Grain free diet for dogs may be linked to heart disease

Recently veterinarians have seen an increased in canine dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and when they compared the diets of the affected dogs, they found the common factor was a grain free diet.  The pet foods that replaced grains with peas, lentils and other legumes or potatoes are suspect.

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DCM is affecting dog breeds that are not genetically predisposed to this heart condition. Scientists have shown that dogs can digest grain. They may have difficulty digesting raw grains but those found in dog food are easily digested.

I believe the myth about grains started when researchers compared dogs with wolves since wolves cannot digest grain.

Dog food manufacturers are always looking for ways to persuade people to buy their dog food and this is one way that they can convince people to pay a higher price for grain free food.

Dogs are not wolves and should not be treated as such. The only time you must restrict a dog from eating grain is if the dog is allergic to a specific grain such as corn, wheat, etc.

Therefore, be cautious about feeding your dog grain free food. However, do feed your dog a high-quality food such as Wysong or Annamaet.

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What’s in your dog’s treats?

Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy and other researchers analyzed 32 popular dog treats that could be purchased in pet shops and supermarkets. They examined 5 biscuit types, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five bovine skin rawhides, twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks.

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They analyzed the ingredients based on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines looking for the levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).

What they found were rather surprising and should be a caution to dog owners. Seventy-six percent of the treats contained 4 -9 ingredients that were not specifically listed on the label. For example, the classification “cereal” was listed but not what kind. Treats that were made of meat had “meat and animal derivatives” listed instead of which meat and what animal derivatives.

About half of the treats listed “sugars,” and all of them had various amounts of minerals. The researchers suggested that further studies be done on a wider variety of treats and most important, that dog owners who have dogs with sensitivities or diseases should exercise extreme caution when selecting and giving their dogs treats since the ingredients could cause medical issues for those dogs.

While on the topic of treats and chews, to test if the treat or chew is safe for your dog, put a piece of it in water and if it does not dissolve in five to ten minutes, there is a good chance that it will not dissolve in your dog’s intestines and can cause bowel blockage. High on the list of items that cause bowel blockage are rawhide, bones and other hard, chew items.

Feline Epilepsy

Many people realize that dogs can have epileptic seizures, but do not realize the cats can suffer from epilepsy as well. There are two general types of epilepsy, intracranial epilepsy, which is caused by defects in the brain on a cellular level and is more common in dogs and humans, but seems to be rare in cats, and extracranial which are seizures due to injuries outside the skull.

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Seizures in cats are usually caused by brain tumors, infractions or even a stroke. Sometimes the cause of the seizures can be due to kidney disease, liver disease, hypoglycemia and exposure to toxins and poisons.

Some signs of an epileptic event are:

Blank stare

Shake one leg

Cry out in pain

Falling to one side

Uncontrollable Urinating or Defecating

Paddling their feet

Loss of consciousness

Jaw chomping

Become clingy to owner

Shake

Undue restlessness

Unusual salivation

Loss of vision temporally

If your cat shows any of the above signs an immediate visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

Idiopathic epilepsy usually shows up between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. Seizures are most likely to occur when the cat is resting or asleep, in the morning or at night.

Seizures that are a result of an injury will show up after the injury. The treatment will depend on the cause of the seizure and may require a battery of tests since the seizures can result from various diseases.

If your cat suffers from seizures, keep a log of when the seizure starts and when it ends. It is also a good idea to take note of any environmental events that could have caused the seizure.

If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes get the cat to the veterinarian right away, this is an emergency. If your cat is diagnosed as being epileptic, do not panic. Be sure to have a plan for when the seizure occurs to keep the cat safe, in a place where the cat cannot get hurt. Cats will not swallow their tongue so there is no need to put anything in their mouth. Keep in mind that your cat may take a few hours to return to normal behavior.

By understanding the nature of your cat’s seizures, you can help your cat live a safe, long and normal life. While seizures are frightening to look at, with your veterinarian’s help, they can be controlled.

