Canine Equivalent of Alzheimer’s – Can You Spot the Signs

Canine Equivalent of Alzheimer’s – Can You Spot the Signs

By Dr. Karen Becker

Just like you, your canine BFF is getting older, and unfortunately, it’s happening at a greatly accelerated rate compared to your own aging process. The good news is that the care you’ve lovingly provided your dog up to this point will go a long way toward ensuring she continues to thrive during her golden years.

Once your pet begins to show signs of aging, it’s important to focus on making her senior and geriatric life stages as happy, healthy, and comfortable as possible. One age-related condition that many older dogs develop is canine cognitive dysfunc­tion (CCD), which is similar to Alzheimer’s diseases in people and is the result of an aging brain.

Clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction are found in 50% of dogs over the age of 11, and by the age of 15, 68% display at least one sign.1 And because large and giant breed dogs age more quickly than smaller breeds, dogs as young as 6 can begin to experience mental decline.

Signs of Cognitive Decline in Older Dogs

There are five classic signs of cognitive decline in dogs:

·         Decreased attention to surroundings, disinterest, apathy

·         Decreased purposeful activity

·         Increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period·         Intermittent anxiety expressed through apprehension, panting, moaning or shivering

·         Loss of formerly acquired knowledge, which includes housetraining

Other symptoms include failure to respond to commands and/or difficulty hearing, inability to recognize familiar people and difficulty navigating the environment. Additional physical manifestations of CCD can include excessive licking, lack of grooming, fecal and urinary incontinence, and loss of appetite.

5 Ways to Help Your Aging Pet Stay Mentally Sharp

1. Offer your dog lots of opportunities for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation — Senior and even geriatric dogs still need daily exercise to maintain good health and physical conditioning.

While older dogs can’t exercise or compete with the same intensity as their younger counterparts, they still derive tremendous benefit from regular walks and other age-appropriate physical activity on a daily basis, or even better, twice daily. There are three types of strengthening exercises that can also be of tremendous help to aging canine bodies:

· Passive range-of-motion (PROM) exercises can benefit both incapacitated and physically healthy pets

· Balance and proprioception (spatial orientation and movement) exercises help older pets remain flexible while also encouraging improved balance and physical stability

· Targeted strengthening exercises are designed to work the big muscle groups that help with standing, walking and running

No matter how old your dog is he still needs regular social interaction with other pets and/or people. As is the case with humans as we age, if dogs don’t stay active and involved in life, their world can become a confusing, intimidating place. Your pet needs regular exposure to other pets and people, but never to the point of overstimulation. Short periods of socialization and playtime in controlled situations are ideal.

Food puzzle and treat release toys provide fun and a good mental workout, as does nose work and brief training sessions to refresh his memory or teach him a new skill.

2. Schedule regular senior wellness check-ups — I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for dogs getting up in years. Keeping abreast of your animal companion’s physical and mental changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early.

Ask your functional medicine veterinarian to perform a blood test, including an A1c test to check your pet’s internal organ and metabolic health to make sure you’re identifying possible issues early on. Keeping abreast of her physical and mental changes as she ages is the very best way to catch any disease process early.

Over-vaccinating is something older animals do not need, so advocate for your older dog by refusing additional vaccines and insisting on titer tests instead. A titer is a blood test that measures protective immunity. Chances are your dog is very well-protected. Switch to titering to help reduce her toxic load.

3. Minimize stress in all aspects of your dog’s life — Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize anxiety and stress in your older dog. Senior and geriatric dogs, especially those with CCD, are often disoriented, so sticking to a consistent daily routine your pet can count on can help him stay oriented, which will in turn reduce his anxiety. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, feed him at the same times, and go for walks on a set schedule.

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight and physically active will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease as he ages, insuring he remains comfortable and mobile. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, stretching, and hydrotherapy (exercising in water) can also provide enormous benefits in keeping dogs mobile in their later years.

Regular massage can help keep your senior dog’s muscles toned and reduce the slackening that comes with aging. Massaged muscles are looser, which makes it easier for your pet to move around comfortably. Massage also improves circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage. It can ease the stiffness of arthritis, which helps him maintain his normal gait and active lifestyle. Massage also loosens the muscles around joints, which helps promote ease of movement.

If your dog is having some urine dribbling or incontinence as a result of his age (and not caused by an underlying condition that should be addressed), provide him with more frequent potty trips outside. You can also reintroduce him to a crate if he was crate trained initially. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for age-related incontinence.

