Hair Today, Who Knows What Tomorrow?

Pictures and videos of consumers finding hair and metal wire in their Pedigree dry dog food is still all over the news. Pet owners are outraged, while Mars Petcare argues that they are “natural animal fibers”  and pose no threat to a dog’s health. Mars also denies the presence of metal in the food, saying that the reason a magnet picked up the “natural animal fiber” is static electricity. Yes, you read that right. Do they really think consumers are that stupid? Check out the video:


If you found hair or “natural animal fibers” in your food, would you be concerned? Would you eat it, or serve it to others? Of course not! So why does Mars Petcare think it’s OK for your dog? Or does the “care” in their name refer only to their profits? Want to see their response to the above story, which was released to a pet blogger association? Just click here.

What are the likely reasons hairs would find their way into kibble? You need to look only as far as the ingredient list. For example, the website list of ingredients of Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition for Dogs Steak and Vegetable Flavor begins with “GROUND WHOLE GRAIN CORN, MEAT AND BONE MEAL (SOURCE OF CALCIUM), CORN GLUTEN MEAL, ANIMAL FAT (SOURCE OF OMEGA 6 [PRESERVED WITH BHA & CITRIC ACID]) SOYBEAN MEAL, NATURAL FLAVOR, DRIED PLAIN BEET PULP, CHICKEN BY-PRODUCT MEAL, GROUND WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT, SALT, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, BREWERS RICE, NATURAL STEAK FLAVOR, DRIED PEAS, VITAMINS …”

Aside from the obvious observations that the food is mostly corn, contains no steak, and no vegetable other than dried peas, the troubling ingredient is meat and bone meal. Meat and bone meal is made from slaughterhouse waste and dead (not slaughtered) animals. It includes things that not suitable for human consumption, such as carcass trimmings, condemned carcasses, condemned livers, inedible offal (lungs) and bones. It can include any combination of animals, which have died at farms, stockyards, or in transit, as well as at slaughterhouses. Meat and bone meal is the most likely source of the hair that is being found. Pedigree’s video above concurs with this, but doesn’t give you the (gory) details about why…

By now you are wondering why anyone would feed their dog a product based on such a disgusting ingredient. It’s simply because they don’t know. The name of the food includes steak. The picture on the bag shows steak. The advertising talks about steak. So the consumer thinks steak. Not a whole dead pig, cow lungs, and diseased chickens. And whatever other animal tissue is available. The truth is even uglier than a pig hair — or rather, natural animal fiber — isn’t it?

Stayed tuned for help in making safer and higher quality choices for your dog.






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Are Veterinarians Really Just Vaccine Salesmen?

The other day ISchemeMay3 happened to be standing behind the front desk at the hospital, waiting to speak with one of the receptionists. It was pretty quiet, as morning appointments were finished, and surgeries were not yet started. One of our supply distributor representatives came in, along with a drug company rep who I have known for many years (and through her work with multiple companies). Both of them are wonderful people, with a great deal of experience and knowledge of the veterinary industry. After catching up for a few minutes, they began to talk about why they were stopping in. In other words, they began doing their jobs.

Drug and supplier reps are often very helpful to veterinarians. They keep us aware of new products and services, and let us know when drugs are going to in short supply or when prices are going up. If we unexpectedly run out of something we need they will move mountains to get it to us, even if it means driving it over from a warehouse in another state. Many have helped us with equipment repairs or loaner units if something has to be sent off for service. I love my reps, so what I am about to share must not be taken as a criticism of them.

As our conversation continued, my reps asked, do we use a 3 year vaccine protocol at the hospital?  Of course we do, this is the current standard of all the veterinary colleges and veterinary organizations. I also added that I do titers, and other extended protocols. The reps wondered about vaccinating for leptospirosis and Lyme. I explained I am not personally in favor of lepto vaccines, and am disappointed in the efficacy of most Lyme vaccines. I also shared some of my observations and personal experiences with reactions.  Things went a bit downhill from there — discussion about the need for yearly lepto and Lyme vaccines, lepto’s  zoonotic potential (keeping in mind that the vast majority of human cases of lepto are in Hawaii), how “smooth” and “reaction free” the new lepto/Lyme combination vaccine was, and more. Note that it was never mentioned that there are over 253 serovars (strains) of lepto, and vaccines protect against only three or four. Or that vaccination does not prevent infection, but rather lessens the severity. Lepto vaccination also does not stop shedding of bacteria in the urine, meaning it doesn’t protect humans. I was saddened as I saw the reps’  faces and realized they did not know more about the products they were promoting than their companies had told them. I expect it’s about the same for those selling cars, household appliances, or vacuums.

