pet health

  • Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis in Pets

    Chondroitin sulfate is the major glycosaminoglycan found in cartilage; it also helps inhibit enzymes that are destructive to the joints. Chondroitin sulfate is a naturally occurring substance in the body.

    Therapeutic Uses
    A study in the 1998 journal, Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, reported that chondroitin sulfate is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis. Because chondroitin production by the body decreases with aging, supplementation with this compound may be especially helpful for older pets with arthritis.

    Animal cartilage is the only dietary source of chondroitin.

    Scientific Evidence
    For years, experts stated that oral chondroitin couldn’t work because its molecules are so big that it seemed doubtful they could be absorbed through the digestive tract. However, in 1995, researchers laid this objection to rest when they found evidence that up to 15 percent of chondroitin is absorbed intact. Anther study found that up to 70 percent of radio-labeled chondroitin sulfate was well absorbed and showed affinity for articular (joint) cartilage. This evidence for chondroitin absorption holds true for pets as well as people.

    The effect of both oral and injected chondroitin was assessed in rabbits with damaged cartilage in the knee. After 84 days of treatment, the rabbits that were given chondroitin had significantly more healthy cartilage remaining in the damaged knee than the untreated animals. Receiving chondroitin by mouth was as effective as taking it through an injection. It appears quite likely that chondroitin can slow the progression of osteoarthritis. However, more studies are needed to confirm this very exciting possibility. It would also be wonderful if chondroitin could repair damaged cartilage and thus reverse arthritis, but none of the research so far shows such an effect. Chondroitin may simply stop further destruction from occurring.

    How does chondroitin work for osteoarthritis? Scientists are unsure how chondroitin sulfate works, but one of several theories might explain its mode of action. At its most basic level, chondroitin may help cartilage by providing it with the building blocks it needs to repair itself. It is also believed to block enzymes that break down cartilage in the joints. Another theory holds that chondroitin increases the amount of hyaluronic acid in the joints. Hyaluronic acid is a protective fluid that keeps the joints lubricated. Finally, chondroitin may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect.

    Chondroitin is often added to supplements containing glucosamine. While significant studies are lacking, some doctors (but not all) feel adding chondroitin to glucosamine enhances the ability of both substances to repair cartilage due to a synergistic effect.

    Safety Issues
    Chondroitin sulfate, like glucosamine, has not been associated with any serious side effects. Mild digestive distress appears to be the only real concern in people and possibly pets.

  • Colostrum/Lactoferrin Use For Pets

    Colostrum Lactoferrin Use For Pets Shawn Messonnier

    Colostrum is the antibody-rich fluid produced from the mother during the first day or two after birth. However, most commercial colostrum preparations come from cows. Whether cow antibodies are good for humans or pets is unclear, although many holistic veterinarians report positive results with both colostrum and the more concentrated form called lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is a component of colostrum. By concentrating the intended nutrient (lactoferrin), instead of having a tiny amount of it as found in colostrum, the effect may be maximized in the body. Ideally, colostrum should come from a dairy that does not use hormones, pesticides, or medications in the cows, which could concentrate in the colostrum.

    Purine and pyrimidine complexes are the active fractions found in colostrum, the first milk produced by mammals. Purine nucleotides are involved in virtually all cellular processes and play a major role in structural, metabolic, energetic and regulatory functions. Like arabinogalactans, they have been shown to stimulate the activity of natural killer white blood cells. Colostrum contains cytokines and other protein compounds that can act as biological response modifiers.

    Therapeutic Uses
    In pets, colostrum has been recommended and anecdotally found useful for the treatment of wounds (promotes healing of insect bites, abscesses, ruptured cysts, warts, and surgical incisions when applied topically to the wound). Colostrum is also used for gingivitis, as an aid to proper functioning and motility of the intestinal tract, diarrhea, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, food allergies, and arthritis. Very often colostrum is used with other treatments; these other treatments might be reduced or eliminated after the pet has been taking colostrum.

    Research supports its use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis as well as other autoimmune conditions. Nucleotides also may play an important role in essential fatty acid metabolism, and may have a positive effect on the functions of the gastrointestinal tract and the liver. Colostrum is often sold as an "immune stimulant."

    However, if it works, it would most likely function by directly fighting parasites, bacteria, and viruses. There is no particular reason to believe it does strengthen the immune system, although it has been purported to establish homeostasis in the thymus gland, which functions in regulating the immune system. More research is needed to determine whether colostrum works in this manner.

    The usual recommended dosage of colostrum is 10 g daily in people; in pets, the recommendations is to feed it free-choice in powder form at least 30 minutes or longer before feeding, usually once daily in the morning. The recommended dosage for cats with gingivitis is 40 mg/kg applied topically to the gums.

    Scientific Evidence
    There is some evidence that colostrum can help prevent certain infectious diseases, but other studies have found it ineffective.

    A specialized form of colostrum was tested for its ability to prevent infection in people with the common parasite cryptosporidium. One group of healthy volunteers was given colostrum before receiving an infectious dose of cryptocebo. Those who took colostrum experienced less diarrhea and appeared to experience a lower-grade infection.

    Several other studies indicate that colostrum may relieve diarrhea and other symptoms associated with cryptosporidium in people with AIDS. Another study suggests colostrum might prevent mild infections with the Shigella parasite from becoming severe. However, a different study looking at Bangladeshi children infected with Helicobacter pylori (the organism that causes digestive ulcers) found no benefits. Also, no benefit was seen in a study on rotavirus (another parasite that causes diarrhea in children).

    There is evidence that lactoferrin works in cats with stomatitis secondary to FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) infection (the study showed no evidence for colostrum). It is theorized that lactoferrin may have two functions. Lactoferrin may bind iron that is essential for bacterial growth, and it may stimulate local (IgA) immunity at the level of the palatine tonsils.

    Safety Issues
    Colostrum and lactoferrin do not seem to cause any significant side effects. However, comprehensive safety studies are being performed. Safety in young children or women who are pregnant or nursing has not been established. These guidelines should probably also be followed for pets.

  • DMG ( Vitamin B15 ) for Pet Health

    DMG stands for dimethylglycine, also called vitamin B15. It is found in low levels in foods, including meats, seeds, and grains. Both the human and animal body makes DMG from choline and betaine. It is suggested that increased dietary intake of DMG is to provide carbon to cells. It is also a precursor of SAMe. DMG appears to enhance oxygen usage, prevent the accumulation of lactic acid, improve muscle metabolism, function as an anti-stress nutrient to improve the cardiovascular system, and reduce recovery time after vigorous physical activity.

    Therapeutic Uses of DMG
    It has been recommended for use in pets with a variety of conditions including osteoarthritis at a dose of 50 to 500 mg per day. Its mechanism in the treatment of osteoarthritis is via an anti-inflammatory effect. Many doctors prescribe it for horses, dogs, and cats to improve performance and enhance recovery from various health problems. DMG is considered an anti-stress nutrient.