If your dog has problems hearing or seeing, use odor cues like essential oils or pheromone products to help him find his way around. Also consider purchasing or building ramps if he’s having trouble getting into the car or up on the bed or a favorite chair, and if he’s slipping or unsure on bare floors, add some runners, yoga mats or area rugs.

For sleep problems, try increasing his daytime activity level. Let him sleep in your bedroom. Sleeping near you should help ease any anxiety that may be contributing to his nighttime restlessness. Guide him with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions, and when you talk to him, keep your voice quiet, calm and loving.

4. Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate fresh food diet — A species-appropriate, nutritionally balanced diet rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids such as krill oil and others such as MCT oil, is very important for cognitive health.

The best fuel for an aging dog is a variety of living, whole foods suitable for a carnivore. Eliminate all refined carbohydrates (which are just unnecessary sugar), as well as grains, potatoes and legumes. Replace those unnecessary carbs with extra high-quality protein. Eliminate extruded diets (kibble) to avoid the toxic byproducts of the manufacturing process.

Processed dog foods are manufactured in a way that creates byproducts that can affect cognitive health, including heterocyclic amines, acrylamides and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Fresh, biologically appropriate foods provide the whole food nutrients your pet’s aging brain requires. The right diet will also support the microbiome, which has been linked to improved cognitive health in humans, and I’ve seen an improvement in dogs as well.

5. Provide beneficial supplements — When it comes to supplements, I typically recommend digestive enzymes and probiotics for all older pets. If your dog needs additional fiber in the diet, choose natural sources such as psyllium husk powder, ground dark green leafy veggies, coconut fiber, or canned 100 percent pumpkin.

I also almost always recommend an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as krill oil (my favorite), another fish body oil (but not cod liver oil), or algal DHA for pets who can’t tolerate seafood.

Most aging dogs can benefit from joint and antioxidant supplements such as glucosamine sulfate with MSM, cetyl myristoleate, egg­shell membrane, perna mussel (green-lipped clam), several homeopathic remedies, ubiquinol, supergreen foods, and natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs such as turmeric and yucca, proteolytic enzymes, SOD and nutraceuticals).

How to Create Quality Pet Time, Even if You’re Crazy Busy

How to Create Quality Pet Time, Even if You’re Crazy Busy

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

In case you hadn’t noticed (and how could you not?), you are the center of your dog’s universe. You are the sun, the moon and the stars to your canine companion. Given their lifelong devotion to us, we often wonder how we can ever repay our dogs for their unconditional love — especially when, in terms of time and energy, we’re already stretched to the limit.

Most of us have experienced periods in life when the days, weeks, or even months are just one long, busy blur of work and other commitments. Eventually it occurs to us that we haven’t been paying much attention to our precious furry companion, and yet there he sits — accepting, patient, and ever hopeful.

Unlike a cat who tends to get right up in your face (literally!) when she wants some attention, your dog is more likely to lie quietly at your feet when he can see that you’re busy, or simply sit and wait till you acknowledge him. And let’s face it — there are few things more guilt-inducing than realizing you’ve been ignoring the one friend in your life who would happily follow you off a cliff.

The good news is you don’t need to carve huge chunks of time out of your already overscheduled day to give your dog the undivided attention he needs and deserves. Instead, consider making a few minor adjustments to your usual routine that allow you to include him. With a little imagination, you may be surprised how much quality time you can spend doing things with him that let him know he’s the best dog in the whole wide world.

12 Inventive Ways to Improve Your Dog’s Life in a Hurry

1. Greet the day together — Try waking up 5 or 10 minutes early each morning to cuddle or play with your dog before you get out of bed. Most dogs are wildly happy in the morning and getting a few minutes of cuddle time with you will get your pup’s day off to a delightful start.

2. Be present — This is really just about remaining aware of your dog’s presence and observing his actions, behaviors, and emotions. Your pup is always communicating with you, and he feels loved when he knows you’re tuned into him. When you have two minutes to focus on your pup, really focus.

3. Include her in daily rituals at home — No matter what you’re doing around the house, try to make your dog a part of it. Talk to her in soothing tones as she follows you around or plays with a favorite toy while you get ready for work. Invite her to sit on your lap or lie at your feet while you work, read or watch TV.

4. Take 5-minute play breaks — Look for opportunities to play a quick game of tug while you’re doing chores or getting ready for work. Play hide-and-seek with your dog while you’re doing housework. Roll a ball down the stairs and have him retrieve it. When you bring home a new toy, make it extra-special by spending a few minutes playing with it with your dog.

