Lactoferrin for Animals

Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein found in the milk of cows.  It is thought to have the following effects:

– Promotes growth of the beneficial bacteria lactobacilli and bifidiobacteria while also creating an unfavorable environment for growth of others and inhibits adherence in the G.I. tract.
-Binds and transports iron in blood.
-Modulates immune function.
-Diminishes the damage of free radicals. 

In 1996, Dr. Sato and colleagues published a paper describing how they used lactoferrin to treat stomatitis in cats.  Topical application of lactoferrin reduced the severity and pain associated with inflammation of the gums of FIV positive as well as  FIV negative cats.  Unfortunately, the effect seems to be short lived.  It has been used to treat dogs born with a malfunctioning immune system called familial neutrophil dysfunction.  Current research is focused on using lactoferrin for treating influenza virus,  tuberculosis and hepatitis C.  

-Ammendolia, M. et al., Bovine lactoferrin-derived peptides as novel broad-spectrum inhibitors of influenza virus. Pathog Glob Health. March 2012;106(1): 9-12.
-Sato, R., et al. Oral administration of bovine lactoferrin for treatment of intractable stomatitis in feline immunodeficiency (FIV) -positive and FIV-negative cats. Am J Vet Res. Oct. 1996;57(10):1443-6.
-Sata, R., et al. Clinical effects of bovine lactoferrin on two canine cases with familial neutrophil dysfunction. J Vet Med Sci. September 2012;74(9):1177-83.
-Warren, E. ‘Nutraceuticals’ The VSPN notebook, 4/4/2007.
-WebMD, lactoferrin
-Welsh, K. et al., Influence of oral lactoferrin on Mycobacterium tuberculosis induced immunopathology.  Tuberculosis (Edinb). December 2011;91 Suppl 1(0): S105-13.


In the veterinary profession, microchips are recommended for animals in case they are lost.  But the chip does little good if the information stored in it is incorrect.  I have scanned  chips on lost pets hoping to reunite them with their families only to find that the phone number is out of service or the family no longer owns the animal.  I have also read about a horrible situation in which an unscrupulous breeder microchipped a puppy but never told the adoptive family.   When the dog got loose, a good samaritan brought it to a veterinary clinic.  The clinic scanned the dog and notified the owner registered on the chip.  Before the unethical breeder arrived (having hoped all along this may happen so he could resell the animal), the clinic called animal control to verify the information on the rabies tag.  They were told the identity of the dog’s true family and were able to reunite the dog to the rightful owner.  

Here are my recommendations for maintaining microchips:
1) After the chip is placed in your pet, scan it to make sure it is working correctly.  Look at the scanner to verify the number on the chip matches the number recorded on the form.
2) During your pet’s annual physical examination, ask the clinic to scan the chip to verify that it is working.  
3) Twice per year, call the company behind the chip to make sure they are still in business and have your proper contact information.  
4) Update your contact information immediately upon moving or getting a new phone number.
5) Scan all new pets to identify existing microchips.  

Lau, Eddie. When microchips muddle pet ownership.  VIN News, December 13, 2012.

Free Food for Needy Animals in New Jersey Is Allocated

After hurricane Sandy devastated the the East Coast, Dr. Brian Green, a veterinarian in Tarrytown, New Jersey teamed up with Mike and Martha Witkowski owners of  ZipJack in Elmsford, New Jersey to collect food for needy pets.  Donations poured in from all over the country.  A small portion of the food was used to feed animals displaced by the storm but the majority sits in a ZipJack warehouse.    

Update 12/25/2012: I received an e-mail from Dr. Green that all the pet food has been allocated. Thank you Dr. Green, Mike and Martha Witkowski and all the generous donors who made this pet food drive possible!

Lau, Eddie.  “Free pet  food available by the ton” The VIN News Service, December 21, 2012. 

Milk Thistle (Silymarin) for Animals

Silymarin is a nutraceutical derived from the seed of the milk thistle plant, not to be confused with blessed thistle.  It’s antioxidant properties and ability to scavange free radicals have been used to treat a variety of liver diseases in humans, dogs and cats.  Although most of the studies with silymarin were conducted in humans and then extrapolated back to animals, I did manage to find a few interesting studies performed  in animals.  In 1984, Dr. Vogel and associates found that dogs given silymarin before ingesting poisonous mushrooms had fewer clinical signs and better prognosis than those left untreated.  Another study by Dr. Avizeh and associates found that silymarin protected cats against liver damage caused by acetaminophen.  Unfortunately, silymarin showed mixed results in protecting pigeons from B1 aflatoxins.  

