(Ed note: This article was first published in 1998, and has since been updated and expanded for this issue.)

As we know, pet health lies in the hands of owners, especially owners of urban animals since access to “wild” food is practically non-existent. Thus a nutritious diet can serve a fourfold objective: to nourish; to promote growth; to provide health protection; and to promote resistance to infectious disease. What follows are two stories of recovery, in which the dog owners used natural medicines and optimal nutrition to restore the health and vitality of their canine friends.

Tibetan Spaniel Overcomes Obesity

Recovery & Success Stories NEW TRICKS FOR OLD DOGSA Tibetan Spaniel is smaller than other spaniel breeds; a male generally weighs no more than 11 pounds. When Rita and Carol switched to a healthier lifestyle, they changed their pets’ lives too. Beaker, their 10 year old Tibetan Spaniel, had spent years on a diet of ‘regular commercial canned food for small animals’. She was overweight, lethargic, with a thinning coat, stiff joints, and a growing cataract problem.

A visit to holistic veterinarian Dr. Sharon Kopinak confirmed the basic issue – Beaker was a dog both malnourished and well above her optimal weight. Armed with instructions from Dr. Kopinak, plus a copy of the pet owner’s classic Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D., Carol and Rita initiated a new dietary regime to turn Beaker’s health around.

For the first three days, Beaker refused to eat because she wanted her old food back. But then she gradually adjusted to a new menu which included herbs, vitamins, and supplements recommended in Pitcairn’s book. One of the recipes which formed part of Beaker’s new diet was:



Pitcairn’s Meat-Bean-Rice Dish for Dogs

(Yield: About 2-2/3 cups)

  • 1¾ cups brown rice, cooked
  • ⅓ cup lean organic meat, chopped into small cubes
  • ½ cup cooked beans (kidney, pinto, black, navy or lima)
  • ¼ cup grated or chopped vegetables (carrots, squash, beans, broccoli etc.), lightly steamed
  • 1½ tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Heat the rice, meat and beans together. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients, let cool, and package into portion containers. Sometimes tuna, sardines or cubed chicken is added to the mixture just before “dinner time.”

The herbs and supplements used by the two women to enhance Beaker’s rejuvenation included:

Garlic – to stimulate the intestinal tract and digestive process. Pitcairn recommends fresh, grated garlic with each meal, using 1/2 (small dogs) to 2 cloves (large dogs) according to the size of the dog. Rita and Carol also use garlic and ground pumpkin seeds to guard against worms and fleas.

Alfalfa – was used to relieve muscle and joint pains and urinary problems. “We prefer Ontario-grown alfalfa,” says Rita, “but Beaker hated it, while our cat Mitzi loved it!” Depending on body size, add 1 tsp to 2 Tbsp of fresh or ground or dry-blended alfalfa to the daily rations. Or make a tea by steeping 1-2 Tbsp of the herb in one cup of water for 20 minutes. Mix it with food, or give orally with a bulb syringe (or turkey baster). Alfalfa is also a good herb for a dog which is underweight, and in poor physical health.

Tahitian Noni Juice – was given every morning, by the eye dropperful, to help support the liver and restore the health of the dog’s skin and fur.   (Ed: see page 56 for more info.)

Vitamin E – one eye dropperful was given each morning to strengthen the dog’s tissues and support the eyes.

Bilberry extract ­– one dropperful each morning, which improved circulation and strengthened the eyes.

Within two months Beaker experienced a complete reversal of many of her health problems. “It took a lot of time and effort,” said Carol, “but it has been worth it. Now we have a dog with the energy of one half her age, ideal body weight, clear and bright eyes, and a silky coat. She is a happy animal.”

(Addendum: Beaker lived an optimum quality life for 17.5 years, and was a vibrant energetic bundle of joy.)

German Shepherd Recovers from Arthritis

Recovery & Success Stories NEW TRICKS FOR OLD DOGSWhen Deb Weiler brought home an eight-year-old German Shepherd named Will from the Toronto Humane Society, she knew she might also be taking on health problems typical of the dog’s age and breed – arthritis and hip dysplasia. From her personal experience, however, she also knew that natural therapies, good food, and exercise can revitalize the body and strengthen immunity.

The first signs she noticed of Will’s health problems included difficulty climbing the stairs to her apartment, plus a rough coat and distinctive body odour.

As a vegetarian, Deb first tried to boost Will’s health with a meat-free diet, detox program, plus vitamins and minerals. However, it soon became apparent that Will was indeed a carnivore, so removing meat from his diet would not help accelerate recovery. Thus meat and bones were returned to the menu. The high quality Wysong brand of dog food became one of Deb’s products of choice, particularly the formulas for dogs with food sensitivities.

Raw vegetables were also a part of Will’s daily diet, especially carrots, beets and celery, as they cleanse the liver. She also provided a daily dose of cold-pressed oils such as safflower, cod-liver, and vitamin E, along with kelp, both for their nutritive value and to generate a healthy coat.

Among the herbs used were garlic and yucca. Yucca enjoys a reputation for its pain-relieving properties for arthritis, hip dysplasia, and joint discomfort. Garlic is anti-parasitic and blood cleansing.

Vitamin C was also used – up to 3,000 mg per day (when the stool softens radically, the daily dosage may be cut back).

Among the homeopathic remedies recommended for arthritis are: Rhus tox for an animal which is sore and stiff upon getting up, but movement relieves the discomfort. This is the one Deb used although she had to repeat the dosage a month after the first round of treatment. Arnica is another remedy for swelling, bruising or pain – one pellet three times per day for a few days is Diane Stein’s recommendation.

Drawing on the advice in Diane Stein’s book, The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs & Cats, the results were nothing short of amazing. “Will’s transformation,” says Deb, “didn’t happen overnight. We had several healing crises, but now 18 months later I have a dog relieved of arthritis pain, with energy to burn, who is responsive to me and our friends.


• Sharon Kopinak, DVM, Rockwood, Ontario; Phone 519-853-5142
• Sasan Haghighat (Hyatt), DVM, CVA, North-East Newmarket Vet Services, 987 Davis Drive, Newmarket, ON;  Phone: 905-830-1030, email:, visit:

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