Category Archives: Information

Informational Posts

Is Wet Cat Food Really So Much Better Than Dry?

Cat eside empty food bowl

Is Wet Cat Food Really So Much Better Than Dry?

I got this letter from Carol, a listener to my show CAT CHAT® that really made an impression on me because it was so honest about her long-held skepticism about my urgent recommendation to everyone that they feed canned food to their kitties.

“I have long been a skeptic on dry vs. wet. All my cats, my whole life, had been on dry and have done well. I’ve listened to your show, and your phrase “kitty crack” to describe dry food, and I must say I have blown you off for quite some time. Then I inherited a fat kitty, as well as having a skinny kitty already (I attributed his thinness and other health problems to his age). Well, I took my dog to the vet, and asked how to get my fat cat to lose weight. He told me to use canned food; that this was the current thinking. Then, I took the fat cat to another vet (I had to move her out of state temporarily) and that vet said that ideas were shifting and it was now recommended to feed wet food, as cats are obligate carnivores. So I was finally convinced: I moved all my kitties to wet. Well, my fat one is getting skinny, my skinny one is getting fat and on top of that is gaining a great coat, urinating less, shedding less, and now has incredible skin, as well as attitude. He looks better than I have ever seen him, even at age 14. I just wanted to apologize for blowing you off, but I really was a pretty big holdout. If I changed, then anyone can. You can use this message to help others. Love your show.”

How generous to acknowledge the huge improvement in her cats’ health when they stopped eating “kitty crack.”

Carol’s thoughtful note just knocked my socks off! It’s so great that she took the time to acknowledge her reluctance to follow my advice about “Thinking Outside the Bag,” and then showed humility in admitting that her skepticism was misplaced — plus she wanted her story to help others “see the light” for their kitty cats. This was the coolest letter I have ever gotten — and I was so grateful that I thanked her by sending a signed copy of THE CAT BIBLE. What made me doubly happy was that two different vets praised wet food and had caught up with the research (and common sense) showing the harm of feeding carbohydrates to an animal intended to eat a meat diet.

Not All canned cat food is created equal.

Once I get a convert to wet food, then I always try to point out that many supermarket brands of canned cat foods can contain quite a lot of carbs and inferior sources of protein. So people should be willing to go the distance to find brands with minimal carbs in the can or you aren’t really solving the nutritional health problem. That’s why Halo’s pate style foods with around 3% carbs — and Weruva’s Paw Lickin’ Chicken are stars in my firmament!

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: hehaden via photopin cc

Halo & Weruva are sponsors on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Cats are Eating Cindy out of House and Home

cat looking at table food

Cats are Eating Cindy out of House and Home

I got this email from Cindy, who is a Cat Chat® listener, and has taken to heart my advice to feed cats wet food only, because they are obligate carnivores whose bodies don’t need or do well with carbohydrates. She wrote:

“Thanks to you, over the past year I have converted all 5 of my cats to wet food. They get 1/2 can 2 times per day. 4 domestic short hair and 1 feral. All was going well — the overweight cat lost 8 pounds and did well and everyone else maintained weight. These are indoor and outdoor cats that live on a very big farm. Here’s the problem: all of these cats are attacking human food. They seem hungry constantly. They are eating food on the table when I eat, bread in wrappers on the counters, dog food during preparation for my 9 dogs on the farm. I don’t think 2 times per day feeding is enough to satisfy or sustain and have been feeding 3 times per day with winter weather rolling in. They live inside and come and go at will. Any suggestions?”

I did ask if the cats had been de-wormed and she assured me that they had. So it sounds as though Cindy has 5 healthy, hale and hearty cats, who are enjoying all the benefits of living with people and also the safe freedom of having a natural feline life outdoors. However, there are two possible reasons they are eating everything in sight: the quality and quantity of canned food

The first issue is quality: not all canned cat foods are created equal

cat looking at steak on plateWhile wet food is a more natural diet for a cat, you still have to pay attention to what is inside those cans. Is it a good quality protein as the first ingredient (often after water needed for processing)? Is the proportion of carbohydrates in that food best for a carnivore—less than 10% of calories from carbs? Because there are many brands of canned food that are full not only of carbohydrates (more than 50%, as if they were dry food in a can) but also may utilize poor quality protein ingredients, like by-product instead of a meat source. Those lower quality ingredients are also less expensive, meaning greater profits for the manufacturer — but not the quality needed by a cat’s finely tuned “engine.” Those foods will not satisfy a cat’s hunger, and may even make her hungrier, the way eating nothing but dry food can do to a cat’s appetite. Halo happens to have created a new pate style canned food that has an extraordinarily low percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates–around 3% — a real gift of health to our kitties.