    Holistic veterinarians have also recommended DMG as a supplement for pets with seizures and allergies. Research suggests that DMG may in fact be beneficial for these conditions, although the actual benefit for these conditions is unproven through controlled studies.

    Studies have shown DMG can improve the immune response by potentiating both cell-mediated and humoral (antibody) immunity. Some holistic doctors also recommend DMG for pets with immune disorders such as cancer, feline leukemia virus infection, feline immunodeficiency virus infection and diabetes (at a dosage of 0.5 to 1.0 mg per pound daily). DMG is included in formulas for pets with heart disease. It is proposed to work by improving oxygen uptake and utilization.

    DMG is also recommended as a natural therapy for pets with epilepsy at a dosage of 50 –500 mg per pet per day.

    Safety Issues
    DMG is extremely safe. The body converts it into its metabolites that are either used or excreted from the body.

  • Flea and Tick Treatments For Pets

    Fleas are the most common external pest causing irritation and discomfort to dogs and cats. Flea infestations are not usually fatal; however, puppies, kittens, and debilitated pets can become quite ill and even die due to blood loss from heavy flea infestation (fleas suck blood from their hosts). Fleas most commonly cause irritation to infested pets. Dogs and cats with flea allergies can experience intense itching and secondary skin infections. Only one flea bite is necessary to cause severe signs in flea-allergic pets; in many flea-allergic pets, no fleas are ever found.

    Finally, fleas are also the intermediate host for the common dog and cat tapeworm. Finding tapeworms in the pet’s feces, or finding flea fecal material (“flea dirt,” small black flecks of blood located on the pet that turn red when mixed with water) is evidence of flea infestation even if no adult fleas are seen.

    Treating fleas either with natural or conventional therapies (or both) require treating the pet, indoor environment, and outdoor environment. Owners should keep in mind there are four stages of the flea life cycle: adult (the only stage that occurs on the pet and makes up five to ten percent of the entire flea population), egg, larvae, and cocoon. Since 90 to 95 percent of the flea population (the eggs, larvae, and cocoons) occurs in the environment (house and yard) rather than on the pet, flea-control programs must concentrate their efforts there, or the programs will fail.

    Other Natural Treatments for Fleas and Ticks

    While generally considered to be less toxic than even the newer, safer chemicals recommended for flea control, the main drawback to using natural treatments for flea control on the pet is the need for frequent application. Natural products are quite useful in the environment and usually do not require frequent applications.

    Treatments for flea control on the pet and in the environment include neem, citronella, diatomaceous earth, sodium polysorbate, and beneficial nematodes. Herbs to be given orally include garlic, burdock root, dandelion, and red clover. Herbs to be given topically include feverfew, pyrethrum, mullein, Canadian fleabane, and pennyroyal oil, which has potential toxicity.

    As with any condition, the most healthful natural diet will improve the pet’s overall health.

    Itching can be controlled with low doses or corticosteroids or natural therapies including Xiao Skin Allergy Relief (

    Conventional Therapy for Fleas and Ticks

    Conventional therapies involve the use of various chemicals such as carbamates, organophosphates, synthetic pyrethrins, and insect growth regulators such as methoprene, to kill fleas. There are no conventional treatments to eliminate the cocoon stage of the flea life cycle.

    The newer conventional therapies for flea (and tick) control appear to be safer and work better than products available years ago. Ideally, problems are best prevented rather than treated. Since the advent of products such as Program, Advantage, and Frontline, owners can now have year-round or seasonal prevention for their pets rather than wait until severe flea infestation occurs. Preventing problems allows owners to use fewer chemicals in their approach than waiting to treat problems that require more chemicals used for greater lengths of time.

    The newer chemicals work much better than past treatments of toxic dips, powders, sprays, and collars. By their modes of action and application, they are safer for pets, owners, and the environment. Still, these products are chemicals; when possible, more natural preventive measures are recommended. In addition, when possible, these (and other unnecessary) chemicals should be avoided in pets with chronic diseases, including allergies, cancer, epilepsy, feline leukemia virus infection, feline immunodeficiency infection, autoimmune diseases, and any other conditions where extraneous application or ingestion of chemicals is best avoided.

    Toxicity that occurs with conventional flea treatments mainly involves the central nervous system, usually by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that degrades the major nerve transmitter acetylcholine. Using the products on an as-needed basis, following label directions, and working with your veterinarian to use the least toxic products (for example, a pyrethrin outdoor spray or methoprene indoors rather than an organophosphate) will allow most products to be used safely when indicated.

    Check out Dr. Shawn’s line of all natural pet products at

  • Geriatric Dogs - Aging is a Stage of Life

    As dogs age, they eventually start to slow down and are happy sitting under the big oak tree watching life go by. All dogs will age, and they will all age at a different rate, depending on their size, breed, and how they are cared for throughout life. A dog that is in optimal health throughout her life will age more slowly than a dog plagued by chronic illnesses. If you have an elderly dog in poor health, it is not too late to bring her back to health. Many of the symptoms attributed to old age in dogs are merely a lack of good nutrition.

    As your dog’s activity level slows down, her metabolism will decrease and she will not burn as many calories, resulting in weight gain—one of the biggest problems among older dogs. As your dog ages and slows down, her whole body is aging and slowing down, and her digestive tract, heart, kidney, liver, and brain can’t work as efficiently as they used to. Some small adjustments to your dog’s diet and exercise program will give her a better chance for a healthy, pain-free old age.

    As your dog’s body ages and functions less efficiently, she will not be able to digest food as easily or absorb as many of the nutrients from her food. The lack of nutrients may cause an elderly dog to become lethargic, and can lead to many of the chronic illnesses that so many people, including veterinarians, shrug their shoulders over and attribute to old age. But aging is not an illness; it is a stage of life. To adjust for these changes, your dog needs highly digestible, low-calorie foods, and a multivitamin-mineral supplement that is easily absorbed. A powered multivitamin-mineral supplement will be more easily absorbed than a pill. If the multivitamin-mineral supplement is not specifically made for the older dog, give her one-third more than what is recommended for an adult dog.

    Use powered vitamin C, and once a year up the dose a little to bowel tolerance (gas or diarrhea means your dog is getting too much vitamin C), to see if your dog could use some additional vitamin C. Double the vitamin E to daily doses of: 200 IU for small dogs, 400 IU for medium dogs, and 800 IU for giant dogs.

    To compensate for the less efficient digestive tract, well-cooked carbohydrates will be easier for your dog to digest than meat, so cut back a little on her meat and add more carbohydrates. A heaping spoonful of plain yogurt with active cultures at each meal will also aid in digestion by keeping her intestines rich with much-needed bacteria. Digestive enzyme supplements are also available for dogs. Follow the directions on the label for appropriate dosages. Some elderly dogs lose their sense of thirst, so add extra water to her meals and when you cook the grains.

