Archive for March, 2016

Managing Mange


Treatment Plans that Speed Relief

by Dr. Matthew J. Heller

“Mangy mutt” may seem a benign enough term for a sorry-looking pooch, but behind the poor appearance can lie a troublesome health condition that causes many species of domestic animals, including cats, discomfort if not properly treated.

Mange is typically caused by tiny, parasitic mites that feed upon the pet for nutrition, compromising the host’s health. Some burrow under the skin to lay eggs, which hatch and restart the mite’s life cycle; others stay on the skin’s surface and feed on pet dandruff.

Common Types of Mange

Various types of mange share common symptoms: In infected areas, hair loss, redness, itching, irritation and scabs typically occur; more seriously, a pet’s skin may harden to a scaly condition. If untreated, mange can transform a dog’s skin into an uncomfortable, leathery and brittle organ. Stay alert to such appearances and act quickly.

Sarcoptic scabies mange results from microscopic, oval-shaped, light-colored mites that migrate easily between hosts. Prime real estate includes a pet’s ears, elbows, thighs, face and underside of the chest. Symptoms include severe itching and scratching that creates red bumps amidst crusty, thick skin, weight loss, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes. It takes about one week after a pet has been exposed to them for symptoms to appear. Unlike demodectic mange, sarcoptic mange can be transmitted to humans, causing a red rash similar to an insect bite.

Pets that suffer from demodectic mange typically already have a weakened or compromised immune system, sometimes because of immaturity (such as puppies), malnourishment, stress associated with another illness, or even a hereditary issue. Under a microscope, demodex mites appear cigar-shaped. Common symptoms include hair loss, balding, scabbing and sores. Dogs are more susceptible to both types than cats.

Localized demodectic mange usually occurs in puppies when mites migrate from mother to pup during early nurturing. In puppies, the mange often appears on the face, creating a patchy, polka-dotted, balding appearance. Generally, pets will heal from this type of mange without treatment. Generalized demodectic mange presents a greater challenge, because it is spread across large areas of the skin. The pet may emit a horrid odor from secondary bacterial skin infections.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If a pet shows symptoms of mange, consult a holistic veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Once diagnosed, it is vital to implement a full treatment. For cases of sarcoptic mange, this entails replacing the pet’s bedding and collar, plus treating all animals with which the pet has been in contact.

Conventional treatment options vary. The irritating toxicity of most antiparasitic medications, such as ivermectin or selamectin-based products, makes them effective in destroying mites over several months but also creates problems for the pet if used improperly. Thus, a vet may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication; a natural option is plant-derived sterols such as beta-sitosterol, which acts like a cortisone steroid, without the immune-suppressing side effects.

Antibiotics also are often prescribed to treat the secondary skin infections and ease itching. Natural antibiotics such as amoxicillin/clavulanate offer a more gentle choice than synthetics.

Natural herbal ingredients further provide a safe and effective alternative to harsh chemicals. Garlic is popular for its natural repellent and antibacterial properties. Other natural insecticides, including wormwood, neem and lemongrass, help soothe irritated skin. A holistic veterinarian will address the underlying causes of poor health, especially in the case of demodectic mange. Key elements in restoring optimal wellness include propler nutrition via a well-crafted natural diet and immune-boosting probiotics, plus supplements to meet the individual pet’s needs.

From a holistic standpoint, bolstering the immune system with vitamins (like Vitamin C and general skin and immune-supportive pet neutracueticals) and herbs (such as Astragalus) help. Supplementing the pet’s diets with foods or supplements high in omega-3 and omega-6 also helps; sources of both include salmon and flaxseed.

As with other types of parasitic diseases, it is critical that the owner comply with a veterinarian’s treatment instructions. If the pet is prescribed an antiparasitic medication for 90 days, for example, use it for the entire period, regardless of improvements. An incomplete treatment may interrupt the mite’s life cycle but fail to sufficiently destroy the entire population to prevent re-infestation.

Dr. Matthew J. Heller is an integrative veterinarian and owner of All About PetCare, in Middletown, OH.

2016 Grand Rapids Conservation Collection

The greater Grand Rapids region has a myriad of nonprofit organizations who are dedicated to enhancing our community through an environmental lens. Whether protecting water, preserving land, engaging volunteers, or educating us about the natural world, these organizations could not be successful without the support of our community. Additionally, it is the collaboration among these various organizations that allows them to make an even greater impact in this realm.
On March 31st from 4:30-6:30 p.m., current and future volunteers, members and supporters of the participating organizations are invited to gather for an informal open house. The event will be held at The Cheney Place, in Grand Rapids and is free to attend. Guests will gain knowledge of region-wide environmental initiatives as well as volunteer opportunities. Live music from local artists Wake Up Autumn will be featured and light refreshments will be provided.

