Answers From Experts - 05/98
This month: Homeopathy for dental tartar, and initiating a food change, safely.
What’s right for tartar?
We adopted a female 3 1/2 year old toy poodle who proved to be unproductive as a breed bitch and far too nervous to show. By the age of five years she fell heir to progressive retinal atrophy and the beginning of cataracts.
With the help of a holistic veterinarian in Tampa, we were able to hold this condition at bay for a full year, though, later, the retinal atrophy galloped away with her. Now both eyes are fully covered with cataracts, the lenses in both eyes have luxated and fallen forward, causing her discomfort which we now manage by a daily application of Neopredef into the eyes and Prednisone orally as needed, both of which I dislike but I feel I have no alternative.
But my main reason for writing is the tartar on her teeth, which she has always had, notwithstanding a change to a more raw and healthy diet. Can you shed any light on what homeopathic medicine, how much, and how administered could help our little girl, who still has terrible tartar buildup?
-Helen A. Karkeet
We turned this question over to Dr. Charles E. Loops, a veterinarian with a 100 percent homeopathic practice. Dr. Loops lives and works in Pittsboro, North Carolina, consulting with many of his clients over the telephone. He has a special interest in cancer treatment. (For contact information, see Resources.)
Treating chronic disease homeopathically is what we refer to as “constitutional prescribing.” This is the determination of the one, most similar, homeopathic remedy that matches the overall symptoms, characteristics, and mental attributes of a given individual animal. This is in marked contrast to allopathic medicine, where similar symptoms in dissimilar patients are often treated with the same remedy. Used in the traditional Western manner, the same homeopathic remedy would be administered to every patient with tartar on their teeth. That’s not how homeopathy really works, however.
Homeopaths don’t automatically prescribe “remedy A” for every case of dental tartar. Instead, we look for the remedy that best suits each individual. In your dog’s case, we would also take into consideration her nervous temperament, breeding difficulties, retinal atrophy, and all other significant medical and temperamental data, in order to choose the “correct” remedy.
When resonance occurs homeopathically, changes will occur within that individual correcting all the symptoms of imbalance which exist in that particular animal. These corrections will not come all at once, but over time. Usually the more recent problems disappear first and the older, possibly suppressed imbalances resolve later.
Excessive tartar build-up is one of those characteristics which can resolve with the correct prescribing of one dose, or several doses over time, of the correct homeopathic medicine. Determination of the correct homeopathic medicine to prescribe is what a veterinary homeopath does when he takes the case of an individual animal. You need to find a classically trained homeopath and consult with that individual either by phone or with a visit if there is one near you.
Homeopathic consultations for animals with chronic disease usually require 30 minutes to one hour on the telephone with a practitioner and cost from $75 to $150. This is very inexpensive healthcare when you consider that one consult can sometimes result in curative effects for a condition which could require years of conventional treatment and great expense over time.
All right, I’m newly convinced that I should feed my dog raw red meat for optimum health. But how do we transition a dog from a diet of dry food? My first attempt at red meat was a disaster, as I discovered on the kitchen floor the morning after I first gave my Peek-a-Poo Molly her first taste of meat. Should I introduce it slowly? Is there a particular cut that is beneficial? What should I ask/look for? Can we feed it twice a week instead of every day? Won’t this be expensive?
-Just Plain Pooped in CT
To answer this question, we turned again to veterinarian Pat Bradley, of Conway, Arkansas. A graduate of Louisiana State University, Bradley practiced conventional veterinary medicine for 10 years before opening an all-holistic practice five years ago. Bradley strongly advocates feeding dogs a diet comprised largely of raw meat.
First of all, congratulations on your decision to feed meat to your dog. I’m certain that you will be happy to see improvements in her health and even possibly her temperament with an improved diet. You’ll also be glad to hear there are a number of things you can do to make the transition to an all- or mostly meat diet easier on your dog’s digestive tract – and your kitchen floor!
When a dog (especially one who normally eats only commercially prepared dog food) eats a food she has never, or rarely, had before, diarrhea is often the result. That’s because most dogs’ guts contain only a limited amount and variety of digestive enzymes and bacteria with which to process foods. That situation can be improved in a number of ways.
