Today, I have the privilege of engaging in a fascinating and eye-opening conversation with Dr. Judy Morgan, a renowned figure in the field of veterinary care.
As a certified veterinary acupuncturist, chiropractic owner, and food therapist, Dr. Morgan’s expertise extends way beyond traditional allopathic medicine. Although she retired from clinical practice in 2020, her dedication to promoting exceptional veterinary care remains unwavering, both within the United States and abroad.
In our discussion, we dive into the factors contributing to the declining health of our beloved pets, such as the alarming obesity rates affecting 60% of pets in the United States. We also explore the flaws within the pet food industry, including the significant influence of Mars Petcare, a conglomerate that has acquired a substantial portion of the processed food industry.
Our conversation covers a myriad of topics, ranging from the distinctions between rendered and food-grade meat to the complexities surrounding grain-free diets. We touch on the contentious subject of vaccines, explain how to navigate between core and non-core vaccinations, and discuss specific concerns, such as lipomas, tooth care, exercise, and grooming. We also explore the best approaches to selecting flea and tick preventatives and the potential health implications of chemicals and plastics on our pets.
As someone who once contemplated a career in veterinary medicine, it was a true delight to interview Dr. Morgan- especially considering my allergies prevented me from pursuing that path! I encourage you to explore her insightful books and online resources because I am confident you will find them invaluable. Join me in this enlightening discussion that will undoubtedly shed light on essential aspects of pet care and welfare!
“If we go back to the 1970s, the average age of a middle-aged dog, golden retriever size, was about 17. And now that’s 10.”
– Dr. Judy Morgan
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- Why the health of our animals is declining.
- The difference between feed-grade and food-grade meat or food.
- How conglomerates are taking over the care of our pets- and not in a good way.
- Pet food that has Dr. Morgan’s stamp of approval.
- What to look out for when reading the list of ingredients on a bag of pet food.
- The longest chapter in Dr. Morgan’s brand new book, Raising Naturally Healthy Pets, is on vaccines.
- Dr. Morgan shares her recommendations for navigating flea and tick season.
- Dr. Morgan talks about lipomas.
- Why do you need to brush your dog’s teeth every day?
- The problem with ignoring dental disease.
- Why dogs and cats need to exercise every day.
- What to look out for if you have to have your pet’s anal glands cleaned out all the time.
- An entire chapter in Dr. Morgan’s new book is dedicated to finding a veterinarian who is right for you
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
Bio: Dr. Judy Morgan:
Judy Morgan DVM, CVA, CVCP, CVFT is a certified veterinary acupuncturist, chiropractitioner, and food therapist. After 36 years, Dr. Morgan retired from clinical practice in 2020. She now focuses on empowering pet parents to provide longer, healthier lives for their pets through educational courses, seminars, blogs, and speaking engagements. Her e-commerce site, Naturally Healthy Pets, provides high-quality products to enrich the lives of animals. She is a best-selling author of four books and has appeared on CNN, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, and hundreds of radio shows and podcasts. Her goal is to change the lives of over ten million pets by teaching pet owners worldwide how to minimize the use of chemicals, vaccinations, and poor-quality processed food while using natural healing therapies.
Connect with Dr. Judy Morgan
Dr. Morgan’s books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or her website.
Cynthia Thurlow: Welcome to Everyday Wellness podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent, is to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.
Today, I had the honor of connecting with Dr. Judy Morgan. She’s a certified veterinary acupuncturist, chiro practitioner, and food therapist. She retired from clinical practice in 2020, but remains an incredible advocate for veterinary care here in the United States and abroad. We spoke at length about her background that led her to both traditional allopathic and complementary veterinary medicine. We discussed reasons for why the health of our pets are declining, and why 60% of pets are obese in the United States. We discussed what’s wrong with the pet food industry and how most of it has been bought out by Mars Petcare, which is one of these huge conglomerates that oversees a lot of the processed food industry as well, differences between rendered versus food grade meat and food, the debacle around grain-free diets, what should we feed our food and why, why vaccines are so controversial and how to navigate core versus non-core vaccines, how to determine what type of flea and tick preventatives to use, the impact of chemicals and plastics in our pet’s health, specifics concerns surrounding lipomas, toothcare, exercise, and grooming.
I hope you will enjoy this discussion as much as I did recording it. And for those of you that do not know, many years ago when I went back and took premed classes, I originally had intended to become a vet, but I have such bad allergies, I decided against it. So, interviewing Dr. Morgan is really a treat. You definitely want to check out her books, as well as her resources online.
Welcome, Dr. Morgan. I’ve really been looking forward to this conversation.
Dr. Judy Morgan: I’m really happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, absolutely. So, obviously, most of my guests are traditional or functional or integrative trained healthcare practitioners, and everyone that listens to this podcast knows that I have a tremendous affinity for animals. Bringing on a holistic focused veterinarian has been something I’ve been trying to do for a while. And so, I’m so glad that you are joining us this morning. I would love for you to share with my community a bit about your background, because you do have quite a wide array of tools in your toolbox. You were a traditionally trained allopathic veterinarian and then you also have these other complementary medicine aspects to the care that you are delivering to your patients for many, many years, and I would love for you to share a bit about how your trajectory from traditional veterinary medicine evolved over time.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Well, I graduated in 1984, so I’m going to age myself a little bit from veterinary school in the Midwest. When you are trained at a traditional school in the 1980s, in the Midwest, it is very traditional. I practiced traditional medicine for about the first 10 years. I was really frustrated. I actually hated my job, I hated my profession, and I could not consider doing that for the rest of my life, because I was on this treadmill that we find with traditional medicine of treating chronic disease, more medications, prescription diets. My patients never really seemed to thrive, they didn’t get better, they maintained if we were lucky. But we really weren’t curing things. Acute disease, they’ve got vomiting and diarrhea, yeah, great, I can make that better in a day. But the chronic things, the chronic inflammatory diseases were just frustrating. I thought, if I have to spend the rest of my life talking about fleas, ticks, heartworms, and vaccinations, and prescription diets, I will probably just die. I couldn’t do it anymore.
Then I accidentally took a chiropractic course. It was called Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation. It was touted as being able to help our patients recover faster after surgery, help them with mobility issues, back problems and I thought, “Well, that sounds great.” My partner at the time did orthopedic surgeries. I did not. I thought, “Well, this would be a way for me to contribute.” So, I signed up for the course. And within the first couple of hours, I went, “[gasps] I think we’re talking about chiropractic. I don’t know if I even believe in this.” Of course, we had paid for it and it was a long course, so I stuck it out days and days. When I got back to practice, I thought, “Well, I just spent all this time and money. I’m going to give this a try.”
I think my first week back, I treated 90% of the patients with chiropractic. The differences that I saw literally were miraculous and life changing just from that one tool that I had added in my toolbox. Of course, then I had to go through the crying and the guilt of, “Ah, I could have helped all these animals that I put to sleep, because they were having mobility issues or they blew a disc in their back, and I could have helped.” I didn’t know. The thing is, you don’t know what you don’t know, so you can’t beat yourself up for that. But it did open a door for me. I was raised in a very traditional family. So, it opened that door of what else is available. And I started looking at everything. I looked at homeopathy, I looked at traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, I looked at braindrop therapy, essential oils, color therapy, you name it. I was going to figure out how I could put that in my toolbox.
So then over time, I picked and chose which things really spoke to me, which worked the best for me, which things really got me excited about helping my patients. Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine was really where I landed. Acupuncture was the first thing that I learned and I loved it. I started learning Chinese herbs. I used a lot of those, and now I also use Western herbs. Then I started studying food therapy, which was the one that just made me light up. And so, that’s really been my focus as my base starting point for every single patient ever since then. So, I’m retired from clinical practice now, and now my time is spent teaching, but acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal therapy, food therapy made a world of difference for my patients.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. It’s so exciting, because for me I think I stumbled upon your account on Facebook, and I think Facebook is this weird vortex where occasionally I stumble upon really valuable content, and I went down this rabbit hole. I don’t give my email out unless I really, really, really want to get the content. And so, every week I’ll say to my husband, because we walk our dogs several times a day, I’m like, “Oh, I’m interviewing this holistic veterinarian. I’m so excited, because it’s so aligned with my own trajectory of being in traditional allopathic medicine, being in critical care, cardiology, ER medicine as an NP,” and then pivoting, because I kept saying so much of what we’re doing with humans is a lifestyle mediated issue, and we’re not talking about the stuff that really makes a big difference. And so, I always think with humans in particular, it all starts with the nutrition piece. I know we are going to unpack the pet food industry, which I was disturbed to learn a lot that I know listeners probably are not aware of.
So, over the course of this very lengthy and broad career, and this has just been my outsiders’ layman’s perspective, why is the health of our pets declining? Because I see celebrated on social media, very obese pets, and people are laughing about it because they think it’s funny, and I’m like, “No, that’s actually animal abuse.” Because if you put food in front of animal, and I have a labradoodle, and he will eat anything and everything. He would eat all day long, if I let him. We can’t do that. Part of why the love that I have for my children, my family, my pets is to not overfeed them. But we have a degree of obesity in our domesticated pets that is bordering– I think the statistic I read was 60% of pets in the United States are obese.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Yes.
