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If you missed our recent Facebook live session with veterinarian Dr. Zac Pilossoph, not to worry! We’ve captured a recording of the event so you can rewatch it and learn the excellent tips and advice he shared. We also asked Dr. Zac to answer the questions we didn’t get to during the live event, which are below.
Watch our Ask a Vet live video to learn about dental care, the best age to spay your puppy, healthy homemade treat ideas, why a cat might suddenly have bad breath and more. And be sure to follow us on Facebook so you can join us next time!
Watch the video recording
See Dr. Zac’s answers to questions we missed during the Live
If you don’t see your question answered below, it may be because it was too specific and would require a veterinary exam to provide an accurate response.
Topic: Food, water and supplements
Q: Have an 8-month cavapoochon rescue. At what age can I switch to adult food as he does not seem to eat much puppy food. I’m using Purina ProPlan and Science Diet.
A: On average, we recommend waiting until about one year to switch to adult food. For larger breed dogs, this may be extended until 15-18 months, as they take more time to attain full size and maturity.
Q: What are great probiotics for dogs?
A: Probiotics are just active bacteria cultures considered useful in re-attaining or maintaining gut health. I do not have a specific brand I recommend; there are several trustworthy ones and many more untrustworthy ones. I recommend researching a company/product you are looking to use for third-party laboratory testing first, as this is the best way to prove the product will have in it what they claim.
Q: What kibble do you recommend for a 5-month-old Frenchie?
A. If looking to feed kibble to a puppy, then the kibble should be formulated for growth. Other than this, look for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement that supports this on the label. I do not recommend one product over another. There is no food specified for a specific breed. Any food advertised for a breed is pure marketing; it has no metabolic or health backing. Dogs are dogs.
Q: Is it best for cats to have grain-free foods, or can they sufficiently process grains like dogs have been found to do?
A: There is a conflicting theory about whether cats need carbohydrates in their diet at all. Just for clarification, grain-free does not mean carbohydrate free. Grain-free is a marketing claim; it has nothing to do with macromolecule content and ratios. It was tailored to human needs because humans have a few diseases that make them grain intolerant. Non-human animals do not, aside from a short list of exceptions. Now, to the topic of carbohydrates. Many cats do just fine in standard kibble diets with 40-55% carbohydrate content. However, many do not and develop a variety of metabolic disorders. There is thought that some cancers may be linked to this diet type as well.
Based on biology, cats are obligate carnivores, so another camp argues they should be fed meat-based diets only, as was intended by nature before humans started to domesticate. And in fact, many cats still get to hunt and live off meat, either partially or totally. Cats must be able to process carbohydrates, though. Otherwise, they would have died being fed standard kibble diet if 40-55% of the content was just going straight through the gut without being absorbed.
Q: My cat is on Royal Canin hydrolyzed diet for Irritable Bowel Disease. He refuses wet food, and cat treats make him sick, even the hill hydrolyzed treats. I know he misses them. Is there anything else I could try to give him as a treat or occasional snack to mix it up for him that wouldn’t disagree with him?
A: Single-ingredient, dehydrated treats, either meat (muscle or organ meat) or vegetable based, are potential options. These can be made at home in the oven as well. However, it would depend on what the cat’s gut is sensitive to, which treats will be OK.
Q: Regarding anti-anxiety supplements- I tried a holistic supplement made of bovine calastrom, but she looked like she was still mentally anxious – is this the overall effect in any anti-anxiety holistically or pharmaceutical method for animals? Would one be best for calming their minds and not so dramatically physical?
A: Supplements will only do so much, in my opinion, regarding anxiety. There are dozens of options with various active ingredients, each with a different mechanism. Every pet is different and will respond to each one in their own way. For example, many animals respond to a full-spectrum CBD extract by becoming calm, but a few will become more agitated, and others will become heavily sedated. Overall, it is worth trying different products, if from a reputable source, to see how your pet will respond. In the end, the best treatment for behavioral disorders requires consulting a behaviorist, as supplements can only do so much.
Q: My dog, a Yorkie, has terrible anxiety in the car, even on walks. He chewed through his leash. My Q is, someone suggested using CBD treats before putting him in the car? Is there a recommendation for how much and how much time before getting into the car?
A: I am not a fan of CBD treats, as the dosing is difficult and the amount of active ingredient in one treat compared to the next is uncertain. In addition, CBD is a highly complicated topic, as there are multiple types of CBD formulations and hundreds of companies/products on the market, most of which sell adulterated products. If you are considering administering CBD, I advise using oils that you can dose most accurately. The company/product chosen should have a Certificate of Analysis from a third-party laboratory matching the batch number. The starting range is different for every pet and based on the type of formulation. I conduct hour-long consults on CBD alone because the topic is complex if you want to do it correctly. If applied correctly, though, the potential benefits for pets are great.
