Category Archives: For Cats

Did you hear about the guy who threw a bottle of omega-3s at his wife? Her injuries were only super fish oil.

When it comes to healthy lifestyles, we have numerous options for what that means to the individual. I’d like to believe that I lead a healthy life, and I am very careful about what foods I consume. It’s important to know the sources and quality of our foods. With that said, this transition into fall season has been a rough time period for my allergies. In the last month or so, I’ve been sneezing a lot and finding myself feel a bit winded at random moments. I just thought my body is still adjusting to Georgia’s pollen and environment. As a child I had terrible seasonal allergies with allergy-induced asthma. I recently bought local honey, hoping that will help build up my immunity, but I wanted to know what else I could do to support my body. It turns out, omega-3 fatty acids could be the answer!

I tend to rotate my supplements, depending on the time of year and what my body needs at the time. Even if I stick with the same supplement, I order a different brand to keep the strains diverse. The most consistent supplement I’ve taken over the years is algae, which I have not taken in a couple of months. In fact, I hardly ever get sick and I haven’t had a cold or the flu in years (I’ve never had a flu shot) and I always credited it to the algae supplements! I keep telling myself that once I finish my Vitamin E, I’ll order more Chlorella or Spirulina. Now, I realize I should order it sooner than later. I’d love to share my findings about omega-3s that led me to this conclusion.


What are omega-3 fatty acids?

We hear a lot about foods being rich in omegas, but what exactly does that mean? There are three fatty acids that fall under the category of omega-3s. To simplify this explanation, those three fatty acids are ALA, DHA, and EPA. You may have heard of one or all. I know I’ve seen these specifically important for brain development in children, or cereals being fortified with them. 

Our bodies do not produce these omega-3s naturally, so we must turn to food and diet for sources. Foods rich in omega-3s are fish (including fish oils), walnuts, algae, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, leafy greens and soybeans. I would also like to point out that ALA is the most common omega-3 fatty acid found in the foods I just listed – primarily plant-based sources, while the other two are mostly found in fish and algae or microalgae.

I would guess I’m most likely deficient in DHA or EPA, or both. The best way to determine this would be our 5 Strands Nutritional Deficiency test. It’s been almost a year since I had myself tested for deficiencies, and I would have definitive answers by testing my hair sample. The inquisitive part of my brain really wants to test my hair for these deficiencies before and after taking this new batch of algae supplements. If I follow through with this, I will update you all. Our nutritional deficiency test checks for over one-hundred and fifteen nutrients vital for the human body, including omega-3! 


Is it possible to be sensitive to omega-3s?

This was one of my first questions when I began researching omega-3s. I’m sure it isn’t impossible for someone’s body to have issues with omega-3s – maybe too much for what their body needs, but I really couldn’t find much information out there about someone being intolerant or sensitive to omega-3s specifically. However, you can absolutely have an issue with a food that contains omega-3s. Fish and nuts are common foods that cause reactions ranging from full blown allergies (often life-threatening) to intolerance symptoms. 

If you find that you need to detox because of a food sensitivity related to any source of omega-3, don’t panic about falling into a nutrient deficiency. You may experience some of the symptoms associated with omega-3 deficiency, but as long as it’s a short-term period of time then you have nothing to worry about. Omega-3 deficiency may result in dry skin, dandruff, itchy eyes, fatigue, and irritability among other symptoms. While you may be uncomfortable feeling some of these things, you never want a nutrient deficiency to become a chronic issue. This is the perfect time of year to incorporate more omega-3s into your diet, with cooler and dry weather in the forecast. 


Usually, as soon as people find out that I do not eat meat (yes, fish included) I hear the typical questions. Where do you get your protein? Do you get enough vitamins? You don’t even eat fish? Do you miss bacon? It’s been over 12 years and I’ve never had a serious nutrient or protein health issue. It is very easy to have nutritional deficiencies as a vegetarian or vegan, because of processed foods with little nutritional value, but those who primarily eat meat and little vegetables also risk missing out on vital nutrients. 

When it comes to omega-3s, the best plant-based sources are leafy greens, algae, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and soybeans. That gives us a lot of options! I think it’s more realistic to conclude that most people are lacking some omega-3s, not just those who don’t eat fish. The reality is that fish don’t naturally produce omegas. Guess where fish get their omegas from – yep, algae! I like to skip the middle-man and go straight to the source.

