Healthy Dog Blog

About the Healthy Dog Blog

Mary (1)

What makes a healthy dog? More than good genes are needed for a dog to reach his highest potential. It takes feeding a species-appropriate diet, minimizing exposure to environmental toxins and unnecessary medications, and plenty of exercise and love. We will explore these issues and more in the HealthyDogBlog.

Mary has been breeding welsh terriers since 1993 and following holistic rearing principles for much of that time. When comparing the life span of dogs she’s bred and kept with that of their littermates who were placed in homes that did not follow holistic rearing principles, the dogs she’s kept have lived on average of 18 months longer than their littermates.

Food as Medicine

“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Hippocrates, 400 BC OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While food has long been recognized as a powerful factor in health and wellness, most of us ignore Hippocrates’ advice when it comes to feeding ourselves and our pets. We opt for highly processed fast food, all the while promising ourselves that tomorrow will be different, that the food we’ve selected isn’t really all that bad, and that we just don’t have the time or money to do things any differently. Many of us won’t seriously consider adjusting our diet or that of our pet until a health issue crops up. However, by the time a health issue is evident, it may have been developing for months, years, or even decades. A healthful diet now can reduce the risk of disease in the future.   When it comes to feeding our pets, the use of fast food has been taken to the extreme and kibble has become the predominant food source. If you have any doubt about the power of food in achieving health and wellness, take a look at our cases studies. Read Wendy Volhard’s case describing how switching to a raw food diet, as part of a multidisciplinary approach, helped an 8-year-old Westie regain her health. Wendy is one of the earliest proponents of holistic dog care. She developed her natural diet in 1973 when her 6-year-old Landseer Newfoundland Heidi was given only 6 months to live. After switching her to a raw diet, Heidi flourished, living until the age of 12! Also review the case describing how diet helped transform Mad Max into Mellow Max.
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There is good scientific evidence that diet has a profound impact on human health and wellness too. Let’s take heart disease as an example. In a study of Korean battlefield casualties, 77% of young men (average age 22 years) had visual evidence of atherosclerosis! Atherosclerosis has even been demonstrated in kids 10 years old and younger. These changes were taking place years before symptoms would develop! Unfortunately, by the time symptoms become evident, treatment is far more challenging than addressing the cause of the problem at a younger age. The extent of these atherosclerotic changes was directly related to cholesterol levels and cholesterol levels directly related to diet. There is clear evidence that a more healthful diet can reduce the risk of heart disease. (For more information see Heart Disease Starts in Childhood at   “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food,” is an ancient truth that has stood the test of time. Begin taking small steps now to improve your nutrition and that of your pet – you’ll both increase your odds of living a healthier, happier, longer life!

Healthy Dog Blog – Thyroid Disease in Cats


Unlike dogs, who most often have hypothyroidism (or decreased production of thyroid hormone), cats with thyroid disease have hyperthyroidism, or the excess production of thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism is the most common hormone disorder in cats. It most often affects older cats, with more than 10% of cats 10 years and older diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

The most common signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats are weight loss despite an increase in appetite; gastrointestinal disturbances, such as vomiting and diarrhea; high blood pressure; increased body temperature; increased heart and breathing rates; and changes in urination. There may also be changes in activity level (such as hyperactivity) and attitude. A combination of increased appetite, weight loss, and sudden, unexpected bursts of energy in an older cat points to a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed with a blood test.

catThyroid3There is increasing evidence that flame retardants have a role in the development of hyperthyroidism, with studies showing that hyperthyroid cats have higher blood levels of flame retardants than cats with normal thyroid function. One study revealed blood levels of flame retardants 20- to 100-fold higher in cats than in humans. In a third study, flame retardant chemicals in the dust of homes of cats with normal thyroid levels was 510 to 4900 ng/g, but 1,100 to 95,000 ng/g in cats with hyperthyroidism.

Flame retardants are commonly added to many consumer products, such as polyurethane foam products (upholstered furniture, mattresses, pillows, pet beds), carpet padding, auto seat covers, kitchen appliances, fans, water heaters, computers and related equipment and supplies, TVs and TV remote controls, video equipment, blow dryers, and cell phones. Flame retardants have even been found in pet foods.

Flame retardants leak from consumer electronics when they heat up during normal use and from foam items when pets lie on them. There also may be high concentrations in dust particles in the living environment. To minimize exposure of your cat to flame retardants, replace foam items when they begin to deteriorate, do not allow cats in areas where carpet is being removed, consider replacing instead of reupholstering furniture on which the foam has deteriorated, and do not repurpose old broken down foam cushions to be used as a pet bed. Vacuums and air purifiers with HEPA filters may trap small dust particles containing flame retardants.


