Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Seizures in dogs 101 – a holistic approach

Friday, March 17th, 2017

I just saw a very cute little Cocker Spaniel today with a history of seizures and it made me realize I needed an article on the starting points in working with seizures. Once we get to directing herbs at seizure disorders it is a little more complex, maybe I’ll attempt an article about that someday.

So here’s a few simple things to consider if you have a dog with seizures

  • Remove any toxins from the environment. Get rid of any herbicides or pesticides in the home and on the lawn. That means no chemical bug baits, no herbicides or grass enhancing agents on the lawn and no artificial chemical smelling agents in the house. Many of these products are neurotoxins, your brain is made of neurons, we don’t want anything that could hurt these neurons.
  • No chemical flea products. These are neurotoxins and can potentially contribute to seizures. If you have flea issues in the home consider using natural agents like diatomaceous earth. If you need to treat for fleas consider using the safest product you can find, Revolution is the one I normally recommend, and only on the other animals in the home.
  • Food!! Food is important for animals with seizure disorders and some seizures will actually go away with a proper diet. Feed a diet with no grain which is minimally processed. I like raw, freeze dried raws, or cooked whole food diets. In Seattle I often turn to Natural Pet Pantry, which makes an excellent cooked stew product and a raw, or Darwins for raw food. Other options are Stella and Chewy’s, Honest Kitchen, My Perfect Pet or Instinct raw.
  • Consider a consultation with a holistic vet to see if there are underlying imbalances that can be corrected or if acupuncture would be helpful. Many of these animals have underlying issues.
  • Hemp/CBD products. There is some question about if these will stay on the markets but I have had dogs with seizures significant improve on HempRx.

Seizures are a hard to treat condition and not every dog is simple to get under control. If dogs are having potential life threatening seizures then medications need to be started but for those with milder or less frequent seizures some of these other things can be tried first.

Heart Disease in Dogs – Herbal Approaches

Monday, January 16th, 2017

I’ve been receiving quite a few questions on heart disease in dogs and though it was time to address it in a blog post. I’ve been pretty impressed on how much herbs and acupuncture can help stabilize these dogs.

You all know where I’m going with this! I do believe acupuncture is a great treatment to slow down heart disease. Acupuncture works with blood flow, helps keep blood pressure stable, and helps assure blood flows smoothly and easily throughout the body. I really love to work with dogs with heart issues because I think it helps them feel better and live longer!

I just want to say a word about medication. Unless they are very early in disease, most of the dogs I work with are also on medication. This is a disease where western and eastern treatments work well together. Don’t skip the meds!

Below are a few of my favorite herbals/supplements

  1. Hawthorn is about the best heart supporting herb out there. It is also very safe. I combine it with ginkgo, which also supports the heart and blood flow. I sell a version on etsy called Heart and Brain support and Animal Essentials also has a product called Heart Health.
  2. Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang. This Chinese formula helps with blood stagnation especially in the chest. Most of the heart disease we see in animals is due to blood stagnation (not true in humans) and I’ve seen this formula really help. You can use the formula I make with added E Zhu and Sang Leng or the formula without the added two herbs.
  3. Coenzyme Q10. I’m more of an herbalist than a supplement vet but I do really like CoQ10 and use it in some of patients. It is a powerful antioxidant, helps supplement the health of the heart muscle and studies have shown it prolongs survival in people with heart failure. It also helps protect the heart from drugs that can damage it like the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. I use 200mg a day for average sized dogs.

There are other supplements and herbs that can help with heart disease but these are my favorites!

Is the sky falling down? Fireworks and your animal friend.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Soon we will celebrate July 4th. Unfortunately for many of our animal friends this can also be a stressful time because of the loud fireworks that many people set off. For many animals, fireworks can seem like the world is ending and every year animals injury themselves by trying to escape out of houses or by running away and getting lost or hit by cars.

If you have an animal who is afraid of fireworks or a new animal in your household this is a good time to be home with them if at all possible. Here are some things you can do to avoid stress and injury to your furry companion. Not everything works for every animal and many of these suggestions can be used in combination. Some animals get such severe anxiety that they need to be sedated with medication, so if your animal falls under that category this is the time to call your veterinarian. Most of the suggested products below can be purchased at natural pet supply stores or online by clicking on the links.