    To avoid weight gain, in addition to cutting back a little on her meat, buy the leaner cuts of meat and add more vegetables if she starts licking the bowl clean or seems to be hungrier than usual. If you are feeding her a commercial dog food, cut back on the food a little and add vegetables if she seems hungry. To avoid dental problems that can lead to eating problems, give your dog a marrow bone once or twice a week. They are much less expensive than having your dog’s teeth cleaned, and chewing a bone is much more fun for your dog than going to the dentist.

    Feeding all the rights foods is only half the key to keeping your dog healthy in her older years. Exercise will help keep the joints agile and the organs strong and functioning, maintain muscle strength, and prevent arthritis and weight gain. An exercise program for elderly dogs needs to be fun and of shorter duration. Rather than one long walk, take her for two walks a day. The expression “use it or lose it” goes for your dog too, and just as with people, dogs need some encouragement to exercise as they grow older.

    As your dog ages, you may also notice some behavioral changes, including aggression, barking, confusion, shyness, trouble sleeping, and the desire to be in the background observing rather than the center of attention.

    Older dogs who suddenly start snapping when bothered by other dogs or people, or who seek solitude, may be in pain. Growling is their only defense if, for example, they can’t run because of the pain of arthritis. If you observe your dog being uncharacteristically snappy or grouchy, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam.

    Barking, confusion, and shyness are very often signs that some of your dog’s senses aren’t as sharp as they were. Your dog depends heavily on her smelling and hearing to identify people, places, and animals. If the hearing is impaired or there is an ear infection, familiar sounds may now be perceived as a new sound, which can cause barking and confusion. Dogs also use their sense of smell to identify animals, people, and their surroundings. If the sense of smell is diminished, your dog will have trouble identifying friend from foe, which can cause shyness, or aggression toward people, animals, or places she has known all her life.

    Starting at age seven for large and giant dogs, and age ten for small and medium dogs, I also recommend a visit to the veterinarian every six months rather than yearly.

  • Glutamine for Pets

    Glutamine for Pets Shawn Messonnier

    Glutamine, or L-glutamine, is an amino acid derived from another amino acid, glutamic acid. It serves as a precursor to D-glucosamine, an amino sugar well-known for its ability to relieve pain and inflammation and regenerate connective tissue in people and pets with osteoarthritis. Severe stresses may result in a temporary glutamine deficiency.

    There is no daily requirement for glutamine as the body can make its own glutamine. High-protein foods such as meat, fish, beans, and dairy products are excellent sources of glutamine.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Glutamine plays a role in the health of the immune system, digestive tract, and muscle cells, as well as other bodily functions. It appears to serve as a fuel for the cells that line the intestines (it serves as a primary energy source for the mucosal cells that line the intestinal tract). Because stress on the intestinal cells (such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease) can increase the need for glutamine as the body replaces the cells lining the intestinal tract, glutamine is often recommended for pets with chronic bowel disorders including inflammatory bowel disease. Heavy exercise, infection, surgery, and trauma can deplete the body’s glutamine reserves, particularly in muscle cells.

    It has also been suggested as a treatment for food allergies, based on the "leaky gut syndrome." This theory holds that in some pets whole proteins leak through the wall of the digestive tract and enter the blood, causing allergic reactions. Preliminary evidence suggests glutamine supplements might reduce leakage through the intestinal wall. In people and pets, glutamine is also recommended to reduce the loss of muscle mass (as may occur during injury, stress, or high-endurance activities as might be encountered by dogs competing in field trials).

    Glutamine is also a precursor to the enzyme glutamine: fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase, which plays a role in the development of insulin resistance that may eventually manifest itself as diabetes if there is an imbalance or deficiencies in glutamine levels. Supplementing diabetic pets with glutamine may be helpful, although more research is needed in this area.

    Glutamine may reduce the gastrointestinal toxicity of some chemotherapy drugs. It can also prevent inflammation of the intestinal tract caused by radiation therapy of this area. Glutamine should be considered as a supplement for dogs undergoing half-body irridiation for the treatment of lymphosarcoma.

    Scientific Evidence
    There is little real evidence that glutamine works as a treatment for true food allergies, although it is highly recommended for pets with various bowel disorders.

    In people, there is evidence glutamine supplements might have significant nutritional benefits for those who are seriously ill. In one study, 84 critically ill hospital patients were divided into two groups. All the patients were being fed through a feeding tube. One group received a normal feeding-tube diet, whereas the other group received this diet plus supplemental glutamine. After six months, 14 of the 42 patients receiving glutamine had died, compared with 24 of the control group. The glutamine group also left both the intensive care ward and the hospital significantly sooner than the patients who did not receive glutamine. Adding glutamine to the feeding formulas of hospitalized pets might be warranted.

    Recommended dosages in pets are 250 to 3,000 mg daily. Maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined; similar precautions are probably warranted in pets.

    Safety Issues
    Glutamine, being one of the body’s amino acids, is thought to be a safe supplement when taken at recommended dosages. Because many anti-epilepsy drugs work by blocking glutamate stimulation in the brain, high dosages of glutamine may overwhelm these drugs and pose a risk to pets with epilepsy. If your pet is taking anti-seizure medications, glutamine should only be used under veterinary supervision.

  • Licorice Use For Your Pet

    Licorice Use For Your Pet Shawn Messonnier

    Licorice is an herbal anti-inflammatory agent often used to achieve the same effects as corticosteroid medications. Pets with a variety of allergic problems may benefit from therapy using licorice.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Licorice is a fast acting anti-inflammatory agent. It is also known for its antimicrobial and immune-stimulating properties. Many herbalists regard it as "nature's cortisone" due to it glycyrrhizin content, and it is often recommended for pets with arthritis, allergies, asthma, and other inflammatory disorders. Licorice root inhibit inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes (similar in activity to corticosteroids).

    Because licorice also exhibits mineralocorticoid as well as glucocorticoid activity, it has been suggested for use in Addison's disease.

    The use of licorice may allow pet owners to use decreased doses of more potent corticosteroids.

    Licorice is beneficial for the treatment of liver diseases due to its ability to prevent free radical damage and inhibit formation of free radicals. Licorice also has a protectant effect and enhances interferon and T-cell production to boost the immune system.

    Licorice reduces inflammation in pets with bronchitis and may act as an expectorant. Licorice has also shown antibacterial activity.

    In the intestinal tract, licorice helps heal ulcers and may decrease hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

    Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a special extract made by removing the glycyrrhizin molecule, leaving the flavonoid components. In people, DGL is used for treating ulcers of the mouth and small intestine and in inflammatory bowel disease. The anti-ulcer effects in people have been shown to be as effective as antacid medications such as Tagamet. DGL is also recommended as an herbal ulcer-preventive (similar to drugs such as misoprostol) for people taking nonsteroidal medications and corticosteroids. However, it is not clear that DGL provides all the same benefits as whole licorice for other problems.

