Episode 6: Lyme Disease, A Holistic Veterinarian’s Perspective

Cindy Kennedy, FNP, is joined by holistic veterinarian Dr. Kevin Landau, who discusses how to keep your pets safe from Lyme disease. Landau discusses what he sees as the cause of the rise of Lyme disease in animals. Discover how to keep your pets safe and what you need to know about transmission and infection in animals and humans.

Keep Your Pets Safe from Lyme Disease

Dr. Kevin Landau

Dr. Kevin Landau graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1994. He completed an internship at the Mid Atlantic Equine Medical Center, a medical and surgical hospital in Ringoes, New Jersey. For the next three years, Dr. Landau was a primary care horse veterinarian with Burlington Equine in Vermont. During this period, he received certification in animal chiropractic from the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 1996, and began his practice in alternative therapies. This was followed by animal acupuncture certification by the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine in 2001, studies in Applied Kinesiology, Autonomic Response Testing, and Low Level Laser Therapy. Dr. Landau has had advanced acupuncture training in both small animal and equine from the Chi Institute. In July 2009, Dr. Landau received certification in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine from A Time to Heal in Illinois and has continued his studies in acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, and the attaining the best possible results for his patients.

In the fall of 2000, Dr. Landau arrived in Massachusetts to launch Landau Veterinary Services, the only all alternative practice in the Pioneer Valley. The mission of Landau Veterinary Services is to provide comprehensive, holistic health care to his patients. Dr. Landau combines skill, sensitivity, and creativity to effectively individualize the care of his patients leading to successful outcomes for animal and owner alike.

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Transcript of Episode 6: Lyme Disease, A Holistic Veterinarian’s Perspective

Speaker 1: Welcome to Living with Lyme, the Podcast where we educate, advocate, and collaborate about Lyme Disease. Hear from experts as they share reliable information about how to live with Lyme Disease. And now here’s your host Nurse Practitioner Cindy Kennedy.

Cindy Kennedy: Hi everyone, welcome to Living with Lyme. This is your host Cindy Kennedy. Doug Foresta my producer and I went on a road trip to meet up with Dr. Kevin Landau. He is a holistic veterinarian here in Belchertown, Massachusetts. Hello, Dr. Kevin.

Kevin Landau: Hello, how are you Cindy?

Cindy Kennedy: I’m doing okay, how are you doing?

Kevin Landau: Doing great.

Cindy Kennedy: That’s awesome. Thank you for having us. This is a different spin on Lyme Disease. We have some questions here and you can kind of either answer them straight or give me some more information that you think is appropriate.

Kevin Landau: Great.

Cindy Kennedy: So tell me what do you feel has led to this widespread epidemic of Lyme Disease?

Kevin Landau: That’s a great question. I think a lot of it has to do with the warming climate. I think a lot of it has to do with the cycles of what’s out there as far as food stuff for the animals that carry Lyme ticks through their two year life cycle on their way to becoming adults. And a lot of it is I don’t know, we’re on the front lines of seeing different cases of Lyme. I work on dogs, cats, and horses and they tend to present in different ways. In mostly horses and dogs I see Lyme Disease and tick bourne illnesses. Not so much in the cats, although in the literature and supposedly cats can get tick bourne illnesses as well. It’s a little hard for me to say exactly why the upsurge, but weather and climate I would think has got to be up there on the list.

Cindy Kennedy: We were just talking before we started recording that I had read a little bit of an article that said that it’s a direct relationship from oak trees sending out a whole lot more acorns that provided a whole lot more food for like the white-footed mouse.

Kevin Landau: Right. I was thinking about the fact that I walk my dogs in the woods almost every single day and last autumn and through the winter could definitely see a bumper crop of acorns, which I like to throw at trees for target practice, that’s on the side. But there were a lot of acorns out there this last year and that may have a lot to do with the prevalence. Also, the weather as far as how moist the spring, and summer, and fall is has a huge impact on the numbers of ticks we’re seeing on our animal friends. So last year, and this year, the springs were very moist. There were a lot of ticks through the middle of May. And last year things got dry and there were very few ticks on our pets for most of the summer. And then in the fall it started raining again, Massachusetts was in a drought, western Mass anyway for a lot of last year. That certainly affected the tick population. Right now we’re in the heat of the summer and the tick populations are going down again. They’re still there but it’s certainly nothing like this spring, which had to be the tickiest spring I’ve ever seen.

