Wednesday, July 8, 2020
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Testing the canine healthy soil hypothesis


Is healthy soil the secret ingredient to better health for dogs? Learn about the groundbreaking research being done by the Canine Healthy Soil Project.

Many veterinarians have shared with us that they still see a lack of optimal health in their canine patients, even those on balanced, species-appropriate, fresh food diets. We theorize that something is still missing: the ancestral microbes, their “old friends”, found in nutrient-rich soil and other ancestral environments. The Canine Healthy Soil Hypothesis states that exposure to healthy soil, especially as a young puppy, can help restore a dog’s ancestral microbial communities and therefore enhance his overall health.

We define healthy soil as that which is quality tested, sustainable and produced through regenerative agricultural methods. Healthy soil may be nature’s ultimate probiotic for all dogs, from young puppies to older canines. The dog’s microbiota — the community of microscopic organisms on and in his body — likely influences a tendency toward health or disease, including, but not limited to, the following conditions: allergies, obesity, diabetes, dental disease and gingivitis, dermatitis, cancer, arthritis, and cognitive decline and disease.

Is this hypothesis accurate?

We are a volunteer group of pet food professionals, veterinarians, regenerative agriculture specialists and microbiologists who want to know if the Canine Healthy Soil Hypothesis is true. Steve Brown (see below for more info) is leading the program’s start-up.

If the hypothesis is true, we can help take a major step toward understanding how to promote good health in dogs, and perhaps humans too, while raising awareness of the global benefits of healthy soil for all living beings.

“The diseases most people die of have been attributed to unhealthy lifestyles. But evidence now suggests bacteria are to blame, heralding a revolution in medicine.”1


The Canine Healthy Soil Hypothesis start-up team

  • Steve Brown is a renowned formulator of ancestral-type diets for dogs, as well as a researcher, author of two books on canine nutrition, developer of several best-selling leading edge canine dog foods and treats, and the developer of the Animal Diet Formulator™ program.
  • Dr. Natasha Lilly, DVM, is co-founder of the Royal Animal Health University and an Adjunct Professor College of Agriculture, Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo.
  • James Pendergast is a commercial pet food formulation consultant, and the veterinary sales director for a leading fresh food diet company.

Technical advisors include:

  • Dr. David C. Johnson, PhD, Soil Microbiologist/Molecular Biologist, New Mexico State, College of Engineering, Institute for Sustainable Agricultural Research
  • Dr. Tim LaSalle, PhD, Co-Founder of CSU Chico, Center for Regenerative Agriculture; Director of Outreach & Development; Adjunct Professor
  • Dr. Holly Ganz, PhD, microbial ecologist who studies how microbes and mammals interact; CEO and founder of AnimalBiome, a biotech company based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Call for volunteers

In order to test this hypothesis, we need volunteers to be part of our research and sign up their dogs for testing. The more dogs that participate, the more all of us can learn. Testing will begin in the spring of 2020. Everyone who participates will become part of the team, and if we prove the hypothesis, everyone is part of the revolution in our understanding of what makes dogs, and possibly also humans, healthy.


Defining healthy soil

Healthy soil is highly biodiverse; one gram, ¼ teaspoon, may contain 10 billion microbes, and 2,000 to 50,0002 species per gram, though some studies estimate as many as 10,000,000.3 Healthy soil is clean, not treated with herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and sustainable, preferably produced on polyculture farms through Regenerative Agriculture methods. Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that produces healthy microbe-rich soil for healthy plants, animals, humans and the environment.The canine healthy soil team will provide healthy soil for the initial set of preparatory tests (see step two under “How”). We will also provide healthy soil for the veterinarian-guided tests (step three under “How”), but our goal is to get enough participants that we can examine other more local sources of healthy soils.Adult dogs will be inoculated with healthy soil as a topper to food, with an estimated dose of ½ gram per day for a 10 lb dog. For breeders, we will test several methods of inoculating very young puppies, including the application of healthy soil to whelping areas so that litters will be born in soil, much like their ancestral relatives were.


