Yeasty dog? It may not be the carbs

This morning I am compelled, finally, to get this brief but important article up for all those who are dealing with yeast infections in their dogs. On my Facebook group and elsewhere around the net, I frequently hear about people struggling with yeast infections in their dogs, notably in the ear or paws, but also at times on the belly, under the armpits or all of the above.  This is a very common situation, and can be frustrating for the owner, as veterinary treatments seem to be aggressive at times, and not address the underlying cause. For example, a dog with a yeasty, infected ear may clear up after a round of antibiotics and drops, but then the infection reasserts itself within a few weeks. People turn to Internet sources to find more lasting answers, and what they often read is this: it’s all down to the carbs in your  food. Many variations on the theme: carbs are sugar, and sugar feeds yeast. Strip all the carbs out of the diet, and the yeast will go away.Most insidiously, I hear  yeast infections on the skin called “systemic”. (They are not- the skin is one large organ, and systemic yeast infection is extremely rare, dangerous and related to multiple organs, not just the skin). So, well meaning owners start to feed a no-carb diet, usually raw – which may or may not clear up the yeast issue. On raw-feeding groups and online in general, we hear these success stories all the time, and their conclusion; yeast feeds on carbs, I eliminated carbs, and now the yeast is gone. A reasonable conclusion to draw , right?

It is, except it isn’t the correct one. When dogs with chronic years issues “clear up” after carbs are removed, it’s due to the fact they were allergic to/intolerant of the foods – maybe, oatmeal, sweet potato, rice, but can be any food – that were removed. So these are happy stories, as long as the new diet is balanced and the owner starts to add in some veggies one at a  time to see what can be tolerated. But what about the large percentile of people who remove carbs only to find the yeast continuing? The usual scenario is this; if the carbs are gone and the yeast persists, Internet advice will focus on what to add in – kefir, probiotics,colloidal silver, turmeric and more. And still the yeast issue persists. Here is where we come to the crux of the issue; the yeast persists because it was never related to the carbs in the first place. If it wasn’t about carbs and sugars, what is the relationship between diet and yeast? Why does removing carbs help many dogs but not others?

That’s the right question, and it’s easily answered. Yeast overgrowth arises secondary to licking/scratching that develop in relationship to food allergy or intolerance (not the same thing, but can manifest similarly). Put another way – the dog was allergic to/intolerant of a food,  and that caused licking and scratching, which in turn led to the yeast that is always present on the skin, to multiply and become problematic.

Removing the offending food is what helps, whether that is sweet potato or rice, or chicken, or beef, or salmon, or all of the above, or any combination of foods.
Dogs are not usually sensitive to one food or one type of food, often it is many foods, and the way to help with all the consequences of food intolerance or allergy is to find out what the foods are that cause the problem. If you have decided only carbs are ever the problem and go on feeding beef and eggs and chicken to a dog who is sensitive to those foods, the yeast persists. And no amount of kefir, coconut oil or turmeric will clear that up.

Make no mistake – yeast issues are awful.  Red, painful, inflamed ears, chronic paw licking with that characteristic odour – misery for the dog and frustration for the owner. And while food allergies are  a major cause, there are many other health issues that can lead to malassezia overgrowth.

Malassezia is an opportunistic organism. This means the yeast takes advantage of any opportunity to grow when the conditions are right. Malassezia infections often appear during the high-humidity months of summer and they may persist into the fall. Any hereditary or infectious disease that weakens the skin’s immune system can allow a Malassezia infection to begin. For example, dogs that suffer from a bacterial dermatitis (skin infection), allergies, or seborrhea can have irritated skin that is then susceptible to becoming infected with this yeast. In addition, increased levels of sebum (oils in the skin) or cerumen (ear wax) can lead to an infection. The prolonged use of certain medications, such as glucocorticoids (e.g., prednisone) or antibiotics, can predispose the dog to an infection with this yeast.”1

So, it’s not always food related at all – but when it is, you want to understand what the best strategies are to really provide your dog with the kind of healing she deserves. It starts with removing foods your dog eats a lot of, or anything new that coincided with the onset of the yeast – and  make sure you remove proteins as well as carbs. If that doesn’t help, think about a strict elimination diet ( by this I mean one novel protein and one carb, more about this in Part Two:Coping with Yeast). Of course,  you will want to work on restoring integrity to the digestive system through herbs, whether there is food intolerance or not; it’s always important. (From an herbalist’s perspective, yeast overgrowth on the skin speaks to a fundamental imbalance that can vary from one individual to the next, but will always have some connection to the digestive system). Just don’t buy into the idea that starches are necessarily the culprit, the popular but misguided idea that “sugar in the diet causes yeast”.  No matter what you feed,there will always be sugars in the body.  Approached correctly, there is no need for the skin to be bothered by yeast.

In Part Two I’ll talk about some specifics, in terms of what to try topically, herbally, and how to figure out which foods may be at the root of the problem.
1. http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2102&aid=321

 

Beautiful Dandelion – for you and your dog

Spring is dandelion time! While I use dried root and tincture in my clinical practise all year long, there is just nothing like the fresh, whole plant – flowers like bursts of sunshine, young leaves not yet too bitter – to inspire creativity and get us all out into the fields, gathering, and back into the kitchens- creating.
In this post, a mini- monograph on dandelion, and some fun, tasty and healthful recipes you can make for your own enjoyment, along with a version for your canine companions.


Danny in a field of dandies

First, let’s start with what makes dandelion such an important herbal medicine…why it’s one herb no home apothecary should be without, and what kind of benefits adding it to your dog’s diet can provide.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Family Asteraceae

Actions – Leaf is diuretic, bitter, nutritive –  Root is tonic, hepatic, mildly diuretic,laxative, cholagogue

Energetics Cold, moist, bitter, sweet(root) cool, neutral, slightly salty  (leaf) warm/neutral (flower)

Constituents – sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids( luteolin, apigenin) carotenoids( lutein, zeaxanthin)

Indications – with such an extensive list of actions, it might seem that dandelion has a place in every dog’s diet… I tend to agree, but with qualifiers.  The leaf is highly diuretic as well as nutritive, so while the amount you feed in a pesto or stew recipe won’t pose a problem, using more concentrated forms   could have unwanted results(excessive urination). The root is a superb liver tonic, often overlooked in favour of milk thistle; I like to include some root in meals throughout the year (you can slice it up and cook like a carrot). I use leaf in formulation with other herbs for edema associated with congestive heart failure, for some bladder conditions, as a general tonic and with pancreatitis.  Root  I use clinically more as a tonic given over a long period of time, and the whole plant, including flowers, with many cancers and preventively, for dogs at higher risk. I make dandelion vinegar every year and use it in my own food and as a nice addition to the dog’s water once in a while, or a splash in a cooked meal here and there. I’ll talk more about using dandelion at high concentrations (tincture, powder) in the full monograph. For now, we can think of dandelion as medicinal food. And enjoy.

Now, for the Recipes!

Recently I went through my files and pulled out all my favorite human recipes for dandelions, and adapted them for use with dogs. It’s certainly true that, as with humans, just adding a few leaves a day throughout the season can be a tremendous health benefit – think about 1 small leaf finely chopped for a small dog, 1-2 full leaves for a medium dog, 3 for  a large – dandelion is very safe, but it IS diuretic so it’s smart to be conservative, especially at first. Dandelion leaves are bitter – part of what makes them such good medicine – but that’s not everybody’s favorite flavour, for one thing. With humans the general idea is 3 good sized fresh raw leaves daily…so scale your dog-dose to that. A 3 pound dog could have maybe 1 teaspoon of minced leaf over a day, or even half that, to start. I hasten to add, that to maximize the benefit for dogs, you need to chop chop chop until the leaves are very well minced. As with any veggie, for the canine system to fully absorb the constituents we want to get into them, the foods need to be thoroughly pulped or steamed. For the raw leaf, mincing is great. But there are other ways to get the benefits of dandelion into your dog.

My own favorite recipes for dandelions include a classic maple-sweetened cookie; pesto with pumpkin seeds; steamed leaves with new potatoes and chickpeas: I also love a simple cup of fresh dandelion tea,  surprisingly refreshing and beautifully uncomplicated. I make dandelion root/cacao bitters (from Mountainrose Herbs) all the time and give them to friends, I’m playing around with Gather Victoria’s Dandelion and Calendula’s Egg Cup idea ( adapting for dogs of course) seen here /https://gathervictoria.com/2016/06/02/dandelion-calendula-breakfast-egg-cups-the-perfect-marriage-of-health-flavour/     looking to add dandie greens into a meatloaf I make for my crew every few weeks – -there are endless possibilities.

Today, I want to share the first recipe and some variations – dandelion and pumpkin seed pesto. I make a celebratory pesto every spring with dandelions, pumpkin seeds, garlic, Parmesan and so on, for my self and friends – the dog version (s) below is  developed from this. And as I got experimenting with a simple recipe I found so many inspirational ideas I thought, well let’s blog this and see what YOU may come up with, too.
First: the core recipe. All you do is gather your dandelions (you can of course purchase them!  but it’s much more fun to go outside, find a suitable patch, and harvest). You need about a cup ( 55 grams, I used) of chopped leaves. And 1/4 cup organic hulled pumpkin seeds, and about 1/4 cup good quality (real) olive oil. That’s all, for the dog recipe.Whirl all that in the blender/food processor,  and you have the following:

690 calories
18 grams of protein
70 grams of fat (NOTE: that’s a lot)
204 mgs of magnesium
not as much zinc as you’d think- just under 3 mgs
BUT – 7500 mgs of lutein – that’s one of the chief benefits of feeding dandelions! So the next question will be, what is lutein?  and the quick answer is, lutein is a flavonoid with powerful antioxidant action, and  studies have shown that humans who consumed high levels of lutein and a related carotenoid called zeaxanthin (yes, I know these terms get confusing, but I am planning a surprise offering soon to help clear it all up) had significantly lower  incidence of macular degeneration – including foods that are high in these two non-essential, but highly beneficial nutrients can help protect your dog from developing cataracts or other eye conditions associated with age. Kale, spinach, collard greens and romaine lettuce all contain goodly amounts of lutein,  as do egg yolks, but they need tobe fed raw  for optimal bioavailability. Since kale and collards are so bitter,  using dandelion greens pulverized into pesto, with the offsetting nutty taste of pumpkin seeds, is one ideal way to supply  lutein and zeaxanthin.