    Scientific Evidence
    Several double-blind studies in people show benefit to patients with HIV infection and AIDS; similar results might occur in cats with leukemia or immunodeficiency infections.

    Tinctures appear to be the preferred form in pets.

    Safety Issues
    When used in large doses and for extended periods of time, licorice can produce similar cortisone-like effects as steroid medications, including high blood pressure and increased serum potassium. Do not use in pregnant animals.

    If used for more than two weeks at a time, side effects can include decreased potassium (supplementing with potassium is recommended), fluid retention, high blood pressure, and increased sodium; increased sodium excretion may be needed. These effects can be especially dangerous if you take digitalis, or if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease. Licorice may also increase both the positive and negative effects of treatment with corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Dandelion leaf can be added to the regimen to help increase potassium and decrease sodium. In people, side effects occur commonly at levels above 400 mg per day.

    DGL is believed to be safe, although extensive safety studies have not been preformed. Side effects are rare.

    Safety for either form of licorice in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. Similar precautions are probably warranted in pets. If the pet is taking: digitalis, long-term use of licorice can be dangerous; thiazide or loop diuretics, use of licorice might lead to excessive potassium loss; corticosteroid treatment, licorice could increase both its effects and its side effects.

    Do not use in animals with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or kidney disease; in pets taking digitalis medications; or in pets with diabetes. Licorice could increase blood-clotting time.

    Licorice induces cytochrome P-450 enzymes in the liver; this may alter the metabolism of other drugs, decreasing their serum levels.

    If licorice root is used for more than two weeks at a time, the diet should be supplemented with potassium and the sodium should be decreased. Caution should be used in animals with heart disease or hypertension. In large amounts, steroid over dosage (Cushing's disease) could theoretically occur. It should not be used in pregnant animals and care must be exercised in diabetic pets.

  • Selenium For Pet Health

    Common uses include cancer and shedding

    Selenium is a trace mineral that our bodies use to produce glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that serves as a natural antioxidant. Selenium is also required for normal pancreatic function and lipid absorption. Glutathione peroxidase works with vitamin E to protect cell membranes from damage caused by dangerous, naturally occurring substances known as free radicals. Adequate amounts of selenium can spare vitamin E, and adequate amounts of vitamin E can reduce the selenium requirement. By ensuring that pets receive adequate amounts of both E and selenium, these important nutrients will not be deficient and will work together to help fight oxidative damage in your pet’s body.

    Selenium also has an important role in maintaining normal levels of thyroid hormones and in the metabolism of iodine, which is involved in thyroid hormone metabolism. Supplementing the diets of pets and plant enzymes can increase the selenium levels.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Many pets with excessive shedding will show decreased shedding as a result of enzyme supplementation. This may occur as a result of increased selenium levels and the impact selenium has on thyroid hormones.

    In pets selenium is often prescribed (along with other antioxidants) for pets with a variety of disorders, including epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus and cancer.

    There is some real evidence that selenium supplements can provide some protection against several types of cancer. This chemopreventive effect isn’t fully understood. It might be due to the protective effects of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, but other explanations have also been suggested.

    In people, selenium has been recommended for cancer prevention, AIDS, acne, cataracts, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cervical dysplasia, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, gout, infertility in men, psoriasis, and ulcers.

    Treatment with corticosteroids may induce selenium deficiency; supplementation may be recommended in pets receiving long-term corticosteroid therapy.

    Scientific Evidence
    A large body of evidence has found that increased intake of selenium is tied to a reduced risk of cancer. The most important blind study on selenium and cancer in people was a doubleblind intervention trial conducted by researcher at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. In this trial, researchers saw dramatic declines in the incidence of several cancers in the group taking selenium. The selenium-treated group developed almost 66 percent fewer prostate cancers, 50 percent fewer colorectal cancers, and about 40 percent fewer lung cancers as compared with the placebo group. Selenium-treated subjects also experienced a statistically significant (17 percent) decrease in overall mortality, a greater than 50 percent decrease in lung cancer deaths, and nearly a 50 percent decrease in total cancer deaths.

    Further evidence for the anticancer benefits of selenium comes from large-scale Chinese studies showing that giving selenium supplements to people who live in seleniumdeficient areas reduces the incidence of cancer. Also, observational studies have indicated that cancer deaths rise when dietary intake of selenium is low.

    The results of animal studies corroborate these results. One recent animal study examined whether two experimental organic forms of selenium would protect laboratory rats against chemically induced cancer of the tongue. Rats were given one of three treatments: 5 parts per million of selenium in their drinking water, 15 parts per million of selenium or placebo. The study was blinded so the researchers wouldn’t know until later which rats which treatment. Whereas 47 percent of rats in the placebo group developed tongue tumors, none of the rates that were given the higher selenium dosage developed tumors.

    Another study examined whether selenium supplements could stop the spread (metastasis) of cancer in mice. In this study, a modest dosage of supplemental selenium reduced metastasis by 57 percent. Even more significant was the decrease in the number of tumors that had spread to the lungs. Mice in the control group had an average of 53 tumors each, whereas mice fed supplemental selenium had an average of one lung tumor.

    Putting all this information together, it definitely appears that selenium can help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

    Wheat germ, brazil nuts, other nuts, oats, fish, eggs, liver, wholewheat bread, bran, red Swiss chard, brown rice, turnips, garlic, barley and orange juice contain selenium. There is some concern with conventional farming practices that mineral levels in the soil are inadequate. This means that the soil used for growing vegetables and fruits may be deficient in minerals such as selenium. According to information from the Organic View, 1:17 (, there is great variability in the nutrient contents of foods raised by industrial agricultural practices when compared to organically raised foods. For example, they report that in an analysis of USDA nutrient data from 1975 to 1997, the Kushi Institute of Becket, Massachusetts, found that the average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables declined 27 percent; iron levels dropped 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent and vitamin C levels 30 percent.

    They also report that a similar analysis of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980 published in the British Food Journal found that in 20 vegetables, the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. In addition, a 1999 study out of the University of Wisconsin found that three decades of the over use of nitrogen in U.S. farming has destroyed much of the soil’s fertility, causing it to age the equivalent of 5,000 years. Finally, a new U.S. Geological Survey report indicates that acid rain is depleting soil calcium levels in at least 10 eastern states, interfering with forest growth and weakening trees’ resistance to insects. Findings such as those reported here prompt many owners to search for the most wholesome produce available to include in their pets’ diets.

    Check with stores in your area to see whether they offer organically raised vegetables and animal meats. Also, ask them what they mean by the term “organically raised,” as many producers may make his claim but still use conventional agricultural practices. Find out everything you can about the farmers who supply the stores where you shop.