The science

The canine ancestral environment was full of microbe-rich soil. Starting at birth, soil-based microbes colonized every canine environmental niche, externally and internally. Today, most puppies are born inside, in a radically different environment often full of harsh cleaning chemicals, antimicrobial soaps, and the accompanying indoor microbes that thrive in such environments. Many puppies may never play in soil until they get to their new homes, if then. They are not exposed to their ancestral microbes.

Why healthy soil?

Just as we find that most dogs are healthiest when they consume their ancestral diets, we think they are healthiest when they have their natural — ancestral — microbial populations. Dogs co-evolved with the trillions of microbes that are in and on their bodies. The dogs who possessed the greatest harmony between their genes and the microbes to which they were exposed were the fittest and most successful. From a Darwinian perspective, the canine genes selected for were those that fit best with the microbes in the dogs’ environment.

“Many microorganisms in the intestine seem to have developed in sync with their host animals over millions of years.”4

“Given the ongoing extinction of our ancient commensal organisms, the future of a healthy human microbiome may include restoration of our ancestral microbial ecology.”5

The asthma-protective effect of polyculture farms and the Amish dust studies

Amish dust studies and similar research using dust from organic polyculture farms show that exposure to highly biodiverse soil and dust reduce the symptoms of allergies. In the Amish dust studies, scientists bred a variety of mice that suffered from a chronic inflammatory disease akin to allergic asthma. The mice developed asthma symptoms when exposed to egg proteins. The team divided the mice into three groups: one group had egg proteins sprayed in their environment for inhalation every two or three days for a month; the second had egg proteins plus dust from organic monoculture farms; and the third group had egg proteins plus dust from Amish farms. The mice exposed to just egg protein suffered allergic responses as did the mice exposed to egg protein and organic monoculture farm dust. But the mice exposed to egg protein and Amish dust had almost no allergic responses.6 The allergy- and asthma-protective effects of dust from polyculture farms have been replicated with human infants7 and piglets.8

Most studies on mammal microbiota are conducted with humans, mice, pigs and rats; just a few have been done with dogs. Studies suggest, though, that bacteria can reasonably be expected to function similarly in the digestive tracts of different species. The results we find with dogs may eventually help humans.“The structural and functional similarity of the dog microbiome to the human one implies that, as human studies are predictive of results in dogs, dog studies may be predictive of results in humans. Thus, dog studies provide a double benefit: for dogs directly and for their potential to generalize to humans.”9

Early exposure is important: why we need to work with dog breeders

“The composition of the gut microbiota in early life is emerging as a factor in helping achieve and maintain good health in the years to come.”10

“Our findings show that a key timing of exposure to the microbiota and microbiota metabolites may actually be very early in life.”11

Again, most puppies are born indoors now, in an attempt to create sterile environments. Microbes that can withstand harsh chemicals populate the puppies; these are not their ancestral microbes. It is possible that a small inexpensive change in the way breeders raise their puppies — adding small amounts of healthy soil to whelping areas — can have a significant long-term beneficial effect on the puppies’ lives. We need your help in testing this.

Why not just give probiotics?

Probiotics do not address the high level of species diversity present in healthy soil. They also often over-represent a fewer number of species (see Canine Healthy Soil Hypothesis Corollary sidebar below).

Participate in the program


The project’s four components

STEP 1: Recruiting study participants. Pet parents and veterinarians will sign up more than 2,000 dogs to complete oral cavity testing before and after exposure to healthy soil microbiota. At least ten breeders will sign up for testing genetically-similar litters with and without early exposure to healthy soil.

STEP 2: Completing preparatory work. We will recruit sufficient sponsorship to pay for the extensive preparatory work and for testing with breeders. The preparatory work includes quality testing and approval of the healthy soil, determining dosage and frequency of exposure, and identifying marker microbes. Once we know more about our marker microbes, we can provide more information regarding the duration of the soil administration and timing of re-tests.