Q: What about fish being linked to hyperthyroidism in cats?
A: There are a few theories as to what may potentially be promoting an increase in hyperthyroidism. One theory is that fish contains higher levels of iodine, which collects in the body. In addition, there are compounds called PCBs and PDBEs in commercial pet foods that, according to one study several years ago, were sourced from marine organisms. However, there are other potential causes as well. For example, some home-cooked diets included neck meat, which contained thyroid glandular material and thus induced hyperthyroidism. However, what is interesting is that millions of cats may eat one type of food, but only a handful will develop the disease, which is why further study is needed.
Q: What are good vitamins to give my small, 10 year-old-dog for joints?
A: Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Both are important to maintain strong bones. However, this will not reverse degenerative joint disease. There is very little that can reverse joint disease once it sets in. Some natural supplements, though, can help slow down progression and relieve inflammatory-based pain. These include: green-lipped mussel, glucosamine/chondroitin, MSM, deer antler velvet, omega 3s (sourced from algae or small fish species), full-spectrum CBD extract, and palmitoylethanolamide.
Q: Can Pepcid AC cause a dog to have low B12? Should you give a dog pepcid B12 supplements?
A: I do not ever recommend an animal be on pharmaceuticals for their entire life, unless it is necessary to keep the pet alive. Acid is required to help break apart Vitamin B12 from its protein-bound state in the stomach, which then allows for absorption. Pepcid (famotidine) is an antacid that decreases the stomach’s pH and the ability for an animal to absorb Vitamin B12, leading to anemia and other disorders. That said, this is only if the animal takes Pepcid every day for months to years. Administering an antacid for a week or two will not result in Vitamin B12 deficiency. Natural alternatives to antacids can be safely used long-term and still help reduce stomach acidity.
Q: What will be the best diet for dogs (for health and dental)? I normally feed human-grade fresh food purchased online that consists of meat, veggies and fruits. My four-year-old dog recently had few teeth removed and vet told me it’s not good to give her carrots, grains and other sweet fruits that may cause dental issues. I want to keep her healthy as possible.
A: This question is impossible to answer as there is no “best diet” for dogs. My generic response would be that a fresh whole food species-appropriate diet is best tailored to a dog’s health needs based on biology. With that said, these diets are more expensive and/or can take much more time to make if home-cooking. In addition, every diet should be reviewed and/or directly formulated by either a veterinarian trained in this area or by a certified pet nutritionist.
Dental disease is caused by a variety of factors, not just diet. Many breeds are more prone to developing dental disease earlier in life due to mouth conformation and teeth crowding. Even with a species-appropriate diet and regular brushing, dogs still get dental disease, so I advise annual dental radiographs and teeth cleanings under general anesthesia starting at age 3-4 for small and medium-sized dogs. Large breed dogs seem to be less prone to disease so every other year may be safe for them.
Q: There is so much controversy on the healthiest/best food options for dogs. What is your opinion on kibble versus canned versus fresh pet foods.
A: My opinion is a fresh whole food species appropriate diet is best tailored to a dog or cat’s health needs based on their own biology. However, these diets are often more expensive based on the size of the dog or cat, so they must be financially feasible for the pet owner. If feeding commercial foods, dogs do better with dry food; cats do better with canned food for various reasons.
Q: I have been giving my cat 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil daily with her food for a couple years as a flea preventative treatment and oral health. She is on a raw food diet and only has freeze-dried raw treats on occasion. Is there any concern with continuing to feed coconut oil in this small amount? Is it recommended to get a blood test?
A: I have not heard of any integrative holistic veterinarian using oral coconut oil as a natural insect repellent, so I cannot comment on this. Coconut oil provides several other health benefits, from maintaining a healthy weight to cognition sustenance, among others. There is no blood test to my knowledge that would test for coconut oil complications. Coconut oil is considered relatively safe, though.
Q: Has there been any new information released on the topic of legumes in dog food? Should I avoid pet foods with legumes?
A: Not that I am aware of. There is no known consensus on the cause for Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs when discussing kibble diets marketed as “grain-free.” It is not thought that whole food diets without grains cause dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart), so the FDA retracted its blanket statement. There is also no consensus that legumes have something to do with it, either. More work is needed as to why some diets cause some dogs to develop an enlarged heart.
Topic: Medical conditions
Q: My Yorkie is going blind. Is there anything we can do about that?