5. Break out the brush — Many dogs really love to have their coats gently brushed. Be sure to avoid the face and go easy on the tail and the tender skin across the belly.

6. Make like a masseuse — Try spending 30 to 60 seconds gently stroking and massaging alternating areas of your dog’s body, avoiding the paws, tail, and backside. You’ll know he’s digging it when his body relaxes and his eyes close.

7. Do 5-minute training sessions — This is a great way to reinforce or refresh your dog’s obedience or trick training and provide her with mental stimulation as well. It’s also an opportunity for you to give her praise, affection, and a few yummy treats.

8. Take speed walks — Dogs absolutely love walks, so even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes to spare, the more often you can take your dog out for a walk, the better. Of course, when you have more time, it’s important to take longer walks to allow him to sniff, pick up his pee-mail, and do some exploring.

9. Take him along — Whenever possible bring your dog with you — to work, when you’re running errands, on road trips, and in any situation where he’ll be safe and welcome. This will not only strengthen the bond you share, it’s also an excellent way to maintain your dog’s socialization skills.

10. Minimize her time alone — Even the easiest going, non-destructive dog will feel isolated if she’s left alone for long stretches several days a week (not to mention she needs the opportunity to relieve herself). If you can’t get home to walk and play with her for a few minutes during the day, I recommend enlisting a friend or neighbor to do it. Another option is to hire a dog walker or consider a few days a week at doggy daycare.

11. Exercise together — If you can’t make the time every day to get your own workout in, much less exercise your dog, consider becoming workout partners. Dogs today don’t get nearly the exercise they need, and like us, they require an incentive to be physically active.

The best way to make sure your dog gets moving is to provide her with the companionship and motivation she needs to stay active. Healthy dogs should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes or an hour is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.

12. Beat back boredom — Most dogs have a strong “work mentality,” but in today’s world, we don’t give them fun and engaging “jobs” to do. Boredom is especially a problem for dogs left alone for long periods of time (which as I mentioned earlier, isn’t recommended). Bored dogs can develop annoying or destructive behaviors, for example, gnawing on furniture or chewing holes in carpet.

The very best hedge against boredom is lots and lots of exercise. Dogs who are well-exercised every day typically don’t get bored. Some great activities to consider doing with your dog include hiking, jogging, swimming and fetching a ball or playing Frisbee. Obedience training, nose work and interactive toys are excellent ways to keep your dog challenged and mentally sharp.

Improving your dog’s quality of life today can pay both immediate and future dividends in terms of his health and well-being. As an added bonus, you can shed those feelings of guilt that you aren’t doing enough for your furry best friend.

 

Cat losing weight? This may be why….

Cat losing weight?  This may be why….

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on November 8, 2019 by Dr. Elizabeth Bales, DVM as seen in PetMD

 

It’s not always easy to detect weight loss in your cat. The fluff of fur covering most cats can serve as camouflage for weight loss until there is a big change.

 

Unintentional weight loss in cats can be a cause for concern. If you weren’t trying to help your cat lose weight, and especially if your cat is a senior, there might be a health issue to blame.

 

The causes of unintentional weight loss in cats range from simple lifestyle changes to serious illness. Any noticeable weight loss in your cat warrants a visit to your veterinarian to rule out serious health conditions. They will be able to run the necessary tests to determine what might be at the root of the problem.

 

Here are some possible reasons why your cat is losing weight and what you should do about it.

 

Reasons Your Cat Might Be Losing Weight

 

Below is a list of a few common causes of weight loss in cats.

 

Not Getting Enough Food

 

Sometimes, your cat is eating less than you think.

 

Do you have another cat or dog in the house? Additional pets in your home could be eating your cat’s food or obstructing your cat’s access to their food bowl.

 

Or did you recently change brands of food? The calorie content in a cup of food can vary greatly from one brand to another.

 

Is the food dish up high on a counter? Your cat could be experiencing pain from arthritis that is making it difficult to jump up to where the food dish is.

 

Your veterinarian can help you determine if there are obstacles in your home that are preventing your cat from getting enough food.

 

Intestinal Parasites

 

Intestinal parasites are very common in cats and can lead to weight loss if left untreated.

 

Pregnant mothers can give their kittens parasites, and they can also pass parasites through their milk when they are nursing. Cats can also get parasites from hunting and eating prey, or even by walking through contaminated grass and dirt and then grooming.

 

Your vet can examine your cat’s feces to determine if he is carrying parasites that might be causing weight loss.

