Check that Thyroid!

A quick entry today, related to my recent focus on herbs for the anxious or stressed out dog. In my clinical work I very often meet dogs who exhibit a range of seemingly unexplained symptoms that have frustrated the owner for a long time. Many of them will improve with dietary adjustments and herbal support – but sometimes, we can’t seem to do as much. In years past I would try everything in my toolkit to help, and finally at the end of ideas, suggest the owner have a full-panel thyroid done. In the intractable cases, I would say 75% had undiagnosed thyroid disease; appropriate treatment (safe and inexpensive, relatively) cleared up all the lingering problems, so the diet can do it’s job of supporting optimal health. Thyroid disease often goes undiagnosed; there is such a list of symptoms it can be hard for people to connect the dots.Prominent amongst these are poor coat/dry skin, coldness/heat-seeking behaviour, unexplained weight gain, irritability or depression, slow wound healing/recurrent infection, lethargy and sometimes, snappishness that seems uncharacteristic…a whole range of behavioural symptoms that can appear without the characteristic weight gain and low temperature.


These days, I don’t put us all through the time, money and frustration of trying everything dietary first, when I take on a case that suggests a thyroid issue. I ask clients whose dogs present with any of these suspicious symptoms to have a fullpanel thyroid test done right away. It comes back just fine in about 60% of the cases I work with..and the other 40%, get the treatment they need right off the bat – as well as the personalized diet plan. It’s win/win; owners whose dogs are fine, have their minds put at ease, I know what I’m working with, hypothyroid dogs get he treatment they require – we’re all happy.


Takeaway messages:

1) Diet can support thyroid function but it can NOT correct hypothyroidism.

2) Not many veterinarians really understand the range of behavioural symptoms related to low thyroid. If yours doesn’t think a sudden behavioural change can be thyroid,insist on the test or find a better vet.

3) The test that is done in-house, the one that looks only T-4 levels, is not adequate for diagnosis; most authorities feel it’s wrong at least half the time. I don’t even know why they bother with it, to be blunt. If you suspect low thyroid, it’s imperative to have your vet do what is called a fullpanel thyroid evaluation – one that looks at T-4 and T-3 and a range of other factors (references below offer more detail).

4) Consider deeper education on thyroid issues; Jean Dodds has an excellent book on the topic I highly recommend to anyone with a hypothyroid dog, or a breed at high risk (and bear in mind, any breed or mixed breed dog can develop thyroid problems, these are just the highest risk ones). Check out the resources below too, for further learning.

Highest Risk Breeds

1. English Setter
2. Polish Lowland Sheepdog
3. Havanese
4. Old English Sheepdog
5. Boxer
6. American Pit Bull Terrier
7. German Wirehaired Pointer
8. Tibetan Terrier
9. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
10. English Pointer
11. Maltese
12. Beagle
13. Dalmatian
14. Giant Schnauzer
15. Cocker Spaniel
16. Kuvasz
17. Rhodesian Ridgeback
18. Walker Hound
19. American Staffordshire Terrier
20. Welsh Springer Spaniel
21. Golden Retriever
22. Husky
23. Shetland Sheepdog
24. Pointer
25. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
26. Irish Setter
27. Brittany
28. Siberian Husky
29. English Cocker Spaniel
30. Gordon Setter

A last word; in terms of supplements and herbs to manage hypothyroidism, as always I don’t believe in generic advice or simplistic solutions; I evaluate your dog as an individual and recommend according to a full history; I make sure the diet supplies optimal levels of all nutrients, help support digestion with food selection that works for your individual; and suggest herbs as needed, with consideration for your dog’s whole history and needs. I’ve seen many generic recommendations for treating hypothyroidism at home and it just makes me cringe; have your dog seen by a vet, and then we can talk about what foods and supplements will be most beneficial for him or her.


Resources for further reading

1) This is the site you need to send your dog’s bloodwork to. Print it off if need be and bring it to your vet.