  1. Put on loud music or turn up the television to cancel out the noise. If your animal is prone to stress I would suggest classical or other calming music.
  2. Use pheromone sprays such as Feliway for cats and D.A.P. aka Dog Appeasing Pheromone for dogs to calm them down. The comfort zone products are the same as the vet products that are called just Feliway and DAP but are cheaper and can be bought at pet supply stores.
  3. Spray a natural lavender product around the house. Lavender can be very calming but make sure you use a natural product and not one full of chemicals. Do not spray directly on your animal.
  4. Bach flower remedies such as Rescue Remedy can be very helpful for stressed animals. These are homeopathic in nature and very safe for even the oldest of animals. Put a few drops in their mouth or on the ear and a few drops in all the drinking bowls in the house.
  5. My Kingdom of Basil Calm and Peaceful formula is great for taking the edge off anxiety in dogs. Animals’ Apawthecary’s Tranquility Blend works well for anxiety in both cats and dogs. However check with your veterinarian if your animal is on any medications or has any major health issues before using these.
  6. Wearing a T-shirt, Thundershirt , or Anxiety Wrap can help your dog if they have problems with anxiety from fireworks. It sounds weird I know, but it actually does work.

    It is based around the ideas from Tellington TTouch of using an ace bandage. Wearing the shirt enhances your dog’s sense of their own body and makes them feel more confident in their movements and behavior. You can use a snug fitting human T-shirt, a Thundershirt , or an anxiety wrap.

  7. If you are home, talk to your animal calmly and rub them gently. If they become agitated try to stay calm. Your stress will only make them more stressed.
  8. Make sure all windows and doors are closed. Do not leave your animal outside.

Have a wonderful new year and thank you for visiting!

Spring Detox Formula for Dogs

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

IMG_0263It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to go into my pharmacy and play! I love working with all the herbs and using them to help my animal friends. Spring is in the air and along with it the explosion of pollens and allergens. Spring is also a good time to clean out any toxins in the blood, because as the weather warms our circulation picks up.

So today I got to make a wonderful and safe little western formula for our animal friends. Although I’m also sitting here while sipping the tea I just made from the formula. I love the supportive and bitter aftertones of the flavors!

So what herbs volunteered for this spring detox formula?

  • Nettles Yes they can string you but they are also great for allergies and are a good tonic for the blood
  • Dandelion root and leaf – My favorite weed is a great tonic and liver cleanser
  • Burdock root – Roots are great tonics. This one helps to support the blood, clears the skin, detoxes the liver and clears waste materials out of our bodies
  • Milk Thistle – A very strong liver protectant.
  • Goji Berry – I love goji berries! Yummy and very good for the blood.
  • Oregon Grape Root Oregon grape is a great liver tonic and is also antibacterial. A great herb for spring detox!
  • Eyebright I bet you can guess what eyebright does! However I also find it has a quality of helping us to see the world clearly and be present in every moment. Very appropriate for the new beginnings of
    spring if you ask me!

As with all the formulas I make, this one is available in my etsy shop Kingdom of Basil

How to help our elderly animal companions with the seasonal change to spring

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Did you know that spring is one of the hardest seasons for older dogs and cats?

Often times we think of fall with the dark coming and winter with it’s cold short days as the most difficult but coming out of the dark into spring is also a large time of transition and when I unfortunately loss many of the older animals I work with.

I think part of it is that spring is a time of rebirth. Many new animals come into the world, flowers spring out of the earth and the winds bring change into our lives. The other side of this is that many animals who are near the end of their lives choose the transition of spring to do it in. Whenever there are new beginning their are also endings.

From a practical standpoint I think the ups and downs of weather in the spring as particularly hard on our older friends. It is warm one day, freezing the next, dry than wet and the wind can come in and weaken those who are already vulnerable.

From a Chinese medicine standpoint, our bodies change with the seasons. In the winter we hold more blood in our core, preserving our warmth in our organs. In the summer we send more blood out to the extremities which can cause the inner body to be more deficient. In spring we began that process of pumping more blood out. In yin and yang terms we externalize our yang and if we don’t have enough yin to hold to the yang in our bodies it can cause behavior changes such as anxiety, sleep disturbances, organ failures or if yang is not held at all death (the ultimate separation of yin and yang).