September 2015 Tip – Reading Dog Food Labels


Reading Dog Food Labels – Be Savvy About Ingredient Splitting!

Did you know that some pet food manufacturers breakdown one lower quality ingredient into its various components, with each listed separately on the pet food label? The result?  Meat may be moved to the top of the contents list when it really is not the most abundant item in the food and the inferior ingredient moved lower down on the content list. What? Instead of just listing peas, the manufacturer my list peas, pea flour, pea fiber, pea starch, or pea protein separately. As a result, your pet eating Pork (#1 ingredient) and Peas may really be eating Peas (#1 ingredient) and Pork!

SBS Sept 15 IMG

So, what is the problem with pea fiber? As consumers have become savvier about fillers in pet foods, pea fiber has been replacing other fillers like beet pulp and wheat, corn, or soy fiber in pet foods. Pea fiber is a filler and is not an appropriate source of nutrition for dogs or cats.

To read more about ingredient splitting, visit our friends at Dogs Naturally:

To read more about pea fiber in pet foods, visit our friends at Mercola’s Healthy Pets:

To learn about how to read a pet food label, visit our friends at The Dog Food Project:


What is Energy Medicine?


Increasingly, people are recognizing the power of Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CIM) in maintaining their own health and wellness as well as that of their pets. 

James shown doing Reiki on Rusty as part of his CIM treatment for an adrenal tumor

James shown doing Reiki on Rusty as part of his CIM treatment for an adrenal tumor

Energy medicine, a form of CIM, is emerging as the medicine of the future. As stated below, ‘conventional medicine has long used machines such as x-rays, lasers, EKGs and EEGs-that record various forms of energy to diagnose or treat disease.’ The concepts upon which these familiar techniques are based can help in understanding energy medicine techniques, such as Reikipolarity therapy,craniosacral therapy, reflexology, and therapeutic touch as well. I routinely use these energy medicine techniques to maintain health and wellness for my dogs. In fact, it is not uncommon for Frankie or Susie to jump up on the couch next to me and ‘ask’ me to do energy work on them — more on that later!

In the following post, Dr. Mary Jo Ruggieri describes in some detail how polarity therapy, a form of energy medicine, works.


We are about to begin a new revolution! An innovative science is emerging, a science that holds the secrets of past systems of healing and future cures for humankind.

Lifeforce, chakras, auras, prana and chi are words often expressed when discussing the human energy field. Chinese acupuncturists believe that channels of energy run through the body; when these channels are blocked or out of balance, pain and disease can result.

Practitioners of polarity therapy use their hands to balance the human energy field, believing that, when in balance, the body will begin to automatically heal.

Research has shown that in disease, the natural flow of energy is obstructed, disordered and often depleted. Think about how you feel when you’re sick — no energy. As long as energy is flowing freely, we maintain optimal health.

James Oschman, in his book Energy Medicine, says in a few decades scientists have gone from a conviction that there is no such thing as an energy field around the human body to an absolute certainty that it exists. Moreover, he states, science is explaining the roles of energy fields in health and disease.

Life in many cultures is based on the principles of energy, and many of these cultures use energy medicine for healing. Chinese and Indian traditions use the principles of energy as the foundation for their entire healthcare system.

Practitioners of polarity therapy use their hands to balance the human energy field, believing that, when in balance, the body will begin to automatically heal.

Practitioners of polarity therapy use their hands to balance the human energy field, believing that, when in balance, the body will begin to automatically heal.

Dr. Andrew Weil, in his bestseller Spontaneous Healing, believes that “Health, according to the energy model, is the harmonious flow of life energy, while imbalances in this flow (due to unhealthy habits) result in illness.” He points out that conventional medicine has long used machines-such as x-rays, lasers, EKGs and EEGs-that record various forms of energy to diagnose or treat disease.

How does all of this energy really work? Simple. What happens when you blow a fuse in your house? The breakers go out, movement completely shuts down in the entire house and you’re without lights, refrigeration and, of course, TV.

Energy that comes into your house comes from a source, the power plant. This plant pumps high-voltage electricity through a series of lines and transformers to slow it down so we can eventually use it.

The human body is also an electrical plant that runs on high-voltage energy. The spine, representing the utility pole, sends energy via all the nerves (or wires) to every part of the body so movement can occur. If there’s a short in the circuits or an injury to the system, the circuit breakers go out. Knowing how to turn these circuit breakers back on is energy medicine.