There are other benefits; pumpkinseeds are a time honoured  remedy for various intestinal parasites;  olive oil has cardio-protective properties, and may help reduce inflammation/protect against cancer as well. All in all, this pesto is a powerful addition to the diet, in moderation of course! Note that dogs with sensitive digestion, or pancreatitis/hyperlipidemia, should not have this treat.

So, this is a high fat treat, but we don’t add a lot of it anyway – Amara and Zeke got 2 tsps on their chicken  and sweet potato dinner tonight (it’s just too much fat for Danny, who is so sensitive) You can add a little dollop to a bowl of raw food, cooked food or kibble, for the antioxidant boost; you can freeze it in ice cube trays and use as needed (if you make a whole lot during dandelion season) bake it into cookies/biscuits, add to stews(I love making stew for my dogs on cold winter or autumn days) and let’s not forget the variations. Here are a few of my favorite additions

1) shiitake or maitake mushrooms – I buy them dried, reconstitute in hot water for a half hour, then add a few to the blender

2) sundried tomatoes – just a couple mixed in with the original pesto boost lycopene dramatically

3) turmeric – the batch I made here has a half teaspoon (for the recipe above) and a little twist of freshly ground black pepper

4) You can add a  Brazil nut or two for a huge boost of selenium, which supports the heart and can be low in home made diets. One 5 gram kernel has 95 mcgs, or almost the RA for an 18 kg dog.

5) Everyone’s going to ask about garlic – yes, you can add a clove or two, but if your dog runs hot in general, or has heat in the digestive tract, or any kind of upper GI distress, skip this part.  If you use raw garlic already and your dogs do well with it, the cooling  energetics of dandelion leaf will balance the heat anyway, to some degree.

6) Coconut oil – yes, you can substitute some of the olive oil with coconut or hempseed oil.These oils all have beneficial aspects but they are also different, with unique fatty acid profiles, and dogs may react differently to them. I like olive oil here because coconut is already so widely used as a  fatty acid supplement and olive oil not so much. But feel free to experiment – hemp and coconut are my own choices here. Oils like sunflower and safflower are very high in linoleic acid, which your dog most likely already has plenty of in his diet, if you feed a commercial food or use chicken regularly.

The human version of this recipe,  is  from The Kitchn, a wonderful resource for cooking for humans: http://www.thekitchn.com/fresh-summer-recipe-dandelion-pumpkin-seed-pesto-173211
and I will add, this is the first dandelion pesto I’ve made in 10 years that my partner actually enjoyed. 🙂

Lets’ call this dandelion month, and I’ll add more recipes and medicinal stuff very soon. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Raw and the Cooked, or why I sometimes delete links on Facebook

Spring has finally arrived here in the Gatineau Hills and I have been having a very busy year so far. I can’t believe it has been months since my last post! Today I am sharing some thoughts, briefly, on my position regarding raw and cooked diets for dogs; I often hear, both professionally and on my Facebook group, that I am “anti-raw”, and I wanted to make this clear… nothing could be further from the truth. Since there seems to be a little misunderstanding,  I will try to clear this up today as well as in future entries. I’d like to devote much more time in all my writings, to the correct use of raw diet as a tool for healing and an excellent option for feeding dogs. Right now, I’m hoping just to make a statement that will clear up some of the misperceptions I frequently hear.

To start off with a simple statement: I am not in any way, opposed to raw diets for dogs.
I use them all the time in clinical cases, although not as frequently as cooked.

The reason I use cooked diets has to do with the client, the dog I am working with. I use cooked diets for therapeutic reasons, on occasion because it is the client’s preference (or the vet’s).  Many people believe raw diets are always superior and always appropriate. This is simply not the case. I use cooked and raw diets as indicated.

how cooking affects the nutrients in meat

Many of the clients I work with have come to me via veterinary referrals or as a “last chance” to help a dog who has been on prescription diets, numerous commercial foods, various types of raw and all kinds of internet recipes, and now the owner is seeking professional help. The condition(s) the dog presents with; her symptoms, veterinary treatments, age, oral health and many other factors often simply indicate a cooked diet as a better choice.

I use the NRC (National Research Council) Guidelines for all recipes, whether raw or cooked.

This doesn’t mean I totally dismiss the value of  prey model feeding, or BARF diets, it’s simply that I feel precision nutrition is the most powerful for therapeutic purposes. and if it works so well for dogs with health issues, doesn’t it make sense that careful formulation is probably the way to go proactively, too?

I actually see many more egregiously unbalanced COOKED recipes for dogs on the Internet than I do raw. Raw feeders – some raw feeders – hold beliefs I would vigorously dispute, but they still have done their homework and are attempting to provide  all the nutrients required for health through muscle and organ and bone. These home cooked recipes make me actually cry (yes, I’m emotional about my work). The fact that anyone who cares about dogs would promote cooked recipes without supplemental calcium, Vitamin D, zinc – or whatever is indicated (it varies according to the foods used) MYSTIFIES me. I have focused to a certain extent on enlightening those who home cook about the dangers of feeding without correct supplementation. Rhetoric like “it balances over time” simply does not apply here.

There are many voices for intelligent raw feeding. There are not as many for careful and precise home cooked feeding. Because I use these diets so much clinically, I have fallen into that role.

But it in no way means I “oppose” raw diets. When my own dog developed a mast cell tumour (thankfully not aggressive) my first choice would have been a raw diet. Danny had chronic mild colitis and is sensitive to food changes, to fats, to specific proteins, and raw was a digestive disaster (yes, I did it correctly). He is thriving on his cooked diet, and is typical of the kind of dog I work with – sensitive, more than one condition.

P1230596

Danny being cute in his little winter coat

My philosophy is simply this; that to be truly optimal a recipe needs to cover the nutrients we know, scientifically, are required by the body in specific amounts, to prevent illness – the “essentials”…and, it must use the best quality foods to provide them and supplement what food cannot cover…lastly, the diet must suit the individual, so if it looks good on paper but the dog gets gas from it,  for example, it’s not ideal.

Three things as a foundation; essentials, quality, individuality.

Note that those are foundations only – critically important, but good health continues to develop from so many places -the abundance of non-essential but incredibly beneficial compounds found in plant foods and herbs…from access to chemical free environments, from clean drinking water, forcefree training – exercise – the list goes on.  My point is that many home feeders, and even those who do this work for a living, place all kinds of emphasis on the ingredients, especially so-called “superfoods”, and much less on the nutrient content. I don’t know why that is. But my approach is to work with the three foundations, and that includes when I do raw diet.

Because many of my readers here at the blog are followers of the Facebook Page, and members of my group (where this topic comes up regularly) I want to make one point more. On occasion I have removed links, or even members who were aggressively posting about raw diet. It makes sense that this action on my part would lead you to believe I don’t support the practise. However, when I have done that it is almost always because the specific source the member was linking to was unreliable. There are thousands, tens of thousands – more?  websites now, all about raw feeding dogs. Tens of thousands of yahoo and Facebook groups, courses and consultants  – and you can bet they are not all created equal. I want to close with a few things I have read on many of these sites (no names! it’s the principle here, not some attempt on my part to be ‘right” or in any way belittling to anyone). The point of my sharing these (all false) statements is; when I disallow a link on my group, it’s not because I’m a nasty person. It’s because these statements are false, potentially harmful, and dogs deserve better. So do my readers. Have you been led to believe any of these?

internet_citing1

 

A small sampling just from today.

1)”No Veg/Carbs/Fruits/grains are needed as dogs are carnivores and carnivores and cannot digest them; it stresses the pancreas and could also cause yeast which will cause skin problems”. (Note: this is three fallacies in one…)

2) “There is absolutely no need to supplement a home made diet if sufficient variety is utilized “(nope, nope and nope. I can prove this one)

3) “Why would anybody cook food when we all know it removes all the nutrients?” ( I hardly know what to say when I encounter this)

4)  “Supplements are all toxic. Wolves don’t take supplements”. ( this followed a recipe low in everything except calcium and phosphorus, which were much  higher than the RA)

5) ” When switching a dog over from commercial dog food to BARF, the dog’s body may begin the process of ridding itself of toxins and impurities as it adjusts to the intake of proper nutrients.  This process is called detox.   Depending on the overall health of your dog, detox may last one week, one month or even several weeks…or not even at all.  The most common symptoms of detox include vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath and itchy skin.  It is normal for any of these detox symptoms to get worse before they get better…just don’t give up and hang in there. ”
(right, I am going to watch my dog VOMIT, scratch and have diarrhea for a month while transitioning to raw diet. This is one of the most absurd things I’ve read in a while.No transition should involve any of the above.)

