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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Update on AVMA’s New Raw Food Policy

Just when I thought the uproar over the American Veterinary Medical Association’s asinine raw food policy was dying down, the stupidity that goes with trying to spin this as anything but inspired by the pet food industry has resurfaced. On AVMA’s own blog site, a wrap up of the House of Delegates actions at the annual meeting was devoted to the raw food policy. Evidently all the other actions of the HOD were so unimportant that reporting them was put off to focus on the raw food policy. (You can read the whole post and the comments here.)

I was particularly puzzled to see the following statement near the end of the AVMA site post: “Please keep in mind that this policy is NOT a ban on raw foods for pets and it is not a regulation that requires veterinarians (regardless of whether they’re AVMA members or not) to comply, or even agree with it. It’s not a debate on the healthiness of or risks associated with raw foods versus other commercial pet foods. Nor is it an attempt to force a ban or restrict pet owners’ rights to feed their pets how and what they want.” If it is not a ban or regulation, and you’re not speaking to the advantages or risks of raw or commercial foods, and you are not trying to restrict owners’ feeding practices, what the hell is the policy for? Just how will it advance the health of pets, or improve the level of service, knowledge, or skill of veterinarians?

Please take a moment and read the comments on that AVMA blog — consumers clearly get it. This sort of policy only benefits one group, commercial, non-raw pet food producers. And notice the comments that state how this policy erodes consumer trust in veterinarians — now there is something AVMA should dig their teeth into! Oh, wait, they would rather chew on some Science Diet. Look at the first five ingredients for Adult Large Breed.  From the Hill’s website, Adult Large Breed Dry contains “Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Soybean Oil…” As a veterinarian with some knowledge of animal nutrition (my undergraduate focus at Cornell University, and subject of my Honors Research), this ingredient list horrifies me. Corn and soy are completely inappropriate for a species that is naturally a meat eater, as well as some of the more common allergens I see in practice. Chicken by product meal is the cheapest of meat meals, and can include heads, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, and more.  And what animal was the source of animal fat? If it can’t be named, it is also likely to be of the lowest quality, and could even include dog or cat fat. Think I’m crazy? Watch this quick video with then AAFCO President Hersh Pendell.

Clearly this issue is not going to go away — the real question is where are the AVMA and the pet food industry going with it.  Will it be a policy that is on the books but six months from now is not even remembered? Or will it be trotted out at opportune moments for the benefit of commercial non-raw pet food manufacturers? Will AVMA members be resigning their memberships over this apparent sell-out to “Big Pet Food”? I confess I am considering it, especially if my professional liability insurance premiums increase or my policy does not cover the recommendation of a natural diet. I believe it is my responsibility to recommend what my training, experiences, and research have shown me to be the best for my patients. Whether that is a way of feeding, a specific medication or surgical procedure, or other treatment plan, I will not recommend a lesser or potentially damaging approach for my patients just because a veterinary organization has a policy against what I know to true. First and foremost, my duty and obligation is to my patients. As it should be for any health care professional.

One of the most inspiring and moving parts of the graduation proceedings at Cornell University’s Veterinary College was taking the Veterinarian’s Oath. I  believe it would benefit all veterinarians to review the oath often, and strive to practice in such a manner.

Veterinarian’s Oath

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.


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Vaccines Explained: The Wholistic Vet’s Guide to Vaccinating Your Dog

Click to go to the Amazon page.

Great news! The book is available on Amazon!


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Dog Food Misses the Mark (Again!)

After a long day at the office yesterday, I arrived home and picked up my mail. And there it was — the newspaper sized flyer announcing a breakthrough in dog food. The next evolution of grain free dog food is here! Imagine my excitement! I ripped open the flyer to find out what this amazing new development was. Are you ready for this? It’s organ meat as the first ingredient in a kibble food.

The organ meats named in the ingredients lists of the foods include duck, turkey, and chicken livers and hearts, and pork liver and kidney. And yes, these organ meats are the first ingredients in the formulas, and are followed with byproducts such as pork protein, meat meals, and pea protein, and natural pork/chicken/duck flavor. (This is a “special blend” of the organ meats dried and sprayed on to the kibble to enhance palatability.) The advertisement proudly proclaims no byproducts — I hate to break it to them, but meat meals are a byproduct — they are made from the waste of  human food production. And pea protein? That certainly does not occur in nature without some serious processing…

Those of you who follow my writings know I believe in a natural diet for dogs. And of course that includes fresh, whole organ meats. The operative words being fresh and whole. Not cooked and processed under pressure, or dried into powder and sprayed on the outside of kibble. Furthermore, I would not recommend basing a diet on organ meats.  I would venture that this food contains more of the meat meals than organ meats, as ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Organ meats are very moist, and thus weigh more. So, is this simply a marketing ploy that, while completely legal, deceives the buyer?

I want to know exactly what I am feeding my dogs. I can clearly identify every ingredient I place in their bowls, and see  and smell if it is fresh. That’s important to me, as their diet is central to their health. If you agree and want to learn how to feed your dog naturally, join me at the next Natural Diet Class. The first session is this Thursday, March 1.

Oh, and if you haven’t already googled this new food, it is Back to Basics, which is part of Ainsworth Pet Nutrition. The company also makes Dad’s, Rachael Ray’s Nutrish, and Kibble Select, brands just above the generic level of quality. Not a company I would expect to be claiming to have the next evolution in dog food…

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