Cindy Kennedy: Now can you tell me why ticks are less when it’s hot?

Kevin Landau: That’s a great question. I would think that they desiccate as an insect in the dry weather and they can’t really get out on the extremities of forest and vegetation where they like to go to grab onto their next host in the heat and the dryness. They would dry out and not do well. So that would be my guess, although I’m pleading …

Cindy Kennedy: You’re right.

Kevin Landau: … a little bit of ignorance on that one.

Cindy Kennedy: No, no, no, you’re absolutely right. That’s why when they crawl on an animal or on a human they try to locate the moistest area because they need to stay moist.

Kevin Landau: Right.

Cindy Kennedy: So what I tell my patients when we talk about ticks, if you are in a high risk area you come in the house everything you have off, shoes included, into the drier on high 10 minutes. And that will kill a tick.

Kevin Landau: Oh, that’s good to know.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah because some people will just take their clothes off and leave them on the floor or they’ll put them in the hamper. You can’t always be sure that they’re not going to crawl out.

Kevin Landau: Sure, right.

Cindy Kennedy: Now say you have your dog and you’ve done the best you can looking for ticks, and some can be the size of a poppy seed they’re so tiny.

Kevin Landau: Right.

Cindy Kennedy: You can theoretically bring a tick in on an animal and then it can crawl to you.

Kevin Landau: It’s very common. Matter of fact a lot of my clients in this area are using different prevention programs for ticks that are quite effective in preventing the ticks from attaching to the animals. But they’re still be crawling on the animals when they are in the house and then the animals since they have ticks on them, and the ticks don’t want to attach because of either a seresto collar, or they’re on K9 Advantix topically, or other products that will prevent ticks from being able to bite their host. They’ll hop off on the carpets, on the beds, on the owners and the people. A lot of my clients are very much concerned with their small animals bringing ticks into the house, even though they’re not getting exposed themselves. We’ve got a variety of all natural methods to help manage that even if they’re on chemical programs to prevent ticks from biting them. I’m a big fan of using a program right now called Wondercide, which is a cedar wood oil product that topically you spray on your pets and it kills ticks on contact, it repels them. I’m having my clients spray their pets before they come bring them back inside when they’re doing their tick check.

Cindy Kennedy: So they spray them each and every time they go outside? So it’s not something …

Kevin Landau: Yeah it’s totally safe. It’s not toxic. You don’t have to saturate their coat completely, but you mist them down lightly and rub it into the fur against the skin and it will kill ticks and all insects basically, fleas also. It will kill them on contact and prevent them from making the journey into the house. I have a black lab who’s very hard to spot ticks on. He wears a seresto collar, so that’s been very effective in preventing exposure, but I’ll spray him down so he doesn’t bring ticks in the house. I also have a little white-haired, wire-haired jack russell terror …

Cindy Kennedy: Terror?

Kevin Landau: Terror, I mean terrior excuse me.

Cindy Kennedy: I got it.

Kevin Landau: And she can’t do any chemical exposures. I just use the cedarwood oil and I check her during my walks and after my walks. I pick her up and look at her belly, I go through her coat pretty closely. We’re able to pull any ticks off of her pretty quickly even during the tickiest times of year. The cedarwood oil has been very effective in minimizing her tick exposure as well.

Cindy Kennedy: Can you use it on humans?

Kevin Landau: Oh yeah, I use it on myself.

Cindy Kennedy: Yep.

Kevin Landau: Yeah, all the time.

Cindy Kennedy: Wonderful. I make an essential oil mixture and it does have cedarwood.

Kevin Landau: Right.

Cindy Kennedy: But the two that were actually looked at and researched all the way back in ’08 was the combination of lemon and eucalyptus.

