Q & A with Dr. Marty Goldstein

Dr. Martin Goldstein has been practicing holistic medicine for over 30 years. Based at Smith Ridge Veterinary Center in South Salem, New York, he is also the author of The Nature of Animal Healing, published by Random House.

Dr. Marty is also one of the founding contributors to Animal Wellness Magazine and we’d like to thank him for his gracious support and participation. Over the last twenty years, he has answered hundreds of questions on just about every canine and feline health problem you can imagine!

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Browse the Latest Dog Q & A’s


Q. I have a two-year-old boxer mix with an incredible spirit and love for life. Unfortunately, he suffers from separation anxiety and finds it intolerable to be left alone. He has been taking Clomicalm which hasn’t helped all that much and I don’t like to see him on it anyway. Is there anything that can help us?


A. You should definitely have his thyroid checked. Medical studies have shown that auto immune thyroiditis is a common cause of behavioral problems so he needs to have a complete thyroid panel run. I believe this condition is related to vaccines, much as vaccines are related to Attention Deficit Disorder in children. You can try flower essences, herbal formulas containing valerian and melatonin (3 mg. per day) but if this is thyroid-related, you need to address that or he will not improve.

Category: Dog
Q. I have a three-year-old female French Bulldog, an eleven-month-old terrier mix and a twenty-week-old deaf American Bulldog. Diarrhea started in the American Bulldog eight weeks ago. Two days later, I noticed it in the terrier. My vet thought it might be viral and prescribed Flagyl. About ten days later, the French Bulldog started having diarrahea too. The stool test results showed nothing but the diarrahea continued. An alternative doctor determined they do have parasites and prescribed shiitake mushroom. Almost two weeks later, sometimes their stool appears well-formed and at other times very soft or liquid. The American Bulldog also started scratching and this has intensified over the last couple of days.


A. First thing to consider – were your dogs vaccinated prior to the onset of the diarrhea? Mild cases of inflammatory bowel disease are auto immune-derived and are related to vaccines. The first thing I would recommend is the potato diet in my book, which can work overnight to stop diarrhea. Also, the supplement Acetylator from Vetri-science works phenomenally well for this. As far as herbal formulas, look for one that contains slippery elm, which soothes the intestinal tract and works for both constipation and diarrhea. Finally, as a more intensive measure, you could put your dogs on a two-day fast. How does this help, you may ask? It directly addresses the gastro-colic reflex. As soon as the stomach fills with food, it sends a neurological message to the colon to empty. The colon’s job is to absorb water back into the body before it eliminates the waste but if the colon is hyperactive, the water passes through unabsorbed. The result is diarrhea. Fasting for a couple of days can break the cycle of diarrhea and help the body “calm” itself. After the fast, slowly introduce your dogs to a diet consisting of bland foods.

Category: Dog
Q. I have a three-year-old Basset Hound who is having a bad time with yeast infections. He suffers recurrently from ear infections, and his skin is patchy and damp and omits an odor. After three weeks of oral medication, and a special shampoo once weekly, I’ve yet to see improvement.


A. It’s hard to say what’s causing the infections. It could be vaccinosis, for instance. Obviously, the ear area is too alkaline so treating this condition could be as simple as buying a bottle of apple cider vinegar, diluting ¾ tsp. in ½ cup of water and rinsing out the ear canal. This will help to acidify the ear area. This remedy does not always work but it’s a start. Another treatment is to change the diet. Getting carbohydrates out of the diet by eliminating grains and putting your dog on a raw meat & veggies diet may be the answer.

Category: Dog
Q. I have a ten-year-old dog – she is half white shepherd and half Keeshond. Over the past two years she has gone through three operations for benign cysts. She had just had six removed over the past month, one of which burst and was bleeding. I do not want to keep putting her through operations. Is there anything you can recommend that I can give her for this? She is a very healthy and active dog. She eats a lot of vegetables, mainly carrots and broccoli.


A. The skin is a powerful detoxifying organ. The problem you describe suggests that her body is voiding excessive waste, probably resulting from poorly or improperly metabolized foods. In our practice, we would perform a full metabolic analysis. Short of that, I would recommend a good digestive enzyme supplement, an antioxidant combination supplement and a good multi vitamin/mineral. Also, look at feeding a diet of high quality, whole ingredient foods, low in processed carbohydrates.

