Archive for February, 2010

Medicinal Herbs: Not to Be Taken (or Given) Lightly

February 23, 2010

As a small animal internist, the majority of my patients are referred by their family veterinarians.  By the time I first examine them, they are usually receiving a laundry list of conventional medications (antibiotics, nonsteroidal antiinflammatories, etc.) and/or complementary medications (herbs, homeopathic remedies).   I’ve always scrutinized the conventional medications on the list because their potential side effects and the ways they might impact my diagnostic and therapeutic planning.  I’ve tended to pay far less attention to the complementary medications because of my impression that these medicinals are unlikely to cause significant harm or interact unfavorably with other things I might prescribe. Well, there will be no more of this “ignorant bliss” for me! Not after reading, “A Review of the Potential Forensic Significance of Traditional Herbal Medicines” from the Journal of Forensic Science (January, 2010).  The author, Roger Byard, M.D. undertook a review of herbal medicines based on their increasing popularity (there has been a steady 10% increase in spending on botanical remedies in the United States) and the fact that access to such products is largely unrestricted- they can be purchased without prescription. Keep in mind that herbs are manufactured and sold without any FDA approval process.

Here are some of Dr. Byard’s comments and findings:

-An analysis of 251 Asian herbal products from stores in California identified arsenic in 36, mercury in 35, and lead in 24. There have been reports of lead poisoning and mercury poisoning in people caused by such contamination.
-Less expensive herbs are sometimes intentionally used to replace those that are more costly. A case is referenced in which an herb designed to promote weight loss was replaced with another. The unfortunate result for the patient was kidney failure.
-Accidental substitution can occur if plants are incorrectly identified or if the name is misinterpreted. Apparently, some traditional herbal preparations have multiple names. To make matters even more confusing, some herbal preparations that are different from one another go by the same name.
– Failure to process fresh herbs correctly can have serious consequences. Processing is designed to clean and preserve the desired material while removing or reducing any unwanted toxic components. The example provided was aconite root, a plant that must be soaked in water and boiled to reduce toxicity. Failure to do this can result in heart rhythm abnormalities and/or heart failure.
-Some herb manufacturers purposefully adulterate their products with drugs presumably to increase their efficacy. Yet no mention of this is made on the packaging. Examples of hidden products found in herbal preparations have included conventional medications to treat pain, inflammation, seizures, heart failure, and asthma.
-Herbal medicines can interact with conventional drugs and other herbs to cause undesirable side effects. For example, St. John’s Wort can decrease the blood level of some medications by impacting how they are metabolized within the liver.
-The American Society of Anesthesiologists has recommended discontinuation of herbal medicines at least two weeks prior to surgery because of their potential for causing complications. Although only eight herbs were identified as being potentially dangerous, they accounted for 50% of all single herb preparations of those sold within the United States. For example, Ginkgo has the potential to increase the risk of hemorrhage and Valerian can exacerbate the sedative effects of anesthetic agents.

Although Dr. Byard’s review is based on findings in human medicine, I have to believe that the general points he makes likely apply to veterinary medicine as well. His review has certainly served as a wake up call for me. If you use herbs, for your pets or yourself, perhaps this information will prompt you to think about things a bit differently as well. What is a practical approach for avoiding the potential pitfalls associated with herbal medications? I encourage you to consider doing the following:

  1. If you are giving herbs to your pet based on your own initiative, schedule an appointment with your vet to discuss and verify that what you are doing is reasonable and safe.
  2. Have a look at the blog I posted in July, 2009 (http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=407) called, “The Lowdown on Nutritional Supplements.” It will teach you how to use the ACCLAIM system to evaluate the quality of herbal products.
  3. Pick up a copy of the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) for Nonprescription Drugs, Dietary Supplements, and Herbs. It provides information about the indications, contraindications, and warnings for all commonly used herbs. This PDR is readily available via major online book vendors. I will certainly be using my own copy a whole lot more than ever before!

I hope I have not created fear or anxiety by presenting this information. Rather, my goal is to help you become the very best medical advocate possible. Now, like me, you know that herbal medications should not be taken (or given) lightly. If you provide herbs to your pet(s), I would love to hear from you. Please let me know which one(s) you are giving and whether you or your veterinarian initiated this treatment.

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health.

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

 

Please share this blog with your dog-loving family and friends

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Speaking for Spot (the book and the blog) named winners in the 2009 Dog Writer's Association Annual Competition

February 15, 2010

Dr. Nancy Kay’s book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life and her Speaking for Spot Blog were honored at the Dog Writers Association of America Annual Writing Competition Awards ceremony on February 14, 2010 hosted in New York City in conjunction with the Westminster Dog Show. 

The DWAA Annual Writing Competition honors a broad range of authors who have written books and/or published their work in newspaper, website, blog, magazine, newsletter or broadcast media.  In addition to these regular awards, a dozen special awards are given by Eukanuba, Merial, Morris Animal Foundation, North Shore Animal League, AKC, Westminster Kennel Club, PSI, DWAA and Planet Dog Foundation. 

Dr. Kay’s Speaking for Spot Blog (www.speakingforspot.com/blog) received The Best Blog Award. 

Dr. Kay and her book, Speaking for Spot, received the highly coveted Eukanuba Canine Health Award. The is presented for the article or book that best promotes the health and well being of dogs with accuracy, clear writing and the representation of a fresh view of canine health

Dr. Kay is passionate in her desire to equip people to b the best possible medical advocates for their pets and in Speaking for Spot she has provided an invaluable tool for achieving that wish.  Speaking for Spot has been widely acclaimed by fellow veterinarians, pet industry publications and the pet-loving public. Dr. Kay is the recipient of the American Animal Hospital Association Hills 2009 American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award.  Dr. Kay was featured on the National Public Radio Show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross on March 19, 2009.