So what can we do to help?

  • Consider putting a coat on your older dog when you take them outside, especially one that covers the neck area. The Chinese say that external pathogens can easily get into a body which is already weak and that they come in through the neck.
  • Consider adding some of the tonic foods to your animal’s diet. Bone marrow or a broth made with marrow bones is awesome. Make sure your animal is getting enough protein i.e. meat. Shiitake mushrooms or a mushroom supplement such as Host Defense My Community can be helpful. Tender spring bitter greens such as spinach or dandelions help to keep blood moving well.
  • In the older ones consider using infrared light therapy. See Infrared Light Therapy for dogs and cats.
  • If you are in an area where acupuncture is an option it can be helpful with some of the issues of transition.
  • In older dogs the formula Xiao Chai Hu Tang can be helpful to balance yin and yang and to help with times of transition. Do not use this formula if you have a dog in kidney failure without the direction of a veterinarian.In younger or middle aged dogs consider this Spring Detox Formula.
  • Help your older cat and dog to get some exercise. Exercise is one of the best ways to help with brain function and to help keep blood moving well.
  • Love them every moment. All of us will pass at some point in time. Unfortunately our dogs and cats live shorter lives than us. Sometimes no matter what we do they are ready to move on and all we can give them is our full love and acceptance.

Arthritis and our animal friends -holistic approaches

Monday, January 18th, 2016

It’s sad to see our animal companions no longer be able to do the things they once could do as they age and grow older. All older animals have some amount of arthritis, although some have many more problems with it.

Unfortunately, Western medicine has very few options for treating arthritis and uses mostly drugs, to treat the pain. This is starting to change with some veterinarians doing stem cell and plasma rich platelet injections. However these treatments can still be expensive. Ask your vet about if these treatments are right for your dog. Some animals are not able to tolerate these drugs and many times animals are on three different drugs and it still isn’t enough.

In some animals arthritis manifests as weakness caused by the inflammation pushes on the nerves. Many dogs walk around like their feet are asleep, tripping over things, stumbling and no longer having the strength to jump into the car or onto the bed. Unfortunately because they can no longer walk as far or do as much as they used to, their muscles start to atrophy or waste away, causing a vicious cycle. As the weakness increased, they do less, which causes more atrophy from disuse, leading to more weakness and more atrophy and less activity. In the end many of these animals can no longer get up on their own or even take a short walk.

In other animals arthritis will manifest as pain, which can also prevent movement and cause the weakness/atrophy cycle. Many of these animals will become moody and withdrawn and may even snap and bite at their people out of fear of pain. It is so hard to see our friends have so much pain that they no longer want our affection.

In most animals there is a combination of pain and weakness.

Usually dogs suffer more than cats because they carry more weight and are used to daily activity. Also people often don’t notice that their cats are painful because they spend so much time sitting and sleeping

So what do we do for our friends to help them live out their old years happy and pain free? Often the best approach involves both drugs for pain and holistic treatments to support the body.

  • Acupuncture Being an acupuncturist, I always recommend acupuncture first. Of course, this is also because I have seen how well it works in the animals I treat. I often find that if I can work with animals when they first have problems, they do so well, I only need to treat them every one to three months. Unfortunately most of the animals I see have had problems for a while and their people only learned about acupuncture when they had tried everything that western medicine had to offer. In these animals, acupuncture can still work and work well but usually treatments need to be closer together.

    It is so nice to see these animals happy and able to enjoy life again!

  • Hydrotherapy is a great option especially in dogs who have muscle atrophy. Unfortunately it cannot be done with cats, although Sheila Wells at Wellspings has told me they have worked with rabbits before. Hydrotherapy is done in a small swimming pool and involves massage and physical therapy in the water. I have seen excellent results with hydrotherapy especially combined with acupuncture. Hydrotherapy helps to rebuild muscles, increase range of motion and work out sore and sensitive areas of the body without the impact on the body of exercise on land. My favorite pool is Wellsprings in Seattle Washington. They have a great website with lots of information and photos that I love to refer people to. Click on the link to check it out!
  • herbs5

