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Dr. Kim Schnepf has been practicing veterinary medicine for over 30 years, with a special interest in holistic care and nutrition. Dr. Schnepf has studied traditional Chinese medicine and veterinary acupuncture, in addition to her degree in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University. *Dr. Kim may not be able to address every submitted question

Many people use garlic with themselves as a holistic remedy for many conditions and would like to give it to their cats and dogs as well.  Potential health benefits for people are not effective in pets and garlic can be extremely toxic. Garlic is part of the allium family which includes onions. Unfortunately, dogs and cats don’t digest these plants as we do. Our hemoglobin can tolerate garlic and onions but cats and dogs cannot- and ingestion can lead to a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is basically the destruction of red blood cells in their bodies.   Ingestion can also lead to gastroenteritis with vomiting and or diarrhea. Garlic is about 5 X as concentrated as onions and consumption of as little as 5g/kg of onions in cats and 15 to 30 g/kg in dogs can lead to toxicity. So many pets can reach a toxic state with as little as one clove of garlic.   Symptoms of toxicity can take up to 2 to 4 days to appear and include difficulty breathing, lethargy, pale gums, elevated heart and respiratory rate, weakness, exercise intolerance, and collapse. Pets are at risk with large consumptions of garlic or even with smaller consumption over time.   The best advise when concerned about introducing a new product or treatment to your pet is to always consult with your family veterinarian first.
Note, It is very important that your dog has been examined by a veterinarian to rule out any serious causes of diarrhea or constipation before trying any of these recomendations. And to consult with your vet about any of these recommendations. #1- plenty of exercise and water are essential for a functioning bowel. #2- Feeding raw or balanced cooked meals can greatly enhance a dog's digestion and ability to defecate regularly. #3- probiotics and digestive enzymes can help digestion and aid in the treatment of both constipation and diarrhea. #4- additional fiber also aids in treating diarrhea and constipation. A great source of fiber for dogs is pumpkin, about 1 teaspoon for 10 pounds of body weight one to two times daily. You can used plain canned pumpkin or many pet stores now carry a dehydrated pumpkin.
Many health problems can crop up when dogs are fed the same food for years on end. These include developing food allergies or intolerances, it promotes inadequate nutrition and it increases the risk of your dog losing interest in his food because of boredom! Rotating diets provides many nutritional benefits and promotes a healthy gastrointestinal environment. If your pet has been eating the same food for months or years you don't want to suddenly change their food. See my transition schedule under tips for switching diets. It is good to select a variety of 3 to 4 diets, which can be different formulas of the same brand, and transition every 2 to 3 months. You usually only need to do the slow transition the first time you introduce a new food. After that you should be able to just switch foods every 2 to 3 months. Adding a probiotic to the diet during transitions can greatly ease the dog's ability to handle a new food.
It is ok to give cats shrimp occasionally (probably no more than twice a week) and in small quantities as treats. It should not replace their normal diet. It is ok to feed them to your cat raw and even whole. Cats are predatory in nature and have the ability to crunch them up. This can be especially fun for indoor only cats as they rarely get the opportunity to use their predatory skills. Keep in mind that fish can be highly allergenic, rating in the top 3 of allergic foods for cats, so don't feed shrimp if your kitty is allergic to fish.
For humans and cats who often have type 2 diabetes diet change can be all that is needed to achieve control. But for dogs that have type 1 diabetes there is no single diet recommendation. The most important factor for dogs is insulin therapy. The second most important factor is that they like the food,eat it willingly and at regular intervals, ideally every 12 hours when they receive their insulin injections. Fiber and carbohydrate content are controversial and there have been very few studies showing what is the best diet for dogs. Recommendations from the experts change frequently. Most diabetic dogs do fine with moderate fiber foods and don't need the high fiber prescription foods. Low fat diets are important if the dog has concurrent pancreatitis or high triglycerides. Because many diabetic dogs have or at risk for pancreatitis it is best to avoid feeding high fat diets. There is a strong association between carbohydrates ingested and amount of insulin needed,so keeping the carbohydrates steady can help with good control. Many diabetic dogs do well with a more protein based, low carbohydrate food. It is important to keep the diet consistent especially in regard to the level of carbohydrate. Avoid treats that are high in carbohydrates or sugar. Dehydrated meat treats are an excellent choice,avoiding any made in China. Vegetables such as green beans also make excellent treats. In conclusion the best choice of diet for your dog with diabetes is very individual but it is important to choose a quality diet that supports overall health and that maintains a trim weight.      
