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A new business model for integrative veterinary practice – focusing on education

This new model of integrative veterinary practice combines treating patients with providing a wealth of education to clients.

Many integrative and holistic veterinary practitioners share similar frustrations. Even though we provide as much education and explanation as we can for the reasons behind holistic and proactive care, clients still often look for a quick fix. Many come to us with limited funds, having already spent hundreds on diagnostics and failed treatments. Even clients with young animals wait until an obvious illness occurs rather than following our guidelines for building health and preventing problems. The more I learned about true healing and what it really takes to achieve it, the more frustrated I became with what I offered my clients and what they were willing to do. I felt as if I was working with both hands tied behind my back, unable to help my animal patients the way I’d be able to if their guardians would only let me. Attempting to educate clients during the short time they spent in my office yielded limited results, because despite my efforts to emphasize prevention, I often wouldn’t see them again until something else went wrong with their pets. One experience gave me a new perspective on running my practice. I had been talking repeatedly to one of my clients about the importance of proper dental work for her horse, but on some level she still didn’t understand how crucial it was to work with an equine dentist who knew how to balance teeth properly. It wasn’t until she heard me speak at a lecture that addressed teeth, the TMJ and hyoid apparatus that the coin finally dropped. That’s when I realized clients don’t hear half of what I explain to them when their animals are present. Maybe they are worried, the material is too new to them, or they’re too emotional, so the knowledge doesn’t stick? In addition, I kept meeting animals in their eleventh hour when their people were distraught and financially drained. These frustrations didn’t really change when I opened my own practice, because now I also had to face my lack of business skills. In search of better ways to practice, I asked myself: “What if I could train people so their animals stayed healthy until they die of old age, just like my grandparents did?” Luckily, that’s when I came across an opportunity to learn about an entirely different business model that has changed the way I work. My new model of integrative veterinary practice combines treating my patients with educating my clients. I still mostly see patients in desperate need of healing, with the occasional holistically-minded client who already cares for his/her animals in proactive ways. The difference is that I now train clients in the art of health and prevention. This benefits their sick pets while building health for any other animals they have or will share their life with in the future. The format of my treatment and teaching practice has five distinct parts:
  1. Pre-education
  2. Initial consultation
  3. Treating and teaching
  4. Graduation
  5. Membership

1. Pre-education

When potential clients call my office, I briefly explain that I work differently than most veterinarians. Currently, I have no staff. I ask them to watch a video lecture or invite them to one of my in-person talks so they better understand what I do and why I do it. During this pre-education, I take them step by step from the “quick fix” belief to knowing what it will really take to truly turn their animals’ health around. By the end, they know the true meaning of symptoms and that to restore their animals’ health they need to address the root cause of problems. I explain some basic physiologic needs to point out that everything is connected and that the body needs to be taken care of as a whole. I also go through the six pillars of health with them: nutrition, GI tract, detox, hormones, nervous system and fitness and exercise. This helps them recognize that if they address all these aspects of healing together, they will get much better and faster improvement than if they only work with one body part at a time. This approach was key to my own personal healing from auto-immune disease. This pre-education process prepares potential clients for understanding the need to invest time and money into their animals’ healing and future health-building. Pre-education also helps me weed out people who are looking for something else, and saves me time during consultations. At the end of a live talk, potential clients get the option to sign up for an initial consultation. Those who watch the video at home are usually already scheduled for an appointment.

2. Initial consultation

In preparation for our first consultation, I email the client a questionnaire to send back to me along with veterinary records and lab results. This allows me to prepare for the consultation with a plan of action for his or her animal. The purpose of this first meeting is to go over the questionnaire, explain the treatment plan I envision for the patient, and talk about the program I recommend for the animal depending on age and level of health. In a way, it is a bit like an interview for both parties. The investment for the program is explained. If the client decides this is the path she wants to take, we get started with lab work. The physical exam is usually done once the lab results are in and we meet again. I offer three different programs, each of which includes an education component.
  • “Jump Start to a Healthy Life” is for puppies, kittens and foals. Depending on how old the animal is, the duration of this program can be as long as 12 to 15 months. Initially, the animal gets a little more attention just to get him or her on a good diet, detox some of the vaccines he might have received, and assure that his nervous system is innervating all parts of the body properly so he can grow up with good alignment and decreased risk of injury. Follow-up visits take place about every other month depending on need. This program allows me to help prevent over-vaccination and the application of other toxic substances, and to be sure the client is continuing to take steps to maximize his/her animal’s health.
  • The “Optimizing Health” program is for adult animals with no health issues and a guardian who wants to prevent illness from arising down the road. The duration is 16 weeks and includes approximately four visits, during which I walk the client through nutrition, GI health, detox and the rest of the six pillars, all individualized for his/her animal.
  • The “Wellness Program” is for animals with more significant health issues. Its duration is six months and includes more visits, treatments and supplements.