 

If parasites are the cause, a simple dewormer, directed at the appropriate parasite, can put your cat back on the road to a healthy weight.

 

Feline Diabetes

 

Diabetes is very common in cats and will require immediate veterinary care and ongoing treatment.

 

In addition to unexplained weight loss, diabetic cats typically drink an abnormally large amount of water and urinate large volumes as well.

 

Overtime, without treatment, diabetes is a fatal condition.

 

If your vet suspects diabetes, they will likely take blood and urine samples to confirm the diagnosis. Successful treatment involves diet changes and often insulin.

 

Feline Hyperthyroidism

 

Cats over 8 years old are at risk for hyperthyroidism.

 

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ that is located in the throat. It produces hormones that perform many functions, including regulating the body’s metabolism.

 

When a cat becomes hyperthyroid, their metabolism goes into overdrive—they lose weight, are ravenously hungry all of the time, have a very high heart rate, and often meow at night and have trouble sleeping. They may also drink a lot of water and urinate large amounts.

 

Your vet will do bloodwork to see if this is the cause of the weight loss.

 

Treatment of hyperthyroidism involves controlling the thyroid gland, either with medicine, special food or inpatient radioactive iodine treatment. Your vet will guide you in choosing the best treatment.

 

Feline Viral Disease

 

FIP, FeLV and FIV are viral diseases in cats. These viruses have different causes and possible therapies, but weight loss is a common symptom of all three.

 

If your vet suspects that a virus is the cause of your cat’s weight loss, they may perform blood tests and possibly more tests to determine if one of these viruses is the cause.

 

If a diagnosis is made, management and treatment will be based on the symptoms your cat is showing.

 

Feline Kidney Disease

 

Feline kidney disease can also lead to weight loss in your cat.

 

To determine if kidney disease is the cause of your cat’s weight loss, your vet will do bloodwork and a urinalysis.

 

Treatment may include prescription food, medicine and even sterile fluids that your vet can teach you to administer at home on a regular basis.

 

Feline Cancer

 

Many different forms of cancer can cause weight loss.

 

The diagnosis and treatment plan will vary depending on the kind and stage of cancer suspected. Your vet might do some or all of the following to confirm a diagnosis:

 

·         Bloodwork

·         Urinalysis

·         X-rays

·         Ultrasound and/or biopsies

 

Always Discuss Cat Weight Loss With Your Veterinarian

 

Unintentional weight loss is a nonspecific sign that can have many causes. Anything short of a veterinary visit is just a guess.

 

If you notice that your cat is losing weight, you need to call the vet. Make the appointment now.

 

Your vet should have a documented weight from the last visit and can confirm the weight loss.

 

They will take a thorough history and do a complete physical exam. Based on those findings, your vet might recommend a fecal exam to check for intestinal parasites, and bloodwork to check for clues to get to the bottom of what is causing the weight loss.

 

Is your Dog Depressed?

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Dogs may or may not suffer from depression in the same way humans do, but they definitely experience mood and behavior changes that are typically short-lived and the result of a recent event in a dog’s life.

Some dogs feel let down at the start of the school year when their playmates are no longer around. Often, an existing dog shows signs of sadness when a second dog is added to the family. Dogs who suffer the loss of a family member (human or pet) often go through a grieving period. And of course, many new canine residents at animal shelters suffer a period of sorrow and uncertainty.

The problem with diagnosing clinical depression (which is different from transient episodes of depressed behavior) is that even in humans, there’s no biological test to identify the condition. A physician makes note of symptoms and what the patient tells them about their feelings and arrives at an “educated guess” diagnosis.

Using our powers of observation you can determine if your animal companion is feeling blue. Generally speaking, when a vet or veterinary behaviorist describes a patient as depressed, the dog is displaying a change in normal behavior.  Dogs can talk with an animal communicator so please contact Diane at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com if you believe your dog is suffering from depression.

Possible Causes of Depression in Dogs

Lack of exercise — Some dogs actually become socially inhibited when they aren’t getting enough exercise and playtime. This can take the form of a decrease in interaction with other family members or choosing to isolate themselves in their crate or another room. If your normally happy dog suddenly isn’t, consider the possibility that she needs more exercise. A lot more daily exercise.

Most dogs need much more physical activity than their owners realize. Your dog should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.

Minimum exercise requirements prevent muscle atrophy, but don’t necessarily build muscle mass, strengthen tendons and ligaments, hone balance and proprioception, or enhance cardiovascular fitness, which is why more is always better. If you can provide your dog daily walks as well as additional daily training sessions to meet your other exercise goals, even better!

