Aloe vera has been used to treat skin conditions in humans and animals for many years. Although there are a lot of personal testimonies regarding its therapeutic effects, I have not found many controlled research studies to back up the claims - until now. Dr. Mahsa Tarameshloo and colleagues conducted a study comparing aloe vera to thyroid hormone cream and silver sulfadiazine. They compared the tensile strength of skin wounds in rats after 14 days of treatment and found that aloe vera had much better tensile strength than the other two compounds.
Unfortunately, aloe can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. Therefore, licking must be prevented. According to Pet Poison Control, "Aloes contain anthraquinone glycosides which are purgatives. When ingested, these glycosides are metabolized by intestinal bacteria forming compounds that increase mucous production and water in the colon." Other rarely observed signs include tremors and a change in the color of urine.
-Pet Poison Helpline, 'Aloe Vera', www.petpoisonhelpline.com
-Tarameshloo, M. et al., 'A comparative study of the effects of topical application of Aloe vera, thyroid hormone and silver sulfadiazine on skin wounds in Wistar rats.' Lab Anim Res. March 2012;28(1):17-21.
When I hear the word ginger, I automatically think of gingersnaps and gingerbread houses. But there is far more to ginger that simply using it as a spice. Ginger may be used to treat nausea and promote digestion. It is thought to act by reducing stimulation within the gastrointestinal tract thereby blocking nausea signals to the brain. I recommend it for dogs who suffer from motion sickness when their owners want an alternative therapy. I know an avian veterinarian who uses it to treat motion sickness in parrots.
Beside treating nausea, ginger extract is being studied as a treatment for gastric ulcers. In the past, the effects of ginger were limited because it transverses the stomach quickly, limiting contact time with stomach ulcers. In a study conducted by Dr. Singh, ginger extract and probiotics were loaded into floating beads that attach to the mucosa of the stomach. The beads stay in the stomach for approximately ten hours to increase exposure. So far, the results look promising but more research is needed to verify this study.
Another potential use of ginger is to treat anemia. Inadequate red blood cell production is a problem in mammals of all kinds. The most common cause of chronic anemia I deal with is anemia secondary to kidney failure in cats. When the kidneys fail, they stop producing an important hormone called erythropoietin. A synthetic form of it is available but not without problems. Erythropoietin is expensive, must be injected and the patient may develop resistance over time. In 2012, Dr. Ferri-Langeau led a team of researchers who studied the effect of ginger in zebrafish embryos. Ginger and the active ingredient, 10-gingerol, stimulated maturation of red blood cells, They hope that their "results will provide the basis for future research into the effect of ginger during mammalian hematopoiesis to develop novel erythropoiesis promoting agents."
Before giving ginger or any other nutraceutical to your pet, please check with your veterinarian. High doses should not be used during pregnancy or in patients on anticoagulants.
-Ferri-Lagneau, K. F. et al, Ginger stimulates hematopoiesis via Bmp pathway in zebrafish. PLoS ONE. Jan. 2012;7(6):e39327.
-Mowrey, D. et al, Motion sickness, ginger and pyschophysics. Lancet. 1982;1(8273):655-657.
-Orosz, S. Common Herbs and Their Use in Avian Practice (670) AAV. 2006.
- Singh, P. K., et al, Synbiotic (probiotic and ginger extract) loaded floating beads: a novel therapeutic option in an experimental paradigm of gastric ulcer. J. Pharm Pharmacol. Feb. 2012; 64(2)207-17.
-Warren, A. Nutraceuticals, VIN, April 4, 2007
In April, I had the privilege of visiting Parque das Aves, a bird park located in Iguassu Falls, Brasil. This park is dedicated to four core principles: 1) Rescue and shelter 2) Reproduction of native species 3) Reforestation 4) Environmental education. While touring the facilities, I encountered an exhibit of flamingos. I was surprised to see mirrors surrounding the back of the exhibit.
The flamingos were brought to the park in the hope of breeding this endangered species and releasing their offspring back into the wild. Unfortunately, nothing happened. Even though the enclosure had everything the birds needed, they refused to mate. Flamigos in their natural habitat live in large flocks for protection from predators. The park installed the mirrors hoping to make the birds feel like they were part of a larger flock. The plan worked brilliantly. Evidently, these birds are anything but modest! More information can be found at http://www.parquedasaves.com.br/news/view.not_ing.php?id=34
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in many products including gum, mints, candy and even baked goods. When dogs ingest this compound, it causes insulin release from the islet cells of the pancreas. The insulin causes a drop in blood sugar. The drop is dose dependent which means the bigger the dose the more severe the drop in blood sugar. Dogs who ingest toxic doses of xylitol may be depressed, shaky on their feet, tremor and even seizure if blood sugar drops low enough. This effect lasts about twelve hours.
In addition to causing excessive insulin release, xylitol also harms the liver by causing necrosis. In my experience, the liver enzymes begin to rise about 12 hours after ingestion and peak about two days later. The full extent of liver damage may not be known for several days. Unfortunately, there are no antidotes for this poison in dogs. Victims of xylitol toxicity are treated symptomatically.
The key to treating this disease is to know how much xylitol was ingested. Doses of 1.6 to 2.0 mg/kg causes hepatic necrosis while doses of 0.2 to 0.4 mg/kg cause insulin release. Unfortunately, finding out how much xylitol is contained in a product can be difficult because manufacturers consider this information proprietary.
If you pet has ingested xylitol, seek medical help immediately. A great resource is Animal Poison Control Center. For $65.00 US, this 24 hours service will calculate the exact dose of poison ingested and provide guidance on further care. Their number is (888) 426-4435.
-DeGioia, Phyllis. Once mum, gum maker to disclose xylitol content, VIN News Service, 4/16/2013.
-Shell, Linda Zylitol Toxicosis, VIN Canine Associate, 2/2/2006.