Recently, silymarin is being used to lesson unwanted side effects with some chemotherapy protocols.  Several years ago, I diagnosed an elderly cat with lymphoma throughout its intestines and referred her to a veterinary oncologist for treatment.  The oncologist placed the cat on milk thistle during chemotherapy which seemed to help.    

High doses of milk thistle may cause vomiting, diarrhea and/or anorexia.  Some animals may also become allergic to the plant.  Dosing milk thistle can be challenging because of the variety of formsit comes in; extract vs dried plant.  Therefore, always consult your veterinarian before using any nutraceutical.   

-Avizeh, R et al. Evaluation of prophylactic and therapeutic effects of silymarin and N-acetylcysteine in acetaminophan-induced hepatotoxicity in cats. J. Vet Pharmacol Ther. February 2010; 33(1): 95-9.
-Grizzle, J. et al. Effects of dietary milk thistle on blood paramenters liver pathology, and hepatobilliary scintigraphy in white carneaux pigeions (Collumbia livia) challenged with B1 aflatoxin. J. Avian Med Surg. June 2009; 23(2): 114-24.
-Plumb, D Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook 7th Ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2011
-Twedt, D. Nutraceuticals in Liver Disease, ACVIM 2004.
-Vogel, G. et al. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 1984; 73(3): 355.

Essential Fatty Acids for Animals

Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) play a vital role in both cell and immune function.  EFA’s are divided into two forms, omega 3 and omega 6.  Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and other marine life decrease inflammation.  In veterinary medicine, EFA’s are often prescribed for the following animal diseases:
1) Canine cognitive dysfunction
2) Allergic dermatitis
3) Osteoarthritis
4) Chronic kidney disease
5) Heart disease to decrease weight loss
6) Cancer treatment to decrease the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. EFA’s might also decrease tumor recurrence.

Unfortunately, essential fatty acids have unwanted side effects.  Here are a few of those side effects:
1) Has been found to inhibit insulin release in humans with type II diabetes.  Therefore, as a precaution, it should likely be used with caution in any diabetic patient including animals.
2) High doses may cause bleeding problems due to interference with platelets.  This is especially true in cats.
3) High doses of omega 6 promote inflammation and thus are not used as often in therapy.
4) Can cause vitamin E deficiency which is why patients on chronic EFA therapy should also receive vitamin E supplementation.
5) May cause recurrence of pancreatitis or diarrhea in patients with a history of these problems. 

Brooks, W. Heart Failure Therapy, VIN 1/19/2011
Ogilvie, G. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cancer: Frontiers for Cure & Control ACVIM 2012
Plumb, D    Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook 7th Ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2011
Shell, L. Cognitive Dysfunction VIN 10/26/2012
Tater, K. Ateopic Dermatitis VIN 2/14/2012
Warren, E. Nutraceuticals VIN 4/4/2007

Co-enzyme Q-10 in Animals

Co-enzyme Q-10 increases mitochondrial energy production in cells possibly through down-regulating the level of nitric oxide.  It has been touted for use in patient’s with cardiac disease to improve cell function.  I have had a few clients try this in dogs and cats with heart disease.  Unfortunately, I did not see any improvement in these patients.  Recently I came across a study that demonstrated CoQ10 might help diabetic patients with heart disease based on research in mice but the investigators recommended further investigation.   

Beside heart disease, Co-enzyme Q-10 has been reported to improve gingivitis in humans although I haven’t had any experience with this.  I know that some veterinarians are recommending this nutraceutical for canine cognitive dysfunction although there are no scientific studies yet to back up this use.  I did find one study that showed Co-enzyme Q-10 protected against cognitive impairments and hippocampal neuronal degeneration caused by organophosphates.  

-Binukumar, B.K., et. al., “Protective efficacy of co-enzyme Q-10 against DDVP-induced cognitive impairments and neurodegeneration in rats.” Neutox Res. May 2012;21(4): 345-57.
-Huymh,K. et. al., “Coenzyme Q10 attenuates diastolic dysfunction, cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and cardiac fibrosis in the db/db mouse model of type 2 diabetes” Diabetologica May 2012;55(5):1544-53.
-Jung, Hynn-Joo, et. al., “Evaluation of anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive activity of coenzyme Q(10) in experimental animals.” J. Pharm Pharmocol. October 2009;61(10):1391-5.
-Warren, E. ‘Nutraceuticals’ The VSPN notebook, 4/4/2007.