3. Treating and teaching

The goal here is to restore and maximize a patient’s health while the client goes through an educational series of classes. By the time he/she graduates from this program, he/she understands what is required to create and maintain health.
  • The treatment part always starts out with a physical exam and a review of lab results. The client receives a binder containing important information, as well as the initial supplements included in his/her program fee. Optimizing nutrition and healing the gastrointestinal system is the first step for all programs. Once a good degree of stability is achieved, most patients go through a detox program. From the first visit, to support bodily healing, patients receive a variety of treatments such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, microbiome restorative therapy, NAET treatments, ozone therapy, and hormonal support.
In the first half of the program, I see patients approximately every two weeks, more often if necessary. After that, the consults usually spread out to every three to four weeks.
  • The education part is key to my success. While patients are receiving treatment, their guardians go through a series of eight classes. The sessions take place at a local juicery every other week in the evenings for about one to one-and-a-half hours. These classes also introduce people to some healthy support for themselves. Alternately, clients can also choose the online option and watch the classes in the comfort of their own homes. This series of videos is also available to other holistic veterinarians to incorporate into their own practices.
The classes include:
  • Nutrition Basics
  • Nutrition Application
  • GI Health
  • Detox
  • Nervous System
  • Hormones
  • Heartworm
  • Vaccines
  • Fitness/Exercise with an outside trainer specializing in balance and correct muscle development to enhance performance and avoid injuries

4. Graduation and membership

Once they complete the program, most people will continue on for maintenance or further healing if necessary. At that point, I offer three membership options including four to 12 visits per year and different discount levels for labs and supplements, depending on the plan they choose.

Cost/investment

All my program costs are bundled. This allows me to offer outside financing and also takes money off the table to focus on healing rather than the cost of supplements, etc. As a result, I can give patients what I deem most helpful without their guardians having to worry about expenses every time I see them. The investment can range anywhere from ,500 to ,000+ depending on the size of the animal and the duration of the program. Three payment options are available:
  1. One time investment at initial visit; clients receive an extra 5% off.
  2. Three monthly payments with the first due at the time of initial visit.
  3. Outside financing for up to 60 months.
This fee covers the following:
  • Individualized program design, including any research I need to do
  • Initial lab work
  • Supplements and neutraceuticals
  • All treatments and consults
  • One-on-one mentoring and support outside of appointments
  • Educational materials
  • Eight classes
Additional lab work necessary to re-check progress is charged extra. Supplements usually last at least three months. There might be extra cost depending on what the animal needs. To offset any interest clients might incur from outside financing, I deduct 10% from the total program investment for everyone.

Challenges and wins

Of course difficulties are never lacking. This method of practicing comes with its own set of challenges, depending mostly on the practitioner’s strengths and weaknesses. For me, marketing and getting people to sign up for the program is the most challenging part. I’ve had to make many adjustments to find a way that suits me best. On the bright side, it has pushed me to learn about many business-related considerations I had no clue about. As with any patient’s care, I have to be very creative and flexible and find ways to think outside the box. It is an ongoing process, for sure, and as they say: “no pain, no gain”. When I first switched over to this approach, I was only offering the programs. Realizing that I was turning away too many patients who either couldn’t afford the whole package, or still needed a little more time to get on board, I now recommend the program as a starting point of the financial discussion, and then work with people at the level they’re comfortable with. All in all, it is exciting to try on a new business model. I’ve been much happier with the results I see in my patients, and feel more fulfilled practicing this way, because I can give everything I have. It’s heartwarming to see how my clients change as they learn. Many have even applied the education they receive to their own health. In addition, getting paid for all the hours I spend researching and teaching is certainly nice!
 
Recovering canine health: saving indigenous dogs

Genetic abnormalities caused by extreme dog breeding are on the rise, while natural indigenous dogs with robust health are in danger of extinction. 

The burden of genetic abnormalities in Canis familiaris, the first animal species that humans domesticated, has reached a critical state. Selective breeding for extreme abnormal traits, along with subsequent inbreeding, are to blame. “An associated cost of selection for specific traits in breed dogs is an enhanced likelihood of (inherited) disease,” states a study published in December of 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. UCLA geneticist Clare Marsden and her colleagues examined the genomes of 46 dogs from 34 distinct breeds, and compared them with the genomes of 19 wolves, 25 village dogs and one golden jackal (a more distant relative of wolves and dogs). They found that, compared to wolves, breed dogs had 22% more cases of genes that had not one, but two, copies of a harmful mutation, because it was inherited from both parents. Compared with wolves, breed dogs averaged around 115 more mutations that posed some risk to their well-being. The researchers concluded that their results “highlight the costs associated with selective breeding, and question the practice [of] favoring the breeding of individuals that best fit breed standards…. Considering that many modern breeds have been selected for unusual appearance and size, which reflects fashion more than function, our results raise ethical concerns about the creation of fancy breeds.” The growing popularity of “designer dogs”, cross-breeds of two or more pure breeds, is in part generated by consumer demand for certain traits such as non-shedding and small or large size. The probability that such mixed breeds may have fewer inherited disorders than pure breeds because of “hybrid vigor” is undermined by the possibility that both parental lineages from two separate breeds carry similar recessive harmful genetic mutations. It is advisable for people purchasing a pure breed or designer dog to receive assurances of progeny testing for hereditary diseases from the breeder/supplier; and when purchasing either very small or large breeds, or those with extreme body conformation and skull shapes, to purchase a veterinary health insurance policy that covers pre-existing conditions of hereditary origin. [caption id="attachment_3542" align="alignleft" width="300"] Bingo is a prototypical Nilgiris aboriginal “country” dog.[/caption]

