman: Yes.  We learned in the horse that these cells effectively treat ligament injury.  It is important that your veterinarian first determine if surgery is needed to repair a major tear in a ligament, like a cruciate ligament, before a decision is made on whether stem cell treatment will be helpful.  Also, many vets are using stem cell therapy along with surgery to assist in the healing.
DawgBusiness: Are there any canine patients who had been successfully treated for partial crucial ligament tear/stretch?
Dr. Harman: Yes, when the veterinarian does a full evaluation of the cruciate ligament by MRI or arthroscopy, they can tell how bad is the tear.  Some veterinarians then decide to use stem cells in smaller injuries instead of surgery and others will add it to the surgery to help in the healing.
DawgBusiness: Can adult stem cells modulate the immune system? If so, do they need to be administered through IV?
Dr. Harman: Yes. There are many articles now describing how these cells will reduce effects of an immune system that is out of control – examples are autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, atopic dermatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.  We are seriously studying these.  Generally the cells are given IV so as to have a “whole body” effect.
DawgBusiness: How do stem cells help to treat autoimmune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease?
Dr. Harman: The stem cells turn down the allergic immune response in the GI tract.  Very complicated cell biology, but powerful.  It is in clinical trials in humans already.  I hope to have some additional information and data by early fall to guide us in the use in IBD.
DawgBusiness: I understand that not only can people have their unused doses banked, but you can also grow more? How long does it take to grow them?
Dr. Harman: Yes. Generally a dog will have one or more extra doses from the original collection.  Vet-Stem will freeze these in a special process and store them at minus 180C in liquid nitrogen, which keeps them alive and safe for many years.  We also store a small extra sample that can be used to grow up additional cells for use if we need even more cells in the future (takes 4-6 weeks).
DawgBusiness: What is your vision for the future of stem cell regenerative therapy for dogs?
Dr. Harman: I believe that all veterinary clinics will be using stem cell therapy in the near future.  We will see use in orthopedics first, but then many other diseases will be treated as we discover the protocols that work.  Examples for the future are kidney failure, atopic dermatitis, liver failure, and heart disease.  There is active research in each of these areas and many others.  We share our data with our human medicine colleagues and they share with us, to the benefit of people and their beloved companions!
DawgBusiness: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I am very excited about the stem cell regenerative therapy, I have seen the wonderful results first hand in our Jasmine. 

I am looking forward to seeing what your research brings in the future!



Follow latest Vet-Stem news on Arthritis in Dogs Blog
or connect with Vet-Stem on Facebook or Twitter

Related articles:
Stem Cells for Dogs? Oh yeah, baby!
Talk To Me About Arthritis

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Preventing ACL Injuries In Dogs

Prevention is always the best treatment for any injury or disease. Recovery from an ACL injury will take anywhere from four to six months out of your dog's active life and an unstable joint will contribute to the development of arthritis.

Is there anything you can do to prevent ACL injury in your dog? There is no sure-fire recipe but there are things you can do to minimize the risk.

What is a ligament?


A ligament is a band of tough connective tissue that connects bones and supports a joint. Ligaments keep bones in their place while providing enough flexibility to allow the joint to move. Think of them as very strong rubber bands.

Just like a rubber band, a ligament is designed to withstand a substantial amount of mechanical stress. When the stress exceeds its threshold, the ligament gets damaged.

Because of stifle anatomy, the crucial ligaments in dogs are especially vulnerable to injury.

In some cases, the knee joint may be perfectly normal, but a severe injury overwhelms the ligament causing it to rupture. Think of a football player blowing out his knee. These injuries occur most often in young, large breed dogs.

However, gradual degeneration of the ligament is the most common cause of ACL rupture. In this case, middle age or older dogs that are overweight are most commonly affected. Because their cruciate ligaments have been weakened over time, even normal activity (e.g., jumping off the sofa) can cause a rupture, and the likelihood of the other knee failing in the future is high.

Prevention of ACL injuries is two-fold:
  • minimizing the amount of stress on the ligaments
  • keeping the ligaments strong and healthy

Weight management and exercise


Extra pounds impose an undue stress on your dog's knees. Keeping your dog slim and trim will help prevent ACL injuries. Seriously. With every extra pound of fat, you're that much closer to a ligament injury.

Keeping your dog in good physical condition will also help prevent injury to the crucial ligaments. Strong muscles help stabilize the knee and protect the ligaments. Sounds trivial? Believe me, it is not.