The next problem is: are cats getting short changed on quantity and simply need more food?

Cindy’s cats sound as though they are burning up their food at a high rate of metabolism since they have an active lifestyle in and out of the house (since it is safe on her farm); with the weather turning cooler, that burns more calories, too. So it’s not how many times a day she feeds, but how much at each feeding. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, my co-host on Cat Chat®, suggests giving cats as much as they will eat in a 15 minute mealtime. Cindy can try feeding them a bit more to see whether that doesn’t calm their appetite. I’m not trying to break her piggy bank, but often a cat who gets as much as she wants at a meal will not feel so frantic and will soon walk away from an uneaten portion of that food (which can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for the next meal). Although this may mean a higher food bill, there will be a big savings in health. By feeding the obligate carnivore the quantity she wants of food at two meals — and making sure it is high quality — you will be ensuring their health and investing in nutritional wellness, instead of spending money on the vet bills that can be the result of poor feeding practices. Getting the best quality food you can manage for your kitties will result in happier, healthier cats who will live longer. And that — as the ad says — is priceless.

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credits: dailywishes via photopin cc & nix-pix via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Halo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: Keeping Up The Loss During Week 7!

Faith, on Halo's Healthy Weight Loss ChallengeHalo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: Keeping Up The Loss During Week 7!

Guest blog by Dr. Donna Spector

Faith’s new food plan was just what the doctor ordered—she shed another 0.6 pounds this week. She is now 62.8 pounds after just 7 weeks!

Faith’s “prescription” for weight loss was to lose between 1 and 2% of her body weight each week. As Faith initially weighed 68 pounds, this calculated to be between 0.68 to 1.36 pounds per week.

To be considered “on target” at the 7 week mark, Faith should be weighing in with between 4.5 and 9.5 pounds of weight loss. With this week’s weigh-in—she is right on track at 5.2 pounds! If Faith keeps up this pace of weight loss, it will take her between 24 and 30 weeks to lose all her unwanted weight!

Congratulations to Faith and her mom—we are more than half way through the Healthy Weight Challenge!

Faith is the second participant enrolled in the Halo Healthy Weight Challenge on THE EXPERT VET of the RADIO PET LADY NETWORK. Faith is eating a specially designed meal plan of Halo Healthy Weight natural dog food and extra fruits and veggies to help her get back to a thin and trim weight.

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Halo’s Healthy Weight Challenge Week 6: Back On Track

Faith, on Halo's Healthy Weight Loss ChallengeHalo’s Healthy Weight Challenge: Back On Track During Week 6!

Guest blog by Dr. Donna Spector

After Faith’s weight gain during Week 4 we took another look at her calories and cut her back by another 5%. Remember:  whenever your vet creates a weight loss plan—is just a starting point—a best guess. Don’t be disappointed—the plan may need to be adjusted as time goes on—which is why the weekly weigh-ins are so important.

Faith also started to tire of her zucchini during week 5 so we gave some other low calorie options for her mom to substitute. These fresh fruits and veggies provide about 40 calories per serving (measure on a gram weight kitchen scale for accuracy):

  • 1/3 cup (50 grams) green peas
  • 1/3 cup (50 grams) cubed sweet potato
  • 1 cup (100 grams) steamed broccoli
  • 1 cup (100 grams) steamed or raw carrots
  • 2/3 cup (68 grams) blueberries
  • 2/3 – ¾ cup (80 grams) raw apple
  • 2/3 – ¾ cup (100 grams) cantaloupe

Faith didn’t get a week 5 weigh-in but week 6 brought a celebration—she had lost another 2.4 pounds in the past 2 weeks!

Faith’s mom reports she loves the raw apple and we will look forward to continued good news next week!

Faith is the second participant enrolled in the Halo Healthy Weight Challenge on THE EXPERT VET of the RADIO PET LADY NETWORK. Faith is eating a specially designed meal plan of Halo Healthy Weight natural dog food and extra veggies to help her get back to a thin and trim weight.

