Tai Chi-huahua™

Tai chi is a centuries-old Chinese martial art that descends from qigong, an ancient Chinese discipline that has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a discipline that involves the mind, breath, and movement to create a calm, natural balance of energy, Qi (chee). It is a form of meditation in motion promoting serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Many of the movements are based on animals. The legend of Chang San Feng says that he (a Daoist monk) watched a battle between a snake and a crane. Their graceful movements inspired him to observe other movements in nature and how they could be applied to a martial art.

Tai chi is a low impact exercise, putting minimal stress on muscles and joints increasing flexibility of legs and the spine, while improving balance and maintaining healthy function of the torso. The deep stretching on the arms (or front legs) will help loosening up the shoulders, lifting up the rib cage and benefit movement of the lungs. In so doing this tends to free up any blockages, ensure the smooth flow of Qi and blood, and promote the balance of Yin and Yang.

Enjoying Tai chi and observing the strong animal connection, I decided to create for animals a similar program, calling it Tai Chi-huahua™. Animals are very efficient in their use of energy and power. They use this relaxed energy to keep their bodies from burning out.  Human Tai chi exercise imitates the actions of animals based on their habits. By emulating these animals we get a sense of their power and an appreciation of the vast store of energy they possess. These animals include the dragon, tiger, monkey, bear, deer, horse, birds, snake, and leopard.

Tai chi type exercises in animals (Tai Chi-huahua™) can positively affect the ‘give and take’ action of muscles, thereby improving proprioceptive (knowing where ones extremities are in association with the surroundings) signaling and posture. Good posture is a state of musculoskeletal balance that protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity. This musculoskeletal balance is important not only at rest but also with dynamic activity.

There are some differences to be considered when taking a biped exercise and transferring it to a quadruped. Quadrupeds have a 4-point connection to earth. Their movement includes diagonal interactions. Suspension and energy flow is achieved with different gravitational forces than the upright bipedal musculoskeletal system experiences. Posture, paw placement, stability, and support are all important factors the person delivering Tai Chi-huahua exercises should be very observant of. Focusing on these points will raise the dog’s comfort level and make Tai Chi-huahua more successful and fun for everyone.

My Tai Chi-huahua™ program is delivered in three compartments: The Awakening, The Moves, and The Close. It is available on a DVD at www.AvaFrick.com. When you begin you want to be in a quiet calm relaxed place, both environmentally and spiritually. And your dog should be in a comfortable position. You can use a slightly deflated ball or peanut to help support him if he is old or recovering from an injury. I am sharing The Awakening with you here.


PURPOSE: To stimulate nerve flow throughout the circulatory system and reconnect the body via meridian pathways

RESULT: Relaxation, improved circulation, reduced tension, and improved ability to move about

NOTE: These exercise directions are given with the handler in a position from behind the dog facing forward. If you are using a different position then some of the directions will need to be modified. SQUARE-UP the dog (Like doing the Wuji stance!) You (the one delivering the exercise) also need to have good posture, positioning, and breathing. Your relaxation helps the animal relax.

STEP 1: With the pointer finger of each hand place one on either side of the spine starting at the neck just behind the head (at the occiput) and run all the way down the spine. The pressure should be light and slow. Do not press. Do this 3 times.

STEP 2: Reverse Step 1, starting near the tail and moving forward up the spine to the back of the head. Do this 3 times.

STEP 3: With both hands spread fingers apart, like a fan. Sweep from top down and around to the midline (dorsal to ventral). Start at the neck and make 5 passes – 2 at the neck and 3 around the torso (more if a large body, less if really small) going from neck to pelvis. Do this 3 times.

STEP 4: Using the same hand position sweep the length of the body from neck to back and then belly to back (ventral to dorsal). Make about 5 passes (more if a large body, less if really small) going from neck to pelvis. Do this 3 times.