6)  “ACV stands for Apple Cider Vinegar.  Of the 22 minerals essential for health, apple cider vinegar contains 19 in exactly the right amounts. ”
This one calls for a meme.

jiFfM

 

Ok – I have to stop. There are plenty other myths that get touted about as factual. I’m going to post about this in more detail over the next while( yeah yeah, I can hear you say, promises promises. But I really am setting more time aside for the blog. ) What I see all over the internet confirms for me that myths about canine nutrition are RAMPANT and have become accepted as factual, much as we once believed that yearly vaccinations were important and that the dominance paradigm was accurate. I’m going to do my best to address some and add herbal posts and recipes and lengthy Plant Healer articles, too. Please feel free to ask questions here or at the group. Oh yeah – here’s the group!  We are friendly and  open-minded, even if we do have to say no to a link from time to time.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/756709917722083/

Carob/quinoa treat recipe

I’m not sure when I actually bought Todd Caldecott’s lovely and informative book Food as Medicine, it might be about 5 years ago. Although I practise as a Western Herbalist, I have a long standing interest in Ayurveda, and Todd is a great herbalist, someone to be fully trusted. Almost as soon as I got the book, I made the cocoa/quinoa cake, and have basically never stopped making it, because I love it so much. I’ve brought it to my herb classes, topped it with strawberry/rose ice cream as he recommends,  spread raspberry jam or elderberry jelly on it, or my favorite, topped with whipped cream and wild rose syrup. (We only live once). Now, I also have this problem, that whenever I have a treat, I feel like “they” should have a treat (and you know who I mean by “them”, right? THE DOGS). So last week I  used Todd’s recipe as a template and made the dogs a carob version with  a little lower fat. And they loved it. I mean they wanted to eat the whole thing at one sitting. (I didn’t let them).  Because I know everyone here loves recipes too – and because carob is actually good for your dog; it was a superfood before that term was coined, for me it’s just a nice flavour and fun to work with, and has some health benefits..and quinoa is well tolerated in place of the flours we often think about using in cookie and cake recipes for dogs.
Before I write my recipe, here’s a little on carob and quinoa.

Carob
Ceratonia siliqua
Family: Fabaceae
Energetics: warm, sweet, dry

One of my first books on holistic dog care, and one of the only ones around at that time, was  Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, by Wendy Volhard. In it, she shared a recipe for ”breakfast bars”, true to her philosophy of feeding carbs separately from proteins. I adapted that recipe, added carob –  and used it for years. Nowadays, I don’t make it as much, it’s a little carby for my older dogs who don’t have *quite* the metabolisms they used to…. and, with people wanting to avoid flours/grain based products as much as possible these days, using straight quinoa in a treat recipe made more sense. And carob – well, it was popular back in the 70s as a substitute for chocolate, which it really isn’t, but it’s a nice flavour in its own right and offers some nutrition and even medicinal  action….the half cup I used in this recipe offers 180 mgs calcium, 28 mgs magnesium,  425 mgs potassium, with a little iron, selenium and  protein as well…this amount also provides 20 grams of fiber, and there is astringency here as well, meaning carob has long been used as a food for dogs suffering from diarrhea. Of course, in our treat recipe, we’re not looking at medicinal application, unless your dog is really, really sad from not having a carob cake, then let’s call this recipe a “Cheerative” (I just made that up).  In all seriousness, the powder is handy to have on hand for use in some types of diarrhea,  as well as in cooking. Juliet de Baraclai Levy was a huge fan of carob and used it extensively in her diets, adding the powder to puppyfood and encouraging her adult Afghan Hounds to consume the whole pods!

Carob

Quinoa
Chenopodium quinoa
Family: Amaranthaceae
Energetics: Warm, sweet, dry

Most readers with a  sensitive dog know about quinoa; if you’ve had to prepare a therapeutic diet and you are of the school of thought that some plant foods are important in a canine diet, you’ve likely heard about or tried using quinoa. Not a true grain, quinoa is the seed of the South American Chenopodium quinoa plant and is a highly nutritious food, with a more complete amino acid profile than most grains and seeds, and high levels of manganese, magnesium, some iron and zinc as well. Quinoa is usually well accepted, and very digestible – it does contain saponins, which are a group of plant constituents that are characterized by bitterness and by their foamy, soapy quality when mixed with water. If I use quinoa in a recipe, I have the client ferment it, which is a bit or a process but greatly reduces the anti-nutrient properties, but in this recipe, it’s not for everyday use, so a good rinsing is more than sufficient. Occasionally humans get some tummy upset from quinoa, but I haven’t seen this with dogs, although as with any food they can be intolerant of it.  Many plants we use on a regular basis as herbs or food are rich in saponins – yarrow, dandelion, burdock, calendula, licorice, astragalus as well as chickpeas, oats, spinach, beets and asparagus, to name a few. Quinoa is a great carb source in a home made diet – prepared properly, and used in moderation.

quinoa_16_09_2015

 

Ok, so now to the recipe. 🙂

To make the carob/quinoa cake, you will need

½ cup carob powder

¾ cup quinoa

2 large eggs

3 Tbsps coconut oil

3 Tbsps  good quality honey

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

To make,  first rinse the quinoa a few times and cook in 1 ½  cups water. I simple add the rinsed quinoa and water to my pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered until done. Remove from heat and allow to stand 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork and use(cooled).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, lightly grease a baking pan ( 9 x 5) with a little butter or coconut oil and line with parchment.  Melt the 3 Tbsps coconut oil and set aside to cool a little, but not harden.

Next, beat the 2 eggs until foamy.  Beat in the honey, and add the cooled, cooked quinoa. At this point you can either place in a blender and totally puree the mixture, or use as is. In a separate bowl, mix the carob powder with the baking soda and powder, and then add to the wet mixture, blending well. I add the coconut oil last, beating well into the batter.
Lastly, pour the batter into your prepared pan, and bake about 40 minutes, until  the centre feels firm and a knife comes out dry when inserted in the middle.

Cool, cut into squares and feed as a treat.
NOTE: when introducing any new food to your dog, it’s always best to start small. One little piece is plenty to start.

I consider this cakelike treat to be a “special occasion” food, but honestly it’s so high in protein and fat, and relatively lower in  sugars for a sweet treat (you could make it lower by using only 2 Tbsps of honey, too), you could use it more often. The entire recipe provides 1800 calories, 80 grams of protein, 95 grams of fat, 520 mgs calcium, 16 mgs iron, 325 mgs magnesium, 1570 mgs phosphorus and 11 mgs of zinc.

Enjoy! and the human version can be found here: https://www.toddcaldecott.com/food-as-medicine/

group-of-dogs

Is it cooled yet, human?? 

 

Slippery Elm and Marshmallow – a little differential

Yesterday, a member of my Facebook group asked a simple question, and it prompted this post. In keeping with my commitment to adding shorter but still detailed articles, I thought I’d elaborate my answer here for those who need it. And since digestive issues in dogs are so common, that may mean, any of you.

Here’s what my Friend asked:   “Just a quick question that I have come across a few times , regarding Gut issues , some people say Marshmallow in the long run is better than using Slippery Elm … would appreciate any comments thanks “

I posted a quickie answer on my Page here https://www.facebook.com/ThePossibleCanine/

But really, there’s more to explore, so here’s a little overview of these two enormously useful herbs, their actions (similar and unique) applications and why you really want to have both on hand, for our own use as well as with cats and dogs.

First, Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra). This wonderful plant medicine has become one of the most popular go-to herbs for canine gastric issues, and with good reason. The medicinal part is the dried and powdered inner bark, and the applications are many. Energetically this Elm is sweet, moist and neutral (not as cool as Mallow) and it is a first choice demulcent herb – which means, it contains a high amount of mucilage, a type of polysaccharide that becomes viscous in water, and serves to coat, soothe and protect inflamed tissues, whether inside the body or out. Slippery elm is also astringent, meaning it not only soothes and moistens tissue, but gently tightens and tonifies it as well, making it a better choice for diarrhea than mallow. Elm is also nutritive, although we generally don’t rely on herbs to supply essentials in the canine diet, I have used elm in gruels for very ill dogs that needed any source we could get into them, in several cases dogs recovering from toxin ingestion.  Topically, slippery elm (and the less widely used Siberian version) are wonderful poultices for boils and abscesses, to help draw infection to a head and drain.

Slippery_elm_powder

Next – Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is an amazing demulcent as well, with up to 35% mucilage in the root – and the leaf is useful as well especially for the urinary tract (I tend to use both in my formulations for UTI and other ladder/urethral conditions). Mallow is also mildly diuretic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant and hypoglycemic (the leaf). Mallows (wild mallows are interchangeable, but you must identify them with 100% certainty if you plan to harvest and prepare on your own)  are lovely gentle plants whose actions are especially helpful with stomach issues such as acid reflux, and I include mallow in many respiratory formulas, where there is heat and dryness, or heavy, “stuck” mucus that needs to be moved.
Since these actions obviously overlap,  how to decide when to use which? Well, first off, they can be used interchangeably – I use both Slippery elm and Marshmallow root for my own bouts of GERD ( can no longer drink wine, sadly without quite horrible reflux) and both help, for example. Both herbs serve to soothe, strengthen and tonify mucus membranes  internally and soothe skin as well. But ,as we’ve seen, there are differences – with dogs, here’s what I would suggest.

Marshmallow is especially indicated for urinary tract conditions, is important in respiratory formulations and is my first choice for many upper gastric inflammations.  I use mallow root with kennel cough, with tracheal collapse, with mega-esophagus, with gastritis and reflux (which can often occur secondary the veterinary medications). I use the root and leaf with cystitis, bladder cancer and along with other herbs for incontinence, especially when there is burning around the vulva related to urine leaks. Mallow root is a specific for any kind of urolith, all stones and crystals. Topically I like it whenever there is slow healing after an injury or infection.