STEP 3: Testing the oral cavities of participants. Our testing will focus on exposure to the oral cavity for the following reasons: recent studies suggest that good health begins in the mouth; oral cavity examinations by veterinarians are routine; the eruption of puppy and adult teeth are ideal times for exposure and testing; the human oral microbiota has already been well-studied; and canine dental care can be expensive. “The worst culprits, which seem to play a role in the widest range of ailments, are the bacteria that cause gum disease. This is the most widespread disease of aging — in fact, “the most prevalent disease of mankind.”12

“Oral microbiome data suggest that a single-pathogen model cannot account for either caries or periodontitis: in these diseases, many constituents of the bacterial community are perturbed.”13

STEP 4: Doing data collection, analysis, and publishing. Our goal is to finalize analyses and publish results two years after commencing the study.


We need veterinarians and dog parents to sign up now. Individual dog testing will begin in the spring of 2020 — see sidebar for details.



2Raynaud A, Nunan N. “Spatial Ecology of Bacteria at the Microscale in Soil”.  PLOS doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0087217. January 2014.

3Roesch LFW, et al. “Pyrosequencing enumerates and contrasts soil microbial diversity”. The ISME Journal. 2007;1:283–290.

4Youngblut ND, Reischer GH, Walters W, et al. “Host diet and evolutionary history explain different aspects of gut microbiome diversity among vertebrate clades”. Nature Communications. 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10191-3.

5The ancestral and industrialized gut microbiota and implications for human health”. Nature Reviews. June 2019.

6Best described in Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn.

7“The asthma-protective effect of farms appears to be associated with rich home dust microbiota; Farm-like indoor microbiota in non-farm homes protects children from asthma development”. Nature Medicine. 2019.

8“Amish (Rural) vs. non-Amish (Urban) Infant Fecal Microbiotas Are Highly Diverse and Their Transplantation Lead to Differences in Mucosal Immune Maturation in a Humanized Germfree Piglet Model”. Frontiers in Immunology. July 2019.

9“Similarity of the dog and human gut microbiomes in gene content and response to diet”. Microbiome. 2018;6:72. microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-018-0450-3.

10Ishiguro, E, et al. Gut Microbiota, Interactive Effects on Nutrition and Health. Academic Press, 2018; p41.

11Harusato A, Viennois E, Etienne-Mesmin L, et al. “Early-Life Microbiota Exposure Restricts Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cell–Driven Colonic Tumorigenesis”. April, 2019;DOI: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-18-0444.

12New Scientist. August 7, 2019; newscientist.com/article/mg24332420-900-have-we-found-the-true-cause-of-diabetes-stroke-and-alzheimers/#ixzz5w2U72l28.

13Ishiguro, E, et al. Gut Microbiota, Interactive Effects on Nutrition and Health. Academic Press, 2018; p57.

COVID-19: Safe practice advice for veterinary clinics

Veterinarians are on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heed to this advice to safely practice in a clinic setting.

Veterinarians are on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis, keeping animals healthy and addressing emergencies when they arise. The AVMA continues to work hand in hand with the CDC, USDA, and FDA, along with other international, national, and state agencies to keep the animal health community updated with the latest news concerning safe practices.

Understand COVID-19 

Keeping your veterinary practice safe begins with understanding how this novel coronavirus works. It is key to ensure that your staff members are well-informed about the virus’s symptoms as well as the way it is transmitted. Everyone at your practice should follow CDC guidance aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. This means safe social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting communal surfaces often, and frequent handwashing.

Know what’s permitted in your region

Follow minimum standards of care for your state or region. Health departments are responsible for issuing guidance and providing clarification about which procedures should be allowed or limited.  Often, limitations are issued based on whether disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) is required, as PPE equipment is being preserved for the COVID-19 response.

comforting puppyIt’s worth noting that exam and surgical gloves may be used as usual unless a shortage exists. If gloves are limited, then non-essential services that require the use of gloves must be postponed. Check to see whether your practice may conserve disposable PPE by utilizing reusable masks and gowns.


Check for local guidance

In many cases, the following procedures are permitted:

  • Routine vaccinations and examinations
  • Emergency procedures
  • Elective / non-emergency surgeries that do not require the use of disposable PPE
  • Non-emergency surgeries that require the use of disposable PPE when an extended delay would:
    • threaten the patient’s life
    • risk metastasis
    • cause irreversible harm to the patient’s physical or mental health
    • potentiate permanent dysfunction to an organ system or extremity
    • risk rapid worsening of symptoms
  • Elective procedures and services that alleviate pain and suffering, as well as those that may have an impact on public health
  • Humane euthanasia

Focus on physical distancing

Although clients may be anxious, and although they may wish to be with their pet, physical distancing must be observed.