    Since most of us have no way of knowing what kind of soil our food was grown in, supplementing pets with selenium and other vitamins and minerals may be a good idea.

    The two general types of selenium supplements are organic and inorganic. However, these terms have nothing to do with “natural” but rather refer to the chemical form (the terms have very specific chemical meanings and have nothing to do with “organic” foods).

    The inorganic form of selenium, selenite, contains no carbon atoms and is essentially selenium atoms bound to oxygen. Some research suggests that selenite is harder for the body to absorb than organic (carbon-containing) forms of selenium, such as selenomethionine (selenium bound to methionine, an essential amino acid) or high-selenium yeast (which contains selenomethionine). However, other research on both animals and humans suggests that selenite supplements are almost as good as organic forms of selenium, and both forms are equally effective in supporting glutathione peroxidase activity. In pigs, studies have shown that selenium stores in the liver and muscle tissues were greater when organic selenium was fed. Supplying selenium in whole food supplements is the most natural way to supply selenium and is recommended for maintenance.

    The AAFCO recommendation is 0.11 mg/kg of food (dry matter basis) for dogs and 0.1 mg/kg of food for cats. However, recent research in puppies has shown that the level of dietary selenium needed to maximize glutathione and selenium levels is 0.21 ppm, which is double current AAFCO recommendations. Therefore, supplementation with a natural vitaminmineral supplement containing selenium might be indicated for all pets eating commercial diets.

    Safety Issues
    Selenium is safe when taken at the recommended dosages. However, very high selenium dosages in people are known to cause selenium toxicity. Signs of selenium toxicity include depression, nervousness, emotional instability, nausea, vomiting, and in some causes loss of hair and fingernails. Similar precautions are probably warranted in pets taking supplements, although toxicity has not been noted in pets despite concentrations greater than 4 mg of selenium/kg of food in cat foods containing fish or other seafoods. (Cats may be able to tolerate higher selenium levels as their higher dietary protein foods are protective against high selenium levels; the low availability of selenium in pet foods may also contribute to rare reports of toxicity in dogs and cats fed commercial diets.)

  • Tumeric For Pets

    Tumeric For Pets Shawn Messonnier

    The volatile oils and curcumin are the active ingredients of this herb, which is well known as a spice in curry powder and as an herb in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Whole turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Much of this observed activity seems to be due to the presence of curcumin, which also acts as a powerful antioxidant. Turmeric has shown anticancer effects by its antioxidant, free radical scavenging effects, inhibition of nitrosamine formation, and by its ability to increase glutathione levels.

    The anti-inflammatory effects, due to lipoxygenase inhibition, have been shown to be comparable to cortisone and phenylbutazone. Topically, it acts similarly to capsaicin by inhibiting substance P to relieve pain and inflammation. Turmeric lowers blood cholesterol levels and prevents platelet clumping. Similar to glycyrrhizin and silymarin, curcumin shows protective effects on the liver. Turmeric has beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal tract including decreased gas formation and spasm. And the herb shows antimicrobial effects. The antioxidant effects are comparable to BHA, BHT, and vitamins C and E.

    Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs, curcumin does not appear to cause stomach ulcers and might even help prevent them. While curcumin has been recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, more evidence will be necessary before curcumin can be described as an effective treatment for arthritis.

    In animal models, the curcumin was found to have anti-inflammatory effects in arthritic pets comparable to the nonsteroidal medication phenylbutazone.

    Turmeric is often used for pets with a number of conditions, including arthritis, asthma, cancer inflammatory diseases, infections and can be used as a liver tonic. In people, the absorption of curcumin is reportedly increased when compounded with bromelain, although there is no evidence to support this. However, since bromelain possesses some anti-inflammatory powers of its own, the combination may be synergistic.

    Safety Issues
    Do not use in pets with bile duct obstruction, gallbladder stones, or gastrointestinal upset. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established; similar precautions are probably warranted in pets.

  • Vitamin B3 For Pet Health

    (Niacin, niacinamide, nicotinamide, inositol hexaniacinate)

    Vitamin B3 is required for proper function of more than 50 enzymes. Without it, your body would not be able to release energy or make fats from carbohydrates. Vitamin B3 is also used to make sex hormones and other important chemical signal molecules.

    Vitamin B3 is needed for healthy skin and proper circulation of the blood throughout the body. As with other B vitamins, it also aids in proper functioning of the nervous system and in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The secretion of bile and stomach acids requires niacin. Niacin lowers cholesterol and helps with the synthesis of hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. It is often used to enhance memory.

    Similar to riboflavin, vitamin B3 is used in energy production by the cell. It is an integral part of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. These enzymes are also used to transfer hydrogen ions (which are supplied by sugars and fatty acids in the diet)to the cytochrome and hydrogen ion transfer systems to supply energy to the body.

    Tryptophan metabolism is intrinsically linked to niacin (niacin may also be synthesized from dietary tryptophan if the diet is low in niacin and adequate tryptophan is available). In cats, however, one of the intermediate compounds formed during tryptophan metabolism to niacin is quickly utilized by another pathway; therefore, cats cannot convert tryptophan to niacin. Thus cats, unlike dogs, have a strict dietary requirement for niacin.

    Vitamin B3 comes in two principal forms niacin (nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (nicotinamide). When taken in low doses for nutritional purposes, they are essentially identical. However, each has its own particular effects when taken in high doses. High-dose niacin is principally used for lowering cholesterol. High-dose niacinamide may be helpful in presenting type I (childhood-onset) diabetes and reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis in people. However, these are concerns regarding liver inflammation when any form of niacin is taken at high dosages.

    Scientific Evidence
    There is no question that niacin (but not niacinamide) can significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol in people. However, unpleasant flushing reaction and the risk of liver inflammation have kept niacin from being widely used. According to numerous studies, niacin can lower cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 15 to 25 percent, lower triglycerides by two to 50 percent, and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol by 15 to 25 percent. Furthermore, longterm use of niacin has been shown to significantly reduce death rates from cardiovascular disease.

    Intriguing evidence suggests that regular use of niacinamide (but not niacin) may help prevent diabetes in children at special risk of developing it. Risk can be determined by measuring the ratio of antibodies to islet cells (ICA antibody test). Niacinamide may improve blood sugar control in both children and adults who already have diabetes.

    Exciting evidence from a huge study conducted in New Zealand suggests that niacinamide can prevent high-risk children from developing diabetes. In this study more than 20,000 children were screened for diabetes risk by measuring ICA antibodies. It turned out that 185 of these children had detectable levels. About 170 of these children were then given niacinamide for seven years (not all parents agreed to give their children niacinamide or stay in the study for that long). About 10,000 other children were not screened, but were followed to see whether they developed diabetes.