If your dog is at risk of a cruciate ligament injury, encourage forms of exercise that don’t overstress the knees, like swimming or leash walks on even surfaces that are not slippery. Activities that involve lots of fast starts and stops and sharp turns (e.g., catching a frisbee) should be avoided.

Strong and healthy ligaments


A quality balanced diet is important for your dog's overall health, as well as for maintaining the strength of his ligaments.

Metabolic and endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism, and immune-mediated diseases have been linked as contributing factors to degeneration of the crucial ligaments. Other structural abnormalities affecting the knee, such as a luxating patella also increase the risk of an ACL injury developing in the future.

There also have been some studies linking early age spay/neuter to increased risk of ACL ruptures later in life. Just like anything in medicine, spay/neuter has both pluses and minuses and for the most part, the pluses outweigh the minuses… but in larger breeds, this is something to take into consideration.

Taking care of underlying conditions, and keeping your dog slim and in a good physical shape will minimize the risk of ACL injuries.

Dog ACL Injuries
Preventing ACL Injuries In Dogs
Knee Injuries In Dogs
Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs
Talk To Me About ACL Injuries

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Medical Jargon Explained: Hypo- versus Hyperglycemia

Endocrine glands: Pancreas

The pancreas, an organ located near your dog’s stomach and small intestine, has two separate functions. It produces digestive enzymes and a number of important hormones, including insulin and glucagon, which control glucose levels in the blood.  This hormone production makes the pancreas a part of your dog’s endocrine system.

Glucose

Glucose is a form of sugar. Your dog’s digestive system converts food, primarily carbohydrates, into glucose. Glucose then circulates in the bloodstream and serves as the main source of energy for your dog's body.  Some parts of your dog’s body, like the brain and red blood cells, are completely dependent on glucose as an energy source.

Glycogen

After a meal, blood glucose levels rise. Because not all of the glucose is needed immediately, the excess is converted to glycogen that is stored in the liver and muscles so it can be used later when blood sugar levels drop again. This system ensures that glucose levels stay relatively constant in the bloodstream.

Insulin

Insulin is a hormone released in response to an increase in blood glucose levels.  It helps transport glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells where it can be used for energy or converted to glycogen.

Glucagon

Glucagon is a hormone that has the opposite effect of insulin. When blood glucose levels fall glucagon stimulates the liver to convert stored glycogen back into glucose and to secrete it into the bloodstream. This helps prevent hypoglycemia between meals.

Hypoglycemia versus Hyperglycemia

Disturbances in blood glucose levels are a serious health threat for your dog.

Hypoglycemia

When your dog's blood glucose levels drop below normal it is referred to as hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia can have a number of causes and vary in severity. Don't dismiss the symptoms of mild hypoglycemia.  Quick action can save your dog's life. Severe hypoglycemia is a life-threatening emergency.

Puppies are particularly prone to developing hypoglycemia, but adult dogs can become hypoglycemic also. Some of the causes of hypoglycemia in dogs are:
  • insufficient food intake, particularly if puppies are not fed frequently enough
  • strenuous exercise
  • insulin overdose in diabetic dogs
  • Addison's disease
  • insulin-producing pancreatic tumors
  • liver disease
  • bacterial infections of the blood
The severity of the symptoms depends on how low and how rapidly glucose levels drop. In severe cases it can result in brain damage and death. Some of the clinical signs of hypoglycemia are:
  • listlessness
  • lethargy
  • depression
  • loss of appetite
  • trembling and twitching
  • glassy eyes and dilated pupils
  •  poor coordination/bizarre behavior
  • weakness
  • collapse
  • seizures
  • coma
First aid for hypoglycemia is aimed at quickly increasing blood glucose levels. If your dog can eat and swallow, feed him immediately. If he cannot swallow, rub honey, Karo Syrup, or a dissolved sugar solution onto his gums and rush him to the nearest veterinary hospital.

Note that low blood sugar levels can also lead to hypothermia. Make sure you keep your dog warm.

It is important to find out what caused the hypoglycemia in the first place. Your vet will look for any underlying diseases and may recommend changes to your dog’s diet, exercise routine or medication dosages.


Hyperglycemia/Diabetes Mellitus

When your dog has excess glucose in the blood it is referred to as hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is the hallmark of diabetes mellitus, but there can also be other causes, including stress.

