Vitamin D levels in pets- are they getting enough?

Most of us know about the importance of Vitamin D in maintaining not only healthy bones, but in the function of the immune system and preventing cancer. Most physicians recommend that people in the northern half of North America take between 1000 and 3000 IU daily over the winter months when there is not enough exposure to sun for our bodies to produce this essential vitamin. What about our pets?
Unfortunately our companion animals do not even produce Vitamin D from sunshine in the hottest sunniest summer months as their skin lacks the enzyme to convert sunshine to the vitamin that we all need. Almost 100% of their vitamin D must be taken in from the food.
A recent study showed that a majority of dogs are lacking this essential vitamin. This was true for dogs on commercial diets as well as on home prepared diets . But some dogs eating the same food had low levels and other had adequate levels. What does this tell us? There is no way to know if your pet has enough Vitamin D without doing a blood test. Once the test is done we can tell if the level is in the optimal range, or if a supplement needs to be given. Disorders of the bowel and kidney can lead to low levels so it is especially important for dogs and cats with those illnesses to have their levels tested. A simple blood test can give us the answer, and the sample can be drawn at the same time as other early-detection and wellness blood screening tests.

Over the past few months I have been routinely running the Vitamin D level test, and the results to date show that an overwhelming number of my patients are deficient in Vitamin D and require a supplement.

For more information, see the research article

The effect of diet on serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations in dogs

Study to explore lifelong health of Golden Retrievers

I was very excited to learn about this groundbreaking long-term study. It is unique in the collaboration of a very diverse group of company sponsors, and I believe it is is the first comprehensive longitudinal study in dogs. Similar studies in people, such as the Nurse’s Health Study, have revealed very important results that are used today in health maintenance, as well as providing directions for future research.

This long-term study will follow 2,500 Golden retrievers through their lifetimes to learn more about the nutritional, environmental and genetic facts that influence the development of cancer in this breed. Learn more by watching these videos.

Workshop: Cooking for your dog

There is great upcoming opportunity available, but only to the first 12 people to respond!
Hilary Watson, veterinary nutritionist, and Janet Craig, a licensed chef, are offering Canine Culinary 101, a workshop to train owners how to prepare home-cooked dog food recipes safely and in bulk using a community kitchen.

Normally these classes cost $55 per person; you receive 4 kilograms of food at the end of class.

A private class is being planned for Dr. Sherebrin and her clients, at a special reduced ratre of $10 per person.
Date: TBA, Bloor-Sherbourne area

A 3-hour cooking workshop AND 4 kilos of healthy prepared dog food for only $10.00!

What owners should bring:

• Tupperware storage containers or large

Ziploc bags that can hold 4 kg of food

• an apron

• a small cutting board

• a knife of choice

• a jar of HILARY’S BLEND supplement*

If you need to purchase a jar of Hilary’s Blend supplement, please let me know ASAP to allow time to order in stock.

No experience necessary! Novices very welcome!
Enjoy the company of other dog owners who
are as committed to their dog’s health as you are!

Pass this message along to any others who may be interested.


Year of the Tiger

I want to dedicate this article to the memory of Clara, who left our world peacefully on Sunday Feb. 14th, surrounded by friends and companions. She was a real little tiger for all her 21 years, and will be fondly remembered by all who knew her.

We have entered the Year of the Yang White Metal Tiger (Geng Yin) in the Oriental 12-year Lunar cycle. This is a time of change; in Chinese astrology, the tiger is one of the most dynamic and powerful signs. Its nature is unpredictable, courageous and volatile. Therefore the year of the Tiger is usually associated with major changes and social turmoil.