  • Consider limiting clinic access to staff only.
  • In some areas, exceptions may be made for end of life care, although physical distancing procedures should continue. Consider offering euthanasia outdoors when practical.
  • When clients are permitted to enter, exclude those with respiratory symptoms. Anyone with a confirmed or pending COVID-19 diagnosis should remain outside.
  • Patient transfer should occur outside at a safe distance.
  • Discussions with clients should be conducted via phone, text, or email when possible. Facetime can be helpful if you need to see the patient.
  • Use online prescription services and electronic methods of payment when possible
  • Staff should practice safe social distancing to the greatest extent possible and should wear masks when working in close proximity with one another. Follow OSHA guidelines.

Equine practitioners should follow AVMA guidance. There are suggestions in place for mobile veterinarians as well. All veterinarians should stay updated as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

Cannabis products and dogs

The veterinary market is inundated with cannabis products, but do they work? A pilot clinical trial looks at this modality’s effectiveness for canine pain relief.

The laws surrounding the use of cannabis products in veterinary medicine continue to evolve. Yet, despite ongoing legal restrictions and uncertainties, many pet owners are turning to cannabis products to help improve their pets’ quality of life.

Studies1,2 have found that the most common reasons US and Canadian dog owners choose cannabis products for their dogs are to reduce their pain, anxiety, and inflammation. When owners were asked to compare cannabis products with conventional medications, the majority reported cannabis products to be more effective (Table 1). Equally important, side effects are reported by only a minority of owners, with the most common side effects including sedation and dry mouth/excessive drinking.

Table 1

More effective than conventional meds Same as conventional meds Less effective than conventional meds
US Canadian US Canadian US Canadian
Provide pain relief 54.5% 75.0% 37.6% 18.3% 8.9% 6.7%
Reduce inflammation 48.7% 68.0% 45.1% 24.0% 6.2% 8.0%
Help relieve anxiety 53.7% 75.0% 39.3% 16.7% 6.8% 8.3%

Based on owner reports that cannabis products can help provide pain relief for dogs, a 90-day pilot clinical trial was implemented in Colorado, US to assess the impact of a full-spectrum product produced by Hemp My Pet on dogs with chronic pain3. Results were promising. Of the 32 dogs that completed the study, 30 dogs demonstrated improved pain support as measured by systematic pain palpation, mapping of pain patterns, informal gait analysis, metabolic profile, and owner interviews. Furthermore, of the 23 dogs in the study that were taking gabapentin at the time of enrollment, 10 were able to discontinue gabapentin entirely, and an additional 11 were able to have their daily gabapentin dose reduced.

Subjective impressions by the dogs’ owners supported the objective data. Owners noticed positive differences in energy, stamina, and overall well-being. As one owner explained, “He’s sassier and more energetic, less pain. We’re probably at an eighth of the Gabapentin…  and so much, much better. Very exciting.” Another owner reported, “She’s back to her little self. I’ve noticed a big difference. People that walk by (we’re out in front all the time), and say ‘Oh my gosh, she’s feeling better, she’s doing so good, what are you doing with her?’”

The demonstrated effectiveness of cannabis products on pain reduction and reports by owners suggest that cannabis can be of benefit to dogs suffering from chronic pain. Yet, due to legal restrictions, veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe, or in many cases even recommend, cannabis products. These laws understandably make many veterinarians feel uncomfortable talking about cannabis, as suggested by data in a recent study in which less than half of responding veterinarians indicated feeling comfortable talking to pet owners about cannabis4. This unfortunately leaves owners with few options from which to obtain accurate, unbiased cannabis product and company information.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most pet owners cite cannabis company websites as their primary sources for pet cannabis product information1. Yet, access to factual, unbiased information on cannabis products is critically important. For this reason, Fido Fort Collins was created to help pet owners make informed choices about cannabis companies/brands (no funds/donations from cannabis companies are accepted for the creation or maintenance of this website). Fido Fort Collins’ mission is to freely disseminate unbiased cannabis company information to pet owners to help support and promote the well-being of people and their companion animals.