Natural Pest Control – Fleas and Ticks

Ah – summer. And along with the great weather and days at the beach and gardening and all the good stuff, we have –  these guys…

…and with them, inevitably, to one degree or another, comes this.


and this

No one is happy, least of all your dog.

To make my position clear at the start; I avoid pesticides at all cost. I seek always to “First Do No Harm”. However, I will also not leave an allergic, miserable animal suffering if natural therapies are not working. If a dog has a flea allergy and is miserable, I will use one round of a topical veterinary pesticide – yep, that’s right – and get him or her out of misery. Dogs with flea allergy can develop hot spots, can suffer miserably with even a couple of fleas, let alone an infestation. The products are unpleasant but effective and I have never had to use them 6 months running as the package insists. I’ve done one treatment – ONLY with a healthy dog, not pups, seniors or dogs with health conditions – and that buys us some breathing room. Each case has to be addressed individually; some people swear by DE (diatomaceous earth) – I won’t use it because I have an asthmatic cat and am very sensitive myself to any respiratory irritant. (More on the pros and cons of all these therapies, to follow). Some people swear by garlic, but I have never seen it work ALONE – most will say “along with a good diet and etc etc, garlic helped reduce fleas” – well, who can say it was the garlic? Studies have repeatedly shown no effect from garlic, and feeding it in sufficient quantity to alleviate a flea issue poses problems of it’s own.

Neither do I like brewer’s yeast (can cause bloating and gas) additional B1 (won’t hurt in moderate doses but again, not a single study has ever shown efficacy)  – all that said, I have found things that help, are gentler than Advantage, but they require diligence and application, or we’re back to scratching all night long.
To start; if there is an infestation you have to clean out the whole house – vaccuum, and treat with SOMETHING, and if DE works for you, it’s worth a try. If it’s a minor issue and your dog is not overly miserable, just scratching periodically, I’d wash him well with a good natural shampoo, and there are many kinds available now, or you can make your own; flea comb daily (you can get flea combs at any pet store) treat the area he sleeps in with herbal flea powder, and make a spray with apple cider vinegar and any number of herbs – I use (any combination of) yarrow, calendula, rose, lavender, sage, nettle, basil, thyme and St. John’s wort with *maybe* 2 drops of rose geranium oil to a liter – but I don’t like essential oils anywhere the dog can lick them off, so I often just macerate the dry herbs in vinegar for a couple of weeks and strain. If you spray it make sure you don’t get any in his eyes! I also use acv rinses after bathing and sometimes make a large herbal infusion to pour over him as a last rinse after bathing.

For me, good diet has to be the foundation of a healthy dog, so make sure you’re feeding one of the following;
1) a properly balanced home made raw diet
2) a properly balanced home made cooked diet
3) a premium kibble with fresh food enhancements( tripe, cooked veggies, sardines, yogurt)

Address any food intolerances/sensitivity your dog may have. Feed as wholesome a diet as possible but be aware( how can you forget, as I’m forever going on about this)  that fresh foods alone won’t necessarily provide a full balanced diet; carnivore nutrition is different from ours and your dog will not thrive on a home made diet that is low in calcium, iodine, D3, zinc etc (as many of these diets are). If you’re already feeding a premium food or home made diet, consider adding a probiotic, something along the lines of spirulina, a general herbal tonic,  a little apple cider vinegar as long as there is no history of either stones or crystals in the urine, and some fish oils (not cod liver oil, but any good quality fish body oil).

Some more on dietary supplementation here:

I consider most dogs with flea allergy to be “hot” and like to use fish oils, anti inflammatory and cooling herbs throughout the year and provide some immune system regulation as well. Many dogs who run hot and react like this also have sensitive bowels, are reactive or just generally hyper, and can be helped with TTouch and massage as well as diet, supplements and herbs.

If you have to resort to Frontline or Advantage just do it the once and use liver support right after it – I like milk thistle with burdock, and chlorella, and a lowered protein/higher fiber diet for about 3 weeks following a treatment. Homeopathic Thuja may help as well although this is not my own area of expertise.