On the health front the Metal element system includes the lungs, colon, skin and immune system. This means that your pets may be much more predisposed to developing conditions like skin allergies, rashes or infections, asthma, bronchitis or kennel cough, colitis, irritable bowel disease, diarrhea or constipation, compromised immunity or autoimmune conditions such as IMHA, thrombocytopenia and polyarthritis. The Metal element controls the Wood element, much like an axe prunes a tree. Wood element system organs are liver, gall bladder and nervous system. Over- or under-control leads to disharmonies such as anxiety, hepatitis, cholangitis and liver tumours. I would advise you to work on preventing the development of these type of condition by ensuring that your pet gets regular exercise, a proper diet for his or her constitutional type, and the use of acupuncture, as well as herbal and nutritional supplements.
Walking your dog and playing with your cat engages you both, with the added benefit of reducing your own stress and tension by lowering your stress hormones. Incorporating functional foods that possess healing properties into your diet as well as your pet’s diet can help you avoid illnesses. This is one of the main foundations of Chinese medicine. I would suggest adding a small amount of the following foods into your pet’s diet (but not all at once!): dill, *oregano, cilantro, *rosemary, sage, peppermint, turmeric, basil, coriander, fennel, anise, cardamom, ginger, collard greens, Swiss chard, *mustard greens, parsley, dandelion greens, *daikon radish, turnip, beets, artichoke, pear (especially Asian pear), papaya, pineapple, cherry, blueberry, almonds, pine nuts, and flax seeds. There are also foods that should be avoided, such as: cow’s milk dairy products, sugar, wheat, deep fried and fatty foods, processed and refined foods, tomato, eggplants, green peppers and white potato. All foods marked with a * should be avoided by our feline friends, the “little tigers” in our lives.

Being proactive also includes using herbal and nutritional supplements appropriately to support your pet’s health and wellness. I have considered herbs and supplemental nutrients as part of my family’s diet and have used them effectively for prevention for many years. Be aware that our furry companions have different digestive and metabolic systems than we do. Consult with a veterinarian trained in herbal and nutritional therapy before using any supplements for your pets.

In summary, the Year of the Tiger will bring about more change, even turmoil in the world and in your life. However by using this as an opportunity to shape your life, like sculpting a beautiful and useful object out of raw wood or molding from metal you can ride the tiger triumphantly towards your goals. Cultivate patience, kindness and peace so that your interactions with others can promote harmony and love. Take walks and get out in nature with your pets to refresh your spirit. Eat well and get plenty of sleep and cultivate health in the five areas of your life—body, mind, spirit, finance and relationships so that you can manifest balance, wellness and fulfillment in 2010, and be able to be the best companion to your pet that you are able to be.

Holistic VS Homeopathic- what’s the difference?

Differences between Holistic, Integrative, Naturopathic, Alternative and Homeopathic therapies and practices:

 Do you use holistic, homeopathic and naturopathic interchangeably? Have you ever discussed holistic health and discovered that the other person was defining holistic totally differently? This is not surprising, since no accepted standards exist for holistic, holistic health, or holistic medicine.

Many people, myself included, define holistic as a whole made up of interdependent parts; an inclusive view of the animal in its environment, encompassing its relationships with other pets and the guardian (family).  When applied to illness, it is called holistic medicine and includes a number of factors, such as dealing with the root cause of an illness; increasing client involvement; and considering both conventional (allopathic) and complementary (alternative) therapies.

Some people use Holistic as a synonym for alternative therapies. By this definition, “going holistic” means turning away from all conventional medical options and using alternative treatment exclusively. This meaning mainly relates to illness situations, and sometimes is used for controversial therapies.

Integrative Medicine is the combiantion of conventional and alternative therapies, using multiple modalities to gain the “best of both worlds”.

Naturopathic Medicine is focused on prevention and the use of natural treatment options to promote healing.

Alternative Medicine is defined as modalities of therapy that have not been taught or embraced by colleges of veterinary medicine, used in place of conventional therapies. This definition is very fluid, as different universities in different locations in the world all have variations in what is taught. Over time this also changes. For example, 30 years ago, essential fatty acid supplements were alternative, now they are mainstream. Alternative therapies can include a wide range of modalities such as:  acupuncture, chinese and western herbs, orthomolecular medicine, nutritional supplements, low-level laser therapy, Tellington Touch, acupressure, Reiki, Craniosacral therapy, chiropractic, flower essences, ozone therapy, homeopathy, massage and many other modalities.

