Pet treats, food and health insurance

In my post about finding the right dog food I listed a very informative link to a site that evaluates dog food. I have since learned that these evaluators have links to cat food, cat treats, dog treats and pet insurance. It is just as important to feed your dog or cat quality treats as it is to feed them quality food, especially if you give them a lot of treats.

Keep in mind that snacking a lot can make a pet put on weight. So, if you are using a lot of treats, especially when training your pet, you may want to decrease their food to compensate. Also, keep in mind that as your pet gets older, they will tend to put on weight (the same as many people do). If your pet tends to put on weight, look for a treat that has few calories. Some treats have only 3 or so calories.

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Health insurance is another very confusing issue for many pet owners. There are so many options and prices. However, considering how expensive veterinarian bills can be, especially for catastrophic illnesses, it is a good idea to have insurance. What options you pick will depend on what you can afford to pay for without insurance. When choosing the right policy for you, take into consideration what your income will be at the end of your pet’s life. This is the time when your pet may need the most veterinarian care. Cost consideration is especially important if you will be retired or near retirement as your pet ages. Taking the time to research treats, food, and insurance will benefit you and your pet in the long run.

Cat food: http://www.reviews.com/cat-food/​
Cat treats: http://www.reviews.com/cat-treats/​
Dog treats: http://www.reviews.com/dog-treats/​
Pet insurance: http://www.reviews.com/pet-insurance/​

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Finding the right dog food

In my many years working as a dog trainer and then a certified canine and feline behavior consultant, I have seen how many people do not understand the value of quality food for their pets. Many people believe the ads that they see on TV, most of those brands are not considered good. The food that you can buy at a discount store or supermarket are not the best either. But how to sort through the many foods available.

To begin with, you have to understand the labels. While it is true that the first ingredient has to be the largest percent in the food, what is not clear is that it is usually the smallest percent of the food. For example, the first ingredient is listed as chicken at 10%, then next ingredient and all subsequent ingredients are each less than 10%, but put together they equal 90% of the food. This makes the rest of the ingredients more important than the main ingredient.

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Labels can be misleading, for example, unspecified meat can be anything including diseased animals or road kill. Another issue with food is the source of the fat. Some food companies use the leftover fat from restaurants that has been stored in 55 gallon drums and has turned rancid. The pet food companies are allowed to use this fat if they process it in a certain way. Companies that produce food for human consumption also may use the leftovers from the human food production, such as cereal fines. Another consideration are the fillers in the food. Many times, they are indigestible roughage that does not have any nutritional value. You can see the results of these foods by the amount of stool that the pet produces. High quality food usually reduces the amount of stool by half. By having a large amount of indigestible roughage, the pet has to eat more food to get the nutritional value that their body needs, and guess what, you have to buy twice as much food.

Often people will tell me that they cannot afford the higher priced quality food. But in reality since the pet will have to eat much less of the better food, the cost per serving is usually less than the cheap food. Also, the savings in veterinarian bills makes the better food a real value.

In terms of good health, young dogs and cats can look healthy on poor quality food, but in the long term they will not be as healthy and from middle to old age they may have more health issues from living on a poor diet. In some cases, they may not live as long as they could have on better food. The effects of poor food are evident at a younger age in working dogs, such as police, detection and search dogs.

Last but not least, a pet’s behavior can reflect a poor diet. When I was mentoring a future dog trainer, on the first night of group training, I would point out the dogs that were being fed poor quality food and was correct 99% of the time. I was able to tell by the dog’s behavior alone. When I told the class to switch to a better brand, the ones that did would always come back the next week amazed at the difference in their dog’s behavior. When I work with dogs or cats that have behavior issues, their diet is always one of the first things I evaluate.

The good news is that there is now a site that evaluates dog food and does a good job. If the dog food brands listed also sell cat food, it is safe to say that the cat food will be a high quality as well. Go to the site below and read the criteria that they used to select quality foods. Please spread the word about this post so that as many pet owners as possible can feed their pets the right food.

 http://www.reviews.com/dog-food/#Top_Picks

New hope for dogs that suffer from previously untreatable cancers

As dogs live longer, more of them suffer from cancer. Some of the cancers are untreatable with conventional therapies. One such cancer is oral malignant melanoma (OMM) and undifferentiated sarcoma which is a soft tissue cancer. Professor Satoru Konnai of Hokkaido University and his team in Japan have developed an antibody that causes immune responses in dogs that reduces the malignant tumors. They studied dogs with both types of cancer and had success in treating them. Since the untreatable cancers in dogs are similar to those in humans, there is hope that with further studies, this new treatment will help people with untreatable cancers.

