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Foxtails – Here’s Why They’re Dangerous for Your Pets

Foxtail plants can be risky for your pets. The barbed seed heads of the foxtail plant can work their way into any part of your dog or cat, from the nose to between the toes and inside the ears, eyes, and mouth. They can even simply dig themselves directly into a patch of skin.  We see so many cases of Foxtail injuries – here’s what you need to know and ask your Vet.



What makes foxtails so dangerous?
The configuration of foxtails, that of little “arrows,” makes them travel forward, deeper into the body and body cavities. They do not generally back out on their own but left untreated, can get from the skin all the way into the lungs, abdomen, and middle ear, leading to very serious disease and even in some cases, death.

Can foxtails get inside the nose, ears, etc.? What kind of issues can they cause if they do (for example, ear infections, nose bleeds, eye infections)?

Often dogs will inadvertently sniff a foxtail up their nose in pursuit of another scent. Once in the nasal cavity, they usually cause severe sneezing and bleeding from the one side. Most cannot come out on their own and can continue to burrow deeper into the nasal cavity. Due to the sensitive nasal cavity, they must be removed under anesthesia, by a veterinary professional.

If caught under the third eyelid or a part of either lid, they can disappear from sight and cause severe corneal ulcers and even rupture of the eye. I had a case in which the cat had been to another veterinarian and not seen the buried foxtail. Her eye was full of pus and painful. Fortunately, we were able to remove the little bugger and save her eye. She will, however, have a permanent scar.
In the ears, foxtails can sometimes be difficult for owners to recognize. One owner noted their dog just seemed to have a minor ear infection. When I looked deep into the canal with the otoscope, there were actually TWO foxtails in the canal, one on top of the other! This golden retriever was lucky. If left untreated, the foxtail will usually rupture the eardrum, causing severe pain, a head tilt to the direction of the affected ear, and can cause damage to the nerves to the face and eyelids.

Once foxtails are inside the body, can they reach organs or cause serious issues?

As mentioned above, they can travel in tortuous, nonlinear paths anywhere. They have been known to cause life-threatening lung abscesses from entering the side of the chest.

If you suspect your dog might have a foxtail stuck in his ear or skin but you can’t see it, any particular symptoms/signs to look for that would indicate it might be there?

Shaking head, tilting head in one direction more than the other, rubbing one ear on the ground or on furniture, scratching at the affected ear.

Unless your dog is licking an area of the skin such as one between his toes, you may overlook a buried foxtail. Be thorough about checking over your whole pet after walks, and consider a “summer cut”, or at least shaving the feathers on toes and feet, during foxtail season (usually spring/summer/fall).

Can you extract a foxtail on your own, at home? How?

It is very difficult to remove a partially buried foxtail. You can easily leave a section behind which will continue to burrow and create more problems. Only very superficial foxtails that haven’t become “buried” can be grasped with your fingers (best) to remove and feel for any remaining plant.

When is it time to head to the vet? 

It is best to bring your pet if they are showing any signs of the distress mentioned above if they have a history of foxtail exposure, if they are licking between toes, sneezing in bursts, or if you feel any lumps, even if there is no drainage. I recently had a border collie in whose owner was very observant. There was a small, closed lump over the skin on her side. We anesthetized and explored, and there was a foxtail in it, on its way deep into her chest. Thank goodness this owner paid attention!

Home Remedies 101 : Part 3

For dog owners, the only sound that sums up summer more than the soothing sound of the ocean is the jingle of ID tags as their dogs shake their heads and scratch their ears. Why all the noise? Because summer often means ear infections for our canine companions.

In dogs, ear infections are often caused by environmental allergies. When the air gets warm, pollen, mold spores and other allergens begin to thrive and waft around on the currents, causing allergies to flare up. These allergies can make the skin that lines the ear canal inflamed, opening the door for secondary bacterial and fungal infections.

And if your dog loves to swim, excess water in the ear canal can create the kind of dark, moist environment where yeast and bacteria thrive. 

Many of my patients ask me how to clean their dog’s ears at home, so I thought I’d share my advice.

