NOTE: This was reposted in January 2014 because the original was accidentally deleted in a fit of organizational zeal! – Editor

In this issue:

1. News Bites

  • Vacation Destinations for Cat Lovers
  • Crazy Cat-Related Patents
  • See the World Through Cats’ Eyes
  • Cats Stealing Dog Beds
  • FDA and Pet Food

2. Science Notes

  • Cats = 85% Tiger
  • Gut Bacteria and Cancer
  • A Calorie is NOT Just a Calorie

3. Vets are Ignoring Vaccine Makers’ Warnings

4. Legendary Herbs for Pet Health

1. News Bites

Vacation Destinations for Cat Lovers: CNN has compiled a list of six locations around the world where cats are the main attraction. They include: Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary, Rome, Italy; Tashirojima and Ainoshima Islands, Japan; Houtong Coal Mine Ecological Park, New Taipei City, Taiwan; Kalkan, Turquoise Coast, Turkey; and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in the Florida Keys, USA, home to the famous polydactyl “Hemingway Cats.” Click here to see the story and photos on CNN.

Crazy Cat-Related Patents: The Week recently came up with a dozen whacky patents for cat-related gizmos, such as devices for restraining a cat in a sitting position (basically a drawstring bag) or strapped to a platform (but how one can maneuver a cat into that position is not so clear!); a “Vibrating Litter Scoop” (self-explanatory!); a “Furniture Device” (a set of stacked boxes with brush-lined openings for self-grooming); a ”Bird Predation Deterrent Shield” (better solution: keep kitty indoors!) and its opposite number, the ”Bird trap and cat feeder” that is designed to trap sparrows for kitty to eat! (View the whole collection at The Week.)

See the World Through Cats’ Eyes: Popular Science gives us a fascinating look at how the world appears to your cat, based on the numbers and types of sensory cells in the feline retina. Cats are highly attuned to movement, as well, which can’t be shown in the pictures. But it’s a very, very cool article! Check it out at Popular Science.

Cats Stealing Dog Beds: This may very well be the very best pet video of the year! Warning: do not eat or drink while watching this video!
Compilation of Cats Stealing Dog Beds  

FDA and Pet Food: There is so much news and so many issues swirling around the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the last few weeks (Chinese-made jerky treats and new federal laws among them)! However, there is one simple issue that we can alert you to right now, and that is last week’s publication of the FDA’s new study on raw pet food. According to FDA:

In a recent two-year study, the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) screened over 1,000 samples of pet food for bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses…Raw pet food was not included in the first year of the study. In the second year spanning from October 2011 through July 2012, CVM expanded the study to include 196 samples of commercially available raw dog and cat food. The center bought a variety of raw pet food online from different manufacturers and had the products shipped directly to six participating laboratories. The raw pet food products were usually frozen in tube-like packages and made from ground meat or sausage…Of the 196 raw pet food samples analyzed, 15 were positive for Salmonella and 32 were positive for Listeria.

Only one dry pet food tested positive for Salmonella in this study. So, FDA concluded that raw pet food is more dangerous than any other type of pet food.

However, to come to this conclusion, FDA had to ignore a great deal of its own data beyond this study. The truth is that, since 2011, there have been 25 major recalls of dry pet food due to Salmonella contamination, but only four such recalls of raw food during the same period. (Not to mention the five recalls of dog food due to contamination with aflatoxin, a dangerous product of mold.) If one considers the sheer tonnage of food recalled, raw food was barely a drop in the bucket.

Moreover, exactly zero illnesses in dogs or humans from Salmonella in raw pet food have been reported, while the same bacteria in dry dog food sent at least 49 humans to the doctor and made an unknown number of pets sick. (FDA probably does have a number, but has never disclosed it.)

The Listeria contamination is an interesting little side road for FDA to be exploring, because it’s largely irrelevant to pet food. Virtually all human listeriosis cases occur due to contamination of human food products like deli meat and raw fruits and vegetables. For example, a recent well-publicized outbreak was traced to contamination of cantaloupe. Moreover, at least 90% of cases occur in vulnerable populations (newborns, elderly, and others with a compromised immune system). Listeriosis is extremely rare in dogs and cats (although clinically normal pets may be carriers), and there has not been a single reported case of illness in humans or animals from handling or consuming raw meat.

Here’s the deal: nobody advocates ignoring ordinary safe meat handling procedures when dealing with raw pet food (or raw meat being prepared for human consumption). Of course you should wash your hands and clean up around the kitchen. Normal precautions are adequate to protect both human and animal health. Human food–mainly raw or undercooked eggs–-is the primary source of human salmonellosis. We know that grocery store meat is frequently contaminated. Yet FDA, AVMA and others seem to be engaged in some kind of vendetta against raw pet food. There seems to be a great deal of pressure coming from Big Pet Food manufacturers-–perhaps they are trying to reclaim the measly 15% market share currently occupied by raw and homemade pet foods-–a share they (deservedly) lost after the catastrophic melamine recalls in 2007.