Kevin Landau: Right, sure. I’ve seem combination essential oil sprays that have had good reviews and I’ve tried different ones. I think not all cedarwood oil is the same. I’ve used other company’s cedarwood oils and I think Wondercide has a really good product right now. I haven’t seen any other products work as well at this point for repelling ticks.

Cindy Kennedy: That’s great. Can people get this spray from you or do they need to come in and see you?

Kevin Landau: That’s something they can order it here, Wondercide I think works mostly through veterinarians. You probably can go online and figure out where to get it as well.

Cindy Kennedy: Okay.

Kevin Landau: I don’t think it’s a hard product to get your hands on at all.

Cindy Kennedy: Do you think a vet supply company may have it, like a Heartland vet supply?

Kevin Landau: I don’t know.

Cindy Kennedy: Because they do primarily medications.

Kevin Landau: Yeah.

Cindy Kennedy: When you look at your animal, I actually saw the most horrific thing on Facebook of a poor dog that was loaded with ticks. They actually found ticks inside their ears, in-between their paws, and under their gum, like up here up above the tooth.

Kevin Landau: Right.

Cindy Kennedy: Because their face, they go right into plants and bushes to do all their smelling.

Kevin Landau: Sure, those are the places where they’re going to get loaded with ticks. And when you’re applying any
preventative essential oils, knowing where the exposure is, is half the battle. You focus around the head, and face, and neck, their legs, their underside if they’re a low dog. Because if they brush up against tall grass anywhere they contact with the grass around them and the shrubs makes contact on their body is where the ticks are going to go.

Cindy Kennedy: Really?

Kevin Landau: Yeah.

Cindy Kennedy: Really? So that’s an added risk we have because a lot of people don’t even want to be in nature. And you think about this, nature is serene, and it’s peaceful, and you see the changes in the season and it can provide hope. And all of a sudden now it’s a target.

Kevin Landau: Yeah, you have to be really smart about going out in nature. But that said, I go outside in the woods all the time. I mountain bike, I jog in the woods, I walk my dogs every day in the woods, and it is a nuisance but if you’re really vigilant about prevention you can still enjoy the outdoors.

Cindy Kennedy: Talk to me about vaccines for dogs, whereas humans we still don’t have that and we know that there was a big problem in the past. Tell me about the effectiveness.

Kevin Landau: Yeah. So I’m not 100% sure of the numbers or the percentage efficacy of the K9 vaccine that’s out there. There have been a number out over the years, but the one that’s come out heads above the others is the Merial Recombitek vaccine that’s used in dogs. A lot of horse owners are using that these days as well. It has been proven to be very effective in limiting the incidence of disease in animals exposed width Lyme, or ticks that have the Lyme exposing those to dogs. So in other words, when the animals are challenged with Lyme Disease they’re much less likely to get an infection with that vaccine. It’s not 100% by any means, it’s not 85% I don’t think. I think it’s a little bit lower than that, but it’s a decent vaccine. That said, I’ve got a lot of owners that don’t want to vaccinate their animals. I minimally vaccinate my animals. It’s not that Lyme is not a risk, but the animals that are vaccinated for Lyme are still hugely at risk for all the other tick bourne illnesses that aren’t being protected by that vaccine. It by no means lessens the need to decrease tick exposure.
And then if these animals are having chemical programs to limit tick exposure and they’re not being bitten by ticks at all, why vaccinate them? There’s no exposure. For people who are trying to keep their animals healthy by minimizing vaccination, I don’t even recommend always using that vaccine.

Cindy Kennedy: Now there are several species of Lyme.

Kevin Landau: Yes.

Cindy Kennedy: And with this vaccination are they just targeting Borrelia Burgdorferi?

Kevin Landau: Yes, I believe it’s a particular protein on the outer surface of Borrelia Burgdorferi. I don’t know the effectiveness and how much it covers or prevents infection with other species of Borrellia. But co-infection with Lyme is so common, and I can’t tell you how many animals I know of personally and clients animals that have come to me very sick. Acutely sick and not well, testing negative for everything and you put them on a course of Doxy and they’re 100% better within 48 hours. And we know some tick bourne illness, we don’t know what the it is. We don’t really care as long as our animals are okay.