Takeaway message; a “cooling” diet may help, and we will talk a lot more about using foods to heat or cool the body – but most definitely make sure your dog’s diet is optimal. Adding in Omega3 fatty acids in the form of fish body or krill oils can help. If you do use a pesticide, detox your dog – or put more accurately, feed and supplement to support the body’s ability to excrete the toxin.

GARLIC – #1 Natural remedy

Again – a lot of people will say, garlic is the solution – and I’d just add, you can try adding a LITTLE to your dogs’ food, but some considerations (and please know there have been many studies showing no effect, in controlled scenarios).

1) garlic can irritate the stomach, so use with food only, please
2) Smaller dogs , I would avoid it altogether (under 20 pounds)
3) The problem with garlic and onions is the initiation of something called Heinz body anemia; you do have to feed a fair quantity to cause this illness but it is life threatening:

Here’s a review of the standard treatments (natural) for flea treatments – I tend to agree with much of this, except the “perceived toxicity” of veterinary treatments – well, hhhmm, they ARE toxic! But so can be essential oils and garlic etc, and much less effective. I try never to use the Advantage, but if my dog is scratching himself raw (as was the case with my own dog two years ago) I get him some relief and then address the situation as non-toxically as possible.

My view on garlic is simple. It can upset the stomach fed raw – it *can* cause serious illness in vulnerable dogs, and it’s a potent blood thinner which may or may not be desirable for your canine friend. My sense of it is, the amount required to be repellant to FLEAS is too much for the average dog to tolerate. Whenever I’m considering a supplement or herb I assess the individual dog, and do a risk/benefit analysis – garlic for me doesn’t make sense. Most people who use garlic are also feeding very high quality diets and not over vaccinating etc, so the good immune system and ability to repel an infestation is not related to the garlic, but to the genetic makeup and overall health of the individual.

But to be clear; Frontline and Advantage are NOT INNOCUOUS and I don’t like to EVER use them – but I will, one dose, to get a miserably suffering dog out of that state. Allergic dogs only. All others can be handled – more or less – with diligent attention to the environment, diet, and regular bathing, rinsing and flea combing.


1) You have to keep cleaning the bedding, vaccuming floorboards, daily.  Rent a  steam cleaner if you can. Diatomaceous Earth works well for some folks and others don’t agree. I wouldn’t use it if you have asthma or any lung sensitivity. But many swear by it.

2) Health of the dog, as in strong immunity which starts with a wholesome and balanced diet, is key.

3) I don’t much  like garlic, brewer’s yeast or B1, because I don’t think they work. But of these, B1 is probably the most harmless. I like to give this as a complex, so if you’re going to try that, add a plain B50, not a stress formula,not a time-released. Just a Bcomp 50. If it works – let me know.

4) Wash and fleacomb your dog regularly. You can use herbal rinses, lemon water, or herb-infused apple cider vinegar, or plain acv.Make sure your dog doesn’t have raw open sore areas before you pour vinegar or lemon on her – in these cases, I use  rose, calendula and lavender with a little bit of aloe vera. I generally just take a Tablespoon or two of each,  place in a Mason jar or any container that holds about a liter of water, and pour boiling water overtop. Cover, let sit four hours, then rinse the dog. With safe, cooling and vulnerary herbs like these you can make it stronger, and do it often. Marshmallow leaves, sage leaves, a little yarrow and mugwort are all nice ideas too and won’t burn the skin.NOTE: please try even these mild herbs INDIVIDUALLY at first; experience has taught me to make an infusion of one at a time, and then swab a little on the tummy. I’ve rarely ever seen a reaction, but I HAVE seen a couple, and better you know that before you pour the offending herb all over your already itchy dog! 🙂

5) The same herbs that we use in the water-infusions can be powdered and mixed with arrowroot and clay to create a safe flea repellant powder. This can be sprinkled on bedding, or combed through the dog’s fur right after bathing and drying. Because he or she will probably lick the powder, make sure you use only gentle herbs you know your dog does not react to. Again, I use calendula, rose, lavender, sage and yarrow, often with a little bit of  mugwort. I am wary of Essential Oils, although most dogs are probably ok with very small amounts of the milder oils (think flowers, mostly!) I weigh the probably benefit against the possible cost – and usually, I leave them out. I NEVER use them near anyplace a cat will sleep – and in my house, that’s pretty much everywhere.