For detailed information on pathogens in raw pet food, see our article “AVMA vs. Raw Food.”

2. Science Notes

Cats = 85% Tiger: Researchers have deciphered the entire genome of a white Bengal tiger, an Amur (Siberian) tiger, African and white lions, and snow leopards. As one would expect, all cats are closely related genetically. The Amur tiger’s DNA is more than 95% identical to the domestic cat. (In comparison, dogs’ DNA is 99% identical to the gray wolf.) Unsurprisingly, all cats show metabolic adaptations to an obligate carnivore diet. Cho YS, Hu L, Hou H, et al. The tiger genome and comparative analysis with lion and snow leopard. Nat Comm. 2013;4:2433.

Gut Bacteria and Cancer: A recent study in mice found that “interactions between inflammation and subsequent changes in the gut microbiota create the conditions that result in colon tumors.” Researchers found “dramatic, continual changes” in the normal gut bacterial population that are “directly responsible” for tumor formation. Intestinal dysbiosis preceded the changes leading to cancer. These results highlight the importance of avoiding or limiting the use of oral antibiotics, which alter the gut microbiome, and the potential benefits of supplementing our pets with probiotics to maintain a normal, non-pathogenic bacterial population. Zackular JP, Baxter NT, Iverson KD, et al. The gut microbiome modulates colon tumorigenesis. MBio. 2013 Nov 5;4(6).

A Calorie is NOT Just a Calorie: We’ve been saying this for years, and finally science has validated it! A recent study found that a low glycemic load diet was better at reducing weight and keeping it off than a low-fat diet, and cause less stress and inflammation than a very low carb diet. Glycemic load is an estimate of the rise in blood sugar following carbohydrate consumption (i.e., glycemic index) while also accounting for the amount of carbohydrate consumed. In general, aim for a Glycemic Load value of less than 20. Note that this applies only to carbohydrate-containing foods. Animal proteins (meat, eggs, etc.) and fats don’t count, because they don’t have a significant effect on blood glucose or insulin.

According to researcher David Ludwig, MD: “We’ve found that, contrary to nutritional dogma, all calories are not created equal.” Hey, veterinary nutritionists, are you paying attention? They love to claim that all calories are alike and that ingredients don’t matter, only nutrients matter. They are dead wrong, and our pets have been paying the price for that arrogance for decades. But common sense has finally been vindicated! The take-home message: feed your pets a species-appropriate, meat-based diet, with a limited amount of fresh, whole low-carbohydrate/high-fiber vegetables and fruits. No bagels, no pasta, and no corn! Ebbeling CB., et al. Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance. JAMA, June 27, 2012.

Click here for Harvard Medical School’s lists of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for common foods.

So, what should you feed your cat? Get Dr. Jean’s recommendations, including a list of her “approved brands” and homemade diet advice, in the best-selling e-book “What Cats Should Eat.” Available right this minute on for e-readers (Kindle and Kindle apps for PCs, tablets and smartphones) or as an instant PDF download in our Bookstore.

3. Vets are Ignoring Vaccine Makers’ Warnings

Veterinarian Jodie Gruenstern, DVM, CVA, recently posted an excellent article reviewing the four principles that veterinarians should be using before administering any vaccine, but aren’t. These fundamental warnings (with additional explanation) are:  

1. Vaccinate only healthy animals. This warning, which is right on the label of every vaccine, means vets should not be vaccinating animals who are sick (e.g., cats with asthma, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer, or allergies, or cats who are on any medications–especially steroids) or animals who are undergoing surgery on the same day–yet vets vaccinate these animals all the time.

2. Booster vaccines should be given based on the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. This means that the client (you!) are part of the decision-making process, and that you should be fully informed of the risks and benefits of each vaccine. Vaccination is a medical procedure and should be considered as such.

3. Vaccination carries a risk of adverse events. These include immediate anaphylaxis (a sudden, intense, and sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction), as well as chronic conditions such as kidney failure, autoimmune disease, and cancer. Cats should never be given adjuvanted vaccines (killed virus vaccines)–they can cause cancer, and safer alternatives (intranasal, modified live, recombinant, or vectored vaccines) are available for all core vaccines, including panleukopenia/rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus)/calicivirus (“FVRCP”), rabies and feline leukemia.

4. Maternal antibodies interfere with vaccines in kittens and puppies. Antibodies are specialized proteins made by immune cells that bind to viruses or bacteria and instigate destruction of the invaders. In their first 24 hours of life, newborns ingest antibody-rich “first milk.” These antibodies can persist for at least 13 weeks and perhaps longer. Vaccines given while maternal antibodies are active will be destroyed by those antibodies and will fail to stimulate the desired immune response. This means that the first vaccine should be timed to the earliest age that such antibodies may decline (around 8 weeks), and the last vaccine must be given later than many veterinarians give them–at 14 to 16 weeks of age.