Cindy Kennedy: Right.

Kevin Landau: We do care but when it’s your animal you just …

Cindy Kennedy: Your fur babies.

Kevin Landau: Yeah, my dog was flat out on her side looking like she was dying as a one-year-old years ago. I took her to an emergency hospital and she tested negative for everything, they didn’t know what was going on. She had a little bit of a fever. And the minute she got started on Doxy, which I had to push for they weren’t even going to do it, she was ready to go home within 24 hours.

Cindy Kennedy: Wow. So do dogs get like the Babesia and the Bartonella?

Kevin Landau: Yes.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, and I was given a quote that about one in three ticks at this point, at least 50% are infected with Lyme, and one in three do carry Babesia.

Kevin Landau: Yeah, sure. Plasmosis is a big one.

Cindy Kennedy: Yep.

Kevin Landau: And the rule of thumb is if you can be vigilant about checking your dog, or cat, or horse for ticks. If you get that tick off of them before the tick has a chance to get the saliva up, which transmits the bacteria from the stomach of the tick. You don’t have the opportunity for transmission of the bacteria and you don’t have a risk of getting infection. That rule of thumb is if you can do it in less than 24 hours, you’re probably fine. 36 hours is the outer limit of what’s thought to be okay.

Cindy Kennedy: How did they figure that out, what do they do? Do they use research animals, put an infected tick on and watch and see when their tighters go up?

Kevin Landau: Yes.

Cindy Kennedy: Oh, poor animals.

Kevin Landau: Yes.

Cindy Kennedy: That’s a rough one.

Kevin Landau: That’s how you do it and otherwise you wouldn’t know.

Cindy Kennedy: I guess you can take that and relate it to humans? Because people say oh no I’ve talked to primary care doctors and they’re like if that tick is not on more than 24 hours there’s no way they’re going to get it?

Kevin Landau: No, I think we’re talking numbers and statistics when we’re talking about this. I think there’s always outliers. Maybe there’s a tick that partially bit someone else or another animal, so maybe the saliva was halfway up before it got on you. There’s just no way to know. And the other issue is there is plenty of people with Lyme that never saw a tick bite.

Cindy Kennedy: I know.

Kevin Landau: And the research that I see show that Lyme Disease and tick bourne illnesses can be transmitted lots of ways.

Cindy Kennedy: Right.

Kevin Landau: It’s an STD.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, just about.

Kevin Landau: No. If your partner has Lyme and you’re having unprotected sex, guess what? You can get Lyme from semen.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, you’ve had some research on that or seen something?

Kevin Landau: I’ve had people lecture to me online who have told me that it’s transmitted in fluids, fluid secretions. Like an STD can be transmitted, Lyme can be transmitted. I’ve also been told there’s no reason why other biting insects can’t transmit Lyme as well. So we talk about mosquitoes, we talk about fleas, we talk about other biting flies, it’s also possible that there could be transmission there as well.

Cindy Kennedy: I had a patient yesterday who is sick, coming up negative for Lyme testing, but found out that yeah you can be negative and still have the infection. She was actually outside and she saw something come from around the corner. Whatever she was standing near would have been a food source for a vole, and the vole actually tried to get that food source but bit her. And then 48 hours later she started getting sick. She had really severe flu symptoms, she had fever.

Kevin Landau: Yeah.

Cindy Kennedy: No one wanted to touch that. They were like that’s impossible, there’s nothing in the literature that says that an animal, but how do we know that? That goes along with the saliva thing.

Kevin Landau: Sure.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, that’s crazy. And there is congenital Lyme. Mom’s with Lyme, either if they know it or they don’t know it or whatever, it can pass through. And that’s a frightening, frightening thing.

Kevin Landau: Absolutely.

Cindy Kennedy: It is.

Kevin Landau: Yeah.