The Benefits of Rehab Stretching Exercises for Pets

In the present human medical world it would be very rare for a surgeon not to recommend some form of rehabilitation or physiotherapy following a procedure. This is an important aspect of regaining full recovery and tissue function. So, it should be for our pets too.

Rehab for pets comes in many forms including stretching and exercise routines, microcurrent therapy, laser, massage and soft tissue body work, chiropractic, and water therapy. The program can be simple or tiered to adequately fit the age, breed, expectations for return to performance, and your ability to provide time and investment. It is fun to get the family involved with the overall program as at home therapy creates greater and more rapid gains. Even if your pet has not had surgery, there are conditions that will benefit from physical rehabilitation. A pet with arthritis, advanced age, weak muscles, nerve deficits, any that are overweight, or even athletes working regularly at their sport can all improve by having all joints in motion and a regular stretching exercise routine.

Without adequate pre-exercise massage techniques, warm-up, and post-exercise ground stretches, a canine athlete could be at risk for an injury. Stiffness is a symptom and reaction to pain or discomfort, be it from overworking unprepared muscle groups (sore muscles), arthritis, spinal bone instability or fixation and even dental malocclusion. Any of these etiologies can lead to a tissue’s inability to stretch. If the tissue cannot adequately stretch, then neither can the pet. Massaging the body and properly stretching the joints will loosen muscles and connective tissue, sending signals to the mechanoreceptors about the joints and their capacity to flex and extend. Massage will also help to eliminate toxins and lactic acid by improving circulation to the tissue, further reducing soreness.

Passive or relaxed stretching is the most common type used with stretching exercises in animals as the person controls the motion and positioning desired. Slow, relaxed stretching is useful in relieving spasms in muscles that are healing after an injury. Relaxed stretching is also good for “cooling down” after a workout and helps reduce post workout muscle fatigue and soreness.

    Anyone can learn to be effective and safe when stretching their pet. Improved flexibility is achieved when stretching becomes a regular part of the athlete’s routine. If you are looking to improve balance, balls are a fun addition and they create a variety of options for working with your young or older dog. Here are a few key points:

  • Find an exercise program that is recommended by a veterinarian or professional therapist. I have a DVD called “Fitness in Motion® Stretching & Exercises for Dogs” available at www.AvaFrick.com. With this you can learn how to effectively deliver exercises for all zones of the body along with ones designed for specific conditions and how to successfully use balls.
  • Understand the goals or purpose and how to effectively deliver the exercises.
  • Take the time to do them correctly (no short cuts).
  • Always start conservatively then gradually increase the length of stretch, the angle or height of the stretch, and the number or repetitions.
  • Pay attention to the behavior or response(s) your pet gives with each stretch.
  • Keep notes on the changes you see and periodically re-evaluate posture, movement and balance from a distance.

A good stretch will be comfortable and effective if you follow the above steps. A “bad” stretch will be met with resistance or failure to make any positive gain in flexibility, range of motion, or performance.


Stress can push a body to the limit and beyond. Stress for an animal can be changes in your routine and theirs, meals not at regular time, change in their environment (i.e. decorations and furniture moved around), heaven forbid being taken to the kennel (even if they have fun there it is still a bit of stress), and yes; your stress can become their stress too. The signs of stress can be anxiety; tearing up the house, whining, crying, acting fearful, and barking. Also biting or growling where she normally would not, and hiding,

Here are some of the reasons a dog or cat may show the signs of being stressed:

  • When a body goes outside of the endocrine systems “comfort zone” we start to see altered behavior to environmental situations. The endocrine system comprises the hypothalamus, thalamus, pituitary, pineal gland, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas. These glands are in constant communication to balance messages that signal the body to work. If they become imbalanced and cannot reset, for whatever the reason, abnormal behavior can be the result.
  • Nutritional deficiencies of calcium and magnesium, the calming minerals, is very common. The body needs calcium and magnesium in order for the nervous system to be calm and relaxed. Lacking these vital nutrients your pup or kitty cannot be calm. He will ramp up in a stressed situation escalating without the ability to slow down, until exhaustion hits.
  • Prior life experiences that have created a mental state where similar events trigger fear or stress.

