Kate's Memorial Artwork!

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I have a young friend (an Ecology and Studio Art major at UNI) who is an amazing artist and has put her skills to work creating lovely memorial artwork of animals incorporating personal aspects of their lives in beautiful and whimsical ways.

The paintings above are of her family's cat, Cinder, and their adorable pet rats. This family had many losses all in a very short time and pulling them all together into this beautiful world has helped them to remember and enjoy the wonderful times with all of these loved ones. Going through the process of deciding what to include has been healing in its own way.

"These are an homage to the lives of our dear friends, so to fully capture their personalities, the tales of their daring exploits must also be included. The plants, objects, and animals all represent a story so they will always be remembered." -Kate

Kate is also quite talented a capturing the living - see Berlioz below
"He’s a cute li’l guy isn’t he?" She works in various types of media including recycled materials!

If you are interested in talking to her about commissioning a personal piece of art, let me know and I can put you in touch!


Dangers of Grain Free Diets?!

Grain free diets for animals have been popular for many years now due to various concerns about food allergies and the human concerns with eating gluten-free. Unfortunately, a trend is being seen of some dogs (and a few cats) developing a heart condition called DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) that may be connected to diet. This condition has previously only been seen in specific breeds with a genetic predisposition (Boxers, Great Danes, Doberman pincers,…) Now it is being seen in other breeds of dogs and a connecting factor is the feeding of "Boutique, Exotic ingredient, and Grain-Free" diets (labeled BEG diets by researchers). So far, concerns for large amounts of chickpeas, peas, lentils and other legumes, and potatoes (sweet and regular) as substitutes for protein and carbohydrate needs has been singled out, though there are still a lot of unknowns including genetic differences in metabolism. A similar condition occurred in cats many years ago and was linked to taurine insufficiency in diets. Now all cat foods are supplemented with taurine. This appears to be related, but a simple taurine addition has not been sufficient in the case of these dogs.

Switching to a more research-based brand has reversed the condition in several cases. The official recommendation is to stick with the "Big 5" dog food brands that have more extensive research and feeding trials: Eukanuba, Iams, Hill's Science Diet, Purina (ProPlan & higher end versions), and Royal Canin. Studies are continuing in order to learn more about what may be affecting these dogs. Sadly, signs of DCM heart disease come on suddenly and some have died. Though still very rare, over 300 animals (6 cats, the rest dogs) in the last 5 years have been diagnosed as having DCM with what seems to be a dietary connection.

For all we know about nutrition, there is still so much unknown. Dietary rotation (feeding a few different brands and ingredients) is an option to avoid long term effects of nutritional deficiencies with any one diet as well as ingredient concerns such as the recent Science Diet recalls for excessive vitamin D levels. Home cooked diets are another option, but this can also have concerns of nutritional deficiencies. Varying ingredients and sticking with recipes formulated by boarded veterinary nutritionists are important steps. Please avoid random online sites for homemade diets! I can help to guide these choices. If you would like to schedule an examination and to discuss your animal's dietary needs, please
contact me!

For more nutrition discussion see topics in Pet Care:
Healthy Diet and Supplements
Here is a link to a good explanation from
NC State Veterinary Hospital

Medicine Around the World

Tree of Peace

On a visit to the Peace Pagoda in Leverett Massachusetts last fall, I found this tree dedicated by Jake Swamp (Tree of Peace Society) in 1985. My friend, Dr Laurie Dohmen and I were on our way to Kripalu School of Ayurveda where this past year we attended three 10 day modules of a course in Foundations of Ayurveda and Ayurvedic Herbology. We had the honor of being the first veterinarians in the Kripalu course! Our fellow classmates went on to become Certified Ayurvedic Health Councilors and Laurie and I have gone on to continue our exploration of Ayurvedic Medicine and its herbs to help our animal patients and our veterinary herbal students.

One lecture that we have enjoyed putting together for our herbal course is an overview of various cultural approaches to herbal medicine including Western (coming from the Greek origins of our modern day medicine), Ayurvedic Medicine from India and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Even though I am a Western herbalist, some of my favorite herbs come from Indian and Chinese traditions. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifora) and Astragalus (astragalus membranaceous) are two that I use everyday.

After taking these courses in Ayurvedic medicine, we are better able to read Ayurvedic herbal descriptions (material medica) and have a deeper understanding of the skills used by our medical predecessors before we had so many technological diagnostic tools. It is amazing what they could do using well developed powers of observation. I appreciate the contributions of these ancestors as well as the modern tools and medicines we have today which combine into Integrative Medicine bringing the best of all worlds together.