And then it hit me — the reps, who knew me but obviously not my philosophy of practice, and the big drug companies they worked for, were treating me like a vaccine salesman, not a veterinarian. Selling me a product that I could in turn sell to my clients, each year. Now I did not spend ten years at Cornell and over a hundred thousand dollars in student loans to spend my days pumping vaccines into dogs. I want to use my knowledge, experience, and skills to solve health problems. Or better yet prevent them. Which in many cases means NOT giving vaccines. Why? Either the dog is either already protected, not at risk for the disease, the disease poses no significant risk, or the vaccine is not very effective. Vaccines are not why I became a veterinarian — in fact, I often cringe when I have to pull a vaccine out of the refrigerator. But the most common reason an owner brings a dog to a veterinary hospital is they got a postcard in the mail that he was due for a “shot.”  And the first thing most veterinarians look at when they review the medical record of their next appointment — what vaccines is the dog due for? Do veterinarians not see how they are not putting their patients’ health first when they look to the vaccines before anything else? Or have we just become creatures of habit that go from one appointment to the next, doing what is dictated by the computer generated reminders in our patients’ records?

I am not anti-vaccine. I support the thoughtful and careful use of vaccines, as supported by the latest (and sometimes the older — let’s face it, we’ve known the distemper parvo vaccines lasts 7-15 years since 1998) research.  I advocate all the things we can do to promote health in our pets, from species appropriate nutrition to regular health testing to the best integrative (conventional and alternative) medicine has to offer.  From acupuncture to MRI’s, herbs and supplements to the latest cancer drugs, physical therapy to laparoscopic surgery, veterinarians can do so much more than “give a shot.” It’s time that was recognized, and put into action FIRST by all of us. Otherwise, we ARE just vaccine salesmen.



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The Two Books Every Dog Owner Must Read

As I typed this title, I was struck by how infrequently we go to books for information. We pull out our tablet or phone, or run to the computer to search for information. Sometimes this results in accurate information, oftentimes not. Sometimes a staggering number of results come up (about 179,000,000 in 0.30 seconds for dog cancer).  We then make our searches more and more detailed, only to realize that two hours have passed and we are more confused by what we’ve found than before.

I’m writing this blog to simplify things for you, the dedicated, wanting to learn more and do the best for your dog, dog owner. The three things you are most likely to ask me about are vaccinating your dog, feeding your dog, and treating your dog’s cancer. For the first, I recommend my book — look for more about that in a future blog.

For the second, feeding your dog, you need Nutrigenomics – the New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimal Health, by Dr. Jean Dodds and Dina Laverdure. Don’t be scared that this book is too scientific to be easily understood! The authors clearly explain how your dog’s food affects the body at the cellular level, and how that results in disease or health. They cover how to design your dog’s base diet, as well as how to address common health conditions. The final section of the book shows you how to apply what you’ve learned to your individual lifestyle and situation. This makes it easy to stay on track for your dog’s entire life. What I love most about this book is the superior organization, with key points clearly marked, and a concise summary of important concepts at the end of each chapter. Case reports also make it easy to understand how the theory integrates into real life situations.


Cancer is one of the most feared conditions dog owners face. You might think a book about dealing with it would be a very depressing read. But in fact, quite the opposite is true!  The Dog Cancer Survival Guide should be in the hands of every person who faces this diagnosis with their dog. It is written by Dr. Damien Dressler, a veterinarian based in Hawaii, and Dr. Susan Ettinger, a renowned veterinary oncologist in New York. Together, they cover both alternative and conventional approaches, and help you clearly understand cancer stages, treatment options, and more. The concept of full spectrum cancer care — combining conventional treatments, nutraceuticals, immune support, diet management, and more  — in an individualized treatment plan stacks the odds in the dog’s favor for the best possible results.  Should you face cancer with your dog, this book will help you understand and make informed, confident decisions every step of the way.

dog cancer







I find myself referring to and recommending these books almost daily in my practice.  Add them to your collection by following the links above, either in paperback or eBook format. Want to see more of my recommendations? Check out the Wholistic Vet Bookshelf on Amazon.


