Friday, September 23, 2016

Some Health Benefits of Living with Dogs

Courtesy of Life's Abundance and the September 2016 Newsletter:

While all dog lovers intuitively know we are happier and healthier with a dog or two (or three) in our lives, scientists around the world have been working to prove that this isn’t just a feeling but a fact. Dogs really do make us healthier!

Fewer allergies
That old wives tale that being around animals is more likely to make you sick is just that … a misconception. In fact, children raised around animals are 33% less likely to have allergies to those animals than those who are raised in a more sterile environment. Just like the “hygiene hypothesis” surmising that early exposure to germs makes us better at fighting them, being around allergens while our bodies are still growing helps the body recognize these particles as being A-OK.

Trimmer waist
Pet parents are less likely to suffer from obesity compared to the general population, particularly if you are the person in the household responsible for walking the dog. It makes sense: maybe you can talk yourself out of an early a.m. stroll, but it’s harder to justify skipping the walk when your dog is giving you those big, excited eyes!

Lower rates of eczema
Eczema, a painful and itchy skin condition, is a common plague in children and thought to have an allergic component. Children raised with dogs have demonstrably lower levels of eczema compared to the pet-less, which is great news for those of us who love dogs AND kids, and couldn’t imagine going without either!

Cancer detection
A dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more sensitive than our own. Think about that the next time your spray perfume in their presence! One of the unintended benefits of this is that many dogs seem to pick up on very subtle olfactory indicators of disease. Dogs have shown repeatable, reliable skill in finding lung, bladder, breast, colon, and ovarian cancers in people … some of whom passed more commonly accepted screening tests! If your dog shows a sudden and insatiable interest in a certain body part, don’t ignore it … your pup may be trying to save your life!

Noticing low blood sugar
More than one out of every three dogs living with diabetics can detect low blood sugar, according to researchers. With no prior training, some of these dogs have on their own alerted their owners to something being off, providing people a critical lead time in intervening before their blood sugar levels lead to serious symptoms.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Pet Loss: - A Family Guide

From the August 2016 Life's Abundance Newsletter:

As a veterinarian, a person regularly tasked with the sacred duty of helping beloved family members pass over the Rainbow Bridge, you might think that I had lots of training in vet school about how to help people during such a challenging time. To be honest, I didn’t. Almost none, in fact, which is a shame.

Oftentimes, the death of a pet is the first major loss experienced by a person, especially children. We know now that for many people, the pain and grief of losing a pet is as profound as the death of a person, yet people are often expected to carry on the next day as if nothing has happened. Openly discussing grief makes others uncomfortable, mostly because they don’t know what to say.

Because of this, we are often ill-prepared for helping people navigate the complicated maze that is grief. After working in pet hospice for several years, I have a better understanding than ever before about how profound this experience is for people, as well as how often they are pretty much left to figure things out on their own. There is much we can do as a veterinary community to better prepare families for the death of a pet, and also much that pet parents can do as well.

How To Talk to Kids

How many of us grew up with parents who said, “Oh, Fluffy ran away”? For many years this was the accepted way of dealing with a pet’s death: Denial. Not only does this deprive children of the opportunity to mourn, many kids (myself included!) felt a deep sense of betrayal when we got older and realized our parents deceived us. Although it comes from a loving place, it’s always best to be honest with our little ones.

1. Be Direct. Children do not understand euphemisms such as “put to sleep”. Children under five may not understand that death is permanent. It is normal for them to repeatedly ask when their pet is coming back, even after you have told them that a beloved companion animal has died.

2. Be Reassuring. It is natural for death to cause anxiety in children, and they may even experience nightmares. By reassuring them and being there for them, children know that they can trust in their family even during sad times.

3. Allow Them to Be Present. Depending on your own comfort level, of course, I strongly believe that children benefit from being present during the euthanasia process. I find children to be curious, accepting and often a very big comfort to their grieving parents! It is healthy for them to see how peaceful the dying process can be, rather than relying on their active imaginations to fill in scary details.