    The results were impressive. In the group in which children were screened and given niacinamide if they were positive for ICA antibodies, the incidence of diabetes was reduced by as much as 60 percent. These findings suggest that niacinamide is a very effective treatment for preventing diabetes. (It also shows that tests for ICA antibodies can very accurately identify children at risk for diabetes.)

    At present, an enormous-scale, long-term trial called European Nicotinamide Diabetes Intervention Trial is being conducted to definitely determine whether regular use of niacinamide can prevent diabetes.

    If a child has just developed diabetes, niacinamide may prolong what is called the honeymoon period. This is in the interval in which the pancreas can still make insulin, and insulin needs are low. A recent study suggests that niacinamide may also improve blood sugar control in type II (adult-onset) diabetes, but it did not use a double-bind design.

    According to several good-size, double-bind studies involving a total of over 500 individuals, a special form of niacin, inositol hexaniacinate, may be able to improve walking distance in intermittent claudication (severe leg cramps caused by hardening of the arteries). For example, in one study, 120 individuals were given either placebo or 2 g of inositol hexaniacinate daily. Over a period of three months, walking distance improved significantly in the treated group. (Other treatments that may help intermittent claudication include carnitine and ginko.)

    Preliminary evidence (one small double-bind study) suggests that insoitol hexaniacinate niacinamide may be able to reduce symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon as well. This condition includes a response to cold, usually most severely in the hands. The dosage used in he study was 4 g daily, again a dosage high enough for liver inflammation to be a real possibility.

    Preliminary evidence suggests that niacinamide may be able to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. There is some evidence that niacinamide may provide some benefits for those with osteoarthritis. In a double-bind study, 72 individuals with arthritis were given either 3,000 mg daily of niacinamide (in five equal doses) or placebo for 12 weeks. The results showed that treated patients experienced a 20 percent improvement in symptoms, whereas those given placebo worsened by 10 percent. However, at this dose, liver inflammation is a concern that must be taken seriously.

    Very weak evidence suggests one of the several forms of niacin may be helpful in bursitis, cataracts, and pregnancy.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Niacin was discovered to be the specific chemical that cured black tongue (pellagra) in dogs fed niacin-deficient diets. Niacin deficiency (pellagra) causes dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death.

    Niacinamide has been recommended for the treatment of several disorders in pets, including discoid lupus erythematosus and pemphigus erythematosus in dogs. When combined with tetracycline, niacinamide (at a dosage of 500 mg of tetracycline and 500 mg of nacinamide per dog given every eight hours for dogs weighing more than 10 kg) has been found to show an excellent response in 25 to 65 percent of cases. While no studies support the use of niacinamide for dogs with atopic dermatitis, since niacinamide works by inhibiting antigen-IgE-induced histamine release, it may be an option for atopic dogs.

    Good food sources of niacin are seeds, yeast, bran, peanuts (especially with skins), wild rice, brown rice, whole wheat, barley, almonds, liver, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, carrots, cheese, eggs, fish, milk, pork, potatoes, and peas. Tryptophan is found in protein foods (meat, poultry, dairy products, and fish). Turkey and milk are particularly excellent sources of tryptophan. Other sources include green alfalfa and the herbs catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, licorice, mullein, nettle, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, slippery elm, and yellow dock.

    The AAFCO recommends 11.4 mg/kg of niacin daily for dogs and 60 mg/kg of niacin for cats.

    Safety Issues
    In people, when taken at a dosage of more than 100 mg daily, niacin frequently causes annoying skin flushing, especially in the face. This reaction may be accompanied by stomach distress, itching and headache. In studies, as many as 43 percent of individuals taking niacin quit because of the unpleasant side effects.

    A more dangerous effect is liver inflammation. Although most commonly seen with slow-release niacin, it can occur with any type of niacin,when taken at a daily dose of more than 500 mg. Regular blood tests to evaluate liver function are therefore mandatory when using high-dose (or niacinamide or inositol hexaniacinate). This side effect almost always goes away when niacin is stopped. People with liver disease, ulcers (presently or in the past), gout, or diabetes should not take high-dose niacin except on medical advice.

    Maximum safe dosages for young children and pregnant or nursing women have not been established. Pets are not routinely treated with niacin. However, similar precautions are probably warranted if your pet is prescribed niacin.

    As in the case in human medicine, if your pet is taking cholestrol-lowering drugs in the statin family, he should probably not take additional niacin. Pets taking older choslestrol-lowering drugs such as cholestyramine or colestipol should take niacin at a different time of day to avoid absorption problems based on the recommendation in human medicine. Pets taking the antituberculosis drug isoniazid may need extra niacin. However, because niacin can interfere with INH, doctor supervision is necessary.

    Shawn Messonnier, DVM
    Dr. Messonnier, a 1987 graduate of Texas A& M College
    of Veterinary Medicine, opened Paws & Claws Animal
    Hospital in 1991. His special interests include exotic pets,
    dermatology, and animal behavior.
    Dr. Messonnier is a well-known speaker and author. Visit:

  • Vitamin C (Ascorbate, ascorbic acid) For Pets

    Common Uses
    Supplement for arthritis, allergy, epilepsy, cancer prevention, immune support

    Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that is required by people and some animals. Humans and certain animals (such as guinea pigs and monkeys) lack the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase needed for the formation of vitamin C. Dogs and cats possess this enzyme and can therefore synthesize vitamin C. As such, dogs and cats do not have a specific dietary requirement for this vitamin. Many doctors, however will supplement with vitamin C during times of stress and illness (as larger amounts of vitamin C may be required during these times.)

    Ascorbic acid is a term often used interchangeably with vitamin C. While ascorbic acid (as well as ascorbate and other terms) is often used synonymously with vitamin C, this is not technically correct. Ascorbic acid (discovered in 1928, when Albert Szent-Gyorgyi isolated the active ingredient in fruits and called the “anti-scorbutic principle”) is the antioxidant fraction of vitamin C. Simply supplementing ascorbic acid is not the same as supplying vitamin C. Holistic veterinarians usually prefer natural vitamin C supplementation when indicated, although studies using the complementary therapy called orthomolecular medicine have shown benefit to using ascorbate in helping pets with a variety of medical disorders. A novel product called Ester-C has also shown benefit in pets.

    Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger, is used for normal repair of tissue, is required for adrenal gland function, is used for collagen synthesis, and is needed for maintaining healthy gums. It is needed for metabolism of several B vitamins, including folic acid and the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. Vitamin C is needed for norepinephrine (a nerve transmitter) synthesis as well as for cholesterol synthesis.

    Therapeutic Uses
    This vitamin assists in providing protection against cancer and enhances immunity. Hemoglobin synthesis requires vitamin C; deficiency can cause anemia.

    Because vitamin C is so vital for the synthesis of the connective tissue collagen, which is an integral part of cartilage, it is often prescribed for pets with arthritis (and various forms of vitamin C or ascorbate acid are often included in various supplements for pets with arthritis.)