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Helping Your Aching Dog

Clem Waits


As the cold of winter sets in, we often complain about sore, stiff, and aching joints – all symptoms associated with arthritis. Yet we are not the only ones who suffer. Our dogs experience the same aches and pains, especially in the cold and damp weather. I am often called upon to help dogs who are stiff in the morning, have trouble comfortably sitting or lying down, and who cannot walk as far as they did in the summer.

Arthritis includes a cluster of conditions involving damage to the joints. The most common form of arthritis, called osteoarthritis, is often a result of injury and/or aging. Abnormal anatomy also contributes to early onset osteoarthritis, as strain is placed on joints in an incorrect manner. Arthritis can occur in any joint, and is a continuous process. How fast it progresses is something we as owners have some control over. The earlier we start, and the more methods we use, the better our results.

There are many actions owners can take to help their dog cope with arthritis, as well as slow its progression. The following five factors are crucial:

  1. Diet and body weight

Your dog must be at a healthy weight, and be eating a high quality diet. I prefer a natural feeding plan, or at minimum, a grain free diet. Omega 3 fatty acids should be supplemented by adding salmon oil to the diet.

  1. Joint support supplements

There are a huge number of joint support supplements. It is important to choose a quality product, designed for dogs (not humans!). This is not an area to pinch pennies. Choose a reputable brand, preferably NASC (National Animal Supplement Council, a quality assurance group) certified.

  1. Adjustments and low level laser therapy

Chiropractic adjustments address nerve, muscle and skeletal function. Keeping the nerves working properly is crucial to the function of the muscles. Since the muscle move and pull on the bones and joints, keeping muscles flexible and fit is essential. Laser therapy enhances blood flow, stimulates cell function, and decreases pain and inflammation.DebStretchesGSP

  1. Exercise and physical therapy

Being active maintains flexibility, muscle tone, and is crucial for weight management. Proper exercise that does not excessively pound the joints is important. Simple things like walking up hills can provide a workout with minimal concussion. Swimming is also great when available. Ball work is great for wintertime or dogs recovering from orthopedic surgery.

  1. Pain relief

It is vital to manage pain. Where there is pain, there is also inflammation, which damages many parts of the joint. The dog does not use the affected joint normally, and the muscles weaken. Strength and flexibility are decreased, and the problem worsens.

Prevention of arthritis is obviously important in all dogs, but especially so in hip dysplasia prone breeds and giant breeds. All of the points discussed above apply to these cases, starting when they are puppies. Maintenance chiropractic adjustments, proper diet and supplements, and exercise tailored to maintain joint and muscle function can delay or slow the progression of arthritis, in dogs prone to arthritis as well as those already affected.


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2015 News

Like many, I have made a number of New Year’s Resolutions. And, like many, I know they will not all be carried through to the end of the year. However, keeping up to date with my blog is one resolution I will keep. And as you read more, you’ll see why — there will be lots for me to share in the upcoming year!BTBStandingInSnow









The first news I want to share is the founding of The Healthy Dog Workshop. This will be the home of many exciting projects, and a source of helpful and trusted information for dog owners. There you can find out about Paw Power, my preferred vitamin-mineral supplement. You can also see when and where I am speaking, and in the future, watch or download videos, podcasts, and articles. I hope you will visit often, and share your thoughts on the Workshop’s Facebook page. 

Happy New Year, to you and your pups!













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How Much Do You Spend on Your Dog’s Food?

I’m really curious about how much people spend on their dog’s food. And I wonder if they actually know. One of the most common objections I run into when I talk about natural, raw diets is cost. Everyone thinks feeding raw is expensive. Yet I think it’s actually cheaper.

5 cubic foot freezer
5 cubic foot freezer

Now I do make the assumption that you have a freezer. I don’t mean the one that’s part of your refrigerator, I mean the one in your basement, garage, or other area. It doesn’t have to be huge, but has to be big enough to allow you to buy in bulk. Doing so saves money on both dog and human food. (And since all my dog food is human quality, I have no concerns over sharing freezer space with my dogs.)

