Endangered Dogs and Cats

Veterinarians are frustrated. They treat pets engulfed by relentless disorders with multiple and seemingly unrelated clinical signs. They frequently can do little more than temporarily relieve their patients and make them more comfortable, but are unsuccessful in reversing the decline in vitality and health, or the course of disease. Many times veterinarians have no choice but to euthanize hopelessly sick pets, even young ones. On a daily basis veterinarians see animals like the following cases I have worked with:

  • Georgette, a beautiful three-year-old Golden Retriever, developed the canine equivalent of breast cancer. Another veterinarian had removed the mammary gland tumor and treated the dog with radiation. Within weeks, however, an adjacent mammary gland became cancerous. The vet removed the new tumor and again treated the dog with radiation. At this point, the veterinarian was extremely pessimistic about the chances for survival and indicated to the owners that the dog probably had no more than three to six months to live.

  • Miles, a seven-year-old Airedale weighing just over a hundred pounds, had developed aggressive behavior and had bitten his owner on two occasions. Just prior to these attacks, a strange expression of rage suddenly appeared on Miles’ face. Something had to be done or else Miles would probably have to be euthanized.

  • Buster was dying. This six-year-old domestic longhair male had been previously diagnosed with feline leukemia and treated with chemotherapy by another veterinarian. By the time I treated the cat, he had chronic diarrhea, was losing weight, and unable to hold his food down. Buster had anemia and white gums, typical of advanced disease, and major hair loss, a side effect of the chemotherapy. A blood test revealed that the cat had serious hormonal imbalances affecting his immune system. He was overproducing killer cells that were not only attacking the leukemia virus but also his own tissue.

  • Bob, a three-year-old male mixed breed dog, and Cherry, a five-year-old shorthair female cat, shared the same household and the same daily diet of lamb and rice kibble. Their owner, like most people, believed that this type of diet was safe and hypoallergenic, meaning food that does not cause allergic reactions. Yet, his dog and cat had developed diarrhea and vomiting. Both animal companions had flaky skin and weight loss, signs of improper food absorption, and were clearly unhealthy. The concerned owner brought the animals to my clinic, puzzled over their illness.

  • Candy had been a national field trial champion at the age of two, but a year later, the Brittany Spaniel had refused to run, point, and fetch. She had been bred but could not conceive. Candy also developed “valley fever,” a mysterious and hard-to treat fungal condition that damages the lungs.

These cases are examples of an insidious, unsuspected epidemic that sickens, weakens, and kills companion animals before their time. Pure and mixed breeds. Males and females. Neutered, spayed, and intact animals. All are at risk. Many are suffering because of this unrecognized epidemic. As a result, veterinarians are seeing the following manifestations of ill health:

  • More chronic diseases, particularly chronic health problems among younger animals that previously affected mostly older animals.
  • Middle-aged animals with the appearance and organs of old animals.
  • More animals with weakened immune systems.
  • More cancer.
  • More animals unresponsive to conventional treatment.
  • More relentless skin allergies with inflammation, ulceration, and itchiness.
  • Severe hypersensitivity to food and insect bites.
  • Conditions among many breeds that were originally thought to affect only one particular breed.
  • Inability to develop protective antibodies from vaccinations.
  • Miscarriages and sterility.
  • Aggressiveness, rage, and strange behavior.

Are Pets Headed for Extinction?
During more than thirty-five years in practice, I have treated tens of thousands of dogs and cats with these kinds of problems. Many years ago, I was fortunate to discover a common underlying mechanism for multiple illnesses of pets that involves certain imbalances within the endocrine and immune systems of the body.

Endocrine refers to the system of glands that produces hormones, molecules that serve as messengers in an amazing network of inner intelligence that regulates the function of the body. Health and orderliness are based on this inner intelligence. There are myriad hormones made in the body, many of which scientists still don’t clearly understand. These substances are secreted by glands – such as the adrenals, ovaries, and thyroid – that are overseen by higher centers in the brain. The problem I have identified starts with hormonal imbalances that affect the immune system, a network of cells and organs that defends the body against bacteria, viruses, and disease.