Dr. Nancy Kay is a board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.  She is a staff internist at VCA Animal Care Center, a 24-hour emergency/specialty care center in Rohnert Park, California.

Speaking for Spot (the book and the blog) named winners in the 2009 Dog Writer’s Association Annual Competition

February 15, 2010

Dr. Nancy Kay’s book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life and her Speaking for Spot Blog were honored at the Dog Writers Association of America Annual Writing Competition Awards ceremony on February 14, 2010 hosted in New York City in conjunction with the Westminster Dog Show. 

The DWAA Annual Writing Competition honors a broad range of authors who have written books and/or published their work in newspaper, website, blog, magazine, newsletter or broadcast media.  In addition to these regular awards, a dozen special awards are given by Eukanuba, Merial, Morris Animal Foundation, North Shore Animal League, AKC, Westminster Kennel Club, PSI, DWAA and Planet Dog Foundation. 

Dr. Kay’s Speaking for Spot Blog (www.speakingforspot.com/blog) received The Best Blog Award. 

Dr. Kay and her book, Speaking for Spot, received the highly coveted Eukanuba Canine Health Award. The is presented for the article or book that best promotes the health and well being of dogs with accuracy, clear writing and the representation of a fresh view of canine health

Dr. Kay is passionate in her desire to equip people to b the best possible medical advocates for their pets and in Speaking for Spot she has provided an invaluable tool for achieving that wish.  Speaking for Spot has been widely acclaimed by fellow veterinarians, pet industry publications and the pet-loving public. Dr. Kay is the recipient of the American Animal Hospital Association Hills 2009 American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award.  Dr. Kay was featured on the National Public Radio Show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross on March 19, 2009.

Dr. Nancy Kay is a board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.  She is a staff internist at VCA Animal Care Center, a 24-hour emergency/specialty care center in Rohnert Park, California.

Financial Assistance to Help Pay for Veterinary Care

February 12, 2010

Imagine my horror upon reading the following news story:  “A Rhode Island man who says he couldn’t afford veterinary care for his dog has been charged with illegally operating on the pet.”  The article goes on to describe this man’s attempt to remove a cyst from the leg of his 14-year-old Labrador mix.  Thankfully, a veterinarian treated the resulting infection and performed a second corrective surgery.  The man was described as elderly and subsisting on Social Security.  He was quoted as saying, “In the economy as it is right now as it is right now, especially in Rhode Island, who in the hell is going to give you a little extra helping hand?” 

This story is tragic to me on so many levels.  Of course I think this fellow was mentally unbalanced, but I also sense (or maybe I’m wishfully thinking) that he dearly loved his canine companion of so many years and his act was one of desperation. While the news would have us believe that our down trodden economy is turning around, I must tell you that every day I receive emails from people all over the United States who are experiencing the heartache, guilt, and desperation of not being able to afford medical care for their beloved four legged family members. 

The Rhode Island man’s story prompted me to remind you that the “little extra helping hand” he needed certainly does exist.  Many organizations offer financial assistance to those in need of help paying for veterinary care. If you or someone you know is in such need, I invite you to visit my website at www.speakingforspot.com/helppayingforveterinarycare.html. Here you will find a comprehensive list of organizations that can provide financial aid. Not surprisingly, these organizations are currently being taxed to the max, and it takes some effort to apply for their funds, but they may be able to provide the help needed to make a significant difference.  

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Please share this blog with your dog-loving family and friends

Blog-Light

February 7, 2010

My recent blogs have focused on rather serious topics, so I think it’s time to lighten things up a bit!  To that end, I would like to share some recent Speaking for Spot  sightings that prompted me to laugh out loud.  I hope they have the same effect on you! 

Carolyn, a friend I’ve made through Speaking for Spot, turned me onto a wonderful website called Draw the Dog (drawthedog.com).  Here you will find cartoon drawings created by ex-Disney animator, Jim George.  Every day, he depicts a new humorous canine moment based on stories and photos he receives from his many fans. Not only are his cartoons wonderfully whimsical, they appear bit by bit on your computer screen as though you are watching over Jim’s shoulder as he draws them. Per the request of one of my fans, Jim recently created a cartoon honoring Speaking for Spot and me!  This was his first drawing dedicated to a book and an author.  What a thrill!

I invite you to see for yourself by visiting Draw the Dog .  Jim’s drawing is unbelievably “Spot on”!  I do all of my writing at the end of a long kitchen table with dogs at my feet and wet noses on my lap (asking, “Isn’t it time to go for a walk yet?!”)  There is a large dining room hutch behind me and I always have my mug of coffee just to the right of my computer (how did Jim know this?).  By the way, if you are wondering who Sandy is (the name mug), she is the Speaking for Spot cover girl.  I hope you will enjoy Draw the Dog as much as I do. You can sign up for an “RSS feed” via their website and receive a new drawing every day. 

Here are a couple of recent and amusing Spot sightings.  One is from a Maltese website, the other from a Bernese Mountain Dog website.  Let me know what you think- do you sense that Sandy (the girl on the front cover of Speaking for Spot) looks a wee bit sheepish amongst all of her purebred peers? 

Lastly, I’d like to remind you that every four months I am selecting a new dog related nonprofit organization to receive proceeds from book sales via my website www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html.  Currently, I am supporting Guide Dogs for the Blind, located in San Rafael, California.  This organization is dedicated to creating functional and loving partnerships between people with visual disabilities and dogs whose unique skills are developed and nurtured.  Check them out at www.guidedogs.com. If you purchase Speaking for Spot via my website, not only will you be helping this wonderful organization, I will gladly personalize your book with a note and my signature. 

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Please share this blog with your dog-loving family and friends