the cure for the common cold … doggie style

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when merrick started sneezing a few days ago, followed by several bouts of inverse sneezing, i initially worried that he might have a grass seed or some other foreign object lodged in his nasal cavity.  being so low to the ground, it’s a solid assumption. but the sneezing didn’t ease up and i could hear he was a little rattley.  my next theory was that he could be in the early stages of kennel cough … given the training we’ve been doing weekly around so many other dogs, it was certainly another valid theory.  but the cough never came.

i checked his temperature — 100.3 … and i listened to his lungs — all clear.  i admit, there were moments during his worst day when i was ready to take him to the vet’s.  instead, i listened to my gut and turned to a more natural approach: boosting the immune system.

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although dogs produce their own Vitamin C, during times of stress and illness it’s sometimes good to offer them a boost.  and as far as echinacea, i prefer the tincture over capsules, and like to get a combo of echinacea and golden seal.  this same combination — along with honey to soothe the throat — was what i used years ago with incredible success when matea developed kennel cough from the bordatella vaccine.

now, clearly if your pet is snorfling up anything other than clear fluid — green, yellow, or even bloody discharge — you should be making an appointment with the vet.  but in this case, i was on track.  merrick’s cold has all but cleared up over the past four days, and now matea is sneezing … a sure sign that it’s just a doggie cold, and merrick has been so generous in sharing with his sister.

i’m NOT advocating you don’t seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is sick … but what i AM saying is that you gotta trust your gut on things and not necessarily take your pet in at every sniffle or limp.  sometimes these issues can — and should — be resolved with natural approaches, giving the body a chance to heal itself before bombarding it with pharmaceuticals. this does not mean that there is no place for western medicine, that going to the vet is a bad thing … there is a place and time for antibiotics and other drugs.  you just have to figure out when it’s the right time.

given all of the health issues we have experienced with our pack over the last few years, and recently saying goodbye to morley as well as our 19-yr-old cat woody, it’s become almost a habit to head off to the vet’s at the first sign of anything out of the ordinary.  and with two hyper-vigilant pet guardians such as ourselves, that can add up to a lot of vet visits … AND a lot of potentially unnecessary drugs and tests, which can be hard on the animal and almost always interferes with the body’s natural healing path.

i never used to be so paranoid, so quick to pack up the animal for a drive to the clinic.  years ago when matea took her first hard blow during a late afternoon play session with her girlfriend macy, she almost immediately started peeing blood … pure blood in the pristine white snow.  talk about shocking!  but my gut told me to wait it out, watch and monitor closely, but don’t rush off to the vet.  often vets don’t have the answers either since our pets can’t speak for themselves.

by much later that night matea’s urine had started to clear considerably, and by the next morning she was fine.  several more times over the years she’s had similar blood-tinged urine, and it was always during those hard winter hikes after the girls flushed a rabbit and took off crashing through the woods, no doubt battering their bodies over logs and rocks.  even macy had bloody pees on a few of these kinds of hikes.  clearly, this is not a case for the vet — although questioning the vet at your annual wellness appointment could be beneficial.  this is a case of kidney blow, not unlike how a human body would react to something similar.

it’s wonderful to see natural healing first hand.  it builds faith and trust in the body’s ability to heal itself, and reminds us that sometimes it’s not vets who hold the answers, it’s our own instincts.

of course, merrick steadfastly believes that the cure for everything — including the common cold — is a good dose of balls … and  i have no intention of convincing him otherwise.

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Shawna-spiritkennels - Love it- I’m all for letting the body heal itself- we are going down that route with a cancer diagnosis. Thanks as usual for sharing your knowledge in a well written way…LOVE the pictures. I’m playing major catch-up on flickr so I just learned of your news of Morley, so sorry I missed it. What a beautiful life he had with you…always so very hard to lose them. I love your photography, I don’t always get enough time to check it out, but it’s always nice to spend some time on your photostream.

illona - yes, Nat, agreed … bloody urine can be nothing and it can be something. what i was trying to get at with the post is that the whole picture has to be taken into consideration. there was a physical reason for the bloody urine in the cases i mention in the blog entry … and it’s critical to watch our pets closely when something strange like this happens. if there had been accompanying lethargy or even frequency of urination, any kind of indication of pain or discomfort, or a lack of appetite, we would have been to the vet’s in a heartbeat.

what i’ve always advocated is that people know their dogs … know their bodies like you know your own. in most cases, you’ll know if something is wrong.

unlike you, some pet owners would not only have missed the bloody urine, but also the lethargy.

Nat - I just wanted to make one small comment on this. While bloody urine can be a sign of nothing significant it can also represent a urinary tract infection or something much much more severe.

Last fall one of our dogs had very bloody urine – once. This was accompanied by lethargic behaviour that day and the day prior. The lethargy really had me worried so our vet squeezed us in and it turned out that our dog has immune-mediated hemolytic anemia: essentially his immune system was popping his red blood cells and sending him on a very rapid decline. He survived with a great investment of money, a blood transfusion, and numerous drugs for several months to follow.

Just wanted to mention this because it was so sudden and so unexpected. Without the bloody urine, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the lethargy.

Take care!

Christina - Great post Illona. And as an aside, I didn’t realize Woody was no longer with you guys. Sorry to hear it. xo

Holly Garner-Jackson - Great advise, illona. Common sense is something we all have to pay attention to, and when it’s beyond our scope we go to the professionals.
Love that photo of Matea soaking up the sun! And of course little goobernonuts!

Michelle - I totally agree with you! I’m lucky enough to have a great vet (and a great relationship with him) that allows me to call if I *think* things are ok, but just want a second opinion so I don’t worry. We are WAY too quick to pump ourselves and our animals full of drugs in this country and it’s great to have a reminder that it’s not always the best idea to do that!

tee4tia - a couple of weeks ago Zuzu had a bit of blood in her urine. This is the first time I didn’t go running to the vet. I thought that maybe I should wait to see if the body would heal itself. I felt uneasy at first because it’s not my usual way to handle things like this. But then I realized too that usually they don’t know what’s up without a battery of tests leading usually to no results and antibiotics. Thanks for printing this it really makes me feel so much better.

Darlene - I am going to look into putting Puff on some holistic immune boosters. He has had sinus problems for over a year, and suffers such bad food allergies.
I’m sorry about Woody….didn’t know you had lost him as well.

Margaret - I’ve wondered if echinacea is OK for dogs – I guess now I know! I use it for myself, and thought it might be a good idea. Love the pics of these two canine cold victims. Belvy must have been channeling Merrick this morning, as when I got him up to go outside (and for me to collect a urine sample!), he picked up a ball to take along. Must help to have a ball along when your crazy mom is sticking a plastic container under your personal parts first thing in the morning!

I absolutely agree about helping the body with its battles. When I studied Microbiology, one of the things I found most fascinating is that even antibiotics mostly work on the premise of injuring the bacterial cells enough for the (host) body to fight the infection, and ideally win the battle. Of course, the body has to be strong to wage such tiny but signficant wars.

I didn’t realize you and J had lost Woody. My most sincere condolences.
-Margaret

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