6) Search your dog thoroughly after any outing where he might have picked up a tick. Then remove it. Remove it properly:

Now, as I am behind schedule and wanted to get this up for everyone before Christmas, I’m going to wrap up with a few Links – not what I normally like to do, but I’ve dug up some good ones for you.

The first one is from a DVM, she explains the flea cycle very well, so that’s important. She’s also a proponent of DE, garlic, brewer’s yeast and B1. 🙂 All of which I have not seen great results with – but no reason you can’t try!

Cedarcide: when I asked on my discussion (Facebook) group about what people are using, this product came up over and over. I decided to take a look, and I think it;s worth considering.

Nematode: Jury’s  out on this one, but I thought I’d include it for your consideration:

In summary; I still consider Dr. Pitcairn’s article to be one of the most balanced, with regard to natural flea control. And, he likes garlic and brewer’s yeast. 🙂 Maybe I’m out numbered, but I remain cautious. I’ll give the last word to the good Doctor.

And I wish you a  happy, flea-and-tick free, summer!

Natural Support for Radiation Exposure

This entry is long overdue, but the topic is always relevant. Many people have become concerned about radiation since the terrible disaster in Japan last month; I believe the dietary steps we take  to address these concerns are important not only immediately following a crisis, but all of the time. Like it or not, radiation is a part of our lives now, and we do well to address it dietarily on an ongoing basis, not *just* when facing an increased level of exposure.  The same holds true for our dogs; beyond the foundation of good diet and avoiding unnecessary exposure to household and garden chemicals, veterinary drugs and cigarette smoke (to name a few) we can add herbs, foods and supplements to further support the body. In this entry I will discuss a few of these additions, and how one might safely and effectively utilize them for dogs. The nice part is, all of them can be used as part of your total natural care strategy, safely and  supportively, radiation concerns or not.

For starters, the first thing we think of for human use is iodine, and so many are turning to kelp to supplement their diets.

To clarify, let me quote the outstanding herbalist Sean Donahue on the human uses of iodine:

“Radioactive Iodine 131 is a byproduct of nuclear fission and is be released in the event of a meltdown or possibly in the event that the fuel rods have degraded and fission products are carried with the steam vented from one of the reactors. Iodine 131 has been detected in the area around the Fukushima plant.
Fortunately for those of us in North America, the half-life of Iodine 131 is 8 days, and radioactive material will likely take a week to be reach our west coast if indeed it is carried that far. But there is still some threat of radioactive Iodine exposure for west coasters and certainly a more substantial threat for those in and closer to Japan.
Because the thyroid takes up Iodine, and Iodine 131 is highly unstable, there is a large risk of thyroid cancer from exposure to Iodine 131. The best way to minimize the Iodine 131 uptake is to provide the thyroid with large amounts of Iodine 127. Standard procedure in the event of a nuclear disaster is to distribute Potassium Iodide to people in affected areas. And Potassium Iodide will certainly do the job. (But be careful to make sure you aren’t overdoing it!)”

Donahue goes on to say  that  it might just be preferable to use food to up your iodine intake – seaweed, seafood, and fish all offer significant levels of iodine – and I do tend to agree, although fish  contains a lot of contaminant and we don’t want to overdo it. If you do use a supplement, it’s important to know how “clean” it is, and how much iodine is in it. This is exactly the problem I have with canine supplements; many kelp products are contaminated with heavy metals and other ocean-borne toxins, and to make it worse, they don’t state the iodine content on the label.    I would suggest being very careful in which brand we choose, and no one with thyroid disease should just start taking seaweeds or other forms of iodine.

This is going to be another long entry, so for brevity’s sake here is just one article regarding the potential contaminants in kelp. This is not to create fear but to make you aare of the importance of choosing your brand of kelp carefully.A little googling will turn up a lot more by way of reference, if you’re interested.