It is virtually impossible to totally clean your dog’s ears at home. They all have a very long vertical ear canal leading to a horizontal canal, which means you cannot reach with normal Q-Tips. Veterinarians are taught special techniques for cleaning, and they use an “otoscope” to look, visualize and detect any damage to the eardrum.

Due to the delicate nature of all of this, the only safe things at home are to use natural “holistic” cleaners or white vinegar diluted into water helps to discourage the yeast commonly found in ears. You can wipe with a cotton swab (not gauze).

Note about ears – Virtually ALL ear infections are secondary to an underlying allergy, often to a food component and/or environmental pollens. So it is important to see an integrative, natural or allergy orientated vet to get to the root cause and try to stop any cycle of ear infections.

Also it is not recommended to regularly clean healthy ears. The body produces a natural protective wax and if there’s no odor or itch or redness then we don’t want to remove this wax by unnecessary cleaning.

Reasons why pet owners should never use LONG medical Q-Tips:

  • They can break off and become a foreign body in the ear canal;
  • If owner actually reaches the eardrum they will inadvertently rupture this with the Q-Tip.

In short, any odor, abnormal discharge, redness, itching or head shaking warrants a visit to your integrative vet. There may be a foxtail or foreign body inside of the canal in any of these cases, which can permanently damage the ear, it is painful and can also cause hearing loss. Even infections allowed to wait too long can have the same (disastrous) consequences.

As an integrative vet, I believe it is CRITICAL to find the underlying CAUSE of mild to severe ear issues so we can stop the cycle of repeat infections, which can lead to irreparable damage and/or the need for MAJOR surgery.

Avoid These Common Mistakes If You’re a First Time Dog Owner

If you’ve never owned a dog before, the excitement of bringing home your new companion can be one of the most exhilarating moments of your life. Dogs are lifelong friends, perfect for anyone struggling with loneliness, heartbreak, recovery, or illness. Dogs teach us and our children to be caring and responsible. Owning a dog can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life. If you’re not prepared, however, that exhilaration can soon turn to unease and unhappiness – for both you and your new dog. If you want to get your relationship with your new dog off to the right start, avoid these common mistakes that many first-time owners make.

Failing to match dog to lifestyle

Before you even bring your new dog home you can make the biggest mistake you can possibly make – failing to match your dog to your lifestyle.

Different dogs require different levels of activity and space. A German Shepherd, for instance, requires a larger living area and much more exercise than a Bichon Frise. If you are pressed for time, live in a small apartment, or live a sedentary lifestyle, don’t bring home a dog that needs more from you than you can provide. If you have moderate to severe allergies, don’t bring home a dog that has a lengthy coat that sheds. If you are getting a dog to be a running partner, don’t get a bulldog. You see the point here – it’s vital to get a dog that matches your lifestyle.

Being too hands-off at first

You dog will need to learn early on that it’s ok to be touched, picked up, and held. Many first time owners think that the attention a puppy gives them means that they are on their way to being fully socialized. This isn’t exactly true. Owners need to be hands-on with their dogs, exposing them to practices that will teach them to be comfortable in all situations.

“The best thing you can do to prepare your dog for all of this necessary attention is to get him used to having all parts of his body handled. He should be willing to let you touch him anywhere, including his paws and more private areas,” says VetStreet.

Brush your dog’s teeth, trim their nails, give them baths, and brush their coat. Not only will this improve your dog’s overall health, but it will get them used to being touched in all sorts of ways.

Failing to establish boundaries

If you want your dog to be well-behaved, you must set rules and stick to them.

“Before you bring a new dog or puppy into the house, sit down with members of the household and decide what the dog will and will not be allowed to do. Choose where the dog will sleep, if it can be on the furniture, when it will be fed, walked, exercised and by whom. Setting the rules and making sure everyone follows them is a big key to success,” says iHeartDogs.com.

Changing the rules confuses dogs and sets them up for failure. Dogs are not human, and they can’t read you mind. They need boundaries in order to function as well-behaved and happy pets.

One main boundary involves food. Don’t feed your dog table scraps. Don’t give them human food. Not only can some food harm dogs, but teaching your dog that human food is fair game early on can lead to behavioral issues like aggression down the road.

If you do the research to find the right dog for your lifestyle, begin to bond with your dog from day one, and set strict rules that every member of the household can follow, you’ll be well on your way to owning a happy, healthy, and well-behaved dog.

