Does Your Pet Have Seasonal Allergies?

If Your Dog is Itchy or Your Cat is
Wheezy, You Need to Read This


June 22, 2012 |

By Dr. Becker

Did you know your dog or cat can suffer from seasonal allergies just as you do?

According to a survey conducted by Novartis Animal Health, over half of pet owners aren’t aware their fuzzy family members can also spend the spring season feeling miserable thanks to pollens and other environmental allergens.

Two Categories of Pet Allergies

There are primarily two types of allergies: food allergies and environmental allergies. If your pet gets itchy during spring, summer or fall, she’s probably reacting to seasonal, environmental allergens. But if her symptoms continue year-round, it’s more likely her sensitivity is to something more constant in her environment, or to something in her diet.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a hard freeze in the winter, environmental allergens can build up and cause year-round issues for your pet. In addition, seasonal allergies can progress to year-round allergies, which I’ll discuss shortly.

Signs Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies

Unlike humans whose allergy symptoms usually involve the respiratory tract, dog allergies and cat allergies more often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation – a condition called allergic dermatitis.

If your pet has allergies, her skill will become very itchy. She’ll start scratching excessively, and might bite or chew at certain areas of her body. She may rub herself against vertical surfaces like furniture, or she may rub her face against the carpet. She’s trying to relieve the miserable itchiness by any means possible.

As the itch-scratch cycle continues, her skin will become inflamed and tender to the touch. Other signs of allergic dermatitis include areas of hair loss, open sores on the skin, and scabbing.

Hot spots can develop as well in dogs (hot spots are rarely seen in cats). A hot spot is inflamed, infected skin that occurs when your dog’s natural bacteria overwhelms an area of his skin. Typically the skin will be very red, and often there is bleeding and hair loss.

Other Signs to Watch For

Pets with allergies also often have problems with their ears – especially dogs. The ear canals may be itchy and inflamed as part of a generalized allergic response, or they may grow infected with yeast or bacteria.

Signs your pet’s ears are giving him problems include scratching at the ears, head shaking, and hair loss around the ears. If infection is present there will often be odor and a discharge from the ears.

While respiratory symptoms aren’t common in pets with allergies, they do occur. A running nose, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing are typical allergic symptoms in both two- and four-legged allergy sufferers.

Typically pets with seasonal allergies to ragweed, grasses, pollens, molds and trees, also develop sensitivity to other allergens inhaled through the nose and mouth. Animals with weaknesses in their lung fields can develop sinusitis and bronchitis, just as people do.

Another sign to watch for if you suspect your pet has allergies is generalized redness. Allergic pets often have puffy red eyes, red oral tissue, a red chin, red paws and even a red anus.

How Seasonal Allergies Can Turn Into Year-Round Allergies

Allergic reactions are produced by your pet’s immune system, and the way his immune system functions is a result of both nature (his genetics) and nurture (his environment).

I often see the following history with allergic pets who visit my practice:

  • A young pup or kitten, maybe 4 to 6 months old, begins with a little red tummy, itchy ears, and maybe a mild infection in one ear. His regular vet treats the pup symptomatically to provide him some relief.
  • The following year as soon as the weather warms up, the pet is brought back to his regular vet with very itchy feet, another ear infection, and a hotspot or two. Again, the vet treats the symptoms (hopefully not with steroids) until the weather turns cold and the symptoms disappear.
  • Year three, the same pet suffers from May through September with red, inflamed skin, maybe some hair loss, more hotspots, frequent ear and skin infections, and a tendency to chew his paws or scratch until he bleeds.
  • By year five, all the symptoms have grown significantly worse and the animal’s suffering is now year-round.

This is what usually happens with seasonal environmental allergies. The more your pet is exposed to the allergens he’s sensitive to, the more intense and long-lasting his allergic response becomes.

With my regular patients (those who start out life as patients of my practice), I begin addressing potential root causes at the first sign of an allergic response, which is usually around six months of age. I do this to reduce the risk of an escalating response year after year.

Helping a Pet with Seasonal Allergies

Since the allergen load your environmentally sensitive pet is most susceptible to is much heavier outdoors, two essential steps in managing her condition are regular foot soaks and baths during the warmer months when all those triggers are in bloom.

Dermatologists recommend this common sense approach for human allergy sufferers. If you have hypersensitivities, your doctor will tell you to shower at night and in the morning to remove allergens from the surface of your body. I recommend you do the same for your dog or cat.

