News Bites

  • New Feline Vaccination Guidelines
  • Traveling with Pets
  • Paw Project Launches Colorado Campaign
  • Finally – Tighter Regulations on Kitten and Puppy Mills
  • Winter’s Coming – Are Your Pets Ready?

Science Notes

  • Less Diversity in Gut Bacteria Increases Obesity and Disease Risk
  • Antibiotics are Good for Bad Bacteria
  • Common Feline Anesthetic May Cause Brain Damage
  • How Homeopathy Works
  • Low-Carb Diets Protect Against Diabetes

Whether and When: Compassionate Thoughts On Euthanasia

News Bites

New Feline Vaccination Guidelines: The American Association of Feline Practitioners just released an update to its 2006 guidelines for feline vaccination. The statement that core vaccines (feline panleukopenia/herpes/calicivirus be given no more frequently than every 3 years is still there, but diluted with the addition of the phrase “except in high risk situations.” The prior guidelines made no such exception; and the basic principles of immunology make such a situation unlikely. Other notable changes include:

  • Weakening of the term used to describe the nasty sarcoma type of cancer caused by vaccines. It used to be called “Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma (VAS)” but now it’s “Feline Injection Site Sarcoma (FISS).” While it’s true that cats can develop such tumors in response to any trauma or injection, killed vaccines are far and away the most common cause. (See our article on Vaccination for more information.)
  • Complete avoidance of the term “adjuvanted” in favor of the euphemism “inactivated,” which applies to both modified live and killed vaccines. Modified live vaccines, which are much more efficacious, do not contain the cancer-causing adjuvants present in killed vaccines. The 2006 report uses both terms.
  • The rabies vaccine is no longer considered “core” for cats. In practical terms, that may not have much effect since most places in the U.S. require cats to be vaccinated for rabies. However, even a small reduction in unnecessary vaccination may ultimately reduce the incidence of vaccine-associated cancer caused by old-fashioned “killed” rabies vaccines.

Unfortunately, what the guidelines don’t say-but experts like Dr. Ronald Schultz and Dr. Alice Wolf do-is that cats should never receive killed vaccines. There are non-adjuvanted alternatives to all core cat vaccines, as well as rabies and Feline Leukemia vaccines (which are not considered essential). The adjuvanted forms of those vaccines are associated with tumor formation.

Click here for the full 2006 guidelines (37 pages); see the 2013 update at The photos are interesting, and I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who has trouble telling right from left!

Please let your veterinarian know about these guidelines. Too many vets are still vaccinating in the scruff of the neck-which has been strongly recommended against since the mid-1990s, since tumors that form there are inoperable; whereas a leg can be amputated when cancer invades there, as long as the vaccines are injected far enough away from the body.

Traveling with Pets: It’s not too early to think about holiday travel; and now it’s easier than ever to bring your pets along! You can take care of your basic pet travel needs with, where you can compare and book pre-screened pet boarding facilities, veterinarians, and pet hotel accommodations. Pet-friendly airline and rental car bookings will be available soon. And for pets-only, in-cabin air travel, you can fly your pal on Pet Airways.

Paw Project Launches Colorado Campaign: With the Denver Film Center’s screening of the Paw Project movie (which sold out!) last week, the non-profit launched its campaign to make cat declawing illegal in Colorado. (It is already illegal in eight California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.) While legislation may seem extreme, veterinarians have had 40 years to tell the truth about declawing, but have consistently failed to abide by even the lax requirements of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s policy. A legal ban on declawing is the only way. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Laws can’t change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” Please join the Paw Project’s mailing list to stay updated on the movie, which is now open in select theaters, and is also available for private screenings. Colorado residents: please sign the petition to Colorado lawmakers here.

Finally – Tighter Regulations on Kitten and Puppy Mills: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) expanded its definition of “retail pet store” to include breeders who sell online. Many such breeders are actually running kitten and puppy mills where dozens or hundreds of animals live and suffer in horrible conditions. The new rule is the first such update in 40 years, and comes in response to an audit by the Office of the Inspector General, which found that some 80% of sampled breeders were not being monitored or inspected to ensure their animals’ overall health and humane treatment. Now, retailers who breed more than four female dogs, cats, rabbits or other small/exotic pets), and sell their babies sight unseen, will need to apply for a USDA permit, pay an annual licensing fee and consent to random inspections. “Hobby” breeders who have four or fewer breeding females, as well as shelters, rescues, and humane societies, will remain exempt. The USDA anticipates that the new rule will impact 4,640 dog breeders, 325 cat breeders and 75 rabbit breeders.

