Written by the FDA The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. These reports are unusual because DCM is occurring in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease. The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network, a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories, are investigating this potential association.Canine DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart. As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen. DCM often results in congestive heart failure. Heart function may improve in cases that are not linked to genetics with appropriate veterinary treatment and dietary modification, if caught early.The underlying cause of DCM is not truly known, but is thought to have a genetic component. Breeds that are typically more frequently affected by DCM include large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. It is less common in small and medium breed dogs, except American and English Cocker Spaniels. However, the cases that have been reported to the FDA have included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds.Diets in cases reported to the FDA frequently list potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, other “pulses” (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, indicating that they are main ingredients. Early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate that the dogs consistently ate these foods as their primary source of nutrition for time periods ranging from months to years. High levels of legumes or potatoes appear to be more common in diets labeled as “grain-free,” but it is not yet known how these ingredients are linked to cases of DCM. Changes in diet, especially for dogs with DCM, should be made in consultation with a licensed veterinarian.In the reports the FDA has received, some of the dogs showed signs of heart disease, including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse. Medical records for four atypical DCM cases, three Golden Retrievers and one Labrador Retriever, show that these dogs had low whole blood levels of the amino acid taurine. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM. The Labrador Retriever with low whole blood taurine levels is recovering with veterinary treatment, including taurine supplementation, and a diet change. Four other cases of DCM in atypical dog breeds, a Miniature Schnauzer, Shih Tzu and two Labrador Retrievers, had normal blood taurine levels. The FDA continues to work with board certified veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists to better understand the clinical presentation of these dogs. The agency has also been in contact with pet food manufacturers to discuss these reports and to help further the investigation.
Pets provide many benefits to people from companionship to reducing stress to helping become more physically active. But how does one decide which pet to get?
Keep in mind that when you chose a pet you accept responsibility for the wellbeing and health of a living thing. Pets require a lot of attention and care.
Mislead expectations are a big reason why people give up pets. Think hard about the decision and do plenty of research.
Do you already have pets? Will your current pet accept another pet of the same or different species? Pets are territorial so often pets do not get along. It is great when they get along but it doesn’t always happen.
What kind of pet are you looking for? Do you want a couch potato or a pet that is high energy and requires lots of exercise?
Are you able to provide the amount of attention that a pet will need. Dogs are pack animals and do not do as well alone during the day as cats may.
Do you have the time and patience to train a pet? Puppies and kittens are a lot of work and usually will chew or damage some items in your home.
What if you are absent from your home for a period of time, will you be able to find someone to care for your pet?
If your pet gets sick it can be costly. Do you have the reserves for an emergency fund? Does pet insurance fit in your budget.
Once you have made your decision that a pet is right for you, the first place to stop is the humane society or contact a rescue group. There are many pets that are in need of a home. Rescued pets come already spayed/neutered and vaccinated which can save you a lot of money compared with buying a pet from a store or a breeder for several thousand dollars and then paying for the sterilization surgery and initial vaccines on top of that.
About 60% of dogs and cats in the US are overweight. Let’s include our pets in a new years resolution to get them to lose weight!
Why is this important? There are many health and financial implications. Not only is arthritis and mobility an issue but obesity increases the risk of heart disease, pancreatitis, fatty liver, heat stroke, urethral obstruction in male cats, diabetes, back problems and can exacerbate any other illness.
A lifetime study in labrador retrievers found that the lean participants lived on average two years longer than the overweight group with the added benefit of delayed onset of chronic illness.
Weight loss of just 6-8% can help reduce the lameness of dogs that have arthritis.
Now how do we get our pets to lose weight? It is easier said than done.
Avoid table scraps, if you feel the need to give something, give a baby carrot as a treat.
Each treat for a small dog is like giving a donut to a person. The calories add up quick.
Measure food and give an exact amount per day based on a recommendation from your veterinarian. Feed each pet separately so you can make sure they are not overeating or stealing the other pet’s food.
Pets will always seem hungry. Whenever they beg for food take them on a walk. This way they are distracted and end up eating less and burning off more calories.
If still having trouble losing weight there can be an underlying medical condition like an underactive thyroid that occasionally will occur with dogs.
There are several foods and drugs that are safe for people but dangerous to pets. We have to keep in mind that each species detoxifies substances in unique ways.
-Xylitol- a sugar substitute that is used in some sugar free gum products, baking goods, toothpastes, etc causes blood glucose levels to get dangerously low which can lead to seizures and collapse and in higher doses can cause liver failure in dogs. Check labels of all products before bringing these into your home if you have pets.
-Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory that people commonly use. Pets are very sensitive to these medications and can develop stomach ulcers and kidney damage. If your pet is in pain please seek veterinary care as human over the counter medications are not safe for pets. Even nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) that are labeled for dogs and cats still must be used cautiously under guidance of a veterinarian due to possible side effects.
-Acetaminophen (tylenol). This medication is about 10 times more toxic to cats than dogs. It can cause liver failure and damage to red blood cells.
-Grapes and raisins. This toxicity in dogs is not well understood. Some dogs will experience kidney failure while others do not seem to be affected. It is best to avoid these fruits.
-Onions and garlic. In minute quantities these are usually not a problem however depending on the dose it causes anemia which often requires a blood transfusion.
-Vitamin D or calcium supplements. Increased quantities ingested by a pet can cause blood levels of calcium to increase which will cause damage to organs primarily the kidneys.
-Mouse and rat baits. If a rat is attracted to it a pet or small child may be as well. Anticoagulant based baits that have an antidote are not commonly sold anymore and more dangerous baits are now on the market. Rat bait ingestion is a much more serious problem now.
-Chocolate- around holiday time there is often a lot of chocolate around the house. Make sure it is out of reach of pets. Dogs cannot detoxify the toxic component theobromine well. Smaller quantities will cause GI upset and a large dose will cause seizures and death.