Comparing selectively bred dogs with native or pariah dogs

Veterinarian Dr. Wayne H. Riser was one of the first to identify health problems arising from selective breeding for sizes and shapes that did not conform to what he saw as the ancestral aboriginal/pariah dog. (See his monograph “The Dog: His Varied Biological Makeup and Its Relationship to Orthopaedic Diseases”, American Animal Hospital Association, 1985. For further details, see M.W. Fox, The Dog: Its Domestication & Behavior, Dogwise Publications). This article will focus on my experience with the native dogs of the Nilgiris, South India, which I became familiar with while running an animal shelter and providing community veterinary services for a decade, starting in the late 1990s.

A profile of the natural dog

Natural, aboriginal dogs can still be found in many developing countries, especially in rural communities, as well as in the US, as detailed in my books Dog Body, Dog Mind and The Dog, Its Domestication and Behavior. One example is the so-called Carolina dog or American dingo, originally a landrace or naturally selected type of dog that was discovered living as a wild or free roaming dog by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin. A breed standard has been developed by the United Kennel Club that now specifies the appearance of these dogs, which could be their undoing if genetic diversity declines. We have met very similar dogs from some of the Native American Indian reservations in Minnesota and the Dakotas. In appearance, these dogs vary in size from 25 to 50 pounds, with many adults being undersized and underweight due to chronic malnutrition. They are long of limb, with usually erect or semi-erect ears. Tails are normally long and straight and are curled upward or downward in display, though some dogs have more permanently up-and-curled “Spitz” tails. [caption id="attachment_3543" align="alignright" width="300"] Indian villager feeding community dogs, some of which have homes/owners: Note coat color diversity but similar size and conformation.[/caption] Normally, all these dogs are protective and very faithful to their owners. They have good musculature, and the males are clearly more robust and have more powerful jaws than the females. All have characteristically small paws relative to their size, as compared to most modern breeds. The females are more protective towards theirs puppies than non-native breeds; they will choose to whelp in a secluded place and may sometimes burrow a den. They will often nurse their pups for several weeks longer than other dogs do -- pups may continue to be accepted as old as four to five months of age. The native dog’s sense of smell and tracking abilities is considered superior to that of most imported European breeds. They are skilled hunters, and tribal people rear these dogs to guide them in the forest and to hunt smaller animals. These dogs also instinctively alert to the scent tracks of potentially dangerous panthers, tigers, wild boar and cobras, and are especially on the alert after dark. They are noted for their courage and tenacity, and will defend their owners from wild boar and sloth bear attacks. Around other domestic animals, such as chickens, calves and goats, with which they normally live in villages and tribal settlements, they are gentle and even protective, most probably as a result of selective breeding and training. These dogs have great stamina and better resistance to many diseases when compared to imported breeds and cross-breeds. They are able to sustain themselves as scavengers, often existing on a subsistence diet that for other dogs would frequently mean rickets, stunted growth and other deficiency diseases. They show innate nutritional wisdom, and have often been seen eating mineral-rich dirt, and the feces of suckling calves, which are rich in enzymes, bacteria and protein. The native dogs’ vocal repertoire varies considerably, and is generally rich and subtle in terms of sound combinations (like growl-whines, yelp-barks and pant-huffs), giving a clear indication of an animal’s emotional state and intentions. Some emit low “huffs” and growls when sensing danger, while others give full voice (not preferred when in the potentially dangerous jungle). They will give different barks when alerting to wild boar in the bush versus monkeys in trees, and will engage in coyote-like yip-yap howls when they sing in horal groups. One distinctive sound some of these dogs make in greeting is a coo-like twitter with high notes that sound like whistling, much like the whistle-call of the Dhole or Asiatic Wild dog. [caption id="attachment_3545" align="alignright" width="300"] A typical Nilgiris red dog.[/caption] The Nilgiris native dogs’ coat colors include black, red, tan, white, piebald and brindle. The most characteristic coat color is red (or ruddy tan), possibly a parallel or convergent adaptive coloration seen in the indigenous wild dog (Cuon alpinus), also known as the Dhole or Chennai, one of the few wild canid species that hunts in packs. (For more details, see India’s Animals: Helping the Sacred & the Suffering by D. L. Krantz and M.W. Fox, Createspace Books, Amazon.com, 2016).