Lots of long smell sessions, as a part of your dog’s “cool down” period after exercise, is a fantastic way to let your dog meet her daily outdoor sniffing requirements, another important behavior that can provide tremendous mental enrichment. I believe sniffing isn’t just enjoyable for dogs, it’s a requirement for healthy cognitive stimulation.

Lack of human interaction — A healthy dog who is feeling depressed may lose interest in eating or playing, become destructive, have accidents in the house, or stop running to greet you when you come through the door. Like a sleepy, sluggish dog, a depressed pooch often just needs more quality time with his human.

Get into the habit of spending an uninterrupted hour with your dog each day engaging in physical pursuits, grooming rituals, training exercises, and good old belly rubs. It will lighten both your moods!

Punishment — Dogs who are punished for undesirable behavior instead of being rewarded for positive behavior may stop interacting with their owners in an attempt to avoid mistreatment. They adopt a depressive state of mind called “learned helplessness” because they feel powerless to avoid negative situations.

I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of positive reinforcement behavior training, not only to help your dog become a good canine citizen, but also to preserve and protect the all-important bond you share with him.

Undiagnosed medical problem — If your dog’s behavior changes, even if you suspect you know why, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Many changes in behavior symptomatic of depression, including lack of appetite, potty accidents in the house, sleeping more than usual, reluctance to exercise and sudden aggressive behavior in a dog who has never shown aggression, can also be signs of any number of underlying medical conditions.

You’re depressed — Your dog is very sensitive to your emotional state, which she can detect by observing the tone of your voice, your body language and other subtle clues, including your pheromones (how you smell). The way you move, speak and behave all send subtle signals to your dog that indicate your mood.

For example, when you’re in a situation that’s stressful to your dog, such as at your veterinarian’s office, she’ll look to you to help her calm down. If she senses tension in you, she’ll likely become even more anxious. Your dog is extremely intuitive; so, if you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised if she seems depressed as well.

Loss of a human family member or pet — It’s not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person or animal friend they’re bonded with. Experts in animal behavior believe dogs feel the same basic emotions humans do, including grief, fear, anger, happiness, sadness, and even possessiveness.

When a dog is mourning a loss, depression is common. Signs of depression in dogs mimic those in people, and include sleeping more than normal, moving more slowly, eating less, and showing a limited interest in playing.

If your dog seems depressed at the loss of a person or animal he was close to, engage him in daily activities he enjoys, such as a walk, a game of fetch, or a trip to the dog park. It’s really a matter of distracting him with things he enjoys until sufficient time has passed and he’s no longer looking around every corner for the one who is now absent from his life.

And it’s best not to expect a quick fix. It can take from a few weeks to a few months before your dog’s depressed mood begins to lift. Planning several engaging activities each day during this time is the best way to help him out of his funk.

5 Tips for Helping a Depressed Dog

  1. Keep daily routines as consistent as possible — Pets do best when they know what to expect from one day to the next. Try to keep mealtimes, exercise, walks, playtime, grooming, bedtime and other daily activities on a consistent schedule. Exercise is a powerful tool to help increase your pooch’s endorphins, or “feel good” hormones. Lots of walks (with plenty of opportunities to sniff) can be a powerful mood enhancer.
  2. Keep your dog’s diet and mealtimes the same and spice up the menu — It’s important to continue to offer him the same food he’s used to, at the same time each day, but if you find your dog isn’t interested in eating much, consider offering a yummy knucklebone for dessert, or make a tasty treat for training time that he hasn’t had before.

Store what he doesn’t eat in the fridge and offer it to him again at his next regularly scheduled mealtime. Use his hunger to help him get his appetite back by resisting the urge to entice him with unhealthy food toppers.

  1. Use natural remedies, if needed — There are some excellent homeopathic and Bach flower remedies that can be easily administered to your depressed dog until you see an emotional shift for the better. Some of my favorites include homeopathic Ignatia, several Bach flower remedies including Mustard and Honeysuckle, and Green Hope Farm Grief and Loss. Diane can make a special blend of Bach Flower essences for grief and loss if your pet has experienced these issues.
  2. Be careful not to inadvertently reward your dog’s depression — It’s only natural to want to comfort your sad pet, but unfortunately, giving attention to a dog who is displaying an undesirable behavior can reinforce the behavior. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is reward a lack of appetite, inactivity or other types of depressed behavior in your dog. Instead, you want to help her over the hump.