Diabetes is a common hormonal disorder in dogs. It is caused either by insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas or by the body's inability to respond to it. The vast majority of dogs develop what is called Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes, meaning that the pancreas has stopped producing and secreting adequate amounts of insulin.

Symptoms of diabetes mellitus include:
  • excessive drinking
  • frequent urination
  • increased appetite
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • changes in behavior
Veterinarians will often diagnose diabetes based on a dog’s clinical signs, a physical examination, blood work, and a urinalysis.  Dietary changes and twice daily insulin injections are usually necessary to successfully manage cases of canine diabetes. Severely affected dogs may require hospitalization before they are stable enough to go home. Diabetes cannot be cured, but with a dedicated owner and close monitoring, successful management is usually possible.

Left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious complications including:
  • recurrent infections
  • cataracts and blindness – although even the most well-regulated diabetic dogs usually develop cataracts eventually
  • diabetic ketoacidosis – a potentially fatal condition if not treated rapidly and aggressively
  • nervous system disorders
  • pancreatitis
  • kidney disease
This is one of the reasons why annual check-up by your vet is such a good idea. If you have a senior dog, you might want to visit your vet every six months for routine urine and blood screens. Early detection gives your dog a better chance for successful treatment.

If your dog is showing any symptoms listed above, visit your vet immediately.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Newest Surgery For Ruptured ACL In Dogs

There is a new type of surgery out there to repair ACL injuries in dogs. It is called Triple Tibial Osteotomy (TTO).

The first time I came across this information was on a New Zealand Rottweiler forum. It caught my attention, so I did some further research.

This newest approach to repair a stifle with a ruptured ACL originates in Australia. 


It was developed by a New Zealand orthopedic specialist Dr. Warrick Bruce and seems to be quickly gaining popularity in New Zealand, Australia, and England.

It doesn't look like it has made its way to North America yet, but it appears to be a good alternative and I am hoping that it will become an option for dogs here also.

It is less invasive than the commonly used TPLO and it seems to have fewer problems associated with it than either the TPLO or TTA surgeries.

Triple Tibial Osteotomy is a hybrid of both of the already available Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) and the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA).

The ultimate goal of all of the knee repair surgeries in dogs is to regain joint stability after an ACL injury. In TPLO, TTA, and TTO this stability is achieved by altering the anatomy of the stifle joint.

Triple Tibial Osteotomy is a descriptive name of the procedure. It consists of three straight cuts to the tibia, none of which are all the way through the bone.

Triple Tibial Osteotomy eliminates the need for a circular cut that is needed in the TPLO. This results in better stability during the healing phase. A straight cut also generates less heat. This decreases the risk of burning the cut surfaces of the bone, eliminating delay in healing.

Instead of cutting an entire piece of bone as in TPLO, only a small horizontal wedge is removed from the main bone shaft to level the tibial plateau.

Similar to TTA, the front wedge of the bone is pushed forward.

This surgery seems to have a high success rate. Studies show that the joints repaired with this technique are very stable. It is less invasive, easier to do and seems more reliable than the TPLO and TTA surgeries.

I am not a surgeon, but it definitely looks very good to me. I would want to have the TTO as one of my options to consider if I had to make a decision today about knee surgery for my dog.

Related articles:
Cruciate Ligament Rupture and Repair
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries--Surgical Management
Triple tibial osteotomy
Talk To Me About ACL Injuries

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Jasmine is Vet-Stem's poster child!

Jasmine is going to be on Vet-Stem's newest promotional poster!

We believe that stem cell regenerative therapy is the future of veterinary medicine and we are very excited to be part of that!

Jasmine received stem cell therapy treatment along with both of her extracapsular repairs to promote healing and to treat underlying arthritis in her knees.

Stem cells were also injected into her shoulders, which had developed arthritis as a result of her compensating for the failing crucial ligaments. She also received an intravenous dose.

She has been through so much in the last year, everything that possibly could go wrong with her health did. But today Jasmine exults in her mobility and is able to keep up with her 4.5 years younger buddy, J.D., with one paw tied behind her back. There is no telling which of the two dogs had any mobility issues.

For Jasmine, her legs are the most important part of her body, because they take her places. She loves long hikes and spending time at a friend's farm or at her ranch. Not being able to enjoy her time outdoors would be as bad as death to her.

Thanks to the Vet-Stem technology, she is able to do all the things she loves doing.

If your dog is suffering from arthritis, stem cell regenerative therapy is a treatment you should consider.