Saving indigenous dogs

The Nilgiris native dogs, like other indigenous dogs around much of the world, are in a state of potential extinction due to breeders introducing foreign “exotic” European breeds that are seen as a status symbol. Many of these purebreds are deliberately crossed with the Nilgiris native dog, in part to help them adapt better to local conditions, which further dilutes and “contaminates” the genetic lineage of the indigenous dogs. Spay/neuter “birth control” programs have further reduced their numbers. Outside breeds contaminating the gene pool of this native lineage in the Nilgiris include the German shepherd (Alsatian), Doberman, Labrador retriever, Rottweiler, terriers and hounds brought in decades ago by British people, and more recently by affluent Indian citizens. A policy decision to not neuter classic phenotypes of this now-threatened domestic dog variety would be a wise move in this and other bioregions where there are viable populations of relatively “pure” indigenous aboriginal dogs. This would allow the conservation of an ancient lineage, and preserve the beauty and temperament of the Nilgiris native dog (and other indigenous dogs), which some believe is the classic prototype of the earliest domesticated dog.

Cloning and gene editing

Like it or not, the age of bioengineering cybergenetics is upon us. Chinese biotechnology firm Boyalife and South Korea's Sooam Biotech are building what will be the world's largest animal cloning facility in China. But genetically engineered/edited and cloned animals often have genetic and developmental abnormalities and new diseases that cannot be justified for the novel pet trade. Dogs have joined the list of species that have been genetically edited; that list includes pigs, goats, monkeys, rabbits and rats. In December of 2015, Laura Jacques and Richard Remde of Yorkshire, England, received two new puppies, Chance and Shadow, who were cloned using their deceased dog Dylan's DNA. The couple paid roughly 0,000 to have Dylan cloned at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. Meanwhile, in another cloning project, scientists in China used what is called CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology, which enables multiple genes to be simultaneously altered to create two beagles that lack some or all of the muscle-inhibiting protein, myostatin, resulting in dogs with larger-than-normal muscles. These activities raise profound ethical concerns. For more info, see my article “Don’t clone your dog”, as well as my DVD concerning earlier developments, at drfoxvet.net.

The dark side of the human-animal bond

In a conference on the human-animal bond (Veterinary Record, December 5, 2015 p 558-559), University of Copenhagen bioethics professor Peter Sandoe observed that some people are attracted to and exhibit higher attachment to breeds with extreme (inherited) health problems requiring a higher level of care than healthy dogs. This observation implies there may be a Munchausen-by-proxy dynamic in some peoples’ choice of particular pure breeds and that “an owner’s love towards an animal does not necessarily translate into good welfare for that animal.” Sandoe concluded: “There is a dark side to human attachment to companion animals, alongside some of the benefits of ownership.”  One favored dog gene has a human counterpart that has been implicated in Williams-Beuren syndrome, where it causes exceptional gregariousness and friendliness toward strangers.

In the West

Concerted efforts in the West to reduce the number of aboriginal/ indigenous dogs by various means (both humane and inhumane) for public health reasons (especially rabies control) may actually lead to the disappearance of landraces and the loss of genetic diversity in regional canine populations.
 
Individualized nutrition based on biomarker testing

Understanding the relationship between nutrition and gene expression enables one to design an optimal diet based on an individual animal’s genotype.

Proper nutrition plays a key role in maintaining the health and longevity of human and animal populations and their resistance to disease.1-3 In addition to providing an energy source, food and diet directly influence the expression of our genetic potential. In the last 15 years, medical, veterinary and nutritional scientists have begun applying genomics to the field of nutrition. Nutritional genomics (nutrigenomics) is playing an essential role in assuring the quality and safety of human, livestock and pet foods.4-6 In this regard, foods are evaluated for their functional ingredients. Different diets can alter gene expression, resulting in changes in the production of specific proteins and metabolites. Understanding the relationship between nutrition and gene expression enables one to design an optimal diet based on an individual genotype, which can ultimately have a profound effect on the phenotype and observable traits of the person or animal.1-4 Food constituents can act by “up- or down-regulating” target genes, thereby altering their expression. Thus, diets for animals should ideally be tailored to the genome or genomic profile of individuals or breeds in order to optimize physiological homeostasis, disease prevention and treatment, growth, reproduction, and athletic and obedience performances. Nutrigenomics can individualize dietary intervention to prevent, mitigate or cure chronic diseases.1-6

Individualized nutrition

The foundation for achieving individualized nutrition starts by feeding wholesome, fresh and nutrient-dense foods that are selected and optimized based on an individual’s genomic profile.1,5,6