  • Herbs
    I have worked with Chinese herbs with many of these arthritic dogs and some cats. The combination of acupuncture and herbs usually helps with pain and movement and helps animals maintain between treatments. I rarely use Chinese herbs in cats because they are very sensitive to them and it is hard to medicate cats. I sell an senior dog herbal formula called Senior Dog Support, through my etsy shop, that helps with arthritis pain and improves blood circulation into the joints. Your holistic veterinarian may have something else they recommend.
  • Fish oil/ Omega oils
    The Omega 3 Fatty Acids in fish and cod liver oil actually helps decrease arthritic inflammation in dogs (not true for cats although it helps with other things). Adding a little fish oil to the diet can help many animals.My favorite brand is Nordic Naturals – Pet Cod Liver Oil . Nordic Naturals is one of the best brands for quality and they test for heavy metals and contaminants.
  • Glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin
    These supplements help to decrease inflammation and rebuild damaged cartilage. They are often sold in combination. The nice thing about these supplements is that they have few side effects and are very safe. Some animals have a wonderful response to them and some have almost no response. It usually takes a month to six weeks to see if your animal will have a positive response. Adequan, similar to glucosamine is also available in an injectable form and works better in some animals. It is also a lot easier to give to cats who are hard to medicate daily. After the initial series of injections it usually only needs to be given once a month. Adequan can only be purchased through your veterinarian. My favorite glucosamine product is Sea Mobility Beef Joint Rescue jerk treats, they work well and are very tasty. There are other good ones out there.
  • Infra-red light therapy – Infrared light helps ease the pain of arthritis in joints and increase blood circulation to the area. It is very cheap to do and can be done at home. See my article Infrared Light Therapy for kidney failure, incontinence and arthritis.
  • Chiropractics
    Many animals have subluxations of their spine especially as they age. A good chiropractor can often help with mobility and pain. I have found that chiropractic adjustments work best in animals with a very tight back and more pain then weakness. For my own cat, chiropractic adjustments have worked better than anything else we have tried and have made his life much better. Make sure you find a chiropractor who is used to working with animals and knows animal anatomy.
  • Massage/Acupressure
    Massage can help to loosen tight muscles and increase blood circulation. It also can help with pain.We know it works for us, why not for our animal friends. Once again make sure you find a massage practitioner who is certified to work with animals. I have two amazing massage therapists I work with in Seattle, Kim Rogers and Jen Streit. Kim also does humans!

    Acupressure works with the acupuncture points and helps decrease pain and relax muscles.

    There are many great books on acupressure and massage for animals. Here are a few
    The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure
    Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure
    The Healing Touch for Dogs: The Proven Massage Program for Dogs, Revised Edition
    The Healing Touch for Cats: The Proven Massage Program for Cats, Revised Edition
    Four Paws Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs

  • Reiki/Bowen/Polarity/Craniosacral and other energy therapies These therapies help stimulate the body to heal and can decrease pain and improve quality of life. Since there is little regulation of these therapies it is important to get a referral before seeing someone. This is especially true of Reiki since there are so many people who practice it. A good practitioner can make a huge difference in an animal’s quality of life.

It is better to do one thing and stick with it than to jump around between therapies. Often times animals will began with me doing acupuncture and herbs and then we will add in other therapies as needed. If I can’t help an animal with acupuncture I will refer them to another practitioner to try something else. Don’t make too many changes all at once in an old animal’s life. Go slowly instead.

Treating severe skin disease herbally

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Here is the article that everyone has asked for and I have been hesitant to write. How to treat that nasty, oozy, itchy skin with herbal treatments. If you haven’t read Itchy Dogs – the Link Between Inflammation and Diet please start with it first. Consider this article part two.

Why have I resisted writing this article?
Mostly because skin is one of the most frustrating things to treat. The reason for that is it often takes a long time to see improvement. There can be a lot of ups and downs along the way. It involves switching formulas as you go along, using multiple formulas together and understanding your dog’s (or cat’s) disease.

I rarely see mild skin disease in my practice. Usually by the time dogs come my way they have been on multiple drugs, diets and supplements. They are often hairless or with large areas of baldness and redness. And their human caregivers are often in tears. Skin disease that is resistant to treatment can be more heartbreaking than cancer. These dogs scratch until they bleed, they are often in e collars or jackets, they itch all the time, they don’t sleep at night and everyone is miserable. Ok they aren’t all quite so bad but many are.