Everything has energy, as Einstein pointed out; matter is energy and energy becomes form and matter.

How does all of this energy really work? Simple. What happens when you blow a fuse in your house? The breakers go out, movement completely shuts down in the entire house and you're without lights, refrigeration and, of course, TV.

How does all of this energy really work? Simple. What happens when you blow a fuse in your house? The breakers go out, movement completely shuts down in the entire house and you’re without lights, refrigeration and, of course, TV.

Therapies such as polarity therapy concentrate on keeping the positive pathways of energy open. Pain is a blockage of energy and eventually leads to disease and structural dysfunction.

Polarity therapy is becoming a household word. It’s a synthesis of many ancient theories and techniques derived from Indian Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese healing traditions such as acupressure and acupuncture.

Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of polarity therapy, created a very detailed science that uses various reflex points, holds for stress reduction and specific energetic manipulations aimed at releasing tension in the body. A polarity practitioner will use various types of touch-working with the hands on or off the body-which can be combined with gentle rocking to release physical tension patterns.

Polarity also involves yoga exercise as well as Ayurvedic “live food” principles. It truly is a holistic approach to healthcare. A common belief in all aspects of polarity therapy is that life energy is the link between the mind and the body.

A polarity session can often get to the heart of the problem, tracing the energy blocks to the physical centers of pain. Once the source of the pain is identified, along with the help of the polarity practitioner, the client will be able to remove the blocks.

Deeper acupressure points help relieve energetic congestion held deep in the body.

Deeper acupressure points help relieve energetic congestion held deep in the body.

Remember, to maintain quality health, the life energy must flow freely through the entire body. All Life is Energy!

ENERGY IS PERPETUAL, it cannot be destroyed and cannot be created All you can do is manifest it. Did you know that…

  • Every cell in your body has electric charges and electric currents.
  • A cell is a mini battery which pumps out 70-90 millivolts (when in balance).
  • Muscle movement is powered by chemical energy.
  • Digestion is a slow form of burning that produces energy.
  • One cell goes through 100,000 chemical reactions per second! (per second)
  • So…….All Life is Energy!

Mary Jo Ruggieri PhD, RPP
Institute of Holistic Health Careers
Director, Columbus Center for Integrative Health and Wellness


August 2015 Tip – Make Your Own Dog Treats


Why make your own dog treats when you can so easily purchase them at your local grocery or pet food store?

Three reasons. First, the treats you prepare from ingredients obtained at your local grocery will be made from far higher quality ingredients than most commercial dog treats. Second, the huge number of pet food recalls due to contamination has included dog treats. Just Google ‘dog treat recalls’ and you’ll by amazed by the number of stories on the topic. By making dog treats or cookies yourself you can be assured that the ingredients are fresh and reduce the risks of feeding your dog tainted treats. Third, your dog with LOVE them!


It’s really not as hard as it might sound to make your own dog treats and there are plenty of resources out there to get you started. Some of my favorites are:

Once you make treats a few times, you might even begin to create your own recipes! Your dog will love you for it.


Looking at Disease a New Way


The next time you or your dog get sick, go beyond treating the symptoms (e.g., diarrhea, hot spot, high blood pressure, cancer, Parkinson’s disease) and consider the cause. Instead of classifying an illness as one disease or another that affects one part of the body or another, consider the possibility that the ‘disease’ is actually a symptom of a wider, systemic problem.

Let’s use cancer as an example. We are learning that our thinking about cancer is flawed. We label two people as having breast cancer, but in reality they may have two entirely different conditions, having different causes and requiring different treatments. Classifying cancer by body site (e.g., breast, colon, prostate, etc.) ignores differences in underlying causes, mechanisms, and pathways involved.

The conventional approach to treating cancer is to focus on the tumor – to shrink, burn, or cut it out. And then, to wait to see if it comes back. Gene therapy has helped to improve some outcomes, but the results have generally been disappointing.

A new group of researchers, some from the National Cancer Institute, are beginning to investigate cancer as a systemic (i.e., body as a whole) problem.

It is well known that cancer cells occur in our body every day, but in most of us, our natural defenses keep them at bay. So, what goes wrong in people (and pets) who develop cancer? Why didn’t their natural defenses snuff out those first cancer cells? Maybe the problem is in the natural defense system and how well it can perform in the body’s biological and energetic terrain. (The body terrain can be likened to the garden soil in which plants grow.) Diet, lifestyle, thoughts, and environmental toxins can all interact with our genes to alter the terrain. Interestingly, the scientific literature offers abundant evidence that diet, exercise, thoughts, feelings, and environmental toxins also influence the initiation, growth, and progression of cancer.