Category: Dog
Q. I have a ten-year old Siberian husky with a little smaller than golf ball-sized mast cell tumor (grade 2) inside his mouth (on his upper left lip). Since it seems to be bothering him, I have decided to have it removed surgically. But I want to avoid chemo/radiation therapy and instead would like to treat him with alternative therapies. After removing the tumor, what should I do?


A. As always, it’s not advisable to try and treat a cancer patient via magazine column. With that said, I do advise surgical removal. At my facility, we would most likely use cryo-surgery, seeing as the tumor is located in the mouth. After that, some of the supplements we routinely use with mast cell cancer are the antioxidant querciten, Betathyme by Doctor’s Mutual or commercially available Moducare, the Chinese herb artemisinin, and an herbal formula indicated for allergies containing nettles and Echinacea.

Category: Dog
Q. I have a seven-year-old, 65-pound golden retriever in excellent health. He has developed four lipomas in the past six months, and I have taken him for a fine needle aspiration/cytology each time, grateful to discover it’s a fatty deposit. I am questioning the necessity of having this exam done each time a lump appears. I feel compelled to have it checked out, but want to be sure I am doing the right thing. I know goldens are very prone to these lumps as they are to cancer. He has been on a homemade, cooked, mostly organic diet with supplements and very limited vaccines since he was three.


A. You are correct in stating that lipomas are very common in retrievers. Your concern about goldens and cancer is also well founded.

Lipomas are typically very easy for an experienced veterinarian to differentiate from most other tumor types by using simple palpation. If there’s any doubt, it is not overly involved or painful/stressful for a veterinarian to aspirate a questionable mass. Aspiration material from lipomas, when spread across a glass slide, will reveal obvious fat, and sending it to a laboratory is in most cases unnecessary.

To aid in lipoma control, I’ve had success using Mega Lipotropic by Best For Your Pet, Lipocomplex by Progressive Labs, and the herbal formulation Chih ku & Curcuma by Seven Forests.

Category: Dog
Q. I have a seven-year-old spayed German shepherd with terrible hips. She eats Blue senior food. I add Missing link, Prozyme and salmon oil to her food. I also give her glucosamine and condroitin tablets. Glucosamine and chondroitin seem to be everywhere, in food, treats, etc. How much is enough? Can they be toxic in any way? What else can I do to make her comfortable? My vet wants her on Rimadyl but I refused.


A. For the proper dosing of glucosamine/chondroitin, you should get one of the more accepted and known brands, such as Cosequin by Nutramax, and follow the recommendations by weight on the label. I also like Glycoflex (especially formula #3); one of the many homeopathic combinations, especially containing rhus tox; and herbally, one of many indicated for arthritis containing especially yucca, alfalfa and devil’s claw. You can also consider getting her on foods that are whole and unprocessed and contain no or minimal processed carbohydrates.

Category: Dog
Q. I have a seven-year-old male Scottish terrier. He was diagnosed about two years ago with cerebellar abiotrophy/ataxia. Griffey’s tremors are exacerbated with stress and excitement. I give him holistic food – organic when I can. He gets virgin coconut oil, fish oil, barley greens, and the best supplements I can find, including vitamins E and C. Would Neurotrophin be beneficial? I also recently learned that lion’s mane is being used to help humans for ataxia. Can dogs be given this, and if so, what would be the appropriate dose?


A. In this condition, the centers in the brain that control coordination of movement degenerate prematurely. It is believed to be an inherited trait. In my experience, the Scottish terrier is not one of the more prevalently reported breeds for this condition, but it doesn’t exclude it from being the correct diagnosis.

I have concerns about a potential link between vaccinations and conditions such as this. It has been demonstrated that a process called demyelination, or a dissolving of the protective layer of the nervous system, is linked to vaccines. Please try to prevent future vaccines of any type.