  • Frequent baths give complete, immediate relief to an itchy pet and wash away the allergens on the coat and skin. Make sure to use a grain free (oatmeal free) shampoo.
  • Foot soaks are also a great way to reduce the amount of allergens your pet tracks into the house and spreads all over her indoor environment.
  • Keep the areas of your home where your pet spends most of her time as allergen-free as possible. Vacuum and clean floors and pet bedding frequently using simple, non-toxic cleaning agents rather than household cleaners containing chemicals.
  • Because allergies are an immune system response, it’s important to keep your pet’s immune function optimal. This means avoiding unnecessary vaccinations and drugs. And I do not recommend you vaccinate your pet during a systemic inflammatory response. Vaccines stimulate the immune system, which is the last thing your pet with seasonal environmental allergies needs. Talk to your holistic vet about titers to measure your pet’s immunity to core diseases as an alternative to automatically vaccinating.
  • If you haven’t already, move your pet to an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods that create or worsen inflammation are high in carbohydrates. Your allergic pet’s diet should be very low in grain content.
  • Research has shown that ‘leaky gut,’ or dysbiosis, is a root cause of immune system overreactions, so addressing this issue with a holistic vet is an important aspect of reducing allergic reactions over time.

Allergy-Fighting Supplements

Quercetin. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. I call it ‘nature’s Benadryl’ because it does a great job suppressing histamine release from mast cells and basophiles.

Histamine is what causes much of the inflammation, redness and irritation characteristic of an allergic response. By turning off histamine production with a quercetin supplement, we can suppress or at least moderate the effects of inflammation.

Quercetin also has some other wonderful properties. It inhibits 5-lipooxygenase, an enzyme that upregulates the inflammatory cascade. Quercetin inhibits the production of leukotrienes, another way the body creates inflammation, thereby decreasing the level of bronchoconstriction. Bronchoconstriction occurs in the lung fields as a symptom of asthma. Quercetin can actually suppress how much constriction occurs.

Bromelain and papain. Bromelain and papain are proteolytic enzymes that increase the absorption of quercetin, making it work more effectively. They also suppress histamine production.

One of the reasons I use quercetin, bromelain and papain together is they also suppress prostaglandin release. Prostaglandins are another pathway by which inflammation can occur. By suppressing prostaglandins, we can decrease the pain and inflammation associated with irritated mucous membranes and body parts. Using the three substances in combination provides some natural pain and inflammation control.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation throughout the body. Adding them into the diet of all pets — particularly pets struggling with seasonal environmental allergies – is very beneficial. The best sources of omega 3s are krill oil, salmon oil, tuna oil, anchovy oil and other fish body oils.

Coconut oil. I also recommend coconut oil for allergic pets. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which helps decrease the production of yeast. Using a fish body oil with coconut oil before inflammation flares up in your pet’s body can help moderate or even suppress the inflammatory response.

How to walk your cat on a leash!


Some indoor cats like to dash outside whenever possible.   They love taking in all the excitement outdoors and getting some fresh air.  As we know, it can be dangerous for our indoor cats who are not used to being outside.  If you are willing to take the time, you can teach your cat to walk on a leash.  While it isn’t easy and some cats take to it more than others, it can be done with time and practice.

First, you need to purchase a harness and leash designed for cats

A harness (not a collar) should always be your first choice for cats. The harness should be snug fitting, not tight, with the least attachment toward the middle. Make sure that the harness is not too loose or your cat will slither through pretty quickly and be off! The leash should be long enough so your cat can wander a bit, but avoid the long leash on retractable string that we use for dogs.

Practice indoors and let your cat get used to the feeling of a harness

You need to get your cat used to wearing the harness and leash before going outside. Put the harness on your cat, making sure it’s snug but not too tight. The second you’ve got the harness on, before you let go of her, give your kitty a treat. If she takes a step in the harness, give her a treat, praise her and pat her on the head. Repeat the treating and praising if she continues to move about in her harness.

If your cat hates the harness and runs to hide, remove the harness and give a treat as a peace offering. Try leaving the harness near your cat’s favorite napping spot for a few days to get her used to seeing it in places she associates with good things.  Rub your scent on the harness or leave a t-shirt with your scent next to it.