If you are interested in scheduling an herbal medicine consultation, please
contact me!


Research has shown that simply thinking about gratitude improves our outlook and health. (Click here for more) Building a daily habit of just asking yourself "What am I grateful for?" can improve your mental state whether you think of an answer or not!

I wrote this poem last year to share the concept of gratitude with my
veterinary herbal medicine students in the Outerbanks. It was inspired by a nature meditation exercise used by the Wilderness Awareness School and the 8 Shields organization both founded by Jon Young, author of Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature.

I use this poem to encourage my students to express their own gratitude, in their own words, to all that surrounds us in a regular (ideally daily) practice. It seems appropriate to share it now as I am reminded of all of the things I am grateful for.

by Kris August

-Inspired by:
Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World by Jake Swamp

I am grateful for the Earth that is our home, the rocks and stones and soil,

And for the water that flows over and inside the Earth and inside all living things.

I am grateful for all the living beings that move and grow and struggle and thrive on the earth:

The mushrooms and lichens and algae and plants that give us food and medicine and remind us to be cautious,

The bushes and tall trees that give us fruit, nuts, shade, shelter and medicine too,

The fish, the insects, the birds, the mammals big and small, and the humans, who all give of themselves in their own way for us to live together on this Earth.

I am grateful for the wind that brushes my face, the clouds in the sky, the thunder and lightning, the rain and snow that clean and water the Earth.

I am grateful for the sun that warms my skin and gives us life, for the moon that tugs on us, the stars that inspire, the distant planets and the universe stretching out as far as the imagination can go and beyond.

I am grateful for beginnings and endings, creators and destroyers, and again for the creators that bring us full circle to life.

Thanks to all.

I encourage you to create your own thanksgiving address however small or grand every time you walk outside.


Saguaro Sunset

As many of you know, my family and I have spent the last few years, and more intensively this past spring, caring for my father as he prepared for his last journey on this earth. It was an effort as well as an honor to walk with him as far as we could on our final physical goodbye. We continue to speak with him and say goodbyes as we think of him often.

I am so grateful to have had the flexibility and support of my family, my friends and also my Harmony Housecalls patients and their loving families. Thank you so much for your kindness and understanding during this time.

Welcoming the (Cold!) New Year

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It is an incredibly cold day on the first of January in Iowa. It was -21 degrees Fahrenheit overnight and -13 for a high temperature today! It seemed like a good time to provide some reminders and resources on winter care for our animals.

It is not the best day to stick to those New Year's Resolutions to walk the dog more. Our Labrador is dancing on the cold ground after just a few minutes to run out for a potty trip and he is usually very enthusiastic about the winter cold and snow! Remember that though their feet are much more tough than ours, the domestic animals that live in our homes may need some extra foot protection and/or limited time outdoors during these extreme conditions. Feet and belly fur should be rinsed after walking on salted roads and sidewalks as that can also cause irritation. Check pads for cracking or redness and watch for licking or limping.

Limit time outdoors for those not adapted to the cold and even then, this is an unusually cold snap for us following unseasonably warm temperatures just a few weeks ago. "Normal" adaptations may not be in place for us or our animals!

Here is some information from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

AVMA- Cold Weather Pet Safety

And from veterinarypartner.com:

Winter Holiday Hazards for Pets

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to
contact me!

Fall Lecturing Herbs, Animal Hospice and Palliative Care

This has been a busy fall, keeping up with the new herbal medicine course for veterinarians that I am co-teaching in the Outerbanks, North Carolina, as well as lecturing this month at the IAAHPC (International Animal Hospice and Palliative Care) annual meeting. The new textbook was well-received and the first students in the Animal Hospice and Palliative Care Certification Program (100+ hours) completed our graduation, adding more certification letters to keep track of!

It is a relief to have this certification completed and it was such a valuable learning experience to share the knowledge of many experts on topics including pain management, recognition and palliation of clinical signs of discomfort in animals, progression and prognosis of various diseases including cancers and organ failure, holistic and integrative approaches to treatment, the normal processes of death including euthanasia, and additionally all of the important aspects of after care, memorialization and grief that accompany end-of-life care for our animals.

We all have different needs when it comes time to say goodbye to our beloved animal companions. I make an effort to approach this time with flexibility, compassion, and understanding to help families provide the best possible care in any given situation. One of the most valuable things that I can provide is extra time to think things through, during home visits and with additional comfort care for the animals. For more information on
end-of-life services, click here or contact me.