The immune system and body terrain also have a role in the development of other conditions, suggesting that all disease really boils down to these two things –a weakened immune system and a depleted terrain.  But just as it is challenging to salvage crops from a garden that was ignored too long, waiting until you or your dog is sick to improve the immune system and manage the terrain will make recovery more challenging.

HDB July 2015-1


A Potato is a Potato, Right?


White potato or sweet potato – a potato is a potato, right? In this article, Dr. Jean Dodds explains why the sweet potato might be the better choice for your pet (and you)!

Post by Dr. Jean Dodd (original post):

Sweet Potatoes versus White Potatoes: What is the difference for your pet?

There’s a famous old song with the lyrics, “You say potato, I say potahto; let’s call the whole thing off.” The songwriters obviously weren’t intending to compare the nutritional characteristics of white potatoes and sweet potatoes when they penned that line, but it’s not such a stretch. Navigating the white potato versus sweet potato maze can at times be confusing. So, let’s get to the root of this potato mystery and explain it once and for all.

Two Potatoes: two species
You might be surprised to discover that sweet potatoes are not just orange-colored white potatoes. Sweet potatoes and Russet potatoes, the most common white “baking” potato, come from completely different botanical families.


Russet potatoes are part of the Solanaceae family, which belongs to the nightshade group of plants. Many species of the Solanaceae family, including potatoes, naturally produce nitrogen-containing compounds called glycoalkaloids. Potatoes and other edible plants including eggplants, peppers and tomatoes produce glycoalkaloids as a natural defense against predators such as animals, insects and fungi. Glycoalkaloids are natural toxins that act as the plant’s natural pesticide and fungicide. You know those green spots sometimes evident on white potatoes? They indicate the presence of increased levels of glycoalkaloids and should be discarded, as should white potatoes that are already sprouting or bruised.

Glycoalkaloids affect the nervous system by disrupting membranes and the body’s regulation of acetylcholine, a chemical responsible for conducting nerve impulses. Signs of nightshade toxicity include headache, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Some researchers believe that glycoalkaloids can damage the joints by producing inflammation and contributing to loss of calcium from bone, but this has not been proven.

In addition, studies show that glycoalkaloids in doses normally available while eating white potatoes can cause the membranes that line the intestines to become permeable (“leaky”); disrupting the intestinal barrier can initiate or aggravate Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). This fact flies in the face of the common and successful use of potatoes that are included as a “bland” carbohydrate source, to be fed as a limited ingredient diet for animals with “leaky gut” and IBD.


Sweet potatoes are a completely different plant species than white potatoes. Sweet potatoes belong to the Convolvulaceae family and are known by the scientific name of Ipomoea batatas.

Since sweet potatoes are not nightshade plants, they do not produce toxic glycoalkaloids. A switch from white potatoes to sweet potatoes might be warranted if your dog suffers from a neurological, or unresolved gastrointestinal or inflammatory health issue.

Further, sweet potatoes contain many health-promoting properties.

Carotenoids, the pigments that give sweet potatoes their lovely orange hue, are powerful antioxidants with a variety of health benefits, including:
•  Pre-cursors to vitamin A, which is essential for a healthy body
•  Boost immune function, increasing the ability to fight infections, especially viral infections
•  Increased immune function that helps protect against cancer
•  Maintains healthy lining of the digestive tract, respiratory tract and skin
•  Improves retinal function, particularly night vision
•  Reduces inflammation

Sweet potatoes also contain more fiber than white potatoes; fiber slows the rate at which sweet potatoes break down into glucose (sugar) and are absorbed into the blood stream. Not surprisingly, white potatoes rank high on the glycemic index (GI), which measures how much a particular food raises blood sugar levels compared to pure glucose (glucose rates 100 on the glycemic index). According to Harvard Medical School, a baked white potato has a glycemic index of 111, which means that it raises blood sugar 111% as much as pure glucose! Sweet potatoes have a lower GI of 70.

While the GI of sweet potatoes might also seem high, sweet potatoes are shown to modulate and even improve blood sugar regulation! Sweet potatoes contain adiponectin, a protein hormone produced by fat cells that modulates insulin metabolism. Low levels of adiponectin are associated with people who have poorly-regulated insulin metabolism, while those with healthy insulin metabolism tend to have higher levels of adiponectin. So, while sweet potatoes are safe for even diabetics to eat, they should avoid consuming high GI white potatoes.