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

The #1 Way to Undo the Good of Feeding Canned Cat Food

cat at food bowl

The #1 Way to Undo the Good of Feeding Canned Cat Food

Have you been following my advice to feed only the highest quality canned food to your cats? Have you chosen a food high in good quality protein and low in carbohydrates? Good for you! But wait! Have you been “cheating” on your cat by picking up kitty junk food in the supermarket and then feeding her addictive cat treats made of god-knows-what ingredients?! Uh-oh.

Kathleen in Carson, California wrote to say that “After listening to your shows we feed grain-free canned food. But we still have health issues!”

Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, my co-host on CAT CHAT®, has been helping me get kitties like Kathleen’s to kick the dry food habit and embrace good canned food for their cats. But somehow we never made it clear that the treats they might be sneaking to their pussycats do just as much harm as poor food choices.

Kathleen went on, “We now have a serious problem because my cat’s urinary pH is too high and the vet says she needs more acidity to minimize or eliminate crystals in her bladder and urinary tract and wants her to eat the dry prescription food he sells.” Kathleen added, “My cat’s doctor questions my parenting because I don’t want to feed her the dry prescription food that has both grain and by-products. How do I increase the acidity in her urine? What food or supplement will do this? Please help, I love my baby, and I’m tempted to feed her what the doctor is pushing just so she won’t hurt.”

What Else Is Her Cat Eating?

Dr. Elizabeth was a real Sherlock Holmes when she asked the $64,000 question: what else is Kathleen feeding her kitty besides the canned food? Dr. Hodgkins said, “A meat based diet will produce a normal urine pH. Sometimes owners are feeding highly processed carbohydrate snack foods that are engineered to be very addictive. The owner sees the cat’s positive reaction and keeps giving snack food treats to a cat like this, not realizing that those can contribute to the health issues, too. Freeze dried meat treats like Halo Liv-a-Littles or small pieces of actual meat, chicken or cheese are the only treats a cat should be getting besides their canned diet.”

Kathleen replied, “I am eternally grateful for the advice, and now am a bit sheepish because my Valentine goes crazy for those soft, chewy, brightly colored treats from the supermarket. My Val has us trained: I take my vitamins in the morning and she gets a treat. Bed time? I take a pill — Val? yep she wants her pills too. We’re leaving the house for the day? Oh yeah, treat time, You see where I’m going with this. Meanwhile, I’ll switch my sweet Val to healthy Liv-a-Little freeze dried meat snacks, even though she was more interested in the junk food commercial treats. Tracie, this is an important message to your listeners: if you’re doing the right thing with their food, you can sabotage and undermine it with ‘just a little treat,’ that has been crafted to get a cat hooked.”

Choosing Healthful Kitty Treats

Dr. Elizabeth recommended, “Encourage Kathleen to crumble a freeze dried treat on the canned food at first to get her kitties accustomed to the differences in odor and texture between a natural meat treat and a highly processed one.

“This will, I would bet money, get them switched to the better treats in a short time. And she could try several of the meat types since some cats show definite preferences for chicken over beef, or salmon. Of course, if they don’t warm up to them right away, they really won’t suffer by not having treats. Sure, we like to show love through food, for our pets and our human loved ones, but that does not mean they are necessary for good health. Feeding a very low carb all meat diet is the best ‘treat’ you can give your kitty for a long, healthy life.”

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credit: NCBrian via photopin cc

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

The Pig Pet Idea Project: Plausible or Unimaginable?

pig in water, leaning against boat

The Pig Pet Idea Project: Plausible or Unimaginable?

Guest Blog: Jordan Walker admires people who have the guts to keep exotic pets in their homes. He loves sharing tips on how to be a better pet parent at Coops And Cages and in blogs such as this one. In this article, he will be discussing getting a pig as a pet.

Oink, oink, oink inside the house over a meow, meow, meow, or an arf, arf, arf? When you think you’ve seen people buying expensive pets as an additional member to their families, now the meal you usually eat on your plate could also be made into a pet. George Clooney and Miley Cyrus do make it look like it is very easy to have a pet pig. But will you be able to grow in love with this unusual pet just like you would when looking into the eyes of a furry canine or feline pal?

How Are Pigs As Pets?