A: There are numerous causes for loss of vision and eventual blindness. It would first require having your veterinarian, or a veterinary ophthalmologist, diagnose the cause of vision loss. Then there may be some potential options to slow down the progression. First, you need a diagnosis.
Q: My Chihuahua has had Irritable Bowel Disease and is kinda frail. She goes from weeks of eating well and gaining weight to long periods of throwing up, diarrhea, and losing weight. I know she’s not getting enough nutrition, and she’s been to several specialists who wanted to do a bowel resection, but I didn’t think she’d survive it. Any suggestions?
A: It is difficult to answer this question as it is so chronic in nature. The best advice would be to consider a consult with an integrative holistic vet, see if they have any additional recommendations and then decide what you think is best for her based on multiple professional opinions. In the meantime, some high-density caloric food to consider that may help to put on weight safely would be eggs, nut butters, and fermented dairy.
Q: Any advice for natural remedies when a dog has an Irritable Bowel Syndrome flareup (reduced appetite, nausea, constipation as main symptoms)?
A: There are several natural remedies for a mild gut flare-up, but it depends on the symptoms. Nonetheless, a few include golden paste (turmeric-based paste), slippery elm, marshmallow root, palmitoylethanolamide, and Diagel.
Q: How can we help a bulldog to calm her itching and licking paws? My 11-month-old Victorian Bulldog just finished her first heat, and she scratches her nipples (her skin around is pink and reddish) and licks her paws.
A: Itchy skin diseases, including allergic skin disease, but not exclusively, is a complicated syndrome with numerous potential causes. I conduct an hour-and-a-half-long consult for pets who are “itchy,” and it’s not thought to be due to fleas, because it takes a lot of investigating the current environment, the current food and medications, supplements already tried, other animals that may be around, etc.
Q: I noticed a small white bald spot on my cat’s head. What could it be?
A: There are numerous causes for a bald spot, from infectious, to inflammatory, to cancerous, to benign causes. The spot should be assessed by your veterinarian.
Q: Why are some dogs obsessed with eating grass?
A: Dogs eat grass for a variety of reasons. Some eat it intermittently if they have an upset stomach to induce vomiting; others eat it because they have a condition called pica, others may eat it because they think it is fun. There is no single reason why a dog might be tempted to eat grass. The good news is grass is usually harmless unless it is covered in pesticides or chemicals.
Q: How effective is a titer test in determining whether pups need shots?
A: Titer testing should be considered the standard of care, in my opinion. Puppies need their first round of vaccines to attain immunity, and I advise boosters for core vaccines at one year old. After this, I recommend a titer test. I provide titer testing through our telehealth service for pet parents who cannot attain it through a brick-and-mortar facility.
Q: If I am taking my dog to the vet for urine and blood labs, should he fast and not be given water for the best results?
A: I never advise withholding water from animals unless they are going into surgery soon. Fasting is not necessary for every test. Speak with your veterinarian first to see if it is needed for the type of tests they would be running.
Q: My Golden has quite a few lipomas (non-cancerous lumps). I’ve seen a couple of mushroom supplements that claim to reduce the size of lipomas. I would love to hear your opinion on this.
A: There are several types of functional mushrooms, each of which serves a different beneficial function to our health. Turkey tail mushroom is thought to be the “anti-cancer” mushroom and may help to reduce the size of some tumors and even put others into remission. More studies are needed, but these mushrooms are very safe and could also be effective if sourced from a reputable company.
Q: For a senior cat panel (urine and bloodwork?) some vets recommend once a year, and others recommend twice yearly. What would you recommend for an 11-year-old spayed cat without any known health issues?
A: Cats and dogs age much quicker than humans. Humans are urged to see their doctor annually once they reach middle age. I advise that senior pets be seen twice a year, as both acute and chronic diseases can start and advance very easily within a year. I advise performing senior screening lab work and urine testing.
Q: My 15-pound terrier mix just had ACL surgery (10 days ago). He’s still not using the leg. Will he start to use it after he heals, or should we be trying to get him to use it?
A: By Day 10, most, if not all dogs, should start to be willing to use the leg. I recommend following up with the doctor who did the surgery right away.
Q: My Frenchie is 12.5 years old and suddenly having cognitive issues e.g. disorientation with direction, spacing out and staring at nothing, and not being familiar with routines. What should I do besides initially take him to my vet for a consultation?
A: With a rapid onset of neurologic abnormalities, the best advice would be to consult a veterinary neurologist, as there are several potential causes for the abnormalities described here.
Q: My 6-year-old male cat is prone to getting crystals in his urine. He is on a prescription diet to combat that. I don’t like the prescription diet food because corn and other grains are some of the main ingredients. Is there any other way to combat crystals? I have recently read something about Vet Water helping with that.