4. Allow Them To Grieve. There are so many ways children can express themselves during the grieving process: talking, drawing pictures, having a ceremony. In our house we had a Celebration of Life for our dog, complete with a poem my daughter wrote. I know of other families who hold goldfish funerals. It’s good for kids to know that memories and love do not end when the body is gone.

How to Deal With Other Pets

For a long time, I was ambivalent about whether or not other pets in the family needed to be present when a pet passed. After all, most of the times I helped with a euthanasia, it was in the veterinary clinic. All of that changed when I started going to people’s homes and experiencing the death process with the entire family.

Dogs and cats understand death. Perhaps we tell ourselves this based on intuition, but having seen it firsthand I truly believe it. I have seen feisty dogs full of energy calm down and curl up next to their dog brother or sister after they have gone; cats may wander in for just a moment and wander off, but they still take note. Either way, they seem to be able to sense the change that has taken place, some moment imperceptible to us. Just like children are confused when a pet suddenly disappears, there’s no reason to think our fur kids are any different.

How Grief Affects You

Make no mistake, the loss of a pet is a terrible thing. There is no need to minimize that sadness or try to push it aside; deep sadness reflects the depth of your love. You need to allow yourself the time to mourn the loss of your friend, the loss of what they brought to your family, and the time in your life that they signified.

1. Be gentle on yourself. If you find yourself surrounded by people who say unhelpful things like, “It was only a dog! You can get another one,” or some other inconsiderate things, find new people to talk to! Many areas offer pet loss support groups; if those are not available, you can talk to one of many pet loss support hotlines or even jump on the daily internet Pet Loss Support Chats run by the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.

2. Know That There is No Timeline. Some people grieve for months or even years. Don’t let anyone tell you it is “time” to get over your loss.

3. Read Up On Pet Loss. One of my favorite pet loss resources for pet parents is “The Loss of a Pet” by Wallace Sife. This excellent book details the process of grief, specifically with pets, and also helps readers identify when grief is such that a professional counselor might be helpful.

4. Be a Good Friend. When a friend says goodbye to a beloved pet, remember how it felt for you and offer a kind word, a good memory and a big hug. Even if they say, “I’m OK!” it is often because this is what everyone expects them to say, and a compassionate ear can mean so very much.

It may sound strange to say this, but memorializing a loved one can be a truly life affirming moment. It teaches children (and ourselves!) that what is gone is not forgotten, that death is sad but it doesn’t have to be scary, and that we can get through anything when we support each other. The lessons we learn by saying goodbye to our fur kids carries over to other losses in our life, and helps us process grief in a healthy way so that we can move to a place where we are able to remember our loved ones with peace and joy.

Dr. V

Monday, July 18, 2016

Feeding and caring for aging pets

Courtesy of the Life's Abundance July 2016 Newsletter:

Dr. Jane Bicks: Care & Feeding of Aging Dogs

A lot of folks don’t realize it, but as companion animals grow older, their nutritional needs often change. As their caretakers, we owe it to them to provide the best we can, based on their current nutritional requirements. The truth is, when it comes to senior dogs, appropriate, targeted nourishment can make a real difference in terms of longevity and long-term happiness.

The Four Stages of Canine Life

The four stages of a dog’s life are: puppyhood, adolescence, adult and senior. Keep in mind, however, that breeds age at differing rates. When it comes to determining where your dog lands on the scale, size really does matter. For instance, small breeds enter adolescence and reach full size as adults much more quickly than do large breeds. Even so, small breeds enjoy a longer period in the adult life stage. Large and giant breed dogs progress more rapidly to the senior life stage, but overall have shorter lifespans. For example, while the average miniature poodle lives 15 years, a Great Dane’s life expectancy is about nine.

Regal Great Dane

When Do Dogs Become Seniors?

There is not one specific age at which a pet becomes a senior. In general, veterinarians consider dogs ages 6-7 as having entered their senior years, with larger dogs reaching seniority more quickly than small breed dogs. In human terms, a small or medium-sized breed dog at seven years of age is the equivalent of a mid-forties human, while a large or giant breed dog is more similar to a 50- to 56-year-old.

