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

Golden Nuggets About Gold

For centuries, gold has been a hot commodity and used for many different things for everyday life. They have been used for coinage, jewelry, skin care products, technology, medicine, art and even as food decoration. Gold, scientifically known as aurum (Au), is a highly ductile and malleable precious metallic element that is not subject to oxidation or corrosion ().

This versatile element has a myriad of health and beauty benefits that many of us currently use. Some of us aren’t even fully aware that our everyday items contain gold, nor do we know why gold is put in these products. Here are but a few reasons why using gold on a daily basis can improve one’s health and beauty:

Alleviates inflammation/arthritis

Gold is an antioxidant and contains anti-inflammatory properties that “can protect your skin against free radicals that cause wrinkles or sun damage” (Ilagan, 2018). Using skin care products that contain gold can aid in protecting the skin. Also, wearing gold can help reduce arthritis pain. 

Helps reduce acne and allergies

Chinese and Egyptian medicine contained gold because they believed that it helped blood circulation which reduces acne and allergies. Many Egyptians and Chinese also wear makeup and jewelry that have gold for this reason, as well as for beautification purposes (Ilagan, 2018). 

Skin care treatment

There are so many skin care products that contain gold because they improve elasticity by toning and firming the skin. Skin care products with gold “can reduce the breakdown of elastin and restore the elasticity of the tissues” (Ilagan, 2018). Pure gold is also in dermatological treatments and keeps skin youthful, radiant and beautiful (Amin, Karmakar, Shaun, & Yates, 2019). Using creams or masks every night or every week can make a huge difference in the appearance of your skin.

Reduces soreness

Because gold improves blood circulation, it can also help with healing the body. Applying gold to a sore spot can relax the blood vessels and helps regulate oxygen in the body. If you have sore muscles, joint pain or aching feet, apply products like Gold Bond, or other balms to reduce the pain and soreness (Amin, Karmakar, Shaun, & Yates, 2019).

Regulates body temperature

If you experience hot flashes, chills or night sweats, gold can aid in the reduction of these symptoms due to it increasing blood flow and oxygen throughout the body. Incorporating skin care products that contain gold into your daily skin care treatment can aid in these issues (Amin, Karmakar, Shaun, & Yates, 2019).

Rejuvenates the body and mind (mood enhancer) 

Elyse Ilagan (2018) wrote in her blog that “there are ions present in gold that can help in stimulating skin cells, nerves, and veins in your body”. It also soothes and attunes the mind and body into a better state, as well as increases your energy, focus and libido! All of these qualities improve our overall mood and rejuvenates the mind and body, which is vital to our well-being.

Gold has a number of uses that are beneficial to us all: from being used in skin care products to jewelry to medicine, it is an important element that we use every day. Although it contains various helpful qualities, you also want to be sure that you do not overuse this precious commodity. Using too much of one thing can create an intolerance and your body could then develop a sensitivity to it. In order to know if you have been exposed to too much gold, you can get a Metals/Minerals intolerance test done with 5Strands® Affordable Testing. If your personalized results show that you have a high level of gold exposure, it may be best to minimize of eliminate exposure for a few weeks. Nevertheless, gold is a very important and advantageous metal and who doesn’t love gold?! Just simply adding a nightly cream into our beauty regimen or wearing more gold jewelry can work wonders for our skin and overall health.



Amin, M., Karmakar, D., Shaun, & Yates, W. (2019, April 22). 5 Health Benefits of Wearing 

Gold. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from


Gold. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2019, from

Ilagan, E. (2018, August 7). 7 Magical Benefits of Gold When You Put It On Your Skin. 

Retrieved September 27, 2019, from

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!