Solutions to eliminating the signs of stress in your dog or cat first involve identifying the etiology. Finding the cause and changing that part of the animal’s lifestyle or health status may resolve the stress reactions. Don’t expect an overnight miracle. If the anxiety has been going on for a long time it may take down regulating, which could be weeks or months of gradual improvement.

Steps you can take to help reduce the stress and anxiety and eliminate it in the future:

  • For the short term, if your pet gets super stressed during the holidays, try to minimize those situations that set her off.
  • Run a diffuser with calming essential oils from doTerra®. There are ones specifically designed for the holidays that help the whole house smell good and all inhabitants ‘chill’ helping you to relax too.
  • It only takes the analysis of a sample of your dog’s or cat’s fur to find out if calcium and magnesium are low. The test is called “Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis”. You can find out more about this on my website: www.avafrick.com. Once the mineral and toxic metal levels are known, a customized nutritional balancing program targeting specific minerals and vitamins for your pet can then be designed to alleviate the mechanisms setting off the signs of stress.
  • Herbs are also helpful in transitioning from the nervous state while waiting for nutrients to achieve their cellular positions. Oral calming herbs include St. John’s Wort, Valerian, Passion Flower, Kava, Eleuthero, and Skull Cap. Verify the safety and dosing for your pet before starting.
  • Pheramone collars like NurtueCALM 24/7 will help some cats and dogs. This therapy mimics the pheromone that the mother dog or cat produces to calm and reassure her pups or kittens. Animals recognize these pheromones throughout life. Usually an improvement in specific behavior signs is seen during the first two weeks after wearing the collar, but some animals require a month to exhibit visible improvement. The active ingredient in the NurtureCALM collar is androsterone, which is an interomone.
  • Alpha- Stim® microcurrent therapy is a prescription device FDA cleared for stress related behavior. It has no systemic side effects and the treatments are cumulative and long lasting. A very low level microamperage waveform is delivered to the body via little ear clips (like an IPod). This helps to normalize the body by inducing a balance in signals or frequencies between the endocrine organs. Physiologically it also increases blood and cerebral spinal fluid levels of beta endorphin and serotonin. Alpha-Stim can successfully treat a variety of human and animal stress conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. I am available to consult with you for your pet about the benefits and uses of Alpha-Stim.

Try some of these suggestions to help get your pet through the holiday season and into a calmer life in the new year. They have worked for others.

Ava Frick, DVM, CVC, FAIS

Why your dog needs Taurine Dog Supplements

In 2012 there was an article in VitaHound titled: Taurine Supplements are Usually Required in Present Day Dog Diets. Yes, as far back at 2012 the word was out – no diet has adequate taurine to match the stress and inflammation that dogs dealing with. And why to dogs have inflammation and stress? That fact I have been diagnosing since 2005 by doing hair Tissue Mineral Analysis testing. Inflammation and stress are related to adrenal gland function, aldosterone production, sodium retention, loss of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, inadequate levels of choline, taurine, inositol, vitamin A and E. Basically inadequate availability of whole food minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.

Other factors that can influence this includes:

  • Glyphosate – commonly known as Roundup – blocks and binds minerals from being available to the body. Even if it is in the food it may not get to the cells.
  • Herbicides and pesticides can leach calcium out of the cells.
  • Processed foods – the protein is no longer real meat. It has been treated so that the quality content of what was meat is not the same. The body does not digest it as it would unprocessed protein. And meat is a major source of taurine.
  • Toxins in the environment getting into the body can interfere with metabolism.
  • Busy lives, upset routines, mental stress

Facts about the benefits of taurine are:

It is one of the most plentiful amino acids in the body and thus provides many benefits. Potassium is an important mineral needed by the body for balancing acids, nerve impulse transmission, and enzymatic reactions. Taurine helps the cells to hold onto the needed potassium. Managing this in the tissues of the heart along with helping to control the heart beat makes it one of the most important amino acids in the heart.