Even with everything I do I feel like I can only get about 60% of these dogs to a good place. But remember that about 90% of dogs I see have already tried everything so in reality 60% isn’t bad. It usually takes time, 6-18 months to get good improvement and most importantly it takes people who are willing to be patient.

  1. Where to start – Diet! So before anything else – Dogs with severe skin inflammation and itching need to be on a 100% raw diet unless they absolutely can not tolerate it and then they should be on cooked whole foods diet. The diet should be 100% grain free and very low in starch – so no potatoes. If you haven’t read part one Itchy Dogs – the Link Between Inflammation and Diet, go and read it now! I have cleared some dogs up with just a shift to 100% raw food.
  2. Keep any medications that are helping on board as you work with herbs. I want to see how the dog is doing and if I pull away medications too fast I may not be able to tell what the herbs I am adding are doing compared to what the drugs are or are not doing. These dogs are uncomfortable and it takes time for herbs to work. I want them to stay comfortable as we work at the root of the disease.
  3. I almost always put these dogs on a liquid alcohol nettles tincture at a dosage of 0.2ml per 5lb of body weight 3-4 times a day. This reduces the itch and also starts the process of desensitizing your dog to any environmental allergies they may have. If you buy this commercially it can be quite expensive. I make it in large batches for my clients or have them learn to make it themselves at home. To make nettles tincture fill a mason jar with 1/3 dried nettles (I use Mountain Rose Herbs). Fill to the top with Vodka. Shake lightly daily for 3-4 weeks. Drain and make sure to squeeze the nettles leaves to get the liquid out.
  4. Chinese herbals – Almost all my dogs go on one or two of these formulas. We are often jumping back and forth between them, adjusting dosages and making small changes. Because of this it is best to have a holistic vet to help you. Often the first changes are improvements in skin quality, reduction of lesions and improvement in pulse/tongue. The itch is the last part to go and can take 6-12 months to improve significantly. Part of why I start nettles is that it can have a more immediate effect on itch. Below are the most common formulas I use.
    • Qing Ying Tang – When I get a dog in with severe itching and they are scratching constantly, if they are bald and there skin is hot and/or red, I immediately put them on a formula called Qing Ying Tang. This formula helps with blood flow to the skin, has antibiotic properties and reduces inflammation and “cools the blood.” If you are into pulse diagnosis these dogs often have a superficial fast “hot” pulse. They may actually have cold feet even with their body radiating heat. They have so much inflammation in their skin that the blood flow has been impaired. The first step is to get back the blood flow to clear out any infection and inflammation. It is not uncommon for them to get worse for a few days when you start this formula and then they get better.
    • Si Miao San – this is one of the workhorses of Chinese medicine, and though milder than prednisone, often something we will reach for as we pull dogs off of prednisone. This is a great anti-inflammatory formula and works well for yeast. It is really good for itchy skin mostly on the belly, arm and leg pits and in skin folds. If most of the inflammation is centered in these areas I start with this formula. In the dogs I start on QYT I often find in 2-3 weeks they will improve and than get worse again, with the inflammation now being worse in the pits and on the belly. When this happens I add in SMS but keep the QYT also. Over time I teach the dog’s people to work with balancing these two formulas. If the pits and belly get more itchy –more SMS and less QYT. If the back and sides are the focus of the itch then more QYT and less SMS. This formula can also improve dogs with chronic yeast infections in their ears. Si Miao San is also a formula I use quite often for dogs prone to diarrhea and smelly gas so if you are unsure if you should start with QYT or SMS and your dog is very gassy, SMS might be the way to go
    • Xiao Feng San – this is a formula I use often for mild itch and in dogs with more severe itch that have skin that still looks healthy. These dogs will often act like they are biting at bugs and the place of itch will rapidly shift. This formula can be used short time for mild periods of environment allergies and more long time for dogs with chronic itch. Make sure you check for fleas if your dog is acting this way. This formula is a milder mix between helping with inflammation and improving blood flow.
    • Si Wu Xiao Feng Yin – this is a formula that I don’t use that often but sometimes it is very appropriate. I use it mainly for dogs with itchy skin that is dry and flaky where the itch is along the back and on the sides of the body. This formula helps with blood flow to the skin but is not as cooling as Qing Ying Tang. These dogs also do well on a fish oil supplement. This is also a formula I sometimes switch dogs on QYT to as they are doing better when the itch is mainly on the sides and back.
  5. I have long held off on writing this article because I think it is so important to work with a holistic vet on this issue. You really need someone to direct you. This is a hard issue and I find we are often going back and forth between formulas. I sometimes adjust formulas to better suit a dog or use formulas not in this list. I hope this can still be of help for those of you out there without vet access and also to vets who want to work with Chinese medicine and help their clients.
  6. Remember this takes time! Many of these dogs have had skin disease for years. It can take a year or more to get them back in balance.