A better idea is to try to distract her with healthy, fun activities that provide opportunities for positive behavior reinforcement. This can be a walk, short training sessions, a game of fetch, nose work or offering her a food puzzle toy or recreational bone.

  1. Give it time — Your dog’s depression may take a few days or even weeks to blow over, but eventually most pets return to their normal lively selves. If at any point you feel your pet is suffering unnecessarily or there is something more going on than a case of the blues, I recommend discussing the situation with your animal communicator, vet or a veterinary behaviorist.

 

Additionally there are essential oils that can lift the spirits of both humans and pets that can be used daily.  Contact Diane for recommendations and links to purchase these oils. Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com

Cushing disease in Dogs

Cushing disease in Dogs

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Cushing’s disease is most often seen in dogs — especially Terriers, Poodles, Dachshunds and the American Eskimo/Spitz. It rarely occurs in cats.

The medical term for this condition is hyperadrenocorticism. Hyper means too much, adreno refers to the adrenal glands, and corticism refers to a syndrome involving the hormone cortisol. Simply put, hyperadrenocorticism describes a condition in which too much cortisol is released by the adrenal glands.

Overproduction of This Powerful Hormone Can Trigger a Cascade of Health Problems

In a healthy dog’s body, cortisol, known as the fight-or-flight hormone, is released in small amounts by the adrenal glands in response to perceived stress, so the dog can prepare to battle or run for his life. A release of cortisol also triggers a release of glucose from the liver. Glucose provides energy to the cells of the muscles used to fight or take flight.

Cortisol also impacts a number of other important functions in your dog’s body, including blood pressure, electrolyte balance, bone and fat metabolism, and immune function. Cortisol is secreted in response to any type of stress in your pet’s body; physical or emotional, short-term or long-term.

If for some reason your dog’s body up-regulates its demand for cortisol, the adrenal glands begin overproducing the hormone, which can lead to a state of toxicity. In dogs who experience chronic stress in any form, the adrenals release more cortisol than their bodies need.

This situation can result in a number of serious disorders, including elevated blood sugar that can lead to diabetes, elevated blood pressure that can result in heart and kidney disease, extreme hunger in response to lots of excess glucose being burned, thinning of the skin and coat, decreased muscle and bone mass, and increased risk of infection.

If your dog’s body is continuously overproducing cortisol, his immune function is compromised, which opens the door for infections anywhere in the body — especially the gums, eyes, ears, skin and urinary tract. If your dog has recurrent infections or a persistent infection, it’s possible too much cortisol is the cause.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease

Most dogs have a few, but not all of the symptoms of the disorder unless diagnosis comes very late in the disease. Symptoms most commonly seen in dogs with early Cushing’s include:

Increased thirst and urination, which can lead to incontinence Bruising
Increased panting Hair loss
Abdominal weight gain (pot belly appearance), despite a reduction in calorie intake Irritability or restlessness
Thinning skin and change of skin color from pink to grey or black, symmetrical flank hair loss Much less commonly, rear limb weakness and blood clots

These symptoms are so diverse and can affect so many organs because every inch of a dog’s body contains cortisol receptors.

Typical or Atypical Cushing’s?

If your dog is diagnosed with hyperadrenocorticism, it’s important to know which type of Cushing’s she has. Typical Cushing’s is either adrenal dependent or, much more commonly, pituitary dependent. About 85% of affected dogs develop the latter form, in which the pituitary gland sends too much stimulating hormone to the adrenals. The adrenal glands respond by over-secreting cortisol.

The remaining 15% of cases are adrenal dependent, in which a tumor develops in an adrenal gland and triggers an up regulation of cortisol production. It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to unintentionally trigger typical Cushing’s by prescribing a too-high dose of oral prednisone (synthetic cortisone), or a course of prednisone therapy that is too long in duration. If your dog has taken prednisone for any length of time, she’s predisposed to Cushing’s disease.

The atypical form of hyperadrenocorticism occurs when the adrenals overproduce aldosterone, a hormone that balances electrolytes in the body. Atypical Cushing’s can also result from an overproduction of sex hormone (estrogen, progesterone, and rarely, testosterone) precursors.

Diagnosing Hyperadrenocorticism Can Be Challenging

The actual diagnosis of Cushing’s is often complicated. It’s typically done with blood tests like the ACTH stimulation (stim) test and the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test. Both these tests require at least two blood draws to compare cortisol levels for a definitive diagnosis of Cushing’s.

When Cushing’s is confirmed, your veterinarian will want to determine if it’s pituitary or adrenal dependent. In my opinion, the best way to rule out an adrenal gland tumor is with a non-invasive ultrasound test. However, some vets prefer to do a third blood test called a high-dose dexamethasone suppression test.