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www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170825090640.htm

http://www.cancercenter.com/soft-tissue-sarcoma/learning/

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, (HGE) in dogs

Recently I had to rush my Parsons Russell Terrier to the Veterinarian ER. He had vomited the night before and seemed out of sorts a little bit, but not unusual for a 10+ year old dog. The only thing different that night was that he did not play his “Ha Ha I can catch you but you cannot catch me” game with Babs our Border Collie. This is a nightly ritual around the living room furniture.

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Riley

When my husband got up the next morning, Riley had had diarrhea and was listless. This was 5:30 a.m. Larry immediately woke me up and when I looked at Riley I knew he was very sick. We immediately took him to the Veterinary ER.

We spent the morning at the ER and then took him to my regular veterinarian when they opened. The diagnosis was Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, (HGE). Because I had caught the disease before it had progressed and got Riley to the veterinarian right away, he was able to come home that afternoon. By the next day he seemed like his old self but still had a few days of medications and a bland diet left to go.

HGE is a disease that causes sudden vomiting and bloody diarrhea. The symptoms are severe and can be fatal if the dog is not treated right away. The progression of the disease is so fast that a dog can die within 24 hours.

Although it is common in young adult dogs (Riley had it when he was one to two years old) it can show up in older dogs as I found out. It is most common in small breeds but it can affect any dog of any size.

What is important to know is that the disorder occurs very suddenly and without warning. The main symptoms are vomiting and bloody diarrhea which is often bright red, like fresh blood. Some dogs have painful abdomens, they will not eat, can have a high fever and are listless. In Riley’s case his temperature dropped to 98°F.

The exact cause of HGE is unknown but some suspected causes are:

  1. Eating non-food items
  2. Eating different foods that the dog is not used to
  3. Immune-mediated disease
  4. Various toxins
  5. Pancreatitis
  6. Stress (note that stress can be good stress such as excitement about playing, as well as bad)
  7. Anxiety
  8. Hyperactivity
  9. Allergic reaction to food or airborne substances
  10. Intestinal parasites and bacteria

Riley had a battery of tests and X-rays to rule out other causes of his symptoms. Some of the tests that a veterinarian may use could include a CBC, analysis of the blood, urinalysis, X-rays, clotting tests, fecal test, ultrasound or gastrointestinal tract exam.

Treatment must include IV fluids, antibiotics, and in some cases gastrointestinal protectants, anti-vomiting medications and perhaps plasma or colloids. The most critical treatment are IV fluids which must be given right away. If not, the dog will most likely die.

Since there is not clear trigger for HGE, it is hard to prevent it. What I learned is that while a younger dog can tolerate some of the causes, an older dog may not. That means that an owner with an older dog must be more careful. One of the things that my veterinarian stressed is to only feed a high-quality dog food, which I do. Dog foods that are available in the supermarket or discount stores are not high quality. I personally like Annamaet and Wysong foods. Even if you feed your dog a high-quality food, you must also be careful with the treats you give your dog. Poor quality treats may trigger HGE as well. Another important preventative measure is to be sure to give your dog regular heartworm medication as well as tick and flea prevention.

Always keep the phone number and address of your emergency veterinarian clinic handy as well as your regular veterinarian. Some emergency clinics are only open at night and weekends instead of 24 hours. A dog who is being treated for HGE must stay at a clinic under supervision until they are well enough to come home. The total treatment can be costly, Riley’s bill came to over $1000 for both clinics combined. If your dog is young, it might be a good idea to get pet health insurance, many plans are reasonably priced. This is a very good idea if you have a working dog who is more likely to be injured or get sick.

Some people may see the early signs of HGE and feel that the dog will get better in a day or so. What I hope my readers learn from this article is that you cannot wait. It is much better to be safe then have your dog die. The longer the dog suffers from HGE the less likely they will survive due to complications that HGE causes.

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/hemorrhagic-gastroenteritis-in-dogs

People to pig and pig to people virus

The swine virus, H3N2 has been found in pigs and people. It seems that it was first passed from humans to pigs and now it is being passed back to humans. Research led by Andrew Bowman of the Ohio State University and published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases which is a publication for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outlines Bowman’s findings.

 

The study was conducted on pigs that were exhibited at fairs, and of the ones tested, 78% had the virus even though many showed no symptoms. The fair exhibitors where the most likely to contract the virus since they handle and spend more time with their pigs.

Part of the research showed how quickly the virus can travel. Bowman suggested a number of precautions to take to avoid getting the virus. These included testing pigs, limiting the amount of time the pigs are exhibited, sanitation procedures for humans and pigs and vaccinating the pigs against the virus, just to name a few.

He also suggested that visitors who are at risk of catching the flu, such as babies, young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems avoid going in the pig exhibition area.

Dogs help children with a rare and severe form of epilepsy

Although Lafora disease only affects about 50 children worldwide, it is a deadly form of epilepsy that is common in Wirehaired Dachshunds.

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(photo is not a Wirehaired Dachshund but it is cute!)

