Posts Tagged ‘anecdotal information’

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids): a Proven Treatment for Canine Arthritis

January 30, 2010

 I had the good fortune of receiving my veterinary school training at Cornell University.  Part of what made this education so fabulous was that the senior faculty spent a great deal of “face time” with their students.  I have fond memories of a seasoned clinician patiently holding a Dachshund for me while teaching this novice how to collect a blood sample from the jugular vein.  Another taught this city slicker how to collect a milk sample for mastitis testing from the teat of a cow.   A major “take home point” my classmates and I received from these icons in veterinary medicine was, “First, do no harm.”  In other words, before subjecting our patients to diagnostic testing or treatment, we should strive to be as confident as possible that the potential for benefit was far greater than the potential for harm.  “First do no harm” has always been my mantra and is the main reason I try to rely on “evidence based medicine” (facts substantiated by research) rather than anecdotal information to support what I do. 

Unfortunately, there is a paucity of evidence based medicine pertaining to the use of many commonly used supplements, nutraceuticals, and herbs for dogs and cats.  This is the reason a big smile appeared on my face when I opened a recent edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  It contained two studies on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) for the treatment of osteoarthritis (also known as arthritis or degenerative joint disease) in dogs.  The study designs were excellent in that many dogs were included, there was a control group (some dogs received a placebo rather than the fatty acids), and the observers were “blinded”- neither the veterinarians nor the dogs’ families knew if the dogs were receiving the fatty acids or the placebo.  

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)Here’s what the studies showed.  Compared to the placebo group, the dogs receiving omega-3 fatty acids had a significantly improved ability to rise from a resting position and play by six weeks after beginning supplementation, and improved ability to walk by 12 weeks.  Additionally, compared to the control group, dogs receiving the fish oil had improved weight bearing on the affected limbs as assessed by force-plate analysis (an extremely humane testing method).  No significant adverse side effects from the fish oil supplementation were reported. 

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time with dogs (especially large dogs), guaranteed you’ve known at least a few with arthritis.  It is estimated to affect up to twenty percent of dogs over one year of age. Dogs with arthritis resemble people with arthritis- they are often stiff and slow to rise when they first get up in the morning, as well as after vigorous exercise.  There are many ways to treat this common canine malady including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (the equivalent of ibuprofen for humans), acupuncture, rehabilitation therapy, and supplements that increase the production of normal joint fluid.  The effectiveness of all of these modalities, including fish oil, will vary from individual to individual.  The beauty of fish oil is that, likely the only potential significant risk is for you- your dog may develop fish breath! 

I love the fact that veterinarians now have evidence based support for recommending fish oil as a treatment for their canine patients with arthritis, and in doing so, they can abide by the mantra of, “First do no harm.”  If you suspect your dog has arthritis (if you have a large breed dog over eight years of age, chances are that you do), talk with your veterinarian about the pros and cons of all the treatment options.  And the next time you are dining on fish, don’t be surprised if your dog’s nose appears right beside your dinner plate.  Chances are, your dog clearly recognizes the benefits of fish oil supplementation!  Now, pass the salmon please. 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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

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

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Everybody’s Gone Surfin’ (Part One)

December 15, 2009

When you or a loved one develops a medical issue, chances are you’ll be inclined to do some Internet research.  While I say, “More power to you!” other medical professionals might roll their eyes at the thought of “wasting” valuable time discussing potentially “whackadoodle” notions gleaned from cyberspace. 

Mac, who resides in Vienna, AustriaPart one of “Everybody’s Gone Surfin” will teach you how to find instructive, accurate, worthwhile Internet information while avoiding “online junk food.”  Part two (coming soon to your home computer) will provide tools to assist you in comfortably discussing what you’ve learned online with your veterinarian, in a way that promotes collaborative discussion. By the way, although I’m a veterinarian teaching people how to better care for their furry and feathered family members, please know that this information also applies to your own health care. 

So, let’s begin.  How can you determine whether or not a Web site is dishing out information that is worthy of your time? Here are some general guidelines: 

  1. Ask your veterinarian for her Web site recommendations.  She might wish to refer you to a specific site that will supplement or reinforce the information she has provided.
  2. Veterinary college Web sites invariably provide reliable information.  Search for them by entering “veterinary college” or “veterinary school” after the name of the disease or symptom you are researching.
  3. Web addresses ending in “.org,” “.edu,” and “.gov,” represent nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and governmental agencies, respectively.  They will likely be sources of objective and accurate information.
  4. If your dog has a breed-specific disease, pay a visit to the site hosted by that specific breed’s national organization.
  5. Avoid business-sponsored Web sites that stand to make money when you believe and act on what they profess (especially if it involves purchasing something).
  6. Be ever so wary of anecdotal information.  It’s perfectly okay to indulge yourself with remarkable tales (how Max’s skin disease was miraculously cured by a single session of aromatherapy; how global warming is the cause of hip dysplasia), but view what you are reading as fiction rather than fact.  As fascinating as these National Enquirer type stories may seem, please don’t let them significantly influence the choices you make for your dog.
  7. I really love disease-specific online forums.  Check out those sponsored by Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com).  Not only do they provide a wealth of educational information, members can be a wonderful source of emotional support- always a good thing for those of us who share our homes and hearts with an animal.  If you are considering joining an online forum, I encourage you to look for a group that focuses on a specific disease (kidney failure, diabetes, etc), has lots of members, and has been around for several years.  For example, an excellent Yahoo group K9KidneyDiet (addresses issues pertaining to dogs with kidney failure) has 3,391 members and has been up and running for eight years.  A large group such as this typically has multiple moderators who provide more than one point of view (always a good thing) and greater round-the-clock availability for advice and support.  Look for presentation of cited references (clinical research that supports what is being recommended). Such groups should have a homepage that explains the focus of the group and provides the number of members and posts per month (the more the better).  They may have public archives of previous posts that can provide a wealth of information.

 Listed below are three Web sites that discuss Addison’s disease (an illness that can affect dogs and people- John F. Kennedy was diagnosed with Addison’s disease).  Now that you are an expert on evaluating Web sites, here is a little test of your skills.  Which one of these three sites is worthy of your time and attention? Have a look and let me know what you think! 

  1. http://addisonsdiseasebreakthroughs.com
  2. www.addisondogs.com
  3. http://www.natural-dog-health-remedies.com/addisons-disease-in-dogs.html 

Keep an eye out for Part Two of “Everybody’s Gone Surfin” in which I will give you some tools for comfortably and effectively broaching the subject of your Internet research with your veterinarian! 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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