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Elm is a go-to for some types of diarrhea, especially when it has been an acute infection that has just passed and the dog is on the mend, or with a food intolerance issue (obviously, you can’t clear up food intolerance with any treatment, not elm, pumpkin or probiotics, but you can ease symptoms, and there is much to be said for that)  and for topical use with infection that has not come to the surface and drained. Elm is wonderful with IBD, to help heal the intestinal lining, and I find it works much as pumpkin does, to normalize bowel function, so  it is useful with either diarrhea or constipation. Made into a gruel, slippery elm’s unique nutritive properties make it a helpful food for debilitated dogs, dogs recovering from surgery, or post-toxin ingestion, or in palliative care. Note that elm is one of the four original ingredients in ESSIAC tea, and has long been considered to have anti-cancer actions. I tend to use elm in cancer protocols only if called for by symptoms, but it’s certainly true this herb has longstanding traditional use and may well have actions outside of what I have described here. I have, rarely, seen dogs who developed loose stool with even moderate amounts of elm (my own very sensitive Ridgeback Danny is one) so I recommend starting small when administering for the first time. Which brings us to…

Preparation and Dosing

As a general rule, mucilaginous herbs do best when prepared as a cold infusion – in other words, steeped in cool water, instead of the more usual hot.  With both these herbs in powdered form, a little goes a long way – I use a teaspoon in 8 ounces of water and get a very thick, slimy end product. This viscous  gel can then be added to the food, or mixed with other herbs, or administered in a little bone broth or tripe, between meals., I especially recommend this latter method if you are adding meds of any kind to the food. Since both are mucilaginous, theoretically they can interfere with absorption of medication, so give either one at least 2 hours after administering meds. If you give the meds separately from food, then it’s fine to stir your gel into the meal.
These are both extremely safe herbs, that can be used as foods, but it’s still possible that a dog can react to one or the other (as with anything) so it makes sense to start small and build the dose up to your goal. (You may have heard to to use elm with dogs who have environmental allergies, but that’s really too vague, many dogs can and do benefit from slippery elm despite multiple allergies. It depends on what, precisely, the dog is allergic to). Think about 1/4 cup per 20 pounds bodyweight divided into three servings per day. Use more if needed and less if in formula.

Lastly – if you weren’t aware, please take note that Slippery elm is listed as “at-risk” now, and should always be purchased via an ethical company such as Mountainrose Herbs. For more information on at-risk and endangered plant species, check out (and support!) United Plant savers here:  https://www.unitedplantsavers.org/species-at-risk

And I hope that helps a little –  look for more from me on all the herbs we discuss, in future articles and publications. And feel free to ask questions here, I do my best to get back to everyone.

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Pet Blogger Challenge 2017

  1. When did you start your blog and, for anyone who is just seeing it for first time, please provide a description of your site. Would you say your blog focuses more on sharing stories with your readers, or providing a resource for your audience?
    Answer: This version of my blog was launched in 2011, but I started originally in 2006, on a different site. I focus on nutrition and herbal medicine for dogs, with a view to providing balanced and comprehensive information – grounded in science, but open to trends and innovative ideas. As an herbalist, I have a deep commitment to sharing the depth of the Western Herbal Tradition, in particular. It’s much more a resource than a story-sharing place, but I might incorporate more personal stories in the year ahead.

2. What was your proudest blogging moment of 2016?
Answer: I’d probably say that all my Plant Healer Magazine articles are entries I’m proud of, as they are quite indepth and have brought herbalism to a broader  audience, and opened eyes to just how rich the Western tradition really is. I was  a little slack in 2016, with a lot going on elsewhere, but my readers have been patient. I appreciate that immensely. 🙂

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3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)  Answer: I’d say, this one,which introduces my online herbal course. The course is a real labour of love and brings together over two decades of herbal study and work with dogs in particular, and I love teaching it.  http://www.thepossiblecanine.com/practical-herbalism-for-common-canine-conditions

4. Year after year, one goal that we all seem to share is that we want to reach more people. What one tool did you use or action did you take this year that had the most impact on increasing traffic to your blog?
Answer: Oh – probably Facebook! I have a Page where I share herbal tidbits and great posts from other animal professionals (and cute puppy pictures too) as well as a Group, Canine Nutrition and Natural Health, which is lively, friendly and balanced. So probably Facebook! Fun, and a  little addictive, but reaches a lot of people. I’m not very computer-savvy, but working on Pinterest as well. 🙂

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5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? (Please include a link.) Have you noticed any themes across your most popular posts?  Answer: This year, and all time, my most popular entry was on feeding the inappetant dog:  http://www.thepossiblecanine.com/inappetance  
at about 23,000 views for 2016. When I checked other popular entries, they’re all nutrition focused – the  debate about feeding vegetables,  all about types of liver and diet for dogs with cancer. Suggests more people come to TPC for nutrition advice than for herbal, but I knew that. 🙂

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6. What blog do you find most inspirational and how has it influenced your blog? (Please include a link.) Answer: Honestly I don’t follow many dog blogs, I do very much enjoy Linda Case’s The Science Dog https://thesciencedog.wordpress.com/  which led me to this Challenge. I follow many herbal blogs – too many to list – but I’ve been inspired by Rosalee de la Foret’s super well organized  site http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org

7. What is one thing your readers don’t know about you or your pets that would surprise them? Answer: A toughie, because I’m pretty open about who I am, on my Timeline for example, it’s an open book. Maybe …. if you only read my blog and don’t know me  from FB, that I am as passionate about other species as I am dogs – and future blogs will reflect that. I’m advancing studies in feline, equine and avian nutrition, and my herbal practise is open to humans as well.  I have snakes, an African Grey Parrot, and a blind Paint horse, as well as multiple cats and dogs. I’m basically desperate to acquire goats.  I also plan to complete my degree in Comparative Religion, one of these days.

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8. What is something you’ve learned this year that could help other bloggers? Answer: While there is definitely a preference for shorter, sound-bite-ish entries, there is also a real need for depth. If you can make it engaging, and well organized, you can hold attention.  But don’t feel you have to sensationalize everything. I’m focusing on a series of shorter articles this year, on many of the popular/trendy supplements, for example, but also have some longer entries already planned. If it’s 10,000 words, though – that’s an E-booklet.
And now, to follow my own advice…:)

9. What would you like to accomplish on your blog in 2017? Answer: Just to reach more readers, and post more frequently. I have multiple projects on the go this year, including publishing several E-booklets, completing my Master Herbalist thesis (on canine cancer) and moving my three online courses to a  more sophisticated platform…there *may* be videos.  I aim to keep the standards high but the entries accessible. And, remember to always have fun with it. Sometimes I get too serious. 🙂
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10. Now it’s your turn! You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there a question you’d like answered, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? Answer: If I could ask anything, it would be, what do readers want to see more of? And, do I just possibly have too many Ridgebacks on the site? Thank you for this opportunity and Happy New Year, all!
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Kelp for Dogs- the Good, the Bad, and the Mumbo Jumbo

Happy New Year to my friends and readers, I am looking forward to a great year ahead, after what many described as an Annus Horribilus  — 2016!  One of the comments I’ve received a lot, about this blog, in email and on my Facebook group, is that my entries are “amazingly informative” (blush) but sometimes a lot to take in, and that shorter, more frequent offerings would be appreciated. Ok, then – I can do that! Something that comes up a lot on my radar is this idea of “Superfoods” – and like many trendy, popular-nutrition concepts, Superfoods have both merit and drawbacks. Most of the popular trends you will read about, from turmeric to coconut oil to goat’s milk, are based on some really good, factual ideas – but then become sensationalized, in order to be more widely marketed, and sometimes to the point of nonsense.  This happens within the herbal world – as a clinical herbalist, of course I know that all the “Herbs of Commerce” are  wonderful, useful and important to know and work with – but they can all be misused – underdosed, used as panaceas when other herbs would have been preferable, given in a form that is not well absorbed, or a formulation that is not energetically balanced…they are great allies, but not panaceas. Most Herbs of Commerce – think Milk thistle, Slippery elm, Chamomile, Echinacea – offer applications well beyond that one condition they’re marketed for – and all have limitations when used in an allopathic fashion, in other words as a more natural replacement for a veterinary drug. My hope is that by taking a  well-rounded look at all of these foods and supplements, as well as my ongoing herbal monographs and articles, readers will grow more aware of the true range of options available to them,  and think of  both so-called Superfoods and Herbs of Commerce as  having pros and cons – thus offering a much wider spectrum of possibility when looking at support for all kinds of health challenges.

I’m going to be posting, over the winter, about bone broth, goat’s milk/kefir, coconut oil, turmeric, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and more. I feel I can offer a little more insight and balance to the material already posted everywhere, about these helpful, but not panacaea, foods, herbs and supplements.

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Today, after reading a recent post recommending that people give kelp to dogs just… across the board, claiming benefits for it that vastly exceed what  it actually offers, and omitting information about iodine content, thyroid health and more – I decided to start with kelp.

Adding kelp to the canine diet has been around for a while now. When I started my research in this work, back in the 90s, it was common to see kelp (along with flaxseed, Vitamin C and assorted other goodies not quite so popular these days) added to all home made diets, irrespective of the content of the recipes. More recently, astute home feeders have come to realize this is not the best practise, and I hear about adding kelp to kibble (a big no-no) much less frequently. But the idea still pops up here and there…so let’s take a look at the facts about adding kelp to a canine diet.
First;  please bear in mind, sites that list great litanies of amazing claims about ANY supplement really are questionable. Kelp doesn’t work as a panacea for a million health issues and it can actually create some, if unthinkingly added. What kelp will do, and yes I make use of it in many home made diets, is contribute iodine to the diet.
(Note that if you feed a quality commercial food, the iodine will be factored in already, so to add more can lead to hypothyroidism, which we will get to in a moment).