In summary, increasing numbers of pet owners are looking to cannabis products to improve their pets’ quality of life. Within legal limitations, it is the hope that the scientific and veterinary communities do their part to help owners with this quest.


  1. Kogan LR, Hellyer PW, & Schoenfeld-Tacher R. (2018). Dog owners’ use and perceptions of cannabis products. JAHVMA
  2. Kogan, LR, Hellyer, PW, Silcox, S, Schoenfeld-Tacher, R. (2019). Canadian dog owners’ use and perceptions of cannabis products. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 60(7), 749-755.
  3. Kogan, LR, Hellyer, PW, Downing, R. (2020). The Use of Cannabidiol-Rich Hemp Oil Extract to Treat Canine Osteoarthritis-Related Pain: A Pilot Study. American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. 58, 1-10
  4. Kogan, LR, Schoenfeld-Tacher, R. Hellyer, PW, Rishniw, M. (2019). US veterinarians’ knowledge, experience and perception regarding the use of cannabidiol for canine medical conditions. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, section Veterinary Humanities and Social Sciences, https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2018.00338

Staffing initiative helps veterinary clinics during COVID-19


Merck Animal Health sponsors IMLocum and gives clinics access to their services free of charge until June 30th, 2020.

In response to the COVID-19 situation, Merck Animal Health has sponsored an initiative with IMLocum to give access to their services free of charge until June 30th, 2020 to clinics across Canada. IMLocum connects veterinary clinics with dedicated staff members looking for job opportunities (DVMs, RVTs, Support Staff and students) – a helpful service during these trying times.

COVID-19 has resulted in significant consequences for veterinary clinics, including staffing issues. “During the initial slowdown, some clinics were forced to lay workers off,” says founder and CEO of IMLocum, Ivana Novosel. “On the other hand, clinics like emergency and specialty centers, have experienced a surge in demand, and have had to work understaffed.” The situation is calling for staffing solutions to help clinics deal with these complexities.

This new initiative is available until June 30th, 2020, and will provide veterinary clinics free access to all the locums available in their area. Clinics are encouraged to take advantage of this offer if they are experiencing staff shortage or anticipating a need for temporary help by using “Here2Help2020” code when subscribing to a monthly subscription of choice. There is no long-term commitment and clinics can unsubscribe at any time.

While helping clinics find the staff they need on-demand, IMLocum is also hoping to help the veterinary professionals. Many professionals have been laid-off or are currently working reduced hours and are looking for opportunities to help supplement their income. IMLocum provides an easy and efficient way to match those veterinary institutions looking for skilled workers with the professionals looking for work – at no cost to veterinary professionals. A win-win solution.

OVDL teams up with local lab to test for COVID-19


The Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (OVDL) is teaming up with private Corvallis-based WVT Laboratory to increase novel COVID-19 testing.

As health centers nationwide continue to struggle with limited testing for the virus that causes COVID-19, the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (OVDL) at Oregon State University (OSU) is teaming up with the private Corvallis-based WVT Laboratory to increase novel coronavirus testing for medical providers in Oregon and beyond.

The collaboration will be able to run at least 500 tests a day, said Dr. Mark Ackermann, director of the OVDL and a professor and board-certified pathologist in OSU’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. OSU’s veterinary diagnostic lab has the instruments and technical knowledge to run RNA extractions and virus detection on COVID-19 test swabs, but is federally accredited to conduct tests with animal samples, not human samples. WVT normally processes drug tests and has the necessary accreditation, lab infrastructure and experience working with human samples, but lacks the instruments and viral extraction expertise.

Veterinary lab staff have validated and verified the testing protocols and will soon begin processing samples while training WVT staff in some of the testing process, Ackermann said. Medical providers will be able to submit requests and send in samples for COVID-19 testing in the same way they send requests for routine bloodwork, said Manny Cruz, owner of WVT Lab. And because WVT is a national lab, they can accept samples from anywhere in the country, though Cruz said he wants to prioritize local testing needs first.