Whichever method is used, it’s important not only to establish a definitive diagnosis for Cushing’s, but also to determine whether the form of the disease is adrenal or pituitary dependent.

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the disease is diagnosed only after it is full-blown and there’s no holding it back. Once a dog has full-blown Cushing’s, she will live with the disease for the rest of her life. It’s a horrible illness that can be managed in many cases, but never cured.

Many veterinarians tend to ignore repeated and progressive elevations in serum Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), one of the commonly elevated enzymes found on routine bloodwork, until several Cushing’s symptoms are present, or a pet parent becomes concerned that their dog is suddenly urinating in the house or losing her hair.

The better, proactive approach is to try to prevent the disease from taking hold. That’s why I recommend getting a copy of your pet’s yearly bloodwork results. Your pet should age with picture-perfect bloodwork, or there’s work to be done.

Never let a veterinarian tell you your pet’s abnormal bloodwork is “normal for their age,” as this means disease is taking place without anyone addressing it. If your dog’s ALP is two to three times higher than normal, ask your vet if your dog could be in the early stages hyperadrenocorticism.

The Importance of Catching This Disease Early

Most of the drugs currently available to treat Cushing’s disease have many undesirable side effects. It’s extremely important to discuss your concerns about possible side effects with your veterinarian. I recommend you do your own research as well.

I try to avoid using Lysodren and other potent Cushing’s drugs because in my opinion, the side effects are often worse than the symptoms the animal is dealing with. If Cushing’s drugs must be used, I prefer to use Trilostane, which has fewer side effects. Obviously, the goal is to catch the disease before high drug doses are required.

If, however, your dog requires drugs to manage full-blown Cushing’s, I recommend starting with the lowest possible effective dose, and using it in conjunction with a natural protocol to reduce potential side effects. Identifying pre-Cushing’s syndrome as early as possible and reducing your pet’s risk for full-blown disease is the approach I always recommend. Dogs don’t suddenly wake up with this disease — it happens over time.

Unfortunately, many conventional veterinarians ignore the early signs of adrenal dysfunction because they don’t know what to do about it until a dog fails the ACTH stim test. The problem with this approach is it takes months and sometimes years for an animal to be officially diagnosed with Cushing’s.

Waiting this long to take action often means waiting too long. I consider a dog to have pre-Cushing’s syndrome when he exhibits classic symptoms but is still able to pass the stim test. Often there are minor changes in bloodwork, for example, the UCC (urine cortisol:creatinine ratio) is slightly elevated, there are elevated cholesterol levels, and/or the elevation in ALP has been proven to be cortisol induced (your vet can check what fraction of ALP is coming from cortisol vs. other sources).

I’m able to reverse many pre-Cushing’s patients with nutraceuticals, Chinese herbs, homeopathics, nutritional therapy, and lifestyle management (reducing biologic and metabolic stress).

My advice is to be proactive by having your pet’s ALP level checked annually, which should be a part of a basic “wellness blood test,” along with a physical exam that evaluates muscle mass, coat condition, and an environmental stress assessment. Ask your veterinarian to establish baseline blood levels and address any elevation from the baseline through a screening test like the UCC or CiALP to determine if your dog’s body is over-secreting cortisol.

Never accept steroids prescribed for your pet unless they’re required to dramatically (and temporarily) improve quality of life (e.g., if your pet has acute head trauma and steroids are needed to control brain inflammation, etc.).

Having this information will help you better manage a pre-Cushing’s situation before it develops to full-blown disease. And don’t ignore symptoms. If your pet has consistent Cushing’s-type symptoms, no matter how minor, they are absolutely worth investigating for a possible endocrine or adrenal disorder.

It’s during the development of Cushing’s disease that many dogs are also over-prescribed aggressive traditional drug protocols for full-blown Cushing’s disease, often with disastrous results.

When these potent drugs are prescribed for mild adrenal dysfunction, the result is often an acute Addisonian crisis in which there are insufficient adrenal hormones necessary for normal physiologic function. A natural protocol to manage pre-Cushing’s is essential to avoid drug-induced hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s).