Choosing a pet is a combination of finding the right personality match, excelling in the intelligence test, and of course, the social test where this will is expected to win miss or mister congeniality award. Will the pet pig be able to pass all with flying colors? Here are some of their known positive characteristics:

people with their pet pigs

  1. They can get along with other pets. If you have seen a picture of a dog and a cat snuggling together in their sleep, can you imagine a mini pig having the same affectionate relationship with your own cat or dog. Probably not, but it’s not impossible. Pigs can be very friendly and will easily make friends with the other pets inside the house. And with them, it usually is a two-sided relationship. Other pets just can’t help but love them.
  2. Have a happy personality. They are not so complicated and do not have the same type of snobbish personality compared to some cat breeds. Pigs know how to have a great time. Playing could be one of the things that they love to do. With this said, be ready for a little adventure yourself too. They will keep you up on your toes.
  3. Smarter than you think. Whoever said that they are nothing but stinky animals that are best butchered for some tasty ham? Did you know that they could be litter trained too? And you thought that toddlers toggling with the computer are pretty impressive. Wait until you see a pig sneak up and pull a trick at you. Try teaching it to do usual dog tricks such as play dead, fetch, and bow before an audience. You might be in for a big surprise.
  4. Have the runway strut. Miniature dogs usually carried by the fashionable ladies are usually dressed in matching outfits with that of the owner. Bet a mini pig can’t do it in style? Well, they have just the right strut and putting on a colorful headband or a girly tutu skirt is as easy as a girl wearing a red lipstick or a black dress.
  5. Better than a backstabbing friend. You can never really tell is a friend is indeed a true friend until they stab you right at the back. And even if they don’t now, the chances of getting into a conflict will always be there. But not with a pig. A pet pig will love you for what you have (and what you don’t), and even accept you even when you have the unusual habit of putting too much pepper in the soups you cook even if the other people in the house hate it.
  6. Can sense danger. Several accounts have been reported where pigs were able to save the lives of their owners. If you want a hero on board, get and train a pig. This can potentially save you in the events of heart attack, fire burglary, and drowning. Don’t discount the snorting. It’s not a useless being. If you need a guard pet, a pig as a pet could also make as a good guard pig.
  7. Will never be a picky eater. Staying healthy is impossible for someone who only chooses to eat certain types of foods. Some dog owners report that their pets are picky eaters. Well, it’s a pig. It usually eats anything just as long as it’s edible.
  8. Knows how to enjoy finer things. Planning on taking a vacation on one of the exotic beaches at the Bahamas? Take along your pet pig with you. It knows how to enjoy tanning like a real bikini babe and comes close to Michael Phelps with its swimming prowess. It could even end up conquering the house pool if it needs to cool itself down during the hotter days.

Should You Get One?

After seeing their positive traits, pigs look cool as pets now, don’t they? But is it the right pet for you? Before saying yes, you ought to know their downsides too:

various pet pigs

  1. You will need a lot of space. You can’t keep a pig in an apartment. They need to exercise and the outdoors is the best place to get this done.
  2. It can get really big. Mini pigs are often recommended as pets compared to other breeds because you can control the extent of their growth through diet. But if you are someone who can’t resist feeding your pet throughout the day, you could end up living with a very heavy pet later on.
  3. Could become territorial. You will not have problems getting along with it since it is your pet after all. But it could be rude to people and try to protect its territory. Socialization as a piglet is needed in order to prevent this problem.
  4. Your garden could be a thing of the past. They do not only like to eat the foods that you give them. They are naturally inclined to eat plants to. Your garden could end up as dinner for a pet pig.
  5. Grumpier as an adult. Pigs are generally friendly when they are younger. But just like dogs, their enthusiasm could experience a dip once they become older.

Final Thoughts

So you think you’re ready for the porkier life? Be warned though. Ham may not look so appetizing after getting a pet pig. As a consolation, your pet pig really won’t mind if you still like to eat one of its relatives during dinner.

Jordan WalkerAuthor: Jordan Walker

Jordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages

Image Links: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Maisie’s Adventure with The Honest Kitchen

Maise impatient with The Honest Kitchen boxes

Maisie’s Adventure with The Honest Kitchen

Here’s a personal tale to make the point that even dogs with the “trickiest tummies” can eat The Honest Kitchen’s healthy foods if you give them the digestive support they need to eat the pet food that’s good enough for people to eat — “Made with Passion and Principles.”