Guest Blogger: Jessica Brody, Our Best Friends
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Spring Has Sprung!

CATS everywhere are yowling for attention…the females are restless and the boys are a ’fightin’. Even your spayed and neutered felines are feeling the fun in the air. I have had a few early fighters in my practice already, with small abscess repairs and a not-so-fun week of confinement with that embarrassing e-collar….

Be aware that it is far better to build a “catio,” or other large wired-in area for your kitties, so they can safely play “wildcat” without the associated risk. Along with cat-fights, the risks on the rise as it gets sunnier include coyote predators, owls, bobcats and of course, cars driven by happy teens out for spring and summer fun.

If you must let your kitty wander the ‘hood during the day, please have them in for supper (theirs) by about 5 pm, before dusk descends. If you notice your pet lying around, a little quiet, or subdued, often they have a developing abscess somewhere that just hasn’t demanded your attention yet. It’s best to really feel around for a sore spot on kitty’s body so you can detect that swelling before it gets too big or-yuck-ruptures.

Lastly, let’s talk about restless DOGS and spring. Most of you responsible pet owners have spayed and neutered dogs. But for other reasons, dogs too, want to really get out there and run and play and sniff our (finally) abundant, post-rain grass!

With all of that drive and activity, you may start to notice more knee and elbow strains in the more active pups, and joint stiffness and pronounced limping in those older “weekend warrior” canines. We have been using several amazing ALL-NATURAL products that are REVERSING JOINT DISEASE, REMOVING INFLAMMATION FROM THE JOINTS AND BONES, and doing a little general reverse aging as well. (I’m in for the human version….). Call and ask today about BIOCELL, EXCEL CAMELINA OIL, AND VETSMART HIP AND JOINT…remember, pure, clean, and 95% absorbed the minute it passes their doggy lips!

Let’s keep the SPRING in your pet’s steps this Spring!

Home Remedies 101 – Part 2

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my most valuable home remedies for pet health that can keep your dog’s tail wagging and kitty purring. These tips will help you to gauge when to call your integrative vet.

I get asked a lot about how to safely remove a ticks from your dogs.  Well let me start by saying that if your dog spends lots of time outdoors, tick checks should be part of your daily routine. Here’s how to spot a tick – and what to do if one has grabbed hold of your pet.

Start by running your fingers slowly over your dog’s entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don’t limit your search to your dog’s torso: check between his toes, under his armpits, the insides of his ears, and around his face and chin.

Ticks can be black, brown or tan and they have eight legs. They can also be tiny: some species are only as large as the head of a pin.

Don’t use your hands or fingers, as you’ll squeeze the tick contents into your dog! Use tweezers or a tick removal device. Pinch the area of skin under the tick to make a “hill”.

Grasp low at the “neck” of the tick or lower, and slowly twist and pull, allowing time for the tick to detach. You may want to apply Frontline spray or topical first to allow ticks to loosen and some even fall off.

It’s normal for a reactionary bump to remain. Just note if there is a black piece still there then this is the head of the tick. The head itself poses no real risk, as the dog’s body will naturally push it out over time.

The tick’s body has the diseases, so as long as it is removed before 24-48 hours of being on the dog-it requires that time for disease transmission. If it’s been longer than 24 hours, plan to consult your vet for tick disease testing and possibly preventative antibiotics.

Unless you can’t get to the tick, you don’t really need a vet to remove it.

I hope you found this article helpful.

Much love, light and health.

Dr. Tiffany Margolin

Dr. Tiffany Margolin posing with a dog

Home Remedies 101

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my most valuable home remedies for pet health that can keep your dog’s tail wagging and kitty purring. These tips will help you to gauge when to call your integrative vet.

Sick dogs often show a lack of appetite and energy, restlessness, panting, or inactivity. If you suspect that your pet is not feeling well, you may want to take his temperature at home to gather information about symptoms of illness. Unlike humans, dogs will not show the same signs of having an elevated temperature, such as warm skin or shivering. Therefore, it is important to learn how to take a dog’s temperature to get an idea how high his or her fever is and to possibly see a veterinarian.

Part 1 – Taking your pet’s temperature at home.