Winter’s Coming – Are Your Pets Ready? Nobody here in Denver was ready when temperatures today were in the 40s, after yesterday’s balmy warmth. I suspect a lot of folks were, like me, scrambling to get the tomatoes in before tonight’s low near freezing! Pets may not be any better prepared, so here are a couple of resources to help everyone batten down the hatches, including those who care for outdoor feral cats (we hope your own kitties are always snug and safe indoors!):

Science Notes

Less Diversity in Gut Bacteria Increases Obesity and Disease Risk: An international team of scientists have established links between the number of different bacterial species in the gastrointestinal tract and obesity, further weight gain, and the development of obesity- and inflammation-related diseases. Obese people tend to have less diversity of bacteria in their guts than thinner people; they also have an increased risk of inflammatory disorders such as heart disease, and abnormalities in metabolism like insulin resistance and diabetes. There are two lessons to be learned from this study: (1) don’t take-or give your pet-antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and (2) always accompany antibiotics with a probiotic supplement (click here for more information on probiotics and how to use them). (Le Chatelier E, Nielsen T, Qin J, et al. Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature. 2013 Aug 29; 500:541-546.)

Antibiotics Are Good for Bad Bacteria: In addition to killing the target bacteria (for an infection anywhere in the body), oral antibiotics also destroy many of the friendly gut bacteria that are essential to health. These friendly bacteria are essential to immune system function-so killing them off in order to deal with an infection seems counter-productive-and it is. It turns out that not only do antibiotics kill the good guys, they actually create an environment that favors nasty pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and Clostridia. Antibiotics liberate specific sugar molecules from the intestinal lining that nourish the pathogens but do no good for the bugs we want to keep. This study reinforces both reduced use of antibiotics, which decreases gut flora diversity, and the use of probiotics to reestablish normal bacterial populations. (Ng KM, Ferreya JA. Higgenbottom SK, et al. Microbiota-liberated host sugars facilitate post-antibiotic expansion of enteric pathogens. Nature. Published online 01 September 2013.)

Common Feline Anesthetic May Cause Brain Damage: Several studies have hinted that use of ketamine, an anesthetic drug closely related to PCP (“angel dust”) in children may result in alterations in learning ability and memory. Now, researchers in China have found that ketamine causes specific damage to developing neurons. Baby rats who were anesthetized with ketamine later exhibited difficulties with learning and memory, as well as behavioral abnormalities. Ketamine is the most common feline anesthetic in the U.S., and is almost universally used for kitten spays and neuters. There have been many reports of a major personality change in kittens and cats after surgery; this study may provide the neurological mechanism for this phenomenon. (Haiyan Jin, Zhiyong Hu, Mengjie Dong, Yidong Wu, Zhirui Zhu, Lili Xu. Ketamine induces tau hyperphosphorylation at serine 404 in the hippocampus of neonatal rats. Neural Regen Res. Vol. 8, No. 17, 2013. In Chinese.)

How Homeopathy Works: Previous studies on homeopathy provided tantalizing but unproven evidence that some type of subtle magnetic resonance was involved. For example, Dr. Karin Lenger, building on that foundation, was able to distinguish the energetic signature of various remedies. She found that “Each homeopathic potency must have its specific frequency spectrum and its specific energy, which is the “homeopathic information.” (Lenger K. Homeopathic Potencies Identified By A New Magnetic Resonance Method: Homeopathy; An Energetic Medicine. Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine: ISSSEEM Journal. 2004; 15(3):225-243.

Recent research has built upon the idea of magnetic resonance. All objects, living or inanimate, produce electromagnetic (EM) fields. Homeopathic remedies in particular produce ELF (extremely low frequency) EM waves. It has been demonstrated that homeopathic remedies have electromagnetic properties and an ability to transmit this information through water. Homeopathic remedies are prepared by diluting a substance in water and succussing (shaking) it. In a 2013 paper, the authors theorized that nano-structures are created by nano-particles in the remedy in water in order to produce such waves. Living cells respond to EM waves that are in resonance with them; some cells, particularly nerve cells, are more readily affected. This model explains the three fundamental principles of homeopathy: proving effects, the law of similars (therapeutic effects), and therapeutic aggravations. (See Introduction to Homeopathy.) The authors suggest that when a remedy is taken by mouth, the nanostructures in the water instantly induce the same structures in all the fluids of the body, thus producing the homeopathic effects. While this model remains to be confirmed, it is certainly a great step forward in the effort to explain the amazing effects of homeopathy. (Shahabi S, Kasariyans A, Noorbakhsh F. Like cures like: A neuroimmunological model based on electromagnetic resonance. Electromagn Biol Med. 2013 Jan 23. [Epub ahead of print])