All my dogs have always eaten THE HONEST KITCHEN foods, so I naturally assumed that would be the main diet of my new little Blue Weimaraner puppy (well not so little — she was already 58 lbs at 9 months!). I drove down from my home in Vermont to get Maisie from Mid-Atlantic Weimaraner Rescue in Virginia, bringing back a bag of the warehouse brand of kibble she had been eating while waiting to be adopted. The first thing I wanted to do was turn her into an Honest Kitchen pup. I strongly believe that nutrition is the cornerstone of health, and I know that the fresh, lightly processed, uncooked ingredients in The Honest Kitchen’s recipes are the answer to that aspect of a dog’s wellness. From the very first time (more than a decade ago) that I learned of Lucy Postins’ then brand new, astonishing, ground-breaking, raw, dehydrated, human-edible foods, I knew they would give me the pleasure and peace of mind that I was feeding a bowlful of good health to my dogs at every meal.

To my dismay, when I got home with Maisie she immediately confronted me with severe, frequent diarrhea as soon as I began to taper off the food she had been eating and introduced The Honest Kitchen and the kibble I use from Halo. I went right to the vet who did a fecal sample that showed Maisie did have giardia (it had been a very wet spring down in Virginia, although her digestion had been normal there eating the warehouse brand of food). We treated the giardia but the diarrhea didn’t resolve. We did a worming for good measure and a course of probiotics, but Maisie’s digestion was still a disaster (I chronicled the whole messy story on my blog at My vet wanted me to start using a prescription dog food for IBD (until she saw steam come out of my ears as I vented about the miserable ingredients in those foods) and she thought I was nuts to insist on wanting Maisie to eat The Honest Kitchen when the pup had such drastic digestion challenges. I was facing “puddles of poo” but I was determined to find a way to feed this girl the “good stuff.”

I turned to my co-host Dr. Donna Spector on THE EXPERT VET radio show and we ran a SPOT Platinum blood allergy test that looks for allergies to 90 elements in a dog’s environment, as well as foods — but Maisie showed no significant reactions. Dr. Donna diagnosed Maisie as having Fiber Responsive Diarrhea (FRD), fairly common in young large breed dogs, and she prescribed a mixture of Fiber One cereal (highest fiber of any cereal out there!) and psyllium husk powder to add to every meal. Dr. Donna totally understood my determination to get Maisie’s body able to handle high quality food and constructed a very strict careful diet program that would increase The Honest Kitchen over a four week calendar, but allowed only ¼ cup of The Honest Kitchen at each meal (added to my brand of super premium kibble that happened to have a very high level of good quality fiber in it, too). The plan was for Maisie to adjust very slowly as I regulated the amount of cereal and psyllium husk I added to each meal to slow down her digestion and prevent the diarrhea.

Maisie loved the Honest Kitchen food — no surprise! — and I was champing at the bit, hoping to be giving her a lot more of it within a month. I didn’t think anything twice when the delivery truck dropped off my usual order of a big box from The Honest Kitchen that had four of their large boxes of food packed inside. I left it on the porch to unpack after I finished some deadlines I had to record radio shows (The Honest Kitchen is actually a sponsor of my show HOLISTIC VETS with Dr. Patrick Mahaney, who happens to work directly with The Honest Kitchen!). When I realized that night had fallen and the house was unusually quiet — no Maisie leaping about, with the double flap of the dog door flapping open and shut as she came and went on urgent missions of squirrel and twig chasing — I went to see where she had gotten to.

Imagine my surprise to open the door to the porch and find that my nutritionally challenged young lady had decided she was sick of waiting for a proper portion of The Honest Kitchen so she had taken matters into her own hands! As the accompanying photo will show, first she ripped open the outside cardboard box, then she gnawed at the corner of one of the Honest Kitchen cardboard boxes, and then she ripped open the sealed inner plastic bag (the one I need a scissors to open!) After that she stuck her head right into that bright green dehydrated food smorgasbord and went to town! She was quite a sight and looked way too pleased with herself for me to do anything but laugh.