Sweet potatoes and gastrointestinal health
In an earlier post, we discussed the use soluble fiber in the form of pumpkin to control diarrhea in pets.

As we mentioned, there are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – and most foods contain a combination of the two.
•  Soluble fiber absorbs water from the digestive tract, forming a gel-like substance that slows down the digestive process. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, psyllium, pumpkin, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
•  Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool and tends to speed up the passage of food through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and certain vegetables such as cauliflower and green beans.(Vorvick, 2012; University of Maryland, 2011; Mayo Clinic, 2012)

Sweet potatoes, like pumpkin, are a good source of soluble fiber that can help regulate your pet’s digestive tract. However, when choosing between pumpkin and sweet potato, be aware that sweet potato contains more than double the calories than pumpkin, which can then “pack on the pounds”.

The bottom line
Clearly, sweet potatoes are a superior source of nutrition for companion animals than white potatoes.  Advantages of sweet potatoes:
•  Boost immune function
•  Lots of healthy antioxidants, including vitamin A and carotenoids
•  More fiber than white potatoes
•  No toxic glycoalkaloids
•  Protect against disease
•  Help modulate insulin regulation

Try steaming some sweet potato for a healthy and delicious addition to your pet’s diet. And, remember to always introduce new foods slowly; even healthy foods can provide “too much of a good” thing if introduced too quickly to delicate stomachs!

Dr Dodd1W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Re-blogged with permission from Dr. Jean Dodd

Cantwell, M 1996, ‘A Review of Important Facts about Potato Glycoalkaloids’, Perishables Handling Newsletter, no. 87, pp. 26-27.

Chilkov, N 2011, ‘Benefits of Carotenoids: What Colors are on Your Plate?’ Huffington Post, 1 August, 

Davis, J 2006, Glycoalkaloids, Food Safety Watch,

Harvard Health Publications, Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods, Harvard Medical School, 

Health Canada 2011, Glycoalkaloids in Food, 

Patel, B, Schutte, R, Sporns, P, Doyle, J, Jewel, L, Fedorak, RN 2002, 2002, ‘Potato glycoalkaloids adversely affect intestinal permeability and aggravate inflammatory bowel disease’, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, 8(5):340-6.

Skerrett, PJ 2012, Use glycemic index to help control blood sugar, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, 13 August, 

The World’s Healthiest Foods 2013, What are nightshades and in which foods are they found? 

The World’s Healthiest Foods 2013, What’s New and Beneficial about Sweet Potatoes? 


July 2015 Tip – Keep Cool!


Heatstroke can impair or kill your pet. Knowing the symptoms can help!

As we enter the hottest part of summer in the northern hemisphere, it’s important to keep an eye on your pets to make sure they are not overheating. Heatstroke is not a mere inconvenience. It can lead to damage to the brain, liver, heart, and nervous system. Conditions that increase the risk of heat stroke include leaving pets in a hot vehicle, humid conditions, lack of drinking water, obesity, and overexertion.  According to Dr. Karen Becker, symptoms of overheating include:

  • Heavy panting or rapid breathing
  • Excessive thirst
  • Glazed eyes
  • Vomiting, bloody diarrhea
  • Bright or dark red tongue or gums
  • Staggering, stumbling
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Weakness, collapse
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Excessive drooling
  • Unconsciousness

Go to to read more about heatstroke.Signs of Heat Stroke 4-1


A Super Food You Can Make at Home for You and Your Pet – Bone Broth


Bone broth is an inexpensive source of minerals (e.g., calcium, silicon, sulphur, magnesium, phosphorus, trace minerals) in an easily absorbable form along with other nutrients you and your dog will love. Often, a sick dog will drink bone broth when he will not eat anything else. But a healthy, vital, energetic dog can also benefit from bone broth.  

Bone broth contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons (eg, chondroitin, sulphates, glucosamine) and is good for the joints. It also helps to detoxify the liver and promotes a healthy gut. When broth is cooled, it congeals due to the presence of gelatin, which is reportedly good for a long list of ailments.