Supplements like Neurotrophin by Standard Process, Sphingolin by Emerson Ecologics, Phosphatidyl serine, and choline would all be good choices. Professional Complementary Health Formulas makes a remedy called Brain Stimulation Liquiesence. I honestly have never heard of lion’s mane.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a seven-year-old female spayed beagle. A month ago, we took her to the vet for an insect bite and she was given a steroid shot. Now she is urinating in the house, something she never did before. We took in a urine sample to make sure she did not have a UTI. We were told all looked okay but they wanted to make sure she had no kidney issues, Cushing’s or diabetes.

On top of that, she had to have her rabies shot, and they also put a dose of Frontline on her — which I would not have done. This must be overwhelming her immune system. What can I do? I currently feed her a frozen raw diet, she gets no vaccines except for rabies every three years, no Frontline (as a rule) and no Heartguard. She is supplemented with Great Life eNZYmes PRO+.


A.One of the common side effects of steroids is increased thirst coupled with increased urination. This alone could be a probable cause of your beagle’s problem, especially if the injection she was given was a long acting steroid shot.

I highly agree with you on the Frontline and especially the rabies vaccine. The inserts that come with vaccines state that they are intended for use in healthy animals only. If your beagle did in fact have something going on at the time, be it allergies or any of the other conditions you mentioned associated with the urination problem, then she should not have received a vaccine, nor the Frontline!

My advice would be to seek out a holistic veterinarian to work with and have him or her do a comprehensive examination and workup (including blood testing) before prescribing therapy. One good source for finding such a veterinarian is AHVMA.org.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a rescued Yorkie mix. One ear stands erect but the other droops at times (although it does sometimes stand erect). I feed her a raw diet and she is a hardy eater. Is there something I can supplement her food with that can aid her droopy ear in standing erect?


A.I can picture her being really adorable, and personally would leave her like this. If that’s not what you want, the only thing I’ve seen work (and this is with very minimal experience), is to have a veterinarian tape-splint the ear up. The only supplement, if any, you might try is Collagen Complex by Professional Health Products.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a rescued Jack Russell about four years old. He has White Dog Shaker Syndrome. Prednisone doesn’t seem to be helping. Any other suggestions?


A.See an experienced veterinarian, especially one well versed in alternative therapies.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a redbone coonhound mix puppy that is one-and-a-half years old. When she was just a couple of months old, she had giardia and coccidian, so solid bowel movements were few and far between for about a year. Since puppyhood, we have had to take her to the vet every two months to have her anal sacs emptied. Both sacs are filled every time. Are there any homeopathic remedies for something like this? We thought it would get better over time but it hasn’t. Is there anything we can do?


A.First, realize that anal sacs are supposed to be somewhat full, not empty. In my experience, one of the practices contributing to anal sac problems is having them expressed too frequently. This creates a vicious cycle of inflammation resulting in an over-production of secretions and filling, which leads to a more frequent need to again be expressed.

In general, the higher quality the diet is, the better the chances to ultimately stop the problem. Adding fiber in the form of vegetables has also been shown to help. I have seen this condition remedied by switching dogs to an all-raw diet.

The only homeopathic I’ve had success with for this condition is a combination of Heel’s Hemorrhoid and Inflammation, and when indicated, their Infection remedy.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a question about my bulldog Fionna’s cherry eyes. She has one that is always out, the other goes out and in at random. She had surgery on the one that is always out and the ophthalmologist sutured it back in, but after a month, it popped back out. I don’t want any more surgery because it’s expensive and her blood pressure was apparently very low during the procedure. My doctor suggests Optimmune/cylcosporine, but I don’t do it every day because I feel like I’m overmedicating her. Do you have any suggestions?


A.These conditions can be very difficult to remedy and heal non-surgically. However, if there has been a noticeable response to the Optimmune, I would recommend trying the topical homeopathic eye drops Similasan #1.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a nine-year-old Irish setter who developed pancreatitis about three years ago and is now diabetic/insulin injection dependent. She also developed cataracts and is mostly blind. She is on a natural diet of raw food and very good dry dog food; I only do homeopathic and natural treatments for her. Can you offer some alternatives or directions to follow? My goal is to have her off insulin, at least the injectible form, and I would like to consider surgery for her cataracts so she can see again.