Cynthia Thurlow: That’s probably conservative. So, as you went through this very lengthy career, why do you think the health of our animals is declining or why are we starting to see the same sequelae we see in humans in our pets as well?
Dr. Judy Morgan: Well, the statistics are really sad. Three out of four dogs that live past 10 are going to have a cancer diagnosis. It may or may not kill them, but they’re going to have a cancer diagnosis. And 50% of all dogs will get a cancer diagnosis. We’re losing a lot of them in their middle age, between five and seven of cancers, which is scary as I’ll get out. If we go back to the 1970s, the average age of a middle-aged dog, Golden Retriever size, was about 17. And now that’s 10. We have literally cut their lifespan in half. There’re a lot of reasons for that.
Now, I’m not anti-vaxxer and I will say that vaccines have been pivotal for our pets. When I was in veterinary school, that was when parvovirus first became a big problem in dogs. We were losing puppies in particular, left and right. We had ICU wards full of puppies with bloody vomiting and diarrhea that were dying. And so, that vaccine has saved a lot of lives, and it’s made a huge difference. But one of the problems is that, there was never enough study done on how long does a vaccine last. So, we look at our children and we give them their childhood vaccines, and then we don’t look at vaccinating them and boostering them for years, decades, or ever. We didn’t really look at that in dogs and cats. And so, what happened is arbitrarily it was a sign that they’ll just get annual booster.
So, one of the things that has been done and there’s been more and more and more vaccines added on. It’s not just parvo. Some animals will go in and they will be given 17 vaccines in one visit, which is just so scary. The immune system goes, “You just killed me. I don’t even know what to do with that.” It’s like having all of your puzzle pieces thrown at you at one time, and it’s a thousand puzzle pieces, and you have five minutes to figure out how to deal with that. So, that’s one of the problems that we’re seeing. We are causing a lot of immune stress and autoimmune disease from overvaccination.
The other thing that has changed a lot for our pets is processed pet food. So, if we look back in the 1950s in particular and before that, it was much more common for our pets to be fed scraps from what we were eating. So, if we look at when more people lived on the farms was, “Okay, we have leftover this or we have left over that, and this is what we’re sharing with our pets.” Weren’t feeding them highly processed synthetic diets. That has really changed over the years. The pet food industry has changed for the worse over the years. So, that’s the second thing that is causing problems for our pets and shortening their lifespan.
The third thing is the amount of chemicals that we are throwing at our pets, because we have become a society where, one, we want a quick and easy fix for everything. We never want to see a parasite. If we see a flea, if we see a tick, we freak out. Now, what did we do before we had all these chemicals? We would comb our dogs, they would have a healthier diet, their immune system would be better at fighting off parasites. And now, the veterinary profession and the pharmaceutical industry has gotten to the point where they have a mantra, “Every pet, every month, all year long.” Well, the little Chihuahua who lives in a high rise in New York City has a hugely different lifestyle from the farm dog who lives outside in Louisiana all year round. We can’t even compare those two lifestyles. Yet, the veterinary profession and pharmaceutical industry label them all the same and say, “This is what they should get every month all year round.” It’s killing them where you’re putting pesticides on them, in them, and we are expecting them to deal with that.
If your human pediatrician said to you, “Here, I want you to give your child this pesticide orally. I want them to eat this pesticide every month, so that they don’t ever get intestinal parasites or they don’t ever have a tick bite them,” which by the way, most of them don’t repel anyway. Would you do that? I don’t think you would. I think if your pediatrician said to you, “Hey, here’s this box of, I actually have a cereal box that I made. It’s called holistic organic human kibble and it has all the vitamins and minerals that your child needs. All you ever need to do is pour these dry brown balls into their cereal bowl twice a day, have them eat that. They’ll be perfectly fine. They’ve got all the nutrition they need in that little processed vitamin added food.” You would look at your pediatrician and say, “Wait a minute, what? What happened to fruits and vegetables? What happened to healthy meats? What happened to eggs? What happened to fish?” We don’t need a synthetic diet. We need whole foods. Sorry, that’s soapbox. [laughs]
Cynthia Thurlow: No, it’s so validating on a lot of different levels, because as I was preparing for this podcast and I was looking at what had happened to domesticated animals over the last 20, 30, 40, 50 years, I was like, “Humans health has been declining and it’s reflected in our animals as well. And so, what does that really demonstrate for us?” I think starting with what’s wrong with the pet food industry? This is something that I’m so grateful. I had a really amazing vet in Washington, D.C., which is where we lived until we relocated two years ago. He was very collaborative. I’ll just call him out. Dr. B was fantastic. Very collaborative, very open minded, didn’t force anything, was always open to discussing everything.
The first thing he told me when we had gotten a puppy was, “Cynthia, things have changed since the last time you had a puppy.” He said, “Now, veterinary medicine has gotten appropriately expensive, because now the technology is advanced. We have all these specialists.” But he said, “You just need one bad illness or one catastrophic injury and you’ll go through $10,000 like that.” So, he said, “You have to have pet insurance.” But the other piece that he encouraged me to consider was the quality of the pet food or not to assume that. Things that he said, even stuff that’s sold in my veterinary practice, he’s like, “I don’t per se give to my own dogs, but we have to have it available.” He said, “The stuff that’s in the grocery store, a lot of what’s available to pets, to your point, is highly processed, highly refined.”
Also, the other piece is this global pet food industry, internationally $320 billion per year, $50 billion here in the United States alone for food and treats. The biggest company for pet food in the United States is Mars Petcare. Now you may think of Mars. Mars is pet candy company. They have actually 41 brands of dog food alone and cat food. So, just to give you a sense, like, not only does this conglomerate actually control a lot of the processed food industry for humans, it also now controls a vast chunk of the pet food industry. I would love for you to speak to the difference between feed grade versus food grade meat or food, because I think the average person probably does not realize that there is this distinction when animals go to slaughter, and they’re differentiating that this part of the animal is going into the animal food industry, and the rest is being given to our pets. It could be an abscessed leg on a cow that then goes into the food that we are feeding our pets. And so, I think it’s helpful to fully appreciate and understand the way that this all works.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Okay. Yeah, so, as for Mars, their pet division is now bigger than their human division. They also are buying up emergency veterinary practices. They own our biggest veterinary lab. They own the biggest veterinary imaging system. So, they are a conglomerate that is taking over the care of our pets, not in a good way. Unfortunately, we are losing the mom-and-pop veterinary practices, the individual practitioner. It’s becoming very expensive to run an individual veterinary clinic. So, corporate is taking over and that’s not a good thing. We see the same thing in human medicine as well. But as to feed versus food, so pet food in the United States is regulated by FDA. Then there is a group called AAFCO, which is The Association of American Feed Control Officials. They are not a regulatory body. They have no teeth that they cannot enforce anything, but they make all the rules. So, they define what can go into pet food. They hold big meetings twice a year, usually about 500 people at the meetings. Most of them are regulatory officials. So, state regulatory officials who are enforcing labeling and quality of food at the state level. Then we have a lot of FDA people who go, and then CVM, which is a Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the rest of the people in the room are representatives of the rendering industry, all the pet food companies.
Then of that 500 people, there’s usually six or eight who represent the consumers and the pet parents. That’s a very tiny amount. We are hated. We are absolutely hated by regulatory officials, because we are speaking up about what is actually going into pet food. So, there is a law that states that, “Only animals who have been slaughtered for the purposes of being used for food may be used for human and animal pet food.” That is enforced on the human side. It is not enforced on the pet side. When we’ve questioned FDA, they said, “We choose not to enforce it.” So, they are literally breaking the law. So, what is an animal that died otherwise than by slaughter? Animal who was not slaughtered specifically for food, it could be a cow that died out in the field, it could be a horse that was put down, it could be animals that died anyway. So, let’s look at avian influenza.
We have had millions of chickens killed during great floods that happened in North Carolina a couple of years ago. Millions of chickens drowned. Where do you think all of those chickens went? They didn’t go to a landfill. All of that dead, putrefying meat was processed into pet food. So, how do they do that? They collect up these carcasses from farmers who will call up and say, “I’ve got a dead cow, a dead sheep, dead pig whatever or I just had to slaughter a bunch of pigs for swine flu, or I had to slaughter a bunch of chickens.” And so, trucks will go pick them up and then they deliver them to rendering plants. I’m sorry for anybody who’s eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner while they’re listening to this. So, the rendering plants, these carcasses are dumped into their parking lots literally. They’re left out in the sun, putrefying, melting.
The way they get away with this is that all of those carcasses are then put in a big cooking Vat, and they are what we call rendered, which is they’re cooked at high heats and literally melted down. And so, then the fat rises to the top as it cools, they skim off the fat, and so that is tallow, and that is used as a flavorant. So, they will spray it onto dry kibble to make it taste good, but it’s really rancid, disgusting fats. Then the meat that is broken down is then dehydrated into a meat meal. And then there’s also a bone meal that is produced. And so, that can be used. So, if you see a product in the grocery store or wherever and it says meat meal, that is undefined. If it says beef meal, well, at least we know it was made from cows, or we assume that it’s made from cows because that’s what it said on the label. Interestingly, there have been quite a few studies done where they’ve tested pet foods and they’ve looked at the DNA of what’s in the pet foods. And so, it might be labeled as a chicken food that only has chicken in it, and yet they will find five or six other proteins in the food.