Making bone broth is easy. You can begin with bones, some pieces of meat and fat, and vegetable. Before adding to the other ingredients, the bones can be browned in a hot oven (optional) to form compounds that enhance the flavor and color. Then add bones (e.g., chicken feet, beef marrow bones, lamb bones), garlic (optional), vegetables (optional) to a pot. Cover with cold water, add vinegar (to help extract the calcium) and heat the broth slowly on the stovetop or using a crockpot. Allow the broth to simmer for about 2 hours for fish broth, all day for chicken, turkey, or duck broth, and 24 hours for beef broth. Strain out the bones and refrigerate, then skim off the fat that has congealed on top. The broth that remains will look like jelly. The broth can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen. Add the bone broth to your dog’s regular meal in teaspoon or tablespoon amounts, depending on his size. More broth can be fed to a sick dog.

Bone broth is also good for humans. Broth is considered a cure-all in traditional households and is commonly made from chicken, fish, beef, or lamb. It is said that bone broth “builds strong bones, assuages sore throats, nurtures the sick, puts vigor in the step, and sparkle in love life….for chefs, it is the magic elixir for making soul-warming soups and matchless sauces.”

For more information on the benefits of bone broth and details on how to make it, go to  or to .


June 2015 Tip – Secondhand smoke is harmful to your pets!


The lungs of dogs and cats are similar to ours and can be damaged by secondhand smoke.

Just like humans, our pets are exposed to cigarette smoke by direct inhalation of secondhand smoke and indirectly when they lie on carpet, furniture, clothing, or other surfaces exposed to cigarette smoke. They also carry smoke particles around in their fur and can ingest them when grooming themselves. Research from the University of Minnesota demonstrated that cats who live with smokers have nicotine and other toxins in their urine. Tuffs University reported that cats living with smokers are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma. Colorado State University reported that dogs living with smokers have a 60% greater risk of lung cancer.

dog smokingYou can read about the cited research by following these links.


News flash, genes don’t control all biology!


Acceptance of the role of environmental factors on health places a huge responsibility on the dog breeder AND owner because decisions they make can alter which genes are turned on or off and how healthy the dog will be.

What does this mean in practical terms for breeders and dog owners? It means that the breeder must be vigilant in how they manage their breeding stock and puppies and the dog owner must be equally vigilant in how they raise their dog! Slipshod, uninformed rearing approaches by either can result in an unhealthy dog.

Sassy GenesThe central dogma of biology that genes/DNA are the primary control mechanism for the cell via the creation of enzymes and hormones is no longer supported by evidence. It is not possible for DNA to act as the master control system for these processes.  We would need at least 120,000 genes to control all the body processes – humans have only 25,000. Genes do not even reflect the position on the evolutionary ladder, as the dog has 25,000 genes and the humble earthworm 24,000!

If genes don’t direct all biological function, what does? It appears that epigenetics plays an important role. Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. Epigenetics shows that genes change according to environmental influences. In other words, genes are an effect rather than the cause!

Acceptance of the role of environmental factors on health places a huge responsibility on the dog breeder AND owner because decisions they make can alter which genes are turned on or off and how healthy the dog will be.

So, if epigenetics plays such an important role, can the breeder wash his or her hands of any responsibility for the health of the dogs they breed? No! Epigenetic effects don’t just apply to the current generation. It has been shown that rodents fed poor quality food produce offspring who are at higher risk for chronic disease! If food fed to past generations can affect the current generation of breeding stock, so can exposure to other environmental influences, such as cleaning products, pesticides, and medications (including vaccines), to name a few. In addition to environmental influences, there is a documented health risk associated with consistently breeding animals who are closely related. Breeders should be knowledgeable about these risks and consider the short- and long-term implications of their breeding decisions.

Genes don’t control biology! It takes more than good genes for good health. This point is dramatically demonstrated in this short video showing two mice from the same mother, but different litters. The two mice are genetically identical, have eaten the same diet since birth, and were raised in exactly the same environment. The only difference is the diet the mother ate during her pregnancy! Not only do these mice look different, but along with being obese, the yellow one is at higher risk of developing diabetes and cancer. In contrast, the brown mouse is leaner and less likely to develop these diseases. The same principles hold true for our dogs (and us too) – you are what you eat!  
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What about the dog owner, what role does he play in the health of the dog? In my opinion, the role of the owner is nearly as big as the breeder. Nutrition is the foundation of good health, therefore feeding a less than optimal diet may weaken the dog’s constitution, as will over vaccination, over medicating, exposure to pesticides, and exposure to toxic cleaning products. Sound familiar – yes, these are the same environmental influences the breeder should control.

We often get calls when problems crop up in a dog. When an owner asks for help, our first step is to ask questions, often focusing on environmental influences. Here are a few examples.

