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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 14 August 2007 Issue


by Judith Marie Gansen
A Dog's Right to Good Health

ATTENTION DOG RESCUES AND ANYONE CARING FOR PUPPIES: Our latest adopted puppy from a rescue has severely splayed rear legs (they turn outward). My vet's office says that they are trying to educate rescues who are using unfilled children's pools to whelp puppies and are innocently causing this. Slippery surfaces seem to be the problem.

(The longer version of this article was sent out by our editor to pet welfare groups--this is the shorter version to fit this publication--please contact me if you would like the longer version sent to you).

Flea Products

When I was single my young rescue dog came down with a terrible case of fleas. I got traditional flea products. I thought I had things under control finally, but then another outbreak happened even though the chemical products I used claimed to repel them later too. I was out of flea products one night so in desperation I bathed her in a mild adult people shampoo. To my shock, the fleas died within a minute or two. I later also tried people bar soap and regular dog soap and to my astonishment they killed the fleas too. How could this be when there were no chemicals in them against fleas? I decided to read up on fleas.

Flea products often say that you cannot use the product until a certain amount of time passes but I read how fast fleas reproduce and get into carpets. So it is logical that if you miss just one or two tiny fleas and you have to wait awhile before you can treat again, you can have a re-infestation very quickly! If I found one I had missed, I just poured a small amount of any shampoo or soap on it which killed it. Bathing for fleas should always be done by first putting lather around private areas so they can't run into cavities in the dog and do a ring around the neck so they can't escape to the ears, then finish the rest of the body. Using plain dog shampoo works great (and is best for the dog) and by using gentle soaps it is then safe to bathe more often so that you won't miss one or two that could reproduce. Using the vacuum on the carpets and throwing away the bag will stop re-infestation. I now use garlic and brewer's yeast tablets and our dogs are flea and tick free.

Editors note:  If the above method doesn't help rid your pet of fleas or you experience severe flea infestation seek vet advice for your pet immediately. Do not try this flea treatment on cats (dogs only) as they have an extreme aversion to water and may scratch or seriously bite you. Once again seek vet advice or treatment for flea infestation of cats

Food and Water for Dogs

Years ago I thought nothing of buying common dog food found in grocery stores but I now buy from pet stores or mail order and follow the best dog foods recommended by Whole Dog Journal. I previously fed our dogs tap water or well water--now they usually get bottled water.

My change of mind about dog food came years ago after reading an article written by the Animal Protection Institute (a huge thank you to them!) which told of all the unfit for human consumption items that get thrown into dog food. I was in shock and disgust--things like tumors cut off of animals. See their updated article: Welcome to API - The Animal Protection Institute or  

Water can also have all kinds of things in it that are unhealthy. Well water especially must be tested regularly and pipes in houses can be lined with unhealthy things that get into the water you and your family and your pets drink. I found that our dogs will drink more water when it is from a bottle or purified with a purifier because it tastes better. Water is important for flushing out toxins in both humans and pets. One of my dogs prone to getting bladder stones gets distilled water, while the rest get spring water.

Finding a Good Vet

I check to see if the state I am living in has a website that lists the vet's license and this should also have any disciplinary actions against the vet. I talk to people in rescue and humane societies. I consider most seriously the recommendations from people whose pets have had to be rushed in on emergencies or had surgeries. Does the vet have a high turnover rate for staff? I also look to see if this vet clinic does anything to help pets in the community. I score points to vets who offer low cost altering or help at humane societies, etc.

I have found in years of dealing with vets that some will use fear to get me to do things and spend more money. Sometimes this is justified but sometimes it is not. Vets have a tough job and worked hard to get where they are. They deserve to make a profit and build their wealth. Just not at the expense of my dogs please!

After Surgeries

Years ago I listened to the vet like they were a divine entity. Things have changed. After a surgery, I thought someone checked in on my pet after hours or over the weekend in addition to feeding them--usually not true. The more I thought about it, I realized my pet would be watched better if I was the one watching them for any reactions or trouble after surgery. Sometimes of course I can't do this if they have to be hooked up to an IV. But my vet works with me on this and he knows that once home we will follow all vet instructions to the letter and I will be watching them for reactions to anesthesia and medications and get them into emergency if needed. They will be sleeping next to us or caged next to us, not sitting in a cage at the vet with no one there to call for help if needed (although many vets like mine will spend the night at the office or take a pet home to watch). As with the shot issue, I have offered to my vet that I will sign any kind of waiver he needs releasing him from liability because I am doing something out of the ordinary. So far he has not asked me to do this.