Many Wirehaired Dachshunds suffer from Lafora, and because the disease is the same in children as it is in dogs, veterinarians and human neurologists have teamed up to study the disease.

Dr. Clare Rusbridge, Reader in Veterinary Neurology at the University of Surrey and Chief Neurologist at Fitzpatrick Referrals, have been working with specialists of Lafora in children at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and have identified a canine gene mutation that causes Lafora in dogs.

They were able to study the progression of the disease in dogs so that they could identify its early stages in children. By understanding the progression of the disease, scientists will be better able to identify it sooner in children and eventually find a cure.

The plus side of these studies is that over the past five years, with the help of the Wirehaired Dachshund Club and Dachshund Breed Council, breeders have tested breeding stock and as a result, have reduced the number of litters that are at risk of having Lafora from 55% to under 5%. Hopefully the continued research will benefit humans as well.

Tough love moms in dogs

Studies have been done about “tough love” moms and children and how letting children face minor adversities gives them the ability to cope better when they are adults. But now for the first time a study has been done to determine if the same applies to dogs.

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Emily Bray, a postdoctoral researcher in the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology studied litters of puppies at the Seeing Eye, the guide dog organization in Morristown, New Jersey, and published her report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What she found is very interesting. After tracking the litters into adulthood, they found that the puppies with mothers who were more attentive were more likely to fail as guide dogs for the visually impaired.

Bray did stress that although her study highlights the connection between a mother’s behavior and puppies, she feels that more research is needed to see if genetics plays a part in the results of her study. It never ceases to amaze me how similar dog behavior is to human behavior in many ways.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170807151706.htm

Almost half of Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)

Short nosed or Brachycephalic dogs such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) which can cause health problems, breathing difficulties and even death. Veterinarians have conducted research to try to determine if there is a way to predict which dogs will suffer from BOAS, (almost half the dogs in these breeds are affected). By determining which dogs will have BOAS, breeders can try to eradicate it from the breeds that suffer from it.

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This photo shows a dog with closed nostrils making it difficult to breathe

In 2015 researchers at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London determined that dogs whose muzzles were less than half of their cranial length and dogs with thicker necks were more likely to have BOAS. However, they did not feel that this was a reliable way for breeders to select dogs for breeding.

More recently a new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge tried to compare neck girth with chest girth and muzzle length to see if that could predict BOAS. However, they found that it was not easy to measure dogs and it was not reliable. They did suggest that breeders should not use dog with very short muzzles, wide faces and thick necks for breeding.

Dr. Nai-Chieh Liu one of the researchers suggested that breeding for open nostrils is most likely the best and easiest way to improve these breeds. Researchers are going to try to find a genetic marker for BOAS to help improve  Brachycephalic dogs to improve breeding programs.

People who own one of these breeds should have their dogs checked yearly for difficulty breathing even if the dog appears to be OK.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170801140548.htm

Study shows that breeding practices for the past decades has caused health problems in German Shepherd Dogs

According to the latest research in the UK, GSD’s are most likely to die from complications due to musculosketetal disorders.  Almost a half a million GSD’s were studied by the VetCompass™ Programme at the Royal Veterinary College.

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The dogs surveyed came from 430 veterinary clinics. They found a total of 263 disorders, the most common were, inflammation of the ear canal (7.89% of dogs), osteoarthritis (5.54%), diarrhea (5.24%), overweight and obesity (5.18%), and aggression (4.76%).

According to Dr. Dan O’Neill, from the Royal Veterinary College, GSD’s have the second highest number of health disorders, with Great Danes being the first.  According to the report, GSD’s suffer from an abnormal formation of the hip joint, cancer, and degenerative spinal disorders which he feels is a result of breeding for cosmetic features such as a sloping back and lower hindquarters.

This is the first study, which included 17 different breeds, whose goal is to help breeders improve the health of their dogs.

It would be interesting to see how the study compares with the health of GSD’s in other countries.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170727221255.htm

 

The gene that causes epidermolysis bullosa in the Central Asian Shepherd Dog and Humans has been identified

The genetic defect that causes hereditary blistering disorders of the skin, known as epidermolysis bullosa, in both humans and the Central Asian Shepherd Dog has been identified as being the same. The defective gene causes the skin to be easily damaged resulting in abrasion and blistering. There are four different types of the disorder, simplex, junctional, dystrophic and Kindler syndrome.

The defective gene causes a lack of collagen between two layers of skin.  Without the collagen, the skin will blister.

Thanks to the gene researchers at the University of Helsinki, Marjo Hytönen, a member of the research group led by Professor Hannes Lohi and pathological tests conducted by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, the defective gene was confirmed.

As a result, tests can be conducted on members of the Central Asian Shepherd Dog allowing breeders to select only those dogs that do not have the defective gene as part of a breeding program. Hopefully, researchers will be able to find a cure for humans.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170601124155.htm