The OVDL is still handling veterinary cases including rabies diagnostics, herd health, food production health and animal transport. And lab staff are still caring for animal emergencies, and are prepared to test animals for COVID-19 if necessary. The veterinary lab is also working toward getting accreditation to test human samples, as it might be useful in the future, Ackermann said.

The two labs will be able to receive samples from local medical providers, and depending on need, may be called on to run tests for medical centers outside Corvallis or Oregon.

“When (the pandemic) first happened, I thought, ‘Our medical systems here in the U.S. will handle this.’ I didn’t realize they don’t have the capacity we do on the veterinary side,” Ackermann said. “But getting this arrangement — it’s fantastic that we can help.”

For the full story, click here!

Learn more about the OVDL, and how it produced 3L of viral transport medium for a local hospital to transport test swabs to testing facilities.


Supplementation for dogs at various life stages

Supplementation is important, regardless of a dogs life stage. The NASC provides information on how to talk to your clients about proper supplementation.

When speaking to your clients about supplementation, the NASC reminds veterinarians that the conversation should focus on adding to a healthy diet — i.e., incorporating ingredients that aren’t being supported through diet. If a pet owner is using kibble, a number of supplements need to be added, regardless of the dog’s age.

  1. Joint supplement with glucosamine, hyaluronic acid (HA) and chondroitin. In the wild, when a dog devours his prey, he’ll eat the joint capsules, joint fluid and cartilage caps of the bones, which provide him with the basic components for joint health. No kibble in existence has adequate levels of joint-supporting ingredients like chondroitin, HA and glucosamine, so this supplement is number one.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids. Most shelf-stable dog foods lack the amounts needed to be optimally beneficial. Omega-3 fatty acids are expensive —think fish oil, krill and algae — and they also tend to become rancid. In fact,most of the polyunsaturated fat in a dog food’s guaranteed analysis comes from Omega-6 fatty acids, which tend to be more pro-inflammatory.This makes it necessary to add clean,healthy and fresh Omega-3 sources to a pet’s diet.
  3. Probiotics. The FDA has a zero-tolerance policy for salmonella in shelf-stable foods. In the process of eliminating pathogens, however,manufacturers are also eliminating the healthy bacteria necessary fora good gut biome. The “kill-step”,which exposes kibble to high heat, is why we generally don’t see probiotics in “complete” pet diets. So it’s crucial to add a probiotic to the dog’s diet to flood the gut with beneficial bacteria.

The aging dog

As a dog gets older, we need to supplement his diet more, especially with antioxidants. Antioxidants can be produced in our own bodies, or come from what we consume in our diets. As we age, our endogenous antioxidant levels start to decrease; if we don’t increase our antioxidant levels, our bodies are susceptible to damage from free radicals and oxidative stress.This can lead to premature aging, the progression of chronic diseases, and a hypersensitive immune system, which damages good cells as well as bad. So it’s vital we start increasing a dog’s antioxidant levels as he ages. A terrific amount of research has also been done on adding other beneficial supplements to support a dog’s aging organs; unfortunately, dogs can’t get these nutrients just from food. Include dare CoQ10 for heart health, and valine, isoleucine and leucine for an aging brain.You want to increase the lipoic acid in the dog’s diet as well — lipoic acid is converted into glutathione, the body’s most important antioxidant. These supplements will support the aging dog in both mind and body.

NASC Bottom 5

New survey highlights pets as sources of comfort

A new survey shows that pets are a source of comfort during COVID-19 self-isolation, however, there are concerns of pet infection.

A new national survey of more than 1,000 pet owners about their experiences relevant to their pet during the COVID-19 outbreak show that a majority of pet owners are finding comfort from their furry companions during these uncertain times, with many mentioning increased activity and social media and/or work conference call appearances.

Questions in the national survey from VitusVet dealt with three primary themes: interactions with pets during the pandemic, concerns about COVID-19 and pets, and veterinarian- or care-related topics. Full results can be found here.

Essential oils to treat severe feline oral and tissue trauma

This case study explores how integrating a variety of essential oils into a treatment plan for a young DSH female cat with severe oral tissue injuries.