When taking your pet’s temperature at home use LOTS of water-soluble lube (like KY) and use a digital thermometer available from your local pet store.. And if you have your partner or friend close by that is a big help too.

Lubricate the thermometer.

Holding the thermometer in your dominant hand (which should be near the dog’s tail end), dip the end of the thermometer in the lubricant.

Lift the dog’s tail.

Use your non-dominant hand (eg. your left hand if you are right-handed) to grasp the base of the dog’s tail and lift it up. You should firmly but gently lift up on the dog’s tail, exposing the dog’s anus. Be careful with females to place the thermometer in the right hole (top one ☺)

Hold the thermometer parallel

To the dog’s long axis, holding the thermometer horizontal and pointing from tail to head. Keeping the thermometer in this position, touch the end of the thermometer to the anus.

Take the dog’s temperature.

If you are using a digital thermometer, you will need to push the button on the shaft of the thermometer to turn it on. Push it again to begin taking the dog’s temperature.

The display will likely flash or you will see the temperature increasing while you take the dog’s temperature.
Wait between 5 and 60 seconds, depending upon the thermometer. When you hear the thermometer beep, or if the temperature has leveled off and is remaining steady, you are finished.

Mistakes can be caused if there is poop in the area, which can make the reading lower and also not getting the thermometer in far enough can also result in a false reading.

General temperature in normal range for dogs is 99.5 – 102.5. If it’s over 103.2 you should retake and if it persists or goes up then you should see your veterinarian right away.

Low temperatures can occur in old, debilitated and critically ill animals. A 98.5 or lower is cause for concern in a normal animal.

Again always do a second reading in case it may be a “user error” and save you a trip to your vet.

** All of the above rules apply to taking your dogs temperature.

If you try and take your cat’s temperature YOU may be the one going to the hospital!

Wishing you much love, light and health,

Dr. Tiffany Margolin

Dr. Tiffany Margolin posing with a dog

Flea Misconceptions and Safe Solutions

dog who could have a flea issue



“I think my dog has fleas again, but I don’t see any….I just put the flea stuff on last week…” Carol says.

“What’s Chance doing? ” I ask.

“He’s scratching again like mad.” She explains.

Therein lies the rub, or the scratch, as the case may be. If a dog or cat is scratching, it may not be fleas or any external parasite. Most animals that actually carry an infestation of fleas (or one or two) are NOT that itchy. This is because the itchy ones are often demonstrating a flea ALLERGY, a reaction to the flea bite/saliva.

Furry dog 

Signs Your Pet May Have a Flea Allergy

Tiny molecules of flea saliva can cause the itch. If a pet is actually itchy and allergic, whether to fleas or other things such as food/pollen, then they don’t tolerate fleas living on them. Thus the itchy animal may not have fleas at all.

However, and this is what may be confusing, they still need flea control. Because the pet that is itchy usually has an ALLERGY to fleas, if flea control is not used (one that works), than a big allergic reaction can result even without many fleas around.

In addition, allergies are ADDITIVE, so if your pet has, say a pollen allergy or dust mite allergy, then it may not be active until or unless the wrong food or a flea bite ADDS to the immune system’s aggravation.

So one component of an allergy can put the pet above his “threshold” for itching. Thus it’s quite possible to control flea allergies or food allergies simply by limiting one or the other, not always both.

Now that you know fleas DO need to be controlled, what is the best way? 
I often get the question:

“What type of flea spray or powder do I use in my HOUSE?”

My client is worried about the fleas living around the house or yard.
The good news is most of a flea’s lifecycle is ON the pet. Why is that “good” news? Because if you control the fleas ON your pet, it is less and less likely as time goes by, that they will live and hatch in your environment.

Of course, there are exceptions. In California, where I live, the fleas LOVE the weather. They hang out and reproduce most of the year. If you have carpet, there are more places for eggs to land and stay.

However, if your house is wood/tile or another hard surface, controlling and killing on-board fleas will leave you flea-free and happy.

cat and dog lying next to one another 

Cats Can Cause Flea Problems for Your Dog

The other culprit that can be a “stealth” source for fleas on dogs is…your CAT. Not only do cats tend to act as flea “buses” bringing the “outdoors in”, but the fleas we find on dogs are frequently CAT flea species. Unfortunately, they find dogs just as tasty.