Functional superfoods

Foods that promote the expression of “healthy” genes are often called “functional superfoods”,1-6 and include certain botanicals, amino acids, vitamins and phytochemicals. All individuals can receive health and longevity benefits from functional superfoods to help prevent or mitigate chronic lifestyle-related diseases, and thus promote a state of optimum health and well-being.2,7,8 Examples of functional superfoods include berries (e.g. blueberries, cranberries), coconut oil, curcumin (turmeric), dark green leafy and yellow orange vegetables, fruits like apples, pears and bananas, medicinal mushrooms, milk thistle, Omega 3 fatty acids, pomegranates, prebiotics (spirulina and soluble and insoluble fiber) and probiotics. Further, to help pets avoid developing intolerances/sensitivities, rotate foods every one to two months using “novel” animal proteins and gluten-free foods.2 Proteins commonly considered “novel” are bison, buffalo, duck, fish, goat, lamb, pork, turkey and venison. While this approach may seem logical, many people don’t realize that an animal protein source that’s “novel” for one dog or cat won’t necessarily be so for another, unless he has never eaten it before. This is because, unlike a food allergy (which is an immediate reaction), intolerances/sensitivities can build due to prolonged consistent exposure to a particular ingredient. For example, kangaroo, emu and ostrich meats contain proteins that are novel for most dogs in the United States, yet are routinely available in countries like Australia. Similarly, lamb, turkey and venison were once considered novel proteins in the United States but now that they are more mainstream, dogs are beginning to manifest food intolerances/sensitivities to them.1,2 Food intolerances cause a delayed-type immune sensitivity reaction that often begin in the gut, but the antibodies involved are also released in secretions of saliva, tears and sweat, as well as from the nasal passages and ear canals, and the mucosal surfaces of the entire GI and urogenital tracts.1,2 Food intolerance is the third most common condition seen in animals, after flea bite sensitivity and atopy (inhalant allergy). Food intolerance is also the cause of 20% of all allergic skin disease.1

Nutrition, inflammation and oxidative stress

Oxygen is required to produce the high-energy compound ATP coupled to the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, etc. This process is not 100% efficient, and a lot of O2 is converted to “reactive oxygen species” (ROS), including hydroxyl and superoxide radicals (see Figure 1). ROS quickly react with biomolecules, including lipids, proteins and DNA. Although several protective mechanisms have evolved, an excess of ROS (a condition called oxidative stress) is a primary risk factor for a wide variety of diseases. Oxidative stress, in turn, typically promotes chronic inflammation in which tissues or organs receive inflammatory “mediator” messages that cause them to react as though the “trigger” or pathogen was still present. Rather than repairing themselves, these cells remain in an ongoing state of inflammation that can wax and wane for an entire lifetime. Antioxidants are now considered vital for inclusion in diets for humans and pets, and are often heavily promoted. Indeed, antioxidants are used in pet foods with higher fat and oil content in an effort to reduce lipid oxidation and the resultant rancid, unhealthy lipid oxidation products.9,10 Many antioxidants in pet foods are oxygen scavengers (see Figure 2) and neutralize ROS in 1:1 reactions. However, some functional foods act at the genomic level, especially via the Nrf2 transcription factor, to stimulate production of antioxidant enzymes. The flavonoids, a large family of polyphenolic compounds synthesized by plants, play a pivotal role in the Nrf2 regulatory pathway of oxidative stress. Dietary flavonoids provide multiple health benefits. In addition to being ROS scavengers, they mainly act as activators of the Nrf2 pathways -- stimulating the body’s own defensive systems. Flavonoids comprise the following subclasses: anthocyanidins (pigmented vegetables and berries), flavanols (tea, berries, apples), flavanones (citrus fruits), flavonols (quercetin; tea, onions, kale, broccoli, apples and berries), flavones (parsley, thyme, celery), and isoflavones (genistein; soybeans, legumes).11,12

Figure 1

Oxidative stress due to reactions of superoxide anion radical, hydrogen peroxide and the hydroxide ion with cellular components is mitigated by the actions of superoxide dismutase and catalase.

Figure 2

Many substances have beneficial antioxidant effects. Several small molecules are ROS scavengers, reacting 1:1 with a single ROS. Hence, large quantities are needed to combat oxidative stress. Other components of the diet, including several carotenoids, activate the expression of Nrf2-regulated genes, increasing the levels of several protective enzymes, including catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD), with each enzyme capable of inactivating huge numbers of ROS for prolonged periods.