Aging is a complex process that depends on breed, environment and lifestyle, so even within the same breed, some individuals age more quickly than others. Your companion animal’s unique state of health is more important than any date on the calendar!

Common Health Conditions in Senior Dogs

Some of the common medical conditions seen in older pets include heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and joint disease. While it’s impossible for diet alone to address all of these conditions, we do know that providing senior dogs with optimal nutrition is the best thing you can do to ensure longevity (more about that in a minute). I ask each of you to work with your veterinarian to come up with a holistic plan to address your senior dog’s individual needs.

In addition to regular veterinary checkups, pet parents should be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms, all of which warrant a visit to the vet …

• Sudden changes in appetite, either decreased or increased
• Increased thirst & urination
• Straining to urinate or defecate
• Persistent cough
• Panting, even when resting
• Vomiting
• Difficulty rising from a resting position, climbing stairs, or getting in & out of cars
• Increased incidents of indoor elimination
• Sudden changes in temperament
• Acting confused or disoriented

The Importance of Dietary Supplements

Nutritional plans for seniors really should feature dietary supplements. For instance, most senior dogs would benefit from taking a premium joint supplement. Remember, aging joints are often painful joints! And it’s not at all uncommon for coats to lose their luster later in life … not to mention, skin becoming dry and flaky. Adding a balanced skin-and-coat supplement just might make all the difference! And, of course, general wellness supplements with antioxidants and immune support could help provide what your senior dog needs for his or her golden years.

The All Life Stage Food Solution

If you have multiple dogs on different diets and you’re worried about who’s eating what, simplify meal time by feeding in different rooms, or even in crates.

For most households, a premium all life stage diet offers the perfect solution. At Life’s Abundance, we’ve worked diligently to perfect formulas that provide abundant nutrition for all breeds, at all points in their life spectrum. The truth is, puppies and senior dogs share many of the same nutritional needs. For instance, our All Life Stage Dog Food features the additional amino acids, probiotics, Vitamin E and zinc that dogs need early AND late in life. With precise portions and individualized wellness supplements, the needs of each individual dog can be met.

Now that we’ve covered canines, I’ll be delving into senior cat nutrition next month.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

dr jane
Dr. Jane

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Proper Canine Communication

Great article from Dr. Jessica Vogelsang: Canine Communication and Kid Safety, Courtesy of Life's Abundance from the June 2016 Newsletter:

The first time he came to our house, my son’s friend Joey announced he hated dogs.

Given that we have a dog - and a cute one at that, a goofy Golden who loves any and all people - this is a bit of a problem. Joey was nonetheless fearful, so I had my dog in the yard for a bit. When I asked Joey why he hates dogs, he said it was because every dog he had ever met, starting with his own min pin when he was younger, bit him.

To be fair, if every dog I met bit me I might be nervous around them as well. But it’s indicative of a much bigger problem.

Joey is not a rare case. In the United States, 900,000 people a year require medical attention due to a non-fatal dog bite; half of them are children, whose small stature and lack of inhibition make them more prone to these sorts of incidences. We all hear about the tragic cases in the news of dogs killing people who were minding their own business, and it is horrifying and heartbreaking. But it is also, thankfully, rare. The vast majority of these bites are preventable.

My fellow veterinarians like to joke that we have a harder job than MDs because our patients can’t talk, but that’s not entirely true. Dogs may not speak our language, but they sure as heck communicate. It’s just that we aren’t listening properly.

If you want a perfect example of what a distressed dog looks like, just hit up your local veterinary clinic. All those picture memes of dogs going to the vet are a perfect list of all the things dogs do to broadcast when they are feeling uncomfortable …

• Hiding behind their owners
• Shaking
• Lip licking
• Yawning
• Tail tucked
• “Half moon” of the eye showing
• Turning away from you

And take growling, for example: how many times have you seen a dog get scolded for growling? We should be rewarding them! This is them shouting, loud and clear: “I am really unhappy right now. Whatever is going on here, please stop. Don’t make me escalate things.” It’s scary when you see it, especially when a dog is growling at a young child, but it is an immediate signal for you to intervene and make the situation safe.