So, you think that you’re getting what it says on the label, but over 60% of the time you’re not. And sometimes, they’ve been tested and it’ll say that it’s a chicken-based meal and there’s not even any chicken in there. So, it’s a little bit scary because as the consumer, you’re like, “Well, I read the label and I have a dog who has a chicken allergy, so I made sure there was no chicken in there,” which, by the way, it might be labeled as a beef food, but chicken might be down there in the ingredients. So, make sure you read the whole label. So, what happens? This food has been basically cooked at very high heats. Now, unfortunately, the head of Dar Pro rendering which is the largest rendering association in the United States. At an AAFCO meeting, he gave the keynote speech a few years ago. He stood there and said, “It is virtually impossible to have rendered meals that do not have euthanasia solution in them, because animals who have been euthanized end up in that heap.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider any euthanasia solution appropriate to be fat. His answer is, “Well, it’s in such a small amount, it’s not going to matter.” It does matter, because what you’re told by your veterinarian and by the pet food industry is put the same thing in the bowl, twice a day, every day, do not vary it, do not supplement it, do not add anything, you’ll screw up the balance, which is a bunch of crap. So, if we’re feeding our pets euthanasia solution twice a day, every day, year in and year out, what do we end up with? We do not end up with good health. We do not end up with animals who are thriving. We end up with animals who are being literally slowly killed. So, that’s one of the first things. So, we don’t ever want to see rendered products in the food. That can be really difficult as the consumer to just know by reading a label. So, sometimes, you’ll see poultry meal. Well, that should be all birds, but it could be duck, goose, chicken, turkey, whatever. If it says chicken meal, it should be just chicken. Unfortunately, here’s how chickens are processed. They process the whole bird.
Now, the legal definition of chicken is the chicken meat without the feathers. But do you think anybody is sitting there and plucking all those chickens? No. So, they’re actually vacuumed into a big vacuum and all ground together. Chicken meal can include feathers. There actually is a dog food on the market that is hydrolyzed chicken feathers. It doesn’t say that on the label, but that’s what it is. They change the name to hide the innocent or the guilty. They actually recently just changed the name of glutens. So, we used to see corn gluten or other glutens on the label. They know that people think that glutens are a bad thing. So, at the last meeting, they changed it, and now it’s called corn protein. So, anything that was a gluten before is now a protein. So, you don’t even know and that’s how the game is played. Waste oil industries come to the AAFCO meetings to get their waste oils approved as ingredients in pet feed, because AAFCO regulates feed for all animals including livestock. So, our dog and cat food is regulated as the same way that livestock feed would be regulated. By the way, livestock can be fed, what do they call it? It’s grocery store waste.
So, when you go to the grocery store, and the bakery items are out of date, the dairy items are out of date, and they go in a big container out behind the store, that’s picked up and it’s ground up and processed and used in livestock feed. They don’t take it out of the wrappers. So, all that plastic, all those phthalates are ground up and used in livestock feed. It passes in the milk. We’re getting all those chemicals. It’s really scary. The human food industry is really just as scary as the pet food industry.
Cynthia Thurlow: I’m speechless. My listeners know that that doesn’t happen very often, because this is even beyond what I had imagined, the depth of the concern of profits over health of our pets. When I think about some of the things that have come out recently, as an example, this fear mongering about grain-free diets. Again, I love everything about pets, so I sit in a couple of Facebook groups that are actually monitored by vets that they’re traditionally trained. Anytime the concept of grain-free diets come up, it gets their hackles up-
Dr. Judy Morgan: Oh, yeah.
Cynthia Thurlow: -and they’re going to end up developing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. For anyone that’s listening, that’s not familiar with that term. It’s this kind of thickening of the heart muscle. I guess it happened in a couple of Golden Retrievers and they’ve now extrapolated that all grain-free diets are bad. What are your thoughts about grain-free diets? I would imagine that for you, understanding that grain fattens up animals for slaughter, and it can fatten us up if we eat too much of it as humans, I would imagine the same thing applies to our animals. So, I would imagine you are a proponent of meat-focused, meat-centric, vegetable-focused diets for our pets.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. So, I have not fed grains to my pets in 25 years. When we look at price point and getting things in a bag, what is the pet industry going to look for? They are the big pet food industry. They’re going to look for how can I meet that protein level? So, adult dog, 18% protein level. Okay, well, I could do it with meat, or I could use peas, or I could use grains. So, if only 10% of that 18% protein has to come from meat, and the rest can come from grains. Wow, I just dropped my bottom line. This is awesome. My profit margins are so much better. When you look at a bag of kibble, and corn is the first ingredient, and it’s a dollar a pound, you are not getting meat. I can just tell you you are not getting meat. Somewhere in there, you’ll probably see some poultry byproduct meal, which is the feathers, and the organs, and the intestines, and the stuff that nobody else wants to eat.
So, the whole grain-free debacle, this is a really interesting story, and I’ll see if I can shorten it down a little bit. So, there were a couple of nutritionists/cardiologists who are on the payroll of Purina, Hill’s, Mars, the big companies. They do their research, which is funded by them. Their university chairs are funded by pet food. Hmm, who do you think they work for? So, what’s happened over the years because of holistic veterinarians and because really, the pet food owner or the pet owners are driving this conversation, the raw food market and the grain-free market has been seeing a steady increase, steady increase. And so, what has happened to all those cheap grain-inclusive diets? They’re starting to come down. Then there was also an offer by one of the big pet food companies to buy one of the largest grain-free companies and the price was too high.
So, outcomes this study that said that dilated cardiomyopathy was being caused by grain-free diets with zero evidence. So, these couple of cardiologists got together and they were told only to report animals with dilated cardiomyopathy who were on a grain-free diet. Don’t bother reporting the other ones. We don’t want to know about them. They came up with a little over 500 cases of dilated cardiomyopathy. Now, there are 90 million dogs in this country. They got 500 in this report and it was a very skewed study. They convinced the FDA to make a big spectacle of this and say, “Oh, my gosh, there may be a link.”
Now, there were a bunch of studies done, a bunch of us came out and said, “This is the biggest fallacy ever. Let’s follow the money trail and look at the number of dogs that were actually diagnosed.” Yeah, a lot of them might have been eating grain-free diets because they’re more expensive. And if you’re going to the cardiologist, you’re a client who is spending more on your pet and willing to go to the nth degree and then we did find that there were an unproportionate number of Golden Retrievers in the study. So, we said, “Well, maybe Golden Retrievers have a problem.” I saw that in my practice. So, maybe Golden Retrievers have a problem, maybe there’s a taurine problem, which is one of the amino acids found, oh, by the way, in meat.
So, I’m not a fan of grain-free kibble. I don’t like it any more than I like grain-inclusive kibble. I just don’t like kibble, because they’re doing the same thing. They’re putting that grain free. So, they’re using a lot of legumes or potatoes to replace the meat protein and still get their bottom line where they want it to be. So, I’m not a fan. But my dogs are raw fed or gently cooked and there’re no grains. So, that is a grain-free diet. And so, in their study, I think there was one dog that was a raw-fed dog that had dilated cardiomyopathy. They consider that grain free because we don’t add grains. What they also did not consider in that study was the breed. By the way, Irish Wolfhounds, Cocker Spaniels, Boxers, Great Danes, Dobermans, like, 75% of them developed dilated cardiomyopathy because it’s in their genetics. But they didn’t include that.
So, this all occurred over, I don’t know, six or seven years. I can’t even remember when it first started. I have done more social media posts and online rants about this debacle. It’s in all my books. It just makes me crazy. But the FDA, very, very, very quietly and very sneakily in December of 22 on their original post where they said, there may be a link, they made a little sentence at the top that says, “We have not found any link between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy.” They didn’t announce it. There was no press release. It was just quietly added in there. And to top it off, that original sale where one company was trying to buy the grain-free company that was the biggest one, Mars ended up buying them at about half the price.
Cynthia Thurlow: Wow.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Because their sales went down so much from all– and we still see it. I get cardiology reports every day from clients. I got one today where they’re talking about, you need to include grains in the diet. Grains do not contain taurine. They do not contain carnitine. They’re not helping. What they do contain is methionine and cysteine, which the dog’s body can combine to make taurine. But why don’t we just feed them something high in taurine? Meat. That’s what they’re supposed to eat.
Cynthia Thurlow: It seems to make a great deal more sense. And thank you for that, because-
Dr. Judy Morgan: It costs more.
Cynthia Thurlow: -I feel like– Yeah, I think it’s such a confusing time because my dogs eat grain free. They get a combination of raw food, we buy ACANA. That’s one of my questions, are there any healthier options out there that are available to consumers, the stuff that tends to be in specialty stores? You may tell me no and that’s okay. But that was one of the questions that came in. Is there anything that’s commercially available? If we’re not doing a raw-food diet all the time, what other options are available? I would imagine you probably have resources on your website or recipes of things that you generally recommend. But out of curiosity, are there any brands out there existing right now that have your stamp of approval or is it just the raw food only?