Biomarkers of oxidative stress

Measuring the beneficial or harmful effects of food ingredients in an individual can be accomplished by monitoring certain biomarkers, including levels of ROS scavengers, antioxidant enzymes, and/or byproducts of ROS damage.9-12 Recent human and veterinary research literature has assessed the effects of various factors, including diet, exercise and disease, on the cellular biomarkers of oxidative stress, including antioxidants and chronic inflammation. However, applying this research in practical clinical settings has been hampered by the instability of most relevant biomarkers in blood, tissues and other body fluids. Once the specimens contact air, additional reactions occur that obfuscate the in vivo status of the subject, even if samples are stored frozen at -80°C. Sophisticated laboratory equipment and assays have also been required. Standard oxidative stress and antioxidant biomarkers9-12 include glutathione (GSH), a measure of Nrf2 (nuclear factor-erythroid-2-related factor 2) activation11,12; total antioxidant capacity (TAC), the sum of low molecular weight scavengers of reactive oxygen species; malondialdehyde (MDA), a by-product of lipid peroxidations, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) a key inflammatory mediator; and antioxidant enzymes including SOD (superoxide dismutase) and catalase. Recent improvements in biomarker assays are allowing their increased use in developing optimized diets for us and our pets. 1Dodds WJ. “Functional foods: the new paradigm based upon nutrigenomics”. J Am Hol Vet Med Assoc 2014; 36: 26-35. 2Dodds WJ, Laverdure DR. Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. 2015. DogWise Publishing, Wenatchee, WA, pp. 323. 3Essa MM, Memon MA. Food as medicine. New York: Nova Biological, 2013. 4Fekete SG, Brown DL. “Veterinary aspects and perspectives of nutrigenomics: A critical review”. Acta Vet Hung 2007; 55(2): 229-239. 5Kaput J, Rodriguez RL. Nutritional genomics: Discovering the path to personalized nutrition. Somerset, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. 6Swanson KS, Schook LB, Fahey GC. “Nutritional genomics: Implications for companion animals”. J Nutr 2003;133(10): 3033-3040. 7Laflamme DP. “Nutritional care for aging cats and dogs”. Vet Clin N Am: Sm An Pract 2012; 42(4): 769-791. 8German JB, Roberts MA, Fay L, Watkins SM. “Metabolomics and individual metabolic assessment: the next great challenge for nutrition”.  J Nutr, 2002; 132: 2486-2487. 9McMichael M. “Timely topics in nutrition. Oxidative stress, antioxidants, and assessment of oxidative stress in dogs and cats”. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2007; 231: 714-720. 10Wang J, Schipper HM, Velly AM, et al. “Salivary markers of oxidative stress: a critical review”. Free Rad Biol Med 2015; 85: 95-104. 11Dodds WJ, Callewaert DM. “Novel biomarkers for oxidative stress for veterinary medicine, Parts 1 and 2”. Proceedings AHVMA, Columbus. OH; Sept 2016. 12Kangas K. “A review of oxidative stress and the Nrf2 pathway”. J Am Hol Vet Med Assoc 2016; 44: 8-13.

This article has been peer reviewed.

 
Treating seizures with prolotherapy
In February of 2016, I was presented with Tanner, a 97.6-pound six-year-old M/N German shepherd with a history of seizures. His owner, John, was referred to me by his human chiropractor. Tanner was experiencing full and often severe epileptic-type seizures approximately every three to five weeks since September of 2014. The primary clinic exam found no musculoskeletal or neurological abnormalities. Bloodwork showed a mildly elevated ALP. Tanner had been put on phenobarbital, potassium chloride and Keppa with no relief. Since the current medication regime did not affect the severity or frequency of Tanner’s seizures, John had removed him from all medications by the end of December. The seizures continued every two to four weeks when I met Tanner and John in February. On exam, Tanner’s lumbar muscles from T10 to L3 were very tight. The nuchal ligament was also tight. He had normal biceps abduction angles, and thin and tight patellar ligaments. Dry needle acupuncture was initiated relative to the initial exam findings. I prescribed a Chinese formula for the seizures. We continued acupuncture and herbal formulas every month. While talking to John, I learned that three or four years prior to our meeting, Tanner had run into and flipped over a retaining wall, but little was thought of it since any obvious soreness was gone within a few days. The severity of Tanner’s seizures lessened over the next three months, but they continued to occur. A radiograph showed a mild and quiet greenstick fracture line on the axis wing, mild occipital arthritic changes and inflammation. Tanner was anesthetized with a combination of ketamine and diazepam i.v. A solution of 15% dextrose was prepared, using 1cc of 2% lidocaine, 3cc of 50% dextrose, and 6cc of sterile water into solution. A 25ge x 1.5” sterile needle was put out for use. We also collected 3cc of plasma from Tanner. The dextrose solution was used in multiple taps at the nuchal ligament attachments on C2, along the nuchal ligament and its insertion, and the cervical vertebral ligament attachments. The plasma solution was used on the occipital protuberances where the arthritic changes were more evident, most cranial vertebral ligaments, and the C1 wings – especially noting the area of the greenstick fracture line to facilitate stem cell healing. Here I chose to use plasma in areas that not only needed more healing than strengthening, but also where I was working closely to the brain stem and spinal cord. Tanner was sent home with instructions for no collar, no neck pulls and neck ROM exercises using treats several times daily. Tanner had a very minimal seizure two days post-procedure, but none at the normal three-week mark. Three months later, his owner reported there had been no seizures from May until August – a period of three months! Tanner had another mild seizure the end of August, so another prolotherapy session using the same protocol was set up for September 1. Tanner was again seizure-free until late November 2016 – almost another three months. John had the carpets cleaned and that night Tanner seized. He was put on 97.2 mg of phenobarbital daily by his primary veterinarian, which has kept the seizures under control.  As of July 2017, Tanner was seizure-free on a minimal dose of phenobarbital.
 