For dogs, the same holds true. Brand, and stated iodine content, are crucial.

In all my home made diets, I recommend using a kelp for  insurance that iodine levels are in the optimal range. It can be challenging to calculate just how much iodine is in a diet, as the content varies widely according to many factors – so much so, that most nutritional software doesn’t even GIVE us the levels. I supplement prudently, and always with  great care as to what brand and how much. Please note here that I am talking about supplementing a home made diet UP TO the Recommended Allowance range. I do not recommend adding kelp to kibble (assuming your dog is eating in the range of recommendation for his weight and activity level).  Kelp is not my preferred means of supporting the canine system through periods of higher than average radiation exposure. Too many complications arise with it’s use, and we have other means to help the body handle the stress. If you are going to use it,  here are a few I use and recommend:

NOW kelp states the iodine content and comes in a loose powder, so mixing in to food is simple.

I also like Life Extension’s version here:

Packing a full 1000 mcgs of iodine into one capsule,  these are suited to the diets of larger dogs who may need this much weekly.

NOTE: to calculate how much iodine your dog actually needs, take his weight in kilograms to the power of 0.75, and multiply by 29.6. That’s the RECOMMENDED ALLOWANCE per day. And to find the 0.75 number, simply use your computer’s calculator set to  “Scientific”. The function you will use looks like this x^z. But if that’s too much math for now, let me make it easier.

I prefer chlorella and spirulina to kelp, by FAR, as a method of supporting the body under stress. Kelp is important to add to home made diets, to ensure adequate levels of iodine.   Too much can cause your dog problems. Let’s take  a look at the So-called Supergreen foods – Chlorella and spirulina. I heartily support these for all dogs, not just  the ones with radiation exposure – my own get a teaspoon of Earthrise spirulina every other day, and chlorella in rounds, two or three times a year.   And again, as radiation is something we all need to be conscious of, from television and computers and X-rays to name a few sources, I feel adding one of these foods is appropriate for all dogs. My only qualifier is of course, if for any reason your individual doesn’t tolerate them – of course, you won’t go on giving a supplement that creates the dreaded “dire rear”. My suggestion is, start small and build up. You can use a teaspoon a day for a larger dog, a half teaspoon for a medium sized (40 – 50 pound_ individual, and start the little guys on a quarter teaspoon.

Here is some more reading on spirulina and chlorella, for those of you who like to research. The University of Maryland site is a great resource.

Planetary Herbals, Michael Tierra’s brand and Earthrise  are two brands I have used and come to trust over many years.  My preference is for either or both of these algae, instead of the kelp. Like kelp, algae supplements can be contaminated, so use a topnotch product. But the benefits of the “Supergreen foods” are far-reaching, include detoxification, immune support and inhibition of cancer cell formation (Messonnier, Preventing and treating Cancer in Dogs). Highly recommended.

Next, I would recommend increasing fiber, at least for a short time. As discussed in the last entry on carbohydrate, fiber helps to remove multiple toxins and byproducts from the body as well as supporting colonic health. You might consider adding rice bran, ground flax, or a few tablespoons of well cooked lentils to your dogs food bowl. Try a small amount, if you are already using a kibble or home made diet with balanced fiber content; if your dog is on a carb-free raw diet, use a little more. Personally, I would use vegetarian diet for several weeks following exposure, but I know that’s not for everybody. The addition of some glutenfree fiber, a mix of soluble and insoluble, can be an excellent choice too.

Selenium is another addition to consider.  Supplementation is a little tricky because selenium is a required nutrient with a “SUL” (safe upper limit) and we don’t want to overdo it. Like iodine, selenium can be hard to calculate with certianty in the diet, because foods have such a wide range of levels. I’ve used selenium for over a decade in moderate doses, for dogs with both heart disease and cancer- by moderate I mean up to 100 mcg per day above and beyond the Minimum Requirement. That’s a pretty conservative dose, I know a whole lot of holistic vets who go WAY higher. But for short term use, after radiation exposure, I might go 100 mcgs over the RA.