  • Is the dog being fed a species appropriate diet? Diet is the most powerful medicine we have. If nutritional needs are not being met or toxins are inadvertently being fed in the commercial diet, a wide range of health problems can be seem.  In one dog, we addressed unexplained aggression merely by changing to a whole foods diet.
  • What kind of treats do you feed between meals? With the numerous pet food and dog treat recalls over the past several years, it is well-known that these items can be associated negative health outcomes.
  • Has the home or lawn recently been treated with pesticides or has the dog visited someone whose yard or home has been treated? We have had several reports of neurologic symptoms in dogs exposed to pesticides. In two, the dog became lame. In the first, lameness occurred after spraying the home for pesticides. The homeowner was very careful because she knew the risk of pesticides in her children. She had the basement treated while the children were at school, but allowed the dog to accompany the exterminator. In this case, the lameness resolved on its own within a few day. In the second case of lameness, the homeowner had her lawn treated with a product the yard service assured her was non-toxic. Her dog became so lame that he could barely navigate and was not responding to medication offered by her vet. The dog recovered after we suggested she discontinue her yard service. In a third case, the dog had a single epileptic seizure while playing in a recently treated yard. In yet another case, a wire fox terrier refused to walk on a treated lawn, but would gladly frolic on an untreated lawn.
  • What vaccine schedule is being followed? Over vaccination is becoming one of the biggest risks to the health of our dogs, this includes administering multiple vaccines at one time or to an animal who is not well. Vaccines have saved lives, but over vaccination can be harmful and has been associated with immunological and behavioral conditions. We have been contacted by a colleague who had two puppies in a litter become aggressive shortly after vaccine administration. Administration of a homeopathic antidote corrected the aggression.
  • Has the dog received any medications? Medications can be associated with a wide range of side effects.
  • Is the dog getting plenty of fresh air and exercise? Dogs need exercise and fresh air to maintain good physical and mental health.
  • Has something changed in the household? Divorce, children going away to school, loss of another pet, and job changes that affect the household routine can all affect your dog.
  • Has a veterinarian been consulted and done a physical exam and blood work? We always ask to see the results of laboratory tests and, in dogs with suspected thyroid disease, verify that the appropriate tests have been performed.

The breeder of your dog should be there to help you throughout your dog’s life. We encourage you to contact them with problems and questions. We also encourage you to be mindful of the need to control those environmental influences that can have a profound effect on the health and happiness of you and your dog.



May 2015 Tip – Detergent Pods are Poison to Kids and Pets


Laundry and dishwashing detergent can be toxic to your pets and children! Detergent pods are colorful and squishy – just the kind of thing pets and children like to dig their teeth into. But ingestion of even small amounts can cause toxicity. Even if the pod is not punctured, its contents may leak out of the pod, which is designed to dissolve in water.

Detergent in pods is highly concentrated and packaged under pressure – when the pod is punctured, large amounts can be sprayed into the eyes, mouth, nose, and lungs. The contents cause irritation to the skin, eyes, mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, and intestines – and the lungs in those who inhale it. Additionally, the contents foam when vomited, increasing the risk of even more product entering the lungs through aspiration. Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, coughing, lethargy (lack of energy and enthusiasm), shortness of breath, wheezing, and even coma. Some children have had to be intubated (placement of a tube in the throat to allow breathing). There is no specific antidote and treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms and treating complications. If your pet or child plays with, chews, or bites into a detergent pod, remove the pod immediately and clean all of the detergent out of his mouth and off of his coat/skin. Contact your veterinarian (or physician in the case of a child) for advice, especially if he vomits or exhibits other signs of toxicity.

Step by Step May 2015 Image



April 2015 Tip – Brush your dog’s teeth


Good oral health is as important for your dog as it is for you. Unless you routinely feed your dog raw meaty bones, raw chicken or other animal parts containing bones or cartilage, you will probably need to routinely brush his teeth. Avoid the use of rawhide and most synthetic chew products as they can be harmful.

Daily brushing is best, but at a minimum you should brush at least twice weekly. Take a few minutes to inspect your dog’s teeth. You’ve got some brushing to do unless they are white and sparkling all the way to the gum line! You will need a good doggy toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for your dog – don’t use human toothpaste. While there are many alternatives to doggy toothpaste, you should check them out closely to make sure they are safe to use. One alternative that is safe is coconut oil – dogs love the taste and it works well. Coconut oil is particularly useful in dogs with gum disease as it can help to reduce bacteria in the mouth.