Prolotherapy in practice
Prolotherapy is a non-surgical treatment used to increase tendon and ligament strength and relieve arthritic changes. In humans, it is commonly used in Olympic sports medicine, as well as for the non-surgical treatment of rotator cuff injury, knee problems, and degenerative back and arthritic diseases. Prolotherapy is also becoming a more common practice in veterinary medicine for treating lameness.  However, I have found it to be useful in a variety of other cases. I have been using dextrose prolotherapy in my practice since it was introduced to me by Dr. Carvel Tiekart at the AHVMA conference in 2006.1 Regenerative injection therapy is a newer name that reflects the most common theory as to the treatment’s effects. The injection of a substance into a joint or at ligament/tendon attachments causes a controlled injury with a subsequent healing cascade. This results in the production of new collagen, thus tightening the joint and decreasing pain. I believe that each component of the dextrose solution carries with it specific properties that come together in a healing we are only just learning the intricacies of. This healing process continues over a course of six to eight weeks, so if another treatment is needed, I wait until after the six-week recheck to decide. Recently, I have also incorporated plasma therapy, using the same technique, for intervertebral and arthritic joints. The platelets in the plasma contain stem cells that can differentiate to create a healing cascade in degenerative joints. For chronic or specialized cases, I use a combination of dextrose and plasma techniques on the same patient, often using the dextrose for torn knee ligament injuries, and plasma to relieve the associated lower back and/or hip arthritis that often accompanies the degenerative knee problem. I have also found success in using the dextrose solution for the tendons and ligaments of a weak knee with a mild-moderate drawer sign, and using the plasma solution on the arthritic cartilaginous bone surfaces. I also used a combination of therapies in a case of refractive seizures. I tend to use the dextrose solution for primary tendon/ligament issues, and the plasma in areas of arthritic change.

Technique is paramount

Knowing your anatomy is critical for needle placement. The needle and solution must come in contact with the origin, and I often also tag the insertion, of the tendon or ligament where it connects to the bone, and follow the tendon to the muscle body and the ligament to its attachments. Always pull back on the syringe when you are working near blood vessels. Often, the tendon or ligament will give a very quiet, but palpable and audible, pop sound as you penetrate it. This is my indication that I am in the right spot; then I follow it to its insertion, injecting multiple drops of solution as I go. Once I have found my point of contact, I will walk the needle, injecting as I go, as far as possible before retracting and starting a new puncture. Plasma injections are not walked through like dextrose injections, but are rather given in several small injections onto cartilage surfaces and into joints. I treat the main tendons (patellar in the knee, biceps in the shoulder/elbow, brachiocephalic in the neck and shoulder) and also the respective surrounding collateral ligaments. I finish with local corresponding acupuncture points – for example, GB34 at the knee; TH14, LI15, SI9 at the shoulder; SI8 at the elbow; sometimes TH5 and TH4 for foreleg lameness completion; and GB29, GB30, and BL54 at the hip. I have used 25ge x 1.5” needles in very large dogs, but a 28ge x 1.5” needle for medium and large dogs, and a 30ge x 1” needle for small dogs and cats gives me a better outcome with less pain and more rapid improvement post-procedure. In my opinion, it is worth finding the right-sized needle. My basic solution is made up of 50% dextrose, sterile water, and 2% lidocaine (without epinephrine). I have used procaine in the past, with the goal of better breaking down scar tissue, but it needs to be compounded, has a shorter shelf life, and doesn’t seem to really make a difference. I use a short-acting injectable anesthetic. The procedure itself tends to only take ten to 20 minutes. For a large dog, I will often use 15cc to 20cc of dextrose solution, for a medium dog 10cc to 15 cc, and for a small dog or cat 5cc to 10cc. The quantity of plasma I use often depends on how much I get from the patient. I aim for 1cc to 3cc for a medium dog with one joint to treat, and 6cc for a large dog with multiple joints needing treatment (each vertebra is a joint). I prefer to draw fresh whole blood into a red top tube, let it clot, spin down and separate. In our area, we are endemic for Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. I always test for these tick-borne diseases prior to the procedure. Previously undiagnosed anaplasma has led to severe bruising in the area post-procedure.

Examples of use in practice

Shortly after Dr. Tiekart’s lecture, I was working with a three-year-old Shiba Inu named Tiko who was starting to fail at the pole weaves as he advanced in agility. That summer, I attended a rehabilitation conference at which Dr. Christine Zink discussed how to recognize tendon laxity, primarily in the biceps. Tiko was being seen by a veterinary rehabilitator and was prescribed hobbles, much to my client’s dismay. Putting the two conference ideas together, I called the client and asked if we could try prolotherapy on Tiko’s shoulders.  We did all four joints -- shoulders and knees. Tiko went on and won his grand champion Mach title in agility that fall. I was impressed and motivated. Since then, I have used the dextrose technique on a large number of agility, sporting and pet dogs, ranging from five to 150 pounds. Most pets and owners were happy with the results after just one treatment, though a number of the agility and sporting dogs were given two treatments (“just to make sure they are as strong as possible”). In all cases, the increased thickness and spring of the patellar ligament was palpable at the six-week visit. I have also used this technique to tighten luxating patellae; however, unless it is a traumatic luxation, I haven’t seen prolotherapy alone eliminate it beyond a Grade 1 after four treatments. I have used dextrose prolotherapy treatments in two dogs with fixed knees, one congenital and one on an older rescue dog and with no clear cause. The young dog (20 weeks) had a full recovery. The rescue adult experienced what I see as an 80% recovery -- still a little stiff, but almost fully flexible.