Some signs are more subtle than others, and can be easy to miss if you don’t know how to look for them. It is extremely rare for a dog to jump right into bite mode without giving at least one or two of these signs ahead of time. We just don’t recognize it.

Time and time again, I see people - often kids - go right up to a dog exhibiting these behaviors and start patting them and talking to them. Do you remember when women in department stores used to walk up and spray you with perfume without asking first? They stopped because too many people were snapping at them. It’s kind of like that.

I imagine most people on the Life’s Abundance site know a lot more than the average bear about doggie body language, and if you have kids they probably do as well. From the time my kiddos were toddlers, we worked (and worked and worked, because it takes time) to teach them about respecting animals’ space. In some respects, kids comfortable with the family dog are even more at risk for bites, because they are used to approaching dogs who are very comfortable with being handled and may be overly familiar with strange dogs.

So we practice, and just as importantly, we make other kids practice with us too. When my dog is showing classic relaxed body posture (wiggling, leaning into people for pets), I take this as an opportunity to show kids who may have never been taught how to approach a strange dog …

1. Use your EYES to see if the dog wants to be approached
2. Use your MOUTH to ask for permission
3. Use your HAND to hold it out and let the dog approach you
4. Only then can you pat the dog, gently, on its side … not its face!

So many times when a dog bites, the owner says, “We never saw it coming!” That doesn’t mean the signs weren’t there. I’d encourage every pet parent out there to make it part of their daily life to teach those they encounter about how to approach a dog. You just might save them some trauma down the line.

As for Joey? Over time, he began to feel empowered as he understood how to evaluate dogs and when to walk away. The last time he came over, he asked to take Brody for a walk. It doesn’t take much to keep people dog safe, just a little time and effort. Are you in?

dog body language

Photo by lili.chin / CC BY

Click to enlarge

greeting a dog

Click To Enlarge 
Photo by lili.chin / CC BY

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a graduate of the prestigious UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine with experience in both emergency and general practice. Quickly recognized as an entertaining and informative voice in the pet world, Dr. V is one of the most widely read veterinarians on the web and has become a much sought-after contributor in print, television and radio. Not only that, but Dr. V is one of a small group of veterinary and journalism experts to have earned the title of Certified Veterinary Journalist through the American Society of Veterinary Journalists. Dr. V is currently featured in the series "Animals Gone Wild" on Nat Geo Wild on Friday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pet Food Importance

Courtesy of Life's Abundance: April 2016 Newsletter:

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until nearly the 20th Century that pet food was something distinct from scraps derived from human diets. However, only in the past four decades has the emphasis on health-promotion entered the mix. Some of our readers will no doubt recall the “Gravy Train” commercials of the 70’s. Pet food certainly has changed dramatically since those days!

Back in 1999, our company was born of the true revolution in health-promoting diets for companion animals. As a holistic veterinarian formulator, I’m proud to say our nourishing formulas have made a real difference for the dogs and cats who enjoy our products every day.

As many Life’s Abundance customers have witnessed firsthand, simply feeding a dog or cat appropriate nutrition can go a long ways to promoting health. But how exactly does food alone help to protect wellness? In the following, we’ll explore four ways that nutrition packs a powerful punch!

Edible Immune Protection

One of the best ways you can protect your pet kid is by building up his or her immune system. The scientific evidence is clear … a stressed body has a lower immunity compared to a non-stressed individual. Veterinary behaviorists are just discovering sources of stress in companion animals. Many focus on domesticated cats, who have on the evolutionary scale only just recently made the switch to indoor living. Even though we don’t know all the things that cause stress, or even recognize all the symptoms of stress in pet kids, we do know that actively trying to improve their immunity with proper nutrition is worthwhile.

