Probiotics

Probiotics

Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Animals and bacteria have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they are mutually beneficial to each other. Without bacteria, animals could not survive. For example, the majority of the immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract, which contains 70% of all immune cells. Therefore, a healthy GI system is essential to a patient’s overall health.

Disclaimer: Always consult a veterinary professional before starting probiotics, supplements, essential oils, or any over the counter medications.

Good vs Bad

On average, animals can have up to 4 pounds of bacteria in their body, depending on size. The majority of bacteria is found within the gastrointestinal system and is made up of both “good” (beneficial) and “bad” (harmful) bacteria. Both are necessary, but need to have the correct balance.

Balancing Act

There are many different causes for an imbalance in the good/bad bacteria ratio. Stressful situations (boarding, grooming, traveling, etc), antibiotic use, steroids, surgery, parasites, diet changes, toxins in food or water (chlorine for example), and dietary indiscretions and other factors can all cause a decrease in good bacteria.

Benefits

The advantages of probiotic use have been more widely studied in human medicine. Recently the ideas have been applied to veterinary medicine, though holistic veterinarians have proclaimed the value for many years. Here are some of the possible benefits:

  • Treating or preventing diarrhea
  • Inhibit growth of harmful bacteria (E.coli, Salmonella, Clostridium, Helicobacter, etc)
  • Regulates bowel function
  • Support healthy immune system
  • Decreases gas
  • Increase absorption of nutrients such as Magnesium
  • Produce enzymes to aid in digestion
  • Manufacture vitamins (Vitamins B & K, for example)
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Maintain proper pH levels
  • Maintain a healthy mucosal lining which prevents bacteria and toxins from entering the blood
  • Help control populations of yeast and bacteria that may lead to infections

Administration

Probiotics can be found in many forms; including powder, capsules, tablets, liquids, pastes, and in treats or food. Powders have been found to be most effective. Not all probiotic products are created equal. Often the bacteria are killed during the production process. Some products may not contain the correct organisms or exact amounts that they claim. It is important to consult a veterinary professional; they can help choose which product is right for the pet and their condition.

It is important to follow the directions specific to the product. Some may need refrigeration, have an expiration date, must be given with a meal, etc. If given incorrectly, the organisms may be killed by stomach acid before reaching the intestinal tract, which defeats the purpose. Side effects are rare when used as directed. More is not always better; the dose given should be determined by the veterinarian based on the patient, condition, and product.

Human vs Pet Specific

The answer to this depends on who you ask. A few sources have seen some benefit of human probiotics given to pets. Others argue that the organism should originate from the species it is intended for. The truth is, information and studies of both the human and companion animal microbiome (GI bacteria and environment) are still evolving. New research is concentrating on developing species specific products and their beneficial secondary effects. Purina® has released a probiotic product called Calming Care®. This particular strain of bacteria helps pets maintain calm behavior, promote positive behavior, and promotes a positive emotional state.

Based on the information we have, specific strains of these bacteria have been shown to be beneficial:

  • Enterococcus sp.
  • Lactobacillus sp.
  • Bifidobacterium sp.
  • Acidophilus sp.
  • Bacillus sp.
  • Streptococcus sp.

Could you pet benefit from adding probiotics to their diet? Your pet’s annual exam is an opportune time to ask questions. Give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.

Supplements

Supplements

Supplements, vitamins, & herbs; we hear a lot about their benefits in human medicine, but are they necessary or safe for our pets? In general, feeding a quality commercial pet food should supply your pet with all the required nutrients for general health. Different age groups, specific breeds, or pets with medical conditions may require different nutrients.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally occurring compounds that are often paired together in joint supplements. They are commonly recommended for elderly, arthritic, or patients with joint injuries. These supplements are a chondroprotectant, which means they help to alleviate joint pain by boosting repair of damaged cartilage, helping to retain fluid to lubricate the joint, and protect against cartilage break down. These supplements often work behind the scenes and results are usually not seen immediately after starting these supplements; they need time to build up in the patient’s system and take effect. Sometimes owners will notice more of an effect when they stop these.