Happy, healthy skin travels!

Support for dogs with papilloma wart outbreaks

Friday, October 17th, 2014

wartHere’s a neat little formula for supporting young dogs with papilloma virus outbreaks.

If you don’t know, papilloma virus in dogs can cause warts. Young dogs can easily pass on the virus to other young dogs. Sometimes there is just a wart or two that forms in the mouth or on the face and other times you can have dogs with many, many warts. With time they will go away but I have found this formula really speeds up the time to resolution, often times with warts starting to fall off within a week of starting it.

It is a simple formula of four herbs

  • Echinacea purpurea which is a strong antiviral and immune stimulant
  • St. John’s Wort helps with its antiviral effects
  • Cat’s Claw also often used for pain and inflammation also is a strong immune stimulant
  • and finally

  • Licorice root helps to balance this formula and helps the body to integrate and use it. It is also though to have more direct immune stimulant actions.

This formula is usually well tolerated by dogs. I love making it because of the wonderful textures and colors of the four herbs. It is now available as Wart Immune Support in my Kingdom of Basil store.

Change your perception

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

My perception of the world has been blown. This weekend I had the honor of being able to attend a day of lectures by Jeffrey Yuan on essential oils. And I’m pretty sure I walked away a new person. If someone could have reached into my soul and opened up the reality of the world in a room buzzing with florescent lights I would have told you that was crazy. But that was exactly what happened. It seemed that we were all touched deeply, Jeffrey had a message for all of all not just on how we practice, but on who we truly are.

I thought I was treating the root of disease in my patients. I thought I was reaching for the root of my own problems. But I learned that there is a level far deeper than the root. In the end it is our perception of the world that changes us and cures us, not the root, not even the emotions that lie there.

This was a lecture about oils but it also applies to herbs, and acupuncture and psychotherapy. It was a lecture about our core beliefs of the world. With your intention, you apply oils and change the animal’s perception of the world, with that you change the owner’s perception of the world. Through our animals we heal, through us they grow. Chronic disease occurs when our view of the world is rigid. To make it move again we need to change the way we look at it. Not just processing emotions, not just healing emotional wounds, we need to open our hearts and take another view, not be bound by our beliefs or what we have been told or what we have been taught. When we perceive the world as not getting better our consciousness is stuck, we are rigid and disease occurs.

Through plants we can begin this work. Pu Gong Ying or dandelion “makes our grandfather more outstanding” or brings out our ancestral qualities. Did you know that other plants grow better around dandelions because dandelion provides nutrients to the soil? Just like a kind and gentle grandfather. Roots help to strengthen us and ground us and help us see where we belong. Seeds help us start a new beginning. Flowers change the way we view life and especially high altitude flowers and plants help us endure and start a new direction. They know what it is like to live in a place of low oxygen and can help us move into a place of love when there has not been enough love in our lives. Barks, which support a tree, help us when we are rigid and diseased in our bones and our support; they help us break out of chronic disease patterns there. Our inability to let go of pain settles into our joints.

I am so excited to get back in my pharmacy. What herbs will call out to help? What will I discover in the formulas I make? What new points will call out to me when doing acupuncture? What will facing the world from a different direction bring?

Chronic Diarrhea in dogs – herbs and diet to the rescue

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Now this isn’t an article about the occasionally bout of diarrhea or the garbage eating dog. For that kind of thing see Natural solutions to treat acute diarrhea.

This is for those of you with dogs that always have runny stool, for those people who have spent hours talking poo with their vets, for those who have been up evenings comforting a dog with an upset bloated tummy. Do you think more about poo then you ever imagined you could, know the exact shade of brown/yellow that your dog’s was this morning, check the back yard for evidence of what has happened while you were away?