Speaking of cats, what if you have indoor-only cats? Do you have to be concerned about fleas? Well, it depends, if you have hard surface floors and minimal material upholstery or area rugs, then it is highly unlikely your cat will have flea problems.

If on the other hand, you move into a carpeted home WITH your cat, there may be eggs or larvae in the carpets waiting for a better deal. Enter: your cat. In this case, it is wise to use a topical or oral product for at least six months  on the carpet.

Consider using a safe product such as diatomaceous earth or boric acid powder. Sprinkle it into the carpet and vacuum it up, to desiccate remaining pests.

 Dog getting a bath using flea shampoo

Misconceptions About Flea Shampoo

One popular misconception is the use of FLEA SHAMPOOS. Flea shampoos do not have any lasting impact on killing fleas, and are bad for this reason:

They use toxins to kill the fleas on the pet but they don’t typically last more than 24 hours, so you have to use more toxins –increases total toxic load. Please don’t use “flea shampoo” unless your pet has an overwhelming infestation of fleas /ticks and MUST have that “kill” effect due to health risks.

There are also now oral products on the market that work much more safely for a quick kill effect on a heavily infested pet. They are intended for only a 24-hour effect and must be followed with a longer acting flea /flea combination preventative.

 Dr. Tiffany Margolin posing with a dog

Veterinary-Approved Flea and Tick Protection

So what DO you use? There are veterinary-recommended flea and tick products evolving every month, it seems. Some kill only fleas, some ticks, and fleas, and some include extras like internal parasites, heartworm, mites, and mosquitoes.

This article is not intended to recommend specific products, but I advice you only use a product obtained through a veterinarian.

Over the counter products (non-veterinary) either do not work well, or, far worse, some have proven fatal to a number of pets-specifically CATS –and the companies are still not being held accountable.

You’re playing Russian roulette to use some of the highly toxic compounds sold in over the counter pesticide-laden flea products.

The veterinary compounds still have some negative qualities, but the overall goals are modulation of the insect metabolism, and avoiding ill effects on your pet.

I am a holistic vet and I’m frequently queried about natural alternatives for flea and tick control.

Please DO NOT USE ESSENTIAL OILS DIRECTLY ON YOUR PET. Too many are not correctly mixed or diluted and can cause severe irritation of the skin.

In cases of cats, they can have severe reactions to ingested essential oils. I find feeding a measured amount of garlic (a small amount daily) and nutritional yeast to DOGS can prevent fleas.

This recipe was recently posted for a natural flea and tick powder that can also be used:

-1 cup Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
-1/2 cup Neem Powder
-1/2 cup Yarrow Powder
-20 Drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil–Leave out the
essential oil if using for cats.

A word about ticks, they are MUCH tougher than fleas, and they do carry some diseases that can be life-threatening.

Although we’re at a lower risk of that in California, there are still dogs who have contract tickborne diseases.

The risk occurs when the tick has been attached to the dog’s skin for over 24 hours.

To kill or repel ticks requires specific compounds, and only some of the products do this.

I personally find that these are “big guns,” only to be used if your pet picks up ticks in their own yard.

If you’re worried about ticks when out on a hike or camping with your dog, I recommend getting a tick collar that is only used at the time of the outings and checking your pet over carefully once back. This way the more toxic products don’t stay on/in your dog when they’re not needed.


Ear Mites vs. Yeast Infections

Lastly, people often mention they are concerned about their pets’ “ear mites.” In many well-homed, indoor dogs and cats, mites are a very low probability. Usually, the dark waxy material that has an odor, is a yeast infection, with its roots in food allergies.

In fact, one of the cardinal signs or “flags” of a food allergy is excess ear wax/yeast, odor, and itching.

Your veterinarian can easily distinguish yeast infection from mites. In addition, cat ear mites (the more common case) do not transmit to dogs.

Unless you place your cat’s ear wax into your ears, they won’t be interested in your ears!

In the case your cat really does have mites, there are simple topical products that result in a quick resolution.

As summer progresses into the cooler months, remember that California fleas are like California people…they are here for the weather, all year long!