I have done some preliminary research. Here are the costs per pound of some popular premium dog foods — some of the ones owners, pet store staff, and vets consider “the best”.  You can see the prices vary from $2.92 per pound and up.

$3.08 per pound
$3.08 per pound
$3.19 per pound

$3.19 per pound

$2.92 per pound
$2.92 per pound

There certainly are cheaper and more expensive products out there, but I chose these as the minimum quality that seems acceptable. Not that I endorse or recommend the  feeding of kibble or products that contain meat meals — but I wanted to compare the cost of human quality meats to something better than say Kibbles ‘n Bits or Beneful. Speaking of those foods, I have found prices for them online starting at $1.14 a pound. Other brands such as Alpo’s Come & Get It are as cheap as $0.57 per pound. I cannot even guess at ingredient quality in a food that costs so little…

So you are probably wondering what it costs to feed a natural raw diet. My meat costs average $1.00 per pound. Yes, $1.00 a pound for human quality food for my dogs. Buying in bulk and taking advantage of sales makes this possible. The other parts of the diet plan, including supplements and the plastic bags I use when repackaging cases of frozen foods like chicken leg quarters, duck necks, or turkey hearts or livers, add a bit more, likely bringing cost to a high of $1.50 a pound. That’s a savings of about $1.50 per pound from the examples here. And remember, the commercial foods do not contain human quality ingredients, while the foods my dogs eat are all human quality.

Beyond the lower cost of the food, there are savings as your dog becomes healthier when eating a natural, raw diet. Imagine the savings if you don’t have to go to the veterinarian for an ear infection, or bout of gastrointestinal upset? Let’s say you save two veterinary visits per year — that’s easily $100 – $200, depending on your location. There’s the cost of your freezer! And the bonus is you can save money on your food by using the freezer your dog’s savings bought! And who can place a dollar value on a dog living longer? What would it mean to you to have your best friend with you for an extra year or more?

Are you ready to cut your dog food costs while increasing the quality of what you put in your dog’s bowl? It’s not that difficult, certainly not that costly, and only requires a willingness to consider new feeding options. Stay tuned for more information on just how to make the change to a healthier life for your best friend!


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Natural Diet Workshop April 27



Are you signed up for the “Make a Meal” part of Dr. Coger’s raw diet seminar? There are still two spaces open — call Shawna’s Dogs at 518-937-2544 to register!PrankGetsBeefRoast2

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Natural Health Seminar March 30

I’m very excited for my first seminar of 2014! It will be held at Shawna’s Dogs, in Glenmont, NY, on Sunday, March 30, 10:00 AMSlide1 – 1:00 PM. I hope you can join us.


In this seminar, I share how I manage and care for my own dogs. (And believe me, after a day of treating the health issues of my clients’ dogs, the last thing I want to do is have to treat my own!) My dogs do not suffer from anything on the “top 10” list of reasons dogs go to the vet (ear infections,  skin infections, GI upsets, allergies, hots spots, dental disease, etc). Why? Their health is supported, rather than challenged, by the food they eat and the veterinary care they receive. In other words, a natural diet, minimal and appropriate vaccines, minimal and appropriate chemicals and drugs.

Stay tuned for more news about my upcoming book, future seminars and events, and more!

To register for the seminar, please call Shawna’s Dogs at 518-937-2544.TrinkeEyesChicken

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Dogs Need to Chew!

It’s not rocket science — every dog owner knows dogs need to chew. And they happily purchase a variety of chew treats for their dogs.  However, choosing a safe and healthy treat is not an easy task — it seems every day we are seeing another recall of chews for antibiotic residues, salmonella, or some yet to be determined, toxic substances. So many dogs have died from toxic jerky treats made in China. The recalls of these treats continues to expand, and I urge everyone to not purchase any jerky treat, chicken or otherwise. It’s just not worth the risk. (Need more information on recalls? Click here.)