Now, what does iodine do, and what foods is it found in?
Iodine is a non-metallic trace element , which is essential in the diet for the health and correct function of the thyroid gland. Commercial foods will have added adequate levels to meet requirements, I’m saying it again – more is not better! Seafood is the best dietary source, and many foods we humans consume are supplemented with iodine, but these (milk, bread) are not regularly fed to dogs as part of their home made diet and basing a whole canine diet around seafood is not a good idea either.. So, home made diets can be quite low in iodine, and over time, this can contribute to the development of thyroid dysfunction.  HOWEVER – adding too much kelp can also  backfire badly and contribute to the development of hypothyroidism in dogs – yep, this is one of those nutrients we want to do our best to get just right, in the diet.  Here’s Dr. Jean Dodds, world renowned thyroid specialist, on the importance of correct iodine intake:

“….excessive iodine supplementation can result in the overproduction of the T4 and T3 in dogs and cats, which triggers unintended cascading effects: in dogs, the immune system may wind up attacking the thyroid gland (producing excessive amounts of thyroglobulin autoantibody) which end up suppressing thyroid levels and causing the very hypothyroidism it was meant to prevent; whereas in cats, the overdosing can result in overt hyperthyroidism.”
http://drjeandoddspethealthresource.tumblr.com/post/90858101671/kelp-thyroid#.WG2ahVz9nps

 

So, when home feeding a dog, how do we get it right? A dogs’ requirement for iodine is easy to calculate; by using the method described elsewhere on this blog, take the dog’s weight in kilograms to the power 0.75 and you will have what we think of as the Metabolic Weight. To find your dog’s iodine requirement, or more correctly his recommended Allowance, you multiply the Metabolic Weight by 29.6.

So, a quick example. My dog Danny weighs 85 pounds.
That’s 38.55 kgs.

Taken then to the power of 0.75, we get the number 15.47, which is his metabolic weight, or MW.
Multiply 15.47 by 29.6, we get 458 mcgs, which can be rounded up to between 460 and 500 mcgs – daily. That’s our goal, and we need to meet it on a consistent basis. The next step is to assess what’s actually in the food, so we don’t oversupplement.
Now, it’s not the easiest thing, to calculate the actual amount of iodine in the diet, mostly because most software/the USDA database don’t actually provide levels in foods. We have to use  a general idea of which foods contain how much (there’s a link at the bottom of this entry) and make a calculation. I’m going into this much more deeply in the E-booklet, but trust me when I say that most recipes come up low. Simply put, they need some iodine. And while not the only way to provide it – some sensitive dogs do better with non-kelp sources – many dogs do well with kelp added to bring the iodine up to desired levels. But – and here’s the rub – it’s not as simple as adding a “teaspoon of kelp for a medium dog and two teaspoons for larger ones” etc. There are a couple of things to take into consideration, and they are super important….you’ve stuck with me this far, so here’s the takeaway message.
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If you use kelp to supplement iodine in the diet, which in my opinion is the ONLY reason to use it, make good and sure that the product you add identifies the actual iodine content of the capsules or loose powder, on the label. In putting this entry together I evaluated 16 products, and found a huge range of iodine content – from as low as 225 mcgs per capsule to as high as 780 (!) and many that were completely lacking in  nutritional information of any kind. If you are going to add kelp, you need to know the iodine content! This is foundational – and then, we have to consider the potential for seaweed in this day and age to be contaminated. Heavy metals in particular, can accumulate in sea weeds, so you need a pure source, or you are better off using iodine drops. I’ll be going into this in more detail in the Supplements E-booklet later this year.

Iodine must be supplied in the diet, whether cooked or raw, if you are making your own food. While kelp contains very, very small amounts of other vitamins and minerals, none are present in amounts high enough to make a meaningful contribution to a  diet (and it certainly doesn’t provide VitaminD3, as one site actually claimed)  And some, such as iron, are in a very poorly absorbed form (non-heme). Don’t rely on kelp for significant nutrient value outside of iodine, and make sure you get that one right. Note that kelp itself can promote itching in some dogs and you may need to work with a pure source of iodine, too.
Any questions? I’ll be happy to clarify. 🙂

Iodine content of some foods:  https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/#h3

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Paw Wax for Dogs – my version, and a few little pointers

So, this time of year always brings out a few recipes for home made “wax” that can be applied to a dog’s paws and act as a barrier against cold, salt and gritty stuff during walks in the cold wintertime.  I make this stuff every year too, with a few of my own twists, so just decided to share in case anyone wants to try my version.

Before I start, a couple of (maybe obvious?) ideas, but worth mentioning anyway; always trim your dog’s feet, if he or she has long hairs between the toes. Furry toes “collect” ice and snow (and more noxious stuff on roads, such as antifreeze) and can get very packed up. The second thing is, booties! For dogs exposed to a lot of harsh terrain and chemicals, no paw wax on earth is enough to keep pads safe and toes clear of the stuff. If your dog needs booties – that’s the way to go.

No, not like these.

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This is better.

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For many others, either the exposure is minimal, or it’s just a matter of cold toes on the snowy ground, and for these guys, a paw wax can be of help. For those of you who already make herbal salves (waves to students), the technique is pretty much the same, with a few changes. You start with a carrier oil, infuse a herb (or a few) into it, and then strain out the herbal matter. Now you have a nice herbal oil, which you mix with beeswax, add a natural preservative ( I use Vitamin E) and let harden. Voila! Paw wax!  All you *really* need to do is, use more beeswax than the standard amount used for salves.
Let me be more specific.

First: many people who read the most popular of the Paw Wax memes this year wrote me to ask about herbal oils. It’s understandable – we have oils such as Evening Primrose and Borage which seem like herbal oils, but then we have all these others, like calendula oil, chamomile oil, or the oils I use in my recipe (conifer needles/resin…orange peel…ginger…) and these are an entirely different type of oil.
Borage, Evening primrose, along with apricot, almond, olive, sunflower, grapeseed, avocado and more are carrier oils – not herbal infused oils, these form the basis for infused oils which in turn can be used as they are, or made into salve.(Infused oils should never be fed to dogs). Here is a list of carrier oils from the wonderful Mountainrose Herbs:  https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/catalog/ingredients/oils   

Note the beautiful options such as pomegranate,macadamia, rosehip seed…I make my own face creams and lotions and I love using these, for rich and exotic skin soothers – mixed with herbs, with shea or mango butter, coconut oil and some essential oils –  beautiful and non-toxic products!
However, I don’t use these expensive oils for pad wax. Call me pragmatic, or even frugal. Olive and sunflower oils are my favorites, and I’ll share some information about different types of carrier oils and why they’re used, in another post. For now, just to make the distinction clear, carrier oils and herbal-infused oils are not the same thing.

Herbal oils, are what you create when you infuse your herbs of choice into your oil of choice, and the possibilities are endless. There are, however,  better and worse choices, depending on what you wish to extract, what the end product will be used for and with dogs, how much is likely to get consumed. Because the answer to that last one is usually “a fair bit” I stay away from essential oils, and focus on herbs that won’t upset the tummy if licked off. And the basic method options for making a herbal oil, are two; stovetop or maceration method. There are pros and cons to both….and here is all you do.

  1. Select your carrier oil (and you can use a blend, too, but add the delicate ones like rosehip seed at the end of the process) and your herbs.You don’t need to be super precise here, some herbalists insist on using the same amount of herbs as oil, but I find that too much. I pick my herbs and eyeball it from there, for recipes like this.
  2. Measure 8 fluid ounces of oil
  3. Decide if you want to use the maceration method(long infusion over at least 4 weeks) or you want the oil faster(you’re using the stove top method to have it ready much sooner).
  4. Place the herbs in a sterilized jar if using the maceration method, and stir in the oil with a chopstick, or a sterilized knife or spoon . Because herbs will swell up when infused, don’t fill the jar more than 2/3 of the way, but it really depends on the herb.  Some herbs are very fine and heavy and others, like the pine needles and twigs I used in my paw wax, are more voluminous.You want room for them to swell, and you don’t want pesto. That’s about as precise as I get with oils for external usage.(Fresh herbs are a whole different story, we’ll talk about them in another post) Label your jar – you will regret it if you don’t, I promise! and place in a dark cupboard for a few weeks. (No hard and fast rules here either, but check it and give a shake periodically). Some herbalists use the sunny-window method, but that’s running a  higher risk of mold and so I don’t do it that way anymore.
  5. Place the oil in the top of a double boiler or stainless steel bowl if using the water-bath (stovetop) method, and stir in the herb.
    Here’s what mine looked like at this point:

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..and so now, you need to raise the heat so your herbs don’t get hotter than 110 degrees F, which means you need to set the water (my bowl here went over a large pot of simmering water, and was covered with a loose fitting lid) on medium, let it get hot and then turn the heat down, and watch it! If it gets too hot you run the risk of frying your herbs(unpleasant!) or all the water boils out and you have a burned pot. I simmered mine for about 8 hours, left overnight and then simmered again for maybe 2 hours the second day. As long as you don’t scorch anything, you can heat them up to 3 days. But even 6 hours will release a lot of good medicine. (Note: all resinous herbs, such as pine or other conifers, poplar or calendula, should be infused with some heat if possible.)

The next step is the same whether you let your oil macerate for a month, or heat it up in 8 hours; strain out the plant material, and measure the oil you have left. I use a sieve lined with cheesecloth:

 

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and voila! herbal oil.