In late fall/winter, you can reduce flea control measures or increase application intervals to every other month, but stopping flea control completely is unlikely.

Consider trying one of the natural remedies mentioned above if you’d like to experiment. It may be the perfect answer.

For more flea and tick solutions, please contact us by clicking here.

Holistic Approaches: Back or Leg Pain in Dogs

holistic approaches to back or leg pain in dogs

Just the other day I received a call from a VERY distressed owner.

“Doctor, Cici isn’t doing well at all and she has a leg problem. We have X-rays but she is still limping and can’t seem to get comfortable. Can you help her?”

I wondered about the X-rays. I’ve so often heard, “Oh yes, they took X-rays (properly termed radiographs) of EVERYTHING. They didn’t find anything”! 


What Are X-rays Not Picking Up?

Usually, what I find in these cases are that hips, a knee, an elbow or shoulder is the focus of  the radiographs. I cannot TELL you how many times there are NO pictures of the pet’s neck or lower spine. 

Yet, the VAST majority of pain appearing as a limp or stiffness in middle-aged or older dogs comes from the spine.

There are a great number of structures  in the region of the spine, that affect the gait or the way a pet walks. Besides the obvious “disc” (that may bulge or be calcifying), there may be inflammation of structures around the bones, muscle spasms, fibrous tissue from old injuries, or plain, simple “arthritis” of different areas of the spine. ALL of which can cause progressive or intermittent signs.

The important thing is that you can learn to recognize this and help the vet to help your pet.


Signs of Pain in the Back, Legs or Neck:

  • Shifting front leg lameness or limping that is hard to localize to one leg (front legs look for neck issues).
  • Slow to squat or push up from squatting when defecating (lesions in the region of the tailbone).
  • “Hunching” of the lower back, a curve that seems more pronounced than before (this can occur in younger dogs as well with muscle spasms of the back).
  • Spasms that look like a standing seizure in small dogs, in which they curve to one side in a “C” shape and are struggling to walk.
  • Snappiness upon petting, scratching or bumping your dog’s hips or lower back.
  • An intermittent or unexplainable yelp of pain or shaking (often neck pain).

“But doctor, he never cries or whines.” 

Think about your own knees or back. When they hurt, do you cry out? Do you whimper? Dogs are even more stoic than we are. It’s not the sharp, unbearable type of pain (except with acute neck pain) that they are usually suffering. Instead, they tend to “suffer in silence”, which only keeps us from recognizing how uncomfortable they may be.

Although it seems animals don’t “tell us where it hurts,” they actually do. We just need to learn their pain language and pay attention. If you think it’s a leg (and you have an older pet), you may want to be sure to rule out back pain with your veterinarian. 


Back Pain or Leg Pain?

So why is it so important to know whether it’s a “back or a leg?” Because the effective treatment can be radically different. 

When I got the call about Cici, I saw her, and my stomach lurched. This dog was in severe pain. And she was on pain medications appropriate for a JOINT or a LEG. But I realized she had neck pain, and her radiographs were only of the elbow and hip joints. 


Holistic Approaches to Solve Cici’s Pain

Because she was in so much pain, she could not tolerate excessive handling, so her owners decided to try acupuncture, one of our holistic approaches, for her neck and a treatment trial of corticosteroids and muscle relaxants, often the best initial way to address the immediate pain and swelling.

The next day I was hesitant to call, afraid I would hear nothing good. On the contrary, Cici had had her best night in weeks. Her owners were ecstatic, grateful and relieved, and Cici was out of pain (finally).

In reviewing her history, all I had to do was listen (she had a metal rod in her back for gosh sakes)! And to pay attention to her level of stiffness and movement. Dogs with joint pain rarely if ever, shake in pain when lying still. But neck pain is different, often sharp and severe.

I’m happy to report that Cici is feeling like herself again.  She will be under observation and receive continued acupuncture treatments to help as much as possible with her ongoing issues. She is not a candidate for surgery again, and many times these situations can get better and stay that way with the right balance of holistic approaches and western medicine.

For more information about how to tell if your pet is in pain, what to do about it, and if you’re interested in talking further about a couple holistic approaches to your dog’s pain, please call From the heart vet.