To find your dogs RA for selenium, take that number again – the body weight in kilograms to te power of 0.75, and multiply by 11.8. That’s the optimal range for one day. Conversely, you could amp up the foods that pack the biggest punch of selenium; Brazil nuts, salmon, brown rice. More on selenium here:

With the selenium, or even if you are not using it,  a natural source Vitamin E is a good idea. The full-spectrum varieties are superb, but much more expensive; there are numerous choices available now. I generally add 100IU for a small dog, 200 for a medium and 400 for large or giant, but again, I have known vets to use easily twice that level. My own preference is  for moderation, especially when we are discussing preventive therapies. Whatever you decide on E, make sure your brand is a natural source. You will know this because it either states it upfront, or the natural type is d-alpha tocopherol and the synthetic, dl-alpha tocopherol. Knowledge is power, make your choices with confidence.

I often say to clients who are facing a number of choices, all of which could work,  that all I can ever do is state what I would be doing if the case at hand were, in fact, one of my own dogs.  Without question, I would increase vegetable matter if I was concerned about radiation. For me, that would mean potassium-rich butternut squash, small amounts of cooked leafy greens like chard and spinach, carrots, green beans and cruciferous veggies like broccoli – provided my dog did not have a thyroid issue. I’d add a little olive oil daily; a little cooked lentil and ground flax seed; some spirulina/chlorella (both are great but if I had to choose one, for this purpose I’d use chlorella).

I’d add shiitake mushrooms, or better yet, a blend of several types such as this one:
Herbally, I recommend stinging nettle, above all, but cleaver’s, milk thistle and burdock can all play a role. More on all of these in an upcoming herbal entry.

But the bottom line is this; how much exposure has your dog actually had? I prefer the protocols I develop to reflect the risk and seriousness of the condition.  That said,  there is no downside to adding fiber, green foods, a round of milk thistle,  a little extra Vitamin E and selenium – not if your dog  tolerates them, I have used all of these with countless cases professionally,as part of an overall holistic care package – with superb results.

Lastly, CoEnzyme Q10 is a potent fat-soluble antioxidant, which means it helps to reduce cellular damage from free radicals in the body. COQ10 supports the cardiovascular system, contributes to gum health and offsets toxicity when a dog is undergoing chemotherapy. It’s safe, powerful and a great addition to any senior’s supplement plan.  In acute situations I use with higher dose C and E,  dose range is wide, from 2.2 to 22 mgs per per kg BodyWeight, daily. When I use the higher end I divide the dosage. and in prevention I  generally suggest around 5 mgs per kg of Body Weight.

As always consult your vet about any supplements you’re thinking about adding – certain medications may contraindicate their use, and  he or she should know what  your dog is taking at all times. If I can clarify anything in this article – such as doses – don’t hesitate to ask.


  We all want to see our dogs calm, confident, happy and relaxed. And hopefully most of the time they are those things… but, anxiety is an issue that can and does arise in the dog psyche more often than we’d like – related to veterinary visits, thunderstorms, or separation from a beloved human (or other canine!) The question of anxiety and what can be done about it from a nutritional perspective is one I encounter  regularly, and one of the hardest to give a stock answer to, because in all truth there is so much variance in cause and severity. While diet alone can make a great difference, it will not effect much change if the issue is not dietary to start with. In other words, a protein-reactive dog WILL show improvement with lowered protein in the diet, but if he isn’t sensitive to protein it isn’t likely to help. One of my own (male Ridgeback and very hyperactive) dogs is sensitive to even a couple of percentage points increase. However, dogs evolved to have a high tolerance for protein – there is no actual Safe Upper Limit although problems with excess do exist outside of the behavioural. Personally I tackle this problem on multiple levels:  but in terms of protein I lower  the levels  to RA (Recommended Allowance) if it is higher; to minimal requirement if it is at RA.  It’s a good idea to include turkey in all the diets, as the sole or partial protein source.  Supplemental tryptophan may help; and it’s important to note that if a dog has been on a high carbohydrate diet with a lot of simple sugars either in the diet or added as treats, the dietary adjustment should be to minimize those carbs and raise both the “good “fats and quality protein sources. One cannot assume that all dogs need lowered protein if they tend to reactivity or nervousness, each case must be evaluated individually.Anxiety needs to be looked at behaviourally, of course;  I consider nutritional adjustments , appropriate herbs, and gentle de-conditioning to form the basis of the programme. TTouch, Flower Essences and assorted other ideas (like DAP) can help a great deal as well.General, overall nervousness  needs a different approach from the dog who has situational fear or specific phobias, especially herbally, but all can benefit from one or more of the ideas below.