America’s Last Jaguar, Macho B

I would like to share my opinion about the sordid tale of the death of Macho B.  Thanks to Dennis Wagner of the Arizona Republic the truth about this poor jaguar is finally revealed.  Macho B was horrifically and unnecessarily trapped and collared by Arizona Game and Fish.    In 2009, Arizona Game and Fish reported an ‘accidental trapping’ of the last jaguar seen in the United States.  That it was accidental was a lie.  During this time they collected samples and fitted the large feline with a radio collar.  A short time later and under what I find to be a troubling development at many levels, Macho B was brought to the Phoenix Zoo and euthanized for “renal failure”.  According to the pathologist at the U of A, that was also a lie.  Contrary to their public statements, we now know the trapping was anything but accidental.  Skat from an in-heat female jaguar from the Phoenix Zoo was used to lure Macho B to the inhumane leg trap.  

To learn more about how the agency charge with protecting our wildlife caused the demise of America’s last jaguar I highly recommend reading “The Cat, the Captors and the Cover-up:  An Arizona Republic investigation reveals a web of intrigue surrounding the capture of a rare wild jaguar, Macho B, and the truth behind the cat’s demise” by Dennis Wagner.  This is the first in a three part series called “The Last Roar of A Jaguar”.  According to the article, the people who recklessly caused this animal’s demise are the ones now rewarded with a huge research grant!  Hopefully, these taxpayer funds will be reallocated to people who actually care about animals.  Here is the link: 

As we approach the end of 2012, I deeply hope that we as a supposedly enlightened society will demand an end to leg traps.  These are among the most inhumane and unnecessary artifacts hold over from the barbarism of days gone by.  There are humane traps available and I call upon Governor Jan Brewer, our other elected officials and all of us a citizens to place an end to this medieval practice.  All who care about animals and our ecosystem must demonstrate ethics in the care of the great cats with whom we are privileged to share this earth.  I am deeply indebted to Dennis Wagner for his tenacious work over many years in making sure this story got told.  Now the Governor, our elected officials and we must hold those responsible to account.  This includes the  ethically challenged Arizona Game and Fish Department.

L-Lysine for Animals

L-lysine is an amino acid that is used in humans and animals for controlling herpes viral infections.  Lysine interferes with the virus uptake of arginine.  This amino acid is required for replication.  With inadequate amounts of arginine, the virus can’t reproduce decreasing the number of organisms in the patient.  Many people use it to decrease the occurrence of cold sores.  In veterinary medicine, it is primarily used for treating chronic herpes viral infections in cats.   My own cat Tigre, is chronically infected with the herpes virus.  The number and duration of outbreaks decreased dramatically when I placed him on a low dose of lysine.  Some equine veterinarians prescribe lysine for a condition called ‘pastern dermatitis.’  Horses with this condition develop a vasculitis in the skin of their pasterns.  The condition improves when the horses are treated with lysine or a mixture of lysine and flaxseed oil. 

Unfortunately, lysine can cause problems if not used properly.  Besides depleting arginine in a virus, it can theoretically do the same thing in animals.  I recently read about a cat who was started on a moderate dose of lysine as a kitten for a herpes infection.  At ten years of age, the cat started having episodes of strange behavior that included dizziness, vocalization, drooling and vomiting.  During the episode, the cat walked around like it was drunk.  The clinical signs started after the cat received its dose of lysine and lasted for about four hours.  The episodes stopped when the lysine was discontinued.  A clinical study by Dr. Fascetti and colleagues was not able to replicate these signs when challenging cats with excess dietary lysine.  Until more is learned about lysine-arginine antagonism I recommend giving a low dose of lysine no more than twice a day instead of placing it in the food.

L-lysine comes in a variety of forms and from many different sources.  Although the lysine is the same, other ingredients are often added to make it more palatable.  Please be careful with these added ingredients.  I have read reports of some companies using artificial sweeteners and/or propylene glycol to their products which are harmful to animals.  If a label states that other ingredients are added to improve taste, find out what they are before giving them to your pet.  If the company refuses to give all the ingredients, find a new product.  If the ingredients are not classified as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration I would avoid the product.  More information including a list of GRAS ingredients can be found at


-Fascetti, A.J., et al., Excess dietary lysine does not cause lysine-arginine antagonism in adult cats. J. Nutr. August 2004; 134(8 Suppl): 2042S-2045S.
-Warren, E. ‘Nutraceuticals’ The VSPN notebook, 4/4/2007.