Keep praising your kitty as she gets used to the harness

As your cat learns to tolerate the harness and leash for longer periods, give her a constant stream of praise, head rubs and food treats (not too many so your kitty doesn’t gain weight!) while she’s wearing it. When she’s done with a training session, meaning she’s dropped to the ground, her tail is switching, remove the harness immediately. You want to end the session with your cat feeling confident and in control.

Next step outside with the harness slowly and carefully

Once your cat is walking around in his harness and leash in a normal manner, you can step outside the door. Depending on your kitty’s tolerance, you might spend the next few weeks getting down the front walk or onto the grass. Or, if your kitty likes it out there, you could be walking in a week or so. If your neighborhood has a lot of traffic, dogs, or other distractions, try taking your cat to a quieter area where she’s less exposed to frightening sights and sounds.

Now try to take your cat out for a longer walk

If your cat is willing, taking your kitty a little further each outing. When your kitty’s eagerly exploring a new area with his tail up, take another baby step.  Make sure that your cat doesn’t pick up anything in her mouth or lick anything, even the lawn (could have pesticide). And no tree climbing for leashed cats. It’s too dangerous on many levels.

NEVER tie your cat to a tree or post and leave your kitty outside alone even for a few minutes. If something spooks your cat, she could get tangled in the leash. If she’s threatened by another animal or even a person, she can’t get away. Your kitty should never be outside unattended for any reason.

Setbacks are common when teach your cat to walk your cat on a leash

We know how fickle cats can be.  One day, your cat might be fine walking out on a leash and the next day, he or she won’t budge.   Just go back to the last place when your cat was comfortable and move forward with baby steps. And unless your kitty is in harm’s way, resist the urge to pick up your cat if something spooks him. It’s better for your cat’s confidence if you can leave him on the ground at his own pace.

With time, effort, practice and a LOT of patience, you can get your cat walking on a leash.

published March 8, 2017 on

Getting Your Dog in Shape for the Great Outdoors

Courtesy of
Dog running

As the days are now getting longer and warmer, we know that you and your pet are probably feeling the pull of the great outdoors, so what better time for getting your dog in shape both mentally and physically for all the beautiful weather that’s just around the corner?

Starting slow

You would never start your own physical training regimen by running a marathon. And there are so many great ways you can get your dog started on the path to getting back into shape after the long, dark days of winter. Walking is great for both of you! If your dog has been sedentary all winter, begin with short distances and walk at a brisk pace. Start slow & gradually increase your distance over the course of a few weeks and in no time at all you will both be ready for more rigorous activity.

But what if the weather outside is soggy and wet?

Do you have a treadmill for your own use? Why not train your pet to use it as well? Yes, seriously! In the cold months before spring a treadmill can be a good start on a fitness program for both you and your pet, but once those warmer, sunnier days arrive, there is no substitute for going outside for that all-important fresh air and Vitamin D! There are many great videos which show you how to acclimatize your dog to a treadmill. We have met many dogs who, once trained, hop on their owner’s treadmill and wait for it to be turned on.

TIP: Be sure to have proper warm up and cool down periods on the treadmill just like you would for any exercise – and remember, treadmills are not a permanent substitute for walking or exercising outside.

Play your favourite games

When you can’t be outside, play games indoors with your dog to keep him active and keep his mind sharp. What was your favourite game as a kid? Maybe hide-and-seek? Or what about catch? These games can be so much fun for your pet (and you!) to play indoors when the weather is not sunny and warm. If you’re looking to build muscle strength, try having your dog sit and then offer him a treat high enough above his head that he has to rise from his sit to stand on his hind legs. You can then have him return to a sit or a ‘beg’ position and repeat. Several repeats of this each day will help to build strength and muscle tone for both of you.

Another way to do some conditioning and burn off some steam is to play fetch on your carpeted stairs. As long as your dog is not a young puppy and is healthy and not prone to hip problems, you can throw a ball or a toy to the top of the stairs and have him retrieve it for you. Just be careful no to overdo stair exercise.

Outside the home

There are lots of other ways to occupy your pup both physically and mentally while still remaining indoors during bad weather. Why not sign up for an obedience class? Or learn something new like nosework? Any activity involving a dog’s nose is a very intense activity for them.

Many cities and towns now boast indoor swimming pools for dogs. Although they are often used for therapy, they also provide the best possible exercise for your dog, so it’s worth checking out. If the rates are a little high, ask the pool owner if you can share your time with another doggy friend to share the cost.