Cones for Dogs - please use the ones where dogs can see through that are clear--imagine coming out of a scary surgery and then not being able to see sideways.


I have requested that our pets NEVER be given new medications of any kind unless there is no other alternative. While drugs for both people and pets are tested, I prefer our pets not be given any medication unless it has been out at least 7 or more years. By then, problems should have shown up already.

Titers Tests for Vaccines

Years ago we had a tiny toy dog and I told my vet that I had checked with other toy dog owners and small toys do better with 1/2 a DHPP shot. He said she would be fine as you can give that shot to any size dog. He gave her the shot and she seizured for about 8 weeks off and on after that. I was very upset. I began to look into vaccines.

Thanks mostly to the awesome and very admirable work of Dr. Jean Dodds, the top vet immunologist in the country, the use of vaccines is now being re-examined. With our dogs, our vet now takes a blood sample and the sample is sent to a lab to see if our dog even needs a DHPP shot. Often they do not! The sad fact is that some vets frown on the titers tests. A vet specialist surprisingly admitted to me that "vaccines are the vets' bread and butter." Of course, in their defense they also have to watch out for liability issues so that could certainly be a factor too. This is probably why I hear so many people telling me their vet either won't do a titers test or will overcharge them which discourages you from doing them. They usually don't make money sending out for a lab test. They may try to scare me to death with horror stories that I am putting my pet's health at risk. OK--then why don't you and I get a shot every year to prevent us from getting diseases? Do you take your children in every year for shots their entire childhood? Of course the situation may be different for dogs who travel, spend more time in the wild, or are kenneled a lot. Vets have said if they didn't remind people of the shots, then the dogs won't come in for a health exam. How about reminder cards just for a health exam then?

If there are active cases of a disease in my area, then I am not against using vaccines but this is something pet parents need to look into and make an educated decision about and we deserve the truth about vaccines, both good and bad. As of now, rabies shots are usually mandated by state law and few of us have choices with that shot until laws change.

In Dr. Martin Goldstein's excellent book, The Nature of Animal Healing, he mentions (paraphrasing) that our pets now get a combo of all kinds of shots, many more than when he first went into practice. What is this doing to their bodies?? I now NEVER get two shots for any dog on the same day if I can avoid it--I give their bodies a chance to recover. They get more raw veggies and fruit as treats and sometimes vitamins after a shot too. My vet supports the feeding of plain yogurt especially when you have to give antibiotics because this replaces the good bacteria that the antibiotic unfortunately also wipes out.

Unfortunately, more and more drugs are being put into a combo shot and we are being given fewer choices. Our dogs are being given shots for diseases or illnesses that are not fatal. Heartworm medication now often includes medication for other kinds of worms that they may never get --what's wrong with just checking stools as we have always done? When I found out Bordetella was just bronchitis, I asked why am I inoculating against something that can easily be treated usually--do we inoculate ourselves against bronchitis?

I recently read that one out of 3 dogs will get some form of cancer. Seizures and allergies in pets have increased dramatically and many independent thinking vets like Dr. Goldstein believe there is a link with vaccines--we must do better for our pet's health! I now have an alternative vet too who began her career as a traditional vet.

More Serious Health Issues

As with any human disease, when I can afford to, I get a second opinion. I read up on the condition. I have a library of books on dog health--both traditional and natural. After the first visit and diagnosis, I search them for more information as well as the internet. Of course I am not trained as a vet, but being knowledgeable about the condition makes it easier for me to ask more intelligent questions. I also have a vet pharmaceutical book which worked out great when a vet prescribed a tranquilizer for one of my dogs and when I didn't like what it was doing to my dog, I looked it up. In large letters it said that this medication WAS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR DOGS by the manufacturer. Oopsie--I guess he made a mistake. Most vets don't do these things of course.

My senior cocker mix developed Congestive Heart Failure. The vet put her on medication but her quality of life was just sleeping all the time. In Dr. Goldstein's book, he talked about a natural product called Heartsease Hawthorne from Crystal Star. I ordered it and once on this her life was normal again--running around chasing all the dogs and enjoying life. I ran out of it 3 times (it was about $30 a bottle so money was an issue) and each time she went back to sleeping all the time until I began it again. Thanks to Dr. Goldstein and this product, my baby lived longer and had a better quality of life--even my traditional vet said to keep her on this.

