DEAR DR. FOX: I’m on my sixth and seventh rescued German Shepherd dogs (GSD). It is clear they are highly intelligent and can be trained to a point that they respond to actual conversational instructions.
The downside is their relative short lifespan: 10 to 12 years. Even with a carefully controlled diet, they can end up with mobility problems and cancer. The benefit of adopting an older GSD is that you can somewhat evaluate the dog to reduce the chance of having to deal with hip dysplasia. But just like humans in their 60s, an 8-year-old GSD may show indications of pain during or after exercise.
Over the years, I have tried alternative medical approaches with my companion GSDs. For example: My 5-year-old male was highly driven to exercise. After a couple of hours in the dog park one day, he developed minor incontinence. He would have a wet spot on his bed or leak as he pushed himself up from the hardwood floor. Regular vet examination, analysis and medication for the incontinence quickly ran up a $900 bill. The medication did nothing to remedy the problem.
I then took him to a holistic vet, who prescribed two Chinese herbs: Cuscuta 15 and Restorative tablets. The incontinence symptoms were gone within 24 hours, and have since been easily controlled with the herbs. This vet reacted positively to hearing I had added blueberries, chopped spinach and other fresh produce to my dog’s meals. He talked about the benefits of the micronutrients in the fruit and vegetables.
My 7-year-old male GSD was developing joint pain, so I tried regular use of Cosequin DS. I was not seeing any improvements so I sought another solution. I had seen information on humans using turmeric to control inflammation, so I followed the recipe I found: Chop up kale and saute it with a light spray of olive oil, then shake a teaspoon of turmeric and a little black pepper over it. After mixing well, spread it on a cookie sheet and bake it at 270 degrees F for about 40 minutes, turning it a couple of times, until it is fully dried.
When preparing my dog’s twice-daily meal of high-quality, grain-free kibble, I mix a quarter-cup of the dried kale mixture with the kibble and soak it with a half-cup of warm water. I have observed a marked reduction in him showing joint pain symptoms.
I recently read about calls for formal scientific studies to evaluate the benefits, if any, of turmeric on humans. I can testify that my GSD is not experiencing the placebo effect, because he doesn’t know that I’m giving it to him, or why. -- T.W., Alexandria, Virginia
DEAR T.W.: Your letter should be noted by all, as it gives affirmation of effective treatments prescribed by a veterinarian practicing alternative and integrative holistic medicine.
As more clinical studies and conferences bring together more such evidence -- especially of the benefits of herbal treatments for various conditions -- more organized veterinary (and human) medicine in the U.S. and abroad will have to take note and reconsider its close financial ties with the big drug companies. Those same companies see such advances as competition to be squashed.
There is considerable literature on the benefits of turmeric for a variety of human ailments, and the same benefits may well be seen in dogs and other animals. The anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties are widely recognized, and in my opinion, there could be synergy when an equal amount of ginger is provided. I would recommend twice-daily doses of 250 mg of turmeric and of ginger (both in powder form), given with food, for a 25-pound dog, along with a few drops of anti-inflammatory fish oil. (Do not use krill oil, since the krill harvesting deprives whales and other marine life of a vital food source.)
I would not cook the turmeric since it is possible that high heat may denature beneficial components.
Yes, GSDs are wonderful dogs, much burdened by hereditary diseases arising from idiotic American breed standards, and all too often they seem far more aware and sensitive than their owners/handlers. Having worked with them in the military Bio Sensor/Superdog project to improve their in-combat performance and stress tolerance during the Vietnam war, I can attest to their many virtues. Their abiding loyalty is rarely seen in our own kind.
MORE ON BRAVECTO
The British government authority that approves drugs for veterinary use in the U.K. has advised that Bravecto chewable tablets of all sizes must have a label that warns: “Use with caution in dogs with pre-existing epilepsy.”
The warning posted in the U.S., from the manufacturer Merck & Co., Inc., does not yet include this. It currently reads: “The most frequently reported adverse reactions include vomiting or diarrhea. Other side effects that may be seen include decreased appetite, lethargy, increased thirst, and flatulence. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any of the above side effects. Bravecto is for use only in dogs.”
Another section of the warning states: “Bravecto has not been shown to be effective for 12 weeks’ duration in puppies less than 6 months of age. Bravecto is not effective against lone star ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing.”
According to Parasitipedia.net, Fluralaner (the active ingredient of Bravecto) binds to chloride channels in parasites’ nerve and muscle cells, which blocks the transmission of nerve signals. Affected parasites are paralyzed and die. Mammals and other vertebrates use this same nerve- and muscle-receptor system; however, Fluralaner binds much more readily to the receptors of invertebrates than to those of vertebrates. For this reason, it is significantly less toxic to mammals than to insects and other pests.
But “less toxic” is quite different from “not toxic.” Long-term toxicity has not been evaluated, especially chronic neurological and carcinogenic effects. It’s time to stop this foolishness and help bring back the insects to our communities. We must stop using pesticides in and around our homes and communities, and putting these poisons on our pets and into our food (via petrochemical-based agriculture). It is probable that Bravecto in dogs’ feces and urine continues to be active, making treated dogs insect killers with potentially serious adverse environmental consequences.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)