Dr. Judy Morgan: Oh, I have a lot of raw and gently cooked foods that have my stamp of approval, absolutely. Some dehydrated foods, which are so easy for pet parents who say, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t want to deal with dry, I don’t want to deal with things that are frozen or refrigerated.” But then we can buy a dehydrated or a freeze-dried food, add water to it, poof, you have food, and high meat food, high-quality food, human grade. So, what we’re really looking for is get our pets onto human grade food. Not feed grade, not something that died out in the field and rotted for three days before it got made into your pet’s food. So, there’s a great website, truthaboutpetfood.com, Susan Thixton, she’s been our pet consumer advocate at AAFCO for about 15 years now. She started it because her dog died of cancer that her veterinarian 20 years ago said, “This is probably from the ethoxyquin,” which is a preservative that’s in the pet food. It’s probably what caused the osteosarcoma and that’s what killed her dog.
She has made it her life’s mission to expose the pet food industry and make changes. She’s doing a great job. So, truthaboutpetfood.com, she exposes a lot of this stuff. She has great pictures on there. Here’s the chicken we buy in the grocery store and that’s what we imagine. When you go in the grocery store and you look at the pictures on the labels of the pet food, and you see filet mignon and you see carrots and peas and blueberries and you think that’s in there, it’s not. What you’re getting is the green moldy chicken. That’s what’s in there. You’re getting grains that are contaminated with molds, because the moldy grain can’t be fed to people. So, where does it go? It gets hidden in the middle of the big truckloads that go into the pet food.
Another trick for people. When you’re reading the ingredient list on the bag, look for where salt is in the ingredient list. Salt is at about 0.5% of the ingredients in the bag. So, if the blueberries, and carrots, and broccoli, and all the pretty things are listed below salt, you got one blueberry in that 20-pound bag. It is not doing any good for your pet. We have actually challenged FDA, because they are in charge of labeling, and we’re like, “Look, here’s this bag of really low-quality kibble, really awful quality.” It’s got a picture of filet mignon and all these fresh veggies on the front. How is that truth in advertising? Their answer was, “Well, there’s also a bowl of kibble on the front of the bag. And so, people aren’t foolish enough to think that’s what’s actually in that bowl of kibble.” I’m like, “Really? You don’t think you’re fooling people? You were fooling people.”
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, of course. I think it’s so valuable to hear this information, because I would imagine many listeners, myself included, will be making different and more concerted choices moving forward. Now, I’d love to talk about vaccines. Both of us are not anti-vaccine. I want to be very upfront about that. But it was interesting when I was prepping for this, there was this study out of University of Wisconsin-Madison that puppy vaccines last seven to nine years. To your point, you had mentioned earlier that we’re not drawing titers on dogs, and most commonly, we’re just revaccinating our dogs. So, you mentioned parvo and obviously that’s a catastrophic thing that can happen to dogs. So, obviously, vaccination against that. What are the vaccines other than rabies that we need to be considering whether doing titers every few years or are really part of the critically important ones for our pets?
Dr. Judy Morgan: So, there are core vaccines and non-core vaccines. The ones that are considered core vaccines are distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and rabies. That is core. The only one that is legally mandated in the US is rabies. There are actually a couple of states that will allow rabies titers instead. A titer is a blood test that tells you whether your pet has immunity against a specific disease. So, rabies vaccines, the very first one your pet gets no matter how old they are, is a one-year vaccine. That’s just mandated. Although, some pets will develop a lifelong immunity from one vaccine, but this is the law.
Then the second vaccine they get no matter how much later. So, let’s say, you got that first vaccine when they were six months old, and then you forgot about it, and you got it again when they’re three years old. Most veterinarians are going to say, “Oh, you have to start all over. We’re going to start with a one year.” No, it’s a three year. No matter when they get that next one, it’s a three year. When I was practicing in New Jersey, a lot of the local veterinarians just said, “Oh, my gosh, well, we’re not getting people in enough. We were going through an economic depression.” They were trying to get people in the office more. And so, they said, “Well, we’re going to make our rabies vaccines be good for two years.” So, they would label the certificates good for two years. Their reasoning behind it was, well, we don’t ever want anybody to be overdue on their vaccine. We want to make sure that the vaccine miraculously runs out exactly on the third-year anniversary. Who made that up?
So, they started dating them for two years. Well, then all the clerks at the townships would not license the animals, because the vaccine said it ran out. So, they started getting people in for every two years. I’m starting seeing these certificates and I said, “There’s no legal entity that is a two-year vaccine. This is made up. You go back to that veterinarian and you tell them you want a three-year certificate. It’s games that are played.” I had a client in Texas who sent me her records to review and the dog was like seven years old. I said, “Why are you getting a rabies vaccine every single year?”
Cynthia Thurlow: Oh, my gosh.
Dr. Judy Morgan: She said, “My veterinarian told me. I had a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a small dog.” She said, “My veterinarian says he’s due for it every year.” And I said, “No, it’s a three-year vaccine.” So, she called him up and said, “Why is my dog getting a rabies vaccine every year?” And he said, “State law in Texas.” She calls me up, I said, “Well, let’s look that up.” I looked it up. I said, “Mm, state law in Texas is three years.” So, she calls him back again and he says, “It’s county law.” [crosstalk]
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs]
Dr. Judy Morgan: We looked that up. No. She calls him back again. He says, “It’s my law.” And she said, “Well, now we’re getting to the truth and I’m never coming to you again.” Because it was a scam to get her into the office every year, over-vaccinate her poor dog every year. The dog was suffering with allergies, and IBD, and all these other problems. It’s like, well, of course. But this is the games that are played and that’s why it’s so important for. I’m not saying the veterinarian was doing it for money. I’m saying the veterinarian was doing it, because he wanted to make sure that he had a way to get your dog in for that exam every year.
Well, you know what? If my veterinarian says to me, “I need to see your pet every year for a full examination, nose to tail,” I’m going to be like, “I’m all over it. I’m coming in. We’re going to get some lab work. I want you to feel his belly. I want you to listen to his heart. I want you to look in his ears, look at his eyes, look at his teeth. That’ll be great, but we don’t need to do vaccines.” “Great. No problem.” It’s like you bring your kids in, you bring yourself in once a year just to have that physical exam, get your lab work done. Do it for your pets, but don’t fall into the trap of, he’s got to come in because he needs his shots. No. So, parvo, probably lasts seven to nine years, distemper probably lasts a lifetime, hepatitis does last a lifetime, good chance rabies last a lifetime, but we’re all stuck with that law thing, so get around that however you can whether you license, don’t license, do titers, whatever. I have a lot of clients. They’ll do rabies titers. They just don’t license their animals, because they don’t want somebody to tell them that they have to do something based on a schedule. They want to do it based on what their animal says they need. So, they get titers run.
The biggest thing that we run into with titers is that a lot of traditional veterinarians don’t understand them, don’t believe in them, and don’t want to do them, because it requires a little more work than just poking a vaccine. So, what they’ll tell you is, “That’ll be $300.” The vaccine is only $32, which do you want to do. And so, for the average pet owner who’s standing there going, “Well, let’s say I need a distemper titer, I need a parvo titer, I need a rabies tiger, you’re going to charge me $700, $800 to do that or I can get all the vaccines for $50?” Sometimes, that’s an economic decision. I can’t blame clients. And they get scared. So, I find that an awful lot of what happens. Look at the insurance industry. We all buy insurance because of fear. A lot of what happens in the medical industry and the veterinary industry is out of fear, “Oh, I better get those vaccines.”
It’s funny, my daughter works for my company, which is Naturally Healthy Dogs. She’s the COO. She is all about everything natural for her dogs and cats. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, and I said, “Why did you get all these vaccines for Sarah?” And she said, “Well, you never know, there could be a measles outbreak.” And I’m like, “All right, one vaccine might have worked.” It’s getting people to change. Because you’re more of a human focused show, you probably have listeners who work really hard at feeding their family organic, fresh, brightly colored foods and yet, they’re buying pet food in the supermarket that is labeled as natural, holistic. That means nothing. Those labels can be put on any bag of crap. They mean nothing. I’ve talked to many clients who are like, “Oh, my gosh, I thought I was doing the best. I was buying the most expensive one in the aisle. I was even going to the pet store and buying the one that said natural and holistic, and I didn’t realize what was in there.”
So, we can see it go the other way too, where I have clients who are so into doing everything right for their pets, and yet they’re eating at fast food restaurants every meal. I’ve actually had clients who have completely changed their way of living, because I changed their pet’s way of living. I had one client. She had a Boxer with cancer, and she came to me, and we did the diet for it, and the dog lived a couple of years, and she was really happy. Then I didn’t see her for a little while after the dog died, and then she got a new puppy, and she came in and had been months, and I didn’t recognize her. She said, “You don’t know who I am?” And I said, “God, you kind of look familiar.” She pulled a picture out of her wallet and she said, “This was my husband and I when we got married.” She said, “Since you taught us how to feed our dog, we now are doing the same thing for ourselves.” Between the two of them, they lost 250 pounds.