You can imagine my excitement when I got a phone call from Vet-Stem expressing their interest in using Jasmine as their poster child! We took about a thousand photos trying to get the perfect one. Thank goodness for digital photography!

Jasmine thanks stem cell regenerative therapy for more than the amazing benefit of the treatment. We also thank Vet-Stem for causing us to find our new wonderful vet. We found him when looking for a vet certified for this treatment. Before we came to Fergus Veterinary Hospital, we had tried a number of veterinarians and spend a lot of money for vet visits with very little to show for it.

Fergus Veterinary Hospital is one of the first half dozen veterinarians in Canada accredited to do the procedure and after a long phone conversation, we booked a consultation to see whether stem cell treatment could help our Jasmine.

From day one we were amazed at the unprecedented level of care and expertise. They were able to diagnose and treat Jasmine's health problems that had gone undiagnosed for five years. They did both of her knee surgeries and her stem cell treatment. They were there for us every step of the way. I don't want to think where Jasmine would be today if it wasn't for Fergus Veterinary Hospital. Definitely, something else to think about ...

Thank you Vet-Stem and thank you Fergus Veterinary Hospital for turning back the clock for our Jasmine. She is not wasting one minute of her restored life.

Related articles:
Vet-Stem Regenerative Veterinary Medicine
Fergus Veterinary Hospital
Stem Cells for Dogs? Oh yeah, baby.
Talk to Me About Arthritis
Talk to Me About ACL Injuries

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nothing Fishy About Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Well, except the smell since the main source of Omega-3 for dogs is fish oil. While flaxseed oil is also a great source of Omega 3 for us humans, our dogs cannot utilize it the same way we do and supplementing flaxseed oil to your dog's diet is not going to bring about the desired effect.


Fatty acids are important cellular components and they also play a significant role in brain function and immune function. 

The two types of fatty acids that are important to your dog's health are the Omega-3’s and the Omega-6’s.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Linoleic acid is an Omega-6 fatty acid and it is actually the only fatty acid that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) considers an essential nutrient for dogs.

Linoleic acid is important for healthy skin, coat, and kidney function. 

The role of Omega-6 in immune function is to stimulate inflammation, blood clotting, and tissue repair.

In English, Omega-6 fatty acids are important for your dog body's ability to fight off infections, stop bleeding, and to heal.

Omega-6 fatty acids are usually abundant in dog food products. Vegetable oils are a good source of Omega-6 fatty acids, particularly safflower oil is high in linoleic acid.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of attention lately and there is a good reason for that. Even though Omega-3s are not considered an essential nutrient for dogs by the AAFCO, they are gaining respect as a beneficial supplement for dogs.

In contrast to the Omega-6’s, Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation is an important defense mechanism to fight off infections, remove foreign material, and to promote regeneration of damaged tissue. However, chronic inflammation that no longer serves any useful purpose can lead to a number of serious health issues.

That's why supplementing Omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for dogs with various health conditions such as allergies, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, kidney and heart disease, and even cancer.

If your dog is suffering from any of the above conditions talk to your veterinarian about Omega-3 supplementation. Yes, it means fish oil. Because heavy metal poisoning is a concern with fish oil supplementation, I believe that it is best to use pharmaceutical-grade, purified fish oil supplements. Finding the correct balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in your dog’s diet is the key to promoting good health.

University of Bristol study backed up the claims that omega-3-rich diets can substantially reduce damage from osteoarthritis.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Acupuncture Is Not Voodoo

While our modern world is gingerly re-discovering this traditional Chinese therapeutic technique, it's origins might date as far as the Stone Age. Even though throughout modern history acupuncture had many opponents, it held its own and it seems to be slowly gaining ground.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a technique that uses small needles to stimulate special points on your dog's body in order to encourage healing and relieve pain. Acupuncture points correspond with specific internal organ systems and regulate energy and blood flow throughout your dog's body.

The method of stimulating these points is shared among a number of other therapeutic techniques such as acupressure and laser acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture for dogs?

There certainly is evidence that acupuncture can be beneficial for a number of conditions in dogs. One of my friends has an arthritic dog who cannot tolerate NSAIDs. The dog is responding to the acupuncture treatment very well and it is safe to say that the results are more than comparable.

Dogs with arthritis and hip dysplasia can find relief through acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture can be used to treat musculoskeletal disorders, immune-mediated disorders, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, neurological disorders and more.

Unlike NSAIDs or other drugs, acupuncture is very safe when performed by a qualified professional.