Let’s break this down for  the sake of coherence. 🙂


Again – what are the protein levels like in the diet? Some dogs who are on
extremely high protein diets find relief from panic attacks when the
diet is brought in line with more balanced nutrient percetages. The effect
appears to be twofold; first, lowering protein diminishes general reactivity in a percentage of dogs.
(I am using this a lot with SA and aggression, too) and second, increased
complex carbohydrate helps with serotonin production and therefore increases
a sense of wellbeing. I often feed a tryptophan rich meal (turkey is
probably the best source) with a carbohydrate snack shortly afterwards to increase
serotonin levels – this is something I’ve suggested for many, many
dogs and almost universally seen some positive result.  I also like to consider the possibility of a food intolerance causing anxiety, and some dogs clear up on a balanced  but restricted ingredient diet, using novel protein sources and a high presence of the Omega3 fatty acids found in coldwater fish.
As with other conditions diet can play a role but some experimentation is often called  for – important to keep an open mind and look for what works, not to mold the dog to a pre-conceived and often cherished! dietary theory.
Flower Essences

While many people swear by Rescue Remedy, I have
personally found a combination of Aspen, Mimulus and Rock Rose to be
most helpful, at times with other essence added in;Impatiens, Schleranthus – depends on the dog and what triggers her anxiety. Look into both Bach Flower essences – and Sharon Callahan’s beautiful Anaflora line –

I have used the Bach system for 25 years
and I find it most helpful, but others swear by Anaflora. With Bach it is
very much a matter of finding the best essence for your individual dog.
Flower Essences should be administered in two ways; first, use as often as needed during an acute attack, and second, find the essence or blend that works for your dog longterm. An excellent resource for working with BFEs for dogs is the book Bach Flower Remedies for Dogs, by Martin Scott and Gael Mariani. Another option is to check out the bach site, at, and work with the information there as well as your knowledge and intuition regarding your dog.


There is just so much you can do here. I’ll try to keep this brief.

For those unfamilair with what TTouch – Tellington Touch – is, have a look around this site for an idea:

What I can say – as a practitioner-in-training – I’ve taken five of the six required trainings, and plan to complete the last one this year – is that Ttouch is deeply powerful and transformative work. I use it for anxiety, but a whole host of other issues, and simply as a means to connect and deepen my relationship with all my companion animals. Well worth looking into whether you have anxiety issues or not.

First, I’d suggest looking into an anxiety wrap, which can help create a sense of safety and confidence. My own dog with thunder-issues is much better in her wrap and also prefers to be in her “den” – a space with a bed under my computer. Is there a place your dog wants to be when she is panicking? You could look into some basic TTouches such as ear slides and deeply relaxing light circles along with the wrap. Have a look:

An experienced Tellington Touch professional can be of great help to you as well, so if you have a problem that isn’t responding to  these measures, consider contacting someone locally. A list of practitioners can be found here:

And while I learned to just use the tensor bandages, and be tuned in to what seemed to work for the indivdual dog today we have the Thundershirt, so well worth a look as part of your anti-anxiety toolkit:

 Other Ideas

Many people report good things about the DAP diffuser:
I have not used this one personally but I may look into it as Daniel has a bit of SA -and there’s no reason not to add this one to my bag of tricks.

You might also want to look into some music therapy for thunderphobic canines:
I have not tried these, but I have long used Gregorian chant, Native American flute and Celtic harp Cds to calm hyper dogs. Again along with the tryptophan, TTouch and Flower Essences we have a total approach.