Cynthia Thurlow: Incredible.
Dr. Judy Morgan: I didn’t know who they were. So, it goes both ways, but we need to look at the whole family. I’m not anti-vaxxer. My youngest dog is a little over a year and a half. He came from a natural breeder. So, she does titers on the parents and she doesn’t routinely deworm or she tests for parasites, she doesn’t vaccinate her dogs,, she does titers, and doesn’t give them chemicals. And so, I got this fresh out-of-the-box puppy who was weaned onto raw food, and he has had about 2/10ths of a distemper vaccine and 2/10ths of a parvo vaccine, and that’s all he’s ever had. He is the most energetic– He is only a year and a half old, but he’s the most energetic, crazy dog I’ve ever had. It’ll be really interesting. I hope this dog lives to be 25. He has a lot of congenital problems and that’s why I ended up with him. He has hydrocephalus. His joints bend the wrong way. He’s got some issues and he’s cute.
We do a lot of rescue, particularly a lot of puppy mill rescue. If people don’t know about puppy mills, they should look into that. It’s really a horrible way for animals to be bred and raised and sold in pet stores, but we rescue the used-up dogs who are no longer available, useful for breeding, or they’re so sick that they’re about to die. But we’ve even taken some of those. We took in an eight-year-old male who just had so many medical problems, and he lived to be 19, because we completely changed the way that he was raised. So, it’s never too late. Even if you have an older pet who’s overweight, who’s got arthritis, who has chronic inflammatory problems, it is never too late to make changes. You’ll be amazed at the changes that will occur in health, longevity, vitality, coat, decrease in dental issues, decrease in arthritis. It’s amazing the changes we can make.
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, thank you for that, because I think for so many of us, wherever we are in our journey with our pets, whether this is new information, whether this is validation of the way that you’re currently bringing up your pets in your home, understanding that there is always improvements that we can be making along the way. One thing I really wanted touch on, because it came up when I asked my listeners quite a few times, and to be completely transparent. I’m curious because I live in an endemic state for Lyme. I live in Virginia. The county that we moved from had the highest rate of tick-borne illnesses in the entire state.
And so, I was always conditioned, because we do trail walks with our dogs, because there’s the potential for exposure that we should always have Lyme and lepto vaccines, because they go to a groomers, because they’re doodles. I’ve just decided I’m not taking on that. I’m not going to take on the chore of trying to scissor my dogs, and clip their toenails, and do all that. That’s left to the experts.
What are your thoughts on these non-core vaccines that you’ve alluded to? Because so many people were asking these questions, same as me. I feel tremendous pressure and guilt. That’s probably a byproduct of the way I was raised. But when I’m talking to the new vet and I’m explaining like, I really am one of those less is more kind of people. If we need to do the vaccine, I accept that. But if I don’t need to do the vaccine, I don’t want to over vaccinate my pets. And so, what are your thoughts on these non-core options?
Dr. Judy Morgan: Okay, I have a brand-new book out. It’s called Raising Naturally Healthy Pets. I don’t even have it on my shelf, but the longest chapter in there is on vaccines. And so, it goes through every vaccine that is available for dogs and cats, what they’re recommended for, how the diseases are transmitted, and risk factors that would put your pet at risk for that. So, the Lyme vaccine is a really horrible vaccine. It is only 60% effective if your dog has ever been exposed to Lyme. So, if your dog has had a positive Lyme test in the past, whether they were symptomatic or not, the vaccine, if you give it after that is only going to be about 60% effective. Even if you start it when they’re puppies before they’ve had an exposure, it’s about 80% effective. So, it’s not a great vaccine.
We have no idea how long the vaccine lasts. There is no titer for it. But I can tell you that the tests that we would run on our dog patients every year is called an Accuplex. It’s also known as a 4Dx, and it tests for heartworm, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Lyme disease, which are three tick-borne diseases. And so, the Accuplex that was run at the lab would come back with either vaccine antibodies found, acute infection, or chronic exposure, or negative. What we were finding is that dogs that had had a vaccine seven and eight years earlier were still showing up with vaccine antibodies. Now, they don’t call it a titer, because the definition of a titer says you have to have a certain level in order for it to be considered protective. However, there are a lot of veterinary immunologists who say, “No, any detectable antibodies is protective, because there’s something called memory cells in the body, and they will kick in with a different kind of immunity if an exposure occurs.”
So, why are we giving a vaccine every single year when we are finding vaccine antibodies seven to eight years later? So, that’s one thing. If your pet has ever had a Lyme vaccine, it may or may not actually work, because it’s only 60% to 80% effective at best, and it may still be protective or not. We don’t know. A positive test does not equate to Lyme disease. A positive test means that your dog has had an exposure and he’s made antibodies. So, there’s a more specific test called a C6, which is a quantitative test that you can ask for that’ll actually tell you the level. I think 30 is the cut off. If it’s above that, then you probably should treat. I’m not a huge fan of overuse of antibiotics, but if your pet is symptomatic with a positive test, then you absolutely should treat.
So, I’m not a fan of the vaccine. I’m a fan of keeping ticks off your dogs, and we can talk about that. We camp a lot and I used to hike in Gettysburg Park with my dogs and there’s signs everywhere. It’s up in Pennsylvania. So, huge tick area. I’m from New Jersey, huge tick area. We used to hike with our dogs and we would use natural repellents on them. All the signs say, “Stay on the path. Don’t go in the fields. High grasses,” blah, blah, blah. I would put their natural repellents on them. We’d trace through the fields, and nobody would come home with a tick. So, there are natural ways that we can deal with that. A lot of people say, “I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.” If you’ve tried it and it didn’t work, you didn’t do it correctly, or you didn’t use the right product, [Cynthia laughs] or you didn’t use the right combination of products. So, that’s my thoughts on the Lyme vaccine. I’m not a fan. I gave it very rarely and I’ve never given it to my dogs.
Lepto vaccine, I used really rarely in my practice. I’ve never given it to my dogs. If you have a small dog, the chances of them having an allergic reaction to the vaccine, potential shock reaction are very high. I would not even give it to a dog under 10 pounds in my practice, no matter what their lifestyle was. Lepto is spread by rats, raccoons, possums, skunks, foxes, and dairy cattle, and it’s spread through urine. So, puddles, standing water, streams that don’t really run, that’s where you’re going to find it. And so, particularly, the raccoons who go down to the water to wash their food, that’s where we see it. However, almost all lepto outbreaks that we have seen in this country in the past few years have been rats, rats in the cities. So, the city dogs are actually more at risk these days.
For instance, after COVID and New York City was shut down, the rat population, they actually just hired a rat czar. The rat population is out of control. And so, the lepto cases have gone up, because we have all these rats running around. So, if you live in the city, how do you protect your dog from rat urine? You get something called Walkee Paws, which are these great little leggings that are easy to put on your dog. They were invented by a woman in New York City who has a little white dog and lives in a high rise, and she said, “I am not walking my dog on those streets and then having it sleep in my bed.” [Cynthia laughs] So, those are awesome. So, that’s how you can protect your dog’s feet. And then keep their nose up off the ground, don’t let them be sniffing and licking and eating things that are icky.
So, in my 36 years of practice, I saw three cases of lepto. All the dogs survived, because it is treatable with antibiotics. The problem is diagnosing it. So, if your dog is not feeling well, if they’ve got blood in their urine, they’re real lethargic, they have a fever, get them in, get them checked. So, the three cases that I saw, one dog got it at a dog show, one dog got it in the woods at a training center, and the other dog, I don’t know where it got it because that was in an emergency clinic, and that was very early on. So, it’s not as common as they’d like it to be. I remember, I think it was last summer, there was a huge press release, an article that went out and said, “Lepto outbreak in Hoboken, New Jersey.” I read the article, there were four cases.
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs]
Dr. Judy Morgan: That’s an outbreak. The veterinarians love this. It’s like, everybody runs in to get their lepto vaccine. Lepto, it’s zoonotic. It’s transmissible to people. None of the cases that I had did any of the other animals in the house get sick or any of the people get sick. So, take that for what you will. So, it’s not a vaccine that I’ve ever given my dogs. It’s highly reactive vaccine. It’s not a good vaccine. It only lasts for 9 to 12 months. So, you do have to give that one every year.
Cynthia Thurlow: It’s interesting, because my new city, the new vet, who I haven’t found my favorite yet, but I know it’s going to happen, fear mongered the heck out of us last summer and was just going, “Well, you’re walking in trails. We have a lot of wildlife in our neighborhood. Your dogs are definitely coming in contact with wildlife urine. It’s endemic for ticks around here.” So, of course, it’s one of those things where I just said, is my typical, “I’m not anti-vaccine, I’m an educated individual. I’m just asking is this necessary? That got this. Otherwise, very nice vet, I got her on the defensive.