We used stem cell regenerative therapy for Jasmine's arthritis and we swear by this treatment. However, we were doing acupressure as part of her post-operative treatment and  Jasmine is getting herbal and acupuncture treatment for her digestive problems.

A safer alternative to drugs

While drugs are an easy and convenient form of treatment, they can often cause more problems than they solve. We certainly had some very bad experiences with drugs. Today my philosophy is to look at everything else first before considering drugs.

Before reaching for medication do your research and talk to your veterinarian about alternatives. Get a consultation with a holistic or Traditional Chinese Medicine veterinarian. There are many conditions that can benefit from non-drug alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, that is safer and often even cheaper.

Related articles:
Friends Or Foes: NSAIDS
Talk To Me About Arthritis
The Many Faces Of Arthritis: Viva Has Spondylosis
Acupuncture For Your Pet?
Acupuncture for Dogs Gaining Acceptance

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book Review: Calming Signals

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals
By Turid Rugaas


How would you feel if you tried to make up with your significant other by preparing a lovely candlelight dinner and they got even angrier with you instead?

Calming signals are an important part of the dog body language. They are designed to calm the other party in order to avoid conflicts. Avoiding serious confrontations is a crucial survival skill.

Dogs use calming signals communicating with each other, and they use them when communicating with us. Unlike dogs, who recognize and understand them readily, we often misinterpret them as acts of defiance. How often your dog might be trying his hardest to calm you, only to your further annoyance?

Why is understanding dog calming signals important?

First, it will really improve your relationship with your dog and save you and your dog a lot of stress. It will also help you to better understand dog to dog communication and it might even help you to keep your dog out of trouble.

Not only that calming signals work when your dog is communicating to another dog, and in the ideal scenario when he's communicating to you, but you can also use them yourself to calm your dog.

There are at least 30 different calming signals dogs use.

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals presents calming signals by an easy to understand commentary accompanied by photographs of dogs using different calming signals in different situations. It explains the importance of calming signals, when and how they are used, and how this applies to our life with dogs. This little book was and an eye-opener for me and it really helped me understand my dog better.

I too used to get annoyed and angry when my dog was trying to calm me. The harder my dog tried, the more annoyed I was, which made my dog try harder … It was a no-win situation. Now we have a much better understanding of each other and it made our lives much happier.

It's a tiny little book, it won't take up too much of your time to read it, and trust me, it will be worth it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Antioxidants And What Do We Have Against Free Radicals Anyway

Don't worry, we won't be discussing politics. The free radicals we will be talking about are harmful molecules that are responsible for aging and tissue damage in your dog's body and can ultimately lead to disease.

What are free radicals?

Without getting too scientific, free radicals are molecules that have been damaged.

More technically, free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron. They are incomplete and unstable. They will attack surrounding molecules and steal an electron from them in order to gain stability. The attacked molecule becomes a free radical itself and goes on attacking another and so on ... you get the picture.

You could say the situation with free radicals is a lot like a zombie movie. 

The un-dead are seeking out the living in order to prey on them, and the living who have been bitten by a zombie become un-dead themselves. This chain reaction continues until somebody figures out a way to stop it or the movie is over.

Where do free radicals come from?

Free radicals form as a by-product of your dog’s metabolism, immune response, or as a result of environmental stress. Pesticides, herbicides, air pollution, smoke, saturated fats, and processed foods all lead to the formation of free radicals.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are nutrients that play a crucial role in protecting your dog's health.

Antioxidants are free radical scavengers.

They neutralize free radicals either by donating the missing electron or by breaking down the harmful molecules, thus protecting cells from damage.

Image source: Kris Health Blog
Antioxidants do not become free radicals themselves and remain stable, stopping the chain reaction. However, they are eventually used up in the process and that's why they need to be replaced through your dog’s diet.

Even in an ideal world, where there would be no outside causes of free radicals, your dog would still need antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals formed as a result of his own metabolism. With environmental stress as high as it is today, antioxidants are vital to keeping your dog healthy.

Some antioxidants are produced by your dog's body naturally. Antioxidants that you can add through diet are
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • beta-carotene
  • flavonoids
  • SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine)
  • Superoxide Dismutase (S.O.D)
A diet rich in antioxidants will help to keep your dog healthy and vital.

A wholesome, complete and balanced diet should be your dog’s primary source of antioxidants. Your veterinarian should help you determine when antioxidant supplements would benefit your dog.