Two last ideas: acupuncture for severe cases, and massage. If there is a licensed acupuncturist in your area and your case is unresponsive to these home measures I’ve listed, you could seek some professional help.
Acupuncture is amazing stuff in the hands of a skilled practitioner.
And massage is always wonderful for dogs – my RR Luke, the epileptic boy, was unusually tense and I worked with massage to help him relax and settle when he appeared very worried. You could literally feel the tension particularly in his head and neck dissipate as I worked on him. There are many
great books and sites that discuss canine massage; I might start here:

Dr. Fox’s book The Healing Touch is the one I work with but there are many, many others available now.

Note that I am not recommending herbs here – well, not yet. I feel that herbs deserve a whole separate section as this is something I’ve been studying in much greater depth the past several years, and it’s important to know which ones can help your individual most.  We’ll look at chamomile, passionflower, kava kava, skullcap, valerian, blue vervain and several others in my entry on herbs for anxiety and other nervous issues; using them alone, in formulations, in what form and how to decide which one(s) are best suited to your dog.

And look into a behaviourist.A good, qualified, experienced and all-positive trainer/behaviourist is your very best friend – for all dog problems. ALong with everything else.



Manual of Natural veterinary Medicine, Steve Marsden and Susan Wynn

practical experience/case studies/years on yahoogroups and personal research

Bach Flower Remedies for Animals; Stefan Ball and Judy Howard

all of Linda Tellington-Jones’ books, plus five trainings

Reverse Sneezing

Today a client emailed me to ask about something her dog had been doing that she hadn’t put on the questionnaire because it had slipped her mind, as she focused on the problem she’s consulting me about. She wasn’t sure what the thing her dog does really is,or whether to be worried at all, but thought she’d ask and see.. I was reminded of all the times this has come up on ThePossibleCanine  yahoogroup, and decided I’d make an entry with regard to the problem. I sent my client the video below; lo and behold it’s exactly what her dog is doing. Reverse sneezing is of interest to me on a personal level as well; my own dog, Daniel, does it in cold weather when he’s been exerting himself extra hard. I found it alarming the first time I saw him do it, but really, the condition is not usually worrisome. Have a look below and see. Does your dog do this?

Here’s a second video I found on youtube; I include it because it’s not quite as dramatic as the one above and shows a variation on the condition. This is almost exactly what Danny’s episodes look like. And they last 1, maybe 2 minutes at most.

Reverse Sneezing is technically  known as inspiratory paroxysmal respiration – and is characterized by” rapid and repeated forced inhalation through the nose, accompanied by snorting or gagging sounds” (Wikipedia)  While it sounds awful, it’s not generally harmful. More common in the brachycephalic (flat faced) breed such as Pugs and French Bulldogs, reverse sneezing can happen to any dog and has a variety of triggers. Some, like my Daniel, experience it when exercising hard (or in his case, inhaling cold air, he never does it in summer). Other causes include mites, hard pulling on the collar, over excitement, allergy, any number of irritants such as pollens, perfumes for small foreign bodies.

The condition is more common in small dogs, but again, any dog *can* develop it, at any age. If the episode resolves within a minute or two and there are no other symptoms, this is probably what you have – but as always, a good idea to discuss it with your vet. if there is mucus, blood from the nose or ongoing spasms, see the vet right away. In many cases you can simply watch for the triggers and learn to  avoid them.

In my case that would mean staying inside all winter – since that’s not an option for an athletic dog like Dan, I just make sure if he starts to spasm, I put him on leash, and we walk quietly for a little.I also walk him on a harness only to avoid pressure on his delicate throat.

Other conditions that could mimic the appearance of reverse sneezing include kennel cough,laryngeal paralysis, infection of the nasal passage, nasal cancer, and asthma. All of these need veterinary care – but the reverse sneezing is  not in the same league of concern at all. Of course if he starts it while eating, you might want to take that food bowl away, if only till it stops!