A.We’ve had success treating diabetics with herbs, especially some Chinese herbal formulas, so I would follow your vet’s advice here. One formula we use is Seven Forest’s Rehmania 16. In my clinic, we will add Pancreas-Stomach Drops (Professional Health Products). We’re also using a relatively new supplement called Gluconase, a human supplement that contains vanadium, a trace element reported to have a positive effect with diabetes. We have used and had some success with injectible pancreas from Germany but it could be difficult to obtain. Vitamin E reportedly works as a pancreatic cellular stabilizer.

In all diabetics, we will use Pancreatrophin (Standard Process) or another pancreatic glandular. I would also do a metabolic balancing by blood tests instead of just focusing on the pancreas.

I’ve had a couple of animals over the years whose humans refused to put them on insulin, so we used goldenseal. We had to monitor them carefully, and although their blood sugar levels never returned to normal, they stabilized in the high 200’s to low 300’s, so the animals could live normal lives. LaDean Griffin wrote a pamphlet years ago called Insulin vs. Herbs and the Diabetic, which talked about the blood sugar stabilizing effects of goldenseal.

As for the cataracts, I’ve not seen these reversed when they’re associated with diabetes, so definitely consider the surgery.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a nine-year-old black Lab who has been having problems with hair loss and itching for over a year. Some of the hair loss was attributed to a thyroid condition and she is on medication for that. However, it has been touch and go; the hair loss is now back and the itching has been fairly constant. I have been to two vets (three if you count the thyroid doctor). Nobody seems to be able to get to the bottom of this problem. The groomer swears it is mange, but none of my other dogs have it, and she has been scraped at least two times and undergone two treatments with Mitoban. She has undergone allergy testing and is receiving shots for known allergens. She is currently on skin vitamins and herbs as recommended by the holistic vet.

When I read about selenium sulfide prescription lotion in your response to a previous letter about a similar case (Oct-Nov 2005), I felt a ray of hope. My vets have not heard of it – where can I get it and are there any side effects? I feel my dog’s immune system is compromised either from the on-going problem or the treatments meant to cure it. She gets ear infections and skin infections and just finished more antibiotics. The doctor wants to give her cortisone shots which I resist because she seems so medicated.


A.The mange that responds to selenium sulfide does cause itching, and is contagious but not typically localized. The mange that typically causes hair loss around the eyes, demodex, usually does not cause itching (unless it is secondary), is not contagious and does not respond to this lotion. Selenium sulfide is easily obtainable by prescription through most pharmacies. The only rare side effect I’ve seen is for it to be slightly irritating and to temporarily turn white fur pinkish orange. My guess is that your dog has allergies.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a nine-month-old long-haired blue piebald dachshund who began to show signs of hair loss on her tail, back, and the back of her head. She has color dilution alopecia. Everything I have read states there is no cure. A dermatologist recommended giving her three milligrams of melatonin twice a day but said that she has a 50% chance of losing all her blue hair (she is blue and white but about 60% to 70% blue). Is there anything else you can suggest?


A.This is probably the closest thing we have in veterinary medicine that resembles typical male pattern baldness syndrome in men. This condition has been genetically engineered and created. Since melatonin does affect pigment, it is a wise choice. I would also recommend the homeopathic Hair and Skin by Heel’s BHI line, a good fish oil EFA supplement, and you could try Dermatrophin by Standard Process Labs. Although this is a genetic condition, I truly believe that even a genetically based disease, or at least the clinical symptoms, can be reversed to varying degrees.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a Jack Russell who has recently acquired a rather strange colored skin on the underside of his body and near his genitalia. It was originally pink, but has turned a nasty
shade of dirty black. What could this be?


A.It could be one of several conditions. It might be chronic irritation and inflammation with secondary yeast, typically associated with allergy; a hormonal imbalance, especially if he has not been neutered; or a condition called acanthosis nigricans. This last one is usually found in dachshunds, but I’ve seen it in other breeds. There are potentially even more possibilities, so getting a hands-on diagnosis would be highly recommended before proceeding with any treatment.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a four-year-old spayed female Pembroke Welsh corgi. The last two years we have battled a chronic UTI. She has had numerous cultures that come back as e-coli and has been on and off Clavamox the last two years. She has undergone an ultrasound, vaginal scope, blood tests, and x-rays which showed no underlying cause. The vets felt that the cause was a hooded vulva. She had surgery to correct the problem, but the UTI is still present.

