Monthly Archives: May 2012

Neutraceuticals — Are They For Your Pet? (2012 Update)

For over 3000 years, mankind have derived medicinal treatments from plants, animals and other natural substances. Over 25% of the prescription drugs commonly used today are still derived from plants. Even drugs that are synthesized have at some point originated from plants. Herbal medications are considered more of a nutritional supplement than a medication and as such the FDA labels them as ‘nutraceuticals”. Neutraceuticals can be simply defined as non-drug oral agents that provide substances required for normal body function. The purpose of giving them is to improve health and well being. These substances have characteristics of both drugs and nutrients. Do not confuse “natural” and “herbal” with “safe” or neutraceutical. Although they are not recognized as drugs, herbal and natural remedies are used for their drug-like effect, and they can potentially cause the same side effects and reactions that prescription drugs can cause. Neutraceuticals do not treat or cure disease, but instead aid and improve certain body functions and help in the long term care of certain chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis. Today, almost 60% of Americans regularly use these supplements, and now they are becoming more and more commonly used in veterinary medicine, with great success. Pets are living longer and veterinarians wantt to help owners improve their pets “quality of life”. This is one way of doing so. An example of a neutraceutical is glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, usually mixed together. Glucosamine is derived from Shellfish and Chondroitan is from animal products. Together they rebuild the cartilage and thicken the joint fluid that cushions and protects joints. Combined with NSAIDS, dogs are now living longer pain-free lives, with improved body functions, and they are also more ambulatory with the advent of neutraceuticals. The down side is that they are not FDA controlled and as such veterinarians have to be very selective as to which manufacturer/distributor they purchase from.

Steroids and Pets

Steroids are one of the most misunderstood “drugs” in medicine. Actually, steroids are naturally occurring hormones made in the body by the adrenal glands. They are synthesized by the adrenal gland from cholesterol and are essential to sustain life. Commonly they are known as cortisone or a derivative of cortisone, and are frequently referred to corticosteroids. The administration of steroids have saved many lives and is routinely used in not only veterinary medicine but human medicine throughout the world. Steroids affect every organ in the body, especially the heart, kidneys, nervous system and digestive system. When the body does not produce enough it can cause serious disease just as if the body produces too much of this vital hormone. In veterinary medicine it is used routinely to treat many conditions safely and successfully. It is used to treat many skin conditions, allergies and inflammatory conditions. It treats inflammation and pain many times better when an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) does not. Properly used it even treats certain types of cancer, and systemic diseases like Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia and Addison?s Disease. It is life saving in cases of shock and stress as the result of injury, cold or heat stroke. Cats seem to be a little more resistant to any side effects than dogs, but the side effects, if they do occur, are short lived and minor. Increased thirst, urination and increased appetite are the more common temporary side effects. Many times a steroid is combined with an antihistamine as they work well together to treat allergies. It is extremely important to follow your veterinarian?s directions regarding dose, frequency and duration of use.

Fluid Therapy

Fluid therapy refers to the administration of fluids to a patient as a treatment of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, sugar imbalance, or as a preventative measure. This fluid can be a given either orally or by injection. The most common methods are intravenously (IV or into a vein) or subcutaneously (under the skin). Fluids can also be given directly into the abdominal cavity or into the marrow of the bone, but this is extremely rare. Fluid therapy given intravenously has long been a standard procedure in medicine, both human and veterinary. An IV is also known as a “life line” providing the means for administering medications on an emergency basis, many life saving. There are many other reasons for an IV as well. Approximately 60 % of the body is water. Over 40% of the fluids in the body are within the individual cells and the rest are within the blood vessels, lymphatics, and between the cells in the tissue. To maintain normal body functions, this fluid level must be maintained at the proper levels, as many things can affect it. Any stress such as disease, trauma, blood loss, vomiting, diarrhea, etc., can and does affect the fluid balance within the body. It is the veterinarians job to safeguard the pet in their charge, and fluid balance is an integral part of that responsibility. During minor anesthetic procedures such as teeth cleaning, there is stress involved and thus the need for a “life line”. Having direct access to the vascular system by means of an IV allows the veterinarian the ability to maintain normal hydration as well as a means to administer intravenous medication, electrolytes, and nourishment, if necessary quickly. Maintaining the proper fluid level not only treats the dehydration, in a vomiting dog for example, but actually prevents certain problems from surfacing at a later date, even in normal pets. Fluids given subcutaneously works much slower, but often it is easier when speed is not necessary. It is without question that IV fluid therapy used as a “life line” or given subcutaneously to maintain hydration, represents a standard of care that owners want for their beloved pets and what veterinarians want for their patients.

Pretty Flowers – Watchout!

The mild winter and early spring can also bring on early problems for our pets. The early blooms make pollen counts soar, allergies start earlier than usual, and pets have access to bulbs, flowers mulch and fertilizers earlier. Many of these items are toxic to our pets and the ASPCA just sent out a notice to warn us. It is best to keep all pets away from all fertilizers and mulch unless the labels state “Pet Friendly”. Specifically stay away from any shrub or flower care product that has Disulfoton as an ingredient. It is a highly toxic organophosphate insecticide. Spring bulbs are beautiful, but many are toxic. Tulips, snowdrops, crocus, hyacinth and jack-in-the-pulpit have all been reported as very toxic. Other common flowers such as gladiola, daffodil, jonquil, iris, narcissus, and lily are also considered toxic. One of the most toxic flowers is the Lilly of the Valley. It can cause intestinal bleeding, cardiac irregularities, seizures and even death. Other spring flowers that are of concern specifically for cats are the Easter lily, Japanese lily, oriental lily, tiger lily, stargazer lily and day lily. Even the pollen of these lilies can cause severe kidney disease. Even Buttercup is toxic. These bulbs and flowers listed above are the most toxic ones and not only can cause burning of the mouth, lips and gums, but can cause internal bleeding, kidney and liver disease and some also can be fatal. They are all beautiful and colorful but check their level of toxicity if you have a dog or cat that might eat them or even play in them. The pollens can be dangerous too. The following are considered to be of low toxicity and cause mild G-I upsets: Snowflake, Bleeding Heart, Mayapple and English or Spanish Bluebell. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at 888-426-4435 24 hours a day.