A: A species-appropriate whole food diet, either preformulated by a veterinary-overseen company or a diet formulated for home cooking by a veterinarian trained in this category or a certified pet nutritionist, could be an option to consider here.
However, crystals are not considered detrimental to an animal’s health. Only if crystals turn into bladder stones are they considered medically relevant. There are also many types of crystals and stones, so further detail would be necessary to know the exact course of action.
Q: My cat is obsessed with plastic. I cannot have anything with any plastic accessible in the home or he will eat it. So, why is Floyd so obsessed with plastic and what can I do to curtail this fixation? He’s been this way since he was a kitten (and he eats healthy food).
A: It is difficult to answer this question, however, some animals develop stereotypical fixations and behavioral disorders when they are young because their brain is most responsive to learning, as well as trauma. It is possible that this cat was exposed to plastic early on and played with it then, or that the cat had a traumatic past and started playing/chewing on plastic as a displacement behavior, and now it has become a fixation. I recommend consulting with a veterinary behaviorist.
Q: My 3-year-old mixed breed dog does the butt scoot often. We have had her expressed multiple times, glands were not clogged, leading us to believe that there is another reason. She does show signs of allergies (skin flakes, scratching, sneezing). Is there something else that could be causing this?
A: When an animal has irritated but empty anal glands, most often, we then associate this with allergic skin disease. The same goes for itchy but relatively clean ears.
Q: Can you please discuss treatments for cats with Irritable Bowel Disease?
A: There are both conventional and holistic treatment options. Conventional includes steroids, antacids, and diarrhea medications. Holistic includes diet modification to an anti-inflammatory species-appropriate diet, supplements to reduce gut inflammation and natural prebiotic/probiotic sources.
Q: We live in an area with a lot of ticks. My three dogs are on Nextgard but I still find ticks. Is there a natural spray (lavender?) I could use on top of the to keep them off?
A: Several natural insect repellents can be applied to dogs when going outside (Nayked Pet formulates one that is EPA-approved). However, none are 100% effective. The best recommendation is to use a flea comb after every walk in the woods to manually remove any ticks that may be on the coat. Nexgard does not repel ticks, it just kills them once they bite the dog. Nexgard is also linked to numerous neurologic side effects, so I do not advise using this flea/tick repellent.
Q: I have a one-year-old Maltipoo who gets really nervous and barks at sounds, especially fireworks. Is there anything I can give him that’s helpful to calm him that isn’t a medicine like the calming chews?
A: There are several supplements marketed to help with anxiety on the market that are not pharmaceuticals. Your veterinarian may even sell some. I usually start with full-spectrum CBD extract, but it must be sourced from a reputable company that provides a Certificate of Analysis for every product. There is also a product called a Thunder Jacket or Thunder Shirt which has been shown to help in some dogs with noise phobias, especially with fireworks. However, involving a veterinary behaviorist may also be beneficial.
Q: My dog and cat, both six years old and healthy, have had yearly physicals at a veterinarian clinic. They had “baseline” blood work performed during their first visits last year. The clinic continues to send reminders to have a blood panel run yearly. My question: do you feel it is necessary to run the same “baseline” panel on a young animal every year if there is no indication of illness?
A: I advise that adult animals (between the age of three to eight) be seen annually and have baseline lab work and urine testing performed. For animals over the age of eight, I advise twice per year. Pets age much faster than humans. If humans see a doctor annually, pets should too, and ideally, even more frequently.
Q: My 10-year-old Yorkie has severe arthritis in her back left leg. When she speeds up she doesn’t use that back leg. Is there some type of therapy you would recommend, Laser treatment, or shots to help?
A: There are several potential options to help alleviate signs of osteoarthritis. These include regular exercise, massage therapy, low-level laser therapy, water therapy, certain types of injections, and various natural supplements (omega 3s, green-lipped mussel, PEA, MSM, full-spectrum CBD extract, deer antler velvet, glucosamine/chondroitin). I advise starting with a couple then work up from there.
Q: What should we expect from a thorough annual exam? — Should the vet be articulating joints, feeling all over for lumps/bumps, bloodwork/testing, etc.?
A: A physical exam should include an evaluation of:
- Temperature, pulse, respiration, mucous membrane color
- Eyes, ears, nose, throat, oral cavity
- Lymph nodes
- Heart and lung sounds
- Abdominal structures
- Muskuloskeletal (bones and joints)
- Skin, toes and mammary glands
- Urogenital structures
- Nervous system (mentation, gait, cranial nerve function, neck/back mobility)
In addition, annual bloodwork and urine testing is advised once your pet is an adult.