Glucosamine and chondroitin can be found in many forms. These supplements are sold over the counter and can be found in tablets, capsules, and powder form. It is often included in senior pet foods and foods marketed for joint health (Hill’s Science Diet j/d®, Purina Veterinary Diet Joint Mobility®, Royal Canin Advance Mobility Support®). Prescription treats made with Glucosamine and chondroitin are also available. Make sure the supplements have been FDA approved, otherwise the ingredients, dosage, etc. may not be reliable.

Fatty Acids

Not all fats are bad. Essential fatty acids are found naturally in a balanced diet. Pets that lack adequate fatty acids can have dry, dull hair coat and skin. Adding Omega-3 is commonly recommended to improve skin and coat health. Fatty acids can also improve heart health by reducing inflammation in the body that can damage blood vessels and lead to heart disease. Studies also suggest it may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and may also help with arthritis.

Fatty acids can be found in certain oils, flax seed, chia, and safflower. Studies suggest that pets may have difficulty converting these into the correct form to provide the most benefit. Cold water fish, algae, and krill oil have been shown to already contain the correct form that does not need converting. Therefore, the source of the fatty acid is important when choosing a product. Supplements are commonly found in either liquid or capsule form.

Excessive amounts of fatty acids can cause undesirable side effects such as gastrointestinal upset or blood clotting issues. Avoid these supplements within two weeks of any surgical procedure. Pet owners may not appreciate the fishy breath and “fish burps” that often accompany the use of these supplements. Most products require refrigeration or can become rancid, and the efficacy can be affected by exposure to light, heat, or oxygen. Be sure to read the labels regarding storage and expiration.

Note: Fatty Acid supplements may need to be discontinued before surgical procedures.

Probiotics

I could write an entire blog on probiotics, but in summary probiotics can be beneficial to most patients. The benefits range from aiding in digestion and GI health to supporting a healthy immune system. Probiotics can be found in many forms; including powder, capsules, tablets, liquids, pastes, and in treats or food. Powders have been found to be most effective. Attention to bacterial strains, ingredients and dosages are important no matter which product is used. Probiotics tend to work best when they are given to the species they are formulated for. For example, human probiotics work best for humans, canine probiotics work best for canines, and feline probiotics work best for felines.

Fiber

For patients with gastrointestinal issues, adding more fiber to their diet may improve symptoms. Fiber aids in regulating bowel movements, which can benefit pets experiencing either diarrhea or constipation. Canned pumpkin is an inexpensive and palatable addition to a pet’s diet to increase fiber. Make sure to use canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling, which has ingredients that may cause gastrointestinal upset.

The anal glands are normally expressed with a solid bowel movement. Patients with loose stools or altered anatomy near the rectum may have issues expressing their anal glands naturally. By adding fiber to their diet, the stools become firmer and more regular, aiding in expressing the glands regularly. Products such as Glandex®, No Scoot®, and Express Ease® are marketed for patients with chronic anal gland issues. Fiber is a main ingredient in these products.

Overweight patients will also benefit from added fiber. Eating more fiber allows them to reduce caloric intake but still feel full. Studies show that diabetics who consume a high fiber diet experience less fluctuation in blood sugar levels. Weight loss and diabetic diets (Hill’s Science Diet prescription w/d® and r/d®, Purina Veterinary Diets Overweight Management® and Diatetic Management®, Royal Canin Satiety Support®) are formulated with increased fiber and fewer calories.

Antioxidants & Vitamins

The benefit of adding antioxidants and vitamins to a pet’s diet is debated. Some evidence supports the possibility that they counteract the effects of aging, such as cognitive dysfunction. For example, vitamins C and E may reduce inflammation and help aging dogs with memory problems. A patient may be diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency or disease that would be slowed by the addition of a supplement. In these cases, the supplements should be prescribed by a veterinarian and monitored closely.

Herbal Medicine

Ancient civilizations have been using herbal medicine to treat ailments for centuries. Many of the same herbal blends are still used today. There are many different ingredients with multiple benefits such as controlling urine leakage, aiding in blood clotting, and even slowing the progression of cancer. These supplements should be prescribed and closely monitored by your veterinarian. It is important to obtain them from a trusted source since the ingredients, dosage, etc. can widely vary. Counterfeit products are also a risk when ordering online.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

You may have heard the phrase “Too much of a good thing ain’t a good thing.” This rings true for supplements. For example, too much calcium can cause skeletal problems. Excess vitamin A can harm blood vessels and cause dehydration and joint pain. Too much vitamin D can prompt a dog to stop eating, effect bones, and cause muscle atrophy. Though studies have been done on the short-term benefits of supplements, they often don’t examine the long-term effects. As veterinary medicine advances, more knowledge of the effects of supplements will evolve.