 

 

Dogs try to communicate with angry humans

Animal behavior researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the University of Lincoln, UK found that dogs will mouth-lick in response to photos of human faces that appeared to be angry. The researchers also let the dogs hear angry human voices and did not see the same mouth-licking behavior. This indicates that dogs are responding to visual stimuli and that they recognize the emotional expressions of human faces. The fact that the dogs tested did not respond the same way to pictures of other dogs indicates that mouth-licking is a way that dogs try to communicate to humans.

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This is an interesting study because it shows us that dogs do use visual clues as well as their other senses to respond to humans. The fact that they only responded to humans shows that they have specific ways to try to communicate with humans.

With studies such as this one, we learn more about the emotional lives of dogs as well as the unique ways that they attempt to communicate with us. It also indicates that they care about their relationship with humans since this behavior is evident in all if not almost all dogs.

Hydrating Working Dogs

Dogs who work in hot weather such as border patrol dogs, search and rescue dogs as well as military dogs often become dehydrated when they work in hot environments.

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Handlers of these dogs do not agree about how to hydrate their dogs to prevent heat stroke and dehydration. There are three major ways that handlers hydrate their dogs.

  1. Free access to drinking water
  2. Subcutaneous hydration (a needle under the skin) of water and electrolytes
  3. Drinks containing electrolytes

Researchers studied all three methods and found that they all worked. However, they found that by using a chicken flavored electrolyte drink, even dogs who were reluctant to drink, would drink more liquid.

The researchers tested the dog’s urine and found that they passed the sodium and therefore did not have a buildup of sodium in their body which had been a concern about using electrolyte drinks. Thus, drinking a chicken flavored electrolyte drink did not have any negative effects on the dogs.

Dog ownership lessens risk of heart disease

In a unique Swedish study, researchers found that people who owned dogs had a lower mortality rate then those who did not. They also found that people who lived alone and owned a dog had less cardiovascular diseases then people who lived alone who did not own a dog.

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The researchers studied 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 making this a comprehensive comparison. What the study did not show was why there was a difference between dog ownership and non-dog ownership.

One possibility considered was that people who own dogs are more active because they walk their dogs. There was also no indication as to whether or not there were other factors such as the type of people who own dogs vs those who do not.

However, the bottom line is that dog ownership, again, has proven to benefit the health of their owners. It would be interesting to study how growing up with a dog or pet affects the health of children as adults if they continue to own a pet vs those who get a dog or pet later in life. We know that children who own pets are less prone to developing allergies. It would be interesting to know what other physical and mental benefits pet ownership has on children.

Allergies in Pets

All types of pets, just like people, can suffer from allergies. Unfortunately, pets cannot tell us when they feel poorly. We must look for the symptoms.

There are a few common types of allergies in pets but not all are true allergies, some may be sensitivities which can be as bothersome as a full-blown allergy.

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Skin Allergies are the most common type and are usually caused by flea bites, food and things in their environment.

Flea allergies are the easiest to find and stop. By keeping your pet free of fleas, you can prevent the allergic reactions. If fleas are the problem you may see red and inflamed skin, scabbing, and flea dirt which looks like small black dots.

Flea dirt or droppings are digested blood so if you put one in a drop of water it will turn red. To get rid of the fleas you need to consult with your veterinarian as well as an exterminator. The veterinarian will help make your pet more comfortable and control the fleas, however, if your pet has fleas, they will be in your home. You must use an exterminator, or the fleas will come back because at this point they have infested your house. The eggs are microscopic and will hatch periodically.

Sometimes various foods can cause sensitivities that are not full allergic reactions. Typically, food related allergies and sensitivities manifest themselves by causing the pet’s skin to itch. This usually happens around their paws and ears. Sometimes they can get an upset stomach as well. The usual culprits are beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk.

Environmental allergens are often the same ones that bother people. Things like dust, mold, and pollen are often seasonal, so you may not see the allergic reaction year-round. The typical areas that are affected are: paws, ears, wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and between the toes.