New Animal Hospice and Palliative Care Textbook!

Over the past year, I have had the honor of writing a few chapters in the newly published textbook: Hospice and Palliative Care for Companion Animals, as well as contributing to the first offering of the IAAHPC Animal Hospice and Palliative Care Certification Program, a combination of online and in-person training for veterinarians and veterinary technicians on topics from philosophical and ethical considerations in animal end-of-life care, quality of life considerations and the technical aspects of offering palliative care ("comfort care") to animals in their last days weeks and months.

This is a relatively new field in veterinary medicine and it has been a pleasure to work with the caring individuals involved in developing educational materials and information for professional providers and caregiving families. The beauty of this care is that sometimes animals, just like people, actually live longer than expected when care is focused on comfort and the enjoyment of the life that is still present.

There are many considerations to weigh when faced with terminal illness including prognosis and the possibility of cure. I find these discussions are best approached in the home, involving the whole family, and with multiple visits as we monitor changes and different needs and questions that arise. Please
contact me if you would like more information or to schedule an in-home palliative care consultation for your animal.

Herbal education and self-care

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I have had the opportunity to put my varied background as veterinarian, herbalist, martial artist, Waldorf playgroup facilitator, Girl Scout leader, teacher, nature geek, and quiet introvert to use!

My good friend, Dr. Laurie Dohmen, past president of the VBMA (Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association) asked me to join her in teaching an herbal medicine course for veterinarians in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. We just finished the first introductory class last weekend and it was so much fun! She has a full 5 module course planned for hands-on herbal learning and self-care:
Veterinary Herbal Apprenticeship and Retreat

Along with herbal and palliative care lectures, Laurie gave me free range to add in a nature gratitude meditation on our herb walk, a nature table in the lecture room to explore the plants and other treasures we found (luckily the horseshoe crab didn't smell too horribly by the end of the weekend!), and some Qi Gong and movement in-between lectures.

Veterinarians are notoriously bad at taking care of themselves (as are any of us with caregiving tendencies…), and putting this aspect of the course together is a great reminder for me to take time to enjoy the little things in every day. This is something I try to remind my animal-loving families of as well.

In order to sustainably take care of our family and our pets we really need to take care of ourselves. This includes the usual advice to rest, exercise, eat well and drink plenty of water, but also to see the beauty in life. Even on the very worst day, I can be grateful knowing that the sun is still shining, the birds are still singing and life is continuing on all around me in its tenacious way.

Gratitude to all!

New online store and pharmacy

After many years working with various suppliers and companies for medications and supplements, I have set up an online store and pharmacy to better serve my clients and patients and to simplify my own life. As a housecall veterinarian and herbalist, it is difficult to keep every possible medication in stock.

I will continue to keep the essentials on hand for personal delivery and use local human pharmacies, especially for more immediate needs. This store will be for pharmacy use and for items I do not keep in stock. I will also continue to make and deliver my own herbal formulations as those are individualized and from trusted professional quality herbal sources.

I have been concerned about supplements purchased from Amazon or other third party suppliers as they are not coming directly from the manufacturer and are more susceptible to tampering and poor handing (i.e. temperature control, etc.). With this new store, I can offer you a wide variety of products, often at a lower price, and be more sure of the handling and sourcing of these items without having to keep them all on hand myself.

Some products you will find are supplements and nutraceuticals such as
joint support (Dasuquin, MegaFlex and other glucosamine/chondroitin supplements), fish oil (RX Ultra, Nordic naturals, Welactin), Probiotics (RX Biotic), anti-oxidants (Cell Advance), anti-parasitics such as flea and tick preventatives (Frontline and others), heartworm prescription medications of all sizes and quantities (Heartgard, etc.), prescription diets (more choices for renal failure and other special diets including Honest Kitchen), anti-anxiety products (Feliway and Adaptil), and more. On the front page I have been able to add some of my favorites to help guide you. Please contact me before ordering anything you are unsure of as the number of products can be overwhelming. Prescription items will need a current exam and authorization before ordering

Here is the link:
Harmony Housecalls - Vets First Choice

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There is also a link on my home page.

And a coupon code for first time users: welcome62
There are other regular discounts and coupons so be sure to ask!

** Please talk to me before ordering as there are some products that I don't recommend and some that I have specific reasons for choosing for individual patients. This is not meant to substitute for our regular exam visits, but to enhance them with more care options and allow you to control purchasing.

I appreciate any input on your experience with this new store option, you are by no means obligated to use it.
Contact me with suggestions or needs.