Click here to read Dr. Gruenstern’s original article.

Click here to read our complete article on Vaccination, including potential adverse effects and vaccine recommendations for kittens, cats, puppies, and dogs.

4. Legendary Herbs for Pet Health

Essiac is an herbal formula with a long history of use for its amazing healing properties. A number of different formulas have been proposed, containing from four to eight herbs. The original formula included Burdock Root (Arctium lappa), Sheep Sorrel (Acetosella vulgaris/ Rumex Acetosella polygonaceae) whole herb, Turkey Rhubarb Root (Rheum palmatum), and Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva). This herbal tea was discovered by “Canada’s Cancer Nurse,” Rene Caisse (pronounced “Reen Case”) in 1922. She subsequently treated the terminally ill with remarkable success for more than 50 years.

The frequent claim that the Essiac recipe came from “a very old Indian Medicine Man” has spawned many stories and theories. There has never been proof of the actual tribal heritage of the Medicine Man who offered this formula, as many Native American tribes lived in the area at the time. However, it is most commonly attributed to the Ojibwa tribe.

Caisse named the 4-herb formula Essiac (her last name spelled backwards), and began using it to treat people in need, free of charge. She prepared the herbal remedy in her own kitchen and administered it both orally and by injection. She spent the rest of her life working with this herb tea, until she died in 1978 at the age of 90. Over the years, she applied for official recognition of her work and the formula’s success several times, but it never came; in fact, the medical community united against her. Nevertheless, the Canadian Minister of Health allowed Caisse to treat terminally ill patients in her clinic for 10 years. Thousands of people reported they were helped by the remedy, and even those who were not completely healed said that her remedy made living with their illness much more bearable.

Essiac is most well-known for its traditional use in treating cancer, although it has many other benefits. However, several studies that attempted to validate Essiac’s curative powers produced equivocal results, and (unsurprisingly) its benefits have never been accepted by the medical community.

The four herbs in the traditional Essiac formula each have powerful medicinal qualities:

Sheep Sorrel contains carotenoid antioxidants and chlorophyll, as well as essential vitamins, and minerals. Chlorophyll helps the body fight against certain carcinogens (cancer-causing substances), and strengthens the immune system.

Burdock Root helps eliminate toxins from the blood and lymphatic systems, and is well known for its beneficial effects on the skin, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, and digestive system. Burdock Root contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that helps nourish and protect helpful gut bacteria. Burdock root is being investigated in current HIV research.

Slippery Elm contains a mucilaginous gum with excellent cleansing and soothing properties. It protects sensitive mucous membranes throughout the body, where it helps reduce inflammation. It has antiviral and antibacterial properties, as well as being quite nutritious.

Turkey Rhubarb stimulates the appetite and acts as a tonic to build and cleanse the blood. It has long been used to help the liver with detoxification, and to support healthy gall bladder and spleen function.

Hundreds of companies make various versions of Essiac Tea, but they are not all alike. Some offer the Essiac herbs in a capsule, powder, or tablet–-without mentioning that root and bark herbs are useless in that form. The medicinal constituents of roots and barks must be extracted with liquid: either water (tea) or alcohol (extract or tincture). Other companies use imported and possibly mislabeled and/or contaminated products from China. Still others have no compunction about destroying endangered Slippery Elm trees to get at the valuable inner bark used in the formula.

Our favorite Essiac formulation comes from a local Denver company, Ojibwa Tea of Life. They use only U.S.-grown, organic or ethically wild-crafted herbs. Their formulas include Sheep Sorrel seeds, which other products don’t use because of the extra expense. However, Caisse used both plants and seeds in her original recipe.

In addition to he four traditional Essiac herbs, Ojibwa Tea’s special pet formula (created by Master Herbalist and Medicine Woman Michelle Kalevik (in consultation with Little Big Cat’s holistic veterinarian, Dr. Jean), PetEssiance Herbal Pet Tea, also includes:

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), an adaptogenic herb well-known for its immune-boosting powers.

Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa), a powerful immunomodulatory, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb.

This unique formula is also available in a liquid herbal extract, Ojibwa Herbal Pet Tonic.

Beneficial properties of this formula include:

  • appetite stimulant
  • blood cleanser
  • chelating agent for heavy metals
  • detoxification
  • energy enhancement
  • immune system enhancement
  • improved longevity
  • increased well-being
  • supportive care
  • tonic

As a little side note, my dog Willy developed an invasive malignant tumor on his right elbow. We knew we did not get it all at surgery, and the chances of it recurring were essentially 100%. I gave him 2 oz. of Essiac tea per day for several weeks post-op. The tumor never did come back, and he lived to the ripe old age of 14.

Visit our Holistic Pet Mall for information on all of Ojibwa Tea’s pet products.

Visit for more information on other great products for animals and humans. Be sure to use coupon code “LBC” to get their special discount for our readers only!