Dr. Judy Morgan: [laughs]
Cynthia Thurlow: Now, I think it’s important to at least briefly touch on flea and tick preventatives, because this is an area in particular where we’re seeing a lot of side effects related to these medications, much to your point. Sometimes, in smaller animals, smaller dogs, cats, they’re getting the same dose as much larger animals. And so, what are some of your recommendations about how to navigate flea and tick season? We’re in this very puritanical society. We don’t want to ever see a tick, we don’t ever want to see a flea, but we also have to balance that with making sure we’re not harming our pets in the process.
Dr. Judy Morgan: So, the big takeaway here is that almost all of the chemicals that are used topically and orally for our pets for fleas and ticks do not repel. So, the flea or tick has to get on your pet, plus or minus bite your pet, and have a blood meal in order to die. Lyme disease, we used to think, took 48 hours to be transmitted to your dog. Mm-hmm, it can happen very quickly. So, if the tick is attached and taking a blood meal for 12 hours before it gets enough chemical in it to die and fall off, that’s enough time for it to transmit Lyme disease. I remember when we first started testing for Lyme and I would get all these positive tests, people would say to me, “But I’ve been putting that topical on every single month. I’ve never missed a dose. How can my dog have Lyme disease?” Well, it still got bitten by the tick because it doesn’t repel. So, that’s the first thing for people to really understand.
Ticks are more difficult than fleas. Fleas are a piece of cake. The biggest problem with fleas is they only spend 5% of their time on the pet. So, 95% of the life cycle is in the environment. So, it’s in your house, in your rugs, in your crawl space, in your yard. People get so focused on giving chemicals to the pet. They never think about treating the environment, so they’re missing 95% of the problem. So, if you’re having a flea problem, yes, use– We have great blogs. We actually did an entire week, which is on YouTube and Instagram and Facebook last month on parasites and natural parasite prevention. We actually have an eBook that people can purchase on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention treatment, blah blah, blah. So, that has a ton of information in there.
For my own dogs, I really work on environmental control, my dogs and cats. So, I have a huge clowder of cats. We have 11 cats because we have a farm, and a couple of pregnant mommies showed up at the same time. We really stink at giving away kittens. We gave away one.
Dr. Judy Morgan: So, we have all these cats. They live outside, mostly in our barn. They also come in the house. They’re just sweet, wonderful kitties. So, who’s going to be exposed to fleas? It’s going to be those cats, because they’re mousing and they’re collecting little rodents and things. So far, we don’t have a flea problem with them. We live in the south. Part of the reason we don’t have a flea problem is because they’re raw fed. They’ve only had one vaccine. They’re just over a year old. They’re very healthy. Their immune system says, “I’m not going to let these parasites attack me.” So, we don’t have a huge problem. But what I do have for them is I have a natural parasite dust. So, for barn kitties, that’s really easy because I just put a little bit of powder in my hand and I pet the cat. It’s like great, fleas and ticks be gone. For our dogs, we keep them mostly in a mowed yard, where fleas and ticks don’t like to live. They really like to live in the woods. So, for those who are hiking in the woods, that’s a much bigger problem, or the tall grasses, that’s a much bigger problem.
So, things that we recommend, essential oil sprays. There’s a bunch of them on our website, essential oil sprays. Some of them are lavender based, some of them are lemongrass based. It’s really interesting that we have found in different areas of the country. Sometimes, one will do better than the other. There’s cedar oil-based sprays, there’s a lot of different essential oil sprays available. So, if you’re using one and it’s not working, switch to something that’s a different base because you may live in an area where the fleas are like lemongrass, who cares? So, try something different. Try a different company. We have a couple of different ones on our website.
You can also use oral feed throughs. So, there are garlic supplements. You can also use fresh garlic. It is not toxic to dogs. We have doses on our website. So, garlic is not toxic, and it actually is a great flea and tick repellent. It needs to really be fresh or there are some supplements with it. And then we also have two other feed-through supplements. One is called Bug Off, and the other one is, I don’t even remember, flea something, Flea & Tick Defense, I think. But they have herbs in them that you feed your pets that make them taste bad, so the fleas and ticks are like, “Eww, God, they smell bad. They taste bad.” You can’t smell it, but they can. And then we also have ultrasonic collars, we have scalar wave collar tags, so many different ways that you can approach it.
For instance, you’re in Virginia, that’s a very high tick area. I’d be doing everything. I’d be using a feed through, I’d be using a topical spray. The sprays, the essential oil sprays, every time you’re going to go walk in the woods, you need to spray the dog. It’s not once a month. It’s not that simple, but it’s so much healthier for your pet. So, do the feed throughs, do the topicals, add a tag on. My puppy, the one that is not vaccinated very well, although it’s enough for him, he seems to be the flea magnet. If I ever get a flea, it’s going to be him. And so, I was using my flea soap and washing him once a week because I kept finding fleas on him. I’m like, “Man, why is it you? Nobody else with fleas.” And so, I finally put one of the ultrasonic tags on, problem solved.
So, there’s just a lot of different ways to attack it. Now we can talk about, and I’m going to have to jump on this soapbox, because this one makes me crazy, the oral flea and tick chemicals that last one month or lasts three months, they’ve been around since 2014 and have killed hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats worldwide. Hundreds of thousands. And that is the number of reports that we have to the EPA and the FDA, which is the European and US Drug Reporting Systems. Only 1% of drug reactions are reported. That’s the estimate. 1% of adverse events are reported. So, if we have 100,000 animals dead that are reported, how many does that translate to that are not reported?
Then we have hundreds of thousands of animals that have seizures disorders that they are stuck with for life. One dose of medication can be enough to make your dog have seizures for the rest of their life. There are many lawsuits occurring, class action lawsuits on these drugs. I got word a couple of weeks ago that Europe is thinking about pulling these drugs off the market. Australia, on the other hand, has made them over the counter. They don’t even have to be prescribed by a veterinarian. So, go figure.
Cynthia Thurlow: No, that’s a tremendous extreme of– I always find that Europe tends to be much more progressive than the United States. The United States is so beholden to the pharmaceutical industry, the processed food industry in many instances where it’s not really protecting consumers as well as their pets.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Yeah, we had a conversation with the FDA about these drugs about four years ago, and at the time they said, “There haven’t been enough deaths yet.”
Cynthia Thurlow: Wow. If only 1% are reported, it’s– [crosstalk]
Dr. Judy Morgan: Right. My answer to them is, “Look, if it’s my pet, that’s 100% for me.” The problem is the veterinarians are in denial. So, I get reports and clients calling me all the time, their animals are having these reactions and problems. I had one that had a dose of the medication and started seizuring uncontrollably, dog was put on three different antiseizure medications, went and had the MRI, and the spinal tap, and the whole nine yards, and they couldn’t find anything of course, because these chemicals are neurotoxins, they are toxic to the neurologic system. So, when they went to the neurologist, they said, “We would like to use natural flea and tick prevention from here on out, because our dog is having these seizure problems secondary to this chemical.” And the neurologist said, “Oh, no, it’s not related to the drug. It’s fine. You can keep using that.”
Cynthia Thurlow: Wow. The degree of cognitive dissonance, even in the veterinary community is astounding. And for listeners to know that, we use the oral garlic tablets, we have the ultrasonic collar, we do spray the dogs. Because the more I started learning about how neurotoxic these drugs were, I was like, “There has to be a better option.” My dogs love being outside. They love being in the yard, they love being in the woods. And so, they’re definitely potentially exposed to these things. But thus far, knock on wood, we have not had a problem. There are some specific– [crosstalk]
Dr. Judy Morgan: Tick-borne diseases are treatable.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes.
Dr. Judy Morgan: If you’re in a high tick area and you’re really concerned, you can have the test run three or four times a year and just say, “Look, every few months I’m just going to run in, I’m going to get a blood test drawn.” That’s a cheap– Not free, but it’s a fairly inexpensive way to catch something early or if your dog becomes symptomatic. So, all of the tick-borne diseases have very similar. They’re flu-like symptoms. They might have a swollen joint. My house got infested 20 years ago with ticks. Every single dog had Lyme disease. I came up from the beach one day, opened the door, and there’s my little dog with a swollen knee, holding her leg up, acting like she broke her leg. I’m like, “Well, you’ve been in the house, so you didn’t break your leg.” I think we had five dogs at the time and every single one of them had Lyme disease, because we had a tick infestation. I know exactly I had taken the dog out to pee in the high grass, brought in a bunch of ticks, unbeknownst to me, so lesson learned.
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs] Absolutely. Now, there were some specific questions that came through that I think are high level, but very applicable lipomas. So, these fatty tumors. If I were to ask my vet what caused it, I always get this blank expression. It’s something to do with their liver. But I think you have a whole podcast episode talking about lipomas and I would love for you to walk us through. Now, I have a Labradoodle and I know in labs they’re very common, but it’s now gotten to the point where he looks lumpy. He’s 11 years old. We’ve gotten to the point now we don’t even question it. We’re like, “Oh, he has another lipoma. He just seems to collect them.”