If you are unsure if your pet has ingested a possibly toxic substance there is a 24 hour hotline for the pet poison control 888-426-4435
Raw pet food diets are the newest fad. People are touting the benefits to their pets because raw is what wolves ate in the wild. Buts its not exactly what they ate. Wolves would eat freshly killed animals. And they would eat the skin, internal organs, muscle, bones, etc which provided an array of nutrients. Raw food of today you get mostly muscle meat and not the rest of the animal so these diets are often deficient in nutrients and can cause a calcium phosphorus imbalance. The meat also was processed many miles away, mixed with other animals and contaminated with bacteria. As the time passes between slaughter and consumption there is more bacterial growth. Plus we live in an age of stronger bacteria from all of the antibiotic use over the years. So a dog doesn’t get quite the same as what a wild wolf would have ingested.
There are also dangerous salmonella and listeria bacteria that can cause illness to not only your pet but to your family as well. Young children,the elderly, and immunocompromised people are at risk. Food handling at home can be a source of contamination. Even if pets don’t get sick they can become subclinical carriers and harbor these harmful bacteria and infect human housemates. Studies by the FDA illustrate the level of contamination of raw pet foods. Think twice before feeding raw.
Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the body cannot properly produce or respond to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is used by the body to help the sugar, glucose, into the cells. It is like a key to a door. Without this key, the glucose levels in the blood increase. The body cannot use the normal energy source it is used to so the metabolism changes to utilize a different energy source. This change causes many problems in the body and can lead to sickness.
What are some of the signs that my pet may be diabetic?
In the early stages of diabetes you may notice an increased water consumption, increased urination, great appetite while losing weight. In the late stages of disease pet’s can get very sick and stop eating.
How is diabetes treated?
Insulin injections are almost always needed to control diabetes in dogs and cats. A diet change can help as well. In humans some oral medications can help lower glucose levels but these are not as effective or safe in pets.
What are the risk factors of diabetes in dogs and cats?
Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, glucocorticoid (steroid) medications, increasing age
Can diabetes be prevented?
Some cases can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle just like in people. Increased physical activity and a healthy diet can help. Plus regular screenings for diabetes at least yearly can detect diabetes at an early stage before severe consequences of the disease develop.
Can my pet live a normal life with diabetes?
The goal of treatment is to restore normal glucose levels which will resolve the increased water consumption and urination, normalizing the appetite and the ongoing weight loss. If managed most pets can do well for many years. Some cats can even go into remission and be weaned off insulin overtime. Since dogs usually have diabetes that resembles type 1 diabetes of humans they are not able to be taken off insulin. Keep in mind diabetes management takes a lot of care and monitoring on the part of the pet parents.
Not only are mosquitos a nuisance in the summer in Florida but they can spread disease to pets too. The most notable disease dogs can get from mosquitos is heartworm disease. The good news is this is easily preventable with a monthly medication.
The reason it is important to test your dog yearly for heartworm disease is because the preventive pill is not 100%. There is resistance developing to some strains of heartworms. If heartworm disease is detected early it can be treated successfully. If it is not identified until symptoms appear it can cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and other organs and lead to heart failure and death. By the time a dog is infected with heartworms it takes 6 months for the parasite to develop into an adult. The heartworm test will be negative until about 6 months after the infection.
Cats can get heartworms too but they are an atypical host so most heartworms do not survive to the adult stages. The immature worms can cause damage to the lungs, a condition call Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease. Coughing, respiratory difficulty, collapse, and sudden death all can occur. Medications used to treat heartworms in dogs cannot be used in cats so monthly prevention is the only means to protect cats.
Heartworm prevention medication also prevent against intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and depending on the product whipworms. Some of these intestinal parasites pose a risk to humans especially small children so prevention is important.
For those of us braving the Florida summer there are some threats to our pets we need to be aware of…
Bufo Toads- These large invasive toads are an easy target for dogs. They are more common in the summer after it rains. When a dog finds one and puts it in their mouth a toxin is secreted that will cause red gums, increased salivation, disorientation, seizures and possibly can be fatal.
What should you do if your dog contacts a toad...First thing is to rinse the toxin out of your pet’s mouth which can help it from being absorbed. Be very careful to make sure your dog’s face is pointed downward. The most common complication of a toad toxicity is not the poison but aspirating water into the lungs when the mouth is rinsed out.
Seek care at the closest emergency veterinarian immediately after rinsing out the mouth. With prompt medical treatment most dogs recover well. Many are repeat offenders so don’t assume they learned their lesson.
2. Heat stroke- when body temperature gets too high it can cause irreversible damage to the internal organs and even death. The most common ways this happens is by leaving pets in a car and exercise during the middle of the day.
Avoid leaving your pet in the car even if for just a few minutes. Cracking the window does not help. The temperature inside a car can reach over 130 degrees in a short amount of time.
Exercise during the hottest times of the day is a bad idea. Early in the morning and at night is advised. Make sure to give frequent breaks and lots of water. If your dog is panting heavily after being outside and the body temperature is greater than 103 degrees you must start to actively cool your pet. The best way to do this is with a cool water bath. Ice, although cold, will actually be more harmful as it causes blood vessels in the skin to constrict and prevents heat loss. Additional urgent medical care may be needed as well.
Brachycephalic dogs (those with short noses such as Bulldogs) are at increased risk of heat stroke. Dogs dissipate heat by panting and these breeds have a compressed respiratory tract making it more difficult to release heat by panting.
3. Paw pad burns- People walk with shoes so we don’t feel how hot the surface of asphalt and concrete can get. Especially dark surfaces can get extremely hot and cause burns to the pads of your pets. This is another reason to avoid exercising pets during the hottest times of the day.