At Life’s Abundance, we were one of the first to add fruits and vegetables to our formulas. They naturally offer huge amounts of flavanoids, vitamin E, C and so much more. Antioxidants are just one of the many reasons doctors and dieticians say, “eat your fruits and veggies!” A 2002 study suggests that antioxidant supplementation can achieve sustained increases in circulating levels of antioxidants that exert a protective effect by a decrease in DNA damage, leading to improved immunological performance.

Our formulas feature guaranteed levels of Vitamin E and C, as well as guaranteed amounts of probiotics, important to gut health and immunity.

Dog With Apple

Healthy Joints

Joint health, which affects one’s ability to get around, is obviously important to your pet kid’s quality of life. Foods and dietary supplements that contain natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been scientifically shown to promote cartilage, joint and connective tissue health. This is done by decreasing the enzymatic activity that breaks down cartilage in canine joints. These compounds, along with other synergistic ingredients, are found in Life’s Abundance Agility Supplement.

Possibly even more important to your pet kid’s joint health is maintaining a healthy, size and breed-appropriate weight. Your first clue that your dog or cat is too heavy is when you cannot easily distinguish the ribs (and the spaces between them). Measure out proper meal proportions for your companion animal, using the recommended servings as a guideline, to help maintain an ideal weight. If your dog needs to shed excess pounds, I strongly encourage you to cut back on portions and consider switching to our Weight Loss Formula for Adult Dogs. Of course, I can’t stress enough the importance of regular exercise, which also supports joint and bone health.

Sharp Minds & Shiny Coats

For cats and dogs, skin and hair condition reflects overall health and well-being. If your cat has a matted, greasy coat, or your dog’s once shiny coat has grown dull over time, these are examples of the body sending clear messages that something is up and you should schedule an appointment with the veterinarian.

To maintain healthy skin and coat, dogs and cats need to eat the appropriate ratio of fatty acids. Dogs cannot produce omega-6 fatty acids on their own, so it’s vital that they consume sufficient amounts through diet. In fact, new research is highlighting the importance of adding omega-3 fatty acid supplements to daily intake as well, but in proper ratios with other fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for pregnant dogs and for puppies, as they are required for brain and retinal development.

Proper Digestion from Tip to Tail

Many people don’t realize, but your pet’s digestion starts with his or her teeth! Brushing your pet’s teeth at home, coupled with routine oral health check-ups at the vet, can have a phenomenally positive effect on your pet’s health. Giving your dog a daily dental treat and safe items to chew can benefit overall health and digestion.

And that’s just the beginning of a healthy digestive system. To keep things moving along the entire tract, all Life’s Abundance dry foods are formulated with prebiotic fiber, a plant-based carbohydrate that produces fatty acids. These fatty acids provide energy to the large intestine and promote overall health of the entire intestinal system.

We live in a very exciting and fortunate time. With all these advances in nutrition and veterinary medicine, our beloved pets will benefit, living longer and being healthier.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks  


Massimino S1, Kearns RJ, Loos KM, Burr J, Park JS, Chew B, Adams S, Hayek MG. Effects of age and dietary beta-carotene on immunological variables in dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2003 Nov-Dec;17(6):835-42.

Heaton PR1, Reed CF, Mann SJ, Ransley R, Stevenson J, Charlton CJ, Smith BH, Harper EJ, Rawlings JM. Role of dietary antioxidants to protect against DNA damage in adult dogs. J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1720S-4S

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Depression in Dogs

This is courtesy of Life's Abundance
March 2016 Newsletter:

Pet parents have asked me if dogs can experience depression. In almost every case, the question is prompted by troubling behavior and not just simple curiosity. Well, dogs can most certainly exhibit obvious signs of depression, such as loss of appetite or declining interest in previously enjoyed activities. And then there are symptoms not readily recognized as depressive: anxiety, fearfulness, aggression, various destructive behaviors and even hiding from people. Are these last signs indicative of depression, a complicated emotional disturbance, or do they point to something else altogether?