I have seen these imbalances many times, creating so much bad health that I seriously fear for the survival of our cherished pets. One thing is for sure: if this epidemic continues to grow, basic health care costs of pets may become so prohibitive that many people will not be able to afford pets at all.

The physical starting point of the problem I have identified is a defect in the adrenal glands, important hubs of hormone production. The defect creates a damaging domino effect among other hormones that weakens the immune system. The end result is a major loss of protection against disease and a greatly increased risk for disease.

I became alarmed and concerned early on in my veterinary practice more than thirty years ago. As more clients brought inexplicably sick animals into my clinic, I became dissatisfied with just treating the superficial signs. Moreover, the conventional treatments I was trained to do were having little impact on animals seemingly more susceptible to disease and allergies and who were living shorter and sicker lives.

I saw dogs dying at six or eight years instead of twelve or fourteen. They developed bizarre autoimmune diseases pitting them in a life-and-death struggle not just against bacteria and viruses but against the very food they ate. I saw cats with confounding combinations of inflammatory bowel disease, failing kidneys, and urinary tract disorders.

My medical school training did not prepare me to deal with this inundation of ill health. So I had to learn on my own. Over time I learned that many of the problems I saw had an apparent common denominator of skewed hormones and compromised immune system. Some animals with this endocrine-immune disturbance would develop clinical signs of disease early on in life. Others would develop disease later. I liken this disturbance to a timebomb. Some animals have long fuses. Others short fuses. Sometimes the disturbance manifests dramatically in acute illness. Other times, the endocrine-immune disturbance slowly unravels an apparently healthy and orderly system, infecting the system with increasing chaos like a computer virus. In the process, animals are often unable to absorb medication and respond to conventional treatments. Until the imbalances are corrected, the treatments may not work.

Sometimes stress, poor diet, exposure to toxic chemicals, and parasites such as fleas can aggravate, or even cause, the imbalances. My clinical studies indicate, however, that animals are more likely to react to these factors simply because their immune systems are compromised by hormonal imbalances. For instance, the scratching itching and skin problems typically associated with fleas are usually secondary to hormonal-immune imbalances. Correct the imbalances and the animal becomes healthy. The fleas go elsewhere and target other weak animals.

The solution is to identify the hormonal defect and correct it. This is what I did for Georgette, Miles, Buster, Bob, Cherry, and Candy, all of whom recovered from their illnesses. After years of treating thousands of dogs and cats with serious and chronic health problems, I want to share the same program that I use so successfully with pet owners and their veterinarians, so they can recognize hormonal defects, correct them, and restore health to ailing animal companions.

About the Authors

Alfred J. Plechner and Martin Zucker have collaborated to write Pets at Risk with its breakthrough information. Dr. Plechner combines his thirty-five years of veterinary clinical knowledge with Zucker’s twenty-five years as a writer specializing in health and medicine. They first worked together in 1986 when they co-authored Pet Allergies: Remedies for an Epidemic, which the Seattle Times described as “a superb, provocative wake-up call to American pet owners.”
Dr. Plechner is a graduate of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He practices at the California Animal Hospital, which has been ranked among the top 1 percent of animal clinics in the United States. His research and clinical experiences have been published in veterinary and medical journals, including Medical Hypotheses, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, and Progressive Health News.

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Plechner co-developed the first successful commercial lamb and rice diet, a new hypoallergenic pet food diet that was widely copied. He later developed a new generation of hypoallergenic foods that are currently sold by veterinarians nationwide.

Martin Zucker was a former foreign correspondent with Associated Press, who has since written, co-written, or ghostwritten more than ten books. His specialty is health and medicine. His five previous books on pet health include The Veterinarians’ Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs and The Veterinarians’ Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats (Three Rivers Press/Crown, 2000). His most recent books are Preventing Arthritis (G. P. Putnam & Sons, 2001) and Natural Hormone Balance for Women (Pocket Books, 2002).

To read recent articles by Dr. Plechner, visit his web site at

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Written by Martin Zucker

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