Purine (urate)uroliths account for 8% of all canine uroliths with Dalmatians accounting for 61% of cases. Dalmatians are predisposed to urate uroliths because their ability to oxidize uric acid is impaired. Less is known about urate stone formation is other breeds. In studies of normal dogs, consumption of high protein foods was associated with greater urinary uric acid concentration and increased urine saturation with urates when compared with consumption of lower protein foods. Risk factors for urate stones includes a genetic predisposition along with increased renal excretion and urine concentration of uric acid, low urinary ph, and increased renal excretion or production of ammonium ions. Dietary components may promote urate urolith formation in predisposed dogs because dietary purines may be digested, absorbed and incorporated into the body's purine pool (along with endogenous purines) and eventually excreted into the urine. Thus, metabolism of dietary purines may result in oversaturation of urine with urate calculogenic substances. The goal of dietary modification for patients with uric acid or ammonium urate uroliths is to reduce urine concentration of uric acid,ammonium ions and hydrogen ions. One should work with a veterinary nutritionist to get a balanced homemade diet in predisposed dogs or feed a prescription diet for such individuals.  
Dogs have been domesticated by humans and evolved over thousands of years to be obligate omnivores rather than true carnivores. A recent study by Robert Wayne, a professor at University of California Los Angeles, has determined that dogs are not as closely related to wolves as once believed. What this means is that the genome of dogs has adapted over time from that of wolves to aid digestion of starches in their diet. Accordingly, for a balanced diet dogs do need vegetables, fruits and supplements. A diet consisting only of ground meat and bones would not be balanced.
Low thyroid levels can affect every organ system in dogs. A healthy well-balanced diet is essential for these dogs to maximize their health. You want to avoid excess cruciferous vegetables, such as those in the cabbage family and other goitrogens, such as soy isoflavones, that can suppress the function of the thyroid gland. Obesity is often an issue with these dogs, so a quality food is very important to maintain a lean body weight.
Protein requirements vary from species to species and vary greatly during the rapid growth stages and for elderly animals with compromised kidneys. It also varies greatly among individual animals. Most pet foods follow the AAFCO standards for protein which is an adequate place to start. Puppy: 22-32% protein, 10-25% fat Adult Dog: 15-30% protein, 10-20% fat Performance Dog: 22-32% protein, 15-40% fat Racing Dog: 28-34% protein, Greater than 50% fat Lactating Dog: 25-35% protein, Greater or equal to 20% fat.
In theory you can't feed a dog too much protein. If a healthy dog eats too much protein some would get excreted in the urine and the rest gets used as calories or gets converted to fat and doesn't cause any harm. Protein is the most expensive ingredient in your pet food so why pay for more than you need.  
Animals in advanced kidney failure may need to be on a protein-restricted, but high biological value protein to lesson the effects of the kidney disease. Not all proteins are created equal. The ability of the protein to be used by the body is called it's biological value. Egg has the highest biological value at 100. Fish is close behind at 92. Beef is around 78. Wheat comes in at around 50 and corn is 45.  
It is important that you switch your dog gradually from his current food to the new food to prevent digestive upset.  To transition mix your dog's current food with the new food. Over the next 7 days gradually increase the new food and decrease the old food. An easy transition schedule to follow is:   Days1 and 2: 75% old 25% new Days 3 and 4: 50% old 50% new Days 5 and 6: 25% old 75% new Days 7 onward 100% of the new food fed.