In humans, depression ranges from temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent clinical depression, which persists for significant periods of time. Both are marked by a depressed mood and a loss of interest and lack of pleasure.

Dogs are highly intelligent, emotional creatures. We know that they can read our facial expressions, learn complex commands, express fear and joy, and can get stressed, but can they be depressed? Behavioral scientists not only say ‘yes’, but are surprised by how prevalent depression is among canines. In fact, in a 2013 British study, scientists discovered something shocking … nearly one in four dogs in the UK was suffering from some form of depression.

Because we cannot simply ask our dogs if they’re depressed, how can we know for sure what’s going on? Well, the experts say, look to sudden changes in behavior which cannot be attributed to a medical problem. In such cases, depression offers the most logical rationale. But, on an emotional level, we also have our own sense of empathy as a guide. As pet parents, we often just intuitively know something’s up.


Canines often express signs of depression after loss of a family member, whether it’s a human or another animal. When someone close to a dog is no longer around, they can be listless, lose their appetite, be cranky, pace frantically, regress in house-training, sleep for even longer periods, and even develop destructive behaviors such as digging or chewing. Some dogs can develop anxiety-ridden behaviors, such as prolonged trembling, while others experience a significant change in personality (outgoing, becoming withdrawn and distrustful).


Some dogs can exhibit depressive behaviors if they don’t get enough exercise or attention. Even changes in routine, ranging from serious (loss of a caretaker) to the seemingly harmless (changing a pet’s bed) can result in the symptoms listed above.

Unfortunately, changes in behavior can signal an underlying medical problem. Painful conditions such as arthritis, pinched nerves, bladder infections, or gastrointestinal inflammation can elicit behavioral changes, and hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism can mimic the signs of depression in dogs. If you notice any sudden changes in your dog’s behavior, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. With a physical exam, and any necessary tests administered as warranted (such as blood work, urine testing and x-rays), your vet will be better equipped to determine potential causes and likely treatments.

Sad Shaggy Dog


If your dog seems inordinately sad or becomes listless, you do have some options for home therapy.

Be intentional about the time you spend with your dog. Be prepared to dote on your pup, (yes, even more than usual!), and shower them with attention, like you would with a newly adopted dog.

Renew your commitment to exercise with daily walks … sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for both you and your dog. Plus, you’ll be adding a little adventure to your dog’s day. By taking long but unhurried walks, you allow your dog the time and space to roam a bit and smell all the scents. Remember, they can detect a whole host of odors, building timelines and creating mental maps of previous activity in any given spot … think of it like canine storytelling.

While at home, make sure your pup has plenty of good chew toys, and engage in some training sessions to stimulate positive mental activity.

In spite of all this, if your dog is still experiencing chronic depression, your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate medication to help manage, possibly even resolve, the illness. Your vet may recommend a consult with a board-certified veterinarian behaviorist. Certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, these experts are especially good at understanding such situations and knowing which pharmaceuticals will be most effective.

Have you ever known a canine who suffered from depression? How did you know? And what, if anything, were you able to do to help alleviate the condition? We’d really like to know about your experience, so please submit your comments below. You never know … something you share might mean the world to a pet parent searching for a solution, even if it’s simply the solace of knowing others have dealt with similar issues.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks


In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding, by John Bradshaw, 2011, ISBN: 9780141046495.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dog Boarding Tips

Courtesy of Life's Abundance: February 2016 Newsletter:

Dr. Sarah gives some awesome ideas about preparing you and your dog or cat for a stay at a boarding facility.


Some tips include:
Taking a tour of the facility.
What measures do they take to ensure lowering or handling noise?
Make sure you have enough food for the entire stay.
DO NOT change foods
Are your animals up on vaccinations?
Does the facility work with a local vet?
Bring your pet's bed or  blanket from home they can smell that is familiar
Can one of your family or friend go to visit?
- Prepare a sheet with all info related to your pet and emergency numbers (more in the video)