It is also involved in the control of the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. This is believed to help prevent epileptic seizures. By helping to control cholesterol in the bile it is very effective in averting gall stones. Also being very high in white blood cells it promotes a proper immune system.

Taurine is found naturally in milk, meat, fish, eggs, and sea vegetables such as kelp and seaweed. As for meat (not meat meal or by-products) mice have three times more taurine than chicken, next highest beef, followed distantly by lamb. Kelp is a good supplement source since it contains all 21 amino acids and is also rich in minerals and many vitamins. Adding the needed taurine to your dog’s diet is reasonably safe with a natural supplement. Dosages range from 200mg to 2000mg per day best taken 2 to 3 times a day.

Nobody Told Me My Legs Don’t Work: Journey of a Down Dog by Travis C Yates

The perfect world Travis and his wife Renea spent ten-plus years creating is turned upside down when they find their seven-year old Golden Retriever, Keegan, left paralyzed from a stroke. Nobody Told Me My Legs Don’t Work follows the couple’s remarkable journey as they enter a frightening new world of uncertainty that comes with a “down dog” while attempting to defy their doctor’s prognosis and get Keegan back on her feet again.

Along the way they meet an interesting cast of characters that keeps them forging ahead as the experience tests their marriage and threatens to break them emotionally and financially. It is a delicate tightrope act of patience, humor and dedication that changes them forever. Share in their heartache and joy as Keegan strives to take her first steps and discover how the greatest triumphs can often be sparked by our darkest moments. Read more

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A recent news report on an FDA release about grain-free dog food, legumes, taurine, and cardiomyopathy (CDM) quickly found its way through local and national radio and TV. While I had my thoughts about it, I decided to contact the three companies whose foods we recommend and sell at the clinic, and get their professional input.

Mr. Daron Matsuura from Lotus explained: “This can happen if a food’s recipe is too high in legume seeds and it is not balanced with a plenty of fresh meat. Legumes are high in ogliosaccharides which will feed bacteria in the gut. If there is too much ogliosaccharides there tends to be too much bacteria which will limit the absorption of taurine. We formulate Lotus so the total legumes are about 20% and use a lot of fresh proteins 30% to 40%. The fresh proteins are high in methionine which is a precursor to taurine. Dogs should not have this issue with Lotus.

Stella & Chewy replied: “We work closely with veterinarians and nutritionists to ensure that our diets are complete and balanced and meet AAFCO requirements. Please know that our freeze-dried raw and frozen raw diets are free of peas, lentils and potatoes, and contain less than 1% of the legume seed fenugreek. Also, we do add taurine to our raw and kibble diets.”

Grandma Lucy works with Dr. Jean Dodds. She had a very detailed response to the FDA statement and you can read it in its entirety at www.drjeandoddspethealthresource.tumblr.com. I have taken a few excerpts from it to help clarify the vagueness in the recent news publications.

“No research has been conducted yet to determine if grain-free diets could cause heart disease in dogs. First, we must consider the many factors that need to be accounted for in this situation:

  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Scientific research thus far
  • Taurine requirements for dogs
  • The interaction between foods when passing through the body
  • The interaction between foods and the body itself

Researchers are only beginning to scratch the surface on the last two factors for human and animal nutrition. Yes; nutritional knowledge has been increasing dramatically over the past century, but this latest contention that grain-free foods may be associated with some adverse effects on the heart just highlights how little we actually know and understand.

  • At this time, taurine is not considered an essential, food-sourced amino acid for dogs. Taurine is synthesized in the liver from the amino acids cysteine and methionine, which should provide sufficient quantities to meet dogs’ metabolic needs.
  • Taurine can still be and is present in dog food. However, a pet food label does not need to reflect this presence or meet any minimum requirement per the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).”

