by Pat Rock

A Cautionary Tale

“First do no harm.” The phrase is not actually part of the Hippocratic Oath, but it is part of the Hippocratic Corpus (some additional writings associated with the oath.)

Here’s a story about a recent experience by a pet owner that illustrates the above principle:

Trixie was four years old when she went to live with a family that has had dogs from me for over thirty years. I live in an area that has plenty of ticks, and I travel to field trials with my dogs where they can be exposed. I use natural repellents and go over the dogs regularly and remove any ticks I find. I generally find more on me than the dogs! I’ve probably averaged maintaining about a dozen dogs at a time for at least the last four decades. Never had a dog with Lyme Disease. I’m sure many have been exposed, developed antibodies, and moved on. As a matter of fact, years ago when Lyme was becoming more widespread, researchers used to go into shelters and test serum from healthy stray dogs to estimate the rate of infection among the tick population in a given area.

“Just to be on the safe side”

After they had had her for a year Trixie’s owners took her to the vet for a well-dog checkup. A heartworm test and Lyme test were performed as part of her physical. The Lyme test came up positive for antibodies (but not the disease). The vet prescribed a course of doxycycline; “just to be on the safe side”. A month or so later Trixie began to lose weight. She was active and seemed to feel fine, but had lost a significant amount of weight. She had good appetite but could not gain the weight back. Then her stools became soft, then liquid. A fecal revealed a few hookworm so she was treated for that. The weight loss continued, and the stools were still liquid. The vet suggested enzyme insufficiency and suggested an enzyme supplement. The owner contacted me as the weight loss was really scaring her. I sent her some Bio-Sponge and Slippery Elm to help what sounded to me like Leaky Gut Syndrome and suggested a visit to a wholistic vet. Once the Leaky Gut was addressed Trixie began to mend.

This scenario is not at all uncommon.

The medical term for it is “iatrogenic illness”; an illness that is caused by a medical treatment. The course of antibiotics (typically quite long when you are treating for Lyme) had apparently wiped out the normal microbiome (the assortment of many populations of bacteria) in Trixie’s gut. Antibiotics can be life-saving, but the use of them should always be accompanied by pre-biotic and pro-biotic supplementation to restore the gut bacteria, or at least nudge it in the right direction. Medical researchers are finally realizing the importance of the gut microbiome, and research is turning up amazing findings. Just this week a report came out indicating that the breast of mammals has its own unique profile of microbial life. Who knew?

It is time for all of us to get our heads wrapped around the concept of our, and our dog’s bodies harboring many populations of microscopic critters that are essential to our health. When we kill off the “bad guys” and the “good guys” indiscriminately, we leave a barren landscape, but not for more than minutes! Opportunistic microbes that had been kept to a minimum by competition with the “good guys” now have an unobstructed buffet of nutrients, and a lack of inhibiting chemicals secreted by the “good guys.” Some bacteria can double their population every 20 minutes! That translates to billions overnight, producing chemicals which can be absorbed into the host’s bloodstream causing inflammation, and interrupting the tight junctions between cells lining the intestinal tract allowing large molecules to pass into the circulation.

A classic example of “First, do no harm.”