Recommended Supplements

I am frequently asked what supplements I recommend. If the goal is cancer prevention or lifelong maximum functionality, I recommend the following: 1.) multiple vitamin such as Nutrient 950 by Pure Encapsulations, 2.) probiotic such as Pro 5 by Klaire Labs, 3.) vitamin C, 4.) MSM, 5.) Potassium/Magnesium by Pure Encapsulations, 6.) flaxseed oil such as Barlean’s Organic (non-lignan), 7.) iodine, and 8.) NAC (n-acetyl-cysteine).

As a pet ages, there are two functional issues that are of central importance. The first is getting enough of the “right” things into the body. The second is getting the “wrong” things out of the body. If these two things can be achieved, maximum function is attained- and maintained.

Old Dogs and Magnesium

Two weeks ago, we saw a 10 year dog that had been having seizures for several days. There are several things which can cause seizures in older dogs. In my experience, the most common is a functional deficiency of magnesium. Estimates are that approximately 30% of the human population in this country is deficient in magnesium. My impression is that magnesium deficiency is probably just as common in dogs.

Most of the body’s store of magnesium is intracellular. This means that attempting to assess a dog’s magnesium status with the standard blood chemistry panel will not reveal the functional deficiencies that are the cause of seizures in many old dogs. The best way to assess magnesium is by measuring red blood cell magnesium. This is often done in a panel which measures both essential and toxic mineral content of red blood cells. If one wishes to determine a given dog’s nutritional needs, the red blood cell mineral panel is an excellent means of doing so.

A Most Unusual Case of Chronic Vomiting

An 18 month old, neutered male Boston Terrier presented with a long history of chronic vomiting. The dog was treated with the usual medications and would be better for a while. His diet had been changed several times. He would improve with each change, but after a couple weeks would begin vomiting again.

The history suggested chronic gastritis due to food allergies. A food allergy panel showed allergies to many foods. A Stool Microbial Profile showed major deficiencies in probiotic bacteria- but no pathogens. A hypoallergenic diet and probiotic were started. He was normal for a few weeks, but the vomiting began again.

A Snap CPL test was abnormal- suggesting pancreatitis. A CBC was within normal limits. A chemistry panel revealed a mild elevation in ALT ( liver enzyme) and very low serum chloride. He was treated for pancreatitis and responded well.

Two months later the vomiting began again. At this point, it was clear the dog was suffering from something unusual. A Urine Essential Elements panel was run since the serum chloride had been low. Low serum chloride can be associated with hypochlorhydria ( low stomach acid). Iodine is essential for the production of stomach acid so a Urine Halides Panel was run. 90% of the time the Urine Halides Panel shows elevated fluoride- which can block iodine. In this case, urine fluoride was normal, but urine iodine was so low that none could be detected. Iodine supplement and betaine HCl (stomach acid) were started. At recheck 3 months later, the dog continues to do well.

Chronic Fatigue

Those of you who are familiar with functional medicine will not be surprised that I, a veterinarian, spend a lot of time reading the functional medicine literature about people. I am always looking for new ideas to help my patients- as well as myself. I have recently been dealing with my own low body temperature, which has been a major concern considering the record cold winter in Ann Arbor this year. After a great deal of searching, I finally found a book that addressed the issue. The book is “Stop the Thyroid Madness” by Janie A. Bowthorpe. In addition to inabilty to maintain body temperature, the book addresses chronic fatigue. I have suffered with chronic fatigue for almost 20 years- but no more! The STTM approach to adrenal and thyroid dysfunction is something I wish I had found years ago- Oh well. I recommend it to anyone suffering with fatigue, exhaustion, depression, etc. Many older pets also suffer from the same problems. I am hopeful addressing adrenal and thyroid issues using the STTM protocol will greatly increase the quality of life for older pets.

Zinc and Immunosenescence

I subscribe to many email newsletters. One of the best is that of the Life Extension Foundation ( The LEF maintains a huge health database. It is particularly strong in nutrition and functional medicine. The March 2014 issue has an article entitled “Getting Back to Basics… How Low-cost Zinc Helps Combat Deadly Immunosenescence” by Heath Ramsey. Immunosenescence is a decline in immune function associated with advancing age. It places older individuals at increased risk for a range of almost every serious disease, from infections to cancer. The article references a study in which animals with normal zinc levels had 28% fewer experimentally induced tumors when they were given a modest zinc supplement.

Zinc supplementation in the elderly has been shown to: restore normal function of the killer cells that go after virally- infected and cancerous cells; boost the the stress response of white blood cells from older adults, providing an immune system anti-aging mechanism; boost the immune response to vaccines; and improve cellular immunity and increase survival rates in older mice. I find all of this particularly amazing in that when I was studying physiology some 40 plus years ago, the role of zinc in the body was unknown.

Estimates are that 35-45% of people over age 60 are deficient in zinc. It is not unlikely that the same is true of older dogs. This is another example of a very inexpensive nutritional supplement providing huge benefits.