Canadian First Nations’ Crystal Lameman to Speak at Wege Speaker Series


The Wege Foundation ( will host the 20th Annual Wege Speaker Series on Thursday, April 21 at 4pm at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

The speaker this year is Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, whose homeland is the site of the massive “tar sands” oil development in Alberta, Canada. Her talk is titled, The Real Costs of Oil: The Case for Justice at the Ends of the Pipeline.

The indigenous people of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation live in an area of forest the size of Switzerland and, based on their Treaty of 1876, enjoy legal rights to hunt, fish and trap in their territory, as their ancestors have done for generations.

In 2008, the Nation launched a Treaty Rights litigation against the Canadian government, claiming that the 19,000+ fossil fuel projects in their territory violate their treaty rights and threaten to destroy their way of life by polluting and fragmenting the land and water that have sustained them for centuries. Lameman, who serves as the Intergovernmental Affairs and Industry Relations Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager for the Nation, combines her academic background and her indigenous ways of knowing to articulate the devastating impacts of the largest industrial project in the world.

“In Michigan, much attention has been paid to the safety of the oil pipeline running underneath the Straits of Mackinac and to proposals to ship tar sands-derived oil on the Great Lakes, ” said Mark Van Putten, who in November was named President and CEO of the Wege Foundation. “Less attention has been paid to the environmental and human costs of tar sands production at the locations of the mines. Lameman will seek to deepen our understanding of what is happening at the source as she speaks about her people’s fight for justice on the front lines and the climate change consequences for all of us.”

The Aquinas College Performing Arts Center is located at 1703 Robinson Road S.E. in Grand Rapids. The public is invited and the event is free. Registration is required at

About Aquinas College

Aquinas College is a Catholic liberal arts college founded in 1886 by the Dominican sisters of Grand Rapids. The wooded, 117-acre campus is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With over 1,200 students and 60 academic programs, Aquinas College is an inclusive education community that emphasizes career preparation, leadership, service to others and lifelong learning.

About the Wege Foundation

Founded in 1967 by Peter M. Wege, son of Peter Martin Wege, who started what is now Steelcase Inc., the Wege Foundation focuses on funding good works that enhance the lives of the people and preserve the health of the environment in West Michigan. The Wege Foundation’s Five Pillars, or areas of interest: Education, Environment, Arts & Culture, Health Care, and Human Services. For more information, go to


Thermography: A Gentle Ounce of Prevention

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The Non-Invasive Technique is a Vital Tool for Breast Health

by Linda Sechrist

With the incidence of breast cancer on the rise and prevention now considered more valuable than cure, women are beginning to educate themselves on the option of including a thermogram in their annual check-up. This took for risk assessment, which was FDA approved in 1982 as an adjunct to mammography, measures thermal emissions emanating from the body, a key indicator of health.

Thermography, which utilizes an ingrared camera to take images of the breasts without radiation, detects physiological changes in the tissue that have been shown to correlate with cancerous and, more importantly, pre-cancerous states.

A Powerful tool for Detection

“It is widely acknowledged that cancers, even in their earliest stages, need nutrients to maintain or accelerate their growth,” says Medical Thermologist Philip Getson, a doctor of osteopathic medicine. “In order to facilitate this process, blood vessels remain open; inactive blood vessels are activated and new ones are formed, a process known as neoangiogenesis. This vascular process causes an increase in surface temperature in the affected regions, which can be viewed with infrared imaging cameras.” Getson adds that newly formed or activated blood vessels have a distinct appearance that thermography can detect.

Getson also advises that it is well documents in medicine that changes in physiology can occur seven to ten years before anatomic ones. This means that women (and men) have the opportunity to make proactive changes in lifestyle, diet, nutrition and vitamin and mineral supplementation that can forestall or even prevent the formation of tumors.

“Thermography is a key to prevention, and I would rather focus on how I can help a patient to make diet and lifestyle changes that can prevent the formation of tumors, or at least minimize cancer’s effect on the body,” advises Getson.

Pain-Free, with No Risk of Radiation

Lisa Kalison, owner of Discovery Screening, thoroughly agrees with Getson’s view of thermography as a significant measure of prevention. “I am a proponent of thermography, not only because it does not involve painful compression of breast tissue, which can lead to a lethal spread of cancerous cells should they exist, but more importantly because it does not radiate the breasts,” she emphasizes. “Numerous world-wide expert studies have reported the radiation used in mammograms can be 1,000 times greater than that from chest X-rays, increasing the risk of breast cancer up to 5 percent cumulatively each time.”