    To have normal collagen metabolism, vitamin C is required for the conversion of proline to hydroxyproline and for the conversion of lysine to hydroxylysine. These reactions take place after proline and lysine are incorporated into the connective tissue.

    Vitamin C also protects against unnecessary blood clotting and bruising and aids in healing of wounds; vitamin C deficiency causes slow scar formation.

    Ascorbic acid is a precursor of oxalate. It has been suggested that additional ascorbic acid should not be feed to pets prone to oxalate bladder stones. However, at least in people, there is no evidence that high levels of ascorbic acid actually increase oxalate production.

    Vitamin C appears to work synergistically as an antioxidant with vitamin E. Vitamin C appears to attack free radicals, those chemicals produced as a by-product of cell metabolism, in cellular fluids, whereas vitamin E attacks the free radicals in the cell membranes.

    In people, vitamin C has been recommended for numerous conditions, including colds, cataracts, macular degeneration, cancer prevention and treatment, heart disease prevention, hypertension, asthma, low sperm count, bedsores, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, hepatitis, herpes, insomnia, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s disease periodontal disease, preeclampsia, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers, allergies, general antioxidant, bladder infections, menopausal symptoms, migraine headaches and nausea.

    Ascorbic acid scavenges nitrates, which can reduce nitrosamine- induced cancers.

    There is some evidence that supports using vitamin C supplement to help colds, slightly improve asthma and reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

    In people, vitamin C deficiency cause scurvy with the clinical signs of swollen, painful joints, abnormal wound healing, bleeding gums, and pinpoint hemorrhages under the skin. Vitamin C deficiency, while common in non-human primates (monkeys) and guinea pigs, does not occur in dogs and cats.

    Scientific Evidence
    Regular use of vitamin C may reduce the risk of cataracts, probably by fighting free radicals that damage the lens of the eye. In an observational study or 50,800 nurses followed for 8 years, it was found that people who used vitamin C supplements for more than 10 years had a 45 percent lower rate of cataract development. However, unlike the case of other supplements, diets high in vitamin C were not found to be protective; only supplemental vitamin C made a difference. This is the opposite of what was found with vitamin C in the prevention of other disease, such as cancer.

    It had been suggested that vitamin C may be particularly useful against cataracts in people with diabetes, because of its influence on sorbitol, a sugar-like substance that tends to accumulate in the cells of diabetics. Excess sorbitol is believed to play a role in the development of diabetes-related cataracts, and vitamin C appears to help reduce sorbitol buildup.

    Vitamin C levels in the blood have been found to be low in people with diabetes. When vitamin C levels are adequate, the regulation of insulin improved, as vitamin C has been shown to enhance insulin action glucose and lipid metabolism. Therefore, vitamin C supplementation may benefit both insulin-dependent and non-insulin diabetics. It is unknown if this is the case in diabetic pets, although vitamin C has been recommended for pets with diabetes.

    There is also good evidence for using ascorbate for people with gingivitis. Evidence for its effectiveness in treating their conditions is highly preliminary at best.

    In people, aspirin, other inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and tetracycline-family antibiotics can lower body levels of vitamin C. The same may be true of pets, vitamin C given to pets treated with the medications mentioned above is not harmful and might be helpful.

    Pets are often treated with additional vitamin C or ascorbate compounds for various illnesses. Both intravenous and oral supplementation are used, although controlled studies are lacking showing the effectiveness of giving vitamin C or ascorbate compounds for most conditions.

    Citrus fruits, green vegetables, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, spinach, chard, turnip greens, red chili peppers, sweet potatoes, kale, parsley, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage and strawberries are good sources of vitamin C, as are green foods, alfalfa, herbs, rose hips dandelion, fennel and slippery elm.

    Safety Issues
    In pets and in people, high-doses of vitamin C may cause diarrhea. There have been warnings that long-term vitamin C treatment can cause kidney stones, but in a large-scale study the people who took the most vitamin C (over 1,500 mg daily) actually had a lower risk of kidney stones than those taking the least amounts. Nonetheless, people with a history of kidney stones and those with kidney failure who have a defect in vitamin C or oxalate metabolism should probably restrict vitamin C intake to approximately 200 mg daily. While there is no evidence that stone formation increases people or pets supplemented use with vitamin C, talk with your veterinarian before adding extra vitamin C if your pet is prone to urinary stones.

    Vitamin C may also reduce the blood-thinning effects of Coumadin (warfarin) and heparin.

    Vitamin C may increase the blood levels of some drugs, such as aspirin and other salicylates.

    Always consult with your veterinarian before adding vitamins and supplements to your pet’s diet.

  • Vitamin K For Pets

    Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, is needed for the proper clotting of blood (it plays a major role in the carboxylation of clotting proteins II, VI, IX, and X and proteins C and S). It may also help prevent osteoporosis, as it is needed for the synthesis of the bone protein (osteocalcin) involved in calcium crystallization (via the incorporation of calcium phosphates in growing bone). Vitamin K exists as vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone), the natural forms found in food, and as vitamin K3, the synthetic form called menadione. Both vitamins K1 and K2 are converted to dihydrovitamin K upon digestion.

    Intestinal (colonic) bacteria manufacture a large amount of the vitamin K (K2) present in tissues throughout the body; therefore, supplementation with dietary vitamin K is usually not necessary in people and pets.

    Deficiency of vitamin K causes excess internal or external bleeding due to a failure of the body to properly clot blood. In dogs and cats, this most commonly occurs as a result of rodent poisons containing warfarin or warfarin-type chemicals. Diseases causing maldigestion and malabsorption as well as destruction of bacteria in the colon by antibiotic therapy can also cause vitamin K deficiency. Supplementation with probiotic bacteria can help restore vitamin K production.

    Severe liver deficiency may decrease the activation of vitamin K in the liver, resulting in defective carboxylation of vitamin- K dependent coagulation cofactors, resulting in bleeding disorders due to faulty blood clotting.

    Vitamin K also aids in converting glucose into glycogen for energy storage in the liver. Healthy liver function is also promoted by vitamin K.

    Therapeutic Uses For Vitamin K
    Protection against cancers that involve the inner lining of body organs is attributed to vitamin K; vitamin K may also promote longevity.

    While vitamin K has been recommended for use in people with osteoporosis, so far the evidence that it actually works is somewhat slim. There are no well-established therapeutic uses of vitamin K, other than its conventional use as an antidote for blood-thinning medications.