Over 50% of the pet population is overweight so this is a very important topic. You are what you eat may be more than just a catchy phrase. It has been well documented in the scientific literature that the processing of food creates by-products that are pro-inflammatory and dysregulating to insulin- this is now known as Metabolic syndrome. Obese dogs with metabolic syndrome burn fewer calories than their lean counterparts. Because of this simply restricting calories will not result in successful weight loss. The feeding of unprocessed foods can help reverse the chronic effects of Metabolic syndrome. So back to you are what you eat- for successful weight loss in dogs you must consider the quality not just the quantity of the food being fed.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, foods are considered quite differently than in the west. They are looked upon as extensions of herbs rather than proteins, fats and carbohydrates. In that regard we have foods that are cooling, warming and neutral.  The thermal nature of food is described by the way you feel after you have eaten it. Warming foods are used to aid circulation and digestion. This doesn't mean the food is warm to the touch but rather leads to internal warmth after consumption. Warming foods such as lamb, chicken, turkey, venison, oats and sweet potato may be used to help digestion. They may be helpful in treating arthritic conditions that worsen in the winter.   Neutral foods are the best balancers used to treat mild conditions. Beef, beef liver, rabbit, yam, rice and potato are neutral foods.   Cooling foods help to decrease internal inflammation and cool the body. This applies to physical and emotional cooling. These foods are useful if your pet overheats easily or is aggressive with a hot temper. Some examples of cooling foods are clam,duck,egg, pork, millet and barley.
From the holistic point of view, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is a result of multiple factors.However, this condition is much more common in dogs on processed kibble. Anatomically dogs are designed for digesting meat, bones, organs with some plant material. Nature never intended dogs to eat a heavily processed grain-based diet. When processed food is fed, the pancreas simply gets overworked and it becomes inflamed. The inflammation itself can activate the digestive enzymes prematurely which can trigger the process of pancreas “self digestion”. This can result in leakage of pancreatic enzymes into the abdominal cavity damaging the abdominal lining and other organs. Because of this, pancreatitis is a serious and often life-threatening condition which needs to be taken seriously. Acute pancreatitis is the most serious form, and the onset happens relatively suddenly. Symptoms would include; loss of appetite and vomiting, diarrhea (may or may not be present), and there is usually signs of lethargy, dehydration and the abdomen may appear hardened and sensitive to touch especially in the front portion of the abdomen. The pancreas is closely related to the stomach and is in the same area. Chronic pancreatitis often presents with no symptoms. The only sign of it is a slight elevation of pancreatic enzymes.  In my opinion, a high quality protein diet is much better for dogs suffering from pancreatitis than starch, rice or a grain based diet. I do not recommend low protein food. I do recommend lower fat meats for dogs with pancreatitis. Chicken, turkey, rabbit, eggs are good examples of low fat foods. I do not recommend fatty meats such as duck or lamb. I also do not recommend large animal red meat (beef, buffalo or bison for dogs with pancreatitis.
 I am constantly perplexed by the resistance in the veterinary community to raw diets. I have come to believe that it is mainly due to a lack of knowledge about the benefits of raw and of how to balance the nutrition. There is also a great amount of fear of the risk of bacterial infections. Which is also perplexing as I have seen far more problems in pets over the years from various contaminated commercial pet foods that end up being recalled after causing great harm to our pets.
 I have observed so many pets over the years turn from sluggish, overweight animals to sleek vibrant active pets again. A good example would be my own dog. I adopted a 1 year old west highland white terrier who came to me with bleeding sores all over his body from terrible skin allergies. The only thing I changed was the switch to a balanced raw diet and he became a vibrant itch free dog with a beautiful hair coat who is still going strong at the tender age of 14 and 1/2!
As far as safety for the animal is concerned, mother nature has blessed the dog with a digestive system to handle potential bacteria concerns. Namely stronger stomach acids, and a shorter digestive track. Are there risks involved in feeding a raw meat diet to dog owners? Of course there is and that is why you need to follow safe handling and feeding practices.  You handle the raw meat diets the very same way that you handle raw chicken that is being cooked for your family. Sterilizing dishes, washing hands often, using disinfectants, and observing safe handling procedures is the key to eliminating potential hazards. This is common sense stuff, but needs to be emphasized to eliminate the possibility of harm to humans.
For many people raw meat figures into these requirements. The raw diet has not been heat processed which is the biggest detriment to all dry and canned products.The advantage gained is a diet that has its nutrients preserved as nature intended and still contains active enzymes and phytonutrients.  Living Enzymes are proteins found in raw foods which help the body function. Enzymes are only beneficial to the body if they are living. Once food is cooked or processed, it no longer contains living enzymes.  Living Enzymes in a raw diet restore, repair, and maintain health. Animals replenish their enzymes systems by eating raw unprocessed foods.