Maisie ripping into The Honest Kitchen boxes

Of course all foods from The Honest Kitchen are meant to be re-hydrated with warm water before you serve them, so while Maisie’s idea of self-service was not the optimal way to eat the food, she did the re-hydrating for herself over the next couple of hours, depositing green debris in all the watering bowls. The most wonderful part was that Maisie’s digestion was in no way impaired by this sudden introduction of raw high quality meat, fruits and vegetables. I abandoned the slow and steady month-long diet plan and went right to giving her a big scoop of The Honest Kitchen as the main course in every meal, making sure there is always that fiber cereal and psyllium. So if anyone worries about whether their dog’s digestive system can “handle” The Honest Kitchen, rest assured that once you have ruled out any medical conditions there is no reason every dog cannot enjoy the multiple benefits of the food Maisie simply could not wait to dig into!

–Tracie Hotchner

The Honest Kitchen is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Preventing Vaccine Associated Illness in Pets, Part 1 of 2

dog lying on exam table

{The integrative house call vet Dr Patrick Mahaney is my co-host on HOLISTIC VETS on the Radio Pet Lady Network, and wanted to share part one of two articles he’s written on vaccinosis for}

Preventing Vaccine Associated Illness in Pets, Part 1 of 2

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Does your pet suffer from an immune system problem? As our bodies require the continual protection afforded by the complex interaction of white blood cells, antibodies, microorganisms (bacteria, etc.), hormonal signals, and more, I really feel as though the immune system is the most important body system we mammals have.

As the immune system can actually be quite fragile, it’s important that we owners take measures to ensure our pets’ ability to continually thrive by not overtaxing their immune health. This means eating a toxin-free and nutritionally complete whole food diet, participating in daily exercise, getting sufficient sleep, keeping inflammation and infection minimized, and pursuing alternatives to traditional vaccination protocols. This is the means by which I approach my Los Angeles-based integrative veterinary practice and apply to all of my canine and feline patients (and my own health).

You’ve certainly heard me preach this philosophy before, as I have personal ties to the topic in the form of my canine companion Cardiff, who has suffered immune system problems multiple times during his nine years of life. Cardiff has endured and recovered from three bouts of typically fatal immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) and T-cell lymphoma.

As a result of his complicated immune system illnesses, I no longer provide him with vaccinations. Doing so could trigger a Vaccine Associated Adverse Event (VAAE) or vaccinosis, including another episode of IMHA. Instead, I perform antibody titers to evaluate his previous response to distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and rabies vaccinations.

Health problems correlating with the administration of single or multiple vaccinations may be considered vaccinosis. Any Vaccine Associated Adverse Event (VAAE) or vaccinosis seriously impacts a pet’s quality of life and negatively affects the relationship between client and owner.

Among medical practitioners on both the human and veterinary side, there exists the perspective that vaccinations can actually create health problems instead of making us healthier. I hold this perspective, yet I am not anti-vaccination. I practice judicious and appropriate use of immunizations for myself and for my canine and feline patients.

The remainder of this two-part article will focus on the differentiation between VAAEs and vaccinosis, how vaccinosis manifests in our pets, and the means by which vaccinosis and VAAEs can be prevented.

What is Vaccinosis?

Vaccinosis is the term applied to the state of energetic imbalance and mild to life-threatening illness occurring after an animal or person receives an administration of an immune system stimulating substance (i.e., a vaccination).

Vaccinosis is not a true diagnosis, nor does it have an official definition that’s currently accepted among conventional human or veterinary medical communities. The term is known by the general public and doctors working in the realm of holistic practice, homeopathy, and other complementary and alternative medicines (CAM).

What Are Vaccine Associated Adverse Events (VAAE), and Are They Considered Vaccinosis?

Vaccine Associated Adverse Events (VAAE) include post-vaccine hypersensitivity and non-hypersensitivity reactions, both of which are not considered vaccinosis.

Hypersensitivity reactions occur as a result of a complex interaction between IgE antibodies and a substance that produces an immune response (antigen, allergen, etc.) to which the body has previously been exposed. Hypersensitivity reactions are commonly known as allergic reactions and can occur in response to:

  • vaccine administration
  • insect envenomation — bee sting, spider bite, etc.
  • venomous snake bites
  • drug or toxin exposure — sulfa-based antibiotics, iodinated contrast-enhancing dyes, insulin, etc.

