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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2003

Dog may need allergy drugs for a while

December 28, 2003

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I've been following your natural allergy plan to treat my dog Sugar's allergies since last summer. She's been doing great! Recently, however, she has started itching again. What else can I do to make her comfortable?

The natural approach to treating allergies works great for most pets. A combination of natural diet, herbs, whole food supplements, homeopathics, decreased use of chemicals and medications, and topical therapies reduces the need for antihistamines and steroids during the year.

Sometimes, as you've seen with Sugar, allergies flare up. In North Texas, this normally happens in the spring and fall as allergens blow through. Short-term use of low doses of oral prednisone are safe and will make Sugar comfortable during her flare-up. Also, many allergic pets have flea allergies.

I've just heard something awful about pet food and am concerned that I might be hurting my dog. Is it true that some foods contain euthanasia solution? Can it hurt my dog?

Unfortunately, what you've heard is correct. Many brands of foods, including some of the premium foods, contain what I consider less than healthy ingredients. These can include animal byproducts (such as tendons, ligaments, etc.) and various chemicals and artificial preservatives and colors.

A recent study by the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Veterinary Medicine found that the same chemical used to euthanize animals turned up in many top-selling brands of pet foods. A total of 43 brands tested positive for pentobarbital, which veterinarians use for euthanasia. Slaughterhouses sometimes use it to kill diseased farm animals.

Unfortunately, euthanized animals can be sent to meat processing plants (rendering plants) where the carcasses are processed. The processed animal tissue is then sold to dog food manufacturers. We really don't know if the euthanasia solution in the animal tissue harms pets. However, part of the holistic approach to pet care is to err on the side of caution.

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I know that many pet owners like to use over-the-counter remedies for diarrhea, a common problem in dogs and cats. While these remedies are usually safe, they can cause harm.

For example, if not used properly, PeptoBismol can be toxic to cats because of the salicylate component in the medicine.

Recently, Kaopectate has had a change in its formulation. The maker changed the active ingredient to bismuth subsalicylate, the same compound in PeptoBismol.

Salicylates (aspirin, PeptoBismol and Kaopectate) should be administered to cats under veterinary supervision. Some dogs are also sensitive to salicylates.

I rarely use these compounds for diarrhea. They can be difficult to administer, and I believe holistic options work better. My advice is to save these products for adults.

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A few months ago many of you signed up to help me with my study on a new joint supplement containing hyaluronic acid. The new product is available as a gel and a chewable pill.

So far, the pets who have taken the gel have shown improvement in their signs of lameness.

The study on the chewable pill is completed, with most dogs showing improvement equal to or better than when taking other supplements or medications.

Once the gel formulation study has been completed, I'll let you know the final results in a future column. Currently, the products (Choloflex tablets and Cholagel) are expected to be available from veterinarians sometime this month.

Also, my new book, "8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog," is available in bookstores, pet stores and at amazon.com.

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