A one-year-old DSH female cat was presented for severe injury to the mandibular bone, gingivae, and surrounding soft tissues. The trauma was caused by an embedded nylon collar; an elastic band holding two pieces of the collar together had slipped over the cat’s chin, entrapping the nylon behind her lower canine teeth. Substantial necrosis of the tissue covering the mandibular bone had occurred, exposing the bone for approximately 1” on both sides. Granulation tissue had already begun to form over the embedded collar, making surgical removal necessary To complicate the case further, deep-seated infection had set in. Copious purulent discharge was found throughout the necrotic tissue and where the collar had invaded the soft tissues of the oral cavity.

Cat sedated and ready for excision of collar/elastic band.
Cat sedated and ready for excision of collar/elastic band.

Poor prognosis

Lateral view of exposed mandibular bone and extensive swelling of chin.
Lateral view of exposed mandibular bone and extensive swelling of chin.

The prognosis was very poor to grave, due to possible osteomyelitis, sepsis and loss of soft tissue of the chin due to compromised blood supply. However, the caretaker for the cat’s elderly owner insisted we try heroic measures because the cat “was all she had to live for” Referral to a specialty center was discussed, but the family did not have the funds for this. Complications and prognosis were discussed in detail with the elderly woman’s family and her caretaker, but they still wanted to proceed with conservative treatment.

Essential oils a key part of treatment

Day 4: no more exposed mandibular bone; chin size has returned to normal.

The cat was sedated and prepped for surgery. After carefully excising the collar from the gingival and sublingual tissues, the wounds were lavaged with a highly diluted cleanser containing essential oils of cinnamon, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus and lemon. Short-acting penicillin and cefovecin (Convenia) were injected subcutaneously to control infection. Subcutaneous fluids were given to rehydrate the cat. Next, cotton applicator sticks were saturated with essential oil Blend “A” (clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary) and applied to the open wounds. Blend “B” (helichrysum, wintergreen, clove and peppermint) was placed on top of the oils in the first blend. Then, an ointment containing mink oil, beeswax, lanolin, wheat germ, carrot and rosehip oils was packed into the wounds to help seal in the essential oils. Buprenorphine was given SQ for pain control.

Dramatic recovery

  • The next morning, the cat was ingesting a soft prescription diet for post-surgical patients without difficulty, even though she had not been able to eat or drink for days.
  • Three days of treatment with once-daily injections of penicillin and essential oils applied topically resulted in dramatic tissue regeneration and restoration of soft tissue.
  • On the fourth day, the cat was discharged without any take-home medications, since the caretaker and elderly owner could not treat her.
    Day 4: ventral view of healthy granulation tissue; no sign of infection
    Day 4: ventral view of healthy granulation tissue; no sign of infection.
  • At her two-week checkup, the cat was doing remarkably well. There were no signs of infection or tissue sloughing, and she continued to heal completely.

Therapeutic grade, pure essential oils can be successfully and safely used in cats, providing certain usage guidelines are followed. In this case, the oils were not diluted at the beginning, then dilution was performed at a ratio of one drop EO to three drops carrier oil. The severity of the wounds and resulting infection necessitated aggressive therapy. In the author’s opinion, tissue regeneration and infection control were greatly enhanced by the use of essential oils. Healthy new tissue covered the mandibular bone in just four days, and the grossly swollen chin tissue returned to normal in the same time frame.

Morris Animal Foundation announces funding for large animal research


The Morris Animal Foundation has just announced a call for grant proposals, focusing the funding on large animal research.

Morris Animal Foundation is now accepting proposals for grants focused on large animal (horses, llamas and alpacas) health research. Grant applications are due by Wednesday, July 8, 2020, 4:59 p.m. EST., and funding will be in the 2021 fiscal year.

The Foundation is one of the largest nonprofit organizations worldwide that funds hhealth studies benefiting cats, dogs, horses, llamas, alpacas and wildlife. The Foundation currently is funding 150 studies encompassing a broad spectrum of species and diseases.