Clinical signs of hypersensitivity reactions occur within minutes and can include:

  • urticaria (hives)
  • angioedema (tissue swelling)
  • emesis (vomit)
  • diarrhea
  • hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • ataxia (stumbling)
  • collapse
  • coma
  • death

More serious signs beyond urticaria and angioedema are collectively termed anaphylaxis.  All the above hypersensitivity signs merit immediate evaluation and treatment with a veterinarian.

Clinical signs of post-vaccine non-hypersensitivity reactions may include:

  • lethargy
  • anorexia (decreased appetite)
  • pyrexia (fever)
  • whole-body soreness (muscle or joint aches)
  • swelling (including cancer) or soreness at the vaccination site
  • other

Post-vaccine non-hypersensitivity reactions are to be expected but don’t always occur, and they commonly resolve with minimal to no supportive care (fluid therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, nutraceuticals, etc.).

Are Vaccine Associated Adverse Events (VAAE) and Vaccinosis Common in Pets?

In general, adverse responses to vaccinations are rare. A 2005 study by Moore et al published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) reviewed over 1 million medical records for dogs in more than 350 animal hospitals found:

  • one in 250 canine patients had some form of post-vaccination reaction (13 reactions per 10,000 vaccinations given)
  • the dogs most at risk are small breed, young (1-3 years of age), and neutered male dogs
  • multiple vaccinations administered in one setting correlated with higher risk of adverse response
  • the majority of reactions occurred the same day of vaccination
  • multivalent vaccinations (distemper-parvovirus combinations, some bordetella vaccinations, etc.) did not correlate with more reactions.

I experienced my own VAAE as a post-vaccine non-hypersensitivity reaction back in 1995 when I developed flu-like symptoms during the series of rabies vaccinations I received at the start of my first year as a veterinary student. As a result, I am extremely cautious about getting further immunized for an infectious agent, including influenza and rabies.

I’ve only received influenza vaccination one time since then, which was before traveling to Peru to volunteer with Amazon CARES in 2011 when swine flu (H1N1) was running rampant in third world countries. I get my rabies antibody titers checked annually and my levels have always been sufficient, even though it’s now been nearly 20 years since I was first immunized.

The frequency of vaccinosis development in pets is challenging to quantify. Yet, health care practitioners with a discerning eye that are involved in caring for patients suffering from clinical signs consistent with vaccinosis can certainly site cases where the link between vaccine administration and development of chronic health problems exists.

Check back to my petMD Daily Vet column next week to learn more specific details about vaccinosis in pets, including clinical signs, treatment, and prevention.

In the meantime, check out this YouTube webinar I created on behalf of Spectrum Labs, makers of VacciCheck (distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus rapid antibody titer): Vaccinosis: Etiology, Illness, and Prevention

For full disclosure, I work as a paid veterinary consultant for Spectrum Labs because I’m a believer in preventing VAAEs and vaccinosis in my patients.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

The blog originally appeared at:

photo credit: Llima via photopin cc

VacciCheck is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

Halo’s Healthy Weight Challenge (weeks 3 & 4): We Never Said It Was Easy

Faith, on Halo's Healthy Weight Loss ChallengeGuest blog by Dr. Donna Spector

After Faith’s big weight loss, the scale didn’t budge an ounce during Week 3. Although it is actually quite common for dogs to experience a weight plateau for a week or two after a big loss, Faith actually gained a little during Week 4–which is a red flag!

After taking a critical look at her calories, I spotted some problems. Faith had seemed hungrier this week to her mom, so she received quite a few extra calories as treats. One day Faith ate 60% more calories than she was supposed to! These calories came in the form of a 120 calorie biscuit and an extra 350 calories of extra kibble. This “extra” can obviously wreak havoc on weight loss attempts–but we do understand how tough it is having a dog who seems hungry. Having tips to deal with hunger is crucial during the weight loss process.

Tips to Deal with Hunger:

  • Incorporating low-calorie fresh veggies to your dog’s diet can be a great snack to really fill them up! Adding zucchini is a great way to add a lot of extra stomach fill and fiber for only 20 calories per cup (or try green beans for 30 calories per cup). If your dog has a bit to lose, cut the higher calorie treats and consider some lightly steamed veggies (no butter!).
  • Try sprinkling a teaspoon of non-fat shredded cheese on the zucchini or on some of your dog’s dry food and put it in the microwave for a few seconds to melt it. Put it in a food dispensing toy (such as the Kong or Buster Cube) and watch a 30 second treat or meal turn into a 30 minute licking and chewing frenzy!
  • For really hungry dogs you can feed their entire food ration from food dispensing toys for extra satisfaction.