In an April 2010 Huffington Post article, best-selling author Dr. Christiane Northrup, a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist, noted, “It’s ironic that the test women are using for prevention may be causing the very problem they’re trying to avoid in the first place!” The reason she cited for the United States Preventative Services Task Force reversal of its aggressive mammogram guidelines was the exposure to radiation. “It’s well known that excessive doses of radiation can increase your risk for cancer, and this doesn’t even touch on the harm done to the body from unnecessary biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation treatment and so forth,” says Northrup.

Helpful for All Women

Kalison points out that in the last 30 years, there have been more than 800 reported peer-reviewed studies on thermography, with more than 300,000 women evaluated. Some of these studies, which have followed women over a 12-year period, conclude that breast thermography has been shown to be the single most important marker for detecting the development of breast cancer and that it is eight times more significant than family history. Additonally, a thermogram has a 92 to 97 percent detection rate and when used as part of a multi-modal approach that includes breast examination and anatomic testing, it’s even more effective.

Thermography is particularly valuable because it can be performed safely at age 20, detecting early-stage breast cancers before they develop. “We are not looking for cancer like traditional medicine does,” says Kalison, “We’re looking for indicators that can alert us that there is inflammation in the tissue, before it becomes cancerous.”

“For monitoring breast health, thermography is beneficial to all women,” says Kalison, “expecially where mammograms are contraindicated: for women as young as their teen years, for the earliest possible baseline; for women with breast implants, reconstruction or mastectomies; and for women who are pregnant or nursing. And, when there is increased risk, like family history, BRCA gene-positive, or the fear of recurrence, thermography doesn’t add to the risk, but can bring peace of mind and earlier intervention, years before an anatomical device can see cancer in its already advanced stages.”

It is clear that with the changing face of medicine and the ever-increasing movement toward prevention, women who add thermography to their annual self-care checklist can count on a gentle ounce of prevention that far outweighs any pound of cure.

Source: Lisa Kalison, Discovery Screening

First, Do No Harm

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Oath Naturally Applies to Vets

by Dr. Shawn Messonier

Veterinarians, like other medical doctors, take an oath to help their patients and above all, “Do no harm.” One way of harming is through the performance of unnecessary procedures, whether or not it is immediately apparent. For instance, I believe harm occurs when an owner pays for a procedure that may no be medically necessary. The procedure could have a negative impact on the pet’s health now or in the future, and the trust in the doctor-patient relationship is broken as a result.

As a holistic veterinarian, I see many new clients in my practice. Most are seeking a more natural approach to pet care, and many are unhappy with one or more things that were done to or recommended for their pets by prior vets. Their stories vary, but two doubtful procedures are particularly common.

The first procedure my new clients regularly question is over-vaccination of their pet. All of the scientific studies from leading institutions such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Feline Practitioners confirm that vaccines are only rarely needed for most pets. Even though current vaccines effectively induce long-lasting immunity, many pets continue to routinely receive annual vaccines. They are unnecessary, potentially harmful and a needless expense.

The more vaccines injected, the greater the chances that problems will develop with a pet’s immune system, including autoimmune diseases and cancers. Instead, a simple blood antibody test, called a titer test, can tell the veterinarian if and when vaccines might be helpful. In my experience, titers tend to remain high for many years following puppy and kitten vaccinations. Most pets I see rarely receive vaccines throughout their lives (other than rabies every three years, as mandated by law), which may account for their sustained good health for as long as 15 to 20 years.

The second problematic procedure is surgery for a damaged cruciate ligament (ACL), the most common ligament problem in the knee joint. Easily injured, it can result in varying degrees of lameness. While pain often occurs upon injury, by the time the pet visits a vet, the pain is often gone.

Surgery is typically required to repair a complete tear of all the ligament’s fibers in order to provide long-lasting stability to the joint. However, in most cases, the pets experience tearing of only a few of these fibers, which means surgery may not be needed at all, and they can recover over time using natural therapies such as cold laser treatments and targeted homeopathics or herbal applications.

Too many veterinarians are too quick to recommend surgery. Recently I examined a limping dog, still able to use its right rear leg 10 days after partially tearing a cruciate ligament. The pet’s original vet had recommended immediate surgery, or else, “The dog will never be able to walk again.” Unsatisfied with this diagnosis, the owner kept researching until he found our hospital and agreed with my explanation that not only was surgery not needed, but would constitute, in my opinion, malpractice for an injury that would likely heal with proper natural therapies. If surgery is ultimately needed for this dog, it can be done at a later date with no ill effects.

The rule of thumb for avoiding needless procedures and treatments is to always get a second opinion. Most ailing pets are not in danger of immediate death, and it’s rare that surgery must be performed right away. Politely questioning any diagnosis or treatment recommendation that feels wrong or like too much, and also asking for a referral to a holistic veterinarian (or seeking an independent source) will help people make the best care decisions for their pets.

Shawn Messonier, a doctor of veterinary medicine practices in Plano, TX, is the award-winning author of The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats and Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets. Visit