From here you can use the oil on it’s own, for massage, or as the basis of any number of lotions, serums, salve or in this case, paw wax.
For the making of the wax, I used 8 ounces of my oil with 2 ounces beeswax. I saw recipes that called for THREE ounces beeswax, to six ounces oil – but that’s overkill in my opinion. I used two ounces (which is pretty standard) and the wax is super hard. You can use more if you wish, but I don’t find it necessary. Also, I don’t cut up my knuckles grating beeswax anymore. I use these, and boy are they handy:

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Now all you do is, gently heat the herbal oil with the beeswax – 8 ounces oil to 2 ounces wax pellets – gently until the wax melts.
remove from heat, add a few Vitamin E capsules(I used 6 here, squeezed out please, not the gel cap and all!) and pour the warm oil into jars or molds. I normally use amber jars or tins from a number of suppliers, but for this batch I used the special plastic lids you get for making infused vinegars, and a simple large lid from a jar. They looked like this:

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..and are very fragrant and hard! If you have a dog who tolerates rubbing the disc right on their paw, a large lid will be great.For dogs who need the wax applied, a la salve, you’ll need to dig a little into this one, as it’s very firm, but you also can’t apply softer salve or you risk causing the dog to slip. Either way, this recipe smells divine, and it does help protect their precious feet in harsh weather.
My ingredients were

8 ounces sunflower oil….

and a mixture of dried (organic, all) ginger,  orange peel, pine needles cut from my own tree (and a few finely chopped twigs) and about a teaspoon of juniper berries. I choose this combo to smell lovely, and be warming to the pads as well. Now I have more than I’ll ever need, so I’m applying it to my chapped hands as well. It’s wonderful stuff.
Some other herbs to try include other conifers (but not cedar) thyme, calendula, lavender, cinnamon sticks, and yarrow. For slave, for chapped, dry pads, you can make the balm softer, use 1.5 ounces beeswax, and think about herbs like chickweed, rose, violet and plantain as well (more cooling and vulnerary).

Of course, if you prefer you can also purchase herbal oils that have been made for you, too.
https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/catalog/health/herbal-oils 

I hope this helps give you a bit more information and some ideas, about making paw wax for your dog.I’ll be providing more mini-tutorials over the year ahead, and if you’re really keen, there’s always my Practical Herbalism course, which includes 70 recipes, a detailed Unit on medicine making, and much, much more. http://www.thepossiblecanine.com/practical-herbalism-an-online-course

 

And, have a very, very Happy New Year.

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Holiday Recipes Part Two – Gingerbread cookies

Hello all, and a very happy Holiday to everyone! Whatever you celebrate (and tonight is Christmas Eve) I hope this season finds you well, hopeful, healthy and at peace. I and my little zoo here in the Gatineau Hills are enjoying a respite from the extreme cold, and some happy, lazy, playful downtime as well.

2016 was a heck of a year, for the world at large, for so many of my friends, clients, students. Don’t we all need a little ease about now?

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A couple of days ago I promised another little recipe for the season.  Now I admit, I don’t do nearly as much baking as I once did, but when this time of year draws nigh, I have a few favorites I make for the humans in this household…cranberry/chocolate tart (a Lucy Waverman recipe I’ve made and cherished for 30 years)…sticky toffee pudding…Christmas morning pecan rolls…I like to bake, I just don’t need the carbs on a regular basis… and my dogs? Their usual treats consist of Kongs stuffed with mixtures of sweet potato, quinoa, ground meats, assorted antioxidant-rich veggies and herbs, and pieces of egg or chicken. They always have some plain yogurt,  and I make up a batch of high protein biscuits from time to time.
At Christmas, I feel the need to make gingerbread cookies…for the dogs.
Zeke, watching me bake. Zeke loves gingerbread anything.

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But here’s the thing. I work, as regular readers here know, in part as a nutritionist for dogs. My focus is on therapeutic nutrition, the formulation of individual recipes for dogs with all kinds of conditions, some that need very carefully calibrated nutrients and some who need more general, but always optimized dietary support. My clients have dogs with atopy, with renal failure, with cancer, with various bladder stones, liver disease, IBD and more. And these guys, too, need to have treats, despite often very strict dietary guidelines. Often they cannot have anything with gluten; or they’re okay with barley but not wheat; or they need lower fat, or restricted phosphorus… low fat, egg-free, all kinds of variations.  And to that end, I am going to release a baked treats and cookies e-book in the New year, because really there is such a need. For today, I wanted to offer a classic holiday favorite – the gingerbread cookie – with a few variations. Nothing complicated,  and the dogs just love them all.

Season’s greetings, all.

Basic Gingerbread Cookies

These are  fairly high fat, at 31%. For dogs with no issues with wheat, eggs or moderate fat, they’re great. Variations to follow.

Ingredients

2 large eggs

3 Tbsps coconut oil

1/4 molasses

2 Tbsps honey

2 1/2 cups spelt flour

1 Tbsp dried organic ginger

1 tsp powdered “true” cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)


To make this recipe, simply beat your two eggs, and add  the molasses and honey – blend in melted (but not hot) coconut oil. Then stir both spices into the flour and beat the dry mixture into the wet, about a half cup at a time.If it starts to get too stiff, add a little hot water ( 1/8 to 1/4 cup). Blend vigorously until a smooth dough is formed, then refrigerate about a half hour for ease of handling.

When the dough feels ready to handle, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead a few turns, then roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. At this point you can use any cookie cutters you like to make the cookie shapes, and then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Bake about 15 minutes at 375 degrees, cool on a rack and serve.
To make a low fat, egg free version of this recipe, substitute one mashed banana and three Tbsps applesauce for the eggs and oil. Doing this reduces the fat content from 31% to just 4%.

To make it glutenfree, use rice flour in place of the spelt.
You can use rice flour with a bit of coconut flour, say 2 cups rice and 1/2 cup coconut. Add dried cranberries if your dog enjoys them, or blueberries, or dates – but no raisins.

This recipe , like the meatloaf ideas, is a flexible treat option that can accommodate a number of special needs.
And look for my e-book next year, with many more options to explore.
Have a beautiful holiday with your beloved dogs. 🙂

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Calendula for dogs

Over the past week I have had a flood of emails asking about calendula, a wonderful and easy-to-grow herb that I utilize in many ways, for both topical and internal issues, for humans, canines, and other species.. The biggest question in my Inbox right now- is it safe? And the answer is yes, it’s a very safe herb, although any plant can theoretically cause an allergic reaction and it’s always wise to do a small skin test before applying something new, just in case. I’ve seen one reaction to calendula in 25 years, an outbreak of hives on one of my Ridgebacks after I did a finishing rinse based on calendula. But overall it’s very safe to use topically and internally, and provides a range of actions that go well beyond it’s popular application as a skin-soother/wound healer (vulnerary). Since I’ve been asked about this so much, here’s a little bit of information for you.

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Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Family:  Asteraceae

Parts used: flowers, including green calyx (using just the petals is much weaker medicine)

Actions: vulnerary,  lymphatic decongestant, antifungal, antiseptic, cholagogue, astringent,emmenagogue

Energetics: neutral to warm, mildly drying

Indications: Topically;  wounds, rashes, ulcers (internal and external) as a rinse for conjunctivitis,  as an oil to swab in inflamed ears or gums; Internally for IBD, all kinds of colitis, fungal and bacterial infection; post-infection as a lymphatic decongestant or for lingering low grade infection(excellent with dental issues) mild cholagogue especially useful with poor fat digestion and  constipation, flavonoid content supports venous and capillary integrity; useful with cancer where there is gastric distress and/or bleeding

Constituents: Saponins, flavonoids (most wellknown of these include quercetin and rutin) resin, terpenoids, taraxerol, mucilage

Calendula is  native to Europe but widely cultivated in North America, both for the beauty of the plant in a garden setting, and of course, the many medicinal uses. Calendula is one of the easiest-to-grow medicinal herbs and is so versatile in its healing properties I would have to list it on my own Top Ten herbs, if I were forced to limit myself so much!   It’s important to use the whole flower head with the green base attached, especially with internal use. High quality calendula is also widely available from Harmonic Arts in Canada, from suppliers such as Mountainrose Herbs, Starwest, Jean’s Greens and Frontier in the US. Note that it’s important to make the distinction between true calendula, which is sometimes referred to as “pot marigold”  – the familiar marigold of many gardens and window pots is an entirely different species (Tagetes). Tagetes species do have some medicinal actions, but  are not interchangeable with Calendula.

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French Marigold, Tagetes patula

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Calendula officinalis

 

Calendula tea is commonly used to help ease peptic ulcers, IBD and a whole array of canine digestive complaints. I often include calendula in protocols for dogs with leaky gut, to help heal and tonify the whole digestive tract.  Whole fresh flowers can be added to food to help maintain a healthy gut and for the rich antioxidant content. Topically, which is where it is most popularly utilized, think about use with hot spots, dermatitis of all kinds, seborrhea, yeast infections, compresses for mouth ulcers/gingivitis,  poultice or salve with mastitis; infused oil is great mixed with mullein for ear infection or as base for all purpose salve; internally , calendula is important to help support the body dealing with any lingering infection, and is a superb digestive ally, offering the soothing action inside the body that we see externally, but also helping to remove toxins and support digestion, particularly of fats, as we see in many cases of chronic constipation and IBD.