Each individual patient is unique. Always consult your veterinarian before starting any supplements and report any side effects. Please bring any supplements along to appointments so they can be documented in the patient’s medical history.

First Aid Items

First Aid Items

April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. We have created a list of items to keep at home or in your field first aid kit.

Bandage Materials

Having the correct materials and knowing how to use them can make a big difference in wound management. A pressure wrap can help to control or minimize bleeding. Bandaging can be helpful in protecting a wound from contamination as well as from the patient licking it. Bandages should be removed if they become too tight or swelling is observed, or if they become dirty or wet.

A non-adhesive pad (such as a Telfa pad) should be placed over the wound itself, then a stretch bandage (Example: Vetrap®) material can be used to keep it in place. When bandaging an extremity, start at the bottom and work your way up to avoid constriction. A tape can be used to reinforce the ends. When actual bandage materials are unavailable, items such as lady’s maxi pads and a little duct tape may suffice in an emergency.

Thermometer

A dog and cat’s normal rectal temperature is about 99-103 degrees Fahrenheit. An increased temp is hyperthermia and decreased is hypothermia. Warming or cooling of the patient should start immediately if able. The patient’s temperature can be helpful information when calling your veterinarian and can aid in diagnosis.

Pain Medication

Aspirin is an over-the-counter medication that can be given to dogs that have a sprain/strain or are sore after hunting. Call your veterinarian for dosing. Long term use of Aspirin may cause stomach upset or ulcers. Never use Aspirin in conjunction with steroids (Prednisone) or other pain meds. Aspirin should not be given to cats. Prescription anti-inflammatory medications, such as Vetprofen/Carprofen or Rimadyl, are more effective but must be prescribed by your veterinarian.

NEVER give pets Ibuprofen (Advil®), Acetaminophen (Tylenol®), or Naproxen (Aleve®).

Benadryl

Benadryl® (Diphenhydramine) is an over-the-counter antihistamine frequently used for symptoms related to allergies including hives, facial swelling, rashes, etc. It is usually found in 25 mg tablet or capsule form at most pharmacies, but for dogs under 12 pounds, the children’s liquid may be easier to dose. Contact your veterinarian for dosing.

Nail Trimmer & Styptic Powder

Having your own nail trimmer at home can come in handy for broken nails. Styptic powder (Kwik Stop®) is a product that helps stop bleeding when nails are clipped too short. Baby powder, corn starch, or baking flour can be used in place of styptic powder but are less effective. Styptic powder should not be used on large or deep wounds.

Hemostat

A hemostat is a practical tool to include in a first aid kit. It can aid in removing porcupine quills, slivers, weed seeds, etc. In a pinch, a needle-nose plier can stand in for a hemostat. Hemostats can be purchased in the fishing department or at any bait & tackle store.

Helpful tip: Do not cut porcupine quills off before removing. Pull the quills straight out with slow, steady pressure.

Bandage Scissors

A pair of bandage or athletic scissors can make removing bandages much easier. Different from regular scissors, they have a protective edge that shields the patient from the sharp blades of the scissors. They can also be used in case a collar or hunting vest gets caught and needs to be cut off. 

Eye Flush

An ophthalmic saline solution can be used to flush debris out of eyes. This can be useful to remove weed seeds, pollen, and other eye irritants. With any eye injury, a veterinarian should examine the eye promptly for corneal scratches or stuck foreign material. Do not use Visine® or any other contact solution.

Muzzle

Even the nicest pets may bite when they are fearful or painful. A properly fitting muzzle helps protect you from getting bit, but please still use caution and firm restraint. Muzzles are also helpful in distracting your pet while performing procedures.

E-collar vs Clothing

A pet can do more harm than good when licking or chewing at a wound, abrasion, lump, etc. Protecting the affected area from the pet can be just as important as protecting it from the elements. Having an E-collar available can be a great advantage. In place of an E-collar, a T-shirt can be worn by your pet to prevent it from licking or scratching a wound on its chest or abdomen. A sock or booty on the foot can prevent the pet from using that paw to scratch with or prevent them from getting to a wound on the foot.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has multiple uses. It can be used to rinse debris out of a wound, though it can be irritating. Peroxide can be used orally to induce vomiting if your pet ingests a toxin or foreign body. Consult your veterinarian promptly if your pet has ingested a toxin or foreign body. Peroxide is also an ingredient in the home remedy for a “skunk bath” (peroxide, baking soda, dish soap).