For the last 13 or 14 months I fed her a raw meat diet (Dr. Pitcairn). We recently went to see two more vets and they were very much against a home cooked or raw diet. I was instructed to use Science Diet, canned salmon dog food, and add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and salmon oil plus a product by Purina that is supposed to help the digestive system, along with an herbal pill. I tried this and it didn’t work.

Currently, Wrigley is taking one amoxycillian at bedtime to control the UTI. I had heard that oregano oil might help. We need help because I really do not want her living on antibiotics. Plus, I want to go back to making her dog food. The vets that told me stop doing that, and also told me not to feed her carrots or her other regular veggie and fruit treats, other than little pieces of banana.


A.I have no problem with you going back to making Wrigley’s food or even giving her a raw diet. You can also address this chronic condition with some remedies and nutraceuticals. Oregano oil has proven to be effective as it has anti-bacterial properties. Olive leaf extract is another choice. The product we use in my clinic is Olivet by Vetri-Science Labs. The herbs uva ursi and dandelion are two of the more common ones used to address kidney and bladder problems, including infections. Personally, I like UT Strength, also by Vetri-Science. Homeopathically, we use Uri-Cleanse by BHI, or Urinary Aid by Professional Complementary Health Formulas. If testing the urine pH proves it is too alkaline, acidifiers such as cranberry extracts or vitamin C in the ascorbic acid form could also help.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a four-year-old rottwiler that was recently diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma in his right front elbow area. Amputation is being recommended but I’m told the chance of survival is slim. What would you do?


A.This is a more rare tumor. One thing that differentiates it clinically from typical bone cancer (which rottwilers are getting a lot these days) is that bone cancer always stays in one bone and doesn’t cross into or across joints, so if see a cancer crossing from one bone to another, then there’s a really good chance it’s synovial.

Cancer is a very serious issue and it’s important to actually see the dog to treat it properly. What we do in my clinic is get the dog in for three to five days for intravenous high levels of vitamin C. We also use ozone, injectible homeopathic remedies in the joints, an IAT (Immuno Augmentative Therapy) program and we conduct a full nutritional analysis as well.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a four-year-old Maltese. He was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a month ago. He has been put on a low dose of synthetic hormone.

About three weeks into his medication, he decided he no longer wanted to eat his dog food. We change his protein source once a week so he is not bored with just chicken or lamb, etc. He is on a raw diet. My vet is not a supporter of the raw movement and has been trying to steer me to another type of food. So I really can’t contact my vet for advice.
I broke down and bought several sample bags of dry food from our specialty pet store. He is now eating this without issue and looks forward to mealtime again. Is it possible that the medication has changed the way food tastes? I can’t imagine that a dog would walk away from a raw diet.


A.You are starting with a disease, hypothyroidism, that affects basic metabolism. Then you add a synthetic to re-regulate the body. So yes, there are considerable changes that could possibly shift how your dog perceives food.

With that said, and as much as I feel a raw diet is the best choice, not all animals acclimate to it. I have also seen animals love raw for a period of time, then shy away from it. I’d rather an animal eat a high quality food he likes than force him to eat something theoretically better. But dry would not be my second choice. I’d choose home-prepared, and next, high quality canned.

Before committing to the synthetic for life, keep in mind that hypothyroidism can be more naturally and effectively addressed, controlled, and even reversed by working with a good integrative veterinarian.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a four-year-old Lab/chow mix. About a month ago I noticed that she would run from one spot to another and check behind herself. She would also sit down and lift her left hind leg during walks. I took her to the vet and he checked her anal sacks and did a physical exam to check the mobility of her legs. He actually did what I thought was a thorough and rigorous exam. During the course of the exam she did not seem in pain or show any weakness. The only thing the vet told me to do was lower her calorie intake because she was about ten pounds overweight. I put her on [a light food] and noticed that she did not have any episodes after a couple of weeks. However she recently suffered what looked like a muscle spasm in her left hind leg. They are not frequent like the last time but it is unnerving because I have no idea what is happening.