You can take your dog with you on many of your outings. Home Improvement stores or pet supply stores are options to get your pup out of the house and engaged without getting bored. If you have to leave him at home, you can try leaving him with a treat dispensing toy to occupy his brain and nose.

There are lots of ways to get ready for more outdoor activity if you think about the options that are available. By the time the warmer weather hits, you will both be ready to hit the great outdoors!

Healthy Teeth & Good Breath (without brushing your dog’s teeth)


It’s pet dental health month and I really don’t want to brush my dog’s teeth. Now, I’m crazy about my dog’s health. I know maintaining a healthy oral system is SUPER important in preventing disease and it’s also important (to me) that Pi doesn’t wake me up with dog breath! BUT brushing her teeth every day just isn’t going to happen. Fortunately, there are simple, natural ways to clean your dog’s teeth clean and her breath relatively odorless. And all without brushing.

Raw Bones

Raw bones are AMAZING for dental health. They’re what keep animals’ teeth so healthy in the wild without brushing! Tearing at connective tissues and meat cleans between the teeth while grinding on the bone scales off tartar. Chomping down on more delicate bones like chicken wings, necks, and lamb bones scrubs the surfaces of the teeth.

RAW bones are generally safe, while cooked bones should be avoided as they may splinter. Stop in The Happy Beast, and we can help you choose bones that are safe and effective for YOUR dog.

My dog gets a recreational femur bone (from Primal) a few times a week and I replace her normal meal with a piece of raw bone-in chicken every other night.

Bully sticks, tendons and other chews also stimulate the gums, work the jaw muscles and promote overall health.

Daily Dental Treats

Dogs love treats, so choose ones that provide health benefits!

We used DentaTreat with our little chihuahua-mix when she had cancer and lost interest in chewing on bones. After sprinkling it on her food for a few weeks, the tartar started sliding off her teeth.

“Composed of dental-active natural cheeses, minerals, apple polyphenols , and many other ingredients that help to maintain oral health, DentaTreat™ is a cat and dog supplement that can be sprinkled directly onto food, or it can also be used with a toothbrush as a tooth cleaning powder.” (

InClover’s Grin treats are another easy and tasty way to support oral health. Chlorophyll, green tea extracts and prebiotics support a healthy mouth and stomach, fighting bacteria to improve your dog’s breath!

Enzymatic Oral Sprays and Gels (PetzLife)

These are ideal for dogs and cats who already have plaque buildup on their teeth. Grape seed and grapefruit extracts help reduce inflammation and disease while neem, peppermint and thyme oils fight bacteria and pathogens that cause gingivitis and bad breath. Just spray or rub on your dog’s gum line.

More Fresh Foods, Less Kibble

Kibble shatters on first crunch and is immediately swallowed. This allows inadequate time for any mechanical cleaning that might occur if chewed thoroughly. Crunching kibble cleans your dogs teeth only as well as chewing crackers cleans ours!  Read more here:

Adding a fresher form of food to your dog or cat’s kibble will provide plaque fighting enzymes for their system and support healthier gums and teeth.


It’s important to note that genetics play a big role in dental wellness. In The Nature of Animal Healing (borrow it from our store or buy it online) holistic vet, Dr. Martin Goldstein, DVM explains that generations of breeding “to hunt or show better or simply to look cuter” has “distorted the natural shape of their jaws.” Some dogs, especially small and toy breeds, will require more attention. Have your vet check your dog’s teeth at his routine exam. If tartar or disease have already set in, a dental cleaning may be in order. Even if your dog is very susceptible to periodontal disease, you can space out his cleanings by providing daily care with the right bones, chews, diet and treats!

Top 10 Winter Skin and Paw Care Tips

Top 10 Winter Skin and Paw Care Tips

ASPCA logoExposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws.

Says Dr. Louise Murray, ASPCA Director of Medicine, “During the winter, products used as de-icers on sidewalks and other areas can lead to trouble for our animal companions, potentially causing problems ranging from sore feet to internal toxicity. Pet parents should take precautions to minimize their furry friends’ exposure to such agents.”