Dr. Dodds further summarized some previous studies conducted on potential dietary causes of CHD.

“Delaney et al., June 2003. Plasma and whole blood taurine in normal dogs of varying size fed commercially prepared food. Blood and plasma was analyzed for amino acids and taurine on 131 “normal” dogs consuming commercial food. Mean whole blood taurine concentrations were lower in dogs fed diets containing whole grain rice, rice bran or barley. The lowest whole blood concentrations were seen in dogs fed lamb or lamb meal and rice diets.

“Backus, et al., October 2003. Taurine deficiency in Newfoundlands fed commercially available complete and balanced diets. 19 Newfoundlands eating apparently complete and balanced commercial dry diets meeting established nutrient recommendations. Their results were that twelve of the dogs were considered taurine deficient. Taurine-deficient dogs had been fed lamb meal and rice diets.

“Backus et al., 2006. Low Plasma Taurine Concentration in Newfoundland Dogs is Associated with Low Plasma Methionine and Cyst(e)ine Concentrations and Low Taurine Synthesis. Backus and his team compared 216 Newfoundlands to Beagles. Dogs with low plasma taurine were older, less active, had more medical problems. The findings in this study support the theory that taurine deficiency in dogs may be related to the consumption of certain dietary ingredients. Scientific and clinical evidence supports the hypothesis that dilated cardiomyopathy is associated with low blood taurine concentration in dogs. The authors noted, “Taurine deficiency in dogs is suggested to result from reduced sulfur amino acid bioavailability in dietary ingredients that are heat processed, such as rendered meat meals.”

Regarding the FDA statement; it is not yet known how peas, lentils, potatoes, starch and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list are linked to cases of CDM. “The FDA is simply stating a trend. These types of trends lead to much needed research.

The FDA is not dismissing the prior research as invalid. As the FDA puts it, “The underlying cause of DCM is not truly known, but is thought to have a genetic component.” The FDA is also not saying you should stop feeding grain-free foods. If you are concerned, is to have your veterinarian take a blood sample to measure the methionine, cysteine and taurine levels in both whole blood and plasma, and send it to a diagnostic laboratory experienced with the appropriate reference ranges for circulating taurine.

As more research is completed, AAFCO may need to adjust their minimum nutrient requirements and add more optimal requirements so that foods can be more appropriately formulated for breed type, size and age.”

My closing comments are this: There is no one brand or type of diet that is appropriate for every dog. Each individuals needs should be considered. Controversy about proper feeding of dogs has been in the works since the first processed diet was formulated. Feeding what a breed evolved on in their homeland for centuries (an Archetype diet) will be recognized by their internal computer. The less processed the better.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises can be a part of your dog’s recovery program.
Proper stretching can increase flexibility and range of motion (ROM), relieve certain kinds of joint and muscle pain, stimulate nerve conduction and body awareness, heighten proprioception, improve performance, and help prevent injuries.
Muscles and connective tissue naturally tend to stiffen if they are overused or underused. Stiffness can result in injury, lead to inactivity, and eventually speed up the aging process of the musculoskeletal system. To remain supple, the connective tissue and muscles need regular stretching. Stiffness is a symptom and reaction to pain or discomfort, be it from overworking unprepared muscle groups (sore muscles), arthritis, spinal bone instability or fixation, even dental malfunction.
Massaging the body and properly stretching the joints will loosen muscles and connective tissue, sending signals to the mechanoreceptors about the joints and their capacity to flex and extend. Massage will help to eliminate toxins and lactic acid by improving circulation to the tissue, further reducing soreness.
Stretching also provides a pain-relieving effect, which might be due to an increased pain threshold or simply because the muscle becomes stronger. Through a regular stretching program, muscles become stronger and thus able to absorb more energy, which also reduces injury. The more energy muscle can absorb, the more resistant the muscle is to injury.