Calendula combines especially nicely with Chamomile, Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) and/or licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) for stomach inflammation; I  like it combined with  Saint John’s wort, Plantain and Rose for  topical use; pairing it with Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Marshmallow leaf and root, Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi) or  Couch grass ( Elymus repens) steers it’s action towards the bladder to help with inflammation there; for chronic infection and stagnant lymph I may pair it with Violet, Red root ( Ceanothus Americanus), Burdock or Cleaver’s, depending on the case.  When we consider the actions Calendula offers, it’s easy to see how all-purpose (polycrest is the technical term) this herb really is. It can tone and soothe inflamed tissue inside the body or out, it promotes the movement of lymph(and thus toxins) through the system, it provides antioxidants (and thus, supports general wellbeing). Juliette de Bairaclai Levy wrote that calendula is “good heart medicine and provides restorative powers to the arteries and veins” – which makes perfect sense, given the rutin content.  These are just a few ideas about working with Calendula; ongoing study, and regular use of this  sunny and generous plant will reveal myriad more ways to make use of her medicine. Note to bird-people – my African grey parrot eats a whole flower every day, in season. 🙂

Preparation: As with all herbs, the method of extraction/preparation will depend on which constituents you’re seeking to emphasize. Most of Calendula’s medicinal  and nutritive constituents extract well in water, but resin is not one of them. When you want to ensure the resinous aspects are intact, use an alcohol tincture. I have personally not found glycerin to be an ideal menstruum for calendula, when I administer this herb longterm I use water infusions, with strength of preparation and dosage according to the specific needs of the case.

Dosage: Susan Wynn and Barbara Fougeres list a dosage range for water infusion of calendula as ” 5 – 30 grams per cup of boiling water”-  a wide range! I generally go by about 2 Tbsps of loose dried herb to 8 ounces hot water. Cover your infusion with a lid  (not tightly) or tin foil, and allow to steep about 30 minutes, and then strain and cool.  I use 1/4 cup per 20 pounds body weight, and for dogs under twenty pounds, consider adding just a couple of Tbsps at a time. Dosing any herb not only depends on the weight of the animal, but whether the herb is given alone or in formula, and how serious the condition is. I like water infusion for chronic conditions and to add antioxidant support,  and use either alcohol or glycerin tinctures for acute issues. I use sunflower and olive oil primarily as a base for  my topical preparations (don’t give herbally infused oil internally) and use either the “sunny window” method, or more commonly these days, the heat-method, gently warming the herbal oil over a pot of hot water, for several days. I’m following this entry with one on basic salve making, so there’ll be more detail on the method soon. I’ve also poulticed with calendula, but it’s more likely I make a compress with dogs or cats (horses do much better with poultices!). Compresses entail  starting with a stronger infusion than I might use internally – 30 grams of dried whole flower in 8 ounces hot water, covered and left up to four hours. I rarely make infusion for internal use as strong as that.
For alcohol tincture, the  suggested range is 1/2 to 2 mls per 20 pounds, in divided doses three times daily. You might think about the high end if using alone, and the low end in formula – and don’t use alcohol tincture if a dog has reflux, ulcerative colitis, or liver disease. In those cases use glycerite or water-based infusions.

 

Contraindications/Interactions: None, but I don’t use Calendula with cats, as there is a small amount of salicylic acid in the stem. It *probably* isn’t enough to cause a problem, with occasional use, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Calendula does possess mild emmenagogue action (stimulates menses) , and so I don’t use it with pregnant animals. Herbalists writing about usage in humans often disagree about Calendula’s safety in pregnancy, but there is not much literature regarding other species. Hence, I again err on the side of caution. It may also not be wise to apply calendula salve to any wound that is not 100% clean – while it’s not as fast-acting as comfrey, calendula does speed up healing time, and there is a risk that infection could be trapped inside a wound or swelling. Ideally, we prefer to bring infection out, not close it in, so this is something to be aware of.  I don’t, however, put salve on wounds in the first place, but many do, so take note if you do this that you are not trapping bacteria under the scab.

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Calendula in my (badly overgrown) garden. <3

 

 

Holiday Recipes Part One – Turkey loaf, many ways!

Seems that everywhere I look, people are baking and starting shopping lists for holiday food – and many are asking me what’s safe to give their dogs, for  a special meal, too. Everyone knows I’m a great supporter of feeding a fresh food diet, whether raw or cooked; at the same time I always stress the importance of getting the nutrient content right. I also believe we can bend our rules a wee bit from time to time, as long as we A) don’t overdo it and b) pay attention to a  few key aspects of  feeding “extras”.  Those aspects are, simply, to be aware of the fat content of a special meal, and any food intolerances  or special needs our dogs may have. The fat issue is pretty straightforward – any significant change in the fat content of a diet can cause some loose stool and gastric distress, and nobody wants that – plus of course, dogs with pancreatitis or IBD  shouldn’t have fatty treats at all. As for ingredients, most healthy dogs can have a treat with gluten once in a while – it’s the chronic overfeeding of it that becomes a problem. Some dogs are actually better  with oatmeal, rice or barley in their diet than they are with legumes, but for other dogs, chickpeas and lentils offer health benefits and can be a useful carb source for grain-sensitive dogs. Some dogs don’t do well with either legumes or grains, even glutenfree ones – so it makes sense to look at a special recipe as something that takes those factors into consideration. One of my dogs does very well with legumes but not oatmeal; the other two are fine with oatmeal but not legumes. All three do well with sweet potato but one is sensitive to the amount I use. This probably sounds more complicated that is – so here’s what I’ve done.

To make a basic turkeyloaf – a favorite of mine throughout the year made with all kinds of ground meat – I simply combine the following and mix well:

12 ounces ground turkey, raw

3 whole large raw eggs, beaten

1/2 cup cooked weight, 164 grams) peeled, cooked and mashed sweet potato

1 cup regular oatmeal, not instant

1 Tablespoon tomato sauce (I use salt free)

1 – 2 teaspoons dried herb, I use thyme and oregano usually

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…and then all you do is beat the raw eggs, and mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Place the mixture in a baking dish(I use a standard Pyrex 9 x 5 loafpan) and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool, slice and serve.

This recipe provides 1170 calories for the whole thing, 96 grams of protein with 48.2 grams total fat and 1350 mgs phosphorus. That’s the whole thing. Sliced into 12 servings, which works well for a treat or kibble topper, you get 97.5 calories, 4 grams fat, and 113 mgs phosphorus.
I like the tomato paste to get lycopene into my guys, who don’t eat a lot of food sources regularly, and the  herbs, depending on which ones I go with provide anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory actions as well.

But mostly I  love how excited my three are when this comes out of the oven…they adore  and never tire of “Mom’s concoctions”.

So, a few variations. To make this recipe grainfree, you can substitute either 1 cup cooked quinoa, or well cooked and mashed chickpeas. Or you can use all sweet potato. To make it lower fat, you can omit the 3 eggs and use eggwhite only. Ground turkey, may come in a range of fat content, so be sure to check that too (I used 93% lean for my recipe) . All of these changes, affect the nutrient composition, but this is a recipe to use occasionally as a meal, or you can use it more regularly, as a treat or topper. Even the additions of calcium –  you could use a level teaspoon of NOW carbonate, for example, to add 1200 mgs –  and beef liver (just 2 ounces, please, pureed) will help fill in missing nutrients,but  doesn’t make this a fully balanced recipe for regular use.

It does, however, totally rock as a  special meal. At Christmas, I use 1/3 – 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and substitute 1/2 teaspoon each dried powdered ginger and cinnamon, for the thyme etc.
A very customizable and healthy meal for your fourlegged friends,  whatever Holiday you celebrate. Let me know what you tried, and how it turned out.
Oh yeah – my cats all love it too, especially without the cranberries. Don’t forget the felines!
Happy Holidays!

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Herbal Help for Canine Hot Spots

…excerpted from a Plant Healer Magazine article last fall.

Hot spots

It’s possible that hot spots are THE single most asked-about canine issue I encounter on the net, over 18 years of yahoo, AllExperts, various forums and now Facebook. Hot spots are very nasty to deal with, and the conventional approach is harsh, the natural one not always effective. For me, the lack of efficacy is related to a focus on astringency and topical healing, whereas I like to work with other herbal actions (according to the stage of the wound) and address it internally as well. I hope this approach can be useful for the many who deal with hot spots (believe me, I have been there personally as well as professionally) and offer a more comprehensive set of ideas.
First – what are “hot spots?”
The veterinary description of hot spots is an “Acute moist dermatitis” caused by a localized overgrowth of the normal bacteria found on the skin. Causes include fleabites or other insect stings, which the dog then licks and licks and creates a moist environment for bacteria to flourish…but a dog may also lick a painful area that is related to muscle or joint injury. Allergic dogs (environmental, flea, food) are most susceptible , but long haired or thick coated dogs, dogs who swim a lot, or obese dogs are also at risk. In many cases, we can find an issue with the immune system underpinning recurrent hotspots, and this needs to be addressed over time, too. To quote Peteducation.com – – hot spots are “ circular lesions, usually found on the head, over the hip and along the side of the chest. They will be moist, raw, inflamed and hairless, and can be quite painful. Animals usually lick, bite or scratch the area, and thus irritate the inflamed skin even more. In fact, hot spots are sometimes called ‘pyotraumatic dermatitis’ because the self-trauma is a major factor in the development of hot spots.” 1

 


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Hot spots are frustrating for the owner and very unpleasant for the dog, and I have some critique of both conventional veterinary management and the popular press idea of what helps. But right here I want to say, this is a condition that can make a dog’s life miserable, so if the spot is large enough – they can spread quite rapidly –  the dog is in pain, and the owner is feeling unable to cope, by all means, please go to the vet! Relief for the dog is paramount here….but let’s look at what can be tried, beyond green tea bags and (yikes!) apple cider vinegar.