This is a dog who walks four to five miles a day, eats a pretty healthy diet, gets fed sweet potato as a treat. He’s got a pretty good life. I always say my dogs have a great life. But the lipoma piece, I was shocked/curious learning that it is related to detoxification issues and this overburden of toxins in the body. This is even coming from one of my pets. So, I can imagine the vast majority of people that all this information is really new, it’s probably blowing their minds. Let’s talk about lipomas.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Yeah, so, that was a podcast that was just released a couple of weeks ago with Rita Hogan, who’s an herbalist, and she had some really interesting ideas on lipomas. But they’re basically areas of toxin deposition and the body is walling it off. It looks like fat. It looks like a huge glob of fat when you take them out, they’re 95% benign. I have seen a few liposarcomas, which are really aggressive, ugly, managed to treat a lot of them holistically though, which is great. So, lipomas can be removed, but if your dog has a lot of toxins, they’re going to keep making them. You can chase them around. Before, I was doing things more holistically. My last Doberman, wasn’t my last, couple of Dobermans back, but anyway, he had 80.
So, my kids and I sat there one day when he was like 10 or 11 years old and started counting as lumps. I was like, “This will be a fun game.” We got up to 80 and I gave up. He had lumps everywhere. I can tell you that, since I don’t feed– First of all, lipomas are much more common in medium to large breed dogs. Since I got so many clients off kibble, lipomas became something that was history. So, it’s overvaccination, kibble, and all the synthetic vitamins. So, when you look at the food that you’re feeding and you see that whole chemical list, that’s all synthetic. Your dog’s body, just like ours, if you’re getting your vitamins and minerals from Whole Foods, the body uses what it needs and spits out the rest. It’s really hard to OD on vitamin D from whole food, but if you’re giving a vitamin D supplement, yeah, you can put them in kidney failure really fast. So, the body knows what it needs.
When we throw synthetics at it, the body goes, “That’s a foreign invader. I think I need to attack that and I need to wall that off.” So, it’s synthetics in food, it’s vaccinations, it’s chemicals, it’s all these things that we are, and environmental toxins as well. Let’s not forget those because that’s something we don’t have quite as much control over, although we do have control over what we’re using to clean our house and that sort of thing. So, lipomas can be dissolved. So, this is where my Chinese medicine is going to come in. If you look up a list of phlegm-draining foods, things like pears and clams and peppermint and you start adding those into your dog’s diet, and if you get your dog’s off kibble, a lot of times you’ll see those lipomas start to shrink. Some acupuncturists will do something called surround the dragon, where they put needles around the lipomas, and that’ll help start getting them to shrink as well. And then we definitely see more lipomas in obese dogs. So, obesity is a huge problem.
But carbohydrates break down to sugars, and those are highly inflammatory for our dogs. That’s not what they’re meant to eat. So, kibble is going to be at least 50% to 60% carbohydrates. There’s just no way around it. They can’t make an extruded kibble that has less than that. It won’t stick together as a kibble. When you read the label on the bag, they don’t list carbohydrates on there. They list fat, protein, moisture, and ash. They don’t list carbs. So, basically, if you add up those and subtract from 100, that’s how much carbs you have.
Cynthia Thurlow: That’s a really important distinction to make, because I think even well-meaning pet owners, like, myself thinking, we’re buying this. It’s pork and squash. It’s grain free. But there is unnecessary carbohydrate in there that we can be feeding our pets that can be unknowingly contributing to this problem. I think this is– [crosstalk]
Dr. Judy Morgan: Synthetic vitamins.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, really, it’s huge. I think even in the podcast, they were talking about avoiding fatty meats. So, lamb, salmon, which is lamb and duck, or things to avoid because there can be some degree of fat malabsorption. Is that correct?
Dr. Judy Morgan: There can be. I don’t feed lamb much to my dogs. Anyway, I do feed pork, because pork is actually very lean if you’re buying the right pork. Salmon, I don’t feed large fish very often. So, that’s a treat now and then. Whitefish is not so bad, because that’s very lean. So, it just depends. My dogs are on a huge rotation. There’re probably 12 different proteins in my freezer and there’re at least four different brands of pet food in my freezer, plus I make my own sometimes. So, I’m a huge fan of rotation with diets. This whole “put the same thing in the bowl twice a day every day” is just so horrible.
Cynthia Thurlow: No, I agree with you. In fact, I always say monogamy is a good thing. However, food monogamy is not. Even as humans, we want to be having different proteins, different vegetables. Let’s talk about teeth. How to keep teeth healthy? Do you buy into the fact that you have to brush your dog’s teeth every day? What type of toothpaste do you recommend, if at all? Curious how you feel about that.
Dr. Judy Morgan: So, dogs who are fed high-carbohydrate diets are going to have a lot more tartar on their teeth. It’s like us eating candy bars all the time and never brushing our teeth. So, if you are a raw feeder and your dog is chewing on raw meaty bones, which is what they’re meant to chew on, then they’re going to have very few dental problems, although occasionally a really aggressive chewer may crack a tooth. So, it’s still very, very important to have a dental exam at least once a year. For those who are not feeding raw meaty bones, you really do need to brush your dog’s teeth every day. If you think about it, humans brush our teeth twice a day. We floss twice a day, if we’re good. We floss twice a day. We go to the dentist and have a professional cleaning twice a year.
Then we look at our dogs, we ignore their mouth for a whole year and they’re being fed starchy carbs that break down to sugar, so their teeth are always coated with sugar, which screws up the microbiome, which is the bacterial population in their mouth. And they make tartar, and then we look in there two years later and go, “Eww, why does he have bad breath? Oh my gosh, all his teeth are loose. Oh, that’s horrible.” So, yeah, brushing, because we don’t floss their teeth and we don’t get professional dental cleanings twice a year, so brushing becomes really pivotal. I don’t like any of the toothpastes that are on the market. They all have a lot of chemicals in them. So, my recommendation is organic coconut oil or we have a couple of DIY toothpaste recipes on our website. One uses a probiotic that we really like and you mix that with the coconut oil, so that you’re getting a better microbiome in the mouth to help prevent that tartar buildup. The other one, we have a dental drop that is my own label that you can mix with the coconut oil as well.
So, not all pets like to have their teeth brushed. It becomes something where you have to train them. So, ideally you would train them as a puppy or kitten to allow you in there. So, unless your dog or cat is one who is going to bite you right off the bat, I recommend dip your finger in a little coconut oil or bone broth, and just start rubbing along the gums, and get them used to just having something in there. Then you can buy, there’s a little soft finger brush that has little tiny bristles on it, little coconut oil on that. Use that and work your way up to actually using a toothbrush. There are a lot of different doggy toothbrushes available on the market. Otherwise, you can use a pediatric toothbrush. It works really well. So, unfortunately, we do have to do some dental care for our pets. We ignore their teeth for way too long.
My early years in practice, I used to say, if I saw a Yorkie with any teeth left in its mouth after age seven, it was a miracle. Because we ignored their teeth. We never did anything for them. The problem with ignoring dental disease is all that bacteria in the mouth bloodstream through there goes to the heart valves, goes to the kidneys. We see heart failure, we see kidney failure secondary to not taking care of the mouth. So, it’s really, really critical.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, and it’s important. It’s interesting. Coconut oil has these antimicrobial properties, so my dogs actually don’t mind having their teeth brushed and they have only had both needed to have their teeth cleaned once. So, I always say like, I had a Bichon Frise, and it was like every year from the age of five on. It was like every year. I didn’t know any better back then. She used to get Eukanuba because that’s what the vet had recommended, which I now know is crap.
In terms of exercise, depending on the dog or the cat obviously how much, how often–? My dogs at 10 and 11 walk three to five miles a day easily, unless it’s really hot because it does get warm here in the summer. But I’ll get them on the treadmill as well.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Awesome.
Cynthia Thurlow: Very, very low speed just to improve them. When you’re talking about exercise, same thing as I talk to adults about exercise. What are your overall prevailing suggestions?
Dr. Judy Morgan: Every day, some sort of exercise, do not be weekend warriors, do not take your dog out on Saturday or Sunday and play frisbee with them at the park all day, and then expect them to move on Monday. They need mental stimulation. First of all, they need interaction. So, my 15-and-a-half-year-old dog, he goes out and his exercise is wandering around the backyard doing smell tours and checking his P-mail, [Cynthia laughs] and just having a good old time out there for an hour or two a day. And then my young puppy, he goes out. Our backyard is probably a half-acre fence and it’s surrounded by donkeys, and horses, and chickens. He literally spends hours at top speed racing around the yard, saying hi to all of his friends, and just having a really good time.
We just adopted about a five-year-old Cocker, and he has a jolly ball, which is a ball with a handle on it. He will chase that ball hours on end, if we will continue to throw it for him. So, he gets two or three about half hour times out there. And then I have, oh, gosh, she’s seven, English Toy Spaniel, and her idea of exercise is sitting outside the door waiting to come back in. But I still make her go out there and get some stimulation. Sometimes, I carry her out to the back of the yard to make her walk up to the house just because she needs some exercise.