If you know what I am talking about please read on and hopefully I can offer some help. This is not always an easy problem to treat but there is hope!

There are a number of syndromes that can cause chronic diarrhea and stomach upset is veterinary medicine. The one thing I see more than anything is the term IBD and IBS used interchangeably. There is a thought that they may be different sides of the same coin, IBD being a more serious form of IBS, however generally we consider them to be different diseases. With both there may be a food allergy component that can make things worse or their may not be.

So what is the difference?

IBD – inflammatory bowel disease. This is an immune mediated disease aka autoimmune. The animal’s immune system is attacking the gut wall and causing inflammation. If you biopsy the gut you will see inflammatory changes. People will often see blood in their dogs stool with this disease, many times these animals will be very sick and there is often a nausea component with this disease. There can be a fairly severe pain component with this disease. There is also often weight loss and or loss of appetite. If gut inflammation is severe there can be a loss of protein from the body that can in excess be fatal. This can be checked on blood work. This disease is commonly treated with steroids.

IBS – irritative bowel syndrome. This disease is milder than IBD. These animals will often rotate between bouts of constipation and diarrhea and may have bloating and pain in their abdomen. If you biopsy the gut of these animals it will look pretty normal. These animals will not have gut damage that results in a low protein level. It is thought that this is more of a nerve mediated disease involving abnormal gut motility. Stress can very much make this syndrome worse.

Another disease that can look very similar is chronic pancreatitis. In this disease the pancreas has chronic inflammation which can manifest with all the symptoms of IBD or IBS however biopsy of the gut will often be normal. I test called a PLI/TLI can help diagnose this disease and sometimes pancreatic inflammation can be seen on an ultrasound.

In Chinese medicine you do not need a biopsy or even test results to treat these diseases. However, if you have not done basic blood work and a parasite check including for giardia, please do so before going any further. There are many very serious diseases such as kidney or liver failure that can manifest with gut signs. Parasites that are not treated can be extremely harmful. Low protein can be a serious condition. In addition some forms of cancer can cause similar symptoms. If you have not been to a veterinarian for a full work up please make sure to do so to rule out any illness that needs to be addressed immediately.

There are a lot of drugs that are commonly used to treat the causes of chronic diarrhea including metronitazole, Tylosin, Cerenia, Famotidine, prednisone, and many more. There are many articles that mention these treatments so I will not go into details about them. In my practice many of the animals who come to me are already on some of these drugs. I usually make changes and add in treatments and then work with the animal’s western veterinarian to discontinue western treatments only after we get the dog feeling better.

In treating chronic diarrhea in dogs it is very important to look at the patient as a whole. In Chinese and holistic medicine the main focus is on balancing the dog’s body for lasting health. I do this through four different holistic approaches.

  • Diet
    Diet is extremely important for these guys. We want a food that has vitality and is anti-inflammatory. You are what you eat! A lot of these dogs will do very well on a raw diet however if they have had damaged digestion for a long time or have been on kibble the transition can some times be too great all at once. I usually move them to a canned, homemade or dehydrated raw first. In addition sometimes there is a food allergy component to their disease. Sometimes I can get a feel for if there is an allergy when I am doing the initial interview. For example if the dog has periods of normal digestion usually it is not a food allergy. If they are always sick or always have diarrhea it has to go higher on my list. Sometimes owners will also notice that there are certain foods that they have more problems on or they will show other signs of allergy when they eat certain foods (like itching).

    If there is not evidence of allergy I usually start out assuming there isn’t. If symptoms fail to improve I then explore food allergy later on. To determine a food allergy you usually need to feed a single protein for 4-6 weeks that they have never had in their diet before such as buffalo, rabbit or venision.

    Here is where I start

    • Home cooked diets. A simple home cooked diet is cooked chicken/turkey with sweet potato/yams/pumpkin 70% meat:30% yam. The yam or sweet potato can be canned just make sure it does not have added sugar. If your dog stays on this for more than a few weeks I recommend adding in a calcium supplement. I also recommend adding in the green vitamineral powder I’ll talk about later. After they have been on the simple diet for a month start adding in vegetables one at a time and then giving a variety of vegetables on a regular basis. There may be some vegetables they can eat and some they can’t – go slow with new additions.
    • But I don’t have time to cook for myself let alone my dog!