Faith is the second participant enrolled in the Halo Healthy Weight Challenge on THE EXPERT VET of the RADIO PET LADY NETWORK. Faith is eating a specially designed meal plan of Halo Healthy Weight natural dog food and extra veggies to help her get back to a thin and trim weight.

Check back next week!

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.

New Ramps For Old Dogs

Mobility is everything to an older dog — if they can get up and down, even painfully, and then get outdoors, then they still have control over their body and their life. But if getting outdoors presents too much of a physical obstacle, then they don’t really have a life with dignity. I was beginning to question whether we had reached that time in my old gal Jazzy’s life. She didn’t want to go outside, because when she did it caused her pain and worry — debating whether to step down off the edge of the porch and bring all her weight down on her front feet. I wondered how long it would be before she couldn’t make the step at all, and therefore be unable to go outside to relieve herself or walk around even a little. Which would basically signal the end of her life.

Jazzy is a 12 year old Collie-mix, whom I adopted from Southampton Shelter (the Official Shelter of my NPR radio show DOG TALK® when she was 2 years old. She tore the ligaments in both her back legs within a month of joining my household, which meant two ACL repair surgeries and the expected arthritis from it — with the net result that she had become more and more lame as the years passed, even taking joint supplements. Her arthritis has gotten so bad in her front ankles and shoulders that it had become nearly impossible for her to get down off the porch — which is only one step to get down onto a big stepping stone, and then onto the ground.

There’s a dog door that leads from the mudroom to this porch, and Jazzy has always used it several times a day to go outside to relieve herself, have a fresh drink of water, or have a little amble around. But I had found her hesitating at the edge of the one step, debating whether it was worth the pain or if she had the strength to make it down. She often looked stuck, trapped, anticipating the pain, and unable to make the decision. I was considering asking a carpenter to build a “handicap ramp” for Jazzy as you see on houses for people in wheelchairs, but I knew that would be a problem because it would be built of wood and therefore heavy and probably impossible to get out of the way if we need wider access to the porch from the step. Also, once winter and snow came around, a permanent wooden ramp would be in the way of snowplowing; the surface would become slippery so I would have to find something to cover it with that would give Jazzy traction.

Encouraging Jazzy to use the ramp

Then a light bulb went off above my head: maybe the ramps people use to get their dogs into a car could be useful here. I had never considered getting a ramp for the car because I had known Jazzy would never walk straight up a steep ramp into my car because the back of my SUV is so high it makes a ramp impossibly steep. But now I wondered: what if I could prop a ramp against the edge of the porch and create a gentle slope for Jazzy to get on and off the porch without any jarring pain to her front legs. I had seen the Solvit ramps that were well made of lightweight aluminum that telescoped in half, with a rough surface for traction, so I asked the company for one to try. And that ramp has completely changed — I dare say saved — Jazzy’s life. I never fully appreciated the versatile uses of an adjustable ramp for a dog, beyond getting in and out of a car, but for anyone who has a dog struggling to get onto a bed or sofa, up onto a deck or down a few steps, these Solvit ramps really do “solve it,” they are a godsend in a dog’s golden years.

Keep in mind that old dogs can learn new tricks, but they may be cautious about it. Any time you introduce something new into their lives, it needs to be done slowly, patiently and with lots of positive reinforcement (in the form of Halo Liv-a-Littles whenever possible!) Jazzy was fearful of the ramp at first because it felt so different under her paws. I put a leash on her and lured her gently up the ramp with pieces of Halo Liv-a-Littles that I placed on the ramp in front of her. Then I turned her around and urged her to come down on the ramp by putting more bits of Liv-a-Littles out ahead of her. Next I urged her up and down the ramp with only my voice instead of a leash — always rewarding her brave efforts, especially when she paused in the middle of the ramp. Within three days Jazzy became comfortable enough to use that ramp on her own and avoid the step completely. I watched her go out, from habit, to the edge of the porch above the step — seem to consider whether she could handle the step — and then look over and remember her new Solvit ramp, which she marched right down with a wag of her tail.

Jazzy uses ramp on her own

-Tracie Hotchner

Halo is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.