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs] Obviously, a lot of it is personality dependent.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Yes. But then also just playing with them, interacting with them. And then for people with cats, just because you have an indoor cat who sleeps all the time, that doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise. They absolutely need exercise, particularly, if they’re on a dry kibble diet, which is the worst thing you could ever feed to a cat, that’s why we have so many obese cats? They need exercise. So, laser tag is actually really good. You can teach them to chase balls, chase toys, and they actually will learn to play fetch. They can be very doglike. If you’re doing laser tag with your cats, the one thing that I will tell you, it’s very frustrating for a cat to not get the prey at the end. So, you have to give them something at the end of laser tag, like, they have to win.
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs]
Dr. Judy Morgan: We have these little wool mice toys on the website, balls, or a treat, something that they like, so that at the end, when they make that final pounce, they land on something that they get to take off to their lair and be like, “I win.” Thrill of the chase was great. So, don’t frustrate your cat. Make sure that they win at the end.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, such an important distinction. Obviously, the mental and physical stimulation is certainly very important. There’s one last question that came up multiple times. Not an issue that my pets are having, but many people indicating that their dog’s anal glands are problematic that they have to go to the vet every month. The questions came in about, is it normal for me to have to take my dog to the vet every month to have their anal glands expressed? I’m guessing, no. Is there also an element of ruling out parasites that could be mitigating some of the issues with anal glands or what are your general thoughts? If someone has to have their pet going that regularly, what else? Potentially, again, high level because this is not your patient, what could be some of the potential issues that are driving this?
Dr. Judy Morgan: I actually have a blog on anal glands.
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs]
Dr. Judy Morgan: One of the things that I say is, “Stop tweaking the tushy,” because what happens is we cause scar tissue over time, inflammation every time we squeeze those anal glands. So, we really don’t want to. The only time we want to express an anal gland, if it is truly, truly impacted with a very thick secretion that won’t come out. If it’s a liquid secretion they’re going to get it out, unless they have anatomical defect back there. So, again, when I have pets on the correct diet, the chances of having anal gland problems go way down. I’ve never squeezed an anal gland on any of my dogs or my cats. It’s just not an issue. They’re raw fed. So, they get fiber in their diet, they get bone in their diet because it’s raw. never feed a cooked bone. So, a lot of it is diet.
The anal glands are a scent gland. When the stool passes out the back end of the animal, the glands are at the 5 and 7 o’clock position on the anus. So, when the stool passes through there, if the stool is a well-formed solid stool, it puts pressure on it, and that causes the scent to be released, so that they’re leaving their scent in their mail around the yard. So, that’s the first thing to look at. If you’re having to have those cleaned out all the time, does your pet have a good well-formed stool? If they don’t, you could try adding fiber supplements. So, there’s a ton of them on the market, but ground pumpkin seed works really well.
Again, my raw fed animals who have decent bone content in their food, I just never have an issue. They have just this beautiful, small, firm poop. By the way, people, if you switch from a kibble to a raw food, you’ll notice that the amount of poop goes down by about half and the amount of water that they consume will go down by about 90%, because they’re getting the moisture in their diet, and they’re digesting their food instead of just processing it on out. I get a lot of people who complain about the cost, what you will save in veterinary bills, not having to go to the veterinarian every month to have the tushy tweaked or the groomer, you’ll save the money.
Cynthia Thurlow: That’s incredible. This has just been a really enlightening conversation. I really value your experiences, your perspective. I’m so grateful that my listeners will be able to learn from you. How do we go about finding a holistic-minded vet? Because that has been my challenge in my new city. I finally found a vet that does acupuncture, so I will be seeing her later this week for my eleven-year-old dog. But if you live across the United States or abroad, are there any regulating agencies or any places where they can go where they can try to find or do they just need to google [laughs] holistic vets, and hope there’s someone in their area? Any resources for them?
Dr. Judy Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. So, in the new book, Raising Naturally Healthy Pets, there’s a whole chapter on finding your veterinarian, and how to decide who’s the right one for you, and how to talk to them. If you can’t find a holistic veterinarian, how do you deal with the veterinarian that you have? So, the easiest place to look for what might be a holistic veterinarian is A-H-V-M-A dot org. It’s the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, ahvma.org. They have a veterinary finder on there under each state, and it’ll tell you what the veterinarian is certified in, whether it’s acupuncture, chiropractic, food therapy, whatever. With that said, any veterinarian can join the AHVMA and be on that site. So, we find some veterinarians who are trained in acupuncture, but they’re still recommending a lot of flea and tick chemicals, they’re still recommending prescription diets, they’re against raw feeding. So, just because you find somebody on that list, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be exactly where you want to be.
Now when I moved from New Jersey to North Carolina two and a half years ago, I did not get a license in North Carolina. So, I had to find a veterinarian for my animals. We have 56 animals right now. And so, I had to find a veterinarian for my animals. First, I started with a house call veterinarian who’s very nice, and she was from overseas, and so she was really into the raw feeding and making your own food, because they look at things a little differently in some other countries. So, she was great. But she didn’t have the facilities that I needed for everything that I needed done.
So, a new veterinarian came town and I thought, “Well, you know what, I’m just going to go, take some animals, interview her, see what we got.” She’s young, been out of school maybe five years. I walked in with four dogs and a cat and introduced myself. She had never heard of me, and I had my stack of books with me, and I handed her my books, and I said, “This is who I am. I’m really holistic. I feed my animals raw and I don’t vaccinate them. You okay with that?” And she went, “Sure.” And I thought, “Well this is great.”
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs]
Dr. Judy Morgan: So, it’s funny. A lot of people now go to her because they know that I go to her. But she’s very traditional. One of her technicians said to me, well, if somebody comes in and they say that they came– Because they asked what their referral source was. “If they say they came because of you, it’s a totally different conversation with those clients than their traditional clients.” They never mention flea and tick chemicals, they don’t push vaccines, they’re fine with the raw feeding. So, it really, sometimes, is just a matter. You may have a very traditional veterinarian that– Like you, you can have a conversation and agree to disagree and say, “Well, this is my belief system. I’m responsible for my pet, and I’m willing to accept that responsibility. Look, if he gets lepto because I didn’t vaccinate him, I accept that responsibility. I’m going to pay you to treat him, okay?”
So, try not to back them into a corner. Don’t put them on the defensive because that’s where it just goes really south really fast. For some people, if you have to go to an emergency service with your pet at night and you’re a raw feeder, you might have to lie.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, they’ll think you’re crazy.
Dr. Judy Morgan: They do.
Cynthia Thurlow: [laughs]
Dr. Judy Morgan: [crosstalk] Years ago, we took one of our dogs in who was having an ear ablation surgery. It was one of our rescues. We took freeze-dried raw in because he had to spend the night. I thought, “Well, they don’t have to put in the refrigerator. All they have to do is add water. This will be so simple.” They flipped out and said, “Oh, my gosh, that’s raw food.” My husband’s staying there with the bag going, “Well, it’s freeze dried.” And they said, “No, that’s raw food.” They put the dog in isolation for anybody touch the dog, they had to cap, gown, mask, put on gloves, the gown, the booties, the whole nine yards, and kept my dog in isolation. It made my husband take the dogfood home and bring back cooked food.
Cynthia Thurlow: Wow, that seems a little bit of overkill. Good Lord.
Dr. Judy Morgan: It is overkill. But that’s the belief system that a lot of them have. So, we had a cat who just broke his leg, and we had to take him in for orthopedic surgery, and I’m like, “He’s on homemade food.” I didn’t even push it past that. I was like, “I’m not fessing up here because I need this cat to have surgery right now.” [laughs]
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes. That’s the unfortunate thing. I know, even for myself, when I go to the vet, I generally don’t want them to know that I have a medical background. But inevitably, I’ll use a term and they’ll say, “Well–“
Dr. Judy Morgan: Yeah. [giggles]
Cynthia Thurlow: And then I have to fess up. But I just say, “Listen, I’m human person. I’m not the expert here. However, these are the things that are important to me.” And so, trying to navigate, finding the right person for us. I’m hopeful this open-minded acupuncture veterinarian on Friday will be able to fill in the gaps. Please let my community know how to connect with you online, how to go in your email list, how to purchase your books, which will be an incredible resource, how to check out your products? I was doing that last night, realizing– after speaking with you, I was probably going to be doing some shopping for our dogs.
Dr. Judy Morgan: [laughs] So our website is drjudymorgan.com. You can also get there through naturallyhealthypets.com. We are on all the different social media channels. If you sign up for our newsletter on the website, you will instantly get an email that gives you the list of pet foods that I am willing to feed my own pets. It’s a fairly short list. That doesn’t mean that those are the only ones that are good. It’s just those are ones that I have actually fed to my pets and would continue to feed to my pets. And then, my books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, on our website, we have just tons and tons and tons of information on our social media, tons of blogs. We also have Dr. Judy U where we have courses available on Dog Longevity, Cat Longevity, Homemade Dog Food 101 for people who are interested in learning how to make their own food. We have courses on how to interpret your pet’s lab work, because the veterinarians aren’t always so forthcoming with all that information. We’re trying to empower pet parents to take control of their pet’s health and be able to navigate the veterinary system better.
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, thank you so much for all the work that you do and it’s really been an invaluable conversation.
Dr. Judy Morgan: Thank you.
Cynthia Thurlow: If you love this podcast episode, please leave a rating and review, subscribe, and tell a friend.