Dog brushing teeth

If your dog is not cooperative initially, just do the best you can. If you keep at it, he should become more cooperative with time. To get him used to brushing, you might want to periodically check his teeth throughout the day without brushing so that he gets used to you pulling the fleshy part of the skin around his mouth (his flew) back and inspecting his teeth.  To learn the proper technique to use when brushing your dog’s teeth google ‘brush dog’s teeth’ and you will find several videos showing you how to do it.


The Bottom Line on Anal Glands


Many dogs suffer from problems with their anal glands, which excrete a ‘fluid’ having a noxious, fishy odor. Some pets will unexpectedly empty the gland (often at very inopportune times or places), scoot around in an attempt to express the gland, or develop inflammation, abscesses and rupture of the gland due to obstruction.

While anal glands are scent glands that produce a pungent scent used to mark territory, they also provide a route for elimination of toxins from the body. The glands should empty automatically. There are several reasons why they may not. In my experience the most common reason is diet, especially the feeding of processed food. Other reasons for failure of the anal glands to empty properly are generalized toxin build-up in the body, obesity, liver imbalance, and lumbo-sacral spine and muscle injury. While failure of the gland to empty properly can be managed with manual expression, antibiotics, or even surgery, these approaches address the symptom and not the cause. In fact, routine manual gland expression may actually cause the gland to fill up more quickly! Moreover, anal gland problems are an indication that something is not right. It is best to correct the underlying cause so as to prevent the future development of other, potentially more serious problems.


Our suggestions for the long-term management of dogs with anal gland issues are:

  1. Eliminate processed foods (kibble and treats) from the diet. Instead, feed a whole foods diet, that is either raw (preferable) or cooked. Feeding a whole foods diet will produce a harder stool that will assist in emptying the gland naturally. A balanced whole foods diet will also help the body to eliminate toxins that may contribute to the anal gland problem.
  2. Control your pet’s weight.  To determine if your pet is obese, check the charts shown here
  3. Take your pet for body work to address issues of the lumbo-sacral spine.

For a comprehensive review of anal gland problems and their treatment, please see the article by Dr. Peter Dobias. DVM at


Music therapy for pets


Music can be highly effective in managing a wide range of issues, including motion sickness, anxiety/ separation anxiety, fear of loud noises (eg, thunder, fireworks), excessive barking, and age-related issues in our pets.  

Music (sound) therapy works through vibration. The cells in all living things are constantly vibrating. The frequency and amplitude of the vibration determine the ‘health’ of the cell. Pets (and their humans) hear sound not just with the ears, but with the entire body-mind complex. The sound travels around and through the body, transferring vibrational energy to every cell in the body. This vibrational energy can be used by the body to correct or balance vibrational dissonance that causes motion sickness or anxiety, for example. In contrast, some types of vibrational energy (ie, music or sound) can add to the dissonance, thus worsening the anxiety.

Research has demonstrated that specific types of music can improve anxiety issues such as excessive barking, car sickness, or fear of separation or loud noises. A total of 15 common anxiety issues were tested in these studies. In one study, classical music had a marked soothing effect on dogs in animal shelters when compared to other types of auditory stimulation, such as heavy metal music.

In the second study, various types of classical music were tested to determine their effect on dog behavior at home or in a kennel. Researchers found that differences in instrumentation and tempo of the music produced markedly different results. Solo instruments, slower tempos, and less complex arrangements had the greatest calming effect. These effects are similar to those seen in humans. You can read more about this research at

Think about the type of music being played by the groomer, daycare, boarding kennel or vet and the impact it might have on your pet. Is it possible that the music you play on the car radio is increasing the risk that your pet will be car sick?  Music developed to address various types of pet anxiety is available and can be easily found by searching the internet. ( ; ;

If you have any doubt about the power of music/sound, consider how your own mood changes when you listen to different types of music or how the behavior of a crowd listening to heavy metal music differs from that of a crowd listening to jazz. Notice how your heart rate increases with an increase in the tempo of a tune and decreases when the tempo slows. How you react when you hear a siren, a 21-gun salute, a crying baby, a whimpering dog, laughter. Recall how some music can put a smile on your face or bring you to tears for reasons you can’t explain. Consider the evidence showing that music of the proper genre can have dramatic effects on the elderly in nursing homes, improving their ability to communicate and move about. (To view the documentary Alive Inside, go to )

There is no doubt that music can change things deep inside you that you didn’t know were there. And, the same is true for your pet.