Complementary Medicine is defined as modalities that are not taught or embraced by colleges of veterinary medicine, used in addition to conventional therapies (see Integrative Medicine)

Homeopathy from the Greek words homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering) is an entire system of medicine, notable for its practice of prescribing water-based solutions that contain extremely diluted ingredients. The theory of homeopathy was developed by the Saxon physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843) and first published in 1796. Homeopathy calls for treating “like with like” (law of similars). The practitioner considers the totality of symptoms of a given case. He or she then chooses a homeopathic remedy that has been reported in a homeopathic proving to produce a similar set of symptoms in healthy subjects. This remedy is usually given in extremely low concentrations.

Another Pet Food Recall

More reasons to consider home-preparation of food for your companion! Even though cats can be very finicky, a minimally processed whole-foods diet is usually worth the effort. Make sure to check that the recipe you use is properly balanced and suitable for the individual requirements of your pet. Dr. Sherebrin can formulate a diet based on TCVM principles that can address current or potential health issues.
On May 21, Nutro Products announced a voluntary recall of two of their dry cat food products due to incorrect levels of zinc and potassium in the products. The following products are affected by the recall: Nutro® Natural Choice® Complete Care® Dry Cat Foods (with “Best If Used by Dates” between May 12 and August 22, 2010)Nutro® Max® Dry Cat Foods (with “Best If Used by Dates” between May 12 and August 22, 2010). The recall does not affect any other dog or cat food or treat products. Products were distributed across Canada and in ten other countries. While there have been no reports of illness pet owners whose cats may have ingested these products need to watch for symptoms that can include a decline in appetite or refusal to eat, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea. Pet owners who have purchased these products should return the food to the retailer. For more information, call 1.800.833.5330 or visit

Good Dog! Treat Biscuits

  • ½ cup apples
  • ½ cup carrots
  • 2 tbsp. FSA*
  • 1.25 cups EACH brown rice flour, barley flour
  • and Millet flour
  • 3 tbsp. sunflower seed oil
  • 1 pinch kelp or spirulina

Cook apples and carrots in water or chicken broth, drain, then puree.

Add in oil then flour, roll out dough and cut out in 2-4 cm squares or  fancy shapes.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 12-15 minutes. Store in a tightly sealed container for 5 days or freeze in air-tight bags for longer storage.

  • FSA is a mixture of equal weights of flax seeds, sunflower seeds and raw almonds ground finely with a blender or clean coffee grinder

Cancer diet

In a large pot put:

  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp. dry basil powder,
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry ginger powder
  • 2 cups beets
  • 1 cup potato
  • 2 cups sweet potato
  • 1 cup dry lentils, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups broccoli
  • 4 cups dried mushrooms, soaked overnight  (as many varieties as possible, particularly shiitake, ganoderma, Maitake, reishi, and cordyceps)

Bring to boil, cover and simmer until done. Then mix with an equal
volume of canned wild salmon and 3 tbsp. FSA*.

  • FSA is a mixture of equal weights of flax seeds, sunflower seeds and raw almonds ground finely with a blender or clean coffee grinder.

Clear Skin, Bright Eyes diet: Allergies, liver disease

  • 1 stalk of Chinese broccoli (gai lan)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cup dried Shiitake mushroom
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 5 tbsp. fish body oil (ie wild salmon oil)
  • 2 cups clear chicken broth (no MSG)
  • 5 Tbsp. kelp or spirulina

Slice veggies into pieces, bring chicken broth to a boil, and add garlic and mushrooms. Reduce heat and add veggies, simmer until soft and tender.

Serve over an equal amount of well-cooked rice.

Add ¼ to 1 cup of rice and veggies mixture to a grain-free fish-based dog food.

Betsy-Wetsy diet: Urinary incontinence

In a large pot with adequate water boil up:

  • 4 cups watercress
  • 1 cup parsley (Italian)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup celery
  • 2 cups Azuki beans
  • ½ cup green onions
  • ½ tsp. ginger powder
  • ½ cup dried Shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 2 cups soup bones
  • 1 beef, pork or lamb kidney
  • 1 tsp. sea salt or kelp or spirulina

Store in the refrigerator.

Add ¼ to 1 cup to your regular dog food.