In this section we will attempt to answer some of the questions our readers have submitted to us with respect to spay/neuter, the endocrine system (hormones) and related health issues regarding your best friend. Please use the Contact section of this website to submit your question(s).
How can I tell if a dog I am meeting at a shelter or considering for adoption has anxiety/fear issues?
There are observed behaviors that should be considered when meeting a prospective dog for your family or assessing the emotional status of your current dog. Some things to look for:
• nervous habits (i.e. excessive grooming, licking lips or yawning)
• emotional outbursts (i.e. excessive barking)
• strong startle response
• poor interaction with humans
• problematic with other dogs
• poor posture to include hunched back, head down and tail down between back legs
It is worth noting that a shelter situation is very stressful for any dog, so you will be seeing a dog at his or her worst. Their behavior will most likely be much improved when they feel safe in their new home.
My dog is very fearful, so I just keep him away from things that scare him like other dogs and other people. Is there something else I should be doing for him?
Acting to reduce your dog’s fear or anxiety is critically important to your dog’s health. Prolonged anxiety/fear has physiologic endocrine effects. Some of these effects are:
• increased level of adrenaline
• increased level of noradrenaline
• increased level of cortisol
• lowered secretion of growth hormone
• lowered secretion of sex hormones by adrenal glands
• greater levels of glucagon
• lowered production of insulin
• blood sugar level is increased
• Immune system is repressed 85
Practically, there are two components in a plan to assist your dog in its ability to handle stress. First, we try to stabilize the HPA axis by rebalancing hormones. Second, we try to normalize brain chemistry, generally utilizing SAMe. Some vets/guardians have reported improvement through the administration of antidepressant medications, however due to the side effects of these drugs we prefer to try SAMe first.
Why do my dog’s favorite treats show something that seems to be nutritious (e.g., chicken breast) as the only ingredient-but they also have the following disclaimer on the label…“Unfit for human consumption”?
We used to buy these types of treats for our doggy pals. We felt “safe” because they were sourced from a smokehouse in the USA whose primary products were smoked meats for people. We stopped buying them some time ago when we noticed “unfit for human consumption” on the label. Following the guiding principles of our “Human-Canine Connection Model” (discussed in detail throughout this site), we concluded that if we humans can’t eat it safely, why in Dog’s name would we feed it to our best friends? But the question remained, “Why on earth would dietary staples such as chicken breast – the types of “healthy” foods we eat on a routine basis – suddenly not be safe for human consumption?” Our research led us to something that was not only disturbing on many levels, but it completely brings into question the integrity and efficacy of our government food supply watchdogs (e.g., the FDA, AAFCO), not to mention the entire pet food industry. What we uncovered was the food industry’s callous, unconscionable and shameless reference to what they call, “The 4 D’s”. WOW! Now we get it! Simply put, “The 4 D’s” is industry nomenclature which signifies that the primary/exclusive food source for the underlying off the shelf product was either Dead, Dying, Diseased or Disabled. We, the consumer, generally describe this as “road kill”. In this case, the law requires the disclaimer, “unfit for human consumption”. This also applies to dog food that contains animal parts which have been “rendered”–this means the parts have been ground up and cooked for a period of time to kill bacteria, etc.
There is a very helpful, detailed explanation of all of this in an interesting article on PETMD.
FYI: Not having the heart or desire to deny our best friend his chicken treats, we invested in a smoker (designed to cook human food) and we smoke/roast thin slices of locally sourced chicken breast, and then dehydrate them by turning the smoker temp down. Bon Appetit!
Do you have a list of veterinarians who perform hormone sparing sterilization surgeries?
Yes. Please visit our Facebook page for a list of vets who perform such surgeries. Also, you should consult veterinary specialty surgery centers in your area as they often have veterinarians on staff who can provide these procedures.
Is there a connection between seizures and hormones?
Yes, sex hormones can influence the excitability of nerve cells in the brain and thus influence seizure control. Research on humans must guide the treatment for canines. From the Veterinary Journal:
“Epilepsy is the most common chronic neurological disorder in both humans and dogs. The effect of sex hormones on seizures is well documented in human medicine…estradiol increases seizure activity and progesterone is believed to exhibit a protective effect…No systematic research has been conducted to determine the influence of sex hormones on epilepsy in dogs.”120
However, if your spayed or neutered dog has seizures, please consider the following:
First, have your dog’s thyroid function checked. According to veterinary blood and immune disorder expert Dr. W. Jean Dodds:
“Thyroid dysfunction can precipitate or aggravate existing seizure disorders. The mechanism is unknown, but may relate to the vital role of thyroid hormones in cellular metabolism of the central nervous system. In some cases the seizures are related to thyroid dysfunction and when placed on appropriate thyroid medication the seizures may no longer occur or are reduced in severity or frequency.” (Dr. Dodds is a nationally and internationally recognized veterinary authority on blood and immune disorders, thyroid disease and nutrition. Please note that within the scope of this interview Dr. Dodds explains how your vet can evaluate the results of thyroid tests in the context of epilepsy as it is complicated if your dog is already on anti-seizure medication.)
Next, we would suggest testing for sex hormone levels. In general, there appears to be an over-representation of male dogs with idiopathic epilepsy but no explanation for this difference in prevalence between sexes has been reported.120 We believe that the increasing number of neutered male dogs with high estradiol levels may explain the over-representation of epilepsy in male dogs. Hormone rebalancing for male and female dogs may or may not eliminate the seizures, but it certainly will do no harm.
Lastly, consider traditional anticonvulsant therapy. According to VCA Animal Hospitals regarding seizures:
“Once anticonvulsant medication is started, it must be given for life. There is evidence that, if anticonvulsant medication is started and then discontinued, the dog may have a greater risk of developing more severe seizures in the future. Even normal dogs without a history of seizures or epilepsy may be induced to seizure if placed on anticonvulsant medication and then abruptly withdrawn from it.
“The two most commonly used medications to treat seizures in dogs are phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Research into the use of other anticonvulsants is ongoing, and combination therapy is often used for dogs that are poorly responsive to standard treatments. If anticonvulsant medication must be discontinued or changed for some reason, your veterinarian will give you specific instructions for doing this.”