Although it is more rare, acute allergic reactions can be a result of bee stings or shots. For this reason keep a close eye on your pet after being vaccinated. Signs can be facial, throat, lips, eyelids or earflap swelling. Any of these signs should be an immediate visit to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Always have the phone number and address of your nearest emergency clinic handy.

Overall, the general signs of allergies or sensitivities are:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking

It is critical that you take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any sign of an allergy or sensitivity. If your pet continues to scratch, rub or bite an area of his body, it can lead to other types of infections, not to mention that your pet may feel miserable. Keep in mind that allergies and sensitivities can develop at any time in a pet’s life, therefore you must be vigilant and watch for any signs that they have developed.

Allergies and sensitivities will often affect your pet’s behavior which you may be the first thing you notice. If your pet seems a bit withdrawn, sullen, irritable, not as interested in playing, it would be a good idea to pay close attention and look for signs of allergies or other illnesses. It is always wise to err on the side of caution and schedule a visit to your veterinarian rather than wait until your pet becomes more uncomfortable. Because of the potential seriousness of allergies, it is not in your pet’s best interest to try and treat them yourself.

Like people, pets can lead a happy normal life with allergies if they are treated and if possible, prevented.

 

 

Treatment for noise phobia in dogs

There is a new way to treat noise phobia in dogs that does not sedate the dog. SILEO is administered in a gel form and does help dogs with noise phobia such as fireworks and thunder. An advantage of this product is that it works quickly so that it can be applied just before or at onset of a noise event. Another advantage is that it does not require the owner to use behavior modification techniques for SILEO to work.

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However, it must be obtained through your veterinarian and cannot be used if your dog has certain medical conditions. We can thank Dr. Mira Korpivaara at Orion Pharma for developing this product for dog owners.

 

A new species of tick invades the Mid-Atlantic

The longhorned tick, (Haemaphysalis longicornis), also known as the bush tick or cattle tick can seriously hurt or even cause death in livestock. The ticks can last for up to a year without feeding. They have been found in other countries such as Russia, China, and Japan.

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(Although this is not a longhorned tick, it is about the size of the tick. The longhorned tick has a pattern on its body that resembles a turtle shell.)

When the tick infests cattle, it can cause severe blood loss and even death, especially in calves. In dairy cows it can cause reduced milk production and in sheep poorer wool quantity and quality. This is because the tick transmits theileriosis.

In humans and pets the tick can transmit Q-fever and anaplasmosis. Q-fever can cause death in humans. The symptoms include “high fever, headache, sore throat, malaise, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, nonproductive cough, pneumonia, and hepatitis. Neurological manifestations occur in about one percent of patients and could develop into meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and/or peripheral neuropathy. Endocarditis, infection of the heart valves, is the most serious manifestation. However, it is usually found in patients with preexisting valvular disease. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is increasingly high, currently at 65 percent.”

The signs of Anaplasmosis are “Fever, Severe headache, Muscle aches, Chills and shaking. Less frequent symptoms of anaplasmosis include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, aching joints and change in mental status.

Although people of any age can get anaplasmosis, it tends to be most severe in the aging or immune-compromised. Severe complications can include respiratory failure, renal failure and secondary infections.”

Although the longhorned tick has only been found in the Mid-Atlantic, it is just a matter of time until it will be found across the country.

Blindness in Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier has been attributed to the mother

Researchers at the University of Helsinki, UC Davis and the University of Jyväskylä have discovered that the gene RBP4 for canine congenital eye disease is passed from the mother to the puppies in the womb.

The researchers have discovered that this recessive gene, which blocks the developing eyes of puppies from getting vitamin A, causes blindness. In order for the disease to occur, both the mother and puppy must have the mutated gene, which is why all puppies are not born blind.

It has also been determined that the RPB4 gene may be related to human MAC disease. So again, understanding canine diseases may lead to cures for humans.

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An Irish Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Photo: Lohi Research Group

The good news is that researchers have developed a DNA test that can identify those dogs that carry the gene. This will help both veterinarians and breeders control and hopefully eradicate blindness in this breed.