Omegas help stimulate protein formation from amino acids in the body, which is important for recovery from physical activity. Outside of athletic performance, studies have found that omega-3s also help prevent many health conditions, including stroke and heart attack. They’ve also been shown to reduce blood pressure, and slow the development of plaque in the arteries. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or attention-related issues, omega-3 may be able to help with that! Not to mention benefiting skin hydration levels and in my case, help with itchy eyes and nose, and other symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. Omega-3s are clearly great for your immune system, so I will be making sure I order mine pronto, especially during these cooler months when everyone starts to get sick. 

If you think you may be having symptoms associated with food sensitivities or nutrient deficiencies in relation to omega-3s, our hair analysis tests can help determine what may be causing such issues. Luckily, there are options for everyone to find sources of omega-3s, because we all have our own specific needs. At 5 Strands Testing, our results help sculpt your diet and lifestyle choices to your unique requirements.


Obesity in Pets

“That’s all you give him?” 

I’ve been asked that question twice in the last three weeks, but it isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. When guests in my home watch me feed my cat, Simon, they often show concern that it isn’t enough. When I first adopted Simon off the street he vowed that he would never be hungry again, scarfing down as much food as he could. This technique usually results in vomit. But because of this behavior, I had to measure his food and split his meals into four feedings every day. If I hadn’t made this adjustment he would be Garfield’s doppelganger! After switching Simon to a raw diet, however, I stopped measuring his meals.

He weighs between ten and eleven pounds and is very active, so the daily recommended amount of food for him is four ounces of frozen raw, according to Nature’s Variety Instinct website. The factors that determine how much to feed include the type of food, the cat’s activity levels and their current versus ideal weights. In the past, I’ve fed him Primal, Small Batch, Nature’s Variety Instinct and other similar products. They come in pre-measured nuggets – each approximately two ounces – so when I buy him Corrina’s Corners or All Provide (both are local Atlanta-based companies), I scoop out a similar amount to the size of the nuggets. I also add raw goat’s milk to each meal and he gets treats throughout the day, so it’s highly likely that I over feed him. 

He has maintained a healthy weight for years on a raw diet so I’m not concerned that he will be getting fat any time soon. If you’re concerned, there is a feeding calculator on Nature’s Variety’s website where you can check the amounts for dry, canned, and raw food for your pet! I’m sure most pet food companies have feeding guides on their websites so take advantage of your resources.

Every other day there is a new trend in weight loss or some article out about a new superfood that’s going to save us all. While there is evidence out there about the benefits of weight loss and strength training for humans, the pet community is slowly (but surely) catching up. They may have two more legs to carry themselves, but that doesn’t mean loading on extra weight onto them is acceptable. There are studies that show a number of health issues associated with obesity in our pets, so let’s look at a few!

Did you know that there is an Association for Pet Obesity Prevention? I love it! October 9 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, and thankfully they have provided some great resources to help spread the word. I’ve included the link below for their website, because not only does the Pet Obesity Association provide plenty of data for us, but October 9 they will be conducting their 12th annual Pet Nutrition and Weight Management survey. Collectively, we can help contribute to their data set! They also provide some great tools of their website that can be useful in reaching weight loss goals for our dogs and cats.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, “In 2018, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese.” That is millions of animals in American homes. I know people think it’s cute when our fur-babies have a little extra to love, but their health could be affected. Ideally, you should be able to easily feel your dog or cat’s ribs using light pressure with your hands. Also, if you’re looking at your pet from a birds-eye view, you can also look for a waist to help determine if they are dealing with weight issues.

Overweight or obese dogs and cats can develop arthritis, kidney issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, as well as heart and respiratory problems. Some cancers have also been linked to obesity in animals. In some cases, weight gain and chronic obesity can cause these problems, and in other cases they can worsen or contribute to diseases. If your pet’s little body is carrying unnecessary weight, it can cause their structural and organ systems to work harder on everyday tasks. That can affect their digestion greatly. In Traditional Chinese medicine there is a belief that if an imbalance in the stomach exists, health issues are sure to follow. We hear about probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and the importance of the gut biome all the time these days. The same importance applies to our pets. By reaching ideal weight in a healthy manner, you could be extending the lifespan of your pet by years!