Prevention Tips

There are some common-sense steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of developing hyperadrenocorticism, including:

Feed a moisture rich, nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate anti-inflammatory diet to reduce biologic stress; this means eliminating all grains and carbohydrates from the diet, since carbs trigger insulin release and insulin triggers cortisol release
Exercise your dog daily to help combat stress and promote the release of endorphins
Instead of spaying or neutering, consider a sterilization procedure that leaves your dog’s testicles or ovaries in place; if that’s not possible, wait until your pet has reached his or her full adult size, and in the case of females, after the first and preferably two estrus cycles
Minimize your pet’s exposure to xenoestrogens
Investigate adaptogenic herbs and adrenal-supportive natural substances like magnolia (rhodiola), ashwagandha, and phosphatidylserine
Address abnormal hormone levels early on with natural support, such as melatonin, DIM, glandular therapies and high lignan flax hulls

 

 

 

Happy Cat??

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

How to Create a Happy Cat

In addition to feeding a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate diet, keeping kitty at a lean-and-healthy weight, and providing exercise incentives, there are several components to her indoor environment that you’ll need to consider from her uniquely feline perspective. These include:

  1. Litterbox location — In the wild, cats not only hunt prey, they are prey for other animals. Certain activities make them vulnerable to predators, including eliminating. This vulnerability is what causes anxiety in your kitty when her litterbox is in a noisy or high traffic area.

Your cat’s “bathroom” should be located in a safe, secure location away from any area that is noisy enough to startle her or make her feel trapped and unable to escape.

  1. The opportunity to “hunt” for meals and snacks — Your cat, while domesticated, has maintained much of his natural drive to engage in the same behaviors as his counterparts in the wild, including hunting for food, which also happens to be excellent exercise. A great way to do that with an indoor cat is to have him “hunt” for his meals and treats.

Separate his daily portion of food into three to five small meals fed throughout the day in a variety of puzzle toys or indoor hunting feeder mice (available for raw and canned food, too!). You can also hide his food bowls or food puzzle toys in various spots around the house.

  1. Places for climbing, scratching, resting, and hiding — Cats are natural climbers and scratchers, and those urges don’t disappear when they move indoors. Your cat also needs her own resting place and a hiding place where she feels untouchable.

Cats prefer to interact with other creatures (including humans) on their own terms, and according to their schedule. Remember: well-balanced indoor kitties are given the opportunity to feel in control of their environment. Jackson Galaxy has written several books on creating feline environmental enrichment around the home that I highly recommend.

  1. Consistency in interactions with humans — Your cat feels most comfortable when his daily routine is predictable, so performing little rituals when you leave the house and return can help him feel more comfortable with your comings and goings. A ritual can be as simple as giving him a treat when you leave and a nice scratch behind the ears as soon as you get home.

Playtime should also be consistent. Learn what types of cat toys he responds to and engage him in play, on his timetable. Of course, while you can encourage him to play, it’s pointless to force the issue. Oh, and when he’s had enough, he’s had enough!

  1. Sensory stimulation — Visual stimulation: Some cats can gaze out the window for hours. Others are captivated by fish in an aquarium. Some even enjoy kitty videos.

Auditory stimulation: When you’re away from home, provide background noise for kitty that is similar to the ambient sounds she hears when you’re at home, for example, music or a TV at low volume. Olfactory stimulation: You can stimulate your cat’s keen sense of smell with cat-safe herbs or synthetic feline pheromones (e.g., Feliway).

All in all, paying attention to your kitty, interacting and talking with them will go a long way to ensure their happiness. Provide stimulation—you get bored right?  Well, they will to!   If they seem upset or sad consider what may have changed in their life or environment to have caused their issue.  When all else fails, contact Diane who is an animal communicator at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com.

 

Thyroid Dysfunction

By Dr. Dodds DVM

Thyroid Dysfunction is the most frequently recognized endocrine disorder of pets and it’s often difficult to make a definitive diagnosis, since many clinical signs mimic those resulting from other causes.

 

Dogs

Hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder of canines. Nearly 90 percent of canine cases result from autoimmune thyroiditis. The heritable nature of this disorder poses significant genetic implications for breeding stock.
Common symptoms to look for in dogs:

  • Scratching  •  Hair loss  •  Seizures  •  Chronic bowel issues • Seizures in adulthood  •  Chewing feet and skin  •  Skin and ear infections  • Behavioral changes: aggression, moodiness, phobias

Cats
Hyperthyroidism in readily induced, especially in geriatric cats, by feeding commercial pet foods, treats and snacks containing excessive amounts of iodine. This finding has led to a major change in the iodine formulations of feline commercial pet foods.

Common symptoms to look for in cats:
Pacing  •  Anxiety  •  Phobias   •  Howling  •  House soiling  • Insatiable hunger  •  Dementia with aging  •  Hunger and weight loss