      Yep got it! Here is some options if you don’t want to cook.

    • Honest Kitchen makes a dehydrated raw that I have found works well – I recommend Force
      or Embark.

    • If you are in the Seattle area, Natural Pet Pantry makes a cooked stew available at their stores in Burien and Kirkland. It is also available at All the Best Pet Stores.
    • I have also had good success with some of Merrick’s canned food such as
      Thanksgiving Day Dinner .
    • If your dog has been eating a canned food, home cooked or dehydrated raw you may be able to switch over to a raw diet. I really like Darwin’s line of raw food. If you are in Seattle Pet Pantry also has a great raw line. If you are out of state also check out Small Batch, Nature’s Variety, and Primal. My preference is for frozen raws over freeze dried. Make sure you start out slowly and cook the food for at least the first week.
  • As most of you know who read my blog, I am not a supplement person. However this is a supplement that I really like and diarrhea is a disease I like to use it for. This Healthforce Vitamineral Green Powder not only is full of good nutrients but also probiotics and digestive enzymes. I find it can really help with digestive issues and highly recommend it for my dogs with diarrhea and absorption issues. If you don’t use this product I recommend using another good quality probiotic.
  • Herbal formulas – Ok now we are getting to the part of this I love! I have been so impressed at what these herbal formulas can do.
    • To begin with – I almost always start out dogs with chronic diarrhea on a formula I make called Zhi Xie San. I learned about this formula from my acupuncture teacher Richard Panzer and boy does it work well. The majority of dogs I use it in have a positive response. It helps firm up the stool and helps with intestinal inflammation. Most dogs tolerate it well mixed in with their food. I try not to self promote but I don’t know anyone who makes it besides my Kingdom of Basil herbal shop. I’m happy to pass on the recipe to any herbal pharmacy or your veterinarian.
    • Usually this formula can help these dogs but often I need other formulas to get to the underlying issues of disease. I use Zhi Xie San and then usually add in one of the following four formulas. If at all possible consult with a holistic vet to find out if these formulas are right for your dog. If your dog is on other medication please check with your vet before starting anything new.

    • Xiao Chai Hu Tang – this formula is often best for dogs with more upper gastric symptoms such as nausea and bloating and tummy gurgling. It can also help with pain in the abdomen. I rarely use this formula for dogs under five years old. These dogs tend to often have some anxiety.
    • Xiao Yao San with or without He Huan Pi is one of my favorite formulas for chronic gastrointestinal issues. It works best for dogs that have worsening of symptoms when they are stressed. It is also good for dogs who have a human who is very stressed or anxious. These dogs can also have stomach pain and can experience nausea and or diarrhea and sometimes constipation. I often add an herb called He Huan Pi to this formula which helps stress in the household from effecting the dog.
    • Si Miao San – This formula works well for dogs with lots of inflammation. Their stool often times has mucous in it and can be yellow in color. It is often smelly. They also may vomit up yellow bile. They may have other inflammatory disease such as skin or ears issues. They are sometimes overweight but never underweight.
    • Eight Treasures – This formula is good for the dog who is too thin and can not keep weight on. In older dogs this is one of the first formulas I reach for. This formula helps support digestion and is an overall qi and blood tonic.

    In addition here are a few treatments that I use as needed to treat symptoms

    • Marshmellow/slippery elm balls – I love to roll little balls made from a 50:50% combo of ground marshmallow and slippery elm powder with a little honey. These two herbs help with inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The honey is anti-microbial and soothing and support digestion. This can be used in any animal especially if there is nausea or upset tummy and can help with diarrhea. You can buy these powders from herb companies like Mountain Rose Herbs or in mixed together from Kingdom of Basil. You will need to mix with honey yourself. I recommend a raw local honey if possible.
    • Phytomucil is a tincture made by Animal Apawthecary that contains both marshmallow and slippery elm plus other gut soothing ingredients. It is a liquid that can be given easily for any digestive upset and does not have to be mixed with food.
  • Last but not at all the least of treatments is acupuncture. I find acupuncture really can help with these chronic digestive diseases. I highly, highly recommend finding someone in your area to work with who is a veterinary acupuncturist. Many of these folks will also have herbal knowledge and can help direct you to help with diet as well

Wishing you solid poo and happy tummies!