To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s paws and skin, please heed the following advice from our experts:

  • Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in between the toes.
  • Trim long-haired dogs to minimize the clinging of ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry on the skin.
  • Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet to remove ice, salt and chemicals-and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
  • Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.
  • Dressing your pet in a sweater or coat will help to retain body heat and prevent skin from getting dry.
  • Booties help minimize contact with painful salt crystals, poisonous anti-freeze and chemical ice-melting agents. They can also help prevent sand and salt from getting lodged in between bare toes, causing irritation.
  • Massaging petroleum jelly into paw pads before going outside helps to protect from salt and chemical agents. And moisturizing after a good toweling off helps to heal chapped paws.
  • Brushing your pet regularly not only gets rid of dead hair, but also stimulates blood circulation, improving the skin’s overall condition.
  • Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime, sometimes causing dehydration. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help to keep her well-hydrated, and her skin less dry.
  • Remember, if the weather’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Animal companions should remain indoors as much as possible during the winter months and never be left alone in vehicles when the mercury drop

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

199 Poisonous Plants to Look Out For

While plants and flowers are a great way to decorate, not every plant is safe for your home. We know poison oak shouldn’t be touched, and to keep poinsettias away from our pets, but did you know some of your favorite blooms may have toxic properties as well?

We’ve rounded up a list of almost 200 common poisonous plants so you can be sure you’re picking the safest options. Most of these plants are safe to grow and keep in your home, but should be avoided if you’re concerned of accidental ingestion from a hungry pet or curious child. Look through the list of plant names and make sure no one in your home is at risk. 



Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Dogs and Cats

– from The Wellness Blog

Orange, yellow and red leaves line the streets and the Halloween costumes are put away for another year. You know what that means! It’s only a few short weeks until Thanksgiving!

And while you check your guest list and count your serving utensils, don’t forget about your pets.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition of food and family, but for your four-legged family members, it can present hazards. While Great Aunt Mabel preps her famous sweet potato casserole, Max and Fluffy can get into the trash behind her back and get dangerously sick.

Think of the traditional Thanksgiving foods, there’s fatty turkey trimmings – hello upset tummy! There’s cranberry sauce (loaded with sugar), dressing with onions, and other foods that can turn your Thanksgiving into an evening at the emergency vet.

Top Thanksgiving Hazards for Pets


Halloween Safety Tips for Customers

Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity for two- and four-legged participants alike. It is also a time for concerns about safety. According to the Pet Poison Hotline, calls to veterinarians increase by 12 percent during Halloween. Among the greatest risks for pets is the ingestion of Halloween candy and decor.

Here are some simple tips that your customers can use to minimize the risks to their pets during All Hallows Eve.

Safe Storage
Dog owners should store all candy in a safe place. The location should be out of a dog’s reach as well as securely covered to prevent a cat from getting into it. For customers who have children of trick-or-treat age, recommend that they use two storage containers: one for candy to be distributed and the second for collected treats.

In addition, every child should be taught to not give any type of candy or toy to a pet.

Food Products to Avoid
Chocolate tops the list. Amounts as little as one ounce could sicken a 50-lb. dog. Dark chocolate is more dangerous than other types, but all chocolate should be avoided. Chocolate-covered raisins are even more hazardous because both ingredients are poisonous to dogs and cats.
Many health-conscious parents will offer sugar-free sweets or fruit products over the more traditional candy. While this can be better for children, it isn’t automatically safer for pets.


Are White Potatoes Bad for Dogs?

logoPotatoes have recently become one of the latest ingredients to be labeled as ‘bad’ for pets but what are the actual facts?

As with many pet food trends, certain ingredients tend to become ostracized (or promoted) due to marketing initiatives and inaccurate rumor mills. We have gotten many questions about potatoes and want to take a minute to point out the facts.

Potatoes and Glycoalkaloids

Much of the bad rap for potatoes is due to their glycoalkaloid content. Glycoalkaloids, which are nerve toxins, can develop only in the stems, shoots and green parts of the skin. White potatoes should always be stored in the dark since glycoalkaloids can also become an issue in potato skin that’s been subjected to excessive or prolonged exposure to light. The stems, shoots and green parts of potatoes should not be consumed by people or animals and should be removed before serving.


Going Grain Free For Your Dog – Why and How to Transition to Grain-Free Pet Food

Grain free pet foods are becoming increasingly more popular. Do you have a pup that’s always itchy? Or maybe your cat is experiencing digestive issues? Have you recently started eliminating grains from your diet and want to have your pets to follow the same healthy lifestyle? There are many reasons why as a pet parent, you might choose to try a grain free food.