Important points to remember:

  • Understand the goals or purpose and how to effectively deliver the exercises
  • Be in a calm area where everyone is relaxed, as the stretching will be more productive if the muscles are not tense
  • Take the time to do them correctly (no shortcuts)
  • Always start conservatively then gradually increase the length of stretch, the angle or height of the stretch, and the number or repetitions
  • Pay attention to the behavior or response(s) your pet gives with each stretch
  • Keep notes on the changes you see so you can report to the doctor on your next visit

Benefits of Stretching Exercises:

  • Pain relieving effect
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Reduce likelihood of injury when standing, sitting, jumping, etc.
  • Relieve spasms in muscles that are healing after an injury
  • Improve posture
  • Good for “cooling down” after a workout and helps reduce post workout muscle fatigue and soreness

A good stretch will be comfortable and effective. A “bad” stretch will be met with resistance or failure to make any positive gain in flexibility, range of motion, or performance. Lack of improvement or an unwillingness to do the exercises indicates the current program should be stopped until you visit with our doctor.
With a regular routine consisting of a few three-to-five-minute exercises several days a week, your pet can begin to show improvement in as early as one week.

Purchase the DVD “Fitness in Motion® Stretching Exercises for Dogs.” Waatch it often, it will help you gain your confidence. $40

Cold and Heat Therapy

COLD or cryotherapy should be used immediately after a new injury to help reduce the degree of trauma the tissue will have to deal with. Initiating cold for up to 20 minutes at a time can do several things.

  • By decreasing the cell metabolic rate it slows the requirement for nutrients, oxygen, and perfusion. Slowing its work capacity allows for a quiet environment in the face of trauma and the changes that brings to the area.
    Vasoconstriction helps to stop bleeding, reducing bruising and swelling.
  • Decreasing an inflammatory response means less redness, less pain, and potentially less chance for infection.
  • A decreased nerve conduction velocity is achieved by the chilling effect. Slowing nerve transmission is how it reduces pain.
  • Decreasing muscle contraction helps further to prevent nerve irritation and pain. Contraction of muscle at the site of a fracture can make a surgical reduction more difficult when the muscle must be relaxed to achieve positioning again.
  • Increased pain threshold means that it takes more pain before the minds would perceive pain exists. This effect helps the body deal better with what has happened and keeps the adrenal cortisol stress response lower.
  • Decreasing collagen and muscle capacity and response to stretch keeps the tissue in more of its true shape and size so that less swelling occurs.

For all these reasons it is wise to apply cold therapy for the first 3 days after injury or at the end of a busy day when a body suffers from a chronic arthritic or inflammatory condition. Utilizing massage with cold therapy yields better results than either done alone.

Applying Cold Therapy:
WHEN – During the first 72 hours after tissue injury
HOW – 15 minutes per treatment (do not exceed 20 minutes) 3 to 5 times per day
WHAT – You can use any of the following. Cold plus massage benefits more than cold used alone.

  • Ice cups – fill Styrofoam cups, freeze tear off part of cup and use to massage and chill the area
  • Cold packs – these are commercially available or you can make your own with a freezer zip lock bag. Mix 2 parts water and 1 part isopropyl alcohol. Put in freezer where it will become a cold pliable icy bag. Wrap in a small towel before applying to the animal’s body.
  • Flax pillow in the freezer

HEAT or thermal therapy is used starting 3 days after an injury or for a chronic condition like arthritis to help create circulation and relaxation in tissue. Heat helps with muscle spasms, tendinitis, bursitis, scars and contracted tissue, sprains and strains, and chronic pain. It does this by:

  • Increasing the body’s capacity to use oxygen.
  • It further increases membrane diffusion and enzymatic activity using the oxygen and moving metabolic wastes (toxins and trash) out of the traumatized tissue area. Getting the old cellular debris expelled further reduces pain.
  • Opening up blood vessels (vasodilation) also gets more nutrients into the joints and tissue.
  • Relaxation of irritated muscle spindles at the heart of the trigger points will neutralize those zones allowing the muscle to function more optimally.
  • Locally heat decreases pain by decreasing muscle spasm and connective tissue ischemia and lengthens the shortened fascia that had been putting pressure on nerves.
  • Heat causes a reflex pain inhibition by increasing the temperature of sensory nerve cells. The message of heat travels rapidly to the brain, blocking out the pain message and raising the threshold of the sensory nerve endings resulting in long term pain relief.