Diet is not the only factor in weight loss. You can help improve your pet’s health by increasing their activity level. Go for an extra walk everyday with your dog; you’ll reap the benefits too! You could also create an obstacle course or carve out more play time with your dog or cat. Not only does this burn calories for both of you, but it also builds stronger bonds with them. This is great endorphin-stimulating therapy! Don’t even get me started on the benefits of endorphins – I’ll start working on that blog article for another day. Another way you could help your pet lose weight is by finding out what foods they have developed sensitivities or intolerances to by testing their hair with our 5 Strands test. By discovering what foods or environmental factors could be causing symptoms in our pets, we can help them become healthier and happier.

If you’d like to purchase one of our tests, you can purchase on our website at

Vaccines + Heavy Metals

Talking about vaccines is a very sensitive topic for some, especially during a time when communities are dealing with measles outbreaks. I had my cat Simon vaccinated against Rabies and FVRCP (Distemper) as a kitten and in his youth, but he’s eight now and has not received vaccines in about five or six years. Don’t worry, I may be extreme about Simon and his health, but I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I just think there is no need to over vaccinate our animals. There’s no way that would be acceptable with our human children, so how has it become normal to vaccinate on a regular one or three year basis? We have the ability to test their titers to ensure that they have the appropriate amount of antibodies, so we don’t need to continue to put poison into their little bodies.

In March of 2018, I was taking care of a dog I had known for the last six years. At the end of the walk, we had our usual routine; he sat nicely while I got him a treat to balance on his nose and attempt to catch it as it falls. If I was lucky I would also get a face full of kisses. This time went a bit differently, however. Instead of kisses, he very calmly grabbed my face with his mouth, and I realized I could not move. I couldn’t open my mouth, or pull back. He had punctured my top lip and nose. I had to stay as calm as possible, so I felt for his mouth and opened it with my hands. The last thing you should do when a dog sinks his teeth into any part of your body is to pull away! It was a very dramatic scene after that, but I made my way to the hospital where I received about thirty stitches in my top lip.

At the time, I worked part time for a pet nutritionist and she just happened to be attending a seminar about vaccines the same time this incident occurred. I mention this because I found out that the dog had received all of his booster vaccines a week earlier, and they can exhibit symptoms of vaccine reactions up to twelve weeks after the fact. The main reason why I believe this dog was having a vaccine reaction was his demeanor. If this was a “dog attack,” he probably would have gave me warnings to back away, or tried to shake or let go just to turn and bite me more. None of those things happened. He was very calm, did not growl or make a sound, and it almost seemed like he had lock-jaw and could not let go of me. Once I was able to get his mouth open he ran away and hid. This seemed like very odd behavior.

While I was in the hospital, they gave me a tetanus vaccine. It had been about eleven years since the last time I needed one, so the doctors felt it was necessary. Understandably,  I was very sore from the trauma to my face, but that tetanus shot really made my arm achy the following day. I’m an adult and this was all very tiring for me, so imagine puppies who go in to the doctors for their spay or neuter surgery, and then also receive a handful of vaccines while they are still under anesthesia. Their little bodies are trying to mend itself from surgery, plus now we have injected them with poison. I can imagine how traumatic that can be for them in the days that follow. 

One veterinarian office I worked for had designated days where they only did appointments with the technicians. This meant that if an animal needed additional services after their doctor’s visit, like injections, fluids, wound care, etc. the veterinary technicians would administer it and there wasn’t another office visit fee to pay. This is a great way to spread out vaccines rather than giving them to a dog or cat all in the same visit. If I had received three or four vaccines the day I went to the hospital, I’m sure I would have felt very ill after.

Can vaccines really cause an animal to lash out and bite? More common symptoms that animals experience from vaccine reactions tend to be lethargy, swelling or soreness at the site of injection, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, and seizures, among others. Not only could these symptoms cause an animal to act out, but changes in behavior can also be an effect of a vaccine. Why? Because of the ingredients in them. However, I recently learned that the ingredients in vaccinations is proprietary information. In other words, manufacturers do not need to divulge that information to the public. Susan Thixton (The Truth About Pet Food) has a wonderful article where she breaks down the ingredients we know of, but it really is hard to say what exactly we are injecting into our dogs and cats.

Among these ingredients, I cringe the most at aluminum, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and mercury or thimerosal. The latter is a preservative that contains mercury. There are other variations of thimerosal, so don’t be fooled if you do some research about vaccines and don’t see mercury clearly stated as an ingredient. Years ago people began talking about the link between aluminum and dementia or alzheimers. I know I switched deodorant brands without question, and I rarely use aluminum foil when I cook. There was also a change in thermometer manufacturing in the US to no longer use mercury. We are already aware that these substances are most likely not good for us, but we need transparency in our vaccine ingredients.