Conventional veterinary approach: The standard veterinary approach here is to trim and shave the surrounding fur, apply a topical disinfectant (such as Nolvesan, or chlorhexidine diacetate) 2 and send the dog home with an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking, and a topical steroidal creme. The dog is often sedated for the procedure, and local anaesthesia may be necessary. The treatment is effective in most cases, but harsh, and will not prevent recurrence, as underlying causes are not addressed. Many vets will recommend a monthly flea preventive such as Advantage (imidacloprid and pyriproxyfen) 3  to prevent the likelihood of another spot arising from fleabites. But all of this involves harsh chemicals that many people seek to avoid, especially if the hot spots are a recurring problem. What then, are the usual holistic recommendations?

Standard natural  treatment: A quick peruse of the Internet will reveal thousands of pages devoted to natural animal care, and many will address hotspots; few I have seen, however, go much beyond the topical. Looking around for this article I saw a lot of coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and oil of oregano – all of which are popular and in some cases helpful, but more often then not, we are looking at an allopathic approach using milder but less effective treatments than the vet has to offer. I for one just shudder at the thought of putting even diluted apple cider vinegar on an open, extremely raw and painful hot spot; the application of creams, however wholesome the ingredients, don’t work for me either, until the heat has dissipated and the wound healed over somewhat. The very popular green tea bag compress does offer some vulnerary/astringent actions and can be tried up until the point where the hot spot has opened up – then it will simply sting (if less than the vinegar) and incite the dog to lick even more. Topical astringents and salves are the usual prescription for natural support,  sometimes essential oils, but I have found this approach rather limited and not often successful in healing up the sore. I would personally never apply essential oil to a hot spot.

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What I Do: For me, the first thing to evaluate is how severe the spot is and whether the dog is experiencing some mild to moderate discomfort, which is usually manageable, or in deeper pain, in which case I do encourage a vet visit at least to manage the pain and risk of spreading (some hot spots can grow to very large areas), with more systemic measures to follow. So let’s say this spot isn’t too large, raw or painful, you can first work with it topically, and this may require a little herbal sedative to calm the dog first (depends, of course, on the individual).

I keep a tincture bottle on hand with 2 parts each California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) Wood Betony  (Stachys betonica) and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and one part Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa);  I’ve found this formula works a treat to calm and steady an anxious dog – if there is still evidence of pain, you can add another one part of Corydalis ( Corydalis yanhusuo).   Give  1- 2 mls per 20 pounds body weight.   Once the dog is relaxed, have someone hold her head or gently restrain while you trim back the fur all around the area, and then flush the spot with a mild, diluted Echinacea/yarrow/goldenseal rinse. To make this rinse, I use 30 drops of each tincture in a cup of warm (room temperature) distilled water and apply with a dropper. Flush the area and trim back long hairs around the sore if indicated. Keep the dog in an E-collar to prevent licking, and just let it be, at this point. Exposure to air, and the antimicrobial action of the rinse will start the healing process from the outside in. (Note there are many other herbs that could be used, but this is what I have found most effective after treating  a whole lot of hotspots.)
Now, if the area seems too raw and painful to tolerate even dilute tincture, you can consider making a decoction of Echinacea, Licorice and Goldenseal root, and using this to flush the area.  Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) is superb here as well. (Standard veterinary protocol might suggest Betadine here, diluted in water, and this is not a terrible option by any means – but herbally we can offer more than simple disinfectant here). To make the decoction, add one teaspoon each of the Echinacea, goldenseal and licorice, to 16 ounces of water- bring to a gentle boil cover and simmer 20 minutes, then turn the heat off and allow the decoction to sit for an hour. Cool until room temperature and flush over the hot spot  – gently.

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Narrow leaf Plantain(Plantago lanceolata) makes a superb vulnerary to use on hotspots, if you happen to have the fresh plant handy!

I don’t compress hot spots when they are open, I find it is too uncomfortable for dogs – but gently flushing every hour or so is great…let the area dry out an repeat up to 4 times. You don’t want it to stay wet, just clean it well. Once you have done a few flushes, leave it to dry out, simply leave it alone and monitor. If it begins to heal over, you can apply a powder (not salve or ointment at this point) based on clay, arrowroot, with added Goldenseal, Echinacea,  Birch, Licorice, Gotu Kola,  Rose petals, Willow bark (all in powder). I have used only one of these or all of them together (according to what I have in stock) and always seen what I consider to be great results (continued healing, reduction of irritation, no need for the vet).  I put the powder in a shaker bottle and lightly sprinkle over the (dry) hot spot, don’t pack it over tightly or wet it down. Here is a sample recipe (and you can play around with anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and analgesic herbs such as the ones listed above.)
Remember only to use cultivated Goldenseal, too – while it is a superb herb for dogs and one I could not be without, it is on the at-risk list, so no wildcrafted Goldenseal, please!

 

Powder recipe

Powders are super simple to make. I combine about 1/2cup each arrowroot and clay (cosmetic grade) with  ¼ cup powdered herb/ ¼ cup contains about 4 level Tbsps of powdered herb,or 12 teaspoons,  so you could use 2 Tbsps each of Echinacea and Goldenseal as a basic recipe – or try 1 Tbsp each Goldenseal, Echinacea, Willow bark powder and Licorice root. This powder can also be used all through the coat in summer, to help keep the skin dry and infection at bay.

As the hotspot heals over, a salve can be applied too, although I prefer to leave it alone and work on the internal aspects. If you do use a salve, consider one with Calendula, Poplar or Cottonwood resin, and St.John’s wort.

It’s a good idea to address the underlying issues internally as well as topically, and start doing so right from the moment you find the hotspot, but don’t expect dietary changes and herbs to kick in right away. The idea is to strengthen the immune system (which can mean dietary changes as well as gut-healing herbs and supplements that impact directly on the immune system, such as probiotics and various fungi)  reduce inflammation in the skin, help build digestive system health and support liver function.  First, you need to ascertain what the contributing factors are, and I always start with diet.   Many home prepared recipes for dogs are not nutritionally adequate – while they provide fresher and healthier foods, the nutrient balance, unless carefully considered, is very often out of whack. Especially with home cooked diets. I routinely see low levels of VitaminD, zinc, Vitamins A and E, and more.

If you are feeding a home made cooked or raw diet and not supplementing, or relying on guesswork, it could well be time to take a deeper look at the diet. Chronic low levels of essential nutrients can wreak havoc with health, including the immune system. Conversely, a dog fed a high carb, lower quality commercial diet will be susceptible to nutritional issues as well. In any case of recurrent hotspots,  evaluate the diet as a starting point. The addition of EFAs, particularly EPA and DHA in the form of fish body oil as well as GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) in the form of borage or evening primrose oil, may be very helpful in reducing skin inflammation. I like to start with fish oils 1000 mg capsules per 20 pounds of bodyweight, making sure the capsules provide a good amount of EPA and DHA, look for 200-300 mgs of DHA per capsule.

It’s important to add supplemental Vitamin E with extra PUFAs in the diet (polyunsaturated fatty acids, which include fish oils)  but no need to megadose, which can carry  some risk of bleeding (Vitamin E is a powerful anticoagulant). I generally use 100IUs of natural Vitamin E for smaller dogs, up to 30 pounds, 200 for medium dogs between 30 and 60 pounds and 400IUs for dogs over 60 pounds, along with the fish body oil (make sure you don’t use cod liver oil, which contains very high levels of Vitamin A).

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Borage or evening primrose oil can be added at dose of   50 mgs per kg of Body Weight, but you can go as high as 400. I personally prefer to start at the lower end and build if indicated. I’ve used the high end of the range with some auto-immune disease, but stick to 50 – 100 mgs (per kg BW) with skin issues such as hotspots.

If your dog does suffer from food intolerances or environmental allergies, these will need to be addressed with a diet geared to his or her specific sensitivities. Intolerances arise quite frequently with dogs, who are so often fed a diet that consists of the same food all the time. Using novel foods, and emphasizing lower histamine recipes can help reduce the inflammatory response as well. The underlying cause may not be dietary or immune-related, but these often play a role. If pain related to orthopedic or muscular issues is at the root of the licking, this needs to be addressed as well.

Finally – in all cases of hot spots, I recommend herbs to support gut and liver health, and some lymphatic  support, if there has been infection/medication. We’re looking here at astringent/vulnerary herbs with affinity for the digestive tract, and at anti-inflammatory herbs and alteratives, all of which should be started at the first sign of the spot and continued for about 6 months, along with any other changes. If there is indication of low immune function, such as other recurrent illness/infection I include immune amphoterics as well. Selection as always should be based on the individual, including constitutional type (as these herbs may be given over time) veterinary history, any medications and how the history presents (pattern of hot spots, diet etc). Some common and very helpful choices include Burdock, Calendula, Milk thistle, Plantain, Chamomile, as well as  Astragalus, Reishi and Cordyceps (my top choices here) for immune support)  and adaptogens such as Schisandra or Milky Oats if there is a stress-factor. This may take some research or  working with a herbalist or holistic vet, to optimize diet and personalize the herbs – in my practise,  we put a stop to recurrent hot spots with this ongoing approach, and not simply managing the infections as they arise.
Formula for recurrent Hotspots ( especially for stressed out dogs)

Combine 1/3 cup organic Calendula flowers, ¼ cup organic Wood betony and 2 Tbsps organic Red clover(Trifolium pratense)  and Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale).  Next, two teaspoons each of cut and sifted organic Burdock root (Arctium lappa)  and organic Sarsparilla (Smilax aristolochiaefolia) in 16 ounces water – bring to a gentle boil, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add one Tablespoon of the  calendula mixture, mix well and cover – allow to sit up to 4 hours. Strain and dose at about ½ cup per 20 lbs Body weight, ideally divided into three servings daily, preferably in food.