Cindy Kennedy: So before we wrap up here, I want to thank you for your input because we hear a lot of different things. I feel that we’re so much more advanced taking care of our animals with this Lyme and it becomes more of a serious topic and there isn’t so many different schools of thought. It’s more cohesive and if humans could only get there like that there would be less sick people.

Kevin Landau: Right.

Cindy Kennedy: Do you feel that way?

Kevin Landau: No.

Cindy Kennedy: You don’t?

Kevin Landau: I feel like the primary care world has a screening system for Lyme and tick bourne illnesses and they over diagnose and over treat Lyme. So animals are getting a lot of unnecessarily antibiotics. I feel like if people were in that boat there would probably be less transmission and it might be a good thing in the short-term. But in the long-term over use of antibiotics isn’t the answer either.

Cindy Kennedy: Right. Do you suggest that your patients if they find a tick on their animal instead of getting all worried, send it to a tick testing lab?

Kevin Landau: I would definitely recommend testing the tick if they have concern. We have some topical things that we put on tick bites that kill any bacteria that’s been deposited into the subcutaneous tissues after a tick bite before that bacteria gains access to the bloodstream. There is a product called Lyme Blaster, which I love for that. It’s basically an essential oil product that kills …

Cindy Kennedy: Can people use it?

Kevin Landau: Yeah, of course.

Cindy Kennedy: Why don’t we know about this?

Kevin Landau: It’s basically all mammals can use the same preventative products if they’re all natural.

Cindy Kennedy: See, this is why there’s such a discrepancy between the veterinary world and the human world.

Kevin Landau: Well animals are often out in the outside unprotected and it’s been a problem for a long time, how to keep the pests off of our animals.

Cindy Kennedy: I know.

Kevin Landau: Yeah.

Cindy Kennedy: Well before we do end, a couple of questions.

Kevin Landau: Okay.

Cindy Kennedy: All right, what ticks you off?

Kevin Landau: What ticks me off? Wow, well ticks make me mad. You alluded to the fact that our lifestyle has changed because people are scared of ticks. It’s really true, you have to be ever vigilant to prevent getting sick with Lyme Disease in the Northeast.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah.

Kevin Landau: It’s just the fact of life and that really ticks me off.

Cindy Kennedy: That is, it’s tough it’s changed.

Kevin Landau: Yeah.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah that perfect family picnic out in beautiful wild flowers is just not the same.

Kevin Landau: No.

Cindy Kennedy: Doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies.

Kevin Landau: Right.

Cindy Kennedy: Second question. Everybody has different changes in their life and I always say jeez with all this illness that I’ve had with Lyme Disease I was handed lemons, but my choice is to make lemonade.

Kevin Landau: Right.

Cindy Kennedy: So this is my lemonade, this was my mission. So with things that you know, what is your lemonade?

Kevin Landau: Well for me as a holistic veterinarian and seeing a lot of cases of very sick animals that have often, for one reason or another, failed in the primary care world are coming to me as a last ditch effort in some serious health concerns and serious health illnesses that are making them decline quickly. I’m dealing with trying to make lemonade out of lemons ever single day. There is a lot of reason for optimism when you can tap into the body’s ability to heal.

Cindy Kennedy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Kevin Landau: That’s where holistic medicine really shines. Primary care does great with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in surgery and I’m all for those things when appropriate. But it does nothing to really promote the body’s ability to heal itself. I’m excited every day trying to figure out how to do that better and better so that my patients can live happier, more productive lives and their owners can enjoy them for longer periods of time.

Cindy Kennedy: For everyone who’s listening out there, I met Dr. Landau through someone who referred me because my … Sorry, because my chocolate lab had a lot of autoimmune issues and we were kind of failing healing him. And so with some great Chinese herbs, with some acupuncture, and pretty much diligence for him staying on top of it, Bear is 12 and he’s holding his own.

Kevin Landau: He’s a fighter.

Cindy Kennedy: He is a doll, we love him. This is Cindy Kennedy, you’ve been listening to Living with Lyme. I encourage you to come back and listen to us again. Take care, have a great day.