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 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,...

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. There 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...

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! 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...

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 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 Reiki, polarity 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. POLARITY FOR BALANCE We are about to begin a new revolution! An innovative science is emerging, a science that holds the secrets of past systems of...

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: How to Make Your Own Top-Quality Dog Treats, by the Whole Dog Journal The Dog Treat Kitchen ( gives great advice about making your own treats and offers many recipes to get you started. Once you make treats a few times, you might even begin to create your own recipes! Your dog will love you...

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...

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...

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.    Tweet

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...

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. You can read about the cited research by following these links.    Tweet

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. The 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...

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...

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. If your dog is not cooperative initially, just do the best you can. If you keep at it, he should become more...

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...

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...