Low-Carb Diets Protect Against Diabetes. Cats, like humans, can develop Type II Diabetes. Feline experts have long considered carb-heavy dry cat food “diabetes in a bag,” but the pet food industry-which makes enormous profits on dry kibble-has seen to it that research has muddied that connection in cats. However, new research in humans puts yet another nail in the carb coffin. A study on high vs. low Glycemic Load diets concludes that a diet low in available carbohydrates (sugar and starch) “reduced the chances of developing diabetes by 20%.” Most dry cat food contains 30% starch or more. (Rossi M, Turati F, Lagiou P, Trichopoulos D, et al. Mediterranean diet and glycaemic load in relation to incidence of type 2 diabetes: results from the Greek cohort of the population-based European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Diabetologia. 2013 Aug 22.)

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 a PDF download in our Bookstore.

Whether and When:

Compassionate Thoughts On Euthanasia

Note: Over the years, we’ve noticed that many animals (and humans) leave their bodies in the weeks around the times of seasonal change: the winter and summer solstices, and the spring and fall equinoxes. This autumnal equinox was a major one: many souls have already made or are preparing for their transitions in the 2-3 weeks surrounding it. The following article seems especially appropriate at this time, and we thank Heather Merrill and New England Pet Hospice & Home Care for allowing us to share it with you. One of the hardest things about having an animal beloved is trying to figure out what is best when the end of life seems imminent.

By Rev. Eliza Blanchard, Interfaith Spiritual Advisor

Death comes to all creatures, of course, but when we bring our fellow animals into our families, we take on the responsibility for his or her health, well-being and even the possibility of deciding when he or she will die. While euthanasia can be a blessing in certain cases, few of us want to take on the role of this type of decider.

Many of us working in animal care are asked, “When is it the right time to euthanize?”

Like many of my colleagues, I have good news and bad news for you.

The bad news? There is no one answer that fits all cases. As New England Pet Hospice & Home Care Founder and Director Heather Merrill tells our clients:

“We don’t believe in an objective standard or a list of criteria. Why not? Because we, like the AVMA, believe that our animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling and consciousness.

Whether a particular animal wants to live is very individual and subject to change from moment to moment. So instead of a list of factors that may or may not matter to that individual animal, we ask instead, ‘Do you think your animal wants to live in this moment?’ Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no.”

And the good news? With interdisciplinary support services like New England Pet Hospice & Home Care, you have choices and can follow the path that feels right to you for your animal. You are no longer locked in to simply “when” but can also consider “whether” – knowing that there is an alternative to euthanasia: that it is possible for pets to die a natural, peaceful, pain free death at home with the support of hospice. One of the most important services we provide to our client families is acting as a sounding board, helping them find the answer within themselves, whatever that may be, without agenda and without judgment.

About two-thirds of our clients choose euthanasia at some point and about one-third do not, but almost all are satisfied that they have honored the wishes of their pet and are at peace with their decision, whatever it may have been. Sometimes there can be enormous pressure to euthanize your pet – from friends, family, even the veterinary community. We at NEPHHC believe that there is no moral obligation to euthanize our pets as long as we are able and willing to provide the following three things:

  1. Good pain management;
  2. Cleanliness of the pet’s body and surroundings;
  3. and Stimulation, attention, and love.

Afraid you won’t know when and will wait too long? Don’t be. In our experience, if you have any doubt, the answer is,”Not yet.” On the other hand, if you have an overwhelming sense that your pet wants help moving on, you have your answer and will not regret the euthanasia decision.

We absolutely believe that you know your beloved best, and whether he or she wants to live. You are the one who knows best your own resources – how much time, money and nursing skill you can devote to end-of-life care. You are the one who knows best what will be the most merciful and loving way for your pet’s life to end. As Heather pointed out, each pet is unique, and each pet’s situation can change from moment to moment.

Loving is not neat and tidy, and it can be least so as it is ending. We know that each person, each family, has the wisdom to decide what is right, what makes sense for the well-being of their beloved friend. And we trust that when the time comes, you will draw on love and wisdom, with the help and support of others as needed, to make that decision.

Rev. Eliza Blanchard is an ordained Unitarian-Universalist minster who dedicates her ministry to the care and support of animal caretakers. She serves as the Interfaith Spiritual Advisor to New England Pet Hospice & Home Care, providing compassionate spiritual support and guidance to individuals of all faiths as well as those who consider themselves non-religious, spiritual, humanist, agnostic or atheist. New England Pet Hospice & Home Care supports those caring for ill, elderly and special needs animals at home following the human hospice and palliative care models of interdisciplinary care. Learn more and get your FREE subscription to Wag & Purr: Your Guide to Comfort Care for Pets at

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