The Human-Animal Bond is Unconditional Love

human-animal bond

I was out to dinner the other night, and my dinner companion, a strong, masculine gentleman, who was wise and well-traveled said to me, “I am a better man around my dog”.

He had been speaking of the unconditional love of dogs, and how close he was to his own dog. He was also explaining that the loving behavior modeled by his dog significantly improved his own behavior.

I immediately flashed upon scene after scene of men breaking down while saying goodbye to a beloved friend, as their wives or family helped them through it. It is true love that strong human-animal bond  we’re so fortunate to be a part of.

The Message in the Human-Animal Bond

So often I am asked, “Why do dogs have to have such short lives”? My response is simple. “I believe so they can show us an entire life well lived full of joy, play and pure unconditional love, so WE have the opportunity to get the message and learn how to live more joyfully.” And I truly believe that.

human-animal bond

My friend also remarked that no human could ever be so unconditionally loving as a dog. I am not so sure about that. I would like to believe that some few individuals can and do transform their love to universal love, but it is so very hard to remain there at all times while interacting with so many others. Even so, all of this is a clear reminder and example to me of how important and how strong our need is for healing through our pets.

When life gets rough, it can be our animals that we turn to the most to help us through times when we don’t feel secure. This is just another example of the power of the human-animal bond. 

human-animal bond

One heartwarming experience I recently had was with Sammy, a sweet 16-year-old Schnauzer. Sammy lived with her 80-something year old bedridden owner, and this sweet lady was in and out of awareness over the last few years.

Sammy developed a huge tumor hanging from her underside, and everyone felt this was probably the end for her. She was losing weight, not eating well and was clearly deaf. Not feeling very hopeful, I explained I could try to remove the tumor, however, there was an obvious risk, but everyone loved Sammy and wanted me to perform the surgery.

As I left her house that day, Sammy’s owner was being rushed to the hospital, and was not expected to live much longer. Her neighbors were actually planning the takeover of Sammy’s care. On the day of surgery, we discovered large amounts of wax and dirt lodged deep in Sammy’s ear canals. I performed a deep cleaning and flush and medicated both ears. Happily, she recovered uneventfully and was reported to be doing very well the next few days.

Two weeks later, I visited Sammy to remove her staples. I almost fell over with amazement—She had HEARD me pull up, trotted to the door, and BARKED! When I entered, I noticed she had gained weight (I had completely changed her to a healthy diet) and she was PERKY!

Even more shocking, I heard a voice greet me as I entered. Turning to the left, I saw her owner sitting up, fully dressed, and bright! She looked like another person. The most wonderful part of all this was the call I received a few days later. Her owner called and was thrilled with Sammy’s progress, thanked me over and over, and said we had “performed a miracle”.

Every day I am so grateful to be able to help, and it brought tears to my eyes to see how Sammy’s recovery had given her mom a new lease on life. Truly her own personal miracle.

This story alone is a wonderful illustration of the power of human-animal bond. The way we live our lives is directly correlated with the way your pets live and feel. 

If you are noticing major health issues with your pet and you’re looking for solutions for your pet or you’re wanting advice on how to better the life of your pet, never hesitate to reach out to us, we care!

Natural Bird: creating a holistic lifestyle

natural bird

We have had so many wonderful innovative products that cross over from human holistic and herbal medicine quite easily to our furry friends (dogs and cats). But what about our feathered companions?

As many of you know, birds have very different and complex physiology compared to that of dogs and cats. They have often been referred to as “little dinosaurs,” because of their multiple air sacs, air-filled bones and extreme sensitivity to toxins of all types. Because of this, there has been hesitation and extreme caution in providing birds the herbs and supplements proven so beneficial for dogs and cats.

However, there are both supplements and modalities that are safe for your bird and should be considered when working with your vet, to provide your bird with nutrition and preventative health.


Essential Fats

While nut oils such as peanuts, cashews, pistachios and seeds of ALL TYPES are considered the “bad” type of fats for your bird, contributing in large part to fatty liver problems, your bird still needs essential fats. A safe fat that will give your natural bird  polyunsaturated fatty acids and balanced Omega-3, is from the red palm fruit (not seed).