I’m not sure why, but one of the most helpful things you can do is to fast your dog (liquids only) for one day immediately prior to making a dietary change. Fasting seems to prepare the gut for a change.
The next trick is to introduce new foods slowly enough to give the gut time to adjust its chemistry. A standard veterinary protocol has you start out by feeding a quarter of the new food and three-quarters of the old food for several days, feeding half and half for the next few days, three-quarters new and one-quarter old for several days, and finally, nothing but the new food. How many days “several” turns out to be should depend on your dog’s sensitivity to diet changes. Draw the process out if she exhibits signs of digestive upset.
Supplementing the intestinal flora can also be very helpful. Some veterinarians recommend giving dogs supplemental digestive enzymes, which are manufactured to replicate enzymes produced by the pancreas to help break down food. These supplements can be very useful, but not all animals tolerate them well. “Friendly” bacterial supplements, like acidophilus, can also be useful. If a dog can handle yogurt, you can add anywhere from a tablespoon to half a cup of yogurt a day, depending on the size of the dog, while you’re making the transition. The yogurt you use must contain an active yogurt culture; not all supermarket brands do. But, again, some dogs don’t like yogurt, and some are sensitive to milk products. In those cases, you can buy acidophilus culture as a dried powder in capsules.
Try a tonifier
Slippery elm can also be used as an intestinal tonifier. It is especially good for animals that are sensitive to food changes. The dried powder comes in both capsules and loose. I use it this way: Mix a tablespoon of dried powder with one cup of cold water in a small pot. It’s kind of like a corn starch and water combination; it’s difficult to stir it up well.
When it is well mixed, put it on a stove, bring it to a boil for about a minute and then let it cool down. Add about a tablespoon of honey to sweeten it. After it has cooled, you can give your dog a small amount. I use a syringe to squirt it directly into the dog’s mouth. Use about a teaspoon for a little dog, and up to a couple of tablespoons for the giant breeds. If you administer it about a half hour before the dog eats, it helps to coat the gut and help keep it from being irritable. The mixture can be kept in the refrigerator and used for several days. It will help with any kind of gut problem, whether it is diarrhea or constipation.
Types of meat
Regarding the cuts or types of meat: If you have a dog that has never been fed any type of meat or table scraps, I would suggest you start her out with a lower-fat meat. Most dogs that I have seen who have had problems with meat were actually having problems with the fat content.
While it is admittedly the easiest and most inexpensive meat to buy and feed, ground meat (hamburger) is not the best meat to feed. Every time a piece of meat is cut, it both loses some of its nutritional value, and it risks greater exposure to contaminants. It’s far better (and less expensive) to buy big chunks of meat and cut them up yourself. Many of my clients buy big pieces and freeze them, thawing each day’s portion a day in advance.
Ideally, you can find a market with a butcher, and explain what you need to him or her. Butchers can tell you what they might have that is less expensive. Be sure to mention you would prefer meat that is not too fatty, and cuts that people would be unlikely to buy, such as heart muscle, are good for your dog.
Many veterinarians recommend feeding organ (kidney, liver) meats once or twice a week, though others warn against organ meats, fearing that these meats contain a higher accumulation of toxins than most meat. My dogs LOVE organ meat, which makes me think there is probably something in it that is good for them. Still, I wouldn’t feed it more than twice a week.
Don’t forget to ask your butcher for some bones, too. Bones are an important addition to the healthy dog’s diet, both for their ability to clean and strengthen the teeth and as a natural source of calcium. There are also nutrients concentrated in bone marrow, and dogs just love it. Again, if the dog has never been given raw bones before, you have to make sure to offer them gradually. Some dogs get diarrhea if they eat too much raw bone at once; others get hard, white stools or get constipated. Limit the dog’s access to the bones at first, until the novelty wears off; the dog will get less avid for them as they get used to having access to them
Finally, feeding meat several times a week beats not feeding meat at all. I have some clients who have several large dogs, who simply couldn’t afford feeding meat to all the dogs every day. They do give the dogs meat a couple of times a week, though, and that has made all the difference in their health and attitudes.