Applying Heat Therapy:
WHEN – After 72 hours with an acute injury or with a chronic condition
HOW – Up to 20 minutes or divided doing 10 minutes on/ 10 off/10 on. The temperature of the target tissue must elevate at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit, but DO NOT exceed 12 degrees elevation. Moist heat is preferred.

  • Flax pillows
  • Air activated heat wrap applications can be used.
  • Moist heat towel
  • Take a small towel and saturate with water then ring out most of it. Put it into a plastic bag and place in the microwave for 1 minute, invert the towel exposing the inside and heat for additional time if needed. When finished heating take the towel out of the plastic and wrap it in a dry towel then lay across the affected area.

Obesity and Exercise

Statistic and surveys have shown that people who exercise with their pets will stick to a program more successfully than if they are doing it for themselves alone.
Obesity is the most commonly recognized nutritional problem in dogs. Obesity is defined as a body weight that is greater than 20% above optimal body weight. It is predominantly caused by over-consumption of calories, under-expenditure of energy, and improper nutrient balance (more carbohydrates in relation to the protein). There is a common belief that protein restriction is helpful in older animals, yet no scientific evidence shows that reduced dietary protein is beneficial for the healthy older dog or cat. In fact, reduced protein diets for older pets may have adverse effects by contributing to the muscle loss that occurs with aging.
Risk factors for gaining excessive weight include neutering, mid to older age, inactivity, indoor lifestyle, and genetic predisposition. Obese animals, like people, usually show signs of concurrent disease: lameness, increased drinking and urinating, increased respiratory effort or panting, sleeping more, poor skin and coat, and heart stress with circulatory malfunction.
For a dog that already has difficulty getting around, creating an exercise program can be challenging. The last thing we want is to increase pain. A well planned weight-loss program includes a patient-specific nutritional therapy of reducing typical cereals or grains like wheat, corn, gluten, and rice, balancing protein, fat, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and water. Address needs of the endocrine system to create optimal metabolism helps the body adapt and change.
Initiate a home exercise routine, which for some may be gentle massage, range of motion, frequent but very short walks, and exercises using a ball. Balls are great for older pets and ones that have difficulty holding up their weight or tend to lie down rather than stand. It is a support that allows them some independence as they regain function.
For those with medical considerations or where the weather interferes with exercise, use a facility with physical rehabilitation technology, such as the underwater treadmill. Water walking allows for less weight and body mass on the legs, more flexion of the joints, buoyancy, better body balance, and an almost massage-like effect on the legs. At higher levels it can be a cardiovascular exercise that improves conditioning, muscle tone, and overall well-being.

To successfully manage a weight reduction plan for your dog or cat, you should:

1. Feed a balanced grain-free diet. (For insightful information from a veterinarian regarding the effects of diet read www.dogtorj.com.)
2. Feed alone, away from other animals to reduce the incentive to eat fast. You may choose to put the food in a muffin pan to further slow him/her down.
3. Feed only the snacks or treats outlined in the balanced program. Best to choose from whole food items like dehydrated meat and vegetables.
4. Avoid eating in front of your dog when he/she will not be getting anything.
5. Exercise your dog or cat as prescribed. Start out slow doing several brief exercise periods a day. Gradually increase the duration as he loses the weight and wants to do more. Keep a journal of distance and/or time spent.
6. Weigh in every two weeks and record body weight.
7. Have a weight-loss reassessment done starting monthly then working up to every 3 months as the program successfully progresses. This will include weight, pelvic and thoracic circumference measurements, nutrition adjustments, exercise evaluation, and behavioral improvements.

