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Questions for Dr. Shawn - Anxiety

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Dear Dr. Shawn:
"Could you tell me about options for treating my dog and cat? Both have separation anxiety and I know they’ll panic when family comes to visit for the holidays. Boarding them is not an option (they get even more nervous!) and I don’t like the way they act when they take conventional tranquilizers."

Answer:
”Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioral problems I treat in pets. While conventional tranquilizers such as acepromazine can immobilize pets, these drugs do not relieve the terrible anxiety the poor pets experience. Therefore, they really should not be used as the sole therapy for anxiety disorders in dogs and cats. Ideally, whether we use medications or natural therapies, owners whose pets experience severe anxiety should work with veterinary behavioral specialists to try to countercondition the pets so that they will become accustomed to those situations that produce anxiety. With proper training, many pets can “outgrow” their anxieties.

There are several natural alternatives to medications that can help pets with separation anxieties. Here are 2 supplements I’ve used successfully in my practice for pets with mild to moderate anxiety. In my own practice, I prescribe an herbal remedy called Nutricalm by RX Vitamins for pets. It contains several anti-anxiety herbs. Composure by VetriScience is a great amino acid product containing theanine, which induces mild calming in pets. Each pet is different, but I encourage you to consider these safe natural options before resorting to stronger conventional medications. Make sure to work with your veterinarian before using herbs, as even these natural “medicines” can have side effects in certain pets.”


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Dear Dr. Shawn:
"My 5 year old Labrador Lux has been taking antibiotics for several years for what his doctor calls a Staph skin infection. He does better while he’s taking the medication but the skin infection returns shortly after stopping the antibiotics. The doctor said he’d probably need antibiotics for the rest of his life. I’d like to try a more holistic approach but was wondering how well this works for skin infections. Despite using holistic therapies do you ever encounter a dog that needs to be maintained on antibiotics forever for skin disease?"

Answer:
"Most of my patients with chronic skin disease only need infrequent antibiotic therapy as the holistic therapies we use usually work very well. First, for pets with chronic skin infections I always make sure an underlying problem such as allergies, food intolerance, or hypothyroidism is not the cause of the problem Assuming Lux does not have any of these issues, a holistic approach makes sense. Using frequent bathing to cleanse the skin, feeding a natural diet, using various supplements including antioxidants, fatty acids, and various herbs and homeopathics, you should be able to help Lux reduce his need for antibiotics.

While some pets treated with only conventional medications such as antibiotics require lifelong therapy, I have yet to encounter a pet with Staph skin infections that does not respond to a more holistic approach. The good news for you is that while not an overnight success, Lux will likely improve with time and the correct treatment. As a worse-case scenario, lifelong antibiotic therapy would be a last resort (and even then, if combined with immune-boosting supplements I bet that lower doses of the antibiotics could be used.)"


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Dear Dr. Shawn:
"I recently saw a news story about how antibiotics are over-prescribed for medical conditions in people. I know this is true, as my doctor is always prescribing amoxicillin every time my son is sick. I'm sure that veterinarians also over-prescribe antibiotics. Can you tell me some conditions that might be better treated with a more natural approach?"

Answer:
”Antibiotic use is increasing in pets and people. While antibiotics can be very helpful for those conditions caused by serious bacterial infections, very often a patient will improve by using alternatives to antibiotics. This is important, as repeated (and unnecessary) use of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance. This term means that with repeated antibiotic use, bacteria will become resistant to that antibiotic, making it ineffective. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening problem. Currently, there is an increase in cases of antibiotic resistant staph infections that have proved fatal in many cases. Therefore, as you suggested, alternatives to antibiotics should be used whenever practical. In my own practice, there are several conditions for which I rarely use antibiotics and still have wonderful success in treating my patients. One condition which responds really well to natural therapies is staph skin infections. For those pets with early or mild infections, I don’t use antibiotics but instead use a combination of herbs, homeopathics, and of course immune stimulants to help the pet heal itself. Yeast infections of the skin also respond well to a similar regimen and rarely need conventional medications. Another common condition for which antibiotics are rarely needed is urinary tract disease in cats. These cases are often difficult to treat, but rarely are bacteria ever involved as a cause. Cats with bladder issues usually respond well to a combination of herbs, homeopathics, and various nutritional supplements (dogs with bladder infections often respond as well.) There are other conditions as well for which antibiotics are often prescribed but not always needed. I suggest you work with your doctor to find alternatives to antibiotics for those cases which may not need conventional medications.”


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Dear Readers:
”Last week I shared with you some of the conditions for which antibiotics are often prescribed, yet for which natural therapies might be the preferred treatment. This week I want to share with you some of the conditions for which another class of drugs, NSAIDS, are often used when an alternative approach might be preferred. NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, are commonly used in pets and people to reduce pain and inflammation. Examples in people include Vioxx and Celebrex, and in pets Rimadyl, Metacam, EtoGesic, and Deramaxx. They are most commonly used before and after surgery (for a short period of time) to control pain. More commonly they are used indefinitely to control the pain associated with arthritis.

While I don’t have a problem with their use to control surgical pain (and use them myself for this condition,) I prefer not to use them to control chronic conditions such as arthritis. There are too many side effects that can occur (such as intestinal bleeding, liver disease, kidney disease, worsening of the arthritis, and even death.) There are much better alternatives to control arthritis pain that don’t have the side effects that can be seen with NSAIDS. Examples of supplements that help pets with arthritis include glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, enzymes such as bromelain, and hyaluronic acid. Herbs such as willow bark and homeopathics such as arnica and hecla also work well. Acupuncture and magnetic therapy can also be effective.

If NSAIDS must be used to help pets with arthritis, they are most safely used on a limited basis (painful days) and then at a dose lower than the recommended or label dose.”

 

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