Omnivorous Diet for the Natural Bird

The most critical part of your bird’s preventative maintenance /health is correct nutrition. Peanuts contain high amounts of mold toxins, which is now considered to be one of the big contributors to birds dying of liver disease (it’s not always just the “fat”).

All types of nuts and seeds carry this risk. No matter how “hard” it is, it is well worth it to take the time to convert your bird to an OMNIVOROUS diet. You can do this by starting with 1/3 of their “usual” food, 1/3 plain Cheerios, and 1/3 of the new organic pellet or crumble. I like Harrison’s, Roudybush and a few of the new non-seed based organic diets available. I do not recommend any other pellets out there.

protein for a natural bird diet


Make Sure your Bird Gets Enough Protein

If you are going to feed your bird whole foods, you must make sure the feed includes enough protein. Eggs whole or with a large percentage of egg white (cooked please, ideally organic), lean chicken and lean beef or fish, are all acceptable. This replaces the insect matter they would eat in the wild.


A Natural Bird Diet Consists of Vegetables

When you’re putting vegetables into your bird’s diet, make sure they are lightly steamed. Raw vegetables can be a turn-off and less digestible, although great beak work for the birds that love to tear them apart! Some great ones are Italian squash, yellow squash, broccoli and cauliflower. For the little birds such as cockatiels, budgies and even canaries/finches, you can hang a fresh sprig of cilantro or parsley EVERY DAY in place of millet. DO NOT FEED MILLET. IT IS LIKE POTATO CHIPS FOR BIRDS.

fruit to feed a natural bird


The Right Types of Fruit to Feed your Bird

If your bird is frugivorous (a fruit eater), use the higher nutrition fruits such as kiwi, papaya and mango. Avoid grapes and oranges. Apples provide excellent fiber and are best if organic. 

DO NOT EVER FEED YOUR BIRD CHEESE. Besides the fat, it can form an obstruction in the gizzard, which is life-threatening.



The Best Way to Provide Vitamin D to your Bird

Sunlight outdoors with no window/screen is the best source of Vitamin D. If not available, get a bird light (OttLite) and place it at least 18 inches from the cage turned on 8 hours/day.

Most birds are calcium deficient and that affects their CARDIOVASCULAR health. This is due to the above problems with Vitamin D, essential for the absorption of calcium. The best supplement is Calcuim Glubionate syrup, available at most pharmacies and used at a dose of 1-2 tsp. into 8 oz. of drinking water fresh daily. This can be used for life. It is only the birds taking excess vitamin D (toxic) that have any risks with this. I have never met a pet bird with Vitamin D toxicity.

natural bird


Holistic Treatments for Birds

You can also use natural treatments on your bird to decrease their future health issues. Most birds with arthritis or foot problems will not stand for acupuncture, no pun intended. But they do great with COLD LASER therapy. Ask your holistic vet about this option for birds, as there are very few medications they can take for pain. Alpha-wave machines can promote healing, calm and well-being in birds as well.

Flower remedies are excellent for birds that need calming (do not work very well with feather picking, which is a disorder often associated with liver and hormonal issues as well as nutrition and owner behaviors).

Chinese herbal formulas made in the US and in the right hands (no over the counters, please!) are excellent for healing.  Ask your holistic vet about this.

Antioxidants such as CoQ10 are excellent for heart issues. Curcumin is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Milk thistle and vitamin E, along with SAMe are in liver support supplements. An herb called Yunan Baiyaou is proving excellent to control bleeding in birds with inoperable bleeding tumors. There are prescription pharmaceutical quality preparations of all of these, and more, that can be scaled down for your natural bird.

PEA is a current cannabinoid that is a natural anti-inflammatory with no psychotropic effects. Compounding pharmacies do a great job of using palatable mixtures to help “get the supplements in” to your bird. Ask your vet for the formulation in the flavors and they can also let you know what your bird may prefer.

These are a few of the options available to help your natural bird. If they are on a great diet, get direct sunshine on a regular basis and have excellent supplements, you may never have to see a vet, except for the once a year checkup! Let’s put an end to a “crashing bird” that “seemed healthy” only a week ago. Let’s get them truly healthy NOW.

From the heart vet

If you are in the Santa Barbara area and you’re interested in getting your bird on a more holistic diet, I would love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us by clicking HERE.

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