A better lifestyle and exercise is the best chance for a longer life. Substantial research progress is deepening our understanding of obesity and the aging process, leading veterinarians and pet owners toward better guidelines including nutritional interventions and lifestyle decision that will promote healthy longevity. Considering the fact that the obesity rates of pets has climbed right along with their human counterpart seems the thing to do is get everybody in the house eating better (healthier) and exercising more.

© Integrative Veterinary Education, Inc.

Losing It

Trying to help your pet lose weight can be frustrating. Traditional “weight loss” diets often lack sufficient levels of the vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals that animals specifically need based on individual idiosyncrasies. The bottom line is that what is on the bag is not enough. Changing how a body recognizes and metabolizes its food (nutrients) needs to be addressed for any weight loss program to be healthy. Here are two dogs that have successfully experienced losing weight and enjoying every bite of it!

HOLLY: 8 year old spayed yellow Labrador Retriever who weighs 122 pounds. She is fed a top line dry food for large dogs. Holly has had problems with weight most of her life, afraid of storms, repeated ear infections, and now has problems doing the things she enjoys the most; going for walks and swimming. She has difficulty bending her left elbow, swelling in left hock, 5/10 pain score, and her nutritional assessment indicates problems with liver and endocrine function and carbohydrate metabolism.
Plan: Weight goal 85#, home cooked grain free diet at 1 cup twice a day, 1-2 eggs at bedtime, ½ cup protein and veggie snacks during the day. Vitamins, minerals, and tissue extracts specifically to address her conditions, medications and supplements for her pain and inflammation. Chiropractic adjustments and rechecks monthly with changes to program, daily walks as she can tolerate.
We are not at the goal point yet but Holly continues to improve and had a great summer without pain.

Date Weight Pelvis Thorax Comments
Nov 122 lbs 94 cm 96 cm
Dec 122 lbs 88 cm 96 cm Playing with toys, activity level up, likes food, not hungry
Jan 108 lbs 86 cm 94.5 cm Fell on ice, rear end sore
Mar 104 lbs 83 cm 92 cm Seems stiff
Apr 105 lbs Winter was difficult, add microcurrent therapy for pain
Jun 98.5 lbs 80 cm 88 cm Doing more outside
Aug 98.2 lbs 83 cm 91 cm Swimming every day, no limp in 2 months

BLAZE: A 9 ½ year old, male neutered Border Collie mix was eating a lamb and rice dry food for most of his life. He developed degenerative joint disease in both hips, had problems walking, and was overweight. His owners were hoping to avoid hip surgery. Addressing his pain and arthritis was vital to getting him moving. Initially drugs were used for his pain but with some herbs, vitamin and mineral replacements, and correcting his body metabolism, it wasn’t long before he was able to scale-down. A home-made diet was selected for him. In April Blaze tipped the scale at 91 pounds and by August he was below 75. That is a 16 pound loss in 4 months! Part of his program included underwater treadmill exercise. He enjoys his water therapy, runs and plays, and has no difficulty getting up or playing. His happiness level is way up!

If your pet is overweight here are steps to take:
1) Read the label on the food you are feeding. Does if fit what this animal would eat out in the real world? For help with understanding this read www.DoctorJ.com . Then make a better change.
2) Is pain part of the reason? If so, aside from medications, consider other therapy that can relieve it such as massage, hot/cold packs, liniments, herbs, and pain specific therapeutic modalities.
3) Is there a daily exercise program? If not, get one that fits your pet’s ability and current status.
4) For those with long term obstinate obesity, adjusting endocrine and metabolic trends will most likely be needed to get the pounds dropping.

© Integrative Veterinary Education, Inc.