This month we continue discussing supplements
that may help your pets with rickettsial diseases,
which most commonly are caused by ticks.
Since fish oils can easily oxidize and become rancid,
some manufacturers add vitamin E to fish oil capsules
and liquid products to keep the oil from spoiling, while
others remove the oxygen from the capsule.
Since processed foods have increased omega-6
fatty acids, supplementing the diets of all pets with
omega-3 fatty acids seems warranted and will not harm
your pet. The bottom line is there are many questions
regarding the use of fatty acid therapy. More research
is needed to determine the effectiveness of the fatty
acids in the treatment of various medical problems,
as well as the proper doses needed to achieve clinical
results. Until definitive answers are obtained, you
will need to work with your doctors (knowing the
limitations of our current research) to determine the
use of these supplements for your pet.
Fish oil appears to be safe. The most common
side effect seen in people and pets is a fish odor to
the breath or the skin. Because fish oil has a mild
"blood thinning" effect, it should not be combined
with powerful blood-thinning mediations, such
as Coumadin (warfarin) or heparin, except on a
veterinarian's advice. Fish oil does not seem to
cause bleeding problems when it is taken by itself at
commonly recommended dosages. Also, fish oil does
not appear to raise blood sugar levels in people or
pets with diabetes.
Flaxseed oil is derived from the seeds of the flax plant
and has been proposed as a less smelly alternative
to fish oil. Flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid
(ALA), an omega-3 that is ultimately converted to EPA
and DHA. In fact, flaxseed oil contains higher levels of
omega-3s (ALA) than fish oil. It also contains omega-6
As mentioned, many species of pets (probably
including dogs and cats) and some people cannot
convert ALA to these other more active noninflammatory
omega-3 fatty acids. In one study in
people, flaxseed oil has been suggested as a substitute
for fish oil, there is no evidence it is effective when
used for the same therapeutic purposes as fish oil.
Unlike the case for fish oil, there is little evidence that
flaxseed oil is effective for any specific therapeutic
Therefore, supplementation with EPA and DHA is
important, and this is the reason flaxseed oil is not
recommended as the sole fatty acid supplement for
pets. Flaxseed oil can be used to provide ALA and as a
The essential fatty acids in flax can be damaged
by exposure to heat, light, and oxygen (essentially, they become rancid). For this reason, you shouldn't cook
flaxseed oil. A good product should be sold in an opaque
container, and the manufacturing process should keep the
temperature under 100 degrees F. Some manufacturers
combine the product with vitamin E because it helps
The best use of flaxseed oil is as a general nutritional
supplement to provide essential fatty acids. It appears to
be a safe supplement when used as recommended.
Certain vitamins and minerals function in the body to
reduce oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical process that
occurs within the body's cells. After oxidation occurs,
certain by-products such as peroxides and "free radicals"
accumulate. These cellular by-products are toxic to the
cells and surrounding tissue. The body removes these
by-products by producing additional chemicals called
antioxidants that combat these oxidizing chemicals.
In disease, excess oxidation can occur and the body's
normal antioxidant abilities are overwhelmed. This is
where supplying antioxidants can help. By giving your pet
extra antioxidants, it may be possible to neutralize the
harmful by-products of cellular oxidation.
Several antioxidants can be used to supplement
pets. Most commonly, vitamins A, C, E, and the minerals
selenium, manganese, and zinc are prescribed. Other
antioxidants, including N-acetylcysteine, Coenzyme
Q10, Ginkgo biloba, bilberry, grape seed extract and
pycnogenol may also be helpful.
Dosages vary with the specific antioxidant chosen.
And there is no one correct antioxidant.
Proanthocyanidins also called pycnogenols or
bioflavonoids may not be essential to life, but it's likely
people and pets need them for optimal health. Most
often products containing proanthocyanidins are made
from grape seed or pine bark. These compounds are
used for their antioxidant effects against lipid (fat)
peroxidation. Proanthocyanidins also inhibit the enzyme
cyclooxygenase (the same enzyme inhibited by aspirin
and other non-steroidal medications). Cyclooxygenase
converts arachidonic acid into chemicals, which
contribute to inflammation and allergic reactions.
Proanthocyanidins also decrease histamine release from
cells by inhibiting several enzymes.
Some research suggests pycnogenol seems to work
by enhancing the effects of another antioxidant, vitamin
C. Other research suggests the bioflavonoids can work
independently of other antioxidants; as is the case with
many supplements, there probably is an additive effect
when multiple antioxidants are combined. People taking
pycnogenol often report feeling better and having more
energy; this "side effect" may possibly occur in our pets
Quercetin is a natural antioxidant bioflavonoid found
in red wine, grapefruit, onions, apples, black tea, and in less amounts, leafy green vegetables and beans.
Quercetin protects cells in the body from damage by
free radicals and stabilizes collagen in blood vessels.
Quercetin supplements are available in pill and
tablet form. One problem with them, however, is
they don't seem to be well absorbed by the body. A
special form called quercetin chalcone appears to be
better absorbed. Quercetin appears to be quite safe.
Maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant
or nursing women, or those with serious liver or
kidney disease have not been established; similar
precautions are probably warranted in pets.
In people, a typical dosage of proanthocyanidins
is 200 to 400 mg three time daily. Quercetin may be
better absorbed if taken on an empty stomach. The
suggested dosage of proanthocyanidins complex in
pets is 10 to 200 mg given daily, divided in two to
three doses. The suggested dosage of bioflavonoid
complex in pets is 200 to 1500 mg per day, divided
into two to three doses. The actual dosage of each
product will vary with the product and the pet's
weight and disease condition.
While there is no specific research showing
benefit in specific rickettsial diseases, the use of
antioxidants is widely recommended by holistic
veterinarians to reduce oxidative damage to tissues
that may occur. More research on antioxidants and
other complementary therapies in the treatment of
rickettsial diseases is needed.
Other Natural Treatments For Rickettsial Diseases
The following herbs may be helpful: alfalfa, aloe vera,
astragalus, burdock, dandelion leaf, dandelion root,
echinacea, garlic, ginseng, goldenseal, hawthorn,
licorice, marshmallow, milk thistle, nettle, red clover,
St. John's wort, turmeric, and yellow dock. Also the
glycoprotein acemannan and homeopathic nosodes
may be helpful.
These can be used in conjunction with
conventional therapies, as they are unlikely to be
effective by themselves in most patients. The natural
treatments are widely used with variable success,
as many have not been proven at this time. As with
any condition, the most healthful natural diet will
improve the pet's overall health.
Conventional Therapy For Rickettsial Diseases
Tetracycline's such as doxycycline are the treatment
of choice and generally will cure most cases. For pets
that are critically ill, hospitalization with intravenous
fluid therapy, transfusions, and force-feeding are