Betadine/Iodine

A dilute Betadine or Iodine solution is useful when cleaning and flushing out wounds. It has antibacterial properties and is less irritating than peroxide.

Alcohol

Dogs do not sweat from their body like we do; they only sweat through their paw pads. Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol can be applied to the pet’s paws when overheated. As it evaporates, the alcohol pulls heat away from the body, mimicking the effects of sweating.

Electric Clippers

Carefully trimming the hair around injuries can help you assess how extensive it is. Letting air reach certain wounds can allow them to heal quicker. Trimming matted fur can prevent a hidden infection underneath. Please do not use scissors to trim mats.

Your pet’s annual physical is a great time to discuss with your veterinarian which items would be more important for your pet.  If you have any questions on specific products, please bring them along to your appointment. Give us a call at (218)444-5797 to schedule an appointment.

Over-the-Counter Flea & Tick

Over-the-Counter Flea & Tick

There are so many different flea & tick products on the market currently with a wide variety of active ingredients. Some would assume that if they are marketed for pets, they would be safe for all pets. This is not necessarily true. Cats are much more sensitive than dogs and can have severe reactions to canine flea & tick products. Patients with chronic medical conditions, such as seizures, can also respond differently to medications.

Store Brand vs Prescription

We carry Bravecto, Credelio, & Seresto for dogs.

There are numerous benefits of using prescription flea & tick prevention from your veterinarian. Most prescription medications are more effective than over-the-counter treatments. Your pet’s veterinarian can recommend the right product based on their lifestyle and medical conditions. When you purchase through your veterinarian, the product is recorded in your pet’s medical records. Having accurate record of what was administered and when is valuable since most companies offer guarantees on their products. Also, drug companies often offer better rebates when buying through a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, when buying products through untrusted online sources, consumers risk receiving counterfeit products. The counterfeit products have little to none of the desired effect, which can leave your pet exposed to serious diseases. When shopping online, be sure to purchase only from trusted sources and inspect the product closely upon arrival.

We carry Revolution Plus & Seresto for cats.

Cats

Topical medications & collars are popular amongst flea & tick products. Some contain Permethrins, Organophosphates, or Amitraz as the active ingredient. All of these are extremely toxic to cats. Any medication containing permethrins should never be applied to cats. Also, cats should be kept away from dogs who have been treated for at least 72 hours to avoid accidental contact. Exposure can affect a cat’s nervous system and cause severe illness.

Symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors, shaking, or twitching
  • Ataxic- uncoordinated, acting “drunk”
  • Hypersensitive to touch
  • If left untreated, can results in death

Correct Dosing & Route of Administration

When used inappropriately, any medication can be toxic to the patient. Most products are dosed based on the patient’s weight. Pets who inadvertently ingest a topical medication or collar can become extremely ill. Toxicity can affect the nervous system, gastrointestinal system, and/or cardiac function with symptoms including:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Lethargy
  • Ataxic- uncoordinated, acting “drunk”
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low or high blood pressure

Natural Remedies

Some prefer a more natural approach to flea & tick prevention. Although not nearly as effective, holistic remedies can work for pets with minimal exposure. There are products available that have peppermint, lemongrass, cedarwood, and other essential oils as their main ingredient which claim to repel mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Please be aware that some oils, for example Tea Tree Oil, can also be toxic to pets. Read more about toxic oils on our blog “Essential Oils & Diffusers”.

Key Points

Here is a list of key points to take away from this blog.

  • Never use dog products on cats.
  • Use products only as directed on the label.
  • Monitor your pets after use.
  • Report any adverse reactions to the company.
  • Use the appropriate dose for your pet’s weight.
  • Consult a veterinarian before product use in pets with chronic medical conditions.
  • Most prescription medications are more effective than over-the-counter treatments.
  • If your pet is having a reaction to a flea & tick medication:
    • If the product is a collar, remove it immediately.
    • Have the packaging available.
    • Call the Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680.