Caution

Movement post-procedure is imperative. For at least the first 48 hours, clients are instructed not to let the animal stay in one position for longer than two hours without a minimal 15-minute walk. They can sleep a full night. One of my few failures with prolotherapy involved a patient that traveled 2.5 hours for a treatment. The client was given direction to stop halfway home to walk the dog, which she did not do. When she got home, the dog was kenneled for the next eight hours with no walks. Although most dogs (and the couple of cats I have treated for low lumbar arthritis) respond to one or at most two treatments, one case took almost six weeks to show improvement, though it finally did. The more cases I see, and the more I treat that are longstanding rural cases rather than on-the-spot agility cases, the more rounded my success curve becomes. Prolotherapy is still a vital part of my practice. It would benefit every practice, especially those with a large caseload of agility or performance dogs.

Ingredients to make a 15% solution

In a 10cc to 12cc syringe, draw up 1cc of 2% lidocaine (without epinephrine). Fill to 4cc with 50% dextrose, and to 10cc with sterile water (saline does not give the same results, in my experience). This is equivalent to 1cc lidocaine, 3cc 50%dextrose, and 6cc sterile water.

Where to get supplies

Plasma: from the animal you are treating – spin, separate, and draw up into a syringe. Dextrose solution: veterinary supply distributors Needles:  we found 28ge x 1.5”, and 30ge x 1” at Air-Tite Products Co., Inc.

Case Report – treating seizures with prolotherapy

In February of 2016, I was presented with Tanner, a 97.6-pound six-year-old M/N German shepherd with a history of seizures. His owner, John, was referred to me by his human chiropractor. Tanner was experiencing full and often severe epileptic-type seizures approximately every three to five weeks since September of 2014. The primary clinic exam found no musculoskeletal or neurological abnormalities. Bloodwork showed a mildly elevated ALP. Tanner had been put on phenobarbital, potassium chloride and Keppa with no relief. Since the current medication regime did not affect the severity or frequency of Tanner’s seizures, John had removed him from all medications by the end of December. The seizures continued every two to four weeks when I met Tanner and John in February. On exam, Tanner’s lumbar muscles from T10 to L3 were very tight. The nuchal ligament was also tight. He had normal biceps abduction angles, and thin and tight patellar ligaments. Dry needle acupuncture was initiated relative to the initial exam findings. I prescribed a Chinese formula for the seizures. We continued acupuncture and herbal formulas every month. While talking to John, I learned that three or four years prior to our meeting, Tanner had run into and flipped over a retaining wall, but little was thought of it since any obvious soreness was gone within a few days. The severity of Tanner’s seizures lessened over the next three months, but they continued to occur. A radiograph showed a mild and quiet greenstick fracture line on the axis wing, mild occipital arthritic changes and inflammation. Tanner was anesthetized with a combination of ketamine and diazepam i.v. A solution of 15% dextrose was prepared, using 1cc of 2% lidocaine, 3cc of 50% dextrose, and 6cc of sterile water into solution. A 25ge x 1.5” sterile needle was put out for use. We also collected 3cc of plasma from Tanner. The dextrose solution was used in multiple taps at the nuchal ligament attachments on C2, along the nuchal ligament and its insertion, and the cervical vertebral ligament attachments. The plasma solution was used on the occipital protuberances where the arthritic changes were more evident, most cranial vertebral ligaments, and the C1 wings – especially noting the area of the greenstick fracture line to facilitate stem cell healing. Here I chose to use plasma in areas that not only needed more healing than strengthening, but also where I was working closely to the brain stem and spinal cord. Tanner was sent home with instructions for no collar, no neck pulls and neck ROM exercises using treats several times daily. Tanner had a very minimal seizure two days post-procedure, but none at the normal three-week mark. Three months later, his owner reported there had been no seizures from May until August – a period of three months! Tanner had another mild seizure the end of August, so another prolotherapy session using the same protocol was set up for September 1. Tanner was again seizure-free until late November 2016 – almost another three months. John had the carpets cleaned and that night Tanner seized. He was put on 97.2 mg of phenobarbital daily by his primary veterinarian, which has kept the seizures under control.  As of July 2017, Tanner was seizure-free on a minimal dose of phenobarbital. 1Tiekert, Carvel G, DVM. “Prolotherapy treats pain by stimulating the body to repair damaged/loose ligaments”. IVC Journal, Summer 2015.