Q: Is there an alternative heartworm preventive that is more natural than the collar or pill?
A: Natural options are advertised, but, in my opinion, none are considerably effective. Also, with heartworm being a potentially lethal disease, it is one where prevention is considered essential and not worth taking a risk. With that said, there is a map created by the America Heartworm Society, which shows the prevalence of heartworm across the U.S. In addition, you can find out when mosquitoes are active in your region.
Using these two pieces of information, it may be possible to schedule prevention administration during times of the year that makes sense (spring/summer, part or all of fall) and take a break during winter to allow body detox. With this route, though, it would be required to test for heartworm twice a year versus once a year (once before starting therapy, once 5-6 months later based on the worm life cycle) and thus, it would be more expensive. So, there are pros and cons to both.
Q: How can I get my Cane Corso to stop eating rocks? I have tried leash, E-collar on vibration only and now and giving her iron supplements.
A: There is no great answer to that. I would advise to hire a professional one-on-one dog trainer as there may be layers of trauma or other adopted stereotypic behaviors that need time to understand and reverse. The other option would be placing a basket muzzle on while outside as these are considered the most humane type of muzzle.
Q: My cat is obsessed with drinking water from a faucet (cries for water multiple times a day) and won’t drink from their water dish/fountain — Is this purely a behavioral condition (i.e. attention seeking), or could there be a health condition at play?
A: I have never seen this be because of a health condition if the drinking is an average volume. However, some health conditions that cause increased drinking drive (called polydypsia) should be tested for and ruled out. The most common would be diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease, but there are others.
Q: I’ve had one vet tell me that my indoor cats don’t need annual vaccinations but rather every other year because they’re never outside. But I go outside and could bring in stuff like fleas and ticks, right? Thoughts on this?
A: Fleas and ticks do not spread diseases that we vaccinate for. Fleas spread tapeworms; ticks spread blood-borne bacteria. Core feline vaccinations are for rabies, feline herpes virus, calicivirus, and parvovirus. An alternative to continuous vaccination is to pursue vaccine titer testing every other year and vaccinate only if titer levels are low. We provide titer testing as a telehealth service if unavailable in a brick-and-mortar location.
Topic: Dental care
Q: My cat recently and suddenly developed extremely bad breath, but it’s slowly starting to smell better after near-nightly teeth brushings, is there an immediate need for a vet visit if there are no other signs/symptoms of tooth decay?
A: Dental disease can only be properly assessed with dental radiographs and gingival exploration during cleaning, so a vet should assess whether the change in breath is dental-related or sometimes metabolic diseases can cause breath to change as well.
Q: Advice for dog or cats that don’t like their teeth brushed or cleaned? What are the best methods to keep it clean and how often is a cleaning recommended?
A: Many dogs and cats do not want their teeth brushed because of pain in the mouth. Others may not like it because of behavioral conditions. Others may have had trauma from a past event. Whatever the reason, brushing is the best way to help keep teeth clean. Some chews and items can also help by mitigating plaque buildup. Still, if a mouth is painful, the only solution is an anesthetic dental workup (radiographs, cleaning, and extraction of painful teeth if necessary). Cleanings frequency is variable based on the type of dog. Small breeds need cleanings once a year or more once reaching adult age. Medium and large breeds may need it less frequently, but it’s based on the individual dog.
Topic: Spay and neuter
Q: Does neutering before a year cause bone and joint issues?
A: The answer to this depends on numerous factors, the most important of which is the breed in Q. There is a strong theory that spay/neutering too early in larger breed dogs before complete musculoskeletal development can lead to various orthopedic abnormalities and subsequent injury/disease. However, it is unclear as to whether this is also true for small and medium-sized breeds. Knowing a pet is a year old is too vague to answer this properly; I would need more information on the individual.
Q: I have a 5-month-old female King Charles Cavalier, 12 pounds. When should we spay her?
A: There are two primary theories as to the best time to spay. Both support spaying eventually. The first is the conventional route, which is when the recommendation is before the first heat cycle, which is the best for preventing unintentional pregnancies and behavioral developments related to sex hormones, and according to one older study, may reduce the chances for mammary cancer development.
The second is an alternative theory that recommends waiting until both musculoskeletal and endocrine full maturation, which would mean waiting until 2.5-4 years of age, depending on the breed. This is because some health conditions are now believed to be due to premature hormone feedback loop development disruption, and waiting to sterilize reduces the chances of these. However, this route is only appropriate for pet parents dedicated to having an intact dog for a while, meaning there must be awareness of both preventing any access to other intact males and that pets will have spotting when going through cycles.