Be Kind to Vets Week

It may seem as though I am upset with this profession but they do have a hard job to do and we need to remember that. Unlike a doctor who has just one species, they have many to learn about and treat. If you are left in the waiting room too long, ask why. Maybe they just got in an emergency or maybe staff called in sick. They deal with a percentage of irresponsible breeders who breed for just money and won't care for their animals, rude people, people who never call to cancel an appointment and people who won't pay their bills. Most take out a loan to pay for the most up to date equipment to give our pets the best care. Because of frivolous lawsuits their insurance premiums are skyrocketing and that cost gets passed on to us.

Man's Best Friend--Dog
Dog's Best Friend: Proper ID, Fences, Leashes and Car Restraints

Our dogs have either seatbelts or car carriers (for the little ones so they can see out and be safely restrained. A kennel cab with the seatbelt looped through the handle is some protection but not as good as a proper safety belt or dog seat. There are more accidents out there than ever before--don't think it can't happen to you. Your pet relies on you for safety.

Our pets are microchipped and ALWAYS have ID on their collars. I also have engraved on the collar tag: "Emergency vet care authorized at... with my vet's number and our phone so if found by a caring animal person and they are hurt, they can take them right to my vet. If you tattoo them, do so on the inner thigh or stomach, not the ear as cruel people who profit from pets have been known to cut the ears off that are tattooed. We have a chain linked fence and our dogs are always on leash if outside of the fence--no exceptions even though they are trained.

The Use of Chemicals in the Home and Yard

What is a weed anyway? To admit we have "weeds" means that God or nature made a mistake when our earth was created. Dandelions are the food of one of my favorite birds, the Indigo Bunting. They are also eaten by people and used in herbal medicine. I prefer to buck the system and we practically never use chemicals. Mice are deterred by sealing openings and I buy products from earth friendly companies for my flowers. All flowers that are "toxic" to dogs are planted outside their fenced in play area. Both children and pets can safely play inside our fenced in yard.

There are countless books on natural alternatives to chemicals indoors too. You would be amazed what simple things like vinegar and baking soda can clean. Drains when they get sluggish can be cleared by using 1 cup baking soda, l cup vinegar and a pot of boiling water then run the hot water for a few minutes. We recycle and never burn outside so we don't pollute the air. We plant trees which are God's natural air purifiers.

Aggressive Dog Issues

I find it disturbing that people (including some trainers and vets) immediately assume aggression to be a behavioral issue. Have you ever been around a small child when they are not feeling well? Some dogs are no different in that they act up when in pain or discomfort. In Dr. Goldstein's book, he talks about Dr. Jean Dodds and on P. 227 he says: "In her work, Dr. Jean Dodds has demonstrated the important role that the thyroid plays as a mediator of environmental stress factors, particularly vaccinations. She believes that an overstressed thyroid leads to a condition called autoimmune thyroiditis, in which the thyroid attacks the very growth factors it's meant to encourage. Young dogs with aggression problems, for example, may be suffering from this condition. By correcting the thyroid balance, Dodds has actually reversed such aggressive tendencies and saved dogs from unnecessary euthanasia."

In Herbs for Pets by Mary L. Wulff-Tilford & Gregory L. Tilford on P. 260 the authors say: "Our approach toward aggression, depression (which is manifested by a lack of energy, whining, separation anxiety, to name a few symptoms), nervousness, chronic anxiety, or hyperactivity always begins with changing the animal's diet (usually to raw food) and supplementing it with a complement of vitamins, minerals and EFAs. If this does not affect a positive change, the animal should be checked by a veterinarian for underlying physiological disorders such as thyroid or adrenal gland problems, malabsorption, tumors, parasites, or diabetes mellitus."

It saddens me to think of the dogs that may have been put down because people looked at aggression as only a behavioral issue.

Publications That Enlightened Me

If you get nothing else from this article and you can afford to do so, please, please subscribe to WHOLE DOG JOURNAL, 1-800-829-9165 or

This absolutely wonderful magazine accepts no advertising at all (so their research is unbiased)--they are like the Consumer Reports for dog parents. You won't find fancy color photos in it, just all the info you need to make educated choices for your dog's health and welfare. In addition to rating the best dry and canned foods every year, they also have articles about natural diets, safest toys, kennels, positive training methods (like clicker training), health issues, etc. This publication has saved me gobs of money.

In addition the other books named I recommend above, Dr. Shawn Messonier's books are another favorite of mine. A huge thank-you to all of the conscientious veterinarians, organizations and writers who have helped me to become a better "dog mom."

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