So, you are probably wondering what chews I do believe are safe for dogs. My first rule for anything that goes in my own dogs’ mouths is that it is fit for human consumption — in popular terms “human quality” or “human grade”. This is essential, as the regulations and inspections are significantly stricter than for pet products. Not perfect, I admit, but better.,%20portioned.jpgBeef ribs are one of my dogs’ favorite chews. Find them at your favorite butcher or meat market, in a length appropriate for your dog’s size. They should be fed raw, and with excess meat trimmed a bit, depending on the amount of fresh meat your dog is used to eating.

beams-_bothWhile they love their ribs, my dogs have been getting a bit “ho-hum” about them. I imagine, “Not the same old chew!” was going through their minds. Fortunately, I discovered Beams, from The Honest Kitchen. Beams are dehydrated Atlantic catfish skins. (These are a marine fish, caught off the coast of Iceland, not the catfish found in our local lakes and streams.) Dogs are absolutely crazy for these chews! I was worried that they would be eaten in 30 seconds, but even the most eager chewer savors them for some time. And, unlike jerky treats and bully sticks, the dogs are getting beneficial omega 3 fatty acids and quality protein from Beams. There are no chemicals or other ingredients added. Nothing from China. No unknown ingredients to upset the dog with food allergies or sensitivities. Just human quality fish. So simple, yet so brilliant!





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The Truth Behind AVMA’s Anti-Raw Food Policy?

The AVMA recently published another article on the debate over their anti-raw food policy. In the most recent Journal of the AVMA several veterinarians, including myself, expressed varying viewpoints on the policy. You can read the full article here.

What I find most interesting are the comments by Dr. David Chico, chair of the AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine and NY State Agriculture and Markets Veterinarian. Dr. Chico states that the council began considering a raw food policy when the Delta Society, now called Pet Partners (a service/therapy animal group), asked if any policies existed against feeding pets raw foods. Dr. Chico states that this policy was developed without contact with pet food companies. But if the Delta Society/Pet Partners’ question was the inspiration for the development of the policy, there is a bit more to the story.

What is not mentioned in the AVMA article is that the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Pet Partners is Brenda Bax, Marketing Director of Purina (see for yourself here). Back in 2010, when Pet Partners was the Delta Society, a policy was passed banning any service or therapy animal that consumed raw food from participating in their program. Prior to that, in 2008, Purina gave the Delta Society the largest donation it had ever received, in the form of a two year pledge. And just two years later, the ban of raw fed service and therapy animals was instituted. Hmm, does anyone else see a long term connection between Purina and the Delta Society/Pet Partners? And, although the AVMA Council may not have talked to any pet food industry people directly, how can anyone deny the influence of one of largest pet food companies in the chain of events leading to AVMA’s anti-raw food policy?

So why, you may be wondering, am I spending so much time on this topic? Simply put, it’s because I care about the health of animals. I have seen the improvements in animals when their diet was switched from processed commercial foods made from ingredients of unknown quality to a well planned diet compatible with their biology and consisting of fresh, fit for human consumption, ingredients.

Perhaps I shouldn’t care so much, and shouldn’t be writing this. Much of my paycheck, so to speak, comes from treating sick animals. Ear infections, skin problems, dental disease, vomiting and diarrhea all put money in the bank for me. Yet my own, raw fed dogs, over the course of 18 years, rarely or never suffered from these problems. It is not uncommon for me to see a dog at the hospital for ear infections three times a year. In all the years I have fed a natural diet, I have never done a dental cleaning on one of my own dogs. Yet many of my patients have multiple cleanings, beginning before they are six years old! At somewhere between $400 and $800, this is a big expense for my clients, and income for me. But I’ll let you in on a secret — if I never had to treat another ear infection, or pull another infected tooth, I would be one happy veterinarian. If I could teach owners how to optimize health in their pets, instead of treating disease, I would be truly fulfilling the spirit of the Veterinarian’s Oath I shared with you in the previous blog.

A friend and I often joke about the curse of knowledge. In short, the curse means that the person who is more knowledgeable about a subject has difficulty seeing the subject from a position of lesser knowledge. Or in short, once you know more, you can’t go back. Once you know what commercial foods are made from? Well, you decide:


Kibble with water

The type of meat that goes into commercial meat meal




Or this?

Turkey necks, fresh beef, egg, vegetables
Meat that goes into a natural diet is fit for human consumption


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