Let me go back to my question as to whether or not behavioral changes would occur in animals. The owners of the dog in my unfortunate experience immediately contacted their trainer. I insisted that this was a vaccine reaction and they just refused to accept that. Well, mercury was used in the millinery industry from the 17th century up until 1941. The process to make hats was poisoning hatters with mercury, causing an illness known as mad hatter’s disease. The medical term for this disease is erethism, and it affects the entire central nervous system, causing people to act very strange or insane. My sister is a custom milliner in Brooklyn, and I’m very grateful that method is not still used today.

If people exposed to mercury on a regular basis were essentially poisoning themselves, and becoming insane, why would it be so far fetched as to think the regular doses of vaccines we administer aren’t doing the same to animals? Not to mention our organ systems that filter everything that goes into our bodies are going to be affected in a physical manner as well. 

Luckily for us, there are veterinarians fighting to change the way we vaccinate our animals. One of them is Dr. Karen Becker. She discusses this topic in depth, and often to help spread the word about Vaccinosis. Vaccinosis is generally acknowledged more among holistic veterinarians. The symptoms I listed earlier in this article are not considered in the definition of vaccinosis. Those reactions to vaccines (vomiting, fever, etc.) are acute symptoms that can occur after a vaccine is administered. Vaccinosis encompasses the long-term effects that vaccines have on animals. Dr. Richard Pitcairn defines it as: “Vaccinosis is to be understood as the disturbance of the vital force by vaccination that results in mental, emotional, and a physical change that can, in some cases, be a permanent condition.” I’ve included the link to Dr. Becker’s article about vaccinosis below and I strongly recommend reading it.

From listening to Dr. Becker’s podcast and reading her articles, I’ve also learned about a fellow veterinarian, Dr. John Robb, who is also trying to change the way we vaccinate pets. He is based out of Connecticut, and has fought very hard to bring morality back to veterinary medicine. He discusses at length his experiences of this industry choosing profit over the health of many canine and feline patients. In fact, he and his wife invested their retirement fund to start an organization called Protect the Pets, in order to increase awareness and fight to change vaccination laws in the United States. He is a huge advocate for titer testing, which is a simple blood test to determine if an animal’s immunity is strong enough against particular disease, and allow pet parents to avoid over-vaccination. In human hospitals, titer testing is actually quite common. Again, I’ve included more information about this for you to read.

Since I work in the petcare industry, I constantly find myself at odds about vaccines. Working in dog daycares and grooming facilities, state officials require us to obtain proof of vaccines in order to provide our services. I’ve seen people literally go to a clinic and come back the same or following day with proof of vaccines. People don’t think twice about the way their pets may feel or about the affects these injections may have. We need more awareness about titer testing, especially for older animals or those with compromised immune systems. I’ve told pet owners that if they don’t want to vaccinate, but still want the services, they should ask their doctors for a titers test. Many times a letter from the doctor with proper reasoning as to why they feel the animal does not need vaccines (i.e. history of reactions, allergies) is acceptable.

It is perfectly acceptable to go to your veterinarian and tell them you don’t want to do yearly vaccines anymore, and would prefer titer testing. Dr. John Robb’s Protect the Pets organization actually offers affordable titer testing for pet owners. Check out his website (link below) to see how you can order a titer test. Review the prices before heading to your next exam, because if your veterinarian wants to charge you significantly more, you have other options! It is not required that you vaccinate throughout your pets’ lives!

The next step I recommend you can take is to test the heavy metal content in your pets’ body. 5 Strands recently came out with a new test for our pets; heavy metals! I know that when I saw my personal results for heavy metals I researched how to detox the body and did just about every method. Our four-legged loved ones deserve that same treatment. They can benefit from a detox just as much as us. The physical and mental clarity that comes with detoxing heavy metals from the system is amazing. It could save you money in the long run by possibly avoiding illnesses associated with heavy metals, but it could also help our furry loved ones live longer and healthier lives. It’s a very easy, non-invasive procedure, requiring only ten to fifteen strands of your pet’s hair. Your pets never have to leave home, since you can mail in the hair sample and wait to receive an email with the results!