A.It would be very difficult for me to definitively diagnose the problem via this column, but the most common thing I have witnessed that causes signs/symptoms such as these is, believe it or not, good old fleas. The distribution pattern for the medical condition known as flea allergy dermatitis is invariably around the base of the tail and down the back surfaces of the rear legs. Bites in these areas can cause the symptoms you are describing. Remember too, that fleas live most of their time off the animal so you don’t necessarily have to see them. By definition, this is an allergy to flea saliva. High carbohydrate diets are not only “unnatural”, but can precipitate or worsen allergy conditions. This could be why the dietary change made some difference. If fleas are truly your dog’s problem, there are many products on the market to address the allergy and help naturally repel the fleas.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a four-year-old beagle mix that won’t stop scratching. It’s basically located around her neck, where her collar is. She is now gnawing and licking her paws. I’ve tried rimadyl, steroids from the doctor, and nothing helps. I also tried many creams, ointments, and human Benadryl, along with children’s Claritin, and she still itches. I also tried changing her collar, and bathing her in aloe and oatmeal. Nothing seems to help. I keep an air cleaner on, and vacuum three times a week. She is the only dog in the house. I feed her mostly organic, or make her chicken with rice.


A.Given the paw licking, your beagle’s condition sounds more like a systemic allergy problem rather than just local irritation from the collar. I am concerned that she has shown no response to medications as strong as steroids, Benadryl and Claritin. Despite routine skin scrapings coming out negative, I have seen cases like this wind up being the itch mange named sarcops.

Although this condition is treated with harsh medications, I have seen non-toxic selenium sulfide lotion shampoo show success. This is a medication needing a veterinarian’s prescription. Homeopathics I have used include Allergy by BHI or Skin Aid by Complementary Health Formulas.

The herbal Spring Tonic by Animals Apawthecary or Zaocys by Seven Forests, and the anti-inflammatory supplement Betathyme by Best for Pets along with a good fish oil could also help. However, I remain leery about their success when stronger medications aren’t bringing even temporary relief. You may have to seek out a good integrative veterinarian.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a four year old dog that has been diagnosed with corneal dystrophy and Pannus. Is there something I can do to support his total health?


A.Pannus is a general covering that forms on the cornea of the eye, typically in German Shepherds. Eyes are the gateways to the body and eye problems can usually often be associated with a deeper liver problem. You’ve probably heard people say that eating carrots is good for your vision. Actually carrots contain vitamin A, which has more of a pronounced effect on the liver than on the eye itself. In Chinese medicine, the acupuncture points for eye function are the same ones associated with liver function. For this type of thing, I would do a metabolic balancing of the system, focusing on the liver function. I would use glandulars to help accomplish this as well as a supplement called Visioplex by Progressive. You could also use the Herbal Eyewash Kit by Halo or the topical homeopathic Similasan 1.

Category: Dog
Q.I have a five-year-old black lab who has a chronic yeast infection in his right ear. He also has hip dysplasia on the right side. He had knee surgery last July and was clear of the ear infection until he had the surgery. Now it has returned in full force, I am treating him with the medication from the vet, Zymox, but I know I must treat him from the inside as well.


A.There are a few things you can try, starting with a simple apple cider vinegar solution to flush out the ear (begin with 1 tsp. vinegar in ½ cup of warm water but you can strengthen the dilution if need be). Seven Forests Chinese herbal formula Forsythia can work well with chronic ear problems (you can order this through your vet only).

Although not a natural product, Malaseb, an ear flush, works very well on yeast in the ear and on the skin, and I’ve had no problems with side effects using this product. There are a few herbal veterinary ear washes on the market you could try as well.

You should note that carbohydrates in the diet can lead to yeast problems in dogs. Putting these animals on a raw meat and veggie diet may clear things right up. If it seems as though allergies may be the culprit for the yeast infections, we’ll do blood testing to determine the source of the allergy and eliminate the allergan from the diet.

Category: Dog

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