Each year, the Foundation opens four separate calls for its major funding areas – feline, canine, large animal and wildlife/exotics. To be considered for funding, applications are reviewed and rated based on impact and scientific rigor by the Foundation’s scientific advisory boards, made up of leaders in the scientific community.

Grant types awarded by the Foundation include Established InvestigatorFirst AwardFellowship Training and Pilot Study. The Foundation’s funding structure has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Interested researchers should refer to each category’s guidelines for more detailed information on budgets.

Interested researchers can apply for these grants and find more information here.

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded by a veterinarian in 1948, we fund and conduct critical health studies for the benefit of all animals. Learn more at morrisanimalfoundation.org.


Communication: the key to implementing massage therapy treatment

How communication between veterinarians and a canine (and feline) massage therapist (CCMT or CFMT) can ensure a safe treatment plan for your clients.

Massage therapy can be a valuable addition to a clinic’s treatment options. Whether a client or their veterinarian initiate the idea of supportive massage therapy, the benefits for the patient and the potential for successful treatment will increase with good communication on behalf of the veterinarian and certified canine (and feline) massage therapist (CCMT or CFMT).

Appropriate processes when working with a CCMT or CFMT

Vets may come across reasons for their clients to consult a CCMT or CFMT and should keep them in mind for referrals. Veterinarians are all familiar with the need to forward the relevant medical history of a patients’ condition to a referral specialist/practitioner. This communication is just as important when referring a client to a CCMT or CFMT. Ideally, with the clients’ approval, the pertinent medical history and any treatment restrictions should be forwarded to the therapist. This will help reduce potential problems or misunderstandings that could negatively impact the patient or slow achievement of the desired outcome.

A CCMT or CFMT will likely become aware of some contraindications through their interview and intake history notes, however clients may not remember or think to disclose particular conditions. Getting permission from the client to contact the animals’ veterinarian can be crucial for a successful outcome in some cases.

Contraindications and caveats

There are a number of contraindications and caveats that a veterinarian should inform a massage therapist about before starting treatment. If a CCMT or CFMT does not know these contraindications beforehand, it can pose risk to the patient and prevent proper treatment. Contraindications and caveats include:

Acute pain and/or inflammation – Injury resulting in severe pain, heat, and/or inflammation should be examined by a vet first. Massage can only begin after the area of pain, heat, and/or inflammation has been resolved.

Cancer – Light massage, especially acupressure, can be used safely for the palliative process, otherwise massage will increase lymphatic flow, increasing the potential for cancer cell metastasis.

Circulation problems – Massage in the case of edema is safe in short, frequent sessions. As for hematoma, massage could be dangerous, as it may cause small blood clots to break away and migrate to the heart, lungs, or brain.

Dermatological conditions – Mange, hot spots, septic foci, or ringworm can be severely aggravated by massage, so the therapist must be sure the patient is receiving veterinary care, and massage may only be done in non-affected sites.

Infectious or contagious disease – Do not massage in the case of these types of diseases, including Kennel Cough, Distemper, Infectious Enteritis, or any viral or bacterial related illness. The possibility for contamination of equipment, including hands and clothing, is too great, and spreading such an infection is too easy. In the case of fever (when the body temperature exceeds 38.5 C +/- 1 degree), massage may work against the immune system and the body’s ability to regulate temperature, and the infection could also spread deeper into the body.

Post-surgery – Hemorrhaging could result in areas not fully healed, therefore massage may only commence two weeks after surgery, or once the sutures have been removed, and only in areas that are remote from the surgical site. The surgical site will not be massaged for at least another six weeks after this.

Pregnancy – Neck, arm and leg massage is okay, but massage cannot be done over the abdomen or low back where the fetuses could be disturbed and labor triggered prematurely.

These are just some of the potential contraindications, and there are details on more including after meals, diabetes, epilepsy and heart conditions.


Keeping each other in mind and sharing our experiences with our patients as we go along is always helpful, especially as the pet’s healthcare needs change. For the most part, information will be communicated back and forth through the clients and it will be important to encourage them to share certain information between the therapist and veterinarian as is required.

It is crucial to establish good communication right from the start, prior to the animal’s first massage appointment to ensure lines of communication flow smoothly between vet and therapist from that point on throughout the animal’s life.