    Scientific Evidence
    A study of people suggests that an intake of vitamin K higher than the RDA, in the range of 110 mcg daily, might be helpful for preventing osteoporosis. Research has found that people with osteoporosis have much lower blood levels of vitamin K than other people. For example, in a study of 71 postmenopausal women, participants with reduced bone mineral density showed lower serum vitamin K1 levels than those with normal bone density. Similar results have been seen in other studies. A recent report from 12,700 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study found higher dietary intake of vitamin K is associated with a significantly reduced risk of hip fracture. Interestingly, the most common source of vitamin K used by individuals in the study was iceberg lettuce, followed by broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and dark greens. Women who ate lettuce each day had only 55 percent the risk of hip fracture of those who ate it only weekly. However, among women taking estrogen, no benefit was seen, probably because estrogen is so much more powerful. Research also suggests supplemental vitamin K can reduce the amount of calcium lost in the urine. This is indirect evidence of a beneficial effect on bone. Taken together, these findings suggest vitamin K supplements might help prevent osteoporosis.

    Vitamin K Sources
    Vitamin K (in the form of K1) is found in dark green leafy vegetables. Kale, green tea, and turnip greens are the best food sources, providing about ten times the daily human adult requirement in a single serving. Spinach, broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage are very rich sources as well. Vitamin K is also found in such common foods as oats, green peas, whole wheat, green beans, Brussels sprouts, egg yolks, liver, oatmeal, safflower oil, soybeans, wheat, watercress, and asparagus. Green foods, alfalfa, and the herbs green tea, nettle and shepherd’s purse are also sources.

    Vitamin K Dosages
    There is no AAFCO recommended level of vitamin K in dog foods. However, there have been reports of vitamin K deficiency in cats fed several commercial foods containing high levels of salmon or tuna. The AAFCO recommends supplementation for any cat eating a diet containing greater than 25 percent fish (0.1 ppm vitamin K recommended and is usually included in the processed diets).

    Vitamin K Safety Issues
    Vitamin K is probably quite safe at the recommended therapeutic dosages, since those quantities are easily obtained from food.

    Certain drugs can interfere with the action or absorption of vitamin K, including the antituberculosis drug isoniazid (INH), phenytoin (for seizures), cholestyramine (for high cholesterol), and even high doses of vitamin E. Additional vitamin K may be needed in these situations.

    The blood-thinning drugs Coumadin (warfarin) and dicumarol work by antagonizing the effects of vitamin K. Conversely, vitamin K supplements, or intake of foods containing high levels of vitamin K, blocks the action of these medications, and is used as an antidote.

    Excess vitamin K (vitamin K toxicity) is unlikely to be a problem in pets. However, menadione (synthetic vitamin K3) toxicity can occur and cause fatal anemia and jaundice.

  • ZINC For Your Pet

    ZINC For Your Pet by Shawn Messonier DVM

    Zinc is an important mineral found in every cell in the body and required by more than 300 enzymes in the body. In people, mild zinc deficiency seems to be fairly common. Severe zinc deficiency can cause a major loss of immune function, and mild deficiency might impair immunity slightly.

    In people, zinc supplements may have benefits, including directly killing cold viruses in the throat, helping stomach ulcers heal, and relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Zinc is sometimes recommended in people for the following conditions as well: macular degeneration, benign prostatic hyperplasia, Alzheimer’s disease, wound healing, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), osteoporosis, diabetes, AIDS, bladder infection, cataracts, and periodontal disease. With the exception of shortterm use for people with colds, these other uses involve longterm use of high dosages of zinc, which can cause toxic effects.

    Zinc is necessary for normal growth, formation of the epidermis, metabolism of protein, metabolism of carbohydrates, and normal immune function. Zinc-deficient diets fed to puppies produce fewer T lymphocytes (an important constituent of the immune system) in the lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus gland.

    There are two specific, rarely seen zinc-responsive skin disorders in dogs. The first is seen in dogs (usually puppies) fed a zinc-deficient diet (diets high in plant material such as vegetable fiber and soybean meal). Plant materials contain calcium phytate, which binds zinc, interfering with intestinal absorption and leading to a zinc deficiency. The diets most likely to cause zinc deficiency are those generic (least expensive) diets that use the less expensive plant ingredients rather than meat ingredients as protein sources.

    The second syndrome is a genetic defect that causes decreased absorption of zinc from the intestines in Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, and Bull Terriers that carry the gene for lethal acrodermatitis.

    Clinical signs include a crusting dermatitis, mainly around the eyes, nostrils, and mouth.

    Therapeutic Issues
    Zinc administration (10 to 15 mg/kg IV weekly for four to six weeks, zinc sulfate at 10 mg/kg daily, or zinc methionine at 4 mg/kg/day) is curative of acrodermatitis. Higher doses may be needed in some pets, and those pets with the genetic form may only respond to the IV administration of zinc (the oral form was found ineffective in some but not all studies). Changing generic diets to better diets (preferably homemade) is also important.

    Oral administration of zinc was not found to be effective in treating dogs with atopic dermatitis.

    In dogs, oral administration of zinc acetate has been helpful for treating copper hepatotoxicosis. Zinc induces increased concentrations of metallothionein in intestinal cells (preventing copper absorption) and in liver cells (which binds to copper in the damaged liver cells). Zinc acetate is administered at 100 mg per dog twice daily for three to six months; the zinc acetate dosage is reduced to 50 mg twice daily. Treatment may need to continue for the life of the pet. Zinc acetate is best administered without food (give at least one hour before meals) to decrease zinc binding by constituents (such as phytates) in the food.

    Zinc is found in high concentrations in the pancreatic islet cells and performs a distinct role in the synthesis, secretion, and storage of insulin. Zinc deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes while zinc supplementation seems to have positive effects on glucose balance.

    Zinc is also a precursor to the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful antioxidant that destroys the highly reactive form of oxygen known as superoxide. In order to maintain adequate levels of SOD, it is critical to consume adequate amounts of selenium and zinc.

    Deficiencies of zinc can lead to decreased SOD production, increasing the risk of lipid peroxidation. Diabetics have been found to have elevated levels of peroxidation end-products. Supplementing with 30 mg of zinc daily has been shown to increase plasma concentrations, which may have a positive effect on SOD activity.

    Manganese and high intake of copper and iron may impair zinc absorption. Neither calcium nor folic acid appears to significantly affect zinc absorption. Diuretics can cause excessive loss of zinc in the urine.

    Zinc can be taken as a nutritional supplement, in one of many forms. Zinc citrate, zinc acetate, or zinc picolinate may be the best absorbed, although zinc sulfate is less expensive. The most holistic approach is to feed your pet a whole food supplement containing zinc.

    Safety Issues
    In people, zinc seldom causes any immediate side effects other than occasional stomach upset, usually when it’s taken on an empty stomach. Some forms do have an unpleasant metallic taste. However, long-term use of zinc at dosages of 10 mg or more daily can cause a number of toxic effects, including severe copper deficiency, impaired immunity, heart problems, and anemia.

    Use of zinc can interfere with absorption of manganese, soy, Coumadin (warfarin), verapamil, penicillamine, and antibiotics in the tetracycline or quinolone (Cipro, Floxin, enrofloxcin) family.